4.14.2004

Heaven and earth

When I heard Condoleezza Rice testify before the 9/11 commission, a couple things stood out in my mind:

  • How different she appeared on TV versus radio. On radio, her high, shaky voice made her sound insecure and rambling. On TV, the self-satisfied smiles she flashed made her seem totally smug and arrogant.
  • How different my perception of her was from the media's. I was surprised, reading news analyses, that nobody else seemed to agree that she was smug, rambling, or insecure. Most accounts seemed to focus on her assertive, argumentative, and unapologetic style, almost celebrating her for being such a bitch. That bugged me.
  • One poetic phrase: If we'd known what was going to happen on 9/11, "we would have moved heaven and earth to stop it." At the time, I remember thinking what a nice, powerful phrase that was. It was uncharacteristically emotional, making it seem like she cared so much about the American public. Like, "man, she would have moved Heaven and Earth to stop the attacks!" Unfortunately, in the President's recent press conference, he said the same thing almost verbatim. It just disgusted me. I was reminded that these people craft and rehearse everything they say. Speechwriters' carefully (and lovingly, I'm sure) crafted turns of phrases become cynically exploited sound bites to be used as often as possible to brainwash people into thinking the government cares. I know this isn't a brilliant insight, but my re-realization of it made me terribly sad.
  • For someone so supposedly coached and prepped for questions she knew she was going to be asked, she sure wasn't eloquent. I was surprised how many words it took her to say so little. To me, a lot of it sounded like rambling garbage, most powerful when she was refusing to let others speak and ramming her supposedly rehearsed answers down their throats.
  • Again, how different my perception was from the media's. Here again, news accounts portrayed her as articulate, intelligent, well-spoken...a fabulous public face for the idiotic George W. Bush administration. Sure, when her testimony was whittled down into a few soundbites for the evening news, it sounded reasonably direct, as any cynically utilized sound bite does, but I'd argue still, hers was not exactly impressive use of the English language.
  • She's such a horrible role model for women. Do I even need to elaborate?
  • I was right to avoid her class at Stanford. I remember sitting in on an international affairs seminar she was going to be teaching thinking, "This class is going to make a subject I love (Russian studies) incredibly boring, this woman is going to talk a lot, and we're not going to get along." I may have been prejudging on that last part, but I'm glad I trusted my instinct. I still don't think Condi and I would get along.

4.12.2004

The House of Sand and Fog

This book is definitely a Great American Novel. I found myself staying up really late, unable to stop myself from devouring the story, and that's saying a lot (usually a book is a surefire way to put me right to sleep). But the characters in this one just called to me to keep reading (not because I loved them or hated them; I just really, really felt them). And their desperate pursuit of Bay Area real estate was something I could really relate to. Unfortunately, it is a sad and depressing tale (perhaps because it involves Bay Area real estate) but it's definitely an amazing study of human nature. I wonder if they cheered it up for the movie version.