Big type, big sky.

Monday, October 27th, 2008

A couple of brief farewells to start this week before the election. Famed CBS Designer (his life forever intertwined with the Eye network) Lou Dorfsman died last week, the creator of, no, not the iconic CBS eye logo itself, but so much else that defined the once Columbia Broadcasting System as a serious force in American journalism and American culture.

His obsession with the details—as they fit into a very big picture—could be seen in his Gastrotypographicalassemblage, which was, to put it simply, a really, really big wall of 3d wood type in the CBS cafeteria. This was nothing a CBS viewer ever saw on the air—yet for Lou, it had to be crafted with meticulous care and style.

Big (BIG!) type, used boldly, distinctively, confidently—that was Dorfsman all over. I was, of course, inspired by him and his work.

And much further west, we say goodbye to Tony Hillerman, born in Oklahoma, moved to go to school in New Mexico, and there around the Four Corners is where he spent most of his life, amidst great visual beauty and immersed in the ancient culture of native Americans…and their very modern poverty and marginalization.

He was able to bring to life realistic stories of Navajo detectives on tribal land…and in some ways, he brought the sights and smells of the land itself to life in books like “Skinwalkers” and “The Blessing Way.” His attention to telling detail in the written word, and spare, yet evocative word-painting earned my respect from the first words of his I read.

One of my enduring memories is traveling New Mexico with Ms. Sam, heading up to Canyon de Chelly, surrounded by stunning vistas, while reading a Hillerman paperback and listening to the soft discordant melodies of Navajo speech come out of the radio. It almost seemed like random tonalities…until the announcer read the phone number and said the word “brake repair” in English.

Tweets of change.

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

From Twitter on this sunday fall afternoon, the sounds of change, 140 characters at a time:

Just got a call from my Mom in Denver. She is seeing Barack Obama speak today!

100,000 gather in Denver for Barack Obama rally. My sons called it “life-changing.”

Everything is bigger out west. Over 100,000 at obama’s rally in Denver today! 38 minutes ago

Reading that Obama spoke to a crowd of 100,000 today in Denver. McCain spoke to a crowd of less than 1,000.

Had a great time at the big Obama rally in Denver. No problem getting there – bus from boulder. Saw him from the steps of the capitol.

Over 100K at rally for Obama in Denver today. Seems like a lot of people are paying attention to this election and not just randomly voting.

fortunate enough to meet Barack Obama last night. What an inspiration.

Denver Post says there were 100k at the Obama rally. It was an impressive site and I’ll post the pictures when I get back to my mac.

100K at Denver Obama Rally. Denver, you rock. I’m feeling idealism coming back again.

Meanwhile, make no mistake, there are plenty of tweets out there that link the Democratic nominee to the holocaust, nazis, communists, Timothy McVeigh, Karl Marx, and anything else they can think of to generate fear.

Fear. Of a man running for president. That’s the sole tactic now.

It’s really amazing. And on such a beautiful fall day. Would have like to have seen that crowd in Denver in person (and in Indianapolis—Indy! last week)…but the 140-character-bursts-of-optimism will do.

One Colorado blogger reported “More than half of the crowd raised their hands in the affirmative to the question of whether they have voted yet. That’s inspiring, too! All in all, it was a somewhat effortless voyage into a considerably positive event. It was strong. It was intensely good. It was beautiful.”

Inspiration versus fear. There ya go.

Through Ohio, headed South.

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Hey there, we made it home last week, and that feels good. The dumpster is out of our driveway. 99.5% of our house reconstruction is done, and we’ve returned from a journey north to see family and friends, to put The Green Cottage to sleep for the winter, to enjoy the leaves changes through bright shades of maple-red and sycamore-gold.

A meeting with a new client of mine gave us a chance to swing wide through Ohio and wander down through West Virginia on our way back south, and because this is the political season as much as it is autumn, it gave me a chance to—in a fairly non substantive way—get back in touch with my roots and get a sense of how the midwest is faring economically (mmm…not well) as well as get the faintest read on the political landscape—by watching the political signs as they literally dot the countryside.

In Michigan and Ohio, the yard signs were out in force, and I was heartened to see Obama signs in places that were traditionally considered Republican strongholds. Sammy, ever-attuned to the nuances of the landscape, pointed out the difference between yard signs…the ones that you put on your own property and the ones that appear on the edge of public right-of-ways that can be scattered by political operatives and volunteers. We saw both in the upper peninsula of Michigan and the farm country of northwest Ohio. South of Youngstown, down to the Ohio River, where my mom grew up (on the West Virginia side) we saw more democratic signs, and a lot of them tied into the unions—still a force after all the closings and all the layoffs and all the 1980s.

We got as far as just south of Parkersburg, West Virginia for the night, and I had a good chance to watch the political ads for three states there, and Obama dominated the airwaves, along with spots that used Joe Biden in a way to, frankly, say to folks in these parts “I know this Obama guy, and he’s not a scary guy.”

Biden has been doing some very heavy lifting for the campaign, including a series of satellite TV interviews with local anchors—one, for a TV station in Orlando was just beyond my belief. Longtime anchor Barbara West apparently wanted to pose nothing but questions crafted by those somewhere way, way to the right of Rush Limbaugh. “You may recognize this famous quote, ‘from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.’ That’s from Karl Marx. How is Sen. Obama not being a Marxist if he intends to spread the wealth around?” Biden: “Are you joking? Is this a joke? … Or is that a real question?” Was Obama trying to “turn America into a Socialist country like Sweden?” Biden said, “I don’t know anybody who thinks that except the far right-wing of the Republican Party.” I watched and shook my head…this is exactly why so much of local television news is ridiculed, ignored, increasingly irrelevant. Biden handled it with sophistication and intelligence. Any questions about jobs, the economy, our future? Social security? Um…no.

As we drove south of Charleston, West Virginia and down through Pikeville, Kentucky and hard-core coal country, the political signs seemed to disappear completely…and yet I’ve found no laws that prohibit them. Maybe folks are just feeling more disenfranchised there. We dropped down through western Virginia (yes, the real Virginia) and they picked back up again, and again I was heartened to see the Obama name scattered through the political sign-forest. That was less true back in our own red state, at least up in the mountains, but then we got back to our latte-sipping, Prius-loving neighborhood, and we were awash in Obama-hope. And, home.