Looking around, Friday was a day of curiously juxtaposed ups and downs, as on the one hand there was the pleasant schadenfreude of seeing the wheels continue to come off not only John McCain’s campaign but those of other desperate Republicans as well, while on the other hand we all mourned the passing of the inimitable Studs Terkel.

But rather than focus on anything too serious, I thought I’d take a short break to look at the less weighty side of political life. On the day that Obama took at least a few hours’ break to take his kids to a Halloween party, I dug up an interview with him from that long-ago time before the conventions, in (of all things) Entertainment Weekly, asking him about his choices in (yep) entertainment.

And if the comic I reviewed in my last post demonstrates that the intersection of politics and pop culture can sometimes range from awkward to excruciatingly bad, well… at other times and in other ways, it can be  illuminating and fun.

For me, the key take-away quotes were these:

What about TV shows? What shows were you passionate about as a child?
You know, I grew up in the golden age of sitcoms. I think M*A*S*H was probably my favorite. …

Last question, and the fate of the Republic hangs on your answer: If you could be any superhero, which superhero would you be?
I was always into the Spider-Man/Batman model. The guys who have too many powers, like Superman, that always made me think they weren’t really earning their superhero status. It’s a little too easy. Whereas Spider-Man and Batman, they have some inner turmoil. They get knocked around a little bit.

(He has intriguingly eclectic taste in music, too. And the last video game he played was Pong.)

Now, I have to say, they may not be about global warming or economic restructuring, but these remarks make it easier than ever to relate to Obama. It’s not just the reminder that there’s more to him than a policy wonk or an eloquent public speaker. It’s also the fact that M*A*S*H was and is one of my all-time favorite TV shows as well—my girlfriend and I just finished watched the whole 11-season DVD box set a few months back, in fact—and a major formative influence on my attitudes toward war and peace.

And it’s that I respect his music; and that like him I never really got the point of recent generations of video games (although he has a few years on me, so while I do fondly remember Pong, my last real obsessions in that vein were Pac-Man and Donkey Kong).

And it’s that he not only has favorite super-heroes, but gets them well enough to explain why.

Oh, and he’s also cool enough to flash Leonard Nimoy the Vulcan hand signal at a rally. 😎 And there’s no doubt, he does exude an almost Vulcanesque sense of composure.

(John McCain, asked a slightly different set of questions by EW (hey, there was no TV when he was a kid!), instead provides answers that sound like they’ve been put through the spin cycle:  he admires Batman because “he doesn’t make his good works known to a lot of people, so a lot of people think he’s just a rich playboy.” (Huh??) And his favorite TV programs allegedly include Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dexter, and The Wire—which could be true, I suppose, but I can’t help thinking he had crib notes from younger campaign staffers. Certainly The Wire, at least, is excellent television—but if McCain watched it, he seems to have missed its recurring theme of the corrupting influence of institutionalized power.)

Look:  in most respects I try to be a serious, analytical, issues-based voter, as I’m sure do many others. But once in a while, I can’t deny it’s nice to be able to relate to your candidate as a human being, too. And while I really can’t imagine identifying with the militaristic McCain or (eek!) that provincial fuckwit Sarah Palin, this piece just underscores that Obama—far from being some aloof “elitist”—is ultimately just a guy (with good taste), someone in whose shoes it’s easy to imagine standing.

Anyway. On that note, I hope everyone reading this (I know you’re out there!) had a happy Halloween. (I did. Handed out comics to 135 trick-or-treaters in 45 minutes, then went to see a terrific play, strolled around Chicago on a warm Indian-summer evening taking in the amazing array of costumes, and had a nice late dinner.)

Back to more focused stuff tomorrow!…

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5 Responses to “Scattered thoughts, and Obama’s lighter side”
  1. Andrew says:

    Surely everyone has both good and bad traits, but if that someone happens to the US president, then all of them traits are more then visible to anyone!

  2. Glenn Simpson says:

    I’m sure there’s a Kirk out there in the world, but he’s already pissed off too many people to get elected to office, because he refuses to play by the rules. Kirk would be a REAL maverick.

  3. Coming back to the Trek analogy for a second as suggested by one of those linked articles: If Obama’s akin to Spock, and Biden to McCoy…then who, on the US political landscape has a temperament most akin to Kirk at his best?

  4. The Business of the Senator’s Aunt seems as if it can be filed safely under “too little, too late” tactics.

    Remaining hopeful that all will end with the election as it ought to for the best…for all of us.

    Yours from Ottawa,


  5. phil from new york says:

    Well, I’ve been waiting for the Delta Force to drag bin Laden out of a cave this weekend. Who knows, there’s still time, but the window is closing. (I gave up on the bin Laden-endorsing-Obama gambit after one of the cable TV anchor pundits asked a GOP strategist whether McCain’s only hope was bin Laden bailing him out. When the TV gasbags are that openly cynical, the move probably wouldn’t work. This isn’t 2004, after all.)

    However, I see today that we have the Obama-aunt-is-an-illegal alien story from somebody in the federal government courtesy of the AP. Maybe that’ll work with some of the drooling moron undecided voters, but it seems a little lame at this point.

    Still, as a confirmed pessimist and a liberal, I’m white-knucking it until Brian Williams tells me late Tuesday night that NBC is calling it for Obama. I’ll feel better if, at 7 p.m., he tells me that Obama carried Virginia. And even after Brian calls the election for me, I’ll still wonder what the Republicans will try to do on Wednesday to steal the election.

    However, when I see the Villagers telling me no more than 48 hours after the election how the Obama presidency has failed even before it has begun, I’ll truly know that we have won.

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