Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Liveblogging the Inauguration of Barack Obama (or, Wow That's a Lot of People)

I got up comparatively early this morning! And since I'm going to be watching the entirety of the inauguration ceremony anyway, I figured I may as well be typing about it while I'm doing it.

Those of you who've seen me liveblog before know what to expect, so you're probably rolling your eyes at me right now and going off to grab some food instead. That's fine! Not going to argue with you. In fact, that's a pretty good idea; I'd better grab myself a bowl of cereal or something before the thing legit starts at the top of the hour. Liveblogging to begin shortly!

9:45 AM

Oh, wow. Yup, that's a lot of people out there.

I'm watching the CNN coverage of the event, at least for now; I can usually only take a small dose or so of CNN at a time, so if they try and trot out a studio hologram of will.i.am or whoever I am totally flipping to somewhere else. I have a hunch they might be showing the event on other channels!

Shots of the motorcade puttering towards the site; Wolf Blitzer rambles about the choir brought in from San Francisco to sing for said motorcade. I assure you this is more riveting than I'm making it sound! (haha not yet it's not)

9:53 AM

I forgot to mention -- just before I went to grab breakfast, they showed a close-up shot on the crowd wherein Don King was milling around, looking very excited and wearing what has to be one of the ugliest jean jackets I've ever seen. I mean, yes, Don King, but even still. The jacket has this gigantic American-flag-and-eagle on the back, like he's been taking fashion advice from Billy Kane, and then it has faux-fur frill around the collar and... oh, dear. Well, so long as he's warm out there, I guess that's the important thing.

Shot of Joe and Jill Biden exiting the limousine and entering the White House; Jill Biden's choice of red coat, exposed legs and thigh-high black boots is sort of an unfortunate look. It's a weird combination.

Barack and Michelle Obama arrive immediately afterwards, both dressed very sensibly, and Michelle -- carrying a nice white box with a red ribbon -- very nearly trips on the stairs as she walks up to hug Laura Bush. Watch that first step! It's a doozy!

9:58 AM

The CNN scrollbar at the bottom reads the following:

"FACT: The Obamas and Bidens are having coffee with the Bushes in the White House."

I would have believed you if you just said the coffee part, dude. You don't need to arbitrarily blurt out 'FACT', you aren't the internet.

"We've got a lot of new technology that we'll be showing our viewers," Wolf announces, basically warning me in advance that they are going to annoy me today. Another wide shot of the National Mall and, yep, lot of people. A pocket of Canadian flags is visible off in the left background, which is kind of funny.

10:06 AM

Not much happening yet. More crowd shots, including a funny spot at ground level where a bunch of flag-waving people whoo-ed a bit at the camera in their faces and then began saying the word 'Obama'. Not chanting it, like you'd expect; just blurting out the word 'Obama' amongst themselves, like a lost take of Being John Malkovich.

Holy shit, Muhammad Ali in the VIP section! Awesome! WAIT A MINUTE WASN'T HE A SECRET MUSLIM OH GOD

10:14 AM

Another shot of the White House front doors, and another declaration from Wolf Blitzer that yes they are still having coffee as though it is the most important thing in the world. This is why they pay him the big bucks.

Dustin Hoffman in the VIP section? I liked Wag the Dog as much as the next political junkie, but I don't know if I'd put him on Ali level. One announcer, as if reading my mind, blurts out "Why Dustin Hoffman?" right after I finish typing that. Whoever handled the VIP invitations must still really like Tootsie!

10:18 AM

Jimmy Carter arrives, apparently with the Clintons expected close behind him. Oh, Jimmy! Poor Jimmy. Historians always love to make a specific point of pooping on him from a great height, don't they? You try negotiating with Iran sometime! And the part where he had been attacked by a deadly swimming rabbit, well I mean that could happen to anyb--pffffff ha ha ha ha okay the swimming rabbit thing was really funny. Sorry, Jimmy!

Speculation about the future makeup of the Supreme Court goes on for entirely too long, as we watch what must be the entirety of the Court walking towards the building. CNN then--goes to commercial? Again? Okay, maybe I didn't need to wake up this early.

10:25 AM

"Get your CNN.com inauguration t-shirt today! At CNN.com!" Okay, that does it, I'm switching channels.

I flip over to CBC and am greeted with xylophone music and a very close shot of a seahorse as small children discuss their love for it. "I think seahorses are really special!" "The beautiful seahorse!" "The beautiful seahorse!"

So I flip over to CBC Newsworld, right, and they're interviewing some kid in a suit who looks kind of like Chris Nowinski. Guy runs a Canadians for Obama group, or something? I don't know, I just got here.

A short report follows to note that the New York Stock Exchange opened on the steps of Capitol Hill, as Obama-mania grips the stock market! Then the market numbers are shown immediately afterwards to indicate that the Dow has dropped a hundred and eleven points so far today, because the market cannot be bothered to behave in a way that anyone expects or wants.

10:34 AM

Quick shot of the military orchestra practicing, including a zoom on what appears to be another xylophone. This better not be my enduring memory of the event! When my children and grandchildren ask me about this day, because according to the media they are guaranteed to ask me about this day, they are going to be bitterly disappointed in me if all I can remember are xylophones and Jimmy Carter.

10:39 AM

Fred Burton, of Strategic Forecasting Inc., explains to CBC Newsworld how the giant crowds represent an administrative and security nightmare and how the streets are swept for 'chem-bio hazards' and all the counter-sniper measures set up for each inauguration, and blah blah blah. The CBC scrollbar at the bottom sums it up as "THE INAUGURATION: Washington under state of emergency until tomorrow", which doesn't really make it sound like something you would want to attend.

10:45 AM

They're still talking to Fred Burton, which I'm sure is deathly interesting to somebody somewhere. Could we please just put Don Newman on the air for a while? This ceremony needs a good "KABOOMBA!" or something to fill all the downtime.

I hit the 'Last' button on the remote control to check the CNN footage, completely forgetting that I had ended up on CBC a while back, and now there are Doodlebops on my television screen. Oh. Huh.

Just as I flip back to Newsworld the Obamas emerge from the White House, hop into one of the Cadillacs and drive away. "THE INAUGURATION: Obama leaves White House after coffee with President Bush", the bottom bar announces. So far this is an hour of my life that I will never, ever get back.

Steven Harper, we are told, sent a couple of ministers in lieu of attending the ceremony himself; Margo McDiarmid then talks about what a great opportunity this new administration is for Canada, although clearly not that great if our Head of State would rather sit around and tidy things around the house or whatever he's up to right now. (Parliament isn't even in session. What in the hell.)

10:54 AM

"We're about thirty-five minutes away from the inauguration ceremony," oh dear. Maybe I should start cooking a frozen pizza or something.

The inauguration bar at the bottom helpfully contributes "Barack Obama will be sworn in as 44th U.S. president today", oh man have you seen this have you heard about this

Commercial break, trying to convince me to leverage the equity that I don't have on the home ownership that I don't have either. Thanks, CBC.

11:00 AM

Top of the hour, and a montage finally rolls Peter Mansbridge into the event. "He (Obama) faces two major wars and the worst economy in at least seventy-five years," Mansbridge's voiceover reminds us; he's apparently holed up in Washington's Canadian Embassy right now. Mansbridge, that is, not Obama.

I don't mean to harp on the point, but Jesus Christ there are a lot of people at this ceremony.

Something looks... off about Peter Mansbridge today. Maybe it's the change of lighting from the studio to the embassy, but he's looking decidedly pink today. And has he always worn a gigantic metal ring on his pinky finger? Has that been there his whole career and I'm only just now noticing it?

A politics professor from Princeton (blurt that one out five times fast) gushes about how amazing it is that a black President was elected just three years after the Katrina disaster. Okay, sure, but we're three weeks into 2009 and we've already had one American city break into race riots after an unarmed black man was restrained and shot in the back by police; let's not immediately assume that everything has been solved here, and--



Dan Quayle, Al Gore and Walter Mondale all just entered the ceremony in quick succession, forming their own little line of politically unsuccessful former Vice Presidents. Quayle and Gore are practically Bizarro versions of each other, so I'm left to assume they threw Mondale in with them to keep the opposites from clashing and destroying reality. (He likes to think that he's somewhere between the fire and ice, like... lukewarm water.)

11:12 AM

CBC reporter Christine somebody is at a Toronto high school, interviewing the principal and then a seventh grader. The seventh grader says something that I'm sure she thought was poignant but will inevitably make her cringe when she rewatches it decades from now.

To hear Mansbridge tell it, it turns out the high school principal they just interviewed is the father of PK Subban. Small world! Go figure.

There's Jimmy Carter again, looking both very happy and very old; Bill and Hillary Clinton follow him down the hall a short time later, and neither of them remember to smile until they're almost to the stairs. Then the both of them wait around to go hug George and Barbara Bush, which is nice of them. George Senior ain't looking so hot today, wearing two scarves and walking with a cane and looking very gray indeed.

11:21 AM

"It's probably going to be a while before they estimate the number of people here," Mansbridge announces. Well, hell, I would imagine so! I know I would go mad if I had to try and count them based on the crowd shots.

Retrospective montage of Presidential inauguration speeches; Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton. Three of these four men are quite dead, because President is not a job for pantywaists or sissies.

Exiting Vice-President Dick Cheney is in a wheelchair today, apparently having hurt his back while packing his shit into boxes and moving out. "I would have thought they had people to do that for him," Peter Mansbridge half-laughs. Peter Mansbridge is awesome.

11:29 AM

Directly related to Peter Mansbridge being awesome, he trots out one of my favourite Presidential-history anecdotes. (And I did an Honours in History, so you know I have a bunch of them.) The longest inauguration speech on record was that of William Henry Harrison, who insisted on delivering his speech in the deadest cold of winter; he didn't bundle up very well, delivered the longest speech in history without wearing proper winter wear, came down with pneumonia three weeks later, and died within a month of his taking office. William Henry Harrison, you magnificent bastard.

Shots of George W. Bush walking alone through the hallways, his wife having entered earlier; he slaps hands with one coordinator woman along the way, but nobody else appears to be willing to look him in the eye. Today's going to suck for him, oh man!

11:33 AM

Other fun historical fact: of the thirty-nine words in the Pledge of Allegiance, only the first thirty-five are officially recognized. "So help me God" was thrown in as an ad-lib by George Washington when he was inaugurated, and every single President after him has included it as a point of tradition. Go ad-libbing! Yeah!

Ooh, damn! The baritone voice working as the announcer for the inauguration ceremony stumbles over his own lines for a second, taking a second of sputtering before spitting out "S-Senator Mitch McConnell" as the Senator in question walks out. Bad day to get the jitters, dude!

Then Smilin' Joe Biden walks out and Mansbridge literally bursts out laughing when he sees him, musing aloud to himself that "Nobody in the world has looked happier for the last month than this man has all month." And he's right! Joe Biden is like a golden retriever, or whichever breed you prefer, one of those creatures that always looks really happy about something and makes you laugh and shake your head whenever you see him poking his head around something.

11:42 AM

Obama finally walks out, and the crowd goes batshit. Then he sits down and the entire crowd shuts up. Remember the old Looney Tunes routine where Bugs would appear on stage to thunderous applause, then everything would go silent again upon Daffy's entrance? That is exactly what it must feel like right now to be Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who walked out immediately after Obama sat down and the entire ceremony went dead quiet. No pressure or anything!

11:48 AM

Pastor Rick Warren from Orange County reads the invocation prayer; the cameras cut to a shot of the Obamas, particularly the two daughters shuffling in their seats and looking antsy. It's cute! They're eight and ten years old, of course this part is boring to them.

Hell, this part is boring to me. Speed it up, Pastor! You guys like Jesus, I get it. (lol i am being insensitive about religion on the internet what a tough guy)

Aretha Franklin! Yes! Now this I can get behind! She's wearing the goofiest hat I have seen all day, a gray beret with a gigantic sequined gray ribbon the size of her head on it. The instrumentation behind this rendition of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" leans way too heavily on the strings, and at one point the backup singers do this ridiculous chant of "ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring ring" behind her, but it is god damn Aretha Franklin and she blows the song out of the water just like she is supposed to. Good ceremony so far!

11:57 AM

Joe Biden takes the Samurai Pizza Cat fanclub Vice-Presidential oath, on a bible that is really a lot bigger than it needs to be. A march follows! Everyone sits down again.

11:59 AM

Well, hello there! Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and a couple of other people that I don't recognize (somewhere my grandmother and aunt are being very disappointed in me) form a quartet to play an original John Williams piece composed just for the occasion.

It starts out simple and understated, very nice, but gets a little ridiculous a minute or two in where it employs the modern style of evoking percussion by having everyone else play structured squawks and bonks at once under the main line. Listen to that violin part in the middle and tell me otherwise! The piece comes together after that to function as a more traditional quartet arrangement before trailing off again to conclude. Not bad, but nothing really spectacular either.

12:04 PM

Everyone stands for Chief Justice John Roberts, to swear in Obama as President. Obama actually begins a little early and has to restart, then loses the second line and needs it repeated. Big grin when he does that, though! Aww, he's all nervous, look at him!

He takes the office, so help him God, and Hail to the Chief plays while cannons fire the 21-gun salute and everyone cheers their heads off. Hear tell from Mansbridge at this point is that the Chief Justice screwed up the reading, leading Obama to screw it up as well; I'll take his word for it, I guess.

12:07 PM

Inauguration speech! Polite applause for Bush at his mention; they cut over to him and he looks sad, probably for the obvious reasons. Obama reminds everyone about what a pickle America is in, vows to restore the confidence of the nation, hope chosen over fear -- nothing you weren't expecting, I imagine.

He quotes scripture, briefly: "the time has come to put aside childish things". My dad pulled that on me once to try and get me to quit playing video games, but I brushed him off and look at me now! Top of the world, ma!

"Starting today we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of rebuilding America!" So far that seems like the most likely quote for the future retrospective reels, but then again the speech isn't over yet.

What is that little rectangular pin he's wearing? Is that the American flag? The light keeps bouncing off it, so I never get a good look at it. (Colin Powell sighting in the VIP section, by the way.) Obama talks tough to the terrorists at this time, threatens the warmongers and the dictators, can't break the American spirit, that sort of thing; America is willing to work with anyone who wants to work with America, is the general thrust.

Brief exposition on the American character, as the camera pans around to show that there are even more people crammed on the rooftops surrounding the National Mall. (I hear he's popular, this Barack guy.)

Speech concludes at just over eighteen minutes long, standing ovation, Mansbridge dubs the speech a "call to action" and a "condemnation of the Bush years", both of which sound about right.

12:27 AM

Still more ceremony! Poet Elizabeth Alexander, whoever that is (yes, yes, I'm uncultured, I know), reads a poem that totally fails to grab me. Then it shows the crowd shots and you can actually see some people filing out of the Mall; sorry, Elizabeth Alexander!

Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, the old civil rights leader, is up next to preach a bit; "you got the whole world in your hands," he reads; "deliver us from the exploitation of the poor". He thanks and praises the lord for sending Obama as the President; thank God this isn't McCain, is what the speech basically boils down to.

Also some rhyme play about the yellow being mellow, and the red man gettin' ahead-man, and... what? Anyway, he concludes, and the Marines come out to sing the anthem.

12:38 PM

Hmm... yup. That's their anthem, all right.

You know what I love about the Marine Choir singing the anthem? They sing it with discipline, like it was written, the way it is god damn supposed to sound. Most every time you hear the Star-Spangled Banner it is being belted out by somebody who insists the procedure be all about them, about the embellishments and extended notes and stretched meter and cutesy tricks that they want to pull on an audience who specifically did not come to hear somebody take forever singing the national anthem. The Marines sing it, keep it short, and go about their day. Good. We need more renditions like this.

The Presidential Party departs, apparently bound for a ceremonial inaugural lunch; some milling around occurs amidst the VIP section. Some deconstruction of the speech is ventured; the Princeton politics professor from earlier describes Obama's inauguration speech as "Jeffersonian" with a lot of Greatest Generation influences shown.

We are told that Harper has extended his first statement immediately following the inauguration; he had time to sit on his duff and write up a welcoming statement, but he couldn't be bothered to catch a flight down to Washington? Are we just not being told that he's in Mongolia or something right now?

Mansbridge notes during a shot of Bill Clinton that he "rarely leaves an outstretched hand behind". Quick sightings both of John Kerry and John McCain in the VIP section; I've noticed that political failure crops up in bunches on telecasts like these.

"It was kind of a quiet crowd, for a crowd that ran upwards of two million," Mansbridge remarks.

12:48 AM

The incoming and outgoing Presidents walk down the stairs together, wave a little for the media, wait for their wives to join them. The Bidens walk past them on the way, and Jill Biden's bright red coat is still completely distracting. Cheney, I guess having taken a ramp somewhere, is at the bottom of the stairs in his new wheelchair. They roll him up to one of the Cadillacs and around the back of the car, leading me to briefly envision them stuffing him in the trunk -- but no, they wheel him all the way around to the passenger side and away he goes.

Hugs all around between the two Presidents and First Ladies, the Bushes wave goodbye to whoever is around, and away they go on the Marine One helicopter. Joe Biden shows up and his smile is gigantic and hilarious, because Joe Biden.

12:56 PM

George W. Bush's immediate post-Presidential plans are, apparently, to begin writing a book and make coffee for his wife. No, really.

Mansbridge notes that Marine One is a variant of the same base helicopter body that the Canadian Sea Kings use; he also notes that the American counterpart is far, far better taken care of. (In other news, duh.)

For reasons I don't understand, we go back to Christine whoever at the Toronto high school; she opens by asking the students what they thought of the speech and they all chorus "YES WE CAN" and urghhhhhh

A smaller boy claims that the speech has inspired him to be Prime Minister when he grows up, and the reporter just fawns over this precocious little statement, and then she asks another boy "Who's cooler -- Barack Obama or Kanye West?" Oh god I hate this woman and I hate these kids and I hate this entire segment.

1:03 PM

Because we've run out of things to talk about, we're briefly whisked to England to be shown one of the eight wax Obamas newly created by the Madame Tussauds Museum.

Cut to live footage of Michelle Jean, giving a speech about the new President and the hope he represents and--where is this taking place? Oh, Rideau Hall. Anyway, she wishes Obama much success on behalf of we the Canadians, in both languages, and we transition back to Mansbridge (who is still looking crazy pink today). More from the Princeton prof (Melissa Harris-Lacewell, says the chryon) about the meaning and tone of the speech.

"Time to wrap up," Mansbridge intones, although he notes that there is still much more about the event to watch on Newsworld if I decide I have nothing better to do today.

Telecast ends at 1:10 PM. (Newsworld immediately launches into the news, and the first thing it re-broadcasts is the new President and the Chief Justice combining to screw up the Oath, but what can you do.)

Well! Big day so far. As fun as I'm sure it would be to sit and alternate between the different news stations all day to rewatch snippets of everything I just saw, I'm afraid I'm going to have to get dressed and actually go out and about today. Wish me luck!

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