Monday, March 31, 2008

TV EYE: One vote for Gomez Addams

John Adams is the founding father that no one knows (or cares much about), always outshone by his historical bros George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benny Boy Franklin. HBO is in the midst of a presenting a finely detailed and impeccably drawn retelling of David McCullough’s highly praised biography, much praised for fully succeeding in making the man and his actions vividly interesting. The HBO showpiece, John Adams (Sundays, 8:00 PM) is not so wholly successful, the direct cause of which lies squarely on the squat shoulders of Paul Giamatti, a cool daddy actor who's done wonderful work in a dozen different movies and roles. Here he seems outshined by his co-stars Laura Linney (Abigal Adams), David Morse (Washington), Steven Dillane (Jefferson), Danny Huston (Samuel Adams) and especially Tom Wilkinson (an entertainingly quirky Franklin). The mini-series production values leap off the screen and the script is a literate one, but Giamatti never fits himself into the period, and his Adams seems continually dumbstruck and irritated, like a guy in a wig with a migraine and a toothache, making it tough to divine enough signs of the actual Adams’ enormous inner drive and particular intellect. Truthfully, this period piece feels far too close to yer typical BBC fare, eliciting far more yawns than giggles.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Richard Widmark 1915-2008

Richard Widmark was a compelling on screen presence throughout the Hollywood of the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and indeed, into the 70’s. A native Minnesotan, he did time as a teacher and stage and radio actor before making his infamous movie debut at the late age of 32 in 1947’s Kiss of Death. Playing a disturbingly gleeful psychopath named Tommy Udo, his gaunt features, hyena laugh, pinpoint eyeballs, and the ever lasting image of his character pushing an elderly women in a wheelchair down a staircase would mark him as one of the unforgettable agents of violence of all time for a Hollywood studio product. Widmark seem to grow sturdier as he aged, and wound up as a leading man in the solid Midwestern mode of Henry Fonda or William Holden, although Widmark’s characters often displayed propensities for malice or sadism and the way his measured voice was occasionally broken up by a malevolent sneer or a glinty, penetrative gaze, hinted at neuroses bubbling much closer to the surface then those parts inhabited by the two aforementioned actors. Equally at home on the range, in the military, or as an urbanite, the actor did exceptional work in three separate 1950 releases, as a hustler in the noir Night and the City, as a bigoted cop in No Way Out and as a doctor fighting the plague in Panic in the Streets. Widmark was also picture perfect as a small time pickpocket in Sam Fuller’s classic Pickup on South Street (1953), two John Ford westerns, Two Rode Together (1961) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964), and particularly fine as a tired and tough New York Cop in Don Siegel’s gritty Madigan (1968).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

On The Road

I’ve got a peculiar jones, an incessant desire to go back through the television time machine and relook at some of the past product, seeing if any of it withstands the test of time. Route 66 (Critics Choice, $59.96, 4 discs), which rumbled through 116 black and white 1 hour episodes from 1960-64, passes easily, and, in fact, actually deserves another look. From the pen of Naked City creator Sterling Silliphant, and featuring both an iconic score from Nelson Riddle, and an iconic vehicle (a Corvette Convertible) driven by it’s protagonists, youthful wanderers Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) and Buz Murdock (George Maharis), the show was filmed on location and functioned as an anthology show, changing characters and plots from episode to episode. Tod and Buz, poised somewhere between neo-beatniks and college frat boys, are simply on the road seeking jobs and adventure, implicitly discovering themselves and exploring the American landscape. The series has the modest air of much of the sixties TV fare, the humor is low key and largely un-ironic, the episodes unfold slowly without any pumped up pop and sizzle (with the exception of at least one or two bits of old school fisticuffs each hour), and the general mood is one of a sturdy and quiet hopefulness punctuated with periodic hints of the dark side of the American dream: racism, small town hypocrisy, governmental wrongdoings, all of it depicted on a dusty postcard of an off-road landscape. The episodes are usually tied up with an ironic or neat little moral, but the central theme of pre-hippie wanderlust, the parade of soon-to-be-names (Lee Marvin, Robert Redford, James Cann, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen), the detailed authenticity of the job-of-the-week (shrimp fishing, oil-rigging, logging, prospecting, et al), plus the neatly captured images from a more innocent time mark this a series both artfully rendered and ahead of its time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cave Dwelling

Think of the storied history of the caveman movie: One Million, B.C. (1940), One Million Years B.C. (1966), Caveman (1981), Quest for Fire (1982), Iceman (1984),The Clan of The Cave Bear (1986). Amusing? Yes. Watchable? Yep. Dopey? All the way. Think of the storied output of the director behind the newest cave feature 10,000 B.C., Roland Emmerich: Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998), The Patriot (2000), The Day After Tomorrow (2004). Amusing? Uh-huh. Watchable? Yeah. Dopey? Damn right. Need I inform you that this one is a colossal batch of bombastic claptrap, wholly artificial CGI, wooden dialogue and dunderhead acting, hilarious in its ineptitude and funnier in its delivery, yet (lord help me) a strangely entertaining experience, albeit one more suited for some late night cable TV searching.

Scott, I don’t wanna step on your knowledge and wisdom but I need to post the image. So I’m horning in on the post rather than the commentary. Given the proximity to Easter, you must forgive my sins.

Your review of “10 Million Years, B.C.” seems generous and kind compared to most of the published commentary. Our friend Jon Sawyer, whom you met is truly one of the most kindest and generous movie viewers I know. His assessment of almost every movie I’ve ever asked about is “I thought it was great, very entertaining.” For “10 Million…” he says “ Well, it was okay, I guess entertaining a little.”
I want to expand the “caveman/woman” genre to include the entire “Planet of the Apes” saga, the obscure and odd “Encino Man”, maybe the first 15 minutes of “2001 A Space Odyssey”, several Kung Fu films but most notably “ The Executioner” or “Chokugeki! Jigoku-ken” (1974), with Sonny Chiba, and naturally “The Flintstones” in all its permutations.
In the end though it’s all about this:

-Brother Mark

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Did Sam Gompers Play Second Base?

What was the strange swirl of radical activity in the blazing Fort Meyers, Florida sun yesterday? The Red Sox, once infamously known as the 25 player-25 cabs team, bonded together and messed with woeful Bud Selig and his fellow corporate kingpins and threatened to disrupt a carefully planned and promoted trip to Japan that was created for the sole purpose of increasing MLB market share, and raining more coin into the coffers? The spoiled, petulant, bratty, self-serving, kids-game-playing millionaires kicked up some dust for their less fortunate coaches and support staff?
Did anybody see a grim-faced Ray Liotta sticking his mug out from behind some Palm trees while Kevin Costner scratched his ever cute hair and wondered about the voices he was hearing? Why haven't I, during the many so-called actions (picketing, leafleting, boycotting) I've either orchestrated or participated in, managed to get results in the space of a brief tick-tocking hour? I hope Terrible Teddy, a true man of the people, was hovering around and smiling, and I hope Oil Can popped open a mid-afternoon cold one, because that was a rare (and downright weird) example of the right stuff, and, although I was just sitting in that very sunny ballpark last Tuesday afternoon, I felt two times as heated-up yesterday following the incident as it unfolded.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

TV EYE: Apocalypse Yawn

Admittedly, I haven’t put the time in with Jericho (CBS, Tuesday, 10:00 PM), a prime time fable of apocalypse and frontier justice, having watched only some intermittent episodes during its first season, and the first few episodes of its current run. I have not yet seen what it possesses that turned on enough viewers to successfully petition to keep the show alive. It’s a strangely desaturated drama that never manages to convey the urgencies of its conspiracies, and also seems to spend a bit much time veering off into a few sappy romantic interludes. Even the lead, supposedly smoldering rebel boy Skeet Ulrich just comes off as a scraggly bearded stereotype, a pretty boy survivalist without an ounce of gravitas. One doesn’t want to weigh in negatively against a network product that is at least venturing into intriguing territory, but the show seems to lack either the sizzle or the propulsive drive it needs to differentiate it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Onward to the Anti-West!

Strange as it was, somehow the fall of 2007 movie season brought on not one, but two heel-kickin’ westerns, the thoroughly disparate 3:10 to Yuma (well done and traditional) and this adaptation of Ron Hansen’s overtly literary novel, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warners, 160 minutes, $27.98), a true blue anti-western. Writer/director Andrew Dominik doesn’t venture as far off the range as say Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, but his take on the myth of Jesse James is virtually devoid of gunplay, and as full of looming and desolate spaces, slow camera movements, meaningful close-ups and even an oh-so-literary voice-over narration. Like Robert Altman’s vastly underrated Buffalo Bill and the Indians the movie focuses squarely on the myth-making machinery of the Wild West, and it does so without the comic ironies and overt satire of that film. Brad Pitt is the charismatic Jesse, all instinct and guile, and possibly a psychopath, while Casey Affleck is the hero worshipping gang member who does him in, and suffers the subsequent consequences of weird infamy. Pitt does a solid, even subtle riff as the outlaw, but the movie belongs to Affleck, virtually whispering and mumbling his way through a complex and affecting performance.

Friday, March 14, 2008

TV EYE: Robos, Dames, and Sci-fi Television

The TV Terminator ( actually titled The Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,which just finished its initial run on Fox, Mondays, 9:00) is solid smash-and-grab sci-fi, replete with robo-poundings, governmental conspiracies, just enough things blowing up, a nice solid spread of apocalyptic doom jam, and two attractive females with the seeming ability to roundly kick-everybody-in sight’s-ass. It somehow meshes into the whole Terminator mythology, but for those like me, who don’t care, you don’t have to get it in order to get it. Once again Sarah (Lena Headey) and John (Thomas Dekker) are on the lamb, but they ain’t no sheep. Ably protected by the waiflike cyborg Cameron (get it?), played by Summer Glau. The show is smartly propulsive, and allows it's futuristic dread to seep in properly as the plot click-clacks ahead (and back). Headey and Glau are a fun odd couple team to watch, (and, unsurprisingly, adding two more to the spate of tough TV dames on parade this season). As the episodes have progressed even Dekker has managed to break out of the sullen pretty boy teen thang and has started to craft a believable character. The show is my kinda sci-fi—matter-of-fact rather than strained seriousness, a mud-and-guts vision of the near and far future, a tale that's neither too cerebral or drowning in it’s own mythos.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Our Kinda Kinks

Writer/director Wes Anderson constructs his movies like one of Joseph Cornell’s exquisite dioramas—delicately put together, rife with meaning and vividness, overflowing with symbolism and artistry, yet somehow still extremely inscrutable. I’m an Anderson guy, and although this, The Darjeeling Limited (Fox, 2007, 91 minutes, $29.99), his latest effort just seeing light as a DVD, is a touch uneven, yet it still remains a charming and soulful offering, overflowing with visual bric-a-brac, cinematic artifice, and a baker’s dozen of trademark moments of low key intensity. With in an overlaying tale of familial dysfunction, a couple of Kink songs, Anjelica Huston and Bill Murray, and the nose-bonded actors playing unlikely siblings (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman) and the film (like all of Anderson’s whimsical efforts) casts a dreamy spell.

Half-Assed Thriller

Sometime back, as the soft parade of movie trailers washed across the big screen one, in particular, caused me to sit up and take notice. The multiple-point-of-view-assassination thriller-diller named Vantage Point looked smart and polished enough to be a movie worth waiting for. Not so fast. Finally in the theaters, Vantage Point seems to have left its dazzle on the trailer room floor. It turns out to be a lukewarm thriller, predictable city, and peopled with the most obvious of representative characters (albeit with a solid cast that includes Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver, and Matthew Fox). For a bit, when the movie sticks to it’s premise of a swirling, interactive, examination of viewpoint and action Vantage Point feels like a well-engineered bit of stylistic filmmaking. By the movie's final third, the vantage point experiment has been jettisoned, and the film just rushes down the well-traveled road of car chases and bang-bang shoot-em-ups, another trite and half-ass Hollywood coin-counter.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Milkshakes and Oscars

The following column is reprinted from the March issue of Providence Monthly

By Scott Duhamel

It’s a little unsettling that the two best American movies of 2007 are equally square- jawed and hunkered down, two movies embedded in hardened soil and defoliated landscapes, unearthing the metaphorical till of a decidedly hardscrabble American panorama. Both There Will be Blood and No Country for Old Men (note the similarity of the titles, both easily appearing as story names in a Flannery O’Connor collection) utilize stolid templates, allowing only the slightest of visual flourishes to serve as occasional cinematic brushstrokes, both tales unfolding under a decidedly darkened atmosphere, and both achieving a quiet rapture through the neatly coiled dynamics of build-up and release.
What ultimately sets apart the two movies that are remarkably similar in theme, in mood, and in delivery is the outsized central performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood . In No Country For Old Man, the Coen brothers refuse to divert the balance of power (or of the picture) from any of the three protagonists, a major portion of the film’s facileness relies on the ever shifting (and wholly impartial) focus on Josh Brolin’s seeker, Javier Bardeem's doer, and Tommy Lee Jones’s observer. Paul Thomas Anderson, on the other hand, gives his movie over wholly to Day-Lewis, who appears in virtually every scene, and, by the film’s end, his hardened visage is as much a part of the visual scheme as are the primitive oil derricks and freshly lumbered structures.
Ultimately No Country for Old Man is a tone poem for the lost American wilderness and the wild figures that inhabited it, and it is also as bleak and unhopeful and ghastly funny as a Sam Shepard play, with a finale that offers little beyond a chuckle and quick gasp of recognition that life, yup, goes on. There Will Be Blood is a rise and fall fable that drains itself of highs or lows, and forces us to peer deep inside the ever piercing eyes of it’s main figure, feebly hoping to ascertain a meaningful emotion. Day-Lewis’ bravura portrait of his acutely single-minded character, Daniel Plainview, packs the sort of imagination and shadings that only a few screen presences have ever been capable of, out-and-out acting icons like Brando, Olivier, or DeNiro. Somehow Day-Lewis (the odds on favorite for the Oscar) absolutely dominates the movie without even seeming to try, yet Anderson somehow gets judicious use out of handful of smaller performance such as Paul Dano’s Eli Sunday, Kevin J. O’Connor’s Henry, and Dillon Freasier’s ethereal H.W.
Anderson positions Day-Lewis’ Plainview as the epitome of the American success story, a go-getter who charms, cons, and bullies his way to the top and once there, finds himself isolated and alone. Conjuring up bits and pieces from the main figures of essential films like Citizen Kane, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, even Moby Dick, Day-Lewis delivers an audacious performance, carrying a wonderfully imaginative film on his jutting shoulders. Through most of the film, floating along on a stream of false gaiety, he is a man in motion, cutting through landscape, people, and sentences as if no one exists but him and his purposes, his bearing and diction prove that he is indeed a righteous American dreamer, mover and shaker. When the actor finally chooses to remain still, when the camera lights on his strangely daunted expression, the movie shudders with portentousness, and his self-disintegration, alongside the accompanying American chimera, is as powerfully conveyed as the steady burst of a gushing oil well. As far as Daniel Day Lewis goes—yes indeed, there will be Oscar.

Daniel Day at Play

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985). Day-Lewis burst on the scene as one half of a gay bi-racial couple in this British slice-of-life helmed by Stephen Frears. Unbeknownst to audiences, his Morrissey-like appearance and demeanor was solid proof of his chameleon-like attributes which become much more evident as his career flourishes

A Room With a View (1985). DDL book-ended his Laundrette role with a twitchy, effete, uptight version of British upper-class snobbery and impotence in this well made Merchant-Ivory movie version of E.M. Forster’s novel

The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988). American maverick Phil Kaufman (The Right Stuff) hit one out of the park with this European styled poltico-sexual sideways glance at Czechoslovakia in 1968, just prior to the Russian invasion. The romantic triangle formed by DDL, Lena Olin and Juilette Binoche is rightfully considered by many to be among the sexiest threesome to ever hit the bigscreen. With this one, DDL turned into an art school pin-up.

My Left Foot (1989). Working for the first time with Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan, DDL’s spellbinding portrait of Irish cerebral palsy victim Christy Brown was the kind of acting tour de force that begs for awards. DDL received his share, and stories filtered off the set that he (like DeNiro, et al) was so fully committed to his method that he refused to get out of character on or off the set. A cult begins.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992). Teaming with Michael Mann in this mainstream adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper’s well loved book, DDL totally inhabits the iconic Hawkeye; mean, streamlined, child of nature, running and jumping through Mann’s brutal eye candy with a vengeance.

The Age Of Innocence. (1993). A vastly underrated turn from DDL in Marty Scorsese’ equally underrated filmic equivalent of Edith Wharton’s turn of the century depiction of manners and morality in New York. DDL takes the upper class twit mold from the Remains of the Day and goes deep inside, providing the movie with some of the subtlest
interior acting in recent years.

In the Name of the Father (1993). Hooking up again with Jim Sheridan, DDL is Gerry Conlon, a feckless Belfast boy falsely implicated in an IRA bombing and eventually imprisoned alongside his equally innocent father Pete Postlethwhaite). DDL’s presence chances the balance of the movie from a fight-for-justice to a tale of familial bonding and manful maturation.

The Crucible (1996). Yet another costume drama, a vivid reinterpretation of Arthur Miller’s well known drama scripted by the playwright himself, and DDL obligingly burns up the screen with smoldering eyes and the by-now expected internal intensity as John Proctor. For one, DDL is ably matched, by the peerless Joan Allen, as Elizabeth Proctor.

The Boxer
(1999) Furthering the DeNiro comparisons, DDL takes on the manly art as an Irish boxer (working again with Jim Sheridan) who’s IRA past keeps engulfing him. Little seen, but a gripping little drama, grim and gray, and yet another DDL version of a man trapped by circumstance.

The Gangs of New York (2002). DDL biggest, brashest, most domineering performance yet, and outside of DeNiro’s Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull the most captivating and operatic portrayal in all of Scorsese’s film work. Undeniably a spellbinding, knock ‘em dead outing, enough so, that upon it’s release I felt compelled to quickly head back for a second movie house viewing, just to focus on DDL’s fully realized and amazingly articulated showboating.

The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005). Quirky indie film directed by DDL’s wife Rebecca Miller has DDL as a hippie Scotsman with a heart condition and a too-close-for-comfort relationship with his home schooled daughter (Camilla Belle). A smart little film with a deceptively quiet showing from DDL.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Rocking in the Free World

After two strange gigs in a month's time (Neil Young Tribute Show, backing Daniel Johnston), my main man and notorious fellow culture vulture Mark Cutler (and favorite aging rocker)somehow managed to up the ante and took some more time out to fill me in on his third odd gig, a little rock and roll noise before Rock Star Obama's appearance at a hugely attended recent rally in little Rhody.

Bob Giusti, Mike Tanaka and I, (3/4’s of The Dino Club), were the musical entertainment at the Barack Obama rally at RI College Sat, March 1st, 2008. Our good friend, Senator Josh Miller from RI suggested to his campaign people that we do the gig. Josh called me and asked who I was supporting in the presidential race and I said that I was an Obama man. Josh put me in touch with Mike Brush, one of Senator Obama's campaign organizers and we went over the logistics. We were to play for just 20 minutes. It wasn't a paying gig but Mike B. promised that we would get some face time and a photo with Senator Obama. Bob, Mike and I needed to be vetted by the Secret Service, so I gave Mr. Brush our personal info and he contacted me later that day to say that we passed. It was good to know that my rock and roll pals and I don't have any black marks in the Secret Service permanent record book. I have to admit, I was pretty excited to be playing at the rally. I got up extra early in anticipation. I got up during the night trying to think of what songs would be appropriate. My girlfriend Kristen’s brother in-law Matt Hodge suggested the old Canned Heat song ‘Let’s Work Together’. I agreed. I thought of ‘Fortunate Son’ and an original called ‘Heart Keep Beating’. From there, we would wing it.

It was a long day to say the least. My entourage, which included Mike T., Bob G., my son Danny, my girlfriend Kristen, our good friend Carrie and Danny's friend Dylan arrived at 10:30 at the RI College Rec. Center. It was raining and it was cold. I had been in contact with Barack's people throughout the morning. Pauline was our contact person there and told us where to park. We had some amps, drum kit and guitars (kinda like the Daniel Johnston set up detailed a few blog entries below)) and we had to carry the equipment through sleet and mud about 200 yards to the press entrance. We got all our equipment there, thanks to our entourage's help and a couple of volunteers named Max and Debbie. However, we weren't allowed to bring our equipment inside until they finished sweeping the arena for bombs and such. In the meantime we were with all the press people from all over the world sitting at the front of the line trying to protect our equipment. After about 45 minutes, they let us bring our equipment in. Eureka! We thought we were all set however, once the equipment was inside, they asked us to go back and wait with the rest of the press in the sleet and cold. We went back out and stood in the weather for a few more minutes and finally were allowed back in for the duration.
We were shown to the stage where the candidate would be speaking and there was his podium. We had to set up around it but that was ok. It was like Barack was our front man. I stood at the podium just to see what it would be like and I gotta say it was pretty sensational to be standing in the spot that (hopefully to me) a future president would be standing; we set up our stuff and were even allowed a sound check. John the soundman was really cool. He did the best he could to make it comfortable for us. As we were doing our sound check song (“This is the Place”) people were filtering in. By the time we finished there were at least a couple of thousand folks applauding. That was really sweet and the positive vibe could not be ignored. I told the folks the name of our band and that we would be on shortly. We walked off the stage and waited in a special area until show time. I was really happy that I got to share this moment with Kristen and my son Danny.
Showtime arrived we went on; the crowd was ready and excited. We had no set list and we were about to play a bunch of songs we never really played before. No problem, we’re professionals, don’t try this at home. Right before we went on, I told Mike and Bob that the first song would be ‘Let’s Work Together’ “It’s really nice to be playing for all these Barack Obama supporters.” Screams. “There are three more of us onstage.” More screams:

Together we stand
Divide we fall
C'mon peoplem let's get on the ball
Let's work together

It was ragged, but that was ok, we were playing an opening set for Barack Obama, holy shit!! I couldn’t hear my vocals and my guitar seemed like it was coming from the twilight zone but that was ok. I’m glad I remembered the words. After that, I told the crowd that it was really cool to be part of this witnessing of history. They yelled their approval. Next song was ‘Fortunate Son’. Honest to God people, we never played it before but it just made too much sense to play it here, so we did. In the key of B and again I remembered most of the words:

Some people born with star spangled eyes
Oohn they wanna send you out to war

(That line could make you cry couldn’t it?)

We then played “Honky Tonk Blues” by Hank Williams just cuz, I love that song. I wasn’t sure what to play next so I asked the folks if they wanted to hear a Rolling Stones song and they mostly said yes. “Jumpin Jack Flash” at a presidential rally. Yes, the times they are a changing.

We then closed with an original “May Your Heart Keep Beating”. Before we played it I said to the crowd, “It feels like we’ve been walking in the woods for almost 8 years and we’re finally seeing the daylight.” They screamed and my heart soared a bit. We ended the set; the people politely responded. We moved our equipment to a corner behind the stage and were escorted to a special section to watch the proceedings.
RI Attorney General Patrick Lynch came and said a short but effective speech. He even thanked the Dino Club for playing. Then we waited and waited and waited for a couple of hours and finally Patrick Kennedy hit the stage to introduce our man. The screams, the excitement, the tension and the heat made this a very intense experience. The Secret Service men were scanning the crowd. We had a great unique vantage point. We were about twenty feet to his left in front of the press photog booth. It was his stump speech but we were testifying right along with him. After the speech, he walked offstage and shook our hands. This couldn’t be the promised face time, could it? We waited until we had clearance to get behind the stage in order to get our equipment. I contacted Mike Brush and he said that we were to meet with the candidate shortly. Holy shit! It was going to happen. I really wanted to meet him but more importantly, I wanted my son to meet him. Danny was getting antsy but I told him he would thank me later on in life that I made him hang. Not everyone gets this opportunity. Finally we were escorted to the back area of the arena. There were policemen, firemen and state policemen waiting to have their pics taken with Mr. Obama. I have to say that the Secret Service men were pretty cool, they didn’t seem at all like the way you see them on the ‘Simpsons’ or ‘American Dad’.

Finally he arrives. He’s supposed to be heading to Cleveland for another rally, but he was so patient with everyone there. He took photos with students, volunteers, the police, firemen and finally us. He shook our hands and I got to say to him, “This is my son, and his friend and we don’t want them going to Iraq.” He squeezed my hand tighter and said, “I know, neither do I.” Senator Obama took a couple of photos with us and we left. After the experience, you know, he comes across as a pretty regular guy. He’s approachable and he’s got grace. I hope he wins and I hope he’s a great president. Thanks to Senator Miller for letting me in on this experience.