January 21st, 2009


Last night's events

I missed watching the inauguration live last night because I was at a reception in the European Parliament launching some rather beautiful photographs of Timor Leste (as East Timor prefers to be known these days) taken by Luis Ramos Pinto. The foreign minister was also there. It's not a country I have ever worked on professionally, but the MEP hosting the event has helped me in the past and I wanted to show support. Also, of course, Timor Leste is a very interesting place in its own right.

The photographer introduced his exhibition in English, but both the MEP and the minister made short speeches in Portuguese, which I think is the first time I've been an event which was largely lusophone (apart from a church service I attended in Porto many years ago). It was a salutary reminder that there are other languages than English with a worldwide reach. And the event as a whole was also a nice reminder, on a day when millions of people were (rightly) celebrating the triumph of the American narrative, that there are other, more recent, narratives of struggle and liberation out there.

I did catch up with Obama's speech this morning. It did not disappoint. He's not a great soundbite man (which is why he didn't really shine in the debates). But the substance was all there, and the long Bush nightmare is over.

The only one of his senior officials who I have actually met is the incoming National Security Adviser, Jim Jones, who I went to see once at SHAPE in Mons when he was SACEUR (sorry for the mystifying abbreviations but spelling them out in full is tedious). He impressed me - a Marine general with an actual brain; another of Obama's good picks.

Pedantic point: I was a bit startled by Obama's statement that forty-four Americans have now taken the oath - by my count, it's forty-three, because of Grover Cleveland's non-consecutive terms. (Or was there some other occasion I've forgotten? I make the total number of inaugurations 63, assuming that all 19 re-elections of an incumbent required a swearing-in ceremony.)

January Books 13) Twelfth Night, by William Shakespeare


Two days' worth of Guardian books

Two days’ worth of Guardian novels to report here, because of last night’s distractions. Thanks again to drasecretcampus for supplying the lists. They are two particularly odd selections.

I have read only 24 out of 145 of the Guardian’s the “Family and Self” selection, with another four started but not finished. It is interesting that they have chosen a number of comics in this section – my pick of the lot is Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. The selection also includes Proust as a single unit.

I did far worse on the “State of the Nation” selection – presumably these are meant to be the more political novels, and I actually work in politics, but nonetheless scored a mere 17 out of 133. My picks are boringly conventional, Middlemarch, Les Miserables and Vanity Fair.

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