Thursday, September 08, 2011

Why James Lileks makes a living as a writer and I do not

Because Lileks can come up with lines like this: "[Obama's] oratorical panache now consists of looking from one teleprompter screen to the other with the enthusiasm of a man watching someone else's kids play tennins." (HT: Michael Greenspan.)

Observe how much more pithily and forcefully Lileks expresses a point I made back in 2009 in this long-winded manner, and you'll see why people will pay to read Lileks but not Pierce:

...But the thing that really caught my attention was that Obama never looks at the camera. He looks at a forty-five degree angle or so off to his right, and then he swings back to look at a forty-five degree angle or so off to his left. Then he looks back to his right. Then back to his left. He's practically a metronome. And he's always looking at the same elevation, have you noticed? He never looks down at the people in the front row, never elevates his eyes to the "ceiling fans," as I once heard a pop singer call the fans in the back row of the balcony. For a long time I couldn't figure out what was up with that -- right up until I saw how astonishingly badly he floundered in any venue in which he is forced to ad-lib rather than use his teleprompter. And the penny finally dropped: Obama reads his whole speech word-for-word from the teleprompters. He looks at the teleprompter on his right, and then he swings back to look at the teleprompter on his left. Then he looks back at the teleprompter on his right. Then back to the one on his left.

Now, Dubya is never going to be mistaken for a great orator. But even Dubya knew his own speeches well enough to take his eyes away from the teleprompter every now and then and look at the camera. So now I get the hugest kick out of watching Obama give a speech, because I just watch his head move to the right, and then to the left, and then to the right...and I laugh myself silly.

I'm curious...that old Politics of the Peril post was a long and (I flatter myself) thoughtful post giving specific reasons that I thought Obama was not, in fact, the reincarnation of Demosthenes. I titled the post, "On Obama's speaking style (hint: o-v-e-r-r-a-t-e-d)," which was heresy at the time. I wonder how many people would agree with me now?


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