kottke.org posts about Al Gore
In 2006, Davis Guggenheim directed An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary film about Al Gore’s fight to educate the world about climate change. It made nearly $50 million at the box office, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, and is credited for moving the conversation about climate change along (although not nearly fast enough, in my mind). This July, a followup documentary will be released: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. From a review in the LA Times:
Eleven Sundances later, Gore’s star wattage seemed entirely undimmed at Thursday evening’s premiere of “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” an awkwardly titled, stirringly crafted follow-up that measures the progress that has and hasn’t been made in the battle against global warming. Taking over for Davis Guggenheim, the directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk largely abandon the framing device of Gore’s lecture (which he and his international team of trainees continue to give regularly) in favor of a nimbler, more on-the-go approach.
Despite some updates on the continuing decline of the world’s glaciers and the link between climate change and the recent Zika virus outbreak, the focus this time is less on science than on politicking. Cohen and Shenk tag along with Gore on a globe-trotting mission to persuade various heads of state to invest in wind and solar energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels — an effort that culminates on-screen with the signing of last year’s historic Paris climate accord.
Maria Guadalupe, an economics and political science professor, and Joe Salvatore, a professor of educational theater, recently put on a pair of performances that restaged the three Presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. But this time, they had a woman play the Trump role (as “Brenda King”) and a man play the Clinton role (as “Jonathan Gordon”), with each attempting to portray the precise mannerisms, styles, and speech of the respective candidates. How would audiences react to the gender-switched candidates?
Salvatore says he and Guadalupe began the project assuming that the gender inversion would confirm what they’d each suspected watching the real-life debates: that Trump’s aggression — his tendency to interrupt and attack — would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton’s competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man.
But the lessons about gender that emerged in rehearsal turned out to be much less tidy. What was Jonathan Gordon smiling about all the time? And didn’t he seem a little stiff, tethered to rehearsed statements at the podium, while Brenda King, plainspoken and confident, freely roamed the stage? Which one would audiences find more likeable?
The audience’s reaction to the performances was surprising.
We heard a lot of “now I understand how this happened” — meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset. There was a guy two rows in front of me who was literally holding his head in his hands, and the person with him was rubbing his back. The simplicity of Trump’s message became easier for people to hear when it was coming from a woman — that was a theme. One person said, “I’m just so struck by how precise Trump’s technique is.” Another — a musical theater composer, actually — said that Trump created “hummable lyrics,” while Clinton talked a lot, and everything she was was true and factual, but there was no “hook” to it. Another theme was about not liking either candidate — you know, “I wouldn’t vote for either one.”
Here’s a clip from one of the rehearsals:
I think it’s important not to take away too much from this experiment (and perhaps the same should be said of televised political debates in general) but after watching that short clip and hearing about the audience’s reaction, I couldn’t help but think of Al Gore. In the lead-up to the election, I’d never thought of Clinton that way — meaning very smart, compassionate, and supremely qualified but ultimately a bit dull and uninspiring a la Gore — but maybe she did lack a critical charisma compared to Trump.
Since the Kennedy/Nixon debates, we’ve known that how candidates handle themselves on television — in debates, interviews, televised speeches, etc. — is critical to the voters’ perceptions of them. Gore, Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Mitt Romney, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale, John Kerry…they all were bested by more charismatic candidates (Reagan, Obama, Bill Clinton) that were in some cases not as qualified on paper. Even the Bushes (especially Dubya) had an aw shucks-y folksiness that could charm people sympathetic to their message. Perhaps Hillary Clinton belongs on that list as well. (via mr)
The disappointing and boring presidency of Al Gore.
Of course, the biggest disappointment was Gore’s failure to handle Hurricane Katrina properly. Not only did the massive evacuation of New Orleans prove a costly and time-consuming overreaction, since the levees — fortified in 2003 — held up fine. The emergency management agency also took over 24 hours to set up trailers for evacuees along the Gulf Coast, leaving them without government housing assistance for a full day.
And from Niall Ferguson, here’s how 2009 went.
There was uproar when Timothy Geithner, US Treasury secretary, requested an additional $300bn to provide further equity injections for Citigroup, Bank of America and the seven other big banks, just a week after imposing an agonising “mega-merger” on the automobile industry. In Detroit, the Big Three had become just a Big One, on the formation of CGF (Chrysler-General Motors-Ford; inevitably, the press soon re-christened it “Can’t Get Funding”).
Signs of progress and setbacks in addressing climate change at the conclusion of Nobel Laureate Al Gore’s annus mirabilis. From Al Gore’s Nobel lecture:
However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world’s leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler’s threat: “They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent.”
So today, we dumped another 70 million tons of global-warming pollution into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet, as if it were an open sewer. And tomorrow, we will dump a slightly larger amount, with the cumulative concentrations now trapping more and more heat from the sun.
The full text of Gore’s lecture is here.
A depressing story about the media’s coverage of Al Gore during the 2000 election.
Eight years ago, in the bastions of the “liberal media” that were supposed to love Gore — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, CNN — he was variously described as “repellent,” “delusional,” a vote-rigger, a man who “lies like a rug,” “Pinocchio.” Eric Pooley, who covered him for Time magazine, says, “He brought out the creative-writing student in so many reporters… Everybody kind of let loose on the guy.”
I want to believe that news outlets are in the business of news, not entertainment, but it’s just not true in most cases. Even more depressing is that blogs, especially political blogs, are even worse in this regard.
Al Gore won a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for what is essentially a PowerPoint presentation. More info here.
Update: Yes, yes, I know Al Gore uses Keynote and not Powerpoint. Hence the “essentially”. (thx, everyone in the world)
Update: Amazingly, Al Gore now has an Emmy, an Oscar, and now a Nobel Prize. All he needs is a Grammy for the full Gore. (thx, brent)
Update: Man, you folks are testy today. When I say that Gore won a Nobel Prize for a Powerpoint presentation (again, “essentially”), I’m not being derogatory towards Gore. I like Gore…I’ve written several posts about him. But whatever his other accomplishments regarding the environment, he won the Nobel for An Inconvenient Truth. No movie, no prize. Period. Suppose someone had told you two years ago that someone would win a Nobel Peace Prize for a Hollywood film of a Powerpoint presentation…you’d have laughed in their face and every other part of their body!
David Remnick speculates on Al Gore, candidate for the 2008 Presidential election. “Gore, more than any other major Democratic Party figure, including the many candidates assembled for next year’s Presidential nomination, has demonstrated in opposition precisely the quality of judgment that Bush has lacked in office.”
TED is releasing audio and video of some of their talks for free on the web. Current offerings include Al Gore, David Pogue, and Gapminder’s Hans Rosling. They’ll be adding one talk a week from their archives.
Update: Here’s a post about the release from TED Blog.
Unsurprisingly, the WSJ doesn’t much care for An Inconvenient Truth. Is there any way of uncoupling political alignment and one’s position on this issue?
An Inconvenient Truth, a movie about Al Gore’s global warming crusade, opens today in NYC and LA. John Heilemann has a lengthy piece on Gore for New York magazine, the NY Times has a piece about Gore and the movie, the climate science blog RealClimate has a positive review of the film, and here again is my review. Larry Lessig, who knows a thing or two about bringing tha PowerPoint noize, loves the movie, calling the slideshow “the most extraordinary lecture I have ever seen anyone give about anything”.
An Inconvenient Truth will open in the rest of the US in mid-June; check this theater listing for details. For more news, check out the movie’s blog.
Riding a wave of publicity from his movie, An Inconvenient Truth, might Al Gore run for President in 2008? (My answer: unlikely.)
In the 1960s, a young Al Gore had the good fortune to study under Roger Revelle at Harvard University. Revelle was one of the first scientists to claim that the earth may not be able to effectively deal with all of the carbon dioxide generated by the earth’s rapidly increasing human population. The American Institute of Physics called Revelle’s 1957 paper with Hans Suess “the opening shot in the global warming debates”. Gore took Revelle’s lessons to heart, becoming a keen supporter of the environment during his government service.
Since losing the 2000 Presidential election to George W. Bush, Al Gore has focused his efforts on things other than politics; among other things, he’s been crisscrossing the world delivering a presentation on global warming. Gore’s presentation now forms the foundation of a new film, An Inconvenient Truth (view the trailer).
In organizing my thoughts about the film, I found I couldn’t improve upon David Remnick’s review in the New Yorker. In particular:
It is, to be perfectly honest (and there is no way of getting around this), a documentary film about a possibly retired politician giving a slide show about the dangers of melting ice sheets and rising sea levels. It has a few lapses of mise en scene. Sometimes we see Gore gravely talking on his cell phone—or gravely staring out an airplane window, or gravely tapping away on his laptop in a lonely hotel room—for a little longer than is absolutely necessary. And yet, as a means of education, “An Inconvenient Truth” is a brilliantly lucid, often riveting attempt to warn Americans off our hellbent path to global suicide. “An Inconvenient Truth” is not the most entertaining film of the year. But it might be the most important.
Watching the film, I realized — far too late to move to Florida and vote for him in 2000 — that I’m a fan of Al Gore. He’s smart & intellectually curious (the latter doesn’t always follow from the former), understands science enough to explain it to the layperson without needlessly oversimplifying, and despite his reputation as somewhat of a robot, seems to be more of a real person than many politicians. As Remnick says:
One can imagine him as an intelligent and decent President, capable of making serious decisions and explaining them in the language of a confident adult.
The film has some small problems; many of the asides about Gore’s life (particularly the 2000 election stuff) don’t seem to fit cleanly into the main narrative, the connection it makes between global warming and Katrina is stronger than it should be, and the trailer is a little silly; this is a documentary about Al Gore and global warming after all, not The Day After Tomorrow or Armageddon. But the film really shines when it focuses on the presentation and Gore methodically and lucidly making the case for us needing to take action on global warming. An Inconvenient Truth opens in the US on May 24…do yourself a favor and seek it out when it comes to your local theater.