melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2010-10-30 09:43 pm

That. Was. Awesome.

...although to be honest I would have seriously considered going just so I could jump for Adam and Jamie. :D

Some notes from the Rally, mostly covering things that wouldn't have shown up on the TV coverage:

Anybody who goes to an event like this, take public transit. It's not just that it's the only reasonable way to get there (although, admittedly, I left home at 7:45 in order to make sure I had subway parking), it's that being part of a train or bus full of people, brought together randomly but heading to (or heading home from) the same event, is one of the best parts of the experience. It's totally a bonding experience. Especially if you're local and get to act like the only one who knows what you're doing. :D

The best comedy I saw all day? On the way in on the train, there was a young man - probably no more than about 19 - who mentioned that there would be a lot of "hipsters" like him at the Rally. The sixtysomething retired liberal activists sitting across from him looked understandably confused, and asked him what he meant by "hipster", whereupon he proceeded to explain that 'hipster' was a new term that young people had come up with - it meant sort of like a hippie, only different, and for the new millennium, because it was a new word. The retired hippies gave each other an amused look, and one of them said "I guess that tears it, we've finally drunk the kool-aid, if hipsters are teenagers we must be adults now." And then they had to try to explain the phrase "drunk the kool-aid" to a kid who was probably born post-Waco, and had never heard of Jim Jones.

...I would be even more *facepalm* oh-my-generation about this, if not that apparently my mother who was in college in '69 didn't know the origin of the term 'hipster' either.

The rally was full of weird juxtapositions like that, even beyond the obvious ones. I got there early enough to get a fairly good position - right behind the third set of jumbotrons, just about dead center, inside the fences - and we had plenty of space and no crowding and a great view. However, I managed that by being in position by 9:45, three hours before the event was scheduled to start, and there seemed to be some interesting demographic stacking going on. Which is to say, the people in my section of the crowd were either a) people who had bussed/driven in a fairly long distance (but not gotten a hotel) and b) local people who'd been up and out the door by 8 AM. This seemed to mean the crowd skewed far more sedate (and rather older) that the glimpses of the crowds I saw around the edges who skittered in around noon. Let's put it this way: the costumes and signs were a lot more interesting the further you got from the center. (And then there are the reports already going up of hundreds of people waiting in lines for the subway for so long that they missed the rally altogether.)

Anyway - weird juxtaposition number one was that largely middle-aged, middle-class, middle-America (in spirit if not literally) crowd being treated to a pre-show of live R&B and hip-hop. I mean, it was really good, thoroughly respectable hip-hop, but I have never seen so many middle-aged white people trying gamely to dance to music they don't understand. (I applaud the Daily Show people for doing it though. Plus, it was really good hip-hop.)

This is about the point at which my cell phone stopped even attempting to make connections - I had (thoughtlessly) made arrangements to meet various people at the rally by way of cell phones, and hahahaha, I didn't manage to connect at all between 11:30 and 5:30, and even then all that got through legibly was texts. (Yes, I sent my first even text messages today. I hope my plan doesn't secretly charge $5 each or something. If it does, it's [personal profile] stellar_dust's fault.) Some of the people I was planning to meet got in at least an hour after I did; I wonder how much they managed to see.

I wouldn't have been able to meet up with them anyway, though. This is where we first hit the fact that they really, really weren't ready for as many people as they had. They'd set about about eight large sort of "cattle pens" on the mall using rented metal fences with aisles between them to allow security and medical emergencies to move around, which was great - inside the pens, where I was, the spaces that filled in first, it was great. We had a great view, we could here everything, there was plenty of space - we weren't exactly sparse, but you could move around, sit down, have a picnic without having to elbow anyone in the face.

However? All the way around the outside of the pens - in the public paths, in the streets, behind and two the edges of the designated area, completely carpeting the steps of the museums, up the trees, on the roofs of all the porta-potties - people were packed like sardines. And because they were packed so tight, and the "pens" had very narrow entrances and exits, it was completely impossible to enter or exit the pens from about 10:30 until about 3:30, without vaulting a fence and getting yelled at by staff. Which, you know, meet-ups aside, there were no porta-potties inside the pens. :P

Not that I am regretting getting a good seat! Because after the musical pre-show, they put on Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, and gave them control of the crowd.

Let me repeat that: they gave the Mythbusters free reign over a unified crowd of best estimate 250,000 people.

Clearly they understand the proper ways to use power once you've got it. :D

The bit where we were "the world's largest sample size" was fun - especially the wave physics experiments - but honestly, I was slightly disappointed, they could have done so much more. Especially the sonic stuff - yeah, I get that they really just wanted us to make funny noises for them, but there have been some *really cool* science work done regarding the ability of large groups of people to hold, generate, and predict near-perfect pitch and rhythm (Bobby McFerrin's TED talk is the best known demo, though not the most scientific) and I really wish they'd tried some of that.

Also, they talked some really cool stuff about how the cues on the Jumbotrons were set up to be perfectly synchronous in order to get around the speed-of-sound issues down the mall, apparently unaware that the Jumbotrons were way out of sync for the entire bit - I mean, they counted down to cues that had already been up for half a minute, or never showed cues that we were supposed to get. ): So any dubious meaning those experiments might've had was killed by that, anyway.

Also, it was really obvious that pretty much everyone who wasn't set up directly in line-of-sight behind the stage had no idea what was going on. Really obvious in that the troublemaking horde over by the NGA kept chanting "louder! louder! louder!" at pivotal moments and interrupting the speakers. :/ Yet another case where the set-up didn't take in to account the crowd that was actually there, and I suspect any attendance counts are going to include only the people directly down the open central area of the mall - the 150,000 people Jamie was talking to - and leave out the (at least 25% of the) crowd that was packed around the museum grounds and under (and in) the tree cover.

..but other than the discontented chants of "Louder" the crowd was really - well, there were signs that said "ruly" crowd, and, yeah. They were clearly there to be reasonable, listen to the speakers and have a picnic with friends - on one hand, yay! It was clearly the crowd we all wanted to be there. On the other hand, I was usually one of the loudest people and first to cheer in my area, which if you know me, was just wrong. (Especially since I'm getting over a sore throat with threatening laryngitis. Well... was getting over it. Oops.)

One thing that really kind of disappointed me, though, was that they had a lot of really great musical guests and numbers. (OMG JON NEEDS TO SING MORE. LIKE EVERY WEEK. AND STEPHEN. BUT WE ALREADY KNEW THAT ABOUT STEPHEN. JON I LOVE YOUR SINGING.) However, almost none of the songs, not even the national anthem, were really set up for the crowd to sing along to. They had a few that people tried to sing along to but got interrupted by comedy bits; a few that people tried to sing along to a refrain, but they kept altering the refrain in order to be clever; a few that ended almost as soon as people realized they could be singing. And there were a couple places where the guest *could* have done a good old culturally-but-not-literally liberal rally song we could've all sung to in unity, and instead decided to sing a song that nobody knew. The one song they had captions for, the Jumbotrons were totally out of sync again.

Missed chance. Either they were thinking too much studio audience and not enough rally, or nobody involved actually understand the difference between performing to record and performing to lead a crowd, and the different musical choices you need to make. Where's your gospel choir when we need them, John? Plus, the singalongs are the best part of a political rally. :/

(And I want to note in particular that Kid Rock's debut song made me angry. I mean, sure, I like the sentiment, but dude? Maybe we don't walk on water, maybe we can't stop a war singlehandedly, maybe we can't make the world fair, but we (at least, any of us who have the resources to go to a rally or watch it on cable) fucking well can feed the hungry and house the homeless if we want to; even if it's a few at a time, 250,000 people each giving one can to a food bank or one hour volunteer time to a shelter could help a lot of people. I skipped volunteering at a fundraiser for the local crisis center/food bank into order to go to this rally; I don't need a millionaire rock star standing up there in the meantime telling people like me we don't have the power to help the hungry and the homeless. I don't do as much as I can, but I have friends - the same demographic as the rally, some of whom missed the rally for the fundraiser - who run themselves ragged doing it, and have built our local homeless center out of nothing using nothing but grit, cooperation, sweet reasonableness and energy and spoons they really didn't have to spare. and now somebody who's upset about their political activism has sicced the zoning board on their job-experience-for-the-homeless nonprofit hot dog cart. rarrr.

Fuck off, Kid Rock. If you actually do care, you actually can help people. Also, if you are reading this and you live anywhere in the Americas or Europe, I can guarantee you that your local food bank really needs canned and dry goods right now, and has been running against the wire for months, as high unemployment dropped contributions just as demand rose. You should go look up how to donate something now.

/end slightly-less-than-reasonable PSA. Sorry, it's like that song concentrated everything that annoys me about Waiting on the World To Change, left out all the not-annoying parts, and added several cups of smarmy self-righteousness.)


No, I don't have any complaints to make about this bit. Except that I really want fic about DCam going on TCR and making his bad Star Trek references now. I should factor in %star trek references to my dad's Theory of Political Prediction Through Pop Culture and see what I come up with.

Also, Jon Stewart is now officially Sparkly Tinkerbell Jesus. We did it! (I really want year that wasn't fic with John Oliver walking the Earth now. Internets, please supply it for me.

Also, poor John. Whatever did he do to deserve the Peter Pan costume? (Yes, I know, probably volunteered, but still! Poor John always has to do the humiliating bits. He was hot though. I bet Andy will agree.)

And speaking of Johns, there was only one person who recognized my hobo sign (and spoke up about it.) The crowd in general was a lot less fannish than I expected - a fair number of the people I spoke to (even some who came in from out of state) don't even watch the Daily Show, much less understand about things like the Bugle and hobo signs. Which I guess was yay, to the extent I really did want it to be an outpouring of real frustration rather than just a large comedy fan convention, but still. I think the only signs I noticed that referenced TDS/TCR fandom injokes as opposed to actual political-ish or general wonk or geek culture references were mine and [personal profile] erinptah's.

Oh! Right! [personal profile] erinptah, down from Boston on the bus that [personal profile] stellar_dust could've taken if she wasn't a DORK, organized a last-minute fanmeet after the rally, at the National Gallery, which meant I had to try to actually get somewhere after the rally instead of just finding a place to sit and waiting for the mall to empty, and OMG.

The bad traffic patterns were like, triple-bad afterward. You couldn't get *anywhere*, there were giant bottlenecks every fifteen feet, and there was no natural flow at all. It was horrible. Luckily the crowd was so well-behaved. They also seemed to be in less of a hurry to leave, especially in comparison to the Inauguration crowd I'd been using as a basis of comparison. I don't know if that was simply incidental, or if it was a cause or a result of the bad exit traffic patterns, but people stuck around, and people actually went into the museums and restaurants afterward. Also? Compared to the Inauguration? They left very little litter. There was still some - with that many people it's inevitable - but we were very good about actually bringing trash to trash cans, yay, we actually listened to Jon!

What did get left laying around a lot were protest signs, because all the museums and some of the restaurants were forbidding people from carrying them in, so people left the outside hoping they'd still be there when they got back.

We left ours outside the portrait gallery, and they were still there when we came out at about 5:30, yay! So I still have mine. There were about six or seven people total who found me and [personal profile] erinptah at the cafe, which was fairly good given the total lack of planningness.

Apparently my slash goggles are fail, though. Everybody else reacted to Stephen's "If you like America so much, why don't you marry it?" with "OMG Stephen is America, he just proposed to Jon!" Whereas my reaction was, "But Stephen, you already married us! We are all Mrs. Colberts! Have you abandoned us?" Perhaps I have accidentally swapped my slash goggles for poly goggles. (Though on further reflection, Stephen only married the American Ladies. I guess Jon can still marry the not-ladies. So it comes out gay marriage proposal either way.)

So. Anyway, I staggered out of the meet sometime after 5:30, wandered around for awhile trying vaguely t ofind a metro station, and when I finally got there, the stations were still incredibly crowed with ralliers heading home.

Anyway: Jon and Stephen live are adorbs. I hope Mitchell and Brooker are that adorable when they get their live show. And are forced to sing just as much.

This is a dim shot showing the crowding on the train on the way in; it was solid packed on both sides and all the walkways.

early crowd
This shot shows the crowd, looking toward the stage from about halfway down the mall, at about 9:50. It's not packed, but still more people than I've seen at anything other than a major rally or similar event.

Looking left toward the National Gallery of Art from the cattle-pen where I was settled (you can see the aisle held open beside us.) Taken about 11:10. You can see how much the crowd has thickened outside the fenced areas, and the packed crowd on the museum steps.

blue sky crowd
This is just a general shot of the crowd behind me, toward the Washington Monument, at about the same time, starting to look properly endless. (Shot included mostly to show just how beautiful the day was - the sky really was that deep blue.)

Here's my view of the stage; you can see I'm pretty much center-on, and arranged so I can actually see all of the stage except the part that actually has performers on it. Also it's not really visible in the photo, but there were also people sat out on the portico of the Capitol building (I've no idea who they were - not random crowds anyway.)

sitting crowd
People in the pen areas sat down during some of the less active parts; this is a shot over them, to give an idea of what the scene looked like forward toward the stage.

monument flag
...and over them back toward the Washington Monument again, really visibly packed at about 2 pm

tree people
A shot of my view of a Jumbotron, and a tree with at least five people in it. All the trees along the mall were full of people like the monkeys we are.

This one's a bit hard to make out, but that furthest row of people, below the trees? They are all parked on the roofs of a row of portapotties. Again, they were all like that. (I include photographs as proof.)

A shot of the UFO that rose over the Air & Space museum at about 2:30 (It's actually some kind of tethered balloon - I don't know if it was a normal A&S thing or if it was part of some kind of attempt at crowd-counting. There was a loose mylar balloon that frolicked right over the stage during John's closing, too, that really looked flying-saucer ish for awhile, but I didn't get a shot.)

My H-in-Sunrays and [personal profile] erinptah's Acts 6:8 signs waiting patiently for us outside the art gallery.

...and Father Guido Sarducci, giving the benediction, requested God to give some sort of sign of which of our many religions is the true one. (I suspect the number of people who cheered when he suggested Rastafarianism was partly due to the legalize-pot crowd, and partly due to people thinking he said Pastafarian.) Anyway, nothing happened at the time, but this miraculous symbol in the sky appeared near sunset. Deity is running a bit off schedule, but a perfect solar cross appearing miraculously in the sky near sunset on the day before Samhain clearly means we should all become Celtic reconstructionist pagans. (Or, y'know, just that there sure were a lot of contrails over what is still supposedly restricted airspace.)
fiercynn: Rachel Maddow smiling (Woman From MSNBC)

[personal profile] fiercynn 2010-10-31 09:19 pm (UTC)(link)
aaah, looks like so much fun! Not least the hipster/hippie encounter, HEE. :D