Saturday, March 22, 2008

Obama Visits Southern Oregon

Well, hallelujah! I was one of the lucky few to get tickets to see Obama in Medford this morning. Thanks to the diligence of my lovely wife, Annie, scads of luck, and possibly some divine intervention, I was able to get a ticket about five minutes before they stopped distributing them. In fact, by the time I e-mailed the link to all y'all, they were already gone.

Obama was slated to speak at 9:30 a.m. and the doors of the venue opened at 7:30. William Machado and I decided to carpool and he, having learned that volunteers were being asked to arrive at 6 a.m., suggested we leave before six. Fearing the very real possibility of not getting in to the main room (which we were warned was a distinct possibility), I agreed. Fully prepared to park half a mile or more away, we left Ashland at 5:50 a.m. After a quick coffee stop at Human Bean, we hit the highway.

As it turned out, though, the parking situation wasn't that bad. We managed to find a spot a mere block away from the auditorium. A volunteer guided us around the outside of the building to the end of the line. There were already a few hundred people there, split into two lines: one for those of us with tix, one for those without. 

The already-ticketed line had only 200 or so people in it before we joined it, so we did alright. It was bone-chillingly cold out, but both of us were layered and the only part of me that felt the cold at all was my feet. Time passed surprisingly quickly as we talked to each other and fellow Obama fans. 

The feeling of the crowd was a muted excitement. Muted because it was goddamn early and fucking cold. A volunteer used his bull horn in an attempt to fire us up with campaign slogans (Fired Up? Ready To Go!), but most of us were only half-hearted in our replying chants. Again, not because anyone wasn't into it (to the contrary), but merely because it was so damn early and so damn cold. 

At about 7:45 or so the line began moving. It was slow, but steady movement, really well organized. We had to pass through metal detectors and gauntlets of security teams to enter the building. Think the airport but without having to take off your shoes and more agents. Honestly, I don't think I've ever been so happy to see so many cops, sheriffs, TSA, and Secret Service because, let's face it, there are still plenty of crazies out there who'd love to take out a black presidential candidate. (I'd heard that security was pretty lax in Dallas earlier this month and damn near hit the roof. This is not the time to be fucking around.)

Anyway, the energy was much higher once everyone was inside and warm. By the time Obama finally came out, we were all fairly amped. There was a surge of electricity in the room as he entered. The guy's definitely got charisma. I've never had the experience of actually feeling drawn to push through a crowd to shake a celebrity's hand or be closer to them, but today I felt it. (I didn't push through, of course, it would have been a futile effort.) 

After thanking the local pols and asking a retired general who's traveling with him to speak briefly, he got into the speech, which was his standard stump speech, one I've seen online, oh about 75 times now. But then, his standard stump speech is 100x better than the average one, so I didn't mind. Upon finishing the speech, he spent roughly 45 minutes answering questions from the audience. Then he ran out of time, thanked us and ended, shaking hands on his way out. 

Though there were another several hundred people outside the arena, leaving was nearly as easy as getting in. We had to go a bit out of our way to get to the car since the fastest route was blocked off for his motorcade, but it was no big deal. Then it was an easy couple of blocks to the main drag and back to the highway. (Thanks for driving, William!)  

All in all a fucking brilliant way to spend the morning. I just witnessed a piece of history up close and personal.

I'm now sitting at the Rogue Valley Roasting Company processing the experience. I've just finished cropping and editing some photos that I took. Here they are:

Shockingly, no one noticed that David Crosby was in the crowd—or is that Wilfred Brimley? (See arrow.)

Update: Click here for more on Obama in Medford. The page has great links to pics, vids, stories, and a local interview.

Oh. My. God.

Well, it looks like Hillary is not only losing the nomination, she's now being beat in the worst-fan-made video contest. I barely believed it was possible to out-suck that last one...until I saw this:

I hope you can forgive me for posting it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Black Guy Asks Nation For Change

CHICAGO—According to witnesses, a loud black man approached a crowd of some 4,000 strangers in downtown Chicago Tuesday and made repeated demands for change.

"The time for change is now," said the black guy, yelling at everyone within earshot for 20 straight minutes, practically begging America for change. "The need for change is stronger and more urgent than ever before. And only you—the people standing here today, and indeed all the people of this great nation—only you can deliver this change."

"I've already seen this guy four times today," Chicago-area ad salesman Blake Gordon said. "Every time, it's the same exact spiel. 'I need change.' 'I want change.' Why's he so eager for all this change? What's he going to do with it, anyway?"

"I'm a hardworking American who pays his taxes, and the last thing I need is some guy on the street demanding change from me," said William Overkamp, a Springfield, IL gun-shop owner.

He added, "What he really needs is a job."

E-Spleen Venting

Speaking of catty behavior, you know what I can't stand? People who get all fucking uptight about including their e-mail address in with others in the main address field instead of the bcc field. I mean, I generally try to respect the unwritten rule of bcc'ing addresses for large e-mailings. But every once in a while I screw up. 

And when I do, you better believe I hear about it. 

The thing is—and I hate to break it to these privacy freaks, but apparently I must—if you've got an e-mail address, it's public information. Anyone who can use Google can find it. Easily. It's not like I've just spilled state secrets here. So back the fuck off, cyber-cranks, and stop the damn scolding. 

A Considerable Slight

In criticizing W's bizarrely cavalier mein of late, Maureen Dowd began a recent column like this:
Soft Shoe in Hard Times
Everyone here is flummoxed about why the president is in such a fine mood. The dollar’s crumpling, the recession’s thundering, the Dow’s bungee-jumping and the world’s disapproving, yet George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly, tap dancing and singing in a one-man review called “The Most Happy Fella.”
To which Gene Kelly's wife responded:
I Knew Gene Kelly. The President Is No Gene Kelly.
Surely it must have been a slip for Maureen Dowd to align the artistry of my late husband, Gene Kelly, with the president’s clumsy performances. To suggest that “George Bush has turned into Gene Kelly” represents not only an implausible transformation but a considerable slight. If Gene were in a grave, he would have turned over in it.

When Gene was compared to the grace and agility of Jack Dempsey, Wayne Gretzky and Willie Mays, he was delighted. But to be linked with a clunker — particularly one he would consider inept and demoralizing — would have sent him reeling. […]

For George Bush to become Gene Kelly would require impossible leaps in creativity, erudition and humility.

Patricia Ward Kelly

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I'm Not Going To Vote With My Vagina

Marianne Williamson fends off the stupid sisterhood betrayal charge and explains her support for Obama.

h/t: Daily Dish


A puddle. A blog. Puddleblog.

puddleblog action shot from bantic on Vimeo.

Tame That Pussy

Who'd a thunk? Turns out cats are trainable.
The Cat Whisperer
Will she be the next TV star animal trainer? She certainly had the right diagnosis for my cat Thompson, a biter. 
Mieshelle Nagelschneider is a cat behaviorist who is in no way affiliated with Cesar Millan, the trainer-star of the television phenomenon "The Dog Whisperer." Nagelschneider is, however, working with a major television network to develop an upcoming cat behavior show of her own. She can't reveal too much about it yet, since the network people are still hashing out the details. Alas, it probably won't be called "The Cat Whisperer." But given that there are 13 million more pet cats than pet dogs in this country, she may very well be poised for Cesar Millan-style fame and glory.

In their study, Driscoll and O'Brien concluded that domestic cats evolved from the wildcat Felis silvestris in the Near East, probably around 10,000 years ago. The way they see it, cats domesticated themselves. Wandering humans were settling down in the Fertile Crescent and establishing agriculture. Cats were drawn to the settlements to feed on mice that had shacked up in the grain stores. Natural selection favored the tamer cats, which could take better advantage of the spoils produced by our budding society. "They chose humans at the right time and the right place," O'Brien said.

So now I know what I'm up against: a solitary hunter who doesn't play nicely with others, and who, for thousands of years, has been evolving a skill set designed to take advantage of me. But at least my foe is predictable. According to Nagelschneider, most cat behavior problems fall into one of a handful of predictable categories. Not surprisingly, some of her most frequent complaints involve cats that take issue with the litter box. (When Nagelschneider mentioned the cat that urinated at night on his sleeping owner's face, Thompson's problems suddenly seemed very minor indeed.) In any event, aggression is also fairly common, and Nagelschneider has turned around her fair share of violent cats. She was optimistic that Thompson could be fixed.
Which will come in handy should this kind of thing be a problem.

At Least I Got To Have Sex

Hey, I just discovered a fun new blog called One D At a Time. (Hell, look at the url when you mouse over the blog link.) Sample post titles are Peru PervGot My Swerve On with A Curved OnePorn Again, If Nothing Else, At Least I Got To Have Sex On New Year's Eve, and my favorite, a weekly feature called Pot Psychology, where the blogger answers your most personal and burning questions…while stoned. I'd embed the vid, but it won't let me. You'll just have to go over there and see for yourself.

Oh, if you want to pick up a chocolate pussy or prick making kit, go here.



I had read once several years ago that only 3% of mammals are monogamous—and thought, Christ, what's wrong with that 3%? ;-) Well, now we know that that figure is probably high. Here's Broadsheet's take: 
Screw all this, I'm marrying a flatworm
The other day, for lack of a hairshirt to wear, I watched Larry King. "Why do men cheat?" he barked at the camera, shifting back and forth in his chair. (Have you ever noticed that, at any given moment, there are approximately 100% more Larry King shows than there should be?) […]

"Sexual promiscuity is rampant throughout nature," writes Natalie Angier, "and true faithfulness a fond fantasy."

In fact, monogamy is so rare that we get this tidbit: The only 100% monogamous species is a flatworm called the Diplozoon paradoxum. "Males and females meet each other as adolescents, and their bodies literally fuse together, whereupon they remain faithful until death."

So, pffft, monogamy. So, pffft, cheating spouses. These are the days I wish I were some sophisticated Galoise-smoking Frenchwomen who is SO OVER all these naive fantasies about men and women. I suspect, however, I would still mist up watching March of the Penguins.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sully On Obama

I have never felt more convinced that this man's candidacy - not this man, his candidacy - and what he can bring us to achieve - is an historic opportunity. This was a testing; and he did not merely pass it by uttering safe bromides. He addressed the intimate, painful love he has for an imperfect and sometimes embittered man. And how that love enables him to see that man's faults and pain as well as his promise. This is what my faith is about. It is what the Gospels are about. This is a candidate who does not merely speak as a Christian. He acts like a Christian.
Bill Clinton once said that everything bad in America can be rectified by what is good in America. He was right - and Obama takes that to a new level. And does it with the deepest darkest wound in this country's history.
I love this country. I don't remember loving it or hoping more from it than today.

The Wright Speech

Well, here's the full speech that is reference in the post below. It's 40 goddamn minutes and not his most rousing speech, so you may want to skip it. But if you've got the patience and inclination it's worth watching. 

As usual, he was forceful and straightforward. He distanced himself from the remarks he's taking heat for without throwing his pastor under the bus, as they say in politics. In my view he succeeded in putting the issue to bed—indeed, he upped the ante and broadened the scope beyond his pastor's remarks to reinforce his larger message of commonality, unity and moving forward. I think he's not only going to survive this teapot tempest, but that it will strengthen him as a candidate.  

Black Is The New President, Bitch

The Blind Men And The Elephant

I was thinking about stories the other day and how they affect and inform our lives. I know I have several that had great impact on how I view the world and how I live my life. But I'd have to say that the one that most informs my life, the one that I reflexively reference more than any other, is the ancient parable of the blind men and the elephant.

For those unfamiliar with the tale, here's Wikipedia's short description:
In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or blindfolded men) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one touches a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes on what they felt, and learn they are in complete disagreement. The story is used to indicate that reality may be viewed differently depending upon one's perspective, suggesting that what seems an absolute truth may be relative due to the deceptive nature of half-truths.
For the full story (Jain version), click here. Read it, it's quick and worthwhile.

On a related note, I believe that the spiritual cores of the world's major religions have much more in common with other religions' cores than they do with the rigid orthodoxies of their nominal counterparts. That, combined with the elephant story is why, despite sometimes great difficulty, I do my best to respect others' beliefs, even when I find those beliefs peculiar, risible, or utterly asinine.

I bring the same basic principle to the world of politics, which partly explains my affection for the Tory-conservative Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish. Even though Sullivan and I come from diametrically opposed political viewpoints, I always find him worth reading. In fact, he's become my favorite blogger. There's little reflexive or dogmatic about his writing. He's thoughtful and intellectually honest and willing to examine and re-examine his cherished beliefs without completely jettisoning core principles. He describes himself as a conservative of doubt. And it's because of his temperamental humility as much as his intellect that I continue to read him. He might feel the tail, while I feel the trunk, but he knows he's one of the blind men and writes accordingly.

All of which is a very roundabout way of introducing this post, which examines Obama's pastor issue and his impending speech to address it. It's entries like this one that exemplify what I'm talking about. I'm posting the whole thing for the full flavor.
The Testing Of Obama
Today will be a crucial day. It will be a day when we will discover if America's racial environment - and the emotions and feelings and anger and fears that it entails - can allow for a black man - with all that entails - to become president. Can a man like Obama both relate and belong to a congregation like Trinity UCC and be inspired by a man like Jeremiah Wright and still reach beyond race to white and Latino and Jewish and Muslim and other Americans who may find the specific racial context as impossible to understand as it is absurd to excuse? This is the argument that will come flying back at him:
If John McCain had spent twenty years hanging with Pat Robertson, describing him as his mentor, attending Robertson's church, having his kids baptized by Robertson, having Robertson officiate at his wedding, giving him the inspiration for the title of his career-making autobiography, collaborating with him in political organizing, and then tried to dismiss criticism by calling Robertson his lovable uncle who sometimes goes too far, there is no way on God's green earth Yglesias or his crowd would call this "trumped up."
Much of Wright's worldview I find repugnant. But some of it I also find inspiring. And in trying to understand it in its totality, I do try to think about the racial context and history of America. And so there is a difference, pace Jonah, between a white charlatan like Robertson who chooses to demonize minorities in the name of Jesus and a pastor like Wright who vents rage against a majority that has, in the not-so-distant past, given African-Americans every reason to be angry. And there is a difference between a white politician (like Bush) who seeks to enjoy the support of a Robertson without ever challenging his ugly dimensions and a black politician who, while remaining in a congregation like Wright's, nonetheless has written and spoken as movingly as anyone in my lifetime about the need for racial reconciliation and understanding.
Maybe this is a bridge too far. But in thinking about Obama for this past year, and reading the subtle critique of, say, Shelby Steele, as well as the palpable racial discomfort of some white conservatives, I have to say that it is precisely the wide span of Obama's bridge that makes me admire him. He has refused to disown Wright, while also refusing to endorse all of his message. You can call that opportunistic or expedient or cynical. You can also call it intelligent and brave and principled. Obama could have chosen the Shelby Steele route or even the Alan Keyes or Condi Rice path. He could equally have chosen the Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton path. But what is unique about Obama is that he tried and is trying to do much more than any of them have - to express all of these racial strategies and to transcend them. While being human. He isn't a saint or a savior. But he is trying.
I think this is part of his appeal to the next generation. And maybe it's appropriate for me at this point to express how he has inspired me as a gay man to keep trying to maintain the bridge over the gulfs of my own various identities rather than to burn it. It is possible in American public life to be defined as a gay person and to embrace every aspect of gay culture - the good, the bad and the ugly. It is also possible to be closeted or semi-closeted so that these questions do not easily arise. And it is possible to be a gay man completely divorced from gay culture, and to buy access to power and influence by simply adopting a relationship to the gay world that is indistinguishable from many straight people. I don't think there's any perfect solution to this terrible dilemma of identity - of belonging and transcending, of empathizing and maintaining a proper distance.
I don't blame any gay man or woman for failing to make all this work. We live in many worlds and not all of them fit. And there have been times in my life when the roughest edges of a gay subculture I do not want to disown and have been a full part of reach out and target me again. Whether it be an embarrassing online personal ad or sexual mishaps or a long night at the Black Party, I know that part of the straight world stands poised to attack and condemn, pigeon-hole and dismiss. So be it. I have no desire to disown much of gay culture that the straight world finds abhorrent. At the same time, I also know that not all of this subculture is healthy or good and I have an obligation to address and engage and reform those parts of it. That I have also tried to do - with uneven success. And I know, as I watch Obama, that these strains are not easy and those who have never had to walk this path do not fully know how hard it can be.
The ease of pure victimology is as phony as the release of complete assimilation. For an intelligent and principled person, the struggle lies in the interstices. What I have come to despise about much of the Republican party is its refusal even to empathize with this difficulty - or, worse, to choose to exploit these struggles for easy, cheap and callow political gain. And as I have grown older and felt the tug of all these identities more strongly, and understood more deeply the immense difficulty of resolving all of them, I can see few role models older than I am - and more, mercifully more, younger than I am.
But I see Obama as a pioneer on this path - a brave and principled pioneer. I would think much, much less of him if he disowned a spiritual guide because of that man's explicable if inexcusable resort to paranoia and racial separatism and anger. And I would think much, much less of Obama if he had never opened himself to this subculture and its fears, hopes and resentments. That he has done all this - while still attempting to reform and explain it - is a remarkable achievement. Did he overlook too much? Did his white guilt prevent him from protesting black extremism? It's hard for me to know, because this kind of judgment is very personal. I don't think I would have been as passive as Obama confronted with some of this stuff. But he did not merely sit back; he also dedicated his career to racial integration and understanding. It was a wide bridge, perhaps too wide for the weight it is bearing. And maybe America is not ready for this bridge, for these contradictions, for this complexity. But the promise of Obama is that his campaign appears poised to show that America is ready for this - and the immense healing it would bring.
And so we are suspended between the old politics and the new, between a Clinton who believes in her heart that America is not ready and may never be ready for this leap and should therefore adopt a politics that assumes the ineradicability of this gulf and the need to disguise it and play cynical defense - and an Obama who offers all of us a chance to see that sometimes authentic identity requires an element of contradiction, a bridging of the resentful, angry past and a more complex, integrated future.
He may fail; and the Clintons may be proven right. But he may also succeed - and what a mighty success that would be. These things are never easy; and we were lulled perhaps into an illusion that they could be. So now the real struggle starts. And it will not end with an Obama presidency; it ends with a shift from below that makes an Obama presidency possible.
Or to put it in a phrase that is as true as it is wilfully misunderstood: We are the change we have been waiting for. And the waiting is now over.

What Matters Is What We've Actually Done

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Man Behind The Green Beer

One more article about St. Patrick before forgetting about him for another year.
St. Patrick Revealed
Today we raise a glass of warm green beer to a fine fellow, the Irishman who didn't rid the land of snakes, didn't compare the Trinity to the shamrock, and wasn't even Irish. St. Patrick, who died 1,507, 1,539, or 1,540 years ago today—depending on which unreliable source you want to believe—has been adorned with centuries of Irish blarney. Innumerable folk tales recount how he faced down kings, negotiated with God, tricked and slaughtered Ireland's reptiles.

The Legs Of Me Wife

A St. Patty's Day joke:
John O’Reilly hoisted his beer and said, “Here’s to spending the rest of me life, between the legs of me wife!” That won him the top prize at the pub for the best toast of the night!

He went home and told his wife, Mary, “I won the prize for the Best toast of the night”

She said, “Aye, did ye now. And what was your toast?”

John said, “Here’s to spending the rest of me life, sitting in church beside me wife.”

“Oh, that is very nice indeed, John!” Mary said.

The next day, Mary ran into one of John’s drinking buddies on the street corner.

The man chuckled leeringly and said, “John won the prize the other night at the pub with a toast about you, Mary”.

She said, “Aye, he told me, and I was a bit surprised myself.”

“You know, he’s only been there twice in the last four years. Once he fell asleep, and the other time I had to pull him by the ears to make him come.”
h/t: 2parse/blog

They're Magically Delicious!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

A brief history of the holiday:
The First Parade. St. Patrick's Day is celebrated on March 17—his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for thousands of years.

On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink, and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

The first St. Patrick's Day parade took place not in Ireland, but in the U.S. Iris
h soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.
And a little background on old Patrick himself:
Saint Patrick (Latin: Patricius[2], Irish: Naomh Pádraig) was a Roman Britain-born Christian missionary and is the patron saint of Ireland along with Brigid of Kildare and Columba. When he was about 16 he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland, where he lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. He entered the church, as his father and grandfather had before him, becoming a deacon and a bishop. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he worked and no link can be made between Patrick and any church. By the eighth century he had become the patron saint of Ireland.
Just for fun, here's Lucky's back story:
The Leprechaun. The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is lobaircin, meaning "small-bodied fellow." Belief in leprechauns probably stems from Celtic belief in fairies, tiny men and women who could use their magical powers to serve good or evil. In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure.
Leprechauns had nothing to do with St. Patrick or the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, a Catholic holy day. In 1959, Walt Disney released a film called Darby O'Gill & the Little People, which introduced America to a very different sort of leprechaun than the cantankerous little man of Irish folklore.
This cheerful, friendly leprechaun is a purely American invention, but has quickly evolved into an easily recognizable symbol of both St. Patrick's Day and Ireland in general.
Oh, yeah, we can't leave out the shamrock:
The shamrock, which was also called the seamroy by the Celts, was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland because it symbolized the rebirth of spring. By the 17th century, the shamrock had become a symbol of emerging Irish nationalism. As the English began to seize Irish land and make laws against the use of the Irish language and the practice of Catholicism, many Irish began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride in their heritage and their displeasure with English rule.
A toast for tonight: As you slide down the banisters of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way. Slainte!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


These gorgeous shots are from Rio de Janeiro's Sambadrome parade. Click the link for the complete slide show. It's stunning.


Antique Slideshow

Look at what I found rummaging around my grandfather's attic:

The Seas Of Cheese

It's Sunday, and you know what that means—a double dose of The Seas of Cheese. Ever wonder what melismaniac Christina Aguilera was saying in "Ain't No Other Man"? (Yeah, me neither.) Well, wonder no more. Some YouTuber figured it out for us. 

Actual lyrics here

The Seas Of Cheese

This installment of space funk brought to you by Earth, Wind, & Fire.

God Bless Your Brand

Product not selling like you'd like it to? Try Christvertising