Saturday, September 27, 2008

Top Gun v. Will Hunting...And The Winner Is?

What do you need to know about last night's Presidential Debate? It pretty much comes down to this: fighter pilot v. academia. Yep, that just about sums it up. Two very different men, who both love their country, showcasing very different approaches to our common issues.

Even if you know everything there is to know about the big ticket issues (the economy, the environment, Iran, health care, the Iraq War, taxes, etc.) and where the candidates stand on them, debates are a great forum to see how candidates handle themselves in front of a non-partisan audience and under the adversity that comes from being directly challenged by your opponent. Debates can also give great insight into the character of candidates due to the fact that they are less scripted than a stump speech.

Are they confident or cocky? Are they tough or do they crumble under pressure? Can they take a hit and then dish it back? Can they get specific about HOW they will accomplish goals or are they still stuck expounding on what the goal is? Do they know their shit or are they full of shit?

And most importantly, can they pronounce foreign nouns correctly? Because, for God's sake, I've had enough of (as @rawallison put it so perfectly last night on Twitter) "Eye-Rak" and "Eye-Ran" to last me a good long while.

I got some answers to the above questions in last night's debate and came a little closer to sealing the deal on my candidate of choice. I never make a final decision until I'm there at the voting booth, because what goes down right before an election can be really eye-opening. Sometimes you think you've settled it based solely on the issues and then three days before the election somebody will do something ridiculous that causes you to rethink your whole decision based on a revolting and previously unrevealed personality trait. Like it or not, most of America doesn't vote on the issues. They vote based on who they like and who they relate to. And let's be honest, even those of us who do look deep back into voting records and take time to really consider the consequences and benefits of proposed plans, make our decisions partially based on personality.

So, of course I had to watch last night and watch these two personalities paired head-to-head. Here's what I learned in my hour and half in front of the T.V.

John McCain's strategy is to gain voter trust by making Barack Obama out to be naive and ignorant to world issues, while at the same time playing up his own 30 years experience in Washington (Note: you are correct in wondering why he should be cleared from any sort of blame for being PART of the government that has gotten us into the mess we currently find ourselves surrounded by. Answer: Because he said so...and because he's evidently one of those rare holy grails of politics--The self-professed Maverick. Comforting knowledge indeed). The twist in the story is that McCain is also proclaiming himself as a change candidate--one that can stand up to Washington and mend their evil and corrupt ways.

McCain's tactics, during the debate, included mentioning his relationships with and adoration of Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissinger every two minutes and repeating the assertion that Obama just "doesn't understand" because he wasn't there back in the day. It also included a list of his summer vacation destinations and the people he "knows" and "knows how to work with" because, as previously mentioned, "[He's] been there." Just in case you were curious, people & places that made it on his list were: Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Israel, Vladamir Putin, Pakistan, The 1980s in Washington, The 1990s in Washington and the 2000s in Washington. Also making appearances: Elton John, Britney Spears and Lindsey Lohan, every ma and pa coffee shop owner in small-town America, Michael Vick, the moon, the Dalai Lama, the world's largest ball of string, Oprah, the south pole, the north pole, me, my momma and of course, last, but not least... yo momma.

Yeah, well George W. Bush went to New Orleans and hung out with the people from the 9th ward after Hurricane Katrina. We've all seen how much good THAT did. Sorry, but having access to Air Force One and a valid passport stamped full doesn't automatically qualify one as a good leader capable of achieving diplomatic success. Good try though.

Now, playing the whole name dropping and "I've been there, done that" games got real old, real fast, but that's more annoying than problematic to me. I get why McCain is doing it--it proves he has the relationships and experience to get things done on the world stage. Cool. What's disappointing for me is to see a man, whom I've previously found to be very classy, begin to use the tactic of attacking Obama as a person. Very not classy.

Last night I found John McCain to be very condescending and disrespectful towards Barack Obama concerning his understanding of the world and evidently of the words "tactic" and "strategy." What is this, the SATs? Pretty sure he gets it. I mean, it's not like Barack Obama is clueless. He's not George W. Bush and he's not 18 either. He's freakin' 47 and has degrees from Columbia and Harvard (that weren't earned with Daddy's money on "Gentleman's Cs"). I'd rather have heard more from McCain about why Obama's policy ideas won't be successful. I'd rather have heard him speak in more detail about his plans rather than continually question Obama's intellectual capacity on vocabulary and history.

Obama's "Change" platform is geared to inspire voters to get re-engaged based on the idea that together we can affect positive change. But lately, Obama has also had to tie John McCain to President Bush's to convince us that McCain's claim that he too represents a change isn't true. Obama got in some good punches about McCain's record on President Bush's biggest proposals and how McCain supposedly agrees with the President 90% of the time. But he spent more time attempting to play defense from McCain's jabs about his naivety than convincing me of the inevitability of four years of George W. Bush Part II: The McCain years. I say attempting because McCain basically shut him out from any defensive tactic several times by continuing to defiantly rattle on over Obama's response--which I saw as tacky and a little desperate.

In spite of often being on defense, Obama did a reasonably good job in avoiding the appearance of being emotionally defensive, but you can't win any game without passionate defense (there is such a fine line between the two, but the best politicians find a way to walk it). When he found room to make a defensive move, Obama was prepared to contradict McCain's assertions with information. I just didn't see much passion when McCain was laying into him; more frustration at being talked over than taking deep offense to the assertions. That's got to change and here's why: Effective and passionate defense always opens up opportunity for aggressive offense. Obama can't let McCain talk over him like he did last night if he wants to win either of the next debates, or the election in November. He must find a way to walk the line between passion and pathetic. So much of politics is making power plays and the candidate with the appearance of power and strength often comes out on top. Even though McCain's aggression may be viewed negatively by undecided voters, Obama's response to it is equally as important. I expected Obama to do something more about the bully-like abuse coming from McCain, but was left feeling disappointed in the lack of action from him. Passivity is NOT how you affect change dude.

I don't think I'm alone in saying that I walked away wanting more from both of the candidates. There are still so many unanswered questions and still 38 days until the election. That's a hell of a lot of time and plenty enough for somebody to utter a Howard Dean Scream and throw the whole thing away.

Note: Photographs used for this story are by David Mills for the New York Times.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Back in action and better than ever baby! Stellar weekend. Absolutely fabulous. Common concert, Oregon Ducks football and tailgating (w/lots of raw fruits & veggies thanks to fabulous Aunt Brenda!!!), and dinner with new friends is just about the most perfect way to spend three days that I can come up with.

Never mind that I didn't get my laundry done and had to wear not-so-clean clothes to work today.

Never mind that the U.S. financial market big boys were being bailed out by the biggest governmental rescue plan ever to be formulated since the Great Depression.

Never mind that you and I will be paying off the national debt this move is creating until we are long cold in our graves.

Never mind that Sarah Palin is the biggest farce of an environmental warrior that I've seen in a LONG time.

Never mind that I still relish the fact that John McCain chose a woman (any woman) as his running mate, because in terms of progress for the Republican Party, this is HUGE.

Never mind that my trunks from Burning Man are still half-packed even though I'm already planning for next year.

None of it matters, because every single second of my weekend felt goooooooooodddddddd. And when you've got it going on, you've got to take advantage of it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Post Traumatic Burn Syndrome

Lately I've been feeling really withdrawn from any form of technology or media or connecting with the world. It took me a week after Burning Man to even write a post about it and another week sitting on the post to put it up on the site. I'd get on the web, pull up a page and heave a giant sigh. I'm not ready for this.

I keep flashing back to the playa. Post-Traumatic Burn Syndrome. Except in this case, it's the real world that has a traumatic effect on one's psyche. It's like patron saint of Black Rock City is a siren calling out to me, sometimes faintly, sometimes screaming. She sure as hell draws you in.

But come on. I mean, really. What the hell? The girl who always has something to say doesn't feel like weighing in on the world? This is some serious business. I was having a bit of a personality meltdown. Especially since the news is fraught with dramatic headliner events--Wall Street stalwarts collapsing, devastating hurricanes, gender politics on the national scene. I should be foaming at the mouth to comment on all of it and yet I was feeling quite passe. So over it.

In the end I had to hit the reset button and reboot. My little pinwheel was stuck in an endless whirl of "I don't care" (At least though, I cared that I didn't care--if it had gone a step further and hit the "I don't care that I don't care" phase, I might have checked myself into an institution). My internal processor was just that overloaded from the Burning Man experience. Let me tell you that I am now an even bigger supporter of activity rather than apathy. God it felt horrible. Lack of motivation to be engaged is seriously the most surreal and horrid experience for me to go through. I might be crazy, but I'd rather be a little cuckoo every single freakin' day of my life than spend one of them feeling apathetic.

Right after I got back from Black Rock City, I had a very telling dream. It was if my mind knew I was about to go through this process and tried to clue me in (Of course it went WHOOSH, right over my pretty little head). I dreamed I was stuck in the inner compartment of a pumpkin shaped art-car (@ Burning Man people bring these tricked out artistic cars to ride around in and give other burners rides back and forth across the playa). It was almost pitch black, but I could very faintly see, through playa encrusted windows, that there was some light coming through from the outside. I wasn't going to die or suffocate--I knew this much. But I had this incredibly strong urge that I simply HAD to get out of the car. Things were going on without me and that was absolutely disturbing. I was screaming for help, knowing full well that my little cage was in a secluded area of the playa with no sign of anyone around (digression: isn't it crazy how you innately "know" things about situations in your dreams without anything to back them up from the course of events unfolding?). I began to grope all around for a way out. I felt very certain, through my simmering panic, that there was indeed a way out and that I had to work very quickly to find it. After a few minutes of frantic searching, I found a window that slid open to reveal a screen. Elated, I reached forward to punch the screen out, only to snap out of the dream as my fingertips felt the perforated texture of it.

I was in my room. Thrust back into consciousness with the simple firing of a synapse between my finger and my mind, disoriented and instantly trying to come to grips with just what the hell happened.

I started cracking up, because the answer to getting out of the art car was so simple and because the panic I felt in my dream was so silly and useless. I just had to get back to living. Back to the now and away from the playa. I'll be back soon enough, but I can't spend a year trying to stay there in my mind. We only get to live on her for a week per annum and that is part of what makes our time there so magical. The rest of the year, her spirit lives through us and our actions as we continue walking our paths. Far be it for me to mess with that. I might be little. I might be loud. But I know when to go with the flow and ask questions later. That time is now. And I'm so here.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

You Down With BRC? Yeah You Know ME!!!

Fact: My "shake your booty to any sound with a bumping beat reflex" often gets in the way of my ability to take care of myself.

Point in case: Burning Man decompression party last night.

Being a bit sick and weezy never stopped this little girl--oh no. I have no patience for being under the weather. I just surge ahead and tell my illness to get the hell out. I am stronger than you!!! I can and will continue to rage it even if I'm hacking up a lung on the side. 

However, my propensity to party on doesn't extend to things like blogging. What a lazy ass blogger I have been the past three weeks! Alas! No more! I will post! I will share photos! I will tell crazy stories of being trapped in an art car (only to later wake up at my bedroom window trying to punch the screen out and realizing that was all a dream and that I'd been sleep walking).

Let's get started!

Seeing as Burning Man is not JUST a week long chance for adults to play (I mean, that's what it is, but at the same time it's more) and that there ARE life lessons to learn if you so choose to engage yourself, I thought I'd share a few morsels of knowledge I picked up out on the playa

Burning Man lesson No.1: Awesomeness is achieved by taking it one step further than the last guy or gal. The crazier the better. The nakeder the better. As the Nike Commercial says: My better is better than your better!!! JUST DO IT!!! 

Burning Man lesson No.2: Cleanliness is a luxury not reserved for time in Black Rock City. Showers are pointless. You will be playafied within 10 minutes of stepping out of one (playa being the alkaline dust deserts that make up the landscape at Burning Man). It will take several weeks for your hair and skin to recover once home.

Burning Man lesson No.3: You won't give a damn (that you aren't clean, that is). Everybody else is in the same boat. The environment is part of the challenge!

Burning Man lesson No.4: Magical things go down in BRC. It's a vortex of positive, collected energy, engineered and manifested to create experiences that you won't ever forget. e.g. I was getting a bloody mary one morning and noticed this man's pendant. It was a beautiful enameled circle with a colorful burning man in the middle. I was struck! I thought, "I MUST have one!!!" So, I politely asked what camp he had visited to pick that baby up. Turns out it was from last year and he didn't think the same group was in BRC in 08'. Bummer dude. We got our cocktails and headed back to camp. On the way, I noticed a camp with a lounge that had a state of Oregon flag, prompting me to shout out, "HELL YEAH OREGON!!!" My enthusiasm got us an invitation for snow cones, which we gladly accepted. I started chatting with a woman from Coos Bay and really connected with her. Before I left she told me to sit tight, because she had something for me. To my complete surprise and amazement she came back with the 2008' version of the pendant I had so lovingly admired. This was not 10 minutes after being told I was pretty much out of luck. You can't tell me that's a coincidence. I would call you an fool to ignore the beauty in this simple example of the enormous positive power the universe holds. It wasn't earth shattering or mind blowing. Just a quiet, gentle voice reminding me that I have a guide and to trust my instincts, manifest wherever and whenever I can, and to always always always hold on to hope.

Burning Man lesson No.5: Random solitary mashing can be way more fun than staying with your group. I kind of tend to get lost. I mean, I know where I am, but I usually lose track of where everybody else is. Which doesn't tend to be a problem. I always meet the most awesome people this way. The boys at Moonshine Tavern and the Absinthe gurus at the Golden Calf, the Carl Cox look-a-like who played men's volleyball at Brown, Potty Mouth (who graduated from my cross town rival high school), the Ella Fitzgerald sound-a-like out of the audience at the Jazz Club, the list goes on and on. So down with random solitary mashing. Best part being it never stays solitary for long!

Burning Man lesson No. 6: Dancing is good for the soul AND the bootie! Let me tell you! I danced my ass off last week and it felt gooooooodddddddd. I am such a happier person when I get a good dance session in daily. I think I need to date a DJ. Yeah that'd be good. But in all seriousness, dancing is such a freeing experience and a connecting one at the same time. I can't think of many other times when I've felt better than when in the middle of an intensely ridiculous session. Talk about being in the now with your entire mind, body and soul. Damn. Getting inspired here. Think I'm gonna go put on some jams now.

Well actually, I'm gonna go crash, since my new job has be in to work around 5:00 a.m. Gotta get those Benjamins baby. Saving up for Burning Man NEXT year. Holllllaaaaaaaaa!