Sunday, August 31, 2008

The insult of Sarah Palin

Like the rest of the free world, I was pretty surprised on Friday when McCain announced that Sarah Palin would be his running mate. For all his harping on Obama's supposed lack of experience, McCain boldly proposed bringing to the world a level of inexperience unheard of since Spiro Agnew. Palin is also a pro-gun, pro-drilling, anti-choice evangelical who thinks human activity does not affect climate change.

That McCain thinks this move will pander to Hillary Clinton's supporters is a blatant insult. The only thing that Clinton and Palin have in common is penislessness. Clinton was not just a woman running for president. She is a highly qualified woman who was a fabulous candidate and may yet be a fabulous President. Palin has been governor of an insignificant state for less than two years, after a short stint as mayor of a town smaller than most universities. As is apparently the status quo for Alaska Republicans, she's also currently being investigated on corruption charges.

I've said before that the selection of a running mate is a very important decision, and the first major insight into the type of President a candidate will become. Obama selected someone who will help him to navigate Washington, who will work hard to get things done, and who has deep and respected experience in his own right. McCain selected an inexperienced right-winger whose official biography still includes high school basketball captain and beauty queen. Obama is focused on how to lead; McCain is not looking beyond the election.

Lake Wobegon, MN

Aunt Jessie is a huge fan of A Prairie Home Companion on NPR, and she sent us this postcard from Art's "Nite-o-Rest" Motel at Lake Wobegon, Minnesota. Please note the house rules on the back.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama's acceptance speech

I haven't watched much of the Democratic convention, although I've been impressed with what I've read of the transcripts. Notably, Jim Leach articulated brilliantly why Republicans and Democrats alike should be supporting Obama. And Hillary Clinton, who I admittedly would have loved to see on stage last night, was amazing in her keynote on Tuesday.

I have been incredibly concerned to see polling numbers at a dead heat between McCain and Obama prior to this week. I am not one of the people who has been totally enamored with Obama, but neither am I one who could care less whether he's connected enough or trustworthy enough (or other such irrelevant nonsense) to be elected. I really thought he could have better capitalized on some of the gaffes McCain has made recently; his eloquent but long-winded style seemed no longer inspiring. So it was with a great deal of interest and curiosity that I watched Obama last night.

He was fantastic. All of my reservations have been put to rest, and I am thrilled to support him wholeheartedly. He took the fight to McCain, he started to outline the specifics of his platform, and he proved himself ready to talk about the issues that matter rather than the ones that do not. Sure, questions remain, like how exactly he will fix our broken healthcare system, but he squarely addressed the miserable failures of the Bush administration with a focus on how McCain has agreed with it. He illustrated why this moment in time is critical, why keeping the status quo would be a debacle. And yes, he inspired... he inspired me to believe that Americans really aren't stupid enough to put McCain into the White House. We can win!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Child in Time

I've been trying to read all of the books on my shelves. You know, the ones that you don't remember when or where you got them, and they hold surprisingly little appeal considering you actually own them? Anyway, The Child in Time by Ian McEwan was one of those. I think I bought it used for freshman English, I know I never read it, and since my copy doesn't even have a summary on the back I had no idea what it was about.

As it turns out, this is an amazingly powerful novel, and I could not be happier I read it. Not that this is a pick-me-up by any stretch. McEwan's powerful prose and his portrayal of raw human emotion brought me to tears more than once. Once I got into the story, I flew through it. I'm looking forward to reading more of his prolific bibliography.

The setting is a near-future dystopian London. Successful children's author Stephen Lewis is on an ordinary trip to the supermarket with his 3-year-old daughter Kate. Through absolutely no fault of his own, she disappears, and the course of his life is irrevocably altered. Stephen and his wife, Julie, spiral into very different cycles of grief that cause their marriage to disintegrate. Julie moves out of their apartment and becomes a recluse. Stephen spends the majority of his time drinking scotch, with a small government committee as his only responsibility. The book is not a story about Stephen's fruitless search for his daughter, but rather a philosophical journey through a man's emotional growth.

A pivotal theme of the book is that time is fluid. Moments can stretch into hours, entire experiences can contract into seconds, and it always comes down to perspective. During the year after Kate's disappearance, Stephen ultimately comes to grips with both his own existence, as well as the knowledge that his daughter will not return. The book is about memory, childhood, depression, and about the real possibility of moving on.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Going long in season tickets

My sweet husband, for all that is wonderful about him, does have at least one flaw. Namely, he is a Jets fan. Big time. After going to a game here or there, we've had season tickets to the Jets for the past few years. And even my Bronco-fan self can admit it... It's a lot of fun.

As you may or may not be aware, the Jets and the Giants are building a fancy-pants new stadium. Not only has this turned parking into a disaster for the past two years, but they have come up with the most piggish way to extort money from their loyal fans that I've ever heard of! In order to retain their season tickets, the majority of holders must purchase "Personal Seat Licenses" for between $4-25k per ticket! That, of course, is on top of the cost of the tickets and parking. Lucky for those of us in the nosebleeds, we have no PSL requirements - just a healthy bump in face values.

In addition to this drama, my number came up this year for Broncos season tickets. So we've got (count 'em) two different sets of pro football season tickets. It's a little insane. OK, a lot insane. We're planning to unload the Broncos tickets to friends (if you're interested, please speak up!), hopefully catch a game over the holidays, and use the Broncos website to get rid of the rest. At the end of the year, we'll assess whether it was too much of a pain for us to keep the tickets and do it again. Ah, the glamor of sports fandom!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Obama-Biden ticket

I was very happy with this morning's news that Biden has been selected as Obama's running mate. In particular, I think his extensive legislative experience will prove invaluable to Obama. Obama's vision and ability to inspire will only take him so far. Once elected, he'll have no choice but to work within the Washington bureaucracy and process. He'll need the support of his cabinet and Congress in order to move his agenda forward. Biden's years in the Senate will be well suited to helping Obama navigate this. I fully agree with David Brooks' excellent piece in yesterday's Times. Smart job on this one, Obama. Now let's get this general election show on the road!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, via DailyLit

I just finished reading my 51st and final installment of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, via the DailyLit service.

First, my thoughts on DailyLit. In a nutshell, I liked it, but only as a complement (not a replacement) to reading traditional books. The biggest detraction is that the reader does not have control over how much or how little she chooses to read in a single sitting. There is a link to request the next segment immediately, but it's just not the same as turning the pages yourself. On the plus side, I was able to read an extra book over the course of two months, without putting any additional strain on my already tight schedule. I certainly would not recommend this for a very long or complex book, but it served quite well for this children's classic.

As for the book itself, I am embarrassed to admit that I had no idea that the movie diverged so greatly from the book! The book is fantastic - no wonder it immediately became a classic. It's very dark, quite violent at times, and paints the four geographic quadrants of Oz as very distinct lands. Dorothy is much younger than in the movie, Glinda doesn't save them from the poppy fields, and the winged monkeys aren't evil! On the other hand, the Wizard is still a fake, the scarecrow, tinman and lion had to learn they always had what they desired, and Toto's still pretty useless. As with any movie, a great deal of detail and many sub-plots were left out due to time and expense. The biggest difference is that there is no question in the book that Oz is, in fact, a real place. Dorothy did not dream the entire adventure; she actually returned to Kansas.

Having read the book, I now understand the basis for the thirteen sequels that Baum wrote. I'm very pleased that we have several of the set that Joker read as a little boy, and I'm looking forward to sharing them with the Bug! And replacing our missing copies may well become my new eBay project!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quick notes on work

I'm almost through my third week on the job, and I wanted to quickly say that things are going great. There is no shortage of work to be done, and most of it is really interesting... It certainly helps that even the most mundane task is more amusing when you're in the music business! Fuse has put together a great team of people, we've got a lot of opportunity in front of us, and I am thrilled to be here.

More detail soon, I promise!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sippy cup breakthrough

The Bug has been very resistant to using a sippy cup for anything other than smashing food on her tray. Since she's not even 15 months old yet, I've pretty much not worried about it. She'll start using a cup eventually. This weekend we finally made some progress - she watched me pour her milk into the sippy cup, and was actually excited to drink out of it! We're no where near 100%, but it is a step in the right direction.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Five-year reflections

This Saturday marked Joker and my fifth anniversary. I've been thinking a lot about the time we have spent together starting our family, the fun we have had, the beautiful places we have seen, and the adventures to come. I am so incredibly lucky in every aspect of our relationship. We have such a great time together, we've got the sweetest little Bug, and we truly love and trust each other. The first five years have been wonderful; I can't wait to see what the next five will bring!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Shaner got lucky!

My younger brother is the latest in a string of distinguished men (including Joker, of course) to bag a babe that's totally out of his league. He asked his charming girlfriend Ali to marry him, and she said "yes"! Ali hails from the lovely town of Madawaska, Maine, which is approximately... oh good grief - it's way the hell north of here. It's unclear whether we'll (a) need a passport, or (b) need to learn some basic Canadian words and phrases, to attend the wedding. Either way, we're thrilled!

Congrats to you both!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

How not to get return business

New Yorkers love to drink outside in the summer, but good places in midtown are few and far between. So yesterday my friend Lynne and I met for drinks after work at Mad46, a new rooftop bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. Neither of us will return. We waited 45 minutes for a glass of lousy wine, so long that even the hostess was shocked and comped us. We felt bad for getting the waitress in trouble, so we ordered a second round. Which took another twenty minutes. We pounded those so that I could run - literally - for a train home. And we left a very generous tip anyway.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Drill, drill, drill!!

This is the mantra that is emanating from John McCain like a broken record. He's stomping his foot in places like South Dakota, insisting that if he's elected President he'll immediately start offshore drilling, onshore drilling, ANWR drilling, all of which will clearly provide immediate relief to the skyrocketing gas prices at the pump.

That this is completely untrue is more than just an annoyance. It would take decades for new offshore oil exploration to provide any tangible results. In the process, irreparable harm could be done to the coastlines. The thing that really makes me angry, though, is that average Americans hear this inane blather, and they believe it. They believe it so strongly, with 63% of Americans favoring new off-shore leases, that even Obama has come off his anti-drilling position, saying now that he'd consider allowing new off-shore oil exploration.

Pandering to public opinion, taking advantage of public delusion, is dirty politics at best. If you still needed any evidence that this campaign season would be business-as-usual, this should be enough. Can the electorate wise up in time for an intelligent dialogue about real solutions to take place before this election?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cuddling a newborn

We had the pleasure of visiting little Oliver on Saturday on our way down to Pennsylvania for a friend's wedding. He's the first newborn I've held since the Bug was born, and it was amazing. He's so tiny and wiggly and soft, and he can't hold his head up yet. He just laid on my chest and nuzzled. I'd completely forgotten what a newborn feels like! It was a blast.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Broadway Brett: another old dude

All of the recent Brett Favre drama has made me chuckle. A little nauseously, perhaps, but definitely a chuckle. He retires, then he un-retires, then the Packers don't really want him back but he only wants to go to their top rivals, then today he lands with the New York Jets. Joker's a huge Jets fan - season tickets, the whole nine yards - and did not greet this news with joyful celebration. His response was to point out that Favre is older than he is. ("What's next? Are the Jets gonna get Dan Marino out of retirement??")

So I spent part of my train ride fondly reminiscing about Favre's early years in the NFL, when he was the first superstar who was roughly my own age. Now, I see him as too old to play. Funny how your perspective changes so quickly! Luckily my other key observation, that he was a hottie, was obliterated long ago by his abysmal acting skills.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture

I bought Douglas Coupland's Generation X after I read Shampoo Planet more than ten years ago. It sat on my shelf, I contemplated it, but I never picked it up. Upon finally finishing it, I oddly found myself neither more nor less compelled by it. It was a very ordinary story, though it did have some cultural impact.

Coupland's first novel, the book popularized the term "Generation X" in the early 1990s. It's about three twenty-somethings who each left a budding career to eschew mainstream society and live in the desert. It's a premise that could easily set the stage for a fantastic book by a greater author, Irvine Welsh or David Foster Wallace, perhaps. But in the hands of Coupland, these three apocalypse-fixated friends never developed into anything more. The characters didn't draw me in, their situations seemed flat and unconvincing, and the book was surprisingly tedious.

Monday, August 4, 2008

New baby news

We've had so many new babies among our friends in the last month - what fun! On July 30, our good friends Stacey and Trent brought Oliver Miles Nelson into the world! He bucked the trend of early arrival, and allowed himself to get fully baked... to the tune of almost 10 pounds! All are very happy, very healthy, and home - and we're hoping to meet the little (??) fella this weekend.