Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Here's a trailer for one of those old-timey movie theater "Spook Shows."

Trouble seeing this video? Click on this link:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The First Day of Rain

It's been a while since I've used this blog to rant, but today seems like a good time.

After all, today marks the first rain of the fall season, which means...

Everyone forgets how to drive.

Why is that?

Why is it that the same road, the same traffic, the same curves, produce such drastically different results with a few drops of rain?

I'm not talking about a squall or a storm. I'm talking about the kind of semi-drizzle that makes you feel embarrassed to use an umbrella.

Of course, I had to use an umbrella because the Highway 17 bus driver - who arrived ten minutes late - decided to park a block away so he could take his break.

While we stood in the rain.

No, he couldn't allow us to board "early" - which actually means late. So we stood and waited to board the bus.

The driver smiled and laughed. "It's going to be a long trip," he promised as he lurched us onto the highway, regaling us with tales of endless traffic to come.

On the road, we confronted the threatened convergence of a few drops and a few clueless motorists, the promise of wrecks in both directions over a mountain that separates work from home. And we found...

A smooth ride with no delays.

I hate the first day of rain.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


For some reason, I never get tired of this South Park bit...

(Image borrowed from Eric Cartman's Iron Fist of Authority Photo Gallery)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Memories from an endless campaign

Only one week to go, thank God. Looking back on this endless campaign, I can't help but feel a bit nostalgic.

Can you remember when...
  • John Kerry seemed like a viable candidate for '08?

  • Pundits thought Newt Gingrich might actually run?

  • Rudy Giuliani took a phone call from his wife while giving an NRA speech?

  • People cared about what Iowa voters think?

  • Hillary Clinton (sort of) cried in that New Hampshire diner?

  • Mike Huckabee seemed like he might just pull it off?

  • Fred Thompson asked, "Can I have a round of applause" - for himself?

  • The media endlessly looped Reverend Wright shouting, "God damn America"?

  • Joe Biden challenged Barack Obama to try and take his guns?

  • Barack and Michelle shared a "Fist Bump?"

  • The media first described Sarah Palin as a "Hockey Mom?"

  • The media first described Sarah Palin as "going rogue?"
And now some personal reflections. Do you remember when...
  • You first heard of the "my friends" drinking game?

  • You first realized that Sarah Palin reminds you of a girl you couldn't stand in high school?

  • You started saying well-worn speech lines like "There's no Red America. There's no Blue America. There is only the United States of America" right alongside the candidate?

  • You thought that November 4, 2008 seemed like a long time to wait for an election?

  • You first heard folks talking seriously about the 2012 race?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Fun Post - "Take On Me" (Literal Version)

Child of the eighties? You'll love this post: Has to be seen to be believed.

Difficulty seeing this video? Visit this link:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Minneapolis Posters: Gender and Sexuality

This is part three of my collection of posters (again: technically, they're fliers) collected during a 1991 visit to Minneapolis, following up on two previous posts (one focused on protests against the first Gulf War and one concentrating on the Minneapolis music scene). Today we focus on gender and sexuality. As stated previously, I'm sharing them as examples of protest rhetoric and visual communication.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Signs of the Proposition 8 Debate

I submitted this letter to the editors of the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Scotts Valley Banner, and I figured that readers of my blog might want to read it as well. NOTE: This letter refers to California Proposition 8, which changes the state constitution to define marriage strictly as the union of a man and a woman. Reading between the lines, you'll catch a hint of some of the debates (and some commonality, too) in my own home on this contentious issue.


To the editor:

I have observed the public response to Jenny Wood's Santa Cruz Sentinel article (Prop. 8 does not take rights away from gay couples -- see also comments) from a unique perspective, as her spouse. At the outset, let me provide just a bit more context. I know Jenny, I love Jenny, and I disagree with her entirely.

Government should no more define marriage than a church should define municipal boundaries. The spheres are, or ought to be, distinct. And given the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, neither federal nor state governments should set about defining social relationships -- say "marriage" vs. "civil unions" -- as being separate but equal. Therefore I stand with those who will vote against Proposition 8. But only to a point.

Where I differ from my friends who resist Prop 8, beyond my disgust at the occasional vitriol heaped (usually from the protective anonymity of the internet) upon my spouse, a person of good will and good character, is the choice by some partisans to tear down Pro-Prop 8 signs. I see it on a daily basis. Pro Prop-8 signs put up in the morning are stolen, torn, shredded, or just knocked over within hours, while adjacent signs are left standing. And not just in one spot, but in several places near where I live. This happens each and every day.

Hey, you, tearing down the signs. What are you thinking?

You advocate understanding, and yet you tear down a piece of political speech because it offends you? You resist a government that would unreasonably restrict the most personal form of expression, a declaration of marriage, and yet you would deprive a fellow American her or his right to express an alternative opinion? Where's the much vaunted open-mindedness in that?

Here's what those of us who reject Prop 8 should do: We should march, we should protest, we should write letters, and we should passionately argue with those on the other side. And on November 4th, we should vote this proposition down. But we should never, never attack their signs, any more than we would attack their bodies. After all, tearing down a campaign sign isn't "freedom of speech." Quite the opposite, it is theft of speech. It's as entirely wrong as those who would deprive some people the right to marry simply because of their sexuality. It's un-American.

If you really believe in tolerance, leave the signs alone.

(Photographs by Jenny Wood)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Minneapolis "Scene" Posters

Following up on yesterday's collection of Gulf War Protest Posters, here's a series of posters (again: technically, they're fliers) collected during a 1991 visit to Minneapolis. These depict some aspects of the musical scene back then.

Monday, October 20, 2008

1991 Persian Gulf Protest Posters

Recently I came across a small collection of posters (fliers, technically) I gathered during a visit to the University of Minnesota in 1991. I'm sharing them as examples of protest rhetoric and visual communication. Later on, I may upload some other posters from the same visit that represent different genres.

Want to see more? Check out my trio of Minneapolis "scene" posters and my collection of posters concentrating on gender and sexuality.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Recently I came across an MSNBC article headlined, When has a video game ever made you cry?. Recognizing that well-known challenge for a game to evoke the kind of emotional response of a book or film, I eagerly read the piece.

From there, I found Jason Rohrer's game, "Gravitation." I cannot say that the game made me cry, but it made me think. As a father, I was, let us say, "attracted" to the game's subtle illustration of the choices one makes between personal advancement and one's identity as a parent.

"Gravitation" is disarmingly simple. You are a dad (or a Mom, I suppose; the 80s-era graphics allow for plenty of discretion) bouncing a ball with your kid. That's it, at first...

Download the game (for Windows, Mac, or Unix) and see what happens.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Madonna Inn

Following up on Monday's post, here's a video of the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.

Trouble seeing this video? Visit this link:

Select "watch in high quality" for best view.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Live Blog: Third 2008 Presidential Debate

I live-blogged the third presidential debate, and I surely made some mistakes in grammar and spelling (and even fact) as I attempted to follow the exchange. As needed, I'll revise this document later.

6:00 (Pacific): At last, the third debate begins. By most accounts, McCain needs a clear victory -- it would help if Obama announces that he's the Antichrist -- to have a chance in hell of winning in November. You've got to imagine that this election drives McCain nuts: "I'm losing to this guy?" And now these two men prepare to sit at the same table. I wonder whether the candidates' proximity will inspire a civil debate or end with thrown chairs.

6:02: Bob Schieffer starts with today's lousy news from Wall Street.

6:03: McCain bemoans Americans as "innocent victims" who are angry, angry, angry, angry.

6:04: McCain promises to buy bad home mortgages.

6:05: Obama starts (again) with a comparison of our current woes to that Great Depression.

6:06: Obama starts with the need to protect U.S. jobs and reduce taxes before agreeing with McCain that homeowners need help. Problem? Does not want a giveaway to banks.

6:07: Bob Schieffer: "Would you like to ask him a question?" McCain: "Uh, no."

6:08: McCain promises that he's gonna help "Joe the Plumber" live his American dream, pointing at Obama when spitting out the phrase "tax increase."

6:09: Obama attack's McCain's tax breaks for oil companies.

6:10: Good 'ol Joe the Plumber is getting some lovin' tonight!

6:10: McCain claims that we're gonna take Joe's money to spread it around. "Class Warfare" is on. The tanks are taking the streets.

6:11: Obama reminds us that Warren Buffet can pay a few more taxes. Mine would be a good place to start, but it looks like Joe the Plumber is first in line.

6:13: McCain reminds us that the tax rate for businesses is 35%. I'd like to see one big business that actually pays that amount.

6:14: Bob Schieffer asks what programs must be cut during our current economic crisis.

6:14: Obama drifts past the question, talks about pay-as-you-go. No sacrifices at first.

6:15: Obama talks about "investing in America." Yeah, but about that pesky question.

6:16: McCain agrees: Stupid question. Let's talk about the government buying homes!

6:17: McCain plans to create millions of jobs - and launch an across the board spending freeze.

6:18: McCain: "I know how to save billions."

6:19: Obama: Across the board spending freeze. Nice idea. It'll never happen.

6:19: Obama: Earmarks count for one half of one percent of the federal budget.

6:20: McCain: "Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." Line of the night (so far).

6:21: McCain: Points at Obama, mocks "goodies" for the oil companies.

6:22: McCain: "You have to tell me one time you have stood against the leaders of your party."

6:22: Obama responds with tort reform. "An overwhelming vote," McCain mocks.

6:23: Obama: "Even Fox News" disputes a claim made by McCain.

6:23: Obama: "Essentially what you're proposing is eight more years of the same thing."

6:24: McCain: "I've got the scars to prove it." That line represents so much of how McCain has sought to define the "body" of his campaign.

6:25: Bob Schieffer calls both candidates on the tough tenor of their campaign. Then offers a chance to bring it on!

6:25: McCain: If only Obama would have come to my Town Hall debates!

6:26: McCain goes after John Lewis. Hard core! "Senator Obama, you didn't repudiate those remarks."

6:27: McCain: "You didn't keep your word" on public financing. "You didn't tell the American people the truth."

6:28: Obama: "100 percent of your ads have been negative." American people are less concerned about "our hurt feelings" than their pocketbooks.

6:29: Obama: "I don't mind being attacked for the next three weeks," but the American people can't afford four more years.

6:29: Obama is playing it cool.

6:30: McCain may get only one vote, but if it's Joe the Plumber, he'll be OK.

6:31: Obama reminds viewers that Republicans ought to at least shush their supporters who shout "kill him."

6:33: McCain is proud of the folks who come to his rallies. "There's a lot of things that have been yelled at your rallies, Sen. Obama."

6:34: Obama: "We can have a debate back and forth." Um, yeah. That's the idea. Dude, you may be right on ideas, but you're getting your butt kicked by the old fighter pilot.

6:36: Ahhh, time to drag William Ayers into the fray. Have you noticed how many times McCain has said in previous interviews that he doesn't care about some washed up terrorist as much as he cares about Obama's judgment? Personally, I think a real live terrorist is somewhat more threatening to our country than some political candidate (excepting, of course, Sarah Palin, who seems plenty dangerous to me).

6:36: Obama: "Mr. Ayers has become the centerpiece of Sen. McCain's campaign over the last two or three weeks."

6:37: Obama associates Ayers with folks worse than Weathermen: Republicans!

6:38: McCain has a look like he's eating Obama's lunch. The question will be determined according to whether viewers are listening to words or to volume.

6:40: Bob Schieffer asks about the people the candidates will bring into the government. Let's talk running-mates. Tosses a softball: Why is Biden better than Palin? Hmmm. Do you have an hour?

6:41: Obama cites "workin' family." The first Dropped 'G of the night?

6:42: Obama chooses not to mention Palin.

6:43: McCain on Palin: "It's time we had that breath of fresh air."

6:43: McCain: "She's ignited our party." Yep, it's burning down, alright.

6:44: Obama: Yeah, she's a capable, well, she's...hmmm.

6:45: McCain dumps on Joe Biden's "cockamamie" Iraq separation plan.

6:46: McCain: Obama the tax raiser.

6:47: McCain says that only "extreme environmentalists" are concerned with nuclear power being safe.

6:49: Obama is counting the minutes until this debate is over. McCain is dropping the hammer.

6:51: Is talking about the problems with free trade agreements. McCain: "I admire Obama's eloquence." Except for everything he says.

6:52: McCain: Senator Obama, "who has never traveled south of our border," opposes free trade with Columbia. "Maybe you ought to travel down there." Rawr.

6:54: Obama returns to the arms of the auto makers. Time to bolster the Michigan vote. Things didn't go so well when discussing Columbia and Peru.

6:55: McCain brings out the "without precondition" bat, starts swingin'.

6:55: McCain compares Obama to Hoover. Them's Fightin' Words.

6:56: Bob Schieffer asks about controlling health care costs.

6:56: Obama discussing people losing their health insurance: "This will break your heart." No, Senator. This breaks "my" heart. Say it. Feel it. Show that you get it.

6:58: Obama walks through his health care plan. Again.

6:59: McCain inexplicably starts with putting health care records online. Yeah, that'll help those folks who lost their insurance.

6:59: McCain returns to "my old buddy, Joe." This guy ought to get a talk show!

7:00: McCain: "I don't think that Joe right now wants to pay a fine."

7:00: Obama responds to Joe: "Here's your fine: Zero." Nice.

7:01: Wouldn't it be amazing if we just turned this election over to Joe?

7:02: Obama goes after McCain's $5,000 credit. Senator McCain will tax health benefits. "This is your plan, John."

7:03: McCain is waiting. His smile reminds me of that old song, "Mac the Knife."

7:03: McCain: "Hey, Joe, you're rich, congratulations."

7:04: McCain admits: Yes, health benefits will be taxed. Obama should simply repeat McCain's admission over and over again.

7:05: McCain accidentally (?) calls Obama "Senator Government."

7:05: Obama: "That's the choice you'll have," running the risk of losing the employer-based health care system.

7:06: Bob Schieffer asks about Supreme Court nominees and Roe v. Wade.

7:07: McCain sticks it to Obama: "Because you were 'afraid.'" He even uses finger-quote marks. Snarky!

7:08: McCain: Anyone who supports Roe v. Wade is clearly not qualified to serve in the High Court, but he promises no litmus tests.

7:09: Obama walks into abortion quicksand. McCain looks at his opponent with disdain.

7:10: Obama catches a vine out of the trap and talks about equal pay for equal work.

7:11: McCain goes after Obama's "present" votes in Illinois.

7:12: Obama: "If it sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold lifesaving treatment from an infant, that's because it's not true." They were (and presumably are) still protected by law.

7:14: Obama returns to abortion-land, searching for common ground. Sure, you'll find that in a one-minute answer.

7:15: McCain puts "health" of the mother in finger-quotes. So much for common ground. Congratulations, Senator. You just jumped off the cliff.

7:16: Bob Schieffer asks about education funding: Why aren't we getting our money's worth?

7:16: Obama answers by restating the latter port of Schieffer's question, before shifting to the money/reform debate: "We need both."

7:18: Obama offers a $4,000 tuition credit for student service to the nation.

7:18: McCain: "There's no doubt that we have achieved equal access to schools in America." Watch out. I think you built a landmine and then stepped on it, Senator.

7:19: McCain whips out a bumper sticker. He's against "throwing money at the problem."

7:20: Schieffer asks about the appropriate role of federal government in education spending.

7:21: Obama notes that the feds "left the money behind" for No Child Left Behind. Clever.

7:22: Obama agrees with McCain on some points. McCain blinks and blinks.

7:23: McCain to Obama: I'm sure you're aware of the school voucher program in D.C. "I'm frankly surprised you didn't pay more attention to that example."

7:25: For some reason McCain is talking about autism again.

7:25: It's a Chinatown moment: Vouchers! Charter Schools! Vouchers!

7:27: McCain: "America needs a new direction." Does anyone remember when it first seemed laughable that the GOP was stealing the mantle of "change" from that upstart Democrat? Seems like a million years ago, doesn't it?

7:28: McCain drops the trust-bomb.

7:29: Obama: "The biggest risk we could take right now is to adopt the same failed policies and the same failed politics that we've seen over the last eight years and somehow expect a different result."

7:30: Obama calls for a spirit of "sacrifice and service and responsibility."

7:31: Debate concludes.

Who won? That's hard to answer. Let's approach it this way: "Who won more for his candidacy?" I'll take that approach because tonight's debate was more about exigency than policy. The exigency, the problem to be overcome, was that McCain had to breathe more life into his candidacy. Obama, in contrast, needed to hold the line against McCain's attacks and maintain his command of the high ground.

From that perspective, I believe that McCain met his goal somewhat more than Obama; he got more out of the night -- at first. In the long run though, he may lose ultimately because of those "quote marks." As folks parse those moments over the next few days, particularly the "life of the mother" issue, McCain may have done more harm for himself than good.

One final thought: I hear that Joe the Plumber is generally supportive of McCain. But think about it: What if Joe the Plumber (Joe Wurzelbacher) had come out after the debate to say that he's voting for Obama? Maybe, just maybe, McCain ought not hand his entire campaign over to one guy.

Dive Bar

This is a local drinking establishment in San Jose that has adopted the famed Jantzen Girl motif toward its clever name, "Dive Bar."

If you'd like to see more diving girl imagery, check out my Diving Girl Motel Motif page.

(Photograph by Andrew Wood)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fremont Theatre

Following up on yesterday's post, here's a video of the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo.

Trouble seeing this video? Visit this link:

Select "watch in high quality" for best view.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Weekend in SLO and Morro Bay

Even though we're both swamped with projects these days, Jenny and I spent much of this weekend visiting San Luis Obispo and nearby Morro Bay. It was a lovely way to mark the beginning of weather that finally feels like fall. Friday evening was dedicated to the drive, stopping only to enjoy some Central Texan BBQ in Castroville. We grabbed a quiet room at the Peach Tree Inn and called it an early night.

The next morning we woke late and headed off to Morro Bay. The skies were blue and the weather was brisk. Jenny and I enjoyed the chance to watch rock squirrels scamper near the water, even though we annoyed them a bit. The brave creatures would climb up our pant legs in search of treats before leaping away once they knew that we'd brought no food.

Jenny also loved watching the seagulls squawking nearby and the pelicans diving for fish in the bay. Naturally we walked as close to the Pacific as we could, even climbing over the breakers to get a good look at the ocean. The waves crashed against the other side, sending explosions of spray into the air that would burst over us in slow motion.

Jenny convinced me to scramble up the rocks with her, and we both felt safely distant enough from the pounding surf. Only when I began to descend did one particularly powerful wave pound nearby, sending a drenching splash my way. I had to remove my shirt for a while, placing it on the rocks to dry a bit, but I didn't mind a bit.

For lunch we got combination plates of fish, scallops, shrimp, and squid at Giovanni's, standing in line before finding seats next to barking sea lions. We got a real kick out of watching more than a dozen of the animals sunning themselves, taking swim breaks, and squabbling over prime placement on the dock below. The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to strolling the shops, buying some souvenirs, and enjoying a nap back at our motel.

Our evening was spent in San Luis Obispo, enjoying ribs at Moe's and catching a movie at what must be the nicest Popcorn Palace on the central coast. Even though the show, Eagle Eye, was not too great a flick, I could also stare upward at the remarkable theater ceiling that glows in swirls of purple. It was a relaxing end to a mellow day.

We returned home this morning, ensuring that Jenny could attend church in her local ward. I'm spending much of the afternoon reading page proofs and anticipating a busy week. At least I tackle these new challenges with happy memories of a terrific weekend.

(Photographs by Andy and Jenny Wood)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Go Joe!

It's cheesy, it's over-the-top, it's clearly a performance of masculine excess, but I love Joe Biden's use of a jacket as a prop. Check it out.

Difficulty viewing this video, select this link:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Debt Gets Another Digit

The UK Telegraph offers a perfect illustration of our current economic morass: keepers of Manhattan's National Debt Clock have added another digit. The national debt, which was first highlighted by the clock at a then-shocking $2.7 trillion, has now exceeded $10 trillion. And the news gets worse. Here's a snip:
The Durst Organisation [sic], which owns the display in Times Square, says it plans to update the clock next year by adding two extra digits. This will make it capable of recording a quadrillion dollars of debt.
Read the entire story, Financial crisis: US debt clock runs out of numbers

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Garden Party on the 17

I took this admittedly low-qual photo using my mobile phone this morning while riding the 17 bus from Scotts Valley to work. One hour, one way, standing room only. I snagged a seat, after standing in a growing queue for 20 minutes prior to a 7:45 departure. It's Wednesday: the middle of a long week with much left to do. I can't say I'm bummed, but I'm tired and uninspired.

Then I catch sight of this poster leaning against the opposite side from where I'm sitting. It looks like something out of a nineteenth century Parisian garden party, all impressionistic leaves and sunlit grapes and billowing fabric. I don't recognize the piece, but it lifts my spirits all the same.

Do you know the name and artist?

(Here's a close-up)

Update: Some 20 minutes after I post this, Detroit Dog replies! It is a Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Live Blog: Second 2008 Presidential Debate

I live-blogged the second presidential debate, and I surely made some mistakes in grammar and spelling (and even fact) as I attempted to follow the exchange. As is needed, I'll revise this document later.

6:00: After days of particularly vitriolic mud-slinging, I wonder if this debate needs a moderator or a referee. We'll see...

6:01: There are really 80 uncommitted voters left in the country? Who are these people?

6:03: No fists thrown yet. There's hope.

6:04: Obama: "We are in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression." Why? Limited regulations, supported by McCain.

6:05: Obama promises tax cuts for the middle class. Just who isn't in the Middle Class, according to these folks?

6:06: After refusing to give his opponent so much as a sideways glance last time, it's nice that Senator McCain has chosen to acknowledge that Senator Obama is in the same room. For about a half-second.

6:07: McCain is doing a solid job of interacting with his audience, covering specific detail about his admittedly expensive home loan protection program.

6:07: McCain's first use(s) of "my friends." Take a drink!

6:08: McCain: "Not you, Tom." Oh my... "Grumpy McCain" is in the house!

6:10: Obama, it's best not use the phrase "flat-lined" and mention McCain in the same answer.

6:11: McCain is referencing his courageous choice to "leave" his campaign. Does anybody really believe that story?

6:12: McCain cites Senator Obama "and his cronies." Yikes!

6:13: Obama talks to Oliver. Here's to you first. I'll get to McCain momentarily...

6:14: Obama: "I've got to correct a little bit of Senator McCain's history - not surprisingly." Zing.

6:15: Obama: "You're not interested in hearing politicians pointin' fingers." Again with the dropped-Gs.

6:16: Brokaw: Is the economy going to get much worse?

6:17: McCain: "It depends on what we do." We need to get rid of the cronyism.

6:18: Again McCain tries to cover his 'economy is fundamentally sound' line by citing "the workers" as our fundamental strength.

6:19: Obama: "I understand your frustration and your cynicism." The woman in front of the questioner is looking at Obama like he just passed gas.

6:20: Obama: "I'm cutting more than I'm spending."

6:21: McCain: "I have been a consistent reformer."

6:22: McCain cites Obama's support for $860 billion in more spending.

6:23: It looks like McCain is going after the Pickens People with his many references to energy independence.

6:24: "My friends" again: Take another drink!

6:24: McCain seems to be both wandering on his feet and among his thoughts.

6:25: How much of this spending goes into terrorist organizations, Senator McCain? That's quite a claim.

6:25: Obama is willing to play the prioritization game. McCain, not so much.

6:27: Obama hits back on earmarks by way of tax cuts for the wealthy: Lots-o-bux for big corporations.

6:28: Nice line about the "time deficit," Brokaw.

6:29: McCain asked about sacrifices necessary to get out of our economic mess promises to eliminate those programs that are not working. First to go: defense pork.

6:29: What's with that "overhead projector" that Obama asked for (according to McCain)?

6:30: McCain: "We're not rifle-shots here. We're Americans." Huh?

6:30: Obama: "A lot of you remember the tragedy of 9/11." You sure?

6:31: Obama turns to energy: We all need to think about how we consume and save energy.

6:32: Obama gives props to the "young people of America."

6:33: Brokaw: How can a president help Americans break bad habits?

6:34: Obama notes that earmarks account for $18 billion of our budget and sticks the shiv again on McCain's support for tax breaks going to the wealthy.

6:35: Obama refers (again) to the hatchet vs. scalpel line.

6:35: McCain: Nailing Obama is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.

6:36: McCain reports that Senator Obama has a "secret." Sure, McCain's talking about harm to small business. But I know that this "Secret Obama" stuff is a sly reference to something much more scary to some voters.

6:37: McCain has news for Obama.

6:37: We have another question from "the internet." Oh no! It's gained sentience!

6:38: Obama: The "Straight-Talk Express lost a wheel."

6:39: Obama claims that only a few small businesses make more than $200,000 a year. I wonder if that's remotely true [update: turns out, it's true].

6:40: Obama claims that McCain wants to give Fortune 500 CEOs tax cuts.

6:40: "My friends" again. Take another drink! Ohhh. I'm feeling shaky already.

6:42: McCain cites a distinction between rhetoric and record.

6:43: A questioner asks how fast we can tackle environmental issues.

6:44: McCain promises that nuclear power is safe and clean. And we can reprocess the fuel. OK. Where do we bury the waste?

6:45: Yo, Obama. from a current professor to a former one, the cerebral persona works in a conference or classroom, but not so much with Joe Sixpack (hell... Twelvepack, these days). Lively up!

6:46: Obama agrees (again) with Senator McCain, but notes that his opponent has voted against alternative fuels 23 times.

6:47: Brokaw reminds the debaters that there are lights in the room. Perhaps they might stay on time from now on - but I doubt it.

6:48: McCain refers to Obama as "that one." Classy.

6:49: No more "my friends" drinking game. Our nation's collective liver can't take the pain.

6:50: Lindsey asks if health care should be treated as a commodity. Obama downshifts to a generic health-care-is-expensive answer.

6:52: Obama takes another swat at McCain on taxing health benefits.

6:52: McCain follows Obama into generic-land, ignoring Lindsey's focus on health-care-as-commodity

6:53: McCain warns us: "Senator Obama will fine you."

6:54: Ohhh. McCain talks about hair transplants. Somewhere, Joe Biden bolts out of his seat.

6:55: Brokaw asks if health care is a privilege or a right or a responsibility. Interesting. McCain focuses on responsibility - but not the one possessed by workers.

6:56: Obama replies: It should be a right and cites his mother's suffering with insurance companies. Nailed it.

6:57: Obama says, yes, folks must ensure that their children must be given health care. That's a mandate I can get behind.

6:58: Obama connects the risk of health care hijinks to those of our financial institutions.

6:59: A questioner asks whether we can remain a "peacemaker" in the world.

7:00: McCain floats around the edges of the question. Truthfully, I would like to know more about how the Senator would, as President, decide how to expend American blood and treasure in the future.

7:01: Obama: It's true, there's a lot I don't understand. Then he turns the knife onto McCain's judgment.

7:03: At least they agree that the United States is the greatest nation on Earth. Whew!

7:04: Brokaw pushes: What is the Obama Doctrine and the McCain Doctrine on peace-making?

7:04: Obama points backward to the Holocaust and Rwanda as times we shouldn't have stood idly by, times we should have acted. OK. How do we decide in the future? No doctrine seems to be forthcoming.

7:06: McCain: Here's my doctrine: Obama would have brought our troops home in defeat.

7:06: McCain: We must temper our peace-making impulses with an awareness of our abilities and limitations.

7:08: McCain says "never again" to the Holocaust and Rwanda. Good to have that cleared up.

7:08: Questioner asks if we should respect Pakistan's borders. Tough question.

7:09: Obama provides some background but the clock is ticking to answer the question.

7:10: Obama is against coddling dictators. Yes, but... the question...

7:10: About a minute and a half later, Obama answers: Yes, we'll cross the border if necessary.

7:11: McCain: Obama says he wants to announce that he will cross the border.

7:12: McCain: We drove the Russians out of Afghanistan with the help of freedom fighters. Pop quiz: Can you guess who one of those "freedom fighters" was?

7:13: Obama v. McCain: War of the "follow-ups"

7:14: Obama won't let the argument about crossing the borders go. He's the terminator! "He can't be bargained with. He can't be reasoned with. He doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever!"

7:14: Obama pierces McCain's "speak softly but carry a big stick" line. Bomb-bomb-bomb Iran.

7:15: McCain responds: "Not true." I understand what it's like to send soldiers into harm's way.

7:15: McCain: I know how to get Osama bin Laden. Wow, it'd be sweet if you might have shared that with our government a few years ago.

7:18: McCain notes that at least somewhere Obama is correct on some ideas. Nice. He was wrong on Iraq, though. Well, it was nice while it lasted.

7:19: The internet-as-questioner returns: How can we avoid another Cold War? Yeah, "the internet" is concerned about a war between ourselves and the Russians. Listen up, people! Don't you remember The Terminator?

7:20: McCain warns again: Watch out for Ukraine.

7:21: Obama takes a dee-ee-ep sigh. Dude, you look pained. Did someone switch your arugula salad with a Patty Melt?

7:22: Obama returns to the 21st-century challenges line. Clever, subtle dig.

7:23: Brokaw asks for a "yes or no" to the "Is Russia an Evil Empire." Obama avoids the binary trap one way, McCain approaches it another way: "Maybe."

7:24: Navy veteran Terry Shirey asks whether the candidates would commit military force against Iran.

7:25: McCain shakes Shirey's hand, one vet to another. Boom! Visual of the night.

7:26: Obama is probably thinking to himself: Ah geez, again with the "no preconditions" line.

7:27: Obama brings out the old "We honor your service" line.

7:27: Obama promises not to take military options off the table. No UN veto power. But we should "use all the tools at our disposal to prevent the scenario where we've got to make those choices."

7:28: Obama reaffirms: We should have direct talks with Iran.

7:29: Last question from "the internet," which has manifested itself as "Peggy."

7:30: Obama sideswipes the question, What don't you know? Answer: The fuuuuture.

7:32: McCain liked that answer: I don't know the future either!

7:33: McCain: "I know what it's like in dark times." Take a good long gulp. McCain made yet another reference to his POW experience. Somewhere out there, a former New York City mayor (middle name: 9/11) is nodding his head: "Milk it, 9/11! Milk it for all it's (9/11) worth, 9/11!"

7:34: McCain promises a steady hand at the tiller.

7:34: McCain and Obama stand in the way of Brokaw's script. That's a paddlin'.

7:34: Debate concludes.

Who won? Neither managed to score any fatal blows. As with the last debate, McCain supporters will find much to love about their candidate and Obama supporters will continue to stand by their man. On points, I'd find for Obama, particularly for his "health care is a right" reply. That answer is much more likely to resonate with voters. But the debate was hardly a game-changer.

Tonight's Debate

Tonight marks the second presidential debate, which takes place during a period of economic panic that seems to be spreading worldwide. True, following another stock market drop-off yesterday (with the Dow settling below 10,000 for the first time in four years), today's markets are merely dipping into negative territory but not yet taking the plunge (note: until late afternoon when the Dow completed another 500+ point drop). Still, the overall sense of risk is keeping everyone on edge. Just how bad has this crisis become, and how much worse can it get?

For that reason, among many others, I look forward to this debate. I hope that the candidates will be challenged to display some understanding of the problems we face, proposing their ideas for how to get out of this mess. Truthfully, few people expect that an American president can do much to fix our economy. The contagion is too deeply embedded and too globally dispersed to be repaired from the Bully Pulpit. Nonetheless, it'll be useful to see if candidates can get past Red State/Blue State banalities and face our challenges honestly, directly, and soberly.

Unfortunately, this week has seen a remarkable increase in attack ads as McCain and Obama throw guilt-by-association charges at each other, muddying the race with deception and innuendo. Both candidates blame each other for this disturbing political turn and neither appears ready to deescalate and address our real problems.

Once again, I plan to live-blog the debate tonight. It'll be an interesting experiment given the increase in variables to observe. I understand that the format calls for a Town Hall-style encounter, one more likely to inspire real interaction between the candidates and with audience members. Political observers report that McCain thrives in this format while Obama fares slightly less well. All I want? Reasoned clash, coherent specifics, and thoughtful nuance.

We will see…

Monday, October 6, 2008

Tiki Doesn't Have to be Taki

Eric Felten has written a solid article in The Wall Street Journal (October 4) celebrating the ongoing revival of the tiki craze. Here's a thought-provoking snip:
I suspect Donn [the Beachcomber] would have frowned at the technological tethers -- cellphones, BlackBerries and such -- that bind us to our workaday world. We live in an obnoxiously insistent age, with its relentless blog slog and the Sisyphean ordeal of answering emails. This tyranny of hyper-connection may be why tiki culture has a new resonance -- the promise of being detached from the cyber-grind. A thatched hut on some forgotten atoll is the sort of place alluring in its lack of cell coverage.
Happily, the article offers plenty of praise for Alameda's sublime Forbidden Island (though I think Felten could heap more righteous scorn on San Francisco's awful Tonga Room).

Read the entire article, Tiki Doesn't Have to be Tacky

Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Fun Post: Goofy Signs

These are not my photos. They're from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which has posted a series of goofy signs that might inspire a smile. Here's the link to see more.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Live-Blog: 2008 Vice Presidential Debate

I live-blogged the vice presidential debate, and I surely made some mistakes in grammar and spelling (and even fact) as I attempted to follow the exchange. I'll revise this document later.

6:00: Years ago, I heard some version of this phrase, "Wars are fought by professionals, but the battlefield is filled with amateurs." I'm flashing back on that insight as we begin tonight's debate.

On the Democratic side: a seasoned professional, a member of the United States Senate since he was 30. On the Republican side: a "Hockey Mom" candidate who transforms Joe-Sixpack, Just-Folksism into a virtue.

Tonight we will see a contemporary manifestation of the ancient debate between elitism and populism.

Many prognosticators foretell a blowout one way or the other: a cringe-inducing gaffe by Senator Biden or an embarrassing display of ignorance by Governor Palin.

Me? I anticipate that both candidates will work hard to make no news at all. Both can at times be frustratingly dense. But neither is stupid. Both know that they cannot win so much as they can lose. So there will be few fireworks. At the outset, that's what I predict.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog-post, I'm evaluating this debate according to three criteria: clash, specificity, and nuance. From that perspective, I hope to focus my remarks upon the serious issues raised tonight. But beware: If I spot too much silliness, I may get a little rowdy.

Well, here we go...

6:02: Only 90 seconds for answers and two minutes for follow-up exchange? Lovely. The comparative lack of opportunities for genuine exchange between these candidates promises some pretty low-caliber clash. This debate has been organized to preclude the possibility of, well, debate. Let's see how long these rules hold up.

6:03: "Can I call you Joe?" Oh my...

6:04: Biden lays out "four basic criteria": Good. We see some specifics early on.

6:05: Palin: "Go to a kid's soccer game . . . I betcha..."

6:06: Palin gives a sly look at Biden when dismissing "people in the Senate" who failed to heed John McCain's call for reform.

6:07: Biden: Oh, John? You remember that you celebrated the economy being "strong"?

6:08: Palin: The American workforce is what McCain means by our "strong economy." Yeah, that's the ticket.

6:09: Moderator Gwen Ifill noticed something a bit annoying. Neither candidate seemed to answer the question.

6:10: Palin: "Darn right!"

6:10: The first reference to "Joe Six-Pack."

6:11: Biden has chosen to bypass his opponent's "you betcha" optimism. Thank goodness, though, that he believes that John McCain is a "good man." I was worried.

6:12: Biden is zeroing in McCain's support for deregulation.

6:12: Nice story about Joey not being able to fill up his tank!

6:13: Clash! "The vote she's referring to, John McCain voted the exact same way."

6:14: Palin: "I may not answer the questions the way the moderator or you want..." Well, that's one way to go...

6:15: Senator Biden, has anyone ever mentioned how much your smile resembles that of Rod Serling?

6:15: Palin lets the attack drop entirely on McCain's record on deregulation.

6:16: Biden: No one making less that $200,000 will see their taxes increase. "When you do well, America does well."

6:17: Palin: You're forgetting the millions of small businesses that fit into that category.

6:19: Turning to McCain's health care plan. Palin offers some detail: a tax credit. Then she claims that Obama's plan is universal and mandatory, which is an error in fact.

6:19: Biden: "We don't call that redistribution, we call that fairness."

6:20: Biden continues the clash: That tax credit is paid for by taxation elsewhere.

6:21: First laugh of the night: Biden's reference to "bridge to nowhere."

6:21: Biden tosses foreign aid when asked what must be cut in these tight economic times. Stay classy, Joe!

6:22: "The light is blinking": Senator Biden, that pounding, throbbing sound you hear is the collective racing heartbeat of your handlers hoping that you will stop talking.

6:23: Palin on those oil company CEOs: "Bless their hearts." That's nice.

6:24: Palin: "How long have I been at this, five weeks?" That about covers it.

6:25: Biden asks a rhetorical question: Why is John McCain adding another tax cut for oil companies?

6:26: No answer from Palin (though, to be fair, there's no time).

6:27: What is it with Palin and "rearing heads"?

6:28: Biden does a good job of addressing his voting differences with Obama.

6:29: Rather than answer the question, Palin chooses to talk about "my record on energy."

6:29: The first reference to those danged "East-coast politicians."

6:30: Palin: Energy independence is necessary for this nation's future. Bold talk, Governor.

6:31: Palin: "I don't want to argue about the causes" of climate change. Hmmm. I do!

6:33: Biden: John McCain has voted 20 times against alternative energy funding. What say you, Governor?

6:34: Palin: "Yes, Senator McCain does support this." Well, it's nice to get that settled...

6:35: Biden is looking at Palin as if she's mildly drunk.

6:35: "Nu-CU-ler"? Really? Still?

6:36: Biden pushes the attack: 20 times against...

6:36: Turning to same-sex partnerships.

6:37: Palin resists any policies that change the traditional definition of marriage. Immediately thereafter, she affirms her tolerance. "I will tell Americans straight up": I bet you will.

6:38: Ifell: "Let's try to avoid nuance, Senator." No, let's not.

6:39: Turning to foreign policy...

6:39: Palin: "I am very thankful...": We have a candidate for most pointlessly repeated phrase of the debate.

6:40: Palin pulls out the old 'they voted to cut funding for the troops' line.

6:41: Biden: "With all due respect, I didn't hear a plan."

6:41: Clash! Biden won't allow that 'they didn't vote to fund the troops' silliness.

6:42: Palin: "Your plan is a white flag of surrender." Wow.

6:43: Rather than continue the thread about the comparative plans, Palin chooses to attack Obama and sickeningly bring Biden's family into her argument.

6:45: Turning to Iran and Pakistan...

6:45: Biden: "Pakistan already has nuclear weapons." Interesting point.

6:46: Biden: Any attack on the U.S. will come from Afghanistan and/or Pakistan.

6:46: Biden cites the fight for "hearts and minds." Senator Biden, the ghosts of Vietnam, line one.

6:47: Palin mispronounces "nuclear" again. Take another drink!

6:48: Again with the "no preconditions" line.

6:49: Apparently Palin recently had a great conversation with Dr. Kissinger.

6:49: Biden: And, oh yeah, five secretaries of state said we ought to talk with our enemies.

6:51: Ooops. John McCain did say he wouldn't talk with the government of Spainnnnnnnn. Pause and let that sink in.

6:52: Palin knows of the existence of Jordan and Egypt.

6:53: Biden shows a little nuance "in fairness to Secretary Rice."

6:53: Biden cites "the country immediately to the north of Israel." Go ahead and say it, Lebanon. We can handle the truth, Joe.

6:54: Biden takes a deep breath. Dude, that mic is hot. Relax.

6:55: Palin assures us that positive change is coming. The impressive range and length of Senator Palin's happy-talk, if transformed into electrical energy, could power all of Alaska.

6:55: Biden: "I haven't heard how ____ will be different than George Bush's." How many times was that?

6:56: Palin: "Nu CU ler" weapons. Take another drink, but only one per answer. Otherwise you may not make it through the night.

6:58: Biden: "Facts matter, Gwen."

6:58: Biden: "Let me say that again." No, it's OK. We have Tivo.

6:59: Biden: "My time is almost up." Was that also a rhetorical statement?

7:00: Palin: The surge-I-mean-counter-insurgency strategy will work in Afghanistan.

7:01: Good. There's plenty of exchange. I was afraid this would be a series of competitive talking-points. Not so.

7:01: Biden: "I think the American people have the stomach for success." I'm not so sure. My stomach is filled with chicken wings.

7:02: Biden: "I gave the president the power." Watch it, Joe. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

7:03: Palin: "Oh, man. It's so obvious I'm a Washington outsider." Need directions home, Governor?

7:05: Biden answers a question about lines to be crossed prior to American intervention. For a while. "Let's go back to John McCain's strategy."

7:06: Biden uses a 25-cent-word, "contemporaneously." That's gonna cost you, dude.

7:06: Palin: "John McCain, who knows how to win a war." Well...

7:07: Biden answers a stupid question smartly. What happens if Obama is killed? "God forbid that would ever happen..."

7:09: Palin seemed to like Biden's answer too: "And, heaven forbid..."

7:08: Palin sure is appreciative.

7:10: Palin is reaching out for those average working families again.

7:10: Biden hangs out on Main Street too! He promises!

7:11: "Walk with me in my neighborhood." Biden's ability to drop that line won him the veep spot.

7:12: Palin: "Say it ain't so, Joe!" To paraphrase from Joshua Villines' Facebook posting: snippy, passive-aggressive, and sarcastic is no way to go through life, Governor Palin.

7:12: Palin: "Here's a shout-out." Extra credit for the kids watching the debate!

7:13: Is the veep spot worth more than a warm pitcher of spit?

7:13: Double-checking: Is Palin still thankful? Yes!

7:14: Palin: "John McCain has already tapped me." Don't tell Cindy.

7:15: Ifell asks a tough question about the extent of the vice presidential job. Palin has no idea.

7:17: Biden cites the Constitution specifically and brings the pain unto Cheney. I heard the snap way out here in California.

7:18: Ifell asks Palin about her Achilles Heal. Apparently she doesn't have one.

7:19: Ahh, the "shining city upon a hill." Can you imagine American political discourse without that phrase?

7:20: Biden admits to his excessive passion. I admire your courage, Joe. That must have been tough.

7:20: I feel for Biden's sad loss of his first wife and a child. But still...

7:21: Did Joe almost cry? A couple of more seconds, I might have.

7:21: Don't worry. Palin is stayin' sunny!

7:22: Catch up time! Take a drink for every time Palin said the word, "maverick." Then again, don't.

7:23: Clash! He has not been a maverick in ____. Rinse, repeat.

7:24: America's kitchen tables are recognized tonight!

7:25: Joe Biden to Sarah Palin: "My specificity: Let me show it to you." Sarah Palin (channeling Homer Simpson) to Joe Biden: "Facts are meaningless. You can use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true."

7:25: Palin: "I quasi-caved." But I've never caved in principle.

7:26: Ifell: How do you change the tone in Washington?

7:27: Biden: When asked how he'd feel if he found that Senator Helms, a fierce opponent, had adopted a child, the senator replies, "I'd feel like a jerk." Question judgment not motives.

7:29: Palin has a problem with that trillion dollar spending proposal. She might want to check in with her party.

7:30: Palin also isn't a fan of the "mainstream media." Governor Palin, no doubt the ditto-heads are nodding furiously at this implication of media "bias." I would respectfully retort: People who rail against media bias actually seem only to reject messages that fail to conform to their own bias.

7:30: Palin wraps up with a nice speech. Really.

7:31: Biden: "Look folks..."

7:31: Biden manages to say something nice about John McCain before returning to the old neighborhood.

7:32: The debate concludes.

Who won? I'm gonna call it. Biden owned the stage. He maintained the clash that Palin sought to avoid. He employed specifics without calling Palin out on her lack of facts (too often). And he demonstrated the kind of nuance demanded by these days. On points and in quality, Joe Biden rocked the room.

Video Blog-Post: Watching the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate

This video blog-post lays out three possible criteria for evaluating tonight's debate. To view the video, either click the image above or the link below. Either way, please select "watch in high quality" to get the best possible image:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What Was I Expecting?

Yesterday I was searching for the Saturday Night Live skit of the interview between Katie Couric and Sarah Palin (chuckling how much of Tina Fey's spot-on script came nearly verbatim from the candidate's own words).

Eventually I discovered that YouTube wasn't allowing full versions of the skit to be uploaded and turned successfully to the NBC/SNL website - but not without finding this link first: "Watch Sarah Palin and Katie Couric While Working from Home."

I don't know what I was expecting, but what I got was a pitch for one of those "passive income opportunities" that litter our media. And while I should not have been surprised, I was nonetheless amazed.

Even with the "working from home" addendum, is there any other reason for this title except to draw traffic of people looking for something else? Sure, it may be a clever ruse, but it's also deceptive and manipulative.

I'd love to meet the person who gets fooled (like me) into watching this pitch and then says, "Hey! I want to give this guy some of my money!"

And, no: I'm not going to embed the video.