Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Small-Hat Look

At One Man's Treasure, a vintage store in Jersey City, humoring my friend Tracy.


Putting the "Why"s in Holy Days

So wait a minute--the bailout bill didn't pass...and now the lawmakers are going on vacation for two days? For what purpose, exactly? How is anything that happens during Rosh Hashanah more important than helping out the economy?

It's times like this that being an atheist makes me feel very alien indeed. I want to explain to everybody, "Rosh Hashanah is a very nice ritual, but come on! It's not even a real new year! Do you really think God, who knows everything, observes a lunar calendar? Do you really think the world is 5,769 years old? More importantly, do you really think God thinks its more important to sit still and do nothing for two days than to help prevent millions of Americans from losing everything? And even if God thinks so, isn't he wrong?"

And then I just sigh. We're wired for ritual. I understand that. And it's meaningful and cultural and historical and it roots us and gives us community and all that. But Jiminy. At a time like this, I'd expect my lawmakers to work through Christmas or Easter, or to postpone Thanksgiving, and if some holy book didn't order it otherwise, surely we'd be skipping Rosh Hashanah too.

Anyway, I hope everyone has a great time off. I hope nothing terrible happens. But if the worst occurs, I hope those apples and honey were REALLY tasty.

UPDATE: Okay. It looks like the non-celebrating legislators ARE in fact, still at work hammering out a bailout bill. So the only thing that's been delayed is an actual vote. That's still a little silly, but it's not as crazed as I thought it was. Whew! I always feel better when human beings make sense.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

A Frank Opinion

One of the small upsides to our current financial crisis is that it's put Barney Frank, my favorite legislator, front and center on all the news networks. I don't know whether he's a great legislator or not--I imagine he's got to be good, though, if he got caught with a male prostitute and still got reelected--but I do know he's the funniest member of Congress that I'm aware of, and has been for a long time. In interviews he will swear freely, or say shocking and unsayable things. In an interview he did with Rolling Stone during the Clinton impeachment, he was asked who he likes and dislikes in his party, and he said two interesting things: first, "No one likes to admit it, but deep down all of us are basically alike" (i.e., lawyer types who liked the thrill of passing big laws). And second, asked to single out anyone for real hatred he said, "If Bob Barr was on fire, and I had a pail of water, I'd have to think long and hard about whether to put him out. I'd probably do it, but I'm sure I'd feel bad about it later."

Anyway, here he is on today's bailout bill failure, after the Republican leadership blamed the failure on Nancy Pelosi's apparently partisan speech. It's an absurd excuse, and Frank is appropriately withering. It's only a minute and a half. Enjoy.


Palin-Biden: A Prediction

Everywhere I go I hear that Palin is going to do surprisingly well against Biden in the debate, that she's not to be underestimated, she's a quick study, etc.  Even given her disastrous Couric interview, hopes seem to be bizarrely high--Biden has to be careful not to seem dismissive or mean, and all she has to do is show up and seem competent.  

I expect this sort of thing from the Obama campaign, who of course have an interest in keeping expectations for Palin high.  (It's one of the most amusing things about debates: in the run-ups, you actually get to hear the campaigns say good things about their opponents for once: "He's a deadly debater!  We're probably going to get killed!  Lord a-mercy!")  And certainly Palin had an impressive debut at the Convention.   But there are a number of things I'm noticing that lead me to think it's going to be a bloodbath.

1.) She didn't show up on the news after the first debate.  Commenting on your own lead guy's performance is the only thing the vice president does in campaigns like this.  They're hired to be attack dogs.  And so far, attacking--or rather, delivering attack lines written by a Bush speechwriter on a TelePrompTer--is the only thing Palin has shown any proclivity for.  So the fact that the McCain camp didn't release this alleged pit bull on the one night everyone's expecting her to show, and the entire campaign actually let Joe Biden rip McCain apart on every news station unopposed, tells you how little confidence the campaign has in her.    They actually judged that having her not show up at all was less damaging than letting themselves be attacked unopposed.

2.)  The people who made this decision--Palin's handlers--are actually the only people who know anything about her, thanks to the media freezeout.  So although idiots like Bill Kristol (who has been wrong on everything, right? So why is he still allowed to talk?) are starting to say "let Palin be Palin," and blame the campaign for overmanaging her, all of these calls are coming from people who don't know much about Palin (thanks to that media freezeout again) and are animated more by wishful thinking than observable fact.

3.) When Palin first appeared, she was a nobody, and anyone who disliked her was a partisan who wasn't giving her a chance. In the weeks since her arrival, even though her appearances have been tightly controlled and she's only taken 'safe' interviews, her approval ratings have fallen 27 points (to a net negative 3), and she's become an official national joke (thanks to Tina Fey--and, of course, thanks to Palin herself, who provided the script for Fey's last sketch).

4.) Palin's worst interview moments were with Katie Couric, who could hardly be accused of being sexist, or even of asking a single unfair question, and this has allowed people to think, "Wow.  I think Palin may be dangerously uninformed because she's dumb, not because she's a woman and I'm a sexist."  That meme is now safe, and Biden can retreat to it plausibly.  (I expect the McCain campaign to accuse him of sexism no matter what happens, but I also expect it'll have no impact on the polling.)  

5.)  Biden already has a history of misspeaking.  A huge long embarrassing history.  And for this reason, if he says something wrong, it's not going to be nearly the millstone it'll be for Palin if and when she does the same thing.  He's been inoculated against culpability for his words going back years.  (This is the same inoculation that has largely worked for the McCain campaign against Obama so far: "Oh, sure, McCain got the Sunni and the Shia confused, but he's been a senator for a long time and it's just that one error."  The larger narrative is stronger than the recent gaffe.)

In sum, then, I think the debate will be moderate and calm--because that's no doubt what Biden's going to be coached to do, and Palin's going to be in a defensive crouch, and the format itself is the most rigidly structured of the four--and when it's all over, Palin will probably have said two or three mildly absurd things, plus maybe two memorably heartwarming coached moments, and Biden will too.  Net result: further loss for Palin, because she now needs to prove she's amazingly competent and not just a hockey mom, and she doesn't have it in her.  Not for ninety minutes.  Not without a TelePrompTer.  

That's the other nice thing about a debate.   In the Potemkin world of modern Republican politics, it's become essential for conservatives to stage-manage their own reality (with Fox News, Conservapedia, and the like).  But there's a limit to how much you can stage-manage a debate, and once the cameras are on, Palin will be alone out there.  And then, as an additional treat, Palin will have to appear the next day on talk shows--no doubt to defend something she said that showed a depth of ignorance or was contrary to McCain's policy or something.  Which will give her a further chance to either say something worse or--more likely--freeze up and repeat the same empty talking points, which seems to be her fallback position when she senses hostility.  Either way, it ain't gonna be loveable.   

By the way, I turn 40 on October 3rd, the day the fallout goes down.  I predict a very happy birthday to me.  (And P.S., I won't be celebrating with a party; I'm looking into a quick jaunt off to Philly to volunteer for the Obama campaign.  I'll organize something when I get back.)


Bar Napkin Cartoon 68


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bed, Bath, and Aesthetics

Now that the bulk of my work is out of the way for the moment, I’ve been taking the time to do a few other things that have sorely needed doing: bundling up clothes to be donated, emptying boxes, rearranging furniture and the like.

 Chief among these chores has been purchasing actual amenities so that my apartment is less of a hidey-hole and more of an actual nest that people (well, okay, women) might feel comfortable hanging out in.  On Wednesday I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond and bought bed stuff (two sets of bedspreads, and enough pillows to smother a giant), and on Friday I went back and bought things for the bath (a scrub brush, new towels, matching brushed-metal wastebasket and soap dispenser, and a funky shower curtain).  On Monday, my plan is to finish up with Beyond—probably a floor lamp and some curtains that are nicer than the bare-bones white Ikea  drapes I’m currently working with.  Then I order a poster or other wall art, do a little drilling (I bought a drill!) and then I can hang out my shingle. 

 I’ve never done this in my life, and it’s paralyzing.  I sent a text to my friend Tracy that said, “I’m in Bed Bath and Beyond and I’m overwhelmed.  How can anyone decide on just one set of pillows?”  I could have happily bought two of each of ten different styles.  I found myself in the bedding area for over an hour, literally staring at five different bed sets and thinking, “What is the shape of my aesthetic?  Orientalist sultan?  Funky modernistic shapes?  Spartan solids?  Country casual?”  They all had different claims on my character.  Apparently I contain multitudes. 

 Of course, ideally when you’re decorating, you’re decorating with things that you bought slowly over the course of many years, and even more ideally, you’re decorating with really original, one-of-a-kind distinctiveness.  I don’t have that kind of money.  So really, I haven’t been thinking, “Who am I really?” but “What subsection of the Bed Bath and Beyond demographic do I seem comfortable representing?”

 The answer, it turns out, is “Whatever’s on clearance.”  It’s not that I’m intensely cheap.  I walked in and said, “Money’s no object; I just want my tiny apartment to be festooned with efficient quality over its modest fractional acreage.”    But after looking over every bedding style they had, I kept coming back to three pieces…and all of them turned out to be on clearance.  Apparently it’s been a bad season for abstract shapes.  Same thing happened in the bathroom.  “Ooh!  A funky brushed-metal look!  I wonder why everyone seems to hate it so?”

 So I bought this stuff, but I admit I’m a little nervous.  It’s possible my place just looks horrible now and I’m the only one who doesn’t know. 

 The thing is, I actually know what my aesthetic is: it’s jokes.  I noticed this a few years ago when I was listing my favorite artists—Paul Klee, Rene Magritte, Roy Liechtenstein, Claes Oldenberg, Salvador Dali, and that reliable puzzle-geek standby M.C. Escher—and I thought, “Wait a minute!  All of these artists are funny!”  They work in visual paradox in some way that tries to disconcert you.  I was forced to admit that I may not know a thing about art: I just know what makes me laugh, and I could very well be embracing total shit just because I like the guy in the picture’s bemused expression.  Without a visual gag of some sort, I have almost nothing to say about any art at all.  And did I mention that I’m colorblind? 

 I’ve tried to decorate in jokes before.  It’s a disaster.  Since my humor seems to run in a kind of pop culture/pop art/comic book vein, everything that amuses me demands one’s attention, and if you stick even three of them together in a single room—say, a Simpsons calendar, a Humphrey Bogart Scrabble board, and curtains with retro cowgirls on them—the place starts looking awfully cluttered.  Additional problem: even if I like jokes and pop culture, I’m not going to get laid if I have Bugs Bunny sheets, even if I suspend large metal quotation marks directly over the bed.  At some point you have to rein it in. 

 What I’m telling myself now, and I almost believe it, is that the styles I’ve chosen are on clearance because they’re distinctly masculine—triangles and squares floating on a backdrop of gunmetal gray and chocolate are at any rate not girly—and this makes me not so much classless as a non-normative Bed Bath and Beyond shopper.  I know this much for a fact, because I was there, surrounded chiefly by women and more women. The only men I saw were being pulled along by female partners.  By the time I hit the checkout, I felt disgustingly hairy and in need of a manicure.

 But the deed is done, and in a week or two I’m hoping to have an open house where friends can come by and judge for themselves.  (Then we’ll repair to a nearby bar.  There’s really no room in my place for more than four people, and two have to stand—plus we all have make loud humming noises if anyone uses the bathroom.)  I can say two things, however: I like it a good deal.  And I have eight very comfy pillows on my sofabed.  That’s right, ladies—eight giant pillows. 


Back Now.

I've been working, and then buying stuff for the apartment so I can actually live like an adult human being.  Now that's all done and I can start blogging again.  Now if only there were events in my life and in the culture at large to talk about...


Friday, September 26, 2008

Bar Napkin Cartoon 67


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bar Napkin Cartoon 66


Monday, September 22, 2008

Bar Napkin Cartoon 65

The naked man is drawn awkwardly, and the suit guy is sketchy, and the dialogue is harder to read than it should be.  But I have to say I love this gag. 


Friday, September 19, 2008

Bar Napkin Cartoon 64


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is Hasbro in League with Wal*Mart?

In a game of Scrabble the other day, this came up naturally on my rack.  (Click to enlarge.  Sorry it's so fuzzy.)  I reacted with shock and awe:  "I so not, e-Scrabble!  I not at all!"

By the way, if anyone has a good play from this position, I'd love to hear it.  The best I managed, after finding no purchase anywhere, was HI/HAW for something like 14 points.  (I'm too disgusted to even count it.)  No doubt there's some vanishingly obscure 5-letter word that would have completely turned my fortunes.


Final Glubbing

I'm about to embark on a final one-week finish-the-document surge.  If you happen to see me online, ask what the hell I'm doing and to get back to work.   It takes a village to finish a book.

By the way, the cartoons are going to be appearing automatically every other day or so until they run out.  So even though I probably won't be blogging, there will be some amusing thing added every day or two.  Thanks, Blogger, for the delayed-post feature!


Bar Napkin Cartoon 63


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bar Napkin Cartoon 62


Monday, September 15, 2008

Upcoming Show (Last Minute Notice)

I'll be storytelling TOMORROW NIGHT (That's Tuesday) at Sherry Weaver's Speakeasy.  The show is at the Coraline Cafe at 29 Cornelia Street (I think of it as being sort of "behind" the 4th Street A station), starts at 8:30, and there's a $10 cover plus a food or drink item.  As you can see from the link, I'll be performing with certifiably great people like James Braly and Faye Lane, so it'll be a terrific evening. 

If you see me, feel free to comment on how pale I look.  For the past two days, I've woken up, started writing, and didn't venture outside until 9 pm.   But don't worry--in the absence of sunlight I've begun taking vitamin D tablets to stave off rickets.

(P.S.  Sorry for the last-minuteness of this announcement.  If it helps, I'll also be performing a completely different story on October 16th at Sherry's other Speakeasy show at Bar Reis in Brooklyn--375 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. I'll be telling along with Andy Christie and Tracy Rowland, among others.  Admission is $10, but here you don't have to buy food or anything.)

(NOTE: An original version of this post said the show was tonight.  It's not.  Sorry for any confusion that I may have deepened.)


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bar Napkin Cartoon 61

Again, from my old Hallmark-era notebook.  The caption ought to be "Merit Badges for Twenty-Somethings," but aside from that I stand by it.


Baby Wants Candy

Last night, thanks to a last-minute call, I found myself at the Barrow Theater watching Baby Wants Candy.  Baby Wants Candy is an improv troupe (with a rotating cast including writers for The Colbert Report and 30 Rock and the like, so they're no pikers) whose gimmick is that they improvise an entire musical based on a title someone has yelled out.  One title out of an entire audience supplies the premise for the next 90 minutes.  As you might imagine, the stakes are high during the yell-out phase.

I saw them once before, and they actually used my title--The Littlest Vampire in Sheboygan--and did a very impressive job.  (The main founder/performer, whose name I'm sadly blanking on, is an absolute genius at comedy, lyrics, and scene management.  He brings out everyone else's best.)  

This time I thought, "Maybe I'll sit this one out.  There are 200 people in the audience, they'll all be yelling stuff, and I had my chance."  I figured I'd simply put my name in the hat (they were holding a drawing for two free Baby Wants Candy tickets and one pair of tickets to The Colbert Report) and sit quietly.  But then I came up with what I felt was a truly great title--"Serial Killer Follies of 1982"--and decided, what the hell; I'll yell.

Here's the thing: they took my title.  And the show, "Serial Killer Follies of 1982," was as hilarious as I'd hoped, since they were not only free to do New Wave and metal songs, but made tons of movie references as well (as a scene in the detention hall started looking at lot like The Breakfast Club)...and at one point, the drummer for the live band even did the drum break from "In the Air Tonight."

Disappointments?  A few mild ones.  As I told my friend Jenn, I kind of hoped one of the singers doing backup would sing "Turn around, bright eyes...,"  And no one reacted to anything by saying "Jump back!" a la Kevin Bacon.  But of course, these jokes are absurdly specific and the guys aren't psychic.  A bigger sadness lay in that they didn't have an actual synthesizer, so no traditional New Wave music was actually possible (though onstage, one of the actors played an air casio keyboard and brought down the house by announcing that she was pushing "Samba.")

Also, while there was break dancing--and there's been break dancing 2 out of 2 times in the shows I've seen, both times as a one-shot joke--they didn't do any rap, which is a shame, since 1982 was just about the last time that people could actually make money doing rap without actually having lyrics, flow, or talent of any sort.  (Listen to Run-DMC's 1985 Raising Hell some time and try to imagine what it must have been like to have a climate where a rapper could literally have a track that begins "Peter Piper picked a peck of...pickled peppers!" and not get shot for insulting the genre.)

Finally, there was only one serial killer in the show, and there were never any Follies.  I pictured something more elaborate, like John Wayne Gacy and Ed Gein saying, "Let's put on a show in the old circus tent!"  Kind of like Assassins.

But I quibble.  They were brilliant, and I got exhausted just thinking about how hard they must have been working to come up with new scenes, new jokes, new rhymes.  I had a great time.  In fact, I had the best possible time, because not only was my musical title picked, but at the after-show drawing, I won the Stephen Colbert tickets.  (Don't know when, though; they'll email me, assuming my address is legible.)

So this is my prediction: the next time I see Baby Wants Candy, it won't be quite as good.  I don't see how it could be.  For now though: childlike squee sounds of happiness.  Big thanks to Jenn for inviting me out.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bar Napkin Cartoon 60

Click to enlarge.  Part 1 of a multipart series of cartoons that date back to my very first (and really only) cartooning notebook, from Hallmark circa 1996.  


Dawn of the Interwebs

Can it be?  I actually have...Internet access!  Right here in my own apartment!  No more scrambling around to hunt up stray bandwidth, buying polite bagels I don't want.  I can actually check my email whenever I want to without getting dressed up, showering, and then justifying the trip by staying for 90 minutes.  Excuse me for a moment--just thinking about all the time I can save now has made me a little dizzy.  

The bad news is that I'm still completely swamped with my book, and I'm hoping to get a really good draft done at the plausible clip of...well, I can't specify, but I should be mostly free of the sweatiest mining by the end of the month.  

In the meantime, though, my postings should pick up almost immediately, partly because it's gotten so much easier to do now...and partly because, back during the move, I uncovered a surprising stash of old cartoons in a book that was covered with mold.  So in order to toss the book, I had to scan the cartoons, and now I've got about a dozen of them ready at a moment's notice.  I'm (tentatively) back, baby!  I'm (tentatively) back!


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The End of a Very Strange Puzzle Era

It brings me mild sadness to announce that my themed Sudoku for Time Out New York--as well as the entire puzzle page that supported it--is being discontinued.  The last one to run will be in the issue about New York's neighborhoods in...maybe two weeks?  I never keep track of this stuff.

It was just under two years ago (I think) that I found out that TONY was planning a New York themed puzzle issue.  Since this city is ground zero for puzzle constructors, I was slow on the gun when I got back to them three days after the announcement.  The only things they had left were the two bottom feeders of the puzzle world: two sudoku and a word search. 

In an effort to make the sudoku somewhat interesting, I suggested that, instead of using the standard 1 through 9, this puzzle could use the letters in the phrase I (heart) NEW YORK in every row, column and square.  

They loved it.  They loved it so much, in fact, that they asked me to do it as a regular feature: every two weeks, I came up with two sudoku--one easy, one hard--and found a nine-letter isogram (i.e., word with no repeated letters) that corresponded with the theme of the issue.  My favorite one was for an issue that was about how to score tickets to sold-out shows, or find ways behind the velvet ropes, or get into exclusive restaurants, etc.  My phrase: I KNOW A GUY.  I tried to make them funny, but the restrictions are pretty severe, so I often had to settle for merely apposite.

But since they're no longer going to be running, I thought I'd take a moment to salute a few of the fallen comrades: either themes words I never got to use, or words that I suggested that got nixed in favor of something less fun.  With a heavy heart, I bring them to you now:

FILMGOERS  (they never did a film issue!)
BOHEMIANS (nor did they do one about art, or about scene kids.  This would've been perfect.)
MURPHY BED (they never did one about tiny living, either)
FUMIGATOR (or one about New York pests)
DOWNSCALE  (they did a Thrifty Issue, but went with DIRT CHEAP, which I agree was a better choice.  But I had this arrow in my quiver in case they did it again.)
CLOSETING or RAINBOW SHT (they did a Gay Issue, too, but these two didn't make the cut.  The second one's a stretch, I know, but it's what I think every time I walk into a gay bookstore.)
ANOREXICS  (They were always doing Fashion Issues, and I always suggested this, but I seem to recall they liked the idea, but wanted stuff that was actually about fashion.  They never did an issue devoted to models qua models.  Damn.)

I'll definitely miss the $150 it brought me every two weeks.  It's not much in the grand scheme of things, but, like most glossy magazine puzzle work, it was a sinful overpayment based not on my own time working but on their standard page rate.  That's the lesson for today: if you have to write puzzles for magazines, never write for actual puzzle magazines.  Write for glossy magazines where they have no idea how puzzles are created and don't know how crappily they normally pay. 

I feel like I should apply this principle to some larger part of my life, but I'm not seeing any helpful metaphoric bridge.  

Monday, September 08, 2008

Wordplay in the Wild

In Hasbro's Scrabble Beta (their legal answer to Facebook's Scrabulous), the "loading" screen spells out "LOADING" using Scrabble tiles on the board background.  Normally this doesn't make me look twice, but on this particular move, I did a double-take.  What you see at the bottom is my rack.

What were the odds?  Probably not long, given how much Scrabble I play.  But still--it was fun to see and I had to share.  

(Oh--and I couldn't play it anywhere.  Curse of the endgame.)  

Friday, September 05, 2008

Why I Love This Guy, Part 2

Kevin Drum has left Washington Monthly for Mother Jones, but he left behind Steve Benen, who's been maintaining Drum's great standard, and this post in particular is the sort of thing more people should be talking about.

Short version:  McCain has been claiming that Obama voted against money for the troops.  Which he did in a sense; he voted against a supplemental budget bill, along with many other Democrats, as a way to show opposition to the continuation of Bush's Iraq policy.  But there was another supplemental budget bill, backed by Democrats, and McCain voted against that one.  

In the he-said, she-said world of idiot politics, the expected response--and the sort of thing that Clinton tended to do, smart as he was--was to simply accuse right back: "McCain voted against a bill for the troops!*  (*Details elsewhere.)"

Obama is refusing to play the game, and in this article, as you can see, what he says instead is, "Look--here's how bills work..."  Read it here.  It's just as refreshing as hell.  

I don't understand how anyone can make any moral equivalence between these two campaigns. Take away the lies, and McCain has almost nothing compelling to say.

Be sure to read the comments.  There are some pretty good ideas in there too once you sift through the trolls.  Washington Monthly has always had a really healthy substance-to-troll comment ratio that I don't see at DailyKos.

(Okay.  Back to writing, dammit.)


McCain Base Betrayal Watch

If Kevin Drum is right about this, then I stand by my earlier statement: in a speech that was incredibly light on policy--and said very little about the economy, which is the main issue for people this year--one of the few specific things he has mentioned is "wage insurance," which is a neoliberal social policy. Sounds like he might be a real fan of the idea.  The base should be bleeding from their ears.  

I'm starting to think that, with Palin on the ticket, they just want to elect McCain and then shoot him themselves. 

P.S.--if the economy continues to take hits like this, surely this bodes poorly for the ruling party.

P.P.S.--and doesn't it also bode very poorly for a campaign that they're actually making arguments this idiotic?  Once I could see.   Twice maybe.  But five times?  With McCain the last speaker?  How can this not hurt him with the reality-based community?  Wouldn't even a casual voter see this as a sign that they've really got no good arguments?


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Why I Love This Guy

I should be writing, but in all the Palinoia I can't resist.  Two examples today of why I love Obama: 

First, Southern ignoramus Rep. Lynn Westmoreland called the Obamas "uppity."  The racial baiting could hardly be more obvious.  Obama's response?  A shrug: "I've been called worse on the basketball court."  

Then yesterday in her speech, Palin criticized Barack Obama as a "community organizer."  He gave this amazing response, which everyone should read.  It's not sound-bitey.  It's not shallow gotcha politics.  It's better than that--it's thoughtful and sensible and doesn't do what Palin did to Obama: treat him like an idiot.  I think the tone is perfect.

By the way, since everyone seems to be wetting their pants about Sarah Palin, let me just point out that, barring a huge slipup somewhere, there's really no way McCain can win this year.  This is going to be the year of throwing the Republican bums out, and if people could vote against George Bush (who now has four solid years of under 50% popularity) they would.  So McCain had two choices: appeal to the moderates by being NOT like Bush, or appeal to the base by being EXACTLY like Bush 2.0.  Both of these are losing strategies, chiefly because the base is jealous of their lunatic ideology and they snarl at anyone who asks for a step of compromise.  

His choice of Palin shows the second strategy: Palin's speech was snarky, resentful liberal-bashing that sounds exactly like the Rove divide-and-conquer strategy that put McCain in this no-win position in the first place.  If you say "you're either our friend or our deadly enemy" often enough, a schism is guaranteed.  Obama isn't drawing huge crowds just because he's a good talker.  He's actually selling something that people want WAY more than they want McCain (as evidenced by the comparatively small crowds McCain's been drawing all year).   

People are excited about Palin because she gave two entertaining speeches and has an intriguing new bio.  But she's not selling change.  She's sucking up to the oil companies, she's an inexperienced good ol' boy you'd want to drink a beer with, she brushes off criticism with a folksy charm, and she's obviously ignorant about huge swaths of policy. (As Matt Yglesias pointed out, even on the one thing that she's supposed to be good at--energy--she didn't say a single even moderately sensible thing.)  This is obviously energizing to the base, but here's the thing: the base--which STILL loves George W. despite his record of actual incompetence--is driven by ideology and charisma and is fucking insane, and while they're clapping each other on the back at the convention, sensible people actually hungry for change aren't apt to change their Obamaward trajectory.  Zealotry breeds ignorance which breeds an echo chamber which breeds self-destruction.  If Obama continues responding smartly, this is going to be a nine-days-wonder of a threat.  (Especially if she keeps insulting non-small-town big cities as being somehow elitist and unAmerican.  That's where most Americans live, for god's sake...)

Two other things that haven't been touched on in any of the blogs I've been reading: 

1.) Since McCain is on record as having originally wanted a moderate veep (Ridge or Lieberman) and Palin is his third choice, and since he has clearly reversed himself on huge segments on his own record in order to get elected, why the hell does the base even trust him not to flip again?  Once he gets into office, what's preventing him from reverting to the actual rebel he's intermittently been for the last 26 years?  Why isn't anyone in the base seemingly worried about this?  (Possible answer: they can't afford to be?) 

2.) Since McCain chose Palin against his will as a sop to the base, and since he obviously doesn't know anything about her, what are the odds that they'll actually get along?  I suspect there may be a whole backstage melodrama in the offing.  His next autobiography could be a hoot.

Final note:  Great line from Josh Marshall, liveblogging McCain's acceptance speech:  "It's so great to have George Bush in the White House.  Now let's get elected so we can clean up this mess in Washington."


The Merest Fillip of an Update

Just surfacing again to mention the following things of interest:

1.) I'll be appearing on This American Life this weekend, as they're rerunning "The Devil Inside Me."  My segment is about 12 minutes from the end, and it's my favorite so far of all the pieces I've been involved in.

2.)  I sleep tonight on an actual bed!  Not the bed I ordered.  I ordered a trundle bed, and even though it's been a month, I'm told it's going to take yet ANOTHER month to get the damn thing together.  But they were kind and let me have the trundle part, so I'm sleeping on a twin mattress that can pop up or down, and which is still a million times cooler than sleeping on an inflatable mattress.  (No offense, Trace; it was big of you to loan it.)

3.) This should be my last week without Internet access.  Getting that back will go a HUGE way toward helping me post regularly again.  Woohoo!

4.) Im also hoping to be done with the bulk of the book by the 14th or so, which will free up even more time.  So there's light at the end of the tunnel.

5.)  In the meantime, though, huge push to make a deadline I bet a friend of mine I could reach.  If you thought I was quiet before, just wait for the next two days.  I may not even leave the apartment.