Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What we want isn't always what we want

I've spent a lot of time thinking about politics this year - well, a lot more than I used to - and trying to square away all of my own biases to make sure that I'm making a good decision next Tuesday.

Unfortunately, politics in America has taken on too much of a sports flavor, with too many voters taking a "my team versus your team" stance on elections. While I can admire those who feel so strongly about core issues of abortion, gun control, etc. that they are morally obligated to vote their party's ticket, I think there is a large section of voters who are technically neutral walking into each election cycle.

As we all know, it doesn't necessarily play out like that.

Some of us like to be seen as sober and conservative and vote Republican. Some of us are trying to hang on to our younger days of being carefree and liberal and vote Democrat. Some of us at the front of a long line at McDonald's, staring at the menu and prepare to vote for the Green Party.

In the middle of a campaign, it's easy to ignore the opposition's candidate, waiting for gaffes to appear via YouTube or your Facebook wall to further shore up your own caricature of who he or she is.

I certainly do not claim to be immune to getting swept up in all of this. To be totally honest, I can't tell you why I feel Obama is more qualified to run the country than Sarah Palin. It might have to do with that winking thing, but I'm not sure.

Frankie and I were talking about this as we had lunch today and what fascinates me is just how difficult it is to create a "perfect" candidate. Set aside the actual meat of policy issues and think about just how hard it is to mold a candidate to be universally acceptable.

* We want them to be experienced, but are wary of DC insiders.

* We want them to be loose and human, but we'll question the judgement of putting them on Saturday Night Live. We'll also question whether Kennedy or Roosevelt would have danced on Ellen.

* We certainly wouldn't elect a candidate who was an abject business failure, but if they have too much money, we get suspicious.

* We'd also prefer that they've had success in their lives, but we crucify them for being too driven. We don't want a president who is too ambitious.

* We want our candidates to be smart but not to the point that they seem to be intellectually elitist. (For the record, this drives me crazy. I refuse to believe that a president can be too smart, educated or intellectually curious.)

* We want them to be sober and serious, but not like Al Gore was.

* We expect them to rely on their advisors, but question them if they lack experience. Again, we don't want them to be too smart, either.

* We want a candidate who understands what it means to be middle class in this country, without actually being middle class. Serious presidential candidates can't be cops, teachers or even plumbers before they decide to run.

* We want candidates that campaign well, but if they raise too much money, we'll question how they got it.

* We want our candidates to make connections with the voters without seeming condescending.

* We only want our candidates to look good and sound smart on television, but if they don't, we'll just blame the media. Some of us will go as far as convincing ourselves that it's unfair to ask simple questions with a camera or tape recorder present.

* We want passion, but not if it means sighing/winking/getting upset during a televised debate.

* We want them to look and smell nice, but not, you know, $150,000 nice. We also like war heroes, but not if they look like they've been in an actual war.

Safe to say, we're a pretty finicky bunch. While this was a fun hypothetical exercise to kick around for the past week, it has also depressed me as a voter.

If a candidate has to clear this many hurdles with regards to superficial window dressing, there's not a great deal of hope for someone truly dynamic to break through. That saddens me as an American on a very profound level.

You can blame candidate's handlers, the high ranking members of the party, the media (both liberaly agenda-ed and conservatively hate-based) and anyone else you like, but unfortunately, the buck stops where it starts.

This is not a candidate problem, it's a voter problem. Once we can figure out what we want, I'm positive they'll dig someone out to meet those demands.

Late addition edition:

I forgot three that got the ball rolling for me in my excitement to get this written - I really should keep some sort of notebook for this reason.

* We want our candidates to represent our changing country, but let's keep the names less terrorist-y.

* We want our candidates to be their own person - mavericks at times - but ignore that voting the party line is what they are elected to do. They are in office to represent the voters and at times that means voting for things they might not be totally behind.

* We want our candidates to learn from their mistakes, but if they change their minds too many times, they're tabbed as flip-floppers.

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Got two? Need two?

In what is becoming a big, big mess, the tickets to the Tuesday night Obama rally are gone and people are trying to find tickets by any means possible.

In 2008, this of course means that people are hitting the Internet. The hitch is that you need a photo ID and so those blocks of two tickets are really a "one plus" situation.

Buddy system, anyone?

My favorite part of the Tribune's write up is the analysis of the Google trends feature, served with a side of sarcasm:

The Web site Google Trends recorded a heavy volume of searches for "Obama rally tickets" at 8 p.m. Tuesday and an even bigger spike at 7 a.m. today - making it the 38th most popular search term this morning on Google, behind "Rashid Khalidi" and "Tracy Morgan," but still more urgent than "vivisection" and "Halloween facts."

Well, at least we have our priorities straight. I need my Tracy Morgan news at least twice a week, but then, who doesn't?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Grasping at the cool straws

I was driving home last night and hit a dead spot on my radio presets. Moving from the one button to the six, I had a string of commercials that prompted me to start hitting the seek button to find something to entertain me for a few minutes.

One of the first hits was for Q101, Chicago's old standby for alternative music that was a fixture in high school. It hit me at that point that my radio isn't as cutting edge as it used to be.

I have WXRT, which is one of the best rock stations in the country, NPR, a country station, a 70s rock station, an adult Top 40 station and the blank station that I use for my iPod.

I'm betting that one of the signs of adulthood in the Chicagoland area has to be the extinction of Q101 on the preset dial and the addition of NPR.

I never saw it coming, but then again, if my radio somehow got stuck on NPR and couldn't be changed, I wouldn't be in a big rush to take it in for repair. Well, at least until the cash drive twice a year.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

The fight for your living room

If anyone has purchased a next-gen gaming system in the past three years or so, they have discovered one overriding principle in the experience.

The Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 have higher inspirations than simply playing games or occasionally firing up a DVD when your stand alone player goes up in flames.

They're jockeying to be the air traffic controller of your entire living room.

Microsoft is starting to drum up more noise for their revamped Xbox Live content, which honestly makes it look like a Wii knockoff.

Most interesting to me, Microsoft has entered into a partnership to stream the instantly viewable movies to the Xbox 360 and straight through to your TV. Taking the laptop/VGA piece out of the equation sounds great.

The constant annexation does not.

I'm already uncomfortable with the isolation that's build into my iPod, so as Microsoft keeps making footholds, I'm a little uneasy with this.

Sure, it works out well for me as an Xbox owner, but if I'd gone the PS3 route, I'm out in the cold right now. It's not a stretch to see proprietary hardware, software and cabling taking the whole system down in short order.

I'm really torn on this one. On the one hand, I can't stand system-specific lockdowns that force people to buy only one hardware line.

On the other, this looks pretty cool and I'm a little excited to see what else is included in the next wave of technology. I'm guessing Microsoft wouldn't agree to any partnership with Netflix that leaves them a gap to stream video to the other consoles as well.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

The Neal Factor

Coming back from the grocery store tonight I almost tripped over the eternal keg monument in our backyard. This is the keg that's been out back since Cinco de Mayo and now it has two new friends from the last annoyance our downstairs neighbors held a week and a half ago.

The general rule in these situations is to think back and try to objectively determine if we were any better or worse when I was 24. Did we leave kegs out? Did we annoy the neighbors or try to remain somewhat respectful? Were we ever this stupid?

Usually the answer to any and all of these questions is no.

Granted, we lived in an apartment filled with people in our age group who didn't care, but in terms of making sure that we kept our noses clean and that problems didn't crop up for months on end, we had an advantage.

We had Neal.

While three of the four roommates were pretty content to just let things be and constantly procrastinate, Neal generally kept at us to do the right thing.

While I'm sure a combination of personal responsibility and poverty would have gotten us in gear to return a keg within the same calendar year that it was purchased, we had that one roommate who would remind us to get it done sooner versus later.

Not even in a mean or a condescending way - more of a "fun is fun... now go clean it up" kind of way. After all, this is the same guy who shook a two liter of soda for a few minutes and then whacked it with golf club.

The Neal Factor is not a bad thing. I think everyone is better off when the Neal Factor is in play.

I assume that the three people below us are much worse than the three roommates - myself included - we had and lack any sort of personal responsibility, but there are ways around that.

Hypothetically speaking, I'm almost positive that the scrappers that prowl Chicago's alleys will get bolder in two weeks' time. I'd wager heavily that they've gotten so bold that they'd walk right into our backyard and remove three empty kegs without even thinking twice.

How else would three kegs just disappear by our anniversary on October 20?

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