Monday, November 29, 2004

the girl with crimson nails has jesus 'round her neck

At the risk of losing whatever remaining cool points I may have left, I'm going on record as thinking that U2's new album is pretty damned good. "Vertigo" is one of the best rock singles of 2004 -- great riff and melody, quick and easy chorus. What I love about the record is that there are no real clunkers like on Pop and All That You Can't Leave Behind. "Crumbs From Your Table" is perhaps a weak point, but it's the only one. It's a solid record with some songs that soar -- "Vertigo", "City of Blinding Lights", "All Because of You" -- to name a few. Lyrically it's overall more introspective and personal than most U2 records -- less grand statements and more "of the moment but my moment" songs. With "Miracle Drug" and "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own", Bono uses the "One" device of addressing the listener mainly in 2nd person, which makes it seem (from the listener's perspective) less like being talked at and more like being talked to.

Their recent appearance on Saturday Night Live was impressive. Bono, for all his affected rock-star persona is impossible not to watch. I don't mind so much the over-the-top rock-guy stuff. He plays the part and it doesn't come off as too forced. He wears it pretty well, much more so than do the cookie-cutter angry-young-neo-punk bands. Musically U2 are playing as powerfully as I've ever seen or heard. "I Will Follow" sounded as good as any live recording I've heard. I like how Bono changed the wording a bit to mark the passage of time ("a boy tries hard to be a man, his lover" {used to be mother} "takes him by the hand").

Watching them reminded me of watching great athletes like Pele, Gretzky, Jordan, Montana, Carlton, and Schmidt when they were just past the mid-point of their prime years -- they had enough experience to make being great look easy, but they were still playing with enough of an edge as if they had something to prove.

Or it could be that my 20 years of fandom are blinding me to a once great band going through the motions. Is this how boomers felt when the Rolling Stones were releasing records at age 40? Will U2 hopefully hang it up when they get old enough that they have adult kids or grandkids?

No, that's not it. This is a very good record, and they are pretty much the one of the only bands that matter.

the first thing to go is the knees

Old...I feel old. Yet I'm only 29 (or so). Went for a run on the beach yesterday (well, tried to), and could barely start, much less finish. not 100 yards into it the left knee was a problem. During a morning walk through the antique/vintage/crafts fair along Lincoln Road (where I saw a cool seersucker suit) it had bugged me a bit but I thought it would feel better by later in the afternoon. No such luck. On top of that, my friggin hips were all balky and creaky. Seriously, this is depressing. Maybe it's from having sat on my ass the better part of the last two days, maybe it's my crappy sofa, bad posture while sitting, who knows. I'm sure it has to do with playing soccer on a hard artificial turf field, years of abuse from waiting tables, soccer, running, walking, the acl injury, genetics. But good lord, this sucks. And the glucosamine tablets aren't doing much to help, apparently. And of course it doesn't help that I need to run to work off the weight I gained during an extended period of interrupted workous and no running thanks to knee pain. A vicious circle, it is.

My kingdom for a fresh set of knees and hips.

Monday, November 22, 2004

touching the void

This past Sunday I watched a unique pairing of films on PBS. First up was Touching the Void, a docu-drama about the events of an almost tragic 1985 climb up Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes by Brit Alpine-climbing friends Joe Simpson and Simon Yates. The long and short of it is that on descent Joe broke his leg (drove the femur up into his kneecap...OUCH). During their attempt to descend that entails Joe basically sliding backwards on his belly while tied to Simon via a rope, Joe slides and ends up hanging off a ledge. Due to darkness and that they couldn't hear each other for the wind, this is unbeknownst to Simon. Simon, about to slide and (he's pretty sure) fall into something bad, decides to cut the rope. This rope-cutting came as a bit of a shock to Joe. They couldn't communicate due to conditions, so neither knew of the other's peril. Simon continues to descend, wracked with grief at having to cut the line and (he thinks) kill Joe.

However, it is Joe's story that is impressive and is the centerpiece of the film. Now, dude has a broken leg, broken in a way that must have been 100x more excurtiatingly painful than a typical break. Yet he manages to climb out of a steep crevasse and work his way down the mountain, hobbling, rolling, gimping and crawling, all the while severely malnourished and dehydrated. He ends up about 200 feet from the base camp, and his yells are heard by Simon. At that point he'd lost about a third of his body weight. But he is alive.

Next up was Secrets of the Dead: Tragedy at the Pole, a recounting of the ill-fated 1911-12 British expedition to the South Pole. The story of the Scott team's tragic demise is well-known. This docu-drama sheds new light on the event. Scott and his team had died 11 miles from their camp, supposedly being pinned down by a freak blizzrd that had lasted for days. What this films shows is that the blizzard may in fact have subsided, contrary to the notes Scott left and the notes of his crew. Scott had fallen victim to frostbite, fatigue and exposure, and could not carry on. Laready a member of the crew had died under similar circumstances, going as far as to leave his tent and sacrifice himself so that he wouldn't weigh down the rest. Scott's remaining crew chose not to leave their captain but to freeze to death with them. A reexamination of the weather charts and notes from a rescue team sent from camp indicated that the blizzard had stopped. Scott's crew put loyalty above life.

These two films, shown in counterpoint like this, raise a whole series of questions regarding leadership, comradeship, sacrifice and loyalty. Would members of a modern-day polar expidition lay down their lives for their captain? Would a Victorian-era Yates have cut the rope? Have these codes changed so much from the turn of the century? What would each of us do in similar situations?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

the medium and the message

I've been hearing so much lately about how liberals are smug know-it-alls who talk down to others. I'm conflicted about this. On one hand I do see so much lack of reality amongst the far right that is is scary to try and have a reasoned discussion with them, all the more so because I make my living based on my command of facts.

But there may be something real to it beneath the Suskind type of reporting about reality and faith based communities. It could be that the left has lost the battle for hearts and minds of Christians by being derisive and smug. Which is too bad, because the message of compassion and tolerance is much closer to the Christian ideal than is the message of NO and intolerance that the political wing of the far-right wants to advance.

What the Dems need to do is take the message of compassion and tolerance and make appeals to the Christian grass-roots that this is the real face of America. Couple that with a more sensible fiscal policy and a progressive welfare system that rewards work, family and education and you may have a winner. But the message needs to be simple and you can't talk at the Christian voters but *with* them.

In a year the battles for the mid-terms begin in earnest. Now's the time to get moving on that message.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

what kind of (election) day has it been

Election day 2004 was weird, weird and where do I begin? well, maybe I'll begin (at) the begin. (sorry, it's long...names changed to initials)

Start out early, 8am early, doing last-minute GOTV cavassing in Miami Shores. Pretty basic stuff -- get a list of people registered Dem who may or may not have voted early already. No teams today, it's all solo so as to get best coverage. Starts out great -- first lady tells me no way she'd vote for Kerry because his wife is too stuck up, he gets $500 haircuts, is snobby (too French?). Ramble, blather..whatever.

The rest of the morning goes by with some interesting conversations, some people who want no part of me -- 20-something guy who's not interested in voting -- some people voting for Kerry, a woman who's husband, a social studies teacher ferchrissakes, will most likely vote for Duhbya.

The big story happens at the end. Last house on the route...knock on a screen door. On the other side is a big courtyard with a pool. And a little tiny yip-yip dog. Little dog comes CHARGING across the courtyard and burtst through the screen door (which I hadn't noticed was ajar) and aims straight for my right calf, taking a chunk of flesh in his teeth. The little bugger comes back for more, so I use my clipboard to try and fend him off. See, I didn't know yet if the lady had voted and voted for Kerry. So as much as I'd have liked to kick the dog clear to Key West, I needed to make sure to get the vote.

So here I am, bent over, swatting at the yip-yip dog with my clipboard, he's running in circles around me so I'm spinning in place while swatting. At some point he gets under the clipboard and makes a nice gash in my right hand, on the meaty part below the thumb. So now I'm bleeding, not profusely, but not in drops. It's running down my wrist. Finally, along comes Ms. Dog Owner, in a towel (just out of the shower, and no, this is not turning into a Penthouse forum letter), apologizes, runs back in and gets me bandages and peroxide. Assures me that dog has had rabies shot. But hey, she'd voted early for Kerry, so it's all worked out, right?

Fast-forward to that night (forget the trying to get a tetanus shot at South Shore...they were stacked up with no docs and lots of patients, so 4 hour wait...I'll take my chances). Election watch party at the National Hotel. Meet my friend K and her ghost roommate T. He is a Bush supporter. Only one in the bar. They're drinking champagne. We do an electoral vote pool, and T is the only one taking Bush. We're either deluded by the exit polls and/or too optimistic.

The night goes by and the election slips away from Kerry. Once Florida was called for Bush, I knew it was over. All that work and he still lost. Still, I'm having a good time, drinking thing I know T is being escorted from the bar by the bouncers. Huh? K is off talking to a friend, so doesn't see this happen. We find her, get the story and it's something about T getting into it verbally with some guy who objected to T's cheering the Bush victory. Whatever. I was having a fine time chatting up L, a lovely woman. Makes the night more than bearable.

We all leave, L walks with me and we hang out for a bit before my friend J, in Florida from DC covering the elections for a newspaper, comes over to crash before she flies out the next day.

Speaking of flying out the next day, I have a 9am flight to Kansas City for ASHE, and I have not packed yet. Shit. So, L's gone home, J's arrived and watching MSNBC. I'm packing, deciding to stay up all night. Which I do, save for a 30 minute power nap. Sleep on the plane (which for the first time ever I was on a one-stop flight where I didn't change planes...while waiting in Charlotte on the plane, clean-up guy asks if I'm stowe away. I say, dude...if I'm gonna stow away it's gonna be to Hawai'i, not Kansas City).

Get to KC and so far it's been like a wake. Everyone has a glum look, as if someone had shot our puppies.

Anyway, the next 4 years can't be that bad, right?