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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey (Sandwich) Day!



Ahh. Room Service. One of the pleasures of an extended hotel stay, especially one which falls during the most cherished of American holidays, Thanksgiving.

As I dig into my delicious turkey sandwich and scrumptious lamb soup this day, I want to wish the Sundries readership a very blessed holiday -- to you, and to all your families!

I'll be back soon, guys. Just recharging those batteries en famille. Hope you are doing the same.

As we give thanks for our blessings this day, though, please spare a prayer for those in other hotels today, who are in the grips of a terror few of us will ever know...

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sundries Vac And Media Turkeys

I am going to take a few days off, as Thanksgiving Day and family anniversaries interrupt my online activities. I will definitely be back for Thanksgiving, to wish all Sundries readers a very happy gobble-gobble day. Please keep checking for updates!

P.S.: Mmm. Turkey. I mean, ugh, David Shuster = Turkey.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fourbucks Gold Card

Are you a coffee addict? Perpetually on the go, unable to brew your own?

Then you might just need to get yourself Starbucks latest incentive to shop there, the Gold Card!



I just purchased mine, after a comical situation involving a Boca Raton barista claiming I needed to spend $2500 per year to make it pay off (wait, what? I know fuzzy maths when I hear it).

Well, I researched, and clearly I could recoup the yearly $25 fee almost in the first month, given my purchases. I will be able to save 10% on all purchases, which includes extra goodies like free coffee whenever you purchase a pound of coffee, and of course, 2-hour free AT & T Wi-Fi -- which makes going there an option again as I refused to pay for their daily T-Mobile Wi-Fi rate of $9.99.

From the Starbucks Gossip site:

"Included, as a Gold Card benefit, it seems Starbucks can track your purchases, and will provide their best customers with freebies, such as after buying 10 drinks, get one free, plus lots of free perks, and also giving a free drink of your choice on your birthday. Each specially selected participant will get a test Starbucks Gold card for this trial period which begins during this fall. If successful, Starbucks will roll out this pilot project nationally."

Well, they've clearly rolled it out nationally, as it has reached South Florida.

You know, Starbucks changed the way America drank coffee. Before they came along with their national franchises, this was a nation of Folger's and Maxwell House. Now, there is no service plaza in Florida that doesn't carry a Starbucks concession stand. More importantly, it's not that their overroasted coffee is all that great, but they were a conduit for national tastes to mature. Coffeegeek forums abound now, with Americans taking espresso obsessiveness to new heights.

I happen to like the old-fashioned American-style coffee, but I cannot do without my triple latte these days. Hope Fourbucks can pull out of the financial hole they find themselves in, as losing 97% of your quarterly profit is no joke.

They will start to close down stores, as a cost-cutting measure. The days of three Starbucks within two city blocks of each other might be over...

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Recession Whine

Struggling vintners and liquor store owners in New York have come out with this modestly priced wine ($4.99) to try to combat the recession. I'm not sure what the mascot is, but he has an appropriate 1930s air to him, with a megaphone and what looks like an Uncle Moneybags frock coat.

Next up: Recession Cheese.

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TILT

Someone pull her cord again. She's stuck.

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Still Standing

When I saw this photo of a statue of the Virgin Mary at a fire-engulged trailer park in Sylmar, California...



...it so reminded me of having seen photos of cathedrals in Germany, after a bombing raid destroyed whole cities. Take the famous Dom in Cologne, seen below just after a devastating bomb run.

There it stands, defying all odds, amidst the utter destruction all around it.



I tell you, sometimes there is no explanation. You just have to believe.

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Selling Like Hotcakes

And about as thin as hotcakes too...

Meet the lowest car in existence, the recently released "Flat-Mobile", standing at just 19 inches tall! That's Spanish model, Marina, looking as if she just hitched a ride in Tomorrowland's Speedway at Disney World.



It's cute though, but so is a kitten and I'd no more drive a kitten on I-95, as I would this car.

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Cristiano Walter

I finally figured out who Cristiano Ronaldo looks like, seen here juggling the ball with his outrageous ballskills, ahead of Portugal's friendly versus Brazil.



Walter Mercado.



In case you don't know, he's a legendary Puerto Rican soothsayer who had a very successful career in the Spanish-speaking television world as a cross between Jeanne Dixon and Liberace.

Last I heard, a raspy-voiced Cuban lady called Profesora Selegna had taken over his gig. [ed. vbspurs: Wow, she has a blog!?]

I think the resemblence lies in the eyelid folds. They've each got that puffy post-surgery look to it. Although, C-Ron's rope of pearls, lipstick and weency George Michael-Wham! era shorts help the resemblence along too...

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Pele And Maradona Today

These two footballing legends had remarkably different official engagements on Tuesday, neatly reflecting their individual storylines.

Brazilian legend, Pelé, who has been official soccer's golden boy going on 50 years, was visiting Sweden, the scene of his country's first World Cup win, whose anniversary they were marking. He even gave an autographed football to their Queen, Silvia.



Though the ball was signed in English ("With Love, Pelé"), the Queen is absolutely fluent in Portuguese, as she is in her native German. Her mother was born Ana Soares de Toledo, heralding from the State of São Paulo. Silvia spent 10 years of her childhood there, so I'm sure they spoke Portuguese together.

Incidentally, Pelé looks incredible for a man of 68. He could easily be a decade or more younger.

Unfortunately, life hasn't been as kind to Diego Armando Maradona.

Not only was he the poster boy for destructive behaviour, but his onfield brilliance was shadowed by that nagging penchant he had for cheating. To this day, new Scotland manager, and ex-England captain, Terry Butcher, refuses to forgive Maradona for that infamous "Hand of God" goal, that I personally remember so well, despite being a child.

Unlike Pelé, though, his country's Federation has given him a much weightier role than Goodwill Ambassador -- he has been appointed Argentina's manager, and today at his first presser, he stated without hesitation that he will make Argentina a World Cup winner again.



To date, Brazil have proven themselves capable of flinging off the ghost of Pelé. They have won two World Cups without him, and played in all the World Cup Final matches since 1994, save for 2006.

But Argentina have not proven that they can win without Maradona.

Will his managerial style be more successful today, than it was during a similar appointment in the past? We shall see.

One thing is for sure: Maradona is literally a shadow of himself ever since undergoing gastric bypass surgery. However haggard you may see him looking here, it's good to see him looking less like the water buffalo of old.

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Stevens Raus



I've said it earlier, when Governor Palin and Senator McCain called him to resign, but good riddance to bad rubbish -- "Uncle Ted" has finally lost his seat.

The Congress is rife with corruptocrats like Dodd, Frank, Murtha and Jefferson. It does Republicans no good to point to them, when they have such a soiled politician in their own ranks, and a very long serving one, at that.

Hercules might've cleaned the Augean stables in a day, but our legislature will take considerably longer to clean. Today was a good first step, though.

Last thing:

Begich does not strike me as being another Gravel. As even that progressive Mudflats concedes (bitterly), Alaska is still a blood Red State.

UPDATE: Hmm. Just did a quick drive-by around the conservative Blogosphere.

Michelle Malkin says, "Good Riddance To Ted Stevens". Ace of Spades is no less damning: "Convicted Felon And All Round Worthless Piece Of Sh*t Ted Stevens Loses Senate Race". Most of the others haven't had a chance to update their blogs, but it's good to know my sentiments are shared.

Hopefully, it will be the case too with liberal bloggers, in their turn. We live in hope.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Will She Or Won't She?

Come on, Hillary. Pee-pee or get off the pot.

This long-drawn out guessing game about whether Senator Clinton will become our next Secretary of State (pending Senate confirmation) belies the talk that Democrats have their act together.

Here's the deal:

You do not, under any circumstances, float out Hillary Clinton's name for Foggy Bottom consideration, unless you are absolutely sure the lady will accept the position.

I've heard all kinds of conspiracy theories about all the implications. The big one is this:

- Obama and Hillary both wanted to come out smelling like roses, he by offering his major rival a meaty position; she by denying it to work on her health care dream.

I didn't think this made sense in the beginning, and I still do not. Why tie yourself to a man who is possibly an one-termer, whilst on his end, he would give untold ammunition to the woman all too eager to play a prominent world role?

(In case you wonder if I think she's more capable than Richard Holbrooke, of course not. But you have to understand that diplomacy is about leverage, not knowledge. She brings a caché to the role that other nations would have to sit up and take notice)

Senator Ted Kennedy has this very day appointed her to a committee exploring insurance coverage, and one doesn't do that if you feel she's not long for the Senate (or that her time will be otherwise engaged).

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Senator Edward Kennedy named fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton to lead a working group on insurance coverage in the effort to write health-care legislation.

Sure, Kennedy could've appointed her merely as a tribute, and it's still possible she'll accept the Secretary of State job, but this entire overture has just looked...loosey-goosey.

This whole situation reminds me of President Clinton scrambling to fill his cabinet. It's amateur hour, all over again, ugh. This lack of professionalism about Democratic Presidents that makes most Republicans cry out in frustration. Most don't mind being in opposition, so long as we know the country is in steady hands: our enemies are less likely to attack if they perceive strength, however mistaken some think it is.

Now, if she walks away, it'll compound the feeling of wishy-washiness that Democrats were unable or unwilling to kick out Joe Lieberman from the Homeland Security post, even after much gnashing of teeth against him.

Are you kidding me? I am grateful to Joe for his support, but this is just spineless. If I had been in charge, and he had pulled a Zell Miller in 2008, he would've been out of his post long ago.

Who knows, maybe it might've motivated him and John McCain to secede from their Parties, and form their own...call it the Joe-Mac Party. We'll throw in Lindsey Graham for free.

As Republicans stare with horror at the Big Government last breath of the Bush Administration, with bailout this, and rescue plan the other, we look to the other side with genuine hope that things will improve.

From my vantage point, we're all going downhill and someone has jimmied with the brakes. Halp us John Karri.

UPDATE: Oh God. The guy who finessed the Marc Rich pardon (and is opposed to the death penalty) has been tapped as the nation's first black Attorney General.

IN THE COMMENTS: Arrgh. Jal makes a good point about Holder.

Holder also had a part in the pardon of the FALN terrorists by Clinton.

Nice, huh.

FALN. Marc Rich. Susan McDougal. Dan Rostenkowski. Roger Freaking Clinton too!

Actually, Holder is now looking like a fiasco to me. Like his putative boss, his record is anti-gun, and he was the Assistant AG charged by Janet Reno to handle the Elian Gonzalez case.

So guard yer kids, and get yer guns.

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Yikes, That Looks Tense, Uncomfortable And Awkward

No. Not this.



THIS.



Body language notwithstanding, Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, will enter our national lore as Grandma-in-Chief (First Grandma?). She'll be moving into the White House with her charges, Malia and Sasha.

You know, I rather like that.

I'm so sentimental towards my own late maternal grandmother, and of course, I love extended families living together. It's the Old World in me.

I haven't read accounts of this announcement yet, but I recall that the last elderly relative of the First Family to actually live in the White House, was President Harry S Truman's mother.

A funny story is told about her, in England. When then Princess Elizabeth paid her first official visit to the US, the President's mum requested to be introduced to her in her White House digs. But in her confusion, the old bird told the future Queen, "Oh, I am so happy your father was re-elected" -- presumably about Winston Churchill.

I don't think that's a concern with Marian Robinson. She looks sharp and steely. Clearly, Michelle inherited much of her looks, too. They could be the twins of pout.

Hopefully, a nice sunny vista overlooking the mall or the Rosegarden will put her to rights.

Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson!

P.S.: Incidentally, I heard the McCain-Obama meeting described on PBS as "that most American of things".

Presumably, only in the US, with their history of silky smooth transitions and gracious concessions, would a vanquished opponent meet with the conquering one, after the election.

Yeah, right. Because in Britain, the new Prime Minister eats the severed tonsils of his defeated opponent at dinner.

IN THE COMMENTS: Chickenlittle wants more info on the circumstances of the Obama photo.

BTW, do you know the circumstances of the Obama/Robinson photo? It looks like they're awaiting bad news in a hospital. If so, then I'll STFU. But if they're watching election returns or something, it makes me grin. Please do tell.

It's as you suspected, Chickenlittle. Then Senator Obama and Mrs. Robinson are in their hotel, awaiting election returns near Grant Park.

Actually, if you look closely at the photo, the pose may be distant, but they are actually holding hands in a supportive gesture. Since the outcome of the election was never in any doubt, this must've been in the first few minutes after polls closed.

"Oh God, we lost Kentucky"
"There there, Barack"

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Green With Envy

If you didn't know better, and I asked you to describe this photograph of a rather runty Renate Kuenast being held up by Jürgen Trittin, celebrating their victory in Germany's Green Party's congress, how would you describe the scene?



Doesn't it look like something out of the Wombles set?



I just can't take anyone seriously who would be mistaken for Great Uncle Bulgaria, or a modern-day Tinky-Winky.

Seriously, though, Germany has tried to do their best to counter Barack Obama's rise to power, in their own, still rather vanilla way. Meet Cem Ozdemir, the Green Party's new leader* and the first ethnic Turk to gain such a foothold on power in Germany.



*He and Claudia Roth are co-leaders.

If you think that's not of note, think again. In Germany, the Greens are a major political force -- perhaps the most of all the Green Parties around the world.

As proof of that, I need only show you the Green Party candidate for US President in 2008, the always lively, Cynthia McKinney.



Maybe President-Elect Obama can reach out, and find her a place in his Team of Rivals cabinet?

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Giving Thanks To Sarah

This Thanksgiving Day, the "Our Country Deserves Better PAC" will be coming out with a television ad thanking Governor Palin for her 2008 run for Vice-President.

She made the word "shoutout" famous in a political setting, but now, she's getting a little shoutout of her own. Nice.

EDIT: Well, boo. I cannot get the video code to work, so that it doesn't constantly load (even with Peggy Gero DaValt's tips).

CLICK HERE TO WATCH

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Yes, But At Least They Know Africa Is A Continent

I am no fan of Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" segments. For whatever reason, Americans take special glee in showing how insular, ignorant, and goofy their fellow Americans are when being asked questions of general knowledge.

"They know squat about geography!", cry these Americanos arrepentidos.

Yes, true enough.

Average Americans need to improve on their cultural knowledge. But if you think your average Frenchman on the street could point out Duluth or Tucson on the map, you've got another thing coming.

However, we just underwent one of the most intense campaign cycles ever. For 21 months, normal Americans could be overheard speaking about Obama, Hillary, McCain, Palin and their policy positions. It was actually rather refreshing -- reminding one of the interest Americans took in foreign policy, post-2001.

Obama supporters seemed especially keen on their choice. And since liberals are said to be more comfortable about intellectualism, than their conservative counterparts (not true, but humour them) you'd think those who elected him would know their guy well, right?

Howard Stern excluded, this little montage may surprise you.



Well, at least everyone knows the real important stuff -- Bristol Palin is preggers and Sarah is her mommy.

P.S.: I mentioned it above, but here is the infamous Howard Stern radio outtake, where a staff member went around asking New Yorkers questions about Obama.

My vote counts the same as theirs. Ain't democracy grand?



IN THE COMMENTS: Synova makes a fair-minded point.

Without a control group of McCain voters it doesn't say much about *relative* levels of knowledge.

Oh... I wouldn't have known who had to quit campaigning for plagiarizing a speech. Otherwise, I'd have got the answers to the questions I heard on the first video.

But I don't think I'm typical.

I think most bloggers don't think they're typical, and perhaps we are not. Having said that, my point was not really to make the McCain-Palin supporters seem like geniuses in comparison.

It just that it seems that Obama supporters / liberals pride themselves in being above-average in the intellectual department, even the rank-and-file rather than the college-educated or elites. Their reasons for voting for Barack Obama hinge on their more nuanced world view than the savage wee beastie Republicans.

If you hear them tell it, their reasons for voting for Barack Obama are manifold, and far more intelligent than the usual mantra I personally heard from them, "I want change". That's it, change? Yeah, I'd hear back.

As I once said on Althouse, the reasons why we vote for a candidate often sound hopelessly trivial to others. It's difficult to make our arguments sound full of depth, as it often is tied to perception, and yes, personal biases.

That's fine. I totally understand.

But then don't come back and pretend you are so much more superior as a voter, when people really don't know squat about candidates' records. It's hypocritical.

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A Cup Of Tolerance

I have a confession to make: gay marriage interests me not one whit.

I am simply not energised to have a position either for or against it, though I am a traditionalist in general. For people like me, marriage has a special meaning which goes far beyond any legalese. On the other hand, I find telling people who they can or cannot love absolutely appalling. It hovers between being uncivilised and heartless.

But once voters have spoken on a topic, I have a tendency to be pragmatic about it, even if it means it goes against my personal ethos. This is why I can live in a world which tolerates abortion (or what I consider an interpretation of children as being matters of convenience) and not go mad.

What does make me cross is when I see certain groups of people acting like hooligans, thereby making their cause unsympathetic. The first is a genuine horror, as literal violence towards anyone is disgusting, especially those who probably go around making anti-violence their personal cause. The second is just a lack of savviness, something which really irritates me.

When Theodor Herzl convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, he insisted on all the delegates present (including many Marxists) to dress in full evening dress, white tie and tails, all.

This Viennese arbiter elegantiarum knew the power of respectability, and the effect such a visual had on a less than willing populace.



The same, incidentally, was true of Dr. King, who was at pains to show himself and the freedom marchers around him, in as decourous a light as possible.



Obviously, the times were different. Today, one can roll out of bed and literally go outside without anyone being aghast. But it seems to me that the missing ingredient with the American gay rights movement is a moderate tone.

How do you get the Establishment to notice you; later, to accept you? You disarm them. Use cunning, use tactics, use logic. Have a core of people others want to be around, because it makes them feel better that they champion you.



Look at the people above.

See how they mistreat this old woman holding a cross. Even as I write, there are some reading this who are outraged about this lady's actions, and feel they should not spare her a moment's sympathy. They shouldn't even be fighting for the right to marry, they think. And if voters do not agree, they should be crushed for their bigotry.

In fact, it is this militant attitude that is their undoing. If you cannot work with the greater society to see your point-of-view, you are condemning your own side from the outset.

(I once had a troubled gay friend, a guy. He was in the closet, and once told me in a very pitiful, small voice that he felt certain his family would accept his lifestyle, but that he himself never felt comfortable in a male gay world. When asked why, one of the things he mentioned was that he felt embarrassed by the wanton displays in gay pride parades. It's not that he didn't want to be associated with that -- but he just wanted to be "normal gay", and not feel pressured to accept the more outré versions. My heart went out to him, and I hugged him. But I always wondered thereafter, how many gay people there are out there, who feel this way. Or, God knows, how many never really felt at home being gay, not because of "mainstream society" pressure to conform, but gay-centric pressure to accept any and all behaviours)

I remember once watching a very good film, The Dying Gaul. A gay screenwriter is unexpectedly courted by a film exec, who turns out to be bisexual. When called in for a re-write, he is forced to concede to make his main character straight. The exec tells him very plainly why.

Most Americans hate gay people. If they hear it's about gay people, they won't go.

I remember thinking, 'this is very brutal'. Even if you do not agree with this, there is a silver-lining. Unlike the difficulties of the primarily black Civil Rights movement, anti-gay attitudes hinge not on being, but acting.

(That is the sadness of real prejudice, of course. Physicality cannot be muted)

However exasperating, even insulting, it is to many people reading this now, I will say this: be happy. Attitudes change on a dime in this world.

It just takes the right atmosphere meeting the right attitude. As they say, there is no idea so powerful as an idea whose time has come.

What do you have to lose, then, after you've tried every other way and nothing seems to work, but to help it arrive in style?

That's not a question of fashion, you know, but of real urbanity and knowing how the world works.

One thing is certain: you will never win the fight if you knock down old ladies to the ground. Between an old lady, and a gay person, society will always choose the little old lady.

Come on, guys. Use that collective brain of yours, which has given the world so much beauty and light and say goodbye to the dark violence.

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All News Fit To Click

Well, I am officially an 100% internet or Kindle newspaper reader as of a few moments ago, albeit my parents still take the Miami Horrible. Until now, I had also a New York Times and Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel subscription, but no longer.

The trend towards reading one's newspapers exclusively on the internet is neither new, nor particuarly noteworthy. I'm sure loads of you do it.

Yet, considering my father gave me my first one-year New York Times subscription for my 17th birthday, it feels odd that I have given up on the tactile feel of inky paper rustling in the morning.

Clicking on a story just cannot compare in terms of sensuality.

But if you consider yourself the slightest bit eco-conscious (and I am more tree-fondler, than tree-hugger), or thrifty in a declining economy, opting out of the hard copy version just makes more sense.

I am concerned I won't be as disciplined in reading my papers as I was with the paper version, though. Let's face it -- if you don't read them daily, they pile up, either mocking you for your laziness or becoming insect magnets, which is gross.

No, you just have to sit down sometime during the day, and read it. Crossword puzzle an absolute-must, obviously. Makes you feel smarter when you finish it (or maybe that's just a British thing).

The one thing I will miss terribly is the intimacy of reading a column by a particular writer, which you then ruminate over even as you turn the page. It allows the reader a strange private communion with said writer -- just me and Thomas Friedman. He wrote. I read. No one else need interrupt.

The internet version is a catastrophe on that score.

Just when you have finished reading what ever, say, Germaine Greer has had to say that day, your eyes then scan below the article, and the usual internet-speak blather of commenters stare back at you.

I am a complete democrat, and a bit of a populist, who makes a fetish of the Common Man and whatever they like or want to say, but I confess that reading commentaries on the BBC News site, or similar, drives me up the wall.

Was it dear Winona Ryder who said in the mid-90s, that the internet makes her sad -- everyone spells so badly?

Well, bad spelling doesn't irritate me. It just breaks the smoothness of reading, akin to driving on a road with intermittent potholes.

It's perhaps a small price to pay for hearing the varied viewpoints out there, but for conservatives, it is yet another daily eye-stab online. Your values are mocked and bullied out of existence, thanks to the 'bury' feature. Pop culture, and culture in general is lost to us -- social networking sites like Youtube, Digg, and even the newish Twitter are nearly lost too.

Newspaper commentary sections add salt on the wound because it seems the garrulous liberals predominate, which wouldn't be bad every once in a while, but it's a depressing state-of-affairs if it's constant.

(Don't worry. We still have the law, the military, religion, business and often local politics as conservative strongholds. Spare a tear for the outmanoeuvered liberals there)

Of course, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal are doing fine, and their tilt is right-wards, so that's a small comfort for some of us stuck in Obamanation.

Speaking of conservatives, the amount of Schadenfreude we have for the demise of the New York Times' fortunes is a little childish.

I would rather they stick around in some format, than to disappear entirely. Nature abhors a vacuum, and journalism is no different. If the NYT folds, a dozen insipid little rags will just pop up, each specialising in their particular niche market.



See, it's not liberal slant, or the triumph of the internet that has caused the NYT and other newspapers to be wilting under their own pomposity. It's that modern tastes are too specific and immediate to have a portmanteau publication addressing them.

You want news? Turn on the TV. Surf the 'net. Go to your favourite news aggregator, like Instapundit or Memeorandum or Drudge. Anything but open your folded-over newspaper lying next to your buttered toast.

Plus, there's the changing demographic arc which grew up with computers, and who bolted out the door, rather than having a chance to observe their parents leisurely reading the morning paper. Similarly, did you know that courts are having a tougher time with younger jurors, because they are so used to getting information on computers, rather than verbally or in print-outs?

None of this is good news for traditional media.

Ironically, my grandparents had twice or more daily editions of their favourite newspapers, but the print versions today are barely holding onto the once-a-day printing. If I were my generation's Lord Rothermere or Lord Beaverbrook, I'd throw received wisdom to the wind, and have a twice-daily printing of a newspaper again. Bring back the newsboys in felt caps barking out the latest headlines, too.

You know, make it EXCITING again.

Barney Frank's latest whopper! Elliot Spitzer in sex-romp! Bernanke's and Paulson's testes tied to planks!

Naturally, the eco-crowd would burn me in effigy for wasting so much paper, so it becomes a circular argument.

No, really, the more I think about it, the more I am glad I just have the Wall Street Journal and the International Business Daily as my two sole newspaper subscriptions on my Kindle now.

Less fuss, no muss, and a whole lot less extraneous commentary than online versions. They even do away with the interminable Moveon.org full page ads. BLISS.

I will miss the crossword section, though, but I can massage my ego on my blog.

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When Feminazis Attack

Seriously, people, has Germaine Greer nothing better to do than to deconstruct Michelle Obama's Grant Park dress? It's of such amusement to me, akin to Gloria Steinem weighing in on Sarah Palin's jeans, that I have decided to post on it.

First, this is what the renowned Aussie feminist had to say in the Grauniad:

If Michelle Obama's such a great dresser, what was she doing in this red butcher's apron?

The one sour note to resound through the jubilation at the election of Barack Obama was an undercurrent of fear and loathing of the dress Michelle Obama wore on election night. Most newspapers were too high-minded to refer to it, but reaction trickled through the internet and surfaced in USA Today, where a poll revealed that twice as many people hated the gown as thought it irrelevant or OK: "It looked as if someone out trick-or-treating has thrown a can of red paint on her." It was dubbed "firework fashion", "definitely a lava-lamp look with a volcanic nod to her husband's Hawaii". "It looked like it was made from velvet, satin, Spandex and Elmo muppet fur!" One blogger complained that she could hardly listen to Obama's speech "for fear of that dress"; another accused its Cuban-American designer of duping his hapless client into wrapping herself in the Cuban revolutionary flag.

Elmo muppet fur! I mean, where do you start?

First off, that "one sour note" probably says it all. There were about 57 million Americans that were hardly jubilant on November 4, but I suppose they don't count for Greer and Co.

Secondly, "most newspapers were too high-minded" to mention the dress? Uh, no. Most newspapers are not fashionista rags who attempt to double as legitimate news reporting, like Vogue and even Vanity Fair. Mentioning this dress alongside an historic election would've struck a strange note, not a sour one. Their coverage is not a question of being high-minded, though, so much as hidebound.

Thirdly, most newspapers have given the Obamas fawning coverage. Not just fair coverage, mind you, but lickspittle, bottom-sniffing, botty-wiping, i-love-you-mannnn! coverage.

The stain that was mainstream media coverage of the Obama candidacy in 2008 will go down as one of the great travesties of our time (it'll come back to bite them, as assuredly as why they did it -- because media felt complicit in not fully investigating the claims made by President Bush ahead of his Iraq venture. This was payback).

It's almost inconceivable that the Grey Ladies would've said the least negative thing about the Obamas at the moment of their triumph, let alone mentioning the world-wide giggles about Michelle Obama's dress.

Here I have to confess yet again that I do not see what the whole fuss is about. As I mentioned, the dress didn't make an impression on me, in real-time.

It would be too convenient of me to now claim that I find the dress insufferably bad. In truth, now that I have had a chance to look at it properly, it doesn't look terribly smart, and the design is OTT, but I am smirkful that one blogger complained she couldn't pay attention to President-Elect Obama's speech for thinking about the monstrosity wrapped around his wife's bod. Come on, really?

Can you imagine if live-blogging had existed in 1961?

"Oh, that's a great line, "Ask not what your country can do for you" O.M.G! What is Jackie Kennedy wearing?! Is that a poodle on her hands! That's not a muff, that's a chinese dinner gone Pete Tong!"

Of course, I myself have never shied away from making snarky comments about the way women dress. But then, I'm not a legendary feminist writer opposed to reducing women to frills and frippery like fashion commentary.

Greer didn't just skewer the mother. She commented on the kiddies too.

At no time would what she wore be more significant than on the night of November 4 2008, when, win or lose, the eyes of the world would be upon the Obama family as the four of them processed on to the stage in Grant Park, Chicago. If Michelle had dressed herself and her daughters for defeat, she could hardly have chosen anything more saturnine. Seven-year-old Sasha was dressed from head to foot in black: black dress, black hose, black shoes. Ten-year-old Malia was just as black about the legs, but her dress was blood-red. Any colour is better than pink, but these robust choices hardly strike one as girly. The girls' odd outfits were clearly chosen as foils to their mother's dress, which was all black with an eye-burning red panel that splattered itself down the front like a geometrical haemorrhage, held in by a criss-cross sash of black.



The red extended upwards almost to the neckline, and downwards to mid-thigh, petering out top and bottom in a sort of cast-off splatter. The effect of the strong contrast was to turn a mere frock into a poster in the most disturbing colours known to man, the colours of chaos. The juxtaposition of a rectangle of red on a black field is what we might expect to find on a flag or a shield. Coral snakes and venomous spiders signal their destructive potential by the display of similarly violent contrasts.

Come on Germaine, they're just kids, and I for one thought their dresses owed something to Bakst and his onion-domed orientalism, which ushered out the funereal Victorian era, and propelled it into giddy modernity.



You'll note that even La Greer mentions the spidery connotations of Mrs. Obama's dress. That's something my own mother mentioned, as we watched her.

Personally, if I were Michelle Obama, I'd rather be connoted with a black widow spider, regardless of venomous allusion, than a muppet.

To my slight bemusement, even my very serious father had an opinion on Michelle's dress, after being told by me about Greer's article.

"She looks like she just took off Sweeney Todd's apron."

Though he and my mother are avid fans of FashionTV, I've never known him to evince the slightest comment on women's fashion.

Kinda makes you wonder what Statler and Waldorf would've made of it, eh?

P.S.: It's true that Narciso Rodriguez is not like many Cuban-Americans politically (he's a big fat liberal and anti-Bush, but then what do you expect from a Cubanazo from Newark), but it shows a distinct lack of knowledge about him to suggest he would be duping his client to make a "Cuban revolutionary" statement.

That's more Vera Wang.

ADDED: Michelle Obama = ET? If her critics are right, and her red/black number was pregnant with code, perhaps it was the foreshadowing of an exoplanet, Formalhaut B? ...B for Barack!

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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Pointy And Rather Fabulous Eyebrows Of Andy Levy

Everyone remembers the dismal Fox News comedy show, The 1/2 Hour News Hour, probably because it stank worse than Pepe Le Pew's romantic overtures to Penelope Pussycat.

Let that be a lesson to you, kids. You can't out-Jon Stewart Jon Stewart. Only Stephen Colbert can do that.

So it was with trepidation that I began watching Red Eye some months ago.

This best kept secret on late night combines the libertarian morality play that is Trey Stone's and Matt Parker's South Park, with Paul Lynde's circle-gets-the-square zingers. It's proof positive that conservatives not only have a sense of humour, but that they can say irreverent things liberals can't say anymore because they're stupid literalists.

The show is anything but formulaic, unless inside jokes qualify.

Greg Gutfeld, the host, is a good Catholic boy from California, who is at pains to point out he's not Jewish, all the while making with the homosocial yucks to lovable, and yet rather pathetic sidekick, Bill Schultz. I'm not exactly sure what function Schultz fulfills on the show, but he does it really well. Perhaps he's best described as Major Healy to Gutfeld's Major Nelson, and with that, I'm pooped out of 1960s pop culture references.

Red Eye usually has on hand three or four guests, including generally one via satellite, notably, ex-Drudge pal and total hottie, Andrew Breitbart.

Most of the time Greg throws out outrageous claims about Schultz and his guests like, "Bill, you were in Sing-Sing in the 30s for murdering your mother-in-law, how does Obama's prison reform strike you?".

(I just totally made that up. I'm sure Greg would approve though)

Gutfeld gets to opine in his daily Gregalogues, which can be best described as a cross between Jerry Springer's Final Thought and that part in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy gets attacked by a gang of flying monkeys. It's really good.

In fact, the whole show is a middle finger to Brits like my male cousins who say Americans don't do "silly" well. Hah!

But for comedy to work, there has to be tension present somewhere, usually in the form of an authoritarian figure hovering around, ready to quell the madcappiness.

(This is why "Grace and Favour", the "Are You Being Served?" sequel, didn't work, in case you were wondering all these years)

Enter Andy Levy.

He of the pointy eyebrows, blond Sir Wisp-A-Lot hair, and air of exasperated proof-reader dismissiveness. Andy is, I'm not embarrassed to claim, a national treasure.

Only Fox News could hold such a golden nugget, and relegate him to the graveyard shift correcting a bunch of misfit retards. I use the word "retards" with affection, you understand.

Levy first came into prominence in Hollywood, where he was the publicist for the 69th Academy Awards. (Yeah, I didn't think there was money in that either).

He also had a blog for a brief moment in time called "The Cranky Insomniac", which oddly is his job description on the show. I'm of the opinion that you can tell a lot about a person by the blogroll they keep, and his includes Cathy Seipp, Gateway Pundit, Patterico's Pontifications (I sure hope he got his domain back, poor chap).

Now that's a stand-up guy.

(We will ignore that he also blogrolls Andrew Sullivan, Atlas Shrugs, and Wonkette, for the mere fact that he had the prescient taste to also blogroll Christopher Althouse. Wait, the Christopher Althouse? I can haz lulz?)

Anyway, Andy's schtick is to bookend Red Eye with a faux-Faux News alert at the start of the show, then a full five minute segment called "The Half-Time Report", finally finishing up with some Kleenex and Vaseline with the "Post Game Wrap-Up".

It's hard to describe his pièce de resistance, The Half-Time Report. If you held a gun to my head, I would say it's like going to your principal's office, as you squirmed during a long recitation of your mistakes in that morning's Trig class.

For five minutes he dryly corrects any hyperbole flung out by Gutfeld and Guests, and my word but he is sharp. He has the incisive logic of a lawyer, who if he were passing an Aussie sheep farm, you know, like you do, were asked if a sheep on the road was shaved, he'd say, "well, at least on one side he is".

You can't take anything you say for granted around Mr. Levy!

In fact, I wondered if he had been a lawyer at some point, because not only is he Jewish, and smart, but he's also always right. If that doesn't describe every Jew I know, I don't know what does.

To my amazement, I read on his Wiki page that he had been a 31K Signaller in the US Army (!). He just went up 1000 degrees in my Male-o-Metre of Perfection right there.

You know what makes for the best comedy? Being quick on the uptake.

It's hard, because you have to think on your feet, like when someone makes a gaffe and says, "This movie takes place in a menstrual hospital", and you immediately reply, "Oh, it's a period piece."

Comedy should not just be about banana peel flops, and Runyonesque one-liners, but the real good stuff is when you can get your listeners' brain wheels whirring away. The quicker you get a Groucho Marxist sly reference, the more you feel rewarded by the mental calisthenics.

It was this talent that Andy had, that actually brought him to the attention of Gutfeld over at HuffPo, in the first place. He actually parlayed his devilish comments on Gutfeld's deadpan blogposts into a gig on Red Eye.

He thus fulfilled the not-so-secret wish of anyone who has ever taken the time to comment on a notable blog, of being so good in one's replies, that you were elevated into superstardom by dint of one magically turned phrase, or fifty.

But enough of our time over at Althouse.

Andy Levy is that rarest of guys -- one who was discovered not sitting on a stool at Schraft's wearing a tight angora sweater, but probably in sweats and a t-shirt, a ballcap with the words "NASCAR FAN" on them, typing furious retorts for the delectation of an observing few.

I should be so lucky.

Okay, so if you've never watched Andy Levy, Red Eye, or even liked the pungent gayness of unicorns, you'll have no idea what I'm talking about, but I promise you, staying up to 3-4 AM EST is worth it if you have nothing better to do. This includes the Best Of reruns every weekend at midnight.

And yes, I am using the same whimsical hyperbole in this entire blogpost, which would probably earn me the pointy eyebrowed condescension of my hero -- but I don't care. Andy Levy is a Greek God with ripe buttocks!

Here he is, in one of my favourite episodes, from October 23.

Notice the self-satisfied smirk when professional comedian, Jeffrey Ross, marvels "this guy is very funny".



Oh, and on November 1st (the last episode they broadcast before the Presidential Elections), he predicted:



"It will be Obama 364, McCain 174. It's a bloodbath."

I listened to that in horror that day. But, wouldn't you know it, final tally: Obama 365, McCain 172.

Christ on cream cheese, this guy IS good.

EXTRA: From Andy's blog, The Cranky Insomniac, is this incredibly topical opinion on Joe "The Prophet" Biden, our next Vice-President, written in 2006.

I love Joe Biden. I love how Joe Biden loves him some Joe Biden. All politicians love themselves, but Joe Biden takes self-love to a level that would make Narcissus shake his head and say, “Dude,” before slowly backing out of the room. The only thing Joe Biden needs to do to make me love him more is start referring to himself in the third person. Also, Joe Biden should always be called by his full name. It’s just one of those names, like Genghis Khan or Chi Chi LaRue. Have you noticed that Joe Biden suffers from inappropriate smile syndrome? Watch Joe Biden when the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing and it’s his turn to pretend to ask questions. He may be reading from his notes (wearing those ab fab half-glasses!) or just droning on about the pet hamster he had as a kid that taught him some valuable lesson, but literally every 5 or 10 seconds he’ll look up at the poor sap who’s supposed to be answering questions and give him a big smile. I think this is supposed to convey sincere reassurance but it’s so obviously phony and bizarre that it gives him more of an “I could very easily cut you into McNugget-sized pieces with a chainsaw and store your body parts in my Sub-Zero” vibe. We could do with more of this in our leaders. That’s why I also love John Bolton – he’s exactly what we need in an ambassador to an organization composed of thieving bureaucrats and murdering tyrants. You just know Johnny wouldn’t hesitate to stick a serrated blade in someone’s gut and twist it until a good portion of the intestine was hanging out, which he would then slurp down as if it were Mom’s linguini after football practice.

Mmm. I love linguini. Wait, isn't that "linguine"? Hah!

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Holy Massive Guns, General Dunwoody

"There is no one more surprised than I — except, of course, my husband. You know what they say, 'Behind every successful woman there is an astonished man.'"

General Ann E. Dunwoody


With these modest words, the US Army got its first full, or "four-star", general.

General Dunwoody's meteoric rise in the nation's oldest armed force didn't seem inevitable when she first joined in 1975. She wasn't a graduate of West Point, nor of course being a woman, did she have a formal combat role -- traditionally the path to the rank of general.

But this skillful woman had a military past: her father was a brigadier-general, Harold H. Dunwoody. Her father's family had been in their country's service since the 1860s, and a member of her overall family, since the 1700s.

She had spent most of her youth outside of the United States as a military brat, in Germany and later Belgium, even graduating from SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) American High School in 1969.

All her siblings were likewise in the military. Her sister Susan, in fact, was only the third woman to become an Army helicopter pilot. Her niece, Jennifer, is a fighter pilot and the veteran of several missions over of Afghanistan. Amusingly, given the normal roles of the genders, her brother Buck (a graduate of West Point) left the Army as a first-lieutenant.

It was in the first Gulf War where the master parachutist came into her own. She was a battalion commander, handling logistics for the 82nd Airborne Division in Saudi Arabia.

Given her rather haggard appearance at the promotion ceremony, since she is only 55 years-old, I wondered what the young Ann Dunwoody had looked like. I went to the official Army Flickr page and to my astonishment, this ripped babe stared back, a full 17 years after the photo was taken.

Good God...



...Madonna would kill to have those guns, instead of the disgusting, zero-fat, muscle pads she calls arms. Ick.



Her female colleague is leaning into then Colonel Dunwoody, who looks somewhat masculine (understandable given her career and circumstances. The last thing you want to be, is a pert miss like Private Benjamin). Dunwoody had first impressed in her testosterone world because she was a fierce athlete, having competed in gymnastics in high school, and even today she jogs, and plays tennis with ardour.

But I regret to inform the misses O'Donnell and DeGeneres that this accomplished woman is happily married to retired Colonel Craig Brotchie, USAF.

Here they are in Ft. Bend, Oregon, in the 1990s. She looks unrecognisable!



You know, 2008 was a disappointing year for women in power. Not only could we have had either a first female US President, but later potentially the first US Vice-President. Israel could've had its second female Prime Minister too.

None of them panned out.

Moreover, the nation seemed to accept the most egregious sexism I have ever seen, directed to both of these American politicians. The pity is that it was done by people who allegedly champion women by virtue of their more liberal politics.

So this promotion startled me, and actually made me quite happy.

Like General Dunwoody, I too come from a military family (medical military, thus they too are non-combatants). It was always my dream to go to either Sandhurst or West Point, which entrance to Oxford put a stop to. I could've gone on to Sandhurst after graduation, like my own father did, but I didn't. Life took me to other climes, and other circumstances.

But Ann E. Dunwoody was not to be denied. Despite being surrounded by men who allegedly are more narrow-minded than creatures called Chris Matthews, they saw her potential and rewarded it at every turn.

Women like General Dunwoody don't come often. As she takes up her Materiel Command this month, she can be truly proud of what she has accomplished. But her story has a moral embedded with the honours.

“You can live a humdrum, everyday life or live it for all it’s worth,” General Edmunds said. “She lives it to the fullest.”

So ladies, there you have it.

Live life to the fullest, because not only is that your own doing, but no one can take that away from you.

P.S.: The military is without a doubt, the fairest of all professions. It is socially egalitarian, and has a democratic ethos -- one which protects the man or woman to the right or left of you. There is no need for affirmative action programmes there. If you're good, you're good, and you'll go far. It is a severely maligned profession, by those who only boil it down to the evils of bloodshed.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

You Know How You Can Tell When A State Is Young?

When you throw a 50th anniversary ball to celebrate it, and seven of your State's eleven Governors show up.

Here is incumbent Governor, Sarah Palin, surrounded by Bill Sheffield, left, Walter J. Hickel, Frank Murkowski, Tony Knowles, Steve Cowper, and Keith Miller, right, and a seated Territorial Gov. Mike Stepovich.



The photo is interesting to make a point about Palin's "maverick" status, which highlights her independent streak as a Republican politician and reformer.

Two of the Governors you see above are no fans of Sarah Palin.

One is Frank Murkowski, the Republican governor she beat to win the actual Republican nomination, and whose profligate ways led to buying that famous jet plane Palin put on sale on eBay. He also appointed his own daughter, Lisa, to a Senate seat. He and Ted Stevens were the most powerful politicians in Alaska in their day.

And then there is Tony Knowles, the Democrat governor she actually beat in the election. He underestimated her in the debates, and came to regret it.

But the photo also provides us an occasion for amusement.

Remember that fuschia dress she's wearing? You might have seen it in photos of Palin's inaugural ball as governor. Here she is, being led around gracefully on the dancefloor by the First Dude.



It appears that she has only one good evening dress, so the days of the RNC sprucing her up with Neiman Marcus duds are definitely over.

Whilst the hair is an improvement from the slap-on-gel version of the inaugural ball, the newer photo shows her wearing that horrific ALASKA pin loaded with Swarovski crystals. Oh God, I'm surprised she didn't add the polar bear pin too.

(Hey, I admire her, but I am still a woman when it comes to criticising dress sense. It's our birthright, so natch)

Off to watch either Quantum of Solace or Battle in Seattle. Will post a review tomorrow.

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Lame Duck And A Squid

Presidents George W. Bush and Luiz "Lula" Ignacio da Silva of Brazil, at the G20 meeting hosted by the US President.

The BRIC contingent, Brazil, Russia, India, China, have now a greater combined GDP than the traditional economic powerhouses, the G7. This new importance is seen here, as Lula is being schmoozed up by the outgoing President of the United States.

Ooh, ooh, photo caption contest! Me first!

Bush: Tell me how you do it, Lulahoops.
Lula: É foda, meu.

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Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle

At a local bookstore: the books display just before the Presidential election.





I was going to buy a book there on entering (a specific translation of The Prince by Machiavelli), but I left without doing so. Business and political bias do not mix. I refuse to be insulted, and then to cough up my hard-earned money for the privilege.

Nice flags, though.

P.S.: Oh yeah, have you checked out the "Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle" site? Do.

P.P.S.: Joe Biden is my new Moped.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ron interjects.

Palin is my Harley!

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If This Is Sarah Palin

I'll eat a moose hat.





These are supposedly taken by the Hotel Intercontinental pool.

Incidentally, you have to go into the Spa area, to go to the pool. I alluded to the fact in my previous blogpost that I asked staff if they had seen Governor Palin, but what I didn't tell you is that I did inquire that question of a high-level staffer as well as my spa attendant.

According to this person, Governor Palin didn't go to the pool, at all.

She used the gym only after it had closed to members at night, and then only once, on Wednesday. The gym was very small incidentally -- I was given a tour. It's about a 1200 x 700 foot room, with about 10 machines of each with television monitors on them.

(Found a photo)



So if that is Sarah Palin by the pool, and the first looks the closest to her, but the second looks like a man in drag, copying the pose of the first photo, I would be surprised.

Shave off that five o'clock shadow, Sarah.

ADDED: Remember when Governor Palin said she had gone one Halloween, as Tina Fey -- and as usual, the Left Blogosphere thought she was lying?

Todd's dad and step-mother just confirmed it:

"Added Faye Palin, ‘‘I think Sarah would be laughing right along with everybody. Tina Fey did a great job.

What was so ironic about that was that several years ago, Sarah went to a Halloween party as Tina Fey. So it was just kind of like this whole thing went full circle."

There are so many rumours, and half-truths spun about this woman, that it seemed the right post to put that particular baby to bed.

UPDATE: I had a Michael Steele post planned, and a political-assistant-as-eunuch post planned, but it's late, and I'm lazy.

But I didn't want this post to stand without an update, since apparently, I am in for a moose hat tasty treat. More photos of the purported Sarah Palin at the pool.









She's drinking a Diet Coke, and has a Blackberry near her. That's her all right. I hope moose hat tastes good.

(Incidentally, I'll kill myself if I was at the pool area on Wednesday -- the day I went to scope things out -- having lunch at the bar there, and didn't realise she was around)

ONE MORE: Okay, the high-level staffer I spoke to might not have been lying to me, if this story is true.

These photos may be of Sarah Palin, but they are not at the Intercontinental. They are at the Madarin hotel, nearby.

According to news reports, Gov. Sarah Palin skipped the lunchtime political briefing at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami on Wednesday, preferring to do an interview with CNN. But she did manage to get in some pool time later in the day.

A Yeas & Nays spy spotted Palin and an aide poolside at Miami's Mandarin Oriental hotel (the GOP meetings are being held a mile away at the Intercontinental).

Rather than a bathing suit, the Pride of Wasilla was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, thanks to the windy, overcast weather.

Yes, it was overcast on Wednesday. And though not all the angles look like her, it could be because I suspect that they are shot with a cellphone camera and are really blurry.

I'm still skeptical that ALL the photos are her, but some of the details do add up.

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It's In The Eyes

Yesterday, I wrote this about encountering Governor Bobby Jindal:

To my astonishment, as I sat near the bar, about 20 feet away, almost as if he were in a cubicle, there was I do believe Governor Bobby Jindal. He is much younger-looking than you can imagine. He looks like he's a college freshman, and actually, in profile looked bizarrely similar to a young JFK.

Now, how can this be, you may wonder.

One was captured for all time as a handsome Irishman with a broad face, a full mop of reddish-brown hair and an even ruddier complexion. The other is a 37 year-old Indian with the vague look of an accountant to him, with dark hair and darker eyes.

But there was something haunting me about the resemblence. In searching for photographs to uphold my theory to you, I think I pounced on two which illustrate my point.

Ready? Here we go. First, Governor Jindal.



Secondly, a youthful Representative John F. Kennedy.



You know, I think I got it.

It's in the hooded eyes, whose sloping curves give each man a hang-dog look. It's also in the jawline, which in Jindal's case hasn't filled out; it's in the jut of the chin, and secondarily of all, but still noticeably, it's in the set of the ears.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Crashing Into Sarah Palin

To anyone who has been following my blog since August 29th, you know just how intensely I have been writing about the trajectory of Governor Sarah Palin.

After she failed to make a campaign appearance in Miami, and her ticket lost the presidential election, I thought it would be ages until I saw her in person. It was akin to withdrawal, though I wouldn't go so far as to say it depressed me.

To my slight astonishment, then, the week after the presidential election saw a continued burgeoning interest in the Governor -- if anything, given that she was now calling her own shots, minus the leash of Camp McCain, she was suddenly everywhere.

Then, in one of the most unbelievable strokes of luck that I've had in my life (and I confess that I have been unbelievably blessed, for which I thank God very humbly), it was confirmed that the Governor would be attending the Republican Governors Association at the Hotel Intercontinental, no more than 5-10 minutes away from my home.

I knew this opportunity could not be passed up.

So I gathered up my courage, and sans press pass (though a blogger colleague had kindly offered his), I went to the Hotel early in the morn, and with the self-assurance that I was born with, went past the two Miami police officers closely guarding the barriers into the Hotel. After valet parking my car, once inside, no one bothered me.

Here are tips to anyone wanting to crash one of the hottest events in town.

Dress very well. Be polite. But walk in like you own the joint. Also, don't ask too many questions. Pretend you know what you are doing, and suspicion is lessened. This has served me well the whole of my life, and you would be surprised just the types of people I have met using these suggestions.

I went up one of the two escalators, in a hotel I had been to several times before (knowing the layout certainly helped). In 1994, when we were not actually watching World Cup matches around the US during that amazing year, my parents and I went to watch matches via satellite in the same ballroom area Governor Palin was in today.

Unfortunately, the area around the meetings and press conferences were impenetrable. I decided to play it cool and go back downstairs, milling around the various reporters and journalists we all of us know so well.

Walking past William Kristol, I smiled and he graciously smiled back. I could've cared less about Dana Bash, and the other soberly suited reporters leaning over their state-of-the-art Macs, typing away their bylines or transcribing their notes -- I saw the son of my personal historian heroine, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and that made me happy.

The following are my impressions, and I will stand by them, even if they turn out to be erroneous as to the names of the people I saw. I'll correct them whenever possible, after checking the guest lists.

Incredibly, there was Governor Tim Pawlenty yet again, a man I've now seen three times in two days. He was certainly a media favourite, it seemed to me.

I wondered if the Franken-Coleman situation was why he was in such great demand, but given the interviews I heard him give (2), which were not exactly sour towards Governor Palin, but they were, shall we say, cool towards her, I wonder just how much he was bothered that there but for the grace of God for Palin, he would've been alongside McCain.

I have no doubt at all that he is positioning himself for 2012.

Speaking of which, I saw our own Governor Charlie Crist, some hours later. He is perhaps the most polished man I have seen next to President-Elect Obama. He gives off precisely the same kind of sleek svelteness, which is very difficult to describe. I noticed that his face is much more leathery than he even shows in photographs. You want to talk tanning beds, there's your guy.



He is not an excitable fellow, but it struck me that almost everyone milling around shared his...oh I don't know -- perhaps irritation, mixed with edgy competitiveness.

There was a definite undercurrent of tension there, which perhaps is common in the US political realm when so many high-powered politicians are congregated in a relatively narrow space, but it was really new to me.

I went to get myself my caramel macchiato at the Starbucks inside the hotel, as the conference was in full swing.

I turned around, and I do believe the person I saw was (of all people) ex-Senator Rick Santorum. If I am right, he was accompanied by an aide, both of them acting oddly. They seemed...self-important. He nudged his way past me, though clearly I was in the queue ahead of him. Then, after perusing the desserts counter, he ironically asked me if I was "standing in line", and with a dry retort, I said yes indeed I was (I have an allergy to people who are queue jumpers).

He and his aide started snickering as they went behind me, perhaps caught off-guard at my accent and formal tone.

In fact, I have to tell you something, my dear Sundries readers. The entire atmosphere of that conference oozed people who acted as if they are self-important. I am used to a certain amount of arrogance. God knows I just admitted I can be too.

But there is a fine line between thinking you're so important, that the basic rules of life do not apply to you -- and this Hotel was bursting at the seems with such people.

To me, this is utterly ridiculous.

Certainly, I am not talking about the actual politicians who were there, who perhaps one can excuse for thinking they are important people. If you're a Governor of an US State, heck yeah, you're important.

I am talking about the dark-suited aides, flunkies, and general gadflies hanging around the politicians. I include in this the reporters on their beat, but since this is a political meeting, I will concentrate on these folks.

Perhaps I caught them on an off-day, but it strikes me that if you are the Party striving to get back into the national discourse, and certainly looking to the Governors for leadership not just politically, but in terms of bearing, that it doesn't do your kind any favours by seeming toffee-nosed.

Having a few relatives in Washington, I have met my fair share of these hangers-on, individually; lobbyists, aides, speech writers, and the like. They are often irritating people, and seem to look down on people given who is in and who is out given that day's news cycle. There is an intensity to their "inside baseball" jockeying for knowledge.

That's precisely the idea I got from this assembly.



If they didn't recognise you (and I am not in the least speaking of me, but the little by-plays I observed), or you were not in the loop, your presence was not coveted. Poor Governor Heineman of Nebraska was practically a nonentity there.

You know another strange shock I got from these many black suited aides? That many of them are really effeminate. Not swishy, you understand, though I did see a few of those. But they behaved in a feminised fashion.

One such fellow was ordering Starbucks for a well-known Governor (he said the name loudly, as if the people overhearing it would be impressed, but I will not reveal it out of discretion), and I realised that the "bag men" tend to be young, handsome, well-dressed to the point of being fashionable (which is different from being elegant, of course).

Perhaps it's understandable that when you are in that position, you need to look well since you're representing someone of note. But I was reminded of the many Buckingham Palace staff I used to meet in the after-hours Ebury Wine Bar, near Victoria Station. The men were all exactly this type of effeminate man, and I think they were hired because they got off being so close to power, and loved being surrounded by opulence.

After a while, so as to draw attention away from my lolly-gagging around, I went to the Indigo restaurant downstairs. To my astonishment, as I sat near the bar, about 20 feet away, almost as if he were in a cubicle, there was I do believe Governor Bobby Jindal. He is much younger-looking than you can imagine. He looks like he's a college freshman, and actually, in profile looked bizarrely similar to a young JFK. He was utterly alone, and since I didn't want to stare, I am not sure if he was having a quiet moment to catch up with news, or if he were on his laptop or what.

What an ascetic air he has!

There is a problem with Jindal's chances to run for the Presidency in 2012, as I see it.

There are some people who give off a certain something (more on that in a bit). Jindal didn't at all give me that impression. He seemed utterly unmagnetic, and though not ordinary, perhaps I was expecting more. Frankly, he was nerdy-looking.

To become a genuine threat to run for the Presidency, especially given the adoration of his followers, and the presence that President-Elect Obama gives off (which is genuine, he truly is impressive up close), I believe you need to be a charismatic person. Jindal looks like a rather earnest priest.

After ordering my lunch, I went back upstairs since Governor Palin's remarks were supposed to be over by that time. I went up the escalators again, and a cop smiled as I went by. Whew.

There were two permanent news stations on either side of the circular area. One was busy interviewing Mike Duncan (hey, I finally saw our fearless RNC leader), whilst the other was getting impressions from an NBC or perhaps MSNBC reporter.

If you have gotten this far in my massively long, and somewhat gossipy post, you are about to be rewarded.

Because this is when I saw Governor Sarah Palin, not 10-15 feet away from me.

Before I tell you my feelings about her, let me just add that I think I have suddenly gotten some inkling as to why feminists, and particularly, feminist journalists dislike her so.

As I saw her speaking to a bevy of these black-suits, I realised a startlingly obvious point which hadn't struck me as fully before: she was the LONE woman of power in that entire area.



Though Governor Linda Lingle was there, I didn't see her. I don't think it would've altered my impression that Sarah Palin is doing the impossible -- she is a force in a profession of raw power which is almost entirely male.

In fact, she is not just a force, she is THE FORCE right now.

As she spoke, I am not kidding you when I say that every eye was either unabashedly on her, or trying to pretend they weren't flat out staring at her.

This was the conversation at the bar, as one overheard whispered conversations in snatches.

"Finally, then Sarah Palin went..."
"Did you hear that Sarah Palin said..."
"An incredible...Sarah Palin...finished"

Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin. The name was EVERYWHERE.

When I read Bekah's account of meeting Sarah Palin, and Bekah had a far more powerful encounter than my simple clapping eyes on the lady, I recall her saying that she had a glow about her. Well, Bekah, if you are reading this, I will tell you that I wondered if that was right or were you simply too moved that day to be able to read her correctly.

I also am aware that since I do genuinely like her, that I did not want this attitude to influence me either way. I want to give you as neutral an impression as I can about Palin.

But I have to apologise for thinking that, because you were absolutely right, Beks. Sarah Palin has an aura around her that is unbelievable. I have never seen anything quite like it in a politician. I used to scoff at the idea of "rock star" whenever Obama was mentioned, but truly, there are certain people in this world which stand out as super stars. It's like they are illuminated by their own personal spotlight.



And Palin in that group of macho egos, waspish young men and resentful career women was most definitely a rock star.

Her head of hair is enormous, leonine even, giving her very slight body a top-heavy look. She was slightly stooped, and wore a shiny kind of black top which I didn't think flattered her, but she still looked utterly beautiful.

She is not that tall (a running joke on Sundries about her height) so my first jolted thought was, Katie Couric must be a shrimp.

But my second thought was 'wow'.

I kept wondering, was she always like this? Does her recent run as the Vice-Presidential nominee somehow make her stand out from those around her, giving her a glamour they just don't have? I would've loved to have known this woman before 2008.

I remember writing a blogpost after her roll-out called "Sarah Palin Does That To People", where I wrote that she has this force which draws her to some people (like Adam Brinkley, who launched that website about her vice-presidential prospects after her gubernatorial win in 2006) or like Ruth Anne Adams or Benning, both of whom mentioned her to me back in May.

We all of us were dealing with the idea of Sarah Palin, but nevertheless, she clearly had the same effect on people who saw in this small-town girl with the funny regional accent, someone to definitely keep an eye on.

Here is another interesting fact, which in fact, was mentioned by a few commenters, those self-same angry feminists, and Dennis Miller on O'Reilly the other night: Palin is sexy.



Not just sexy, as in she is shapely and cute, but the lady oozes a really startling raw sexuality.

I think this is yet another piece in the puzzle of why she is disliked by so many people, or why Sandra Bernhardt and other lesbians found themselves appalled and yet obsessed by her. There is something of the unattainable about her, which must frustrate them tremendously. One has to be very careful when talking about this aspect of her femininity, because it can be misconstrued. It's a chicken or the egg argument, at that.

Most women traipse a fine line between feeling the need to hide their gender in the workplace, to be less fecund, all in the hopes they will be taken more seriously in their jobs. And in walks Sarah Palin, her five children, the product of a happily married state. It must be indescribably frustrating to them that she doesn't play by other kinds of women-determined 'rules'.

Also, they feel that she should, by all rights, be rather ordinary -- I mean, Wasilla, the town of 7,000 come on, they think. This disappoints people who want her to be mundane, which would allow her to be easily dismissed by them.

But she's not, and they, therefore, cannot. This is the Sarah Palin problem for them: she cannot be torn down so easily. They just don't understand why. She keeps popping up, undeterred, confounding every type of received liberal wisdom.

Another thing is that of all the people in that room, one never got a conceited vibe from her.

She kept leaning into people, rocking back her head in laughter, not just listening to what the guys around her said, but paying attention to what they said. This is probably why many people call her "gracious". Her people skills, in the brief time I saw her working them, were exceptional.

Finally, I would say she also gave off an ambitious vibe.

This is hard to describe because obviously it requires personal knowledge of the woman, which I clearly lack.

But if you've ever seen a person on the make, then you've seen Sarah Palin. I understand now why Lyda Green (her Alaskan nemesis) so dislikes her, and thinks she's "sneaky". She was working that room in no uncertain way.

The Plenary Session started up a bit later, so to buy time, I decided to treat myself to a spa visit upstairs.

The beautifully appointed spa was awash with older ladies in the provided cloth bathrobes, waiting for their massages and manicures inside the Relaxation Room. I have no doubt that I was probably seated next to Governor This or That's wife. For all I know, I could've been next to a future First Lady.

Of course, I asked if Palin had been to the spa, but my attendant was "not interested in politics" as she quietly told me. She pronounced politics like many Spanish people do, incidentally, Paul-LEE-ticks.

No worries. I understand. Not everyone is crazy enough about politics to crash a conference to which she was not invited, for the express purpose of posting a very long, chatty, and perhaps at times inchoate blogpost for her readership.

Because I didn't go there and then write about it just for me.

If that had been the case, I would've taken up that kind of offer from the blogger to get a press pass and do it properly. I no doubt would've written up a more professional post, full of wonkese, and less rambling.

Instead, I wanted to be a fly on the wall for you.

As I said, I stand by my impressions of each of the situations I wrote about, but I have the sensation that if you had been there with me, you would've shared my opinions as I wrote them about each person.

I have only one regret, which my mother (who comically surprised me later by actually crashing the event herself...I guess I know where I get my moxie from) told me continues to be a source of frustration to her.

"Why didn't you take a photo of her??"

"Oh mum, come on. I couldn't do that. I was too embarrassed."

"Don't be weak! I didn't raise you to be weak!" (P.S. my mother hates weak people)

"I didn't want to look...like I didn't belong."

(angry) "You were
born belonging!"

Perhaps. Interestingly, this is the moral of this quixotic blogpost about the first time I saw Sarah Palin.

Some people were born belonging. When they have a goal, the idea that it cannot be done doesn't cross their mind. But that's not Sarah Palin's destiny. Palin wasn't born belonging. She made it by sheer brute force of her personality, her will, and ambition to belong.

It struck me that being an outsider is sometimes a blessing in disguise. Whilst others preen themselves on how much of an insider they are, how much more they know than the "little people", and just how important they are because of it, Palin stands there amongst them aware that she is the perpetual outsider.

Outsider because of her gender. Because of where she comes from. Because she doesn't play by the rules she was born to.

Sarah Palin just didn't crash an event. She crashed an entire career.

P.S.: Well, once I came down from my pampering, when the joint had cleared out for their Art Deco tour, I did take some photos. Come on now, I have to be good for something!

ON MY WAY! What a gorgeous 85F sunny SoFla day.



The entrance of the Hotel Intercontinental. Traffic homicide? All hands on deck.



A view of our new skyline. Previously the Freedom Tower, now dwarfed by those downtown condos, was the tallest building to the Northeast of it.



Coast Guard Patrol carefully inspecting the waters. A lot of governors needed to be protected inside.



The CNN station where Sarah Palin was interviewed yesterday by Larry King.



A view of the lobby from above.



You can see some of the "blue-suits" lounging around the atrium. That limestone is very neurotic.



I needed to chill out in the Relaxation Room.



As I left, this policewoman's horse cast me a dirty look. It's like he KNOWS.

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