Friday, October 31, 2008

Election Day’s coming

It may be Halloween, but we’re all thinking ahead. Found here:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mountain Marathon off the hills

With only slight exaggeration, I must say that this more closely approximates the weather I was expecting on the Challenge last May than the gorgeous weather we had.

I listened to Bob and Rose’s OMM gear-check podcast yesterday, and was was aware of the forecast. I know everyone is accounted for, but I hope Bob and Rose and any of you who were involved had more of a “memorable experience” than a miserable siege.

Best to all from here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I second that emotion

I’ve been sending around a slightly truncated version of this David Sedaris bit about the “undecided voters” the pollsters and reporters seem to keep finding:

I look at these people and can't quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Too bad

It’s been a great run, but now it’s my duty to root for the Rays against the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Calling voters

I’ve run for office a number of times, and I’ve learned a lot from doing so. A decade or so ago, I ran a serious campaign for First Selectman. As a Democrat in a heavily Republican town, I was an automatic underdog, but we put together a terrific campaign—energetic, committed, imaginative, and (I, at least, think) smart. As the campaign played out, I realized how personal it was. These people were laying it on the line for me. You hear politicians talking all the time about how humbled they are to be blah blah blah. Let me tell you, for me that was absolutely true. I still feel a special and profound debt to everyone who helped put that almost-successful campaign together. (It’s probably good I didn’t win. I wouldn’t have been able to deny any of them anything.)

During that campaign (and others), I of course knocked on doors (hundreds of doors), and made phone calls (hundreds of phone calls). I did it. I had to do it. But I hated doing it—it’s just not my personality. That’s why I was so interested in this little piece about how the Obama campaign tries to get supporters to spread the word, even if it’s not their personality. Very clever—fun, in a way—and I bet very effective, too.

The McCain campaign uses the phone differently. It’s robo-calling filth.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Running shoes

I just broke out a new pair of training flats. Big news, huh?

I used to use up a pair of these every six or seven weeks, when they wore down and out after about 400 miles. Now I just wear them and wear them and wear them, since mileage is hardly an issue. I left a pair in Minnesota, though, so I could use them when I go back in a few weeks, and I had to break out some new ones.

For a long time, I’ve been running in Asics GTs. (The numbers change—I think they’re up to GT-2130s now—but the shoe, thankfully, remains essentially the same. Slightly clunky, but not too heavy, not overly “controlled,” not overly “stable,” not overly cushioned.) I buy them by the half-dozen pairs (old models when the new models are introduced) in the certain knowledge that they will be, as I heard it put lately, “obsoleted” some day when I’m not looking. I ritualistically pull out the cheap supplied innersoles, slip in a set of simple green Spencos and my own inserts, and there we are.

I began running cross-country in Puma racing flats (size 8-1/2), which would now be seen as closer to running barefoot than to any modern shoe, before switching to the original red-and-white, ripple-soled New Balances (size 7-1/2). I raced on the track in the blue Adidas Tokyos (size 9-1/2) that were probably the most popular spikes of that late-cinder-track era. And I trained mostly in green-striped white Adidas Italias (size 9). (Or were they Romas? How odd I can’t be sure.) [Much later: Italias.] These shoes, all of them among the best available in the mid-to-late ’60s, were necessary evils for me, and I spent a lot of time not running. Our trainer labored heroically on arch cookies and all sorts of tape jobs, but in vain. I was eventually diagnosed with anterior compartment syndrome.

(Time out: This reminds me of something amusing. I had to shave my legs below the knees to be taped, and the trainer would spray on Cramer Tuf-Skin to make the tape really adhere. Tuf-Skin over time would turn your leg green unless you scrubbed it off with rubbing alcohol (surgical meths), which I naturally considered a waste of time. So I spent my late teens and early twenties with stubbly green legs. I looked like a diseased tomato vine.)

For a few years I puttered around in very light Tigers (now Asics), which were cheap and not bad. In the mid-’70s, I discovered orthotics and Lydiard-style long-distance training. I also discovered that shoes were vastly improved. And vastly more expensive. Why, some cost more than $30!

Starting with some blue New Balance 320s, I moved to yellow waffle-soled Nike LDVs for training, and Nike Elites for road racing (all size 9—amazing standardization!). Nike design and my needs diverged somewhere back in the ’80s, and I’ve been in Asics ever since (though I still sometimes call them Tigers). My racing shoes these days? Surely you jest.

Last year, I was given several sets of Lock Laces, which you might be able to make out in the photo. I never would have bought these for myself, because they seemed like gimmicks. But I love them. Essentially, they are small-diameter shock cord and special two-hole cord locks. They let you lever yourself quickly into the shoe, which I really like, but best, their stretchy nature keeps pressure off my very high instep while keeping the shoe on snugly. Nifty.



Thursday, October 16, 2008

Africa Benny

Because H, A, and sweet B are headed to northern New England next year, probably for good, we’ve been thinking about establishing a nearby presence ourselves, somewhere in Vermont or New Hampshire. We’ve long thought that when we did, we’d park ourselves near a lake and buy a small boat—something like a Wayfarer—

and begin to do some regular sailing, something we enjoy, but haven’t had a chance to do much of.

Thirty years ago there was a popular song called “Taking a Trip Up to Abergavenny.” One of us consistently misheard the lyric. This is why, if we do get that boat, it will be named “Africa Benny.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bangers and mash explained

Paul Krugman is an academic economist at Princeton. People like me, though, know him for his regular columns in the New York Times, which often seemed to be the only intelligent and courageous journalism being done on the Bush administration, which had so thoroughly intimidated or hornswaggled most of the press.

Today, Krugman was awarded the Nobel Prize, and people like me, who don’t know the difference between financial and fiscal, are thrilled. I don’t know how his big economic papers read (I think I heard him call them “incomprehensible” in an interview this afternoon), but he is a fine, deft writer on the op-ed page. As a rough example, I have stolen from Marginal Revolution, where you can read about Krugman’s academic work, this little “economic” essay on why English food was, for so long, so bad—and why it’s so much better now.

Even my Republican momma...

I’ve been posting about politics and music lately, obsessed by the one and trying to use the other to chill out. Here’s a much more useful, incalculably cooler Latin combination of the two, from Jose Conde y Ola Fresca.

The Obama campaign has inspired a lot of this sort of freelance creative political expression.

Despite my last name, I have no Spanish. In the U.S. these days, that’s really my loss. There’s a terrific culture bubbling away out there (not to mention lots of Dominican ballplayers!).

Fortunately, as embarrassed as I feel to need them, the YouTube comes with subtitles.

I’m looking for eyes that see clearly

Ears that hear the truth

Pain that feels hope

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Up, up and away

It was another beautiful crisp morning, and when Paul and I got over to the cemeteries at perhaps 7:45, here’s what we saw, lifting off from the unused part of New North:

There were four or five of these fellows—the others were already in the air. They floated south at first, then the breeze began to take them west, which struck me as not good. There’s a high ridge there, wooded, with fewer meadows and fields for safe landings.

But they certainly made a jolly sight as they passed over the schoolyard.

We actually caught up with one. At first, we could hear the roaring of its propane burner, but when we looked up, we couldn’t see it. Until we looked directly overhead.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What do John McCain, Laurence Sterne, Lord Byron, and Mr. Dithers have in common?

James Wolcott wrote yesterday in his Vanity Fair blog that John McCain’s speaking style “on the page would look as dashy as a paragraph from Tristam Shandy or Byron's letters. No architecture, no sense of swell and ebb, no buildups with a payoff, no combinations of jabs, just the jabs themselves hurled willy-nilly, like Dagwood’s Mr. Dithers pacing around with an irate cloud over his head.”

Good thing the senator can rely on the rhetorical elegance of Sarah Palin.

Take the azure in the dome, boy

Writing the other day about Lionel Hampton’s lyric on “Vibraphone Blues” got me thinking about other lyrics I especially like. The first one that came to mind wasn’t a lyric, per se, but a set of responses.

One of Frank Sinatra’s early hits was “Blue Skies,” with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Sinatra was still a band singer then (though an increasingly popular one), part of the ensemble. The performance of this version of the song called for him to sing the lyric straight, but for the band to come in with chanted, almost mocking, elements behind him. The result is anything but the usual Sinatra ballad of the era. It’s the band’s wise-guy lyrics I love. It goes like this (band in parens):

Blue skies (look up, look up) smilin’ at me (take the azure in the dome, boy)
Nothin’ but blue skies (it’s mellow, fellow) do I see (blue skies, blue skies)
Bluebirds (did you ever) singin’ a song (hear the bluebirds singin’…)
Nothin’ but bluebirds (you won’t say no) all day long
(The happy little birds, flap, flap happy, sunshine everywhere, and everybody’s happy as a square at the fair. Hoy! Hoy!)

All the days are hurryin’ by
When you’re in love, my how they fly
Blue days (talk about blue), all of them gone (makes no misery hmm hmm)
Nothin’ but blue skies (overhead) from now on (Mister Elman, go ahead, go ahead)

“Mister Elman” is trumpeter Ziggy Elman (“And the Angels Sing”), who comes in to take a solo.

“Everybody’s happy as a square at the fair” makes me chortle every time. Hep cats, these boys.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Happy trails again

Paul and I are back to walking together every morning. Here he is, strolling through dry-at-the-moment Lake H. I’d been away, and he’d been sequentially cosmopolizing and under the weather.

It’s been chilly the last few mornings—just about at freezing, but today was warm enough for both of us to strip down to short sleeves about half-way through.

An oddity: When I run, I seldom get debris in my shoes. When I walk, I’m always gathering tiny pebbles from the cemetery roadways. (Maybe I just run too fast...uh, no, scratch that.) Anyway, I often plonk down on this bench to empty out the grotch.

Woodbury has three cemeteries: Old South, which has been in use since the 1600s and sees very few new burials (a few family plots); Old North, which shows in the background above and came into use in the late 1700s I think; and New North, across the road, with graves from the mid-late 1800s. New North was expanded into the field next to it a few years ago, and is where we walk a loop in the morning, and where I often run a couple, too.

When I was a boy (oof, there’s that deadly introductory clause again), we’d often gather to play baseball at the nearby schoolyard, where, for some reason the powers that were always turned off the water bubbler during the summer. When we needed a break, we’d adjourn to the pipe stand faucet in New North—not a bad deal, since we could get our whole heads under it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Afternoon Vibes

I often have music on while I write, but I play it low and zone it out. Some things won’t let me ignore them, though, and late this afternoon I was returned to consciousness by the Benny Goodman Quartet doing “Vibraphone Blues”.

Goodman opens with the basic tune, accompanied by Krupa, Wilson, and (obviously) Lionel Hampton. Then Wilson riffs on the melody for a few bars before Goodman verbally hands it off to Hampton (“Now let’s hear from Mr. Hampton”), who comes off the vibraphone to sing one of my favorite lyrics:

If the blues was whiskey, I would stay drunk all the time.
If the blues was whiskey, I would stay drunk all the time.
And if I get drunk, I would leave you behind.

Then he hands it back to Goodman (I swear he pronounces it “Goodwin”). Briefly back to Wilson on the piano (“Play it Mr. Wilson, play it a long, long time”), then to Krupa for a few beats on the blocks (“When Mr. Krupa beats those riffs, he don’t let you down, yeah man”). Another minute of friendly rambling along together, and they’re done. Sweet, sweet, sweet.
Old but no less interesting posts here and here on the Obama campaign’s much-admired logo, some cool variations on which you can see here. My favorites are the ones for kids...

and, tellingly, Republicans.

In my very Republican town, it seems to me that the Big O is beginning to outnumber the standard-issue McCain-Palins.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Palomar, shalomar, Swanee shore, let me dig that jive once more...

I like the jazzier end of swing, so I’m not a big Glenn Miller fan. But I love the Nicholas Brothers on the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, and I’ve always loved Dorothy Dandridge’s bit, partly for the way it wonderfully finesses that racist “Pardon me, boy” line that begins the song.

On the other hand, the inimitable Cab Calloway and his band swung. Jumpin Jive” introduces one of the movies’ great dance sequences. Nicholas Brothers again, of course.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More Sox

Stung by key injuries, the Red Sox couldn’t get over the hump, and the amazing, heretofore terrible Tampa Bay Rays won the Eastern Division by two games. The Sox did make the playoffs as the wildcard, and they’ll begin their run in LA tonight against the Angels. Classy lefthander John Lester will be on the mound, and I always feel good about that. Red Sox Nation has its collective fingers crossed that Beckett, Lowell, and Drew, et al. can operate at something approaching normal. Under current political and economic conditions, we all really need this Boston postseason to go on a while. At least through a winning Game Four in the Series.