Posts from October 2008.

The Roommate

Sally was in her first semester away at college. Classes had been difficult and midterms were fast approaching. After going out on a date with her boyfriend, she dropped by her dorm room to pick up her books before heading over to his apartment for the night. Knowing her roommate would be asleep, she entered the room without turning on the light, and softly closed the door behind her. For several minutes she wandered around the room in the dark, opening the closet to grab some clothes, reaching into the bathroom to get her toothbrush, and scrambling over to her desk to get her textbooks and notes. She patted around her bed, eventually locating her book bag, stuffed all the items in, and left, again quietly closing the door behind her.

The next morning, Sally returned to her dorm and found it surround by the police, one of whom approached her and asked if she lived there. They took her into her room, and…

Read my ending–and those of six other writers–at The Morning News today.

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Catting Around

I saw a yarn spool by the side of the road during my bike ride this morning. I wonder how it got there. I like imagine a bunch of calicoes in a pickup, living it up on a Saturday night, throwing their empties out the window.

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NaNoReMo08: Lolita It Is!

Well, I was going to dust off my voting script from last year and let y’all weigh in on the NaNoReMo08 selection, but, in the comments on the last thread, Lolita kinda ran away with it. Pick up a copy and report back Monday for your syllabus.

Also, we will be reading Infinite Jest. Not in November, but soon. Get a copy by year’s end–it will be put to good use.

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Recent Tweets

  • My manager wants me to start sending “status reports.” Copying these things from Facebook to email is a drag–can’t he just friend me? Oct 23, 09:30 AM
  • Dinner tonight: Fun-Sized Twizzler, beer, Fun-Sized Twizzler, Fun-Sized Kit-Kat, slice of pumpkin bread, beer. Oct 28, 06:30 PM
  • Thanks to the miracle of Facebook I am now “friends” with a dozen people who wouldn’t give me the time of day in high school. Oct 28, 10:15 PM
  • How many times can you listen to M.I.A.’s “Bucky Done Gone” in a row before it’s time to admit you’re helpless in the face of addiction? Oct 29, 10:24 AM
  • No, because my pocket contains two thumb drives. That’s all I meant when I said I had 8 gigs in my pants. Oct 29, 11:54 AM
  • Technology can advance all it wants, but nothing will ever make me angrier than tailgating or happier than girls in sundresses. Oct 29, 12:35 PM
  • According to this Instant Win Scratch Ticket, a bottle of water is now a “prize”. What kind of crazy Frank Herbert world are we living in? October 29, 1:54 PM
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NaNoReMo 2008: Nominations Are Open

Mail call!

Hi, I'm curious if you'll be hosting a NaNoReMo 2008? I understand if you're not, considering it's only 4.5 days till Nov. 1st and there has been no discussion of it on your blog {not that i found anyway}. If you are and if there was a horrible oversight on my part i'd love to know what book will be discussed this coming November.

Thanks,
V

Uhhh… You know, I’ve been so busy not blogging and preemptively eating Halloween candy that I plum forgot about National Novel Reading Month. Talk about your horrible oversights.

So what’s it gonna be? Right now I’m thinking either The Kite Runner or Lolita. Yes, contemporary fiction is now in the mix. In fact, if there’s anything you’ve been meaning to read–classic, modern, genre fiction, or non-fiction–feel free to nominate it in the comments or email me at matthewbaldwin@gmail.com. We’ll hold another vote, and start reading the selected book on November 3.

Update: I’ll be listing some of the nominations here. Feel free to second (or third, or seventeenth) any of them in the comments.

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Recent Tweets

  • Something went haywire with my office chair. Now, over the course of the day, my body loses elevation at the same rate as my morale.. Oct 6, 1:17 PM
  • Surest harbinger of a recession: morning “news” piece on fanatical coupon-clippers. Oct 14, 08:54 AM
  • The hardest thing about writing is getting yourself into a state of not not writing. Oct 14, 12:35 PM
  • I’ve been craving caribou and field mice all day. Being hungry like the wolf is significantly less sexy than advertised. Oct 16, 01:27 PM
  • When I think of all the people in the world who don’t have a doughnut right now it makes me sad, primarily because I am among them. Oct 17, 09:23 AM
  • Even a decade later, Radiohead’s “Creep” and Beck’s “Loser” still resonant with me. I wonder why that is? Oct 17, 12:53 PM
  • I wonder at what point McCain will just pull out of all states and spend his remaining $14 million on Werther’s Originals. Oct 21, 12:58 PM
  • I tricked my son into eating a corn dog by calling it a lollipop. Parenting is essentially just a series of lateral thinking puzzles. Oct 21, 06:09 PM
  • I think Nixon was the last person running for president to rely so heavily on plumbers. Oct 23, 09:02 AM
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Presidental Debate Liveblogging

I was mulling over the debate during my commute home from work, and started to marvel over just how bad things are for John McCain tonight. Just about every major factor is working against him:

  • The main topic of the debate, health care, is the Republicans’ #2 worst issue.
  • The huge drop in the stock market today ensures that the Republican’s #1 worst issue, the economy, is certain to get a lot of air time too.
  • McCain is totally in a box on this Ayers thing. After the second Presidential Debate, Team Obama was practically goading him into bringing it up tonight, saying “we’ve been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days, that he wasn’t willing to say it to my face. But I guess we’ve got one last debate.” McCain responded by saying that he most certainly would. But you know Obama has a response all queued up and ready to roll. And the brunt of McCain’s charges regarding Ayers is that Obama “hasn’t been forthcoming about the relationship”–will he still be able to say that after Obama addresses the issue on live TV in McCain company? Of course, if McCain doesn’t mentioned Ayers, Team Obama can double-down: they can again insinuate that he’s a coward and add that he broke his word to boot.
  • Worst of all, all of this must frustrate McCain terribly–and that’s likely to be evident. The format of the debate has the two sitting right next to each other at a table, so any signs of hostility from McCain (not making eye contact), are likely to be amplified, as most camera shots will show the men side-by-side and in extremely close proximity.
The one upside to the debate for McCain is that it gives him one last chance to change the dynamics of the race. Alas, even that is a poisoned pill: McCain has “shaken up the race” so many times now (picking Palin, his campaign suspension, etc.) that attempting to do so again tonight will only feed into the narrative that he’s “erratic”. But playing it safe is also a losing proposition for him, given the current polls.

It’s damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t for John McCain tonight. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles it.

5:53: Pre-debate prediction: knowing that McCain has no choice but to attack, Obama will be all smiles as he comes out, and will be overtly (perhaps even overly) collegial toward his opponent. Then, in his first few statements, he will refer to McCain as a friend and/or make some comment about how this will be an issue-oriented debate. It’s a twofer when McCain then goes negative, because he can then (a) make the “gee whiz my buddy just stabbed me in the back” face and (b) retaliate with negativity, arguing that “he started it.”

6:00: Moderator: “By now we’ve heard all the talking points …” Ha! Nice try, but get ready hear them again.

6:01: McCain turns the conventional wisdom on it’s head, starting every speech with not a joke but a shout-out to someone in the hospital. MAVRICKY!

6:03: McCain is trying so hard to maintain eye-contact that he looks like a besotted kid starting at a love interest sitting near him in the library.

6:05: Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, and now Joe the Plumber is mixed up in the race? Can we get a moratorium of Joes around here? Update: Oh my God, how could I forget Joe Sixpack?

6:08: McCain is not stringing arguments together very deftly tonight. Also: helllllllo populism.

6:10: I gotta hand it to McCain, he’s got Obama playing defense early.

6:11: These are good questions, for a change.

6:12: This has pretty much just become a race to see who can be first to work their talking points into this “no talking points” debate. Obama takes an early lead, checking “not one dime” and “go through the budget line-by-line” off his master list.

6:16: “Overhead projector” is the new “Spain”.

6:17: McCain is talking about using both a hatchet and a scalpel. This debate on health care is terrifying.

6:20: Why does Obama keep giving McCain “enormous credit” for his “opposition” on torture?

6:23: McCain ends a response to a question about negative campaigning by calling Obama a liar.

6:28: I don’t know if I can stand 4 years of Obama’s “aaaaaaaaand”.

6:31: This response by McCain on his supporters is the most unfocused I’ve seen. He supports everyone who attends his rallies and recognizes that some of them and hateful nutjobs? Also: every time McCain interrupts Obama he loses1000 voters at least.

6:34: Ayers! ACORN! McCain just blew his scandal load in one heaving spurt. He’s gonna be flaccid from here on out.

6:38: Hahaha. While Obama is answering this VP question I bet McCain is all, like, “OhShitOhShitOhShit …”

6:40: At what point did “autism” become the center square on the Political Bingo card?

6:43: Did McCain just advocate “nuclear pants”? I’m reconsidering my vote.

6:47: Obama’s looking a little ragged, can’t seem to decide is he should be talking to the moderator or the camera.

6:48: Wait, McCain is a Free Traitor? Re-reconsidering my vote.

6:50: Obama just promised to “enforce unfair trade agreements.” I’m fully in the swing vote camp, now.

6:52: Are these guys fully incoherent now, or have I just stopped paying close attention?

6:53: Shorter McCain: “I like ice cream, so there’s really no doubt that Senator Obama will raise taxes.”

6:58: Joe the Plumber has just rocketed in the ranks of C-list celebrities. He will be all over the media tomorrow.

7:04: Wait, Obama is wearing a red tie and McCain is wearing blue? Maybe a Freaky Friday body switch prior to the debate?

7:10: Obama appears to have come armed with reformulated responses on an astonishingly wide range of topics.

7:12: And “eloquence” is the new “articulate.”

7:13: Science question! Mention the overhead projector, Obama!

7:14: McCain: Education is the civil rights issue of the 21 century. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THOSE GAYS!!

7:17: Wow, agreement on charter schools. That’s pretty great.

7:20: Obama thinks children are our future. Apparently he has found the greatest love of all.

7:22: Apparently, by virtue of having an autistic son, I and my wife both get 500 votes a piece this election.

7:24: But will McCain mention he’s a POW in his closing statement as he did in the first two debates? Update: No! C-C-C-Combobreaker!

7:27: Obama’s closing statement: Say no to Bush and yes to free ponies!

I could provide some post-debate analysis, but it would be like summarizing a game of Pong. Here, just watch this 30-second video half a dozen times.

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Presidental Debate Liveblogging

Round II:

6:00: Aww rats. Obama and McCain just came out wearing their normal attire. After the “I’ve got a bracelet” / “oh yeah, well I also have a bracelet” exchange of the first debate, I was hoping they’d arrived encumbered by layers and layers, and would spend the whole debate stripping off articles of clothing and sharing the personal anecdotes associated with each. “This stocking cap was given to me by a grandmother who lost her retirement in the stock market”, “well these cuff-links were given to me by an unaborted fetus” …

6:01: Brokaws’ tie matches the bright red carpet, and McCain’s tie matches the bright red carpet. Obama is the odd man out with blue. CONSPIRACY?

6:04: McCain’s first statement to Obama included a fleeting moment of eye contact and the phrase “It’s good to see you at a townhall meeting” with the “finally” left unspoken.

6:06: First headlights-in-the-deer moment goes to McCain on the “who would you appoint” question. Uhh, did I just write “headlights-in-the-deer”?

6:08: This is basically a “9 Mile” style rap contest, with the candidates trying to weave talking points into their performance rather than mad rhymes.

6:11: McCain used his response to attack Obama; Obama (so far) is ignoring the attack and answering the question. Is this how it’s going to go all night? Update: Nope. “Now, I have to correct Senator McCain history … unsurprisingly…”

6:15: This is pretty dull. I hope there’s a “Rock Band Challenge” component to this debate; this is the perfect venue for it.

6:18: Apparently the candidate who says the phrase “special interests” the most will receive 40 bonus points.

6:20: Brokaw keeps asking really tough questions, and poor McCain keeps getting them first (while Obama gets 60 seconds to come up with an appropriate nonanswer).

6:25: McCain gets a question from the Internet. This is the most email he’s ever received!

6:29: “You know, a lot of you probably remember the tragedy of 9/11.” Gee Obama, ya think?

6:30: Doubling the Peace Corps!? Where the hell did that proposal come from? Has Obama ever mentioned it before, or are we venturing into improv, here?

6:33: McCain is now saying that Obama “wants to raise taxes.” Not that he’s going to, just that he really, really wants to.

6:35: Words that will not escape Obama’s lips tonight: “I agree with John.”

6:36: Oh, god. Can we just stipulate, ahead of these debates, that McCain will swear that Obama will raise taxes and Obama will give his “not one dime” rebuttal? It would save everyone 20 minutes.

6:38: McCain says that fixing Social Security is not very hard, all we have to do is “sit down at the table” ZOMG WHY DIDNT ANYONE EVER THINK OF THAT BEFORE?!

6:40: McCain namecheck tally: Leiberman: 3, Palin 0.

6:42: When Obama said “The computer was originally invented by {ominous pause} a number of government scientists”, I honestly thought he was going to say “Al Gore” there for a moment.

6:45: Again, McCain gets the tough Brokaw question first. That’s rough, dude.

6:47: For the record, here are all the issues that Obama does not think are “central”

  • The next poet laureate
  • The redesign of the penny
  • Whether the toilet paper rolls in the whitehouse crappers will be “over” or “under”

6:52: McCain is very insistent that I do the math.

6:53: Is healthcare a right? McCain just gave the wrong answer. Obama is so eager to give the right answer that he’s standing up as he waits for his turn.

6:55: Before the third debate McCain should take a Sharpie and write the following on his hand: “DON’T FORGET: YOU SUCK AT JOKES”.

6:58: Oh McCain, dude, did you just say a president needs to know “when we should go into a war and when we shouldn’t”. That’s a slow pitch over center plate, my friend. Update: And yet, Obama just barely manages to get to first …

7:04: I’m pretty sure “beneficially” isn’t a word. Update: It is, but I still wouldn’t use it three times in a single sentence.

7:07: iObama: “We will nuke bin Laden from orbit, even if he’s discovered in Tampa.”

7:09: It’s hard to keep track of all of McCain’s heroes. So far he’s mentioned Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt, and Gimli.

7:11: Brokaw’s has pretty much given up. Unrelated: what’s with the weird black rectangle behind these guys. Are individual cable channels photoshopping Cialis ads into that space or what?

7:17: McCain: “We’re not going to have another cold war … with Russia.” Oo, I wonder who it’s going to be with, then? I’m gonna guess Chad.

7:15: Yay, another “strategy vs. tactics” semantics fight! This is like hanging out with boardgame nerds.

7:16: “Part of the challenge for the next commander-in-chief is to foresee the challenges that we’ll face. That’s why I’ll establish a Department of Precrime.”

7:24: “Gamechanger”, drink! But where the hell is “Maverick”? I should have done three or four dozen shots by now.

7:26: Brokaw says the final question is zen-like: “What don’t you know.” Obama: “Uhh, I’ll tell you what I do know.” McCain: “I don’t know what the unexpected will be.” Those responses are so lame they deserve only one-hand’s worth of clapping.

That was just too boring to pass judgment on. But David Brooks says Obama won. David Brooks. I think that’s set and match, folks.

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My New Website!

http://www.heisthemanthatweneedtoleave.com

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Biden-Palin Debate Liveblogging

Oh boy, the Biden-Palin trainwreck! I haven’t been this giddy since the premiere of Temptation Island 2!!

Here’s a preview of what we can expect:

Annnnnd we’re off.

6:02: During the opening handshake, Palin says “Can I call you Joe?” A reference to Obama “arrogantly” calling McCain “John” throughout the first debate? LET THE MINDGAMES BEGIN!!

6:04: Seventeen words into her first response and Palin is already talking about hometown soccer games.

6:06: “Hockey mom” and “Joe Six-Pack” in a single sentence: drain the glass.

6:09: This debate is not going to be about the vice-presidential candidates at all, is it?

6:12: The Queen is swooning to Biden over here.

6:15: Palin’s doin’ pretty good here, but she sounds like the guide in the Space Needle elevator, rattling off the same dates and heights every hour on the hour.

6:18: Biden with the first laugh of the night (“I call that the ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.”)

6:19: This format is terrible. Only enough time to regurgitate soundbites.

6:20: Oh god, stop grinning Biden–you look like the host of Press Your Luck. COME ON SARAH NO WHAMMIES!!

6:24: The way the candidates use every question as an opportunity to laud their running mates is turning this into “My pa could beat up your pa.”

6:28: Wow, what’s going on? Palin’s fallin’ apart. She looks exhausted 28 minutes in. Red Bull is wearing off or something.

6:33: Whoa, a fully unambiguous answer from Biden on gay rights. That was awesome.

6:35: Protip: If you refer to yourself as “tolerant” of gays, you are probably not.

6:37: So here’s how it works: when they switch to a new subject, Palin perks up, starts smiling, and sounds competent. Then, as discussion continues and the needle on her platitude-gauge travels from F to E, she becomes more and more ragged.

6:41: Biden can’t get through a simple declarative statement with detouring through a windy digression on Congressional procedure.

6:44: Mission to dy readers: please identify who pioneered the term “gamechanger” and garrote him.

6:45: Oh man, I love the Castro Brothers. They make great films.

6:46: I think Biden is doing Sudoku while Palin talks.

6:48: Spain!

6:50: “And now, a long distance dedication. Jews in Florida, these canned responses are for you.”

6:53: “We’re gonna learn from the mistakes of this administration in our administration.” It’s a little disheartening to discover that they haven’t yet learned those lessons, that it’s just something on the todo list.

6:56: At the 85 minute mark Palin is going to look at the items on her notecard that she has not yet crossed off and be all, like, “But, Gwen, can we talk for a moment about: gun control, nuclear power, average South Korean height, the filibuster, Syria, and pitbulls vis-a-vis the lipstick thereon?”

7:00: Biden has Al Gore beat on sighing.

7:02: I wish I could be doing what McCain is doing right now. I could use the sleep.

7:03: “Obviously I am a Washington outsider, because I have no idea what you just said.”

7:05: Why ask a question that no vice-candidate would ever answer? It’s like asking “what is your greatest weakness” at a job interview–you know they are just going to say, “sometimes I work too hard …”

7:10: Why is Palin doing her closing statement? What she gonna do in 20 minutes?

7:11: Going for more wine, brb.

7:12: “Well gee whiz golly-darn rootin’ tooin’ yeehaw doggone bless-your-heart shucks there, Gwen. I … uh, what was the question?”

7:13: LOL @ Biden quoting the constitution verbatim from memory. Palin couldn’t even cough up “Guns and Ammo” when asked what she read.

7:18: “My family has had more tragedy than your family” is the new “well I also have a bracelet.”

7:19: I was so busy typing I missed the crying. DAMMIT!!!

7:22: Did not understand Biden’s response at all. Unrelated: I am tipsy.

7:24: Gwen, you fibber–you said that previous question would be the last. This debate has more false endings than Fatal Attraction.

7:26: Palin: “And if I could just give my seventh closing statement …”

7:28: Biden: “And if I could just reinforce the impression that I am a boring old white guy who is prone to rambling …

7:32: Flag pins are out; clearly Downs babies are the new hot accessory. Next year all politicians will walk around with one tucked under their arm.

No spectacular flameouts on either side, which was a grave disappointment. In that sense they both won.

Objectively Biden won on points, but it remains to be seen if that amounts to much in the polls. I can honestly say that I have no guess whatsoever as to how this affects the race. In fact, my gut instinct is that it won’t affect the polls much at all–which is bad news for McCain, as the underdog. Palin’s favorability ratings will probably uptick in the next week or so, but both Biden and Palin focused so heavily on their running mates that it may have just reinforced in the average viewer’s mind that they will not be voting for a VP. In other words, I say this hand is a push–and the pot is just that much larger for the next Presidential debate.

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