Thursday I attended the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Thankfully the weather was as nice as it can really get in November in New York. And I’m also thankful that Heather was able to make it to town on her way back to Arkansas from Boston. We got there around 8 and found a spot to stand, around 67th street. Shortly after our arrival, a gentleman by the name of Alan (and a friend of his whose name I didn’t get) came through and set up a table with bagels, tomato juice and vodka. He said he and his late wife have been doing this for 35 years. So we watched the parade, ate bagels and drank Bloody Marys. Here are the floaty highlights:

Ronald McDonald
a big guitar
Sesame Street gang

Then Heather and I went to Whole Foods to grab lunch. We also had a nice turkey dinner in the jazz room at Blue Water Grill in Union Square.

President-Elect Denounces Yappy Dogs

Now we’re getting somewhere. This is the sort of hard-nosed policy declaration I can fully stand behind, and I’m glad to see that it’s already on the president-elect’s agenda: Obama is staunchly anti-little yappy dog, and firmly pro-big rambunctious dog.

My apologies to my right honorable colleagues in the pro-yappy dog community, but I’m sorry to say that conscience demands I take a stand. We’ve had far too much of your tyranny these last 8 years. We’re going to get back on track. This crap has got to stop; we’ve got to get back to serious business.

Strange Linguistic Coincidences

These things catch in my brain and require comment:

Evan Longoria is the 2008 American League Rookie of the Year.
Eva Longoria is a star of ABC’s Desperate Housewives.

Keller Williams is both a real estate company based in Austin, Texas, and a singer-songwriter from Virginia.

Tucker Max is a fratboy humor author from Georgia and “Tucker Max” is also the shorthand for Tucker Maximum Security Correctional Facility in Arkansas.

None of these statistically unlikely matching sets are in any way related.

Death of an Inanimate Friend

In January of 2004, I went to the old Gateway store on Chenal Parkway in Little Rock to purchase my first digital camera. Having no idea what my needs were, and with about as much experience taking pictures as your average 11-year old, I chose the camera that was easiest to conceal and carry.[1]

I bought a Minolta DiMAGE X. Over the last almost 4 years, I’ve taken the camera across 33 states and two foreign countries. It’s responsible for nearly all the 1,624 pictures I’ve uploaded to Flickr.[2] Here is the first batch I ever took.

I knew this day was coming soon. It’s been on its last legs, losing screw after screw to the point where I can physically separate most of the chassis. The last time I took some videos, the screen went wonky, but it was temporary. Today, though, as I was trying to switch to video mode to catch a leaf-and-trash tornado in Ft. Green, the screen went blank and the camera could not be resuscitated.

Goodbye, trusty sidekick.

1.) Apparently this trend has continued over the years, as I’m now seeing digital cameras that are roughly the size and thickness of a credit card.
2.) Not to mention the 6,304 pictures I haven’t.

The Electoral College

This season’s electoral landslide highlights once again that the Electoral College is a device of questionable political accuracy. How are we supposed to interpret these particular tea leaves, these apparently random numerological phenomena? Does it make a cohesive statement? Can we say with confidence that these United States have definitively spoken, and with a greater than 2 to 1 electoral margin at that? As much as I’d love to say it’s true, I fear it’s not.

The defenders of the EC say it’s a marvelous device for preventing tyrannical majorities, but in the absence of any such tyranny either way, what purpose is served? One thing this country seldom produces is a strong majority. The defenders also say that it gives greater representation to individual states, allowing the little guys to get a piece of the action, but I say that’s irrelevant today. I think that the mass media and culture of the United States produced by the 20th century has tied the country together as a cohesive entity. I can ask myself if I am an Arkansan or a New Yorker, but it’s irrelevant because I’m an American first. Even McCain’s campaign slogan was “Country First.” Not “States First.” The US always comes first in the minds of nearly every American. We wear our state citizenship as a sort of alma mater, secondary to our federalist identity. We even label ourselves with the misnomer, “American,” because it’s too weird and untrue to say “United Stater.”

Contrary to the randomly drawn borders of the US map, the needs and minds of Americans generally fall into two socio-economic camps: urban and rural. The red state/blue state map is a crock. Name me one major US city that voted McCain[1]. Even Tuscaloosa, Alabama voted Obama 62% TO 38%! I’ll repeat that, TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA VOTED OBAMA. It has a peculiar rhythm to it that I think nicely underscores the unmitigated glee behind the words.

Looking back over past blog entries, I’m reminded that Heath had some great links on the Electoral College, and my rant from four years ago is still pretty applicable. I stand by it: city mice and country mice are we. I say it as a born country mouse.

1.) It’s so hard to find them because everything is county oriented. I wish somebody would compile a list of major US cities by vote, no suburbs or rural outlying areas added.

New York Stories

This may be the first in a series of overheard or otherwise witnessed from the sidelines stories that tell me to write them down.

I was at Partners & Crime mystery bookstore recently in the Village, when an elderly gentleman came in with a request for any books by a particularly obscure author. He spoke slowly, and somewhat loudly, as he mentioned that he was a little hard of hearing. In his working years he had been a writer and editor, and he had recently remembered the name of a writer (the name escapes me) whose books were praised when they were in print but had since passed into obscurity.

There are two ladies who run the store, and the one behind the counter ran her usual search and came up with nothing. She said she doubted that these books would be easy to find anywhere. The man mentioned that this particular store had always come through for him in his previous requests for hard-to-find mystery novels. She tried to let him down easily.

The other woman arrived to the discussion at just this point. She asked for the details, heard the author’s name and promptly contradicted the other lady. Partners & Crime had, in fact, just recently acquired two books by this long out-of-print novelist, unbeknownst to the lady behind the counter. The old man exploded with delight.

What followed was a merry denouement of amazed gratitude and good cheer. I bought some books, too.

More Fun Things to Look Forward to

Wired has a tantalizing piece on the things we may learn once the Bush Administration is finally put out to pasture.

“I’d bet there are a lot of career employees in the intelligence agencies who’ll be glad to see Obama take the oath so they can finally speak out against all this illegal spying and get back to their real mission,” says Caroline Fredrickson, the ACLU’s Washington D.C. legislative director.

New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh already has a slew of sources waiting to spill the Bush administration’s darkest secrets, he said in an interview last month. “You cannot believe how many people have told me to call them on January 20. [They say,] ‘You wanna know about abuses and violations? Call me then.'”

Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan still wants to see the medical records on Trig Palin. Who knows what else we’ll discover in the coming days. Hopefully it will soon become inescapably apparent to the average American the exact size, weight and velocity of the bullet we’ve collectively dodged.

Palin was also quoted in the Times as saying:

“I don’t have any idea of what the next chapter of life is going to open up into, and I look forward to just the surprises that life offers.”

Same here.

Obama Singlehandedly Saves Print Media

OK maybe it’s not that big, but the New York Times and other major newspapers nationwide are busy ordering additional runs of yesterday’s paper. My friend Margot emailed me this morning to ask me to pick up a copy, so I tried to find out where that could be done. Here is what the line looks like outside the NYT office. The Times is also selling copies online for $14.95, but currently I’m seeing this message:

The website is loading slowly due to high activity.
Please return later to order if the wait is too long.
Don’t worry: We have an abundance of Nov. 5 newspapers!

Score one for traditional media. We’ll miss tangibility when it goes away.