Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

29 October 2008

Too Cold For Me

Cold. Ugh. I hate the cold. And it is.

Unlike south Florida, this part of the state actually does get cold. Sometimes very, as in below freezing. November through February are not what you'd call balmy. During those months, you can expect that the daily temperature won't be much above 60. And when cold fronts come barreling through it can get down into the low-30's. Usually doesn't get too much colder than that though.

The good news here is that it never does stay cold for long. We do get "cold snaps" where people will freak out about freezing pipes and stuff. But after a couple of days it usually warms back up into the 60's, at least until another front comes through. I know, I get no sympathy from those of you who live in places that get really cold. But hey, that's why I live down here and now up there anymore.

It was a bit unusual for a cold front this severe to hit us this early in the season. But this morning it was 35 degrees as I got in the car to drive to the airport at dawn (naturally). I live fairly close to the water, which influences and moderates our local temperature. The airport, a good hour's drive north, was down below freezing. North of town, everything was covered with a layer of frost. You may appreciate the look of winter wonderland. I do not. Today the temperature didn't even get into the 60's where I was, which is not too far inland. At least the wind had died down.

Even in the coldest weather, guys are loathe to give up their shorts around here. It is quite odd. They wear them year-round, as if denying winter. On Monday, when the cold front first came through, I saw a guy wearing a ski-type jacket - and shorts, of course.

My family keeps inviting me "up" for Christmas. To New York, that is. I keep begging them to celebrate Christmas in July, because then I'd go! But they will not bend on this for some silly reason. I mean, I love my family, but I sure don't like suffering for them.

My mom lives out in Long Beach, California. None of the rest of us live on that coast. She is getting to the age where she really should be thinking about living...you know, closer to one or some of us kids. She went back for a visit just last month. My older brother had arranged an apartment for her north of New York City in a place run by some Catholic nuns. (He should have known how she was going to take to that.) My older sister has this huge old house in Albany in which mom could easily have her own private space. Failing that, there is an apartment just a block or so away that she could have.

But the winters in New York are just too damn hard. After mom got back to California, she told me that there was no way in hell she was moving back to New York. I said I understood. As people grow old, they don't stick around up north - they move to Florida! The solution for her may very well be to get her a place down here. Pensacola might not be as warm as Miami but at least it doesn't snow.

Thankfully it's supposed to warm up good by this weekend. I think I'll fire up the barbecue grill. I'm not gonna surrender to winter just yet. Where are my shorts?

22 October 2008

Magic Moments

I wasn’t actually in the best of moods. The Boss and I had gotten in late last night. By the time I put the ship away and got everything buttoned up, it was nearly midnight when I got home. Now this morning here I was at sunrise, on my way back to the airport for another long day of flying. In my old life as a charter pilot, the FAA rules mandated that we had at least ten hours of rest between duty periods. But “corporate” is not “charter” flying, and the rules are different.

It’s an hour from the house to the airport. I go against the traffic – it’s always seemed so, throughout all my life, me going against the grain. Everyone else is headed toward Pensacola, even at that early hour the roads are getting crowded with commuters. Comparatively I’m out for a jaunt in the country, iPod on as usual, volume up loud as usual.

There’s a shortcut across some farmland, a deserted little back road on which I can really haul ass. Cuts about ten minutes off from the other way. I take it.

Up ahead I see a pointy-nosed crop-duster plane working a field adjacent to the road. He zips across the road twice as he pulls up and dives back down. I flick the cruise-control off and slow down. And then something incredible happens.

Just at that point, the instrumental song, “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat starts on my iPod. With its lush strings, soaring violins, staccato horns and that weird harpsichord/oboe thing going on, it wasn’t exactly a rock song back in 1968. Nevertheless, it’s always been one of my favorites.

As I watched, the pilot approached me, the road and the wires alongside it, at the last second he’d start a zoom-climb. Then he heeled the thing over into a tight, steep swooping reversal turn, diving back over the wires and back to business. He squirted a little blast of chemical into one section, then hopped over a small stand of inconveniently placed trees and resumed spraying on the other side. When he reached the other end of the field, he pulled up and did it all again. And again, and again.

And I sat there transfixed, watching this delicate and graceful sunrise ballet set to the music of this intricate and pretty tune in my ears. It was one of those jawdroppingly magical moments in time. It was awesome to watch, an amazing, inspiring experience.

The pilot finished with that field and departed for somewhere else. I drove off with a lump in my throat, the same one I always get when I watch the Blue Angels fly. I try to be the best pilot I can be – that’s all any of us can do, right? But when I see other pilots who really know their stuff I get all jealous, like, “Dear God, why can’t *I* fly that well…that smoothly…that perfectly?” It’s pilot-envy, that’s what it is.

When I finally got there, the normally quiet airport had already come alive with activity. Charlie, the pilot for the Alabama Department of Forestry had already departed. As I stepped out of the car, I heard the approaching growl of the first of the usual gaggle of Navy T-34C trainers that are always buzzing around. Behind me, three powered-parachutes taxied out to take advantage of the calm morning air. I pulled the helicopter over to the fuel pumps, and waited for the call from the Boss that would signal the official start of my day.

It’s an odd life, this pilot business.


19 October 2008

Nice Day

I am, I suppose, a “morning person.” I hate it, but what can you do? Even when I try, I cannot sleep late. And this morning I was up before dawn, which at this time of year isn’t until about seven o’clock anyway. So this morning it was well before dawn. And when I wake up, I cannot just stay in bed, I have to get up.

Most mornings I’m just up and out, with no breakfast to speak of but maybe a cup of coffee on the fly. Sundays are different. On Sunday I have this ritual. I go out and get the paper. We don’t get the New York Times here, so I have to make do with its southern equivalent, the Pensacola News Journal or as we call it here, “the mullet wrapper.” Then I come home and fix myself a nice big breakfast, over which I’ll linger with the paper until blasted off my ass by whatever other pressing events of the day I cannot defer any longer. Sometimes I can drag Sunday “breakfast” out until well after noon.

It’s finally fall here in the Florida Panhandle. Mornings are crisp and cool. I’m not a fan of cold weather, but even I have to admit that it’s pleasant. And it was wonderful being out so early on what was shaping up to be a magnificently beautiful day.

I’d forgotten to get eggs on my last trip to the grocery store, so I did a quick run by McDonalds after getting the paper. I know, I know…you don’t have to tell me. But I really don’t eat fast-food that often. I can splurge on Sunday.

I’m always dismayed when I do go into fast-food “restaurants.” It seems as if we’re becoming a rude society full of impatient, intolerant, grumpy people. The cashiers at these places don’t even say “Good morning,” anymore, and the customer just starts off by blurting out his order, as if speaking to a robot, not a human. My sister Elizabeth said it best: “We don’t just want fast-food – we want instantaneous food!”

When my turn came, the girl behind the counter barely looked up from her register and said, “What would you like?”

“Well, a greeting, to start off with,” I said in mock-seriousness. I am a stickler for customer service. There was an awkward pause as the look on her face became cross between confusion and nervousness – like, “Uh-oh, who/what am I dealing with now?” Then I smiled at her and chuckled, “Good morning!” in a way that slowed the process down just a bit. Relaxing and realizing what was up, she smiled back and we exchanged pleasantries in a way that seems to be becoming a lost art. When I left, she smiled genuinely at me and gave me a cheerful, “Have a nice day!” There is no doubt about that: I said I would if she would. I left, happy with my Egg McMuffin, and she was left, perhaps only temporarily, in a slightly better mood than before. Maybe.

Now, I know this sounds like the self-serving bullshit of an artificially happy moron. But it’s not. It costs absolutely nothing...zero...zilch…nada...to brighten someone’s day. The tragedy is that so few people seem to even try anymore. Just the opposite, in fact, most people seem bent on getting you in as bad a mood as they are. Bad moods are contagious. Sometimes it's far more easy to put someone in a bad mood than to lift them up.

Life is hard – I know that. We struggle along in our little worlds, dealing with all of the various pressures and tensions and worries, just trying to get through the day ourselves without having a nervous breakdown. It’s hard enough to keep a happy thought, much less convey one to others.

But life is not hard for me now that I’ve discovered The Secret. Oh, life has been hard in the past, but never will be again. I will never let it be. See, that is The Secret. Being happy is a choice. When you wake up each day you have a choice. You can either be happy or unhappy. You can let life get you down – or not. You can be so self-absorbed in your own troubles and travails that you forget that everyone else out there is going through the same thing. Or… Or you can realize that we’re all in this together…that for society to succeed (and thrive) we must all work together for the common good, even when things are not going great for you, personally.

I'm not saying that you should be a Pollyanna, or be fake about it or just pretend things are going great when they're not. Certainly, not everyone's life is always rosy. It's more about our reaction to circumstances and how that reaction is up to us.

Perhaps the most profound thing I’ve ever read in my whole life were four simple words written by Rick Warren, Pastor of the Saddleback Church (and moderator of the first 2008 presidential “debate”). The words open the first chapter of his book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”

It’s not about you.

What? My life isn’t about me? Nope. I’ve come to realize that it’s not. Neither is yours. I know so many people for whom, upon hearing virtually anything, their first automatic thought is, “How does this affect me?” But we must get through that – put aside our ego and ask ourselves, “How does this affect you?” That’s the tough part. Does it work for me 100% of the time? Of course not, I am human after all. But I try.

This post sure went astray. I was going to write about a lot of things: Flying nervous, first-time passengers, which I did yesterday; Flying at night, which I also had to do yesterday (and which I’ve come to dislike intensely); Politics; Joe the (Fake) Plumber…but driving to McDonalds this morning changed all that.

I read the paper quickly – not a lot of news today – and set the crossword puzzles aside (I’ll do ‘em later) to sit down at the computer (still the old laptop but it may get replaced today) to write. The morning is nearly gone. Time’s a-wasting and it’s too beautiful a day to squander. So I’m going out, and hope you do/did the same. Enjoy this day…enjoy every day, make the best of it, treat it like a gift. And if, in your comings and goings today – or any day - you encounter other people, even if it’s just a convenience store clerk, try to make them smile. It won’t even cost you one dime of your hard-earned money, and it’s worth thousands of times more.

Have a nice day!

17 October 2008

What Passes For Humor In Bob's World

Matt and I have spent our entire friendship…12 long years…trying to make each other laugh. Most of the time we’re successful. We have very similar senses of humor, and like to crack each other up. I wouldn't put us up against Seinfeld and Costanza, but we try. We try.

Not everybody “gets” us however, especially his long-suffering girlfriend-now-fiancée Alisha. We think we're hilarious, of course. Most of the time she just rolls her eyes and shakes her head and doesn't find us funny at all.

So Matt and I were in Books-A-Million this afternoon. Having bought the $35 worth of car, motorcycle and airplane magazines that I really should subscribe to, we sat down for a latte at the Joe Muggs coffee place inside. There was a lone, pretty girl, maybe in her mid-20’s behind the counter handling the little spurt of crowd that came through right then (why does that always happen?).

The last person in line was an old guy, older than me, maybe 60-ish. Matt (who’s closer to the girl’s age) and I sat and listened, sympathizing with her as the guy monopolized her time, droning on and on about baseball or something of which she obviously had zero interest or less. Plus, we were sure that she had other things to do in what should have been a lull.

Now, we have both been in such situations, where you have one person that just won’t leave you alone, that wants to hang around and talk talk talk. Matt looked at her and with his head down, in a low whisper uttered what she was surely thinking to herself but was too polite to say: “Please go away.” We both laughed.

It was just about that point that I launched into one of my stories about how his brother Jacob and I were in a motorcycle dealership in Ft. Walton Beach yesterday while Jacob was looking for a new bike, and we were pretending it was I who was looking for something else and was to keep the salesman occupied so Jacob could quietly scout out the one he really wanted, and…

…and suddenly I heard a very low, whispered, “Please go away.” Matt still had his head down, but this time he was looking right at me!

Why I oughtta...

I just have the best friends. Yepper.

He should be careful though, this Matt. He has ill-advisedly asked me to be Best Man at his upcoming wedding. In that role, I get to make the wedding toast. And maybe a short, you know, speech. Depending on just how many Rum and Cokes I’ve knocked back by that point, the toast may turn into more of a roast.

Speaking of which…

There is a fund-raising dinner at New York’s famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel honoring Alfred E. Smith, one of the most famous politicians in New York State history. Both John McCain and Barack Obama attended this year's event, held just the other night. Both gave interesting, topical speeches as you might expect. For YouTube videos they're a little long at nearly ten minutes apiece, but they're really worth watching. You may have already seen them. But if not then here, for your entertainment pleasure, in no particular order, they are:

Ironically, Obama is the better orator while in this case McCain is the better speechgiver. Obama must not have written his speech entirely, and had obviously not rehearsed it much, because it was cracking him up as if he were reading it for the first time.

Who's is the better speech? Well, I guess that depends on which candidate you favor. They're both very funny. (Obama's was more self-deprecating though.) And it's nice seeing them in a situation where they don't have to take themselves quite so seriously.

16 October 2008

The Thrilla In Hofstra

Does anybody really “win” in a debate? Why is there so much focus on who “won” the third and final presidential debate last night? We Americans are so addicted to short-term results. We want it now. It’s sad. If we have to wait in line for more than a couple of minutes we get testy and annoyed. We don’t just want fast-food, we want instantaneous food.

Pundits were making comparisons to the famous 1975 boxing match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali - dubbed, "The Thrilla In Manila". I don't go in for such hyperbole though, however valid the comparison may be.

It’s not about winning a lousy debate – it’s about convincing the American public to vote for you. And that result won’t be known for a couple of weeks. One or the other candidate may have come off better, “landed more punches,” or whatever. But at this point people aren’t going to be swayed. There’s a lot of talk about these so-called undecided voters. But I think people have probably pretty much made their mind up by now.

McCain came out of the gate swinging. He was agitated and aggressive, fidgeting like he had to take a bad poop. People were saying stuff like, “Where was this John McCain in the last two debates?” as if this John McCain was the one that more Americans wanted to see and vote for. I disagree.

This John McCain looked tense and uncomfortable in that role. I got the impression that he would really rather not be that guy. He just doesn’t seem as mean-spirited as…oh, Nixon, say. Or Cheney. Still, there were times when I thought McCain was on the verge of losing his temper. At times he seemed flustered to the point of being tongue-tied. I kept nervously watching him and thinking, “This guy is close to the edge. Will he actually lose his temper?”

It was odd, really. At the very beginning and end of the debate, McCain seemed almost downright friendly with Obama. Afterward I heard him say, “Great job,” and it sounded pretty sincere. We voters don’t need to hear that, not after all those potshots he was taking just a few minutes prior. Partisan issues aside, McCain clearly, clearly respects Obama – twice mentioned Obama’s “eloquence.” But this isn’t the high school debate club. Instead of being all lovey-dovey with Obama, I would have preferred a more diffident stance. Maybe not “See you in hell,” but “Well, it’s up to the voters now, Osama...I mean O’Senator. Heh-heh, I hope my mic isn’t still on.” I don’t expect them to be friends.

Personally, I liked McCain much better in the second debate, the “town hall” one. There, I believe he connected with the audience better – certainly connected with me better. He was much more in his element than sitting across the table from his opponent. I could vote for that John McCain. And so it worries me a little to wonder what he’d be like sitting across the table from, oh, Hugo Chavez. Which McCain would show up?

Obama was…Obama. People were using terms like “unflappable,” and “eerily serene,” and even “presidential.” That, he is. Regardless of what you think of Obama’s politics, he is a very good statesman. He was well-prepared and well-rehearsed.

Most likely, last night’s debate changed nothing. If you’re a McCain fan you undoubtedly think he “won.” Same if you’re for Obama.

I really do try to be objective, and look at things from an other-than-political point of view. But as I watched the debate, I kept looking at those guys, trying to “see” either of them as president. And you know, the one I could more clearly see in that role was…

Barack Obama.

It’s gonna be an interesting four years.

Oh, and P.S., Bob Schieffer wasn’t as great as I thought he’d be. If I had been moderator, I would have been cutting off their bullshit answers and saying things like, “JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION, DAMMIT!”

14 October 2008

Strange Bedfellows

True Story: I have this friend who I’ve known for a long time. I can attest to the fact that he is basically a “good person,” and he has been a good friend to me over the years. But we disagree strongly on certain issues. He can be quite dishonest. In fact, he sometimes does things that are morally and legally wrong. His motivation for these acts is beside the point here; they occur. Others know of these acts, and they know of our friendship. It occurs to me that people might think the same of me because of our association.

And so I ask: Does it really matter?

I’m speaking of course about our current presidential election. One of the candidates has had past dealings with some very shady people. We are being asked to consider the kind of influences these relationships might bring to his presidency.

I’m speaking of course about John McCain and Charles Keating.

You remember Keating. He was the mastermind behind the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal. He bilked over 20,000 innocent people out of their life savings (totaling more than $250 million). In the process of trying to circumvent the law and weasel himself out of trouble, he bribed…err, “contributed to the campaigns of” five senators whose help he enlisted in trying to get less federal oversight and whose careers he nearly destroyed. One of those senators was the American icon, John Glenn. Another was Keating’s good friend, John McCain. In 1992 Keating was convicted of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy and spent nearly five years in prison.

McCain and Keating had been friends since 1981 or so. Good friends. Buddies, even. Keating had contributed over $100,000 in direct contributions to McCain. During the mid-1980’s the McCain’s also took a bunch of trips on Keating’s personal jet. You know, “freebies.” When Congress eventually called him out on it in 1991, McCain lamely said that he’d, umm, let’s see…oh yeah, “never been billed” for those trips and why, of course! he’d pay for them.

Senators have to be careful about becoming too friendly with contributors. You know what you do when you want to go into business with someone but it might seem improper if certain people found out about it? You put the business venture in your wife’s name. And that’s what the McCain’s did in 1986 when they invested in one of Keating’s properties.

Let’s not be naïve. It’s not like John and his wife Cindy didn’t talk…didn’t work together on financial stuff. It’s not like Cindy was operating in a vacuum.

The friendship between McCain and Keating soured around 1987 when Keating called McCain a wimp for not helping more with getting the federal regulators off his back. (“Wimp” is the term that made it into the papers. Knowing Keating, the epithet was probably something much more vulgar and less newspaper-friendly.)

In retrospect, we can see that Keating was only using McCain to get what he wanted. Not a very good friend, in my humble opinion. Later, Keating probably laid on his bed in his jail cell, cursing McCain. "And to think, I let him use my G**dam Gulfstream to go to his G**dam vacation house in the BAHAMAS! But I'll get him though, oh yes! If that p***y ever runs for president, I'll secretly back a Puerto Ri-...no wait...a BLACK! Yeah, I'll run a black...maybe a black MUSLIM against him! Revenge will be mine! BWAAHAHAHAHAH!"

But seriously.

Still, we are left to wonder just what other little deals like this McCain has been involved in over the years? I mean the ones we don’t know about…yet. He is a career politician, after all. He does get contributions of money and “things” from constituents. And sure enough, in return he does want to help those constituents. (Although, after coming “this close” to getting burned by Keating, McCain has probably kept his nose pretty clean since then.)

And so I ask again, does it really matter? Aren’t people allowed to make mistakes…and learn from those mistakes…and grow? Should we make a big deal about McCain’s judgment and the people he’s associated with in the past? Well, that depends.

It depends on how big a deal you want to make about Obama’s background.

13 October 2008

My Bonnie and My Laptop

First of all, I love Bonnie Hunt. She’s hilarious. I used to watch her sitcom, “Life With Bonnie” religiously. If you look up the word madcap in the dictionary, all it will say is, “Life With Bonnie (2002-2004).” Like “Fawlty Towers” and "Newhart," it was crazyzanyfun, and (unlike “Fawlty Towers”) it was largely improvised, which is what she’s good at.

Her new talk show, “The Bonnie Hunt Show” (what else?) allows her to showcase her wisecracking, improvisational talents. It is, to coin a phrase, hilarious. Oh God, she makes me laugh. Although she’s maybe not the best interviewer in the world, she comes across as very “real” and warm. Her smiling face brightens my day. As it will yours, if you tune in.

* * *

I need a new laptop. My old Dell has just about given up the ghost. It has been soldiering on valiantly, "playing hurt" as it were. One of the two hinges has broken. It’s only a matter of time until the other one snaps too and the screen comes completely off. But it's like the comfy old pair of jeans that have developed a slight tear in the rear where the pocket attaches that lets my boxer shorts show through. I know I really should throw them away, but it's hard. The laptop still works well enough. It'd be like tossing out an old friend.

It kind of irks me that I have so many dead laptops lying around. We all do. Somewhere in a storage shed there are three of mine that just…died. Laptops have become the epitome of planned obsolescence.

My friend Matt has just bought a new laptop from BestBuy.com. I think it’s this one.

Toshiba Satellite L355D

It should be delivered shortly.

Matt likes the wide, 17” screen and the fact that it has a full, desktop-style keyboard with the 10-key number pad on the side. He’s planning on using it in place of his antiquated (meaning “about two years old”) desktop. That we would even consider such a thing of laptops tells us how far they’ve come. Best part is, this computer is less than $600. Such a deal!

So I went to Best Buy today to look at laptops and probably buy one. They had one like Matt’s there, with the big screen and big keyboard. But I didn’t buy it. For one thing, it’s huge! It would need a carry-case bigger than the three I’ve got already. It’s so big that it would be cumbersome to carry around or even use on an airliner. Plus, due to the addition of the 10-key number pad, the main part of the keyboard is off-center. With the laptop centered on my lap (which is most often where I use mine), my hands would be offset to the left. In the store, it just didn't feel right. I don’t know how that would work out in real life, so I’m going to wait until Matt gets his and then give it a trial run to see.

Wide screens are nice, but…

11 October 2008

The "P" Word

As in "President."

I haven’t written about the presidential debate and I’ll tell you why. First of all, I don’t want to turn this into a political blog. Secondly, it was boring. Blah blah blah. Nothing we haven’t heard before. Which was strange, considering how much things have changed since those campaign platforms were first stapled and thumb-tacked together.

After the debate, my friend Matt who is neither staunchly Republican nor Democrat said, “You know, I could see either one of those guys as President.” And I think he hit upon something. Both Senators McCain and Obama appear to be good, decent men who truly want to see America prosper. While there are the extremists out there of both party affiliations, I’d bet that most Americans just want to vote for whom they feel is the best man, regardless of which party he belongs to.

And they will do just that.

Early on, my boss and I made a $100 bet on who’s going to win. I said Obama, he said McCain. I said Obama because my gut feeling is that Americans are tired of the same old/same old and are in the mood for change. As time went on, I became less and less confident of my win. It seemed that McCain was the sure thing.

Then he picked his running mate.

Advantage: Obama.

Then Obama picked his running mate. And it wasn’t Hillary.

Advantage: Back to McCain.

Now they’re showing that Obama is leading in the polls by a fairly good margin (49 to 43, according to my Yahoo news page today). If he can maintain such a lead into the final week, Obama will probably win it. McCain has his work cut out for him.

What I suspect will happen is this. As the election draws closer, the smears against Obama will escalate. And judging from the sudden surge (no pun intended) of spam emails that are flooding my inbox, it’s started already. McCain will distance himself from them, of course. But unlike the campaign against John Kerry, this time it will backfire as Americans are tired of that type of politics.

Still, am I any more certain of receiving a crisp, new $100 bill in a month? Not at all, not at all.

03 October 2008

The Vice Presidential Debate

Did you watch the Vice Presidential debate last night? Of course, you did! Did your candidate prevail? Of course, he/she did! My thoughts? Glad you asked.

The one thing I was struck by, even very early in the goings-on was the passion and intensity of the candidates. Usually these debates are dry, emotionless, drawn-out...okay let's just say it...boring! events. Not last night! It was as good a sparring match as we could have expected.

If people were expecting/hoping for Sarah Palin to stumble and fall on her face, they were undoubtedly disappointed. She came prepared and well-rehearsed. Although clearly nervous at first, she quickly warmed up to the task and relaxed. She very obviously knew her opponent and wasn't going to let him run all over her.

What can you say about Senator Joe Biden? Love him or hate him, he is a consummate politician. He's been around this block already, and last night he showed why it very easily could have been him debating McCain for the top office.

Strangely, both candidates seemed to avoid going after each other. Instead, they focused on attacking their presidential running mates. I thought it was odd; some sort of tacit and coincidental deference. Only occasionally would Gov. Palin make a point about Biden, and he left her completely alone. Most of the time Palin was hammering Obama just as Biden did McCain. There were no Bensenesque "You're no Jack Kennedy" moments - only Biden's "bridge to nowhere" joke that kind of fell flat because Gwin Ifil was cutting him off at that very moment.

What I liked a lot was Sarah Palin's folksiness. Instead of being stiff and formal, her responses were full of her, "Aw, shucks" character. She is very likeable, and really does sound like a midwest soccer mom - the Washington outsider who's coming to town to shake things up. It's a clever ploy - and you have to love it. But will it play well with the voters, especially women voters? Ah, that is the question. It's clearly what they're going for.

Joe Biden was full of passion. To me, it was immensely gratifying. He was emotional! Almost angry at times. I've always wanted to see politicians being themselves instead of just reading from a prepared script and not letting us know how they really feel. And although Biden was clearly hitting all of his party's platform points, he was doing it in a way that said he really believed in his words.

If I had one criticism, it was that Palin would often not answer the question, preferring to go off-topic. (They both did, but Palin seemed to do it more so than Biden.) Even the moderator, Gwen Ifil chided them early on for not answering the question. Palin had her agenda - points she wanted to make, and by God she was going to make them regardless of what had just been asked. I find that annoying and disrespectful to both the moderater and the viewer (meaning me).

What was funny was when Palin would bring up areas in which Biden and Obama disagree. For his part, Biden side-stepped those issues, probably regretting some of the things he said in the primaries. He and Obama do disagree on certain issues, and I don't really have a problem with that.

And where is it written in stone that a person cannot change his mind about things or revise his/her position? Why do we hold politicians accountable for bad/questionable decisions they made in the past, even if they've since changed their position? We learn, we grow, we change. That's just life.

What was disappointing was that neither candidate acknowleged that taxes are going to have to be raised, like it or not. All politicians talk about tax cuts because that's what the American public wants to hear. But friends, one way or another, no matter which candidate wins next month, taxes are going up. I think we all realize this.

I could go on and on, but I won't. To me, it was an enjoyable, spirited debate. No surprises, no bombshell moments, no clear winner, no falling on one's face. They were both personable and genial, and I could see people supporting and voting for either one. I have not been a big Biden fan over the years, but his performance last night sure impressed me. Similarly, I haven't been a Palin fan either, but she scored big points last night.

In what has been a most bizarre presidential campaign, the vice presidential debate last night was a welcome relief. It showed us two humans who are passionate about their cause and ready to pursue it. It's like they were both running for President, not the second banana slot. And in way, you have to feel sorry for both of them, especially the one who wins. Because their time in the limelight is about to come to an end.

If only the office of Vice President wasn't such a meaningless, unimportant one. I mean, really, does anyone remember even one single, solitary thing that Dan "You spell it potatoe" Quayle did?

Me neither.

02 October 2008

Sonic Ads Redux

Pete Grosz, TJ Jagodowski, Brian Huskey and Molly Erdman
The Sonic Gang - so they do know each other!

Well those nutjobs at Sonic Drive-In are at it again. Not content to just leave their clever t.v. commercials alone, they went and expanded them. They're turning them into a regular soap opera.

The new series of ads (called "The Stalls") is being rolled out during the running of a show on MTV called "The Hills." This is according to
Molly Erdman's blog. Molly is the very funny woman who plays in the "husband and wife" Sonic spots. She is on the right in the above picture if you had any doubt (sorry I stole it, Molly).

The new ad is interesting. For one thing, it defines the relationship of the two guys in the SUV (just friends). For another, it hints of a relationship with a woman for the...uh...less sharp of the two (TJ Jagodowski). Molly says there are more interesting things to come.

I know not everyone finds these commercials humorous, but I do. With their wacky spontaneity, they make me laugh. Here's the latest one. (By the way, you probably will want to turn the music off - if you haven't already, that is.)