Friday, September 26, 2008

It All Goes South

Here's yet again another weblog, one which I may never have imagined even existed, if I had not stumbled upon it while surfing Blogger.

Voices from the South Centre

(So, what is it about? Let's let South Centre speak for itself, first of all. Why paraphrase at this point when I couldn't say it any better, at least at 6am after only a few hours of sleep.)

South Centre is an intergovernmental organization and think-tank of developing countries based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Centre assists in developing points of view of the South on major policy issues, and generates ideas and action-oriented proposals for consideration by the collectivity of South governments and institutions.

Three key programmes areas of the South Centre are Trade for Development, Innovation and Access to Knowledge, and Global Governance for Development.

Go to South Centre website at http://www.SouthCentre.org

Thursday, September 25, 2008

If It Smells Like Onion

I don't know T.B. Leek, whether or not that this is the writer's true name, and if this is posted elsewhere and if so where, not having looked for it, but I got this from my online buddy and part-time hero Bartcop.

American Dream In The Desert: A Burning Man Report
by T.B. Leek

A Caveat By Way Of Introduction

This piece is especially daunting, as I am attempting to describe an event that must be experienced to be understood.

People who attended Burning Man tried for years to describe it to me; the result was typically various permutations of Keanau Reeves saying, “Whoa”. Until I finally experienced the “Whoa” for myself, I had no earthly clue what they were talking about.

I think the best way to describe the thing is to break it down as much as possible, without over-embellishing on what it all means – although I’m prone to embellishment...we’ll see how it goes.

I should add that this is one person’s interpretation of what Burning Man is about. If reality is an aggregate of our collective perceptions; this is Burning Man as viewed through my window. Some Burners (as Burning Man attendees call themselves) may agree with my observations, others may not.

If you haven’t experienced a burn, hopefully, this piece will give you inspiration to see if for yourself.

The Setting

Burning Man is held, annually, in a stretch of desert northeast of Reno, Nevada; it runs from Monday throughMonday, concluding on Labor Day.

The desert area is commonly referred to as The Playa. “La playa”, in Spanish, means “the beach.” The Playa is very much like the beach…if that beach were on the moon. The surface is (usually) dry,hard and cracked – much like pictures of the Martian landscape – a place totally devoid of moisture. As a visitor, you are ripped out of your everyday head space, almost immediately, upon arrival in this other-worldly terrain.

This year The Playa lived up to its name, as two year’s worth of sub-average winter precipitation left the surface loose, like an actual beach. This made transportation by bike (the preferred mode) tedious at best.

The loose surface also made conditions ripe for dust storms when the winds picked up. 50-80 mph wind gusts are not uncommon and can last for hours. Two days this year there were white-out conditions for most of the daylight hours.


One can’t really be too upset at the conditions; this is a desert, after all.

As my fellow Burner Chris points out, “A lot of people forget that this is as much a survival event as it is a party.”

Meaning, ‘you could die’.

Everyone who comes must bring with them the basic tools to survive: shelter, food and water. Most people take the shelter challenge to the extreme, building elaborate dwellings. This may lull the uninitiated into a false sense of security. Make no mistakes, however: Mother Nature is the boss here and she will seriously fuck you up if you do not prepare… …or maybe even if you do prepare.

Our camp’s dwelling consists of eight portable car ports, joined together to form an enclosed ‘U’. The individual tents are pitched around the outside of the ‘U’, with the center being an open, covered common space. This provides sanctuary from the burning daytime sun and dust storms.

The guys who organize our camp have been doing this for years. I would call them experts. They ensured that all the components of our dwelling place were securely fastened to each other and to the ground. The poles were secured to the ground by hammering re-bar a foot into the ground, then fastening each pole to the re-bar with rope and/or electrical tape.

Still, on Monday, as fifteen of us took shelter from a white-out, our shade structure was lifted by the winds. Half of it sheared off from the rest and was tossed like a child’s toy several feet over into the neighboring theme camp. Even the half that didn’t get ripped apart was moved a foot from its original position.

One could literally see the collective shift down Maslow’s scale by all of us involved, as higher comforts were ripped away and the need for basic shelter became once again the prime motivation.

As scary as it was, no one was hurt. In fact, we all felt alive in a way one rarely does as an urban dweller. An esprit de corps formed instantly as we worked together to overcome this monumental setback.

Before the storm... ...and after

The City

On the face of The Playa is erected a city, comprised of the various encampments, art installations, etc. Its name is Black Rock City, Nevada. For the one week of the year it exists, it is one of Nevada’s largest municipalities.

Black Rock City is, in many ways, like any other. It has organized streets – a hub and spokes system. The streets are positioned by the Burning Man organizers, prior to the arrival of the city’s residents.

The map is a clock, with The Man in the center. The cross-streets radiate out from The Man and are named for the time corresponding to their position on the clock. Another set of streets ring the outside of the clock face in concentric circles. The streets are alphabetically named, with the exception of the first ring, which is always known as The Esplanade. The alpha street names change each year to correspond to the theme for the year’s event.

This year’s theme was “The American Dream.” All of the streets were named after cars (I took this to be a cheeky and/or snarky commentary on the American dream, by the organizers). Our camp was located on Fairlaine between 8:00 and 8:30. Every theme camp is placed by the organizers into their street address around the city, which makes navigation quite easy.

Besides a well-engineered road system the city has: a post office (fully functional with its own zip code); a radio station; a police force (known as the Black Rock City Rangers); medical stations; a department of motor vehicles; and, an airport. The Burning Man organization sets up one central camp in the roundabout at 6:30. Center Camp offers a common space for lounging, as well as stages for music,performance pieces and topical discussions.

The theme camps fill in the city. There are cafes, bars, nightclubs, galleries, etc. There is also a full spate of activities sponsored by various camps. A guidebook is provided to locate each day’s events.

For example, our theme camp is Fairyland. We sponsored three events over the course of three days, e.g. building fairy wings, making tutus.

The sheer scope of the city is one of the hardest things to explain to someone who hasn’t been there.

Imagine a nomadic tribe of 50,000 people stopping to camp on a desert plane. The encampment goes on for 10 miles. At night torches blaze and there is laughter and merriment all around.

Now imagine the same thing on acid. The people wear colorful day-glo or post-apocalyptic costumes – sometime lit up with twinkly lights, after dark. At night there is neon everywhere (o.k. for this, one need only think of another Nevada metropolis, Las Vegas).

Everywhere you turn, there is something to amaze a sense…or two…or three. It is Mad Max,
Alice in Wonderland and The Beatle’s Yellow Submarine come to life.

Black Rock City Map, 2008

Making wings in Fairyland

It’s A Little Bit Marxist…

In Black Rock City, no money is exchanged (except in two limited situations – there is a coffee bar in Central Camp and there are three camps named Arctica, where one can buy ice; these are controlled by the Burning Man Organization).

For example, if your theme camp is a bar, then you bring in all the supplies necessary to run it.
Patrons are served at no additional cost to themselves.

Gifts are given by camps and individuals to their fellow burners. Gifting is the community standard.

Each person does what they can to contribute to the community. Each person is rewarded for their membership in the community by the other members of the community.

…And A Little Bit Capitalist

But only in the best of ways.

Labor is divided so that no individual bears the brunt of building the community. If your neighbor needs help, you help them. If you need help, chances are someone will be there to lend a hand.

A healthy competitive environment exists in Black Rock City, as well – not in the sense that you screw someone over to get ahead, but in the sense that people see what others have done and strive to do something a little bit better for the betterment of the community. The reward for their efforts is the pride they get when others in the community say, “Nice job”.

Innovation and progress are the norms in Black Rock City.

“A World of Pure Imagination”

Imagination is the cornerstone of innovation and Black Rock City lives on imagination -- as in,
“let’s imagine a city where there isn’t one and build it.”

It starts with the individual. The citizens of Black Rock express their imaginations in their dress.
They wear colorful outfits and costumes. Everything around them becomes an expression of
themselves – their bikes, their camps, etc.

Art is an essential part of the Burning Man experience – often on a very grand scale. The open playa in the center of the city is one gigantic art exhibition. The only large vehicles that can be operated within the city are ‘art cars’ – rolling pieces of visual expression.

For example, my favorite art car, this year, was a giant, rolling disco called The Magic Duck (at least thatis what we called it – sometimes one doesn’t find out the artist’s name for a piece and you call it what you will). Built on the base of a reticulated bus, the main cabin and top of the bus were converted into dance space and a DJ booth. At the front, a giant rubber-ducky head, mirrored like a yellow disco ball towered over the desert. The duck had a comb of flaming jets on its scalp and laser beams shot out of its eyes. It rolled about the playa, stopping every now-and-then as people swarmed about it to dance inside and out. Then it would pick up and move to its next location, with people following in-tow on bike and on foot.

Art in Black Rock City is meant to be experienced: to be touched, played on and, even, burned (if the artist so chooses). It is not fenced up in a tomb-like building and guarded by humorless sentinels, whilst serving as a self-serving advertisement for some wealthy patron or another.

Black Rock City has its own arts foundation, funded by donations from Burners and non-Burners alike. Grants are bestowed on artists to underwrite the huge amounts of time and money they put into their work. The Arts Foundation also installs Playa art pieces in exhibition around the country, for all to appreciate (those that aren’t burned, of course). Corporations, from the outside, are welcome to fund artists, but they are not allowed to emblazon the finished products with their logos in self-congratulation.

In the end, beauty is temporal. What could be more temporal than burning one’s work after it has been beheld?


The Magic Duck

A Pagan Place

The star of the show, from which the event takes its name, is known simply as The Man. The man is a sculpture of wood, lined with neon sitting atop a structure in the center of the city. He is literally at the city’s heart and figuratively its soul.

And every year, on Saturday night, he is burned as the city’s citizens cavort around him.

The pagan overtones of this ritual are evident (and here I’m speaking of primitive ritual, not of
neo-pagan traditions, such as Wicca).

The story goes like this: the willing servant offers himself for sacrifice by and for the community.
Prior to the sacrifice he or she (he in this case) is treated like a god. In traditions practicing regicide, he actually was the head of state and entitled to the wealth and privilege. Whether prince or pauper, in the end he goes to his death and with him takes all the bad energy from the community, leaving the community to prosper in the period until the next offering.

This ritual plays out much less barbarically, when the willing victim is a sculpture and not an actual human.

On Saturday night, the community gathers round The Man (the art cars form a circular perimeter, with the community on the inside). A procession of fire bearers parade and dance around his base. Finally, his arms raise above his head to signal his willingness as a sacrifant. Fireworks erupt and propane explosions trigger his immolation. The crowd erupts into jubilant cheers. There is much hugging, dancing and carrying-on.

The community is renewed for another year.

The Man watches over the city

The Man burns

Spirituality, However You Find It

While the burning of The Man may have pagan undertones, spirituality of all stripes is present within the community.

Each year a structure is built directly above the man (as one would travel towards 12:00 on the clock) referred to generically as The Temple. Like The Man and the festival, The Temple has different themes each year.

It is a non-denominational center for communing with the universe. One may be as a believer in the divine or not believe in anything – it stands as a place to reflect on one’s self and one’s place in the greater design.

The Temple is second only to The Man as a hallmark of the city, which further symbolizes the underlying spiritual convictions of the community.

And as you probably guessed, The Temple is burned too.

In contrast to the revelry when The Man burns, burning The Temple is a solemn affair: the community gathers round the Temple; someone sings a hymn; the fire is lit without fanfare. As the flames rise, people may shout out names of those who have passed, but most silently watch as the structure is engulfed. When it falls, the crowd disperses quietly.

The American Dream

As I previously mentioned, Burning Man 2008’s theme was, “The American Dream.” Some Burners questioned this thematic choice on the part of the organizers. In a ratio probably larger than the generalAmerican populace, many of us are not happy with the current state of our country.

I think the theme was entirely apropos.

America was founded by dreamers – dreamers who were inspired by philosophers – the most optimum dreamers of all.

America’s forefathers were students of the greatest Western intellectual minds of the time, such as Locke and Bacon – men who believed that all men exist in a state of nature and that society should exist to protectthe individual and uplift the human experience.

This is, in fact, the kind of community that Black Rock City is. The rules are entered into freely by the individualand exist to maintain order and safety – not to stifle expression or force a single morality down the throats of everyone.

Of course, Black Rock City does not exist in a vacuum – the city is still subject to the laws of the land on which it sits. However, for the week of its existence, it embodies the promise of what could be.

Systems Theory posits that, “every thing is related to everything else.” Every group of people, every organization,every country has a direct effect on every other group, organization and country and the effect is reciprocal.

The people who create and experience Black Rock City bring its promise back to the systems in which they operate every day: schools, businesses, churches, governmental agencies, community organizations, etc. They carry with them the knowledge that society really can live up to the dreams of our America’s founders and their mentors. Like pathogens of hope, they infect their systems with the promise that society can work for the betterment of the human condition, despite and because of the diversity of its individual members.

If there is anything that can be learned from the current political season, it is that people still believe in hope. People still dream The Founders’ dream – even if that dream has been corrupted by the moralists and the greedy corporatists.

Yes, America was built by dreamers and it is time for the dreamers to take it back.

That is this Burner’s American Dream.

The author, after the burn

Monday, September 22, 2008

Meowing At The Moon

I am going to take the liberty of posting from a blogger weblog I came across not entirely by chance a little earlier today. I do not remember how it is that it was "not entirely by chance", but so what, it's my brain, and if it wants to play tricks on me, who am I to deny my own brain a little fun? I had not intended that sentence to turn into a query, and if you were just thrown for a loop, I beg your kind forgiveness. But getting back to the matter at hand, or at paw, perhaps, I give you this for your reading pleasure ---


Things have been so crazy for me for the past couple of months.

First, I'm working three jobs. Kind of nuts, I know, but I love each of them and can't get myself to quit any of them. Two of them are adjunct teaching positions at different colleges, and the third is as a librarian. Those suck up 40+ hours a week which is a lot for me. I'm not used to working all those hours.

Second, we bought a townhouse. Nice place up on a mountain, right near a ski slope. Neither Bear (the spouse) nor I ski or snowboard, but hopefully next winter we'll learn. For the time being I'll just have to stare out the window and watch all the silly people fall on their asses.

It's much bigger than our old cramped 600 square foot apartment. We now have 1,600 square feet of roomy goodness. I'm loving it and so are the cats. The floors are set up as split levels so there are plenty of stairs for them to run up and down. Sometimes I wonder if they see it as a giant cat tree rather than a new home.


Using Social Media To Drive Traffic Crazy

I grabbed this list off of a WebProNews article by Mike Sachoff entitled "BlogWorld Expo: Using Social Media To Drive Traffic" primarily for my own reference. I am wondering and imagining that this might be true though, that by posting and linking back to the article while at the same time posting a comment with a link back to Chaos Chasm II can help up the organic rankings of this weblog in the search engines. Or at least I hope that this is true in that it is a strategy I have been making more use of of late.

Smarts Tool #1:
It monetizes, builds links and content

Smarts Tool # 2:
Content sharing site, may outpull your blog, but 60% of revenue share

Smarts Tool #3:
Create your own Wiki

Smarts Tool #4:

Smart Tool #5:
Create online video

Smarts Tool #6:
Facebook Pages

Smarts Tool #7:

And how often do see a sentence with the double-barralled shotgun prepositional phraseology of "of of" used in a sentence? Whoah, wait a minute, did I just stutter there?Hmmm. Now I'm thinking that I am gonna hafta be using Of "Of Of" as the title of a blog posting somehow. Someday. Somewhere. About something . . . halfway intelligent and engaging. ANd then maybe somebody will "digg" it, dammit, Jim.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Buddha Banana

The Monkey Buddha is another weblog that I find to be close to my way of thinking. Again, the thanx goes to Bartcop for providing access to this scenario. Thanx, Bartcop.

John Balboa Meets Rocky Rambo And They Take It To The Bank

In lieu of the current rumor of a fifth and perhaps even a sixth Sly Stallone-helmed Rambo flick, news broke today of a top secret script for another Stallone-penned vehicle that brings together his two most iconic characters. This film is purportedly tentatively entitled Rambo vs. Rocky, although in some quarters apparently Rocky vs. Rambo is favored.

Hollywood insiders that have seen first drafts of the screenplay, much of which the aging action star is said to have written while on location in northern Thailand filming the most recent in the series of movies featuring the enigmatic John Rambo, called simply Rambo, indicate on condition of anonymity that the storyline has elements of science fiction this time around, which may be the instrument by which the age difference of the two characters can be balanced if the title is indicative of the level of violence most fans of both films probably look forward to in that it would be a bit of a stretch to imagine that Rocky, given his seniority over the younger Rambo, could be a match inside or outside the ring, or the jungle for that matter, concrete or otherwise.

A blogger on hecklerspray.com had this to say in a posting about Rambo 5.


The film that everyone's really waiting for though is, and it's definitely gonna be one twisty chiller, involving time travel, amnesia, incest and phobia, yes that's right boys and girls, in the grand old tradition of Bambi Meets Godzilla, Husky and Starch, Jason Does Freddy, we bring you

Rocky vs. Rambo

I can hardly wait . . . but I might have to if Sylvester films two more
Rambos first. But goddamn this is exciting!!!

From what this writer has learned, RvsR will not be your standard buddy flick, and although the dialogue is expected to be somewhat terse, it will be intense and meaningful in a true fists and bullets manner with plenty of succinct repartee between the two lead characters, Mr. Stallone of course doing double duty here. It remains a mystery yet how the John Rambo and Rocky Balboa first meet, but they are at first at odds with one another, which sets the audience up for a good first hour of over-the-top violence, but eventually the antagonists are thrown together to fight against a common cause that has something to do with government agents disguised as space aliens interfering in a terrorist attack on an elementary school in either South America or the sub-Sahara. Whether or not Mr. Stallone will also be in the director's chair for RvsR is not clear but it is likely that he will be involved as a producer. So far he has remained mum on the entire project.

At this point, Rambo vs. Rocky (or Rocky vs. Rambo) seems scheduled for a 2012 release.


If alignment with the inanimate is the mark of a Bad Guy, Schoenmaker at least made a sympathetic beginning. But at some point along his way there occurred a shift in outlook so subtle that even Profane, who was unusually sensitive that way, probably couldn't have detected it. He was kept going by hatred for Halidom and perhaps a fading love for Godolphin. These had given rise to what is called a "sense of mission" -- something so tenuous it has to be fed more solid fare than either hatred or love. So it came to be sustained, plausibly enough, by a number of bloodless theories about "idea" of the plastic surgeon. Having heard his vocation on the embattled wind, Schoenmaker's dedication was toward repairing the havoc wrought by agencies outside his own sphere of responsibility. Others -- politicians and machines -- carried on wars; others -- perhaps human machines -- condemned his patients to the ravages of acquired syphilis; others -- on the highways, in the factories -- undid the work of nature with automobiles, milling machines, other instruments of civilian disfigurement. What could he do toward eliminating the causes? They existed, formed a body of things-as-they-are; he came to be afflicted with a conservative laziness. It was social awareness of a sort, but with boundaries and interfaces which made it less than the catholic rage filling him that night in the barracks of the M.O. It was in short a deterioration of purpose; a decay.

V. by Thomas Pynchon

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Life Of A Security Guard Is Always Intense

Confessions of an RNC security guard

From sushi-scarfing Secret Servicemen to drunken Sarah-Palin lust, witness the underside of the Republican shindig.

By Avi Steinberg
Pages 1 2

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Read more: Republican Party, John McCain, Opinion, Republican National Convention, 2008 election, Sarah Palin, Avi Steinberg
Republican Convention Security

Damon Winter/The New York Times/Redux

Local law enforcement officials watch McCain campaign director Rick Davis on a giant screen at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., on Aug. 31, 2008.

Sept. 6, 2008 | ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Gathered in the basement of an office building in a tough section of St. Paul, less than two weeks before the gavel drops downtown at the Republican National Convention, roughly 30 recruits hired by a private security company sit through 12 hours of lectures. I am one of these officers-in-training.

The group is a mix of moonlighting prison guards and cops, infantrymen and Marines between tours of duty in Iraq, immigrants, assorted freelance goons and young career seekers. There is also a crisp-looking airman and an outspoken right-wing ideologue, who never fails to demonstrate his remarkable talent for transforming any conversation, even one about the weather, into a discussion about the Mossad.

The RNC, I am told, is a training ground for these recruits. Those who perform well during the grueling 12-hour shifts before, during and after the convention will be considered for permanent jobs at the security firm.

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The instructor is Charles T. Thibodeau, or Chuck, a rotund and self-effacing 65-year-old security consultant bedecked in gold jewelry. Thibodeau leans back, cracks open a can of Rockstar Energy Drink and extols the virtues of non-heroism. He has taken painkillers all week to cope with a recent operation to remove varicose veins and is in something of a confessional mood; having been raised by a town drunk (one of his confessions) he isn't much of a romantic to begin with.

"I'll be the first to admit it," he says, crossing his arms. "I don't fight fair. I fight to win. If you got to take someone out -- sorry, I mean, 'reposition them to the ground' -- you go in with help. Under no circumstances do you go toe-to-toe. You gotta get some beefcake in there. I myself prefer to go in with four to five people. Last thing I want is a level playing field."

"What if you're alone and the guy is coming for you?" asks one of the recruits.

Thibodeau doesn't miss a beat.

"You run."

"I know what some of you tough guys are thinking," says Thibodeau, draining his Rockstar. "But trust me, unless you've got no escape route and are being seriously threatened, and can prove that in court by crying on the stand, you had better retreat. You either run or you cry. Your choice."

A recruit sitting in the back of the room begins to fidget and sink into his chair. He wears a T-shirt in the ubiquitous purple and yellow of Minnesota Vikings football. The shirt reads "What Would Leif Erikson Do?"

Soon enough the recruit answers his own question: Leif Erikson, it turns out, would stand up, wipe his hands on his jeans, mutter "Fuck this" under his breath, slip out the back and not return.

I, however, stay until the bitter end and await my assignment. The following is a log of a night in my life as an RNC security officer. The night shift is 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

6:20 p.m.
I am assigned to guard the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Minneapolis, the official headquarters of the 2008 Republican National Convention. My uniform is cop classic: a jet black flying-cross patrolman's shirt with epaulets; black slacks (along with black belt and shoes that I had to provide myself); and a shiny golden badge that features a bald eagle, the Liberty Bell and the words "security enforcement officer" on it. I'm also sporting two shoulder patches: an American flag on the left and, on the right, the Doric-columned logo of my employers, surrounded by the words "courage, fortitude, protection."

Enthralled by this dizzyingly patriotic get-up I have neglected to try on the cop slacks ahead of time. This turns out to be a tragic mistake. The pants are tight -- obscenely tight -- at the waist. But duty calls. I squeeze into the pants, wince and look at myself in the mirror. My fears are confirmed: I look like the cop from the Village People. I walk gingerly toward the RNC headquarters downtown, trying, like everyone at the convention, to stick to the script.

6:30 p.m.
I walk downtown on Hennepin Avenue and notice a small crowd taking shape. As a "security enforcement officer," naturally I stop to investigate. The crowd is chanting "Ru-dy! Ru-dy! Ru-dy!" and there, indeed, is Mr. Giuliani, waving and baring his teeth to the delight of all assembled. I ask one among the crowd if he's as big a Giuliani booster as his enthusiastic chanting would seem to indicate.

"Naw, can't stand the guy. Way too liberal."

He returns to chanting. I'm running late, but I have to ask.

"So why are you chanting his name?"

"Have you ever chanted his name?"

I confess that I have not.

"Try it, buddy, it's fun. You'll like it."

So I do, to myself, as I trot toward the RNC headquarters. The guy is right; it does put me in a good mood.

6:40 p.m.
A group of college hipsters are loitering on Nicollett Avenue, near the Hyatt. They are clad typically -- scruff, tight jeans, chucks, ironic T-shirts and bandannas. One of them calls out, "Fuckin' fascist!" I look around for this fascist bastard and realize that he's talking to me. I'm partly relieved -- at least he didn't say, "Hey, look! It's the guy from the Village People."

It's been a tense week in the Twin Cities. A series of rough pre-convention raids on the homes of anti-RNC protesters has left even mild-mannered Minnesotans feeling sour.

At the moment, however, I'm in too much of a rush to point out that my pants are just as tight as any hipster's and my shirt possibly even more ironic. I have time only for some quick role-playing and so I shout back, "Get a job, you brat."

7 p.m.
The RNC headquarters at the Hyatt is a gilded fortress -- this week it's service with a smile and a concealed weapon. I am part of a team of 12 security officers (unarmed) who will patrol every entrance and exit to the hotel, front, back and side, for 24 hours a day during the RNC. Guards are also placed in the emergency stairways. We are told not to let anyone up past the sixth floor. Why? Because that's the order. There is no further discussion.

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In addition to my team of black-clad officers, there are hotel security personnel, Minneapolis police, an odd guardsman, state trooper or sheriff's officer, another squad of hired officers (from a different private firm), and members of the FBI, Capitol Police (in suits) and Secret Service (in nicer suits). If you include the Evangelicals, nearly every person at the RNC headquarters has a voice whispering in his ear.

8 p.m.
The voice whispering in my ear belongs to my operations supervisor, Charlie, a good-humored young private detective, who looks like the approachable guy in a boy band, walks like a determined penguin and has a tendency to giggle. He posts me to the front of the building, where I soon witness a heartbreaking exchange. A stocky man in a Hawaiian shirt walks up to a strapping young TV news producer who's milling around with his camera crew. The stocky man says, "Hi, I'm a delegate from Kentucky. Which station you guys from?"

"We're from New York," replies the producer, turning his back on the man.

10 p.m.
The Capitol policemen order pizza; the Secret Service, on the other hand, splurges. A Secret Service agent -- a linebacker with glasses -- walks past me with two big bags of takeout, en route to his undisclosed location upstairs. As he passes, he winks at me and says, "A little sushi action for the fellas."

My partner, who just finished police academy, says, "Man, those guys got style, don't they?"

11 p.m.
I ask an older gentleman -- a delegate from Idaho who seems to go by the name "Doc" -- to open his bag for a security search.

"If you want to be a real cop," he says, "you got to be more forceful. Try again."

I've been standing for four hours in pants that are two sizes too small; I'm developing welts in strange places and rapidly losing patience for what seems to be an endless train of preppy wiseguys.

"Sir, open your bag for me," I say. "Please."

"Good," he says. "Much better."

The first wave of delegates, staffers, lobbyists and hangers-on are returning from their parties. I'm still guarding the front door. My first drunk: a guy whose dress shirt is recklessly untucked, his "McCain for America" pin dangling precariously from his lapel. Looking for his credentials, he fumbles around for almost five full minutes.

A car stops in front of the entrance. A man and a woman emerge and exchange a long meaningful hug. They whisper for a bit. Then the woman goes into the hotel and the man steps back into the car and drives away.

"Cheaters," says my new partner, Scott Mendes. "They both got wedding rings."

1:12 a.m.
Two discussions about the war in Iraq suddenly take place.

The first discussion is among a group of young Republicans standing in front of the Hyatt smoking cigars -- party favors from the Giuliani party. The men are all similarly clad in J. Press; some in houndstooth, some in navy blue blazers. The girlfriends, however, wear designer cocktail dresses.

"I'm sick of this chickenshit," says one guy, a sturdy Stanford 2L. "I hear too much apologizing for the war. We should all get behind McCain and stand up proudly and use the 'W' word. We have to tell the voters, 'No, we're not just making gains, we are winning this war.'"

The second conversation takes place between me and Scott, a baby-faced Marine who has served two tours in Iraq (and is expecting to be called up again any day). We're standing 2 feet away from the Republicans. As Scott tells it, his platoon spent almost two years roving around western Iraq doing the bidding of various local tribal bosses, fighting fierce and undefined battles against enemies who had been allies a week earlier.

His take on the war?

"It's bullshit," he says with a shrug. "We got no business there. We get played by all the locals. Guys are dying for nothing. Everyone's losing their minds. It's a disaster."

A new group of Republicans approaches.

"Here come some happy drunks," Scott says to me, smiling.

Three girls in the new group pose for a photo, beaming for the camera. Instead of saying, "Cheese," they surprise us and say, "Facebook!" The image is captured.

Scott opens the door for them, smiles and says, "Good evening," as they stumble in.

2:50 a.m.
At the RNC, the truth-telling starts somewhere around 3 a.m. Delegates who were on-message when they left for their parties at 10 p.m., return too hammered to walk a straight party line.

"How you doing, dude?" one of the drunk delegates says to me as he pulls out a cigarette, almost emptying an entire pocket in the process.

"To tell you the truth," I reply, "my pants are way too tight on the waist. They're killing me."

He gives my pants a glance.

"There's a lot of hot chicks here," he tells me in a failed attempt at a whisper. He reeks of chardonnay. "You cannot spring a woody here, dude. Your pants got no give, know what I mean? It'd be totally obvious. Gov. Palin is staying here -- you gotta be careful. You get what I'm saying? You can't get wood on the job."

"Thanks. I got it," I say.

One of his pals chimes in.

"Gov. Palin is hot, dude," he says, collapsing onto a bench in front of the hotel entrance.

Even in their lusty, alcohol-fueled swoons, these young politicos still call Palin "governor." In a way, this reverential horniness is sort of endearing. But mostly it's just creepy. Sitting on the bench, the young man leans his head back and squeezes his eyes shut, trying, and failing, to stave off vertigo. "Total MILF."

"All right, gentlemen," I say, wielding the word "gentlemen" like a prison guard. "Get out of here. Time to go to sleep."

The right-wing youth resurgence is taking shape here before my eyes and it has a strong erotic undercurrent. For the first time in American politics there is a strong alpha woman with whom mothers identify, and after whom sons lust. The GOP is playing the Oedipal card. And it could mean bloody war, fought house to house.

4:15 a.m.
I'm developing a purely anecdotal theory about Republican drunkenness: that it's related to ideology. The less ideological arrive back at the headquarters earlier in the evening, between midnight and 1 a.m. These are, in chronological order, the Romney and the Giuliani supporters. Both are East Coast, urban college grad, corporate types. They like to drink and reminisce about the Harvard-Yale game, but they also like to wake up early, shave and not smell like booze at committee meetings. The Giuliani people are secular and more openly lecherous. So they tend to drink a bit harder and stay out closer to 1 a.m. The Ron Paul people party past 1 a.m., but not much. And they shave but they don't showboat.

The ones who stay out the latest and come back the drunkest, I notice, are the Huckabee folks, the party's rural conservatives. They believe in Jesus, in the hard-bitten way of the true alcoholic. If they ever sober up, it'll be by the grace of the Lord; and if they intend to stay on the sauce and continue living, then they'll really need His loving kindness. If you intend to be drinking heavily until closing time -- 4 a.m. in the Twin Cities during the RNC -- you had better walk home with Jesus.

I can't place true McCainites on the alcohol-ideology matrix. I think they were all asleep by 9:30 p.m.

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5 a.m.
The only people around the RNC headquarters now are security personnel. Cops of all stripes circulate around the hotel, nodding to one another as they pass, keeping watch mostly on their fellow watchmen. Every once in a while, Charlie's voice crackles over the radio, "Wake up!" and my fellow officers oblige by telling lewd jokes over the line to stay awake. The agony of my ill-fitting cop slacks has given way to a mellow numbness.

I am now posted behind the RNC headquarters, at the back exit, which is an outdoor ledge overlooking a park. It's a lonely perch and the night has turned chilly. Fall is definitely in the air. A man in his mid-60s -- who, to my exhausted eyes, looks a bit like John McCain -- suddenly materializes nearby. Given that I'm dead bored and my eyes have begun playing tricks on me, and that I'm manning a post in the dead of night, I can't help thinking of the ghost of King Hamlet, disturbing the night watch just like this gentleman, with "a countenance more in sorrow than in anger."

All the hotels in the area are dark. Thousands of Republicans stir in their beds, dreaming thousands of dreams about Sarah Palin. But Charles Hunter, an environmentalist delegate from New Hampshire and a veteran of Republican conventions going back to the 1980 coronation of Ronald Reagan at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, can't sleep at all.

"This is my last convention," he tells me, lighting a cigarette.


"I'm a real McCain guy. I served. But I liked the old McCain -- when he was a true hero, before he signed on with the yahoos. I actually believe in 'country first.'"

"Not a fan of Palin?"

"If I were McCain I'd probably bring her onto my ticket, too. That's exactly the problem. I guess I tricked myself into thinking that McCain, even after he watered himself down for the election, could somehow restore sanity. The Democrats tried to paint him as a twin of Bush. Not true. But Palin ... she does remind me of Bush. McCain has made a devil's pact and sealed this party's fate."

Even though he's older, he smokes his cigarette like a young man, with earnest haste, before he flicks it off into the dark.

"That's it," he said, "we're through. Even if we win, we've lost."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Nonads That Don't Make Sense

A heartbeat away from the little red button, and not unlikely a faulty heartbeat at that.