Friday, November 14, 2008

And an Island all to Myself... (almost)

Wild Horses

One of the illusions we like to create when we look at photographs is that the space is vacant but for us (the viewer) to travel into it. Pristine territory, uncharted and unspoiled. Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to Shackleford Banks with my son's scout troop and we camped on an uninhabited strip of land 9 miles long and at its most a mile wide. A beautiful varied ecosystem with wild horses, marshes, sea and sound. Truly uninhabited and a definite winner for photography and solitary wandering.

The ponies above are what some people in North Carolina call a banker pony. Really a horse but they are called ponies because they are smaller than some horses, as they grow only about 14 hands high due to harsh living conditions. In the 16th century, these horses ancestors came from Spain via Hispaniola to live on one of the islands off the coast of North Carolina that make up the Outer Banks. If you ask the residents of Harkers Island about the horses, they will tell you that they have always been there. That they swam ashore from sinking ships long before the English came. Shackleford Banks, where they live, is only nine miles long and is located just east of Morehead City and Beaufort North Carolina. You can read more about them here

The little island of Shackleford banks is considered an Outer Bank of North Carolina meaning it faces the Ocean on one side and a sound on the other and a trek of a mile or so each way will easily get you from one side to the other. The environments on this island are many as its like a desert in some places a swamp in many others. The ponies prefer the sound side as its not as windy and more grass grows there. The ocean side beach has many thousands of perfect beautiful shells that are not collected by people very often as the island is uninhabited.

The horses roam the dunes and marshes and swim in the small channels between the Shackleford Banks and the nearby tidal flats, which ebb-out on the low tides and disappear again with the next high tide. They have survived where man could not. They have endured through hurricanes, droughts, north-easters, so'westers, and the centuries.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What's Sarah Palin Doing Now?

Ummm, spying in my blog I think...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Did It! - Now back to work!

I have been involved in the Obama campaign since April of this year. The euphoria we felt winning a long and hard fought primary was only a respite from the longer slog that was ahead. For the run up to the presidency I worked in my area (Norther Orange County) as a data manager for the Obama campaign. Our immediate director Craig Perrin was focused and results oriented to say the least. I spent the last 3 weeks of the campaign making sure the canvas packet data made it into the National Democratic Party voting system. This system along with the primary use of represented real innovation in campaigning in that real time information about voters and volunteers was reported to Chicago and Democratic Headquarters every night. The canvasers had packets of names and knew if the voter was undecided and needed persuasion or just need to be reminded to get out and vote. This made a huge difference. Using this system volunteers could access calling lists and scripts and key the results in real time after each phone call. It was unprecedented organization. Even so it had its interesting moments leading up to election day.

Election Weekend Sign Scuffle

Hillsborough (where I live) is an area in transition. You have alot of Democrats moving into a conservative area bringing their emphasis on organic food markets and concerns about walkability and want to patronize locally grown produce, locally owned restaurants and stores (the Small and Slow movements). When we made a large signs that said "Hillsborough is Obama Country" and posted it on the highway just north of town and on the main street here, they caused quite a stir. The one on the main street caused an accident from gawkers and the one on the highway just made a group of motorists angry. I got a call from Craig Perrin asking what the law was for the signage in Town and I looked it up and drove out to the site. A policeman and a man in Army fatigues were there clearly discussing not only how are sign did not meet the ordinance, but that they did not like it personally. Neutral law enforcement - ummm, not so much. The man in military uniform goes on to argue that we are "brainwashing people" with our sign telling them what to think. We respond that its a first ammendment right to say what you think, we'll make our sign compliant and still say the same thing. The officer and the man in uniform both went on to complain that they fought in uniform so "people like us" could "do that" (pointing). Thanks very much but it is indeed our right and people have been fighting for this right for generations up generations in peaceful and not so peaceful ways. We modified our sign. But overnight the McCain people put up two larger signs that combined were almost twice as large as the Obama signs had ever been. We called the code enforcement but they were still up for an entire day before they were modified.

Election Day

6:30 AM I am up and headed to the polls to be a greeter in the pouring rain. I get there and there is a sparse turnout early. The biggest problems are the rain. The the Republican table across the walkway from us had a nice tent and some interesting characters working there (to say the least - one of them a odd Palinesque woman with an amazingly alarming smile). We finally get a nice awning about 8:00 am. So soaking wet we put this thing up so the our materials and people will stay dry. Poor voters - every one that comes up is approached by someone Dem or Repub. So gentleness is the way to go. Remember that you are a greeter not an accoster.

9:00 AM Door hangers. The amazing computer system knows when you've voted and how you did. So we also know who has not. That's what this effort is about. One of the ways the Obama campaign could win (so I was told) in North Carolina is to turn out 20% more vote in the Triangle and Obama takes the state. So off we go to do door hangers and get the last voters out to the polls. We had done such a good job in early voting that 40% of North Carolina had voted early. My precinct here in Hillsborough - 74% of us had voted by election day! So packets and maps from the computer system and in the car and off you go. At this point the packets are as thin as they have ever been due to the fact that we had hit so many of them so well for early voting. The last holdouts required driving between houses not strolling from house to house.

1:00 PM Lunch break in Carrboro.

2:00 PM Back to Obama HQ in Northern Orange. Still doing door hangers and carrying packets, volunteers coming and going furiously. With an apparent non-entry of packet data the only way to generate new lists of people who had not voted was to read the voting list from the polls (legally obtainable at 3 points during the day) and manually update the packets by reading the names of those who had voted in an area and finding them in the packets, crossing their names off and sending the packets back out. So a large group sat at a table while names were read from the voting rolls and marked off the walk packets. These packets went back out again.

4:30 PM The word comes that the emphasis is on Durham now (Orange county went 72% for Obama in the final tally!) so everyone here is supposed to go to Durham. I stay behind with a data manager from the state Obama organization and do paperwork hand tallying votes from the actual voting record.

6:15 PM Brain fried, very tired (I woke up at 5:00 AM I was so wired about today) I go home, watch returns and very satsifiedly go to bed after it is made clear Obama has won. I was genuinely moved upon hearing this it made me a bit choked up having waited so long.

This is the sea change I think. The majority the Obama voters in NC were under 60. The majority of the Republican voters are over 60. The youth movement is finally here. The movement my generation had hoped it was. My generation has been watching and hoping and taking it on the chin a bit. Clinton was our moment, but he helped lose the future for us in his ill-fated second term. This is a new day its not politics as usual, its not lip-service its plain, solid real-service time. The community networks that Obama inspired (never make fun of a community organizer)hopefully will live on so that the American people, the stakeholders, can have a voice.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Save the Country

Billy Bragg

Everyone who played the get out the vote rally on November 1st in Chapel Hill were absolutely fabulous. Memorable moments were created by every band who played. The one that stuck with me most (probably due to this political season) was Billy Bragg.
Billy showed up as a late addition to the bill and gave a rousing set full of politcal observation. His set began with him saying "this is a public service announcement - from the rest of the world." He went on to praise America for being on the threshold of great change that involved overcoming race as part of the bargain. He began the set with the uptempo "Sexuality" from Brewing Up with Billy Bragg. The set moved on to more substantive political songs including Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" which was very apropos with lyrics like:

I got fury in my soul,fury's gonna take me to the glory goal.
In my mind I can't study war no more.
Save the people! Save the children! Save the country now!
Come on, people! come on, children!
Come on down to the glory river.
Gonna wash you up and wash you down.
Gonna lay the devil down, gonna lay that devil down.

With the generations of children and parents milling around on a sunny afternoon this all seemed relevant. The other song that stuck in my mind was a new one from his album "Mr. Love and Justice" called "I Keep Faith in You." Billy said (and I am paraphrasing here) no matter what happens November 4th this song gets me through. Basically reminding himself that he trusts humanity to save itself:

I know it takes a mess of courage
To go against the grain.
You have to make great sacrifice for such little gain,
And so much pain.
And if your plans come out to nothing,
Washed out in the rain,
Let me rekindle all your hopes and
Help you start again,

I keep faith in you.
Yes I do, I keep faith in you.
I keep faith in you.

He closed his mini set with the rousing stand-by "There is Power in a Union." With voices singing in unison his time in Chapel Hill had come to a close.

Money speaks for money,the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone?
What a comfort for the widow,a light to the child
There is power in a Union

Saturday, November 1, 2008

dBs, Billy Bragg and more rally for Obama

Merge Records sponsored a get out the vote rock etravaganza at the University of North Carolina to rally support for Barack Obama. The schedule for this show was a "who's who" of North Carolina bands including Superchunk, Bowerbirds, Ivan Howard (of The Rosebuds), The dBs, Megafaun and non North Carolinian, post-folk rocker Billy Bragg among others.

The Chapel Hill show was the second time that Superchunk has rallied for Obama. The first time was during the primary with Arcade Fire. Check out the blog entry for that show here.

The Chapel Hill show was outside at Graham Terrace (adjacent to the Morehead Planetarium early voting site. The show began at 9am and ran until almost 3pm.

More about this show later for now here is the line-up and some of the photos...

The Chapel Hill, line-up:
The dBs
Superchunk (acoustic)
Ivan Rosebud
Billy Bragg
I Was Totally Destroying It
Greg Humphreys
Regina Hexaphone

I Was Totally Destroying It

Greg Humphreys


Billy Bragg