All this week, people — my mother, my friends — have been asking me “what are we going to do about Sarah Palin? Aren’t you worried about Sarah Palin?” I’m not sure why they ask me in particular, except that they’re looking for comfort, and they’ve probably learned that I’m an old hand at comforting the afflicted.

I found myself afflicted this morning by this NYT article about Obama campaign donations coming in below expectations.

My comforting things about Palin usually focus on how she’s a distraction of exactly the sort that the Obama campaign has been warning us against for months. Presidential campaigns are about the presidential candidates, and no one ever said “What are we going to do about Cheney [in his capacity as a VP candidate]” or “Woohoo he picked Bentsen, now we’re home free!” Palin is a military-grade distraction bomb, detonated at just the right time to demoralize and instill doubt. But she is not the end of the story. She is a polarizing flashpoint, a crusader who is only effective at converting the already-faithful; she will surely help the evangelical turnout, but no one who supported Hillary Clinton’s because of her lifetime of public service and real support of women’s rights — sorry, make that “human rights” — will consider Palin to be a reasonable surrogate.

Remember that the Obama campaign is doing a huge, historic voter-registration drive in all 50 states, something no one has ever tried in my short, GOP-dominated lifetime; Republican operatives, on the other hand, are well known for dirty-trick campaigns to suppress voter turnout.

Obama needs our support, needs everyone who donated in the primary to donate again, and then some. I think I gave something like $20 in the primary, and money is tight for me right now. But I decided to meet McCain’s recklessness in an unvetted VP pick by being reckless with my personal finances, and maxed out a credit card with a donation today. I’ll gladly pay 17-30% interest for years if it means that Obama will be president.

I remember the endlessly unfolding horror of the 2000 election, when the inconceivable, idiot candidate got inaugurated for no compelling reason. I remember the glimmer of hope of the 2004 election, and the bitter sense of doom that we were in for another four years of the idiot, who was proving to be idiotic like a fox: a reckless, arrogant fox, one who has been unrelenting at reversing our country’s proud social progress in the 20th century. And I think the concern about Palin comes from that place, the specter of another night staying up late in November, another election-watching party that turns into a dejected walk home and another night of troubled sleep, worrying and dreaming about just how bad it could be under the new horrible candidate, or how much worse it could be if that maybe-still-a-little-bit-reasonable candidate were to die and leave his #2 in the office.

I cannot face that again. We cannot face that again. Money is tight for everyone right now, but I beg you to do whatever it takes to give whatever you can; my $20 would have been just as good in this round as in the last one, but I do feel a little more hopeful than I did yesterday, having given more this time. I could have spent the money (plus interest) on any number of other things that I really do need, like pants that don’t have holes in the crotch. I still don’t feel that I can say “I did my part” — I want to find other ways to fight to make sure I don’t have another sleepless November. I do rather wish, after reading that article, that Obama had gone with the public financing so that he could concentrate on campaigning and not spend so much human resource on fundraising right now. But as the template for this message said, “We’re transforming the political process by bringing together millions of ordinary Americans in a campaign that’s owned by no one but the people.” And that is, in the end, an exciting opportunity in its own right.

Please give what you can, then add a little bit more, until you feel at least as awful about giving up the money as you felt about losing the country in the last two elections. Think about how you felt in 2000 and 2004. Think about all the recklessness of the last 8 years of Bush, and the recklessness that McCain has shown in his only executive decision so far, the choice of Palin. Think about how great it would be to have a woman pumping her breast milk in the Oval Office — then think about all that this particular woman would do to take away rights and opportunities for women, men, gays, straights, polar bears, library books, climate science. Think about the Bush brand of “fiscal conservatism” that leads to skyrocketing deficits, and google up the Anne Kilkenny email about how Mayor Palin practiced exactly the same kind of insolvent, burn-the-candle-at-both-ends pseudoconservatism that Bush has given us, over and over again, and that McCain promises to continue.

Look at me, getting distracted by the Palin distraction-bomb. McCain is the candidate we need to beat; Palin is a flashpoint and is even more of a Bush clone than McCain is. We need to turn that to our advantage. Your vote will help Obama, but he’s had your vote since 2000, since 2004. There are people out there who are undecided, uncertain, or swayable, and may be even more distracted by Palin than you are. Your money will help Obama get to them. Your credit card interest will help Obama get to them, too.

Please do all you can to get Barack Hussein Obama into office, and consider taking on a little bit of debt to help him just that little bit more. And when you stay up all night this November, let it be in breathless, frenzied excitement that the movement that you funded will finally get the country back on track.



Your Favorite Chicago Sounds

Received on the CHI-CRIT-MASS mailing list, here is a repost with my answers.
Call for submissions: Sound Artist Peter Cusack compiles a soundscape of Chicago in YOUR FAVOURITE CHICAGO SOUNDS

Chicago is world famous for its architecture. But what about its sounds? “Your Favourite Chicago Sounds” aims to discover what Chicagoans think about their city’s soundscape and to reveal the Chicago of the ear. Please let us know your response to the questions below and contribute to a unique audio portrait of the city. The sounds will be recorded and used for a CD “Your Favourite Chicago Sounds.”

The “Favourite Sounds” project originated in London and has been carried out in Beijing and other world cities. The CD “Your Favourite London Sounds” was released in 2001 and a CD for Beijing is planned for this year. The long-term aim is to build up an overall sonic idea of what people find positive about the ever-changing sound of their cities. Many thanks for your help.

What is your favourite Chicago sound? The clang of the bell of the Metra train from two blocks away.
Why? I used to live two blocks from the Metra station at 57th and Stony Island, and the trains’ bells as they entered and left the station were a subliminal part of my soundscape. Then I spent a summer in Rome, and calling home to talk to my girlfriend I heard the chime of the Metra bell and it reminded me so vividly of home. Now we live in Brooklyn and miss Chicago.

What is your favourite sounding place in Chicago? Promontory Point on a windy day: water and wind. A summertime jazz/blues group playing in the parking lot of the strip mall at 53rd and Woodlawn. Yes, unexpected parking-lot music and dancing: also when I rode my bike down past Chatham Park and came across a latin dance exhibition in a grocery store parking lot.
Why? I like the wind and water at the point because Chicago is right on the lake, and its moist breath does so much to the city: the lake effect that makes it cold, the famous wind, but also the feeling of being right on the edge of this apparently endless expanse of water. Before Chicago I lived in Denver, and the mountains to the west were the point by which I oriented (occidented) myself; in Chicago, of course, you orient by the lake. As for the parking-lot music and dancing, it’s the magical spontaneity of stumbling across music in unexpected places, the way community forces itself upon you so pleasantly, and the rich diversity of Chicago’s ethnic endowment.

What is your favourite Chicago sight? (view, building, object, etc.) Coming up the lakefront, a stony LSD overpass around the 40s (47th?) on the south side, and the downtown skyline beyond it. Knowing where I am by the relative positions of Sears Tower, Hancock Building and that curvy triangular building. The blingy gold D.C. French statue of the Republic at Hayes Dr. in Jackson Park. Lush thick green trees on every street.
Why? Nostalgia, familiarity, fetishizing the formerly mundane.
Your Name: Orion Montoya
Area of Chicago where you live: Hyde Park, now Brooklyn, NY.

Please send responses to aseay1 atch artic doth edu. If you’re interested in
participating in the sound recording, please contact Jesse Seay,
aseay1 that artic thod edu.

Peter Cusack is a sound artist/recordist and musician with a special interest in environmental sound and acoustic ecology. Project interests move from community arts to research on how sound contributes to our sense of place to recordings that document areas of special sonic interest, e.g. Lake Baikal, Siberia, Beijing, China. He initiated the ‘Your Favourite London Sound’ project that aims to discover what Londoners find positive in their city’s soundscape, an idea that has been repeated in other world cities including Beijing. He produces ‘Vermilion Sounds’ a monthly environmental sound program on ResonanceFM radio, London, and lectures on ‘Sound Arts & Design’ at the London College of Communication. As a musician he tours regularly at home and abroad. Available recordings include “Where is the Green Parrot?” (ReR PC1 – solo CD, “Your Favourite London Sounds” (Resonance) and “Baikal Ice” (ReR PC2).