Unstuck in the middle

I was never an Edwards supporter, but I'm full of respect for the guy and what he did to the race. As Matthew Yglesias points out he pushed Clinton and Obama to the left-- in a voice that was warm, moral, and impatient.

So where do his people go? My hope is Obama, of course. I think there are reasons to expect as much, but I'd like to know what you guys think.

Als0- wherever they go-- will it make a difference?


State Book?

If it didn't require 49 predictions, I'd suggest a betting pool for this, a kind of historical Miss America for books. Can Iowa not be Field of Dreams? Does Jack London own Alaska? Does God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater spend enough time in Indiana to qualify? One book for New York?!

Has anyone read an intensely regional American novel recently?


Redlefsen Family Christmas Letter, First Draft

Hello, and merry, merry, Christmas!

This year has been quite an exciting one for Team Redlefsen! We moved into our cozy new home last February, and we still haven't managed to completely unpack! We'll probably be surrounded by boxes for years (ha, ha)! But, we've been busy meeting the new neighbors, who are all quite interesting, and always seem to be around, willing to help!

Ted's firm has been going through some extremely exciting changes, and Ted has really taken to his new job and title. While it is still up in the air what the future of Redlefsen, Redlefsen, Dodge, and Butterworth will look like, I'm sure it will turn out better than any of us could have hoped for.

Ted and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary at the Shore, driving down in a RED CONVERTIBLE Ted had rented just for the occassion! Ted was so romantic, and we spent the whole weekend acting like kids again.

Rory's new business venture has been really taking off -- unlike many women her age, she's setting her own hours, keeping the profits, and running her own ship. I'm told she's quite the entrepeneur! She's been running herself ragged, but onwards and upwards, I always say!

Roger is also doing well -- he and I did the "College Tour" this fall, and Roger is looking at some very interesting schools. He's sent in his applications, and now we are just keeping our fingers and toes crossed until the good news arrives!

Even so, this year has had its challenges. Unfortunately, we lost Ted's father this year, although, as he always said "I had a pretty good run." And he certainly did! We also lost our beloved dog, Sparkplug, although I am sure he is happily licking Jesus' face as we speak!

I hope your next year is even better than this one!

Merry, Merry Christmas,

Judy Redlefsen


Dream #1

A recent out-of-the-blue email from someone I haven't seen in many years has initiated a flurry of emails with old friends from my hometown, which led me on my hard drive to rediscover this old dream I had sent one of them a few years ago for freelance analysis. Let this be the year of capturing dreams.

Here is the dream that resurfaced for me today, which I woke up from and wrote down May 31 ,2005:

My family was all at my grandma's, but then I remembered it was my high school reunion that night, so I left for a while to go there. I went to where a bus was supposed to pick up people. On the bus I fell asleep and woke up when we got there. Got off the bus and it was a fun park -- water rides and so forth. The reunion was there. But everyone inside was dressed up like it was a 50s prom, with tuxes and dresses in pastel colors, and I had worn terrible clothes, my worst t-shirt, and my glasses, no contacts. What was I thinking? I thought. I walked around a while, but decided it wasn't my scene. I couldn't find my shoes, but decided I hate my shoes and needed new ones anyway. I'd go buy some.

After much searching, I worked my way out of the complex in my socks somehow and ended up coming up an escalator that dropped me in a common area between three bars, and they seemed to be gay bars. Some guys kept motioning me to come over and sit with them at the bar, and in a dream you are supposed to go, but I forgot that and for some reason I thought, no, it's a sidetrack and walked away. But then I changed my mind and went back, but they were gone (what were they going to tell me?). So I went outside.

It was a mall type building, in a city. No clues there but a lot of traffic. I went back inside and came out a different door, into a neighborhood. Then I remembered I was looking for a shoe store -- I walked toward a house and saw two girls talking.

"Excuse me, could I use your phone?" I intended to call my brother. They let me in the house. "Where am I?" I asked.


But the girls disappeared. Instead I was stuck talking to their mother. Then another guy came home, looking like, I don't know, weird and tanned and wrinkled, then some more guys came in and brought over a plate they were holding together and started talking to the mother. "Look, we got this off the top of the cake!" On the plate was the top half of a sandwich, kind of oozing. She seemed interested. I looked around and a kid was putting up a poster that said "Right-wing church - MEETING TONIGHT."

I left and started walking again through the neighborhood. All the mailboxes at the end of driveways were shaped like greyhound dogs and were moving, running in slow motion. Then I saw I'd gone in a circle and was back at that house, and I spotted one of the original girls -- she lived above the garage.

"Hi!" I said. "You were going to let me use your phone."

She was standing on a ladder that had been leaned up against a blackboard. She turned to me on the ladder and smiled and said, "Here is what it will cost." On the blackboard she wrote: $28. I was looking through the contents of my pockets when I woke up.



We're looking for pitches/submissions of non-fiction and fiction (mostly non-fiction) to round out issue 2.

If you've got something, please get in touch via submissions [at] please-dont[dot]com.

And hey, look at this:

Lorrie Moore on Hillary Clinton


Motivational songs

I need your help. A friend of mine is an executive at a company with a large salesforce, and, for the upcoming sales conference, each executive has to come up with a motivational song to include on a CD that will be given out to the thousand-plus salespeople.

Can you come up with anything? Anything you listen to to get you in the right frame of mind to kick some writing ass? Or that you work out to? Or that you put on your iPod before you go out wilding? Please advise. And soon. I need to get back to her in the next week or so.


The Dangers of Having Children

The worst thing about having children is that you have to worry about the future.

I used to like to be able to think to myself, "Fuck it -- I've had a nice run. Let's elect W." Now, when I see that the polar bears better grow flippers by 2050, I can't just let it go.

An amazing list of videos for your enjoyment.



Boo hoo. I just saw that tickets for the AWP are all sold out. Does anyone know a secret way I can get a pass? Either way I'll be in NYC that weekend and I'm hoping to see a lot of you.


Primary predictions

Tomorrow night shortly after the New Hampshire polls close, we'll finally know the second answer to this painful year-long question. Let's do it again! This time, give percentages for the top three finishers in each party. Same lame-ass prize.

Summary of Dem polls.
Summary of Rep polls.


Obama '08, baby (and goats)

Why did Obama win? I think it's because although all of the Democratic candidates struck me as smart and competent, Obama alone has the ability to inspire people, and that's something we need given all the shit we're going to have to trudge through once the Bushies clear out. What a speech last night, huh?

Anyway, here are some shots from Iowa City precinct 15, where turnout was 335 (vs. 230 in 2004). The first is of the caucus period, when you could lobby the nonviable candidates' people to switch to your side. The second is of the Obama precinct people counting the caucusgoers after the realignment. In our precinct, Hillary was not viable at the first count, but her supporters did manage to get four people from nonviable campaigns to realign with her, which just put her at the viability threshold. From the get-go, the Obama group was by far the strongest. In the end, Obama got four delegates, Edwards two, and Clinton one. It was very thrilling. In contrast to our last caucus experience, where we kind of observed, this time we actively caucused, persuaded, cajoled, etc. Whenever someone switched over to Obama, the crowd went wild. It took forever (three hours), but it was energizing. I got myself elected to be a delegate to the county convention. By "elected," I mean I volunteered and no one objected.


Happy caucus day, unless you are the person at the Bill Richardson event who stole my camera.

That's right, people: I had loads of good candidate (and candidate-family-member) photos on my camera, but someone snatched it at the Bill Richardson event last night at the Mill. This alone wouldn't make me think poorly of Richardson supporters, except that they were also cutting in line at the bar, and the only thing I hate more than people who cut in line are people who cut in line when you really want a goddamned drink. In contrast, the Dodd supporters this morning at an event were saintly folk who repeatedly helped me with my baby, who had acquired a case of crankypantsitis and had to excuse himself from the event, which in turn required placing him back into his snowsuit to brave the -1 temperature outside. Thank you, Dodd supporters.

Since I cannot show you pictures worth one thousand words (apiece), I will instead provide you with some observations by using one thousand words or so.

At every event I attended, the space was packed. Obviously, the second-tier candidates were in smaller venues, but the support was nevertheless impressive. Biden was in a room that should have held maybe 100, and there were at least 200-250 crammed in there. Richardson must have had 300-400 in a space meant for 200-250. Dodd had around 200-250 in a space meant for 100. I would not be surprised if Biden were viable in many precincts.

You could definitely see demographic differences among the supporters of the various candidates. Clinton: definitely heavily female (I'd guess 2/3 female, seemingly a mix of 50+ and college students). Obama: younger, though not exclusively so, with good diversity. Edwards: 45-60-year-old couples. Biden: older, solid blue-collar representation. Dodd: older, but more of the academic/suburban vibe (lots of nice-quality cable-knit sweaters). Richardson: age range of about 20-50, with quite a few people sporting a rancher vibe. Of course, there were quite a few people like me who were attending all of the events. Also, I did meet a good number of Republicans and independents checking out the Democratic events - they weren't necessarily planning to caucus but just wanted to see the candidates.

Oratorical Style
The three leading candidates' messages have converged. This was one of the most interesting things about seeing so many events in such close succession. One of Obama's points has long been that he has always made good choices - even before people were watching him. Clinton adopted that same point and even that same language. (I also read online that she'd swiped his fired up/ready to go chant.) Meanwhile, presumably as the result of Clinton's criticism of Obama that "hope" was not enough and Edwards's criticism that perhaps Obama is too nice, Obama said in his talk that he was ready to "work hard for change and fight for change," which are the phrases that Clinton and Edwards, respectively, use. And I read that Edwards is now saying he'd be able to work with Congress and wouldn't fight them, since his whole approach has been that he could fight "them," which then led to criticism that he was a prescription for gridlock.

All three of the top-tier candidates unrelentingly project confidence. It can be almost offputting since it strikes one (or me, at least) as narcissistic, which in turn reminds one of the current occupants of the White House. But it is probably a necessity.

The three second-tier candidates, in contrast, are much more liberated. They speak much more off-the-cuff, make unscripted jokes, and are more enjoyable to watch, frankly. They all still fire up their supporters and say that they'll show the media and the pundits (usually using those words) by finishing strong, but who knows whether they really believe that or not. I particularly enjoyed Biden's style, which had this nifty old-school element to it: he would intersperse the phrase "ladies and gentlemen" frequently as he addressed his listeners, and I can't say exactly why, but I just loved it. It seemed both warm and respectful, as if he were laying out his beliefs and hoping we would judge them positively.

There is very little security at these events. No bags are checked or anything like that. Obama and Clinton, however, have Secret Service with them. While the agents were positioned around the rooms, monitoring the crowd, that just didn't seem as secure as it should. I guess they know what they're doing, though, or they assume that anyone who wanted to do something bad would be too inept to get it done in a crowd. When Clinton and Obama worked the crowd, shaking hands, however, Secret Service was in force then. There would be several agents right around the candidate, and several others on the crowd side, presumably to foil anyone who actually meant harm.

I met an old guy at the Biden event who said he remembered being four years old and seeing Harry Truman on one of those whistlestop tours.
Chelsea Clinton is looking really good these days.
Hillary Clinton also looked quite good in person, I thought.
There must be hundreds of volunteers from out of town in Iowa City right now, canvassing and calling and attending events.
I must have had lengthy conversations with 25 people at the various events. This part was enjoyable: everyone was very interested in hearing others' opinions of the candidates, even if they were in a different party or whatever.

My young offspring is waking up from his nap, so I must go now. I will plan to take some video or photos (with my phone) tonight. Happy caucus day!

Elizabeth's and Sam's NYT pieces

In case you missed it, Elizabeth McCracken has a terrific essay on that old-school phone phreak dude, Josef Engressia. (Via Antoine. I was never a phreak, but I did subscribe for a while to 2600.) And Sam Chang writes about caucusing in Iowa.



We have emerged relatively unscathed. How about yourself?


Our first Christmas in our own home. We weren't sure what to do. On Christmas Eve we ended up gathering in the Big Square and joining hundreds and hundreds of carolers by the Big Church.

Christmas Day ... well, there was a lot of time on our pull-out couch, which we call The Nest, spent consuming chocolate and mimosas and watching Shrek the Third and three Harry Potter movies (we could really use a better video store).


The one night a year we usually stay in. Well, we had a few at our local Irish pub first. Then there was absinthe, and slim pickin's on TV ... a Spice Girls documentary on cable, and a little hamster cartoon did the countdown to 2008. We were looking forward to the Pamela Anderson Roast at 1.

Then our street erupted in whistling rockets and explosions. Now, firecrackers had been going on all day here and there, but at midnight it was like the Luftwaffe was back. We clambered up to our balcony and surveyed the street scene, our jaws hanging open.

It's hard to convey just how shocking it was. Everywhere, left and right, up and down the street, in front of and behind our house, people were setting off serious, serious fireworks. Like, the big-time ones that firemen do at a distance ... except here amateurs were shooting them willy-nilly into trees, at each other, onto roofs, under cars, up and down the sidewalks. Explosions all over the place, a cumulative war-like roar, and gunpowder smoke billowing and building until it obscured everything except the brightest street lamps. The closer the showers of sparks and bomblets came to us, huddled together and screaming, the more fascinating it all became. It went on for more than an hour. I took some video, but there's so much smoke you can't see much of anything.

The people across the street were shooting them from the handlebars of the nearest parked bike. A rocket malfunctioned, careened off a tree branch, and showered a parked car with white burning sparks for maybe half a minute. A man on our side of the street appeared, watching the scene. He stood waiting for the final explosion before crossing the street toward the perps. Uh-oh, I thought -- here is where concern and reason prevail! That must be his car. Or his bike. But when he arrived on the other side, he merely picked up a little girl who was holding a sparkler on the sidewalk and disappeared into that house.

Everyone would have been arrested if people tried that anywhere I've lived in the States. It struck me that in America, we settle into our folding chairs and watch the pros shoot them off at a safe distance -- very much as we do in our real wars. Here, 60-odd years ago, real bombs fell in the midst of these real people. Rotterdam, for example, was totaled. A few fireworks don't scare the Dutch. I saw one guy walking down the street very nearly hit by a screaming bottle rocket. He didn't even look at it, or break his stride.

But it sure scared The Real Grendel.


It has become a tradition here to strip down and jump into the North Sea on New Year's Day, and traca dared me to do it. I thought she might forget, but nooo... so we packed towels and biked the 10 kilometers to the beach, where we joined hundreds of fellow maniacs for some pre-plunge aerobics in the freezing sand.

They gave the signal, and, holding hands, off we ran madly into the sea (click here or that pic for video). Total chaos, as we were toward the back, and by the time we got to the water, freezing, shrieking people were scampering back toward us. Then the shivering, numb-toed sandy struggle back to the UNOX tent for free pea soup and cheesy, cheesy DJ'd tunes. Everyone got a UNOX hat. (UNOX is a Dutch soup company.)

Oh, what fun. BUT BE WARNED -- if you come visit us this time next year, you WILL take a New Year's dunk into the North Sea!

Caucus predictions

Tomorrow night shortly after the Iowa caucuses close, we'll finally know the first answer to this painful year-long question. Let's dust off our crystal balls (El Gordo, any kind of balls are fine to use). Most accurate oracle gets to choose the next top-of-the-page quote. Tiebreaker: Give the winners' percentages. It's a lame-ass prize, but it's all I can think of. I'll start mine in the comments.

(Des Moines Register's latest poll results for all candidates.)