Friday, July 20, 2012

Saturday Night: Special?

After an abysmally boring one in Lawrence, Kansas a few days before I started my Asia trip, I put together a string of pretty impressive Saturday nights.

Of course, more often than not, I threw down pretty well on a Saturday night in Seoul. It would also be a big night out any time I was on the road in Korea, and often when I was on the road internationally.

This trip started out with 10 bang-up Saturday nights in a row -

Seoul - usual Itaewon craziness, went home at 6 a.m. or so and was up at 9 the next day to watch KU beat Ohio State in the Final Four. Of course, then I slept the next two days.

Kuala Lumpur - went out in Chinatown with the crew I met the day before, and capped it off at the roof of my hostel.

Melaka - met this random group of people, ended up singing "Sweet Home Alabama" at three a.m. in a Chinese karaoke bar with some British dude.

Cameron Highlands - pretty low key, but I'd made friends with this girl the night before and had a few beers with her until the streets rolled up at 11. Had a more proper Saturday-ish night the following night in Penang, when I was out until 5 or 6 with a group of Aussies and Euros.

Krabi - an epic night in which I met like 15 people and hung out at this local bar swilling whiskey and smoking weed until the wee hours. The band was decent too.

Ko Phi Phi - on this island of crazy boozing and partying every night, Saturday was certainly my signature adventure.

Ko Samui - was out until all hours at the Chewang clubs with these crazy Danish dudes.

Ko Tao - see Ko Phi Phi, only Tao's Saturday was much more fun.

Chiang Mai - met two British girls and a bunch of Thai waitresses and bartendresses at an early evening bar, went out to the clubs with them until 5 or 6.

Ko Samet - My beach swan song.

Ko Samet was the first weekend in June. Since that? Well, my Saturday nights have a lot less rock star and a lot more monk. Case in point - the following weekend, I literally slept in a monastery. Went to bed at 9 p.m. after consuming zero beers.

The following Saturday was in Mandalay. Mandalay doesn't have a whole lot going on at night, even Saturday night. Since I'd taken a long bus ride that day, I once again went to bed super early without going to the bar.

I spent a portion of the next Saturday night in Bangkok and caught a buzz, so that must have been cool, yeah? Not so much - I was boozing at the airport before getting on a redeye flight.

I actually went out to bars the next Saturday, watching live bands and hanging out with Cores in Dumaguete. This was the only notable and fun Saturday of the bunch, but I still managed to go home early.

I spent my next Saturday night on an overnight train. I suppose I spent a cool 45 minutes in the bar car before going to sleep at 11:30.

A few days ago may have been the lamest one yet. I slept in Phonsavan, Laos. Sure, this is a country that goes to bed early, but Phonsavan is especially boring. I hung out in a cafe and wrote until they seemed to be shutting down - at 9:30. Then I went home and went to sleep. Oh well, people come to Phonsavan to see the Plain of Jars, not to party.

This Saturday, I'll be in Vientiane, the big city here, the capital of Laos. Will my streak of boring Saturdays end? Vientiane has a reputation for being the dullest capital in Southeast Asia (other than teetotaling BSB in Brunei), so I'm not extremely hopeful. If nothing else, I meet my buddies Martin and Kris in Phnom Penh next Saturday, so that should be a rager.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Other Guy

The only way that Barack Obama loses the election is if the American electorate is even more spiteful and ignorant than I perceive them to be, and I'm no optimist. I'm not saying this as a Democrat nor Obama supporter (full disclosure: I am both), but as a student of American elections.

Here is why Mitt Romney will not win - his only selling point is that he is the "Other Guy." Without a real agenda or personality, the Other Guy never wins. In fact, the only time the Other Guy has ever won the American Presidency in the last century and change may surprise you.

Let's take a look back. For brevity, I will skip elections in which the incumbent won, as the incumbent cannot possibly be the Other Guy.

2008 - Obama wins by building a Hope/Change phenomenon and energizing an unprecedented number of first time voters, combined with McCain shooting himself in the foot by choosing That Woman.

2000 - Gore was very much not the Other Guy, and he technically won. Beyond that though, George W. Bush was a large state governor with universal name recognition and the son of a former president. He was hardly Other Guy either, as he had been extremely famous for at least 10 years before his election.

1992 - Clinton was certainly a less-famous candidate going into the primaries, and many bigger Democratic stars sat out the 1992 election since George H.W. Bush looked unbeatable in 1991. However, during the general election, Clinton definitely had a message ("It's the Economy, Stupid"), and definitely had a massive personality. Fleetwood Mac, Rock the Vote, playing the sax on Arsenio, Clinton carved his own niche. He was the first Baby Boomer president (and Bush was the second. If Obama wins in 2012, they could conceivably be the only two since Barack is too young to be a Boomer).

1988 - George H.W. Bush - the consummate insider, George 41could have never been Other Guy.

1980 - Ronald Reagan defeated an incumbent, but by this point he had been famous for decades and a political force for twenty years.

1976- Jimmy Carter. Really the only one to come out of nowhere and win. Governor of then-backwater Georgia with virtually no national profile a couple years before the election. Of course, he was running against Gerald Ford, the only man to hold the presidency without being elected as president or vice president. Ford and Carter were both good guys, but neither of them should have been president I suppose. 1976 really should have been an epic battle between Ted Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, but it was not to be.

1968 - Richard Nixon, former vice president, hardly Other Guy material. Plus, Bobby Kennedy was the presumptive Democratic nominee but was assassinated, and LBJ opted not to run again, so Tricky Dick basically had a bye in the general election.

1960 - JFK. The Kennedys had been famous for some time at this point. It also helped that he had LBJ and Mayor Daley behind him, helping him to "legitimately" win key races in Texas and Illinois.

1952 - Dwight D. Eisenhower won. This being only seven years after World War II ended, Ike was almost certainly the most famous person alive at the time.

1932 - FDR. He was a little bit Other Guy since Hoover was massively unpopular, but FDR definitely had a strong personality and a definitive agenda that he ran on. Plus, he was governor of New York and related to Teddy, so it wasn't like he was an unknown.

1928 - Hoover. The American economy had soared in the 1920s under Republican leadership, so why would we change things up now?

1920 - Warren G. Harding. Okay, maybe he was Other Guy too, since he was virtually unknown before a crooked convention gave him the nomination after several votes. My source - Boardwalk Empire, so I assume it must be true.

So there you go. Romney has no base or supporters of his own or of his policies, he just has Republicans who want to vote for the Other Guy. So worst case scenario for Romney - he loses. Best case scenario - he wins and follows in the steps of Jimmy Carter and Warren G. Harding.

A vote for Romney is essentially "cheering for clothes," as Jerry Seinfeld famously quipped. I've done the same, of course. I voted for John Kerry, Other Guy extraordaire. When I was a kid, I rooted for Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, total Other Guys. Of course, Other Guy theory stood strong in those days, as it shall again. There was no President Mondale, President Dukakis, President Kerry, nor will there be a President Romney.