Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama and Me

XTC--"The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead" (mp3)

"he looked a lot like you and an awful lot like me" --Andy Partridge

The following original article about Barack Obama is reprinted from The Guardian UK. After all of the hoopla about how Sarah Palin was one of us, I thought I might compare myself to Obama. I have added in italics how I stack up.

Fifty things you might not know about Barack Obama (or me)

By Jon Swaine

(and Bob)

• He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics. I once had an impressive collection of comic books that my mother threw away; my more impressive baseball card collection she sold to someone for $10.

• He was known as "O'Bomber" at high school for his skill at basketball. I had a friend in 9th grade who insisted on calling me "Cassius," though I never knew why.

• His name means "one who is blessed" in Swahili. My name is a verb, meaning "to float up and down in water."

• His favourite meal is wife Michelle's shrimp linguini. I don't generally find that Italian cooking is the proper setting for shrimp.

• He won a Grammy in 2006 for the audio version of his memoir, Dreams From My Father. Using two cassette recorders, I once cut a version of Neil Young's "Cortez The Killer" at a beach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that captured the waves crashing ashore and a taped rhythm guitar, while I sang and played lead guitar live, getting 4 different tracks onto a cassette tape, perhaps the first lo-fi recording in history?

• He is left-handed – the sixth post-war president to be left-handed. I, too, am left-handed, though I eat right-handed, but while in Korea this past summer, I instinctively learned to use chopsticks left-handed, even though I play guitar right-handed.

• He has read every Harry Potter book. I have read every Hemingway book.

• He owns a set of red boxing gloves autographed by Muhammad Ali. I have Roberto Clemente's autograph.

• He worked in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop as a teenager and now can't stand ice cream. I worked in a bakery as a teenager, and, as a result, have a strong distrust for store-bought baked goods. except for thumbprint cookies.

• His favourite snacks are chocolate-peanut protein bars. I had to quit keeping pretzels in my office for my students because I was ripping through them like crazy.

• He ate dog meat, snake meat, and roasted grasshopper while living in Indonesia. I have an intact dog.

• He can speak Spanish. I have never been to Spain, but I kinda like the music.

• While on the campaign trail he refused to watch CNN and had sports channels on instead. I thought a good portion of CNN's election year coverage sucked, but I do have a thing for Campbell Brown and, just based on seeing him on TV, my wife outed Anderson Cooper.

• His favourite drink is black forest berry iced tea. I am drinking my favorite drink as I write this; it comes from the oldest brewery in America.

• He promised Michelle he would quit smoking before running for president – he didn't. If that's the only promise he's ever broken, he's in great shape.

• He kept a pet ape called Tata while in Indonesia. My friend Tommy has a brother-in-law's brother named Tanu.

• He can bench press an impressive 200lbs. I weigh an impressive 200+ lbs, which means he can probably bench press me.

• He was known as Barry until university when he asked to be addressed by his full name. My original name was to be Todd Robert, until my father decided that other kids would make fun of me by calling me "Hot Toddy."

• His favourite book is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. I bought a copy of Moby-Dick just this year, intending to read it.

• He visited Wokingham, Berks, in 1996 for the stag party of his half-sister's fiancĂ©, but left when a stripper arrived. I am pretty sure I would have stayed.

• His desk in his Senate office once belonged to Robert Kennedy. I believe every JFK assassination conspiracy theory.

• He and Michelle made $4.2 million (£2.7 million) last year, with much coming from sales of his books. I have written a novel, a writing help book, and a cookbook, all of which have netted me $0.

• His favourite films are Casablanca and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. My wife likes films; I like movies, preferably World War II movies.

• He carries a tiny Madonna and child statue and a bracelet belonging to a soldier in Iraq for good luck. My Ipod never leaves me.

• He applied to appear in a black pin-up calendar while at Harvard but was rejected by the all-female committee. Most likely, I, too, would have been rejected.

• His favourite music includes Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Bach and The Fugees. My daughters think that The Fugees' version of "Killing Me Softly" is superior to the Roberta Flack original. Plus, here's perhaps the only raunchy classical music joke you'll ever hear: Why did Bach have so many children? Because his organ didn't have any stops.

• He took Michelle to see the Spike Lee film Do The Right Thing on their first date. I also took my wife to see Do The Right Thing, when she was pregnant with our first child, and, powerful though the film was, we were so tantalized by the pizzas coming out of the oven in that movie that we went right across the street and got pizza as soon as the movie let out.

• He enjoys playing Scrabble and poker. I find the sign "Liquor in the front. Poker in the rear" unceasingly funny for some reason.

• He doesn't drink coffee and rarely drinks alcohol. He doesn't teach.

• He would have liked to have been an architect if he were not a politician. I plan to build a brick oven in my back yard.

• As a teenager he took drugs including marijuana and cocaine. No cocaine for me, Barry!

• His daughters' ambitions are to go to Yale before becoming an actress (Malia, 10) and to sing and dance (Sasha, 7). My childhood ambition was to become "an ice cream man on a battleship." I'm sorry, I have no explanation.

• He hates the youth trend for trousers which sag beneath the backside. I don't like tatoos, piercings, and am especially freaked out by those earlobes that get stretched real big.

• He repaid his student loan only four years ago after signing his book deal. This pisses me off for some reason.

• His house in Chicago has four fire places. When I was 11, I came home to find the kitchen on fire and my father asleep on the couch and I briefly became the hero of the family.

• Daughter Malia's godmother is Jesse Jackson's daughter Santita. One of Emma's godfathers is the former drummer of Spinart recording artists, The Technical Jed.

• He says his worst habit is constantly checking his BlackBerry. My wife does the same thing, even in bed. If Blackberry advertises a soundless scroll button, they're lying.

• He uses an Apple Mac laptop. The school owns my laptop, is reluctant about updating to the latest version of Itunes, and won't let me download the program so that I can "watch instantly" on Netflix.

• He drives a Ford Escape Hybrid, having ditched his gas-guzzling Chrysler 300. Growing up in Pittsburgh, we had a gold Chrysler 300 with a black interior. Not only was it hot as a motherfucker, but, stylistically, what was my dad thinking?

• He wears $1,500 (£952) Hart Schaffner Marx suits. The black suit I currently wear came from Target and cost less than $100.

• He owns four identical pairs of black size 11 shoes. My feet are also size 11. I wonder if he has Birkenstocks.

• He has his hair cut once a week by his Chicago barber, Zariff, who charges $21 (£13). My barber, LaDonna, of the Pioneer Barber Shop in East Ridge, cuts my hair 3 or 4 times a year; she charges $12 and I tip her $2. She vacations in Daytona Beach each year.

• His favourite fictional television programmes are Mash and The Wire. Dude, I cannot believe that McNulty tried to fake a serial killer!

• He was given the code name "Renegade" by his Secret Service handlers. On a website that generated Mafia names when you entered your name, my friend Chet came out as "Chimpy Nuts."

• He was nicknamed "Bar" by his late grandmother. As a child, my dad called me "Boo"as an affectionate nickname; my brother effectively tormented me with the same nickname. Tone matters.

• He plans to install a basketball court in the White House grounds. Once on a very cold night in Pittsburgh when I was about 13, my parents allowed us to use the hose to create a thick layer of ice on our drivway and play ice hockey all night; in the morning, the sun heated the blacktop underneath and ruined it quickly.

• His favourite artist is Pablo Picasso. I got no problem with that. Which period?

• His speciality as a cook is chili. Cooking is my specialty.

• He has said many of his friends in Indonesia were "street urchins." I wonder what they said about him? Probably that he pals around with terrorists.

• He keeps on his desk a carving of a wooden hand holding an egg, a Kenyan symbol of the fragility of life. I have pretty soft hands and am fairly adept at the egg toss, even at long distances, but, like all things, eventually that egg must break.

• His late father was a senior economist for the Kenyan government. I have a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Go figure.


John said...

Pretty rare to have a piece of writing make me laugh aloud but this one did. Superlative post, Robert.

Daytimerush said...

I think you are in love!