Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Age of the Flip

So before embarking on my Eurotrip my girlfriend bought me a Flip Mino mini camcorder. Smaller than most most cellphones the Flip comes equipped with speakers a LCD display as well as a built in USB port so you don't have to worry about losing any cords, a huge help while traveling. The big question regarding this technology is whether or not the convenience is outweighed by the loss of quality from a larger, more expensive model. In my opinion these cameras are not simply a blip on the radar but are fast becoming one of the most important means of personal, political, and media expression available.

With the advent of the YouTube generation people have an incredible desire to voice their opinions (or share funny videos of the their children and pets) and these cameras provide a low cost but technologically advanced means of transmitting these things. More importantly however camera's such as the Flip are empowering the average person and making them a contributing player in a much larger (in many cases) global exchange on a number of issues Politics has not been unaffected following the introduction of this technology either. David Plouffe, Campaign Manager for then Senator Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign, discusses in his book The Audacity to Win the incredible effect video messages had in campaign e-mails. Interestingly enough Obama supporters were not yearning for a clip with an especially high production value, instead they wanted something real. This desire for something authentic is what has propelled the video diary of freshman Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah to an internet sensation on CNN's Freshman Year video blog. The UK has also seen the introduction of highly portable video camera's in Conservative Leader David Cameron's WebCameron video exclusives. In addition to providing a real look at the inner working of politics video messaging also gives voters not simply a name, or logo but a face and a person to identify with.

Portable video technology will also create a more fluid definition of the news media than exists even today. With almost anyone able to produce, record, or create a clip the sky truly is the limit in regards to who can break the next story or be first on the scene of a major topic.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Soccer Hooligans

We tried to visit this very authentic British pub called the Hole in the Wall over by Waterloo station but were asked by Police to find another place to grab lunch and have a drink as "there were going to be problems here." It seems the bar was taken over by soccer fans and then they were escorted out for fighting. video

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Commentary from Across the Pond

As I sit here and use the free internet in an English McDonald's I am still blown away by the result of last night's Senate Race in Massachusetts. Interestingly enough Americans are not the only ones in awe by this. At work this morning (a little late I admit from staying up until the race was called for Brown) I received a phone call from my Boss send his congratulations in regards to the "right proper beating" that was administered last night.

While a historic night without a doubt the lesson is not that 2010 will be a cake walk for Republicans across the nation. Instead the message, and one the GOP should take heed of, is that no state is permanently dyed one color, Red or Blue. To win Republicans will have to work as hard, if not harder than Senator-elect Brown, but it can be done. Moving forward the GOP must also realize that you run to win, but that is not an end unto itself. You win to govern. Without a cohesive strategy for governing the United States then Republicans are no better than their Democratic counterparts. One year ago President Obama was inaugurated promising a new kind of politics. Since then two states that solidly supported Obama have become less than certain he is capable, or sincere about the advent of a new America. Voters in Virginia and New Jersey turned to Republicans who offered a message of change and hope to fulfill this promise. Last night the people of Massachusetts did the same. Republicans must not take these gains for granted, nor can they afford to pay passing lip service to the policy promises that got them there. The national GOP establishment would be wise to see what resonates with the American public. Specifically the promise of a better tomorrow, promotion of policies to help during these tough economic times, candidates who promise to be stewards of taxpayer funds, and the wholesale rejection of politics as usual. Don't forget this, regardless of how the chips fall in November.

In London the response has been surprise. It is clear the Republican Party was counted out, however many of the same conservative principles will be judged by the people here in just a few short months when Gordon Brown calls for a General Election campaign. Dubbed "The Year for Change" the Conservative Party is poised to make significant gains, but they too will be left with the challenge of not simply winning, but governing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Confessions of a Massachusetts Republican

As far as election campaigns go I have been around the block....No not like that. I have campaigned in MA, NJ, PA, FL, DC, VA for races ranging from local elections all the way up to a Presidential Campaign (and everything in between). I have always taken a certain amount of pride in challenging the belief that a Republican could not claim the Governor's mansion or a North Eastern PA Congressional Seat (coming back for that one in 2010). One thing I always excepted however was that Massachusetts will never (at least not in my lifetime) send a Republican to Congress, let alone the United States Senate. With that in mind I worked harder and longer to challenge places where the term Republican was a dirty word.

I don't think I was ever as distressed about the one party control of my state until I began interning. Quickly it became clear that I would not be able to apply to any of the Members of Congress who represented me. Luckily I found an adoptive home in the midwest office of the future Governor of Oklahoma. But with an hour to go before polls close in the Bay State it looks like for the first time in 40 years a Republican just may be representing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the Senate. What a difference a year makes! More than the opportunity to intern for a person I believe in from MA, Scott Brown's campaign represents an affirmation of something every parent has told their child from a young age. Hard work is rewarded. Win or lose Brown has outworked his opponent and ignored the pundits who said it was a pipe dream. I wish him the best of luck tonight and I cast my ballot almost two weeks ago for him.

Until the polls close I am just keeping the faith.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mind the Gap

So as a Washington, D.C. college student I consider myself a bit of an authority on public transportation. In my short time in DC I have experienced the good and the bad(see June crash, recent suicides) about the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority. After spending just a few days in London I have some thoughts about the Underground, aka the Tube. Although quite a bit more expensive than my beloved Metro, the Tube is incredibly fast. I think I have only waited a total of ten minutes in about 15 trips. Also the tube does frequent updates regarding the service on each line letting travelers know well in advance if there are any issues.

Something else I enjoyed about the Tube is that each of the stations is incredibly unique. Unlike the D.C. metro system where uniform stations are the norm, British stations are each very different. A reflection of the age of London itself these stations are lined with some of the most effective advertising I have seen in my life. There is barely an empty wall. It makes me wonder why the D.C. metro is so inadequately utilized as far as advertising space is concerned. I have also been blown away by the quality of service from the Underground employees. Each time I have been lost they were quick to help with a smile on their faces. A stark contrast to the horrendous attitude displayed by WMATA employees. Lastly I was shocked to see how clean the cars of the Tube are. Unlike the D.C. metro there are few to no signs warning of penalties resulting from consuming food or drink on the trains.

However, despite the positives I noticed a few less than ideal things as well. Many of the lines on the Tube are undergoing track work during the weekends causing issues for the new traveler like myself. My primary criticism with this impressive transit system is the price though. As I alluded too earlier the Tube is incredibly expensive. With a price of nearly $2 for even the shortest ride "topping up" (adding money too) your oyster card (smarttrip card) can quickly drain your funds. I hope within the next two weeks to pick up a discounted student oyster card to help stave off some of these expenses. The availability of this card, even though it may be tough to get, underscores the need for a student smart trip in the D.C. WMATA system. Not only would this incentives student use of the metro it would also be a means of limited bad behavior on the Metro. If Metro Police can threaten to revoke a Student Smart Trip instead of applying a simple fine they may provide a persistent economic reason for college students to better treat their transit system.

Monday, January 11, 2010

England Update

Gonna keep track of all the places I visit and my thoughts on the cuisine, etc.

Sports Cafe- American style bar. Pretty solid place to avoid all things British, which I do not recommend at all. Nice to have in the case of an important Patriots game though (wish it turned out differently)! The beer was a little pricey and the place was packed. I enjoyed a Becks and a Carlsberg. The latter was far superior, in terms of both taste and price.

On the way home from the beating the Pats took at the hands of the Ravens Tanner, Pat, and I stopped for a pizza and a drink. The pies were delicious but the beer left something to be desired. We were drinking Peroni, it was fine but not a show stopper by any means.

Also realized that many of the pubs here in London utilize the same menu. Slight drag if your looking for variety but pub grub is a cheap alternative for lunch. Will be avoiding any menu with the same bold type stating "English Pub Food Served All Day." Looking forward to checking out some of the more unique and ethnic areas of the city.

London Calling

I arrived in London on Saturday morning. I flew Virgin Atlantic from Boston (Logan) to London (Heathrow). I packed a ton of stuff, so much so that I had a garment bag, a huge rolling duffel, and a small duffel bag in addition to my carry on. The result was a bit of a disaster. I don't care who you are, unless you are the Hulk you would not have been able to carry this amount of luggage around London. With that in mind I elected to take a cab from the airport to the hotel where my key for my flat was supposedly waiting. The ride was really long, and really expensive. Then to cap it off the Hotel Umi did not have my key. I must have misread an e-mail from the Study Abroad people and it took me a good hour to track down the right hotel to pick up my key. Luckily from the time I picked up my key to when I moved into the flat was very uneventful. After unpacking a little bit I actually fell asleep in the living room and passed out for a few hours.

I ended up waking up too two of the other guys moving in. We got our stuff together and then went into the city to grab some food and do a little bit of exploring. Attempting to channel my english roots Tanner, Mike, and myself went off to find a pub for dinner. After much debate and quite a bit of walking around in Picadily Circus (which for the record has no circus animals or any other resemblance to an American circus) we ended up at the Sussex Pub. The food was pretty basic but it was nice to sit down and feel a part of the city. I had a burger and "chips." Also took part in another British tradition of having a pint or two. I drank a 1664 which was a pretty decent beer and something I remember people drinking from my previous trip to Europe. I also tried a Strongbow cider and instantly became a fan. The raging hangover I received from it I was less enthusiastic about.

After dinner the three of us headed out for a late night tour of some of London's most notable sites. We saw Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the House of Parliament. Overall a cool way of seeing the city.