Monday, December 29, 2008

(Insert Clever Title Here)

I miss school. 

Never in my life did I think I would type those three words. But I do miss it. Severely. Funny what college can do to you. 

Friday, December 26, 2008

So my New Year's Resolution is starting a few days early: I'm blogging everyday, biznatches. Even if it's meaningless garbage that should be thought and never actually typed for the entire internet (or as Gus calls it, "the interwebs"), it'll go on here. Sidenote--How many times am I actually going to swear to blog more before I actually DO?!

Christmas was good. Very...Christmas-y. But the truth is, I have never in my life been MORE ready for the season to end. Putting away the tree, sealing up the boxes stuffed with animatronic singing Santas, taking down the mistletoe...for the first time in my life, I was more excited to take everything DOWN than to put it up and enjoy the glory of the "happiest time of year". So what exactly does this mean? That I'm turning into the 21st century's pastier version of the Grinch? Do I need the infamous three spirits of "A Christmas Carol" to visit me in my sleep and remind me that the season lives in our hearts blah blah blah? Is it just a matter of days before my own Clarence the angel ascends from the heavens to set me back on the right path? Or have I simply outgrown my childhood--and Christmas is going the way of Barbie dreamhouses and plastic dinosaurs? Does it have something to do with me now being in college, and having to be so focused on THAT, that the holidays are here and gone before it really has a chance to seek in? And, even more importantly, am I getting too self-inquisitive for my own good? Yikes. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Excuses, excuses...

In case you didn't year, Barack won the election.

What was I doing in between that time and now?

Reading, sleeping, studying, dancing, breathing, kissing, writing, essaying, shopping, sledding, running, walking, biking, video-gaming, dressing up, dressing down, analyzing Alexis de Toqueville, hating Ben Franklin, being punished, being praised, debating, deciding, giving up, giving in, creating, destroying, target-running, soda-spilling, radio-show-hosting, facebooking, sipping coffee, spilling tea, talking, listening, Um Ya Ya-ing, reconnecting with old friends, disconnecting from others, quoting, joking, laughing, living.

In other words...everything BUT blogging. But, due to pressure from the FREE SPIRIT NETWORK (namely Kelley. =) I have returned. And I will ne'er leave you alone again, dear blog.

But now I am HOME...and it's kind of a weird experience. This entire past week, I have been counting the nano-seconds till I could escape the homework, the stress, the drama, etc., and just chill at home. But now that I'm here...I kinda can't wait to get back. I haven't stopped talking to my friends from school since 15 minutes into the drive back to P-town. Could it be that St. Olaf is my home now? Or maybe I'm addicted to the constant drama, pressure, energy, and amazing-ness of college. Or perhaps I've just been listening to FAR too many "This American Life" episodes, making me far too introspective and reflective for my own good...

In other news, check out the Free Spirit NETWORK! It's almost as amazing as the Free Spirits themselves:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Yes We Can.

Tomorrow's the day we've been waiting for for over 2 years. And I wanted to put this out there for everyone to read. It's Barack Obama concession speech from the New Hampshire Primary on January 8, 2008, and it literally gives me chills every time I read/hear it, and actually inspired me to get involved and volunteer with the Obama campaign. No matter who you're supporting--be it Barack, McCain, Ralph Nader, Ron Paul, whoever--this speech is amazing.

Get out and vote tomorrow, inspire others to do the same, and remember-- "Yes We Can".


"A few weeks ago, no one imagined that we’d have accomplished what we did here tonight. For most of this campaign, we were far behind, and we always knew our climb would be steep.

But in record numbers, you came out and spoke up for change. And with your voices and your votes, you made it clear that at this moment – in this election – there is something happening in America.

There is something happening when men and women in Des Moines and Davenport; in Lebanon and Concord come out in the snows of January to wait in lines that stretch block after block because they believe in what this country can be.

There is something happening when Americans who are young in age and in spirit – who have never before participated in politics – turn out in numbers we’ve never seen because they know in their hearts that this time must be different.

There is something happening when people vote not just for the party they belong to but the hopes they hold in common – that whether we are rich or poor; black or white; Latino or Asian; whether we hail from Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction. That is what’s happening in America right now. Change is what’s happening in America.

You can be the new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness – Democrats, Independents and Republicans who are tired of the division and distraction that has clouded Washington; who know that we can disagree without being disagreeable; who understand that if we mobilize our voices to challenge the money and influence that’s stood in our way and challenge ourselves to reach for something better, there’s no problem we can’t solve – no destiny we cannot fulfill.

Our new American majority can end the outrage of unaffordable, unavailable health care in our time. We can bring doctors and patients; workers and businesses, Democrats and Republicans together; and we can tell the drug and insurance industry that while they’ll get a seat at the table, they don’t get to buy every chair. Not this time. Not now.

Our new majority can end the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut into the pockets of the working Americans who deserve it.

We can stop sending our children to schools with corridors of shame and start putting them on a pathway to success. We can stop talking about how great teachers are and start rewarding them for their greatness. We can do this with our new majority.

We can harness the ingenuity of farmers and scientists; citizens and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil and save our planet from a point of no return.

And when I am President, we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home; we will finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan; we will care for our veterans; we will restore our moral standing in the world; and we will never use 9/11 as a way to scare up votes, because it is not a tactic to win an election, it is a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the twenty-first century: terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

All of the candidates in this race share these goals. All have good ideas. And all are patriots who serve this country honorably.

But the reason our campaign has always been different is because it’s not just about what I will do as President, it’s also about what you, the people who love this country, can do to change it.

That’s why tonight belongs to you. It belongs to the organizers and the volunteers and the staff who believed in our improbable journey and rallied so many others to join.

We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.
We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks to come. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told that we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.

And so tomorrow, as we take this campaign South and West; as we learn that the struggles of the textile worker in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas; that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America’s story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea – Yes. We. Can."

-Barack Obama
January 8, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Date With Huffington?

I had been counting the SECONDS until I got to see Arianna Huffington, co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post. And when I found out that NOT ONLY was she coming to my school, but I was going to get to interview her for the Manitou Messenger?! Well, I almost passed out.

After spending the day diligently writing down/thinking up/frantically asking Free Spirits ideas for questions, I was ready. So I got to place where the interview was going to, for lack of better words, "go down". And I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, someone working there told me that Huffington wasn't showing up...because it "just wasn't worth her time". Ouch. Nevermind that it was for 10 minutes, between dinner and her speech, and the school was paying her FOURTY-THOUSAND DOLLARS. This, needless to say, put a bitter taste in my mouth towards the outspoken liberal blogger, her Greek accent, and her shellacked hair. (Although, for the record, I'll still probably read the blog. Compulsively.)

I miss Tim Russert.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

L is for the way you LOOK at me...

Things I love this week:

1) "Volume 1" by She and Him. Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward singing folky type songs. On our epic road trip (we're heading down south either this summer or the next to check out Elvis's homeland), this WILL be blasted from the car speakers over and over and over again.

2) My black tights. I've had to limit myself to how often I can wear these, they're just THAT perfect. And only $5 at Target. Thrifty AND stylish.

3) "Naked Economics" by Charles Wheelan. This book makes the world's most boring science (economics is a science, right?) pretty darn awesome. Plus there's a naked man on the cover. Speaking of which...

4) Streaking. While I have not gone myself (Thank God.), recent streakers from Kitt (who shall go unnamed) have given us all something to giggle about over and over and over again these past few days.

5) This quote: "Be careful. Journalism is more addictive than crack cocaine. Your life can get out of balance."--Dan Rather. Oh Dan, I love you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...

I'm apparently really, really bad at actually updating blogs. Ugh.

HOWEVER..."What the Hill?" FINALLY has podcasts.

You can download them here:

There's only 2 episodes up so far--one with Alana and Nathan filling in for Dave and myself, and last week's. Go check them out NOW.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Adventures with the Democratic Party: How We Snuck Into an Obama Press Booth, Met the World’s Tallest Man, and Became a Matter of National Security

I wrote the following piece on Monday's adventure breaking into the press booth at the Michelle Obama speech/rally. So if you're absolutely desperate to hear all about sneaking into a high security backstage area and getting hunted down by the Secret Service, here's all 1,500+ words. (Sorry.)

Adventures with the Democratic Party: How We Snuck Into an Obama Press Booth, Met the World’s Tallest Man, and Became a Matter of National Security
By Paula S.
For the first time in our many adventures together, my friend Caitlin and I were ready, prepared, and on time for something. We’d been planning for days to go to the Obama Rally in Rochester, Minnesota, featuring Barack’s wife Michelle as the guest speaker. We knew there were no bags allowed in the arena. We had left our signs and banners at home. And our tickets were nestled safe and sound in our pockets. We arrived early, and decided to go out for coffee for 15 minutes before dropping our stuff off in her car and being among the first in line for the speech. However, the coffee run ended up taking us a little under an hour, and when we finally made it back to the arena--bags in hand, of course--we found ourselves behind 1,500 other loyal Obama supporters. We griped and lamented about the terrible view we were sure to have, when a neon-yellow sign caught my eye.

The sign read “Press, This Way” with an arrow pointing to the back of the building. I peaked into my bag, and realized I had brought my camera, tape recorder, and reporter’s notebook. (As Caitlin later described “You looked just like the stereotypical reporter--all you were missing was the fedora with the press badge sticking out.”)

“We’re going to sneak back there,” I told Caitlin.

“What? No. We can’t. That’s insane. We don’t have credentials. Heck, we’re not even here to report on this. There’s no way they’ll let us through.”

“Caitlin, we’re going to be stuck behind a thousand and a half people. We have to try.” I proceeded to grab her arm, pulling her out of line, past the “Stay Off the Grass” signs, across the neatly manicured lawn (I figured if we were already breaking one rule, we might as well break more) and around the building to the press table.

It was then that I started getting a little nervous. It was one thing trying to sneak your way to the backstage of a Tonic-Sol-Fa concert by confidently assuring them you’re with the press--it’s completely different when you’re trying to sneak back into a place that would be crawling with cops, security, and secret service agents of every sort. I took a deep breath, and summoned up my inner Al Neuharth/Kelley Robinson/Anderson Cooper/Betty Bayee (four of my favorite journalists.). Neuharth’s famous words “Don’t stand quietly at the back of the line--you have to push your way to the front” (or something along those lines) rang through my head as I marched up to the table.

“Is this were we get our press passes?” I managed to somewhat-confidently ask the two women in charge.

They looked me up and down suspiciously (Caitlin wisely stood off to the side, ensuring I would be the one to get the brunt of the punishment if we were caught.) “What newspaper are you with?” They clearly did not believe I was an actual member of the media--I think it was my silver, glittery ballet flats that did it.

“U--,” I paused. I was about to say ‘USA Today”, but I realized if I said it, all chances we had were down the drain. “The Fillmore County Journal,” I said, referring to the newspaper that I did my internship at this summer. “And the Manitou Messenger. And the Falcon Informer,” I rattled off all the newspapers I had written for in the last six months, even though I had graduated from high school--and the latter newspaper--four and a half months ago. I figured, if worse came to worse, someone from one of these papers was bound to vouch that I was a legitimate member of the press.

The ladies seemed to believe me, because they then asked for my press credentials--something I very much did not have. But, refusing to turn back after we got this far (and partially because I was already nervous about what would happen to us if we got caught trying to do this), I shrugged my shoulders.

“I just found out I was covering this. My boss is really unorganized. I thought he called ahead…?” I bit my lip and lifted up my Free Spirit notebook, hoping that would be good enough for them.

The women sighed. “Let me just see your I.D. then,” one of them said. “You can sign in.”
If I seemed professional before, it was all lost the second I squealed and said “You mean we’re in?” They nodded. I grinned and signed in, grabbing my official Obama press badge and waited for Caitlin to get registered (She managed to get in by just shrugging and saying “I’m with her.”)

We waltzed in the building, through the barriers, and into the official press restrooms where we shut the door, checked under the stalls to make sure there was no one else in there, and immediately began jumping up and down, singing “We’re the press, we’re the press!” We then texted and called anyone we thought would be impressed by our finagling, before calmly walking out, through the double doors, and into the press booth.

Finally, after an hour and 15 minutes of waiting in the press area just a few yards away from the podium, the rally started. While the speakers enthusiastically pumped up the crowd (Who took it upon themselves to start chants of “O-bam-a!” and “Fired up! Ready to go!”…often yelled above the actual speakers themselves.), Somehow, my friend James managed to sneak through and stand by us, and the three of us snapped pictures, recorded, and jotted down notes with the best of them.

Michelle Obama came out, and proved to be just as inspiring and charismatic as her husband. “We have some choices to make in this election. And as a mother, a daughter, and a wife, I know there’s only ONE candidate who gets it…Barack Obama!” The crowd went nuts at this line, and I saw one of the Obama campaign staffers begin to usher some more important, professional-looking journalists past the little fence blocking off our area and down to Michelle’s feet at the podium. I grabbed my camera and started following them, but one of the other staffers grabbed me before I made it past the fence. “Absolutely not,” she hissed. I grumbled and moped back to my previous spot, glaring at my newfound enemy the entire time.
Finally, the rally ended. As those closest to the podium rushed up to meet Michelle, I glanced over to make sure the evil staffer had her back turned, and I shimmied over the fence (Actually, due to my highly un-athletic abilities, it wasn’t really shimmying. It was more awkwardly-hoisting myself over), and I dashed into the crowd, insistent on getting Michelle to answer at least one question. I found the world’s tallest man (yes. He was there. And yes--he was VERY easy to spot.) and practically glued myself to the side of him, knowing that she would definitely make a special effort to shake his hand.

As I waited to meet Michelle, I glanced back at my friends, only to see a look of horror on James’s face, and my enemy-staffer animatedly talking to some nearby secret service agents. I squeezed myself further into the crowd, managed to brush my hand against Michelle’s arm (I didn’t actually shake it. But it was enough to get my germs on her, and that’s all that really matters), and I climbed over a row of chairs, waiting for James and Caitlin to find me.
“Paula!” James yelled, “Paula, what were you doing?! The staff lady thought you were going to attack her or question her or something! You broke through that fence and she ran up to the secret service and told them to watch you! They thought you were a security threat!”
I gulped, grabbed James, and drug him deeper into the crowd. I was too nervous to go back to our original spot, fearing that I was officially a matter of national security. As the crowd started to thin out, and Caitlin found out that none of the Obama staff, volunteers, or speakers were allowed to talk to the press, I anxiously pushed my posse ahead. “We NEED to go now,” I hissed. Even though I was pretty sure I was off the hook, I couldn’t help but imagine a future where I would spend the rest of my life hiding from the Secret Service in a cave somewhere in the Middle East with Kim Jong Il and Osama Bid Laden.

We left the rally feeling inspired, impressed, and a little bit rebellious. And although I would spend the next few day nervous that the secret service would show up at my doorstep to take me to some secret prison reserved for journalists, I was also proud of what we had accomplished that day. We had blatantly broken some rules, and probably a few laws, and managed to make a couple Obama staffers a little scared of us. But, as Cathie Black assured us all at the 2008 Free Spirit Conference, “It’s not about being bad--it’s about being damn good.” And while I don’t think she was referring to making national security a little leery of you, I do think she meant that sometimes you need to shake up the establishment and bend the rules in order to get ahead in life. So get out there, take Ms. Black’s words to heart, and don’t forget to vote November 4. The change we need is just on the horizon.

Sweet Jesus, We Have a Blog Title

So I--we, as I begged everyone I know for their help--pondered, brainstormed, and racked our brains for WEEKS trying to think up a blog title. And in the end? I just used the title from the column I used to have. Oh well. Thanks to EVERYONE for their help though! You're all winners in my heart. hahahaha.

I guess I should mention a few key things before attempting to dive into the "blogosphere". I'm a first-year (NOT freshman, apparently) at St. Olaf College, and I'm starting a blog to try a different aspect of journalism. (I've been doing newspaper for years and currently co-host a radio show on KSTO called "What the Hill?" every Friday at 5 pm) I'm also starting this thing to keep up with the 2008 Free Spirit Scholars who have been dominating the internet with their musings for months now.

Lastly, I will try to post everyday (I hear this gets pretty addicting), but no promises. My record for keeping a journal is one week, so here's hoping this goes better...

peace and love
paula s.