The blog of
Andrew J. Lederer
Posted on 11/04/2008 at 09:28 AM
I vote regularly. It's important to me to take responsibility for the direction of our society by, if at all possible, stepping up to the ballot when called upon to do so. I've felt that way since my father took me into those mammoth New York voting booths when I was just a boy.
0 Comments |
4503 Views |
Back to top |
Last time I went to vote, however, I had recently changed my address and, though I'd dutifully informed the Board of Elections of that fact, when I got to my new polling place, they had no record of my existence, nor was I on the rolls at my previous polling place. (I went back just in case.) So, I returned to the school where I should have been able to vote and cast one of those affidavit ballots. You know, the ones they don't really count but let you fill out so you can feel like you've voted and walk away happy rather than making trouble for them.
Well, this presidential election being such an important one, I determined to make sure my registration was in order, no matter what.
In October, when I realized I would not be in the U.S. in time to reregister and that it was close to the deadline, I e-mailed the New York Board of Elections, giving them all the information they needed to track down my registration history and let me know whether I was indeed registered at some mysterious alternate universe-style address.
Unfortunately, they responded over the course of a multi-message exchange with boilerplate "you can find the information you need at boardofelections.com (or whatever)" language, even though I had already explained to them that I couldn't. So, there was nothing I could do except to brave the vagaries of international mail and reregister at my current NY address.
Well, the first time I tried to mail the registration form from a non-US "post office" (in the back of a fairly downscale convenience store), it turned out the MasterCards they accepted did not include good, old, American-style swipe cards, so -- it being the end of the day -- I was forced to come back another time with the cash. Which, of course, I did -- choosing a special, international express method that would not only prove I had mailed the form by the postmark deadline but also track the journey and delivery so could be certain it had arrived and in time.
And it tracked it alright. All the way to the point where the envelope was handed over to the US post office.
Then . . . Nothing
Well, nothing to worry about, anyway. The number of days in the delivery guarantee meant my registration would get there before the deadline.
Except . . . Columbus Day. (Geez. Who thinks about Columbus Day when abroad?)
Well . . . The form was handed to the US Postal Service before the beginning of the week and it didn't have to be at the Board 'til Wednesday, so it would probably be alright anyway.
But no confirmation ever arrived at my NY address. Nor did the absentee ballot I had requested on the registration form. And when I tried to call the Board to find out what was going on, I got a voice mail tree that led me through a list of choices that ended with an option to receive personalized help. I chose that option, which led me back to the beginning of the voice mail tree.
Fortunately, I had prepared a back-up plan -- I wasn't going to let bureaucratic ineptitude prevent me from exercising my democratic rights this time around. I'd learned there was a later registration deadline in a different state where I could register at a friend's address and, when pushed against the deadline, I decided to do it.
Yes, this would be technically wrong in some measure. But were not technical wrongs also stacked against me?
I decided I would vote only for President/Vice-President, no local issues I had no business meddling in. And since the other state was, like New York, a state where my candidate was going to win anyway, there would be no Electoral College implications. I had found a way to do what's required of me as an American, despite the odds.
Sitting in an internet "cafe" -- with this second state's deadline about to be lost to me when the post office closed -- I got official permission to use my friend's address and headed to a full-fledged post office which would hopefully accept my American card. Yes, there was the possibility that I had enough cash if they didn't but I had earlier paid for something at the supermarket with cash and that meant it would be close 'cause I couldn't make an ATM withdrawal due to PIN code issues, so . .
Just in case, I decided to bail on that post office and, in the pouring rain, rushed back to where I was staying to get an envelope, which would mean I'd only need cash for postage.
It was now about 5 and the post office would close at 5:30. As I rushed home, I noticed unusual stuff on my cell phone's rain-speckled screen and clicked it back to the main screen. Then, I got home, got an envelope, stuffed it, closed it and was ready to put on the address of my alternate state's Board of Elections.
Except . . .
The unclear stuff I'd glimpsed through the rain on my phone's screen had been the electoral board's address. When my friend sent me the message saying I could use his address, I'd gotten so excited, I forgot to save the other one.
At about 5:15, still in the rain, I rushed to another post office, calling US phone information on the way. I got a number for election inf, called it and got a busy signal but no answer. Called again and my cell service failed me. Same thing again.
So, I was in the post office at 5:30.
But there was nothing I could do.
I could not get a postmark that final day.
Unless . . .
. . . I had someone in America mail the form for me.
That would mean they would have to forge my signature -- which would be technically illegal -- but I would be giving them my power of attorney, which would make it okay, right?
My out-of-state "roommate" (the friend with the address) said he could help with that plan but what he meant was that he would have some other friend of his take care of it and I didn't want to entrust my personal information to an unknown character. So,o I called around frantically as it got later and later in America.
Finally, someone else -- part of my world -- agreed to help..
The form was in the mail.
I would be registered in this other state.
I could vote.
However, I also needed the friendly forger to sign and send the form requesting an absentee ballot and when I asked, there was no response.
For several days.
Turned out this particular form said "under penalty of perjury", which the other had not. I think that meant that I promised I was supplying accurate information on the form, not that the signature wasn't a forged one But the net result was that I had a facilitator no more.
But my new state's method of IDing the legitimacy of ballots was comparing signatures. If I wanted to get an absentee ballot, I had to supply my name in this other person's handwriting.
And I didn't even know what it looked like.
I asked for a sample to be scanned and sent so I could copy it but nothing came. It was again too late to send something from here, so the guy living at "my" address again offered help, but this time in the form of another unknown associate who would copy the signature and get it to the electoral authorities in exchange for a hundred and something dollars, which didn't feel wise and even seemed kinda dirty.
And anyway, I still didn't have a copy of "my" signature.
Finally, an artist who could copy the signature easily (if we ever got it) said he was willing to help if he could. By this time it was only days from the election, so I now also had to claim that something "unexpected" had come up after the absentee deadline ("under penalty of perjury") in order to get my vote.
But I still didn't have "my" signature.
And yesterday, it was down to the wire.
My signature-pal was still unreachable. I explained in my messages that she didn't need to sign any documents, just a blank piece of paper to serve as a guide to others, but still -- nothing.
And my helpful friend's schedule was tight, leaving less and less time for him to run my errands.
Plus, I wasn't even sure if what I wanted could be done once Election Day actually came, so I e-mailed the elections office to ask but, as night descended, they hadn't replied.
And then, from within the swirling vortex of tangled plans, I realized.
None of this would have been necessary if my New York registration, which had been active for years, had been in place as it should have been; if I hadn't, for reasons unknown, vanished from the rolls; if the Board of Elections actually contacted people with registration issues, rather than waiting for them to arrive at the polling place to find they're not listed.
So, I decided to vote as I should have in the first place. As I am entitled to. As a New Yorker
Of course, during the night, I received a faxed copy of my alternate signature.
And late at night, I got a boilerplate response from my alternate state's election officials that seemed to indicate my plan could still be pulled off if my artist friend still had the time to help me. (The mindless e-mail mostly restated my questions as the answer. New York did that too. I hate that.)
But I needed them no longer.
I sent this e-mail to the New York Board of Elections:
"I, Andrew J. Lederer, a citizen of the State and City of New York, hereby cast my ballot for Barack Obama for President of the United States and Joseph Biden for Vice President on this, the 1st Tuesday of November, according to my rights as established by the U.S. Constitution. This is my vote. I instruct you to consider it as such. Should you require additional information to establish my identity, feel free to contact me and I will supply it.
I have registered as required by law. Our system of government by the people does not strip me of fundamental rights simply because you have made errors in processing that registration.
So, this is my vote. It is a real vote.
To ignore it is to betray the very notion of America."
I hope those of you who can vote without problems will do so as, if even one person who wouldn't have otherwise voted does so after reading this, I'll feel like I mattered. (Of course, I'm really only speaking of Obama voters, tee-hee.)
If I were in a David Kelley show, I'd probably sue to make it count.
But, you know. I feel good.
Because I voted
More Fun With Royal Mail
Posted on 10/15/2008 at 07:56 AM
Anyway, I had to send out a stack of magazines on behalf of the
(vacationing) woman whose home I've been staying in. And she'd said the
postage would come to about 90p each.
0 Comments |
4364 Views |
Back to top |
So, I had no trouble answering the question, "Would you like to send them 1st class or 2nd?" 2nd was 90p and 1st was £1.08.
I went with 2nd.
But the clerk went with 1st.
Which I didn't discover until the envelopes were already stamped.
The clerk admitted it was her error but, nonetheless, wanted me to pay the 1st class rate.
"I'm sorry, " she said sincerely.
"Everyone makes mistakes," added her associate.
Yes, I said, but why should I have to pay for them?
So, they summoned a woman with the power to tear off stamps and make the world right again.
Who -- despite her great power -- had a delicate touch. (As far as I could tell, not a single envelope was damaged.)
I wasn't angry. I simply didn't want to pay more than I should. Which
the sweet, kiss gesture I made to the original error-maker as I left
served to underscore.
I think it had the desired effect of both comforting her and making me look good.
Which meant I could move on to Sainsbury's!
Where I found this fiercely proud text on a bottle of £2.99 Spanish
wine: "Sun, dry climate and chalky soil, the indispensable elements of
the cultivation of DON SIMON SELECCION Tempranillo"
Well. "indispensable" these elements may be, but the proud folks over
at Don Simon were careful not to assert that any of these indispensable
elements had a beneficial effect on the wine.
I decided to buy it!
And -- what luck! -- there was a guy finishing his
purchase at the "I've only got one thing to buy, so I'm gonna buy it at
the cigarette counter" counter and there was no one behind him.
So, I rushed toward the counter, getting there ahead of a girl who
tried to move over from a different line and she was none too happy
about it. I said, aren't these two separate lines? (And I was pretty sure they were.)
Now, typically I'd shine a light on a stunt like someone pretending
they didn't know the nature of a store's line regulations, then let the
embarrassed cheat go ahead of me anyway. But we'll never know if that's
what would have happened here because, violating the prime directive
and interfering in the natural evolution of the situation, was an
English man, a posh busybody, who offered the unsolicited, "She was ahead of you.
Which rendered me officially "wrong".
And when you're wrong in the eyes of all around you, there's no way --
unless you have the time to offer up paragraphs of wisdom -- that
anything you say will sound like anything other than schoolyard
petulance. Especially when the people around you are likely to
reflexively write you off as being a pushy American
Boy, did it bother me to hear the cashier apologizing for my actions.
"I'm sorry you're wrong," I told the Ozzie/Kiwi
line-shifter (or something equally pathetic) in order to counteract the
cashier's misdirected sensitivity..
"There I go being a boorish American again," I said loudly. "That's the simple explanation for everything." (My exact words or close.) Of course, I realized everyone around me was probably thinking, "Yup."
I think I've written here before about how, while making a movie in
Dubrovnik, I got flak from producers for coming down to breakfast in my
bathrobe. They said I was badly representing America.
Well -- then as now -- my day to day actions do not represent any place, thing or person other than me.
For God's sake, this "national characteristics" crap is the
underpinning of both Nazism and ethnic cleansing. And you Brits all see
things through that prism.
Anyway, it turns out, the girl hadn't been on the next line -- she hadn't been on any line. She was standing between them, waiting for an opportunity to present itself.
So, she had no legitimate position of any kind. No priority status. She
had rendered herself stateless, seeking maximum benefit; a mercenary,
on nobody's side but her own.
We were just two people, she and I, neither of us on a line, me just a little bit faster.
In a fair society, my victory would have been celebrated, not damned.
Pure, honest competition. That's the way we do it in America.
And the best and the strongest survive.
That's why our banking system is the envy of the world.
I Was Retro When Retro Wasn't Cool
Posted on 10/14/2008 at 10:32 AM
I've always been interested in pop culture that's gone before. TV, movies and music that preceded my arrival on the planet.
0 Comments |
1579 Views |
Back to top |
fact, one guy I know -- who believes in a curatorial approach to life
rather than simply enjoying what you like -- once found fault with me
for listening to music that was popular when I was maybe 3 years old,
claiming I only wanted to listen to the music of my time, but that's
not really the music of my time, is it? My baby ears must have heard
the sounds and that probably makes them more compelling to me but there
were still revelations to be had in listening to them.
The music was, to me, in many ways new
and, at least in part, a further indication of my historical interests.
I mean, it's not like it was later music that could bring back the
memory of a first kiss or something (although, theoretically, this
music could have brought back memories of my actual first kiss).
I wasn't interested in it for culturally narcissistic reasons and I have proof.
I was in Los Angeles, I went to a program featuring old L.A. children's
show hosts and enjoyed it almost as much as if it had featured people I
remembered. I liked those captains or skippers or cowboys or whatever
simply because I liked the moment and the form.
And the other
night, I spent hours watching a series of documentaries about British
children's television, from the '50s through the '70s. (The '80s and
'90s are next week.)
It was great. Thoroughly enjoyable, though
there seems to have been a great fondness for mouths that didn't move,
both in animation and puppetry. (Yet this is also the land that brought
And in just 2 and a half hours, I acquired
a couple of generations worth of British childhood media memories. I
can, like, maybe be a spy or something (if I learn to speak English).
It's funny that I'm such a backward looking bloke (bloke!).
'Cause now I wanna watch more of "The Tomorrow People".
The New York Board of Elections
Posted on 10/13/2008 at 08:09 AM
somehow mislaid my registration, though it should still have been in force as it's not long since the last time I voted.
0 Comments |
1648 Views |
Back to top |
Turned out, the simplest way to fix things was to reregister.
The envelope had to be postmarked by October 10th and must reach them
by the 15th, so I paid an extra £4.50 above the regular air mail rate
of about 50p for what I considered an essential service -- the ability
to track the document to make sure it arrives in time.
entered the tracking number in the appropriate field on the Royal Mail
website. The tracking information returned to me was as follows: "It's
on it's way. Your item, posted on 10/10/08 with reference LY327428459GB
has been passed to the overseas postal service for delivery in UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA."
Gee, whillikers. Thanks for the help.
I paid 7 times the regular cost to be told "it's on it's way."
If I'd simply dropped it in the box, I'd have been pretty certain it was "on it's way."
Or is the actual sending of mail a premium service over here?
For God's sake, what's wrong with you Brits? In America, you can at least can count on the actual sending of mail.
(We do, however, have problems with voter registration.)
I am a "Fiddler on the Roof" Jew
Posted on 10/11/2008 at 08:09 AM
My basic orientation when it comes to the existence of God is somewhere
between atheist and agnostic with a touch of superstition thrown in for
extra flavor. Certainly, if there is a Universe Control, I don't see
the entity in the captain's chair as an anthropomorphic ManGod, a deity
who, as a basic notion is similar to Huckleberry Hound, only Huck, of
course, is a ManDog, quite colorful and funny. (Though with limited animation.)
0 Comments |
1704 Views |
Back to top |
Maybe there is a guiding power, but it could be more like a
mathematical equation than a daddy. And actually, the Jewish religion
forbids you from conceptualizing God with any certainty or thinking
you've pegged him, so -- via musical theater or otherwise -- I guess
I'm in the right place.
Anyway, my approach to Judaism, as in the song, is "Tradition".
It means something to me to stop in place at certain points of the year
and do exactly as my forebears have done for thousands of years and,
presumably, as FutureJews will do for generations to come. That's one
of the reasons I love to fast on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Now, Wednesday night, I had nowhere to go for a festive dinner before
the fast, so I decided to make chicken soup myself, intending to eat
some Judaic Health Potion before abstaining from food and drink through
night and day and into the next evening. Suddenly -- even instantly -- as the holiday began, I got sick, having inherited a cold from a guy who's been staying where I am.
Now, Jewish law is officially suspended when health is at stake. But my inclination is to fast anyway.
However . . .
I'm from America, which is a good country in which to be a Jew but not so good a place in which to be sick.
I do not have health insurance. If I get sick, my country will let me die.
And two and a half years ago, what seemed like the beginning of a cold
turned into something mysterious, long-lasting and even debilitating. I
can't afford to let that happen again.
Plus I had a show to put on on the next night and had to do it
or look like a flake to people I need to work with in the future and,
as regular readers already realize, I needed the money.
So, instead of standing in a temporal line lasting thousands of years, I ate my soup.
I coddled myself, and dosed myself with (delicious) soup all night and through Atonement Day toward another night.
Yes. You heard me right.
On a day in which we abstain from food and ask for forgiveness, I made eating the central activity. (At least it was chicken soup.)
But, as I said, in the Jewish religion, the rules are suspended when health is at stake.
So, hopefully, I did the right thing.
Math forgive me.