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Thursday, January 24, 2008

In Which My Internet Addiction Gets the Best of Me, Even in Mexico

posted by on January 24 at 15:15 PM


I know you won’t believe me when I tell you that I took the above picture a short time ago, during the late afternoon of the fourth day of something that is not, technically, a vacation. That’s the part you won’t believe, the “not a vacation” part.

It’s really not, at least not in the sense that you’re imagining right now. But who wants to hear why someone with a view like that isn’t, technically, on vacation? I barely even want to hear it, to be honest.

What you more likely want to hear about—and what I definitely would rather hear about, even in Mexico—is this presidential race. I came down here promising to institute a media blackout on my refresh-button-junkie self but that vow (obviously) hasn’t worked any wonders against the allure of getting online and checking the latest.

I tried. I turned off my cell phone as soon as I got to SeaTac. I brought my laptop with me, yes, but only for my personal writing. There would be no wireless here, I assumed, so no problem.

On day one I noticed a guy in my tiny hotel using his laptop in the lobby. I couldn’t resist. I asked if there was wireless. He said yes. I told myself no, but by day two I was at the front desk asking for the password, feeling a bit like Bubbles on The Wire. I then told myself I would only use a little gmail to catch up with old friends. No blogs, no news sites, and definitely no Slog. That lasted until I got a gmail from a friend saying:

YOU HAVE TO WATCH CLIPS FROM THE DEM DEBATE FROM LAST NIGHT. Obama came to fight and him and Clinton straight up brawled.

Ok, maybe a little YouTube, I thought. I spent forever downloading the handy debate recordings of some guy named researchris, listening to the waves hit the beach as the red “loading” line crept across the YouTube player, and didn’t regret a second. That was, as most of you know already, the best debate of the season.

Day three came and I was mainlining the political blogs again. It was sad, really. But I felt great. (When I didn’t feel pathetic.) I don’t know if it’s the addictive qualities of the Internet, or this particular election, or both in tandem, but I am certifiably cracked out on the presidential race. Will The Stranger’s benefits pay for me to go to one of those Chinese internet addiction treatment centers when this is all over?

Anyway, comes now day four and my brother arrives holding the current New Yorker, which he tells me contains a long profile of Hillary Clinton by George Packer. I tell him I already have the piece up on my browser and am planning to read it tonight. He looks much less disappointed in me than I am.

I make one of those junkie rationalizations: It will be less a sign of internet addiction to grab my brother’s copy of the magazine, take it down to the beach, and read it there. Something about paper not being part of the problem, or some such.

I walk down to the beach.


Where, shortly after finishing the article, I decide to come back up to my room and blog about the piece, thus negating any fake progress I might have made on pretending to reinstate my media blackout by reading things on glossy paper rather than online.

And now here I am, your click-addled presidential election coverer, telling you, as per usual: Read this!

It’s good, and it zeros in on the different attitudes toward presidential leadership on the part of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately:

The alternatives facing Democratic voters have been characterized variously as a choice between experience and change, between an insider and an outsider, and between two firsts—a woman and a black man. But perhaps the most important difference between these two politicians—whose policy views, after all, are almost indistinguishable—lies in their rival conceptions of the Presidency. Obama offers himself as a catalyst by which disenchanted Americans can overcome two decades of vicious partisanship, energize our democracy, and restore faith in government. Clinton presents politics as the art of the possible, with change coming incrementally through good governance, a skill that she has honed in her career as advocate, First Lady, and senator…

These rival conceptions of the Presidency—Clinton as executive, Obama as visionary—reflect a deeper difference in how the two candidates analyze what ails the country. Obama’s diagnosis is more fundamental: for him, the illness precedes the Bush years and the partisan deadlock in Washington, originating in a basic failure of politicians to bring Americans together. A strong hand on the wheel won’t make a difference if your car is stuck in the mud; a good leader has to persuade enough people to get out and push. Whereas Clinton echoes Churchill, who proclaimed, “Give us the tools and we will finish the job,” Obama invokes Lincoln, who said, “As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Ok, back to pretending I’m on some sort of not-quite-a-blackout media diet. See you when I’m back in Seattle on Monday—or, more likely, see you tomorrow or Saturday when the South Carolina primary brings me back online.

Hasta whatever that was I was hoping for with my failed attempts at staying offline, and hola, once again, politics and internet addiction.

RSS icon Comments


It's not a vacation because you're "interviewing" Chris Crocker along with you?

Posted by non | January 24, 2008 3:21 PM


Posted by cochise. | January 24, 2008 3:33 PM

Yeah - if it's not a vacation, and it's not for work, then what is it? Any other staffers care to shed some light as Eli supposedly won't be online to read our comments?

Posted by Callie | January 24, 2008 3:40 PM

I don't know if it's business or pleasure, but if it was me, that one post alone would be enough for me to try to write it off on my tax return.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | January 24, 2008 3:46 PM

Puerto Vallarta?

Posted by Turkey Sandwiches | January 24, 2008 3:47 PM

For what it's worth, your insightful and even-handed political process posts have been missed.

Posted by kid icarus | January 24, 2008 3:53 PM

So, yeah, where exactly are you in Mexico? Cause that place looks nice.

Posted by el ganador | January 24, 2008 3:53 PM

My guess is somewhere on Costa Alegre.

Posted by Pura Naco | January 24, 2008 3:56 PM

I feel you, I was just in beautiful southern california, and there I was spending part of the lovely afternoon in Borders and Starbucks to use the wireless.

The scary part wasn't that I did it, the scary part was the peaceful calm that came over me once I just gave in and logged on.

I came home wondering if I had a problem, which obviously, I'm not doing anything about

Posted by Ferv | January 24, 2008 3:58 PM

what a sad post.

Posted by wf | January 24, 2008 4:07 PM

two words:

drug mule

Posted by michael strangeways | January 24, 2008 4:09 PM

pass me a cerveza senor

Posted by Reality Check | January 24, 2008 4:16 PM

mexico? good luck with your bowels sir.

Posted by Cale | January 24, 2008 4:22 PM

You have no idea how much I relate to this post. It's a sickness, boy, a sickness!

Which is one of the reasons I can't wait for you to get back to work.

Posted by The General | January 24, 2008 4:27 PM

When I go on vacation - even in the most wired cities in the world - I don't take a laptop or cell phone and I try to stay off the Net, unless it's to upload pics of me at this cool secret beach in Thailand.

Seriously, cut the cord.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 24, 2008 4:52 PM

If Eli decides to share why he's in Mexico, the haters are going to be ashamed of themselves. Just sayin'.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 24, 2008 6:28 PM

I recognize the bay/view/rocks. I know this city. Spent a good amount of time there as a kid, when there was no TV to be seen. A week or two at at time with no TV! And I learned that it wasn't bad at all.

That was then, eh?

It's a great town! You goofed. NEXT time, leave that electronic stuff behind, okay?

Posted by CP | January 24, 2008 8:29 PM

@11: Drug mule?

You don't know our Eli. He's no mule, sir.

He's a drug My Little Pony.

Come back soon, Eli!

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 24, 2008 9:10 PM

Eli, when you get back let us know where you were because you have me stumped.
The first picture looks like Mazatlan but the second threw me off.

Where oh where can Eli be?

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