On the one hand, I really love the Conventions. (Okay, given what they do to my blood pressure and the amount of shouting I do at the television, "love" is probably not the right word...) The Democratic and Republican National Conventions are my Olympics. I don't so much WANT to watch them as I NEED to watch them.
On the other hand, I get up absurdly early in the morning and the idea of waiting until ten at night to begin watching coverage of the Conventions is clearly laughable. I've actually had to ask people at work to stop talking about particular speeches so that they won't be spoiled for me.
How pathetic is that?
So, anyway, these are the tools that I use to keep up with mid-season election foolishness:
[I have no idea whether any of these websites will get through our school's filters. At this point, I think of online content at school the way I do Social Security - I just go on the assumption that it won't be there for me and hope to be pleasantly surprised.]
Audible is the service I use to download audiobooks. Over the past couple of years, somewhere around 90% of the books I've "read" have been ones I downloaded from Audible.
One of the great services that Audible provides its members is free downloads of any important political speeches. The first time I ever heard of the new kid, Barak Obama, that everyone was talking about was four years ago, when I downloaded his keynote speech from the 2004 Democratic Convention.
The speeches on Audible are high quality and have no commentary.
If you use iTunes, you can also subscribe to any or all of the Convention speeches and download them as podcasts. Again, this is free.
Sometimes, just listening to speeches isn't enough. When I actually want to watch election footage, I generally turn to YouTube. Given the nature of the internet, as soon as something interesting happens on the campaign trail and it is broadcast, it ends up on YouTube in a matter of minutes.
This is also the place to turn if you actually WANT commentary and like watching pundits wind each other up like demented clock-people.
If you have a taste for bizarre election conspiracy theories backed up by dubious video footage, YouTube is your place for that, too.
The Wall Street Journal's Interactive Electoral College Calculator
While this tool doesn't have much to do with the Conventions, per se, it is an incredibly useful and cool online application that helps make sense of the seemingly random and weird way that the candidates go about campaigning. It provides a state-by-state breakdown of the last few elections, showing the number of electoral votes and issues that have influenced voters in each state.
The really cool feature of this toy is that it lets you simulate various outcomes: what if Louisiana goes to the Democrats this time in response to Katrina? What if Virginia swings to the Republicans after all? This interactive map lays everything out for you in very clear and easy to understand graphics.
Yes, you could definitely find this information in a lot of places, but the interactive nature of this website makes it very dynamic and easy to understand. Pensylvania and Ohio suddenly seem a lot more important to me than they did before I used this tool.