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September 7th, 2012
04:11 AM ET

'You can't touch this': John Berman's reflects on the 2012 RNC/DNC in photos

Editor's Note: John Berman reported live from both the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC. Throughout his reporting, he's been sharing Instagram photos of the conventions. This piece was producing using some of those photos. Follow him on Twitter: @Johnsberman

You can't touch this. That’s right, if you are a political junkie, a political reporter, or a political player, there really is nothing that beats a convention. Nothing. Sure there are plenty of people who reasonably say that conventions have become pieces of performance art, staged with such precision as to render them meaningless, or even worse, dull.

Well I say to you people out there that these past two weeks are proof that something always happens at these things; something unexpected, something fascinating, something that in one way or another will absolutely impact the outcome of the election.

Seriously, two weeks ago, who would have thought to talk to a chair?

(This was my view of that Eastwood episode from just feet away).

Seriously two weeks ago, who would have though that the two most tactful politicians named Romney and Obama were named Ann and Michelle?

(This is how I saw it when Michelle Obama first saw the arena she was soon to own.)

Two weeks ago, who would have though that weather would threaten to completely disrupt and dismantle the carefully laid plans of both political parties?

(This is what Isaac looked like from my hotel.)

Two weeks ago, who thought I would meet the guy from Wings?

(me with Tim Daly)

I fully understand that nominees no longer get picked in contentious floor fights. Boy, do I wish I had been around when they were (except I feel like the levels of hygiene may have alarmed me back then.) But these days conventions represent that moment when a political campaign is allowed to put forth what it thinks its best case for winning. And it is always worth evaluating what they offer. Moreover it is worth noting in this aura of hyper-control that they often lose control. Note the moments of discomfort for the GOP with the Ron Paul folks on the floor. Note the almost inexplicable confusion and backtracking with the Democratic platform.

They also make for incredible people watching. Can you name all these political players I spotted the last couple of weeks?

A real "Real World" alum.

The son of Greek immigrants. (Not Wolf Blitzer)

He said his keynote in 1992 was "scary."

Mr. Speaker!

Big wave surfer, or Senator?

He's usually a very serious guy.

Guess Virginia IS for lovers!

Look closely, there are two lawmakers in this shot.

Finally, or as Bill Clinton said in 1988, “in closing,” if you need more proof that conventions still matter, are still fun, and are still fascination...
If you need more proof that you can’t touch this...I offer you: MC Hammer.

July 19th, 2012
10:02 AM ET

Sailing solo around the world: Alex Thomson on why you need a little 'instability' to make the attempt

Why would anyone want to spend three months alone on a boat, sleeping no more than 20 minutes at a time and dealing with perpetual dampness, not to mention the constant threat of death and disaster?

"I think you have to be a certain type of person," says 38-year-old Alex Thomson, a sun-kissed, blond-haired Brit who lists his profession as an aspiring "single-handed, around-the-world sailor." He has made it his mission to sail around the world—the entire world—all alone without stopping.

"When you put it in perspective, something like 3,000 people have climbed Mt. Everest. More than 500 people have been out to space," Thompson reasons. "But less than 100 people have sailed single-handed non-stop around the world."

Thompson is not yet one of them. In his majestic 60-foot racing yacht sponsored by Hugo Boss, Thompson is gearing up for the Vendee Globe, the premiere solo around-the-world yacht race, which take place every four years. It's his third try; the first two he didn't finish.

In 2006, his keel snapped and his boat capsized. "I though I might die," says Thompson, who had to abandon ship and was ultimately picked up by a competitor.

That experience taught him a lot. Despite all the challenges going on outside, what counts is what is going on in your head.

"You know when you're out there on your own in the southern ocean, where [you're] going to spend five weeks in wind chill factors minus 20, and there's no one to help you…your brain is telling you you're going to die and you've got to control that emotion. You've got to be able to sleep, you've got to be able to eat, you've got to be able to do your jobs and sail the boat. That takes some mental strength, also mental instability," Thomson says.

That's right, he said mental instability. It admittedly takes a special sort of person to pull the stunts Thomson has. YouTube nearly exploded with a wildly popular video that seems to defy physics, where Thomson is standing on the keel of his boat, fully dressed in a Hugo Boss suit as the yacht races through the water.

Photo courtesy of AlexThomsonRacing.com

That image, on the $4 million yacht, looks death-defying and glamorous. Much of his life at sea? Not so glamorous.

His bathroom is a bucket. His food? Dehydrated like an astronaut. And the real hardship: he sleeps no more than 40 minutes at a time.

No wonder he had second thoughts in his first attempt around the world.

"When all the spectator boats are gone and I found myself on my own…I ended up in the fetal position in the cockpit wondering why I was doing it," Thomson says.

Now a seasoned pro, he doesn’t wonder any more.

"I've traveled all the way around the world. I've seen some of the best places, and that’s the way to travel - by water," says Thomson. "That's where you get to see everything."