INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Minimum Conversational Requirement

Frank Paynter, responding to my comment, writes the following:

"Dennis... he's hanging in there with good intentions. Too bad Dean and Clark turned out to be quitters. We need the rich conversation of a multi-candidate selection on the left."

Frank makes a good point. I agree that it's good that Dennis is still in there--and don't forget the good Reverend--there's your multi-candidate conversation right there--and they're a hell of a lot better at it than Dean or Clark. Two's enough.

I quite disagree with Frank about Dean and Clark. Do we really need them around anymore?

They failed as candidates, period. Many point the finger at the media, but imho, that's a copout. These two simply didn't have what it takes to play on the national stage and demonstrate confidence-inspiring ability for mounting viable opposition to the considerable force of Rove/Bush.

Dennis and Al, however, are out there as gadflies, and, indeed, great gadflies they are. They are doing a terrific job of providing needed contrarian perspectives.

Dean and Clark, on the other hand, were only providing embarrassment the longer they went on (which is not to deny, btw, that Dean's contribution--before the primaries actually got underway--was gigantic).

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

No Equal

When George W strode to the lectern to make his announcement in support of banning same-sex marriage through a constitutional amendment, he did so in that revolting, fuck-you swagger of his. I turned away from the tube and observed to my wife:

“You know, honey, I can’t think of any American politician who’s ever filled me with the kind of revulsion I feel for this joker.”

There have been plenty of politicians of both parties to dislike over the span of my adult life, but none of them has come close to the total disgust I feel for this man.

“Not even Nixon or LBJ?” Jill asked.

No, actually not. These reviled prosecutors of the Vietnam War were outsize actors on the scene—Shakespearian types, if you will—fatally flawed—carrying around the heavy baggage of personal demons. Much as you hated what they were doing, you had to grudgingly respect their considerable intelligence—the quality that made them all the more tragic.

Georgie has none of this going for him—no redeeming qualities whatever except for having a nice wife on whom—unlike his predecessor—he doesn’t fuck around. Sorry, that’s not enough.

There are hopeful signs that the revulsion I feel is shared by increasing numbers of voters. Maybe the gay Republicans that Bush is losing will compensate for what that idiot Ralph Nader is going to drain away.

Unfortunately, with W’s $150 million war chest about to be unleashed, he’s going to have John Kerry looking like Leon Trotsky before it’s all over. Pray for a miracle.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Two Years!

The weekend came and went without my even noticing that it was the second anniversary of the birth of this here blog!

Just goes to show the diminished state of my blogging consciousness these days. On my first anniversary last year, it was a big deal and I had tons of well-wishers. This year, I hardly have any readers left.

Well, there's nobody to blame but myself. When people have told you, after a half-dozen or so extended absences that it's good to have you back, they eventually give up when you disappear yet again.

I do really enjoy writing these blog posts--even though they don't get the response they used to--so I'm not ready to give it up just yet. I'll try to keep plugging along. Many thanks to those who still drop by. And to those who used to but don't anymore, it was very flattering to have you here for whatever period you chose to be here. It's been a special part of my life.

Year three, here I come!

A Blogger Returns

Stanton Finley has settled into his new digs and new job to the point where he feels he can begin blogging again--after far too long an absence. It's good to have him back.

With spring just around the corner, Stan, we'll be expecting a new round of those exquisite floral pics, not to mention some poetry too.

Monday, February 23, 2004

The Gospel According To Ebert and Roeper

Ebert and Roeper are almost gospel to me when it comes to film criticism. I find myself in agreement with them about 95% of the time. So it was with the utmost interest that I listened carefully to their review last night of the much-argued Mel Gibson flick, "The Passion of the Christ."

With my wife's Judaism together with my Unitarian-like leanings and long, long-ago lapsed Christian beliefs, Gibson's coming movie is a hot-potato subject around here.

Everybody's been putting the flick down before the movie has even appeared. This makes me somewhat uncomfortable, even though I fully accept the Jewish anger and mistrust surrounding this event.

Anyway, Roger and Richard gave the flick two thumbs "way up." They said it was a brilliant and powerful piece of cinema. They also were quite clear in stating that the anti-Semitic rap is completely undeserved. I won't bother to go into their argument. It's rather lengthy and complex. You can catch it at their website.

I am now, much to my surprise, somewhat tempted to go see it. I'd like to judge it for myself and be able to form my own opinion.

Jill says, "I don't care how good it is, or how non-anti-Semitic it is. I won't go. I won't support anything that fundamentalist asshole Gibson does."

She never liked Gibson in the first place. "Braveheart," for example, was one of our major disagreements on a film. I thought it was brilliant., but Gibson just gives her the willies. This new film, for her, is just throwing fuel on the fire.

Still, I may not go. Gibson's in-your-face evangelicalism does indeed give me pause. But it also gives me pause to rule out any artistic endeavor simply because I happen not to like the views of the artist. Such knee-jerk rejectionism can be a slippery slope. I'm truly conflicted about whether or not to be a paying customer to this movie.

On reflection, I think I know what's really bothering me. Because I so detest the way that evangelicals have injected their religious fanaticism into our political life, I'm leery of this flick because I have the fear that it's just going to inflame the righteousness of these people--during a crucial election year.

That's what's actually giving me the willies--not Mel Gibson--who happens to be an excellent filmmaker--whatever his beliefs. I'm going to have to sleep on this for a while.

To Sex With Love

I’m probably the umpteen-millionth blogger to bid his or her farewell to Sex and The City. In case you’ve been sequestered in a spider-hole lately, and just emerged, I’ll inform you that last night was the long-dreaded finale of this spectacular comedy series.

As it turned out, there was nothing to dread. The show was beautifully done and ended on just the right notes: love, commitment, optimism. Isn’t it interesting that this series, whose female leads scandalized many upright citizens with their risqué, male-sounding, locker-room conversations about sex, gradually transmuted from multiple-partner sexcapades to love, family, and commitment? Of course, the holier-than-thou folks will likely have missed out on that.

It was all accomplished without a whiff of sentimentality or the slightest loss of its comedic edge. Huzzahs to the writers and cast. They enriched our Sunday nights for six memorable years.

If you don’t have HBO, I gotta tell ya, it’s totally worth the extra fifteen or sixteen bucks on your cable bill. That’s a bit under four bucks per Sunday--for drama and comedy that surpasses most anything you’re likely to catch at the theatre for a helluva lot more money.

Go on—get a hookup. There will be plenty of reruns.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Trust The White Voter?

Dave Rogers and Syaffolee have taken some exception to my observations about the election. Dave points out that the voters in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire are not representative of the nation as a whole. Sya reminds us that voters can "behave in lemming-like fashion," and that perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to trust them.

Well, both make a good point, but I still say that the primaries in these small states serve an important function. The candidates are subject to up-close scrutiny that isn't possible elsewhere.

Democrats are looking for the guy they think can best stand up to Bush. That means much more to them this year than all other considerations. It cuts across all demographics. Kerry has gone on to bigger, more diverse states and showed the same ability to inspire confidence as he did in the smaller states--even though, admittedly, the bandwagon effect does play a role to some extent.

But what's wrong with that? One of the most important things a campaign is about is building momentum. It's one of the fundamental abilities you have to be able to demonstrate. Do we want somebody who's mediocre at building momentum going up against the Bush juggernaut?

I still say we can trust the folks in the early primaries--even though some of them, as Sya asserts, vote for mindless reasons--and even though most of them, as Dave points out, were white. The blacks in South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee turned out in respectable numbers for Kerry. I really doubt that they're all lemmings.

Like their white brethren, they like what they see-- a tough, stand-up guy who isn't going to take any shit from our soon-to-be-retired President.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The System Worked

I note that in my blog post of January 16, written just before the Iowa primaries, I opined that only three people had a chance of beating Bush: Dean, Edwards, or Clark. So much for my prognosticating abilities. Having lived through other sudden shifts in political fortune over the years, I should have known that such predictions are foolhardy.

Anyway, I hope the young folks that Dean brought into political activism don't get too discouraged and abandon their involvement. My fear is that they're going to blame the system instead of the reality of politics.

The system actually worked the way it's supposed to. The presidential election process starts in the small states of Iowa and New Hampshire for a very good reason: it tests the candidates by putting them in a situation where they have to get up close to the voters--thus giving the voters their chance to take an informed measure of the candidate.

Dean may have had a brilliant internet campaign and raised millions of dollars, but when the true test came, i.e., getting up in front of actual voters, he didn't show them what they wanted to see--someone they could feel confident about--someone they could count on to withstand the Bush onslaught that we all know is going to be unleashed in terrifying force.

The Deaniacs are blaming the media for being too hard on their guy, but the media punching that Dean had to face in these contests was nothing compared to what's ahead. If he couldn't withstand the initial blast, how in the hell could we count on him to not get crushed in the real slugfest come this fall?

The voters of Iowa and New Hampshire were clearly asking themselves the same question. I trust these good folks. They are salt-of-the-earth types. They have spoken, and I have no reason whatsoever to question their judgment. Now, Let's get on with the job of getting our country back.

Blogging For Change

Thanks to Jordon Cooper for the pointer to the new blog, Change For America, from Joe Trippi, chief architect of the Dean campaign. I'm so glad Joe didn't just slip away quietly and sulk somewhere after being squeezed out of Dean's sinking ship. I'm so glad he isn't nursing any sour grapes and is going to continue to be an important voice in the crucial--and now hopeful--effort to rid our nation of the terrible scourge of the Bushies.

Check it out.

Monday, February 16, 2004

The Curse Lives!

Condolences to Halley and all Red Sox fans everywhere. The curse of the Bambino continues to haunt. I'm referring to the the shocking and sudden news that the hated Yankees have managed to acquire Alex Rodriguez. The Red Sox could have had him, but blew it. This must hurt like hell, but I guess the Bostonians are used to it.

The lack of a salary cap is ruining the once-great game of baseball. It's outrageous that the fat-cat Yankees can just go out and, at will, buy up the best talent in baseball. Who would have thought that we'd see A-Rod and Jeter both in pinstripes? And they've picked up Gary Sheffield to boot. That means that eight of their nine starters are now current or former All Stars. This is absurd.

The only hope is that the Yankees' pitching collapses, and that that travesty-of-a-Commissioner Bud Selig returns to selling cars where he belongs.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Transitional Meditation

Once again, I’ve pulled a month without posting—although this time it was unintentional. I could go on at length about the reasons for it—my latest round of struggles with blogging, as it were. But one of my New Years’ resolutions (remember them?) was to quit blogging about blogging. .

I’ve been preoccupied with other priorities, and I’m the type of person who has a hard time focusing on more than one project at a time. End of story.

What’s not end-of-story are my aches and pains. They seem to have taken a turn for the worse since the start of the new year, and to have become more omnipresent. I’m on the cusp of leaving my sixth decade behind (mathematical purists will point out that it’s actually seven--but never mind—when I say six, people know what I mean). The point is that I’m in danger of starting to buy into the numbers story by entertaining unhelpful, dark thoughts about what’s happening to my body, and what the next decade portends.

Ordinarily, when you start a new decade, you expect to be, do, and have more when it ends than when it began. But that’s only in effect up to a certain point. I’ve now reached that point in life where, for the first time, I’m facing the prospect of this customary ten-year expectation having expired. This is a frame of reference that I need to put into abeyance. It’s a daily wrestling match—one that threatens to bring my spirit crashing down if I don’t manage to create some new mindset in which to contain it.

One of the most vital lessons I’ve learned over these many years is that inspiration can come from truly anomalous, unexpected sources—if you keep yourself open to the possibility. A couple of days ago it was, of all things, an infomercial—some horseshit health product or other.

Per usual, I lunge for the remote to switch the channel when, at the last second, a testimonial begins which freezes my finger in mid-arc. Here’s this 80-year old surfer gliding onto the beach, nonchalantly throwing his surfboard over his shoulder, and striding triumphantly up to the camera. Probably an actor, but never mind, the words he begins uttering come straight into my space-of-listening like those old Bible cartoon books where the commands of the Almighty boom forth from the sky directly to the shaken, earth-bound figures below.

“I have a new outlook and it works!” he proclaims. “I don’t let myself worry anymore about my aches and pains and what they might signify. I just look at what I would enjoy doing and go out and do it. It’s like being a kid again except there’s no Mom saying no, or Dad saying it can’t be done.”

Of course, he attributes said new outlook to said horseshit health product, so now my finger completes its arc to the remote button. But the message of his words, carefully scripted, no doubt, lingers with me. It becomes a source of quasi-meditation that leads me to realize—and to accept, hopefully—that aches and pains are just the way it is, baby.

Welcome, Tom, to the new landscape. Get on with the business of living, or feel sorry for yourself. I’m beginning to learn that if my attention is on what I want to be doing instead of the aches and pains, guess what?--the object of focus is what predominates. I can have my aches and pains—and they don’t have to mean anything, or stand in the way of most things.

Not exactly the most profound of realizations, but it’s the kind of stuff about which you have to be hit on the side of the head from time to time. To close, I’ll allow myself one indulgence in blogging about blogging: blogging helps me make sense of my experience. That’s reason enough to not let myself quit.