INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Feast of Rivers

We're back from a wonderful trip through Oregon, a paradise for lovers, like me, of swift-flowing, picturesqe rivers. You can hardly drive five miles without encountering another gorgeous stream.

Some crystal clear, offering abstract tableaux for the camera lens.

Others find their descent squeezed into the narrows of lava rock and roar mightily through their constricted passages.

Still others come tumbling down over dramatic precipices.

Waterfalls abound.

As if these gems of nature weren't enough,

Oregon offers up another pearl of an entirely

different order--

the wonderful city of Portland--

an approachable metropolis of ideal scale with just the right blend of urbanity, laid-backness, hipness, and unpretentiousness.

My kind of place.

The state's abundance of sustainable, organic agriculture makes for some mighty good eating.

Two standouts worthy of mention: the sublime yet reasonably-priced Andina; and for the best, most inventive organic food I've ever tasted, The Blossoming Lotus.

I wanted to try Lucy's Table, but befell the same fate as Frank Paynter. The joint was closed.

Another favorite was the Chinese Garden, an oasis of quietude and contemplative beauty plunked down in the middle of a commercial district.

I could go on and on, but I'm not a travel writer, and this isn't a travel blog. Suffice it to say, if you want to enjoy a nice vacation in the western US, you won't go wrong with Oregon.

I Was hoping to have a chance to meet up with Elaine's son, the OneTrueB!x--a unique, original, and talented blog voice of long standing. I think he helped Elaine get started in this medium--in which case we owe him a vote of thanks.

Unhappily, like the doddering idiot I tend to be when attempting to multi-task during stress-inducing periods like last-minute trip prepartation, I misplaced Elaine's instructions, or forgot them altogether.

When I got to Portland I tried to wing it. Elaine told me he worked at a bookstore and I intuited that it was probably in the hip Northwest District. So when I found myself in the neighborhood, I scoured around, but to no avail.

Upon arriving back home, I discovered that my intuition was erroneous. He works in a completely different area. Oh well, next time, B!x. A libation of your choice and a hug per instructions from your mother.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Ten Day Hiatus

I've only been back here in this space for ten days, and now I'm splitting for another ten. We're headed north for a much-needed vacation. Decided to save some money this year and avoid flying and car renting. With all the shit coming down in the airports now, it was a prescient decision. The extra gas costs are a small price to pay.

We're going to be touring through the Cascade Mountain range up in Oregon, with a brief stay in Portland sandwiched in the middle. We'll be touching base there with Jill's cousin, Chuck Tauman, about whom I blogged back in'02 when he was nominated for Trial Lawyer of the Year for his work in a landmark anti-tobacco case. Chuck's now working on a case that's going all the way to the US Supreme Court, so it will be interesting to hear about that.

I notice that Frank Paynter was just up there himself. I'll check out his posts for any good tips.

Before departing, I'll put up another Anniversary Archive (see below). What I like about doing this is the opportunity to go back and re-visit some of the great bloggers.

See ya in a week-and-a-half!

Anniversary Archives - - August 13, 2003


Gary Turner is toying with the idea of quitting blogging. Hopefully, AKMA, in his upcoming visit, will talk him out of it.

Among other reasons, Gary cites running out of ideas. I know how he feels. It’s becoming more and more difficult to think of things to write about that I feel are worth the effort.

I used to blog about anything—just to get a post up, just to make sure the blog was active and current. That’s lost its allure. I’ve grown tired of evaluating everything I’m doing in the context of its potential fodder for a blog post.

Last night, I was watching a fabulous baseball game—The A’s vs. the Red Sox in a crucial series now taking place in Oakland. Tim Hudson vs. Pedro Martinez. A real duel. Two of the very best. They lived up to their reputations. It was baseball as it was meant to be.

I was going to blog about it, and would have a year ago. But then I thought to myself, “who gives a rat’s pituitary about my reaction to a baseball game?” If someone wants to read a good account of an athletic contest there are plenty of professional sports writers who will give them a far better read than I could. The same holds true for other kinds of events, entertainment and/or political (in California, of course, there’s no distinction).

The well–regarded internet marketing authority and visionary, Sean Carton recently did a column on some of his predictions, “Eleven Things That Will Happen,” with regard to the direction of the Internet. (This is a guy, by the way, of whom Chris Locke has said, “Carton's indefatigable web journalism and analysis keep his radar tuned to an uncommon sensitivity. If anybody knows what to expect next, I'd bet on this guy to call it").

Here’s what Carton has to say about blogging:

“As bloggers know, maintaining a blog is a lot of work. Paying people to keep on blogging can cost lots of money. Eventually, many private bloggers will move on to other things. Corporate bloggers will become too busy (or bored) to blog. As someone who ran a proto-blog for six years, 364 days a year, I know first-hand that at some point, you just run out of steam. Blogs are wonderful innovations. They emphasize the powers of the Net, personality, and instant publishing. Just don't count on them remaining the phenomenon they've been over the past year or so.”

However, as I was leaving a comment to Turner’s post about his possible departure, expressing my desire that he not do so, I had a realization--which I shared in the comment:

“when you write straight from the heart, as you have in this post, you don't need any ideas. With a writer of your talent, the stuff from the heart is always more powerful than the cleverness of one's ideas.

Of course, the heart may not have something to post every day. No matter. If you can only manage occasional posts, we'll happily take what we can get.”

I need to apply that observation to myself, i.e. stop stressing myself out over “what the hell can I write about today?” and wait instead until the heart has something to say. Oh, and the occasional reminiscence. When you’ve reached my age, you’re entitled. Sometimes people even seem to enjoy them. This will mean fewer posts. If that means a drop in hits, so be it. This is the only frame of reference that’s going to keep me from quitting.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Anniversaries of Note

Big congratulations are in order for two esteemed bloggers celebrating anniversaries--albeit of different orders of magnitude.

Starting with the biggie--it's the twentieth wedding anniversary of Jeneane Sessum and hubby George (or it was yesterday. I'm a day late). Way to go you two!!!

On a more modest scale, but certainly of significance to an admiring blogging community, Maria Benet began her blog, Alembic, four years ago today.

You've given us much pleasure, Maria, and on many occasions, rich food for thought.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Anniversary Archives - - August 9, 2003

I think I'll keep going with this feature. I'm having fun with it. Today's anniversary post from 2003 recalls one of my all-time favorite bloggers, Jonathon Delacour, who has disappeared from the scene. He's done it before and then, like me, come back for more. However Jonathon's current absence is becoming rather extended--some sixteen months now.

Let's hope the hiatus is nearing its end, but who knows? He wouldn't be the first esteemed blogger of the early days to vacate the space altogether.

This post also demonstrates the dogged persistence of Frank Paynter--of which I've been the target myself more than once. Wonder if Frank might unsheath the electric prod for another go at Delacour? Sure would be nice to have him back.

This post also reminded me that I need to restore all the links I stupidly lost when I switched Blogger formats. Since Paynter interviews are the subject here, I'm inspired to make my first restoration--one of my most prized links--the "I've Been Paynted" button. BTW, Frank, why not have all of your interviews linked on that page? You've done so many good ones, why not give your readers the chance to see'em all?

I tried to link to Frank's August '03 post referred to in my archive below, but his archives from that period don't seem to be accessible. The "Frank Paynter" link takes you--not to the piece about Delacour, but to his 2006 Sandhill Trek pages. Am I doing something wrong, Frank?

August 9, 2003

The Paynter Press

Lots of expressions of delight at the return of Jonathon Delacour to blogging. I’ll add my voice to the chorus. Frank Paynter has decided to greet the return with a press for some divulgence of more personal info from the esteemed Aussie blogger. Seems that Frank regards him as something of a mystery man and would like to discover more of the man behind the blog.

This should be interesting. I can’t quite tell whether Frank is trying to get Jonathon to be the next subject of one his famous interviews. If he isn’t, I’m suggesting that he give it a try. Frank is nothing if not persuasive and persistent (notice I didn’t say “pest”). Surely, Jonathon would be a most worthy addition to the “I’ve Been Paynted” club.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Four Years

My latest return to blogging is producing mixed emotions. On the positive side, I'm looking forward to re-connecting with those special blogger friends of yore. And it's a great pleasure to bring the writing chops out of the dust-bin and give them another go.

As for the negative, it's very sad to see the absence of the old community spirit that existed back in the pioneering days of '02. Elaine's post the other day really brought it home to me. She takes us back to her August posts of that year.

We had so much cross-blogging going on then. It was such a blast.

Time moves on. As Elaine says, in response to my comment, "everyone -- including me, I guess -- is just into his/her own thing. It's really not a community anymore. Too big. Too institutionalized."

So things are different. Well, duh, what did I expect? What the hell isn't different after four years? Am I going to be just another crotchety old dude bitching about how "it ain't what it usta be?"

I can get on board with the new reality or I can decide that coming back to the blogosphere wasn't worth it and drop out. I wouldn't be the first.

I'm going to start experimenting with a new feature--Anniversary Archives (see next post). This particular post is an uncomfortable but eye-opening example of how much things can change in four years.

Anniversary Archives - - August 8, 2002

Like A Feather In the Wind

Guess I have to blog Shelley Powers on Iraq one more time before I can get away from the subject for a while.

My critics will say I have no conviction--that I'm as spineless as a feather in the wind. My supporters will say I have an open mind. The simple truth is that I haven't figured out where I come down on this issue. Lately, I've been teetering ever closer to saying, "OK, Georgie, if you can make the case and get the U.N. in your corner, then go ahead and rid us of the Bully of Baghdad." But I haven't stepped over that line as yet.

Today, Shelley, aka Burningbird, makes the best case I've read yet for staying out. What I like about her piece is that it's blessedly free of the peace-at-any-price line--and of the kvetching and whining that disallows the proposition that anybody in Washington might actually be trying, with great difficulty, to be doing the right thing.

She makes a strong argument based on the rule of law--not on sentimentality--and I must say, I'm swayed by her words. Then, a couple of hours later, on the tube, along come two of the leading members of the Iraqi Opposition-In-Exile, saying that U.S, intervention will lead to a joyous overthrow of the dictatorship and the implementation of a free and pluralistic, democratic society--and I'm saying to myself, "Man, what if these guys are right? It would be worth the cost. It would be the greatest American foreign policy achievement since the restoration of a democratic Germany and Japan."

As I said in my post yesterday, it's really important that this kind of conversation is going on because I have no doubt there are a lot of floating feathers like myself out there. We need to be informed.

By the time the conversation on Vietnam got to this level, it was way too late. The boys were already coming home in boxes, and the villages were already being burned to the ground in the name of saving the inhabitants from Uncle Ho. Let us never again be done in by that level of misinformation and unquestioned assumptions. Let us never again get to that point before the debate begins.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Middle Muddle

As I make my way back into the blogosphere, bit by bit, I'm starting to get back to some of my old reading habits. That would definitely include Doc Searls, my fellow occupant of the middle of the political road (I can already see Paynter's eyes rolling).

Doc points to Britt Blaser's shot across the bow of left--vs.--right--politics--as--usual. Very intriguing--as is the case with most of Doc's pointers.

Much as I admire Blaser's sentiments, some of his conclusions are, unfortunately, quaint, to put it politely.

The problem with the middle, of course, is that we have no organization and no spleen--no duke-it-out-in-the-streets mentality. As Blaser points out, we "value our common sense and decency more than we value our rage."

But, Blaser maintains, "
We're finally motivated to do the intervention we've been avoiding."

His prescripition for the intervention? "
It's time to impose overwhelming reasonableness."

Well, wouldn't that be nice? And wouldn't it be peachy if we could go back to those civilized centrist contests between Adlai and Ike? And and Republicans and the Democrats sitting down together in the Capitol back rooms for some bourbon and branch water after a day's work on the floors of Congress?

I'm in a muddle. I don't know what the answer is. Blaser is absolutely correct when he asserts, "
If we want to do revenge politics, we'd just have to hire the consultants again and start the same old karmic spiral. The political consultants would like nothing better. We have to take the other path."

Some visionary is going to have to show up who can chart "the other path" that weaves its way somehow between 50's soda-pop nostalgia and present-day vitriol and vindictiveness.

I'm not very optimistic. Cokie Roberts, who knows a thing or two about the Democratic Party, has observed that Joe Lieberman's likely defeat next week portends big trouble for the party. It will precipitate a frantic scramble to the left, she predicts, and a suicidal push toward the repeat of the 1972 disaster.

For those of you who weren't around, the period of 1968-72 has some parallels to today. The fury against Humphrey, the Lieberman of his day, and against the Vietnam war, led to a leftist takeover of the Democrats that cost the party its status as the majority party--a situation which has grown steadily worse, despite the brief hiatus of Bill Clinton.

Don't get me wrong. If I were a Connecticut voter, I would gleefully cast my vote against Boot Lickin' Joe. It's the over-reaction to the result that I fear, plus the big vacuum in the middle. And puleeeze--Hillary ain't the one to fill it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Body Parts

Leaving a comment to my previous post, Jeneane offers the possibility of blogging about Paynter's ass. Hmmm. Well, I don't think so, but just to keep things within the Yuck Zone, how about a more proactive body part--los cojones?

Frank gives them an entertaining and brave flex by including one of the reigning legends of the blogosphere as an object of his wrong-side-of-the-bed screed.

After reeling off the easy targets--basically everything related to Bush and the Middle East--plus business, art, academia, technologists, ownership, even hapless victims of skiing accidents, he turns on Halley.

Poor gal had her night out in North Beach derided as "Tony Bennet bullshit." Perfect! I laughed "halfway to the stars" with that one!

Way to go , Frank! It's so refreshing to see a nice guy turn mean.

On a more serious note, this gets me to thinking about the changes in the blog scene. Having been absent much of the past two years, I'm wondering about how things have evolved.

Some are quite obvious--the frantic search for monetization--blogs as hucksterism--seepage into the mainstream (nobody looks at you with that blank stare anymore when you say "blog")--a sort of pseudo-industry (which is probably heresy to suggest).

I wonder if in some way the arc of Halley's career and blogging might be an instructive representation of the blogospheric evolution?

Just a thought. Jeneane says no one's paying attention any more, and Maria Benet has suggested we might do lunch and share thoughts on the subject. (Yes to that, Maria).

Despite all the changes, what matters, no doubt, is that the central factor holds: blogging remains a convenient, effective medium for enabling conversation between people who find value in communicating with each other.

As for the rest of it--the agenda pushing, poseuring, name-dropping and money-grubbing, let me join Frank in his screw-fest. Screw the whole peripheral blog scene.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Outhouse of Plans

As has become almost routine since my blogging began to thin out around two summers ago--and at times evaporate altogether --Frank Paynter throws out a hook and reels me back in, even if for just a post or two.

The steady scribe of Listics nee Sandhill has done it again. He must have known that I would be irresistably touched when, right there in the middle of blogging about being with all those brilliant babes of Bloggerland--i.e., the recently concluded BlogHer conference--he tosses out a mention that he's thinking about what may have become of me!

One presumes he was there to provide a male perspective on the proceedings--and I don't mean that in the lecherous sense. He had the good sense to have his wife with him, after all. Which may be how he managed to get in there in the first place--unless they actually invited him--just kidding--they did let guys in and there were in fact other guys there, although a distinct minority.

I've always had a bit of fun kidding around with Frank, even arguing sometimes, but I'll not begrudge him his accolades. He's one helluva prodigious blogger, and I'm honored to be the recipient of his attention from time to time.

I owe my readers a big apology for disappearing right on the heels of announcing my return six months ago. I was very excited about getting back, having just pulled off a neat little end run around the Grim Reaper. I was full of plans and good ideas. Twenty-two awesome bloggers left encouraging comments. Others emailed. It was an experience to savor.

I thought the Author-In-Chief was going to cut me some slack after my heart scare. Ha! My Year-of-Job was just warming up. What's the old saying--if you want to hear God laugh, make a plan? I joined Rumsfeld, Bremer, Wolfowitz et al in the outhouse of plans-gone-south.

No sooner did I return from a round of business consultations, all fired up and ready to get moving again, than I was struck by an even more painful experience than the preceding one--a devastating situation of turmoil and upheaval in my family (nothing to do with my marriage, which is just fine, thank you very much).

It would have been very helpful if I could have blogged my heart out about it. However, I've been honor-bound to to remain silent about the details of this in the public arena in order to protect the privacy rights of people who are very special to me.

My sincere regrets for having to be in mystery on this, but that's just the way it is. Period. Nothing I can do about it. I wouldn't even bring it up except that the irreducible foundation of personal blogging, IMO, is honesty and transparency.

Without this foundation, I have no reason to blog. This standard requires, therefore, that I explain, to the extent possible, why I suddenly stopped blogging right on the heels of trumpeting my return.

During this tumultous period, which has been full of fear, despair, and uncertainty, the happy memories of blogging proved too painful for me to deal with. That may sound nuts. You would think that it would provide a nice respite. But, it just hasn't seemed to work that way for me.

It's not that I want to grovel in my shit. It's more that blogging has seemed so insignificant in the face of all this--the lack of its former electricity for me has been an unpleasant source of sadness--and I've been assiduously avoiding all sources of sadness over which I have any control.

Things are improving, so Frank's timing is propitious. I just might be ready to give it a go again. No promises, mind you, but I'll do my best to give it another shot.

Six months is a stupidly long time to wait to say this--but a belated Thank You, nonetheless, to all you wonderful bloggers who reached out to me back in January.