INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Saturday, June 29, 2002

A New Universe

Had my first blogger phone call yesterday. Frank Paynter called to chat about the interview he's doing with me, and to invite us to dinner when we're in Madison come December for Jonathan's graduation.

The interview's been going rather slowly because things are kind of hectic right now in my Real World life. Nonetheless, I'm pressing on with it, and hope to have it completed in a few more days. Then again, Frank keeps thinking of new questions to lob at me, so who knows?

As I told Frank, it's kind of amazing to find myself in this new universe. I started my blog just a scant four months ago. It seems like four years. I remember when we were expecting our first child, a friend who was already a parent said, "in a few months you won't be able to remember not having been a parent, that's how total the life change is."

In a less dramatic way, it's sort of like that with blogging. It's hard to remember not having been a blogger. It's quite an encompassing shift in consciousness that's hard to describe, but I'm sure that other bloggers know what I'm talking about.

I remember one of the better known observers of the blog scene--and I can't remember which one--remarked that there was a blogger's version of the Andy Warhol dictum about fifteen minutes of fame: "every blogger is famous to fifteen people." While I wouldn't claim to be famous to fifteen people, I'm fairly certain that there are fifteen bloggers who, if I showed up in their town and invited them for a drink, lunch, etc., would accept. There's no way my universe would expand that rapidly in the Real World. It's pretty amazing. Thanks, Frank, for helping to keep the game going.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Lost In the Real World

Damn! Two days without a post. I guess I'd better get a placeholder in here. House guests and other craziness in the Real World. And what little bit of time might be left for blogging has been pretty much used up by dealing with the Frank Paynter grilling sessions. As you may know, he's doing an interview with me as part of his ongoing series. Says I'm his token male, seeing as how he's had all female subjects so far. Hope I'm not being expected to represent the entire gender, Frank. You better have some other guys lined up. My testosterone supply ain't what it used to be.

Anyway, I'm here to tell you Frank does not serve up softballs. Hurls some pretty thought-provoking stuff. I may be squirming a bit, but I have to admit--it's this pokin'-a-stick-in-the-pot that has helped make his interviews so good, so far. Hope he keeps going with this endeavor. Seems to have a real knack for it.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Another Blogger Rendezvous

These blogarian get-togethers seem to be catching on.

Nice trend!

Roy Rogers and Buffalo

I'm filled with that special warm glow today that you get from being at a great live concert. Went to the venerable Freight and Salvage last night to hear legendary slide guitarist, Roy Rogers (no, not the one with the horse), teamed up with the equally talented Norton Buffalo on vocals and mouth harp.

These two virtuosi laid down more rhythm and sound than a full band. Their mastery of blues, tinted with jazz and rock, is a wonder to behold. Their chemistry is wonderful. Check'em out if you're not familiar. Expand your repertoire. They deserve to be included.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Halley Breaks Summer Silence

Halley Suitt has stepped out of her self-imposed blogging sabbatical, and we, her deprived readers, are delighted!

I suppose a day at the beach with Elaine plus an opportunity to proffer a profane reply to Weinberger were just too much to resist.

How much would you have paid to have been a sand crab listening in on the beachside confab between these two titans of the blogosphere? Don't you wonder what they said about you, or whether your name even came up?

Janeane has spun her own fantasy vision of real world blogger togetherness. Mine would be to have a series of tete-a tetes with each of my favorite bloggers while strolling the beach with them, one at a time

Friday, June 21, 2002

Java Jive

Omigod---I've been drinking politically incorrect coffee!

The latest local outbreak of PC shenanigans is an excellent example of how living here can be simultaneously infuriating and side-splitting.

Farewell To Bill

My high school's most famous alum passed away yesterday--the elegant Bill Blass. How a world-class guy like him came out of a provincial town like mine, I'll never know. Well, he knew better than to stick around, that's for sure. That's something he and I had in common. (Hope nobody from the old burg is reading this).

His art teacher was still around when I was a student there--putting in her last few years. She's one of the few teachers whose name I can still remember off the top of my head without prompting--Erma Dochterman. She projected some of the same qualities as her famous student--no-nonsense, gracious, imposing.

Of course, Blass hadn't yet become famous when I was at South Side HS (the 50's), but Dochterman would sometimes talk about this incredible guy that she had had the privilege to teach. She was sure he would make his mark. She used to say that she had already earned her place in art teacher heaven by having had a kid like Bill.

I once splurged on a Bill Blass suit--back when I had the figure to do justice to a smart cut of cloth. Man, was it sharp! I don't mind telling you I looked great in it. It was my "presentation" suit--the threads I pulled out of the closet when I had to make a presentation somewhere.

There was one other celebrity to come out of my high school--Shelley Long. What the hell has become of her? Like many a gifted TV actor before and after, the transition to movies from success on the tube has not panned out. Too bad. She was a pleasure to watch. I say "was" because what are the odds of seeing her again? She's probably over 50 by now--way past the point where Hollywood puts its females out to pasture.

You know the drill. They'll cast a 40-year old to play the mother of a 30-year old. Case in point: In "Blue Hawaii," Angela Lansbury, at the time a ripe old 35 years of age, played Elvis Presley's mom . The King was pushing 27. Lansbury once said that it was one of the low points of an otherwise distinguished career.

But I digress. A long way around to simply say RIP to an elegant, charitable, gifted human being and fellow alum. Bill, we'll miss your totally cool presence. I wish I could still get into that beautiful suit.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Before the Porn

Denise blogs "belated" thanks to myself and a few other guys for acknowledging her interview with Frank Paynter. Frank posts a comment to her post stating that she is "a class act and the inventresse of the 'thank-you blog.'"

Well, I'm not sure about the "inventresse" part, but as for the class, no argument there. It's such a nice feeling to be acknowledged, even when the acknowledgement is for an acknowledgement.

Not only was Denise knock-down impressive in the interview, she generated a long-forgotten memory from my dim, pre-marital past. Denise mentioned that she once lived behind Oakland Tech High School near the old Pussycat Theatre. Damned if I didn't once date a girl who lived smack dab behind Oakland Tech (Clint Eastwood's alma mater, BTW).

She was a gracious, long-limbed beauty, outta my league entirely. It took my most arduous concoctions of charm and bullshit to land a few dates with her. Charm and bullshit were no match for the lanky, laid-back, sexy photographer who showed up one day and ended my fantasy. She was swept off her feet and eventually married the guy.

I then calculated that photography was the way to go. I enrolled in one of the last programs ever taught by the late, great Wynn Bullock of Monterey. He opened my eyes to actually seeing the world beneath the world. That's what his work was really about.

He used to say (paraphrasing), "People think that the photographer photographs objects. Any schoolboy can photograph objects. To make a compelling photograph, one must photograph the reality in which the object lives, and which it reflects."

I became passably good with the camera for a while, but it was no substitute for lanky, laid-back sexiness. I eventually discovered that plain-vanilla me had to develop qualities with the ladies other than charm and bullshit. Actually, it wasn't a matter of developing qualities. It was a question of leaving them behind and just being Tom. My reward for relinquishing the façade was the eventual appearance and connection with Jill, the love of my life since 1972.

As for the Pussycat Theater, I went to movies there before it was a porn house. I think it was called the Temescal. Just a regular neighborhood movie place. There wasn't any such thing as porn houses back then.

God, there are so many "befores" in my life. I lived in the Haight-Ashbury before the hippies moved in and made it famous. I was a soldier in Berlin before there was a Wall. I just missed by a hair getting into Castro's Cuba before the American government imposed its travel ban. But that's a whole other story--which I'm sure I'll get around to blogging about when the mood strikes me.

Anyway, thanks again, Denise, for your class, grace, wit, humor, intellect, and amazing multi-dimensionality.

Getting My Brain Exercise

Probably not going to get much blogging done in the next few days. Going to be entertaining my wife's cousin, Professor Nancy Netting, who's visiting from British Columbia. Nancy, a Harvard PhD and the family brain, will keep our heads buzzing with her non-stop intellectual curiousity and energy.

Is there any way you could lend me some of that, Nancy?

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Zero Birthdays

Happy belated 30th birthday to Dervala Hanley. She blogged the happy occasion yesterday while I was away from all electronic devices, cooling my heels at the beach for Father's Day. A spectacular, clear, sunny day--an all too rare event on the northern California beaches. There are many things to love about Northern California, but the summer weather at the beaches ain't one of'em. So when the occasional weekend day with no coastal fog comes along, I like to seize the opportunity. All the better if it's Dad's Day.

Anyway, Dervala, as she always manages to do, expresses the emotional charges around a situation in her special, perceptive and entertaining way:

"Zero-birthdays are disconcerting; a summing-up and a beginning. They’re a border to which you bring your papers to be stamped. Madam, your figuring-things-out visa has expired."

I've been through six Zero Birthdays so far. Ten and Twenty don't count because those are milestones about which you're thrilled. Thirty marks the beginning of the ones with a negative tint. It was also, for me, the most difficult of the lot. The uncertainty was a killer. Knowing that a lot of serious personal events--from which there would be no turning back--would be unfolding over the ensuing decade. Having no idea in hell what they were going to look like. Frightened about the implications of something being the wrong fork in the road.

Again, Dervala says it best:

"Thirty, in particular, is freighted with ‘supposed-tos’ for those who think about such things. Some people take it as a spur to build. They get engaged, start a company, or have babies. Older and younger friends smirk at the burst of activity. Others, like me, tear things down at the sight of that big round zero hurtling down the hill towards us, gathering dread and longing. We’re no longer automatically the youngest in the room. At work, the formless class of ’94 now divides into contenders and schmoes. We slide from mentored to mentor, just as we realize we know nothing at all.'

That division into contenders and schmoes--that was the most frightening of all.

If Thirty was the most disconcerting, which one was the least so? In my case, at least, that would have to be Fifty. The peak of your power. Plenty of energy and time left which to look forward. A certain built-in respect from others that is thrilling when you first start to experience it. Best of all, you pretty much are who you are. The painful uncertainty of Becoming has, for the most part, taken a back seat to Being.

Sixty is not bad either. Not as much energy as Fifty, but still passably good. Adult relationships with your children (especially thrilling). Uncertainty is just about out the door entirely. By now, you truly ARE who you are. The down side, of course, is that mortality is beginning to peek through that same door. You no longer have any illusions about your future being wide open and unlimited. But that has its upside. It makes you much more powerful in your ability to be in the moment--which is probably the biggest prize of all.

Anyway, best wishes to Dervala for a dynamite decade!

Belles Lettres At the White House?

I have no problem with the Bush spin doctors promoting W as the steely-eyed, tough-boy defender of the Republic. Any administration is going to harp on its perceived strengths. That's a legitimate application of the spinmeister's craft.

But now they're trying to add a brushstroke or two of intellectualism to W's image.


Well, not to worry. Something this juicy is not going to get past observers like the inimitable Maureen Dowd, one of America's premier bullshit-spotters.

Dowd has her skewering rods in full motion in today's column. Don't miss it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Whipping the Self-Censor

Janeane raised a compelling question in her blog yesterday:

" Who doesn't know you blog and would it change how you blog--what you write, whether or not you self-censor--if they did?"

Lots of people--most people--don't know that I blog. And some of the ones that I thought would be interested aren't. At first, I used to give some thought to what people would think if they encountered my blog. I remember my wife remarking, somewhat incredulously, when I informed her about my intentions to blog, "You mean it's public? It's just sitting out there on the Web for anyone to see?"

As I get further into it, and my confidence in my own voice grows, I'm finding that I care less and less about who sees it or what they might think. It's a very self-affirming, self-empowering feeling. It's kind of like jumping off a cliff, and there's a certain intoxication in that--something that I suspect is shared by my fellow bloggers.

It's Janeane's Turn

If you're one of the few souls in the blogosphere that doesn't know about Janeane's interview today by Frank Paynter, then hightail it over to Sandhill Trek. Even though Janeane is so self-revealing in her blog, there's more to learn.

Frank does a great job and reveals some of himself in the process. I think Frank may be working out some shit in doing these interviews, but that's OK, Frank. Keep on truckin'!

Matrullo On Blogging

Tom Matrullo's comments on why he blogs are so perfectly representative of my own that I'm compelled to quote them in their entirety. He says it better than I could, so I'll let him do the talking:

"I think blogging is inciting people to capture epiphanies, images, memories that might otherwise have gotten away. But I don't necessarily think this need occur in the form of a re- or pre-hearsal with an audience in mind. One of the best things to come out of it for me, anyway, is the experience of reading across a bunch of blogs and gradually forming a perception or observation which is partly based on that reading, and partly on ideas or insights that might have formed years ago, but only now seem to find a venue for delivery. That's sort of what blogging does - deliver one of thoughts, memories, etc. that otherwise might have languished for want of venue and impetus"

Monday, June 10, 2002

Rockin' Robins Rolls Thanksgiving Memories

I've got another rock group to check out--Gomez--thanks to Wayne Robins' review. Thank you, Wayne, for keeping an over-the-hill guy in the loop. It's embarassing to admit my ignorance in public, but, hey, I'm still way ahead of most of my peers, who got about as far as The Stones and The Beatles.

Robins also blogs a negative critique of the Scorcese flick, "The Last Waltz," the famous farewell concert of The Band on Thanksgiving, 1976, at which Robins was in attendance.

While I can't disagree with his skewering of the "rock star sanctimony," I nonetheless had a wonderful experience with the video of this film. It was during Thanksgiving holiday in the mid-80's--I don't remember the exact year, but sometime just before my kids hit adolescence and wouldn't be caught dead watching a music flick with the old man, but were old enough to dig a piece of rock music history.

I seized this brief window of opportunity, and we all sat down as a family and watched the video on a cold and blustery late November night.

It was a wonderful bonding experience. The kids didn't care about the sanctimony, and neither did their parents. We just dug the music, and went to bed with smiles on our faces and tunes in our heads.

However, it was only a year or two later that my guys were dismissing the likes of Joni Mitchell, and Van Morrison in particular, as mere excrement. "Pieces of shit," I believe, was the exact terminology. So glad we got that video when we did.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Forty Years To Yankee Stadium

The San Francisco Giants are in Yankee Stadium this weekend. It's taken forty years to make the trip. The last time they were there was the memorable World Series of 1962.

It's a nostalgic turn for me. 1962--forty years ago this month I picked up my degree, bid a fond farewell to my beloved Indiana U, packed up my '55 two-tone green-and-cream Chevy Bel Air, and headed west to the city by the Bay.

It was a magical season for the Giants. Come October, they were fighting it out tooth-and-nail with the fearsome Yankees. What a Series it was! A plethora of future Hall-of -Famers--Mays, Mantle, McCovey, Cepeda, Marichal, Ford, Maris, Berra. Every game a close battle.

The city was having one of its wettest Octobers on record. Play was suspended for three or four days in a row as the skies emptied. The Yanks were forced to cool their heels in their hotel.

But Mantle and Ford, notorious carousers, with time on their hands in a fun-loving, hard-drinking town were in their element. No hanging around the hotel for them. The newspapers had a field day reporting their bar-room exploits.

We thought we'd win the Series because these two super-stars would be too messed up from boozing and whoring. Well, they don't call'em super-stars for nothing. Their bodies and hearts are a size or two stronger than mere mortals, and their play didn't suffer a bit. When the skies finally dried up, the Yanks went on to beat us by a fingernail on the last play of the last inning of the seventh game.

The current meeting going on in NY is worthy of the tradition. Close, exciting, superbly played games with capacity crowds on hand. Let's hope when October rolls around, we'll see a rematch of 1962.

Expanding My Consciousness

Once again, Doc Searls leads me into hidden gems of the blogosphere--this time the quiet, illuminating work of rock music critic, Wayne Robins, whose blog, Wayne's Words, is a true delight. I spent a little time combing through Wayne's archives and garnered an instant expansion of my musical universe.

He's pointed me to some stuff that has passed me by like ships in the night (a too common occurrence these days--thank god for guys like Wayne). One that I'm inspired to check out is "Out in California" by Dave Alvin and The Guilty Men.
Here's an example of Wayne's well-crafted words:

“Out in California” shows Alvin’s genius for consolidating the isolated fiefdoms of Southern California into a potent, united musical nation. In his generously gifted fingers and croaky voice, he brings together Santa Monica surf, Bakersfield hillbilly, San Gabriel Valley roadhouse, San Fernando Valley pop, Venice boho-stomp, West Hollywood alternative rock, Orange County post-punk, Watts’ postwar blues, East L.A. garage rock. He creates a unified geographical area linking Sunset Blvd to Whittier Blvd. to Central Avenue to Highway 10, a realm that would be a wet dream if it could be reached as fluently by the circulation department of the Los Angeles Times, forever desperate to figure out how to get those entities under the roof of one newspaper."

Wayne has no blogroll with which to reciprocate, but, no matter--he's going on mine anyway, and I hope on many others as well.

Friday, June 07, 2002

Ladies' Man

Frank Paynter is batting a thousand with the ladies -- having scored twice in a row with terrific interviews of Elaine and Denise.

Regarding the most recent one with Denise, Tom Matrullo makes the following observation:

"If only actual media interviews were so fresh. Behind this interview is more attention, interest and preparation than most media personalities have the time or wit to muster."

Keep honing those skills, Frank. You're gonna need all of'em when it's my turn.

Continuing the kudos for Frank, he did a nice job today of expanding on my piece about the venerable Wisconsin brat. If I were in Madison right now, I'd be giving Frank and Dorothea a call to come join me on the patio at State Street Brats--my waistline be damned.

Thursday, June 06, 2002


Marek J has been absent from my blogroll. I have no explanation to offer. Anyway, I regret the oversight and have now corrected it. He's recently posted ten reasons for not linking to him--one of which is that he won't bother to tell his readers what a great blog you have. That's OK, Marek. You belong on my blogroll anyway. I'm choosing to ignore your reasons.

Bring Me a Napkin

As a born-and-bred, albeit expatriate Midwesterner and parent of a Wisconsin resident, all I need to make me happy is a brew and a brat, the Dairy State's dynamic duo. R.W. Apple, the guy with the world's greatest job--traveling food commentator for the New York Times--writes today from the home of the brat, the damn-the-cholesterol king of comfort food.

While only a brat from Wisconsin can be considered the genuine article, Apple discovers that the most genuine of the genuine is to be found in the pleasant working-class town of Sheboygan. Get out a napkin to catch the drool as you read his ode to great piece of Americana.

(Note to Frank Paynter, who seems melancholy at times with life in Madison, take a drive over to Sheboygan to revive your spirits--although I must say, from my own experience, your own local State Street Brats seems to fit the bill very nicely. But, then, I'm not the connoisseur that Apple is).

At Play With Google

Thanks to Internet marketing guru Larry Chase for pointing me to Google calls its technology playground. Prototypes currently appearing are Google Glossary, Google Sets, Voice Search, and my favorite, Keyboard Shortcuts, for speeding up your navigation around Google.

As Google puts it, "Google labs showcases a few of our favorite ideas that aren't quite ready for prime time. Your feedback can help us improve them. Please play with these prototypes and send your comments directly to the Googlers who developed them."

Is Google a great company or what? Not only do they lap the field in technology, their rapport with their customers and their bottom-up marketing savvy is as good as their tech.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Conversations, Context, and Power

Good conversation going on at blogtank. Elaine has some compelling ideas for using libraries for bringing the joys-of-self-discovery and the promise-of-self-expansion through blogging to children on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Marek has brought up the pregnant subject of "recontextualization" and cited Fernando Flores as his primary inspiration in this area. He directs us to a highly interesting related article.

Flores is a powerful and impressive guy. I know, because I had some minor exposure to him back in the early 80's when he was here in the SF Bay Area. I did some freelance moonlighting for a firm that he was trying to get off the ground (Hermenet, Inc.--whose aim was to utilize the new technology of personal computing as a tool for transforming the context of the workplace).

However, he ran headfirst into the severe recessionary forces of the time (much worse than the current ones, BTW). Interestingly, his prodigious powers of communication were no match for the macroeconomic currents (Is there a lesson there? I don't know). The whole thing imploded into a mess of lawsuits and counter-suits. I don't really know if it was his fault or not.

Intentionality was at the heart of Flores' approach. "Conversations" were the source, and they had to be grounded in intention. You had to be aware of the distinction of the conversation in which you were entering. There were Conversations for Clarification; Conversations for Commitment; Conversations for Action, and so on. These conversations were to be the building blocks of the recontextualization required for having a space in which intended results could appear. The first step was always to define what the conversation was FOR.

Anyway, that's how I remember it, for what it's worth. Conversations at this level of intentionality have real power according to Flores, and I have no reason to doubt him, even though I've seen his less than favorable side.

The Unmasking Awaits

Yikes!! I've just given Frank Paynter my consent to be one of his interviewees.

Have I lost my marbles? Can't imagine what I could say that would compare to the superstars he's got lined up. But as I told him, it's your blog, man. If you want to lose readers, who am I to stop you?

Monday, June 03, 2002

Catch Those Alpine Meadows While You Can

Time to bestow another one of my "Huh? Lemme See If I Got That Straight" Awards. This time the award goes to George W. Bush and his entire environmental team. They quietly issued a report today--"U.S. Climate Action Report 2002"-- admitting, after years of denial, that, yes, global warming is actually happening and, yes, it presents a serious threat to the quality of the environment.

Oh, and the responsible party, according to the report? Human beings. How about that? Thought it might have been those pesky dolphins.

If you're tempted to say, "Way to go, W! Glad to see you got it right this time," consider the Administration's recommendation for responding to the threat. I'll quote from the New York Times so that you won't think that I'm making this up:

”It recommends adapting to inevitable changes. It does not recommend making rapid reductions in greenhouse gases to limit warming, the approach favored by many environmental groups and countries that have accepted the Kyoto Protocol, a climate treaty written in the Clinton administration that was rejected by Mr. Bush.

And what are the changes which the report predicts and asks us to "adapt to?"

"the United States will be substantially changed in the next few decades — 'very likely' seeing the disruption of snow-fed water supplies, more stifling heat waves and the permanent disappearance of Rocky Mountain meadows and coastal marshes, for example — (yet) it does not propose any major shift in the administration's policy on greenhouse gases."

The Bushies are trying to have it both ways. They will try to say to the environmentally-conscious swing voters that they've cleaned up their environmental act, while at the same time doing nothing to offend the Big Energy Crowd to whom they're beholden.

You'd like to think that they won't get away with it. I wouldn't count on it. First of all, the candy-ass, pussyfooting Democrats have shrunk from developing any authentic voice to effectively question and counter-attack this mean-spirited, dangerous mindlessness to which we are being subjected.

Secondly, according to political observers, suburban Moms are no longer the swing vote that counts. Suburban Dads have deftly been identified by the Repubs as the new swing vote treasure. This group, by and large, loves the beat of the war drums, and they're too exhausted from all those hours in their office cubicles to give a shit about Alpine Meadows.

Well, I've managed to break my self-imposed rule against ranting. I couldn't help it this time. Sometimes those shithead Boys-Currently-In-Charge just cause me to lose it.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Bop a Rep

Wish they'd had this back when I was fielding scores of calls every week from cliche-spouting media reps--a great new game on the Web, "Upfront."

The media buyer starts the game with a supply of staplers, bagels, and other projectiles which are pelted at the virtual reps as they pop up from behind desks and filing cabinets--mouthing their usual lines like, "'We'd like to talk to you about out-of-the-box ideas' and "creating new paradigms," or "building long-term relationships."

Note to game-developers: there must be a lot of other annoying situations for which games like this could be adapted.


My ranking at's "all time hottest serious blogs" has slipped from four to six--but guess who's replaced me?, followed by wood s lot in fifth. I'd be proud to follow directly behind them on any list there is or will be.