INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Holiday Advice

People like me who tend to lapse too easily into cynicism and despair, are well-advised to grab a dose of Rabbi Michael Lerner from time to time. He has some thought-provoking advice for those of us having a hard time breaking out of our post-election funk. In a wonderful piece in Tikkun, entitled “Post-Election Depression: Don't Let the Lights Go Out,” he points out that “this year Chanukah and Xmas will have a particular urgency for the many liberals and progressives who are wallowing in post-election depression.”

Rabbi Lerner counsels those on the left to borrow a page from the right and emulate their approach to reconstruction and revival after their debacle in the ’64 elections. He reminds us that, in order to emerge from their nadir, the conservatives took it upon themselves to:

“fashion a whole new ideological foundation, and then. . . the painstaking work of being in the minority and staying there while convincing people about the validity of their new way of thinking. They recognized that ideas matter, and they built think tanks, national organizations that advanced right wing ideals, fought for their ideas in professional associations and in media that they sometimes had to create for themselves, and went through the painful work of building caucuses in churches and on university campuses.”

Then Lerner turns his advice inward, and here, I think, is where it has real power:

”Stop what you are doing and start to develop an inner spiritual practice. Get in touch with your own mortality, the fragility of your own lives, and the absurdity of ego-tripping. Get in touch with your own heart. Ask yourself if you had not gotten into politics whether you think you’d really be moved by the kinds of things liberal or progressive politicians talk about, or whether you too might not want to just retreat into personal life. Dare to be honest with yourself. Listen to your own heart. Clear out the clutter of the voices telling you to accomplish something, and instead just listen to the deepest voices within you and ask them to tell you how close you are to the highest God energy within you, or what you need to do to get closer to that.” I know that Democrats and progressives don’t think this way—but I’m looking for some way to get them to stop thinking in the old way, and to start to recognize that when somebody says that an idea is “utopian,” that’s a high recommendation. The world that the practical politicians have given us isn’t working—it’s leading to war, inequality, ecological destructiveness. It’s time to go in a different direction. And that’s what a politics of meaning or what I call an Emancipatory Spirituality is about.”

Thanks to wood s lot for the link.

Friday, November 29, 2002

Double Anniversary

Happy First Anniversary to two awesome bloggers who both started their blogs on this day last year—Elaine of Kallilly and Dervala Hanley.

Elaine, as probably everyone knows by now, has made the pages of the NY Times in its piece on blogging and gender. Dervala, after an absence for awhile, is posting away again from Southeast Asia, where she’s been traveling extensively. What a treat it is to read her travel writing! She has an uncanny ability to give you a sharp—and unusual--sense of place. Not the sort of stuff you’d find in travel guides.

Congratulations to two of Blogdom’s best.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

An Unscientific Assessment of Scientists

Sya, an Ivy League grad student in science, and author of a most enjoyable blog, Syaffolee, expresses some discomfort over the potential for exposure that confronts all bloggers:

“Writing in public? I feel very self-conscious . . . .

What I'm deathly afraid of is that someone I know who's in science will stumble onto my little hobby and not understand. Scientists should be solely obsessed with science. No one really says it, but I always get this impression that if you're not stuck in lab for every minute of your life, you're not truly dedicated to science.”

Much as I normally respect Sya’s insights, I think that in this case she may be seeing things from a constricted, student perspective. Having lived in Berkeley for thirty years, it's inevitable that I've known a number of scientists in that amount of time. Sya may be skeptical, but in my experience, these folks are often more well-rounded than some of the arts-and-letters types—a group who enjoys the reputation of being more eclectic because it’s the presumed nature of the humanities. In practice, some of these types can be quite narrow. They don’t get called on it, however, because they’re able to hide under the protection of the reputation of their field.

Scientists, on the other hand, by their very nature, have a relentlessly curious quality of mind. Their curiosity takes them in many directions. I think you’re more likely to find Renaissance types in the sciences than in the arts. I hope that Sya will temper her concern about being thought of as insufficiently dedicated to science.

As for fear of being found out, it's universal. At my advanced stage of life, what the hell do I have to fear from the "wrong person" reading my blog. But guess what? I still have the fear anyway.

Monday, November 25, 2002

The Value of Embarrassment

I have to confess to being somewhat embarrassed. After days of hardly any visits from anyone, all of a sudden, during the last 24 hours or so, many of my most favorite and respected bloggers have dropped by, and there’s been nothing for them to read. For the last week or so, my blogging’s been either stale or non-existent. I’ve been suffering from some of the same blogging blahs which seem to be going about lately.

Boredom, for example—the kind of boredom that Elaine addresses. She asks, “Is it age? Is it the Age?”

I don’t think it’s age, but the Age? Could be. God knows I haven’t been able to shake the feelings of depression and dread since the elections. The prospect of widespread death, chaos, and economic stagnation seem to be hanging in the air.

But that’s only part of it—a small part. Mostly it’s personal. I used to be able to overcome my resistance when I felt like I had nothing to blog about. If my well had run dry for the moment, I was willing to put in a placeholder--idle gossip about other blogs, perhaps a lame attempt to say something funny or clever--maybe a reference to sports, politics--maybe a tidbit about a recent social activity, or a movie I had seen, or music I had enjoyed.

In my depressed state, I find myself unwilling to bother with such posts. The question, “Who gives a shit?” bounces around relentlessly between my ears. Additionally, I find myself resenting the departure of the chunk of my consciousness that blogging seems to have appropriated. I’m constantly catching my mind drifting off--dwelling on possible subjects for blogging--neglecting needed focus on the more urgent affairs in my life.

Why am I bothering with this post? It’s hardly the kind of reading that would put a smile on your face or provide any valuable references. I guess it’s because the primary value that blogging holds for me is that it’s a venue where I can attempt to be honest with myself and explore some of my below-the-surface realities in the glare of a public forum. It risks embarrassment, and that’s a risk, when taken, that always seems to provide some growth and movement away from stuck-ness and oscillation.

It’s also a way of letting you--my esteemed readers--know that while the blogging here may be thin for awhile, I’m still around.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

SUVs and Morality

Interesting article in the New York Times about a growing movement among organized religious groups to spread awareness about the environmental menace of gas-guzzling SUV’s.

“We are under a commandment to be faithful stewards of God's creation," said Paul Gorman, executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, an umbrella organization of Christian and Jewish groups. "This is a crisis in God's creation at the hands of God's children."

Apparently these groups are planning to send study materials to 100,000 congregations of varying faiths and train hundreds of clergy and lay people as spokespeople for energy conservation and fuel economy.

This is a most welcome development! However, the strategy of these groups seems to be directed solely against the auto manufacturers. They need to be pressuring the politicians. Ultimately, legislative changes will be necessary to force the manufacturers and the driving public to give up their addiction to SUVs. Of course, attitudes have to be changed first, and religious groups are in an ideal position to wield this kind of influence.

I wonder, however, is there a bit of hypocrisy here? If we’re going to denounce the ultra-right wing influence which religion has wielded in the area of social policy, does it then become inconsistent to lend encouragement to these religious forces when their stance is to our liking? I think not. You take your allies where you find them. Back when we were protesting the Vietnam War, we sure appreciated the help we got from many religious groups.

I think it’s exciting to see stewardship of the environment cast as a moral imperative by the people whose business is morality. It’s exciting to contemplate pressure being brought to bear in this way. I just hope they apply it more effectively than simply writing letters to auto executives. The execs will go where the money is, period.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Not All the News Is Horrible

This must be one of most amazing bequests in the history of philanthropy. Ruth Lilly, 87-year old heiress to the Eli Lilly fortune, has set up a $100 million endowment fund for the venerable Poetry Magazine. No, that’s not a typo—that’s ONE HUNDRED million smackers!

Poetry Magazine has been a hanging-on-by-the-skin-of-its-ass operation for generations. They have a staff of four operating out of cramped quarters in Chicago. Through thick and thin—mostly thin—they’ve managed to keep putting out an intelligently edited and influential publication.

Can you imagine how those staffers must feel? The magazine’s contributors will now be able to receive a nice increase over the customary rate of two dollars per line. Poetry Magazine will now be able to live as long as the Earth itself.

If there’s a heaven, Ruth Lilly has surely bought herself an express ticket.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Implementing Gonzo

The group blog Reading Gonzo—Engaged (where this writer got his start in the blogosphere), has been moribund for a couple of months. I guess these group blogs tend to have a limited life cycle.

Now, however, the irrepressible Marek J catapults RGE back to life with an hilarious post on how the principles of Gonzo Marketing might be advantageously employed. He impishly suggests that corporations establish an “Official Gonzo Marketing Implementation Program.” He asks us to consider the rather heady possibilities available in taking this course of action. A sample:

Just imagine if there was [such a] program, say.... at a small Bomb Factory in Oklahoma. - Instead of a typical call from a customer who says "I would like to order part number T64 dash 7YTGH32 version G for the 2001 implementation of Numba Release" he could just call and tell them "Send me some of those Catapult Release shit kickers for the Big Cocksucking Eat Shit Saddam Nuke'em Dry version G my man. Don't forget I want the version G." -- Immediately the Customer and the Customer Representative Associate would have relatability handled. There wouldn't be any upsets on the phone nor long awkward silence moments. Those two could swap stories and share their dreams of Kids growing up in safe neighborhoods, self-assured in their Gonzo superiority.”

Ever the visionary, Marek also sees applications for Gonzo principles beyond the Marketing Department--Human Resources, for example:

”'Well, We got no fucking money to train your ass. You got to buy your own books motherfuckers like everybody else on this team". Imagine the savings any corporation will achieve…” More . . .

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Close Call

Andy Bourland, founder of Click Z, has reportedly had a close encounter with the Grim Reaper. Andy suffered a massive heart attack earlier this week, but managed to survive and is recovering from open-heart surgeryat his home in Andover, Mass.

Andy was one of the first to be clued-in about humans-first marketing principles on the Internet. His influential newsletter. ClickZ, was a pioneering force in elevating and guiding the online marketing conversation. It’s lost a bit of its zip since Andy sold it to last year, but that doesn’t diminish the importance of his contribution in the developing days of the Net.

Best wishes to Andy for a speedy recovery. For those who would like to send a card or note, Anne Holland, another clued-in internet marketing voice, has provided Andy’s e-mail and snail mail addresses: 39 High Street, Andover, MA 01810 or

Thursday, November 14, 2002

War, Peace, and Taxonomy

George Partington has taken me to task for using the phrase “peace-at-any-price,” a phrase for which he expresses his extreme displeasure:

”(It’s) a statement I detest, for it's a soundbite that immediately brands someone as clueless to the world's realities, when those realities are only what the powerful have defined for their own twisted ends”

I agree with the first half of George’s sentence and retract my use of the phrase. More about that in a minute. I really part company with George on the second half of the sentence.

Does he really mean to suggest that all realities in the world are created by power-mad cabals? What about the threat to world peace and stability posed by hunger? By poverty? By AIDS? And--last but no means least--by terrorists and unbalanced dictators? Did some fat cats sitting around in boardrooms make it all up?

As for the term, “peace-at-any-price,” George is quite right. It’s a pejorative. I was trying to use a term which I thought was less insulting than the old-fashioned ones like “appeaser,” or “peacenik.” But the truth is, when I take a closer look at it, I was hiding behind phraseology, and not being brave enough to directly express my disagreement with what I see as overly dovish positions.

I should have employed the simple taxonomy of dove/hawk, which, so far as I can tell, is not pejorative but merely shorthand for one’s relative position on the war/peace spectrum. So, while I have my disagreements with George, I respectfully retract my use of the insulting terminology.

I’m probably way out of line with what seems to be the general drift of most of my readers. I had a strong suspicion that I’d get into trouble when I started promoting Feinstein for President. I knew that her Senate vote regarding Presidential war authority was going to be too much for some people to stomach. I really wish she hadn’t voted that way, but, believe me, she didn’t do it for political expediency. That’s not Dianne. She did it because she thought it was the right thing to do, and she's taken a ton of heat for it.This is not hawk country around here.

There’s never going to be a political figure with whom I agree 100%. But I still believe she’s the best hope for the Democratic Party, and I fervently hope that a groundswell arises urging her to run.

Flippin’ For Felipe

Sometimes, good news follows bad. That’s certainly the case this week for SF Giants fans. Normally a classy operation, the Giants management slipped out of character with its clumsy handling of the Dusty Baker situation.

Happily, the organization has almost instantly recovered its stature by moving quickly and hiring the one person in all of baseball who was worthy of filling Dusty’s shoes—the venerable Felipe Alou. Not only is Felipe a part of Giants tradition and history (he was a teammate of Willy Mays), he’s shown his class in the way he surmounted the woeful situation thrust upon him in his managerial days at Montreal.

Welcome back, Felipe!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Doc Appeal

Doc Searls submits an appeal to save a Santa Barbara landmark. If you’ve ever been to this fair city you know what an architectural treasure it is. I’m sending my donation. I hope you will too.

Female Appeal

This is like a throwback to my youth. I seem to have struck out with the ladies. Nary a peep anywhere from the female side concerning my entreaties for Dianne Feinstein. Maybe I should have pitched it differently—e.g., used a head like “Time For a Female For President!” Maybe I should have sent emails to the Blog Sisters roll. Maybe people just think I’m dotty, or that Dianne’s a war monger (she isn’t). Or maybe, everybody’s just sick of politics. I thought I was, too, until I started thinking about getting a woman in the picture.

Anyway, today, I’ll make a specific appeal to all you great women bloggers out there. Check out the piece on Feinstein which I blogged about yesterday. And to get the juices flowing, check out Joan Ryan’s piece in today’s SF Chron, straightforwardly titled, “Women, Get Angry.”

Good Day in Oaktown

Three happy notes for Oakland sports fans:

1) Miguel Tejada of the A’s named American League MVP. Richly deserved! Way to go, Miggy!

2) Billy Beane, the brilliant General Manager of the A’s, has decided to spurn the lucrative offer tendered by the Boston Red Sox. Says he loves it here and wants to stay. Bless you, Billy! Beane, BTW, has managed to amass one of baseball’s best teams despite being constricted by of one of the lowest total payrolls in the sport.

3) The Raiders pulled out an absolute must-win last night in Denver before a nationwide audience on Monday Night Football. Their performance was a breathtaking display of skill and confidence. How about those ageless Raider wonders, let go by their former teams because they were supposedly over the hill—i.e., Jerry Rice, Ron Woodson, and Bill Romanowski. Last night, they all showed us why they’re on their way to the Hall of Fame.

Keep On Rockin’ In the Free World

A hearty Happy Birthday to legendary rocker, Neil Young—still going strong.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Lady Di---Hope Redux?

Here I go again. Another post on politics. After declaring that I was through with the subject until the next election cycle, I guess I’ve managed to make a fool of myself. As far as making promises, though, what I promised to avoid was ranting and raving. Today, I’m writing about something totally the opposite, something that raised my spirits after being in the tank since the election.

The main reason I’ve been in the tank is not the loss of the election per se. I predicted it and was steeled for it. For me, the depressing factor has been the realization of how weak the leadership of the Democrats is, and how lacking in compelling message and vision. To make matters worse, there’s the sorry group of presidential hopefuls for 2004. What a bunch of losers!

Then along comes free-lance political journalist, Richard Rapaport, submitting a terrific op-ed piece to yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, pointing out that there’s someone right here in our backyard who transcends that woeful lot of would-be Democratic presidents (dwarfs, he calls them).

Rapaport makes a strong case for our very own Dianne Feinstein. She’s given no inkling that she wants to run, but it would be such a lift if she threw her hat into the ring. Even if Bush can’t be beaten—which will surely be the case if the war in Iraq goes well—she would give a new hope and energy to the Democrats. And she wouldn’t have to give up her Senate seat.

Feinstein is a gifted public figure--strong, tough, smart, principled--and a centrist. They can’t paint her with the dreaded “San Francisco liberal” label. I’ve witnessed her career from the time she was a young, pretty, seemingly demure housewife who wiped the floor with the craven old San Francisco machine politicians. She took control of the Board of Supervisors, and showed the stuff she is made of. She can talk back to Bush and command respect in doing it. Dianne is the real deal. She inspires the anger of some of the left-wingers in these parts which, IMO, is all the more reason she would make a great candidate.

I’d like to see Rapaport’s piece get some good exposure. First, read the article. If you’re not very familiar with who Feinstein is and what she’s done, this will be a good intro. If you find yourself in agreement with me that this article deserves exposure, pass the word. I’d love to see it show up on the Daypop Top 40.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Give Diplomacy a Chance

I know, I know. In the throes of my deep discouragement, I forswore any further writing about politics. But, hey, I didn’t move to a cave. I still get the newspapers and listen to the radio. I have to say that today’s UN vote was welcome news—a unanimous vote of the Security Council, including Syria, on demanding Saddam to disarm.

Hats off to Colin Powell for an excellent job of diplomacy. Much as I dislike Bush, I have to give him credit for letting Powell give it a whirl before going the Rumsfeld route of bomb first, talk later.

Of course, if Saddam doesn’t heed the UN mandate—a distinct possibility—we’ll be back to square one, and the Rumsfeld Way will move front and center. Even if it does end up that way, better to have given Powell his shot first. The Bushies have been forced to educate themselves about consulting other governments.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Post-Mortems and Withdrawal

I had been hoping that my negative assessment of the electorate would be proven wrong. In case you’re familiar with the Enneagram, you know that, as a Type Six, worst-case thinking is my natural addiction. It was my fervent wish that my typology, and not reality, would be the responsible agent for my dire assessment of the political dynamic.

Alas, my logical faculties were the operative ones. But I’m not going to blame a “stupid electorate.” Instead, I have two other villains: the Democrats, and the TV industry. Given the cowardly and pathetic unwillingness of the Dems to attack the President, and their lack of any unified theme for the future, they thoroughly deserved to lose.

As for the TV industry, they brazenly refuse to give adequate coverage to political campaigns. It’s a wickedly clever strategy because it forces candidates to buy ad time in order to be heard. The TV moguls rake in the dough. The politicians are forced to spend the majority of their time and energy on fund-raising so they can buy the media time and pay the smarmy consultants on whom they must rely for the management of their media efforts.

Unless and until our society musters the collective political will to require the TV industry to provide significant chunks of free time to political campaigns (and not just those pathetic one-hour joint press conferences laughingly referred to as “debates”), we are condemned to an ongoing downward spiral of our political process and product. It’s an old saw that the people get what they deserve. Looking at the failure of the public to put any pressure on the media, I’d have to say that it’s true.

Having said that, I am now announcing my withdrawal from any further attention to politics until 2004. I may not be able to control the quality of the political process, but there is one area where I do have such control: the content of my consciousness. My well-being is more important than my thoughts or pronouncements on matters political.

Given the new political landscape, any consciousness that I point in its direction is only going to result in extreme anger, sadness, and despair. I don’t want to live there. It’s terrible for my blood pressure. At my age, blood pressure is a serious issue. I’m going to be spending my online time from now on in blogs or blog-portions that are non-political, entertaining, and generally upbeat I’ll try to do my own blogging in the same vein. If you catch me ranting or raving after this, please call me on it.

Monday, November 04, 2002

The Other Eight Mile

I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of the new Eminem movie, “Eight Mile,” which is scheduled for release this weekend. The old rebel in me is looking forward to seeing the young rebel on the big screen. I hear that there are those who say it’s too late for that, the rebel days are over now that M has hit a certain level of acceptance and a movie contract. They say he’s entering the Elvis Presley Blue Hawaii period.

I don’t believe it, and my sons certainly don’t buy it. They hold Eminem in the same awe and respect that we held Dylan. So I’m hoping the movie will help bring me more up to date on this most interesting artist.

So I’m sitting on the deck, enjoying my lunch in the toasty autumn air, classic rock radio station in the background, thinking about the movie (“Eight Mile” is the name of the thoroughfare that divides the white suburbs from the black inner city), and all the misfortune which has befallen my old city of Detroit .

I lived there as a little boy in the forties when my Dad worked double shifts in one of the auto plants converted to tank-making for the War effort. We lived near Six Mile, which in those days was a perfectly nice neighborhood of big, well-crafted, turn-of-the-century houses on tree-lined streets. In fact, Detroit was a solid and vibrant city in those days. Today, Six Mile resembles Berlin circa 1946, a landscape of complete desolation. When I recall my pleasant days there, it’s hard to fathom.

In the middle of this reverie, if I can call it that, the radio comes forth with another eight-mile reference—in this case, the great Byrds’ classic, “Eight Miles High.” Some songs are so compelling, so revolutionary to your ears the first time you hear them, you can recall in an instant what you were doing at the time.

It was just after my birthday in mid-March, 1966. One of the first nice spring days. I was a fresh-faced young sales rep, calling on advertising executives. The job sucked but I got to meet some very bright and hip folks who helped keep me in the loop. One of these was John Marino, a prince of a guy, on whom I was calling this particular afternoon, just after lunch.

John said, “Fuck the office. Let’s go down to the Sausalito waterfront.” (The work ethic was different in those days, folks). The client calls the shots, so I dutifully replied, “Sure, John. If you say so.”

We repaired to a great waterfront joint called Zack’s (Bay Area old-timers will probably recall it). On the way over, John pulled out a couple of fat, pre-rolled joints to start the afternoon right. “The shit that a salesman has to put up with, right Tom?”

While John and I were putting away our third or fourth beer on the sun-splashed deck, the juke-box vendor stopped by in the bar to install some of the latest releases. (Do they still make the rounds like that? Not being a denizen of juke joints any longer, I wouldn’t know). The juke-box guy punches up the new stuff, and out comes this incredible minor-chord guitar mélange and the following lyrics:

” Eight miles high and when you touch down
You'll find that it's stranger than known
Signs in the street that say where you're going
Are somewhere just being their own

No-where is there to be found
Among those afraid of losing their ground
Mean grey town known for its sound
In places small places un-bound

Now the squares of moving storms
Some laughing some just shapeless forms
Sidewalk scenes and black limousines
Some living some standing alone”

John raised his bottle and proclaimed, “Tom, popular music is never going to be the same. 1966 is going to be an amazing year.”

How right you were, John. This was the overture to the psychedelic period--when, BTW, our esteemed prez--and then frat rat--George W, lost interest in the Beatles. (The Byrds? He probably never heard of'em).

Saturday, November 02, 2002

Green Blues

In my comments section, Richard Cody and Frank Paynter have a back-and-forth about the wisdom of voting for third party candidates. It’s a vexing issue on either side of the fence.

We are always going to have a two-party system. The legitimate role of the third parties is to push the major parties in one direction or the other. However, if an election is a cliffhanger, I strongly believe that the responsible thing to do is to hold your nose and vote to keep the smellier of the two guys out.

For those that say that it doesn’t make any difference, for example the Greens that didn’t vote for Gore, look at all the environmental regulations that have been decimated since Bush took over. Look at the tax cuts for the rich that are sending us headlong into monster deficits.

Withheld votes from Democratic Senate candidates could very well lead to GOP Senate control. That will likely culminate in another conservative ending up on the Supreme Court and tipping the balance to the anti-Roe-v.-Wade forces, and God knows what other travesties. Are you going to seriously suggest that there’s no difference?

When the election's over, you can get back to work on behalf of the third party that speaks to you, and help push one of the major parties closer to where it ought to be.

Class Warfare

Baseball is behind us. All eyes now turn to the gridiron. There’s a lot of banter swirling around the Bay Area this week in anticipation of our two NFL teams going head-to-head tomorrow. Most of it centers on the clash of image and fan-base life style rather than the merits of the teams themselves—the outlaw thuggery of the blue-collar Raiders vs. the Yuppie polish of the sophisticated 49ers. The Niner fans claim that you put your physical safety in peril if you go to a Raider game. Raider fans ridicule what they see as the brie-and-chardonnay atmosphere at Niner games.

Here’s a great trivia question: which team has an owner who’s in the Hall of Fame, and which one has an owner who’s a convicted felon? Is this a trick question? I’m not saying.