INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Friday, May 31, 2002

Stump the Graduate

Jill's off to Chicago for a long weekend with her sister Wendy. Wendy's son, Jason O"Bryan, our nephew, is graduating from high school, and Jill's helping out with the celebration. Jason will be heading out West in the fall to attend UCLA Film School. We on the West Coast are delighted to have him out our way. Jason's a helluva writer and has an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema. It will be interesting to follow his career.

For his graduation party, Jason has asked everyone to bring a favorite film quote with which they will try to stump him. My selection is, "I"ve always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Think you know it? Hint--it's from a classic, not a contemporary movie, and was written by a famous writer. Unfortunately, I still don't have a comments capability. I've tried for a week to get into YACCS, but they are apparently too busy to accept new accounts

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Blogdom's Resident Crone Unplugged

Don't miss Frank Paynter's interview with Our Lady of Kalilily, Elaine. If you're a fan of hers, or even if you never heard of her (doubtful), this is must reading. The human spirit is a wondrous thing, and she's got it in spades.

Kudos to Frank and Elaine for this gift to the blogosphere!


My ranking in's list of "all time hottest serious blogs" (whatever the hell that means, but I like the sound of it) Is numero quattro, for God's sake--higher than New York Review of Books, The Atlantic, and even, most amazing of all, Can't imagine what kind of ranking system they're using, but could we sneak it into Google's algorithms?

Dirty Age
I was able to answer "yes" to every goddam one of Elaine's questions in her "Older Than Dirt" questionnaire. This could be a promising game for older bloggers in which we take turns putting out trivia lists like Elaine's. Once I install YACCS, which I promised Denise I would do, I may give it a try.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Sixties and Nineties

Dervala Hanley and I have been exchanging thoughts about our mutual interest in generational differences. She writes:

"I've always been fascinated by the differences in character between one generation and another. Not just as a youth/experience thing, but in terms of the very distinct personality and voice each generation develops.

. . . . I'm very fond of the energy and the enthusiasm of the Sixties generation, and I think that all of us who came later are envious at having missed the youthquake. So many of my generation built our twenties around the so-called New Economy office. Yes, we turned them into nerf ball playgrounds, but they're still offices. I think your generation had more fun.

Dervala's probably right. We may have had more fun than her generation, but it certainly didn't have anything to do with being superior. The historical context is such an overpowering influence. I think that the older you get the more you see the importance of it.

I used to love to hear my mother talk about the 20's. She was a teenager then, a happy-go-lucky "flapper." Some interesting similarities to the boomers: postwar prosperity, flaunting of old conventions, distinctive dress and music, getting high.

Then, of course, they were cut off at the knees by the Depression and the War. When they were able to pick up their interrupted lives after 1945, I don't think that they wanted anything to do anymore with high jinx or unconventionality. Most likely, they craved security at a level that none of us today can properly appreciate. And, mesmerized by the influence of larger-than-life Churchill and Roosevelt, they trusted their governments implicitly. They enthusiastically bought into the fantasy versions of life being spun by their new medium of television.

There was so much anger and bitterness between them and my cohort. Looking back now, I wonder if hidden resentment over our good fortune--contrasted to their interrupted youth--had a lot to do with it. It would have been nice if my generation had been more understanding, but that's not the way it works, is it?

We were just flat-out lucky. No doubt about it. Our celebrated transformation of the zeitgeist was made possible, after all, by having the luxury to wait until our thirties, if we so chose, before settling down. There was no problem in waiting until then to look for a serious job. And no problem finding an affordable house. It wasn't like today where kids have to hit the ground running as soon as they get out of college--and where young parents are so ridden with anxiety over making the right choices for their children so that they can get them into a good school.

I find it rather sad, but, again, it's the power of the historical context. Global competition--economically, America doesn't have the world to itself anymore. And both sexes--as it should be--now compete for a finite pool of jobs--the vast majority of which used to be available only to men.

May the kids who contributed to such economic vibrancy in the Ninties--and to such welcome shifts in the workplace paradigm--find some deserved mellowness in the years ahead. Actually, if Dervala's typical, it's already happening. Read her terrific post, "Freedom's just another word for everything to gain."

Sunday, May 26, 2002

Rewarding Day

Dorothea Salo and I have added each other to our blogrolls. She gives me a nice mention in her very fine blog, Caveat Lector. Thanks, Dorothea--I'm flattered. And thanks to Frank Paynter for being the gateway to my discovery of her blog. Frank and Dorothea are both living in Madison and my son, Jonathan, attends college there at the University of Wisconsin. So we have a nice little trio of connectedness. The blogosphere continues to amaze.

Dorothea delivers a penetrating analysis today of the failed promise of ebook publishing. It might work you into a froth, and it should. Highly recommended reading.

My other occasion of recognition today comes from the esteemed AKMA, who, as a reward for my fumbling forays into philosophical matters, has bestowed upon me a coveted professorship of Fractured Philosophy in his prestigious University of Blogaria! Humble thanks, AKMA.

Well, that's it. I'm spending the rest of the day resting on my laurels.

Friday, May 24, 2002

Being vs. Becoming, or Playing Houdini With My Problems

I'm finishing up some chores. Breathing a sigh of relief, and saying to myself, "well, that's one less thing hanging over me." At the same moment, I notice the tension and angst that's pervading my being, obviating any satisfaction of completion that I could otherwise be enjoying.

Disgusted, I ask myself, "are we condemned to be preoccupied continually with the quality of Becoming?"

"Not necessarily," the other side of me replies. "Instead of asking, 'what's to become of me?,' which is a sort of default question, I can override it with a different one: 'how am I being?' "

As I sit down with coffee and the day's snail mail, I run across this in a newsletter from The Sedona Associates:
"All problems are memories."

I realize that, in my present state, I've just been given the perfect proposition to process. I'm going to bounce it around and see what I come up with.

The assertion is that the problem that I thought I had a moment ago is, in actuality, a memory. That was then. This is now. Am I willing to release any desire to believe that the problem still exists?

That's a tough one. It seems like the essence of denial to say that something that's clearly a difficulty no longer exists. It would be--except that it's the wrong way of looking at it. Maybe there's another view available--say, as a question of quality of Being.

Whatever situation or dynamic that I had labeled a problem does indeed still exist. However, I can change the label at will. The handle is whatever I say that it is--for me. The situation may still be a problem for my wife or someone else, but, for me, it can exist as a situation or a dynamic. Period.

"Problem" lives as an interpretation. The power to interpret is my domain. Period. What gets in the way of seeing it that way is the siren song of right/wrong. We're mortified at the prospect of being wrong. Suppose that it's intellectually mistaken to hold this subject in the way that I'm proposing?

Surrendering concern for being right is a challenge of the first magnitude. But is being "right" worth it--if it stands in the way of my quality of Being?

Quality of Being means that right now, in this moment, there are no "problems." Situations, yes. Problems, no. There are memories of problems. I remember that a minute ago, I had the belief that I had this or that particular problem. Now, in this moment, I choose to release that. Now, in this moment, I no longer have this belief. The "problem" now exists as memory, not current fact.

A veritable transubstantiation, if you will. An obvious boost for quality of Being. The good news about quality of Being is that it's a moment-by-moment proposition.

OK. Great. But the question is begged--what happens to the unresolved situation, formerly held as a problem? Nothing. It still requires action of some sort. No change there.

What's changed is the quality of experience of the "me" that chooses to address the resolution,. Which "me" is more likely to be effective in the approach? The one enjoying some quality of Being, or the one mired in concern for the outcome--trapped in Becoming--questioning his worth because of this unresolved shit hanging over him?

Thursday, May 23, 2002

Passion and Envy

Spent last weekend down in Palo Alto with Jill while she assisted at a workshop for couples being run by The Couples Institute--her innovative mentors in the field of marriage and family counseling. Jill says these people are transforming her abilities as a therapist and facilitator for couples.

While Jill toiled at the workshop, I hung out in The Valley. Haven't been down there in years. Avoided it like the plague in the crazy nineties. It's halfway pleasant down there now that the frenetic boom days are gone. Spent some enjoyable goofing off time at Stanford, and in the local cafes and bookstores. Had a great hike in the foothills behind the campus. Drop-dead gorgeous countryside!

Anyway, Jill reported that the primary goal of the workshop was to get each individual person among the various couples who were in attendance to focus on his/her own personal reactions to the disliked behaviors of his/her partner.

Jill says that this is the central challenge facing the couples therapist. She says that everyone who comes in for counseling is completely caught up in his or her anger and upset over the other person's alleged wrongs and shortcomings. Getting them to switch the focus to themselves and their personal reactions, and off of the partner, is the key to success every case, says Jill, and it takes a heap of patience and determination on the part of the therapist.

Jill reported that, after the workshop, she got in touch with how passionate she is about the sanctity of relationships, and how she loves being a fighter for helping couples repair their bond (when the fundamental love is there, of course. Sometimes it isn't, and the process of the therapy ultimately reveals it).

I must say, I envy her passion. The experience of passion in work is one of the holes in my life that never got filled. I helped people sell shit. It was a living. My skill set was being-easy-to-get-along-with and bullshit-spinner. It fed the stomach but not the spirit.

Despite my envy, I'm so happy for Jill--and proud--that she gets to feed her spirit to the brim. Fortunately, for me, there's the passion of blogging. As for combining livelihood and passion--well, I simply missed the boat on that one, for whatever reason (Fear, most likely). Last I looked, they weren't hiring any aging blogarians.

Rockin' and Rollin' With Dervala

Dervala Hanley totally rocks! And her blog is on a real roll.
During the past week, she's dished out the following gems:

--a fascinating look at gender attitudes in 1943, " Eleven Tips on Getting More Efficiency Out of Women Employees;"

--an insightful skewering of mindless software marketing;

--a penetrating look at the Boomers, including a distinction between European and American hippiedom of which most Americans, including myself, are probably unaware;

--and, finally, a breathtaking, thoroughly engrossing account of her husband's start-up saga.

How does she do a demanding job plus all this wonderful writing? Is there a doppelganger we don't know about?

In her piece about the Boomers, Dervala concludes by saying:

"For me, American boomers are embodied by Clinton. Enormously gifted, born into huge generational privileges of peace and prosperity. Fussing endlessly now about their legacy, wanting us to agree that the Sixties changed the world more than World War One or the French Revolution. I like them, but I wish they had more teach us."

This inspired me to email Dervala the following:

I was fascinated with your thoughts on my generation. Maybe
we don't have very much to teach because we were so
rejectionist toward our elders that we feel it would be hypocritical
to be didactic toward you. From our own experience, perhaps
we feel strongly that each generation has to make its own way.

Everything changes so fast now! What the hell do we have
to tell you except our own stories, as honestly as we can.
Honesty we value, and honesty is, IMHO, what we managed
to pass on. You guys are a beautiful, living example of it!
(Note: see my post, "Bill Haley and the Four Martyrs."

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Jonathan's Fruit

Congratulations to the University of Wisconsin Men's Crew for its upset victory over heavily favored Harvard in the Eastern Sprints, the major crew competition of the year on the East Coast.

I mention it because my son Jonathan had a small part in it. Jon was an outstanding coxswain in high school crew competition and was recruited by Wisconsin, one of the powerhouses in collegiate crew.

However, Jon, like his Dad, was still growing at 18. By the end of his freshman year, he had become too big to be a viable cox in collegiate competition. The following year, he stayed in Madison, dropped out of school, and spent a year working in order to qualify for Wisconsin residency and thereby enable his parents to afford to keep him at that very fine institution.

Jon was hired that year to be assistant coach of freshman crew. This was also the same year that the current seniors of the 2002 champion boat were freshman. Thus, a proud Dad will quickly volunteer that his son Jon was partly responsible for the initial collegiate training of this stalwart group.

Well done!
Go Badgers!

Tuesday, May 21, 2002


Elaine examines an interesting issue for bloggers--how much to reveal in your blog about yourself and the people in your life. Like her, I try to achieve a certain balance.

One of my main purposes in blogging is to be less private and withdrawn--to get my ass out of hiding where, if unchecked, it tends to go. At the same time, I have zero interest in what Gina Giuliano perfectly terms, "emotional vomit." My feeling is that, unless you have the skills of a Locke or Golby or Janeane, it simply isn't worth reading about.

So I'll stay away from the regurgitive stuff. Who cares, anyway? Are you interested in hearing about how my mother pissed me off? I didn't think so. (Even I don't care anymore--another gift of getting some years behind you).

I do, however, want to get some of myself out there--as much as I can muster up the grit for (it's always a struggle--some days I simply don't have it in me). But it's always worth the effort. One, it's cathartic. Two, a forthright self-exposure sometimes assists and has relevance for another person. You never know when you might touch someone. That's probably the most exciting and satisfying thing I've discovered about blogging.

The Boss Remembers

Tribute to an unsung guy who contributed to rock music history. Think I'll listen to some "Tunnel of Love."

Weinberger Strikes Out

Get your chuckles today with this hilarious account of Our Professor at Woodstock

Monday, May 20, 2002


I'm touched by my inclusion in Jeneane's collection of bloggers who populate an idyllic community--a utopian vision that she spins in a beautiful post, "Sweet World:"

". . . . And we’ll set up house in a huge compound on the edge of the woods, near the pond thick with life, where you can watch the fish jumping for flies at night. Once we clean out the cobwebs, and set up an expanse of space for families and friends, others will come.

There will be no walls, your space is your own, and invisible, flexible boundaries are disarmed by creativity and a knowing so big it overcomes every problem, worry, heartache; there is no such thing as loss in this place. . . . . "

As luscious as this fantasy is, I find it almost uncomfortably poignant.. Elaine says it made her cry. I'm not surprised. Although I'm so enriched by this community, it is, after all, a virtual one. Yes, it's a start. Yes. it's a blessing. And, yes, it ain't the same as the real thing.

Jeneane touches a longing that seems to exist for all of us, whether we're feeling alone and rejected like Rageboy at the moment, or whether, like myself, we're enjoying the full gifts of family life.

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Eric's Gold

Yes, I know. Gonzo Marketing's practically been talked to death. But I really like this fresh take on it by blogger Eric Vessels, who's just recently finished the book.

Here's part of the remarks which Eric posted to Gonzo Engaged:

"Gonzo Marketing: The question really does come down to quality. It matters much more now. In mass marketing, you could sell inferior junk because your goal was to blast the message (ad) to millions of eyeballs and hook a certain percentage . . . . . With Gonzo Marketing, you can't do that. In fact, you had better make damned sure your shit is great or you will essentially be marketing for your competitors! Napster proved this to the record industry. The old model allowed them to put out 11 shit tracks and 1 hit and sell tons of records. Ever get pissed off after you buy the album with "that one cool song" on it only to discover that one song was all she wrote? Not anymore, Jack. The conversation is real. And it goes a little somthin' like 'dis:

"Dude. Did you download that Slayer album?"
"Yep. All crap but track nine."
"No shit. I'm gonna have to burn a compilation!"

Now imagine that same conversation concerning the latest Tool release:
"Dude. (the kids always say "dude"...maybe we can use that in our personalization) Did you hear the Aenima album?"
"Fucking A. I got 5 tracks off Napster and they all rock!"
"Straight up. I'm gonna have to get that one!"
"No doubt"

See? Now this is precisely what the RIAA and most of the labels just can't get through their copyrighted skulls:
New Economy Rule #1 For Selling Records:
Make an awesome record. Give away the tracks. Sell a bunch or records."

Let me offer a vivid personal experience about Eric's observations from the retail side of the equation.There's a great CD shop in my neck of the woods-- Hear Music. They have about a dozen listening stations throughout the shop, each hooked into eight CD's or so. The stations are grouped into idiosyncratic, intriguing categories by the various employees of the store. In addition, you can take any CD you want to a central listening station and they'll play it for you.

On average, it's about five or six bucks per CD over internet prices. I started to get cold feet the last time I made a multiple purchase there. I calculated how much extra it was costing me over a year's time to do my buying there. Then I thought about the "one-hit wonders" to which Eric refers--all the ones I didn't have to buy because I had had the opportunity to listen to them at this wonderful store (and, yes Eric, there sure are a shitload of these rip-offs out there).

I realized that the money I had saved far outweighed the extra per-CD cost. And I'm so appreciative of this merchant's hip and helpful employees, I wouldn't dream of going there just to listen, only to head home and log on to Amazon.

Obviously, a lot of loyal customers feel the same way. Hear Music has had nothing to fear from the rise of e-commerce. Their greatest period of growth has coincided with the rise of the Web. And the icing on the cake: their dedication to the listening experience of their customers caught the attention of Starbuck's, who in '99 awarded them the contract for creating CD mixes for their cafes.

So, yes, Eric, there's gold in them thar' gonzo, customer-up models.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Kiddin' Around

A great morning. Hanging out on the sun-swept patio of my neighborhood coffee joint. Swapping stories with a fellow sports fan. We're talking mostly about local product and NBA sensation, Jason Kidd. My café-mate tells me that a friend of his teaches at Kidd's high school and that Kidd was learning-disabled. This seems hard to fathom if you've ever witnessed the brilliant savvy he brings to the floor-generalship of his team, the New Jersey Nets (who have just won a berth in the Conference Finals after twenty years as a perennial loser. They got Kidd on a trade this year. Talk about one person making a difference!)

Anyway, my friend says that his friend is convinced that Jason's inability to focus on anything in school is the same quality that contributes to his amazing vision and ability to see everything that's happening on the court (and in some cases, even before it happens, according to his coach).

Fascinating theory. It wouldn’t be the first case of a handicap turning out to be a special gift.

I had the privilege of first seeing Kidd as a raw high school sophomore. My son Aaron's school was in the same sports league as Jason's. Aaron kept insisting, "You gotta come see this guy." I had learned to be wary of Aaron's over-enthusiasm, but, to keep him happy, I trudged off to the gym, expecting to be bored by a bunch of adolescents chasing a ball around.

What I saw was a revelation! A 15-year old boy with more court vision and understanding of the game than the two coaches combined. There was no doubt in my mind that I was looking at a future professional. There's a special thrill in seeing raw talent so early on. The only other time I had had a comparable experience was back in high school when, as sports editor of the school paper, I assigned myself to cover the state basketball finals and got to see the legendary Oscar Robertson.

Jason Kidd has surpassed my expectations. It was easy to predict that he'd make the pros. What I didn't foresee was that, as he has proven in the playoffs so far, he has the heart and the will and the transcendent power--if not the shooting skill-of a Michael Jordan.

Jason, your hometown fans are proud of you!

Thursday, May 16, 2002

The Other Gore

I love this paragraph, taken from the LA Times review of Gore Vidal's latest book, Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated. Thanks to wood s lot for passing it along.

" The suffocating and self-indulgent consensus in which most of America has swaddled itself since Sept. 11, reinforced by cable-babble framed in patriotic bunting and unquestioned by "opposition" Democrats who purr like a collection of domestic pets on Dubya's Crawford, Texas, ranch, could use a bit of shouting down by the likes of Vidal. And if someone wants to shout back half as eloquently as Vidal, then please hop to it. That way we'd have at least the semblance of a grand national debate"

Wouldn't it be grand if Vidal were a blogger?

Boomers Hang It Up Differently

I'm not sure why a youngster like Jordon Cooper (28) is linking to this article, but I appreciate him doing so. The man truly has an eclectic range of interests. Anyway, the article offers an intriguing look at how retirement values are changing. Once again, boomers are making their presence felt.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Shake, Rattle, and Blogroll

I blogged yesterday about the special feeling that develops among the community of bloggers. Later in the day, when I visited Burningbird, I realized that I had had a fleeting experience just the night before of the unusual and unprecedented way in which these blogging bonds can evidence themselves.

I had been sitting with my wife, watching a bit of TV before turning in, when I noticed things jiggling on the shelves. After seeing Shelley's blog post yesterday, I realized that one of the thoughts that had zipped through my mind after the rattle was, "I'll bet this is Shelley's first quake."

One could logically ask why in the would I have such a thought when I don't even know her? Quite simply, the power of the Web. I've been following her blog for a while, so I was aware of her status as a newcomer to the Bay Area. Just an hour or so before the shake, I had been updating my blog and thinking to myself, "Hey, buddy, it's time you put Shelley Powers on your blogroll. You should have done it a long time ago, you lazy slob." Just then, Jill pops in and says, "Let's catch some TV." So the blogroll went untended for yet another day as I escaped into the tube.

So that's how I happened to think about Shelley after the quake hit. I love how this medium (I know some people will object to that word but, please, I don't want to get into all that) lets you in on peoples' lives almost in real time--those, that is, who have the kind of gift that Shelley does for writing about their experience.

I've really enjoyed reading about Shelley's impressions and feelings as she explores her new city. It brings back a lot of personal memories. It was forty years ago next month that I got my college degree, packed my car, and headed straight west. I've been here ever since, with the exception of three years based in LA. I hope Shelley has as good a life here as I've had--assuming she chooses to stay--and it kind of sounds like she will.

Anyway, this has been a long-winded way around to get to the point, which is, very simply, to say thank you to Shelley for a great blog, and to end my procrastination in getting her on my blogroll.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

To The Mat

I'm glad to see that Jeneane feels the same way that I do about the outstanding piece yesterday by Tom Matrullo.

And speaking of Jeneane, a couple of days back, she writes about having real world conversations with three of our favorite bloggers, Locke, Halley, and Elaine. She attempts to describe the special bond that exists among those of us following this heretofore untrodden path:

"As Halley and I talked, we tried to figure out why it is that we'd go to the mat willingly for any of our blogger friends, take hits that we wouldn't take for most of our offline friends. Why so passionate over some words in a template? Why do I feel like I've known these friends all my life?

….I feel that somehow you all have lived it with me. Co-conspirators indeed. You *were* there when my dad died in 1969, even if only for the re-lived version; I was there when Halley's dad died recently, even though I live 1,000 miles away; And Chris's heart? Talk about living it.

The bonds of blogs are growing tighter in a way I certainly never imagined. The roles we have played in one another's online lives have reached critical mass, and now we are beginning to see leakage into the RealWorld. I am watching, amazed, as I find myself in the middle of this powerful web, reaching into the RealWorld, as strong lines of silk weave back to and among my blog selves."

I know that the reason I would go the mat for my blogger friends is my gratitude for what they're giving, day after day---themselves. There is no greater gift than the gift of one's self, and these fabulous people just keep on putting it out there. Hell yes, I'd fight for'em.

Monday, May 13, 2002

Where The Life Is

Three cheers for Tom Matrullo, who has injected a welcome and--as always, articulate--note of reason into the distressing polarization over the Middle East that's infected bloggerdom of late. I don't usually like to run lengthy quotes, but this is such a breath of fresh air, I feel compelled to do so in this instance:

Tom decries attempts to "transform a loose set of Web acquaintances into a political party" as, " at best, ill-advised. It is the interjection of a very powerful absolutism into the stream of ordinary and conflicted everyday life."

He continues: "Decreeing someone to be a friend or foe based upon their position upon one specific geopolitical issue can strike those so decreed as an arbitrary and usurpatory imposition of power. One had thought that a rich variety of threads - strands of the tapestry of relationship, if you will - mattered. Suddenly one learns that only one thread matters - everything else is meaningless. To those being assigned to one or another narrow cell, this obliteration of relational (and conversational) complexity descends like an act of violence.

Frankly, the whole blogrolling thing will always be suspect, since it implies an act of judgment without expressing its criteria. Often we link to people whom we find interesting; only, undoubtedly each of us has her or his own virtually unique notion of "interesting."

I for one am troubled by bloggers who link to others who, upon analysis, turn out to all share certain traits of an easily identifiable class - i.e., they're all 14-year-olds who rollerblade, have tattoos covering 80% of their epidermis, and drink Mountain Dew. Or, they're all lawyers, or Unitarian Ministers, or BigMedia Columnists Blogging on the Side. Where is the random, the delight, the enriching pleasure of being diverted by someone whom you don't really understand, or agree with? Where, in short, is the life?"

Well, Tom, the delight and the enriching pleasure and the life lies in great part with bloggers like you. Thanks for your sane voice--not that a little insanity isn't part of the pleasure of the blogging scene--but in this instance--the unpleasant, unkind war of words swirling around the Israel-Palestine mess--yours is the kind of voice to which I'll pay attention.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

Tres Cool

Eric Olsen of Tres Producers has picked up my reverie about "Rock Around the Clock," 50's culture, and the incipient conflict between the generations and quoted the bulk of it in his outstanding blog. I'm highly flattered, to say the least, especially since it was his astute observations that precipitated my flood of memories and feelings.

I've added Tres Producers to my blogroll. It's excellent reading--hip, cool, intelligent--all in the same package. Thanks again, Eric, and thanks again to Doc for bringing it to my attention in the first place.

Friday, May 10, 2002


Son Jonathan leaves Prague today after completing his semester abroad there. Taking the overnight train to Paris with his girlfriend. Paris in the springtime in the full flush of romance. Can you beat that? Quite different from my first time there, which was in Army khakis, freezing cold, boorish and unbalanced from too much Beaujolais, failing to even get near first base with the thoroughly unimpressed jeunnes filles Parisiennes.

Jon's on his own nickel from here on out, hoping to make it until mid-July. He's a thrifty lad and managed to put away the scratch for this two-month trek from his meager earnings while assisting on a research project at Madison.

Helping the cause will be the serendipitous fact that his grandmother (my esteemed mother-in-law, Virginia Selin, former Democratic Party functionary and delegate to the infamous Chicago Convention of 1968) is in Paris at the moment with current beau, Ron Freedman, University of Michigan Prof. Emeritus and all-around good guy. Presumably, Ron and Grandma will treat the kids to some of that good chow that rumor has it can be found there.

More importantly, Grandma can fill us in on the girlfriend. We eagerly await the report.

There's a wonderful Passover song, "Dayenu." Loosely translated, "it would have been enough." More loosely, "thank you, God, for overdoing it." We're saying a few "dayenus" in honor of Jon's good fortune. And ours.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Bill Haley and the Four Martyrs

Thanks muchly to Doc for the link to Eric Olsen of Tres Producers. Olsen is one perceptive dude. He put his finger on a piece of American cultural history that is probably not widely known or appreciated. It was an event at which I was present and it's resounded in the depth of my bones ever since. Olsen, writing about the anniversary of the Kent State student killings in 1970, makes the following brilliant observation:

"I am of the opinion that May 4, 1970 was the day Youth Culture completed its ascendancy to dominance in the United States. The process had begun fifteen years earlier in movie theaters across the country as the electrifying downbeat of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” opened The Blackboard Jungle, a shocking film for its time, and ignited the rock ‘n’ roll explosion."

Yes, yours truly was there (the movie--not the college). I was one of the crazed ones, screaming in delight, jumping up and down in the aisles, pushing other guys with shoves of joy when that magic moment arrived. And it was happening all across the country. I'm sure that "what the fuck?" was the reaction of theater managers everywhere.

It's a memory that will remain vibrantly clear with me for the rest of my days.

1955… The full bloom of the bullshit veneer of Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best covering over the creeping dysfunction of the new suburbias springing up everywhere. The smug, myopic contentment with the government of the popular war hero, Ike, while crosses burned, fundamental rights were trampled, the FBI spied on the intellectual giants of the day, and Communism was the oh-so convenient bogeyman for all of the ills of the world. The myth of happy kids in souped-up Chevys, ponytails, and sock hops--yet underneath a vague, directionless rage was building, seething against the Big Lie that pervaded everything (yes, I'm talking James Dean here. He was the real 50's--not all that sugar-coated shit that's been so mythologized) Kerouac and Ginsberg doing their first hits of psilocybin; the powerful, megawatt signal of legendary station, WLAC, black music, never heard on conventional radio, drifting north at night from Nashville, infecting eager whiteboy ears.

The boys were ready. For what, they didn't know, but something was there, primed, lying in wait. This was my 1955.

The coming attractions were previewed, the theater lights went dark. Then Pow! Hitting you right in the solar plexus, blasting you straight out of your seat, "One o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock rock..We're gonna rock, rock, rock till broad daylight!" A guttural roar swept across the theater like an ocean wave. Every time I'm feeling feisty, or fucked over, I will hear that sound--after all these years.

We were so enervated we could hardly watch the movie. We did manage to cheer, though, every time the bad guys fucked with the teachers.

It must seem all very innocent and naïve by today's standards. How could one catchy little rock tune produce such a reaction? But something was stirred, some raw nerve was touched, and I've always believed that's where it really all started--the War Between the Generations--and it was a war, believe me--a Music to call our own--for the first time ever, music BY us FOR us--a first blush of recognition of how much we resented all the clueless fairytale shit being shoved down our throats.

But the revolution took a long time to come to fruition. Olsen is dead-on when he says that Kent State is where it became mainstream. It's where the Youth won the war even as they lost a shameful, deadly battle. As Olsen points out:

"Another factor often forgotten is that by 1970 a teenager rioting in the aisles at a 1955 showing of The Blackboard Jungle was 30 years old and in many cases still determined to never “grow old” or to identify with “them.”

And, by and large, I think we did a pretty good job of staying true to our determination. We blew the lid off at least some of the deception that infected our culture. Our music was honest. Our relationships with our kids are honest. The kind of relationship that I enjoy with my sons, and that my peers seem to have with their twenty-somethings, was a rare thing indeed in the days of Bill Haley and the Comets.

Anyway, thanks again to Doc for the link. His value as a gateway never ceases to amaze. Thanks to Eric Olsen for his perceptive piece. And long live the memory of the Kent State Four!

Monday, May 06, 2002


One of the most rewarding parts of blogging is when you discover a great blog--not through surfing--but through the receipt of an email from the blog's author telling you that s/he enjoys reading your blog. You have no idea how this person came into your orbit, but there s/he is. It's a wonder.

When I was thinking about getting into blogging, I corresponded with Jeneane about my hesitation toward doing it. She told me to just jump in, and said that I would find that, after I got my feet wet and began to develop my own "voice," amazing things would start happening.

She said that suddenly I would find that I was six pages or more on Google (I'm at eight already!)--and, far more importantly, I would on occasion start to hear from wonderful people that I would never have had a prayer of knowing otherwise..

Jeneane was right! It's starting to happen. Dervala Hanley is not a name I've noticed on the blogrolls that I normally visit. But she should be. She sure as hell is going to be on mine. A terrific blog. Very warm and real. I don't know her, but I'll bet you anything that her friends would tell me that she's a gracious person.

That last part--the graciousness--is interesting because she makes this observation in her email to me (referring to my post about being an older blogger): "The only way I can guess at bloggers' ages is that older bloggers often seem more generous and thoughtful." That's an acute perception and one that Dervala is able to make because of her own grace and generosity of spirit.

As for older bloggers being more generous, I think it comes from the fact we treasure life more dearly now that we don't have so much of it left. In this frame of mind, we don’t have much interest in tearing people down. It's one of the gifts of becoming older, in my experience.

Anyway, treat yourself to And thank you so much, Dervala, for letting me know that you're out there. Blogging continues to enrich my life.

Sunday, May 05, 2002


I should pay more attention to the comments portions of the blogs I read. (And I should probably get around to installing the capability on mine). On a whim, I checked the comments to Mike Golby's great post (mentioned in my previous post). Therein I discovered one Bill Guest. He's a serendipitous find--in light of my remarks the other day about how blogging tends to blur the lines of age.

This guy makes a sixty-something like myself look like a piker. He's 75 and, while he makes no attempt to conceal his surfeit of years, his blog is no less cool or interesting or full of life than anything you'd be likely to find from much younger bloggers. I continue to be blown away by the joys of blogsurfing.

Check Bill out and enjoy. Believe me, you won’t be dismissing it as the prattling of some old fart.

The Return Of Champions

Locke and Golby have returned from their respective travels and their keyboards are blazing. RageBoy's latest series of EGR newsletters have inspired an amazing riff by Mike--"Notes From a Barstool"--on his harrowing alcoholic experiences and, ultimately, the transcendence of the human spirit. Read this and I dare you not to be moved.

Friday, May 03, 2002

Bridging The Gap

Being an older blogger, I was delighted to read the article in about fellow blogger, Elaine Frankonis of Kalilily Time. She was one of three older bloggers interviewed about their experiences in this realm.

Like Elaine, I'm gratified with how easily age gaps are bridged--not only bridged, but rendered irrelevant--in the relationships and perceptions and give-and-take that occur in the blogging scene. Her closing remarks perfectly reflect my own experience:

" perhaps young people get along better with me because what they see and respond to has nothing to do with what might have been their immediate visual real-world perception of me an 'older person'. "

Is Your Appreciation Unspoken?

In an exchange of emails with Halley Suitt, in which I expressed my appreciation for her very fine blog, she wrote something that I think is worth sharing:

"I swear, I can't get over how little people appreciate
others' efforts for the most part on a day-to-day
basis. Actually, it's even worse than that. People
DO appreciate others efforts, including well-written
blogs, books, good music, good deeds, but RARELY take
the time to say so.

I think the neglect leads to ... hurt feelings,
misunderstandings, grudges, general unnecessary
sadness and even WARS for god's sake."

Right you are Halley. I wish I had learned sooner than I did about how valuable a little acknowledgement can be. It' s certainly not anything they teach in school.

Hint to anybody who's been thinking about complimenting someone on his/her blog--DO IT!

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Les Femmes Fatales

I did not get into blogging to bitch about current events. There are plenty of blogs that do a great job of it. But sometimes things crop up that are simply too juicy or outrageous or dumbfounding to let go by. Rather than rant about them, which I'm not very good at, I've decided to keep it simple and just hand out a "Huh?..Lemme See If I Got That Straight" Award.

The Award this week goes to Kenneth L Woodward, who writes in the current issue of Newsweek's special coverage of the clerical mess in the Catholic Church,

"My main concern is that ordaining women would fatally feminize a religion that already appeals far more to women than to men."

And further on:

"As I see it, the last bastion of male presence in the church is the altar and the pulpit. I would hate to see the priesthood turn into an essentially female calling."

Blog Sisters should have fun with this one.

As an interesting counterpoint, the Newsweek's lead article on the subject quotes a retired church official:

The shortage of priests is not going to be solved by praying for more vocations. Women are the ones who identify and nurture vocations, and they are not doing it anymore, and they are not going to do it, and all the preaching in the world is not going to change their minds. If you don’t believe me, talk to them. I’ve interviewed them. They say, ‘A church that won’t accept my daughters isn’t going to get my son.’