INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Sunday, August 18, 2002


The August Recess begins! Jill and I are about to head out to Santa Fe, followed by a jaunt up to Oregon for a wedding. Insiteview will be dark until after Labor Day--unless the withdrawal is too much for me to bear and I duck into an Internet Café somewhere along the way. This will be my first absence from the Kingdom of Blogaria other than an extended weekend. Will I get the shakes? I'll take notes while I'm gone. See ya' in September!

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Way To Go, Eric!

I'm a couple of days late with this, but kudos to Eric Olsen for an auspicious launch of BlogCritcs.
Eric's lined up an impressive collection of commentary on books, music, and popular culture. Happily, he includes much of his own excellent writing as well.

Best of luck with it, Eric!


Elaine cites my post of yesterday, stating:

"it supports the direction of my ruminations about what kind of men are truly attractive to women, make us want to open our arms, our hearts, and our other body parts to what they offer us and the world."

Hmmm. Wonder if I would have fared better with the ladies had blogging been around during my salad days? I tried writing poetry, but it sucked. I had to settle for hanging with a couple of really good poets, and hitting on their groupies . Not much of a strategy, but, hey, I was desperate.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Move-In Day

Wonderful post today--entitled "Beginnings"-- from Dorothea Salo. It's move-in day in Madison--the curbs are lined with students and their furniture. It triggers a moving reverie about her first move-in day there.

Wonder if my son was one of the kids that she passed by today? Jon's among the mover-inners. Presumably for the last time. It's his final semester. My memory of moving him into his freshman dorm in August of '97 is so vivid. That was a hard good-bye to go through. I'm so glad he picked Madison. It's been great. A real ass-kicking college town, IMO.

Anyway, Dorothea's post today is an excellent example of why she's absolutely one my favorite bloggers.

Respecting My Juniors

Thanks to Elaine who writes to suggest that I check out Tom Bolton's post, "The Moment." She cites it as an excellent example of the kind of self-revealing writing she'd like to see more of from male bloggers.

Bolton taps--beautifully--into a fundamental source of our individual power: our ability to assign our choice of meaning to the individual moments of our lives. He makes the distinction between "life" and "existence:"

" life is about more than unconnected moments. The moments that make up a life, as opposed to an existence, do not merely fall by coincidence next to one another, randomly, asserting their own force upon us. We form the moments of our lives. We string them together connecting them like beads on a necklace, or like the threads of a fabric weaving them into something that becomes not an existence, but a life."

Then, noting his pleasure as he strings together just such a necklace while café-sitting, then walking down the street, he adds:

" these experiences bear the imprints of moments past, present and future. Those imprints color, inform, and even create this moment. They make the moment something of my own subtle and extended creation. I flow through the moment into the next and the next and the next, feeling the progression like the melody of a beautiful song I’ve never heard before. Each note follows beautifully yet not quite predictably from the one before it and into the one after."

Good stuff, no? Tom is my latest addition to my blogroll, and I'm looking forward to more good reads. Thanks again to Elaine for clueing me in.

Elaine further writes that, recently, she's been discovering a number of younger male bloggers who are wonderful writers and very adept at revealing their feelings. I write back to Elaine (my contemporary):

" I agree with you. Some of these young guys are terrific. My wife, who administered early childhood education programs for twenty years, said she started noticing a big change in the quality of the fathers during the mid-90's. "90's men," she called'em--sensitive, caring, sharing equally in the care of the young children.

My theory is that it's what the modern woman expects. Having achieved economic self-sufficiency, she can now demand these characteristics from any man who aspires to have her in wedlock. Men will fall all over themselves to be the way the gals want 'em to be. So, if the women are resolute in standing up for what they want from us, both they and we benefit. And the results are showing up in part through the exceptional words of some of these young male writers."

Monday, August 12, 2002

Blog Brothers?

Elaine has resurfaced the suggestion--originally floated by Jeneane--that the men consider forming their own gender blog:

"So, how about it guys. Might it be the right time to give the Blog some deeper insights into the male heart? Might you be the brave ones to stand together next to the Sisters and show another other side of the human story?"

This has generated an interesting exchange of comments following Elaine's post--especially from Dave Rogers. I don't expect the male group blog to get any more traction this time around than when Jeneane floated it. Nothing wrong with the idea, mind you, I just don't think the guys are into it.

Am I speaking for myself? Probably. I'll echo Richard Cody and leave it at that.

"if some(male)body was to start the XY counterpart to Blogsisters, I can't say for sure that I would not participate. Until then, however, anybody who visits my blog will get a glimpse into this male's heart, mind and various squishy bits."

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Fun Days Ahead

This site is about to be going into August recess. Jill and I are preparing to head out to Santa Fe and Taos. Then it's up to Portland for a family wedding. We'll be back after the Labor Day weekend. I'm still old-fashioned enough that I don't take along any electronic devices when I'm on vacation. I think it violates the whole idea of taking time off. Between now and the time we actually get underway, things are going to be on the hectic side, so the postings will probably be pretty thin.

I think I've finally got the Iraq blogging out of my system. I wish I hadn't allowed myself to get sucked into it. It's not what people read my blog for. Readership seems to have evaporated. Emails and quotes have been conspicuously absent. I should have known better.

I was trying to express my frustration with the opposite extremes on either end of the issue--the "warblusterers" (to use Doc Searls's phrase) on the one end; and the peace-at-any-price folks on the other. However, the aftereffect of jumping into this did not feel good. I strayed from who I am as a blogger--which, among other things, is to leave the politics to others. Even my wife says she's not interested in reading my blog until I get off this war shit. That ought to tell me all I need to know about the direction my blogging should be taking.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Like A Feather In the Wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hoosiers Rule

Belated congratulations to my fellow Indiana U alum--Steve Maclaughlin-- whose outstanding blog, Saltire, reached the one year mark a couple of days ago.

Looking forward to another great year, Steve. Go Hoosiers!

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Wake Up Sonny Boy and Be Like Pops

Shelley Powers does a nice job today of summarizing some of the war discussion going on, and adding her own excellent perspective. I said I was going to stop with the war shit, but I can't seem to get away from it.

I think I know the reason. The discussion that's capturing my interest is the back and forth about the possibility of going into Iraq. There's a difference between this conversation and the one which turns me off, and which I've assiduously avoided. That would be the endless screeds about revenge against "filthy terrorists;" or the equally tiresome laments for peace-at-any-price; or putdowns of the Palestinians; or putdowns of the Israelis. This conversation, IMO, is just hot air--whining about what's already occurred. A conversation without power, devoid of any ability to change anything except to fan the flames of those already in agreement with the writer.

The conversation about Iraq is of another realm entirely--the realm of what MIGHT occur. Therefore, a conversation for possibility. A conversation with meaning, even power. That's why I'm having difficulty letting go of it. Not that I think my words are going to make any difference. I'm not that kind of a writer, or that deep a thinker. But I can be one voice for moving the conversation along. And this, folks, is a conversation that needs to be rolled forward and around and about, if there ever was one.

So, when I encounter words of interest and relevance to this profound subject, I'll pass them along. God knows, I certainly appreciate the bloggers that are already doing that, including the ones with whom I disagree.

Anyway, the item I want to pass along today is a piece by the outstanding and brilliant Newsweek columnist, Fareed Zakaria ( a Muslim, by the way). I've been pointing out, as has Doc Searls, that maybe a case can be made for going into Iraq, but Bush sure as hell hasn't made it so far. If he can't make it and becomes faced with going it alone, that would be a terrible fix indeed.

Zakaria's highly interesting column in the current issue is entitled, " It’s Time to Do as Daddy Did," with the subhead, "Bush Senior was masterful at a kind of diplomacy that is now seen as window dressing by some in Washington. It isn’t ," Zakaria writes:

" On Iraq, it’s time to move beyond vague declarations about regime change—which is a wish, not a policy—and start building support for military action. That means rounding up allies and taking the issue to Congress and the public. Were the administration to try, it would even be able to get the United Nations to bless the intervention. A senior diplomat at the Security Council told me, “If the United States wanted us to authorize action against Iraq and pressed for it, and seriously outlined its case and postwar goals, no one in the Council would mount an opposition.”

I find this last sentence highly intriguing--if, in fact, it's true. Zakaria is highly respectable and definitely not a hawk, so I'm inclined to accept it.

Well, check out the entire column and see what you think. This debate is just getting started, and thank god that it is.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Doc Speaks For Me

Doc Searls is the kind of balanced thinker I admire. He's certainly no fan of warblogging. And as far as I can tell, he's no more an admirer of George W than I am. I may actually have a more visceral dislike of Georgie than does the good Doc--then again, maybe not.

But Doc, like any well-rounded thinker, can see all sides of the picture. After taking issue yet again with a couple of the more hard-headed warbloggers ("warblustery," he calls it), he offers this perspective:

"At its best, war is a lesser evil. That's it. If you have to crush a regime and its armies to end the far worse things they've been doing — as we did to Japan and Germany in World War II, and to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan — your actions are entirely justifiable in the death-for-death and misery-for-misery moral economics of war. Inflict a lesser misery to end a greater one. End of story.

And that, exactly, is the story George W. Bush is trying to tell, apparently with insufficient success. But bless him for trying to do the right thing for the all the people involved, including the citizens of Iraq."

I wouldn't go quite so far in praise of the prez, but I do believe he's trying to do the right thing. Unfortunately, he has some bona fide "warblusterers" in his administration, and we don’t know how much counterbalance there is to those voices. It's an unbelievably difficult call with potentially awesome consequences in either direction.

Maybe going into Iraq is the lesser evil. Maybe it's the worst possible course of action. The case for a preemptive strike has to be made--compellingly. So far, that hasn't been done--not even close. My knee-jerk reaction is to say that mounting an invasion is unthinkable. But even more unthinkable is the specter of a tyrannical butcher like Saddam with nuclear weapons.

As I said in my previous post, and will say again, sometimes, if you want peace, you have to be a warrior. That was true in 1939. It was true on Sept.12, 2001. And it remains true. That doesn't make me a fellow traveler with the warbloggers, any more than it does Doc, who spears them more effectively than I could. But he sees the whole picture. That's why Doc speaks for me.

Having said that, and having agreed that, yes, Bush is trying, I am compelled to add the fervent wish that this monumental decision were at the desk of a more profound thinker--and one with fewer scary folks in his camp.

OK. That's it for me on the war shit. I've clarified my position. Beat the crap out of me if you will. I'm going to try to get back to the more personal mode of blogging. But as Frank Paynter observed, these feelings are part of the personal package, so sometimes you have to put them out there.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

Blogging Or Blood?

OK. I took a few days off from blogging, and the sky did not fall. Frank Paynter now comes along and gives me a boot in the rear end (very gently, of course. He's a peaceful man). So now I'm forced to get off of the bruised posterior and post a reply. Devilishly clever, Frank.

Actually, I can't put the onus on him. When Frank sent me his email in response to my post in which I expressed my negative feelings about personal bloggers turning to warblogging, I emailed back that he deserved a response, and that I would craft the response through a blog post.

However, I took my brief hike from the blog, and the response that Frank was due was not forthcoming. So it's more accurate to say that I was the one forcing him to take the issue public, not the other way around.

Frank concludes his post by telling me:

"You and I can disagree about these matters (in fact we do, since I have a button that says "Barbara Lee Speaks for Me") but we should not let the conversation die."

How can I not respond to that? I may dislike warblogging, but there's no way I can ignore Frank's call for the importance and necessity of conversation. He's absolutely right, of course. One of the rare pieces of good news these days is the convening of the hearings on the contemplated action in Iraq by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This is a welcome step in the right direction--an empowering act of conversation.

One wonders what might have occurred had such hearings been conducted on Vietnam in 1964. The lack of such hearings left that debate to the acrimony of the streets by default. I was certainly one of those who passionately believed in the necessity of a "conversation" in those days.

I put my belief into action--rallies, demonstrations, marches--I participated in as many as I could. There was no other way to get a conversation going. The older generation had a trust in their government that, thank heavens, doesn’t exist anymore. Their unquestioning attitude, the myopia, and the xenophobia had to be broken through somehow, even though it could get really scary sometimes. I suffered my share of being spit on, screamed at by faces twisted in horrifying rage, snarled at by police dogs, and fired at with tear gas canisters.

So, after all that, I could hardly be the one to say, "screw the conversation." But I do wonder--will blogging make any difference? I wonder--had the internet been available in the '60's--would the power of the protest have been deflected by people taking out their outrage in a flurry of blogposts? Would they have had the illusion--and only the illusion--of empowering themselves and changing history through the act of cross-blogging, when, in actuality, the only force that could have changed anything was the years of dogged determination, blood in the streets and campuses, defections to Canada, banishments from the family, willingness to spend time in the slammer?

Is blogging just pissing in the wind? Sometimes, if you want peace, you may have to be a warrior. Is that just my old 60's mentality talking? Clearly, a lot of conversing is needed to sort this shit out. To the extent that blogging is an amazing tool for conversation, I guess I've partly answered my own questions.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Dorothea Sets Me Straight

If you missed Dorothea's outstanding post on blogging a couple of days ago, let me urge you to check it out. Especially if your blogging starts to feel like a chore at times. She provides some sage words regarding something with which I continue to struggle: why should I bother to blog when I experience it as a struggle?

My usual answers are: "because I made a commitment to myself to do it;" "because I always derive a rewarding experience of value from doing it;" and "because if I didn't overcome my resistance to doing it, my blog wouldn't exist--and I truly want my blog to exist."

These answers are usually sufficient for me. Where the experience of struggle really intrudes is when my consciousness for most of the day is invaded and dominated by a conversation along these lines:

"Oh, shit! What am I going to blog about today? I can't think of anything. I didn't blog yesterday. If I don't do it today, that will be two days in a row. Unthinkable! My audience will desert me." And similar drivel, followed by a frantic search across the Web for something, anything, that will provide some fodder for a "meaningful" post.

That's the dance I hate and am trying to end without resorting to the drastic act of quitting blogging. Dorothea is speaking to me directly when she observes:

"One motif I see repeating itself is that of how the felt expectations of blog readers affect bloggers. What will happen if I don’t post today? Will people be disappointed? Angry? Will they stop reading?

So blogging becomes less a spontaneous expression of the self than yet one more demand on one’s time. Sad. And, in my opinion, unnecessary.

Letter-writing solved this one long ago, and email uses similar techniques. Sorry it took me so long to get back to you; horribly busy. Oh, that’s all right; I know things are crazy on your end.

………..I don’t see any reason absences from a blog must be any different.

………..Ergo, if you feel that you must blog despite not wanting to—and I say this as someone else who has felt the Call of the Blog—it isn’t your audience talking; it’s you."

Thanks for the advice, Dorthea, I needed it. Next time I want to vacate the blog for more than a day, I'll just bloody say so.