INSITEVIEW- - tom shugart's weblog

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Type You Read and Type You Are

Several nice discoveries as I continue to try to play catch-up with my favorite bloggers:

Dervala’s blog, always to a delight to read, is now a feast for the eye as well. She’s made the switch to Movable Type. I love the look of those MT blogs, but the conversion looks a bit overwhelming for dummy types like myself. I'm afraid my readers will have to continue to suffer along with this same old boring, crappy Blogger template.

Dervala writes today about her love of the Myers-Briggs type indicator. I respect her opinion, but I don’t share it. When it comes to typology, I much prefer the Enneagram.

Once upon a time, in a fit of career malaise, I paid a consultant a ridiculous fee to help me get out of the muck. It was one of my worst buying decisions ever.

The Myers-Briggs was included in his fee, but I gave up on it because I couldn't figure out how to answer many of the questions. I found that my choice of answers depended on my mood of the moment, so I said to hell with it—how could this be a reliable measure of anything?

The consultant said I was incorrigible, and if I wanted to have a fucked career, he wouldn't stand in my way. He didn't and I didn't.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

The Spoils of Religion

Anita Bora of JustLikeThat, points to fellow Indian blogger, Jivha, in reaction to the horrible bombings in their home country:

"Whatever the report says, whatever the group that engineered the blasts, whatever the political parties say - I’m clear about one thing.

Each and every person killed in the blasts today was killed by religion.

I think we should consider becoming atheists if things are coming to this in India. I don’t see much use for a religion at the cost of thousands of innocent lives every year."

We do a lot of complaining about the rise of religious zealotry in the US of A and how it’s ruining our political life, but we still have a long way to go to match the hell that the zealots have unleashed in the name of God in so many unfortunate places on the globe.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Catching Up, and the Face of Love

Damn! Whenever I go away the blogosphere seems to take it as a cue to start crackling. Elaine was good enough to shoot me an email on my return pointing me to some of the juicy stuff that I missed.

An entertaining dust-up between the Crone and RageBoy. The whole episode with Lindsay Vaughn briefly taking down her blog (what a remarkable young woman, by the way. It’s nice to have made this discovery). A fantastic post on the matter by BurningBird (not that fantastic posts are anything unusual at her blog, but this one surpassed her usual high norm). The rare experience of RB eating a bit of crow (this may be an unfair characterization with which RB might well take exception—but I can’t resist casting it that way. I mean, RB making civil comments to Elaine? Not your usual day in Blogoland. And credit where credit is due—RB’s astute perceptions and gentlemanly comments were a great service to the gifted young blogger, Lindsay).

And it wasn’t just the intriguing stuff. I also missed out on the sad occasion of the passing of Doc’s Mom. Even though it’s now old news by blogging standards, I’m compelled to comment on it because the event provided an introspective spark for this old bird as I settled back into my nest.

Although Doc has written many times about his wonderful Mom, he needed only one word to sum it all up when she had departed the scene—Love. All you have to do is look at that amazing face which Doc has been good enough to share with us. The love just spills right off of the monitor. You can’t look at that woman’s face and not feel better.

It’s a reminder of how powerful love really is. Of course, it’s not particularly insightful or original of me to point out that love is powerful. I’m trying to get at something else here. I heard a sage once remark that there are only two forces, or states of being—love and the absence of love—and the absence of love is fear.

This is striking a chord for me at the moment because so much of my emotional energy these days is being drained off by anger at all the political outrages abounding in this era of Bush the Younger, and the thievery of the electoral process taking place in this crazy state.

I claim to be committed to healthy living, but this isn't it. I look at Doc’s Mom’s face, and I realize that there’s another way. I’m sure there must have been plenty that she disagreed with in the political sphere. But you just know that she must have managed to disapprove of the things she disapproved of without compromising that fundamental state of love that she radiated.

Actually, you get a sense of it from some of Doc’s own writing. He’s no stranger to bitching about politics or technology policy or the sorry state of modern radio or whatever. But there’s never a whine, never a snide remark betraying a malaise of the soul. He makes his point and gets on with it.

To be painfully honest about it, it’s a state of grace I’ve yet to attain. I may not make snide remarks, but I know that, in my soul, when I’m upset about Bush and all the rest of it, the real emotion underneath is Fear. I allow the things with which I disagree politically to rob me of my emotional equilibrium because I have this gnawing fear inside—this Absence of Love (hard as that is to say)—that the situation which I find undesirable is ultimately going to lead to some vague kind of danger to me personally.

So it’s very helpful for me to face this and reflect on the paradigm, “All There Is Is Love/Absence of Love”—and to recall the radiance of Doc’s Mom’s face.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Home Sweet Home

Just settling in after an enjoyable vacation in Southern California. It achieved the ends that a good vacation is supposed to. I’m tanned, refreshed, and reconnected with spouse. To top it off, home looks good on coming back. Son Jonathan did a nice job of caretaking. Gracias, Jon.

Also had some pleasant moments: a huge Edward Weston exhibit at the Huntington; a brief visit with the great "blawger," Denise Howell, at her lovely home in Newport Beach; some premier beach-bumming and nightime street-strolling in San Diego; a visit with my wife’s cousin and her family in LA; my first-ever visit to the awesome Getty Center; and a stopover in one of the prettiest towns on the planet, Santa Barbara.

The best part of all was being able to stroll the warm, happening streets at night and dining al fresco in areas like Pasadena Old Town, the Gaslamp District of San Diego; San Diego Old Town; Santa Monica Promenade; State Street Santa Barbara; Downtown San Luis Obispo.

If you’ve ever spent a summer in San Francisco, you know how starved we are for warm summer evenings. You’re lucky to get three or four nights a year where you can go out in shirtsleeves. Some people actually claim to like the fog. Jill and I ain’t among’em, that’s for sure. After forty years in this area, I still can’t get used to it. Whenever I go back East or down South in the summer, I’m almost moved to tears when I can drive the streets at night with my car windows down, or sit outside in a T-shirt and drink a beer, or stroll with the crowds in the streets.

Hats off to those Southern California towns for restoring the rundown areas that used to blight their landscape, and transforming them into a vibrant ambience. San Francisco, while admittedly a world-class city, is totally behind the curve when it comes to this kind of renovation.

Years ago, when I first came here, it used to be called “The City That Knows How.” Haven’t heard that claim in a long time—not since the city’s been hijacked by the radical left and the fervor of political correctness. Although I normally consider myself a leftward-leaning person, when I contemplate the inept government of this left-governed place, it gives me pause. We have the dirtiest streets and the most homeless on the streets of any city in the country. Yes the night climate may suck, but even if it were nice, you wouldn’t want to do much strolling around these trash-strewn, urine-spotted streets.

Would we live here if leaving didn’t mean abandoning our source of livelihood? It’s hard to say. The many pleasures of the place probably trump the disadvantages. Despite my bitching, it’s great to be home. But I’m sure going to miss those warm nights and broad beaches. What I won’t miss is the crowded freeways. Unbelievable! How do people live with it? I’m staying put.

Post-script: Denise looks great! She reports a trouble-free pregnancy so far.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Heading South

Literally, that is, not figuratively. We’ve decided to go gallery hopping, beach slumming, and margarita sipping in LA, San Diego, and Santa Barbara for the next week. Normally at this time of year, we grab a plane and go someplace more distant. But we’re saving our pennies to go to Europe next year, so we want to do something low key—no planes or rental cars.

Haven’t been down to the Southland since the kids were in school, and thought it would be nice to enjoy a relaxing, adults-only visit, free of the mandatory kid-centered treks to places like Disneyland, etc. Besides, with the economy and government of the formerly Golden State going to hell in a hand basket, I figure we’d better do a road tour before the roads turn to un-repaired rock piles—which could happen with this group of bozos trying to steal the governorship.

As I’ve noted before previous vacations, “vacation” means vacating—and, for me, that includes leaving the computers behind. See you when I get back.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Keep On Converging

Maria Benet provides some penetrating insight into what makes blogging and the blogosphere so special. For me, it’s like a little whack on the side of the head from a Zen master. And the timing is ideal, given my struggles with blogging of late.

Her excellent analysis casts a fresh light on this fascinating space that we're stitching together, post by post, out here in Cyberia. She’s put her finger on what may be the primary force that compels me to blog, even as I struggle with the question of whether I'm running out of steam.

That force is not "self-expression." If it were, I would just try to write poetry or stories or something. And I would be a big flop. It would be a colossal waste of my energy.

But what I can do, and what others like me who are not gifted artists can do--and have it be a useful outlet of our energies--is to be co-participants in this new space that Maria likens to an agora. We can be--and are being--its co-creators, and out of this comes--not self-expression--but self-creation, a perfect example of which is a new and re-invented Maria-the-Traveler (she claims to have been something of an agoraphobic before blogging).

Maria uses the metaphor of the agora, and an apt one it is. A sampling:

whenever I turn on my computer, knowing that soon I’ll be in the very center of that “convergence of paths” that is the virtual agora of the blogosphere, [it] puts me smack dab in the center of a world populated by people whose relations to their worlds shape both place and space.

The blogosphere is not an escape from the world. Far from it. As any good and lively mythical agora worth its utterances in meaning, the blogosphere, too, depends on a constant exchange of stories -- on movement. We come to the market to trade stories. We leave enriched by knowing that the vast space beyond the shapes of the place in which we feel “safe” enough to move about, has features and is populated by others who speak our language. . . . .

. . . What Baron Hausmann rendered asunder when he cut up the agora with his boulevards, Tim Berners-Lee put together when he set about to weave a web of texts.

The "convergence of paths" that Maria calls the "virtual agora of the blogosphere,” is a cauldron in which stews a heady broth, and from which new entities and new spaces can and do arise. If I quit blogging, I lose my entrance to this convergence. So I struggle onward.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003


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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what Carton has to say about blogging:

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 09, 2003

The Paynter Press

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

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

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Sam Phillips Postscript

Frank Paynter writes a perceptive comment to my preceding post and concludes by observing, “Elvis, and Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis signaled a cultural shift I think. And a new way of understanding our world started to open up for the non-marxist many.”

David Gates notes in a Newsweek article on Sam Phillips, “to Phillips their musical impact was inextricable from the way they broke down barriers of race, class, and nationality. “

Gates then quotes Phillips, “There is nothing in this world that has contributed to the everlasting understanding of the people of the world like the music that originated right here, called rock and roll.”

Amen, brother.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Illusion, Anger, and Helplessness

I've been away from the computer for a while, so I'm forced to play catch up on responding to some items that others have posted a few days back--e.g., Shelley's point about anger as the only effective response to the "learned helplessness" cited by Maria; and Elaine's reactions to my rock 'n roll reminiscences.

What's the connection here? Well, while it was nice to have Elaine--my contemporary--respond to my post with recollections of her own, when she inferred that pre-Elvis was a sweeter time, she misses the point of what I was trying to communicate. I won't assign the blame to her, however. I'll simply assume that it was inadequate communication on my part.

What I was trying to express--and thus the connection to Shelley's post--was the anger that was brewing beneath the surface of the sweetness to which Elaine refers. It wasn't political in the beginning. It took Vietnam to develop that aspect of it. But the anger was there nonetheless. It was real and it was potent. To get a sense of it, all you have to do is watch the early flicks of Brando, Dean, Mineo, Hopper et al.

It was cultural and it was generational. My generation's elders were extremely out of touch with the reality of their own experience. They tended to live their lives in dishonesty because everything was about appearances and pretense—chief among them that life was sweet. Just watch the mass movies of the time or listen to the lyrics of the songs.

Kids have good bullshit antennae. Despite their inexperience, or perhaps because of it, they frequently have a keener sense of some truths than a lot of their elders. Kids of the pre-Elvis era knew that something was off. There was a lot simmering underneath the illusion that the parents, the media, and the entertainment industry were trying to project and protect. Mumbling was the youngster’s vocal expression of choice (again, see above-mentioned movie stars)—indicative, I believe, of the fact that we were hunkered down, waiting for some cultural phenomenon to blow the lid off all the societal self-delusion.

We don't have that kind of a generational gap today. This is wonderful plus, of course. As a parent of young adults, I certainly appreciate the lack of warfare. It's very nice to be on the same wavelength. However, there’s a problem with it. There's no youthful resentment to tap into politically (I’m not counting the resentment of the left-wing intellectual class. It’s too small of a minority—which we tend to forget here in left-leaning blog circles).

In the society at large, the kids are no different from their parents in their fears for national security, their desire to have the government be preoccupied with it, and their trust of the Bushies to handle it. As distasteful as it is to admit it, poll after poll has demonstrated this unsavory fact.

So without the conscription and forced military service of my young adulthood--which I'm certainly not advocating and isn't going to happen anyway--and with the generations getting along so well--I just don't know where the anger that Shelley advocates is going to come from.

Which leaves the positivism that Maria talks about as the alternative. This positivism requires a charismatic public figure who can both articulate and project it. I see no such figure on the horizon (including the much-admired Howard Dean--his main attraction is his on-the-mark sniping).

How do we get out of this box? (Neil Young's plaintive voice is ringing in my ears):

"There is a town in north Ontario
With dream comfort memory to spare
And in my mind I still need a place to go
All my changes were there

Blue, blue windows behind the stars
Yellow moon on the rise
Big birds flyin' across the sky
Throwin' shadows on our eyes
Leave us

Helpless, helpless, helpless
Oh, babe, can you hear me now?
The chains are locked and tied across my door
Baby, baby, sing with me somehow

Helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless
Helpless, helpless, helpless

(from "Deja Vu"--Crosby, Still, Nash and Young

Friday, August 01, 2003

Rest Well, Sam

A fond Adios to an icon of the early development of rock and roll, the legendary producer, Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records of Memphis, Tennessee. Sam passed on yesterday at the age of 80.

It was Sam’s unimposing little studio, you may recall, into which a very young Elvis Presley wandered to see about cutting some demos. Phillips had the prescience to know that, if he could just find the right white boy who could bridge the racial gap in popular music, one who could get the white kids on board with the ferment that was happening in black pop, a cultural explosion might well ensue. Sam was so right.

Sam went on to discover other such notables as Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and B.B.King. St. Peter-at-the Gate, please give that man a special chair out there in the Great Beyond.

My son was watching a piece with me that PBS did on remembering Phillips. Afterward he asked, “What did you listen to before Elvis?”

“Crap, mostly. Syrupy love ballads or novelty tunes like ‘How Much Is That Doggie In the Window?’ However some of us, like your Pops, were hip to that mighty purveyor of black R & B, which was then called “race music” ---station WLAC out of Nashville-- late at night when the radio waves carried hundred of miles northward.”

I wonder if there are any bloggers out there who were fellow listeners. If so, I’m sure that, like me, they’ll never forget the experience.

Actually, contrary to common mythology. The first bursts of the explosion occurred just prior to the emergence of Elvis. For a lively personal account of this, I’m going to refer you (SSP—shameless self-promotion) to my number one favorite post of all the blog posts I’ve ever written. It provided me with my proudest moment in blogging—surpassing the experience of my one day of residence within the Daypop Top 40.

This post was reprinted in full by Mark Woods in his ever-awesome blog, wood s lot, right there in the midst of his usual roster of the world’s intellectual and creative heavyweights. I should have quit while I was ahead.

Anyway, for a real and personal inside experience of the beginnings of rock and roll, I hope you’ll check it out. And once again, Adios, Sam!