Sunday, October 12, 2008

Movin' on the west side

It is about 2:20 in the morning, and I have been awake close to 24 hours straight. But I feel very little in the way of "tired", even though my physical body took one of the greatest beatings it has taken in a while.

Today was moving day. Well, to be honest, the last month was moving day, little by little moving our worldly possessions into our new place. A few totes after work each day, bookcases strapped to the top of cars, but today all the "big stuff" came over, and the beginning of winding down the old place.

I had vowed not to participate in any economic downturn, recession or whatever financial malaise has taken hold of our great country. It might mean I work a bit harder, a bit more creatively, whatever it takes, I would make it happen.

We were the fortunate recipients of a situation with friends who's house would not sell at a reasonable price, even though they had committed to relocating. We are leasing their house, stewarding much of their possessions while things settle down three quarters across the country.

For Rachel and me, it is a big move. For ten years I had been in a duplex/condo which had been near perfect for a single guy. Enter my lovely wife and now at three cats, we were doing our best to deal with 950 square feet of two bedrooms and one bath. Love each other as much as we do, but there is just so much space each individual needs.

With the help of my good friend Jeff (whose esteem was greatly raised even higher today), we managed to lift, dolly, struggle most of the behemoth pieces of furniture into a two story house. (someone please tell me who designed the laundry closet upstairs? Hauling a washer and dryer up two flights? But that is a story for another day, and frankly, if that is the worst problem we have in life........)

Rachel cooked her first dinner in our new place, and it was wonderful, even if we ate it with plastic cutlery as the silver has not yet been unpacked. She is fast asleep, as two of the cats who are getting used to their new surroundings. The little girl, Emily, is having great fun in her new place, loving the stairs to scamper about; I guess she is as wired as I am.

Sunday brings more work unpacking, and more cleanup of the old place. Maybe when I have a bit more in me I will write about the whole psychological set of gymnastics one goes through in a process like this. Meanwhile, here are some pictures taken as we moved in. Link to gallery

Saturday, May 3, 2008

High School Musical Chairs

In my last entry, I loudly complained how hard it would be to keep up with this thing! That was nearly two months ago! Between business ramping up for the season, focusing my political writings on a forum, and actually doing some of the household work needed, the blog becomes a low priority. There is an arm's length list of items to cover on both logs over the last two months, so I will try to catch up with both. Look for some barbershop harmony stuff over at Ramble Notes.

I had pretty much cut all ties with my hometown of Piedmont, CA. That was a tough time for me, I probably took the concept of adolescent awkwardness to a new extreme. And I was just as happy to "run away" from the painful memories. But as they say, you can run, but you never can truly hide. One attempts to reinvent one's self, and to some extent that does work. Maybe that is the fuel that ignites the desire to succeed, the desire to work harder and "prove them wrong". But maybe it is more important to prove one's self "wrong", or at least wrong-headed about the past.

A few months ago, I was contacted by maybe the one person I could say was a true friend in that era. Rob and I ran cross country together, played in band together, sat in his room listening to Monty Python albums together. After high school, he went off to college, I stayed in town and in junior college. He went off to start a beautiful family, I remained single. We sort of went our separate ways.

But after about 20 years, I receive an e-mail note from him, titled "Long ago in a far away galaxy", and an apology for being a "slacker" and not staying in touch. I had spent so much energy trying to run from the past, I could hardly believe that someone actually wanted to contact me! WOW!

So Rob and I began an exchange of e-mail notes, catching up on family, work, the impending marriage of his daughter and the running success of his son. I hadn't seen him in twenty years and he invited me to his daughter's wedding!!!! DOUBLE WOW! Unfortunately, the schedule did not permit my attending, but we have vowed to get together and chat about old times, etc.

Here came the real whammy. Rob forwarded the notice about our high school's 30 year reunion. Twenty years ago, the Ten Year reunion, there was still no shortage of pain from the past, so in attending, old wounds did get reopened, even if unintentionally and certainly not by anyone but me. Hence, the desire for the complete break with the past.

In our cyber-age, informational things get accomplished so easily. As a part of the reunion planning process, one of my classmates had set up a Yahoo Group to help plan and do some preliminary communication. So, of course, I joined to get in the loop. I cannot tell you how good it felt for the host/moderator to offer me a warm welcome to the group. We had been sort-of friends in the day, both in music and drama together, but not exactly close mates. But the notes I have been trading with him revealed that he, too, had the same sort of insecurities I had, the same desire and need to make peace with the past and forgive all the pain of that time.

Over the last couple weeks, I have had to take a good long hard look in the psychological mirror, and ask myself just what was going on back then. Of course, one can't change one's past, one can only accept it for what it was. Maybe now that I am stronger, I can look at the past and filter out the pain and just see the good. Maybe the feelings I felt back then were not nearly as drastic as I wanted to make them. Maybe, despite the chip on my shoulder and the feelings of complete inadequacy, people did like me. Or maybe they wanted to like me, but I had such a hard heart and big walls around me that I never allowed people to reach out to me. I was so damn desperately seeking approval that I never allowed myself to accept the friendship and acceptance that was mine for the taking. (whew, I am choked and tearing up as I write this. Probably the "heaviest" entry to date.)

Well, after refilling my cup, scanning in and inserting my senior photo, the tightness in my throat has subsided. That "Scrooge-like" visit with the ghost of the past hurt, but also was revealing to me. As I had said in the earliest entries to this web-log, things kind of come out, the post "writes itself" if one just opens up and lets the words flow. And true to my concept, save for spelling and obvious grammar issues, I am not going to edit for content. It's out there in the open, the soul has been bared, and there is that catharsis in putting it out there.

I am excited as can be about the upcoming reunion. Twenty years ago, I attended with the attitude of "look at me now". But in a couple of months, I am going to attend with the attitude of "I want to look at you now". Twenty, thirty years is a long time. At our souls we are the same people we will always be. But in how we look at the world, and how we react to it, we can change, and hopefully for the better.

As long as I get my act together and keep up with the posts, I will happily report back from the reunion in July!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I knew it would be tough to keep up with this thing

Good Grief, it looks like this is down to a once a week entry! And nothing salient to offer. Well, not completely devoid of ideas, but they have been pretty much confined to a political forum in which I participate. GoldTalk is where I have done most of my political writing; and when I established this web-log, I wanted to specifically stay away from politics. Those who know me well, know that I have been -- to a greater and lesser degree -- a political junkie. But I wanted to explore what else I could do with the written word here. Only go to Gold Talk to look at what I submitted, if you are ready to see where I stand politically. If you agree with my politics, you will like it. If you are from an opposing political stance, you will probably disdain what I have to offer.

At some time I will expand on this, but GoldTalk is where I met Rachel and that provides for a wonderful story in itself.

Hopefully, I will find some time this week to vent my mind on some more stuff here!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tandem Blogs!

As I hinted on last entry, Blogger recovered a web log I created five years ago and never used. Ramble Notes will be devoted to my barbershop harmony experiences. If you care about stuff like that, take a look (linked in above)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A touch with my past

On this rainy day, I have found myself rapt to the on-line coverage of the Amgen Tour of California. This professional bike race approaches the length and challenge of the Tour de France, and seems to be earning a similar prestige. Bike racing is one of those esoteric sports that is as much mental as it is physical. But today the physical is not only highlighted but challenged to the extreme. The riders started in Seaside (near Monterey) and raced down coast Highway 1 to San Luis Obispo 135 miles away. They started at 10:00 AM, and it is now 4:30 PM, and the race is in its last 20 miles. The biggest factor was the weather, with rain and wind in their faces the whole trip. Many of the 120 starters have retired from the race, one even being taken to the hospital with hypothermia.

The technical folks behind the coverage have offered up something wonderful. Almost too good. In the past, I had watched European racing in edited and condensed form. Between two moto-cams and one helicopter-cam, I have been able to follow this thing from start to finish. (link)

Fifteen years and fifty pounds ago, I tried racing bicycles for a few years. It was a frustrating experience. I loved to ride, loved the camaraderie, but never could get my legs turning quite fast enough. Being a bigger guy, I had some value as a "draft horse", the guy that all the smaller riders could get behind, breaking the wind for them. Plus, in exchange for speed, my endurance was very good indeed. As long as things were flat, long, straight and possibly into the wind, I was of value to the racing team. While I was the last up the hill, I was a pretty gutsy descender, and could catch on, or pull other stragglers with me. One year, the team awarded me "Best Draft" and was given a six-pack of Miller Genuine Draft!

Some day I might expound more on the racing thing, but suffice to say, I burned out, couldn't touch a bike for years. A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of used mountain bikes for Rachel and me, and we have enjoyed them, taking to the road or trail with no desire to train or race.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Heard it from a friend who, heard it from a friend, who...

Amazing just how things get around the web so fast. And if you are the source of the "thing", you get temporarily elevated to celebrity status! Last week, a couple of old locomotives with some historical value were scrapped here in Oakdale. For those reading who are not fellow Hack Amateur Historians of the Sierra Railroad, I won't bore you with the details, but it seems like I was among the few who got pictures of the demolition.

As a courtesy to my fellow Hack Amateurs, I posted a Picassa Web Album to a couple of discussion forums I haunt. Within a few days, apparently the link had made its way on to other forums and logs, and I started receiving requests to use some of the images for websites devoted to that particular branding and style of locomotive. I don't consider myself a photographer, just a guys who takes pictures and occasionally gets a good one here and there, so I had no problem with sharing my photos around. I guess if I made my living with a camera, I might be less inclined. But a long time ago, I gave up on the idea that anything posted to the internet was anything less than a de-facto public domain, so I don't let myself worry about it too much. Frankly, (and back to the self editing issue) I have to know, that if I offer my writings to the World Wide Web, I shouldn't write anything that I may have to account for later in life. Especially if I believe what the Tin Foil Hat folks tell me that John Ashcroft -- in his retirement -- is personally reading every bit of e-mail and web-log post I create!

It's been a week since I posted, and time is tight this morning as well. Glad to be generating revenue again, but the balance must be maintained. Soon I will be following up on things I wrote about earlier, including the singing Valentines, Boris and the other cats and my internal struggle with the whole concept of "Blogging".

Oh... and by the way, the company that hosts this web-log informed me that I had created an account three years ago, and I never really used it. I think "Random Notes" will be devoted to my experiences with Barbershop Harmony. That should be fun. And if I really keep up with all of this, I may never get any sleep! As a local talk show host has proclaimed "Sleep is a Lousy replacement for coffee!"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Harmony Leads the Way

I was honored by a friend who made a comment who said " may have found yourself in your writings... and have the ability to express yourself it in words." No greater honor could be bestowed from a friend. Imagine what might happen if I actually took the time to edit the thing, and not rely solely on the "stream of consciousness" approach. It is kind of fun to write stuff that is all my own, from my own perspective and just put it out there.

I am no stranger to writing on a computer, however. I pretty much grew up with them. Not quite the Wozniak and Jobs in the garage soldering together what would become Apple, but as a someone planted in front of a screen and told to make this happen or make that happen. Even though I spent years in the financial world, I often was the go-to guy for computer issues that did not rate calling in the IT crew. I guess I was the "user-friendly nerd", who could explain the basic stuff the user needed to know, not hit users over the head with techno-jargon.

For the last 8-10 years I have been part of the "internet community", like almost everyone, starting with AOL and quickly growing beyond. I found discussion groups, and that opened up a whole new world. Presently, I am subscribed to over thirty of these groups, ranging from railroad history to politics, to barbershop harmony. To be sure, most of these low activity, but some of them have a lot of "traffic". For a few years, I spent a fair amount of my spare time (and some that was not so spare) hashing out political issues on some of these forums. I learned a whole lot about my own political views and the kinds of political opinions I (and my political philosophy) was up against. Sadly, it soon became pretty clear that my opposing folks entire political stance was based on being "anti" to mine! No new ideas, no core values, just opposition to anything I might believe in. And usually any salient point I made was met -- not with equally salient counterargument -- but a stream of personal invective, and the belief that the counter view need not be justified. As one can guess, that gets old pretty quickly, but it was good training ground for putting my thoughts "on paper" in this new cyber format.

A few weeks ago, I returned to one of the greatest hobbies a guy could have. Barbershop Harmony. I had taken a few months off from my chorus to sort out some things, and upon returning, I again experienced the pure joy of thirty-odd voices all coming together to create what I feel is the best music on earth. My "out with the boys" nights are usually filled with chorus rehearsal, quartet singing, and vocal training. While it might sound a bit corny or trite, hard work does not feel hard if the improvement is evident. And it is fun to watch a learning curve steepen under a great director. That's Dain, our chorus director, who beats us up every week, but brings out a great sound from thirty or so diverse voices and personalities. It is like herding cats, but he makes it work, and we are a pretty dang good performing unit. Now, if I can figure out how to do the upload, I will share with you all last spring's contest set from our Divisional competition. There are always going to be better choruses, but we were very proud of our performance and our third place finish!

This week our chorus/chapter (we are part of the Barbershop Harmony Society) will be delivering singing "ValenGrams". Along with virtually every other chapter in our Society, hundreds upon hundreds of these singing greetings will be delivered to wives, girlfriends, mothers, and even the male counterparts! At the request of our customer, a quartet will go to where the recipient is, usually at work during the day, present a rose, sing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" or "Heart of My Heart". We then take a Polaroid photo, place it in the card, and off we go to the next "victim". (That's me, along with three of my chorus buddies a couple of years ago, serenading a sweet girl at the request of her fiance.)

It is not unknown for us to see tears of joy or whole offices gathered around for the performance. The recipient might feel initially shy about the whole thing, as it is a heck of a surprise. But along with the card and photo, this will be a lasting memory! And almost to a man, every barbershop singer considers this among the best days of the year for himself and our music style as a whole.

My quartet this year will deliver about 20 of these Valentines, and we have five quartets going out that day. And if all 800 chapters in our Society have similar numbers, there could conceivably be 80,000 of these singing Valentines around the US. Pretty neat numbers!

If anyone reading this is out of the Central Valley area and might want to have one of these Valentine delivered, go to the BHS's Singing Valentines page, or shoot me an e-mail and I will try to get you set up. (The preceding was an unpaid advertisement!)

Off to go earn a living.....

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cute Kid Plays

No one yet has asked why I named this "The Young Curmudgeon", so I figure I had better answer anyway. Many years ago, in my twenties, I was a fan of an up-and-coming radio talk host named George Weber . Long before the "revolution", when talk radio was pretty staid, George was doing some pretty wild stuff on the air. Not "shock jock" stuff, but certainly that which roiled the waters of the usual local tax issues, recipes, best selling authors, and whatever else the fodder was for pre-Rush radio. Like the time George devoted an entire hour of his show with call-ins on the "proper" wording for the spider song. Was it "Itsy Bitsy Spider"? Or "Teensy Weensy Spider"? Or any variable thereof. And yes, there was a whole hour's worth of debate on the subject. Or the Saturday night George took his engineer and a mobile unit to interview Saturday night BART patrons as the trains coursed under San Francisco Bay! Maybe not shocking stuff in today's world but again, this was 15-20 years ago, and pretty wild for the time.

George and I became friends after a few call-ins, and we found ourselves in and around San Francisco sampling many of the establishment's brewed beverages. And talking. And both realizing that our conversations were of the attitude our parents had. We were becoming curmudgeons, and we were in our late 20s. Over a clinked glass of some hops and barley mix, we christened "The Young Curmudgeon's Society", and it went out over the air on the next show. Never too organized, but we found ourselves attracting a whole bunch of like minded folks in our age group. Those of us who were not happy with the direction society was going, and yearned for a simpler time when some basic values had not been so upended. (Remember, this was San Francisco!)

George eventually got fired for being "too controversial", and went on to a much better talk gig in San Diego. (Remember also this was pretty much before Howard Stern and Opie & Anthony!)
I think the Young Curmudgeon's Society pretty much died out, although were it to happen today, the power of the Web probably would have kept it going. Last I heard of George was that he was reading news for the morning shift at WABC. Go to his website, linked above for is first person accounts of reporting on 9/11/01. Pretty wild first hand look.

How many of us have had to endure "cute kid plays"? Productions that perhaps the curtain should never have been raise on. Kids forced into "acting", half the lines are prompted from the wings, horrific versions of good songs, the whole lot. Don't get me wrong, everyone is well-intentioned in these pageants, but they are often a death march to endure. But we still hail the kids as the Second Coming of Lawrence Olivier, and praise them for their ability to get up in front of an audience. When public speaking always makes the list of the top ten adult fears, who can blame the tykes for the deer-in-the-headlights look as they see their parents, relatives, family friends, etc. anticipating their big acting break?

Twice in this last year I have been treated to the absolute antithesis of the "cute kid play". Rachel's best friend, Tori, (that's Tory and Rachel the day before our wedding) has two wonderful kids who seem to have found their outlet on a stage. And luckily in an amazing company of other like-minded kids. The Youth Entertainment Stage Company (or YES) gives kids the chance to really work at the craft, learn about stage acting and present some pretty amazing stuff on stage. To a kid, each of the actors was engaged and presenting a play. No questions about lines, or songs, or interacting with the other players. Yes, there was the expected small issues with intonation here and there, but easily forgivable in the grand scheme of things. And well counterbalanced with some of the kids' well developed voices, and the often perfect harmony in some of the duets. But overall, this seemingly near professional production I saw yesterday was a jaw dropper.

"Honk, Jr." is a musical retelling of the story of the Ugly Duckling. Of rejection and acceptance and the beauty that lies within all of us. Essentially the theme song, introduced by the local frog (and his family) was "Someone's gonna love you, warts and all." I sat listening to the lyrics and began to question a whole lot of my own cynicism. In that, there were also some good lessons to be learned by the kids as they played out this tale.

Costuming and staging were awesome. It would have been very easy for the parents and costume director to do a thing with straight ahead faux animal costumes. But each of the kids wore a stylized representation of what each animal or bird was to be. This forced the viewer to really pay attention to what each actor's role was thus really engaging the audience! Some of the costuming was really fun, like the frog and his family coming out in diving flippers and big eyed Oakley-type sunglasses. Or the cat (the villain) who's whiskers were a "Snidely Whiplash" style curly mustache. Or when the Ugly Duckling went from his black frumpy "ducking" to a swan that was a white jump-suited "Elvis". Complete with a curled lip confidently sneered "Honk"! (Remember that one of the "outcasting" issues was that the Ugly Duckling couldn't "quack", he simply honked, to the dismay of his father and siblings.)

Only one of Tori's kids was involved this time, (both were involved in last year's "Cinderella"). I am waiting in joyous anticipation of the next production of "The AristoCats". Should be a blast!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Blogging, increasing the written word or diluting it?

First, Maybe Boris update. As of two days ago, he is now "Boris Bigenov", and yes, a tip of the hat to the old Rocky and Bullwinkle character. He and and other cats are in the midst of "sorting out" the hierarchy, CD once being "Alpha-Cat-by-Default", in to share the house with now two other critters. For now, Boris seems to be quite the lump of a cat, sprawled out on the couch relaxing. I guess after months of fighting the elements, a couch is pure luxury.

A couple of nights ago, a spell of insomnia took me out to the couch and an old movie "The Last Time I Saw Paris". Van Johnson plays a post-war author trying to write the Great American Novel in Paris. A few scenes had Johnson's character working in his study, banging away at an old style typewriter. The kind maybe many learned on and really built up the finger muscles. The writer would bang out a line, and then make edits with a pencil on the patten (?) or roller above the type line. Type, mark up, type mark up, the beat goes on. And then the whole thing has to be typed again as the draft reviewed and submitted.

Another series Rachel and I have been watching -- As Time Goes By -- features an author, who dictates his writings to a secretary, who takes the words down in short hand and later types them up. Another somewhat ungainly process, one that is expensive, as the author hires the secretaries from a temporary service.

The point of the above leads back to my recurring theme of this new era of "publishing". How simple and easy it is to be a "published" author, my banging out my thoughts on a web log in full view of anyone who wants to view it. Before I hit "publish post" I will go over the piece of obvious errors, but pretty much leave this the way it is.

I have been discussing the concept privately with a friend, a self admitted non-writer who made the following comments. I joked about what we all did before PCs and the internet, suggesting what two cavemen might have wondered "what did we do before cave drawing"?

As far as what we did before Bill Gates created computers and Al Gore invented the internet - well, we sat around the campfire and talked. Sometimes we beat the heck outta each other, but in the end we all were still friends. Of course, the sad thing is that now many more people have access to the internet (thanks to Al for freeing up the internet from military application) and use it as a shield to hide behind a keyboard and bang away with their fingers.

The internet brings this out in people and in the case of bloggers, it frees up their minds to express in a very public way and so easily too, their thoughts on things. Can you imagine what Ernest Hemmingway, Jack London or, God forbid - Karl Marx would have done if the internet were around in their time?
It is merely a communication tool and nothing more. Call me a dreamer, but I am sure that sooner or later (and more sooner than later) we will have the ability to communicate using telepathic abilities. Yeah, it sounds far-fetched, but so did flying back when Orville and Wilbur were dabbling with the notion not to mention space travel.

I will expand on this at a later time. Time to go live a life.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Maybe Boris

I continue to ask myself just why I do this. Is there any reason, beyond self catharsis that I bang out my thoughts and feelings on a web log? Perhaps someone will see these words, most likely no one will. But sometimes it is indeed a good exercise to put one's thoughts into print.

"Maybe Boris". At least that is the working title for a new cat around the house. Maybe Boris is a handsome young male all black cat that is as charming and sweet as any cat could be. The antithesis of CD the old grouch, and a genuine sweetness that the little angel-when-she-wants-to-be Emily only shows part of the time. And that is one of the reasons "Boris" is not exactly fitting. The lovely Rachel seems to think that might be too harsh a name for the cat, but he is big, black and burly.... so we'll see.

While I will never give animals the status of humans, I find animals to be far more complex than we sometimes give them credit. Cats have an amazing variety and range in their personalities. Maybe Boris will be the sixth cat have have had around the house, and with each comes a personality that is so completely unique. Of course there are certain behaviors that are common and predictable to cats, but in each they hold a style that is all their own.

I had never realized this until there were multiple cats in the household. And frankly, for all CD's grouchiness, I figured that is what I could expect from any cat, period. CD has been, and continues to be a loyal grouch, impatient with other cats, and enjoys his humans on his terms. Will sleep sprawled all over me, but limits his accepting affection to small amounts of head and chin "scritching" (a cat may scratch a human, but a human "scritches" a cat.)

The late Old Miss Suzu Badcat was something else all together. A hellion in her younger days, according to Rachel. When she joined the family along with Rachel, she was well into her seventeenth year. By that time she was well mellowed out and seemed to enjoy her latter life. (This is CD and Suzu on a chair, in their first year together.) We lost her last year at twenty one... not bad for an old girl!

But I have gotten a bit off track, and maybe some day I will write about Archy, Charlie, and more about Emily as time goes on. Today is about Maybe Boris. We think he was abandoned by neighbors who moved away down the street. For a while, our next door neighbors put out food for him, but that ended when they moved. Out of compassion, we started putting food out for him, as it was getting toward fall and the colder temperatures. Over the course of several weeks, the food bowl got closer to the house, and then last week it moved into the garage. Poor thing was out in the freezing rain, so we set up an old wire bin, a couple of towels and a small heating pad. Once the boy got used to warmth, he wouldn't leave the little makeshift bed!

But he wasn't done. His next goal was to come into the house, and we eventually acquiesced. The last couple of days, he has spent a little time in the house, exploring around, and eventually finding himself in one of those predictable places cats always seem to end up at. The window sill looking out. (Where CD happens to be right now) Of course, it doesn't help the cats that we have our bird feeder on the birch tree right outside the office window! Provides endless entertainment not only for us but for the cats as well.

So we'll see what happens with Maybe Boris. Surprisingly the only disapproval has come from Emily, not CD. "Old Grumblebutt" seems not to care that yet another cat has encroached upon his territory, maybe he is used to it by now. It is the little girl who has hissed and spit at this burly thing twice her size.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Duper Pooper Tuesday

I have plenty more thoughts on the whole concept of blogging, but I guess they will hold for another day. One of them, that stands out right now is whether or not the whole concept that blogging might be nothing more than self-satisfaction. Who reads web logs anyway? Probably only those who are steered to them by friends and family. And maybe not even then! It would be interesting for a complete stranger, passing by, reading my stuff to offer a comment (hint hint). Even if for no other reason that to indicate someone might be reading this. But then again, do I really care? I hit "publish" and I am now a "published author". (Reference back to my comments about the devaluation of the word "publish".) What's the commitment I have made? I have the computer, the internet connection, and I clicked on to "Blogger", and off I went. Didn't face editors, very little self editing, save for what I do as I write, and no real financial or time commitment, just the time spent at the keyboard right now. Well, I said I wouldn't go too far into the subject, but I guess I already did. (And yes, I could have erased all and started over.... but why?)

I have to wonder why we, as voters complain about our politicians taxing us to the hilt. After all, we have just given them millions on millions to get elected, and then we expect them to stop spending our hard earned money once they get in office????

As a life-long political junkie, I have become as disinterested and burned out as I have ever been this year. Seems like nothing else in the world is happening except the election. There are some pundits who claim the 2008 race began right on the heels of the 2004. And maybe they were right, it sure feels like they are going on and on and on. When I finish this, I go cast my vote as I head out for the day's stuff. I guess I have a candidate in mind, but no one that I am the least bit excited about. And worse yet, half of my vote cast is against the other side! So my vote today is as much about who I feel can beat the other guy in the other party than who I genuinely feel will lead the country best! Is that any way to run a democracy?

A lot has been made in the media about this "Super Tuesday" being on the heels of the Super Bowl. (On a side note, am I obligated to pay the NFL a royalty for using the term "Super Bowl"? Those who are scratching their heads about that question, I suggest you use the "comments" line to inquire.) The great Winston Churchill has was credited with this fine quote: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government exept all the others that have been tried."

But what can be said of a democracy that is driven by marketing and advertising, and not concepts, ideas, ideals, and a genuine display of desire to make the country better? Instead, we are treated to a veritable slug-fest of impugning one person's record, or spinning that record, or or making up not only the record but the agenda for what that person will or won't do.

We read in our history books that the Lincoln vs. Douglas debates were equally rife with mud as today's. Maybe so, but I would really doubt it. Or maybe we can blame the much fast moving electronic media for exploding things more rapidly than in the days of the Civil War. Who know, it has just tired me out, and I want the whole election to be over, and frankly, I am not even sure I care who wins at this point. I guess it is a matter of who will grab my hard-earned money faster... because in the end, we all end up paying well over our "fair share".

(Another funny side note: Over dinner, my lovely wife and I were discussing this whole mess, and she referenced the drive for independence of our great country. The idea of "no taxation without representation". And you know what the tax rate was? About 2%.)

Well, off to go hold my nose at the voting booth.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Captain's Blog, Day Two....

Well, I read over what it was I wrote yesterday, and while there are some nice, salient points made, overall the piece lacks proper structure and is more the stream-of-consciousness of a first draft. Something I would have gone back to and edited heavily until it made sense. And were it to have been meant for legitimate publishing, been subject to the critique, amendment, arguments and finally blessings of a good editor.

But I will simply leave the piece up as-is for all the world to see -- that is, if anyone bothers to even look at the thing! (Ah, another point to be expanded on as days go by!)

So the coffee is brewed, my ever growing on-board music library is fired up, largely thanks to Spiral Frog's free downloads. (I linked it in, check it out, it's pretty good.) I just went from ACOUSTIX to The Plimsouls, to Special Feature, to George Strait, and now to Dean Martin. Load 'em up, hit shuffle, and I go back to the days of free-form radio, just without the zoned out DJs and obnoxious commercials. And if I don't like a song I hear, I just skip through. Beats what's on the radio... this time of day is little more than bad overnight talk radio and horrible infomercials!

I just finished one of Rachel's awesome carrot/zucchini/gawd-knows-what muffins. All I know is that they just melt in one's mouth! The Old Grump of a cat, CD is snuggled in behind me in the desk chair. (That's him tucked into a desk drawer. Good cat, been with me his ten years of life, royal pain in the butt, grouchy most of the time, but loyal as all can be. The new kitten, Emily M. Scampercat has done her morning's business of playing with anything resembling a toy on the floor, and is settled into Rachel's desk chair. "Miss Emily" is actually a half year bigger than in this picture, but she still retains a high degree of "the cute factor, and could get away with murder in this household!

Funny thing happened later Sunday, after I had written the initial piece touching on the blog culture (that very little I know of it). On a forum dedicated to railroad art and literature a discussion of the slow demise of traditional published rag print railroad magazines was going. Publishing on the internet being the alternative so many go to. And a contributor made a very interesting and salient point, not far off something I touched on. He said 3. Amateur and/or first time writers are increasingly likely to cry "censorship" at the first sign of editing or questioning -- makes no sense but it does happen.

To which I posted the following response (and due to laziness, I won't even re-edit! )
Funny you should mention that. "Inspired" by (list member's) recent foray into the "blogosphere", I proved how easy it is for an idiot like me to set up their own blog and start prattling. And I spent the first hour of writing my blog, writing about blogs. And my opinions touched, ever so lightly upon Joe's third point. A theme I had in mind to go back and develop as my blogging life progressed.

In short, I opine (or plan to expand on) that this blog format, one can "publish" (a word that seems to have lost its value in the DIY cyber-age) without having to account to anyone. Anything goes, grammar, syntax, punctuation, style, be damned. The amateur author is free to "express himself", with no one pulling in the reins on his creativity. And as we all know, the flip side of that is a downward spiral in overall quality. God knows music and art have suffered. (Somehow I think much of this can be traced back to the "self-esteem movement", where kiddies got gold stars and hugs even if they answered "Five" when adding two and two.)

Years ago (my college years roughly 25 years past) I noticed a phenomenon in the "throwaway papers". Those "alternative" newspapers that have --as advertisers -- head shops, used clothing stores, massage parlors and the most creative personal ads around. These papers usually leaned a little in the leftward direction and tackled grassroots issues that no one would have ever blinked at. But what vexed me is that feature articles would go on for column inch upon column inch often meandering, repeating, lacking in continuity, and essentially tiring and confusing me as a reader. Even in my academic years, with a bit of high school journalism behind me, I could spot the possibility that good editing was not a real priority in these publications. I remember, at the time, thinking that the mindset of the staff might that of not wanting to insult or offend the writer, lest they take their pencils and go home.

And now, as I finish up this post, I can't help but wonder if some of this influence has been what has seeped into the mainstream media. If these "alt paper" folks have been those who worked their way into the legitimate media. I don't count on much disagreement that overall, the traditional media has declined in quality over the years.

If one looks at many of the web-logs out there, especially from the younger set, it seems as if the traditional rules have been thrown out the window. "New" spellings of words -- B4 instead of before -- e.e. cummings inspired lack of capital letters, and a complete lack of grammar or syntax. But again, referring to my notes of yesterday, the language does evolve over time, and I can guess it is usually the youth that drive that. I am sure that the speakers of early English were appalled when the kids started using "you" instead of "thee".

Well, I made a couple of rules for myself. I would write only as long as I felt inspired (a departure from the professional writer!) and that this thing wouldn't get in the way of other, more important things in my life! So, at five AM, I close this day's entry.....

More tomorrow... maybe!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Here I go....

So now, I can officially claim to be a "Blogger". I can be one of those folks the major media decried as being "no accountability guys in their bedrooms writing in their pajamas". Yeah, the same ones who figured out that a certain Presidential candidate did not necessarily serve honorably in Viet Nam. Or that campaign operative phonied up military reserve documents so badly they were exposed as such pretty easily.

And much to the chagrin of the major media; so much that Ted Koppel suggested that the so-called "Blogosphere" was somehow a "threat to democracy". I submit to you, Mr. Koppel, the "Blogosphere" seems to be a better representation of democracy than what passes for politics today! Politicians are always talking about "grass roots", yet too often when individuals actually work from the basic voting unit, the effort is made to slap them down.

Funny, I didn't intend for this to go out the gate as a political rant, but I guess the stream-of-consciousness approach to blogging sort of takes it where it wants to go. I guess I know what it means when a writer says the story sort of "writes itself". Or takes the author places he didn't realize he would go.

Now, to be sure, I can always go back, even after "publishing" and edit out the whole darn thing. And before I hit "publish", I will look back and see if this whole exercise is worth saving, or simply some sort of Gestaltian rant to get stuff off my mind and on to a place where all can see it.

Which leads me to my original notion for this first post.

What is the point, anyway? Why should I bare my soul for all to see? For the amateur writer, I guess a blog is a good place to start and hone one's "chops". Yet, by the same token, I could write and write and write and write, and not be accountable to any sort of editorial process. And yet, by the same token, who is to say that any editor is indicative of better writing?

As we have seen through the centuries, language changes. We don't use "thee" or "whilst" much anymore, save for Shakespearian productions and traditional churches. We don't hear "groovy" or "far out" either, and they are from last couple of decades. By the same token, a decade or so ago "engine" meant a physical plant providing power to a machine or vehicle. Web was something spiders wove, and no one ever heard the word "blog".

I remember over twenty years ago meeting a "System Architect" and being amazed that his job had nothing to do with physical buildings, but the intricacies of a mainframe computer!

But I return to my question of the point of this whole thing. I can't help but wondering if the idea of blogging grew out of the notion that not only everybody's voice can be heard (First Amendment) but should be heard. And the notion that all of one's life should be worn on one's sleeve.

A generation or more ago, people would keep diaries. Often small books with a useless lock for recording a person's inner most thoughts. Usually the stuff of family comedy and/or drama that little brother stole big sister's diary and trumpeted the contents all over the place. Later, in the self-awareness era, we were encouraged to keep a journal, extending the few lines the small daily diary offered into long, free-form tablet or notebook pages. If one was a student, that journal was the source to go back and draw from to create other writings.

Now we blog. We write down our innermost thoughts and feelings and save them on line for the world to see. As far as I have heard, especially among the younger "myspace" set, very innermost thoughts are shared. So much that parents are a bit concerned, and child predators have a rich mine from which to draw. Yes, there is a downside to being too open...

Well, It is close to an hour I have been beating this keyboard on this entry and I should get on to something else. But I still have a whole lot of opinions to offer up on the subject of blogging, but I will save them for the next time.