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Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

Will he or won’t he? No, wait. Won’t he or will he? No, wait. He won’t, but maybe he will.

What’s all the fuss about? The media and the blogosphere have been abuzz in recent days with speculation about whether or not The Gav will run for Lieutenant Governor.

Lieutenant Governor? Is that still a real California state elective office? What does a Lieutenant Governor do anyway?

For a more complete rendition of the Lieutenant Governor’s duties and responsibilities than I have the time and interest to repeat here, see this Wikipedia page. It’s as good as most job descriptions I’ve read, mundane as all get out, vague, ambiguous, and open to more interpretation than the U.S. Constitution.

One part did catch my eye, however. The Lieutenant Governor serves as “vice-executive of California.”

Now, that’s a job I might consider running for myself.

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Around this time of the year, I begin to think about the blogs that I read regularly and boil them down to a select group that I call My 10 Favorite Blogs. Except this year, try as hard as I could, I’ve only been able to come up with My 5 Favorite Blogs. How come? When I began blogging  a couple of years ago, the blogosphere was overloaded with blogs, and for some reason, I seemed to like all of them, or many of them anyway. Everything was so new. What a relief from the sterile reporting and analysis of the mainstream media. Picking my favorite ten was easy then. Almost everything I read was at the top of my daily reading list. As a last resort, when the time rolled around for my Top 10 list, I arranged them alphabetically and lopped off all of those below the first ten. Mechanical but functional.

This year my selection process isn’t going along as smoothly as it used to. I’m puzzled. Has the number of blogs decreased? I don’t think so. In the Bay area alone, there must be several hundred, maybe a thousand. If you don’t believe me, check out CBS5’s Eye on Blogs, the brainchild of Britney Gilbert. She’s compiled a list of Bay Area Blogs complete with links to each of them. Quite an accomplishment.

What about quality? In my judgment, the blogs I check regularly are well-written, topical, and timely. So, there must be another variable to explain my difficulty in selecting ten blogs that I like above all others.

After thinking about it for a minute or two, I’ve concluded that the problem is me. Over time, my interests have shifted. For one thing, I’m not into politics the way I used to be. Maybe I need another election or a scandal to pump me up. Nah. Scandals are so commonplace these days, they’re kind of like clouds of gnats circling around my ears.

I think my declining interest in politics began when I started blogging on Open Salon. The variety of topics and styles of writing that I encountered there led me to think about wider more varied fields of interest as topics for my own blog.

And that’s how it stands at the moment. I have found writers and bloggers beyond my original boundaries. And from my newly-found peers, I’ve compiled my list of a very few favorites, writers who rise above the crowd. Here they are.

·       The Ax Files heads my list this year. I stumbled across the author a long time ago and was struck by her originality. Her name is Alexandra Jones, and she has a captivating way with words combined with a facility in observation and interpretation that can lead you to think you are there with her if you let your imagination go. You won’t be disappointed if you check out her essays.

·       The Renaissance Lady is a prolific author and the repository of a volume of information equal to that in many libraries. I became aware of her blog on Open Saloon and quickly added her to my Favorites list. Her interests are eclectic, ranging from politics to a casita inhabited by spirits in New Mexico.  She writes fascinating material with originality and passion.

·       The Fog City Journal is an online newspaper rather than a blog, but if it were a blog, it would rate with the best. Publisher Luke Thomas is a world class photographer who captures a variety of activities in San Francisco that he uses to good effect throughout the publication. Add to that a stable of top writers and analysts and you have an A-One site.

·       CBS5 Eye on Blogs isn’t, strictly speaking, a blog but a compendium of Bay Area blogs with commentaries by the site’s mastermind, Britney Gilbert. She’s a product of Tennessee where she operated a similar site for a television station in Nashville. Luckily, her talents caught the eye of someone at CBS5 and now she applies her talents to Baghdad by the Bay, as Herb Caen called it. Good for Ess Fff.

·       Jeannie Watt’s Blog on eHarlequin is my latest favorite. Jeannie is a writer of romance novels set in the modern West, primarily Nevada. A product of Nevada’s Cowboy Country, she writes about cowboys most of the time, but she has touched on the ordinary people of small town Nevada in a few of her novels with marked success. I am including Jeannie Watt in my list for a special reason. I have never been a reader of romance stories. I stumbled across one of her books in the bottom row of a book rack in a supermarket one day, thinking it was a story about cowboys. And it was. But it also was woven around a hot romance between a cowpoke and a teacher, which made for a charming story. Jeannie’s descriptions of ranch and cowboy life were so realistic that I became enthralled with her writings. In her blog, she talks about her own life in a small ranching community as well as about the business of writing. She has many fascinating things to say and that’s why she’s the only writer of romances whose works I read.

Okay, that’s my truncated list of favorite blogs for this year. I’m publishing the list well before the New Year because I’ll be on an extended vacation shortly and won’t return until sometime in 2010.  I’ll undoubtedly be enjoying my family more than I enjoy blogging.

But, I’ll be back.

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This morning I was chatting with a Facebook Friend about finding a suitable blog platform. She’s a professional writer, so she’s a little pickier than me. She’s looking not just for an audience but for the right audience. Professional writers need the exposure that could lead to a paid gig. And, of course, all professional writers write to be read widely. Otherwise, why write.

I’m not a writer myself. I write basically for my family and friends. A blog is a good way to reach them beyond the bounds of E-mails and letters. Oh, sure, it’s nice when others write nice comments about the things I write, and I have met some fine people through my blog. Can’t deny that, and I hope to meet more good folks with interesting things to say.

My own approach to blogging is simple. I am not at all good at writing about myself. My inner feelings are boring even to me, and I am sort of bored right now. That’s why I tend or have tended to write about external events. And since my interests are quite broad, I am inclined to write according to no particular pattern. Today, I might write about a political event, tomorrow a blurb about an article I ran across in GQ magazine. Whatever strikes my interest at the moment will likely be the topic for the day.

I also like to add a humorous touch to most of the topics I am interested in. That doesn’t mean everything is funny. Some topics are absolutely without humor, child abuse, domestic violence, murder, and suicide, for example, are devoid of laughter.

That’s why the current run of murders in this country is disturbing. Thirteen soldiers murdered at Fort Hood, Texas, one murdered and mayby 15-plus wounded in Orlando, Florida; these are just two of the most egregious examples of recent violence in America today.

Of course, the perpetrators of these crimes will always have an excuse. The guy in Orlando was fired from his job two years ago and he was mad at the company. Oddly, the individuals he murdered are not, “the company.” But somehow in the mind of this deranged individual, the employees who worked for “the company” became “the company.” So, he decided to murder as many human beings as he could.

He may or may not have known or cared that he was shooting individuals rather than “the company.” Is this insanity, or is it a failure of the ability of some people to understand distinctions?  One individual is dead but “the company” lives on. Similarly, thirteen dead but the United States Army survives.

In addition to the damages done to the survivors of these monstrous acts, the perpetrators have harmed the United States in more ways than one. Globally, they’ve added to the perception that this is the most violent country in the world. Say what you wish, but the perceptions of other nations are important within the global system when it comes to the achievement of the vital national interests of the U.S.

Domestically, the current rash of violence has exacerbated the feelings of fear and parnoia among ordinary Americans.  Who among us might be the next mass murder? That guy down the street who looks odd with his little round glasses and close-set eyes? Or a respected Army psychologist?

The most disgusting cipher in the equation is society’s failure to deal with the violence that seems to be a part of our cultural DNA. Why are we as a country so reluctant to tackle the issue? Is it because we feel helpless? Maybe we think its someone else’s job. Or have our leaders failed us? We have a justice system that excuses criminal behavior and a penal system that has become a breeding ground for violence and gang activity.

Whatever the answer may be, it’s a puzzle. As far as solutions go, my own personal impression is that the violence has largely missed the elites of our society. As long as people below the elite level murder each other, as long as the elites do not find themselves the targets of random and mass violence they will continue to largely ignore the issue, appearing on television and uttering meaningless words after a mass shooting or an especially egregious murder.

Somehow, in America, we tend to look at the moment and at the situation. Broader ramifications seem beyond our comprehension.

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This past Saturday, we drove from Annapolis to Philadelphia to scout out Philly’s historic locations, snap a few photos, snack a little bit, and get sunburned a lot. And, we walked our buns off.

Philly’s primary historical landmarks are concentrated amid lots of tall buildings without historical significance at the moment, but though the historic area may be small in size, it seems larger when you just sort of meander around.

And that’s what we did. We meandered through the Liberty Bell exhibit, the Philadelphia Mint, and the final resting place of Benjamin Franklin and a host of other Colonial personalities instrumental in developing the Declaration of Independence and later the Constitution of the United States. The sense of history and of the times made our meandering worthwhile.

However, we weren’t able to tour Independence Hall. Tickets are required for entry, but by the time we arrived, the day’s ticket quota was gone. According to the National Park Service, tickets are used as a means of spreading the visitor flow throughout the day. Sounds reasonable to me, but I was irked nevertheless. I wanted to see where those Colonial firebrands stood and condemned the British to hell, a tradition that still lives when the subject of universal health care arises.

Interestingly, as we waited in a rather long line to enter the Liberty Bell exhibit, a group of people stood near the line and handed out pamphlets about the Falun Gong. This is a religious group whose members have been persecuted in China, and on this day, the group’s message and writings were aimed at those who in appearance were probably Asian. At least, they overlooked us and others who resembled us, probably assuming, and correctly so, that the number of non-Asians fluent in the Chinese language would range from nil to nada to zilch.

Before I reached a point of utter exhaustion, we decided to survey real history. With our trusty GPS activated, we headed cross-town to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where Rocky ran up about a million steps and then, at the top, gyrated around, finally assuming that triumphant pose now enshrined in a statue at the bottom of the steps.

We, along with a few thousand others in line, stood in front of the statue when out turn came, emulating Rocky’s pose for our own personal pictorial posterity. Like the fool I can sometimes be, I stumbled on the damned pedestal and almost fell, much to the delight of the smirking crowd. I didn’t blame them. Hell, I would have smirked, too. But I recovered nicely and pranced around with arms raised just like Sylvester Stallone did in 1976, 200 years after those rugged firebrands of 1776 may have pranced inside Independence Hall. I think George and Thomas would understand Rocky’s triumph if they were around today.

After the picture-taking session, we walked to the flight of concrete steps Rocky had enshrined in modern American cultural lore so many years ago. Four of us ran up them just as Rocky before us. One of us had better sense and sat down nearby, watching the other members of our party run up and then back down. One female member ran back up and down again, and I was surprised that she wasn’t winded in the slightest when she returned.

By now, the hours we had set aside for our sightseeing were about over. We headed back, taking a route through New Jersey and Delaware and onto US-301into Maryland. As we drove, I noted when we left one state and entered another and thought about the differences. Aside from the obvious—Welcome to Maryland, e.g.—are the people different? Do they look different? Do they speak different languages, New Jerseyese, for example? Do they think differently?

These are philosophical questions for another time. For the moment, suffice to say we had a good time and enjoyed learning a little bit about Philly. As my blogging cohort, Alexandra Jones, a native of Philly, might say, “Go Phillies!” In honor of her devotion to her team, I shouted those words as we passed the Phillies stadium on our way out of town.

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Sometime next week, if all goes as planned, I’ll file my first dispatch from Texas. I am leaving this Friday with my daughter to spend some time sorting out my life and thinking about my time with my beloved.

I’ll be in the extreme Southeast corner of Texas where nothing moves except alligators and oil tankers sliding imperceptibly along an Inland Waterway canal to unload their cargo of Middle Eastern oil at Texas refineries in and around Port Arthur.

I’ve been to PA and Nederland (pronounced Neederland) several times and for someone who has lived in exciting places like Petaluma CA, Southeast Texas may prove a challenge. I’ll probably spend a lot of time in WalMart and IHop, counting the cans of black-eyed peas per square foot and gorging on pancakes and maple syrup.

Then, if life really slows down, I may sit on the back porch and watch the squirrels scamper through pecan trees (that’s pronounced pee can, as in two words).

This may or may not sound humorous, but it’s my best effort at the moment to take my mind away from reality. Once I achieve some sort of emotional balance, then I’ll take on the task of deciding where I want to be on a more permanent basis.

Until that time rolls around, my posts may be erratic and speak of an instability that would make the the Twilight Zone appear as sane as the Bush White House.

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As a blogger who writes mainly but not entirely about politics, I do my level best to approach political topics with some degree of objectivity.

Naturally, complete objectivity isn’t possible. We all have our biases and they creep unnoticed into our writings. And then we are castigated by someone because we’ve lost our objectivity.

My own strategy for attaining an objective outlook is twofold. To begin with, I maintain a minimal amount of face contact with politician. In fact, I prefer not to meet them in person at all.

My experience has taught me that once we meet someone, our perspective of them is subtlety altered. If we like a person, we find ourselves having difficulty criticizing a decision or including cogent facts about him or her in an article.

The reverse is also a common occurrence. If we are put off by someone’s demeanor, we may, again, without conscious intent, easily criticize him or her and include irrelevant negative information about  them in our writings.

I often sum up this phenomenon by observing, “When we like someone, they can do no wrong. When we dislike someone, they can do no right.”

There are exceptions, of course. Some people are able to maintain a sense of objectivity even when analyzing the actions of someone they thoroughly dislike. My guess is that these disciplined people are few in number.

A second approach that I’ve found effective in handing my political biases is to pay as little attention as possible to the words of politicians and concentrate on the results of their actions.

Think about politicians as somewhat similar to poker players. Wiley players often portray themselves as winners by accident. They can’t explain their good fortune in taking your money regularly. Regardless of their explanation, however, they continue to clean your plate at every opportunity.

You might conclude, as I do, that they fully intend to empty your billfold and that their words are so much hot air.

Politicians should be regarded similarly, not as intending to take your money (not always, anyway). We should push their words aside and take a look at the effects of the laws they support or don’t support. Who wins and who loses will give us a better indication of intent than all of the words in a dictionary.

Richard Nixon may have said it best in an unguarded moment. “Don’t pay any attention to what I say. Watch what I do.”  Professional politicians are aware if this. That’s why they spend a great deal of time diverting attention with hot air.

But even when we look at results rather than listen to words, we may not be as objective as we wish. We can merely do our level best and let it go. I think an astronaut once remarked that perfection is unattainable. Excellence is the best we can hope for.

In my own personal case, I am satisfied knowing that I have done my level best to present objective opinions. However, I know the perils. The following anecdote may illustrate my point.

Once, as a young intern with a smart mouth, I grew so tired of the boss cautioning us about objectivity that I defined two of his favorite buzz words and jokingly circulated them to the staff in a memo.

Objectivity, I wrote, is when the boss objects to everything you do. Subjectivity is when everything you do is subject to criticism and change by the boss.

This is as true today as it was then. Presenting an objective front has always been one of the most difficult aspects of journalism…and of the ever-increasing role of bloggers in circulating the news.

Quick Wrapup Analysis: Occasionally, all I can think of to write about someone is, “You miserabe, rotten, no-good son of a bitch.” It’s may be  wrong but it feels so right.

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I hereby swear or affirm as the case may be that I’ve been neglecting my Bay Area blog in favor of Open Salon. Even so, I do keep up with the news. I am aware, for example, that Missus Mayorette is with child. I fully expect the Three Wise Men, bearing gifts of gold and myrrh and frankincense, to appear on the steps of City Hall at any moment. When that happens, I’ll think about the glorious event and all of its potential ramifications. ‘Til then, other matters in life are higher up on my list.

Such as the state’s financial crisis and the fact that Arnie has declared that he will accept money from Barack’s stimulus package. That’s a good little Repug, Arnie. Your alignment with the left on this issue clearly sets your apart from the governors of several Neo-Confederate states, such as Haley Barber of Mississippi, who originally said that he wouldn’t accept any of the tainted dollars but who has since parsed his stand and acknowledges that he may accept “some” of the money. Even Rick Perry, the Tejas governer, now admits that he (may) (might) (probably will) (will) relent. At least Arnie had the guts to come just right out and say it like a man. To paraphrase a saying I heard once, “He may be a Republican, but he’s our Republican.”

And I’m also thinking about the governor’s race in 2010. I really haven’t cataloged all of the contenders yet, run them through my purification chamber, and cranked out the name of the winner, but I’ll get around to it.

In the meantime, I continue to write totally irrelevant gobbleydegood for Open Saloon…whoops…Salon and endure the rificule of its stable of professional writers and general, all-round, journeyman-level assholes. If any of you bloggers revel in humiliation, create a fake identity and head for Open Saloon, er, Salon.

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