The Blue Raccoon

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Blue Raccoon's Spring Awakening

Amie took this dogwood-dappled image of me standing at Robinson Street and Monument Avenue on Easter Sunday, while the Monument Avenue Easter Parade drifted along around us.

This is us kicking up our hills and swinging at one of the venues we visited; Carol Piersol did us the honor.

I wrote a bit about the experience on the three-days-a-week blog The Hat which I write for Richmond magazine, the publication that keeps me gainfully employed.

In a parallel development, my postings at this space have dwindled off in the past several months. My desire is to develop a weekly habit much is like what I'm doing on the Other Network -- perhaps every other day, say -- except that I'm not sure there's enough of my creative self or general life experience to spread all that around.

All Up In The Facebook

Another wrinkle in my creative/writing/social existence is....Facebook. Along with e-mail, this utility is threaded/snake coiled into my life these days and I find it helpful to my work and general communication. I'm still figuring out exactly the best way to utilize the service but in terms of alerting people to when I'm going to be at such a such place doing this or that, in particular when it's book related, there's not been such an acute means of self-promotion to a niche market. When I think back to the Lubricat Theatre's Mutation Project of 2003, which creatively considered the issue of globalization, in reference to Facebook, the effort now seems both prescient and almost antique. 

Suffice to say, I've been busy on several fronts; the Flogging The Book side, the General Domestic Tranquility Side and the Takin' What Their Givin' 'Cuz I'm Workin' For A Livin' Side.


On the Ragtime business, I've participated in readings and signings, with more to come, and I generally enjoy myself and sell a few books. I'm giving a bus tour through the Valentine Richmond History Center -- based on the book -- in June. I also did one for Valentine's Day, ostensibly about "Richmond Romance" but it was a bit more on the darker side, with duels, Poe's amours, Patrick Henry and his first wife who went crazy and so forth.

I'm in a trough between my own creative projects at the moment. I'm not on a big deadline and so confess to a certain listlessness and a need to get back into the ring, though working on fiction right now seems more a flight-of-fancy escape than it ever has.

Giving observations on world events strikes me as not just vain in the egotistical sense, but futile in the "as if anybody could care" sense. With so many bloggists out here typing madly away in the assurance that if only somebody would listen to them then this financial crisis would be all straightened out, what on earth could a lone Kollatz accomplish?

POTUS BHO And His Discontents

But, I want to at least make this observation. The POTUS BHO is just shy of 100 days in office. The bloviators of Left and Right blather about his taking on too much, not doing enough, or just trying to shove as much through as he can while he owns a great quantity of political capital. In short, they are accusing him of being.... a politician. How many in either the general public or the media thought he'd be....what? Something else? Being a politician is not an immediate mark against one's character. There are levels and gradations. 

I watch CSPAN quite a bit and it seems those who align themselves with the right can just mutter about how he reads from the prompter, that he's out of his depth, that he's just a tax-and-spend liberal, that he's socialist or a communist or a fascist, most of them prating on about this without any knowledge of what they're talking about. There's this snide tone, calling him a Jimmy Carter one-termer and a weakling and everything else.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to watch Alexandra Pelosi's Right America: Feeling Wronged and getting the feeling of having fallen through Alice's mirror. The most normal-appearing ordinary subject, who speaks in simple declarative statements, comes off sounding unhinged and divorced from reality. The Pillsbury doughboy of a guy with a tongue stud and a T-shirt emblazoned by, "Say No To Socilism" and when Pelosi notifies him he's not only spelled socialism wrong, but then he has to Google the definition to explain what it means.

Even when in Mississippi, when a truck driver at an Oxford, Miss. service station says he's not voting for a n*gger, then two black men shake their fingers at Pelosi and declare, 'Shame on you Miss Liberal movie maker, you come down to Mississippi just so you can get somebody to say the word, 'n*gger." I mean, Christopher Guest couldn't come up with this stuff.

Some of those who ended up at the business end of Pelosi's camera have been traumatized by life experiences; through job loss, family members to war or disease -- but we don't really hear about that in her acc0unting. These ideas lodge in heads for reasons -- they may not be logical, but they do accrue somehow.

Critics called Right America "drive by journalism" but is this to deny that these people aren't out there, and seething, and some less quietly than others, about how their concept of the country has veered way out of their particular comprehension? 

Some 58 million people did not vote for the president. Pelosi may have felt confident she was covering the losers, but I for one didn't believe that McCain wouldn't become president until I was standing amid jubilant throngs at Laurel and Franklin streets spontaneously cheering Obama's name. I really didn't assume this election result possible, and I swear, I look and listen to him and after all that's come before, still find the circumstance refreshing and astounding. But I find more that we disagree on. 

He's done things about which I'm not comfortable; such as upholding rendition and not allowing telecoms to be sued for domestic spying. The appointment of cabinet level positions to people who haven't paid their taxes, the rescue of the banks, the punishing of the automakers, the entrenchment of an endless, Vietnam-esque conflict in Afghanistan, the continued support of the "War on Drugs," and lately, though previously classified torture-related documents were released, prosecution of the perpetrators isn't likely. All these things just don't make any sense to me.

I am heartened by his support of environmental and alternative fuels regulations including high speed rail, the SCHIP, and stem cells, and the release of Bush era documents. But, as POTUS might put it, let me be clear -- it's been not even 100 days, and he got dropped in his lap the biggest pile of steaming scheit the likes of which few presidents outside of FDR have received. 

I've said in this space before that I'm not a huge partisan of the two-party-system. I think it's ridiculous, and that our nation is big enough to handle three or four however-many political parties, and that we should have as wide a choice as possible. The unimaginable cost of running for office, the hamstringing compromises that must be made on the way up, the gerrymandered regulations that make third or other parties getting on the ballot almost impossible, the fogging over of ideals for opportunism, are all atrocious and of grievous result to the republic. That said, I think we have perhaps the best man for the job; but not a perfect one, nor stainless or sinless. You don't get to be POTUS through saintliness.

Readin' and Writin' 

I watch too much MSNBC, and need to just get off the TV diet, anyway. I'm reading several books, one of which is Robert Massie's huge history Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War. The other is Tom DeHaven's novel Funny Papers. Thus I've read his Derby Dugan trilogy in reverse.

Meanwhile, my colleague ink-stained wretches are going through a challenging, wrenching period. Almost every day comes news of newspapers closing, moving operations online and widespread layoffs. Last week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch let go more than 50 of its staff, including the loved/hated movie critic Dan Neman.

Will the T-D go the way of the Detroit Free-Press which recently went to delivering the paper to subscribers just three times a week? The Richmond paper's parent company, Media General, purchased the online and what will become of that isn't quite clear.

Mike McGrail explained inner meaning of the imploding news business this way, back in November, at Checkmate: a beaupre blog.

"Newspaper reporting, for all its oft-mentioned flaws, is the photosynthesis of the news ecosystem; it feeds everything above it. Broadcast and cable follow up newspaper articles with their own reports, bringing the news to a broader audience. Bloggers comment and contribute their own knowledge, correcting and expanding on stories that they would probably have missed if they hadn’t read it in a newspaper. The news ecosystem will not collapse without newspapers, but there’s no way it will uncover important new stories at the pace it does now. That’s not good for society. Fear of exposure is a powerful motivator for governments, businesses and individual to mind their manners. Newspapers have historically done most of the watching and scolding."

OK Computer

Finally, in my technological life, though I've been blogging more-or-less, off-and-on under the Blue Raccoon marquee for several years now, I still don't like the way the blog feels or looks. I've contemplated, not over seriously, altering the look or changing the lay out. My ignorance of this medium remains, well, significant. If I am to renew my blogging commitment, as it were, I need to work on all this. 

But any of this must occur through the eMac which has served me so long is these days making ball bearing grinding noises that seem to indicate an internal mechanical problem. And that needs to be rectified, else this blogging business will become moot, and the billion-eyed audience will be thus deprived. The world may not need another blog, but of course, it cannot stand one less. 

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