Saturday, August 16, 2014

As I begin my tenth year of blogging liberally and locally and snarkily...

Not sure why, but old friends are finding me via my blog. Maybe my analytics are peaking after nine years on Blogger. My first couple years in the blogosphere were spent trying to figure out what to write about 3-4 times per week. I called it "hummingbirdminds" after a quote in Wired magazine from hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson. Nelson was asked about his severe case of Attention Deficit  Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He said that people with ADHD have "hummingbird minds." That seemed to fit. My wife and I raised a son with ADHD and we got to see a hummingbird mind up close and personal. His attention could flit to more places in five minutes than mine did in a day.

At first, I thought I would blog about ADHD. I was working on a book based on our experiences with our son. I figured that I would put excerpts up on the blog, editors and publishers would discover me, and soon I would be dreaming of ways to spend my five-figure book advance. That didn't happen, mainly because  my own short attention span wandered off-topic and I began writing about writing, politics, life in Wyoming and other fascinating topics. Much to my chagrin, I was not a one-topic blogger like some of my more successful friends on the blogosphere. A romance novelist. A knitter. A diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan. A high-altitude gardener. All were making hay online, especially the gardener. Their blogs engendered readers and comments and numbers. My posts earned a smattering of visits and an occasional comment. 

Leading up to the 2008 elections, I began focusing on politics. As my blog's subhead says: "Blogging Liberally and Locally in Wyoming." The "blogging liberally" term I borrowed from Drinking Liberally, a great idea and a great site. "Locally," of course, I got from the local movement that has been sweeping the country and making a big difference in our politics and in business. I try to act locally and shop locally. 

My political blogging earned me a trip to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, a scholarship to Netroots Nation 2011 in Minneapolis and a mention as Wyoming's top state liberal blog by Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post's "The Fix" blog. Good experiences. Good times. 

What's next? More politics. More wise-ass comments. I plan to self-publish another book of short stories by the end of the year -- beware of marketing posts about my book as self-publishing means self-promotion and lots of it. When I first began to blog, I heard that shameless self-promotion on your blog was gauche. It just wasn't done. Then along came social media and self-promotion became the rule rather than the exception. It's as American as apple pie. So I will post snippets of my work and even stage a book giveaway or two. 

But I won't totally leave off of politics. I'd be afraid that my old conservative friends wouldn't find me online. There is nothing like old friends....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Who out-crazied who -- or whom -- in last night's Wyoming gubernatorial debate?

I was pleased to see 40-some people last night at Music & Poetry at Metro Coffee Company in downtown Casper. They had so many other choices: Sharknado II reruns, bicycling, drinking, canoodlling, riding the rapids on the North Platte, napping, The Internet, etc. Perhaps the biggest conflict took place last night in Riverton, where the three Republican gubernatorial candidates were duking it out. The debate was aired on Wyoming Public Radio.
I listened to none of the debate.  I was preparing my work to be read aloud in public. And we had a fine time right there at Metro, with Chad Lore performing his own humorous songs and then cutting loose with with some Dylan and a rollicking version of "St. James Infirmary Blues."
According to WyPols, two of the three Repub Gub candidates did their best to out-crazy one another. Who won?  
So who out-crazied who in this debate? It’s tough to call a winner, because both Haynes and Hill both worked so hard for the title. But our money is on the superintendent, if only for this nonsensical answer she gave about whether she would ever support same-sex marriage: 
“Marriage is between a man and a woman, period. We have sisters and brothers, moms and dads, and aunts and uncles, and sons and daughters, and we all have to work together and live together, and it’s critical. Marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Sunday, August 10, 2014

See you at the Music & Poetry Series in Casper Monday night

Each summer, ARTCORE in Casper sponsors the Music & Poetry Series. It features a performance by a musician or music group and a reading/performance by a poet or prose writer. On Monday, Aug. 11, at 7:30 p.m., at Metro Coffee Company, 241 S. David, the series features Chad Lore on guitar and vocals and me as the prose writer. Usually, the musician takes turns with the writer -- 20 minutes of deathless prose followed by 20 minutes of fine music. Intermission for caffeinated beverages. Then 20 more minutes or prose and the warm summer night wraps up with music, as it should.

Get a preview of Chad's music by going here and here. You can preview my writing by reading many years worth of blogging on this site. That consists mainly of snatches of memoir and humor interspersed with liberal political musings. I rarely include fiction on my blog because I still am skittish about publishing my work online before it is published in book form. I published my first book of short stories with a small publisher and, for the past two years, I have been pitching my second book to small and medium-sized publishers with no success. Short stories are not always welcome fare at the offices of publishers. I sit down to chat with industry professionals at writing conferences to discuss my work. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: "I write short stories."

Publisher gives me a look usually reserved for poets, English majors and plague victims -- a combination of pity and boredom. Their response usually is this: "We don't do short stories" or "Short short collections don't sell."

Me: "Oh."

Publisher: "Do you have a novel?"

Me (lying): "Yes."

Publisher smiles: "Send me a synopsis and a couple of chapters."

I don't. I could, I suppose, as I have several novel manuscripts propping open doors and serving as foot rests. But they are ancient history, written when I was learning how to write and then abandoned for other projects. I don't even have electronic versions, as they were written on ancient mechanical devices, such as the Smith-Corona portable typewriter and the first of many electronic typewriter/word processors. I could scan them and then proof them with my eagle-eyed editing. But I'd rather write.

What will I bee reading Monday night? Come to Metro Coffee and find out. It will be short, as in short story. If you see me carrying in a huge manuscript, don't worry -- I like to put my feet up while listening to music.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Sunday round-up: Retirements, departures and Sturgis season

Rita Basom, my colleague for the past 23 years, retired on Friday. We enjoyed a gala week of farewell lunches, a smashing retirement party and an art gallery reception. I will miss her. Funny how well you get to know someone when you work and travel with them 40 hours a week over the course of two-plus decades. Enjoy your retirement, Rita. See you at the theatre.

Javier Gamboa, communications guy for the Wyoming Democratic Party, is leaving Cheyenne for Austin, Texas. He's the new social media guru for the Texas Democrats. Javier's been a dynamo for the WyoDems and we wish him well in at his new job. A farewell party for Javier is being held on Friday, Aug. 8. Go here for more details.

As I write this evening, I hear Harleys roaring north to Sturgis. The sounds if Harleys remind me of my late brother Dan, who had a lifetime love of motorcycles. My only trip to Sturgis was six years ago when I drove up to meet Dan and our old friend Blake. They drove from Florida to South Dakota in a camper hauling their bikes. Dan invited me to ride as his bitch on the back of his bike, which I readily accepted, knowing that I may not be a bitch but I was pretty bitchin', even in my advancing state of aging. We rode around Sturgis, gawked at motorcycles and motorcyclists. I came out of a vendor's tent to find myself walking behind a young woman whose very tanned behind was visible out of a pair of backless leather chaps. It was hot out, so I'm sure she was thankful for the breeze. We drank a bit of beer that day. Dan paced himself as the designated driver. I witnessed my first belly shot at One-Eyed Jacks Saloon. It gave new meaning to "belly up to the bar." I miss you, Dan! You can read my posts from Sturgis 2008 here and here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Wyoming Democrats respond

The Wyoming Democratic Party is fighting back in a timely manner, which I appreciate.

We are outnumbered by Republicans. That is true and will remain true in the foreseeable future. But that doesn't mean we should be relegated to a position of Repub Lite.

Dem Party Chief Robin Van Ausdall was on the front of Friday's Wyoming Tribune-Eagle urging Dems not to cross over in the Aug. 19 primary and vote for one-time moderate Gov. Matt Mead in his race vs. Tea Party loony Taylor Haynes and partially dismissed Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.

How did crossing over work for us in 2010?

WyoDems' communications director Javier Gamboa (right) with fellow Dems at Cheyenne Day house party (from left): Rep. Mary Throne, Senate District 9 candidate Dameione Cameron and activist Chris Shay. A good time was had by all, Dems, Repubs, Indies and even those who don't give a damn and just want to stomp and holler.

Taylor Haynes was all over social media on Friday slamming the Dream Act and Obama's immigration policy. Haynes doesn't like those nogoodnik immigrants. So Wyoming Democratic Party Communications Director Javier Gamboa wrote a response which I would share with you here except that my cut-and-paste tool is not working. This always saves me a lot of work actually writing my own stuff. But go to this link and read Javier's response:

It's not easy being a Democrat in this very red state. But it begins to lose all meaning when, lacking our own candidates, we throw our weight (what there is of it) behind the most moderate Republican. Problem is, a so-called moderate Republican governor has to deal with a legislature increasingly composed of extremist conservatives. Lots of reasons for this, including decades of gerrymandering by Republicans. But the moderates, such as Cale Case from Fremont County, are leaving. Those who remain are being pulled further to the right. At least two rural social-issue moderates have died in the past year: Rep. Sue Wallis of Campbell County and Sen John Schiffer of Johnson County. Wallis was replaced by a right-winger who once wrote that people with AIDS should be rounded up and put in concentration camps.

I've never crossed over. It can be a useful tool but what's the point? I already know a number of Democrats who register as Republicans just so they have someone to vote for in the primary. That skews the number of registered Democrats. And those people tend to not get involved in progressive politics, some because they're afraid of losing their jobs and others because they have their own businesses and fear that being a visible D in an R world would kill the bottom line. We have to live in the real world. Wyoming, for the most part, may be a tolerant place, but that tolerance only goes so far. I've never been shot at or beat up walking neighborhoods for Dem candidates. But if looks could kill? I'd be dead a thousand times over.

I'm glad that the Democratic Party continues to speak up long and loud. Being visible is a form of resistance against the status quo. It's sad to think that we live in a place where just registering and voting as a Democrat can be a radical act.

Monday, July 21, 2014

James M. Cain: "The world's great literature is peopled by thorough-going heels"

James M. Cain was a member of the California school of hard-boiled fiction in the 1930s and 1940s. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler were his contemporaries. But while Hammett and Chandler explored the world through private eyes, Cain looked at it from the P.O.V. of a working class woman called Mildred Pierce with a viper for a daughter, and a bored roadhouse wife who lures a poor sap into killing her husband. Cain found drama in the lives of regular folks.

Maybe that's why he likes short stories. He wrote the intro to For Men Only, a book of stories by (mostly) men and for men fighting in World War II. This is part of World Publishing's "Books in Wartime" series, thinner and smaller books in service to the war effort. The 70-year-old volume did its job admirably, only now coming aparts at the seams. It has a handwritten inscription on the inside cover: "Bill -- Xmas Greetings 1945 -- Peg-o." Peg-o had nice handwriting. Wonder where she and Bill are now? Did they get hitched, or was this just a literary wartime fling?

In the intro to the anthology, Cain praised the short story.
In one respect, not usually noted, it is greatly superior to the novel, or at any rate the American novel. It is one type of fiction that need not, to please the American taste, deal with heroes.Our national curse, if so perfect a land can have such a thing, is the "sympathetic" character.
Cain's main characters were not sympathetic. And when I think of memorable short stories, it's not "sympathetic" characters that stand out but ones rife with human foibles. Think of the misfit and the grandmother in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Raymond Carver's stories are populated with an assortment of deluded humans, such as the fishing buddies in "So Much Water so Close to Home." Annie Proulx's Wyoming stories are filled with the most arresting array of barflies and cowboys and real estate speculators. You don't want to hug a one. In my story "Roadkill," a World War II veteran is faced with a moral choice that may change his life for the good -- or it may not.

Cain concludes his intro:
The world's great literature is peopled by thorough-going heels, and in this book you will find a beautiful bevy of them, with scarce a character among them you would let in the front door. I hope you like them. I think they are swell.
I do. And they are.