ConvergeSouth 2006
October 14, 2006
Greensboro, North Carolina


"If you're going to go to a place and you don't reach out - you know, any politician or business - if you don't look at your market and say, what are they interested in, what are they talking about already, then you're not going to do a very good job of selling your product or your candidate."

"Basically every place I go, I try to make certain that I'm meeting with people there.  I know there's a lot of suspicion about trying to win over a particular blogger to be a voice for you.  I actually have more respect for you than that.  I figure you can make your own decisions.  But if I know what you're thinking about and I'm not talking about it... maybe I should."

"It is enormously important that we maintain the neutrality of the net.  The great thing about the internet is the fact that nobody has a megaphone.  The bad thing about politics is that some people do have a megaphone.  And the very idea that we want to recreate that on the internet is - you know, you should use whatever you've got in your arsenal against it.  And I think this crosses political lines.  None of us are going to be able to compete with the commercial interests in terms of getting access... we absolutely can't allow it to happen.  We have this pure vehicle right now."

"[The campaign website] is a website where we try to use as many resources as we know, as many ways to build a community as we know.  And we try to translate that community not just into the conversations that take place and the bonds that take place - and they honestly do, it's incredible to me the warmth that that community has with one another... I thought you wouldn't be able to recreate that in a political atmosphere.  Actually, it turns out you can create it anywhere where people share ideas." 

"This is true in politics and it's true in the online community of politics:  you try to create movement and momentum that makes people feel good enough to go out and act.  And it's a real problem to do that because you have to admit the diversity of people who are out there participating... you try to direct it as best you can into the things that we share.  And try, on the other parts, to say, we're going to disagree on these things, but look, we can act on this.  So you can use that commonality to help the community grow.  I think it's a model not just for the online community, and not just for a particular politician -- it's a model for the country.  We need to find the things we agree on, and move on those first, so that we don't get so divided from one another."


"I was soon overwhelmed by the sea of support, or perhaps more literally by the lines cast me when I was still at sea and still coming to terms with what breast cancer might mean to me, to John, and most of all to my children. Five of the many boxes of letters sit across from my desk right now, and every card, note, every line, photograph, drawing, ribbon, and letter, mattered deeply to me and matters still. My gratitude goes to everyone for their tenderness, advice, encouragement, humor, honesty, courage, tears, recipes, and love, and also for the generosity they showed in understanding how right it can sometimes be to be touched by the hand of a stranger."

"In the package from Christine was a scarf. I've gotten lots of beautiful scarves, and this is certainly a beautiful scarf, but more wonderful is the story of the scarf. Christine had taken it with her on tour, and she had asked women in her audiences to work on it, to make a little knot tie or knit a little. John and I had seen her sing at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro once, and as I read her letter, I imagined that scarf making its way through an audience like that Carrboro audience. This scarf was everything I believed in. It was a gesture - not a difficult gesture, but a thoughtful one. It was the counterpart to including the bag boy in the conversation. It was remembering to say hello to the child, not just the adult. It was thanking the referee after the game. It was pulling people in because you believe in the grace a community gives each of us. Anyone who thought to do it, to reach out to others and bring them into this gesture, could have done it, but too few know the blessings a simple gesture actually brings. This scarf is Christine's gift at the same time that it is the gift of all those women whose names I'll never know. And it is, also at the same time, something in which I can literally wrap myself and something in which I can figuratively wrap myself, this huge community of people - spread out among the towns she toured - people who were pulling for me and who believed in the strength of that tiny knot they tied."

"It has been easier to do all these things not simply because of my splendid family, not simply because of the Hargraves and Glenns and Sallys in my life, but because everywhere I go, people smile back at me. I am stronger because John Moylan and Ed Smith give me a hug when they see me, but I am also stronger because Edward the mailman smiles, and Sam the bagger at the grocery store smiles. So what this book is, after all, is a shout from up on the tightrope: thank you all. Like the letter my father received forty years later from the crewman aboard the Mercator he flew safely home over the Sea of Japan. I've had a good life, and I just want to thank you for it."

"The note I wrote to Wade that I placed in his casket said only You know. And it is the note I send to each of you who helped me and touched me and laughed with me or cried, who climbed or fell with me. You know."

-- Elizabeth Edwards, Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers


May you rest in peace, Elizabeth Edwards.


"When this man swears in on Lincoln's Bible, he proves that America exists."
-- Bono, January 17, 2009


"We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short, and the work to be done too great, to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land.

Of course we cannot banish it with a program nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, even if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers and sisters; that they share this same short moment of life; that they seek, as we do, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common good, can begin to teach us something. Surely we can learn at least to look at those around us as fellow men and fellow women.

Surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us, and to become in our hearts countrymen once again."

-- Robert F. Kennedy

City Club of Cleveland, April 5, 1968
(the day after the assassination of Dr. King)

(as quoted by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on C-Span's American Perspectives).



The Story of Orson

Devon and I were rarely where we were supposed to be. He herded sheep the way he herded school buses - forcefully, impulsively, explosively. At least the sheep could run.

This role-playing was not the sort of thing either of us was especially good at. I was allergic to being lectured to, had hated just about every class and teacher I'd ever had, and the favor had been returned. Poor Mr. Hauser actually wept in front of my mother when I had to take his math class for the third time. Neither of us could bear the idea of going another round. Authority issues continued to plague me through my adult life. One reason that being a writer suited me was that most of the time the only jerk I had to put up with was me.

Devon had similar issues with commands and obedience. Training seemed to either upset or excite him, and learning to herd sheep seemed unlikely to be an exception.

"You are a ewe," Carolyn told me, pointing to an O on her diagram, and placing one of her tiny white plastic sheep along a toy fence. "You will stand over here and wait to be approached by a dog," she said, gesturing to an eighty-year-old woman in a sun hat holding a terrified sheltie on a leash.

Everybody else seemed willing, even enthusiastic, about acting out these herding moves. But I didn't want to be a ewe. Devon looked up at me curiously; I knew there was no way he was going to do this, either.

In fact, he suddenly charged after the sheltie, chasing him under Carolyn's truck. I pulled him back, made him lie down, and he settled to watch the proceedings.

As Carolyn passed by, dispensing instructions, I whispered - hoping to avoid a scene - that I didn't want to be a ewe, or to play this game. Carolyn did not suffer fools or rebels gladly. "I don't care what you want," she muttered. "Do it. It will be good for you."

I couldn't. No better at being submissive than this strange dog I now owned, I told Carolyn this wasn't the right class for me. Devon and I retreated to our room (Carolyn's Raspberry Ridge Farm is a bed-and-breakfast as well as a training center) to brood. I put Devon in his crate and lay down on the bed. Outside the window, I could hear the "dogs" and "sheep" going through their exercises as Carolyn offered suggestions and critiqued the proceedings.

Much as I often wished for a more pliant dog, I also wished I were a more compliant human. Life would be smoother.

from A Good Dog: The Story of Orson, Who Changed My Life by Jon Katz


Nothing finer (Converge memories)

Remember last week, when there was so much love? (sigh)


Ghost Town Reincarnated

Go ahead, make my day: Ghost Town in the Sky is coming back.

After 42 years as the anchor of Maggie Valley's tourism economy, Ghost Town shut down in 2003. Its last season was plagued by chair lift failures that left passengers stranded for hours, and owner R.B. Coburn, now 87, was ready to sell and retire to Florida.

It took a few years to work out the details, but it seems the sale of Ghost Town has gone exactly the way Maggie Valley folks would have scripted it. Allen and Carol Harper, owners of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City and Dillsboro, bought the park with other partners. Last week they announced plans to reopen it with many of the same Wild West attractions as the original. (A new chair lift and incline railway to the 4,000 ft. mountaintop theme park are also in the works.)

This is good news for Maggie Valley residents, over 200 of whom relied on the park for seasonal employment. At one time, Ghost Town brought something on the order of 400,000 visitors through its turnstiles in a season.

"I think it's a perfect marriage. These are the people we wanted to see get Ghost Town," said Brenda O'Keefe, owner of Joey's Pancake House (ed. note: home of the best pancakes in North Carolina.)

Ghost Town is magical nostalgia from summer vacations in the Smokies. It's a cultural-historical treasure trove, as well. Peggy Manning, who worked as a can-can dancer at Ghost Town from 1963 until 1968, recently recalled some of this history for The Waynesville Mountaineer:

In the early years, Coburn paid popular actors to make appearances at Ghost Town and Six Gun Territory and sign autographs. Child actors, like Jon Provost, "Timmy" on the "Lassie" television show, were usually paid $500 a week plus living expenses for them and their families. Adult actors, like Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on "Bonanza," were paid about $5,000 for two days' work.

Among the actors and actresses who appeared at Ghost Town during the 1960s were Tony Dow, who played Wally on "Leave it to Beaver;" Darby Hinton, who played Israel Boone on "Daniel Boone;" Angela Cartwright, who played Penny on "Lost in Space" and later had lead roles in several movies; Patty Petersen of the "Donna Reed Show;" Richie Petrie of the "Dick Van Dyke Show;" Paul O'Keefe of the "Patty Duke Show;" and Ken Weatherwax, who played Pugsly on "The Adams Family."

Coburn's children, David, Jeannie and Kathy, became big buddies with the young actors, who stayed in A-frame chalets built atop Ghost Mountain. Overnight camping trips to Cataloochee were common, with some of the cowboys and can-can dancers joining them. Horses that offered rides around the park could be rented overnight for the camping trips.

In addition to Dan Blocker, other adult actors who made appearances at Ghost Town were Burt Reynolds, Clint Walker of "Daniel Boone" fame; Charlie Wooster of "Wagon Train;" Irene Ryan, who played Granny on "The Beverly Hillbillies;" Peter Brown from "Laramie;" Will Stockdale of "No Time for Sergeants" and Randy Boone from "The Virginian."

Manning also said that a movie called "Ghost Town" is slated to start filming on the property in October.

Somewhere in a box I still have the faux newspaper my Dad bought for me at Ghost Town, proclaiming that I had won a gunfight there. In the simple economy of kid-dom, it was one of my most prized possessions for years.

I think I'll have it framed.


9/11 Comics

I just added the graphic novel treatment of the 9/11 Commission Report to my Amazon wish list. I've read the actual Report cover to cover, so buying Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon's graphic version isn't cheating.

Jacobson is former editor in chief for Harvey Comics, and the creator of Richie Rich. Colon is a comic artist who worked on the Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, and the Flash, among others, for Harvey, Marvel, and DC Comics. Their book is titled "The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation."

In her article about the book in the Washington Post last month, Bravetta Hassell posed this question:

"Can a topic as massive and sobering as Sept. 11 be dealt with effectively in the pages of a comic book?"

I'm raising my hand, because I already know the answer: YES.

In early 2002, I bought these two graphic novels at Acme Comics in Greensboro. I read them straight through later that day, and have opened them back up countless times in the nearly 5 years since Sept. 11, 2001. They're an incredible time capsule of emotion and uncertainty, the mood of America in the early aftermath of 9/11.

Even cooler, then-Greensboro resident and artist Rob Ullman contributed to "9/11 Emergency Relief." Rob is a former co-worker of mine - a talented artist, huge hockey fan and all-around extremely nice guy. He now lives in Richmond. You can find his stuff here.

The proceeds from these comics went to the Red Cross and to families of the victims of September 11th. I still need to buy Volume 2. (Volume 1 is here.)

I have high expectations and high hopes for Jacobson and Colon's graphic version of the 9/11 Commission Report. Here are some pages from the 2002 books, which help explain why.


Pastrana Pulls It Off

UPDATE: See it here.

Only six years after the first motocross backflip in competition, Travis Pastrana just - as in, a few minutes ago - performed a double backflip in the X Games at the Staples Center in L.A., winning Moto X Best Trick and the adoration of adrenaline junkies everywhere.

"It's not the Mountain Dew trick of the day... it's the Mountain Dew Trick of the Millenium!" gushed rabidly excited ESPN announcer Sal Masakela. "This is the greatest moment that I've ever witnessed in the history of X Games!"

And it's only Night 2.

After he crashed on a backflip attempt in the 2nd elimination round of the 2000 X Games, Travis' mother, Debby Pastrana, said he was "grounded for life." (He was 16 at the time.) She was in the stands tonight when he pulled off the double, and was down in the pit hugging his neck afterwards. The ESPN cameras caught him saying to her, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Mom. Thank you for supporting me." After the hug, she looked up at the roof of the arena and said, "Thank you God."

Said his father Robert in 2001, when Travis suffered a concussion and his future in the sport seemed uncertain:

Every time Travis pulls up to a pro starting line I get gut-wrenching pains in my lower chest and a desire to get my son as far away from this sport as possible.

My son is only 17, but he is a seasoned warrior. When I was Travis' age I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Because I was only 17, my parents had to sign for me. It was 1967 and Vietnam was in full swing. My dad called me a "damn fool" and my mom cried, but they both signed.

My money says Travis will make the call - I'll call him a damn fool and his mom will cry, and he will go on to take his place among those motocross legends who never let pain or common sense ruin a perfectly good Sunday.

How hard is a double backflip? Watch some of Travis' early attempts. Or watch Mike Metzger do a single flip over the fountains at Caesar's Palace.

That's the same jump, minus the backflip, that made Evel Knievel famous in 1968 -- and landed him in the hospital in a coma. His son Robbie duplicated the jump in 1989 with better results.

Wherever the Knievels are tonight, they're high-fiving Pastrana for sure.



For what problem is this the solution?


Duck Duck Dog

You're minding your business, enjoying the fresh country air, and a single parent household of ducks walks up and starts nibbling your toes, obviously famished. What do you do?

You share your apple cinnamon Nutri-Grain bar with them, of course -- even though you suspect the owner of the pond frowns on feeding the ducks.

Don't count on the ducks to keep the secret, though. (Note telltale beak crumbs.) AFLAC!

In other animal news, dogs are still crazy cute.

In that order.


Doggie Days

It's good to be the dog.


Legend of the White Deer

Have you seen one of these at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park?

I have. In fact, I've seen her twice. Both times, as her normally-pigmented companion skittered off into the woods, she has stopped and turned to watch me, as if giving me the chance to confirm that I was really seeing her.

No, that's not my picture. That beautiful creature lives at the old Seneca Army Depot in New York State, where she and others like her are the focus of a preservation and ecotourism initiative.

My picture is more a typical result for someone who was driving down Old Battleground Road at an obscenely late hour, fumbling for a camera and snapping a quiet shot without making any sudden movements.

This is it.

I know, I know. That could be an azalea bush for all you can tell. I put a highlight box around her, and her green-glowing eyes give her away, but you're just going to have to take my word on this: twice, I've been within 30-40 feet of a white deer, with whom I shared several long moments of inquisitive awe. The second time I didn't even have a camera with me, and she was yet closer and stayed still longer.

I believe in signs. I believe the universe rewards those who pay close attention. I believe the white deer in Battleground Park who crossed my path twice in a month has something to say. I don't yet know what it is.

I'm very familiar with the Native American lore surrounding the white buffalo calf, and remember the celebrations twelve years ago when one was born on a farm in Wisconsin. "Miracle" was said to be the first white buffalo calf born since 1933.

The birth of a white buffalo calf is seen by the Native Americans as the most significant of prophetic signs, equivalent to the weeping statues, bleeding icons, and crosses of light that are becoming prevalent within the Christian churches. Just as the Christian faithful who attend these signs see them as a renewal of God's ongoing relationship with humanity, so do the Native Americans see the white buffalo calf as a sign to begin to mend life's sacred hoop.

There is a Chickasaw legend about white deer. It's no less enchanting than the white buffalo calf lore, but decidedly less... important.

This legend has some bizarre anglocentric tie-in to Virginia Dare.

This one, attributed to the Seneca, is hardly uplifting, but I like the thought that these animals are representatives from the spirit world.

This story, credited to the Lenape people, is my favorite. It involves a transcendent stare-down between awestruck humans and a seemingly fearless white deer.

That's very much how it happened on Old Battleground Road in March.

I hope you liked the story, Joel.


Last year, a white buffalo calf named Medicine Wheel was born to a rancher of Lakota ancestry on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota.

It was the 9th white buffalo calf born since Miracle in 1994.

"These are omens, and they are happening in the most unexpected place among the poorest people in the country. They are good omens, if we pay attention to them. For us, this would be something like coming to see Jesus lying in the manger."

-- Floyd Hand Looks For Buffalo, Oglala medicine man

Joseph Chasing Horse, traditional leader of the Lakota nation, explains that 2,000 years ago a young woman who first appeared in the shape of a white buffalo gave the Lakota's ancestors a sacred pipe and sacred ceremonies and made them guardians of the Black Hills. Before leaving, she also prophesied that one day she would return to purify the world, bringing back spiritual balance and harmony; the birth of a white buffalo calf would be a sign that her return was at hand.

"Mention that we are praying, many of the medicine people, the spiritual leaders, the elders, are praying for the world," says Joseph Chasing Horse. "We are praying that mankind does wake up and think about the future, for we haven't just inherited this earth from our ancestors, but we are borrowing it from our unborn children."

Source: "The White Buffalo"



Flying into Orlando usually involves this beautiful view of the Atlantic coast, somewhere around Daytona Beach.

It's even more beautiful on a night flight, lit by moonlight.

Saturday Cycle Blogging

Yes, at first glance, it would appear that Suzuki is working the hardest to corner the women's dual sport market.

But what's this? Yamaha, with a sneak attack!

Well done.

The new 2006 Kawasaki KLX250 looks sweet.

Boo on the tall seat height, yay on the knobbies.

(Click on images for larger versions.)


A sonnet in her bonnet

Mother's Day: May 14th. You have but a mere week to think of a way to make up for the multitude of worry lines you caused.

Garrison Keillor has a nice idea.

She loved you through the dark valley of your adolescence, when you were as charming as barbed wire. You surrounded yourself with sullen friends who struck your mother as incipient criminals. Her beloved child, her darling, her shining star, running with teenage jihadists, but she bit her tongue and served them pizza and sloppy joes, ignoring the explosives taped to their chests.

When you were 17, when other adults found you unbearable and even your own aunts and uncles looked at you and saw the decline of American civilization and the coming of a dark age of arrogant narcissism unprecedented in world history, your mother still loved you with all her heart. She loves you still today, despite all the wrong choices you've made. Don't get me started. Go write your mother a sonnet.

Deciders First

Just a reminder to visit Dependable Renegade whenever you can.


Wherever I Wander

Where am I? Here's a hint.
Yes, it's NAB time again, and for the sixth time in 8 years, I'm back in the geekhive.

You'd think I would have learned by now to bring sneakers, a case of bottled water, and a shoulder bag with a cloth strap -- but no.

The Avid party at Hard Rock Sunday night was well-attended, and no company execs got badgered with questions like "when will this feature be available on the Mac?" By that criteria alone, it was a successful event.

Today I am a shameless shill for Avid, walking the show with the logo'd shirt they gave out at the party with the promise that every day, two people wearing them would win a Media Composer. I should be skeptical, but I'm in Vegas. I feel lucky.

There's lots of cool stuff to see. No seriously -- forget CES. This is the real deal. If you know how to work some of the equipment on this show floor, you can actually make a pretty good living doing it, and have the respect and awe of at least 100,000 of your colleagues (the number of NAB attendees.) Try that with the new iBlackPodBerry you got at Best Buy last week.

Why yes, that is a Harley. On the world's largest 1080p HD plasma screen, 103 inches. Thanks for asking.

Here's the camera I want. Until I go to the Sony booth and find one I want more.

Dude won a $4800 Miller tripod just for showing up at a party and drinking some beer. What a country.

Human signage.

You can write your own caption here.

Who needs a microwave uplink motorcycle? Me me me!

The coolest part about attending NAB, though, is that you bump into the coolest people there.

Yes. I know it's blurry.