Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Color of Time

The Chinese, of course, believe that each year is represented by an animal, with certain characteristics that define any person who is born in that year.

One of the benefits of living with young children is you see the world through their eyes. Whenever I start obsessing about a new project, they ask me questions that force me to try to come up with new answers.

In the case of painting bright colors on the tree rings visible on these odd blocks of wood, I told them that I believe every year has a color.

There are blue years, for example, and red years. And so on.

One sure sign that you have a teenager in the house is when you find yourself going to a music store to buy drums. This has not happened yet, but my young trio aged 8-13 show some new confidence as beginner musicians.

The two guitarists have taught themselves the opening chords of "Smoke on the Water," which rang out repeatedly through our home yesterday. My little pianist can replicate their effort, with a special flourish, on his electronic keyboard.

He shakes his curls when he does it.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Grandma Weir's Story: The Complete Manuscript

I have been wanting to publish my grandmother's brief memoir ever since I first got my hands on it. My father's mother grew up in the late 1800's and early 1900's in Canada, and she had what is euphemistically known as an extremely hard life.

Yet, she never complained. She seemed to accept her fate. She had such an active mind that she taught herself to read and write, despite her lack of "schooling."

If you click on any of the 12 pages I am posting here, they become quite readable.

I relocated the original copy of this lovely article the other day when cleaning out some old files in my closet. Around 30 years ago, when I was still at Rolling Stone, one of the editors had the idea of a "grandparents' project," and I know I gave her a copy of this manuscript then.

But apparently nothing came of her effort, so Grandma's story remains unpublished until today, almost 40 years after her death in her early 90's.

What follows is the rest of her story:

(Thanks, Brad, for helping me choose this format.)


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Reverse Gear

Normally, this kind of image appears on our sister blog, Sidewalk Images , and in fact, this particular one did, earlier today.

But it seems so classically suited to the mood I'm in tonight, we have decided to double-dip. Don't worry; if you follow the link, there are lots of treats awaiting you there.

Now that I am a full-time blogger, I thought I should perhaps check how our revenue is doing. I wish I hadn't. It turns out that since May 1, we have hosted 4,325 visits, a modest audience to be sure, but according to Google, only 25 times has anyone clicked on one of those ads on our site.

Thus, our total income over this period is, (woo hoo!), $9.92.

I suppose this illustrates the point I made earlier today about free content. Who but an utterly insane person would write in order to earn roughly two bucks a month. Did someone mention Third World poverty levels?

Of course, we all know I don't do this for money, but for something much more important. This is my living memoir in reverse gear. I have been unrolling my life's story very gradually going backwards.

I admit to a second-week depression. You know, the kind of week when you learn that in order to continue to support your family's health and dental insurance coverage now you are unemployed, you need to pay $14,000 annually.

The kind of week when FedEx delivers you not one but two severance checks. You are thinking that your ex-boss must have been listening when you explained it will probably take six months to find a suitable replacement job, and, given how hard you worked and how much value you added to his utterly unsuccessful venture, he decided to be generous beyond anything you would have asked for.

So, you went to the bank and deposited both checks and went home, feeling that you just might be able to make it through this difficult transitional moment with your retirement accounts intact.

But no, the bank calls you and explains that one of those checks is "pending void."

That's a first for me. I've never heard the phrase before.

"Pending void." Sound very much like the space I am entering.


Nobody pays, so everybody pays

You could be forgiven for missing it the other day, because the New York Times buried its own news on page B-2. It was just a little story, quiet one. The Times announced that after two years, it was abandoning its attempt to charge for some of its content (mainly columnists and archives) in a service called "Times Select."

Henceforth, the newspaper will release everything it has to offer (save for a slice of its archives) from behind the pay wall. Thus ends the attempt by one of the country's leading newspapers to do what virtually no one in the news business has figured out to do -- charge for content on the web.

Two years ago, when I left Stanford to return to the private sector in the form of a startup in Silicon Valley, there was a certain excitement among media companies, because it appeared there might be a trend to do what the Times was about to do, and charge for some content.

Over the past two years, however, it has become brutally clear that content has to be freely available online. Even "free registration" represents an unwanted barrier many users are unwilling to tolerate.

Of course, there has long been one "success story" in the paid content game, and that's the Wall Street Journal. Alas, that story appears to be coming to its natural end, as well. Mogul Rupert Murdoch has indicated that once he completes his purchase of the Journal, he'll free its content as well.

Why is this all happening?

Media companies can make much more money from online advertising than they ever could make from paid subscriptions. Information wants to be free on the Internet, and that's simply the way it's going to be.

Any company foolish enough to continue to pursue subscription/pay wall business plans will be left in the dust.

This is not the moment, but there is a good argument to be made that content supported by advertising revenue isn't really as "free" as it may appear. But I'll save that argument for another day.

Meanwhile, for those who romanticize the lives of writers and journalists, let me ask you: Who exactly is going to pay us to keep writing in the future? How are we to survive as writers and support ourselves and our families?

Does someone see something I don't? Information may want to be free but those talented people who gather and publish it appear to be a seriously endangered species...


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Life's Rings

Yes, Sunday was the 30th reunion party of the Michigan Mafia, a humble softball team that, alas, has finally retired from the Bay Area Media Softball League it helped create back in 1978.

We played 29 seasons, which is probably more than even Julio Franco or Gordie Howe could imagine, but we were rarely very good. I'm pretty sure we had a losing record over those three decades, but until Joel and I get the statistics finished, no one can know for sure.

In any event, our team motto, "Only the mediocre are always at their best," stood in stark contrast to the bludgeoning belters who eventually came to dominate the league. Very few of these hulks ever worked in a media company, I'm quite sure. They just didn't look like reporters, who tend to be skinny guys and girls with glasses.

Inevitably, reunions stir up the kinds of memories that yield written memoirs by those inclined to write. I've spent a lot of time in classrooms over the past 38 years, most recently teaching memoir-writing to Baby Boomers.

Each and every life, IMHO, deserves a memoir. As I continue to lay down my own story, with brutal emotional honesty night after night, I am beginning to believe that every life deserves a blog. If you feel shy about it, you need not share the blog with anyone; there are ways to have a private blog, or one you share only with your intimates. (Please contact me for help.)

I've chosen a public venue partly because if I have anything to hide from strangers, I simply don't care to, and I love meeting new people in this manner. Rarely a week passes that I do not connect with new people all over the world, courtesy of this humble url.

Now I have become quite suddenly self-employed, I'm turning to my network of friends, old and new, seeking opportunities to work, earn money, have fun, and ever so possibly, make a difference.

Tonight I am grateful to a slew of friends who have already shown such support and enthusiasm for my transition to consultant status (David Weir Consulting, Inc.) Actually, we do not have any clients yet, but the following folks have been encouraging and forthright with their support: Tamara, Tom, Perla, Julie, Susan H., Jeff, Joy, Mark, Bob, Michael B., Allan, Doug, Valerie, Helen, Richard, my son-in-law Loic, Susan L., John, Carey and Cis, Heather, Dave, Holly, Kelsey, Aaron, Christa, Erica, Clark, George, Michael S., Pratap, Mary, Alana, Carol, my sister Carole, Connie, Wei, Jaimie, and, of course, my six children

I hope I haven't forgotten anyone.

Like trees, we have good years and bad ones. Times when the nutrients are rich and times when they are weak. We never live in isolation from our environment, and that is as true socially as it is ecologically.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Racing Against Time

It's often said that time has sped up in our era, which of course is impossible, according to the laws of physics, but in many areas of human endeavor, a speed-up has certainly occurred.

All coaches in all sports know that the one skill you cannot teach is speed. I've been lucky to have children who run like the wind -- all six of them.

Most of them, however, are not at all competitive, so their speed is simply one of their characteristics as people. Most people never would know how fast they can move.

Two of my kids have chosen to compete as runners. Peter was the fastest 100-yard dash runner at his age in southern Marin County during early high school.

Today was Aidan's first cross-country meet. He ran the 1.25 mile race in a slow, conservative manner, on purpose. He didn't try to compete, and he finished 25th in a large filed of competitors.

Maybe in the future his attitude will kick in. If so, I look forward to *that* race!


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fourteen of my top ten performances

Music and Feelings, Part One.

John Lennon

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Linda Ronstadt & Hoyt Axton

Nada Surf

Johnny Cash & June Carter

Elton John (at Diana's funeral)

Tammy Wynette

George Jones

Willie Nelson & Bob Dylan


Ricky Nelson

Sarah Mclaughlin

Mamas and Papas

Beach Boys


The night is black

One of the good things about aging is the privilege of seeing how it all turns out. Whenever a friend or close acquaintance dies, which is something that happens all too frequently these years, I can’t help thinking about all the subsequent events they didn’t witness.

∑ A big baseball fan, he never got to know the Tigers finally made it to the World Series again!

∑ A progressive activist all her life, she didn’t get to witness the great Democratic sweep of Congress in 2006.

∑ A leader in the fight for AIDS awareness, he never got to see the day where it became a chronic illness instead of a sure killer.

∑ A loyal son and brother, the youngest in his family, he left this world before his Mom, Dad, or brothers did.

∑ A loving mother, she never got to see how well her parents turned out.

∑ A wonderful teacher and a father, he died long before he discovered what effect he had on his young students and his own children.

∑ The love of her life, he didn’t get to know how she accommodated herself to another man, a kind man, and raised a family, but she never stopped dreaming of him.

∑ A caring Mom, she departed thinking her son was married for life; she never knew what subsequently occurred.

∑ A strange, drug-filled man, with a penchant for meeting women for sex on the Internet, he died in a motorcycle crash on Halloween, after breaking up with the one true love of his life.

∑ A sweet, creative, inventive man, he ended his own life before witnessing his lovely son’s emergence as a talented young man. In a moment of depression, he made a very serious mistake. (Ban all guns!)

∑ A gentle grandfather, he died the night before he was going to meet his youngest and last granddaughter, his fourteenth grandchild. He only ever met 13.

∑ An activist songwriter and performer, he killed himself when the world as he perceived it had rejected his message, only to miss the time when a new generation arrived who would have celebrated it.

I suppose that is enough to make my point. Like comes & goes at an unexpected rate. Even if you are the beneficiary of good genes and try to take care of yourself, time will catch up with you.

Is there some secret truth about all of this?


If you are still breathing, and over 50, it may be time to take an extra deep breath and contemplate what your life has meant. Have you done what you wanted to do? If you had to add it all up, could you find some meaning in your time here on earth? What do you hope people who survive you remember about you?

These are essential questions. I would argue that they are as basic as anything people search for in religion. Our spiritual existences consist of the sum total of all the good and bad, secret and open, mistaken and accurate, kind and mean, internal and external actions we have ever taken during our physical time here as organisms on earth.

I’m sorry. This is not easy stuff to deal with, but I never promised this would be easy.

Who are you? Who am I? What else could we do, together or apart?

These are not academic questions. These are among the unfinished matters that allow us, even at advanced ages, to know that we truly are still here.

There are those who are walking dead among us or so frozen in time they might as well be gone. But not you and not me. Not if you are reading these words. There is still time for us. It may be a short period or it may be long. Either way, if my words can reach you, please commit yourself to live every moment as if it may be your last.

Because your last moment will arrive, as will mine, maybe tomorrow, maybe a long time from now.

Our stories will thus end, according to the natural order. It's up to the survivors to carry this on...