January 2009 Archives
I've never been comfortable calling this thing a "blog." I've called it an "online journal" since the start, partly because the word "blog" wasn't in common parlance when I started this site, lo those many years ago--2002, that is--and partly because I just don't think what I do here is blogging. I try to produce a reasonable facsimile of a thoughtful essay (or at least some semi-amusing information) on a once-or-twice-a-week basis. (And yes, I haven't been keeping up that schedule very well of late. Mea culpa.) A blog, at least from my point of view is a more-or-less constant fusillade of small bits of information, coming at least daily, but typically several times a day, and typically mixing in a lot of links to other places on the internet. What you're reading now comes a good deal less often than a blog, and it's usually all me, rather than links to other sites, and it's usually a bit more long-form, but it does, one hope, pack a reasonable punch when it hits.
Think of petercashwell.com, then, as an artillery battery, softening up the internet so that the First Blogger Infantry Division can advance safely and take the position.
And who's in the infantry? Well, I'd have to say that when I'm wandering the web looking for blogs, there's a pretty decent chance I'll end up in one of these places:
PEOPLE I KNOW:
The esteemed Mr. Tony Plutonium holds forth on comics, UNC sports, music, beer, photography, and other features of the good life at Half-Life and Times
His better half, Jenny Slash, can be found discussing art, food, and life in the Triangle at So Anyway...
When he's not webcasting baseball games with yours truly, physics wiz and sports authority Greg Jacobs blogs as the Nachoman
Anika, Caroline, Jennifer, and Sigrid ARE the Fantastic Fangirls
, who will tell you all you need to know about comics, gender, and the interplay thereof.
Kaethe, whose fascinations include books, language, feminism, sundry scientific subjects, and the cutest pair of daughters on the planet, is the proud proprietor of "ae" and sometimes "ä"
There's no point in even trying to describe the fabulous DG Strong, so just go to Six DGs of Observation
And if you can't handle DG's life, let him advise you on how to live yours: The Psychopedia
The only man I know in Copenhagen, Kristjan Wager, fighting the good fight for science and science education at Pro-Science
And finally, a person I know, but have only met once: comics creator and theorist Scott McCloud, who (in his own words) "can't stop THINKING
!"PEOPLE I DON'T KNOW YET
Ian Williams, who wrote some great stuff for the Daily Tar Heel
back in the day, continues to write fascinating stuff at xtcian
SF writer and movie critic John Scalzi reaches exciting new levels of snark and hilarity on a regular basis at Whatever
.The Atlantic Magazine
's Ta-Nehisi Coates
writes about race, pro football, politics, and sheer out-and-out SF/fantasy/RPG geekery with a refreshing sincerity and a wicked sense of humor.
And finally, there's Phil Nugent, whose style of blogging (on politics, movies, and music, typically) is probably closer to my own long-form journal entries than most of the rest of these folks, so The Phil Nugent Experience
gets to serve as my anchor man in this race.
Get out there and click on stuff! 8:36 PM
Amidst all the pomp and circumstance of the inaugural ceremonies, and the wonderful sound of words and ideas being arranged deliberately and artfully by the man in charge of the country, there was one thing our new President said that hit home for me:
"We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has
come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our
enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that
precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to
generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and
all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."
I have long said that one problem with our political language is the metaphor of America as our ancestor. In that comparison, we are children; we have no responsibility to America other than to offer it a generalized respect of the sort the Fourth Commandment demands. If America is the parent, it's going to make all the hard decisions for us; it's going to feed us and clothe us and take care of us when we're sick. It's the one driving, while we sleep peacefully in the back seat, knowing we'll reach our destination, whatever it may be, even if we ourselves don't know the way.
What I've long said--and what our new Chief Executive seems to recognize as well--is that we are not America's children. We are America's parents. We
are the ones who make the decisions. We
feed the nation and worry about it when it's ill. We
teach America what's right and what's wrong and pass judgment on what it does.
The country goes nowhere if we don't take it there; the steering wheel is in our hands, and the route we take is ours to decide.
At long last, I have heard my President speaking to me, and he was treating me like a grown-up. 11:34 AM
Okay, maybe it's a little immature of me, but you have to admit, it would be classic.
The wintry streets of DC are hushed and silent...
All traffic has been halted...
All of Washington, all of America
, waits expectantly...
And then, off down Pennsylvania Avenue, there is a small motion...
At first, it's hard to see, but it's clear from the sound that this is no limousine. No, in fact, as the throngs lining the streets up Capitol Hill peer westward, they begin to hear it... the sound of... the sound of... hoofbeats?
And then, at a jaunty gallop, up rides President-Elect Barack Obama, wearing this:
It would be the greatest inauguration ever.
And if he were to dismount, saunter up to John Roberts, and say, "Excuse me while I whip this out," it would be the greatest single event in human history
. 6:06 PM
Thanks to the extensive and sometimes unwelcome education offered me in elementary and middle school, I've heard pretty much every possible phallic joke about my first name. I've long since come to terms with it, but there's no question that it was somewhat easier to do because I met some other guys named Peter along the way. Maybe it's just that misery loves company, or maybe it's that these guys were so obviously worthy individuals. In reverse chronological order:5. Peter Gabriel
I didn't encounter him until he'd left Genesis and released his first solo albums, but immediately upon hearing "Solsbury Hill," I knew this guy's music was worth exploring. It was my adolescent fondness for prog-rock that drew me toward his first album (as well as his Genesis material), but it was my burgeoning early-80s fondness for new wave that pulled me toward the third (titled, as all of his first solo albums were, simply Peter Gabriel
). I loved it all, the threatening pulse of "Intruder," the orchestral sweep of "Humdrum," the anthemic wailing of "Biko," the neo-classical majesty of "The Cinema Show." To this day, I associate Genesis' Selling England by the Pound
with one of the happiest trips of my life, my 1984 spring break trip from Manchester through Scotland, and I'll never forget seeing Gabriel on the Security
tour, where during "Lay Your Hands On Me" he did something I'd never heard of a performer doing: he backed to the edge of the stage at the Meriweather Post Pavilion and leaned back--and the crowd caught him. We passed him up from the stage to the top of the stands and back, electrified by the chance to lay hands on our idol and the simultaneous community responsibility to keep him safe. A spectacular show, and one that made me a PG fan for life.4. Pete Townshend
When you're sixteen years old and you see The Kids Are Alright
, you're going to end up a Who fan. I certainly did. And it didn't take me long to recognize that Pete Townshend was the engine driving the band. It helped that I was becoming more aware of the band at the time Pete was releasing his best solo album, Empty Glass
, allowing me to simultaneously explore his back catalogue and revel in his contemporary stuff. FM radio had of course long since made much of Who's Next
familiar to me, and I'd started listening to Tommy
some years before, thanks to its overture having been played on Chapel Hill's own AM station, WCHL, but it took a full dose of Townshend's guitar-smashing spectacle to knock the scales from my eyes and let me appreciate the poetry of his work. By the time I was seventeen, I was fully immersed in Quadrophenia
and ready to believe, as I still do, that the Who was The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World.3. Peter Schickele
My first concert wasn't a rock concert, but a trip to UNC's Memorial Hall to hear the work of PDQ Bach performed. By the time I was about fourteen, I was already a fan of PDQ (right) and his creator, "Professor" Peter Schickele (left). I had been exposed to PDQ's work by my Aunt Patty, whose recordings of the "Concerto for Horn & Hardart" and especially "Iphigenia in Brooklyn" had afforded me great amusement (and taught me nearly everything I knew about classical music) even when I didn't understand all the jokes. But thanks to tunes like the "Quodlibet," I began to catch on to the fact that some of the themes being played were swiped from other classical pieces. If not for PDQ, I would probably never have had enough interest in classical music to explore the works of Beethoven and Mozart, and I also would have missed out on one of the funniest books ever written: The Definitive Biography of PDQ Bach
, which is hilarious even if you're utterly tone-deaf. I'll never stop being amused at the Professor's boundless creativity, nor at the fact that he's now managed to stretch one joke out for nearly forty years. Bravo!2. Peter and the Wolf
Thanks to Leonard Bernstein (pictured), I was able to figure out before first grade something that many people take years to learn: French horns are scary. Lenny's devotion to musical education led him to record Prokofiev's most popular work and to add his own musical quiz to the performance--a quiz which taught me (and thousands of other kids, no doubt) what each instrument sounded like. To this day, when I hear the Wolf's theme, there's a part of me that wants to pull my feet up onto my chair so that the Wolf (which is doubtless crouching unseen below me) can't get at them. The strings' theme for Peter is similarly burned into my memory, but it doesn't have the same kind of effect on my hindbrain. Would I have wanted to listen to the piece if it hadn't been named after me? Maybe. But there's no question that my appreciation for music has been enhanced by Prokofiev's choice of name.1. Peter in The Snowy Day
One of the first books I can recall was Ezra Jack Keats' masterpiece, and it's one I still love dearly. It was important to me because it was my first encounter with another person named Peter, and it remains important to me to this day because it shows such an important lesson: that what people share is far more meaningful than what separates them. Peter may be black, and he may live in a big city, and he may even be fictional, but that doesn't matter; he and I knew then, and know to this day, that footprints in the snow are endlessly fascinating, there's nothing in this world that's better than making snow angels, and that Mom will take care of you when you come inside. 1:01 PM
Various and sundry folks have started lists of cities where they spent the night in the last year, and I'm nothing if not shameless in my appropriation of other people's ideas. So:
1 Woodberry Forest, VA
2 Chapel Hill, NC
3 Las Vegas, NV
4 Bryce Canyon, UT
5 Green River, UT
6 Cortez, CO
7 Monument Valley, AZ
8 Grand Canyon, AZ
9 Emerald Isle, NC
10 Cumberland, NC
Not a huge list, but #s 3-8 were all completely new to me.
This year? Well, we're hoping to get a few spots in TN, AL, MS, and LA in there somewhere... 9:17 AM