FirewallNOVA is a state of mind

Someone once said to me: “You know, back in my day we didn’t have PHP, and we didn’t need databases behind the scenes. All we needed was a hammer, some flint, and a text editor.”

I said: “Tell me more, Grandpa.”

But those were the last words he ever spoke to me.

But I think if my old grandfather had ever deigned to speak to me again, he probably would have told me about long nights hunched over a keyboard, copying and pasting text and code, and spinning fresh ideas onto that spartan framework. Uploading each new page via FTP. Having to quickly revise and re-upload if he forgot to change a date from one copy-and-paste job to the next. And occasionally having to edit manually dozens or even hundreds of pages every time a new element needed to be propagated across the entire site.

Isn’t it sad, here in 2017, how we’ve lost that hands-on craftsmanship, that personal approach to the Web?

Well here at FirewallNOVA, we say “Enough.” Enough with the impersonal, automated publishing. Enough with the page design. Enough with all the “software.”

The Web is a place for writing. Why do we need software to publish? When a man goes fishing in his rowboat in the canal, does he need to bring the Army Corp of Engineers along for the ride? Hell, no.

So in that spirit, and with the added factor that we don’t see an immediate way forward for our erstwhile mission of covering certain segments of politics and culture yet are not quite ready to delete the entire WordPress thingmajig, we are going to quietly transition to a different format and a different mission.

It will be simpler, yes. It will be plainer. It may remind you of days spent sitting around the dinner table with no television or any other noise in the house at all.

And it will probably – nay, very likely – load FAST, even on your phone or your seven-year-old’s seven-year-old tablet.

I bet the page will load so fast you get whiplash just by visiting. Whoa.

In concluding this first new portal to the new-old FirewallNOVA, let us say as an old man of old-time radio used to say:

“Good day.”

Frank Zappa City Of Tiny Lights – Live

If you’ve paid much attention to web video over the years, you may notice its inventory is growing massively, and not only from people posting new videos of themselves. An immense amount of archival cultural video is being unearthed and uploaded, so what’s old truly does become new again.

Actually, often it really is new because back when the video/film was recorded, distribution options were primordial. For instance, a lot of great footage from the history of rock music was taken in Europe, either by filmmmakers or, primarily, on European television broadcasts. In the 1970s, you could not watch European television in the American suburbs.

To me it is fascinating that we have access to such a growing body of footage …. of the past. Probably like the state of archaeology 120 years ago.

One caveat is that what we are getting is by no means a uniform picture. It is very eclectic. Frank Zappa and Ry Cooder, for example, left a pretty decent trove of video from that era, while Happy the Man left almost nothing.

Here is Frank with Adrian Belew on vocals and a very young Terry Bozzio on drums.

Firesign Theatre, Don’t Crush That Dwarf …

Porgie Tirebiter, he’s a spy and a girl delighter
Porgie, firefighter, he’s a student like you.

If you grew up in the U.S. in the 1930s or 1940s, you probably got to experience radio theatre as a mind-expanding and, when done well, mind-infesting form of entertainment that tapped into the imagination in a way that television usually lacks. It has something to do with allowing our brains to do the extra work of creating the visual world – which is closer to dreams, in composition, than to the concrete reality depicted in TV shows and movies.

If like me you are too young to have experienced the age of radio, the very next best thing, which was as good and probably superior, was the Firesign Theatre of the 1960s and 1970s. The selection included here was my first introduction and I can remember it like it was yesterday.

The year was 1973 and Weasel was still on the midnight shift at WHFS FM (102.3 in Bethesda, MD). If you were in junior high school and prone to lying in bed awake way too late, Weasel was one of your best friends.

Anyway, one night Weasel played the entire first side of Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers. As usual, the selection came on without any introduction (he’d detail each playlist after the half hour or so). I’d never heard of Firesign Theatre and could not tell what I was listening to, whether it was a show or separate things or bunch of commercials or what – but because of the format, and the late hour, I was drawn in. My first introduction to “theater of the mind.”

The Hour of the Wolf News came on, with the talking head noting “Adam, one threes and sebien negritude will come as a pleasant surprise to his honorary aquarium parents Ralph Bunch and Ida Lipino,” then the food was coming through the television, then Porgie and Mudhead, and though a voice in my head was saying “What the hell IS this?” they had me mesmerized.

The jokes were good enough, but it was the parallel reality that made the program so enrapturing. You often can’t tell what the joke is until your mind figures out the context …. and then you realize the context itself is part of the joke – riffing on tropes and expectations that leave you skimming along the edge between the separate reality and this one. I had never experience anything like it.

Unfortunately, I did not get to hear Weasel’s recap of what the hell that was, which meant although I tried to explain it to my friends, I couldn’t. If you were growing up in the American suburbs in 1973 reality had a fluid aspect to it anyway, so for many months afterwards all I was left with was the vague memory of another world.

Another DC station at the time used to play The National Lampoon Radio Hour every Sunday night before The King Biscuit Flower Hour. That very short-lived National Lampoon program was amazing – a couple years later sending several alumni to start Saturday Night Live – but even though I listened and listened I never heard anything like a reprise of that very weird late night episode.

Then, one night in 1974, again on WHFS, they played a selection from “I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus” and I managed to hear the recap. And within a couple years I probably had bought every album the Firesign Theatre produced. I can still say, even after this many years, there has never been anything like them.

When you get a chance, and have 20 minutes or so of uninterrupted time, put on the headphones, close your eyes, and check out Don’t Crush That Dwarf. If you are in Colorado, you can probably even get the full 1973 experience.

Basketball Jones

“That basketball, was like a basketball to me.”

At the time it was just plain funny, and edgy in a Mad Magazine sort of way. It was the coming out moment for those early 1970s heroes of so many adolescents and teenagers: Cheech & Chong, previously relegated to clandestine record albums our parents really had no idea about. We’d crack up in our bedrooms after school and repeat the jokes ad nauseam during the various self-directed, youth-oriented activities that filled our days.

The song sung by “Tyrone Shoelaces” appeared on a 1973 LP and featured members of George Harrison’s cadre of musician friends at the time (including Billy Preston and Jim Keltner) and the Mamas and the Papas on backing vocals. This animated short film was made the same year but most widely seen as the featurette preceding the great, and now pretty much unavailable, 1976 comedy “Tunnelvision.”

I am pretty sure I saw it on television sometime in the 70s but am a bit hazy on the specifics.

What is remarkable about Basketball Jones, the film, is the extreme, err, political incorrectness that leaps off the screen today. In 1976, not so much. In fact, I thought of Basketball Jones as a tame, mainstream sort of introduction to Cheech and Chong since it wasn’t focused on the certain illicit substances that comprised the central concern of their oeuvre up to that point.

To get a sense of how our mores and rules have changed over the past 40 years, Basketball Jones is a good measuring stick: Tame at the time; outrageous today.

While some people still hold to the ridiculous idea that modern American, left-wing-driven culture is becoming more free, the reality is just the opposite. What we are becoming is more sensitive and restrictive. It’s possible the freest we have ever been was in the 1970s when our president was Richard Nixon and you could buy record albums with giant rolling papers included.

An Interruption Of Your Irregularly Scheduled Programming

Now that the principal Firewall NOVA founder has taken leave of the site (which I will continue to think of, hopefully, as “leave of absence”), I will post this brief two-point update:

1) Firewall NOVA Right will possibly continue contributing, though he will need to clarify that matter. I have it on good authority that he is extremely grateful for the leadership provided by FW Left, and also for Left’s much more consistent work here.

2) We are going to conduct a housekeeping task which may cause some strangeness for a spell.

This has been a good experience for all involved. Perhaps we will be able to resuscitate or revive the project, on the off chance our world continues to be beset by controversy and trouble.

Peace, Out from the Left

This blog has been a fun effort for me and I think we’ve proven our point that the left and the right can work together. Our readership has never grown to what we would have liked, but, really, that’s not exactly a surprise.

With the 2015 elections over, this is a good time to say good-bye. FirewallNoVa Right now has complete control of your television set (or, at least, that part of your screen you devote to this site).

Life is too short for most things, but too long to say “never.” I might be back, someday. As always: watch the skies.

 

JPS

Democrats Sweep Sterling

Here is an interesting line from departing Sterling Supervisor, Eugene Delgaudio’s, Web site:

Kathleen Murphy, Jennefer (sic) Boysko, John Bell, took all 3 of Sterling’s House of Delegate seats.

That’s a remarkable observation, partly because Boysko and Bell were two of the only three seats to change parties. Looking down the list, it now seems that absolutely all of the Sterling district’s elected representatives who ran as party nominees are Democrats, except one:

  • Supervisor-elect Koran Saines
  • Chairman-elect Phyllis Randall
  • Delegate-elect John Bell
  • Delegate-elect Jennifer Boysko
  • Delegate Kathleen Murphy
  • State senator Jennifer Wexton
  • State senator Barbara Favola
  • Attorney General Mark Herring
  • Lt. Governor Ralph Northam
  • Governor Terry McAuliffe
  • Senator Tim Kaine
  • Senator Mark Warner
  • Vice-president Joe Biden
  • President Barack Obama

The only Republican still representing Sterling is freshman member of Congress, Barbara Comstock, and she did not win a single precinct in the Sterling district[*]. (A quick, but not necessarily definitive, scan of results of the above races suggests that all of the people above won the Sterling district.)

This is finally it: Sterling is a thoroughly Democratic stronghold, with the leadership at the local level that it deserves.

Sup. Delgaudio thanks the voters. We feel the same way.

[*] The astute politico will note that, actually, there are still several other Republicans who represent Sterling: the county’s constitutional officers. I’m giving myself the slack necessary to limit this post’s observations to people in law-making capacities (and Joe Biden).

The Pictures Tell The Story

Saw these two signs, promoting some prominent Republican candidates, at the new Ashby Ponds polling place:

IMG_0808

 

Say, is that a Post-It note on the “Plowman” sign? Let’s look closer:

IMG_0809

 

Yes, it does appear to be a Post-It note. Let’s be sure we can read it:

IMG_0810

 

Ah, must have been on top of a stack, left for a volunteer. But, is there something hidden immediately behind it? Let’s see:

IMG_0812

 

My goodness, there’s another sign, covered up by this one. Whose can it be?

IMG_0813

 

Ah, Republican unity. Charming.

Tom Bellanca Endorses 2015 Candidates

tom-bellanca
Tom Bellanca, Independent candidate fpr chair of the Board of Supervisors, has announced his list of endorsed candidates.

Tom Bellanca, running as an Independent for chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, announced his endorsements for Tuesday’s election. Bellanca said:

In the past 12 months and in many cases the past 5-10 years, I’ve gotten to know many of the candidates involved in this local election personally. While there are no candidates I dislike, and most of the candidates can, I believe, do a good job, I believe it necessary to indicate which of those candidates I believe will be and act in the best interests of the residents of the county. For this reason, I am endorsing the following candidates for leadership in our county. I believe these persons to be the best options to lead our county forward in all respects and I hope you will vote for them on Tuesday, November 3, 2015.

Board of Supervisors and Constitutional Officers:
Chairman At Large – Tom Bellanca (I)
Sheriff – Michael Chapman (R)
Commonwealth’s Attorney – Jim Plowman (R)
Clerk of the Court – Gary Clemons (R)
Treasurer – Roger Zurn (R)
Commissioner of the Revenue – Bob Wertz (R)
Ashburn District – Ralph Buona (R)
Sterling District – Koran Saines (D)
Blue Ridge District – Richard Jimmerson (I)
Catoctin District – Craig Green (D)
Dulles District – Matthew F. Letourneau (R)
Algonkian District – Andrew Resnick (D)
Broad Run District – Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R)
Leesburg – Kristen Umstattd (D)

School Board:
At Large – Stephen Knoblock
Algonkian – Ryan Myers
Blue Ridge District – Jill Turgeon
Catoctin District – Dusty Sparrow Reed
Leesburg District – Tom Marshall
Sterling District – Brenda Sheridan
Dulles District – Jeff Morse
Broad Run – Joy Maloney
Ashburn – Eric Hornberger