Curious George: Editor ludorum and the widening gyre
George Loper admits he has an agenda: to get people chatting on his website about topics that interest him. And he's disappointed when there's no controversy brewing.
Because Loper is an unabashed Democrat, it's easy to assume his site will be all politics all the time. But on loper.org, you're as likely to find photographs of a male pine warbler taken recently in Big Meadows as you are snaps of the Democratic Convention, which he attended as a credentialed member of the press corps.
It's Loper's website, and he can pursue whatever he wants, whether it's politics or tattoos or go-karts.
Actually, loper.org is almost a dinosaur in today's blog universe. Remember when "home pages" were the rage? His site, started in 1996, is still headlined, "The Home Page of George Edward Loper, Editor Ludorum"– along with his smiling mug and a quote from W. B. Yeats.
"I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and do it in '94, '95, but I couldn't figure out how to do it," he says.
Like many Baby Boomers navigating the Internet, he eventually turned to his kids to provide the infrastructure.
Texas-born Loper did not seem destined to host Charlottesville's best-known Democratic forum. In fact, he imagined he'd go to the University of Texas, then law school, and then become a Republican senator.
"All that evaporated," he recounts, "with the war." In 1967, the 1-A-classified Loper applied for conscientious objector status, which typically wasn't given to Methodists, and he ended up in court.
"I started the process out of conviction the war was wrong," says Loper. The lottery came in, and a high number put him out of the draft– but made his prospects for that Republican senator's seat very dim.
Nor does he have any intention of seeking office for his beloved Dems. "I'm having too good a time," replies Loper to a question about political aspirations that he's been asked many times before.
Instead, he stays busy with the site, where he posts stories that catch his interest. If there's something he wants to know more about, he'll ask Dave Sagarin to write an article.
And while the site is Loper-focused, readers shouldn't assume they know where he stands. "I'm reluctant to express my own opinion on my website," he says. "Sometimes I do it so people will know of a potential conflict of interest– or if I'm pissed off enough."
But he's more interested in other people's opinions. "The point is, what are people willing to be publicly accountable for?" he asks. Unlike another well-known site, Waldo Jaquith's cvillenews.com, anonymous postings are the exception on Loper's site, and its powerful search engine means that opinions fired off in 1996 can still turn up today.
"I would say more than 50 percent of the stuff on the website I don't agree with," Loper estimates. For instance, he drops this bombshell: "I happen to be for the Meadowcreek Parkway."
But Loper is not going voiceless. Always ahead of the Internet curve, he's started a blog.
Though he's been a Virginian for almost 30 years, Loper can still lapse into a Texas accent. And there are a couple of things he misses from the Lone Star State: the music and the "raw politics," which can make this state's look downright genteel.
Why here? The Blue Ridge Mountains and the opportunity to practice social work. I came here on a three-year grant with what was then Blue Ridge Mental Health Center.
Worst about living here? Traffic, mosquitoes, and the absence of neighborhood pubs
Favorite hangout: Greenberry's and the Downtown Mall
Most overrated virtue: Obedience
People would be surprised to know? I was a Barry Goldwater conservative.
What would you change about yourself? I'd be more mindful and a better off-the-cuff speaker.
Accomplishment you're proudest of: My website
People find most annoying about you: Pestering people to do things
Whom do you admire? My "draft" lawyer, Maury Maverick Jr.
Favorite book? Whichever one I'm reading at the time
Subject that causes you to rant? Censorship and the commercialization of information
Biggest 21st-century thrill? The ease with which information can be communicated
Biggest 21st-century creep out? The invasion of privacy and the creation of an imperial security state
What do you drive? 1990 LS400 Lexus
What's in your car CD player right now? The Last Waltz by The Band
Next journey? A trip to Providence
Most trouble you've ever been in? Climbing a steeple tower.
Regret? Taking so long to learn how to enjoy myself
Favorite comfort food? Sweet Tarts
Always in your refrigerator? Milk, orange juice, and cheese
Must see TV: Dead Like Me
Favorite cartoon? Pogo
Describe a perfect day. A trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains and a sunset picnic with Annabelle and the boys
Walter Mitty fantasy? To start over as a photographer and a painter
Who'd play you in the movie? Peter Coyote
Most embarrassing moment? Being caught skinny dipping at LBJ's ranch
Best advice you ever got? Not to take myself so seriously
Favorite Bumper sticker? george.loper.org
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO