Thursday, July 31, 2008

Death by Slam

Good stuff.This from a white boy that would have difficulty dunking a ping pong ball into a dixie cup. But, whatever. Enjoy.

P.S.: If you don't want to watch 'em all, at least check out #2 and #3. The best, IMO)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beware, beware, beware of the naked man

Keep Portland Wierd, nude sunbathing edition: from the World's Worst Newspaper, with my annotations:

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The incident at a Columbia River nudist beach started with a simple navigation error by a southeast Portland man on a rafting trip with his children and two Chihuahuas.

Note: "southeast Portland man" is Portland news codespeak for "blue collar hillbilly, probably white trash, maybe a tweaker, certainly stupid". The dogs are a nice touch. Because, after all, what Rhodes scholar doesn't take his poorly furred, probably nonswimming, tiny purse dogs along while rafting the Queen River of the West?

Police say 45-year-old Josh Meiller thought he was several hundred feet from the clothing-optional area of Sand Island at Rooster Rock State Park when he brought his inflatable raft ashore Thursday afternoon.

Shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday, Oregon State Police troopers and Multnomah County sheriff's deputies responded to a call at Rooster Rock State Park near Troutdale "involving a nude sunbather."

Did you know that the original name of this geologic feature, a large upright rock column, had nothing to do with a male chicken? The cartographers decided that "Cock Rock" wouldn't fly (although they didn't quibble about "Whorehouse Meadow" or "Nigger Tom" [scroll down to "Early Willamette River" in the link - it's now part of Kelly Point). True fact, I swear.

At the park, they found Meiller, who said he was on his raft with three girls and one boy, ages 7 through 10, when they landed at Sand Island. He told investigators that he thought he was far from the nudist area at the park, Hastings said.

The shaken and bruised Meiller told police that he realized his mistake when his two dogs jumped out and ran up the beach toward a nude sunbather, later identified as Kenney, about 100 yards away. The man told police that he saw Kenney hitting the dogs with what appeared to be a stick.

Because you can say what you want about the joy of treasuring the outdoors clad only in nature's raiment; it has nothing on the wild, sweet pleasure of lathering a couple of yappy little purse dogs into a bloody pulp with your CobraTM police baton. And, after all, what genius doesn't take his billy club along while nude sunbathing?Kenney then allegedly walked up to the man and the children, holding up a can of mace. Meiller backed up and tripped, and Kenney attacked with the baton, striking him in the head, torso and right leg, police said.

Because for nude sunbathing Mace is right there with Coppertone. And when you're naked and pissed off, your fists or a stick just don't cut it.

After the assault, Kenney walked away, police said. Meiller, who initially asked police not to release his name, left the beach in his raft.

Yeah, well, no shit, Sherlock. I'd have bolted during the dogbeating, leaving Scooby and Scrappy to the naked madman and Fate. And, personally, as a sworn peace officer I'd have been tempted to leave it at that. Dumb rafter and yippy doglets make mistake, are corrected by angry, naked septuagenarian. Dumbass collects battered dogs and larvae, tumbles back into landing craft and paddles away like a shotover Australian battalion evacuating the beaches of Gallipoli, bloodied but wiser. End of story. Maybe next time Cletus will leash the mutts AND learn where he is on the river before storming ashore with dumb chums on the attack...but, since this is Oregon, 2008...

Investigators found Kenney after the victim gave them a description of his attacker and the license plate number for a vehicle in which he later saw his attacker, Hastings said.

Meiller suffered bruises and abrasions, police said. "He has also had an ongoing headache from the blow he took to the head," Hastings said.

The Big O omitted to print Trooper Hastings subvoiced comment "...but this does not appear to be a symptom of improved or even minimal brain function, unfortunately."

The next day, Kenney's vehicle was spotted parked at the park. Officers, accompanied by a park ranger, found Kenney in the nudist area and arrested him, Hastings said.

Sadly, we can only hope that Kenney told the coppers, "Can't a man hang his johnson out in public in peace without being assailed by rednecks in rubber boats and their goddam purse dogs?! Yes, I beat the dumbass and his cougar-bait in hopes of beating some sense into their fat heads and I'd do it again, and if that means I will go to the Crossbar Hotel, well, then, dammit, I will!!"

God, I love this town. And here's a little Keith Moon to play me out...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Toujours le Tour

While waiting for the damn alarm technician to call back (so I can leave work) I had a coulpe of additional reflections on this year's Tour de France:

1. OK. Versus. While I realize that you are the go-to network of the choosy turkey hunter and all-in cagefighter,

I have to tell you. I will never, never, pull-my-nails-out-with-pliers never, put a gun to my head and I will still spit in your face never, ever buy anything from Vonage, Saab, Bacardi (and I if I was dying of thirst in a burning desert I would refuse a fucking Bacardi mojito!) or any of the other advertisers whose craptacular pitches I spent more time watching than actual bike racing. Floyd talked about how cool it was to watch the Tour on Eurosport and I'm ready to spring for a Eurocable package in July because your incessant commercials suck such immense pipe!!!I've noticed that since the end of the Armstrong years that Versus coverage is getting poorer and poorer. First the end of the "commercial-free-last-hour" of racing. Then more and more commercials. And MORE commercials. The dumbing down of the coverage, and the loss of the time gap information and position of the GC riders that would have helped us make sense of the mountain stages.

2. Best bit of commentary of the Tour:

Paul Sherwin (observing a field of snow in the helicopter camera picture from the Col de la Bonette/Restaford): And a reminder that the summer is passing and the snow will soon return to the high Alps...
Phil Liggett: Actually, Paul, that's a glacier. The snow stays up here all year long.
Paul: Oh.

3. I forgot to mehtion several riders who had terrific tours (and a few who didn't):

Stefan Schumacher - the Mad Prussian was everywhere this Tour: attacking in the mountains, attacking in the flats, attacking in the damn time trial! If it had been my vote, I'd have voted him the "most combative" rider over Sylvain Chavanel. No disrespect, Sylvain.

Christian Vande Velde: a great finish for the Garmin-Chipotle rider.

Fun to interview, too. I hope we'll see more of him.

Bernard Kohl, Marc Cavendish: both young, both exciting, both surprising. Both part of the overall newness and freshness I felt watching this Tour

And then there were the not-so-new and the sad...

Robbie McEwen? Denis Menchov? The whole Euskaltel-Euskadi team? And what was with the mysterious departures of Stijn Devolder and Christophe Moreau?

Again: overall, it was a great Tour, fun to watch, and I hope we'll enjoy another as exciting next year. Adieu!

Right Ol' Bastard

I stopped at this news story on the front page of the World's Worst Newspaper.

Lemme give you the Cliff's Notes version: happy young fathead and friends go whooping and diving off a tree into the Little Luckiamute River back in '96. Unhappy fathead augers headfirst into sandbar, breaks neck.

Now effectively a corpse with a working head, he is kept alive only by respirator. He is on full disability, but is suing the State of Oregon for additional funds to pay for his in-home caregivers under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Note that he tried to go it with just his family helping out but burned through them and had to turn to the state to stay on his own rather than go into some sort of nursing care facility.

Now generally I'm a pretty blue-type blue person. I honestly believe that one of the important jobs of a government is to help people do things they can't do themselves: build courts, fight fires, defend countries. And help care for themselves if they're hurt. So generally my reaction to stuff like this is, OK, it doesn't hurt me and it helps you. I may not like losing the cool old iron corner curbs in North Portland, but it helps people in wheelchairs and sk8ters alike, so, go for it.

But I read this and my instant reaction was, screw you, Jack; if the choice is between spending more public money for you to live in an apartment in Salem versus you living in a nursing home, it's Happy Acres for you, me lad.

I think that, sadly, my decision was influenced by two items; first, that this guy isn't exactly Steven Hawking and keeping him in his house is unlikely to get a return on the public's investment outside his own happiness, and, second, that he didn't get his injury being blown from an MRAP in Ramadi - he and his buddies made a dumbass decision and he paid for it.

Extra credit for his pal who "drove back to the river and, in anger, sawed down the tree" they were swinging and jumping from!


So am I just being a right ol' bastard about wanting to deny more of my taxes to this poor mook? Does the fact that this guy pulled what was essentially a stupid boner and surveyed himself make a difference in who is responsible for his care? I'm honestly curious; what do you think we as "society" should do for this poor sonofabitch, and what part, if any, does the culpability for the guy's injury play? Comment away; I am always curious to find out exactly how much of a real jerk I am...

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

There may have been a time when the American "conservative" trend (as a political creed) had some meaning outside of religious fundamentalism, nationalist McCarthyism, crony capitalism, barely concealed race- and sexism, and intellectual know-nothingism.

I am not familiar with any time for which this is true. Conservatives claim it to be true, and I will not waste time arguing about it.

If this mythic conservative ethos was ever real, it is not now.

If you had somehow slept through the last eight years you would still wake to find stuff like this; the freakish melange of religious nutballery, political cynicism and underhanded public dealing whereby the prejudices of a group - albeit a group that has the GOP's head in a lock - are quietly planned to be made into the only choice for all of us.

And don't even get me started on the supposed GOP affection for "limited government" or "individual liberty"...

Understand this; I am fully supportive of every American's God-given right to vote for what I consider the pig-stupidest, least-beneficial-to-the-public-weal, just plain goddam boneheaded ignorant idea proposed by the most repugnant of candidates. My only criterion is that the aforesaid stupid idea needs to have at least SOME tiny, refugiant scrap of common sense appeal attached to it. For example, voting for every public building to have automatic doors in case the Rapture occurs and the janitor disappears and can't unlock the things is NOT a good reason to spend your tax dollars on automatic doors for the courthouse. If you think that automatic doors will help speed traffic through the courthouse PLUS have the benficial side effect of ensuring a quick exit in case of the sudden disappearance of all Real True Christians from the face of the Earth, well, fine.

It's stuff like the contraception-is-abortion story that makes me realize that the GOPers have just fallen off the ladder. These guys have no idea of the disconnect between what they believe and want to be true and what helps the things they want to be true actually happen.

Take contraception.

The oral contraceptive was first released around 1960. Note here that the birth rate, having hovered around 23-25 live births per 1,000 citizens per year since the first big drop in B/R in the Depression (hmmmm...people stop having babies when they can't feed them?) begins a steady slow decline. It's down to 21/1000 by 1964, 17.5/1000 by '68. By '95 we're only having 15 kids per 1,000 people and that number stayed about the same (14/1000) for the next decade.

This period roughly corresponds with the greatest expansion of wealth in the U.S. since the end of WW2. And I'm willing to bet that this combination of an expanding middle class and relative social stability had and has a LOT to do with the ability of families to plan their pregnancies. Far fewer young couples caught in a debt trap by unexpected baby bills. Far fewer older couples with sudden bundles of joy just when they were getting clear of the college payments and home improvements.

The numbers simply show that, when they are able, most people WANT to reduce the overall number of kids that they produce. The Fifties suburban fairy-tale of 2.5 kids and the cocker spaniel isn't just a fable; it's what a lot of parents wanted. Many of them had grown up in the six- and eight-kid depression families where the middle kids wore the older kids' clothes and the youngest wore them until they fell apart. Where another mouth to feed was a strain on the whole family, and meant another year of hot-bunking with brother Ed. The trend is pretty universal: once a people escapes poverty, one of the first things they want to do is have fewer kids.

And yet here's the GOP. Ready to go to the barricades (except sorta silently and sneakily, like a tweaker clouting your car) to tell these nasty sex-for-fun heretics that when you make the sign of the two-humped whale, you damn well need to risk making a sprog! Because...because Jesus loves little babies!

This isn't just bad policy. This isn't just bad decisionmaking. This is stupid, pointless national pistol-to-the-head political suicide. Because, think about it: the people who don't like birth control aren't going to use it anyway. They're gonna pop rugrats out of mommy's poozle like the bozos out of a clown car, because that's what they think God tells them to do. These people are going to vote Republican anyway because lesbians make Baby Jesus cry or something.

But people like me, people who want to have the choice to have a kid when we want to have a kid, are gonna get pissed. For the same reason we like indoor toilets rather than an outhouse. Because why run outside in the rain for a Class I download when you can squat in airconditioned comfort? As far as we know, God inspired the folks who inventied that clever little pill. So why NOT take advantage of our ability to still get some sweet, sweet loving from our spouse without resulting in littering the house with a football team's worth of offspring? Hell, we don't need no husky young'uns to harvest the tomatoes from the two plants in the backyard. Two kids is just fine for us, and we like the idea of not having to go back to the outhouse. Thanks, anyway.

And it doesn't stop here. The default GOP positions on stuff as diverse as budgets to war to economics to affirmative action are usually tilted so as to do as much as possible for the kind of people who already vote Republican. Admittedly these people are usually rich and powerful, but in a genuine "democracy" rich and powerful are supposed to take you only so far. But the actual results are idiotic, almost as if designed to widen the gulf between rich and poor, to place inordinate power into the hands of the wealthy, white and connected, to fracture the middle class that made post-WW2 America so reknowned for its stability and prosperity.


My conclusion is that the Republicans have one of two plans in mind:

One is to push their out-on-the-right-wingnut goals to their logical conclusion and fracture and impoverish most of the country, and then become a sort of Libertarian Party for the religious nutjob and the wealthy living in the gated community portion of the remnants of the nation, a permanent minority party full of ideologically correct but insane ideas.

The other is that they don't have ANY goal other than to cling to power in hope of further dismantling the New Deal, looting the public purse and hounding their enemies with counterproductive but emotionally and theologically satisfying goop like these contraception rules. And if the country goes to hell, oh, well, we thought the WMDs were there all along or something. Our bad. Oops.

So, Republicans: just fucking nuts, or cunning, despicable bastards?

I know what I think.

But we report. You decide.

Poem: "Fix" by Alicia Suskin Astriker, from No Heaven. © University of Pittsburgh Press.


The puzzled ones, the Americans, go through their lives
Buying what they are told to buy,
Pursuing their love affairs with the automobile,

Baseball and football, romance and beauty,
Enthusiastic as trained seals, going into debt, struggling—
True believers in liberty, and also security,

And of course sex—cheating on each other
For the most part only a little, mostly avoiding violence
Except at a vast blue distance, as between bombsight and earth,

Or on the violent screen, which they adore.
Those who are not Americans think Americans are happy
Because they are so filthy rich, but not so.

They are mostly puzzled and at a loss
As if someone pulled the floor out from under them,
They'd like to believe in God, or something, and they do try.

You can see it in their white faces at the supermarket and the gas station
—Not the immigrant faces, they know what they want,
Not the blacks, whose faces are hurt and proud—

The white faces, lipsticked, shaven, we do try
To keep smiling, for when we're smiling, the whole world
Smiles with us, but we feel we've lost

That loving feeling. Clouds ride by above us,
Rivers flow, toilets work, traffic lights work, barring floods, fires
And earthquakes, houses and streets appear stable

So what is it, this moon-shaped blankness?
What the hell is it? America is perplexed.
We would fix it if we knew what was broken.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Viva Carlitos y vamanos robando!

Let me say it: I was a doubter.

In my defense, Floyd of Millicent and Floyd, who is a much smarter guy AND knows waaaayyy more about cycling than me, was too. "You'd be foolish to bet on Sastre to survive in yellow after Saturday's time trial!" he cried after the Spanish rider gained 90some seconds on Cadel Evans on the Alpe d'Huez last week. And I was skeptical, too, that Team CSC hadn't seemed to have the confidence to attack hard in the Alps, putting the rivals at risk.

Well, I was wrong. It turns out that CSC had a plan after all. And Sastre rode a good time trial; losing time to Evans but enough to stay clear at the front of the GC. And CSC rode a solid race today, protecting their man until inside the 3km safe zone. My hat is off to a great team, and to "Little Carlos", the gregario turned champion.

Just a couple of other notes:

Team Columbia had a terrific race, and in Kim Kirchen they have a realy solid young rider. I hope to see more of them in the future.

On the other hand, Silence-Lotto should be ashamed of the "support" they didn't give their man, Evans. My picture of the man in the Alps was alone in a crowd, without a single domestique to help him. He did what he did on his own, and second is no shame when that is your truth. His team needs to give him support or he needs to find a team that can help him up that last step in Paris.

And for all the fear, the dopers didn't rule this year. The governing bodies need to stay after these cheats. But there seems to be hope.

And while I agree with Phil Liggett: this was a crazy year, and Sastre is not another Hinaut, another Indurain to win again and again. But it was the right year, and the right time, and he siezed it and his team fought for him. We cannot all be great champions. Sometimes the race isn't to the monsters of the pave'; sometimes a simple soldier can grab the prize usually reserved for the great and mighty. This year it was Sastre, and more power to him for it.

Until next year: Vive le Tour!

"To say before going to sleep"

It would be good to give much thought, before
you try to find words for something so lost,for those long childhood afternoons you knew
that vanished so completely --and why?We're still reminded--: sometimes by a rain,
but we can no longer say what it means;
life was never again so filled with meeting,
with reunion and with passing onas back then, when nothing happened to us
except what happens to things and creatures:we lived their world as something human,
and became filled to the brim with figures.And became as lonely as a shepherd
and as overburdened by vast distances,and summoned and stirred as from far away,
and slowly, like a long new thread,introduced into that picture-sequence
where now having to go on bewilders us.

"Childhood" by Rainier Maria Rilke

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dabbling in watercolors, Eddie?

Since I seem to be on a cartoon thing lately, here's one of the more luscious animated cinema dames in the past twenty years. Ladies and gentlemen...Miss Jessica Rabbit...Wonderful, salacious rendition of one of the great jazz standards. Of course, having Kathleen Turner sing for you is always a Good Thing. Someday I'll get around to talking about the babes of animated film
going back to Tex Avery's Red (and, of course, Bugs Bunny in drag...)

As a rather bland counterpoint, here's Peggy Lee doing the same tune with Benny Goodman and his orchestra:Ain't the same song, izzit?

These simple things

So remember how the Dirties (Millicent, Floyd and Thor, The Adorable Goddess of Thunder) came to visit? The whole evening was big fun and a wild and crazy visit, and here me lamenting that we never see our friends. Lovely to spend time with them. I didn't feel like taking pictures of the fun - it was better to participate - but here's the result after everyone had gone:Did I mention the part where the kid bomb exploded and left the toy and food shrapnel all over? Mmmmmyep. Wow. We only realized how much havoc our two and their one had wreaked when we started to clean up. Wow. Did I say wow? Wow.It was worth it. I know that you're going to be glued to today's time trial, so enjoy the race, guys, and we hope to see you again soon.

I forgot to post the "mess on the table" picture so you didn't get to see the new IKEA dining table. Here it is. Nice, ja? Note the old highstand table and chairs in the new home out on the deck. We're now a two-table family, so we'll be voting Republican soon. With two tables we can't be like the Poor People, right?Here's 3/4 of the crew enjoying brekker at the lovely new table. Mmmmmm, crunchberries!Another in the huge leap forward for Missykind is her New Bed. Little Miss now sleeps (when she does sleep) in her...brand new Toddler Bed! Yes! (OK, well, it's actually the Peeper's recycled toddler bed...which was originally the Poet's of the Wilson family of the Oscar the Ginormous Fish). But, whatEVER. Here's the two official bed testers trying it out.And here's Little Miss happily enveloped in her new covvies, with her soft bed friends all around her. I apologize for the blur - she was absolutely wriggling with happiness when I tried to get her to pose.So since I don't have a good picture of the sleepy Big Girl here's another of the bed testing just for fun...It's this sort of little stuff, these simple things, that make up the daily currency of parenting. They can be maddeningly dull, or frustrating, or routine, or pleasant, or truly enlivening. But they are with us long after the big moments of high drama fade...

So here they are: my world enough and time...No deep thoughts this morning. Just kids and friends and tables. How about letting Little Miss take us out by going all thermonuclear cute on you:You kids can be a pain in the ass, but your Dad loves you like he loves oxygen. You may not always think so, but it's true.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Oop Shooby, daddio...

Normally I talk politics on Friday. But, frankly, nothing much has changed since the LAST time I talked politics (other than this loathesome little bit of news, which I do wish to discuss a bit later). Nope. So, instead, I wanna lay some jive on you hepcats and hotpatooties about some swwwiiingin' celluloid I, like, viddied just yesterday: The Jungle Book.My beloved wife neither flags nor fails in her attempt to wean our larvae off of abominations like "Power Rangers" and whatever other toy-tie-in is being marketed as kid entertainment. She found the old '67 Disney film at our outstanding local library and we all (well, OK, all of us minus Little Miss, who was sort-of-asleep, which is also a post for another day) snuggled down to watch.

This flick is possibly the poster child for "What is a Disneyfied Object". It's just fucking wierd, for one thing. It lifts the name, the main characters and the central Indian jungle setting out of the Kipling book and then proceeds to warp them waaaaay the hell out of shape. There's no real storyline; the whole thing is just episodes loosely strung together. Possibly the oddest part is the way the characters talk. Our hero, Mowgli, talks like a typical American Sixties kid. His pal Bagheera and his enemy Shere Khan have plummy, upper-class English accents, while there is a quartet of vultures thrown in near the end for comic relief who vary from bad Cockney to even worse Liverpudlian. Plus it's a musical (what Disney film of the Sixties wasn't?), and as untrue to the original as ever a film adaptation has been. The Seeonee wolfpack, central to the stories, is disposed of in a single, brief scene two minutes into the film. The Anglo-Indianness, the mystery and the dark elements of the stories, gone. Major characters, gone, or their attributes changed all out of shape.

You'd think it'd suck immense pipe, huge, industrial-grade, 24-foot-diameter precast concrete stormwater pipe.

It doesn't.

In fact, of all the Disney cartoons I've sat through in three years of childrearing I'd have to say that TJB is perhaps the most bearable, even almost enjoyable.

There are a couple reasons for this.

The voices, for one, are terrific. The boy who voices Mowgli is someone named Bruce Reitherman. I've never heard of him, but he has a genuinely likeable kid voice, neither Caillou-whiny nor Diego-perky. Both the cats, but especially George Saunders as Shere Khan, are wonderful; Saunders had perfected the delightfully insinuating English villian long before Alan Rickman was out of smallclothes.

The songs are tolerable, and even enjoyable in the case of Baloo's "Bear Necessities" and King Louis' "Monkey Song" (of course, having Phil Harris and Louis Prima along to do your singing doesn't hurt). Even the little song "The Girl" sings at the end of the film has such a pretty little hook that I found myself humming it as I worked out in the field today. (And just as a note, I liked that this version is dubbed in Hindi!).

It's totally hep as a Sixties artifact; both Baloo and King Louis are real honest-to-God swingin', jive-talking, scat-singing hipster beatniks (although, typically, the Disney brandsters are about five to ten years behind real life - their 1967 characters are more like 1957 beatniks than the hippies then looking for the Summer of Love). But the doobopdoobop Swingin' vibe is strong: I expected to see a cartoon Dean Martin, jungle martini glass in hand, come bopping out of the jungle at any moment.

But what absolutely sold me was...


The movie Kaa is NOT the book Kaa. For one thing, in the book Kaa is Mowgli's friend, wise to the secrets of the jungle and helpful to the curious boy. In the stories Kaa fascinates by his swaying, not the eyeball hypnosis he works in the flick. But all this is bye the bye, because Kaa is voiced by Sterling Holloway.

You probably don't know that name. But if I showed you this guy you'd know him:

Yep. Kaa is Winnie the Pooh in snake drag.

Mojo hated that. She snarled "He's Winnie the Pooh!" in a shocked, almost angry voice, as if this was a kind of unique betrayal of the Silly Old Bear on the part of the Disney people. But, goddam it, I think that was the best part of the whole movie.

Because, you see, Kaa IS Winnie the Pooh. He's Winnie gone wrong, the AntiPooh, the evil, Dark Side of Pooh Bear; the part that really wants to take a hatchet to that fuckin' manic, hyperkinetic pain-in-the-ass Tigger, get really ripped on some 180-proof honey mead and show Kanga his "Poohstick" and then burn down the entire Hundred Aker Wood and dance among the flames like Shiva within the Ring of Fire.

But he can't, of course. Because he's Pooh. Pooh, the gentle, inept, passive-aggressive fuckup. Pooh the nitwit. Pooh the goof. As Kaa, he likes to think of himself as a cunning, ruthless predator even as he's constantly foiled by the heroes Mowgli and Bagheera and, when confronted by a REAL badass, Shere Khan simply slaps him aside.Because even when he's being bad, he's not good at it. Because even as Kaa, he's still Pooh. Still scatterbrained and limp as a biscuit. He's poohness personified. He hates it at the same time he realizes that it's his fate and he cannot escape it. As the good guys shove him out of the tree and he falls like Lucifer, again, you can almost hear him lament in his soft, sweet-yet-irritating Winnie-the-Pooh plaint:

"Oh, BOther."


Anyway, I leave you with the whacked-out beatnik bliss of Louis Prima as King Louis and "I Wanna Be Like You"...Like, so gone, baby...skiddleyot scoot scooby baba hey na na!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Throwing recklessness to the winds

I had to add a brief update to yesterday's Tour post after the exciting finish on the Alpe d'Huez.We lost our babysitter but were blessed by the arrival of the lovely Nola, mommy Millicent and daddy Floyd to eat, play and watch the Tour. A thermonuclear level of kidlet energy was released in the house, much shouting was directed towards the screen, there were some tears but lots of laughs and hugs and Nola cried when she had to go home. We miss you, too, Nola! Come back and bounce on the bed whenever you like, sweetie. You and your mom and dad are totally the ginchiest and we love having you!

Anyway, having had a second day to watch Team CSC, I'm less inclined to be all about them. They needed to attack - really, they needed to attack on both the Alpe AND the Col de la Croix de Fer - to put Cadel Evans in trouble. They didn't, and from the interviews it sounds like they had no tactical plan other than to ride tempo and hope for someone to crack. But their tempo wasn't punishing enough. Sastre gained only about 90 seconds on Evans, and the Lotto rider can gain that back and more on Saturday. I think CSC has missed their chance. We'll see.

It really has been a fun Tour this year!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Winds of Paradise

The Tour is in its final week, and, against my expectations, it has been an exciting and rewarding race to follow. Now that we have finished with the Alps and this year's Tour has defined itself, let's look at some things we've learned.

1. The Tour is still a great sporting event, perhaps the most challenging test of overall human athletic skill and endurance devised.A Tour GC rider needs aerobic condition to simply stand the blistering pace of moving a human-powered vehicle over 100km a day for 19 days. He needs strength to climb mountains, agility to conquer descents at over 50 miles an hour. He needs determination and the ability to overcome the range of pain from discomfort to agony just to stay on the seat for the thousand miles from Brittany to Paris. Other sports require many different, difficult strengths and skills. But I still consider this event to be the most all-around demanding on the body and mind of the contestants.2. A huge part of the appeal of this race is the place, and the history behind it. To be able to compare the riders today with the great riders of the past who also climbed the Alpe d'Huez or raced the narrow lanes of the little villages in the Cotes-de-Rhone; this is the stuff that makes sport into lore, and eventually into legend.

3. The Tour still faces a very, very difficult battle with cheating in the form of drugs and performance-enhancing substances like EPO. The performance of the Italian rider Ricardo Ricco of Saunier Duval on the Col d'Aspin and the Super Besse had seemed like wonderful racing and brilliant riding by a team not considerd a GC threat. But, as with the "heroic" comeback of Floyd Landis in 2006 and the dramatic rides of Alex Vinokourov last year, the real "hero" turned out to be Ricco's doctor. His blood test revealed a fairly sophisticated cheating using a form of EPO not commonly seen before.The Saunier Duval team withdrew, and, later, Barloworld, one of the older sponsors of cycling in the Tour, announced that it was leaving the sport.

Make no mistake: the Tour isn't clean now, and it won't be for some time. These guys ride for a living; they're not in this for the honor of the side and the nobility of the sport. They're in it for a paycheck and because they want to win. The sport HAS to distrust them, and test them, and ensure that the cheaters are caught and punished. Only then will the sport be sure that athletic skill, and not creative chemistry, is winning these races.4. There's something about great champions. But there's something to be said for NOT having a great champion. The Lance Armstrong years were fun. He was a great rider, and he and Johan Brunhyl made U.S Postal (I still can't think of them as "Discovery") into a great team. It was fun to try and figure out how he'd managed to defeat his challengers, and he was awesome (in the slightly frightening way that truly monumental things can be) to watch.

But great champions can also be pretty boring. No one ever wondered who was going to win the American League pennant in the 1920s and 1930s. No one ever lost sleep trying to figure out the chances of a Fuzzy Zoeller victory in U.S. Opens that Tiger Woods played in. This year has been a terrific fight for the yellow jersey; at the beginning of yesterday's stage six men were within one minute of each other - three within 10 seconds! Today there were still four riders inside of a minute, and that with the monster, the Alpe d'Huez, coming up. Now THAT'S a dogfight!5. Having said that, it seems to me that Team CSC is proving to be the big dog in this fight. I was tremendously impressed with the fight that CSC took up the Col de la Bonnette, although other observers castigated them for missing the opportunity to put the other GC contenders in jeopardy. Still, with Carlos Sastre and both the Schleck brothers (one in yellow as of this morning) in the top ten, you have to think that CSC is going to be hard to push off the top step of the podium in Paris...

So if you're reading the stories about the dopers and concluding that this year is just another sleazy sideshow, think again. For all its problems, for all the little men with their little games, the Tour is once again both great race and great human drama. Once again, the winds of paradise are blowing atop the Col de la Croix de Fer; where are you who long for paradise?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

View from a Distance

If this was an LP/OP ("listening post/observation post") and I was the character in the covered hole watching and listening (as is the wont for those in such a place) for the barb'rous foe to come ravening down from the secret places of the stairs full of wrath and intent to unseam us from nave to chaps, this entire weekend would have rated a full-on 24-channel "Negative Sitrep, over."

It's not that we did nothing,'s just that the entire weekend was full to overflowing with the small change of toddler- and preschooler-parenting. Feeding, playing, disciplining, comforting, diverting, directing, diapering (or checking, for the older one), napping, dosing medicine, encouraging, consoling, calming, feeding again, sleeping. Both Peeper and Missy have little infections; Little Miss from cleft complications (no news there) and the Peep from a blister on his left foot that he let get dirty rather than let us clean up and bandage. They're both taking antibiotics and the Peep gets a dressing change twice a day, which he cries and screams through but before and after seems to feel confers on him a sort of odd disctinction, a Purple Foot for Peepers.Wash, rinse, repeat.

There's nothing wrong with it. There's nothing intrinsically awful or boring or pitiful. And yet, there's nothing there to entertain, inform, anger, amuse or fool you. It's Wonder Bread parenting, interesting only to the participants and sometimes not even all that much to us...

The only thing that really crossed my mind this weekend was regarding friends and friendship. And it kicked in Saturday when our friend K came by on her bike.

She looked terrific and was happy and fun and interesting as always. I felt a little awkward because we had nothing planned so we all sat and talked and played with the kidlets in the cool under the plum tree. It wasn't much in terms of entertainment for her - or for us, really, other than a chance to catch up with a great gal and a friend. (But that may be me. I'm guy-ish in that I think of friends as people you "do stuff with". Hmmm.)And it was that that got me thinking, about friends and how it seems that either friendship in general is somewhat of an ephemeral thing, or that we in particular have no gift for it.

Because I realized that outside of K yesterday, our friends Brent & Janelle fairly regularly, and the Ravas every month or so, we have not heard from or managed to set up anything with any of our friends for...well, months, I suppose.

This is simply biologic to some degree; for example, we know this terrific woman, M, who is married to an equally terrific guy, W. They're sort of like the friends you have when you're one of the leads in a romantic comedy: clever, funny, warm and loving (they've got that "we're not just cool individuals we're a fun couple" thing working)...and they get all the good lines, too.They're good people. We really like to hang with many 30something kidless couples want to do the sandbox at the zoo for the zillionth time? Pass on the Brewfest or all-night no-limit D&D for "Kung Fu Panda" and Peanut Butter & Ellies?

So you accept that losing touch - maybe not completely, but to a greater or lesser degree - with most of your single-and-kidless friends is just a fact that accompanies reproduction, like recognizing types of vomiting and developing the ability to catch thrown food out of the air .

But it seems that we even have trouble connecting with other parents.

We've had three-martini playdates with kids from the Peep's daycare. One date only, no return engagements. We've tried the local Families with Children from China and gotten no love and no congee recipies. The area single-moms-with-Chinese-adoptees? We got the congee, but our connection with the group just never went anywhere.

We'd call and things would fall through. And, most damningly, the return calls would never come. We'd try another time and somehow that connection never got made.

It's gotten to the point where I've just stopped trying to set things up, even with people that would seem to be good prospects for friendship. I don't know what's going on; I'm not sure if it's bad timing or just coincidence or something more toxic - something fundamentally unpleasant about us that is making people shy off. I can't be all that objective about my own charm, but who the heck wouldn't love Maxine? Or be entertained by the Peeper? Or enjoy Mojo's dry wit and ability to belly dance? Is it personal hygiene? Political views? Theologically unsound? What??

But I suspect that I, or we, are starting to sound desperate. And as everyone who dated in high school remembers, that's the Tolling Knell of Death. Social Doom. The Long Kiss Goodnight. At that point it's better to accept that spending the weekends with one's own family is kismet rather than try to lure the unwilling into proximity, becoming the unspeakable in pursuit of the unapproachable. Ugh.So. Not sure where to go from here. But we either need to 1) find a couple of new friends who like us, really, really like us, 2) work frantically on our social skills, 3) completely change our personalities, or 4) get used to seeing a LOT of each other, and we're getting too damn old for options 2 and 3.

It is, as Yul Brynner famously said: a puzzlement.

Update 7/21: BTW, feel free, friends and aquaintences (assuming you read this) to post a comment re: your take on whether we have a "friendship problem" and if so, what you feel the problem is. I mean, I'm perfectly willing to use actual soap in my monthly bath if it'll make our pals more willing to invite us to go cycling or take in the Pirate Festival or the Sprockettes something.Really. We're willing to go the extra 1500 meters for friendship.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Twelfth Century monastic advice for those whose Friday night rocked:

"Qui bene bibit, bene dormit.
Qui bene dormit, cogitat non malum.
Qui cogitat non malum, non peccat.
Qui non pecat, venit in caelum.
Igitur: qui bene bibit, venit in caelum!"
Which, translated from the dog-Latin means roughly:

"He sleeps well who goodly drinks.
Who sleeps thus well no evil thinks.
Who thinks no evil never sins.
Who sins not, salvation wins.
Therefore: He who drinks so well, surely shall be saved from Hell."

On second thought, barkeep, make that a double.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The judgement of your peers

In the waning days of the Bush Presidency, an Administration so benighted as to make a man long for the refreshing buoyancy of a Franklin Pierce or the decisive confidence of a James Buchanan, the drumming in the Beltway jungle telegraph seems to speak of reeling the surging tide back from the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates. Few beyond the christopathic 27%ers, the microcephalic Rush-pithed Legion of Deadites, believe McSame's shrilled insistence on a hundred-year occupation. The calls are coming ever louder, to move beyond this debacle and position the United States for the next twenty-year policy cycle.

Smart people are asking: why the hell would anyone want to keep tossing blood and treasure into this bottomless Ottoman cesspit? Why throw good money after bad? What's the point - even the Iraqis themselves are telling us to go!?I think that those of us on the Outside just don't get the hold that the New American Century has over the core cabal; the Cheney-Wolfowitz-Feith-Kagan-Perle sorts of people that got this thing started.

Forget for a moment the childish folderol about smoking guns and mushroom clouds, about WMDs, about terrorism and hating us for our freedoms and purple fingers and fighting them there so they won't pop out of the dairy case down at the Safeway. Just remember this: there are people in power, in this Administration as well as in the ancillary organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, who really, seriously, truly, madly, deeply think and believe that America in the 21st Century should have an Empire.And holding a physical place in the center of the Middle East is a vital part of that.

So, frankly, these people could give a rat's ass what the Iraqi people want. Or what the American people want. Like any oligarch worth his athletic club pass, they know better. They know that when you...

Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait, in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.'re always going to get flak from those too short-sighted to see the Big Picture.

Now I don't think that these people want a real old-fashioned British-type Empire, with little American viceroys, proconsuls and administrators in place, giving instructions to the silent sullen peoples.

Take up the White Man's burden--
Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your God and you.

I think they want a string of little Canal Zones across the world, from which our constabulary can go forth to whip up on some woolly heads when the wogs get uppity and threaten our sleep.Green Zones, Camp Victories...these are the coaling stations of the New American Empire.

I honestly think they believe that.

So, as my old friend Seydlitz89 points out: the real problem isn't the problem we think we have, that is, there IS no strategic or political objective to the seemingly insoluble clusterfucks that are the occupations of Central and SW Asia. The problem is that we - or at least, the people who got us into this goatrope and are still driving it - have a public objective that is unachievable because the REAL objective - geopolitical domination of the Middle East - is politically radioactive and unspeakable. Apologists for Empire - Niall Ferguson comes to mind - are usually not welcome outside the country club smoking room.

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine,
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
(The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly
Bring all your hope to nought.

I would add that - on top of the ordinary, political-stupidity dimension of this mess, the neocon types who desire this are foolishly deluded by a critical misreading of their own historic paradigm. Specifically:

Britain was not a Great Power because of her Empire: she was an Empire because she was a Great Power. Georgian and Victorian Britain was the economic powerhouse of Europe, itself the economic, technical and scientific world power of its day. It was Britain's domestic strength that allowed it to range out and seize its imperial possessions. We are an immense power, a superpower. But...

The critical military and political range between the Great Powers and the lesser states (and even the "stateless" powers such as Hezbollah and the Mexican drug cartels) is nowhere near as wide as it was in the 17th through the 19th Century. Now I'm not talking about nuking cities here. In a conventional fight we are still the baddest sonuvabitch in the valley. But I'm talking about the small change of imperial policing: the punitive expedition, the seizure of foreign assets or territory to extract concessions. From 1666 to 1945, British imperials fought Afghans with jezails and Ethiopians with spears and Chinese with pikes and bows with modern organization, Maxim guns and gas-recoiling artillery. The result was, inexorably, slaughter. The mine, the booby-trap and the AK-47 have made the "captives of our bow and spear" a LOT more dangerous. Iraq and the continuing mess in Afghanistan shows what happens when you try and "throw some crappy little country against the wall" and that little bastard gets you stuck in its tarbaby ass.Take up the White Man's burden--
No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper--
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go, make them with your living
And mark them with your dead

The benefits of empire are mostly emotional; the costs are plainly real. Outside of the West Indies, Britain spent as much or more on their colonies as they got in return by way of trade or plunder. The colonies also tended to get them into wars they didn't want and didn't like to pay for. Our Revolution, for one. Whites versus Maoris in New Zealand; whites versus reds in the Mohawk Valley... South Africa, save for the gold and diamonds, was a neverending pain in the ass; Boer greed fomented one war in 1879 and Boer intransigence another in 1899. British colonial ambition also got them into trouble with other Europeans, themselves looking for colonial goodies. The parallel between an aggressive U.S. looking for support in the Central Asian "stans" clashing with a resurgent Russia reasserting its dominance in the "near abroad" and an aggressive Victorian Britain looking to establish a "Red Line" through eastern Africa clashing with a resurgent France trying to force its way through the Sudan near Fashoda are too spooky to spend much time considering.


Take up the White Man's burden,
And reap his old reward--
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought ye us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

But does any of this really matter? If our political masters want an Empire we are far down the road to being unable to recognize it, let alone oppose it. The American public barely remembers the words of the Declaration of Independence about how "all men" being created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Clearly that doesn't apply to the dusky heathen, of those ye better, the the lesser breeds without the law. Perhaps the real failure was simply one of boldness, that George W. Bush, that littlest of little men, couldn't bring himself to cross the imperial Rubicon, brandishing his imperial eagle and shouting the Yale fratboy version of "alia iacta est!"

Take up the White Man's burden!
Have done with childish days--
The lightly-proffered laurel,
The easy ungrudged praise:
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years,
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers.Dear God. WASF