Saturday, April 14, 2007

Heard On The Hiawatha Cyclery Ride

"No matter what direction your marriage is going, a tandem bicycle gets you there faster."

Sorry, I was in oxygen debt (I know) and I've already forgotten who I should attribute the quote to. Add that to the fact that I can testify in my own case, this was sadly true. As in, I'm not married to that person any more.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

And so it goes

Kurt Vonnegut was one of my favorite writers. I don't remember where I stumbled upon him, or if it was a recommendation, or did I watch a nutty movie based on his book or come across the fact that he was best friends with fellow cynical writer Joseph Heller (whom I also love), but I'm glad I did. I've read all fourteen of his books. I think I loved something about them all. From Kilgore Trout to Ice 9. I enjoyed them, even when I wasn't sure I understood them.

I saw one of his last national public appearances on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart promoting his last semi autobiographical book. He was as angry, witty, and charming as a guy could be. I wish I'd met him in real life. He inspired me from afar. I'm not sure I could stand it if I'd actually met him.

The defining moment for him was during World War II. He'd gotten captured near the end, and had been made to produce vitamin supplements in a former basement slaughterhouse in Dresden an architecturally beautiful and famous city. The task saved his life. Dresden was carpet bombed by the RAF and US Army Air Corp. Environmental conditions led to a phenomenon called a fire storm. Heat and conditions wiped the area free of life like an atomic bomb. In his book Slaughterhouse Five he likened it to walking on the moon afterward. The book's name came from the five US army survivors that lived because they were in a slaughterhouse underground.

The men were made to scour the town for bodies afterward. There were very few survivors.

He wrote how they used a horse and loaded the charred bodies into a cart. Then they piled them high so they could complete the cremation process and prevent the spread of disease with precious kerosene. When the building was too rickety to enter to retrieve the dead, the poured in kerosene or used flame throwers to complete the process.

In a few miles of travel the horse stopped. Nothing could urge it to move. Not food, water, whips or cajoling. The horse had discovered something they had not. Much of the construction materials had broken away to be melted into sharp hard glass like bits of horror that didn't quite get through their tough army boot soles. They were big enough to reach the hoof of the horse where his shoe didn't provide protection.

This horror of Dresden and of war was beyond belief. It was something that haunted Vonnegut for life. At one point he considered suicide due to depression. The fact that his mother took her own life may have played in to it as the children of suicide tend to follow suit. He managed to survive somehow. And he wrote. Plays, essays, readings, novels, autobiographical sketches, and college graduation addresses. His anguish, his worries, his anger, and his passion came out in his writing. He believed that everyone had a teacher, that lead you to be passionate about something. Thank them while they are still alive. Write them a note, call them, but find a way to thank them for being your inspiration.

Vonnegut was accused of repeating himself. His alter ego Kilgore Trout appeared in many books. Phrases and absurd techniques of presenting his writing appeared in many of his books. He had an affinity with decorating his pages with crude drawings of his own makings. Some critics called him little more than a comic book author. Yet millions of us loved him for what he wrote. There is one phrase he used frequently and two paragraph I've remembered since I read it.

"Robert Kennedy, whose summer home is eight miles from the home I live in all year round,” Mr. Vonnegut wrote at the end of book, “was shot two nights ago. He died last night. So it goes." He went on to say.

“Martin Luther King was shot a month ago. He died, too. So it goes. And every day my Government gives me a count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam. So it goes.”

Kurt Vonnegut fell and suffered a significant head trauma six weeks ago according to his wife of 28 years. The progression of his brain injury lead to his death Tuesday night in hospital in Manhattan at the age of 84. So it goes. And every day the twenty four hour news networks tell me how many Iraqis and American men and women died today in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Watch Out

Holy smokes I've been reading web based things late in the evening again and my head is aching with anarchy.
Where to start? How about the Shrub?
Today, one of the Shrub's press swine stated that on January 10, the Shrub gave the public what we clamored for in the 2006 elections, change in the Iraq war. January 10, January 10, you mean the surge? The increase in troop levels? The more of the same old shit? This is what we voted (yes I voted, thank you) last November? Good grief that man is more demented than previously thought. If there is a guy that truly can pervert anything into supporting his wacky ideals, this is the man. Gosh, listening to NPR report on presidential candidates for the next 18 months is sounding so much better than it did an hour ago.

Don Imus. Don't like him. Didn't like his show. Thought Howard Stern was more original and funny. Depressed when he left the Minnesota market and got quoted in the St. Paul PP as calling Minnesotans idiots or dolts or something for continuing to listen to that white bread bully Tom Bernard at KQ. Jeebus, how many partners has he had in the last 25 years?

Imus' quote about Gwen Ifill was bad enough and the statement about the Rutgers basketball squad was racist. In his position suspension isn't good enough. It was obscene, so why does the FCC fine Stern and let Imus fly? I don't know, but I believe that Stern has a bigger audience. Nobody made a movie about Imus' career have they? Would it be as popular as Private Parts? I bet not.

I bought the premise of that movie. That Stern was a jerk on the radio, but loved his wife and kids. Sort of like De Niro in the King of Comedy which was go to an extreme he believed in, instead of just being a schmuck for life. Much to everyone's surprise, he's successful just being himself. He actually made fun of himself ("I'm hung like a second grader"), he was loyal to his friends (Robin, Fred, Bababooey), that he was an entertainer like any other, but his "real" life wasn't necessarily like that.

Then he showed his real colors and divorced his wife. Maybe she got tired of him. I don't know who started it, I know it didn't seem public and I want to believe he treated her fairly. That he takes care of his kids. I just no longer believe its all an act. Heroes fall from their pedestals at some point.

But I digress. Not really. My point is that if Stern was more of a jerk in real life, then Imus was a racist in reality. Stern tended to make fun of adults, and I don't consider the freshman dominated basketball team Imus called "hos" to yet be adults. They were living the American dream, they reached the pinnacle of their sport; against the reigning perennial no less, that juggernaut the Tennessee Vols. They lost yes, which had to be a crushing defeat, but did they express any of the traits we hate in our Cinderellas, or athletes we root for?

Okay, some of them sported tattoos. So does the grandmother three houses over. BFD. Has any of them been arrested for public intoxication, speeding, urination, chemically impaired driving, or firearms or drugs in their possession? No. Fact is as a whole, womens college athletics are exemplary for their off the field performance and behavior. To me that is the worst crime here. He picked on someone that wasn't expected to be in that game, in a sport that behaves better than any of the male professional sport members. One example: in the past week two NFL players were suspended for behavior and Warren Moon former ViQueen QB and hall of fame (shame?) member was arrested for speeding and impaired driving of such a nature that his vehicle was impounded. Those are just two reports that I can remember this week in one sport! May Imus go rot in anonymity at his ranch the wrinkled slug.

I've been playing all week with something called the Google home page. You can have six tabs and add one of a gazillion "gadgets" to any of those six pages. You can even make a new tab, choose a name of say "bicycling", and it will populate it with up to a dozen individual news sources ready for you to customize. You can have little "to do" lists you can read from work or home. And just all kids of greasy nerd stuff. I don't know how long its existed, but it is so cool I just about peed my pants. No wonder Google will rule the world. FU Microsoft.

I've managed to get my TV working well enough to watch the "Simpsons" on Sunday. Thank you lord for giving me some brains. So it was a repeat with Lisa inventing a Indian tribe the "Hitachi" she created from the name brand on their toaster. I couldn't make shit like that up in a million years. And the beauty, is she ends up confession her sins in front of an enormous meeting of the descendants of the real American Indians. Some good old plot lines still work so well. Kid tells lie, ends up telling bigger lies to cover original lie with, gets traumatized by guilt, ends up telling truth in embarrassing position, gets mildly rewarded for finally having the courage to admit their error and the truth. Don't you wish the Shrub had watched that episode? Dang, I am. Think he's understand it? Or laugh? Understand the "Hi-tachi" bit? No, I don't either.

You know, as a displaced Yooper, I love snow. Hell, I was born in November and it always snowed for my birthday. By that time each year I'd had my first cold as a kid, which meant my first shot of penicillin from Dr. Hauge. The good old days. Like a Rockwell painting. "Climb up on that stool and have a look at my diploma, good, drop yer trousers", alcohol swab and stab with the needle. None of that "this won't hurt a bit" or "you'll feel a little pressure" or "try to relax". You knew it was coming, he didn't sugar coat it, and he got it over quick and gave you a cheap sucker for it.

I've always loved to rib the wussies natives about snow and cold. I take perverse pleasure when they whine and moan about cruddy weather. I lived in Texsucks and I knew what it was like to not have seasons. To have boring weather with a capital bloody B followed by H for hot. I knew what 400 inches of snow in a season felt like.

This year, I'm tired of the snow. I did grin like a lunatic (sorry Ray) on my way to and from the bus stop this morning in the snow. Yet the truth is, I'd prefer it quit and warm up a little for some better cycling weather. Bloody hell, is resistance futile? Am I becoming a feared and dreaded Minnesotan? Grody Grief Charlie "St. Paul" Brown! I gotta go visit the UP soon and get this shit out of my system. Maybe I will go see P.J. Olsson in Houghton after all this weekend for that gig in his hometown?

In case you haven't heard, Walter Reed hospital was reported internally to be a hell hole by injured soldiers in 2004. It wasn't a secret what a dump it was for the less than privileged. So I personally accuse the Shrub of lack of support for his beloved troops. Take that you dink. I think the GOP congress was more worried about that Terry Schivo junk right about then. You know, paying attention to the crucial national problems and challenges.

A journalist by the name of Gary Kamiya accuses the national media to have been asleep on the job in the post 9/11 era. Specifically there wasn't a single major outlet questioning the Shrub and his minions like Faux news and their march to remove Iraq's leader. Funny how the national media don't see him as a "real" journalist because he writes a blog, and they completely disagree with his premise. That they were not asleep but being prudent and checking their facts and such highly journalistic ideals he just doesn't observe nor understand. One this is almost always true, when those at the top of the heap are accused by those perceived as of a "lower" caste or status they go on the defense, get angry, and get personal. They don't do their own job on themselves and check the facts. The national media helped lead us into the war into Iraq. There were no WMDs there. No anthrax, no moving labs, no moving missile trailers, and no stockpiles. There was lone voices in the wind saying how there was no "yellow cake" from Africa tale. They patriotically supported the smoke, mirrors, and lies and exacerbated the effect with their reporting.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Next Big Thing

Thanks to the Onion. They have their eye on the next big thing. Check it out to the right. Or buy your own here.