Thursday, November 28

War on Thanksgiving

Oh no, I really can’t let it go.  I’m too disgusted to just let it go.  And I’m not disgusted because I’ve eaten too much.  Well…let’s just not go there.

First off, David Simon, the CEO of Simon Property Group Inc., last year was awarded a $120 million bonus (first off, who in the world needs $120 million?!) and yet has stated he is most concerned with “cash flow growth” and Smith Malls has decreed that “in order to best serve our customers” (but not employee customers) “the mall will be opening at 8PM on Thanksgiving evening.”
Words fail me.  What’s even more insidious is the large number of Big Retailers opening up earlier than that on Thanksgiving Day.  Oh, the Corporatists and their apologists assure us that everything is okay because all of those retail employees are getting holiday pay, but I’ve been there and truth be told even when I desperately needed the money I would rather have had the time off; or at least had the option of spending the holiday with my family.  And it’s not like they’re giving them piles of loot in compensation for their dignity and the respect they deserve as human beings.  Entities like Walmart are notorious for their social injustice policies.  Being employed in retail in America these days is akin to living in indentured servitude. 
Let’s face it, as Americans our cultural religion is consumption.  If we’re not buying we’re dying.  And even those with supposedly strong spiritual convictions fall victim to a slick marketing campaign.  It’s sickening.  It’s maddening.
I don’t have the mental energy to delve any deeper into this issue.  It’s wrong in so many ways.  It’s a sure sign that the post-carbon-apocalypse is looming still.
I do want to point out one last thing; well, two.  I looked up “Black Thursday” on Wikipedia and this is what I found:

 
One of these things is not like the others.  One is sort of considered a holiday by the less enlightened among us.  A holiday no less.  Wait, didn’t there used to be a different holiday on that day?  I think there was…it was…what did we call it?  Oh yeah! Thanksgiving.  A day to be grateful not greedy.
Bonus image for the day:

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 27

Scrooge You

I call shenanigans on this whole Christmas affair!  Shenanigans! Shenanigans! SHE-NAN-I-GANS!!!

You cannot call me "scrooge" because I am resisting the onset of Christmas on the DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING so don't even try!

Last night my kids came across a poorly done Charlie Brown Thanksgiving show on Netflickers.  It must have come out during an off year for Schultz.  It was pretty shoddy.  There were adults and they talked coherently.  I was already in a shenanigans-calling mood because of that.

Mandy called from the other room and suggested I look to see if there was a better Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special or some other appropriate Thanksgiving kids show on the television device.  I pulled up the local TV listing on the ole laptop and found exactly one holiday themed program: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  And 2013 became the year the kids added a whole slew of colorful words to their vocabulary.  Well, not really.  But I was thinking them!

Are. You. Kidding Me?!?!  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?!?!?!?! TWO DAYS BEFORE THANKSGIVING!@#$%!@#$%!!!!!!!!!!!!?!?!?!

HALLELUJAH!


Christmas has supplanted Thanksgiving.  And why?  Corporate greed.  Its that simple.  Christmas has encroached back into the fall more and more every year as Big Retail tries to gobble up bigger and bigger portions of the Christmas pie. 

And now this year the Boxes are starting their Black Friday sales on THURSDAY!  It's only coincidence that Thursday's Pre-Black Friday sales happen to fall on another holiday.  Oh, you don't remember which one?  It's Thanksgiving.  Yeah.  Christmas has successfully sieged and overthrown Thanksgiving.  We should just wipe Thanksgiving off the calendars from here on out.  It's done.  It's gone the way of the Roman Empire, the dodo, and cheap gas. 

My family is not shopping at any store that is open on Thanksgiving this year.  We're boycotting them because it's wrong to make people work through a holiday that should celebrate family and the good things in your life.  At least that's what they used to try and sell us about Thanksgiving.

But even when I was a kid Thanksgiving was little more than harbinger of Christmas.  As I was gobbling up my first round of turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls and dessert for the year I knew we were entering the home stretch toward Christmas morn when I'd go into a frenzy of tearing wrapping paper to shreds and flinging my body about in ecstasy as I basked in the glory of all of those magnificent plastic toys.  I'm saddened to say that my own children have been so conditioned.

Christmas was cheap even then.  And this greedy push to drag it over Thanksgiving and--Lord forbid--Halloween has only cheapened it even more.  And its cheapened Thanksgiving.  I'm not one to wax nostalgic about the "meaning of Thanksgiving" or the "meaning of Christmas" but I find it insanely ironic that Christmas Greed has eclipsed the one national holiday that is sort of anti-greed.  I would interpret Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful for your blessings and the bounty of a rich land, but not to wallow in the mire of Christmas consumerism, wracking up credit card debt in the name of "sales" and all to help rich people make even more money and get their books into the black.

Any other day of the week that has had "black" thrust in front of it has been so darkened because of disastrous things.  But not so for Black Friday.  No, Black Friday is the day we celebrate our shallow greed and our unholy worship of capitalism.  Let me assure you now, you don't need any of that stuff you'll fight and tussle for on Friday.  Your kids won't miss it for long if you just don't buy the stupid Rocket Man.  Little Susie will grow into a well-adjusted adult without a new Barbie this year.  And lord knows they don't need new video games or DVDs. 

I guess Christmas has won the War on Thanksgiving and we didn't even realize there was a war on.

Our lives have become little more than receptacles for advertisements.  Stop the insanity.  Don't buy anything this week or next.  Don't give in to the temptation to click on anything on Cyber-Monday.  Just don't do it.  Don't cheapen yourself by participating.  Don't tear off another strip of your soul to give over to the machines of greed and consumption in exchange for some cheap plastic garbage you won't care if you still have next year.

I'm really not a scrooge.  I like Christmas just fine.  But I don't think I need to be in the Christmas spirit more than a couple of weeks before Santa even begins gassing up the sleigh.  I resent being smacked in the face with Christmas every day for a month and a half.  I don't love it that much.  And I'm beginning to think this year I'll be rooting for the Grinch's heart NOT growing three sizes.  Let's let the ole Grinch go Grinchly on Christmas' behind for once and avenge Thanksgiving this year.

That said...

Happy Thanksgiving from all of here on the Pavement's Edge!  Look to the things to be truly thankful for, and don't feel the urge to go out and buy more things to be thankful for.



Tuesday, November 26

Distinctive Markings

People follow their passions.  It's just how we're built.  We cast our life energy at the activities and ideals that we value.  In that vein let me say...not all bicycle advocates are created equal.
 
Lately I've found myself in conversations where one or the other dialoguists has to make a distinction between advocating for recreational cyclists and utilitarian cyclists. Club advocates walk and talk a certain way and lifestyle utilitarian cyclists look different.  And then you have the distinction between cyclists and "a guy on a bike" type riders.  
 
 
 
To be effective as advocates we must not let ourselves be comfortably trapped in our silos.  We've got to remember what we're advocating for and make sure it's about the bike and not our own narrow interests.  Freds like to put their energy into Fred-oriented infrastructure and policy.  They will become passionate about three abreast policies and the Idaho Stop.  They’ll want to form clubs and organize group rides.  Utilitarian cyclists will argue for more space on the road for the single rider.  They’ll ask why there aren’t more bike racks in town.  They’ll argue for vulnerable user laws.  They’ll organize community action groups and organize letter writing campaigns.
 
In the final analysis the details don’t matter as much as the attitude toward bikes by the general public.  The source of the solution is to convince the non-cyclist that the bike can reasonably fulfill some need they have.  That doesn’t mean we have to get everyone on a bike.  That would be utopia; no, we have to convince everyone that bikes are a crucial part of the solution.  The solution to what?  Most of our societal problems.
 
That’s a bold statement to make.  I realize that.  There is truth in that statement, and it’s somewhat misleading I must confess.  Some of the ways that bikes can influence the quality of our lives are indirect.  Bikes have become a serious talking point with otherwise non-cyclical types around project team meeting tables.  And those that still consider bikes as little more than toys are being pushed into corners with endangered cigarette smokers. More bikes reduce traffic congestion.  More bikes reduce pollution.  Bikes and their riders drive economic vitality.  The mere presence of bikes in an area draws other bikers.  Bikes also help to drive the right kinds of dialogue in community planning processes.  They also influence cultural shifts and the pattern of the fabric of communities and regions.  
 
 
 
I think that’s why it’s frustrating to be in a large room full of bike advocates and see the event played out like the coup de grace at the Tower of Babel.  Freds keep inviting the Bikeyface types to their annual club fundraiser while the ghost of Ken Kifer grumbles to himself over in the corner.
 
We’ve got to stop going to transportation conferences, public meetings, and club outings with our narrowly focused agendas waving in the faces of anyone that will sit still for the presentation.  But we can’t stop doing that either.  We’ve got to learn to speak many cycling languages.  We’ve got to learn not to leave out the other cyclists needs.  We’ve got to remember that bikes aren’t toys even when they’re being used for recreation.
 
We don’t make the distinction between recreational and utilitarian motor vehicle trips.  There are no laws that say the driver headed for the park must yield right of way to the driver on their way to work.  Grocery trips aren’t more important than those carrying gramma to her doctor’s appointment.  I’m in danger of going down a rabbit hole with this one.  I have issues with the way we all drive our cars in general.  You could imagine a world without bikes or pedestrians and I think we’d still have a problem with motorists behaving unreasonably in their cars.
 
Some men in mid-life crisis mode choose a sporty red convertible to shuttle them about.  Some men in mid-life crisis choose a sporty red carbon-fiber bike that costs more than my car and weighs less than a hummingbird.  Some parents choose a min-van to shuttle the kids from school to soccer practice to dance recital.  Some (arguable concentrated in the more hip and trendy urban areas of the country) choose cargo bikes to fulfill that function. Uncle Fred and the Xtracycle Mama both represent a valid user group on the roads.
 
 
 
Distinctions, whether intentional or not, between utilitarian and recreational cyclists are counter-productive much the same way the argument that “roads are built for cars” is counter-productive.  The bike is a vehicle exactly like the car is a vehicle.  It serves the same purposes.  I provides the same services.  
 
[Ironically I had started composing this post, left it for dead, and then after reading the Bikeyface post this morning decided to reinvigorate it.]

ADDENDUM

As this is a short work week, and I will be incommunicado for at least part of the White Thanksgiving that is to come, I am calling hiatus on the blog until an undetermined time.  Worst case I will resume transmission next Monday, December 2nd.  Unless of course I become thoroughly bored sitting at home watching water fall from the sky and think of some rambling post I can drop into an illegal dumpsite on this backroad of the internet.
 

Monday, November 25

Ice...or Something...in My Blood

Reportedly the Farmers’s Almanac is predicting a nasty winter.  I mean, here we are the week of Thanksgiving and it feels like a new ice age is rolling in.  The TV meteorolo-fascists actually used the phrase “White Thanksgiving” describing the possible weather conditions to come.  
 
I had the opportunity to ride on Saturday with the Mozhican.  I chose not to ride.  He didn’t seem terribly upset either.  Yesterday I ate at a buffet for lunch (yes, the WHOLE THING).  There was no possibility of riding after that.  In fact, I had a difficult time driving the car home afterward without vomiting.
 
That’s it, no more buffets!  There’s always that pressure to “get my money’s worth.”  Ugh!  Hasn’t anyone noticed that the dollar isn’t worth what it used to be?  Obviously no one at the Hillbilly Chef CafĂ© did yesterday.  Man, that was some good fried chicken!  I would caution you to go easy on the cole slaw if you do eat there.  It was phenomenal, but a half a gallon of the stuff will really ruin your day.
 
And so begins the season of overeating.
 
Why do we do this to ourselves?  It’s not like we really deserve it.  Or maybe we do for being so stupid.  Why can’t I say no to the food?
 
I ride so I can eat.  That’s a Truth I realized not so long ago.  But what happens when I don’t ride anymore?  Surely I can’t keep eating like a mountain biker.  Surely not!
 
The cold weather is killing it for me.  I want to ride, but I’m wussing out due to the change of seasons.  Back when I was compelled to ride daily I almost looked forward to the cooler weather even though it was a portent of diabolical things to come.  The depths of winter on the high plains of Colorado is not a pleasant place to be as a full time bike commuter.  It does steel your resolve when it comes to riding in adverse conditions though.  I’m wondering if I could have lost my temper so soon.
 
I know a lot of it has to do with remembering that I do know how to dress and keep warm on the bike.  I know it has a lot to do with overcoming that first icy splash of cold air.  But I also know riding in the cold of the arid West is different than riding in the clammy cold air of Appalachia.  It’s all good until it gets below freezing, and then the game changes.
 
I’ve had the urge to ride some trails too.  And I’ve been trying to screw up the gumption to just go ride somewhere, anywhere near my home.  But then the rains lately…the mud…and it’s cold.  I’ve wussed out.  On top of everything else there’s the five o’clock dark situation and the blinding afternoon sunlight to contend with that keeps me from road riding or running even.  It’s a universal conspiracy to fatten me up for the slaughter.
 
After a year of hard riding my bikes are all worn out, brake pads thin to the metal, tires showing too much of their insides, cables all gummed up and hard to pull, batteries all dead in my blinky rear lights…it’s just a bad time of year to be trying to get back on the horse.  Too many obstacles…too many excuses.
 
There should be no excuses.  My mountain bike is actually in pretty good shape.  I need to add some Stan’s to my tires, but otherwise The One is pretty much good to go.  I really just need brake pads for the sportiest-sport bike.  Tires would be nice, but I still got a few good rides left in the ole Gatorskins.  If I could stop making excuses about the sun and the cold air I could probably get back on the bikes and start pedaling toward the nebulous goal of 3,000 miles for the year.  
 
I did a little math…if I ride 597 miles by the end of the year—36 days from now—I can claim a 3,000+ mile year.  That’s an average of 16.5 miles a day from now until New Year's.  It would take just a little over 100 miles a week.  It’s been well over a year since I rode more than 500 miles in a month much less tickled 6.
 
Wait, I can do this!  I’m a pretty smart guy.  I gradjeeated college after all!
 
If I did two 18 mile rides through the week and two 36 mile rides on the weekends each week until the end of the year I could just pull it off!  That just doesn’t seem like all that much.  While it doesn’t seem like much, 600 miles in a winter month when I’m not riding every day…I might as well be shooting for 1,000 in the same amount of time.
 
I’m so fat.  I’ve buffeted myself out of the game.  I can get back in; I know I can!  But can I catch up with the leaders before it’s too late?  Man, I feel so past my prime today!
 
Might as well pass me some more cole slaw.

Friday, November 22

Diary of a Madman

“I have never killed a bat and splattered the blood all over the wall in front of the kids…”
 
Sounds like someone’s been rock-n-rollin’ all night, huh?  Sounds like something you’d hear a skeezy looking lead singer saying over his shoulder at a reporter while trying to hide the alcohol burns in his eyes.  Nah.  It’s a quote from my kids’ elementary school principal in this week’s local paper.
 
The high school deviant I’m harboring deep in my subconscious wants to sneak into Jimmy’s office one day and change his ringtone to “Crazy Train.”  The odd thing is I’m older than the elementary school principal.  It’s weird to be in the principal’s office and not feel intimidated.  In fact, the last few visits I’ve made to the school I’ve felt like the intimidating presence with my righteous parental outrage, my sport coat and tie, and my icy stare.
 
Last night Mandy and I attended a follow up/wrap up to the Transition Powell County Community Summit we had last month.  We talked a lot about removing obstacles in the community to increase opportunity, especially for young people who want to stay in the area but feel like they have to leave town to go to college and eventually find a job.  And we talked a lot about the kinds of partnerships that we need to build in order to facilitate better communication throughout the community.  It was a good discussion.
 
Last night I had a lot of thoughts swirling in my head as we drove home.  My mind was sparking like a downed power line.  In one sense it’s overwhelming all the things that need to be done.  But it’s also heartening that people are identifying problems and needs and seeking to find solutions.
 
Sitting around a table with people talking about the potential future of a community or region gets my synapses all ablaze and the sustainability manager comes out in me.  I start applying all of my experiences to the problems and with each new issue or task I begin formulating a plan on how to make it work.  But by the end of the meeting I realize I can’t do everything I want to do.  At one point last night I just hit a wall.  I became overwhelmed by the enormity of it all.  I had to stamp out the feelings of despair that threatened to creep in.  I had to try and pick out the one or two things that I know I am best suited to tackle and resolve to pursue those with focused energy.
 
We’ll see how this plays out as time goes on.
 
One grand idea I had last night is revealed in this text I sent to a couple of co-conspirators:
 
I think guys should have “Pampered Cyclist” parties.
 
I also shared this sentiment on facebook.  My wife was quick to add:
 
Like the chef not the diapers.
 
Jefe replied to my text:
 
As in “wear pampers?” yeah, I’ve felt like that before.
 
I assured him we would soon do another ride that would make him wet himself.
 
Today Lexington is shrouded in autumn rain.  I love days like this.  I especially love days like this in Kentucky.  I’ve missed the fall in my home state.  I’d kill an endangered bat to be able to have the day off and be out in this mess.  
 
This afternoon I’ll speed home in my gasoholic car.  Tonight I’ll dream dreams of resilience and Appalachian exceptionalism.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll do something truly amazing and write a long manifesto that changes the world.  Or maybe I’ll just enjoy being alive and riding bikes with my kids.
 
So what’s the story with the bats?
 
The elementary school where my kids attend has had a problem with bats.  In fact, the problem is rumored to involve endangered Indiana bats which has led to the 400 student school being shut down indefinitely while the school system deals with the problem.  The quote from the paper is the first of a long list of rumors the principal seemed to be attempting to dispel about the bat scandal.
 
The rogue anarchist with a chip on his shoulder from his own days within the school system wants to teach his children to chant “Oz-ZY! Oz-ZY! Oz-ZY!” each time they encounter the principal.  My wife gave me THE LOOK when I expressed an interest in doing so.

Thursday, November 21

Support the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act

From LAB:

Joy Covey helped catapult Amazon.com from a small company to the global powerhouse it is today. Earlier this year, on a bicycle ride in San Mateo County, Calif., she was struck by a delivery van and killed. She was 50 years old. 

Joy is one of hundreds of men and women killed while bicycling or walking on our streets each year.

This has to change -- and a one sentence bill in Congress could do it.

Between 2010 and 2011 the overall number of roadway deaths dropped by 2 percent -- but the number of bicyclists killed increased 9 percent and pedestrians by 3 percent. These aren’t just statistics on a page. We see the news stories, like Joy’s, far too frequently; another life lost, another family and community member gone.

And yet, while people who bike and walk make up 16 percent of roadway fatalities, less than 1 percent of safety funding is directed to infrastructure that would protect those biking and walking.           

Today, a coalition of bi-partisan House lawmakers introduced the Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Act, which will require the U.S. Department of Transportation to set specific safety targets for all roadway users -- not just motorists, but pedestrians and bicyclists, too.

The legislation gives US DOT the flexibility to determine the best method to meet these safety measures, and calls on our leaders to reduce the number of people biking and walking who are killed or injured on our streets every year.                                                                                     

A simple safety measure, this bill says clearly that the lives of all roadway users are important -- and creates accountability toward ending needless deaths.

Without it, people who bike and walk, like Joy, will remain in the blindspot of our transportation system.

Join this effort, and tell your lawmakers to vote for this straightforward, bi-partisan bill. Take action.


***

Late yesterday afternoon I received the following email in my inbox from Dave Cooper, a Lexington cyclist, a mountain biker, and an active cycling advocate in the area and I wanted to share it with you (thanks Dave!):


Dear Mayor Gray and members of the Urban County Council,

cc:    LFUCG Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee

I am writing in regards to bicycle and pedestrian safety in Lexington, in the wake of the recent tragic death of Payton Griffith, the 12 year old girl who was killed last Wednesday while crossing a street off Eastland Parkway. 

According to news reports, the girl was apparently walking in the crosswalk, but the driver has not been charged. 

I find this very hard to understand.  I realize this was an accident, and I feel badly for the driver.  But are there no legal protections at all for pedestrians?  

I am also very concerned about the accident two weeks ago where a cyclist riding in the designated bike lane on Winchester Rd. was struck and pinned under the rear wheel of a tractor trailer that was turning right near the Smucker's plant.  I use this same bike lane frequently, and like most urban cyclists I have experienced the terror of getting the "right hook" when an inattentive or distracted motorist suddenly turns in front of them.  But this tanker truck was carrying a very hazardous explosive material, and the driver of such vehicles must be held to a very high standard of safety.  Still, according to news reports, no charges have been filed against the truck driver.  

There is a recurring pattern in Lexington.  Cyclist Rick Kerr was run over and killed by an SUV on Russell Cave Rd in 2012 and reportedly no charges were filed against the driver. In December 2012, Washington DC attorney Lauren Roady was killed while walking across Broadway in downtown Lexington, and no charges were filed. 

It seems that in Lexington, motorists can run over pedestrians and cyclists almost with impunity, but I think that public sentiment is finally starting to change.  Sadly, it has taken the tragic death of a 12 year old girl for people to begin voicing their concerns about these injustices. 

Cycling has grown rapidly in popularity in Lexington, thanks in large part to strong leadership from some LFUCG council members and traffic engineers.  The popularity of the Legacy Trail and the Second Sunday events is undeniable.  But installing bike lanes and building bike trails is not enough.  If cycling is to continue to grow, and if Lexington wants to be a truly progressive and bike-friendly city, we have to start protecting the safety of those who chose to walk or ride instead of drive. 

Kentucky cyclists are starting to organize on a statewide basis to advocate for better safety conditions.  There is a lot of work to do.  The fractured cycling community in Kentucky must become more unified and organized, build alliances and speak with one voice.  This will take time.       

In the meantime, I urge our Mayor and LFUCG Council members to make bicycle and pedestrian safety a priority in the coming year.  I ask our city leaders to speak publicly about issues of pedestrian and cycling safety, to make improvements in our traffic laws where possible, and to work with Division of Police to improve enforcement so that cyclists and pedestrians can navigate our city safely.   

Sincerely,

Dave Cooper

Lexington KY 40505

Wednesday, November 20

Five O'Clock Dark

Hate.  Hate.  Hate.

Daylight slayings time is for the birds.  And I’ talking about those Alfred Hitchcock demon birds.  Go away daylight savings time and come again no other day!!!
 
Fat.  I’m getting fat.  I’m back up to being a Sub-Clyde Plus.  I weighed 199-point-something when I weighed myself this morning.  Too many choco pies, Magee’s donuts (no thanks to whichever coworker brought in the whole box that no one else wanted to eat!), and random pizza parties.

The food wouldn’t really be as much of a problem if there was still plenty of daylight when I get home from work in the evenings.  I could run up in the woods and swing a mattocks.  I could get on my bike and climb some hills.  I could run around in circles on the road until I puked.

But no, when I get home now the sun is low in the sky at the optimal “blind all drivers” position and by the time I get changed and run out to throw myself into diabolically dangerous traffic it’s too dark to see anything anyway.

That this transition period occurs just as gun season gets going and the air turns all frosty just adds insult to injury.

It’s almost easier to resolve myself to being fat than to expend so much energy weeping for my lost ambition.  As it is I’m only riding high on sugar and the euphoria from completing the rough draft of said book.  Once I have to dig back in to rewriting I may start feeling the oppressive suffocation of five o’clock dark.

Night riding may be my best answer.  Right now I see no other options (haha, love my own puns!).  Of course since Kentucky is the Muddy Trail State it’s difficult even to pull that off.  But I have a scheme, a plan, a diabolical plot to overthrow the world while it lazes in the armchair watching the six o’clock news and drools down its flabby mid-section.

Let’s see, night riding opportunities in my locale…?

None.  Nope, hardly any.  Well, maybe Jeffrey will let me come tear up his backyard trail until I manage to finish my own.

I hate five o’clock dark.  But I might grow to love it as this night riding thing takes hold in my mind.  

Last night I had just shy of an hour to kill.  Mandy took the Bean off to tumble and cavort at gymnastics and I was meeting her at the library with the Boy a little while later and then going to the local writers' group meeting.  So I decided to take a little walk in the woods as the sun scampered from the sky.

I didn't take the mattocks along.  I didn't change from my good clothes into scruff to do trail work.  I just walked toward the woods. 

It was the first time I'd been in the woods since the overstory shed all its foliage.  I forget how different the forest looks with its winter coat.  You can see so much farther when the undergrowth is bare and so much (even fading) sunlight bathes the forest floor.

I walked a new trail alignment.  Yeah, I scouted another loop in my potential system.  It's going to be really cool.  But it's going to take a lot of work and time to get it into shape.  And I haven't finished my first loop yet.  Got to get back and start swinging the trail tools now that people aren't shooting at anything that moves.

I can do trail work by headlamp too, I think.


 

Tuesday, November 19

No More Games: A Movie Review

I know this isn’t a sci-fi movie review blog, but since I’m not only the founder of this bloggular empire, but also the sole author, I get to choose what goes up on the site each day.  It’s like I’m holding the remote control…as long as you decide to keep reading.
 
In the immortal words of He-Man: I. Have. The Power.
 
I’m a fan of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game novel from way back.  When Mandy and I met in 1999 she was getting ready to leave on her senior trip (Hey! I was only 26 at the time!) and mentioned she was looking for a book to take.  I offered to let her borrow (not have!) Ender’s Game and she said she was interested.
 
The truth was she was interested in me and my flowing locks, but she took the book to sink the hook.  She had finished the book before she returned from her trip and loved it.  That made me happy because it was my favorite book of all time.
 
Of course she also followed me into a cave once while unbeknownst to me suffering from crippling claustrophobia.   She has amazing willpower when she wants something.
 
Anyway, so Ender’s Game is “our book” like Dreams by the Cranberries is “our song.”  In case you care, we also have “our rock climb” (Dirty Rastafarian Scoundrels) and “our road trip” (’99 Hound Ears Bouldering Comp, NC).
 
As long as I’ve had access to the internet I’ve known of a plan to adapt my most beloved novel into a movie.  And since the author has been involved all along and has nixed the project more than once I assumed the final result would be of the highest quality.  Creative control and all…
 
A few months ago I suggested that my ten year old son, who is a prolific reader in his own right, start reading the book in preparation for the upcoming movie.  Mandy and I were both excited to see it and wanted Boone to share in the experience.  So he started reading, but as of Sunday afternoon when he and I went to see the movie (Mandy opted not to go for dramatic reasons) he hadn’t finished the book.  And to him I profusely apologized on the drive home.
 
Despite a stellar cast the acting was dry.  Harrison Ford as Graff?!  Han Solo lives!  Sir Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham?! AHHHH!!! My brain!  Asa Butterfield as Ender?!  Who’s Asa Butterfield?  Anyway…ahhhh!!!  Viola Davis!  Hailee Steinfeld!  Abigail Bresilin!  A bunch of unknowns!  My expectations were quickly dashed though.
 
I think the only decent acting jobs in the whole film were by Davis and (maybe) Kingsley.  I was really disappointed in Ford, and Butterfield’s portrayal of Ender was just dead in the water.  It didn’t help that he is as tall as the adult actors in the movie.  Really?  Ender was supposed to be between 6 and 8 during the events of the story.  This kid is ready to drive a car.  Or fly a plane.
 
And I’ve heard people defend the decision to cast such old children that younger children couldn’t pull off the characters.  I don’t think the older actors pulled if off so well; so why couldn’t we have given the young’uns a chance?
 
Abandon hope for no spoilers, all ye who enter here:
 
The shower fight scene between Ender and Bonzo Madrid was a travesty.  Yes, in the book Ender turned up the hot water and soaped himself up to be slippery and give himself an edge in his fight with the older, bigger, and crazed Bonzo.  But since they filmed the coup de grace with tall and lanky Ender grabbing a handhold above him and kicking him in the chest and sending a much smaller Bonzo (shoot the casting director!) across the room where he hit his head on the edge of the shower—instead of the way it played out in the book with Bonzo wrapping his arms around Ender from behind and Ender launching himself upward slamming Bonzo’s nose into his cranium—there was really no reason to have Asa Butterfield give a token swipe with a bar of soap just before the fight begins.  
 
That soap swipe was like a slap in the face for people like me who think movies should sort of be true to their source material.  Yeah, Ender soaped himself up, but in our movie it was only to get clean.
 
The whole film felt rushed.  Bean was on the same launch as Ender.  Ender’s launch group went straight into the Battle Room.  Ender was placed in Salamander Army right away.  Then after a single battle he was made commander of Dragon Army by a very open and forthcoming Graff.  Dragon Army’s first battle was against two other armies, and then after a whirlwind vacation to earth to visit Valentine Ender was shipped off to Command School (near the bugger homeworld!) to complete his training.
 
There are a lot of things that are said after the fact that don’t get developed as the movie progresses.  If you’ve read the book you know what’s going on, but if you haven’t it would be hard to catch the nuances of the story that make it so compelling.  
 
As Ender is exiting the shuttle upon arriving at Battle School from Earth he blandly accuses Graff of making the other launchies hate him, but during the scene he refers to there is little that occurs that would make you think Graff did anything of the sort.
 
Ender’s complicated relationship with Bernard is completely glossed over, but then referenced at one point, and is even the subject of what appears to be a key scene, but unless you have the background knowledge of the book there is absolutely no way you could know what is going on in the scene.  And when Bernard asks Ender why he’s in Dragon Army because “you hate me” again, there has been no evidence to that point that Ender hates Bernard, so we’re (the unsuspecting viewers) left scratching our heads.  Of course the acting by “Bernard” is also bland and unconvincing.  
 
My final take on the film is that after the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit ordeals I should have known better than to be excited about a film adaptation of a book that I really do enjoy.  
 
I just can’t recommend this film.  Its major redeeming quality is the visual rendering of Ender’s world, but I’ve said famously for years and years that if the only thing you can say about a movie is that it has great special effects then it’s just not a great movie.  The scenes are fantastic, but I can’t even say the actual cinematography is good.  There were times when it seemed as if you were just looking at a scaled down set and not a real world.  
 
Even the battle scenes between the Terrans and Buggers in earth’s atmosphere didn’t seem terribly novel.  The scene was like a mishmash of the Independence Day battle scene with the Matrix machine swarm defending the Romulan mining ship from the 2009 Star Trek film.
 
The best visual representations in the film were the Battle Room scenes, of which there weren’t enough, and the final battle scene where the Little Doctor ship is surrounded by the drones and they begin swirling to make a “rifle barrel” through the Bugger ships so the device can fire.
 
I've read reviews touting the soundtrack as "award-winning" as well, but to me it sounded like a movie full of reused tracks.  It all sounded familiar, and it seemed at times like the dramatic music was not relevant during the scene it was being played over.
 
With film efforts like this I feel the filmmakers are just lazy in their storytelling.  The book was a phenomenal success so they only have to create a visually stunning world to consider themselves successful, instead of owning the story and telling it in their own way.  That’s not what happened with this film.  It was lazy storytelling.  
 
They must think that since the author has already set the scenes and developed the characters they don’t have to do that themselves and can save time, energy and money by slapping them up ready-made onto the screen.  It’s insulting to their entire audience, both those who were already fans, and to those who are experiencing the story for the first time.
 
I was unimpressed.  I would say the book was unmakeable as a film; that it just can't be translated...but I don't believe that.  I think it was just done poorly.  And to all those making excuses for the filmmakers: stop it.  They just didn't give it the energy and attention it deserved.  They were looking for the quick buck.
 
And as a caveat before I close: if you feel the need to jump on my comment section and attack me for my opinion don’t bother.  This is my space on the back alley wall of the internet and I will defend its integrity with tenacity.  If you believe the movie version of Ender’s Game is Oscar-worthy then I feel bad that you’ve fallen victim to modern Hollywood’s dumbing down of the stories they’re trying to profit from these days.
 
For my time and money I expect a little more out of the art I experience.  I’m not a mindless moviegoer that just wants some digital eye candy to occupy my time so I don’t have to be bored on a Sunday afternoon.  I’m looking for a little more out of the experience than that.

ADDENDUM

From a parental standpoint I was glad to see that despite the film's rating of PG-13 the filmmakers didn't feel the need to include a lot of questionable language.  I was expecting the violence from the book.  It was a key part of the plot, but they also held back and didn't make it more graphic than it needed to be.  Oddly, I have to say I applaud the filmmakers for the movie's parent-friendliness.  And that just makes me more annoyed at the poor quality of the storytelling.

Monday, November 18

Agenda of Chaos

It was a busy weekend.  I didn’t ride at all.  Well, I rode around the yard a little bit.
 
Friday evening we went to an 8th birthday party for my nephew.  Lots of energetic kids there.  Saturday morning I did a 3.5 mile trail run at sunrise.  Then Bean had a ball game at 10am.  More youthful exuberance.  After that we had a youth group get together to make food baskets for the holidays.  I was glad to see the kids so excited to be involved.  Saturday evening I took my two kids to Meadowgreen Park to see some fine Bluegrass music.  By Sunday morning my system was ready to shut down from overstimulation.  In the afternoon I took Boone to see the new Ender’s Game movie.  Don’t get me started on movie adaptations to my favorite books…blagh!
 
 
 
A good long bike ride would have been some welcome therapy at some point, but I just never managed to squeeze it in.  Sometimes that’s the way of it I guess.
 
During the cacophony of stimuli that bombarded me all weekend I had a few good conversations about local bike-ped development and more.  It seems like there are more and more people interested in the things I am that I have always believed to be proprietary.   I honestly don’t mind to share—or even turn over—my vision for the community.  I just want to see things move from status quo to as good as it can be.  There is potential in my small town.  It just needs to be nudged toward realization.
 
I'm ready to begin my War on Christmas music
 
I read the most recent post from the Surly blog this morning and it fired up a few synapses.  Gern Blanston (aka Tyler Stilwill) writes in I Am Soft:
 
How does my softness negatively affect your hardness?  Who cares?  I’m going to ride when I’m going to ride regardless. And I’m going to get off and push when I’m going to get off and push regardless.  That’s how it is for me.  I love to be on a bike, and I’m okay with my shortcomings in that arena.  Fat dudes who aren’t, don’t ride.  Really anyone who isn’t okay with his or her own ‘softness’ when it comes to riding generally doesn’t ride.
 
I like that.  I like it because I think we really do have to be okay with our own shortcomings and not constantly rating our own worth against the ideal.  I’m not a Fred or a Mountain Fred and never will be.  I can’t hang with the pros and honestly, unless I just had some crazy innate talent for speed I don’t think I’d ever want to do what was necessary to be able to.  I like to go fast, but fast is relative and I can enjoy my own top speed even if it’s not so fast for you.
 
They have lard: http://www.farmhandsquartet.com/pies.html

 
 
So what if I don’t look so good in skin tight lycra?  Sometimes even skinny people are grotesque in skinny clothes.  Life is complexly disheartening enough without letting the insecurities of others dictate my self-worth.  
 
“Ride for your own reasons.”  
 
Words of wisdom.

Friday, November 15

On Down the Road

Since Leadville I've not been much of a cyclist.  I gave over to running through the remainder of August, all through September, and into October.  Then after the Iron Horse I kinda stopped doing much of anything.
 
My right foot hurt bad enough I feared stress fracture.  Thankfully it's good again.  And then I took to working on my backyard mountain bike trail whenever I had free time instead of riding the bike.  I'm not complaining.  That was as satisfying for me as riding.
 
As deer season approached I knew I'd need to stay out of the woods for a little while.  I knew I wanted to get back to riding more.  In fact, I was quite resolved that I'd start riding for utility more.  I've even gone back to pondering my bicycle commuting situation.  That's a problem I desperately want to solve.
 
A few weeks ago Jeff and I rode out to the top of Cane Creek Mountain and back to town.  It was a rushed ride; cut short by our obligations and lack of overall enthusiasm.
 
I was serious when I wrote that I was going to tell Troy that I wasn't interested in being involved in a new chapter of KYMBA going into the KBBC conference.  I had full intentions of stating the facts and refusing to back down no matter how much Troy begged and whined.
 
But then before I could broach the subject a lady came up to me and said: "Troy said I should come talk to you."  And so she and I began talking about her cycling projects, and I became deeply interested in seeing where it would go.  I wanted to be a part.  I wanted and inside track.  It's impossible for me not to see the bigger picture when it's held up blocking my view of everything else.  I saw how I could help and how the projects would be a benefit to the greater good.  So I was back in.
 
The ride out to Prestonsburg was just what I needed to bring my own zombied cycling interests back to life.  I saw a future full of meaningful travels and schemes.  I fantasized about bigger and better rides, more daring feats of cycling prowess, and a future more aligned with my inner vision of myself.  I've subjected my mountain bike to the indignity of being hauled in my car a couple of times since.  I haven't actually made it back to Veterans Park yet, but I've made an effort to get the bike close...
 
Long rides always helps me recalibrate my dreams.
 
 
While Mandy and I were in Prestonsburg Jeff texted me:
 
Ride tomorrow?
 
I joked that sure, he could meet me in Hager Hill the next morning, but he needed to bring the cruiser bike.
 
Hager Hill?
 
I then explained what was going on and that I should be able to ride Sunday or Monday.  We ended up planning to ride Monday morning with the possibility of a couple of other local riders.
 
When Jeff showed up alone in Rosslyn I was relieved that we'd not have to have a long debate on where to ride or how long or how far.  When it's just Jeff and I we always seem to come up with a quick and easy ride itinerary.   Two is much easier to deal with than more than two.
 
"You wanna go back over where we went last time and then on to Jeffersonville and see if we can find a way to come out over at Goff's Corner?" he asked.
 
Oddly enough I knew exactly what he was talking about and had mapped just that ride the night before on MMR.
 
"It'd be about 60 miles if we loop on up into Clark County and over to Trapp and come back through Clay City," I replied.
 
That easy we were off for a three hour ride through three counties.  I commented at one point that I'm going to start ranking how enjoyable my rides are based on how many counties I pass through along the way.  I crossed five going to Prestonsburg.
 
Before my KBBC conference tour I felt like I was losing it all.  Fatness crowded my brain.  I've been losing flexibility, and I just knew my legs were turning to water.  But I rode through five counties feeling almost as strong as the day before Leadville.  I guess I'm still coasting on all the cycling and running I've been doing this year.
 
60 miles felt like a good distance to lay into and find out where I really am as a cyclist these days.  The route I had mapped and was holding in my head that day avoided all of the major busy roads in the area except KY 11/15.  
 
We didn't ride 60 miles.  There was a loop to the north from Kiddville that I wanted to ride, but when we got there Jeff said he needed to be moving on back toward home so he could get some work done.  So we cut straight over to Goff's Corner, got some food, and then moved on through Rabbit Town, Rightangle, and Log Lick before turning our bikes back east and pedaling ourselves fast toward our lives as husbands and fathers.
 
It was a good ride.  I ended up ticking 47 miles while I'm sure by the time Jeff got back home he'd ridden 60 easy.  I felt good.  And I wanted to keep on riding.  The route had been perfect; low traffic and a big loop.
 
Lately I've been finding excuses to ride the Xtracycle again.  A few nights ago Mandy asked if I'd go to the grocery store so I clamped the Laser on the H-bars and took off in the dark toward town.
 
It was far more satisfying to cruise off the creek under a slight moon through crisp air than I'd expected it to be.  The two mile ride has one big hill to traverse coming and going.  It felt good to work against the cold and generate a little body heat.  It felt good to be riding for a purpose other than recreation.  I was offsetting some carbon, reducing my footprint, saving the planet.  It was a good ride.
 
Winter is just around the corner.  It's time to decide how I'm going to face poor road and trail conditions and the cold and wet atmospheric anomalies that will roll over Eastern Kentucky again and again between now and next summer.  I'm pretty sure I'll just keep on pedaling.