Monday, July 28, 2014

Fast Lane

Tip your helmet for Vincenzo Nibali, 101st Champion of the July classic cycling pinnacle 2014 Tour de France. He completed its course of 2196.3 miles (3660.5 km) through England and France with bits of Belgium and Spain in a minute less than 90 hours at a world class average of 24.4 mph. On certain stages the pace was upward of 35 mph, but you must appreciate that 6 of the 21 crested mountains, and more were mercilessly hilly than flat. Nibali, like his heroic Italian predecessors Bartali, Coppi and Pantani, proved his climbing superiority, which typifies every cycling champion.

Not for 30 years had two Frenchmen also stood on the podium, but to relief of host nation Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibault Pinot came in 2nd and 3rd, less than 10 minutes behind. Americans and Tacoma were well represented by Tejay van Garderen in 5th place. And, for once in recent memory, drama was confined to racing instead of substance abuse allegations and xenophobic resentments. Spared these horrors, where was network news coverage? They dissect with rabid zeal ho-hum tennis matches and, yawn, terminally dull soccer games where a couple of dozen of players going at it for 90 minutes score a single goal. Are not cyclists also professional athletes? Why do they scare reporters?

Some days going by bike everyone feels as if he/she could compete with the best, then reality settles in as kids on single speeds muscle past. Society doesn’t normally run at closed circuit extremes, rather mundane motored speeds at a 25 mph mean, half that par pedaled. With no distinct demographic, bicyclists come in all shapes, situations and sizes; most profit through personal victories apart from pelaton. Hefty New Jersey native Scott Cutshall, whose weight topped out at 501 pounds, had doctors writing him off as dead until he noticed an outside example and realized that bicycles made motile sense, relocated to Minnesota, then settled in Oregon 320 lbs. lighter. No doubt, champions inspire wannabes, but so do stubborn adults who conscientiously choose to self propel despite arguments against, blogs about, taboos and terrors. Fast or slow, fear nothing and take whatever lane you're presented for the health of it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On the Road Again

Regret some choices made and roads never traveled. Would have been cool to photograph rock groups for a living. Played in bands, roadied for some, and snapped a number of famous groups in concert. After taking classes, already had a couple of small, well reviewed shows. Could have carried it off with a small investment and stuff owned. Would’ve needed a better paying day job to afford darkroom supplies. Saw director and star Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) chasing Life Magazine photographer Sean Penn by bicycle through Iceland, a dream adventure and personal avocation neither of which will ever happen. Was lured into and met success in filming and writing, even produced a documentary that aired on PBS. Realized that life moves and millions of amateurs lessened value of still images, but videographers were rare competitors until technology and Youtube caught up. Rarer still are those who can transport you right to where events occur so you can seek vicarious thrills from safety of your ivory tower. Cyclists snap shots en route to share on websites, but viewers experience none of the endorphin highs that triggered taking otherwise drab vistas.

Once exhibited at craft shows. The only “artist” who made any money painted frogs on mirror tiles and sold them for cheap by the thousands. Those who demonstrated real effort and skill couldn’t afford to sell bargains below costs, therefore didn’t cover expenses. Finding a way to profit in the arts seems impossible until you assess just how much consumers spend. Movies totaled $11 billion in box office sales last year. Music raked in $7 billion. Porn beat them both at $18 billion. All complain that sales have steadily declined. In 2013 fine art sales hit a record at $66 billion, but artists who produced paintings and sculptures were long deceased. NFL cheerleaders actually pay to get noticed while dancing for a pittance. People admire anyone who starves and suffers, usually after they are dead from abuse and neglect, proverbial fish floating in filthy aquariums. So, not performing or producing but promoting and selling art constitute the profitable part. In the last 12 months, the top earning actor made $75 million, only 7.5% of the $1 billion his top grossing films earned. Shed no tears, since it exceeds salaries of all but top three American CEOs: Chienere Energy’s Souki ($142 million), Gamco’s Gabelli ($85 million), and Oracle’s Ellison ($78 million). Nevertheless, on average, CEOs received 331 times the wages of workers, $16.94/hour, about $35K/year.

Do well to find facts, but just what do you do with them? Figure you’ll always earn little unless you start your own business. Began 3, each with limited success, which can only be declared honestly by expanding and hiring others. You need to feed community, customers, employees, stakeholders and stockholders, but most are managed by either establishment or government. The best clients have the deepest pockets, so getting onto some corporate, federal or state payroll should be your first foray into business. After trillions spent annually on energy, food, insurance, savings, shelter, taxes and transportation, public has little left for discretionary spending. Although hundreds of thousands of entertainers in film, music and sports split a couple of hundred billion per annum, IRS alone takes in tens times that; in addition, states take in twice as much. Big and small businesses nationwide turn $16 trillion, over 100 times what the arts take in collectively, although life would be unlivable without them. Pharmaceuticals, most of which you can do without, outsell expressions of emotion. Artists sometimes blow cash on pills and supplies compulsively producing more art while they go hungry and jump from one loft to the next. Others perfect or revive existing techniques nobody else considers worthwhile. Good manufacturing practice requires producer to develop around clients' needs. Innovation which propels marketplace can only be derived from careful communication with and observation of end users. However, the disconnect between corporations and customers has never been profounder. Prospects get ever fewer and poorer.

On the Road comes to mind over and over. Some might see Kerouac’s peregrinations as a series of fuel wasting vacations crisscrossing a continent, but it’s really desperate wanderlust that sought authenticity and redemption through, “...all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it...” You hopelessly wish to connect with own tribe. When nobody cares, all you have is the allure of blacktop ribbons, which gladly swallow your identity whole. Hour after hour bicyclists begin to blend back into corporate drones and landscape dust then disappear forever.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Backstab Coxswain

In some movies, enemies might be better than family or friends. Little Birds (2012, Elgin James, dir.) has twitchy teen Juno Temple dragging bicycling BFF Kay Panabaker straight into adult trouble. Schoolmarm Cate Blanchet rides a bike in Notes on a Scandal (2006, Richard Eyre, dir.) while being blackmailed for an illicit affair by coworker Judi Dench, a psychotic dominatrix. Requiem (2006, Hans-Christian Schmid, dir.) stars Sandra Hüller as an epileptic with an unforgiving mom who begins by biking up a high hill, then believes she's possessed by a demon. Figures. Fail to see any irony in it at all. Cruelest almost always to themselves, humans hurt targets of convenience next. Unknown others remain a plausible threat, which explains the pathetic attempts at steering spectators by unwanted advice constantly delivered over airwaves. Yet it’s what you’d expect during a dearth in leadership.

Lately disturbed by well intentioned comments on social media. Wondering what motivates commentators to repeat pithy sayings by acknowledged luminaries. Is it mental laziness or need to dominate? Bellowed beat of presumptuous bigwigs becomes unbearable. The shrewd surmise servants rise into masters. Anyone worth citing doesn’t have to quote geniuses;
he or she does and says original things. You can only learn from others when you apply their knowledge for yourself. Why not skip the middle man? Be your own genius (or pet) by formulating theories, solving problems and tackling chores. Find and fulfill needs in overlooked niches with a quantum of pizazz even if it takes a kickstart from kickstand stop.

Harvard and MIT along with other institutions offer MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) anyone can take. Eager outsiders enroll faster and finisher sooner than jaded locals, though 90% of those who enroll drop out. Ivy League education resembles advertising come-ons, taunting ambitious youth with potential earnings then tugging rug out when they request work in their field. Setting up competitions so only a few succeed and most fail perfectly mimics capitalism, where the feeble and incompetent only exist to exploit, ignore or sacrifice. Public cares more about how pets are treated than how unfortunate members of their own species survive.

Applying one’s allegedly unbiased mind can be daunting task with risk of being incarcerated or ostracized. Offspring of the privileged take freedoms for granted. Maintaining class status seems easy enough when all they have to do is nothing. Stealing is child’s play once they know the “lay of the land”. Success only means insiders were warned just ahead of profit windfalls; too early or too late, where outsiders live, won’t do. Good intentions don’t count, mere tokens that take gain into account and transcend guilt. But what you do will mostly go unnoticed anyway, whereas you’ll be condemned on what you say. Citing nobility can forgive crimes depending upon celebrity status. Smart peasants act independently, heed no false cadence, navigate own course, pull oars themselves, and serve community, not just themselves, not what they teach at their university.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

La Besace de La Fontaine

After a morose litany, readers might imagine Labann only notices what’s obnoxious. They’d be wrong. Beauty and truth surface upon a sea of filth and lies; they only exist by comparison. Roses fed manure bloom above thorns, unless kept in the dark, where, like a mushroom or an unenlightened mind, they mold or remark. Anything alive will decline without absorbing energy. All life depends upon photosynthesis, you see, even if it’s predatory. Survival requires fresh air and sunshine. If you don’t first suffer, you’ll fail to spot great and take good for granted. From longing and pain arise all that’s human, including arts, magic, myths, rules, science, and spirituality. Whenever everything goes, standards cease to be necessary, but laws deter impatient idiots from causing harm daily.

So what satisfies? With normality false and nothing certain, some say only the love of a soulmate matters. Even that’s temporary before dementia sets in or sickness deprives you once again. Dogs bite their masters, do what’s instinctual, and don’t really return projected affection. Then doting masters unwittingly feed them meat byproducts and putrid substances, so people aren’t aware of all they need to know, and words do matter. Some bind themselves to a busy yoke, which can’t love back and is seldom kind. Work is often a joke, someone’s else’s delusion of privilege or progress. You can be assured of betrayal and disrespect despite all the good you share. Your outward search will barely yield much more than food at a price you can’t afford. Nature then bites back.

Bicycling boosts mood. You can bake in a car or stew on steamy days, yet rolling exposed generates its own cooling breezes. Motorists hurry to peak attractions and places to earn, whereas cyclists absorb what’s in between, bits of beauty you wouldn’t otherwise behold: cacophony of birdsong, glimpses over garden walls, scents of emerging blossoms or newly cut hay, sun on your shoulders, and taste of farm fresh fruit in season. Journey itself can be a joy. You cannot receive what world has to offer unless physically capable. Getting healthy, losing weight, meeting others, and staying fit permit everything worth experiencing. Reading alone doesn’t do it. Only through doing do insights flow and texts materialize. To imagine and plan effectively, you must know facts which can only be learned by following examples or trying yourself. Don’t be surprised if you’re not elated afterwards; experiences steady nerves and highlights barely surpass lowlights. Satisfaction can only be found within; you bring it, not find it elsewhere.

Those who feel they must list blessings are probably convinced that readers have lost touch with what’s vital. Because blooms are brief and fruit ripe for a few days, only those who stay alert and engaged get to savor them. Attend any festival surrounding natural occurrences: fish migrations, produce harvests, trees in bloom, waterfalls rushing, or whatever your bag or bindle may be. Everyone has flaws. Find fewer faults, get to know strangers, and look for good in them. Mind what fabulist La Fontaine noted, “We forgive ourselves everything, and forgive others nothing.” Ashamed, it’s easier to berate another’s foibles than confess own mistakes. Life gets what it needs, gives what it must, or goes bust.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Politics of Disdain

Labann, at times radically centrist, may almost be deemed Buddhist in embracing humanity’s decent and ill will. You can hardly discuss anything these days without defending the middle against extremists and resisting labels. Since 2000 this blog never deviated from careful observation and daily meditation upon the effects of freedom (bike) and responsibility (chain). This means discussing economics, politics and religion, usually considered taboo by those who exploit others or stick to conventions. Honest folks neither judge nor pontificate, repeat all and any facts, even speculate on unknowns. Cruel users give half a story or keep you misinformed. Jokers do nobody any favor when they concoct wild lies. Metrics might inspire action or spread panic, but warning that your building is on fire sends sensible audiences to exits in an orderly fashion.

Often skewer conservatives, because they intentionally grab attention and make convenient targets. Liberals compile ill conceived spending bills and try to sneak them through Congress. You’d think government would be all about making new opportunities, providing a safety net against crimes or enemies or failures, and raising the poor above poverty line. But you’d be wrong. Let history show it was to create plutocrats who subjugated majority and tax without representation. Wasn’t that why founding fathers revolted?

Labann passionately opposes armed insurrection: Doesn’t punish or replace guilty parties, just dumps costs and losses on the poor. Guns let weak bullies win. The late Gil Scott Heron, original rap prophet, said revolution would not only “not be televised”, it would arise from a consensus of minds and consist of attitude alteration. Change can only come from inside, whether congressionally, corporately or personally. Only a progressive party with a strong coalition of elected officers might improve stagnant governance. Unfortunately, that would require decades of dubious effort, which is how plutocrats consolidated power in the first place, then exited industrial production for financial scams and tapped the deepest purse on earth, tax obligations. Only megalomaniacs believe they can wrest control completely. Real leaders serve public uniformly within budgetary constraints and society's will.

While some who collect welfare find contentment in not toiling for tyrants, people generally prefer daily challenges and the problem solving that work provides. Who wouldn’t love a job that’s perpetually interesting, suitably moral, and well compensated? Unless deluded or insane, you’ve got to revile all employment that’s tantamount to slavery or unconscionably takes advantage of need or pain. Nothing would satisfy more than incarcerating traitors and recovering trillions they stole while in office. But electorate will execute petty thieves and grant amnesty to the biggest criminals in history.

This suggests that the secret to success is to make majority complicit in your crimes. Self interest rules wherever achievement is measured in how high you reach upon a pile of dead rivals. Ethical behaviors are often considered aberrant or eccentric, for lunatics and suckers. Honesty doesn’t inspire trust; it’s usually met by gnashing of teeth, killing or maligning its messenger, and retrenching untenable positions.

Don't doubt haves and have-nots are at war; majority just hasn't yet prevailed, which they ultimately will. Those who assume you know nothing because you don't have a string of letters after your name, who run around with blinders saying, "This is not the place or time to discuss [fill in the blank]," because they think money or position insulates them against conflict, will fall all the faster. Should you pity or victimize them? In fact, they are now main quarry of plutocrats, since middle class assets have dwindled, and poor have already been beaten.

One day normal people will pity the delusions of wealth. Excess doesn’t buy happiness, power or security, just turns you into a target. Poor or rich, you’ll die awaiting medical treatment upon insurance company’s orders. Unless you allow free reign to plutocracy, you can live well on a lot less. Independence may be a celebrated ideal, but interdependence without disappointment will always be most desirable. Promises made and maintained are the only politics that matter, though oaths can sometimes be impossible to honor.