Friday, May 25, 2018

Charlie Chaplain

Another Bike Week passed with little fanfare. Originated in England in 1923, nearly a century ago in Europe and North America, observances are scattered from beginning of May to middle of June. Here in New England, every year, it seems to rain during 2nd week of May, which sells more lawn products than rain gear for cycling. Sure, on Bike-to-Work Day a few diehards convene on town squares under tents for free coffee and donuts. Labann got to work from home last Friday, and rides to work year round when weather cooperates, so didn’t rise irreproachably to support cause. Bike commutes rate slightly above haircuts, something you do routinely without ceremony. But a Centennial Anniversary of Bicycle Week could be legitimately promoted among Amish, artists, geeks, mamils, moonbats, Mormons, Neo-Luddites, reactionaries, religious fanatics, and whoever else would likely attend.

Too often convening disappoints. Typical stay-at-home television viewers get an eyeful of beautiful and delightful humans of which malls, plazas and venues seem devoid. By comparison, public you meet on street appear annoyed and bent out of shape; patience, serenity and smiles were destroyed by their android and disrespect of ugly rabble you'd rather avoid. Fingertip access to information does expand opportunities and speed transactions, but social media serves practically no purpose, other than wrongly identify you as a target or terrorist.

Instead of data retrievers, mankind once built devices that really saved labor. Who can deny a clothes dryer, dishwasher, washing machine, or wheat harvester/thresher saves effort and time? True, you could arrange for wage slaves to hand pick grain, kneel by a stream, or stand at a sink for hours each day, but then you couldn’t multitask other equally crucial chores.

Machines weren’t necessarily man’s best friend, though. Mechanized warfare accounts for recurrent Memorial Day, which honors soldiers fallen to it. It’s when politicians arrive in limousines to honor their sacrifice through a litany of hollow hypocrisy. Excludes cops, firemen, guards, and workers, too, though they get equivocally remembered on Labor Day. Everyone gets their own birthday, some Father’s or Mother’s Day; better make the most of it. The Good Lord, having been tortured for all souls’ sake, only gets alpha birth and omega death of Christmas and Easter. Exactly what did YOU do to deserve even a seldom seen headstone or totally ignored obituary?

Back when Americans in Korea were fighting Charlie, chaplain bicyclist Emil Kapaun ministered to soldiers so effectively, he has since been awarded a Medal of Honor by Obama, considered for sainthood, made into a film hero, and woven into Latham’s war biography Cold Days in Hell: American POWs in Korea. Apparently that’s wasn’t enough suffering to deter current administration from resuming hostilities. A treacherous few will always profit by provoking war. You know who they are: They wrap themselves in a shroud of religiosity while accepting bribes from gun lobby, fueling fascist Fox agitprop, inciting domestic terrorism, and profiling blacks and muslims as militants. Without God’s blessing, they are just Neo-Nazis eager to promote your sacrifice for their gain.

Chaplains such as Kapaun [shown with trusty bike during WWII] can be distinguished from pastors by their advanced training and lack of fixed parish; they minister not only to own denomination but whoever needs spiritual guidance navigating boredom and stress that binds just about any occupation. A cynical appraisal of most company’s codes of conduct would be that employees agree under duress to abstain from what executives routinely do, mustn't harass, intimidate, relate misconduct to unauthorized outsiders, retaliate, and so on. Chaplains even address fear in the fog of battle. If you’re a chaplain, shouldn’t you forgive minor insults? Not always so, as article attests. Did instead make a federal case over it, but didn’t specify convict’s sentence.

Saints who possess a semblance of piety humble themselves before deity, put others before own, and sense by man not all can be known. They are loathe to inflict deserved punishment, don sackcloth to suffer alike, tolerate petty transgressions, and turn other cheek to facilitate further pummel-ment. Society has to compartmentalize duties among those less high-minded lest criminals rampage unchecked. Sometimes crimes derive from elected officials not acting responsibly or doing job appropriately.

Neglected roads loaded with debris and holes cause riders to weave, thereby aggravating motorists and endangering cyclists. They do slow everyone, which some might consider a blessing. On a recent motor trip was following a cyclist, who was going briskly along road edge and waving all behind to pass. Couldn't provide a meter margin so didn't. Only when he turned onto side street could one see it was a small unregistered motorcycle, which resembled a kid's single-speed cruiser. Funny, bicycles conversely used to mimic motorcycles to make kids feel grown up. As Summer approaches, see more and more unlicensed riders on midget motorcycles, minibikes, pocket rockets, and scooters. Tiny target does not exonerate lawbreaker, though operators are usually children and teens. Tickets ought to be issued to abetting guardians and parents, who likely provided or willfully condone use of an illegal vehicle.

As dangerously as they cut corners and dart about unexpectedly, they aren't a bicyclist's arch nemesis. Garbage trucks, RVs, and tandem trailers seem worse for sheer bulk at excessive speeds, although pickups and SUVs outnumber them, so really constitute greater risk. Luckily, drivers of Motheaten Tree Service are few, out at dawn, terrorizing travel lanes, unfortunately on roads Labann frequents. Talk of traffic hazards may seem lame compared to gun violence or infectious disease, though currently kill more people than both combined. Where’s a bicycle chaplain when you need homilies to encourage better road ethics? The silent comedian you thought this entry was about at least made you chuckle; maybe that’s all you can do while immersed in menace. Riding in silence was never Labann's strength.

“‘Go, God, You know that to win is not getting there but continuing.’ Everyone, on the sidewalks rolling on the ground with laughter, we applauded him like crazy! But, a certain night, his horrible bicycle with a trailer began to cast an enormous fluorescent tail. Unbelievable! The pickpockets were returning wallets on the bus; the powerful were ending hunger; the UFOs were revealing... the mayor himself was filling the potholes in the streets. I cried of joy, dancing under that light the polka of the cyclist... sinister rage, I do not know why... we assaulted him, and from behind, his white bicycle we started to destroy... turned it into a thousand pieces... he shouted, ‘May I save you!’ took a look at his bicycle ...smiled ...walked away. Skinny Guy Who Art on Earth, how come you forgot that we are not angels, but men and women?” - Astor Piazzolla, La Bicicleta Blanca

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Rabidly Outgain

Another summer hence, fifty years since 1969’s Aquarian Exposition of August 15th to 18th, a weekend festival of art, music and peace together, where will civilization find itself? Closer to promoters goals of communities coalescing for improvement, ethical practices, every individual entitled to make a difference, free trade, planetary stewardship, non-violent camaraderie, unfettered creativity, and universal human rights? Really? Participants believed they could live without cash, organized roles, retirement investment, or roofs over their heads. Works for twenty-somethings while agile and mobile enough to withstand uncertainty and vagary. Wear occurs relentlessly to all their gear year after year until society doesn’t care they’re living somewhere on a rusted bus on blocks going nowhere.

No height of Hippiedom, Woodstock marked its demise - promise died - and signaled an inexorable regression into barbarity. Barbarity, cruelty and stupidity describe majority competing for cash. Under capitalism, fair trade and social justice rate as mortal sins. Some can’t handle freedom, because they forget that it means they’re responsible for every action, behavior, commission and omission in which they’re complicit. They’d rather be blameless, bemoan innocence lost, bumble along without consequences. Battles won, when you disengage, you nosedive. An entire generation never heard whole storyline: Tune in, turn on, drop out, die young, and let fascists build a war chest to cheat and murder the rest.

You hate what gravity gradually does to your body. Stuff sags including tattoos. But you love gravity when rolling downhill, a rejuvenating thrill. You curse climbing, yet value its effects: builds muscles, keeps you from floating off into space, regulates tides, and whatnot. Anyway inevitable, gravity itself should be deemed neutral with minuses and pluses in delicate harmony with The Tao. Rather, you loathe yourself, what your body has become, inert flab, slave to what’s grave. Over months indoors and years at sedentary work you’ve gone from enthused recruit pleasingly toned with plenty of energy to a superfund cleanup site of toxic negativity from which everyone steers clear, silly hyperbole yet suitable metaphor.

Seriously, irked by stalwart service taken for granted, sure, you’re just a jerk in a jersey, yet upscale of a racist on Yawkey. Political correctness has been called an identity trap and seems to thwart common sense, but to ages of abuse and neglect owes its existence, payback for smug insults and unearned munificence, which explains why fat cats cycling for free, riding toward right, and swigging your tea so resent this concurrence. How did their mothers raise them?

Economists say in year following Woodstock, 1970, restrictive access to opportunity, social mobility, and success from hard work dramatically began to separate affluence from indigence. Advent of artificial intelligence, automation, and globalization only furthered this divide. In a way, Woodstock aided ambitious and shrewd, who gladly grabbed what hippies wanted to give away, namely any share in ill gotten prosperity, master-vassal economy, and war blood money. Fear infects fools in need with the disease of greed, who consequently inflict society with decades of drudgery.

Wouldn’t you prefer reliable prescience to information desperation? If only you could predict what will occur years from now, you'd grow rich and stay fit to enjoy it. Yet your personal involvement might alter timeline and cause investment to fail instead. Neither does it work in hindsight; would've been a billionaire by holding Apple and IBM stocks into present. But for every technological stride, usually two ethical breakthroughs backslide.

Money fills a need, but why crave excess? Assets can become a nuisance, cost plenty to maintain, get in your way, have a way of hanging a target on your back, and waste time whence lives are woven. Besides, you can’t take any pride in how you succeeded, since society only allowed it by buying into your lame game; indeed, no amount of effort actually expended ever guaranteed you’d achieve greatness. Cash may rule, but dollars continually devalue; millions might become meaningless before midnight and thrones decay into worthlessness. Earn to live, not live to earn.

Affluence can instantly be reversed. Losers may ultimately win. Meek may inherit it all. Accursed advantages will fall when they no longer resist what used to persist. Nevertheless, Congress fallaciously bankrolls tycoons, who they figure can make good use of extorted revenue, reckon educators fail to graduate enough innovators to make grants worthwhile, resent welfare that keeps alive those upon whom tycoons tread, and shrug off what this half-century snafu did: Cause the largest gap between poverty and wealth ever. Look for a time when they begin collecting and eliminating what’s deselected and marginalized, such as bicycles or splinter group members. An informed public wouldn’t comply with whims of psychopaths in power, so teachers face increasingly bigger barriers. State policies typically ensure life’s a chore and majority suffers. Already, you must earn health insurance money or pay a hefty fine you can’t afford.

Heartfelt expressions can get around globe in an instant, yet mostly go ignored, or, worse, invite retaliation. You'd think but wrongly assume that net gains from Internet exceed losses. Literally tons of computers, e-pads, smartphones and tablets were sold based on access to it. But slave labor assembles all this merchandise. Frauds, gambles and scams cost billions, not to mention diminishing corporate profits from employee distraction. Billions more are spent on paltry pleasures and popular porn that profits only a few, never populations as a whole. Tobacco alone after profits results in a net loss of $200 billion per year. Businesses and government figure they can cut costs if posting ads and forms to websites, though salaries have to be paid to do so, and 25% of population can’t connect, particularly elderly. If cash can be called a tool for retirees, it resembles an axe collecting dust or rust out of mind and sight. As a fruit of labor, someone else - bankers, doctors, insurers, lawyers, nursing homes directors - squeezes its juice and steals your use. You might be better off giving it to your family and spending it to make a memory.

For WWW to fulfill its informational promise, users would need to mine facts presented and perform analyses, as has Labann while building blog and defining bicycling culture. One can hope that observed facts could be amassed into postulates that serve some higher purpose: Eliminate waste, end war, foster rights, increase understanding, save lives, or work wisely. Smarter folks can join list servers for academic and scientific discussion and use to achieve progress. Too bad boring chatter, false claims, junk science, and profit motives bury useful information. POTUS calls actual but adverse news fake, and uses social media to dupe gullible masses and shape favorable opinions.

Ignore copy studded with words ending with suffix “tion”, so many they supply a plethora of cheap rhymes for nauseating poets. Pronounced “shun”, that’s what reader should do, avoid like viral contagion. Beware of bold pronouncements with no logical narrative. Maybe author didn't go through process of thinking statement through; then again, maybe author did and spared you labor of sorting through details. Anyone might associate ah-ha moments with unrelated facts, suggest causality where none exists, or whip up passions for nonsense. Be assured that Top-Ten appraisals overlook thousands of better picks not being forcibly publicized.

Continual exposure to narcissists, paranoids and schizophrenics inflicts normal people with inhibiting anxieties. Take xenophobia: Immigrants do bring challenges and costs, but nation was entirely populated by refugees and their progeny. Uniting amicably is what Americans do, to a fault. Nation’s generosity may be taken for granted by recent arrivals who say they’d rather be in motherland whence they came. Lunatics who pay no taxes or provide no services complain the most. Being aware and assuming tasks define adulthood, but not necessarily wisdom, which pieces together puzzles.

“What it is…" another phrase with multiple meanings: Defines "it", or implies, "Is what it is," or spouts, "How things are." Both blameworthy, ethical and lingual points conspire to launch debacles. Rephrased, "What is it?" betrays annoyance and impatience. Issues surround word "is" because A doesn't equal but might be substituted for B. You can usually pinpoint subtle lies and useless quotes by their use of the word “is". “No man is an island.” Well, duh, no ocean or peninsula is, either. Donne does go on to qualify, but probably would’ve saved time and showed mercy getting straight to his point: Humans are social animals with interdependencies. When right wing media mercenaries, “Tell it like it is,” with righteous vehemence, disregard their bullshit that strictly supports their own interests. They rabidly outgain you because they they sell out to power lust, and wantonly abandon morality though never just. Once they’re comfortably numb, damage has been done, and status strata settles in.

For those who see problems clearly and tackle goals earnestly, bicycling and plain living answer some of world’s issues. Spike in gasoline prices and Spring's arrival (at last) encourage more bike commuting and cost saving. Yet aimless motoring clogs highways all day, while alert bicycling reveals a beleaguered environment of felled trees, general devastation, and senseless litter, which represent no small percentage of motoring’s untold costs. Urge to choose easy route and team with oblivious despoilers weighs heaviest on those who sacrifice for mutual well-being. Neither saint nor sinner by however you define such terms, you’ll make compromises for which you’re not proud. Tax breaks for bike commuters and do-gooders get lost in haste to bail out banks and endow enterprises that suck planet dry. But touchy readers rather not be reminded of obvious villainy unless related to racing or touring, usual topics for bicycle blogs and books, and that you’ll only tell your mom or someone who cares. High minded, mighty intended opinions influence few, provoke ire, and surely invite vengeance among office holders and scofflaw followers, whom you primarily targeted because they vie with criminals as worst examples.

Freedom versus responsibility, theme of Bike&Chain, describes mankind’s core struggle. To take stock on wooden ambitions, you don’t advocate, do right, and fight good fight to earn gold stars on some heavenly tote board or sidestep vicious spiral to hell in twilight. No, you decide daily on weighty matters, some of which you’re unable to resolve or unaware exist. You can improve own effectiveness by doing your job, living to a code, paying attention, or shouldering unwanted tasks. But with whose rules do you comply? Never cease to be delighted and surprised by bikes for Africa, charities that work, disaster responses, doctors without borders, moms putting children’s needs before their own, salvation army, and soup kitchens. Whenever altruism arises to address real issues, world breathes a bit easier.

“The saint inspires the vitality of all lives, without holding back. He nurtures all beings with no wish to take possession of. He devotes all his energy but has no intention to hold on to the merit. When success is achieved, he seeks no recognition… Words of truth are not pleasing. Pleasing words are not truthful. The wise one does not argue.” Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapters 2 & 81