Sunday, August 30, 2009

Radio Memories: The Sound Of Teamwork

Back by popular demand: our Sunday offering of Radio Memories, a weekly recollection of the dearly-departed artistic medium of radio drama… the theater of the mind.

This week I need some laughs, so we’ll be tuning in to the delightful comedy series Fibber McGee and Molly.

Husband and wife vaudeville team Jim and Marian Jordan appeared on radio, in one capacity or another, from 1924 through 1959. Their run as the big dreamer Fibber McGee and long-suffering wife Molly was one of the highest-rated shows of its day, a fact I feel able to vouch for anecdotally, since every time I’ve chatted with seniors about their memories of old radio drama, they all fondly remember listening to this program, often citing it at the top of their list of favorites. If I condensed all their memories into one single remembrance, it would go like this:

“He would have a closet filled with junk”, they would explain to me, “and when it opened you would imagine all the crazy mess as it tumbled out. Your mind did all the work, you see.”

The ingenuity of sound effects maestros like Frank Pittman (who started the closet gag) and Virgil Reimer (who turned it into an art form all its own) would be tested by this running gag like never before, a test of their patience as much as it was of their imagination. A collection of boxes, cans and increasingly varied objects would be precariously perched on a makeshift mount best described as stairs; on cue the sound effects man would give the top shelf a calculated nudge, and one pile would fall upon the next, and the next, and the next, creating audio chaos. A weekly terror gripped the sound effects technician, however:

What if the delicately staged apparatus accidentally fell on its own, before the proper time??

I remember reading in Robert Mott’s memoir, Radio Sound Effects, that Virgil Reimer turned the closet sound effect into a visual gag as much as an audio one, creating a moment of surreal performance art on stage for the sake of the studio audience assembled for the broadcasts; the preposterously decorated stairs of bric-a-brac prepared for the closet gag would be given prominent space on display for the audience to see, and savor. And what a sight in must have been: the conclusion of the effect would frequently be greeted by the audience with approving applause in addition to laughter..!

This sharing of comedy glory was not at all a common approach to working with sound effects; quite often comedians would fret about being upstaged by the audience’s fascination with the prosaic work of the sound effects crew, opening fake doors, closing gimmicked windows, ringing phones and all the other busy work they had to do each program. Reportedly the more insecure comedians on other programs even hid their sound effects technicians behind a curtain, in order to hog all the live audience’s attention for themselves. I can sympathize with why they felt the threat; when I was 12 I got to attend a radio broadcast of Canada’s comedy show The Royal Canadian Air Farce, and the lone sound effects man off on stage left was as riveting to follow as the four comedians as they bobbed and weaved at their microphones on stage right. The sound effects man could pull out an eggbeater or some strange device to provide the son juste, and it would completely overshadow all the clever dialog and funny timing in evidence at the other end of the stage.

No such fragile egos or insecurities from Fibber McGee and Molly, aka Jim and Marion Jordan. Their biographies reveal a reassuringly normal married couple from the Midwest, who kept their success in perspective even when theirs was the top show in the ratings; they never “went Hollywood”. I have a fun old book on radio comedy published in 1945, “There’s Laughter In The Air”, by Jack Gaver and Dave Stanley, that suggests the Jordans kept themselves busy off-stage, so that the temptations that came with stardom would not dominate their lives:

The Jordans live now on a modest ranch near Encino, California, a few miles outside of Hollywood… Jordan served two terms as president of the Encino Chamber of Commerce. He owns a thousand acres of grazing land near Bakersfield, California, where he raises blooded Polled Angus cattle. He also owns a firm that makes sand-blasting machinery, and a bottling plant.
Not bad for “mere” comedians..!

An unsung hero of this series has to be its prolific writer/director, Don Quinn. In an era when radio comedians often leaned on teams of four or five writers, Quinn wrote each half-hour show by himself. (Well, almost: he relied on his wife to correct his terrible grammar...) From the same 1945 book quoted above, we who struggle with our writing skill can read with envy how he approached crafting each week's Tuesday night broadcast:
Quinn and the players usually get together Friday afternoons to discuss the next show. On Saturday he plays around with whatever idea is decided upon and then on Sunday really gets down to writing, usually from 9 pm through the night until dawn. The cast has first reading Monday, and it had better sound good to Quinn because if he doesn’t like what he’s written he’ll toss the whole thing in the wastebasket and sit up all Monday night fashioning a new script.
“I will not willingly sell a bad show,” he says.

But he's also quick to point out the real secret of the show's success... the shared sense of mission:
“The reason for the success of the Fibber McGee and Molly show – and I can call it successful because of the Hooper and Crossley surveys – is that everyone cooperates. There is no bickering. There are no jealousies. The sponsor gives us an almost free hand, even in the writing of the comedy commercial…”
The supporting actors included Harold Peary, whose character Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve made radio history by becoming the first spin-off show in 1941, eventually giving the original show a run for its money at the top of the ratings. (Gildy started our Radio Memories series last Christmas, which you can listen to here.)

Peary is gone by the time of the April 7th, 1942 broadcast I've selected as this week's offering, but in his place is a character performed by Bill Thompson, who cast a much longer cultural shadow, albeit through indirect means. His mushy-voiced henpecked husband character named Wallace Wimple, showing up after the middle commercial in this episode, is recognizable to audiences today, perhaps, due to the similar voice he lent to a long-running theatrical cartoon character. When radio drama began to be eclipsed by television, Thompson found steady work supplying voices for all kinds of cartoon characters, especially for Disney.

Judging from the available behind-the-scenes anecdotes, the McGee show was one where there was room for everyone to make a contribution; therefore I thought it would be ironic to pick an episode centered around an historical event where the opposite happened; an unfortunate occurrence that shows what inevitably befalls us when "experts" decide they know what's best, deliberately snubbing the potential input of people with practical experience but few officious credentials.

In early 1942 the Germans' Operation Drumbeat sank so much American shipping that it caused a gasoline and rubber shortage on the East Coast. Rationing went into effect for that region, and President Roosevelt's bloated New Deal-era bureaucracy so bungled its implementation that it spelled electoral doom for the Democrats in that year's mid-term elections. Shortages were exacerbated when the Japanese effectively cut off 90% of the US' rubber supply, through the conquest of Malaya in the outreaches of the Pacific. The alphabet soup of agencies had not gotten around yet to properly inaugurating the US's own synthetic replacements for rubber; the resulting shortage was severely damaging to the war effort.

Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes (whose son later served in the Clinton White House), grandly declared that one million tons of rubber could be salvaged from American garages, backyards and attics. Despite sotto-voce assurances to the contrary by such figures as Arthur Newhall, a former rubber manufacturer then working for the War Production Board (WPB), a very public and patriotic campaign was launched to collect the nation's scrap materials (as you can hear from this week's Fibber McGee and Molly show, embedded below), but unfortunately to little effect. As recounted by Thomas Fleming in "The New Dealer's War: FDR And The War Within World War II":

The drive was a fiasco. At the end of five frantic weeks, in which the president made a statement and Ickes ran around like an out-of-control windup toy, the nation had collected only 335,000 tons of scrap rubber. Ickes was reduced to trying to confiscate the rubber mats on the floors of the Interior Department buildings. The Public Buildings Administration blocked him, saying it would lead to an epidemic of broken hips when people started falling on the slippery marble floors. In a last gasp, Ickes was caught stealing a rubber mat from the White House. Compounding the petroleum czar’s folly was his apparent ignorance of the fact that rubber mats were made from recycled rubber and were useless in the production of tires.

[pages 141-142]


As a result of his investigations into the handling of the rubber shortages, a somewhat obscure Missouri Senator named Harry S Truman [ghost]wrote an article in American Mercury magazine provocatively entitled, "We Can Lose The War In Washington". As chairman of the Special Committee to Investigate the War Program, he was infuriated by the self-defeating maze of bungling bureaucracy erected by the White House. By his own party. A true team player, he put the nation's interests ahead of petty partisanship, and endured a lot of criticism for his integrity. This was the public's first real glimpse of the man who would soon inherit all this mess when he is propelled from the vice-presidency to the office of President of the United States of America in early 1945.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves, and possibly losing the spirit that sparked this post. That's a sign that it's time to dim the lights and sharpen the mind, to the sounds of one of radio's most humble, and successful, teams: Fibber McGee and Molly.

video

A list of our previous Radio Memories offerings may be found here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Springtime for Hamas and Palestine..."

I've often responded to the delusional hatred of Israel, stemming from white guilt at observing scenes of Palestinian suffering, with arguments like "yes, well, of course Gaza is a hell hole, but this is the fruit of a culture that has spent sixty years doing little but brooding how to destroy its more successful rival".

A recent column from Spengler has me rethinking my rhetoric: is it smart to acknowledge the hell hole in an attempt to move the argument on?
... data confirm that Palestinians enjoy a higher living standard than their Arab neighbors. A fail-safe gauge is life expectancy. The West Bank and Gaza show better numbers than most of the Muslim world
[...]
Without disputing Obama's claim that life for the Palestinians is intolerable, it is fair to ask: where is life not intolerable in the Arab world? When the first UN Arab Development Report appeared in 2002, it elicited comments such as this one from the London Economist: "With barely an exception, its autocratic rulers, whether presidents or kings, give up their authority only when they die; its elections are a sick joke; half its people are treated as lesser legal and economic beings, and more than half its young, burdened by joblessness and stifled by conservative religious tradition, are said to want to get out of the place as soon as they can." Life sounds intolerable for the Arabs generally; their best poet, the Syrian "Adonis" - Ali Ahmad Said Asbar - calls them an "extinct people".

Palestinian Arabs are highly literate, richer and healthier than people in most other Arab countries, thanks to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the blackmail payments of Western as well as Arab governments. As refugees, they live longer and better than their counterparts in adjacent Arab countries. It is not surprising that they do not want to be absorbed into other Arab countries and cease to be refugees.

If the Palestinians ceased to be refugees, moreover, it is not clear how they would maintain their relatively advantaged position. They cannot return to farming; for all the tears about bulldozed olive groves, no one in the West Bank will ever make a living selling olive oil, except perhaps by selling "Holy Land" products to Christian tourists. Apart from tourism, the only non-subsidy source of income the Palestinians had was day labor in Israel, but security concerns close that off. Light manufacturing never will compete with Asia, and surely not during a prolonged period of global overcapacity.

An alternative is for the Palestinians to continue to live off subsidies. But why should they? Why should Western taxpayers subsidize an Arab in Ramallah, when Arabs in Egypt are needier? The answer is that they represent a security concern for Western countries, who believe that they are paying to limit violence. That only makes sense if the threat of violence remains present in the background and flares up frequently enough to be credible. One cannot simply stage-manage such things. A sociology of violence in which a significant proportion of the population remains armed [is necessary].
[...]
About one out of four Palestinian men between the ages of 20 and 40 makes a living carrying a gun.

That is, the economic structure of "pre-state" Palestine is heavily skewed towards the sort of institutionalized means of violence that is supposed to disappear once a state has been established. This is absurd, and creates a double disincentive for the Palestinians to maintain a low boil of violence. Just how this violence-centered society is supposed to make the transition to an ordinary civil society is an unanswerable question.

Once the problem is diagnosed with this kind of clarity, the solution becomes obvious:
# Cut Western support to the Palestinians with the aim of reducing living standards in the West Bank to those prevailing in Egypt, as an incentive for emigration.
# Demilitarize Palestinian society: offer a reward for turning in weapons, seize them when necessary, and give newly-unemployed gunmen employment weaving baskets at half pay.

Like many obvious solutions, this one never will be put into practice.
Well gee, Spengler, basket weaving, when there's so much more money in Jew hatred?
The Palestinians cannot form a normal state. They cannot emigrate to Arab countries without accepting a catastrophic decline in living standards, and very few can emigrate to Western countries. The optimal solution for the Palestinians is to demand a state and blackmail Western and Arab donors with the threat of violence, but never actually get one.
But does Obama want what's optimal for the Arab cousins of Bill Ayers and the ACORN mob? What's more, can the Palestinians really be so rational given their "sociology of violence"? What about their religious imperatives to destroy Jewish power?
Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs

p.s. if anyone wants to adapt the lyrics, leave a comment

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Does Palin=Babbitt? If so, how? Questions for our times...

There haven't been a lot of posts here lately. The contributors need a rest, for various reasons. But one of the reasons, perhaps the most difficult, lies in a sense that we are not always on, or close enough, to the same page.

But maybe I'm wrong, or maybe we can only know by working things through with some dialogue. To that end, I thought I'd reproduce a comment I just made at Breath of the Beast.

First, just to frame it, I'm wondering if some of the thinking at this blog, for example, may be more libertarian or antagonistic to all forms of shared, collective, authority and the sacred than I would like. Certain epistemologies expressed might, while nominally expressed in the name of freedom, have too much in common with the worldview of the contemporary nihilist left - all truth is reducible to the will to power - for my liking.

Anyway, here, slighlty revised, is what I wrote in respone to Yaacov's post where he discusses the current despair many conservatives in America feel in respect to both political parties and towards their government, and where he also discusses how he was belittled by academics who, in idolizing their own occupational detachment from the marketplace, think it fit to criticize anyone who would suggest that the proper ends of intellectual life are not in the intellectual or political life itself, but are tied to the need to increase value and reciprocity in the marketplace. I agree that increasing human reciprocity in the marketplace is our primary ethical concern. But, on the other hand, I don't think that we can get there by simply belittling all those who value the need for outside-the-market morality. Here's the comment:

Have a look at Virginia Woolf's letter on "middlebrow". You'll see that the (proposed) alliance of the elitist and the plebe against the middle dates from at least the period, in the wake of WWI, where high culture entered into a despair and nihilism and pushed away the middle classes who, if they had not often been at the cutting edge of high culture nonetheless had until then aspired to keep up with it. But in the 1920s, a distinctive "middlebrow" publishing industry and associational culture arose, setting the terrain for highbrow rants against "Babbitry" and the "booboisie". Those graduate students belittling you were just mindlessly recapitulating 1920s sneers.

If we want - and we do need - a class of politicians who can lead with productive moral values, it is not enough, I think, to suggest that they just give us good laws and then get out of the way. They do have a necessary oversight role in watching, measuring, negotiating, regulating our unfolding freedom. It is a mistake to think we grow freedom by diminishing politics and the institutionalizing, in government, of our political negotiations and decisions.

Take, for example, the current financial debacle. Writing loans to people with no income, no jobs, no assets and then repackaging and selling those loans so their real toxicity can't be seen, so that financial players can win big commissions and bonuses while forestalling the inevitable day of reckoning, is either outright fraud or the most bizarre confabulation of magical thinking in the minds of many thousands of financial people. The continued unwillingness of the banks to mark their bad "assets" to market value is also, it seems to me, a form of accounting fraud being played on their investors.

I tend to think it wasn't a mass psychosis of magical thinking, that America has just been witness to a massive fraud, a massive ponzi scheme, that thousands of people involved in the financial industry must have been more or less aware of in its build up. And how many have even been investigated, let alone charged, by the legal-governmental authorities? Zero (charged, I believe). No, "government" has been actively trying to paper up the fraud lest we lose entirely our confidence in the present Wall St.-Washington system and have to go through a massive dislocation in finding ourselves again.

But there is no denying, it seems to me, that the reason this massive fraud was made possible is because the rather "laissez-faire" financial industry (when regulated, poorly regulated by the controlling types in government) proved itself full members of the human race, i.e. immersed in original sin, and corruptible. Somewhere along the way the economic players needed to be accountable to political players, via government. Instead, a mix of laissez-faire ideology and left-liberal cronyism that tied together Wall St. and political interests "ruled".

Laissez-faire cannot be the guiding ideology of real freedom. Real freedom involves having a hand in ruling yourself, and your neighbors' public conduct, in tandem with your fellows in a self-ruling democracy. It does not mean thinking there can ever be a society where the market simply polices itself with no political/public negotiation and regulation outside the market. Just try to imagine a market where you could buy every form of insurance, company information and "credit checking", every necessary piece of contract law, to mitigate against the risk of corruption in those with whom you were in trust relationships (perhaps keeping in mind how the bond rating agencies have just proven themselves readily corruptible by the logic of the marketplace). At some point you would always come to realize that you ultimately rely on a kind of disinterested, potentially self-sacrificing, morality that cannot be articulated in any purely economic logic. And this would entail more than the rule of law (though of course that would be indispensable) because there are always novel situations in which forms of "grey market" immorality are not going to be foreseen by the law. In short, there will always be a need for an economic insider who goes political, who breaks with the economic players and hence his own self-interest to say "look what is going on, this is wrong, WE have to do something about it".

Freedom requires some kind of partial closure to the economic free market through a political marketplace. Unless we take up this claim seriously, and see where it takes us in conceiving a truly ethical, if not "moral" economy, for the years ahead, the left will always have a great political advantage over those of us who truly want not to control (as does the left) but to find rulers who help maximize our freedom. Shouting at tea parties is not enough. The forces of freedom must become full players in politics and government. And that can only start with building up the narratives that give people the reason and desire to so involve themselves.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What is primitive man?

He who thinks he can kill Jesus, in 2009, or the lowest peasant in the land?
DHAKA, Bangladesh, August 4 (Compass Direct News) – At the urging of local Muslim leaders, police in western Bangladesh have tortured a pastor and two other Christians for legally proclaiming Christ.
[...]
“Police told us, ‘We will teach you in the camp how to forget your Christ,’ while dragging us to the vehicle,” said Rahman.

Police blindfolded them after reaching the camp and took them to three separate rooms.

“I heard blood-curdling scream from other rooms,” Rahman said. “I was sitting on the floor blindfolded. I could not understand what was happening around me. Later several police came to me and one of them kicked me on the back of my head, and my head ricocheted off the wall. They also kicked my waist.”

Ordering him to say how many people he had converted to Christianity in the Muslim-majority nation, the commander said he would kick him a like number of times. The official told him to call out to Jesus, saying he wanted to see how Jesus would save him, Rahman said.
[...]
Police officers told Rahman to admit that whatever he had done in his life was wrong, he said. When they sent them to Boalia police station early the next morning, dozens of Christians arrived to try to obtain their release.

Police, however, were reluctant to release the detained Christians.

“Some Christian villagers then said, ‘We are also criminal because we believe in Christ like Habibur Rahman and the other two Christians,’” Rahman said. “They told police, ‘If you do not release them, then arrest us and put us in jail.’”

Police did not release the three Christians until 9:30 that night.

The next day, June 10, thousands of Muslim villagers demonstrated in front of a local government office called the Zamzami Union Council chanting, “We want a Christian-free society,” and “We will not allow any Christians in Cuadanga.”
[...]
There are 176 Christians in the area where Rahman works as an evangelist and pastor, he said.

“The local government council chairman told me two times not to come in this area,” Rahman said. “He said, ‘There is no Christian in this area, so why do you come here to make Christians?’”

Local Muslim villagers have since refused to give work to area Christians, most of whom are day laborers dependent on obtaining daily jobs to survive.
Which covenant, whose freedom, will you defend?

Kudos to Jonathan Manthorpe

Discussing his column last week that discussed the Anthropogenic Global Warming "denier", Ian Plimer, Jonathan Manthorpe shows he's not bullied by the high priests of the first global religion:
There was too a healthy crop of letters from scientists who, while quarreling with some of Plimer's arguments, basically agree with him that the Earth warms and cools in natural cycles, and that human activities have little or no impact on these changes.

But the disturbing letters were from the scientist believers in man-man global warming.

I have met a lot of unpleasant people in the course of my life, but I have never seen such a torrent of nasty, arrogant and downright stupid abuse as has been aimed at me this week by people who aggressively sign themselves "PhD" as though it were a mark of divine right that is beyond challenge or question.

If a man can be judged by the character of his enemies, the letters I have received from scientists this week has significantly raised Plimer in my estimation.

Wednesday Hero

When the extra-ordinary becomes ordinary: here's a wonderful example of our amazing ability to continually adapt to life's given circumstances.



The combing, the chopsticks, the cooking... I'm having trouble deciding which single act amazes me the most... probably the sewing.

By ending with the family playing a game of cards together, the video concludes on a fitting note: we can't control the cards we're dealt, but we can choose how we play the hand.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Aristotle, Free Food, And The Illusion Of Intelligence

I ran across this interesting passage from Aristotle over the weekend. From Book One of Ethics:
Since in every case a man judges rightly what he understands, and of this only is a good critic, it follows that while in a special field the good critic is a specialist, the good critic in general is the man with a general education.

That is why a young man is not a fit person to attend lectures on political science, because he is not versed in the practical business of life from which politics draws its premises and subject-matter.

Besides, he tends to follow his feelings, with the result that he will make no headway and derive no benefit from his course, since the object of it is not knowledge but action.

It makes no difference whether he is young in age or youthful in character; the defect is due not to lack of years but to living, and pursuing one's various aims, under sway of the feelings; for to people like this knowledge becomes as unprofitable as it is for the incontinent.

Aristotle's observation on the value of life experience seemed the perfect commentary upon this video, featuring a young lady as sincere as she is enthusiastic, delivering an (impromptu?) address to a 2008 Santa Cruz City Council meeting. [I'm having trouble embedding the video, for some reason, so you'll have to follow the link. Fortunately I had made a transcript of the speech shortly after I first heard the audio broadcast over last week's Northern Alliance Radio Network talk show. I let myself miss the occasional "umm" and "uhh", otherwise I hope the transcript is pretty accurate..:]

Young Speaker: Well, the crops are, um, growing very well, and they’re organic and have pesticides and I think that we should make a perfect pesticide for the crops, that is good for people, and uh, healthy, and keeps the crops preserved, because, we need the FOOD, because it’s food and stuff, and organic food is good also…
Um… and the businesses downtown really need to lower their rent, because if the rent was lower those people would really have their own businesses, they have enough stuff, they’re very good at making things, they’re experts, they’re really good…
And we can really be a community, and make good things, and, um, sell them in our stores, that it can be a California thing, it can really work out, because we can be rich in cotton, and mining metals, and silkworms, and we can make things, things like cars, the machine can make it for us. And we can have the community, and the city, and San Francisco things, and put them in a store…
On the East Coast they have slaves, they believe in slavery, and Made In China, but, on the West Coast, the new West Coast, we don’t believe in that, we believe in the union, and that’s what we are….
In the Bush administration, which is really good, he has government funding for small business owners…
You can grow every type of fruit and vegetable you want, that’s how they do it. They have fruit trees, and vegetable trees, that’s where fruit and vegetable comes from…
You freeze the fruit and vegetables, and it’ll last forever. You can put, you know, broccoli or strawberries in the freezer and it’ll last forever. If you don’t, you know, it might go bad in a bit…
People, we live in California, this is our home, this is where we live…
Growing food is so good, for the people, because, it’s free. All’s you have to do is pay the farmers. And pay for the land. But, why do we have to pay for the land, the land’s free, it’s new land, you know, I mean do we have to pay for the land, do we have to pay rent; the food’s free. So we should just sell it… at the farmer’s market.

City Councillor: [laconically] Thank You. Next speaker…

It probably won't seem like it, but I'm really not trying to make fun of the young lady; Lord knows this is probably what I sound like half the time I try to make myself sound smart. I think, in fact, I have much to learn from watching the video; it's helped to bring into clearer focus some half-formed ideas I've been writing about, off-and-on over the years, on what it means to actually be intelligent.

Starting with the recognition of how valuable the simple act of conversation can be as the backbone to one's education. I wonder how many of the holes in this young lady's knowledge base arose from never having anyone really test that knowledge by honestly discussing her ideas with her... what intellectual poverty it must be, to be surrounded with friends and family (and teachers) who completely agree with everything you believe. The hallmark of civility, the art of agreeing to disagree, is sadly becoming a lost art, it seems, through being increasingly unpracticed, and therefore unappreciated. ("As Iron Sharpens Iron, So One Man Sharpens Another." Proverbs 27:17)

The fame (or should I say, infamy) of this video suggests the next lesson: the contribution that humility makes in the march towards intelligence. Presumably the young lady in the video knows by now how many hundreds of thousands of people around the world have watched her speech since she gave it last year. (I guess I'm contributing to her humiliation by posting it here... sorry about that) I hope the sometimes cruel comments and mocking criticisms don't end up discouraging her from picking herself up and trying to fill some of those holes in her education. This, I think, is the key to the second most important facet of being "intelligent": the acceptance that improving our intelligence comes with a heavy price tag... it costs us the illusion of our infallibility.

Fortunately, if the necessary lesson in humility is learned early enough in life, the gift of time can counter-balance the follies that come with youthful vanity. Believing that, however, requires what I have grown to consider the single most important facet to intelligence: the ability to have faith, the imagination to believe that no matter how far we fall, how little we may become, how deeply we end up regretting our choices in life... we have within us the potential to always renew our self.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Un-Critical Mass of self-righteous twits inflames Vancouver Craigslist

Critical Mass, the mob of cyclists who commandeer city streets the last Friday of every month, blocking traffic, disrespecting the rules of the road, and generally showing contempt for motorists and pedestrians, sometimes getting in fights and generally infuriating those caught in their web, has been garnering a lot of negative talk in Vancouver, notwithstanding their apparent ability to garner sympathy from or morally blackmail Mayor Gregor Robertson by fraudulently invoking the name of cycling advocacy (the police are tacitly assisting the CM civil disobedience by warning motorists to stay clear of downtown on the unhappy Fridays; the police presently intend to do nothing to stop the event).

I noticed one message on the Craigslist bicycle sales page calling on cyclists to respond to a CBC article on which there were a lot of anti-Critical Mass comments. The Craigslist poster assumed the bike traders would be pro-Critical Mass. But I have yet to see any follow-up message in support, and I have now seen about ten anti-CM comments (though someone is flagging some of the comments for deletion, as, I suppose, politics is not Craigslist's raison d'etre. However the original comment is not yet deleted.) Most cyclists see Critical Mass as doing little but increasing the level of resentment that is directed at cyclists, thus endangering all of us.

Anyway, I thought one comment was worth preserving, testifying as it does to the power of bicycles to save us from nihilism, up to a point - coarse language follows:

I work for a living,I graduated from Emily Carr art school,I love bikes more than any other monetary posession,I have more handmade bikes than days in the week,I got my first Sex Pistols record in London in 1977,,,Fuck you Fixie welfare asshole tatood squeegie Twatts making car drivers hate me even more......
I'm not sure how to read this ode to hard work, private property, and punk rock, but I was just thinking that Dag is maybe going to have to rethink his ontology of the "death hippie".

A "Fixie" by the way is a single or fixed-gear bike, as used in velodrome track sprinting, and which is now a trendy item on the road among a certain young crowd apparently more interested in racing than coasting or breaking.