It is widely acknowledged that creativity and inventiveness wane greatly in the face of youth. Einstein made his breakthroughs before thirty then famously stated that a scientist who had not made a great contribution before thirty would never do so. Writers tend to lose steam as they leave middle age, if not before. Then, of course, you have musicians, who often do their best work before they turn twenty-one and whose later efforts are often shambolic at best.
No surprise, however, that Bob Dylan is the exception to that rule. Love And Theft, recorded after his fifty-ninth birthday and slightly overlooked on its release date of September 11, 2001, stands easily among his most famous work. Most of the songs are musically simple, but that’s always been the case for the man who was born as Robert Zimmerman but whose reinvention as “Bob Dylan” was but the first of many such transformations. With Love And Theft it’s the odd rhythms of the storytelling, the wild swings between sentimentality and hard-nosed realism, the sly way in which the lyrics work their way into your ear.
Not all of the lyrics are his.
As the rain starts to fall, I take a moment to chide myself. I’m not pushing the bike hard enough. I know this because I have all these thoughts in my head: concerns about my son, some agenda items for a writing project to which I agreed a few months back but which is only now starting to eclipse all other worries as the deadline looms, the vague outline for a piece I’d like to write about Joni Mitchell’s song “Carey” and the Saturnine (as opposed to merely saturnine) pull of nostalgia for days spent in vain with a worthless lover. Were I truly pushing, there would only be the ball bearing.
“On a bike your consciousness is small. The harder you work, the smaller it gets.” That’s what Tim Krabbe says in The Rider, an absurdly perfect 148-page story of a meaningless cycling club race from 1977. Krabbe said in this book what all of us had been trying to say about road cycling for a long time. I read it on a friend’s recommendation in 2011 and immediately I thought: yes, this is it, there’s no need for any more books about bicycles, you can let that long-simmering idea go. “During the race,” Krabbe writes, “what goes round in the rider’s mind is a monolithic ball bearing, so smooth, so uniform, that you can’t even see it spin. Its almost perfect lack of surface structure ensures that it strikes nothing that might end up in the white circulation of thought.” The harder you push, the less you think. In 1999 I rode 107 miles in five hours and change as part of a two-day tour. I rode a Klein Pulse mountain bike in a long paceline of roadies. I spent the entire time attempting to not vomit. When I arrived at the finish I realized I did not remember a single thing about the ride, nor did I recall having a single useful thought for the whole time.
Krabbe is 75 years old now and still covers a weekly 45-mile ride around Amsterdam, riding at the same pace as the young Dutch hotshot roadies. I am 46 and I am struggling to get 26.2 miles done in under one hour and 48 minutes. In 2014, a Kenyan ran this same distance in 2:02. Barefoot, I think. Whereas I am on a brand-new titanium road bike of exceptional specification and unjustifiable expense. On flat ground, a domestique in the Tour de France averages 27mph. I’m averaging an unimpressive 16.7 on the move, which drops to 15.1 average for my trip because I have to wait several minutes for stoplights and crossings.
It’s time to think a little less and pedal a little harder. So that’s the trick about road cycling: it has to be mindless.
Back in 2013, I saw perhaps the finest Brougham in the wild as I have ever seen (excluding car shows): A 1977 Cutlass Supreme Brougham coupe. It was, quite simply, gorgeous. And I have a history with the Colonnade Cutlasses! That’s right folks, it’s another ’70s Brougham post. Buckle up!
Twenty-five years ago, I happened to find the complete tablature for Dire Straits’ “Sultans Of Swing” during a late-night session browsing USENET on the university VAX. I printed the whole thing out, for free, because back then my school let VAX users print whatever they wanted for free. Amazing, right? When I think of all the things I printed out at school just because I wasn’t sure if I’d ever find them again. We had no way of knowing that Google would end up buying most of the USENET archives. We had no way of knowing there would be a Google. We still thought that the Internet would end up taking us to the Singularity. What fools we were. Anyway, after printing the tab out I tossed it in a 3-ring binder. Then I forgot about it.
About five years ago, I found that binder, pulled out the tab, and fussed around until I was more or less able to play “Sultans Of Swing”. I was reasonably proud of myself for having done so. It’s a brilliant tune and there are parts where the timing is more than a little tricky. I never shared this accomplishment with anyone, so I’m not sure why YouTube thought I’d want to see the above video. Maybe the almighty algorithm knows me better than I know myself.
There are two talented musicians at work in this song, and it’s a pleasure to watch, but what impresses me the most is how well it’s been monetized. After the jump, I’ll explain all the ways that this “Sultans Of Swing” cover is making cash. Less clear than the how, unfortunately, is the who. Who’s actually getting paid? It’s not as simple as you might think.
After more than a decade of driving other people’s race cars, I’ve learned that it’s important to have The Talk as early as possible in the negotiation process. I’m not referring to “the talk” that black parents are supposed to have with their children about the police, or Derbyshire’s “the talk” that white parents are supposed to have with their children; I think both of those “talks” verge on the ridiculous. Rather, I’m referring to “the talk” about whether or not I’m going to fit in their race car.
Sometimes, as with the vast majority of GT4 racers and other customer cars, it’s not an issue. Other times, as with the majority of vintage open-wheel racers, it’s a complete impossibility. For the ones in the middle, such as the McLaren MP4-GT3 or a Caterham 300.R, it’s a matter of making it work. My fitment issues usually center around my exceptionally long torso and wider-than-normal shoulders — but there are also times that I’m just too fucking fat to fit into the seat.
Being too fat to fit into a race car does not make me a victim. It’s a reflection of my choices. Being too tall to fit into a race car does not make me a victim. It’s a natural consequence of being six-foot-two with short legs. There are writers out there, such as Chris Harris or Sam Smith or my own brother, who are literally a better fit for those opportunities. I don’t feel victimized by that. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt victimized by anything.
Apparently, I’m really missing out.
My parents have always liked Volvo cars. They had several of them through the years, and I always associate my childhood with Volvo station wagons. Their very first one was bought in 1976. At the time Mom was driving a ’74 Mercury Capri V6, Dad’s former company car. My parents had been friends with Mike and Cathy Lundahl since high school, and his dad owned the Volvo dealership in Moline at the time. As a result, many Volvos lived in their driveway over the past forty years or so. But the ’73 ES was the first.
I am always, always excited when I get parenting advice from people who don’t have children. You can’t really explain to these people how wrong they are about, well…everything. I know this because I used to be a person without children, and despite my brain’s post-TIA attempts to wash out my memory, I remember many of the wrong opinions that I used to hold.
“Children should never misbehave in public.”
“Why are parents always talking about their kids? So boring!”
“Why do people take kids’ sports so seriously? Who cares?”
The last one is the one we’re gonna talk about today. I think we’re all aware how much I care about my son’s soccer team and his personal growth (and with my daughter about to tryout for her first select team in a week and a half, it’s gonna get worse), and I think it’s fair to say that there’s a bit of vicarious living going on there, too. At the age of 40, I’m not likely to have any more of my own personal team sport success to celebrate.
However, I would like to think that I care so much because he cares so much. I haven’t forced anything on him. He plays soccer about 40 weeks a year, and that’s all he wants to do. He doesn’t play any other sports. He doesn’t play an instrument. He’s not particularly interested in school work—he gets all As and pegs every IQ test, but it’s not because he loves it, it just comes naturally to him.
But he loves soccer. And that’s why I sent an email to his coach this week about why we’ll likely not be on that same team again next year.
You can tell just how dangerous our gatekeeping media mandarins think Dr. Jordan Peterson is by the number of hit pieces in establishment media organs on the man and his new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. NBC called him part of the “alt-right” even though he explicitly denounces identitarian politics and has counseled young men away from that particular abyss. “The Stupid Person’s Smart Person”, he’s been called, taking a swipe at both Peterson and the people he disclaims are his “fans”.
To be honest, students or maybe even disciples would be more accurate, as Peterson’s message is fundamentally a moral one, telling people that they’re best off being as honest and responsible as possible.
If you went to Starbucks this morning, chances are that the gender-studies major who made your unicorn frappo-whatever has very strong opinions about Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover’s new video, titled This Is America and seen above.
Warning: It’s not necessarily safe for work.
I’m probably too old, too classically-educated, and too, er, “privileged” to be permitted an opinion on the video itself. It’s deliberately ambiguous in virtually all of its most controversial aspects. Much ink has been spilled on the “Jim Crow” pose struck by Glover before he shoots the hooded figure, but the hooded figure is an older Black musician. So is he saying that playing an acoustic guitar is the act of an Uncle Tom, or is he suggesting that the violence-suffused rap music of the modern era, which by and large replaced the blues and conventional R&B within the black community, is nothing but blackface stupidity?
Furthermore, the motif of police violence is omnipresent throughout the video. There’s no statistical backing for the media hysteria regarding “racist police killers”, but nobody seems to want to be the first to admit it. I’m reminded of the scene in The Wire where Slim Charles says, “If it’s a lie, then we fight on that lie.”. The problem is that there are a great many people in America who seem to want to fight on that lie. More pertinently, they want other people to fight on that lie while they collect their checks from the major media corporations and from George Soros. It’s a brilliant racket, earning rapper-style money stirring up racial hatred in the pages of the mainstream press while you buy, then try to flip, a $2.1 million townhouse.
Okay, let’s put all of that aside and talk about the real issue in Glover’s video: the Accords.
It’s time once again to talk up my buddy Jason Bagge’s latest yacht, a handsome black over white 1972 Bonneville! As previously discussed in the posts on his 1976 Olds Ninety-Eight, 1976 Caprice Classic Sport Sedan and 1976 Caprice Classic Landau, he finds the nicest old land yachts. Or rather, they find him! The latest acquisition is my favorite. Let me tell you why.