Weekly Roundup: Own Goals Edition

Diversity is, truly, our strength. When I look at the Opinion page of the Huffington Post, I see a veritable Benetton advertisement’s worth of diverse people writing diverse articles with the following diverse titles:

  • Blessed Are The Religious Right, For Theirs Is The Presidency Of Trump
  • Why The Politics Of Hate Will NEVER Win (with photo of Trump)
  • Trump – ‘The Grand Experiment’ (Video) (Poetry & Politics)
  • I Persuaded My Parents To Dump Trump… I Think
  • Hillary Clinton — Why I Trust Her
  • The Moment This Republican Decided To Vote For Hillary

That accounts for half the front page; there are also three pieces that mention “luxury travel”. I can’t say that any of these articles were particularly engaging or well-written, but they were very much on-message, which is more important. Is this really the future of journalism? Diversity quotas for how somebody looks or “identifies”, while all of the content hews the same strident line?

Here at Riverside Green, we’ve published black people, white people, Jewish people, Asian people (what an odd catch-all for what is essentially two-thirds of the world population!), men, women, trans people, and teenagers. Never have we published anyone to meet a quota. We try to maintain a broad acquaintance of potential writers, both ideologically and DIVERSITY-wise. There are going to be months where you read this site and it’s all pretty much “white” men — meaning people who trace their ancestry to cultures as diverse as Eastern Europe, South Africa, and South America. Sorry about that. I suppose I should do more to embrace the bright future. I have a dream that my son will one day live in a nation where he will be judged not by the quality of his writing, but by his ability to fit into an approved victim-status group.

Alright, let’s see what your local chapter of the Literary KKK got up to this week.

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Weekly Roundup: Fools Rush In Edition

Would Donald Trump have “run towards the gunfire” during that Florida school shooting? Maybe not if there were bald eagles involved. Here at Riverside Green, I think the official position on running into schools during gunfire is entirely dependent on whether or not our kids are in the school. If my son is in the school, I’m going in. If it’s just David Hogg in there, feeding lines to his fellow student activists, I’m gonna pull a Broward County and work on my Candy Crush high score.

Meanwhile, look at what’s happening to the social-media startup Vero. It’s closing in on 3 million users, including your humble author, despite the fact that the Narrative has mobilized against it. We’re hearing all about how its CEO supposedly mistreated workers overseas — but has anybody ever taken any time to look through Facebook’s overseas operations? What about the fact that Apple’s “partner” in China has to string suicide nets around their production facility? The useful idiots at TIME are concern trolling about Vero hiring Russian programmers. Because Russians are bad, you know. They elected Trump. (They did not elect Mondale, even when they were asked to.) Has anybody ever looked through the demographic composition of Google’s programmers, including their best people?

I think a lot of my progressive friends were more than happy to hand over control of the converged media and Democratic Party to a small group of wealthy bankers, financiers, and tech people, because they correctly surmised that they would get their agenda advanced more quickly than they would otherwise. Look at how quickly same-sex marriage went from political poison to the law of the land. You can’t do that until you control both the horizontal and the vertical. Eventually, however, the bill comes due. Vero is outside the so-called Cathedral. So they’re getting the full-court press from all sides, courtesy of a bought-and-paid-for mass media. Thirty years ago, it would have killed Vero where they stood. Two years ago, it almost got us President Side O’ Beef. Now? Three million people, most of them younger than yours truly, have decided to ignore the headlines. The last bullet in the media gun will be to call Vero “racist”, but that is the political equivalent of colistin. In 2014 it could kill anything. Now there’s resistance.

Enough seriousness, let’s talk about cars.

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Weekly Roundup: A Petting Zoo With Wings Edition

It used to be part of the suburban pilgrim’s progress: you got a house, you had a child, then you got a dog for the child. My parents did it, my friends’ parents did it. Every kid wanted a dog.

Things are different now. Grown men and women get dogs for themselves, often because they want a child but they would rather have something that can be put down or given up for adoption if times get tough. Dogs are children now. They ride in strollers and they eat gluten-free health food from specialized boutiques.

Naturally, these dogs have to go everywhere with their owners. They pad around on shit-stained paws in restaurants, they bark at you on the street, they attack cyclists. They get about the same level of discipline that the Millennials got, with similar results. And of course they have to get on planes. After all, you can bring children on planes. Why shouldn’t you be able to bring dogs, which are children now, on planes? Further more, why shouldn’t you receive special treatment for having done so, even though the whole thing is a scam?

This week, a fake child and a real child had an incident on a Southwest Airlines flight. The dog attacked the child and scraped her face. There’s a photo of the dog and its owner in the linked article. Experienced Southwest customers will recognize that these two bitches are sitting in the bulkhead seat, which is almost always a sign that they “pre-boarded” due to a medical condition. In my experience, 50% of Southwest pre-boarders do it because they are fat. Another 25% are old people on the way to Las Vegas. The final 25% consists of scammers and scumbags, which I think is the case here. She brings the dog as a “comfort animal” and then she insists on boarding first, with her dog.

After the dog attacked the six-year-old girl, both it and the owner were removed from the flight. That’s great, but I’m of the opinion that attacking a child should be a one-strike activity for animals. You hurt a child, you are going to die. Simple as that. Because children are actually human beings. We need children in order to continue the American nation and the human race. Dogs are not people. They are disposable. I’m not saying that to be cruel. I’ve owned dogs and cats. I can be very sentimental about animals, trust me. But animals are not people. Our national fetishization of animals over real children is having real and measurable effects on humanity.

Actually, scratch that. Let the dog live, maybe on one of those farms I always heard about as a kid. Shoot the woman in the head. In public, pour encourager les autres. Comfort animal. My ass.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Amoeba Music Takes A Stand Edition

This past Wednesday I parked my rented Harley Road Glide in a basement beneath Sunset and Caheunga then ran up the stairs to Amoeba Music with just one task in mind: buying as much smooth jazz as I could fit into the Glide’s parsimonious panniers. If you’ve ever been to Amoeba, you know that they keep the jazz and blues in a sort of ghetto backsection behind and to the left of their performance stage. There was a band tuning up on said stage and they were engaging in the not entirely original pastime of soloing over whatever song was playing on the PA.

Above the stage, in large white letters on a black background, was the following statement:


Well, that’s awfully nice, but it’s also awfully fucking stupid.

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Weekly Roundup: Grand-Dad’s Eldorado Edition

This week I wrote briefly about my grandfather and his 1979 Eldorado Biarritz. The photo above is of a car sold by Charles Schmitt a while ago and it differs from the car of my childhood only in being a diesel instead of the fuel-injected 350 Olds fitted to my grandfather’s Eldo.

The last time I saw him alive was in May of 2013. I was in Sebring to prepare for my trip to Malaysia but the young lady I was with agreed to go with me to Clearwater to check up the grandparents. We had a lovely afternoon. I don’t think I appreciated it because I had my mind focused on the trip and the race to come. It didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t have another chance to see my grandfather.

After the jump we have an old Bill Withers song that he wrote about his grandmother. The brilliance of it is that he focuses on her hands. As a small child you don’t get much overall sense of the adults around you. It’s the small things you notice, the aspects of their bodies and voices that filter down to your vantage place four feet above the ground. I think about my grandfather’s skin: tanned, leathery, drawn loosely over veins and joints. By the time I was in my twenties, I started to recognize that skin on my father. Now there are times when I see it on myself. I’m about a decade younger than Granddad was when he bought his first Eldorado. If I believe that I will live as long as he did then I can truly say that I’m just middle-aged now.

I couldn’t tell you what I had for dinner two nights ago but I can tell you exactly what it was like to ride to Clearwater Beach in that blue Eldorado. There are times that I like to sit and think about those years gone by. It’s an addiction no less dangerous than any other. The obligations of the future won’t forgive you for spending too much time in the past. Townes was right. It don’t pay to think too much / on things you leave behind.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Sick And Tired Edition

Makes perfect sense, really. I’ve been in perfect health for the final few weeks of my dreary tech job — but the minute I have a chance to fly to NorCal and drive on a track, I get knock-down sick. The same was true of Danger Girl; our press-loaner 430i sounded like a TB ward while we were on the freeway what with the continual coughing and wheezing. To make matters slightly worse, on the way home our plane turned around over Columbus and went all the way back to St. Louis because the runway was covered in ice.

Enough griping. We ended up getting a total of 5 sessions on Thunderhill and napping at lunch. Can’t complain about that. Time for the recap on last week.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: A Musical Offering Edition

When everybody else zigs, you have to zag. Most of my peers spent this past weekend at Daytona, watching the 24-hour race and driving the Acura NSX on the banking, but I was in Anaheim for the Winter NAMM show as a guest of Taylor Guitars. As luck would have it, most of the Taylor management team is interested in performance cars to some degree so I was able to spend about half an hour chatting with Taylor’s two founders, Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug.

Taylor is now the #1 acoustic guitar maker in the United States and they are making serious money in an era where most people have pretty much given up on a future for these instruments. In my chat with Mr. Taylor, he gave me two reasons for this. The first one is that Taylor is pursuing vertical integration of their supply chain for rare and valuable woods — and that’s a story in itself. These efforts have led to Taylor being able to make more money on exotic-wood guitars.

The second, and more important, reason is that Taylor has absolutely zero focus on the future. Martin, Gibson, and Fender are all trying to “recapture the magic” of the guitars they made in the Fifties, primarily by hewing ever closer to the materials and processes used in that golden era. Taylor, by contrast, redesigns its guitars on an almost annual basis. A few years ago, Bob Taylor handed over responsibility for design and engineering to a fellow named Andy Powers; his designs have now replaced Taylor’s original concepts throughout the lineup and his new “V-Class” acoustics, which debuted at this NAMM, are the proverbial talk of the town.

“We don’t make collectors’ items,” I was told. “They are meant to be played.” I’m already an owner of a Taylor 714ce with an Adirondack spruce top, but after playing the new V-Class PS14ce with its combination of sinker redwood and West African ebony, I’m probably going to end up owning one of those as well. I asked Taylor if I could buy the guitar that I was holding in the above photo, but I was told that it was demonstration purposes only. I did take a few additional shots, which are after the jump along with links to what Bark and I wrote last week. And yes, the title of this roundup is meant to refer both to the PS14ce in the photo and Bach’s Musical Offering.

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Double Weekly Roundup: Petty’s Pain Edition

Tom Petty’s family did an unusual and brave thing on Friday: they released his autopsy and they explained why it says what it does. Some time ago, he had fractured his hip — he was sixty-six years old, remember, the age at which my grandfather was already an Eldorado-driving Florida retiree — and out of a desire to continue touring, he had begun taking pain medication. Over the course of playing fifty-plus tour dates he “turned up the volume”, as Dennis Quaid said in Any Given Sunday, to the point where he was using that destination opiod, fentanyl. It’s worth noting that fentanyl also killed Prince, who suffered with similar pain and a similar desire to keep touring despite it. When he died they found six different opiods in his system, evidence that he was mixing cocktails of painkillers in an attempt to obtain the relief that he could no longer get from just one.

As someone who has been treated with opiods multiple times for trauma injuries, I can tell you that they are only truly useful in the first few weeks. After that the required doses climb into dangerous territory. In October of 2015, I broke my leg at the Glen Helen MX track while riding a Husky 450. The actual break wasn’t so bad, but in the course of putting three screws into the tibial plateau at various angles my surgeon managed to damage the main nerve. What followed was six months of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. Even today, my left leg is numb sometimes and on fire other times — but that first six months was unparalleled misery. After surgery, I found that I could sleep for two hours with 10mg of OxyContin. Then it was 15. Then it was 20. Then it was 25. I was still working at the time, including a particularly miserable six hours spent in a prototype race car, so I couldn’t just lie down and deal with it. I had to keep going, which made the pain even worse, and I needed to sleep, which meant that I was reliant on the drug.

It was at that point, around the 45 day mark, that I realized I was going to become an addict if I continued using it at any level. I had to go cold turkey. It was miserable and I apologize to anybody who had to interact with me between December of 2015 and June of 2016. But if I hadn’t done that — and if I hadn’t performed a similar early withdrawal from painkilling medication in 2014 — I would probably be dead now. When I broke my ribs and fractured my arm in May of last year I didn’t even bother to fill my prescription for Vicodin. The cure is worse than the disease. But not everybody figures that out.

Furthermore, it’s no crime to want to be free from pain. I’ve been in constant pain since I broke my beck in 1988. It wasn’t until my son turned five or six that I took a moment to consider what that pain has done to shape my personality and character. John is cheerful, kind, forgiving, and enthusiastic — all the things I was when I was in my early teens. It wasn’t until I had a few pounds of flesh and muscle forcibly debrided from my legs and back, to say nothing of having a titanium rod shoved into my leg and bolted on both ends, that I because suspicious, quick to anger, and quick to criticize. Constant pain is the opposite of getting high. It removes your ability to suffer fools gladly, it destroys the baseline cheerfulness that most people use to get through the day. It sharpens your awareness of everything. Even Hemingway was more or less permanently undone by a series of injuries he suffered in a plane crash at the age of forty-three; the chronic pain he suffered afterwards figured strongly in his suicide years later.

Last week, my brother wrote about the unseen effects of emotional pain and trauma. Today, it’s my turn to talk about the misery caused by physical pain and the deadly effects of the drugs we take to palliate it. I know that a few of our most constant readers, including our own Nate, have suffered some pretty major injuries in the past few years. I’m here to tell them, and you, that it’s better to live with the pain than to try fixing it. The first path makes you a miserable son of a bitch; the second makes you a dead one.

Alright, let’s get to this extra-long roundup.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Camel’s Backbone Under The Tent Edition

The fable of the camel’s nose should be familiar to most of you. Twenty-four years ago, after the passage of the Brady bill that the NRA had protested as “the camel’s nose in the test,” the president of Handgun Control, Inc gleefully noted that “Today we would like to tell you what the rest of the camel looks like.”

President Trump’s efforts to curb abuse and overuse of the H1B visa program, a program that even the Huffington Post admits was designed to lower wages and keep Americans out of tech jobs, have provided a new metaphor, which I will call The Camel’s Backbone. Prior to Mr. Trump’s election, the media generally repeated the factoid that H1B visas are limited to 65,000 per year. You couldn’t find an American media source that would even hint at the real numbers behind H1B.

Now that Trump appears poised to significantly restrict the program, the gloves are off and we are seeing the whole camel, so to speak.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: The Less-Than-Great Santini Edition

What follows is both setup and excuse: On Saturday night, John and I went to Ray’s MTB Park in Cleveland. I brought two bikes with me: my 20″ wheel skatepark bike and my 20″ racing bike. The park bike was just there as a backup, so I didn’t prep it before loading the truck and heading out.

When we got there, John and I headed for the “pump track”, which he’s been using to practice for his BMX races. I went around a few times myself on the race bike and felt pretty good — until I pushed it a bit too far, lost traction in my front wheel, and crashed. I’d put brand-new tires on that bike a few days ago and I guess they were imperfectly scuffed and/or overinflated. Another run through confirmed that I didn’t have as much traction as I wanted. So I swapped back to the park bike.

A three-hour ride in the back of my Silverado had brought the pressure on the park bike’s tires pretty far down, to the point that it felt sluggish and difficult to ride. I should have gone and aired-up the tires but at that point we were running short of time and I didn’t want to waste ten of the remaining twenty-five minutes going out to the truck and getting the pump.

John asked me to take a GoPro video of him riding the pump track. Which I did, and I gave him a headstart so I wouldn’t run him down. Imagine my surprise when I realized that I couldn’t quite catch him. When he continued for a second lap, I fell behind to the point that the video wasn’t any good. I had to call a halt to the proceedings and start again, leading to the footage you see above.

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