Friday, July 31, 2009

Digested Reads

Long ago I read Robert M Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". It was quite a slog - at times I sunk to indolently scanning one word at a time ... word, word, word, blah, blah, blah - so claiming to have read it is a bit iffy.

I do remember the story of Phaedrus, and being interested in his discourse on quality and the nature thereof - so perhaps some of it sunk in. The details of the argument have disappeared from memory some time ago - I have a feeling that it was a bit like a middle aged man saying "young people are contemptibly stupid, and everything is turning to shit." I have a tendency say this myself - knowing full well that what it really means is that "I miss my youth and I don't much care for change".

I digress - back to Digested Reads. John Crace writes a column in the Guardian in which he satirises pop literature by savagely summarising books in 500 or so words. I find them funny - here is "Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" given the Digested Read treatment:

Even at 60 miles an hour, the wind is warm as I weave the bike along the roads less travelled towards the Dakota mountains. I am channelling the universe, at one with my megalomania, as my 12-year-old son, Chris, hangs on for grim death.

"Why are we doing this?" he asks later that evening at the campsite.

"To showcase my brilliance," I reply.

"I'd rather go to Disneyworld."

"That's because you are driven by your ego."

I read a few pages of Thoreau out loud because it is so much more important for Chris to hear something he does not understand, before checking through my rucksack for the 17th time that day and tinkering with the spark-plugs. John and Sylvia, who arrived ahead of us, come over for a chat.

"My bike is making an odd noise," he says.

"You need to adjust the tappets, novice," I declare.

I am wasting my valuable breath, so I began the first of what I grandiosely call my Chautauqua - my philosophical digressions. John and Sylvia are romantics, terrified by modern technology and unwilling to engage with the dualism of the carburettor-points split. While I tend towards the more rational classical position, I have also learned to view the world through my all-seeing Middle Eye of the Buddha.

Sylvia nudges John awake and suggests we get something to eat.

"I don't feel well," Chris says.

"You will never feel well until you subsume your egotism to mine," I snap. "Now sod off while I amaze myself with my genius."

After he had made his way snivelling to his tent, I launch into yet another fascinating Chautauqua on the a priori presumption of a motorcycle before explaining to John that the doctor had diagnosed Chris with a severe mental illness.

"I'm not surprised with you as a Dad," John mutters.

"That's the typical response of the Unenlightened Romantic," I reply, levitating with the self-congratulation of the logic of my Oneness. My Chautauquas accelerate with increasing intensity and depth as I expose the internal fallacies of Newtonian physics and pour scorn on the solipsistic abyss of the ramblings of Hegel and Hume.

I adjust the fuel-flow to harmonise the bike with the altitude and, as we pull into Bozeman, John and Sylvia inexplicably decide to head off on their own. I realise later I could have done more to flesh out their characters, but to have done so would have been to give them an existence independent of my own which, dialectically speaking, would have negated their reality as I alone am the Maker.

The ghost of Phaedrus hangs heavy but I take refuge in Mu, where existence and non-existence meet in Japanese Nothingness. I take Chris to meet DeWeese, a former colleague at the Bozeman campus where I taught.

"I'm bored," Chris yawns.

"I'm doing this for the benefit of your ego," I snap tetchily.

Who is Phaedrus? I hear you ask. He is my alter ego, the Searcher I once was before I was crushed by a world that was not ready for my IQ and was forced to undergo electro-convulsive therapy. The Spirit of Chautauqua strengthens as Aquarius aligns with Mars amid the acid casualties Imagined Enlightenment and Phaedrus addresses his students.

"How can we know the Meaning of Quality?" he enquires rhetorically. "Quality is of itself, something we all intuitively know. So I'm going to stop marking your essays."

"Isn't that a peculiarly narrow, US-centric view?" no one says. "For is not the idea of Quality culturally relative?"

"You are too clever to teach at Bozeman," the Dean declares. "Grow a beard and go to Chicago."

Exhausted by the originality of my latest Chautauqua, I race Chris to the summit of a desolate Montana peak.

"I'm scared," he says.

"It's your ego that makes you such a wuss."

Phaedrus distils the canon of western philosophical thought, showing up Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Nietzsche, Poincaré and the rest of them for the brainless halfwits they undoubtedly are as he tap-dances through the conundra of the substantive and methodological fields to emerge in the Elysian fields of Zen, where Quality is undefinable, yet self-evident.

"But surely for something to be self-evident yet undefinable is a logical contradiction in terms," Chris says, scratching his head, searching hopelessly for some self-evident Quality in the book.

"Your ego is still blinding you to the truth," I say. "Do you not realise that Phaedrus is Greek for Wolf?"

"Um, no it isn't," he answers.

"It is if I say it is. OK, buddy?"

I change the oil and tinker with the chain for several days before we complete our journey to the Pacific coast. I sense that memories of Phaedrus are tormenting Chris in his sleep and I long to merge our three selves in a Monist Trinity. We symbolically remove our helmets for the first time, high on the cliff overlooking the Ocean.

The voice of Phaedrus weakens, the Socratic dialectic finally resolved in a half-arsed, pseudo-intellectual mish-mash of western and eastern philosophy.

I take Chris in my arms. "Close your eyes, my son, and soar with me beyond the world of Kant."

"You'll always be a Kant to me, Dad."

Monday, July 27, 2009

TwentyFour12 - looking back

Loads of fun. Except for putting back on a cycle jersey soaked with gone-cold sweat, in the middle of the night; that was not fun. Oh - and falling off. Twice.

Here's a handlebars-level view of bits of my first lap.

There's some inadvertent footage of a racer in a bit of bother - I left it in by way of reportage.

TwentyFour12_ShortEdit from atc5k on Vimeo.

Look at these ...

I like photographs, and cycling.

So here is a webpage with some excellent text about onion farming.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

TwentyFour12 - looking forward

Off in a team of four mates to take part in a wee bike race this weekend:

Link to pics from last year. Don't look for me, I wasn't there: 2008 Gallery

I'm imagining the same - except frequently tipping down with rain. The aim is to finish, that's a start I suppose.

United Breaks Guitars

This YouTube vid is getting scintillions of views and pissing off United Airlines mightily.

I'm no great fan of country music, but there is an unholy appeal to this:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rare Photo from 1940 Tour de France

Cycling Routes

Used many times in this blog already:

Routes can be downloaded to your own GPS - they come as .gpx files, you might need to translate them, perhaps using:

Free mp3's

While it lasts:


Saturday, July 11, 2009

King of the Mountains

As you will probably know - the best climber in the Tour de France wears a red polka dot jersey.

The podium girls now wear matching dresses, which is hard to do with dignity.

"Fatty" at has had this thought:


What picture would you take to sum up London? Perhaps the skyline with the distinctive Swiss Re tower, or perhaps the Houses of Parliament, maybe Tower Bridge, the Changing of the Guard might be good. The pic below is London encapsulated for me - snapped in passing with a camera phone.

Some doe-eyed innocent had u-locked their bike to iron railings one morning, but rather dopily put the lock through the front wheel only, you see all that was left of the bike later in the afternoon.

If you look carefully there is evidence pointing to the thief. Watch out for London pigeons; They are greedy, violent, untrustworthy and organised.

Lazy husband ...

... spends all weekend riding bikes or drinking coffee.

How to get his attention?

Nude Descending a Staircase

Forever ago, as a child, I was watching - and not particularly enjoying - a Disney film "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes". I can't remember much about it at all - other than a tiny snippet where a precocious and bright child recognised and named Duchamp's painting "Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2". This was allegedly unheard of sophistication for an American, particularly a pre teen one.

Should you google this be careful to get the Duchamp cubist painting, and not the appalling and lurid Mel Ramos realist one of the same name.

Aaaanyhow the name and image of the painting stuck with me - so that eons later I enjoyed this sculptural joke:

Sunday, July 5, 2009

And finally ...

... after over 30 years - I get the joke. Split Enz, Enz as in NZ, New Zealand. Jesus.

Here is some more NZ pop, Steriogram this time:


From the sublime to the ridiculous

Spotify - surprisingly good.

Astonishingly it had a nice orchestral version of my favourite piece of Liszt *and also* the Flying Lizards' cover of Money.

The best things in life are free.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

10. You've never heard of them.

In a moment of special nerdiness I recognised a toy version of the rather wonderful Phantom Corsair on a child's greeting card. This prompts the following: 10 fab designers' doodles that made it to metal.

Bugatti 57SC Atlantic

Alfa Romeo Disco Volante

Stout Scarab

Fiat Turbina

Bizzarrini 5300 GT America

Messerschmitt Tiger


Goggomobil Dart

Tatra 603

Citroen Ami ( I ran out of ideas at 9 )

There, I fixed it.

World's best practice kludges