No News is Good News

No News is Good News

I was wanting to write a story about flowers and rainbows, but it just wouldn’t flow through my fingertips. It would have been so easy to just sit back and talk about how wonderful the mountains looked in the rare autumn sunshine. The air is fresh and clean and the leaves flutter to the grass like snowflakes in the breeze. It’s a beautiful time of year, but pretty thoughts seem far away. Our little naive corner of the planet keeps hip hopping merrily along while many parts of the globe deal with war, terror, disease and natural disaster. A day does not go by where you are not informed about something bad happening somewhere else.

In this constant information assault that comes from multiple sources and directions, what is required for something to stand out of the news stream and catch your attention? There are so many stories of atrocities, conflicts, and tribulations available to us in the news media. People become numb to constant bad news and look for a happier alternative. Into this void fits social media, which mixes in the recipe of the day or another funny animal video to capture a percentage of society’s attention. Legitimate, important news stories can be found within and much valuable work is conducted through social media but it is quickly becoming primarily an entertainment medium. The idea or concept of looking beyond and behind what is presented by the major information streams is a foreign process to most media consumers.

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We are mere days away from an election in the USA that defies belief. A career politician who is the tainted wife of an ex president and a mega rich dangerously flawed man of the common people compete in a billion dollar competition of illusion and delusion. While the political discussion rages on about the right to carry open weapons, secret emails or men’s treatment of women, minimal discussion can be found about some serious stuff going on in the rest of the world. While the continuing madness of Syria and Iraq dominate the news feed, there are many other stories bubbling below the surface that are disturbing, dangerous and of serious consequence to international affairs. Whether it’s Libyan or Central African conflicts or Philippine politics or the South China Sea standoff, there is shit going on that is important to all of us

I am not a researcher but I read about a lot of different things. Here are a couple of stories that are very current that jumped up and got my attention from the background  of the media stream. A sideline to the current Mid East quagmire is the perpetually ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim world. I sat mesmerized reading the story about an organized, well planned and currently being implemented take over of both the Israeli military and police force by the radical Jewish right wing. Officer school and police academy are today full of a large percentage of students from this community. Graduates already populate the ranks of both forces.These are the fundamentalist in the Jewish world and they are on a path to control Israel’s military arsenal and security forces. Israel is a nuclear power. How will this development co-exist in a world already grappling with the multiple challenges of Muslim fundamentalism and the Christian Right wing.

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A drift towards extremism is troubling on many fronts. How do the zealots of any religion find their way to the controls of power. I believe that most practitioners of any religion just want to pray to their gods in peace and security. They want a safe, well fed home for their families and love and good will to their fellow man and woman. Some form or another of the Golden Rule seems to exist in most societies yet we as a planet currently seem to prefer dogmatic, brutal conflict over human rights and respect.

Another story that I have been following for awhile is occurring in America. While the news focus understandingly is on the federal election, there is a drama being played out in the Dakotas in the heart of the USA. Local, indigenous people and their supporters are fighting against an unwanted pipeline that will cross native land and water sources. This protest is being met with force by the authorities and the potential for violence looms large. Mass arrests, tear gassing and confrontation have already occurred as the worlds media is starting to pay attention. How will America deal with this current protest with First Nations? This at a time where election rhetoric is focused on ethnic walls of separation and barriers to certain religious groups and the whole election process is under a microscope. The big melting pot, land of the free brand is under assault in a difficult global climate.

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I’m personally of the opinion that Mother Nature is in charge anyway. All the conflict, turmoil and intolerance throughout the world are moot when Mother Nature steps up to the plate. All differences seem petty when her mighty power is unleashed in anger. She will have the final say in our mutual survival and she needs to be cherished, respected and worked with. So with that in mind, and with indigenous peoples around the world generally more in touch with the spirt of the earth, a very interesting sidelight played out during the Dakota protests. A herd of plains buffalo appeared over the horizon, a small glimpse of their past multitudes and testament to a recovery from near extinction. The appearance of these buffalo right at the moment and location of tense confrontation will be seen as a positive sign from the traditional gods that this fight is just and will not be given up. It adds another piece to an already festering problem for American governments and business, that public protest against unpopular and possibly unlawful actions will not only continue but will possibly be emboldened. America is already trying to digest and come to an understanding in regards to Black Lives Matter and police shootings, absorb the millions of legal and illegal immigrants into the country as well as provide a return of hope and wealth to a struggling middle class. An angry, empowered indigenous population is another distraction to a country engaged in difficult challenges at home and around the globe.

It’s a beautiful evening and the people of Vancouver are out everywhere. Bars and restaurants are full and walkers, joggers and riders are all over the seawall. The troubles and challenges elsewhere in the world seem far away when it is such a pleasant night in paradise. I think I will keep riding and try and find myself some flowers and a rainbow. Perhaps I can find a pot of the golden rule at the end of it to share with the world.

Streetlosophy 101

Streetlosophy 101

Occasionally as you manoeuvre around this town, you come across social commentary, words of ancient wisdom or just some good old fashioned advice. It’s not a headline screaming from a free advertising saturated news paper handed to commuters as they access our transit system. Just as unlikely, this food for thought is not presented to you via one of the many electronic forms of media delivery and reception so popular today. In fact, it is best if you put your device away and keep your eyes open as you go about your daily life.

I am always on the look out for stuff out of place. Whether I’m walking or riding one of my bikes, my eyes are always scanning to and fro. Aside from the random street art I love so much, there is also a lot of “Streetlosophy” presented to the citizens of this city. It can be scratched into fresh concrete or graffiti under a bridge, but it’s a message from somebody to someone, maybe to everyone. What I find so interesting is that this individual would take the time to present this bit of information to the street. The writers of these words all have different reasons for putting forth their thoughts for public consumption.

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On a random block of Kingsway someone has posted “Bill Clinton is Thug” on a construction site plywood wall. As you ride up the bike ramp from Queensborough to the Alex Fraser Bridge, “Ted Cruz is Canadian” is written onto a concrete ramp support column. Quiet political comment on an individual who may be the 2020 Republican Party presidential nominee. So far no visionary statements about Justin Trudeau or a labour tirade against Christie Clark have been spotted adorning any surface. Why American politics have been chosen as subject matter for some “Streetlosophy” in a Canadian city is an interesting curiosity .

Another subject that gets frequent mention in the random philosophy found on the streets is religion. A writer declaring that “Jesus Saves” certainly gives you his one religion opinion and wants you to know what works for them. Another lays it all out there for everyone to see with their “Religion Sucks” declaration. In light of so many of the worlds current challenges and wars being based on different versions of religion and gods, I am inclined to agree with this writer’s viewpoint. Perhaps this is news that should be announced from the headlines and billboards.

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Then you come across a comment carved into a wooden park bench declaring “Asshole Dinner.” I’m not sure what message the writer is trying to get across to those who read these two image creating words. A substantial period of time was taken to present these thoughts to the public. This is no quick burst of sharpie wisdom on a convenient surface, this requires some determination. I’m thinking that this message has deep meaning for whoever graced us with their eloquent woodworking skills, written as much for themselves as for any potential audience.

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The make everybody feel better snippets of “Streetlosophy” can be found in the most unlikely of places around town. You can feel the pureness of the messenger as they drop “4give & 4get” on a side street painted road line. The why can’t we all just get along sentiment of “Imagine Peace” radiates a better world from an abandoned shop window. The message that if we work together and treat each other like we want to be treated ourselves, this is a good thing for citizens to be made aware of. It’s called the golden rule and if more of us quit breaking it, perhaps this world truly could be a place of hope, peace, respect and love for the people who live on the planet. All the gods know the current system isn’t working very well. I think I’ll go write that down on a wall somewhere.

 

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Freedom is not Free

The snow continued to fall. The six young warriors knew that their time had come and that none of them would survive this battle. Up the trail escaped the entire village, their trail rapidly vanishing in the winter storm. All would have time to get through the pass and vanish into the secret trails. The price of this time was the lives of the chosen six.

Their fear was mixed with pride. Songs of death and creation were chanted under breath. Faces were painted. Each was now ready, no words were exchanged. As one, they slipped silently into positions of ambush. Weapons were ready for use. All that was left to do was wait, and it wouldn’t be long. Noise could already be heard from down the trail. The grunts of the enemy could be heard working their way up the steep path.

The pursuit of the People had been relentless. A foe who wanted what they had and would kill them all to to get it. An enemy who would take to the mountain paths in winter to try and surprise the village. A strong, savage enemy. They would be an unsuccessful enemy because of the six in hiding, ready to fight to the death so the People could live.

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A location had been chosen by the leaders of the village. It was a narrow spot and difficult to climb but it could be defended from above. With a surprise attack, the bodies of the enemies would block the movement of those coming up from the rear. Many of the pursuers would die before they would overrun the hidden six.

The first enemy appeared around the corner, breathing heavily but eyes alert. He was followed by a procession of comrades, armed and fierce and working hard in pursuit. They were unprepared for the ambush. With no warning, the chosen six young warriors released arrows from their bows into the chests of the first six enemy. A momentary silence was broken by screams and war cry’s. Six more arrows were released and found their target. A shocked, surprised opponent had been caught off guard, but now pressed forward with skill and anger. They gained ground up the trail through the snow, around the bodies of their own. One by one they were able to reach the ambush sites of the six warriors. War cries became death songs became silence. There were no more arrows, a quick bloody battle was over.

Blood stains are seen on snow at the site of a plane crash outside Almaty

 

At the site of the ambush, the leader of the enemy gathered his surviving warriors. They had been the victors in this fight, they had been defeated in their quest. Their losses had been heavy. Winter will be hard after this failure in the mountains. They quickly honoured and buried the dead, then turned and retraced their steps down the trail and back into the storm.

Up in the mountain pass, the retreating village now knew the results of the six young warriors sacrifice. The People were free from pursuit and danger again. Slowly songs were heard. Quiet mournful songs of recognition, of understanding and of appreciation of what had transpired that day back down the trail. The joy of survival was balanced by the pain of loss. The village would survive the winter, but the cost of their freedom was dear.

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Grey is the new Black

The dude blew by me quickly on the inside lane, then veered hard to the right. He cut across my lane just in front of my bike and made his exit from Highway 99, oblivious to everything except the electronic device in his lap. There were no other vehicles within 1000 meters on the freeway to my rear. This vehicle operator could have casually slipped into the lane behind me and cruised onto his desired exit. Instead he drove like an aggressive idiot, eyes downward. I know it was a dude and he was distractedly driving because I glanced over as I rode on. I had to see where this driver fit into society’s stereotypes.

I spend a lot of time on two wheels. One of the beauties of riding is it gives you a lot of time to think. So as I continued along Zero Avenue, a salad of mixed ideas is being tossed inside my head. The USA is meters away to my right, there is agriculture galore on both sides of the border and  5000 square foot farmhouses dot the countryside. America is a country having a reality show election that is being played out live and everyone actually gets a vote. Canada is a country that always seems to vote for the same government the USA voted in ten years ago. Both nations are facing challenging times where leadership is paramount. Deep subject matter for sure but my thoughts are elsewhere.

The concept of “what is a grey area and its relationship with traffic flow?” has grabbed a hold of my grey matter. What now constitutes the rules of the road? Everything from U turns to speed limits seems to be fair game for personal interpretation of the rules. I’ve had a rant stewing for a long time now about self entitled drivers. When did tailgating in the slow lane at 70 mph become the new NASCAR 500? Back off everybody, come on. Since moving to East Van, I’ve added self entitled cyclists to that list. Roundabout protocols is just a start but inconsiderate recklessness and silent passing without courtesy is a riding shame. People are now operating their bikes like they drive cars.

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As I was self righteously preparing my thoughts to rip a shred off of all those bad drivers and self absorbed cyclists, riding on two wheels gave me the time to look inward. I pondered my disapproval of their skills and attitudes while riding in the fall sunshine under the shimmering watch of Mount Baker. Slowly the realization came to me in regards to my own personal driving and riding history. I admitted to myself that I have run a yellow light and I have ridden my bike on a sidewalk without wearing a helmet. The fouls I’ve committed may not be as serious as blowing courtesy corners in the dark with no lights on a bike or being one of those too numerous dick drivers on the roads, but they are still fouls. How can I stand on the soapbox and pontificate if I have also committed transgressions? Where does societies inaction to all our infractions lead?

Where is that line? How do you know when you have crossed the delineation that sets the boundary between the rules of the road as we were all taught and operating within the “grey area”? Where and when was “grey area” discussed and who set the fluid grey boundaries? Sometimes I think that the whole traffic light, green means go plan is just a giant science experiment by secret government officials. The question they are studying is how many years will it take North American driving society to totally transition from green means go/red means stop to the reverse. With the amount of late light runners today, people are actually delaying moving forward on the green for a number of seconds, just making sure the coast is clear. Every year traffic waits longer when they have the right of way.

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Why are we all losing sight of the right way? Nowadays it seems more of us so called good, law abiding people are dabbling our toes in the wrong way. If the other dude looks like a lady, ethnic, aged religious scenester is doing it, then we all will as well. A gradual vehicular, transportation anarchy is unfolding before our eyes. Now they are going to add driverless cars to all the traffic flow, riderless bikes are sure to follow. Why is this dangerous misbehaviour accepted? It seems like a done deal that we all will just operate our personal transportation units faster, more aggressively and with less consideration for others.

A movement can only begin if people jump on board and take it forward. One driver or rider at a time makes the commitment to courtesy and to following the rules of the roads. Together we can stop this selfish driving nastiness and bring a return to a time when personal transportation wasn’t just every person for themselves. I know it can be done and I’m going to be one of the first to sign up when that day comes. Crossing the Port Mann Bridge, my mind is clear as I ride back into Vancouver. The lovely late afternoon sun glints off the windshield of the car hard on my ass. I accelerate deeper into the allowable speed limit “grey area” of the car pool lane to provide myself a little comfort zone then change lanes on a solid line. The dude blows by at about 50 shades of grey over the line.

There are some old cliches or sayings that hit the nail on the head when it comes to pompous righteousness. He who is without sin can cast the first stone is one. Thou shall not throw stones if one lives in a glass house is another. I try real hard to be a courteous, safe driver and rider, and I know most other people on the roads or bike paths try hard as well. Yet if we all still go grey from time to time, how do we stop those who push the boundaries further? I guess it’s true what they say, grey is the new black

Fun Grando and the Church of Bike (part 2)

Fun Grando and the Church of Bike
Dude, where’s your spandex (Part 2)

They rolled past, they rode fast and then they were all gone. Out of Stanley Park and into the morning, the 2016 “Whistler GranFondo” was underway. It’s amazing how quickly the park emptied. All that organized hustle and bustle got stuffed into some support vehicles and away they all went. We appeared to have this world class park to ourselves and certainly weren’t going to linger. Soon the other early risers would start filling its beauty and we would have to share.

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We packed up our picnic and mounted our trusty single speeds. A gentle cadence rolled us counter clockwise along the seawall. The North Shore mountains stood guard over Burrard Inlet as the skies to the east brightened into a sunrise kaleidoscope. An occasional intrepid jogger ran towards us, locked into their own inner pain zone, seemingly oblivious to all but the running path in front of their feet. Herons patrolled the tide line while ocean freighters occupied English Bay. It was truly a glorious morning.

There is an iconic spot along the Stanley Park Seawall. It has been a place of great spirituality to the local indigenous peoples for centuries yet can still take the breath away from a modern day individual as well. The place is called Siwash Rock and I never tire of its grandeur. It is in your vision for many minutes as you roll along the seawall, then you turn around a bend and it is behind you. Having ridden the wall many times, my riding partner and I know there is a little pocket in the rock wall just after that corner. There you can tuck your bike away and take a step back from the pathway. It is a beautiful spot to stop and look out upon the ocean, the islands of Georgia Straight and as always, the mountains riding shotgun along the coastline.

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It’s also a perfect spot to get off of the bikes and stretch. There are more people on the seawall now as the morning gets older. These walkers are well into their morning stroll to be this far out onto the seawall loop. My bride and I work through our stretching routines. She elegantly displays mobility and flexibility moving from one yoga position to another. I creak and grown my way through my own yoga disipline, a form that I call “slowga”. Together we fight off the ravages of our age and Mother Nature, bending and swaying to the splash of the waves breaking on the rocks below us. After loosening all the muscles in our bodies and regaining all the tone and suppleness of our youth, we mount up. One last look at Siwash Rock and we ride towards Third Beach. The return of the city is just minutes away.

Second Beach is now behind us and we enter into the West End. Already people are playing tennis and on the pitch and putt course. The bike and foot paths are almost crowded, so my lovely bride and I make the decision to push onwards towards home. We meander crisply along the Beach Avenue bike path and and roll past Sunset Beach. Above us towers the Burrard Street bridge, in a far busier state of affairs than it was a few hours previously when we stopped upon it to absorb the early morning city. Our bikes keep following the path, past residential towers and waterfront restaurants. The marina is full of big, beautiful boats worth millions that are sailing nowhere. Up ahead beckons Science World, one of the few remaining remnants of Expo 86. That fairs vision and message was transportation. After completing a circumnavigation of most of downtown Vancouver, I think the far seeing thinkers of the future behind Expo 30 years ago would be happy with the progress rapid transit, car sharing and bike commuting has made over the last few decades. Improvements in this important infrastructure can never stop.

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I have been able to ride for hours without having to worry about cars. That luxury is about to come to an end. Our last section home after over 20 kilometres of single speed, heavy steel bike frame pedalling awaits us. The city is operating at just about full speed. We must navigate the road traffic/bike lane interchanges around Main Street and 2nd Ave and do so carefully. A quick, sharp right turn off of the busy main road launches us into the lane behind the Narrows, one of Vancouver’s best secret little bars. From this point on the grade is steep, and with tired legs we weave our heavy steads to and fro. We cross Dude Chilling Park and there are dudes and damsels there chilling, dogs too. The elevation changes grudgingly but we manage to overcome gravity and climb up the East Van side streets. We get rewarded with the crest of our hill and share a smile, coasting the last couple of blocks to home sweet home. Inside awaits a hot shower, a hot coffee and I return to its charms with my hot wife. It hasn’t been a bad day so far.

Thanks for your time

larsthebabyjesus