Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Made the summit!

We just returned from our trip to New Hampshire/Maine.

I managed to summit Mount Washington in really pea-soup thick fog, 40mph winds. Conditions sucked above 5200 feet, but were pretty good below a mile high, so I got some good photos in the glacial cirques.

I'll post more about the trip later. For now, all I can say is that the Presidential Range is so far the most spectacular mountain range I have encountered in the eastern USA.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Another Hiking Goal Within Reach.

When I was a kid first starting out in my life-long hobby of hiking and backpacking, one of my goals was to climb Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Years of poverty and family responsibilities kept me from realizing that goal. I was able to hike to the summits of most of the other eastern peaks that were on my to-hike list, but Washington, legendary though it is among east coast peaks, stayed out of reach.

Now, at the age of 50, I’m finally heading to New Hampshire to climb it. Weather permitting (and Mount Washington is world famous for its horrid weather extremes); I’ll hike from base to summit on Saturday, August 25, 2007.

Wish me some luck. Or loan me some good karma.

(Photo copyright by Partick LaFreniere)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Maybe I Should Make an Offering?


Bad karma?

First, the washing machine went kablooey. Our repair lady came out and looked at it and pronounced it mortally wounded. We ordered a new one and it took a week to come in. The delivery fellows set it up, turned it on, and left before fully checking it out. Seems it’s missing a pump! Water goes in, but can’t drain. More phone calls. Manufacturer is sending a new one, but can’t be delivered for at least three days. More trips to the laundromat. Joy.

Four days ago my neighbor’s cable goes out. He calls the repairman. Repairman tells my wife that our cable will be out for a little while as he works on the neighbor’s system. Repairman buries neighbor’s new cable and he leaves without checking to see how our system is doing. Seems he cut right through our cable. I phone the service (Time-Warner) using my wife’s cell phone since we have all of our service bundled and as the cable is cut clean through we can’t use the land line. They tell me that they can’t come back to fix things for three days. I couldn’t care less about the TV, but I need the phone and the internet service. I do without for three days. Jolly good.

In the meantime, the gods are not happy with us here and we continue to suffer under triple-digit temperatures. As I work as a laborer in the sun, this is not good.

I must make obeisance to Helios at the earliest opportunity.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The "N" Word

I was raised in a home that was pretty much devoid of racism (and religion). If I could look back and say that there was any racism at all in the household of my parents, it would be of the condescending type—as that exhibited by many white progressives of an earlier era that they would take care of black people and help guide them.

The first time I heard the “N” word (that I can recall) was when I was about five years old. I was at the home of some distant relatives and saw two kids at the split rail fence separating their yard from the one next door. Two kids about my age were at the fence so I went over to talk to them. Soon, we were chatting away, and all I cared about was making new friends. Quickly, though, the resident kid at the house we were visiting walked up. He was a distant cousin a couple of years old than I.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m talkin’ to these kids,” I told him.

“These are niggers! What are you doin’ talkin’ to niggers?” He turned to the little kids on the other side of the fence. “Go on, niggers!”

I’ll never forget that the kids smiled and then turned and ran away into the shade of their own yard. Even then, I was upset, not understanding what was going on, and I had never before heard this word that my cousin had used on the other children.

“My daddy says your family are all nigger-lovers.” And he walked away to vanish into his house.

For myself, I quickly located my father and was only too happy when I discovered that he was ready to leave, having conducted whatever family business he was about, and we climbed into his pickup truck and headed home. Along the way I asked him what a “nigger” was. He told me that it was a very nasty and evil word and told me never to use it. “Never,” he repeated.

I never did, except later in life, when I found I couldn’t get around it in portraying the language of certain fictional characters. You can’t bury the damned thing, any more than you can delete any number of hurtful and nasty ideas. All you can do is ignore it when possible and vow not to use it as it was intended—a way to dehumanize another person.

As I grew up, it almost became something of a badge of honor that my family were often referred to as “nigger-lovers”. My parents were always outspoken on civil rights for all people in a time and place that made such speech very dangerous. That my dad ran a local business that was dependent on the goodwill of the community made their speech all the more courageous. On that issue, I am quite happy to have grown up in such a home.

In recent years, as I have become more and more focused on the destruction of the ecosystems that support all of the life of our planet, I have often been accused of being a “tree-hugger”. As if this were a negative thing. And I was reminded immediately of the days when my parents, and myself, were labeled with that earlier epithet, and how similar in sound are the two terms.

I accept the sentiments of both.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


It's hot. That's all there is to it. 101 today, and we may hit 103 tomorrow. Southern heat, too. None of that pansy western no-humidity heat.

You don't know what hot is unless you're a laborer and have to work out in that miasma all day long.

If I hear one more asshole say that there's no such thing as man-made global warming, I'm going to kick his ass.

Mill Creek Falls. Where I went swimming in June, three years ago. I dreamed of it today.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Libert-Aryans and Other Rude Surprises.

Sometimes I regret reading the personal views of creators whose work I admire. There are moments where one gets the nastiest surprises.

Take, for instance, Peter Bagge. For years I enjoyed everything he did, from Neat Stuff to The Bradleys to Hate. Funny stuff, and he’s one of the best cartoonists around (although why he insists he wasn’t influenced by John Stanley is beyond me). His toons are fun to look upon, generally humorous, and occasionally insightful.

Now, one of the many, many, many things in this world that I completely loathe are Libertarians. I freaking hate Libertarians. They truly and completely make me sick on my stomach. They are the same sort who would have been brownshirts in the 1930s. Republicans who like to smoke dope, one of my friends calls them. I wish they’d all fall over dead.

One day I was sitting in an office (I forget where—might have been for a medical checkup or something) and I noticed a copy of the right wing extremist Libertarian rag, REASON. Normally I wouldn’t give such a monstrous publication a second look, but either Bagge’s name was on the cover, or it was open and I noticed Peter Bagge’s name. Something made me pick up the lousy damned thing.

I opened it and saw that there was a cartoon in it by Peter Bagge. What’s this? I wondered. Have these fascistic bastards commissioned a piece by Bagge? I read the ridiculous bit of neo-Nazi propaganda and realize that not only was it not commissioned, it was a heartfelt piece by Bagge himself. Later, at home, I got in touch with some friends and learned that Bagge is a regular contributor to the Libertarian/Fascist magazine! He actually believes in that shit! GOOD GOD!!!

Now, I didn’t go about tossing out my collection of Peter Bagge graphic novels and such, but I did go through them and reread the stuff. And I realized that, specifically, the selfish bastard Buddy Bradley was not some concocted creation, but Bagge’s cartoon persona. And I realized that the golden, blessed fairy tale world in which Buddy lived was not God out of the Machine, but the twisted view of the world as envisioned by Bagge! Or, perhaps, the charmed life that Bagge was himself living—a cartoon analog of his own real world movements through the comic book industry.

At any rate, I realized that I’d have been much happier never having known that Peter Bagge is the modern equivalent of one of Mussolini’s pals. I’m sure I’ll still laugh at Bagge’s stories, but there will always be that germ of understanding that it springs from a mind infected by a truly diseased system of beliefs.

There have been other such incidents, of course. When I discovered that Steve Ditko, creator of The Amazing Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, was a follower of that monstrous whore, Ayn Rand, I was disappointed, but still went about searching out his crazed comic book manifestos. It made it easier to understand why he walked away from his gig at Marvel Comics, and also made the underlying themes of Peter Parker’s sense of personal responsibility during the years the book was written by Mr. Ditko. I really missed the overpowering angst that left that comic with the departure of its one true creator.

But it didn’t make understanding that one of my favorite comic book creators was a right wing nutcase any easier.

There have been a number of other such cases throughout the years. For some reason, SF writers tend to be pro-corporate stooges. Imagine my discomfort upon learning that many of my favorite sf writers are just a notch or two this side Uncle Adolf. Alas!

Ah, well. We can’t live closed off in a bubble. I’ll continue to read the stuff that appeals to me, and I’m sure I’ll continue to discover the unsavory belief systems of many of the folk who write and draw and direct the things that help me to while away my leisure time.