Thursday, August 31, 2006

the one mighty and strong

Sometimes the many pieces making up the puzzle that is our world combine in curious ways, conjuring meaning from what is really just a freak coincidence. The other day I listened to X96 for the first time since I left the US. Literally five minutes into the stream, excerpts from a newspaper article on Warren Jeffs were read, detailing what a fine teacher that fellow was at the Alta Academy, scolding girls for being too cute and not sweet enough.

For the uninitiated, Alta Academy was a private educational institution almost in the middle of Salt Lake run by fundamentalist, polygamist Mormons of a particularly fervent, radical, and dangerously nutty kind, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Warren Jeffs became the leader and prophet of this sect and is now the husband of most women in the community, which is restricted these days to a desolate strip of dirt on the border between Utah and Arizona. He also considers himself the One Mighty and Strong, sent to earth "to set in order the house of God".

Having finished Under the Banner of Heaven, John Krakauer's captivating account of religious fundamentalism in Utah, not too long ago, I was left wondering what the sudden attention was owed to. The mystery was unshrouded a little further down the show when, probably for the umpteenth time that morning, the story of Jeffs' apprehension outside Las Vegas was run. The man had been on the run from worldly authorities for several years. Now, out of nowhere, a highway patrol cop had taken him into custody. Apparently, the invisibility shield on his Escalade was defective.

So much for today's edition of Stories from Zion. In other news, we have music and, against all odds, it blends with the theme. Passionate debates can be held around the question of who might count as mighty and strong in popular music. Without a doubt is Bob Dylan's status as the one singer-songwriter mighty and strong. Two fine articles in the New Yorker, a very recent book review and a profile from 1964, paint a vivid picture of the man and are certainly worth reading. If words don't do it for you, get the complete collection of Dylan's recordings at iTunes, 773 pieces for $200.

In case you are, just like me, still and always looking for new and interesting music, here are three French stations I discovered recently. They're far removed from the charts, don't annoy with excessive commercials, and have decent sound quality streaming from the web. Radio Nova plays mostly world music, TSF is full of jazz, and France Inter Paris plays everything, or so it seems. All have a playlist that goes along with their songs, vastly more enjoyable than anything X96 offers musically. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

liberal press bias

Just saw this on Google Video (beta forever) and thought I share it with those who haven't seen it yet. White House Correspondent's Dinner on C-SPAN. I've always loved this channel, but better than wasting an hour and a half on the entire video is spending a quality half hour on the two snippets below.

Here is Stephen Colbert analyzing politics.

George W. Bush even brought a look-alike to be able to convey his message with more vigor.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Deutschland Tour

Ignored by most in the world, especially with Landis's denials taking up most of the space, the Deutschland Tour, Germany's answer to the Tour de France (ha!), is currently taking place. Here in France, I have hardly a chance to follow the race. TV is keeping its distance, and newspapers are quiet. My source of information is radsport-news.

Tonight, coming home from a party with plenty of wine swirling around in my head, I read that Jens Voigt won the biggest mountain stage of the tour. Two things are notable. First, Jens is not a climber - he's the guy who aggravates the peloton on every other stage with epic escapes. Second, he's been riding in yellow since yesterday. It's not quite clear how that came to pass, but I'm very happy for him.

He's an extremely sympathetic guy. For him, riding hard is his job. Riding himself into a coma is what he thinks he's getting paid for, and he always finishes with a smile. Tactical considerations bore him. He attacks like being stung by a tarantula, and nine out ten times he finishes empty handed. The tenth time, the world of cycling talks about him. Like earlier this summer when he won a Tour de France stage, and like right now, when he's really close to winning the Deutschland Tour.

The other thing that made me very happy was Eric Zabel's riding. Over countless years, this guy has been one of the best sprinters in the world. He's now reaching the autumn of his career, and he still hasn't won the Tour de France. Today, he woke up and decided to attack like he's never done before. With another guy, he set the pace for close to 190km. As I said, this was the Tour's biggest stage, and a king of sprinters was doing most of the work. He didn't win, but he had a lot of fun - and the good spirit to high-five his partner for the day, and laugh when they were finally caught.

That's what cycling's supposed to be. Heroic adventures, great stories to talk about, and no testosterone. Face up to it, Floyd!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

minus two

Last weekend I went out both days for medium long rides, totaling 250km and 4000 vertical meters. It's far into the season, almost halfway back out of it in fact, and I'm still suffering from what should be enjoyable rides. Sunday evening and all through Monday, my legs felt abused and I was very tired.

Tonight, after two days of resting, I was ready for more. The air was somewhat chilly after literally two months of canicule - dog days - when I set out to make myself suffer on the Col de Porte, to test my new wheel and old legs on a long steep climb.

The col is very steep in its first half, seven kilometers averaging above eight percent. Taking it easy, frequently cruising in granny gear, I tried to conserve power for the push to the summit. My strategy worked well. I knew I had gone fast even before checking my bike computer when I came to a stop panting, coughing and chucking up lung as if I had just finished Puke Hill to start the Wasatch Crest Trail.

15.3km and 1100m elevation took me exactly 58 minutes, two minutes less than the hour that I've managed to scratch before but never convincingly beat. The next goal is obviously a 10 mile average, requiring to chip another minute off the climb. If I did the ascent once a week instead of once in a while, I'd be there already, and I'd be in better shape for epic rides on weekends. But sloth is often harder to overcome than a seven percent col.