Archive for March, 2007

My New Favorite Racehorse…

…Does a good-time flying breeze leap across the finish line.

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What does your favorite racehorse do for fun?

Hope You Guess My Name.

Some may wonder, in light of the needless whipping & all other manner of mistreatments these magnificent creatures endure, why I am an unabashed fan of the race game.

Meet my new favorite racehorse.

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the Million Dollar Race

My very first post on open container speedWay – the Get Rich Quick Trick of the Week – was a bit of a failure.

No one got rich quick on my advice that week.

I wrote it the morning of last year’s Preakness Stakes. The Preakness is the so-called “2nd Jewel” of the Triple Crown; the fabled & elusive grand prize of American thoroughbred horseracing.

The Triple Crown is a 3-race sequence that begins on the first Saturday every May with the Kentucky Derby. It’s followed in two weeks by the Preakness. The third and final jewel, run 3 weeks after the Preakness, is the grueling mile & one-half Belmont Stakes; a veritable equine marathon.

These races are restricted to 3-year-old horses. For a variety of reasons – the distance of each race; the length of time between races; that they’re run by a particular crop of horses just once – it is a supreme achievement to win all three. A supreme achievement, and rare. Accomplishable only by the rarest of Champions.

The Triple Crown was won three times – by Secretariat, Seattle Slew & Affirmed – during the 1970’s. None have won all three races since.

With few exceptions, none of my readers are racehorse enthusiasts. Still I feel certain that each of you will feel touched, in a strange way – touched by joy – when finally the Crown gets claimed by a rarest of equine champions.

It’ll give cause to celebrate.

In each of the past three years an exceptional racehorse has very nearly won. Came so close that their losses, viewed in combination, can only be described as an extreme fluke.

In 2004 Smarty Jones nailed the Derby & Preakness in impressive fashion – only to lose the Belmont by a mere length before a stunned & saddened crowd of 130,000.

In 2005 Afleet Alex treated fans of the game to emotionally stirring Preakness & Belmont Stakes wins – after he was eliminated, from Triple Crown contention, when he finished the Kentucky Derby one seemingly inexplicable length behind 50-to-1 longshot winner Giacomo.

Last year, of course, it was Barbaro.

Barbaro buried fellow Kentucky Derby contenders so profoundly that his ultimate sweep of the Triple Crown was considered an all but unstoppable certainty.

“Barring some unforeseen tragedy,” Washington Post racehorse columnist Andy Beyer – a deservedly well-regarded purveyor of such opinions – swore, “Barbaro will win the Triple Crown.”

I disagreed. So I wrote a blog-post, the morning of last year’s Preakness Stakes, which urged readers to bet against Barbaro. That was my Get Rich Quick Trick of the Week.

“Barbaro will lose today,” I assured, it turned out, too correctly.

So in a sense the post did succeed. I was right. But I came up short in two crucial ways: 1. I did not explain why my certainty that Barbaro would lose. 2. I did not provide my readers – or myself for that matter – with a viable alternative wager.

The fact that Barbaro ultimately lost his life, to a gruesome leg injury sustained at the race’s onset, still makes me feel a little…weirded out. By the irony. But grateful, ultimately, for my failure to predict the winner.

Barbaro’s loss was a genuine tragedy. Not just for the horse, his connections, and fans of the race game; Barbaro’s loss is indicative of a greater calamity.

Humankind’s.

And I want no profit from humankind’s calamity.

The equine as a species has been profoundly good & helpful to humans. But humans by & large have treated the equine cruelly — racehorses in particular.

One example: In his final race before the 2005 Kentucky Derby, Afleet Alex, despite his already insurmountable lead, was whipped mercilessly by jockey Jeremy Rose. Though it was a profoundly careless decision, one can’t blame Rose entirely. He was over-excited. His mount’s owners were considering replacing him with a more experienced jockey for the Kentucky Derby. So Rose wanted to prove he could pilot Afleet Alex to an impressive win.

“It was a Million Dollar Race,” Rose explained, when asked by reporters to justify his plainly needless whip action.

It was a Million Dollar Race.

One Afleet Alex indeed did win impressively; but the cost of that performance was dear.

Fast forward three weeks: Afleet Alex, with a quarter-mile to go, is in a perfect stalking position to surge forward & overtake the Big Race’s tiring leaders; superbly poised to win the Kentucky Derby. Yet he ‘failed to fire,’ as they say in racetrack parlance. His one-length loss, I’ve mentioned, is considered inexplicable by fans of the game.

But I can explain it easy.

Perhaps his blowout win 3 weeks earlier caused Afleet Alex to inadvertently expend the ATP he needed to triumph in the Kentucky Derby. Though I believe the loss was more conscious, than biochemical, in nature.

I propose it was deliberate.

When asked by his jockey to hit the gas, as it were, and make a winning move in the Churchill Downs’ homestretch…Afleet Alex simply said, “Whatever dude.”

Remember: Afleet Alex went on to score huge wins in the Preakness & Belmont. Thus, had he won the Derby, Afleet Alex would’ve swept the Triple Crown – a priceless prize that would give humans joy – and he plumb did not want to.

Not after he got his ass whipped for money.

And that, albeit belatedly, explains why I knew Barbaro would lose last year’s Preakness Stakes. Overwhelming likelihood is, had he won the Preakness, Barbaro would’ve gone on the claim the Crown. But he, like Afleet Alex, did not want to. Or perhaps he wanted to but regrettably could not; because people are cruel to racehorses. And cruelty inevitably begets disappointment.

Heads Up to the human community: the racehorses are trying to tell us something!

Smart bet is to listen.

Biochemistry of a Make-Believe TNT Fiend

Want PBR.

Got ATP.

Good 2 GO!!

When I want beer and my hand successfully grasps the Pabst Blue Ribbon can from the bar in front of me, the accomplishment is propelled by chemical energy stored in a molecule of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

atp.GIFPut more precisely: The “PBR accomplishment” is propelled by the release of chemical energy when a phosphate bond (one of the 2 red lines between the 3 P’s in the above diagram) is strategically cleaved from ATP.

The result: Free Energy, available to do work. Or, that’s what they say in the textbooks. It may be more accurate to describe such Free Energy as available to do anything.

Want. Pill.

POP

Another magnificent ATP-propelled accomplishment!!

ATP similarly propels every energy-requiring act by any organism on Earth – be they whale, plankton, salmon or human; from giraffes to the leaf on a tree. Albeit at some expense; an ATP minus one phosphate (adenosine diphosphate or ADP) is like a cooler filled with beer on a hot day – but no ice.

Must..be...remedied!!

When a salmon swims the act is fueled by chemical energy stored in an ATP molecule. ATP makes it so salmons get to swim upstream & have babies. So they need to eat stuff on the way. To make more ATP. To swim up more streams & propagate their species.

But sometimes salmons get caught in a net & grilled on hibachis. The salmon had other plans. But it is dinner now. Flush with energy it no longer requires, on account of being dead.

ATP waiting to happen.

And what will the human do with his freshly-synthesized Free Energy available to do anything?

People use their ATP to run around like chickens with their heads chopped off mostly.

So they can buy more salmon. To get more ATP. So they can crawl imbecilic across the carpet & pick gruelingly for those fabled crumbs of leftover crack cocaine.

So goes the mass of humanity.

Other creatures keep a better handle their ATP habit. Like vultures; supremely patient hunters, who pick nutrient-rich flesh from the bones of the inadvertently deceased. Whitewinged vampire bats drink blood from the toes of sleeping birds. The birds not only survive the predation — they don’t feel a thing.

The described creatures — salmon, vulture, human — are known as chemotrophs (chemo = of or pertaining to chemicals + trophe = nutrition). Chemotrophs extract their energy from biochemicals (bio = Life); from the carbohydrate, protein & fat molecules in food.

In other words: chemotrophs eat for their ATP.

But there are other ways.

Like so:

Ever wonder: Since the Road Runner always somehow evades him — what does Wile E Coyote eat?

TNT.

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Actually he doesn’t eat TNT. But when it explodes inadvertantly in his face, squirts brain from his ears and blasts the top half of his skull through a hole in the sky – that TNT nourishes him. Sure as the rest of us are nourished by a bowl of home-made chicken soup.

TNT, coincidentally, is chemical energy.

Which means Wile E Coyote is a chemotroph. Just like me & you. Except, instead of eating salmon, the coyote synthesizes his ATP with energy derived from ACME brand TNT.

Never underestimate coyotes. Delighted, remarkably adaptable — the daredevil species.

His nemesis, the Road Runner, is just some dumb cartoon bird Wile E Coyote chases for giggles & cash. The chase is perpetually doomed. But what the hell? Doom is Money – at least in the Freelance Daredevil business. And a gig is a gig. Trick to it is get a wild kick out of doom.

Like a gambler who knows how to make a fast buck when he loses.

Eat the Road Runner? But…then there would be no Road Runner cartoon. And with no cartoon that coyote is just another doomed jerk on the street.

So he pulls out all the stops to let the road runner get away.

Play to lose. And when you mistakenly win keep a good excuse handy. Plus a dozen-odd hits of strong acid in case you need to hallucinate hugely:

I know what you’re thinking: But Mike E – does Wile E Coyote really synthesize his own ATP?

Great question!

I don’t know. But I can tell you that the TNT-fed cartoon coyote uses ATP to chase the Road Runner sure as a salmon uses ATP to swim upstream.

When something moves on Planet Earth it does so aided by the energy released when a phosphate bond is cleaved strategically from a molecule of ATP. Movement – deliberate movement by a living thing – requires ATP. Just does. Always.

I ask: can Wile E Coyote move across your TV screen without ATP?

Here is an unassailable illustration of the rhetorical nature of my question:

Can I borrow a few thousand bucks? I’ll pay you back when I get a job…

Preposterous!

Dig?

Nothing moves without ATP.

Not even the trickster.

Wile E Coyote is ATP-dependent. Suppose he lacks the cellular mechanism to produce his own. How will he move?

So easy a crackhead could do it.

to be continued…

My First Trip To Brattleboro

Brattleboro is a little town by regional standards. We’re 200 miles north from New York City. 100 miles northwest of Boston. Between these two major cities there are many big suburbs, some smaller cities, their smaller suburbs, and a smattering of even smaller semi-rural townships. Most, perhaps nearly all, are bigger than Brattleboro.

But by Vermont standards Brattleboro is somewhat of a monolith; third largest town in the state, behind Burlington & Rutland. The state’s capitol, Montpelier, is I believe the 4th largest town in Vermont. Brattleboro is the only town in the state, besides Burlington, to have three exits off the Interstate highway. Burlington has 4 or 5 exits off the Interstate.

The Interstate highway doesn’t run through the state’s 2nd largest city, Rutland.

Brattleboro is an odd town by any standard.

One odd thing about Brattleboro is the Brattleboro Retreat. The Brattleboro Retreat is located just past the end of Main Street.

The size of a small college campus, the Retreat is one of Brattleboro’s defining landmarks; a thread through the local fabric; a swig of Kool Aid from the punch-bowl of town lore.

It’s been here since 1834. Back then it went by a different name: the Vermont Asylum for the Insane.

I spent my first year of high school two hours north of Brattleboro at a school called St. Johnsbury Academy. I had a teacher there at the Academy named Mr. Thurston. Mr. Thurston taught freshman algebra. Or, more precisely, he was paid to. I for one learned no arithmetic skills from him.

He was about 6 feet tall. Middle aged. Sported a cop-wannabe crew cut. Real dumb looking jerk. Taught girl’s basketball. Screamed louder than a constipated hyena.

“TOBIN!!” He would bellow at the beginning of class each day. “Did you do your homework last night??”

Now there’s a dumb question! Did I ever do homework? No.

Why?

I am an exceptional student. I learn eagerly. Plus I think the mathematical language is a groovy way to meet aliens.

But I never did a single homework assignment in Mr. Thurston’s algebra class.

Why? Because he was a gigantically lousy educator.

Dude couldn’t teach an ape to fart smelly.

When I told him I didn’t have my homework Mr. Thurston got ugly. Uglier than vomit – bulimic cannibal vomit. That’s how I felt when he screamed at me. A thousand watts of shame.

Why did he scream at me every day? Not to goad me into doing homework. Contrary: his purpose was best served when I didn’t.

His purpose?

Just to be an asshole. To make life perceptibly more miserable for his fellow human.

Because it made him feel off-rocked jolly.

“What I need,” I thought to myself, one morning soon after I’d turned 15, when I profoundly needed to not be screamed at, “Is a good Excuse to miss algebra class today.”

Yeah. I thought of a wicked killer one too.

“I tried to hang myself last night.” I lied to the school nurse. “I need emergency therapy!”

2 easy.

I was whisked without delay to the psychiatric ward for adolescents at the Brattleboro Retreat. The doors locked behind me. Splendid! I need tight security. Or else Mr. Thurston screams cruelly & hurts me poor brainz – especially in the mornings.

But not when he gets locked out of the cookie jar by nice people on my first trip to Brattleboro!

Crazy. Yet effective; I was released in early summer from the mental institution formerly known as Vermont’s Asylum for the Insane. Never went back to St. Johnsbury Academy. And never saw Mr. Thurston – that nut-less slug humper – again.

the Way Poser Rock & Roll Party Foul

I went to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame once. Because it was there. In Cleavland. And so was I — with a bunch of hours to spare. Spare? Who am I kidding! We were in Cleavland for fuck’s sake. Before noon in November ’97. Gray bluster-raw chilly outside to boot. Waiting for night to roll around. Then we’d go see Phish play.

With sincere apologies to Milo the phantom watch dog — we had time to kill.

I didn’t want to go to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I remember thinking that it’d be a big building full of cheesebag bull. I think my main beef with the plan was financial; the price of admission would deplete the funds I’d set aside to buy lunch later that day at Taco Bell. But the dude whose car I caught a ride to Cleavland with from the show the night before was hellbent. Had to go. Oh well I thought. Screw it. I’ll take a nap in the car.

YEAH! Fuck museums. My bitch ass is Rock & Roll!!

As we turned into the Hall of Fame parking lot I was forced to issue a profound mea culpa. And that’s rare; I am absolutely never wrong. But there it was: a giant banner that advertised the current Hall of Fame display.

It said:

I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER!! the psychedelic 60’s.

To that I had just one word to say: most!!

Way.

“I could,” I reasoned objectively, “Try to catch up on lunch in a day or so.”

As I approached the building, though, I noticed the entrance to the museum was left largely unguarded. So I folded my $5 back into my pocket and slipped into the joint for free.

Yeah. Because my bitch ass is rock & roll. Unlike this dumb Joker:

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I’ve never particularly been a Van Halen fan. But I have noticed, when their songs come on the radio, that many notes are played in rapid succession on the lead guitar. Some consider Eddie Van Halen a legendary guitar player. I don’t really care. Just happens to be that that’s why he was due to be inducted into the Rock & Roll hall of fame last night.

And here’s why they should throw his ass out:

The dude skipped his own induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Not by itself a damnable offense; Jerry Garcia skipped his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction. Presumably because he was too far gone on drugs to care.

I respect that.

This Eddie Van Halen charactor, on the other hand, skipped the party in his honor for the very worst of all possible reasons, ever.

He checked into rehab last night.

That no-good dog slut pansy!

The Rock & Roll Gods are grievously offended.

Burn in Hell Eddie!!

A Healthy Fear of Flight

I jumped out of an airplane once.

Why not? I had fresh pocket-loads of dough from selling freeze dry alien turds to hugely appreciative festival goers. And now it was time to blow my own mind.

I had a friend who jumped pretty regularly — as often as an enthusiast may snowboard or scream too fast near dawn down the coast highway on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

Like a hobby.

I got wicked stoned with my skydiver friend one night. He popped in a video of people free falling. Very much in flight. Mid-air high fives & all.

DUDE! I exclaimed, Can ya smoke it??

What, he asked, like get stoned before you jump?

Sure. I’d love to know what happens when you put a roast on right before you do that mid air high 5 wildness.

He said it slows the perception of time & speed. Helps one make the most of the 60 second-long free fall experience. I related; when I would snowboard stoned it often feels like I’m cruising over Velcro. Even though I am dive bomb torpedoing down the mountain faster than a sonic-bound stolen rollercoaster. Faster than I’ve ever been. It just feels all slowed down.

Ah yes. Total control now.

“DUDE!!” I demanded. “How bout when yer shroomin?!”

Dude looked at me like I was crazy. Like his friends & him at the Drop Zone don’t tangle much with the shroomage before they jump out of airplanes.

Wonder what their Problem is?

Turns out that when you jump from an airplane at 13,000 feet you might not even need drugs — and I would never suggest such a thing carelessly. Fact is that you wouldn’t even notice whatever you were on. The added stimuli would, by my estimate, prove superfluous. Futile even.

The sensation I experienced after I jumped was the very closest I have ever brushed against the edge of the sensory overload envelope. I had no idea what the fuck was going on. Until, maybe 40 or so seconds into my minute of free fall, I remembered that I’d recently jumped from an airplane.

Remembered to breathe is more like it. Suddenly I gained mental faculties enough to look at my altimeter. Fifteen seconds later I pulled the cord. That’s all I remember. It was literally the fastest — most furiously fast — 60 seconds of my life.

Time flies when you fly.

I can’t say for sure whether I enjoyed the experience. I’m only certain that I just plumb didn’t know what the fuck. They say you can learn to pay attention better, to pull back, a bit, from the epicenter of that sensory overload envelope. Slow time down a bit, with your mind, as you fly through mid air. Take a moment to high 5 a friend who happens to whoosh by!

Probably helps to smoke a little weed.

Next time maybe.

I’d do it again, and here’s why: I do not fear easily. But fear is a quality emotion. Helps with the survival thing. Makes the toes tingle. I love to deliberately fear for my life: It’s one good way to Feel Alive!

And boy. I say: The plane ride up was very scary. I had an altemeter strapped to my wrist. The needle climbed. The plane climbed. 4,000 feet. Nowhere near the top. 4,500 feet. How long is this flight? I wondered but didn’t ask. I didn’t dare. Didn’t need to know.

It hardly mattered.

Once you’re on that plane you are committed to leap through the exit door when we hit 13,000 feet. Time slows straight the fuck down. Crawls like Vegemite down a water slide; quite the opposite of time’s impossibly rapid passage when you’re in the middle of a free fall.

On the way up a certain amount of time remains; the time it will take the plane to climb to its’ “destination” of 13,000 feet. The time that remains between now and when you have no way to know whether you will live or die.

Real time I suppose. An inescapable reminder of life’s brevity. Cold scary.

I’d do it again for the fear. Frikkin giddily!!

That and because they sew wings on to skydiver’s shirts now. So you can do better mid air tricks. Pretty soon they won’t even need parachutes. Just swoop skyward a moment before you belly-dive into the ground; you’ll pop straight up, right your wings & land on your feet ideally.

Ideally. But not always. People will jump from airplanes with no parachute and land successfully. Others will die trying. More power to them.

That’s what daredevils are for!

Pioneering.

Dig:

Phoenix Fly has risen – Wingsuit Skydiving and BASE jumping