RIP Sakamoto-San

Ryuichi Sakamoto –

He passed away at the end of March from cancer. Yesterday his estate released a playlist on his Spotify account that he had assembled in his last days, specifically to be played at his funeral. As I expected, it was a creative combination of classical, ambient, electronic, and a touch of pop. It included some Japanese music but none of his own. I read an interview with him a couple of years ago where he said he never listens to his own music. He said when it comes on somewhere he is, it embarrasses him.

That, as much as anything, is why he was such a fascinating character. I realize this might be a bit of a niche posting, but for those who knew his music, he was an essential part of our lives. At least his art was. His impact on what we would call “techno” is indisputable. He may even have actually coined the term. I admit I am a fan of techno/ambient/electronic music as much as classical, and I find it soothing to the mind. I am also a huge fan of film scores.

One thing many people, even fans of Mr. Sakamoto, don’t realize is how impactful his film score and soundtrack work has been. His first, and maybe best, work was Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, which interestingly starred one David Bowie. My Sakamoto also plays Captain Yanoi, one of the officers of the prison camp Bowie’s “Jack Celliers”, a British Soldier ends up in during World War Two. They fight against each other, and among other guards and inmates, for influence while developing a sort of respect, then perhaps even love. I would be lying if I said it ended on an upbeat note, but it was an interesting time.

He also did the scores for some other well-known films, like “The Last Emperor”, “The Revenant”, “The Sheltering Sky,” and the film version of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, among a slew of others. In some pretty apparent ways, his career parallels that of his arguably more well-known Western counterpart, Trent Reznor. Initially known for almost avant-garde music, he has really made a career out of film scores.

In any case, RIP Sakamoto-San. You are already missed.

Well Ducati seems to be on form this season

They came out and crushed Portimao this weekend. They did, in all fairness, not take the pole, but if you watch the pole setting lap, Marc Marquez very clearly got a huge tow around the fast sections of the track by that beast of Ducati Jorgé Martin was riding. The Dukes had an easy 5 mph top speed advantage. In fact, I need to see if I can find some trap speeds to compare. You can describe his pole a s shock I’d imagine.

Not my photo

I don’t really enjoy multiple seasons of single marque dominance in my racing. In fact, while I would never dispute his obvious talent, I had indeed gotten sick of watching Marc win race after race and championship after championship before his 2019 injury opened up the racing to the bigger field.

That being said, I will not be sad to see Ducati do well this season. When you compare Ducati’s budget and resources to Honda, they are barely even on the radar as a company. There has been an influx of money from the acquisition of the company by Audi, and thus the Volkswagen group. A lot of folks dont realize that Volkswagen Group is the seventh largest company in the world. Despite all this, Neither Volkswagen, or Audi runs the Ducati Corse team. It retains its autonomy, albeit with a lot more money that it had over the last ten years.

The whole team looked confident all weekend, but the obvious standout was Pecco Bagnaia. He just looked confident, and calm all weekend. Thats a strong contrast to the last few seasons, where he just looked a bit fish out of water at times, like the whole thing was little overwhelming. This weekend though, he looked like he knew how things were going to go all weekend.

Not my photo

I’m seriously looking forward to next weekend.

We’re smack in the middle of another winter storm

It’s nothing like “Snowpocalypse” a few years ago, our low this time is only going to be something like 25, compared to 2 or 3 then, and this one will only go 3 total days, versus the 14 that one did. It’s funny though, we’re all feeling the PTSD. That thing wrecked Texas, we’re just not equipped to deal with weather like that here. I’ve travelled extensively, and to some very cold places, I very much enjoy it, when the region I’m traveling to is equipped to deal with the weather. Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Illinois, even (unfortunately) Indiana. All of these places were more than able to deal with severe winter weather, on orders of magnitude worse than what wreaked havoc here.

Today is “Confederate Heroes Day” in Texas

This is a holiday that is actually observed by the state.

We have the day off.

This remains one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen, that in the year 2023, were taking a day off work to celebrate some people who attempted to tear the country apart 150 years ago.

No one in their right minds would reasonably consider celebrating the perpetrators of the January 6th attack on the White House, and that was no where near as destructive as the secession movement and subsequent Civil War proved to be.

This country is absolutely insane.

Fall of Kabul. One Year Later

There has been a lot of talk the last few days about this. We are at the first anniversary, and I’ve come to understand I’m not alone in the trauma I felt when it happened.

The thing was, I didn’t understand it then, a year ago. How could I, a 49-year-old man, a veteran of multiple combat tours and numerous combat engagements, find myself sitting in my office with my head in my hands, crying about something I knew would happen ten years ago?

Like our Vietnam vet brothers before us who had to watch the fall of Saigon play out on television, we did the same with Kabul. But Saigon was almost 40 years ago. How could we be dealing with the same thing again? I didn’t understand how it could be affecting me as much as it was. We all knew it would happen. We knew it would happen when we were there. At some point, we weren’t going to hold that place anymore, and those people either didn’t want or couldn’t do it on their own.

When the trauma washed over me, I went to engage with people I knew, family, friends, etc., and they were non-plussed about the whole thing. That, as much as anything, caused me the most grief. How could the world not feel the same pain and anguish the few of us were? On some level, how could my family and friends not understand how important it was to me and that it was causing me so much pain and anguish? How could I explain to anyone if they didn’t feel it? I guess it somewhat drove home to me that the world didn’t understand and, maybe, more importantly, was incapable of understanding. There were some of us for whom it seemed to me the connection was obvious. We were there.

We gave up so much of our lives there. Our strength, our stability, our youth, our sanity. For too many, everything was left there. I’ve told myself for so long that the way we deal with trauma in America, and in the military has changed for the better. There is help for those who need it, and other things. On some level this is true, we arent facing the same issues that our brothers and sisters did when they came home 40 years ago.

I’ve known for a long time that people who haven’t been to war don’t want to hear your war stories. They want to listen to some dreadful gruesome things. They want to know on some level that you’ve killed people in terrible ways and other things they’ve seen in Clint Eastwood movies, but they don’t want to know what it’s like to be at war. It’s a funny mix of people who even ask you about it. You’ve got the dreamers, a group who “would have gone themselves but…”. You’ve got the “patriot warriors” who want to know how proud you were of America every time you pulled the trigger. Maybe the oddest group to me, the ones who “hate war” but ask you never-ending questions about it. I lump them in with the “true crime” crowd.

Regardless of their motivations and categories, these folks are all the same. They’ve read some books and seen some movies, but they have no idea about reality. Most significantly, they don’t want to know how you feel. Feelings about things like this aren’t simple. You can’t wrap them up into a little sound byte, making it hard for people to receive. Feelings confuse their patriotic hard-ons, their violence fetishes, and their belief that war is simple and should not exist.

Le Tour

I genuinely don’t think it would be possible for me to have less interest in the Tour than I do this year. I don’t really know why. I tried to force it the other day by reading some tech articles on Cycling News, which usually gets me going, but nope. Just meh.

I’m not hugely familiar with Jonas Vengegaard, but woohoo for Jumbo-Visma I guess. I think they won the Points, GC (Wout Van Aert) and Mountain Jerseys (Vingegaard won both GC and Mountain), so that’s impressive, but really, I just can’t find any passion in it this year.

Like a lot of folks, I’m totally, 100% tired of hearing about doping in racing. I’m generally convinced that whoever wins will be stripped at some point once they test positive for whatever new cocktail is running through the peloton. I have no answers, but its a constant thing, and it just adds to the bike racing fatigue. Headlines like this… “We’re clean, you’ll just have to trust us” make me wish there was a more vigorous eye-roll emoji. That’s not the only thing for sure though, it’s just a malaise with bike racing in general right now. I guess I hope it passes?

Sitting in 102-degree weather in Texas

But very much mentally in the mountains, in Colorado. Almost exactly one year ago today, I was exploring mountain passes with two of my very, super cool kids. We took the road less traveled, which thankfully they are almost always down for, and ended up at the top of a pass when a little but intense storm blew through. In a flash, the weather went from 50 ish degrees and sunny to 29 (per the thermometer on the car) and raining, rapidly becoming sleet, then snow. In July.

We weren’t dressed for such weather, but as I said, the heavy part was brief and blew through quickly, leaving us free to wander in the almost freezing tundra at 12,000 feet a few kilometers from a public park. We took full advantage, found a lovely alpine lake, and just took it all in for a few hours.

Our little escape to the alpine at 12,000 feet.
Amei and Grace were very much blown away that such places existed just off the regular roads.

We explored and wandered for a while. The kids were totally in love with the place and blown away that they could find something like it just a few hundred meters from a regular road frequented by folks going to work or grocery shopping. I think I managed to set the hook for a move once Grace graduates.

Once the cold set in fully, we took to the road, enjoying the switchbacks and one “oh my lord” view after another as we came down the backside of the pass and into Keystone, where we picked up coffee, and warmed ourselves at the lower altitude. It was their first exposure to how the mountains can present two entirely different personalities just a few miles and a few thousand feet in elevation apart.