Archive for July, 2012

this will be the only time i ever blog about professional sports

You will not be tested on this material.

Showjumping is the sport I do, but eventing is the sport I follow. Eventing has a narrative: there are teams, and there are three phases (dressage, cross-country, showjumping) such that after three days of competition everything can hang on whether a horse taps a rail with a hind foot or not, and if so, whether that rail falls. It’s VERREH EXCITINGE. I’ve been enmeshed in its DRAMZ since reading KM Peyton’s glorious books about it at an impressionable age, and it’s why Princess Anne is my favourite Royal, because she rode on the British team in Montreal.

This year’s Olympic eventing offers up maybe the dramiest dramz in, oh, ever. Let’s see: the US coach ran off with his mistress, who he had made the showjumping coach. Scandal! The US coach is also the father of a member of the British team, which member is also the daughter of the abovementioned Princess Anne and therefore the granddaughter of the Queen. The dad says he might watch his daughter ride, if he can find the time. For these and other reasons, the dad is widely thought of in eventing circles as a gigantic tool. Two members of his US team are former Australian Olympians who have switched sides, leaving Australia to scramble for other riders. Those Australian-Americans rescued one of the Olympic horses from a burning barn last year, by dint of punching out the fire chief who was trying to prevent them from running into the flames.

It’s a Jilly Cooper novel COME TO LIFE. Me, I will be rooting for Ingrid Klimke, for sentimental reasons as her father Reiner Klimke is still my favourite equestrian ever; Mary King, a marvellous English rider who is best thought of as Helen Mirren on horseback; Boyd Martin, a punk kid who is one of the heroes of the barn fire; and Hawley Bennett, a Canadian who is based in California, because I saw her ride at Woodside last year and she was awesome.

Most of all, though, I’ll be hoping that everyone gets around with no injuries whatsoever, not even a loose shoe. Eventing has a filthy little secret: it’s sometimes fatal. So that’s my Olympic dream: that just this once, everybody lives.

ETA: Gold medal: German team, including Ingrid Klimke. Silver medal: British team, including Mary King. BOO YAH.

more nightmares

…these ones gun- and bomb- and massacre-related, and resulting in me waking up and staring at the ceiling thinking “What am I doing having kids in a world like this?”

And then today, a music festival in a local park, beautiful bands and perfect weather and duck and mango tacos and iced chai.

Impossible to reconcile all the different Americas. Love and fear and love.

christians and lions

We spent the fourth of July in the Sierras with two families from the kids’ school. There were some pretty epic treats: CatHaven, Boyden Cavern, my first wild bear, a juvenile, walking through a sunny glade by a lake. But the lake had Christian camps all around it and was unexpectedly upsetting. Claire is reaching the age I was when I joined the unpleasant church, and I lost an entire night to nightmares about the past invading the present.

I keep coming back to something helpful the wife said a few weeks ago. I said I didn’t know why I let it get to me so much, given that I was not myself one of the victims. She said that I am allowed to mourn my own losses. That got me thinking about what those losses were.

I spent the years from ages 9 to 21 in an institution where everyone with any kind of authority lied routinely about everything that was important. I was praised for my worst behaviour and attacked unmercifully for all the things I like about myself. Black was white, up was down, right was wrong. I was predisposed to depression, obviously, but what I learned at the church was that I could neither trust myself nor anyone else.

Nothing remarkable about that. Institutions rot. Here’s to fluid overlays, begun with the enthusiastic consent of all parties and subject to strict term limits.

i am an anarchist

I read Leonard’s book and identified completely with his crunchy Granola post-scarcity, zero-coercion aliens and their fluid overlays for getting things done. I said to Danny: “I think I may be becoming an anarchist,” and Danny, because he is perfect, ran off to find a pamphlet to push into my willing hands.

The pamphlet is perfect. It is Kevin Carson’s “Resilient Communities: Society After State Capitalism.” The first essay talks about local economies, including farmers’ markets and barter systems. The second essay talks about the historical roots of such local economies: Pompeiian villas and labor cooperatives.

I started to realize that I have been a practising anarchist for quite some time. Consider! I like: credit unions, hackerspaces, Mechanics’ Institutes, small-press books, community gardens and California commune and other DIY architecture. I dislike: large banks, surveillance, inequality, institutional racism and sexism and the police state.

I’ve been thinking a lot about money, both professionally and politically. Despite the overwhelming centrality of venture capital to the technology industry, my standard (good) advice to engineer-entrepreneurs is: “bootstrap. Run off revenues. Never sign a term sheet.” The more I read Keynes, the less I think of money as stored value. Money is something else.

This is important. Carson brings up Schumpeter, who distinguishes between “the money theory of credit” and “the credit theory of money.” We live in a world ruled by the money theory of credit. That is, when you borrow money from a bank or VC, it is assumed that loan comes out of a pile of cash placed in the bank or fund by account holders or limited partners. The credit – the loan or investment – is funded by the money, which exists. Right?

Wrong. Schumpeter’s credit theory of money turns that logic on its head. “It is much more realistic to say that the banks ‘create credit…’ than to say that they lend the deposits that have been entrusted to them.” What does it mean to create credit? Think about what “credit” actually means. It is a measure of trust in a relationship. Money flows from the social contract.

That’s why Keynesianism worked, especially after WW2: people were too afraid of the consequences of not trusting one another, and so they credited one another with enough goodwill to build the Interstate Highway System and the National Health. It worked right up until Reagan and Thatcher made hate fashionable again.

Carson takes up the argument:

“Capital” is a term for a right of property in organizing and disposing of this present labor. The same basic cooperative functions could be carried out just as easily by the workers themselves, through mutual credit. Under the present system, the capitalist monopolizes those cooperative functions, and thus appropriates the productivity gains from the social division of labor.”

Far from “storing” “value” in the form of “money”, banks and venture capitalists subtract credit from the social contract by adding (mostly worthless) extra layers of abstraction between individual actors. The mortgage crisis began with liar loans and banks selling off mortgages: anything to distance themselves from the consequences of what they had done.

Vast wealth is hoarded money, stagnant credit. It is more disgusting and a bigger threat to mental and public health and aesthetics than the hoarding of physical goods.

So that’s where I am. Still supporting Obama because of Affordable Care, but adamantly opposed to extraordinary rendition and detention without trial. Not exactly soured on electoral politics, but empowered to say A Plague On Both Your Houses! because finally able to imagine an alternative: a society in which we help each other, listen to one another and share what we have. In short, I am an anarchist.

another thing that happened

Claire and I were driving home from lunch at Taco Los Altos (burritos, Kanye West, the Supreme Court and Sigmund Freud). We were just turning into Eugenia when the car parked next door to Colin’s house jumped the curb, accelerated across the street and T-boned Colin’s truck. It sat there revving and revving, smoke pouring off its tires, about fifteen feet in front of us, while I stared at it, dumbfounded.

I had to back out into Mission and drive around the block. We parked and walked back down to talk to Colin. “I am so glad it hit my truck,” he said. “The little boy was in there and the engine was running. He likes to play in the front seat, and he put his foot on the accelerator. If he hadn’t hit my truck he could have been killed.”

la belle dame sans merci

Colin asked us all to rethink cadence and I forgot how to ride.

I can see Matador’s cadence. He is an Argentinian Warmblood and he bounces around the jumps like a ping pong ball. I can see Ruth’s cadence: she is a huge hunter and her flat-kneed stride is about a hundred feet long. She is so scopy that she would rather jump out of a long spot than add.

What’s Bella’s cadence though? Sometimes she tranters, conjuring an extra footfall from thin air. And sometimes she seems to swoosh from jump to jump. She can jump out of any old stupid spot I drop her in, but how do I find the rhythmic canter that she can jump out of without constant emergencies?

We had a lesson where Val asked us to jump the five to five, do a more-than-rollback and come back up the panels to the oxer. We got the five to five but Bella bucked like a banshee as I tried to haul her around the corner, and I stopped her and realized that my hands were shaking and I was scared.

We ended that lesson jumping six-inch crossrails. I flew to Boston on business and brooded on my troubles. I realized how much of my recent good body image comes from the knowledge that I can ride better than I used to, because that good body image abandoned me with the worry over my riding.

We came back and I remembered that Bella wants me to let go of her head so she can use her front end, and to sit in the saddle so she knows I am not going to come off her. We rode around another huge (three foot!) course in the Grand Prix arena and I checked in with my seatbones three strides out from every fence, letting her jump out of her rhythm.

There’s her cadence. It’s just that at the height we’re jumping now, it’s faster than I am comfortable with. And when I’m scared I go fetal and come out of the saddle and hang on the reins. And then she bucks, because, what the hell, Rach.

I have to sit back and let go and hurtle forward at vast speed and let her take the fence in her own way. It feels like dying, but it is correct.

This, for the record, is what I ride to learn.