"Just a song and dance man": 5th Bob Dylan Wannabe Contest, Montpelier

(I'm not sure where this performer came up with the idea for the white face paint.)

A few images from the 5th Annual (? - there have been years where this event has not been held) Bob Dylan Wannabe Contest in Montpelier, 11/28/2009. I have put up a gallery of all the performers here -- the images are nothing special, and long, fast camera lenses are not in my budget at this point in time.

The quality of the performances was all over the map, ranging from singing in the shower types on up.

Peter Landecker drove down from Quebec and won with a cover of.... I forget. Twenty-eight acoustic Dylan songs in a row, I wasn't taking notes, things ran together in my head afterwards. I do remember, however, that it was an excellent performance. Mr. Landecker demonstrated his impressive (obsessive?) knowledge of Dylan trivia at the end of the evening by recreating parts of Dylan's 1965 press conference (video here) from memory.

After the conclusion of the show each performer introduced themselves to the audience while the judges compiled the results. Many mentioned how important Dylan was to them artistically and even spiritually -- one told of becoming a believer during Dylan's Christian period -- and unlike Mr. Zimmerman -- not losing faith.

The event demonstrated the depth of the Dylan catalog -- more than 50 albums -- and while some well known songs were covered, many selections were unexpected and decidedly out of the mainstream.

Finally, the organizers announced that planning for next year's event has already begun.


A happy post-Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving leaf: Image manipulated in Gimp. Instead of shopping, I spent the morning reinstalling software on a newly restored (new hard drive) PC.

Seen on twitter today: Last year at this time the micro-blogging service was documenting in real-time the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.

Keeping with a long-standing personal tradition, I was not one of the multitudes that turned out at a mall for the annual festival of retailing: I have little money, and even less inclination, for such experiences.

I tend towards a 'glass half empty' worldview which can be limiting and self-indulgent but... perhaps this is due to the fact my personal history of this "double zero" decade consists of private travails -- mostly involving a constant struggle to find meaningful work -- played out against a larger canvas of mass murder, war, economic collapse, natural disasters, and patterns of deceit, malfeasance, and incompetence.

In this climate it's sometimes hard to feel thankful but I do try and remember that I've made it this far without too many bad things happening despite all the sturm und drang of the wider world. Things could be better, but they could also be a lot worse, and just maybe, with some skill and some luck, things will be alright.


November is still time to ride

Old faithful: My Redline silhouetted against the gray November sky. This bike has seen much abuse, and little in the way of maintenance, but its simplicity is a great virtue, it's definitely a bike that can be ridden clean or dirty, there's not a lot to break, or even wear out - though new brake pads may be in order for next season.

It could be argued that the weather in November has been nicer than the weather in July and so on a few occasions I managed to ride before work or during the work day itself. The Stowe Town Loops may not be deep in the wilderness but the trail network there is perfect for shorter morning or lunchtime rides in the fall and the area is off limits to hunters.

Saturday I went for a group ride with the Stowe Mountain Bike club which was entertaining and also somewhat harrowing because the combination my poor mtb skills and an unforgiving rigid bike meant that keeping up on descents was something of a challenge on the damp and slippery trails. We rode up the new trail up to Trapps that I worked on (with many others) this past summer: Everyone agreed that the new trail -- a highly engineered work cut into the side of the steep hill -- offers a near perfect riding experience.

After the ride there was a short meeting that detailed the ambitious plans for trail expansion in the Stowe-Waterbury area, involving almost $500K of planned work.


Mémoires du Cyclisme

It's mid-November, stick season, and winter is fast approaching. The domestic cycling season is winding down, I've been reading accounts and looking at media from the domestic races and have watched a few international events online.

I'm old enough that I can remember the pre-Internet era, when the only coverage of international cycling consisted of little snippets of the Tour de France on ABC Wide World of Sports or CBS (the "John Tesh" network). Race coverage in print publications was available months after the events described were completed -- it wasn't unusual to read about spring classics raced in sleet and cold rain in the soft warm days of early summer.

Now all that is changed. Races are covered extensively online and digital media - still images and video -- are available almost instantaneously. Racers have even started attaching small cameras to their bikes and providing a participant's eye view.

The effect of all this communication, however, is somewhat jarring. It is not the race or the sport that is important -- it's the act of recording and publishing online. And I know that I am quite guilty of this myself -- cycling coverage is the most popular content on this site, by far.

But lately I've been feeling increasingly all shared out and spending less time on Facebook, Twitter, and keeping this site going. I'm trying to read more books -- kind of a lost art -- and working on developing some alternative ways to make some money on the side.

I've also resolved to rebuild my road bike -- it hasn't been touched in two years -- next spring and start riding regularly on the road again. At this stage of my life I can't see myself racing on the road... but perhaps pinning on a race number in the local fall cyclocross training series would be an attainable goal. Not that I was ever even remotely successful as a cyclocross racer...

The image is of Marc Gullicson in the mid-90s. I remember watching him getting tag teamed by the McCormack brothers (racing for the Saturn Cycling Team -- look at how that attempt at brand-building turned out) at the cyclocross race at UMass-Amherst.


It don't mean nothing

My college degree. Other than an investment in time and money, what exactly does it signify? The connections between 'talent', 'ability' and 'schooling' are tenuous at best. But it's also true, that Vassar Quarterly (now published 3x/year due to budget cutbacks!) is full of accounts of classmates who have achieved much more than I have in my small and misspent life.

I try not to write about work -- and usually manage to accomplish this small goal.

But a recent work experience was rather scarifying, and it's hard to put it out of my mind. As I have noted, I was subjected to intense criticism about my ability to write (and even to think). I think some of the criticism was justified, some was rather capricious and whimsical -- an example of hiding what I really think behind fancy words.

Anyhow, I read a post on Copyblogger -- a vastly more popular blog than this mostly unread document -- that summed up the problem quite nicely: 7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School. I felt like this post was a critique of me and me alone....
  • Sound Like Dead People -- Check
  • Writing Long Paragraphs -- Check
  • Staying Detached -- Check, check, check
The whole post is worth reading, and something for me to consider going forward.