Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Planzefreund View

The community of philosophers itself seems to have forgotten the contributions of nineteenth century German iconoclast Siegfried Schwachkopf, so it's no surprise that his ideas should be unfamiliar to the average American. Yet he and his disciples at the University of Tubingen created and elaborated a school of thought that has emerged from the dumpster of history and is making a rapid revival among a receptive following in the developed world. Schwachkopf's ideas are presented in Der Nichtkampfer feststend, generally regarded as "the bible" of his Pflanzefreund movement. The Pflanzefreunds believe that the great turning point in world history was the formation of the animal kingdom. Prior to animals, the vegetable and mineral kingdoms lived in relatively symbiotic harmony and peace. As time passed, however, a dramatic change occurred; mobile, hungry animals entered the scene. While plants continued to evolve, they were unable to keep up with the incredible pace of animal development. Plants had been able to exploit with varying degrees of success almost the entire surface of the planet but couldn't defend themselves from exploitation by increasingly rapacious animals. And animals, of course, not only attacked the plant kingdom but other animals as well. Strife and violent competition, once unknown on earth, had become endemic.

The most dedicated Pflanzefreunds visualize a world ruled by stately redwoods and majestic sequoias, pointing out that these trees can flourish for centuries, a lifespan that's inconceivable for any animal. Many realize, though, that a return to a time without animals is unlikely in the near future. These enthusiasts do what they can to alleviate the past and current animal outrages and attempt to alert the public about the future consequences of animal behavior. They point out disturbing examples: giant herds of caribou gobbling up innocent and rare arctic lichen and then defecating on the survivors; woodpeckers hammering holes in defenceless hickory trees; beaver gnawing aspen and birch to obtain the materials to build dams that create ponds that drown more plants. Even mainstream scientists acknowledge that commercial cattle operations produce enormous amounts of methane that are a major cause of global warming. Some Pflanzefreunds compare animals on earth, for instance, to cancer in an animal body, which can eventually metastasize, killing the entire organism. They predict such a possible denouement for the earth itself.

Individuals who live according to certain philosophical principles act in ways that reflect those principles. Vegetarians, for example, do not eat meat. The Pflanzefreunds have dietary restrictions as well. Orthodox Pflanzefreunds eat no vegetable matter and the flesh of no carnivorous animals. The original followers created something of a stir in conservative Germany by dressing in green leather vests and lederhosen and living in skin tents similar to the teepees of American plains Indians. Today they are sometimes mistaken for Goths, wearing long green leather overcoats. They have created a national program to return unused bicycle paths and parking lots to native prairie and woodland.

While the Pflanzefreund agenda and beliefs may be controversial in some circles, it would appear that their contention that animals are a significant source of earthly problems is beyond dispute. More open to argument is the likelihood that they may be able to solve these problems.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Resuming a Relationship

I wasn't getting along with the Rocky Mountain Blizzard. Some people think that it might be the greatest steel hard-tail mountain bike frame ever. It's been in continuous production since 1984 and is a very high quality item, unlike most frames today, made in Canada rather than Taiwan. But I just couldn't seem to make it go as fast as my other bikes.

Other bike #1: IRO Mia, disc only steel mountain bike hard-tail frame, rigid fork, 29er, SRAM front and back, 27 speed, moustache bars, Brooks B-17 saddle. Bought the frame and fork, the last one Tony had, spec'd and ordered all the components and put it all together and it's been running like crazy for over two years. It drives soooo easy and the geometry is perfect for me. I love this bike and ride it almost every day.

Other bike #2: Takara, lugged steel frame found in junk pile, probably '80s vintage, set up with a custom-made (by me) disc fork, hand-built 700c wheels, moustache bars, and a Shimano 3-speed rear hub. This is my winter, bad weather, slog through the slush bike, but at the same time it's a very comfortable bike, fairly fast, responsive, maybe a little twitchy, a little toe interference, but all-in-all a neat bike that's one of a kind. You can't buy one like it.

Anyway, years ago I took a ride on a Rocky Mountain at the LBS and jeez, I really wanted one but the frame alone on that thing is $850. When they were selling the entire bike, back in the day, it was going for around $2500, way too rich for my blood. But I got a good deal on this frame (hope it wasn't stolen) and stripped a Kona Dew Deluxe I had for a lot of the components and put the whole thing together. It's set up as a 69er, 26" wheel in back, 29" in front but for some reason it just never fit me as well as either of the other two. I couldn't make it go as fast. So it got hung up in the basement, alone and ignored for months. Maybe it got lonely. Yesterday, I decided to take it for a ride, let it out for awhile. And you know, it moved right along. It must have been so happy to be out on the street that it decided to impress me. I'm not as disappointed with it anymore. But it's the IRO and me going to the post office this afternoon.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stupor Bowl XII

That's right, Stupor Bowl, the annual alleycat bike race around Minneapolis on the day before the less well-known "Super Bowl", some kind of a TV ball game usually held in a warm place. This years' Stupor Bowl was held in rather congenial weather, maybe +35F, with a total of 23 stops, mostly at bars, where your paper manifest had to receive an ink stamp to authenticate your arrival. The winner made all the stops, a distance of about 25 miles or so in 2 1/2 hours. There were roughly 400 contestants, men and women. Reliable numbers aren't easy to come by because the bike social scene just isn't very, well, reliable. Imagine releasing a herd of hung-over bicyclists simultaneously from one location in a fairly good-sized city. And then they scatter in every direction, going down the middle of two-way streets, the wrong way on one-ways, through red lights, virtually everything you wish you could do with a car. The after race party and awards ceremony was held at the Nomad on Cedar Ave. I left as soon as it started because I didn't wish to get caught up in the tatoo exhibition and really wished to avoid the "Charles Manson look-alike contest. At least it looked like they were going to have one.