Scenic Shore 150 Cancer Research

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“We conclude that blood lives of itself and that it depends in no ways upon any parts of the body. Blood is the cause not only of life in general, but also of longer or shorter life, of sleep and waking, of genius, aptitude, and strength. It is the first to live and the last to die.”

-William Harvey, 1651

Of course we understand that’s not true, but Harvey knew something we all intuit. Blood is unparalleled in importance and defining of life; and death. We use it to invoke or posses birth, ancestry, optimism, loss, and passion. American Indian Tribes and Los Angeles gangs adopt it as their title and identity. We have used the word for 500 plus years, and it hasn’t lost its value or vitriol. We understand it to mean life. How pernicious, then, are diseases which pollute and corrupt our most lasting and meaningful representation of life?

By the time you’ve read to this point, it is likely someone in the US is getting the news they have a blood cancer. By the time you finish reading this blog, it is likely someone has died from blood cancer. These deaths will likely account for ~10% of all cancer related deaths in 2018. Absolutely appalling. That means, world wide, we will lose enough people to fill Lambeau over 9x in one year. That’s nearly 152x the personnel we lost in combat in all post 9/11 conflicts. They will be our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and children. Cancer does not care. It is an indiscriminate killer. Due to that, we aim to eradicate it. You can help.
Please donate $1, $5, $20, $1000; whatever you can afford and I will ride my bicycle 150 plus miles in two days along lake Michigan’s shore caring my tent and gear with me as I go. Those gifts will likely save someone you love. They may even save you.

Please donate even the smallest amount and help us save at least one more life this year. Thank you for your time.

-Danger

Donate here: events.lls.org/pages/wi/2018ScenicShore150/DRoberts

donta

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Myth of Positive Hits

Christian radio stations across the country regularly use a variation of “Positive Hits” as a tagline. It is a nearly ubiquitous brand among the religiously motivated broadcasters. It seems the branding is meant to indicate the music is accessible and has an upbeat/affirming message. This assertion, at least the “positive” bit, seems to go unchallenged (record sales may not reflect the “Hit” claim).

Some parents often chose to play Christian radio in the car when their kids intending to save them from crassness and possible vulgarity of secular radio. The faithful are sure the lyrics and messages proffered by these songs are uplifting and encouraging, but is that the case? When the content of the various christian music genres are examined, are they any more positive, uplifting, or meaningful than your average secular song about love, partying, breakups, etc.? Is it better to focus on the content of religious songs psychologically?

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To test this I am going to look at 10 of 2017’s most popular christian/gospel songs according to iTunes. I will be examining the lyrics and running them through a Sentiment Analysis tool. This is a tool used by webmasters and the like to quickly assess the positivity or negativity of reviews, comments, etc. online. While I understand my viewpoint is subjective, advertisers use these tools regularly to make branding and product calls.

At the time of writing this, these were the iTunes Top 10 Christian Songs for 2017.

  1. All My Hope (feat. Tauren Wells) By Crowder

 

I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to the river
I ain’t the same
A prodigal returned

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

I’m no stranger to the prison
worn shackles and chains
But I’ve been freed and forgiven
And I’m not going back
I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing

There’s a kind of thing
That just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees

God, I’ve been broken more than a time or two, yes, Lord
Then He picked me up
And showed me what it means to be a man
Come on and sing

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is neg.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.3
  • polar: 0.7
Polarity
  • pos: 0.3

  • neg: 0.7

At a glance this may seem positive, evoking thanks and song, so why did the analysis come back negative? While it is true the song is about redemption, the majority of the lyrics recount how awful the person is invoking images and metaphors of criminal identity, bondage, and being broken absolutely as a person. Once more, the person didn’t do anything to change their identity/status or build themselves back up. It is only because God killed Jesus in his stead that he is forgiven, made whole, free. There is nothing the vocalist values about himself or his actions.

2. Even If By MercyMe

 

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now
Right now I’m losing bad

I’ve stood on this stage
Night after night
Reminding the broken
It’ll be alright
But right now
Oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able
And I know You can
Save through the fire
With Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Good thing
A little faith is all I have right now

But God when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength
To be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know the sorrow
I know the hurt
Would all go away
If You’d just say the word

But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful
You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

It is well with my soul

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is neg.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.2
  • polar: 0.8
Polarity
  • pos: 0.4

  • neg: 0.6

The person is losing, broken, and unable to fix it. There is redemption, but not in anything the person can do. Their self worth is found entirely in clinging to Jesus and milking God for hope and strength. Again, this person’s identity is that they are inherently bad. Outside of a superbeing’s assistance there is nothing they can do to fix this. Essentially a mantra of self deprecation.

3. O Come To The Altar By Elevation Worship

 

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin, Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well, Jesus is calling

(chorus)
O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ

 

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today, there’s no reason to wait, Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born, Jesus is calling

 

(chorus)
O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ
O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ

Oh what a Savior, isn’t He wonderful
Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him, for He is Lord of all
Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen

Oh what a Savior, isn’t He wonderful
Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen
Bow down before Him, for He is Lord of all
Sing hallelujah, Christ is risen

(chorus)
O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ
O come to the altar, the Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is neutral.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.8

  • polar: 0.2

A clear trend emerging. Christians’ favorite songs of 2017 start with them being broken, bad, failed, etc. and then redeemed by the murder of a willing but innocent man. I am a little surprised the analysis came up neutral, but given it doesn’t take into account the myriad problems with vicarious redemption. Singing negative lyrics about your state of being and positive ones about superbeings is not a net positive or even neutral and the concept of murdering the innocent in lieu of the guilty is a repugnant idea.

 

4. Control (Somehow You Want Me) By Tenth Avenue North
Here I am, all my intentions
All my obsessions, I wanna lay them all down
In Your hands, only Your love is vital
Though I’m not entitled
Still You call me Your child

God, You don’t need me, but somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me, somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life and the way it should go
Oh, God, You don’t need me, but somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me, somehow that frees me
To open my hands up and give You control
I give You control

I’ve had plans shattered and broken
I have hoped in, fall through my hands
You have plans to redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe

 

You want me
Somehow You want me
The King of Heaven wants me
So this world has lost its grip on me

Oh, give You control
Oh, I want to give You control
I give You control

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is neg.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.2
  • polar: 0.8
Polarity
  • pos: 0.2

  • neg: 0.8

Even putting aside this song was clearly written in a guilty but gushing fit for reading 50 Shades of Grey, this is one the more disturbing so far. “I’m not entitled”, “You don’t need me, but somehow You want me”, “You want me. Somehow You want me”, “Oh, give You control

Oh, I want to give You control, I give You control”. What terrible sentiments to repeat over and over. What terrible ideas to play to children. This song reads like someone needs to be placed in protective custody or a shelter because sooner or later god is going to take it too far and kill them. To anyone in BDSM, good on ya. Go for it, but I don’t get the sense that’s what is going on here. Repeating how great your abusive relationship is not positive.

5. Old Church Choir

There’s revival and it’s spreading
Like a wildfire in my heart
A Sunday morning hallelujah
And it’s lasting all week long

Can you hear it? Can you feel it?
It’s the rhythm of a gospel song
Once you choose it, you can’t lose it

There ain’t nothing
There ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy

(chorus)
I’ve got an old church choir singing in my soul
I’ve got a sweet salvation and it’s beautiful
I’ve got a heart overflowing cause I’ve been restored
No there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy
No there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy

When the valleys that I wander
Turn to mountains that I can’t climb
You are with me, You never leave me

There ain’t nothing
There ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy

(chorus)
I’ve got an old church choir singing in my soul
I’ve got a sweet salvation and it’s beautiful
I’ve got a heart overflowing cause I’ve been restored
No there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy
No there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy

Clap your hands and stomp your feet
Till you find that Gospel beat
Cause He’s all you’ll ever need
He’s all you’ll ever need

(chorus)
I’ve got an old church choir singing in my soul
I’ve got a sweet salvation and it’s beautiful
I’ve got a heart overflowing cause I’ve been restored
No there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy
No there ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is pos.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.2
  • polar: 0.8
Polarity
  • pos: 0.7

  • neg: 0.3

Finally. I would agree. This is kind of positive. There is still the element of restoration, redemption, salvation via someone else’s doing insinuating the author was bad or guilty and the relationship still very co-dependent, but overall the song’s mood is positive and focuses on upbeat and light hearted themes. It definitely comes off as a celebration of a feeling and reasonably healthy relationship.

6. O’ Lord By Lauren Daigle

Though times it seems
Like I’m coming undone
This walk can often feel lonely
No matter what until this race is won
I will stand my ground where hope can be found
I will stand my ground where hope can be found

Oh, O’Lord O’Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face this I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right

Your strength is found
At the end of my road
Your grace it reaches to the hurting
Still through the tears and the questioning why
I will stand my ground where hope can be found
I will stand my ground where hope can be found

Oh, O’Lord O’Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face This I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
(Right, so right)
Make it right
(Right, so right)
Make it right, right

I will stand my ground
I will stand my ground

I will stand my ground where hope can be found
I will stand my ground where hope can be found

Oh! O’Lord O’Lord I know You hear my cry
Your love is lifting me above all the lies
No matter what I face this I know in time
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right (take all what is wrong)
You’ll take all that is wrong and make it right
(Right, so right)
Make it right
(Right, so right)
Make it right, right

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is neg.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.1
  • polar: 0.9
Polarity
  • pos: 0.5

  • neg: 0.5

And after a brief reprieve, we are right back to self loathing, co-dependency, and putting all hope in outside forces. I would agree at the analysis’ split. The song is slightly repetitive and vapid. It doesn’t conjure any extreme or gratuitous metaphors of how terrible she or the need for redemption is, but she still clearly has a terrible view of her own self worth.

7. Different By Micah Tyler

I don’t wanna hear anymore
Teach me to listen
I don’t wanna see anymore
Give me a vision
That you could move this heart, to be set apart

I don’t need to recognize the man in the mirror
And I don’t wanna trade Your plan for something familiar
I can’t waste a day
I can’t stay the same
I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
In me

And I don’t wanna spend my life stuck in a pattern
And I don’t wanna gain this world but lose what matters
And so I’m giving up everything because

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different
In me

I don’t want to spend my life stuck in a pattern
I don’t want to gain this world but lose what matters
So I’m giving up everything because

I know, that I am far from perfect
But through You, the cross still says I’m worth it
So take this beating in my heart and
Come and finish what You started
When they see me, let them see You
‘Cause I just wanna be different, yea

I wanna be different
I wanna be changed
‘Til all of me is gone
And all that remains
Oh is a fire so bright
The whole world can see
That there’s something different
So come and be different

I just wanna be different
So could You be different
In me

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is neg.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.2
  • polar: 0.8
Polarity
  • pos: 0.3

  • neg: 0.7

Oy vey, anyone feeling positive yet? Feel hit after hit after hit, but not positive. It really is astonishing how these songs are mirror images in sentiment and codependency. This person doesn’t even have basic senses like hearing and sight outside of god.

8. Bleed The Same by Mandisa

We all bleed the same
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why we’re divided

Woke up today
Another headline, another innocent life is taken
In the name of hatred
So hard to take
And if we think that it’s all good
Then we’re mistaken
‘Cause my heart is breakin’

Are you left, are you right
Pointing fingers, taking sides
When are we gonna realize

We all bleed the same
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why we’re divided
If we’re gonna fight, let’s fight for each other
If we’re gonna shout, let love be the cry
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why we’re divided

Tell me who are we
To judge someone by the kind of clothes they’re wearin’
Or the color of their skin
Are you black, are you white
Aren’t we all the same inside
Father, open our eyes to see

Only love can drive out all the darkness
What are we fightin’ for
We were made to carry one another
We were made for more

We all bleed the same
We’re more beautiful when we come together
We all bleed the same
So tell me why, tell me why we’re divided
If we’re gonna fight, let’s fight for each other
If we’re gonna shout, let love be the cry
We all bleed the same
Let’s stand united, let’s stand united

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is neutral.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.7

  • polar: 0.3

I actually would rate this song positive in message. While the content is couched in bleeding and innocents being killed daily, the main thrust of the song is unity, love, and togetherness. These are ideals worth aspiring to and for the most part the ability is attributed to the listener, save the one comment on blindness, therefore empowering. The first positive hit. Well done…?

9. Broken Things by Matthew West

If grace is a kingdom
I’ve stopped at the gate
Thinking I don’t deserve to pass through after all of the mistakes I’ve made
But I heard a whisper
As Heaven bent down
Said, “Child, don’t you know that the first will be last and the last get a crown?”

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring You so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I am all Yours

The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use
It’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
The misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me

Grace is a kingdom
With gates open wide
There’s seat at the table just waiting for you
So, come on inside

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is neg.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.2
  • polar: 0.8
Polarity
  • pos: 0.5

  • neg: 0.5

Yep, about down the middle. The person is bad, sucky, and unworthy. There’s also a classist edge to the song. Beggars, bad. Prodigal, bad. Rebels, bad. Even the heroes are “misfit”. There are plenty of contexts those identities are not negative. God is super cool and nice and just swell. We’re shit We get it Positive Hits.

10. Reckless by Jeremy Camp

Everytime I try to play it safe
Holding back just a little part of me
I find myself forgetting what
I say that I believe
The promise of Your Word
Is all I need
I’ll lay my life down
And give it up

I’ll give it up

(Chorus)
I wanna be reckless
Cause You are endless
I wanna be shameless
And shout Your greatness
I will not be afraid
To surrender my way
And follow who You are
I wanna be reckless, reckless

I will lose my life
And just let go
Because I know this world is not my home
With fearless faith
I won’t be moved
Unshakeable inside Your truth
You laid Your life down
And gave it up
So I’ll give it up

(Chorus)
I won’t waste any more time
My life’s Yours it is not mine
Use me Lord no matter what’s at stake

 

Sentiment Analysis Results

The text is neg.

The final sentiment is determined by looking at the classification probabilities below.

Subjectivity
  • neutral: 0.2
  • polar: 0.8
Polarity
  • pos: 0.4

  • neg: 0.6

To cap if off we have someone relinquishing their life. This person is handing their life and mental autonomy to being that claims to have committed worldwide genocide via flooding, thinks justice is killing the innocent to save the guilty, creates earthquakes, hurricanes, and gives kids cancer. His “truth” is made of virgin birth, walking on water, and monotheism as a triune god.

In summary, the top 10 Christian songs of 2017 are clearly not positive. It would be safe to say many of them outline an abusive relationship if the person they were sung to was a significant other. To be fair, I ran the top 10 secular pop songs in 2017 and they had a similar result in the sentiment analysis. About the same neg to pos rate, but secular radio stations don’t claim to be positive, encouraging, uplifting, etc. the way Christian stations do. They just play hits, which is more true in their case than when Christians use that term.

The important difference is the reason they are rated negative. The songs were about relationship break ups, struggling up from the streets, and agressive sexuallity. In every song self respect, personal autonomy, and fighting for worth were hallmarks.

Struggle as a subject in art makes for great emotional fodder. We relate to it, are molded by it, and come together through it. There is no issue with enjoying many negative themes in art forms, but constantly repeating self deprecating codependence mantras shrouded in a myth of “positive” is nothing if not abusive and damaging. It should concern us a culture that 80 million Americans chose to listen and sing music that devalues their humanity and play it to their children to instil “good values”. This is a market based on beguiling the masses into thinking they don’t have enough worth to listen to their own cognitive dissonance.

These songs don’t contain good values. They are not appropriate for children. They are not Positive Hits.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.

 

 


Scenic 150 Ride to Save Lives

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“We conclude that blood lives of itself and that it depends in no ways upon any parts of the body. Blood is the cause not only of life in general, but also of longer or shorter life, of sleep and waking, of genius, aptitude, and strength. It is the first to live and the last to die.”

-William Harvey, 1651

         Of course we understand that’s not true, but Harvey knew something we all intuit. Blood is unparalleled in importance and defining of life; and death. We use it to invoke or posses birth, ancestry, optimism, loss, and passion. American Indian Tribes and Los Angeles gangs adopt it as their title and identity. We have used the word for 500 plus years, and it hasn’t lost its value or vitriol. We understand it to mean life. How pernicious, then, are diseases which pollute and corrupt our most lasting and meaningful representation of life?

           

By the time you’ve read to this point, it is likely someone in the US is getting the news they have a blood cancer. By the time you finish reading this blog, it is likely someone has died from blood cancer. These deaths will likely account for ~10% of all cancer related deaths in 2017. Absolutely appalling. That means, world wide, we will lose enough people to fill Lambeau over 9x in one year. That’s nearly 152x the personnel we lost in combat in all post 9/11 conflicts. They will be our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and children. Cancer does not care. It is an indiscriminate killer. Due to that, we aim to eradicate it. You can help.


Please donate $1, $5, $20, $1000; whatever you can afford and I will ride 150 plus miles along lake Michigan’s shore caring my tent and gear with me as I go. Those who know me, know this isn’t out of character riding, but keep in mind, those funds will likely save someone you love. They may even save you.

           Please donate even the smallest amount and help us save at least one more life this year. Thank you for your time.

-Dan Roberts

images

References

“Cancer Mortality”. Aicr.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

“Facts And Statistics | Leukemia And Lymphoma Society”. Lls.org. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

“‘Over 5,000 US Soldiers Killed Since 9/11’ – Marine Corps General”. RT International. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.

“Packers.Com | Lambeau Field – Stadium Info – History – Lambeau Expansions”. Packers.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 11 Apr. 2017.


Open Letter to Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman

This is an open letter in response to the comments made by Congressman Grothman regarding the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling. http://www.rawstory.com/2015/07/wisconsin-republican-says-marriage-decision-insults-christians-who-died-in-the-religious-civil-war/

Congressman Grothman,
I am a Wisconsinite and I recently heard your reaction to the gay marriage decision. I respect your candor and honesty, but you severely misrepresented Pres. Lincoln, the Civil War, and our nation.

Pres. Lincoln was almost certainly not a Christian.”The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.” — Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Joseph Lewis in “Lincoln the Freethinker”.
Clearly he held a public persona of faith, but as a politician I’m sure you can understand publicly holding a position you don’t personally believe.

The Civil War was not religious war. How dare you simplify the worst conflict in our history. Moreover if it was a religious war, what was the opposing religion? This was not Sunni vs. Shia or Catholics vs. Protestants or The Crusades. It was about states rights, taxation, independence, and slavery. Which brings up the fact Ministers were for slavery and used the Bible to justify limited rights of black people just as you seem to use the Bible against the LGBTQ community. Pastor Ebenezer Warren, in 1861, delivered a sermon entitled, “THE SCRIPTURAL VINDICATION OF SLAVERY”. It was published in The Macon Telegraph. In this sermon, this Christian Pastor speaking to, as you said, “a much more religious country”, said, “Both Christianity and Slavery are from Heaven; both are blessings to humanity; both are to be perpetuated to the end of time; and therefore both have been protected and defended by God’s omnipotent arm from the assaults, oppositions and persecutions through which they have passed.” This seems very similar to the persecution rhetoric Christians have been bandying about since the SCOTUS decision.

Lastly, you speculate the 620,000 Americans who died in that war would be appalled at the SCOTUS application of the 14th amendment. What reason do you have to assume those brave people would agree with you? There were certainly Liberals, Progressives, and homosexuals who died in that war. We are a nation of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Spiritualists, Buddhists, non-believers, and so on. Who are you to speak for those who died for what they believed? You called the judges “arrogant” and yet you claim to know the minds of dead heroes when you don’t even seem to understand the most basic reasons they fought in that great war. Pride goes before the fall Congressman. You are on the wrong side of history and some day someone will be quoting you to show how backwards and regressive our secular nation once was.
Signed,
Someone who believes Wisconsin deserves better


Big Sur and Monterrey Bay Aquarium Gallery

Sorry I haven’t had time to do a proper post, but this gallery will have to suffice in the mean time.


Madison To Portland

After a year of pinching pennies and planning, Beth and I set out for a 7,000 mile two month road trip. On June 21st we set out in a packed Honda Element from our home in Madison. Our first stop was Minneapolis to see friends and family. I jumped on my bike north of St. Michael, MN and rode to the Northeast District of Minneapolis to watch some friends win a softball game. I have heard the bike infrastructure in the city is fantastic, and was not disappointed. Well manicured trails wind through the city often ensconced in forest. It’s easy to forget you’re cruising through a city of 400,000. Many of the industrial buildings have large graf pieces and murals covering the rear of the structures bringing an added dash of color to an already beautiful trek. The quality of the art leads me to believe these are sanctioned pieces. All told I rode from the northern most point down to Eagan. The trails are dizzying at times. Each side of the road has its own trail and the areas around Ft. Snelling and the Minnehaha Falls are a weaving patch work criss-crossing one another. To someone unfamiliar it’s a bit difficult to navigate. Even the route navigation got confused. “Turn left, sharp left, then turn left.” Not terribly helpful GPS but thanks for trying. In any case what a great ride.

Home away from Home

Home away from Home

Next we hit Fargo, ND. The land flattened and the sky was rife with billowing cumulus clouds. We stayed with a friend who took us for drinks ranging from fine dining to holes in the wall. Fargo struck me as an average college town, but there seemed something more under the surface. It may not be on a list of destination you must see, but what great town. Under ranked in my mind.

We left the next day tearing across the whole of North Dakota in a day. The little four cylinder engine strained under its full load as we flew past fields and truck stops at 85 MPH. We crossed the Montana state line and arrived in Makoshika State Park. Never having heard of the place we were in for a pleasant surprise. It was like a verdant Badlands. With colorfully banded rock formations, bright birds, and fields of juniper and sage it was an aggregate of joy for the senses. We drove into the park climbing 15% grades on rutted gravel roads. Many of the roads could only accommodate one vehicle at a time. We found a camp site with good tree cover and a lovely sandstone formation. We positioned the tent the shade and read the names and words etched in the back of the stone.

Makoshika State Park. Photo Credit: Beth Crook

Makoshika State Park. Photo Credit: Beth Crook

As the sun set we hiked out on a grassy plateau to watch the sky streak with colors over a landscape similarly banded in brilliance. With no campers within eyesight we enjoyed a bottle of wine by the fire and turned in for the night, drifting off to sleep with the wind serenading us through the thick needles of the pine stand.

Sun falls across the rock the black K-T line clearly visible.

Sun falls across the rock the black K-T line clearly visible.

Waking the next morning in our little two person tent, sun streaking through the trees, we had the pleasant sage and juniper air greet our faces. There is no water in the park save at the ranger station, so after a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs with a spring mix wrapped in tortillas we made our way back down the winding dirt road in the truck. The ranger informed us we were allowed to hike anywhere. Yes, anywhere. We filled our water drove back up the trail hiking the shorter trails as we went. Natural land bridges, capstones, and a thousand variants of vibrant stone entranced us. Dinosaur fossils have been recovered in the park, and K-T mass extinction sediment layer is clear to the naked eye. If you hope to find the remnants of 46 million year old creatures, look below that black line belted through the rock formations. We stocked up on water and forayed into the wilderness. Horses sporting various brands met us at the trail head,

DSCF6465 DSCF6469flipping their heads when we came closer to the foals. Taking a wrong turn we struggled up eroding rock faces pulling our bodies up on sage and thorny brush as the loose ground crumbled under our weight. The landscape changes rapidly in a matter of yards. Some is a gray stone appearing soft but is actually sure ground. Next you step on copper colored stones that give way like marbles, and should you reach the top you find stands of pine, wind swept rock faces, and flowered sage prairie. The landscape is mesmerizing and disorienting. While the landscape is radically varied, it all somehow all looks the same. We kept close watch we didn’t lose visual contact with landmarks and orientation to the sun. After a few miles of trekking up and down the stone and sage we returned to camp exhausted, splintered, and satisfied. Once again we drifted off to sleep listening to the pines whisper to the chirping bats.

Capstone

Capstone

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Western Yellow-bellied Racer

Western Yellow-bellied Racer

The following morning we packed up the car and headed out missing the land almost before it was out of view. We tore across Montana all day enjoying the wide open skies and abandoned buildings and implements dotting the landscape whirring past. We arrived in Helena National Forest that evening and set up camp in the forest at a $5 camp site. It was stunningly peaceful. The mountains rose up around us as Moose creek bubbled not 20 feet from our tent.
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We packed quickly and thanked the creek for the soothing sleep sounds it gave us. It was time to drive through the mountains. Luckily the little four banger humming under the hood liked the high altitude and we purred through canyons, steep climbs, and switchbacks. I was amazed at the skill of the truckers maneuvering their heavy loads up and down massive elevations jake braking, shifting, and slinging tons of freight through the throngs of smaller faster moving vehicles. The mountains themselves were breathtaking blotting out of the sky and peril they present. Falling rocks, burnt sections of forest, and rushing rivers gave me perspective of what Lewis and Clark had to contend with as they crossed the same land in 1805. Men of true grit to say the least.

At last we broke out of range and land flattened giving both the car and our nerves some reprieve. We missed a turn at some point and were forced onto rural highways somewhere in southern Washington. The fact this was the first time we were lost since leaving Madison is remarkable to say the least. The detour gave us first hand knowledge of what a wild fire truly is. As we traced our way to tiny abandoned towns save a bar and filling station, we saw a haze on the horizon obscuring the mountains. Beth posited it was fog, but it seemed far to dry. In fact, if I were to write a book about the drive it would be called “50 Shades of Brown”. Nothing was green. Even the riverbeds were diminished to sand trails hinting that water had once been there. As we neared the haze we cleared a rise there and before us laid scorched earth as far as you can see. Water trucks and fire fighters prepped at staging areas, mobile LED signs redirected traffic from the affected areas, observation planes circled the sky, and acrid smoke wafted through miles and miles of sky. Fighting that fire seemed insurmountable, and yet brave men with small tanker trucks, water packs, picks and shovels drove across burnt expanses of dirt toward the thickening smoke. Truly brave. Truly heroic.

We planned to camp in the Maryhill State Park on the shores of the sprawling Columbia river, but the site was full of firefighters staging to go undoubtedly to the land we had just left. The Goldendale Observatory is located nearby and Beth and I were primed to see the rings of Saturn, green-blue-red nebulae, and arc of the Milky Way. We bought a day pass and enjoyed a picnic on the shores of the Columbia staring at the cliffs of Oregon on the opposite shore waiting for night to fall. Finally the sun sank low in the sky and we drove up from the river bed to the top of a nearby rise. The Observatory seemed quiet and uninviting. We parked and sauntered to the door. It. Was. Closed. We had been in the car for nine hours that day and crossed most of five states in the past couple days. We broke out in a sort of disgusted desperate laughter. As defeating as it was, the laughter brightened us and we stared out over the valley as we considered our options. We were a mere two hours from Portland. Being Maryhill was full our option was to sleep in the car at a travel plaza parking lot. The choice was clear. Portland or bust. We crossed into Oregon. The blackness of the mountains in the night made the bridge over the Columbia looked like a road to nowhere. We pushed through the night, moon glinting off the Columbia to our right, mountains looming black and ominous to our left, and Venus and Jupiter reflecting brilliantly in the sky above. Unshowered and shipped across 700 miles for 11 hours in a vibrating box we arrived met by hugs of friends and cool gin gimlets. Thousands of miles. A matter of days. Madison to Portland.


A Capitol Killing

By the Jail in Madison WI

By the Jail in Madison WI

Tony Robison’s killing by Officer Kenny was determined to be legal according Dane County DA. Police sent officers to Williamson St. in Madison WI on March 6, 2015 due to reports of a man (Robinson) darting in and out of traffic, and assaulting two people. Officer Kenny was the first on the scene, reported hearing a disturbance inside a home, entered and was attacked by Robinson. Tony pushed the officer hard enough to break the drywall. The officer then backed out the door firing his revolver seven times, hitting Robinson five times. Kenny performed CPR, but Robinson died at the hospital. Robinson was later determined via autopsy to have Xanax, psilocybin mushrooms, and THC in his system. Robinson was unarmed

Given the above details it’s hard to argue with Dane County District Attorney’s assessment this was a righteous shooting, or is it? Many Madisonians don’t seem to think so, holding multiple school walk outs, marches, and protests. So given that the boy was on drugs, dashing through traffic, trying to enter homes, and assaulting people including  an officer, why the civil backlash? Shouldn’t everyone thank Madison PD for keeping the streets safe from this menace?

The facts of case lack nuance and perspective. First off, Madison is one of the worst cities in the worst state of the Union for blacks regarding inequality. This fact makes Tony’s killing representative of all injustices suffered by the marginalized races of Dane County. It’s easily argued this never would happen if blacks were treated equally and given the same opportunities. This shooting also happened hot on the heels of events in Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, New York City, and Baltimore, MD where unarmed black men were killed by police. The pain of those unjust police killings serves to inform Madison residents more than the facts of this particular case. The pain of loosing a nineteen year old boy serves to inform Madison residents more than the facts of this case. To many people this case reflects the nation as a whole and the racism systemic in the DOC and Police.

If you come to Madison, the street where the most assaults occur is Langdon St., affectionately known as “Frat Row”. Here young white men can be seen most nights dashing about traffic on an array of drugs, fighting and cursing. The police are rarely called. Often they are present for these cavalcades of testosterone, and simply allow the boys to be boys making sure nothing gets too rough. I have personally seen this. For all the times the white men Tony’s age fought and cussed and acted inebriated in public, not one of them has been shot on Langdon. Not. One. Madison noticed this too.

Tony’s killing may have been “legal” but that doesn’t make it any less useful as a rallying cry to fight discrimination, systemic injustice, and inequality across the board. The fact is people are protesting the state of police relations with black people. They are protesting the state of inequality of black people in Wisconsin. They are protesting the absurdly high incarceration of black men. They are protesting money being spent on MRAPs and Bradley Vehicles instead of police training on how to deal with someone on Xanax, psilocybin mushrooms, and THC. The are protesting the Drug War and the pain and misery that comes with it. They are protesting for every person who has ever been marginalized, harassed, and hurt by the system. Tony Robinson just had to be legally killed for us to take notice.

The house where Tony as shot 9 times

The house where Tony as shot 9 times

Drive fast. Take Chances. Thanks for reading.

 

-Danger