This is not even an attempt at humor. This is dead serious.
And if you don’t take it seriously, you could die.
MY TOWN, MY TOWN
An international traffic consultancy, which had better remain anonymous, wonders why children don’t cycle to school in my home town. In the next pigeonhole of their report they show this photograph of North Main Street. Behind the photographer, up further, steeper, busier hills, there are four schools… On the other end of this road, the only road across the only bridge, there are four more schools… These international consultants tell us they made “a site visit”, that is, they came to look. (That must be their helicopter top right, giving a new meaning to “a flying visit”.) Still they wonder why children don’t cycle to school!
You don’t have to be an idiot to be an “international consultant”, but it certainly helps!
Among Andre Jute‘s sixty or so books is The Time-Life Conspiracy, which explains who committed the earlier electoral crime of giving over the politics of ideas to the soundbite universe of television, which at that time didn’t want it. You’ll be surprised at who did it.
In the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race at this point the musher runs along rolling low wooded hills and ridges, really quite pleasant, then the dog team crests one last forested ridge and enters the alien hell of the Farewell Burn. This is the grim remnant of Alaska’s largest forest fire, a million and a half acres burning in 1978, through which the race runs for 40 miles. Without trees, the sightlines are forever, and at night one can see the single light of the radar tower on the peak of Tatalina Mountain, near McGrath, a couple of days away by dogsled, seeming to stay eternally unreachable even at racing sled dog speed. While in it, the Farewell Burn seems to continue forever, without hope, like Purgatory. It is the all-too-real proof that after three days among the trees the Spirit of the Forest, Wendigo, drives men mad.
Andre Jute: The Farewell Burn, Alaska,
an Iditarod Trail painting, acrylic on card, 320x230mm, 2016
I made two of these paintings, mirror images, because I intend to use them as endplates for a sketchbook that I’m binding. The sketchbook is 300gr cotton watercolor paper, which is why I made the painting in acrylic. For further waterproofing I’ll also varnish both the front and the back of the cardstock before glueing it in.
Nash, one of Jeff King’s sled dogs, was killed by a drunken snowmobiler during the 2016 Iditarod. Here I’ve imagined the start of a sort of Iditarod Sled Dogs’ Mount Rushmore, with Nash just emerging from the raw rock as its first inhabitant. And didn’t one of the Colonel’s pound-find Iditarod dogs go to Mass with the Pope? It’s not such a bizarre idea at all!
2016 IDITAROD TRAIL SLED DOG RACE RESULT
1 Dallas Seavey, new record of 8d 11h 20m 16s
2 Mitch Seavey
3 Aliy Zirkle
4 Wade Marrs
5 Peter Kaiser
6 Joar Leifseth Ulsom
Congratulations all round!
A few points are worth making. This year I chose a likely top ten before the race. Five of the six finishers so far are in my chosen top ten. This isn’t magic.
The Iditarod is only for the hardest, most experienced and most persistent mushers. Even the presently dominant Dallas Seavey took ten years to become an “overnight star”, and before that he was in the Junior Iditarod, and before that he grew up in the mushing household of Mitch Seavey, another multiple champion, who this year came second and at stages looked like a possible winner. In short, Dallas has been preparing all his life to take a shot at the Iditarod championship. So what is surprising isn’t that experience counts for so much but that so many outsiders (Butcher, King, to name just two) came and conquered.
The two photographs of Aliy Zirkle (courtesy of the excellent Alaska Dispatch News) demonstrate my other point as well as words can. First the public relations shot: Doesn’t it just look like a carefree camping holiday, albeit a bit extended at a 1000 miles? And then the hard reality: Running a thousand miles behind a dog-sled in sub-zero temperatures, eight and a half days over a thousand miles to be even in contention. After subtracting 40 hours of mandatory rest for the dogs, that’s nearly 150 miles per day average including all other feeding and rest stops.
Dallas Seavey, into White Mountain at 0948, has left a wake-up call for 1430. He can leave, his mandatory 8hr rest expired, at 1748. Mitch Seavey, in at 1027, and Brent Sass, in at 1140, will be 39m and 1h52m behind him when they exit White Mountain.
Aliy Zirkle, out of Elim at 0924, is out of it unless there is an upset ahead of her. At this stage it looks like the rest of the top ten will be made up of Marrs, Kaiser, Leiftseth Ulsom, Burmeister, Petit, Johannessen, with King, Sorlie, Phillips, Beals and Baker pressing for a place, a hard-fought second tier.
At the head of the field, Mitch Seavey and Brent Sass have 77 miles to make up 39m and 112m respectively. But Dallas Seavey has only 9 dogs left, whereas Mitch has 12 and Brent has 13. Weather conditions, especially the wind, may count for as much as Dallas’s youth and strength, or so Mitch will hope. Brent must hope for an upset.
In his record year of 2014 Dallas Seavey left Shaktoolik on the Sunday morning at 1028. This year he left at 1027. That record year he left Shaktoolik with 13 dogs. This year he has 9. He says he likes a light team for a fast end run. However that may be, other top contenders, spotting a possible chink, will press Dallas hard, and that could lead to a new record, and possibly an upset too.
Others still on the trail from Unalakleet appear mostly out of contention, though there is still time for an upset to bring them back into play. Photos, from the top, D Seavey, Sass, Zirkle and M Seavey.
The last third of the Iditarod splits into three parts, of which the middle part is fixed and the final part can either be controlled by a dominant musher or deliver vast surprises, as in 2014, when first Jeff King and then Aliy Zirkle, in turn apparent champions, were overtaken by Dallas Seavey, who was staggering from fatigue.
Download the map from http://coolmainpress.com/iditarodcompmap.html and study it to grasp that from the Kaltag Portage onwards the rules of the Iditarod are stacked in favour of the front runners, which is why year on year there is now an expectation of a new record for the race.
Let’s take it from the middle of the three parts in the last third of the race. The rules mandate an 8hr stop to rest the dogs at White Mountain. This stationary moment at a fixed spot is the key in an otherwise extremely dynamic race.
From White Mountain to the victory arch in Front Street in Nome is 77 miles, not a huge distance in a thousand-mile race to gain any appreciable time on a highly competitive and motivated team. That’s why it took extraordinary circumstance for Dallas Seavey to win from so far behind in 2014.
While nothing in the Iditarod is certain — nothing except unpredictability! — mushers coming from behind can’t count on the weather breaking against the leaders but being just not bad enough to stop their good selves.
So, because of the short distance from the 8hr stop in White Mountain to triumph in Nome, and because of the strategic placing of this 8hr stop at White Mountain, mushers who wish to control the outcome, must reach White Mountain not only first, but with an adequate margin to ensure that teams faster than theirs cannot overtake them on the short run to Nome.
Let’s emphasize that: FIRST TO WHITE MOUNTAIN, WITH BREATHING SPACE
And that means they must start their home run at Kaltag — at the latest — 346 miles from Nome.
Unfortunately, every other musher knows (intermittently, from talk at checkpoints) when you make your break, and can respond.
So, as the Iditarod competition becomes more and more professional, the home run starts earlier and earlier.
This year, Dallas Seavey started his home run for Nome in the summer when he trained his dogs on a treadmill inside a 75ft long refrigerated truck.
In 2016, out of Kaltag it looks to be between Brent Sass, Aliy Zirkle and Dallas Seavey.
Out of Kaltag, 12 March 2016
1 Brent Sass 0820
2 Aliy Zirkle 1053
3 Dallas Seavey 1124
IDITAROD TRAIL SLED DOG RACE
Sass and Zirkle grab lead in Iditarod
10 March 2016 1620 Alaskan Time
Now it gets a bit confused. The starting time differential is taken into account during the mandatory 24hr stopover. The 8hr stopover must be taken on the Yukon, so Jeff King, taking his 24 hours in Ruby and officially the leader of the race until he is overtaken by Brent Sass, will take two mandatory rest periods relatively closely together between Ruby, Galena, Nulato and Kaltag, before the race turns away from the Yukon down
the Kaltag Portage.
Behind Brent Sass, the real leader of the race, the rest of the top ten will be determined by those who already stopped for their mandatory 24 hours, and whether those who served it at Ophir or before can overtake those who are serving it at Cripple before the Cripple crowd are released.
Even as I wrote this, Aliy Zirkle catapulted herself into second place behind Sass by blowing through Cripple in twelve minutes, and hour and a half behind Sass.
In theory any of the 85 runners can win but many know that just finishing the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is a higher accolade than is available in almost any other sport. Realistically, even with catastrophic lack of snow on the trail to create upsets, most literally and dangerously, the winner will come from fewer than twenty men and women.
For a start, remember this. The race is so dangerous that the organizers don’t let in anyone who doesn’t have substantial experience in lesser races, some of them as long, and some of them almost as dangerous. Though some are called “rookies”, there are no real rookies in this race. Everyone is experienced, and experience counts for a very great deal, which is how come there are so many middle-aged men among the champions and would-be champions.
Also, this is a sled dog race; the humans are there only to feed and tend the dogs. And dogs, unlike for instance horses, cannot be driven to work. If the dogs decide they’re tired or hungry or the conditions are too dangerous, they will lie down and the musher’s run will be over. It has happened, recently, to leading mushers. It can happen again.
Dallas Seavey has to be the odds-on favorite. He’s been in the top five five years in a row, with three victories and the race record. He’s a dominant musher, and you bet against him at your peril. It gets worse for every other musher. In years gone by, Dallas has “built his monster” (his own words) slowly and cautiously in the first part of the race, saving his team for a strong finish. This year, when every other musher was taking the summer off because it was too hot for the dogs to train, Dallas was building his monster inside a refrigerated truck on a treadmill long enough to take his entire team. If Dallas doesn’t need to build his monster, if he comes out of the starting blocks sprinting, he could win again.
Okay, so it’s Dallas Seavey’s race to lose. But there are a lot of hard men and women who would be only too happy to take the Iditarod away from Dallas if he makes the slightest misstep or misjudgment, for which an opportunity arises on the Iditarod every few seconds. Chief among the aspirants is Mitch Seavey, father to Dallas, himself a recent champion, and known for never giving up.
So who do I fancy for an upset? It won’t come as much of a surprise to those of you who’ve gone to the Iditarod with me a few times now that I’ve got my money on Joar Leifseth Ulsom, the Norwegian who has finished in the top ten in every Iditarod he has run, and Jessie Royer, who has five top-ten finishes, including three in the last four years, and five further top-20 finishes.
Some other young guns whose time has come, and that you should take a look at, are Brent Sass, Pete Kaiser and Nicolas Petit.
Also, you can’t discount huge depth of experience, including being champion or close runner-up, so given that they have depth in their kennels, I reckon Jeff King, Aliy Zirkle and Hans Gatt stand a good chance of featuring somewhere in the top ten.
Every year we also follow an outsider but this year I want to break that pattern and follow DeeDee Jonrowe in her 34th Iditarod. DeeDee has a stack of Iditarod awards and prize money, and as recently as 2013 she was tenth, but in 2014 she scratched and last year she was 31st. The question is, is she on the comeback trail this year?
Talking of comeback trails, we’ll also be looking at Lance Mackey. It wasn’t so long ago that he was joking about going straight from Champion to Red Lantern. The man has grace.
I first heard about the Iditarod in 1978 at a regatta in Seattle, when a journalist told me, “There’s a little race up in Alaska that is also tough.” I couldn’t resist going to look.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is the greatest athletic test in the world for man, woman or dog. It is roughly a thousand miles running across barren Alaska within spitting distance of the Arctic Circle.
The Iditarod is for a different order of hard folk, men and women alike; if no one has told you yet, men and women run the Iditarod on equal terms. If the foul weather doesn’t get you, and the dangerous animals don’t either, and you escape frostbite, and the rough trail doesn’t break your bones, you could win.
Fewer people have won the Iditarod than have climbed Everest.
One Frank Krygowski wrote on the cycling newsgroup rec.bicycles.tech:
> …a bigger problem is that Stevenage did nothing to actively
> discourage car use. By contrast, Dutch cities tend to make car parking
> rare and super-expensive, and they close direct routes to cars so car
> trips take longer than bike trips, etc. etc.
> It seems that as long as it’s easier to get into a car and turn the key,
> almost everyone will prefer to drive.
This is my reply:
Let’s forget for the moment that from close acquaintance we are unfortunately burdened with the sure knowledge that Frank Krygowski is a fascist asshole in each and every way imaginable, and on all observed occasions. For once read what Krygowski says carefully, don’t just dismiss it as “Oh, more Kreepy Krygo Krap, same-old, same-old”, because here Franki-boy is at last what he always wanted to be, a “spokesman for bicycles”.
If you close your eyes and you try hard to ignore Krygowski’s bullying breath on the back of your neck, you can hear those words coming from the mouths of so many cyclists, albeit more insidiously stated, it is almost a generic mantra.
It shouts, “Compulsion, compulsion, compulsion.” It raises its voice insistently, “I know what is best for you, and if you don’t do as I say, you will be forced to do as I say.” It grates, “You will conform to my worldview, or suffer the consequences.” All three of these are fundamental fascist attitudes.
It’s one reason people who could cycle if they wished to don’t want to, and instead drive their cars. Some of us believe that this offensive, self-assumed, unwarranted, fascist “superiority” of the “cycling cause”, as it is perceived, does more damage to the future of cycling than anything else.
Yes, I know, most cyclists don’t even notice because, in general, they’re environmentalists and other classes of those “liberals” whose intolerance of dissent, reason, debate and liberty are a sickening byword among intelligent people, and a huge part of the cycling community isn’t very bright, nor sensitive enough to observe how offensive their attitudes are to those with better manners and more tolerance. Instead they think motorists are out to get them. Paranoia comes with fascism, chaps.
It goes without saying that threats of compulsion won’t achieve the cycling nirvana. Persuasion and education was never even tried, and it is now too late to try them while the memory cone of the nastiness of Frank Krygowski and his like persists. It’ll be ten or fifteen years down the line—if no single cyclist spouts this nastiness in public during that time—before we get another chance. It takes that long to clear the air,
Today is a good day to start. Why am I not holding my breath?
Yes, I know, I’m speaking about a minority of abrasive cyclists. I appreciate the majority of cyclists who’re nice people. But I have news for you: you influence the perception of cyling among non-cyclists much, much less than the nasty minority. That’s just the way of the world.
Of course it is dull and overcast in Ireland most of the time, which is how come it remains the “green and beloved island”; maintaining greenery requires a lot of rain. But the light always has an eerie quality even when it is overcast, and when the sun shines can be as intense as the (colder) light on the Sahara.
Just outside my bedroom is a large landing under a skylight, where an overflow drying rack from my studio stands. I woke at dawn to see the sun shining through the skylight giving a monotone oil standing on the drying rack a definitely otherwordly quality.
Yves Klein noticed something similar about the light on the Mediterranean coast of France, and he too was into blue paintings. Perhaps I’ll teat myself and my fans to a blue period, though I’ll give jumping off buildings, which is how Klein actually became famous, or at least notorious, a miss as in my reckless youth I already jumped off the Town Hall in Stellenbosch holding an umbrella. Once was definitely enough!
Andre Jute: Sleeping Swan Mourning, River Bandon, Co Cork, Ireland
This swan normally lives in the deep pool above the weir, opposite the police station in Bandon. But this afternoon, presumably after a lunch of too many fat frogs, I found it catching a nap lower down the river. Despite appearances, it is safe enough, the little pebble island being entirely surrounded by water. The ducks and gulls which normally crowd this part of the river are far too experienced to come near such a large and dangerous — and, it must be said, bad-tempered — animal as this swan, which is alone, and very unpredictable, after its mate was killed by an escaped mink which some careless idiot imported.
Swans mate for life and if a mate is killed, don’t mate again. Since we had only one pair of swans, this is a tragedy for our river as well as for the surviving swan mourning its mate.
In the City of Light as dusk fell on 13 November 2015, Muslim criminals committed a vicious mass-murder of innocents who had done them no harm.
Andre Jute: Paris Mon Amour 13 Novembre 2015.
Ink and Wash, Approx 27cmsq.
Paris Mon Amour is my response. It is an ink and wash sketch for an oil painting, should anyone want to commission an oil. The sketch is approximately 26cm square but the oil could be any size up to two metres square.
The scene is in Montmartre. My apartment in Paris was behind the viewpoint, further up the steps. My driver would pick me up in the morning and in the evening drop me at the bottom of the steps for my exercise. Sometimes others using the steps more sedately would smile or even cheer politely as I ran up them in my pinstripes. It is the normality of that harmless routine life that I want to capture here at the very moment when it is shaken and threatened by alien thugs.
All artworks placed on the net are somehow processed, and the artist normally chooses the image nearest to the paper rendition, and agonizes over the compromise.
Here, instead of agonizing pointlessly if understandably, I’ve used the necessity of processing to make two different points with one piece of art. For the technically curious, the post-photographic computer processing was precisely the same for both versions, but I started with two differently lit photographs to create the difference; that too is a sort of computer processing, except that it happens inside the camera when one chooses parameters or presets. I love modern technology!
Andre Jute: Paris Mon Amour 13 Novembre 2015.
Ink and Wash, Approx 27cmsq.
The lights of our liberal society are going out in Europe, amid denial and appeasement, and blaming the victims, and crude reversals to anti-semitism, by our rulers, who claim to know better and clearly don’t. Our grandparents have seen this before during the rise of Hitler.
On Christmas Eve 1968 Yuri Andropov, soon to be Chairman of the KGB, returns home unexpectedly to discover an orgiastic party thrown by his son. In his own bed Andropov finds Babe Bibikov and Nadia Kerensky. Andropov calls for the files of his son’s friends…
These grandchildren of revolutionary heroes are high-flying students at the prestigious Institute of International Relations. Piotr, an old-style hardliner who believes that the glorious aims of Lenin’s revolution justifies any means, however base, is sponsored by the KGB and, even more sinisterly, by Marshal Kurusov of the Politburo. But Babe and Vladimir, even as students, are starting to grasp that communism has failed Russia.
Babe, Vladimir and Piotr all join the KGB. Vladimir shortly becomes an aide to Andropov and marries Nina. Babe distinguishes himself in Egypt and meets the CIA agent Hubbell Adams, whom he does not report to his superiors. His marriage to the supremely beautiful but selfish Nadia is strained by his questioning attitude which threatens their good life. On a boar hunt with grandfather Nikolai and Brezhnev, Sergei Kurusov and Andropov recruit Babe and Vladimir for a mysterious plan to regenerate Russia. Meanwhile Piotr is rising through the ranks of the spetsnaz, the most thuggish and loyal of Russia’s special forces.
Babe betrays Soviet machinations in Egypt to the Americans and in July 1971 defects to the US. Nadia returns to Moscow and becomes a ‘swallow’, using her body to extract secrets from diplomats. In the US, Babe is incarcerated in solitary confinement by the brutal CIA man Conrad Drexler (one of Nadia’s lovers).
The epic saga
of ten intertwined families
who live and die by their love of
their Russian and American motherlands
and the searing passions they
arouse in each other
FROM THE STORMING OF THE WINTER PALACE…
In the beginning they were impassioned young revolutionaries risking only own their lives for justice. The prince, the soldier, the peasant and the baroness became the founders of three families, steadfast in love and war, whose generations are enfolded in the sweep of humans and inhumans, inquisitors and victims, the betrayals of friends and family, the show trials of colleagues, the psychiatric tortures of dissidents, that was Russia under the Communists, right up to glasnost, when the fourth generation must answer the question, Was the result worth three generations of tragic suffering and sacrifice?
And the Americans who opposed them for liberty, the patrician Adams family, the refugee Hirches, the redneck Remptons who became political powers in the land, the McQueens who did not count the price of rising from smalltown mid-America to the highest levels of the nation, the Drexlers who had always served their country, the implacable Southern Hubbells who could — and did — threaten Presidents, and the clever Talbots whose shy Joanne married the handsome Russian who was the cleverest traitor of them all.
In his first novel for two decades, a storyteller who has always had a knack with the true history of men and women will touch your heart and thrill your mind with the risks these men and women took with their lives and their families for the ideals they were born to — which some betrayed, and some paid too high a price for in love, even with their lives.