Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekender: Mike Keneally Video

Ah, the great Mike Keneally, former 'stunt' guitarist with Frank Zappa. Here he doesn't play guitar. Really cool, really quirky song, and I think a really cool video.
Tomorrow, I'll be back with a very ranty Life Sentences, I think.
Hope you're having a great weekend. - mag

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weekender: Little Jack Melody Video

This is quite cool video from Little Jack Melody, a singer out of Denton, Texas, I believe. A number of years ago, he played at a wedding I attended in Gainesville, Florida, and the couple who were married that day are still married, which is great, and Little Jack is still playing.

Me? I'm neither married nor playing this weekend. - mag

Friday, February 26, 2010

Long Weekender: Repost of 'Ass In Translation'

Hey, folks. I'm taking some time to get my shit together this weekend - meaning I'm going to take a three-day break from Mag's Sentence. I'll be back for regular duty on Monday, March 1.

Meantime, here's one of my Xtranormal non-classics, which I repost just for the hell of it. - mag

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Can't Get No Worse

I’m all about happiness and light today. Fuckin-A. Slap me in the face. Call me a piece of shit. Take away all my shit. Take a shit on my driveway. I just don’t fucking care! I am so incredibly overjoyed about all aspects of my life. And I’m sure you are, too.

Okay then. Seriously. I’m happy. I mean, it has just taken me thirty minutes to type those words – not the first paragraph; the words ‘I’m happy’ – but now that I’ve typed them, wow, I guess I’m obligated to let the emotion course through my body. Admittedly, it’s not exactly coursing like the Niagara River through me or anything, but I definitely believe that a tiny, remote, abstract element of joy might exist somewhere in the fetid swamplands of my inner soul.

Happiness point #1: I have been bitching nearly nonstop about my Celiac Disease problem – about the gluten-free life, about my lifetime ban from the Five Dollar Footlong at Subway, and so forth – but I have to admit that a life sans gluten, at least for me, ain’t so bad. It’s not that a fellow can’t eat; it’s that a fellow can’t eat certain items. And the benefits of following the program are amazing: gastric improvement, mood improvement (doesn’t this make you sick?), weight improvement (or maybe that’s because I’m riding my bike a couple/three hours a day?). I mean, I feel fantastic, better than in years and years.

Happiness point #2: See #1.

Happiness point #3: There you go. I’m fresh out of happiness again.

Anyway, see that light socket in the picture above? It’s fucked up. It looks like somebody shit on it (imagine the logistics), but goddammit, that light socket still works. Screw a bulb in and we have light. I feel like that. I feel like life has handed my ass to me so many times and in so many ways and that it’s just going to keep handing my ass to me. Like in the old joke: It’s Life 42, Magnuson 0. And Life’s lining up to kick another field goal. But what can a person do? Quit?

Let’s hear a big goddam HELL NO, people! We ain’t quitting.

Meantime, a couple of Mag’s Sentence announcements: Mike (that would be me) has got huge stacks of work piled on his desk the next few days. He is considering a three-day hiatus from Mag’s Sentence in order to complete his professional mission. Of course, he is not considering taking a few days away from his bicycle, which will go to show you where Mike’s priorities lie.

In other words, if I post some grammatical nonsense tomorrow, look for it later in the day. If nothing appears, please don’t leave me forever!

I’m thinking about reviewing books on Mag’s Sentence, too. Sound like a stupid idea? I mean, since I can’t hardly read in the first place?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Boy Genius?

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday, which proves a couple of interesting points. 1) I have a few friends, something you might find odd given my predilection for polemical ranting and in general embarrassing myself in grating, non-friendly ways. 2) I have an email address, which means you can contact me if you want, provided you have my email address, and goddammit, Magnuson, why aren't you publishing your email address on Mag’s Sentence? [We don’t have a reasonable answer, except for maybe we wish you’d leave comments?] So yeah, this friend of mine emailed me because I had emailed him and informed him that his taste in literature was veering dangerously into a low-brow, even-the-easy-stuff-seems-amazing state. I don’t know why I felt the need to correct his taste, probably because I like the guy and don’t want him to live his life under the wrong impression about what’s shit and what’s shinola, but I do know why he emailed me with the following comment, which I hereby paraphrase for clarity: “Fuck you. If I like it, I like it.” He also added something of this nature: “Go grade a paper or something.”

He’s probably right. Shit. I guess whatever turns one’s crank is whatever turns one’s crank. And if a book like Jonathon Livingston Seagull was once a bestseller that must mean it’s good, right? (My friend’s taste doesn’t run that far a-foul, as it were, but he’s well on the way). This reminds me of an argument I had with somebody about music years ago. I’ve always been into instrumental music, which by definition is not music a corporation has packaged for lowest-common-denominator public consumption in the darkest, most ignorant quadrants of the Midwest. I’ve always admired a certain type of virtuoso musician, too – Steve Morse, John McLaughlin, Eric Johnson, Frank Gambale, and so on – the type of musician who almost automatically creates revulsion in your hardcore Bob Dylan/Merle Haggard types because, as those types are always happy to point out, it’s about the song, Magnuson, not about the music. This argument – you can already guess – is as unresolvable as an argument about religion. Anyway, years ago, when Rick Springfield had his megahit “Jesse’s Girl” – a nice song, I guess, in 4/4 time, with lyrics that connect with any young person who’s ever felt a sense of jealousy and longing (I’m puking over here, in case you didn’t know) – I was deep in admiration of Frank Zappa’s three-disk record Joe’s Garage, on which there are no nice songs (at least in the what-sells-in-the-Midwest sense) and the time signatures are incredibly challenging and the music is hard to play and goddammit the album is a monumental and difficult masterpiece. So Rick Springfield had a huge hit, and somebody said to me, “Look, Magnuson. Rick Springfield is a way better musician than Frank Zappa. Who the fuck listens to Frank Zappa? Everybody is listening to Rick Springfield.”

I can’t relive that moment anymore. It’s too painful. Rick fucking Springfield. Goddam.

Oh well. I saw the future yesterday. And I have hope. I was walking my dog around the reservoir in Silver Lake late in the afternoon, and a women approached from the opposite direction pushing a baby stroller. The woman seemed nice, smiling in a nondescript way, but the baby, a boy, not eight months old, held a book in his hands and did not look nice at all. The book was right-side up and was not a children’s book (though I didn’t catch the title), and I swear to God this eight-month-old kid was reading this book, an adult book, with full comprehension and with the furrowed, thoughtful brow to go along with it. I wanted to stop his mother and say, “Is your boy a fucking a genius, or what?” But here in Silver Lake, we don’t do that sort of thing. We’re civilized. Still, I know that boy is the answer. I am going to sit tight for a few years and refrain from forming any opinions about anything, and when the boy’s ready to talk, I will be ready to listen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Big Heart?

On Sunday afternoon, we found Mike Magnuson wandering in Elysian Park without a bicycle, without his dog, and apparently without his wits. He didn’t seem to recognize us or our operative with whom he has carried on rather extensive discussions on several occasions heretofore. He knew where he was, something we only determined by asking him directly. We said, “Do you know where we are?” He said, “Does anybody really?” We said, “We mean in Los Angeles.” He said, “Elysian Park, home of police brutality.” He pointed over his shoulder where, indeed, a police officer was in the process of ruining the lives of two twentysomething skateboarder hipster/douchebag types who had arrived moments before in a very hipster-looking, very old-school white 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco II and stepped out of this classically useless car with open cans of Natural Light in their hands. The hipsters were no dummies; they set their cans secretly on the curb under the car’s front bumper before they strolled to the overlook to admire the view; but the police officer was no dummy, either: He looked under the car’s front bumper.

Operative: What’s going on over there?

Mike Magnuson: Those dipshits are getting fucked.

Operative: What did they do?

Mike Magnuson: Open container in a public park. Probably drinking and driving, too. Probably possession of marijuana before it’s all over.

Operative: That upsets you?

Mike Magnuson: Look at those guys. Helpless hipsters. They’re not criminals. And what are they getting busted for? Open beer cans?

Mike Magnuson stared into the distance, toward Pasadena, and his eyes misted over. He had to take a moment to pull himself back together.

Operative: Are you okay?

Mike Magnuson: It’s not fair, is all. I hate it when the police hassle innocent Hipster Douchebags like this.

Operative: Really?

Mike Magnuson: Just look at that bullshit.

We looked. We didn’t feel too badly for these guys. Sign says no open containers in the City Park. Law says don’t drive a 1982 Volkswagen Scirocco II with an open Natural Light between your legs. But for Mike Magnuson, the injustice was too much. Who knew he had a big heart like that? Since when has he been sensitive to the plights of douchebags? Maybe it's because one of the douchebags looks a lot like Floyd Landis?

Monday, February 22, 2010

To Live and Train in L.A. #4

Blurred photo of Mag's current USA Cycling racing license.
He has, um, 'signed' with Team Heckawee for the 2010 Season.

This news comes as a shock to me: They’re not all assholes. And if they’re not all assholes, this must mean that I’m not an asshole all of the time.

You are thinking, “Mike Magnuson, you make about as much sense as the Women’s Studies Department at Duke ordering the WWE Wrestlemania XXVI pay-per-view package and reserving the Chemistry Department’s conference room for Sunday, March 28, to watch the matches live and in their entirety.”

You are correct: It doesn’t make sense.

I ride my bicycle in a state of fear here in Los Angeles. You know that. The insane traffic on the roads. The sketchy serial-killer types lurking in the woods of Elysian Park. Or the slobbering triathletes bombing toward me on the L.A. River bike path, hunched in their aerobars, wild-eyed, and unable to steer their bicycles and avoid a major crash in the event of a pothole. Not to mention, because I’m a pussy deep down, I’m always living in fear of getting dropped by superior human beings, racers whose idea of a light spinner involved jamming down the L.A. River Bike Path at 27 miles an hour. Much of this, I’ve said before, owes to riding alone and consequently to thinking too much when I ride alone. Cycling, it’s no secret, is a group activity, and without the group, cyclists tend to meander mentally into a sort of 21-miles-per-hour-in-the-flats derangement or, as in my case, a 15-mile-per-hour, cyclocross-bike-where-a-road-bike-is needed derangement.

So Saturday afternoon, I effected a couple of changes. First, I got my road bike up and running – you know, one of those bikes with skinny tires? (I don’t think my buddies at 420 Cycling approve) – and second: well, there really wasn’t a second thing. I took my road bike down the hill to the L.A. River Bike Path and pointed in the direction of Griffith Park. This stretch of path, incidentally, is 4.4 miles long and dead flat except for a bike bridge that passes over Los Feliz Boulevard; you can pedal the entire stretch of path without having to coast; and pedestrian and bicycle traffic is extremely minimal. In other words, it’s a great fucking place to ride bikes in the city, and the people you do see cycling out here tend to be on the more fanatical, knowledgeable side of the spectrum. When I accessed the path, I saw a fellow on a Cervelo turning around and heading back for another 4.4 mile stretch, but I wasn’t warmed up yet and I let him go. Five minutes later, a group of four cyclists pulled up on me – they were on a ride that had started in Pasadena and were working together in a very sensible paceline. I shadowed this paceline for a minute or two, till I finally asked, “Do you guys mind if I fall in?” Sure enough, they didn’t! And for the first time in at least six months there I was, pulling through, holding my line steady, et cetera. We went up and down the stretch of path three times each way, 26.4 miles of pacelining, then they rode back from whence they came, and so did I. We didn’t talk much during this period – we were concentrating on spinning and on maintaining an even formation – but the atmosphere, the vibe, the whatever you may call it, was really, really positive. The old saying is true: When the racers aren’t in a race, they’re the nicest people in the world you could ever ride with.

I think back to riding laps on the bike path in Encino this summer, in Balboa Park, where not one fucking person would say hello or work together trading pulls, and I wonder if maybe I was encountering rich assholes, with expensive bikes and no racing license? Or maybe, hell, this city-cycling shit’s just gonna take a long time to figure out.

Meantime, I’ve got nothing to do later this afternoon, so I guess I’ll be on the road bike, doing the math require to improve my understanding.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekender: Frank Zappa Plays Bicycle on the Steve Allen Show

This is really worth watching all the way through. In my opinion, if you mix these elements - Frank Zappa, bicycles, and percussion - you have achieved perfect entertainment!

Have a pleasant, productive Sunday. - mag

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Weekender: Ruth Underwood Interview: Dweezil, too!

This is a really interesting interview with the legendary Ruth Underwood, percussionist for Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. I can't help getting misty-eyed when she plays "St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast" after so many years away from her instrument. Wow!

Hope you're having a nice weekend. -mag

Friday, February 19, 2010

Life Sentences #9

Still Life of Males in Liberal Arts Academia

Ah, the hallowed halls of higher learning. It’s no secret that some of the most incompetent dipsticks ever to wander this planet have secured themselves fulltime, tenured positions at various prestigious universities across this fair land and, nay, across this fair planet. There’s a few brilliant people in the higher-learning mix, true enough, but ‘a few’ isn’t the same thing as ‘a lot.’

I really want to joke about this, about the mass-scale foolishness at universities and colleges, about the people who were once the subject of ridicule on the playground who now have positions of power, who are on committees that decide other people’s futures, often not based on the person’s merit as an intellectual but on the person’s personality, which is a sort of sick way the people in power have of getting back at the ‘cool’ people in high school who didn’t let them into their ‘cool clique’ or whatever, but then again, sometimes this problem isn’t funny at all. Last week – you can’t have missed this in the news – a professor who was being denied tenure at a university in Alabama shot and killed and wounded a number of people who were instrumental in denying her tenure. Deplorable act, for sure. Murder is never a way to solve a problem. But I’m honestly surprised this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often. The professorate in higher education is constantly trying to fuck each other over, to get a leg up on somebody, to bring somebody down, to exert power and to prove superiority in an environment where, at least in the quantitative sense, there’s no real way to prove superiority or to prove inferiority. There is not one academic department in this country wherein several groups of people don’t hate each other’s guts to the point where they avoid each other in the hallways or in the local grocery stores or they literally choke on their lamb chop when their academic enemy’s name is mentioned during a dinner party. Professors, you see, become their own administrators, and what does a professor of English Literature or Mathematics or Biology know about administration? They certainly haven’t received formal training in administration, yet there they are, in charge. In any case, at no point in academic life does this professor-against-professor situation come to a boil more than during the promotion process. It’s factional. It’s personal. It’s hateful. The merit of the person up for promotion is not nearly as important as the manner in which the person up for promotion has fit into the political system of the department. People’s lives routinely get thrown over the side in the process – people with children and mortgages and responsibilities as human beings that extend far beyond the institution where they happen to have a position, an institution that most people in the country probably have never heard of. Last Friday, the nature of the process changed. A professor took out a gun and started shooting. It’s a shame. But the system that produced the tragedy is a shame, too.

Holy soapbox, Magnuson. What brought that on?

Excuse me. I’ll try to stick with cycling issues in the future.

Anyway, the sentence of the day demonstrates not only the kind of petty bullshit that goes in higher education but also an excellent sentence-structure element known as the object complement. As you might guess, an object complement is similar to a subject complement in that it expresses an equivalence – essentially, this thing is like that thing.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

The sentence of the day:

In an English Department meeting, a Distinguished Female Professor called a Distinguished Male Professor a Neanderthal.


In an English Department meeting (prepositional phrase functioning as adverbial), a Distinguished Female Professor (the subject of the sentence, also a noun phrase, also, given her behavior, probably not an accurate title for her position at the university) called (transitive verb) a Distinguished Male Professor (the object of the sentence, also a noun phrase, and also, to keep this bullshit equal, probably not an accurate title for his position at the university) a Neanderthal (the object complement, meaning it expresses a this-is-that equivalence with the direct object, which is something even a goddam Caveman can understand).

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Operative: So what do you do for a living?

Mike Magnuson: I avoid dying.

Operative: What does that mean?

Mike Magnuson: Look, why don’t you ask me something else? Why don’t you ask me if I’m happy?

Operative: Okay then. Are you happy?

Mike Magnuson: That’s a ridiculous question.

Operative: Well. Are you?

Mike Magnuson: I’ve got a number of reasons not to be. I’m 46 years old. If a person at 46 years of age is completely happy, completely without regret, completely positive about everything, my guess is we’re looking at a stupid person.

Operative: Does this mean you’re not a stupid person?

Mike Magnuson: There are certainly degrees of stupid, many of which I attain, which is to stay I’m a top-flight idiot just like most people, but I’m talking about stupid in the par-excellence way, as in the most advanced form of stupid: people of the sort who always say everything’s wonderful and have the fake smile and read Ayn Rand novels in the belief that Ayn Rand has actually written good literature.

Operative: Why does Ayn Rand come to mind?

Mike Magnuson. I should have said Virginia Woolf. I read Virginia Woolf and am filled with a strong desire to get myself a tropical fishtank rig and stare at the fish for the rest of my life instead of reading. Because there ain’t no question that staring at tropical fish is more interesting than reading Virginia Woolf.

Operative: You realize many people could take offense at that?

Mike Magnuson: Fuck em. Okay. I’ll take that back. If people like whatever they like, that’s cool with me. There are other things to worry about than people’s taste in books. Like yesterday, I was riding my bike on the L.A. River trail and saw a police helicopter circling a mile or so up, and I could hear sirens, a lot of them, converging in that direction. Needless to say, I stomped on my pedals and tried to get to the action as quickly as I could. They were across the river – maybe a dozen squads and some unmarked cars – and easily 50 officers – and it looked like they had somebody trapped in a house and were trying to flush this person out into the open. Officers were surrounding the property, hiding behind trees, with their weapons drawn, and in front, it looked like some officers were attempting to bash in the front door of the house without the same success that officers have on TV cop shows. It went on like this. The cops in front bashed the door. The cops in back were ready with the weapons. Finally, the cops in front made their way in. I didn’t hear shots, nor did I see the cops emerge with whoever they were after. The helicopter flew away. The officers holstered their weapons. And I got back on my bike and kept riding.

Operative: Wow. That’s Los Angeles for you.

Mike Magnuson: I guess so.

Operative: But what does that have to do with Virginia Woolf?

Mike Magnuson: Not one goddam thing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When You Say ‘G.I.,' You Don’t Mean ‘Joe’


This Celiac Disease/no gluten breaks what’s left of your spirit. There are entire isles at Ralph’s stocked full of food you should never eat again: Triscuits, Wheat Thins, Rye Crisps, Saltines, Brownberry Ovens Natural Wheat Bread. And what about Pepperidge Farm Cookies? And what about life with no Five Dollar Footlongs from Subway? These days, you burst into tears when you hear the “Five Dollar Footlong” song. Maybe this means you won’t make it. Maybe you’ll end up accepting the fact that your favorite foods turn your G.I. system into theatrical recreation of the Bataan Death March. You’ll say, “I'm tough. I can take the pain.” You’ll eat what you want for the rest of your life. Your shit will be totally fucked up, but then again, whose isn’t?

The plus side of Celiac: Thousands of blogs exist on Celiac. And there are associations you can join. Cookbooks you can buy. Recipes you can obtain for free. You can have your picture taken next to a huge sign that says GAS or BLOATING or DIAHREEA. And you can share this picture with your friends. You can make cookies that probably taste like the bad shit you’re trying not to take, and you can tell people they were excellent.

You can say to all the people who over the years have called you a pussy because you’ve got a sensitive gastric system, “Hey, fuckers. I was born with this shit problem. You want me to stop talking about it?” And you can rail on them for their complete lack of human understanding. You can improve your mood this way. You can feel as if you’re exacting revenge on the brutal world that has consigned you to a lifetime of bloated, flatulent misery.

And you can stay home and drink your goddam gluten-free lunch out of a cup. You can consequently take the best shits of your life and feel a great calm spreading across the wastelands of your undersides. You can become the Bodhidharma of the bathroom if you want. But will this make you happy? Will you find peace in this?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

To Live and Train in L.A. #3

We’ve got the steep hills, the amazing human diversity, the ceaseless vehicular traffic, the sirens wailing, the helicopters circling overhead, and sometimes, like last week, we have two rainbows rising from Elysian Park, perhaps from the epicenter of the Los Angeles Police Academy, where L.A.’s future finest spend their afternoons on the firing range. I’ve been riding my cyclocross bike in that direction a couple of days a week, in the direction of the rainbows and the gunfire and the memory of myself as a young person, two million years ago, when Elysium meant something profound to me, not because I had seen cartoons of the Underworld in graphic novels but because I was on a quest to find the root of all stories in the Western World and since the root of all stories is the end, the place where the heroic dead spend eternity, the Elysian Fields, seemed like a good enough place to begin.

Elysian Park maybe isn’t so heroic, not for me. I’m looking for a training grounds, a place to hurt myself a few times a week between easy spinners, and training, I don’t care who you are, isn’t all that heroic (there are people who believe training is heroic, but who wants to hang around with those folks anyway?). The park is just shy of 600 acres and is home to the Los Angeles Dodgers – not to mention to the police academy and their pistols – and I’m fairly certain that you couldn’t ask for a better place to ride a cross bike, in an urban environment, anywhere in the world. The roads are potholed and nasty; there are several astonishingly bitching renegade mountain bike trails (my guess is there are dozens of trails like this); there are wooden staircases that top out on dirt paths; and of course, you are always climbing or descending through what feels like near-wilderness conditions, despite the skyscrapers of downtown L.A. looming in the valley below. In three words: It’s fucking awesome.

But here’s my worry. I’m riding alone – friendless and witless, as they say. And note this description of the park provided by the City of Los Angeles: “The park is unstaffed, unlocked.” So we have 600 acres of trees and hills and hidden places all maybe two miles from downtown – no security people, no control of the perimeter – and what do you expect from an environment like that? 100% wholesome citizens, smiling and waving and offering a guy in spandex encouragement while he grinds his way up steep climb and dismounts and runs a staircase and careens off into the woods? Definitely not. I’m overplaying my country-boy qualities here – at least a little – but I’ve seen dozens of weird-with-a-capital-O folks wandering around on those trails. They’re not the run-of-the-mill, mental-illness-type homeless people who are along the L.A. River pushing carts; the weird-Os of Elysian Park arrive in cars and they’re up to something untoward, I’m damn certain, but I’m not yet certain what.

For the moment, I remain on a research/recon mission in Elysian Park; the riding is simply way too good there not to go regularly. Tell you what, though – I have to find some people to ride with. I’m starting to feel a little kooky alone, with my imagination, on my bicycle.

Monday, February 15, 2010

He's Either Really Boring Or Really Crazy

Mag’s Sentence spent another relatively fruitless weekend conducting surveillance on Mike Magnuson’s home. Either he knows we’re watching him and is keeping as low a profile as possible or he’s a dull, routine-bound middle-aged man who simply never does anything exciting or worthy of note. Our current thinking tends toward the latter, duller interpretation. The guy puts the mono into monotony, if you dig what we’re saying.

Consider his weekend: Saturday, he walks the dog at seven a.m. Forty-five minutes. Then he disappears into his house. At noon, he walks the dog again. Thirty-minutes. Then he returns with a couple of plastic bags from Ralph’s. At two p.m., he leaves on bicycle, wearing shorts with a hole in the back. Three hours. He returns sweaty and momentarily disoriented, and we send our operative up the street to engage Mike in casual conversation.

Transcript follows (edited for clarity):

Operative: What’s your favorite book?

Mike Magnuson: The one I’m not reading.

Operative: Why?

Mike Magnuson: Exactly.

Operative: What’s your favorite movie?

Mike Magnuson: Patton.

Operative: Really?

Mike Magnuson: No.

Operative: What’s wrong with me?

Mike Magnuson: You.

Operative: You don’t know that.

Mike Magnuson: I don’t.

Operative: When will I know?

Mike Magnuson: You won’t.

Operative: Will I know when I won’t know?

Mike Magnuson: You won’t.

Operative: What’s the point of asking you questions?

Mike Magnuson: On my bike ride this afternoon, I ended up doing hill intervals in Forest Lawn cemetery – you know, the place where Michael Jackson and a number of other people are buried. I would charge up the road that climbs westward after the park entrance and would really try to kill myself all the way to the top. I’m not climbing very well lately – probably today I maintained the identical rate of speed as a circus bear might on a unicycle (well under the park-wide speed limit of fifteen miles per hour) – but the point of such an interval is not the speed but the duration of exertion and of course the feeling of killing myself without actually joining the thousands of dead people lining the road on the way to the top. Mourners lined the road, too. The living. Old ladies picnicked for the day by graves and burned incense. Groups of people in black surrounded holes with the dead just put in them. Some of the mourners arrived and departed in black cars that I believe they own expressly for the purpose of attending funerals – that’s how goddam wealthy people can be around Los Angeles, at least before they take their place in the ground at Forest Lawn cemetery. No one looked at me when I huffed and puffed and sloughed up that hill five times in a row. Not one cyclist was anywhere in the park, let alone doing intervals. So here’s a question to answer your question: Do you think I’m disrespecting the dead by doing intervals in a cemetery?

Operative: Why do you think I’m qualified to answer that?

Mike Magnuson: I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.

Now, can you make any sense of that? We sure can’t.

On Sunday, Mr. Magnuson’s schedule was exactly the same as Saturday’s – to the minute.

We still believe he’s up to something he shouldn’t be doing, but for the moment, we have no idea what that might be. Could be that boy is plain crazy in the coconuts.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weekender: Harry Partch Documentary, Parts 4 through 6

The rest of the Partch documentary. The music is amazing, no? And don't you want to be more like Harry when you grow up?

News from the Mag's Sentence mini-compound: Resting and riding my bicycle (that's a form of resting) today. Stay tuned for a very weird post tomorrow. - mag

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weekender: Harry Partch Documentary, Parts 1 through 3

If you don't know about Harry Partch, this documentary will get you up to speed. In my opinion, Harry signifies something in art that goes beyond art, which is to say you don't have to make art the way people expect you to make art; you have to make art to correspond to your personal vision. I'll post the other three parts tomorrow. Meantime, I'll be back on Monday with the usual derailleur-inspired grammatical nonsense. - mag

Friday, February 12, 2010

Life Sentences #8

Possibly ‘inspired’ by Marcel Duchamp. Inspired in any case.

Once upon a lousy time in college – could have been most any day I was in the vicinity of a college: could have been when I was teaching at a college instead of attending one: it all blurs into a sort of cooperatively ignorant haze in my memory – I heard someone talking in the English Department hallway about verbs, about how verbs were all about action and wow, a life without action in it simply isn’t a life! Total bullshit. Consider this sentence, which is what I should have said to that person in the English Department hallway: You are a dumbfuck. Are is your goddam verb all right, but where’s the action?

Speaking of which, my mind wonders toward progressive verbs lately, if only because ‘progressive’ is a word that seems regularly to annoy the double-chin crowd over at Fox News. How much you wanna bet Fox News would support a ban on progressive verbs in the nation’s universities? Of fucking course they would. They’d be wasting their jowly wind-bags, though: most universities aren’t teaching progressive verbs in the first place because progressive verbs, as it turns out, aren’t very progressive after all. Progressive verbs – like journalists used to be back in the day, back when journalism was really journalism – summarize activity better than they specifically express an action.

Prime example (not from Fox News, obviously): Mike is stuffing his rear wheel in the toilet. Is stuffing is our happy little present-progressive verb, and if you think about this conjugation, you can see that it doesn’t isolate one instant in time. If you ask the question What’s Mike doing? and receive the answer He is stuffing his rear wheel in the toilet, you can conclude logically that it’s going to take more than an instant to stuff that wheel in. Is stuffing, therefore, refers to a collection of instances working together in concert as an activity not an individual action. The simple present tense – stuffs – is the verb we have for precise action. Mike stuffs his rear wheel. That implies a nice, neat, complete action with no hard feelings afterward. We want that. More than anything.

Lordy. Getting scary around here, ain’t it?

Oh, and if we’re bored, which we apparently are, we can shift through time and space with progressive verbs, too.

Backward: Mike has been stuffing his rear wheel. See how present perfect progressive (which we now know is more than a mere member of MoveOn.Org) actually moves backward in time and summarizes an activity leading back into the present moment?

So because today is Friday, because I’ve got a shitload of work to do this weekend, not to mention riding bike and walking dog and watching Olympics and perhaps, in a Viking ritual involving fire, separating animal flesh from animal bone, I’m all about looking forward.

Behold, the future perfect progressive:

Sentence of the day:

By Monday morning, Mike will have been stuffing his rear wheel in the toilet for forty-eight hours.


By Morning morning (a time marker, a prepositional phrase functioning as adverb), Mike (our always-willing subject) will have been stuffing (transitive verb, present perfect progressive tense) his (indirect object) rear wheel (direction object) in the toilet( prepositional phrase functioning as adverb) for forty-eight hours (another motherfucking time marker, another prepositional phrase that functions as an adverb).

Further analysis:

I love bicycle wheels. In case you didn’t know that. I’m pretty sure ‘dumbfuck’ is one word, too. Fifty-percent sure, anyway.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Strange, Reclusive Figure

Tuesday, February 9, 2110, somewhere on the streets of Los Angeles.

Mag’s Sentence has been conducting an ongoing investigation into Mike Magnuson – keeping him under 24-hour surveillance, trying to verify if he’s actually riding his bike every afternoon (he leaves his house on a cyclocross bike, usually at three p.m. PST, and returns a couple of hours later, but we’re not sure he’s riding the whole time he’s gone); trying to verify if he’s working at his desk the twelve hours a day he claims to be working (from our vantage point on the street outside his home, we haven’t been able to ascertain the location of his study or whether he’s occupying his study: when he’s not gone with his bike, he’s in the building somewhere, is all we know); and trying to verify if he’s staying away from gluten (for the last week, we haven’t found any Jack in the Box bags in his garbage, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t sneaking hamburgers on buns somewhere else? Perhaps on his bike rides?). This investigation of Mike Magnuson, it’s worth pointing out, has been extremely difficult, especially when cameras are present – he flies into violent rages when someone tries taking a picture of him. The photograph above was taken by one our of employees – from a distance of two hundred yards. Fortunately, Mike Magnuson was taking out his garbage at the time and exchanging pleasantries with his neighbors, who had gathered in the street to admire a lovely rainbow that had formed as the Tuesday’s rains were passing from the city on into the mountains, so Mr. Magnuson didn’t see our photographer.

Shortly after that photograph was taken, we sent an operative walking up his street, with orders to stop and engage in a brief conversation with him, so we could assess his general demeanor. Our operative reports that Mike was wearing a pink winter hat, a black T-shirt, gray plaid pajama bottoms, and cheap sports-type sandals with black DeFeet socks.

This is an exactly transcript of the exchange.

Operative: Beautiful rainbow up there.

Mike Magnuson: Fuckin-A it is.

Operative: Where do you think it ends?

Mike Magnuson: Not here.

Operative: My name is [name redacted]. What’s yours?

Mike Magnuson: Steve. But back home in Chicago, people call me Schteve.

Operative: Can I ask you something?

Mike Magnuson: Depends.

Operative: Are you happy?

Mike Magnuson: You like lemons?

Operative: I beg your pardon?

Mike Magnuson: Seriously. You like lemons?

Operative: I guess so.

Mike Magnuson: I’ll get you some.

Here Mike Magnuson disappears into his back yard for a couple of minutes and returns with a brown Trader Joe’s bag full of lemons.

Mike Magnuson: They’re from my tree. I got a lot of them.

Operative: Gee. Uh. Thanks.

Mike Magnuson: Cool. See you later.

And he goes back inside, walking with a perceptible limp.

We’re currently trying to assess the meaning of this incident. Why would he say his name is Schteve? Why would he stand in the street in his pajamas?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rules Nobody Can Live By #4

Photograph taken by Mag of the classic 2007 photograph by Kurt Jambretz.

Rule: Remain Calm.

The very essence of cool – ask any hipster you happen to see – is cool itself: mellowness, low blood pressure, relaxed expression, willingness to handle what’s coming next in life, and, most importantly, willingness to enjoy whatever’s going to happen next. If a person continually behaves like a lizard on a hot griddle and yells, “Holy fuck, I’m gonna crash!” this person will never be considered by cool people to be cool. Of course, if a person behaves like a hot-griddle lizard and cool people think that’s funny, then we have a different situation: We have a temporary cool-people-approve-uncool-behavior situation, which is the sort of thing that happens in the entertainment business but not in real life because people in the entertainment business, because of the desperate nature of the entertainment business, are not capable of being 100% Cool-certified Cool.

Or maybe nobody is. Or maybe that’s too easy to say.

Yesterday, I went for a bike ride along the Los Angeles River in the rain – a heavy rain by standards almost anywhere: blasting downpour, lightning, thunder, gusty winds – and because the rain was intense, because I knew for a fact (owing to message board lurking) that in intense rainstorms here in L.A. most cyclists don’t venture out for a spinner, you guessed it: I thought I was the coolest, toughest cyclist in this whole gigantic city. The temperature was 55 degrees. Visibility: gray to black. And I had the Hard Man of Flanders thing going: no gloves, knee warmers, arm warmers rolled down, ear-to-ear grin on my face. Seriously, I was the coolest person in the world there for a few minutes. I pretended a documentary crew was following me and that the narrator to the documentary was commenting on Mike Magnuson’s tremendous level of motivation and toughness and how this next cyclocross season, by fucking God, Mike will show people something special. You just wait, friends. Magnuson will be a force. Needless to say, I picked up the pace and imaginary epic music played inside my brain.

I saw a bridge ahead on the bike path and multiple shapes under it: homeless folks waiting out the rain, maybe fifteen guys with shopping carts and what have you. I was happy to see them because that mean somebody was seeing me riding my bike, such a tough guy in the rain, such a person worth admiring. I slowed so as to pass them in a respectful form of review. I smiled at the fellows and nodded at them with as cool a nod as anyone has ever nodded. I said, “Hey, guys. How’s it going?”

One of them, a guy so weatherbeaten it was hard to see his eyes within the wrinkles of his brow, said, “Shut the fuck up.”

I remained calm, which is what a cool person is supposed to do, and rode safely out from under the bridge and back into the rain. The guy was right. I should shut the fuck up.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Magical Fruit: The Broadway Musical/ CANCELLED

I know it. Shit shouldn’t be discussed in polite company. By shit, I don’t mean the catch-all metaphorical type of shit in which our professional and emotional lives are inevitably mired. I mean shit-shit. I mean that which comes out of your ass at more or less regular intervals. Think about it: To broach that horrifyingly secret subject here in whitest, purest, most proper Puritan America? To post, for instance, the following as your Facebook status? Mike Magnuson took a goddam excellent shit this morning. He thanks all his friends and the City of Los Angeles for making this wonderful moment possible. The moment you do – especially if you keep the terminology simple and easy for anyone to understand – you are branding yourself as a hoohaa, a low-brow, someone with whom intellectual commerce is not possible. (Also, if you actually do post that as your Facebook status, several of your ‘friends’ will unfriend you quicker than you can mouth the words ‘explosive diarrhea.’) Of course, it’s perfectly okay in America to discuss, in pinpoint graphic terms, wars and murders and poverty and human hatred on scales hitherto unseen in human history. But mention taking a shit? Whoa, son. This is civilized society. We don’t talk about that here.

I know you agree with me. You just don’t want to come out and say it.

But hey, I’m a lifetime sufferer of Celiac Disease, and people like me, we measure the quality of our lives by the successful function of our gastric system. Fuckin-A. Maybe Celiac doesn’t make me special: Everybody measures the quality of their lives by their gastric systems. Still, Celiac sufferers need to go to certain unusual lengths to ensure success – that means no gluten, ever, for the rest of eternity.

Anyway, a week and half ago, as you may recall, I reached a low-point in my struggles with gluten intolerance. I mean, my shit was totally fucked up. And I knew why. I guess it’s funny but then again, it’s fairly horribly not funny. I can’t remember exactly when my parents decided I was cured of Celiac – must have been when I was ten and the nightmare of enforcing a regimented diet on a kid that age had gotten to be too much of a pain in the ass (pun most definitely intended) – but the deal with Celiac is you’re never cured. This means I have lived in misery – physically, mentally, and probably spiritually even though I could give a fuck about being spiritual – for at least thirty-six years. Every classic symptom of the Celiac has been present in me, on a daily basis, for all that time: gas, diarrhea, depression, dental problems, bone aches, muscular problems, and on and on. Fuck! I should be pissed. Doesn’t do any good to be pissed, though. Wisconsin’s state motto is Forward. I haven’t lived there for years, but a guy’s still gotta believe in the motto.

So let me get back to shit and why I’m so happy about it today. For the last week and half, because I finally decided enough goddam misery was enough, I’ve been gluten-free, and I’m absolutely feeling better, particularly in the waste-elimination department. But here’s even more exciting news: Last night, I totally chowed down two massive bowls of black bean chili, and I didn’t so much as fart afterwards, not even one tiny popcorn toot. And this morning, after a crisp Washington State apple and a cup of coffee? Ah! Isn’t that incredible?

All right. Collect yourselves. I know you’re weeping with joy for me. The cure may well be at hand.

My ass feels great now. Rain’s falling in Los Angeles today, but I’m suiting up and going outside for a bike ride.

Monday, February 8, 2010

To Live and Train in L.A. #2

When life gives you lemons?

My immediate goal in life – and this is a serious-shit situation – is to eliminate my natural cyclist’s tendency to complain about my fitness, my weight, my equipment, my available training roads and trails, my time available for training, my basically everything. True enough, before I got into cycling as a way of life, I used to be naturally grumpy, naturally prone to finding the worst in everything, but once I started hanging around with dedicated cyclists, my bitch-about-shit qualities matured into an Olympic-level activity. Much of the bitching in cycling stems from people making excuses for not performing well in a race: I’ve had a cold all week, I had to work extra hours and couldn’t train the way I normally would, I was having problems with my shifters, the cleat on my left shoe is coming loose. That sort of thing. I’ve never actually heard anybody say, “You know what? I’m a total pussy and I just didn’t feel like trying very hard on the racecourse today.” Then again, I guess I have heard that. I have said that, in fact, on a number of occasions, because I guess, deep down, when it comes to bike racing, I’m a pussy. You’ll still be my Facebook friend anyway?


So yeah, I don’t think L.A. is a perfect place to ride bikes, but I don’t have any alternative, so I’m going to get it done in the space I can find. Funny item: A few weeks ago, I posted some nonsense on Mag’s Sentence about how I was going to race in the Tour de France this summer. Honest to God, somebody read that and got in touch with me and said, “Mag, you’ve got an awful lot on your plate professionally this spring. You honestly think you have time to prepare for the Tour de France?” Obviously, this sweet person is not a cycling fan. The Tour de France? I fucking wish. Then again, I don’t really wish. The Tour de France would hurt more than this old boy wants to hurt. I still want a little hurt in my life, though, and I’ve got this crazy dream of racing cyclocross every weekend next fall, from mid-September till Christmas. I don’t want to race to win, because I couldn’t win anyway. I want to race because this would be an entertaining pasttime and also a terrific excuse to avoid eating cheese and drinking heavily and watching the NFL every Sunday in the fall.

But cross season is a long time away. This means I can wait a few months before getting serious, right? Wrong. I’ve dialed in a couple of excellent bike-path routes, places where a person can spin in the little ring for a couple of hours a day, and for the next six weeks, that’s all I’m going to do on the bike: flat paths, little ring, high rpm spinning, no aggression, two hours a day, six days a week. If you think about a plan like that, you will know that if I actually follow through with it for the full six weeks, I will likely end up babbling and in need of a drool cup. But I don’t give a shit: Maybe I’ll get my spin back and by April be ready to go on the Tuesday/Thursday morning group racer ride that meets near my house and the racers won’t laugh at me when I pedal up to the parking lot.

Meantime, I’m gone spinning, and I’m not bitching about a goddam thing.