Monday, October 31, 2005


I'm sitting outside the Portland Public Library across from Monument Square, mooching off their wireless connection. Although I have no costume, I'm getting ready to go out for a bit of carousing this evening. I like the whole costume thing in principle, but this year I just couldn't be bothered to come up with one. Lame, I know.

A few big things have happened since I posted last. A fairly mundane one is that I crashed pretty hard on the last day of slalom training in Hintertux and kind of messed up my shoulder. It's weaker than normal and my range of motion is limited a bit, but it has already improved in the course of a few days, so I should be fine by the next time I'm scheduled to ski.

A more significant happening is that Charter Communications, a cable TV company, has agreed to sponsor me this season. They will be paying for just about all my training and travel expenses in exchange for me speaking at some of their corporate events. I'm somewhat terrified at this prospect, but I'd be willing to do just about anything in exchange for a company that's that generous to me with its money. What can I say, I'm a ski racing harlot.

OK, time for the carousing to begin...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Three days of skiing left for us here in Austria now. Today was GS training; yesterday we got to free-ski on our super G skis for a while, which is always fun. (Super G skis are long — 200-205 cm — and built to ski really fast.)

On Sunday we drove over to Sölden, a couple hours away, to watch the opening men's World Cup GS race. The American Bode Miller had a commanding lead after the first run and even halfway through the second run, but he was outskied on the bottom half of the run by the Austrian Hermann Maier, who managed to beat him by 0.06 seconds... still, second place is not a bad first result of the season for Bode. The best story of the day for the Americans, though, was the 8th-place finish by Ted Ligety, who's only 22 or so and had only once before cracked the top 10 of a World Cup race. Although he was best known as a slalom skier until now, he really showed off his GS skills on Sunday. Because of his low international ranking in GS, he started with bib number 64 out of 75 or so. He finished the first run in 24th place, and then moved up to 8th by winning the second run outright. He got a special award for being the racer who finished the furthest ahead of his start number.

World Cup ski races in Europe are a big spectacle. No ski event in the U.S. can really prepare you for how much they care about ski racing over here. Almost all the Europeans in the race (even the rookies and also-rans) have their own fan club, usually based in their home towns. The clubs charter tour buses and party the entire way from their little Italian or Austrian or Slovenian village to the site of the race. The night before the race, they stake out a section in the finish-area bleachers and erect huge billboards praising their athletes. Then during the race they blow air horns and ring giant cowbells when the skier is on course, all the while consuming massive quantities of beer, schnapps, and glüwein.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

subject? nah.

We trained on a pretty steep, bumpy GS course sandwiched right in between the T-bar and another GS course. The other course was so close to ours that our coaches had to set our almost identically to theirs to make sure we wouldn't collide with other the racers if we were on course at the same time. That's kind of standard procedure over here in Europe; not as much attention is paid to safety as in the U.S., and space is at a premium.

That said, training was a blast. I got four runs on the course, and I really got after it every run. I haven't seen our times yet, but I'd be surprised if I wasn't consistently one of three fastest monoskiers.

Tomorrow we head over to Sölden to watch the opening men's World Cup GS race. You can check out the results here if you're interested.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

gold soundz

For about the past 48 hours, my waking life has been dominated by internally-mounted speakers playing music by the band Pavement. This is a band that existed from 1989 to 1999, releasing five albums of music that, for most rock snobs, pretty much came to define the subgenre known as "indie rock." Their music built on the punk, post-punk, and new-wave movements of the 1980s, but introduced new elements that became widely imitated, namely: (1) dense, muddy production that at first sounds almost chaotic, despite that containing the same instruments that had been the backbone of rock and roll for decades: electric guitars, bass guitar, drums, and vocals, plus the occasional keyboard; (2) lyrics laden with self-conscious irony; and (3) most distinctively, the careless, sometimes even bored-sounding vocals of lead singer Stephen Malkmus.

Malkmus, who has released three excellent records since Pavement's breakup with a backing band called the Jicks, is a sort of indie-rock poster child, his unkempt golden hair, lanky frame, and devious grin serving as a role model-cum-sex-symbol for aspiring hipsters everywhere. The adjective that music magazines always seem to use when describing him is "impish." His lyrics and vocal style can both sometimes be infuriating. At first he seems not to give a shit about anything at all, since all his studio performances seem so tossed-off and unstudied. But the album and song titles are the first clue that this isn't the case. They sometimes consist of words and phrases that sound vaguely familiar, but out of context in rock music ("Major Leagues," "Shady Lane," "Western Homes," "Embassy Row"), but more commonly they're non-phrases, nouns and verbs and adjectives strung together in ways that are grammatically correct but utterly novel, like Noam Chomsky's famous example of a perfectly grammatical nonsense sentence, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously." Some examples from Pavement titles: "Elevate Me Later," "Hit the Plane Down," "Soiled Little Filly," "Hands Off the Bayou," "Kennel District," "Zurich Is Stained," "Conduit For Sale!," "Spit On a Stranger," "Carrot Rope," "Half A Canyon," "Grave Architecture," "Serpentine Pad"... the list could go on for pages. These are the sorts of phrases where, if you Googled them in quotation marks, you would never get a single non-Pavement-related result because no one else has thought to combine these words in this particular way before.

I first became aware of the existence of Pavement sometime in the mid-nineties when they recorded a song called "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" as a sort of tribute to R.E.M., another favorite band of mine. But it wasn't until a few years ago, spurred on by my cousin Finn's affinity for the band, that I began seeking out their music and discovering my own favorite nuggets contained within the hectic boundaries of Pavement's first two (and best) albums, Slanted & Enchanted and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.

If there is an archetypal Pavement song, surely it is "Gold Soundz," found on CRCR. First off, it features the signature bright, jangly guitars, herky-jerky rhythm section, and perhaps as memorable a melodic hook as the band ever came up with. But you're really only going to appreciate those elements if you actually listen to the song. What's really amazing about "Gold Soundz" are the lyrics, which straddle the boundary between sincerity and irony with breathtaking aplomb:

Go back to those gold soundz
And keep my advent to your self
Because it’s nothing I don’t like
Is it a crisis or a boring change?
When it’s central, so essential,
It has a nice ring when you laugh
At the low-life opinions
And they’re coming to the chorus now...

I keep your address to myself
’Cause we need secrets
We need secrets -crets -crets -crets -crets -crets back right now

Because I never wanna make you feel
That you’re social
Never ignorant soul
Believe in what you wanna do
And do you think that is a major flaw
When they rise up in the falling rain?
And if you stay around with your knuckles ground down
The trial’s over, weapon’s found

Keep my address to myself
Because it’s secret
'Cause it’s secret -cret -cret -cret -cret -cret back right now

So drunk in the August sun
And you’re the kind of girl I like
'Cause you’re empty and I’m empty
And you can never quarantine the past
Did you remember in December
That I won’t eat you when I’m gone?
And if I go there, I won’t stay there
Because I’m sitting here too long
I’ve been sitting here too long
And I’ve been wasted
Advocating that word for the last word
Last words come up all you’ve got to waste.

Only Malkmus would dare follow the line "It has a nice ring when you laugh" with " the low-life opinions," or "You're the kind of girl I like" with "...because you're empty, and I'm empty." I think the narrator genuinely does like this girl, and he genuinely knows that he likes her for all the wrong reasons: because she's a shallow, arty snob just like him. It's easy to read these lines as a critique of the indie types Malkmus hangs out with, but the "I" in the song could just as easily be a younger, more jaded version of Malkmus himself. (The hipster's progression of personal growth, of course, runs not from simple to complex but from complex to simple, as s/he realizes the value of straightahead sincerity — remember Dylan: "I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now.")

Another Pavement hallmark on view here is self-referentiality, self-awareness, being "meta" — whatever you want to call it. After the line about "low-life opinions," Malkmus needs another line to finish the verse before his bandmates kick in for the chorus, so what does he do? He actually sings, "And they're comin' to the chorus now"! Inspired, or idiotic? Your call, I guess, but I think the man is a goddamn genius.

And what of that chorus? "We need secrets back right now" — is this some sort of large-scale social commentary in which the "we" represents the Indie-Rock Nation, or all of America, or the whole world? Or is it just a throwaway, a backhanded slap at bullshit lit-crit theorists who would dare to make pronouncements like that? Somehow Malkmus manages to leave it open-ended.

The last thing I'm going to say about "Gold Soundz" for now is: how awesome is that title? Remember, this is 1994. White teenagers do not yet regularly pluralize their nouns on AIM by adding Z. No, Malkmus is on the cutting edge here. If I had to make a conjecture, I would say he stole it from hip-hop — after all, N.W.A. stood for "Niggaz With Attitude," and that was back in '88.

Well, all that must have been on my mind all day; maybe that's why slalom training sucked. Thanks for reading this far. Now maybe I can let go of Pavement and listen to something else.

Monday, October 17, 2005

alpine adventures

We had some fun times after training today. In Hintertux there are three gondolas in a row; this time of year, you have to take all three to get to the top of the mountain, where the snow is. At the end of the morning's training, we ride the top two gondolas down, then eat lunch at a mid-mountain lodge at the top of the bottom gondola. Today Nick had the idea of wheeling down the access road from the lodge to the bottom of the mountain instead of riding the final gondola down; other people have done this in years past and come back with lots of tall tales. Originally I wasn't going to go, but all the other monoskier guys were doing it so I caved in to peer pressure.

It was a pretty amazing ride down — a really steep, rocky road that we had to pick our way down reeeeally carefully. The views around this place are pretty phenomenal; some of my teammates had cameras with them, so I'll post links to pictures when I get them. After about two hours, we made it down through the forest and emerged into the grassy hillsides above the town of Hintertux. The town is still as much a farming community as a resort, and there are farmers out there herding cows and spreading manure around with little tractors that on our team are known as "poo flingers." We came to a road with a sign pointing to Hintertux, but rather than take it, everyone else thought we should go a different way. Hard-headed as I am, I said I was going to go my own way. Turns out that this road (which I soon noticed was grown over with grass) does not go all the way to Hintertux but rather ends by a long fence in the middle of a pasture. To get over the fence and down into town, I had get off my wheelchair and drag it up a couple of steps that led over the fence. I got my chair over the other side, but then I accidentally let go of it and it started slowly barrel-rolling sideways down the steep, grassy hill. I had no choice but to crawl after it at full speed, through the (fortunately dried-out) grass and manure, in hopes of intercepting it. After maybe 50 feet, I successfully wrangled it and got back in. I was picking my way down the hill when I eventually lost control — it just got too steep. I was hurtling toward the fence enclosing the bottom edge of the pasture with no hope of being able to stop, so eventually I just bailed. My chair got hung up in the fence, and I got even dirtier but was pretty much fine. I got back in my chair yet again and went along the fence until I came to a gap which led me onto an actual paved road, which led me back into town. This was all in my ski clothes, by the way.

Turns out that Joe knew all along that the road led nowhere; he just wanted to see what would happen if he didn't tell me.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

First day on snow in Hintertux today. The conditions could hardly have been better: sunny and ranging from 0-10 degrees Celcius, but well below freezing last night so the snow was firm in the morning. A few icy patches and slushy mounds by midday, but that's par for the course on a glacier. I took at least one run on all 6 lifts that are currently open (2 chairs, 4 T-bars). We were just free-skiing around for a couple hours and getting the feel of our skis back again; tomorrow we'll be up training GS. I might need to make my T-bar strap a little longer tomorrow, because on one lift my ski was getting pulled up off the ground. At one point I think only about the last 4 inches of my ski were touching the snow!

Had my first Hotel Alpenhof espresso this afternoon, and it was just as good as I remembered it, although our bartender friend Andreas isn't working here anymore.

Currently reading: Lost For Words, by the excellently named Lynda Mugglestone. It's yet another book about the making of the OED, and it's a little dense and academic, but interesting enough.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

no more shoes

Sometimes the best songs are ones that sound instantly familiar, like you've known them all your life. "No More Shoes," from Stephen Malkmus' latest album, Face the Truth, is like that. Come to think of it, did he steal those opening "doo-doo-do-do-doos" from somewhere??

Arrived in Tux today... getting settled into our usual fall training digs, the Hotel Alpenhof. It's a nice place to stay, and Gabi takes good care of us.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Leaving for Austria tomorrow... this will be basically the beginning of the nonstop part of my winter. We'll be training at our usual fall site, the Hintertux Glacier in Tirol. Based on what I see on their live cams, it looks as though they've already had some decent snowfall there recently. With any luck, the training up on the glacier will be wintry and the weather down in the valley will still be autumnal. Keep checking this space for updates.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

For the record...

Great correction from today's New York Times:

A sports article in some copies on Sunday about Texas' 45-12 defeat of Oklahoma in college football misstated the dominant color worn by Oklahoma fans. It is crimson, not maroon.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

why I hate movie trailers

They are usually horrible distortions of what the movie is really about. Case in point: this spoof.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Paralympic tickets

They're now on sale on the web, right here. The dates I may be competing are March 12, 14, 17, and 19.

Here's the press release, for what it's worth:

FAR HILLS, N.J. - CoSport, the Official Ticket Sales Agent of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), is |
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| Tickets for the Paralympic Winter Games can be purchased at or by calling CoSport at |
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| In addition to Paralympic Winter Games tickets, CoSport is continuing to sell Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games |
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| information, event times and ticket prices, is available on the CoSport web site |
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| About CoSport |
| CoSport, LLC is a leading provider of Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games hospitality packages and event tickets |
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| Miello-Alford, CoSport, at (908) 766-2227 (