I realize that cynical and self-aggrandizing opinion columns are trendy these days, but what gets my fur to bristle about "Haunted by Hills" by Alastair Bland (Feb. 13) is that its voice reeks of scenester elitism.
Reminiscent of a coked-up Hollywood body-builder who laments over not getting the Rambo role even though he could kick Stallone's ass, Bland claims that by living in San Francisco, his hunger for hills is easily satisfied and that he has yet to meet a stronger rider than himself.
Maybe Bland drank one too many Americanos, but reading him boast of wicker baskets and other poor-boy aesthetics applied to his expensive Surly brand steed while slamming other athletes for wearing gear appropriate to the sport of cycling makes me wonder who he's trying to impress if not simply the urban alcoholic bike-messenger set.
Mr. Bland, if you're so far above the need to prove your abilities through an official sport, then why abuse a free publication to spout your boastful wankering? There may be some blacktop basketball player out there who can out slam-dunk Shaquille O'Neal, but that doesn't mean the NBA are all a bunch of weenies.
Next time you find your feathers all ruffled up with the outdated stereotype of cycling as a yuppie weekender sport, please just hop on your fixie and ride down to the SOMA district for a few pints at Zeitgeist, then write your article for the SF Weekly and leave Levi Leipheimer and the North Bay out of it. I'll even buy the next round.
Alastair Bland replies: I appreciate all people who ride bikes, and I honestly respect the abilities of the athletes in the Tour (if not the carbon footprint of the race). But if I'm guilty of fueling a stereotype of weekend riders as yuppies, then so are you by assuming that a late-20s person from San Francisco who rides a bike is a hipster. I don't put a U-lock in my back pocket, and I even wear a helmet. I also would never waste my money on a fixie. (You really think I could go up a 30 percent hill on a fixie?) Nice offer on the beer, but I don't go to Zeitgeist. Let's race sometime! Cheers, buddy.
PETA finally weighs in!
Last Sunday's recall of 143 million pounds of beef by the U.S. Department of Agriculture should provide a loud and clear wake-up call that federal inspection is not adequate to ensure a safe meat supply.
This largest meat recall in U.S. history was actually brought on by an animal rights organization's undercover video showing California slaughterhouse workers using kicks, electric shock, high-pressure water hoses and a forklift to force sick or injured animals onto the kill floor. USDA regulations prohibit sick animals from entering the food supply, because of the high risk of contamination by E. coli, salmonella or mad cow disease.
About 37 million pounds of the recalled meat went to school lunch and other federal nutrition programs since October 2006, and "almost all of it is likely to have been consumed," according to a USDA official.
Parents must insist that USDA stop using the National School Lunch Program as a dumping ground for surplus meat and dairy commodities. The rest of us must learn to treat all meat, and particularly ground beef, as a hazardous substance to be consumed at one's own peril.
Here is what I think of the real state of the union. The American dream has become a nightmare. As one who recently returned from a vacation in Italy and has previously traveled through France, Spain and England, I see that Americans should be more aware of the European dream.
Sure, they pay high taxes, but look what they get for it. Public education starting from preschool right through to university. My cousin, who is a doctor in Italy, graduated from medical school debt-free.
Then there's our elections. In Europe, every candidate has to take public funds. It is mandatory. Elections take two months and every candidate gets free air time. Consequently, they don't have corporations buying their candidates and elections becoming million dollar venues for big business.
Why can't America offer the same? Because we are corporate plutocracy, not a democracy. And that is the unfortunate state of our union.
Joyce T. Naylor