Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Oooh, gas is cheaper in China! Look at those donkey carts I passed by on my high-end motorcycle tour of the Silk Route. Get out of the way, beep-beep!

The Los Angeles Times' Op-Ed page is fond of lecturing readers on how the nation must go green. It's a laughable practice in southern California where almost no one practices green living. The small number who insist they do are liars.

Pasadena, where DD lives, is under a perpetual layer of smog, smoke and grit from the superhighway that bisects it. It's the motorway you see when you watch football games in the Rose Bowl and the camera on the Goodyear blimp pans back to show the city.

Even when the sky looks clear in Pasadena, it's not. DD sunburns easily and for the last twelve years it's been impossible to burn the top of my head, no matter the time of season or how long I stand in the backyard. The compounds and particulates in the smog pillar over the city filter out all the burning ultraviolet.

In Santa Barbara, where there is no noticeable smog pillar, the top of my head is toast in about fifteen minutes on a typical sunny day.

Conservation -- and using less gasoline -- are alien concepts in soCal. There's a Hummer dealer on Colorado and Pasadena could be the SUV capitol of the world. If gasoline costs $3.50 a gallon citizens just put it on their credit cards and pile up the debt.

Yet the Times persists. It's a good newspaper and its editors mean well. They just can't effect change, particularly when there's a growing trend within the publication to pander to the conspicuous consumer and the arch snob.

While the Times is hiring Middle Eastern reporters to cover a dangerous beat in Iraq, where there's real news to be reported, it also provides a home for pantywaists whose idea of work is touring, vacationing and sight-seeing on only the biggest, fastest most expensive motorcycles made in the world.

That'd be Susan Carpenter, whose weekly column goes on about superbikes, breaking the speed limit on them and other riffs on the theme. When she's not writing about breaking the speed limit and leaning into the turn on her superbike, she's reviewing the the weirdest variations on them, like a Russian Army-built one that comes with a sidecar, also unaffordable. When she reviews a motorized bicycle, one supposedly chosen to show how you can get around on the cheap, it's the one few can afford or would consider buying because its expense renders moot the point of acquiring it.

Last week, Carpenter stretched a high-priced ugly American/European-custom road tour of an impoverished section of China along the old Silk Route into two pieces for the Times.

Of course, Carpenter's picture gets in the newspaper, as it does almost every week, because editors must feel she is very dashing in motorcycle wear. This is in contrast to Times Iraqi Baghdad bureau reporters who never get their pics in the newspaper, alas, because they'd be kidnapped, shot or bombed and they're not so dashing-looking, probably.

No surprise, the Silk Route highway is empty for Carpenter and her tourmates because most of the locals are too busy scrabbling out a subsistence living to afford driving on it.

And gas is cheaper in China than southern California! Imagine that!

The main hazards on the Silk Route highway, we are informed, are "packs of animals and stacks of rocks. In rural areas, you never knew when you would round a corner and need to slow for yaks or goats."

"[There's] never a line at the pump because so few people drive in the remote and impoverished outskirts of Xinjiang province."


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