Mosquito Confessions

I’ve been struggling lately with the following: I love to kill mosquitos. Truly, the only good mosquito is a dead one… or at least one about to be eaten by a creature that feeds on them.

There I said it (i.e., “…forgive me Father for I have sinned”). It seems wrong to admit this. It seems wrong to say that I enjoy killing anything. But, there’s nothing like having a mosquito alight on your forearm only for it to be squashed rather than sucking your blood. It’s so satisfying. Or even if he does start to partake of your precious bodily fluid, to smash it before it can lift-off in time is pretty rewarding too—in a vengeful sort of way.

I suspect I’m far from being alone in this frame of mind.

This started me thinking about why it is so many of us truly love to kill them and, why—in my case—I don’t like to kill anything else.

Perhaps it is their small size. The smaller something is, and the simpler it is as an organism, and thus the better it feels to kill it. Yet, I don’t go out of my way to step on ants or squish a spider, but I don’t have much guilt when I consider all of the various splattered insects on the grill of my car or truck after a long road trip in the summer. If I hit a bird or run over a small animal, that will bother me—sometimes for days.

Each of us should probably ask ourselves, how big does an organism have to be before we end up feeling guilty about ending its life.

To enjoy the killing of mosquitos might also have something to do with how one can’t reason with a mosquito. You can’t just say “NO!” to them like a dog or some other threatening animal. You can’t shoo them away either. They don’t listen, they just relentless keep on coming after you, and the only way to stop them is to kill them. Even the slightest physical force is likely to kill them given their tiny and delicate anatomy, so might as well be certain in their killing.

Oh, I suppose if you are a committed humanitarian, you can repel them with my favorite Alaska aftershave, Off! (the Deep Woods variety), but who wants to spray poison all over their skin everyday—even when indoors—just to repel a pest with a single-minded objective of drinking your blood.

The idea of being attacked must have something to do with enjoying the killing of a mosquito. No one likes to be attacked. Come to think of it, I like killing deer flies and horseflies too. Why? Because I’m being attacked in the same way. Something wants to bite me, I will likely want to kill it, and in the case of mosquitos, enjoy doing it. There’s no turning the other cheek to mosquitos or other biting insects in my world.

So perhaps that is it… the simple fact that we are being relentless attacked by a species that clearly outnumbers us, and along with all of that, carries a number of deadly diseases in their assaults on us.

Here in Alaska (for the summer of 2022) where there are so many mosquitos, they take the killing of them to another level. Introducing the electrically charged mosquito racquet. At first glance, it looks like a racquetball racquet, but with two AA batteries (or USB charging) and the push of a button, any flying insect in its way, gets zapped. If they get trapped in the metal mesh of the racquet and the operator keeps the button engaged, they are simply cremated. Again, it’s a bit disconcerting to say this, but this mosquito racquet is pretty cool as the blood-suckers are practically vaporized before your very eyes. 

I overheard on the radio yesterday that during the Stone Ages, it is estimated that half of the population back then died from malaria-carrying mosquitos. So, consider the killing of these pests as payback for the death of so many of our ancestors.

On the brighter side regarding mosquitos, the gene-editing technology CRISPR is to be used to produce a gene-altered mosquito that would be released into the wild carrying an anti-malarial protein that would be passed on to offspring when mating with other mosquitos. Ideally, malaria could be wiped out or drastically reduced in the near future. For now it appears that this treatment is probably at least a decade out before full implementation. If that’s the case, you might want to invest in some good, old-fashioned mosquito protection (see above).

The Permafrost Highway

Looking down on a section of the Permafrost Highway

Somewhere north of Haines Junction, Yukon Territory and say, 30 miles south of Tok, Alaska is a stretch of the Alaska Highway (AlCan Highway) that really test one’s resolution and will  to “go north.” This 250-300 mile stretch of highway appears to suffer from the freezing and thawing related to the permafrost, and nothing suffers more than the road itself—in particular the asphalt.

Sometime after passing through Haines Junction, one gets the feeling that Canada—or at least the Yukon Territory doesn’t want the traveler to leave as the road seems to deteriorate the farther up the road you travel. I was reminded of that line from the song Hotel California, “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…”

After 75 or so miles of dodging potholes and uneven folds of asphalt, I found a campground about 50 miles before the Alaska border. I fell asleep in the back of my truck wondering if the Americans had an answer for permafrost’s unrelenting war on asphalt.

The next morning, my hope in Yankee engineering and road crews wilted—before I was even five miles past the border. As it turns out the Americans have lost the battle to permafrost as well.

It’s comical to observe the various methods (dare I say, “patchworks”) employed in attempting to alleviate the effects of permafrost—from new asphalt to chip-seal patches that probably last no longer than a week after a few heavy trucks have roll over them. Adding to the comedy are the occasional signs that warn, “ROUGH ROAD,” as if all the other road mines along the way were somehow insignificant.

Once in Alaska the speed limit increases to 65 mph compared to 80-90 kph in Canada. I want to see someone drive that part of this road at 65 with their cruise control on. In such a case, we would be talking about someone with a death wish, or at least someone who has fallen out of love with their vehicle. Very few stretches occurred where I was able to travel over 50 mph due to my truck’s stiff suspension.

Speaking of stretches, there are those places where the highway as been repaved (my guess within the last year) and like a mirage, seems like a normal two-lane highway suddenly, but in another half-mile to a mile, potholes and massive heaves reappear in the asphalt, preventing you from anything that resembles a relaxing drive—just as you start to think that maybe they’ve finally got it figured out. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a shooting arcade (or “Whac-a-Mole”) as you’re driving through a gallery of mixed asphalt obstacles that are continually popping up with little time to react.

Permafrost pothole detail

Given the shortened season for road construction up here, it seems like maintaining this highway is a lost cause. It will likely never be smoothed out completely—at least not in this particular stretch. After all, why would Alaska want to fix the remaining miles of their highway that simply and only allows people to exit to the Yukon Territory (Canada)—and the same goes with the Yukon and the remaining miles in their road leading to Alaska (U.S.)?

One has to wonder if there is any discussion about returning these roads back to dirt/gravel. In the case of permafrost, road graders would simply blade, thus re-leveling the road each spring in time for a new crop of tourists. Surely this topic gets thrown around from from time to time, but when do asphalt roads ever experience a downgrade?

In all of this grim reporting of road conditions, there is some comfort in knowing that not too far from Tok, Alaska, the permafrost is somehow subdued and the road stays smooth sailing all the way to Fairbanks (and Anchorage I’m assuming)—60 mph easy.

However, there is the return trip to keep in mind if one wishes to return to those places where home is somewhere in the latitudes of Calgary or below. For now, I have almost two months of preparation; that is, psyching myself up for the return trip down the Permafrost Highway .

The Tragedy (and Comedy) that is America

Uvalde, Texas… America’s newest mass-murder capitol.

I never would have known a thing about the town of Newtown, Connecticut if it hadn’t been for the senseless slaughter of school children in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary. Now, here in 2022—and for the same reason—I get to learn about the town of Uvalde, Texas and its ordinary-sounding (up until today) Robb Elementary School. I suppose this is how America gets a small town on the map these days for the rest of us, they have a mass shooting there.

Take comfort America in your thoughts and prayers; across the street from the Robb Elementary School is the Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home.

I’d truly prefer to discover the charm of these towns on my own, rather than the blood-filled news after they are cursed with a mass shooting.

So, how does stupid America solve the problem? The same way it’s always solved the problem (not really)… by throwing more guns into the equation. More guns for the “good guys.” If this wasn’t such a tragic solution, it would be a comedy.

And, if America was a fire brigade, it would bring gasoline to every house fire.

So, when all of the teachers and educational administrators are “packing” during the normal school day to end “school shootings,” we’ll need to do the same for our doctors and nurses. Why? Because inevitably, the blood-thirsty, attention-needy, fringe element of the gun-owners and NRA (all hiding behind the Second Amendment) will be coming for the hospital nurseries.

That’s right, you heard it hear first. The new-born children will be next because these gun-worshipping, sick-fucks are all about soft targets and nothing is softer than a ward of new borns and their weakened mothers. On top of that, we’ll also have an occasional gun-toting educator who flips out and commences a second wave of school-based mass shootings all over again.

And you thought Omicron was a bitch. 

And if the hospital nurseries are too secure, they’ll go after the elder living facilities. And after that, family reunions, weddings, funerals… any place you think would be void of such carnage.

And, finally after all of that—hopefully and deservingly—Russia will nuke us hard.

Postscript: I am a gun owner (3 in all) and would gladly jump through whatever hoops required of me to maintain that ownership, or simply (and gladly) surrender them all.

A Nuked Dream

Last night's dream re-enactment

Last night, I awoke around 1:30 in the morning after retiring at 10:30—typical of my sleep patterns in the last three years. I restarted a YouTube ASMR video on my phone nearby—the same one that I fell asleep to at 10:30, but it would be another two hours later before I would fall back to sleep.

 

When I finally fell back asleep, I found myself in some large parking lot associated with a big arena or stadium—it felt like somewhere in the Phoenix metropolitan area. There was some event going on as the parking lot surrounding the structure was full. For whatever reason, I was outside of the structure (near its doors) hanging out and waiting for the event to conclude. It felt as though I was waiting for someone who was still in attendance on the inside, but I don’t know who that was.

 

While outside, it seemed as though I was carrying on in small talk with someone that I knew—it could have been Jerry Brown, an old friend I knew when I was working for ASU Student Publications.

 

Then suddenly, Jerry or someone else nearby shouted out, “It’s finally happening… Here it comes.”

 

I walked away from the doors so I could see around a portion of the building to where a person was pointing—a rising and colorless mushroom cloud on the horizon—akin to a giant jellyfish in the sky. There was no sound at that moment, and it was far away, but not too far to be seen, growing larger and taking up more of the sky. Perhaps it was on the outskirts of Phoenix like one of its Air Force Bases—Luke or Williams, I couldn’t be sure.

 

What I was sure of, more would be coming—perhaps at any moment.

 

I was hesitant in what to do next. Should I venture into the arena and throw myself into a crowd that was certainly going to be panicked by the time I was inside, finding the person I came with, or simply go to the car and wait for them—or wait for the next strike?

 

Knowing what I had just witnessed, I knew it didn’t matter. The end that was surely near was going to override whatever I would do next. And then I woke myself for another round of sleeplessness.

 

Meanwhile, Russia’s attack on Ukraine enters its third week with everyday reminders that this is a war no one can afford to escalate.

Absurdity from a Local Oligarch

It was a laughable presentation at the recent Northwest College Board of Trustees meeting when community leader and Powell Tribune owner Dave Bonner stood up before the Gods of Northwest College (a.k.a. Board of Trustees) to challenge the idea of renaming the college.

Sadly, Bonner’s new plan is nothing more than a new spin on our worn-out, vanilla moniker.

His solution? “Northwest College: On Yellowstone’s Door” with the words “at Powell and Cody” awkwardly included somewhere in his proposed word salad. It all struck me as a textbook illustration of beating a dead horse. Might as well include our zip code too.

 

Bonner spoke of the additional cost associated with a name change, but failed to mention how the college dedicated an extra $80-grand almost three years ago on a new marketing plan for good-old, multi-directional, but-we’re-not-in-Washington-state, Northwest College. How did that go? I didn’t see any results from that little investment. So now Bonner is telling us that “Northwest College: the gateway to Yellowstone” and including “Powell • Cody” will make it all less confusing? That’s the best we can come up with—doubling down on vanilla? Wow!

If our name is as great as he declares, surely it can stand on its own without a clumsy clarification statement attached to it. And history has proven over and over, that’s not the case—not when there’s dozens of other schools out there using “Northwest” in their names as well.

Let’s apply this “Bonner Logic” to that popular television series…“Yellowstone: mostly in Montana, but some in Wyoming.”

Or, consider that Major League Baseball team in Cleveland. “The Cleveland Indians: Guardians of the Land.”

Or how about that pro football team in Washington? “The Washington Redskins: Commanders of the Capitol.”

Yeah, those are much better.

The publisher’s antiquated thinking was also endorsed by his Zoom-based, posse-of-two, affluent Foundation officers and directors who basically said, “Yeah, what Dave said.” Added to that, Bonner provided more “evidence” for not changing the name because all the old guys in his morning coffee klatch said it was a bad idea too.

I was tempted to stand up and shout, “Well, the old guys in my coffee klatch think the name should have been changed to Yellowstone College back in ’89 when ‘Community’ was deleted from the name!” So, there’s that.

Bonner referenced that time as well saying that the Board of Trustees also considered Yellowstone College back then, but didn’t do it; as if there was a greater wisdom present in the ’89 Board of Trustees than today’s.

No doubt, it will be disappointing if the Board of Trustees heeds the vapid rationale from this Powell oligarch and his Foundation cronies. But, beyond disappointing, it will be downright embarrassing.

A Simple Survey

Some say it’s a no-brainer (including myself), and despite all of those who tell me they support the name change of Northwest College (in Powell, Wyoming) to Yellowstone College, I’ve started to wonder about the numbers—those who support the name change, those who don’t and those who are simply indifferent about the name change. So, here we are: a simple survey regarding the future moniker for the college in Powell, Wyoming.

Consistent Inconsistencies

A letter of feedback to Wyoming Public Radio

 

Less than a year ago I decided to not support Wyoming Public Radio (WPR) any longer after being left hanging multiple times in the middle of an NPR story as the result of your transmission failures. Sometimes less than a minute, other times more than 30 minutes. When one of the hallmarks of quality journalism/news includes attributes like “dependable,” WPR has some serious challenges in this one area.

 

In short, I’ve lived in several areas of the country during my life, and I’ve never come across a public radio station that has failed so miserably as WPR when it comes to consistent and reliable broadcasting.

 

Late last week I tuned in to see if things are any better. Sadly I’ve lost track how many times my radio went silent when tuned in to 90.1 FM. In fact, as I write this your All Things Considered broadcast for today was interrupted twice by dead silence.

 

NPR likes to boast about the “driveway moments” that result from their stories, but I hope I never have one while tuned in to WPR, because as soon as I’m hooked, the signal will surely drop and I’ll go from a sense of awe and wonderfulness to rage and frustration.

 

To be sure, there are fantastic stories that come from WPR, so I have no complaints of the actual journalism generated by your staff over the years, but when captivating stories are interrupted suddenly by silence or filler music, even the best story turns into a mediocre one (if that).

 

If I am surprised by anything, it is in the consistency (over the years) of your operation’s inconsistencies.

 

Good luck on the fall fund drive… you’ll need all you can get.

 

Feedback Fun

Brothers Russell, Ron, Ron, and Russell Mael of Sparks, in March 1975 and in 2020.

The Carpenters were a ’70s band, not Sparks.

Sometimes the news doesn’t always get things right—whether its today’s headlines, or something from the world of entertainment or sports. Of course, depending on which network one frequents will determine the quantity of inaccuracies and the degree of any particular one. (And, I’ll leave it at that.)

 

For the most part, I find NPR to be as dependable as any news network— hiring not just any journalist, but those with experience, specialization, and plenty of recognition from their professional peers. But, even with those kind of chops, they can fall short from time to time.

 

On July 6, I was listening to All Things Considered (ATC), and the Paris correspondent for NPR, Eleanor Beardsley, was reporting on the opening of the 74th Annual Cannes Film Festival. In her initial/overall report, she pointed out that the opening night film was Annette,a highly anticipated musical by filmmaker Leos Carax, or as some have described it—a modern-day opera. It stars the acclaimed French actress Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver as lovers, with music by the 1970s band, Sparks.”

 

Here’s a link to the story…

The part about Sparks caught my attention as I had just seen the Edgar Wright documentary, The Sparks Brothers.

 

“A ’70s band,” I thought to myself? Well, if they are a ’70s band, then the Rolling Stones and the Beatles are both ’60s bands, but I’ve never heard anyone refer to a band by a particular decade if their work covered multiple decades. And in the case of Sparks, their 25-album discography covers five decades.

 

Soon, I found myself on the NPR “report a correction” web page pointing out this poor generalization of a band that I’ve known since 1975. I briefly stated my argument (listed above) and concluded with, “The Carpenters were a ’70s band, not Sparks.”

 

I had no expectations on a reply except the type that says something like, “This is an automated response confirming that your message has been received by the NPR staff who research corrections,” which I did receive.

 

However the following day, I received an email from Eleanor Beardsley herself—I was almost afraid to open it thinking she was going to blast me and point out how Sparks was indeed a ’70s band.

 

Much to my delight, here is what she had to say:

 

Morgan Tyree,

I got your message about Sparks. Good to know. I’m sorry I didn’t know them. But I’m going to be doing a story about the movie so I will be able to speak more intelligently about the group in the second piece. How would you describe the band, what is the band’s pull, Who follows them? etc.

Thanks!

Eleanor

Eleanor Beardsley, Paris correspondent

 

I replied with a short response saying she would do well to simply watch the trailer for the Edgar Wright documentary. I also included the following:

 

For the most part, they have been on the periphery of the rock ’n’ roll radar, but steadily cranking out a very prolific (and influential) discography since the early ’70s. They don’t dislike commercial success and would certainly welcome it, but that is not what drives them in all of these years—definitely marching to the beat of their own drum (and their art). They did what Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) did before she did it—started in the States (Los Angeles in the case of Sparks), and moved to England where they had their initial success and notoriety with the album Kimono My House.

 

Beardsley responded almost immediately thanking me and asking if I had plans to see Annette.

 

Yet, another example of good journalism practiced at NPR—admitting they didn’t get it quite right and asking for advice in doing so.

 

Photos by: Michael Putland (1975 Sparks) and Anna Webber (2020 Sparks)

A Confirmation of Coolness… Finally

Russell and Ron Mael by Gems/Redferns

While I was laying half asleep the other day, I heard the NPR Morning Edition announcer going through the usual list of sponsors for their show—watered down advertisements that bypass the hype of a product, but simply say who they are.

In that cloudy region of my head I remember hearing something about a new movie/documentary titled the “Sparks Brothers.” Unlike most times, I hear something like this and forget about it, but given the title of the movie, I made a mental note right there in my state of near-awareness to google it when I was more coherent. 

As I was making that note, I thought of the band that I came to know way back in the 9th grade—Sparks—and wondered if this movie was about that same band. Although they weren’t called The Sparks Brothers, two brothers formed the band—Russell and Ron Mael—and it was called Sparks.

As it turned out and much to my delight, the movie is indeed about the band from my youth, Sparks, and the two brothers who created it—Russell and Ron Mael.

Before going any further, I must confess that I was never a huge Sparks fan—a fan for sure nonetheless. I did purchase several of their early albums including “Propaganda,” the album that contained the first Sparks songs I heard.

An acquaintance with Sparks…
While attending Schrop Junior High School in the spring semester of 1975, Tim Kittinger and Terry Verble performed a lip-synch video in our 9th-grade English class of the Sparks song “Achoo.” This little in-class video was shot, recorded and played back in class. Beyond the quirkiness of the actual song, Terry Verble played the no-nonsense Ron Mael on the keyboards providing the lion’s share of the visual spectacle it was. Not long after that, I was chasing down the album for my own listening at home.

On a historical side note, I don’t recall a conversation in class about the video recording technology we used that day, but this must have been something very new for the time as VHS wasn’t out yet and Beta tapes had just been released. I’m guessing this was done on a Beta system the school had just purchased. Whatever the case, I recall watching the recording on a normal television after the production, not a reel-to-reel film that had to be processed.

At that time, I didn’t know how obscure Sparks was (or would continue to be), I just took it for granted that I was a little out of touch, and besides, Kittinger and Verble were way cooler than myself. Yet, looking back now, I wonder how my two classmates came to know of Sparks themselves, especially since few people in my circles knew of Sparks whether it was in high school, college, or any time beyond.

Given the suburbia status of Springfield Township just beyond the city limits of Akron, Ohio, it is still somewhat puzzling that there were so many eclectic students in my class (and surrounding classes) with a knack of discovering various non-mainstream acts like Sparks, or The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Todd Rundgren, and some of the local upstarts in The James Gang and The Michael Stanley Band. Although I really didn’t possess the same creative skills or smarts to be one of these students, I enjoyed their company, their keen wit and drew on their energy for those things beyond what were known and well established.

So, energized by this new movie release, I looked into how a few of us could have come to know about Sparks—way back in pre-internet, pre-MTV 1975.

Just who are Sparks?
Sparks (brothers Russell and Ron Mael) originated in Southern California, and like Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders, they made their mark in the U.K. first—only before the Pretenders came along. It was after their success in the U.K. that Sparks experienced some popularity in the States, but it was somewhat limited to certain areas of the country—San Francisco, New York, Chicago, and Cleveland.

Now the “How-We-Came-To-Know-Sparks Origin Story” was starting to make sense.

In particular, Cleveland’s WMMS jockey Kid Leo and his colleagues were playing Sparks, while the influential radio station sponsored a Sparks concert at the Akron Civic Theater on April 17, 1975 and a follow up show the next day at the Cleveland Music Hall. It’s very possible that my old junior high classmates had actually attended the performance at the nearby Civic Theater. And, given this was a time before MTV and music videos, attending the Civic Theater performance might explain how Verble knew how to mimic Ron Mael on the keyboards.

Passing it on.
It wasn’t long after the purchase of my first Sparks album that my best friend, Steve, who attended one of the Akron High Schools, also came to know of Sparks through me. In return, he would introduce me to other music that I adopted to my music collection starting with Jim Croce, Queen, Tom Waits, Jimmy Buffett and John Prine.

This started me thinking about how I came to know the various musicians and bands in my current music library—especially the ones that share a sense of obscurity with Sparks.

Seniors Mike Walent and Richard Sapronetti would have our art teacher, Mr. Bako, play The Sensational Alex Harvey band during my sophomore year with “Midnight Moses” becoming one of my favorite guitar riffs of all time.

The WMMS jockeys adopted and delivered Springsteen to Northeast Ohio before he was huge, Michael Stanley as he was gaining traction in Northeast Ohio and even the obscure live recording “Friday On My Mind” by a band from San Francisco appropriately called Earth Quake. This song was engrained in all of us as one of three songs played every Friday at 6.00 pm to mark the beginning of the weekend. The other two songs that kicked off the weekend were Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” and Ian Hunter’s “Cleveland Rocks.” (For those familiar with the WMMS Weekend Salute: Don’t think for one moment that I’ve forgotten Murray Saul. That’s a post of its own for another time.)

More recently, thanks to Wyoming Public Radio, I’ve come to know the music of Cincinnati-based singer and songwriter, Kim Taylor and Chicago/L.A.-based Gold Motel. Finally, during a field trip to Portland, a student of mine arranged for us to see Todrick Hall, while an episode of Letterkenny had my partner and I looking up Canadian artist Peaches and downloading some of her more-than-suggestive music.

Looking back, much of the more obscure music I’ve come to know over the years, seems to have come to me by way of these whimsical, short, odd (and yes, even obscure) moments in life where I happened to be in the right places at the right times. And, after watching this movie, I’m pretty sure I’ll be playing more of Sparks without the worry of explaining the music to anyone who comes along and says, “What/Who the hell is that?”

See the official Sparks Brothers trailer HERE.