Oh internet, what are you going to do next?

A handshake is fine, though I would much prefer a high five.

The web is an amazing tool which brings people together and occasionally tears people apart. It delivers information, editorials, videos of cats, educational matter and best of all, pornography. Because of it, I have reasonably extensive relationships with a handful of folks I’ve only ever seen in the flesh once or twice.

Heck, this weird, intangible network is the foundation for my very livelihood.

Case in point to all of this was an image I posted the other night with the simple caption of, ‘poor McMansions‘;

This set off an absolute shitstorm of commentary and accusations ranging from how I was disrespecting the dead, as well as the men and women fighting the fire, to disgust that I could take the tragedy so lightly, to resenting people with money and all the way back again.

People who had themselves lost homes to fire at one point or another chimed in, as did folks who had not. Two friends who are fire fighters stepped up as well, slapping my hand with quickness.

One picture, two words, and this was the response.

There were a few who didn’t respond so drastically, but primarily I felt as though I was being primed for a lynch mob. I have thankfully never lost a home to fire, but grew up in a house built by my family in a region not far from, and thus, not unlike that which is burning currently.

My parents, as well as the (public) educational system in which I was enrolled regularly impressed upon me that forests need to occasionally burn to stay healthy, and when that cycle is stemmed, a whole lot of bad things can occur. My parents also told me that because we lived so far away from our town’s volunteer fire department, our main objective if the house ever went up, was to simply get out in one piece. Oh, and to save the animals and the photo albums if there was time. As a matter of fact, for months of my young life I slept with a box of my prized possessions next to my bed in the event that were to ever occur.

From the time I left for college I began seeing droves of people arrive to the Front Range (based on the statistics of the local paper, primarily from the West Coast and Illinois) and build obnoxiously large homes, tap into the already taxed aquifers and then complain about their right to have well water. Secondly, letter after letter would be printed in the paper, written by the new arrivals bellyaching about how herds of elk were eating their flowers and their gardens.

You move into the woods and native animals are eating the flora? You don’t say?

The above image speaks volumes to me on these points as well as a myriad of others. My point was not to disrespect lives that may have been lost, nor was it a commentary on the tireless efforts to stop the fire. It was an off-handed comment about false entitlement, and ridiculously sized houses in a region known far and wide to be proponents of a smaller government, the residents of which have voted to cut services in order to save on taxes. These homes will assuredly be rebuilt, on the same tracts of land, (as I stated in the original post) that was previously (in, or bordering upon) wilderness areas, and for decades was mismanaged.

As far back as 1989 there were murmurings that the entire Front Range was a tinder box and it was just a matter of time before it went up.

Like I said, I thankfully have never lost a home to a fire, but I do at least have the experience of being front and center in the Oakland Hills Firestorm, which found me running around in the chaos helping people carry out what they could before the fire reached their property lines. That night I stood in amazement, my face smeared with soot and my lungs burning with Poison Oak in a West Oakland parking lot, as smoldering pages of books and pieces of wall paper and insulation fell down on my head.

I don’t belittle what’s occurring there, but at the risk of repeating myself, I’m not surprised that it is.

I wish the best for everyone who has been affected by this tragedy, but have to remain realistic about why it happened (and will continue to do so) to begin with.

Now that I have made my entirely-too unpopular perspective public, I guess we’ll get on with business.

Not only is The Dirtbag a wordsmith, an actor, a world class derelict, and a blacked out brother in arms, but it seems as though he is set to include DJ on his impressive resume;

Obviously your chance to see him dazzle has passed, but the show is up for another few days.

If any Minneapolis West-ites care to bathe in some soothing sights while drowning your sorrows, you now have a directive.

Oh, you know I’m a big fan of re-appropriated art. Especially when it involves moustaches and hairy arms.

Then, Jeremy made contact with the results of his recent social experiment;

“Banking while drunk…”

That’s a good practice for everybody.

Finally Tyler got in touch with news of a former compatriot and current adventurer;

A while back, in the days of bummer life avoiding-ness, you posted a picture of my buddy, Sean, ripping Santa Cruz trails on a beach cruiser with ape hangers;

I think this picture is totally bad ass because he is shredding on a bike with ape hangers, and also because he recently had his real bike stolen. He was left this beach cruiser by the thief. Not wanting to miss out on a ride, Sean went out to shred on the lemon he was given. Total bad ass. I only mention this because I want to see this picture again (this is the main reason honestly), and because he is currently riding his bicycle around the world.

Now if that doesn’t make you feel bad for sitting around in your undies, then I don’t know what will. The good folks at Volagi got him rolling on a sweet ride, and you can help with a simple shout out. Here is his website. He has links up to donate to him personally, or to World Bike Relief, but I think most importantly, we should all give him a word of encouragement (a simple “you rock,” “keep going,” or “I want to have your children,” will do). I figure we can be his cheering section, and be in our underwear. It’s a win win really.


Good for Sean. I’m really proud of the little fella and I hope he travels with many successes and well wishes from all of us. If that doesn’t count as both a virtual handshake and high five, I don’t know what would.

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36 Responses to “Oh internet, what are you going to do next?”

  1. Teamfubar July 5, 2012 at 4:51 am #

    Having lived in Colorado Springs for 10 years and having ridden my road bike many, many times through the neighborhood that burned, I completely agree with you and your assessment of what has or will happen. If you build your house in the woods, you have to expect that eventually there will be a forest fire and your house might burn.

    It’s like riding your bike through poison ivy continually and then acting surprised when you get poison ivy…

  2. Matt July 5, 2012 at 6:01 am #

    Having lived and worked as a rural land-use planner in fire-prone Western Montana, I couldn’t agree with your sentiments more, the two-word or multi-word versions. There is a selfishness in being part of the process that puts homes and properties in fire’s way, whether it is the land speculator, the giant timber company that got most of its land free from the government and now operates as a REIT across the country, or the person who brings all of their money in from the outside and chooses to buy such a house, oblivious to its impact on the landscape. It’s practically arson. And firefighters end up having to risk their lives to protect your bad choice.

  3. John July 5, 2012 at 6:20 am #

    The local version of this are people who seem unable to handle the truth about hurricanes and flooding generally. I think the common thread is the idea that, as a society, we need to do a better job of working and living with nature instead of being all “Humans! Fuck yeah!” all the time. The good news is that, in my lifetime, I’ve definitely seen a gentle trend in that direction.

  4. Velorambling July 5, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    Having not blown the picture up to see what was really happening I just thought you were referring to the street looking a bit like a sperm.

  5. Latarian July 5, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    Dude, when I first saw the image of the burnt McMansions it reminded me of the logo for the SLA. You might consider photo-shopping Patty H. into the left hand corner.

    Or maybe not, it would probably just cause an even bigger shit storm.

    Thoughtful response.

    Eat fried chicken,

  6. Troy in Santa Cruz July 5, 2012 at 6:49 am #

    Well stated sir. A similar situation is brewing up Hwy 68 near Laguna Seca (Monterey Co, CA) where my in-laws live. Each year I watch w/ amazement how more and more blinged out homes get built atop steep canyons that are long overdue for an inevitable burn cycle ignition. Monterey Co has loong been in a groundwater basin overdraft (elevated Nitrate levels too), eliminating services, on and on as well.

    I’ve made mention of my observations to a few of my in-laws friends at a party once and the denial muscle kicked in full force for the most part w the folks that lived in the area. They were confident that the troops would come swooping in to save the day. I then reflected to myself, “You folks in this county can’t even keep your libraries open to keep the potential gang banger kids off the streets, when you have a huge gang problem at your doorsteps.” Then memories of Katrina, (insert name) hurricane, Oakland Hills Fire, the 3 fires we had here in Santa Cruz in 2007, on and on came to mind. Again, people will fight long and hard to perceive the world that best suites their world view. Until, that *itch reality or karma slaps some sense into them.

    Anyway, in the end we all must learn to make light of the heavy stuff if we are to endure and move forward.

  7. -dan July 5, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    on the McMansions…

    i could not agree with you (or John from the previous reply) more. nature keeps things in check. working with nature assures you a better chance of survival, and goes beyond just where you live. all the fake food, chemicals, etc. we digest daily (whether we choose to or not), takes us away from our natural instincts and leads us to the current life we all live. i pine for the day the majority wakes up and stops spending their lives looking through a two way mirror.

    then again, this is the internet, where everyone’s opinion matters and the individual is the most important opinion to that individual. internet anonymity gives the same power as a person flying a drone half way across the world bombing people. the disconnect of fear for action gives quite a bit of latitude. i guess freedom of speech tossed at over-inflated egos with a dash of self-entitlement will fuck you every time… unless of course, you are talking only to yourself.

    keep doing what your doing, even if it is wrong.

  8. db July 5, 2012 at 7:02 am #

    Same issue with folks building on unstable hillsides and then watching their homes slide into the sea/river/canyon when the inevitable “100-year rain” comes. “I can’t predict the future!” No, but you can play the odds.

    Like you, I don’t wish loss of life or property on anyone. But there is a lot of freedom of choice involved in where/when/how you decide to buy a home. Deal with it.

  9. Ben July 5, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    This whole conversation is just going to continue. Storms happen, fires happen, shit, it gets pretty windy sometimes. Humans are encroaching on nature at every turn, and we think that mom won’t fight back from time to time? People think “My house has been there on that hillside for 40 years, nothing happened before…” Yeah, well the majority of New Orleans is below sea level, and then everyone acts shocked when the big storm comes and everything is underwater. As Lisa said in the Facewad thread, if you choose to build your home in a high risk area (fire danger, flood plain, muddy hillside, anywhere in Missouri) it’s not if, but when. I know you get it since we’ve talked about this before. The loss of life and property is tragic, but there really isn’t anyone to blame here. The High Park fire, up here by us, sure left some scars on the landscape, but all I can think about is how much healthier the forest will be this next time around. A new generation of trees without all the pine beetle kill (a sure recipe for fire if I’ve ever seen one). Homes can be rebuilt, but we sure need to let the Ol’ lady manage the property from time to time. Or you could just move to Manhattan.

  10. Crank July 5, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Don’t kiss hookers on the mouth, or contractors in fire zones.

  11. Joe July 5, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    Dude, “flora” not “fauna”.

    • Stevil July 5, 2012 at 8:05 am #

      Shoot. Right, sorry.

  12. Jim July 5, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    If people really gave a fuck about saving the earth, they’d just die and be nice to mother nature by reducing the carbon load on the planet and the consumption of goods like water and food that could be used by animals and other less impactful residents of the planets.

    I guess simple, polite consideration of others like that is just too much to ask for. At least they could all move to Manhattan or San Fran and live in a tiny cube of an apartment and write blog comments about saving the earth. But no, some of them live in San Jose, or Boulder, or Worcester and spend nary a moment advising others on how to live right. Selfish bastards.

  13. trama July 5, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    water use is an important issue, always has been, always will be.

  14. Jim July 5, 2012 at 9:19 am #

    Well said, brocephus.

  15. Doug P July 5, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    My house is in a flood plain. Sacramento will probably flood one of these daze. I am aware of the risks. With any luck it will happen after I’m dead. Feel free to post about it when it almost inevitably does, Stevil.
    Here’s a Woody quote; “People are afraid to face how great a part of life is dependent on luck. It’s scary to think so much is out of one’s control. There are moments in a match when the ball hits the top of the net and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back. With a little luck it goes forward and you win. Or maybe it doesn’t and you lose.”

    • evan July 5, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

      flooded lots already and will again, hence the 1/2 story ground floor apts. in the old working vics downtown…that date from when there was a bike speed limit downtown…

  16. mattya14 July 5, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    If you think this fire business is only temporary, prepare yourself. One mishandled sport stick is going to light up the entire I-70 corridor in Colorado. Acres of standing beetle kill and the current weather patterns have made the entire area a veritable tinder box. And, sure enough there will be plenty of tears and sub, sub quality news coverage to cover it. Like your pops says, it’s probably the best thing that can happen for the system, but will certainly cause all of our insurance rates to sky rocket.

  17. dflbrad July 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    when making jokes about great disasters it is better to be to early with your delivery than to late. don’t you think?
    Public Enemy’s 911 is a great example of this, they were years early.. and it’s great

  18. jake hess July 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

    Stevil’s caption hit so many nails right on the head. We continue to build homes in the wildland urban interface without any thought to fire. All too often homeowners who refuse to comply with public resource codes regarding defensible space are the first to complain or sue after a predictable fire moonscapes their neighborhood. In today’s fire service we risk a lot to gain a lot and will risk little to gain little. The days of trading a life for a structure are over! His caption addresses the ethical component of building in the urban interface. Local agencies collect property taxes from homeowners and they expect the state to come in and off set the cost of the suppression efforts. This model worked great 50 years ago when they would allow a fire to grow because there wasn’t the need to “defend” as many homes and it was considerably safer, cheaper and thinned out the fuel models naturally. This technique is reminiscent of a group of folks known as the Ohlone. Tax payers are now questioning as to why they are paying to protect a home that a local government agency has already collected taxes on. Maybe that money should go towards the cost of the fire. In other words, live in the urban interface, then you should pay for that privilege. It is no different from the folks that get airlifted off the nose of El Capitan and get slapped with a bill. My heart goes out to anyone affected by fire, however, good luck enforces bad habits and it will happen again.

    Jake Hess
    Fire Service 18yrs
    Battalion Chief

    • Largo July 6, 2012 at 6:05 am #

      Out of curiosity, do people pay a premium on their home insurance for building in higher fire risk areas? Insurance companies being what they are, you would think that, in many cases, they would take one look at the lopcation and either run away screaming, or jack up the rates so high that the home owner would not be able to afford the premiums.

      • jake hess July 6, 2012 at 8:15 am #

        Yes, Insurance companies picked up on this after the 1993 Malibu fire. You have to remember they are only paying for the potential not the accual cost of suppresion. The hot topic now is what do we do with all of the existing non-compliant homes (no building permits) that were destroyed by fires. The Santa Cruz mountains are littered with them and the counties are having to massage the political tenderness and follow the rules.

        • Ben July 6, 2012 at 9:39 am #

          Actually, “High End” insurance companies (homes of 500k-3mil) hire private fire crews to come in and just work to save those homes. It’s cheaper than paying people to rebuild. There is an article in today’s paper (The Coloradoan) about a crew that was hired by an insurance firm to do just that in Colorado Springs. They ultimately protected 34 homes from burning.

  19. Nived July 5, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    Big is better and higher up on the hillside means that you are better than your neighbor. My Family live in the godforsaken land of woodland park the other end of the fire,, and were told to leave for a few days. I lived in the hills of Colorado and Arizona and have seen many a fire,, never had my home threatened and it must be a scary sight.. I now live in a place that can flood and twisters can rip to homes to shreds.. At times it seems that no where is safe.. Not sure why people need to have 5K+ homes..

  20. Gavman July 5, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

    Reinforces the idea that there is no such thing as a “natural” disaster if the “disaster” is quantified by the number of homes or even human lives lost. So there are disasters – fires, quakes, floods, hurricanes – and they may be natural – caused by forces out of our control. But measuring them by the amount of insurance claims made means we humans just happened to get in the way.

  21. Patches July 6, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    This says it all. http://www.asofterworld.com/index.php?id=836

  22. c July 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    I don’t think anyone will read this, but it needs to be said:

    If you live in California and you have a lawn, you are just as bad, if not worse, than the people in Colorado who build their houses in the wilderness. Lawns require more water in a year than a swimming pool to maintain, and California flora is designed for far less water than what is in Colorado. Save the earth, KILL YOUR FUCKING LAWN.

    The Colorado River doesn’t even make it to the fucking ocean anymore, because we’ve taken so much of it for our goddamned lawns. The consumption in LA alone is amazing.. it needs to stop. People need to learn to live without their lawns. Lawns = SUVs = McDonalds = Military Industrial Complex = FUCKED.

  23. Greg Roorda July 6, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    I too was there during the Oakland Firestorm. At the time they said it was because the brush was not being cleared away at the behest of the enviormentalists. After the fire they switched their thinking and said policies. As for the Mcmansions it is nothing more than a perversion of the American dream from post WW2. Everyone owns a home and has two cars idea. Coupled with that is the idea that America has to be the strongest and most wealthiest nation on earth. So is it any wonder that the idea that you have to have the biggest of everything in order to have achieved the American dream so deeply rooted in the public mindset? As for not watering my lawn, so just because I live in an urban enviroment there should be no greenspaces or plants? I thought grass was part of nature? Am I not being a good steward of the small piece of earth that is mine to tend by watering it and keeping it healthy? The use of LA as an example of evil people draining rivers for trivial ends is false because LA is built in the deseert region. Strange that other large cities don’t have the same water issues, London, New York, etc.

    • Stevil July 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm #

      …Las Vegas?..

      • Greg Roorda July 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

        Only partly true. Although Las Vegas does a better job of water regulation (increased fees per increased consumption, use of recycled water) they still have the same water issues as LA. Again don’t build cities where there is no water. Also both cities experiened the greatest growth during the post WW2 years. Or the “This is America we can do whatever the fuck we want cause god is on our side” years.

  24. meligrosa July 7, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    it always amazes me the power of feedback to someone that dedicates time either for free, or commercially to upkeep a blog, to explain or clarify a situation for the commenting people or a particular percentage of its audience.

    And completely asides this fire subject, which they are beyond just terrible and devastating, well shit, if you don’t like what someone is posting or is puking out of his/her mouth, start your own shit. equivalent to changing the channel if it was a tv.

    ive grown tired of seeing posts like these because of people meowing from someone’s posts. if they dont like it, dont read it.

    people and the internet, either too much time on their hands or not enough free porn.


    • Teamfubar July 7, 2012 at 3:27 am #

      If I could “like” this comment, I would. That is kinda the reason I started my own blog…I rode with guys that were too into getting a “training ride” in versus riding with their friends…dumb.

      Anyhow, the funny thing is, the initial “McMansions” comment was on Farcebook and I have to wonder how many of those people actually come over here and read the blog. Or, is it just like the way people get their news now, they just read the headlines and are done with it, thinking they know everything they need to know? I’m guessing the latter.

      • Stevil July 7, 2012 at 4:59 am #

        I think a pretty fair percentage of people are in both places, actually, and I have since shared a number of emails regarding the matter with folks who initially commented. One thing of which I am extraordinarily proud of in regard to this web site, and my exchanges with its audience is in fact how generally civil everyone always is.

        Certainly differing opinions will occur from time to time, but without exception no one plays the anonymity card, talks a bunch of shit and then fades into the mist. In fact, in the nearly six years between this site and The Bummer Life, I’ve only had two. I think this speaks volumes of the character of the people who come here.

  25. Keith Earickson July 7, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

    There’s too many humans. That’s the problem. The herd will be culled with the dull axe of human arrogance.

  26. gary July 7, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Whoa, I’m actually posting on this.
    Mixing two themes here, one of being conversing with folks on the internet while drunk (which I am at the moment, it’s a long story we needn’t get in to it), and secondly the fire debate.
    First off I agree, I wish no one to have to go through something like this, it’s a horrible event that really fucks up your life, and is even life threatening.
    Now the disclaimer is out there let’s get down to some simple facts. I’m going to use the term “people” I don’t know these people, and I’m sure I’m stereotyping and simplifying things all too much, but I’m gonna do it regardless.
    These people buy houses, that are shoddily built by developers who have one thing in mind. Profit son! They spend the least amount of money on the purchase of land, construction costs, and infrastructure. I know these things, I watched my little central valley California town cut down all the orchards near town and build crap box strip malls and spec home complexes over the last 30 years. Entire developments flood at times because they didn’t put in enough sewer services. Their solution. Build a park for the kids, selling point right! Well the park’s always have 5 foot berm walls, that’s where all your fecal matter ends up when the over taxed sewer lines fail during a strong storm, genius. And since they build these crap boxes at such poor quality you can buy your mcMansion at a good price and live 3-6 hours by car from where you work (that’s a whole other issue we’ll ignore). You’ll be replacing the windows and maybe the roof in 3-4 years as well, since they’re the cheapest the contractor could get his hands on. And good luck on the water pressure as the whole development is too far away from the local water tower, and the land used to be a dairy pasture by the way, so when it rains the soil is gonna turn to mud on you.
    Not to mention every local ballot measure that came up to fund let’s say the fire department or sewer renovation these people vote it down because that’s gonna cost more money.
    So you’ve bought this ‘affordable’ 2200 sq ft house on a 2500 sq ft lot. With inadequate planning, lack of infrastructure, poor building materials no sensibility of location and the lack of public funds to improve services, what in the fuck did you think was going to happen?
    Now I’m taking my soapbox outside to sit on, stare at the river and drink a few more cold ones.

  27. Dan! July 16, 2012 at 9:54 am #