Thursday, August 11, 2016

Candy Quesne

La Mélancolie des dragons is Philippe Quesne’s absurdist theater play in which aging rockers stuck in a broken car are aided by naïf bicyclist Isabelle. Quesne, pronounced Cain, means oak in French, a language Labann has leaned on a lot lately for ever harder to find rhymes with chain. Play becomes an eye candy spectacle of kinetic art. Over a century ago (1913), French absurdist artist Marcel Duchamps produced the first ever kinetic sculpture, a bicycle fork and wheel mounted upside-down on an oak stool, a so-called readymade mashup of disparate functions, now lost. Bicyclists dread being stuck in place while spinning furiously. All too human. One wonders what became of humanistic Los Angeles artist and Midnight Ridazz regular Sarah Sitkin, aka Candy Cane.

While you’d expect artists and musicians like Talking Heads frontman David Byrne to warm to wheels, what’s happening with conservative actor/politician Arnold Schwarzenegger? The former Republican “Governator” of California denounced climate change against GOP hardliners and own Hummer collection, and has been seen recently riding a bicycle in Edinburgh, Scotland. Everyone is most assuredly allowed a change of direction and heart. Clint Eastwood, on the other hand, endorsed Trump, who claims any global warming warning is a Chinese ruse. Were he still alive B. T. Barnum would have had a better explanation for Trump’s polarized popularity, “A sucker is born every minute.” Eastwood once grumbled, “I tried being reasonable. I didn’t like it.” While acting responsible is only a duty to yourself, rest of world acts independently of your personal convictions yet suffers from your attitudes and vices.

Another setting star, Niner QB Joe Montana rides his bike to be closer to his family (and likely to ease knees for which he’s legendary). You can join him for better cardiovascular fitness, or race in Amgen’s Tour of California. Candy cranks out a roster of reasons why you should choose cycling. You can deck out your handlebars with a candy cane wrap by following directions from San Francisco's finest Mission Bicycle Company.

Along with other successful corporations with enormous facilities, Epic Medical Software maintains a fleet of black bicycles for their main campus in Verona, Wisconsin, so employees can borrow and cut the 10 minute walk across to a 2 minute ride. They emulate at least 2 dozen big companies including previously mentioned Apple, Facebook, Linked-in, Mercedes Benz, and Nike. Am intimately familiar with at least one company that actively discouraged bike commuting, now out of business. Although anecdotal, does say something, no?

Polls suggest the most popular color of bicycles is still candy apple red. Many builders default to red; some, like Richard Sachs, used to supply only his signature team red. With increasing use of carbon fiber, black has begun to supplant, though buyers also prefer brushed or clear finished natural metal. Doesn’t matter. Whatever wavelength of light gets brightly reflected gradually fades as sun sets. All offer the same sweet ride whenever you decide to go out and glide.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Braiment de l’âne

Conventions are over, presidential nominees and running mates named. For good reason Democratic Party is depicted as a braying donkey and Republican Party a bellicose elephant with a long memory of privilege and proclivity for stomping anything in its way. Extremism is brutish, repulsive, and uncivilized. America’s moderate majority has long since been beaten into silent submission by media aggression. If you apply logic to contest anything they say, or point out inconsistencies from day to day, you’re branded traitor, called coward, labeled liar who newshounds will gainsay. Dare impugn your honesty? They know nothing of thee: Influential Independent, no liberal tolerant, objective author, person who cares, seeker of truth, and singular creator of whom polarized simpletons will never be cognizant. To resist being cornered and to speak intelligently make radicals and thugs freak out and react with hostility.

Lived through one inane Republican administration after the next, all of which enjoyed congressional dominance, each of which were recovered by Democrats who spent tax dollars not yet collected. Mismanagement? Hardy. Rather national rape, race to oligarchy, resource disparity, and return to slavery. Honestly, who'd want to be associated with either party? Blue, red, or white, Eeewww! Divided you fall, leave some huge leverage hole for abominable despots or muslim clerics to fill.

GOP, the new know-nothing party, actively promotes class warfare, always causes recessions, and never succeeds due to its reactionary stupidity. Drug addled masses invite conservatism, monarchism even, because following dictates offers the luxury of turning off your brain. Xenophobic farmers and ranchers relate to GOP’s stranger disapproval and stronger approval of property ownership. Narrow-minded conservatives and nazis in Nebraska act as if blameless and everything everyone else does that doesn't perfectly align with their bizarre compulsions is criminal. Urban liberals for whom suffering fools and trading fairly are compulsions gravitate to Democrat side for want of an organized alternative. Meanwhile, majority going along in normality mode wouldn't think of blaming these mental defectives for their aberrant behavior, merely ignore, pity, or politely deter them. But some crimes can't be acquitted, and some diseases must be treated. Gun ownership presents a particular dilemma among martinets trying to enforce false notions of morality.

In shockingly clueless juxtaposition, Crews blurted out, “Right to own guns to protect families" and… "Sanctity of every single human life,” as if adversaries can be demoted to alien zombies and fetuses promoted to community property. Is this just an agenda drum thump from the stump or mindless admission of acumen slump? Has he not heard that insane gunmen are killing policemen? Those of privilege think guns and police protect their property and wealth; most don’t know how to apply either as deterrents, and tragedies strike more often to those who bring heat or own guns. Many sheriffs retire without ever having to draw one against a criminal, but you can be sure that recent killings will revisit innocents in a blur of retaliatory responses rationalized by self preservation. Speaker Cryin vowed retribution for a congressional Democratic sit-in protesting guns for the demented, a core conservative constituency.

GOP’s latest tactic is to cast a pall over Democratic nominee by belaboring a cynical witch hunt into prosaic email and phone text as if they might reveal state secrets, which they’ll continue through election day or until nobody pays any mind. GOP wasted years trying to impeach husband for having a legal pedestrian sex affair, when they could have jailed Republican religious clerics for heinous pederasty. About the only female head of state anyone remembers is Brit Hatcher, but she was a conservative medusa who turned anyone who looked at her into stone, probably why she wore that big hat. Chauvinists, misogynists, and rotarians are already against Billary, and they are legion. With the ill informed only hearing appeals to fear and pride, they miss what maneuvered them into a choice between bad and worse. GOP's "all or nothing" mentality is moronic, seditious, and tyrannical. Supportive mainly of automotive, Big Oil, commerce, defense, guns, and rules that apply to you not them - never gender identity, human rights, minority voting, sexual preferences, religious freedoms, and whatever else they deem suspect - key Republicans such as Clandenstine, Connedaway, Gorgon, Laundry, and Quaylude betray their inability to treat diverse individuals fairly, and lack of capacity to understand immorality. You can be sure whatever they say is rooted firmly in self interest rather than societal ethics. Rabble rally around their position, even though they seldom share in proceeds. Potential for greed is a powerful incentive.

Can’t they think of something better to do, like keep police safe from gun lunatics or reverse pubic debt every citizen shares? Agency, federal and state debt combined exceeds $30 trillion. Or is it a state secret where all this loot went? Bundles went to bankers, cabinet, chief, conflict caterers, foreign powers, and oil monarchy, instigators of terrorism against Americans. GOP nominee blamed lame duck for $19 trillion in federal debt, when a GOP run Congress was responsible. Duck inherited $17 trillion from Dubya, so did well to slow sprint to insolvency by ignoring mockery and improving prosperity. Debt spiraling out of control would doom every human.

As an Independent from the only viable party, never lazily pull one lever, and want to puke on every poster with moronic slogan, "Make America Great Again!" Not surprisingly, Donald aping Ronald accuses wrong parties with similar names, casts aspersions falsely, and says whatever supporters want to hear. Beset by conservative schoolyard bully tactics, Americans will jump to conclusions where angels dare not decide. Candidate has no chance to make good on this empty promise, even if he uses his billions to create more bingos for bimbos. Not presidents, representatives and senators govern nation, set policy, and write laws. The Don, like a mafia godfather, spreads fears and shame, as exemplified by Fox News fiction. America is already the greatest nation on earth from many perspectives; for example, its hard working classes are willing to abide any billionaire buffoon who insults everyone based on creed, gender, race, and service unto death. Support he enjoys signals a backlash against political correctness and descent into tribal spear rattling. Voters already dismissed as a hysterical egomaniac another supposedly self-made tycoon who presumed that qualified him as chief executive. Another dunce with no track record of public service, not even dog catcher, now blusters against a shady lady who spent 40 years serving in high offices, thereby inviting suspicion. Ironic how incessant drone "unfit to lead" now actually describes a POTUS pretender. Every vote for a marshmallow comb-over says another citizen has given up on this e pluribus unum crucible sustained through its diversity. Democracy loses all meaning if you hand over power to a king who'll delegate domestic and foreign policy and pontificate on issues over which he has no control. By the way, there is already a wall between Mexico and US under which countless tunnels have been dug. Every smuggled drug helps another clown run.

Electorate may miss an opportunity to restore balance in a congress dominated by Republican conservatism and tea party stupidity. Oust these maniacs and parasites. All attention is paid to animosities between Democrats (31% of voters) and Republicans (29%). But, as always, races will be decided by Independents, 38% of voters, who'll elect candidates on empty pocketbooks, merit, and message, not party endorsement. Independents are represented by a two wheeled horse, something bound to give a better ride than stubborn donkey or stupid pachyderm. Were you laid off during previous administration then rehired under current? Then you, too, should hold a grunge against bad governance.

What disgusts most is the degree to which inane commentary reigns in this election cycle. Issues which should be discussed are buried in illogical nonsense and sound bites. Democrats, with their clever speeches about responsible policy, sound to addlebrained throng as blah, blah, boring details, as if the braying of an ass. Unless an extreme sweet tweet that shocks, ordinary remarks have no capacity to capture minds or votes, and so are ignored. One ought to delight in accounts of how something went well, how whatever was accomplished served entire community, or how whoever participated was overjoyed with rewards and satisfaction. Instead, pols hit the road, spin wheels, and tour at your expense. Progress will never suit privileged few or those without a clue on how things could be better for you. Unless nation continuously improves and pulls together, it relentlessly declines.

“For I've been traveling on a boat and a plane, in a car, on a bike, with a bus and a train. Traveling there, traveling here, everywhere in every gear. But, oh Lord, we pay the price, with the spin of the wheel with the roll of the dice. Ah yeah, you pay your fare. And if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there… And I've been traveling through the dirt and the grime, from the past to the future, through the space and the time… I've been traveling on a wing and a prayer, by the skin of my teeth, by the breadth of a hair. Traveling where the four winds blow, with the sun on my face, in the ice and the snow.” George Harrison, Any Road, 1988, on posthumous album Brainwashed, 2002

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Rain for Spain

Been watching Chris Froome zoom to his third Tour de France victory thanks to steady team pacing by Cardiff Giant Geraint Thomas, and Spain finally represented on next to last stage because Ion Izagirre descended fearlessly from col de Joux-Plane to Morzine in rain, whereas tentative members of peloton had all seen crashes on wet slick and white lines. Congratulations to all who embraced this 2,200 mile, 3-week torture with tens of thousands of feet of climbs, even those who never finished, though a record number, 175 among world’s best cyclists, did.

Between stages, been searching for films that depict bicycling culture conspicuously, summarized by year below. IMBD currently lists 1,100 movie and television plots that somehow involve bikes, some of which have already been mentioned, though others don’t bear to be. Neglect staying on top, and so many perfect examples drop like rain you can scarcely keep up. Propelled to an obsession, begins to resemble trainspotting or wondering just how many other ubiquitous appliances - such as blenders, movie cameras and spectacles - are used or worn and could be reported. In some respects, don’t blenders and eyeglasses resemble bicycles?

James Earl Jones in Dreamrider (Bill Brown, dir., 1993. 92 min.) inspires a young man who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, played by actual para-athlete Matthew Geriak, to follow his dream, which means accepting a bet to ride his 10 speed Raleigh from Fullerton, CA to Boston, MA. Breaks a cross country time record, then gives away bike to first kid to greet him at Old North Church. Based on life story of Bruce Jennings and filmed entirely on location in a succession of cities, last reel finally exhibits some one-legged bicycling.

In made-for-television feature Footprints in the Snow (Richard Spence, dir., 2005, 96 min.), Julie Hill, paralyzed in a car crash, abides experimental treatment, restores leg mobility, returns to riding bikes with family, and thereby saves marriage.

Horror/slasher film Shadow (Federico Zampaglione, dir., 2009, 77 min.) is about soldier David, who, after serving in Iraq, begins a bicycle tour of Europe, defends beautiful Angeline, gets hunted by troublemakers, and winds up kidnapped by freaks.

The Parking Lot Movie (Meghan Eckman, dir., 2010, 14 min.) documents attendants of a Charlottesville, Virginia lot, who get by on bicycles and skateboards and get even with typically rude SUV drivers.

After an automobile accident, a veteran cyclist, played by director, acquiesces to train a prodigy (Michael Cuddire) yet struggles to teach him how to unleash The Potential Inside (Scotty Curlee, dir., 2010, 37 min.).

Catching Up (John Jenkins-Stark, dir., 2011, 7 min.) follows pressures facing a semipro racer in a sport that fellow Americans seldom appreciate. The European Grand Tours may attract unruly fans, but world’s hardest bicycle race crosses United States and has already inspired scores of films.

Traffic in L.A. Sucks (Rocio Mesa, dir., 2011, 18 min.) for Rocio, who arrives from Spain believing motoring is the only way around this megacity. Left after a crash without a car or cash, she turns to bicycling for a happy shock.

The Bike Heist (Brttany Baxter & Curtis Cleveland, dirs., 2012, 88 min.) occurs after avid cyclist’s bike and one he borrows from cute neighbor get stolen. Chaos ensues when an old friend suggests title caper to swipe all bikes in apartment building and wriggle out of responsibility.

Break Away (South African, Frans Cronjé & Morné Theunissen, dirs., 2012, 118 min.) has Francois (Frans Cronjé) applying advice from a pro cyclist and riding an old bicycle to deal with job loss, provide for family, and recognize own values.

Fixation (Alex Trudeau Viriato, dir., 2012, 40 min.) celebrates joys of fixed gear bicycling in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose.

High Tech, Low Life (Mandarin, Stephen Maing, dir., 2012, 27 min.) introduces Tiger Temple and Zola, two bloggers who take on the Great Firewall of China to report about issues government wants to suppress. Tiger sets off across country on a bicycle, Zola on a motorcycle, both armed with digital tools and free speech desires.

PBS ran a series in 2012, Pedal America, which can still be seen online.

Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland (Joel Biel, dir., 2013, 75 min.) describes how activism transformed the now famously bike friendly Oregon city.

In July, 2011, for 10th anniversary of attacks on September 11th, six Los Angeles firefighters biked 3,300 miles in 45 days across America to New York, documented in Let’s Roll (Matt Holwick, dir., 2013, 83 min.). They battled conflicts, despair, physical injuries, and severe weather; raised funds for Leary Firefighters Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project; and stayed overnight in welcoming fire stations.

In The Bicycle (James Richards, dir., 2014, 72 min.) resentful black 10-year-old Bobbi and divorced mother’s finance, 36-year-old Teddy, can’t stand each other. But when Bobbi’s bike is stolen, Teddy sees it as a chance to bond with his future stepdaughter.

In magic realism short The Bicycle Man (“Cyklisten”, Swedish, Aarne Norberg, dir., 2014, 13 min.), soccer mom in Torne River Valley suffers a tragic traffic loss then witnesses a miraculous healing by an Italian cyclist headed to the Arctic Circle. Cynical journalist wants to disprove.

Bikeman Begins (Odin Lindblom & W. H. Bourne, dirs., 2014, 100 min.) explores environmental superheroes riding bicycles to Comic Con in San Diego and resulting mayhem.

A Convenient Truth (Dominick Bagnato, dir., 2014, 85 min.) blows whistle on California assemblyman Coleman Burleson’s plan to cure climate warming, energy shortfall, foreign oil dependence, illegal immigration, obesity epidemic, and unemployment with a unified solution: Hire workers to pedal bicycles that generate electricity in his factory.

Serbian film The Disobedient (Mina Djukic, dir., 2014, 106 min.) sees childhood best friends reunite as adults and spontaneously embark on a bike tour and misbehavior.

Fort Tilden (Charles Rogers & Sarah-Violet Bliss, dirs., 2014) is the summer destination for NYC fixed gear hipsters (Bridey Elliot and Clare McNulty), who, like a lots of young adults lately, seem stuck in adolescence.

Njinga (Martin McCann, dir., 2014, 138 min.) documents Kate Leeming’s unprecedented transit of equatorial Africa by mountain bike, 13,700 miles in 10 months of 2010, to highlight needs of a poverty stricken, war torn continent.

Omega Rose (Australian, George Dorobantu, dir., 2014, 100 min.) begins 3 years after all but ten million humans have been annihilated. A bicyclist rides to a show that might explain what happened.

April 9th (Roni Ezra, dir., 2015, 33 min.) is a docudrama about Denmark in 1940, when the first troops Danes could muster against German blitzkrieg were South Jutland bicyclists.

The Ataxian (Zack Bennett & Kevin Schlanser, dirs., 2015, 21 min.) is a documentary about Kyle Bryant, unable to walk because of terminal nerve disease Friedreich’s Ataxia, who nevertheless attempts the bike Race Across America (RAAM) to seize every moment versus mortality.

Odd couple with a long distance attraction meet in Paris but quarrel over her gift of The Bicycle (Arne Körner, dir., 2015, 82 min.). The Bicycle is listed as a cast member.

Bike Against the Wind (Mark Vashro, dir., 2015, 60 min.) documents director’s 4,700 mile ride from Boston to San Diego through American South, and interviews locals he meets along the way.

In 2012 racer Jason Lane, The Hammer (Hornsby films, 2015, 85 min.), attempted RAAM, world’s hardest cycling race, 3,000 miles in 10 days. On day 3 he got run over by his own sag vehicle yet persevered.

Ithaca (Meg Ryan, dir., 2015, 96 min.) is based oh William Saroyan’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Human Comedy. Set during WWII, teen bicycle messenger Homer Macauley (Alex Neustaedter) delivers telegrams to families of fallen soldiers. Mom and pop are played by bankable stars Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.

Filmmaker bikes 6,500 miles to Alaska to name a mountain, Mount Lawrence (Chandler Wild, dir., 2015, 90 min.), after his father, an outdoor enthusiast who committed suicide.

The Rider and the Wolf (Nathan Ward, dir., 2015, 62 min.) documents mountain biking pioneer Mike Rust. Rust often repeated Stewart Parker’s line, “The bicycle has a great past ahead of it.” Defending his home in remote San Luis Valley, he chased out intruders but was never seen again.

Blue Bicycle (“Mavi Bisiklet”, Turkish, Ümit Köreken, dir., 2016, 94 min.) looks at preteen Ali, played by Selim Kaya, forced to weigh his dream of owning a bicycle against democratic justice.

Set in Aqaba, Jordan, Five Boys and A Wheel (Said Zagha, 2016, 20 min.) is an Arabic-language adaptation of Raymond Carver's novella Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarettes.

Ovarian Psycos (Joanna Sokolowski & Kate Trumbull-Lavalle, dirs., 2016, 72 min.) covers an East LA bike crew of Latina self described misfits who ride together as protection against neighborhood violence.

Interesting 15 second 2016 spot for Quaker Oats has child fueled on oatmeal take his first “Bike Ride”.

During 103rd Tour de France, Smith showed a race specific ad for its sport sunglasses. Taiwanese manufacturer Giant was another major sponsor with a commercial for their line of bikes and a team with as many stage wins, 2, as Froome’s, Sky. GMC didn’t disappoint with typically nauseating SUV commercials to match the horrific use of motored vehicles running down pedestrians and snapping frame of Froome’s bike on Mount Ventoux.

Bicyclist crosses Maine and finds Somes Sound to be Too Cold to Swim (D. W. Young, dir., 2016, 80 min.). He then befriends an ex-marine and younger sister, and reconnects with dying, estranged father.

Fish Without Bicycles (Daisy Aitkens, dir.), in oven and not due until 2017, concerns unwed motherhood. Based on oft repeated metaphor for women not needing men, don't know if bicycles will show prominently.