Monday, November 6, 2017

Drain Fountain

Former bike commute passed a decorative fountain. Once, someone sabotaged it with laundry detergent, so suds billowed forth. Afterwards, fountain was indefinitely shut down. Seems soapy film is a traffic hazard. Come Autumn, many fountains are routinely drained and idled to avoid freezing and await Spring, renewed only if anyone remembers to restore. Many are just abandoned, bad for bicyclists, among the few passers-by who get to enjoy their apotropaic tintinnabulum that wards off evil spirits since not drowned by motor drone and enclosed by a chassis chaperone. Rides that feature natural waterfalls generally entail rigorous uphill slogging to find delight in their splashing, so recur infrequently. November's jaunts are bundled and short to savor some steaming espresso or warm snack.

An anniversary can be cause to celebrate or reevaluate. As a ongoing endeavor rapidly approaching 10th year since publication (2008), 20th since originated, can Bike&Chain go on indefinitely? Not everything will ever be said, as references will forever be discovered or newly emerge. Takes a veteran effort to continue; silence acts as outmoded, probably poison Ethrane anesthetic. While positive responses would be preferable, persistence shouldn't be necessary. Truth will find its own way to manifest without you. Although this conveyance may last a lifetime, in aged rage Labann can retire this angry page, need not spout on, simply shut faucet at any time.

Planned to produce a guide for motorists regarding bicyclists (as if any would notice given source). When US Energy Secretary Perry claims fossil fuels will end sexual assaults, uncontested by sociologists, is there any point in trying to illuminate anyone? Will at least list last collected books, videos, and whatnot, then start a seasonal hiatus. Even Mr. Bean took a holiday.

Regarding previously reported songs, Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj, Side to Side, Dangerous Woman (Republic Rec., 2016), which crudely alludes to bicycles amidst modest bump and grind and demurely depicts middle aged matrons pedaling spin cycles, had over 1 billion views on Youtube in less than a year. Queen’s Bicycle Race, around since 1978 and probably the most widely known song citing bikes, which flashes 65 bare naked twentysomething women spinning in Wimbeldon Stadium, only garnered 10 million, 1/100th as many hits. Skylar Grey’s sexy bike rap C’mon Let Me Ride, which quotes Queen song, had nearly 32 million views. Seems to reinforce idea that stark reality is no match for suggestive eroticism. In a consumerist, materialistic world, market mantra says sell sizzle, not steak. One might ask, “Where’s the beef?” though that further smacks of gender objectivism and phony slogan. Ranchers closely keep cash cows in barn. Yet Wiz Khalifa’s hip hop homage See You Again to fast and furious motoring fatality Paul Walker sits atop Youtube with 3 billion, eclipsing narrative songsmiths Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, who join a host of female artists who’ve slipped in popularity. Sadly, public only wants sexual tease, not some fascinating story.

Among concrete music compositions, found a network news interview with Steven Barber (aka JohnnyRandom) regarding likewise listed Bespoken, his 2013 contribution with sounds all derived from bicycle components, a franchise theorized a century ago, started by Pierre Schaeffer 75 years ago (diamond jubilee), and revived in 1963 by Frank Zappa’s cyclophony performance Improvised Concerto for Two Bicycles, intended to mock avant garde experiments. Both The Beatles' A Day in the Life (banned from radio for years) and Pink Floyd's Bike (ringing alarms and ticking clocks) soon followed in 1967. Such techniques became commonplace in recordings of the 1970’s. At Ghent, Belgium’s Festival of Electronic Music in 1974, London art collective COUM Transmissions (“No boundaries; anyone can produce art.”) performed their piece entitled Marcel Duchamp’s Next Work, which arranged 12 replicas of Duchamp’s 1913 bike art sculpture in a circle upon which volunteers played as if musical instruments, perhaps origin of imaginary swamp idiots lambaste and want drained.

To celebrate 150 years in business, Brooks Saddles had author/editor/journalist Guy Andrews compile The Brooks Compendium of Cycling Culture (Thames & Hudson, 2017, 192 pp.), though it but scratches the butt of this vast topic with articles by noted writers, mostly British, and illustrations.

Carlton Reid, Bike Boom (Island Press, 2017, 272 pp.), follows up on his 2015 book Roads Were Not Built for Cars, both of which document an intentional reduction in bicycling infrastructure in favor of heavily taxed, overly expensive, and totally unsustainable motoring. Historian James Longhurst's Bike Battles (University of Washington Press, 2014, 306 pp.) asks why cities today are so ill equipped to handle bicycles after over a century of use. Cars, drugs and guns will undoubtedly remain congressional sacred cows, since they transfer energy and wealth into deepest pockets.

Cycle Me Home (Dániel Vérten, dir., 2012): Laid back street level documentary about a 3200 kilometer transeuropean tour from Madrid to Budapest. Though sagged, youngsters pedaled fixies and slept in tents, enough suffering to warrant mention.

Dusty Kid (alias for Italian producer Paolo Lodde), Beyond That Hill (Boxer Rec., 2011): Thanks to video above, found a new album of 8 ambient electronica including bicycling related title track to add to list.

Mixed reviews hound Dervla Murphy's Full Tilt (The Overlook Press, 1987), a travelog regarding a rugged bicycle journey during winter of 1963 from England to India. Dervla resisted peppering text with encyclopedia entries, thereby limited it to only what she personally experienced and judged for herself, which alienated some readers, something Labann knows all too well. One ought to cultivate one’s own uniqueness; leads to authenticity, which rabble often reject. What’s so good about uniformity, which weakens society?

Martijn Doolaard’s One Year on a Bike tells a similar story of his 2015 trek of 17,000 km through 18 countries from Amsterdam to Singapore. Felix Starck outdid them both in 2013 with 18,000 km through 22 countries around the globe in 365 days, though doubts have been raised. Imagine some humbler bicyclist has traveled every single country on every continent and never recorded or wrote about it. Egomania has no such shame.

Nick Moore’s Mindful Thoughts for Cyclists: Finding Balance on Two Wheels (Ivy Press, 2017, 160 pp.), channels Labann’s better passages. Ben Levine's Einstein and the Art of Mindful Cycling: Achieving Balance in the Modern World (Leaping Hare, due out 2018, 144 pp.) also muses on similar sensations.

Paper Boys (Mike Mills, dir., 2000, 41 minutes) documents a handful of teens living an anachronism by delivering newspapers by bikes in Stillwater, MN. Paper Girls is a graphic novel series by Cliff Chiang (art) and Brian K. Vaughan (story). Each rides a bike about like a knight who'd restore a right against those who abuse their might.

Guardian reporter Peter Walker proposes Bike Nation: How Cycling Can Save the World (Penguin/Random, 2017, 288 pages). Comedian George Carlin did remind people that Earth doesn’t need saving; it will endure long after humans go extinct.

Phil Gaimon suggests you Ask a Pro: Deep Thoughts and Unreliable Advice from America’s Foremost Cycling Sage (Velopress, 2017, 216 pp.), a hilarious sarcastic dig at cycling sanctimony.

Feature film The Program, Stephen Frears, dir., 2015, has an Irish journalist suspecting a Tour de France champion of doping. Based on David Walsh’s book, Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong.

Television series Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month (Season 3, Episode 7): The hyper-phobic detective (Tony Shalhoub) goes undercover to clear name of fellow police officer by identifying thief of seized cocaine (stuffed into fake top tube of girl’s bicycle) while solving a murder at a box store. Previously mentioned Mr. Monk On Wheels (Season 7, Episode 11): Biological researcher’s bicycle gets stolen. Since assistant Natalie (Traylor Howard) feels responsible, she enlists Monk’s help. Adrien gets shot in each leg on the way to foiling industrial sabotage and intellectual theft, recovering bike, and solving murder case. This detective series, which ran 125 episodes from 2002 to 2009, is still enormously popular, probably because of Monk’s brilliant successes despite crippling compulsions with which he continually dealt.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Tease Your Brain

While bicycling, how safe are you? What would you do if things went haywire? While ostensibly a physical activity, intelligence increases odds of survival. Take this Safety Pop Quiz, though neither cautions nor statistics motivate, and suggestions herein state consequences bicyclists debate. Only folly will ever guarantee safety.

1. Coming upon a blind right turn, you:
a. continue at speed; weave out for a better look.
b. downshift, hug right margin, slow.
c. turn head to check traffic behind as you hold line and turn.

2. At an intersection with 2 lanes in each direction, "right turn only” for right lane, you:
a. hug right edge of left lane.
b. pass cars on right and remain in shoulder; watch for hook from trailing cars.
c. stay in right lane behind cars; go or stop with traffic.

3. State requires helmets for children under 16 years, so, as an adult, you:
a. believe helmets cause accidents, so never wear.
b. buy child a helmet, but don’t wear one yourself.
c. wear when riding in cities, not in suburbs.

4. A big dog darts out. You:
a. abruptly dismount; shield yourself with bike; use pepper spray.
b. choose an easy gear; say firmly "bad dog"; spin fast.
c. cross street to put traffic between snarling beast and you.

5. While you rapidly descend a hill, SUV pulls out to occupy entire lane. You:
a. anticipate such situations and always descend under control.
b. brake hard and slide feet first.
c. cross road into far shoulder.

6. Road curves right, so you:
a. maintain rightful space in lane.
b. squeeze further right to avoid corner clippers.
c. weave as a warning to overtaking cars.

7. Cleated, you take a tumble on a sudden steep segment, then:
a. check for cuts and damage; recover composure.
b. crawl as fast as possible out of travel lane; drag bike with you, if you can.
c. get up, remount, ride again as if nothing happened. Sports abides no tears.

8. Lightning strikes nearby, so you:
a. continue and ignore; rubber tires insulate you.
b. find shelter indoors and wait for storm to pass.
c. pull up under a tree.

9. On a narrow road, motorists coming in both directions look likely to meet where you are, so:
a. ignore them; you’re entitled to use road, too.
b. pull over or slow down to let them pass.
c. speed up to outrun situation.

10. On bike path, notice driver racing toward you waving weapons. You:
a. cheer him on; it’s discriminatory profiling to condemn religious terrorism.
b. play chicken; speed up and steer straight toward.
c. ride alone, heads up, single file beforehand; take cover during.

Answers: No peaking until your guesses are set.
1b. You should shift and slow, because you could be turning into an uphill and topple. For a. and c., you momentarily lose sight of merging traffic. Use a rearview mirror instead of turning head.

2a. As if another vehicle, unless you're turning right you should occupy right 1/3 of left through lane. b. Motorists never notice you in their blind spot. c. Makes you a target and unduly impedes your progress as cars join queue.

3c. Best answer, but would be better to always wear one. Peloton racers all do. No excuse, urban sprawl touches rural routes, too. Some argue that helmets give a false sense of invulnerability. But in 95% of fatal bicycling accidents rider was helmet-less, too convincing a correlation to ignore. By not wearing one, you're not only a bad example but might leave dependents without a parent or spouse.

4b. Try to carefully pass the 300 foot territory that dog guards. Cranking quickly confuses, so dog can’t easily latch onto your ankle. Voice commands shame dogs and trigger behaviors. a. With 3 million dog bites every year for which blameworthy owners weasel out, don’t escalate situation. c. This would work if you could anticipate, cross safely twice, and not endanger self, but scenario indicates surprise.

5a. Unfortunately, the only time you can take advantage of a nice downhill is when you’re sure nobody will intersect and pavement permits. Hitting a long crack, raised paint line, or sand spill might dump you headlong. All bicyclists ply increasingly ill kept roads thicker than ever with traffic.

6b. More than half of motorists violate breakdown lane on curves. Once around curve, you momentarily become invisible. No point using self to test their reflexes. Though statistics perversely deny, long personal experience validates likelihood of being overtaken.

7b. Motorists cresting hill and exceeding limit won’t see you on ground; result will be worse than a fall.

8b. Lightning finds its fastest path to ground, so arcs through tallest conductor, which might include metal conveyance you’re holding, tree under which you’re standing, or you. Take a time out to enjoy the display while insulated indoors.

9b. Bicyclists can’t ignore surroundings, must constantly adapt. c. Motorists often speed up to beat one another to spots, seldom want to follow bicyclists.

10c. Victims of Halloween massacre on Hudson Bike Path were all foreign nationals from Argentina and Belgium riding in clusters. Survivors among them were ones who were isolated. ISIS provoked terrorist struck no blow against Americans at all. But you can never be sure what insane mayhem you’ll come across, so ever be wary.

If you got 10 correct, you may live forever. If 9 or 8, sigh relief, risks are minimal. Per trip in USA, competent bicyclists are 4 times less likely to succumb to hazards than pedestrians, and 10 times more likely to survive than motorists, because they occupy so little room and roll at speeds that compliment traffic flow. Hit 6 or 5, wise up. If you only managed 4 or 3 and have dependents, seriously consider life insurance. From 2 to none, prepay funeral arrangements. Don't forget, they can harvest your athletic organs and tendons for allografts and transplants.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dirge Quinzaine

Given current president’s reality show legacy, ever wonder why federal government doesn’t hold survivor competitions to recruit the best and brightest? Think about how America wastes great minds and physical talents with game shows and silly sports instead. Or how so called “Leader of the Free World” surrounds himself with subpar accomplices. They make Labann look like a Full Bright scholar; have at least tested bike headlights on high beam to tell how long they last on a full charge. Could hire Nobel laureates to concoct tests and pledge considerable prizes that contestants would be eager to collect. Once you screen participants and weed out imbeciles, the top ten would all be offered appointments to high level posts, presumably to advise amazingly and pull together effective policy.

Probably wouldn’t work. Whoever you’d most want to engage wouldn’t be interested. Competent performers are already doing something they consider more important. Besides, who could trust that feds weren’t just rounding up their betters for slaughter? Run the other way!

Should an impeachment remove president from office, hence it would be Pence, kindred nonsense. Cynics think chiefs intentionally benefit by comparison to worse veeps. Nation might be loathe to go from frying pan into fire, ride the lame horse for four short years, soothe selves with reassuring clichés, suspect they can’t meanwhile do irreparable damage, but they’d be wrong.

Government never follows commonsense practices. Monoliths stay put. Any change is too late, too little, and works only to preserve itself. If it doesn’t operate responsibly, resolves no issue timely, and taxes vast majority abusively, doesn’t that make authority the average citizen’s enemy? They are forced to depict boogeymen to deflect blame from themselves. Conditions are too good and lives are too precious to waste time on worry. Better to enjoy your journey by going by bike.

People actually believe that if you sort, identify, label, number, an surveil stuff you are behaving rationally and scientifically. But once the reason for doing so gets lost, the rest is merely empty ceremony, practically magical incantations and specious voodoo. You should reach back to origins sometimes to rediscover meaning. Bicycling teaches where pavement came from, who gets to use it foremost, and why motoring, with all its automated comforts, collision avoidance, cruise control, and wireless distractions, lowers everyone’s safety by reducing driver skills.

Presented for your morbid curiosity are 15 likewise baleful bicycling ballads hitherto unmentioned. Wonder about all this bipolar gloom; a couple even outright describe crashing. Bicycling usually improves mood. Quinzaine is to 15 as a dozen is to 12. Could have looked for a few more related songs, maybe bright and cheery ones, but just how many other words rhyme with chain that haven’t already been used as B&C blog titles?

BallBoy, Olympic Cyclist, i hate scotland, C.I.A. Rec., 2000.

Cyriel, Eddy [The Cannibal] Merckx [Belgian, single], Life Records, 1970.

Juan Luis Guerra, El Niágara en Bicicleta [Dominican merengue], Ni Es Lo Mismo Ni Es Igual, Karen, 1999. About an accident on a bicycle, then, atrocious attention patient begging for help gets in a third world hospital, neither the same nor equal, worse than trying to cross Niagara Falls on a bicycle. Song won recognition and sales for its social conscience on crucial issues.

Jenna Lindbo, Head over Handlebars, Jasmine Parade, self, 2012.

Juliette, Un Petit Vélo Rouillé [French, “A Little Rusty Bike”], No Parano, 2010. “A small rusty bike in a squalid creaking takes a tangled path. And pedal in the void it runs on the rim increasingly faded, tracing a nasty wheel, a vicious and vicious circle… This miserable bicycle. Who will have me, heart, broken! There is only you to show how ridiculous it is. All parts, the cycle of black ideas.”

Kelsey Law, Head Over Handlebars, single, self, 2013. Replete with a tragic backstory. Not same song as Lindbo's, though shares identical title.

Kevin Thorsell, Ride My Bike, single, self, 2009. Teen experiment goes awry.

Melody 101, Bicycle Girl, Baked in A Pie, self, 2015. “None of these stories are lies. Bicycle Girl doesn’t lie. Bicycle Girl is gonna rule the world.”

Redbong, Hip Hop Poulidor, Divisés [pour mieux régner], Discograph, 2009. Racer Raymond Poulidor was sadly famous for finishing second so often, particularly to Merckx.

Roméo, Ma Vie, Mes Copains Et Ma Bicyclette, L’Enfant a la Voix D’or, Choice of Music, 2002. “I have my life, my buddies, and then my bicycle… In my room, I alone make the law. And I do not need anyone. It’s my paradise, my America… When you are my age, you need to have some freedom.”

The Pale Fountains, Bicycle Thieves [no cycling lyrics], From Across the Kitchen Table, Virgin, 1985.

The Rosebuds, Death Of An Old Bike, Sand+Silence, Western Vinyl, 2014.

Tom Rosenthal, Bicycle Lane, B-Sides, Tinpot Rec., 2013. “Can you see the colors change? Oh, they’re blurring into shapes. What if you had a thought? It’s time to make the great escape. Yeah, there's no sign of cars; you’re in the bicycle lane.”

Violet Road, Bicycle [Norwegian in English], In Town To Get You, Sony Music, 2016.

Will Stroet, Le Boogie à Vélo [French Canadian], Dans Ma Jardin, [self], 2009.

To spread some cheer in this xenophobic holiday preseason, close with a quote from a non-bicycling ditty, “So if you’re up there somewhere Santa, please don’t bring me another bike… but there’s something kind of special that I want most of all. I Want an Alien for Christmas.” - Fountains of Wayne