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Monday, November 9, 2020

Non Sequitur Hain

Unless a long view across a fenced hain or hallowed vista encourages corporal penance, climbing hardly seems worth hours of bodily pain and perils of speedy descents. Rather save strength to further distance. Years ago used to attempt double metric century rides for up to 8 hours. Things change as time passes; now slam hard for only 3 while distancing from disease by steering clear of cities. But where’s the fun in sequestering self? Tottering on a pandemic precipice one contemplates shifting priorities.

Same can be said about living with blinker blinders, ear plugs, and mask muzzles. If you don’t make what matters to you understood in no uncertain terms, you’ll be forsaken and mistreated. Likewise, if you accept blindly non sequiturs foisted upon you instead of assessing intelligently what’s been done and said, you suffer same old torments senselessly. Hear, see and speak surely. Be proud that over 150 million Americans, a record 66% of those eligible, braved contagion and ignored propaganda to cast a vote in 2020 election, but, ironically, timid mail-in ballots decided results.

Incumbent immediately attacked states where he was ahead on election day because he feared what might show up among absentee ballots also cast in record numbers. Commanding a lockstep small cadre, GOP never does as well when disenfranchised independents side with Democrats and results swell. The more disgusting the candidates, the better GOP does while gloating in their self fulfilling prophecies. Over eighty million Americans struck a genuine blow against tyranny by chipping in a half billion in donations >$20, designating Uncle Joe and Aunt Kam, and deposing a dictatorial narcissistic sociopath and national embarrassment with his fake facts, fake news, fake presidency, and soon fake broadcast network to continue his relentless attack against civil rights, democracy, inclusion, race, tolerance and women. Speaks volumes about incumbent when his supporters protested at polling places armed with assault rifles and intimidation tactics. Why wasn’t National Guard called in to protect count volunteers?

Fact that Earl Blumenauer is being considered as USDOT Director promises consideration for bicyclists, who recognize him as the sort who bikes to White House when summoned and secured Bicycle Commuter Bill. Maybe more of country will begin to resemble Portland, Oregon, which he represents in Congress. But a GOP Senate would probably block his appointment. Constructing bike paths is not enough; full bike infrastructure alongside motorways minimally meets existing guidelines. Blumenauer must’ve read Carlton Reid’s Bike Boom: The Unexpected Resurgence of Cycling (Island Books, 2017, 272 pp.). Like many observers, Forbes transportation editor Reid details contrasts in bicycling’s acceptance between Americans and Europeans. In answer, each European lives in a former city state, a compressed urban center commutable by bicycle surrounded by rural riding miles in which to recreate. Americans are spread from cities to farms across suburbia and vast plains accessible on cheap fuel prices and high taxation that built unsustainable roads as some sort of privileged welfare to construction bosses rife with graft and kickbacks. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, London and Paris have many flat narrow lanes. Similar places in USA, such as Boston or New York City's boroughs, tend to have greater ridership than vast expanse of less populated continent, though biking also boomed in Bloomington, Minneapolis, Portland, Providence and Seattle, whose mayors are enlightened to alternatives. Distance and terrain impact bicyclists more than motorists, as well as economic class, given average cost of car ownership verges on $9,000/year, beyond reach of minimum wage workers even though some used beater can provide sketchy service for less. While roadnet incentivizes Americans, their perception of safety remains lower than Europeans.

After campaigning door to door, contributing for decades, and engaging in activism, Labann owes no one and watches from sidelines. In certain states voting is symbolic, since you can be assured of outcome beforehand. Sometimes all you do is neutralize opinion and normalize perception. Yet 2020's election cycle has been called bitterly divisive. Wonder why? Neither party ever makes promises or serves public, too busy padding own pockets and securing spots at sloppy trough. Either you’ll be abidin’ Biden until some humble hero rises to serve the common good, or stay stuck in a system too broken to set straight again. No country has meant more to entire world with class upgrade, fair trade, and foreign aid, but leadership is never made in the shade.

Labann’s strategy for only posting several paragraphs a handful of times each season, rather than repeatedly on some punitive schedule, provides for quality messages when they'll do least harm and most good. Plus essays give insights into their composition, as if metadata. Literary art appreciation isn't part of any advanced curriculum or social prerequisite. Critics, when not discussing prurient fictional plots, tout convincing nonfictional arguments, neither of which Labann indulges in, just explanations of all sides of any issue with no simple resolution, which precisely describes reality. A wide range of responses should always be expected in life as well as in movies, though baker’s dozen that follow seem tangled in today’s headlines.

German language masterwork of Hitler’s last 12 days, Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel, dir., 2004) stirred recent controversy when a BP technician used a meme from movie to describe poorly conducted labor negotiations, which cost him his job. Courts overturned that decision. History seems to be in a time loop. Beset Berliners are bicycling around bomb craters scurrying for shelter, while Hitler (Bruno Ganz) is blaming and sacking staff members for his own failures, His secretary, Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara), who narrates story, sneaks Peter, a Nazi youth street fighter decorated by Adolf himself, past a Soviet blockade and steals a bike so they can escape.

Diana (Uma Thurman, Kill Bill) still has PTSD decades after a terrorist teen shoots up her public high school. Otherwise, The Life Before Her Eyes (Vadim Perelman, dir., 2008) as an adult seems pretty good. College professor husband Paul (Brett Cullen) bikes to classes and daughter Emma (Gabrielle Brennan) attends parochial school. Together they enjoy a mostly pleasant life in a gardened home in an upscale neighborhood. Oops, it’s all a dream. Dee as a teen (Evan Rachel Wood) in good conscience can’t let her bestie confidante Maureen (Eva Amurri) choose to die to save her, an existential ordeal many face on a daily basis, while few appreciate sacrifices made.

Sad schoolmarm Anna (Christina Ricci) crashes her car after a spat with fiancé Paul (Justin Long), and winds up on an embalmer’s slab. Is she dead? She has several conversations with mortician Eliot (Liam Neeson). Line is blurred between actual life and After Life (Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo, dir., 2009). Either Eliot is a serial Kevorkian hastening unwilling victims out of their corporeal skin or sympathetic listener uncannily helping souls to make this transition. On the other hand, Anna’s student Jack (Chandler Canterbury), who Eliot takes under his wing, is an obvious fan of death. While biking by his favorite haunt, Eliot’s funeral home, he sees Anna upright, and warns Paul only to incite panic. Later Jack buries a hen chick alive, flagging his nascent sociopathy. Solution to sparing pain is not terminating life. Every heartbeat is another second vibrant with potential.

Scumbag grifters Alan (Jake Sandvig) and Ben (Jason Ritter) steal bicycles from a school yard for fun and support themselves in a house with an in-law apartment by felonious means, such as boosting cars and snatching purses. Alan’s sister Melanie (Rebecca Hall), a stalwart waitress at Waffle House, disapproves. Just because they were born with a A Bag of Hammers (Brian Crano, dir., 2012), they figure they can scam everyone in Fresno. They rent apartment to short tempered single mom Lynette (Carrie Preston), who’s so depressed she can’t feed son Kelsey (again, Chandler Canterbury, nominated for a Young Artist Award), and desperate, she kills herself. Suddenly Alan and Ben are faced with a choice between freeloading amorally and taking responsibility for Kelsey. In a Bike&Chain moment, they man up for once. Critics hated Crano’s first feature dramedy, but its message of less broken helping like needy is heartwarming compared to gratuitous violence that so often passes as entertainment.

Autumn Wanderer (Nathan Sutton, dir. and star, 2013) has boy Charlie (Sutton) meet girl Nia (Elisha Skorman). But his dream encounter has no future. Charlie knows schizophrenia is inherited, dad has it full blown, and he’s not about to inflict such misery upon someone he cares about. Film is remarkable not only for depicting mental illness with quiet dignity instead of slasher cues, but producing on a bare shoestring with film studio values. However, sociopathies sometimes rise to highest office and trigger atrocities. 

Another timely message, The Quiet Season (Brandon Neubert, dir., 2013), endorses November dusks in a lovely, spot on, 7 minute short that any bike commuter knows so well as brilliant glorious hours among otherwise drab green jaunts. Lisa Neubert rides alone to Great Salt Lake outside Ogden, Utah, and not only composed and performed its music, she wrote and narrated its prose. If only candidates would settle into this interregnum so serenely. For 5 minutes of pure immersion into urban bicycling culture, check out this Bicycle Film Festival montage. Recognize only a few from its dozens of sources.

Alone in Berlin (Vincent Pérez, dir., 2016) has working class couple Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson secretly leaving postcards that denounce Nazi government and urge civil disobedience after they lose their son, who was conscripted into army during WWII. Number of bicyclists shown riding former Reich rivals today’s Paris. Gestapo agent (Daniel Brühl) assigned task of hunting down culprits is beaten by superiors after being stymied for 3 stealthy years. Based on forgotten real heroes Elise and Otto Hampel, who were guillotined for their resolve to oppose tyranny.

Indie black comedy Laundry Day (Randy Mack, dir., 2016) draws lowlifes to a New Orleans dive bar laundromat, Suds and Duds, where a fight breaks out. Film covers each participant’s perspective - corrupt bartender Bart (Billy Slaughter), homeless busker Natalee (Samantha Ann), incompetent dealer Ethan (Dave Davis), and self-destructive musician Dee (Kerry Cahill) - from events leading up to incident, during which each is involved in bicycling, none as humorous as Ethan, who attends a job interview with supplier’s go-between on a pedicycle. When Bart crashes his bike and winds up arriving hours late, havoc has already broken out in bar. Dee wouldn’t have gotten an expensive ticket had she carried her instruments on a bike trailer to sing for tips. Natalee crosses paths with all three while dodging authorities.

Period drama 1945 (Ferenc Török, dir., 2017) deals with aftermath of Nazi Holocaust. Two Jewish survivors, father and son, arrive unexpectedly to a rural Hungarian town. Stationmaster questions them, then rides off on his bike to warn villagers. Folks fear visitors have come to reclaim property they’ve illegally seized and react badly. A wedding is cancelled when groom bolts. Bride burns down bourgeois pharmacy of hateful in-laws. One villager hangs himself out of remorse. The Hermanns just want to repatriate what little remains of their incinerated loved ones - baby shoes, garments, and toys - in the family’s cemetery plot. Stationmaster, busy spying on them upon his bike throughout, passes them as they trudge back to train.

Stranger Things (Matt and Ross Duffer, dirs., 2018) have occurred in Indiana than a 2020 Democratic win. Back in fictional 1980’s in this Sci Fi television series, small fictional town Hawkins harbors a secret DOD paranormal laboratory. When kid named Will goes out at night on his bike and winds up missing, his buddies, Dustin, Lucas and Mike, search for him by bike. They find Eleven, a psychokinetic girl authorities are looking for who can flip a van.

Surviving Blackwood sisters Constance (Alexandra Daddario) and Mary Katherine (Taissa Farmiga) reassure themselves, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Stacie Passon, dir., 2018), after poisoning deaths of their parents go unsolved. Town gave up trying to solve mystery after Constance is acquitted. Ladies in mansion atop hill overlooking village draw intense resentment and suspicions, which they both abide until cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) shows up and tries to split them up, though his interest is only in what money he can take from their safe. Vicious kids on bikes taunt them, and turn to flee like little girls when confronted. Sisters have no need of telephone or transportation, since they so infrequently leave castle, even after left in ruins by a fire.

The Burnt Orange Heresy (Giuseppe Capotondi, dir., 2019) has vicious art dealer Joseph Cassidy (Mick Jagger) hiring ambitious critic James Figueras (Claes Bang) to steal a particular masterpiece from enigmatic and reclusive artist Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland). Debney lives in a ramshackle bungalow in a sequestered corner of Cassidy’s magnificent Lake Como estate a short bicycle ride for Figueras. Title might as well been ripped from election headlines.

Recent ad has a women with rheumatoid arthritis riding a bicycle that disintegrates along a bike path, signaling damage disease does to joints. Stands out among many Giant and Specialized ads in that it’s not about selling wheels on backlog. 
Another unusual spot follows a biking kid, who later becomes a paperboy, then a young man gone a courting on same BMX, while toying with Daisy Bell lyrics suggesting best use of an outgrown bike is donating it to Goodwill, which means it’s a bicycle built for two or more. Time for an adult tandem! Of course, all bikes impact not only buyers but employees who manufacture them when not furloughed, material miners, road builders, taxpayers, shop owners, transportation workers, and whoever else gets involved in supply chain. Skyrizi psoriasis medicine commercial has sufferer mountain biking across dunes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Voting Grein

Any internet search sends you around globe for another dozen examples of songs relating to bicycling from everywhere, listed below by year of release. Makes you wonder whether they care what happens here. They ought to. Bad US policy has a chilling effect on many countries.

Bicycling moves so slowly you take in everything: Business, environment, money, planet, politics and religion. Most distressing has always been conservatives who are anti-green, bio-hostile, coal enamored, fossil fuelish, science denying self serving shams obligated to oil oligarchs and pleonectic plutocrats. Just about everything wrong with bikenet and roadside roulette can be blamed on their political threat. Liberals say straight out they’d accommodate everyone independent of their transportation choice, though they fail to convince neocons, who want to keep trillion dollar revenue stream for themselves, so stifle your voice. In America barely enough excess is spilling to make life a success for those willing to overlook mess and withstand stress.

On Election Day in America, networks predictably run relevant films, such as comedy The Campaign, or horror The Purge: Election Year. Included among them was Attack of the Giant Leaches, which better describes candidates. Used to be that citizens were passionate about casting ballots, voted grein yearning to be surrounded by things green in all senses they mean. But government’s been rigged so whoever gets in does the same, keeps those on top in control, while working slobs pay the toll.

Toquinho no Mundo da Criança, A bicicleta [Brazilian], Toquinho e suas canções preferidas, Paradoxx Music, 1996
Tracked down original details and recent video. “B-I-C-I-C-L-E-T-A. I’m your bike friend. I'm the one who keeps you company around, between, streets, avenues, at the edge of the sea. I go with you to buy and help you enjoy popsicles, gum, figurines and comic books. I spin the wheel and time turns and it's time to go back. For that to happen you just have to pedal me.” Goes on to explain how adults adopt bikes for other reasons, like weight loss.

Colin Meloy made a recent video that acts out lyrics of 2001 ballad Apology Song, previously listed under his Portland band’s The Decemberists. “I'm really sorry Stephen, but your bicycle's been stolen. I was watching it for you til you came back in the fall. I guess I didn't do such a good job after all... bet she's on the bottom of the Frenchtown pond rudely abused on some hesher's joyride.” Interestingly, recently reviewed a film called Hesher, a term that describes an anarchist who only wants to burn and trash world.

Spinvis, Bagagedrager [Dutch, Luggage Rack], Bagagedrager EP, self, 2002
" matter how you hold your handlebars, the wind comes through your gloves, your fingers are numb. There’s always something that paralyzes you... It keeps haunting your head. It was a long time ago, an eternity, you were riding on the Afsluitdijk [a long seaside causeway atop a dike in Holland], and I don't know how you feel about it now.”

The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, Topsy Turvy, I Bet You Say That To All The Boys, Fashion Brigade, 2003
“You're in two minds; you can't decide... She wants you all to herself. She won't share, and everyone is pulling you, pulling on your hair... I know this world is topsy turvy. I know this world has lost its mind. You’re riding your bicycle through town. You’re riding your bicycle across town. You’re riding your bicycle. Don't fall! If I tell you how I worry... 'Cause I know this world is topsy turvy.”

Ketchup Mania, Bicycle [J-pop], Just in Lust, Groove Drunker Rec., 2004

Vanessa da Mata, Bicicletas, Bolos e Outras Alegrias [Brazilian, Bicycles, Cakes and Other Joys], Bolos e Outras Alegrias, Sony Music Ent., 2010
Brazilian star known as just Vanessa offers up a little sympathetic magic for emotional ills of contagion. “Go, Didi, go buy milk and sugar at the nearest grocery store. Want cornmeal cake, but it doesn't help. Go by bike, by bike... Who said that sugar and affection cannot cure? Grandma said it was perfection, tradition and evolution. It was the cake that everyone liked... Brings love in three days or your money back.”

Adrian Lux, Strawberry (Radio Edit) [Swedish in English], Strawberry EP, Merlin - Ultra Music, 2008
Character voiced by Rebecka Rolfart rides a bike nearly throughout, except when plastering Adrian with title fruit.

Zoe Boekbinder, Typewriter Girl, Artichoke Perfume, self, 2010
Portrays a short productive life of cycling office worker: “...a typewriter girl born on the first day of summer in 1928... rides into work on her bicycle every day. She types out every letter of every word that everybody did say... on the first day of summer in 1948... under the wheels of a cable car did break.”

BC Unidos, Bicycle feat Shungudzo (Carli Remix), single, self, 2017
“Set the street on fire, all I need is two tires on my bicycle. Riding on my bicycle... I don’t plan stopping for the traffic light... If I reach a curb I’ll just bunny hop... There’s no place in the world I won’t cycle to."

Tequila e Montepulciano Band, La bicicletta [Traditional Italian], Viva l'Italia, Vol.7 (La bottarella), Musicomania Produzioni Discografiche, 2017

Ani DiFranco, Do or Die, Do or Die, Righteous Babe Rec., 2020
Anti-petroleum, politically active DiFranco has no bicycle lyrics in new album title track, but bikes a considerable amount in official video. Shaving her head means that mana’s gone to war with a timely message. “Do or die, cuz yankee doodle dandy didn’t feel free once, so he used his pen to pick the locks. And yankee doodle dandy did some doosey kinda carpentry when he fashioned that ballot box. And if you think your vote doesn’t matter, then you’re not paying attention. Yes, everything they do, they do to keep you from their invention.” Given her consistent activism, Ani was sought out for an interview by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

Burning Bicycles, Moonlight, single, self, 2020
No bike lyrics, but video is entirely about bicycling around Queens, NYC at night.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Cranks Complain

“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” Barry Goldwater, Conservative Presidential Candidate, 1964
Conservatives are, "A fanatical neo-fascist political cult in the GOP, driven by a strange mixture of corrosive hatred and sickening fear, who are recklessly determined to either control our party, or destroy it.” Thomas Kuchel, Republican Senator, 1966

Political partisans constitute an arc from radical left across varying shades of socialist to liberal, through majority of centrists or moderates, to conservatism, fascism and nadir of insanely radical right whence majority oppression, nuclear destruction, social ruin, and terrorist acts. No one who holds such views wants to acknowledge these gradients, because a) it’s too complicated to exploit, b) means compromise and disagreement, and c) won’t get own spoiled way of divide to conquer. Most religions encourage conservatism, espouse fascism, preach tolerance but profit off pestilence, unrest, and war, and side with whoever mentions pro-life despite murdering opponents daily. Fascism is embraced by ego, evil, fear, mental defect, misogyny, patriarchy, prejudice, privilege, sociopathy, supremacism, and xenophobia. America’s Supreme Court now has a 6 to 3 conservative quorum. England’s Parliament has been plagued by conservatism for decades, as has US Senate. MAGA mimics slogan (Make Italy Great Again) of Mussolini’s march to Machiavellian micromanagement and murderous purges.

Surprises that sane people don’t collect names of fascists and list them on line, since they pose the biggest threat to global annihilation. They blame everyone else for their own greed, mistakes, sedition and vices, “You forced me to commit atrocities!” Little wonder an anti-fascist movement has been started to counteract neo-nazis. You may be told you’re entitled to your own moderate opinion, but dare to express it aloud and you’ll be attacked, ostracized, or possibly assassinated for it. For evidence just look to mindlessly vicious social media trolls. But to participate in blog comments, bulletin boards, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, Twitter or whatnot proves you’ve got loose screws short circuiting your neural network. No good has ever come from associating yourself with lunatics on any level. Such outlets let the 25% with personality disorders and raw nerves dance exposed, harmless and possibly healthful amusements, but not to be joined lightly or taken seriously.

CBS does list a few dozen C-list celebrities who support incumbent, suitably including cast members from shows Clueless and Pawn Star along with a smattering of millionaire sports has-beens. Many times more have distanced themselves during months of social distancing. An A-list multitude endorse opponent only to dump a despot and rid themselves of an embarrassment.

Government exists because asshats take too much, will kill to get ahead, and won’t settle for decency and wellbeing of entire community. While many resent taxes, consider what they’re buying: Aid to least fortunate, disease control, drug oversight, food inspection, garbage collection, fire/police protection, national security, paved streets, waste sanitation, water that won’t kill you. Only a billionaire could otherwise afford these absolute necessities. Most take it all for granted, which is stupid, since each has broken down in many communities in recent past. Worst enemy of the average individual is not a foreign führer but some bastard close to home: Corporate raider, corrupt official, robber baron, stealthy sellout, uncaring traders who are all traitors wearing tailored suits and ties. Letting them commit unchecked crimes created current crises. Public rather buy into fictions about a solitary boogeyman that transfers blame from real culprits. Can include a fat billionaire president who wants another term after boasting about a lackluster GDP performance shored by domestic policy of predecessor’s administration, and unilaterally dismantling many safeguards, thus ushering in a pandemic which has sent economy into a nosedive. POTUS 45 has no legacy to speak of, but he wasn’t solely responsible. GOP controlled senate has had the final say in policy for decades. Conservatism is folly en masse, group dementia, reckless faith in capitalist self interest at the expense of decency and social justice. Voters evaluate a smirk and wink, forget incompetent track record, loathe any change including improvements, let themselves be led by empty promises, and never get how bad leadership and policies pulled rug out from under them as they pencil in or pull lever for party in entirety.

So-called ultra-left hippies, long since extinct, pose zero threat. Post disco survivors dropped out and formed communes apart from mainstream, mimicking Amish and Mennonite farmers. Leftish majority may complain sporadically, remind people of contracts and duties, sometimes march around in solidarity, but such behaviors are innocuous to anyone but control freaks and criminal bosses. Yet working within a corrupt system simply corrupts, so anyone who exercises human right to participate in policy formation runs a risk of seduction. Civilization only exists because many take chances and trust others. Mindlessly conforming to expectations and regulations will kill you. Counterculture of the 60’s recognized that forsaking consumerism, returning to nature, and simplifying lifestyles would increases civilization’s chances of carrying on. Socialism has been a fact of American life since FDR’s New Deal; its entitlements of retirement and welfare were long secured by participant payments, just as recently added health insurance pays as you go with sketchy expectations of someday getting repaid in need.

Movies can be commercial mind rot, exist only for profit motives, and not always be worth your time. Distinctions blur among biopics, documentaries, features, and shorts; facts are presented, messages communicated, narratives delineated, points made, and tales spun more or less equally. Honesty is not an entertainment requirement. Labann tries to focus only on those in which a cast member actually rides a bicycle as a story element, passing over mere depictions of ubiquitous bicycles, which randomly appear in many films set in modernity. At the moment, how films affect political thinking weighs heaviest, since propaganda has long been associated with all forms of media. A long debate has never been resolved; since advertising has been shown effective getting consumers to buy stuff they don’t need, how gullible to specious logic and susceptible to violent urges does story content make audiences?

In Parisian comédie noire À la folie... pas du tout (To madness... or not at all, Laetitia Colombani, dir., 2003), aka He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, art student Angelique (Audrey Tautou) passionately loves cardiologist neighbor Loic (Samuel Le Bihan). She pedals her vintage Motobecane to shops to buy him gifts, and writes love notes. Problem is Loic has no idea who she is, is faithfully married, and wife Rachel (Isabelle Carré) is expectant. Angelique is an erotomaniac (sounds suitably filthy and French) with an excessive impulse for being in an all consuming affaire d'amour, which targets and torments Loic to a bad end for all, especially those who dare to intervene. Where did Angelique ever get such ideas? Idealized screen romances?

Set in 1950’s Ontario, misfit Catholic high-schooler Ralph Walker (Adam Butcher) gets into so much trouble harsh headmaster Father Fitzpatrick forces him to join team run by coach Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott). Ralph’s dad died in WWII and mom’s ill, but nobody cuts him any slack and repeatedly threatens to expel. Saint Ralph (Michael McGowan, dir., 2005) sees youngster train with bicycling friend Chester, who drags him around by rope, then Hibbert, who paces him by bike, to run in 1954 Boston Marathon. Ralph figures a win will be the miracle that awakens mom from her coma. Dismal tearjerker comes to a rousing conclusion when Ralph comes in second and revives her by giving her his silver medal. Pure fiction, youngest marathon runner ever to place or win was an 18 year old Kenyan. Labann has biked marathon route, which used to be a popular pre-race pastime on Patriots Day mornings before 2013 terrorist bombing at finish. Next marathon is postponed at least until Autumn of 2021, date to be announced.

Recall view from bus, Further, of destination New York City and 1965 World’s Fair in Magic Trip (Alex Gibney, Allison Elwood, filmmakers, 2011) about Ken Kesey, Neal Cassidy, and their Merry Pranksters cruising America. “Being on the bus was like being in an aquarium looking out...” at gawkers including a street vendor on a tricycle. Kesey’s reputation consists of an All American jock gone wrong by promoting unproductive personal experimentation after volunteering for CIA psychological tests. Taking all that LSD freed Ken from any desire to think cogently, though he continued to write and published one novel afterward among anthologies of essays and short stories. Authors get accepted by being slightly ahead of readers, not transcending this relationship on a quest of unfathomable space-time to which few can relate. Having passed The Acid Test meant graduating beyond dogma that suffocates and need to repeat processes. At least he had been heard, unlike millions of boomers who allowed themselves to be sucked back into machine and survived to testify. But who could live a free lifestyle without a royalty trust fund, and who wants to be known as a dropout slacker anyway? Anyone else with such a resume would have to resort to crime, because nobody hires admitted druggies with long gaps in productivity.

Micro-budget multiple award winning drama Short Term 12 (Destin Daniel Cretton, dir., 2013) has social worker Grace (Brie Larson, Captain Marvel) bicycling throughout between a sloppy flat and a temporary shelter to help troubled teens. She lives with scruffy coworker Mason (John Gallagher, Jr., Tony winner) who loves her despite her desperate past. Nate (Rami Malek, Mr. Robot) joins staff to help Marcus (Lakeith Sanfield) graduate out to a fairly normal life with a girlfriend and job in an aquarium after a suicide attempt. There’s no logic in altruism or empathy practiced daily by mental health workers, nurses in emergency wards, and such everyday heroes without whom society would collapse. Academy snubbed excellent performances because box office leverage in mega-millions is all they admire. Being rich is no measure of character.

Cousins raised as siblings Chloe (Krysta Rodriquez) and Vivien (Aimee Teegarden) inherit their aunt Isabelle’s (Linda Lavin) Bakery in Brooklyn (Gustavo Ron, dir., 2016). Chloe is a chef, palate and soul behind a television cooking show. Bicyclist Vivien just wants to enjoy Europe on a long planned vacation in this sappy romcom. At first, neither wants to be saddled with an old school boulangerie mortgaged to the tin tile ceiling. But banker can’t seem to carry out foreclosure after he tastes their tarts, and keeps boss at bay by helping get their century old shop listed on Historic Register. Family, promises, respect comprise duct tape and Post-it adhesive that hold civilization together, although people think machine guns whenever they hear civilization mentioned.

Go-along conditioning and habitual substance abuse have negatively impacted public’s ability to think critically. If your vote actually counted, you wouldn’t be allowed to. Millionaires aren’t the sole cause of society’s ills any more than poor account for national debt. However, any class but middle class is a detriment, sucks vitality from system, and transfers wealth upwards. Excessive saving or spending other than for necessities and sensible purchases denies livelihoods and diverts money. Eliminating debt would slow inflation and stiffen economy against recession. Devoting resources to value adding industries - agribusiness, manufacturing, mining - instead of pandering to what people want - addictive substances, distractive entertainment, pain abatement, sexual gratification - sounds responsible, but won’t expand industrial sectors, improve diversity, provide occupations for all skillsets, remain safe, or sustain society, since industry to date meant excessive carbon emissions and waste mountains. How cars and cigarettes harm environment has already been measured. Tax code let its worst evader in history become president, so only provides a solution when enforced without discrimination. Too-big-to-fail strategies steal from struggling masses to preserve a small number of privileged positions. Bank bailouts were greeted with big executive bonuses, while Job Bill around since 1990 never got discussed in Congress. Unless system of government works to increase middle class it isn’t worth preserving.

Bicyclists know how to cram everything they need into tiny bags. Paragraphs thus compartmentalized become interlocked jumbles. Apologies for being cranky at a crucial juncture. Life is convoluted, messy and twisted. Why should movie viewers expect everything neatly wrapped up in 90 minutes? Labann began commenting on bicycling culture in 1990 having lived within it since 1950, and still hasn’t revealed all that underlies it. A simple spin outdoors for fresh air and fun touches on everything under the sun from absolute mismanagement to zero contentment with how planet is being run.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Zahir Bane

Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short story about The Zahir. For protagonist, it was a coin, but it could be anything, a bicycle in particular. "Tiny dot reveals all." Zahir is a physical object that embodies a psychological obsession and supernatural bane. Even ridding oneself of object does nothing to cure spiraling into abyss of its infinite connections to universe. Being lost in the funhouse of emotional and physical details is something in common with stars in each of the movies mentioned below.

Don (Don Black) has a crush on Alli (Allison Breckenridge), who invited him to her birthday party, but his car won’t start. His beautiful neighbor offers a pink bicycle with girly basket to ride Bicycle Lane (Jeffrey Ruggles, dir., 2009) amidst notorious LA traffic. Don’s on a mission, but spin across City of Angels with streets designed only for motorists is fraught with bedevilment.

BBC 4 aired an hour documentary called Ride of My Life (Robert Sullivan, dir., 2010) based on Robert Penn’s book It’s All About the Bike from same year, reviewed right after publication. Someone thought it important enough to post show on Youtube years later; so far three quarters of a million people viewed. Skims a century of history for audiences with attention deficit, and tours planet hand picking components for a perfect build. Penn is Labann on steroids: Deep pockets, multiple bikes, passion for craftsmanship, singularly obsessed, and two wheeled world tourist. His simple surmises on a coming bike boom sound prophetic several pandemics later. Choked up a bit in awe and envy of his day trip with Cinelli staff to Chapel of the Madonna del Ghisallo (patron saint of peloton) high above Lago Como, forever a bucket list biggie for bicyclists the world over, though now epicenter of European COVID, so beyond reach.

HBO documentary Hard Times: Lost on Long Island (Marc Levin, dir., 2011) is a long therapy session among citizens desperately trying to cope with ageism, bankruptcy, joblessness, and residence eviction due to economic downturn caused by Dubya Bush’s presidency and Republican Senate. One possible suicide victim relied on family backing and took bolstering spins by bicycle around his beloved Levittown suburb. Of those who were interviewed, he alone was offered a new position well into Obama’s term, once domestic policies were revived. At least one who died no longer had to fear belongings being turned out onto curb and imminent homelessness as millions of others. Story puts a human face on policy betrayal.

Family of convicted monster Simon Fairbairn leaves England in 1968 for dark isolation in remote coastal Maine. Mother Rose and 4 siblings, Jack (George MacKay) the eldest, revert to mom’s maiden name, Marrowbone (Sergio Sánchez, dir., 2017), and settle into her dilapidated ancestral home. Mom tries to stay alive long enough to assume ownership herself, then transfer to Jack after he turns 21, and thereby keep siblings safe together, but she doesn’t make it. Jack fraudulently conducts family’s business keeping a low profile by riding to distant village by bike. But dad escapes prison and tracks them down, while lowlife lawyer tries to blackmail family out of loot never recovered. Nearest neighbor Allie (Anya Taylor-Joy), who cares for Jack, sorts out sordid details.

Television miniseries Manhunt: Unabomber (Andrew Sodroski, Jim Clemente, and Tony Gittelson, creators, 2017) follows FBI profiler James Fitzgerald (Sam Worthington) whose innovative approaches helped bring a 1996 close to a 20 year reign of terror perpetrated by Theodore Kaczynski (Paul Bettany). Neo-Luddite Kaczynski randomly sent bombs to persons he assumed were promoting socialist viewpoints or technological advancements, both of which he mistrusted and misunderstood. Despite an estimated IQ of 168, he couldn’t even accurately define socialism in his ridiculous ecofascist manifesto. Just to prove all bicyclists aren’t benevolent, Kaczynski only biked back and forth from his off-the-grid Montana cabin to village in Lincoln to pick up supplies and send mail bombs, thereby hiding his identity long enough to injure or kill 26 innocent victims. While threads of sanity twist through his published rant, entire fabric is best described as paranoid schizophrenia, much like Fox News, and proved his downfall once Fitzgerald applied linguistic analysis. Fox insanely harps on Hillary and Hunter as if they were candidates, when neither has any influence in this election cycle, unlike woefully unqualified Donny, Eric, Ivanka, and Jared, who conduct national business in name of POTUS 45. Experts agree lion’s share of domestic terrorism is due to neocon nationalism or theocratic radicalism inciting suicidal minion.

After Class (Daniel Schechter, dir., 2019), aka Safe Spaces, has NYC humanities professor Josh Cohn (Justin Long) using bike share to reconnect with family and visit grandma in hospital while defending his reputation over an alleged classroom indiscretion. When countrymen have no hope of gainful employment they become dishonestly vicious and increasingly litigious. Lifetimes of excellent service, good deeds and indubitable loyalty are forgotten.

Based on personal history, self produced on 10 years of savings, indie drama Borderline (Anna Alfieri, dir., 2019) has bicyclist Anna (Alfieri herself) and Robyn (Agathe Ferré) break up after a sapphic affair of sultry cuddling and cycling together. Anna can’t deal with their separation, and succumbs to borderline personality disorder, dark depression, feelings of worthlessness, and worse perdition trying to replace what she had. Breakups are common with BPD. Negates old saying, “Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved.” In her real life in London, Anna claims Pink Floyd’s music saved her. “Art or love? Can a writer have both?” Or either, asks Labann.

Action thriller 6 Underground (Michael Bay, dir., 2020) has five untraceable agents with erased identities led by One (Ryan Reynolds) on their first mission together in Florence, Italy, where they destroy antiquities and mow down bystanders including several nuns on bicycles. Makes you wonder who’s worse, heroes or villains, though this morality meme is often repeated as part of a regular agenda. Fictional antihero Hancock nearly leveled LA.

Originated in 2008 Yowamushi Pedaru (Weakling Pedal) is an expansive Japanese manga series (films, graphic novels, and television) by Wataru Watanabe, replete with original punk tunes by LASTGASP and ROOKiEZ is PUNK'D. Plot focuses on anime character Sakamichi Onoda, a skinny otaku (obsessed anime fan) who shows up at Sohoku High School on a nerdy mamchari (bulky and sturdy mommy’s bike) to classmate derision. He’s looking to resurrect school’s anime club, but serious cyclist Shunsuke Imaizumi notices how easily he climbs steep hills without fancy equipment, so convinces him to join competitive cycling team instead. Was a shame to overlook this series, as 2020 sees a second live action film directed by Kôichirô Miki starring Ren Nagase as Onoda. Now it’s Osaka headquartered Shimano Dura Ace and Ultegra components and titanium frames, among world’s best, though manufactured elsewhere.

Tailer for upcoming German documentary Verplant: How Two Guys Try to Ride a Bike to Vietnam (Waldemar Schleicher, dir., 2021) follows director and Matthias Schneemann, neither with any touring experience, on an epic adventure begun in August of 2018 before pandemic. Suffering is still good for the soul unless it saps spirit and will. 

Based on fact, John’s Bicycle (Colin Riendeau, dir., c. 2020) was likewise a quest to cross continents, in this one from France to India, but found an impossible love interest along the way. Will this ill fated couple, city Quebecois and country Greek, abandon all they’ve known for love, or settle back into a their separate disappointments? Seems production on this fable stalled due to COVID; website claimed it would be out last March. Indie films are generally introduced at festivals, so might be withheld until some are staged.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Back to SPANE

In 2020 Tadej Pogacar did something that has only been done once before by cycling’s biggest champion, Eddy Merckx, who captured 3 jerseys in one Tour de France in 1969: Green (sprint points), Red Polka Dot (King of the Mountain climber), and Yellow (general classification, least time). Pogacar won 3 as well: Polka Dot (KOM), White (young newcomer, in fact, second youngest to win at 21 years old) and Yellow. Through 19 of the 21 stages he trailed fellow Slovenian Primož Roglič, although Roglič’s team Jumbo-Visma had ushered him into solid lead after 2,000+ miles. Penultimate Stage 20 was a time trial. With a minute to make up and no team to help, Pogacar climbed so quickly he erased deficit and gained another whole minute. Pogacar keeps so trim and weighs so little climbing must be comparatively effortless. History was made on that Saturday, putting him in control of Sunday’s final procession into Paris.

With a half a million euros at stake, who knows what cheating, doping, or secret mechanical advantages go on? All have been disclosed repeatedly. Didn’t know it was possible to stick an electric motor inside seat tube adjacent to bottom bracket to aid in turning cranks, thereby conserve cyclist’s energy. Superior conditioning and weight control are all Union Cycliste Internationale allow, but winning means so much some are willing to defy health extremes and invent singular technologies. One might argue that such butting against boundaries advances state of the art and serves mankind’s interests. But only devoted training tied to innate skills make pioneering designs fly fast enough for victories. Detect what you can when postponed and shortened Vuelta a España begins next week, when superior climbers will have best chance of winning.

Watching a Grand Tour is like indulging in a reality television marathon every day for a month. You are sated and spoiled by spectacle of delicious triumph and devious debacle. Rather watch movies, which concisely detail narratives of people’s lives; in an hour or two all that need be spoken unfolds along with subliminal agenda and suggestive context. If you dive deep to find relevant scenes, you can review key points in a short paragraph, which might inspire unaware readers to further explore, intentionally ignore, or sleep some more. You can be sure that anyone who expends every last ounce of energy trying to implore you for anything only cites a truth to gain trust to spin self serving lies corrupt to the core. Weeks before a major election, have no clue what’s in store given candidates everyone should deplore.

Terri (Jamie Gertz) had to be saved by failed Wall Street trader Jack Casey (Kevin Bacon) in bike messenger flick Quicksilver (Tom Donnelly, dir., 1986), previously reviewed. Casey needed a time out to do something exhilarating and freeing on a fixie, but returned to commodity trading with a vengeance. Once saved by a bicyclist, billionaire philanthropist Gertz, richest actor in history, did okay for herself. Distaff office klatch in current Baroness von Sketch show ask themselves, “Why don’t we bike to work?” then note coworker guzzling water, heavily perspiring, and uncovering helmet hair, “That’s why.” Not the first time this show bashed bicycling. Another CBC sitcom Torontopia included hilarious sketch Cyclist Rage Counseling (Ryan Long, dir., 2018) in which therapy group held in local bike shop bemoan automotive oppression, “I can’t control the road, I can only control myself.” Google coughed up $340 million in free ads for small businesses in response to COVID, thus this emotional Small Unites spot which flashed an LBS promoting a child’s first ride. Lately find shops scheduling repairs or sales months hence with bike boom and COVID furloughs causing unrequited demands.

Vancouver drug dealer Art (Jay Baruchel) is panic-stricken when his hooker girlfriend Cody (Sarah Lind) falls into a coma. Street acquaintance Harvey (Jim Byrnes) offers Art use of his time travel recliner for Fetching Cody (David Ray, dir., 2005) in a past when she is not yet sick, but doesn’t yet know him. Viewers don’t suspect all these complications while couple happily ride together on a BMX throughout opening credits. Art says, “Sometimes on my bike I feel like I can fly if I just concentrate hard enough.” Turns out cure for them is to never have met.

Tarek (Shredi Jabarin), a Palestinian soccer player living in Tel Aviv barred from traveling freely to matches, discovers dad has acquired checkpoint passes to further his sports career by conspiring with authorities in For My Father (Dror Zahavi, dir., 2008). His paternal resentment results a situation where he’s forced into being a suicide bomber. After trigger fails, he gets 48 more hours, during which he meets Israeli shop owner Keren (Hili Yalon), who likewise resents her parents for their domineering orthodoxy. Though they share self exile in common and take a long ride together on her bicycle, their brief romance is doomed. But due to her kindness, he removes nails, which would’ve become death dealing shrapnel once bomb explodes in marketplace. so only he dies.

A Birder’s Guide to Everything (Rob Myer, dir., 2014) has sensitive bicyclist David (Kodi Smit-McPhee) recently bereaved of his bird watcher mom, after whom he takes, overcome grief when he meets bicyclist Ellen (Katie Chang), who tags along on a teen quest to rediscover a supposedly extinct duck. So, his response is bittersweet, with varying positive and negative emotions, whose frequency his therapist might measure using the Scale of Positive and Negative Experience (SPANE), something of which acutely beset but mood boosted bicyclists are keenly aware and kind of beware.

Jason Bateman directed and starred in Bad Words (2014) about malcontent adult technical editor Guy who qualifies for the national spelling bee after feeling abandoned by sperm donor dad, who walked out on his mother before he was born. Turns out, dad is president of Golden Quill, bee’s organizer. Meanwhile, he reluctantly makes a friend of juvenile competitor Chopra (Rohan Chand) who he tricks into winning to further embarrass dad. Bikes show up in final scene at boy’s school; when bullies pick on him and ride away laughing, Guy suddenly arrives in a decommissioned police squad car, and takes Chopra on a revenge chase. Talk about corrupting a minor...

After graduating high school class of 1969 on Keweenaw Peninsula in far north Wisconsin, penniless buddies Charlie (Thatcher Robinson) and Derek (Paul Stanko) find Schwinn bikes dad left in garage, then set out to explore shore of the greatest lake. Superior (Edd Benda, dir., 2015) looks across and takes on 1,300 miles of summer finding out before knuckling under harsh adult realities. Based on true story of director’s Vietnam era dad in 1971, primarily produced in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, traffic was no hindrance in a deserted landscape.

Dutch short Day in the Life of a Bicycle (Mateo Perez Vega, dir., 2016), depicted from bike’s viewpoint, has girl shown ripped off, hoodlum selling her bike on black market, recipient in a crash and repaying her, and wreck recovered and restored by original seller.

Mike (Michael Angelo Covino, who directs and stars) waits until The Climb (2019) to tell best buddy and fellow bicyclist Kyle (Kyle Marvin) he slept with his fiancé. Mike then engages in road rage with a motorist, and winds up in a hospital. After stealing away Kyle’s fiancé and marrying her, she dies untimely, and buddies reunite at her funeral. Later Mike works at a bike shop/cafe, while Kyle still clings to their friendship despite his transgressions.

Bicycle (Michael B. Clifford, dir., 2019) documents previous century of British bicycling history with particular emphasis on Coventry works and short inventive life of John Kemp Starley and his Rover Bicycle, which some might call the first “modern” bike, although it added a chain driven rear wheel to Michaux’s first to be mass produced model, which had ball bearings, foot pedals, leather saddle, rubber tires, and wrought iron frame. Props to both together with Da Vinci, who conceived of pedaled transport over 500 year ago. Don’t forget US innovators of BMX, graphite and titanium forks and frames, MTB, ten-speeds, and whole lot of improvements. Notion laid dormant until other technologies emerged: better materials, ergonomic design, paved streets, pneumatic tires, tubular steel, twisted cables. Wooden Draisienne derived little popularity, but furthered interest in something better than feeding and keeping horses as sole means of getting around. International collaboration was one reason for success of mankind’s greatest invention.

Paroled murderess Miri (Daisy Haggard) after 19 years in jail is finding it hard to return to society in critically acclaimed dark sitcom Back to Life (Christopher Sweeney, dir., 2020) set in Hythe, Kent, England. In Season 1, Episode 2 she wheedles a job from fish&chips shop owner Nathan (Liam Williams) to distribute food and wait counter. Her first delivery is by tricycle to local school, where she confronts her past coconspirator Mandy (Christine Bottomley), who not only beat rap for which Miri served but became head mistress and happily married.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Pays de Cocagne

Still from feature film trailer Crooklyn (Spike Lee, dir., 1994)

Freedom, Freedom, Freedom, Freedom... Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from my home. Sometimes I feel just like I’m almost gone. I got a telephone in my bosom, I can call them up from my heart... when I need my mother, Mother!” - Ritchie Havens

“I been Ayn Randed, nearly branded Communist, 'cause I'm left-handed... Well, I paid all the dues I want to pay. And I learned the truth from Lenny Bruce, and all my wealth won't buy me health, so I smoke a pint of tea a day... I knew a man; his brain was so small he couldn't think of nothing at all. Not the same as you and me, he doesn't dig poetry. He’s so unhip that when you say Dylan he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas, whoever he was. The man ain't got no culture... I been mother, father, aunt and uncled... I just discovered somebody's tapped my phone.” Paul Simon, A Simple Desultory Philippic, 1966

America, land of honey, milk, and plenty, as if from medieval myth, once acted as an amusement park, liberty beacon, motherly bosom, preferred destination, residential station, and welcome wagon. For a short while that also included people of all ages, colors, creeds, orientations, and races before conservatives beat civil rights back to antebellum biases and gave citizens the royal shaft. Through personal computing, almost entire planet has become virtual; mobsters and monsters can exploit anyone from elsewhere without costs, rules, taxes or toil. Now that data is more valuable than even crude oil, writers worry that producing content, especially gratis, only gets used against them and for what they never meant it to be. Einstein's abstract insights multiplied mankind's existential plights. AI will kill anyone it views as a threat. Prophets of doom live short lives of misery. Who needs panic porn they spout? But that's what bad leadership brings about.

Publishing bitter attacks, casual observations, fervent emotions, pertinent facts, or radical notions seems foolish, possibly ruinous, when you don’t own a single item you’ve created and shared. You become a marketing target and unit of profitability, or contribute to social dilemma of immersive media. Saying the truth and speaking one's mind should be smart but are not. Fox Network has nothing but programs with dysfunctional families, incompetent coworkers, and interpersonal violence. Within a society that glorifies idiocy, anything that separates you from the herd makes you vulnerable to predators. Bicyclists know this all too well, rather gather with friends or strangers than go solo amidst dangers, though you need no motivation other than your own to take a spin, a slo-mo adventure outdoors. Got to wonder whether staying home is safer given household accident statistics and risks of not visibly standing with others against social injustice.

Data warehouse RIPON secretly stole profiles from Facebook and Twitter for Republicans to spy on potential voters and swing those undecided. Rates right below QAnon agitators who conflate every case of child abuse or sex trafficking to promote reprehensible leaders blustering about it with no intention of interdicting. Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Britanny Kaiser adds that your credit purchases and local movements are used for personality modeling. Current laws totally permit this privacy invasion. Pandemic furloughs and quarantines further provoke cyber crimes, internet scams, and savings hacks. Worse, situation is being used to preach against freedoms, promote conformity, suppress rights, and wrest control. Easy to blame hapless victims for lack of compliance; impossible to hold real culprits culpable and prosecute for justice and reparations.

Psyops represents the latest iteration of illegal behavioral modification used to brainwash American public for conservative domestication. That you don’t believe in how psychology can be used to get you to act against your own interests is just part of their successful programming of you. Motorists pay plenty for convenience and promise of speed, but they get repeatedly cheated by construction, gridlock, and rudeness. Immersion in movies once seemed less nefarious and nobler than indulgence in politics, but both shamelessly use sociological tactics to twist facts and wrest trends to their own advantage.

You’d think with all these surveillance cameras on every pole they could make streets safer for bicycling by noting where motorists buzz or cut off cyclists, form uncrossable queues, refuse to follow traffic controls, stick nose into intersections ignoring boulevard stops, and turn or weave without warning, which, by the way, are all seldom enforced traffic violations. No, these days you are instead advised to isolate yourself from humanity. How does that help you? Social animals only survive through interpersonal contact, what people do for each other, services rendered. After paying dearly to drive motorists are being deprived everything of fascination that might be experienced between origin and pulling in to destination. Distancing has been gaining ground by privileged design since Reagan era. Haves only suffer have-nots to extent they create wealth and do chores. You’re only allowed to survive so they can take what’s yours.

Misery loves company so much those who suffer will infect, injure, maneuver, or otherwise drag down whomever they can, particularly a gullible samaritan. Lately cross to other side of street to avoid contact and maintain distance. Saw man with an intimidating dog, who seemed ready to cross. Rolling closer, realized it was a service dog unwilling to chase a tennis ball and thereby lead blind master into traffic. So deviated to middle and kicked ball to happy pooch. Situations are often not what they appear to be without in-depth study. Tennis ball put all proximate at risk, but what can you do?

To enjoy being in the vicinity of great people you’d have to have fought a good fight yourself, lived in peril, wandered through same battlegrounds. Personally met decorated soldiers, famous authors, a goddess, a Nobel laureate, rock legends, a saint, and several presidents and statesmen. Labann behind handlebars, prisoner to pedals, slave to saddle so far has served over a half century of a life sentence, though somewhat rewarded for good behavior, while Satan took Sin for a spin causing crisis planet's in. Many people would prefer quieter lives, but there’s no perks without risks. Have been beaten, betrayed, crashed into, shot, stabbed, and stressed but survived. Must assume everyone has character flaws, yet insulate oneself against harm they will cause. Brothers in blood can be worst of frauds.

Made mistake of taking a bike path shortcut on a midday weekend. Knots of families with dogs and kids blocked way, so just stopped on left, where cyclists supposed to pass, and waited. Fast trailing cyclist yelled, "On you left," repeatedly. Didn't respond. Once crowd dispersed, spun up quick to 25 mph, caught, and blew by impatient passer, who, despite trying to chase, faded quickly behind to invisible. Peeled off to seal deal. Sometimes you have to send a message that dispels delusions of self superiority. You are not king of all you survey and, at only 16 mph, lord over any bikeway. Real bicyclists don't rely on dedicated paths as race tracks for contests against unsuspecting opponents. Ego isn't served by edging out someone who may be at end of a long tour, just getting back into pedaling, or new to cycling as recreation or sport. Among bicyclists and pedestrians an automotive mentality doesn’t belong. Peloton racing is an exclusive club involving young idiots exploited in a spectacle for advertising. Excluding these few thousand individuals, a billion riders are commuting and recreating, not racing.

Handshakes, once a business mainstay, are taboo. Socially responsible greeting gestures now include a bow, a hand over heart, hello in international sign language (a right handed salute), namaste prayer, a nod, a peace sign, a shrug, or a wave. Bicyclists respect each other with a passing nod or thumb’s up. World Health Organization doesn’t include no touch chest thump, elbow bump, fist pump, or slap rump because all infringe upon personal distance. WHO does give advice on wearing masks over both mouth and nose, not stuck below chin, in hand, off ear, turned inside out for a second wearing, or wherever it does no good. Exterior of mask is contaminated and unfit to be fiddled with on face or touched without immersion wash.

In other words, you are only free to do what is responsible; otherwise you could die from negligence, not much of a choice. Every hour spent bicycling affords another whole day alive if you don't inadvertently die in traffic. Although you might get away with wayward ways, benefits don’t outweigh delays, yet majority don’t appear to care. Stooges united on a bicycle built for three parties rolling downhill into certain chaos, massive stupidity seems to predict an election win for incumbent boob who runs things for billionaire bosses, so they don’t have to reveal their influence. “Fear no disease,” he dares to declare after only he receives cutting edge treatment after denying millions affordable care and two million pandemic deaths. Consider source and take every precaution.

If you take time to think about content before you publish it, you often derive new insights or reconsider accuracy of what you wrote. Debatable and disreputable statements contain adverbs and hyperboles of “always”, “only”, and “we”. Yet there's an overwhelming drive to get ahead, glide with tide, go with flow, let go of control, and make a retraction only if compelled to do so. Blatant lies, bold emphasis, and fake news enrage readers who are already on edge. Behooves a writer to clarify and condense, even when it’s all been said before. Labann excels at annoying. Nothing is so unloved as honest advice on best practices explored over volumes with the exception of simple truths, which nobody can tolerate and likely does wrong if they try to apply. Before and during outings so often remind self about a dozen sensible things to do, feel a reckless urge to delineate them for you:

1. Clean bike frequently; note cracks and dings. Never ride on a cracked frame. Touch up bare paint on steel to avoid rust. Dry, then oil, chain and pedals; wipe off excess. Oil derailleurs and shifters once in a month. Sanitize saddle.

2. Disassemble bike every few years because bottom bracket, calipers and derailleurs can fail, gum up, or stick; reassemble to specified torque ratings. While zooming down hills at 60 mph, you’ll consider it as packing your own parachute and feel more confident.

3. Consult take/wear checklist, since forgetting a cell phone, helmet, house keys, or tools can progress past just annoying into life threatening.

4. Expect - bad motorists; broken, bumpy, crumbled, potholed, sandy, trash strewn pavement; linear cracks that will impede balance; road furniture; sewer caps, slotted grates, and sunken pipe covers. Much of what constitutes bicycling entails avoiding idiot motorists, constantly watching where you’re going, and wending around hazards and obstacles.

5. Flip crank around before leaning into a turn so pedal doesn’t hit curb or scrape pavement. Level pedals over speed bumps. Never lay bike down on derailleur side.

6. Give tires a pressure check before every ride; keep between max and min. Inspect hubs, nipples, rims and spokes. Tires and wheels take the most abuse. Protect spokes from damage while riding, storing, and transporting.

7. Stick to a straight line rather than weave except when avoiding items in #4.

8. Take the lane. Within their rights, bicyclists are entitled to use entire street, squeeze aside only to let faster traffic pass. Drivers must avoid crossing edge lines or gore areas, so, refuges for cyclists. Riding close to curbs, in gutters full of trash, or on sidewalks will result in flats or you might crash; plus motorists might not expect or see you there.

9. Tuck in before a bend in road, so trailing motorists, who momentarily lose sight of you, don’t edge around corner into you. Friendly roads have lanes wide enough for trucks and shoulders wide enough for biking and parking, but it’s up to you to evaluate sight lines.

10. Understanding how #8 and #9 apply, when descending a hill faster than other traffic, use best pavement across lane’s width. Drivers trying to pass can suck it; enabling scofflaws is not the same as impeding law abiders. Likewise, while climbing slowly, pick an unobtrusive line and let them overtake without fuss so they pass sooner.

11. Whenever you see a crooked crucifix or God Makes Cretins logo, anticipate bonehead maneuvers and random aggression. Bus, pickup, SUV and van drivers take up more than their share of travel lane and resent your presence even when off road edge. Despite all advice, do whatever’s necessary for your own safety.

12. Bicycling is supposed to be fun, commune with nature, reduce stress, and take time while pedaling and recuperating, repaid in longer life expectancy. Gives pause for thought about hidden truths, source for over 2,000 pages of Bike&Chain before disappearing into ignominy again.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Frame's Teyne

Children bicycling or tricycling by Monster House (Gil Kenan, dir., 2006) better beware. In this Dreamworks animated feature the soul of a carnival freak fuses with a spooky mansion. Any kids, occasionally adults, pets or toys who get too close are swallowed whole. Paperboy who tosses a roll onto lawn is knocked off his bike by roll slung back at him. Neighbor D.J. (Mitchell Musso), pal Chowder (Sam Lerner), and schoolmate Jenny (Spencer Locke), who Chowder and D.J. try to save when she tries to sell Halloween candy there, team to solve mystery. Although characters are a rip-off of Harry Potter cast, box office doubled budget, and film got nominated for an Academy Award.

Penicillin: The Magic Bullet (Gorden Glenn, dir., 2006) describes how Alexander Fleming took credit for the discovery of antibiotics after deeming this cheese mold spore unfit for use on humans. Oxford scientist Howard Florey teamed with biochemist refugee Ernst Chain and lab technician Norman Heatley to extract the first thimbleful of powder, which they injected into first human test subject, and transported urine samples back to lab by a relay race of bicyclists to produce more. Though injured bobby they treated died for lack of sufficient quantity, it proved penicillin wasn’t magical whimsy but medical cure. Took American war machine to ramp up production, which saved an estimated three hundred thousand troops after D-Day. Hitler also took credit out of petty jealousy and pure malice. Fleming has a crater named after him on the moon. Few remember Oxford pioneers whose dedicated efforts have alleviated suffering and extended millions of lives since. Isn’t that usually the case?

Adam (Michael Stasko) discovers Things To Do (Ted Bezaire, dir., 2006) whether or not he wants to after he leaves a big city job and retreats to small time family’s home. Mom insists he do some grocery shopping, so he breaks out his ten speed. There he runs into Mac (Daniel Wilson), who provokes all sorts of adventures.

Bicycling artist Piper (Elizabeth Harnois) begins a job at Beach City Grill making Ten Inch Hero (David Mackay, dir., 2007) sub sandwiches for hippie boss Trucker (John Doe). Her move to Santa Cruz has to do with stalking her presumed daughter Julia (Adair Tishler), who she gave up for adoption after becoming pregnant at 15 years old. Both dad Noah (Sean Patrick Flannery) and daughter ride their bikes to a nearby beach, where she secretly imposes on their lives. Northern California suits her better than western Pennsylvania. 

The Soloist (Joe Wright, dir. 2009) describes schizophrenic Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx, Academy Award for Best Actor) before his slide into homelessness. After a bicycling accident, LA Times reporter Steve Lopez (Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man) befriends Nate, and tries to improve his life. Downey does another bike dive in The Judge (David Dobkin dir., 2014), previously reviewed.

Another animated feature, Aardman big budget Arthur Christmas (Sarah Smith, dir., 2011) stars James McAvoy in title voiceover role. Arthur Claus, Father Christmas’ awkward grandson, answers letters to Santa. He takes his background role seriously, since Santa has a reputation to uphold: Coming through for kids and delivering to all who deserve gifts. He personally assures English girl Gwen she’ll get her heart’s desire: A shiny pink bicycle. His brother Steven (Hugh Laurie) manages vast corporate facility buried beneath North Pole that employs countless elves and manufactures a billion gifts distributed before daylight on Christmas Day. Steven hopes to inherit Santa’s role from his father Malcolm Claus, who is showing signs of slipping in his advanced years. Malcolm almost gets seen by children, which alerts an elven rescue and diverts bike’s dispatch. Wrapping elf Bryony Shelfley (Ashley Jensen) notices error. Arthur, Bryony, and Grandsanta set off to save Christmas but run into one disaster after the next. Arthur unwraps gift bike to race to final destination before sunup, while Bryony rewraps it on route. All four Clauses convene on scene to watch Gwen get her wish, which she immediately puts to use outdoors and surprisingly gets a glimpse of the new Santa, Arthur, just as he escapes. Film earned $50 million and won scores of minor awards.

Ciclovida Lifecycle (Loren & Matt Feinstein, dirs., 2011) follows Brazilian farmers Inacio and Ivania, who collect and distribute heirloom seeds and spread potent ideas throughout South America, without cash support or motor vehicles, by pedaling 6,000 miles by bicycle in a year. They expose monocultures of alcohol producing plants used in unsustainable motor fuels. Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman comes to mind as an inverse inspiration by hiking on foot and planting nonnative seeds around America’s mid-1800’s frontier.

Chinese dramas Drifters and 11 Flowers (Wang Xiaoshuai, dir., 2003 and 2011, respectively) cover what ordinary life was really like over the course of a lifetime during cultural revolution and in a contemporary small town. A drifter fathers a son while working illegally in America, is repatriated to China, then sorrowfully receives visiting son he’s not allowed to keep after riding him on his handlebars to meet grandfather.
When school boy of later film is selected to lead daily gymnastics, he must wear a new white shirt, which puts a strain on his struggling family's finances in a remote Guizhou village. He loses shirt in an encounter with a desperado, who keeps his promise to replace it from prison. Bike commuter dad and homemaker mom don’t approve.

Small town New Jersey brothers Eric (Nathan Varnson) and Tommy (Ryan Jones) are well advised to Hide Your Smiling Faces (Daniel Patrick Carbone, dir., 2013). Tommy rolls through a fast food takeout on his BMX, pays for a meal, then pal runs by and snatches it; Tommy smiles after food service girl replaces order, and they eat together as planned. But after finding Eric’s younger friend Ian dead at the base of an abandoned train bridge, summer no longer seems a school vacation to while away days casually exploring woods, painting graffitis, scamming townsfolk, and vandalizing vacancies. Audience is left to wonder: Homicide or suicide? Brothers go for a solemn BMX ride to muddle through in their varying stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. At 2020’s summer's end, millions of American families face the same and look for whom to blame.

The Hundred Foot Journey (Lasse Hallström, dir., 2014) lies between Madam Mallory’s (Helen Mirren) Michelin 5 star haute cuisine fixture favored by celebrities and heads of state and Papa Kadam (Om Puri) family’s Indian eatery just opened in an abandoned provincial building across the road. His chef son Hassan gradually grows interested in what Mallory offers as well as her head chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), with whom he takes bike spins into gorgeous Pyrennes hills. Cultures collide in this village gridrion. No wonder Tour de France always passes that way.

Sister of 34-year-old triathlete Nancy (Lake Bell) urges her to Man Up (Ben Palmer, dir., 2015) 4 years after her divorce. Mistaken identity has her on a blind date with 40 year old Jack (Simon Pegg), who thinks she is twentysomething Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond), which goes well until she runs into an acquaintance who calls her by her real name. After Jack's actual date with Jessica, he’s begins to pine for shapely cyclist Nancy. In recently cancelled sitcom Bless This Mess, Season 1, episode 5, one scene has Lake's character ride her bike into a lake after being sent on a goose chase by a jealous frenemy. Bell, automotive contributing editor for The Hollywood Reporter, used to write car column Test Drive, so wonder why she has become linked with cycling.

The Book of Henry (Colin Trevorrow, dir., 2017) contains instructions from a son (Jaeden Martell) to his single mother Susan (Naomi Watts) on how to save girl next door, Christina (Maddie Ziegler), who is the abused stepdaughter of police commissioner. After gathering evidence by bicycle, Henry convinces mom to take covert action. Police generally get a bad rap, as do politicians, priests, and whoever is placed above civilians for everyone’s benefit, because a few betray trust bestowed, overstep bounds, or take personal advantage of power.

Veronica (Olivia Holt) gets the shock of her privileged Louisiana life when her high school Class Rank (Eric Stoltz, dir., 2017) comes out as only #2. Not taking it lying down, she masterminds a plan to get a bicycling classmate, bright but clumsy Bernard (Skyler Gisondo), to run for a seat on Livingston School Board and reverse any academic impediment to her getting into Yale. Critics liked this romantic comedy with scenes stolen by Bruce Dern and Kathleen Chalfant, but it got lost at box office and went quickly to DVD.

When Flemish cycling champion Thierry (Vincent Rottiers) takes a trip to Senegal to recoup after a crash, he meets prostitute Fae (Fatou N’Diaye), a fallen angel, Un Ange (Koen Mortier, dir., 2018). It’s love at first sight, but troubles over racial prejudice they face with dignity and hope. Based on a novella by Dimitri Verhulst that delves into suspicious death in 2009 of real life cycling star Frank Vandenbroucke, who won many European races and World Championship in 1990s, it reveals how famous athletes suffer under withering expectations of public fans and team leaders. Selling your body has multiple meanings, such as doping and pushing beyond all reason to perform and win. Family issues overwhelmed and knee surgery sidelined, following a 2004 suicide attempt Frank explained, “I put on my world champion's jersey, I injected myself [with 10 cc of Actrapid insulin]... then I went to lie on my bed and I waited to die. I was so happy.”

Flandrien hopeful Felix Vereecke (Niels Willaerts) grew up in an insular realm of professional racing surrounded by alcohol, cheats, drugs, egos, fisticuffs, obsessions, rivalry, and tunnel vision. But his own bid to become a Coureur (aka, The Racer, Kenneth Mercken, dir., 2018) doesn’t pan out. His body rejects EPO experiments, so his dad gives blood transfusions. Nothing, not even cancer, can stop him from competing in this dark and dirty world. In Dutch and Italian, it’s based on Mercken’s own life in the peloton.

Still from racial drama Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada, dir., 2018) shows a fat tire BMX wheelie.

fan maintains a page on  lists feature films, not documentaries, that depict cycling competitions. Some of its entries outdate Labann himself, who mentioned most of them already. You may find others among Krigogstoffer’s 3 dozen to consider viewing while knocking back a Fat Tire Belgian Ale or Samuel Adams Porch Rocker Radler, which was inspired by German cyclists who make something analogous to a British shandy when they mix 1 part lemonade and/or limeade with 2 parts lager, even better when served by bixi-babe wearing a Karen Scott designer bicycle tee. Why not? 
One title that stands out, psychological thriller Sombre (Philippe Grandrieux, dir., 1998), divulges an even darker current to Tour de France: Serial killer Jean (Marc Barbé) cruises route and dispatches prostitutes. He meets unstable virgin Claire (Elina Löwensohn) and her sister, whose car has broken down. Instead of murdering these new recruits too, he lets Claire escape their crepuscular rendezous, though he returns to his predatory prowl of spectators, disturbingly suggested by final scene [shown]. Critics found film’s blurry solemnity and remorseless menace offensive, but Labann seeks such bicycling culture examples within a nexus comprehensive.

Renewed Intuition (Thibaut Grevet, dir., 2020) is a short (or should it be called a brevet?) about Michelle Le Gaffric riding a bicyclette in Paris, while Yann Bean reads a poem by Dylan Cox. It is oh so French describing a vélo experiences and sensations while serving as product placement for Brooks Saddles of England. It begs, “Give us television and time; free us from freedom.” Bicycles, after all, exist as a response to city residence and modernity sufferance, so not exactly a freedom machines but navigational mechanism and pluralism redeemer among civilized society. Frame's teyne, i.e., surface plating, has little impact on intended purpose; bright or dull, all's well as long as you can propel.