Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Unlike Gawain

Blogbook's intention has always been to inch along the edges of enigmas inside emotions, language and logic. Resembles mountain biking within broken crevasses or riding streets as if a rider suddenly miniaturized, which would render most of what humans endure impossibly hostile. But after this year's Christmas Massacre of Innocents, feel almost as unsafe on own couch watching countless repeats of that story where delusional boy covets a beebee gun; you'd think advertisers and lineup programmers would choose something less pathetic for a nation in mourning.

Fears can and will be exploited. TD Ameritrade's 'pataphorical ad with a bicyclist dodging beasts hopes to appeal to your intelligence (smart traders ride, right?) but makes no sense whatever (maybe instead dodge insatiable billionaires or pompous Trump). A for-once gratifying bike placement is the boy climbing to his mountaintop challenge on Quaker cereal, courtesy of iSpot.tv. Suppose such concrete challenges appeal more to Labann than mythical threats easily avoided by not investing in scams SEC still allows.

Writers go wrong at the first simile, succumb to self indulgence through metaphors, and work agendas with allegories. Readers are hardly aware they are so being used.

Among the venerable jewels of English literature is the medieval allegory "Gawain and the Green Knight", whose deadly challenge Sir Gawain shoulders for Camelot's sake but shows things are never what they seem. Set between successive Christmases and worth a reread, it's about man versus nature, opportunities for growth, and persistence to a respectable code of behavior despite temptation. The Green Man continually rejuvenates and so becomes an invincible yet merry foe expecting a bargain made to be repaid. His elvish evergreen, ivy and mistletoe may be thought subservient to Santa and taken for granted but do get job done. Hope springs eternally, and those who bring it deserve honor.

Labann knows legends of knights errant and their lonely quests of assumed responsibility get replayed during every outbound bike commute, right down to the exposed progress and uncertain outcome, especially among these coldest, darkest days. But all they do is impart lessons in loyalty undeserved by today's leaders. When they begin rewarding patriotism and showing good examples of fulfilling their oaths to majority, issues facing society will fade into history.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beef Chow Mein

Would like to liken life to a blade upon which everything falls and separates bad from good, left across right, right beside wrong, but that's just a meaningless metaphor. People bounce off each other as if a hodgepodge of random particles. Even this blog defies any regular frequency or specific relevancy, which generally attracts readers, and gravitates toward any generic event, feast, or holiday when particles boil vigorously. There's little celebrating while pedaling alone, although day to day that's mostly what goes on. One expects consensus and natural laws to dominate and never make life incomprehensible, then things happen and you can't help but wonder.

There's probably some causal relationship between 13 mass killings this year—among 61 in USA since 1980—and threat of apocalypse next week at the end of Mayan calendar on Winter Solstice. Fear and want create savages and terrorists. No less than NASA's respected astrophysicists debunked celestial doom occurring anytime soon. But emotions rule, not logic, and few totally believe academic or official sources eager to shape opinions to suit agendas. Basic survival, how to grow food, and what's best to invest in are not among ideas they rush to impart, so can they be trusted? Do they care for your welfare? If termination is imminent, why not go berserk? Anyway, enemies lurk around every corner. Extremists want you dead. Global warming is real, whatever the cause. Hope is fragile and irrational. Hurricanes increase in ferocity and frequency, 19 along Atlantic coast in this year alone. Pessimism dovetails with perennial doubts and takes no effort to peddle compared to calm optimism only the brave embrace. So all those end-of-days predictions seem all the more plausible.

Because news reporting has become efficient through space age communications, those who heed are too keenly aware of what happens worldwide. Even North Korea has a spy satellite. Foreign events could drive decisions at home despite fact no such thing ever occurs locally. Conversely, unique customs serve far flung communities quite well. A homogenous world isn't practical; you can't hunt polar bears in equatorial rain forests. Only arrogance expects social engineering to prevail over organic growth. But some commodities or recipes do resonate everywhere. Chow mein, for example, is an ersatz occidental adaption of oriental cuisine, an example of fused mélange that diners eye warily but taste anyway. Some of the best things combine exotic influences.

Talk vainly attempts to enlist you in someone else's beef, but unrelenting behaviors can be explained. If you decided to burn oil to stay warm, you've already installed a furnace and can't easily change to an alternative within a decade without forfeiting investment. Hybrid vehicles hold appeal when immutability of fuel sources gets unreal. Survival comes from natural selection, not of favorites but whatever exists in given moment. Should all else fail, you can always chop wood or go by bike. While options exist, hope endures.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tin Panned Lane

About 6 decades ago comedian Max Miller (actual name Thomas Sargent) amused folks with tongue-in-cheek tunes like Let's Have a Ride on Your Bike, a 78 rpm single from Philips in 1953, another of those chestnuts that appear every year while recapping bike songs. Recent releases have nary a hit among them. Anyway, here's 2 dozen to consider:

Alanna-Marie Boudreau, Boy on the Bicycle, Hands in the Land, self, 2012
Andrew Page, Bicycle (piano instr.), Sketches & Suites, self, 2011
Ashley Theberge, Bicycles, Ba Do Day, self, 2009
Best Before, The Bicycle Song, Colours, self, 2011
Biruge, Bicycle and Sketchbook (J-pop), Bicycle and Sketchbook, self, 2011
Carlo Messanotte Jazz Quartet, Bicycles (instr.), Jazz Tales, Wide Sound, 2011
Dawn Kinnard, Bicycle, Wrong Side of the Dream, Montagu Music, 2010
Don Aliquo, Lower Burrellian Bicycle Loop (jazz instr.), Sun & Shield, self, 2011
East of the Wall, Horseback Riding in a Bicycle World, The Apologist, Translation Lost, 2011
Kerri Dopart, Bicycle (Built for One) [C&W], I Saw This Coming, self, 2007
Konnichiwa, White Bicycles, Visions, Rainbow Body Rec., 2011
Lianne Smith, Bicycle, Two Sides of a River, self, 2012
Libby Thomas, Boys and Bicycles, (single), self, 2012
Lord Ace, Bicycle (hip-hop), Elevator Musik, self, 2012
Michou, Growing Younger, Cardona, Green and Gold Music, 2010
New Orleans Moonshiners, Bicycle Bird, I'm Comin' Home, self, 2010
Nora and One Left, Big Red Bicycle Christmas (and other relevant titles), Bicycle, Rick Rowland, 2012
Pianism, Bicycle [piano], Memories, Music Mania, 2010
Requiem for Sirens, Bicycles and Aviators (deathcore), The Pride in a Sinking Story, Nyoncore Rec., 2008
Self Evident, Half Bicycle, We Built a Fortress on Short Notice, self, 2012
Siena Castañares, Bicycle, Yearbook, self, 2010
Suneaters, Bicycle, Suneaters XIII, Lotuspool Rec., 2012
Tasm Lab, Three Red Bicycles, Anthemunanthem, self, 1993

If you like bike related videos, somebody put together a playlist which features many of the songs this blog has previously mentioned.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Illicit Gain

When transactions demand you bring your hunger, naivete and vulnerability—not common sense, community concerns, or learned reason—should you just walk away? Maybe you want to sow weeds rather than stay perennially relaxed and unscathed. Anyway, it's impossible to go through life without regrets and tragedies. You don't have to look hard to find pain; never doubt it'll find you. Anyone who listens to media will be hounded with pleas to act out of patriotism or personal values without considering the sacrifices. They dangle a given, expect you to buy in, then take advantage of your sin of omission to perpetrate some horrible crime in your name. It doesn't matter that you only agreed generally in principle; it's a deal with the devil, a wish with unintended consequences. Are concomitant protests oddly organized best described as boycotts or oppositional defiant disorder?

If you heed anarchist Adbusters and their Buy Nothing Day, ask yourself how you'd live without trade. Total self sufficiency is massively inefficient and materially wasteful, even though likely to refuse and reuse. You'll burn furniture to stay warm when logs aren't abundant. Stuff never made invites distress and wretchedness. Yet you don't have to kowtow to commerce, either, because legions of Black Friday shoppers willingly stand in line at all hours in your stead, as gruesomely skewered by Freedomain Radio. Activists against business aren't themselves eating less or eschewing durable goods or interstate transport to profitable speaking engagements; they only want to convince enough so their own lives will be easier, thus assuage their own guilt at your expense. What they should promote is one-for-all products instead of endless choices for the sake of ego and planned obsolescences that waste resources. Yet as materials get scarce, only a multitude of approaches keeps people working and things happening. How everyone survives matters. Anarchy and apathy end badly, whereas interdependency and reciprocity yield both equanimity and prosperity.

In Jim Carrey comedy The Truman Show (Peter Weir, dir., 1998) everyone beside Carey's character is a cast member on a "reality" television show in which Truman unknowingly stars. Many residents of idyllic island town of Seahaven ride bicycles. With nowhere far to drive on set, bicycling and walking are preferred. Show's popularity has everyone fulfilling ad placements and holding up products for sale with smiles. Mankind's factual inability to escape suggestions to slurp sugary beverages has resulted in an epidemic of diabetic obesity. Focus ought to be on natural wholesomeness, instead of synthetic yellow jerseys after which glory hounds lust.

In new novel Gold by Chris Cleave (2012, 324 pp.), best friends and Olympic rivals Kate and Zoe compete and emote, while Kate and her husband Jack, also a World class cyclist, contend with recurrence of young Sophie's leukemia. Triumphs over cancer sufferance, domestic duties, and potty training get devalued versus velodome achievements. Embittered by all she'd surrendered to pursue championships, Zoe berates her coach, "Your job was to sell tickets to the freak show, the same as everyone else." See a future chick flick.

Stakes for a star with special skills in winning self selected game seem almost too high to stand. Anything done alone for fame or to amass illicit gain brings anguish and chill, while instances when participants share normally cheer and warm.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Trek Profane

In Bob Mionske's article in Bicycling Magazine, innocent cyclists get tazed, unjustly accused by a road/roid raging constable, then vindicated in court after an unnecessary ordeal.

First off, incident occurred in political swing state Ohio, where absurd, even unholy events can happen, do, and dopes like Double-You get reelected. That's almost enough to explain it all. But Mionske forgets to mention prima facie evidence: You don't need a license to ride a bike, thus traffic codes never apply. Sure, you ought to be courteous always, but rude isn't yet illegal. According to the United States Constitution, nobody can technically restrict your right to self propel along any public thoroughfare. Yet they routinely do so on highways and interstates, ostensibly for safety's sake. Often there's no way across rivers except for highway bridges; how are you supposed to ride or walk to your destination? Cyclists forfeit convenience and time so motorists can speed along; any notion they ever impede traffic ludicrously opposes logic. Poor road design impedes all users alike. If you can't drive faster, it's your DOT's fault or God's will.

The Patriot Act allows officers to detain and question anyone, but surely sanity behooves them to target trucks and vans within which criminals and terrorists can hide contraband and loot, rather than cyclists, who anyone with the least intelligence can assess as innocuous at a glance and dismiss forthwith. In practice, enforcers instead take the easy route. Why not arrest some unthreatening crank for no reason, rather than pull over an armed driver in a huge tractor and search its 45 foot trailer for dangerous cargo after getting a judge to sign a warrant? Laws favor criminals and foster victims. In a complex world, control freaks want to revert to medieval standards of morality and obligations for everyone but themselves. Such tactics turn back the calendar on hard earned freedoms. Who says time travel is impossible?

English psychedelic rock band Hawkwind had a minor hit in 1972 with "Sliver Machine". Lyrics by Brock/Calvert were inspired by an Alfred Jarry (1873-1907) 'pataphorical essay "How To Construct a Time Machine", a device which resembled a bicycle frame of antimagnetic ebony brazed with copper. Song instead referred to own new silver colored steel racing bike.

This planet's 1 billion bikes are ubiquitous space-time machines, traits they share with pop tunes, but do they become invisible to relentless duration when riders freeze in a track stand or twirl around a velodrome? Temporal means both profane and timely. Trek might connote an odyssey or pilgrimage. Bicycling feels visceral and worldly yet often effects attitudes profoundly and spiritually. Bikes have gyroscopic elements, obviously extend lives and time in which trips occur, and thus warp reality in subtle ways as does electromagnetism, friction and gravity, each of which you'll directly experience on every ride. Cycling is sensual, motoring obscene. For short spells cyclists find themselves in innocent times, while motorists repeatedly seek to violate manmade and natural laws with impunity.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Biogenic Sovereign

Funny how nature bounces back no matter what vicious scars humans leave. Ever consider fuel cell, rechargeable battery, or rotary hub power sources for your bike headlights on Winter commutes? Fear Fall hurricanes caused by climate change? You won't personally make any impact. Late comedian George Carlin reminded the pretentious, "The planet isn’t going anywhere. We are!" Yet why preserve corruption of production where billionaires hoard and hordes abide? Blind leaders and ignorant followers invite mutual destruction. Mankind can't continue imposing its will upon the Earth, too expensive and wearisome, so nature rebounds in crazy ways.

Carlin was tired of, "Self-righteous environmentalists... bourgeois liberals, who think the only thing wrong... is that there aren’t enough bicycle paths," which typically resurrect foresaken rail beds. Railroads, then highways, cut off animal migrations and cyclist routes. Eventually, animals get around such impediments, and instincts genetically stored over millennia take over. Remember pedaling along one at dusk, then, flicking on headlight, saw hundreds of glittering eyes. Upon approach critters slunk away indifferently. Indicates amount of animal displacement due to human ingenuity is disarmingly marginal. Nearly ran over a slow skunk the size of an ottoman. Wrote of seeing deer crossing suburban interstates. A few years later that became urban, along with bears and cougars near rivers and similar pockets of unused property. Moose to mouse, animals retake whatever territory people don't directly despoil daily.

Fauna rely on flora as superior reclaimers. Often pass a feral side road covered in vines that have almost enveloped billboard size signs. Business is still there, but you have to access through a back entrance; suppose they gave up trying to keep curbside gate clear of vegetation. Imagine gardeners working weekly with machetes and stumpers. Bamboo, bittersweet, kudzu and wisteria destroy buildings, pavement, and stands of trees as they spread, while noxious weeds crowd out and steal nutrition from food crops. Forebears uprooted every tree they could when wood was the choice of fuel; society today seems determined to suck dry every gas and oil field. Biomass renews; a generation later trees again outnumber vertebrates by an extremely imbalanced ratio. Takes millions of years to compress organic matter into crude, however.

Majority that vows allegiance to oil will soon be betrayed by dwindling supplies, rationing, and total economic collapse. Humans will still have hands and legs to do and go. Conveyances, power tools, and vehicles merely sped them along. A bicyclist can be fueled on a bowl of rice or burger made of game or veggies. Few appreciate that microorganisms ultimately generate all energy and sustaining chemistry. Planet is a garden mankind was born to tend. Plastic literally means flexible. Any viable future demands many alternatives, all of which recycle wastes and none of which unduly strains supplies. Natural models rule everything alive. Nature conclusively and repeatedly demonstrates that diversity is key. Those who think differently should to be tolerated for diversity's sake, something closed minded conservatives can't seem to accept but might live to regret.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blown Acclaim

Appears the only pelaton racers who weren't doping were the ones who never won. Who cares? On Fall rides, the air sometimes smells of sour grapes. Lance was a particular disappointment to fellow cancer survivors and Livestrong followers who felt he shouldn't have taken risks that might have threatened remission or tax-deductible donation. Maybe it's the opposite; after loading up on chemotherapy, doping seemed comparatively milquetoast. Isn't the mission always to succeed at all costs? Or survive to fulfill some purpose? Dopers are pushing themselves hardest, beyond sanity and training to a whole new level, Russian roulette on a wheelset. How do you define "hero"? Results? Do you have to perform timidly in handcuffs? Even Houdini had tricks.

Rumors has it UCI was complicit in a doping coverup. If so, they roll a fine line when enforcing any ban or title withdrawal, which might involve a fiery back draft. You can't prove anything that nobody wants proven. Belief seems to require human sacrifice and impossible resurrection.

Safer to do, say or want nothing, because champions must fit preconceptions, give up self, and handle inquisitions. Why do critics denigrate adverbs? Denigrators don't like to have verbs qualified, rather do than do carefully/fairly/politely/ steadily/well. Attitudes and details live in adjectives and adverbs, reveal what writers loathe, think, trust and value. Nouns are practically interchangeable lumps, verbs no more than abstract gestures, winners statues without flaws. In processions of Roman Triumph, a slave held a golden wreath over head of imperator while whispering in his ear, "Fame is fleeting. Life is short." How it's done trumps what was accomplished. Nobody knows why, not even person who does it, likely some conditioned response or unexamined instinct. Whoever gets credit probably doesn't deserve it. Blame, liberally distributed though usually undeserved, hounds any achievement. Posterity judges whatever you do. Why consider consequences when you never know what they'll be? Acclaim belongs mostly to those who train in perpetual obscurity.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Yikes! Job Bane

Cycling has a critical downside: tired downtime. You could fill it watching a presidential debate. Offers ideas to digest during next ride, because pedaling itself is the last thing anyone wants to dwell upon on a 20 mile commute; it's a job in itself, although work seldom entails so much fun yet usually pays more. Who's idea was it to tie compensation with survival?

Should you vote for a suddenly moderate Republican because: a) He says anything you want to hear and willingly promises prosperity with no intention of delivering? b) Nation doesn't but ought to exercise its clout globally? c) Terrorists controlling airwaves cannot live in a manner befitting their massive arrogance without totalitarianism? d) Things aren't improving fast enough to suit you personally? e) You must fear self fulfilled prophecies and unseen threats that conservatives create? Sounds like a desperate plea to suspend reality. Anyone who entertains such malarky forfeits their freedoms. One could argue that Bush tax breaks eliminated jobs; there's no evidence they produced any. Tax cuts do effect economy but don't speak to fifty million unemployed. "Government doesn't create jobs..." domestically; they are too busy handing out aid to rest of world or rewarding millionaires who offshore opportunities. Worse is this obsession to get everyone to produce; haven't manufacturers already depleted all available raw materials? Positions they'd create would mostly be unpaid. Who can even survive on minimum wage? Of course there's a recession; it predates current administration and was created intentionally. Inflation has only occurred in protected or subsidized industries, notably oil. There's plenty of wealth to spread around, but the few who have the most clearly won't share fairly with those who might successfully compete with them. You cannot subjugate healthy, imaginative, smart people. To seize control you must build weapons, cut educational funding, dumb down, erode strength, and generate fear.

Bike&Chain exists because no one person can figure everything out alone. Self reliance only means successfully harvesting surplus and working cooperatively. The scientific method, around since the 13th Century, yielded substantial results through a cumulative amassing of knowledge among a chain of researchers. In each generation volunteers step up to record observations, test hypotheses, and verify findings. Tons of tiresome details confirm simple truths. People are calmer when they can look on Internet and obtain factual answers. Nothing said during this election cycle can be fact vetted, because it's only opinions and personalities. News analysts are sadly reduced to playing back what hypocrites previously said to refute later fiction and rhetoric. Candidates are job applicants vying for a role as public servant, but expect voters to elect them king with unlimited powers to enslave. Sorry to inform: Application rejected.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Books & Shame

Lately one notices many books and films related to cycling. Not much interested in chasing pelaton; rule out 90% of them. After decades of knee abuse, Stryker's eccentric wheel ad commands more attention despite its nonsense. There's a silly biking sequence in this year's ornithologist comedy "The Big Year" in which a trio competing to observe the most different birds go wherever vagaries of weather increase chances for sighting rare species. On location in Attu, North America's most Western Aleutian Island, they huddle in hovel then hurry off on beater bikes upon each new rumor. Leave it to Steve Martin to bash bikes again. Just out, director David Koepp's bike messenger action flick Premium Rush may be too tired a plot after "Quicksilver" and seeming countless dirty cop shows, none of which accurately depict reality. It leaves you looking for cultural statements with a shred of authenticity.

In her new how-to guide Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards entitled 1st chapter, "Drawing and the Art of Bicycle Riding", not surprisingly. The very first exercise they give freshmen at a certain prestigious New England art college is to draw a bicycle, because it immediately reveals all of a student's flaws and strengths. But that's not what Edwards was after, instead comparing how someone who's teaching cycling will mount bike her/himself to show what needs to be done. Drawing teachers seldom mimic this hands-on approach, either out of ego or inability, lest they be outdone by those they're supposed to instruct. Learning to draw well really means learning to perceive everything, negative space to positive edges, things all cyclists intuit just to stay alive.

Suzanne Joinson's audiobook A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar is a fictional account of two sisters who become missionaries to China about a century ago, one with a real calling and the other with aspirations to be a travel guide writer. Notice neither ever expected to become physicists, politicians or such careers still closed along gender lines. Even the percentage of women graduates among computer scientists has fallen drastically. Conservatives prefer them in their kitchens, possibly what they mean when they say they want jobs for everyone.

Aili and Andres McConnon's Road to valor: a true story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the cyclist who inspired a nation (Crown, 2012) is a biography of cycling great Gino Bartali. The 1st half of the 20th Century was the heyday for cycling, when people still pedaled more than motored and tested the limits of human endurance. Bartali, a devote Catholic who discovered his own natural talent and laughed at cold, mud, rain and snow on twisty mountain roads, was divided like Christ's cloak by clinging church, fans, fascists and nazis as a hero. Evidence demonstrates he aided resistance fighters during World War II, that black hole for cycling careers, before making the greatest comeback in Tour de France history. By 1950's fickle public no longer doted on cyclists as if rock stars. NASCAR and other sports had become bigger attractions for foolish betting and idol worshipping. Champions are still fueled by arrogance, ego and pride, much like Nazi ideals. Mechanization proved a wartime advantage. Bikes do free youths from apron strings to conquer horizons, but it would be a shame if they contributed to Hitler's horrors. Bartali would have none of that. Climbing mountains and enduring pain teaches balance, compassion, and humility, not to take everything too seriously.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dino Wino

These days along streets in any major city you see individuals squatting. Seems they have nothing better to do. Everything else cost money of which there's little in circulation after trillions were trickled up. Hasn't yet kept majority from motoring, but might mitigate a little gridlock. As it is it takes on average a half-hour to drive from Boston College to Harvard Yard, no faster than bicycling 7 miles there. Can't help believing squatters don't have bikes because they spent too much on their petroleum addiction. Now they bob, drop and flop like a dino wino incapable of imagining another way to get around or mustering enough energy for minimal labor or self propulsion after years of comfortably cruising.

As gasoline prices escalate, alternatives proliferate. Several manufacturers (BionX, eZee, Giant, et. al.) offer electric assisted or fully electric bikes priced for what 6 months of gasoline costs; any could easily make this 14 mile round trip on a single charge. Another interesting development is the NuVinci N360 continuously variable transmission (CVT) rear hub featured on such bikes as the Novara Gotham, which has a carbon belt drive, disk brakes, and integrated headlights run off a generator front hub. All this extra gear makes bike weigh in at a whopping 40 pounds, as much as a tandem or twice a roadie, but same as a vintage Schwinn and suitable for patrolling urban precincts. These transitions from automotive convenience cost more than typical bikes, although decent equipment tends to run over $700. You get what you pay for most of the time.

Having worn out a half dozen bikes, remind others to be smart about rebuilding versus rebuying. An advanced steel or TI roadie frame and fork can be repainted and repaired to accept a new gruppo for under 1 grand, yet equivalent replacement could be as much as 5. If bitten by greatest/latest bug, console yourself in knowledge that a car is 10 to 20 times as much as comparable cycling price points. A $99 box store one speed costs 1/20 a rust free used subcompact; a high end $10,000 road racer costs 1/20 a new Italian sports car. You can fill your garage with all cycling options above for expense of mandatory car maintenance over its usable life.

Kids learn to do things for themselves when they master eating utensils, going pottie, and pedaling tricycles. But true self reliance comes when they venture away from home to explore a bigger world, which begins long before a driver's license. Bicycles are an integral part of an adolescent passage to adulthood. Those who never ride don't seem to know how to evaluate risks, and therefore fear everything equally and inefficiently. Nothing good comes from staying put. If people want to get off dole, they've got to become mobile. Moving is essential to living. Cycling beats walking, while driving means a vehicle you can't park anywhere near places you want to be.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Butt Conserving

Waging an ever escalating battle for authority in a wastescape where churches, military, news media, police and politicians have all been exposed as corrupt, all you have left are lonesome bloggers, personal correspondents, and self. You'd hope, like Diogenes, the Cynic/Stoic of Sinope with his lamp, that at least one is as incorruptible as all those dead artists and writers you once admired. People take themselves too seriously; it's why you see so many disorganized and suppressed protests lately, from Occupy to Pussy Riot. Officials wrest control and outraged victims react badly. Nevertheless, you ought to exercise freedoms, like muscles, or they atrophy. You must always act after thinking things through; being absent, brainless or rash will kill you. Then again, so will religious bigots on slightest provocations.

Living fully means applying both body and mind. Diet, exercise and sobriety prepare you to earn a living and make wise decisions. Commuting by bike is one way to stay in shape. Some claim it's perfect, but nothing ever can be. If you live far from work and still want to ride, dozens of precautions must be observed, both in properly equipping self and riding along crumbling pavement afforded all traffic. Fear and inconvenience remain atop list of excuses not to ride. But, compared to motoring, biking is far less dangerous. This sense of vulnerability was broken down by blogger Dave Horton in "Fear of Cycling".

Labann always says, "You can ride almost anywhere at right time." Prohibited from highways, long commutes traverse narrow rural and suburban roads where motorists drive faster than usual. Suburban soccer moms spoil the safety of limited congestion. Yet all streets are empty more than full. While most roads are thick with impatience at rush hour, you can ride right down the middle of proverbial Main Street at 5:00 AM, but being alone on a bike at night is even scarier than being buzzed by school busses. As the Swiss documentary "Urbanized" explains, people are returning to cities because of rising fuel costs and sustainability issues. Bicycles suit millions packaged together. Yet conservative opinion continues its anti-bike tirade to consolidate oil profits.

Since a bicycle is not a vehicle, you shouldn't mimic motorists. You should cross when everyone else has red lights; in presence of other traffic remain right of solid shoulder line except to dodge debris and establish sight lines; slow and yield at stop signs (already law in Idaho), but stay moving so you can accelerate if needed; take to gore areas and sidewalks when otherwise unsafe on avenues and bridges; use all of road and best pavement in absence of other traffic. Motorists need not concern themselves with exhaustion, dress dependent on weather, remember to constantly hydrate, or scout and time fast routes. Not going to list again the 10 items to bring and wear. Just do it and soon figure it all out yourself.

If only those words are necessary that change minds and chart new courses, then best paragraphs are minefields of memes that suddenly explode into reader extremism or repentance. Anything else is boring or rebarbative. Imagine writers laboring for years in obscurity only to be ignored? Why bother? More time ought to be spent on making facts useful than merely recording them, more time really doing things than talking about doing them someday. But are people worth your efforts? History inevitably will be repeated by majority who doesn't read and doesn't want to be saved. Meanwhile, terrorists try to impose their will on others by attacking embassies and markets of bystanders or running for office through tactics that alienate 50% of voters. Appealing to fears and pandering to emotions will always profit more than raising awareness and using reason.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Brick Biplane

Unless you couldn’t guess, Bike&Chain was among the first books to mimic Internet surfing. Conceived in 1990, it paralleled Internet becoming commercial and going from 1% of trafficked information to 97%. Like network news and websites, its discussions are shallow and short, hopping randomly among peaks, substantiated only by reader’s willingness to accept unclaimed authority. Hitherto, books carried stamps of academic, ecclesiastical or editorial approval, studied topics in depth, and wasted a lot of time for those wanting to arrive at destinations before they die. Not quite true, encyclopedias also abbreviated facts and were arranged alphabetically for fast access, but were originally intended to end guilds, who held processes secret to exploit wealthy patrons. Once anyone could manufacture necessities, middle class and shared justice manifested widely.

A truism says, “Only in hometown and own house has a hero no honor.” Some homebodies do get cred and props. As with any generality, it’s only true so often; a broken analog clock correctly indicates time twice a day. Familiars are jealous, friends forgive your faltering first steps, and neighbors never expect anything worthwhile to whelm among them. Conditioned by availability of remote news, they tend to hire from afar, look toward horizons, marvel at successes elsewhere, and neglect own. Why is “World class” never local? It’s taboo to mingle within tribe; you don’t date relatives. Improves courting efficiency and gene pool to connect abroad. Even then, obstacles remain in bicker addiction, misogynist backlash, puerile provocation, and stranger suspicion.

Art could reflect society, but since so homogenous emotionally, genetically, and intellectually is there enough diversity to distinguish itself meaningfully? A Borg collective would be as busy and dull as a beehive, a featureless monolith. If your project doesn’t succeed in being downright different, it flies like a brick and nosedives into plain noise. Some argue that individuality is no longer a necessity, only cooperative actions stimulate progress, and thinking for oneself is offensive. Yet a stack of generalities can’t withstand onslaught of one weakling channeling might of Universe. Minds don’t even need a bicycle to spin through space and time, and that one fact is establishment’s worst fear. But Bike&Chain is only an insane paper plane tossed into a hurricane; from it there's no telling what readers will gain or retain, whether bane, mundane or wittily urbane.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Year in Song

To add to book's 1,000 entries, labored over weekend to compile another list neither comprehensive nor timely of songs related to bicycling released since this time last year. Keep doing this at intervals, but seldom find songs to add to collection of over 500 titles. Anyway, gave artist, title, and, where available, link, album, label and year.

Bellwether Ambassadors, "Bicycle", Bicycle EP, Lake Bonney Music, 2012
Billy Sans, "Bicycle Morning", Bicycle Morning, 2011
Gary Picard "Bicycle Rider", Bicycle Rider, self, 2012
It's Only a Story, "Village Bicycle" [single], self, 2011; misogynist twaddle disrespects nymphomania, and what's there not to like?
John and the Time Traveling Bicycle, [no related titles], Life As a Kite, 2012
Liam Merriman, "The Bicycle Song", Words in Music, Three Rivers Rec., 2011
One Lucky Sperm, "Dear Bicycle" [Swiss in English], One in a Few Million, Claxmusic, 2012
Sive (Sadhbh O'Sullivan), "Bicycle Song", We Are Moving, self, 2012
Sleep Decade, "Bicycle" [single], Gaga Digi, 2012
Stephan Matthieu, "A Bicycle for Max Matthews", New Music from Old Instruments, Incunabulum, 2012; and who is he, you might ask? Max Mathews, who died last year, created MUSIC, the first program to use a computer to synthesize songs. Harry Dacre's "Daisy Bell" was the first song sung by a computer just over 50 year ago. In homage, director Stanley Kubrick in feature film 2001 had murderous computer Hal 2000 sing it. Technically speaking, you can blame a lot of lame chart toppers on Max, but also credit emerging sounds found by virtuosos.
Sue Denim, "Bicycle" [single], Superhealthy, 2012; fun animated video accompanies catchy if repetitive tune
Team Me, "Riding my Bicycle", To the Treetops, Propeller Rec., 2012
Treasure Fleet, "High on a Bicycle", Cocamotion, Recess Rec., 2012
The Wigg Report, "Bicycle Religion", Bicycle Pop, self, 2011

Monday, August 27, 2012

Once Strong

Was a bad week for those named Armstrong. The first human ever to step foot on extraterrestrial soil dies, and Texas Johnny gives up fight to retain claim to another unprecedented accomplishment, winning 7 Tour de Frances.

Americans paid respect to quintessential spaceman Neil Armstrong. During the Summer of Love, 1969, recall listening alone but attentively to staticky radio halfway through night shift as this historic event remarkably unfolded. Must have been among the few who didn't catch the television broadcast witnessed live by hundreds of millions. You lose so much of life at work; without you important stuff occurs, kids grow up, and what good world has to offer goes to someone else. Every once in a while, though, an indelible memory is made on the job. Neil's was special beyond measure, what reporters dubbed "the right stuff", where fabulous preparedness seizes golden opportunity. All work should be so rewarding, but most resembles mind numbing drudgery or soul strangling slavery. These days budget conscious congressmen question billions spent exploring space, without which there'd be no personal computers (shrunk to fit aboard spacecraft) or thousands of other innovations that needed an extraordinary problem to solve. Explorations provide answers but raise more questions. Once Americans had hubris and stamina to tackle extreme challenges, but lately seem incapable of sensible enthusiasm or simple logic. Due to effective propaganda everyone became your enemy except billionaire exploiters who really do suck life from rest of world.

What can you say about Lance Armstrong? Arrogant? Duplicitous? Incredible? Unlike trickle down conservatives who pretend, he singlehandedly created thousands of jobs among bicycle component manufacturers serving wannabe racers. By giving up his fight against USADA's witch hunt, he finally showed real class. These governing bodies who suddenly get scruples shouldn't be allowed to retrospectively enforce rules. Everyone competing years ago took something to get an edge. From alcohol to anabolic steroids, substance abuse has been rampant in cycling since its inception. So Lance is banned from racing forever. Why should he care? Now he's just like anyone who rides to ride. He can still wear yellow, just like Labann. Memories and scars mean more than medals and trophies to those who've been there and done that. Any notion you are better because you pedal faster than others can only be described as delusional and ridiculous. Just as car racers' best seems a snail's pace compared to orbiting space debris, bicyclists will always be outdone by own contempt for cooperation or someone else who's faster or jealous.

Labor and leisure are intertwined in cycling, as much a form of transportation as a holiday recreation. If motoring weakens resolve, maybe pedaling restores strength lost to luxury.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bullish Campaign

Boxers on bicycles? No candidates slugging it out, as if jobless citizens overwhelmed by cash worries are supposed to care about deliberate ruses covered in broad strokes by dilettantes. Bullish confidence? Not quite: bull and con buoying up a bull market bound to crash as soon as votes are counted. Not only has Labann campaigned repeatedly door to door but carefully considered alternatives to this inefficient and inequitable process of so-called civic duty.

Anyone who says they want to serve public and sit through mind-numbing legislative sessions is either a liar or a madman. Candidates don't fork over millions of their own money for a fraction of that in salary and privilege of serving. Power is the planet's most expensive and potent aphrodisiac. Metrosexuals and narcissists gravitate to this exclusive club to serve self. Less than a million buys a prestigious college degree and string of appending abbreviations; only a few can afford President, Senator or Supreme Court Justice before their names. Not born into royalty? Even queens borrow from billionaires and live on allowances. No living ex-president pays taxes, just one of the many perks of having occupied space and pretended to wield power, and you almost never hear of Congressmen or their family members killed on front lines.

Most people don't want to be asked their opinions, would prefer that someone be assigned roles or fired when they fail, yet wind up standing in line at some dingy polling place for a chance to choose between stand-ins for morality or practicality. Nobody you elect will improve upon your situation, since those who run world permit only those to run or stay in office whose policies align with their schemes. Nixon wrongly assumed he was in charge. Anyone opposed becomes collateral damage in a bigger battle among bankers, insurance companies, multinational corporations, and oil sheiks, each of whom bends policies in their favor. Laws don't apply to them; responsibility for their crimes, injustices and taxes have been shifted onto everyone else including you.

What can you do? Boycotts don't work; half of eligible voters often don't show, which is the only way some candidates get elected. Resign yourself as a victim? You need not participate. You're only a threat when you want something: decent housing, elected office, fair pay for work, promises from candidates, or some say in how you're treated. Teen pranks and prayers, like Pussy Riot's protest against Putin delivered irreverently in Moscow's cathedral, might put you in prison, too, which is what happens when repression goes unchallenged. Actions create examples to follow and role models to emulate. Milk toast efforts are abided suspiciously but accomplish little. In London, the have The Kindness Offensive, Polyanna action to ease pain the ridiculously rich cause.

Remember, there is no lack of wealth, only unequal distribution. Your dolor remains a principal profit center to feed off and funnel funds from. Each billionaire means 1,000 fewer millionaires or more unfortunates below poverty line. Eventually money loses meaning and value. Big fish devour small fry; eventually all fish die. Sharing resources justly and wisely fosters relationships and founds organizations.

Bike&Chain has whole chapters directed at charities and politics, yet very little written will be read, never mind solve problems. Riding a bike opens eyes to individual torment and nature's despoilment unless you inject steroids and wear blinders.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lost Breath Chasing

Book's Appendix covers many cultural artifacts, but none so intently as popular music. Many recording artists are or were avid cyclists. Cream's highly regarded 1967 album Disraeli Gears even got it's name when band's equipment manager made title malapropism when talking about shift components of Eric Clapton's bicycle. In Björk's award winning performance in Dancer in the Dark, her character Selma rides a bike as Björk does in real life. Check out this Icelandic chanteuse singing about evolution from oceans at the 2004 Olympics, like Cream's "Aphrodite on a crimson shell", more a pearl, spreading her billowing skirt over entire infield where salty sweat sweetens striving for gold, reconsidered for 2012 London games, at which Dame Evelyn Glennie, former Björk collaborator, presided percussively. Sirens of legend were probably barking seals, but spend any time at all listening to Björk, and you get what breath "carving deep blue ripples in the tissue of your mind" means, and why Ulysses desperately wanted to take goddess back to "the hard land of the Winter". Back when she fronted Sugarcubes, Björk sang of riding a bike to witness a "Motorcrash". Threads are interwoven into reality's fabric; whether causally or coincidentally, current or mythic, does it matter?

Kraftwerk's Ralf Hütter pinpoints cycling's compositional attraction: the rhythmic cadence of breathing, heart pounding, and pedaling. Kraftwerk based much of its musical electronica including "Aerodynamic", "Man Machine", and several Tour de France related tracks on them. After more than a century, cycling remains an important Olympic sport. Ancient Phrygian dancers during performances raised feet (arsis) and treaded emphatically (thesis), tapping out poetic meter, as previously mentioned, but pedaling's 6/2 time is an odd, unthreatening tempo rarely applied outside classical compositions, and then only for certain halting measures.

What then makes music itself so appealing? Ditties, familiar beats marching through moments, and memorable melodies celebrate life's passages or comfort amidst chaos. Songs, no matter how challenging, are usually forgettably trivial and mercifully short. They can be ignored, relegated to background, tolerated, or turned off. Sung words smooth hostile edges of screamed messages. Radio hosts on self serving missions have irritating voices. Singing doesn't serve their purpose, to divert attention from criminals, enrage strangers, rearrange perceptions, and satisfy commercial and privileged sponsors. Music provides balance and balm for responsible sores where no escape exists.

Serves conservatives right to be picked upon unmercifully, since that's just what they do themselves: objectify prejudiciously. Anybody who has an opinion other than theirs is a "liberal". Leaves little room for anything from centrist to extremist which includes such varied viewpoints as anarchist, communist, fundamentalist, independent, majority of voters, moonbat, pagan, spiritualist, teabagger, wingnut and zealot. Conservative thought boils down to, "Let me do whatever I want, but you do what I tell you to," and can be characterized as ignorantly childish or inhumanely patriarchal. Panting reactionaries can't keep pace with change, don't realize they need not. You can be anything and espouse it, or you can observe something to examine it; both are legitimate. Latter provides objectivity, other lives passionately. Yet there's nothing so contagious as enthusiasm. Analysis based on facts bores. There's no book so dusty and ignored than irrelevant nonfiction, unless it's old poetry.

When people say they express TRUTH, they lay some religious or speculative opinion on you, not verifiable facts. Yet facts can be equally foolish. Researchers constantly revise history and science by discovering evidence and exposing lies. Once you die, hopefully you'll find answers, maybe the law of gravity repealed; it never was much of a friend in life, making hills harder to climb and stuff fall into cracks where it can't be retrieved. With metaphysics you can't perform repeatable experiments or prove anything. Neither can you positively verify events or testimonies. Despite forensic labs, murders go unsolved daily. Rationalists erect theoretical houses of cards knocked down by breeze of anyone breathing heavily or pedaling by.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bitten Tongue

Working in a vacuum is unhealthy. Errors creep in, go unnoticed, threaten truth. Challenged on a public forum, had to revise some figures cited, because billions spent over time unbelievably became trillions when you skip stating decade instead of year. Still, since 2000, USDOT did spend about $1 trillion dollars. If a dollar was a mile, that would be 10,000 astronomical units, 5,000 roundtrips to Sun, more than all miles of paved roads on Earth. You’d think a few hundred million meanwhile spent on bike paths and lane stripes would have cut costs and improved lives. How do you assess this impact? Did driven miles abate? Those “tons of accidents” never came to pass that naysayers predicted because more are bicycling. In fact, crash fatalities are falling. The more who use bikes instead of inherently dangerous cars, the fewer accidents occur, and less they must spend on potholes. Then again, economic recession would similarly impact cuts with fewer commuting to work, less elective trips, and so forth. Attempts to isolate causes and effects fail. Everything is inextricably intertwined, whence “The Butterfly Effect”, the postulate not video in which Ashton Kutcher dismounts off back of a fixie which continues like an arrow into a bike rack.

Have never heard of Poincaré Recurrence applied to vehicular traffic, but using chaos theory would be perfectly logical. Start point and what happens downstream affect conditions later. Traffic flow is randomly affected by building construction, commute times, recurring festivals, road resurfacing, transportation hubs, urban planning, and whatnot. If recession continues, as bridges collapse and highways close, traffic will retreat from multilane gridlock to something resembling local lanes of yesteryear. Engineers don’t study philosophical theories, even ones a century old. People retreat into silos of thinking, because knowing everything in even the narrowest of disciplines is practically impossible. Individual memories fade; progress tosses out historical reasons. Civilization depends upon countless collaborations continually operating upon consensus. Lawyers define a rule, practitioners comply, regulators monitor, supreme court calls it legal or strikes it down thereby completing circle and creating need for always reevaluating how and what you do.

Who can claim to know everything? Whatever you read is wrong. Knowing nothing is closer to reality. Facing unexpected challenges and surviving is the only talent that matters. Being an oracle only means realigning minds to truths before them. Each statement can be judged by its effect. When people instantly respond, it touches upon whatever they are already thinking, but who cares? Brilliant ideas or works sometimes take decades to radiate; by then, everyone accepts them as commonplace or commonsense. Giving up after impatiently waiting is way too easy. “Not doing that anymore,” is today’s epidemic, since everyone expects quality and no one want to provide anything resembling it. Excellent beats mediocre, but mediocre kicks incompetent’s ass.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Books Bile Green

“It’s not that easy being green,” famously sang Kermit the Frog. Henson had childhood self acceptance in mind, but these days everyone demands that you be GREEN, by which they mean proving reverence for nature and sustainable practices. Webecoist gives a crash course, but seems to forget natives were excellent examples of ecological stewardship ignored by grasping settlers with their Puritanical contempt for chaos and downtime. Previously mentioned a series of stamps, each of which urge you to reduce your environmental footprint; new “pedal, pedal, pedal” stamps (below) show adult racer, MTBer, teen and toddler forever cycling. USPS’s own losses of late stem from public’s electronic efficiency eschewing delivery.

Meanwhile, worst offenders, banks and multinational corporations, block any policy that might dent unprecedented earnings. As a result you give up meager comforts and shrink into nothing but a source of profits so rich get richer quicker and justify own wanton waste. In lockstep, Edward Conard’s “nonfiction” bestseller Unintended Consequences contends that labor can be sourced at $1/hour somewhere so isn’t worth more here. He neglects to mention that CEOs are ridiculously compensated, thousands of times beyond their contributions. Bootlicking delusions aren’t worth the day’s labor this despotic philippic costs. Economies only thrive within distributive justice.

Rivendell Bicycle Works owner Grant Petersen just put out a cranky, lanky title, Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike (Workman, 2012, 256 pp.) chock full of bad advice in a misguided attempt to demystify such simple concepts as dressing comfortably in cycling apparel, extending distances through equipment choices, and having fun on what is, after all, a torture apparatus. Cycling curmudgeon Petersen doesn’t mention that other countries weren’t built around motoring as was USA. Americans had to adapt to hilly long commutes away from city centers. Unless prepared to continuously relocate within walking distances of every new trendy employer, you’d do well to try whatever makes cycling work for you, Petersen’s options included. Racing may be a trap not supported by Rivendell designs, but streamlining a 4 hour bike commute can unlock cage of automotive slavery.

Not to be outdone, New York “Bike Snob” blogger Eben Weiss has another compilation, The Enlightened Cyclist: Commuter Angst, Dangerous Drivers, and Other Obstacles on the Path to Two-Wheeled Trancendence (Chronicle Books, 2012, 240 pp.). Bilious books recounting bicyclist errors rankle. How about motorists? There just isn’t any comparison; nobody dies if run down by a rider.

One dimensional people gravitate to some topic and spend rest of their lives stuck on it as if psychic flypaper. Literature appears to have same root as litter, which is what most pages resemble. Motoring ought to be left to certified bus and truck drivers, who, it seems, are the most malevolent and negligent drivers, respectively, behind wheels of deadliest vehicles.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Quiche Lorraine

An eggy dish felt to be too wimpy befits a metaphor for ending with a whimper. Just as well; old blog ran out of headlines that made sense or remotely rhymed with book’s title, because this marks 4th and final year of free book offering. Being ignored hardly seems fair after writing so many unsolicited book reviews [will repeat some here]. Internet sites claim they’ll pay for articles, but just cheat gullible hopefuls. How much tepid content does planet need? Much rather express self unpaid than fight editors, petition courts for cash due, or restrict subject matter. Narcissists run open forums. When thought police arrive, parties die. Why ask permission to speak honestly and passionately? Should be an inalienable right. Complaints increase as you close in on truths.

Quiche isn’t but would be a germane brand name for a French handmade roadie. Guy Andrews drools over details in his coffee table hardcover The Custom Road BIke (Laurence King Publishing, 2010, 224 pp., 250 photos). Its unabashed porn of intimate macro images is nicely balanced by no nonsense copy of confident name dropping and well researched esoterica. Although your experiences might vary from conclusions presented, anyone who wants a break from clumsy Chinese imports and showroom readymades would be smart to read through attentively before finalizing next purchase. Have 45,000 miles on own handmade Italian without any more than routine maintenance. Regularly expect to replace cassettes, chains, handlebar wraps, tires and tubes. Decent forks, frames and wheelsets generally last longer than most cyclists care to go.

Was undaunted yesterday by a long bike commute despite being taunted by bad pavement,  distance of a metric century, fog, frequent railroad crossings, near misses with tractor trailers on narrow roads, and Thor’s rumbling threats while intersecting Oak Street. Unlike pleasure rides, you don’t have time to stop inbound for repairs or shelter. A couple raindrops will never equal next day’s aches in high thighs after pushing hard. Aspirin, rehydration, sleep, standing, and sweatpants all help. Calves once resembled 2 small boxes of heart shaped valentine chocolates, thighs post-and-beam timbers a foot square in cross section, but, as these seated scribbles betray, used to be in far better shape. Would definitely benefit from diet diligence and saddle time. Chase, Clymer, Hooper, Paine and Rush signed Declaration of Independence before bikes ever existed, so never realized what torture pedaling self-reliantly would become. Back then, people hardly ventured from their own villages, never envisioned metropolitan traffic. Cresting an overpass was grateful not to be stuck for once in crawling jam on highway below. Teeming humanity would fit better together if urbanity wasn’t surrounded by automotive shells.

Beaten eggs free of shells make a better food choice than cheap carbs, because you need protein to rebuild blood, cells, ligaments, and torn muscles. Spinach quiche at room temperature satisfies deliciously and nutritiously, especially with a whole grain pastry shell. Why doesn’t Food Network feature a fitness cooking hour? Probably prefer contests among fat cooks with whom viewers identify.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Geeked Again

June 2012 was the last month of freely shared Bike&Chain. Book is being edited into a single, smaller, tighter document. Best facts from blog will be rolled into book, but this new edition will only be available for purchase elsewhere, details forthcoming.

Book was originally published open source 4 years ago, which meant anything could be used without permission. Author asked for but didn't demand that he be credited. Henceforth, all content is copyrighted. Site remains, however, commercial free.

Geeks at Apple shut down Mobile Me, where content was hosted. All the effort of learning their front end, obeying rules, and staging content has to be repeated. Ever wonder why techies feel they must constantly  reorganize how things work? Can't increase cash flow in stagnation? Never get it right the first time? And they called Labann capricious when practically a fixed frame of reference in swirling madness by comparison.