Monday, February 18, 2013

Lock Combination

An odd activity of an overwrought brain is to combine or deconstruct words and redefine meanings. Crack open or flip over anything familiar and you find unappreciated dimensions. To a cyclist pedaling through disrespect demonstrated daily by angry motorists and unforgiving roads, combination might resemble "combine nation", e pluribus unum, or what America is supposed to be, your land of opportunity for all who harbor no ill will. That doesn't routinely happen. Witness anti-immigrant, poverty prejudiced sentiments versus tax breaks for wealthiest. Should offer tax deductions for demonstrable service to community, not just sheltered foundation grants that never reach needy and victims. Cash flow and power control are locked through corporate privileges. Freedoms should belong to those who serve, but limits and thresholds are impossible to regulate. Coming together need not mean sacrificing freedoms, rather sanctifying principles that extend majority survival.

Any survey of bike books recently published must mention 3 that pertain to this topic. English cyclist Dave Barter compiled 30 articles he wrote over 10 years of challenges and events in which he participated into Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder (Phased Publications, 2012, 218 pp.). Granted, all but the initiated must think whoever takes on cycling's repetitive boredom and torment might have some masochistic personality disorder. Then again, most cyclists are not racers, more likely people who can't afford motor vehicles or even to lose bikes to theft, so carry combination locks.

Speaking to that point domestically, Sue Knaup's Defying Poverty with Bicycles (One Street Press, 2012, 205 pp,) is a self help guide that promotes social change through bicycling organizations, mainly providing builds, parts and repairs to the disadvantaged. Knaup wrote it from 4 decades of personal experience in for-profit services and not-for-profit ventures.

Addressing even graver issues internationally, Eric G. Bing and Marc J. Epstein collaborated on Pharmacy on a Bicycle: Innovative Solutions to Global Health and Poverty (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2013, 240 pp.). It lays out how to use bicycles to improve medical services to remote villages where dollar doses of vaccines could save millions of lives. Although models exist, mechanisms sell hard where there's no will to implement.

Before her untimely death to breast cancer, Montreal's velorutionary Claire Morissette was able to collect tens of thousands of used bikes and ship them to Africa, no questions asked. Link is mostly in French with some English, just like Montreal. Some serve to unlock hearts.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Stuck de-Nemo-in'

If a statistician is someone who focuses on facts of status, that is, how things are, then there should also be a sadistician, someone who perversely tortures others with trivial details, like nonstop weather forecasts. Yet who can deny that a magnificent obsession becomes a living art form, a performance art of monologues available upon demand and slight nudge? The obsessed possess a refined sense of paradoxes and truths about narrow topics, so are dismissed as autistics, savants or trainspotters. Conversely, when you think about it, what's wrong with majority with their limited knowledge of what they are sold and told? Statistics are derived mostly about buying preferences; to know what consumers will buy before they do increases profit.

Constitutional freedoms allow individuals to believe/go/think whatever/whenever/wherever they want. Mobility is a freedom used irresponsibly during a blizzard. Morons hop into 4-wheel SUVs and roam side streets to glare at homeowners shoveling themselves out. It's a deviant live entertainment akin to reality television, and so prevalent it's deemed a conditional misdemeanor since it impedes cities and towns from plowing and sanding. Besides, it's dangerous; every year someone trying to stay warm in a vehicle dies of carbon monoxide poisoning. And who can you call when even rescue squads can't get through?

Nemo rates among New England's 5 worst snow events, but its brutal cold, hurricane gusts, and up to 30 inches of snow don't come close to describing suffering of thousands of households stuck without power. Too many people take electricity and fuel for granted. Being prepared never occurs to them; they trust corporations and institutions to provide everything they need and reprove self-reliance. But only masochists will submit to deprivation for billionaires' sake. Never berate last minute buyers of bread, milk, power generators, snowblowers, or snow tires for mountain bikes, the way to go when you can't drive your car on hard packed snow.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Likely Birdbrain

Should be as intimate with streets as you are with food. Every season they pepper streets with debris, but in Winter alone they salt. After a thin film of snow evaporates, notice how white they remain dry, almost frosted. Not at all wholesome, this saline mix kills vegetation, saps surrounding life, and spreads pollutants downstream. Why abide this tasteless culture of destruction?

Googled phrase, Bicycling Culture. Did find, as follows, several interesting sites hitherto unnoticed, but didn't find Bike&Chain among first 200 or so references, even though it's been devoted to bicycling culture since before turn of millennium, the occasion which it commemorates. Nobody should deem it scholarly to dredge up ephemeral internet links, but can't the same now be said about books and periodicals? Booksellers, newspapers and publishers are either going bankrupt or merging miserably, although some say society has entered a golden age of written word. Media did build to a crescendo of credibility, but all that's already past or at risk. A longer perspective realizes newspapers evolved from gossip and were once nothing more than disreputable entertainment. Television has taken over despite bogus reality programming. Funny this pendulum swing, tick, tock, whence it came, especially since more people can read than ever. You must provide something life altering and worthy of their time, otherwise they act more like birds pecking at crumbs and roosting in huge flocks on electric wires with no leaves to hide behind come February.

When not drooling over bike porn, Bike-In-Review also does book reviews, recently Amy Walker's On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life. Sounds like a great read if someone lends a copy. Listing seems a weak approach that smacks of internet sifting, but never so judgmental as Top 50 or 100 based on sales and uninformed popularity. Still, with endless differences between bicycling and motoring as choices of motility, be suspicious of any effort that stops at only 50.

On Affinities Journal, Chris Carlson's seminal "'Outlaw' Bicycling" homed in on car counterculture in a post-petroleum Portland, OR. With a half decade since gone by, efforts may have been premature. Bear witness to a growing awareness that cyclists do belong in traffic, though motorists don't quite get the fact that cyclists aren't subject as they to laws, which are mostly designed not to enforce safe practices but to pick their pockets. Little wonder motorists resent birds, free grazers, riders, whoever gets in their way. Kinship among cyclists, other than small cliques, is more a myth; advocates argue among themselves, and group rides become either beer or hammer sessions. No bicycling demographic exists, rather a rainbow spectrum from conservative racers on space age materials to poor indigents on beater steel from decades past. "At times a traveling party" is overstated, but "reputation as unhip" is not, despite linkage of hipsters with self-built fixies.

Laying bare bicycling's loser image, Bicycle In Popular Culture Blogspot tracks myriad odd references from pop culture, which range from books to commercials to films. Recent films include Bicycle Movies and Reveal the Path among others Bike&Chain has already either mentioned or reviewed. Should have noticed Verizon's Big Romantic Gesture commercial, in which a lothario uses a bike and GPS to draw a map in a heart shaped loop of San Francisco to send by cell phone.

During a Columbus, OH gathering, Jessie Matthews does her allotted 20 minutes on 20 slides about women in cycling with great observations on their lack of current participation in America but not history or world. Unlike top-down TED talks, anyone can speak at bottom-up Pecha Kucha nights, but aren't arbitrary time limits for those without much to speak of? Food for thought.