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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Aboard Blame Train

In B&C, “blame” gets 80 mentions, too many. Through commission, omission, or tacit permission of evil transgression, humans are plainly blameworthy, including, though unintentionally, Jesus, in whose name crusaders murdered legions and religious bigots rationalize wrongs. Prefer to remember innocent baby, sole survivor of a genocide aimed at killing him specifically. Today, police shoot unarmed civilians. Soldiers in your behalf resort to sleep depriving and water boarding prisoners. Spent too much time trying to identify who's guilty for today's rage when the real enemies are fear, greed, ignorance, lack of concern for others, and lust for power, as if anyone can really be controlled. Lives are consumed in attempts to establish rules and rectify wrongs, blood feud necklaces strung from one generation to the next, or digging dual graves for vengeance's sake. Why bother recapitulating? Resent feeling fear, so say whatever comes to mind, even if it invites trouble.

Terrorists Labann fears most drive erratically and rudely in huge surrounding vehicles. Filthy, scummy trucks carrying milk or produce turn your stomach. They beg a pair of questions, 1. “How safe is our food and water supplies?” and 2. “Why am I buying these popular brands?” Motoring accidents are the nation’s 3rd worst cause of death, 3 times gun violence or infectious diseases. Plus driving contributes to petroleum carcinogens, sedentary ways, and substance abuse, which are responsible for the top 2: cardiovascular diseases and cancers. Sad state of the roads further leads to erratic behavior by disappointed users. Countless collisions occur from swerving to avoid gaping holes; DOTs don't want to know, because that makes them culpable. Everyone wants to be downtown simultaneously. Work days are already staggered: 5:00 to 9:00 AM starts and 3:00 to 7:00 PM closes. Yet highways range from busy to bumper-to-bumper at all hours, defying logic. With alternative bike commuting up 64% nationwide, bicycling fatalities have risen 16%, though still few compared to motoring, also up 1%, almost as many as bicycling in total. Sobering input deters riding during dangerous December, when revelers and shoppers race around distractedly and drunkenly. Rode 20 miles in drizzle to mail holidays cards that brought hope to honored recipients. Nature dies every Winter Solstice after planting seeds for renewal in Spring. Acutely aware, didn’t need signs in gutter to contemplate mortality.

While facts aggravate, befuddle, and corrupt, truth drives humans straight over the edge. Writing will always be an irrational random activity that only the hopelessly deluded believe can be moderated. Epistemologists and scientists with 200+ IQs struggle with the inherent flaws in all communication and literature. The closer you study something, the further away you find yourself from it. You must become the creature or object to comprehend what influences and moves it. Only then can you comment with authority or evaluate such expressions, but often not so anyone else appreciates.

The Library of Congress holds 135 million titles. No group, nation or people will ever read them all. If writers were further funded and motivated, there might be billions. Injustice silences and turns lives into a march of getting, going, spending and sleeping. Surely no such story holds the least interest; only heroes living through extraordinary trials ever present tales one wants retold. Had an interesting eavesdrop at Zurich airport behind a bunch of reporters returning from war ravaged Middle East. Yet writers are usually bystanders who repeat false accounts of what happened, not participants in events readers need to know about. What makes any author think he/she is contributing anything that hasn't already been said? Unless you're creating a future, you’re merely repeating, spinning wheels. Amusing how hacks mimic any book that gains traction. Pulp trash makes good starters for wood burning stoves. Seinfeld quipped, "Why do people keep books like trophies after they read them?" Surely they can be passed around afterwards, so how can publishers anticipate significant sales? Society has gotten so splintered, printing on demand has become popular.

To get a book deal an author needs to gain notoriety and settle into some niche. Publishers dangle carrots for all sorts of donkeys with the hope one plods along in the direction they're headed and therefore shoulders their load. That thousands fail doesn't concern them, only that some succeed who they can exploit. You can't ever be sure how readers will react. A book may take years to produce; nobody has any idea what will sell in 5 or 10 years hence. Can't base a story on what's now popular and carve out a following among those who are looking to be taken somewhere they've never gone before. Can only hope yours resonates with readers at the end of your journey.

Being left on wayside to die when no longer contributing to society makes you acutely aware of pensions and reserves. You'll claw your way to stay ahead. It’s why so few buy art unless convinced it'll increase in value, or freely share their good fortune. Most will never be happy in their chosen career, living through decades in quiet desperation while looking for something they’ll never find. Cannot blame how things are; without taking risks, rewards won't come. Do not regret a stolen decade to pen and publish a book and companion blog nobody reads. What else was there to do? Redouble household projects or take on extra jobs? Sleep or watch more television? Did enough of all to secure some balance, start a train of thought, and stay above board. Can you forgive yourself?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Auf Wiedersehen

In each generation volunteers step up to record observations, test hypotheses, and verify findings. Tons of tiresome details confirm obvious truths, which distill many facts. When people say they express TRUTH, they lay some religious or speculative opinions on you, not useful and verifiable notions nobody wants to consider. Only forensic investigators care about facts and then only because they get paid to. Researchers constantly revise history and science by discovering evidence and exposing lies. Government treats foresight and thrift as dangerously radical. Anyone who displays a refined sense of paradoxes will be dismissed as autistic, savant or trainspotter. Radio stations pay dunces millions to spout conservative nonsense. Words themselves possess hidden meanings. Unless easy profit or satisfied hormones are blatantly promoted, forget about holding anyone's attention.

You can join a ranting cult, or religion condemning cults, or stay skeptically solo. You not only need not agree with absolutes and ultimatums, you ought to exercise choices lest they disappear. How else can you nurture your own advancement, breakthroughs, uniqueness? Despair for humans. They don't discuss ideas. Conversations end in character assassinations and personal attacks, especially when respondents don't appreciate or grasp ideas you bring. Bullies and trolls abound on-line.

With billions of planetary inhabitants, the day of heroes and icons has passed. One of life's most perplexing and persistent problems is how to make a name for yourself. Fame resembles bacon, lots of sizzling fat under fire. Anonymity and ignominy suggest inertia, mold, obscurity or rot. But you have to guard against such metaphors that make no sense and provoke futile actions. Celebrity status carries as many hassles as rewards. It's just a way to amplify intensity and make time fly. Before you know it, you're as broke and unknown as before. Great silent film vamp Lulu, beloved by moviegoers on 2 continents, wound up as Mary Louise Brooks, a Sachs Fifth Avenue retail clerk before turning tricks. She was lucky compared to countless catastrophes suffered by others who found fleeting fame. Terrorists simply dissolve into events, like those nameless criminals who crashed into World Trade Towers. Nobody knows them or wants to. Radicals get metaphors stuck their mind and fret over them. Unibomber couldn’t quell his fear of communism though he didn’t at all grasp what it meant. Why all this rage? Thousands of discontents form the greatest threat to mankind, who’d use biological, nuclear, and other weapons of mass destruction to impose some bizarre ideal not even they comprehend. Not as though there’s nothing to fear. You can’t safeguard civilization. You can behave decently and kindly, defy evil, hope others follow your example.

Suggest everyone blow off some steam, sharpen axe, value distractions, and wonder why entertainment exists when they aren’t busy inhibiting stupidity and waste, innovating, and inventing. Can rethink BPA free water bottles that carry more, nicely fit into racks, and weigh less by sandwiching shock insulator between glass liner and titanium shell; carbon crack carrier saddle specially designed for street dealers to carry crack where cops won’t look; writing device that resembles a twirled bike with ergonomic grip around fingers. You could be imagining many a thing while riding: Bike with continuously variable transmissions, crankshafts, integral rechargeable batteries, regenerative disk brakes, seat post or steering head adjustors, and still weigh so little you’d never notice, but would you be able to remove rear wheel for flat fixes? Moreover, cyclists need somewhere to ride safely. Motorists don’t nicely share roads. Painted lanes could make street cycling more popular, though spacious shoulders decrease all accidents and provide a safety valve. Environmentalist and former Bogota mayor Enrique Peñalosa would put, “Bikeways in every single street. Bikeways are not a cute architectural detail, bikeways are a right.”

But every Halloween bicyclists disappear for season and wait for Spring to resume their struggle for equality. Arguments get renewed and repeated ad nauseam. As the final rhyming title means, “Until we meet again,” this will be the last Bike&Chain blog entry for awhile. Don’t expect any updates, replies to comments, or sage advice. Instead, get some miles in while you can.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Capital Gain

One thing Bike&Chain has never been about: Profit. Did, on occasion, accept trades for bicycling services, for example, leading newbies on twilight rides. Mostly broke even in needed parts and repairs or someone else’s books or recordings. Labann would never deluge your inbox with ads for anything (Be smart. Buy mine!), appeals for alms (This is no sales call...), cannabis vapes for e-cigs (No Tar, Pure Poison!), herbal remedies (Dubious cures without a prescription), or such plugs for unwanted spam. In fact, only ever promoted alert attention to what’s happening without weighing its benefits. That’s practically heresy in a society that rates everything on a top ten list, as if there were only 10 of anything to compare. Reveals how insular those who judge are.

Always warm to those who volunteer a confession when you share an observation. It isn’t mandatory. Conversations can be started on flimsy premises. B&C was originally intended to welcome dialogue, though fear the opposite occurred, smothered connection with obscure inquiries and zen mediation. Most people see cycling as the social darwinism of race competition, not the celebration of vitality and privilege of deceleration that it is.

Last long ride seemed continually uphill. Even its only downhill had a dozen sharp upticks. Was thinking throughout, “Is this good for me?” Brevets (50, 100, 150, 200, 300, 400, 600, or 1200 km) basically beat the bejabbers out of you. Their health improvement and mood boost come at a painful price. But what your body expends earns credits. All work supposedly garners compensation. Projects completed increase holdings. Science supports it. In thermodynamics, every system degenerates towards entropy, its state of lowest integration, without periodic inputs of energy. Pedaling builds fitness, burns fat, and buys time by improving body. Bicycling contrasts with other forms of exercise in that it’s also reliable transportation. It can be as easy or hard as you like. You can choose to climb hills or sometimes go around them. You can feel exhausted afterward or later revived. Whatever occurs, you own it. Yet it’s strange how you earn the right to ride farther by holding a job to pay for equipment and wasting ever more time through pedaling instead of motoring.

Self preservation calls for cardio workouts, daily effort, environmental awareness, food choices, intelligent approach, job performance, money savvy, safe motility, sensible risks, and social contract. You neglect any one at your peril. Increasing survival odds sounds as difficult as it is in fact. Doctors recommend, in order: 1. Quit smoking and taking drugs, though they push pharmaceuticals rather than put up with your bellyaching over trivial issues. 2. Maintain nominal body mass index through diet and exercise. 3. Listen to nutritionists, who urge you to balance carbs, lean proteins, and raw veggies. 4. Hydrate religiously. 5. Sleep same amount, same time every day. 6. Stay out of infected crowds. 7. Wash frequently. 8. Operate machinery responsibly. 9. Slow down and spend sensibly. 10. Avoid stress, though worry about achieving all 10 might increase it.

Easier to pedal than stay employed. Insanity drags down business: Bosses apply generic systems to do particular work, committees impose all sorts of rules, and coworkers dodge duties you must assume. Such arrangements collect losers and drive stalwarts away. Eventually, all you have are lunatics and pirates. Same principle applies with lawyers making statutes that maximize litigation, thus profits. This causes dual evils: 1. Good rules disappear under a pile of crazy nonsense. 2. People waste a lot of time, so important work never gets done. Battle lines are drawn by those who justify their decisions. You are stuck with tools that make producing impractical. Confusing metaphor or useful mnemonic, neither promotes understanding better than simplicity. Complexity exists because someone wants to control or grasp societies or systems with lots of components acting independently. You seldom really need to do this. It can happen without your intervention. Complexity extends employment for office drones far beyond their useful contributions. Safe to bet that the 1 in 4 insane inmates of your asylum really run it. Smarter to demystify and simplify. Too bad deck is stacked against you making a living by roaming aimlessly and spinning cranks, which at least represents personal gain rather than soul drain. Many writers have tried to sell a bike book suffuse with advice nobody wants to hear and lists of somehow related items readers don’t care about; can neither give them away nor trade experiential knowledge for energy credits.

Passed Columbus in October’s moonlit glimmer. His bronze finger confirmed direction already taken. Explorers may point the way and promise profit, but reality occurs en route. A semi-tandem-trailer whizzed by letting out a blast from his air brakes. Was on gradual climb broken by a traffic stop, but the grind doesn't stop until you cross Miller and flatten on Pleasant. Bicycling sometimes resembles exploring. Reached workplace and settled into another hectic day as if nothing had happened over 500 years ago to merit remembrance.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Coiled Skein

Though in and out of vogue with threads woven into the very fabric of existence, bicycles and cycling culture pervade the 150 years since the popular inception of this mobile contraption. To the 1,000 songs from B&C’s appendix so far have added at least as many more to Companion Reader derived from this blog. Hope to one day consolidate list in a 3rd edition.

Asylum Street Spankers, Training Wheel Rag, Mommy says No!, Yellow Dog, 2007 - Rather prolific, retro acoustic band sings of childhood longings, “My bike's kinda slow... I always come in last... When I kick those training wheels, I’m going to fly.”

Awake, Bike Song [punk], Breaking Away EP, Saladdays Rec., 2014 - Angry anthem, anti-car, pro-bike, "Oil industry has killed millions worldwide. Think twice before you choose your ride. Ride bikes. Smash cars."

Boston based blog appreciates a soundtrack to their self propelled accidents, whence, Bones and Xavier Wulf’s single below. Too bad they overlooked John Linnell’s popular “South Carolina”, which is actually about a bike crash unlike those they list, mostly organized noise without lyrical references to bicycles.

Bones & Xavier Wulf, IGotABMXBikeButImNotVeryGood [hip hop], single, [self], 2013 - You said it.

City Lab, online blog of The Atlantic, reports that South Korea's Nubija Bike-share System has its own theme song, Most Wonderful Bike Capital Changwon City. Hardly any riders in video wear helmets. Appears they also have an excellent system of off-road accommodations where riders feel safe.

Gluefactory, Bike to the Pike, Yes Sir: Shark Island Records Sampler, Long Beach Rec., 2014 (originally from 2005) - “I pedaled so far away... the tokens ride but they don’t go nowhere.”

Half Man Half Biscuit, See That My Bike’s Kept Clean [Brit rock], Voyage to the Bottom of the Road, 1999 - Frantic mtb video with big air and bigger crashes that disturb sensitive desert environment slapped together with a dated redo of an old Bob Dylan folk song. Consider also their Lock up Your Mountain Bikes, which never otherwise mentions bicycles, based on jejune tune "If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands".

Helvetia, Old New Bicycle, The Acrobats - Low-fi train wreck by Nirvana wannabe Seattle band.

John Cale, Bicycle - Though an instrumental already indexed, here’s a link to an actual recording.

Junior Reid, Poor Man Transportation [reggae], Lost Vinyl Classics, JR Rec., 1986 - Predates Beenie Man’s "Bicycle Man" by 13 years, probably influenced lyrics.

Kimya Dawson, I Like My Bike, Thunder Thighs, Great Crap Factory, 2011 - Brief ditty on 7th solo album of relentless indie whose main merit is her 2-wheeled enthusiasm.

Mikill Pane, Dirty Rider [Brit hip hop], Dirty Rider EP, 2012 - London’s BMX “nasty rider” wants to ride with you provided you act safely and keep up.

Mungo’s Hi Fi featuring Pupajim , Bike Rider [reggae], Serious Time, Scotch Bonnet, 2014 - “I don’t need no petrol; everything is under control.”

Piebald, Fear and Loathing on Cape Cod, Nobody’s Robots, Sidehatch, 2010

Piebald, Roll On, Accidental Gentleman, One Side Dummy, 2007

Propagandhi, Hadron Collision [punk], Failed States, 2012 - Blurted lyrics might be about bikes or quantum physics.

Rune Meyer, Bicycle Ridin [c&w], Me, [self] 2006 - Misspelled cover of Swedish crooner Anders Wyller’s song from 2003, not the least bit just "me".

St. Vincent, Bicycle, Actor [bonus track], 2009 - Only reference are the introductory lyrics, “You stole my bicycle, so I had to walk 12 blocks.”

Slater featuring Frank Ocean, Tyler the Creator [hip hop], Wolf, 2013 - Misogynist lyrics from a self confessed loser berates girlfriend sitting on his handlebars.

Vivian Stanshall, Terry Keeps His Clips On, Teddy Boys Don’t Knit, Charisma, 1981 - Bit of humor from absurdist raconteur, avid cyclist, Bonzo Dog Band frontman, deceased eccentric, and national treasure Stanshall. Nice clip of Viv actually riding a bike in London traffic in a BBC documentary. Odd how the Brits value vintage whimsy.

Also from the mere 5 dozen touted as a List of Songs About Bicycles at Wikipedia, repeated a few old time favorites below in chronological order that were relegated to “never recorded” and “scholarly detective work” in B&C. Wish there was someone at Wikipedia to contact, educate, and set straight, but that’s apparently a common complaint. All author had to do is Google the Wheelmen’s List of Bicycling Songs Before 1920 to find hundreds of vintage titles.

E. H. Sherwood, The New Velocipede - Galop, 1869 [A decade before safety bicycle was introduced.]
Frank Wilder, British Christy Minstrels with F. Collins, The Great Velocipede, 1869
Henry Atkins, O. H. Harpel, Velocipede Jimmy, 1869
Harry Dacre, Daisy Bell, 1892 [Famous “bicycle built for two” song emerges.]
David Braham, Edward Harrigan, The Girl That’s Up to Date, 1894
A. A. Condon, The Latest Fad, 1895
Avery Oddfellow, F. W. Meacham, The Bicycle Girl, 1895
O. A. Hoffmann, Have You a Wheel, 1895
Theodore E. Brun, Cyclopedia March, 1896 [A busy year for bicycle songsmiths with 4 per month.]
Dora Brown, Nelly Burt, 1897
J. M. Richards, Bicycle Episode, 1897
George Lowell Tracy, J. C. Dunn, The New Columbia Wheel, 1898
Philip Wales, My ‘Cycle Gal, 1899

Friday, September 5, 2014

Beaten Swain

Can anyone drive a tandem? You derive the term “drive” from whipping a team of horses forward. Indeed, they speak of a pair of horses as a tandem team. Motorists drive an engine’s horsepower for all its worth. You cannot drive a bicycle, because it conveys an individual and presents neither horsepower nor team. But you might drive a tandem bicycle, since it could be manned by both captain and stoker. Pelaton teams are driven by ambition to beat rivals. Cowboys drive cattle to slaughter. Congestion and construction drive commuters to behave badly as they blow schedules.

Driving evokes images of someone fuming with impatience to get going at someone else’s acquiescence. They’d leave vulnerable road users to own devices. Slave drivers whip their chattel into submission. Among all countries worldwide about 25 million people fall into categories of bonded, child, domestic, forced or sexual servitude either to repay debts or without pay. Meanwhile, Congress debates a hike in minimum wage in a selfish attempt to raise revenue and thus squeeze a bit more from business owners, who practically pay no taxes. Worse, they expect interns to work for experience in lieu of paid benefits and compensation, as if a knight’s swain. Medieval nonsense! Should be illegal. If you’re repaying an underwater mortgage, you’re a wage slave. Banks loaning bucks still create serfs and thralls. But sudden hikes in prices of key commodities trigger recessions that enslave millions and take years to recover from.

Humans are driven by self preservation, yet contribute to society since they recognize that’s the only way to defuse and survive threats. Labann often ponders whether this inherent corruption is worth overlooking, but realizes speaking of it fosters reluctance. Delays only harm those currently deprived. You don’t become incorruptible without burning bridges to each desert island upon which you can’t live alone, so corruption will persist, and you can only partially resist.“What you resist persists,” has been suggested, but would ignoring malfeasance and stupidity result in improvement? Probably not. Incarceration separates criminals from partnerships. But is your drive to improve anything more than badgering from which only you profit?

Who has earned the right to be free? Shouldn’t it be inalienable? Never signed on for nonstop loyalty. Promises of commitment have expiration dates, not necessarily preprogrammed renewals. Experiments are worthless unless they gather disciples, none of whom may follow if what you’ve done doesn’t embrace them. Nobody wants to hear a drummer going solo. Only a chorus of voices engages. You must want what everyone else wants for delivery system to work. Then again, why live in fear of acceptance, convenience or rejection? You’re entitled to march to your own drum in that great street carnival [stills from video]. Beating spirit from a swain won’t result in anyone’s gain. Curing those who greet you then do you harm could be mighty satisfying in itself, but takes considerable effort, loss endurance, patience, and risk tolerance.

Believe the answer is in choosing well and doing proactively, not planning retroactively and waiting for conditions you've set. To be able to imagine what you want then reach for it with success requires that the needs of others also be met. Mutually beneficial outcomes preserve civilization. Yet you can’t convince Big Oil CEOs, drug lords, or those who worship them that greed deprives everyone including self. Only teams that share responsibilities in tandem secure rewards worth achieving. Choose wisely.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thieves Restrain?

Jeff Rossen’s bait bike sting aired on Today Show not only caught thieves on camera but interviewed them and tracked down the GPS rigged unit to a suburban home. Caught redhanded, denials and dismissals ensued. Who me? Where are the arrests and indictments? Want to see someone dragged through court, pay damages, possibly serve time. Follow up, make an example of them, by all means, not proclaim open season on bicycle stealing.

Kayla Smith of Vancouver dangerously confronted criminal who stole her bike for resale and returned the favor by riding away with hers on pretense of trying bike out. Labann personally hunted down 3 of his own and satisfactorily retrieved. A u-lock won’t deter someone from taking your bags, saddle or wheels for ghetto currency; you need to also thread a cable through both wheels, frame itself, and some permanent, unmovable object. Wiser to bring bike in with you wherever you go whenever you can.

Criminals are stupid. If they were motivated and smart, they’d hold decent jobs and stay out of prison, provided, of course, jobs were available. Unemployed wage slaves give up and steal instead, all the more reason to offer good pay for roles in which people stay. Hundreds of bikes are stolen every day in every state; most are sold off with impunity in a vicious assault on the vulnerable. Cars are harder to rob, identified by VINs, and registered on state databases, but sometimes aren’t as valuable as bicycles. A cheap used car can cost less than a top model new bike. You should record serial number and/or uniquely tattoo yours. In either case, transportation is vital to continued employment, yet each dimwitted, lazy, rude villain targets only those least likely to retaliate. They’re not bandits or pirates to celebrate, rather cowards stealing food from children riding back to school as carefree Summer days wind down.

Rossen better be careful. Thieving ring will sue him for defamation. Citizens who set up cameras to record crime routinely are. Laws protect criminals, not those who expose them or victims, and preserve lawyer’s revenue stream. Is this just? How could it be? Or is his report merely fear mongering against cycling? Why aren't there reports on way more numerous motoring accidents and deaths?

Sorting out conundrums is one role for writers. Providing opposing opinion is another. But unlike most art with its considerable material investment correspondents only need paper and pen, perhaps internet access. Blogs might only reveal what’s on an individual’s mind, though that’s often what a group desires and needs. Focus on negatives could incite thoughtless mobs. A boss who can’t tolerate a sloppy performance wants to enforce standards which become incomprehensible and result in the opposite of what's intended and sensible. Control freaks convince comics and critics to ridicule, which creates diametric opposition to balance lunacy. Retaliating may result in more loss and pain than tolerating. Things change hands. Anything taken too seriously brings jeers, though survival will always be serious business.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Gumbo Zatarain

There is no official recipe for Louisiana Gumbo, just a bunch of items, meats and/or shellfish including maybe alligator or squirrel stewed together, often thickened with roux, possibly filé powder or okra, and suffice by itself or over rice. It’s a complete meal, a cultural hodgepodge, just like those who settled in The Big Easy, and spicy fuel for pedaling thanks to Zatarain seasoning. Gumbo’s recipe mirrors a post about references to bicycling culture from all over United States.

Made in America (Richard Benjamin, dir., 1993) stars New York native Whoopi Goldberg, who falls for daughter’s anonymous sperm donor, white car salesman Ted Danson, though she rides a bike throughout, which causes scenes of havoc, and smashes interracial sex taboos. Sadly, Americans don't make nearly as much as they used to, however you want to interpret this.

Syndicated political cartoonist Matt Davies penned well regarded juvenile picture book, Ben Rides On (Roaring Brook Press, 2013), which deals with bike thieving bullies, who, as you all know, later run for Congress.

Infrastructure faults haunt Boston and Houston riders beset by motorized competition. Boston Globe reports on neighboring Cambridge’s first bike traffic light. Can’t see why it exists, since cops can’t effectively threaten or ticket anyone without a license to yank. Traffic codes were written to mitigate automotive carnage. A warning sign would have been plenty for those keenly aware of self propelled risks. Houston puzzles over the merits of paving paths for cyclists beneath high tension towers. After a bout of buzzing, no cyclist would want to repeatedly use. You can clearly see that it’s to segregate them from streets they are entitled to ride. Bike paths do play a role in urban and suburban snarl, but country roads usually aren’t so crowded that you need to separate users. If situation still seems fuzzy, bicycles do resemble spectacles, as confirmed by the current commercial.

Minneapolis activists present poster show Artcrank, with cycling related art cranked out quickly to enjoy with beer and locals. These events over 4 years have spread to 10 other cities with imminent September shows in Brooklyn and San Francisco.

Vernacular sculptor Isaiah Zagar, influenced by Barcelona’s Gaudi and Watts’ Simon Rodia, installed public art spots throughout Philadelphia, none so famous as The Magic Gardens, replete with broken bicycle wheels and other found objects, mosaicked grottos, and religious motifs. Kept a few busy for generations.

Community activist Jason Hall appears in a recently aired Apple IPad ad organizing a weekly Slow Roll group ride. Sure. Detroit’s spacious boulevards are practically empty after city’s manufacturing collapse and population exodus. Like David Byrne, who wrote about riding in Detroit in his Bicycle Diaries, Joe Baur seems to concur with Jason in his BBC article, “Cycling Detroit Makes Too Much Sense”. More telling is General Motors new program to share Zagster bikes with employees in their nearby Warren Technical Center. Although a first for US automakers, European BMW and Mercedes have ridden bikes for decades to get efficiently around huge assembly facilities. But can this startup succeed by partnering with private industry when public programs, particularly Alta Bicycle Share in over 20 cities, have required subsidies to stay alive? You’d think more would choose bike sharing and plan to use if offered nationwide alongside airports, bus stations, hotels, and train terminals.

When manufacturers dwindle, cities crumble and government agencies stumble trying to distribute welfare and employ masses. Who pays? Can’t hike taxes to hire more bureaucrats. Private sector provides civil underpinnings, but stupid policies undermine labor equality. Offshoring jobs should be a crime, yet tax code gives corporations incentives to do so. The only way to restore greatness is to re-shore core industries, the key generators of wealth: farming, manufacturing, and mining. Why bother to celebrate a national holiday when foreign slaves produce everything you apply, consume, or wear? Whose labor?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Butterfly Dogbane

Certain butterflies thrive on Apocynum, aka dogbane or indian hemp (shown left), but it is poisonous to mammals, may cause humans mental distress, and sequesters environmental lead. Even so, Native Americans used its fibers to make strong cordage for bow strings, fishing lines, and sewing thread. Developers and farmers have so impacted habitats that dogbane and milkweed are disappearing, and with them butterflies, which might explain why a yard full of attractors hasn’t drawn any of these important pollinators all Summer. Bicyclists dread such unsettling facts sooner than those who spend all their time in mobile or stationary shells. Why look through a glass window when you can be there?

Dogbane resembles truth itself. Might mean death or loss to some, or totally the opposite, untold opportunities for gain. Each coin has 2 sides; rungs on a ladder climb to heightened clarity; yang and yin pervade all. To survive you must master fear, proceed with caution for the dark, and rise with reverence for the light. A level approach is a basic truth. “The great art of riding,” as Alice’s savior, the futilely novel White Knight, was saying, “is -- to keep your balance properly.” Whenever acts of ascertaining facts and discovering truths reveal paradoxes, some who think they’ve got a good grip on reality react badly, but only because you’ve temporarily displaced their fulcrum.

Naval gazing again, Bike&Chain was written to expose uncertainties in an age defined by lies, prevarication, and what the definition of “is” is... really! It was produced to examine freedom, responsibility and truth, as well as exercise memory without exocranial aids: No dictionaries, documentaries, encyclopedias, internet, libraries, newspapers, periodicals, or television. Brings up what’s significant rather than delineates sides, chooses waves to surf, so that readers can further explore and participate, just as this blog has expanded upon topic for 6 years, and unfolds at a glacial pace. Introduced its own genre with a dozen new rules to which no other literature complies, which gives it a unique voice reminiscent of the White Knight’s, “It’s my own invention.” Exploits every convention, fuses all forms from essay to memoir, narrative, poetry and prose, yet uses very little symbolic language, since it's supposed to be honest, as if any such thing exists. Truth be told, analogies and metaphors lead people to believe ludicrous ideas yet better understand facts, too. Hard to exist without.

Nonfiction runs risks, particularly popularity. But, since the 1990's, film as documentary has evolved into a bankable entertainment. B&C is unabashedly filmic. Minds operate like movies with flashbacks and foreshadowing. At full novella length, 67 pages, Chapter 15, the book’s longest, isn’t just about beholding lowdown but hearing language sonorities. Vast populations listen to internet podcasts, late night radio, or television talk just to feel connected. Content hardly matters. Indistinct prattle of a stadium crowd seems a comforting backdrop. Some call organized noise music. Middle alphabetical consonants—l, m and n—are evocative of munching mushroomy snacks, nursing from a nipple, slurping umami soup, and smacking lips. Passionate vowel sounds—ah, eee, eye, oh, ooo, uuu—coo wonderful wordless vocalise. Although angry over choices nevertheless accepted, B&C could be more about how life sounds than lies said. Narrative is unreal unless you capture exactly what’s happening, including gooey, hungry and messy cravings with too much to clean up after. Fiction engages you sensually and expects you to suspend reality. Nonfiction seldom achieves that initial love factor, just bemusement, nods of recognition, thoughtful concern, or urges to act.

Said the Cheshire Cat, “A dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad." Mad cats and dogs find no balance. They foment religions, such as the Church of the Subgenius, who worship J. R. Bob Dobbs, archetypal slacker. "'You!' said the Caterpillar contemptuously. 'Who are YOU?'" When ethics are irrelevant, whatever you get away with would be called doctrine. Anarchy appeals until basic needs aren't met. "Cried Alice, losing all her patience this time, 'You ought to have a wooden horse on wheels, that you ought!' 'Does that kind go smoothly?' the Knight asked in a tone of great interest."

Why handcuff yourself? Why ride a bicycle? Why allow yourself to be so vulnerable? It’s a challenge, as is living, which can grow too comfortable. Thus you occasionally see a strange wanderer upon the lonely moor. Everything you do or say can’t earn congratulations and hugs. The weak call inconvenience and tangible agony banes of existence. Incompetence and mediocrity plague those you mollycoddle. How else can you gain independence and improve without insults, isolation and pain? “Beyond offended,” you moan? Admit you’re soft; only then will you begin to grow. If you want to sound original and stay healthy, you must restrain yourself, not greedily devour cake or take whatever you see, though the Grateful Dead sarcastically quipped, “Too much of everything is just enough.” Otherwise, don’t groan when things go wrong. Constraints you choose to endure make all the difference. Artistic geniuses produce from sparse palettes. Everything may be interconnected, but unless you set boundaries, they get muddled. Some call it discipline, which gets a bad rap for being someone else's rules. Self imposed limitations inform, inspire, and make for innovative manuscripts. Better advice might be to do whatever you can or desire, exercise your free will, but exercise, not give up or submit to tyranny. “Surely the questions decide us... not the tail that wags the dog.”—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (pub. 1871, dawn for bicycling)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cyclists Voters Ordain

Presidents are surprising advocates of cycling considering they must always be surrounded by secret service agents. John Fitzgerald Kennedy said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.” Can’t imagine crippled dealer FDR or purple heart recipient JFK ever pedaling. Eisenhower, Johnson and Truman may have, but haven’t seen any proof. However, Eisenhower Park in Hempstead, NY has a 5-mile road biking loop. Eisenhower State Park in Denison, TX has a mountain biking track. Eisenhower himself spurred a huge expanse of pavement, particularly interstate highways, that got his name on parks and roads and, yay, separated cyclists from speeding motorists. Harry S Truman Lake in Warsaw, MO features a mountain bike park with 20 miles of trails. There’s a Hoover Trail in West Branch, IA, the Depression President’s home town. They put in a parking protected bikeway next to JFK Drive at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, CA, but not without controversy.

Before Lincoln's term (1850’s), bicycles weren’t available; could imagine rail splitting Lincoln or rough riding Roosevelt giving bicycles a try, but not arrogant Grant, frail Hayes, nor stout Cleveland. From assassinated Abe to murdered McKinley, unpaved roads hardly permitted horse drawn carriages, never mind honest bikes and horseless buggies. Presiding over the first bike boom in 1918 was Harding, whose nieces and nephews remember kindly as Uncle Warren who taught them to ride, not the scandalous lothario posterity depicts. Way more historical details are presented in Michael Wagner's blog.

Pictured, in order of their presidencies, are the 37th to the 44th (years in office and comments) enjoying bicycles at some time in their lives: Richard Milhous Nixon (1969-1974, family outing in D.C.), Gerald Rudolph Ford (1974-1977, as a child), James Earl Carter, Jr. (1977-1981), Ronald Wilson Reagan (1981-1989, tandem actor), George Herbert Walker Bush (1989-1993, while visiting Beijing), William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001, receiving a bike from Lance Armstrong), George Walker Bush (2001-2009, mountain biking during countless Texas vacations), Barack Hussein Obama (2009-present, during a recent vacation on Martha’s Vineyard). [All images repeated from internet sources; click to enlarge.]

Enough about political leaders. How about the late Soichiro Honda, founder and president of Honda Motor Company? To Labann’s knowledge, he’s the only modern automotive CEO to establish a career by working on bicycles in his father’s shop. Honda, shown with a bike upon which he slapped a motor, was also the first Japanese maker to assemble cars in the United States. Ford built where he sold, too, successfully. This year, the most popular vehicle in America of any type is the fuel efficient Honda Accord LX sedan. Can identify with Honda’s curious policy of waigaya, loosely translated as “blah blah blah” or "brainstorming", which solicits commentary from everyone involved so as to explore all possibilities for quality improvements. It’s precisely the invitation to dialog that Bike&Chain was built upon.

It’s unfinished logic was supposed to draw readers own comments, rather than simply disengage. Different shards of reason wind up in individuals. The collective unconscious requires billions of viewpoints to exist and sustain itself. It's akin to biodiversity, where all pieces of an ecosystem are necessary as long as they stay in balance. How they know, what they feel, why feeling surpasses knowing for most humans are all intrinsic to the B&C experience. Was intended to be participatory, reaching out singly to stimulate responding publicly, and set up so readers could access at any point and still become immersed, with arc but no causality, unlike most linear narratives. Might be confrontational when an author eager for conversation suggests reading a big damn experimental book. Although many influences shape progress, only your own position and what you made of it matters in the end. Only then will anybody realize it has the smallest merit, if only an ancient signpost stuck at an intersection pointing to a destination that no longer exists.

Commitment goads action. Indecision yields mediocrity. Does perpetually conflicted negate advancement? No. All action occurs before results can be evaluated. Struggles writhe around indeterminate possibilities. Inaction can impact just as much as action. History determines results and provokes change, not participants or presidents whose job is only to choose and do. You prevent through planning, though proactive planners seldom consider all contingencies. Only artists concern themselves with rare imagination and remote chances. Heads of state just inherit situations and suggest directions. Blame ambitious demagogues in Congress for unintended consequences of badly written laws.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Inklings You’ll Retain

Instead of entertaining through devices and plots, Bike&Chain tracks those random insights everyone has but few are motivated to record. Motivation: What a concept! Living requires challenges that work provides; once done in a perfunctory way, what drives bodies and souls to excel? Managers struggle with this, try ruses and scams, use competitions to squeeze last drops of effort out of those reluctant. This mostly results in passive aggression and resentment. Ambition serves only one master, ego. Stubborn mules who are comfortable with themselves can’t be easily prodded. Most fear and hate strangers. More than half of relationships go bad. Life's a beach ebbing and flowing, flotsam and jetsam adrift or cast overboard.

In a technical forum had discussed madness and psychosis. Generalized terms, you must consider diagnostic symptoms. The best definition of madness is that in Old French from which it was derived: Unbalanced. If you fail to achieve stability, repeat self destructive behaviors, and won’t assume responsibility for yourself, you probably have some form of mental or personality disorder. Of course, insane readers don’t recognize these flaws in themselves or may rationalize them away. They prefer analogies and metaphors to facts and truths. Awareness doesn't always predate cure, although those who've been and survived become superior intellects. To whom are you writing, then? Who’d benefit from this homily? Demented devaluation of information explains why B&C avoids symbolism and seldom delves very deep into topics other than bicycles, chains, failures, impediments, freedom, responsibilities, and successes.

Key symptoms include anxiety (worry with no specific stimuli, for example phobias), ASD (Aspergers, autism, possibly fetal alcohol syndrome), bipolar disorder (extreme highs & lows, manic depression), dementia (anything from Alzheimer to senility), depression (acute or chronic anhedonia, all too common despair, also postpartum), mania (hyperactive at nothing useful), narcissism (care only for self, do anything to succeed), OCD (body dysmorphic, compulsion, or obsession over trivialities, hair pulling, hoarding, skin picking), PTSD (victims of traumatic events, like wars), schizophrenia (delusions, hallucinations, totally out of touch with reality), and sociopathy (violent interaction typical of serial criminals and killers). Personality disorders are discussed in clusters: A - paranoid, schizoid and schizotypal; B - antisocial, borderline, histrionic, narcissistic; and C - avoidant, dependent, obsessive compulsive (similar but not same as OCD).

Mental defectives do cause problems, but how society reacts isn’t proportionately rational. Eccentric disrupters, those who run around naked blurting obscenities, elicit severest penalties, while heinous bastards get a pass. Americans execute petty thieves and grant amnesty to the biggest criminals in history. Is this because they so fear power of sociopathy? Or do officials hope to herd more sheep through fear? Anyone who wants to be in charge must be insane. Masses of people doing harmless things pose no threat. Criminals do. Do you let victims suffer, or should society force perps to partake in self remedies?

Do books, films and theater that explore frightening or negative topics instigate more of the same, or do such art forms help others work through issues? You have to face facts to heal. Internalizing them, letting issues under your skin, causes harm. Therefore, you should devote time to experiencing art. Meanwhile, just try to get a computer to do anything without frustrating you into babbling lunacy. Working for a living is counterintuitively stressful and cumulatively debilitating leading directly to antisocial eccentricity.

Unresolved issues have a way of expanding in scope. By analogy, if you don't maintain your car, you eventually wind up stuck on the roadside at 3:00 AM in some bad neighborhood calling for help or risking your life. Likewise, childhood traumas dog your career and taint every relationship you must establish to thrive. You’re on a one-way street to tragedy. Before drugs, psychotherapy was tried. It worked sometimes. All sorts of therapies exist, each with specific purposes: Anger management, aversion, body wrapping, cognitive, counseling, detoxification (alcohol, drug), diet (niacin improves brain chemistry in chronic alcoholics), educative, immersion, musical, root cause analysis, sex, stimuli reduction, talking. Vacationing helps a lot of supposedly normal people cope for months on end. Sometimes you simply have to exit a toxic alliance, environment or situation. Psychiatric medicine has become nothing more than pill pushing. Hospitals don't seek cures, just write scripts and toss sufferers out to fend for themselves. Artistic pursuits and avid bicycling work in some cases.

Caretakers have it worse than patients they care for. They teach therapists to detach themselves, not get involved. They consider a patient an interesting problem, not a human crying out. Many who go into psychiatry already have some disorder themselves. Suicide is more prevalent among them than any other group, and not just because they experience insanity up close and personal.

Lately been considering Montenegrin performance artist Marina Abramović, all of whose work involve absorbing abuse by being both publicly accessible and situationally poised nonstop for long durations in galleries and museums. She speaks to a multitude of servants throughout bureaucracies and businesses who listen attentively and stifle emotions every day while needy confess their unrealized cravings. Naked, spread eagle on a bicycle seat, she resembles planet’s billion bicyclists who don’t compete, take whatever pavement lies ahead in wide-eyed attention, test limits of what human bodies can handle, wear little, and wind up misunderstood for their nonviolent, self-imposed hardship by consumers hoping to escape such painful inconveniences. Differences include mobile versus static levels of danger. Bicycling can also be seen as a performance art form, but one that only participants appreciate. For an age where spirituality has returned to the individual, this mimics habits of monks who for millennia gave up physical delights for an imagined good, which arguably did succeed. Freedom to choose will always entail restraint; separation defines objects, space and time, which explains why roads are more deserted than jammed.

In previously mentioned film Requiem (dir. Hans Christian Schmidt, 2006), Sandra Hüller plays an epileptic girl who gradually becomes convinced she is possessed by demons. Has the look of an underfunded epic that ends just before anything is resolved. In fact, bicycling protagonist eventually dies according to a preemptive placard. It's painfully obvious that her mother smothered her with contempt and repression. Mother should have been under therapy with an undiagnosed control fetish, someone instigating trouble but refusing consequences, while those surrounding have to cope and deal, sometimes break down from constant pressure. In contrast, also viewed autobiographical trilogy An Angel at My Table (dir. Jane Campion, 1990) in which celebrated New Zealand author Janet Frame suffers following a false schizophrenia diagnosis but survives to flourish. The only scenes in which she seems carefree are when she bikes about, like her 12-year-old character from her first novel, Owls Do Cry, Francie Withers commuting happily to the drudgery of woolen mills, even imagining bicycle parts shown on cover as a magical incantation she recites with her sister; otherwise, Janet totes around a burdensome typewriter bewildered by incessant inhumanity while she inks inspired inklings which persists as a testament to psychiatric absurdity.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fast Lane

Tip your helmet for Vincenzo Nibali, 101st Champion of the July classic cycling pinnacle 2014 Tour de France. He completed its course of 2196.3 miles (3660.5 km) through England and France with bits of Belgium and Spain in a minute less than 90 hours at a world class average of 24.4 mph. On certain stages the pace was upward of 35 mph, but you must appreciate that 6 of the 21 crested mountains, and more were mercilessly hilly than flat. Nibali, like his heroic Italian predecessors Bartali, Coppi and Pantani, proved his climbing superiority, which typifies every cycling champion.

Not for 30 years had two Frenchmen also stood on the podium, but to relief of host nation Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibault Pinot came in 2nd and 3rd, less than 10 minutes behind. Americans and Tacoma were well represented by Tejay van Garderen in 5th place. And, for once in recent memory, drama was confined to racing instead of substance abuse allegations and xenophobic resentments. Spared these horrors, where was network news coverage? They dissect with rabid zeal ho-hum tennis matches and, yawn, terminally dull soccer games where a couple of dozen of players going at it for 90 minutes score a single goal. Are not cyclists also professional athletes? Why do they scare reporters?

Some days going by bike everyone feels as if he/she could compete with the best, then reality settles in as kids on single speeds muscle past. Society doesn’t normally run at closed circuit extremes, rather mundane motored speeds at a 25 mph mean, half that par pedaled. With no distinct demographic, bicyclists come in all shapes, situations and sizes; most profit through personal victories apart from pelaton. Hefty New Jersey native Scott Cutshall, whose weight topped out at 501 pounds, had doctors writing him off as dead until he noticed an outside example and realized that bicycles made motile sense, relocated to Minnesota, then settled in Oregon 320 lbs. lighter. No doubt, champions inspire wannabes, but so do stubborn adults who conscientiously choose to self propel despite arguments against, blogs about, taboos and terrors. Fast or slow, fear nothing and take whatever lane you're presented for the health of it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On the Road Again

Regret some choices made and roads never traveled. Would have been cool to photograph rock groups for a living. Played in bands, roadied for some, and snapped a number of famous groups in concert. After taking classes, already had a couple of small, well reviewed shows. Could have carried it off with a small investment and stuff owned. Would’ve needed a better paying day job to afford darkroom supplies. Saw director and star Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) chasing Life Magazine photographer Sean Penn by bicycle through Iceland, a dream adventure and personal avocation neither of which will ever happen. Was lured into and met success in filming and writing, even produced a documentary that aired on PBS. Realized that life moves and millions of amateurs lessened value of still images, but videographers were rare competitors until technology and Youtube caught up. Rarer still are those who can transport you right to where events occur so you can seek vicarious thrills from safety of your ivory tower. Cyclists snap shots en route to share on websites, but viewers experience none of the endorphin highs that triggered taking otherwise drab vistas.

Once exhibited at craft shows. The only “artist” who made any money painted frogs on mirror tiles and sold them for cheap by the thousands. Those who demonstrated real effort and skill couldn’t afford to sell bargains below costs, therefore didn’t cover expenses. Finding a way to profit in the arts seems impossible until you assess just how much consumers spend. Movies totaled $11 billion in box office sales last year. Music raked in $7 billion. Porn beat them both at $18 billion. All complain that sales have steadily declined. In 2013 fine art sales hit a record at $66 billion, but artists who produced paintings and sculptures were long deceased. NFL cheerleaders actually pay to get noticed while dancing for a pittance. People admire anyone who starves and suffers, usually after they are dead from abuse and neglect, proverbial fish floating in filthy aquariums. So, not performing or producing but promoting and selling art constitute the profitable part. In the last 12 months, the top earning actor made $75 million, only 7.5% of the $1 billion his top grossing films earned. Shed no tears, since it exceeds salaries of all but top three American CEOs: Chienere Energy’s Souki ($142 million), Gamco’s Gabelli ($85 million), and Oracle’s Ellison ($78 million). Nevertheless, on average, CEOs received 331 times the wages of workers, $16.94/hour, about $35K/year.

Do well to find facts, but just what do you do with them? Figure you’ll always earn little unless you start your own business. Began 3, each with limited success, which can only be declared honestly by expanding and hiring others. You need to feed community, customers, employees, stakeholders and stockholders, but most are managed by either establishment or government. The best clients have the deepest pockets, so getting onto some corporate, federal or state payroll should be your first foray into business. After trillions spent annually on energy, food, insurance, savings, shelter, taxes and transportation, public has little left for discretionary spending. Although hundreds of thousands of entertainers in film, music and sports split a couple of hundred billion per annum, IRS alone takes in tens times that; in addition, states take in twice as much. Big and small businesses nationwide turn $16 trillion, over 100 times what the arts take in collectively, although life would be unlivable without them. Pharmaceuticals, most of which you can do without, outsell expressions of emotion. Artists sometimes blow cash on pills and supplies compulsively producing more art while they go hungry and jump from one loft to the next. Others perfect or revive existing techniques nobody else considers worthwhile. Good manufacturing practice requires producer to develop around clients' needs. Innovation which propels marketplace can only be derived from careful communication with and observation of end users. However, the disconnect between corporations and customers has never been profounder. Prospects get ever fewer and poorer.

On the Road comes to mind over and over. Some might see Kerouac’s peregrinations as a series of fuel wasting vacations crisscrossing a continent, but it’s really desperate wanderlust that sought authenticity and redemption through, “...all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it...” You hopelessly wish to connect with own tribe. When nobody cares, all you have is the allure of blacktop ribbons, which gladly swallow your identity whole. Hour after hour bicyclists begin to blend back into corporate drones and landscape dust then disappear forever.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Backstab Coxswain

In some movies, enemies might be better than family or friends. Little Birds (2012, Elgin James, dir.) has twitchy teen Juno Temple dragging bicycling BFF Kay Panabaker straight into adult trouble. Schoolmarm Cate Blanchet rides a bike in Notes on a Scandal (2006, Richard Eyre, dir.) while being blackmailed for an illicit affair by coworker Judi Dench, a psychotic dominatrix. Requiem (2006, Hans-Christian Schmid, dir.) stars Sandra Hüller as an epileptic with an unforgiving mom who begins by biking up a high hill, then believes she's possessed by a demon. Figures. Fail to see any irony in it at all. Cruelest almost always to themselves, humans hurt targets of convenience next. Unknown others remain a plausible threat, which explains the pathetic attempts at steering spectators by unwanted advice constantly delivered over airwaves. Yet it’s what you’d expect during a dearth in leadership.

Lately disturbed by well intentioned comments on social media. Wondering what motivates commentators to repeat pithy sayings by acknowledged luminaries. Is it mental laziness or need to dominate? Bellowed beat of presumptuous bigwigs becomes unbearable. The shrewd surmise servants rise into masters. Anyone worth citing doesn’t have to quote geniuses;
he or she does and says original things. You can only learn from others when you apply their knowledge for yourself. Why not skip the middle man? Be your own genius (or pet) by formulating theories, solving problems and tackling chores. Find and fulfill needs in overlooked niches with a quantum of pizazz even if it takes a kickstart from kickstand stop.

Harvard and MIT along with other institutions offer MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) anyone can take. Eager outsiders enroll faster and finisher sooner than jaded locals, though 90% of those who enroll drop out. Ivy League education resembles advertising come-ons, taunting ambitious youth with potential earnings then tugging rug out when they request work in their field. Setting up competitions so only a few succeed and most fail perfectly mimics capitalism, where the feeble and incompetent only exist to exploit, ignore or sacrifice. Public cares more about how pets are treated than how unfortunate members of their own species survive.

Applying one’s allegedly unbiased mind can be daunting task with risk of being incarcerated or ostracized. Offspring of the privileged take freedoms for granted. Maintaining class status seems easy enough when all they have to do is nothing. Stealing is child’s play once they know the “lay of the land”. Success only means insiders were warned just ahead of profit windfalls; too early or too late, where outsiders live, won’t do. Good intentions don’t count, mere tokens that take gain into account and transcend guilt. But what you do will mostly go unnoticed anyway, whereas you’ll be condemned on what you say. Citing nobility can forgive crimes depending upon celebrity status. Smart peasants act independently, heed no false cadence, navigate own course, pull oars themselves, and serve community, not just themselves, not what they teach at their university.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

La Besace de La Fontaine

After a morose litany, readers might imagine Labann only notices what’s obnoxious. They’d be wrong. Beauty and truth surface upon a sea of filth and lies; they only exist by comparison. Roses fed manure bloom above thorns, unless kept in the dark, where, like a mushroom or an unenlightened mind, they mold or remark. Anything alive will decline without absorbing energy. All life depends upon photosynthesis, you see, even if it’s predatory. Survival requires fresh air and sunshine. If you don’t first suffer, you’ll fail to spot great and take good for granted. From longing and pain arise all that’s human, including arts, magic, myths, rules, science, and spirituality. Whenever everything goes, standards cease to be necessary, but laws deter impatient idiots from causing harm daily.

So what satisfies? With normality false and nothing certain, some say only the love of a soulmate matters. Even that’s temporary before dementia sets in or sickness deprives you once again. Dogs bite their masters, do what’s instinctual, and don’t really return projected affection. Then doting masters unwittingly feed them meat byproducts and putrid substances, so people aren’t aware of all they need to know, and words do matter. Some bind themselves to a busy yoke, which can’t love back and is seldom kind. Work is often a joke, someone’s else’s delusion of privilege or progress. You can be assured of betrayal and disrespect despite all the good you share. Your outward search will barely yield much more than food at a price you can’t afford. Nature then bites back.

Bicycling boosts mood. You can bake in a car or stew on steamy days, yet rolling exposed generates its own cooling breezes. Motorists hurry to peak attractions and places to earn, whereas cyclists absorb what’s in between, bits of beauty you wouldn’t otherwise behold: cacophony of birdsong, glimpses over garden walls, scents of emerging blossoms or newly cut hay, sun on your shoulders, and taste of farm fresh fruit in season. Journey itself can be a joy. You cannot receive what world has to offer unless physically capable. Getting healthy, losing weight, meeting others, and staying fit permit everything worth experiencing. Reading alone doesn’t do it. Only through doing do insights flow and texts materialize. To imagine and plan effectively, you must know facts which can only be learned by following examples or trying yourself. Don’t be surprised if you’re not elated afterwards; experiences steady nerves and highlights barely surpass lowlights. Satisfaction can only be found within; you bring it, not find it elsewhere.

Those who feel they must list blessings are probably convinced that readers have lost touch with what’s vital. Because blooms are brief and fruit ripe for a few days, only those who stay alert and engaged get to savor them. Attend any festival surrounding natural occurrences: fish migrations, produce harvests, trees in bloom, waterfalls rushing, or whatever your bag or bindle may be. Everyone has flaws. Find fewer faults, get to know strangers, and look for good in them. Mind what fabulist La Fontaine noted, “We forgive ourselves everything, and forgive others nothing.” Ashamed, it’s easier to berate another’s foibles than confess own mistakes. Life gets what it needs, gives what it must, or goes bust.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Politics of Disdain

Labann, at times radically centrist, may almost be deemed Buddhist in embracing humanity’s decent and ill will. You can hardly discuss anything these days without defending the middle against extremists and resisting labels. Since 2000 this blog never deviated from careful observation and daily meditation upon the effects of freedom (bike) and responsibility (chain). This means discussing economics, politics and religion, usually considered taboo by those who exploit others or stick to conventions. Honest folks neither judge nor pontificate, repeat all and any facts, even speculate on unknowns. Cruel users give half a story or keep you misinformed. Jokers do nobody any favor when they concoct wild lies. Metrics might inspire action or spread panic, but warning that your building is on fire sends sensible audiences to exits in an orderly fashion.

Often skewer conservatives, because they intentionally grab attention and make convenient targets. Liberals compile ill conceived spending bills and try to sneak them through Congress. You’d think government would be all about making new opportunities, providing a safety net against crimes or enemies or failures, and raising the poor above poverty line. But you’d be wrong. Let history show it was to create plutocrats who subjugated majority and tax without representation. Wasn’t that why founding fathers revolted?

Labann passionately opposes armed insurrection: Doesn’t punish or replace guilty parties, just dumps costs and losses on the poor. Guns let weak bullies win. The late Gil Scott Heron, original rap prophet, said revolution would not only “not be televised”, it would arise from a consensus of minds and consist of attitude alteration. Change can only come from inside, whether congressionally, corporately or personally. Only a progressive party with a strong coalition of elected officers might improve stagnant governance. Unfortunately, that would require decades of dubious effort, which is how plutocrats consolidated power in the first place, then exited industrial production for financial scams and tapped the deepest purse on earth, tax obligations. Only megalomaniacs believe they can wrest control completely. Real leaders serve public uniformly within budgetary constraints and society's will.

While some who collect welfare find contentment in not toiling for tyrants, people generally prefer daily challenges and the problem solving that work provides. Who wouldn’t love a job that’s perpetually interesting, suitably moral, and well compensated? Unless deluded or insane, you’ve got to revile all employment that’s tantamount to slavery or unconscionably takes advantage of need or pain. Nothing would satisfy more than incarcerating traitors and recovering trillions they stole while in office. But electorate will execute petty thieves and grant amnesty to the biggest criminals in history.

This suggests that the secret to success is to make majority complicit in your crimes. Self interest rules wherever achievement is measured in how high you reach upon a pile of dead rivals. Ethical behaviors are often considered aberrant or eccentric, for lunatics and suckers. Honesty doesn’t inspire trust; it’s usually met by gnashing of teeth, killing or maligning its messenger, and retrenching untenable positions.

Don't doubt haves and have-nots are at war; majority just hasn't yet prevailed, which they ultimately will. Those who assume you know nothing because you don't have a string of letters after your name, who run around with blinders saying, "This is not the place or time to discuss [fill in the blank]," because they think money or position insulates them against conflict, will fall all the faster. Should you pity or victimize them? In fact, they are now main quarry of plutocrats, since middle class assets have dwindled, and poor have already been beaten.

One day normal people will pity the delusions of wealth. Excess doesn’t buy happiness, power or security, just turns you into a target. Poor or rich, you’ll die awaiting medical treatment upon insurance company’s orders. Unless you allow free reign to plutocracy, you can live well on a lot less. Independence may be a celebrated ideal, but interdependence without disappointment will always be most desirable. Promises made and maintained are the only politics that matter, though oaths can sometimes be impossible to honor.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thomas Paine

“Common Sense” pamphleteer, patriot, seminal abolitionist and skeptic Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809) had plenty to say about “offering up human sacrifices to the pride of tyrants” that resonates all the more today. “Those who want to reap the benefits of this great nation must bear the fatigue of supporting it... The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance... I love the man [who] can smile in trouble, [who] can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.” America finds itself in same straits as when merciless monarchs ruled, only now it’s oligarchs manipulating media to avoid responsibility to those who made them wealthy.

Pamphlets were the founding father’s Facebook. Despite misuse, current media does reduce consumption by relaying information instead of wasting fuel. Then again, once enlightened, you might want to visit places you never did. Corporations expect employees to adapt, commute and relocate. Messages increase ecotourism and political action as much as inspire “staycations”. Have lately grown weary with local scenery, instead focus on cracks ahead hoping to finish faster and get ride over. Wanderlust only serves those with trust funds. Highways are so messed up motorists would be willing to pay more to correct, when everyone already pays too much in taxes for something totally unsustainable. A trillion dollars nationwide in the last decade doesn't seem to deter those dodging potholes.

Nothing is straightforward. You’re forced to spend all your time sorting through agendas, arguments, lies, opinions and spin. Otherwise, they’ll betray your confidence, deny earned entitlements, pick your pocket, sell you unwanted stuff, and steal public properties and revenues. They’ll allege you have trust issues while giving you reasons not to. Dullards who hate to do for themselves enjoy Top 10 lists, which are as phony as anything else compiled by those in control. The best is usually lame, runners-up an absolute bore. Popularity, extremely overrated, means nothing more than an ill-informed audience agrees. Consensus validates nothing, which is why democracy struggles, though people must agree before action can occur. “All mankind are my brethren. To do good is my religion,” said Paine just before inciting revolution.

What matters is what you think for yourself. You bring originality and perception personally, so it doesn’t much matter whether or whither you wander. But, as Bleeping Pain confirms, you can’t just stay put, need to encounter rude others. Humans must interact to thrive. Destinations don’t matter, either, because bulk of experiences occur en route. So throw a dart at at map then wend your way there. Labann crosses unfriendly city to area farms to buy vegetables, even if costlier for being fresher than supermarket, neither of which are close, makes multiple stops, and talks to many. Therefore, hopefully, farms with wild habitats and wistful vistas like a Wyeth landscape endure. In contrast, because they coerce you to drive, supermarkets in suburban exile present drab architecture surrounded by baked blacktop. Efforts to insulate make one isolated and vulnerable.

Remember being miserable pedaling along soaked in predicted 10% precipitation. Wary of forecasts, wonder why so seldom see overhangs at intervals that could shelter those who need to be out. At least Italy has its arcades, some New England strip malls awnings, and Texas covered boardwalks. They'd attract riders by covering bus stops and posting schedules. But is inconsiderate infrastructure worthy of complaint? Tyrants abuse or use others daily, expect royal treatment, make slaves out of those who have skills, and subjugate wills. All work is dangerous and tiresome, leads to broken bones and scars, while recipients grab proceeds and shrug off your trauma. Many factory workers, for example, have lost fingers. Farmers risk their lives to grow produce and raise stock, but many sell land for lack of profits. If you’ve never made hay, milked cows or picked vegetables, you have no idea what back breaking effort it takes to feed you. Be grateful; you don’t deserve it.

Inhumanity manifests in many ways, none quite as blatant as yesterday being buzzed within inches by a big black SUV with opaque windows. Registration plates betray driver anonymity, so can report this crime if so inclined but doubt state would indict. Cause rests in what Paine impugned before traffic code was ever imagined, a “long and violent abuse of power”, which perfectly portrays entire automotive history. And to think this remarkable prophet died unappreciated and unmourned except by a pair of black freedmen and presumably a few farmers for whom he tirelessly fought. Lest Americans forget, there would be no Independence Day without Paine, who galvanized opinion by embracing the oppressed while snubbing the powerful.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

*Bleep*ing Pain

Like any saying, old bicycling adage, “It never gets easier, you just go farther faster,” holds some truth. You do lose excess weight, so pedaling your bloated carcass around grows decreasingly bothersome. Pack a knapsack with 6 five-pound bags of sugar and see how carrying 30 extra pounds grinds knees and wears thin. Cycling advocates can be sickly sadistic, don’t say it so newcomers merely accept pain, rather that they masochistically embrace it. Yet the more you peddle, the better you do get and more tricks you learn. Butt turns to leather, choices help, heart and lungs improve, saddle conforms, and thighs strengthen, so you carry more weight on your legs not tender bits. You quicken your cadence to leave behind rude riders with nary a greeting for a fellow cyclist. None of this applies to those who stay fit, though. A clever saying neglects to mention every exception. As with everything on earth, blackness merges with light, commodious combines with odious, yang entwines yin. Facts and paradoxes are boring/messy/negative; people prefer encapsulated/neat/positive fiction. “Lie to me,” is their plea.

Who can separate beneficial from painful? “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Don’t want to be conspicuously strong or to cheat death, just finish rides and sidestep primordial stimuli carried by interoceptors to thalamus. “Is sitting the new smoking?” Couch potatoes, desk jockeys, and seated motorists face cardiovascular failure while back, leg and neck muscles shrink and shorten. Bicycling and walking build; Tai Chi and Yoga stretch. Pumping iron and working out are only for those already fit. With an obesity pandemic, food choices and quantities ought to come first. People in sunless upper half of America are Vitamin D deficient, which leads to brain disfunction, diabetes, and other diseases. But the preponderance of medical evidence emphatically confirms that smoking remains the #1 health hazard. Cycling discourages smoking, which impedes breathing.

Ways to die in order of frequency (number of deaths cited annually nationwide, compiled from multiple official sources): 1. Cardiovascular diseases (clots, heart attack, stroke, 727,000 fatalities). 2. Cancers (all types including skin from too much sun while cycling, 580,000). 3. Lung dysfunctions (including COPD from car exhaust and smoking, 138,000). 4. Brain ailments (Altzheimer’s, dementia, insanity, 80,000). 5. Crime, gun violence and suicide (70,000). 6. Diabetes (69,000). 7. Accidents other than driving (60,000). 8. Kidney disorders (50,500). 9. Infectious diseases (50,000). 10. Automotive collisions (40,000). More people died in motoring accidents in the last 100 years than soldiers in wars. Causes in common are diet, driving distracted/impaired, smoking, and substance abuse, all personally preventable. Little is done to save lives, since 2 million pointless deaths provide jobs and profits. Meanwhile, other important work never gets done. It's a war. Call it what you will, criminal enterprise, but make no excuses.

Been checking out home water filters that sort cancerous toxins from sustaining necessity. How do you choose what’s best? Claims are proven phony. Had to replace truck, too. Of course, looked for a reliable, safe plug-in hybrid SUV miserly on gas at the same price as a quality bike into which it would nicely fit. At 4 times more than long awaited dream vehicle, settled for a small sedan that actually exists. Who can afford these compromises, prices, premiums, property taxes, or Tesla S? Everything involves complex decisions based on too many facts, models, and options. Traffic is so chaotic, experts try to impose controls, laws, and penalties, none of which slow daily carnage. Technologists are close to introducing the first robotic vehicles. While avoiding valuable cars will they collide with vulnerable cyclists? Built-in cameras, cell phones, cruise controls, hands-free consoles, and sound systems count as distractions that endanger everyone, new opportunities to inflict pain, and wasted resources mankind will never recover.

Can see why bicyclists become bitter; they absorb whatever torture convenience imposes and find no welcome where reckless speed dominates. For pain alone, it’s hard enough trying to convince people to ride. They ought to earn a free pass for not making world worse to live in. Seems another instance where, “No good deed goes unpunished,” although that’s no more true than, “Crime does not pay.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Slip Seine

Short of half way through year, yet at point of no return, should also mention some newly published bicycling books. Whether you attend or ignore, culture continues to simmer into Summer and slip through your permeable net. Labann hears, sees and smells supporting evidence everywhere, often right after issuing a post about the very same thing. “It’s in the air,” they say. Curiously, riding alone it simply occurs with no tangible input from existing but unread books. Can ideas exist without humans to think them? Are books even necessary? Rather catch answers or fish than flak or questions.

Tour de France 2013 champion Chris Froome has out an inevitable autobiography, The Climb (Viking, 2014, 448 pp.) for those who follow pelaton hijinks, a word derived from an 18th Century drinking game, akin to truth-or-dare, which forced loser of dice throws to consume more or do something undignified. These days cycling's more about PEDs than persistence.

Bruce Weber’s Life Is a Wheel (Scribner, 2014, 336 pp.) takes you on a Transamerica 2-wheeled tour. Sounds like 4,100 grueling miles of hell in 14 weeks, but Weber exposes the majesty of a great yet welcoming expanse that so many have accepted as an earnest challenge.

From cycling mad Seattle, Frank Strack, et al., together known as The Velominati, or Keepers of the Cog, set forth in humorous fashion The Rules (W. W. Norton & Company, 2014, 304 pages) based on their blog, Any culture must have its elite, jesters, police and snobs. Check out samples for a laugh at Amazon.

Shirley Hughes offers historical fictional in Hero on a Bicycle (Candlewick Press, 2013, 213 pp.) set in 1944 Nazi occupied Florence, Italy. Eager to get on with life’s adventures, 13-year-old Paolo sneaks out each night to ride his bike along darkened streets thrilled by the risks. Partisan resistance soon maneuvers him and his family into an impossible situation. Does Paolo have what it takes to truly be a hero? Morality tales seem to produce more slaves and victims than winners.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Here's to Hindbrain

The hindbrain is compromised of 3 parts. Cerebellum may play a role in episodic memory retrieval (Andreasen, et. al., 1999), but together with Medulla and Pons, it surely controls autonomic reflexes, balance, breathing, coordination, muscle flex, tone and twitch, and such bodily functions upon which cyclists rely. So let’s salute this pink blob saddled atop spinal cord that sits in the background but supervises foremost business.

Sometimes look back in shame on mistakes. Don’t always get things spot on. Said blogs can’t post essays or lists, but stubbornly did so anyway. At least a post can be ignored, unlike email blocking queue or phone call that might spell trouble. Can't neglect Bike Month. Hope it was all it could be for you. As a retrospective and wrap, retrieved these overlooked and unmentioned bicycling songs (artist, title [type if not pop or rock], album, label, year) with excerpts of lyrics and links in yet another dismissive missive:

• A2J, Bicycle Ride [Christian], Prove It, Go Media, 2013
• Admamh Roland, Bicycle Ride [Queer folk], You’re Alive, Riotfolk, 2007
• Andy Vaz, Bicycle Love [idm], (single), Yore Records, 2013
• Anthony B, Ghetto Bicycle [dancehall], Riddim Rider, Vol. 15, Jetstar Music, 2004
• The Arrivals, Simple Pleasures in America, Volatile Molotov, Recess Records, 2010. “I don't want just be a bitch, and I don't want to just hate on rich folks, but that's kind of how we have our fun; still just for her this is a positive one. I like the bill of rights, and I like to ride my bicycle, and everybody gets a little piece of the pie. I like to go that extra mile...”
• Aurora Nealand & The Royal Roses, Bicycle Bird [Dixieland], New Orleans Compilation, self, 2012
• Basic Astronomy, Bicycle Song [eam], Slow News Day, self, 2009
• Classified, Choose Your Own Adventure 2 [Canadian hip-hop], Self Explanatory, Halflife/Sony, 2009
• Eleanor Friedberger, Owl’s Head Park, Last Summer, Merge Rec., 2011
. "I heard they got used bicycle parts down in Coney Island. There's a Russian there who makes them out on Surf Avenue. I chose my seat and my wheels, one pink and one white. He said come back in an hour, but I got nothing to do. I gave him sixty bucks. I guess they must've been stolen, baby, fine, finally they found their way back to me or you. ...I only took one picture that day. It's me on the bike posing next to a white Lamborghini on Manhattan Avenue in front of that tiny, tiny restaurant... It's the only photo I have of that bike on that day. The boys on the F-Train said that frame was fresh. It was the color blue. But I didn't know my way so... I couldn't ride home to you."
• The Honey Brothers, Green and Gold, Time Flies Like a Peach, Velour Rec., 2012. “Green and gold bicycle... It's gonna be a long walk home without you. The road is winding, the path is empty and bare. And it feels binding 'cause you're just never there. You're up ahead now. It's impossible to see. Your hair is shining. Maybe you're following me. There's so much space here and so little time. I watch you mounting your green-gold bike in the sky.”
• Ral Partha Vogelbacher, Wrong Bike [Britpop], Kite vs Obelisk, Monotreme Rec., 2004
• Ricky Fitzpatrick, Bicycle, (single), self, 2013
• Sam Bisbee, Alltime Low, High, self, 2004
• Spiral Beach, Casual T [Canadian], Ball, Sparks Music, 2007. “If an accident happens, then I can die laughing looking into those high beams. Don’t tell me what happens. Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, riding on a bicycle, looking like a casual T. But now I can see that the wheels keep spinning, and I’ll be underneath...”
• The Treasure Fleet, High on a Bicycle, Cocamotion, Recess Rec., 2012
• Yourself and The Air, Bicycles Plus, Who’s Who in The Zoo, Lujo Rec., 2011