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 filĂ© 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?