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 PeƱalosa 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