Thursday, October 22, 2015

Blind Ultramontane

Probably ought to read more than write. Can turn to interesting blogs, nonfiction, or novels to break up monotony of dogmatic how-to’s and textbooks. Reading lets you passively absorb information you might eventually use effectively or profitably. Many books merely pick a topic and vegetatively quote others who commented on it. Blogs might offer a sentence or two but principally exist as click-bait for advertising pennies or cookie downloads with trojan horses. Real content serves both community and self, but wastes author’s effort and time when editors or readers don’t reciprocate. The social convention of authors providing information of value with societies caring for their welfare, as if horticultural specimens, seems to have fallen by the wayside.

People appreciate ancient evangelists and prophets because they codified religions, expected nothing, and got martyred for their trouble. Authors today expect the same credibility for living dangerously and spewing contrary filth. Monarchists and ultramontanes condemn separation of church and state and rather confer absolute power to a king or pope. They are blinded by their chance to control and dominate through the power of words. Uniformity of belief or practice leads directly to fascism. Diversity of opinion, while apparently wasteful, does create markets, expand economy, explore alternatives, honor all sides, and offer hope. Diversity is mankind’s survival mechanism. Why theocracies fail is that some neighboring ruler devoted to another inflexible religion routinely disagrees and wars commence. The bitterest fights are fought over flavors of the same (Christian Catholics kill Christian Protestants; Moslem Shia kill Moslem Sunnis). Constitutional democracies don’t run well, but at least give citizens who vote a small say in life threatening policies and historically last longer than any other form of government.

Readers seek Top 10 lists as ways to hack through dense detail, mental machetes in a jungle of falsehood. Just as in this metaphor, each such complied list foists unfounded opinions, further confuses issues, skips relevant input, and surrounds obvious facts with phony hype, what greedy conservatives rely upon when duping masses into sacrificing themselves. For once, however, Labann will relent, toss readers a bone, undertake unbiased cycling tips, and won’t further bitch about it.

10. Before each ride, check tires for integrity (no cuts or imbeds) and pressure. If you must fill rear, also top off front. Otherwise, skip front to save time and valve wear.

9. Store cleats, glasses, gloves, helmet and pump in same spot, ready for next ride, but not where subject to bugs, bumps, damp, direct sun, and falls. Try a mesh bag hung on bike or open shelf unit.

8. Carry cash, cell phone, credit card(s), keys, and small tools in a ziplock baggie; keeps them collected and dry.

7. Pay the extra fee (if any) to make sure your new bike exactly fits you; use your regular apparel, cleats and saddle during fitting, which should include handlebar adjustment, laser leg alignment, and saddle positioning. Expect small tweaks thereafter to perfect.

6. Wash bike often with soap and water; use an old toothbrush for tight areas, like chain links and derailleur cogs. Especially clean brake pads and wheel rims. Wipe dry while inspecting frame for cracks and noting damage. Once fully dry, again lubricate chain.

5. Now ride with knees in to spare later pain; flailing is only okay to get balance right after mounting. Cleated pedals help guide legs into efficient positions over long distances.

4. Change hand positions on bars frequently; grab brake hoods to rest wrists, drops to get low into wind.

3. Wear a helmet. Doesn’t make you invincible, but does provide cheap insurance against concussions and skull fractures. Wear padded gloves for safety, spandex shorts and wicking jerseys for comfort, or whatever you want that won’t later deter enthusiasm.

2. Stick to white line at road’s edge; weaving in and out of shoulder confuses motorists and obstructs visibility for both them and you. Tuck in on curves where clipping might occur.

1. Hour for hour, bicycling is more fun than working. Bike commuting avoids driving stress, jettisons your burdens, and restores mood so family won’t suffer, as long as you don’t obsess over it.

These are not 10 commandments, just suggestions shared from 10,000 hours in the saddle. You are entitled to compile your own list, dispute, or ignore, because, when you embrace a bicycle as transportation, “This machine kills fascists,” figuratively speaking.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Verity Ingrain

Once bicycling and cycling were synonymous. Lately, they’ve developed separate connotations. Would be wise to include in B&C’s bixicon that bicycling is the generic term for propelling self on any bi-wheeled contraption, whereas cycling has come to mean racing an approved diamond-framed bike for sport, though for some riders the two remain indistinguishable. You know who they are by how rudely they pass. “Cyclist” could thus be used disparagingly, and often is by motorists. And what do you call riders on power-assisted bikes? Micro-motorists? Others pedal on human powered vehicles, recumbents and trikes, but HPV-ers sounds like vectors for a nasty disease. Struggles that bicyclists endure put them in the category of vulnerable road users, veritably on par with protected species. Motorists sometimes run over bald eagles and snowy owls, smaller targets than you who can’t likewise fly, so never be surprised when their vehicles overtake within inches. Beware, listen, watch out for yourself.

Other terms to differentiate lie along a continuum from bad to worst: Climate change, continual extinction, global warming, tipping event, mass extinction, and global doom. Much will be lost if oceans rise 4 feet from melting polar ice due to climate change. At great cost, humans can relocate inland, but insurers will go broke. Global warming will kill species, some of which are crucial to all life, like bees that pollenate vegetables, so this affects everyone. Species die all the time, but rate has dramatically increased. Heating depletes ocean oxygen and kills fish. Too much carbon gas, hydrocarbon vapors, and ozone would impede breathing among mammals. At some point toxins accumulate so much that planet renews itself in a catastrophic spasm. Such drastic changes will extirpate species unprepared to handle. The more astronomers know about solar system, the less confident they are that an asteroid crashing into earth won’t crush and suffocate most life forms, though its thin atmosphere has sheltered humanity so far from a continual barrage of objects small enough to burn upon entry.

Commenting on expansion of internet access, Diane Ackerman (7 Feb 2015) said, “Never before have we been so dangerous to the planet or to ourselves, but never before have we been so capable of working together to find solutions.“ Given human nature, don’t yet see any propensity for collaborating meaningfully beyond exploitation of people and resources. E. O. Wilson recently renounced kin selection, which he previously theorized as a natural imperative to preserve genes among closest relatives by sacrificing self. So no definitive bio-mechanism has yet been identified to explain why altruism exists, while instilling any cooperation requires a bit of it. This leaves scientists in an argumentative quandary. More often humans seem to be guided by self interest and motivated by survival of the fittest. But don’t humans embrace their own birth characteristics and form castes from alpha to untouchable? Leadership or subservience appear to be genetically inherited after all, though behaviors revolve around preferences given to those culturally and racially similar to rulers. It’s harder but not impossible for an outsider to wrest control, but that does describe some conquests, for instance, the small contingent of Cort├ęs in Mexico overthrowing entire Aztec empire.

Damn it, scientists constantly come up with paradoxes you can’t comprehend. Everyone already spends way too much time inside thinking instead of outside living, watching videos instead of witnessing nature firsthand. Paradoxes get interpreted and played out by directors and novelists, though all the real money is made and risks taken by movie producers. IMDB lists over 200 truth titles in film, shorts and television series, important examples described below:

A Dark Truth (2012) - Ex-CIA agent and Toronto talk show host Jack Begosian (Andy Garcia) gets hired to expose a corporate massacre in Ecuador. Poorly reviewed and purely fictitious, lost money.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006) - Former Vice President Al Gore narrates this documentary about global warming’s disastrous potential, whereas bicyclists and walkers don’t significantly add to greenhouse gases, unless they eat lots of beans. Earned little at box office but provoked Big Oil denial and Republican rebuttal. Should be required viewing.

Kill the Messenger (2014) - In 1996, journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) broke a story that connected CIA with 1980’s crack cocaine epidemic. Government and legacy media joined forces to silence him. Docudrama lost money in ticket sales over its modest $5 million budget. Maybe it was confused with Tami Hoag’s like-named suspense novel about bike messengers. "The truth will set you free," said John the Evangelist, but it may kill you in the process.

True Grit - Original (1969) and remade (2010) western of imaginary Marshall Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne, later Jeff Bridges) made serious money. Set in 1880, there were no bicycles, only horses, though film’s title and protagonist’s surname suggest that which gathers on chains and gears. Cyclists in Colorado, where film was shot, have more than made up for this oversight.

True Lies (1994) - Totally fictional action adventure in which Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) hunts down and kills terrorists. Major blockbuster grossed hundreds of millions worldwide. Wasted an enormous amount of fuel with exploding tanks trucks, fast cars, hovering helicopters, and VTOL jets.

True Story (2015) - Former New York Times reporter Michael Finkle (Jonah Hill) hoping to redeem himself and restore his reputation is seduced and used by brutal killer Christian Longo (James Franco). Based on actual events, made only a few million nationwide.

Truth (2015) - Reporting facts about Dubya’s military AWOL due to father’s influence costs 60 Minutes newscasters Dan Rather (Robert Redford) and Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchet) their jobs and reputations. Bet on seeing a few bicycles on Manhattan streets, but predict failure for this emerging docudrama despite its all-star cast. Erstwhile journalist Edward R. Murrow, who opposed McCarthy’s communist witch hunt when such dissent could bury you, understood truth better than most, “Speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue. Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up... If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour, there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable.” But Murrow lived before cable when just 3 networks dominated airwaves, though news programming still seldom garners significant marketshare. Journalism is dead, supplanted by conservative infotainment and extremist opinion. “Good night, and good luck.”

The Ugly Truth (2009) - Romantic comedy in which alluring but awkward TV producer Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) abides shock jock Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler) hired to raise ratings, who later advises her on how to attract men. Sex sells. Grossed over $250 million.

The Whole Truth (2015) - New Orleans lawyer Richard Ramsey (Keanu Reeves) defends a teenage client who allegedly murdered his rich father. Still in post production, has nothing to do, other than being a courtroom drama, with recent TV series of the same name, which was canceled after airing only 4 of 13 episodes produced. Few care enough about truth to want to know the whole of it, usually too boring, depressing, longwinded, or mundane.

See a pattern? Many filmmakers suddenly seem excited about exploring facts and exposing lies, probably to fill the vacuum left by the decline of real journalism and rise in historical revisionism. Or it's mass delusion following Fox president Roger Ailes' assertion, "Truth is whatever people will believe.” Only those who bash, denigrate and mock truth get rewarded. Only profit matters. Bush administrations engaged primarily in damage control, fact denial, and revenue looting. You’d think name recognition alone would negate chances as a presidential candidate, but the small minority who thrived under father then brother are supporting sibling's campaign. Religions still try to ingrain habits without any rational verity. As Mary Mapes, defending herself before Congress, said, “Nobody wants to talk about that. They want to talk about fonts and forgeries, and they hope to God the truth gets lost in the scrum.”

Cynics maintain, “No news is good news,” though they mislead, since glad tidings are always possible, even if something unexpected with which to deal. The ancient Gnostic proverb goes, "If you don't dance, you don't know what happens." Writers don't just observe; the best participate. You can't speak with authority unless you do it yourself. Rather than seek mythical heroes to inform you, you can yourself use internet to exchange realtime news, so corporations and governments don’t get away with crimes and scams, though it does invite individual treachery of avaricious charlatans, conspiracy theorists, identity thieves, and other miscreants.