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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wheel Strains on the Wane?

Attempted to explain why bike songs seem on the wane in last 5 years. Obviously, many events and ideas influence creativity and culture. Across nation a bike song celebration of American podium appearances was cranking steadily until Armstrong’s rival Tyler, then teammate Hamilton, accused him of doping. Lance only admitted to it in 2013 after governing bodies had already stripped him of his championships. Everyone acts as if this allegation was a tragic revelation. Really? Humans weren’t built to spin nonstop at high cadence; only pharmaceutical technology enables such performance, no excuse not to produce new songs. For reasons as fuel hikes or shortages unrelated to racing, bike booms reoccur, and victors representing other countries gather own posse and receive musical acclaim, so an editor’s gaze must be global or list remains less than comprehensive and no resource from which to emerge cogitative.

Have always resisted anointing any bike song as best, favorite or popular. By what or whose criteria? How high a song rose on pop charts? How many times “bicycle” gets mentioned? Should Queen’s “Bicycle Race“ (Billboard #24 with 41 brazen shout outs) beat Melanie’s “Brand New Key” (Billboard #1, Cash Box #3 for entire 1972, with only 2 timid peeps about pedaling)? How, then, can they overlook Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls”? From early ’70’s, all have since been frequently surpassed.

Most lists you’re likely to see seem superficial results of 10 minute online searches. Imagine, someone got paid for these shameless misrepresentations. Been at this for a decade and still unsure whether light at end of tunnel is yet in sight. Only by carefully building an index, repeatedly listening, and studying backstories can you compile such a reliable list of over 1,800 titles. Meant enduring virus infected websites and handpicking physical media from reseller stalls with concomitant grossness. Anything you feel you must do is worth doing well by applying intelligence, exerting effort, and revisiting frequently. This satisfies but seldom rewards.

Which recordings do you exclude? Bias clouds choices. Old farts deride anyone over 30 who shows interest in a pop or rock hit, since many are mired in teen angst and lust, though bike songs cover everything, even open doors to adult concerns, contemporary culture, and taboo topics. How can you let gutter language be grounds for dismissal? Bicyclists spend too much time in gutters to discriminate. Decisions depend upon extent to which you’ve been exposed, how observant you’ve been, the year you became musically aware, and what not. Rankings could be given by genre, but any genre you assign would be hotly contested. Some songs are great but not as well known as they should be. Just to mention an artist or title does raise recognition a little. Some are distinctly about joys or sorrows of bicycling, as you’d expect (The Bicycles’ ”B-B-Bicycle”), and may be lyrically interesting, musically advanced, surprisingly apt, well produced, or written in this century (Sue Denim’s “Bicycle”). Others merely mention bicycling with intention focused on something else altogether (Carrie Rodrigues’ “Seven Angels on a Bicycle”). Harder to find are those that never let on they are all about the bike by skipping identifiable terms (Pretty Balanced’s “Survivor”). Lyrics alone aren’t always helpful explaining why a selection merits attention, especially if you’re unaware “scorcher” once meant a bicyclist who rides too fast around town, or the blistering wheels such a menace wields.

Instrumental or orchestral works without lyrics may still have a solid connections to bicycling culture; film scores often include them (Luis Bacalov’s “In Bicicletta” from Il Postino, or Nico Muhly’s “Cycling Holiday” from The Reader). Some merely accompany bike scenes (entire soundtrack of bike messenger film Quicksilver, and U2’s “The Sweetest Thing” in Adam Sandler movie Mr. Deeds). Hundreds of techno tunes have beats or titles that represent bicycling, several by Kraftwerk alone. Bike action in on-line videos often gets paired with music that has little or nothing to do with cycling, for example, One Day, a commercial for a bike brand (Nichole Reynolds’ “The Only Ones”).

Could list ones that aren’t, but ought to be, bike songs, notable among many: Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”, Bob Marley’s “Concrete Jungle”, Fever Ray’s “Keep the Street Empty For Me”, Fiona Apple’s “Extraordinary Machine”, Grateful Dead’s “The Wheel”, Guns N' Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle”, Jem’s “Just a Ride”, Judas Priest’s “Freewheel Burning”, Natalie Merchant’s “Carnival”, Neil Young’s “White Line”, Pete Yorn’s “Life on a Chain”, Sheryl Crow’s “Every Day is a Winding Road”, and Sting’s “Canary in a Coal Mine”. Could also generate lists in any of a dozen languages, especially Dutch, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

In the misguided belief they are performing a public service, organizations recommend totally unrelated songs to cyclists’ playlists, which only confuse issues further. Bids to be recognized must show some basis beyond “sounds good while pedaling”. Practically any music makes biking better, though while in traffic beware of wearing headphones, because frame creak and tire hiss are crucial safety cues.

List editors must draw a line, though you can bet diehard specimens slip past whatever barriers they set. It will always be fair game to recommend hymns that hold personal significance based upon wisdom of your experience. Not to downplay or imply anything, here are 40 outstanding examples, 2% of total, that will remain forever on Labann’s List. Nearly half don’t immediately suggest bicycling culture, none are ignorantly derivative or sports related, and whole lot, while indubitably geared to enthusiasts, is well worth anyone’s time.

Amy Correia, “The Bike”

Annalie (Wilson), “Lovesong for a Cyclist”

Anna Moo, “Ride on My Bike”

Be Your Own Pet, “You Are My Bicycle”

David LaMotte, “Bicycle Man”

David Rovics, “The Bicycle Song”

Eric Burton, “The Rusty Schwinn Song”

Frank Zappa, “Bicycle Concerto”

Gigolo Aunts, “Lemon Peeler”

Ginger Ninjas, “How Much“

Jewel (Kilcher) “Boy Needs a Bike”

Joal Kamps, “Bicycle Man”

John Linnell, “South Carolina”

Kristen Allen-Zito, “Pedaling My Bike”

Lars Din, “(this ain’t no) Bike Friendly Town”

Lightning Bolt, “Ride the Sky”

Lily Allen, “LDN”

Lisa Germano, “Riding My Bike”

Livingston Taylor, “Bicycle”

Marie-Lynn Hammond, “Two Wheel Tango”

Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Stones in the Road”

Matthew Price, “Freedom Machine”

Melody Gardot, “Some Lessons”

Minnie Birch, “The Bicycle Song”

múm, “Now there’s that fear again”

Nits, “Bike in Head”

Pink Floyd, “Bike”

Prayers for Atheists, “Bike Song”

R Crumb w/ Cheap Suit Serenaders, “Pedal Your Blues Away”

Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Bicycle Song”

She & Him, “Black Hole”

Sugarcubes, “Motorcrash”

System of a Down, “Innervision”

Tangerine Dream, “Three Bikes in the Sky”

The Shins, “Split Needles”

Tomorrow, “My White Bicycle”

Tom Waits, “Broken Bicycle”

Tracy Comer, “Yellow Bike”

Trey Anastasio, “Let Me Lie”

Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways, “Medway Wheelers”

Monday, March 21, 2016

Resurrect Again?

American lives post-WWII seemed a lot simpler because gainful ways were limited. Dads abided some necessary but ordinary job, got paid, and, in turn, paid bills. Moms stayed home and sustained families. They shopped in neighborhood markets and toiled in villages isolated from wide world. Otherwise, they did without and occupied themselves simply. Centuries ago when kings ruled, subjects amassed little; instead they died, fought and worked for food and shelter. Today they say 1% of population holds 50% of world’s wealth and prescribes all policies. That might be tolerable if richest were society's fairest and smartest, too, but that’s not at all true, never has been.

This new global oligarchy with an army of bureaucrats and military grunts would again have everyone groveling subserviently at minimum or no wage. Don’t let them do it to you. You don’t have to, even if it means assessing massive taxes on luxuries, breaking treaties, recalling elected officials, starting own political party that demands a real election instead of a lip service farce, or writing new statutes that outlaw greed. When did this snafu begin? When Nixon and Reagan diverted treasury into pockets of a few pals. Every other crime they did was comparatively innocuous, because rigging the game made millions just drop out rather than waste time competing for what would never be theirs.

Too old to care and unafraid to comment on political campaigns, usually can’t be bothered. However, this time presidential choices seem particularly poor. Clinton attracts middle-aged women, Sanders altruistic communists, Trump belligerent reactionaries, exclusive segments, not mainstream constituents. Rest revealed themselves to be jealous lunatics and likely nazis. None promised to increase chances to earn a living, which will always be an overriding concern for voters. All are beholden to billionaires or billionaires themselves, bound to disappoint, elements of nation’s problem, not serious solutions. Congress is so corrupt almost all members need to be replaced. Campaign financing ought to be controlled by a public task force; Supreme Court justices are already squawking about striking down laws that permit PACs to back their own picks.

Progressives blew their chance to seize power during ongoing election freak show. Any party with a platform of improvement and inclusion could have won support of America’s beset and disenfranchised majority of lower classes. Expectations are so low that just about anything that simplifies governance and strengthens representation would be wildly popular. Forced to file 15 pages of complex forms after not working a single day in 2015, can see tax reform is painfully overdue. But repeated gripes and sweeping generalities don't delve deep enough into life's endless details to do individuals any good.

Skewed to an aged, drug addled, risk averse demographic, you’re never again going to see an all-white electorate, inviolable borders, mid 20th Century postwar boom, or whatever else you wish they’d resurrect. Nostalgia whelms from blood and tears. Billions are struggling to provide innocents with their next meal. Legalized marijuana turns prisons inside out to make streets upon which society’s contributors live their own jail. There’s no promise of a chicken in every pot, just corporate agribusiness that thrives on subsidies taxpayers have to pay whether or not they can. Why can't residents expect government to deport, detain, and try foreign nationals caught carrying or importing weapons? The right to bear arms belongs to citizens only, not diplomatic entourages or illegal aliens. Drug gangs with entire arsenals do daily battle against federal officers because someone was too squeamish about profiling and stopping to check credentials and vehicles. Unfortunately, to do better risks upheaval.

What kind of Congress allows these ongoing threats? Only one bought and sold by formidable factions and rapacious smugglers. Who vets their inane policies before they’re allowed to destroy your livelihood? Clearly, nobody weighs the downsides of bills easily repealed or vetoed if only a few benefit and most lose. Last time anyone questioned giving tax breaks for the wealthy, the myth of trickle down economics was concocted, the most recent in a long string of failed devotions. Democracy is better served when businesses and cabals are not allowed to become too big to let fail.

As it’s always been for millennia, any messenger of truth must expect either to accept exile or be crucified. If you have anything to say about anything, people avoid you anyway. If, nevertheless, you counterintuitively gain popularity, you become a threat to self appointed bosses. Peabody Award winning investigative reporter Mary Mapes was fired from CBS for telling the truth about a seated but spurned president, who was the poster boy for privileged self interest. Conservative media to this day characterize her as a abused daughter with an axe to grind. Likewise, they drove Gary Web, who exposed CIA malfeasance in Central America, to commit suicide by destroying his reputation. Displaced, killed, or silenced, authors run scared, write novels instead of nonfiction, especially since politically motivated denial and spin consolidated incontestable control. They've removed all incentive for good intentions for which anyone of intelligence should be incensed. Despite trillions in global aid and historic projects to open new frontiers, America has become no gentler or kinder, especially if press can’t freely question means, methods, and motivations.

The future lies ahead, not behind. Booms, busts and change are inevitable. Recessions regularly occur. Answers forever recycle. A bicycle may be a conveyance from a bygone age, but, before long, when automotive empire loses its death grip on economy, it’ll regain popularity along with feet, horses, and trains. Bet on another spin by bike to pick up your daily baguette. As crocuses bloom come spring, good to recall sustainable alternatives to pick. Some begrudging choices you decide to make might even stick.

"You can talk about walking the walk... Drive to the store for a loaf of bread; maybe I could have biked instead... Hey, Hey, BP, you’ve got nothing on me... Jumping on my bike, now I’m finally free.” Nate Aronow Nextet, Bikin’ the Bike, Xpression, CD Baby, 2010

Friday, March 18, 2016

What Spines Splain

Sometimes a picture accompanies a post here. Magazines have lots, which would make any website attempting to emulate an e-zine. Readers would've visited Flicker or Pinterest if they wanted eye candy instead of literary art. Unadorned words can satisfy; Academy especially honored script/story writers at last Oscars ceremony. Books don’t have to be read to be collectible or important. Sometimes just bringing them together on a shelf and organizing titles serves a purpose. Minimally, it says something about owner’s interests. Row after row of bike related titles points to a persistent, ubiquitous bicycling culture. However, when you google “bicycling books”, hardly any come up newer than 20 years old even though, in the last few, several have been published beyond ubiquitous gearhead, race and travel titles.

Labann, Bike&Chain Companion Reader (2nd edition, 2016): Spent a month cleaning up book for careless inconsistencies, dead links, and obviated references. Having reviewed, then augmented and updated song list, too, now over 1800 items. Surprises how many links disappear. Youtube if rife with legal squabbles and take downs. Links to own posts were cut when Apple, who hosted original site, discontinued service. Idea that anything posted to internet is indelible isn’t true, rather, web seems sadly unstable. Forget citing e-commerce sites, which change daily. News servers dump old stories, and political platforms shift depending upon who’s in power and what voters complain about. How do you access week-old Facebook posts, what happens to dated Twitter tweets, and who uses Myspace anymore? They even sell a service to erase your presence altogether. At least Wikipedia maintains a page as if a bin or stub, though contents morph over time. Like Labann, other bloggers compile blog entries into books, so maybe some details do endure somewhere.

Another emerging book by Argentinean author Juan Carlos Kreimer, The Bicycle Effect: Cycling as Meditation (Findhorn Press, 2016, 192 pp.), notes the endorphin rush and zen mindfulness that pedaling has to offer, as would anyone who read Labann over last few decades.

Something of interest after seeing recent border crime feature film Sicario is Kimball Taylor’s The Coyote’s Bicycle: The Untold Story of 7,000 Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire (Tin House Books, 2016, 380 pp.). It’s about a smuggler of illegal aliens who makes a million transporting them by bikes, then suddenly disappears leaving thousands littering roadside.

Matt Rendell just dropped The Death of Marco Pantani (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016, 368 pp.), a 10th anniversary reissue to his 2006 original. Did not know until now that Lelio Bonaccorso illustrated and Marco Rizzo scripted a graphic novel entitled Gli ultimi giorni di Marco Pantani (The Last Days of Marco Pantani, 2011) chronicling events that led up to Pantani's death and exploring French journalist Philippe Brunel’s conspiracy theory that he was murdered. Pantani, nicknamed Il Pirata for his bald head, bandana, crowd pleasing bravado, and freewheeling ways, said, “I ride instinctively, responding to the moment. There's chaos in everyday life, and I tune into that chaos.” He often upbraided UCI for focusing on his alleged flaws to the exclusion of others, “Rules, yes, but the same for everyone.”

Emily June Street feminist steampunk novel The Velocipede Races (Microcosm, 2016, 256 pp.) explores forbidden teenage passions in a straitlaced alternate reality.

Pedal Zombies (Microcosm Publishing, 2015) with 13 stories is the third in an annual series of slim feminist sci-fi anthologies edited by Elly Blue along lines of Bikes in Space and Bikes in Space Volume II. Volumes III and IV are already being developed.

Trailing behind, travel entrepreneur Charlie Scott would have you Slowing Down to See the World (House of Anansi Press, 2015, 200 pp.), or at least lots of Canada.

Evan Friss, The Cycling City: Bicycle and Urban America in the 1890’s (Historical Studies in Urban America) (University of Chicago Press, 2015, 288 pp.) tracks an era that envisioned a bicycling utopia. American cities once had a richer bicycling culture than anywhere else in planet’s history, though implementation stalled with the popularity of motor vehicles. Since its invention, bicycle tide has ebbed and flowed with each generation. Car use just continually grew until grandparent, parent, sons and their children were all simultaneously plying ever expanding roadnet, which hardly supports bike-ped choices anymore. Bicyclists can’t really cross 4, 6, 8 lanes safely. Yet residents still debate and vision remains unfulfilled to this day. Each city still needs advocates to point the way.

Chris Day self published an e-book, A Speck On The Map: Riding My Bicycle Across The USA (2015, 582 pp.) on spec of attracting others who eye this perennial excursion across planet’s most extensive network of pavement.

In Peter Joffre Nye's biography The Fast Times of Albert Champion: From Record-Setting Racer to Dashing Tycoon, an Untold Story of Speed, Success, and Betrayal (Prometheus Books, 2014, 60 pp.), subject went from setting record for Paris-Roubaix race to founding Champion Spark Plugs empire.

Aussie counterculture/crime author Kim Westwood had novel The Courier’s New Bicycle (Harper Voyager, 2011, 327 pp.).

“If you ride bikes in baltimore then you a soldia'. I got a fat chain it goes around my bike. The cops are hasslin' me, but not too bad 'cause I'm white! Trash Rules Everything Around Me (T.R.E.A.M.)”— Wingnut Dishwashers Union

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Irk on Main

As a human, ashamed to admit the following cretins belong to the same species:

Given his limited reasoning ability, Alex Oliver Rigby may have eaten too many paint chips as a child. A classic case of “blame the victim”, he indicts bicyclists for a traffic fatality in a letter to Daily Echo editors. As usual, courts exonerated motorist who mowed down bicyclist doing nothing wrong but exercising entitlement to be present on pavement.

Another insane commentary, vandal who glues locks doesn’t clear sidewalks of bikes he hates, just exacerbates issue, since cyclists then can’t remove bikes upon which they arrived. Next maybe he’ll steal shoes at a Japanese restaurant because they litter entrance.

No humorist but total jerk, Shane Falco (cowardly alias uses name of quarterback of football film The Replacements) hates bicyclists. The extent to which he excoriates hints at homophobia or jealousy, something cyclists on road see constantly. According to Falco, “Motorists own the road.” Well, of course, that’s false, misconception not borne out by legislation. Depending upon jurisdiction, city's, state's or nation's citizens collectively own roads, though everyone is entitled to use and taxpayers underwrite all costs. Motorists alone don’t come close to paying for road construction and upkeep. Even conservative rag The Atlantic admits they don’t, not by a long shot. Here’s an image of Falco role actor Keanu Reeves, known better for his motorcycle fetish and portrayal of Neo in equally unreal The Matrix, draped over a tyke’s bike.

The Atlantic editors pose an asinine question, Should Distracted Cycling Be Banned? Attentive cyclists already are on over 25% of all bridges, highways and streets. Maybe such self serving inquiries should be banned as propaganda. States can’t stop drivers from texting while slinging tonnage of steel at turnpike speeds. They write all sorts of unenforceable laws, but does that deter behavior or only make legislators feel fuzzily warm and possibly re-electable?

An aesthetic matron in Brooklyn, grassroots coalition Restore Transportation Balance, and Seattle loud mouths War on Cars got skewered for vehemently fighting innocuous activities in a Rachel Dovey article. Who pays for these misguided protests? It’s true, rich conservatives, who can afford the price of premium bikes and time to battle bike lanes past their gated communities, get stereotyped as anti-bicycle villains, yet most congressional votes against were Republican. The vast majority of planet’s billion cyclists consists of middle class and poor, which mirrors population in general. In a focused chart Dave Horton ties bicycles with 4 progressive social movements, reason enough for conservatives to hate them. Schemes to Maintain?

A Guardian article by Peter Walker points out some of their failed logic and obvious flaws. Likewise, another article by Minneapolis advocate Lindsey Wallace. Whether growing plants or planning traffic, you can smother with kindness and starve with neglect. Finding balance and losing hysteria are easy as long as planners don't locate everything on Main Street. Jamming it all together irks everyone.

Half way through the WHO’s Decade of Action on Road Safety, motor fatalities have not significantly abated. Every day on Earth motorists cause 3,400 deaths, over a million victims a year, with on average 35 million serious injuries, no laughing matter, one of world’s worst health hazards, worse than war itself. That’s right, these ignorant fools, impatient morons, probably Trump backers, who urge motorists to buzz cyclists and push them off roads and violate existing laws represent a greedy minority that views United Nations as a failed organization, why progress stalled decades ago and regression erodes everyone’s chances of survival. Last year over a million people joined People for Bikes, a grassroots organization that advocates adding lanes and improving conditions. Shed the Monster?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Bicker Constrain

Candidates had an extra Leap Day, February 29th, to prepare for Super Tuesday’s primary elections. None who are running seem very bike friendly, unlike President Barack Obama and Secretary John Kerry, themselves known to ride. GOP front runner Donald Trump, Koch Brothers, Rob Ford, and such examples of conservative corpulence hate bicycles, cyclists and mamil (middle aged men in lycra). How could they not? Besides betraying their campaign donors, they probably believe they are too big (obese) to pedal humbly. Koch Brothers own the factory that makes lycra out of crude oil. Where’s the love?

Bike culture does not flag America’s decline, rather its recovery in mental and/or physical health and riposte to foreign oil imports, down significantly since Obama took office with ensuing reduction in price/bbl. Despite ridicule of gaping jaws, USA still has by far the biggest GDP on planet, rival to entire European Union collectively. But reliance on petroleum constitutes weakness. As China gradually gives up bicycling, so too has their spectacular economic growth faltered. Correlations are not causalities, but they do suggest connections.

Trump, denounced by party core and endorsed by Ku Klux Klan, is also against freedom of speech; if elected, you’ll have to heed his dictates alone while sued for libel, and watch your rights evaporate. Yet Trump’s “telling it like it is”, whatever that means, definitely appeals to egotistic morons, lazy thinkers, and mental defectives who comprise too much of population, so things definitely can get worse. His reactionary programs imitate Hitler’s, resemble how dictators rise to power, and stage little more than a screaming sideshow. There’s already a wall along Mexican border that criminals have tunneled underneath. Party should have sponsored better candidates, not worse extremists who the dullest voters see right through. An Afro-American, or woman, president offers some semblance of affirmative action, not a spoiled billionaire who's part of the problem. Misguided minds welcome a thug in hopes he’ll wipe slate clean and restore privileges for them, but usually this goes bad and levels arena for everyone but those extraordinarily insulated by money and power. Only the strong survive, not penniless slobs who own guns and waste fuel. Not allowing itself to be goaded by pride, nation needs to address alienated allies, deteriorated bridges and roads, homelessness, joblessness, lopsided budgets, maniacal enemies, mounting waste, overfishing, undrinkable groundwater, and whatnot. Can't democracy constrain bicker over insane trivialities that run real issues off the road? Acting responsibly does not make, but might label, you a “LOSER”.

As a way of addressing air pollution, elected officials in other countries plan to pay commuters to bike to work. Why not? Whether or not they are aware, motorists are already assessed fees for fouling it, but nobody knows were money goes, surely not for cleaner air. This program would only produce measurable results if safe routes were provided and scale skyrocketed. They’d only have to close off motor traffic on a few narrow streets through city (neighborhood residents excluded) to have instant infrastructure. As long as continuous corridors from 8 compass points traverse city, it would cultivate bike choice and limit motor vehicle use, but so would denying/repealing driver licenses, impounding fuming vehicles, and targeting industrial and non-vehicular sources such as burning coal, heating oil, or wood, and leaking CO2, gasoline vapors, methane, and solvents. One flimsy solution is never enough, merely political pretense. Easy to construct a pareto chart and deal with key influences, though leaders don’t seem to understand problem solving methods except smokescreens.

Argument versus counterpoint: Neither satisfies when both promote extremes. Saying whatever leaders want to hear brings rewards and serves self. Serving, albeit begrudgingly, a cause or idea, such as bicycling, in everyone's best interests leaves you obscure and poor. Hard to say whether society prefers bitter bicker or foregone conclusions. Seems there’s room for both in America, from baseball games beginning a new season of commissioner crimes and umpire miscalls to candidates continually waging campaigns that leapfrog over each other daily. As long as contested, populace basically approves a process, despite the fact that game is rigged with ending already preordained, and those in power remain entrenched as puppet masters. Big fish do eat small fry, but shoals of compact piranha can strip sacred cows to bones in minutes.