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Saturday, January 8, 2022

Inform vs. Infotain

Still from Dropkick Murphys’ droll music video, The Season's Upon Us: “I'm so glad this day only comes once a year. You can keep your opinions, your presents, your happy new year. They call this Christmas where I'm from.”

Always meant to sum up best advice for bicycling before shuffling beyond:
Ask yourself, “Can I bike there instead of drive?”
Beware bad pavement and mad motorists.
Brake and downshift before you must.
Carry a cell phone, tools, and tubes.
Choose best venues and times, mindful of weather forecasts.
Don’t antagonize motorists or pedestrians.
Hydrate often or suffer later.
Keep at least one hand on handlebars, preferably two.
Lock bike up securely when not riding, lest you wind up walking.
Maintain equipment in proper order; recheck before each outing.
Mind traffic controls at intersections, where behaviors are unpredictable.
Never lay or lean bike on derailleur side.
Pay attention above, afar, ahead, around, beneath and behind while you ride.
Pick and stick to a sensible track; weave only as much as you must.
Tuck in on curves to avoid clippers.
Use lights and reflectors.
Wear gloves, helmet, safety glasses, and visible apparel.

Surrounded by even more dire threats, also warned people about losing health, liberty, life, love, sustainability, and what matters most, despite fact that everyone is beset by so much detail they can’t digest the least bit and forget or ignore it. Facing enormity of this universe of reality, carved out a niche from which to observe, test and theorize, if only to make sense for self’s sake. Someone else benefitting would be an unexpected plus.

Bicycling is safer than driving, even when both are equivalently done responsibly, though those with vested interests will dissuade against pedaling, or persuade you into frivolous spending. Neither destiny nor doom will ever be assured, except by lying schemers who’d use such notions while deluding simpletons to pledge devotions. After all, humankind has always lived on borrowed time, but paradigm continues to unwind despite fret and grime, while peeps pursue crime, football, sitcoms, or some other stimulating pastime with hours they have left after working double shifts or overtime.

Why do so many submit to wills of authors, celebrities, dictators, emperors, experts, geniuses, kings, leaders, opportunists, rulers and saints? Because it’s easier and lazier than figuring things out and putting in effort themselves. Never underestimate craving for convenience and extent of mankind’s laziness. But someone, maybe a self funded scientist or street corner prophet, ought to simplify complex issues with intent to inform, not just opine, perhaps even reform.

Used to be that social commentary about newsworthy facts was what they broadcast during dead air and ratings voids. Political infotainment primetime only became possible because cable and network programming reeks of seen reruns and unentertaining chores. If not for discovery, history, movies, science programs, and sports, there’d be nothing worth watching on basic cable. Broadband advancements now allow internet streaming; soon cable will be obsolete, though monthly fees haven’t yet declined to reflect this fact, rather increased while anticipating inevitable end.

Historically, cults of personalities brought civil and social catastrophes. Broadcasts named for hosts instead of topics prove they persist. Those who ruled inevitably committed prideful outrages and sacrificed enthralled followers. Pride goeth before your humiliating fall, while prideful instigators are protected from it all. “In a land of wolves and thieves, don’t put your hope in ungodly man, or be a slave to what somebody else believes. Trust yourself,” advised Bob Dylan in 1985. Leader of the world's most powerful country is a magnet for history's most evil villain. 

Gone are the days when one scandalous act was enough to cost candidate an election. Today, politicians rely on constant mixed publicity to raise status to celebrity. Being known as a circus spectacle seems to trump securing spotless renown. No one is innocent when it takes society’s consensus to cause this predicament. But unless you’re on the campaign bus stealing alongside bosses, you’re never informed as to what their intentions really are, so should you blame yourself? Frank Zappa urged others to despise apathy, insincerity, phoniness, and lies, since almost everyone’s passionate about own investments toward success.

Admit, also, any subrogation of autonomy can be considered a root cause for all sorts of ills, among them burdensome oversight, government interference, political corruption, and reprehensible “sheeple-dom”. This doesn’t impugn or negate contributions of agents of improvement and regulation, but does warrant questioning motivations and outcomes. If you fail to arrest and indict, laws become shams, something Zappa once described as randomly enforced and suspiciously written, ways to keep masses afraid and subservient. Yet those who bristle over guidelines recommending distance and masks during a pandemic miss real human rights violations directly imposed upon them.

What should citizens expect as a baseline in a just society? For starters, The Four Freedoms - from tyranny and want, of religion and speech, ratified by both UN and USA - imply a host of specific rights. Each revolves around identifiable conditions, none indelible, often lost, and only regained through battles, death, pain and sacrifices.

Tyranny takes many forms, among them browbeating, bullying, crime, extortion, low wages, jailing journalists, misinformation, monopolies, price gouging, propaganda, slavery, state religion, unconstitutional acts, unforgiving policies, and vote restriction. Worse, bicyclists are being forced off ever more roads through elimination of shoulders and lack of accommodations. One shouldn’t have to fight skirmishes daily, scrutinize some bureaucrat’s decisions, take lawmakers to task on how well they represent will of constituents, or worry over secret agendas. Oaths seem to be taken as empty rites that don’t apply personally.

Want includes homelessness, hunger, joblessness, lack of hopeful enfranchisement, and poverty, which kills more people than any other cause. Dickens’ twin specters of ignorance and want arise from failure or refusal to create own opportunities and too few owning too much. Wealth is a finite resource that allegedly rewards able bodied and agile minded. However, for every new billionaire, more than twenty-thousand families tragically sink below poverty line. Among industrialized countries, USA has the most lopsided ratio of poor to rich. Unlike others, Reagan’s trickle down with tax breaks for richest few has proven a dismal failure in countless ways, worst of which are burden on middle class taxpayers for corporate and family welfare, resentment of failure and success, and sense of despair and envy that a few who sell their souls can make it while you are condemned to ignominy and poverty after shouldering responsibility upon every opportunity. Forever coming in second or up short can be maddening, but never having a chance could either be devastating or liberating.

Some Americans persecute members of certain religions, notably Muslims, and favor others, often white Protestants. Evangelicals polled showed a notable bias toward cult leadership and empty promises, with three quarters tenaciously supporting Dolt 45, who attorneys general of 5 states want to indict and imprison. While creed is poison to villains, one shouldn’t fear being agnostic, atheistic, Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish, or new ageist, yet often must. Religious rights include clear passage to place of worship and no private or public penalties for your affiliation to any congregation, but not forcing your beliefs on others, since that constitutes tyranny. Founding Fathers kept religion and state separate based on disastrous precedent and no theocratic upsides to celebrate.

Americans, unlike probably billions of others, can supposedly speak aloud with access to existing forums over worldwide web. But social media reeks of obligatory guidelines and self appointed censors who limit what you post about taboo issues: Politics, religion, sex, and wages, that is, what affects lives the most. Wars of words aren’t going to save you from iron fisted oppressors. Increasingly, First Amendment doesn’t exonerate those whose message departs from what ruling class imparts. Not even fiction and films are exempt, lately losing credibility for truths they convey. Only coalitions acting at local voting boards, encouraging apathetic to cast theirs, keeping ballots honest and open to all, and working proactively ahead of each primary will give democracy a chance, help freedoms advance, keep checks in balance, and protect justice parlance. Civil liberties have been eroding worldwide during this century; for example, an estimated 50 million slaves today have no voice and possess zero rights.

During pandemic, films entertained better than propaganda, made quarantine tolerable, and mitigated desperation, though suicide rates are still rising. Attractive and clever actors in roles preserved on film make better friends than coworkers. They don’t ask for a favor or bother you later. In person interaction is slowly being supplanted by arguably safer virtual delusion devoid of infectious proximity and socially transmitted diseases.

In coming-of-age dramedy The Battle of Shaker Heights (Efram Potelle and Kyle Rankin, dirs., 2003), battle re-enactor Kelly Ernswiler (Shia Labeouf, Transformers) has a teen crush on older hottie Tabitha Bowland (Amy Smart). Kelly bikes to crash her wedding unsuccessfully, then bikes to visit dad in a clinic. Despite his two-wheeled awkwardness, a comely coworker still desires his attention.

Bicycling math prodigy Martin (Elijah Wood, Frodo in LOTR) teams up with renowned professor Arthur Seldom (John Hurt) to solve clever homicides of patients who would have died anyway in The Oxford Murders (Álex de la Iglesia, dir., 2008). The nature of truth underlies conflict between them. Arthur sides with ivory tower chaos; Martin with Euclidian conceit of factual math and physical solidity that all bicyclists know too well. Dunning–Kruger bias is in full force; experts underestimate their own ability, while incompetents overestimate theirs. Emotions govern more decisions in a week than logic ever will. World is full of stuff of which most are unaware, so disproves Kant’s theory of reality being generated internally. Measured results and scientific proof always beat conspiracy theories and information denial.

A couple who bikes, he a budding journalist and she a candidate for doctor of criminology, expose a rogue governmental cadre and get assassinated for their efforts in Swedish thriller The Girl Who Played with Fire (Daniel Alfredson, dir., 2009), second installment of the Millennium Trilogy. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo heroine Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) holds the key to unravelling their trafficking syndicate. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest concludes series with yet another innocent bicyclist being randomly murdered by Lisbeth’s psychotic half brother Ronald (Micke Spreitz), although her attending physician Anders (Aksel Morisse) is spared from this bicyclist massacre.

Victoria (Sebastian Schipper, dir., 2015), recently arrived from Madrid to party hearty at a Berlin disco in the wee hours before her breakfast shift as an underpaid cafe waitress. As Victoria (Laia Costa)) bikes to work, a rowdy gang accosts her. She plays along with their flirtations, then gets recruited into a driving getaway vehicle for a bank robbery. Although caper succeeds, subsequent events leave gang dead and her holding loot.

In London romance blooms for shoe-belled Christmas shop elf Kate (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones) and too-good-to-be-true bicyclist Tom (Henry Golding, Crazy Rich Asians), in Last Christmas (Paul Feig, dir., 2018). A reluctant heroine with little to lose meets a patient suitor who’s eager to crash every gate to give her his heart, literally.

In Sundance Film Festival award winning supernatural drama Nine Days (Edson Oda, dir., 2020) Will (Winston Duke) interviews and judges prototype souls before they inhabit living bodies by being born. He grants candidates not selected their choice of peak experiences before they cease to exist. One such consolation prize is a bicycle ride through a city. 

Single pregnant mom Abigail (Christina Ricci) goes on a bittersweet bicycling date with commitment averse kidult Benjamin (Hamish Linklater) as one of 10 Things We Should Do Before We Break Up (Galt Niederhoffer, dir., 2020), where they traverse an empty painted urban night-scape without helmets or lights to a waterfront picnic. She drops her bike on derailleur side the last time audience sees her with it.

Jacob Marley points out a boneshaker while he ushers Scrooge through Christmas Past in latest Mercedes EQS commercial. Bicycles have long been considered ideal Christmas gifts for young recipients. However, few could afford to gift a brand new Mercedes. Horsepower corrupts, and high performance absolutely empowers arrogance, impatience, and murder. Often see manias publicly demonstrated in road rage, but not private depravities of mechanized psychopaths.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Anquetil’s Gitane

Blink and you’d miss this befitting redolent frame that recalls Natalie Merchant's lyrics, "...these streets, in the madhouse asylum they can be, where a wild-eyed misfit prophet on a traffic island stopped and he raved of saving me." It's from bio-musical I'm Not There (Todd Haynes, dir., 2007) in which Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and Ben Whishaw portray various personas from Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan’s 80 year life to date. Title is from a tune off Bob’s 1967 Big Pink Basement Tape never officially released until film's soundtrack album. “It's too hard to stay here, and I don't want to leave. It’s so hard for so few, you see, but she's hard to me... It’s a crime the way she mauls me around... Yes, the soul gypsy told her like I said carry on. Wish I was there to help me, but I'm not there, I'm gone.” After publishing over 600 self written songs including those released on last year’s studio album (his 39th), Dylan regrets not be able to defend himself from insanity of those whose heads he got inside. Did it motivate continued involvement? Do charismatic personalities destroy lives or exert positive influence?

Aloof intellectual Jacques Anquetil repeatedly left lunchpail populist Raymond Poulidor behind. With his gypsy queen Gitane, go-to frame for peloton from 1952 into 1980’s, God’s Kettle won Tour de France 5 times, first to do so, popularizing bike racing and setting a dynastic precedent. Meanwhile, a myth of book learned mediocrity got spun by jealous losers whose experiences taught them nothing. Having worn a crown a king never wants to step down, oblivious of how a clown impacts life in your town. Steel may be real, but Gitane’s Reynolds 531 alloy is lighter and stronger. Anquetil, Gitane and Peugeot were essential to America’s big ’70’s bike boom, though these brands, still distributed in France in small quantities, have faded into antique status in United States.

Gratis offering of books and broadcasts also abates. Five decades of carrying burdens, eschewing renown, shaming villains, and wearing a frown have ground Labann down. One does what one can, but inevitably gives up, passes baton, withdraws. COVID convinced mankind that life's moments are too precious to waste. Commitment to personal freedoms and political democracy will get you banned from sites where your unvarnished truths and vetted reminders offend guilty censors. They’ll cleverly demand you prove your identity to cancel you online or threaten you at home. How did you think pseudonym Labann began? Gave less grief than got, received far more support than opponents, and tested moderators intentions, which consistently betrayed conservative bias. Maintaining balance suits neither side’s agenda. American radical patriot Woody Guthrie sang in 1963, “There’s a road that leads to glory through a lonesome valley far away. Nobody else can walk it for you; they can only point the way.” Too bad typical advice is malicious, sad, useless, or vindictive.

To be fair, Twitter did suspend Dolt 45's account when his hissy fit about a stolen election became a quixotic joust against reality. Having attempted to deny and nullify votes, extort officials, misinform shamelessly, rig results, and staff key positions with sycophants (for example, appointing a Postmaster General who might disrupt mail-in ballots), he was incensed when he failed to win, again, since he never officially won any popular election. His sole victory in California presidential primary as candidate for Reform Party didn’t count, since he had already withdrawn from race. But he did signify how vulnerable constitution and government are against an all out authoritarian siege.

Fearful need triggers greed with misspent lives guaranteed. A selfish minority hides within a major party attempting to wrest control with no intention of serving nation’s best interests. Those whom responsible Americans despise - anti-intellectuals, Aryans, climate denialists, conspiracy theorists, criminals, fascists, highwaymen, hypocrites, misogynists, monarchists, narcissists, Nixon’s army, nouveau riche, opportunists, pale evangelicals, pimps, racists, religious bigots, Russian mobsters, sociopaths, supremacists, tea baggers, and xenophobes - threaten democracy, liberty, sensible regulation, and social contract. It’s not partisanship, sides diametrically opposed in an ideological struggle. It’s everyday majority versus fringe groups at behest of a few oligarchs applying filibusters, gerrymander, terrorism, and vote suppression on a totalitarian bid.

Opening scene has teen Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson as an adult) bicycling happily around her Ohio neighborhood in award winning action blockbuster Black Widow (Cate Shortland, dir., 2021). Black Widow Patrizia Reggiani Gucci said, “I would rather weep in a Rolls-Royce than be happy on a bicycle.” Gucci would have been better off, since she wound up in prison, serving 18 of a 29 year sentence for murdering her husband. But that was back before pandemic, when attorneys general and justice departments used to arraign criminals and sentence convicts. These days, Gucci sells its own custom bike cruiser for $6,500, while officials give murderers medals and persecute innocents. Most disturbing is prosecutors' inability to indict for armed insurrection, broadcast sedition, and presidential treason.

To build convincing arguments some cherry-pick biblical passages or celebrity statements out of context, as if any source text stays infallible when crazily applied. An essential condition of reality is the moment incident occurs. Once influences disappear and time passes, related facts may no longer apply. Witness historical revision and viral mutation. You must continuously reevaluate input and repeatedly redirect actions upon judgment calls based on experience and knowledge, not just repeat what ancestors did, especially since they left a legacy of horror that haunts future until you irrevocably dismantle systems of oppression. In other words, as on a really long bicycle ride, life begins eagerly, beguiles fate, dodges peril, and ends wearily. If you accept chaos, does it nurture you in return?

Statements don’t always communicate, might bring more trouble than release is worth, and tend to gloss over relevant details. Not every bleary eyed sentence hen scratched in the wee hours has value or holds meaning, but one can find other habits just as destructive. Give money and time generously to just causes, but to live serenely one must improve conditions for everyone equally. People without shame once became authors for emolument and fame, but nowadays this would be irrelevant, like winning some casino game.

Will never admit kinship with a lying fraud and racist hypocrite who believes himself a white knight on a holy mission for some dead monarch, as if a modern day Gawain lopping off Green Knight’s head to merit a holiday plaudit, who really serves selfish interests under a delusion of superiority. Sad when you’re related to such a sanctimonious sociopath and virulent misogynist. Guilty perps despise anyone who exactly records what they did, don’t want to be reminded, will kill not to be exposed. Crime doesn’t pay if you’re incarcerated. Treason respects no oath of office, not even reason, nothing constituents agree on. Laban lambastes stupid cruelty, makes no presumptions, simply observes, so suitably serves. There are worse things than seeking references to bicycling culture in films and songs.

Hard to catch bicyclists in action, since they roll almost invisibly along back allies and tertiary streets. Dwayne Perkins joked, “US is a car culture. If you’re over 18, and you ride a bicycle, you kind of have to explain yourself. ‘I notice you’re on a bicycle; do you want to talk about it? What happened with your life exactly?’ ...Here you see a man in a 3-piece suit on a bicycle going to work, and you say to yourself, ‘His divorce lawyer sucked.’ ...Whenever I see guys whose shoes lock into their pedals I get sad, ‘I should probably tell him how pedals work.’ Whenever you go into a bike shop, they look down on you. It’s like a cult; you can’t walk out without spending a thousand dollars.”

Final scene of Swedish tragicomedy A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson, dir., 2015), which according to director was inspired by Italian postwar classic Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, dir., 1948), takes place outside a bike shop. Film throughout presents inexplicable drollery as if seen from perspective of doves perched in tree limbs in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s seasonal painting The Hunters in the Snow.

The Bicycle (Arne Körner, dir., 2015) portrays Hamburg native Mark (Akin Sipal) and Canadian Antonia (Carly May Borgstrom) as old flames trying to rekindle romance. They vacation together in Paris, but he behaves distractedly and pays more attention to The City of Light than her, despite her gift of a bike. Language barriers and long distances sink their relationship. To revisit scene of love lost, Mark rides his gift the 47 miles back to Paris. Likewise, Labann finally got to view this film mentioned years ago in passing.

Los Días de la Ballena (Days of the Whale, Catalina Arroyave Restrepo, dir., 2019) follows a pair of bicyclists, graffitists, lovers Cristina (Laura Tobón, shown) and Simon (David Escallón), who tag walls where they live in Medellín, Colombia. When art collective to which they belong is targeted by gang extortion, they defy retribution by painting a tremendous whale mural over threatening slogan, “Snitches Get Stitches.” Being articulate and creative aggravates bullies, whose key trait is brain dysfunction.

Brooding bicyclist and budding author Stella Nicholls (Zoe Colletti) of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (André Øvredal, dir., 2019) hooks up with other misfit youths including draft dodger Ramón Morales (Michael Garza) in frightening adventures, the first of which is pedaling crowded streets of Mill Valley, PA, on Halloween, 1968. Stella breaks curse and cheats death by telling truth, while Labann cheers.

Any film shot in Paris will likely show bicyclettes. Old fashioned romantic comedy Les Amours d’Anaïs (Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, dir., 2021) has penniless 30 year old scatterbrained bicyclist Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) falling out of love and rebounding with couple Daniel (Denis Podalydès) and Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) in the kind of romp one longs for but seems denied during a pandemic.

Still in theaters, The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson, dir., 2021) begins its eccentric slant and send up of journalism with bicycling travel reporter Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson) under crusty editor Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray), dramatizing stories from the final issue of a fictitious continental magazine.

A half dozen songs just discovered or recently released seem particularly relevant or timely:
Kevin Bloody Wilson [Dennis Bryant], Hey, Santa Claus (where’s my f***ing bike) [Australian], single, X Rated, 1989; sounds like many children's holidays, but shouldn't parents try harder to create sustaining memories? Happier holidays and high hopes for next year. 

Emily's Army, Village Bicycle, Lost At Seventeen, Rise Records, 2013; produced a while ago by Billie Joe Armstrong, front man of Green Day, only appears on vinyl version.

Helium Cosmik, Sur mon bicycle [Quebecois], Sur mon bicycle, self, 2019; quartet features a harp and ukuele. “...on my bicycle I'll take you somewhere where it's less sad... I pedal at lightning speed. Don’t worry, there's no danger.”

Garth Prince, Amabhayisekili [The Bicycle Song, juvenile], single, 2020; South African dance tune produced for children stuck indoors during pandemic.

OSS (The Orb, Alex Paterson, Fil le Gonidec), Digital Bicycle Clips [techno], Enter The Kettle (Classified As A Weapon), Orbscure, 2021

Landon Caldwell, Bicycle Day I and II [psychedelic synth], Bicycle Day, Mock Records, 2021; recently debuted on 2 sides of a 45 minute, limited edition cassette. An early version of Part I was broadcast from a speaker mounted to a bicycle and played throughout neighborhood as community solace during first winter of COVID pandemic. Part II sonically reminisces about dropping acid and riding bikes as teens in small town Indiana.

Finally, an unintended pair that ought to relate to bikes:
Scooter Lee, Ribbon of HighwayMoving On Up, Southern Tracks Records, 1998, often used as a square dance number; “Rolling down that ribbon of highway, I’ve gone another mile, another day going places I ain't never been, seeing things I'll never see again. But, I'm gonna keep on keeping on ’til the memories leave me alone, and the pain I felt is finally gone...”

Bob Dylan, Black RiderRough and Rowdy Ways, Columbia Records, 2020; “Black rider, black rider, you've seen it all. You’ve seen the great world and you've seen the small. You fell into the fire, and you're eating the flame. Better seal up your lips if you wanna stay in the game. Be reasonable, mister, be honest, be fair; let all of your earthly thoughts be a prayer.” Sounds like spandex and spirituality.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Agrawain to Ywain

Bright New England Autumn Sunday mornings plying side streets where you dodge more crazy squirrels than dogged joggers, and more dog strollers than driven cars, are what define best places and times for bicycling. Was satisfied by riding west on Easton winding up after miles of colorful foliage on willowy Widows Mount Circle. You’re better out pedaling than personifying Wallace Stevens’ “Complacencies of the peignoir, and late coffee and oranges in a sunny chair.” Inertia brings flab, rot, and wretched poetry. Bicycling should be obligatory before lounging on couch for weekly football and World Series baseball, your capitalist nation’s so-called pastime, which is really a cash cow, dull cult, and temporal hole.

Out for another spin, wondered again whether bicycling wastes time. Does not, provided you don’t drop dead prematurely, because life expectancy rises hour for hour due to fitness reacquired, unless your genetic clock’s mainspring has already unwound. Benefits get overlooked, especially for transportational riding, since it cuts creeping malaise, motoring risks, and parking craze. What many dismiss as smug excuses don’t begin to explore existential impact from pedal bicycle versus motor vehicle uses: Carbon neutrality, cleaner air, fuel avoidance, less traffic, lower costs, mental health, neighborhood involvement, no reason to wage war over oil, peace, understanding, whither survival and sustainability. Studies show the same can be said for writing a blog or journal, therapy for what ails you.

Biking oxygenates brain, recalls memories, stimulates creativity, and triggers revelations. Otherwise, boredom prevails, projects end, or sleep ensues with peak experiences tossed in at unexpected intervals unless you plan adventures. Routine tasks can bring pleasures; for example, satisfaction can flow from multitasking when results fall nicely into place. But bicycling depends heavily upon the sum of civilization. Without a human presence and reliable pavement it would be unsafe traversing biodiverse nature among apex predators and cavernous potholes.

After 13 years in print, Bike&Chain finally earned a bibliographical entry in America Goes Green: An Encyclopedia of Eco-friendly Culture in the United States, Volumes 1-3, edited by Kim Kennedy White and Leslie A. Duram (ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA, 2012, 1297 pp.) thanks to an article about Bicycle Transportation by Alon Raab. It’s fittingly relegated to an erroneous footnote, as if a minor planet, such as asteroids Agrawain and Ywain, named for nearly forgotten Knights of the Round Table. B&C itself has twice as many pages compiled as a Doppler hub of emerging or fading bicycling culture. What a misspent investment for such a minuscule return! No venture capitalist, questions own motivations.

Labann (not Leban) had a compulsion to share and nothing better to do for whoever might care. Labann does best to never repeat self, but sought to cover all similar ground. Can’t be helped if you ride from home. Each body of knowledge deserves a champion. Doctoral dissertations intentionally delve into unique topics for posterity’s sake to broaden understanding into areas thus far ignored. Mindful of confabulation and exaggeration, individuals excel at describing own experiences versus secondhand accounts likely framed around agendas.

Written out of oppositional defiance and velorutionary noncompliance, B&C offers honest insights into doubts and dreams, personal revelations, and primal screams. Always was and will forever be about best practices, continual improvement, delusion disruption, ethics, factual truth, freedoms, nonetics, non-violence, responsibilities, semiotics, standing upright every day, and watching clichés melt away. Anticipated every survey laden with selection bias and worded to reap approval, then, for maximum efficiency, preempted with actual preferences seldom solicited by any selfish billionaire, rather than ever answer another opportunistic questionaire. Better to share link, then shut up or switch thread, than be driven mad or serve narcissistic word salad.

Could just heed authority’s decrees and obey without dissent or unsought analyses. Makes living a lot easier. Would have made money making readers feel good about themselves or simply distracting them with salacious stories. Left advised should’ve to devious liars. Transgressions aren’t even punished because prevailing stupidity can’t recognize whether or not you’ve complied. But inquisitors do treat objections and questions as disloyalty or threats. They abhor fact fletcherizing and rational thinking, deny proof, and prefer fearful folks groveling and kneeling. For those who act responsibly only a shade of connotation separates blameworthy from trustworthy.

Beside cars and motorcycles, Labann also held licenses to drive school busses, taxis, tractor-trailers, and trucks. Used to think motoring around detours was better than jockeying desks; nevertheless, settled into an intense, nerve-racking, sedentary occupation. Just as well, because stymied with gridlock, highways became hell. Driving beneath a rising or setting sun ceased to be fun. Dispatcher schedules force protocol forsaking and increase accidents from risk taking. By bike day and night with or without a light have been nearly run down by many a big brown and blue and/or white clown. Strangers reported shortages of every necessity due to a lack of drivers and handlers.

Long made same comparison, but New York Times recently admitted that car motoring is more of a youth killer than disease contracting. “Covid appears to present less risk than some other daily activities. Among Americans under 17, fewer than 500 have died of Covid since the pandemic began; many more—a few thousand every year—die in vehicle crashes.” In general, COVID’s 2-year toll on American lives has been eight hundred thousand, fewer than those from automotive crashes this century to date, around nine hundred thousand. Both demand extra care to avoid. Worst outcomes only begin to represent injuries and losses of nation’s 90 million accidents since 2001 along avenues to afterlife, byways to bereavement, paths of perdition, roads to ruin, and streets of sorrow. During double century of bicycle’s popularity, more have died in vehicle crashes than in wars.

Conservatives dote upon new Clinton Era biopic about Lewinsky scandal, for which they wanted to impeach a president. Who cares what Monica [recent sighting] puts between her legs? The scale of hypocrisy is so out of whack it’s almost laughable. Republicans just want to make anything sound worse than crimes they’ve committed. Neo-Nazi idiots, peril politicizers, and science deniers all need to be censured by courts, recalled in disgrace, sued into oblivion, and thrown out of office. Liberals are all about failures. Red flags flap where ambition meets delusion, commentators cry over trifles, sluts smile about scandals, and smirking mouthpieces boldly lie. Have seen brothers, sisters and spouses deeply divided and tragically divorced by political talk. Arguments may be framed in simplest of terms, so everyone can participate. But issues aren’t simple, because billions have completely different customs, an estimated quarter of populace is insane, one policy doesn’t fit all, you can’t eradicate diversity no matter how divisive, misogynist, patriarchal, or xenophobic you are.

When you see two people of opposite sexes with new haircuts who’ve shaved heads except for bantu topknots, you get an idea they are a couple or might be seeking each other. You might be tempted to intervene, tell one who remains where other went. Mind your own business. Though this grooming seems unlikely, it proves nothing about identity, unlike days of yore, when monks and priests had shaved scalps as promises of lifelong piety. Tattoos were forbidden in scripture, but not self mutilation or tonsures. Sports fans wear face paint and team garments, which they wash before resuming Monday business. Piercing and tats are commonplace except when taken to an extreme by people who seem to want to bolster self esteem by defying norms through image transforms that intend social transgressions.

Ironic how bicyclist and pedestrian sightings are chaotic, infrequent and random; once that could have been said about passenger cars. Same applies to books, films and songs spiraling downwards from complexity to simplicity for which everyone longs. Convenience convinces you to abandon activities that you didn’t realize actually sustained. Without some organizing loop, blog entries wind up as word soup.

Young Jabez Stone ties helium balloons to his brand new Schwinn in an attempt to regain favor of a childhood crush in Shortcut to Happiness (Alec Baldwin, dir., 2003). Bike rises above barn during opening, then wends its way over city in finale, as a metaphor for putting aside trappings of boyhood to become a man, more an unaware cager trapped in an automotive paradigm.

Feisty 16 year old English cyclist Lynda Mansell (Emily Lloyd) curses like sailor and teases dull boys in her Sussex seaside town. Parochial environs and prosaic conventions bore her. Eager to get on with sophisticated pleasures, she seduces her dad’s middle-aged bookie in Wish You Were Here (David Leland, dir., 1987). Childbirth became yet another passage in her wild life devoid of shame. Previously mentioned Monella, aka Frivolous Lola (Tinto Brass, dir., 1998), retells a similar story, though none so eloquently as Nabokov’s Lolita, a pedophile’s apology for reliving a teen fantasy.

Parents of manchild Matthew McConaughey, who refuses to fledge from nest and spends all his time pedaling bikes and playing with grownup toys, hire interventionist Sarah Jessica Parker to end his Failure to Launch (Tom Dey, dir., 2006) and get on with life. She learns he’s in grief over his dead fiancée, not such a slacker after all, rather a kind soul in need of sympathy.

Single elementary school teacher Poppy Cross (Sally Hawkins) is Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, dir., 2008), cheerfully optimistic yet never naïve. After her bicycle, her main means of transportation, is stolen, Poppy tells her cynical roommate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman) she wants to learn to drive, even though she can’t afford a car. Intolerant, judgmental downer Scott (Eddie Marsan) offers her lessons, and unwanted advice, misinterpreting her joyful mentality for lackadaisical motoring. Regretting never being able to say goodbye to her old beater bike, she should’ve used 20 quid a week spent on lessons to buy a new one and skirted Scott’s misogynistic abuse.

An earlier episode of long running, previously mentioned crime drama Midsomers Murders (Season 12, Episode 4, The Glitch, Richard Holthouse, dir., 2009) has most folks from this Oxfordshire hamlet turning out for annual Pilgrim’s Bicycle Ride. An anticipatory group train together including middle aged theorist George Jeffers (David Haig), who's techno-crafted a device that might revolutionize air traffic control once a glitch gets resolved. His refusal to release it makes him a target with two resulting homicides. George goads villain Clinton Finn (Nigel Whitmey), by holding up his folding rig and saying, “Respect the bike!” Finn snorts back, “Don’t get a puncture.” DCI Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) collars real perp.

During 15 seasons of FBI drama Criminal Minds (various directors, 2005 to present), bikes are frequently shown, in and out of use, but once they jet to scene in their sleek Gulfstream Chevy SUVs magically appear as vehicles of choice to race around during unsub chases. Roadkill (Season 4, Episode 23, 2009) quotes 4 time Pulitzer winning novelist Booth Tarkington, ”I'm not sure about automobiles. With all their speed forward, they may be a step backward in civilization.” Unstable disabled pickup driver Ian Coakley (Craig Baxley, Jr.) runs down people he suspects caused an accident that killed his wife and left him paraplegic. Fourth victim he targets is Blake (Keith Burke), who’s out on a winding road riding with his buddies. But BAU team intervenes to save Blake and scores of other cyclists. In several episodes attentive bicyclists find victim corpses. Image shows brother of two young cyclists who were abducted years ago and never found. Team chief Aaron Hotchner (Thomas Gibson) has a black Trek road bike hanging in his office, but never seems to find time to ride it until Season 7, when he trains for a triathlon. Hashtag (Season 10, Episode 7, 2014) has a teen bicyclist as serial killer they nab right after he u-locks his BMX at a mall. Statistics show that more law enforcers are killed in traffic accidents than any other cause, though perps and scumbags with whom they deal put them in harm’s way. Popular series gives false hope that heroes frequently deal out justice whenever mayhem occurs, but facts are that more cases go unsolved than not.

Everything goes Downhill (Patricio Valladares, dir., 2016) for American MTB racing threesome Joe (Bryce Draper), bestie Charlie (Eyal Meyer), and hotie Stephanie (Natalie Burn), who train together. During next race Charlie crashes and suffers a fatal head injury, which derails Joe into a grieving hiatus. Old friend Pablo coaxes Joe back for an exhibition in Chile. On their first race trail test run, he and Stephanie encounter a badly injured man dying from a mysterious illness. For their samaritan efforts, they become targets of relentless killers trying to keep a biological secret from leaving The Andes.

David Attenborough’s Extinction: The Facts (BBC, 2020) would agree that the list of species on an escalator to extinction because of habitat destruction must also include humans due to an increase in pandemics and resource depleting economics. Honesty dispels delusions, sometimes explosively. Secrets and taboos create victims. Those who are guilty hide facts, but those who communicate candidly get attacked. Whatever you say online is forever accessible, even misconstrued and taken out of context, which serves people in charge the most. Expletive bleep, dodges people apply and secrets they keep run exceptionally deep. History definitely isn’t how it’s been told, since it must continually be updated as evidence emerges and facts unfold. Journey from Alpha has been an extensive plight but Omega destination is now within sight.

“Oh, what's the time again? I think I should get going. I’ve got nothing more to say. Oh, what's that sound again? I think that it was nothing. Just a bird, a leaf, the wind. And I rode my bicycle down by a lake, and noticed how the ripples in the water reach the shore.” - Providence, Rhode Island based indie band Sketch Pilot, Bike Ride, Handshakes with Dinosaur, self, 2021

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Blog Momentané

Rhymes can be inadvertent (lame) or intentional (earnest), but, in either case, ought to be avoided with a vengeance. Prose riddled with rhymes may have required extraordinary achievement but questionable judgment. Littering with catch phrases doesn't execute literary excellence. Hip-hop and rap artists only appreciate how lyrics sound, not what they expound. Far from permanent, blogs and books intended as legacies arrive and depart far below starry firmament.

For 6 decades charged climbs, parsed pavement, pushed pedals, and sweated profusely, while thinking about the government. Doubled miles on a now antique refurbished De Rosa, from around 125,000 to 250,000, and wore out a few 10-speeds. Frequently engaged in advocacy deeds with multiple results on ground. When bones rattled over root buckle on bike paths, reverted to roadways 4 times wider, because they usually present unbroken ways through, but had to dodge a slew of dopey drivers. Have begrudged dangerous underpasses and lingered on overpasses looking down upon them with disgust and shivers. Called upon suburban borders and woods beyond, but country distances beget unsafe speeds. Since bicyclists negligibly impact environment and traffic, they’re entitled to rage against every automotive doofus whose operating rudeness causes carcinogenic stress. But worst of all is being edged aside and falling behind some couch potato on a brand new e-bike, moped, or Segway. How can you atone for gluttony and sloth that way‽ Bicycling probes vitality and proves you’re not dead already.

August to October in New England should be primetime for pedicycling, but 95°F heat and 95% humidity have been conspiring against. Although locally expect one per year, experiencing 4th heat wave; some meteorologists think they ought to be named to caution public to their dangers. Meanwhile, one hurricane after another hurries along horizon. A recent 17” record rainfall caused death and destruction, and Tennessee cries on. But everything about bicycles is water resistant: apparel, carbon fiber, finished metals, rubber, skin, even some smartphones. You don't need a weather man to know which way the winds blow. Air conditioning makes reading books and viewing films tolerable when going for a spin seems dubitable. Films, an amalgam of all art forms, may be terminal entertainment only surpassed by really doing. Why mull over reasons for saying no? Will soon be shoveling snow and wondering when next able to go.

Serious randonneur Daniel “Travelin’ Dude” Troia spent 16 years crisscrossing continent by bike on a freegan quest to connect culturally. During last 5 he documented his wanderings, resulting in a trio of thoroughly relevant films: The Road Less Traveled (2015), Two Wheels to Freedom (2017), and We Are All in This Together (2020). “I decided to set off on a cross-country bicycle journey with the hope of gaining a better understanding of the human connection during these divisive times. I didn't bring any food or money with me, because I thought that would create a unique way of interacting with the people that I came in contact with. By my hidden camera glasses show the REAL, candid interactions that I had with people that I met along the way... drone to capture landscapes... Gopro, to make the viewer feel like they were biking across the country with me.... There is much more that brings us together than what separates us!” Must have been rewarding meetings to warrant abiding deserts and mountains, dumpster diving and loneliness, rain and snow, getting there. Completely eclipses WQED’s 1-hour travelogue The Great Ride (Paul Ruggieri, dir., 2019) that covers 325 miles of C&O Canal Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, PA through eyes of group/individual hosts, who don’t seem to mind that much of it isn’t marked, maintained, paved, or properly lit.

Dreamland (Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, dir., 2019) portrays dirt poor dustbowl dreamer Eugene Evans (Finn Cole) looking for a way out of a rural Texas town where he shoplifts crime magazines with his buddy Joe Garza (Stephen Dinh). When they hear there’s a reward for the capture of Allison Wells (Margot Robbie), they set out on bikes as a small mounted posse to search. Turns out, she’s holed up and wounded in Evans family’s barn. She offers to double reward if Eugene helps her escape to Mexico. Using his bike in creative ways, he learns truth about her accomplice, yet steals resources they need to go on lam, which is what happens when government fails to respond to dire needs of desperate citizens.

Superfluous mockumentary J. R. "Bob" Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius (Sandy K. Boone, dir., 2020) depicts how you may ride a bicycle to attend slacker revivals, which ridicule enormously profitable evangelical betrayals. Raises a question: Why support a society that lauds whoever fits some arbitrary definition of genius and laughs away ordinary but substantial contributions from those less gifted? So-called geniuses do create and innovate, but what’s crucial to survival gets done by rote parroting and routine practicing. Ayn Rand objectivism aimed at encouraging supermen left regular workers dangling. Cults of perfection reap ruin, but you probably belong to one.

Teens bike and walk to convene at a diner, where they hope to hook up and pair off in weirdly dystopian Ham on Rye (Tyler Taormina, dir., 2020). Exemplifies bicycle spice sprinkled on filmic fabric leaving a cultural stain. Can you make sense of a vicious world if you commit to a relationship and devote energies into maintaining it? Escapes duty to rest of humanity, simplifies routines, solves nothing, and taunts destiny.

Micro-budget flick The Adventures of the Adventures (J. Matthew Welker, dir., 2020) follows a family who In 2020 moved from metropolitan Los Angeles to rural Franklin, Tennessee, expecting safer streets and slower pace, though record heat and rainfall would later ensue. Adventure family’s 6-year-old prodigy Irie (Irie Welker) and 7-year-old sibling Camden (Camden Welker) discover in their own backyard a map to lost Civil War treasure, then race around on bikes to retrieve clues before villainous archaeologist Rockwell Shaw (Joshua Welker) gets his hands on it, or them. 

Vampires vs. The Bronx (Oz Rodriguez, dir., 2020) has teen bicyclist Miguel Martinez (Jaden Michael) and his minor posse fighting to save their neighborhood from gentrification when they discover an invading coven of vampires feeding on locals. Features in a cameo role Clifford “Method Man” Smith of Wu Tang Clan, who Rolling Stone called the greatest rap group of all time.

DC’s Stargirl, Season 2, Episode 3 (Lea Thompson, dir., 2021), profiles Courtney Whitmore’s (Brec Bassinger) stepbrother Mike Dugan (Trae Romano), a bullied bicycling paperboy who revives mercurial original JSA superhero Thunder Bolt. Both are comically inept, making them a dangerous pair, reminiscent of trivial villain Johnny Gasparini (Demian Slade) in Better Off Dead (Savage Steve Holland, dir., 1985).

Self-absorbed socialite widow Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer) retrieves borderline personality disorder son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) from private school, mostly because she can no longer ignore him after 10 years or pay his bed and board. Facing eviction and nearly broke a decade later, she converts her frozen assets for final stacks of 100 euro notes, then jets to Paris to occupy a friend’s vacant apartment. Devoted son follows. Little wonder Malcolm’s fiancé Susan (Imogen Poots) breaks up with him. Among first things Frances does in Paris is buy Malcolm a fancy utility bike, since it’s Christmas Eve and she’s never given him a holiday present. He seems to enjoy tooling around swanky 5th Arrondissement of The City of Lights. However, as soon as euros are gone, she plans to leave without warning, thus make a proverbial French Exit (Azazel Jacobs, dir., 2021).

Sounds like a strategy for discontinuing a blog: No explanation, fanfare, regrets or tears. B&C, though personal and precious, was but a blip in Labann’s lifetime output. Always so much bicycling culture to cover, certain items only merited a mere mention or single sentence. Slackers expect someone else to delve into deep reportage, fill in blanks, while a bicycle makes an appropriate conveyance for sub-genius scholars to brave elements and bring forth what’s emerging for “a sub-literate America” led by unstable supporters of genocide. “Facebook is what replaced reading,” Bill Maher went on to say, but shouldn’t that include propaganda networks, public rallies, QAnon insurrections, rancorous tweets, seditious websites, and unscrupulous infomercials?

Busy people elect officials then expect them to manage weight of state with sense and tolerance. Enjoying arts, media, music, sports and such supports financial sectors that diversify economy. Unfortunately, politics is a major draw for amoral, narcissistic, sociopathic villains, because candidates aren't vetted for insanity or intelligence. The more anti-press and reading averse, the more popular they become among mindless louts who constitute a third of electorate. Give thanks that majority isn’t so lame brained, and one in ten does read and reflect, which applies duct tape that holds civilization together.

“I surrender to the heat by falling into its dry slow beat. I could lose myself forever aching for some peace of mind, aching for a little justice, whatever that is. Rehearsing to cut the last string. From here on it's all racing downhill in loss and anger on an ancient bicycle... like a burned out little saintbug.” The Bear Quartet, Rehearsing to Cut the Last String, Everybody Else, A West Side Fabrication, 1995

“Hey, hey, come look and see my footsteps through eternity. Riding hard and strong and free, the messenger will hold the key. I saw him. I knew him.” Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, When The World Was Young, Walking Into Clarksdale, Mercury, 1998

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Face Betalain

Jaclyn Conley, In a New Field, 2020

“It was an April morning when they told us we should go. As I turned to you, you smiled at me, how could we say no? Oh, the fun to have, to live the dreams we always had. Oh, the songs to sing when we at last return again... Below the streets that steam and hiss, the devil's in his hole... The shackles of commitment fell in pieces on the ground. Oh, to ride the wind, to tread the air above the din. Oh, to laugh aloud dancing as we fought the crowds, yeah. To seek the man whose pointing hand, the giant step unfolds. With guidance from the curving path that churns up into stone... So fast the heart should beat as proud the head with heavy feet, yeah. Days went by when you and I, bathed in eternal summer's glow, as far away and distant our mutual child did grow... Wandering and wandering, what place to rest the search? I know the way, know the way...” Led Zeppelin, Achilles Last Stand, Presence, Swan Song Records, 1975, 10-minutes of epic rock with lyrics written by Robert Plant while recovering from a traffic accident, seems more bicycling relevant today than when released nearly half a century ago, before 20,000 saddle hours for Labann, who subsequently recounted nearly identical misgivings and thanksgivings. Seasoned wanderers will always say they’re "having fun" and "know the way". Won’t be included in official list, though friends know Bob [shown below] to be a bicyclist, while Jimmy Page sweats his way through his favorite song to perform live.

Around for a baker’s dozen of years since book dropped, blog carefully traced bicycling turf but never found a following. Might as well been merely momentary on a scale of cultural commentary within cycling’s dual century. Harder to get read blogging or publishing than trolling on-line, if that’s your lone ambition. No contributor in an ongoing chain ever scores final word anyway. Scholarship and wordsmithy are arduous, ephemeral, stressful, thankless, and worrisome. Unless you crave attention, crawl back into anonymity.

Whatever you personally reveal works to your disadvantage. Disappointments anger associates and regrets rile intimates. Saying nothing sounds sensible but makes entire world stupider, as if not ignorant enough already. If you don’t disclose thoughts and expose preferences, sometimes denigrate self, you seldom get to hear truths, though many prefer blissful serenity of jejune immaturity to a betalain face beet red from consummate embarrassment.

Writers try to censor what you’ll hear and see, champion personal causes, jealously guard ideas conceived and observations noted, set themselves up as arbiters of style and taste, and take no one’s needs into account but their own. Writers denigrate word craft as difficult and unprofitable to discourage those who would outcompete them and steal clients. Media exists to pepper you with inanity, thereby deter investigations into organized criminality. Ruthless spin interferes with making sense of each tragedy. You can’t change what occurred, but ought to learn from mistakes and plan accordingly. Reporters can’t find it in themselves to be comprehensive, courageous, honest, informed, persistent, unabashed, or unprejudiced, what it takes to tell the truth, which is why you so seldom hear any it’s hard to recognize. Easier to fill airtime with boldfaced lies. Do readers and viewers deserve better, and why does it matter? You have to explore your world for yourself anyway.

Never visit websites with barriers (click bait, forced cookies, or sign up), so content has little or no influence on Labann. Facts for free come from bicycling around, bulletin boards, direct email, documentary films, dotgovs, listservs, personal conversations, social media, or whatever blog such as B&C doesn’t advertise or otherwise restrict gathering data. Most people accept the same; anything easily found shapes opinion, while best intelligence gets dismissed or remains hidden. Public is unaware of extent of data analyses belonging to corporations and government alone. In general, most literature gets redacted or shredded, goes unpublished, or isn’t for public viewing.

But issues that could ruin your life bear close scrutiny. Does a pandemic that killed over 4 million and reduced life expectancy by 2 years make you avoid public? Does a blood red full moon from giant forest fires [here foreseen] causing a smoke cloud covering entire continent and climate crisis causing record temperatures worry you? Do random shootings nearby with no arrests, talk of defunding police, and unpunished vehicular homicide make you think civility is breaking down? Does any of these keep you from riding your bike? Leave home with reservations? Return wondering why?

Vanity Fair contributor Fran Lebowitz recently confessed, “People call me negative... I think I’m just realistic. I tell the truth... which is very rarely positive... I’m judgmental, something you’re not supposed to be... just means I have standards...What difference does it make? I don’t have any power. I’m not making any decisions for other people... People in politics make real decisions for you... Republicans... shameful and shameless... They care about nothing except retaining the power they have at the moment... It’s a cult. They’re saying if they can’t keep certain people from voting they can never win.” Strikes a chord with Labann, who's been saying the same since 1980.

Why is it that native soil can be thrown into utter turmoil when one election cycle goes awry? A chief executive is but one member of an entire government staffed by thousands of individuals among a third of a billion citizens, who appear to be mostly apathetic, asleep or naïve. Tolerance for televangelism frauds ushered in propaganda networks bent on billionaire oligarchy. Same traitors who imploded Twin Towers twenty years ago in 2001 still hold sway over Congress. Undue influence of a fake family pulling puppet strings is both disturbing and irrational.

Feel like asking Jon Stewart to retract his statement in 2011, “I feel like this country is stronger than any individual you can throw at it... I don’t think personally the damage they can do is so drastic and so great that we would ever be run off course by one individual... I pray that Trump runs. He puts his name on everything. I could put a new wing on my house if the fat guy runs.” Facetious gum flapping encourages fascism and folly.

Credentials, expertise, facts, and truth don’t matter anymore. Dropouts, incompetents, and morons agitate masses and wield power. Future anthropologists and historians will categorize Trumpists into three groups: Coconspirators who criminally profited, completely delusional nincompoops, and craven selfish clowns without empathy or remorse. Yes, something is terribly wrong in US governance: Slow to react to urgent needs, too busy stuffing pockets from trillions in tax revenue, and too conservative or liberal on wrong issues. Dolt 45 simply acknowledged this, justified his 30,000 documented lies as clever misinformation, so erased his crime lord legacy and gained celebrity supremacy. Only 24% of voters now affiliate with Republicans; scrambling to shore up a dying party, GOP denied free elections, filibustered, and gerrymandered to such an extent that they hang onto power by their fingernails.

Because nazis burn books, authors must foment dissent and write more. Certain empathetic documentaries and feature films renew focus on consequential issues rather than distracting dodges. What matters most in a cruel world is how humans evade existential threats, interact gently, trade fairly, treat one another respectfully, and utilize sustainably. In each film cited, bicycles factored in personal growth of protagonists.

A frank, gritty, teenage story set in inner-city Los Angeles, Model Minority (Lily Mariye, dir., 2012) won 11 awards. Kayla Tanaka (Nichole Bloom), an underprivileged Japanese American 16 year old bicylist, endangers her promising future as an artist when she becomes involved with a drug dealer. She barely manages to survive the treacherous world of criminal subculture, dysfunctional family, juvenile hall, and peer pressure, while dispelling notion that Orientals, who represent less than 6% of nation's population, make model Americans, while individuals independent of origin range from conservative to liberal, crooked to honest, and despicable to exemplary.

Filmed in 6 European countries, Bikes Tell Stories (Milan Lisica, dir., 2014) profiles six people for whom cycling is a way of life, where bravery means doing scary things and loss is only real if you allow it to be. The fact that change can motivate intertwines these stories, which promote cycling as an adventure, inspiration, method for self-awareness, rebirth of dreams, and therapy for mind and body.

After a Peace Corps stint in Ecuador, where only his landlord had a bicycle, David Schweidenback learned empathy and resolved to send America’s castoff bikes to developing towns as an economic aid. In 1991, Nicaraguan city of Rivas was the first to receive them, which transformed this war torn community into The Bicycle City (Greg Sucharew, dir., 2016) through simple mechanical implementation.

For a timely endeavor, cheer on and delve into USA’s underdog Olympic Women's Track Cycling Team. Personal Gold (Sky and Tamara Christopherson, dirs., 2016) describes how with minimal support they won silver for Team Pursuit in London 2012, first USA track medalists in 20 years. Male racers were excluded because of Armstrong’s doping scandal, while peloton still focuses not on amateur glory but big money. One bad apple always spoils entire barrel. In 2021, Jennifer Valente won gold in the Women’s Omnium, while in Women’s 400 Meter Hurdles Sydney McLaughlin set a new world record. USA won more gold, silver and bronze medals in Tokyo than any other participating nation.

Bicicles (Kim Kelln, dir., 2017) explains why winter cycling isn't something only hardcore elites and hearty insane do in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Naysayers nevertheless, hundreds don mittens and toques, pedal off to work in bitter cold, and refuse to stop riding bicycles despite falling snow and hanging icicles. Documentary introduces four heroes on frozen commutes, and shares interviews with business organizations, city councillors, and men on the street in a metropolis where cycling has become increasingly mainstream.

Puerile Netflix premiere Aliens Ate My Homework (Sean McNamara, dir., 2018) has preteen bicycling cousins Rod Allbright (Jayden Greig) and Elspeth McMasters (Lauren McNamara) aiding Galactic Patrol’s hunt for rogue world killer Bakar, who’s disguised as classroom bully Billy Becker (Ty Consiglio).

Adam Ruins Everything, Season 3, Episode 8, Adam Ruins Murder (Jon Wolf, dir., 2019) lambastes law enforcers and legislators for lax handling of vehicular homicides after a bicyclist gets mowed down. Apart from cancer and cardiovascular diseases, both caused by automotive convenience and big oil carcinogens, driving badly while distracted, drowsy, drugged or drunk accounts for almost as many deaths and losses as bad diet and exercise deficit. Greed ignores duty to species, while wars for automotive resources threatens all life on planet.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Riding Indurain

Critics are aware of psychogeography in David Hockney’s landscape paintings but don't notice his preoccupation with bicycling. Some of this synaesthetic painter’s earliest memories were of dad painting actual bikes in bright colors. ”I worked on a farm. I cycled around here for two summers. I used to cycle up to Scarborough, Whitby, a long way actually. You get to know it, and you know it’s hilly if you’re cycling. I was always attracted to it. I always thought it had a space. One of the thrills of landscape is that it’s a spatial experience.” Any cyclist instantly relates. Escapist rural rides reveal a series of vignettes and vistas each with its unique array of internalized influences.

David Hockney, Going up Garrowby Hill, 2000... so like scenes on Grand Tour of France you wouldn’t know that its inspiration was day tripping around East Riding, Yorkshire, England, probably with a ciggie dangling from his lip.

Scenery goes unnoticed while riding in the rain or sweating through heat waves. Due to global warming and oppressive weather, Labann missed typical June and July outings. Sun finally broke through thick clouds to tempt a metric century, something better than sharing insights in solitude, but too out of shape to attempt. Should be used to being deprived after 17 months of preemptive pandemic. At least got to watch drama of Mark Cavendish first tying then nearly beating Eddie Merckx’s record of 34 stage wins, short only by a wheel’s radius on final sprint. Phil Liggett branded him a Scorcher, a term that harks way back to George Rosey’s 1897 piano march, which until recently was never recorded as written, though US Naval Academy Band did an orchestral version.

Originated in 1903 as a way to promote automotive periodical sales, Le Tour de France persists as world’s most popular sporting event attended by tens of millions and watched on television by maybe a billion, despite scandals over blood doping, mechanical cheating, and outdated pretext. One might argue that its prize is too fiercely coveted, rules too unforgiving, and stamina demands too brutal. Living general classification winners constitute the most exclusive club in global sports, fewer than even football franchise owners, especially after arbitrarily disqualifying certain winners.

To honor commitments of hundreds of TdF participants, Sophia Deboick published a timely article that studied related songs. Earliest she cites were Frédo Gardoni, The Yellow Jersey [Le maillot jaune, 1936, not even Gardoni’s first, P'tit gars du tour (Marche officielle du Tour de France 1932)], and Edward ‘Monty’ Montauby, Ah! Here They Are! also from 1936, which describes a sideline view as race leaders approach. Had she simply consulted Wikipedia, she would have found Labann’s list with Perchicot, Les Tours de France (Chanson roulante) from a decade before, 1927, and other fascinating precedents.

Before WWII jaunty accordion tunes, sometimes called bal-musettes especially when accompanied by bellows bagpipes and horse bells, captured festive air of residents and tourists on Bastille Day holiday and July vacations partying and picnicking in bucolic backwaters. Nowadays, insurrectionists storming institutions goes down badly, while xenophobes want to bury World Best competitions, particularly Olympics. Musette is also what cyclists call their feed bag; long straps enable them to snatch while riding extended stages. Before germophobia and reliability emerged, roadside groves provided fireplaces to grill lunch while making repairs or resting your flivver. By 1960 songs had become increasingly irreverent and sarcastic and tended to single out challengers and victors.

While Deboick delightfully dissected some already listed, she directly disclosed 5 new ones, a number that forever symbolized balance, congratulations, cycling, freedom, friendship, gratitude, love, luck, perfection, and rescue:
Luis Mariano, Notre tour de France [French], Chante Le Pays Basque, La Voix De Son Maître, 1957.
Marcel Amont, il a le maillot jaune [French], aka He has the yellow jersey, il a le maillot jaune  EP, Polydor, 1960, describes race’s GC leaders through 1940, well ahead of Greg Lemond, Lance Armstrong, Miguel Indurain, or 2021’s two-peat winner Tadej Pogačar.
Jean-Louis Murat, Le champion espagnol, aka The Spanish Champion [for ace climber Federico Bahamontes], Grand lièvre, V2, 2011.
Dick Annegarn, Vélo vole [Dutch in French], Vélo Va, Tôt Ou Tard (2014).
Litku Klemetti, Tour de France [Finnish], single, Luova Records (2021).

Due to this discussion of cycling heroes lyrically lionized, expanded own song search. Incredibly and indirectly, found a full score more. Thought official list was almost comprehensive, especially among titles from previous centuries. “Complete” is a term used only by isolated idiots who ignore linguistics and locales.

André Verchuren, Vive Poulidor [for France's favorite underdog Raymond Poulidor], single, label unknown, 1968.

Guido Belcanto, Vive le Tour de France [Belgian], Een Zanger Moet Trachten Pijn Te Verzachten [compiliation, song origin year not determined], Cluster-Park, 2019, names a bunch of recent peloton riders, including Chris Froome, Marc Cavendish, and Nairo Quintana.

Fluminera, Vai Pirata [Italian, for Marco Pantani], Schiavo del Tempo EP, (label unknown), 2011. Better still, Guido Belcanto directly sang a love ballad to Marco, and Pantani joined in singing.

Marc "The Manx Missile" Cavendish got props in one music video with irrelevant tune Avenged Sevenfold, Hail to the King, Hail to the King, WMG, 2013. Marc’s ready to join famous C’s - Fausto “Il Campionissimo” Coppi and Mario “The Lion King” Cipollini - and legendary M’s - Eddy “The Cannibal” Merckx, Freddy “The Dominator” Maertens, and Francesco “The Sheriff” Moser. However, for Cavendish to catch Merckx in terms of songs, he'll have to inspire 2 dozen more.

Philippe d'Annevoy, J’aime bien Eddy Merckx, single, Weekend, circa 1972, boasts “On the four walls of my room, you can see yellow everywhere. It’s the harvest of the Tours de France that Eddy brought home.”

Touting a fellow from Flanders was Ronnie En De Pilchards, Freddy Maertens, Wereldkampioen, 7” single, Paprika Records, circa 1975, available on compilation Vlaamse Troeven Volume 209, Scorpion, 2020. While not an original song, a music video also surfaced based on Noël Couëdel’s biography Maertens le dynamiteur, 1977.

A pair appeared for Moser, who like Labann rode a De Rosa: Forza Francesco, televised live circa 1975, and Francesco Moser, both from unknown artists and sources.

Miguel Indurain, only Tour de France champion with 5 consecutive wins, active from 1986 to 1997, has no less than 3 albums/bands that share his name, and inspired several previously unnoticed songs. Spring Versus Indurain, Be My Star EP, Elephant Records, 1995, was named for a collaboration with Marc Collin of band Indurain, whose album Indurain, Barclay, 1993 doesn’t at all appear to celebrate cycling. On the other hand, eponymous album of indie band Indurain from Toulouse, France in 2012 contains 8 titles apparently inspired by Big Mig.

When they were still dating, Sheryl Crow wrote the title track of her album Wildflower, A&M, 2005, for boyfriend Lance Armstrong. Lyrics never mention cycling, but suggest spectator scenarios: “I was free until I heard the song you sang to me pulling me away from everything I knew to be with you... Every time you go, it hurts me so. I don't know why, when I know we're free, free to fly. Here we are, burning faster than the cursed star, falling back down to the Earth. I love you so it sometimes hurts. Closer still, you will find me waiting on the hill, waiting for you with my arms stretched open wide.” Easy to imagine Crow’s embrace after a TdF mountain stage that year, though in 2010 she’d rat out her “cursed star” to FBI for an immunity deal.

Jimi Blue, The King is Back, Sick Like That, Polydor, 2008, refers to Armstrong, too, who thrived upon a playlist including Jeff Buckley, Led Zeppelin, Ryan Adams, Rolling Stones, Wallflowers, and Wilco.

Future User, Mountain Lion, #SteroidsOrHeroin, AWOLNation, 2015 was prompted by Armstrong’s bad example and even samples Lance’s personal phone call to band member Tim Commerford, former Audioslave bassist, who sees outrage over PEDs as hypocritical given today’s drug culture. Chris Cornell might have added, “Take one link from this Misery Chain. Keep it to remind you... If I should fall from the top of the world to the depths below.” Big Pharma just signed a multi-billion dollar deal to avoid multiple suits over the multitude of opioid addictions to which they contributed.

Newly released, Victor Zupanc, Bicycle, Welcome to My World, self, 2021. "Fly like an eagle, thorugh time and space... the sun in my eye, I'm king of the road."