Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Like Attracts Like: Don't Feed the Narratives

Recently, I received an email from a company, or concern, or enterprise, or organization, or entity, or whatever the proper term is, called "Dedicated Lane Productions, Inc." The purpose of this email was to alert me to a Kickstarter campaign for a Critical Mass documentary entitled "Last Friday of the Month."

Since I'm a blogger with a blog on the Internet, I assumed they sent me this email because they wanted me to mention it on my Internet blog that I have. So I mentioned it.

Subsequently, the director of the documentary left a lengthy comment on my Internet blog that I have (this one, not the other one about urban beekeeping), followed by a couple of lengthy emails. Now, I confess I had a bit of trouble following the comment and the emails. This is because: a) I have a poor attention span; and b) the prose was somewhat rambling, and at times flirted with the line between spontaneous bop prosody and incoherence.

However, I came away from it all with the impression that he was angry at me because I wasn't sufficiently effusive about his project, but he kind of maybe had a sense of humor about the whole thing, but really he was mostly angry. In any case, I sent him a friendly reply, and I might have forgotten about the whole thing, but then I noticed this was appended to one of the emails:

I could be mistaken, but that appears to be a disembodied arm clubbing a seal representing my blog, set alongside some kind of ripoff of the Public Enemy logo.

Or maybe it's a cricket bat, and the seal is drunk.

Either way, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. I suppose this is true, because the director had sent me something like three thousand words that I didn't understand, but here was a single picture that made it abundantly clear he wants to club me. And I certainly don't want to be clubbed--especially if it happens on the last Friday of the month, since the traffic will be all snarled up thanks to Critical Mass and the emergency services vehicles won't be able to get to me.

Anyway, I prefer to take the illustration in the spirit of humor and assume it's just the director's idea of parody. Plus, he's certainly more than entitled to make jokes at my expense. Still, I can't get over my irritation over the notion that we're all just supposed to like stuff nowadays. I'm not sure if it's the Internet or just the cyclical nature of popular attitudes, but frankly it seems the way things work lately is that people fabricate narratives about themselves and then our job as readers/viewers/consumers or whatever we are is to accept those narratives and congratulate them for their efforts. Here's the template:

--Guy in a hat decides he's a bike racer, we're supposed to celebrate his "passion" and "sportsmanship;"

--Filmmaker decides a massive inconvenience is actually a great political movement, we're supposed to celebrate Critical Massers as civil rights heroes and fund the film;

--Douchebag decides throwing out his books and buying an iPad makes him an aescetic, we're supposed to celebrate "minimalism" as a bold new lifestyle;

--Car company incorporates bikes into their advertising, we're supposed to celebrate them for embracing cycling;

--Hipsters import chocolate to Brooklyn on schooner and sell it for $9 a bar, we're supposed to celebrate it as "artisanal."

And so forth.

There's nothing wrong with any of this. We all write narratives for ourselves. The outline consists of our hopes, ambitions, pleasures, and desires, and we then set about fleshing it out as best we can. That's what life is. But that doesn't mean we all have to buy the chocolate. I mean, sure, if it's worth it to you go right ahead, but don't get upset when someone says, "Fuck that, I'm buying a Kit-Kat."

Also, clearly the Critical Mass documentary director isn't just blindly "liking" things. He's participating in Critical Mass because he doesn't like something, and in fact he doesn't like something so strongly that he's actually gone to jail for it. Still, that doesn't mean I can't not like the way he doesn't like something, since I also believe the way he goes about not liking stuff makes people not like me. Ultimately, I just can't help feeling like Critical Mass goes a bit too far, in that the participants write the rest of us into their self-serving narrative.

Incidentally, in browsing the Dedicated Lane, Inc. website, I also noticed a documentary about a "punk" sorry, "ska-core" band, entitled "Fuck Brakes:"

F*#K Brakes Trailer from Spike Project on Vimeo.

They're changing the world one formulaic song at a time.

In any case, while I tend to keep my distance from Critical Mass because I don't agree with it, I also don't follow RAAM--not because I don't agree with it, but because it just plain freaks me out. I think we all have a different notion of when a sport goes from "dramatic" to "stupid," and for me it's when the competitors have to put duct tape on their heads. Basically, it's the kinbaku of bicycle racing. Still, even though I don't follow RAAM, I did read this article about it in The New York Times:

Apparently, unlike more attractively gruelling races such as the Tour de France, RAAM is free from doping scandals:

While professional cycling has been rocked by numerous drug scandals, no RAAM rider has failed a drug test. Most say that there is no incentive to cheat in the race because it awards no prize money.

Right, I'm sure nobody has ever cheated in RAAM. If people are doping to win amateur bike races--as duct tape guy did--then I'm sure someone at some point has cheated in RAAM. By the way, the condition that requires duct tape is apparently called "Shermer's Neck:"

Goldstein completed the race in just over 11 days despite dealing with Shermer’s Neck, a painful condition that afflicts many ultracyclists who spend upwards of 22 hours a day hunched over their bikes and makes it difficult to keep their head up. Eight days into the race, Goldstein’s team kept her on the road by braiding tape in her hair and tying it to her heart-rate monitor or bra to keep her head pulled back.

I thought Shermer's Neck was a fancy neighborhood on Long Island. That should show you what a RAAM "noob" I am.

But the real story at RAAM this year was that the winner is a bike messenger, though I'm sure his words will sting his fellow messengers like peeling off duct tape too fast:

“I don’t know if I’ll go back to being a bike messenger,” he said after his rest. “I like people who are successful but keep their ordinary jobs, but if you do something great, you should maybe make something out of it.”

So, like, what? Being a messenger isn't "something great?" I though bike messengers were urban heroes; fierce warriors; bold riders on the very labia of the Vagina of Chaos. At least that's what all those messenger videos seen to want me to believe. And speaking of messengers, even though "Triple Rush" has been cancelled, videos continue to appear like the tingling of a phantom limb. Here's one in which a messenger boots a tire:

Triple Rush - Tire Patch Trick from Triple Rush on Vimeo.

Sure, anyone who has ever flipped through a copy of "Bicycling" knows how to boot a tire, but I'm sure the producers thought it represented the very pinnacle of street-savvy ingenuity. Plus, as the messenger himself puts it:

"If you're riding hard and you're riding fast which we have to, you really have to try to make stuff last as long as possible."

Absolutely. To that end, here are a couple of helpful money-saving tire tips.

Money-Saving Tire Tip #1:

Use a Brake.

I couldn't help noticing that, in addition to being bamboo, the messenger's bike is also brakeless:

I know this is mind-blowing information, but when you stop by skidding your tire doesn't last as long.

Tire Money Saving Tip #2:

Don't use a $50 road racing tire.

If you insist on using your rear tire as your brake, don't spend "$45-$50" on narrow, lightweight road racing tires.

But I guess when you're a TV messenger, it goes without saying that saving money always comes second to remaining fashionable.

By the way, when it comes to the actual booting, if you're a cash-strapped messenger, use a $1 bill:

However, if you're a roadie and you like to spend extra money on stuff for no reason or discernible performance gain, use a $100 bill instead:

(The $100 bill, also known as the "Fred Boot.")

Just tell yourself bigger bills have a higher thread count and will give you a more supple ride.

I'm pretty sure I read that in "Bicycling."


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