Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Wenches Without Wrenches: Form Without Function

As cycling increases in popularity, cycling fashionably becomes a priority for Toronto's fledgling eco-conscious randonneurs.  However, to cycle fashionably, one apparently must cycle European-ly.  North Americans, having been cheated of a centuries-old architectural and cultural heritage, are easily impressed by anything with European lineage.  Even a dirty John's experience is elevated by the glow of Europa's glimmering beacon:

They even have a Parisian Existentialist interpretive dancer named Ennui.

Not surprisingly, the staff of Bloor St salon Curbside Cycle , eagre to capitalize on Torontonians' vanity and love of all things European, pump the Toronto market full of Dutch Delusion in a way that would nauseate even the staff of Europe Bound (you know, the store that's 'strategically positioned' directly across from the Mountain Equipment Co-op on King St purely by coincidence?).  Taking cues from socially-acceptable stalkers such as Scott Schuman and Mikael Coleville-Anderson, Curbside Cycle staff photograph the fatuously fashionable with their vintage bicycles and then analyzes the combination with dismaying superficiality.  In a particular instance of poor judgment-bordering-on-negligence, these so-called cycling professionals extol the minutae of the rider's attire while failing to address the most obvious mechanical defects of their bicycles (a reasonable expectation from a bicycle shop, or so I thought). 

Consider their recent entry on a self-concious satorialist named Amy:

Sorry Amy, but you just made it onto a Don't List.

Amy's wardrobe, environment, and bicycle co-ordinate well in this picture.  The reiterated blue, black, and silver 'colourway' shows an attention to aesthetic detail.  Attention to mechanical detail, however, shows a bicycle with kinked brake housing eminating from poorly positioned brake levers, a drooping shift cable, a conspicuously absent bell, a rear axle that's suspiciously forward in its dropouts, and a quill stem that I'd wager someone else's firstborn is raised past the minimum insertion mark.

Or consider the even more dismaying bicycle ridden by Dejana:

Being flat-chested is OK, but being flat-tired isn't.

The poorly installed front basket that's impairing the front brake and pressing the front fender into the front tire; the misaligned brake pads; the questionably high quill stem; and (one weeps to see it!) the under-inflated rear tire that's practically squatting to the ground.  Never mind that she's riding on the sidewalk...

Unfortunately, these types of bicycles are increasingly coveted as an accessory to fashion.  The basket is an especially de rigueur accoutrement (this is fashion, daaaahling).  A brief survey of Toronto's ring-&-posts reveals a veritable infestation of vintage cruisers with baskets, often clamped where baskets were not meant to go.  Consider this noteworthy abomination I spotted near College St & Ossington St:

Will this really be the fate of Eduardo Bianchi's legacy in Toronto?  Really, Toronto?

Bicycles such as these are not meant is implements of transportation.  They're meant as implements of fashion.  They're meant to communicate their rider is the type of person who, in the most sagacious words of Christian Lander,
"lives in Europe and rides around an old city ... [Who] wakes up and rides to a little cafe, then visits bakeries and cheese shops and finally rides home to prepare a fancy meal for their friends who will all eat under a canopy with white Christmas lights."
Decorating bicycles with flowers is another common fashion statement that necessitates interpretation.  I initially interpreted the statement as a wistful expression of charm, but after carefully reviewing the literature on the subject and conducting extensive forensic field research (i.e. I paid off a bunch of saddle-sniffing bike mechanics), I hereby propose that these floral arrangements are, in reality, a subconscious reflection grooming habits and submit the following hermeneutic legend to decode the arrangement motifs.  As always, I endeavor to remain teachable and am open to correction and further edification.

For example, this one telegraphs: trimmed and maintained

This frame's clean lines imply: bare minimalism.

This one: wild 70s porn bush

And this one: ...razor burn.

Unfortunately, the latter is a defect no amount of hands-on wrenching could fix...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bike Art: I See White People

Like any groomed and well-read university graduate, I find farting hilarious.

Naturally then when I glanced the Toronto Sun headline "Artsy Fartsy" my curiosity was piqued.  It took some time to find the article (mainly because, like any groomed and well-read university graduate, I read the Toronto Sun from back to front), but when I finally managed to review Joe Warmington's article I too sat broken-hearted, having paid my dime, but no wiser than I started.

Warmington's article decried the attempt by some Toronto councilors to convert the Salvation Army's Bethany House at 420 Pape Ave into an artists' residence.  Warmington tries to cover his clear discomfort with the topic of art by raging against government subsidies for the Arts as a waste of taxpayers' money.

"Just what the east end needs," he huffs, "a hippie style commune for poor, starving artists."

Warmington likely meant this as sarcasm.  Amusingly, however, this is very likely what Warmington reader's do want.  A local artist hippie commune is a means to the end that Warmington's suburban landowning readership loves the most: rising property values.  White people, as Christian Lander has sagaciously observed multiple times, eat that kind of shit up.  More verbosely, it's called gentrification.

NYC's Greenwich Village is the most cited case-study for artist-induced gentrification but any Torontonian is familiar with the beatnik mood of Queen St W, 401 Richmond, St Lawrence Market, the Distillery District, and Kensington Market.

Bribing artists to squat and act weird in your neighborhood isn't squandering taxpayer money.  It's shrewd investing by scheming social architects who want to capitalize on the enduring fundamental truth that a yuppie and his money are soon parted.  Or as well-meaning but oblivious white people like to describe it: "Investing in our community," even though it's not theirs just yet.

Rob Ford, predictably, vowed "to open up and rip up" such "deals" if he becomes mayor ...and presumably not recycle the paper either.

I initially suspected Joe Warmington, Rob Ford & Co. revile this kind of fiscal policy because they just don't get the concept of Return On Investment.  Then I thought they're trying to cloak their naked philistinism with the mantel of fiscal prudence.  More likely though, they're using penny-pinching politics to mask their primary aim of maintaining the current social architecture of drivable suburbia.

You see, artists do evil Communist things like walk and ride bicycles to ad a veneer of wistful romanticism, mindfulness, and profundity to their existence.  It's also because they're poor.  And that makes them cool.  Unless they're stopped, artists and their eco-loving yuppie attendants will inundate council with requests for baby-killing Communist inventions like bike lanes and pedestrian festivals in the east end.  This can already by seen in the west-end at Art Spin events where a gaggle of White plaid-laden 20-through-40somethings toddles around the downtown on rattling cruisers, taking in visual stimulus and sucking on croissants.

Sometimes a croissant is just a croissant.

I can hear the Rob Ford campaign ad already:

"City councillors want to increase the artistic presence in the east end.  
Artists on bicycles.  In our city.  We're not making this up."

A NOTE FROM THE CLOG: If you didn't get the croissant sucker image, then be blest; you are truly pure of heart.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rhododactylos Fordos: Here Comes The Big One

As I prepare to heave my intellectual flab onto the pile-on of Toronto cycling bloggers, I do so with the same cautious optimism that has seen humanity through all Dark Ages.  I believe the coming four years will warrant much introspection and reflection from the Toronto cycling community.  Toronto's self-flagellation by municipal election has spilled considerable ink (and hastened the thermodynamic collapse of the universe through copious electron use) and imbecile-turned-professional-imbecile Rob Ford's election looms.  But even if the rosy hues of Ford's panting mug fail to rise on Toronto in the wee morning hours of October 26th, the mood reflected in the polls will remain.  And that's something Toronto cyclists will need to deal with.

That's not sweat he's bathed in; that's glory.

One wishes Toronto residents could simply ride their bicycles like normal people, but given the confusion and rampant mitosis of cycling into various alt.cultures, no one seems to know what a normal person riding a bike looks like anymore.  Oh yes, certain amongst us have tried to tell the rest of us, from hyper-correct Cyclists who observe every decorum like an Obsessive-Compulsive John Forrester to Danish pervert-turned-socially-acceptable stalker Mikael Colville-Andersen, who thinks pictures of the fatuously fashionable traveling trivial distances on cumbersome bicycles will move the rest of us to life-altering epiphanies about ecology and sustainability in style.  Yet fashion never translates into real life and so the confusion remains.

Fortunately Toronto is not Copenhagen (people who think it should be should try pronouncing 'Søren Kierkegaard' correctly and then count their blessings).  Though people are the same the world over, regionalisms and inherited attitudes drive apart what universal physiological and psychological traits bind together.  Muddy York was built for the bourgeois carriage and the pedestrian prole.  Toronto, on the other Oury grip, was built for the car and people genuinely seem to like it that way.  Toronto is not a cycling city.  Christopher Hume, The Toronto Star's Urban Affairs snob, got it right: "Cycling in Toronto is a joke."

And (in Dr Seuss's style of adroit brevity) this blog will be to that theme.

Casting about for an apt name for the blog I seized on iClogTO for a few very, very poor reasons.  Firstly, it's a lousy parody of Toronto's heretofore most successful cycling blog, I Bike T.O.  Secondly, it's a cheesy coalescence of the terms 'cycling' and 'blog'.  Thirdly, the lower-case 'i' is 'strategically positioned' to capture the 20-through-40somethings audience by referencing their Borg-like tendencies to mate with their Apple technology and achieve unity of identity with it.

The Dutch cultural reference is also highly convenient; Dutch cycling being all the rage, even though most consider the Dutch to be a funny lot.  Cycling does factor quite highly in Dutch culture, however, as is seen in this obviously official question from the Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen's written test:

A government commission from Mikael Coleville-Anderson's pre-Cyclechic portfolio.
In fact, the Dutch, if the Americans are to be believed, practically invented cycling.  Like you, I'm eagerly awaiting Curbside Cycle proprietor Eric Kamphoff's blog entry on how the Dutch practice of cycling in clogs was the sole source of inspiration for Batavus to design pedals specifically to allow for the use of foot covers with excessive and vestigial soles (or F-CEVS for short) while cycling through the use of large wide black foot platforms.  I think they call them 'pedals'.  Ha, those Hollanders!  What a funny language they speak!

Anyway, finally and least importantly, the blog's name is a funny cyclist-holding-up-traffic pun and potty reference all in one.  I like to be efficient.