Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Grosse Point Blank 2?

I wish...but this is about as close as we're going to get. GPB is one of my favorite films of all time. It's probably not fair to call the new John Cusack project, War, Inc., the sequel to GPB but the vibe is unmistakable from the trailer. Not to mention that it has a number of the same actors in it. Unfortunately, early word on War, Inc. is that it isn't that great. That's not going to stop me from seeing it. A "sub-par" John Cusack produced (and co-written) film is still likely to be better than most of the crap at your local cineplex. For a different type of Cusack film check out, Max.

A side-by-side comparison of GPB and War, Inc.:

A Bike For Every Occasion

Except for today...

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

This is my little plug for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The best film I saw last year is available on DVD today. I tend to shy away from films about "handicapped" characters figuring that they are all too often bloated attempts to attract Oscar attention but the subject of this film is so deftly handled. It's an extraordinary film with images that still haunt me today, months after I saw it in the theater.

The performances of the three main French women who take care of the protagonist are raw and honest and something you don't often see in cinema these days. You get a bit of a sense of this from the trailer below. Bonus: the film features some well-chosen Tom Waits songs.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stupidest Bike Lane Part 2

A fellow "BOB" pointed out that Slate.com has a follow up to their stupidest bike lane piece from last month. I posted about the original here.

It is even better than the Part 1 video.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - The Dandy Warhols

I was rewatching the pilot episode of Veronica Mars, a tv show I was lucky enough to catch when it first aired. At first glance not something you'd think I would be interested in but I'm a sucker for anything noirish not to mention that had some of the best writing going. Long story short...VM turned out to be one of the best TV shows of the last decade. Why do I always end up falling in love with series that get canceled? Case in point, the previously posted about, Wonderfalls. Ah well, Kristen Bell has gone on to other...things. I won't say better because it will take a lot to top VM and Heroes hasn't really done it for me. I'm tempted to see that film that she's in by that guy...Judd (you know the one that likes to make movies with really unattractive men hooking up with the hottest women in Hollywood) Apatow. To see her most shocking role watch her in Deadwood as a con artist. Reefer Madness is fun as well.

This is neither here nor there I suppose. It's just my convoluted way of introducing this week's Sunday Morning Music selection. VM was smart enough to pick "We Used To Be Friends" as the theme song. A good Dandies song to be sure. I'm a big fan of the band but my favorite album of theirs has to be Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia. It captures the feel of my college days in a way that no other album does.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Art of the Mixed Tape

My brother-in-law sent the site muxtap.com my way and I've been obsessing about the fine are of creating a good mixed tape. I've got plenty of playlists on my iPod but it never seems like the care and craft are there in those music mixes. "Back in my day" ...a good mix of music on a cassette tape took TIME. Lots of it! You had to think really carefully about the order and progression and the meaning of the songs and if you didn't you had to go back and start over. Thus is the nature of linear format on a cassette tape.

But the muxtape site has somehow made me focus a bit more on piecing together a new collection. Here is my first attempt. It is a total 80s retro mix (technically Split Enz is from 1979) and there are bands on that list that are remarkably uncool...but they are fun. Life's too short to not have fun (or maybe it's too short to sit around making mixed tapes for people). You decide.

Speaking of mixed tapes. For the best examination of the art of mixed tapes one must view the film, High Fidelity. Here, for your pleasure, is one of the better scenes from that great film. [For the record...I like Belle and Sebastian]

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Celebrating the Best Bike City in the USA

Democracy Now had a nice spot on Portland, Oregon's status as the number one bicycle city in the country. [The bike portion of the show is about 45 minutes in]. When the Mayor touts the livability of the city and bike activists note that there has been no better investment in the city calling it a "multi-modal" system that works. Well, clearly they are doing something right. For more check out Bike Portland.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday Pick Me Up - Wreckless Eric

I've been wondering how many people went out and bought a guitar after seeing the film, Stranger Than Fiction. I was half convinced myself and I have no musical ability whatsoever. Then again, if it gives a guy a shot at snagging someone as beautiful as Maggie Gyllenhaal....

Stranger Than Fiction is one of those films that I think of as a mini masterpiece. It hits every mark that it means to. If there is one thing that it is hurt by it is that the actors in it are so well-known. They all do an admirable job with the material (I particularly like Dustin Hoffman) but I think that the audience expectations (or maybe the critics?) were messed with by seeing Will Ferrell in this film. That's not the actors' fault. I hope that ten years from now this film is as appreciated as it deserves. Maybe, like Office Space and the Big Lebowski, it will find its audience in coming years on dvd.

Above is the now famous scene from the film and below a performance from Wreckless Eric himself.

Velocouture anyone?

It's hard not to love seeing real people cycling in urban areas with stylish clothes. one day I'll be this natty. One day...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Free Speech...You Gotta Love It!

It's hard not to believe that people are just idiots when you read stories like this.


Pastor Roger Byrd said that he just wanted to get people thinking when he put a new message on the sign at the Jonesville Church of God.

It reads: "Obama, Osama, humm, are they brothers?"

Byrd said that the message wasn't meant to be racial or political.

"It's simply to cause people to realize and to see what possibly could happen if we were to get someone in there that does not believe in Jesus Christ," he said.

When asked if he believes that Barack Obama is Muslim, Byrd said, "I don't know.” “See it asks a question: Are they brothers? In other words, is he Muslim? I don't know. He says he's not. I hope he's not. But I don't know. And it's just something to try to stir people's minds. It was never intended to hurt feelings or to offend anybody."

It's times like these that I try to remember Noam Chomsky's quote about free speech from "Manufacturing Consent":

"You are either for free speech or your not. There is no in between." [I'm paraphrasing] Much as I might hate the ignorant and hateful words of Pastor Roger Byrd, he certainly has the right to say them. And, we're a better country for it. Though I can't help but ask, what kind of a religious leader knowingly spreads lies about another person?

18 Ways to Know That You Have Bicycle Culture

Numbers 1 and 18 are my favorites.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Amanda Blake Art

I've been a big fan of Amanda Blake's Art since running into her booth at an art show in Arizona a few year's back. Since then I've purchased three pieces of her work. It may seem contradictory to say this but I like both the whimsy and the darkness in her work. Plus, she features birds. A lot. I LIKE BIRDS.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Human Powered Vehicles!

I went down to IGT this morning to check out the third day of the HPV championships. A cool and blustery but very sunny day out there on the course. Here is a smattering of shots from the event. Some fun and creative, fast and slow designs (or was it riders?) on the course today. Lots of fun!

"Reno Man Voices Distaste On Internet"

Is it just me or is this headline sounding like it came right from the Onion? But no, it comes from our venerable Reno Gazette Journal. And while I can generally agree with the sentiment of the fellow who is "voicing his distaste" about vanity plates does it really need to be one of the lead stories?

Sunday Morning Music - General Public

The English Beat will always be considered more important and Fine Young Cannibals had Roland Gift as their secret weapon but much as I love those two bands nothing tops this song from GP for being ridiculously catchy.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Teaching Hamlet and its Sequel: Hamlet 2

I'm just about to embark on the teaching of (arguably) the greatest play in the English language (although some of my students are less than convinced that it's in English). Doesn't everybody die in the end? Aren't there rules about tragedies? I hope the upcoming sequel doesn't confuse them.

Will the high price of oil help make 2008 the Year of the Bicycle?

I was reading this article over at Commute By Bike (worth checking out) and I was more struck by one of the comments after the article. It read (excerpt):

...humans are only accessories created to attend the needs of cars: drive them, fuel them, fix them, wash them, build road for them, buy parking space for them.

Now, I've read similar sentiments before, but never as succinctly put as this. It's almost Durdenesque in it's simplicity. [Did I just coin a new word?] I had visions of folks who buy a nice car and then proceed to buy the "outfit" to adorn themselves in the sweatshirt, baseball cap, etc. of the car maker.

Friday, April 18, 2008

TGIF - Something to Make Your Friday Better

If this doesn't make you want to move to Copenhagen I'm not sure what will. Although I'll never be as chic as these folks I can't help but admire the adherence to good design. They even have a manifesto!

I absolutely love urban cycling but I can't help but wonder what these cyclists would do if their daily commutes were 12 miles at a stretch? Isn't there a point when the functionality has to come into play? Well, nevermind, I'm just happy to get to look at the great pictures.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"Death Ride" and Alta Alpina Cycling Club Go Separate Ways

This press release landed in my email a day or so ago and I have to say it is something of a surprise. I didn't realize that the Alpine County Chamber of Commerce owned the rights to the "Death Ride" name. It's a bit worrisome that the local cycling club is not involved in the putting on of the ride. Who better to be sure the riders are supported in the ways that they need to be supported?

It has been several years since I've done the ride. It's a fun and hard to finish the full 5 (or 6) climbs but definitely worth the training. Every so often I think about signing up again but I don't have a lot of mojo to do so now that the AACC is not involved. Certainly the ride feels epic and over the years the name itself has taken on a bit of a cache. What cyclist wouldn't want to say they completed the "Death Ride?" I actually rode the year that a rider went down on Monitor Pass and later died at Washoe Med. I was with a bunch of other riders when we passed the downed cyclist strapped to a gurney awaiting the helicopter airlift. The mood was pretty somber.

Anyway, here is the text of the announcement. It sounds like there is some serious resentment between the two parties but people are trying to publicly be supportive. Personally, I'll be looking for the new AACC ride that they put together to support the bicycling club, not the Chamber of Commerce.

After a two decade partnership, Alta Alpina Cycling Club is no longer
involved in the Tour of the California Alps - Death Ride(R). The
Alpine County Chamber of Commerce has decided not to renew the long
standing contract with the Club to co-produce the Death Ride for 2008,
and efforts to negotiate any kind of mutually beneficial agreement
between the two parties were fruitless.

The club and the chamber have produced the ride as partners for the
last 20 years. The Chamber owns the equipment used for the ride, and
now owns the Death Ride trademark. The Chamber normally has handled
the finances, registration and merchandising, obtained permits and
worked with government agencies, placed orders, and acquired sponsors.
The Club has been largely responsible for the cycling side of the
event: we have ensured that the right food, water, and equipment get
to proper course locations, maintained safety on the course with
experienced course marshals and SAG drivers, placed appropriate
signage, coordinated ambulances as well as tech support, and swept the
course. Our numerous volunteers have also helped set up Turtle Rock
Park, organized parking, and staffed registration, rest stops and the
store. This year the chamber has indicated that they have the skills
and experience needed to put on the event themselves.

We wish the Chamber of Commerce the best of luck in providing a safe
and fun ride. Stay tuned as Alta Alpina harnesses its vast expertise
and volunteer work force to host a new premier ride in the Tahoe-
Sierra region.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What a weird world we live in

This is the most bizarre thing I've seen in ages. And as a school teacher that is saying something. I keep expecting this to turn into a Monty Python sketch. Who thought this was a good idea?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Design a Bike Rack Competition

A nifty competition from the New York City Department of Transportation to design new bike racks for the city. Considering I'm quite the critic of most modern bike racks I probably ought to put my money where my mouth is and design a good bike rack that has a pleasing form and is very functional.

Source:via the boblist

Monday, April 14, 2008

Share the Road

A great reminder of the power of what a bit of political will can do. This is from the fixedgeargallery:


Last February I decided to launch a request for our city to increase awareness of bikes on the road, and to help promote an even more bicycle-friendly community. Commuting has increased on our roads tremendously and sometimes auto drivers just don't know what to do with us. Like you, I often see bike riders riding in opposition to motor vehicles, so it's clear that some bike riders don't understand where and how to ride either.

So, I drafted a letter to our Assistant to the City Manager outlining several ways we could improve this situation and ways that the bicycle community could help the city with all this. In effect, I made an offer that the city simply couldn't refuse.

The State Farm / Farmer's Insurance Tag Team Against Cyclists

Wow! If I was a conspiracy theorist I would think that this ad and the recent State Farm ad was a plot against urban cyclists using the bike for transportation. But I'm not so there you go.... Still this ad does give me pause.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - Peter Gabriel

I remember seeing this video for the first time way back in the 80s and thinking WHAT THE ...!?????

Arguably PG's best song. Or at least my personal favorite. I'd love to see him perform this live.

Of course I'm going to include this song because he rides a bike around on stage when performing. A folding bike at that.

And finally, the best song of his last album. Who cares if he takes 10 years between albums when he comes up with songs this good. Sublime.... sorry for the lame Larry King intro.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Paris Roubaix Weekend - The most exciting one-day race of the year?

Tomorrow is the big day for the Paris Roubaix bike race. If you don't know anything about it the description here is worth a read. Both cycling.tv and eurosport.com should have live audio and maybe video coverage.

Below is a clip from the 2001 video on the race excerpted from a US Postal promo video. It depicts one of George Hincapie's near misses from the past few years. Every year the race can't help but be epic. It's a beast!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bike to Work Challenge - Update

I seem to be losing track of how many days I've biked but luckily am keeping pretty close tabs on my mileage. I'm still on track to finish the school year with 1000 bike commute miles.

Miles to date: 269
Miles to go: 731

Beach Boys Blech!

I was recently talking to a colleague about music we're "supposed to like" but don't, and we both agreed that for some reason the Beach Boys, despite decades of popular and critical praise, are one of the bands that would fall into this category. It struck me later in thinking about how odd it is that I can think of multiple examples of more modern bands who are paying homage that I like much more than the Beach Boys. Case in point the splendid, My Rights vs. Yours from the last New Pornographers album. The harmonies and the slow buildup of the song pay off far more for me. Likewise the obvious ode from XTC alter ego, The Dukes of Stratosphere, and their song, Pale and Precious. There is a clip above of the Dukes and below the NPs performance from Letterman. The most interesting use of a Beach Boys that I can think of recently is for the opening titles of the HBO series, Big Love.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

State Farm Tries to Make Nice with Cyclists – After Offending Them.

This recent commercial was annoying to me as an urban cyclist so I was happy to see that I am not alone. The response and counter-response is interesting. I would be thrilled to see insurance companies step up and making bicycling an bicycle insurance a more readily available option (not just part of a homeowners or auto policy).

Considering that gas prices are expected to hit $4 you would think people would start seeing the bicycle as an obvious solution.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Mindwalk around Mont St. Michel

I love when little coincidences like this pop up. I’ve been showing clips of the extraordinary film, Mindwalk, in my Psychology in Literature class, to explore Cartesian thought and its implications and importance in today’s world and our conceptions of our identities as humans. Lo and behold pbs travel guru Rick Steves just wrote an article about the setting for most of the film, Mont St Michel, on the northern coast of France. It made me wonder why on earth I haven’t visited this place on one of my trips to the country.

If you haven’t seen it the film is worth the rental from the UNR library. Unfortunately it is not available on DVD. You can usually find copies in VHS on ebay and occasionally a poor dvd transfer. I did finally get a digital copy …ahem…on the web.

Essentially the film is a 2 hour discussion between a politician, a poet, and a physicist. If My Dinner with Andre is an exploration of inner journeys and the spiritual, Mindwalk is an exploration of our external journey and tendency to see ourselves as an isolated piece of a mechanistic world and not a part of a holistic world.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A Room With A View

Over the course of my working life I've had much worse views.

When are Cyclists at Fault for car/bike collisions? Almost always.

On my way home from work on Saturday I had one of the closest calls on my bike that I’ve ever had with a car. Or more accurately, a mini-van. It’s one of those common scenarios for a bicyclist, traveling in a right hand lane and an auto approaches the road from the right on a side street looking to make a left hand turn across my lane. Without pausing to thoroughly check both ways they pull out and hit the cyclist who clearly has the right of way. In my case the minivan driver started out across the lane just as I went by and came within inches of clipping the right back end of my bike. It was only after I turned around to yell and get a good look that I saw that he was on his cell phone and almost completely oblivious to my presence.

After calming down and the adrenaline subsided a bit I couldn’t help but remember that I was about a quarter of a mile away from the ghost bike memorial for David Pumphrey I took part in the ghost ride in his honor along with dozens of other cyclists.

In thinking about my close call, I had to admit that in reality, it was my fault that I almost got hit. I don’t mean in a legal sense. I most certainly had the law on my side (although the police typically do a bad job of enforcing the law when a cyclist is hit). And I don’t mean ethically. There is nothing ethical about running down a cyclist in a 2 ton piece of metal. But, as a cyclist I think that for the most part cyclists must be hyper aware of their surroundings and know how to make sure to be seen, double-check eye contact with drivers, use hand-signals, and simply make their presence known and recognize the potential for a bad situation before it happens.

In this case, the mini-van had very tinted windows making eye-contact impossible to confirm, but I was riding wearing a multi-colored jersey on a bright orange bike on a bright mid-day ride, and I was only going about 16 mph. But in the end I shouldn’t have assumed (hoped) that the driver saw me.

It seems to me about the only time we as cyclists have to just have some measure of faith that we are seen is when cars approach us from behind and we assert our place in the road while giving drivers the appropriate amount of space for the given lane width and driving conditions.

Over the many years I have biked on city streets I have had very few (amazingly few, really) close calls. Knock on wood. This is certainly because of the hyper awareness I mentioned above. There are times that I have felt almost a sixth sense about what the cars around me doing so I know exactly the safest (and usually legal) place to be.

In the end perhaps the most unnerving thing about my close call was that my instincts failed me and it was a good eye-opener for me as to the potential dangers all cyclists can face on the roads. Never be complacent, wear a helmet, and ride assertively but safely.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sunday Morning Music - David Byrne

This is off my favorite of Mr. Byrne's solo records. What a great little guitar riff.

And for something extra fun, his cover of "Don't Fence Me In." This will get you moving on a Sunday morning:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Smog and the City - 1000 Mile Bike to Work Challenge

I feel like I haven't written about my bike to work challenge in so long I don't know what day I'm on. The past week I rode 3 days with some additional detours around road construction and a ride home from the car dealer for 15K checkup on my car. I'm sitting at 204 miles down and 796 to go before the end of the school year. The week certainly underscored the importance of trying to keep mileage low on your car. It's bad enough paying $50 whenever you want to fill up but when your dealer charges $400 for a checkup after only fifteen thousand miles it gives one pause. I'm just glad we are adamantly a one-car family.

In other commuting news I finally got my new Aiptek pencam. I touted the merits of these little wonders last year while doing my bike to work challenge but my old one finally died after a fall. I splurged for the $20 version and here are a few shots from this week's commutes. The one of my foot was accident. My penguin gloves aren't the best for hitting little buttons.

Do you think Reno has smog issues?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wednesday Night Pick Me Up - Macca

Two gems from Sir Paul. I always wondered if XTC every admitted to stealing part of the riff of Junior's Farm for their early hit, Respectable Street.

And below, one of the prettiest melodies I've ever heard but I don't know that it actually counts as a song. More like an experiment in how sweet you can actually make ear candy. It makes me want to pick up a ukulele.