We are casting for a television documentary series about bicycle messengers. It's for a popular youth oriented cable network (we cannot disclose this information at this time, but PROMISE you know the network).
We are searching for the fastest, smartest, coolest, and funniest bicycle messengers in NYC (but other cities are welcome as well) who are 25 years old or younger. We're looking for ALL types of messengers, but especially those who are deep into messenger culture. This is a paid gig if you're chosen. Hell, it's paid even if you're not chosen — we're giving $25 in cash if you come down and do a 15 minute interview on either Friday, March 13th or Saturday, March 14th in Tompkins Sq. Park.
If you are from outside NYC we will arrange transportation for you.
So, if you are a bike messenger (who is 25 years old or younger and can prove it) and are interested in being involved in this project please send us a picture of yourself and a phone number and we'll schedule a time for you to do a quick and fun interview.
Compensation: $25 for a 15 minute interview. More to come if you are selected for the project.
Courtney is obviously casting a wide net, because there's a Craigslist ad as well. She is certainly not the first television producer to be seduced by the outlaw appeal of the bike messenger, nor will she be the last. And whether or not this production actually comes to fruition and we all get to laugh at the finished product, I'm sure plenty of willing people will show up to audition.
After all, each and every one of us is a celebrity, right? All we need is a camera pointed at us and the rest will follow. Many of us even have our own endorsement deals as well--we love nothing more than to cover ourselves with logos and flaunt our purchases. Sure, our endorsement deals aren't all that great--we don't get paid and we have to pay full retail for the product--but certainly these deals will be restructured in our favor as soon as someone decides to train a camera (or some other form of media attention) on us and the inevitable fame follows.
Of course, if you're a celebrity you need an identity, right? Fortunately, our popular culture is deep and rich, and there are plenty of pre-owned identities and ideas to appropriate. After all, popular culture is a renewable resource. The fun never stops, right? To reassure myself of this comforting fact, I checked in over at Trackasaurus Rex, where I watched a little promotional video for "Feetbelts":
The video immediately makes it clear who the target market is.
It also makes it clear that the people who make Feetbelts are part of the target market.
And, most importantly, it shows the Feetbelts in action.
You may be thinking you've seen Feetbelts before, and of course you have:
But that wasn't the only thing that was familiar about the Feetbelts video. Even the music sounded like something I'd heard before. So I pulled a candlestick off my mantlepiece, which caused the entire fireplace to move aside and reveal the secret cave in my home I like to call the "Pit of Embarrassment." We all have old outfits, writings, photographs, albums and so forth of which we're now duly ashamed yet cannot bring ourselves to throw out, and the "Pit of Embarrassment" is where I keep mine. Anyway, I went to the music section of the Pit and found this:
I was pretty sure the music from the Feetbelts video was almost identical to something on this old CD. So I checked the track list:
I then blew the dust off the jewel case and played the CD. Sure enough, the intro to the song in the Feetbelts video was almost identical to the intro on the very first song on the CD:
By the way, this CD is what in the olden days was called a "sampler." Basically, record labels would make what was essentially a "mix tape" in order to promote their bands. And if you wanted to reach one of the bands, you had to "write" them a "letter":
It all seems so ridiculous now. I mean, some of those countries don't even exist anymore!
Anyway, I wondered if it was a coincidence that Feetbelts was using a recycled song to sell a recycled idea. Granted, Cathedral themselves were just a recycled version of Black Sabbath, but there's a difference between stylistic similarity and lawsuit similarity. And granted, Powergrips themselves are just a simplified take on the toe clip, and Feetbelts probably fulfill a need for fixed-gear riders that Powergrips do not.
I decided to simply take this as yet another sign that pop cultural currency is not only still trading briskly, but is also still completely unregulated. That is, until I headed over to Prolly's site.
When I visit Prolly's site, I expect to see plenty of unregulated pop cultural appropriation. Moreover, I also expect the tone to be upbeat, since Prolly (to his credit) tends to keep things positive rather than traffic in sarcasm and cynicism like I do. I know if Prolly does speak negatively about something he must be really irritated by it. So I was surprised to see what appeared to be yet another run-of-the-mill fixed-gear video called "TRAkTION," followed by these words from Prolly:
You serious? Poseurs? Wrong choice of words. Classic example of the narcissism of small differences... Why be negative in a film project? Especially when you're a new jack yourself. Shame. Have at it kiddies.
Whoa, if Prolly was upset enough by this video to sic his readers on it, the video must be very negative indeed! And "have at it" the "kiddies" did, as there were many angry comments on the post as well. In fact, TRAkTION made people so angry that the filmmaker redacted the video:
For those of you that regularly read the blog you’ll know that Saturday I posted the trailer for my new video, TRAkTION. Never in my wildest dreams would I anticipate the attention the video has gotten since I put it up. In the last 24-hours, I’ve managed to offend the fixed gear community and for that, I’m sorry. My intent was create an investigative video on a culture I’ve witnessed grow over the past few years. I’m new to the scene and should make it very clear that I’m a filmmaker, not a rider, so my approach was to make a video about the exploration of a culture that is unfamiliar to most, including myself. I decided to take the video down from the internet out of respect for Eric and LBFG, it was never my intent to bring bad press to their shop. I’ll be reediting the trailer within the next day or so and I still plan to complete this project. For those who have supported it, thank you. For those who hated it, I can only impact those opinions with the final product.
It's unfortunate that the video's been removed so you can't experience it for yourself, but I did see it before it got yanked so I can summarize it for you:
First, this guy with the mustache talks about how he's been riding a fixed-gear for four years and that he's running a bike shop.
Then, this guy talks about how he's been riding a fixed-gear for seven months.
Then he displays his skillz.
Then this person says he rides a fixed-gear because he loves to ride his bike, and he wishes the "poseurs" would stay away.
There are also clips of people riding their fixed-gears, occasionally with goofy hand positions.
That is all.
The internet is dripping with videos of people on fixed-gears doing tricks. So why did people get so upset over this one, which is really no different from any of the others? Well, the filmmaker made a big mistake. As you can tell from his apology, he thought there was a "fixed gear community," which of course there isn't.
See, there was never a "community." There was just a fixed-gear cultural gold rush. The bikes got popular, and as people discovered them they created identities for themselves. They made videos of themselves. There were tons of cool cultural images from the past just lying around unused--old death metal logos, old punk logos, old cycling product logos, old cyclists. All you had to do was put those logos on t-shirts in various configurations. "Awesome, it's a t-shirt with Eddy Merckx doing a skid on a fixie with an Aerospoke, with the World Champion stripes in the background and my new clothing company's brand name in the same lettering as the Celtic Frost logo!" Sure, go ahead and use an anarchist collective to promote yourself. Go ahead, sell Major Taylor as a flat brim cap. It's perfectly fine. After all, we're creating a "scene."
If you're the filmmaker, you're probably asking, "So what happened? When did this end? Where's my piece of the pie?" Well, conveniently it seems to have ended as soon as you came along. You may have been hearing a lot about how bad the economy is lately. Well, it looks like that's finally affecting the pop cultural economy too. Sure, it was completely unregulated before, and if you wanted to be an arbiter of fixed-gear culture you didn't need anyone's approval. But now there's less money around, and more people selling reappropriated logos and ideas means less return for the people who were there "first." So the fixed-gear "culture" is regulating itself. They're raising the gang plank. There's no more room on the boat. You're too late.
So what you can do the same goofy tricks as these other guys after only half a year? You haven't been riding long enough to make a video. Here's a diagram just in case you don't get it:
Acceptable/UnacceptableA newbie like you probably thinks these two riders are doing the exact same thing. Well, they are. But there's a crucial difference. The rider on the left is in Macaframa, so he's been "grandfathered in." The rider on the right missed the boat.
Yes, I know it's unfair. I know there was a time when people who had only been riding for a short time could form teams and promote streetwear with recycled album art on it. But you don't get that privilege. You only get to buy the products they now design. And you don't get to make movies. You only get to wear the clothing designed by the people who made the movies by which you were inspired.
As for the "fixed gear culture," I'd like to personally welcome you to the high ground. Just breathe in that air! Nice and rarified, isn't it?