Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pod People: Infiltrating the World of the Cars

In yesterday's post, I complained about how difficult it can be to tell Australia from New Zealand.  Fortunately though, a commenter--this commenter, to be precise:

--was kind enough to provide an image that underscores the fundamental difference between the two countries:

I think I understand it now, though I still can't tell their flags apart.

Also in yesterday's post, I mentioned bicycle theft and "personalizing" your bike to make it more recognizable in the event that it should go on permanent loan.  Well, even more "proactive" than personalization is "uglification," the idea being that if you make your bike unattractive enough that nobody will bother taking it in the first place.  Now, I'm not sure how effective uglification actually is, but if you're considering it here's a video I recently received from a reader that documents the process:

There's a fine line between cunning and idiocy, and this person appears to have passed it about five cans of spraypaint ago.  What is the point of buying a brand-new bike, spending an additional hundred dollars on paints and sundries (not to mention foodstuffs), and then ruining the bike, when you can just go to Craigslist and buy an ugly piece of crap that costs less than your "uglification kit?"  Sure, I suppose there's the knowledge that underneath all that lacquer and chocolate there's a pristine bicycle, but this raises a philosophical question: Is there really a difference between something that looks like it's rusty and something that's actually rusty?  And it's probably not even worth pointing out that his bike is aluminum, which means it wouldn't rust like this in the first place:

In any case, despite putting in all that work he's only succeeded in making the bike more appealing, since to the "doucherati" it now has what they like to call a "patina."  Patina lends precious objects an air of authenticity.  That's why you'll see intentionally tarnished custom bicycles at NAHBS, or full sleeve tattoos with nautical motifs on recent liberal arts college graduates in Brooklyn.

Anyway, that bike looks delicious, and I guess if it gets stolen you can always follow the trail of ants--though I still have yet to see a theft deterrent more effective than this:

Even the most desperate thief wouldn't go anywhere near this bike, and if your religious beliefs preclude your using a prophylactic then I'd imagine a tidy pile of feces on the saddle would work just as well.

Of course, another problem with uglifying your bike is that if you're not thorough enough a single rain shower could be enough to clean the whole thing up.  Then again, as the saying goes, "If it rains take the bus."  Or, if you want to stay dry but you don't want to take the bus because you're afraid you might find an unfurled prophylactic on the seat, you can always take the velomobile, as in this video that was forwarded to me by another reader:

"When I take this out in the morning rush hour, this amazing phenomenon occurs where people think of me as one of them.  I'm a little car!," explains the suppository driver exuberantly.  This exuberance disturbed me, since it implies that the loftiest goal an American can have is to be accepted as an automobile.  Then he goes on to explain, "I'm kind of a car because they don't know I'm pedaling underneath." For years, I've struggled to understand why so many drivers seem to hate cyclists.  Is it our smugness?  Are they jealous of us?  Do they secretly envy our freakish quads?  Finally, I have the answer--it's the simple act of pedaling that so enrages them!  Hide that and you're finally One Of Them.  (This innate aversion to pedaling could also explain why contraptions like the ElliptiGO are so popular.)

Nevertheless, I gradually found myself warming to Captain Suppository, and I especially enjoyed when he went into full "turtle mode:"

(He's just a pair of disembodied sunglasses at this point.)

Scoff if you will, but this is what will come of mandatory helment laws.  First they force you to wear regular ones, then they force you to wear full-face ones, then they force you to ride inside of a gigantic full-body one, and before you know it America's cyclists all look like great big rolling time trial helments:

(In a few years this will be you.)

So is this how the bicycle will finally infiltrate the American suburbs?  I don't know, but I do know that the velomobile does reveal a great deal about human nature as well as our national character.  For example, consider this video, in which a Canadian pessary pilot is pulled over by the police:

The officer's reaction to this unfamiliar contraption that looks like it either comes from outer space or is a leftover prop from Woody Allen's "The Sleeper" takes the following path:

1) Confusion
2) Curiosity
3) Acceptance

Incidentally, I particularly enjoyed the part when the human clam tells the officer ,"They're very common in Europe," because I've been to Europe and they're totally not.  This form of justification is of course called the "European Carryall" defense.  ("It's not a suppository, it's European!")

Anyway, here's how the exact same scenario plays out down here in Canada's suppository:

In this case, the rent-a-cop's reaction is as follows:

1) Confusion
2) Hate
3) Banishment

Note in particular how quickly the real-life Paul Blart goes from having no idea what in the world he's looking at to stating with absolute certainty that it's not allowed.  This encapsulates the typical American reaction to everything from bikes to religion to sexual orientation.  "What the hell is that?  You can't do that!!!"  And I certainly don't exclude myself from this sort of reptilian-brained behavior, because that's exactly the way I feel when I see a Segway.

But what if you don't want a velomobile, yet you pine for some sort of hard shell in which to "portage" your "European" accessories?  Well look no further, because still another reader has alerted me to the "bicycle trunk:"

(I have no idea what it costs, but I'm guessing this is an "If you have to ask..." scenario.)

Here's the idea behind the "bicycle trunk:"

To remember the forgotten and old tradition of trunks, Moynat, the famous trunk and leather goods firm, has created a bicycle trunk, which expresses the meticulous detail that is part of the history of the brand.

Some might argue that the old tradition of trunks was forgotten for a reason, but if you're the sort of person who wears a Victorian anti-masturbation device so you won't get too carried away by photographs of Brooke Astor then this could be the accessory for you--especially if you're an aristocrat whose busy lifestyle requires you to have five-course picnics on the go:

Plates and cutlery are strapped to the top, custom compartments holds two aluminum thermoses and porcelain goblets, and a drawer to keep sandwiches. The front cantilevers into a small table.

Retro-Foppery like this makes the Tweed Ride look like a Gran Fondo.