Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winning the Lottery: Fredical Mass

In yesterday's post, I mentioned Prospect Park's Barrels of Shame. Naively, it was my impression that the Department of Transportation was relying entirely on these barrels to solve the problem of speeding cyclists. How wrong I was. In fact, I was riding through Prospect Park last night on my safety bicycle when I discovered that the DOT has now unleashed Phase II of the Barrels of Shame scheme for undoing cyclists, this one being the Giant Free-Standing Sign in the Middle of the Road:

(Giant Free-Standing Sign in the Middle of the Road lurking in the park at night like a lonely man cruising for anonymous sex.)

As you can see, the concept behind the Giant Free-Standing Sign in the Middle of the Road is simple: should a cyclist position himself wrongly in relation to the Barrels of Shame and approach them at an excessive rate of speed, he or she will collide with the Giant Free-Standing Sign in the Middle of the Road. Thus incapacitated, he or she will no longer pose a threat to the good people of Brooklyn--at least until the bones knit.

Keeping cyclists injured and off their bikes is American Urban Planning 101.

Nevertheless, the fun-filled act of bicycle-cycling remains a popular pastime for the people of New York and elsewhere, which is why the TD Bank Five Boro Bike Tour is very possibly the World's Biggest Fred Ride, attracting upwards of 30,000 people to the city each spring, some of whom carry their pets on their top tube:

The ingenious saddle atop which the dog was sitting was upholstered in a comfy-looking carpet-like material that perfectly matched the dog's coat, and I'm not lying when I say the ornery dog snarled like a two-stroke engine and did his very best to chew off the fingers of anybody who dared lean in for a closer look at the proprietary technology.

I've attended the Five Boro Bike Tour a number of times in vaguely-defined help-giving capacity, but I've only actually ridden in it once. I don't recall the exact year, but it was sometime in the 1990s, and Kestrels and mountain bikes that never saw dirt were extremely popular, which meant that everyone was on either one or the other. Upon finishing the ride I vowed never to participate in it again--not because it wasn't a lovely ride, but because tens of thousands of others also felt the same way which made much of it feel like waiting to go through security at JFK. In fact, someone even tried to make me submit to a full body scan at one of the rest stops, though in retrospect the paper badge that said "OFICIAL VOLANTEER" in crayon could have been a sign he wasn't a legitimate part of the tour organization.

In any case, I must not have been the only one to nearly fall victim to the old "OFICIAL VOLANTEER" ploy, because as of this year the World's Largest Fred Ride will be awarding the coveded Pinnies of Fredness on a lottery basis:

This means that, like a cyclocross race, "call-ups" will be all-important if you want to get the BQE holeshot and win this completely non-competitive event:

To avoid a bottleneck like last year’s on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Mr. Podziba said, Bike New York will space out riders across three starting times.

Also, they're swapping Shore Parkway for the Gowanus, which is like when they sneak a 105 bottom bracket into your "full Dura-Ace" bike:

The route is also being changed, with riders taking the Gowanus Expressway instead of the Shore Parkway toward Staten Island.

However, to make up for it, you get a new rest stop (beware "OFICIAL VOLANTEERs" bearing latex) as well as entertainment:

He said Bike New York was adding a rest stop at Brooklyn Bridge Park with restrooms, food, water and entertainment.

No word yet on what that entertainment will be, but I'm hoping for either artistic cyclist extraordinaire Serge Huercio:

Or else those two synchronized swimmers I mentioned yesterday:

Well, they did say "water and entertainment."

Speaking of entertainment, there's a moment in all of our young lives when we seek out unsanctioned, non-parentally-vetted entertainment for the first time. Very often, this entertainment is music. Nowadays, these crazy kids with their Sony Sports Walkmen and their digital food processors can just "down load" music from the "Inter Net," but when I was a child we had to actually go to the store and buy a record bigger than our face.

I remember very clearly the first time I went to a record store all by myself and bought an album of my own choosing with my own money, and this was it was:

I don't even know why I wanted it. Somewhere or somehow I had heard about it, and I had to have it. When I came home, I didn't want anybody to look at it or ask me about it. It was mine. I didn't really know what the pentagram was--an evil Star of David perhaps?--but it was exciting. I also didn't know what a "Mötley Crüe" was, but I figured they must be pretty scary if they had the audacity to shout at the devil, and this was reaffirmed by the band photos on the inside of the album:

Yes, this was actually scary to me at the time, though now they just look like some guys who couldn't decide if they should dress like football players or porn queens and therefore decided to split the difference.

Anyway, I loved my Mötley Crüe album. It was weird and it described sex acts I wouldn't learn about for like ten more years, and every time I played it I felt like I was committing an act of rebellion. Eventually though, something happened: I discovered punk and hardcore music. What had once seemed rebellious was now just embarrassing. These Hollywood assholes were the enemy! Suddenly, I was ashamed of my Mötley Crüe album, and so one day I took it outside and shot it full of holes with a BB gun.

I found myself thinking about this recently in the context of Lance Armstrong after having read that Outside article everyone's talking about:

I tend not to mention Lance Armstrong much, only because doing so tends to ignite tedious helment debate-esque "flame wars," and to elicit crackpot theories like this:

3. Could Dopers Be Forming 'Strategies' Ties With Blogs? : The oldest trick in the book is to manipulate human perception about the truth through mass media propaganda. I laid out a plausible theory here that this sort of clandestine alliance might be happening between Armstrong and his blogging friends, among them which includes Fat Cyclist (Elden Nelson) and BSNYC (____ _____). These two cycling blogs, who command a wealth of American readers, have revealed quite ostentatiously that they are friends of L.A. Their blogs, like Rick Reilly's unpopular ESPN columns, could potentially become a tool to brainwash people. At the other end, a single link from Armstrong on his Twitter account could divert millions of people to read the blogs.

I must have missed the "ostentatious friend announcement," though I'm oddly flattered by the notion that my blog could possibly "manipulate human perception about the truth through mass media propaganda."

You didn't just see that.

Anyway, I started thinking about all of this because at the moment the cycling world's relationship with Lance Armstrong is exactly like mine was with that Mötley Crüe record, and right now everybody wants to make a big show out of shooting him full of holes. Just look at the image "Outside" used, in which they spared his penis, but not by much:

Of course, when I really think about it, the real reason I hated the Mötley Crüe record was because it was evidence that I had once been "uncool," and what better way to prove that I was hardcore than destroying that evidence? Similarly, that's why magazines like Outside are now so desperate to show their disdain for someone who was once their favorite cyclist--it's a contrived attempt by a mainstream publication to cultivate a hardcore image.

However, besides the headline and the penile near-misses, the actual article contains non-bombshells such as this:

During an investigation that played out over several months—involving dozens of interviews and careful examination of Livestrong’s public financial records—I found no evidence that Armstrong has done anything illegal in his role as the face of the organization.

And this:

On the program side, I learned that Livestrong provides an innovative and expanding suite of direct services to help cancer survivors negotiate our Kafkaesque health care system.

And this:

The foundation gave out a total of $20 million in research grants between 1998 and 2005, the year it began phasing out its support of hard science. A note on the foundation’s website informs visitors that, as of 2010, it no longer even accepts research proposals.

This is sort of like shooting at your Mötley Crüe album because you want to impress your hardcore friends but complementing Mick Mars on his outstanding guitar work as you're doing it. I guess I was supposed to be outraged when I read the article, but instead I mostly just thought about Charles Barkley, another retired athlete, and his $10 million gambling losses.

Looking back, I still think my Mötley Crüe album was ridiculous, but I now think my relationship with it was even more ridiculous. First I loved that record, then I hated it. There was never an in between. Now, though, I realize why this was, and for that reason I'm more embarrassed now about having destroyed the record than I am about having owned it.

It's kind of lame to be embarrassed about having liked something, or about still liking something. It's also lame to feel like you have to make a big empty show of how much you don't like it now--especially when you're doing it mostly because everybody else suddenly is. And that's the mainstream media's specialty. They're like the kid who wouldn't talk to you in high school and then reinvents himself in college and wants to show you his new tattoo.

Just relax, mainstream magazines, and roll you pant cuff back down over your tribal ankle tattoo. It's OK that you liked Mötley Crüe.


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