Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Tour in Print

Just finished Bike Tribes and on to the next book.  Blazing Saddles: The Cruel and Unusual History of the Tour de France.  I don't really care what people think of professional cycling with the Armstrong debacle and all dominating the past several months of the news.  The tour still has quite a bit of history that most people in this country don't care to know about because it's French and by definition, any red-blooded football-watching, pickup truck-driving, gun-loving American can't possibly be interested in it.  My passion for the tour didn't kick in until 1985 when American Greg Lemond battled the Frenchman, his teammate Bernard Hinault for the title.  This book is about the aspect of the tour that is not covered by the mainstream media.  Speaking of the tour, the only poster of this epic bike race I keep in the house is the one I have in my bedroom.
Photographer Robert Capa captured the essence of the tour that most Americans will never understand. French cycling fans will stand on the side of the road for hours to just get a glimpse of the race fly by.  A 10 second blur maybe? 30 at most depending on how fast the peloton is going at the time.  This 1959 photograph tells so much about the tour without even showing any image of a cyclist or a bicycle.  Only someone who has watched or participated in bike race in person will fully appreciate Capa's masterpiece.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bike Tribes: A Field Guide to North American Cyclists

One of the funnier books that looks at the sociological side of two-wheeled transit.  Most of us belong to some primary tribe and consider ourselves part of other tribes.  After all, no self-respecting cyclist owns only one type of bike right?  This is easy Reader's Digest-type reading, short, sweet, anecdotal and some cool drawings by Danica Novgorodoff.  I heard writer Mike Magnuson interviewed in a cycling podcast once and was impressed enough to order the book online.  Between Magnuson and BikeSnobNYC, there's this constant stream of writing that reminds me that cycling is not all about serious turning of the cranks and hammering.  It's about how cycling is just another instantiation of how social beings interact.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cloud Atlas (2012)

I'm not sure I got everything that this movie had to say.  For close to 3 hours, I was just busy trying to follow along and not get lost with half a dozen different, yet interconnected, plot lines.  It's one of those movies that seemed like a cross-section of several other movies I had seen before.  Elements of Blade Runner, The Matrix, Contact, Artificial Intelligence all were present in some form or another.  Definitely not a movie to see when you have a lot in you mind (work problems, a sick child, overall anxiety that's hard to pinpoint, etc.) but something I would like to see again a second or maybe even a third time.  So everything is connected and everything that happens in the present is a product of some other event that had happened in the past.  Shades of quantum mechanics?  You bet, except at a macro scale.  From what I was able to process out of the movie, it is an honest attempt to ask some profound questions about the meaning of it all.  Life, that is.  Both kids saw it with me and I'm not I got more than they did out of it either.  For now, I'm just waiting for the DVD so I can re-watch it with subtitles.

Monday, October 22, 2012

When Is This Gonna End?

Today, the UCI, cycling's governing body stripped Lance of his 7 tour victories.  Now, I can sympathize how African Americans vigorously defended OJ Simpson when he was tried and acquitted of murder years ago.  Lance is one of our own -- not American we, but cycling community we.  There was Boyer, Lemond, Hampsten, Phinney before him.  Americans who paved the way for gringos to race as pro bike racers in Europe.  Those who followed the tour knew all along that it is a hard race and there is a reason PEDs are used mostly for recovery.  Pro cycling is dirty and everyone knows it.  I suppose the thing that bothers me is that those who jumped on the Lance bandwagon are getting off just as fast now.  Shit, should have never stopped to pick them up in the first place.  Most of them didn't give a damn when Lemond was betrayed and almost beat by his own French teammate in 1986.  The didn't care about Andy Hampsten riding the Gavia Pass in the Giro.  So like a bleeding cut, there seems to be no end to people getting off the Lance train -- no matter how much money he made them in the past.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Demographic of the 909 Alpha Male

There's had got to be a name sociologists would attach to this particular demographic.  I've lived in the 909 for over three years and tonight I put all the pieces together.  The kids and I ate dinner at the Yard House tonight at Victoria Gardens and I was quietly watching Sunday night football and it all came together.  Three ladies sat at the bar and their male partners/husbands/boyfriends stood about drinking beer.  What I saw in front of me was something I've never seen living in the South Bay, Westside or in Pasadena.  These guys are what I would call representative of the 909 Alpha Male demographic.  I've seen them at the Ralph's parking lot driving their crew cab 8-cylinder trucks.  I've seen the 909 A.M. walking at the mall wearing their Tapout or Metal Mulisha t-shirt.  The 3 men at the bar were all wearing short crew cut haircuts and on average stood about 6 ft tall.  Probably played football for Rancho Cucamonga High School.  Hell, I've seen them at the 24-hr Fitness as well, bench pressing 250 as I ran on the treadmill.  I go to the gym to work on my cardio to supplement my cycling.  They press to get big.  Work in construction? Maybe.  Law enforcement or fire department? Maybe.  Republican?  Definitely.  I'm sure they all head to Lake Havasu as their prime summer vacation spot.  Half of them listen to country and the other half listen to KCAL 96.7 for some Metallica.  100% football fan from the months of September through January and they watch MMA the other 7 months.  The fact that I only see them at the Yard House and at Lucille's BBQ and not at King's Fish House could only mean one thing -- their diet consists mostly meat and burgers and little fish.  And when they procreate with their bleach blonde ladies, the produce baseball-loving little clones of themselves and drive Suburbans when their crew cab trucks cannot fit their 909 families.  Come think of it, I've had close calls with these Suburbans on Banyan while on my bike.  My only fear bigger than getting run over by the 909 A.M. is one or both of my kids joining this interesting demographic.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Need To State This

I'm still torn on this whole Lance Armstrong business.  The whole deal is an attack on my sport -- cycling and the best sporting event in the world, the Tour de France.  It really pisses me off that Nike pulled sponsorship from Lance and they didn't treat Tiger Woods, Kobe, Michael Vick and other disgraced athletes the same.  I'm pissed off because the whole sport of professional cycling is dirty for a very long time now.  Pro cyclists are dying in their sleep in their mid 30s, dying of liver disease and cancer in their 40s and 50s.  I'm pissed off because the USADA does not go after the entire fucking National Football League -- which is full of roid users.  Incidentally, NFL players live an average of 51 years.  I'm pissed because Trek made a ton of money on Lance Armstrong's accomplishments.  I'm pissed because someone wanted Lance Armstrong's head on a platter and they finally got it.  I'm pissed at this country's holier-than-thou attitude.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Takes Up (My) Time

As I noticed the other books I had on the counter, I realized that these four things drive life as I know it today -- science, cycling, art and music.  The key is to not let one thing drive the others out of the picture -- it's all about balance.  Just about the only thing that will preempt any or all of these four is my kids.  But the real trick is getting both kids to appreciate all those that I do -- on their own cognizance, of course.  I don't know if they'll ever get a full understanding of art  nor whether they will take up the sciences but so far, I got them both into music and cycling.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Photographer and the Subject

It started as an attempt to jump start my art for the fall.  After taking most of the summer off from any serious art projects or series, I figured it was time to find new inspiration in art.  Photography seemed like an easy enough medium to see what direction I might want to go.  I've always been interested in the physics of smoke and the art of photography.  The source was simple enough -- some Japanese incense I bought at a tea shop in Claremont.  But the problem of illuminating the smoke against a dark background was a little bit harder but for the most part, solvable with an LED handheld flashlight positioned just below the incense holder.  What was totally unexpected is that smoke is a very unpredictable object as it rises in an updraft that is anything but stable.  It just wouldn't go where I wanted it to go so I was basically in this get-lucky capturing the moment mode.  Just get the finger on the trigger in the hopes of something interesting forms.  The smallest perturbation in the room from me moving my arm affected its shape, movement, dispersion and just about every attribute. With the lack of control, of course, came lack of focus.  I tried a couple lenses just to see what works best a different distances from the subject.  The majority of my shots were way out of focus and the few that came in focus were against the non-interesting features of the smoke.  Needless to say, my yield of decent shots was around the 10% mark -- frustrating since this was a full 2-hr effort.  My final thoughts on this is the concept of detachment -- where a photographer is an external observer of an event or a subject does not apply to photographing smoke.  Much like the concept in modern physics where the scientist cannot measure a physical property without altering that which he is measuring, the theory that there is a separation between photographer and subject is patently false.  The fragility of the subject almost require that I understand it before it will let me capture its image.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Traffic Jams in CicLAvia

Love this event! Downtown Los Angeles on bike.  The kids and I went down to CicLAvia last Sunday and this is the most fun I've had on a bike while not screaming downhill at 50 mph. 100,000 fellow cyclists and I bet there was less internet traffic in LA for the hours between 10am and 3pm.  However, there was a lot, a ton of bike traffic especially through the jewelry district where we got stuck in lights for about 5 minutes.  Didn't mind it at all though as I rode my Eddy Merckx bike with fellow 2-wheeled folks.  Making CicLAvia a monthly event might be a stretch but I'd vote for quarterly -- one for every season.  LA is a different city as the seasons change.  I guess there's also 100,000 people who don't like to sit on their asses all Sunday and just watch football.  My best memory was going down Figueroa through Staples Center to Exposition park. Wide open road and not a damn car on the road!  For a change, I didn't worry about me or my kids getting hit by a motorist.  Great event for the city.