Saturday, March 26, 2011

music in our messge

Well, this was supposed to come out on Friday afternoon, and since the three of you reading this are probably fully occupied with work right now anyway, then let's just pretend that the time stamp above this sentence says March 25th.

It's time to get the weekend started; for me that usually means a drink or two in the kitchen, making dinner, dancing children, with some loud music coming from the family room. Which is my wonky way to segue into a little discussion about music. Prompted by my main man Madden (who, while cycling these mean streets, recently put his head through the rear windscreen of a suddenly-stopped sedan and now appears to be recovering nicely--a heartfelt  and speedy recovery to you hombre), I recently read Jay-Z's Decoded. I enjoyed his attempts to elevate the art form of hip hop; he obviously put thought into using his lyrics as meaningful points of departure toward a larger discussion about urban issues. I was impressed by the writing and I hope his book contributes to our expanding definition of English language poetry. Conversely, among the nerdy friendly culturally-sensitive yet reliably opinionated group of folks that I have been discussing books with of late, there was a general, if not universal, reactionary shrug of "meh" toward the writing and revelations in Decoded. That was a bit disappointing, but more or less expected. 

The book did inspire me to put some thought toward what makes hip-hop great, and to think about some of the most influential music from my lifetime.  So here are a few songs that i think represent the best of what hip hop has done for me, all of them from the most influential and skillful hip hop artists in the game: Public Enemy. First up from 1988's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, "Prophets of Rage". The video content is intentionally absent, we're just talking about the music today, so just press play.

I am still amazed by the intricate turntableism of Terminator X; the flawless production of Hank Shocklee, Professor Griff, and the Bomb Squad; the commentary of the the Media Assasin, Harry Allen; the politically charged jabs of Chuck D's lyrics, and the wackiness of the greatest hype man of all time Flavor Flav. Next up is from 1990's Fear of a Black Planet, a song to match our current global political climate: "Revolutionary Generation"

Lastly to wrap up today's little testament to "the Rolling Stones of Hip Hip", also from Nation of Millions, the simultaneously beautiful and chilling "Welcome to the Terrordome"

Clearly there are major differences in the musical landscape between now and the late 1980s; and certainly the process by which music labels clear samples now will never produce a (profitable) song that contains a dozen or more samples like in the so called "Golden Age" of hip hop. I do try to seek out young artists and keep an ear open for emerging forms of music; but there just seems to be very little of the skill, commentary, and content that was so powerful in PE's music making its way to young listeners today.
Rock on, and enjoy the weekend, more about bikes next week.  

Friday, March 18, 2011

spring time y'all

I have some serious spring fever. I've been lucky to get in a few long, and some other shorter, rides on the cyclocross bike over the last two weeks, and this weekend should be another rad one. Today is the first day that actually feels like spring; I am so excited for an actual mountain bike ride with actual dirt and no mud or numbness or freezing rain.

Here is a video that has generated a lot of interest.

Untitled from changoman on Vimeo.

I think it's rad; other folks have differing opinions. I a have tremendous respect for Grant Peterson, but I think comparing urban downhill to boxing is going a bit too far. Either way you take it, the things people are doing on bicycles now, and the bicycling industry that supports it all, are changing the future of the sport of cycling. Bring on the changes! 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bikelanes Blog Bonanza!

Here is a summary of a fresh round of discussion about bike lanes that has taken place online this week. I guess this would be targeted to anyone who is reading this particular blog about bikes and stuff, who does not read any other blogs about bikes and stuff, which, based on the 3 visitors so far, is a very limited target group (no one).

John Cassidy posted Battle of the Bike Lanes on the New Yorker's site.
        Ezra Klein responded with Love Driving? Buy Your Neighbor a Bike, in the Washington 
        R.A. also responded with The World is His Parking Spot, on The Economist site
        Felix Salmon also responded with John Cassidey vs Bipeds, on the Reuters, "A
        Slice of Lime in theSoda",
                 Paul Krugman responded to that with Four Wheels Good, Two Legs Bad, in the
                 Opinion Pages of The New York Times
       And, of course, on his blog the Bike Snob responded with, Generation Gap: An Alleycat
        Down Memory Lane

John Cassidy then tried to save himself, Bike Lanes II: The Condemned Motorist Speaks
       But was shot down again by the Bike Snob and others

I am thrilled that the discussion has been elevated to the national discourse, although, in this case the "national" audience is admittedly still mostly very narrow, mostly white, and mostly affluent. I would love to see graduate-level policy and economics research thrown at this issue. I think that some serious research will help to show how increased bicycle trips can cut energy costs, reduce Co2 emissions, reduce traffic congestion, improve health standards, reduce health care costs, and even help spur economic development.   

And now a video of the Gold Standard, the Holy Grail, the Cat's Meow, and the Bad Asserest example of municipal planning and the promotion of bicycle lanes: Copenhagen, Denmark.  Everyone who has ever written an article or penned a blog post about bicycle transport has linked this, or some similar STREETFILMS video, so I'll get my turn early on in this process.  

Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Here's to another weekend of doing fun stuff outside (in the rain, argh)!

Friday, March 4, 2011

a little bit warmer now

I occasionally get caught in the "more money, more problems" mindset where I think that because I live a fairly simple (cash-strapped) lifestyle, I am not as burdened with stress or anxiety as the folks who have to make decisions about where they will be taking their overseas vacation this year. But in reality, things, for me are pretty damn good. After all, there are a lot of people on the planet who cannot articulate a personal definition for recreation; not because of some barrier of intellect, but because it is not part of their routine, or worldview, to spend money, and time, on some physical activity only because that activity is fun to do. Spring is not quite here yet, but it is warming up, and I am ready to do some things that are seriously fun to do. This past weekend I was able to get out on my bicycle for a few hours on Sunday afternoon, with a couple of good friends.  Thanks guys.  Recreation rules!

workplace bicycle rack
Here is a shot of the indoor bicycle rack in the office-place where I work. I feel lucky to get the chance to ride a bicycle to work everyday; I am also proud that there are several folks in our office who choose to commute by bicycle. But riding to work is not recreation. It's just transporting myself to work in a slightly different way. Anyway, the point is, for everyone who has the financial wherewithal to do some outdoor physical recreation this weekend, give thanks and get after it.