Culling the Culture: Great Balls of Lips

Back in September, I mentioned that the band The Flaming Lips had put out a casting call for naked riders to appear in a music video. Naturally, they sounded this call in Portland, where people sit poised and ready to mobilize the second anybody needs anything ridiculous and cycling-related to be done. As I understand it, it works like this: Let's say, for example, an aging rock band needs to draw attention to itself inexpensively due to both the moribund state of the record industry and its own increasing hoariness. Well, this is easy to do if the band knows four things: 1) Hipsters pay attention to anything having to do with bikes; 2) Nudity always gets attention; 3) People in Portland love to ride bikes; 4) People everywhere will do anything to get attention. So what the rock band then does is notify the cycling authorities in Portland, who in turn sound a giant air raid siren that can be heard for miles on both sides of the Willamette River. Then, everyone reports to a designated area with their bicycles for debriefing. Orders can range from "Ride your bikes around dressed as Michael Jackson," to "Let's help someone move to a new apartment," to "Let's get naked to help The Flaming Lips sell music." (In this case, they were quite literally "de-briefed.") Whatever the cause, these ever-agreeable Portlanders are happy to oblige.

As it happens, a reader informs me that The Flaming Lips have already finished their video, having spent less than two months and virtually no money. (For the cast, humiliation is its own reward.) You can watch it here, but if you find The Flaming Lips's music as tedious as I do then it's my pleasure to summarize it for you instead. First, it opens with a bunch of naked people on bikes:

Then, the singer, Wayne Coyne, appears in a bubble:

Then, we see a Hairy Vagina Ball:

Next, more naked people start to emerge from the Hairy Vagina Ball:

(I suppose The Flaming Lips did have to spend some money on construction of the Hairy Vagina Ball, though even that can be done inexpensively--especially if you send a production assistant out into the cast to collect pubic hair clippings and then apply them to the Vagina Ball with a gluestick. I also regret not having been present to witness the moment when the director raised the bullhorn to his lips and asked the crowd, "OK, who wants to get inside the Hairy Vagina Ball?")

At this point, the "song" begins, though it's mostly just the suggestion of a song, since like the bubble in which Wayne Coyne is housed it never really gets more than a few feet off the ground. Here's what Coyne looks like as he disinterestedly intones the lyrics:

Eventually, the crowd starts passing the bubble around like a giant beach ball:

Finally, they stuff a naked Wayne Coyne into the Hairy Vagina Ball:

Despite my total lack of enthusiasm for The Flaming Lips's music, I have to admit that this is a formidable artistic accomplishment, since they've somehow managed to make even naked people passing into and out of a Hairy Vagina Ball seem hopelessly pedestrian and indeed barely worth watching. I suppose this is because their music is about as exciting as a big bucket of old bongwater, the spilling of which can dampen even the most animated and festive proceedings. I suppose also this is why "Do You Realize??" is now the Official Rock Song of Oklahoma. (Incidentally, I'm currently working on a rock song about burritos which I plan to send to Governor Schwarzenegger for consideration.)

Nonetheless, I can't help but perk up a bit when cycling makes a cameo in popular entertainment, even if that cameo is often awkward and embarrassing. Another reader informs me that the TV show "Castle" recently featured a plot involving a dead bike messenger. I had never seen "Castle" before, having dismissed it as yet another show featuring a main character with a domicile-themed surname à la "House." Actually, I still haven't really seen it, since I only watched the very beginning, in which the messenger dies. If you'd like, you can watch it yourself here, but essentially what happens is that a Nü-Fred stuntman who looks nothing like a bike messenger and who wears his bag on his stomach instead of on his back pulls off as "epic" a piece of bike-salmoning as any I've ever seen:

Then, his Swobo Sanchez plows into a car and he dies, at which point someone comes out of the car and steals his bag:

Who has stolen the bag, and what's in it? Will Castle be able to solve the mystery? Will he team up with House or Shaq or someone else named after a dwelling? Will there be a spin-off called "Hovel?" To find out, you'll either have to watch the show, or else just listen to The Flaming Lips, which will make you forget all about the show since it induces all the apathy of smoking the Wednesday weed but without any of that pesky "insight." ("Entertainment value" is truly a useless by-product.)

Speaking of stuffing things into other things, yet another reader has informed me that in Copenhagen (which is like Portland if it were twice as bike-friendly and four times as dour) they're so advanced when it comes to cycling that they've transcended the problem of regular bike parking and have moved on to cargo bike parking:

Yes, in Copenhagen they're building cargo bike parking while in New York City people will still tell you to "Get on the sidewalk." This is like how, during the Middle Ages, China flourished culturally while Europe was busy inventing new ways to kill people for saying the Earth revolved around the Sun. Frankly, I find reading about bike-friendly cities like Portland and Copenhagen and their ingenious little solutions highly irritating. It's like getting an excited voicemail from your friend who says, "Guess what? I finally figured out where to put all this money!" Yes, people in Copenhagen are so enlightened that, according to the post, only 2% of them are bothered by their own smugness:

Interestingly, only 2% of Copenhagen cyclists find cargo bikes irritating.

Of course, that number might fluctuate if, instead of pink cars, the city started installing Hairy Vagina Balls.

Also according to the post, in Denmark they just don't have cargo bikes; they have cargo bike culture, as you can see in this photo set:

I realize I have a fairly parochial view when it comes to the use of certain words, but nonetheless I maintain that the act of carting crap around in a wagon does not qualify as "culture"--even if you do it while talking on a cellphone and wearing designer clothes. In a sense, the word "culture" is sort of like a human spleen. When healthy, it's useful and important. However, once it becomes diseased, you're better off having it removed, since you can still live without it. The word "culture" became diseased when everyone started attaching it to everything from bicycles to video games. If "culture" were completely eradicated from the English language, we'd miss it, but we'd still be able to function. "European culture" would simply be "European" or "Europe." "Danish cargo bike culture" would simply be "Danish cargo bikes." "Ancient cultures" would just be "ancient peoples." Other organs will take over for the spleen, and other words will take over for "culture." At this point, we're on the cusp of someone actually referring to "culture culture," at which point it will be too late. (Though I suppose this might be somewhat acceptable if you're referring to a primitive rainforest tribe that worships yogurt.)

Meanwhile, as the Danes figure out what to do with their cargo bikes, here in New York City our new bike lanes are being taken from us almost as fast as the DOT can paint them. No sooner did this one appear in Brooklyn than it was appropriated by horseback riders:

This is especially frustrating since there's a perfectly serviceable dirt path right next to the bike lane:

I was tempted to yell "Giddyup!" and thwack it on the rump as I passed, but the only thing that stopped me was that I didn't want to injure the horse. (In retrospect, I now realize I could have done that to the woman in the mustard pants instead.) It could be though that she thinks she's entitled to ride her horse in the bike lane. Maybe she's on her way to Mongolian cyclocross practice.

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