Ax(e) Me No Questions and I'll Tell You No Lies: Earnest Goes to Camp

(Ernest was a personality who went to various places in the 1980s.)

Like a reveler who, after a night of drinking, longs for nothing more than healthy food and wholesome company, I occasionally find myself craving earnestness. Whether it's the latest mainstream media attack on cycling, the cloying smugness of the "advocacy" set, the masturbatory self-admiration of "urban cyclists" and the "cycle chic," or just another useless product "drop," it can sometimes seem as though nobody is simply riding a bike without some sort of secondary agenda. It was this craving that compelled me to watch the following video from Streetfilms:

Women In Motion: New Lady Riders Reflect on NYC Cycling from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

Of course I realize that, if you're hoping to avoid smugness, watching Streetfilms is about as wise as visiting a porno site if you're hoping to avoid genitals. However, this particular video was refreshingly guileless, and it was a relief to get to the finish of a cycling-themed video without being subject to some "epic" narrative about the transcendence of riding track bicycles from Manitoba to Tierra del Fuego with nothing but some sleeve tattoos and your parents' credit card, or black-and-white images of expensively-clothed riders on handmade road bikes suffering sensually, exquisitely, and self-indulgently, or some people riding around the city on rusty three-speeds while dressed as seahorses to protest the non-closure of their community garden, reclaimed urban sheep farm, or artisanal cheese-making cooperative. No, this video was simply about the fact that more women are riding bikes now. It was about as controversial, titillating, and pretentious as something during which you'd fall asleep in middle school, and I was thankful for it.

However, it's worth noting that, even in a benign video like this, New York City inadvertently displays its exuberant boneheadedness. For example, in roughly two seconds of incidental protected bike lane footage you'll note that almost the entire width of the protected bike lane is taken up by a couple pushing a stroller:

I'm not sure why they're in the bike lane instead of on the sidewalk where Junior is less likely to get coldcocked by an NPR donor on the way home from the food co-op with a basketful of overpriced vegetables, but I'm guessing it's because, like many people, they are under the mistaken impression that the bike lane is a safe haven for all operators of contraptions with wheels, be they skateboarders, Rollerbladers, stroller-pushers, two-legged dachshunds in doggie wheelchairs, or trained parrots driving remote control dune buggies. Or, I suppose she might be using one of those Taga rideable strollers I mentioned yesterday, which is the child-portaging equivalent of a riding lawnmower and, in the politics of bike lane ethics, admittedly a gray area.

Also not especially boneheaded but still noteworthy in the context of my mention of "preening bag whores" yesterday was this rider who appeared a second later:

Even though he seems to be wearing some sort of messenger bag already he's also carrying a giant colorful shopping bag, and I can only assume he's returning from a spree at that new Chrome store in SoHo and that the bag is full of yet more bags.

Anyway, after that things settled down for a bit--that is until the next bit of incidental protected bike lane footage, in which a rider in the red jersey of the Vuelta a EspaƱa race leader came tearing into the shot, almost taking out a pedestrian:

I knew I'd seen something similar in a different Streetsfilm, and I began to contemplate the possibility that the "Red Flash" was some sort of serial smug movie "photobomber." So I rummaged around in my archives (which sounds a bit like a euphemism for playing "pocket pool," which is itself a euphemism) and found that Streetsfilm. It turns out that not only is it the same rider, but it's also the exact same bike lane footage:

This impressed me, for Streetfilms is so ecologically-minded that they even recycle their digital footage.

In any case, clearly New York is becoming a gentler city, and we've both sacrificed and gained in the process. Sure, trading CBGBs for a John Varvatos store was a loss, but a city in which a someone feels comfortable enough to start riding a bike is arguably a benefit. Plus, there are plenty of other rough neighborhoods left in which to open new scummy clubs that will eventually destroy those neighborhoods through gentrification, and so the cycle of urban life continues. No doubt one day the pigeons of New York City will alight and defecate on a statue of David Byrne, gentrification's patron saint--unless things are so sanitary by then that event the pigeons are gone.

Speaking of sanitizing things that were once utilitarian and gritty, you may remember the Best Made Company, whose founder, Peter Buchanan-Smith, paints the handles of $50 Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Camping Axes and then sells them to complete idiots for $200 (not including the "axe sling," which costs these idiots an additional $195). Well, if you've got a cord of firewood in your Williamsburg condo that is badly in need of splitting (or, more likely, a cord of decorative wood that would look even better with a decorative ax(e) next to it) and have been debating whether or not to buy one of these bedazzled axes, perhaps this video will help you make up your mind:

CHOP (preview) from Peter Buchanan-Smith on Vimeo.

This is a preview for "CHOP: a series of short films celebrating the collision between a Best Made axe and wood," which will "drop" this fall--presumably right in time for fireplace and flannel season. Even though I haven't seen the actual series, this preview is nevertheless more than enough to convince me of two things: 1) A $50 axe can indeed chop wood; and 2) Buying a Best Made ax(e) is the grown-up equivalent of playing with Matchbox cars and making "vroom-vroom" noises. In fact, being enchanted and mystified by the completely ordinary is the hallmark of the Best Made Company "customer" (or, more accurately, "mark"). Consider this excerpt from an interview with a presumably satisfied ax(e) owner:

(It's like "The Shining," only he's pretentious instead of psychotic.)

- what skill, trade, craft, or hobby would you like to learn most and why?

I keep trying to think of something better than a pitmaster, but I can’t. As I’ve gotten older, cooking’s become more important to me, but my kitchen instincts, while competent, are hardly anything to write home about. Mastering a craft like BBQ would satisfy my desire to get wise in at least one dedicated area of culinary prep and execution. Moreover, in order to do it properly, time and concentration are required and I’m interested in having at least one task throughout my month which requires focus on a singular project over an extended block of time. Not only that, but BBQ has the power to bring friends and family together so it has the added draw of pooling good company. Lastly, (and I can’t imagine I’m telling anyone the news here), but BBQ is absolutely delicious, so there’s that also. Dear Lord, please make me a BBQ pitmaster.

What the hell is it with these people and their inability to barbecue? How is inviting some people over for hamburgers a daunting and formidable task which "requires focus...over an extended block of time"? Consider also Buchanan-Smith's own "axe epiphany:"

Then came the ax epiphany. When Graeme Cameron, a Canadian environmental entrepreneur and Mr. Buchanan-Smith’s best friend from summer camp, came to visit that January, the two embarked on a gastronomic adventure to prepare Mr. Cameron’s birthday dinner — a whole day spent gathering ingredients in Manhattan, like $200 worth of wagyu. But when they realized they wanted to cook that pricey steak on an open grill, they were stymied.

I find it simultaneously comical and horrifying that Best Made Company bedazzled ax(e) owner Matt Dorfman of Brooklyn, NY, "environmental entrepreneur" Graeme Cameron of Canada, and glorified fingerpainter Mr. Buchanan-Smith cannot among them muster the wherewithal to simply ignite some charcoal and cook some meat on top of it. It must be incredibly crippling to be "stymied" by your own pretense to this extent, and hopefully liberal arts institutions like Sara Lawrence and Oberlin address the problem by offering degrees in Modern Grilling. In the meantime, hopefully Dorman, Cameron, and Buchanan-Smith never find themselves getting shipwrecked, for I'm sure they'd die of starvation while they argued over the best way to prepare the last of the canned rations.

Of course, as cyclists we can all gloat, since no cyclist would ever overpay for something cheap just because of its "colorway:"

Actually, it looks kind of like a Best Made ax(e):

It's a short ride from minimalist to insidious.

You can, however, still get lost along the way and wind up in the Land of Absurdity. Consider this "electric fixie" which was forwarded to me by a reader:
If Electric Fixie were a band instead of an actual bicycle, I could certainly see them performing at Dorfman, Cameron, and Buchanan-Smith's pretentious barbecue.

automotive ,automotive news ,automotive magazine,automotive industry outlook 2012,automotif,automotive magazine automotive ,automotive news ,automotive magazine,automotive industry outlook 2012,automotif,automotive magazine