Hands Off: From "Do Me" to "Do It For Me"

Ever since Monday's post, I've been receiving criticism which basically amounts to, "What's so wrong with having a really expensive bicycle and not knowing how to change the inner tube?". The answer to this question is, of course, "Nothing at all." After all, this is America--Canada's star-spangled goatee--and dadgummit, it's our Lobster-given right to buy ourselves expensive toys and suck at playing with them. No, I'm not so much troubled by people who are baffled by their own crotch-candy as I am by what this portends for our culture as a whole.

Over the years, we've become increasingly tolerant of many things, and for the most part this is good. Revealing swimming costumes, nudity on television, borderline pornographic advertisements for underpants--pretty much all the nudity-related stuff is a boon for our society. However, we've also become tolerant of things that are not so good, and these things include obesity, prescription drug use, letting our pets take over the house, paying professional "dog whisperers" lots of money to teach us how to seize control of our houses back from our pets, the music of Billy Joel being played in public places, and just Generally Not Knowing How To Do Stuff. And it's that last item--Generally Not Knowing How To Do Stuff--that is exemplified by the person on the $10,000 bike who cannot fix a flat.

"So what?," you may ask. "This is America--Canada's red, white, and blue udder--and I don't have to know how to do anything I don't feel like doing." This is true. For example, I have no idea how to express a cat's anal glands, I have no intention of learning, and no self-important cat blogger is going to tell me otherwise. Furthermore, the guy I encountered on the road seemed to be having a lovely day despite his inability to fix his flat, whereas I, a person who can fix a flat with relative ease, was the person who was vexed. Is this because the clueless allow their problems to become the problems of others, or is it simply that I was the one with the problem to begin with, in that I'm too judgmental? Maybe neither, or maybe both. Plus, it's not like he made me express his cat's anal glands for him. But I still maintain that our laissez-faire attitude towards being laissez-faire has far-reaching implications.

For example, recently I was reading an article The New Yorker (in the bathroom of course, and I'm pleased to say I can now go to the bathroom all by myself) about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. Zuckerberg and Facebook are now the subject of a feature film called "The Social Network," which was written by Aaron Sorkin. As it happens, Sorkin knew next to nothing about Zuckerberg or Facebook when embarking on the project, and here's what he had to say in the article:

Sorkin said that creating Zuckerberg's character was a challenge. He added that the college students were "the youngest people I've ever written about." Sorkin, who is forty-nine, says that he knew very little about social networking, and he professes extreme dislike of the blogosphere and social media. "I've heard of Facebook, in the same way I've heard of a carburetor," he told me. "But if I opened the hood of my car I wouldn't know how to find it."

First of all, unless Sorkin drives a '75 Dodge Dart his car almost certainly does not have a carburetor; it has a fuel injector. Still, I can forgive Sorkin for not knowing this, since his movie is not about cars; it's about Facebook. However, apparently Sorkin didn't know anything about that either, nor did he know anything about Zuckerberg--and what little he did know, he didn't like. "Creating Zuckerberg's character was a challenge," he explains. Of course, this would probably have been less of a challenge if he knew anything about his subject. Shouldn't you have to know a little about something before you write a movie about it? I'm not sure how fair it is to take somebody who never sought to be a public figure to begin with, basically pull their character out of your ass, place it on a pedestal of ignorance, and cement it into the popular consciousness. It short-changes the audience, the subject, and indeed everybody--except Sorkin, whose scripting fees will doubtless keep him in luxury vehicles of whose mechanical workings he can afford to be blissfully unaware.

Of course, maybe none of this matters, and it's possible the movie will be good anyway. After all, Shakespeare was probably not an expert on Danish politics, but he was a good writer, and so "Hamlet" turned out OK. This may be the case here too, and maybe when it comes to popular entertainment just knowing how to write is enough. At the same time, though, when power and cluelessness combine the results can be lame or disastrous, depending on who and what is involved. This certainly happens quite often here in America--or, if you prefer, Mexico's faux-hawk--where if you're successful enough people will let you do pretty much anything. There's simply a point at which we all end up paying for the whims of the clueless, whether it's in the form of stupid laws, crappy movies, idiotic products, or just dumb articles about the "bike culture" by people who haven't ridden since elementary school.

Of course, this isn't always the case. Consider hip-hop impresario Kanye West, who, as a reader informs me, makes "awesome decisions in bike stores!!!"

Unfortunately, Twitter's 140-character limit precludes West from sharing exactly what his latest awesome decision was, and so we have no way of knowing if it was about bikes, or if it was just an awesome decision about something else that he happened to make while browsing a bike store. For example, he could have decided to buy a brake for one of his fixed-gears, which would be awesome, or he could have decided to invent a pair of glasses that can reheat food just by looking at it, which would also be awesome. Either way, everybody wins--unless you're in the microwave business.

Actually, I suspect that West may have purchased a Rivendell or similar fop chariot, since gratuitous lugs and the canvas-and-buckles trappings of retro-grouchery would better complement his personal aesthetic. This might or might not be awesome, depending on your feelings about stem height. But what would not be awesome would be deciding to buy this "bike shelf," which a number of readers have forwarded to me:

It can hold your "fixie" and your pretentious library of eight books:

If I were to visit somebody's house and they had made something like this themselves, I'd probably think, "Huh, that's clever." However, we live in the era of Generally Not Knowing How To Do Stuff, which is why this summer day camp woodworking project sells for $300 in "Walnut" and $275 in "Ash." Of course, no overpriced shelf is complete without a backstory, and here it is:

After visiting friends in both New York and San Francisco, furniture maker Chris Brigham realized that there was very little effort going towards proper bike management and maintenance coast to coast.

Apparently, just because Chris Brigham's friends in New York and San Francisco don't practice "proper bike management" (whatever that is), he has concluded that, as a nation, we are woefully bereft of bike storage methods--this despite the fact that the Performance catalog alone features a bewildering array of hooks, hangers, and poles that will allow you to hang a bicycle at pretty much every conceivable angle and from every conceivable surface, whether it's your living room wall or the trunk of your minivan. (Minivans are also known as "charity ride team cars.") Or, for the "minimalist," you can even walk into the Container Store and buy a bike hook for less than that stupid MASH pencil case.

Still, in terms of functionality for your dollar, this is still a better deal than that $275 pretentious hitchin' post from way back in 2008:
In the world of pretentious bike management, that was definitely the "OG."

But the era of Generally Not Knowing How To Do Stuff isn't all bad, since it also saves you from the effort of thinking for yourself. For example, I don't even have to know how to feed myself anymore. Instead, I can visit VeloNews, where they'll tell me exactly what I should be eating, right down to the very morsel:

165-lb. male cyclocross racer

Meal Plan for 90 minutes of high-intensity training
Late afternoon training

Daily: 3,300 calories: 520 g carbohydrate, 130 g protein, 77 g fat

Oatmeal, cooked, 1 cup
Wheat germ, 3 Tbsp.
Orange juice, 8 ounces
Raisins, 2 Tbsp.
Banana, 1 small
Yogurt, plain, 8 ounces

Apple, 1 medium
Almonds, 24

Turkey, 4 ounces
Low fat cheese, 1 ounce
Whole grain bread, 2 slices
Pasta salad, 1 cup
Vegetable salad, 1 cup

Pre-ride snack
Yogurt, 8 ounces
Granola, ½ cup (one-half)
Peach, 1 medium

Immediately before ride
Gel, 1 packet

During ride
Sports drink: 32 ounces per hour
3 Carbohydrate blocks at 45 minutes

Recovery snack
Energy bar, 1medium sized
Sports drink, 20 ounces

Salmon, 6 ounces
Wild rice, 1.5 cups
Steamed asparagus, 1 cup
Olive oil, 1 tbsp.
Berries, 1 cup

A 140-lb cyclocross racer could reduce this menu to 2,700 calories by:

reducing the breakfast juice from 8 ounces to 4 ounces
eliminating the pasta salad at lunch
reducing the granola at the afternoon snack from one-half to one- fourth of a cup
Reducing the salmon dinner portion from 6 ounces to 4 ounces
Reducing the wild rice portion from 1.5 cups to two-thirds of a cup
Consuming 24 ounces of a sports drink per hour.

This menus is intended as a general outline. Calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and fat requirements are individual to each cyclocross racer based on their current body weight and that day’s training.

I will admit though that I was puzzled by the "snack" section, which raises more questions than it answers. In particular, it calls for a "medium apple." But what if I can't find a medium apple? And just what is a medium apple anyway? What if I buy an apple that's too large or too small because my sense of apple perspective is skewed? Also, what kind of apple are we talking about? McIntosh? Granny Smith??? Crab?!? And what if I don't want to race cyclocross? What if I want to ride up the Stelvio on a "fixie" and skip-stop my way down it? What kind of apple should I be snacking on then?

I guess I'll just go back to eating Ho Hos and sobbing.

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