The Winter of our Discontent: All You Haters Occupy My Malls

When Steve Jobs died, one quote was repeated and re-"Tweeted" incessantly, especially among bikey people. I'm sure you know the one I mean:

("Are mind," huh? At least one YouTube user could use a bigger bicycle.)

While most of us can appreciate the sentiment, I cringed every time I came across it. First of all, the bicycle he was talking about was a recumbent:

(Recumbents: Eeew.)

Secondly, it's highly ironic--and not in the entertaining way, but in the depressing way. I'm sure Steve Jobs didn't mean it that way, but think about it: Americans hate bicycles, but we love computers. Also, consider the iPhone. (Which is essentially a computer, despite the name.) I suppose in an idealistic sense it's a bicycle for our minds, but in practice for most of us it's more of a big electronic clitoris that we're constantly fingering in order to experience instant and fleeting gratification.

None of this is to diminish Steve Jobs's boundless vision, or the computer's profound and transformative effect on humanity. It's just that when it comes to any incredible tool--like the bicycle, or the computer--there are two ways to use it:

The Transformative Way, in which we use the tool to transcend ourselves;


The American Way, in which we buy the tool on credit and then use it as a great big erogenous zone until the new version comes out and it's time to "upgrade."

You can use your computer to start a revolution, or you can use it to look at porn. You can use your bicycle to transport yourself efficiently, or you can customize it and admire it underneath you while you do trackstands and go nowhere. The idealistic view of all this technology is that it has brought us all together, and the cynical one is that it has simply enabled us all to spend all day blowing ourselves. We are a nation of visionaries, but we are also a nation of insatiable auto-fellators, and I suppose it's this contradiction that defines our national character.

I also couldn't help feeling cynical recently when I received an email from some PR company announcing that they had been "working on a number of health related initiatives promoting health and wellness for the citizens of NYC," which I take to mean the Department of Public Health has hired them to make a bunch of PSAs. The PSAs are designed to get people to stop drinking swill and becoming obese, and they contain scare tactics like this:

We've reached a frightening phase in our evolution when we're being threatened with the prospect of walking. If we had any sense, we'd take this as an advertisement for Pepsi and not an anti-soda PSA, since enjoying a nice cool soft drink and taking a leisurely stroll across town sounds like a great way to spend a couple of hours. "Great, now I have an excuse to walk!" But that's not the way it is, and I guess this PR company knows that people are actually more frightened of walking than they are of the prospect of losing their feet to diabetes. I guess it's just evolution, since in a few hundred years we're not going to need feet anyway.

But can we blame people for being frightened of walking? "Back in the day" you might be afraid to walk from Central Park to Yankee Stadium because you'd get mugged. Now, you're almost certain to get run down by a motor vehicle, after which the NYPD won't even have the decency to return your family's phone calls. This is because we live in a place where "I didn't see you" is actually a valid excuse for killing somebody. Even in New York, you're not considered "visible" unless you're in a car, and if you're not "visible" you are fair game. So if you want protection from the law, at the bare minimum you'd better visit the Kia dealership, because you literally need to have a "lease on life."

This, then, is why American-style cycling has its own unique character, which is embodied perfectly in this photo taken by a reader in Seattle:

Indeed, I'd say that there are three images that define us as a people. "Washington Crossing the Delaware" embodies our patriotism and bravery:

"American Gothic" captures our steely resolve:

And "Captain America Peeing" expresses the manner in which toys with wheels drive us absolutely insane:

Speaking of insanity, as I've pointed out many times, people are insane for anything "artisanal," and a number of readers have informed me that even distinctly non-artisanal "newspaper" USA Today (the "Captain America Peeing" of newspapers) is onto the phenomenon:

I'd almost be tempted to compliment USA Today on its astute cultural criticism, if only they hadn't published this article just a couple months prior:

Though I suppose the ice cream is legitimately "artisan" since it comes from Portland, whereas the Domino's pizza is emphatically not.

Anyway, with "artisan" atop an increasingly lofty pile of words that have completely lost all meaning, along with others like "curate," "minimalist," and "dignity," at least one commenter believes "occupy" is now on its way to a similar fate:

Anonymous said...

It seems like now we just put the word "occupy" in front of whatever we're upset about. For instance in the image preceded by this comment: "And as for the competitors being able to fix a flat, while I did see this, I also saw no evidence that he completed the job successfully:" This is a great example of "OccupyFlatTire". There is little evidence of a plan for "change" (though his his wheel is off), but more importantly, it doesn't look like he'll be going anywhere soon.

October 27, 2011 12:04 AM

So is this true? Is "occupy" the new "nonplussed?" Have we officially branded and marketed our discontentment? Or is it simply shorthand for the unique brand of petulance we exhibit when our auto-fellating consumerist ways catch up with us? I don't know, but according to the New York Post (the periodical that consigned the word "newspaper" to the pile of meaningless words), in true 21st century fashion, Occupy Wall Street's "artisanal" cuisine has become so popular that there's now basically an "Occupy Occupy Wall Street" consisting of freeloaders:"

Ultimately though, this article really only proves one thing, which is that a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch will print anything that implies the protesters are hypocrites.

But can you blame us for being consumers and auto-fellators and freeloaders and soda-guzzlers? Modern life is confusing, and sometimes you just need a little retail therapy. And when it comes to cycling, sweet, sweet crabon is the sodee pop of bicycles. But what if you can't afford it? Well, just buy a bike with some moderate damage, like this one which was forwarded to me by a reader:

Scott Speedster 54 CM Carbon Fiber Road Bike - $200 (Medford,NJ)
Date: 2011-10-26, 3:55PM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

I have a Scott Speedster 54 cm Road Bike that is a carbon fiber Frame and Fork. It has a waterbottle holder on it and the fork is still connected with the bearings and headset. Also comes with the front rim that is a alex rims race 28 pro with a scott hub. The bike was given to me and was ran over by my friends neighbor and has damage in 3 spots. But I know carbon fibre is repairable and this would be a good canidate. Asking $200. If interested please email me or text me at 856 524

Oh yeah, $200 is a bargain for that. Those scratches will buff right out.

It's a bicycle for the modern mind.
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