Feeling Oathy: The Importance of Being Artisan

Yesterday evening, I engaged in some deep soul-searching, by which I mean I watched my favorite cable TV programs on my DVR while drinking wine from a box. (And none of that store-bought boxed wine for me, either--I pour the dregs from wine bottles into a shoebox lined with Saran wrap and consume the contents once a month.) One of these shows is "Bored to Death," which does for Brooklyn what "Portlandia" does for Portland (only a bit more deftly and urbanely), and which has been featuring an entertaining subplot about an "artisanal" restaurant. This got me thinking about the whole "artisanal" craze, and why I find it so irritating.

Then, suddenly it hit me: it's because I'm jealous! I mean, why should all these new Nü-Artisans get all the credit? Sure, their beards are a bit fluffier, and their flannels a bit more artfully distressed, and their sun-drenched quasi-industrial workspaces photograph well, but other than that they're not doing anything the rest of us aren't doing. Aren't we all "artisans?" Don't we all fill the world with functional beauty and value in our own way? Don't we all deserve fawning articles and black-and-white Internet mini-documentaries? It's simply not fair.

And that's when I decided it's time to take this faux-nomenon by its exquisitely-wrought hand-crafted "pants yabbies." We are the 99%, and it's time to #OccupyArtisanal and stop letting the utterly pretentious 1% hog all the attention. But in order to do that, we need to beat them at their own game. For example, I've been making the mistake of thinking I'm just a lazy person who writes goofy bike shit all day while sitting around in his underpants, when in reality I'm an authentic Brooklyn Nü-Artisan carefully selecting words by hand which I then sculpt meticalously maticulosly real careful-like into one-of-a-kind velo-sophical vignettes.

Go ahead-try it with your own vocation! I guarantee you'll find it easy to masturbate your job description into something that throbs with pretense. Then, you can join me in taking the "Artisan's Oath:"

--I am the Campbellian hero in my own endless narrative.

--The way I go about my job and the way I dress while doing it is far more important than the finished product.

--Whenever possible, I will engage a fellow artisan to document my process.

It's as simple as that. I strongly believe that if we all adopt this credo we can lift America out of the economic doldrums and restore it to its former greatness. You see, the reason American ingenuity is just a quaint memory is that all those hardworking people simply did their jobs without mythologizing themselves. Instead, they just Got On With It--and that's like totally BO-ring. Sure, eventually they figured out they needed to farm the mythologizing out to advertising agencies so that they could Sell More Stuff, but by then it was too late, and we had to pay the advertising agencies so much to do it that we had to get people in other countries to do our Getting On With It for us. That's why it's vital that we all discover our inner pitchman and bring both manufacturing and bullshit back to America where it belongs.

Now read that all again while you listen to this:

Lob bless us everyone, and remember: Be your own bullshit artist artisan!

Speaking of American ingenuity and artisanship, another term that gets bandied about all too much these days is "YouTube Sensation." However, the Überhood assembly video is one that I feel more than lives up to the moniker. Let's watch it again, because it's worth it:

The Überhood people have a video hit on their hands, and that's because it's rare you come across something that works on so many levels, almost all of which are sexually suggestive. The words "Swing up the shaft of your Überhood until it is vertical" are potent enough alone, but when you pair it with an image like this the results are practically explosive:

(Überhood shaft finding its target.)

I was sad to see that the Überhoods had disabled the comment feature for the video, but while they may silence our voices, they cannot quell our delight.

As for the contraption itself, sadly it has been panned by the Phoenix Sun Times:

Not to be deterred, the company have gone back to the drawing board, and are now set to announce the release of the "Überhood 2.0:"

Just integrate some sort of electronic opening system into that, make another dirty video, and I think they've got themselves a real winner.

Speaking of electronics, yesterday I mentioned Campagnolo's electronic shifting system. Like it or not, I think we all have to agree that electronic shifting is here to stay, and that means it's only a matter of time before people start jumping on "vintage" electronic shifters in order to gain "street cred." That's why you might want to nab yourself an old Mektronic system while they're still affordable:

Don't be daunted by the fact that the group is only "partially working," since Mavic designed them to only work partially straight from the factory. That's not a defect--it's a feature. In fact, "partially working" is sort of the electronic equivalent of friction shifting, and the true e-retrogrouch prides himself on not needing any of that over-simplified "fully working" stuff. And even if it doesn't work at all and you can only use one gear combo, you still come out ahead, because the hot irony setup for this year's Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championship is undoubtedly going to be non-working Mektronic.

As for me, I'll pass on the new stuff and on the Mavic stuff. Even Mavic Zap is too refined for my taste. In fact, few people know that Thomas Edison actually developed the first-ever electric shifting group, and I've been hard at work piecing a full Edison group together on eBay. For example, right now I've got my eyes on this NOS Edison shifter:

The light action of the modern electronic groups may appeal to some people, but I prefer more positive feedback from my shifters. In particular, when I shift I like to hear metallic squeaking, a thunk, and then this.

Once I get my hands on a shifter, I'll then begin the search for an Edison electric derailleur:

As you can see, the Edisons were made from lightweight cast iron (the crabon of its day) and featured detailing that puts any Campagnolo component to shame. Equally lightweight and elegant was the battery pack:

Riders would get up to 17 minutes of ride time on a single charge, and once the batteries were depleted all you had to do was find an old mill and hook your bike up to it:

Three days later you'd be fully charged and ready to ride again--that's assuming you weren't too tired from all the wood chopping you had to do to earn your room and board, or you hadn't run afoul of the mill owner by playing "footsie" with his daughter under the dinner table.

Of course, Edison groups are particularly sensitive to water intrusion, by which I mean one single drop of water is enough to fry the rider to death. Given this, the only concession to modernity I will make on this build is the retrofitting of an Überhood. That should keep everything sufficiently dry.

Moving on from component geekery, I neglected to mention that Tour de France winner Alberto Contador has gotten married, and I wish he and his bride, Macarena Pescador, my belated congratulations. I was sorry that I couldn't attend the wedding, though the pictures reveal that Alberto wore a truly "epic" tie:

Though Macarena opted for decidedly more informal attire and went with a purple scarf and puffy coat:

While "frenemy" and best man Andy Schleck looked ravishing in an elegant white gown:

Needless to say, Alberto and Macarena were married in strict accordance with Jewish law, though the ketubah is only binding pending the results of the post-nuptial doping control.

Lastly, I also mentioned recumbents yesterday, and I'm pleased to announce that renowned saddle maker Brooks is finally acknowledging the recumbist by introducing a recumbent-specific model of its venerable B-17 saddle:

At $2,000 the saddle is surprisingly affordable, though the price balloons significantly when you factor in that recommended 55 gallon steel drum of Proofide.

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