Senseless Sensibility: Keep Your Reason To Yourself

While unremarkable by world standards, New York City is an anomaly in the United States of America (otherwise known as Canada's stick-on air vent). For example, it's still possible (though increasingly difficult) to eat food in a non-chain restaurant here. Also, New York is incredibly diverse, with over 400 different variations of caucasian "hipster" calling it home (or at least temporarily calling it home until they downgrade to modular Ikea cities like Austin and Portland.) Most impressively, New York is the only city in America that hasn't yet outsourced its fire, police, and sanitation departments to call centers in India.

At the same time, New York is still very much an American city. Consider the way people here react to Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who's installed a bunch of pedestrian malls and bike lanes during her tenure so fewer people get run over and killed by giant SUVs with stick-on air vents. Elsewhere on the planet Earth, a transportation commissioner who wants to prevent people from getting run over and killed by other people's luxury consumer goods would merely be doing their job. However, in America, a person who actually places people over cars (or who even suggests that maybe people are almost as important as cars) is considered a crazy shrewish bike lady in the throes of menstruation-induced hysteria.

Sure, thanks to the movies of people like Woody Allen, people think New York is a great walking city where the local inhabitants perambulate while discussing Wittgenstein and impotence. This is not true. Like the people in the rest of America, New Yorkers are actually terrorized by cars. This past weekend, someone in Brooklyn drove a BMW into a supermarket, and then people looted the supermarket. A couple weeks back, someone else drove a minivan into my neighborhood playground. Absolutely none of this is in any way unusual here.

For this reasons above, New Yorkers should be thanking Janette Sadik-Khan for "retrofitting" some sanity into the way the streets are designed. Instead, they consider her a witch and are trying to cast the demons out of her womb.

I mention all of this for two reasons: 1) I've been talking about Portland for like two days now, and it's about time I turned my attention back to an actual city; and, 2) "newsmagazine" show "Rock Center" recently aired a profile of Sadik-Khan herself:

(Follow this link to watch, because if there's a way to embed the video I'm too lazy to find it.)

In introducing the piece, host Brian Williams called Sadik-Khan "a very powerful woman with an exotic name," which seemed a bit odd to me since that name isn't even remotely exotic by New York standards. If anything, you'd be hard-pressed to find two people named "Brian Williams" here. One of my next-door neighbors is named "அனைத்து நீ வெறுப்பாளர்களின் என் பந்துகளில் சக்," and the other spells her name in a single hieroglyph. If someone calling himself "Brian Williams" were to come to my door, I'd just assume it was an alias and that he had some nefarious purpose, like robbing G5's apartment.

Sadik-Khan is certainly is powerful though--more powerful than Barack Obama. (That's the person who plays our President on TV.) See, all Obama can do is make speeches and maybe veto stuff. Janette Sadik-Khan lives in a secret fortress where she can control every traffic signal in all of New York City:

("Hey Brian, I've told you my name a thousand times already, why do you keep mispronouncing it?!?")

Having that kind of power makes having your finger on "the button" about as impressive as being in control of the iPod at a coffee house in the Mission District. I would give anything to have the run of that room for a day, since it's surely the closest I'd ever feel to being God. (Or, in my faith, the Almighty Lobster on High.) From my ergonomic swivel throne I would mete out swift and arbitrary justice in Biblical fashion. I would punish the city with hours upon hours of red lights. Just for fun, I'd raise and lower the drawbridge over the Gowanus. I'd spell out obscene messages on those electronic highway signs. Sadik-Khan has been called powermad, but the fact that all she's really doing with all that power is painting some streets green and putting out some lawn furniture in Times Square is actually a testament to her tremendous restraint.

Anyway, it's a pretty good segment, but like any newsmagazine show the best part is the "b-roll." For example, check out this voluminous example of "cycle chic:"

Earlier I mentioned Woody Allen, and I'm fairly certain that's the flying suit from "The Sleeper:"

Also, here's a woman protesting the Prospect Park West bike lane:

Amazingly, she is not wearing the flying suit from "The Sleeper," and indeed that is her actual body. And when she's not protesting, she simply sits in her crow's nest of entitlement where she films the bike lane and counts cyclists as her body quietly expands:

("When I'm not filming, I drink Dr. Pepper out of it.")

Ironically, she also happens to be a psychology professor, which presumably provides her with ample free time to pursue her true passion, which is being insane.

Of course, there are few things more dangerous than an idle rich person with some crazy ideas, and whether you think this applies to billionaire Michael Bloomberg and his zany madcap "bike lanes," or to the psychologist who doesn't want you riding your bike past her luxury apartment for reasons unknown, it's no secret that America is increasingly rife with class hostility. This is what's driving the whole #Occupy movement, and it just so happens I recently received a "press release" informing me of the following:


This frightened me. As it is, simply being on a bicycle near an #Occupy protest is dangerous enough, since in America the police tend to assume anybody on a bicycle must be protesting something. So now that the 99% is harnessing the protest power of the hunger strike, and is endeavoring to become the 1% at least in terms of body fat, what happens if the police start cracking down on alleged hunger strikers too? Will they arrest anybody not eating within 50 feet of a drum circle? Certainly failing to eat constantly is unusual behavior in America--almost as strange as riding a bike--so I for one plan to walk around with a bag of McDonald's in one hand and a "venti" Starbucks cup in the other just to be sure police don't get the wrong idea.

In any case, speaking of cycling in the media, published the following article recently:

The article itself was pretty sensible, but apparently realized they were about to publish a bike-friendly article and so they tacked on that stupid headline before going to "press."

It goes without saying that we all need to be responsible cyclists who respect fellow road users and so forth, but the headline's implication--that the future of practical cycling relies entirely on cyclists' behavior--is idiotic. This is like publishing an article about how more people are starting to eat healthily because of the obesity epidemic and then putting this headline on it:

Are healthy eaters just elite snobs?
As healthy eating rises, the healthy are despised. If healthy eaters want others to eat healthy, they need better table manners.

So whether you're riding a bike or eating some steamed vegetables, you better keep your head down and be quiet about it, because here in America it's a cardinal sin to offend the majority with your sensible behavior.

Speaking of smugness, there are few things smugger than bamboo bicycles, and I recently came across a bamboo bicycle-themed Kickstarter campaign:

It's rare that I'd actually implore people to give money to a Kickstarter project, but in this case I am urging you to give to this one as generously as possible. This is not because I think the world needs more crude and misshapen panda bait that looks like it was made by Gilligan. Rather, it's because this person is making them in his own bedroom, and if he doesn't get a new workspace--and soon--he's going to suffer long-term health effects from all those epoxy fumes.

(Philip Silver Ankney, a.k.a. "Bamboo Phil," moments before falling over.)

So please, give generously and help save a well-meaning but increasingly woozy bamboosmith.

And if you do end up owning one of Bamboo Phil's creations, be sure to accessorize with this fake Catlike helmet, forwarded to me by the ever-vigilant Joachim:

(Be the fake World Champion of Bamboo.)

It's Catlike-like.

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