Instant Identity: Just Add Money

Further to yesterday's post, a reader left the following comment:

Anonymous said...

Mandatory helmet laws weed out the people who don't LOVE riding their bikes. Fight it, but ride not matter what!

June 27, 2012 8:56 PM

This is exactly the problem.  I don't want to "weed out the people who don't LOVE riding their bikes." People who love riding bikes are obsessive-compulsive freaks, and I say this as one of those people.  For the most part, America is a crappy place to ride a bike, which is why the people who actually ride bikes anyway are such weirdos.  I don't want to be surrounded by other weirdos like me.  American cycling badly need an infusion of people who aren't especially excited about riding bikes but do it anyway.  This is the only way we can water down our extreme dorkitude.  Otherwise, cycling in America is going to continue to look like this:

Before you complain that this image is not safe for work, please explain to your boss and colleagues that I am using it in a sociological and anthropological context, and therefore it is no more offensive than anything you're likely come across in "National Geographic" while waiting for your dental appointment.  It's also a valid cultural exploration, since the guy on the right is no doubt an authentic Rastafarian, albeit by way of Lake Forest.  And now, thanks to the miracle of Kickstarter, you can sponsor this image and others like it by giving money to "Positive Bodies: A World Naked Bike Ride Supporters Art Show:"

This project is very important, and here's why:

Unbending in the face of pressure and criticism for not posting these images on the web, he has been waiting for the right moment to exhibit these striking images as prints that can truly honor the courage of the participants.  After three years nearly 400 WNBR-C tastemakers have collaborated in this comprehensive collection in support of positive body image and freedom of expression.

Or, if you prefer, it's perhaps the most powerful argument against mandatory helment laws that it's possible to make, because as long as we keep cycling marginalized and freakish then people like this will be compelled to keep shoving their unkempt genitalia and unfortunate body art in everybody's faces.

Speaking of Kickstarter, "social panhandling" is rapidly becoming a potent force of social change.  See, you can ascribe as much metaphysical or spiritual significance to human existence as you want, but the simple fact is that life is mostly about exchanging stuff.  We all need stuff--food, water, shelter, boutique deodorizers formulated specifically for caucasian dreadlocks--and societies evolve around the sharing of this stuff.  This is because you can't just go around kicking people in the nuts and taking what you want.  There needs to be rules for who gets what and how.  Until recently, here's how "stuff exchange" traditionally worked in our society:

--You need stuff;
--You go to someone else who already has stuff and ask them if you can help them manage all that stuff in exchange for some stuff of your own (this is called "getting a job");
--You do your job, and in your free time you enjoy your stuff;
--As you accumulate both stuff and experience, you eventually strike some sort of happy balance between stuff management and life enjoyment, and this unique balance determines who you are;
--You die.

Now, though, all of this is hopelessly outdated, since thanks to Kickstarter all you need to do is just come up with an idea and then ask people for money:

The real genius of Kickstarter is two-fold, in that it:

1) Inverts the concept of "supply and demand."  It used to be that people had demands, and so they paid other people who were able to help them fulfill those demands.  Now, the way it works is you simply demand money from other people, and then you supply them with something they didn't even want in the first place;

2) It cuts out that pesky middleman known as "evolving" and instead allows you to conjure your identity from thin air.

Best of all, it allows you to "bundle" your leisure and creative endeavors.  Before Kickstarter, maybe you'd save up your money to take a long bike trip.  Then, maybe after the bike trip, you'd record some music about that trip.  If you were lucky, maybe people would enjoy that music, and if you were extremely lucky, maybe people would enjoy it so much that they'd even want to see a documentary about how you made that music.  This tedious process could take years, and success was far from guaranteed.  Now, though, you just ask for money so you can do the bike tour and the album and the documentary all at once, like when Disney releases a movie and a toy and a "making of" special and a fast food meal deal all on the same day, and the success is just assumed:

To me, this is the most fascinating aspect of Kickstarter--the way so many projects walk the fine line between self-reflexivity and auto-fellatio:

("Help me help you help me make art about my art.")

Of course, it's essential to keep in mind that these are merely the cynical musings of somebody who's hopelessly staid and ornery and whose blog is itself a daily act of auto-fellatio.  Certainly if someone wants to take a bike trip and someone else is willing to give him money for that bike trip so that he'll burn their name into his guitar then by all means they should all sit back and enjoy the fellatio.  Who knows?  The ensuing album/documentary could be a masterpiece.  And certainly some of these projects do have the potential to make a real difference.  Consider this one:

Creative endeavors are one thing, but you can't tell me we don't need more "deditcation to the peace building process:"

Anyway, this project reached its funding goal last year:

And since then they have indeed been "bi-keen for peace."  In fact, I visited their website, where I learned they've been saving the world by having incoherent interactions with the locals:

He talked fast and continued to use his hands and arms enthusiastically to emphasize whateverthehell point he was trying to make. He continued on about “papas”. Julia and I smiled and nodded. We understood “potatoes” but we’re sure of the details. We continued to attempt successful communication. We used phrases from my lonely planet phrase book to try to get him to slow down. “Puede mas despacio por favor?” We even pointed to the written phrase in the book. He looked at the words, but appeared to not read. Instead of trying to understand, he treated it as a game. Talking faster and using more hand gestures. Julia and I resolved to play along with his game. We used more hand gestures and talked of irrelevant things. It didn’t matter. The innocent boyish smile on this older mans face glowed with joy that there were people in his big and lonely cab to ride with him.

That's $5,180 well spent.  Say what you will about Kickstarter, but there's no more effective tool for launching ill-prepared Americans into the world at large, where they proceed to practice a strange form of altruism that mostly involves asking poor people for favors.

We may need less kickstarting and more restraining.

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