Two days ago, I read what has got to be the best (and possibly the longest) product review ever. Perhaps the best part about the review is what it ultimately says about product reviews in general and perhaps about the unique nature of bicycles and what it means to ride one. In sum, Bike Snob’s recommendation is that you ride what you want to ride.
Updating those of you who give a rat’s behind about my fight against that which tests the limits of my Lycra, I’ve dropped six pounds since I climbed back aboard the wagon, which basically puts me back where I was just before Thanksgiving, a point at which I’ve plateaued more than once before, and leaving me with another ten pounds to go. In other words, I feel great, but now the real work begins (and just as the weather begins to turn seriously cold). I’ve been using the “Calorie Count” website to help me keep track of things, stay upbeat and motivated, and monitor my progress (and habits). I’ve found it pretty helpful. I don’t make use of all the site has to offer, but some of their automated tools are fairly smart. For example, each time you update your current weight, the site adjusts its estimate of when you’ll hit your target. Also, the site creates a graph that charts your progress in terms of both weight (i.e., what the scale said that morning) and “trend,” which accounts for daily fluctuations in water weight, giving you a better picture of your actual weight loss.
Here are two big, related problems I have: I work from home (in a dining room directly adjacent to the kitchen that we converted to a study), and I get the strongest urge to eat when I’m writing, which just happens to be my primary responsibility right now. I don’t know why (though I have some theories), but the more intent I am on locking in to my writing, the more I want to tear into a box or bag of something-or-other. What’s more, as with other things in my life, I invaribly jinx any forward momentum by speaking about it. To wit, I’ve eaten far too much and too poorly today, and I didn’t get to take my bike ride. Tomorrow, I leave for a four-day business trip out-if-state during which time I’m certain to neither ride a bike (or exercise at all for that matter) nor eat well. So, I look forward to bidding these pounds adieu all over again upon my return.
Nick Dewar’s artwork is generally a cross between Magritte and retro toons, with elements of wit and surrealism. His submission to ReadyMade’s poster project hits the nail on the genre’s head and is, in my book, the best of the lot. Parenthetically, I wonder what the Village Scribe thinks about Dewar’s poster; the Scribe is a cycling enthusiast and, I think, shares the ethos of simplicity and sustainability that most enthusiasts, and this image, lay claim to. One of the things I like so much about this one is that its patterns and colors resurrect that lost progressive patriotism that is so scarce today. The wheel-driven head lamp captures, all on its own, an alternative energy model that we seek today (failing to realize that it can be found in our own past ingenuity). Finally, I like the text: “simplicity is the key to successful living”. The visual parody of that art deco/constructivist/cubist/surrealist style is matched by the verbal parody of self-helpism, but in this case the code of simplicity comes across so much richer and more viable than anyone’s ’seven steps’ to effectiveness.
No doubt about it, this is a great poster. Waggoner’s decision to comment on the headlamp is especially interesting to me. While everything about the headlamp invites us to see it as an instrument for looking forward, the modern day commuter knows well that the primary task of this (now-battery-operated) device is to make oneself visible so as not to be crushed by motorized vehicles barreling down the road. What are the implications of this with respect to both the poster and Waggoner’s reading of it? Well, for starters, there seems to be slight disconnect between the bicycle as a means of survival in times of clear crisis and necessity, and the bicycle as an intentional and proactive alternative to the norm. The latter, of course, is motivated by a sense that the crisis and necessity are there even when they don’t appear obvious. Nevertheless, this uncertain we have as a society about what really matters most to us was reflected in the bicycling boom this past summer, which quickly waned when gas prices returned to more tolerable levels. There’s a sort of tension between pedaling to advance and pedaling against advancements that have turned out to be not so good for us. It’s much more complicated than this, I know. Truth be told, I like Waggoner’s point very much. There is a degree of obviousness in the solutions to the economic and environmental problems we face (or at least in certain aspects of those solutions).