Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Protests: Incomprehensible and Ironic

Last evening, the COMO CYCO GEEC and I went out to dinner - a rare occurence for us.   However, I just got back into town after a long business trip and was feeling rather amorous, so wanted to woo me lady a bit.  As she slid into the passenger seat of my car for our evening out, she discovered a browned apple core, a greasy towel and a pair of Candy Crank pedals in the footwell.  For those 'non-playas' out there, these are the kinds of things you can leave conveniently setting around as little attractive windows into your persona.  For example, by these objects, she could deduce that I
eat healthily, am capable of working on my bike and am concerned about mud-clearance, thus enticing her with my commitments to a good diet, resourcefulness and quick entry (into my pedals).  Pure pheromonal man-musk. 

Anyway - I really wanted to treat her to a special meal so told her to pick whatever restaurant she wanted.  She suggested the Cherry Street Wine Cellar, Bleu (pronounced "Bluhhhhh") or Sycamore's.  I suggested something with a bit more rustic ambience and we settled on Pickleman's.  I know how to treat my lady right.  On the way to dinner, our peaceful drive downtown was suddenly interrupted, however, by a tremendous uproar (by which I mean a few people speaking loudly) on the corner of 8th and Broadway.  We looked over to see some kind of a protest going on.  I know it was a protest because there were people sitting on the sidewalk holding signs made of cardboard.   But upon our initial drive by, I simply could not tell what was being protested and was confused by the presence of a hipster kid in skinny jeans with externally flaunted house keys dangling from a carabiner photographing a poster with the picture of a cat on it under a sign that read "Students Say NO."
Posting a picture I took while driving a car by a hipster taking a picture of a cat poster: I've achieved the surreal.

"Good lord," I said to the GEEC, "I think the college kids are protesting cats."  Now, I'm definitely much more of a dog person, but still - what have cats done that is worth protesting?  Unless they are in revolt of litter boxes and are shitting willy-nilly around COMO which would explain the worsening stench along the westward stretch of the MKT.  (I still contend there is nothing as stinky on this planet as a cat turd).  Anyway - we decided to do another drive-by to examine the group more closely...but only after we had our Pickleman's chicken and bacon pizza.  We have our priorities in line, after all.  So upon further inspection, with fuller bellies, we learned that we still had absolutely no idea what was being protested.
I could make out "People Before Profit", "This is your Country Too" and "The Best Congress Money Can Buy!"  Honestly, I'm baffled.

Listen, I didn't major in advertising or marketing, but can I just  give some advice to protesters?  You have to make your message clear.  Use short phrases and print the text much, much larger on non-day-glo posterboard.  It's all about contrasting colors - OK?  Use the "KISS" principle and "Keep It Simple, Stupid!"  Black lettering on white cardboard using as few words as possible, written largely is the key.  It was just as I was thinking this that we saw the sign of one protester who clearly had some experience and was doing it correctly.

Readable sign?  Check.  Clear intent to the message?  Check!  As nonsensical as the rest of the protest?  HUGE check!  Now this was something I could both understand and even relate with because I like turtles too!  It's amazing how affectionate they can be.

And speaking of protestable things - a reader has sent me a link to a trailer for a cycling-related movie that is about to come out and I thought I should share it with you.  It's called Premium Rush and stars that kid that used to push Pop Tarts in the 90's.
Here's the description that accompanies the official trailer:
Dodging speeding cars, crazed cabbies, open doors, and eight million cranky pedestrians is all in a day's work for Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the best of New York's agile and aggressive bicycle messengers. It takes a special breed to ride the fixie -- super lightweight, single-gear bikes with no brakes and riders who are equal part skilled cyclists and suicidal nutcases who risk becoming a smear on the pavement every time they head into traffic.

But a guy who's used to putting his life on the line is about to get more than even he is used to when a routine delivery turns into a life or death chase through the streets of Manhattan. When Wilee picks up his last envelope of the day on a premium rush run, he discovers this package is different. This time, someone is actually trying to kill him.
Having watched the trailer and read the description of the movie, it's the last line that puzzles me.  "This time, someone is actually trying to kill him."  I obviously haven't seen the movie, but would contend that viritually everyone in Manhattan (at least everyone driving a cab or trying to walk to work) is trying to kill Wilee for riding like a complete jackass.  Hell - I'd like to take a crack at him myself. Furthermore, I would submit that one of the reasons the cabbies are so crazed and pedestrians so cranky is because douchebags like PopTart boy are racing around, blowing through stoplights and mowing people down on their brakeless fixies ("Fixed gear......no brakes....can't stop....don't want to, either.")  And because I haven't seen the movie, I also have no way of knowing that 1) Wilee will not, in fact, be killed, 2) Wilee will get laid by that cute female messenger who takes off the side view mirror of a cab with a chain because she too rides like a jackass 3) a non-main-character-bike-messenger-dude will take the big dirt nap to reinforce the gravitas of the bike messenger profession, but whose death will give Wilee greater resolve, and finally that 4) Wilee will incur bodily injury and break a bone - but not in his pretty face.

But this begs the question of whom the target audience for this movie is, exactly?  According to this article published last week in the NY Times, the number of bike messengers in New York is down from several thousand 10 years ago to only 700 today.

As one could have predicted about the time the movie Quicksilver was released, the way of the bike messenger was doomed with the advent of email and something called the PDF document.  A bike messenger consultant for the movie Premium Rush (someone named "Mr. Horse") raced a Mercedes across NY City recently and won, but I'd like to see him race the Interwebs for a change.

That said, the harshest critics of the movie will likely be real messengers anyway - so that just leaves fixie-riding hipsters as potential fanboys (and girls) of the movie - individuals emulating what they believe the image of the messenger to be - whatever that is.  And judging by the number I've seen on this campus this fall, blowing through intersections and pissing off both motorists and me as I stupidly sit and wait my turn at the stopsign on my commuter, I'd say their numbers are blossoming.  This too is confirmed by the aforementioned article which suggests that...

...there is a paradox at work here: just as corporate brands and Hollywood try to harness the increasing visibility of urban cycling through its most recognizable character, the grease-grizzled New York City messenger, that subculture is dwindling in the face of higher-tech competition.       

So if email is killing the bike-messenger, then what we need is some sort of competing movement to capture the attention of some of the future messenger-wannabe hipster fixie riders....or maybe even hold an organized anti-hipster protest.....I believe they are called Cyclocross races.  I plan on going to the next one clean shaven and wearing bell-bottom jeans carrying a day-glo poster board with tiny letters written on it in ball-point pen saying: "I like zombies-kids."  Absolutely no one will get it will be so ironical.  Wait a minute.....shit, that won't work either!


  1. Yes, email has put a damper on the bike messenger business, but you still can't email weed (not that I'm for that).

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  3. Rotten potatoes = worse smell than cat crap

  4. John, have you ever smelt the cat poop resultant from a cat that has eaten rotten potatoes? ;-)