Halloween Flashback

If you search Fish & Bicycles for the word “Halloween” and read the posts you find, you’ll discover that Halloween is a very special day for me and my family. Well, I’m battling a nasty cold today, so I thought I’d just re-post my very first Halloween entry, from 2009, on this, my son Julian’s 15th birthday.


12 years ago today, the Great Pumpkin, not the stork, delivered a tiny, orange-headed baby boy to our doorstep.

(Ok, so it was actually my wife who delivered the baby, after 31 hours of labor. She does, indeed, deserve all the credit, but I’m pretty sure she would have preferred it if the Great Pumpkin had helped out, at least a little.)

Having a child born on Halloween, especially one with wild, curly orange hair, is an adventure to say the least.

Whatever your relationship was with the holiday before the baby was born, that relationship will be forever changed.

Here’s our pumpkin with his fellow pumpkins back in 2006.

Don’t like dressing up in costumes? Not crazy about candy? Don’t fancy going door-to-door with a group of kids who ARE crazy about candy? Literally? Crazy?

Well, too bad, cupcake! Are you really going to break your child’s heart?

Fortunately, I had no aversion to Halloween, and it’s been 12 years of fun. But, even though the birth of our son was the catalyst, besides delivering the baby in heroic fashion, it’s been my wife who has delivered wondrous gifts of creativity, decorating the house, carving pumpkins, coming up with unique costumes, and throwing fabulous parties.

Wait a second! Maybe my wife IS the Great Pumpkin!

Zombies And Politics

So, just about a year ago, I wrote a post titled Sorry, I Don’t Get Zombies, expressing how I can’t seem to connect with the whole zombie craze.

And sure, I expected that I might get some flack from zombie enthusiasts, but what I never saw coming, not even close, was the political angle on the subject.

Well, here it is, a year later, and that post, a post I thought was dead, has been made undead, just like zombies, thanks to a comment yesterday from someone named David.

Here’s an illustrative excerpt:

OK. Here’s why this Zombie craze originated and persists.

It’s all about brainwashing the population into viewing other people as valueless meat sacks ready to be hacked apart in an emergency/martial law apocalyptic scenario. It’s about planting the kernel in the population’s subconscious that other people are potential enemies and savages that could threaten the lives of you and your family given the right circumstances. it’s about glorifying death and decay, making it cool, in a similar vein to the vampire fad.

The Globalists/Illuminati are implementing a world government and in order to do that they’re destroying the current system in order to offer their new Orwellian Eugenicist global ‘Utopia’ as the solution. This destruction includes the engineered credit crisis, the removal of Western production and jobs, the Man made global warming scam designed to collapse independent energy particularly coal and squeeze more wealth out of the population…..Global gun disarmament and most likely impending world war involving massive intentional depopulation and the death of hundreds of millions via viruses, radiation etc.

Just.Wow.

But, as I was framing my response, just as I was about to dismiss David’s comments as the product of a paranoid conspiracy theorist, I came across the following video, just hours later on the very same day, a video from TV/Film writer/director Joss Whedon, and now I’m convinced that zombies and politics ARE connected.

Watch it, and remember: protect your brains.

Eyecatchers: Universal Everything

This installment of Eyecatchers comes via BOOOOOOOM, and features the work of Universal Everything, a artist collective of sorts, whose members produce incredible, jaw-dropping digital art installations.

What is particularly compelling, to me, about the work of Universal Everything, is how rooted it is in organic subjects, how the advanced technology they use is married with real-life moving forms, full of fluidity and life, rather than simple, cold, shapes and colors dancing around on a screen.

I’ve mentioned before how I love the artistic creative process as much as I love the product, and watching the first video below you’ll see that these are not just a bunch of guys sitting at computers making stuff up. They are, all of them, highly skilled visual artists, working first by hand on paper, and only then bringing in the technology to bring their creations to life.

I’m reminded of a friend of mine who, at middle age, decided he wanted to be a computer animation artist. So, he enrolled in a program and was surprised to learn that he would be required to take several drawing classes before he was let anywhere near software. Having never done any drawing before, he knew he had a steep learning curve, but he’s convinced now that he never would have been able to create quality computer animation without that foundation in something so fundamental as pencil and paper.

And so, here are two videos, the first is a mini-documentary on Universal Everything, with lots of great behind-the-scenes footage of their process accompanied by snippets of their extraordinary work, and the second features a piece they did titled Forever from 2009.

Enjoy!

Dakar: Coolest Place Name On The Planet?

Oh, don’t be fooled by appearances.

The capital of Senegal, Dakar, might look like it’s pronounced dä-kär, as Merriam-Webster suggests.

But if, like me, you spend anytime listening to BBC World Service or even National Public Radio, you’ll hear it pronounced MUCH differently, and that difference, in my humble opinion, makes it one of the coolest place names on the planet.

See, any self-respecting radio journalist pronounces Dakar so that it sounds something like this (æ = “a” as in cat):

dä-khæææææææææææææhhhhhhhhhhhh

Just listen to this report on an annual Senegalese beauty contest…for sheep.

Now, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, does a passable job with the pronunciation, there’s a touch of the dramatic extension of the æ sound, but when you hear correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton pronounce it, you hear SO much more, putting the cool factor over the top.

At the hands of the master, the “k” in Dakar, to my ears, is pronounced more like “kh”, and the ending æh has a touch of the guttaral in it, vaguely reminding me, for some reason, of The Castle Aaaaaargh scene in Monty Python & The Holy Grail.

Anyway, check out the NPR piece to hear Dakar in action.

It’s a cute story, too.

Otis

Sorry it’s been quiet around here, folks. Non-blogging activities and responsibilities are nearly all-consuming right now.

But, helping me get through all the work…delicious, heaping portions of Soul music.

And so, I thought I’d share the following video treasure of one of my absolute favorites, Mr. Otis Redding, in his landmark performance at the legendary 1967 Monterey International Pop Music Festival, backed by Booker T & The M.G.s.

Of course, calling Otis “Mr.” is bittersweet.

Bitter: He was only 26 years old when he died in a plane crash. Hardly “Mr.” material.

Sweet: And yet, as you can clearly see in the video, this was an old soul in a young man’s body. It’s a rare 26-year old who can sing with such deep, sincere, authentic feeling.

Thanks, Otis, for all of the incredible musical gifts you shared during your all-too-short time with us.

Video Fridays: Obama 2012

As I’ve mentioned before, most pointedly in my first ever Fish & Bicycles post, I very deliberately avoid writing too often about politics here.

To write well on the subject requires spending many, many hours immersed in it, reading a wide variety of reporting, from the mainstream media to political blogs, and given the dysfunctional state of U.S. and international politics, given widespread corruption and all of the devastating, destructive impacts of that corruption, a convincing argument could be made that voluntarily immersing oneself in this subject is a foolish act of self-destruction.

And yet, there are times when keeping silent is just not acceptable, and this is one of those times.

While I’ve been disappointed in a number of things President Barack Obama has done in his first term, I’m MUCH more disappointed in our country, for being so entrenched in a polarized two-party system, so entrenched that the opposition party willfully and publicly made it their top priority to ensure that Obama was a one-term president, obstructing much of what he had hoped to accomplish, so that they could argue during the campaign for the 2012 election that Obama should not be re-elected.

One of the areas that I pay particular attention to is environmental issues, since I like to blog about sustainability (see also my Celebrating Eco-Progress series), and it’s been painful to watch the erosion of Obama’s 2008 vision for moving the country further along towards renewable, eco-friendly energy, as he’s faced the realities of a insanely powerful fossil fuel industry. To hear him talk on the stump about increased domestic oil and natural gas production and a focus on so-called “clean” coal is painful.

And yet, President Obama deserves MAJOR props for pulling off one of the most brilliant political moves I’ve seen in my lifetime: Thanks to persistent Democrats in congress, in late 2008 President Bush II was forced to attach strings to the bailout of the auto industry, strings that included a commitment to higher fuel efficiency standards, standards that would have to be negotiated with an incoming Obama.

Now, it’s one thing to attach strings, and it’s another thing entirely to pull those strings, but by May of 2009, just four months after being sworn in, Obama unveiled the details of a deal he negotiated with automakers and state governments, a deal that represented unprecedented collective buy-in from all of the parties, a deal that could have only been accomplished by Obama holding the automakers accountable, by reminding them that they were bailed out and that they owe the American people.

Well, you can label the choice we make in November as a “lesser of two evils” proposition, but while Obama, in the midst of the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression, managed to reach this historic agreement, his opponent, Mitt Romney, acted with disgraceful opportunism and made $15 million dollars by investing in a hedge fund that held the auto industry hostage during the negotiations, exploiting the charged moment for their own enrichment.

For this and other reasons, the choice in November is crystal clear to me, despite any shortcomings of the first Obama term, and so I dedicate this Video Fridays installment to the president, for doing the best he could do for the planet under extraordinary circumstances.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Ironic Headline of the Day

From The New York Times:

Here’s a country, the U.S., whose loosely-regulated capitalist economic system breeds such enormous greed, greed that allows the richest 10% of the population to control 2/3 of the country’s net worth, allows the average Fortune 500 CEO to earn 380 times more than the average U.S. worker, allows over 8 million children under 18 years of age to be without health insurance, allows widespread irresponsible banking practices that brought the country to the brink of another Great Depression via a financial crisis that destabilized economies all over the world.

And yet, the U.S. now has two more Nobel Prize Laureate Economists to add to it’s already dominating list. Out of the 71 Laureates crowned since 1969, 49 have been from the U.S.

Go figure.

Stuff We Need: $20 Cardboard Bicycles

Image Source: SpokeNwheels

Yesterday, I posted the first new installment in my Stuff We Don’t Need series since December 2011. That post was bicycle-related, in that it was a critique of a $3,600 bookshelf that doubles as a bike rack.

But then, as for every right there’s a wrong, every left a right, north a south, black a white, yin a yang…

Today, I bring you the first new installment in my Stuff We Need series since March of this year.

And, it’s bicycle-related.

Via Engadget, ladies and gentlement, Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni’s $20 cardboard bicycle:

Now THAT is Stuff We Need. I would buy one in a second!

It’s cheap, durable, made with recycled materials, an eco-friendly alternative to the single occupancy fossil fuel powered vehicle, and it actually works! (See video below.)

Beyond the environmental angle, Gafni and his business partner, Nimrod Elmish, are truly a couple of philanthropy-minded menschen.

Via Reuters:

Elmish said the cardboard bikes would be made on largely automated production lines and would be supplemented by a workforce comprising pensioners and the disabled…

Elmish said the business model they had created meant that rebates for using “green” materials would entirely cancel out production costs and this could allow for bicycles to be given away for free in poor countries…

“In six months we will have completed planning the first production lines for an urban bike which will be assisted by an electric motor, a youth bike which will be a 2/3 size model for children in Africa, a balance bike for youngsters learning to ride, and a wheelchair that a non-profit organisation wants to build with our technology for Africa,” he said.

This is one of the best stories I’ve read lately, a positive, hopeful piece in a sea of news dominated by everything from the depressing to the horrific.

Check out this video on Izhar Gafni and his work. He’s quite an endearing fellow.

Stuff We Don’t Need: $3,600 Bookshelf Bike Rack

Bless me, readers, for I have sinned.

It’s been a LONG time, WAY too long, since my last installment of Stuff We Don’t Need, but when I read at Treehugger about the combination bike rack and bookshelf that you see here, cuz I love all things bicycle, I couldn’t pass on it.

First off, let me make it clear that I totally understand and have lived through the challenges of owning a bicycle while living in a small apartment. Especially in a rainy climate, like here in Bellingham, storing a bicycle outside adds the threat of rust to the threat of theft, and bringing it inside, well, there’s only so much room.

But, let’s break this down, shall we?

  • If someone lives in an apartment so small that space is an issue, will they really have $3,600 dollars to spend on this thing? … Yeah, didn’t think so.
  • Anyone who has ever lifted an adult-size bicycle in order to hang it on hooks like this would know that even the lightest bicycles (which are made of expensive materials, too expensive for people who can’t afford a $3,600 bookshelf bike rack), unless placed on the hook of this bookshelf bike rack with extreme care, will still likely cause the shelves to shake, resulting in a less than stable storage system for books and nicknacks.
  • Unless you are joyfully obsessive compulsive and enjoy wiping down your bicycle after each ride, bicycles, especially if you live in a rainy climate, like here in Bellingham, get really, really dirty. So, a white bookshelf bike rack, really?

(Caveat: Perhaps the black version of the bookshelf bike rack would address that last bullet.)

Listen, I appreciate the creativity that went into this thing, I’m a big fan of industrial design, but design that is impractical can be totally counterproductive, ultimately failing to meet the needs of actual customers.

In this case, despite any good intentions to help promote cycling as an eco-friendly form of transportation, it just doesn’t seem like the designer put much thought into what the actual experience of owning a bicycle is like. It is attractive, but if it gets dirty quickly or you tire of having to wipe down your bike all the time, and if books and nicknacks fall off easily, a $3,600 item could, all too soon, end up in a dumpster and then a landfill, essentially eliminating any eco-friendly outcome that may have been hoped for.