Best of Fish & Bicycles: Slow Down and Slow Bike

Originally Published: August 3, 2011

Just came across a fun piece at that introduced me to the Slow Bicycle Movement:

Copenhagenizing Has Another Name: The Slow Bike Movement

We have talked about “Copenhagenizing“, Mikael Colville-Anderson’s term for learning to ride bikes like they do in Copenhagen, in street clothes, at a comfortable pace, usually without a helmet. Andrew Sullivan points us to the American version, where it has become part of the Slow Movement, and is now called Slow Biking.

The whole blog post and the pages it links to are totally worth the time to read, and it all really resonated with me.

Often, when I tell people that I ride my bicycle to work everyday, I’m asked if I’m into road cycling or mountain biking. And, when I answer that I’m not, they seem perplexed. For some, it’s hard to understand why anyone would ride a bicycle just for purposes of transportation. For them, cycling is all about getting stronger and stronger, going farther and farther, getting faster and faster, either or all of those. For them, that kinda thing is fun, and I respect that. (I think of my friend and fellow blogger Mike McQuaide, who does things like riding up the last eight miles of Mt. Baker Highway four times in one day, at a total elevation gain of 9,200 feet. Just.Wow.)

For me, however, while I was quite the athlete and participated in numerous sports when I was younger, I’m no longer interested. I absolutely need and want exercise, I desire to be healthy and active. But, commuting to work on my bicycle or cycling around town on errands, hiking (not mountaineering) to a modest peak or ridge for a nice view, or paddling a kayak on calm or, at most, lightly-choppy water, keeping an eye out for harbor seals, is my idea of fun, and the fact that it just happens to be good fitness is merely icing on the cake, to use a terribly incongruous figure of speech.

There’s this guy I know, who also commutes by bicycle to our workplace at Western Washington University, a campus situated atop a fairly substantial hill, he’s considerably older than me, and I didn’t think it was possible to pedal as slowly as he does on the hill without gravity pulling him back down.

And yet, he doesn’t appear to be laboring at all. Rather, he seems to be completely at peace and content, no matter the weather, day in and day out, and when I occasionally see him locking up his bike on campus in the morning he’s not breathing hard and he looks like he hasn’t broken a sweat.

It seems to me that in these modern times, in this, to borrow a phrase from Douglas Coupland, accelerated culture, the slow bicycle movement can bring some balance to one’s life. You don’t have to commute to work every day, or any day for that matter. All you have to do is get on your bike and ride, slowly, and breathe normally, take in your surroundings, smile at the people you pass by, stop to say hello even, or ask them to join you.

Now, if I could only leave my house about 10 minutes earlier everyday, I could practice what I’m preaching and not have to rush to work, inevitably arriving sweaty and gasping for breath.

It really is so very Zen.

Eyecatchers: The Latest From Do Ho Suh

karma-1In two previous Eyecatchers posts and one Video Fridays post (Post 1, Post 2, Post 3) I wrote about a fantastic art installation, Cause & Effect, by artist Do Ho Suh that had just been, well, installed here in Bellingham, Washington, on the campus of my employer, Western Washington University (WWU).

Today, I’m excited to discover news of his latest work, via Colossal:

Towering 23 feet (7 meters) into the sky, Karma is a recent sculpture installed in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art by Korean sculptor Do Ho Suh (previously). Captured here in a series of photographs by Alan Teo, the piece depicts a tower of piggy-backed men, each successively covering the eyes of the man below him, creating an illusion that the blinded tower seems to stretch to infinity like a fractal, although technically it was made from 98 cast stainless steel figures.

Once again, Do Ho Suh does NOT disappoint. Karma is stunning and thought-provoking.

Like Cause & Effect here at WWU, the artist continues the motif of multiple figures stacked up on each others’ shoulders. Of Cause & Effect, the artist said:

…the artwork is a “physical realization of existence, suggesting strength in the presence of numerous individuals. The work is an attempt to decipher the boundaries between a single identity and a larger group, and how the two conditions coexist.”

The artwork at Western metaphorically places the individual within an intricate web of destiny and fate. “It comes from a belief that every individual is spawned from the lives he/she may have lived previously. The vertical context of the figures becomes a collection of past influences, and again, begins to define the inherent powers and energies that characterize an individual,” he said.

Karma is clearly a continuation of these spiritual themes, themes plucked from the Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh religions.

Interestingly, as I observed Cause & Effect, both in photos and in person, somehow it didn’t really register with me that each figure is covering the eyes of the figure holding them up.

Now that the motif has been continued in Karma, however, it really jumps out at me, inspiring me to consider the implied meaning, something about how we’re all blind, blinded by illusions, and yet we’re all interdependent, and so, under those conditions, every action we take affects every other living thing and our environment in general, creating a delicate balance, what goes around comes around, and all that, such that, if any one of the figures in Do Ho Suh’s pieces was to upset that balance, it would be disastrous for everyone.

Here are some more photos of Karma. Enjoy!





Video Fridays: Jake Shimabukuro

jake-shimabukuroIn case you didn’t know, the ukulele was the most popular instrument in American homes in the 1920s.

Time passed, and on the wave of guitar-centric Folk and Rock & Roll music of the 1950s and 1960s, the guitar took over.

But, then came Brother IZ, aka Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, and his 1993 medley of Somewhere Over The Rainbow and What A Wonderful World, the spark to a worldwide ukulele revival.

Fast forward to 2005, when a YouTube video went viral, that of a young man playing a rendition of George Harrison’s and The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps. That young man was Jake Shimabukuro, the video blew me away, and from that day forward I started to notice the ukulele…everywhere!

  • YouTube was flooded with uke clips.
  • I suddenly came across articles about the ukulele all over the web.
  • In 2006, BUG (Bellingham Ukulele Group) was founded right here Bellingham by a group of enthusiasts who wanted to gather and make music with each other, to spread the good word of the ukulele, and now they claim 135 members, hold open jam sessions, song circles and workshops.
  • In 2010, BUG co-sponsored the screening of a documentary film titled The Mighty Uke, all about the ukulele revolution.

Tonight, Jake Shimabukuro performs in Bellingham at the Performing Arts Center at Western Washington University. And since, as I mentioned a couple of years ago, my son tinkers with the ukulele, I’m particularly thrilled that he and I will be going to the show tonight for a shot in the arm of inspiration.

In the meantime, for this week’s Video Fridays installment, I’ve chosen that very first video that I saw of Jake. If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ll be likewise blown away, and if you have seen it, it’s about time you watched it again, isn’t it?

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Only In The Pacific Northwest

The following was heard on this unusually sunny January day here in Bellingham, uttered by a student who had emerged into the brilliant sunshine from a building on campus:

Ugh! Why so bright?!

Meanwhile, elsewhere on campus, Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers are most certainly experiencing waves of ecstatic relief and bursts of unbridled joy.

Out of Office: Fall Term Start-up Edition

Well, it’s that time of year again, when I, an employee of the local university, must set aside the non-essentials, painfully blogging among them, and take on the busiest period on the ever-revolving and repeating calendar:

The start of Fall Quarter and the beginning of the 2012-2013 academic year.

My duties find me in the very heart of this annual effort to wake the institution from its summer slumber, to make ready for the arrival of 15,000 students to campus. It’s actually an exciting time, however time-consuming it might be.

And so, things will be quiet here at Fish & Bicycles, with the possibility of no new posts until Sunday at the earliest.

In the meantime, if you’re so inclined, please feel free to browse around here in any of the following ways:

  • Tags: In the sidebar, under Stuff About…, you can click on any of the Tags and see all the posts I’ve done that have at least something to do with those topics.
  • Recurring Series: At the top of the page, hover over the Recurring Series drop-down menu and select from options like Celebrating Progress, which applauds businesses adopting sustainable practices; Eyecatchers, a collection of photos, graphics, and videos that have, well, caught my eye; Video Fridays, my favorite video of the week pick; and more.
  • Archives: Towards the bottom of the sidebar, select a specific month to see everything I posted in that time period.


Best of Fish & Bicycles: Stuff We Need: The ultimate dung beetle

Originally Published: August 6, 2010

So, I have to say, as much as the idea of poo-power makes me a little squeamish, biomethane currently makes more sense to me as a renewable energy source than any other I’ve read about. When you think of just how much bio waste we humans and our livestock produce, when you consider how much carbon dioxide is released by all that waste, the idea of combating global warming by using this waste for fuel and energy production is nothing short of poetic.

From Daily Mail:

A car powered by methane gas has been created by a team of British engineers.

The vehicle named the ‘Bio-Bug’ is run reliably on biogas, which is produced from human waste at sewage works across the country.

Excrement flushed down the toilets of just 70 homes is enough to power the pioneering VW Beetle car for 10,000 miles – the equivalent of one average motoring year.

I still don’t like that this VW Beetle requires regular unleaded gas to start the vehicle and warm up the system before the methane is used, and I’d like to know more about the refinement process for the methane, particularly how much energy is needed to refine the biomass into methane, are there any toxic chemicals used, and are there any hazardous waste products.

And yet, if we can develop a closed loop system along these lines it could possibly be the greatest human accomplishment to-date.

Best of Fish & Bicycles: You know you’re old when…

Originally Published: May 5, 2010

Today was one of those days when a convergence of events rubbed my face in the fact that I’m getting old. I’ve written about days like this before, but it’s been awhile.

And so, as I did last time, let’s go to the list:

  • I supervise student employees at the university where I work, which, on it’s own, is a setup for feeling old. Anyway, one of those students wears a woven cap with a bill that reminds me so much of a certain TV character that I grew up with, and so I said something to him about it:

Me: Hey, Nick, every time I see you wearing that cap I think of Radar O’Reilly.

Nick: Who?

Me: Radar O’Reilly!

Nick: Who’s that?!

Me: Radar, from M*A*S*H!!!

Nick: Well, I’ve seen commercials for the reruns on TV, but I’ve never…

  • This reminded me that before I began my current position at the university, I worked in the Admissions office for 6-1/2 years. When I’d been there a year or so, I reviewed the first application for a prospective Freshman whose birth year was the year I graduated High School, and I worked there long enough to have reviewed applications for students whose birth year was the year I graduated from college.
  • I’m writing this post after having gone for a run…well, my intention was to run. I hadn’t tried running in about a month, having been through a few weeks of illness and then recovery time, and I did a very stupid thing: I went running too soon after a meal. Good Lord! There’s a reason why exercise, yoga, and martial arts instructors recommend working out on an empty stomach. It felt terrible!

Someone fetch me a wheelchair!

Video Fridays: Do Ho Suh

Apropos my post from Monday, I’m blogging live from the dedication ceremony for Cause & Effect, the gorgeous new permanent sculpture installation by Do Ho Suh, here at Western Washington University.

The piece really is stunning in person, and it added considerably to the experience that the artist is here in person as well. He has a wonderful, peaceful, kind quality to him, that seems to conceal the decidedly playful side of him that comes out in his work.

Here’s one more shot that I took of Cause & Effect, followed by a short video about the artist.

Happy Weekend, everyone!