Archive for February, 2008

Fatherly Instructions

Monday, February 18th, 2008


Begin the morning by saying to yourself, I shall meet with the busy-body, the ungrateful, arrogant, deceitful, envious, unsocial. They are this way by reason of their ignorance of what is good and evil. But I who have seen the nature of good: that it is beautiful; and of bad: that it is ugly; and the nature of they who do wrong: that it is akin to me, not only of the same blood or seed, but that it participates in the same intelligence and the same portion of the divinity. I can neither be injured by any of them, for no one can fix on me what is ugly, nor can I be angry with my kin, nor hate them. For we are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth [like opposite pedals of a bicycle –ed.]. To act against one another then is contrary to nature; and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away.

Marcus Aurelius, “Meditations”

Valentine’s day thoughts, on a bicycle

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

As the days march toward the one associated with hearts and roses, chocolate and lingerie, crowded candle-lit bistros and tearful break-ups, we at the ALLDERBLOB find ourselves pondering the meaning of bicycles.

Marie-Henri Beyle, better known as Stendhal, wrote a treatise on the subject which we frequently turn to in our mind: On Bicycle. In it he breaks down in a rational manner the various phases of bicycle love:

1. Admiration – one marvels at the qualities of the bicycle.
2. Acknowledgement – one acknowledges the pleasantness of having noticed the bicycle.
3. Hope – one envisions gaining the the bicycle.
4. Delight – one delights in overrating the beauty and merit of the bicycle whose love one hopes to win.

Does the bicycle reciprocate? It matters less, perhaps, than one imagines. After all, the bicycle is never as perfect as one’s imagined version of it. Better that the bicycle remain aloof, ultimately, that it remain slightly beyond reach. For this reason, bicycle stores, bicycle magazines, and bicycle shows were created.

Stendhal, writing in the early 19th century, could not fully appreciate the role the bicycle offers for society today. But another writer, the most-calm Ivan Illich, lived long enough to understand the bicycle as a “tool for conviviality.” Illich, of course, is famous as the inventor of the “Critical Mass” bike ride [please check for accuracy before publication –ed.], in which thousands of bicycle riders, impatient for St. Valentine’s day, gather on the last friday of the month in cities all over the world in order to ride and chat together in amiable groups. Their activity is a testament to the social nature of the bicycle and its lovers.

This social nature of love of bicycles needs examination. For unlike other, more typical models of love among humans, the bicycle lends itself most readily as a saddle for socialization. In this, cycling to work or to get the groceries, or simply cycling to the local cafe for a spot of sunshine and a fleeting “hello” with one’s confreres, the bicycle rider seeks and revels in the company of other cyclists, and therefore differs from her distant cousin the motorist. Needless to say, the motorist does not relish being near other cars or vehicles. The person in a car has hammered up a wall of steel and glass around herself, and from within it she would prefer to remain aloof and secure. Automobile manufacturers have all kinds of psychologists working on the question, and it’s not for no reason they invented and advertise the SUV, which capitalizes on this ludicrous desire to be in a “fortress”.

What would a bicycle designed along these lines look like? Perhaps the confusion and social zone of the critical mass photo copyright Darren Stehr is itself a form of “bicycle castle,” but perhaps there’s a more concrete example of the phenomenon.

The artist Eric Staller pondered this question [please verify before publication –ed.] and the result was the well known “ConferenceBike.”
This is very good. Please spell ConferenceBike like this. and see my attachment. Eric Staller This contraption, which rivals in size a small SUV, seats seven riders, all facing each other in a circle and all pedaling for the good of the community. We can imagine the streets of a carfree city filled with these human-powered vehicles, and we can imagine the happy laughter and the sound of violin music that would constantly fill the air. Or is it love that’s in the air? (click for quicktime movie of Staller’s conference bike.)

Introducing our newest contributor

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Is This Is?

Although not yet on her own two wheels, we have high expectations for this little girl. Born just a couple days ago, Isabel Howland Allderdice is already practicing chopsticks with those piano-sized hands, drinking from a cup and speaking fluent Cantonese [it’s all Cantonese to me –ed.].

She’s also shown herself capable of producing remarkable blobs, any one of which would put our own best efforts to shame.

If the ALLDERBLOB of late has shown itself full of the dead and dying, we are happy to speak for a moment of the live and living. Isabel, we dedicate ourselves to the cause that you will one day live in a better world.