Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bike Humor

There is a new miniseries that just started on IFC, Portlandia. It is a spoof of Portland, so it obviously mocks cyclists. You can watch a great clip here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thoughts on Flying

As I write this I am sitting in the Minneapolis airport. I had not flown through here before, and I am impressed. During my flight here, on a small regional jet that was almost completely empty, I kept feeling like I could be living out the decline from Atlas Shrugged. The airport had been almost deserted, and all the flights on the board were regional. It was well maintained, but seemed to be on the fringes. A lost corner of our infrastructure.

I admit that these impressions are probably from reading Atlas Shrugged. The section of the book I was reading was describing the winding down of the American economy, specifically the drop off in traffic on the railroads. This made me look at an empty plane and broken coffee maker differently than I normally would have.

When I got off the plane and started walking through Minneapolis, which is bright, crowded – at least for nine at night – and filled with great shops, I felt like I had just woken up from a bad dream into an invigorating morning. That was completely melodramatic, but I hope you get my point.

I have always found airports exciting. The bustle of people who need to be places, the efficiency, real or attempted, of the employees trying to get people to these places, and above all the sense of freedom that seeing all the different places one could go gives me a thrill. I admit that there can be frustrations, but that is part of the adventure for me. To have everything you need with you – I only fly carry-on – is for me the greatest sense of freedom. Being able to wake up in one city, or continent, go to a place of bustle and speed, and then join the flow of a new city like nothing ever happened, is one of my joys in life.

I realize that the picture of air travel I just painted is very different from the one commonly expressed. Frustrated passengers, long lines, and cancelled flights seems to be the narrative that is more frequently told. I agree that this happens, and I have been in those situations, but I think that is less common than it is made out to be.

I feel that since I have been talking of freedom to travel, I would be remiss if I did not say why I do not have the same feelings for the car, which is often described in the same way that I have been describing air travel. Cars, for me, a more like a prison. When you do a road trip, you have to confine yourself into a small, uncomfortable cage for hours on end. Further more, you have to leave civilization, in order to get anywhere. This fact can be an argument for the car, but I'll address that later. I feel like time stands still on a road trip, in a bad way. The hours spent sitting feel like hours irretrievably wasted. On a plane, I get a certain vitality from the interaction with human beings, but in a car you are cutting yourself off from contact.

The ability of cars to take you out from civilization is their one redeeming value. On this current trip, I am flying to Denver, but I will then continue by car up into the mountains. If my destination was Denver, I would really rather not deal with cars at all, but since they are a means of getting to nature, I don't mind as much.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Third & The Seventh

The Third & Seventh is an amazing video by Alex Roman, I had not watched it for a few years, but the imagery and feeling stayed with me. It  beautifully explores the wonder and longing that architecture and design can inspire in us. In a way it plays like a modernist's dream, but I think that it transcends that one aesthetic sensibility and strikes something much deeper. It is twelve and a half minutes long, but is is well worth your time, as is waiting for the high definition to load. You can find it here.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I just discovered this great bicycle company in Denmark. Their bikes are gorgeous and really present a cycling aesthetic you do not see in the USA very often. 

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The New Year

As we start the new year, there are a few noteworthy articles that are worth taking a look at. Transport Michigan has a great article outlining a transportation manifesto for Michigan. Christianity Today takes an interesting look at the theological implications of string theory, and Thomas Friedman wrote a farewell essay that perfectly captures the challenges and opportunities we can expect in the coming years.