Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One car goes off the road

Monday, a friend tells me her family has downsized to one car - husband, wife, and child will now coordinate transportation to school, work, and play. Sharing basically. I told her that's sweet, and she should consider getting a rack for the car, so whomever's on bike can always meet whomever's in car for dinner, groceries, etc...

Same day I put in a call to the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District - See, a friend owns a car that's in its death throws and I mentioned that years ago when I was selling my car, I'd considered participating in the DMV dying vehicle buy back program, where the state will offer you up to $1,000 to take your car off the road - forever.

Well, as it turns out, the Voluntary Accelerated Vehicle Retirement (VAVR) program, as executed by the California Environmental Protection Agency, has a certain level of restrictions - one of which is that if your old car does pass a smog check, the county in which the car is registered determines if the car can be "VAVRed." There are many counties that participate in the VAVR program - San Mateo, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, but Santa Cruz (as part of the tri-county area of Monterey and San Benito) does not.

Can anyone explain this to me?



Friday, July 17, 2009

Hipster Bikes Go Mainstream

First Kafias, now this. Urban Outfitters, the ultimate purveyors of commodified irony and sincere insincerity are selling made to order bikes. Not just any kind of bike mind you. Hipster bikes. You know, the kind you (I) laughed at years ago when folks hacked out these tiny handle-bared, bare-bones, single-speeds - Just the kind of ride that's good for showing off one's skills in chopping, but that's about it.

In retrospect, I can give props to the folks I know who actually build these things for the sheer novelty and impracticality of it. Handle bars the length of a ruler? Hey, I'm no weekend warrior but even I know your handle bars should match the width of your shoulders - you just breathe better.

But this made to order crap - where the only skill you need to buy let's face it, a pre-chopped hog (to use Hells Angels slang), is an ability to match colors and a working credit card; well, it demeans the whole point of learning how to work on a bike and out sources a really cool skill to have.

Only a culture sucking corporate leech like Urban Outfitters could think to pull this off with a straight face. Just like Harley Davidson, and to a lesser degree, mall franchise Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters' business model is based on co-opting counter-culture symbols of rebellion and creativity, and mass producing it, thereby killing the original meaning, or to put it crudely, cutting its balls off. But whereas Harley Davidson had a few decades to perfect and sell the image of working class biker attitude to white collar men in the throws of a mid-life crisis, Urban Outfitters' turn around time is much faster.

Still, there are plenty of folks who'll undoubtedly say "well, at least they're getting people on bikes." Okay, sure. But isn't this just a scenester version of a weekend warrior ride? I mean, Urban Outfitters and Aristotle/Republic Bikes are essentially selling toy-like accessories. More lifestyle shit for a generation of lifestyle consumers. Whycome none of the pictures depict racks and baskets for carrying groceries? Or what about kids trailers? Oh yeah, right - cuz' Urban Outfitters doesn't cater to that demographic. The best thing I can say about these glorified hipster toys is that they're employing people within the United States to build bikes - that's good.

But to me, the over-arching danger here is simply that this will become another fad, and like the weekend warriors, who play dress up in spandex on the weekends, but see no problem with the very existence of 6 lane freeways, this week's "made to order" bike will be chucked into the garage and sold at a yard sale once the next fad hits.