By Yokota Fritz I got a preview copy of David Bryne's new book, Bicycle Diaries. Byrne of Talking Heads fame started using a bike to get around New York City in the 80s. Before long, he started toting a folding bike around while touring. "I discovered that zipping from one place to another by bike was amazingly fast and efficient," Byrne writes in the introduction. "I felt more connected to the life on the streets."
Byrne's writes about these connections in Bicycle Diaries as he makes observations about the values, economics and hopes that he sees in a town's stores, museums, temples, and office buildings. This isn't a book about bicycling, per se, but it's about the parts of a city you see while riding a bicycle.
I've just started reading it and I like it. I'll have a further review when the book is released on September 21.
David Byrne will be in San Francisco at the Herbst Theater for a book signing on Tuesday, September 29 at 8 PM.
By Yokota Fritz
My morning commute reading this week is The Bourne Sanction by Eric van Lustbader.
I was kind of a fan of Robert Ludlum and the first couple of Jason Bourne books. Sanction is kind of meh -- there's a power struggle between the U.S. military and the CIA that only Bourne can defuse and an Islamo-Nazi (!) terrorist scheme that only Bourne can stop. Bourne can turn any object into a weapon, leap tall buildings, dodge speeding bullets and even ward off the effects of tranquilizing darts with chocolate bars, but he's unable to ride a bicycle through DC city traffic.
Jason Bourne is chasing The Bad Guys when he takes a bike from a gutter bunny and runs red lights to catch up to his quarry.
Bourne was able to make good headway, as the GMC had been slowed by the sludgy traffic. Just as he neared the light he saw the GMC take off and knew he had been spotted. The problem with a bicycle, especially one that had caused a minor uproar lunging through a red light, was that the cyclist became conspicuous.
Bourne threw caution to the wind, following the accelerating GMC into the fork as it took Pennsylvania Avenue. Swerving in and out between vehicles, he put on another burst of speed. Just as he was coming abreast of the far crosswalk, a gaggle of drunk teenagers tumbled off the curb on their way across the avenue. They closed off the lane behind the GMC.
Bourne swerves to avoid the teenagers, hits the curb and endos into a crowd on the sidewalk.
Bourne's mistake: He aimed for the sidewalk. He clearly should have taken the lane directly behind the GMC.
Van Lustbader's storytelling, dialog and plot are all pretty weak, but his word pictures are superb, engaging all of my senses through his prose.
Chrysler bankruptcy, the bike industry and the American way
By Yokota Fritz
I'm reading Robert Hurst's latest book The Cyclist's Manifesto. In Chapter 2 on the history of cycling, Hurst writes about the hundreds of bike factories, suppliers and dealers that went out of business in the late 1890s after automobiles started becoming popular. An entire industry -- the industry that laid the foundation for automobile mass production with the development of tooling, production techniques, machining expertise, and even little things like ball bearings, gears and pneumatic tires -- was annihilated with the coming of cars.
There was no Federal bailout back then, so many factories were "destroyed by suspicious fires" in apparent insurance fraud. Writes Hurst:
Attempting to unload one's toxic financial obligations unto other parties has become a convention of American culture. You've got to feel for the SUV dealers, in an era of high-tech fire protection systems and masterful inspectors. Will the dealers get a spot at the bailout trough alongside the manufacturers? Keep an eye out for 'eco-terrorists."
You might recognize Paul Dorn as the author of the popular Bike Commute Tips blog and his excellent Bike Commuting Tips web resource. Paul is a long time transportational cyclist and a League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor who was involved in the early days of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition as a board member. Later, he served as executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition. Today, Paul bikes to work in the Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Community of Davis, California. Paul and I exchange emails frequently as we argue about the importance of vehicular cycling education, but I consider him a friend and a great ally in promoting cyclist rights on the road.
The Bike To Work Guide began as a revision of Roni Sarig's The Everything Bicycle Book. In this edition for the bike commuter, Paul contributes his expertise gained from his years of experience commuting by bike. The book is targeted for the beginner with little cycling experience as it steps him or her through the process of selecting a bike (avoid the local discount mart, he says), choosing the right gear, route finding, riding safely in traffic, parking your bike at the office, and cleaning up once you get there.
The prose is spare and to the point. Sure, you could read all of this stuff on the web, but this printed little handbook is convenient and easy to carry around. It's not quite pocket sized, but it fits well in a purse or manpurse. If you have a friend who would like to start commuting to work by bike, this guide makes a good gift.
Keenan in Crestview, Florida is the winner! 50 people entered the drawing via Twitter. I used the random number generator at random.org, which spit out the magic number "8."
To win: I'm doing this giveaway a little differently from my previous giveaways. I'll select a winner at random from everybody who enters between the time I post this and noon Pacific Time on Thursday, January 15.
According to Amazon.com, Podium Cafe says "This book earned Podium Cafe's first ever five-star rating!" But I can't find their review there: When I search for the author's name (Jamie Smith), I get no results. When I search for 'roadie' I get too many results. Imagine that.
By Yokota Fritz
Because a good portion of my commute is by bus, I read many books. I try picking books on topics in which I have little interest in the hope of learning something new and interesting.
A while ago I though I'd learn something about military history, so I randomly chose A History of Warfare by military historian John Keegan. History was written by Keegan to debunk Carl von Clausewitz's famous theory that "war is merely a continuation of politics." I'm sure that's fascinating, but the book assumes in-depth knowledge of Clausewitz's writings, which I don't have.
Later, I tried again with a different book: Bevin Alexander's How Wars Are Won: The 13 Rules of War from Ancient Greece to the War on Terror, which is much more accessible. It helps to know something about European and Asian history, but Alexander covers each of the "13 rules of war" in separate chapters by describing the rule and giving examples from history where the rule was used effectively and other examples where the rule failed and why. The author then completes each chapter with discussion on how the rule can be applied in modern warfare and in the current "war on terror."
I couldn't help notice that each chapter is formulaic. After the opening paragraphs describing the rule, there's a historical example that begins with "[ Alexander the Great | Napoleon | Hannibal | Rommel | Genghis Khan | Stonewall Jackson | Mao ] applied this rule in one of the most brilliant battles recorded in history." In the following section, Alexander then describes a battle that was lost because the rule was not used, or because it was not applied or executed correctly. "This rule would have guaranteed victory, and it's inconceivable why [ Grant | Hitler | Lee | Napoleon ] failed to apply this rule to the battle, which resulted in major strategic losses that affected the outcome of the entire war." Finally, the closing paragraph applies the rule to the U.S. war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, obviously to make this book "relevant" and make it more marketable (the book was published in 2002). Invariably, this final paragraph includes the sentence, "This rule of war was how the Taliban in Afghanistan were destroyed by American special forces in the fall of 2001."
In spite of the formula and obvious last-minute additions on 9/11 and Afghanistan, How Wars is a very readable and interesting book. Alexander's writing as an armchair general gets a little annoying at times -- he often states his incomprehension of why battlefield commanders fail to comprehend the battlefield environment, and hence losing the battle. Anybody who has had to make quick decisions in a stressful situation, however, understands the "fog of war" and the tunnel vision that occurs.
My friend Andrew the Protester believes things. Andrew goes to protests where he gets pepper-sprayed, and he does it because he believes in being a voice of change. My Republican friends get frustrated when I paint Andrew as a hero, but I like Andrew because he actually believes things that cost him something. Even if I disagree with Andrew, I love that he is willing to sacrifice for what he believes. And I love that his beliefs are about social causes.
Andrews says it is not enough to be politically active. He says legislation will never save the world. On Saturday mornings Andrew feeds the homeless. He sets up a makeshift kitchen on a sidewalk and makes breakfast for people who live on the street. He serves coffee and sits with his homeless friends and talks and laughs, and if they want to pray he will pray with them.
All great Christian leaders are simple thinkers. Andrew doesn't cloak his altruism within trickle-down economic theory that allows him to spend fifty dollars on a round of golf to feed the economy and provide jobs for the poor. He actually believes that when Jesus says feed the poor, he means you should do this directly.
It doesn't matter what I say. It matters what I do. Andrew says I should not live like a politician, but like a Christian. Like I said, Andrew is a simple thinker.
Donald Miller's website includes the entire text of Chapter 1 along with several pages of excerpt from Blue Like Jazz. I like that book. Donald lives in Portland, audits classes and hangs out at Reed College and lives in an intentional community.
By Yokota Fritz
Bob Mionske -- the lawyer who writes the "Legally Speaking" column that appears in VeloNews and other cycling publications -- has written a book: Bicycling and the Law. Order by March 17 on VeloGear and get a 20% discount by using the coupon code "ESBELAW." More about this book in his latest "Legally Speaking" column.
I don't get a dime from promoting this book, but I really like Mionske's writing and what he does to inform cyclists of our rights on the road.
David Byrne Bicycle Diaries
Yep, I've got a fresh advance copy, too. I'm only about 30 pages in, and I already love it. Byrne's got his finger on the pulse of our thoughts about the practicality of bikes!
More Byrne and Bicycles here at DISCOSALT
Cyclist's Training Bible by Joe Friel
Jason Bourne rides a bicycle
"Van Lustbader's storytelling, dialog and plot are all pretty weak"
So is his proofreader: "upraod" "Bourne through caution to the wind"
Thanks for the proofreading, Anon -- I've corrected. You'll note several misspellings in my posts since I'm usually in a hurry!
Maybe I'm revealing my rural bent, but you'll have to help me out here.
Happy Trails, Ron Georg
Gutter Bunny: somebody riding his bike in the gutter.
..."leaving a trail of bent spokes & broken hipster bodies in his wake, jason bourne salmoned down the the bike lane on his appropriated gutter bunny bike, in pursuit of his malfeasant quarry"...
...hey, just workin' on my "style", 'cuz well, you know, in case i get the call...
=v= Meh. Read Neal Stephenson's Zodiac for some better biking than that (from a decidedly unBournelike hero).
Bourne Sanction? More like Bourne Lack of Talent. That copy is about as well written as an 7th grade love letter.
"gaggle of drunk teenagers?"
"The problem with a bicycle... was that the cyclist became conspicuous?!?!"
@Kit: Yeah, that part where the Bad Guys notice the cyclist because he ran a light was pretty goofy.
@Jym: I've tried several times, but for whatever reason I've never been able to get into Stephenson's stories. These days Bourne stories aren't really my piece of cake either, but it's what I have on hand at the moment.
@BGW: You should write the next cyclist spy thriller ;-)
...thanks, fritz, but sheesh, w/ critics like these guys, i don't know if i could handle the pressure...
=v= Zodiac is less wordy (and thus less boggy) than his later tomes. The bicycling takes place early in the book.
People kept telling me that I reminded them of the protagonist, since at the time I was an eco-activist in the Boston area who got around by bike and would comment on such things as an aftertaste of polychorinated biphenyls. They would then pause, and say, "but of course you're much nicer." (Stephenson has said that the book was in part an exercise in having a protagonist who was a total, um, sphincter.)
For more fast-paced excitement, though, maybe Jason Bourne should leave the bicycle chases to Jackie Chan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Fl43rq3Zqw
Chrysler bankruptcy, the bike industry and the American way
Giveaway: Bike to Work Guide
So, you decided we do have to use Twitter for a chance to win now?
For now, yes. I've done several other giveaways in the past with no Twitter requirement, and I'm talking with somebody right now about another contest where Twitter is entirely optional. Stay tuned.
I get the feeling that people who don't want to sign up for Twitter think you must use a mobile phone with it. That's not the case, and in fact it appears most people don't use a mobile device with their Twitter accounts.
My cell phone doesn't even work with Twitter and I just passed 1,000 followers this morning. I want to fix the cell phone issue but not sure I want to spend the money while unemployed.
A roadie with a blog
I'm always interesting to find some more cycling books to read, cheers for the suggestion.
Buy it for the collector value and to support cycling artists like Mallett.
I bought this book when it was released. Entertaining and easy/quick read. Jamie does a great job explaining bike culture. I was especially happy to meet Jamie at the Tour de Georgia and have him sign the book. Buy this book and read his blog - he's an awesome guy!
Rednecks on bicycles
thats funny because my dad put a gun rack on his bicycle..... seriously he did.
I'll work on getting a good picture of it.
I'd LOVE to see that photo when you get it, Russ.
We did not need a gun rack. We just held it across our handlebars.
How Wars Are Won: Book review
Those 13 rules sound like a distillation of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" and Myamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings."
Sun Tzu wrote of strategy. Musashi wrote about tactics.
Keegan's History of Warfare is good, but it does get to be boggy going at times. All you need to know about Clausewitz: War, on the one hand, is "a continuation of politics by other means." Governments choose to go to war to accomplish specific political ends. However, war is unpredictable, not merely in its outcome, but also in the fact that it tends to get out of control. In Clausewitz's formulation, war tends toward total war. It's hard to have a small war, in short, because the stakes for the loser are so high. Clausewitz's observations on total war are a little less apropos now that superpowers are able to extend power over seas so that a defeat or pullout doesn't directly harm the superpower, the nations on which they're exerting their power still fight back with everything they've got.
Thanks for the comments. Your comments have encouraged me to look further into Clausewitz's On War, which turns out to be some fascinating stuff.
Blue like jazz
This book ranks on my top 5 book list! Thanks for such a cool post Fritz!
Book: Bicycling and the Law
Amazon has it listed for less - $12.89. And unlike VeloGear they don't charge an arm and a leg for shipping.