Saturday, December 20, 2008

Jello Biafra's Advice to Obama

If you are up for some in depth reading, I suggest you check out this open letter to Barack Obama from Punk-Rock-Patriarch Jello Biafra. It's the sanest thing I've read in some time.


The closest thing to a solution I have heard was offered clear back in April 2004 by the Organization of the Islamic Conference ( The OIC is comprised of 57 Islamic countries ranging from West Africa clear over to Southeast Asia. At their annual meeting they found six member nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Yemen and Morocco) willing to pony up enough of their own troops (approx. 150,000) that our troops could have gone home! Who slammed the door on that one? Colin Powell, on the grounds that having the Islamic soldiers under UN command instead of Americans was out of the question.

WHY??!? Wouldn't a neutral force of Muslim peacekeepers make a lot more headway than the disaster we've made? Wouldn't they at least command a lot more respect, resulting in a huge drop in violence? Surely the non-stop carnage and Iracketeering we have spawned is Exhibit A that we need to get over this colonialist illusion that other countries' problems can only be solved by Americans. The OIC's proposal for US withdrawal and peace in Iraq must be revisited immediately, and also considered for Afghanistan

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Life Imitates the Illuminatus Trilology

I just have no idea what to make of this story.
In the months prior to 9/11, Israeli Art Students with loose links to Israeli Ecstasy traffickers attempted to infiltrate DEA offices; visited DEA agents at their homes; and lived near the 9/11 hi-jackers.
If you think this sounds like the ravings of that guy on the bus who smells like stale milk and wears mismatched shoes, I don't blame you. But I didn't dig this up on some paranoid site, it came from You owe it to your sense of geo-political absurdity to read the whole article.

Slate's informant says in the article:

"There was an embryonic understanding that there was something here, something was happening. People kept running across it. And agents being who they are, gut feelings being what they are, they would catch a thread. They'd start to pull a thread, and next thing, they'd end up with the arm of the jacket and the back was coming off, and then you'd end up with reports like you saw. The information, in its scattered form, is one thing. The information compiled, documented, timelined, indexed, is a horrific event for some of these people. Because it is indisputable."

"Agents started to realize that people were coming to their homes," he continued. "If you are part of an organization like this, you tend to be careful about your security. When something disturbs that sense of security, it's unnerving. One thing that was understood fairly early on was that the students would go to some areas that didn't have street signs, and in fact they would already have directions to these areas. That indicated that someone had been there prior to them or had electronically figured where the agents were located -- using credit card records, things of that nature. This sat in the back of people's minds as to the resources necessary to do that."

"I will tell you that there is still great debate over what [the art students] specific purposes were and are," Stability went on. "When you take an individual who picks up a group of individuals from an airport, individuals who supposedly have no idea what they're doing in-country, who fly on over from a foreign land, whose airline tickets could in some instances total a value greater than $15,000 -- and who get picked up at the airport and drive specifically to one individual's home, which they know the exact directions to: Yeah, you could say there's a problem here. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that. The overarching item is that a lot of work went into going to people's houses to sell them junk from China in plastic frames."

But to what end? What was the value? What was to be gained? "Unknown, unknown," Stability said. "You could be anywhere from D.C. to daylight on that one. Even on our side, you have to take all the stuff and draw it all out and clean out all the chaff. I will tell you that from those who are working ground zero [of this case], it is a difficult puzzle to put together, and it is not complete by any means." Even the spooks are baffled; they have no answers.

Somewhere the spirit of Robert Anton Wilson is laughing his ass.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Retro-Futurist Bikes

For your Gernsbackian delight, Well Medicated blog has a post up with 45 covers of classic pulp science magazines. Check out the title link for all kinds of groovy domed houses, jet-packs, and flying cars. I have of course selected all the cycle related covers, for your immediate edification.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Solving Motorcycle Parking Problems

A Kent County man who got fed up with the run-around his requests for two-wheeler specific parking received from the local council, took matters into his own hands and painted the lines for a cycle parking spot himself. This story just made my morning.

He painted a space for one motorcycle and carefully added the letters ‘MC’, only to realise there was no way he could park his bike in it. “It would be a bit obvious who did it,” he explained.

Full story and a photo on MCN

Monday, November 24, 2008

Marcus Dairy Prints

Since moving to Fairfield County, I've heard a lot about Marcus Dairy, a local diner which is something of a biker Mecca. "Will you be at the Dairy Sunday?" is the local motorcyclists' version of "See ya later." I hadn't really gotten a chance to go, until Oct. 12, which just happened to be the last "Bike Show" there. No scooters in attendance, but there was plenty of target practice for shooting with my new camera.

Something about the heavily customized Bonneville above, just begged for the Sepia treatment.
I don't know that I'd ever really want a Harley, (though the Nightster is a very attractive bike) but man all that chrome really photographs nicely.

Though there were some other brands presents, Harley Davidsons dominated the landscape.

I am really loving my new camera. It has really opened up a whole new of photography for me. Having studied photography and digital imaging in college, I know my way around an SLR and Photoshop. But having all the control of an SLR without having the hassle and expense of developing film is very liberating. And even though I have a decent amount of experience in a color darkroom, I've always preferred making prints digitally. Using RAW files, as well as some of the tools which have been added to Photoshop in the few years since I graduated, makes the whole experience much more rewarding. Though it still lacks the tactile sensuality, working on these images gave me much of the joy of manipulating values which I get from drawing, and the intoxicating play of color I find in painting.
I may eventually use some of these images as the basis for paintings, but many of them, like this bagger above, feel like solid works on their own. Strangely, I don't have much inclination to drawing and painting images of motorcycles or scooters. If I pick up a pencil or brush, I usually want to paint people. It just feels natural to me. But using a camera and computer feels natural for this subject matter. By the time I was in the final stages of editing these images, I almost felt like I was painting.

Prints in a variety of sizes are available of all these images in my Imagekind Gallery.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

3D CT Animation of Unhelmeted Rider's Head

Check the title link for the most compelling argument for wearing a helmet you'll see this week.

Nissan's EV Strategy

This article on Nissan's plans for moving towards electric vehicle and zero-emissions vehicle production, and their maneuvering for the creation of infrastructure necessary for such a proliferation, is pretty damn interesting:

  • Nissan is bringing the first of their electric cars to market by 2010 in many locations around the United States. According to Alan Buddendeck, Nissan’s VP for North American Corporate Communications, this car will be priced between $22-$25K and have at least a range of 100 miles.
  • By 2012, Nissan will be bringing an entire lineup of affordable electric cars (sedans, minivans, compact cars, and sports cars) to the world market. This isn’t just some limited roll-out, and they’re beyond serious about it. Their overarching business plan has been re-written to focus on zero emissions vehicles.
  • Nissan has rolled out a rather ingenious plan of collaboration with as many state, local and federal organizations that are willing to cooperate with them to develop the infrastructure needed for an electric car-based society.
  • They have taken much of their top-level engineering and marketing talent and fully diverted them into the electric car project. Besides allowing Nissan to reach their goals, this strategy seems to have energized and remoralized the company as a whole — you can see it in the way they present themselves.
  • In addition to diverting huge amounts of resources to the project, Nissan has made the conscious decision to open otherwise proprietary information to their partners. Essentially it seems that Nissan has gone mildly “open source” in their approach to Getting Things Done. Power to the people.
It's a good article, you should read the whole thing.

EDIT: Here's some more info on Nissan's partnership fo bringing charging station infrastucture to California and Oregon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chainless Bicycles

CNN has a story up about some new bikes coming to market, which utilize a belt, much like most scooters, instead of the traditional chain...
kind of interesting...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Dragon's Unexpectedly Cute Spawn

Yes, I know I promised to keep the baby blogging to a minimum, but I've got relatives crying for blood over the lack of baby pictures.
Besides, just look at this cutie! I know drag queens who would kill for those lashes.

Amongst the overwhelming flood baby shower gifts, and even enough hand-me-downs to cloth an Appalachian village of infants and toddlers, was a 10 mega pixel DSLR.

One of the other productive things I've been doing, is working on an actual website for my artwork and photography and such. It's still a little barebones, but there is a gallery of baby photos. All the other galleries are public, but I've decided to require a password for access to the baby photos. I mass emailed a bunch of folks with the password, but if I neglected to send it to you, or it got caught in your spam filter, let me know and I'll send it to you.

I just figured only friends and family needed access to a soon to be vast archive of baby photos. Plus, my buddy Sky caught some flack for posting an innocent photo of his twins naked in their wading pool, a while back.... and well, I guess a little online paranoia is not a bad thing.

So while is not fully functional at this time, there are some cool pictures up over there, mostly things I've posted here in the past, but collected all in one place. And there is more to come, of course. And if you have the misfortune to be one of the dragon's friends or family, and want to bask in the glory that is little miss Zoe, drop me a line, and I'll get you the access info.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

T C and Me: A Little Rockumentary

Yet another documentary on the coolest little music scene you've never heard of, this one about the Rockingest of the Little Rockers, TC.

I can't wait to see this one, TC is one of those characters that once you meet him, he's burned into your psyche. He changed the way I looked at Metal (the man is like a Man-O-War song made flesh) and the way I look at shoes. Plus in the above preview, there are some clips Vic Wiley... Bonus!

TC, here's hoping Odin's smiling upon you.

Thanks for the tip Bircho!

Monday, November 10, 2008

War of the Worlds II: The Steampunk Sequel

I just got a report on a new animated movie co-written by David Abramowitz, and using the voice talent of well, most of the cast of Highlander the Series, as well as Adam Baldwin, from Firefly. Sounds pretty cool.
The Dragon's Highlander correspondent reports:

War of the Worlds: Goliath that was co-written by David Abramowitz and is voiced by Adrian Paul, Adam Baldwin, Peter Wingfield, Elizabeth Gracen and Jim Byrnes. It's set in the very early 20th C. a few years after the events of H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, around 1914.

Because of the source material (Wells) and the setting, it always sounded kind of steampunk to me. At Indianapolis I was chatting with David about the movie and said straight out that it sounded like a steampunk film to me. His answer was "Exactly." In scrounging around I found this site with a bunch of pre-production illustrations.

The Heavy Metal site has this to say:

Synopsis by Joe Pearson, "It's an R rated, retro-history, steam punk epic set in a 1914, fourteen years after the first failed Martian invasion. Mankind has rebuilt her cities and military adapting a lot of the abandoned Martian technology. They've created an international defense force, A.R.E.S., based on the lower end of Manhattan and under the command of Theaodore Roosevelt. They've built a formidable force centered around giant, steam powered battle tripods. Think of "Band of Brothers" meets "Star Wars", meets World WO. It will be cool-steam powered battle tripods, doomed Cossack cavalry charges, victorian decco, steam punk Manhattan, 1500 foot long armored battle zeppelins, Teddy Roosevelt, souped up Tri-planes, blood on steaming metal, sex in the cockpit. The usual." This story is not directly based on Heavy Metal, but it is a sequel to the classic War Of The Worlds novel by H.G. Wells. It will have a budget of around $3 million, and be produced by Tripod Entertainment Sdn Bhd (joint venture between Elemental Ventures Sdn Bhd and Epoch Ink Corp). It is uncertain how connected this movie is to Heavy Metal. It was originally indented on being part of a series of Heavy Metal Videos. And is being co-produced by Kevin Eastman (owner of Heavy Metal).

Sounds pretty promising, can't wait to see it.

Airbrushed Motorcycle Jacket

So, even though I haven't been blogging much since Zoe was born, I have found time to be a little productive. Take for instance the jacket pictured above.
I picked up the jacket cheap, it wasn't new, but it sure didn't look used, except for the fact that the design seems more late 80's than contemporary. The jacket was purchased with the intention painting it and selling it. Having a new baby is a great motivation for trying to find new sources of income.
The design was my attempt at something that fit into a traditional biker look, but with a little individual touch. You know, a portfolio piece. Skulls other assorted morbid images are ubiquitous in biker wear, and you can't get much more morbid than a deer. Riders face all kinds of threats and challenges on the road, but a deer, especially at night, is one of the most dangerous. Plus it was just a cool looking graphic which fit in with the lines of the jacket. Likewise, I'd been playing with Celtic knotwork lately,and designed that knot to fill the bottom panel.
So I'm testing the waters of Etsy with this one. It's for sale for $250.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

New Ride

So after the dust settled from my crash I was of course looking for a new ride. Like I mentioned in the post about the wreck, insurance paid off well. From that angle, the timing of the accident was good, prices for vintage scooters have been crazy this year. The flipside of that was that prices were higher on scoots I was looking at for a replacement. On top of everything else, some unexpected expenses came up, so I was looking at being bike-less for some time.
Work was becoming like the torture of Tantalus, being surrounded by beautiful bikes, all of which were out of reach.
A rider without a bike, looks at anything with two wheels like a single 19 year old boy looks at anything with two breasts. I should stop with that analogy before I get myself in trouble, but you get my point.
One day this 1985 Honda Magna 500 came in as a trade-in. I interrogated all the guys in the shop about it, and they all had good things to say. And perhaps most importantly, it has a big wide flat surface on the top of the tank, which will be a great place for some custom paint.
So for around $600, including tax, title, and increase in insurance, I made the shift from scooterist to biker. The change hasn't been all that easy, though. First off, after over two years of scooter blogging, it almost feels like I'm betraying somebody or some ideal, by moving to a motorcycle.
I'm liking it though. Jes's mom asked me early on if I was comfortable with the bike, and I had to say, "No." It's bigger, faster, and more powerful than anything I've ever ridden. That's intimidating but it is also making me a better rider. The Magna also a tachometer, and oil temperature gauge, and watching those as I develop a feel for the bikes gearing and torque is also improving my skills. I hadn't really considered it before, but I think I was getting complacent with the P200. There wasn't much I could do on it to push my skills, besides long distance riding and pushing crazy fast cornering, neither of which I'm going to be doing with a newborn at home.
I've got some thoughts along these lines, which I will share with you more in the future. In particular I want to ruminate on the endless debate of which is safer, a scooter or a motorcycle.
In a similar vein, last week I took the Magna on the I-84 for the first time. It was just for a couple miles, but I was able to shift into overdrive, or 6th gear, and cruise at 60 mph at only 3500 rpms. Heh, this beast doesn't even redline until 12000. Definitely a different creature altogether than the p200.

World's Coolest Moped?

Wired is calling the above pictured Chicara Art IV the world's coolest moped.

Perhaps, it is definitely pretty cool... but look at that riding position! It must also be the world's least comfortable moped, and that's saying something.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Radioactive Rat Bike

Now here we have a rat-bike of another color.

I had been thinking lately about the mainstreaming of the rat-bike aesthetic. The Bonneville Black is one of Triumph's best selling bikes (the 2009 blacks are already sold out in the US), Harley's Nightster is getting quasi-favorable reviews even in the usually rabidly anti-cruiser motorcycle press, and matte black helmets are on every powersport dealer's shelves. Matte black is the new black.
I'm not sure what is causing the virulence of this aesthetic, though I have some theories. The biker look as understood by the public and by bikers themselves, is fraught with a paradoxical search for authenticity as Sartre would have defined it. Or as a high school cynic might say, "everybody's trying to conform to the same image of non-conformity." It's hard to feel like a unique rebel in your black leather on your chromed steed, when your doctor, lawyer and accountant are all doing the same thing, and going to Sturgis for their vacation.
As the outlaw biker on "custom" ride becomes more and more institutionalized, more chrome doo-hickeys and airbrushed flames seem less like ways of expressing your individuality and setting yourself apart from the pack, and more like attempts to fit in. The ratbike aesthetic thumbs it's that these conventions. It's not about a cherry show bike that is trailered to rallys, but a functional daily rider...

OK, so I could rant and deconstruct these aesthetics for pages, but you get the point. What I like about ratbikes, is what I like about powered two-wheelers: They are a means to living on your own terms. They are everything you need, and nothing you don't. They have that Millenium Falcon appeal, a look that provokes intergalactic princesses to reassess you and say, "You came on that? You're braver than I thought!"
Blogger: Honky-Tonk Dragon - Create Post
So anyway, I found this picture while prowling As an added bonus, the owner of this gorgeous eye-sore, also has one of the most fantastic ride-reports ever posted over on ADVRider. It's titled Detroit to San Diego, Zen and the art of motorcycle negligence, and that title alone should be enough to let you know you are in for treat. The illustrious Mr. Vermin (as he is known on ADVRider, has as unique a way with words as he does with cycle customization. Here are just a few choice tidbits from the saga of his journey with his 13 year old son:

I abbreviated/eliminated my instrument cluster when my speedo broke. The logic being that I had not been pulled over for speeding since 1987 and even then I had a speedo so it didn't help. Bye Bye speedo. Tach who needs a tack it is a Honda twist the handle until the noise quits getting higher there is your redline. A side benefit of this arrangement was that without a temp. gauge it would not overheat. I would have liked to have kept the gas gauge but my mallot was not that precise.

I personally enjoy English guys they seem to have a reasonable level of contempt for all carbon based life forms.

As we where dismounting in the viewing area of delicate arch, amongst the rabble, a young guy struck up a conversation and pointed out how our trip was like Pirsigs in zen and the art of motorcycle maintainence. It made me wonder, what came first my desire to ramble and include my son or the book. I know that when I read the book originally as a teen it resonated deep in me. I reread the book this summer and it still makes me want to be a better person and focus on “quality” in everything I do.
I tell the guys girlfriend that the only difference between the books main character Phaedrus and myself is that I am neither brilliant, tortured or insane, she looks at my bike and there is an uncomfortable silence.

Before this trip my friend maryjane also noted the similarities between Phaedrus’s journey and mine, the only difference is his insurance covered electroshock therapy.

told Drifter, the worse a situation gets on the road the better it feels when it stops. I am afraid that this discomfort/relief cycle is missing in today’s children’s lives. The phrase “it’s all good “ cropped up recently and it bothered me. I think my main problem with that state of mind is that it robs the kids of the chance to grow through conquering adversity. It’s not all good, and in order to be great you have to understand how bad it can be. Having said that I have run Drifter through the paces and I haven’t heard one complaint yet, this boy is made of good stuff.

Drifter is the handle which Vermin's spawn goes by, and he has his rendition of the trip up on ADVRider. I highly recommend reading both.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ride to Vote

The folks who organize the annual "Ride to Work" event are pushing the idea of "Ride to Vote."

Sounds good to me. Democrat, Republican, Green, or Libertarian, hop on your scooter, cruiser, electric bicycle, sport bike, or moped and vote, gul-durnit!

Electric Interceptor Motorcycle

Though it looks red, this bike green in at least two ways. First it is an electric motorcycle, and second it was recycled from a 1984 Honda Interceptor.
Even better the owner/creator has posted an Instructable of his process.

Technoccult interviews Steampunk Artist Alex CF

Keeping with the Steampunk vibe of the last few posts, and catching up on some things I've been meaning to post is this great interview Alex CF.

(Above is Werewolf Anatomical Reasearch Case III)

T: You started doing your assemblage work in earnest after retiring your comic series Wilderemere. When exactly was that?

A: About three years ago. I had invested everything I had into my comic career, but I wasn’t happy and didn’t really enjoy what I was doing. I’d drawn and written 18 comics and released an action figure line, sunk everything into it - I remember throwing my pencil across the room and shouting out “I can’t be bothered anymore!” I swore that I would never draw another comic. I’d created assemblage pieces in the past, but I guess it all started with this little box, called “The Vampire Legacy Case” about a 14th century aristocratic vampire, the last rites and possessions of this vampiric lord. I had the idea of creating an alternative past, creating characters and species with which to fabricate my own world in which all these things existed. So I started making, and the rest is history!

I learn everything from scratch, and if I come up against some project or a goal which is not easy to reach, I’ll have a good think and reach that by trying lots of different things. From sculpting to soldering, they were all things I had to learn myself.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bruce Sterling looks at the Steampunk Sub-Culture

Just stumbled across this great essay by Bruce Sterling, who some would credit with birthing Steampunk, (though he is humble enough to credit earlier influences), on where Steampunk came from, and where it just might be going.

Ruskin wrote an extremely influential and important essay which changed the world. Everything Ruskin says in that essay is wrong. The ideas in there don't work, have never worked and are never going to work. If you try to do the things Ruskin described in the spirit that Ruskin suggested, you are doomed.

However. If you try to do those things in a steampunk spirit, you might get somewhere useful. Steampunks are equipped with a number of creative tools and approaches that John Ruskin never imagined, such as design software, fabricators, Instructables videos, websites, wikis, cellphones, search engines and Successful steampunks are not anti-industrial as Ruskin was. They are digital natives and therefore post-industrial. This means that they can make their own, brand-new, fresh mistakes -- if they understand the old mistakes well enough not to repeat them.

Steampunk's key lessons are not about the past. They are about the instability and obsolescence of our own times. A host of objects and services that we see each day all around us are not sustainable. They will surely vanish, just as "Gone With the Wind" like Scarlett O'Hara's evil slave-based economy. Once they're gone, they'll seem every bit as weird and archaic as top hats, crinolines, magic lanterns, clockwork automatons, absinthe, walking-sticks and paper-scrolled player pianos. ...

The past is a kind of future that has already happened.

Datamancer's Ergonomic Steampunk Keyboard

Man, is this thing gorgeous!

This keyboard was commissioned by a female client and has some elegant, feminine design features such as violet LEDs, an acanthus-leaf pattern etched into the brass, and a soft burgundy wrist pad that is removable for cleaning. It also has a built-in "buttonless" touchpad mouse in the center (tap anywhere to left-click and drag, tap in the top-right corner to right-click). This keyboard is interesting because the typing plane is actually tipped forward rather than back. It looks odd at first, but actually makes for a very comfortable typing position.

Datamancer has been cranking out a lot of great keyboards in the last year, but I think this one really takes the cake.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Yamaha dual fuel motorcycle revealed - Motorcycle News

Yamaha dual fuel motorcycle revealed

A conventional full-sized fuel tank is fitted above the engine like any other bike, but tucked tightly behind the cylinder and below the fuel injector body is a second tank designed to contain either ethanol or a petrol/ethanol mix such as E85 (which is 85% ethanol mixed with 15% petrol).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Faster than the Speed of Life

Twenty-two years old
walked like an old man
good leg pulling the bad

life is quick
when that cage
has your name on it

he could limp
and he could fly
flying is faster

mangled flesh
and mangled steel
broken and empty

he left flying
and he won't have to limp
no more

flying is faster
when that cage
has your name on it

flying is faster
faster than the cage
faster than the speed of life

I'm still playing catch up on the blog posts, so pardon my tardiness in dedicating one to Orin. About two months after my crash, and a couple miles south on the same road, one of my co-workers had a worse accident while road testing a bike.

I miss him.


I hate to report that one of the reasons my posting has been so sparse lately is that Quell was totaled a little over two months ago.
Fortunately, I was pretty much unscathed. The incident occurred at low speed, and I was wearing good gear.
At the instant of initial impact until I had pushed the scooter out of the middle of the road, every curse word I know, and a few I made up on the spot, went through my head. By the time I'd
secured the scene, I'd realized that I was OK, and with a new born at home, that's what mattered most.

I'd been making a right into the parking lot of Weir Farm National Park, and the driver of the Jeep behind me looked away at the wrong moment. This indiscretion aside, the driver was a stand-up guy, he admitted his mistake to the cops, and showed genuine concern over my well-being.

Luckily, my insurance company paid current value for the Vespa, which turned out to be about three times what I paid for it just two years ago... Unluckily... well that's another post...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Notes from the Dragon's Cave

Yes, I realize I've fallen off the face of the earth.
It has been a crazy Summer, what with Zoe being born, and working at a scooter dealership during the busiest year of scooter sales in American history. There have been some other developments in last couple months which I'll catch y'all up in due time.
I've managed to squeeze a couple minor creative projects into my schedule, and I hope to posting some images of those soon as well.
The first couple of months with Zoe were pretty intense. We had some periods of extreme colic, which pretty much meant that I was spending most of my free time bouncing our little bugaboo, so that Jes could have at least a few hours every day with lessened screaming. There is no way for me to describe the daily lessons I have been subjected to on unconditional love.
I really don't want this blog to become a baby-blog. But parenthood, combined with the realization that the big 40 is sneaking up on me, has caused me to be more introspective in my few private moments, and I would like to share some of those meditations eventually.

So anyway, more to come soon.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bike commuter haven offers storage and showers - Oct. 10, 2008

Bike commuter haven offers storage and showers - Oct. 10, 2008

An idea whose time has come.

The Freewheel Midtown Bike Center, where riders can take a shower, access lockers, lock up their bikes, and enjoy discounts on tune-ups and rentals.

A shower costs $3 per day, or cyclists can shell out $110 to join the Commuter Club, which covers all costs and gives them priority access to lockers and showers, as well as 24-hour bike-storage benefits.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fox Mulder's Vespa

Stories about celebrities riding scooters are almost as common these days as the boilerplate fluff pieces linking rising scooter sales with rising gas prices. In other words, not really worth me commenting on. But this story about David Duchovny purchasing a Vespa to fill the holes left by electric car is worth checking out.

"I’ve had my RAV4 EV [Toyota’s all electric 4x4] for the last four years,” Duchovny says. “It was supposed to be a prototype for the next generation of cars. But the problem is that the car needs charging every night and the most you can do in a day is 80 miles. It is like being tethered.”

He has become so fed up with it that since moving back to New York from Los Angeles he has bought a Vespa scooter.

I also like the fact, mentioned later in the article that he didn't have a drivers license until he was 27.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Buddha's Mom Wants to Know Why He Never Calls

My recent post Buddha was Deadbeat Dad has elicited more thoughtful responses (three!) than just about thing else I have posted in over two years of this blog's existence.
I feel little bad that the angle I took in that post was a little of the devil's advocate. At the same time, well, it got at least three people to thinking and writing, so whatever.

Above is a picture of Hui Neng, a pivotal figure in the development of Chan and Zen Buddhism. He is, of course, ripping up sacred scrolls. His point, supposedly, was that enlightenment is not to be found in texts, but in reality. Such is the inspiration behind such Zen mottos as "Mistaking the finger for the moon," and "If you meet Buddha in the road, kill him."

Sure this is all well and good, but how does it relate to parenting? More specifically, how does it relate to the secular spirituality of parenting?

My point in declaring Buddha a deadbeat dad, was in a way, to kill the Buddha in the road. True enlightenment is not dependent on weekend retreats, or even dedicating a half-hour a day of uninterrupted time to zazen. True enlightenment comes from being aware of where you are RIGHT NOW. That can be, as Robert Anton Wilson would have said, "Right where you are sitting now." It can also be awareness of yourself as you deal with a difficult client or co-worker. It can be the zen-like adrenaline high that comes from operating a scooter, which Steve Williams often alludes to on Scooter in the Sticks. Or it can be the awareness that your every action, every word, every subconscious attitude is being absorbed by the sponge like wailing infant, screaming inconsolably in your arms.

This concept of Buddhism being merely tool which is to be discarded once it has served its purpose is one of the most alluring aspects of it as a philosophy. Most religions and philosophies seem to want to rule your life, to become irrevocably integrated into your entire existence. Buddhism, like all great teachers... and most importantly for the purposes of this post, like all good parents, has its own obsolescence as it's goal.

There is definitely more to be discussed on this issue, and I welcome your thoughts.

If Buddha had a Scoot

Fatherhood has put a serious dent in my blogging, but not in my thinking, the B.S. -ing philosophizing part of my brain has gone into overdrive, I just have little time to record it.

Recently though I received the following email from Booboo Tannenbaum, and I thought I should share it. I'll comment on it in more depth in a later post.

Dear Honky-Tonk Dragon--

I bounced onto your website the other day while doing a search on a
winter Dianese jacket that my husband is crazy about, but obviously
can't afford ($1200?! zoinks!). But right away I fell in love with
your blog.

I also really like the song for your new daughter, Zoe, that Mark
Hinkley sang at your baby shower from your most recent post. Thanks a
bunch for sharing it, and congratulations on this transformative and
joyous new stage of your life.

While reading through the recent entries, you had one in May about
Buddha being a Dead-beat Dad. I read it about a week ago, and it's
been kicking around in my head for the last few days especially. I
know you weren't attacking Buddha, Buddhism, or religion in the post
itself--in fact, I quite agree with you completely that our families
are especially ripe circumstances for us to recognize and work with
the challenges of our egos, or our self-centered thinking. And I hope
you don't think it's presumptuous of me to write you about this
(especially if you're not interested in further conversation about
it), but the Buddha's teaching are all about the middle way, or the
"Middle Path".

Buddhism doesn't advocate withdrawal from the world, but recognition
that the world does not exist as we think it does. The Buddha's
teachings are very staunch in advocating the dangers of extremes--even
his years of ascetecism, before his enlightenment, are examples of how
dangerous and damaging living in circumstances of extremity or
polarity (whether physical, emotional, or intellectual) can be. In
this way, most Buddhists would say that the path of the Buddha, the
middle way, is about being *in* the world, but not *of* the world.
It's like when you're out in your scooter in bad traffic--it sucks,
and you could let that ruin your day (be *of* the world), or you could
let go of the busy traffic, the heat, the stagnant air. What can you
really do about it but control the way you think about and respond to
the experience? You could be mad and angry, but who suffers for
that--just you and your ride, and anything else in your day or your
life that you let that anger infect. (The Buddha said that being
angry is like holding hot coals with the intention of throwing them:
the only one who is hurt is yourself).

So, in regard to the Buddha and his family, I wanted to send along a
short but (I feel) edifying from a text that discusses the Buddha's
spiritual path and responsibilities as it relates to his family, wife,
and child:


The Buddha experienced his worldly life as a prince, husband and a
father before his renunciation and he knew what married life entailed.
Some non-Buddhists say that Prince Siddhartha was selfish and cruel
and that it was not fair for him to desert his wife and child. In
actual fact, Prince Siddhartha did not desert his family without a
sense of responsibility.

He never had any misunderstanding with his wife. He had same love and
attachment towards his wife and child as any normal person would have,
perhaps, even greater.

The difference was that his love was not mere physical and selfish
love. He had the courage and understanding to detach that emotional
and selfish love for a good cause. His sacrifice is considered the
more noble, because he set aside his personal needs and desires in
order to serve all of mankind for all time.

The main aim of his renunciation was not only for his own happiness,
peace or salvation, but for the sake of mankind. Had he remained in
the royal household, his service would have been confined to only his
family or his kingdom and that is why he decided to renounce
everything in order to gain enlightenment and then to enlighten others
who were suffering in ignorance.

Thus one of Buddha's earliest tasks after gaining Enlightenment was to
return to his palace to enlighten the members of his family, including
his wife and son. Buddha served his family and paved the way for their
salvation, peace and happiness . Therefore, no one can say that Buddha
was a cruel or selfish man. With his high degree of spiritual
development, the Buddha knew that marriage was a temporary phase,
while Enlightenment was eternal and for the good of all mankind.

The Buddha knew that his wife and son would not starve in his absence
and that other members of his family would willingly look after his
dependants. When He gained Enlightenment, he was able to give his
family something no other man could have given, namely the freedom
from slavery to attachment.


The context in which I tend to think about it is like this; think
about the love you have for your spouse, and especially for your new
baby girl. Now imagine that you feel that kind of deep,
indiscriminate, selfless love for all other living beings,
including--and this is the hard Hard HARD part--people you have
difficulties with. This was the path of the Buddha, to attain
enlightenment for the benefit of all other beings, and to cultivate
love and compassion for everyone, everyone, by eliminating the mental
obscurations which prevented him from experiencing the wisdom of an
enlightened mind. Then, having attained this, he dedicated his life to
teaching others how to do the same.

Like you said in your comments, "coming to terms with that which is
bigger than ourselves" is of immense importance in this life. In this
way, the Buddha had to think "bigger than" himself, his family, his
wife, his child. This is not to diminish their importance to him, but
to emphasize the great responsibility he felt for helping all other
beings, that in previous lives they had also been his family--mother,
father, wife, son--and that he owed them all the benefits of his
liberation and enlightenment, too.

For the last 2600+ years, those who have studied the Buddha's
teachings (the Dharma), are still benefitting from his teachings;
finding at least peace of mind and sometimes--as in the example of the
Dalai Lama--working more largely for peace in the world. If nothing
else, we owe the Buddha's wife and son so much gratitude for their
patience (another teaching of the Buddha's) during the years of his
absence while working toward attaining enlightenment.

Self-sacrifice is hard. But when it helps others, somehow it gains new
value and meaning. Especially when there's love involved, and a loving
compassion that wants others to be free of all suffering. But you're
about to have a chance to practice some self-sacrifice with your new
Zoe, and I have no doubts that it will be Worth It. :)

All best wishes,
Booboo Tannenbaum
Alabama (a different kind of honky-tonk, no?!)

Booboo also wanted me to mention the quotation about Siddhartha Gautama comes from here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Zoe Read Armstrong Auerbach

That's right folks, the Dragon is a daddy!

Jes had about 31 hours of early labor and about 2.5 hours of active labor. The attending midwife and nurse both were amazed at how quickly and smoothly Jes delivered.

Mom and baby are both recovering fine, thanks for asking.

So far Zoe has been a joy. She is a calm, curious infant whose most frequent expression is dubious but observant.

Though I son't intend to make this a baby blog, I'm sure more details will come.

For now we'd like to clebrate Zoe's arrival with song.

Isn't she lovely?

or for those you are the freakier side of reality, how about how about East German Punk Diva, Nina Hagen's trippy song celebrating the birth of her daughter Cosma Shiva?

And last, but certainly not least, I'd like to share the song that local Redding musician Mark Hinkley performed for us at Jes's Baby shower.

Zoe's Song

May you be blessed with loving kindness,
May you be well,
May you be graceful and at ease,
May you be happy.

May your first sight be of your family,
May you reach out,
And keep your family close to you,
May you be happy.

May your first steps grow strong and steady,
May you cry out,
Then may learn to sing of love,
May you be happy.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scooter Punk Kids Fabrics

Sorry about the long hiatus from posting... strangely, my instinctive response to Jes's swelling belly has been to spend all my free time either in the studio, or curled up on the couch with her.

This morning though, I was searching for some unique cloth to make a baby sling out of and found this great baby-mod print. It's cotton thermal, so I don't know that it would be good for a sling, maybe a hoodie?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Does Google Dream of Electric Shepherds?

Who says good old hard Science Fiction is dead?
Check out this piece by George Dyson on Edge, Engineers Dreams. It's deeply researched, historically accurate, with a geek's lovingly obsessive attention to detail. This is what Science Fiction is supposed to be, a lens through which we get hazy glimpses of tommorrow.

I'd tell you more about the story, but it's short, and I'm avoiding spoilers.

via Slashdot

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Warren Ellis on Creativity

Warren Ellis has a great little rant up about his experience of creativity:

I still get asked with appalling regularity “where my ideas come from.”

Here’s the deal. I flood my poor ageing head with information. Any information. Lots of it. And I let it all slosh around in the back of my brain, in the part normal people use for remembering bills, thinking about sex and making appointments to wash the dishes.

Eventually, you get a critical mass of information. Datum 1 plugs into Datum 2 which connects to Datum 3 and Data 4 and 5 stick to it and you’ve got a chain reaction. A bunch of stuff knits together and lights up and you’ve got what’s called “an idea”.

And for that brief moment where it’s all flaring and welding together, you are Holy. You can’t be touched. Something impossible and brilliant has happened and suddenly you understand what it would be like if Einstein’s brain was placed into the body of a young tyrannosaur, stuffed full of amphetamines and suffused with Sex Radiation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Love and Marriage, American Style

So this past weekend, Jes and I attended the wedding of one of her childhood friends. Perhaps you can tell from the photo above, it was a little non-traditional.
Still, it was the most beautiful ceremony I have ever seen.
The ceremony was a mish-mash of Wiccan and Native American rituals, which was surprisingly poignant and non-New Age-y.
With the recent developments in California about gay marriage, I feel like I should share some deep sociological and spiritual insight, but really I have none.
I mean, I am about to have a child with the most amazing person I've ever known, who also refuses to marry me. Perhaps that shows her good sense, or perhaps it only attracts me to her more, in the Groucho philosophy of not wanting to be a member of any club which would have me.
Jes throws out a lot of varying reasons for not wanting to get married. At this point, I'd like to have the symbolism of the ritual, and to celebrate our love with friends and family, but it would ultimately be merely symbolic.
I guess I have reached the point where I think that the gay marriage issue boils down to a church and state issue. If a certain religion doesn't want to marry gays, well they don't have to. But their views shouldn't influence the state's stance on the matter. And ultimately it is in societies best interest to allow gays to marry to raise children. I think that by the end of this century this will be as self-evident to the average person, as the stupidity of segregation and racism was at the end of the last.
All I know is, I have a daughter on the way, and my deepest hope for her is that she can be as strong, intelligent, brave, and caring as the women I met this weekend, both gay and straight. And that if/when she finds another soul with whom she wants to share her life, well I'll be fortunate enough to witness a ceremony as touching as this.

Oh, and I hope she rides off on a Vespa, like these two brides did... (hey, we all have our prejudices.)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Why the USA is Losing the Energy Race

Unless we get our act together, the US is going to find itself left behind in the 21st century. There is no denying the current energy crunch, and those who would rather debate the possibility of global warming, rather than seek solutions are short-sided and irresponsible. Yet as this perfect storm of an energy crisis is ravaging the pocket books of average Americans, our leaders are cutting spending on research into alternative energies and public transportation.
At one time we could have been world leaders in renewable energy, now we will be lucky if we start playing catch up. At this point it seems more likely, that we will soon be consumers of renewable energy technologies, rather than also being innovators and purveyors. Some nation or nations will reap considerable economic windfalls from developing and marketing these technologies. Too bad, it won't be us...

Portugal, without its own oil, coal or gas and with no expertise in nuclear power, is pitching to lead Europe's clean-tech revolution with some of the most ambitious targets and timetables for renewables. Its intention, the economics minister, Manuel Pinho, said, is to wean itself off oil and within a decade set up a low carbon economy in response to high oil prices and climate change.

"We have to reduce our dependence on oil and gas," said Pinho. "What seemed extravagant in 2004 when we decided to go for renewables now seems to have been a very good decision."

He expects Portugal to generate 31% of all its energy from clean sources by 2020. This means lifting its renewable electricity share from 20% in 2005 to 60% in 2020, compared with Britain's target of 15% of all energy by 2020. Having passed its target for 2010 it could soon top the EU renewables league.


It is the start of a potentially giant global industry with Portuguese firm Enersis planning to invest more than £1bn in a series of farms that together would power 450,000 homes.

Pinho dismisses nuclear power. "When you have a programme like this there is no need for nuclear power. Wind and water are our nuclear power. The relative price of renewables is now much lower, so the incentives are there to invest. My advice to countries like the UK is to move as fast as they can to renewables. With climate change and the increase in oil prices, renewables will become more and more important.

"Countries that do not invest in renewables will pay a high price in future. The cost of inaction is very high indeed. The perception that renewable energy is very expensive is changing every day as the oil price goes up."

He added: "Energy and environment are the biggest challenge of our generation. We need to develop a low-carbon model for the world economy. The present situation is dangerous."

Steampunk Recumbent Trike

Proving that personal vehicle experimenters are just a hair away from Steampunk mad-scientists is this gorgeous trike, complete with leather trunk. Lots more drool-worthy photos over at Jake Von Slatt's blog.

Man, love those white tires, nothing says turn of the century like skinny white rubber!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Coast to Coast on MP3 500s

Jess, of Modern Vespa fame, is reporting that two retirees in their 70s are about to tour from San Francisco to the Big Apple on MP3 500s:

Rosenbaum and riding partner Chase met on a motorcycle trip in the late 1990s and have since tamed blistering deserts and the world’s tallest mountains in 40 countries. Buddy, a retired clinical psychologist and academic and Bob, a semi-retired industrial business leader, don’t just have passports that rival those of international diplomats, they have the energy and fitness factor required to log thousands of miles and challenging terrain annually. As they approached their 70s, however, their heavy sport touring bikes became a bit tougher to handle. Enter the innovative Piaggio MP3 500, the only three-wheeled machine on the market that gets a rider’s adrenaline into high-rev mode while delivering utility, such as cargo space, and long-distance riding comfort.

In addition to the MP3 500’s sporty character, Rosenbaum and Chase chose the maxi scooter for its unparalleled stability. The MP3’s innovative parallelogram front suspension technology is unlike anything else available in the market – it provides category-leading stability and impeccable road holding, while large 240 mm triple steel disk brakes ensure fast stopping power. The MP3 requires 20% less braking distance than best-in-class two-wheel scooters. Best of all for sport bike enthusiasts like Buddy and Bob, the MP3’s 40-degree wheel lean angle gives riders that same ear to ear grin that comes with carving a motorcycle through a turn.

“Growing old doesn’t mean you have to abandon your passions – you just need to be creative and find smart new ways of enjoying your favorite recreation or sport,” says Paolo Timoni, President and CEO, Piaggio Group Americas, Inc. “The MP3 is the ideal solution for anyone who wants the pulse-pounding thrill of riding a motorcycle, with all the ease-of-riding benefits of a scooter.”

The Route: Geoblogs and Adventures from “America’s Main Street”
Following the June 13th, 12:00 Noon PST send-off across San Francisco’s Bay Bridge, the team will begin their journey through 14 states, 128 counties and 500 cities – a trek that literally all eyes around the world are invited to experience and track around the clock, thanks to the team’s daily “geoblogs” posted to Using the latest interactive Google® Map technology from Geotegic, a company founded by transcontinental driving record holder Alex Roy, real-time reports and images from the road are pinpointed within the route map and continually updated as the riders journey eastward. Check in often – the No Limits Ride content debuts at Noon PST, June 13.

In addition, fans are invited to meet the team in person at scheduled appearances along the route, including Vespa Provo, Orem, UT (June 17); Vespa Greenwood Village, Greenwood Village, CO (June 24); Vespa Chicago Motoworks, Chicago, IL (July 4); Vespa Pittsburgh East, North Huntingdon, PA (July 9) and Vespa Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA (July 12). Buddy and Bob are scheduled to arrive at 42nd Street and Broadway, the highway’s eastern terminus, on July 14.

We finally got an MP3 500 in at the store, and it sold before we had it completely uncrated.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Dragon's Fragile Personality Shatters Yet Again

I guess I mentioned I have been painting quite a bit lately, and when I'm not painting, I'm researching painting and art links.
So the time has finally come to spin off another blog, the new one is called Ben Artstrong, and I'll be blogging more there about my painting projects and the rants they engender.
It's strange, Honky-Tonk Dragon began as a place to gather links and such for a graphic novel project which quickly ran into technical difficulties. But as that project derailed, I began posting about scooters, steampunk, and other topics. The blog took on a life of it's own, and Honky-Tonk Dragon became a character with a voice of his own which I came to appreciate, and classify as "lifestyle for weirdos."
Contemplations on art, and results of my own art making seemed to fit with that theme somewhat, for awhile. But lately I feel like they have been interfering with one another. Honky-Tonk Dragon seems more suited for ruminations on the fringes of pop culture, and when I have the inclination to write more seriously about fine art and aesthetics, it just doesn't seem like quite the right fit. Which means I end up not blogging about things which would fit in well on the Dragon, and not writing about the artistic subjects either. My hope is that by splitting the blogs, my online writing will increase.
I'm sure there will be instances where I will cross post, such as when I finish the current revisions to Quell, the Steampunk Vespa. But all in all, I'm hoping this expansion will help you the reader find the type of posts you are looking for quicker, as well as more effectively promoting my artistic endeavors.

Now This is What I Call a Retirement

It had been awhile since I'd checked in on Sci-Fi author Will Shetterly's blog.
Recently he posted something about his dad, who seems to have an enviable attitude towards aging and his golden years:

Dad left La Paz, Baja California, Mexico, on May 15, 1998, sailed once around the world in a small sailboat, the Vaya, then decided to do it again "now that I know how." He returned to La Paz on his 78th birday, July 9, 2004, then sailed on. His circumnavigations ended at the age of 79; he hurt his leg in the Philippines, gave the boat to the people who helped him there, and flew home to Edmonton in July, 2006, shortly after his 80th birthday.

Before he began his voyages, he wrote his children:

To die in a storm with the adrenalin pumping, fighting for survival, seems far better than anything civilized hospital care has to offer—even a collision at sea would be preferable. If I go unreported, I hope no one starts or creates any search. Ships that run down small boats do not report the fact, even if they are aware of what happened. On the other hand, a coastal wreck is usually reported, unless everything is smashed to bits in surf and rocks. In either event, I see no need to waste anyone's time and effort.To sum up: I am grateful to the Gods and the people who have provided and supported an interesting life. I have many regrets—more for things not done, than for those done badly.

I recognize that this letter is only about my concern, but I am aware of the concern of others. Having made the selfish decision to live out my declining years on my own terms (as much as possible), this letter is simply to try to answer "Why?" and to make it clear the "why" has almost nothing to do with others.

What an awesome old man! I highly recommend clicking the title link, and reading all about this cantankerous old coots adventures.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Buddha was a Dead-Beat Dad

I've long been fascinated with Buddhism, and to this day my life is enriched by wisdom gleaned from its philosophy, and by its existential technologies.
But I have a major problem with the mythology and base theology of Siddharta.
I won't get into all of that here, but Buddha's abandonment of his family troubles me. Especially since, the more I contemplate the changes parenthood will bring to my life, the more I see that being a parent can be one of the most profound spiritual experiences a person can face.
I was about to say that it would take a saint or a buddha to be the perfect parent, but when you look through the stories of holy men and women throughout history, and throughout the world's various spiritual traditions, you will find a lot of brave souls who are willing to face hunger, persecution, and total humiliation and negation of the ego. But most of these folks draw the line at reproduction, and like Buddha, when they do reproduce, they'd rather face the aforementioned trials rather than face the day-to-day realities of parenthood. Heck, even Gandhi was supposedly a terrible father, who spent his time fasting, organizing, and such, denying his affections to his wife and children.

I am sure that I won't be a perfect father. There will be times when I will be selfish, inattentive, cross, and distant. But already, just the concept of fatherhood, and the realities of Jes's swelling belly and digestive difficulties have me examining myself, and thinking about what kind of example I might be to a rug rat.

I've always thought that religion should ultimately be a way to connect with that which is bigger than oneself. Having kids... well, it may not be the infinity of the cosmos, but it's sure bigger than anything I've faced in any tangible way...

Individual Energy Independence

Came across this story recently about a few folks who are using full electric vehicles in conjunction with solar panels.

Darrell Dickey regularly commutes to work 24 miles, one way, by bike. But when it's too cold or wet for the bike, or when he and his family travel long distances from their home in Davis, California, he drives a battery-powered electric vehicle that he charges with photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted on his garage roof.

"Five years ago, I spent about $45,000 and got a brand new car (the RAv4EV) and the solar system," he says. "We're still driving the car every day, and the solar system will continue to make fuel for whatever EV we drive in the future. For $45,000 we bought a new car and fuel for the rest or our lives."


Dickey says the inspiration to drive electric comes from having a child. "It would embarrass me to have to explain to my daughter why we continued to import and burn oil when we knew the consequences," he says. "Having no tune-ups and no trips to the gas station ever is just icing."

By installing a solar system atop his garage, Dickey took the next step in driving a totally clean car. "Now," he says, "I can deflect the comments that my 'electric' car is just a 'coal-burning' car. EVs are the ultimate flex-fuel vehicle. You can make electricity out of just about anything: sun, wind, natural gas, coal—even gasoline! Your fuel can be totally domestic, or in my case, totally local."

Asked how long it will take for the PV system to pay for itself, Dickey replies: "If we think of everything in terms of what it costs us in the short-term, we're screwed. It's the same argument people use against the Prius: When will it pay back in gas savings? But that only accounts for the money paid at the pump. What of the billions of dollars that leave our economy for oil, or the billions of our tax dollars that go toward tax incentives for oil companies? What of the cost of the military and the lives lost to protect our oil?" But the short answer for the solar pay-back, he says, was "the instant I turned my system on." Dickey had been paying $75 a month for electricity. He took a loan out to buy the PV system, and pays $70 a month toward that loan. "My electricity and gasoline bills are now zero, and next year when my loan is paid off, this investment will be paying me probably for the rest of my life. My PV system covers the power for my home and my car. It displaces $90 worth of electricity and over $100 worth of gasoline every month. So my estimate of how long until the system pays for itself is no time at all!"

Dickey says the Rav4EV is the best car he's ever owned. "My wife commutes in it 40 miles a day, five days a week. We drive it for our weekend outings and it does errands that are too far or too bulky for the bicycle. It has never been tuned up, and I've spent about $50 total on it for maintenance. My wife has not been to a gasoline station in seven years and 70,000 commute miles—not once!"

This story really got me thinking about how our oil dependance and internal combustion engines are like those check cashing places. On an economic scale, most of us don't have to face the endless cycle of pay-day loans to enable us to pay our bills, we are able to comfortably shake our heads at plight of the working poor who are raked over the coals of usury just to continue their hand-to-mouth existence.

But when it comes to energy, almost everyone is stuck in the same hand-to-mouth cycle. Do the math of your transportation and energy costs, and think about how long it would take you to see savings from a $45K loan like the Dickeys took out. Then think about the "collateral damage" costs of our world-wide dependence on fossil fuels.

Strange how one story can make me hopeful and enraged at the same time...

I know energy independence is possible, but right now it is as out of reach to me as a 401k and health insurance for migrant farm worker.

Insert Apologies for Blogstipation Here

Well it's been a crazy coupla weeks for your humble Dragon.
Work has been insanely busy, and my Mom came out for a visit, which is why I haven't posted in awhile.
When I've had a rare moment to myself, that wasn't spent staring at the walls and catching my breath, I've been painting and researching painting.
I finally was able to chat with the infamous Pirate Papa for a bit recently, and that was good.
Anyway, I've got a chance tonight to catch up on some posts I've been stewing over for a while, so look for much new stuff in the next 24 hours.
Also I'd like to send sincere apologies out to folks I've neglected to respond to, through various digital channels over the last couple weeks. Nancy Frieko, I swear that review is coming forthwith!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Is Steampunk Dying?

We strip-mine your underground culture
Take the bite out and rinse it clean
Give ourselves credit for creating it
Then sell it back to you
At twice the price

- Fleshdunce, by The Dead Kennedys

Will Steampunk survive being the next big thing? There were a couple of things this morning which some might interpret at signs of the coming Steam-pocalypse.
First is the mere existence of this story in the New York Times Fashion section on Steampunk. Major media attention is frequently to the coup de grace to an emerging subculture.
Second is to be found within the the article, the mention of Giovanni James of the James Gang magical performance troupe opening his own bricks and mortar Steampunk shop in NYC:
He plans to offer brass Rubik’s cubes, riding boots, early-20th-century-style motorbikes, handmade leather mailbags and brass or wooden iPhone cases, all under the label TJG Engineering.

There will, of course, be a clothing line with vintage and new looks modeled on Mr. James’s own neo-Edwardian sartorial signature. “I’m so sick of baggy pants hanging off your bottom,” he said. “This is more refined. It goes back to a time when people had some dignity.

“It’s a new day.”

Off-the-rack Steampunk? Why I say, how gauche! Any real steampunk casts their own goggles and gears from... Wait... did that say early-20th-century-style motorbikes, and handmade leather mailbags?

I am so there!

I mean really, Steampunk was dead to begin with. It is all about reanimating the mouldering corpses of bygone fashion, technology, and manners. So what if someone purchases their tails at a haberdashery rather than a thrift store?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Scooter Blog Roundup

It must be Spring, because the scooter bloggers are posting in earnest again.
Many of the bloggers are commenting on the deluge of news stories of people turning to scooters to beat $4 a gallon gas prices. The more astute of you might notice that the previous link is to ScooterFix, which is the new incarnation of Crystal Waters & company's Girl Bike. Girl Bike has been one of the longest running scooter blogs, but it is nice to see that Crystal (who was at one time an official Vespa blogger) is moving to a more gender inclusive scooter platform. Of course, I kid, I kid, because I love. It looks like ScooterFix will sticking with the long-running Girl Bike tradition of covering pink scooter gear, though, so it should feel pretty familiar.
One of the other long-running standbys of scooter reportage, 2 Stroke Buzz, has been posting some learned insights into the economics of scootering. Most recently Illnoise linked to this post on Justinsominia documenting the cost of ownership for a year on a Vespa LX 150. For those you who like to cut to the chase:


In total, with the 3rd service I already mentioned above, I’ve spent $1,193.85 on maintenance over the last year, of which only the $150 brush touch up could be considered unnecessary, though at the same time I lucked out that the $260 clutch pulley replacement happened within 4 days of my warranty expiring. So for a vehicle that only cost me $4300, I’ve already spent 27% of purchase price on maintenance. Ouch. I don’t know if I’m paying a San Francisco labor premium or what, but I’m not sure I’m going back to the Vespa dealership now that my warranty has expired.

Gear, insurance, parking

And of course that total does not include the cost of riding jackets, rain gear, helmets, and gloves which I’ve probably spent about $500 on. Or $500 a year on insurance. Or $60 a year for city street parking plus the inevitable parking tickets (I’ve probably gotten 3-4 so far at $40 a pop).

All that said, I love my Vespa. I wish it looked better, but it’s a tool, not a museum piece. It allows me to get to work on my schedule, and park in the city where ever I want.

I don't know about the SF labor rates, but I think living in the Bay is definitely impacting his insurance rates...

Still, 2 Stroke Buzz has a good point in another post on scooter economics where he does the scooter math:

Spending money to save money is a popular American pastime (e.g. buying a Kitchen Aid mixer reasoning you’ll eat out less, or the scary trend of “Earth Day Sales”). Numbers can be twisted to make you believe anything, but don’t trust them unless you’re the one doing the math, filling the blanks with your own, honest, real-world, data. Change your lifestyle and your consumption over time and you’ll see savings, but don’t go out and finance a $5000 60mpg Vespa at 28% APR to ride on sunny weekends, because your interest on the loan is going to cost you more than the few hundred bucks you’ll save on gas. If you want it and you can afford it, get it, it’s goodtimes, believe me, but don’t blame the Saudis for your attraction to Italian industrial design.

Very good point, Bryan. Oh, and for those of you who are junkys for latest machines to come from Piaggio, he also has a good report on the upcoming Vespa 300 Sport.

Orin, over at Scootin' Old Skool, just reported today that cartoonist Dan Piraro, who draws one of my favorite strips Bizarro, rides a Vespa. Since Breathed, Waterson, and Larson's retirements / slow-downs, it is common to hear folks complain that the comics page just sucks, these days. Bizarro (as well as Mutts, Zits, and Foxtrot) makes the comics page worht being the first thing you turn the paper to.

He is also the original and only owner of the P125 (which has been kitted to 175cc) in the picture above. “For years, It was covered in crash bars, stadium mirrors, etc., and looked very ‘Quadrophenia’,” he writes. “It still has the crash bars but I’ve taken off the stadium mirrors so I can lane split here in NYC (Piraro and wife Ashley are longtime residents of the Big Apple). I’d love to put them back on, but I use it all the time in the city and need it to be more utilitarian.”

I’ve always wanted to ride in New York City. People think I’m crazy. Writes Dan, “NYC is the safest place I’ve ever ridden precisely because of the traffic and chaos that makes people think otherwise. Heavy traffic keeps speeds down and the chaos of pedestrians, bicycle messengers, roller bladers, scooters, mopeds, skateboarders, whathaveyou, keeps drivers on constant alert.”

So where’s a dangerous place? “Soccer moms on the phone, driving an SUV full of noisy kids in Dallas were the scariest kinds of drivers I’ve ever faced, by far.” Piraro grew up in Oklahoma and spent time in Dallas before moving to NYC.

This is actually encouraging, since moving to the East Coast, I have been fantasizing about scooting into Gotham, myself. Great scoop, Orin!

Speaking of Scoops, Steve over at The Scooter Scoop, has a crazy post up about a guy who crammed a 600cc Honda Silverwing motor into a Ruckus frame. Now, I have long thought that the Ruckus had a sweet design, that was underserved by it's miniscule engine, but... Good Lawdie! Click the Crazy Post link for pictures and more info.

Well, sorry about the "clip show" (of other people's stuff), I'm working on my (seemingly) never-ending series of scooter gear posts. Currently in the works is a post on the various materials used in textile jackets, but technical info on this stuff is hard to come by, so it is turning into more of a research paper than a blog post.

Also, just this evening, I cracked out my oil paints for the first time in seven years. So you can look forward to more painting posts in the coming days.

Until next time, Scoot On!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Artist as Parent

Blessed Mother by Kevin Kresse

I am so overwhelmed with various emotions about being an expectant father, that it has been very hard for me to blog, or do much else productive.
I've been organizing the studio, though, as I have the premonition that this surge of feeling will eventually manifest itself in some creative work.
Though we are socially conditioned to see artists as hedonistic libertines, the connection between creativity and reproduction makes a certain sense to me. But as I try to wrack my brains for examples which illustrate this connection, the only one I can come up with is one of my artistic heroes, Kevin Kresse.
Kevin and his partner Bridget, had just quit their real jobs in order to focus on developing his artistic career, when they learned they were expecting twins. From this combination of circumstances Kevin began a series of paintings which exemplify many of the feelings I am facing.

Take for instance this one, Outside the Ring of Marys

of which Kevin says: "The overall idea is about the limitations of being an artist versus the power of creating a new life."

A couple more of my favorites from his work from this period are Daywatch and Nightwatch:

I've always been struck by something powerful in these pieces, a palpable sense of anticipation which I've recently begun to understand all too well.

I have a feeling in a few months this sense of fretful expectation will give way to the feeling of overpowering protectiveness Kresse expresses in
Papa Bear (Safe Mountain), of which he says: "One of two Papa Bear paintings based on the new feelings that children bring out in a parent- the need to protect and nurture."

I just thought I'd share a few of these with you, because well, I'd love to see Kresse get a larger audience, and I'm trying to kick myself into gear to paint more. I don't have much tangible to offer a child. But I can do my best to be a good example, which entails doing more with my talents and skills.

Friday, May 02, 2008

In Utero Update

So Jes went in for her first prenatal exam yesterday...
Apparently, our estimates were just a tad off... where we'd thought she was 12-15 weeks along, turns out it is more like 25 weeks...
We checked out the birthing center we'd like to use, and it's pretty nice.
Jes also had her first sonogram, (seen above) looks like it is a girl. The experts tell us she is doing just fine.

I however have quit smoking, and am totally freaked.