Month: May 2015

Historical Badasses

I love this feature by Brook Sutton at Adventure Journal (www.adventure-journal.com). Here are two stories about Historical badass cyclists:

First up, is Marshall “Major” Taylor:

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The 1890s kicked off the first “golden age” of cycling. A biking craze was sweeping the globe, with high wheelers being replaced by the latest technology of the “safety” bike. The safety design, which essentially was just two similarly-sized wheels, provided unheralded access to a smooth, comfortable ride.

Pneumatic tires, an improved chain drive, and mass production made bikes more comfortable, easier to steer, and readily available – at least for the well-to-do. The safety bikes were even considered suitable for women, a development that sounds ridiculous now, but that was heralded as one of the most powerful steps toward liberation by activists of the day.

It also was just over a decade after the Civil War and long before the civil rights movement had any traction. While bikes may have served as a source of daily independence for women, the same could not be said for African-Americans. Even if they could afford a bike, they still had an uphill battle for the same basic rights and liberties. Marshall Taylor’s story is that of a champion athlete, but it is both tragic and triumphant that his story cannot be told without attention to the color of skin.

Taylor (1878-1932) was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, to a family of eight kids. When he was eight years old, his parents allowed him to move in with a wealthy family for whom his father worked. He lived happily with the surrogate family for four years and received a good education and a loving upbringing. And when the family moved out of town, they gave young Taylor a bicycle as a parting gift. At 12, he was now on his own, with only his clothes and a bike.

Read the whole article here.

Next up, the great Fausto Coppi:

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He is one of the most decorated cyclists of all time. He is the only Tour de France rider to have won the first Tour he entered, as well as the last. He won the Giro d’Italia five times, was the 1953 world champion, and he held the hour record for 14 years. His list of cycling accomplishments reads more like the pie-in-the-sky dreams of an ambitious child than the real life of a butcher shop boy from Castellania, Italy.

He is Fausto Coppi, and the “best cyclist of all time” doesn’t sound like hyperbole when it follows his name.

No one’s life story is as tidy as the numbers that validate our accomplishments. Coppi’s was no different. Amidst social scandals, World War II, performance enhancing drugs, and an Ali/Frazier level of rivalry with Gino Bartali, Coppi’s genius on a bike managed to transcend the frequently dirty business of living in the public spotlight.

Born in 1919 in the Piedmont region of Italy, Coppi took to cycling in his early teens. He was a scrawny and quiet kid, more apt to spend time alone than to socialize with friends. Long days on the bike in the shadows of the Dolomites would serve him and his legacy well. The Italian could spin, climb, sprint, and time trial with equal panache.

Read the rest here and be sure to check out Sutton’s Weekend Cabin feature while you’re there.

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It’s a Mad, Mad World

The latest from Bjørn Vosskriger at Social Matter

Why Thrust Agency on Those Who Neither Have Nor Want It?

Inspired by the presentation of the Vagina Monologues, a Claremont McKenna College sophomore, Jordan Bosiljevac, a self-described queer woman of color, recently unleashed a broadside targeting California’s new “Yes Means Yes” law. In it it she opines that “Consent is a privilege, and it was built for wealthy, heterosexual, cis, white, western, able-bodied masculinity.“

My favorite line in the op-ed, however, was the following: “For me, and many others like me, consent isn’t easy. Yes doesn’t always mean yes, and we misplaced ‘no’ several years ago.“ Rarely does one see so clear an admission of such low agency. If, by her own admission, her “yes” cannot be trusted in any meaningful sense, why would she be given any of the burdens and responsibilities of adulthood, such as: the ability to sign contracts for student loans, vote, purchase cigarettes, and yes, consent meaningfully for sex?

In 2003, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein published a highly influential behavioral economics paper entitled Libertarian Paternalism. The paper defends the idea that humans are often predictably irrational. They can–and should be–“nudged” into making better decisions (the paternalistic part), by changing default options, while still preserving their freedom to make sub-optimal choices (the libertarian part). Without any serious debate, most societies have adopted a default option regarding agency; rights and responsibilities are “granted” as citizens reach certain age-based milestones. Given that people mature at wildly different rates, and in the case of Jordan Bosiljevac, may never mature at all, is this not an incredibly arbitrary process?

Read the whole post here.

Tolerance is not enough

Rod Dreher on the latest gay-marriage inquisition, this one in Canada

So, a Canadian Christian jeweler custom-made a pair of engagement rings for a lesbian couple, Nicole White and Pam Renouf, at their request. Later, when they found out that the jeweler personally opposes same-sex marriage, they went to pieces and demanded their money back. From the CBC’s report:
“They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple,” White said.
“I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get some good customer service and they had good prices.”
That was before one friend went in to purchase a ring for his girlfriend — and instead found a distressing sign.
It reads: “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let’s keep marriage between a man and a woman.”

The couple now believes the rings they ordered will have been tainted by having been fashioned by jeweler Esau Jardon’s hands, given what impure thoughts he holds in his mind. More:
Jardon said he won’t apologize for his beliefs.
“I feel really bad that [White] feels that we would in any way try to hurt or discriminate against her, but we will not retract from what we believe. I cannot say, ‘Well because you feel bad, I will stop believing what I believe,’” he said.
“When I walk on Church Street in Toronto, where I am right now, and I see [LGBT rainbow flags], and I see a lot of signs and a lot of things on public property, I don’t have a problem with them. I accept it. I chose to come to Canada… and we accept the whole package… I don’t discriminate against that, nor do I come and tell them to take them down. For the same reason, I ask to have the same respect in return, especially when it’s in my own business.”
But, after dealing with online bullying and threats, Jardon decided this week to refund the deposit to the couple:

Be sure to read the whole post and Rod’s other entries.

Father Raymond J. de Souza: Michael Coren converts, Michael Coren complains

National Post

Michael Coren, prolific columnist, biographer and broadcaster, has converted to Anglicanism from Catholicism. And he is complaining that people are saying mean things to him on the Internet. Neither is a surprise.

He has complained in these pages and over the weekend in the Toronto Star that “right-wing Catholics” — which used to be Coren’s media brand — are making too much out of it. Hardly. People pay attention because Coren is one of Canada’s more interesting journalists, and has been a champion of the role of faith in our common life.

Coren converting is a God-bites-man story. It happens

He was worth following decades ago when he was a practical atheist, though his father was Jewish. He was interesting when he became Catholic in the 1980s after reading Chesterton and other literary converts. He was still interesting in the 1990s when he was a lapsed Catholic, sulking after some of his journalism…

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The Inquisition is Coming for You…well, for me anyway

The Advocate Bounces the Rubble

CEfJ0HiWMAAo9kZThat’s the cover of the June issue of the leading LGBT magazine. These people are winning and have won — they have the overculture and its institutions, including the Democratic Party — and yet they posit their religious opposition as skinhead types who are preparing a pogrom. The revolution will not be complete, I guess, until the last Evangelical pastor is strangled with the entrails of the last Republican state legislator.

Seriously, this tells you something about the next phase of the culture war, and if you’re a social or religious conservative, it’s not good.

A History of the Bicycle: Harry Mount reviews Paul Smethurst’s The Bicycle: Towards a Global History

From The Spectator

Bicycling is more than a means of transport: it’s a religion — that I peddle, says Harry Mount

Harry Mount is exhilarated by cycling — but finds Paul Smethurst’s history of the bicycle disappointingly stodgy
The romance of cycling is suggested in this advertisement for Columbia Bicycles, with its quotation from ‘Lochinvar’

The romance of cycling is suggested in this advertisement for Columbia Bicycles, with its quotation from ‘Lochinvar’

The Bicycle: Towards a Global HistoryPaul Smethurst

Palgrave Macmillan, pp.194, £19.99, ISBN: 9781137499509

Bicycles — in Britain, anyway — are the Marmite means of transport. I am among the bicycle-lovers, almost religious and certainly addicted in my need to have a daily bike ride. But I can see why people — and drivers in particular — hate some of us: for our smugness, our need to keep on moving through red lights and along pavements. It isn’t like this in Holland, where bicycling is so embedded in daily life that most drivers are bicyclists and vice versa; where mutual understanding leads to mutual respect.

Why do bicycles have this effect? Of intense affection among some, hatred among others; of mass use in some countries, limited use in others? Paul Smethurst could have answered the question. And his book does have some juicy little statistics in it. But I’m afraid it’s so mired in stodgy academese that it’s a deep disappointment.

It touches on some good points, not least class and bicycling. As former third- world countries advance, they cast aside their bikes, considered a sign of poverty. They particularly cast aside old-fashioned sit-up-and-beg bikes, now extremely fashionable among the British bicycling middle classes.

In time, though, China and India are bound to embrace the bike once again. There’s a natural life cycle — if you’ll forgive the pun — to the bicycle. Poor countries exchange them for cars when they get richer. When the roads clog up, they return to the bike, the magical object that sails serenely past traffic jams. Already, Chinese cities are starting to introduce pollution-reducing mass transit systems with integrated bike-share schemes.

Read the whole thing here.

Rod Dreher explains who the NYT editorial board hates more than anyone else

Guess who that may be!

Armed gunmen die in an attempt to shoot up a controversial cartoon exhibit in Texas … and the New York Times editorial board blames the people exercising their freedom of speech:

Those two men were would-be murderers. But their thwarted attack, or the murderous rampage of the Charlie Hebdo killers, or even the greater threat posed by the barbaric killers of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, cannot justify blatantly Islamophobic provocations like the Garland event. These can serve only to exacerbate tensions and to give extremists more fuel.

Some of those who draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad may earnestly believe that they are striking a blow for freedom of expression, though it is hard to see how that goal is advanced by inflicting deliberate anguish on millions of devout Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism. As for the Garland event, to pretend that it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.

When a free people face execution in a free country for exercising their First Amendment freedom, it is disgraceful for a newspaper — a newspaper, for pity’s sake! — to equivocate in the defense of that freedom of expression. Charlie Hebdowas (is) an obnoxious, vicious, spiteful scandal sheet, but when religious fanatics take it upon themselves to murder its editors and cartoonists, there can be no question on whose side we must stand. Same too with Pamela Gellar and her provocateurs. They have a right to be wrong without having to fear for their lives. It is disgusting that the New York Times cannot grasp this basic principle of liberty.

Funny how the Times editorial board, back in 1998, took a different line when the matter was the cancellation, under Christian pressure, of a Manhattan theatrical production about a gay Jesus who had sex with his disciples. From that editorial:

What we are witnessing, once again, is the peculiar combat between freedoms that is repeatedly staged in America. The practitioners and beneficiaries of religious freedom attack the practitioners of artistic freedom — freedom of speech — without seeing that the freedoms they enjoy cannot be defended separately. There is no essential difference between suppressing the production of a controversial play and suppressing a form of worship. No one would have been forced to see ”Corpus Christi” had it been produced, but now everyone is forced not to see it. That sword has two edges, as Roman Catholics, indeed all the faithful, well know.

It is easy to appreciate the dilemma Lynne Meadow, the Manhattan Theater Club’s artistic director, found herself in, but it is impossible to approve her decision. That there is a native strain of bigotry, violence and contempt for artistic expression in this country is not news. But it is news whenever someone as well regarded as the head of the Manhattan Theater Club capitulates to it instead of standing firm and relying on the police for protection. This is not only a land of freedom; it is a land where freedom is always contested. When courage for that contest is lacking, freedom itself — religious or artistic — is terribly diminished.

Benign explanation: the Times editorial board are hypocrites and examples of the maxim that a liberal is someone who is afraid to take his own side in a fight. The explanation I actually believe: Who, whom? – that is, the Times figures out who the Enemy is (right wingers, conservative Christians, et alia) and deploys its journalistic energies to smiting them, with no regard to principle.

Read Rod’s bog here

Ride a Bike – Save Money

Henry Gold writes about cycling infrastructure:

Last month both the federal and Ontario governments delivered budgets promising billions of dollars for infrastructure. It makes sense considering a 2013 study by CD Howe institute that estimates the congestion cost for Greater Toronto and Hamilton area to be between $7.5 billion to $11 billion per year. A recent study by the same institute for Metro Vancouver area estimates hidden costs of congestion per year to be between $500 million and $1.2 billion a year. So it would not be an exaggeration to say that overall congestion cost in Canada is over $15 billion per year and growing.

What if you had a magic wand and could reduce congestion by 1 per cent a year for several years and it required no new funds. Would you use the wand? What if the wand would also reduce pollution and the carbon released into the atmosphere? What if it would help companies with productivity, individuals’ health and even job satisfaction? Sounds like something out of science fiction, doesn’t it?

It’s not. A simple approach that has succeeded in putting over a half million commuters on bikes in the United Kingdom was a creation of an annual tax exemption. The “cycle to work” scheme encourages employees to cycle and allows employers to reap the benefits of a healthier workforce, not to mention the benefits to the population as a whole, including drivers. After all, one more bicycle on the road means one less automobile fighting for precious space. Plus less pollution in the air and less natural resources to be dug out and transported across the planet.

Read the whole article here.

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