Thursday, November 26, 2009

Two Months Late to This, But Still Funny

When he got back to his computer, Twitter was still broken. He pulled the blue plastic tarp off his laptop, then folded it and carried it out to the grocery cart and packed it and came back with their plates and some cornmeal cakes in a plastic bag and a plastic bottle of syrup. He spread the small tarp they used for a table on the ground and laid everything out and he took the pistol from his belt and laid it on the cloth and then he just sat watching the laptop go into sleep mode. He'd pulled away his mask in the night and it was buried somewhere in the blankets. He watched the laptop and he looked out through the trees toward the road. This was not a safe place. They could be seen from the road now it was day. The laptop hummed quietly in the blankets. Then its screen went bright. Hi, Papa, the laptop said.


Monday, November 16, 2009

My Spacing Article About the Sex Appeal of Women on Bikes

This article appeared in the Summer-Fall 2009 issue of Spacing. The photos did not.

The Bi(ke) Curious
Two-wheeled sex machine

Ryan Bigge

In the summer, if you are both observant and fortunate, you will spot a woman on a bicycle wearing heels. The point of her shoe will suspend in mid-air as her legs trace precise circles. If she is wearing a sundress, even better.

A woman pedaling a bike is alluring – wind in her hair, smooth, carefree grace, firm calf muscles. But is this because attractive women ride bicycles? Or does the very act of bicycling bestow a seductive aura upon a woman? This might seem a trivial question, but trying to locate the erotic frisson of bicycling is not straightforward.

Take the recent World Naked Bike Ride, held in early June, which offers plenty of evidence that pedaling can be utterly unerotic. Hollywood, meanwhile, treats a man on a bicycle as a punchline, at least in films like The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Ditto the TV show Arrested Development.

And yet a “not” can be turned into a “hot” through proximity to cranks and gears. In an October 2008 Toronto Life article, Richard Poplack discovered that infamous bike hoarder Igor Kenk “had a string of lovers over the years, most of whom lived nearby and were seduced by his combustive mixture of charm and profanity, his masculine unpredictability and un-Toronto-ness. One neighbour told me, ‘There were always beautiful girls talking to Igor, getting their bikes fixed for hours.’”

Three years ago, some Portland, Oregon perverts decided to push the erotic logic of cycling to its ultimate conclusion and create a Bike Porn film festival (link). The festival showcases user-submitted sex-positive short films that make the cycling fetish explicit (as does the Peaches video “Lovertits,” featuring Feist and another girl making out with and on their bikes).

Meanwhile, photoshoots with bicycles are becoming more frequent on alt pin-up websites like SuicideGirls and DeviantNation. There is also a Toronto girl bike gang called The Deadly Nightshades (link) who, unlike the suicides and the deviants, produce photographs that are captivating and safe for workplace viewing.

Whether bike porn and cheesecake pin-ups are empowering or the same old objectification is not an easy question to answer. More importantly, it might be the wrong question to ask. In his May 31 New York Times Book Review of Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists are Changing American Cities, musician and artist David Byrne (himself an avid urban cyclist since the late 1970s) argues that more high heels on pedals could help reduce our carbon footprint.

“I can ride till my legs are sore and it won’t make riding any cooler,” he notes. “But when attractive women are seen sitting upright going about their city business on bikes day and night, the crowds will surely follow.”

In Case You Missed Them

Book review of 8x10 by Michael Turner: (link).

Book review of Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture (Kaya Oakes) and And Then There's This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture (Bill Wasik): (link).

The Wasik book will help explain balloon boy. The Oakes will explain the crippling success of indie culture: (link).

Globe and Mail Article on Microstores

It's not the size, it's what you do with it
Globe and Mail (Toronto Section) | October 10, 2009 | Ryan Bigge

Located on a quiet stretch of College Street near Lansdowne, it's easy to miss Industtrees, a new 340-squarefoot art gallery and trinket store. Featuring small, cartoonish paintings by New York artist Gea, along with Vladmasters (handmade View-Master reels for grown-ups), the latest issue of The Believer and a tiny analog synthesizer called the Stylophone (David Bowie used one on the album Space Oddity ), this microstore appears be an anomaly in a big-box world.

But Industtrees, along with Cubeshops (400 square feet) and Sam James Coffee Bar (280 square feet) represent an intelligent expression of entrepreneurial ambitions during a recession. Toronto had a tiny perfect mayor (David Crombie), so why not tiny perfect retail? “It's boutique-esque,” says 24-year-old co-owner Cameron Kowalchuk, describing the retail aspect of the gallery, which opened in early July. “You're forced to focus.”

As last Sunday's New York Times pointed out, the latest trend in retail is “curating” items: supplying a few choice objects instead of a surfeit of choice. The microstore can be thought of as a hip experiment in subtraction, rather than a pragmatic response to economic circumstances. Meanwhile, lower rent allows owners to take risks and remain true to their niche sensibilities, rather than rely on volume.

Hence the design store Cubeshops, which opened in early August. (Despite the plural, there is only one location, on Baldwin Street, beside The Little Video Shop). With its focus on limited edition, functional art pieces from Japan, Cubeshops resembles an even more tightly curated version of Queen West fixture Studio Brillantine. The colourful dinosaur-shaped rubber bands, clothespin chopsticks and staple-free staplers pop from the white walls, while the fishbowl-style front window encourages gawking. “We're trying to maximize the impact of our minimalism,” explains co-owner Sid, who demurs when asked for his surname, perhaps worried it will take up too much room.

Many micros hide macro ambitions – Mr. Kowalchuk hopes to be in a bigger (and more foot-traffic friendly) location within a year. But others shrug off temptations to expand, afraid of losing the unique charm that keeps customers loyal. The Smart-car-sized Blood and Bandages at College and Dovercourt, which opened in 2007, has two barber chairs crammed into under 100 square feet and would be just another snip shop at any other size. Whether it's the result of an aversion to greed, or a touch of laziness, a small but steady profit is often preferable to an ill-fated attempt at world-domination.

For 25-year-old barista Sam James, who runs the Sam James Coffee Bar (his shop's cheeky name aside, the proprietor's actually quite modest), thinking small is baked into his business model. “If you're not in a high-volume location, you can focus on quality coffee without compromising,” he argues. “And I think people will go out of their way to seek out that quality.” His three-seat coffee spot opened in early September at Harbord and Clinton, and coffee aficionados regularly spill out into the sidewalk on weekends.

Cozy can even become a way of life. Having just survived working 30 days straight, Mr. James took a well-earned break from the daily grind last Tuesday, during which he slept in, ate cheese and got reacquainted with his cat. He also decided to patronize another microstore – Speakeasy, a new tattoo shop that just happens to be located right next door to his coffee bar.

It is, after all, a small world.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Comment Boards Are My Favourite Thing

This was a few weeks ago, but I forgot to post. The source material is linked below, but the comment speaks for itself. Rational public sphere indeed.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

When In Doubt, Ask a Canadian Celebrity For Medical Advice

I think Annabel Lyon is a phenomenal writer. That said, I don’t give a rat’s ass about whether or not she’s getting the H1N1 flu shot. Her new novel is about “Aristotle's relationship with Alexander the Great” according to the Globe. How does that make her medical decisions any more or less relevant than those of "ordinary Canadians?"

For more of The Globe and Mail doing what it does best: (link).

My Obligatory, Bi-Annual Potshot at Russell Smith

Thank you, Mr. Smith, for writing in such a way that my making fun of you is entirely unnecessary.

Exhibit A: TwitterTits

Exhibit B: Unboxing Trend Three Years Too Late