Archive for the ‘Cartooning’ Category

Antisocial distancing

March 21, 2020

The outside is still there. We’re just not making as much use of it lately.

No child likes homework. And damn few adults like working from home full time, once they’ve given it a whirl.

Oh, sure, some of us are cut out for it. Truth be told, without the option to work remotely, some of us wouldn’t be remotely employable.

So as you noobs open your laptops on the kitchen counter, launch Skype, and settle into The New Normal, remember the Old Abnormal. We’re still here, in our three-day beards, unbrushed teeth, and soiled yoga pants, taking regular meetings with the voices in our heads.

We pioneered this shit. Homesteaded it, you might say. And we like it.

So, welcome to orientation.

First, the bad news: The voices in your head are not the ones you’re used to hearing around the water cooler in the office.

The good news? You can tell them to shut the fuck up and they won’t rat you out to HR.

Yes, it’s another thrilling episode of Radio Free Dogpatch!

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: It’s another bargain-basement broadcast. I used the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic, and skipped the Zoom H5 Handy Recorder in favor of recording directly to the MacBook Pro using Rogue Amoeba’s nifty little app Piezo. Editing was as usual, in GarageBand. The intro music is by Your Humble Narrator, assembled from bits and pieces in the iOS version of GarageBand on a 9.7-inch iPad Pro. Angry shouting and background music (the latter by Doug Maxwell/Media Right Productions) is courtesy of the YouTube Audio Library. Cash register by kiddpark at Freesound.org. Herself was voiced either by Elle Macpherson, Tyra Banks, or Rosario Dawson, I can’t decide.

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 12

December 31, 2019

He’s back? Oh, God, no. Wasn’t it bad enough the first time around?
From the December 2019 issue of BRAIN.

Behold the final installment of the 12 Days of ’Toonsmas.

Now and then I think it would be fun to be a columnist as in days of yore, cranking out the tees, and also the hees, for fun and (very little) profit.

And then I think again.

Columning can feel an awful lot like work, and it seems that climate change is thinning everyone’s skin when you’d expect it to be doing just the opposite. Surely some of these squealing ninnies should’ve bled to death by now, the way they announce with outrage ev’ry prod with the bodkin. But no, it seems one wee prick merely arouses another.

Better to have my own little shop here on this unremarkable back alley, well off the Infobahn, where the Twitters and Facebooks roar around and about, one hand on the horn and the other out the window, middle digit extended. However do these people steer? Why, with the knees they’d like to shove in your groin, if they were ever to clamber down from the heights of their machinery, which they will not.

So here’s a toast to those of you who continued to patronize the joint during 2019 despite its lack of modern conveniences, the NO SOLICITORS sign, and general air of disreputability. It’s not easy to find, there’s not much in the way of parking, and you want to lock up your bike in this neighborhood if that’s how you roll.

Mind the Committee of Perpetual Grievance milling about there on the sidewalk. He’ll call a meeting about you if you should happen to tread on his toes.

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 11

December 30, 2019

They’re, like, all cargo bikes, dude, sir.
From the November 2019 issue of BRAIN.

The Mud Stud is, like, totally not into, like, your categories, an’ stuff, dude, sir.

He works for a bike shop, so he can only afford one bike. And he makes it do everything, from the daily commute to hucking off cliffs at Deadman’s Dropoff to fetching his SpaghettiOs and PBR from the Grab-N-Git.

He will be happy to sell you whatever it is you have been told that you want, and then fix it when it goes sideways from neglect. But for his own purposes he prefers a spartan two-wheeler that can be field-repaired with a minitool, some duct tape, and a trailside rock.

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 10

December 29, 2019

A colleague thought this one might get taped up on a few shop walls.
From the October 2019 issue of BRAIN.

As noted on Day 9, e-bikes have their ups and downs. Like any other bicycle, only more so.

They ask more of their owners — check out this article from an REI master tech in Portland — and of their friendly neighborhood mechanic.

Sometimes, a fella just longs to see one of the old bikes. V1.0. The kind that doesn’t give you much help, but doesn’t give you many headaches, either.

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 9

December 28, 2019

Susan Calvin was off when these two rolled off the line at U.S. Robots.
From the September 2019 issue of BRAIN.

E-bikes present both opportunity and challenge for the IBD.

One more bike to sell to the base — the old white guy who already has 15 two-wheelers in the garage but may be slowing down a bit due to age or infirmity, and wants a little assist.

One more bike to lure new customers, who may have found old-fashioned cycling too difficult, or who have decided to replace a car with something greener.

One more bike to service, because the future requires more maintenance than the past.

Our heroes at BRAIN’s bike shop acquired an e-assistant to work on e-bikes, which raises another issue, one familiar to anyone who ever read Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream.”

Artificial intelligence will not come to us from U.S. Robots, complete with a full installation of Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and overseen by Susan Calvin, Greg Powell and Mike Donovan. It will come from Allied Mastercomputer via Ellison Wonderland, it will have ideas all its own, and it will not be our friend.

“They’re a cleaner better breed than we are,” Calvin said in an interview with The Interplanetary Press. Maybe so. in Asimov’s novels, anyway. But in real life our e-assistants will be made by us, in our image. Frightening.

You’ll want to keep them locked up at night, and not for fear of thieves.

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 8

December 27, 2019

I saw it on the Innertubes so it must be true.
From the August 2019 issue of BRAIN.

One way to minimize your exposure to retail ridicule is to order your goodies online and pick them up at your leisure.

I’ve done this with coffeemakers, computer monitors, and even a guitar. And in these strange days of modern times, you can do it with bicycles, too.

Just surf merrily around the Innertubes from the comfort of your own castle, wherein none dare call you Tubby, Fred, or not at all. Locate the steed of your dreams. Then it’s “click and collect.” Easy peasy.

Or maybe not.

Things always look better on the Innertubes. A Big Mac looks like a hamburger. A generic plastic bike looks like winged Pegasus. And Il Fattini looks like Brad Pitt.

Until you see him in the all-too-abundant flesh and realize he looks more like Brad’s second cousin Grease. And smells like his Uncle Arm.

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 7

December 26, 2019

Just more trashy humor, from the July issue of BRAIN.

Back in June, Gloria Liu wrote a piece for Bicycling headlined, “Hey, Bike Shops: Stop Treating Customers Like Garbage.”

The article had its roots in a survey about rider experiences in shops, which found that way too many people had had a bad day at the IBD, some of them more than once.

General condescension or snobbery was the most commonly cited behavior: “The bike shop employees … made me feel stupid for not being an expert,” said one respondent. Another said, “Shop employees tend to socialize with known customers. Until you’ve been to the shop a few times and made purchases, the employees tend to ignore you.” Other comments included being pressured into purchases or feeling looked down upon for having inexpensive bikes or being beginners.

“Core/bro culture,” mansplaining, and a smirking approach to the gravity-challenged were among the issues Liu discussed with customers and shop people. So, naturally, being core/bro, a mouthy know-it-all, and a relentless Lampooner of the Large whose next cartoon collection should be titled “Moby-Dickhead,” I went straight to the cheap joke for the July episode of “Shop Talk.”

The story reminded me of a passage in my favorite Thomas McGuane essay, “”Me and My Bike and Why,” reprinted in his collection “An Outside Chance: Essays on Sport.” The essay was about motorcycles, and those who ride and care for them, but it could have been about cameras, computers, guns, guitars or bicycles.

A fascinating aspect of the pursuit, not in the least bucolic. was the bike shop where one went for mechanical service, and which was a meeting place for the bike people, whose machines were poised out front in carefully conceived rest positions. At first, of course, no one would talk to me. …

One day an admired racing mechanic — “a good wrench” — came out front and gave my admittedly well-cared-for Matchless the once-over. He announced that it was “very sanitary.” I was relieved. The fear, of course, is that he will tell you, “The bike is wrong.”

Specialty shops tend to attract a specialty employee, the sort who is deeply immersed in the product and its use, and these people are not always a pleasure to be around when they’re in the throes of their particular ecstasy. It’s like walking into an unfamiliar church and announcing you’d like to get right with the Lord, and everyone starts laughing at you.

“Which one? You look like an Episcopalian to me, Tubby.”

“That a Bible you got with you? It better be the King James Version.”

“Tired of dancing on Sundays, huh?”

And it’s the same on the group rides. Swear to Eddy, some of these bozos want to crawl into your jersey with you and tell you how to sweat.

I think there’s always going to be a certain amount of this condescension in your life unless you’re one of these Renaissance types who don’t need no help from nobody. People who know things often like making sure you know that they know. And if you have a long fuse you can learn from these people.

But it ain’t easy. One of the best copy editors I ever worked with was also the biggest asshole I’d ever met. He’s since slipped off the podium; I was young then, and my sample size was a good deal smaller than it is now.

That said, I couldn’t take more than nine months of his bullshit, and I was getting paid to do it. I can’t imagine having to pay for the privilege.

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 6

December 25, 2019

Well, there’s training, and then there’s training.
From the June 2019 issue of BRAIN.

Training has gotten a lot of attention in the bike biz lately, with the rise of the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association and the increasing complexity of the two-wheeler.

The Mud Stud knows that you can fix anything with the right-size hammer, from a creaky bottom bracket to a loose headset. The occasional irksome customer likewise can be corrected with a snappy tap on the Campy cap.

But even an old hand like him needs the occasional refresher, and if the shop is paying the tab, so much the better.

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 4

December 23, 2019

Stoned again: From the April 2019 edition of BRAIN.

The bike business sometimes reminds me of Henri the painter in John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row.”

Regularly he revolted against outworn techniques and materials. One season he threw out perspective. Another year he abandoned red, even as the mother of purple. Finally he gave up paint entirely. It is not known whether Henri was a good painter or not for he threw himself so violently into movements that he had very little time left for painting of any kind.

Think about it. Movements, and violently. The road bike. The mountain bike. The suspension fork. Full suspension. Steel, aluminum, carbon, bamboo. The cyclocross bike. The cruiser. The fixie. The townie. The fat bike. 1x drivetrains. 8-, 9-, 10-, 11- and 12-cog cassettes. STI, ErgoPower and DoubleTap. Internally geared hubs. Belt drive. Disc brakes. Hydraulic disc brakes. Electronic shifting. Tubeless tires. The e-bike. The cargo bike. The gravel bike.

We can argue about whether all (or any) of these movements improve upon the basic bicycle. But I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I just want to ride the damn things. And if I have to be a quantum mechanic to work on it, I don’t need it.

Told I could have just one bicycle, I would choose a chromoly frame and fork with rack and fender mounts plus clearance for 42mm tires, a nine-speed, 11-34T cassette with a 46/30T crank, a short-reach, shallow-drop handlebar, bar-end shifters, aero levers, rim brakes, external cable routing, and 32-spoke clincher wheels (pre-tubeless “standards”).

Of course, that’s just me. One old white guy does not an industry make. But still.

In the meantime, I make fun of fads. Keep making those superhero movies, fellas. I’ll be over here, reading a fucking book.

12 Days of ’Toonsmas: Day 3

December 22, 2019

Moles don’t get that big, even if they drink beer.
From the March 2019 issue of BRAIN.

Felix Magowan, one of the original Trio that acquired what had been called Velo-news from founders Barbara and Robert George, had long wanted to add Bicycle Retailer and Industry News to the Inside Communications portfolio.

He never got it done. Eventually Inside Communications sold VeloNews to a passing crew of brigands, and Felix wandered off to do other things.

Episode 19 of Radio Free Dogpatch, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” from February 11, 2019.

Imagine giving Dave Stohler’s Masi Gran Criterium to your meth-addict nephew as a present for graduating from reform school. A bleak period ensued, thick with the sort of belligerent dumbassery once found only in high-school locker rooms, family trees shaped like flagpoles, and the lower houses of state legislatures in the Deep South.

I finally sat up and slipped off the back because VeloNews seemed to be careening into the sort of future in which plague-carrying aliens burst out of people’s chests while they’re battling killer robots. The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter went with me, to do the occasional walk-on in Bicycle Retailer’s “Shop Talk” comic strip.

And then, shazam! Felix reappeared as part of Pocket Outdoor Media, and not only reacquired VeloNews, but snapped up BRAIN and a couple other properties as well.

The Fat Guy and I didn’t go back to the old home place. I didn’t care about bicycle racing anymore, and anyway, we weren’t invited. But it seemed like a good time to make a meta joke about how Fatso was a spy for his old bosses.

Unlike the vulture capitalists who nearly burned VeloNews down to its foundation, the “Shop Talk” dudes seem to know they’re cartoon characters.

Also, unlike vulture capitalists, they’re funny.

• Editor’s note: Today’s blast from the past includes a bonus audio component — episode 19 of Radio Free Dogpatch from February 2019.