So, we thought it might be swell to try out some less outrageous color combos for those of us who identify as square. But then the nuance and sophistication of a straightforward monochrome totally floored us. Apparently, boring is the new interesting.


Safe and Sound

News in the world of bicycle security: Kryptonite, as in that little company to whom you trust your beloved set of wheels, has recently reached a whole new level of awesome. They have started making BIKE RACKS. BIKE RACKS that make it easy to lock up your frame and even a wheel if need be. I kid you not.

I, as you, know all too well the frustration of finding bike parking so unevenly distributed throughout the city where I live. One block can be littered with signposts, already full with other bikes, while others can hardly offer a parking meter. Too often available parking comes in the way of shadowed corners, too thin metal fences or worse, verifiable racks that have been loosened from their foundations--traps for absent minded riders who make the mistake of locking to these unfortunate bear traps.

So this company is actually providing a service to the community. Can you even imagine? The only price for their generosity is the not so subtle logo printed in bright yellow at the bottom of each rack. A small price to pay for something so useful and good.

So to those lucky kids in Portland (OR), Austin (TX), Palos Heights (IL)and Blue Island (IL), I would like to extend a hearty congratulations. I am most certainly jealous. According to Kryptonite's blog, 75 racks will eventually be installed across the country, though details about these added locations is yet to be announced. You can read more about this right over here. Philadelphia, I have a jealous feeling, is not to be among the chosen, but probably it won't hurt to cross my hopeful fingers anyway. It would be pretty awesome to see one of those beauties outside our studio someday...


Junkyard Bilenkathon

I wanted to give you all plenty of time to gear yourselves up, so to speak, to race in the Second Annual Bilenky Cycle Works Urban Cyclocross Race. Who knows how much Thanksgiving you're going to eat and you may want to bounce up and down on some curbs, but I think that two and a half weeks is enough time to get your asses in shape to be worthy competitors.

The rabblerousing starts at noon, but for all you churchgoers and partypigs, race isn't til three. So no need to hustle your hump, but you will be rewarded for arriving on time with beers and BBQ, which personally turns my cranks a little faster. And to accompany all this festivity, the West Philadelphia Orchestra is rumored to have been secured to play Balkan Party, a.k.a. Gypsy music. I know, I know, you are squirming in your saddles already.

If you can gather from this lovely poster, designed by our own pal Emily, there will be junk to navigate as the entire race takes place in the junkyard near Bilenky's shop.

And if you don't yet know about Bilenky Cycle Works, you need to get your head out of the sand (dude, this is philly! That's not sand!) and figure it out. They build some pretty sexy frames right here in Philadelphia and they are quite the little outfit. R.E.Load boss man Roland, can be seen posing with his custom Bilenky travel track bike on the Kryponite website, here.

But back to the bones:

WHO: YOU, of course!
WHAT: 2nd Annual Bilenky CycloCross Urban Cyclocross Race
WHERE: 5319 North 2nd Street, Philly, PA
WHEN: 12 O'Clock Noon
HOW: $5 to race
WHY: There's even going to be some live tunes!
Sponsored by Quality Bicycle Products

And hey, if you are a scaredy chicken like me and you don't have a suitable bike, then we can just hang out. If that doesn't sell you then maybe you need to see some photos from last year.


Plain and Simple.

I mean who doesn't?

Lock Holsters

Are fun for boys. . .

. . . and for girls.
But did you know all the webbing Fabric Horse uses for these things (and for the utility belts, 59rs, seatbelt bags, basically whenever possible) are ripped from old cars in junk yards?

Yep, just so you know, by supporting FH you are also supporting the reuse and recycle of materials along with the reduction in waste. We also use scraps saved from the trash cans of RELoad Bags, and really, you would be surprised where else we get fabric from.


Hotly Knifed.

Wow. I had sort of forgotten what it's like to get such a crush on a famous person. And by famous, I mean that when I was much, much younger I was totally in love with Leo. By famous, I also mean some great food blogger(s) that I happened to discover while listening to the radio, who are famous in a smaller way. Which just makes them seem more famous, because I'm crushing on them because they are so brutally awesome and not just because I'm a pre-tween who secretly loved Titanic. Um, let me explain.

So, in addition to sewing my bones off most of the time, I am what you might call Food Obsessed. Carrie once said of me, "If I had a nickel for every time Mary talked about food, I'd be a very rich lady." To which my boyfriend John replied, "If I had a nickel for every time Mary talked about food, I'd could retire." Hardy har har. But I'd like to say that yes. I love to read about food and talk about food and cook the food and eat the food and photograph the food and do it all over again. I love food and I'll love it til the day I die.

I also love expensive beer. And more recently, I love making this beer. In my house. And so if I'm not talking about food, Carrie could be collecting nickels about how much I talk about homebrew.

I'm not about to force feed you any of my favorite websites because I know that not everyone can get as psyched about this stuff as I can, but so the moral of this whole stupid story is that I've got a big freaking crush on a new blog I discovered that happens to be about food and beer and is written by two pretty good lookin boys from California. It is called Hot Knives, Hearty Recipes for Heady Homies. They write recipes and food stories and talk about beer and suggest musical pairings for cooking and eating their recipes and even if you hate food and you're straight edge and maybe you're kind of a jerk, I think you might friend crush on them too. Because seriously. I want to hang out and make brunch with them and listen to the Velvet Underground. My little heart is aflutter.

Now I have to say a pie-slice sized portion of my immediate swoon can be chalked up to the fact that they write exclusively on vegetarian and vegan cooking. In the About section of their website, they write:

We live in Los Angeles. We don’t cook with meat. And we like sharpening our knives about as much as we like: bicycling, performing harsh noise music, gardening, slugging whiskey, and muckraking. We believe in cheap groceries, cooking with high alcohol content beer and free leisure. We hate weak sauces.

I don't know how you all feel about this issue, but I happen to be a vegetarian who routinely wades through meat-obsessed food writing to be occasionally rewarded with veg-friendly side dishes and entrees that can be more or less easily adapted to soy meats and stuffs. And so their meat-free slant is pretty huge. There are of course other veggie food blogs out there in the internet, but few have prompted my regular readership or even sustained interest. Until now. Just look at the hip layout of their website. That alone might get you art geeks geeking out too.

Woah baby, is all I can say. This crush is probably the closest I'll ever come to internet dating. And they seem to like to slip in some food puns. It's really win win win.

Yes I Would Like to Draw Your Attention to Wal-Mart.

For the first time ever, Wal-Mart is doing something that may actually effect us in a positive way. And seriously, I'm as shocked as you are, but it is the truth.

As many of us may know, health care in this little land of ours is on the rocks and statistically speaking, most of us don't have the insurance we deserve. Up until now, huge employers like Wal-Mart (no, I refuse to link you to their page because all you need to know about this super-chain can be found within the confines of this blog. And you obviously already know what they are, so forgive me this biased reporting...) have set industry standards for employee health care benefits. And this has caused health insurance costs to individuals and small businesses to go up, as more insurance carriers cater to the needs of these humongous corporations, adversely affecting costs and benefits and general quality of health care. Companies like Wal-Mart have demanded the insurance industry cut benefits across the board, to decrease overall cost to them as the employer and to raise premiums paid by employees.

According to a Monday New York Times article, Wal-Mart has garnered enough negative publicity related to this specific bad business practice to persuade them to change their tune. The article outlines why specifically this corporation has found it in their best interest to support employee health care and why this shift will have infinite effects on business practices and insurance coverage in this country. I, for one, am as surprised as anyone to find myself celebrating Walmart's strides in becoming an upstanding American employer. But we should take it where we can get it, and in the current business climate, such an ally in fighting for workers' rights has to be celebrated. Doesn't mean I'm going to shop there. Just means I'm glad they aren't the absolute most evil-doers after all. Read the article, you might just agree.


What is the What?

I have to admit that I am not someone who always has a book in her hand. It isn't necessarily easy for me to find a book that I want to dig my nose in and to be quite frank, I just dont have any damn time to consistently devote. Having said that, I would like to introduce you all to What is the What by Dave Eggers.

This book has captivated my interest in so many ways. My heart bends back and forth each time I open the pages. Its an autobiography of a man named Valentino Achak Deng, written by Eggers. Achak was about 6 or 7 years old when he involuntarily became one of the thousands and thousands of lost boys from Sudan. He watched as his village was burned, his family and friends beaten and killed, eaten by lions, forced to become slaves, and collapse from starvaton. He walked in a group of hundreds of other boys around his age thousands of miles thru a war torn country suffering from a seemingly unstoppable genocide, dodging all those out to kill them. They walked thru Sudan into Ethiopia to a refugee camp until they were forced from there and into Kenya. He spent a total of about 15 years in the refugee camps and now currently resides in the United States only to live another life of turmoil and distress.

This is a true story, and Valentino is my age. These civil wars have been happening since the 80's and for me to imagine a life such as his is mind blowing. About a year ago I traveled to Africa to visit my good friend Yune from college who has been doing Peace Corps for the past 2 years in Cameroon. It was an experience I will never forget. Because of my trip, not only is Valentino's story heart breaking, but I can also envision many of his descriptions of villages, the buildings, and food. Granted Cameroon and Sudan are completely different countries however I cannot help but to compare the images in my head to his discriptons of what happened. This may be a bit ignorant, yes, but I think Americans are generally ignorant to what is going on outside their bubble. Shit! I know I am. I highly recommend this book to everyone. The more people who are educated in what is going on will create a larger support for serious change and peace in Sudan. That war was stared over dispute in land between the Dinka and the Muslims and unfortunately oil was a huge part in that. George Bush senior had a hand in pointing all that out too.
Thanks George.

PS: My friend Gwen is traveling to Cairo on Tuesday for a month. Gwen and her friends are clowns who are going to Egypt to spend time with the Sudanese and Muslim children in the refugee camps. This will be the 3rd year she has gone. I wish her all the best in her travels.


An Historic Preservation

Last evening I had the pleasure of accompanying some friends to see a show of photographs by Jeff Stockbridge held at the Center for Emerging Visual Artists. Although I'd previously seen Jeff's work via the interweb, this was my first time seeing the pictures on a large scale, in person. And what a treat.

The show displayed a series of photographs documenting the now vacant Divine Lorraine hotel on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. To those who know it, mere mention of the structure's holy descriptor congers images of the graceful, elaborate facade, looming over Phiadelphia's central street ten stories in the air. The edifice has acquired such mythic status simply by enduring at its unlikely address--neighbored by blocks of ruined storefronts, dollar stores and fast food restaurants.

The personality that inhabits the Divine Lorraine stems mostly from its roots as a luxurious residential hotel, and this character carries the baggage of the building's mysterious passage through harder times, title transfers and eventual abandonment. Seeing it today, it is difficult to understand the period that lies between the hotel's heyday and present time and too, the city that watched it happen. For me, Jeff's photographs fill in some of the infinite gaps in the building's historical recollection. He captures rooms and hallways throughout the hotel as they are now, many of them cluttered with trash; mattresses lie naked and chairs stand strewn. While all has been seemingly stripped of its grandeur, Jeff's lens sheds brilliant light and color across the remaining triumphant architecture amidst melancholy scenes. And the resulting prints carry in them all the vibrance and texture of the hotel's charismatic life itself.

Jeff's Artist Statement explains his method, "Highlighting certain areas of a photograph in sharp focus and obscuring the rest, Stockbridge utilizes this method to recreate the act of seeing." Indeed, seeing the photos up close, the many areas of focus and blur in each piece are captivating and aid in further emphasizing the conflicting content therein.

I could write and write about these pictures. And I'd encourage you to see more of the work at Jeff's website. There you can find more Lorraine photos, as well as his photos of other abandoned buildings in Philadelphia, also of interest. The work alludes to an obsession with the cast off, forgotten urban spaces, which I find rather contagious. This same preoccupation with abandoned objects and places drives my own work as a scavenger and remaker of things. It is a tenet of FH, to be sure. Jeff's commitment and talent for documenting these places is important work and I am just so continuously impressed.



I hope that you all voted yesterday, I would have blogged about it to remind you but I was too busy Actually Doing It, that is to say, being voter number 22 at my local poll. Smaller offices, sure, but still important. So, after the fact, I am happy to lay on a hefty guilt trip to those who stayed away, and to extend a hearty congratulations to those who cast their ballots.

Two little bits: the most recent issue of UrbanVelo, a young publication out of Pittsburgh about urban cycling, came out last Thursday. You should keep an eyeball peeled for it at your local awesome bike shop or check out the internet version here. There is an excellent piece on the inside about winterizing your cycling routine, which though a bit of an overview ,is a really nice checklist of an article about some timely preparations we can make for the coming freeze.

And secondly but not least, there is a noteworthy article in the NY Times called "In Portland, Cultivating a Culture of Two Wheels." It outlines the the viability of cycling as a community based economic enterprise, as evidenced by the lovely American city, Portland, Oregon. And there is this fancy video too. As a Philadelphian, who has only glimpsed the fine streets of that overcast Western mecca and whose local experience of bike related economy seems somewhat stifled by aggressive motorists and elusive bike lanes, this article is a beacon of hopeful light. I have to say, my visit to the fair Canadian city of Montreal is by far my closest approximation of heaven and Philly, bless you, is just so far from being that. I was frankly amazed that an American city could earn the distinction of being a Culture of Two Wheels. So, way to go PDX. I mean, I knew you sort of ruled, but now I've seen the proof.


A Tisket A Tasket

Sometimes my favorite days to wear my half belt are also days when I need to go to the post office, I need to buy coffee for us at work, or I need to carry home a 5 gallon stainless steel pot for my beermaking habit. And let's be honest, as crucial as FH belts may be, you can only fit so much into that velcro pouch. So while I keep my wallet, my keys, my phone and my ipod in my belt, these are the days I make sure to wheel out my cruiser, with its ever functional Basket.

Mine is just a standard shallow steel deal, made by Wald, with the addition of a small red & white plastic lifesaver that reads "RMS Queen Mary" a present from the boyfriend's boss Curtis secured by a zip tie to the front. It'll fit one paper grocery bag or two FH boxes perfectly, and for large loads, I use a couple of old tubes to tie stuff to it. It serves me well, but if I had a million dollars I would obviously get this:

A handmade basket from A.N.T. Bikes, this beauty runs 275 dollars and made custom to fit on the shop's handbuilt frames. Unfortunately for me, you have to buy the cow here. Which is to say you have to buy these baskets along with one of the shop's custom bicycles, not a la carte to go on say, an old ladies Schwinn. But I can respect that. A.N.T. is a frame and parts builder in Holliston, Massachusetts. The ANT stands for Alternative Needs Transportation, as well it should. The owner, Mike, seems like a pretty cool guy. Judging from his links, which include Cool Organizations, Food and Politics, and Alternative Energy alongside several more bike obvious things, I'd say it looks like he runs a neat little shop. See the entire Baskets and Racks section for many more equally deluxe setups. Their bikes are real pretty too.


Twenty Seven

Last night Carrie and I both went to see our friend, Annette Monnier's show "Twenty Seven" at the Padlock Gallery. It ruled.

Annette, formerly of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, describes herself as an "artist, curator, art blogger/wrtier, and something of an under-paid pre-fash consultant." Which is pretty accurate, I'd say. She also plays in a noisy great band called Paper Napkin with R.E.Loaders Gerik & Mayu, and she is witty and saucy and fun.

The show consisted of primarily drawings, in the broadest sense of the word, with plenty of good old-fashioned coloring in. Often depicting scenes, the works are crowded images with dozens of people doing whatever it is they do inside the frames of her large pages. My absolute favorite part about Annette's drawings is the careful attention she gives to she strands on each little person's head. You can almost be there it's so true.

I really liked "Dial 481" and "Really Full Subway Car", but the true show stealer was probably the gigantic hand drawn black and white American Flag, entitled "Spiderman." Hanging across an entire wall of the small room, the stars and stripes could be glimpsed through the windows from the street.

I realize I'm predisposed to like Annette's work because I know her as a person, but I also really love the fact that she was born and raised in Ohio. And for this, the black flag--a reconciliation of Annette's feelings both of and against this country--I found to be a really honest, tactile manifestation of the emotion of politics.

And there were even Party Favors: tiny sets of drawings and text configured into a small book:

At the end of all this merrymaking, we discovered that Nerds poured into a High Life, a happy couple do not make. See: That Guy at the art opening.

So happy birthday, Annette. And well done.