That Year Time

I must apologize for the slowness of posting during these days in this very latest part of 2008. About now each year, FH shuts down shop until the new year passes so that the ladies can put their feet up and enjoy the holidays in a work-free fashion. I happen to be less one digital camera (at my house we have to share and so when the both go in separate directions, well, the camera can't very well be split in two) and I'd like to blame my absent posting on my coinciding inability to capture images.

I trust you are all making New Year's resolutions and preparing excitedly for the Eve tonight, spiking the punch, hanging a disco ball perhaps and timing your playlists. I'm always down for an inspirational tale at times like these. I promise this one will be quick.

On Sunday night, I was talking to my friends from home about what its like biking year round in Wisconsin. They live in Madison and my friend Matt had just got a really sweet new winter time, cycle-friendly jacket and this inspired a general discussion of Wisconsin Winters. Since arriving here two weeks ago, I've pretty much avoided driving at all costs because by now I'm so ill accustomed to slippery roadways that I was sure I'd wreck my little brother's car sooner than I could back out of the driveway. So when we then started discussing biking around on such roads, with banks mounded four feet high from the snow plows and black ice lurking beneath ever-freshened dusts of snow, I decided I'd be similarly terrified to bike in this sort of weather even if I had my own equipment on hand and proper attire. For all I may boast of bravely facing Philadelphia winters, riding in the winter in suburban sprawl is unimaginable to me. Then you'll guess at my astonishment when Matt then mentioned that a friend of his plans to start a messenger company here in Appleton, WI to operate year round serving the city. Remember, today the high temperature should reach 10 degrees Fahrenheit and there's 3 feet of snow on the ground! Very quickly what I thought unimaginable not only occurs in the imagination, but is now intended! I am surprised and shocked by the proposition of cycle messengering in Appleton, WI. In a good way; this tale makes me realize I should open my eyes more, be optimistic and stop patting myself on the back for unconditionally riding through the rain.

As you don your gay apparel, take to heart this story of some people in extreme climates getting out and riding even against what might be called better judgment. If this kid in fact accomplishes a successful company in this, the most unwelcome climate, the rest of us better start aiming higher. Calibrate your goals to a grander scale, call for extremes and make no excuses!

So then, are you ready to tackle 2009? We thought so. Happy new year.

Fabric Horse


By The End of Today

I love projects like this one. Not only because it's Christmas Eve and I'm feeling sentimental, but notice how that fancy camera makes everyone on film so good looking! Even the guy who wishes for more sex. It's like a commercial for humanity or something.

via Oh Joy!


Blinky Bilenky

Yes, yes, its that time of year again. Better get working on some of that homemade egg nog, whiskey and all, because you'll want to be good and ready to sit out in that cold junkyard up in Olney come Sunday to watch a good clean race around some pretty dirty roughage. What could be better to mentally prepare you for all the mild manners of the holidays? Nothing, really. So grab your favorite long johns, some festive brunchtime beverages and head thee to the Bethlehem of Philadelphia, cycle speaking, to catch some action that Santa probably wouldn't attempt in that billowy old sleigh. Sure to be holly jolly sort of holiday.


No More Holiday Orders!

Sorry guys but we have to do it. We officially cannot accept any more orders that need to be delivered in time for the holidays. All orders here on out will be scheduled for production and shipment after the holidays. For Lock Holster orders we apologize for a delay in shipping but we need a vacation. I will be in Ohio for a bit, but will try to ship out some holsters here and there. Keep in mind we will be out of the studio and on relaxation time from next week until the new year. See you in 2009!


One More Reason Japan Is Probably Cooler Than Here.

Seriously, this isn't a future-speculating, robot dominated, science fiction movie with Kristen Bell and Jude Law. This is a WASHINGTON POST NEWS STORY about something that exists in real time and space, right now on the other side of the planet. Meanwhile, we westerners are still locking our bikes to traffic posts and parking meters most of the times. Just another day in the relatively primitive United States of America...

***This is especially apparent after trying for an hour to get the washingtonpost.com player to actually fit into the template of this blog...Sorry! I'm officially giving up.


Issue #2 of Fixed Magazine

If you're into this sort of thing, the second issue of the baby (age-wise, not audience-wise) track culture publication Fixed Magazine hit virtual newsstands...er, work stands on Friday. Somewhere between those pages, you'll find a nice interview with our pal Dustin Klein over at Cadence, newly a Philadelphia-based company. The interview goes further to show that Cadence isn't just the pretty-faced fashion cornerstone of track culture, it's headed by one deliberate and thoughtful boy, who really honors the sub-culture of bicycles with his carefully detailed projects. In the interview, he says:
Since 1999 I have made the conscious decision to live car-free and relish the political and individual effects of this. Once the motor vehicle is out of the equation, you start tobase your life around the bicycle. To me this is beautiful and I love how it affects everything from where you choose to live, to the types of food you eat. To me, bicycles are a physical representation of freedom, and I live my life by it.

The other thing that impressed me was their profile of Freeman Transport, a new operation out of Missoula, MT. Full Disclosure: I want to retire in Missoula someday; Retirement-wise, I think Western Montana is where it's at. But Freeman is doing something really nice, which is make bicycles that are meant for traveling. Around this time of year, and really any traveling time, the thought of visiting a city without a bicycle sounds downright painful. But with airlines now charging even for the regular sized checked baggage, bringing along a regular bike can be just too damn expensive. So anyway, Freeman's whole deal caught my attention because not only is it a really good idea--making folding bikes and fancy bags to carry them in--but their whole image and website is very high end, very quality goods crafted with that age-old romantic, the Traveler in mind. Doesn't it make you just sigh with pleasure? Ah.

Other features in the new Fixed include photo coverage of the 2008 CMWC's in Toronto, a bunch of little kids in London who are winning trick competitions and a huge spread about the making of the recently released Macaframa movie. The magazine is only printed twice a year right now, out of the UK and from the looks of things, on its way. The magazine manages to pack in tons of quality content and mostly, you already patronize and respect the companies doing the advertising, which makes every page enjoyable to read.

I'd say the only misstep is that fixedgearlondon.com ad on page 34-35 that has ONLY ONE LADY pictured next to 19 boys. Not only a Don't, but also statistically sort of busted. On the other hand, bonus points for profiling a girl who rides in Brooklyn.


We canNOT guarantee international shipping for the Holidays

We are officially not accepting anymore International Holiday orders. There is just not enough time to allow for shipping. If you want to purchase a lock holster and you are in the UK, or close to the Uk, please see our list of shops that carry our stuff. You can also contact Richard at Urban Hunter for more info. He has FH stock and will be distributing for us in the Uk.

For all lock holster orders shipping domestically. PLEASE get your order in by Tuesday December 16 if you want the holster by December 24. We ship First Class Mail via USPS and that takes 3-5 days. For all other products, if you need them by Dec 24, we will need your order soon. A rush fee of $10-25 will be asked of you so I can tip our stitchers to stay late filling your order. Our last day of shipping will be Friday December 19. All products other than Lock Holsters will ship out via USPS Priority Mail which takes 2-3 days.

If you are in Philly and want something, just give us a call and we can work it out over the phone. 215.694.9034.

If you are not worried about getting your things before xmas we will be happy to schedule your order for production in January. We take vacation for the time between xmas and new years.



Bicycle Drawn Up

This smelly but nice man gave me this a couple of weeks ago and it was a strange little gift titled "Sign Painting," but a thoughtful one. I mean, I know he had this in his backpack with some other art he'd made, but he gave me this one because he saw me unlocking my bicycle. It's just as lovely a bicycle drawing as I've ever seen, however little it actually resembles the bike that I ride.


Heavy South Street Bridge Traffic this Weekend

How can I be so sure? Because this is the last weekend anyone will be able to cross the South Street Bridge for two whole years! A sad thing, for anyone accustomed to traveling back and forth from South to West Philly. It has long been rumored that the bridge lacks the structural integrity of modern bridges and poses a potential danger without the proposed reconstruction. The closing then, is probably not news, but be sure to give that bridge a proper send off!

For those who know it, the South Street Bridge has long competed with Spring Garden for the most breathtaking means of crossing the Schuylkill. Many a night have I crossed it at dusk, headed into Center City for a night of shenanigans, when the view of the skyline from that bridge has caught the breath in my chest. It's an iconic vista, to be sure. For a while, a crowd of kids used to hang out on the bridge and hassle other people riding by, but even that I sort of looked forward to because it was too, familiar and very of the bridge. It makes me certain that I'm not the only one in tough-guy Philly to have a soft spot.

However pitted and bumpy, the bridge is lighter on traffic than the other four, slowed by the light at the entrance to 76 unlike Walnut and Gray's Ferry and somehow less prone to speeding drivers than the spring garden bridge at night. If you have no other memorial to the crossing planned this weekend, the bicycle coalition has slated a ride at 8:45 am Monday morning, as the bridge closes to traffic at 9:30. The project anticipates disrupting the commuting route for nearly 1,000 cyclists, and I can't imagine that most of them won't take the chance to ride across it one last time.


My Plaid Pony

Following our credo for reuse and penchant for refuse, the ladies of FH sport a good number of vintage ensembles. We all know it's possible to find crazy awesome scores in the bargain bin at Village Thrift in Jersey, but sometimes we all deserve to go into a Vintage store and emerge with a vintage bathing suit in a nice color that actually fits, off the rack. And our very favorite outlet for vintage shopping in Philadelphia is hands down the closet at Plaid Pony, the garage turned living space and vintage depot. Lara, the proprieter of Plaid Pony, converted the auto shop a while back and now their house may as well be plucked from the pages of your favorite magazine. It's seriously that perfect.

From the collection of toasters wallpapering an entire surface of their kitchen to the furniture harvested from a closing mental facility, the place breathes modernism and thoughtful design, creating the perfect gallery for the treasures that Lara collects. How do I know all this? Funny you should ask. Last year Carrie gave me a gift certificate for Christmas and though Lara does most of her vintage business on the internet or through consignment at stores in the area, I managed to get the VIP tour and treatment with my friend Sue one day last spring.

The space has no traditional storefront, but several rooms of the house have been devoted to the business she runs through her website, one for priced items, one for backup, one for housewares and bits and one for decorations and actually doing business in. The former three are packed, packed! full of stuff. If you need further baiting just go look at her website, and imagine that quality of stock but multiply it times at ten. The girl has a treasure TROVE.

Normally, to access Lara's collection, you'd have to go through the website or schedule an appointment, but this weekend is the third annual holiday open house she holds so that everyone gets VIP treatment. Saturday and Sunday this weekend you can go and see her beautiful house and her expansive collection of vintage in person. Hers is one for the ages, I promise you, so if you can manage to hoof it up to Fishtown this weekend, you won't be sorry. A rare glimpse awaits you.


E2 = MC BP

This actually has nothing to do with Einstein, which is good because it's hard to write exponents on the internet. But if you pretend the 2 up there is smaller and higher and then you use your thinking cap and decipher the code BP (Pssst! Brad Pitt!) then you will have solved the equation, leading you to the treasure, to bask in the glory that is the series on PBS called E Squared.

What does Brad Pitt have to do with it? Well apparently in his probably constant efforts to keep up with Angelina's do-gooding, Braddie has lent his voice to narrate this ongoing series on public television about sustainable design and culture. "Woah!" (That's what I first said when I caught it live on tv for the first time.)

This season, the series offers three families of programming: design, energy and transport. Both are shot in the same cinematic, well sound-tracked, crisply pictured style and both are very very good. I write you about it now because the episode featuring Velo Liberte just went up on the website in the transport family. Perhaps you've already collected quite the earful about the great success of the French bicycle sharing program, but even if you are already familiar, you should still be able to appreciate the real spotlight and consideration the idea is given in this brief documentary piece. Especially in light of all the like-minded proposals gaining consideration in cities all over the world, this piece does a great job discussing the pros and cons, the obstacles and the successes of the notion.

Photo from the Crew's documentation of filmmaking.

If you have the time, I highly recommend the other pieces too, as there are several about New Orleans and one about the Federal Building here in San Francisco. They are all listed on the program's website under webcasts. While the series on its own merits makes a great addition to the PBS roster, the program represents a great way that the technology giant AutoDesk has contributed something decidedly un-commercial that is of very high quality. With my soft spot for pretty documentaries and predisposition to this sort of programming, I was an easy target. But since you read this blog, I'm betting you might be too. And to further bait you, even BSNYC had almost entirely nice, however snarky, things to say about the piece.

E2 has no embed! option on their player and the Velib' bit hasn't made it on to youtube yet, so I need you to trust me here and follow the link. They say it will only be available for a week, so you'd better just do it today. Right Now! Ready? 1, 2, 3...Go!

Rush Charges on Holiday orders!!

It has proven to be that time of year again folks. We will be charging rush fees on any orders that need to be received by Hanukkah or Christmas.

Lock holsters will be ok to order with no rush fee. If you need the holster by Dec 19, please place your order by Dec. 11. If you need your holster by Dec 24, please place your order by Dec 17.
There will be no if, ands, or buts. Sorry.

$10 rush fee requested on all utility belts and fannies.
$15 rush fee on all spats
$20 rush fee on all Seatbelt bags.

FOR INTERNATIONAL ORDERS we will need your Lock Holster order by the end of this week meaning Sat. Dec 6! For any other product besides Lock Holsters, we apologize to say we are unable to get it to you in time. Please feel free to check our retail locations nearest you for availability.

After your order has processed you will receive an email asking if you need your order by these dates. If so we will be requesting this money from you either via credit card over the phone, or via paypal.

We sincerely appreciate all your orders and support this holiday season.


David Simon, hero.

So, the sick irony of my off-handed comment regarding our favorite Big Box store yesterday has just settled in. But moments ago, I heard this absurd piece of news relating the tragic death by trampling suffered by one Walmart seasonal employee yesterday morning at a Walmart in Valley Stream, NY. The anxious crowd of shoppers apparently grew so out of control that the police had to be called in and even they could not assuage the near-rioting people. See, kids? Rampant capitalism is dangerous! Now it has claimed yet another life.

And in such cynical holiday spirit, I happened to watch the end of Season 3 of the Wire last nigth and man. Much as I feel like a chump for writing about television here, I make exceptions for things exceedingly relevant and exceedingly worthwhile. And frankly, if you haven't seen this genius show yet, I feel it my duty to persuade you: this show is one of the greatest things television has ever seen.

Since relocating to the West coast, I am constantly grasping at things to remind me what its like back east. I am terrified I will forget what a Philly accent sounds like. Watching the Wire not only takes me right back to the mid-atlantic, but its portrayal of Baltimore is so close to our bedraggled and beloved Philadelphia that it's pretty much a one stop shop when I'm feeling homesick. I'd go so far as to say that if you have never had the pleasure to visit one of America's decaying urban centers--Philly, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Cincinatti--watching the Wire will get you at least half way there. Now don't get me wrong, they're each unique cities with very different landscapes, but our country's B-list cities share certain similarities. And the intricate complexities of Baltimore that play out in David Simon's show are many of the same things I associate with the FH home court. I'm no spoiler and it's not worth it for me to even begin to describe the infinite substance of the show. But recent history is on my side; the Wire isn't the only awesome thing lately to come out of Baltimore. And not to brag, but I got to see David Simon speak recently and it was hands down, one of the top ten things of my year.

Broken cities are more than just affordable. Frequently the cracks in the foundation, so to speak, create the very spaces for innovation. See: Braddock, PA

FH thrives in a creative community, a city of passion with relatively low cost of living because Philadelphia is a dysfunctional city. And we love that about it. A good friend of mine said recently that his own upbringing in a de-industrialized city may explain why he now calls the broken city of New Orleans his home. For the same reason, I find that I flock to other people, artists, writers and filmmakers who draw on the same multi-dimensional interest in understanding imperfect places. And it's no coincidence that David Simon's upcoming series, Treme is set in New Orleans.

It's often helpful to learn context, I find. And I'm offering up David Simon's cop drama as a facet of context for this little company. You may not understand what I mean until later, but that's okay. So long as the ball gets on rolling.


Sale is extending thru the weekend!

I have decided to extend the one day sale throughout the weekend. Having also been an advocate of "Buy Nothing Day" in the past I was having a moral dilemma while posting this One Day Sale. Being a business we rely on people buying our things, while we personally do not believe in frivolous buying ourselves. Irony at its best, eh?

Enjoy your time off work if you have it! I know I did as I slept 4 hours past normal this morning.

That Carrotmob guy is inspiring.

Black Friday!

Were you all lined up at Walmart this morning bright and early to get your hands on all those toyz? Yeah, me neither. But in honor of this great consumer holiday, here is a little video food for thought about an idea harkened Carrotmob. Sponsored by this new social activism group in SF called Virgance, the project aims to use collective consumption to influence business. Not a brand new idea, sure, but by staging real events where tons of people meet up and buy things all at once, Carrotmob increases awareness of the cause while building evidence for this new stragegy. Watch and learn:

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

Pretty interesting idea. Whereas I have my own softspot for buy nothing day, I think today's marketplace begs a more complex solution than blanket embargos. It's okay to support the businesses that you think are doing things right. In fact, we really depend on it.


Happy Thanksgiving, etc.

However you find yourself today, in a crowd of people, at a family sit-down, on your ownsome, outdoors, near a hearth, pot-luck style, turkey oriented, tofurkey oriented, stuffed to the brink, politely still hungry, drowsy, captivated, cooking, indulging, drinking, abstaining, friendly, family, north, south, east, west, in the city or the country...

Hope this Thanksgiving holiday is a happy one for you.

sending our love your way,
Fabric Horse.


Sale! Online Friday ONLY

Yes, we decided to jump on the bandwagon this Friday and put some of our waxed canvas items on sale. Most utility belts will be 15% off in just two measly days. So gear up and get ready. Sales valid on orders processed Friday November 28, 2008 only. Please email us at info@fabrichorse.com with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!



M.I.O. No, not a new riff on the hipster heroine of Paper Planes fame, nor a new-fangled military acronym for a soldier Minted In Oklahoma. Made in Oakland, MIO for short, is a new fair-wage not for profit sewing studio in the Fruitvale neighborhood of East Oakland. Funded by a $700,000 Federal grant, the studio aims to redefine the parameters of a textile factory and create over sixty living wage + health benefited jobs for skilled women while doing it.

Seamster Irene Torres at MIO
Photo by Jenny Pfeiffer for the East Bay Express

Many small-run designers seeking local, more accessible and not to mention equitable ways of making their products have few options for doing so. For those handful of factories still located in the U.S., you have to order a plethora if you order one. But MIO's no-minimum policy means that any designer has access to the resources of efficiency and skill offered by a factory set-up, without the harsh lighting or poor ventilation. However small, the amount saved by this efficiency without added shipping can benefit the finances of a small operation dramatically. MIO offers a full range of services, taking a designer's idea all the way from inception through to finished garment. Eventually, the organization also plans to sort all its fibers waste and process them back into fabrics which they will use to manufacture their own line of products. The building they occupy was renovated using green building materials (LEEDing by example!). And according to the recent article, they're even looking into getting machines that allow the operator to stand, a more ergonomic and therefore sustainable position.

I learned of this inspiring bunch through a Feature in the East Bay Express titled "Slow Fashion" featuring a handful of Bay Area designers doing their part to stay local and incorporate sustainable practices into the fashion community. Likening the movement to the similar trend in food systems was rather apt; the author relayed the growing demand by consumers for information on how and where their clothes come from. Especially in these hard financial times, I think people will more and more turn to handmade, especially on the local level, when they do choose to spend money on fashion. It's no coincidence that Made In Oakland's moniker articulates the studio's location. Just like quoting the county where a peach was grown, MIO is named for a city in California. They are proud of being from here. And they should be.


Springboard Media in Philadelphia is amazing. Go and support them if you live here. I called them up this morning to see if I could do anything to find my emails. Chad from the tech support spent almost 20 minutes on the phone with me helping me out, without having to pay them. They deserve our customer support. I have all my emails back, except the ones from yesterday, but thats OK! Thanks Springboard, you are the best.


Many apologies, I lost all my emails

I have been spending all day, and really most of my week, upgrading my 2004 ibook G4 to Leopard. I was double careful and backed everything up, twice I had believed actually. It appeared all my email history had saved, but in fact, it all vanished. I like to think it was into the interweb's thin thin air, but what can you do? I had almost 30 unread emails I had been putting off reading (including those not from customers or dealers) because my attention was on the prize.

If we have had pending email conversations PLEASE email me back as I have an undiagnosed case of ADHD. There are many many things racing around in my brain and I just might forget about your email. I apologize profusely . . . THANKS!

Carrie Collins (this includes all info@fabrichorse.com emails)


Too Much

As promised back in July, we are committed to bringing you all manner of pictures involving animals and FH. This one comes from Box Dog and features their new puppy, Taco, SLEEPING IN THE LOCKHOLSTERS. And see how the picture has managed to capture the wheel dreams dancing in his little dogg head?

I am dying about this one. Cute times a kermillion.


Just Food

A week ago, Friday night was the usual Art Murmur Festivities in Oakland and I attended. The opening for the group show "Food Justice" at Rock Paper Scissors was a particular draw, for me anyway, and judging from the usual horde-sized turnout I'd say the topic seems to crowd some other people's minds too.

Maybe it's just California, but the whole foodsystems-MichaelPollan-Urban-local-slowfood thing has started to infiltrate pretty much...everything. It seems that nothing is safe from the consideration of where and how your food is grown. Especially in the design world, people whose job it is to produce and promote aesthetics are now pulling on the ideas of locality and seasonality for the substance of their work. See also: Slow Food Nation. The boundaries between design and action are more blurred today than ever before, as innovation has become the battleground for the shaping of our society's future. Call me postmodern, but I see design, economics and science so intertwined at this historic juncture that it is sometimes difficult to tell the three apart. And I'm all aboard this smushsmash of issues. Of course the exhibit at RPS seemed only too timely and so I headed over for a closer look.
The show touched on all facets of our local East Bay alternative food production rockstars: People's Grocery, ForageOakland, the Secret Cafe and CitySlicker Farms Backyard Garden Project. Rock Paper Scissors contributes more regularly to this movement by providing a pickup point for the people's grocery Grub Box program.

ForageOakland contributed maps of the North Oakland Neighborhood documenting the location of found fruits and edibles. And SecretCafe, a house turned sometimes restaurant, displayed an archived collection of menus: each illustrated carefully and beautifully and hung about for all to see.

The real centerpiece of the show, however, belonged to the Backyard Gardeners, who as part of RPS's Community Collaboration Project used Holga cameras to document each other, their surroundings and the gardens they've sewn in an attempt to bring real food to their neighborhood.

For those who know it, West Oakland's unique situation within the food justice struggle demonstrates the severe reality of inaccessibility to quality foods in low-income neighborhoods. From People's Grocery,
There is only one supermarket to serve over 25,000 people...With a short supply of full-service grocery stores, many residents depend on over 40 convenience stores for their food shopping. These convenience stores carry mostly canned, processed, and poor quality foodstuffs and promote the consumption of candy, chips, liquor, and cigarettes. A 1998 community food assessment of West Oakland showed that only three of these convenience stores offered a selection of fresh fruits and vegetables (Farfarn-Ramirez, 1998). Prices at convenience stores were found to range between 30%-100% higher than prices in supermarkets.

Though some indirectly, each of the contributors to the exhibit address the issues surrounding our food systems in their own way. Some point to the abundance of foods in the urban landscape ready for the picking. Others illuminate the intimacy and sociality lost by the factory farming and sterilization of commercial food commodities. The juxtaposition of each of the components paints a truthful, critical and most of all hopeful picture of emergent views on food justice. The show stays up throughout the month of November, but more importantly I'd encourage anyone with free space to curate a show like this one. Different to your own place and the facets of food justice prominent in your own community, but present. Because I promise you it's present. I'd venture that if you go looking, you're likely to find some pretty remarkable folks at work doing similarly radical food justice work in your own city. You won't even have to look very hard.


Educational & Entertaining

I watched this incredible documentary the other night all about the UMWA strike in Kentucky in the 70's. For me, it was one of those things that you can't believe you hadn't seen til now. Truly a "Where have you been all my life!" moment. I have this sneaking feeling that not many people of our, er, generation have seen it, based solely on my having to repeat the title every time I mention it to someone new. But this, friends, is a travesty.

It's called Harlan County U.S.A. The film documents the miner's struggle to organize under the heavy shadow of Duke Power Company in Harlan County, Kentucky. This small instance was just one case of a local branch of the UMWA (United Mine Workers of America) but their feud with Duke Power was indicative of the same kinds of struggles faced across the country between the coal miner's and their bosses. Director Barbara Koppel does a brilliant job weaving together footage of the strikers & scabs, the national media coverage and clips documenting the music that evolved within the mining community. For me, the best part of her coverage was the coverage she provided of the striking workers' wives and the huge role they played in picketing and organizing on behalf of their husbands. She later described in an interview,

The women for me were the people who were the strongest. were the most passionate. Who weren't afraid of, you know, semi automatic carbeans with tracer bullets, would just get right out there on the picket lines. Because they had watched their grandfathers and their fathers die from black lung.

Not only did this film win an academy award the year of its release in 1976, but Harlan County USA is also one of the distinguished films among the esteemed Criterion Collection. Pretty much this means that if you don't like it, you're on your own. It's that good.


Total World Domination

Our bro dogs over at box dog bikes sent us this snack. We thought we'd share it, because that's just what you're supposed to do. They got it from Mission Mission, a blog from San Francisco, who were passing it along from a friend of theirs who's living in India...

long story short, it's a news article from an English newspaper in India and it is very, um, pertinent:

hug that waist
the fashion conscious in the city are making a style statement with the trendy multipurpose waist bags

if you want to light up a plain boring outfit just wrap a trendy waist bag around your demins or dresses, and it will instantly lend you a cool funky look. waist bags are gaining immense popularity amongst people from all genres of life. a college student flaunts a new waist bag to stand out in a crowd of students carrying backpacks, and women in their twenties wraps her slim waist in leather waist pouch like a belt to freely dance at the pub.

“camouflaged military prints are really in vogue. a simple one-colour dress with a military waist pouch spells some great style. leather waistbands with a small pouch to keep your mobile and wallet will look great with your clubbing outfit,” says nachiket barve, fashion designer.

waist bags add zing to your outfits with a playful attitude. plenty of active men and women who often car travelling across the city or on tours are opting for these bags.

waist bags give the women a sharper look, which is different from the regular girly look. these bags also enhance your waistline giving you a good shape. silk waist bags with moroccan prints, and camouflaged flowery prints, block print and lastly the waist pouches are the new trends. “whether you are travelling to the mountains or taking a sunny beach break, the waist bags can be taken anywhere, anytime,” adds barve.

the multipurposes of the bag for many, are the reason of popularity. “i love carrying waist pouches to clubs and it serves the purpose of a bag and accessory as well. also, during outstation shoots, i don’t have to bother about leaving my hand bag anywhere since the waist pouch fits in my cell phone, camera, cards, etc.,” says aanchal kumar, model.

these bags are available across a wide price range depending upon your requirment. you can pick up a trendy waist bag of the colaba causeway streets or fashion street for just rs 300. if you are into branded apparels, you can go to any of the branded stores and shop for a leather waist pouches for anything between rs 800-1500.

so, the next time you go to the pub at night, give your waist that extra zing and party hard.

Really, this could be a commercial for FH. Or evidence of our multicultural appeal, in any case. The photos originally presented with the article were unavailable, but this one seems to serve well as a stand in.



Woah. WOAH! A lot has happened since last I updated this little blog. We were too busy CELEBRATING over here. Remember how psyched we were way back in April? Well multiply that primary enthusiasm by another six months and then you will begin to approach the level of anxiety and anticipation about Tuesday's results. I think I was honestly too nervous to bring up the election again before it happened, a little worried that the Bradley Effect might happen, sort of concerned that we were in for another disappointment even after all the hype, terrified about the possibility of a Mccain-Palin victory. A defense mechanism really, so that if the unthinkable happened I wouldn't have to crawl into a hole never to emerge. And even after the networks called not only Ohio, but also our dear, dear Pennsylvania for Obama, I was still nervous to believe it. That we had actually won this thing.

But we did it. A belated and probably redundant congratulations to everyone who did anything to help this campaign be so historic and successful! I know I'll never forget the feeling of seeing such a candidate win even as I doubted it could happen. And that speech? Don't even get me started...

I know the Mission in San Francisco was brimming with election night excitement, despite the unfortunate Proposition 8 results. I hope you found a way to celebrate in your own neck of the woods.


Busy Day!

I went to VOTE EARLY today. And for anyone out there who is wondering, my ballot is definitely getting counted. In the state of California anyway, you receive a bar-coded stub expressly for checking to make sure. Oh man, it felt so good.

And then I went out shopping for a halloween costume. I know, I know, crafty as I may be, Halloween just always seems to sneak up on me. I just have so much trouble deciding on a costume. Should I go as sexy abe lincoln? or something referential like a character from Clue? or more conceptual, as the universe? or more halloween 2.0, like a scarecrow? This year I headed to Thrift town and let the costume speak to me.

Oh this? This I spotted on the way outside and it made me smile. It isn't my costume. Maybe I'll give you a glimpse of the final verdict tomorrow...

And in the meantime, happy halloween...


the PHILLIES WON, but the fans flipped my friend's car!!!

My friend Ted is a pretty great guy. He was out celebrating the win of our beloved Phillies last night only to come home to his car flipped, windows broken, and bumper pulled off. As much as it rules to go out and celebrate like its 1999 ya never think that flipped car is gonna be yours or your friend's but it sometimes is. Sooo Ted had a great idea. He set up a blog www.phillyfixmycar.blogspot.com (you can see a video of the re-flip at the bottom of the page). There you can read his little story and donate to his cause. He's an amazing videographer and needs his car for work but did not have the insurance necessary to cover the damage for this. If everyone there last night could donate $10 he could buy a new car, shoot, if everyone there last night could donate $1 he could buy a new car. If you feel for him, help him out. If not, remember to tell people you know who would do something like that "Karma's a bitch." You can check Ted's work out at www.tedpasson.com. Thanks dudes!


Take A Hike

Literally! See how handy the superhero is on outdoor adventures? This is just one instance on a perfectly leisurely hike with my friend Halimah through my local Redwood Regional:

There's a spot for your hydration of choice, your GORP, your compass, your firstaid kit, and you could even tie a longsleeve throught the lock holster if you wanted to. So much less sweaty than a backpack (we did a side-by-side comparison and it was pretty much a landslide victory). And may this be a public service announcement for your local underutilized national and regional parks: Go to them! They are beautiful and it is October! You won't be sorry.


Busy Weekend Rama Rama

In case the other two things happening this weekend in Philly weren't enough (you people are a tough crowd!) there is yet one more major thing going on. And it starts in an hour! I got a last minute tip that today is Swap-O-Rama-Rama in Philadelphia, the local incarnation of the national series of events by this name. What is it exactly? It's a huge day of swapping clothes and reinventing them with tons of resources at your fingertips to help. Today's is put on by our long time fave, the Philadelphia Sewing Collective and it only costs 20 bucks!

Once you've traded some of your old clothes for some new-to-you ones, there are a series of workshops taught by pros (like Ellie from R.E.Load, for one) on specific projects like turning old t-shirts into underpants. Then there are stations set up with sewing machines for you to use in your projects or embellishment stations involving knitting, crocheting and embroidery. All of the above are staffed by people who know what's up in the world of making and all they want to do is help you! Sound pretty sweet? There is always a fashion show at the end of the day if you're into that sort of a thing.

Tickets available for purchase at Brown Paper Tickets for 20 dollars. The Rama runs from 12-5 today at Old Pine Community Center at 401 Lombard Street here is lovely Philadelphia. Bring your friends! Hurry!


Biketoberfest? Biketoberfests!

Yes, that's plural. This year will see the inaugural Biketoberfest in Philadelphia, put on by the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition at Dock Street at 50th & Baltimore in West Philadelphia. I can't think of a more suitable location in October, with W.Philly's wealth of autumnal color and just downstairs from the wonderful bike shop at Firehouse. The brewery has crafted a special brew for the occasion and there are prizes up for raffle including a R.E.Load Bag, a bike and a service package at TrophyBikes. There's only 300 tickets available for sale so you'd be advised to purchase early (now!) to ensure you get in to see the entertainment: a lineup featuring Stinking Lizaveta, Natural Selection, the West Philly Orchestra and DJ's Danophonic & Hoagie Jawns...who you may or may not recognize as an FH model. 25 bones gets you entry, a food ticket and a commemorative pint glass; 15 gets you just entry and pintglass. (for those of you investors hurting from the recent market nosedive) Cash bar, 21+ and all proceeds benefit the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, who absolutely deserve your support! That's this SUNDAY OCTOBER 19 2-6 pm.

Now remember how I said fests? There's also a Biketoberfest here on the west coast in Fairfax, CA. If you're in the bay area, this fest--hosted by Access4Bikes and the Marin County Bicycle Coalition--in its 5th year will benefit bicycle advocacy in Marin County, the number one destination outside of the city for Bay Area cyclists. The event features a marketplace of bike builders, manufacturers, merchants, teams, clubs and land management and environmental representatives alongside a brewfest, bringing over a dozen handcrafted beers from Northern California brewers: Lagunitas Brewing, Iron Springs, Broken Drum, Anchor Brewing, Bear Republic, Moolight, Eel River, North Coast Brewing, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.

You'll find guided group road and mountain bike rides finishing at the festival, a vintage bicycle exhibit, bike swap and even more G rated events for the kiddies. This version of Biketoberfest also advertises live music and food organically grown in Northern California. This one takes place SATURDAY OCTOBER 18 11-6 at Fair-Anselm Plaza Parking lots, 765 Center Blvd (next to Iron Springs Pub), downtown Fairfax, CA. It's free for all parts except the beer tasting, which costs $20 per person.

I think the simultaneity of these two like-minded events is no coincidence, just the beginning of a nice trend. I'd like to believe that next year there will be dozens of these in every city across the land. Because really, what better way to benefit community bike initiatives and strengthen community?


Design Philadelphia

Yesterday kicked off DesignPhiladelphia, Philly's contribution to an accompanying National Design Week, an annual homage to the role of design in our culture. It hosts a staggering number of lectures, exhibits, demonstrations, screenings, discussions and recreational activities for the aesthetically minded. Sound pretty broad? Well, it is. In the best possible way.

DesignPhiladelphia boasts events in many many types of venues addressing issues of sustainability, including the technology of green materials, context and innovation across an expanse of medium. And the hosts include people from both traditional fields, like architecture, craft and textiles and not so traditional fields only now factoring into design, like food and ahem, cycling.

Daily Program maps, originally designed by Brian Kelly, available for download on the DesignPhiladelphia website

Here is the link if you'd rather head straight over to the event's calendar. But these are some of my picks for things I wouldn't miss if, alas, I were in the vicinity of Center City this weekend:

Hard Hat and Finished Tour of Green Affordable Philadelphia for a tour of Philadelphia's first affordable LEED certified homes by Habitat Philadelphia
Date: October 18, 2008
Time: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Location: 4200 block of Stiles Street
West Philadelphia

Craftadelphia! hosted by Philly Etsy at Mew Gallery
Date: October 18, 2008
Time: 11:00am - 4:00pm
Location: Mew Gallery
906 Christian Street

Bikes and Bricks, a slide show and demonstrative talk at Trophy bikes on the history of urban cycles from the 1930's to the present, including test riding.
Date: October 18, 2008
Time: 2:00pm – 3:30pm
Location: 3131 Walnut Street
University City

Lecture, Sustainable Strategies for the Urban Infrastructure hosted by Minima & UArts, discusses components associated with sustainable urban life: food production & bicycle culture. Contributors include Spencer Finch – Director of Sustainable Development Programs, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Alex Doty – Executive Director, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Mary Seton Corboy – Founder and President, Greensgrow Farm & Nursery. This is presented along with A Clean Break, "an exhibition of modern, pre-fab architecture and high-design, low waste innovations for the urban environment" up at Minima Gallery. The exhibit allows visitors to wander through an urban green development and showcases the role of prefab components in urban design.
Date: October 18, 2008
Time: 3:45pm - 5:00pm
Location: The University of the Arts
CBS Auditorium in Hamilton Hall
320 South Broad Street (across from the exhibition lot)

Art Buggy Derby 3.0 presented by MAKE:Philly, a competition of buggies built from recycled materials judged on speed and ingenuity.
Date: October 19, 2008
Time: 2:00pm
Location: Washington Square Park
(south side of park)

DIRT - clean design on 4th Street: Bicycle Revolutions, showcasing custom built bicycles for urban riders and especially hand built wheels in custom colors and unusual spoke lacings.
Date: October 19, 2008
Time: 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Location: Bicycle Revolutions
712 South 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

This expo seems much more inclusive than I would have expected before reading the schedule. It brings together designers in Philadelphia that I associate on a theoretical level, but that rarely seem to be collaborating the rest of the time. Hopefully the event will bring together the disparate parts of Philly's very talented creative community and make design in Philadelphia a more cohesive force.


Cincinnati Rocks

We wanted to say thanks to the new eco-boutique Park + Vine in Cincinnati for their sweet post about us a couple weeks back. The shop, nestled in the metropolis of Carrie's college days, calls itself a green general store intended to bring innovative and mostly local wares to the good people of Cincinnati. They contacted us about wholesale in the early summer and it was great fun to design some belts for their shop. Something about their website made me think of camping in the sixties...it was summer, I was really into tan as an accent color and in that vein, the colors and textures I chose for their group of belts would be equally at home around a mod campfire as in the heat of the city. I was particularly excited to be making them after just glancing at their website:

Now, I've never been. But by the simple fact that they include a history of their space on their About Page I know these guys are on the right track. With a current list of pertinent events and a list of Cincinnati-specific destinations for the conscientious consumer, the shop proves more than just a destination for shopping. It's great to see resources and information alongside product placement; why, its why we were so psyched to send them our stuff in the first place!

We are always interested to see shops that are not bike shops want to retail our goods, discover what the faces of those places look like and learn where they fit into the urban landscape. So check out what they're saying about us and if you happen to be in Ohio...it might be worth a special trip.


Well, well, well...

What do we have here?

However reminiscent of the early 90's, this interesting storage solution was spotted by me at the residential intersection of 61st and Canning in Oakland. Rather flashy bike rack for a low key neighborhood I thought at first, but on second glance, I really like it.


Mapmaker, Mapmaker, make me a map.

Not to quote the great alaskin governor herself, but when in the heck did maps get so doggone trendy? Not that the idea isn't a bright one, it just feels almost supernatural the recent and veritable debutante ball for mapping. And I'm not talking google maps exactly, although their technology has certainly contributed to putting the skills formerly reserved for cartographers at the fingertips of the masses. I mean maps of things we never dreamed mappable. Maps of things that aren't visual, but audio; geographic, but not in terms of land forms. Maps are all of a sudden a new way to catalogue ideas and emotions and memory. I, for one, think it's pretty genius.

The genius lies mostly in that the maps evolving right now in cities across the country (and the world, probably) are made by many sets of eyes and ears. They are interactive, they are wiki and constantly being changed. I think their new digital character traits have much to do with their popularity of late: they are more accurate, more meaningful and in many ways, more like the things they represent. Traditionally, maps stood in for one person's approximation. And generally, the only thing they seemed to signify was that one person's subjectivity and bias. Lately, however, the genre has been reclaimed by many many well-minded groups who've been reinventing the concept of the map and along the way, authoring the new geography.

The first example I saw of this was the recently launched PGH Bike Map, a map of Pittsburgh's bike traffic, marked by information like accident reports, bike shops, interesting landmarks and events. You can print off a static copy of the simple geography to take with you, but the project is more engaging on the internet when you contribute and participate with the record itself, adding your own experiences of riding and thereby making the map more accurate. The subjectivity of the information actually makes the final product closer to accurate. And the stated purpose of the thing is to help make Pittsburgh, an unconventional cyclist's city, more friendly to new riders and to keep current riders informed and aware of the general cycling climate of the city. It is a new medium, by which community members communicate their experiences with one other and do so in the production of this terrific tool: the map. Every city should have one.

Open Sound New Orleans is another such visionary project. Only in New Orleans they're mapping sounds, music, dialogue--something the city is rich with, and putting the information into a very accessible, also collaborative map. Even in its early stages, the project has effectively created a document that describes many of the things that make New Orleans so verbally indescribable. And the map seems to infinitely illustrate that indescribability. The creators want more and more people to contribute sound to the map, show the many faces of their city and in the process, create a map to communicate their city's depth of character with one another and the world. The project currently has audio recording equipment available to rent out to anyone who wants to contribute bytes to the map and the Google image seems to grow more populated with little teardrop-shaped sound markers each time I visit their page. Talk about new media.

The nuance in these ideas is their public nature, keeping the information amassed by the project's participants in the hands of their city, in the most open sense of the word. They may be trendy, but also important. In some ways I have the sense people right now in time are grasping at the public experience as a way to reconnect and identify with place in the increasingly placeless reality of this contemporary American life. And maps let people do this. When you map something, you claim it. Public maps, therefore, are a way of collective reclaiming something people want to hold onto. Not so different from how graffiti once enabled people to reclaim urban spaces.

Know of any maps I missed? I'd love to hear about them.


picture stitcher

With all the sewing buzz lately, it's no wonder that more mixed medium artists are starting to use stitching in their illustrative and visual work. I love the way stitches read in 2 dimensions. The addition of some zig-zag, embroidery or straight meanderings can change the character of a perfectly beautiful picture into something more careful, with all the emotional depth that frequently accompanies the hand sewn object. Tactility should never be under rated.

This reminder came in the form of some pretty sweet art up currently at Rare Device in San Francisco. The show Let's Get Lost features pieces, both textiled and not, by artist Sarajo Frieden. This lady hails (originally) from my new home, Oakland, CA, and her work aims to explore the destinations one finds when surrendering to unpredictability. She says,"I may start out with intentions, thoughts, sketches or preconceived ideas about where I want to go. But at some point, I usually surrender any expectations to follow the roadless map that is creating. It is not a linear journey, and it's easy to get lost. But isn't that the point? How else would Pina Bausch's dancers find their way to the house in Mon Oncle?"

It's like finally understanding that everything is a big crazy mess, that everyone is actually a little insane and despite all of this, we're still okay. For me, it was a well-timed reminder of a lesson I thought I'd learned a long time ago. And much as I'm not sure I can say I glean all of that from these playful little sewn drawings, I've found that such issues of gigantic proportion are often best tackled with small gestures, especially playful ones.

Show's up til November 8, if you're in the neighborhood.


Inter bike bike bike bike bike.

The proximity in dates for this year's Interbike and Bike Bike were yet another reminder of the increasing segmentation, some might say diversification, of the cycling community. In contrast to the unanimous groan that echoed across our great land following Mr. LiveStrong's recent announcement, the goals of cycling and the interests of its adherents seem to fall farther and farther from the tree...er, stem.

Interbike is North America's premier expo of innovation in the cycling industry. In other words, its where all the industry people rub elbows and show off. It's where new fancy touts its schmancy and the latest trends proliferate. All the drivers of the industry bus are together in the same place--Las Vegas, at the same time--last weekend. It costs a pretty bundle to get yourself a spot to exhibit at Interbike, which means that your admittance as a vendor is akin to crossing a certain threshold which is measured in dollars. And those who can't afford a table or don't have anything to show off are usually there to scope the thing out, see whose table is crowded and see what the fuss is about to be about. They claim that you'll “reach over 10,000 targeted retailers, buyers, and journalists from over 60+ countries,” and “promote your brand and innovative products to a captive audience.” There are buyers.

Bike Bike on the other hand, is for those members of the cycling community who aren't in it to win it, so to speak. The conference took place this year in San Francisco where hundreds of people from across the country came to share knowledge of community bike projects, kitchens, churches and learn from one another the secrets to keeping such a decidedly profitless venture afloat. Their mission:

Bike!Bike! is an annual conference of community bicycle projects from around the country (and abroad) who come together in order to explore and affirm our common values; to create networks for sharing tools, organizational structures, funny stories and new skills; to inspire and invigorate ourselves to continue the work we do in our many communities; and to meet athletic strangers. We particularly strive to challenge the status quo that all too often excludes communities of color, enforces gender norms, and fails to provide options for those without money to spend. Another priority of BikeBike is to demonstrate and propagate successful consensus-based, non-hierarchical models of organizing. Our member projects have a variety of approaches to serving their cities and neighborhoods. Whether it is by teaching people to fix their own bikes, direct political bike advocacy, bike education in schools, yellow bike programs, or by recycling used bikes out of the waste stream, we all work towards a more sustainable, bike-filled and bike friendly future.

On the one hand, I think the overt counter purposes of the two get-togethers prove the strength of the cycling community's diversity. Many of bike-bike's participants would have little to work with if not for the stream of waste produced by interbike's consumer-driven innovators. But as I started, the nearness of the two events this year drives home the point that the visitors and vendors at Interbike are less and less the same people going to Bike Bike and vise versa. Which is to say, cycling as an industry shares little with cycling the movement, which is to say much of what drives their increasing market. As much as the participants of bike bike are not shopping at Performance or Velocity, their work in cities across the country means that more people everywhere are needing tubes and tires and bar tape and lights and even maybe one of the headbanger helmets debuted this year.

Now I know as well as the next guy that not everyone at Interbike is interested in the free gift in the form of political agenda so often given away in community bike programs. However. In a community as closely knit as cycling, separations are rarely as clear cut as holding separate conferences in different cities. Among bikes, I'd say we're not usually about dichotomies. So why this one?



As generally a helmet wearing lady, it offends me doubly when I get chastised by strangers when I happen to not be wearing one. Especially when the context for my riding is so benign that the likelihood I'll fall on my head is reduced to .000001%. This happened a little over a week ago on a bicycle tour of the East Bay with some nice city planners. I'd forgotten my helmet by accident! and caught some flack about it from a bossy rider, not on our tour as a matter of fact, old man commuter type. He looked me right in the eye as he said it, as though I were tossing back shots of tequila in my third trimester or something. It made me mad enough to mention the experience in my previous post, subtly. And apparently I still haven't gotten it out of my system.

So consider this an addendum to the last post, this time armed with a timely quote from a fellow blogger. He writes more eloquently than I:

Of course, I'm not surprised people were upset about the helmet...We live in a time when having a brake on your bike is seen as a matter of personal preference, but not wearing a helmet is considered suicidal and an affront to human decency. Which is not to say that you shouldn't wear a helmet. Obviously it's always better to wear one than not to wear one, and you really can't go wrong putting one on. But I will say that in some sense a helmet is kind of like a yarmulke (or, if you prefer, a kippah) in that it tells the world you are a member of the Congregation of Safety. And just because you don't wear one all the time doesn't mean you don't believe in safety and should be scorned. Some of us simply choose to worship in our own way when and where we choose, as godless and wrong as it may be.

Thanks to the elusive snob for his perfect words on this. I wish I'd had the snob in my pocket back there with that old man. Next time...


Nutter Butter

Dear Mayor Nutter,

You sure know how to butter us up over here at FH. More bike racks, you say? Not just like, 10 more, but 1,400 more bike racks? That's one for probably every person I've ever met in my life, times 2. Way to go.

Just so we're clear though, these bike racks aren't going to work like hush money. We're not going to stop bringing up all those other issues plaguing Philadelphia's cyclists. We're not going to apologize for taking up lanes of traffic. We're not going to just ride behind the SEPTA bus when it stops at every corner. And we're not going to obey every traffic law until off-duty Philadelphia cops do too.

Look Nutter, you're doing a pretty good job. It's mostly these other fiends I'm worried about. Drivers who pretend to be okay with bicycles. And even some cyclists who get power crazed, identify the good cyclists from the bad cyclists and make up rules about etiquette unfounded in reality as they go.

The beauty of urban bicycle use is its democracy. By democracy, I mean that this city's cycling citizens are free to interpret how to ride in Philadelphia based on their own experiences with the streets of our city and the people who fill them. Not based on some self-righteous middle aged lawyer-type's idea of orderly conduct. If such a guy wants people to keep a straight face at his reflective pant strap and helmet mirror, that means no lecturing folks without helmets, no condemning riders who run stop signs and no villainizing bike messengers.

As long as we share legitimate space with city buses, as long as pedestrians walk into bike traffic without regard for mutual safety, as long as people get away with bolt cutting bike locks for their creating "unsightly clutter" and as long as the bicycle as a means of transportation cuts down on pollution, obesity and our demand for petroleum, we have nothing to apologize for.

Thanks for the bike racks. We'll take it. But respectfully, we concede nothing. There's too much room for improvement between the atmosphere of now and the one where we have so much respect in the street that we can afford to cede any privileges.

Cruisin in Philadelphia


Fast Friday Out

Kyle Johnson's photographic essay Fast Friday is out now through Blurb. Fast Friday is a bound book documenting Johnson's experience attending and participating in the monthly Cadence fixed gear events that captivated even cruiser-usually-me back in April with their east coast debut. Congratulations to Kyle and all the kids out Seattle-side, you're officially down in history. Not a bad way to go down, really.

You can catch some peeks inside this beautiful book by going here.


Free Parking!

What to do when your city is lacking green space? When you've got all the spirit of an urban designer coursing through your veins and no clue how to satisfy her? While all the world is your stage? I think I may have the ticket.

Park(ing) Day, a one-day global event through which activists, artists, treehuggers--in a word, people--takeover metered parking spots and temporarily transform them into urban greenspace. They use bicycles usually, to haul plants and parkbenches and rolls of verdant sod through city streets where they literally park, for two hour chunks at a time, or as long as someone feeds the meter, and declare public space. The project takes place in TONS of cities all over the United States and internationally, with local variations depending on its ambassador and by the looks of things in 2007, warrants our undying praise and affection.

The project was founded by the San Francisco based art and activism collaborative REBAR and coordinated through the Trust for Public Land, an national nonprofit working to conserve public greenspace. The latter's website offers a list of participating cities, sometimes with corresponding maps denoting where the proposed park is to appear on Friday. They also provided instructions for obtaining permission and getting started with your own Park(ing) Day Park. I'd suggest visiting both websites for the full gamut of information surrounding what to do if you'd like to park come Friday. They've even made a How-To Manual. How can you say no? The whole effort is volunteer, which is pretty remarkable considering the scope and ambition of the concept. And in case you're having trouble picturing the thing, here is a visual:

and another:

Get out there! If Kenosha, WI can manage to be a part of this, I think you probably can too.


Bikable Bits

I meant to write you all about this a while ago, but it slipped my mind until today. I attended a wedding in Madison and at this wedding, I saw a really cool gift set. It happened to be the groom's gift to the groomsmen, and in case you were wondering, it went over pretty well. See, the groomsmen were all avid cyclists...kind of like you. Can you guess? Give up? Okay, okay, here it is:

That's right, it is the Park Tool Grill Set. Seems like something as frivolous as this other thing, but for the bicycle enthusiast in your life, it would technically be a pretty amazing present. One of those things that is highly non essential, but a nice party trick. What, are you going to say "No thanks, I already got this perfectly good OXO brand spatula?" Get real. See the stainless steel pedal wrench and cone wrench utensils in action:

And in other news, literally, I heard this story on npr yesterday morning and wanted to make sure everyone else alive heard it too:
Here's one more reason to wear your bike helmet: You might need protection from a bear. Montana schoolteacher Jim Litz was riding his bike to school when a black bear appeared in his path. He was going too fast to stop, and he and the bear went tumbling down the road. The bear rolled over Litz's head but then ran away. The only damage was a scratch on Litz's back and a crack in the bike helmet.
I'm sorry, THE BEAR ROLLED OVER HIS HEAD. HIS HEAD?!?!! And he lived to tell us about it? If ever there was a tale to encourage helmet wearing, this might be it. I also enjoy picturing this amicable tousle on some mountain road in Montana, the bear and the man hugging and rolling around in the dirt just like old pals. "Boy, oh boy! That was a close one!" they'd say. Sigh.


The Architecture of the Quilt

It's not every day that you get to advertise an event at the PMA that happens to be about textiles, modern art, southern women and local economies. But today marks the opening of the exhibit of quilts by those famed ladies of Gee's Bend, Alabama who with hardly a thimble to spare have managed to contribute more to 20th century American Art than you or I could dare to dream.

Rachel Carey George, born 1908. "Housetop"--sixteen-block "Half-Logcabin" variation sashed with feed sacks. ca. 1935, cotton sacking material and dress fabric, 86 x 86 inches. The Collection of the Tinwood Alliance via Treehugger.com

Don't even get me started! Literally. I wrote my thesis on the quilters from Gee's Bend, a microscopic community on the Alabama River that was until recently separated from major roads and larger towns by an hour's drive on unpaved back roads. As it is, you'd only find the several dozen houses if you were looking for it with both hands a flashlight, as I did one day back in January 2006. While I wrote mostly on the quality of the women's labor & the character of their craft, their story shines a bold example to fly in the face of large scale production, globalization, and other such western evils, including the notion that only wealthy white women produced art. I find their experience to be one containing many truths about how the rest of us live all bound up inside it.

It's difficult for me to explain to you all the reasons you should see this exhibit without getting all emotional about it. It kills me, KILLS me that it opens tonight at the Philadelphia Museum of Art a mere 30 days after I moved to the opposite shore. If you have any shred of decency, please go see it and tell me what it's like! Truly. If you live within 3 hours drive I'd say you have no excuse and even you people within 5 hours drive ought to make the trip.

Anthropologie made some Gee's Bend-esque home quilts a while back, as did Target and Lord only knows half a dozen other places who know anything about anything. You may also recognize some of the motifs from the special edition stamps put out by usps a year ago. Aside from how catchy those quilts are in the design world, the quilts evoke a serious emotional attachment in all who've seen them. And they are fucking gorgeous. Gorgeous, like made out of beat-to-hell work pants and old laundry sacks and still brilliant blue. Gorgeous like pieced together so the faded knee spots articulate a wholey original pattern when its stitched together. Gorgeous like no two stitches precisely the same. And their style of quilting, distinguished from European quilting for its improvisational style, results in much more variation in quilts even when arranged in a traditional pattern. This unique degree of authorship separates the women from much of western women's art, usually decorative and when textile based, measured by one's adherence to a pattern or norm. The Gee's Bend quilts stand out precisely for their divergence from these norms.

The women, most of whom worked as domestic workers or farm laborers for most of their lives and descended from slaves, worked too as artists though it took some time for even the women themselves to call it that because these quilts hung on the walls only to insulate them from the drafts of Alabama winter nights. Mostly the finished quilts were used every day to keep their families warm.

Photo by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration 1939.
Jenny Pettway & unknown with Jorena Pettway, Gee's Bend, Alabama.
Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

This exhibit, which has traveled the country over the past two years is one of several compiled by a group of quilt historians, is titled The Architecture of the Quilt--so named for the quilt patterns. The exhibit sounds unique from earlier exhibitions of the artists' work because it includes newer pieces by the younger generation of quilters and never before showcased works from 1930-1980.

Even if you can't really get into quilts usually, I'd still urge you to go see how something so distinctly contemporary and original (even in its repetition, yes) has emerged from a community with absolutely no tools to achieve what the rest of the world calls progress.

At the time of my visit two years ago, the sole resource for new store bought fabric was a small, poorly stocked, in-the-process-of-closing Walmart; A Super Walmart was set to open an hour away. Everything down to the batting, which was either raw cotton from the fields they worked or old clothes or old quilts repurposed as stuff, was reused. These women are the original recyclers, the original innovators. Without a doubt, I credit them with igniting the spark that encouraged the rest of us to think more closely about what we do with our trash. I'd love to see these women, along with a slew of other so-called outsider artists, usually in fact from very deep within our culture, walk the aisles of our new age craft fairs and handmade boutiques and hear what they had to say about what's happening in American craft right now. Because recycled art isn't new or original but rather classic, traditional, even historic.

Exhibition Catalogue

The exhibit runs through December 14 and this is the last stop on the tour. If you can't make it to those ivory steps on the parkway, a decent amount of information and imagery of the womens' quilts can be found on the internet. Either way, their story is one of those things that will make you a better person for knowing it. For one, you'll realize quilts are much more than antiques. And for another, it will fuel your fire.