Safety First, Guys, Safety First.

Check out this little gem of a cartoon. Need a hilarious seven-minute break from the office? Want to travel back in time?

Courtesy of Derrick Bostrom of Bostworld


Bicycle Film Fest NYC

We are working our fingers to the bone in preparation for holding down a decided Presence at the Bicycle Film Festival in NYC this weekend. The fun actually starts today, tonight at an event in Brooklyn called Bikes Rock. More of an audio-visual extravaganza than a film screening. The reels start rolling on Friday, broken into Programs of several related films strung together and named for the most well known one in the bunch.

From The Six-Day Bicycle Races dir. by Mark Tyson

For the high rollers out there, there's even valet bike parking. A festival pass will set you back $50 and gets you into all the screening except the first and the last. All film screenings are to be held at Anthology Film Archives unless otherwise specified, 32 2nd Ave. at 2nd St. Check their schedule for more specific specificity. And if you can't make it to this even in New York, there are other film festivals all over the country and the world. Something very well could be in your vicinity.

From Small Movements dir. by Nickey Robare

So to conclude. If you live in the vicinity of Manhattan and its minions, you had darned well make an appearance at our table and say hello. Or else.


Yo Memorial Day!

Hope you all are well fed, well slept and rosy cheeked after such a beautiful holiday weekend. I must say mine involved ice cream, a party, bike rides, barbeque, a photographic adventure and a Phillies game. A girl sure can't complain.

In that vein, Happy Almost Over Memorial Day weekend to you and yours.



Today I was wandering around the internet and inadvertently fell head first into a rabbit hole. It was one of those things where all of a sudden you realize that no logical chain of topics can explain your current url. In this case the rabbit hole was a rather large nest, and I can't say I'm at all sorry I stumbled across it.

So this man named Benjamin Verdonck constructed this human sized nest on the side of a sky scraper (called Weena, and how a skyscraper gets a name like Weena, I do not know) in downtown Rotterdam over the course of six weeks. He used "the crowns of twenty-three silver birches, one birch, one willow, two straw bales, one bucket of spit, three bags of sand, twelve buckets of glue, and nineteen cans of polyurethane foam." And the fun doesn't stop there. Benjamin Verdonck spent six days performing from within the nest to passersby as part of the piece he's titled "The Great Swallow"

The idea of human nesting, clearly in contrast to the modern, machined architecture surrounding the nest, tugs at my brain strings. The public reaction to the piece is tender, sincere, and of course, a little skeptical. I find myself concerned for him up there alone in the nest, and not because I think he's irrational and unpredictable. More because it's a nest, of sticks and twigs and spit and spit and its clinging to the side of a vertical mirrored wall. I really hate that our instincts have evolved to doubt structure like that and to trust structure of metal and glass. I think the introduction of the organic matter alone garnered genuine engagement from people on the street, transforming their regular self-involvement into conversation. A sterile, harsh downtown becomes a functional urban space. And this is even before things get really crazy:

Feathers! Crowing! I find it strange that most of the art blogs posting about the story of the Great Swallow fail to react in any way to what is undeniably a seriously unusual event on a very grand scale. I think it has something to do with the fact that the art is really the interaction itself, the being there, the feeling for Benjamin Verdonck up there in his nest and his sad sad song over the egg all the way down there on the street. And the decision to care about him in Real Life is a feeling that I imagine doesn't translate even through images and video and whatnots. So instead they post pictures and point and say "See? Woah!" I just can't empathize with this simple presentation of such extraordinary information.

I'm sad that I can't read his website as it is written in Dutch. And maybe I've got it all wrong, about the feeling and the people and the city being changed by a nest for human beings. It just feels like a holiday to see such craziness injected into the monotony of the everyday. It's easy to say he's insane. But so much more accurate to say he's a common hero. And one of the very best kind.


Spokes on You!

Dude, I know. I KNOW. You already have more Obama flare than John Edwards, but there is still one presidential thing your life is sorely missing. It is small...cheap...and laminated...

The genius who dreamed up this propaganda scheme earns double high fives. A niche market, sure, but a crucial and, dare I say, attractive one.


Better Belated Than Never

Happy Bike to Work Day! Five days late. It's hard for me to keep track, what with all my all my bike to work days running into one another. Anyway, here's a little movie to keep you all psyched up in solidarity:


On Presentation

On First Friday of this month, a day of open galleries here in Philadelphia, I found myself in the hallway outside Copy Gallery with some friends just sitting and minding our own business. We were visiting the openings on that particularly creative floor of 319A N 11th St, when someone pointed out a banner hanging on the outside of a building across the street.

That building is directly behind the RELoad studio and across the street from FH, so we see it pretty much every day. It's one of those urban monuments to decay and abandonment, standing some fifteen empty stories high and surrounded by a high chain link fence. Most of the windows are broken and the glimpses inside reveal nothing but careful debris. Rough ladders leading to the second and third stories, constructed of mostly fabric and barbed wire, dangle down to the narrow alley way beside it. I ride past the building every day and the sheer square footage gives me pause every time.

The banner hangs from the windows of this high rise at the tenth or eleventh story. Quite an impressive height, I thought to myself the first time I saw it. While we all stood reading it through the windows of the 319 stairwell, each surely grasped the irony of our comprehending those four words, so much more poignant than the art in the galleries we'd come to see. It drags up all kinds of questions about galleries and relevance, in its perhaps accidental juxtaposition with Copy and Vox.

Doing just some shallow research, it turns out that this phrase was coined by an activist for migrant labor in the 60's, Bert Corona. More recently, it is the title for an international movement to question borders and the role of the nation state, specifically as to how these designations impact human beings. The political theorist Mike Davis just co-authored a book with Justin Akers Chacon by the same title No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border through Haymarket Books.

In such a passionate city, I wish there were more moments like these. More masterful graffiti and wheat pasting and banners hanging from places that call our attention to the issues all around us. That banner hangs two blocks from our city's Chinatown. Most crucially it hangs to face the marathon of traffic that is 676 West, the major east-west arterial through center city. When first seeing it, I stupidly forgot of its mass audience of motor commuters and thought only of my experience reading it as public art, standing in a gallery space. Truly all three of these represent the movement's multifaceted aims and thorough success as a work.

Proving, all over again, that opportunities for expression are all around us. Not just in commodities and galleries and books. There is empty space all around us, you know? We really can't forget that.


Laissez Fairs

The season is officially upon us, folks. Craft fairs in the 2008 kicked off with one in sunny Baltimore last Saturday. After the raindown, it was an absolute ball.

Since FH really believes that one good turn deserves another, we'll be camped out (literally, like under a freaking tent) at the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby this Saturday! The KKSD, as we've come to call it, is in its second year of existence as the Premier bicycle powered parade in the Philadelphia Metro region. As neither Carrie or I was able to attend last year's derby we aren't quite sure what to expect, but from the sound of things in 2007...it looks to be pretty great.

And we're going to hang out, "vending" an assortment of goods from ourselves of course, along with R.E.Load and Built In Pittsburgh, as well as some extras from friends TBD. Let's just say surprises are in store. That's Tomorrow in Kensington. Parade is 12:30 to 1:30 and the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival goes on til 5. The forecast is looking up and we are pretty excited. So we'll see you there? Ok, Great.


Hop to It

I bring you a tale of good tidings today, friends. The plot is a happy one and the hero is a beer company. Sound like something right up your genre? I thought so.

Once upon a time, in the land of plenty, the people brewed beer using barley, yeast, water and hops. Times were good. Ingredients such as these were happily plentiful and many made merry. Then one year, the hop flowers went thirsty. And once they went thirsty, they fell victim to disease. And the harvest was small.

The brewers shrugged and figured, "Well, one year won't kill us." With so many hops in the bank, they might get a little more expensive. But then a tragic fire in a major hops warehouse burned many of the savings into the ground. And all of a sudden the lead singer in American beer-making went scarce. A scramble was on.

Slowly distributors began to raise their prices, from $3 a pound to upwards of $30 a pound, and brewers began to worry. Just as a signficant diversity in American beer was settling in, marking the Golden Age of Brewing on this side of the ocean, the microbrew industry began tofaced a dark possibility: no hops means no beer, and no beer means bankruptcy.

Cue the perilous violins in our little story. Dangling from the ledge of the castle wall, craft brewers felt their breath quicken. Most of the market's remaining hops were contracted to huge breweries who owned entire fields and could afford to finance an entire producer's hop crop. Small timers were calling suppliers to hear a resounding SOLD OUT echo back through the phone line in a mocking cackle.

Even the brew kettles were starting to get nervous. Scrap metal was a better business than brewing. But then, a woosh & a swoop! Boston Brewing Company to save the day.

Jim Koch, owner of BBC, is sort of a good guy. BBC is the sort of place that's gotten pretty much huge. They are a big time brewery whose beers are almost everywhere, but they still have some of the spirit of craft brewing. Which is after all, how they began. Every year for the Great American Beer festival, they sponsor a homebrew competition and produce a mix-six of the top three brews. They also still make a top shelf beer that goes for over a hundred dollars a bottle. These are the artisanal touches that keep them on the reputable side of the Macro vs. Micro American Beer fence. And their most recent stunt is maybe the best test of their character yet.

When Koch heard about the impact of the hop shortage on small brewers, he set aside 20,000 pounds of BBC's own hops for small brewers to purchase at cost--read: far below market prices at roughly $6 a pound. A brewery could request up to 528 pounds each and brewers were asked to apply only because they really needed them and not because they'd save money. Nearly 350 microbreweries applied for them, which is nearly a quarter of American brewers and the the lot of them were raffled off in a lottery.

And so the people were spared! And the nation breathed a deep sigh of relief. Farmers have already begun planting an immune strain of hop vines, which won't be ready til 2011, but in the meantime, beerlovers are hoping the next two harvests will be better off than the last. And I think Boston Beer Company goes down forever as what we call, Good People. A fine example of remembering your roots and thinking always of the struggle of the smaller guy.


How Does Your Garden Grow?

Have you found your inner green thumb? Average last frost was almost two weeks ago in this City that Loves You Back and that means time for planting, time for digging, a time for weeding and a time for seeding! Gardening in cities can prove rather satisfying, from finding the perfect container for your patio tomato to getting herbs that can grow in the limited light you get on your fire escape. As a self-proclaimed scavenger, I go into trash picking hyper-mode in the summer months looking for garden accoutrements. I wake up every morning with a decidedly maternal feeling and examine the sprouted progress while sipping my coffee. They are My Children. It's a little gross.

I never thought I'd turn into such a green-obsessed gardeness, but here we are. And while doing some yard work this weekend, I realized how perfect our little superhero was for toting gardening implements. Exhibit A:

My beloved garden hose fit delightfully into the velcro strap, trowel into the D-ring, and seed packets into the open pocket. With still plenty of room for my cell phone and my Flower Map.

I will admit I fall into the garden-blessed category, as my house in West Philly has a backyard with ample flower beds, a wood chipped spot for compost and cement room for pots, grill and then some. But you really just need a little roof space, a porch, a stoop or a window sill. It's that easy. Work to your scale, don't overtax your light and water resources and start small. Herbs are hardy and useful. Truly, even the smallest green will be rewarding.

I have acquired over the past two years a handful of hints for urban gardening in the city of Philadelphia, though with a little ingenuity could be adapted to gardening in any city:

Grow spicy peppers. Jalepeno, Habanero, Cayenne, they're all really hard chargers. They handle "drought" with grace, shall we say, and are prolific. Seriously, never a disappointment and these guys do amazingly well in medium containers. They do need outdoor space but they are forgiving. So get a plant and find yourself an awesome salsa recipe. No really.

Get some compost. Fairmount Park, excellent for bike rides and picnics, also offers 100% free organic compost, free woodchips and free manure at their Recycling Center. Bring a bag, bring a shovel, and prepare to be hassled by the old timers who man the Center. Their hours, somewhat unfortunately, are 7:30 am-3 pm Monday thru Friday, but if you've ever bought soil in bags, it's worth it to get it free when you can. I've used only the compost and I'll say I wouldn't recommend planting tomatoes in it because they are highly vulnerable to disease, but everything else, peppers included grow like weeds. (No Pun Intended)

Check Craigslist for plants and gardening equipment, often for free or cheap. Check the free listings for any containers (think outside the box) that you could possibly line with garbage bags or drill holes into and fill with dirt.

Plant seeds now. You have a good week and a half or so left til its getting on late for seed planting, though you can of course do it whenever you want, but seeds are wayyyy cheaper than plants.

Visit an urban farm. Our local Greensgrow, in Kensington, has a full nursery full of organic plants, flowery and vegetable. They are reasonably priced and have pretty much anything you could ever want for your garden. They are also pretty awesome because they are a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm, they promote agricultural and nutritional education in their community, and the farm itself is converted from post-industrial land. They rule.

Anyway, good luck with your gardens. They make even the lowliest cementen backyard more hospitable and who knows, maybe you too will find yourself more nurturing than you dreamed you were capable. Lay down some roots!


Two Wheels, Inc.

I wanted to shout about a few companies I've caught wind of lately. They have one rather charming thing in common. And so it makes sense in my mind to talk about them in a little roundup, of sorts.

This common thread of which I speak is that all of them conduct their business on bicycle. As you maybe could guess, we think that's a pretty swell way to do things. Not only because it is a friendlier and more attractive way to do things, but for more bonafide reasons too. Most businesses that reach a certain scale shall we say, would likely find it trickier to do day to day errands, operations and actual business without the use of a four-wheeled vehicle.

First there is Just Coffee, a simply awesome fair trade coffee co-op out of Madison. This company is all about the politics of their coffee and the way they do business. In fact the business side of it is second hand to the thoroughly admirable action of making sustainable, socially responsible coffee. All deliveries within a five-mile radius of their spot are made on bicycle mostly by a boy named Mark and any other regional deliveries or company trips are taken using their converted biodiesel van. These guys devote an entire page on their website, under the heading "Supply Chain" to letting people know this. It's also displayed on each and every bag of their coffee. They even have a roast called Bike Fuel. Which says two things, I think. One: They are really really proud of what they do. Two: They know you are really proud of what they do.

There is also this little soup company in Austin that delivers soup by bicycle daily. They are called the Soup Peddler, which as a pun, clearly scores some bonus points in the category. This company began with a single guy bringing soup to his neighbors by bike and has grown into a little business by virtue of his tasty soups. As itself, a bicycle touting company, the Soup Peddler continues the tradition of fostering community by sponsoring bicycle drives, composting projects and charity rides. The company's image, projected by way of its being a bicycle centric company, is one of great commitment to the environment, to the small, to the personal and to the local.

The last two companies I know far less about because their websites are somewhat...partial. They are Wingnut Confections out of PDX and the Pedal Co-Op from Philly. I'm sure that plenty of places out west use bicycles, but Wingnut is one I happen to have heard of because my friend Mary sent me one of their haystacks in a carepackage, but it has stuck in my brain because of the little mantra on their wrappers about doing everything by bicycle. In fact, this was perhaps the first time i realized how greatly this simple bit of shared knowledge vastly improved my impression of the company's work. The Pedal Co-Op does recycling by bicycle, and as a cooperative, I realize they aren't exactly a business. But their mission is a great one--to help encouarage recycling here in Philadelphia using bicycles as transporters. Recycling in Philadelphia is currently spotty at best and any project that aims to improve the rate of recycling, even on a small, pedalable scale, is pretty heroic by my count. I wish I could offer a more complete list of such outfits, but my young eyes can only speak to the ones I've heard about. Feel free to offer any knowledge of others. Smaller cities seem to be a hotbed for them.

Now don't get me wrong, we certainly do 99% of our business by bicycle too. But for companies whose main business is the transport itself, using the bicycle exclusively casts a decided light on what it is you are doing. For one, you can only bike so far, and that usually means you are committed to being forever a small business and never a monster Fortune 500 & Co. It also means you're not afraid to do things by hand. Marketing one's business as a bicycle powered operation makes a loud statement about the priorities and character of a company. This statement rings longer and louder in a crowded market. As a fellow pedal pusher, I have a great deal of respect for such good guys. And as a consumer, I see a company's commitment to such "old-fashioned" methods a sign that they deserve any penny I can spare on a pound of coffee, a fancy candy, or a bowl of soup. Commitment to this larger idea of Real transportation, says that they are more than just businesses. They are the cornerstones of an economy I can be proud of.