Things, stuff, and other items of interest

July 29, 2010

Breaking biker taboos -OR- Why I wave at scooters

http://imgur.com/Qv0Qg
It used to be, that if you used the term 'Biker' to describe someone, everyone knew precisely what you meant. Male, independent, tough, a casual regard or disregard for society and it's norms, and most importantly: free. Utterly and completely one hundred percent free. The only worries that burdened his brow were gas stops and speed limits, and the speed limits didn't really bother him that much.

Or at least, that's the romantic notion of a biker anyhow. I'm not entirely convinced it was all that accurate. I've been riding motorcycles for a few years now, and I have to admit, I've never been able to wear the label 'Biker' all that well. It doesn't suit me, and it never will. I'm not so delusional as to think that will ever change.  This is neither good nor bad, it simply is. Oh, I meet some, maybe even most of the qualifications. 
  • Male? - Check.
  • Independent? - More or less. I like to think so anyhow. Though in the interest of historical accuracy I can not in good conscience claim that this has always been the case. I have some very patient parents. 
  • Tough? Well, I suppose that probably depends on your definition of tough. 
    • Scars, burns and broken bones I've had plenty. 
    • Once or twice, I've been kicked out of a bar or two. Usually peacefully.
    • I've had to work as security for private parties and corporate retailers.
    • I've worked as a butcher and hauled dead animal carcasses all across Northumberland county. On one occasion I was completely covered from head to toe in moose blood. It didn't bug me. Oh I wasn't happy about it, but I didn't freak out either.
    • I'm familiar with what emergency room doctors refer to as "Boxers' Fracture" and can confirm it hurts as much on the right hand as it does the left.
Contrary wise:
    • I can't talk about my deceased dog in public for fear of a complete emotional break down.
    • "Worlds' Greatest Dog"
    • I'll freely admit to tearing up every time I watch Band of Brothers.
    • The Princess Bride remains one of my favourite movies. (One of Mister Roussimoff's finest films.)
    • Every time I hear "In Flanders Fields" by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, I get more than a little choked up.
    • I nearly lost my lunch all over a doctor probably ten years my junior while he tended to my in-grown toe nail.

Thought I had an iron stomach for the gross stuff. Eye witnessing toe surgery is probably the single most disgusting thing I have ever seen.Tue May 04 20:23:46 via web
    So do I qualify as tough? I don't know about that,... but I'm no sissy (usually).
    • A casual regard / disregard for society and it's norms? - I have a yo-yo collection, need I say more?
    • Free? - That's a tough one. 
      • Free thinker? - Sure.
      • Free spirit? - If applied as it's used in contemporary dialect, probably not. 
      • Politically free? - As much as any other Canadian.
      • Legally free? - Yup. No convictions to date. w00t! 
    Three out of four ain't bad. I'm as free as anyone who decides to participate in society, pay bills, seek & maintain gainful employment, and eat regularly.
    So there you are. I may or may not meet most of the classically romantic requirements to wear to badge of 'Biker', and still it doesn't fit. Who am I kidding? I could be a fully patched MC member, riding a chopped hog down route sixty-six while the ends of my handle-bar mustache waved in the air behind me having long ago given up wearing a brain bucket, and I STILL wouldn't claim the title of 'Biker'. It just doesn't fit. Like a fat man in a speedo, like a plus sized gal in spandex, like the proverbial round peg in the proverbial square hole... it doesn't work.

    But then, I'm not alone there. Look around you next time your driving down the road and someone on a motorcycle passes you. Full face helmet on a cruiser? Reflective jacket? Reflective adhesive tape on the helmet / bike / jacket? Reflective vest? High beams or light bar? Full leathers in the middle of july? None of that's very 'Biker'. It is however very, very smart. What about the scooter riders? You just know that the real bikers look at these guys and start grinding their teeth. A more emasculating motorized vehicle I'm not sure I can fathom and yet in Europe and asiatic countries they are highly regarded as versatile, economical, practical vehicles. A buddy of mine has a very crude & obscene joke about scooters, that I will not repeat here because this ain't that kind of a blog. It is genuinely funny if you don't mind an occasional round of gutter jumping. North Americans would be well served if we started to hold the much maligned scooter in higher regard.

    Motorcycle riders have a custom. You've probably seen us do it. When we pass another rider who's going in the opposite direction, we give them a little wave. "Hey brother, nice bike. Ride safe." All of that in a simple gesture, offered and accepted among equals. It's something of an unspoken rule that this wave is proffered up only to other motorcycle riders. I have to confess that I regularly break this biker taboo. I freely admit to the fact that I give the motorcycle wave to scooter riders. Hell, I once gave the wave to a cyclist. My reasoning is pretty simple. So long as they're on two wheels, pounding the same pavement in the same traffic, and facing the same dangers that I am.... all the more power to them. They're as worthy of the wave as anyone else. Who am I to judge a fellow rider by the size of his or her bike / scooter? In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I draw the line at the imbeciles riding the 25cc electric bikes on the road in the gutter. If you can't master the absurdly simple concepts of defensive riding, don't ride. No wave for you, you pathetic excuse for a rider.

    Riding a motorcycle has become a hobby. A pass time. What was once a life style for the famous and infamous one percenters has become an after work outing or a weekend get away. Times change, it's inevitable. Traditions eventually fade. It's sad, but it's also true. There are still a few hold outs, some never-say-die bikers who will ride into eternity laughing in deaths' face and partying until the end of time. To them, I can only wish them well and urge them to ride hard & ride safe. For the rest of the riders, I'll give you a wave on the road when I see you. Scooter, motorcycle or trike, I don't care. As for those of you in four wheeled vehicles, keep a look out for us and for crying out loud check your blind spots.

    July 20, 2010

    The G20 Summit, Cops vs. Hippies, and Civil Liberties

    Blogs are kind of annoying at times. This writing on a schedule thing isn't really agreeing with me. You may have noticed the lack of frequency of the posting as of late. I probably should have given you guys a heads up on that. It's summer, the bike's on the road and the sun's been shining a lot lately which makes for some long over due riding weather. Conversely, this also results in some rather piss-poor blog-updating weather. Isn't the first time, won't be the last,... or maybe it will.

    I don't mind admitting that I've been struggling with a couple of topics lately. I usually try to keep things reasonably topical on here, the only problem with that is lately all the topical stuff that I'm reading about tends to induce bone-chilling depression. The last few weeks have seen the mostly Canadian media go positively ape-shit over (A.) the G20 summit, and then (B.) all of the Cops versus Hippies fall out that all too predictably followed.

    I don't mind saying that I struggled on this one. I've sort of ran the entire spectrum on it. I started out siding with the protesters, then I kind of came around to siding with the cops, and now I'm somewhere in the middle. Conclusions I've drawn from the whole event:
    1. Mr. Harper REALLY REALLY REALLY hates Toronto.
    2. The protesters are either the bravest most selfless individuals in that city, or the dumbest. I suspect the numbers would break down something along the lines of:
      • 10% - Died in the wool true believers. Either painfully naive, or oblivious to the fact that their protests are wholly useless in terms of helping them advance any of their causes. No matter how deserving, silly, honourable, fictional, just, or deluded that cause may be.
      • 10% - Reporters & bloggers that are either fearless and extremely dedicated, or very stupid. Either way, they're all there to get a story. For the record, I tend to believe the former rather than the latter. Though there were examples of both categories present.
      • 5% - Black Block. To call these guys anarchists is a disservice to anarchists. With full knowledge of just how old a curmudgeon this will make me sound like, I'll say it anyways: They're a bunch gutless punks.
      • 75% - Moronic protest tourists, who like so many rubber-neckers on the highway have to slow down an see what the all the fuss is about. Loathsome creatures, that I'd like to think I'm better than but can almost guarantee that I'm not.
    3. Cops are human. Not all cops are bad, and sadly, not all cops are good. I don't doubt for a second that some cops crossed a line. I don't even doubt that some of them leaped across it willingly. I don't believe that applies to all of them, but the over-zealous cops with violent tendencies are no easier to identify than the Black Block asshats are while marching in the middle of a bunch of hippies. Unfortunately, I find difficult to maintain any sort of faith in any of the three (I think) investigations that have resulted from the weekend. Call me a cynic.
    4. This guy kicks ass:

    So far the Canadian public seems far more outraged at the price tag that's accompanying this little shindig than they are at the tactics used by the police officers present. While trying not to belittle the concerns regarding the latter, it's not difficult to see why Canadians are having a hard time swallowing the billion dollar price tag. From the fake lake fiasco and the burning cop cars to the rather spectacular lack of progress resulting from the actual summit, this thing was a cluster-[DUCK] of massive proportions. At the end of the day, the only ones who walked away feeling like they got anything done was Mr. Sarkozy and the members of the press who had the foresight to hop on Twitter and offer an invitation to their followers for a front line view of the goings-on. 
    The complaints we’ve received so far raise serious concerns about this regulation and the way it was communicated, and I think there is a very strong public interest in finding out exactly what happened and how that affected the rest of the events of the G20 weekend.
    - Ontario Ombudsman André Marin
    One last item for the record; that bit about the last minute regulation being passed under the Public Works Protection Act in regards to a five meter perimeter around the security barrier? That was a really scummy move Mr. Blair, very scummy indeed. If the media is to be believed, and reports are in fact accurate, then it's more than a little frightening just how easily some of those in power were all too happy to intentionally mislead in order to assume extra powers. Temporary or not. If I've misunderstood the facts on this, I would be genuinely grateful to have someone point it out to me.
    Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my lords, that where laws end, tyranny begins.
    - William Pitt the Elder, from a House of Lords speech in 1770.
    Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    - Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887
    The weeks following the big event have seen even more protests, in cities all across Canada. It's quite something. People are rallying together to show their support for a second wave of protests that took place, and are still taking place in Toronto that were meant to register the displeasure of the original protesters with the conduct of the police on that weekend in late June. To be honest, I find this kind of silly. If the protesters at the actual event were ineffective, then what does that make these people? It seems like it's a exercise in mutual ego stroking. That may be a little harsh, I'm not entirely unsympathetic. I understand the rationale that if we don't protect our civil liberties then we don't deserve them, particularly when viewed through some of the draconian security measures of recent days. It just seems like one of those times when you should pick your battles. Maybe, just maybe,... marching en masse down Queen Street in the provincial capital isn't all that effective a manner of supporting your particular cause. I'm not entirely clear on how it helps to free Tibet, or stop off-shore oil drilling, or provide clean drinking water and adequate health care to those who need it.

    I'd be curious to find out what percentage of the protesters, and cops for that matter, voted in the last few federal elections. Do they take the time to research the causes they march in favour of or are they just along for the ride? I'd suggest we conduct some sort of census or survey, but that's a whole other problem for another day.

    I mentioned earlier that I struggled with this topic, and I guess it shows that I still am. I'm not satisfied with where things sit, and I doubt I ever will be. I don't mind sharing with you that I was, and remain rather conflicted with whether or not I should even bother writing this post. When it comes right down to it, I wasn't there. I'm getting all my information second hand if I'm lucky. I suspect it'd be difficult for those involved to cut through the bullshit on this, let alone for those of us playing arm-chair quarterback  from the side lines. Ultimately, I guess I side with both sides. I admire and appreciate the protesters for their passion and idealism, though I question their foresight and common sense. I admire and appreciate the police for the dedication to their duty and for enforcing the rule of law when it was unpopular, though I question their methods and leadership decisions

    At the end of the day, this is just another blog among thousands written by just another wind bag who wasn't there and didn't see it first hand. Hindsight is always 20/20 after all. The best suggestion I heard to date along those lines was that if they had kept the entire affair in Huntsville, they could have saved half a billion bucks. Send all the cops home, and go around to all the stores in town and buy out the towns' entire inventory of bug spray. The mosquitoes would take care of the rest.