Tag Archive for 'rant'

on bicycle safety

I had a super time at the Transportation Alternatives Biking Rules PSA festival the other night. It’s really nice to see people put in work and make neat videos and have a ton of awesome Brooklyn bike people in a room together. But then, when we were drinking beer and schmoozing at the reception, I got a little bit full of hate. The focus on bicycle safety as something cyclists need to preach to each other really bugs me! Again and again I hear that the thing that makes cycling safer is not more helmets and more lights, but more cyclists! Having people on bikes on the road makes drivers aware, makes cycling more “normal” and more accepted and more safe. I get that TA wants to have cyclists seem like a respectable bunch of eco-friendly, law-abiding citizens that are worth building bike lanes and creating policy for, but it makes me crazy that the focus isn’t on drivers!

At least, the message going to cyclists should be “don’t be an asshole.” I think it’s generally FINE to run red lights and go the wrong way on one-way-streets as long as you’re aware of what’s going on around you, and you don’t get in people’s way. A cyclist running a red light does way less harm that fucking cars parked in bike lanes, or not signaling, or opening their doors into oncoming bike traffic without looking. Fuck the laws about bells and helmets–I can take care of my personal safety. I want more policing of system-wide safety!

Thanks muchly to Ms Laurie for the think to this guardian article today about how “antisocial cycling” is annoying, but not a real threat unlike bad driving, which is.

All that said, the videos were pretty rad. My super planner pal Inbar’s “Cycloptopus” video is totally worth watching.

Also, I’m really digging the Fake MTA twitter updates. “From Nov. 19-Dec. 31, the 59th St./Columbus Circle station will be closed due to the construction of Mayor Bloomberg’s underground lair.”

on coffee and neighbourhoods

There are a lot of empty storefronts in my neighbourhood, in what I think is a one-man gentrification scheme spearheaded by my landlord. In my estimation, he’s sitting on these spaces waiting for fancy coffee shops and boutique kitchenware stores to open up and attract more folks like Zach and I. I remember learning somewhere that landlords actually get tax breaks on vacant retail space, so there’s actually quite a bit of incentive for this sort of behaviour.

But nonetheless, across the street there’s been construction for a while on the soon-to-open Breukelen Coffee House (blogged about on I Love Franklin Avenue here). Exciting! Hooray! Now I don’t have to walk the full block to the Glass Shop when I need out of the house for some reading-and-coffee.

Except, maybe not so much.

There’s been a lot of discussion about this new cafe on the Crown Heights message board (excuse: I got sort of addicted to the message board after I fell down the stairs and couldn’t explore the neigbourhod on foot. Thanks, internet), including posts from the owners who describe the new cafe as such:

The Breukelen Coffee House is a holistic and organic coffee shop. Our intention is to serve organic whenever we can (we are aiming for 100% of the time- but it’s not always available and accessible).

We are proudly serving Stumptown Organic Coffee. And organic milks: almond, hazelnut, oat and hemp milk. Milk will not be available nor conventional sugar. We will only be serving non processed, all natural sweetners such as stevia, agave syrup and Manuka honey.

We’ll also have delicious organic smoothies!

Equally important are the holistic workshops we’ll be holding. They will focus on proper breath, proper hydration, eating with ‘life foods’, etc, etc.

Our motto is: Order anything from our menu without guilt! Holistic, healthy eating is what we do and where we pride ourselves.

Last but not least- we’ve heard your requests! We will adjust our weekend hours of operation to:

Mon-Fri 7:00AM-7:00PM
Sat 7:00AM-6:00PM
Sun 7:00AM-5:00PM

And here is a photograph of the space. It’s not my photo, but it could be, because this is pretty much what I see when I leave the front door of my apartment. It’s slightly unsettling to share a corner of the city with someone I don’t know who blogs about it all the time, with overly wide-eyed enthusiasm (look! a new bus shelter!), but that’s neither here nor there.
breukelen coffee house

So the discussion on the board is mostly “milk please,” for a few different reasons, mostly “I want it” and “you’ll lose customers.” In truth, I would like real milk (which could be bought from Ronnybrook at the Grand Army Plaza farmer’s market once a week, and be walked over to the store and support local economies and upstate farms), and it probably will push people over the also soon-to-open cafe run by Tony Fisher of Fisher’s Market (actually the cafe which started the thread on the message board), who does a good job of keeping me away from his store by talking too much about the number of hot girls in the shop over on his twitter account.

But really, this shop seems to be sending a big f-you to the neighbourhood, which is now mostly discount stores and roti shops and hair braiding. I would like more retail diversity, yes, but this just seems like it’s skipping over too many steps in a reasonable evolution, and ignoring a whole mess of people who really would just buy coffee and a brownie if they could. I think agave nectar and almond milk are good things (though I am much less fond of the reported hollistic health workshops–seriously, gag me with a spoon and then maybe buy me a beer), but to the exclusion of other things is to the exclusion of other people.

As David says, “white people are great, but they’re not the end-all be-all.”

I just want to say that I was really really wrong! I let my cynicism get in the way of generosity, and that’ not fair. The Breukelen Coffee Shop is actually a wonderful addition to the neighbourhood, it’s full of all sorts of people, and the owners are three incredibly great people. I’m sorry for being mean and suspicious! -Dory


I went (with my friend Katie and roommate Kurt) to the BUST Holiday Craftacular craft fair a few weeks ago, and came away really disappointed. Lots of vendors doesn’t actually mean betters stuff, and the cool things seem to blend into this overarching sea of same-ness. Knit things, charm bracelets, silkscreened t-shirts, peacock feather headbands, more knit things, more charm bracelets, some silkscreened hoodies, and MORE PEACOCK FEATHER HEADBANDS. I bought one letterpress postcard and then left.

I think that my real disinterest is because all of it seems to be about adorning objects with the images that are currently in the zeitgeist. Birds, vegetables, pirates, ninjas, raccoons, whatever. The tacky crafts are the ones that say “hey, I’ve got some things cut out of a magazine and some bottlecaps, what can I glue them to? How about this picture frame! How about this notebook?” The stuff at the craftacular was much much nicer that that schlock, certainly, but it’s the same kind of idea, even if it’s putting a beautiful drawing of an octopus and printing it on an American Apparel t-shirt. Or putting birds onto charm bracelets.

Say you have a sister, and she’s really into mermaids. You’ll buy her pretty much anything that has a mermaid on it because you know that she’ll like it…but why are you buying that particular thing? The best craft stuff are things that are made because their object-ness is important. Like handmade furniture. This is what I think of when I think of craft–useful objects made in the most beautiful of ways. And so I like the things that are made because the maker is skilled at making such a thing–I find myself buying prints or postcards or flat things, because if I love the image, I don’t necessarily want it on my chest.

The booth of the kids who had made their own t-shirts in great colours and shapes–they totally prove the rule!

I like pottery. I respect soap. I bought beautiful hand-printed fabric at Brooklyn Flea many weeks ago that is now being incorporated into the secret quilt project.

I like objects (they become part of collections, which is something I’ve been thinking lots about and will write about later). I think that you should love the object you have because they either work well (you should have seem Emily’s face when she was explaining how great her square measuring spoons were) or because they are beautiful (I have some tea towels that I’m very very fond of, and not because they dry dishes better than others). I think people should make beautiful things, and make things beautiful. But so much craft feels like it was done because it could be, and lots of it starts to feel very cafe-press-like, with your design on a t-shirt! a tote bag! a mousepad! a thong! and not about lovely things at all.

Regarding collections, here is the assemblage of things on my living room wall. Since this was taken the colony of objects has grown a fair bit…

And regarding craft: Look! The yellow octopus apron came true:
yellow apron

Following Instructions

I’m looking up scone recipes on the internet this morning, and they all suck. They all say things like “2 cups of bisquick” (bisquick? seriously? if was into using premade stuff I wouldn’t be looking up recipes!) or “spray pan with non-stick cooking spray” (that stuff is scary and gross!). Maybe it’s my own cooking up-bringing, raising myself on vegan cookbooks that all say things like “your choice of sweetener” to accommodate all the folks who don’t eat sugar/honey/agave nectar/whatever, but I want these recipes to say things like “do what you need to do to prevent these from sticking to the pan.”

If these recipes were in cookbooks, there’d be a whole intro section on nonstickage (or on sweeteners, or about substitutions, or whatever), and the recipes can refer you back to the what-cooking-is-all-about pages. But with the dumb internet, recipes are not part of a collection of anything, they’re one-offs. They’re hit singles with no album.

This makes me sort of sad–I feel like all these awesome skills, like the ability to curate or edit or collect or compile are slipping away. We get things totally disjointed and discrete.

I know that there are plenty of people curating all the stuff that’s on the internet–that’s what all those lovely blogs like CRAFT or Swissmiss or Kottke do. And I like them, but sometimes the endlessness of them feels tiresome. ESPECIALLY with the CRAFT blog–if anyone does anything crafty on the internet, it gets reposted there. And just as a link. It’s pointing: “look at this!” “look at that!” and most of it sucks. I know I shouldn’t get all righteous about something that is so clearly a promotional marketing tool for an overpriced magazine ($15 an issue!), but somehow it’s positioned itself at the head of the internet craft world.

Now I’m actually going to go make some scones.