14 December 2009

new coke

An article from Wired UK titled "Meet Bruce Mau. He wants to redesign the world." has been making the rounds on the innertubes lately. I like & admire Bruce Mau. He has insightful opinions about brands & branding, & I'm impressed Coca Cola looked to him for his point of view. But a couple sentences early in the article made me stop reading, suddenly & utterly bored.

"Mau observed later that [a commenter at a business conference] was ... representative of what Coke and every other company is up against these days: a public that is more aware of, and concerned about, what firms are doing - and one that also has more ability to question and challenge business than ever before. Companies such as Coke are realising that they must adapt and adjust their behaviour to survive this new level of scrutiny."

I often think of brands as people. Are they doing something interesting? Something new? Are they standing tall for what they believe in, sticking to their guns, fighting the good fight? Or any fight. And are they ... you know. Nice? Would I want to talk to this person at a party?

Coca Cola makes sugar water. (Delicious, delicious sugar water, mmmm.) Not new, not that interesting. Okay, so maybe their tastes & values are different than mine. But Mau is suggesting they seek out what people want from them, then change the whole timbre of the brand. He's advising a huge multinational corporation to become boring, sycophantic, & kind of ... sad. I don't want to talk to that person at a party.

It's not that I don't think Coca Cola should be held accountable — I do. And it's good that people are looking closer at the companies to whom they give their money — I'm a fan of voting with money. It's the "adapting & adjusting their behavio(u)r to this new level of scrutiny." No. Be awesome, for its own sake. Or don't be awesome. But always be something. Even you, Coca Cola.

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Okay, okay, I finished the article. Okay. Curiosity got the better of me, & I was willing to be outraged. (Outrage can be good!) And I re-discovered that Bruce Mau is fucking rad. But I also have very little faith that all the ways in which Coca Cola is attempting to re-organize the company — to "make more sustainable, make more of what we love, using less of what we need" — has anything to do with Coca Cola suddenly becoming awesome thought-leaders & everything to do with Coca Cola wanting everyone to love them, just please won't we only love them, & doing whatever it takes to that end whether they believe in what they're doing or not. And, like I said, that's sad. And the mark of insecurity & fear. And disappointing.

02 December 2009

bikes in cities

I first started biking when I moved to Portland, OR, where I was a student looking to save some dimes. I wanted to pay for transportation exactly once. No fares, no gas, no insurance, no licensing. I bought a bike, & I rode it every day, & I took it in for repairs two times. Once, I broke a spoke. And once, I got a flat.

I didn't know how to repair a flat.

Then, I moved to Los Angeles, & I didn't ride for about six months. But I missed it. If I worked on the weekends, I rode in, to "treat" myself. Then, I started to "treat" myself every day because I could see no reason not to. I learned how to repair a flat, how to adjust my brakes, saddle height, derailleurs, &c., because I had to. My bike started to fall apart all of a sudden, it seemed, because I was riding it much more, & because I had enjoyed startlingly good luck in Portland. I amassed a small bag of tools, which I kept with me at all times.

bike thneed

My fourth (or maybe fifth) group ride in Los Angeles.
Later still, I discovered Midnight Ridazz. It took me about four months after I started riding every day to learn that thousands of other riders were doing the same all throughout the city, the Valley, Orange County, the Westside, the Eastside. Bikes were everywhere, but they had been invisible, even to me. In retrospect, this is almost inconceivable. Riders in Los Angeles are the most tight-knit group of people I've ever come across, anywhere, & the most welcoming. (I was jumped into a bike gang on my third ride, by SP00K.) How did I miss this? Now, I'm (unofficially) a member of three bike gangs. There is no rivalry; we all go to each others' birthday parties.

happy birthday, ridge way
Ridge Way Bike House turns 2.
I don't think bikers in Portland are as galvanized. I figure it's because bikers are as common as the roses that grow untended there. Like their roses, it's just as beautiful a thing, but it's not so very special. In Los Angeles, riding a bike is a strange thing to do. When seeing someone else riding on the road, I look to see if I know them, & often enough I do. If I don't know them, I nod. A tacit acknowledgment that we both know what's up. It's a unifying activity here, whereas in cities where it's more common, it doesn't mean as much.

Another thing: In Los Angeles, riders don't seem to care much about what you ride. I mean, they care — they appreciate a good whip. But I ride with fixed gear riders, geared riders, mountain bikers, BMX tricksters, chopper bike riders, tall bikers, road racers, polo bikers, velodrome rats, & even people who ride recumbents.

Just kidding. Not recumbents.

seatless tall bike!
I rode this bike once. ONCE.

Every day is a custom bike show. Every night is a ride, usually several. Alleycats every weekend. Name a holiday — Christmas, New Year's, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, your birthday, your dad's birthday, Arbor Day. There's a ride that day. Ahh, enthusiasm. It's fucking scintillating.


The Ride with No Name
The Passage of a Few People Through a Rather Brief Moment in Time
C.R.A.N.K. MOB (The Wonder Year)
Westside Mosey
Midnight Ridazz (official) rides
Wolfpack Hustle
Cub Camp
All those rides that wound up on the beach in the middle of the night, & then there was swimming, & Trouble

Go ride.