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Tim King's homepage with images and writing about technology, education, visual art and motorcycles!
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I came across a description of The Greasy Hands Preachers in BIKE Magazine this month. The two guys responsible for this upcoming documentary about motorcycle culture previously did a short film called Long Live The Kings:
LONG LIVE THE KINGS – Short film documentary – from SAGS on Vimeo.
It packs a surprising amount into a short film. It’s nicely shot and carefully crafted, though it does seem to fall into a genre trap that I saw pointed out the other week; the dreaded bullshit hipster bike video. There is something genuine about Long Live The Kings that (I hope) excludes it from being a BS hipster bike video.
Looking at BHBV’s bingo card (left), they seem hit a lot of the hipster bullshit, yet I still want to believe that they are genuine.
With luck The Greasy Hands Preachers will offer some real insight into motorcycling. I’m hoping against hope that they have interviewed Matt Crawford and are able to present a film that doesn’t just paint motorbiking and working on your own machine crudely in a fad that will quickly look out of date.
Long Live The Kings has moments of philosophical insight that might develop into a deeply reflective documentary in Greasy Hands Preachers. Crawford’s brilliant Shopclass as Soulcraft would be a perfect fit for that approach but I’m afraid the film is going to devolve into another ‘ain’t bikin fun?’ video, this time with a veneer of hipster bullshit on top.
Sneak preview straight from the edit – The Greasy Hands Preachers from SAGS on Vimeo.
THE GREASY HANDS PREACHERS DOCUMENTARY Pre-trailer Kickstarter from SAGS on Vimeo.
Toronto is sinking man and I don’t want to swim. While the GTA slowly sank into Lake Ontario under record breaking rains, I was discovering the visceral thrill of storm surfing on two wheels…
Riding home tonight into a wall of black. Yesterday I dodged the storms, today I’m not so lucky.
If it starts to spit I’ll pull over and put my rain jacket on and cover the tail bag.
It starts to spit. I pull over.
I get the rain jacket out and throw it on the ground and cover the tail bag with the rain cover. As I’m getting the jacket on I look up and a wall of water is moving toward me. I get the jacket on quick and get back on the bike. I’m back up to speed when I hit the wall. The rain is so heavy the guy in front of me in a pickup is hydroplaning everywhere.
It’s so black I can only see cars by headlights.
The bike is a bit skittish but surprisingly sure footed, then the gusts begin. I get to highway 24 and there is a lightning strike so bright it’s blinding, followed by an almost immediate thunder roll. The gusts are so hard I’m leaning into them to stay on the bike, visibility is almost zero. If there is a tornado I’ve decided to hang on to the bike – together we weigh almost 650 pounds, that’s got to be better than going solo. Being out in a violent thunder storm is an entirely different thing from watching one hit your windscreen.
I hang on for a couple of kilometers and everyone starts to pick up speed as the sky starts to clear. The road begins to show patches of tarmac through the water. I ride the last 15 kms home soaked to the skin but elated! That scared the shit out of me! It was great!
The other day I did a ride that isn’t typical of my time on two wheels – I aimed for the middle of a city, during rush hour. The siren call for this insanity was strong. The Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival was having a best-of showing at the beautifully restored Playhouse Theatre in Hamilton.
From TMD you’ll know I’m a big fan of motorcycle media and the TMFF’s push to encourage Canadian films is something I’d like to both support and participate in. Riding down to Hamilton on a beautiful summer’s day was the perfect entry point and has me thinking of ways to get to their main show in Toronto in early October. I’m secretly hoping I can find a project that needs a drone pilot aerial camera operator and likes weird camera angles.
But first, the peril. Driving in rush hour isn’t like driving at other times. The people doing it are miserable, embroiled in the last part of their forced servitude for the day, the part where they get to spend a sizable portion of their time and income in a vehicle that has become an expensive appliance whose only function is to move them to and from the job it demands. The aimless frustration and misery oozes out of them at every turn, sometimes expressing itself in sudden bursts of anger and aggression before settling back into a miasmic death stare of indifference.
So that was making me anxious. Looking at Google Maps red roads of the GTA at rush hour on a warm, sunny day wasn’t thrilling either. Sitting in traffic on a motorcycle in moribund no-filtering Ontario sucks. It sucks on the fumes of the massive SUVs all around you, their contents breathing filtered, air conditioned air while you choke on their output. Edging toward a green light inches at a time on hot tarmac surrounded by this excess and misery is about as much fun as a deep periodontal cleaning, without the benefits, and with the destruction of nature as the result of this pointlessness.
I haven’t had much time on the bike this summer. My wife’s surprise cancer diagnosis and surgery has meant other priorities take hold. Finally back from weeks in a car, I was facing my first long ride in over two months, and it wasn’t for the ride, it was for the destination. Alanna wanted to ride pillion down, though she’s still recovering. I was worried about her, feeling very over protective and also dealing with my son’s anxiety in us going after being away at camp for the first time this summer (don’t worry, we’re coming back!).
That’s a lot of emotional luggage to take on a ride. Even leaving our subdivision I was second guessing traffic and riding awkwardly, and getting frustrated with myself for it. I’m usually loose and light on the controls. I’m usually not stuck in a conscious state while riding and I’m usually smooth and fluid as a result. We worked our way down to the dreaded Hanlon bypass in Guelph (which isn’t because it’s covered in traffic lights) and sat in row after row of the damned things every few hundred metres. I was constantly placing us on the road where I could squirt out of the way of someone not paying attention. We passed two collisions, rear enders caused by the epidemic around us. Sitting up high on the bike has its disadvantages, like seeing down into the vehicles around us and watching over half of the drivers working their phones on their laps. I guess that’s the new normal in a 2019 commute.
Down by Stone Road the guy behind us didn’t stop (he has a nice iPhoneX on his lap), but I squirted out onto the shoulder and took the next exit where we worked down country side roads instead, but not before being choked to death by a diesel black smoke belching dump truck that jumped out right in front of us causing me to brake so hard we bumped into each other. I finally got past him after riding in his bleching, black haze for several kilometres, but by this point I was fried, and we’d only ridden through Guelph, the small city before the big one.
I was going to pull off at the lovely old church in Kirkwall and have a stretch and get my head on straight, but the F150 dualie behind me was about six inches off my rear tire even though I was going 20 over the limit and I was afraid to hit the brake, so pressed on. He blew past us coming out of Kirkwall only to pull up behind the car 150 metres ahead of us and stay there until he eventually pulled off some time later. You gotta make time on your commute I guess.
Doubt isn’t something that creeps into my riding, but it was starting to here. The lack of control and extremely defensive mindset was exhausting me. Alanna was suffering hot flashes on the back mainly due to Guelph’s atrocious traffic and lights and was feeling wobbly, and I was starting to question everything I was doing. We are coming home Max. This isn’t going to end badly!
We were both on the lookout for a place to stop when the Rockton Berry Farm appeared as if an oasis in the desert. I pulled in and we both pulled our sweaty, tense bodies off the Tiger. Alanna went in and found some sustenance and I did some yoga. After stretching and some Gatorade and trail mix I felt human again. Talking to Alanna I mentioned how I was battling some demons on this ride and reminded myself that the best kind of rider is the Zen rider. Matt Crawford describes motorcycling as a beautiful war, but this one was more like a pitched battle. It’s amazing what a stop can do for your mental state though.
After a fifteen minute break we saddled up again ready to face the horror of Hamilton’s rush hour, but something had changed. Instead of holding on too tight, I was letting go. My riding was more fluid, we flowed with the chaos and when we got down to the mean streets of downtown Hamilton, they were a delight. Unlike Guelph, who seem determined to stop you at every intersection, Hamilton actually times its lights so you can cut through the heart of the city with barely a stop. Past the beautiful old houses and industrial buildings we flew, down to the up and coming area where that beautifully restored Playhouse Theatre sat.
As we pulled into the parking lot that was already filling with all manner of motorcycles, I thought over that ride down. I’d actually suggested that maybe we should take the car, but that would have sucked just as much and had no sense of adventure and accomplishment in it, though it would have been easier and safer – the motto of modern day life.
If you’re in a situation where you’re riding and finding it overwhelming, take a break and give yourself a chance to get your head back on straight. You’d be amazed what a ten minute stretch and reset can do for your mindset, and that mindset is your greatest tool when riding. In spite of her cancer recovery, Alanna had pushed to ride because she wanted us to ‘immerse ourselves in that biking culture’ in going to this event. Standing in the parking lot chatting with other riders, we were doing just that.
Of course, the point isn’t to not feel fear, but to feel it and work through it anyway. That’s bravery. Not feeling fear at all is psychosis. Baz Luhrman has a good take on this with his motto: a life lived in fear is a life lived. Letting fear dictate your life is no way to live. We are already dead when we always play safe and stop taking risks.
What made it especially challenging this time was that I couldn’t moderate many of those risks by riding away from the faceless hordes of commuters. Spending a day with them in their pointless battle to destroy the planet was exhausting and terrifying, no wonder they box themselves up in the largest container they can.
The motorcycle films shown by the TMFF were great and completely new to me (and I’m a guy with Austin Vince’s entire DVD collection – I know moto-films). One of my favourite parts of this kind of documentary film making is showing what is possible, and I was briming over with it when we left. I couldn’t have been in a better mood to ride.
We exited into the dark for the long ride home. It was cool and the streets were flowing and half empty as we worked our way back to the highway and shot up into the dark of the Niagara Escarpment. Even the guy driving 10 under the limit who suddenly stood on the brakes for no reason (he had evidently received an exciting text message – he was two handing a response as we passed him on the inside lane of Highway 6) didn’t phase me. I was back on my game, staring into the dark out of my third eye. When that eye gazes into the abyss, the abyss is the one that gets nervous.
We got all the way up to Guelph, sane now that traffic had died down and all the sad people were in their row houses waiting for tomorrow to do it again. If we’re so smart, you’d have to think we could find a better way.
Shakespeare Arms by the university we met at over twenty years ago provided us with a late night dinner before we pressed on home, passing a skunk (the Canadian night is filled with them) galloping across the road into the graveyard ahead of us. The last light (of course) caught us, then we were away into the night, the Milky Way glittering above us and the night smells all around. We were home seemingly seconds later, our creaking, cold joints groaning as we finally seperated ourselves from our trusty Tiger.
We rode right into south central Hamilton at rush hour and out after 9pm, about 12 kilometres of dense, urban riding with more traffic lights than I could count, but we got stopped at three of them both coming and going. I commented to Alanna about how Hamilton has its shit together in a way that Guelph seems oblivious to.
Passing back through Guelph past 10pm at night and covering about a kilometre less in a city with less than a quarter the population, we got stopped at nine traffic lights. On our way south earlier in the day during rush hour, Guelph was a traffic light bonanza (even on the ‘bypass’) getting stopped at no less than six lights before we could escape the madness. Guelph should rename itself the city of lights, just not in a Parisian sense.
Perhaps the moral of this story is really just don’t go anywhere near Guelph if you can help it. It’s time they started urban planning like the city they have quickly grown into. It’d make the chaos that much less overwhelming (not to mention, ya know, stopping the iminent demise of the human race). There’s this thing called IoT and smart cities? Guelph should look into it – I’d be happy to help.
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The Toyota Prius hybrid car is a series of expensive compromises. Born at a time when we are transitioning from fossil fuels to electrical power, the Prius is a car that combines gas tanks, gas powered drive trains and engines with batteries, and electrical motors that do the same jobs more efficiently. The result is a poor performing car that weights a thousand pounds more than the equivalent gas powered vehicle because it’s trying to live in two worlds at once. If you’ve ever driven one, you’ve got to know that the future is grim indeed. Fortunately, hybrid cars are a momentary blip on the automotive evolutionary scale. As the transition from gasoline to electrical vehicles happens, and electrical infrastructure and technologies improve, the compromise of a hybrid along with all the pointless redundancy will no longer be necessary.
Our education system is in a similar situation, and it’s an expensive moment to have to live through. The future consists of paperless, friction-less information. The past consisted of papered, controlled, expensive, limited access to information. In 2012 education is straddling that paper/digital divide, trying to answer to centuries of paper based tradition while also struggling to remain relevant in a rapidly digitizing world. It’s an expensive gap to cross, and one that is full of incongruities and compromises – ask Toyota engineers, it’s an impossible position to create anything elegant in.
We struggle to produce students relevant to the increasingly digital world they are graduating into while experiencing more paper-based drag than just about any other industry. Whereas business and research have leapt into digitization, driven by the need to find efficiencies in order to be competitive, education struggles to understand and embrace the inherent advantages of digitization. The only urge to do so is in trying to remain relevant to our students – perhaps the least politically powerful (yet most important) members of the educational community.
I see teachers spending thousands of dollars a year on photocopying handouts (of information easily findable online which then get left behind), and no one bats an eyelash. Thousands more are spent on text books that are already out of date when they are published, also often showing information that can as easily be found online. At the same time we struggle to find funds to get the basic equipment needed to embrace digital advantages; the between directions is apparent.
The good news is that this is a temporary shortcoming – we won’t be building Priuses or trying to fund two parallel (analogue & digital) education systems for long. Once the tipping point is reached and migration happens, the inherent efficiencies of digital information will transform education. In 20 years will look back on this time of factory schools like we look back on the age of one room school houses. In the meantime, the strain of trying to please the past and the future at the same time is causing confusion and misdirection.
We ignore what is happening digitally in society in general and risk becoming increasingly irrelevant as an education system. We also risk producing students who are increasingly unable to perform (aren’t taught how to manage the digital) in a world very different from the one they were presented in school. In the meantime we’re trying to satisfy traditional academic habits in order to appear proper and correct (books on shelves, teacher at the front, tests on readily available information, streamed classes that feed the right students to the right post secondary institutions using the same old established marking paradigms).
Once again, the ECOO Conference, its feet firmly planted in the future, looked forward while getting slew footed by traditional interests. Perhaps the best we can hope for is compromised hybridization. Oddly, those traditional interests often include the people who run IT in education who seem more interested in ease of management than they are in our primary purpose (learning… right?).
The term guerilla-teacher came up again and again; a teacher who goes off into the digital wilderness alone in order to try and teach their students some sense of the digital world they will graduate into. The last presentation I saw by Lisa Neale and Jared Bennett made a compelling argument for bringing the rogue digital teacher in from the cold, but as a digital commando I am reluctant to trust a system that still places perilously little importance on my hard earned digital skills.
Very little of my practice now occurs in traditional teaching paradigms. My classes are all blended (online and live), virtually all of my students’ work happens online in a collaborative, fluid, digital medium. I don’t spend a lot of time in board online environments. It’s as much about my own discovery as it is my students. Traditional teaching situations seem more about centralization, standardization, itemization and control.
If we move past a hybridized analogue/digital divide in education and digitized learning becomes standardized and systematized, I may very well lose interest. There’s something to be said about being a cyber settler, alone on the digital frontier. Perhaps I should be pushing the hybridized divide – it keeps this hacker/teacher beyond the reach of standardization.
Some retro-moto bits that I’ve come across that sparked the I want urge…
Austin Vince Custom Vintage Overalls!
Custom made by the man himself! Vintage overalls in the colours of your choice. I’m thinking blue with red and white stripes…
Bell Bullitt Retro-modern Helmet
If you’ve seen Rush then you know the look, and this modern remake of the classic Bell helmet catches it.
100mph t-shirt ‘ton-tee’
Triumph looking logo but advertising the ton instead of a specific company… nice!
Vintage Race Fairing
I might be doing this a bit backwards, but I love old race faired bikes. A 1970s Honda CB750 would get turned into a race replica and make an ideal vintage racing machine. It all starts with a fairing!
Spartan Leather Vintage Race Suit
A tailored suit with race quality materials and armour. As they say, less ‘Ricky Racer’ than your typical TRON styled current racing suits.
I’m enjoying my current Kawi garage a great deal. Fixing up the Concours and riding the Ninja is a good time, but I suppose we’re all rooted in the aesthetics of our youth. As a child growing up in rural England watching the height of the British motorcycle industry roll by in the early nineteen seventies, I tend to return to that look and the associated nostalgia.
I pass through empty countryside soaking up the rising sun and wiping away the never ending dew.
The camera struggles to capture this moment hidden as it is in the clouds. Moisture streams from the lens as the camera tries to blink away its tears, but even blurry images of this ride resonate.
I’m dripping with morning mist when I slowly dismount with icy joints at work, but my eyes have filled me with delights. I leave the Tiger steaming in the glorious, golden haze and walk inside.
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One of the dangerous things about watching the shows my son likes to watch is that many of them aren’t what they appear to be. He likes complexity, and there are few things on TV these days as complex as Rick & Morty (if it is ever on TV again…). Like a lot of other modern cartoons, Rick & Morty hides surprisingly complex narrative behind simplistic animation.
Rick is a scientist who has discovered interdimensional travel and so can exist in any timeline. As this ‘infinite Rick‘ he has almost god like power and is constantly criticizing everyone else for not realizing how pointless and narcissistic their reality is – any ethical value they place anywhere is a result of their lack of perspective. This show goes to great lengths to force its viewers to question morality and how embedded it is in our personal circumstances. If you’re looking for a show that makes you feel better about your circumstances, Rick & Morty is the opposite. It shows you a multiverse in which even your unique self isn’t unique let alone special. This pan-dimensional multiverse is so vast and so overwhelmingly indifferent to your circumstances that it continually screams a central premise of the show: nothing matters. Yet even in this chaotic and indifferent multiverse, Rick and the other characters in the show stand out as prime movers; people who make their own meaning in spite of the alienating size and indifference of reality.
In one of the most popular episodes from the last season of the show, Rick turns himself into a pickle so that he doesn’t have to go to family therapy:
He, of course, ends up in it anyway after he fights his way (as a pickle) through an impromptu action movie. The therapist (voiced by Susan Sarandon!) finally gets to judge this character who goes to great lengths to avoid judgement. Her monologue (which Rick immediately bashes as they’re driving away from it) is another of those moments where Rick & Morty gets startlingly real:
I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die. It’s just work. And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die.
Each of us gets to choose.
This is idea of death by maintenance has stayed with me. I turn fifty next year and I’m on my way to two decades in a career I’d never have guessed I’d be doing. Unlike many teachers, I’ve never been struck by the divine ‘calling’ of teaching. My early life of rolling over into a new career every few years as emerging technology caught my attention and encouraged me into learning something new is a distant memory while pensions, mortgages and stability drive most of my decisions these days. I imagine this is how most people age until they end up the typically habitual old person who is scared of everything and avoids risk at all costs until they are in a nursing home. It’s a long battle to get to that point of declining mediocrity, and the win condition kinda sucks.
In my younger years, with very little guidance or support from home, I struggled through high school, college, apprenticeships and university, trying to find my way towards a life that made best use of my abilities. I walked away from stability and income many times in favour of those opportunities as a young man, and it’s why I’m where I am now, but I’m not inclined to follow that trajectory and maintain myself into mediocrity. If I can’t find satisfaction in teaching, I’ll go elsewhere, but I’m hoping that teaching is one of those careers that can evolve with me.
The first ever blog post I did on Dusty World way back in 2010 was on Caution, Fear and Risk Aversion in students. Those students are long gone but the learning risks we took paid off for many of them. Taking risks and pushing learning has become my default setting in the classroom. If we can’t reach for the potentially undoable then we’re just maintaining ourselves into mediocrity. Whether it’s dangling students out in competition or creating difficult courses that push them to deal with real world consequences, including failure, I’ve got to find my way past the learning as maintenance approach or teaching is going to get dangerously stale and abstract.
Speaking of real, with the return of school this year I’ve realized I’ve only got a decade left in teaching. I’m not sure how I’ll be able to approach that in a way that will let me finish with alacrity, but whatever it is, it’ll need to be something other than status quo maintenance teaching. I know a number of my colleagues find this approach tiresome, but it’s the only way I’ll be able to stick with the job. Some people love maintaining the status quo and ensuring continuity and conformity, they thrive on it! I’m not one of those people.
Some find Rick’s lack of boundaries or context upsetting, but it’s that kind of existential freedom that we all enjoy, we just hide it behind socially constructed barriers. Rick isn’t special, he just realizes that his future is his to author and doesn’t have to be determined by overly restrictive social norms. In that freedom he prizes adventure and risk as the only real way to live and grow. Testing boundaries and pushing limits is where we find ourselves. When I eventually retire I hope I can dedicate my remaining years to those same goals and not spend my time and energy hiding from life. If there is a better working definition of lifelong learning, I’ve yet to hear it.
If you’ve never watched Rick & Morty, give it a go. Many of your students are.
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On a cold, snow squalling Saturday morning I had another PLN twitter moment courtesy of Shadi Yazdan on Twitter. Her link to this New York Times blog has a fantastic video with re-written Beastie Boy lyrics – talk about reclaiming media. That the author takes a very misogynistic song and uses it to empower girls is ironically compelling. This spin only amplifies the message in the video: that girls are groomed to be objects, but they don’t have to listen.
I’ve long agonized at the complete lack of *any* girls in *any* of the senior computer engineering or computer science classes at my high school. We’re in a small town/rural community so the interest in high-technology is pretty limited anyway. If we have high-skills specialist majors it’s in heavy industry or arts. Of course, once they leave our small town high-tech is one of the most in-demand industries to work in, but without the culture to support it I’m finding this a continuing struggle, and one that if I lose does a disservice to our graduates who enter the working world missing imperative digital skills the rest of the world is expecting them to have.
After looking over this article it appears that the number of women in high technology is declining across the sector. Is this because as consumerism becomes our main form of socialized identity we become stereotypes of our gender, age and income? Girls become consumerized princesses, boys become consumerized soldiers? Not so long ago we learned our social roles through complex traditional influences like nationalism and religion. In our brave new border-less world where money is the main defining feature of our social character we become shadowy stereotypes of the consumer data that pours out of us.
|Women in Technology by the numbers.
From 37% to 14% in the past 25 years?
Boys and girls both suffer a limited existence in this environment, though the female stereotype carries with it a submissive objectivity that ensures that girls are mainly valued in terms of their appearance, whereas boys are stereotypically the doers, girls are passive.
Of course, this is ridiculous. Your ability to think is your magic power in engineering or coding, your gender doesn’t enter into it. It is only because girls are convinced that boys are ‘tough enough’ to handle the maths or the complexity of engineering and programming that they get shaken out of the field; stereotypes forcing inequality.
It appears my struggle to convince small town/rural high school girls to give computer studies a try goes well beyond the limiting geography and toward a societal trend. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop, but it does make me consider this from media influence rather than as a primarily local influence.
Frosts in the morning. It was -3°C when the Kawasaki first coughed to life.
There is no bad weather, only bad clothes. With big gloves and a lined leather jacket, the five mile ride to work is still quite doable.
I might get off the bike with cold fingers, but there is still no better way to commute in the morning.
Soon enough the snows will come and salt will make the roads a caged misery. In the meantime…
|Big black S&M gloves! That’s alotta leather!|