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March 01, 2006


Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Michael has his "Elsewhere" for miscellaneous items he finds on the Internet.

So why not moi?

Herewith is the first of occasional posts titled "Bagatelles," from the French bagatelle which can be translated as "a trifle." You have been warned.

* Hitting the art section of bookstores is a fascinating book dealing with Bay Area art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The focus is on Arthur Mathews (yes, that's with one "t") and his wife Lucia. The Amazon listing is here but it's for the $65 hardcopy version due out 15 March. I bought the $40 paperback last weekend at a Barnes & Noble.

* I'm writing this on Ash Wednesday, first day of Lent. You are supposed to give up something for Lent. Traditionally, I give up Lent for Lent. Feel free to do otherwise.

* Ever notice those motorcycles with really high handlebars? (A quick Google session failed to turn up a picture to insert, so you'll have to rely on my description.) Anyway, the handlebars extend so far up that the cyclist's hands are about head-level or perhaps even higher. This strikes be a being highly uncomfortable; how can such a posture be maintained over, say, a 100+ mile trip? Moreover, it seems to me that control would be harder to maintain. I know absolutely zilch about motorcycles, yet those odd handlebars have sparked my curiosity for years. Can Shouting Thomas or other congnoscenti explain the phonomenon?

* March 2nd 2005 was when my first 2Blowhards post appeared (see here). So in one sense I've been at it for a year. (The first seven months I was a "guest" and I've been full-time the last five months.) Thanks to Michael and all you readers for putting up with my blathering.



posted by Donald at March 1, 2006


I learned the word "bagatelle" from that department in the Portland Lipman-Wolfe fancy store. It was not just little trifles, but PRECIOUS little trifles of great desirability! So it seems that you've chosen a fitting title for your contributions, which I so often ponder and save!

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on March 1, 2006 4:21 PM

THe high handlebars are called "ape hangers", and as for being uncomfortable on long trips, that's not really what they're designed for (and the fact that the bikes that have them generally have basically no rear suspesion means that the rider's butt gives out long before his arms...). Choppers like this are made more for being parked than ridden.

Posted by: jimbo on March 1, 2006 4:38 PM

I'm not positive, but I believe those extremely high handlebars are illegal in some states.

Posted by: Peter on March 1, 2006 5:03 PM

Jimbo, Peter -- Interesting. Once in a while I do see one tooling along Interstate 5 not near a city, so sometimes long-ish rides are attempted. I suppose the car analogy is the rod that's lowered to the point it can't drive over speed-bumps. There used to be a rodder family down the street and maybe once a month they'd fire up the motor and go around the block: no farther.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on March 1, 2006 5:13 PM

And, by contrast, the extremely low, short handlebars are called clipons, and they're used for speed.

Even if you don't know anything about motorcycles, Donald, I'm sure you remember Mods vs. Rockers.

Posted by: Peggy Nature on March 1, 2006 8:25 PM

There was a famous motorcyle exhibition 8 years ago at the Guggenheim--all periods and models:

Posted by: winifer skattebol on March 1, 2006 10:49 PM

Congratulations on your one-year anniversary, Donald. I know the time demands of blogging are not to be sneezed at.

Hang in there, baby.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 2, 2006 9:19 AM

Ape hangers are part of the outlaw culture.

The outlaw biker culture, interestingly, was created by Hollywood.

The Wild One, a Marlon Brando classic, just about single handedly created the outlaw biker myth.

The movie was based on a real event, a veterans' gathering in Hollister, CA, in the 1950s. The vets, with the blessing of the local cops, closed off the main street of town and staged races and performed tricks.

A San Francisco Chronicle reporter wanted to spice up the coverage, so he gathered up all the empty beer bottles he could find, spread them on the ground around a bike and hired a local drunk to sit on the bike. He took a picture, and published a story about a wild motorcycle gang terrorizing the innocent people of a small town.

Thus, the outlaw biker myth was created. The Wild One elaborated upon the myth. And, in true American style, bikers began to play the characters they saw in the movies.

The ape hangers are part of this play acting. They are supposed to make you look like a bad ass mother. I guess that the exposure of one's hairy arm pits does the trick.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 2, 2006 9:37 AM

Mary and Firedrich -- Thank you for the kind thoughts.

Shouting -- Interesting about the Hollister backstory. It so happens The Fiancee lives in Hollister and I'm down there about once a month. Every July 4th there's a big motorcycle thingy in Hollister and TF makes sure she's someplace else. This year the impoverished city fathers aren't going to spring for bringing in outside cops and other security that have been used to keep the (real or imaginary) lid on. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on March 2, 2006 11:20 AM

BTW - here's a link to the infamous Life Magazine photo.

I've been to Bike Week up in Loudon, NH with some of my (fellow yuppie scum) riding buddies. The "outlaw bikers" look scary, but they are actually some of the nicest, warmest people you'd ever want to hoist a beer with. Some of them even forgive my riding a Suzuki...

Posted by: jimbo on March 3, 2006 10:46 PM

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