Saturday, December 24, 2011

The State of the [Hipster] Union

Today, December 24th, is a significant day, mainly because it is the day before a significant day.  That’s right, tomorrow is December 25th, which will mark three months since I moved back to Louisiana (wait—you say December 25th is important for another reason?  No, I don’t think so).  To honor the occasion, I think today is a great day for the FIRST ANNUAL STATE OF THE [HIPSTER] UNION.

My fellow Americans free trade coffee drinkers, foreign film fans, independent music playlist curators, and professional photographers (at least on Flikr), let me tell you, the Hipster nation is under attack.  Yes, it seems that everyone these days is jumping on the anti-hipster bandwagon (what a bunch of followers—hipsters were on the anti-hipster bandwagon way before it got popular).  First, it started with the new CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls:

(Really, hipsters listen to Radiohead?  They’re so 2004.)

(Ok, now it’s Coldplay?  Like, sigh, hello 2003.)

Then, Samsung took a shot at hipsters/Apple customers:

For the record, Samsung, baristas require a lot of creativity.  That design in the latte foam doesn’t get there by accident:

(Come to think of it, all I have to do is make that photo black and white and post it on Flikr and I could call myself a photographer).

With all these attacks on our kind, I know it can be tempting to buy a pair of jeans and NOT cut them off, to go watch a studio film, to refer to said film as a movie instead of a film, and to take a picture and NOT immediately post it to instagram.  But, friends, please don’t despair!  There is hope for us out there.  See, when one phone company attacks hipsters, another phone company courts them:

Also, this isn’t the first time Blackberry has gone after that most coveted consumer demographic:

Unfortunately for Blackberry, their logo isn’t a fruit and the name doesn’t rhyme with fapple, so I doubt their efforts will be successful.

Films are also catching the hipster bug.  The trailer for Ewan McGregor’s new flick Perfect Sense shows him happily cruising around on a fixie until the whole world starts falling apart (then presumably, he uses his superior fixie skills to save the world, that part isn’t made clear by the trailer):

I know what you’re thinking:  what does all that have to do with Shreveport?  It doesn’t.  However, there are also some signs that hipsterism is growing in Shreveport.  Exhibit A:  The Shreveport Times recently published an article about the growth of the downtown apartment market, specifically the numerous loft buildings downtown.

She should really do something about that dog.  Any hipster cred her loft earned her was lost when she didn't choose the hipster dog du jour, the Pit Bull:

Anyway, as I read the article, I was excited at the idea that maybe Shreveporters had finally realized there was absolutely nothing appealing about the suburbs.  Then, of course, the first comment on the article was someone saying, “Not for me.”

(By the way, the writer of the article is Kristi Johnston, an acquaintance of mine who is new to town and doing great work for our local paper.  She’s on Twitter, here:  @KNJohnston.)

Still, despite the humbuggery of a lone commenter, there are other signs.  For example, the Pabst Brewery’s website’s PBR locator shows a multitude of vendors of Williamsburg’s favorite brew:

Not only that, but it was SOLD OUT at Strange Brew last week, which can only mean one of two things:

1) I’m not the only person around here that drinks it, or
2) I drink a lot more of it than I should

Also, in my journeys around town, I have seen, more than once, another bona fide hipster riding around town on a white fixed gear bike.

Finally, due to the wonders of technology, this blog hosting service offers a variety of tools to track my traffic, and it let me know that there have been about ten (wahoo!  Ten!  Double digits!) different people who found this blog by searching on Google for “hipster Shreveport.” 

So, to help these people learn their way around, I’ll periodically post reviews of local establishments, where I rate them based on hipster street cred.  Criteria include, but are not limited to:

1) Availability of PBR
2)  If no PBR, availability of some form of very obscure microbrew that probably doesn’t taste very good
3) Bike friendliness (basically, is there a good place to lock up)
4) Organicness

Points will be awarded then converted to a rating system.  Since star ratings are uber mainstream, we’ll do it differently; I think a scale of 1-5 PBR cans is fitting.

Also, in true hipster fashion, I’ll be crowd-sourcing these reviews.  (Crowd-sourcing, for the uninitiated, is where someone else writes the review and sends it to me, then I make three or four small edits and claim it as my own work).  So, if you know of a good spot that needs to be plugged and wish for your work to be stolen plagiarized showcased, you can e-mail me.

For the inaugural review:

NOBLE SAVAGE TAVERN at 417 Texas Street, downtown.

Noble Savage is a bar/restaurant downtown.  I’ve never had the food, so I can’t speak to that, but this music joint hits all the right notes (see what I did there?).  The space is an industrial style loft that would not be at all out of place in Wicker Park or Printer’s Row.  Honestly, if it were a condo, it would be my dream home.  Unfortunately, they don’t serve PBR; however, there is an extensive selection of good beer (for these purposes, good means “not made by Bud or Coors”).  The live music was great—jazz the night I went, not sure if that’s always the case—and while the volume was a little loud, the place is spacious, so you can get far enough away that the music doesn’t overpower conversation.  Finally, while there is no bike parking directly in front, there is a Subway restaurant nearby that has a fence that provides reasonably secure bike parking.


This place screams hipster.  Maybe one of my favorite places.  Looking forward to going back.

Finally, Happy Christmas ("merry Christmas" is much too mainstream; besides, the Brits say "happy Christmas" so it has to be a cooler way to say it).

Monday, December 12, 2011

So You Want to Ride a Bike

A few days ago, I made a quick stop at Walgreen’s on the way home from work.  And, since bike parking in Shreveport/Bossier is nowhere to be found, I’ve gotten in the habit of bringing my bike into the store with me if I’m only getting a couple of items.  While standing at the checkout, a man in line behind me started asking about the bike.  I won’t bore you with the specifics of the conversation, but it ended like this:

Me:  “Yeah, I ride about 100 miles a week.”

Him:  “Lucky you, I wish I could do that.”

It seems like every week I have a conversation similar to this.  Last week someone rolled down her car window to compliment my bike.  Several of my coworkers have admitted to being jealous that I ride my bike to work, saying they wish they could do it.  And my general thought afterwards is always the same:

“Well, why can’t you?”

All these conversations have served to encourage me in my efforts.  I’ve started to think that maybe there really is a large group of people out there who, fed up with the many headaches of automobiles, are ready to saddle up and go from this:

to this:

Look at that smile.  No way anyone in those cars is as happy as she is in that picture.  In light of that, I’ve found the subject of my next few posts:  a three part series on bicycle commuting, consisting of:

Part 1:  The excuses and reasons not to bike, and why most of them are bullshit.
Part 2:  The many reasons to ride a bike.
Part 3:  How to do it—getting to work/school in one piece, dry, and in style.

So let’s get right to it, with some of the common reasons that I hear for not riding a bike.  If you’ve got your own reasons that I haven’t listed here, email them or tweet them to me.

#1:  My Job Won’t Let Me

As covered in my earlier, Pulitzer prize winning* post, there are only certain jobs that could make a case for requiring a personal automobile.  If you have a job such as that, you know it.  If you don’t, you know that too.  Hint:  if you never leave your office all day, you don’t need a car.  Just show up on time, look presentable according to the company dress code (more on this in part 3, as we discuss how to get to work looking good), and get your work done.

#2:  It’s Too Far

The easy answer to this would be for me to say that nothing is really too far if you have enough time.  At one time, I was commuting 17 miles each way to work, for a 34 mile round trip, each day.  But, I do realize that might be a little extreme for some, and that not everyone wants to spend almost 3 hours a day on a bicycle.  So the real question I’d have for you is:  how far do you really have to go?  In my experience, people are not very good at estimating distances.  Case in point:

This map shows a circle centered near downtown Shreveport.  The radius of the circle is 15 miles.  For those who’ve forgotten what a circle’s radius is (or, for those from Mississippi, never learned about radii), it means the straight line from the center of the circle out to any point on the circle.  As you can see, 15 miles from downtown Shreveport will take you north past Benton, east all the way to Haughton, south to almost Stonewall, and west almost to the Texas border.  My point is this:  unless you live in far north Bossier and work in far south Shreveport, you probably aren’t as far from work as you think, and you’re probably well within cycling distance from the office.

#3:  It’s Too Hard

This is not true.  It could be easy to watch the Tour de France and expect cycling to be incredibly demanding—and it is if you’re racing someone across a mountain range.  However, for most of us, who only need to travel a leisurely pace across flat ground, it requires very little energy.

In fact, by many considerations, the bicycle is the most efficient machine that’s ever been created.  For example, more than 95% of the rider’s energy output is delivered directly to the wheels.  Compare that to a typical internal combustion engine, which only deliver about 20% of the energy to the wheels (the rest is wasted as heat, light, etc.).  Because of this efficiency, very little energy is actually required to move the bike.  According to Wikipedia The Most Reliable Source Online, walking 5 km/hr uses the same amount of energy as it does to ride a bike 15 km/hr.  (In case you were wondering, anytime you’re talking about bikes you have to measure speed and distances in kilometers).

I know it’s hard to believe me on this until you get on a bike and ride, but it’s really pretty easy to do and doesn’t require you to work all that hard.

#4:  It’s Too Dangerous

Tough.  It’s a dangerous world out there.  However, it’s really not that dangerous to ride a bike.

According to this report by the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, there were 630 cyclists killed in traffic in 2009.  While I personally believe that is 630 deaths too high, it also represents only 1.9% of the more than 33,000 traffic related fatalities that year.  You don’t have to be a gambling man to appreciate those odds.  It seems like there’s a much better chance of getting killed in a car than on a bike, so I’ll take my chances with the bike.

#5:  The weather sucks

Yes, yes it does.  You get wet if it rains, you sweat if it’s hot, and you get cold if it’s cold.  But I can also tell you that it’s really not that bad.  I’ve ridden in 100 degree 90% humidity (the breeze as you ride helps cool things down), I’ve ridden in thunderstorms (once you get soaked, you don’t notice any additional rain), and I’ve ridden in subzero temperatures with the windchill reaching -20 (once your legs and blood start pumping, you’ll warm up quick).  Really, though, who cares if the weather isn’t ideal?  Part of the joy of cycling is immersing yourself in the environment, weather included.

That’s what we’ve let cars do to us—we’re now completely incapable of being uncomfortable, even for a moment.  We have remote starters for our cars, so we can start them from inside the house.  Heated and cooled seats.  Air conditioners so potent your vehicle could double as a refrigerator.  We’ve gone soft because of our dependence on cars.

#6:  But I have to do (insert various tasks/activities here)

This is the one excuse that’s hard to disprove, and it’s caused by a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the car-centric people.  People who use this excuse are looking at it the wrong way.  They say, “Could I replace my car with a bicycle and maintain my exact lifestyle?”  That line of thinking is incorrect.

When I made the decision to adopt a carfree lifestyle, I did so with the understanding that I would be giving up certain things.  For instance, I knew I couldn’t take trips to Sam’s and buy half the store.  For me, the things that I gained from the bicycle made up for what I gave up—your experiences may differ.

The point is that it’s very unlikely you can take your car-focused life and translate it directly to life without a car.  If you like to go play golf 40 miles from home once a week, you aren’t going to do that on a bike.  Have to take 3 kids to soccer and ballet?  Either get them their own bikes or keep the minivan.  Americans have developed a national way of life that is built around automobiles, and until that changes, a carfree lifestyle probably won’t be realistic for most.  However, there’s no reason that most people can’t begin using a bicycle for more daily errands.

* Not really.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Doing Hipsta Things

First off, if you’ll allow me a moment:

Yes, you may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while.  I recently took destroyed the LSAT.  Scores are to be released in early January, so if you don’t see a post around then bragging about my score, then let’s forget the whole “destroyed” comment happened.  So, November was 100% (read: 75% [read: 45%]) dedicated to LSAT studying.  Also, I’m lazy.  But now that’s behind me, and spending several without venting has left me with plenty to say, so I’ve got at least two good posts in me before going another month without a post.

Anyway, I realized something recently.  The name of this project is [Hipster] Out of Water, and the project was, ostensibly, about finding a home for my hipster lifestyle here in Shreveport; however, up until now my only posts have been bicycling related.  Well, it occurs to me that there is more to being a hipster than riding your fixie around town.  So I donned my cutoff 501s and my city flannel and set out.

First order of business:


Next up, the Shreveport Farmer’s Market.  Honestly, I was a bit unsure of what to expect when I saddled up and headed downtown for the fall incarnation of the local farmer’s market.  I was expecting some combination of these two:

Instead, what I found was:

Along with the largest congregation of bikes I’ve seen at any one place in Shreveport:

Seriously, this was a great farmer’s market.  The selection was great and prices reasonable—competitive with or lower than—your usual grocery store.  There was live music and lots of hot food available to snack on while shopping.  Even the turnout was better than I could have expected.  The market goes on hiatus over the winter, and I’m not sure when it’s scheduled to open in the spring, but it’s definitely something that everyone in the area should check out.  Here’s the website if you want to stay updated with their recent news.  I think they’re on Facebook too.

Then, of course, I went to the Robinson Film Center for my indie film fix.  Remember, for a hipster, a steady dose of independent film is as necessary for life as air (or clove cigarettes)—but I digress…  The Robinson Film Center, located here online and here on Twitter, is a great place to watch a film.  Comfortable seats, large theater, and a cool setting.  The building has the whole industrial loft feel, and it’s decorated with movie posters from the various films either produced or set in the Shreveport area.  It’s not the Alamo Drafthouse (but then, what else is?), but it’s definitely the best place in the area to watch a movie.

Art people, don’t worry, I didn’t forget about you—just haven’t had a chance to get to it yet.  I’ll hopefully be making it to Artspace and the R.W. Norton Gallery soon.

Finally, coming up over the next few days, a three part series of posts on the reasons against, reasons for, and methods for bike commuting (really, you thought I could go a whole post without mentioning cycling?).