Sunday, July 1, 2007

Wheel To Reel: The Bicycle Film Festival

It's no surprise this city's full of film festivals. There's one for practically every demographic. There's the Los Angeles Film Festival, The Hollywood Black Film Festival, The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, The VC (Asian American) Film Fest, The Los Angeles International Children's Film Festival, Outfest, Screamfest, and even the Los Angeles Blind Film Festival.

Just kidding about the last one.

But this was the first time I heard of a film festival dedicated to bicycles and the people who ride them. The Bicycle Film Festival is a film fest oriented towards bicycle advocacy which runs in 16 cities internationally over the course of a year. This weekend, it was the City of Angels' turn.
Now, if you've been following this Militant's online adventures lately you'd hear a lot about bike riding this and bike riding that. I will say that although in the past 12 months I've bought a new bike, participated in the Acura L.A. Bike Tour on Marathon Sunday, participated in my first Critical Mass and Midnight Ridazz rides last April, and ride a heck of a lot these days, I'm just a veloculture n00b. But this blogster, as Militant as he is, doesn't feel like he really fits in with the whole bike counterculture (I describe my overall political ideology as "Picky"). Still, this thing piqued my curiosity and after hearing about it from various acquaintances, I wanted to see what it was all about, as well as the sight of hundreds of bikes -- including mine -- parked on Hollywood Boulevard.

The actual festival ran on Friday and Saturday. I went down on Saturday, at the very ghetto Vine Theatre on The Boulevard a few doors west of Vine St. , though it seemed to suit the predominantly velohipster crowd just fine. The seventh and final program was "Fun Bike Shorts" which screened 14 mostly-digital short films about bikes and the bicycle lifestyle. Most of them were nothing more than "Cool let's put a camera on a bike and ride around and that's it" videos and one looked more like home video footage of a cycling competition in Germany. But there were a few that showed a unique, human angle. On the Board: Freecall Messengers in San Francisco showed a day in the life of bike messengers on the streets of Frisco, including how the entire operation functions, which was actually very educational. Hunger in the City featured the "Los Angeles Burrito Project," a weekly nighttime ride where riders volunteer to deliver warm homemade burritos to homeless people on the streets of Downtown. Honorable mentions went to a Danish animated horror film that humorously depicted human-slaughtering zombie bicycles and a high-octane selection shot during cycling rides in London, NY, Chicago, Milan and Mexico City. It exposed the more extreme side of bike riding with near-misses with cars, riding against oncoming traffic and wipeouts.

Later that night there was a BFF afterparty at an art gallery on Cahuenga near Selma, and it was rather exhilarating to dash over there on bicycle in all but two minutes while club-bound automobiles crawled bumper-to-bumper on The Boulevard (have you noticed that lately? There's no more cruising...more like...idling). Have fun idling, fools.

It was still interesting to see several bikes latched on to parking signs, meters and even payphones, which looked more like Hawthorne Blvd. in Portland, Oregon than Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood, California. When this Militant left at 2:30 a.m., for some reason the vibe on the street still felt like 10 p.m. I guess that's how big Cahuenga's gotten (Still remembering the days when the only thing happening on that part of Cahuenga was The Room).


The actual festival ended with a block party Sunday in East Hollywood on the corner of Melrose Ave. and Heliotrope Drive, near Los Angeles City College. The location was selected because of the presence of two popular institutions in the local veloculture: The Bicycle Kitchen and Orange 20 Bikes. It's also the location of City College Cafe, the newly -formatted gentrovegan pub Pure Luck and the insanely popular Scoops Ice Cream shop. The Militant admittedly did not ride his two-wheeler there, but rather made the trek on foot since it was so damn close anyway. Info booths from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, the AIDS Lifecycle Ride the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange) represented and there were lots of bike-oriented activities like stunt contests, a bicycle bell ensemble (honestly, it didn't sound as badass as one expected it to be with musical pieces consisting of four notes) and even a bike outfitted with a blender that made smoothies(!) A DJ spun mostly hip-hop, neo-soul and retro '80s and '90s tunes, which instigated enough dancing in the streets to make Martha and the Vandellas proud after the sun went down.

Overall it was a fun event, though this militant seemed to have trouble fitting in for some reason (then again it's rare for me to fit into any group...I guess that just fuels my militancy...). It would have been nice though to have some more activities oriented to invite and entice non-bicyclists into the veloculture, even just ever so slightly rather than a party seemingly thrown just for a bicycle clique. With gas prices getting more expensive and ass sizes getting more expansive, this Militant believes it's important for the veloculture to expand to more demographic groups than just lycra-clad cyclists or 20- and 30-something hipster types. Knowing the demographics of this neighborhood, what a sight it would have been to see old Armenian dudes or 40-something El Salvadoran mothers ride in to this event (or anywhere around this hood, for that matter) on bikes.

Hey Now, You're An All-Star

Congrats to my favorite Doyer, pitcher Takashi Saito for making the 2007 NL All-Star Team. The 37-year old closer extraordinaire joins teammates Russell Martin and Brad Penny in the National League lineup at the July 10 All Star Game in SF. This Militant Dodger Fan has hoped and speculated Saito San make the team, and also is hoping for him to close the game in anticipation of a long-deserved NL win. After Padre (booo!) Trevor "I Look Like A Freaking Zombie" Hoffman blew a save in last year's ASG, this year's NL manager, Tony LaRussa, would hopefully know better than to repeat the blunder of last year's outcome. I mean really, I'm sick of this AL All-Star win monopoly and Saito would just just rock the 9th. Sayonara, AL! Another cool aspect of this year's ASG for the Blue-Thinking fans: With Martin behind the plate and Penny at the mound, this is the first All-Star Game since 1995 where the starting battery comprised of two Dodger players. Mike Piazza and Hideo Nomo successfully filled those roles 12 years ago. That was probably the last time the NL won...

All We Are Is Dust in the Windorphins

You've no doubt seen those billboards and bus shelters around town advertising Windorphins, which at first glance look like some sort of new candy. A quick glance at the website reveals that Windorphins are just these little avatar thingies you create that pop up when you win an eBay basically they're kind of like eBay meets Zwinky, created as some new gimmick by the virtually institutional online auction site. The Flash-formatted Windorphins site is presented like some faux-medical breakthrough, complete with marginally humorous videos featuring various white people in lab experiments. The WTF factor is still high, being that 1) eBay doesn't really have much competition anyway; 2) They really aren't like "A ticker-tape parade for your soul" and 3) Damnit, I really thought they were a new kind of candy.

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