Sunday, 30 May 2010

Critical Mass

Friday night saw London cyclists gathering and going for a slow cycle ride round the city. I caught up with Critical Mass when they were in the banking district and joined them for a couple of miles.  As I have an interest in Slow living and thinking I particularly enjoy this free-for-all slow ride.  With no leaders and no direction the mass rolls its own direction, with the occasional splinter group breaking off.

When the mass reaches a junction some riders will cork it, blocking the oncoming traffic for the mass to pass.  I find the reaction of motorists very interesting - some turn off their engines, sit back and enjoy the spectacle of hundreds of cyclists pottering past them and some get very irate, shouting, getting out of their cars and sometimes trying to drive through the mass.  This kind of aggression feels odd to me as generally the mass will pass in under 10 minutes and to me 10 minutes does not seems like a critical amount of time to 'lose'.  However sat in the comfort of a vehicle a sense of (unnecessary?) urgency or disempowerment (as the motor vehicle is normally king of the road) seems to overcome some of the corked drivers and they become angry.

Within Slow principles is the thought of enjoying time to sit back and relax, and this unexpected moment of enforced stillness appears to me to be the perfect opportunity for those motorists to take a surprise break from their day.  Slow Food UK says "May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow, long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency."  I think this little break from everyday motoring qualifies as a sensual pleasure, both for the driver who waits and watches and for the cyclist who can enjoy the ride in comparative safety and good company.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

bike riding

Heading into work today I ended up riding for a bit with 2 of the guys from Howies, in London for the weekend at the sample sale.  Cycling is one of the most pleasant and environmentally friendly methods of transport around, but the thing that pleases me most about it is the choice you have in how you travel.  You chose your own speed to suit your mood (or time constraint), chose your own routes and distance and also how much you actually ride, be it one day a month or every day, every journey.  I have cycled approximately 80 miles this week and been on public transport for about 9 and about 9 miles in a car.  The bike-based journeys (mainly commuting) have been the ones where I have had the most constructive time to consider my day (ahead or behind me) and have also been the most efficient for my needs.  I believe bike-riding for ones commute to be a truly philosophically Slow way of travelling (and occasionally just plain old slow).
This Slow method of transport is well documented for many reasons but for me it is special for the time it allows me just to be.  My ride today slowed considerably when we started chatting and was all the more pleasant for it.  The photo above is one of the first from a series I took all the way from Hackney to Knightsbridge a few months ago, a commute I did daily for 18months about 5 years ago, and it makes me feel, looking from a bikes-eye-view, excited about the start of a new journey and about how fresh the day looks. 

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

A postcard of my Slow Theory

It's a hard life in the fast lane...

Cats are, in many ways, the pinnacle of Slow living!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Hand sanding

This weekend I will be sanding by hand 8 of 31 maple tiles for a new flooring idea.  I enjoy the process of sanding wood by hand as it allows the mind time to work through other ideas and thoughts, whilst physically working towards a beautiful finished piece.  While mechanical sanding is a lot quicker and very useful for shaping and precision lines etc I have not been able to get the organic shapes I want only with a machine.  I also love the connection that the hand work offers me.  As someone who loves the sensory stimulation gained by touching and feeling materials, the tactility of handwork like this offers immense satisfaction.  I like the way my hands and arms feel tired after this work and the occasional blisters!  I feel that it also offers me a small insight into the times when machines weren't so readily available, if at all for this kind of work and for the effort that went into producing a fine finish on old furnitures etc.

The tiles in the picture are maple, although they are not the tiles I will be working on this weekend.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

AR in textiles

Listening to an old Veganfreak podcast with Gary Francione talking about how demand from the public leads to bad meat production made me think - does demand for wool and silk lead to the harsh farming methods used in fibre production.  I think so.  This isn't just limited to protein fibres (wool, silk) but also in cellulose (cottons, linen) as farming for cellulose is also environmentally harsh, and does not include leather or fur production as they are a whole different ball game, both as processes and in ethical terms.  However as wool and silk directly use animals they could be seen as being as morally wrong as battery farming. 

Does consumer demand lead to bad farming practice - I think the answer is yes.  Demand for cheap woollen clothing leads to practices such as mulesing and to sheep being treated as commodities rather than as living beings. 

Silk is a tougher question as it is not known for being cheap.  Silk is produced by boiling cocoons to release the fibres the silk worm has spun aound itself.  However, if the cocoon is left until the worm has morphed into a moth (which chews its way out) the fibres are damaged so the worms are boiled inside along with the cocoons.  Personally I see this production method as highy unethical, however as poorly fed and housed silk worms produce poor silk they tend to be kept in slightly higher conditions than a lot of other non-humans used to produce things for humans.

More about this when I have thought about it further.