Showing posts with label shopclass for soulcraft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shopclass for soulcraft. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Motorcycle Media: a documentary to look forward to

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a film that doesn't just paint motorbiking and working on your own machine crudely in a fad that will quickly look out of date.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.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Café racer

I've been getting a handle on café racer culture recently.  A good place to start is the documentary below available on youtube:

A motorcycle phenomenon that combines DIY backyard mechanics, customization, restoration, links to British post war culture and a focus on pure two wheeling?  I'm in!  When you also factor in the old RAF inspired bike gear café racing only gets better.

What first got me thinking about it was It's Better In The Wind, a beautifully shot and music themed short art piece about friends on their classic café racers.  As a mood piece it captured a lot of the gritty romanticism in motorcycling.

Last summer I was reading Shopclass As Soulcraft, and in it Matt Crawford described motorcycling as 'a beautiful war', which captured the risk and reward beautifully.  That book is mind expanding stuff written by a guy who walked away from academia and the magical thinking of the thought economy to open his own independent bike repair shop.  It's a must read, change your life kind of book that will make you want to get your hands busy again; just the sort of thing that racer building encourages.

I've tried my hand at restoring old cars or just keeping them on the road, but that tended to be a make it work to get to work kind of situation, lots of stress in that.  This is a hands on project that may very well lapse into a piece of rolling sculpture.  Mechanics, electronics and sculpture? I'm in love with the idea!

So, I'm on the lookout for an old bike that needs to come in out of the cold for the winter, one that's looking for a new lease on life.  It can be rusty and rough, the more it needs changing the more I'll want to change.  The end result will only enhance the feeling of oneness I've already felt with the Ninja.

There are many café racer links that will catch you up online:

1964: The 'leather boys' later generation rockers on modded cafe racers

Rocker style, 1950s England

One of the genesis locations for Cafe Racing culture ACE CAFE

The leather jackets, boots and gloves, the helmets and googles, RAF uniforms
were an obvious inspiration for the cafe racer look

Friday, 29 March 2013


From August, 2012 courtesy of Dusty World:

I just finished reading Matthew Crawford's "Shop Class for Soulcraft", a philosophical look at the value of skilled, physical labour.  Having come from a mechanical background into an academic one, a philosopher-mechanic's critical examination of the 'creative economy' we're all dying to jump into was refreshing.
I've often missed the clarity and satisfaction I found in repairing machines, and now I have a philosophical explanation of that sense of loss. Crawford delineates meaningful work in terms of objective standards, a sense of community and individual agency.  He then goes on to disembowel the MBA speak found in the otherworldly knowledge economy that can only exist in an entirely abstract sense of work, one I fear that has been applied to the skilled trade of teaching courtesy of lawyers and politicians.

It's been a few weeks now since I finished the book.  I'm finding that the lasting impression is one of embracing my smart hands again.  The idea that mind work is somehow superior to hand work is nonsense, though our school is streamed according to that logic (academic/applied, university/college).  The argument that we discover the truest aspect of human intelligence when we work our minds through our hands continues to ring true for me.

The other, unintentional side effect has been a re-awakening of my love of motorcycles.  I'd originally gone after one when I was 16, but my parents offered to up what I'd saved to get me into a car.  It's probably one of the reasons I'm here today, it was a smart move.  At 43 I'm not interested in wrapping myself around a pole.  Riding is a way to be alone with your thoughts, no obtrusive media, and the development of a constant awareness; you can't let your mind wander on a bike, they are ruthlessly observant of incompetence. Riding also offers an intimate familiarity with a machine in a very minimalist way that is appealing.

I come by my urges honestly.  Here is a picture of my Grand-dad Bill in the late nineteen forties... I need to get myself some white riding shoes!  I later learned from my Aunt that Bill was a stunt rider in the R.A.F. motorcycle tatoo (they would do gymnastics and stunts while doing drill on the motorbikes).  Wild!

I hope to be licensed and riding in the spring.