More songs about buildings and bikes: A panel discussion with David Byrne

Byrne-BugI’m not easily impressed.

Especially not when it comes to celebrities.

Maybe it’s because I’ve met more than my share over the years. Then again, maybe that’s why I’ve met more than my share, whether through work, mutual friends, volunteer work or just everyday encounters. In other words, pretty much the way you’d meet anyone else.

And in my experience, the rich and famous are pretty much like anyone else. Except richer. And, uh, more famous.

So that’s exactly how I treat them — like I would anyone else. For the most part, they’ve seemed to appreciate that, though there have been some notable exceptions.

A few have impressed me, though. Like Stevie Ray Vaughan. Rev. Al Green. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. And Gov. John Connally, who was critically wounded in the Kennedy assassination.

I have a feeling David Byrne would be on that list if we ever happened to meet.

Not just because he was the lead singer of one of the most influential and impossible to imitate bands of the 80s. One of the few bands that didn’t sound like anyone else, before or since, and formed a large part of the soundtrack for my blissfully misspent youth.

But also for what he did during and after his tenure in the Talking Heads. Like collaborations that pushed the bounds of music, founding the Luaka Bop record label and promoting the work of musicians from around the world. Along with a simultaneous career as a world-class artist — including a series of New York bike racks designed to subtly capture a sense of the city.

Which is only appropriate, because he’s been riding his own bike throughout New York and around the world for over 30 years — leading to his own unique perspective on urban livability, including his take on our own humble city:

If a city doesn’t have sufficient density, as in L.A., then strange things happen. It’s human nature for us to look at one another— we’re social animals after all. But when the urban situation causes the distance between us to increase and our interactions to be less frequent we have to use novel means to attract attention: big hair, skimpy clothes and plastic surgery. We become walking billboards.

It’s also lead to Bicycle Diaries, his ironic and insightful observations of the world around him, as seen from behind the handlebars.

And next week, it will lead him to Los Angeles for a panel discussion “examining the bicycle’s role in transforming the urban experience” at the Aratani/Japan America Theatre in Little Tokyo on Friday, October 2.

Okay, so it’s not free. But the $25 admission — $20 for Library Associates — goes to support free cultural programs at the Central Library downtown.

Also on the panel will be Bicycle Kitchen co-founder Jimmy Lizama, UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup, and Michelle Mowery, Senior Bicycle Coordinator for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation — the people who introduced the term “currently infeasible” to the world of bike planning.

And if that doesn’t make for an interesting conversation, I don’t know what will.

Stop making sense, indeed.

Bicycle valet services will be provided by the LACBC. For more information or tickets, visit www.lfla.org/aloud/.

………

Santa Monica’s Cynergy Cycles offers a free lecture on Cycling For Health & Performance Wednesday at 7p. Treehugger notes that it’s illegal to ride a bike in a swimming pool in Baldwin Park. The Cato Institute says D.C.’s new state-of-the-art bike station is just a $4 million bike rack. The Iowa Bicycle Coalition asks why drivers are seldom held accountable for hitting cyclists. The Biker Chicks ask how to avoid a right hook on a group ride. If you’re in Portland tomorrow, here’s your chance to ride naked in a Flaming Lips video. Evidently, Scottish truck drivers actually look out for cyclists. The UK’s Daily Mail complains about Lycra louts who never say thank you, while Cycling England says drivers should be held responsible for cycling accidents. Finally, Catholic Charities brings their message — and breakfast — to Portland’s bikeways; throw in absolution for any gestures I might make on the way, and I’m there.

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