July 8, 2017

"In 2015 the cartoonist... Eleanor Davis set off on a bicycle ride from her parents’ house in Tucson, Arizona to her home in Athens, Georgia, a distance of 1,800 miles or so..."

"... riding a bike her father had built for her. When people asked her why she was making the journey, she’d tell them that she was thinking of having a baby and so it was now or never. But really, as she confesses in You & a Bike & a Road, her playful, poignant graphic book documenting the ride, 'I was having trouble with wanting to not be alive. But I feel good when I’m bicycling.' I worked as a bicycle messenger in London for years, and it was striking how many of my colleagues, many of them mentally unwell, felt similarly. Cycling—the intensity of focus it provides, the joyous fatigue—can be good for the mind as well as for the body...."

That's Jon Day in a NYRB review. Here's "You & a Bike & a Road" and I just bought it, based on the many drawings you can see at the NYRB link.

But after deciding to buy the book, I almost backed out when I noticed 2 words that I elided from the quote so as not to put you off. It really reads: "In 2015 the cartoonist and activist Eleanor Davis...."

My reaction when I see that an artist is identified as an "activist":
 
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69 comments:

Michael K said...

"activists" are so self absorbed that I cannot imagine that they say anything worthwhile.

tcrosse said...

Give me an "inactivist" any time.

sane_voter said...

Seeing the drawings with a "No Pipeline" t-shirt and "I hate republicans" quote would have turned me off of buying the book.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Activist, self-dramatizing douche, whatever.

Ann Althouse said...

The "I hate republicans" is in a word bubble that goes to one of 2 characters who seem to be annoying her with too many boring remarks.

Saint Croix said...

If you're ever in Athens…

Steverino's for Philly steak-and-cheese

and DePalma's for pizza



Saint Croix said...

oh shit they're closed

Saint Croix said...

never mind

skip the bike ride

MayBee said...

The "I hate republicans" is in a word bubble that goes to one of 2 characters who seem to be annoying her with too many boring remarks.

Annoying her? She drew herself with a big heart! She loves them.

Ralph L said...

It isn't mostly meaningless, but I voted for the last choice anyway.

She should have checked the fertility rate of female distance bicyclists. I've read it isn't good for the male side of the equation.

Saint Croix said...

The "I hate republicans" is in a word bubble that goes to one of 2 characters who seem to be annoying her with too many boring remarks.

You're looking at the squiggles over her head.

But if you look at her big heart, it's clear that she loves all their silly comments. She hears their Republican hatred and it makes her big heart pump bigger and better. These simple people have revived her with their dog, their art, their soup, and their Republican hatred. She is rescued! She is alive! It's the hatred that makes her feel at home.

LordSomber said...

Steverino's closed years ago (It's now a Jamaican joint). DePalma's is still around.

Cyclists in Athens are worse than motorists and pedestrians combined.
They flaut the rules of the road, cry about wanting bike lanes, and then ignore the bike lanes after they're built, using the sidewalks.

But other than that, I'm sure they're great people.

Ralph L said...

No Maybee, she has the hots for Brian.
Or Maybee not.

Earnest Prole said...

Left or right, there’s always something malodorous about the word activist, because the impulse comes from America’s puritan tradition of telling other people what to do and think.

Saint Croix said...

Also an Athens post is not complete without a bulldog.

Go find a bulldog, Althouse!

Saint Croix said...

No more cats.

I cannot believe Meade has switched over to cats. If he was a cartoonist he would draw squiggles over his own head.

Saint Croix said...

Admit it, you are now scheming for your future rat book to be profiled in the New York Times.

MayBee said...

Hahahaha, Ralph!

Saint Croix said...

Steverino's closed years ago (It's now a Jamaican joint). DePalma's is still around.

damn that was a good steak-and-cheese

best ever

Saint Croix said...

Was she named for Eleanor Roosevelt or Eleanor Rigby?

Paco Wové said...

"Activist" definitely detracts from "artist". I'm not sure that activists can produce good art (as opposed to clunky propaganda). Then again, most self-described artists can't produce good art either.

Michael said...

Her journey through Texas landed her in the ultra liberal outposts of Alpine and Marfa. And the gratuitous border with the color of the skin remark. Of course they left you alone when they saw you were a gringo, dear. That is both smart and not racist.
I will probably buy the book anyway since I am looking for encouragement to cycle more and further.

Fernandinande said...

"Activist" means never having to mind your own business.

MayBee said...

I thought the squiggles over her head were confetti streamers. Squiggles aren't boring.

Whatever. I'm not interested in her book, but I'm glad for her she found some peace.

Sam's Hideout said...

Most bike lanes are poorly designed and often placed on roads that have little need for them, they're more feel good for politicians. The typical city bike lane is two-three feet wide and immediately adjacent to parked cars, right where an opening car door would whack a cyclist in the bike lane. These bike lanes encourage cars in the road to pass cyclists in the lane quickly with very little extra space. Often it is safer for the cyclist to bike in the road, but then the existence of the almost useless bike line enrages drivers. A good bike lane would cost real money and use a noticeable amound of pavement, and not just a little paint on the road.

BTW, one of the toughest bike races just ran a few weeks ago, Race Across America (RAAM), from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD. The fastest individual finished in a little over 8 days and 9 1/2 hours (including sleep & other off-bike time)

Matthew Sablan said...

The squiggles when the people talk to her over her head are the same squiggles she gets after having whiskey. Things she doesn't like get lightning bolts (see her knees.) She gets the squiggles over her head when talking about Marfa's color + brightness too.

Then, she gets the squiggles when she has to rest every 5 miles, and it is a beautiful day.

I don't think there's any consistency with the squiggles. Seeing as she gains the heart though after having lost it due to wanting to give up, I'd say she's perfectly fine with these nice artistic folks who live with hobo and hate Republicans.

Ralph L said...

she found some peace.
Exercise releases endorphins, which stabilize mood.

I used this in a high school essay about our finances: referring to riding a bike to school, "nothing beats danger for cheap thrills."

Crap, that's almost 40 years ago.

Etienne said...

Better an activist than a pacifist.

Matthew Sablan said...

Other places we get squiggles: When she learns she has a place to rest for a week and it turns out that the bike shop owning therapist knows a masseuse who just arrived. I'd lean towards, just from this set, that squiggles are a sign of either motion or happiness.

Of course, I'm also skeptical she met a bike shop owning talk therapist who happened to know a masseuse, but whatever.

Matthew Sablan said...

As to the artist-activist thing, I'm actually OK with that, so long as they're up front about it. Good art can stand alone, but if you want to deliver a message with your art, let me know that so I can weigh that message with whether or not I want to pay for your art.

Matthew Sablan said...

Honestly, that chance meeting right after she's about to give up feels like a Hallmark movie moment. Maybe it happened; maybe I'm jaded and cynical.

Zach said...

"Activist" is a weasel word. People who are actually being active tend to have titles that reflect the activity -- labor organizer, fundraiser, march coordinator. They're concrete activities, and they tend to have concrete descriptions. An activist is someone who is not active enough to have a real job title.

Valentine Smith said...

Surely almost every chronic depressive I know is a leftist. It's that black hole where the heart is supposed to be.

The Historian said...

If you think that's good check out
Pilgrim Wheels: Reflections of a Cyclist Crossing America (Cycling Reflections Book 1) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SXIK9WK/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_jAryzbWBMWTXR

The author includes a couple pages in which he criticizes a truck driver who helped him out. The trucker had Rush Limbaugh's program on....

Zach said...

I do endorse cycling as a way to burn off the craziness, though. I've noticed that a lot of driven personalities or people with more energy they know what to do with tend to enjoy cycling. If you don't burn off the energy, it can curdle and feed negative emotions.

The nice thing about cycling is that it's very hard and also a little bit pointless, so that you burn off the energy without otherwise affecting your life. So life becomes just challenging enough, and you can enjoy it more.

Zach said...

Activism is also very hard, and also a little bit pointless (if we're being honest), but it doesn't seem to have the same calming effect. It tends to promote the people who are most committed to the cause and make people feel like they're not doing enough. So people who are slightly manic to start with end up very manic if they stay in it too long.

Maybe the difference is that activism is emotionally hard and cycling is physically hard.

Ralph L said...

What's with all the bad analysis of bad cartoons today?

It's that damn Althouse Vortex again.

Sample Commenter said...

Activists with mental illness... Whodathunkit?

M Mott said...

Will this genre of 'Woman on heroic solo journey to discover oneself" ever die? Eat Pray Love....Wild....woman takes routine travel, tarts up story with some improbAble encounters, vomits some mundane psychological insights and vagsplains to the unenlightened.

Achilles said...

Need another option:

Bad because "activist" artists are invariably government supported. I.e. I am paying for them to make art I don't care about.

Bob Matthews said...

To be an activist is very common, but no one ever describes themselves as a "passivist", which is different then a "pacifist".

sane_voter said...

Vagsplains . . heh

David said...

Some activists do stuff. My brother is a good example. Most just show up for a protest or three to demonstrate to the like minded how activist they are.

Lem said...

I'm getting a bicycle 🚴 I could ride to work. Uber is too big a bite.

Professional lady said...

Seems like the term "activist" is often used as a substitute word "statist." So the term is mostly a turn off for me.

Curious George said...

Lefty activists are always unhappy. That bike ride will end. Then what?

Tari said...

She never did have that child. Why am I not surprised?

Clyde said...

Re: Artists and left-wing politics: Yesterday, I was listening to music at work and I picked out an album I hadn't heard by a grey-bearded Jackson Browne. I wasn't sure when it came out, but figured it out quickly from the context. A song about the president ("Why is impeachment off the table? We'd better stop him while we are able..."), about going to visit Cuba, a couple of other blatantly political songs. Four of the ten songs were political. Oh, that president that Browne wanted impeached? Not Donald Trump, but George W. Bush. Album came out in 2008, and featured songs about the evils of war, hurricanes and climate change. I won't be listening to that album again, or probably anything new by Browne.

The real problem with telling left-wing activists to "shut up and sing" is that sometimes they'll sing but they still won't shut up. After hearing a song or two, you know who to avoid in the future.

Robert Cook said...

The problem with much political art is that it is too polemical and too tied to the specific time and place of its creation. Artists should try to make something timeless and that can be read and appreciated out of its immediate anecdotal context.

Robert Cook said...

Googling Eleanor Davis, I find her artwork utterly delightful!

Clyde said...

sane_voter said...
Seeing the drawings with a "No Pipeline" t-shirt and "I hate republicans" quote would have turned me off of buying the book.


Ditto. I'm not spending any money to support people whose views I find odious.

Clyde said...

Etienne said...
Better an activist than a pacifist.


No, no, no! Better an activist than a passivist!

Robert Cook said...

"I'm not spending any money to support people whose views I find odious."

The foot stamp heard 'round the world!

Clyde said...

Robert Cook said...

The foot stamp heard 'round the world!


Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders.

Humperdink said...

"I'm not spending any money to support people whose views I find odious."

The foot stamp heard 'round the world!

I read Mr. Cook's comment quickly and initially misread it as: "The food stamp heard 'round the world." My bad.

Meade said...

"I'm getting a bicycle 🚴 I could ride to work. Uber is too big a bite."

Remember, Lem — it's not if you crash. It's when.

Steven said...

Yet another book from someone with nothing of note to say. I blame all the truckers who didn't squish her with an 18-wheeler.

tim maguire said...

"Activist" is one of those words that, if appropriate, are used by others to describe the person. The person does not use it to describe him/herself. Like "smart" or "cool."

People who describe themselves that way are susceptible to accusations of being pretentious douchebags. And probably not much of an activist either.

Scott said...

My gay dating profile on Scruff (a phone app) says, in part, "Libertarian. I generally don't date government employees or political activists. Sorry." The reasons for each are a little different. Most government functionaries do work that I would like to see eliminated; and in any case don't have the proper sense of humility and gratitude for their paychecks, which were funded with cash collected coercively from people like me. And activists live their lives heeding a priori assumptions about society that are wrong, and even ugly; and don't have the self-awareness to notice it.

Then again, "activist," like "environmentalist," is often used as a throwaway qualifier to virtue signal. This person is one of us. She's safe to read. She won't challenge any of your closely-held progressive beliefs.

wildswan said...

I was a left wing activist before I was a right wing activist. Told a reporter I'd chain myself to a radiator and the police have to beat me black and blue before they got me out of my rented room in a commune and tore the building down to put up a parking lot. Said all of us there would do the same - noticed that the other communards who'd been saying "right on", inhaled sharply and drew back, making hand signals to me, meaning "no, no, NOT all of us." It all worked out since I couldn't believe the signals and the reporter left without finding out how the others felt. The mere story in connection with several like it was enough to mobilize city wide support from liberals opposed to tearing down buildings downtown and putting up parking lots. The area was saved and the old beautiful houses renovated and the whole area became upscale and before I left the city I could not afford a room in my old house or a drink in my old pub.

Then I became a right wing activist (20 years later) and actually got beaten black and blue at abortion clinics as did thousands of others, peacefully protesting to no avail. Janet Reno investigated us as terrorists in the years just before Sept.11, 2001. We lost and then sixteen years later after it was all over Donald Trump, who at one time supported Planned Parenthood, was elected President and began to bring in our program.

So, bicycling back through time I have to say I can't quite make sense of it all. It would be easier to be a snowflake. I think. Or a left activist of today. But probably life has a few surprises and a few changes waiting for them. That's how it really is.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Activists tend to do things they want to, while claiming they are doing it for others.
How many "activists" -- who tend to come from the middle and upper middle class -- would risk a career-killing felony conviction? Not many. Obama the college activist didn't.

Ralph L said...

My gay dating profile on Scruff (a phone app) says, in part, "Libertarian. I generally don't date government employees or political activists. Sorry."
Which brings to mind the Churchill quip: "When you socialists see something large, you want to nationalize it."

Ambrose said...

Eleanor (named for Rigby) left her parents' home in Tucson Arizona, for some Georgia grass. She ought to get back, get back to where she once belonged. On the day she bicycled away, her mother cried "our baby's gone."

D said...

Pick fruit. Cut trees. Move supplies. Haul gear. Install toilets. Check the oil. Check the monitor. Check vital signs. Review receivables. Prepare briefs. File invoices. Mix ingredients. Cut hair. Clean the bins in the park. Sell shoes. Fix shoes. Stand guard. Run the line. Type the memo. Hand out the reports. Collect tickets. Serve dessert and coffee. Wash the floor. Wash the infirm. Heal the sick. Write stories. Knit sweaters. Sell sweaters. Install parts. Update the server. Teach the kids. Take cash or credit. Play at the bar. Review lab results. Forecast for tomorrow. Invent this, build that. Deliver fuel. Sell furniture. Respond to domestic disturbance call on Elm. Put on a play. Play left tackle. Clean teeth. Pave new bike lanes. Collect the taxes. Sell trinkets at the tourist shop. Mow grass. Test new drugs. Manage the staff. Bake biscuits. Check baggage. Edit ad copy. Review contracts. Broker deal. Pound nails. Visit with the widow. Etc
There was a post, awhile back, talking about how some people dont get too invested in trying to describe who they are by what they do to sustain themselves. Nothing wrong in that. They have a name, and the people who know them, know them by that.
I suppose, to balance things out, you have to have some people who arent satsfied saying just one thing. Hence the "....AND activist" part.

Ralph L said...

So, D, you'll think up and type all that, but you're too lazy to add a second letter to your moniker?
Or too exhausted?

zyz65 said...

Could not get beyond this confused sentence: "Perhaps one reason there are so few truly great films about cycling (Jørgen Leth’s documentary about the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, A Sunday in Hell, and Sylvain Chomet’s animated The Triplets of Belleville being notable exceptions) is because the act of cycling—just sitting in the saddle and watching the world roll by—is itself more dynamic than any film can convey."

However the Paris-roubaix movie s a great film. Watch that nstead.

Kevin said...

When I hear someone is an activist, my mind substitutes the word "prick" or "bitch" to better clarify what they're trying to describe about themselves.

It's a mental FIFY.

mtrobertslaw said...

Activists relate well to large anonymous groups. But, with few exceptions, when it comes to romantic relationships with a real individual person, they fail. I've always wondered why.

Lost My Cookies said...

I'm only posting because I broke two ribs on July 4th in a bike accident. I usually ride a 20-30 mile loop through a State Park that's right behind my house, but the camper traffic keeps me out on country roads on summer weekends. July 4th though, I ended up riding through town because of time constraints and paid the price. I'm more of a mountain biker, but the local trails are a half hour away by car and have been wet every time I've had the time to go, so ive been stuck on pavement since Easter. In this case, literally