What happened to that boy
As Sir Elton John famously sang through the mouth of an orphaned cartoon lion, the circle of life is evident in all things, even or perhaps especially the Alien Workshop skate video. New careers are launched, even as others film a handful of low-impact ledge lines on their way toward that inevitable twilight. We could jawbone about professional obligations and numerically stack pro model shoes against tricks in the video, but that won’t get us any further than a Brian Wenning alphabet ledge trick (to keep it vintage DNA for ya’ll) so let’s focus on some of the “Mind Field” veterans who, ahem, showed up for work.
In Jason Dill of course we have somebody who’s been in the skateboarding business for about two-thirds of his life and has actively given a shit about his contribution to the whole ball of wax for at least half that time, if not longer, little shit status notwithstanding. He cares to the point of calling people out on shit that the rest of us would probably let slide, or at least silently simmer until some drunken industry function spills onto a post-bartime sidewalk; he seems to have a very definite idea of what skateboarding can be and puts no small amount of consideration into what he does, how he does it and when. Whether it’s lifestyle factors or some new less-is-more inclination (which I can get down with to some extent) Jason Dill’s video parts and coverage in general have gotten more spare in the last few years, putting whatever tricks he has into sharper relief – I think I like his “Mind Field” part better than his shit in the DVS video, if nothing else because there a noticeable absence of Cass McCombs droning, but also due to the fact that he seems like he was going for it a little more on this one. Clarity of vision, or the whole trying-harder-for-the-Alien-dudes thing. Lots of feeble grinds in uncomfortable places, updating the Photo-era 180 to 5-0 sequences to contemporary abrupt transition spots* and generally weirding up Pappalardo’s non-Flare minimalism. I want to believe there’s some deeper symbolism behind letting the phone float away at the end of the section. Something to do with Chris Carter taping him, right? Or maybe he lost his phone?
For Josh Kalis it seems simpler – he’s laid out his philosophy of professional-grade skating several times, likening it to a ladder, or staircase to heaven, or, god help us, a 12-step program. First you get the flow… then you get the pro board… then you get the women. Or, shoe deal. Pro model shoe. Video game. Reality show (or not). Like that. Learn new tricks along the way, take the tricks you know to different spots, do them faster. Not real complex. At this late stage in the game Kalis probably could get over cycling through tricks from parts that Kids Today haven’t even seen (kickflip noseblunt/411 Alien industry section, frontside flip nosegrind/411, switch backside noseblunt/”Sixth Sense”) peppered with the usual 360 flips, switch backside tailslides and so on, but darn it if he doesn’t keep on trying. He’s been talking up the possibilities of the bigspin for years but really pushes it in “Mind Field,” with fairly dazzling results, and when he turns up the heat after Marquise Henry’s cameo the general badassness of the entire affair makes it easier to overlook how some of his tricks don’t flip as fast as they once did, and how the classic eagle swoop form is missing more often than not. But with all the bigspin tricks, the taller-than-a-building switch backside flip, the 360 flip off the Barcelona bump, this might be the best Kalis part of the white cap era. And he’ll have more of course.
Anthony Van Engelen, I have no clue whether he thinks in these terms or not – you want to think his skating is totally visceral and from the gut, the way it translates on video, an idea (or not) and then a full-speed charge. But who knows. He does seem to have gone through some shit during his years in the wilderness, so maybe he’s been plotting, but his new voracious appetite for big rails and off-the-wall tricks (I’m thinking like the fakie f/s 50-50, and the spin-around ledge stuff) kind of seems like he’s shooting first and asking questions later when it comes to mapping this stuff out. I’m not sure if this time around quite matches the platinum standard AVE set with his blazing debut in “Photosynthesis” or the refined and elevated “DC Video” part, time will be the judge I guess, but it’s awesome to see him so hungry again. Depending on the day, this is one of my favorite three parts in the video. That fuckin’ switch frontside noseslide. Ollies straight onto rails = the new nosegrind pop-outs.
*I enjoy the phrase “abrupt transition” and plan to use it often – thanks Deer Man of Dark Woods