Archive for September, 2010

Help Me Figure This Out

September 29, 2010

Not usually one to play dentist in the maw of the notorious gift-horse, I was inclined to cheer the recent news that ledge-munching Chewy Cannon was bound for employment under what’s perhaps the best company going right now, Palace, even if it did involve leaving behind a long tenure under the illustrious Blueprint banner. What I continue to wrestle with though is his apparent on-again-off-again pro status, and how exactly this is meted out over there — exhibit the first, this July Transworld article on man-ams:

Neil and Chewy can tag team a spot on this list simply for the fact that both went pro for Blueprint only to then honorably accept demotions back to am status. Following the company’s near brush with death on the heels of the world’s economic collapse back in ’08, and compounded by the brand’s transition from a homegrown U.K. company into a full-fledged international player, Blueprint had little choice if it wanted to survive.

Which makes enough sense, considering that even the bulgiest of bulge-bracket Wall Street banks appeared to be on the ropes that tumultuous fall. But then you have US newcomer Marty Murawski getting the professional bump-up earlier this year, while Neil Smith and Chewy Cannon were/still are boardless…?

Could Rob Dyrdek’s Don King Fantasy Render All Of Chaz Ortiz’s Hard Work Meaningless?

September 25, 2010

Rob Dyrdek’s constantly mutating career has traced a twisty, turny path over the past two-plus decades, from Gordon & Smith prodigy to backpack rap mogul to one-half of an ambiguously extreme duo to a designer of profitable action figurines in a convoluted route similar to that of the Tony Hawk branded rollercoaster. His various “boardroom bangers” have earned him comparisons to hairmonger entrepreneur Richard Branson and to the Birdman himself, as well as the titular character in the successful sci-fi romance “The Time Traveler’s Wife’s Husband.”

Like an 80s shark-skin suit, Rob Dyrdek is compelled to continue moving forward and look snappy doing so, yet his most recent venture poses risks of destabilizing the already shaky underpinnings of the competitive contest circuit as we know and understand it today. The “Street League,” alluring to pros for its lucrative prize potential and relative credibility when placed beside the likes of Mountain Dew-soaked prefab circuses stuffed with Slim Jims. It’s the tradeoff — an agreed-upon exclusivity of pro participation that involves forswearing other major contest tours — that raises the question of plunging the immaculate and hallowed institution of contest skating into the same froth of confusion, corruption and chest-beating that has snared pro boxing.

Here, a woeful five organizations with even more woefully similar-sounding names — the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Organization, and International Boxing Organization– vie for the hearts and minds of fans as each purports to lord over the one true world title for each weight class, requiring would-be contenders to overextend their personal credit in an effort to acquire houses with enough closet space for multiple gilded belts. It is enough to make a dunce of anyone seeking to master the sweet science.

Even without a gunmetal-gray fright wig, Rob Dyrdek’s outsized ambitions may serve to unravel the innocent hopes and dreams of youngsters whose goal is to be crowned the undisputed world champion over all other boarders, along with all the energy drinks and free pickup trucks that such an achievement brings. Between the Gravitron Games, the Dew Tour, World Cup Skateboarding, the California Awesome Skateboarding League and those guys who successfully defended the industry against the blank-deck scourge a few years back, it’s hard to be sure this has not already happened. Is it too late — do we live in a world where the title of “world champion,” even when slurred by John Lydon, carries a qualifier? Will kids need complex flow-charts to properly position photos of their heroes in the proper hierarchy on bedroom walls? Will magazines double their IT expenses replacing keyboards with worn-out shift and 8 keys? Might stage-dads rethink valuable lawn-mowing hours spent coaxing feeble grinds down the park rail?

Me And Braydon Szafranski And The Yithians Down By The Schoolyard

September 21, 2010

If you’ve read the new and excellent Emerica Thrasher you may already be familiar with the idea thrown around therein, that “Stay Gold” could be the Last Video in this bold age eaten up with web content, narrowing promotional budgets and wildly fluctuating gasoil prices. The point might be worth debating had it not already been obliterated some eight decades ago via the short historical work “The Shadow Out Of Time” which informs of an ancient race of body-borrowers who plied their trade across the respective ages of dinosaurs, men and certain beetleoids, among others. Which is to say that when the last of our fragile, flesh-toned number pass beyond this earthly realm, enough copies of 411 will survive in various vaults and fortresses to inevitably inspire the next rulers of this planet to at least try and learn to ollie and later maybe film it.

Leo Romero, my SOTY choice again this year, sure skates like he rules the planet, but no moustache is long enough nor any hat-brim wide enough to fend off the forces of technology that are even now consuming the profitability of any and all media. Initiatives to pack DVDs with bonus features are met with chapter-specific “PM plz”es as all the world either lives in some backwater where mailorder costs $60 or their mom’s a hardcase who won’t drive them to the shop, and criminy, it hasn’t even shipped from the warehouse yet.

“Stay Gold” is probably nowhere near the last video, if only because Habitat and Krooked and Real and Toy Machine are all slated to put out productions of their own in the months ahead, and even as overwrought as it was, I doubt Ty Evans will stop with Lakai’s slow-motion fireball for TWS. But maybe it is fair to openly wonder, as others have done before Burnett and Szafranksi this month, how long the five-year film/video/coast hype cycle can sustain itself, or any sort of going enterprise. Even scaling back production to a credit crunch-friendly U.S./Mexico/Canada touring circuit, there are hotel rooms to be rented (/repaired), gasoil to be pumped into rental vans, Funyons and extra rental van insurance to be purchased, cameras and lights and bolt cutters and other Inspector Gadget shit to facilitate a four-second clip that may or may not make the b-roll footage on a poorly selling DVD because it got too stale or a bro got a different hair cut.

But despite a world awash in drop-outs, drunkards and leering pirates, it’s hard to imagine the whole process hinging upon even the old move of selling first the normal vid and then the “deluxe edition” with the bonus materials. If that was the case you could maybe buy the idea that the full-length video concept is not long for a world where the conversation moves on before the physical product makes it inside the shop’s glass countertop. The big video release generally aims to ramp up stoke levels, re-situate the company and get the products moving but that’s just the payoff — in the run-up to a proper video premiere/release there are several hype cycles involving ad campaigns, some sloganeering, magazine articles, throw-away clips (formerly the realm of the 411s), at least a couple soul-crushing deadline pushbacks, random team shuffling that ups the drama, etc etc.

All of which builds character for everybody involved but more importantly (maybe) gives direction to these companies, and maybe more weight to whatever skating’s gone on. You wonder like if Danny Way’s mega-ramp debut would’ve issued the same shockwaves had it been pushed onto DC’s tiresomely advanced website as a 10-minute promo thing, or if he would’ve even tried some of those stunts if there wasn’t a fearsome deadline looming. There’s the long-play format too that you have to imagine will continue to lure in would-be auteurs with “Memory Screen” ambitions, money-losing format be durned.