Archive for March, 2016

Ten Leak Commandments

March 31, 2016

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Last week the nation’s ever-deepening identity crisis deepened, again, after a Facebook posting left Americans to contend with the concept of Young Jeezy wearing socks with sandals. The unholy prospect forced all the usual and uncomfortable questions front and center once again: Who are we? Where’s all this going? Can gravitational waves be manipulated for pleasure or profit? How much mass is too much? Was a Florida judge’s special dispensation for Hulk Hogan to don a formal black bandana for his sex-tape trial an indication of white privilege, the Hulkster’s 1% status, or both? And so on.

As ever, the United States may do well to take notes from Baker, whose alternately sneering and stony worldview has persisted through several revolutions of its motley and enduringly diverse lineup. Dustin Dollin stays shooting his mouth off and hurting feelings, while the current iteration of these seven-day weekenders shake loose a Rowan Zorilla-centered promo cementing their danger to various communities. Andrew Reynolds blasts a waist-high* kickflip to tractor-trailer bash, their revitalized Kevin Long spins a nollie backside tailslide flip out and Terry Kennedy, who is a large grin attached to a fakie ollie, formally enters the running for clip of the year by walking down the sidewalk. By the time Gumby-limbed ditch gremlin Rowan Zorilla earns the DJ Screw rollaway treatment to seal the formal pro nod to his off-kilter switchstance formations, the company, careening into its 16th year with 40% of its 2G lineup remaining, seems as vital as ever.

Can Transworld, pushing its own video legacy into a third decade, recapture mojo by blowing up its own timeworn model? Friend to the fisheye Chris Thiessen takes a close-up view of the concept in ‘Substance,’ which honors skating’s long tradition of taking a concept and testing its longevity, in this case hyper-intimate VX techniques cribbed from Lenz and Magenta productions while cutting a barely-threaded kingpin bolt sized radius around longtime TWS vid trappings such as timelapse sequences, voiceovers and slow motions. In parts like Dolan Stearns’, wherein he leaps Danny Garcia’s ‘Inhabitants’ intro-sequence carport and boosts a massive tree wallie, much sense of perspective is squeezed out of the frame**. Other parts like Baker’s arrested developer Tristan Funkhouser, who does a cool bump-to-bump feeble grind and an amusing surf to spinout, and Islee Jon Nguyen, who can do Pupecki grinds both ways and launches one of the meatier bigspin kickflips in recent memory, benefit from a more relaxed approach and compare favorably with the better-aged parts from TWS vids past.

TWS’ video model merits saving. The California Sunday Magazine’s recent Jake Phelps profile*** positions Thrasher as the likely last mag standing as rivals grow ‘anemic’ in the face of a mobile content onslaught, though Transworld’s thinning seems to have plateaued around the 115-page mark, perhaps a product of the revitalization via editor Jaime Owens’ early embrace of the small-company set and fondness for East Coast coverage. In time the ‘magazine video’ format may become relegated to the same shop backroom dustbin as the ‘video magazine,’ but it would be a loss — a bustling market for local/crew videos and daily deluge of one-off online parts retains some lane for gatekeepers imbued with the clout and say-so to corral diverse and blue-chip bros who aren’t otherwise in thrall to sneaker- or soda-funded projects to crank out a worthy and cohesive video in the space of a year.

Between the ever-zooming fisheye camp and the long lens stylings of Fat Bill and his acolytes, are sides being chosen up for a coming civil war that could further diminish the already dwindling population of VX-1000s? Do the ghosts of Digital and Logic and 411 rear up from the underworld to lustily cheer at each successive Transworld vid premiere? Does Jake Phelps remain some reality TV show producer’s great white whale? How bout Rowan Zorilla’s switch shove-it 50-50?

*His waist, even
**Might one put former Transworld Film maker Ty Evans on the other end of such a spectrum, too much perspective?
***Near the top of the heap for ‘secular’ press articles on skating

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The Man Comes Around

March 20, 2016

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Beyond physics-challenging hair and a stated disdain for clowns, there may be hazy similarities to be grasped at and drawn between Sideshow Bob’s remarkable mayoral run in Springfield and Donald Trump’s elbows-out steamrolling toward the Republican presidential nomination. Amongst the jittery fretters who sense authoritarian tones in the bouquet of Donald Trump’s bombast, Sideshow Bob’s courtroom declaration seems prescient: ‘[D]eep down you long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king.’

Erik Ellington, bigspinning Pissdrunk of years past and curator of his own famous locks, this week mused whether skateboarding has relinquished control over aspects of its greater, amorphous self. No specifics are called out, but if one were so inclined, signs could be observed all around: Erik Ellington’s onetime sponsor Active turning its fortunes over to a bankruptcy court; the sales of DC Shoe Co, Element and Alien Workshop to various holding companies; private equity’s purchases of Huf clothes and the parent of the Crail Couch itself. It is not difficult to visualize a future in which the ‘skater owned’ trope is quietly replaced with a ‘skater designed’ slogan similar to Apple’s California dreamt, China built taglines.

In one indication of the industry being divvied into ones who are sold and those who are told, Asphalt Yacht Club’s tour diary in the Cole Wilson TWS opens with a lament over Nyjah Huston jumping the tie-dyed landship for Swooshier endeavors (though not before fulfilling various contractual obligations for demos and signings that apparently do not also include skating spots with his erstwhile deckhands) before later fondly reminiscing on endearing tour missteps by Blake Carpenter, who the article highlights as another teammate who absconded for the Portland sneaker conglomerate. While quick to apply that familiar disclaimer of forgoing any hatred towards money-getting bros, the Yacht Club also claims some pride in its stepping-stone status: “One year you’re a controversial upstart who no one thinks is going to last, the next year you’ve got so much juice that you’re suddenly the farm team for the heavyweight champion of the world.” In a recent interview Habitat’s former Floridian bluntslide titlist Ed Selego similarly foregoes any hatred toward Nike Inc payrolled skaters, despite a lengthy passage arguing that company’s alleged policy of requiring shops to carry large quantities of potentially wack shoes in addition to the desirable ones led to the closure of an MIA outlet, and subsequent calls from bill collectors:

“Nike was the biggest problem for us. We had many good years selling their product, but at the same time they pushed tons of product on us that didn’t sell. They used shops like ours for years to establish the Nike SB brand. Then they opened up distribution to all the corporate stores and started selling direct to consumer. Being the number one shoe brand wasn’t enough for them. They had to exploit the brand to appease Wall St. and their shareholders. They did this with no plan in place for all the skate shops that struggled over the years. They loaded everyone up with a ton of debt then dumped us. It’s really irresponsible for such a large brand to do this and harm the very industry that they have come to be a part of. There is no better example of corporate greed.”

Such cautionary tales don’t appear to resonate: Lakai recently ceded two of its longtime Euro promoters, JB Gillet and Nick Jensen, to Nike. Heavy odds are on Danny Brady decamping for Palace-heavy Adidas in the near future, which recently hoovered up DVS honcho Paul Shier and former Lakaiers Na’Kel Smith and Miles Silvas. If it is a two-way street, the inbound legacy ‘skate’ side is peculiarly ill-traveled.

Do Sideshow Bob’s words ring true in skatedom 20 years later, with skaters secretly lusting for a corporate overlord that will tell them when to show up, where to stand and what to do in contractually legal languages? Are pros’ indulgence in vices such as gnarly substances and credit card debt, alternately celebrated and lamented, truly a cry for some grander form of paternal control? Are recent trends in looser trucks, higher speeds and fewer grabs (Homokis aside) reflect a subconscious yearning for stricter oversight under incorporated structures and shareholder-friendly governance practices? Have such forces directed Fred Gall back toward manual labors? How much rides on straighter-laced senior executives, perhaps the grandparents in this elongated and tortured metaphor, either not noticing or not caring about what goes on in the tour van?

Point/Counterpoint: Should We Make Republique Great Again By Remembering The Lessons of The Most-Famed 1990s Drill Fight?

March 13, 2016

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The discoloured and rapidly bubbling kettle that is the 2016 presidential election season offers a warped prism through which nearly every event, from the ho-hum to the oh-damn, can and must be viewed. Skateboarders long have spurted and spouted political pontifications, from Jason Lee’s stance against military force in the advancement of hard rock interests to Fred Gall’s tale of heavy-handed police force during one drunken and star-crossed Ozzfest and others bluntly going “fuck Donald Trump” in print and online media formats, as well as Lenny Kirk’s sober warning that the US government is plotting an ‘internal war’ to ratchet up control on computer-savvy citizens and various other sheeple.

‘Pussy Gangster,’ Bill Strobeck’s latest outing for Supreme and so far his longest dwelling upon the FA kids beyond US borders, from the jump throws a dripping and still-wet beefsteak to the ravenous hounds of political punditry whose bellies remain some seven months away from filling. In an ominous and threatening setup to Sean Pablo’s 50-to-50, Sage Elsesser’s channeling of Jereme Roger’s ‘Harsh Euro Barge’ hubba achievement, Kevin Bradley’s incredible flip-and-turn-and-catch and K-Rod’s fakie early grab to wallride, a butcher knife brandishing hobo pokes and swipes at our surrounding heroes, rasping and growling before Paris’ finest execute a textbook and grammatically accurate bum’s rush to extinguish the situation.

For crooked-grinding observers on both ends of the political spectrum, the much-buzzed sequence evoked immediate comparisons to ‘Virtual Reality’s’ famous drill fight, wherein Colin McKay and co pitted boards against bit in defense of Vancouver’s New Spot. The passage of two decades, and marked disparity in physical violence doled out, prompts diverging views on what this confrontation with an earbud-challenged threatener says about skating in this year of our Lordz Wheels, 2016:

Point (liberal): The clip is important because it shows the progress skating has made in the eyes of society’s most basic institutions. Here, government is functioning on our behalf, following years of foot chases, biting canines, verbal dressings-down, tickets and arrests — policemen in this instance act, forcefully, to protect a long put-upon class. This is the system functioning the way it’s meant — rather than handcuff Tyshawn Jones for hitching a bus ride after his tall-can backside lipslide, the powers that be neutralize a real and present danger skaters didn’t invite. By taking him into custody there is some chance the bebearded slashmaker will receive any help or counseling he may need, versus a beat-down via truck and deck that leaves him to nurse his fractures and ruptures with inexpensively priced French wine.

Counterpoint (conservative): Oh please. This clip, larded with more indulgent and excessive zoom, is only the latest and saddest sign that skateboarders have lost their collective edge, cowed into domestication by the steel barriers and security-guard shepherds of Street League, and loathe to rumple limited-run t-shirts and sweaters that could fetch lofty bids on Ebay. In the era that birthed citizen militias such as the Red Dragons and inaugurated James Kelch as EMB mayor, when Ricky Oyola and the Sub Zero locals took it upon themselves to regulate and enforce upon Love Park riff raff, skaters had far less to lose and weren’t hung up on concepts like even numbers or, perish the thought, help from the police or more esoteric taxpayer-funded agencies of Big Government. And before our friends on the other side of the aisle attempt to dismiss and diminish it all as American headstrongisms, let the record show that the drill fight was a Canadian affair.

This Week in Skate Tech, In Which We Reference the Legendary Manticore and Also Bridgebolts

March 5, 2016

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In neon-toned and bumbling eras past, technology’s reputation was to be bemusedly regarded and toyed with, or ultimately cast aside. Powell Nose Bones, Rip Grip, lappers and Bridgebolts vied for premium positioning within griptape-scarred glass cases, promising attractive profit margins and incremental on-board advantages. As these were briefly coveted, idly worshiped and soon cast aside, skaters remained in thrall to the Old Ways, gleaning yearly glimpses at the future handed down by Thrasher’s pagan oracle Mephisto, engaging in various griptape superstitions and praying to volcanoes.

What changed? Like most facets of modern skateboarding it can be traced to the 1990s, when cheap electronics baptized a new generation of videomakers, stuffed-tongue lucre-funded and Flash-laden websites for DC Shoe Co USA, and a Storm surge of yellow t-shirts ultimately birthed the Osiris G-bag (whose influence has vibrated across the decades). As a generation of ramped slo-mo induced motion sickness sufferers can attest, it soon became impossible to avoid wallowing in digitized video parts, lovingly retouched photos and ender-level tricks captured within cassette tape-sized telephones and beamed within seconds to tens of thousands of screens worldwide, enabling near-instantaneous commentary on pants size.

Now, a bold and bristly vanguard of new products stands intent upon elbowing its way to the front of the technological queue, competing against steadily rising sneaker prices and highly designed special fitting t-shirts in the perennial combat for skaters’ discretionary spending:

Nike SB Eric Koston Hyperfeel 3: Eric Koston’s latest attempt to match the runaway success of his early Es shoes* manifests itself as a genetic hybrid of shoe and sock, doing one better the interior-sock playacting of shoes past such as the old DC AVE, and suggesting mystical powers similar to those enjoyed by fantastical mash-ups such the liger, pegasus, manticore and chimera. Superlatives aplenty adorn this garish creation, including the timeworn ‘game-changing’ and ‘disruptive,’ always an ominous sign. Only time will tell whether the sock component passes the oft-brutal smell test represented by the wafty smell that comes from days-unchanged socks, and whether this crossbreed proves itself a reliable steed such as the mule or a doomed hybrid like the aquatic car.

The Curb Stone: As the 1993 expose ‘Jurassic Park’ demonstrated, the laws of unintended consequences ride high in the saddle when man plays god, occasionally requiring lofty insurance payouts. So it is with the Curb Stone, an upgraded rub brick purpose-made for simultaneously smoothing and slicking ledges with a high-grade composite material conceived to dominate various concretes and cements. Useful for sure, but potentially unlocking a Pandora’s Box with its power to reshape the world around us. Holding the authority and gusto to create ledges, hubbas and wallride-friendly surfaces anywhere within reach, will this Stone inevitably result in pristine mountain ranges and national monuments such as Mt Rushmore refashioned to fit our purposes and rack up valuable ‘Likes’ on sociable computer networks?

Chocolate’s ‘Carabiner Cup’: Water quality and availability is widely predicted to be the cause of future wars and strife, and such trembly fears have unleashed investment dollars that would head such global conflicts off at the proverbial pass while also handily clipping to one’s belt loop. Chocolate, that supplier of graphical socks and party cup sets, has introduced a Carabiner Cup capable of resolving world water availability threats through a unique and burgundy coloured technology that makes seawater drinkable with the help of a gentle flame. The years ahead will reveal whether Chocolate’s powerful scientists stay on a helpful path for people or become twisted and grotesque beneath the crushing weight of their own intellect, musing about atom bombing rival planets on late-nite TV.

*Such as that “other” Koston 3