Archive for July, 2016

Choices 3: Judgment Day

July 30, 2016

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Thirty-eight years ago to the day, Memphis rap posse Three 6 Mafia uncannily predicted the brassiness and unbridled vamping of this 2016 US political election season in the motion picture release ‘Choices 2,’ an airy farce with a rhetorical title referencing how two people compete to be the ‘People’s Choice’ and win the ‘People’s Choice Award,’ also knowed as the US presidency. Over time the prize has gone to saxophonists, cowboy actors and even enjoyors of post-retirement Jay-Z songs, but many of the heartiest feats of achievement that shall define the 2016 contest still lie ahead.

Several miles below sea level, the deep-pocketed forces steering the skateboarding industry from an underwater base confront their own conundrum. Josh Kalis, he of the nigh-spotless twenty-plus year career, channeled the syrupy spirits of DJ Paul and Juicy J to record his own ‘Choices,’ a satirical short film that alternately bemoans and bellylaughs at the long-armed reach of international sporting equipment companies into skate shops, sweeping less powerful companies’ shoes from shelves and leaving a paucity of options for the toecap-chewing hardflipper.

It can be no coincidence that the messenger for this unhappy fable is Josh Kalis, whose reintroduction of the ‘Kalis Lite’ to a generation of Love Park-fetishizing saboteurs comes as the most important geopolitical shoe event of the year. Despite its hikey sole and lack of air bag, the ‘Lite/LTE’ is the most credible-yet throwback to the puffy shoe era*, boosted by a particularly East Coast persuasion of nostalgia arising out of #skateshoewars and Philadelphia spot paleontology. The Kalis Lites, the most vital release from DC in years, also comes as sporting apparel makers Nike and Adidas try ever so softly to nudge skaters’ sweatstained wallets further ajar, coaxing dollaridoos toward higher-tech footwears that command fatter margins and further cement the big, swinging corporation as the dominant force in skate shoedom, widening the gap between their space-age materials and those lesser peddlers of vulcanized suede.

But a good decade into this slim-shoe era, as the Janoski continues to run roughshod over besocked $150 Kostons and rivals’ new pro models retain slender, suedey templates, the tech shoe increasingly threatens to fall back into its typecast role as a periodic fad. The rubbered-out Airwalks and Etnies briefly ushered in the 90s before Jason Lee and Jim swept the table clear for a generation of grunge rockers, conscious MCs and others to wallow, before DC began slowly turning up the tech with the Boxer and the newly-reissued Syntax. The oft-maligned D3, also recently reissued, arguably represented the apex/nadir of this period, before Nike’s Dunk fanned the Luddite spark struck by Tom Penny’s Accel-boosting Menikmati part, and within a few years the Half Cab ascended to the throne. Es, which never fully relinquished its mantle of Schemes and Logics, entered the cryogenic chamber as the vulcanized sole trampled all comers.

Are the recent techy stabs a sign that the tide finally is turning away from simplicity or just further fodder to an every-ten-years-tech-shoe fad? Could a longterm tech-shoe revival help propel Quiksilver into a new glory age of booze and boardshorts? Is independent shoe company booster Josh Kalis making a bigger and broader design statement when he talks about ‘choices’? Will the fact that Oscar-winners DJ Paul and Juicy J have one up on Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin ever truly sink in with the general public?

*Which perhaps not coincidentally overlapped with the Puff Daddy era

Cower and Kneel Before the $9 Billion Digital Skatestopper

July 13, 2016

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For centuries, man schemed and toiled to turn technology to his advantage, from the spearing and roasting of the first woolly mammoth to mass-producing plastic woolly mammoth baubles for personal fun to resurrecting the woolly mammoth via cloning systems. Skateboarders are no different, if one simply swaps out the woolly mammoth for a shambling, hairy metaphor that posits hammers, enders and assorted NBDs, and quick-dry cement, sawzalls, pinned spots, Iphone-ready death lenses and the urethane wheel in place of wooden spears and genome-sequencing software.

Yet just as Russian-made woolly mammoth clones inevitably will turn against their creators* and run rampant across textile mills and used-car lots, technology has been turned into an enemy of skating. The telephone, developed by Alexander Graham Bell to relay stock-market quotations and pizza instructions, was transformed into a high-speed snitching device shortly after the first pools were barged. The powers of metallurgy, honed by the dwarves in the mines of Moria, were harnessed by demonic forces to forge skatestoppers. In the same spirit, skateboarders have fought back.

Now comes a new threat, lurking within the smartphones of children, that promises strife, subjugation and certain doom: the mobile reality role-playing fantasy, Pokemon Go. The premise involves capturing and conscripting fantastical, suitcase-sized creatures and pitting them against one another in battle for the pure glory of it. These cartoonish organisms must be detected by physically traveling to physical world locations where the next step is to stand around swiping upon the telephone screen. There are reasons aplenty to suspect that Pokemon Go is only part of a larger, sickening “game within a game” that may murderously ape the 1990s platformer hit “Lemmings”**.

But the Pokemon game’s demented and unholy true purpose has slowly emerged as sharp-minded watchers began observing the game herding players toward famed skatespots (see above), where their loiterly meanderings provide a skatestopper more effective than a hundred curled metal flanges. Yet the plot runs deeper and hoarier still, given the apparent targeting of sanctioned skateparks as destinations for sheepish players to gather, oblivious with their mass, and obstaclize. Moneyed interests of the world have responded, valuing the Pokemon application to the tune of the Bahamas’ economy.

Could animated, bouncing rabbitoids and birds do what generations of business owners, security guards and disapproving moms have failed at, and erase skateboarding from this mortal coil forevermore? Could Street League and X-Game courses, if not overrun by phone-staring drifters, yet be rendered obsolete if no one looks up from their screen to pump a fist or holler at a 9.0 run? Is Jeremy Klein, with his extensive anime knowledge, disregard for social mores, and increasingly professorial look what with the spectacles, be skateboarding’s only hope to somehow infiltrate the Pokemon Go machinery and destroy it from within?

*As well as the band Kreator most likely
**SNES version soundtrack for all-time top 10

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 4 – Marc Johnson ‘Man Down’

July 9, 2016


Tilt Mode released ‘Man Down’ at the height of the collective’s cultural and military might, spreading its power across several otherwise drab and peaceable continents before the dueling demands of heavy duty sponsorship and real life in general intervened for many of the mode’s most heavily tilted. Here though was crew captain Marc Johnson having a good time in baggy shorts as the Rolling Stones stuffed their noses with disco-era stardust, enjoying his enormous talents amongst playgrounds and makeshift jumpramps before stretching it to its breaking point a few years later in the Lakai vid — his embankment backside 360 kickflip here is a much more relaxed edition than Alex Carolino’s in the contemporary Lordz vid, and tricks such as the switch backside nosegrind and the 5-0 backside 180 are for the ages. At a time when triple-striped shoes again adorn Marc Johnson’s feet after an acrimonious split with a shoe sponsor, it would be a treat to see him do another one like this.

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 4 – Gabriel Rodriguez, Daniel Castillo and Shamil Randle ‘Mouse’

July 8, 2016


Of the many ‘what-ifs’ associated with all-time top fiver ‘Mouse,’ the potential for a full-on follow-up to Gabriel Rodriguez’s ‘Paco’ closing section forever will be up there with the prospects for a healthy Mike Carroll and a reenergized Jovontae Turner. He does come through in this Choco-trio section with some massive tailslides and two of the grimier fakie tricks to chunk out the courthouse ledge, before Daniel Castillo comes with a good Venice pit line and some below-the-knees cargo pockets, the height of fashion for summer 1996. Shamil Randle gets in two of the video’s best-looking manual tricks in the same line plus the rarely-seen fakie frontside shove-it, possibly an asterisked outlier to Jimmy Gorecki’s generally on-point ‘Trilogy’ rule.

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 4 – Aaron Artis ‘What If’

July 6, 2016


There are videos rightly and wrongly misplaced within the eddies of the space-time continuum, and despite Carlos Ruiz’s Heath Kirchart-baiting spot checks, a late-arriving stop on Kris Markovich’s decades-spanning board sponsor tour, and a fine Ronnie Creager part, Blind’s Bill Weiss-helmed 2005 vid ‘What If’ did little to stake out turf far from your typical Digital issue of the day. It did have this Aaron Artis part that gets over on some swervy turns, floaty kickflips and a sunny song, with an untamed melon grab taking the Pacific Northwesterner over a Spanish hump and the Hollywood High spikes. The powerslide surf spray revives long-suppressed memories of July afternoons lounging beside stagnant ponds of gray water, sipping a highball of unleaded gasoline. 

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 4 – Tum Yeto Road Trip, 411 #29

July 5, 2016


Tum Yeto hoisted itself to perhaps the hoistiest of its various golden ages in the waning months of the 1990s partly thanks to visceral and brutally earned slam sections that reserved a singular ability to snuff any spark to skate that the preceding video had kindled. Jarring bails pepper this 411 road trip through Canada, populated by a wrecking-ball cast belonging at this point to another age: an Adio-endorsing, lion-maned Jamie Thomas; Mike Maldonado, decked out in corn rows and late shove-its; Ed Templeton impossible tailgrabbing with a few hundred miles’ worth of buffer from the Huntington Beach Pier fleshpots; Elissa Steamer at her pre-Bootleg peak; handrail doubles runs; Adrian Lopez, full cabbing John Drake’s ender spot from ‘Time Code;’ board-catching dome pieces; a miniramp-wrecking Bam Margera, face as yet unlined by the gravities and scars of a reality television career. This clip, considered in some circles the greatest 411 tour part evar, also features a content-complementing, classically licensing-friendly Dischord catalog pick.

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 4 – Nate Jones ‘Real to Reel’

July 5, 2016

Midsummer days hot enough to put the sweat on you by 8 a.m. call to mind the carefree love that can blossom in young muskrats’ hearts, and of simpler and more wholesome times when highlights from a 411 commercial and a nice backside 5-0 on a ledge were legit inclusions for a video-opening, pro-inducing video part such as Nate Jones’ in Real’s century-launching ‘Real to Reel.’ Besides Nate Jones’ immaculate kickflip stylings, the rarely seen overhead angle to a street gap and the rarer-still acceptable varial flip, Nate Jones’s breezy, no-muss part captures him midway between the baggy-hoodied, yellow-teed everyman and the patchouli scented Bay ramblor that would years later claim his pro career. Beyond the snapshot of SF in a more livable time, you can catch glimpses of a spiritual forebear to Brian Delatorre’s GX hills handling and Dylan Rieder’s ‘Mindfield’ ender.