Archive for April, 2021

Revenge Of The Credits Section

April 11, 2021

Long before the Snapchat-aping IG story, long before the raw files and rough cuts, even further back before the DVD ‘bonus’ menu selection, there was the after-credits section. In those analog days of yore, meat was hunted on the hoof, and pioneers of the range raised sumptuous crops from sheer rock surfaces. At the time, what little skating could be filmed between chores and fighting for survival was mostly siloed: intro, parts, demo section, friends section, slam section, credits. The chaotic and pulsating smorgasbord that often followed — alternate angles, lenses getting smoked, assorted ‘hinjinx’ — were, beyond print mag interviews, among the few unscripted windows into the wild and wooly world inhabited by top-ranked pros and ams of the time, manna to the chattering class then reliant on telegraph beeps and bloops to rumour-monger and psychoanalyze industry players.

But the credits section’s eulogy was written years ago. Any self-respecting death-clock keeper had already been marking time, one eye on the sunset for physical media in this streamy phone dimension, another observing visual media consumers’ shriveling attention spans, and a third on the growing thrum of daily content churn. And by the mid-2010s the credits section sat overripe, and ready to burst.

Like any self-respecting skate trend, it had taken root, been heavily adopted and lustily beaten into the ground for years afterward. H-Street and Plan B impresario Mike Ternasky, a prime architect of the modern video format, set the trajectory three decades ago, placing a generous 8-minute credits/et cetera section at the end of the the 58-minute ‘Questionable’, expanding to a 14-minute, four-song runtime for the credits and everything after in the 52-minute ‘Virtual Reality’ a year later. The comparatively slimmer ‘Second Hand Smoke’ still exhibited a 9-minute credit section, taking up more than a quarter of the total runtime.

Hence it became known: Big videos merited big credits. The Transworld videos under Ty Evans’ steerage knew it, dedicating 10 minutes of the 48-minute ‘Feedback’ to road trip detritus and assorted potpourri. ‘The Reason’ went further with an 18-minute credit section padding out a 65-minute tape, and even as TWS’ video rosters narrowed to a half-dozen dudes or so, the footage spooled out as the credits rolled: 11 minutes in the 36-minute ‘Sight Unseen’, 13 minutes in the 46-minute ‘Free Yr Mind’, most tellingly 15 minutes in the 44-minute legacy burnisher ‘Anthology’. Other era setpieces ‘Menikmati’ and ‘Sorry’ both boasted credits sections running 10 minutes or longer. Ty Evans would ply his generosity to other Crailtap productions, including 14 minutes’ worth in the hour-and-a-halfer ‘Fully Flared’, a generous 10 minutes for Super Champion Fun Zone (plus 32 minutes of DVD bonus material), and in perhaps the most ultimate credit-section flex of all, 10 minutes’ worth in the 26-minute Harsh Euro Barge. Another peak came in 2001, when 19 minutes of credits and mumbo-jumbo followed the 17-minute PJ Ladd’s Wonderful, Horrible Life’, though part of that was another video part’s worth of PJ Ladd footage.

In an era in which filmers but not skaters are namechecked in 10-minute web edits and lineups are relegated to Youtube descriptions, the credits section seems not only buried, but buried beneath the foundation of a building that collapses and afterwards is covered over by an avalanche or lava flow, depending on the biome and/or time of year. Now comes Quasi, the most consistent scroungers of Rust Belt decay this side of the ‘Grains’ franchise, eyes-dilated dredgers of analog-era counterculture, this week uploading to the people the 10K ‘Grand Prairie.’ Oriented around Dane Barker’s distortion-pedal flick and Justin Henry’s professional-grade grace and thundering form — witness the nollie nosegrind — the vid stews post-‘Alright’ Gilbert Crockett manuals and too-rare Jake Johnson tricks with Bobby De Keyzer’s skyscraper block circuits and a solid slug of Dick Rizzo channelling Puleo and Gall among Jersey’s least obtuse brick angles.

Over and done with in 20 minutes, the credits briefly roll and immediately spill into a half-hour drift through alternate angles, pulsating autograph sessions, an ongoing cat-and-mouse game involving Tum Yetoans on tour, a slice of Taco Bell drive-thru life, casting stones at glass bottles, several interludes involving pickup truck beds, slams, lurkers, gas stations, fire, rural pathos, frisbee sessions, blunt passing, doodling and various others. Years now removed from regular and heavy doses of post-credits antics and outtakes, the effect upon the viewer is one of shock and disorientation. Is this the real video? What is a video? Must Quasi, deploying its 30-minute credit section, be recognized as the medium’s new and perhaps final master?

Is the credit section ‘back’ or is this the last, massive nail of tribute to seal its casket forevermore? Did those dudes go with the lesser of the two angles for some of these tricks on purpose, like how putting Guy Mariano’s switch frontside shove-it k-grind in the ‘Mouse’ credits helped seal the ‘official’ part’s classic status? How come Alien never made a video with alternate-colored magnetic tape? Could Quasi, probably better right now than any other production house as far as surfacing unrinsed music supervisory choices, run a respectable consulting business for video makers cursed with basic song instincts?

Save The Last Dance: Rough Cuts, Tony Hawk, And The End

April 3, 2021

For all of the sporting goods conglomerates and beverage merchants’ noble efforts toward social network policing, considered product placement and synergetic collabos with anointed undergrounders, freewheeling inventiveness and excruciating self discovery inherent to street skating lives on in the photograph, the video part, and perhaps soon in speculatively priced NFTs. The televised free-thrower or would-be home run swatter has been broadcast hundreds, thousands of times taking his or her shot; even Dill-acknowledged ice skaters have drilled their routines for weeks, years. Free from editorial hanky panky or daydreaming filmers, what you see in the still-going print mags and steady churn of video drops almost always represents the first time a given person has ever landed the trick or line in question, and even as the content drifts deepen, ABDs remain frowned upon, to the point that a talent so diamond-rare as Louie Lopez had his ollie into a slick NY bannister immediately asterisked as previously tamed by Cons colleague Jake Johnson, in the Mindfield DVD bonus materials no less.

The homies jumping up and screaming and mobbing after the trick’s been landed is such a timeworn trope now that the reason they’re fired up is assumed to be ingrained — he or she’s never done it before, the bros have never seen them do it it before, and if it’s your first time watching, you haven’t either. It’s been so since way back too, from the 1980s when capturing just-birthed tricks still awkward and wobbly helped push out the boundaries of what was possible and imaginable, to chases for the first version landed on film, to the pros themselves momentarily transported back to their first ollie on that long-ago sidewalk out front: Harold Hunter, happily shocked in ‘Mixtape’ — “never landed that trick in my life!” Geoff Rowley’s euphoric post-Clipper pushing and flatgrounding in ‘Really Sorry,’ the father to so many turning lane backside bigspins spun after bumps-to-bars.

All this is part of the engrossing spell cast by the rough cut/raw files vids rolled out in recent years, to feed forever-scrollers and reheat the steadily eroding shelf life of the IG-age video part. Mason Silva’s Spitfire part footage posted up a few weeks back is the case in point. Between soundtrackless clips of absurdly hard tricks seemingly cracked out in one or two gos, you wade into battle with him, your breath catching as each roll up ratchets the stakes higher. Toward the end when he’s tangling with the drop-down boardslide, he somehow over and over steps off, snaps his board and then the inevitable, not only sacking but pitched six feet to his shoulder. You watch him get up, suffer, trudge to the top and start in again, til he lands it — first time he’s ever done this — rides across the street, halfheartedly pops up the curb, lays down, pulls his shirt over his face… he sits up, daps the bros and grins, but then is keeling over again to the concrete and smiling and more than anything, relieved. You’re relieved too, but energized and inspired and you wonder — what will he try next?

Tony Hawk, owner of numerous firsts over the course of history’s most illustrious pro career, has in the last few months been documenting the opposite: the process of saying goodbye to tricks, doing them not for the first time, but the last. Now 52, solidly in what human biologists have identified as the ‘grandpa zone,’ Tony Hawk has been vocal about how his hollow bird bones don’t have many 900s in them anymore, and he seems to be methodically whittling away the list of what he’s willing or physically able to do, documenting some of these last dances for charity purposes and, one assumes, for personal posterity.

There’s a much different tone to these battles than those of Mason Silva or other still-ascendant talents. The stakes seem both lower — having twice put the Bagel Bites brand up on his back, Tony Hawk has little left to prove to anybody — and heavier, with every flatbottom slam carrying a premium for each year past 30. He means to do these tricks on his own terms, with no filming deadline or contest purse up for grabs, but he does have something on the line. If he doesn’t, can’t land these tricks, then maybe his last go-round with them is already in the rearview mirror, and that much more of his abundant ability already ebbed?

A couple months ago Tony Hawk posted up what he said would likely be his last 720, with rickety joints and dwindling appetite for pain already having placed them further out of reach. After repeatedly flinging away his board and queasily folding one leg underneath him on one slam, he of course nails one, some 35 years after doing the first ever. He hops up onto the opposite platform and hurls down his board in ‘The End’ fashion, pumps his fists and throws his helmet, sliding down the transition to throaty yells all around. It’s a triumph; he’s still got it.

Several weeks later Tony Hawk went for one more go-round with the ollie 540, another one he pioneered when he had youth’s faster feet and quicker bounceback on his side. This time he spins and spins, the board always slipping away, until he cranks one around as clean as you could possibly want. He scratches the opposite coping, kicks away his board and drops to his knees, covering his face — laughing, or sobbing — wiping at his eyes. “Definitely the last one I’ll ever do.”

Watching Tony Hawk take out some of the moves that made him for one last spin, do you feel hyped, melancholy, old, or some confusing and indigestion-courting combo of all three? Even as Tony Hawk puts away one by one his above-coping contest pyrotechnics, does a broader universe of grinds and slides await him, suggested by what he called his first switch Bennett grind the other day? For old dudes tuned to Mackenzie Eisenhour’s IG account, is his recent string of post-40 breakthroughs on everything from kickflip backside tailslides to backside smith grinds to backside noseblunts on transition inspiring or just confounding?