Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

SCOTUS, FAWWEnt, And The Supreme Trials of Jason Dill

May 5, 2019

Jason Dill is in the news again, preparing to open a new, Hollywood-located retail outlet location for physically vending Fucking Awesome and Hockey gear to queue-friendly currencyholders, in an arid desert climate. Elsewhere, the FA squad girds for possible Olympic podium representation via Louie Lopez’s at-last confirmed jump from a Flip team that’s suddenly looking weirdly middle-aged, in skate years. And Jason Dill hisself, celebrated and dissected in a recent glossy magazine profile that presents a relatively domesticated chapter in a tumultuous and well-worn life, provided he’s not sweating beneath the galactically-sized expectations laid upon him by GQ:

He is a titan of influence in skateboarding. Every trick he’s done, every outfit he’s worn, and all of the crazy stories that make up the Jason Dill mythology are crucial entries in the skate canon. That influence began when he was just a kid in Huntington Beach, California, and extends soundly, unwaveringly into 2019. Dill’s style—his tricks, his attitude, his clothes, hell, his visage—is foundational to what skateboarding is today.

Were it an ‘Epicly Later’d’ or ‘Nine Club,’ the tension might be cut here with a wet belch or other affectation emanated bodily by Jason Dill. But this is a world of legal sawmills and customized financial derivatives, where each strategic step is more precarious than the last and could end in a volcano’s fiery maw. The pressure is tangible because it’s real: 3,000 miles to the east, the fate of Jason Dill’s holdings may rest inside the rich mahogany chambers of the highest court in tha land.

You see, it turns out that Fuct, the alternative t-shirt supplier known for spreading silkscreened exhortations such as ‘RAVERS SUCK’ during a certain portion of the early 1990s, for years has been lowkey locked in a legal tussle with Uncle Sam, who so far has refused to extend his sturdy cobblestone walls of federal intellectual property protections around the barony of Fuct. This has created any number of problems for the Fuct group managers and equityholders, specifically in the form of 100% cotton-wielding pirates focused on knocking off Fuct merchandise for their own illicit profits and pleasures. While carefully dancing around audibly pronunciating the company’s name, lettered lawmen for both Fuct and the US last month sparred over whether federal trademark protections shall be applied to a brand name that Justice Dept lawyers have determined to be scandalous and unworthy of protective legal shields afforded to more buttoned-down clothiers such as Ocean Pacific and Bugle Boy and Big Johnson. The government argues that, while having extended trademark protection to PG-13 brandings including ‘FUBAR’ and various ‘crap’ iterations, the f-bomb is a bridge too far; Fuct’s lawyers counter that they’re not trying to put up Fuct billboards and hardly anybody considers ‘fuck’ truly offensive these days anyways.

While Supreme Justices ponder these arguments, it is this shifty patch of regulatory sand upon which Jason Dill has staked Fucking Awesome’s fortunes. Though American IP defenders may strike a more confident pose around the more prime-time network friendly FA Worldwide Ent varietal, it is the Hulked-out, admittedly ‘dumbest,’ glaringly profane moniker to which Jason Dill and AVE hitched their uncertain sojourn from Dayton, OH what already seems like so many years ago, and which continues to sell $40 t-shirts and graphically decorated premium sweatpants. For Jason Dill, reared in the World camps of the 1990s, Fuct’s travails in the USA legal system is a path he ought to know well: Trademark missteps forced Kareem Campbell to abandon Menace and MNC before briefly stopping off at All City prior to City Stars. Bitch skateboards’ earlier, briefer run and vanishment may or may not have had much to do with trademark challenges, but these probably ensure that Sal Rocco Jr isn’t getting paid off the remarkably resilient Japanese knock-offs. And widespread bootlegging may help to explain why Girl was never able to fully capitalize off its VHS stereo-ready ‘SHT Sound’ innovations.

Is Jason Dill’s high-stakes devotion to a difficult-to-trademark brand name a keep-it-skate act of defiance, a subconscious act of self-sabotage, or some rich and creamy mixture of both? Might fat boxes of reseller-ready Supreme judicial robes help sway a critical SCOTUS majority in FA’s favor? Could an FA/Hockey/Supreme teamrider, well-trained by Fat Bill’s lens in steely stare-downs, make a wordless, slightly intimidating and ultimately victorious argument in defense of the FA intellectual property portfolio to skeptical justices?

Sparks Plus

April 21, 2019

Provocative graphics in the post-shock age are hard to come by, when Natas Kaupas’ salute to the Beast is sold as a nostalgic hoodie item and wistful treatises are penned on black-bagged World decks of yore — to say nothing of all the grisly deaths, esoteric pr0n and freely performed varial flips lurking mere keystrokes away in HD video whilst riding the bus, or in the comfort of one’s own barn. Truly, as Pharrell Williams stated on Jayne Mansfield’s major-label debut mixtape, “nothing is shocking bro.”

To be sure, board graphics continue to test the gross-out bar and do their best to nose-thumb in civilised society’s general direction; French subcultural chroniclist Seb Carayol compiled for Vice a memorable graphic rundown that included one recent board with multiple Disney Co. trademarks involved in a very sophisticated, adult and exceedingly complex scene. FA’s ‘coke dad’ was pretty gnarly. Grasping and rattling the deck-glimpser on a deeper level generally remains a harder trick, though, partly because the mutual rejection once relished between skateboarders and the rest of the world grows muddled by municipally sanctioned corrals, high-dollar endorsement arrangements and the recent adulting trend that increasingly is believed to extend career expectancy by an average of 2.5 video parts.

Rust-belt psych merchants Quasi Designs managed a rare one this week, blurting an ugly, all-caps assessment of the US youth condition, situated below two bits of Americana. On the provocation spectrum it lands somewhere around Jim Thiebaud’s ‘hanging klansman’ and Guy Mariano’s ‘accidental gun death,’ jolting the spirit, versus jabbing the uvula or leeringly stroking the libido. Whereas artistic critiques are better left to pedigreed knowers, this graphic may have been equally memorable as a sort of nihilistic cipher, with no real clue as to the maker’s feelings on the subject. But Quasi makes clear they plan to donate 50% of profits toward March For Our Lives, which funds gun violence research and seeks stricter firearm laws.

Is the mark of a truly provocative board graphic making parents sit up straighter and wrinkle their noses, versus rolling their eyes or wearily raising their brows? As company owners and graphic designers age into those perilously overlapping Venn circles of marriage, mortgage and children, does their ability and willingness to stab at societal norms wilt? Are basic logo’d board series such as Plan B’s actually super risky and challenging via courting indifference or outright contempt among would-be deck buyers, thereby putting the company itself in fiscal peril due to an unwavering commitment to its artistic vision of stylized logos?

Kerry Getz, Choice Overload, And What We All Can Learn From The Horde Tour

April 7, 2019

Apologies if it’s been told before: A disc jockey, prison guard and a lumberjack walk into a vape lounge. A lounge team member looks up and says: “I know you folks. You must be coming from Human Resources Online’s list of the worst professions in 2018, ranked in terms of average salary and advancement opportunities, right?” Before they can answer, a pro skateboarder wanders in behind them; the logger nudges the CO: “Now there’s somebody who’s got it tough.”

Vent City — the excitably searching new podcast project brought forth this week by a squadron of perhaps too deeply-pondering industry outsider types — among many, many other things briefly marvels upon the paltry midlife prospects of the would-be board careerist. Panelist Ted Barrow drops his Feedback_TS zippered black-leather mask to empathize with friends and acquaintances now a decade or two invested in the skate life, with naught to show for it all beyond flow packages, good times with the hemmies and some fluctuating clout:

“There is the 28- to 34-year-old pro who’s basically finally gotten to the level they could hope to get to and… with the exception of Louie Barletta, who I think went pro pretty late and still was able to have a pretty long career and then segue into the in-house kind of stuff… it’s so gnarly because you spend so much of your life getting so good at this useless skill, and then you get a small amount of recognition, a small amount of money considering average salaries for that age, and then you’re sort of let loose into the world. It’s so brutal.” Co-podcaster Ryan Lay puts in that he didn’t earn a livable wage from skateboarding until he was 27 or 28.

Elsewise in podcast land, Habitat’s veteran flick sharpener Kerry Getz swings away at a soft pitch offered by the Bunt boys, weighing whether ’tis better to be a pro skater in these percolating and promiscuous times, or back in the late 90s/early 2000s, a known golden age in which Kerry Getz counted his personal private ownership of costly European coupes by the dozen:

“Better in the late 90s and early 2000s, guaranteed! I feel bad for some of those dudes out there that are fuckin’ so good at skateboarding and may not ever get recognized. The companies just don’t have the funding. …I don’t even know how some of these dudes even get paid to to skate, to go around and make a living doing it.”

The concept of an economic widening among the professional rankings is not new; in particular, eastern-coaster pros have aired warnings for the better part of a decade, and evidence has emerged in video parts. But now, as we gird ourselves for the looming ’20s, for the first time in history, is it better to be a ‘fan of’ skateboarding than a professional or pro-track amateaure?

In those heady summers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, pro wages escalated and dove in accordance with contest supremacy and industry largesse. But for all others, skateparks remained far between, magazines relatively few, and televised video a luxury afforded strictly to The Fall Guy, certain copyrighted muppets, and JR Ewing’s oily asset base. By the time Jake Phelps declared skateboarding ‘dead’ in the early 1990s, it had gone thoroughly underground, draping itself in flappy t-shirts and brightly colored pants that served to mark pros and ‘joes’ as near-equals in the same downtrodden outcast tribe, separated only by their boards’ successful flip totals. Later, Tony Hawk and Wet Willy and Mountain Dew developed lucrative franchises that liberally showered American currency over pro and am ranks alike for several generations, until the Great Recession forced a harsh fiscal reckoning and Internet proliferation helped fuel a long-gestating fragmentation that has scooped out skateboarding’s middle, with some casualties.

For the hardgood/content/Culture consumer, meanwhile, the great internet blow-out has opened up a bottomless cornucopia serving any and every potential niche imaginable. Underserved and underrepresented groups can link and expand without need for sponsorship or co-signs from powers that be; prehistoric, pleistocene and popsicle deck options all are freely available; a bunch of European kids can make a Barcelona-heavy video heavy on circus tricks (by the ‘Trilogy’/’Mouse’ benchmark) and make it one of the year’s top videos; the Es Scheme has returned to the public marketplace, not that anybody necessarily asked.

Inevitably, good times end, leaving behind tears and broken dishes and oftentimes expensive legal bills. On The Bunt, Kerry Getz frets over cultural gluttony: “It’s just a clusterfuck of so many skateboarders, it’s like an overload. You almost don’t know who to zone in on and focus on. And the content is ridiculous these days. Every day dudes are dropping 50-second clips, a minute clip. That used to be like a full video part for some people. These dudes are just dropping the hammer every day.”

Kerry Getz, whom video footage previously has shown to be sensitive to stress, may represent an early indicator of what researchers have identified as ‘choice overload’ — pressure from having to choose among a steadily broadening set of options. Northwestern University researchers have found persuasive evidence of such stressors afflicting the U.S. consumer class, which can leave unprepared spenders feeling dissatisfied with their ultimate choices, fearful to choose in the first place, or refusing to make any decision at all.

Perhaps the most historic and extreme example showing the possible downside of such choice overload is that of Ghengis Khan, well-known leader of the Mongol horde, rugged individualist, and eventual emperor over most of modern-day Asia and Europe. Ghengis Khan, perhaps more so than any other empire-builder, contemplated a near-global range of options when mulling that central question: What to have for lunch to-day? At its peak, the Mongol empire touched cuisine options ranging from Korean BBQ and Russian borscht to lo mein noodles and various forms of goulash. And yet, according to ‘The Secret History of the Mongols,’ the great and terrible khan’s death came while, apparently unsatisfied with any of these myriad possibilities, he went hunting.

Can the untimely death of Ghenghis Khan some 800 years ago teach skateboarders important lessons about using and abusing Instagram and streaming video before it’s ‘too late’? Is Sour’s release of a second bananas video only about six weeks after their last one a ‘bridge too far’ or merely an outtakes-fueled flex? Did you know you can again buy clay wheels? Is everybody gonna die?

‘Get Some Or Get The Fuck Out’

March 16, 2019

Jake Phelps is dead. No two-week notice, no yearslong incremental torch passing, no forced retirement, as if — ’suddenly and easy’ his exit came, according to his uncle. Merciful maybe, but an unlikely end to a tale that seemed fated to finish in some lights-out crash or catastrophe, roughly. Still. As a bookend for a man who made his way in choppy, decisive words, it’s a flame-out versus a slow fade, and one with weight. Jake Phelps is dead.

You felt like you knew him since the volume on his personality ran so loud for so long, too loud sometimes and abrasive, but it was nothing if not consistent. Jake Phelps came camera ready with a rap sheet that reads almost suspiciously well written: NorCal kid transplanted to hardscrabble Boston, coming up just in time to watch the bottom crumble out of skating; doing around a decade in those industry meatgrinders, the skateshop counter and the shipping warehouse, until Thrasher’s reins got handed to him around the time of another industry nadir. Willy Staley’s 2016 profile for California Sunday — easily secular-press skate piece top five — succinctly charts how Jake Phelps remade Thrasher, maybe not in his own image, but for sure the one he aspired to.

And then he lived it, traveling the world, rolling in, breaking his bones, rearing generations of iconic skaters, getting punched, getting stitched up, enforcing rules that aren’t written anyplace, howling at the moon, skating. His matching worldview and lifestyle were blunt, purist and sometimes smacked of bumper-sticker sloganeering. Not always predictable, though. He mourned Prince. Ryan Sheckler, who deeply transgressed by lying to Jake Phelps’ face about bagging an El Toro trick, deserved a ban but didn’t get one. When the Bunt hosts marveled at his stamina and wondered whether they’d still be doing it at 55, Jake Phelps turned suddenly, almost shockingly parental: “Of course you will! You have to just believe in yourself.”

As piss and vinegar-soaked as he appeared up til his surprise dip-out, Jake Phelps for years had been a walking dinosaur, if not necessarily bombing straight toward some tar pit end. On any given morning barreling down his beloved Dolores Street, Jake Phelps surely embodied worlds in decline: Old San Francisco, famously non-PC, MJ1s on his feet until whatever deadstock tap ran dry, proofing a decades-old print publication with a snarling discontent any seasoned editor would recognize and respect. An artifact arguing and cussing every day for a place in a world moving some other way. And by all accounts disinterested in any skate-industry artifice beyond the one he ruled.

Within the journalistic canon, it’s easy to consider Jake Phelps among the lineage of Hunter S. Thompson, with his profane exhortations and self-destructive appetites, or Mark Twain, with his barbed quotables and steamboat-pilot gear, or Anna Wintour, Vogue’s fearsome empress, doling out blessings and banishments in equal turn. But Jake Phelps’ media arc may most closely align with Hugh Hefner, berobed lion of the Playboy masthead — similarly polarizing, uncompromising in his tastes, firmly fixed in his values, constructor of and living totem for an editorial vision that mapped ways and rules for a world where he aimed to live, and you could too. “Who was writing these dream stories? I was,” he told the Bunt boys.

The High Speed offices today likely face no key man risk. By all accounts Jake Phelps’ day-to-day duties at the mag were next to nil. As the last of the old mags still going, Thrasher’s trajectory and point of view seem safe in the hands of Tony Vitello, Michael Burnett, Michael Sieben, Lui Elliot, Dan Zaslavsky and the rest. There will be a hole there left by this one who Tony Hawk’s dad busted drinking beers in the skatepark parking lot, who the Texas authorities nabbed skating a full pipe 200 feet below a dam — who was so long and deeply entwined with the most important institution in skating that it seemed impossible to separate the two, and probably pointless. Somebody else now will write the dream stories, but not with precisely the same vividness, rancor, rapture, and complete commitment.

Check Out

March 10, 2019

Perhaps Pat Canale called it 20 years ago, bemoaning in Big Brother the ‘rave’ that was Transworld’s latest Ty Evans-helmed video. Pat Canale’s ‘rave’ critique became the subject of debate and scorn, most notably upon Ty Evans’ ‘FUCK CANALE’ grip job featured in ‘Chomp On This’ and also among certain rave circles. But, on the eve of Transworld print magazine’s passage into shadow, a man may take his moment to reflect on change, loss and techno raves. When the night grows darkest, when the lightless hours stretch out like yearsold sweatpants of blackest cotton, who remains? The premiere acts’ fans have gone, the dilettantes tucked in to sleep, the drug devotees scattered to their dens; those left are the true believers, or maybe just lost track of time. Sooner or later, the rave can no longer sustain itself, the party ends and everybody goes to Denny’s.

All that’s already been said is true: In those days of yore, before informational freedom and global connectivity enabled navel-gazers to signal boost and flatten medium access to sub-pancake levels, Transworld stood among a very few and precious portals to a then-exotic subculture. A glossy wormhole accessible from junior high libraries and Texaco magazine stands, through which a Midwestern middle schooler or Euro teen could peer into fantastical ramp configurations, learning tribal lingos, tracing fingers from the coping over the channel, circling in blue ink deck-graphic thumbnails that could sharpen anticipation to unbearable heights while those rectangular cardboard boxes inched their way from California.

But even when Transworld was running flatground flip trick covers and experimenting with non-static layouts, the platform Tracker built already was laying the foundation that would allow TWS more than any other legacy skateboard media property to expand and enrich itself in the 900/X-Games/THPS era: Reliably, its swears hunkered down under relatively safe font-size limits; it became the default venue as the Girl/Chocolate and World camps settled into grown-up LA apartments, cut-and-sew tops and luxury sedans, while Thrasher was fucking with Pete the Ox. Throwing open its pages to much-maligned ads for deodorant, hair gel, consumer packaged goods and the US military helped swell Transworld’s page count to Sears catalog levels and bankrolled video equipment that Ty Evans and his successors would use to revolutionize the skate video. Ramped slow-mo, meticulous editing cuts and Gap-ready techno singles were woven into top-shelf skating from both coasts — and even Thrasher standbys — into an incredible string of annual releases running from ‘Feedback’ to ‘The Reason’ to ‘Modus Operandi’ to ‘Sight Unseen’ to ‘IE’ to ‘In Bloom’ in a streak that now seems impossible to match.

While Thrasher survived its years in the wilderness and middling video efforts by building up its SOTY franchise and positioning itself for the great genre-mooshing ushered in by the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tour, TWS too-comfortably oriented itself around steadily fading Xerox copies of its golden-age video format — the voiceovers and interludes stuck around way too long and the caliber of skaters struggled to rise to the old, iconic levels as pros proliferated and video projects ballooned into multi-year, pan-global money-losers, hoarding footage and photos as they went. Transworld’s VHS/DVD-driven powers began to ebb around the same time that digital storage costs began to fall and broadband internet powers proliferated, shifting the center of the coverage universe away from company- and magazine-backed full-lengths and toward content-farm online platforms and eventually where it is today, Instagram and Thrasher.

Losing the mobile video battle to its longtime NorCal rival helped to seal Transworld’s fate, and surely is ironic given Transworld’s prowess within VCRs and DVD players for a good decade or so. But it is too easy to count Transworld among the newsstand bodies piled high by advertising’s shift to screens, even with its steadily shrinking pagecount and shift to bimonthly publication schedule putting the magazine in danger well before its print plug got pulled in the same game of corporate-asset hot potato that took out Alien Workshop and sunk Zoo York.

The wood-chippering of this once-mighty subcultural tentpole is sad and symptomatic of a broader entropy at play across skating, which has splashed board companies and screenprint brands across the scene like stars in the evening sky. There now are lanes, and lucrative ones, for Swedish H-Street devotees, head-tatted French gutter punks, runway-walking guitar strummers, Andy Roy, first-billing Soundcloud rappers, Saturday morning cartoon breakfast cereal bowl-drinkers. Transworld’s print magazine has not only become superfluous — the big-tent middle that was the magazine’s strength has been hollowed out and scattered across dozens of smaller camps. The East Coast/EU/underground surge that Transworld commendably, maybe calculatedly, but too late tried to harness for its new core unfortunately wasn’t enough, even with a Bronze champagne drip. As Transworld continues, in some respect, as a lower-cost online entity, the watch now is on to see if they update their own list of deceased print mags.

How many lunar cycles shall pass before Transworld’s current owners recognize and reap nostalgia for the magazine’s golden period via limited-edition, expensively priced hardcover books and photographic prints, or find new owners who will? Did Transworld’s video golden age end with ‘Sight Unseen,’ ‘Free Your Mind,’ ‘Subtleties’ or ‘And Now’? Will Thrasher offer any heartfelt send-off for its southern nemesis in the next ‘Trash’ column or will they take the opportunity to twist the knife? Can you find and identify all of the outdated technologies referenced in this blog posting about Transworld as an outdated technology laid low by its reliance on other outdated technology? Is it ironic in the traditional sense that this post itself comes in a years-out-of-fashion weblog format, or just in the Alanis Morissette sense?

Meet Sabatino Aracu, Boss Of All Skateboarding Bosses

March 3, 2019

Within the warehouses clapped together in that storied, swampy section of eastern Tampa, none appeared more powerful on this Tampa Pro weekend than sportpantsed ghetto birder Aurelien Giraud, a young French Plan B rider and Red Bull sipper of some description, positively soaring over would-be competitors en route to an obvious Best Trick crown and sceptre. Aurelien ‘Girbaud’ Giraud only is beginning to pen his own tale, to be told in ultra 4K, homie phone vids and promotional materials for his sponsors; it shall be cradled in digital video and still imagery and the occasional Q&A text companion.

Yet talents like Aurelien Giraud, immense and highflying as they may be, come and go. For nigh 20 years the Tampa contest and its drainage-ditch accoutrements have been governed by SPoT impresario Brian Shaefer. Since 2015, SPoT’s career-making Tampa events have shifted under the contesturial auspices of Street League Skateboarding, managed by former extreme sporting FuelTV media figure CJ Olivares. Street League itself since last year has been in thrall to World Skate, a global governing body created through the IOC-officiated shotgun marriage of the International Roller Sports Federation and the International Skateboarding Federation, where gymnastics camping mogul Gary Ream oversees skateboarding content. Above him — holding in his hands the global fate of skateboarding — sits, in a worldly Italian’s repose, Sabatino Aracua, CEO of World Skate.

64-year-old Sabatino Aracu rose to rollersports power thanks to a canny combo of political pragmatism and raw wit. In 2004, the former rollerskating athlete and Italian lawmaker saw his moment: the International Roller Sports Federation, entering its eighth decade and shut out of recognition as an Olympic sport, faced a schism over recognizing the rollerbladers of Spain’s Catalonia province as a separate nation. Sabatino Aracu vociferously argued against recognizing the Catalans, warning such a bold maneuver could torpedo rollersporting’s Olympic dreams. His predecessor stepped down over the debate, and Sabatino Aracu ascended to his first of four terms as the organization’s president; in his 2017 election, none opposed him.

Another brass ring was furiously rollerskated after and grabbed in the late 1990s, when skateboarding, roller sports’ comparatively scrappy stepchild which remained unrefined through choreographed dance routines, had drawn the Olympic Argus’ wandering eye. Here, the FIRS flexed its decades of familiarity with Olympic rules, asserting itself the official governing body of skateboarding. Sabatino Aracu, in a 2016 interview with ‘I, Skateboard’ dance abstractionist Dave Carnie, presents himself as a uniter of multi-wheeled disciplines, forging a kind of bureaucratic harmony wherein skateboarding will provide a camera-ready vehicle for rollersports’ final triumph over the Olympic cold shoulder — pushing, together, past provincial turf battles and fun-poking novelty t-shirts (on the skateboarders’ side at least):

“Concerning the relationship between skateboarders and rollerbladers,” President Aracu replied, “I honestly do not understand, and I do not see a reason for such a riff: Everyone has its own culture and its own uniqueness. As multidisciplinary International Federation, for years we have managed different disciplines without disagreements simply because we guarantee and respect culture, autonomy, and individuality of each discipline. The role of a manager transcends the specific technical skills inside the international federations.”

As skateboarding preps for its global internet streaming debut next year, Sabatino Aracu remains singular as its planetary controlling persona. His steely eyes and shining pate call to mind the futuristic empire-building of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the intergalactic masculinity of Captain Jean Luc Picard, the cerebral superpowers of Professor Charles Xavier. As a onetime competitive rollerskater he is intimately familiar with speeds that would make even the most iron-willed GX1000er drag his foot. He doubtless knows bearing-greasing secrets long ago handed down by the gods of yore and, when the chips are down, can be counted upon to don chainmail, hoist a helberd and raise aloud the battle cry in the face of overwhelming odds and an army of the living dead.

Could Sabatino Aracu’s yearslong rule and erudite quotations argue for or against presidential term limits for World Skate? Could enforced, compulsory participation in choreographed skate routines such as this help skateboarding heal the divisions and fragmentation wrought by the Instagram age? Are competitive speed rollerbladers and rollerdancing pros distraught at the prospect of their comparatively underground subcultures being coopted by skateboarding’s mainstream-and-malls set for an Olympic gold grab?

Where The Counter Ends

February 24, 2019

Car crash, stomach bug, blackened glass methamphetamine pipe, who knows. ‘Muppet Show’ rerun. It should’ve been more than two people on. The hour wasn’t even so late, 8:30? Doesn’t it usually take more to count out and close? Even on a weeknight?

“No pickle. Is there sauce?”

“The special sauce.”

“Wait, yeah. What is that again?”

Now he girds for a lengthy discussion of mayonnaisal properties, squeeze bottle dispensal and federally protected trade secrets. Odds of any swift exit shriveling. He inhales loudly, stuffs his hands into his Dickies. A few more sweaty midafternoon sessions and they’d approach prime conditioning. They’d be good then.

“Is the food ready yet? Daddy?”

Unfortunately, it was. A dozen bite-sized portions of white poultry meat, uniformly breaded and deep-fried and housed within layers of recyclable cardboard, packed in napkins and rubbery tubes of pink yogurt and catsup packets destined to be thrown straight away. All of it already bought and paid for, less than ten feet away. Sitting four, five minutes now.

“Too much dairy I can’t do, so…” “Sir, we can take it off.” “What, you mean like scrape it off the bun? or…” “Sorry, I mean we can take it off your order–”

“Daddy!” And tugging on his sleeve.

Hands back out of his pockets. The chain-link fence bordering the old middle school ledges usually didn’t need to be climbed back then, since the padlock got set loose enough that you could pull the gate back part way and squeeze through. After a few afternoons of the custodian sidling up and sucking down a Newport before asking if they couldn’t move along, they stopped sweating the ‘No Trespassing’ sign. On the odd occasion the Crown Vics rolled by, not once did any cops climb out. They’d bleep the siren once or twice, and everybody moved on.

“Daddy — what are you doing?”

The grin he flashes her as he walked toward the counter’s end seems not to register, or do much to calm her increasingly horrified expression as he steps around and behind the polished steel barrier, crossing some fabled Rubicon separating server and guest. And no smile could convey what this one probably needs to: don’t worry, this is no big deal, I worked at a place like this for a few months a long time ago, we’ve already paid, nobody will mind. You know how daddy rides his skateboard? Sometimes I used to ride it at schools and behind stores and other places like that and sometimes… well, no, probably too early yet to get into ignorance as a defense, or the ethics behind hopping fences, or asking forgiveness rather than permission, that one a slippery slope for sure…

“Daddy!”

“What?” He has them now, fingers curled into the brightly colored cardboard handles. “They’re right here—“

“Sir.”

The manager’s hand firmly guides him by the upper arm back toward his proper side of the counter, draws him up from his reverie of overcast Saturday afternoons, walking fast away from spots as police turned onto the street a block down, reminding each other not to look back at the squad car. His head slowly bobs in quiet acknowledgment as the manager, business owner, security guard, police officer strings together words and admonishments and hand-waving gesticulations to make that same point: No. And next to him, his daughter in shock, on the verge of tears even.

In his hand though, the cardboard and chicken meat, the tricks, grainy footage, the BSing and fresh sneakers and crackling empty water bottles. And as he buckles her in, somewhere hearing her plaintive questions about if and how they would tell mom, he grins again.

Juicy J Is The Josh Kalis Of Rap Music

February 17, 2019

Jenkem, the Web 2.0 endeavour currently bidding to outlive its by-decades forebear TWS, recently saw fit to challenge social media’s persnickety algorithm-twiddlers with a Ride Channel-worthy list feature matching up pro skaters with celebrity rap singers, an exercise in debate-stirring that stirred obligatory debate in comments sections and other corners of our web-0-sphere. As a throne-sitting timekiller it functioned reliably, ranging from the defensible (Stephen Lawyer/Lil Pump) to the deeply incongruous (Dylan Rieder/Tupac), while overlooking obvious parallels such as Terry Kennedy/Terry Kennedy and, most criminally, Josh Kalis/Juicy J.

For several decades now Josh Kalis and Juicy J have lived out curiously concurrent career and life paths, a few of which this here blog technology will explore with immediate effect. Both are widely admired veterans of their respective crafts, wisely sticking to their lanes and rising above fickle and frothy trend-tides to maintain clout and even elevate their statures in what would otherwise be considered their professional autumn years. Both will forever be associated with mark-making as part of iconic crews, formed in their respective home bases: Josh Kalis burning Philadelphia onto the map with Stevie Williams, Anthony Pappalardo, Brian Wenning, Kevin Taylor and others among the Love Park squad; Juicy J in Memphis with DJ Paul, Project Pat, Lord Infamous, Crunchy Black and Hypnotize Minds. It’s possible that Juicy J recorded his famous song ‘Slob’ around the same time Josh Kalis 360 flipped the can for ‘Photosynthesis.’

The sometimes-knowing cartoonishness of Three 6 Mafia’s peak era, similar to the Love Park era-height swishies and bulk boots, remains respected for its honesty and has come to be celebrated, convincingly aped and at times even transcended by a generation that at best twinkled in their parents’ pupils when the original shit was going down. Josh Kalis and Juicy J, after staying loyal to their original outfits probably longer than they needed to, both wound up signing with their proteges. Sensing a niche for a codeine-guzzling, pill-swallowing elder statesman figure, Juicy J looked upon a young guard of doom-draped devil-worshippers not as competitors or pretenders to be squashed, but as fresh energy for collaboration, legacy-burnishment and money getting:

“Them guys are like family members, man. I was on Twitter and everybody was hitting me [like], “Yo, yo yo, you gotta check out these guys, man. $uicideBoy$, their music sound like y’all. It sound like old Three 6 Mafia.”

Josh Kalis too has embraced his uncle status among the Love Park-resuscitating Sabotage crew, risking Pennsylvania’s tax-dispute statute of limitations to contribute a part to volume 4, and helping put them and newly pro-decked John Shanahan on with DGK:

A lot of these guys, Shanahan specifically, are at the forefront of creating a new look with the old stuff. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s his own interpretation of how he makes the mid-to-late 90’s-style look for him and that puts him in a lane of his own. He’s not copying me; he’s doing what John Shanahan likes. It’s taking some of the stuff we did or looked liked to the next level—-the John Shanahan level. His skating is like a better, more-modern twist of ’90s skate. Obviously he’s got way more pop than I’ve ever had.

Josh Kalis has only a handful of tricks in DGK’s new ‘Thoro’ vid, but his and Stevie Williams’ fingerprints are all over it as Dylan Sourbeer, John Shanahan, Kevin Bilyeu, Justin Adeniran and others stomp through Muni and assorted other Philly spots in an HD ‘Sabotage Lite’ masterminded by Brian Panebianco. The steadily sprawling DGK team here is distilled into an East Coast subdivision that occasionally veers into Washington and Chicago’s similar-looking inner-city plazas but never stays too long from those wax-smeared white benches and jumbo-sized board game pieces. Dylan Sourbeer goes end-to-end on an unbelievable backside nosegrind; Kevin Bilyeu deals out a meticulously flicked over-bin nollie flip that’s a QSTOP10 shoe-in; Justin Adeniran bangs a slow-twirling nollie hardflip into a bank and John Shanahan shove-its into various k-grinds and finally the pro ranks, for what seems like his third video part in six months or so.

Does Josh Kalis’ recent reunion with Michigander photog Mike Blabac presage a long-deferred and much-needed resumption of Juicy J’s musical partnership with DJ Paul? What does it say that Josh Kalis has got a brand-new pro model shoe out and not, say, Eric Koston? Will the kids right now in diapers and sock-shoes, who will inevitably one day revive John Shanahan and Brian Panebianco’s own retro stylings, be able to 3D print new Lynxes and Boxers or will they be forced to face off with laser swords at midnight in some Love Park replica to claim the handful of remaining deadstock pairs?

Watching For The Commercials In The Super Bawl Of Fantasy

February 3, 2019

Among the tangiest fantasies of the current, sportswear conglomerate-controlled era is the notion that skateboarders — long overlooked for their perseverance, pain threshold, creativity, daring precision — at last are recognized as equals to those jockstrap-equipped stadium-stuffers boasting major leagues, high exalted commissioners, and medical care generally unreliant on Superglue. It’s a charming tale of a ragged band of misfits made good, still rough around the edges but with hearts of gold, earning a seat for themselves at the big kids’ table of professional sport.

Much like the men, women and genderless robots of ‘Battlestar Galactica,’ who work together to overcome years of interstellar warfare to work toward harmonious human-robot relations of the diplomatic and carnal kind, it is a charming dream. But in this, our Year of the Pig, it remains only that. While majority league minimums in baseball, football and hockey variously challenge lower-tier talents to support a family on $535,000, $480,000 and $650,000, respectively, in skateboarding dudes are autofilling ridesharing applications and, if they’re lucky, receiving boxes with a suitable number of non-wack shoes to sell or trade.

Nevertheless! The most enduring and profitable entertainments find new ways of telling stories that already are well-knowed, if not necessarily true. On the eve of the world’s largest sporting event, Nike this week debuted a new video commercial file, portraying Eric Koston as a 40-something Tom Sawyer figure, mischievously creeping into the backyard of close bud Kyrie Irving to skate a coincidentally empty pool with a few of his closet friends from the 400-person Nike SB team. After Kyrie Irving’s high-cost technology system hips him to these skateboarders’ rascally plan, he uses the security-challenged Apple FaceTime technology to engage Eric Koston in lighthearted banter, humorously admonishing him to ‘call first.’

The commercial on its merits is fine, if bland. Its main misstep is propelling an unconvinced audience into a fantasy land where multimillionaire NBA stars and pro skaters are jovial, back-slapping peers — a story, perhaps, that Nike likes to tell itself. But remember, it’s the NBA player’s mansion and pool, not Eric Koston’s.

A better path would be for Nike to recognize and satirize the already lopsided dynamic. Eric Koston, Lance Mountain and Alex Olson slouch in an office doorway facing a mid-level Nike marketing official, who tells them they need to come up with a concept for a Nike skateboarding commercial — “some ramp stuff that’ll play in the Midwest,” he barks before slamming shut the door. Out in the hallway, Kyrie Irving walks by with his entourage, on his phone loudly scheduling pool cleaners for the upcoming weekend when he’ll be out of town. The Nike SB riders look at one another and begin texting their teammates.

Cut to the session at Kyrie Irving’s freshly emptied pool, where Eric Koston peels off a roll of bills (tens and fives, naturally) for a couple of lounging pool cleaners, while Lance Mountain, AO and others film tricks.

Cut to the following Monday, where Eric Koston delivers the edited footage to the grouchy Nike marketing official. They put it on in his office, and Kyrie Irving again passes by with his entourage in the hallway — but this time Kyrie Irving looks in and stops, staring at the screen. Eric Koston slumps down in his chair as Kyrie Irving looks from the screen to Koston, back to the screen. Kyrie Irving gives Koston a quizzical look: “Wait, you work here?” The commercial ends.

Did skateboarder’s hopes for a professional minimum salary level die along with Rob Dyrdek’s dreams for a skaters’ union? Does there exist a ‘rough cut’ of Nike’s commercial in which Kyrie Irving clowns Eric Koston for not having a video game character in the last 10 years’ worth of THPS titles? Is this commercial ripe for parody by the remaining aggressive inline rollerbladers, except where they’re barging Lance Mountain’s backyard pool?

Trendwatch 2K19: Lawyering Up

January 26, 2019

Soda headband all the way on, Leticia Bufoni last week showed the rickety, seatbeltless and whiplash-providing rollercoaster that is the competitive contest skater’s emotional inner life on this, tha eve of the 2020 Summer Time Olympics. With a nearly half-full arena on its feet, Leticia Bufoni goes full Bastien on a serviceable lipslide, only to see it all torn away moments later by the fatal combo of Aori Nishimura’s rote boardslide and an opaque scoring algorithm. Such is the story of all our lives, only with less national pride and energy juice funds at stake, and perhaps bodily safety.

The Seaholmed setup says it all, speaking not only for Leticia Bufoni, but the team she represents. Beyond the Plan B FamilyTM, the path toward wallowing in Olympic gold and loudly blared sovereign anthems increasingly stands a group effort, paved in judicial tomes and buttressed by rich mahogany wall paneling, professionalized places where all-black Emerica shifters probably don’t cut the workwear mustard like they might in the computer science or customer service realms. It is within such hallowed halls that the would-be action sporting medalhoister must seek wisdom and succor for those tricks that require fine print decypherage, or specialist counsel for bloody scrapes of the legal kind.

Skateboarding always has been governed by unwritten rules; increasingly, it bows to written ones, trading no-compliance for steadier career pathways, societal thumbs-ups and, crucially, coin of the realm with which any number of foreign cars and uniquely shaped vape pens can be acquired*. Egged on by roller sports governing bureaucracies and gymnastics entrepreneurs, skateboarding has tooted the Olympics Warp Whistle, and now the miniature tornado approaches, promising transport to a new and wetly glistening land. Here awaits governance: the uniforms and sticker placement strictures are yet to come, but already Olympic aspirants such as Creature fiend Cory Juneau are running afoul of drug policies, with the support and encouragement of Mount Olympus clout-chasers such as Street League, and shouted from official rooftops by megaphone-bearers including World Skate President Sabatino Aracu and UK Anti-Doping educational and support executive Amanda Hudson:

“With skateboarding set to make its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, it’s vital that athletes have a good educational grounding on all things ‘clean sport’ and their anti-doping responsibilities, ahead of the Games.”

In many ways these developments reflect simply an Elton Johnish mobius strip: More rules require more lawyers and administrators, whose salaries and billable hours require more funding via corporate sponsorships, requiring more big events, requiring more rules and administration, requiring more administrators and lawyers, requiring more sponsors and exclusive partners. This looping logic is reminiscent of many naturally occurring circles, including the bassline of the Big Tymers’ famous 2000 single ‘Get Ur Roll On.’

Are the Olympics the end result of such a cycle or a catalyst for more? Does the accumulation of wealth, like a katamari rolling swiftly down a mountain made of dollar bills, make legal targets out of accumulators and profit drivers such as Nyjah Huston? Could a reasonably priced yet highly respected correspondence-course law degree place Frank Gerwer in position to emerge as skating’s Jackie Chiles?

*Real ones will recall one of Rob Dyrdek’s cardinal rules of professional skating: lease, don’t buy