Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Summertime Mixtape Vol. 7 — Aquil Brathwaite, ‘Vicious Cycle’

July 6, 2019

Ignore for a minute the incongruity that goes with soundtracking an East Coast kid in an East Coast vid to ‘California Soul’ — in its way it functions as a leading indicator of Zoo’s geographical and mercantile wanderings under the ‘00s Ecko regime. Like all things summertime it’s really about the vibe. Aquil Brathwaite stepped out as a young charger with bottomless energy for snapping trick after trick across pretty much all the media-friendly New York spots going at the time and then some, pushing and pushing and popping something new with the same cocktail of freewheeling ability and youthful exhuberance brought by ‘WHL’-era PJ Ladd and ‘Trilogy’-era Lavar McBride. Maybe fitting for a dude whose most memorable footage came on his arrival, Aquil Brathwaite’s powers at the time were such that he avoided little-kid style even on certified little-kid tricks like the varial flip, and this section remains a document for all seeking truth in switch ollies, kickflip backside 5-0s and hardflip backside 180s.

Under The Killing Moon: A Jeff Grosso, Beach Private Eye Adventure

June 30, 2019

Tangy surf-guitar stabs rippled out of the passing El Camino, along with an acrid stream of PCP smoke. Jeff Grosso wasn’t one to judge, having tied one on himself the evening before. That was a night to forget, and he had. Now he cracked a yellowed grin as the blueish smoke faded into the afternoon haze. To Grosso, it was the smell of money.

His Detroit cop buddies used to call summer the killing season. Here in Aranda Beach, summer lasted all year round. Depending on your business, that could be good or bad. Grosso craned his head, face settling back into the long-worn ruts of a scowl as he strained to make out the police scanner’s drone in the office behind him. The place was his. The letters across the window said so: Jeff Grosso, Private Investigator.

“One side, Flubber,” he rumbled at the seal sprawled half across the office doorjamb. The seagoing mammal snorted as Grosso strode over it, crushed ice sloshing in his empty cup. If he were hunting clues today, that would make it a good bet the seal was alive, appearances to the contrary. Truth be told, though, Grosso wasn’t much of a betting man. More a guzzle-comped-drinks-til-you’re-asked-to-leave type. He turned up the scanner volume and thumbed loose the rum’s flimsy tin cap. Two more bodies fished out the canal this morning. The cap spun loose and tumbled to the floor. Some things never changed.

There were easier ways to make a living in a town like Aranda Beach and Grosso knew most of them. Respectability, good graces, punctuality, personal hygiene — adjectives like these hadn’t presented themselves to the good Lord when He was filling out the great Mad-Lib of Jeff Grosso’s life. Learn a trade, his mother used to tell him. Undertakers make more and get better hours, she said. Since you don’t mind mucking around with dead bodies. That much was true. He never had the heart to tell her that his own talents tended more toward making them, not prettying them up afterwards. Sometimes you don’t need to read the Mad-Lib to the end to get a laugh. Sometimes, you didn’t need to read at all.

Three daiquiris usually were good to get Grosso’s brain limbered up for an afternoon thinking his way around corners, most of which these days had a debt collector on the other side. Afternoons when he got to five, like this one, either meant he’d just closed a case or hadn’t in too long. He slumped back into his chair, scowled again, turned the scanner louder. No ID yet on the bodies. That’d come. And then maybe a case. Another sixteen days before rent was due. Grosso had lived down worse odds.

His last hitch on the force helped Grosso perfect the trick of nodding off with slitted eyes and furrowed brow — “just thinking, is all,” when somebody wandered in. Enough to fool Aranda Beach’s desperates and chanceless tourists whose predicaments got hopeless enough to draw them through this particular office door, on the rougher side of a resort town long gone to seed. But she’d known him far too long, and in all the worst ways, to be fooled when she marched in over the seal and leaned over his desk.

“Huhwuzzah,” Grosso attempted, not well.

“Yeah,” she curled her lip. “Great.”

It’d been years since she’d hosted YouTube video clips for the SoCal action sporting goods chain, but Grosso doubted he’d ever think of her as anything other than Active Erica. Jet-dark curls draped her eyes, fixing him with the look a person might give a dog that blundered into a nest of angry skunks, then caught its tail on fire and ran yipping toward a gas station. A nap he’d figured on this afternoon, a new case maybe. Five daiquiris, hey, it’s almost the weekend. But not this. Not her.

“Erica,” he managed. Blinked twice. “How… expected.”

“Holy shit, shut up.” She relieved a metal folding chair from its lodebearing role beside the nearest wall, opened it and banged it into position across from him. Glaring, she leaned back in. “You owe me. Remember?”

Now, Grosso knew a half-dozen ways to bat a soft ball like that, and the daiquiris humbly suggested a few more. Every once in a while, though, he couldn’t completely hold off the better judgement that he’d occasionally collected over two decades spent rubbing elbows with Aranda Beach’s most forgettable deadbeats and rip-off artists. But he couldn’t help smiling.

“Good,” he murmured, pulling open a desk drawer, setting the rum back inside and holding it open long enough for Erica’s eyes to flick down to the loaded Desert Eagle he kept inside. “This afternoon was starting to look awful boring.”

Now she smiled, too, briefly. “Just like old times.”

“We should be so lucky.”

Instead of the cussing out he probably deserved, he thought she maybe smiled again, and now he knew he was pushing his luck. Her bulky black leather jacket helped conceal it, but he hadn’t missed the shoulder holster’s bulge under her left arm. In Aranda Beach, missing a thing like that could get you killed — or worse, wrapped up in the kind of trouble that had taken daiquiri number six’s spot on this afternoon’s calendar.

“Skate Moss, she goes by,” Erica thumbed onto her phone a photo, a smiling blonde in a pink ski cap. Grosso blinked at it, briefly recalling long-ago California summers and his unpaid dental bills. “Know her?”

Grosso shrugged. “Seen her around, maybe.”

“Nobody else has for the last two weeks.” Erica tapped the screen. “No posts since just after the beginning of the month.”

“So?”

“Her sponsors are worried. That’s not who hired me, though. Her friends say she was headed this way.”

The police scanner barked. “Deceased both male, mid-20s, one reported missing three days ago, other still unidentified.”

They glanced at each other and Grosso creaked back in his chair. Outside, the El Camino rolled by again, now blasting DMX.

“Wonder if he’s back in jail,” Grosso muttered.

“What?”

Grosso grimaced, blinked a couple times, drummed his fingertips on his desk. “Hungry?”

She just looked at him.

“Ceviche. John’s is the place. Over by the pier.”

She didn’t say anything.

“Shanahan’s a good kid, took it over from his pops a couple years back, he’s pretty green still, but sharp, yeah. A lot of nylon and puffy tongues, likes his yellow. But the best ceviche for 40 miles up and down the coast. And he keeps his ears open. If anybody heard what this friend of yours was getting up to, he’ll know.”

Erica nodded and paused, looked at the wall behind him. “Not gonna lie, Grosso. This might get rough.”

He opened the desk drawer again. “I’m hungry. Let’s go.”

Cellar Door Seeking, Switch Backside 5-0 Grinding, Contented Old Men

June 22, 2019

O, it is a difficulty, amidst these hostile troll farms, the spammy bots, the federal US antitrust privacy probes, the poisonous and pervasive loudness — recall, citizen, that there once was a time when The Internet was envisaged to become a digital daisy-chain bridging cultural and physical gaps, drawing disparate populaces closer, and placing mammalian humanoids on a path toward a computer-enhanced shangri-la similar to the one depicted in Star Trek Tha Next Generation. In the current moment it instead comes off as something of a wi-fi enabled social cheese grater, slicing our species into smaller and smaller social factions fittable inside cozy bubbles depicted in a five-years-too-late Alien Workshop graphic, and ripe for a post-singularity steamrolling by the Earth’s presumptive machine custodians. In the meantime DGK’s giving Kevin Taylor a guest board though.

Third-grade math posits one of life’s great lessons, that it is possible, at least when multiplying two negative figures, to come away with a positive. So it is that living generations must contemplate Bobby Puleo’s recent, sunnier turn via several Internet-based longform media appendages. Nearly two decades ago, back toward the time when the skate-o-sphere expanded enough to fragment into a mainstream, an underground and various other subdisciplines identifiable via trick trends and readily purchased uniforms, the public perception of Bobby Puleo began to shift — the velvet-footed bank-to-ledge artist seemed to harden his Oyolist views regarding street skating purity, growing a beard, earning a reputation for obsessive spot secrecy, and voicing (if not enforcing) a rigid framework of unwritten law regarding who should be filming or taking photos at what spots. Observers observed a shift from goofy shimmying in ‘Static II’s definitive part to electronically haranguing Josh Stewart over corporate employerships and matters of general cred, later deriding Mark Suciu’s Philadelphia residency as “tourist types coming in and running through the resources.” In Solo a couple years back, he put it like this: “I don’t have a lot of rules, but there are rules.”

In a pursuit ostensibly based in large part on rejection of organized sport conventions, rules very much included, this occasionally got peoples’ backs up and branded Bobby Puleo something of a scold. It’s a role he sometimes seemed to knowingly lean into, such as his zestful grousing over Theories inexplicably replicating one of his old ads for a Hopps/Cons promo last year. Other times he has come off reflexively cynical, like his critique of Steve Brandi’s coming out around the time of the Cons/Hopps product launch.

Earlier this year, when Chris Roberts’s Nine Club podcast unveiled a nearly three-hour sitdown with Bobby Puleo, listeners of a certain age braced for a dogmatic, graduate-level ‘True East’-minded lecture laced with detours into numerology-based population control. While an ages-long alliance between Freemasons and The Great Old Ones potentially forced Nine Club controllas to edit out the latter, Bobby Puleo’s continued ruminations on early 1990s rap music law guiding his philosophies came off more measured and less didactic, perhaps because it arrived alongside rambling stories about losing a wheel en route to a SoCal skatepark (Bobby Puleo skates skateparks — California ones no less), his own intense fan fixations (‘Mouse’-era Guy Mariano, vintage stickers, his dream of attending board-collector swap meet Skater-Con*), and his endearingly hyper-specific footage preferences (Texas backyard vert ramps).

This month Thrasher centered one of its ‘Out There’ segments on Bobby Puleo, graybeareded and gamely reminiscing on his first cellar door, cruising on his bike for back-alley spots, and hunting for aesthetically affecting garbage to make into art projects. Here, his tricks remain quick-feeted and feather soft, but there is little sign of the fearsome and uncompromising Bobby Puleo one might worry would blindfold you and drive you around for several hours before pulling up at the spot to film tricks. Touring his childhood spots, the vid raises the prospect of a galaxy collapsing back in upon itself in a sort of ‘big crunch’ that could perhaps end/begin again with a more contented, peaceable Bobby Puleo.

Is time sanding off Bobby Puleo’s harsher edges, are the rest of us getting harder in a mean age, or has the text-based medium of earlier Internet communications obscured something in his tone all these years? Are purity and happiness mutually exclusive? Do those found-object art pieces contain crytograph puzzle clues that, properly assembled, will lead some future Bobby Puleo devotee to uncover his secret map of spots decades in the future? Why is ‘the industry’ continuing to ignore Godzilla’s ballooning heaviness? Have you ever seen a bad Kevin Taylor photo?

Boil The Ocean Blog Is Out Here Asking The Tough Questions About Godzilla’s Body Image And The New Matt Militano Part Dudes

June 2, 2019

Hollywood isn’t ready to talk about the summer blockbuster season’s biggest open secret: Godzilla has let himself go. Just when the human race needs the apartment block-sized reptilian avenger most, it appears that Godzilla’s typical between-battle sabbatical has swelled his girth to even more immense proportions, potentially posing a tactical disadvantage as Godzilla goes up against triple-headed ne’er-do-well King Ghidora and/or attempts to tuck in a dress shirt. “Why do I seem to be the only critic-columnist on the planet earth who’s even mentioning this obvious fact?” blogs movie Blogger Jeffrey Wells, suggesting that the film industry is loathe to offend overweight moviegoers by focusing on Godzilla’s extra tonnage. Elsewhere, as Godzilla thumps vigorously in the rain against his rubbery adversaries, the radiation-birthed behemoth is proffered as a ‘thicc icon’, mainly regarding his wordless powers of persuasion to lobby Mothra and Rodan into defending our planet against Ghidora.

Like many Godzilla plot points, the non-debate over Godzilla’s heaving, scaly waistline provides several key takeaways for the skateboard-selling business. This week upon their Instagram platform, Politic Boards performed a digital mea culpa for what has been one of the most nagging, obvious and yet rarely discussed question marks hovering over the past decade: How come Ross Norman, velvet-heeled flip trick practitioner and genteel southern person, is not pro? “It’s my fault he’s not,” Politic’s managers this week said. “I thought he didn’t care too much. So when I did finally ask him, he was so happy to be part of the family I felt terrible I didn’t ask earlier.” The professionally endorsed 7.75″ aims to correct the oversight, along with a reliably cracking debut vid showcasing Ross Norman’s long-beloved ‘Trilogy’ drip: nollie 180 switch k-grinds, fakie backside nosegrinds, mirror noseblunt slides with Rob Welsh vibrations, the wife beaters and white tees come included.

As any clued-in Godzilla observer realizes, however, as soon as one existential threat to humanity is fatally body-slammed into the urban rubble, ancient forces and mankind’s bottomless hubris already are awakening another laser-eyed city wrecker via military testing or occult rituals. Now comes Matt Militano, onetime early casualty of Alex Klein’s blighted OIAM season, now a nearly decadelong journeyman of flow programs and scene vids, sporting a spaced Stefan Janoski visage and weaving together enjoyably tangled ledge combos. along the U.S. East Coast. Matt Militano’s time in the trenches has produced his share of video parts and assorted potpourri, but his entry in Zach Sayles’ new ‘Vanish’ vid is the most thorough accounting so far of his deep and varied skills — ranging here from a tall backside flip up to fakie manual on one of the tall Muni cans to a backside 180 out of a Brooklyn Banks wallride, to a thorough working-over of the colored Philly step-up blocks and an unexpectedly long backside nosebluntslide popped off a cellar door. The whole vid, with a mix of Sabotage and GX associates, can be had for $10 here.

With Ross Norman’s long-awaited professionalizing finally complete, what companies now will tend to Matt Militano’s too-long overlooked shoe, board and bank account situations? Say Palace, what about Jamal Smith anyways? After Matt Militano and John Shanahan, who will be the third to officially make the backside nosegrind to backside noseblunt a trick trend? Who had a bigger impact on rap music production: Bob James’ rhythm section or Godzilla? Is Godzilla the long-rumored ‘fifth element of hip hop’? If Godzilla came back skinny in his next movie, would theories begin a-swirling about a Gucci Mane-type clone, or would people simply buy his new mixtape?

Jamie Foy Is The 90-10 King

May 26, 2019

These days, tricks need to do more. Executing barrel rolls, 180-degree denominated rotations and combinations thereof long ago ceased to be enough. In our bristly and perspirating time, tricks are called upon to be vehicles — grinding, sliding platforms upon which a body can place other tricks, greater distance, more kinks, personal brands, and, for those heedful of Rob Dyrdek’s sensible advice, luxury automobile lease payments.

Such is the role for certain tricks that years ago became too basic to regularly inspire on their own — the boardslide, the 50-50 grind, the backside noseslide. The recent dad trick renaissance aside, these maneuveurs now occupy a building-block role similar to the wide and flat Lego pieces upon which any number of castles, moon bases or Disney-licensed models can and must be constructed. While the noseslide has segued into a nostalgia piece and the boardslide has undergone some brutal grafting-on of other tricks to ‘stay relevant,’ their forms by and large have remained the same. Less so with the 50-50, which as we shall see has gradually mutated into nearly an entirely different trick altogether, so as to go deeper, farther and sometimes, to a different time/space entirely.

The year was 1992, Instagram had yet to be innovated, and Pat Duffy was the Terminator in plaid flannel; upon initial viewing, his double-kink 50-50 grind down the handrail towards the end initially struck some as unbelievable camera trickery. But upon chin-strokeful lookings back, the trick is fairly textbook in its execution, a hint of toe-side pinch on the mount, leveled out between the trucks for the rest of the descent. Jamie Thomas, top street-style skateboarder and late-1990s inheritor of the House 50-50, made them truly so in ‘Welcome to Hell’ — sailing one down the big Brooklyn Banks rail, the noted tail-tap ride-out on the long flat bar, and leaning slightly backside through the final 20-stair. But similar to the industry empire-building that was to come, Jamie Thomas also hints toward the utilitarian evolution the 50-50 itself would undergo over the next decades, skewing the rail between the toe-side of his front truck and the heel side of his rear truck in the bump-to-bar 50-50 transfer.

Twenty something years later, robots drive our semi trucks, the biggest Nas in the music biz is a country-western singer, and the 50-50 is a different creature. You can still find the ‘classic editions,’ but it’s just as common to find the post-Y2K, hybrid-ready variant: the 90/10, or 10/90, in which the rail is jammed nearly crossways between the front and back trucks for improved positioning for the next kink, or the flip trick out, or the final 20 feet. In our bionic age, the main requirement no longer is just getting to the bottom, the people require more.

It should come as no surprise that the lead 90-10 practitioner is Jamie Foy, the ‘pinch god’ knowed for popping out of frontside crooked grinds higher than lesser ones can ollie. For Jamie Foy, the 90-10 is the preferred landing position for once-unthinkables like kickflipping onto a round and ‘skateproofed’ bar. With the 90-10, he can hop onto a round kinker and very soon pop a shove-it out, relax atop a cutty triple set while eyeing the sidewalk ride-off to come, or navigate the gentleman’s curve of yet another overlong and kinked round rail.

Like all worthwhile paydirt in skateboarding’s great intellectual property pile, the 90-10 rapidly has drawn eager prospectors well on their way toward mining it out. The skate industry’s little bro made good Kader Sylla is a convert, as is Creature’s heathen warlord Kevin Baekkel. Jamie Foy’s SOTY predecessor Kyle Walker uses a long 90-10 to reposition at the tail end of his ‘Spinning Away’ helicopter factory before riding away clean.

Will the 90-10, practical but aesthetically sort of off-putting, clear the way for a renaissance of ‘true’ 50-50s, similar to what Brian Wenning’s mid-block pop-outs did for the backside nosegrind? Is the 90-10 made easier through truck wear on similarly pinch-ready tricks, such as the crooked grinds that dig out what Ted Barrow has termed the ‘crook nook’? Is the increasingly technical nature and rising danger quotient of modern 90-10-related tricks antithetical to the more mellow, soul-carving world envisioned by the probable Ipath-skating hippies whose loose trucks style opened the way for first the pinch and then the 90-10 itself?

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?