8. Dane Vaughn – ‘Laugh Now Cry Later’

December 24, 2015

Occasionally fitted like Puffy’s Hamptons pool boy and targeting tricks at times like DGK’s answer to Dylan Rieder, swamp threat Dane Vaughn has been one of the more interesting dudes coming up among the company’s third generation, or fourth, or whatever it may be with Stevie Williams piloting nautical clothing concerns, Jack Curtain riding for Staba and Keelan Dadd striking out on his own. The sun is shining on Dane Vaughn, nudging noseblunt slides across sporadically reluctant planters, kickflipping into a frontside noseslide on JKwon’s tall block like it’s a curb, laughing off a nollie inward heelflip to calamity crash and on the ender, defying any type of conventional wisdom as to the smooth handling of a barely imaginable block-top move.

9. Brandon Nguyen – ‘Bunker Down’

December 23, 2015

The initial video clips heralding Alien Workshop’s stripped-down resurrection went long on ‘Memory Screen’ level image cryptology and edit-bay abrasion, which goes some way in explaining why October’s ‘Bunker Down’ reintroductory video, hewing closer to a more straight-ahead Habitat lane, came off kind of more ‘Time Code.’ Sect-worthy skating was offered up from Joey Guevara, Max Garson and particularly Brandon Nguyen, who could legitimately jockey for a T-Eddy themed around wallride prowess. He’s got a wild type of double wallride transfer in ‘Bunker Down’ and the most convincing pop out of one since Tom Taxpayer went in for Transworld, plus all types of dipped smith grinds, a whirligig frontside 360 and perhaps the year’s best Pupecki grind, back to forward.

10. Gustav Tønnesen – ‘The Sour Solution’

December 22, 2015

Skating’s heightened infatuation with slappies has trod familiar terrain, taking a good idea and mainly blowing it out while an anointed few, such as Norwegian confectionery Gustav Tønnesen, don headlamps and breathing masks to pick loose the remaining seams of rich slappy ore. He unearths some unspeakable moves from out of the k-grind shaft in ‘Sour Solution,’ putting a Tilt Moded spin on a part otherwise bubbling over with lackadaisical tech moves, man-bun stylings and some appropriately slow-motioned back-foot flicks, gratis Thrasher subscriber swag included. This dude ranges far and wide, making bad-on-paper stuff like a nollie b/s 180 switch backside smith grind revert look presentable to comment section skeptics, and wandering onward after stairs halt his filmer.

UAVLand in Bad Decline

December 5, 2015

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It’s the kind of place where you eat the beer and drink the glass. Weeds masquerade as stunted trees between the gently rusting aluminium walls that separate piles of empty vodka bottles and overfilled ashtrays into sweaty 18×90 units. Skateboards delaminate here and there, the colours of their oversized, rubbery wheels dimmed by dust and cobwebs.

A beer can arcs in the general direction of a passing drone, bearing a cardboard box to some presumably tonier neighborhood. The can poses little danger to the drone or the stray cats that loll across the gravel; it’s empty. They nearly always are so.

“Goddamned buzzards,” croaks the can hurler, sagging back into the fraying and one-armed lawn chair that’s supported him most of the afternoon. He reloads, cracking another beer.

Sal Bromer, like the gray-and-black handheld video recorder deteriorating inside his and many other trailers here, is a relic. For all his other bleak attributes, he is not alone. This motor park is the largest and most impoverished of more than a dozen that fester a region southwest of Los Angeles that has come to be known as the ‘VX Belt.’

Once high-flying — or at least not-so-lowly — cinematographers chronicling California’s vibrant and gritty skateboard subculture, the denizens of Mosswort Park have been relegated to history’s sidelines by that sleek, merciless and irresistible conqueror, technology. These men, and they all are men, do not share the atrophied brawn of the displaced steelworker or the dusty precision of the obviated auto assembly-line worker. But they share grievance.

Most don’t care to discuss skateboarding, which for a time covered rent in better places than this and, if it didn’t buy top-shelf liquor, ensured a reliable roll of good times and fraternal respect as skateboarding elevated its top talents from disused pools and parking lots to television shows, movie studios and Olympic podiums.

Skateboarding, or at least fans’ view of it, for years literally rested in these men’s hands, captured in bubble-eyed lenses and digital memory cards to be broadcast to screens around the world. The filmers here rode that wave, cultivating their own esoteric celebrity for techniques behind the cameras and occasionally on the board, securing signature model wheels and other accessories. Some of these baubles still darken particle-board shelving units here, but mostly they’re talked about, and mostly late at night.

“Seen Seth Grihgs skating downtown last week,” growls Gerald Hooder, shuffling down the drive. His hands stuff themselves into his pockets and he told this story yesterday.

“Mm.” Sal doesn’t look up.

“Buzzard. Set to film around mid-thigh five o’clock with the ledge backside. Footage’ll look like dogshit even if he landed it, I coulda told him that. Anybody coulda.”

Sal grunts again.

“So let it look like dogshit like he’s skating a six-inch curb, I say. The hell with it, hell with him.”

Another quadcopter passes overhead and both go quiet. Ger inquires about a cigarette but leaves with no reply from Sal. He shuffles across the gravel, seeking some other audience.

Drones once were servants to these men. Even before canned beer bloated their middles and age stiffened their legs, no filmer could sail overhead to capture tricks cascading down a busy street, or pivot in front of a speeding skateboarder without tripping him or her up. But drones could. At first the high-tech plaything of top-shelf filmers with big companies behind them, by the time the helicopters became cheap and versatile enough to fly their way into most filmers’ toolkits, newer models emerged that required no human control at all, able to track and follow skaters at first with pocket-sized receivers and later by movement and machine learning alone. By the time filmers began joking over beers about their looming obsolescence, it had already happened.

Sal blinks when his name’s called but doesn’t look around. His gaze remains fixed on the horizon just beyond the burned-out trailer opposite his, or perhaps the blackened hulk itself. The call comes again. He sips and faintly grimaces.

Teddy Gundasen’s rangy frame juts halfway out of a trailer three spaces down, probably the park’s best-kept. A bushy brown beard looks like it’s playing catch-up with the feral curls on his head and there’s no shirt under his denim overalls. “Sal. Sal! Let me look at your camera.” Teddy gestures with a Phillips head screwdriver. When Sal doesn’t respond he raps the tool against his windowframe, which reveals itself to be loose, drawing Teddy’s attention and some muttered swears.

“Seemah Clarke hit me up this morning.” Teddy throws wide his screen door and practically heaves a visitor into his trailer’s front room. Video cameras, in various states of repair, occupy nearly any open space and tools the rest. “Her buzzards’re busted and sounds like something she needs to film so I’m gearing up.” His hands rest on his hips in what, for Teddy, is a rare moment of stillness, but his fingertips drum and his eyes dart here and there. “That one, I should take. Just because it’s got some fresh batteries. And that one, in case she needs to stitch the footage, don’t know what she’s got in mind. Need the fisheyes. Want coffee? Sal should let me look at his camera.”

Teddy jitters away to find a backpack. Many of the cameras taking refuge here aren’t his: They are persuaded, cajoled from cardboard boxes and musty canvas bags that mark time in his neighbors’ trailers, relinquished to Teddy’s manic energy and his demanding promises to repair them. “Everything moves in cycles, especially in skating,” he announces, rummaging somewhere unseen, and loudly. “The buzzards’ve had a good run. Not like they’re gonna go away, right, but they’ve been around, people know what they can do, what it looks like. People, some people want to see that bottom-of-the-steps fisheye angle, maybe a little shake in the shot for the roll-away.” He reappears, screwdriver probing the air in some vain effort to punctuate this monologue. “That lets you know, somebody was there for it, got stoked on the trick, mark the footage with your palm, at least I do, I never stopped, but that’s the type of thing people don’t see anymore when they see clips and you can tell they miss it, something’s missing, it’s subtle but people can tell.” He’s gone again, constructing a skateboard from components scattered across a half-dozen completes littering the cramped hallway.

“Headed out then Teddy.” Ger leans in the doorframe, picking through discarded butts cradled in one yellowed palm. “Seemah again? Gonna film?”

Teddy frowns but doesn’t look over and doesn’t stop twirling the elephant wrench.

“Ain’t you and her film last month? And before that too?” Ger’s half-lidded eyes follow Teddy down the hall. “Ain’t ever seen the footage though, right. Huh.”

Teddy’s back with a handful of bushings. “I tried to tell you. It goes in cycles. She wants to do a part that’s all manual filmed, or most of it. She’s been working on it. Remember when people went back to filming VHS? And VX? Or even Hi-8 before that? Same thing. Tried to tell you that, thought you’d remember, guess you don’t, probably had your nose in the gravel looking for change and beers that weren’t all drank up.”

If Ger processes any of this, his half-lidded eyes don’t let on. “When you gonna fix my camera, Ted.”

“Get the fuck out of here, I’m bouncing in a minute. Go.”

Ger chuckles, or starts to, but settles for a lengthy string of wet coughs. He won’t swing past this section of the park again until tomorrow when there’s another fire. Teddy doesn’t emerge for the remainder of the day and never heads out to film Seemah Clarke, dead nearly two years following a car wreck. Midnight passes before Sal staggers off his amputee lawn chair. Overhead, the drones hum their endless rounds.

Atomic Drop

November 29, 2015

This fall, using now-retired Osiris pro and eponymous mutual aid organization leader Josh Kasper as a cipher, Jerry Hsu might have inadvertently blown the lid off one of the industry’s most jealously guarded secrets — that the dramatic plotlines and festering beefs underlying so many video parts, graphical concepts and magazine ads may be meticulously scripted to wring maximum discretionary dollars and tweenage emotion from each expertly slow-motioned ollie over an earmuffed DJ. To wit:

I don’t want to throw him under the bus too hard here but how he would go about these demos…I heard he was really influenced by pro wrestling and that made a lot of sense to me. He would apply that same mentality to his skating. Like, I know he would bail tricks on purpose at demos just to dramatize his skating. Ollieing off vert ramps and constantly trying to hype up the crowd, literally trying to get them to chant his name.

Josh Kasper’s Europop and benihana stylings have made him the muse of a generation, but Jerry Hsu may be tapping into a deeper and more engrossing narrative. Just a few years before Osiris’ Flexfitted heyday, pro wrestling was confronting its own flagging powers as the detritus of the 1980s, which staked millions upon matchups between brawny tycoons and vengeful snake handlers, had receded in the face of the grungier, grittier 1990s, setting the stage for the neon-spandexed heroes of the ’80s, such as Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man, rebrand themselves as black-clad villains out to remake the enterprise in their own graven image. To some, these were dark days, the nights filled with loathing and doubt and greasy endorsement contracts.

Have Eric Koston and Guy Mariano opened the door for their own face-heel turn following the official announcement of their long-rumoured exit from Girl last week? Some plot cues could be found: Guy Mariano clad in all black, Shooter McGavining the camera while Instagram followers* mourn his departure from the Crailtap camp that provided both the aquatic catchpad for the then-spent rocket of his 1990s ascent and an expanded platform for his late-00s relaunch. Eric Koston, who seems in the post-Lakai years to have gravitated away from the board concern he and Guy Mariano helped elevate to the tippiest of tops in the 90s as well as the affiliated clothes company they cofounded, has yet to offer any parting pleasantries to Girl, which bid farewell to the duo last week in an understated manner similar to that which once characterized the company’s 1990s print and video output. In the glorious bro-hug emoji that is the ‘Boys of Summer’ video, Eric Koston’s footage is placed in a Nike-aligned segment separate from Rick Howard’s and Mike Carroll’s, whose decades-tested tag teaming carries a bittersweet twinge this time out given the changes at Crailtap.

Should Eric Koston and Guy Mariano, two legendary talents entering their professional autumn years with families to provide for and their legacies already safely carved in the hardest-rated urethanes, blaze a new career path by embracing filthy lucre with no apologies, a direction that seems inevitable for pros entertaining corporate sponsorships that have in recent years required increasingly convoluted and amusing justifications? Could Street League boost ratings and garner heavier-hitting corporate sponsors by augmenting its ‘impact section’ with scripted and intense rivalries, surprise interferences in high-pressure runs and the occasional tossed folding chair? Is Tim O’Connor best positioned to thrust fuzzy microphones into the frothing maws of ranting champs and goad them for more, and could Rob Dyrdek cut a convincing Vince McMahon figure? Might dropping all his big-money sponsors in favor of skater-owned startups, dressing in all white and pivoting away from the calf sock improve Nyjah Huston’s SOTY odds, or at least result in more wallrides?

Guy Mariano, Nike Inc. Link to Provide Manna for Listicle Authors Hoping to Round Out a ‘Top 10 Heaviest Roll-Aways Ever Filmed’

November 20, 2015

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Indelible tricks can launch careers, shake the streets and leave marks lasting decades. Rarer are tricks that work the other way, taking their weight from years of struggle, a hallowed spot or some other type of heavy backstory. Guy Mariano’s funeral-garbed ride out of the Crailtap camp and into the arms of Nike approaches a ‘Fully Flared’ level combo of mixed feelings for aged viewers and, one assumes, Guy Mariano himself. How now to adjust the 1990s Doomsday Clock?

Odd Couple Therapy

November 14, 2015

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Sun Tzu, the famous tactician for whom our shiny star and exotic animal exhibits now are named, defined total victory not as the end of any battle or campaign or war but rather when one’s opponent is paying hefty and recurring fees to operate a pancake franchise in his former territory, and comping the victor all premium toppings. This battleground truism rings as accurately now as it ever did in the comparatively topping-poor days of Mr Tzu, and in particular regarding the security guard, that grimacing, oft-charred coyote to skateboarding’s trim and turnt up roadrunner.

As skating’s profile has expanded and been deemed more lucrative by television channels, beverage conglomerates and concerned parents, the by-definition fraught and frosty security guard/skater dynamic has mutated its way through several forms and appendage assortments. Once squarely classified as paid haters indulging jock-minded power trips, the security guard has been alternately corrupted, co-opted and caricatured as the relationship’s balance of power has skidded and slid toward skateboarders, who today wield an an increasingly outsized cultural cudgel and cheap video recording equipments.

Travel back, if you would, to 2003, when skaterboarders in the employ of Emerica shoes took some of the early, halting steps toward sidelining security guards’ stature and dignity by filming the bribery of one in pursuit of jubble-set glory, the stairs’ blurry-faced would-be defender capitulating with the dangling of a $100 bill and a warbly ‘okay.’ That same year Rob Dyrdek did the concept one better, hiring his own security guard and cementing the dollar’s supremacy over the once hallowed security guard code. For a generation of stretch denim-purchasing yungsters the precedent was set; in subsequent Baker productions, Jim Greco would go on to good naturedly tussle with security guards and play at parlor-trick hypnosis for laughs, while elsewhere security went cheerfully ignored, or worse, reduced to asking politely.

Where does all this leave the rent-a-cop as 2015 staggers out? No longer threats and by now passe to debate, they seem to have been relegated to moving obstacles for those confident and daring enough to put a trick in their face, such as LRG nollie inward heelflip blaster Miles Silvas, or several, as the GX1000 consortium recently demonstrated in Japan. Ty Evans’ slo-mo drone ballet ‘We Are Blood’ positioned security as worthy if ineffectual water-fight opponents, while the prospect of fleeting Vine fame inspires some in the profession to abandon their fraternal code and defect.

Yet as security guards’ total defeat appears close at hand, one may ponder a certain pocket of emptiness in skating’s collective soul*, upon which a phantom finger may be hard to place. Bart Simpson, that 1990s skate standard-bearer and this decade a regular feature upon Justin Figuoera’s Ebay vintage apparel purchases, once complained of a similarly eerie malaise upon triumphing over his own authority dispenser, Principle Skinner:

BS: It’s weird, Lise. I miss having Skinner as a friend, but I miss him even more as an enemy.

LS: I think you need Skinner, Bart. Everybody needs a nemesis. Sherlock Holmes had his Dr. Moriarty, Mountain Dew has its Mellow Yellow, even Maggie has that baby with the one eyebrow.

Has skating, imbued with greater cultural clout and youthful impunity, at this point effectively shaved the one eyebrow of the world’s rent-a-cops? If Mello Yello were pulled from the marketplace, would Paul Rodriguez’s tricks bubble with the same sweet zest? Will skating and security guarding only truly set aside their differences and come to understand and respect one another after they are both framed in a drug deal gone bad and jailed among the many bloodthirsty criminals they helped put away, forced to rely upon their wits, brawn and one other to break free, clear their names and reclaim their badges?

*could also refer to gaps in peoples’ Collective Soul album collections

Aggravated Breed

November 7, 2015

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Justin Brock’s part in Nike’s 2009 all-am ‘Debacle’ six years later remains rightly heralded as a triumph of chunky wallrides and massive frontside bigspins, yet its underlying theme of hard labor as a unifying force, if not a humanizing one, remains dusty and obscured like a dust-covered, obscure book somewhere. Bankrolled by the biggest employer in skating and soundtracked not coincidentally to blue-collar bards Skid Row’s number one platinum single ‘Slave to the Grind,’ Justin Brock meditated upon themes of toil and control, driving home the point by sporting spectacles that reflected the drudgery of the assembly-line worker, whose dreams of becoming Montana’s poet laureate or a champ bass angler are rendered wholly unrecognizable by smeary, sweat-fogged safety goggles.

Now it is nearly 2016*, the fall breeze bears whiffs of a fresh Nike video release, and pros are considering their futures. Haves increasingly are separated out from have-nots: Witness the footage largesse of Nyjah Huston, allegedly on the cusp of his own Nike payday, releasing a video section in accordance with various contractual niceties rather than any particular team effort, only to slide off the Thrasher front page in a matter of days. Chris Joslin, whose skills on the gaps left him somehow overdue for a professional nod only about a year after manifesting on mobile screens, achieved his own signature board after heading to the Eastern Hemisphere to film a part in under two weeks, a future seemingly assured so long as his ligaments stay game. Elsewhere the industry’s economic contraction ensures that the rich tradition of pros and would-be pros with day jobs continues, nodded to recently by Aaron Herrington and, in the TWS issue sporting his skyscraper backside tailslide on the cover, Jon Nguyen:

TWS: Do you drive Uber cars to supplement your income too? How is that?
JN: Yeah, I do. It’s fine. It’s work. It’s relatively easy. If you don’t mind driving, it’s not a big deal. It’s kind of cool because I can just do it whenever I need to. If I’m really hurting for money, I can just push it and work like a week straight too.

How does it work? You’re just in the system and if you want to give rides, you clock in?
You sign up to be a driver and then you just turn the app on and set it to driver mode when you want to work and you’re ready to go. You get paid weekly; it goes straight to your bank account. They take like 25 percent or something, but it’s so convenient. You don’t have a boss and then if I’m going on a trip, I can just not work for a couple of weeks. They’re just trying to make money, so they don’t give a shit about you. But I’m just trying to make money too, so I don’t give a shit about them.

Are those would-be careerists that lack any fiscal lifelines dangled by a diversified sporting goods merchant, soda company or televised competition circuit boxing themselves out of any path toward a secure and comfortable life beyond the world’s urine-soaked hubbas, bondo’d handrail approaches and urethane-scarred walls? According to 360 flip smith grind popularizer and onetime beanie magnate Josiah Gatlyn the answer is a tantalizing ‘maybe,’ as per a widely-circulated YouToob comment that dared to call into question skating’s long-held subcultural maxim which positions the ‘office job’ somewhere toward the bottom of Dante’s flamey underworldly rings, probably around ‘anger’ and ‘heresy.’ Josiah Gatlyn goes on to suggest such verboten concepts as pursuing education and recommends cutting any street dreams with a healthy splash of pragmatism:

The average career only lasts around 5-10 years tops, and I’m pretty sure there’s only been about 10-20 professionals (at the very most, I feel like there are way less) out of thousands who have even gotten close to making enough money that they wouldn’t have to worry about getting a career job after their career was over. I have no idea why people assume that professional skateboarders make so much money. That’s absolutely not true. Basically, every pro will eventually be spit out into the real world. That process only gets harder and harder the older you get. From age 20 – 25 are the most important years of your entire life and regardless if you’re a skateboarder or not, if you do not figure out what career path you’re going to take, you’re going to struggle pretty hard.

The skateboard business, awash with young souls eager to quit high school and skate for boards, beers, airfare, hotel rooms and per diem, seemed in no mood for Josiah Gatlyn’s broadsides, and an unlikely figure emerged to rebut them — Sierra Fellers, whose own career seemed on the wane after Foundation dropped him, but who maintains with the Ramshakle company. Sierra Fellers’ response Ride Channel article wonders whether Josiah Gatlyn is making excuses for not wanting a pro career badly enough to make whatever steep sacrifices may be required, and taking the ‘easy way out’ by returning to the ‘real world.’

Recently I’ve asked a lot of people about what happened to him and what he was doing, and everyone I’ve talked to said that he was bitter at the skate industry and gave up to be a designer. Which, sadly, after reading the YouTube comment that’s been circulating, seems to be true.

When you do what you’re truly passionate about, it’s usually so much harder and more work than anything else. It would have been a lot easier for me to get a “normal job” and start working on my promotions. If anything, skateboarding has been the main source of education for me. All the traveling, skating, having a good time, and even the partying have taught me way more than I could have ever imagined to prepare me for the “real world.”

Could Sierra Fellers be correct? Speaking from experience, former Foundation 360 flipper and first-wave PissDrunxist Tony DaSilva recently described to Jenkem his own leisurely and mellow path back to the real world as being lined with plush comforts such as indoor pollution clouds, general societal disconnect and close proximity to hot, hot truckstop fellatio:

Many of us that step out of the skate industry after making a living at it are left over as society’s bottom feeders. We don’t have anything to offer. We don’t have a degree. We don’t write with proper grammar. We speak our own language.

I started realizing we’re all a part of the same day-to-day struggle. We’re all scrambling to figure out where the hell we’re going. And that through skateboarding, I had retained and gained a hell of a lot more life experience than most of the people I was getting to know. This was the factor that separated me from all of them, but it was becoming one of the pieces that now gave me more confidence.

It was skateboarding that gave me the tools that enabled me to transition into the “real world.” I couldn’t see it at the time though. The thing that I thought had kept me so sheltered and embedded in a niche culture, was ultimately what prepared me for what was next.

Is Sierra Fellers’ plight for street-dreaming dreamers to keep chasing those nocturnal transmissions a pure-hearted effort to talk the next generation’s Jake Johnsons and Paul Rodriguezes from tossing their skills and promises of video parts yet to come into that fetid toilet bowl that is the 9-5 lifestyle? Or is he carrying water for a secretive cabal of vampyric industry heads who require a steady supply of youthful aspiration and low-cost human tissue to power their mechanized operations, similar to the global baller robots profiled in the ‘Matrix’ movies? It’s often hard to tell with baller robots, and so these questions must be asked.

Sierra Fellers’ response to Josiah Gatlyn does regurgitate one of skating’s more timeworn tropes, which is that despite all the various injuries and indignities, skating as a career is a rich, fulfilling wonderland versus the vacuous, soul-corroding netherworld represented by the dreaded ‘office job.’ It can come off rather rich coming from the genetically and geographically gifted who are lucky enough to entertain the choice, and whereas skating’s far from the first sphere to hum the semi-sensical ‘do what you love’ mantra, it seems fair to wonder whether nurturing personal wish-fulfillment scenarios and squinting at longterm security through meager monthly minimums and ready-to-flip flow packages can persist as one’s third decade approaches.

Among the world’s ditchdiggers, insurance claim adjustors and adult cinema custodians are there solely embittered quitters to be found, who otherwise might have blessed the planet and achieved their dreams as opera singers, socialite-philosophers or addled weblog authors? What then of our ditches, insurance claims and adult cinema floors? As the skate biz constricts and veteran pros bat eyes at high-toned corporate sponsors in hopes of stretching their own careers a few more years, do the web mavens, graphic artists, logistics staff and talent managers ponder their own monetary sacrifices to continue under the industry’s independent division, versus buddying up to more corporate concerns? For their own good, should pros consider the maxim of Pontus Alv, who figured the optimum lifespan of a board company at about ten years, with regard to professional careers?

*Partially because the Mayan calendar flubbed the alleged 2012 apocalypse

Pazuzu 2: Necronomicon Boogaloo

October 31, 2015

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Ellington

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Pic dump from recent mags raises the question as to how many of these make their way to mobile screens via enabled social media sharing apps, and whether getting your photo run in a legacy papyrus-related periodical ensures it will be viewed by fewer unique heads in all?

Been There All The Time

October 24, 2015

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“Too hard,” was the beleaguered takeaway from jurists deliberating for three weeks the fates of legal executives who oversaw one of the law world’s most breathtaking collapses, that of the once high-flying Dewey & LeBouf LLP, sunk in 2012 and soon accused of cooking various books. Juggling upwards of 150 criminal counts, saturated in deeply technical testimony and confounded by the volcanic, phlegmatic and difficult to follow rants of one Uncle Donald, jurors tossed towels after finding themselves unable to agree on dozens of counts, in a situation similar to a spandexed rollerblader being handed a Nike-branded pen and pad so as to formulate precision Street League contest scores at a championship stop where the lowly ranked are shipped off to toil in gaol for unhappy decades.

Deck-consuming purchasers this week shall don blindfolds and ponder their own misbalanced scales as Alien Workshop unveils ‘Bunker Down,’ the resuscitated Ohio conspiracy-and-equipment merchant’s first formal video offering since resurfacing toward the beginning of the year. In its way it is a precedent-setting case — whereas half-hearted stabs have been made toward rebooting once-lively board concerns such as ATM Click and Vision, and companies such as World Industries, Toy Machine and Plan B have staged comebacks after replacing much of the companies’ prior rosters, AWS’s amateur-powered reincarnation represents the first attempt at a complete slate-wiping reset without letting its name first marinate in some nostalgic purgatory, or a box-checking effort toward team rebuilding so as to market bargain-bin products.

Sovereign Sect disciples reared on grainy images of rural blight and zoomed in shots of creepy crawlies have been heartened by now-daily photos and video clips on the Workshop’s Instagram portal that show Mike Hill much in command of the company’s signature visuals, ensconced in an abandoned nuclear research facility of some description, bought by Dyrdek. Absent hanging onto (M)other’s founding fathers, rebuilding the team from scratch was a plan far smarter than resetting with knowed pros or amateurs, lured from establishment sponsors and bearing their own baggage. Promising returns already are seen in Joey Guevara’s hilltop to alley marauding, Brandon Nguyen’s wall scaling and Frankie Spears’ handrail riffage, before Miguel Valle’s reliable lens, boring through lesser-chewed crust inside Detroit, upstate NY and other locales various. These dudes’ skating smacks of AWS to varying degrees, not far off the spectrum mapped by the company’s post-‘Mindfield’ additions, and time has validated many of the company’s prior pluckings of lil-known am talent, from Pappalardo and Wenning to Taylor and Johnson.

That grand and fickle arbitror, the marketplace, will judge whether this steamlined and refreshed Alien Workshop will remain a prowess player upon board walls and social media feeds for the years ahead, but its trajectory bears close observation — roughly 2200 miles to the southwest there have been ominous rumblings within the Crailtap camp, which already has seen three high profile departures and enough recent, billowy smoke around the prospective ship-jumpings of decades-deep Girl stalwarts such as Eric Koston and Guy Mariano so as to reasonably presume some type of fire. With the careers of other gen-one Crailtappers in their autumn season and the intentions of the Altamont cash-injectors toward lesser-loved hardgoods operations unknowed, it seems fair to ponder the future of another upstart turned industry pillar whose influence has receded like so many 90s-pro hairlines.

Is a wholesale reboot of Girl doable or desirable when vested owners such as Mike Carroll and Rick Howard are still capable of justifying their pro model products and Cory Kennedy, among Girl’s latest-annointed pros, appears in the SOTY mix? If Girl’s flow program were mined for such a baseline reset would Antonio Durao’s thundersome switch 360 flips provide air cover for any and all other newcomers? Was Plan B’s ‘Tru, B,’ bereft of all legacy professionals save the unsinkable Pat Duffy, actually a ‘Bunker Down’-style reset in all but name? Should the Alien Workshop have held the bagpipe hymn in reserve for their comeback release, or will the opening chords of BIG’s ‘You’re Nobody’ replace those of ‘Little Ethnic Song’?


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