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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?