Posts Tagged ‘IASC’

Time For Some ‘Home Truths’ About Our Collective Addiction to Negative Imagery Dudes

September 5, 2015

espy

Death walks among us in this jaunty new millennium, they say, here and there and potentially also sometimes as a pale rider astride a dangerous Harley hog belching out noxious smokes that also can kill grass and dandelions. Never missing the chance to blow out a trend, the skate biz has always embraced its own terminal fixation, a chattering anxiety that year in and year out raises and lowers Vegas-styled odds on the next industry crash, which company isn’t paying its riders and is destined for that great physical print Cali4nia Cheap Skates catalogue in the sky, and which named pro may already have committed career suicide via an ill-considered musical indulgence or poorly chosen street grab.

Yet just as street skating’s lust for ledges and handrails yielded a cottage industry in skate stoppers that occasionally assume whimsical ocean shapes, brisk business is done among content merchants eager to pierce the slow and sluggish hot-air balloons of musty conventional wisdom with javelins of pure moxie, alternately declaring the full-length skate vid, the over-40 pro career and the conglomerate-owned hardgoods brand ‘not dead’ with varying zest-levels. This month, the Skateboard Mag entered such bold sweepstakes with an editorial missive geared around the notion that feature-length movies (including but not limited to ‘We Are Blood’ and a feature-length documentary about Chris Cole) not only are alive and well 15% of the way into the 21st century, but that they may hold the key to fixing skateboarding’s long-festering ‘image problems:’

The type of interest that these films inspire from non-skaters has always been a powerful tool to bring awareness to skateboarding, counterbalancing some of our image problems in a very positive way, occasionally even improving our chances for public skatepark support. (Let’s face it, as corny as it may be, hearing your mom talk about “Z-Boys” and 900s is actually a step in the right direction.)

Here are the hard facts cluttering the picture as surely as sharp pebbles threaten the course of a major contest engagement: Attrition grips the skateboard sphere. The International Association of Skateboard Companies, that past campaigner against blank decks, figured in 2013 that the number of those consumers who can scientifically be deemed ‘skateboarders’ had constricted by one-fourth between 2007 and 2011, shrinking to 6.3 million over five years. Casual, regular, frequent and most troublingly the intensely coveted ‘core’ demographics all appeared to flee their boards in droves, dumping skating at an even faster clip than those binning their Razor scooters, and far lagging the comparatively robust growth in ‘adventure racing,’ squash and lacrosse, fam.

The IASC document submits television and general couch-potatoness as top culprits, but ratings data indicate that millennials also are slithering free from the digital wiles of broadcast programming. Distressing though it may be, The Skateboard Mag may be right that the only truly blameworthy visage may be viewable in a viewing mirror.

In the span of just about a week, Boil the ocean internet web blog was able to compile an array of image-damaging content features and fiery remarks that reflect poorly on the extreme sport that once seemed on pace to unseat baseball as the sport of the future:

Small beatings from Thrasher’s EIC. Thrasher commander Jake Phelps is widely recognized as one of the oldest persons involved in the skateboarding industry, yet his elder statesmanship toward parental authorities came into question this week when the Jake Johnson issue dropped into subscriber mailboxes. Penning a rare tour article*, Jake Phelps recalls with curmudgeonsome glee how he and Tim Upson years back were run up upon by a gaggle of German 10-year-olds who, after baiting Jake Phelps with a professed interest in his ‘load’ (skate board) switched to pillage mode and set to ransacking his group’s knapsacks: “I ran back and the riot was on — punching out ten-year-olds is the price they pay for rat packin’ out shit,” he intones. Several moms are known to have ten-year-olds of their own — what are they to think at the prospect of a 32-year-old Jake Phelps traveling through time to whup up on their present-day children who may deign to pick through any skateboard-bearing luggage a time-traveling Jake Phelps may have borne through alleged time wyrmholes?

Leaders of the ‘F-word’ world. Using vulgar language in a major skateboard magazine — in this case Thrasher — that’s widely read by kids puts the black leather jacket on skateboarding, but aiming swears at the potential next U.S. president puts the illicitly purchased cigarette in skateboarding’s curled lip. Anti-Hero skateboards saw fit to live up to its moniker in its latest Thrasher ad, spouting an apparently unprovoked ‘FUCK DONALD TRUMP’ and ‘FUCK TED CRUZ’ scrawl in the usual semi-legible handwriting. Lest any foul-mouthedness toward leading politicians be explained away as unhinged rants from over-the-hill discontents, Sean Pablo — sponsored by the unprintably named Fucking Awesome World Entertainment — offered a verbatim vulgarity from skating’s younger generation in a Skate Warehouse interview this week. (Anti Hero and Sean Pablo’s super PAC affiliations remain currently unknowed)

Production values from the bargain ‘Rack.’ Johnny Wilson’s most recent video injection sees noseslide sportster Hjalte Halberg’s East Coast summer vacation continuing as he pushes brawny lines through Philly and New York, while Antonio Durao’s switch 360 flip takes all stair-set comers and John Choi pops a silky curb cut backside flip. But smudges and dirt on the otherwise pristine HD lens occasionally mars ‘Rack,’ giving outsiders freshly treated by Ty Evans’ immaculate drone-cams the impression that rival moviemakers don’t care enough about their equipment — or production values — to break out a purpose-made microfiber wiper, the type of thing a skating-friendly mom might tuck into a pocket tee before folding her arms and shaking her head and half-smiling out the front door as her boys hustle to the nearest skatepark.

Respect for others out the window. Longtime Santa Cruz holder-downer ATV Emanuel Guzman possesses enough wiry sprock to handle both switch backside 360s and deep-end coping, but his ‘Magnified’ clip from Thrasher this week won’t win him many fans among parents — or apartment bloc overseers. In the span of just 45 seconds, we see Emanuel Guzman and his friends attempt to bribe a female professional (who potentially suggested they reapparate a nearby skatepark) before ignoring her call to police, blasting a tight-quarters windowpane ollie and departing with cries of “fuck yooouuu, bitch.” (No indication is given whether this actually may be her surname just spelled differently, or how many O’s in “yooooouuu” they intended to use.) Thrasher’s description of the video claims that Emanuel Guzman “has a history of clips like this,” though it does not specify which web browser he may use.

Three stripes and we’re out. One may expect Adidas, an established worldwide leader in footwear branding technology with firm commitments in place on chemical runoff and workplace diversity, to know from setting positive examples. But Adidas’ new clip advertising ADV Superstar sneakers soundtracks Tyshawn Jones’ brain-boggling ollie over to pointer grind to a curse-packed rap song by celebrated rapper Big L, which glorifies bullying less-skilled artists and advocates physical violence and physical gunfire as solutions to perceived problems such as being bad at reciting raps. Are hovering moms really going to ask to click back to Tyshawn Jones’ hardflip again when Big L is reminiscing about leaving a nameless female conquest’s ‘thighs dented’?

*On a serious tip Jake Phelps really needs to do these more regularly

The Breakfast Club

October 26, 2009

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Also, this

Here at non-communist BTO we are strident believers in the power and authority of free markets. Tony Hawk for instance popularized the McSqueeb hair-cut and named a trick after Madonna, in between raising awareness of international arms trafficking via the movie “Gleaming the Cube” – therefore he gained power and many dollars. The question upon our minds this week is what recognition from a newly created Skateboarding Hall of Fame could possibly offer the Birdman that he does not already have, aside from a hazy notion of name recognition among future skateboarders with the inclination to read press releases, but we all know this to be untrue because Tony Hawk is in it for the money, the money and the cars, cars and the clothes, as clearly stated on his upcoming solo album.

But the skateboard hall of fame is the latest brainchild of the International Association of Skateboard Companies, that conglomeration of businessmen and unemployed werewolfs who devised the international “Go Skateboarding Day” and helps get kids in Arkansas arrested. As to their rationale, we’ll let IASC executive director John Bernards tell the tale:

“Taking the opportunity to acknowledge and honor the individuals who have so greatly influenced and shaped the industry allows us to look forward to the future of skateboarding without ever forgetting our roots and everything it took to get where we are today – each and every shenanigan, triumph and challenge.”

So choke on it, On Video magazine. No, but from a purely internet entertainment value perspective there are a number of funnier ways they could have approached this, for instance, judging on the criteria of “most jailed” or “most times caught on fire” or most money in the bank by the time NSS/Power/Air Speed stopped cutting checks. But instead there is only this vague notion of “influencing and shaping,” which plainly sounds like a bra ad, while spanning some unspecified time frame, similar to a series of bra catalogues. Ought not Steve Cab be in there somewhere between the Tonys Alva and Hawk? If we’re going to hook up Bruce Logan, why not the legions of additional talented freestylers and slalomers who nobly gave their dignity and lives so we could enjoy this family restaurant? Er, Rodney Mullen? What about all those guys who invented skateboarding by nailing rollerskate wheels to two-by-fours, who I keep meeting slumped atop stools in various bars? What are they, chopped liver?

As a largely uninformed third party, it is incumbent upon this blog to predict that these type of annoying and largely pointless questions will dog the SHOF (or SHOE if you like) as long as it persists, which is of course part of the whole idea. Kind of like when VH1 counts down the top 400 celebrity somethings, killing valuable airtime but also sewing the seeds of discourse across office water-coolers and internet chat-venues the world over. Is BTO blindly and blunderingly playing into the IASC’s hand just with this misguided post? Perhaps, which is why I will slyly continue to refer to it as SHOE.

Back to the cultural significance. I submit to you, is the average peanut-leaguer more aware of Mickey Mantle because of multiple references on syndicated Seinfeld re-runs, or because he’s enshrined in some privately operated shrine in Cooperstown NY, home of shrines? Is there more to this SHOE beyond self-aggrandizement and some type of vague promotion of the “sport”? Is skate-boarding history, such as it is, the sort of thing that’s learned in museums and on CNN.com’s offbeat sports page, or on the streets? (I.E., not learned at all.)

Trophies and contest purses aside there is (was?) an aspect of all this shit that’s more about shooting spitballs at the homecoming kings and star quarterbacks than hoarding achievements and gala dinners. I’m sure the SHOE will raise all manner of money for new skateparks and promotions etc, and all involved are sweet bros with only the bro-est of intentions, but ought not the arbitrator of influence and, er, “shaping” be whether or not kid kickflip at the park recognizes a name, or knows how a certain trick came about? The limitations of physics aside, wasn’t one of the main attractions the lack of vicious rules and by-laws, along with the trappings and ceremony of the institutionalized sports? Can we expect to see a SHOE spot among the career aims of Ryan Sheckler, Greg Lutzka and Chaz Ortiz? And is Bo Turner lurking out back with violent designs on the winners’ lunch money?

Out of pocket

July 23, 2008


When keeping it real goes wrong

Skate magazines these days catch a lot of flack from world-weary oldsters on the internet who view modern interviews in the long shadow of the mid-90s rags, in which certain pro skaters vowed to, for instance, infect every other pro skater they could with the HIV virus. Or simply murder one another. What can I say, it was a different time.

What’s funny, in a not-so-funny way, is that as social standards continue their gentle downward slide, interviews in skateboard magazines have generally gotten less interesting*. Now, there are any number of explanations for this. For one thing, there’s more skateboarders in general, and thanks to the law of averages and the forum provided by the likes of ESPN and the Dew, skateboarding has attracted a greater number of less-interesting individuals than it used to.

Then there’s the general corporatization of the skateboard industry, another slow process, since a lot of reputable corporations are way too uptight when it comes to the type of lackadaisical shipping schedules and haphazard bookkeeping practices that fly at skateboard outfits (shoutout to Ipath). Magazines were one of the first juicy morsels of the industry gobbled up by corporate concerns, since the magazine business is a known commodity. Cue ads for the Army and Ford Trucks, font size limits for the word “fuck,” and the sudden appearance of kiddie graphics over top of previously entertaining nudity (from Larry Flynt, of all people).

So yeah, the Time Warners of the world definitely bear some blame for the watering-down of skate magazine content. But what’s becoming more and more clear is that skateboard magazines themselves seem to be doing their damndest to sanitize their own shit.

About a year ago there was that industry-wide panties-bunching over blank boards. You may remember how they destroyed skateboarding forevermore and took food from the mouth of Andrew Reynolds’ baby. Anyway, the IASC printed up a little pamphlet for the winter ASR that featured a load of prominent pros going off on blank decks and espousing the virtues of branded hardgoods concerns, real warm and fuzzy stuff. Part of the deal was that said pros posed for a big group photo in some LA ditch… and around the same time, TWS ran the same photos under the guise of “a bunch of pros getting together for no reason except just to skate, man.” Slap messageboard maven Neal Boyd broke it down nicely here. Kind of slimy altogether.

There’s loads of other political stuff that goes on, photoshopping of shoes and clothing logos of course, and during his recent debate with Jamie Thomas, Clyde Singleton alleged that the Zero chief is notified whenever his name or likeness appears in any magazine, and presumably he gets the final sign-off on it. Which may or may not be true.

Anyway, all of this of course is a longwinded buildup to me calling Arto Saari a total pussy.

Apparently about four months ago Arto spoke with Big Brother/Vice alum Chris Nieratko (who knows from journalism, at least to some degree) for what was, by all accounts, a pretty straightforward interview: what have you been up to, what’s up with injuries, what went on with the big sponsor changes, and the now apparently obligatory questions about his mobile sauna, which I find a total snoozer. But after hanging up the phone, Arto apparently came down with the old 120-day itch and called up the boys at TSM, ordering them to pull the interview… which apparently they did.

Let’s all take a moment now to revel in the sad irony of TSM, a magazine supposedly started by the TWS staffers fed up with corporate bullshit, cowtowing to the corporate concerns of Arto, a fully owned subsidiary of Burton snowboards.

Now, I like Arto. He’s a bona fide legend, though I’m fairly certain the best of his skating is behind him at this point. I like DNA, though I’ve aired concerns that they’re losing their identity with this whole Burton takeover. I don’t even hate Burton. I mean fuck, they’re not K2 or Salomon.

But how this doesn’t make all parties involved look like boardroom image-management assholes totally escapes me. Contrary to what a lot of people have said, I don’t have a real hard time seeing why Burton suits would want this axed: Arto said in no uncertain terms how difficult it was to leave Flip, sort of agreed when Nieratko made fund of Burton and Gravis, and tugged back the curtain on how dead serious Burton is about their riders’ contractual obligations. With all the work the company does to promote Jake Burton as this “jus’ folks” granola-munching dude who’d rather be hiking the backcountry than sit on a conference call, it’s not a good look. And Arto of all people should have known better.

The problem of course is Nieratko. He dipped out of the skate magazine scene when Big Brother was still drawing breath and just recently checked back in, which shows in the way he interviews people and is probably one of the reasons why he’s still one of the best dudes doing this kind of thing. He calls bullshit on stuff—i.e. the sad state of Gravis’s past footwear designs—and probably used his silver-tongued powers to lull Arto into forgetting his Burton loyalty oaths.

The mistake Nieratko made was assuming that his editors at TSM would have his back on the whole deal. With Gravis just rolling out and Alien gearing up for a video release, Burton probably has got a good amount invested in TSM real estate, and at a time when belts are tightening at magazines in general and skate magazines in particular, I’m sure the threat to pull that dough probably was heard loud and clear. You have to wonder though, if magazines keep pulling this type of shit and running interviews bland as a late-period 411 (RIP), who’s even going to read them anymore.

*There are exceptions. Tony Tave’s interview in Thrasher last year, when he was fucked up on salvia, was pretty entertaining, for instance.

Hallmark holiday

June 21, 2008


Go

Remember that Simpsons episode where the suits are trying to think up a new summer holiday to sell greeting cards, presents and “assorted gougables”? I had a nice cynical chuckle over it at the time, until a couple years later when I heard about Sweetest Day, basically Valentine’s Day 2 in October invented by some candy company fat-cat types who insist they didn’t make it up. Hallmark still pushes it with cards and shit, but somehow it has yet to catch on, with the bizarre exception of Detroit I guess.

To the IASC’s credit they have not, as far as I can tell, tried to pretend that Go Skateboarding Day isn’t their creation. Although maybe I’m just not looking hard enough. It’s hard to imagine that designating the first day of summer for skating moves a significant number of boards/shoes/skate-related gougables, but then again, I’m out here in the peanut gallery. Somebody at Active or CCS hit me up if the Nike 6.0s start flying out of the warehouse.

No, as far as I can tell it’s more to raise skateboarding’s profile, ostensibly to build support for building parks and to let the squares know “we’re out here.” Which makes sense, I guess. Skateboarding is still beating the pants off other sports in terms of growth, and despite the damnedest efforts of ESPN and the Dew, there’s still no world series of skateboarding for all those Sheckler-foam-hand-wearing fans to tune in every year.

But skating isn’t baseball, parks get boring, and most other places skateboarding remains illegal. Having come of age in the days when Tony Hawk was sleeping in his Lexus, generally I’m a fan of keeping it that way, and gatherings of thousands of people, who commence to cheer, wave their illicit instruments and then put them to use isn’t how you keep a low profile. (Unless you’re in Palestine on New Year’s Eve.) It kind of reminds me of those weed legalization rallies, where all the hippies come out to the park, blaze while the cops sort of look the other way, then march to the capitol for a couple fiery speeches. Then everybody goes home and watches their back for the next 364 days. Keep the faith, Willie.

So in a way I’m with the people who poo-poo “Wild in the Streets” and the related shindigs that went down around the world today. Mobs of skaters barging spots and stopping traffic gets us noticed, but probably not in any way that’s positive from the squares’ viewpoint, and may well serve the agenda of the “build a park and write tickets everywhere else” approach to regulating skateboards.

However. I’ve been in on one of these Emerica events, and it was a pretty amazing experience. The rah-rah fist-pumping stuff beforehand was pretty whatever, but once the crowd broke for the street it was crazy to hear hundreds of wheels hitting the ground at once, charging down a major road, people sitting in their cars or standing on the sidewalk just staring. Trying tricks with people skating four feet in front of you and four feet behind inevitably leads to pile-ups and it turns into everyone bombing down the street at full speed, and slowing to a cruise when people start getting tired. It’s a pretty unique situation to have your usual posse on one side and have a dude you’ve seen in magazines pushing on the other side, and thousands of skateboarders hitting a spot, chilling, skating, and moving on, all together… all that isn’t something you’d ever see with, say, baseball. That day took me back to the first big demo I ever went to, how wide-eyed and awe-struck I was to see so many skateboarders in one place, and the reckless camaraderie when it turned into a big free-for-all session afterwards.

Over the next few days I’m sure we’ll hear all about overzealous cops, poor choices of venue and various renditions of “don’t taze me bro,” but hopefully Go Skateboarding Day will amount to something more than soft news features on local TV stations, speechifying and funding for a few pre-fab parks. Maybe it’ll bump up sales for some real skate shops, some kids will get to skate with their favorite pros and maybe–just maybe–it will warm the hearts of bitter old skaters such as myself. Nah, never happen.

By the way the photo above is from Alex Cave.