Posts Tagged ‘metallurgy’

Five Multicoloured And Trademarked Rings To Rule Them All: Live From The Sofitel

August 5, 2021

On Alaska’s storm-wracked southern coast, between glaciers, fish canneries and mountains jutting from the frigid sea, there shivers a dab of concrete. With a playground to one side, RV park to the other, the narrow mini ramp, flat-barred pyramid and handful of other obstacles of the Seward skatepark get hit up four, maybe five months before the first of the year’s six feet of snow begins to fly; there is one road out of the 2,800-person town and the nearest skate shop is 130 miles away. Brief as a subartic wildflower’s bloom, maybe, but skateboarding in 2021 reaches here, one of the earth’s ends.

Across the ocean and beyond what have come to be knowed as the Straits of Godzilla, skateboarding has thumped up against another frontier. “Now it’s their time to join the greatest show on earth,” a Brit announcer declared upon the opening of last summer’s most anticipated contest, and by any measure the most expensive — the Tokyo Olympics, or “Big O,” that $30 billion, exclusively licensed and endorsed celebration of humanity’s ultimate physical achievements, available for ad-enabled streaming on the country-approved viewing device that is always by your side, sleek comfort in this bacteria season. Another long-passed showman is said to have declared a sucker born every minute; Japan seemed to wish the whole affair had been axed altogether. For the International Olympic Committee, which itself stands to pocket around $5 billion thanks in part to the participation of Yotu Horigome, Nyjah Huston, Leticia Bufoni, Alexis Sablone and others, it is merely a way-station en route to the next deep-pocketed city willing to divert tens of billions to erect a suitable, perhaps disposable soundstage suitable for the organization’s next televised engagement.

A wet pop, a sly come-hither stare, the jingle of gold pieces in a swollen gunny sack — all these are hallmarks of our human moment. In ancient days, these “Olympik Gamesons” swaggered through honeydewed midsummer festivals and the starvation crucibles of bitter’st winter alike, combatants tearing limbs free from respected opponents, marrow swilled, the ancient rites observed. These modern games, convened in the grasp of a planetwide pestilence, hardly are different. In the end, the Olympic Skateboarding Game Event has been… another contest. A day-glo, somewhat overgrown course that inevitably congealed into a handrail-centric hammer-measuring exercise, under the sun’s baking stare. Pros, slyly flashing those board graphics for that O-sized photo incentive. Behind the announcing din, snatches of skate video soundtracks. Tampa Am was mentioned.

Absorbing and calculating the Olympical frame requires setting all of this aside — unfocusing the eyes, breathing, adopting the uninitiateds’ vision, just off work, pouring a cup of goat’s milk and digesting — what? The top of some skateboard, yellow, blaring “SHAKE JUNT.” Speak the language — commentators largely dispensing with attempts to identify and name each trick, breathlessly instead, “Yuto doing what Yuto does.” “The greatest frontside flip that will ever be done.” There are passing stabs at the byzantine scoring system, no matter — the higher the number, the better to tickle the camera-bearing drones and impassively masked, lanyard-draped spectators. Between jumping, spinning and falling (from Twitter: the world’s best, these are?) young faces and unkempt hair step off the ramps, proffering Samsung electronic devices, light beer, community building on Facebook. In the heat of the final heat, these airpodded disciples of Greg Lutzka’s celebratory finger-snaps bob their heads, hitch up their committee-approved tank tops, take a few pushes and, “LET’S GOOOOO”

The feeling runs deeper when you’re ripping on behalf of your nation, or at least trying not to draw the ire of the powered brass and unelected punditry. Sincerities in those IG apologies to entire countries where, in the past (or present) attempting these Olympic-type feats beyond the presanctioned zones could catch you a ticket, a night in jail, a court date. You see Tony Hawk in a Nike dad polo amble onto ESPN, hiking his pants to show off shinners and ambassadoring among sportscaster hosts who talk of “unbelievable drive” and seem like maybe they get it?

Yes: Inspiring to see Alexis Sablone, of ‘PJ Ladd’s Wonderful, Horrible Life,’ of MIT, of Alltimers, in her mid-30s kickflip 50-50 a big hubba on global TV. Funa Nakayama frontside crooked grinding a 12-stair handrail in a contest run, sheesh. Aurélien Giraud whipping out a hardflip backside lipslide on the gap to rail, achieving international hearthrob status. Pedro Barros, bleached blond and green, barreling and blasting through these Tokyo bowls.

Skateboard industry magnates years ago ceded their governance aspirations to a decades-old rollerskating organization so that the International Olympic Committee could improve its multibillion-dollar event’s appeal to networks and advertisers targeting young consumers and their disposable incomes. Is it working? The IOC has trumpeted the unique eyeballs attuned to skateboarding and surfing, though in context these seem like medals for highest pressure flip: The US, the IOC’s biggest market, is delivering the lowest viewership in 33 years, and ratings sag across Europe too. Prime time coverage is averaging about half that of the 2016 Rio Olympiads, leaving broadcasters to offer bonus spots to disgruntled advertisers. Tokyo’s hospitality industry sunk $14 billion into Olympic-ready accommodations, now rewarded by the Covid-19 Delta variant and half a million cancellations. Japan ponied up for a new stadium, plus a state of the art swimmin hole, gymnastics gym and badminton complex; you already know what happens next. Whereas hosting the Olympics usually costs host cities and countries nearly three times more than budgeted, the Tokyo ones are running around 400% higher.

The International Olympic Committee itself seems likely to do okay, standing to make an estimated $3 billion to $5 billion from television rights alone. Then again, the IOC has had a tough run over the last few decades. There was the bribery scandal around the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City that allegedly included tuition, violins and plastic surgery. There were the charges that the Olympics looked the other way on China’s crackdowns on protests and press freedom around the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and forced evictions in Rio de Janiero to construct the venues for the 2016 competitions. There also was the apparent 2014 Russian state-sponsored doping program, reportedly overseen by the country’s intelligence agency. The Tokyo Olympics got dealt a corruption scandal before the contests were even postponed last year, with watches and cameras allegedly passed out to secure votes for the city’s hosting bid.

And the skaters? Medal-getters stand to be paid handsomely, by skate-contest standards, even by the most relatively tightfisted countries. For skateboarders the world over, the industry heads who make their livings selling and marketing skateboard and skateboard-adjacent products and services promise that there will be benefits both fringe and tangible. Vague respect of one’s schoolmates or secular coworkers, perhaps, an animated dissection of the athletic benefits from Nyjah Huston-style short shorts at the next neighborhood barbecue. If nothing else, bro, think of the parks that will be built; more prefabricated obstacles, the better to practice, nicer fences.

Tony Hawk’s adage went that the Olympics needed skateboarding more than skateboarding needed the Olympics, and it was true as far as that went. But that presumed the question of whether, not when, Olympic-sanctioned skateboarding events would be offered to broadcast networks and advertisers. It is beyond the parameters of a weblogging internet site to pontificate on whether or how the shot-putters of the world would get on without the Olympics, or the long-jumpers and pole vaulters. The Olympics backed Skatistan, and medal-powered winnings presumably will provide Benzes and other luxury goods to certain of the contest skating class, maybe. On Alaska’s pebbly fringe, though, no Olympic largesse was needed to sketch out the mini ramp. Skateboarding, in its handful of decades of life, of its own accord already has penetrated Brazilian favelas, pushed through the Iron Curtain, east Africa, Mongolia, Peoria, Siberia.

Were the oft-obstructed Olympic long lens shots a quiet tribute to the ominous video style of the now-defunct Numbers Edition? Will a pickup in sales of Yuto pro models for April offset Shane O’Neill himself missing out on an Olympic medal payoff? Being honest would Jereme Rogers have won all this shit if this was ’06? What new spots will emerge once the newly built Tokyo venues fall vacant in a few weeks’ time? Which drew a bigger audience of U.S. skaters, the Olympics or the Dipset/Lox Verzuz? Should Fat Joe really just have brought himself out at the Verzuz?

Could X-Games Technologists Blind Us With Science, Risking a Troublesome Singularity (And Humankind’s Extinction)?

June 12, 2016

In an age when Nyjah Huston walks back gender-insensitive comments, where male nudity is a feature and not a bug within one of the top recent videos, where online used goods bazaars place frothy premiums on Alex Olson’s ‘Lover’ gear while Flip’s ‘Hate Kill Destroy’ slogan is relegated to a vintage acronym, and where crust-merchants Jake Phelps and Grant Taylor close an interview by sharing their mutual love, it is fair to regard skateboarding as residing within a more sensitive place. Whether the metaphorical pendulum has careened too far away from ganging up on a dude with a drill and harassing RuPaul is a question best left to international criminal tribunals and/or the Sabotage dudes.

Which elixir could restore the balance? ESPN proffers one brewed with the cold, unfeeling logic of pure machinery. In an example of the synergistic genius that may have lured data-mining soothsayer Nate Silver from the cold-shouldery NYTimes to ESPN, the X-Games recently gave his FiveThirtyEight media web site access to a new device being tested within the increasingly embattled X-Games universe that bids to inject empirical data points into the scoring regimens, training programmes and wily banter of colourful commentators.

This Intel-developed transceiver pod, dubbed Curie after the mythological radioactive monsters, measures speed, height, spin velocity and other extreme metrics. Its powers appear handy for geometricized pit crews as they calculate roll-in height lumber purchases and the required torque speed to achieve the spins and twists necessary to bring home sweet, juicy X-Game gold, a rare earth mineral rumored to be worth its weight in gold. The device’s immediate value-add is harder to envision for the street skating discipline, however, where calibrating push strength toward rainbowy contest rails and formulating precise back-leaning to avoid sticking on ledges may deliver only incremental improvements.

But the invention may hold the potential to usher in a new and camera-ready discipline with nearly as much drama, intrigue and catastrophic injury potential as the Mega RampTM. The Curie’s ability to rapidly graph speed and trajectories could allow construction of precision-designed pyramids, quarterpipes and other obstacles able to be skated consistently without pushing, or indeed, looking — opening the way for a blindfolded best trick competition hinging solely upon instinctual foot placement, flick and catch, in the grand tradition of New York street shaman Billy Rohan.

Given his propensity for combining gnarliness with vulnerability and his captainship of Blind Skateboards, is Bill Weiss some type of cosmic shoe-in for such an event? Would Alexis Sablone’s King of the Road tenure give her an edge over a decade later? Will advancing technology eventually make such Curies small enough to embed into skateboarders’ skulls, saturating the gene pool even as humans go to war against self-aware artificial intelligence systems that assign low scores and occasional executions in response to shortcakes handrails and tic-tac’d landings?

The Pit and the Pendulum

September 6, 2009

ThrowingStar
Stick it

Belatedly wrapping up our rundown of the Black Label video, a topic that has spanned two months here, by looking back to the imperatively titled TWS production “Let’s Do This!” and specifically, Brian Brown’s part: at the time, watching this section tended to tire me out trying to keep track of the tricks, as nearly every clip was a sequence event incorporating a wallie, wallride, manual or some other shit. Chris Troy, a professional skateboarder for the Label as of last week, is a similar breed, having apparently never met a 360 or 360 shove-it he didn’t like and seeking to incorporate these into damn near every trick he does. It’s a lot to take in, and there are times when he pulls it off super impressively – the fakie bigspin feeble grind is a ballsy move for sure, though maybe not in the same league as skating to a brand-new Rancid song. Other times though it’s cool to see him do a sort of more simple trick, for instance, the crooked grind backside 180 at the Kellen James ledge, a breath of fresh air amongst the bigspins to boardslides to whirlybirds.

Shuriken Shannon tilts things in the other direction, kicking off his last-part performance with two ollies, on flat, in a line. In a couple different ways this dude is helping shift Black Label’s overall aesthetic but he’s doing it via a Lewis Marnell type of solid/frill-free skating (lime grip and occasional ledge combos aside) that gets over mostly on mashing those four little urethane circles to the ground all at the same time in a fairly satisfying way. There are techy moves, like the fakie inward heelflip and the ghetto bird (?) over the rail, but stuff like the 50-50 kickflip, switch frontside 5-0 and backside heelflip are more the rule, and I’d put the ender-ender into this category too – that spot I really like for the purposes of video clips, because it’s naturally occurring, appears kind of scary and tricks look good going down it, especially if people land switch and have to carve it out.

In other vids you’d have to wonder whether our friend the throwing star has the fireworks necessary to close out a feature-length production but one of the things “GSTL” has going for it, like Black Label generally, is the panoply of styles/terrains/archetypes as opposed to six or seven parts of stretch-denimed greasers taking aim at handrails or tall-teed technicians rotating in and out of New Era fits. I don’t carry a huge torch for Black Label or anything but Lucero’s institutional expertise and general viewpoint are as necessary as they’ve ever been (insert comment re: this day/age here), they make good videos, and have aged well as the glam rock wave crested earlier this decade… to whatever extent they owned some of that real estate before the Baker Boys/Hollywood/Pigwood community moved in, and they’re doing a nice job keeping up the neighborhood.