Posts Tagged ‘Sun Tzu again’

Rival Schools United by Fate, Torn Asunder Amid Hill-Bombing Renaissance

April 22, 2017

Sun Tzu, that ancient Chinese military philosopher and rap music reference point, famously signed a restaurant receipt with an unsolicited strategem in place of a tip, advising one fortunate waiter that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Legend tells that this vibrant slogan enriched the lucky plate handler — who previously regarded all of this restaurant’s staff as backstabbing adversaries — by transforming them abruptly all into bosom pals, a blissful union that would inspire a hoagie chain but later run aground, friendships dashed on the rocks of unpaid franchise fees and festering mistrust. It is the story of our times, and perhaps all time.

In the 1980s, widely regarded as an extended and turgid moment in which synthesizers remade nerds into dancefloor lotharios and yet justice still could be found at the pointy tip of an arrow, skateboarding still was in its awkward early years. Much like the homebound elementary schooler, or the waiter-in-training at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, friends were those nearest to hand, if not in spirit — and so it was that skateboarders and BMX bikers became kinsmen of a kind, occasionally sharing a taste for neon accessories and zeitgeist-flavored real estate, wherein ‘Thrashin’ and ‘Rad’ staked out neighboring claims on VHS rental shelves. These co-feathered birds flocked together even through the judgment-heavy early 1990s, when Jeremy Wray cheered BMX bro Mike Esterino hopping on his famed water-tower jump.

Alas, as ledge skating gained supremacy and skateable blocks began trading at a premium due to police pressure and general scarcity, peg damage and huffy attitudes came to divide the camps, such that by the time the handrail age set in, extreme bike riders became punchlines. Skatepark proliferation ignited turf battles, with some private-sector facilities segregating the rubbery-tired rollers to their own evenings. Bike-prohibiting public parks prompted some skateboarders to yellingly shout and point at “no bikes” signage in a true perversion of historic roles.

Extreme bike riders later clawed back respect points on a comparative basis as scooter riders, rollerbladers and other ne’er-do-wells rotated through parks, and John Cardiel’s fixed-gear resurrection earned bikes a warmer position in the cockles of many 97A urethane hearts after his accident. The gnarliness of slamming on a bike was to be respected, if not the motocross-aping kits and the fact that you can sit down. And yet this uneasy entente now takes a new and graver turn, as a non-Olympic bound subset of skating re-embraces illegality from coast to coast. For some thrillhousers enamored of San Francisco’s steeps, a bike may as well be a car or a brick wall, and have come to be perceived as a potentially mortal threat:

Thrasher: What has been your closest call to getting fucking annihilated when bombing hills?
Matt Finley: Dude, so many times. I mean, I’ve gotten hit by a car before but haven’t been hit too bad. Like, four days ago we were going down Twin Peaks and a biker dude—I couldn’t hear him or anything—zooms past me and is centimeters from running into me full speed. He went right between Taylor and I. If he had clipped me I would have gotten fucking smoked! I mean, he probably would have gotten really fucked up but that was something else. That’s another thing! Fuck bikers and cars. They are they enemy. Bikers are in the road and act like cars; they just don’t give a fuck. I’m being a hypocrite but they act so entitled.

Are bikers really just skaters astride one-half of a giant skateboard that uses different types of wheels with handlebars and a seat? If bike riders and skateboarders were to finally unite their powers, could the scooter scourge be ended once and for all? If BMXers and skateboarders were more closely aligned in the run-up to biking’s debut in the 2008 Olympics, could the event somehow have been ‘thrown,’ casting extreme sports in a negative and clownish light globally, thereby ensuring that skating remained safe from Olympic circusization for generations to come?

Advertisements

Odd Couple Therapy

November 14, 2015

tango-and-cash-grenade

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