Saturday, January 31, 2015

Strip away the old debris that hides a shining car -- a brilliant Red Barchetta from a better vanished time

Rush fans are now ruling the world -- just like nerds now repay school yard bullies with pinkslips and downsizing, Rush fans take solace in the fact that they're still enjoying real music being made and performed live while fans and supporters of lesser music coprohagically binge and purge on the excrement of pop music's ghost. I am a little young to be a part of the first and original Rush fan base. The band was originally formed in 1968, and since their self-titled album was released in 1974, they have maintained the same configuration of members: Neil Peart (percussionist and primary lyricist), Alex Lifeson (lead guitar and backup vocals) and Geddy Lee (bassist, keyboards and lead vocals.).

These days, one doesn't have to have much rugged individuality  nor be willing to bare ridicule in order to testify as part of Rush-fandom -- but this wasn't always the case.

In part, my introduction to the music of Rush was hastened by my Canadian family. Rush has been near royalty status in Canada for a long time. This, coupled with my early developed disdain for current pop music had me listening to classic rock and "alternative" music before there were "alternative" music radio stations, which makes me a hipster before hipsters were called hipsters and instead lived with a vague but palpable air of disdain and reciprocal antagonism with basic boys/girls. 

My teenage years saw Nirvana, Soundgarden and underground Hip-Hop rise up and eat the butt-rockers of the 80's -- and they never saw it coming. Guns N' Roses, Metallica* and Skid Row all made a couple of last gasps at survival, but soon enough listening to the hard-rock radio station or having any of these CDs in your backpack was very uncool. 

I distinctly remember buying Rush's album "Counterparts" which came out in 1993. In 1993 I was already spending everyday skateboarding and often, this involved taking the bus into the city to meet up with friends and go from spot to spot. I always had a discman with me and, being in the always hyper-fluxuating culture that is skateboarding, I found myself hiding the fact that this album was in my backpack. I would proudly display my  Slayer, Frank Black, Dinasaur Jr and Del the Funky Homosapien albums but my Rush CDs would go in another compartment. 

Even though I was an avid concert goer  I had never seen Rush in concert until a ticket dropped into my lap for a concert at Red Rocks in Denver (thanks Andy -- I'll always remember it was your misfortune and subsequent generosity to let me go in your sted.) I've seen many concerts at Red Rocks, and they are all spectacular no matter the level of performance but this was truly special to behold.

The blacksmith and the artist
Reflect it in their art
Forge their creativity
Closer to the heart 

Philosophers and plow men
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the heart

You can be the captain
I will draw the chart
Sailing into destiny
Closer to the heart

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A frontside pop shuvit kickflip by any other name would be none other than a hardflip

I've written about skateboarding quite a bit on here, and while it occupies no real tangible part of my daily activities these days, I still, even now, find myself thinking about it -- or watching clips here or there. I constantly make note whether a given street is sufficiently smooth, or whether there is a big crack at the top of a stair set. I imagine myself tackling terrain that I probably wouldn't have even attempted while at the top of my game.

The other day I came across this post:

I took pause after watching several times and then began to contemplate and deliberate between an idea of cyclic or more linear patterns of existence and how humans really like to think that their era of material existence holds some significance that transcends space and time. There is an easier way to gain a glimpse into the nature of time and generations of people and what patterns can be discerned. Whether it be geo-political strife or cooperations, music and clothing stylings or conceptions of beauty, a certain cyclical resurgence has been around for and been quite predictable for at least a century. More than a testament to my pending insanity, this line of thinking is due to the fact that when I'm supposed to be studying the most, I am the most easily distracted.

All of this doesn't matter much to mainstream culture, here in America, at least. This article from a marketing firm allows for a nice insight  into how so many things are manufactured schemes to fuel the energy sink that is our consumer culture. And so, it is in the face of all this deception and attempts to directly or indirectly separate me from my own thoughts that a culture that has merit unto itself becomes valuable. This is why sports is so valuable -- not necessarily the culture of watching sports on TV but the participation and live action 1st person athletic endeavor that is any physical feat.

What got me thinking about all of that was because the kid in the animated gif above is coming flying off off the bump and floats a nice, slow rotating "hard flip" and is in position to catch the board, with his feet at the peak of the skateboards upward trajectory. The style that came to dominate in my formative years held this as the ideal manner in which to achieve maximum style. Of course, in the sequence of events detailed above shows what we call a "late flip" and in this case, he lucks out with a double flip, with the last part bouncing off the ground with wheels up. Now don't get me wrong here -- my intention is not to belittle the choice this young ripper made, but to highlight the fact that tricks like this are even being attempted.

The above video has a bunch of people showing what aesthetically pleasing hardflips are to my eye. I never really had this trick on lock like many people do these days but it was always a fun one, one that lent itself to popping and catching high. 

I started skateboarding and paying attention to the culture in 1991. This was a tumultuous time, a serious down cycle for skateboarding as a whole, one that was going to see whether it went the way of "aggressive rollerblading" or surfing. Skateboarding came out from the days of 30 page Thrasher issues (I don't know if they were that small, but they were small) and Transworld Skateboarding Magazine issues small enough to be stapled instead of actually bound with guns blazing and suddenly having enough cultural "cool" cache to catch the attention of big money -- which continues to this day. It did this by going underground and reinventing the idea of what being a classic skateboarder really is -- an idea which still is burning brightly. There are skateparks these days, in just about every city and neighborhood but even so, all one really needs is some flatground, and, maybe a curb to really have quite a bit of fun on a skateboard. I could go on and on about the virtues learned and the lessons gained by spending an afternoon with your skateboard trying to learn new tricks -- but I won't. Back to the case of the small wheel and huge pants era and what it has to do with the late-flipper. 

In 1991, there were a lot of cool people wearing jeans like this. This style survived into the new century, maybe in more isolated pockets of the midwest and northern Canada, one can still see some JNCO or New Deal jeans worn in earnest, but, its doubtful. 

This article is kinda hilarious and sad, for anyone out there reading this that actually was skating in the early '90s. 

And, for anyone who wasn't practicing their noseslides and pressure flips (another story in fads unto itself) in 1991, the above image, demonstrating just how small the wheels had to be in order to look cool, had to be. I can attest that wheels smaller than these were common for a brief period. I probably still have scars on my elbows and arms from all the pebbles that threw me to the ground, that with more reasonable sized wheels would not think twice about rolling right over. Not to mention the short life span these would have -- flat spots within the week!

The video above is of Julia de la Cruz, an extremely talented and groundbreaking skateboarder. I remember when this video came out, I had been skating for just a short time and even at that time, it was becoming apparent that this was not the style of street skating that was to become transcendent. When this came out, in 1992, skateboarding had just begun peaking out from behind the huge curtain of pants that were so popular -- where late flips, pressure flips and multiple flipping anything was to be disdained. Looking back, however, it may be more that I was a impressionable young teenager who would have done just about anything to look cool and desperately avoided being uncool in front of the skateboarders of note in Portland, at the time. And, because of this, my lens of what was cool back then was more a hyper-local phenomenon and not indicative of the global themes and trends that I refer to here -- who knows?

This video, released in 1993, most likely including footage from the preceding couple of years, showcases Mike Carrol, an all-time-great in street skating in one of his earlier parts. We can already see that flip tricks are calm, single flippers with more emphasis put on technique and comprehensive attention to detail -- if there was too much arm-waiving or feet aren't bolts dead-on, it was necessary to film the trick again This is the style and philosophy of skateboarding that I grew up with. From 1993, until the past few years, emphasis was put on amplitude and the perfection of a certain catalog of pre-certified and pre-approved tricks. 

This is one of the reasons people I grew up looking up to, like Chris Fissel and Nate Sherwood, both amazing talents on the skateboard, didn't take off in their careers like they probably should have. Both were anchored with the "pressure flip" label, which, I myself never having mastered a decent pressure-flip, have always been of the opinion that it was just as valid trick as any other. And, these compared to the de la Cruz video above, we see more control and style in line with the overall trends executed with tricks (only some of them in these videos) that had been deemed "unacceptable" by whatever imaginary style judges were manifest in the frontal cortices of skaters of that day worldwide. Of course, there is the theory that pressureflips were made popular by World Industries owned Roco in order to increase board sales, as it is easy to snap them with this trick, but I digress...

Chris Fissel showcasing the best of the early 90's skateboarding, while in many of my favorite old Portland skate spots

Another Portland-Area legend tearing up the classic PDX spots -- BENCH SCHOOL!

Now that I've been thinking about, and dissecting all the hidden meanings and life-question clues inherent within that gnarly decision to late flip that beautiful hardflip not once, but twice. I would be remiss not to acknowledge my respect for those who are willing to make themselves vulnerable by doing things their own way. And, to be fair, this young skate-rat is really only integrating a new twist to a maneuver that, if caught at the apex, would be impressive in and of itself. This kid has probably done that trick dozens if not hundreds of times -- he was looking to challenge himself! And this is the awesomely crazy thing about the world we live in today. Progress and advancement in many fields is mind-blowing -- yes, many of them, such as in medicine and security, have an abundance of things that can go wrong, but the potential for greatness still lies within each moment spent thinking about how to go about something in an improved way. 

The question then looms, is it really a circular pattern that generates things like this? Is that why '60's culture really seemed to reach a zenith in the late '90s? Why the Transformers, GI Joe and A-Team franchises were revisited about 25 years after their original glory? No, I don't think so. It has more to do with the childhood nostalgia than anything else, and I think, in general, it has a lifespan of 1 generation. It goes like this: human in 30s has money and looming middle-ageness and thus yearns to make connection with youthful exploits and excitement via external stimuli reminiscent of those things loved at a formative age. 

Behind the scenes, medicine does not allow for much "doing things my own way" as there are standards of care, protocols and algorithms that need to be adhered to, primarily so we can minimize any harm and maximize all benefits had at the hands and or instructions of a physician. Of course, this is not all that is involved -- unless I'm a pathologist who never leaves the lab or a coroner who never has to speak to the living -- it is how we communicate with everyone, from coworkers to patients that really can make the difference, assuming that all else is equal. 

I couldn't get out of here without a smidge of medicine, could I? Sometimes it hurts to think about anything but medicine. Oh well, not forever. 

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