Friday, December 9, 2011

A Video and Three Anarchist Songs

Occupy Wall Street has been a real game changer in the discourse as to our political and social prioritities. With winter coming in the northern hemisphere, it remains to be seen whether the movement can keep up its momentum and translate their concepts into viable social change. Seems like the only way we might be able to reset the system is to initiate a steep inheritance tax on estates over $2.5mil, returning this excess to the public coffers...not likely but, hey kids, you are being ripped off. Support of this type of fundamental change didn't work for the Yippies, but they sure had fun pointing out the lunacy of the system, including threatening to dose the water supply of the city of Chicago, levitating the Pentagon and throwing dollar bills from the balcony of the New York Stock Exchange.  Actions, all of which, brought the machine a grinding halt through exposure of its greed and paranoia.  A few OWS folks down under have picked up on this spirit (too, good):
Sometimes a creativity, a good idea and melody sync up but, not often enough. Perhaps the most prolific and profound band of the 1980's California punk rock scene, whose DIY ethic and working class politics defied the generally more pretentious posturing of their neighbors.  We Jam Econo is an extraordinary documentary about the band, and is one of my favorite rock and roll docs along with Some Kind of Monster and New York Doll. These are the kind of movies with such depth and nuance that they could be watched again and again, much like this song:

Victim of the first three album/CD/recording rule, and better in the headphones than live, Modest Mouse's early work begged the question if it was possible to practice this type of music, or was it just a spontaneous scream. This one, however, is obviously carefully crafted:

Billy Bragg Has been spreading a similar message for thirty years. The first time I saw him, was outside a Black Flag show in Dencow where he seranaded the waiting audience, in the cold, before going inside and opening the show. There's been a long history of dissent against policies and people who hoard wealth at the expense of the common good, as this song chronicles:

Keep up the good fight!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

(Kill)joy video review

As you might have read, Killjoy, the new BMX vid from the Utah cobras, premiered at the Tower theater the other night to a packed house much like their last vid "That's It." Though, this time around, the crowd appeared somewhat older and wiser, as did the vid.  Where That's It showcased the incredible creativity of the Utah scene, it was also youthful and a little rough around the edges. Shawn "Elf" Waters (riding and directing) and Jordan Utley (editing/producing) and the rest of the Utah gang stepped up their game emphasizing story, technicality and (even more) creativity in their effort. Killjoy was preceded by a short Odyssey BMX video, produced by Joe Rich, based on a roadtrip the Mike Aiken and Tom Dugan took through  Idaho and Montana, ripping up the parks along the way:

With an amplitude rarely matched by others, Dugan is clearly at the top of his game, skying concrete features with a similar and complimentary style to Aitken's.  Aitken's performance is triumphant, for a different reason: today, he is alive and has relearned how to ride a bike after a near fatal fall and head injury, which resulted in a three week coma, right side paralysis and broken eye socket, jaw and sinuses. In fact, his Killjoy segment was nothing short of profound, with Aitken's karaoke stylings of Dylan's "Like a rolling stone" sung with a depth and poignance that left the crowd barely able to watch. After that, the crowd was visibly uncomfortable during the rest of Mike's segment, especially as he crashed a few times, at least once hitting his head on the ground. I don't think that BMXer has moved a crowd like that.  Thanks for sharing Mike and Elf.

Other segments were inspirational for their creativity and solid editing.  I was particularly impressed by Cam Wood's segment with a playgound spinney thing 3, step down fakie slideout 3 and parking post scamper ghost ride.  That's what I mean, until you see it, it's hard to imagine, after you see it, words fail you. Elf's segment was also triumphant with a mix of innovation and trickery, including a segment ending rail slide made almost impossible by interference between an axle peg and adjacent wall. Fahzure really appreciated the fitting accompaniment, "Poison" by the MC5, about whom Dave Marsh, then editor of CREEM Magazine famously said, "They were the best band that any of us had ever seen. When they didn't conquer the world, it was very confusing."   Here's another favorite by the fab 5:
While it appears that Mike (and others) have picked up on the helmet wearing, especially where the amplitude is greater and the surfaces harder, BMX, Freeride and DH all carry significant risk. Tara Llanes, TJ Lavin, Stephen Murray, Jay Eggleston, Chris Canfield and Ty Pinney have all suffered head/spine injuries, in recent years. Those that know him, know Fahzure is a big proponent of plastic and foam, having recently taken to wearing a Leatt cervical brace. Here Fahzure tests the limits of foam and plastic (warning, this is not pretty), which did their job allowing him to get back up and stick it:

While these riders (Fahzure, excepted) have become the source of inspiration and have rallied communities around them, their injuries are not the sort of inspiration anyone wishes for. This holiday season, after buying a copy of Killjoy (try your local S&M or Animal retailer), consider giving the gift of a helmet, some plastic and foam or consider adopting their use for the ones you love, spreading a little more joy and a little less killing. You can also assist those who have gone down by making a donation to the Athlete Recovery Fund, the organization supporting extreme free sports athletes trying to get their health back. Let's be careful out there.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Progression

You might have noticed there's been less writing, as of late. On the other hand, there's been more riding.

My friend P-dawg introduced me to the concept of "The Progression."  Back when I got to know and love him he was a skater/snowboarder in his early 30's teaching the groms of the Aspen Valley how to pull 3 disaters on the skate in the summer, clean 7's on the board in the winter. He continued his progression by building a belt full of tools that has made him a successful conservationist, educator, parent and partner.  Today, he's a school teacher, surfer and  product rep. He constantly emphasizes the importance of The Progression.

The Progression is the  source of inspiration in BMX (Ryan Guettler, Great Quotes:
"He (Ryan's son) might just want a freecoaster and go backwards everywhere and that's Okay" &   "I hope to be ride until I'm 40-45 years old"),

Bob, "The Man" Burnquist is big on The Progression.
(Great Quotes: "I thought, you know, you could just fall off of bed and be riding vert. " "Flying off the 70 footer is really scary")

And this from mtb trials Zen master Ryan Leech:

This snowboard coach posits that the following are supportive of rider development; The Progression:

1. Develop a training environment where high hopes and expectations are over-shadowed by positivity, support and focus on the activity at hand.

2. A rider should try and make a habit of appreciating goals reached and positive feedback from coaches and peers. On the flip-side, it is important for a rider not to worry to much, and to let go of the external pressures from coaches, parents, peers or others that can create negative feelings and self doubt.

3. Encourage group interaction and group support of each others efforts. A rider can get a lot of positive motivation and internal drive from friendly competition with friends and peers.

4. Identify the riders strengths and weaknesses in terms of skill base. Like which way do they spin easier or do we need to spend more time practicing riding switch before trying 180's or 540's.

5. Routinely practice the skills where the rider is uncomfortable. Set easy goals to build confidence and hopefully emerge from the "that feels weird zone", thereby opening up a new line of progression.

6. When the rider is fired up, feeling confident and having fun, push the progression lines where the rider is comfortable for maximum gains

7. Encourage visualization every step of the way. Practicing tricks in the mind builds confidence on the snow.

Before P-Dawg, I knew a guy named Dave who lived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver.  He was emblematic of the gritty, unpretentious, party-hard Denver (post) punk scene of the late 80's/early 90's.  Although Dave was often dealt a poor hand (kicked out of the band, unemployed, loveless), he always had a smile on his face and was quick to encourage whatever gave you hope.  I asked Dave how he maintained his hopeful, fun-embracing outlook. He said "Well whenever you get down about a situation, just draw a hotrod":  

At the time, I took it a little too literally, drawing was frustrating, autos have always been a love/hate thing for me and, I certainly didn't find them the subject of fantasy.  But the essence of the message is now clear: do that creative, joyous thing that puts you in your happy place.

As has been noted, fall is when we ride, as we are healed, fit and ready; low-angle light and cool temperatures create magic. Combining the former "Progression" and "happy place" principals, with a desperate bid to make the season last, we added a few more Commandments in our exploration of the tenets of the Church of the Progression:



10th Commandment: SEND IT!

This fall, with few opportunities left, Tyson, Mo, Dirty, and Broniel have been an inspiration and motivation.  Tyson put in the most time, building the lip while I stacked the 12 strawbales and piled on woodchips.

Tyson and I had a high jump "contest":

Flatness begets height(click to see the bb ser. #):

Tyson and I are different riders in relation to The Progression.  For Tyson, it is almost purely a head game, as all the skills and ambition are already present and available. Tyson rarely crashes. It took Tyson 20 incremental attempts to get a tire grab, first, landing 15 big whips, he didn't even move a hand off the bar; just thinkin' about it, then this sick grab three runs later:

Tyson nailed truly fastplants, as the light was fading quickly:

Fahzure, on the other hand, was quick to throw anything (sometimes unsuccessfully); no-footers, crankflips and toboggans came almost as fast as they could be called out:

Nothings (aka no-no; no-hander/no-footer), too:

And, in serious Progression mode, a clean 3, on the last day, after 20+ disastrous attempts:

With the highs expected to be in the 30's or lower for the next two and a half months the Ghetto Foam Pit is done for 2011. Hey Ryan Guettler, I may be over the hill, to you, but, I can't wait for spring, to continue The Progression. Best jump ever.