Friday, December 19, 2008
I liked my first tower better, but it fell down. That red triangle block in the bottom right was on top of the green rectangle but got knocked off while I was taking the picture, I guess.
There will probably be more of this stuff.
There are eight more Hamilton-related videos from the same Youtube user, Lobsterspine, some of which are measurably easier to watch, and none with more than eighty views to date. These include parts one through four of some project called Inception 2. If I understand correctly, Inception was the name of Hamilton's high school video project.
Inception 2, part two. Trails down a fricken' gully like nothing I've ever seen! Where is this? I guess it goes without saying that footage of Ted Van Orman is always great.
Parenthetically, here's the only evidence of Inception 1's existence that I'm aware of:
It would appear that Lobsterspine is Hamilton's personal account, or that of someone close to him. I can't think of another pro whose mind is better suited to Youtube as a creative medium.
Related: The Complete Steven Hamilton Youtube Discography
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Cool post from the hard-working boys at Street Phire, detailing a clever, low-budget radio slave mod. A satisfying read, even though I've never shot with off-camera flashes. When user ingenuity trumps planned obsolescence, I always smile.
Also recommended: the Street Phire "My Bag" galleries, which document the contents of camera bags of different bike riding photographers and videographers. I like how Robin Hunter's particularly exhaustive bag check even mentions which items have Nikon or LowePro printed on them.
Two trailers for Four Corners:
The trailers represent the video fairly well: solid riding from kids you've never heard of, riding spots you've never seen, peppered with the occasional pro throwing down burly moves at some familiar skatepark. For the record, that shot of Travis Sexmith's table air is one of my favorite clips from any video ever.
It's tastefully edited and well filmed and paints a fantastic portrait of the riding scene in Alaska. Good vibes. No bike throwing. I want to go there.
There's a ton of great trails footage, which kind of feels like the heart of the video and the scene, but nobody has brakes, and the dirt footage is balanced by equal parts street riding and park. (Way too much park footage, in my opinion, perhaps the result of trying to get a clip from every single rider in Alaska.) The highlight of the video for me was Matt Lindsey's part, self-filmed via tripod in what appears to be Russia or China or perhaps Hawaii??? It left me pleasantly baffled, seeing all the incredible communist architecture so unlike anything in the states, including axle-high ledges that might rouse Joe Tiseo from his grave.
Alaska bears no resemblance to California or NYC or any place in my mental catalog of bmx images, and yet there are kids there putting in work, and that's what I love about this dvd. Check this ancient Youtube gem. A comically rickety portable ramp, set in places that seem absolutely arbitrary, but not (apparently) as any sort of joke. I'm just so happy that it's all real.
Four Corners is chock full of this stuff. Watch the No Bikes blog for progress on their next video, which I have been told will document some of their wilderness riding excursions, which gets me really, really psyched. I invite you to hassle Aaron for a copy of Four Corners with a custom cover. I don't know if he'll say yes.
December 19 edit: updated with an excerpt from Aaron's response to this review:
One of the things I try to do with all my videos is be as inclusive as possible. Scene videos, to me, aren’t just putting together the best tricks from the best riders in town. Back in the day we always had local contests to bring people together; since video is the new medium that we “measure” people’s riding by, I think the scene video is often missed as a scene building tool. Videos give everyone something to work together on; I try to shoot with as many people as I can and get anyone involved in production who is interested in that kind of stuff. This year I got to plan three awesome trips to shoot for this video, and got to know more Alaskan bmxers, there’s really nothing else I could ask for from the process. So yeah, I was trying to film everyone in Alaska, glad you noticed….
We are very happy that Alaska is as unique as it is. There is plenty of stuff to ride up here, and even more to see and experience (where else can you ride trails after midnight). I wish more people would be curious enough to come up here. Rooftop and the Samurai guys had the right idea, but I don’t think they really found any of our spots. I would never want to come up here again if one quarter of the spots I rode was the Wasilla skatepark.
I made a trailer for the next video, but have to add some audio clips in with Steve before it’ll go online. Look for it in the next couple weeks. Ryan Hiebert has been working hard on the team video as well, so get pumped for that (if you haven’t been reading this blog for long, there will be a documentary about riding in Alaska and a team video featuring all of our friends from her, BC and anywhere else).
Sunday, November 30, 2008
St Louis, 2006. Photo by Atika Piff. The sub rail has since vanished.
My main goal with the project was to create a video with an authentic vibe that would not give the viewer a chance to get bored. From watching a million bike videos over the years (and a million skate, snowboard, inline, and motocross vids, too), I'd come to the conclusion that the videos with the most lasting appeal were not necessarily those with the most advanced riding and definitely not those that portrayed riders as thrillseeking rockstars.
My personal favorites showcase the personalities of the riders and what they put into their riding, not just their tricks set to music. Sometimes a rider's strong personality seems to be revealed through his riding, as with Steven Hamilton, Ralph Sinisi, Mike Aitken, Troy McMurray, Ian Schwartz, Jim Cielincki, Bob Scerbo, Vic Ayala, Jeremy Davis, Jimmy Levan, Lino, Charlie Crumlish, the Enns, or Taj, to name but a few. (It's no coincidence that these are all guys I feel I could get along with outside of bike riding.)
Other times, it's achieved through the tasteful choices of filmers and editors. I can't, for the life of me, fathom why, in 2008, a producer would choose to include footage of a rider flipping off the camera. It's not merely lame--it's a fake gesture that, in my opinion, reveals the rider's discomfort in front of the camera. And I think those moments make the viewer uncomfortable and ruin the possibility of a good vibe. (More rambling thoughts on flipping the bird in this old blog post from 2006.) That Aaron would say our video has an "excellent vibe" means the world to me.
Chris Jones chain hop. Clayton, Missouri, 2006. Photo by TJ Henderson.
Beyond the simple goal of good vibes, I also had an editing/directorial/format concept in my head that I'd been waiting forever to see used in a mainstream video. I finally realized I'd have to create it myself if I ever wanted to see it. As Aaron wrote in an email to me, "I really liked how the music kind of took a back seat to the riding/background noise in a lot of that; not sure if that was your intention but it was definitely rad."
The sound was very intentional, and I'm psyched that Aaron noticed.
I recall watching some snowboard movie that was all shot on 16mm film. The cinematography was beautiful, but the only audio was the musical soundtrack. Then there would be a couple of 3ccd video clips mixed in, and those shots would have sound, and I would get a sudden surge of adrenaline at how comparatively real those moments felt.
Another time, Terry Gross was interviewing the director of The Bourne Ultimatum, and he talked about the work of the sound engineer. He described how important it was for the different international shooting locations to have their own distinct atmospheric sound character: how does a gunshot sound different, say, reverberating through crisp, empty, arctic air, versus through muggy jungle tropics, versus through angular, concrete cityscape? Sort of like thinking about the warm and cold tones that you have to deal with when color-correcting.
Those two experiences (the snowboard video and the interview) altered my awareness of sound, and when I started editing the video, I was thrilled by the raw aural textures of our bike riding footage. For a time, I even fantasized about making a video with no music whatsoever. But I figured that kind of conceptual art project would require a professional level of riding and some serious video-making clout in order to make sense. I think All Day did something similar for its intro--an extended montage of night-time lines, one clip from each of the Animal team riders. Really great, really well done. Not available on Youtube, that I'm aware of...
Since I didn't think I could pull off a video without music, I opted for tracks that were mostly pretty mellow, mostly without words--more like a film score than a music video, maybe. And I'm satisfied with the result.
So, when Aaron of NoBikes describes bmx is cute as "different," I hope people don't take it as a euphamism for "weak." And I don't believe in trying to be different for the sake of being different. We just made the video we wanted to make, a video that (I hope) represents bike riding authentically.
Thanks, Aaron. Glad you found it worthwhile.
the humble bmx is cute trailer:
Friday, November 21, 2008
I acquired this pair of skate shoes from my cousin Connor, who inherited them from our cousin Mike, who purchased them in the spirit of irony from the now defunct gospelshoes.com, circa 2003 as I recall. Mike (not a skater or bike rider) wore them around on occasion. Connor never did. I intended to use them for riding, but there's just no way I can swing a size thirteen. So they've sat in my closet for a year, and now I'd rather have the space.
If any bike rider would like to have these, just paypal me the shipping cost, and they're yours. Email me to sort out the details.
While I'm not fundamentally opposed to Christianity or organized religion (I'm a practicing Baha'i), I am amazed and amused by the bald-faced commercialization of sacred things. I'd like to meet whomever designed these shoes.
"So," I'd say. "You stamped the Lord's name on a product destined to be smeared with mud and dog shit. How reverent."
Saturday, September 13, 2008
He's still there, antennae twitching, as I write. Young guy, looks like.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Perhaps you're familiar with these grasshoppers that have an incredible bright green color when they're very young. The entire body--eyes, head, abdomen, legs, antennae--is the same unreal color, like a delicate toy cast in plastic. (Their blood is green, according to Wikipedia.) Well, I spotted one chilling on the trunk of our car last Wednesday, as we headed out for errands. When I saw what appeared to be the same grasshopper on Thursday morning, I assumed that it was one of the original's cousins, maybe just attracted to the warmth of a dark-colored car.
Driving home on Friday, I was shocked to see the same grasshopper again, this time clinging to my side-view mirror, safely out of the wind, and I concluded that this was no coincidence. I spent the entire drive fumbling with my camera's exposure and flash, hoping to get a decent shot before he was inevitably gone, voluntarily or involuntarily. He appeared (Could it be?) ever so slightly larger, and a slightly less vibrant shade of green. "Wow, he's growing up fast," I thought.
I shared the pictures with my wife and visiting in-laws at dinner, and we all found it an amusing story.
We didn't drive anywhere on Saturday, and I didn't see him or think of him when we were running errands this Sunday afternoon. But we went out again tonight, and my wife and I thought of him, theorized what it all could mean, thought how ridiculous it would be to see him again. Jaime asked where on the car I'd seen him at the different times, and I told her it didn't seem like he had a particular favorite spot.
Not thirty seconds later, I shrieked when I saw him clinging to the windshield, resisting the 40 mph headwind. I slowed to a manageable 35 mph, Jaime narrated his every move, and I tried to focus on driving safely.
"Oh no, he's facing the wrong way, the wind is pulling at his wings!" she said. "Okay, he's turned back around....He's licking all his feet."
"He's licking his feet?! He licked all six feet?"
"No, just four... He didn't lick the back two... Okay, he's licking the fifth one now, he just needs to get the last one... Okay, he's got the last one, are you going to pull over?"
"Yes, there's a pull-out just ahead."
"What are you going to do? You know you can't help him," Jaime said, guarding the integrity of the symbolism.
"I know, I know. I just want to get another picture of him."
We pulled off, got out of the car, and tried not to startle him. He was still for a minute while I fired off a dozen pictures, and then he made his way across the top of the car to the rear windshield, where he stayed put.
Feeling a little better about that location, and with nothing left to do, we shrugged our shoulders, got back in, and resumed our outing.
As you can see in the final picture, his color has definitely changed. The green is almost completely gone. Soon I expect the yellow to be replaced with the dull brown/gray of maturity.
I will be inspecting the car regularly now and updating the blog daily until I'm sure he has left for good.
This must be how Tony Soprano felt about the ducklings in his swimming pool.
Grasshopper was a nice catalyst for a blog post.
I haven't posted in over a month, for reasons that are, ostensibly, good. I found work as an editor for the handbook and internal documents of a local health care management organization. Soon after starting there, I landed the news internship I'd been praying for at a well regarded alt-weekly, here in Portland. So I'm writing a ton, and loving it, but it doesn't leave much mental energy (or time) to apply to the blog. Furthermore, I'm studying for the GRE's (September 28th is the big day!), researching PhD programs and the possibility of moving, and trying to be a better husband and father, in support of my wife pursuing her professional and personal goals, and in support my own desire to be a less selfish person.
From one angle, all that logistical stuff should be wrapped up in a couple of months, and I could be feeling freer, riding the little bike more, blogging more. From another, I know that life tends to get more complicated, and I may never really feel "less busy."
Anyone else familiar with this sensation? My wife and I talk about the concept of "motion" all the time. Our life seems to follow a pattern, where we periodically end up complacent or stuck, not sure which goals we are working towards. Then one little event happens to energize us, and all of the sudden, life is crazy and flying by. And it's not just "I need a different job," and I start looking. It's like, when the motion kicks in, every aspect of our lives--professional, educational, creative, spiritual, emotional, personal, family--starts changing and advancing.
Thanks for reading. More on grasshopper tomorrow.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
TJ reminds us that there's more to bike riding than just gaps, grinds, and manuals.
Like most of the people who responded to the post, I, too, would have picked a different song for the edit. But this is the same type of stuff that gets used in all the 217 videos, so I guess it's what they're into. The music was not nearly as bad as I expected, after reading everyone's responses and before clicking the link.
DDX responded to the video, "I hate freecoasters," a sentiment generally expressed in reference to the legions of stripped seat Ian Schwartz clones. Not to put too fine a point on a very dead horse, but I call DDX's attention to TJ's four pegs, 2 brakes, and gyro. TJ's freecoaster is, if anything, a midwest Moliterno/Friemuth reference.
While we're talking about tricks, I'll mention the Fresh Fish trailer, which turned a lot of heads this Spring, and which I'm sure you won't mind watching again.
The opening bangers belong to Andrew Longstreet, from Everett, Washington, another longtime friend of ours. Andrew's dirt jumping roots are obvious, and if you find his clips kind of "funny," you'll probably dig Andrew's sense of humor. I think this kind of riding illustrates the simplistic inadequacy of the tiresome Style Vs Tricks Debate. Andrew's footage is interesting and wonderful not because of the tricks or the style, but because of the context.
Still haven't heard where to get a copy of Fresh Fish. Is it out yet?
Andrew and TJ both have clips in our video, which you should probably purchase. (Buy Now button at the top of this page.) While you're deciding, check out the clip of TJ and Ben in the March 9 Bikes and Coffee post. Then go try to spot young Andrew in the 2003 DailyGrindCrew web video, discussed in last year's July 30 post.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The Ukrainian city of Pripyat has been a ghost town since 1986, when, bullseye downwind from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, its entire population was evacuated in a span of 24 hours--50,000 people, one suitcase each. Everything else remained as it was left, a perfect time capsule coated in fallout. Three decades without human influence have given nature the opportunity to begin reclamation of the land.
Wikipedia reports that background radiation is at a safe level now; sometime around 2000, looters began clearing out the city's apartment buildings. "Nothing of value was left behind," Wikipedia states. "Even toilet seats were taken away."
Archaeologically speaking, it's too bad that the time capsule has been violated; or perhaps it's good news that Ukrainian entrepreneurs are tapping into these long-frozen assets. The city border is still controlled by the military, but tour companies are being granted access. I don't suppose that a bmx bike would be allowed inside. Maybe if you greased the appropriate palms.
How hilarious/cool would it be to hop that fence with a crew of friends, bikes, and camping gear, and explore the silent city, cruising down streets and sidewalks, carving around the trees and weeds pushing up through the pavement? I bet much of the city feels like utter wilderness.
(BTW, on the bmx+camping tip, check the NoBikes blog for photos of their excursion to a remote spillway in the Alaskan wilds. Wish the write-up went into greater detail. I'd be interested in the non-riding photos, too.)
Not actually a missile.
Put some tiremarks on Lenin.
...Too many amazing Pripyat images to choose from. Here are handful from around the internet.
Chernobyl in the distance.
Lastly, some Pripyat YouTube:
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Everyone appreciates Hamilton for his unconventional peg-free approach to street riding, not to mention his casual hucking of monstrous gaps. But for some reason his effortless bike control and clean style are overshadowed by the motowhipping likes of Aitken and Hawk. For style, that's my personal top three, probably, with Hamilton on top.
I think it's significant to note that none of the three is taller than 5'10. Aitken and Hawk are small men that have always ridden huge frames and handlebars, and I think this visually striking jockey-on-stallion effect is one reason they look so damn good flying through the air. Hamilton, by comparison, rides a flatland frame and more "medium" bars, and he could be even shorter than the other two guys. The allover smallness makes his wheels look huge in a way that I find really satisfying, and, furthermore, he seems to have an exceptionally large bunnyhop. But his pop is so natural that I've never heard anyone comment on it.
And Hamilton comes across as a real guy, thanks to his smile, unaffected demeanor, and penchant for a good hoody. Here's the text from his Dig issue 42 interview, archived on Tunney's excellent blog. (the full thing w/photos! --Ed. 11/16/09)
Of course, there hasn't been video footage of Hamilton in a couple years. After leaving the limelight, rumors circulated that he had fried his brain with drugs and stopped riding. Then, in a 2007 issue of RideUK, Hamilton reappeared with a cover shot and a dozen excellent, sponsor-worthy photos (lots of gaps and even a handrail with pegs!) and the most memorable interview of all time. He seems to have gone voluntarily insane and now lives in a parallel psychadelic world. (You can read the RideUK interview online now.--Ed. 9/13/09)
I was disappointed on one level (bye-bye striped shirts), but pleased to find that the new Hamilton is just as real as the old one, escaping the annoying outward trappings of hippiness in favor of an apparently authentic schizophrenia. Sunglasses at night? Intentionally mismatched gloves? A bike covered with seaweed and twigs, painted over with gloss black spraypaint? Keep this stuff coming, please!
It might be said that the "crazy drugged bike rider artist" thing was pioneered by the Gonz, but, by contrast, Hamilton doesn't seem to care whether we notice or not. As always, he's doing his own thing, living his own life, and it feels like a privilege when we get access.
Along with every other bike rider alive, I'm hopeful that we'll see video footage soon, and Hamilton's Phoenix-like return will be complete.
Here's all the footage of Hamilton that I'm aware of. If you know of more, I hope you'll share.
The video part that made Steven Hamilton a household name, from AnimalBikes' Can I Eat?
From the old Ohio video A Day Late and A Dollar Short.
Steven's first part ever, reportedly, from a video called Inception, which I know nothing about. Packed with bangers and striped shirts.
From the Federal video. Last two clips are heart-stopping.
From AnimalBikes' All Day.
The complete Orchid roadtrip video Step On It. Lots of Hamilton footage. Ridiculous clip at 6:40.
Tip Plus's The Family, complete video. Steven's part starts at 21:53.
And, finally, his recently uploaded part from Elliot Van Orman's The Day is Over, 2004. Perhaps my fave video part ever. When this song gets stuck in my head, I don't mind at all.
July 18 Edit: Two additions. Fresh Hamilton footage, Go Skateboarding Day, June 2008. From Skavenger.
And thanks to aaron for bringing to my attention the really good skapegoat 2.5 web video, from March of this year, which includes some recent footy from Ham. Bonus: a bunch of brakeless riding from Ralph Sinisi!
July 19 edit: From the Animal site, , in response to this blog posting:It really is nuts to see Hamilton kill it and I promise you all he is not done. Hamilton has been in the area for the past few weeks puttin in some work for the next Animal Video.
December 9 edit: The internet has yet to make sense of this Youtube gem from late October. Who is this video's intended audience? There's a lot going on here, none of which makes sense...
December 19 edit: This vid, edited by Hamilton himself, appeared on the Animal site the other day. See Lobsterspine = The Real Steven Hamilton? for more.
December 31 edit: More classic Hamilton 1.0 footy in a web video from Peter Adam. Just the title "World Travels" is enough to make me feel something. Thanks for the heads-up, Sam.
September 13, 2009 edit: In addition to his blog and YouTube account, Hamilton is actively posting high res stuff to Vimeo (to avoid Youtube's music copyright filter, presumably), rendering much of this blog post discography redundant.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
The signs made headlines in two Portland papers--the Mercury picked it up first and then the Oregonian Metro section and Business section--and appeared around the local blogosphere at Indymedia, Matt Davis, livingyellow, and JustSeeds, as well as MattressZine, some kind of mattress trade pub.
Clips were used to mount the signs, so that they could be removed without causing damage, and a safety cable secured it all just in case. One important thing the video doesn't make explicit--but maybe you can still tell--is that the DMC is located right on Belmont St, the namesake for one of Portland's trendiest neighborhoods, fully gentrified over the last decade or so. Someone commented in an old Flickr image that the DMC "gives shiny belmont some much-needed squalor," and this had been my unofficial position on the issue before my friends ever suggested the protest. But the original Mercury post elicited seventy-four widely varying reader responses, most of which made valid, intelligent points.
"Although the art is interesting," blogged jmacphee on JustSeeds, "the responses to it are whats really worth checking out. A fascinating, rambling road through varying opinions on street art, vandalism, gentrification, class, yuppies, and property values."
The most critical reaction to the signs came in a lengthy response to the Oregonian Business section write-up. Someone called "Mannis" detailed his family's longtime business relationship with the DMC. He describes how the DMC's actual business model--selling inexpensive, refurbished mattresses--has directly and indirectly helped "thousands" of local needy families and individuals (a good, liberal notion), while simultaneously, on the environmental front, reducing waste (also a good, liberal notion). Mannis goes on to defend the Confederate Flag and condemn those unwilling to acknowledge it as an authentic symbol of legitimate Southern heritage, separable from the notion of slavery.
Mannis's critique of liberal elitism seems on-point, and, sure enough, a huge majority of the other responses were to the effect of Way to stick it to that ugly store. Don't they know they're in Portland?
I happen to know that the artist's intention (though he wouldn't call himself an artist) was a comment on the symbol and not on the storefront, but no one seemed to notice what he thought was obvious: in Progressive Portland, gay rights, animal rights, and separation of church and state are front page bumper sticker issues, and transgressions will get your business boycotted or your politician blacklisted. Mention racism or segregation, by contrast, and (here's the punchline) the activists shrug their shoulders. Naw, we don't really have those problems here.
For the record, I think it was that specific little slice of hypocrisy that catalyzed the artist.
As expected, the MLK signs came down the next day.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Here are two dope pictures of Dan from streetphire shredding one of the acoustic mirrors from April 11th's post. Can you imagine having this as a local spot? Incredible! And he's not even using a cheater board! (Note the concrete block directly in Dan's path: ninety years ago, that block would have supported the listening microphone. Neat.)
A million thanks to the Shithawks blog for bringing this to my attention.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
For the second installment of You'll Never Ride It, we have the Tokyo G-CANS project, an immense network of tunnels "for preventing overflow of the major rivers and waterways spidering the city." The tunnels were blogged to death a couple years ago, but never mentioned with reference to bmx or skateboarding, so I'll go ahead and throw up the standard set of rehashed images.
My dad was talking about Dogs and Demons (I haven't read it (yet)). The book basically predicts Japan's economic and environmental collapse, due to an obsession with exactly this kind of ridiculous public works project. Terrible, but I just can't help getting a little teary-eyed when I think of all the amazing concrete wonders, never to be glimpsed by a skater or bike rider.
Land Rover used the location to shoot a tv commercial, which is a cool idea but pretty weakly executed. The YouTube:
Here's another quick G-Cans movie. Video helps give context to all the familiar images; and the audio really completes a sense of atmosphere.
Tours available in Japanese: "Feel the grandeur of the Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Tunnel."
Feel the grandeur!
And, while you and I will never bike the tunnels, some people (admittedly) do. Heck of a commute.
Friday, April 11, 2008
These massive concrete structures are "acoustic mirrors", built in the first quarter of last century along Southeast UK coastlines. By gathering sound and focusing it at a microphone, the dishes gave the Brits an early warning of approaching enemy aircraft, simply by listening.
But faster and faster planes diminished the mirrors' usefulness, and the advent of radar in the 1930's rendered the technology officially obsolete.
There are a dozen or so mirror sites smattered along the coast, but the most impressive specimens, pictured above, stand today in a defunct quarry, surrounded by a moat, at an old military base. A drawbridge provides access for tourists.
Type "acoustic mirror" into Google Earth, and you'll find them.
Hilarious as I think it would be, trying to session these post-modern, post-apocalyptic monoliths with my little bicycle, that's really a minor component of my attraction to them. I just hope they remain standing for a while, and that I can go and have my picture taken with them.
Read more about them and see lots more pictures here, here, here, and here.
The world is incredible.