Nov 30, 2008

The dvd gets its first review. (And I respond.)

A million thanks to the NoBikes blog for their kind review of our video. Please go there and read it. Since someone has now finally voiced a public response to the video, I feel comfortable saying something about my own creative intentions.

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:

Nov 21, 2008

Low-fashion skate kicks inspired by He Who Walked On Water. Yours for the price of shipping.

'Tis the season, I guess.

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, 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."

Sep 13, 2008


After September 7th's post, I never saw Grasshopper on my car again. Tonight, as I sat on my patio, exploiting the wireless signal from some unknown neighbor, drinking coffee and getting lost in the depths of Wikipedia, this little fellow happened upon my screen. I set the computer down gently, ran and got my camera, and snapped this.

He's still there, antennae twitching, as I write. Young guy, looks like.

Sep 7, 2008

I Admire Your Tenacity, Young Grasshoppa.

Snapped this on my commute home Friday.

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.

Aug 4, 2008

You Love Alaska.

Great write-up of an unconventional bmx road trip on the NoBikes Blog. As usual, I wish there were more pictures.

My new favorite crew?

Jul 29, 2008


From the 217 blog. Spotted here on bmxboard last night.

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.

Jul 19, 2008

You'll Never Ride It III: Pripyat

Spot the crumbling hubba:

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.)



MACBA ledge.


Not actually a missile.

Put some tiremarks on Lenin.

...Too many amazing Pripyat images to choose from. Here are handful from around the internet.
[Nuclear] Winter.



Chernobyl in the distance.

Lastly, some Pripyat YouTube: