Apr 23, 2010

Celluloid Dump.

Been sitting on this for a while, gathering, scanning, and uploading a small pile of non-digital media for what appears to be April's only blog post.

Presented in reverse chronological order:

Shot by TJ Henderson, circa 2006:

Bottom bracket grind at my alma mater, Washington University in St Louis.


Canadian nosepick by TJ Henderson in Des Moines, Iowa. Shot by Bobby Altiser.

These black & whites came off a roll of film that sat undeveloped in my glove box for four years. Shot with my Pentax Spotmatic.

Young wives Tika and Jaime, with the Nikon D50 and Sony TRV950, respectively.

Huge sub box, huge film grain, Ben gets first marks in Clayton, Missouri, Summer 2006. Sorry for the faulty exposure, expired film, and/or bad Costco processing, Ben. This would've been a great shot.

Shad shot this Reed College tree-ride-to-fence-grind for Dig just before I left Portland in early 2003. (The photos never ran.) Double hoodies and massive cuffs date the pics, but the bike itself would see few updates over the next seven years.



Lastly, another b&w shot of Ben from my Pentax, late 2001. That's our old backyard in Everett. Ben reps an o.g. Kink tee shirt, DK SOB, and 45t Threshold sprocket.

Off the topic of film photography, but still on the nostalgic tip, is the first video I ever made (with editing assistance from Cousin Paul), shot in October of 2001. If anyone is aware of it intact online somewhere, I'd love to know.

Almost nine years later, pegless and brakeless, I still feel pretty well represented by it.

Mar 24, 2010


The "Gravity Powered Vehicle mini craze" was long dead by 1988, but I'm not surprised to find the mantle raised again and burning brightly in Portland, Oregon, 2010, just ten blocks downhill from the Zoobomb pile.

Saturday night, my cousin Trey and I happened upon this fellow parked at Voodoo Doughnut, and I instantly identified his custom "GPV" as a DK SOB.

"It was the heaviest frame I could find," hippie Clint explained (as per the gravity-powered premise).

Although it's a confusing sight at first, the bike is sitting right-side-up, with a seat welded to the chainstay wishbone. The handlebars underneath turn 90 as knee rests, and you can see disc weights hanging down below.

The handlebars (SBC 4-piece Strips) also turn 90 but remain inverted, with curved tubing tack welded in place for additional hand positions. (Also note the vintage S&M Ditchforks.)

Clint says he stopped riding bmx around 2001, and after we waxed bmx-nostalgic for a few minutes, asked if I knew of anyone selling a complete bike for cheap. "Nothing too light," he said. I said I would put him in touch with someone who might be able to help and took down his email address.

(Caleb, I'm looking at you.)

Two nights later, Trey and I were out on another late ride when the red foldie suddenly fell apart in Trey's hands. He avoided crashing, but I confess that his look of bewilderment was priceless, as the bike slow-motion folded in half beneath him. Serendipitously, we were just then directly in front of Voodoo, and so were Clint and his taxi, reggae gently bumping. He was quick to offer his help and the use of his tools. The confusing repair took our combined concentration more than ten minutes to work out, bending and hammering and furrowing our brows, everything finally slipping together effortlessly in one fabulous aha moment. A cotter pin from Clint's tool bag clipped it all permanently in place.

The satisfaction of the experience was palpable, not to mention the value of Clint's tools, the cotter pin, and not having to walk a bike home. We expressed our gratitude and insisted on tipping him a few bucks, against his protests.

Mar 18, 2010

bmx is cute.

Our lighthearted street riding magnum opus. The full dvd is now online. Thanks once again to everyone who put in work on this.

I think Ben still has a couple of dvd's. If anyone wants a hard copy, feel free to hit us up.

St Louis riders: Joe Albanez, Justin Bukowitz, TJ Henderson, Ryan Johnson, Chris Jones
Seattle riders: Shay Schiefelbein, Andrew Longstreet
Portland riders: Darus Albon, Dustin Anderson, Daniel Hamlett, Caleb Ruecker, Ben Piff, Tony Piff

Mar 11, 2010

Project: Free Bike.

Caleb and Ben approached me with a radical proposal in November: would I accept the gift of a complete, custom, modern bmx bike, to replace my unreliable-but-unkillable warship built at the peak of the heavy bike trend almost ten years ago?

36 lbs. Details here.

I did not say "Yes" immediately, for a few reasons. Firstly, I was uncomfortable accepting their generosity. My bike's fabulous obsolescence was due financially not to lack of funds, but to my paralyzing aversion to spending--and it didn't seem fair to accept for free what I could honestly afford. Caleb and Ben countered this point by assuring me it would be done at approximately zero expense, just drawing parts from the existing local surplus, since basically any change would amount to an upgrade and a savings in weight. They also pointed out that, furthermore, while I might be able to afford the upgrade (certainly a free one), the true roadblock was my own inertia and lack of time. And they convinced me that they would enjoy the project and the opportunity for an act of service.

After some deliberation, I handed over my bike and what spare parts I had laying around with the instructions to use, keep, sell, or donate it all. I just wanted one complete bike and no more extra parts taking up space in my closets. I resolved to detach completely from all expectations and embrace whatever I received, which was hard at first, but then thrilling. I told Caleb and Ben that the most important thing to me was that they have fun.

I am amazed. Here is the breakdown:

Frame: Caleb's 2004 S&M Stricker, mountless, 20.5"

Before (stream-of-conscious paint pen & sticker job):


Castillo Bars from DBZ. I think the orange spray over maroon is genius.

Redline Device fork. Blue spray over navy. Also genius.

Solid headset, circulating through Caleb's friends since 2003.

Odyssey Griswald grips. I bought these new at Goods and love them. They're the thickest grips I've ever seen. Designed by Ben Ward.

Shadow Attack front-load stem. Caleb did make the disclaimer that he wasn't sure how I would feel about running a Shadow Conspiracy product. He was right to wonder, but I just find it funny, and I like how it resembles the old Death Neck. I think the bolts are hollow.

Profile 180's. So pleased--I secretly hoped Caleb would keep the orange and black.

My old Cielenski pedals.

KMC 510 HX chain. Pieced together from spare links by DBZ. I think it's the chain endorsed by Sean Burns, which makes me feel safe.

Shadow Crowgora sprocket. 30t. Another Shadow product??? Yep, and it's even purple.

Metal Bikes Pivotal seat & post. I think DBZ was going to give these to me out of pity, but he actually made me trade him a pack of Newports for them.

When my Kink Empire was stolen in 2002, I was able to build 90% of a replacement bike out of spare parts from the garage of old riding buddy Dave Brown. That makes this Primo Viking seatpost clamp the oldest part on the bike. Years later I sawzalled it in half.

Front tire: Fit FAF.

Rear Tire: Odyssey Plyte Path.

Rear Wheel: Poverty 48H 10T cassette laced to Alex Supra E-lite.

Front Wheel: Crupi high-flange 3/8 36H laced to no-name single wall. It's a race wheel, so I guess pegs are out of the question. I'm fine with that.

28 lbs. The seat is ever-so-slightly lower than it was previously, and the bars have been pushed forward in line with the fork, and neither is changing. My only plans are to grind down the axles and possibly trim the seat post.

See also: video footage of the new bike, posted last week (via Caleb's blog).

Thank you, Caleb. Thank you, Ben. Thank you.

Mar 2, 2010

Wings Like Solid Concrete.

Item #1: DBZ shaved his head, quit drugs, and has undertaken the project of blogging a complete list of aesthetic influences (assumed NSFW).

Item #2: Caleb, too, is blogging, and reportedly filming for a DBZ web video.

Item #3: The first documentation of me on a bmx since January over a year ago--rode bikes and filmed with Caleb last Sunday. I really can't believe what we found:

From Caleb's blog:

Feb 4, 2010

Bad weather makes for good web edits.

This week, three dope videos from our very closest homies. If you haven't seen them already:

Ben Piff: iPhone Bro-Cam Edit.
Video nerds Ben and Caleb rode hard street all summer, putting Caleb's 3ccd's to careful good use. We've yet to see the "serious" footage, but here's everything else Ben did this summer, filmed with his iPhone, by whomever happened to be around at the time. The lighthearted, low-res results are surprisingly satisfying and beautiful. I'll take credit for suggesting the song.

Caleb Evenson: "Study of a Spot."
An easygoing, unpretentious "concept" video that is fantastically successful, thanks to Caleb's humility, sincerity, and choice of setting. Yes, this is where Bruce Crisman pulled the fakie ruben wallride.

TJ Henderson: The Man, The Myth, The Legend.
From the 217 blog. Four pegs, two brakes, a gyro, freecoaster, trucker hat, and denim cutoffs put to full use, as usual. I always used TJ as a selling point for the bmx is cute dvd, but frankly, this renders anything he was doing back then pretty much obsolete. TJ's bag of tricks continues to swell. Love the way this finishes.

Jan 17, 2010

Pocket Journals.

In my systematic quest for the perfect pocket journal, I bought the smallest size notebooks available from every brand I could find. Two years of hard testing later, here are my conclusions.

Moleskine Plain Reporter Notebook.
3-1/2 x 5-1/2, black only, $12.00.
I bought three different Moleskines, but this is the only one that saw significant use. The Moleskine dimensions are pretty good for a back pocket, and the slick, fake leather binding slides in and out easily. For writing while standing up, the Reporter sits nicely in your hand.

I'm not crazy about the Moleskine paper, which is thinner and yellower than the other brands, but I cope. Moleskine does a sketchbook with different paper for drawing and painting, and elsewhere on the internet you can find artists hotly debating the technical performance of paper under various media. All I really have an opinion about is how well it works as journal in my pocket.

I liked this one a lot initially, but after a while the cover started wearing badly, at which point I retired it. I assume the other Moleskines would wear in the same way. See photos below.

Other features: elastic closure band, expandable pocket.

Moleskine Japanese Album.
3-1/2 x 5-1/2, black only. $9.60.
One continuous, zigzag-folded page. I really love this and am saving it for use as a future travel journal. One reason I think the Moleskine Reporter Notebook wore out is that I took too long filling it up. But when travelling, I journal feverishly, filling pages like I'm on meth--I could fill this up in a few weeks before it had the chance to fall apart. Also, I feel like the continuous page would be conducive to obsessive, stream-of-consciousness documentation, a la Kerouac (or something).

And the paper is thicker and more durable, almost card stock.

Other features: elastic closure band, expandable pocket.

Moleskine Plain Notebook.
3-1/2 x 5-1/2, black or red,$12.00.
Not much left to say about Moleskines, but this one does come in red.

Other features: bookmark string, elastic closure band, expandable pocket.

Sparco Brand Reporter's Notebook.
The newspaper where I interned in 2008 had an unlimited supply of these. They do make you feel like a journalist, but what a hassle to use! Thin cardboard; ugly lined paper; floppy oversized dimensions that won't fit in any pocket. At least the cover folds back out of the way, which none of these others can do.

Hand-Book Travelogue Journal, Pocket Landscape.
3-1/2 x 5-1/2, many colors, $7.99.
Many artists swear by these sketchbooks. Even if you're just journaling, it's a tactile delight pulling an inky pen across the thick, toothy, bright, buff-colored paper. The construction feels robust and high quality.

But it's just a little thick to carry in your pocket every day. My wife eventually appropriated this one for Markie, our two-year-old daughter, who gets to put a sticker in it as a reward for using the potty.

Other features: bookmark string, elastic closure band, expandable pocket, reasonable price, many colors and configurations, including square!

Derwent Faux Suede Journal.
3-1/2 x 5-1/2, black or tan, $7.95.
This measures exactly the same dimensions as the HandBook brand sketchbook above--that is to say, a little thick for my pocket. I also doubt the durability of the faux suede cover.

And yet I really, really like this one. The tan suede with black details looks and feels great, construction is high quality, and the paper is extremely white (pickier artists may find it a little smooth). It's a smart, classy package. No surprise that my wife took it as her own. This would make a great gift.

It has the same bookmark string, elastic band, and expandable pocket as all the rest, as well as a second pocket inside the front cover. Reasonably priced.

Homemade Journal.
I used to always carry a folded sheet of paper in my pocket to jot down ideas and questions throughout the day. During my foreign study in college, I used this technique for journalling, and came home four months later with a crammed folder of embarrassingly disheveled paper scraps.

Later, after I got married, perhaps thinking my journalling habits could benefit from a little formality, I started fashioning staple-bound books out of card stock. I liked the DIY project, but these never fared well under prolonged pocket use.

Not particularly durable or pretty, but inexpensive and fun to figure out. I've made these in all sorts of sizes and arrangements. I didn't measure this one, but you can see that it's about as long as the pen. These were the inspiration for the pocket journal search.

Pentalic a la Modeskin Book.
3x4, many colors, $2.95.
The Pentalic has emerged as my journal of choice. 3x4 is approximately the size of my wallet--absolutely perfect.

It's crazy that Moleskine, HandBook, and Derwent aren't already doing their own 3x4's. The Pentalic construction and materials are unimpressive, compared with these other brands (though the paper is still thicker than than Moleskine paper). You can see in the photos below that the book is actually in separate pieces now. That's not normal wear--Markie did it--though I don't think she could tear apart a Moleskine, Handbook, or Derwent with the same ease. It bugged me at the time, but I've forgotten to care, since it just doesn't seem to matter. The elastic band holds everything together and I never think about it.

The cheap rubber cover is extremely durable and is showing the nicest patina of any of these books.

Other features: bookmark string, elastic closure band, expandable pocket, impossibly low price, many colors.
I'm ordering a bunch more of these Pentalics soon, in a variety of colors. With a new one that isn't falling apart, I have a plan to let it replace my actual wallet, with just my few cards and I.D. tucked into the pouch.

The pocket journal catches most of my stray thoughts and questions, as an aid to my unreliable memory, but I've fallen out of the habit of journaling seriously for the sake of posterity or nostalgia. When that inclination comes back around, as I know it will, the other journals will find use at my bedside or in my backpack.

They won't go to waste.