Book Review: ‘Shit’ — The Big Brother Book

February 26th, 2016 | 2:54 am | Features & Interviews | 7 Comments

shit the big brother book 1

Skateboarders are nostalgic, and it’s hard to think of something as endlessly mourned since its demise as Big Brother. There have been tribute Instagram accounts, promises of the entire archive’s digitization, four-figure eBay listings of the full collection, and Dave Carnie even published a 700-page book of his writing from it.

Shit, released by DC Shoes, is a 224-page hardcover book that chronicles the 1992-2004 run of Big Brother magazine, and costs about $950 less than buying every issue at online auction. Sparing intros and an epilogue where eight principal editorial members reflect on their time at the magazine, the book consists of two-page spreads for every one of Big Brother‘s 106 issues. Each spread has the cover, the issue’s quotes section, and a scrapbook collage with highlights. Alongside the covers are behind-the-scenes stories from Sean Cliver and Dave Carnie, who split the blurb duties 53 / 53. It is remarkable how much information they retain from every issue’s creation. The full history of the publication plays out over the course of the book, and in many ways, coincides with the grander story of skateboarding’s resurgence into popularity throughout the nineties.

Book Review: The Accidental Playground

November 27th, 2013 | 7:00 am | Features & Interviews | 12 Comments

the accidental playground

As D.I.Y. spots have become more common over the past decade, the Brooklyn Volcano remains an anomaly. It was the first New York spot of its kind, and existed in a place that could have hypothetically grown into something the size of a skatepark. Given the route real estate has taken throughout the Bloomberg years, it will likely be the last of its sort. New York D.I.Y. spots are now one-offs in spaces that could not accommodate a full, skater-made skatepark.

Daniel Campo’s The Accidental Playground is a case study of the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal (BEDT), a onetime freight loading yard. The BEDT was home to the Volcano, a photogenic D.I.Y. spot overlooking the Manhattan skyline, seen in any skate magazine from the early 2000s. Campo is a former New York city planner and an architecture professor at Morgan State University. He is an advocate of “unplanned” public space, and writes The Accidental Playground to discuss the merits of when cities do not get involved with the recreational lives of their citizens, allowing them to “make their own environment.” These sort of spaces present a “get your hands dirty” alternative to the “manicured” nature of a Central or Prospect Park.

Compared to the restrictions faced in official parks, the BEDT was practically lawless within reason. Recreational use of the space was pioneered by dog walkers fed up with leash laws, but eventually gave way to a range of characters with interests that were not accommodated by other nearby parks. This included artists, a punk marching band, undocumented day laborers who could not procure on-the-books housing, and neighborhood residents who wanted to drink a beer outside without worry of an open container ticket. Campo considers skateboarding to have been the most sophisticated use of the space, though each group is afforded its own chapter in the book.

Recent Skate Book Round-Up: A Room With No Windows, DIY & Better If You Don’t Come Back

April 3rd, 2013 | 5:30 am | Features & Interviews | 4 Comments

book round up

Written by Galen Dekemper

The previous months have brought three worthwhile additions to the skate literature canon. I present these reviews in order of least skateboarding content to the most.

A Room With No Windows by Scott Bourne (1980 Editions)

The easiest thing to say is that this book is amazing. From Scott Bourne’s “Black Box” columns in Slap Magazine, to his video parts and more recent poetry books, the man has shown a serious dedication to quality across a variety of media. A Room With No Windows is Bourne’s first novel and one that is fully worth the decade of anticipation that preceded its publication. Bourne notes in the introduction that he writes to release himself from shame. To this end, Bourne casts himself the main character in a story that is as impressive in its introspection as in its illumination of other people and places. With alcohol as a “seasoning for sin,” a single man explores the differences between love and sex while coming to understand San Francisco’s geography based on the different neighborhoods where he wakes up after going home with women. He makes these beds when he leaves them, seeks a cup of coffee and a park, then wanders back to the Webster Street apartment where he resides throughout the novel. There is a beautiful passage about installing a door that provides slightly more light into Bourne’s windowless room.

Book Review: Tough Like You by Soma Fuller

January 18th, 2013 | 7:28 am | Features & Interviews | 18 Comments

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Written by Galen Dekemper

The good thing about that night was that I made out with a 45-year-old divorcée. The bad thing was my terrible hangover the next morning. Against hindsight’s judgment, I went straight to a perilous spot, even though it was cold and there was snow on the ground, because I had shoveled it clear the previous day. I wanted to skate this flat bar to drop before I left town.

My eventual goal was a switch front board slide, but I found the rail slicker than anticipated on my first regular boardslide attempt. My board shot forward while my body descended straight down. I was aware that my penis was approaching the end of this rail and changed my body to avoid contact. I touched ground with my left foot first, then felt my left knee bend incorrectly as my body weight compressed down. Pain indicated the mishap and I kept saying “fuck” as I bent my knee to test. I eventually walked around some and got in the car, but I knew that my life had just changed. After a spring of continuing to twist my knee, an MRI confirmed my torn left ACL. On July 7, 2011, I took a left ACL replacement surgery, the same surgery I had on my right knee five years earlier.

An additional surgery on December 7 to trim my torn meniscus was a further complication, but I used adult strength and previous experience with ACL recovery to help me heal as well as possible. My physical therapist and I developed daily exercise programs that built muscle while also allowing time for rest and recovery between all activity. Being on one’s feet at all is an activity after surgery. As I strategized for an optimal recovery, a convenient retweet from Josh Kalis led me to Tough Like You by Soma Fuller. Fuller is a senior writer at Focus magazine and Tough Like You is fruit of his 20 years of studying skating, healing and injury prevention.

Book Review: On a Day With No Waves – A Chronicle of Skateboarding by Raphaël Zarka

August 17th, 2011 | 12:05 pm | Features & Interviews | 10 Comments

If the act of skateboarding is a universal language, then does a skateboarder need to know how to speak, let alone decipher the meaning of text?Inquisitive Gentleman

I now leave to the magazines, to the growing number of documentaries, blogs and the internet in general, the task of completing and filling out the gaps in this project.Raphaël Zarka

Review by Galen Dekemper

The methods of product presentation and transmission are important in a multimedia age. In 2011 one can easily curate a history of skateboarding through video clips. The writer realizes that these video relics show skateboarding to be an act unparalleled in self-containment and visual definition. Filmed video parts are mimicry far more exact than what the writer can endeavor to shape with his words. Yet as the endless amount of footage expands to the point where there is more skateboarding online than pornography, the oeuvre grows nearly as difficult to navigate as the three levels of Central Park Hubba. Still one feels compelled to attempt success in the face of likely failure. Spirited conversation and literacy prove helpful as a way of determining what’s really good. One learns to trust one’s suppliers.

To examine skateboard literature into and beyond the industry canon of magazine writing is an autodidact’s game. Superstars have penned their life tales. Someone in Texas has channeled Justin Pierce’s ghost. The occasional coffee table edition may include a worthwhile introduction. To be aware of Skateboarding, Space and the City, by Iain Borden, shows that one has reached a plateau of skateboard reading. Due to the rarity of books in comparison to other skateboard media, the appearance of a new skateboarding book merits attention. With On a Day With No Waves: A Chronicle of Skateboarding, Mr. Zarka has chosen to document skateboarding’s history in a 230 year timeline.

There is pleasure to be found in reading Zarka’s chronicle in its entirety, as history does exist and ideas emerge through connections in linear time. In George Orwell’s 1984, a misled character claims that books are good to the extent that they reinforce thoughts the reader already believed. This chronology refutes such a claim, as the book is as its best when it prompts one to look beyond its pages, to perform research of one’s own on a subject of interest, much in the way a good skate video sends one outside, firecrackering off the curb, ready to do some tricks of one’s own.