pro skateboarding legend RODNEY MULLEN is a magician without peer. widely regarded as one of the most inventive riders to have ever taken up the sport, he is credited with combining street and freestyle skating into a hybrid arsenal of tricks, all of which are the language of the sport today. its true that other skaters have acquired bigger fanbases, but basically everyone is speaking in the lexicon he invented.
but that is not what makes MULLEN interesting to me. if you know his background than you are aware that he was isolated growing up in a strict household and his board was his singular focus in life. in fact, his disciplinarian father let him pursue it only to demand that he hang up his passion if he couldn't make a living from it. after winning contest after contest his father took such as further proof that such were not meaningful. it is truly remarkable how such a transcendent generational talent endured despite having little to no support from those he cared most about, given his isolated upbringing. in comparison TONY HAWK grew up in a household where skateboarding was their family business, his father being the head of competitions funny enough. MULLEN sadly was in a family where skateboarding wasn't encouraged but outright dismissed.
when i think of MULLEN, i think of passion and innovation. i think of survival. i think of someone that pursued their passion with a singular drive and saw opportunities for artistic expression where others saw a common toy. for me its that vision of his that separates him from the pack for me in the same way that a MAGIC JOHNSON no-look side pass bespeaks a mind that can look ahead at what will come to pass and execute such with conviction. most of all he is an artist whose dedication is rooted in a deep love for his craft, which is impossible not to respect.
when watching his tricks i get inspired to create. his abilities transcend sport, its more like ballet. its artistic expression in motion. MARTHA GRAHAM eat your heart out.
so i know everyone has their opinion on GAME OF THRONES (HBO, 2011-2019) and their last season and yadda yadda yadda. i'm not interested in that. i loved the series but it took some warming up to it initially.
this is that story.
i was teaching secondary ELA in VENEZUELA in what can best be described diplomatically as a "challenging" setting. the school culture was crumbling due to poor management, which seemed to mirror the wider national political/economic climate which was teetering from unstable to full-on death spiral. to date the only more unpredictable situation i've ever encountered was living in NIGERIA, which at the time was already in the throes of a corrupt military dictatorship that was met with violence and threats thereof as a mater of due daily course.
anyway back to GAME OF THRONES. it makes perfect sense to me now that my high school students were so intrigued by it. put aside the silliness surrounding dragons, dire wolves and elaborate sigils and you have the palace intrigue that defined VENEZUELAN politics.
my students were constantly trying to get me to watch it, to which i would dismissively retort with some conflation to the effect of "i'd love to but i'm really not that into Dungeons & Dragons or Lord of the Rings." which is true. my students would immediately respond by empathically stating that "nah Mr. Crowe, there's so much more to it. you gotta watch it." when i would ask them to explain they would talk about how crazy violent it was and how much sex there was in every episode. hmmmm, i told them i'd think about it. i borrowed the first season from a colleague and i was hooked. it's true that it was crazy violent and beyond sexual, but it all seemed a means of both securing and maintaining hegemonic power, just like in reality.
as an english teacher i appreciated the consistent structural implementation of red herrings, which are clues, situations and characters that lead the plot nowhere. heaving lots of dead ends is commonly used in suspense and mystery fiction, but GAME OF THRONES, famous for killing off beloved and hated characters without a second notice, turned this trope into an exhilarating experience.
in retrospect this connection i saw between VENEZUELA, GAME OF THRONES and the pugilistic nature of politics has expand to the modern american political climate, so obviously my appreciation of this series has shifted with it. if anything i think the series has informed the american public of the perils of being in a political system of never-ending infighting and gamesmanship. as long as our census is politicized and our voting districts gerrymandered, i think we are unfortunately in for a GAME OF THRONES reality far beyond the shelf-life of this 8 season TV series.
at some point this disastrous administration will become a footnote to history and the name TRUMP will forever be analogous with other epithets like COWARD, FRAUD, MYSOGYNIST, CHEAT, LIAR, RACIST and TRAITOR. it will be during this future era that the NFL will have a problem.
that problem will forever be named COLIN KAEPERNICK, the lone athlete that put fealty to our nation's higher ideals of JUSTICE, EQUALITY and DUTY TO OTHERS above personal gain.
literally the KAEPERNICK does not have to play another down. as mentioned before in my recent JERRY RICE entry, his cultural legacy is pretty much set just like that of JIM BROWN, MUHAMED ALI, BILL RUSSELL and KAREEM ABDUL-JABAR standing up to racism back during the heart of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT in spite of potential backlash and professional consequences. they did it because it was right.
it seems fitting that a league filled with billionaire "owners" (and the GREEN BAY PACKERS FOUNDATION) would have chosen to side with a tyrant like TRUMP over their better angels. you have to look not further than their fans. it's not like AMERICAN FOOTBALL fans are the most alert, thoughtful bunch who are beyond blind loyalty to a brand (i mean just look at NY JETS fans). the fact that this angry mob doesn't recognize a true patriot isn't surprising either, its almost like they need a fly-over ceremony and fireworks to get ginned up on jingoistic fervor.
you might be thinking this is all old news, and you'd be right. but currently the NFL is attempting to appear as though they are giving him a fair shot at not being blackballed any further from the league, giving him an impromptu workout for several teams without notice to prepare properly. seems to me to be a setup that once this event happens they can collectively look to the camera and say that he wasn't up for it physically. that in essence his dismissal from the league was justified.
except thats bullshit.
and this stain will never go away. it is part of the legacy of the NFL now and forever.
best show i've ever seen was PRINCE at MADISON SQUARE GARDEN on his MUSICOLOGY tour back 2004 (honorable mention goes to RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE at ROCK THE BELLS 2007). he had recently self-released his comeback album and this tour was basically a greatest hits package tour to appease his fans. it was so sick. i should also mention i had 8th row seats. sighhh, what a great time that was.
what i remember most about the actual show, other than thousands of people bringing out their umbrellas for the encore of "Purple Rain" (people had them on-hand because it was down-pouring outside), was PRINCE speeding around in a flurry of movement and virtuoso musicianship, seemingly at will. dude would be playing a solo while waddling around in a CHUCK BERRY-esque duckwalk, the throw his guitar without looking offstage to a roadie only to further slide into a keyboard and then pelvic thrust his way to a microphone, all in heels and in time. i mean, this was a SHOW. hadn't seen anything like it since and i'm sad to say he was the last of a breed. dude was a monster showman.
he could also get away with saying some pretty corny one-liners. at one point he was playing an acoustic guitar alone in the spotlight and played off the first couple bars of ELVIS PRESLEY's "Heartbreak Hotel" before halting abruptly and stating "you can't be no king without being no prince." indeed. i wasn't gonna argue.
i should mention that opening the show was MORRIS DAY AND THE TIME. seriously, how cool is that? after seemingly every song DAY would ask the crowd what they wanted to hear. an immense roar of "JUNGLE LO-O-O-O-OVE" would resonate loudly through the building. when he finally did play it the place GOT DOWN.
and i guess in summation that is the allure of this show to me 15 years later, the fact that you had so many people in the crowd dancing. it didn't feel like people were watching, rather they were participating in a great party. total communal experience. it was a religious experience. to this day i don't trust people that can't appreciate PRINCE. dude was a shaman, a high priest of FUNK.
amen to that.
like a lot of people these days, i'm pretty ambivalent about american football. with all the long-term health issues associated with CTE impacting veteran players, it seems as if we are witnessing a blood sport that is literally dismantling players before our very eyes. don't believe me? watch this interview with BEARS quarterback JIM MCMAHON. its absolutely heartbreaking.
aside from health concerns there is also the matter of the draconian business practices and labor rules that govern the league which are anti-free market and anti-american. you are essentially watching economic fiefdoms battling each other where "owners" have near total control over salary negotiations and incentives that serve their interests and not the players.
lastly there is the matter of politics and race relations, which the NFL is sorely behind the times, no matter how much money they throw JAY-Z's way. i won't even get into COLIN KAEPERNICK, only to say that the dude is the most significant player of his generation and will one day be revered among MUHAMMED ALI, JIM BROWN, JACKIE ROBINSON, BILL RUSSELL, KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR and other prominent athletes that took a righteous socio-political stand despite the personal and professional ramifications. these choices showcase greatness that transcends sports.
this is all to say that what i do not feel ambivalent about when it comes to football is JERRY RICE, often considered the greatest player of any position the NFL has ever witnessed. what i love about him specifically is his humility and work ethic.
when DEER GOD started i was transitioning from working in education to something well outside my comfort zone, the world of recording studios and recording artists. in the past 2+ years since returning stateside from MYANMAR i've been around people that talked a lot bit did very little. my whole ethic was to underpromise and outperform, to do whatever i could to at the very least not be the weak link in the chain.
if you ever get the opportunity you should definitely watch RICE's legendary HALL OF FAME speech in CANTON. it was right after fellow inductee EMITT SMITH gave a sermon passionately espousing how he self-made himself into a generational running back based on sheer perseverance and his own self-identified greatness. listening to SMITH was such a bore and an exercise in being crass and self-aggrandizing for the sake of self-mythology.
RICE on the other hand spoke about growing up in the south the son of bricklayer who got paid per brick. RICE would assist his family on construciton sites by passing bricks along in a chain. he literally did not want to drop a brick as it would result in his family getting fewer financial resources. he carried this mentality to the field where his only motivation was not to show off, but rather to not fail. his whole singular HALL OF FAME career was an attempt in trying his hardest to not let others down. think about that. it is beyond humbling to consider the sacrifice he made as a matter of pushing forward the idea of teamwork and collaboration. it is quite remarkable.
literally one of the great speeches i have ever heard by an athlete and further evidence that in a league that cannabilizes on its own and disregards common sense, personal freedom and human decency without a second notice, here is a gentleman who has elevated this shit league from the morass of its own cowardice and self-interest to higher noble ideals more in keeping with the better nature of this american experiment.
fancy way of saying you should check out his speech. worth your time.
photos & stubs courtesy of kurionoir
high school was about two things: SLAYER and MINDLESS SELF INDULGENCE.
they first came on my radar after a classmate in KUWAIT had seen them opening for SOULFLY in the late 90s somewhere stateside, which would've been in support of their TIGHT (UPPITY CRACKER 1999) record. shortly after devouring that record my sophmore year of high school, i was in GREECE on vacation and got their follow-up FRANKENSTEIN GIRLS WILL SEEM STRANGELY SEXY (UPPITY CRACKER 2000) and that was it. my brother and i were hooked.
for several years they were our GRATEFUL DEAD (of sorts) in that we basically saw ever NYC/PHILLY show over 4 year period. i've seen them live at least 20 times.
its hard to explain their appeal. lyrically they were constantly throwing in tv/film/video game references and were beyond profane yet entirely inclusive of all genders identities / races / sexual preferences. they were equal opportunity offenders in that sense that if you didn't get their humor, then you were the target of it. musically they were all over the map incorporating punk/metal/jungle/hip hop/nintendo in a unique concoction that sounded like nothing else at the time or since.
their enigmatic circus-leader of a frontman JIMMY URINE was interactive and funny as shit, usually commenting on the audience or any label exec in the audience they were attempting to alienate. famously at an LA show when they were being courted by major labels they changed the lyrics of "i hate jimmy page" to "i hate fred durst" as he was in the audience fulfilling his A&R duties for INTERSCOPE.
in recent years the band has moved on, several of the members marrying and raising young children, but my hope is that they will come back in a big way. how could they not?
i always disliked CHRIS WEBBER as a basketball player.
when i moved to SACRAMENTO in the aftermath of 9/11 from KUWAIT my senior year of high school, i was bombarded with SACREMENTO KINGS fans which was beyond annoying since i was a die-hard LAKERS fan. always have been ever since my childhood years in ORANGE COUNTY. when i got to school early on as an ice breaker i was asked by a teacher if i could do any impressions to which i said yes, i could do a great WEBBER impression. I motioned a T with my hands as if to call a timeout and my teacher was not impressed at all.
it was a dick move on my part. you see, during the 1993 NCAA championship game versus the UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, WEBBER called a timeout with seconds left in the game. problem was his team, the UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, had no timeouts left. he basically lost the game in one of the dumbest ways possible. great impression i thought. still do.
my problem with WEBBER was always that he was clapping back at teamates and opposing players, but he never backed any of it up. don't get me wrong, there are players over the years that i have strongly disliked but highly respected for their abilities and mental-toughness (ones that immeditely come to mind include REGGIE MILLER, DRAYMOND GREEN and PAUL PIERCE). WEBBER had this ability to be in foul trouble at the most inopportune times and play his worst when it counted the most.
when i was living with my uncle in 2001-02 the KINGS were on a tear and actually gave my LAKERS a run for their money. i would hate it when KINGS put in WEBBER's backup SCOTT POLLARD in since he actually did stuff like rebound and play defense. he'd stay in and the team would be cooking only to have WEBBER ruin it when he inevitably got put back in. i was amazed that KINGS fans didn't see that at the time but i get it now. they are a "cow town" and a non-entity, having WEBBER made them feel relevant even if he was overrated.
much as it annoys me that someone gave ALEX RODRIGUEZ a tv gig as a color commentator on some nationally televised baseball games, i sometimes have to put sound on mute whenever WEBBER is announcing an NBA game. its hard to stomach someone who was inherently not a team player criticize this generation's talent for not meeting his standards. its laughable. especially given the dude has no honor. he lied in court about taking money from MICHIGAN boosters even after his fellow teammates acknowledged having done such in college. dude had nothing to gain by lying since everyone was on his side for taking the money in the first place, given the college system is exploitative to underprivileged players, and yet he still lied about it. dumbass.
again, my main issue was always his lack of team play and his egoism that was never backed up on the court like, say contemporaries ALLEN IVERSON or his fellow WOLVERINE JALEN ROSE. and in case you think i hate all KINGS players, there were several i wish were LAKERS including JASON "WHITE CHOCOLATE" WILLIAMS and MIKE BIBBY. but man WEBBER still annoys me. criminally overrated. hopefully i got that out of my system now.
and DENNIS RODMAN has been my favorite basketball player since childhood.
i know now in this "anything goes" TRUMP-era people, rightly so, criticize him for his naive efforts at international diplomacy and "friendship" with north korean dictator KIM JONG UN, but my reasons are wholly based on his performance on the court. at least mostly.
i'd be lying if i didn't say that one of the sports highlights of my childhood was watching him curse out MORMONS in an interview on live tv during the 1998 NBA FINALS. and he did it in the arena in SALT LAKE CITY. that was classic. and don't get it twisted, thats not me condoning hate speech. MORMONS have a complicated history with their racist beliefs regarding AFRICANS and NATIVE AMERICANS and their "missionary" efforts in AFRICA. so sue me.
what impresses me most about RODMAN was his work ethic and ability to make a career out of doing the unglamorous things that win games: rebounding and playing defense. raised in DALLAS by a single-mother, growing up he was anything but an athletic standout and often battled depression. he did not know his father (they wouldn't meet until his 30s) and he was even homeless at one point during his late teens, so battled sever issues regarding identity and attachment during a key developmental stage. in a league that was and still is star-driven, RODMAN was picked in the second round by the DETROIT PISTONS after attending a backwater, no-name NCAA DIVISION II school SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE. the fact that he willed himself to be a dominant player in the league is a testament to his drive and work ethic. in my mind his play, garnering him accolades (5x champion, 7x rebounding champion, 7x all-defensive first team, 2x defensive player of the year, 13.12 rebounds game/career average, hall of fame induction, no. 10 retired by DETROIT PISTONS) , spoke louder than his wedding dresses, dyed hair, tattoos and publicity stunts which in mind were his misguided way of seeking the love and affection he so desperately sought as a child.
he is a flawed, but so are the rest of us. and again, i respect that hell of out the guy. a HALL OF FAME career doing the unglamorous hard work on the floor that others don't want to do.
can't help but admire that.