Boba Fett in New York City

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HBO is still on that Star Wars kick. And I’ve been bored. Bored enough to start writing a new story. It might turn out to suck, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. As a matter of  fact, it will suck. I’m just hoping that either George Lucas or Kevin Smith reads it and decides to give me money.

Check the link for the first chapter: http://bobafettny.wordpress.com

You’ve been warned…

The Weather Channel

While waiting for my father and nephew to arrive at my house today, I was listening to The Fire Theft’s only album and watching the Weather Channel. I wasn’t really paying attention to the TV, it was more just background noise, but then I noticed two unusual names of the meteorologists onscreen.

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First up was Jennifer Lopez, putting pregnancy aside to broadcast the weather on a Saturday afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

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And then came Kevin Robinson, who’s traditionally known throughout the BMX world as a country singin’ vert rider from Rhode Island. Seeing this alternative version of Kevin Robinson made me chuckle enough to sit in front of the TV with my phone aimed at the screen long enough to catch this…

Dog The Intergalactic Bounty Hunter

Just in time for the holidays, HBO Family has been running Episodes lV, V and Vl of the Star Wars trilogy. Lots of television time to waste in between family outings, driving up and down the Garden State Parkway or sitting out the cold weather.

As a product of the 1970s, I’m also invariably a product of the Star Wars generation. Before the Episodes l, ll and lll came along, the Star Wars trilogy raised many a children like myself with its mixture of mysticism, classic story telling and friggin laser beams. So, when any of the Episodes lV through Vl are on television, they get me attention and whisk me back to a time when life was simpler and Darth Vader was the only reason to be afraid of the dark. Such as today.

The Empire Strikes Back was on when I woke. To be honest, I can recite the movie verbatim fairly easily, but I haven’t actually watched it in quite some time. So it got my attention. And it got me thinking, two scenes specifically.
The first being the arrival of the galactic bounty hunters on Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer. Prior to the A&E channel, the term ‘bounty hunter’ was often linked to the Star Wars universe. You may have heard it outside of this realm if you’re on the wrong side of the law and jumping bail, but not usually. Before reality television, ‘bounty hunter’ meant Boba Fett, IG-88 or any other number of characters from the Star Wars universe. For me anyway.

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And then Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman arrived. Before I knew it, I was envisioning Dog The Bounty Hunter on the deck of the Star Destroyer alongside Boba Fett, Zuckuss, 4-Lom, Dengar and IG-88 in The Empire Strikes Back. What if Dog captured Han Solo instead of Boba Fett? And what would he be saying to Han’s frozen body as he shipped him to Jabba The Hutt? “You know Han, God loves you, and he doesn’t want you running from the Empire, smuggling spice or ripping off Hutt lords anymore. And at the end of the criminal rainbow, there’s no pot of gold…” I know that’s not how it happened, but it made me laugh anyways.

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The next scene to strike me involved the Ugnaughts. The short, upright, porcine humanoids with upturned noses and chubby bellies that worked throughout Lando Calrissian’s Cloud City on Bespin, more specifically at the Carbon Freeing Chamber in which Han is frozen. I was a Star Wars action figure nut, but I never ever wanted an Ugnaught figures. And the reason was simple. They were half the size of most of the other Star Wars action figures, and as an eight year-old kid with little money to spend on Star Wars figures, it was a question of getting my money’s worth. Ugnaughts, astromech droids (like R2-D2) and Ewoks all cost the same as the taller action figures in the Star Wars universe, and that didn’t make sense to me. Darth Vaders and Chewbaccas were twice the size for the same price. As an eight year-old, I was unknowingly making an indiscriminately small economic statement against Kenner Toys. All because I didn’t want any Star Wars figures that were short….

And now that I’m getting into it, do you suppose there might’ve been comedians in the Star Wars universe? Perhaps a three-eyed, quadraped making Seinfeld-like observations about their world like, “Why does Jabba The Hutt live in a palace? Shouldn’t he live in a hut?” And what about racism? The only discrimination I can think of off the top of my head is against droids. I guess that’s droidism but I don’t know if any droids were created to mock its shortcomings in much the way Dave Chappelle or Richard Pryor has with the subject of race.

As I said earlier, it’s raining. And additionally, I’m exhausted from the past few days. So perhaps this might explain the short line I’m drawing between Dog The Bounty Hunter, characters from The Empire Strikes Back, unapplied childhood economics and the likelihood of comedians in a galaxy far, far away.

Merry day after Christmas. And sorry for my unexplainable knowledge of the Star Wars universe…

START (Being Culturally Outdated) TODAY

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There were a few reasons that I dug out the 1989 album ‘Start Today’ from Gorilla Biscuits today. Mainly, I’ve been reading this book dubbed ‘The Anti-Matter Anthology.’ It’s an interview compilation, written by Norm from Texas is the Reason, featuring bands such as Samiam, Farside, Fugazi, Quicksand, Porcell from Shelter/Youth of Today, Into Another, Judge, Sick of it All, Jawbox, Shudder to Think, Rage Against the Machine, Outspoken, Mouthpiece, Endpoint, Sunny Day Real Estate, Rancid and Resurrection among others. Lots of really great (and conversely, really bad in retrospect) musicians from my past. Today, after reading the Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against The Machine interview in the book, I found myself craving the Inside Out EP, which was de la Rocha’s band before RATM. So I went into iTunes and bought “No Spiritual Surrender” by Inside Out, and noticed that by buying Inside Out music, iTunes therefore recommended Gorilla Biscuits to me. I couldn’t remember the last time I had listened to ‘Start Today’ but it wasn’t the first time I had caught myself coming face to face with Gorilla Biscuits this week. Sunday night, I listened to a Walter Schreifels podcast. He was the main song writer for Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, Rival Schools, Moondog and even Civ. During the podcast, he acoustically played a few songs from ‘Start Today,’ and it struck a chord. So maybe it wasn’t a few, but I had two reasons to search out ‘Start Today’ from Gorilla Biscuits. Written and performed by a group of straight edge teenagers from the Long Island/NYC area and released in 1989, it was the New York hardcore scene’s first (and probably best) attempt at merging positive hardcore with melody and a message. When I was 15, I swore by ‘Start Today,’ but like most music that I liked as a teen-ager, I really didn’t think it would stand the test of time. Fugazi can do that. Psychedelic Furs can do that. Not much New York hardcore can. But at this point, I thought I should at least give it a listen since all signs were pointing in that direction.

So I put it on, got a few songs in and realized something unusually dated as I sang along to the lyrics from ‘Degradation,’ which read:

“Don’t fool yourself cause you don’t fool me/it’s not just blacks you hate/it’s everything you see/rich, poor, young and old/whoever’s in your way/what a boring life/hating every day.”

If you need me to point out the obvious, it’s the word “Blacks” that caught me off guard. As a rule, the term is, I won’t say racist, but outdated. It’s not an inherently bad term for the time it was written, but it’s not inherently good either. (At the time the music and lyrics were written, the term “blacks” as a cultural and racial group was acceptable in print and television journalism.) Nowadays, it’s largely not. “African Americans” is the acceptable term, and that’s good. As a culture, we’ve somewhat evolved to be more aware of cultural sensitivities, and I’m glad for that. (Though some will argue that the switch from ‘blacks’ to ‘African Americans’ is more of a nod to political correctness than cultural sensitivities.) But anyways, it got me thinking about the recent Gorilla Biscuits reunions from last year, of which I did not see. Were the lyrics adjusted to reflect more recent cultural and racial sensitivities, or did they just run it like it was good ‘ole 1989? And if there were any African Americans in the audience, were they upset by the term “Blacks” being used by five middle-aged white guys in New Balance sneakers?

I’m not knocking the band at all. I respect the fact that five suburban straight edge teen-agers took a stand against racist skinheads in their music, but as ‘Start Today’ is a now classic hardcore album, the evolution of cultural and racial awareness through etymology should at least be addressed in updated liner notes by the band so as to not perpetuate a dated term for African Americans by suburban whites… No, really, OK, I know that’s a preposterous proposition to make. But it does address a growing problem with aging art that reflects the society of the time it was created but is still currently sold as commodity. Do we step back and say, “Oh, it was 1989 so the artist didn’t know any better,” or do we simply hope that younger audiences experiencing said aging art for the first time realize that a lot has changed in just under twenty years?

Oh, and this isn’t just relegated to one New York hardcore album from the late ’80s either. Has anyone watched the movie ‘The Toy’ recently? A kid buys Richard Pryor from a toy store, telling his butler, “I want the black man.” And then they become friends. Acceptable in the ’80s, but nowadays, wow…

The Difference Between Knowing and Seeing

Early into the morning a few nights ago, I gathered together some recyclables in the kitchen, placed them in a plastic bag and walked out of the apartment and into the yard to dispose of the random collection of cans, bottles and plastics. The night was quiet save for a few unmarked vans double parked street side with the hazard lights on. As I reentered the building, an assortment of men traversed down the stairs, awkwardly gathered around a body bag which they carried through the front door. The men wore plain cloths; trench coats, sports jackets, ties. As they passed me in the hallway, one of the gentlemen looked at me, shrugged his shoulder and said, “Just taking care of the bad guys,” followed by a wink as to say, “Just kidding.” Before I could begin to worry about the possibilities of how one of our upstairs neighbors had died a “bad guy,” I realized who I was dealing with. Coroners. They see bodies everyday. They’re allowed to make these jokes and allowed to get away with them. Besides, there were no police to be found anywhere. If this was indeed a crime, I would’ve had some knocks on the door already about what I had heard. I wrote it off as a joke on the part of the coroner. I wasn’t in the least bit alarmed. I had seen my fair share of dead bodies, body bags and sarcastic coroners.

A few years ago, I lived above a funeral home. Upon moving in, the funeral director/landlord gave me a warning about to expect. Coffins, awful smelling chemicals, body bags, transportation boxes, all genuine parts of the funeral business and no reason to worry. “I wouldn’t worry about bodies either. It’s the grieving that might eventually get to you,” he said. In between parking my bike in the garage among coffins and airline transportation boxes for bodies from Iraq, I’d help unload chemicals off trucks for embalming, learn to impress friends with the casket show room in the basement and chat with the local coroner that seemed to know a thing or two about Volvos. Ultimately, living amongst the funeral business erased the unknown mystique of death that I had carried with me since the first time I had seen a dead body in a body bag. I was eight years old.

Hazlet, NJ, a suburb about 30 miles outside of Manhattan. The town I lived in for the first 10 or 11 years of my life. In the early ’80s, some of the Irish mob from New York City decided to get out of the city, so they took their lives, their families and their business to the suburbs. And so, Hazlet became prime real estate for the the mob’s planned immigration.

“Don’t go outside today, I don’t want you anywhere near there,” my mother told me one day near the end of the summer of 1982. The scene she alluded to was a taped off murder scene down the street from our house. As far as anyone could tell, a neighbor of ours had accrued some gambling debts that he couldn’t repay to the mob. In return, the debt collectors walked the man into his backyard, stabbed him to death and deposited the body behind their above ground pool. Following a cavalcade of police cars and ambulances racing up our side street, word spread pretty fast throughout the neighborhood. A nameless neighbor had been murdered. His body lay stabbed to death in the backyard behind the pool my brothers and I had once tossed rocks into. Out of morbid curiosity, I escaped the house unbeknownst to my mother, walked down Fleetwood Avenue and approached the police-taped perimeter lined with neighbors. After a few minutes of gazing, three coroners walked out of the backyard with the body in a body bag. They placed the body in an ambulance and drove away. I ran home.

That night, it was difficult for me to comprehend the fact that something so evil had transpired less than two blocks from where I had slept. Of the rash of emotions I was experiencing, the hardest to come to grips with was the visual recognition of death. Before that day, I knew that people died every day, I had just never seen it with my own eyes. And then I remember wondering what that person’s body was now doing. Where would they take it? What were they going to do with it? For the remainder of our time in Hazlet, I stayed far away from that murder scene, thinking it haunted ground, wishing I had listened to my mother on that fateful day.

So when I returned back to the apartment and Heather asked who I was talking to in the hallway, I said, “Don’t look out there. You don’t need to see this.” But like myself so many years ago, she looked anyway…

What’s a pro?

There’s been a lot of talk these days about the definition of “pro” and the idea of getting paid in BMX. We covered the concept/subject pretty extensively in Dig 61, and I’ve noticed the premise has continued to reappear since the dialogue was initiated, usually ending with, “You’re not a pro BMXer unless you get paid.”

While I might agree that it’s hard to define what a “pro” is these days in BMX, I’ll also say this: While getting paid $1,000 a month to ride BMX might make you eligible to be considered a pro, it will also make you eligible to be considered for welfare.

I simply don’t like the idea of money serving as the benchmark of professional status in BMX.

There’s your topic, discuss.

The Devolution of Bottom Brackets

Around 2001, BMX frames started changing fast. The first technology to change came in the form of the bottom bracket. Almost overnight, BMX companies started equipping their frames with Euro bottom brackets. Though the technology wasn’t really tested very much in BMX, it seemed to be a good starting point for streamlining frames and reducing weight. And it was working for a while. But some weren’t too into the idea of the Euro B/B, and along came the Spanish bearing. Then something weird happened. Instead of progressing to a smaller bottom bracket, most every frame went straight in the opposite direction back to the traditional BMX bottom bracket, only now it was called “Mid” and didn’t come with cups. Personally, I think it’s ass backwards and indicative of an industry that’s afraid of trying something new. But that’s not my only gripe here. I’m tired of hammering. I just got two new bikes. One with a Spanish B/B (went together smoothly without hammering), one with a Mid B/B (hammered the shit out of the bearings to get them into the frame, in 29 degree temps). And it got me thinking. Hammering is a caveman’s BMX tool. If we can get to a place where headset bearings simply fit into a frame without anything aside from some grease, then BMX sure as hell should be able to do the same thing with a bottom bracket. So without further adieu, I present my halfass rundown on BMX bottom bracket devolution over the past several years.

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EURO BOTTOM BRACKETS: The first step away from the traditional American bottom bracket that I had grown up on. No hammer needed (which is awesome), looks great (cause it’s smaller), but I don’t think any companies really invested much time in researching quality European bottom bracket systems that could withstand the abuse of BMX riding. I rode a few frames with Euro cups over the years. Assembly was easy and I never stripped out Euro threads in a frame, but the cups (not the bearings) always broke apart. I can’t blame this on pedaling, cause road bikes use Euro bottom brackets and those dudes pedal a hell of a lot more than BMXers do. It was the aluminum cups that always either broke apart in the frame or got crushed after a while. When Euro B/B’s were first around, I had a Euro B/B with stainless steel cups that was indestructible and didn’t strip out when you tightened it down with vice grips or something else that didn’t fit properly (like aluminum Euro B/B cups do). Then, Euro B/B’s were issued with aluminum cups, probably due to the weight issue. I don’t know the weights of the original steel Euro B/B I had, but I know it was at least comparable to an BMX B/B, that it looked better than an BMX B/B when built up on a bike and that I didn’t need a hammer to put it on my bike. In my humble opinion, the Euro B/B never got a fair chance in BMX…

spanishbotbkt.JPGSPANISH BOTTOM BRACKET: I rode a Federal Hamilton with a Spanish B/B for two years on the exact same bearings and never had a problem. It required no hammer for assembly, still looked pretty awesome (as it was a fair deal smaller than a traditional BMX B/B) and seriously never messed up after two years of pedaling, riding, disassembling and reassembling. It was perfect. A lot of companies seemed to shy away from this system for pretty vague reasons even though it worked great. Some still utilize it; to them I say rock on.

product_164.jpgMID BOTTOM BRACKET: Right back where we started. Let’s take the aluminum cup off of the traditional BMX bottom bracket bearing and put that directly into the frame. But let’s make those kids need a hammer to get the bearings in. I’ve got no problem with the Mid bottom bracket and I don’t think I ever will. It’s strong, it’s a proven size and do to the impossibility of fitting a Mid bearing into a frame without a lot of hammering, the bearing won’t blow out too easily. But it’s almost as big as the bottom bracket shells before any of this hullabaloo started. And you need a hammer, and it’s not really technologically advanced. So why did it gain popularity and come to be the size by which most of the BMX industry stands? I haven’t a clue.

What does it all mean? I’m no engineer. So don’t ask me. I’ve seen bottom brackets that are screw-in cartridges threaded for Euro B/B’s. Those seem like a great way for me to ditch the hammer and assemble a bike late at night in an apartment building without waking the neighbors. But I also don’t see why so many companies seem to be afraid of taking a chance on something that came from BMX and is aimed at reducing weight while making bike assembly easier; the Spanish bottom bracket. If it can stand up to Ruben Alcantara, it’s strong enough for the rest of us. But what do I know…

Edit: When I say “hammer,” I mean that as a verb/action. I use a mallet, but if I had said “I’m tired of malleting,” nobody would know what I was saying. It’s the action of hammering/malleting/forcing bearings by blunt force into a frame that seems antiquated to me, and a lot of people are either missing that point or using this entry as a means to reinforce their own agendas. Tons of people don’t have access to cup presses, don’t have garages to house any elaborate tools, or don’t have access to a bike shop if they’re putting together a new frame late at night during the week. And like it or not, that same tons of people group invariably uses a hammer/mallet/block of wood combo to get bearings into frames. If you’ve got a cup press and don’t have a problem getting bearings into your frame, that’s great and I’m happy for you. If you think Mid is great, that’s also fine and I’m happy for you. But if you wanna point out the inconsistencies on the thousands of people that use a hammer/mallet/block of wood combo to get bearings into a frame, take it to Bike Guide, another BMX message board or your own blog.

Think outside of your own box and quit with the literal translations…

Small Brown Bike

Got a new frame a few weeks ago and finally pieced this thing together. And since I went to that effort, I figured I’d detail the rundown since a few people have actually asked me about my flatland setup via MySpace. So here goes:

Frame: Wethepeople Div
Fork: Wethepeople Mantis
Bars: Animal Bob
Stem: Suelo
Grips: Animal Edwin
Bar Ends: Macneil Steel
Brake Lever: Odyssey
Brakes: Suelo
Wheels: Front- Demolition, Rear- Profile Nankai w/ an Odyssey rim
Tires: Front- Animal GLH 1.95, Read- Animal ASM 1.95
Cranks: Profile Mini
Sprocket: Metal
Pedals: Fly Ruben
Seat: Primo Hemorrhoid
Post: Thomson
Clamp: Eastern
Pegs: FBM Homie Haulers

Thanks to WTP, Fly, Animal, Profile, Demolition, Odyssey, Metal, FBM and Nation BMX for piecing this thing together over the years. That’s right folks, Alfredo actually made good on “sponsoring” me and gave me a Spanish bottom bracket. I’m still pinching myself trying to figure out if that really happened. Oh yeah, if you’re checking out the handlebar photo, there’s a sticker on my bars that says, “HBO’s The Wire is the best show on television.” I peeled it off the season three box set I just bought last week. It speaks the truth.

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