This is a mixed bag. It’s pretty. It’d make any milk crate coffee table classier. The contributing photographers obviously know how to take fine pictures and it’s super-easy to thumb through and look at pictures of Tony Alva, Jay Adams, and Duane Peters doing stuff that would turn mere mortals into stains. In a nutshell, it’s a greatest hits package of Heckler Magazine.
Starting off with their music coverage, there’s definitely a dichotomy taking place. If the band is small(ish), like Sleater Kinney, Seven Seconds, or Jawbox, there’s a lot of talk and fire about what it means to be an independent band that could (or did) go to the majors. They even re-print Steve Albini’s “The Problem with Music,” which they edit down from the edited version in The Baffler, which first saw light in MRR. What’s weird is that when they interview bonafide big-ass superstars like Metallica and Moby the question of independence completely evaporates into “we love music for music, no matter how it’s made, distributed, and produced.” For instance, I seem to remember that Metallica sued their fans for digital tape trading (aka Napster), even though they admit to sitting down and recording Motorhead cassettes for hours on end (same activity, different technology). The result of the musical coverage is, ultimately, wishy-washy. All that said and done, Ian MacKaye comes across, once again, as a real smart motherfucker.
Skating: This is the section I could relate to the most. I’m a firm believer in the essential equation that skating is something that almost anyone can do – if it’s just peddling down the street or hitting the hammers. Skating’s got a low start-up cost, it’s good exercise, and it’s fun. I live in a ghetto and there’s over a hundred skater kids in our five block radius. If that’s not an activity for the proletariat, I don’t know what is. In the book, there’s even coverage of old schoolers doing their thing decades into it – like Mark Gonzales, LanceMountain, and Steve Caballero – and relative new comers. All of the skaters interviewed seem to relish every second, and the slant on the soul side of the activity is heavy. I especially liked the fact that the editors took the risk and ran pieces by the skaters themselves, even ones that barely made sense, like Christian Hosoi’s posi-core ramble-a-thon about “focus essential vitamin” and his shocking revelation that “my mother is a woman.” It’s even funnier because Hosoi’s in jail for trafficking speed into Hawaii. Again.
Snowboarding: Here’s where my hide got downright chapped. In the introduction, John Baccigaluppi off-handedly states, “anybody can go snowboarding (as long as they can afford it).” Huh. Isn’t that a huge fucking hurdle? It’s this tacit assumption – that there’s money just laying around – that runs all the way through this book that bums me out the most. It’s most obvious in the snowboarding parts, due, in part, to the fact that snowboarding is so damn expensive. Here’s a quick rundown of typical costs: board/bindings: $300; clothes so you don’t die and body parts don’t frost bite off: $100 (on the cheap); lift ticket: $50 a day; travel to and from mountain: at least $10. No getting around it, it’s a rich person’s sport unless you have a lot of contacts.
What’s bothersome isn’t the pieces on the pioneers of the sport and their travails, but the advice that’s offered from the point of view that money is a simple, almost irrelevant, obstacle. It’s even suggested that if I don’t spend money on all new gear every year and stop being trendy, I can afford to go on a two-week vacation. Huh. How about if I don’t do those things so I can afford to eat and rent a video on occasion?
Perhaps I’m hung up on the semantics, but I just don’t see how this enterprise – solely from the perspective of someone looking at it from the outside the sports – is a Declaration of Independents? It rings a little hollow. If they’d just titled it “Skate, Snow, Sounds,” I’d probably back it much, much more. –Todd (Chronicle Books, 85 Second St, SF, CA 94105, http://www.chroniclebooks.com/, http://www.heckler.com/