So, I tested for Shodan rank (1st degree black belt) in Aikido this weekend. The test went well. I’ve seen the video, and I wasn’t as horrified as I usually am. In Aikido, we normally test for black belt ranks at seminars — big gatherings of aikidoka from around the region and beyond. I tested at the Spring Seminar (Kagami Biraki) at Aikido of Dallas. I was honored to be tested by Harvey Konigsberg Shihan. His teaching over the weekend was subtle to say the least, and fascinating. Thank you to Aikido of Dallas and Bob Mason Sensei for again hosting the seminar.
You never “just take the test.” In aikido, they normally do the testing after at least a couple of hours of practice. In this case, after 4 hours, with a lunch break in the middle. So yes, I was tired. The idea is to see what the student can do when “there’s no gas left in the tank.” Critical issues are not freezing up, forgetting how to do things, etc. It’s all about keeping your composure, from which you maintain your center, your posture, and your flow.
As I’ve said before, Shodan is really a beginner’s belt. It signifies you have what you need to really start learning. As I’ve prepared for this test, and now taken it, it is clear that my journey in aikido is getting a new start. Time to look at things with a beginner’s eyes again, and really evaluate the basics of distance, movement, centering, and everything else. Wouldn’t hurt to improve my cardio a lot either. And keep the weight under control.
I’ve thanked a lot of people, but I really want to thank my wife. Having a spouse that understands and supports my endeavors and shares in my joy and accomplishment means the world to me. So thanks, Toni, for supporting me now and in the days to come.
Right now I’m on my way to a funeral. My aunt. My mom’s youngest sister. I will sure miss her. It will be good to see my extended family, laugh, cry, and celebrate her life. Smooth sailing, Aunt Trish. I love you.
A week from today I’ll be taking my black belt (Shodan – 1st degree black belt) test in aikido. I’ve been practicing for a little over 11 years. It has been a long but great journey — one I don’t intend to stop. As I may have written before, Shodan is really a beginner’s belt. At this point, I should know enough to really start learning. The closer I’ve gotten, the more apparent this has become. I’m 53. I had really hoped to do this by the time I was 50, but life had other plans, and that’s just fine. I have 1 open mat practice, and 2 normal practices before the test, which will happen at a yearly seminar.
My friend Bachar will be testing with me. We have prepared together, with help from our classmates and our patient, excellent teachers. I’m glad he’ll be out there with me. I’m not nervous. It will just be nice to take the test alongside a good friend.
So this week is all about practice, rest, remaining uninjured, and getting my mind where it needs to be. The primary challenge of this test is mental. Keeping your composure. I know all the stuff fairly well. Now is the time to do it all calmly, smoothly, beautifully, to the best of my ability.
So, I got a new Zoom H4N Pro digital audio recorder for Christmas, to replace the very similar Tascam I used to have, which broke. My uncle, who does this kind of stuff for a living, told me that he’s had bad luck with the durability of Tascam products. Frankly, mine saw such very light use it is pretty ridiculous that some of the buttons stopped working.
This Zoom recorder, like the old one, will allow me to plug two XLR mics into the bottom, which will be perfect for on-site recording of interviews, so in 2018 I can get back to my Texas Skateboarding Oral History project. Suggestions for who to interview? Comment here. So far, here’s my list. Jeff Bower, Paul Neumann, Dan Wilkes, Michael Niemann, Stewart Singer. It would be nice to do one per month, but I know I’m probably not going to get that done.
Yoda was cool in the Last Jedi. Yoda is cool in everything. But really cool in that.
They are working on a Venom movie. Venom is a dumb character.
This is the second Christmas with my mom in memory care. It’s still weird, but I’m glad she is happy and content.
I have lot to do in 2018.
I want to get back on the podcasting this coming year.
Shodan test in January.
Wishing all my friends mucho peace and happiness this Christmas and in 2018. It’s been a rough year with a mean moron in the Whitehouse and it seems like kindness is in shot supply up there. Let’s vote ’em out as soon as possible, and in the the meantime all try to be better people.
When building massive space ships/stations/structures, make sure to include vast chasms spanned by narrow bridges with no handrails, store data in tapes kept in towers several hundred feet tall with no way to reach the data if the little grabbers malfunction, etc. Also preserve the possibility of someone falling to their death.
I went to see Thor: Ragnarok. It was a big, goofy, and joyous. Thor did lots of cool stuff. You could tell what he was doing, as the battle scenes weren’t total chaos. The interplay between the characters was really good, and brought of feeling of depth to the relationship between Thor and Loki — a relationship thousands of years old. A lot to like about his movie.
Then I went to see Justice League. It was kind of “meh”. I’m easy to please. Superheroes doing cool stuff makes me happy. I got that. The feeling of the film, however, did not leave me wanting more Justice League. The villain, and a lot of the film, just looked like a video game. I’ll watch it again on streaming when it comes along, but yeah, I felt it was pretty mediocre, considering the insane amount of money spent on it.
Well, we are now officially in the crappiest time of the year for skateboarding. Nice cool weather, but short days. By the time I get off work it is getting dark, and soon it will be completely dark by my 6pm quitting time. I will have to resort to going to a skatepark in the evening, which is always kind of a bummer due to crowds. But it’s better than not getting in any skating at all.
I have a stack of really great novels sitting on my table, in my “to read” pile. Great stuff. I’m going to enjoy them a lot.
Right now I’m enjoying reading some old (1960s-1970s) science fiction novels. Adventure stuff. I’m on book 3 or the Dumarest saga. This is not “high literature”, but honestly, it’s not too bad. It’s not even “hard SF.” But they are really quick, fun reads. I’m getting ready to run a Traveller RPG game, and these books are really great at world building. Considering that a lot of folks would call them “pulp” literature, this series actually contains some reasonable moral/ethical dilemmas and social commentary. Not saying they are deep. But they are not completely devoid of thinking. Yes, they are pretty sexist. Not in a “let’s abuse the ladies” way — more in a “strong man protecting woman” kind of way.
All that being said, you don’t have to think a lot to read these. Which is fine.
A few weeks ago I went to Austin for a ditch skating trip. My trip was cut short after I’d been there for about 18 hours due a a family medical thing and I had to come home, but I did get in some fun skating that Friday afternoon, and while I was there I got to meet a bunch of cool skaters, including Lew Ross, owner, operator, and head brain at Fickle Skateboards.
Fickle is one of the “craft” or “small batch” skateboard makers out there. In my mind, this really started with Danny at Factory 13 Skateboards. There are a few now. It’s rad. I usually only buy from small companies – Cockfight Skateboards and Mode Skateboards being the main ones. But I have been interested in Lew’s boards for a while. Jason Renn, who kind of reps for Lew here in Texas, had a bunch at his place, and I was able to really check them out. It was immediately apparent that Lew knows what he’s doing. From pressing his own laminate to actually designing and manufacturing the boards, it was clear from inspecting the boards on-hand that the man does quality work.
Of the boards available on Saturday morning, I purchased the Fickle “Classic” shape in its 9.1″ wide version. The South Austin Curb Service edition. Check out that link. A couple of cool things Lew does on his site. First, he gives you all the measurements you might want to know before purchase (put your pointer over the board image, and the numbers pop up). In particular, the width of the deck over the trucks — both front and rear. That’s helpful in figuring out what trucks you will want to run, since these board are not popsicles. With the curve in the 9.1, you can use an Indy 149 width truck, which is nice and responsive, and it still fits the board. Lew also gives you the wheelbase. Finally, for each of his models he has a “make this board complete” parts package, which give you a setup with the right size trucks, good wheels, and all the rest. So you don’t have to wonder if you are going to have a proper size truck.
I set this board up with Ace 44s and originally some of the new 54mm Powerflex wheels. I like the Powerflex wheels a lot. Jim Gray did a fantastic job with them. I have since switched to some 60mm 95a OJ Street Razor wheels I found in a skateshop a few years ago. I just don’t like to street skate on hard wheels. They just don’t roll that well. Sorry, they just don’t. The Powerflex are very smooth for modern hard wheels, but they still are hard on the aging skeleton. Next time I find some good 95a wheels in the 55mm – 60mm size, I’m going to buy a bunch of ’em. It’s just hard to find good ones at a moment’s notice. I know that Jim just got Powerflex going, but man I wish he’d make some 95a wheels.
Ok, back to the board. I’m riding kind of a tall setup – about 3/8″ of risers under the trucks. I don’t like wheelbite.
My first impressions when I first got on this board were entirely positive. The concave feels somewhat mellow, as it is curved rather than angular like so many boards now. This feels more natural to the foot, and in the front foot area it creates a rally nice pocket. Likewise, though the concave does run throughout the board, it doesn’t feel like it overpowers the rear foot. This board isn’t mean to be ridden like a newschool board. It has direction, and it feels really good.
Now, having read that, it should come as no surprise that I’m not a fan of steep, angular kicktails/noses. The nose and tail of the Fickle boards are curved – not abrupt. This pleases me greatly. Because of the way I skate, I don’t like my foot to feel “locked in”. I know a lot of people like that. I don’t. I can keep my feed on the board without having them trapped, thank you very much. I’d rather be able to move my feet around with some freedom, with just enough concave to get the job done. “Not good for flicking a kickflip” you say? Well, I don’t really care. Not my thing.
The nose and tail of this board are a bit longer than I’d normally ride. I was a bit skeptical about them, even when I bought the board. I knew I’d have to run some extra risers in order not to scrape the tail too bad when doing 360s. But you know, proportion is everything in board design. Some boards look great, but the proportions are fucked up and they suck. In this case, the proportions are really good. The width, wheelbases, nose and tail lengths, combined with the curved and mellow nature of the mold this was pressed in all really work.
It feels “right”. I felt right as soon as I stepped on it, and still does. The 14.5″ wheelbase provides nice stability but is still very responsive. The curved concave feels more natural to the feet.
Lew presses these boards from true 1/16″ veneers. I think the big boys use a thinner laminate, and depend on extreme concaves to provide stiffness. So the board looks and feels slightly thicker than a typical board. But it’s not much heavier at all, and just seems to work really well.
A couple of years ago I got another small batch board from Frank Porcelli at American Waste Skateboards. Frank runs a similar operation, and the board I got from him has a really mellow concave and nose/tail angles. I really should have set it up and tested it last year, but I don’t go through board very fast. I set it up this year, but I got slightly too narrow trucks for it. It’s a great deck, and I’ll be giving it a good test when I’m done with this Fickle. I’m looking forward to riding it as well.
So there you have it. My review of the Fickle classic shape. I like it.
Here’s a couple of clips. I like doing the 1-footed tail 360s on the non-angular tail! Same old stuff I always do, but it still feels good so I keep doing it.
I participated in this video project from a Facebook group called NeverWas Skateboarding, a collection of older skaters who just like to ride. It was put together by Brian Czarski, of this blog right here, who is now officially a Hero of Skateboarding. There’s no pros in this. Just regular dudes doing their thing (and one woman! GASP!!!!). I am actually the oldest person in the video by two years, at the tender age of 53.
I had a good time recording my lame shit to include in this video, and an even better time watching the other guys. I feel inspired to learn some of their stuff. There should be more awesome stuff like this.
A great example of the best use of the internet. Good people producing good fun.
I’ve probably posted this before, but skateboarding legend Tony Alva recently turned 60 so I’ll post this again.
As a young skater, the whole Alva/Dogtown thing never appealed to me. I didn’t get it. I wasn’t into the whole beach-dirtbag thing, haha. I didn’t understand what it was all about, and I didn’t have a big brother to explain it to me.
Then in the late 1980s, I guess I found the whole toughguy image associated with Alva Skates to be dumb. Again – not my thing.
When I saw this video a few years ago I became an Alva fan. I like it when people grow up to be good humans. No one is perfect, and we all start in different places, with different challenges.
Been a while since this movie came out. Been thinking about it a lot (or at least some).
I decided it sucked.
Toho needs to seriously up their game if they do another Godzilla movie in this particular “universe”, as this movie was damned near unwatchable. Good ideas for socio-political commentary drawn out into massive tedium. A monster you really didn’t care about.
Tonight I forced myself to go skate. I’m just so over this heat. Tired of it 100%, but I knew I needed to skate. As I’ve written here lately, I’ve been a little burned out, from just about everything, actually. All I’ve wanted to do is hang with my wife. Just be at home with her. We had our anniversary the other day, and went to a Rangers baseball game, which was great. I wish every day was just the two of us doing fun stuff. As I get older, I’m starting to resent more and more that our time is not 100% our own to use this way. Childish? Maybe. But damn, these are our lives.
Anyway, for the first time since my London/Germany trip last month, I got all my stuff and went to my spot. Board, iPod, speaker, water. It wasn’t too bad. Got there at a little after 7pm, and while it was still hot and pretty humid, it was not horrible at all.
Having not practiced much, I went into this session with no expectations. I spent about 30 minutes just doing simple footwork and space walks. Then finally I started doing some tricks. My friend Tony Gales tells me I need to reduce the setup time between my tricks. Since he just won the world championship in Sweden, I think I’ll listen to him. I started working on it. One push, quick setup (more efficient setup), and right into a trick. I think this is good way to practice. If you can skate this way, you can alway draw things out, but if you always draw things out, you can’t immediately do things quickly. So I did some one push into 360 shove it practice, and by the end of the session I was getting that pretty much every time, and managed to start doing a rolling fingerflip on the other side of my spot. Two tricks where I usually only do one. So I’m pretty happy about that.