Toxicity

A few months ago we listened to this audiobook – The Man They Wanted Me To Be – by Jared Yates Sexton . It’s a memoir of Yates’ experience with his father and an examination of the role of toxic masculinity in his life and beyond. If you are a man reading this post and just thought “Toxic masculinity is a bullshit concept and everyone needs to just man-up and get on with things” then you probably need to read the book. The book is especially timely now, as the White House is currently occupied by one of the world’s greatest exemplars and advocates of toxic masculinity.

I’m not going to do a review of the book here,except to say it’s worth reading or hearing. Henry Rollins did this very solid article about it, so you can start reading it here.

What you should know going into the book, I think, is that it isn’t about scolding anyone for how they are. It’s about a man seeking to understand himself and the cultural norms that have been ingrained in him. It’s not a self-help book, but reading it might help you. Compared to a lot of men I feel like I got a light dose of this from my dad, and I’m lucky for that, but the truth is I still got it.

If you are a woman, reading it might help you understand the programming the men in your life have likely received.

 

Sins of our Fathers

Listening to a podcast about slavery in the United States and the cotton industry. Amazing. There has of course been slavery throughout human history. I don’t buy the idea, even back in antiquity, that people didn’t really have the capacity to understand that slavery is wrong. I don’t think that’s a very big intellectual leap to make — you know – that it’s wrong to own another human being, or that they didn’t understand these were “people”.

Interesting point in this podcast is the extent to which American capitalism was shaped and continues to be shaped by the institution of slavery. CEO’s making hundreds or thousands of times what their employees are making? Except for the beatings the attitude is mostly still there. People as a means to an end, rather than deserving of dignity and respect simply because they are human, and the weird acceptance that this is the “way things are.” Kids in cages? Check. Separated families? Check. Working people barely getting by? Check.

 

Healthcare

A good friend of mine – one of the best people I know – recently had a very expensive medical procedure due to cancer. Stem cells, bone marrow transplant, etc. The bill was astronomical. He’s lucky to have insurance, though his insurance company did give him some shit over an anti-rejection drug.But that’s another story. The total bill would have blown right through most people’s old “maximum lifetime payout” or whatever they called it. Thank you, President Obama, for getting rid of that lifetime cap so my friend still has meaningful coverage.

Stuff I’m Doing

Besides the skate video filming and usual practicing, and the usual aikido practice (which I have scaled down a bit because I want to have a life outside the dojo), I’ve been working on my Traveller RPG stuff a lot. Trying to spend 30 minutes during my lunch hour at work just expanding the setting with details, adding nonplayer characters of interest, and getting ready for game sessions (like the one this Sunday). Then the first full weekend in September my friend Jeff and I are going to the Lone Star Game Expo, in Grapevine, where I’m running a Traveller session based loosely on the last 3 games I’ve run for my normal group. THEN — my friend Jeremy and I are working on a Traveller “module” based on all this — an adventure that will be available for a fairly low price on DriveThruRPG.com .

The gaming stuff is fun. It allows me get some creativity out there in a different way.

Honestly, I’m kind of looking forward to winter. It’s a good excuse to stay inside and read.

Collecting video clips

I’ve been trying to collect video clips for my part in the upcoming NeverWas 3 video. I feel like my sections in video 1 and video 2 nearly exhausted my selection of tricks. It’s been hard to come up with new tricks for this one. Still, I’ve managed to get some stuff. I still have a couple of weeks or maybe three to get more. We’ll see. It’s crazy hot outside these days. 100 degrees F now at 4:30pm, so it’s going to be hot tonight. That’s Texas skating. If we do a 4th video, I may have to start skating vert (which isn’t really happening). I enjoy working on these video parts. Between them, and getting ready for Paderborn every year, I think it keeps me focused on learning some new stuff, even if that stuff is stuff that is only interesting to a handful of people. Truth is my feet and ankles kind of hurt, and doing moves that involve a lot of jumping makes me afraid my achilles tendon might just snap (I think my lead foot has bit of tendonitis in that spot, so I don’t really think it will snap, but it gets sore).

Still, heat, aches, and pains aside, I just love to skate.

 

A lot of blogging

I started this blog in October, 2006. This post is my 740th post.

Other than skateboarding, this is probably the longest running activity in my life. That’s nuts.

To celebrate, here’s a picture of the worst Haribo candy I had in Germany. It was the only such candy that was bad, but it was indeed ghastly. It was so bad I had trouble finishing the entire bag.

 

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Paderborn 2019

It seems that Youtube stripped out the music from my runs posted by Alex Foster at Late Tricks. So he sent me the footage, and I’m posting run 2 here.

It is not the best I can do, but when does one every skate the best they can during a contest? At least for me it is rare. BUT – I really enjoyed this run a lot. I think you can see me smiling. I went to this contest with the intention of doing a run that would be unlike any of the others, and I think I accomplished that, so I’m happy. Will go back next year with more flow and a couple of new tricks.

Post-Vacation Status

I’ve never had such trouble readjusting to not being on vacation. I hate it. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but even when you love your job and believe in what you are doing, it is nicer to spend every day with the person you love (you know, other than yourself). Yes – First World problem – I know. But still…

Germany Trip Part One: Paderborn Freestyle Contest 2019

Well, another Paderborn BBQ Freestyle Contest is behind us. The 2019 event, held on Sunday, July 7, 2019, featured the biggest field of amateurs in years (possibly ever). The Pro division was strong, with German legend Guenter Mokulys, England’s Tony Gale, and American Mike Osterman, along with many other Brits, Europeans, and a few Americans. The Legends division was smaller, but the competition was tight, with some great skating by all. More on the contest later.

Best of all, my wife was with me this time. For years I’ve wanted her to meet all these beautiful weirdos I call friends, and this was the year. First a quick recap of Week One, since this year I decided to get to Germany early enough to not be jet-lagged on contest weekend.

Monday, July 1: Leave Dallas — direct overnight flight to Frankfurt, Germany. Good flight, if a bit cramped. Took a pill to help me sleep. I don’t remember sleeping, but I must have as I felt pretty good the next day.

Tuesday, July 2: Arrive in Frankfurt about 10am. We rent a car and head toward Heidelberg, where we meet our dearest and oldest friends Beverly and David, who were there on their yearly trip with a group of highschool students. We checked into our hotel, found the parking platz that evening, and had a wonderful time with our old friends. Amazingly, I felt very little jet lag.

Wednesday, July 3: We head toward Dinkelsbühl, a medieval walled city, after a shopping stop in Rothenburg, another walled city. Had a good afternoon in Rothenburg, then drove to our lodging in Dinkelsbühl, the Pension Baumeisterhaus, run by the owner, Petra Steinacker. Spotless and comfortable room. Very very nice. She was waiting for use outside, and directed us to a parking spot right by the house. This is a bit deal, because parking for newcomers is often a concern. You don’t really know where you can park, and it’s a potential pain. We were there for two nights, and each morning we had a delicious traditional German breakfast to fill our fuel tanks. We found some good food that night, and some ice cream, and then ventured outside the walls toward Skatepark Dinkelsbühl — arguably the worst skatepark I’ve ever skated but one of the most appreciated! It was just a few days until contest time and I’d not been on my board for about a week. Not good. The park consisted of a mini halfpipe and a funbox, both on some pretty rough asphalt. The bike path asphalt between them looked really good, but as soon as i took a push the softness of the surface became apparent. Like skating on a sponge. Horrible. Still, I skated for about 20 minutes — just enough to start loosening up. There was a kid sitting on the platform of the miniramp rolling a joint. He was wearing a baseball cap that said “WEED”. The local cops rolled up and he split — and they didn’t even go after him! What a country! hahaha. They just ran him off. I appreciated his applause when I landed a trick, so THANK YOU, WEED BOY.

Thursday, July 4: First full day in Dinkelsbühl. After a good breakfast, we set out to explore the town. We’d been there 13 years before with Bev and Dave, and were looking forward to learning more about the city. We started at a local museum about the city, and thanks to the English recordings made available, were able to learn a bit about Dinkelsbühl’s long history.  We did a little window shopping, had lunch, took an afternoon nap, got some dinner, and went back to the skatepark. My second session there was better. Not great, but I felt like I was getting my legs back under me and getting used to the time change. The surface was still horrible, but beggars can’t be choosers. At least I was rolling. I skated for about an hour, going through my usual footwork sequences and a few tricks. My plan this year was to concentrate on constant movement and flow, punctuated with tricks and not focussing on them. Whether or not this would be a “winning” strategy was debatable, but it’s the way I skate, and you really can’t change you who are in this respect. They would see “me”, not some bullshit version of myself I’d invented. Anyway, I felt better this evening. Better on my board. It isn’t easy to travel internationally and jump off the plane and skate.

Friday, July 5: We had breakfast, said our goodbyes to Petra and the Pension Baumeisterhaus (fully intending to return in the future – it was a wonderful and relaxing place to be – just what the doctor ordered), and headed back north for another short stop in Rothenburg before heading further north to Paderborn. The drive to Paderborn, from Dinkelsbühl, is in theory just a few hours. Like driving from Dallas to Austin. But summer in Germany means road construction, and you can always add at least an hour to any trip. Don’t plan to cut things close, or you will likely be screwed.Anyway, we made it to the IBB Blue Hotel, on the outskirts of Paderborn. A nice hotel. We paid for the larger size room, which was a smart move. Very comfortable. Not really in the “cool” area of town, but not far either (it’s a small city). Easy drive to Skatepark Goldgrund, where the contest is held. When I got back in the car to move it to proper parking, it wouldn’t start. Seems it was out of this stuff called “AdBlue”, which is a liquid that interacts with and somewhat counteracts diesel exhaust. Thing is we had no idea what it was, or that we needed it, or that Hertz had sent us out in a car that was NEARLY EMPTY of the shit. If a car has NONE, it will NOT START. Luckily there was a filling station down the road. I procured 5 liters of AdBlue, filled it up (there’s a port right next to the diesel fuel port), and the car was running again. Low marks to HERTZ for not having the car prepared. Any rental car should go out fully prepared. Would you send out a car without any oil? Probably, if you are Hertz. Hertz, you suck. I will never rent another car from you. Best part – upon returning the car two weeks later, no apology. The refunded the 10 Euros for the AdBlue, but no apology at the counter for sucking. Yeah, I’m a bit pissed about it. I will have my apology and more, mark my words. Anyway, we went and had a freaking fantastic pizza nearby at Pizza Toni, at Heiersstraße 37, 33098 Paderborn, Germany. A small place, but the pizza was from heaven. So, so good. And we needed it! DELISH! Then we headed to the skatepark. I knew the Swedes were already in town, and that the great Marius Constantin and his Romanian Freestyle Crew were there. I was so happy to see Marius, and even more for my wife to meet him. We hung at the skatepark and I got in a little rolling. I was relieved to be skating on a good surface and to feel assured that my ability to skate hadn’t suddenly disappeared after the weird surface in Dinkelsbühl. I knew I’d be OK. I was feeling good, the park is known territory for me, and I could tell that while I might not win, I could do what I set out to do. We headed back to the hotel and hit the sack.

Saturday, July 6: Street contest day for the BBQ Contest. We got up, enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the bakery next to our hotel, and got to the skatepark about 10am. You have to get there early to get a little freestyle practice, because  the street skaters are flying everywhere. We met up with Michael Erskine, his wife Dawn and daughter Ruby, and Toni sat with them while Michael and I get some practice. I was feeling pretty good, but very much conserving my energy. It isn’t hot there by Texas standards, but it would be a long day in the sun watching the street contest and enjoying the whole thing. My goal for the morning was to pick out a few vectors through the park and decide where I wanted to do certain things, as the park isn’t perfectly flat and there are a few street skating obstacles to avoid. About noon the Brits showed up. I love all those guys, but the guys from that first Paderborn Road Trip in 2015 hold a special place for me. Seeing my podcasting partner and friend Tony Gale, Alex Foster, Simon Mrozinski, and Denham Hill — so so good. And so good for my Toni to finally meet them in person. Means the world to me. That first trip was probably the highlight of my skateboarding life, and I wanted her to understand the magic of this place and this community. The street contest was fun to watch. About 5pm we split back to our hotel to freshen up and then we picked up Michael Erskine and his family, went into the central area of Paderborn, and walked through a lovely rainy evening to a great Indian restaurant to enjoy a fantastic meal and even better company. Michael was part of that first road trip, is close to as old as me, and his family is delightful. Such a great day and evening.

Sunday, July 7: Freestyle Day. The main event. The greatest grassroots freestyle event in the world. The mystical energy of the natural amphitheatre in which the park sits. Everyone shows up to practice. The contest will start about 2pm. Yoyo Schulz arrives – my old friend, one of the best dudes ever. The man who kept freestyle alive in Germany, and got this contest started. Yoyo, we all owe you so much. Words cannot do you justice.

This year was perhaps the biggest turnout in the amateur class ever, with 20 entries. Beside all-around great skating by everyone, this year featured the return of Finland’s Jari Paakari to the contest scene, and the first contest of 13-year old Daniel Popescu from Romania. Jari got 2nd, and Dani Boy got 5th (a great showing for a first contest!) Big congrats to Robert Wagner, who gets better every year and got 1st! Very stoked to see Americans Nick Beaulieu and Bryce Noe! Both rippers!Every year I meet new people, and this year I was really happy to meet Nenad Kocic, of Switzerland. Been friends with and following him on the internet for a while now. So cool!The Pro division had some heavy talent. Everyone ripped. Top three were Guenter Mokulys of Germany in 1st, the USA’s Mike Osterman in 2nd, and England’s leading proponent of not doing footplants or street tricks in a freestyle run, Tony Gale. All three were incredible. I don’t know how the judging really works in Paderborn, but history tells us that consistency counts for a lot. If you come off once or twice, and Guenter stays on, then Guenter is going to win. He’s a freestyle machine that rarely makes a mistake. That’s not an insult — more like praise. Entering his late 50s, Guenter is still hanging with guys 30 years younger. He’s a true competitor. Osterman brought his smooth style, great tricks, and connection with the crowd. Mike is fun to see skate. He always appears to love what’s he’s doing — because he is. It’s a beautiful thing to see. Third place winner Tony Gale as usual left very little in the bag, pulling out certainly the highest difficulty stuff of the contest (though not HIS hardest stuff, which is saying a lot). Tony mixed in smooth footwork with his trademark bangers. Again – if he or Mike had stayed on, they may very well have won. It is that tight.

Here’s a self-indulgent picture of me, because it’s my blog, and I like the shot. You can click it for the full sized, which is pretty cool. Photo by Dennis Wasmuth.

Legends division included me (Bob Loftin – U.S. and A), Michael Erskine (England), Yoyo Schulz (Germany), Eli Meyers (Germany) Eric Schäder (Sweden), Krister Philgren (Sweden). Yoyo is hard to beat. He easily earned more points than the rest of the field, but the points were tight between places 2-4. Krister ended up in 2nd, I got 3rd, Eric in 4th, Michael in 5th, and Eli in 6th. Results don’t necessarily reveal how fun it is to see someone skate. I think the entire group of six was pretty amazing. Eli was certainly one of the most fun to watch of the entire contest. Michael’s first run was fantastic, and it’s been noted he actually seems to enjoy skating! Eric brought some technical tricks you don’t often see in the Legends or Masters division. Krister (barely old enough at only 42!) did some nice footwork and handplant stuff. I lumbered around like a dancing elephant, and Yoyo blasted around the way he does. Honestly, after my 1st run I figured I was in last place. It was horrible, but I guess my 2nd was OK.

And here’s Tony Gale, doing a backwards hang ten wheelie. So rad.

I haven’t seen it yet. It is nice to be appreciated, and the congratulations after my 2nd run from Tony Gale and later from Alex Foster and Paul Brunninkhuis meant the world to me. Alex is simply one of the best and smartest people in the FS world, and I love the way Paul skates. For him to tell me he liked my skating is a trophy in itself. He’s a good, good dude.

While the results were tabulated, a best trick contest was held, and won by Daniel Popescu! He was beyond stoked! I sessioned a bank in the skatepark with Alex Foster and Gretch. It’s a bank in the lower part of the park. I wish I’d had my bank/ditch board!

As the gathering broke up many hugs were exchanged and goodbyes said. It is always emotional. It’s such a great weekend you don’t want it to end, but if it were an every week kind of thing it wouldn’t be special. So best it is once a year. We beat it back to our hotel, cleaned up, and once again met Michael and his family for dinner, this time at the Road House Diner (things close up early in Paderborn!) Next morning we got up and hit the road for the wine country.

 

Robert Silverberg

Last month I finished reading an anthology of science fiction short stories called Infinite Stars. One of the best was a story by Robert Silverberg. He’s widely regarded as one of the greats of the genre, yet I’d never read any of his work. It seems like he doesn’t have any single work that really gained any pop culture notoriety or even kind of a “super hit” in the world of SF. Most readers of SF can easily rattle off a list of books by Asimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke, etc. I certainly could. But until now Silverberg was not on my radar at all.

Soooooooo…after a bit of research I decided to read his novel Downward to the Earth. It appeared to be of the same bent as the short story I’d read. I must say it was quite good. I work as a librarian. I keep track of the new science fiction that comes in. It’s rare to find a new SF novel that is less than about 400 pages. It seems that everyone ones to get some of that Game of Thrones TV series type money, so nearly everything is a series as well. So it was really cool to read a novel with big ideas, communicated with style and efficiency, that was only about 250 pages long. For me that’s a 2-day read (if I’m sick, which I am right now, so I’m just laying around all day reading, suffering, or both).

Now, Downward to the Earth is very much of a book of its time. Published in 1970, you are not going to find much in the way of female characters with much to say. I’ve noticed that in more recent SF, that female part of the human race is much better represented. When you go back and read this old science fiction it’s hard not to notice this. This isn’t really a criticism of the work. Just something I thought I’d mention. Having read a bit of Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and the others, I would almost say the male characters are usually kind of secondary as well. The ideas presented in these old SF novels always seem like the stars of the show. The characters are just their to explore them.

Strangely, I find that the more inclusive recent SF seems a bit devoid of interesting ideas. But maybe I’m just looking at the flashy books that show up in the library. I think that Stories of Your Life and Others, by Ted Chiang, might prove me wrong. A general rule might be “if there are spaceships on the cover, don’t expect your mind to be blown, but you might enjoy it anyway.”

Anyway, back to Silverberg. I’ll probably read a bit more of his work after researching it a bit and deciding what to read.

the Skateboarding Life and my Dad

I went by my dad’s grave this morning. It’s been a while since I’ve paid respects. Our family accountant’s new office is conveniently located about 200 yards from the headstone, and it being tax time I was in the vicinity. I used to go with my mom pretty often, but since she is not able to go anymore it has very much fallen of my radar.

Going there always puts me in this middle-aged state of introspective semi-sadness/semi-peace existential brain-fog. My dad was a good man. When you look beyond my dad’s good-natured clowning, he was always the telling the people he loved that he believed in them and supported them. In his jobs as a coach, teacher, and administrator, he was always trying to lift students and colleagues up.That is the message I hear over and over.

A few months before my dad died, he and my mom were at our house for dinner. He knew I’d recently gotten a new downhill board. He asked to see it. It was the first time he’d ever expressed any interest in my skating. He was in the middle of his cancer treatment. He had to have known he would not be around much longer. I wonder if the reality of his situation gave him some kind of clarity with regard to me and my skating that he hadn’t had before? He was always interested in our lives. A massive supporter of both me and my wife. I feel like he must have been thinking about me quite a lot, and really reflected on what skateboarding meant to me. Anyway, that simple request to see that new board struck a chord with me. I’ll never forget it.

So when  go to Paderborn, Germany for the freestyle contest this year my dad will be on my mind. I don’t care if I win or place. I want to do the run that best expresses the way I normally skate, not something a bit more formualted to get points. I want my runs to be such that if my dad were there watching he’d better understand me.

Soul Searching

Maybe Soul Searching is a little bit dramatic a term, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how I approach freestyle skateboarding this week, and about taking my own advice about always skating like one’s self.

It was percolating (I almost wrote “gestating”) just under my surface thoughts for a while, and I think yesterday’s Alva post really brought it to the conscious mind. In particular, skating my own way at Paderborn this summer, rather than emulating someone else. Truth is we can’t help but skate our own way, and when we try not to, well, the results are horrible. I have this long list of tricks I “want” to learn. They are mostly tricks that lots of other people do. Not original. A list of check-box stuff that will frustrate the hell out of me and not really make me very happy. They will be removed from the list. Going to work on my own stuff. My own ideas. That must be good enough. It is. It is more than good enough.

Yes, I probably spend a little too much time thinking about things.

Style through the decades

The other day on Instagram, Tony Alva had one of those “story” posts in which he did a 2 foot nose wheelie where one of his feet is way to the side, and as he carves around he moves it almost to a G-Turn and almost to a 1-foot nose wheel position before he finishes the move. I really like the way he does them. There’s not a lot of footage of him skating, but at this point in this dumb video from “World of Playboy” he does the move. I say dumb because they obviously wanted him to talk about being a “renegade”, and TA does his best to accommodate them, and well, it’s kind of blabbering. I really think Tony is a better than that, and the editing and questions were probably dumb. But really, the move is awesome. Here he is doing it in a Van’s video, under cramped conditions.

So I did a little interwebs research and found some other images that I really like, because they show him back the early 1970s doing it the same way, then a couple of shots from more recent stuff (including this video). Kind of cool to see him still doing this move. I like that.

All photos stolen from the interwebs. Thanks to the photographers.

 

Alva two-foot nose wheelie style from days of yore.
Logan Earth Ski days.
More recent image of the now middle-aged but well preserved Alva doing the move.

 

Detail of foot position and delightful knee style from the dreadful video linked to above.