“we wear black...and when they invent something darker than black we’ll wear that too, dammit…”
Back in the fall of 1993, I went skating at my local school on a brisk satuday morning. Because it was brisk, I wore my semi-new Carhartt sweatshirt. At the time, I was heavily influenced by Rap City, and most of the videos on there were set in some kind of post-apocalyptic underground water treatment facility. And of course, everyone wore hoodies—either Carhartt hoodies or that one kind that promoted historically African-American learning institutions. As it happened, though the sands of time cloud my memory, I remember taking off said sweatshirt, placing it on the bench I was skating, and then going to skate somewhere else. When I returned, it was gone. Bummer. I got a new yellow sweatshirt shortly therafter.
Fifteen years later, the Carhartt brand of “streetwear” (workwear?) resurfaces as the publisher/distributor of a volume of poems by Scott Bourne—you know, the “black-arm” dude from Big Brother. Gun to my head, I couldn't tell you one trick this dude did, what videos he was in, or any of that shit. But when I'm in an assisted living community, say the words "black arm" to me and I will respond "oh, that Scott Bourne dude...". As you probably have surmised, his particular genre of skating is not in my wheelhouse. However, for whatever reason, Todd Bratrud created for him some of the best graphics ever—like this:
The poem reads thusly:
Navigate by heart
Regardless of whoever wrote it, that’s fucking awesome. ANYWAY, this publication is notable for the following reasons. First, as far as I know, it marks the first time a pro/former pro has published a work of literature No, the Hawk and Mullen "autobiographies" are not applicable. I think Vallely might have come out with something or other, but I'm not even going to attempt to unravel that enigma here. I think he might have just stuck to the spoken word performances, though. Secondly, as far I I know, this marks the first time in the modern era that a dude has gotten sponsored for writing, or some shit. Maybe calling it a collaboration between an author and a "streetwear" operation would be more apt, but I give myself secondhand embarassment just typing the word "streetwear." It is what it is, though. Who knows--maybe this will be the next level shit in publishing.*
ANYWAY, back to S.H. Bourne’s poetry. I gotta tell ya, even though I have yet to read it, several red flags appear. Any book whose primary selling point as being written on a typewriter screams “hey.! my art is authentic because it was created using outmoded technology!” I mean, why not just use a Mac SE, you know?
In addition, here’s the deal with the whole “tortured artist” point of view—every time I read or hear someone in that vein, it reminds me of the Louis C.K. bit about how people without kids have nothing to complain about. Take Rollins, for example: while some of his verse is compelling, a great deal of it self-indulgently complains about how much it sucks to get driven around in a tour bus and play music for a living. Let's be real here--if your job is being driven around in a tour bus--a bus, not a van--and playing music for people, you have basically won at life. I would also go so far as to say that if you have finagled a way to eek out a living skating around Europe and typing on a typewriter, you're not doing so shitty either, big picture-wise. However, if one is going to explore the “tortured white dude” subgenre, it doesn’t get much better than this excerpt from See A Grown Man Cry, Now Watch Him Die, which I just finished:
Last longer, move faster, with more clarity. I will go until my body quits. Panicked and charged with blind fury, the bull sees the gate come up and he stomps and bellows in the arena full of strangers. It was always simple combat, one against all. One never relenting, knowing no other way to go but until collapse. 1992 dies.
Now, I do not profess to be some kind of prose expert, but that's kind of badass. Judging by a few standard writing criteria--voice, imagery, figurative language, sentence variety-it kills. I contrast that with Bourne's excerpt on the "spacejunk" site, which I would have linked to had it not been recently removed. I assure you, though, there's not much to grab onto there. Of course, that was just one sample--I would need to review the entire collection before delivering a definitive review. How much is 18 Euros again? In all honesty, if someone sends me a copy I will review it in all objectivity and sincerity. I won't, in case you were wondering, critique Mr. Bourne nearly as brutally as the instructor herein:
ps. I just realized this a couple weeks ago, but you might recognize the professor from that clip as....
wait for it...
Colvin from The Wire! Trip the fuck out. . .
*attn: Nick Tershay: let's do this