2.01.2009

ON Video: a BTO x FIC collab


"this [waiting-in-line-for-shit] culture..."

On And Off Again: A Video Magazine’s Tale

"Tex [Winter], who is definitely no Buddhist, has a saying that I've grown to love: 'You are only a success at the moment that you do a successful act.' You can't be a success the next moment because you have already moved onto someays told my players the glorification comes from the journey, not the outcome."
-Phil Jackson, from The
Last Season

See that? That's people waiting in line for our collab. There's not that many because we didn't hype it. We just dropped it, kind of like Hokus Pokus, 411 #2, or the first Girl ad. But anyway, pilot light approached me about doing a point/counterpoint a couple months ago and I was like "let's do this." It took a while, though, most of which was carving out chunks of time to watch as much ON Video as I could find. Shockingly, my local shop still had one in stock, and Unicron still has a few as well, so who knows. But, that was my process--watch all the "behind the music"-type ON video segments (I didn't fuck with any of the other segments, for reasons delineated below) and take notes.

And as you might have inferred if you read this site regularly, I am a big fan of process over product. I also obsess over pop culture minutae. Remember that show Behind the Music? Seen every one up until (yes, and including) Matchbox 20. Specifically, I think I have seen the Ratt episode seven or eight times. Ever seen one of those "classic albums" shows on VH1 Classic, with some graybeard describing the laborious process by which he multitracked the guitars on Hysteria, or some shit? I I come across it I have to watch the whole thing. Along those lines, I suppose I lapsed because I haven't seen Clyde's commentary to the World box set, nor Guy/Mike/Rick's commentary in the Girl box set. As you might have guessed, I am currently working on rationalizations--most involving my recent
conclusion that my higher power was speaking to me through Guy's part--for shelling out whatever they decide to charge for the Final Flare. Although, the recent Epicly Later'd's have given us a glimpse into the process of the evans/frederico/jonze creative machine. I was also recently able to view the "making of" doc from FF, in which the autocratic lengths to which Evans went to get footage kind of blew my mind. I wonder what dudes will do when all the spots in China are blown out. By the way, do you think, if there were pro skaters in the 1930's, that they would have gone on filming expeditions to Nazi Germany if there were lots of marble ledges there, like at the Luftwaffe headquarters or whatever?

But ANYWAY, therein lies the value of ON video: insight into the process behind the epic individuals, places, and videos of our time. Like Nikki Sixx's harrowing tale of the time he mainlined Jack Daniels, without this bastardized child of 411, these stories might be lost to the sands of time forever. The credits for Video Days were done using a piece of paper? Critical. Rocco wanted to call 101 101 Dalmatians? I needed to know that. I will get further into the specific examples later on...

However, first let's examine the inconceivable thought process that gave birth to ON video. I suppose 411 was raking in so much dough that, in classic this-is-going-to-last-forever fashion, the powers that be at Giant decided to produce an adult contemporary version of 411, aimed at older dudes with more developed attention spans. Can you picture it? It's late 2000. You get home from your lucrative dot-com job, like at pets.com or something, and pop in a VHS of the new ON video, soundtracked by non-descript indie rock ("the new adult contemporary") and watch some nostalgic footage of Ed Templeton impossibling something or other interspersed between dudes slow-mo k/f boardsliding hubbas in Koston 3's and yellow shirts. It seemed like most of the montage and tour stuff was 411 throwaways; and shit, another tour feature! I'm telling you, there was a time when 411 was new and exciting. I remember going into my local shop and asking myself "411? What the hell..." and it was sick, even the video-grab box cover design was sick. Why? because, like regular videos, it was shit you couldn't see anywhere else. Back then, it was like parachuting into an average day at Santa Monica Courthouse.

BUT ANYWAY, Ironically, the years following ON videos demise saw an explosion in the skate documentary cottage industry, including, with varying results, the Gator documentary (creepy and effective...the scene where he's playing that Psychedelic Furs song in his basement on acoustic guitar still creeps me the fuck out), the Hosoi documentary (epic as fuck), the Dogtown documentary (pretty good, although I think they stole the wooden, robotic narrator dude from ON video), the EMB documentary (hopefully still a work in progress), the NYC documentary (DVD?), and the Rocco Documentary. However, Epicly Later'd is arguably the most effective antecendent, especially given it's historical-to-current outlook and especially it's division into easily consumable 6-minute segments. Like I've probably said before, EL's one major downfall is it's unrepenrant worship of it's subjects. But, what the fuck, it's Lakai, you know? I mean, come on--fuckin' Lakai!!!!

Along those lines, the most frustrating element of ON Video was that it purported to be a more mature 411 but still, in that milquetoast 411 kind of way, was terrified of mature subject matter. For example, how could one tell the story of LOVE without getting into the whole board-jacking rep, blunt-smoking, etc. This is where, particularly in the Carroll series, O'Dell ventures into transcendent life-changing territory. Back then, the "skate life" was represented as a free-for-all of money, weed, and Honda Civics. Once one gets beyond Carroll admitting to smoking crack, which I had no idea was so popular amongst Nineties dudes, the saga of how him and his brother forged a life out of the chaos of living with addiction is a much more organic representation of recovery than, say, Dr. Drew's Celebrity Sober House (which is fucking awesome in it's own right). If you didn't think Carroll wasn't the best dude ever before...

On Video, however, still holds its own in a few respects. The long format facilitated more philosophical depth than your average "Wheels of Fortune." Specifically, The "Importance of Style" piece is probably the most elucidative of them all--if I were to attempt to convey to someone--like, perhaps, a NYT reporter--what skating is like I would probably show them that. How else are you going to learn Rodney Mullen's computational system for learning tricks, which kind of reminds me of derivatives in calculus? Does that make sense? Now I know why he used the matrix theme song--it's as if he sees the binary code behind everything. And don't even get me started on how fucking awesome, in the most sincerely nerdy way possible, it is to see Kevin Bacon's dad explaining how Love Park was his thesis project from Cornell in 1932.


1932 Cornell Masters Thesis Project

It doesn't get much more nerdy than dudes in white shirts and black ties making architectural models for some gleaming, futuristic civic ideal of Philadelphia. By the way, does anyone else think it's slightly odd that Kerry Getz, after ollieing over Edmund Bacon, four years later chooses to ollie over....fuck it, I don't know where I'm going with this.
In conclusion, the tsunami of video available to the average dude doomed ON Video, in addition to the consequent average attention span. I mean, unless you are a full-time skate nerd you might have already forgotten about, say, that one promo that was hyped for like a year and a half. Who knows, though; however unlikely, maybe some dudes out there might see Natas 180 sw crooked grinding in 1988 and get some kind of creative spark going. But, I doubt it. The fact that the average kid can view Tim and Henry's or Snuff with no effort it doesn't mean they will. I mean, there's a chance that an astute individual might see Gino's part in Snuff and get psyched to try something new, but I don't really get the vibe that there are a lot of kids out there that think like that. It's not their shit. It's like when I used to find all these wacked-out Seventies Miles Davis records in my dad's old collection of vinyl. I'd listen to them and maybe think to myself "oh that's cool," but I didn't really internalize it. It wasn't my shit .
You can't have nostalgia for something you never experienced in the first place.


ps. If Guy smoked crack then pass the pipe.

pps. J/K!!!