Category california

When surfing and skateboarding were one

There was a time when the sport of surfing was the dominant player in what is today known as “action sports.” Skateboarding and snowboarding, for the most part, barely existed.

The transition era has been well documented and I can’t add anything to what’s already been said.

And yet I’m drawn to this single clip of Greg Weaver. We could take away the skateboard and put a longboard (surfboard) under his feet… everything is the same from the ankles up.

Beautiful footage back from the days when surfing and skateboarding were one.

Margaret Kilgallen & Barry McGee

I have nothing but fondness for these two people and their work. Their story rambles through train yards, stopping to leave an ephemeral tag, winds through the streets of San Francisco past hand-painted signs by non-artists… and strangely ends up in white-walled galleries and fine art museams around the world.

I love their work on the street, on surfboards, on stickers and tshirts and on the white-walls of places street people never go. There is something democratic about their work as it’s… been… everywhere.

Spend a half hour with this video.


The magnetic draw of surf culture

During my formative years I lived in Ohio. When I was around 12 years old I wore Vans, Op corduroy shorts and had a Lightning Bolt necklace.

This was the 70s and I was hundreds of miles away from the Atlantic ocean (let alone the Pacific). It was twenty years before the web mashed cultures together.

I think about this from time to time. Maybe I think about it because I’m obsessed with how ideas and cultures are formed and then spread across the planet.

The simple truth is that there is an undeniable pull connected with surf culture. People are drawn to it. It hooked me as a kid even though I was so geographically removed from it.

The surfer archetype is an extension of what it means to be American: self-guiding, individualistic, free and untethered. Those attributes have positive value and they are leveraged to sell everything from perfume to financial services.

Decades later, I still identify myself as a surfer. And so when I saw those shorts my mind short-circuited back to 1970 and the magnetic slides by people like Larry Bertleman.

If you’re a surfer and want to dress like surfers dressed when Richard Nixon was walking Trestles in a white shirt and jacket… you’re in luck. These are for sale at one of Surfrider’s partner sites, SWELL. Nab them here.

Eddie Aikau meets Mark Rothko

I wrote a recent post about Raymond Pettibon and made the case that he captures the emotion of waves better than most. At the top of that same list is Alex Weinstein.

I’ve seen Alex’s work in a myriad of settings and every single time I find myself unsatisfied with one view… I seem to be always walking back to his pieces.

Mark Rothko gave us large fields of color steeped with emotion and suggested a deeper connection between contrasting and/or complimentary colors.

Eddie Aikau was once a Hawaiian waterman and has become a mythical figure at the center of modern island lore.

In my mind Alex is the synthesis of these two figures. He is a legitimate, modern waterman and deftly wields a brush… capturing something beyond what we know the ocean to be. He shows us that the ocean is not a single color of blue, it’s a world whose colors are shifting with every passing minute.

The ocean another world entirely.

The more time I spend in the ocean the more I love Alex’s work.

More Alex Weinstein here.

The original information architects: Ray and Charles Eames

Before there was Google, Jobs or Nick Fenton there was Charles and Ray Eames.

This is the story of two castaways who find their muses and end up influencing design, information presentation, furniture, photography, interiors, multimedia exhibits, games and in the end… modern society.

These are quite possibly America’s two most relevant designers and the film Eames: The architect and the painter tells this story.

3 thumbs up (and streaming free on Netflix at the moment).


California’s flag in three acts

Heraclitus supposedly uttered the phrase “everything flows (everything changes)” about 2,500 years ago. It’s one of those timeless truisms and it applies as much today as it did then.

We tend to think that icons like the California flag have always had same format as they do today. We are almost always wrong. We simply haven’t taken the time to look at history.

I believe that to better see the future, to not be caught off guard by large-scale shifts, one must have an insatiable appetite for history. So one evening during a spelunking trip into Wikipedia’s caverns I came across the history of the California flag.

An abridged version of the story is that 1836 rebels took land away from our southern neighbors (Mexico) and used the Lone Star flag to illustrate that break. A single star on a white background. You’ve got to admit that first flag in the stack to the left offers a near-perfect visual declaration of independence.

Ten years later, in Northern California, the first flag was seen with a bear on it. The star, reportedly created/added with blackberry juice, was added as a nod to the south. It’s good to know the friction between northern California and southern California isn’t new.

The single stripe, originally made from a four inch piece of flannel provided the same border we see today.

Another interesting tidbit is that the first bear flag was designed by good ‘ol Abe Lincoln’s wife’s nephew.

Also in the trivia camp, note the lack of hump on the first bear used (middle flag). It’s thought that the first representation of the bear on that flag was a black bear and not the grizzly we see today.

The hump was added to the bear, fonts shifted a bit and although there are a few versions of the bear used today… the current version has been the same for the last one hundred years.

But… I’m sure it’ll shift a bit because… everything changes, everything flows.

Geek out here.

Go even deeper here (pdf).

NeXT Computer

As the world digests the curtain closing on Steve Jobs’ reign at Apple, I find myself pondering his time at NeXT Computer.

Steve created NeXT after being brutally ousted from Apple in 1984 by John Sculley (whom he brought in to run the company).

I remember NeXT vividly. I was in college, studying engineering and NeXT was making high-end workstations for intensive computing. I was so smitten by the company and it’s products that I wrote to them to buy a t-shirt (in pre-web era one didn’t just buy online). I wore that shirt with pride.

Jobs and Wozinac had created Apple in the mid 70s and leaned heavily on Xerox Parc breakthroughs to sculpt Apple into it’s own category of “personal” computing.  It was in the late 80s while Steve was at NeXT and, in my opinion, that his personal… unique vision really started to take hold; optical drives, laser printers, first web server, 1 sq foot die-cast magnesium shell, etc.

Based on Jobs’ own comments I also know this was an important time for him. It was his blank canvas. It was his time to reinvent himself AND computing as we now know it.

His time at NeXT became the running start for the product families he helped architect in the early days of his second reign at Apple. He shared his perspective about this time at NeXT in his 2005 Stanford commencement address.

When people think of Steve Jobs they point to the ipod, iphone and ipad… and Pixar. To be sure, those chapters are stunning stories of cultural and business prowess… but it was his time at NeXT that captures him for me.

Steve Jobs is about reinvention.

As he exits Apple for a second time I see a worthy metaphor, this is a similar time for Apple Computer as it was for Steve while he was at NeXT. Much has come before this time to set the stage for the future… but the truth is that in order to keep the visionary slot, Apple needs to reinvent itself again. And that is what Steve would want them to do.

Summer by Cyrus

Cyrus Sutton‘s mixup mashup of commercials and other visual goodness. Spreading digital aloha, indeed.

Cyrus Sutton Reel 2011 from on Vimeo.

The sculpting eye of C. R. Stecyk III

I grew up absorbing Skateboarder Magazine in the late 70s.

Like most mags it was a rather bland experience… until Craig Stecyk arrived.

He did so much more than capture the early moments of vertical skateboarding. He sculpted the culture. In my mind more than any of the Z Boys it was Stecyk that captured my imagination.

Decades later he still does.

Luxuria, C. R. Stecyk III from MOCA on Vimeo.

The Mattson 2. Distilled jive.

The first time I saw The Mattson 2 they literally made me forget where I was.

The idea that two people, twins no less, come together and find the joy they do while exploring jazz in a minimal forms… makes my day. I’ve since seen ’em out catching a few waves in North County San Diego and playing here and there and every time I find myself thinking how solid their approach is.

In a literal ocean of singers and bands who have established their value on skinny jeans and self-cut hair The Mattson Two stand out. If you ever get the chance to see ’em. Go. More here.