A magazine about the creative culture of skateboarding.
Issue two of Stoke Much asks the question: “What is the skater’s place?” We didn’t set out to suggest any kind of definitive answer, moreso we looked for as many answers as we could find in the time we had to make this magazine.
This issue features:
Filmer/Pro/Video: Corey Glick & Don Luong
Masculine Plank: Bing Liu’s Minding The Gap
Rip/Ride/Cut/Slide: Hannah Höch, Collage Art, and Skateboarding
Made & Paid: Lisa Whitaker
Photog: Phil Mckenzie
Infinite Surface: John Dilo
Downtown Breakdown: Josh Elan
SPoT Check by Josh Bowser
Eyes On Everywhere: Sarah Huston
Freedom System: Derick Glancy
Hotdog Water: Potential Dangers of Vape Pens
Subversers: Trick Report archive
Photographers: Laura Dias (Brazil)/ Orlando Ovalle (Argentina)/ Janchai Montrelerdrasme (Thailand)/ Robert Christ (Germany)/ Sergio Del Rey (Spain)
New Old School: Jonah Hill’s Mid90s
Mid90s is the best feature length skateboard film I have ever seen. So, it’s a bit strange to see Jonah Hill’s movie receiving negative criticism from Bilge Ebiri of Vulture who claimed that it pales in comparison to Skate Kitchen which Ebiri described as an, “excellent, complex film about skate culture”. I spoke to Crystal Moselle after I saw Skate Kitchen–a terrible film made of nothing but posturing, wherein the women give performances that are infinitely less entertaining than their instagram accounts–and she couldn’t explain why she chose to open her film with a grossly unrealistic and gratuitously violent depiction of skateboarding. In fact Moselle asserted that I didn’t understand the film. But Moselle’s closest encounter with skateboarding was meeting Harold Hunter through a friend of a friend. It’s people like Moselle and Ebiri who do not understand skateboard culture. But Jonah Hill does understand skateboard culture. That’s why he hired Aaron Meza to ensure that the film was period accurate, and that’s why he created the first film that captures what it meant to be part of the illegal street skating revolution that swept through the nation and the world in the mid nineties.
I’m not saying that Mid90s is better than Dogtown & Z-Boys, because Stacy Peralta’s work is incomparable. Stacy is one of the most influential and innovative people in the history of skateboarding. But everything that Stacy did came before my time, so I never really had any context to appreciate it beyond my appreciation for film, and my love for all things skateboarding. But with Mid90’s it’s a different story. With Mid90s I’m witnessing and experiencing the mythologization of my adolescence. And perhaps that gives me a bias, but a bias balanced by objective intentions is a premise for insight. And I can say with certainty that there is a great deal to celebrate in Mid90s if you know how to read between the lines. But in order to read between the lines you would first need to see the lines that were used to illustrate the male identity in the nineties, and you would need to understand the desperation and hope-
lessness that presented itself to all young men in these times.
If you were fortunate enough to have a father in your life then you have something to be grateful for. But what many people do not consider, is that sometimes a father figure can be a negative influence as well. This dilemma became a defining aspect for so many young men in the nineties. Many of us who had fathers in our lives experienced the pressure to “Be a man.” But it was not the mere call to assert ourselves that created a dilemma. The problem arose when the defining aspects of manhood were decided by previous generations who had grown up in a world with different possibilities. There’s nothing wrong with “Be a man.” But there was something wrong with they way that, “Be a man,” was used in the nineties. We were expected to replicate the circumstances of the previous generation even though the world was showing us that those circumstances had already become irrelevant, and the masculinity that arose from those circumstances would soon become anathema to civil order. It was too much machismo, and too much force for such delicate times. We were no longer living in a society dominated by religion, and prudence. We were also no longer living in a time of free love and acceptance. To be a young man in the nineties was terribly confusing, and it was clear that the previous generation couldn’t provide any insight on our dilemma. For all of us who got filled up with testosterone and set loose on the world between 1990 and 1999 there was no role model to follow. We were feral and seething, and entirely unaware of it all. We knew that the men of our fathers’ time had defined themselves in ways that harmed women. We knew we didn’t want to do that, and we were being pulled in another direction. We were also the last generation born before the era of complete surveillance. For many of us a criminal nature wasn’t a matter of yes or no, but when and when not. But in skateboarding, none of that mattered. We were all set free and given the means to discover ourselves–and by extension our masculinity–on our boards, rather than have our masculinity defined by the men who raised us.
Mid90s captures the struggle to accept the ugly circumstances that we were living in, but not be defined by them. One of the most powerful moments in Jonah’s movie happens on the tail end of a handful of scenes that unfold over a wide stretch of time. In the first half of the movie we watch as the diminutive protagonist Stevie is abused by his older, and much larger, brother numerous times. Through a careful depiction we are being shown that Stevie lives in fear of his brother’s overbearing masculinity. However, in spite of this fear Stevie idolizes his brother, looks to his brother as a role model and father figure, and ultimately seeks his approval. Later in the movie Stevie starts hanging with a group of skaters who are not from his neighborhood. These guys are brazen, and wild, and unintimidated but they accept Stevie, and they love him. At one point Stevie is eating outside of a restaurant with his skate friends when he sees his brother walking down the sidewalk towards them. Stevie gets anxious. Before anything can happen one of Stevie’s friends walks out of the restaurant, and Stevie’s brother bumps into him. They have a short exchange that seems like it’s about to escalate to a fight until we see that Stevie’s brother is obviously scared, and ultimately humiliated when he gets his face mushed by Stevie’s friend. And in this moment Stevie is touched by the freedom of skateboard-
ing. Although Stevie’s friends are far from perfect, they’re self-actualized, self-aware, and self-motivated; while Stevie’s brother is insecure, unconfident, and motivated by social posturing. After this scene in the movie Stevie’s character still has plenty of difficult situations to navigate, but he begins to do so with agency, and his struggles become part of his character rather than part of a torturous psychosis as they are for his brother. The next time that Stevie gets in a fight with his brother, it’s his brother who is left crying on the ground. Skateboarding gives Stevie a way to understand that he is in control of his life, and a means to understand that his identity and experiences will be the result of his actions and no one else’s if he so chooses.
Not all of us who grew up in the 90s got to experience the freedom of knowing that the overbearing overmasculine role model in our life was wrong. But most of us who skated did get to realize that. And most of us got to realize so much more because skateboarding is about creative freedom, and it’s a way to be whoever you want to be without relying on anything more than yourself. That’s why it’s so alarming to see a bully like Joel Morgenweck trying to find a way to make fun of Jonah. It’s not what skateboarding is about. Skateboarding isn’t about doing a kickflip. In the nineties when I was trying to
figure out my place in the world skateboarding is how I found my way. Skateboarding brought me friendships with all sorts of people whose values and worldviews broadened my horizons and changed my ideas of who I could be. When Stevie’s friend punked Stevie’s older brother Stevie realized that he could be anyone. That’s skateboarding. Skateboarding takes you out of the world that your family raised you in, and it thrusts you into the world that surrounds you; it takes you to places that your parents don’t know, and it shows you things that your role models never learned; it delivers you to situations you couldn’t imagine, and it creates friendships you could never wish for. For those of us who grew up in the nineties the world around us wasn’t an open book of possibilities, and our identities weren’t a limitless blank canvas. In the nineties a man couldn’t become a woman, and a black person couldn’t listen to grunge. These were the kinds of lines that were drawn, and skateboarding is what let us cross them, and the rest of the world followed us. And if you weren’t with us getting shot at outside the gym, then you can’t tell the story now because we lived something beyond imagination. I’m glad that this movie was made, and I’m grateful that people are finally getting a chance to understand why we all care about this weird configuration of wood, metal, and plastic so much.