Saturday, April 02, 2011

Juice #68

Jocko Weyland, The Answer is Never:

Thrasher was an unexpected beacon that lit up the darkness of no national skate magazine. I had no idea of what a voice and vision Thrasher was going to be, and how, in its first few years, it would define and be skateboarding. I subscribed right away and would repeatedly ride my bike the mile down to the mailbox at the beginning of each month to check in vain. When it finally did arrive, I scrutinized the photographs, read every word and studied each issue with the fervor of a Jewish mystic reading the kabala.

That certainly describes me circa 1986. Thrasher is still very much alive, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. I've made part of my regular news rotation lately, but I can't say I approach the mag with the same fervor I once did.

On the other hand, when I heard that Juice Magazine #68 was ready to ship, I started keeping an anxious eye on the mail slot, feeling that old giddy anticipation. The mag did not disappoint.

The Juice Magazine website doesn't give much insight into how often it actually comes out -- if at all, so I waited until they announced #68 was actually shipping to place a subscription. I had semi-randomly picked up #56 back in 2003 and was impressed despite being totally out of skateboarding at the time. Based on the amount of time that has passed between #56 and #68, I'd guess it's coming out about once a year.

So #68 is a year's worth of awesome in one mag. Let's put it this way: the last interview is with Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, the inspiration for Gidget, done by fucking Jeff Ho; the second to last interview is with Chuck Dukoswki of Black Flag and SST. If that doesn't blow your mind, you don't know your history. You need to get with the program.

Actually, I'm kidding there. If you don't get that already, you never will. There is no hope for you.

Juice #68 is essentially entirely comprised of transcribed, Playboy-style interviews. It has a nice conceptual clarity. On the contents page, "Skate Editor" Jim Murphy writes: "Here at Juice, the pride we take in documenting these people never dies..." Juice circa 2011 is about documenting people. Reading Juice, I found myself thinking about my professor and sort of advisory back at CMU, Dave Demarest, His bio is actually a better description of Juice's themes than I could come up with myself:

I am interested in a variety of subjects that have to do with labor/industry/workplace politics and the ways these subjects have been and are represented. My teaching includes such topics as journalism, working-class literature, reading of the built landscape (in which, through photos and field trips, we look at how social and work places, public and private space, have changed/are changing), interviewing (which looks at a number of structures built from electronic interviews, in film, video, and literature).

That's what Juice is interested in, too. Well, in relation to skateboarding, punk rock, New York, LA, and New Jersey.

Technically, Interview magazine is probably a key reference point too, but I never actually read it, so I don't know for sure.

The heart of the magazine is interviews done by Jim Murphy and Steve Olson. I have a special place in my heart for Jim Murphy because I saw him skate at a contest at George Dragun's backyard ramp in State College, PA back in the day. He was clearly the best skater I ever saw in person at the time when skating meant the most to me. So yeah, fucking Jim Murphy. 80's East Coast Pro on Alva and Zorlac. Doesn't get any more hardcore than that. And perhaps the opposite of Steve Olson, as much of an LA fashion icon as a skater could be in the early 80's, but does it get any realer than a slalom champ for three decades? Somehow the union between the two is seamless, to the reader at least.

While I think, truly, in all honesty, that Juice #68 is one of the finest magazines I've read in my 41 years, it also would not be of particular interest to non-skaters. Beyond that, I'm not sure that it would have the same impact on people who don't have a "personal relationship with" Jim Murphy and/or Steve Olson. At least insofar as they have a clear mental model of who these guys are.

Because a remarkably high percentage of these interviews end with some sort of declaration of mutual love and respect between the interviewer and interviewee, particularly Murphy and Olson.

For example:

Harry Jumonji:...Let's be real, right? Listen. I love you.

Steve Olson: Listen, I love you too. Don't you ever forget that.

Dave "Shaggy" Palmer: ... We're going to be the motherfuckers on the front of this shit, dude. I'm serious. It's our fuckin' job. Murph, you and me barely know each other, but I know you had cancer and you fuckin' beat that shit and it means you are here for a reason. You give strength to this Earth, dude. That's what we have to do, is give back to this Earth.

Jim Murphy: It's a blessing. That's what I'm here for, in the right way.

Jim Murphy: Mr. G., I tell everybody about you growing up. Thanks for all you've done. You're the man. I'm proud of you.

Bob Groholski: I'm proud of you. I hear what you're doing with Wounded Knee and I really appreciate it.

Jim Murphy: Oh, thanks.

To fully appreciate Juice, you may need to have a Personal Relationship with Murph and/or Steve Olson, at least in your imagination, to provide some grounding for this love-fest. Otherwise this Personal Learning Community may be incomprehensible.

Beyond Olson/Murphy, the criterion for doing an interview in Juice seems to be having been interviewed in Juice previously, so some of the non-Murphy/Olson interviews just fail (like surfer Christian Fletcher interviewing Dukowski), and again, some context for the mutual love is necessary:

Christian Hosoi interviewing Arto Saari: I can't wait to see this interview in Juice to people can hear your heart, because you have a great heart

I started to think, "You wouldn't see this kind of interview in any other sport." It would be like Terry Bradshaw interviewing Aaron Rodgers... oh wait... Terry Bradshaw would interview Aaron Rodgers. But that's not quite right. Steve Olson interviewing Harry Jumonji is really like Terry Bradshaw doing a candid interview with Mike Webster six months before Webster died.

Maybe not quite extreme, but about the time Olson was screwing Melanie Griffith, Jumonji was in Rikers. So that's an interesting interview. Conversely, when (interviewee) Arto Sari was receiving Thrasher's award for 2001 Skater of the Year, interviewer Christian Hosoi was in federal prison for trafficking meth. So... look... this is a weird magazine.

Any true depiction of 21st century American society should confront the issue of incarceration, because, let's be honest here, by any reasonable global or historical standard, we incarcerate a ridiculous percentage of our citizenship. But how many magazines have you read where you know some of the interviewers have been in prison. Some of the interviewees have been in prison, and some of whom (Jason Jessee) imply they're conducting the interview from prison, but the reader can't really tell?

How often do you read the inspiring story of the kid who escaped from drugs and prison by doing "X" cheek by jowl with the story of the guy who did "X" but still ended up going to fucking prison?

That is the God Damned story of twenty-first century America.

And that's what Juice is about, but you know what else Juice is about, it is about Love, it is full of Love (see above quotes).

And Juice makes me think of the things I most value, beyond skateboarding per se. Like what I learned from Dave Demarest's Working Class Culture class at CMU. And it makes me think of Paul Goodman's Growing Up Absurd, and Goodman's arugments about the fundamental alienation of young people (men) from meaningful work. By accident or design, Juice interviews tend toward what the interviewee actually does.

What does a professional street skater do in 2010? What did a hip-hop A&R man do in 1989? Juice #68 interviewers, particularly Murphy and Olson, have an explicit interest in the nature of work in the 21st century, most obvious in Murphy's Duty Now for the Future series on skatepark builders.

And let's be honest here. I've read the high-end Christopher Alexander architectural theory, I've got the signed first edition of The Phenomenon of Life, and I know that 90% of the work which refers to it is just bullshit, and everyone else just runs in terror, but these assholes insisting on skater-designed, skater-built, guerilla skateparks are getting it exactly right, and it isn't even because they're some kind of lucky savages, but they're just smarter than you are. They know exactly what they're doing.

So... that's it for now, but I've got few more specific Juice #68 posts in mind to fill this out...

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