When I think of Mike Black, I think of a mix of old-school surfing, advanced mathematical theory, and his drug influenced experimental art and films. Not as three seperate parts of his life or personality, mind you, but all smushed together into one weird sworling mass of Mikeness.
Mike was raised on a ranch in Texas, moved to Santa Barbara to study upper-level mathematics, and surfed heavy old logs at the nearby point breaks in between classes on the Mathematics of Evolutionary Dynamics.
The first time I met him, I was living in San Francisco and he had just returned from a round-the-world surfing and filming mission. He'd left a good job, his girlfriend, and spent every penny to his name, all in pursuit of his dream project: a science-fiction surf movie called Invasion! From Planet
Mike thought it would be easy to slip right back into "normal" society, but he had gone so deep into his primal fantasy world while filming that adjusting back to teaching kids algebra proved to be a lot more difficult. He was spending a lot of time at Mollusk during those transitional months and would often share clips of his travels. I never once thought he'd actually string together all the different clips and vague plot-line ideas into any sort of cohesive story, but 6 months later the first trailer was put online, and soon after, they premiered the film and are now working on what's next.
From the time he was a little kid standing up on his boogie board or pretending to surf his skateboard down his parents’ inland driveway, Andy Davis has only wanted to do two things in life: surf and draw. It is pretty rad to see someone so dedicated to making their dream world become reality, and in Andy's case he even has a name for it: “Andoland.” In this episode I got to spend an afternoon in Andoland and although I left inspired and sunburned, I managed to sneak out just before the Kool-Aid was poured.
Before this trip, I was never all that crazy about the ocean. I’ve always appreciated the fact that it generates the majority of the world’s oxygen and keeps us nice and far from places like Britain, but in terms of any sort of awe or “respect” it just never happened. I would say I looked at it less as the primeval womb of all terrestrial life than as an excessive amount of water you sometimes have to fly over.
Part and parcel with this was my attitude toward the Pacific Garbage Patch, or as we willfully misidentified it for the duration of our journey, the elusive Garbage Island. All the journalism I’d read about the patch had carefully danced around physical descriptions of the trash, leading myself and the rest of the shooting crew to fanciful visions of a solid, Texas-size barge of discarded Coke bottles and sporting goods. The idea that people had managed to fuck up a part of the world that nobody even visits, much less inhabits, and on such a monumental scale struck me as interesting and, to be honest, slightly awesome-sounding, but at the end of the day the impact of the mess on the rest of the world failed to register. I mean, sure, sea birds choking to death on deflated balloons and sea turtles whose shells have been completely deformed by soda can rings (click here for a picture of this if you want to completely ruin your day)—all this definitely sucks, but so do a lot of things, you know?
Needless to say this whole voyage ended up overturning my expectations about the Garbage Patch, as well as just about every misconception I’ve ever held about the sea, environmentalism, consumption, barfing, knots, pollution, humanity, and myself. After absorbing the myriad dangers of our plastic-heavy lifestyles for three weeks, I’m now a proud, carbon-conscious “Earth Warrior” who yells at grocery clerks for double-bagging my produce and carries around one of those 70s gunnysacks to drink out of. Just kidding, however, the trip did lead me to ferret out a group of non-hippie environmentalists who you can read about here. I also finally got into Earth Crisis. Pretty decent.
VBS CORRESPONDENT THOMAS MORTON
PS: All the music in this series is by Brighton, MA’s HELIOS off their Eingya album on Type Records. If you like it, you can check them out here.
Dane Reynolds is easily one of the best surfers in the world. Nobody would argue differently, but that being said, he probably won't ever win a world title. He is just not a competitor. He evidently hated little league as a kid, so I guess it's no surprise that he hates competitive surfing as an adult. The whole idea makes no sense to him and he is misquoted almost ever month in every surfing magazine out there just trying to explain this.
But Dane just laughs at it all. He is a super smart kid, with a refreshing take on what it means to surf for a living and how lucky he is to be able to do that. This episode is basically me having a cup of coffee with Dane and letting him vent about filming for videos, the pressure to compete, and riding twin fins and sponges.
All the music we've used in the Pipemasters series is by the Beat Buttons, who are buddies of mine from Gainesvillle Florida. I spent about five years there after I finished school and there are a ton of amazing house parties with the best bands you'll ever see. Unfortunately most of the bands break up right when everyone decides to know their songs. These guys have managed to hang out long enough to put out a full length, do a couple tours, and at least start thinking about another record. I gave them a call yesterday with some questions (just kidding: It was Monday).
Jake Burghart: What are beat buttons?
Micah (drums): Alex wanted to name the band the Blood Buttons and James wanted the Beat Outro. There was only one thing to do at that point. But I asked the same thing when I heard this story (I am not the original drummer.) Alex says he was trying to suggest that the human heart is an instrument—the heartbeat being a rhythm and that beat drives our music, lives, and whatever else. He could probably stand to make it a little more clear but I think that was an important idea for him. The rhythm of the heart or the breath as music.
Do you guys have some sort of plan to get famous?
We plan to reduce the supply in hopes that the demand will go up. People will say, "Yeah, they rarely play shows." Recordings will also be hard to find. We'll starve them. Rumors will circulate all over the net. After a while we'll have a comeback tour.
Are you doing a new record?
Yes. All projects are on hold for a little while though. One of us is preparing for fatherhood.
Is Gainesville still fun?
Sure. Today it is sunny and nice. Lastnight I saw some heavy bands play down the street. Afterwards there was a 3AM house party. Good times.
What's the deal with this song?
It's called "Stay Up, Stay Honest." We recorded it at Kyle Spor's house here in Gainesville. We'll say that it is a demo for our next full length. That sounds nice.
Listen: The Beat Buttons - "Stay Up, Stay Honest"
You can check out more about the Beat Buttons here and here. Band photo by Brian Smith.
Sunny Garcia went from a poor kid living on the west side of Oahu, to world champion, then spent a little time in prison for not paying taxes on any of his winnings. Now he's out, looking for new sponsors, and aiming to get back on tour with the kind of seriousness that led to him chasing Brazilian surfer Neco Padaratz up the beach at this year’s Pipemasters.
The Pipemasters started back in the ’70s with a card table on the beach, six guys in the water, and a $1,000 first prize. Tiny as it was, there was media, drama, and skepticism right from the start. Corky told Jerry the contest wasn’t going on because the waves sucked. So Jerry (hands down the best guy) went home. They ran the event anyway, and Jerry ended up watching it live on Wide World of Sports.
The Banzai Pipeline is one of the most intense waves in the world. And, as it is the last contest of the World Championship Tour’s season, a lot of people’s careers are made and broken right here. From world-title decisions to who qualifies for next season’s tour—a lot of shit can go down here on the beach.
Little quiet. For those of you still kicking around this version of the site, we appreciate your dedication, but—and we mean this as an honest question, no offense or nuthin'—what are you still doing here? Reading the staff picks or something?
Obviously you're free to linger as long as you want, but we just want to make sure you know that there's a new version of the site you could be using, with all the same content as here and everything. If somehow you are too computerly unsavvy to figure out how to get there, here's a link. Just click where it says "here's a link." [sigh] Not there.
In case you didn't notice, yesterday we put up a little advanced looksie at our new, completely revamped, mind-blowingly-faster-and-easier-to-deal-with website. It's in the top-right viewscreen next to the big player, just scroll up and check it out. Seriously, there's no reason you should still be hanging around here. The party's up in html-land.
OK, now that the thrill-seekers are out of here, let's get down to business. Today in North Korea, VBS takes a tour of the captured USS Pueblo and gets a lesson in just how big of imperialist assholes we all are, and on Epicly Later'd, the John Cardiel saga pummels forward apace and—actually, you know what? Fuck this. You could have watched the entire Korean episode by this point. Quit jacking around and go to the new site. Look, we'll even put a link to it down here. There.
It finally snowed today and we went sledding in Prospect Park. It was a really intimate moment for us and we had some great conversations while riding down the white hills together. Carl and Bryce spent our first royalty check on a "Snow Boat" and it really did make the whole afternoon so much better. Plus, the Boat was reasonably priced and had some nice features. It came with a tow rope and my lower back is still thanking the manufacturer for that one! The ultimate highlight of the day had to be the train we made with a bunch of urban kids. We all sat on our sleds, tubes, and saucers and linked arms and legs and rode down the hill together. It was so fun to be laughing and throwing snowballs at each other as we slid softly down the hill. We got into a huge fist fight at the bottom of the hill and bloody noses were handed out generously. Clay and Scott spent the next two or three hours late in the day making a jump on the hill. They discussed returning to the jump later that night and pouring water on it so it would be ice the next day, but instead, they went home and ate pizza rolls and fell asleep watching Quantum Leap. Yes, they showered before bed. This was exactly what the HOTTDOGS needed.
Today is VBS's first birthday. In a couple of hours, we're going to have a link here that'll take you to a fully redesigned site that runs about a thousand times more smoothly than this old guy. There are a few little lingering snigglets we need to take care of before it goes up, but as soon as it's ready we'll let you know.
In the meantime, we've got a new episode of Hottdogs! and the third part of our trip to North Korea. In today's edition, after all the hoops they had to jump through simply to secure a visa, our team finally arrives in Pyongyang, one of the most grim and desolate capitals we have ever seen.
Getting into North Korea was one of the hardest and weirdest processes VBS has ever dealt with. After we went back and forth with their representatives for months, they finally said they were going to allow 16 journalists into the country to cover the Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Then, ten days before we were supposed to go, they said, “No, nobody can come.” Then they said, “OK, OK, you can come. But only as tourists.” We had no idea what that was supposed to mean. They already knew we were journalists, and over there if you get caught being a journalist when you’re supposed to be a tourist you go to jail. We don’t like jail. And we’re willing to bet we’d hate jail in North Korea.
But we went for it. The first leg of the trip was a flight into northern China. At the airport the North Korean consulate took our passports and all of our money, then brought us to a restaurant. We were sitting there with our tour group, and suddenly all the other diners left and these women came out and started singing North Korean nationalist songs. We were thinking, “Look, we were just on a plane for 20 hours. We’re jet-lagged. Can we just go to bed?” but this guy with our group who was from the LA Times told us, “Everyone in here besides us is secret police. If you don’t act excited then you’re not going to get your visa.” So we got drunk and jumped up onstage and sang songs with the girls. The next day we got our visas. A lot of people we had gone with didn’t get theirs. That was our first hint at just what a freaky, freaky trip we were embarking on...