FDR Skatepark // A Visual History

Last year I was asked to contribute to a book that was in the works to “…visually document FDR skatepark… it’s history… it’s culture… it’s attitude. Youknowhatimean?” Well, I haven’t been to the skatepark in a couple years, but I was pretty involved during it’s creation and growth during the 90’s and early 2000’s. I never really skated it much, but lots of my friends did, (and still do! yeah 50 year old Bud Baum!) and I was usually down there, trying to help however I could. (once hosted a planning meeting/negotiation in my apartment during an especially contentious period of the park’s early first growth spurt.)

Anyway, what I lacked in actually skating, I like to think I made up for in shooting pics. (I know, I know, Freddy, it’s not the same thing, but let me have this! :-) I have boxes and boxes of pictures. Pictures of both FDR skatepark’s birth and at least half dozen years of it’s development. And also from that era, I have probably equal amounts of pictures of a private skate warehouse (Props to Danny Dansak!) that was, alas, not destined to live as long and as strong as FDR skatepark. (It was converted to, eek! luxury studio condos a bunch of years back) So anyway, it was a big task to gather all the thousands of photos, sort through them all… but I figured FDR makes for a great story, and if I didn’t even try, I knew I’d kick myself later. So in between all the craziness of my wife being pregnant and all the nesting activities that come along with that, I found time to gather all my skate photo stuff together and go through it with a couple of the book’s authors. We came up with some selects, and then I had to find the negatives, which was probably the hardest part of the whole effort. (none of the pictures, negatives, and their envelopes seemed to have retained any proper associations over the years) But all that said, it’s all done, and last week THE BOOK CAME OUT!! Below is a description of the book, and below that are my pics from the book!

FDR Skatepark: A Visual History
FDR Skatepark began its life in 1996 with a few small obstacles built by the City of Philadelphia in an attempt to meet the needs of a growing community. In true D-I-Y fashion, local skaters soon gathered their resources and began the ongoing construction of a space of their own design. As the world s largest D-I-Y skateboard park, today FDR is recognized throughout the world as a landmark in the skateboarding community. A photographic history of FDR, this book contains work from more than 25 contributors, from amateurs with disposable cameras to professional photographers. Side by side with the actual skateboarding are photos of wildfires, box cutter wounds, riot police, and drunks shooting sewer rats. Complete with oral histories gathered from park locals, this one-of-a-kind record documents the legend and landscape of the past fifteen years under the bridge.”

Authors: Nicholas Orso, Phil Jackson, Scott Kmiec + various contributors

Cover of the book, FDR Skatepark: A Visual History.
This is the cover. I totally didn’t take this shot of Joey P trying a sweeper… but I figured it would be good to include just the same.

This is my little out-of-focus pic of the birth of FDR's first skater-built construction, the CIA pocket. They blew it up to a full two-page spread! As far as I know, and the authors could figure, this is the earliest picture of skater built construction at FDR.
This is my little out-of-focus pic of the birth of FDR’s first skater-built construction, the CIA pocket. They blew it up to a full two-page spread! As far as I know, and the authors could figure, this is the earliest picture of skater built construction at FDR. (I wish I’d realized how out of focus it was when I took it, but this was before DSLRs, and I didn’t have a wide-angle lens back then, and had to get pretty far away to get it all in… blah, blah, excuses, excuses. It is what it is.)

FDR Skatepark is famous for it's 4th of July party... horizontal fireworks were a predictable mainstay right from the beginning. This shot is probably from 1997.
FDR Skatepark is famous for it’s 4th of July party… horizontal fireworks were a predictable mainstay right from the beginning. This shot is probably from 1997.

This shot is from the same 1997 4th of July party. Bands and punk rock are a staple of FDR 4th of July celebrations, along with a whole lot of beer, and more kooks than you can shake a stick at. You never know exactly what will go down at these 4th of July jams.
This shot is from the same 1997 4th of July party. Bands and punk rock are a staple of FDR 4th of July celebrations, along with a whole lot of beer, and more kooks than you can shake a stick at. You never know exactly what will go down at these 4th of July jams.

I don't remember exactly what is going on in this pic, but if I had to guess, Daily Dave of probably telling Mr. Rogers how it's gonna be, and Carlos & Wes seem to be getting a kick out of the interaction... as Fernando looks pretty fed up with the whole process.  :-)
I don’t remember exactly what is going on in this pic, but if I had to guess, Daily Dave of probably telling Mr. Rogers how it’s gonna be, and Carlos & Wes seem to be getting a kick out of the interaction… as Fernando looks pretty fed up with the whole process. :-)

Darren Menditto blasting some head-high air, with seeming ease! And George Draguns holding onto an inverted view of the world, which he is rightfully proud to do.
Darren Menditto blasting some head-high air, with seeming ease! And George Draguns holding onto an inverted view of the world, which he rightfully is proud to do.

If I find time, I may post more pics that didn’t make the cut for the book. Look for that sometime around Marchtember Oneteenth.

How far Right have we moved?

I was doing some reading for work the other day, and saw an original handbill for the 1963 March on Washington event. And it had some details in it that sparked my curiosity, so I went googling for a higher resolution (i.e. more readable) version of the document, and found this website with a longer and more detailed version, described as the event’s program.

March On Washington, 1963 Handbill

March On Washington, 1963, Event Program's Demands

First, I had no idea it was originally called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” … Jobs and Freedom? Jobs? I had no idea at all that jobs were even part of the March on Washington? I mean, I was never a huge fan of American history class as a youngster, so I can’t completely blame the school system, but I think I would have remembered something that significantly different than all the focus on the “I have a Dream” part of the March? When do you think the “Jobs” part of the March disappeared from the discussion?

Anyway, there’s a “WHAT WE DEMAND” section, with a numbered list of “DEMANDS”. And I was struck by #7 in the list: “A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers – Negro and white – on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.

Wow. Lets set aside for a second, the whole concept of people wanting their government to train all of it’s workers, (What a crazy concept huh? We’ve got private trade schools and private colleges to fund with our private money for that! Why would we expect our government to fund that for us? That would be communism to make job training publicly paid, you pinko fascist socialist commi! :-) but look at how it’s phrased, right at the beginning: “A massive federal program”! Right there in black-and-white! Can you imagine any public officials rallying around demands phrased like that now-a-days?

More importantly, I often wonder how far to the Right this country has moved in the last 50-60 years… and then I see something like this and it comes into clear contrast for me. I’m not saying that all of our country’s problems should be solved with “massive federal program”s, but it’s such a contrast to today’s environment of slash-and-burn everything but “3rd rail” issues… and even those “you won’t get re-elected” issues are becoming vulnerable to attack because of their “socialistic” implications. Just look at the Presidents bi-partisan debt panel. (nothing in that name about the fact that it was stacked with pro-big-business types… not a labor representative or academic-type looking out for small business or social concerns in the house) They’ve come back recommending, among other things, raising the retirement age and having “less generous” annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security! My grandmother, were she still with us, would be quite unhappy with these prospects, that’s for sure… and she was no socialist.

It just makes me sad that so many people believe things that are, and vote directly, against their own interests. Government isn’t good for everything, but it sure works in that gap between individual self-interest and Corporate self-interest. People need to remember that they are not indistinguishable from Corporate interest. It’s good to have a healthy economy, but it’s also good to have a reasonable level of protection as individuals, against being trampled by Corporate interests. We need to remember that we, as American citizens, can ask for our government to do a wee bit more for us than just “getting out of the way” of Corporations and Industry. We as Americans, deserve more than being left to fall with nothing to catch us but a safety net shredded by Corporate interests to make more and more, by giving out less and less. I would have hoped we’d be past begging simply for Jobs and Freedom over 45 years later, but I guess that was just a dream after all.

South Philly Do-Or-Die.

So I’m just gonna say it. South Philly has a lot of sucky aspects. There are some people down here that are just SO stupid and/or inconsiderate. There’s trash like urban tumbleweed because the city stopped street sweeping and removed corner trash cans. There are drug dealing corner bars that go unchecked for generations. (until recently that is :-) But I’m not really wanting to focus on the negatives. (like parking during, and after a snow storm). What I want to focus on however, are the positives!

And there are some seriously nice positives.

  1. Generally, once you get to know your neighbors, they can really be very sweet and considerate.
  2. There are corner stores peppered everywhere, so if your wife is wanting to cook something and finds she’s missing an ingredient, most likely the Italian corner store on one side of the block, or the Mexican corner store on the other side of the block will have what you’re looking for. (and I say “your wife” in a non-sexist way, because in our house she really enjoys cooking, and I’m more than happy to handle the clean-up, which she HATES… so we see it as a perfect harmony situation).
  3. There are many delicious places to eat out or order in, and they’re mostly within a 10 minute walk!
  4. There are multiple forms of mass transit crisscrossing and zig-zagging through the neighborhoods.
  5. Ah, Hello? HOLIDAY LIGHTS!!!
  6. Valentine’s Day Window DECORATIONS?
  7. Pretty cool row house construction sometimes.
  8. AND… an ever increasing number of cool new residents. Just to name a few of the positives.

But I want to focus on the first two items on my positives list. This Valentine’s Day morning, my lovely wife decided that she wanted to make waffles from scratch, and at about 8am she started to gather the ingredients together. But wait a minute! We don’t have enough butter?! No problem. Let me (as the assistant to the chef) throw on a jacket and some shoes and take a walk to one of the corner stores and buy some butter for my wife and her cooking proclivities.

A picture of a tastie looking plate of South Philly Waffles, with the waffle iron slightly out of focus in the background.

So I tried the Mexican corner store first, because they usually have more regular hours of operation… but 8am on a Sunday seems to be a little too early. Ok, how about the Italian corner store? Sometimes they surprise me. Nope, not this time. Ok, lemme walk half a block east and see if the Indian corner store is open yet. They’ve come through in the past for some milk for my morning cereal. But no. They too are closed this fine slush filled Sunday morning.

So coming up with 3 strikes, you’d think this Philly is out… but then I think, “Who knows, it can’t really hurt to ask.” So on my way back from scoping out the Indian corner store, I step into Varallo Brother’s bakery. Italian bakers use a LOT of butter, right? So maybe they’ll take pity on me and sell me a stick of butter? It can’t hurt to ask, right? So I walk up to the counter and hope that it’s one of the nice ladies that know me. (I’ve been known to stop by on occasion for their award winning cannoli or other tasty treats.) But it’s not my familiar ladies… it’s 2 new faces that I’ve never seen before, but more importantly have never seen ME. And I almost chicken out, but I muster my south philly bravado and just say, “Hi, this is gonna be a strange question, but, you wouldn’t be able to sell me a stick of butter could you?” (I know, I know, it’s not exactly “bravado” but it’s all I could muster! My momma raised me to be polite to strangers.) I get a funny look from both ladies, and I clarify that “My wife is wanting to make waffles, and we don’t have butter, and all the corner stores are closed.” Their skeptical looks give way to a half smile each, and the lady that greeted me says that she’ll go ask, but doesn’t think they have just “sticks” of butter.

Not sure what that means because I’m unfamiliar with the inner workings, and purchasing patterns of an Italian bakery, I just wait patiently. I figure at the least, I can tell my wife I’ve exhausted every possibility other than walking all the way (4 blocks) to the local Ack-ah-me. But to my complete and total surprise, one of the Varallo brothers comes out from the back, and in his hand… a 4-stick BRICK of butter still wrapped in its wax paper. He tells me it would be less trouble to “just take her out for breakfast”, and I joke back with him that it would require us to actually go “out”. And we chuckle a little. He puts the brick of golden tastiness in a brown bag and simply hands it to me and waves at me to take it, and scoots back to his kitchen before I could even adequately thank him for his wonderfully generous and nice act.

One of the very nice Varallo Sisters giving top notch service to a hungry customer.

WOW?! I mean I’ve always felt that the Varallo family is genuinely nice after you get past the oh-so-thin veil of gruffness that seems to mask all the older Italian shopkeeps in the area… but wow this was something else! I felt that I couldn’t just walk out of there with my free butter brick and not give them ANY money at all. So I asked the now surprised and amused looking ladies behind the counter if I could get a couple tasty looking danish and a couple of these little chocolate topped cookie pastries things that I’d never seen before.

I mean, c’mon, like I said… I couldn’t just walk out of there without giving them ANY of my money, right? It’s the neighborly thing to do! :-)

South Philly, sometimes you truly ROCK.

Google Reader is your friend.

Ok. I just wanted to make this post to let all you people out there in the interwebs know that GOOGLE READER IS YOUR FRIEND. If you have a G-Mail account or any other type of Google account, then you can have a Google Reader account with a few clicks, and no cost!   :-)   Just go to www.google.com/reader. It can really make sifting through your daily internets a much more reasonable endeavor. I think I’ve been using it for about a year or so now, and I just want to outline some pointers. But first, here are a couple intro videos…

First, we have “RSS in Plain English” presented by leelefever of http://commoncraft.com. It’s a fun little run-through of the basic concept of Google Reader and utilizing RSS feeds …and it’s less than 4 minutes:

And next, we have “Google Reader in Plain English” presented by Google. Again, it’s basic and clear. And it’s just a smidge larger than a minute long:

So, basically Google Reader is a relatively easy way of taking advantage of all those RSS feeds out there. And if you don’t know what an RSS feed is, don’t worry about it, just start using Google Reader, and it won’t matter that you do, or do not know what Really-Simple-Syndication means. Just be content that it can bring all your favorite daily interweb perusaling to one central place that’s easy to sift through and consume. But here are couple additional tips from me:

Google Reader Images 1. In your Google Reader page, there is a little text link area at the upper left corner of the actual feed called “Show:” and the choices are “Expanded” and “List”. (Please see image to the right) It’s pretty self-explanitory what these 2 text links toggle between, but I wanted to call them out, because this feature is GREAT!

2. There is a little Google drop-down-button under the blue title bar that has “Mark all as read” as a default selection. (Please see image to the right) Get to know this button. It can be your stress relieving pal when your “All items” is showing 1000 unread blog posts. (maybe it’s me, but I feel like I’m “falling behind” when that number gets up there like that, and just selecting a couple prolific blogs and nuking their “unread” status can do wonders for my ability to TURN THE DAMN COMPUTER OFF at night when I get home… or at least at a reasonable hour.) Don’t worry, the articles are still there if you want to read them… they’re just no longer marked as “Unread”. Also, when you’re getting familiar with this great little tool, get to know the other choices in the drop-down, as they allow you to apply a time range for your nuking.

3. And guess what? There’s a supercool SHARE BUTTON TOO!

Here is a little YouTube diddy that walks you through sharing items and how to add friends and what-not:

What that video didn’t cover, is the fact that you can make your shared items completely open to the public if you’d like! (There’s a small text link at the bottom of your “People you follow” area of your left navigation area, click that, and the first item on that screen is a drop-down that will allow you to set the Public or Protected nature of your sharing.) Setting your shared items to public is essentially like starting personal google blog that requires no blog maintenance! WARNING: Depending on the type of daily interweb perambulations you make and decide to share with your friends, you may not want to share these things with the whole world wide webs… but that is entirely your call… I’m just alerting you to the setting’s existence, which by default is set to NOT make all of your shared items public knowledge… just to the people you follow.)

So in conclusion and review:

1. You can use Google Reader to consolidate your daily web travels into a single, easy-to-browse happy-fun-time.

2. Don’t be afraid to nuke stuff when it all comes flooding into your little Google Reader corner of the webs. Sometimes you just gotta say UNCLE. Do it. It’ll make you feel good in the long run.

3. SHARE! Get your friends to start Google Reader accounts and add them to your “People you follow” list! And if you feel so inclined, open your share up to the public masses… like I did here: http://www.google.com/reader/shared/rizzionet

Enjoy!

Google Wave

Can’t speak for it’s actual usefulness, as I don’t have an invite yet… but from the videos I’ve seen (good overview video below) it looks like it could be a really amazing new communications shift. Almost like going from paper letters to email… but I’ll hold off judgement until I actually get to try it out. :-)

Awesometown, population Pomplamoose.

Yeah, so I’ve been loving this band for about 6 months, and not even sure I remember how I heard them, (tekzilla maybe? is that geeky enough for ya?) but this band is GGGGGREAT! They’re called Pomplamoose… which the name is sort of a phonetic version of the french word for grapefruit. (pamplemousse) …but I can tell you this: THESE FOLKS NEED TO PUT OUT AN ALBUM AND TOUR! THEY ARE AWESOME!!

Pomplamoose is basically a duo (and a happy couple btw) out of San Francisco. She’s Nataly Dawn, saucy but demure, and smart (recently got here Masters in French Literature) with a voice on her that makes you sit up and listen. And he’s Jack Conte, creative and free, and talented. (and the ladies at my work feel he’s a looker too!) And they make goddamn good music together! And VideoSongs too! (VideoSongs are basically WYSIWYG music. {WYSIWYG, aka “What You See Is What You Get” or wizi-wig}) Which can be seen on their YouTube channel. Also, you can download some free tracks, and buy a bunch at their MySpace page. (Covers are FREE. Originals are $1.)

Nataly and Jack formed the band Pomplamoose in the Summer of 2008. The band’s presence is primarily online, having only performed one live show. Nevertheless, the collaboration has garnered significant fan support. Fueled by the feature of their video Hail Mary on the main page of Youtube, Pomplamoose’s channel has about 13,000 subscribers as of August 2009. The band recently produced the next studio album of Julia Nunes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Conte

If you haven’t heard them yet, it’s time to check ’em out and get a good seat on the ol’ bandwagon… pun entirely intended. So here are some of my fav VideoSongs and such:

Total Surface Area Required to Fuel the World (until 2030)

According to the US Department of Energy (Energy Information Administration), the world consumption of energy in all of its forms (barrels of petroleum, cubic meters of natural gas, watts of hydro power, etc.) is projected to reach 678 quadrillion Btu by 2030 – a 44% increase over 2008 levels. That’s a lot of energy. Saw this really interesting article that tries to project the total surface area required to fuel that 2030 world with ONLY SOLAR PANELS!

Below is a surprisingly sparse diagram. It’s kind of amazing to me how small the little squares are! Makes me think solar panel production companies would be a good thing to invest in! Germany, Japan and China seem to be in a really good place to reap the rewards of forward thinking… and dare I say it… socialistic government subsidies and legislation? Maybe a little socialism sprinkled on top isn’t the end of the world?… maybe it’s even the beginning of brave new world? Oh I’m sorry, government help in an industry is the wrong way to go… you might as well hand the country over to the pinko commies! Oh wait, what would you call the help we’ve been giving the corn / high-fructose / ethanol industries for the last 30 years? How about the auto industry? Savings and Loans? How about the financing industry in the last 2-3 years? Oh yeah, and what about that pesky military industrial complex our tax dollars have been funding? …so confused…ARGGG…don’t know who to hate…RRRARR…tree huggers…socialists…bankers…farmers… FOX News can you help me find a target for my rage?
Area Required to Power the World by Solar ONLY

And things don’t look quite as easy for wind turbines:
Area Required to Power the World with Wind Only

C’mon Congress, get us some affordable healthcare!

So… last night, our President gave a speech about health care reform. There was a little defense against all the so-called “Fair and Balanced” nonsense being circulated, (talk about manufacturing things to argue about… yes FOX News, I’m talking about that ridiculous scuffle about President Obama’s “Stay in School” speech.) but it was really inspiring last night, hearing him speak to Congress. Directly to Congress itself! He really seemed to be trying to get the politics to be put aside, and try to get these Washington folks to bring us affordable healthcare!

If you have an hour, the vid is below, but the good stuff starts around 20-25 minutes in.