Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Mutt

I've been avoiding watching any of the newer Rodney Mullen videos for two reasons. The first one is that wherever I go kids say that I skate like Mullen, which is a great compliment in a way, but I don't really want to ape anyone in my skating style--even the King of Tech himself. So I figured that by limiting my Mullen video consumption to pre-1990 videos like Rubbish Heap and Public Domain, I could learn from the master while still allowing enough space to develope my own approach.

I remember reading an old interview with Mullen in the now defunct Poweredge magazine. He said that when people copied his tricks, it really hurt. This was back in the day when Freestyle skating still had it's own category as one of the big three skate events at any competition (alongside street and vert). Freestylers were judged on their technical ability, style and originality, and Mullen's comment about copycats has to be understood in this context. The irony is that Mullen himself has invented so many skateboard tricks that it is now more or less impossible not to copy him if you so much as step and a board and try anything more advanced than a boneless or acid drop.

The second reason I have been shunning the newer Rodney vids is that I didn't want to be filled with despair at the outlandish feisty-footed feats the Mutt is certain to pull off in any video appearance. I have a hard enough time staying motivated without harbouring a massive inferiority complex over the fact that I'll never do an underflip varial half-cab, or a caspar slide down a picnic table.

I shouldn't have worried about this last issue. Yesterday, I watched a couple Rodney Mullen vs. Daewon Song spots and was utterly mesmerized. They inspired me to go out skating for the second time in one day, and bust my first clean caspar stall on the hip at the Bease (the locals even took pause from their Saturday night reveries to give props). Watching Rodney's moves (and realizing that the guy is several years older than me) had a unifying effect on my mind, and gave that extra boost I needed to bring some long-practiced moves into focus.

R. Mullen, Heel-Flip to Caspar

Mullen's skating is pure poetry in motion. Watching him gives a pleasure that I can only compare to a few other aesthetic experiences:

Seeing my first Van Gogh in the flesh.

Hearing the Smith's Louder than Bombs for the first time.

Reading a truly great poem.

Dylan's Visions of Johanna, live in Manchester version, 1966

Reading a good novel.

Dad's paintings.

Mom's steak tortillas.

Watching The Mutt perform his art reminds me of the Buddhist wisdom:

A dream,
a lightning flash,
a soap bubble,
such a thing is life.

His intricate movements are completed in the blink of an eye, but leave the world changed fantastically in their wake.


em said...

"...anything more advanced than a boneless..."

Hey man, don't be dissin' my signature move!

The soap bubble was my head when they told me if I hit it again I'd be dead.

I'm glad you can do a move named after a dead kid.

flatlander said...


I was just trying to rile ya with that boneless comment. Fact is, you taught me all the staple Mullen moves-- shove-it, railflip, caspar--that still astound the kids at the parks to this day.

But the caspar is named after Bobby "Casper" Boyden, not the friendly ghost of NBC fame. It's actually one of the few freestyle moves not originated by Rodney.

Methinks it's good to wear dem helmets when sk8ing the parks :@)