le petit prince
September 26, 2011
While contempleting your favorite pre-skating celebrities, have you ever considered which of them would probably have skated? Although I have not yet had the opportunity to turn this into a barstool conversation, I have incorporated it into an intricate mental game. Criteria? Dude must have been born before 1950. Besides that, I value badassery as the main indicator. Theodore Roosevelt, a staunch advocate of outdoor activities and an active lifestyle, probably would have had a mean f/s grind. Hemingway—grace under pressure and all that—probably could have worked the life lessons he learned in the Spanish Civil War into jumping down stuff. I can see F. Scott Fitzgerald skating through high school, then quitting to focus on a career as a socialite/alcoholic. Based on the weirdo outsiders with whom he associated in high school in Ham on Rye, I can visualize Buk skating, eventually morphing as the old dude who shows up alone at the park at dusk to kill it.
Risk, or some kind of activity fraught with it, serves as common denominator here. In the pre-WWII era, dudes hunted elephants, fought in wars in foreign countries, or, in the case of Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger de Saint Exupéry, flew planes for fun and profit. Aviators. I reckon that anyone who would fly a propeller plane from Paris to Saigon for shits and giggles would have skated, had he been born seventy-five year later.
We mainly know Saint-Exupéry as the author of Le Petit Prince. According to rudimentary internet research, he composed it one summer/fall in Long Island (!) while on brief hiatus from his aviation career. He conceived its premise while in a state of thirst-and-hunger-induced hallucination after crashing in the Sahara in 1935. A pre-existentialist manifesto of sorts, Le Petit Prince relates the tale of a pilot/artist who meets the protagonist after crashing in a desert. Only le petit prince can see the narrator’s art for its true essence.
I first read Le Petit Prince in French class in Ninth or Tenth Grade. This was kind of like a big deal, because we read the book entirely in French. Previously, I had been familiar with that anime series that Nickelodeon broadcasted during the Eighties. Little did I know, that series was only loosely based on the book. It was still fucking rad though.
ANYWAY, I interpreted the prince’s travails on a completely literal level; a thick layer of experience is usually necessary to “get” any kind of symbolism. In hindsight, it could not be more obvious that the rose symbolizes vain, needy, impetuous, manipulative women. The fox is the Little Prince’s bro. The people whom he meets on his travels around the universe stand for all the lames one, as individuals or as a collective, encounter on our travels through the downtown areas of our local metropolitan areas, through different spots that come and go, through different stages and generations.
I placed out of French as soon as possible in college and promptly forgot all I had learned. A year or so later, I chose to stay in NYC rather than go abroad as many of my friends did—mainly to Paris. I’m not sure if skating played a major part in this decision, but why would I want to leave a place with active and skatable BAM, Newport, Midtown, and Small Banks? Flushing was an afterthought. Perhaps if I were five years younger things would have been different. ANYWAY, my friend (the drum and bass dj you may recall from this) came back with duty free cigs, duty free alcohol, and a shitload of records—one of which was “Music Sounds Better With You,” unquestionably one of the most transcendent songs of all time. However, I had entrenched myself in a backpacker phase and didn’t really back the song or its genre fully until like 12 years later.
What makes “Music Sounds Better Than You” own so fucking hard? Maybe because it counterexemplifies “milking it” more than any song in the history of popular music. According to my rudimentary internet research, the singer basically improvised the lyric over the loop during a DJ set, they cut the track the next day, and the dudes never worked together again. I did not apprehend or appreciate it at the time, but Daft Punk and all those dudes were crafting a mental landscape similar to what Rocco did in the World vids half a decade earlier–a pristine, more techinical, yet more expansive worldview.
Aside from that, the track’s value in terms of popular music nerdery lies in its complete disdain for figurative language, metaphor, symbolism, or any other poetic device.* The dude is fuckin’ psyched–that is obvious from the vocal. Why? He tells us the exact reason: because he hangs with a chick with whom just about any song sounds better. Ultimately relatable, yet impossible to duplicate–kind of like Busenitz’s part in Since Day One. Along those lines, it blows my mind that no one has used it in a video part. Although, as Quartersnacks astutely noted, a Newark-area hip-hop group sampled it.
Concurrently, Fred Mortagne was setting in motion a similar movement in Europa, and, most notably, Sorry. Similarly to catching on the French House movement ten years later, it is only recently that I truly appreciated Mortagne’s oevre. My one filmer bro worships the dude, and rightly so. What I previously dismissed as unimaginative #jumpingdownstuff kills it with the quick cuts, mindblowing spots, total disdain for slow motion, and apt music supervision—in Arto’s part in particular.
When I resumed skating after a lengthy sabbatical four or five years later, one of the first videos I digested was They Don’t Give a Fuck About Us—on the short list of best video titles ever and the even shorter list of best Euro vids ever. I am not sure who filmed this vid, but it supercharged my Euro obsession, adding a hyperprogressive tech-ledge element that infused my nascently-rediscovering mind with possibilities. Ten years earlier, Rocco and Socrates had created a world in which Ramona, Seventh Street, the Beryl Banks, and Lockwood were seemingly on the same block. When I watch TDGAFAU now, Daft Punk and them have added a new dimension to the already-intense Euro Theater of the mind–an aural counterpart to the pristine football field-sized marble plazas, Louis XIV-era office buildings, and textbook switch back 5/0’s, hinting at what lays in wait post-sesh in the city of lights. Marfaing–up there on the short list of dudes who should be millionaires from skating–tattooed his name on the metaphorical ass [nullus] of a spot like few others have. Has there ever been an iller dismount than his catch on the f/s tail flip out?
I absorbed Bon Appetit with a similar “spot pRon” sensibility, but Mortagne’s approach with this Cliché vid, while equally as masterful, was more micro (as opposed to the macro of Sorry), exploring the spots that lurked in narrow Euro streets. Lucas Puig’s last part therein introduced him to the world, and created the concept of “French Mariano.” Indeed, the part, with effortless gap switch 360 flips, nosegrinds that balance at a perfect forty-degree angle, and seemingly anachronistic heelflips on flat, creates an alternate-universe in which Virtual Reality-era Guy resided in Bordeaux instead of Burbank and filmed a full video part. The mirror-image bigspin heelflips at the water gap spot also foreshadow the hallmark of the super-elite—tricks both ways in the same line– into which Puig had suddenly thrust himself. Also, Jean-Baptiste’s guest appearance in the part holds a deeper meaning. Just as Saint-Exupéry’s** aviator survived countless WWII reconnaissance missions, Jean-Baptiste survived the battles of San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively, in the 1990’s skate wars. And just as the aviator discovered a seemingly otherworldly young man in the middle of nowhere, so did Jean-Baptiste and Mortagne.
Just as They Don’t Give a Fuck About Us facilitated my reconceptualization of Mortagne’s visionary status, another group of visionaries –Carroll and them—facilitated my nascent rediscovery of French House. That one Lakai “We Are Your Friends” web clip was the catalyst. The specific combination of dope-ass skating and sick-ass upbeat music got me hype enough to charge a machine gun nest. I commenced genre re-exploration. Funny how, 18-or-so years after Questionable, Carroll’s musical taste proved so influential yet again. Granted, he might not have personally music-supervised the “We Are Your Friends” clip, but his latest shoe commercial is sufficient evidence. Not to mention he was observed dancing (or something to that effect) at the LCD Soundsystem show at the Hollywood Bowl.
ANYWAY, exploring a newly fascinating musical genre was way different pre-internet. My fiscal discipline game was beyond reproach. Allocating enough for one cd per week, sometimes the dudes at the music store would actually let you listen to the shit before you laid down the hard-earned cash. This time, I just watched some “greatest French house tracks” vids, gaining somewhat of a foothold. Soundcloud also kills it. Downloading and listening to the #NPBS repeatedly during transcendent solo miniramp sessions this summer pulled me further into the vortex. Instant access to every song ever is one of the best inventions of the human race so far. At this point it has superseded, like, the cotton gin and all that shit. It’s like an AI version of that girl at a party in the 90’s who would rip a couple lines and proceed to rifle through her cd binder, playing fifteen seconds each of 200 songs.
So almost four years after possibly the most mind-numbing part in FF, Lucas stars in the first Transworld Pro Spotlight Internet Solo Video Part. It remains to be seen whether this sounds the death knell for This Summer’s Transworld Video. Regardless, these solo video parts have become de rigeur for any dude aspiring to “best dude out” status. Pretty sure Guy already said Lucas was the best dude out, though. ANYWAY, I don’t know if there are any legit French writers or film directors out now, but even if there are, Puig is the apex of modern-day French culture. Like the pioneers of the French House movement,*** he selectively appropriates the past (reg. noseslide to fakie in a line) while constantly progressing in his own genre of immaculate, sick-as-fuck execution (sw flip bsnb in the middle of a ledge and the ender). He is Le Petit Prince at the final stages of his tale, flying around the solar system, visiting various asteroids—San Francisco and Compton, for example—and apprehending the reality and individuals that inhabit them. How he reacts will define him. Perhaps the post-credits full-kit focus presages a future Celine-like existential crisis.
Or maybe it was just hot as fuck in LA that day.
*such complete literalism would not be seen again until the Akon/Snoop Dogg collaboration “I Wanna Fuck You”
**from Lyon btw
***pretty sure this was an actual movement, not like how every aspiring rapper on Twitter is on some “IT’S A MOVEMENT!” type shit