Triple Threat Book Review: “Infinite Crab Meats” by Byron Crawford, “Life”–the Keith Richards autobiography, & “Better If You Don’t Come Back” by Joseph DeMough
June 16, 2013
Infinite Crab Meats by Byron Crawford
One of the fun mental games we like to play at this web site is “Would [historical figure ] have skated?” I have created a spin-off: “What would [historical figure] have become had the internet been around?” Think of it like “Modern Seinfeld” in reverse, or some shit.
ANYWAY, do you think Bukowski would have been #Bukowski had the internet been around back then? Instead of blindly mailing off poems and short stories to pulp mags and periodicals, would he had started a blog—at the very least, a tumblr devoted to chicks with prominent calf muscles?
This is how I view Byron Crawford—a modern-day Bukowski. He creates, but exists outside the creative class (via Girls). Nor is he fuckin’ dying to join said creative class (also via Girls). At this point, though, you may be asking yourself, “bro– what does this have to do with skating?” First of all, along with Chuck Klosterman, Crawford’s conversational, tangential writing style has been influential as fuck on this site. Secondly, as he details in his first book The Mindset of a Champion, Crawford pioneered blogging as a “thing.” And a third connection–Crawford is partial to females with a specific set of physical attributes. One of his most prolific muses, about whom he has posted dozens of times, dates the evolutionary Henry Sanchez, about whom I have written a few times at least. I think.
ANYWAY, in his first tome, Crawford detailed the genesis of his blogging career, the ins-and-outs of working at minimum wage jobs (again, on some Bukowski shit), as well as his rise to infamy through blogging about Kanye and Cam’ron while having the internet going nuts, so to speak. After Crawford reaches the pinnacle of hip-hop journalism/content production, The Mindset of a Champion crescendos in his eventual firing from XXL for saying some shit about Odd Future (the fuck happened to them anyway? Besides that kid’s part in the new Cliche? vid).
Infinite Crab Meats continues this autobiographical narrative plus some slice-of-life type stuff; for example, the book starts off with a relatable story about doing yardwork with his dad or some shit. It’s tight when a writer includes some anecdotes about their day-to-day– makes them less of a disembodied internet voice. Unless it’s Bill Simmons with some lame story about one of his buddies with a monosyllabic nickname or one of his kids; that shit is terrible (via Barkley, natch).
The book reads like an extended blog piece, with commentary on several recent goings-on on the hip-hop internets, like the Rick Ross-50 cent beef, Rick Ross’s dietary habits and (possibly) resultant heath complications, the rise and fall of Kreayshawn* via the blog hype cycle, and the Kreayshawn-Rick Ross beef. His sociopolitical point of view on modern life is mad on point; I doubt anyone else is writing about twitter beef with a perspective that would not be out of place on that Bill Maher HBO show.
In addition, Crawford expands his subject-matter repertoire into Klosterman-esque essay territory–specifically, the economy, health care, and, most notably, tumblr pRon and internet-famous #thirststrap chicks.** If you fuck with either of those areas of the internet you will find this section of Crab Meat funny as fuck. The dude also coins a hilarious term for the genre of hipster r&b that I fuck with- PBR&B. By the way, I know The Weeknd is still popular because I have heard him on “urban” terrestrial radio stations, but what became of Active Child and How To Dress Well? Truth be told, the latter’s Total Loss is one of the best lp’s of the past 5-7 years.
ANYWAY, Dude’s take on the whole Chief Keef/Pitchfork/”cultural tourism” debate is also mad salient, drawing the analogy to the Steve Buscemi character in Ghost World and detailing the saga of his own presumably-still-ongoing feud with Rap Genius, who even took a shot at lil’ old me [nullus] via twitter:
Note: that reply appeared within like 4 minutes of my tweet. They must have an unpaid intern on staff whose sole job function is to search for the search terms “rap genius” and “rapgenius” around the clock. Maybe they have three unpaid interns (three shifts and all that). What difference does it make if you’re not paying them? They could have 24 unpaid interns #inthiseconomy.
Or they might just use a bot. #futureworld
To sum up, as Howard Stern has proven, people will pay for previously-free content if it is dope enough. This applies to Crawford’s writing. However, hopefully at some point he will take more of an autopbiographical bent, like a Factotum kinda thing. Maybe get that film option money. In any event, it baffles me that inferior writers like Kelly Oxford and Bill Simmons have parlayed their blogs into television/media careers, while Crawford still, ostensibly, works a dead-end retail job, if that. I guess he needs to worm his way into Jimmy Kimmel’s inner circle [nullus] to take it to the next level. You can obtain Infinite Crab Meats in physical and/or digital form here.
Life by Keith Richards
I have been toying with the idea applying the concepts in the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers to skating for a couple years now. I think I concluded that it would turn out too obtuse and academic (even for this site). Basically, Outliers posits that one’s success in the world depends not only on personal effort, but the set of circumstances in which one exercises that effort–right on down to the year and month in which one is born. For example, one could say that skaters born between 1972 and 1975 (Markovich, etc.) got screwed because they were too young to get in on that Eighties money, yet too old to get in on the late 90’s shoe/board sale boom.
ANYWAY, Life captures a moment in history when being a rock ‘n roll musician was both profitable and cool. Are there even any bands that play arenas anymore, besides, like, Heart and Foreigner every summer? Howard Stern touched on this a few months ago, but kids don’t want to be rock stars anymore; shit just isn’t cool. It’s way cooler to invent the next Vine or to be the dude from The Walking Dead.
Truth be told, this book took me a long-ass time to read, so it colored much of what I wrote during the past year or so. Specifically, I touched on the sociopolitical implications of Jagger/Richards’ artistic process in the “Brief History of Anglophilia” post from last summer, as well as bulleting the main points back at the end of 2011 in my review of The Sk8mafia Video. They are still as follows, in case you don’t have time to read the whole book:
- Brian Jones was a dick, and Richards banged his girlfriend (after he banged early-Sixties Ronnie Spector–still mad jealous, bro).
- Jagger was cool at first—then he was a dick.
In addition, the details about the dude’s #lifestyle during the band’s creative peak are sick as fuck–living in a mansion in the south of France, sailing on speedboats to Sardinia or whatever, and, most of all, drugs. Based on the great detail into which he delves, Richards takes more pride in the efficacy of his own drug use than any piece of Rolling Stones music. Along those lines, the book is also worth a read if the age-old question of the connection between drug use and creativity is relevant to your interests.
Again, you may find yourself asking yourself about the connection between a celebrity biography and the subject matter of this web site. Well, Richards has contributed critical compositions to the #musicsupervision of some of the most important videos of all time–most notably that song from Rushmore in the Photosynthesis intro. Now, however, judging from Origin, DNA distribution appears to have moved on from semi-obscure Stones compositions. Who knows, though–maybe when the Dill/AVE company releases a video in 2022 someone will skate to “Undercover of the Night.”
Gotta keep the dream alive.
Better If You Don’t Come Back by Joseph DeMough
The term existential can simultaneously mean anything and nothing. However, is skating, as a practice, existential? Thinking back to senior year in high school when we read The Stranger, existentialism was born after WWII when some dudes realized a)that one could die at any time and b)because of that, one should find meaning in whatever you thought held value.
Or some shit like that.
ANYWAY, based on the above, skating is exisentential as fuck. Why else would we spend hours at an abandoned loading dock, solely because of the yellow metal that wraps around its edge? Moreover, the concentration required to do tricks blocks out sources of anxiety that assail us over the course of our day-to-day. However, this delays critical choices that determine our path in life, of only for the duration of a trick. But fuck it, right?
This is the paradox that Gogo and V, the protagonists of Better If You Don’t Come Back, face. DeMough has created, to my knowledge, the first novel that deals with skating in an authentic way, down to the fine distinction between an impossible and a 360 shove-it and the unfortunate phenomenon of sliding one’s wheels on a ledge when attempting to lock in a backside tailslide. As many of you may remember from the homie Galen’s review, the book is a modern extrapolation of Waiting For Godot, with two dudes at personal crossroads in place of Estragon and Vladimir. However, DeMough adds an additional layer of narrative– V must navigate the waters of new fatherhood/possibly moving in with a chick for the first time, while Gogo deals with neighborhood bullies and a potentially life-changing offer from an unlikely father figure. These narrative elements come at the reader in flashback format–the fragments of memory to which one’s mind wanders while awaiting your turn in a game of S.K.A.T.E., or some shit.
While its status as the first novel about skating warrants mentioning in and of itself, the book also functions as a quick review of Godot for dudes like me who haven’t dealt with its concepts in decades. Because just like with Catcher in the Rye or anything one reads in high school, literary meaning changes over time.*** Like they say in the book, “sometimes going anywhere is better than staying somewhere.” You can obtain Better If You Don’t Come Back here.
*the fuck happened to her? in any event, “one big room, full of bad bitches” is one of the best rap lines ever.
**Instagram/Vine in the next book, maybe?
***which is why I am kind of afraid to see the On the Road movie or, dear lord, the Jay-Z-afied Gatsby