August 13, 2002

More on Skating and other random stuff

Category: Humor — Biella @ 10:00 am

My skater friend noted below in his comments that there are yet more similarities b/w skaters and hackers. He asks: Skaters have clearly allied themselves with the hacker community through software but when will hackers finally come out and join the rolling ranks of us thrashers??

Hey, I can’t answer that one although maybe I will start using it as one of my interview questions. So, what does freedom mean to you? When are hackers going to hit the streets and start skating? : )

He also noted that they share a love of tee-shirts, which reminds me here is some tee-shirt fashionfrom Defcon. Very different from the fashion look that I found in a j crew picutre a long while back.

August 11, 2002


Category: Personal — Biella @ 10:51 pm

Yeah, I feel like a retard. The airline price is correct. I went to buy a tix to find out it was a special Sept 11th fare (and already sold out–> not that I could have made it out east from there). Bu anyway…. And then I noticed that someone has pointed this out to me too in my comments section….. Wow, the utility of the comments section in our modern blog : )

The Comments

Category: Humor — Biella @ 8:29 pm

These are too funny to leave buried in my comments section. They are about my entry on skating nad hacking:

No person shall circumvent a measure which effectively controls access to a curb protected under this title.
Posted by Seth Schoen at August 11, 2002 02:27 AM

Skateboarding is not a crime!

Cryptography is not a crime!

Skateboarding is not Cryptography!

Posted by dmh

$10 TO Puerto Rico

Category: Personal — Biella @ 8:10 pm

Hey New Yorkers, buy your tix, it is $10 buckarooos to fly to PR…. Let’s see how long this mistake will be up…

August 10, 2002

Yarrr, Pirates

Category: Personal — Biella @ 11:11 pm

Pirates rule… Here learn a bit of pyrate history.

And here are some fine pirate jokes for your fine blogging experience:

What is a pirates’ favorite type of movie?
* An ARRRRRRRRRRrated movie

And for the Unix geeks out there:

How does a pirate list the contents of a static library?
* ar -l

Soon, soon, I will get my pirate Vegas pictures up but in the mean time, here is a small

Dogtown Style

Category: Anthropology,Politics,Research — Biella @ 7:04 pm

Last night I went to see Dogtown and the Z Boys at the Red Vic Movie House. This is the second time I have seen this documentary about the birth of the sport and culture of skating, a birth that was a messy intersection of local politics, sport predecessors, the modern artifact of plastic, aggressive and flashy personalities, environmental factors, corporate support, and a good deal of love and passion for spending endless hours on your skateboard, always in style.

This morning I decided to read some reviews of Dogtown, which were critical of Peralta for overdramatizing the “fall’ of one of the most gifted and spirited Zboys, Jay Adams. As well as for not being skeptical and objective enough about the birth of skateboarding and the corporate presence that bolstered the growth and proliferation of the sport in the 80s and through the 90s.

Despite the sentimentalism , which I guess I am a sucker for, I think the reviewer, Mark Holcomb entirely misses the boat as to what makes the movie a far more powerful rendition than his weenie journalistic perspective will allow. Even though the movie focuses a lot on the crew of young boys and teenagers from the economically disadvantaged and rough neighborhood of Venice Beach, Dogtown, the film artfully integrated the many other factors and conditions that paved the way for the new drama of skating. Dog town was an area of LA that was rough, dirty, its streets infected with socio-cultural attitude that spread to the local surf spots and eventually to the paved hills and valleys where the local kids first met to skate. Initially imitating the flow and style of surfing and even a particular surfer, Larry Bertelman skating eventually grew into its own as an identity and sport. It is as if Dogtown received a “blow” to its environment and in the process of its ruptured bleeding, skating was born. What I mean by that is that the substance and form of the Zephyr skating team was etched out of the local environment born simultaneously from two polar opposite substances, the water and concrete, fused in the middle by the community of kids that transformed the urban environment into their very own. Born and raised surfing, the Zephyr kids adopted the aesthetics of surfing placing them in skating by crouching low to the ground, cutting, and drawing lines all with deep style. The polyurethane wheel and the drought were the technological and environmental factors that ensured that skating would not be just surfing side kick but grow as its own entity that was eventually fueled by a good dose of corporate sponsorship. The pool, a very potent symbol and material artifact of upper middle class America was hijacked by the skaters as their heavenly play ground. It was the site where skaters first entered the realm of the vertical and really took “unauthorized access” to its logical conclusion.

Along with the fact that skating is just plain and simple: rad, what I find so appealing about it is is that it reclaims public (the streets) and private (pools, backyards) spaces and makes use of them in ways that were never intended. As you all know, I am pretty interested personally and academically in the question of the
commons and what can emerge if you let people create through collective stuff whether it is knoweldge, resources, or material artificats. Skating is one of those activities, like hacking, in which young males males make use of a commons through creative passionate and performative play. Of course there are serious differences between hacking and street skating but there are some ethical, political, and aesthetic parallels that are fun to think about. So, two of my favorite political slogans are basically the same except for the first word: Skating is not a crime and Coding is not a crime . Both activities albeit in distinct ways have been criminalized, in part because of that very fuzzy and hazy concept of “unauthorized access” that both worlds engage in. Skaters gain access to unauthorized “hard” spaces like concrete curbs, parks, and streets, while hackers gain access to the ephemeral space of code and the network. The law has been used to curb both activities. To stop access in the world of computers we now have the overly draconian law like the DMCA and in the world of skating, it is often illegal to skateboard in public places. There are also physical means to stop the two. With technology we have Digital Rights Management while skaters have to face the retarded skate stoppers. Hackers and skaters keep the question of legitimate access in play not through a engagement with politics but engaging in their craft.

The cultural image of the hacker and that of the skater, simultaneously inspire a good deal of loathing among conservative societal elements while the have also grown to hold a revered status as “underground” iconoclastic figures who are led by ideals of passion and freedom to pursue those things that they love. Many emerge out of a similar soci-economic milieu, that of the sterile American suburb and both choose to engage in activities that go against the grain of the isolation and boredom that can tend to characterize the ‘burbs.

Anyway, there is more to be said, but the blog is not meant to be a medium for a leangthy essay so I will leave it at that and check out the movie if you have a chance.

August 9, 2002

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 1:27 pm

“The question of whether computers can think is like the question of whether submarines can swim”
Edsger Wybe Dijkstra: 1930-2002

August 7, 2002

The Politics of Humor

Category: Politics — Biella @ 11:57 am

So, remember the story about the HIV + muppet that is going to appear on South Africa’s Seasame Street show and the controversy it caused in the Republican neck of the woods? Well Miss Piggy is pissed.

On bikes and illness

Category: Health — Biella @ 12:16 am

So, just as I say goodbye to an old addiction (caffeine), I already have another one lined up on my doorstep to replace it, IRC…

In Defcon, I didn’t really have a chance to chatter away on irc nor partake in another one of my passions, riding my bike. On Monday, when I returned to SF, I happily rolled out of bed and logged on to my favorite irc channel but after a couple of hours, I decided that I really needed to get out of my house. Once on my bike I got a taste of the difference between passion and addiction. Of course, there are passionate addictions : ) but the sense of balance and enjoyment I get on my bike is quite unlike some of the more frantic qualities of my past and present addictions. I think it is the simplicity of riding a bike, in which the sole focus is getting from point a to b while smoothly stroking away at the pedals that makes riding such a comforting act even while I feel the pain of climbing up a steep hill. On a really good ride my body extends into the frame and out to the landscape blurring the lines between in and out, self and environment and even pain and pleasure. You are in between it all, just sort of hanging in that nice warm space in between hot and cold.

Unfortunately, these days I don’t have all that much time for biking nor casual reading but I managed to finish “It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life” by Lance Armstrong who just won the Tour de France, for the 4th time. Though the book can be very cheesy at points (like he when he calls his wife “a stud” over and over again), his account about his battle with cancer at the age of 25 and then his subsequent return to cycling was pretty incredible and moving. The dude was…. SICK as hell. Cancer had spread from his testicles, to his lungs, and even into his brain. Yet, as the cancer ate away at his body and then the chemo choked the cancer cells and poisoned him in the process, it also planted the seeds for his emotional and psychological growth, one which gave him a much deeper appreciation for life, taming his Texan brashness and machoness with a kinder more reflective disposition.

I was surprised to find out that he rode when he was undergoing cancer treatment at least before his last round of very harsh chemo:

“Why did I ride when I had cancer? Cycling is so hard, the suffering is so intense, that it’s absolutely cleansing. You can go out there with the weight of the world on your shoulders, and after a six-hour ride at a high pain threshold, you feel at peace. The pain is so deep and strong that a curtain descends over your brain. At least for a while you have a kind of hall pass, and don’t have to brood on your problems; you can shut everything else out, because the effort and subsequent fatigue are absolute.

I spent a 3-4 month period of my life trying to figure out why the hell my body was giving out on me, wondering in the process if I was dying. The one quality that never seemed to leave me alone at the time was anxiety and it was when I let go of the deep anxiety that I could finally get around to figuring out what was wrong and do something about it. I guess riding during cancer was one means that he was able to reach that state of peace and let go of the anxiety that tends to creep in and really overpower you when you are deathly ill. He never really talks explicitly about the lack of anxiety although it is the unstated theme of his healing path. Nearing the end of his narrative, he talks about how children with cancer have higher cure rates than adults, which he credits to their “natural, unthinking bravery.” In other words, they are totally in the moment with what they need to do which is to get better. They may be scared, sad, but are less prone to the cynicism, anxiety, and sense of and for failure that adults fall into later in life.

Though the experience of illness has innumerable facets, many of which are difficult to capture through words, one of them is that the path to end illness, that is, healing, is a map or metaphor for living a not a dis-eased life, but a healthy one. And I think that is why I liked this book so much. It beckons you to approach illness for what it is, and give yourself over to healing with passion, dedication, and sincerity just as you would for anything else you love to do.

August 5, 2002

The Cult of Caffeine

Category: Health — Biella @ 12:56 pm

So, I have been in the process of minimizing my caffeine intake and today I finally pulled the plug. Needless to say, I have been in a haze-like fog but thankfully no headache, at least not today. When I was talking to my friend on irc today about quitting coffee, I asked if he was addicted. His reply was that he did not have an addiction to caffeine but had a cult-like dedication to it. Nice. I do love the stuff, the taste, the smell, and the way it makes by brain feel.

Speaking of the brain, this is cool. There is a science to cuddling and touching. No wonder it feels so darn good They think that touching helps to release pleasure hormones like oxytocin and activates certain regions of the brain:

MRI scans of her brain revealed that the stroking activated insular region of the cerebral cortex associated with emotional response.

I bet caffeine activates that part as well as every other inch of my brain.