2010 - %3, February

Skateboarding Deserves the Olympics, Only Fair

| Thu Feb. 18, 2010 5:44 PM PST

It's true that the Winter Olympics is a special bird. The biathalon has athletes in tights hoisting rifles over their shoulders between ski laps, ski jumping is a boys-only affair, ice dancing is figure skating without all the jumps (what fun is that?), and curling, well, as Slate's David Plotz put it "curling combines the worst of shuffleboard and housekeeping."

Unlike the Summer Olympics, with scores of sports and thousands of athletes, the winter games is a more intimate and quirky affair, but it's also becoming more X-Games, younger and more hip than its warmer counterpart. Sure, Beijing's summer games had the charismatic Usain Bolt, who hammed for the camera before busting records, but overall the winter games just seem to have more fun. For example, snowboarding. Now, I don't adore the half-pipe event, it starts with athletes giving Apple a product shot for crying out loud! (Boarders often set their iPod at the top of each run.) But Shaun White and the other boys (and soon girls) in plaid and baggies are exciting to watch soar. But here's the question: Is snowboarding any different (less exciting) than skateboarding? It takes the same level of skill and coordination to perform tricks on a board with wheels as on snow (some might say more, see Lords of Dogtown). And skateboarding got here first (I think).

Anyway, just wondering. The folks over at SkateDaily.net are as well, they have an online poll going. So far, even with their presumably skater audience, 60% of respondents say "Hell No" to skateboarding becoming an Olympic sport. Surfing anyone?

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Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit's Sweet William EP

| Mon Feb. 15, 2010 6:00 AM PST

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit
Sweet William EP

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit will never again end up in the MoJo Dog Pile.

That’s what I call the cache of unsolicited media that for one reason or another never caught the attention of our reviewers. It's also where I discovered Flynn's debut CD, A Larum, and by the time I managed to listen to it and get myself hooked—I mean, I pretty much played it to death—it felt too late for a review. So last Thanksgiving I included A Larum in our (partial) staff list of Music We’re Thankful For, and moved on.

That very month, as if to extend my addiction, singer-guitarist Flynn released Sweet William, a stand-alone EP recorded at his home in London—he emigrated to the UK from South Africa at an early age. It's a sweet little four-song effort complete with more lush instrumentation from the Sussex Wit (horns, cello, piano, percussion), complementing Flynn’s Appalachian-tinged flat picking and adding depth to his timeless sound. (Flynn is also handy with a fiddle and a banjo.) The EP is also a friggin’ tease for the group’s second full-length, due out this spring. That record will be produced by Ryan Hadlock, who worked on A Larum and has assisted the likes of Blonde Redhead, the Strokes, and former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus. (Permanent reunion, please?)

Music Monday: Punks Help Haiti

| Mon Feb. 15, 2010 5:30 AM PST

Believe it or not, doing good works and assisting your community in nothing new in the world of punk rock. Because healthcare doesn't come with indie-label contracts and temp jobs, there's bound to be at least one benefit show on the calendar of your local club where the bands have donated their talents to cover the medical bills of a local guitarist or singer. Benefits for disasters like the great tsunami and Katrina are also old hat, and so it isn't surprising to see independent musicians coming out for Haiti.

But of late, one group of indie concerns has been taking its philanthropy to a larger audience online. Punknews.org, Paper + Plastick, and Limited Pressing have teamed up for an online auction of punk paraphernalia to benefit Doctors Without Borders' Haiti relief efforts. It has proved so successful—by punk standards, anyway—that they are now on their third round of the auction, and have raised more than $18,000. Not bad in a realm where tickets, CDs, and t-shirts seldom go for more than 10 bucks. 

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