Navel Gazing Part 2: Sneakers as Temporal Landmarks

Now that is a triple-word-score $5 title!(all ridiculousness aside, stick with me, I’ll explain what I mean by that later. I really couldn’t think of a more condensed name for the concept.)

Those that know me and read the website (I’d wager the two are almost mutually exclusive — except for the ragtag bunch of misfits that Nate drags in) know that my Youth was marked by complete, abnormal interest in a variety of subjects. I’m not sure of the exact order, but it went something like this: dinosaurs, space, birds, Star Wars, airliners, fighter jets, and what I’ve sort of landed on now, computers and cars. That’s all well and good as it could be, and until very recently (yesterday, to be exact), I thought these phases were the be all and end all of “where I was” at a particular time, the landmarks (or buoys) on to which everything in my past had been tied. As in, when I’d page through my old, binding-suffering-because-of-overuse copy of Audubon’s Field Guide to North American Birds (1994 edition, of course), I’d remember X, Y, Z that happened around that time. Same thing when looking through my old space books, the binders I put together about airplanes, my dinosaur toys, etc, etc. I had thought that those were it for “way back when.” I think the reason for thinking in these terms is that each stage stands alone as a very discrete point in time. I can’t put my finger on exactly when I was interested in airplanes, but it was after such-and-such and before other such-and-such. Obviously, this isn’t how life goes, it’s rare for there to be a finite and complete “end” to something. Sure, I still remember bits and pieces from each “stage,” but I’m not usually adding more to whatever it is that I know and remember about each. I hadn’t put much thought to it, but these academic pursuits really only have memories about the particular subject associated with them: sitting in the cold, convincing myself that I was always just one more roll of film away from taking a picture good enough for Birder’s World with my crappy camera, and on and on. That’s the sort of thing I remember when I look through my old bird books. That’s all well and good, but as I’m looking at it now, I must not have been a very interesting kid, only remembering things related to these rather niche interests. So that leads us into yesterday.

Oh, the memories. Sort of.

I have a bit of a soft spot for sneakers; my Oakley Twitch review might’ve shown that, but being that I limit my purchases to the shoe in question, it’s quite under control. Recently, the Nike Free 5.0‘s have intrigued me. I have one pair of what I’ll call not-sitting-around sneakers, so I definitely don’t need these new sneakers, but I think they look nifty, and having tried them on, they’re very comfortable in their own, unique way (just like Nike would have you believe). So, this sneaker-centric internet browsing led to a corner of the internet I knew existed but didn’t realize quite how serious they were. The sneakerheads/shoeheads. All things considered, that’s fine. There’s no better place than the internet to complain about how “Nike’s reissue strategy really screws over the collectors because they claim a colorway will be limited, then change the packaging and sell it to everyone.” God bless the internet. Anyway. All this led me to this exact page, a history of all the Air Jordans. At first, there’s little significance there, I’ve never owned a pair of Air Jordans, they were way out of what my mom decided my sneaker price range was and by the time I was buying sneakers myself, they were still way too expensive, and more importantly, I wasn’t really into basketball sneakers anymore. But where this comes together is how big a deal sneakers were for elementary and middle school boys (that’s not a universal thing, but consider it a blanket statement). Looking through the list of Air Jordan’s, the first ones I remember as being “the new ones” were the Air Jordan 5’s, released in 1990. I was 8, but I can remember who the first person I knew that had them and how much I wanted them. I remember seeing the kids wear them for intramural basketball games at the East Side Youth Center, and on and on. And these aren’t people or things I’ve even thought of since then, way back in 1990. Oddly enough, going through the rest of the Air Jordan’s up until 1996’s Air Jordan 12. I had no intention of purchasing a pair then or now, but I remember talking about the new colors that would come out every month or so with my more athletic-minded friends at the time, many people I hadn’t thought about since then (until randomly looking at pictures of sneakers online), and oddly enough, the first time I really thought about the interior details of my middle school, something I thought I had forgotten since the day of my 8th grade “graduation.”

It goes on and on, looking at any of the high profile sneakers from 1990-1997, lots of stuff I didn’t realize I remembered. But it ends there in 1996/1997. Sneakers after that don’t elicit anything. I thought about it for a while, and I realized why. That’s when simple things like sneakers were phased out by a more serious interest in music. Like anyone “young,” I had always enjoyed TV, movies, and Top 40 radio, but around 1996/1997 (14 or so years old) most everyone has had a couple serious years acquiring his or her own personal taste in music. Before that point, oddly enough, sneakers provide those “temporal landmarks,” but after that time, it’s really music that reminds me in that same way. Of course it’s not just music, there are all sorts of “touch points for memories:” textures, smells/scents, pretty much anything, even the way a Chevrolet Lumina’s steering wheel feels. But none of this is news to anyone, we’re all simply interested in different things at different times in our lives. I had sneakers, but I’m sure other guys (and girls) have video game “sponsored” memories (I have some of those, mainly from being at friends’ houses, what with my mom associating video games with some sort of figurative devil) or memories when you find a Goosebumps book in the basement of your house.


Navel Gazing Part 2: Sneakers as Temporal Landmarks receives three-and-a-half stars due to its main point’s obviousness as the review went on. The hyper-ambitious title perhaps hinted at possibilities left unanswered and avenues unexplored. Also, I’m a firm believer in sneakers being the ultimate artifact of contemporary design for point in time (heck, look at that Air Jordan overview, and see how the shoes from the early 90’s, with their neon colors, which were the new hotness™ way back when — my goal for the too many pairs of Oakley shoes I have is that they’ll be a bit more long-lasting in terms of style), and I’ve not touched on that concept one bit above.

5 responses to “Navel Gazing Part 2: Sneakers as Temporal Landmarks”

  1. I remember the Air Bacons being a big deal in 7th grade. Other than that, can’t say shoes really ever reminded me of a time. In fact, I really don’t remember any of my sneakers until I jumped on the airwalk bandwagon.

  2. Har har.. air bacon. Let’s remember you jumped on the Airwalk bandwagon after I had already left it behind. Anyway, I’m sure that there are other random things that’d make you think of stuff: programs to PYT plays perhaps?

  3. […] September 25th, 2006 Dan It’s well known that aside from some misinformed old-cootedness about video games, we hold Roger Ebert in pretty high esteem around these parts. His cancer-surgery-turned-surgical-complications has taken him out of the reviewing game since mid-summer, and though no announcements have been made, I’m guessing he won’t be back until “Oscar season” starts in mid-November. Regardless, I’ve taken issue with very few of his reviews, though his “thing” for Angelina Jolie’s lips awarded both of the Tomb Raider movies three undeserved stars, even looking at those movies in the “brainless action” genre. That tick of his aside (a soft spot for threatening-looking women), the only other time I’ve not taken his side was when he decided the original Jackass wasn’t worth reviewing. Unfortunately, I can’t find the actual article that includes the quote that I think I remember, but it went something like this (notice the single-quotes – journalistic integrity is listed as a category for this review) ‘I am a movie critic. I review movies. As funny as Jackass is, it’s not a movie.’ In short(er), just being a collection of skits, none of which tells any sort of traditional story, it’s more accurately a “video” as opposed to a movie. I couldn’t find that quote, but I could find him answering a reader’s question about why he didn’t review it. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Ebert said, “If I laugh, I have to tell you it’s funny. I went to see ‘Jackass,’ a shameful movie. I laughed all the way through it. I mean, I have to tell you that.” At the end of day, instead of giving Jackass a positive review (what with it being a successful movie, one where the audience is entertained) and being on the record as having condoned something like that, he chose to not review it at all. I don’t get it. Now, speaking as a principled person myself, I perfectly recognize the need to occasionally throw all principles out the window if there are extenuating circumstances. Ebert simply didn’t want to be someone associated with a movie like Jackass. Luckily, his on-screen partner in reviewing all things cinematical, Richard Roeper gave probably the best critical quote about it: “Jackass: The Movie is a disgusting, repulsive, grotesque spectacle, but it’s also hilarious and provocative. God help me, thumbs up.” Hallelujah. That’s even more positive than my review would’ve been. (for the record, having seen both of the movies, I’d say that I could do without the poop and the pain for the sake of pain stunts) I’m not one to find profundity for the sake of profundity, but my stance on the movies is this: they’re not profound, but there’s something to be said about the sociological aspects of what a bunch of suburban-ish white guys found to entertain themselves and the business acumen it took to make what they were doing marketable outside of the skater community. The issue I do take with Ebert’s (lack of a) stance is that his book of “The Great Movies” (quotes because that’s the actual title of the book) includes the 1929 short film, Un Chien Andalou, notable for its lack of coherent structure and (more so) co-creation by one Salvador Dalí. I won’t compare work by Salvador Dalí to the content of Jackass, nor will I insinuate that Jackass somehow deserves to among “the great movies,” but I will say that for someone who is very quick to condemn the supposedly increasing closed-mindedness of the American movie going public, not giving a movie you liked the critical time of day because it was “different” isn’t the strongest philosophical ground to be standing upon. (I know, it’s sort of lazy of me to not include links to examples of “very quick to condemn…” but, in short, look up any of his Adam Sandler reviews other than Punch Drunk Love.) The loose thread between the “Once Again Being One Up on the Mass Media…” and the movie itself is the fact that in the AP review, the writer actually invokes a comparison between Jackass: Number 2 a scene from Un Chien Andalou. There’s not much more to it than the fact that I said the same thing in 2002. And, I was reasonable enough to give the comparison with a bunch of qualifiers instead of trying for some sort of faux-intellectual comment. Once Again Being One Up on the Mass Media Or The Critical Reception to Jackass: Number Two receives four-and-a-half stars due to my thinkin’ brain and its whooping of the critics by four good years. In actuality, the whole mess with Ebert’s take on the first movie is sort of unrelated to this, but it does serve as backstory as to why I had done any thinking on the subject. If you’re thinking about seeing the movie, it’s as simple as this: if you think you’ll like it, you will. If you think you won’t like it, you won’t. If you’re not sure if you’ll like it, you’ll like it. Late-breaking, sort of related reviewing: Jim Emerson, the sort of backup on has his own blog (aside from the corner he gets on the Ebert webpage). On his blog, he has a cute little entry entitled, “Aint-It-Cool-Times” (his emphasis) bemoaning the Los Angeles Times for including a script review section on their website. He’s so put off by it that he says the newspaper has “jumped the shark” (and I thought Emerson was a movie critic! buh-ZING!), becoming yet another head of the hydra that is the modern movie industry (my metaphor, thank you very much). There’s a bunch of resentment of the “traditional” journalists (print, TV, radio) towards the “new” “journalists” on the internet. Sure, any schmuck can run a website and spout off whatever nonsense he wants and claim to be a journalist (note: Nate and I don’t claim to be journalists. Adam? Maybe.) What with journalism degrees being real degrees, the “old guard” doesn’t like the instant credibility that the internet offers. Aintitcoolnews, the target of his sort-of pun of a title is one of the more successful “home made” websites, and in fact, in the years it’s existed, it’s sort of a “real” site, though it does seemingly serve as a mouthpiece for the studios marketing departments sometimes. He goes on: “No. It’s not. Fernandez [the writer of the script review section of the Los Angeles Times] isn’t a journalist and he isn’t a critic; he’s a leech, on the level of those self-aggrandizing amateur web trolls who think their premature, uninformed opinions about an unfinished work are ‘news.’” Amateur web trolls? eh. Premature, uninformed opinions? meh. Self-aggrandizing? MR. EMERSON, YOU HAD ME AT ‘HELLO!’ We here at the Bookshelf® … wait, hold on, I like seeing that with the registered mark after it…. wait….yeah. We think you’re wrong and are probably just bitter that you had zero web recognizability until you became Roger Ebert’s second-in-command. Consider yourself called out by the Bookshelf® (you join such luminaries as the New York Times, Humanity, that horse, and Pitchfork Media. […]

  4. […] November 30th, 2006 Dan Though this was meant to correspond with Nate’s review of the first 100 reviews, schedules and, uh, not-feeling-like-it-at-the-moment-because-it’s-a-bit-daunting-of-a-task-itis, has delayed this “One Year Anniversary” review and pushed it into 13/14 months, but that’s fine by me. WARNING: Intense self-congratulation ahead. Nate’s recap covered things in a time-based manner, in fact you could almost call it a “temporal” recap. (HA!), so I’ll look at things a step back or so. Basically, this chart says that aside from people that randomly come across the site via search engines, a large portion of our readership seems to check back pretty regularly. When I had run the idea of a website by Nate, it was presented simply in a “wouldn’t it be funny if we reviewed anything-and-everything.” How often do people assign star rankings to things that aren’t arts or consumables? (Consumer Reports gives star ratings to lots of stuff, though it’s always physical items available for purchase). We never officially decided on what constitutes “reviewable”, but being that we’ve reviewed Pluto’s demotion (those bastards) and thrown an ambitious amount of words towards reviewing the hype surrounding various media properties, we’re definitely keeping our options open. From the beginning, we’ve dreaded the dirty “B” word. Our site looks like many, many sites associated with the “movement” associated with the B word; our site runs the same software that is one of the most popular B word platforms, and the fact that we usually indignantly explain “it’s a website, not one of those” when people refer to it as our “BLOG” just serves to establish how much like a blog it is. Well, though we’re wont to admit it, at the end of the day, we’re really not too far removed from the “blogosphere” – we just avoid the “I feel bad today because” style rampant in most blogs. Likewise, it’s rare that we read a random article online then say, “I think I’m going to review that” the way that many people who have blogs write snippets of “I read this article and I think this about it.” Nate did a good job wrapping up the first batch of reviews we did. Though the writing in those first reviews had “voice”, the big picture aspects of the site were still up in the air. My first review (about a really long baseball game) didn’t really accomplish much, though it did help to establish the implicit theme of our reviews and how we think we’d like aim to separate from the “blogosphere”: as everyone who writes anything on the internet, we think that we offer something new and interesting that is unique to our site. You could find people talking about how long that baseball game was and how great it was, but no one saying “well, actually, the game wasn’t any good.” This led into our future reviews, where we’re pretty much the only people writing about the topics (verbally harassing horses, recaps of great football injuries, the myth of the Christmas season coming earlier every year [as opposed to the complaint that it does or doesn’t come earlier every year] etc.) That’s not to say we didn’t write about things that were more straight-forward as needed. When I had bad luck with Vonage and when Nate’s long distance provider didn’t see that anything was out of the ordinary when his long distance bill went up somewhere in the 900%+ range, reviews were written. There, the goal was to try to make our bad experiences in consumerism known and hopefully somewhat entertaining. After we had established the criteria for whether or not something was considered reviewable, we looked toward more “touchy-feely” sort of goals. Well, at least I did. I’m not sure what Nate’s goals have been. The shear size of the internet makes it so any schmuck can make any website about any thing. That’s widely understood, and that’s fine, but it also gives space for incredibly, well, passionate (for better or for worse) defenses or critiques of topics that go (rightly) ignored in the mainstream print media. Heck, even a devoted sneaker magazine such as Sole Collector probably wouldn’t devote 1600 words to the Oakley Twitch. Likewise, Entertainment Weekly would never run 3500 words about Scrubs (and rightly so). One of the first websites that took advantage of this freedom afforded by the internet was the movie news/rumors site Ain’t It Cool News; it didn’t create the mold, but it had a lot to do with shaping what people expect from the internet. Ain’t It Cool News still “works” as a website almost 10 years after its creation, but it would never work as a traditional magazine or even newspaper. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in the community “power” of the internet, but I will stand behind the sense of community that it can create. Ain’t It Cool News is famous for its rumors and news, but what sets it apart from, say, Variety or Entertainment Weekly are the actual movie reviews. Needless to say, read Harry Knowles’ review of Clerks 2, then read the Variety review. They’re both positive, but the limitations of “traditional journalism” are evident. Sure, Knowles’ review is a bit fanboy-ish, but there’s something to be said about liking a movie, then seeing someone else on the internet go out of his way explaining how and why it is that good. Oddly, it’s re-affirming in some way to see that someone is as over-the-top positive for a movie (or CD, or pair of sneakers, or a Star Wars promo video). What brings it all back is that my goal has been to write reviews that people who already like something end up liking it more after they’ve read it. I guess that’s sort of a pretentious if not presumptuous opinion of my own work, but that’s my goal. As always, there have been humorous reviews sprinkled in within the more serious (the Chinese basketball game, verbally harassing horses, etc.), but by-and-large I yearn to educate. So, here’s a recap. I like how every single review (well except Nate’s U2/Green Day one) has a picture and funny caption. Nate’s Saving Silverman review has a good one, and I’m still fond of my “Nate Hates Christmas” when we were feuding over whether Christmas comes early every year or earlier every year. I like how pop-ins created an entirely new dynamic within the articles, allowing for jokes that are completely removed from the review itself (such as “HE HAD THE HIGH GROUND” in my Star Wars review. In terms of stuff liked enough to call out… how Nate combined historical revisionism in cartoons with a defense of Pluto’s planethood […]

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