Spike Jonze and the Republic

The magazine this page was scanned from can purchase alcohol now. I have fond memories of this sequence, much like I’m sure it will remember the first time beer will be legally tendered to it. Like any decent art, it deserves a second look and read, or third and fourth, or in my case 500.

The reason I keep this one around for a trip down memory lane is because when I first saw it I had no idea what I was looking at. It was just simple ignorance. It wasn’t that I was stupid, I just didn’t know. A little refreshment of my Intro to Ethics class may explain what I’m talking about.

In Plato’s Republic, he explained that understanding reality comes in different degrees. The lowest degree are pictures and shadows of which we can only form unreliable opinions with our imagination. The second level are things we can visibly see, such as an object and we believe that they are there. The third level of our intelligence is understanding the objects we see in the form of shapes, numbers and mathematics. At the highest level are the more significant forms such as beauty, honesty and what Plato believed to be the highest goal in education, the knowledge of good itself.

I don’t know about anyone one else, but with my first magazines, I rarely knew what the hell I was looking at. All I knew was I liked riding bikes and jumping off the piece of plywood I had laid on a stack of 2×4’s. I had no knowledge of what a quarter pipe or a wide angle lens was. I was left with only my imagination. I could only form the opinion that in order to get that high in the air, the rider must have jumped off the roof of the building way over there in the background.

Upon further investigation of my new hobby called freestyle, I began to understand as to how these feats of bicycle came about. The stack of 2×4’s under the piece of plywood became larger and I began to tug at my dad to build me a quarter pipe. Learning the tricks meant learning what a sequential photo was (thank you BMX Plus!). There weren’t videos at the time, (maybe GTV) and I don’t even think we had a VCR either. I had to visualize these frozen images of movement in order for me to believe that the same thing could be achieved on my own. I remember the first trick I pulled off. I mimicked a sequence of Scotty Freeman doing a swivel. I remember thinking it was the easiest thing ever and wondering why Plus! would even list this as a ‘trick’? Then I realized that I was reading it wrong and that he was actually going backwards, not forwards. Whatever, gotta crawl before you walk.

I continued to explore my capabilities even though I was quite the pipsqueek when I started. I realized that some tricks I was just physically unable to do. Later on this guy Devin that moved to town told me that deathtrucks were easy. ‘Dude, if you can do a peg wheelie, you can do a deathtruck’, he said. He failed to note that my legs weren’t long enough to straddle the head tube and stand on the back pegs at the same time. Still, there were tricks that I just didn’t get. How did Dizz Hicks get into those weird kickturn variations? How did Eddie Roman do a can-can abubaca on a fire hydrant. I knew what I was seeing but I didn’t see how they were doing it. Oh, coaster brakes. Duh. Now I understand.

Which brings me back to the sequence of Spike Jonze and his little backside boneless in the April 1989 issue. When I first saw this, it puzzled me beyond belief and I dismissed it because I was unable to grasp it mentally. Here was the Last Bite shot, with Spike Jonze on a skateboard doing a backside boneless, some irrelevant information about the father of freestyle’s former place of employment’s proximity, and it was photographed by Spike. It was maybe four years later when I was flipping through the magazine when I finally understood it. Thats when I knew it was good.