Timbre #49: Critical Acclaim

I was born with a gift.

So it isn’t bragging when I tell you that I can complain like nobody’s biz. It’s just a fact. I’m very talented in that regard.

My favorite subject—for years and years it seems—is the (mis)direction of anything and everything that has to do with skateboarding.

Dill moves feeble forward in the BKN. Photo: Ben Colen

You’ve probably heard it all from other less-gifted complainers, but I started it. Yeah, I’ve said it all, and until recently I was always the first to complain about things like pre-fab ramps or people using a song for a video part that someone else already used or mob flips. I was the first to complain about the fit of other people’s clothes, too. I’m most proud of that last one.

And you know how people like Tim O’Connor or Jason Dill or Heath Kirchart are known for being ruthless when they flip through a magazine, complaining about the ads, the photography, or even the magazine itself? I taught them that. Yeah. It’s actually a rudimentary exercise in complaining that I made up with when they came to me asking how to be better complainers. Back then they weren’t very good at it. But look at them now—living proof that you don’t have to be born with the ability to complain. It’s a talent that can be learned.

Claar slob fastplants LV’s textured U-pipe. Photo: Grant Brittain

But now that there are so many who’ve taken up this critical mantle, so many who do it so well, and so many more who aspire to grumbling greatness, I’ve had to reevaluate the relevance of my gift. Maybe my complaining deserves its own criticism. Ironically, this meant finding fault with myself and looking for greatness in the things I used to complain about.

So I started with something obvious.

I used to grumble that skateboarding was on its way to becoming just another thing. A thing like everything else. Like Ugg boots, like MTV shows, like motocross, like five-for-a-dollar stocking caps. At the very least, I could be heard shouting from the mountaintops that skateboarding ain’t what it used to be and it never will be again. At the very most I could make ears bleed.

I know … It’s a very cool gift.

Ray Barbee spins one to win one. Photo: Anthony Acosta

But now I’ve forced myself to think differently. Like, “So what? Who cares? Does that even matter?”

I’m still a little unsure of my convictions, though, so I look for outside examples to back up my new ethos. Did Mike Watt stop wearing flannel shirts just because Kurt Cobain killed himself? Did Michael Jackson stop getting plastic surgery and abusing prescription meds just because Anna Nicole Smith overdosed? Did the United States stop using torture just because terrorists started using it too?


And I’m not stopping skateboarding.

You can’t stop Aaron Murray, you can only hope that the pool contains him. Photo: Bryce Kanights

No matter how many people I don’t like start skateboarding; no matter how many people adopt the dual identity of skater/rapper, skater/musician, skater/star quarterback, or skater/ultimate fighter; no matter how many consumers in our free market consumer culture buy into the idea that it’s better to look good than to feel good, I’m still not stopping. No matter how much there is to not complain about.

And then the floodgates opened. I was given the gift that only comes to super smart dudes like Gandhi and Gweneth Paltro—the gift of epiphany.

I realized that I was guilty of the same stuff that bugged me the most about other people. I ride manufactured ramps, I listen to the same music over and over again, and I dress stupidly.

I drive slow in the left lane.

And not only is all of that stuff annoying, it’s also hilarious.


Fuck you, that’s why.

Also, because when I do the stuff I do, it bugs the shit out of you.

Chris Senn launches into one of SF’s countless bomb factories. Photo: Bryce Kanights

Like bad sunglasses, though, while the person wearing them only reaps the benefits (protection from those damaging UV rays), the rest of the world suffers from having to look at a gross pair of resurrected BluBlockers.

So check me out sometime.

I’m my own terrible inside joke, and I’m cracking myself up harder than you’ll ever be able to complain.