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September 10, 2006

Slacklining — Official Sport of bookofjoe


It took me about 15 seconds reading Adam Bryant's story in this past Friday's New York Times about this new new sport to realize it was meant for me.

Slackers everywhere — your sport is here.

But I digress.

I ordered a beginner's kit ($37.50) from www.slacklineexpress.com and Adam Bascom's book, "Walk the Line" ($18.95) from his website, www.slackline.net, and then I went back and reread the article, which follows.


    Above the Lawn, Walking the Line

    Until recently, I wasn’t too happy with my daughter’s boyfriend.

    Sure, Calvin is a good guy, smart and outgoing. But none of that mattered.

    The big strike against him? He was better than me at slacklining.

    Slacklining is a relatively young sport with a growing following. The gear is simple — a one-inch-wide length of flat nylon webbing is strung between two trees (or anything else strong enough to hold it, like a telephone pole and a trailer hitch). With the help of a tightening mechanism, the line is pulled taut enough to support your weight, but it’s loose enough, like a rubber band, to bend some when you stand on it.

    Expert slackliners can do more than stand on it. They can walk on it, turn, jump, kneel, sit, do yoga poses, the splits, you name it. Some fearless types even string lines hundreds of feet in the air to walk over ravines and gorges.

    After first hearing about it from a friend and then learning more about it on the Web, I had to give it a try, and ordered a setup for about $80 at slacklineexpress.com.

    Joe Kuster, who runs the site out of his home in Springfield, Mo., said one sign of the sport’s growing popularity is how his part-time business is taking over bedrooms and the garage in his home. He has six part-time employees and said he’s selling 40 to 50 kits a week; last year he was selling about 10 a week.

    There are more expensive kits out there — Slackline.com sells a setup for $230. Purists may appreciate the difference, but I figured that less than $100 was a reasonable outlay for something that might end up as an elaborate clothesline.

    Challenging? More like impossible. I’m usually a quick study with sports, and I’ve been drawn in recent years to activities that require a half-decent sense of balance.

    Windsurfing somehow led to last summer’s project of learning how to ride a unicycle (to raise the cool factor, I bought a mountain unicycle, or “muni,’’ as it’s called). This summer, slacklining seemed like another good way to stave off middle age.

    But when I tried to stand on the line, I instantly felt like a teetering pile of dishes. The line wiggles and bounces under your feet, and best efforts to herk and jerk yourself back to a point of balance seem pointless. I was glad I was over grass, because I didn’t always land on my feet.

    And yet. A lot of people know how to do this.

    Calvin, who’s 16, is one of them.

    In seemingly no time at all, he was standing on the line. He had a quirky style, too, sometimes holding his right hand out like he was gripping a baseball. As his best times on the line stretched to minutes, his bragging rights were upgraded to mocking rights.

    I reminded him that one of us could ride a unicycle.

    I later turned to my secret weapons: my phone and computer.

    I tracked down Adam Grosowsky, who’s widely credited with kick-starting the sport, at his home in Eugene, Ore. Mr. Grosowsky pointed out that plenty of people have been walking tightropes of all kinds long before him. But he said he was the first to take climbers’ webbing and rig up a slackline — back in 1979 when he was in college, after seeing a fellow rock climber walk along a chain between two poles at Yosemite.

    Mr. Grosowsky still slacklines most days, when he’s not painting, windsurfing or teaching art. He’ll often set up a line in a local park by the water, and passers-by inevitably stop to watch, particularly when he juggles on the line. Some days, Mr. Grosowsky spends more time giving people a try than on the line himself. His tips for me: Be sure to pick a fixed point to look at, say, on one of the trees where the line is anchored. Your hands become your balancing pole, he said, so use them to make small correcting movements. “Relaxing is the big thing, overcoming the fear factor,” he said. “It’s such an unnatural act.”

    But he was encouraging, too. “It’s just a body memory thing,” he said.

    A conversation with Scott Balcom, who sells a book, “Walk the Line,”


    from his Web site, www.slackline.net, made me realize I was approaching slacklining the wrong way. I had figured that if I could just focus more, concentrate a little harder, I could get the line under control.

    Thinking, it seems, was my problem.

    “It’s not about your brain at all,” Mr. Balcom said. “It’s about feeling balance in your body. To get good at slacklining, you have to gain that perspective. A lot of people might think that’s weird, and squirm a tiny bit at that. But more than telling the slackline what to do and how to behave, you have to listen.”

    “A lot of sports is about domination,” he added. “Allowing the slackline to be the slackline is the most important step for most people.”

    Hmmm. So I had to think about not thinking, because my brain wasn’t going to react fast enough to all the shimmies to keep me on the line. “Thoughts are too big to think that quickly,” Mr. Balcom said.

    I discovered the computer can help, too. There are a bunch of video clips online of people slacklining, and seeing others do it helps take the mystery out of it. This is probably the best way to get started, since, aside from the occasional organized demonstration or competition, this sport is best learned by doing it, and ideally with the help of a friend who’s a better slackliner than you.

    The video clips show a range of skill levels and tricks, including a backflip dismount off a line. Google the phrase “slackline wizard” or go to www.greatoutdoors.com/tv and you’ll see a guy doing all sorts of tricks on a line over water.

    For armchair thrills, track down a video clip by searching “Lost Arrow Spire highline,’’ and, your computer willing, you’ll see people walking across a 55-foot line 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley (they wear a harness attached to the line to stop their fall).

    I’ll stay closer to the ground, thanks.

    After all this research, I felt like I had an edge. I was ready.

    As we started out on a recent Sunday afternoon, it was clear Calvin had been practicing (he had bought his own setup by now). He could shuffle along the line, and even hop on it from the ground.

    I kept in mind all the tips I’d been given — relax, pay closer attention to the webbing’s movements, and don’t overcorrect as you try to keep the line in line.

    Calvin, my daughter Anna and I took turns, and somehow, amid all the chatting and ribbing, I started making headway. I was distracted by all the talk, but it actually helped. I relaxed a bit, grew more confident, and started getting better in a hurry.

    Slackline on one leg? Sure.

    Even Calvin’s weird hand gesture — we called it “the claw’’ — started to make sense. I tensed my fingers, which seemed to help pull my brain to the side of the road to let all the higher-speed traffic among nerves and muscles pass by. My body knew what it needed to do to stay on the line.

    Slacklining is invigorating, and addictive. Standing up there, you feel a bit like you’re floating, or, as Mr. Balcom said, “dancing on a cloud.”

    When we said goodbye that afternoon, Calvin and I agreed it had been a good day of slacking. Or did it sound better to say “lining” for short, we wondered? My wife and daughter rolled their eyes.

    Calvin and I were no longer competing. We now could both slackline pretty well, and we knew we’d get better with each outing. The challenge was the slackline, not besting each other.

    For the record, though, I can still slackline on one leg longer than he can.

September 10, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Sky Factory — 'Better than skylights'


Long story short: "Sky Factory custom ceiling art uses ceiling tiles to create indoor sky."

Because even down there in the sub-basement, you deserve a view.

Based in Fairfield, Iowa.

Inquire within.

September 10, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Skateboard World Speed Record Attempt Slated For September 24


Two weeks from today, 21-year-old Greg Kett (above) of Wembdon, England will make an all-out assault on American Gary Hardwick's current world record of 62 mph.

Kett has obtained permission from the U.K.'s Ministry of Defence to use Ilminster's Merryfield naval airfield for his effort, in which he will be towed behind a vehicle on a state-of-the-art two-wheeled T-board (top), a version only this year introduced to the U.K.

Read all about it in Ben Pike's story, which appeared in the September 6 Bridgwater Mercury.

September 10, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Patience Pants


As in, "I need to pull on my patience pants. Thing is, I haven't had a roommate in sooooo long, and clearly my negotiation skills are a little rusty."

I happened on thelizabeff's wonderfully entertaining blog last evening when she posted a comment about Maria Sharapova channeling Audrey Hepburn.

I thought you might find her take on things as refreshing — some might say "astringent," but that's OK — as I did.

Her blog, Do You Believe In Planets?, is at dybip.typepad.com.

She's currently holding a contest to find another name.

There's one condition: DYBIP has to be the acronym so she doesn't have to change all her settings.

So put on your thinking cap, joeheads: all you clever folk should be able to come up with something suitable.

I don't know what she's offering as a prize or if there even is one: that you'll have to take up with her.

Bonus: She's got a zillion pictures up on flickr so you can explore her world in depth.

Hope thelizabeff (pictured up top) doesn't pass out when she finds out what I've done here.


September 10, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Toxic Waste Hazardously Sour Candy


Visit Mr. Toxie Head (below)


if you'd like to learn more.


$2 for one candy-filled "collectible" drum.

September 10, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's Best Ice Cream Scoop


From the website and catalog:

    Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop

    This beautifully crafted scoop is on permanent display in the Museum of Modern Art.

    Contains a self-defrosting fluid that uses the heat generated from your own hand to melt the ice cream just enough to allow it to scoop cleanly.

    Constructed from the best aluminum alloys with superior workmanship.

    Non-stick coating for easy ice cream release.

    Made in the USA since 1935.

    Not dishwasher-safe.

    7" long.


Odd: I paid about $20 for mine many years ago and here it is for $12.99.

September 10, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why is page 163 of James Frey's book, 'A Million Little Pieces,' worth $23.95?


Korin Miller's story in yesterday's Washington Post explained how buyers of James Frey's book, "A Million Little Pieces" who believe they were defrauded by his initial claim that the book was nonfiction may be made whole.

It's a very strange resolution, I must say.

Long story short: Assuming a judge approves the agreement between Frey, Random House and the many readers who've filed lawsuits, anyone who can produce page 163 from the hardcover is entitled to a $23.95 refund.

That's one valuable piece of paper.

Here's the Post article.

    A Real Page Returner

    Disgruntled readers of "A Million Little Pieces" now have good reason to hold on to the book. Or rather, Page 163.

    An agreement has been reached between "Pieces" author James Frey , his publisher, Random House, and readers who filed lawsuits saying they had been defrauded by claims that the book was nonfiction. On Jan. 26, Frey admitted he had fabricated or embellished portions of his dramatic memoir of drug addiction.

    Under the agreement, Frey and Random House will pay up to $2.35 million to refund customers, cover lawyers' fees for both sides and make a donation to an unspecified charity. Readers who bought the book before or on Jan. 26 can present a receipt to get a refund, but they have other options to show proof of purchase. And here's where it gets a little creative....

    Hardcover buyers, get rip-happy: Page 163 is your ticket to a $23.95 refund. "That page was chosen entirely at random," Random House publicist David Drake told us yesterday. "There's no meaning or even any kind of ironic gesture involved in choosing that page."

    So, what's on the page? Frey meets up with Hank and Joanne, his rehab counselors. Hank wants to see Frey's teeth, which were destroyed during a fight and had just been painfully repaired by a dentist (he couldn't have painkillers during the operation because of his drug addiction). Uplifting? Not so much. Accurate? Umm....

    Drake wasn't exactly sure where the idea of tearing out a page from the book came from, but explained "this is a fairly straightforward way of doing it." No kidding.

    As for everyone else, paperback purchasers will be reimbursed $14.95 in exchange for the book's front cover (riiippp!), audio book buyers need to send in a piece of the packaging for $34.95, and those who bought the e-book need to send in a proof of purchase for $9.95. All those seeking a reimbursement will need to submit a statement that they would not have purchased the book if they knew that certain facts were inaccurate.

    The agreement will not be finalized until it has been approved by a judge; details of where to send reimbursement requests will be released after the settlement's approval.

September 10, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Cutest Mary Jane of the Year


From the website:

    Elle Leather Mary Jane

    Bold contrast stitching traces the Mary Jane design of this ballet-inspired shoe.

    Made with a neoprene body with leather accents, it has a leather-lined footbed and flexible rubber sole with low button heel.


If I'm a girl I am so wanting these.

I just can't decide on which color, though.

Guess the best thing to do is what I do at Ben & Jerry's when this back-and-forth thing happens: get both.

Black or Sand/Mango.


September 10, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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