The April edition of Miscellaneous—Athletics’ no-frills round-up of the cultural items that inspire us each month—features an exhibit of awe-inspiring architectural photography at Yossi Milo gallery, a stranger-than-fiction visit to the commune of Rajneeshpuram in Netflix’s Wild Wild Country, and a newly-released modern verse translation of the Bhagavad Gita, an essential text of the Hindu faith. Finally, in our third installment of Questionnaire, in which a member of the Athletics team offers a few thoughts on a design they love, writer Zander Abranowicz considers what his beloved snowboard can tell us about the environmental implications of consumer culture.
Stay tuned for more editions of Miscellaneous in the coming months.
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Zander Abranowicz, Brand Writer and Project Manager, loves his 2006 Burton Custom X snowboard.
Why he loves it
“In 2006, when I was 14 years old, Burton released a radical new edition of their Custom X snowboard, the stiffest model in their ever-expanding range. In appearance, it stood apart from the overwrought boards popular among my friends and colleagues at the ski-shop where I worked at the time. At first glance, the top of the board was a simple white plane broken only by ‘Burton Custom X’ in clean, square red type, and a small, mysterious, red and black hologram toward the nose (or, front) of the board. Closer observation revealed that the entire tail (or, back) of the board was engraved with small, shallow white Xs. On the bottom side of the board, the white plane was cleaved in two by a striking red X and some black text. Before it ever touched the snow, I loved the Custom X for its subtly, simplicity, and quiet confidence.”
How it works
“When I finally hit the slopes at Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills with my shiny new Custom X, I realized it was a far cry from the forgiving, flexible board I’d learned to ride on. With its wood core, high strength-to-weight ratio, and impossible lightness, it was faster, cleaner, and more responsive than anything I’d ridden. Fourteen years later, I’m still riding that same board. It hasn’t lost any of its stiffness, precision, and ferocity—and still looks prettier than any board that’s come out since.”
What it can teach us
“I shouldn’t be surprised that this hard-good item has performed perfectly for more than a decade of consistent use in a range of environmental conditions. I shouldn’t be surprised that something designed 14 years ago still looks totally modern. But I am. This leads me to consider issues of consumption and obsolescence. Consumers in the developed world are conditioned to assume that most of the things they purchase will need replacing in the future. The notion of fixing, maintaining, and caring for possessions is anathema to the growth paradigm of our free market economy. Meanwhile, the gospel of innovation holds that nothing is perfect: everything can be iterated and improved, and, therefore, remade, re-marketed, resold, and replaced with something newer. Try holding a first generation iPod today, and that spectacular sensation of newness that so many of us will remember feeling when we first spun that detached wheel or clicked the lock button will have long dissipated. It’s downright eerie.
One need only grip a well-sharpened Ticonderoga pencil, operate a properly-cared-for Hasselblad medium format camera, or go for a paddle in a classic Old Town canoe to recognize that while things can be made lighter, faster, sleeker, or more connected through sensors ad infinitum, the basic principles of good design endure where trendy visuals and cutting edge technologies do not. Are incremental improvements in weight, speed, appearance, and technology really worth the unfathomable waste that a culture of churn produces? Considering the estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste that enters oceans from land every year, or the fact that the countries with the highest consumption rates exert a 5.5 times higher environmental impact than the world average, I believe there must be a better way.”
“When I started working at Athletics and learned that our Creative Director, Malcolm Buick, had worked as CD at Burton in the mid-2000s, I had to ask: did he design the 2006 Custom X? Miraculously, he had.”
“This year, till late in April, the snow fell thick and light:
Thy truce-flag, friendly Nature, in clinging drifts of white,
Hung over field and city: now everywhere is seen,
In place of that white quietness, a sudden glow of green.”
— From “The Nineteenth of April” by Lucy Larcom (2005)
Header image: “The Attic” by Edward Weston, 1921.