A closer look | Simply Ranked

Plus: Kirchart vs. Wolf, New Year's resolutions, wasting time, a book review, and more.

A closer look | Simply Ranked
The definitive weekly ranking and analysis of all the skateboarding and other online things that I cannot stop consuming and how they make me feel, personally.

We have fun

Rank: 1
Mood: 🎙👺

Oh. Ohhhhh. You can feel it. A tension that borders on disdain. It bubbles up in spurts and comes down in waves as Heath Kirchart, as blunt, earnest, and honest as he is, collides with the veteran talk radio-bro-professionalism of Jason Ellis on the Hawk vs. Wolf podcast. What heightens things even more is that this was not an appearance Kirchart, who famously does not like giving interviews, wanted to do, but it was a debt he had to pay.

As he’d explain on the pod, while working as a producer on the new season of Epicly Later’d, Kirchart asked (Tony) Hawk if they could interview him for an upcoming episode on former Birdhouser Jeremy Klein. Hawk agreed, but under one condition: Kirchart had to be a guest on Hawk vs. Wolf. A show he co-hosts with Jason Ellis, the former professional skateboarder and former longtime Sirius XM radio host who’s made a career out of being the exact type of loud, brash personality that would seem anathema to the idea of the serious, contemplative, and often brooding Kirchart portrayed in media over the years.

And things would play out as such, with Kirchart getting visibly agitated at Ellis’ attempts at bro-humour. In one instance, as Kirchart recalls a past girlfriend who worked as a therapist, telling him that his history of serious slams, including concussions, could very well have given him some form of brain damage, Ellis immediately responds with, “That’s so hot.” It is a strange, gross, almost non sequitur reaction to someone sharing their concerns about their long-term mental and physical health. Ellis and Hawk laugh, and the camera cuts back to a stone-faced Kirchart who says to the room that his anecdote wasn’t supposed to be funny.

If anything, it’s all a fascinating scene. Here is one of skateboarding’s greatest talents, a beloved figure and a rare example of a PRO whose persona and mythic status remain intact thanks to his exit from the game before the industry demanded fealty to the apps, being subjected to the worst tendencies of the current age on a platform for all to see. It’s a contrast that brings out that public idea of “Heath Kirchart” in stark relief: here he is, the serious, sometimes surly, and admirably principled person willing to throw himself into an uncomfortable, often painful position if it means fulfilling his duty.

A closer look

Rank: 1.2
Mood: 🔬

Over these last number of years, as the content churn in skateboarding has picked up speed and worn away our ability to hold onto and appreciate the skateboarding we see and the skateboarders that do it, it’s nice to have “content” that forces us to slow down. To think about the skateboarders we know and like (or even love) beyond the typical arena of knowing, which is riding a skateboard around.

Perhaps that’s why interview/video podcasts like the Nine Club, The Bunt, and even Hawk vs. Wolf have picked up so much steam: they’re one of the only consistent means of meeting PRO or AM skateboarders in a personal light. When print media was in its heyday, we, the purchasing public, would have access to significant swathes of interviews a month across multiple magazines that would help us establish who a skateboarder was as a living, breathing human; however, skewed, stilted, or canned those pieces could be.

So it’s nice to see series like Patrick O’Dell’s Epicly Later’d return, even if Vice’s clunky SEO-conscious video titles might confuse you as to what exactly it is you’re watching (“The Skate Legend Who Escaped Death & Saved Thrasher: Don 'Nuge' Nguyen” —sure!). It’s also good to have new efforts like Thrasher’s “VS” that give us a more lighthearted look into the personalities of the skateboarders that brands would like us to support with our dollars.

While a person’s on-board ability should be enough to sell one on the product they represent, in an industry that hinges on marketing, it’s also a missed opportunity to not flesh out those skateboarders as people in this way and to celebrate their established or burgeoning careers. I’d always assumed Nguyen was a cool, interesting person outside of their skateboarding, and it’s great to see his contemporaries offer proof in story after story after story.

Of course, giving someone the opportunity to share their true selves, or what they think is a marketable version of themselves to present, isn’t always going to work out for the best. Maybe that person is shy, uninteresting, or a dickhead — one or all is often the case — and that’s fine. It’s better than a carefully curated persona crafted on social media that is a deflection in lieu of something genuine or, conversely, nothing at all.

Because a kickflip-backside-smith-grind is cool, sure, but doesn’t it make ogling a trick feel that much better when you know that the person doing it is also a talented pastry chef, keeps chickens in their backyard, or is really into French New Wave cinema?

The long trek to Arroyo

Rank: 2
Mood: ☢️

What a privilege it is to waste time. To take this thing we only ever lose and do nothing with it. In light of that, as will often happen at the start of a new calendar year, I was determined to instead “make the most of it.” On Tuesday, I’d spend time before the workday on this newsletter, go for a walk when the workday was done, do a little workout after that, then cook dinner, read, and finally, with a whole evening ahead of myself whose hours were ripe for the squeeze, I made the conscious decision to put down the book and toil unsuccessfully until well past 1:00 am trying to figure out how to play Fallout 2 on my iPad.

You see, Fallout 2, the classic top-down RPG that was released by Interplay/Black Isle Studios in 1998 (before Bethesda bought its IP and it became the wildly popular video game franchise that it is today with a television adaptation on the way), was a game always on the periphery of my interest. I’d played its modern 3D sequels (with Fallout: New Vegas ranking somewhere respectable on my unofficial list of all-time favourite games) and I’ve always had a soft spot for classic RPGs, from the early Final Fantasy’s to Chrono Trigger and so on.

But I’d have to jump through some hoops to get familiar with this one. With the game only available for PC and its original code lost, the best hope I had to make it work was through an open-source “re-implementation” of the original called Fallout 2 Community Edition. In the end, this required me to sideload an app onto the iPad, install F2CE game files through it, find, pull and place other files onto the device to make the game run smoothly, and so on. It became an hours-long slog of reading guides and forums before I eventually figured it out. Maybe it would’ve been easier if I were smarter, but I am not. And it was late.

The “Temple of Trials.” Ugh. Screengrab via Steam. I do not have 121 HP.

On Wednesday night, after a bleary day of work and other tasks, I finally got around to playing the game. It’s okay. The controls on the iPad are a bit clunky and cumbersome, and the tutorial “Temple of Trials” section is a drag. We’ll see how it goes. Given this, I had to ask myself, was it worth spending an entire evening figuring this out (and some of the following morning, if I’m honest)? Could there have been anything else of more importance I could’ve done? Were there better ways to kick off 2024 than a foolhardy mission to play a game I most likely won’t ever play?

The answer to all of that is probably “sure.” But on the other hand, at least I did something, right? I used the gift of time to see if I could, and I did, however silly. So maybe that’s what 2024’s about: just doing something, anything at all.

Some other half-hearted New Year resolutions

Rank: 2024
Mood: 🎊 🎉

Bro, time is a construct. This 365 days is only different from the last because we’ve decided to take this gooey, lumpy amalgam of experience, bodily decay, and earthly revolutions that is life and separate it into easily quantifiable chunks like it were Play-Doh. So now we think one “year” can be more or less good or bad than another. Sometimes, we even resolve to act differently from one arbitrary chunk of experiential plasticine to the next. Okay!

Admittedly, it is kind of a fun exercise, though. Our true gift as sentient beings is the ability to change, to avoid the static. So maybe New Year's resolutions are good? At least to toss around in the mind, to allow it the space to open up. Maybe I should think about being less of a hater this year. Who knows. Anyhow, on that note, here are a few resolutions that I may or may not follow when it comes to doing, thinking, and writing about skateboarding, life, and so on in 2024:

  • Stretch more.

  • Eat healthier.

  • Drink beer… less?

  • Stop watching Thrasher videos on their site’s annoying native video player.

  • Start waxing my wheel wells.

  • Look at my phone less — unless it’s to throw a “❤️” or “🔥” on the homie’s Instagram Story, obviously.

  • Bring up Steve Olson (Shorty’s) more often.

  • Stop being concerned with what Steve Berra is up to.

    • Unless he does something concerning!

  • Start waxing my wheels well.

  • Play the guitar more.

  • Put together an “all-emo skate video soundtrack” playlist.

  • Write an emo track to use in a skate video.

  • Dip my backsmiths lower.

  • Raise my Suski’s higher.

  • Be more earnest.

    • But not too earnest.

  • Buy more independent skateboarding magazines.

  • Learn how to do cool-looking nosebluntslides like Nelly Morville

    • Take some good Morville-esque slams.

  • Consider why it is we’re here and what our purpose is and could be.

    • But don’t get weird about it.

The Simple Magic Review: “A Heart That Works” by Rob Delaney

Rank: 1
Mood: 📚

Whether you know it or not, you’re probably familiar with Rob Delaney. That might be through his stand-up, his award-winning television show Catastrophe, bit roles in movies like Deadpool and Mission: Impossible, or his generally unhinged Tweets.

On top of All That, he’s also an author. His latest book, A Heart That Works, released in 2022, is a memoir that focuses on the life of his late son Henry, who died of brain cancer in 2018 before reaching his third birthday. As you would expect, it is a wrenching read. Delaney wants you to feel the agony that he and his family experienced from Henry’s illness and death — and he says as much in the book — but that rage is also cut by moments of genuine beauty and bracing humour.

There’s a passage where Delaney describes how, after Henry’s death, he missed the callouses that had built up on his fingers from the countless times he had to use a small suction device to flush Henry’s tracheal tube, which left me uncontrollably weeping. Not long before that, I’d been shocked from tears into a fit of laughter when Delaney details the near-panic attack he faced in the lead-up to filming a scene in a television show. In it, a character gets shot in the throat, leaving a hole roughly the size of Henry’s tracheostomy stoma — a sight he wasn’t sure he could handle so soon after his son’s passing. After revealing his fear to a pair of sympathetic showrunners, one offered a solution: “Should we shoot her in the face?”

I finished A Heart That Works while sitting alone in a crowded bar. My alternating convulsions of weeping and literal guffaws were a sight, I’m sure. And, ultimately, a testament to Delaney’s craft that I couldn’t pull myself away to go somewhere private and instead, like he intended, forced myself to feel.

Something to consider: Maen Hammad’s photo essay, “Palestine: In Glory and Pain” for The Caravan.

Good thing: “Visuals: Ted Barrow” by Ted for the Slam City Skates blog.

Another good thing: “Unravelling My Medial Mystery.” Tom Scocca on his health, our understanding of disability, and the slow dissolution of the media industry for Intelligencer.

One last good thing, I swear: Katie Heindl on desperation, intention, and the Detroit Pistons.

Due for some desperation
When people, now and for the last few years, talk about the intention of the Detroit Pistons, what they mostly mean is the purpose. The point. Swap the words in any recent analysis and you’ll see they’re interchangeable. Separate seeming, but very central to this it seems to me, is how people think about Detroit — the city, the place, its people, the pr…

Until next week… start a small, controlled fire, hold your hands over the flames, rub them together, and think about why it is we’re here and what our purpose is and could be.

Book cover by the wonderful Hiller Goodspeed.

I have a new collection of essays coming out on April 1 that you can preorder now. I think you might like it. This is how my publisher, NeWest Press, describes the book.

From prairie towns to sprawling cities, Laser Quit Smoking Massage revels in the peculiarities of the Canadian West. A unique and exciting new voice in Canadian literature, Cole Nowicki’s witty, insightful, and ever-curious reportage explores the evolving states of community, family, and belonging.

And here’s what my pal Alicia Tobin, comedian and author of So You’re A Little Sad, So What, said about the thing.

“Small town, big feelings. Cole Nowicki’s essays are an album of memories: moments in time, crisp at the edges, bright with love, and some, bent in the middle by the type of grief one can only hope will smooth out with the unrelenting passage of time. Warm, sardonic, gentle and human. (Lac La) Biche, you better buy this book!”

Yes, I am still posting about Right, Down + Circle here. It is in stores now, and you can also order it from your favourite local bookshop, my publisher, ECW Press, or all of the usual devils (Amazon, Barnes & Noble). Also, if you like book clubs, you can join the inimitable Ted Barrow in reading Right, Down + Circle on his Berate The Birds Patreon, which you should also subscribe to because it rules.