Team Old-Timey Butterscotch Flavor Pork Rinds for the win | Simply Ranked

Plus: a dispatch from special correspondent Max Harrison-Caldwell, Stu Kirst's wall, Eldridge and Wilson besmirch the humble toothpick, and more

Team Old-Timey Butterscotch Flavor Pork Rinds for the win | Simply Ranked

The definitive weekly ranking and analysis of all the skateboarding and other things online that I cannot stop consuming and how it makes me feel, personally.

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By special correspondent Max Harrison-Caldwell

It’s the end of a long session. Sunburned, battered, and clipless, you stagger into the corner store for a pick-me-up before heading home to ice and elevate. You leave with a tall can and a bag of chips, maybe a candy bar — exactly what you wanted. And yet you still feel empty. 

But it’s not the heat that’s making you feel this way, not your throbbing knee or the lonesome promise of nightfall. The absence you feel — that’s because your snacks are not critically acclaimed. You’re eating dog shit, homie. Your gas station order is bunk as hell. 

The SOTY of junk foods.

Not me, though. I was drinking a watermelon aloe beverage last week when I caught sight of a curious emblem on its label: a shield with a banner across it that read, “Convenience Store BEST NEW PRODUCTS AWARDS 2020 U.S.A.” These honors, it turns out, are awarded by a trade magazine called Convenience Store News, which every summer convenes a panel of judges to select the best new products in 50 categories. These categories include "Electronic Cigarettes" and "Vaping Products," "Flavored Malt Beverages," "Novelty/Seasonal Candy," "Automotive Products," "Health/Beauty Products," and, most troubling, "Foodservice/Dinner and Home Meal Replacement." Only products that have hit c-store shelves (sorry, that’s just some insider lingo) in the last year are eligible. 

On its "About" page, Convenience Store News claims to have been around for more than 50 years and promises suppliers it “can help you leverage [its] relationship through multiple points of access to all levels of convenience retail executives.” Its editorial board is made up of big shots from chains including ExtraMile, Kwik Trip, and, uh, Stinker Stores, which I guess is big in some Great Plains states. 

Stinker Stores is NOT a proud supporter of Simple Magic.

So, naturally, I trusted the publication’s snack judgment right away. But just to make sure the judges were of sound mind, I checked out last year’s winners. In the Healthy Snacks category: Rockit Apples, a product that appears to be four apples in a tennis ball tube. “Apples are full of concentrated energy and nutrition,” the award blurb begins. To which I say, speak on it!!! In the Chelada category: Bud Light Chelada with Tajín. So far, so good.

But other entries were more disturbing. The best new liquor was Twisted Tea Whiskey, a collaboration with Japanese spirits giant Suntory. I shudder to imagine the hangover such a beverage would bestow. You’d probably have to pick up a Split Shift Swift Kick Blend Cold Brew Unsweetened just to make it to the spot the next day. Most horrifying of all was the standard-bearer in the rinds category, the pork potentate, the salty champion: Old-Timey Butterscotch Flavor Pork Rinds from Pork King Good. I sent a picture of this product to my group chat and got two “crying with sadness” emojis and a response that said, “That’s haram brother.” Indeed.

Image via Progressive Grocer.

Even while we don’t always agree with their judgment, we must still respect the brave critics shining a light on advances in snack/smoke/bev technology. I, for one, can’t wait for the new recommendations to drop in a couple of months. And in case any readers have been working on a bold new gas station cigar or something, the deadline for submissions is July 12. The "Overall Innovation" category is anybody’s game.

Max Harrison-Caldwell is a journalist who only gets treats from the liquor store sometimes. He writes and skates in Oakland, CA. 

Brand name > your name

Rank: 1
Mood: 🧌📛

First of all, holy hell, Ruby Lilley is good at skateboarding. In her Monster video part, presented by Monster Energy and uploaded by Thrasher last Thursday, she nosegrinds over various channels, inverts in pools, and blasts head-high airs. It's an extremely high calibre of skateboarding for a 16-year-old and another testament to how skateboarding's talent pool is only ever getting deeper.

And as that talent pool deepens, there are more skaters competing for sponsorship opportunities that increasingly are not there. It's almost a given now that if an aspiring professional skateboarder wants any stable financial backing, they'll need to rely on the coffers of an energy drink sponsor. But how many people can realistically ride for Monster Energy, and if they manage to sign a contract, is there not a risk of blanket homogenization in the marketing of the individual? As in, how many of their video parts will also be titled "[Skater Name] 'Monster' Part."

Could the powers that be not think of anything more creative or attributable to Lilley as a person for the title of her most significant effort to date than the name of her sponsor? Sure, the Monster brand and its subsequent SEO power would not be brought to the fore, but its logo is already everywhere in the video, and at least its name wouldn't ring so sterile and transactional. It's not much different than if they'd named it after a Monster Energy flavour like "Ultra Fantasy Ruby Red." At least that has her name in it.

To be fair, this is not a totally uncommon naming convention. The number of people who have had a "Spitfire" Part is potentially endless, but at least that's Spitfire, a company that makes wheels for skateboards, the thing you need for your skateboard to work. Gripes aside, legitimate kudos to the energy drink behemoth for supporting these athletes with the profits from their poison drinks. They even held a premier party for Lilley, which is very cool. But can they loosen up their brand guidelines just a little so Ruby can shine?

"I've been standing up here my entire life"

Rank: 1

Over the course of five years (and "three girlfriends"), Stu Kirst attempted to roll into the Gray Wall in New York's Financial District. In another compelling "Favorite Spot" entry by Farran Golding for Quartersnacks, Kirst narrates a half-decade of abject failure. Trip after trip to a towering and slightly slanted piece of concrete, where he'd plunge into its depths and slam into the ground below.

To Kirst, the inspiration started in the natural manner of could I do this? but eventually became an obligation. Across years and multiple projects, filmmaker Johnny Wilson would ask Kirst to try and Kirst would oblige, his attempts weaving a subtle narrative through those videos, even if they all looked much the same: he'd roll-in, meet pavement, feel "dizzy," go home. Eventually, the motivating factor became the fear of not doing it, of someone else riding away from his burden.

Committing to such suffering is admirable in our intracultural masochism. In skateboarding, this level of failure in search of success is mythologized, baked into the DNA of the sport itself— which isn't wrong, per se. Most of what happens in an activity centred on riding away is not riding away. But the lessons we take from these struggles are often as gray as the wall itself, as Kirst himself attests.

"The [spot] sucks. It's a foot-and-a-half wide on top. It's steep, and the ground sucks. It was cold when I did it, and it took me five years. That's all there is to know about it. I don't think I learned anything from it."

While that may seem bleak, there is a beauty to it; you just have to crane your neck to catch the right angle, to see the path down.

Team Old-Timey Butterscotch Flavor Pork Rinds for the win

Rank: ?
Mood: 🤑🏎️

This week, the X Games announced a forthcoming shift in competitive structure. The change is credited to their new owners, MSP Sports Capital (who I wrote about a couple of years ago) and is detailed in part in a press release on the X Games website:

X Games, the leading action sports competition for 30 years, will introduce a bold, new global, team-based format in 2026. Backed by MSP Sports Capital (MSP), a Najafi Cos. portfolio company, the X Games League (XGL) will provide a year-round international competition calendar for X Games that will enable athletes to earn compensation beyond the $2.4 million already awarded through existing prize purses.

“In essence, we’ve used Formula One as a model for this new X Games League,” said Jeff Moorad, Executive Chairman of X Games and Principal of MSP Sports Capital. “To that end, we are creating a year-round calendar and introducing new commercial opportunities to accelerate the overall growth of X Games. These opportunities will provide a secure and sustainable future for our most important stakeholders – the athletes. By leveraging the incredibly valuable X Games brand, we will create a durable, global business that will be good for athletes, fans, investors and sponsors.”

Teams will be a vital component of the XGL and will be composed of athletes from multiple disciplines who will compete for individual and team points to earn both individual and team prize purses.

MSP and X Games will secure investors for these new teams. Team investors and XGL athletes will have a platform from which to build and generate additional revenue streams via sponsorships and team-specific merchandise. In an industry first, XGL athletes will be provided with a level of stability that includes guaranteed compensation as well as new commercial opportunities.

On its face, that doesn't sound half bad. While the "league" and Formula One team model might be a bit corny and potentially clunky in practice across disciplines — Summer and Winter X Games events will remain separate, but in theory, skateboarders, BMXers, etc. would be "teammates" — the prospect of more revenue avenues for athletes is generally positive. While it's too early to say if any of this will pan out as planned, especially with their mission of "leveraging the incredibly valuable X Games brand, [to] create a durable, global business that will be good for athletes, fans, investors and sponsors" seeming rose-tinted at best, here's hoping it goes well for the athletes' sake.

In the meantime, we're left with a fun thought experiment: Who will MSP secure as "investors," or branded teams, for the new XGL teams?

My suggestions:

  • Team Rockit Apples
  • Team Bud Light Chelada with Tajín
  • Team Twisted Tea Whiskey
  • Team Split Shift Swift Kick Blend Cold Brew Unsweetened
  • Team Old-Timey Butterscotch Flavor Pork Rinds

Just imagine those jerseys.

Someone has to say it

Rank: -33
Mood: 😡

In my wallet sits a small fabric sleeve roughly the length and width of a pinky finger. It is made from an old kimono and journeyed all the way from Japan to find itself in my pocket. What's in the sleeve? Toothpicks. As many as I can squeeze inside, because I am a toothpick guy, through and through.

The way my teeth are spaced — not crowded or gaping, but at a happy medium that orthodontists in cahoots with Invisalign hate — means they are the perfect distance apart to hold onto whatever remnants of breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack they can. So I keep the sleeve stocked. If you've ever met me in person, a toothpick has likely been in the frame. I enjoy their utility, but I also just like chewing on them. My mom once told me that's how you get worms. I proved her wrong.

Why all of this backstory? Well, as someone who has 2-3 toothpicks in their mouth per day, I cannot stay silent as Crailtap luminaries Justin Eldridge and Jeron Wilson continue to get away with these monstrosities:

"Connecting people through the essence of flavor with golf's first flavor infused toothpick" reads the home screen banner on the website of Eldridge and Wilson's company, The Number Thirty Three. Jesus fucking Christ. These abominations have somehow been around since at least 2020, and I only learned of them this week when friend of the 'sletter, José Vadi, DM'd me about them, likely knowing the visceral response they would trigger.

The "Our Story" page on The Number Thirty Three site describes the product's history: "What started as a slight tweak on a toothpick, developed into a brand that embodies individuality, creative expression and iconic flavor. The Number Thirty Three honors the timeless essence of golf by preserving the integrity and passion of the game, through style and progression."

Definitionally, sensically, spiritually, that means nothing. It would be hilarious if I didn't find it so infuriating. How does a toothpick "[honour] the timeless essence of golf by preserving the integrity and passion of the game." How? How! The Number Thirty Three doesn't even honour or preserve the integrity of the toothpick! Any non-double-sided toothpick meant for your mouth is a farce. That's immediately 50% less picking space. You might as well be using a martini toothpick with a flamingo skewered on one end. They're also much too thick! Their "tee picks" will never sit comfortably in one's teeth. They'll never lodge in the space between canine and first premolar in a folksy manner.

To their credit, the gimmick has worked. Their products are sold at Dick's Sporting Goods and They've collaborated with 2K and Chippo, were featured in Gold Digest, and have over 12k followers on Instagram. This is all the more shocking when you learn that each The Number Thirty Three "tee pick" costs about $1, with three packs (each pack containing six toothpicks) running $18 USD. You can get 250 perfectly serviceable base-model Touch toothpicks for $2.29 CAD. That's $0.009 cents per toothpick!

As far as I'm concerned, the only acceptable use for these "tee picks" was shown in The Number Thirty Three's first Instagram post in 2016, when the account served as more of an aspirational moodboard than promotional arm.

Please, guys, go back to holding sandwiches together, because right now, you're tearing me apart.

Something to consider:

How the Giller Prize Became Associated with Genocide | The Walrus
Scotiabank’s military investments have tainted one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards

Good thing: Norma Ibarra in the Globe and Mail.

Opinion: In the world of skateboarding, women are shredding expectations
Non-traditional skateboarders are at the fearless forefront of a cultural shift, embodying unity, creativity and resilience in a historically male-dominated arena

Another good thing:

Everything is Normal – an interview with Sirus F Gahan
Polar in Japan

A SUX thing: The trailer for Daffodil's Street Uni X dropped on Sunday and it is amazing.

I played an early version of the game and chatted with Daffodil about it last year. Street Uni X launches on Steam on June 26.

A thing from earlier this week:

Real life happens in between
Don Luong on Toy Machine’s “Real Life Sucks” and making skate videos with heart.

An if you're in Vancouver thing: I'll be at Upstart & Crow on June 28, chopping it up with Jen Currin, Deepa Rajagopalan, and Franz Seachel about short stories and short-form writing in general.

Short Forms Forever! With Jen Currin, Cole Nowicki and Deepa Rajagopalan | Upstart & Crow
Join us on Friday, June 28 at 7 p.m. for an evening with three wonderful authors who are all about the short form, stories and essays! Deepa Rajagopalan, Jen Currin more

Until next week… if you're able, if there's one around, go sit in a park. On a bench, in the grass — wherever your backside can find purchase. Watch the way each creature interacts with the space. How to the dog, grass is just a bed of scent. To the toddler, the park is an opportunity to run as far from their parents as possible. For the man asleep with a book on his chest as a crow inches closer to his open bag of nuts, this is the stage for a drama unfurling in real life. What do you want the park to be? How do you want to exist inside of it?

Laser Quit Smoking Massage

NEWEST PRESS, available April 1, 2024


My new collection of essays is available now. I think you might like it. The Edmonton Journal thinks it's a "local book set to make a mark in 2024." The CBC called it "quirky yet insightful." lol.

Book cover by Hiller Goodspeed.

Order the thing

Right, Down + Circle



I wrote a book about the history and cultural impact of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater that you can find at your local bookshop or order online now. I think you might like this one, too.

Here’s what Michael Christie, Giller Prize-nominated author of the novels Greenwood and If I Fall, If I Die, had to say about the thing.

“With incisive and heartfelt writing, Cole Nowicki unlocks the source code of the massively influential cultural phenomenon that is Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and finds wonderful Easter-eggs of meaning within. Even non-skaters will be wowed by this examination of youth, community, risk, and authenticity and gain a new appreciation of skateboarding’s massive influence upon our larger culture. This is my new favorite book about skateboarding, which isn’t really about skateboarding — it’s about everything.”

Photo via The Palomino.

Order the thing