Fine, I'll do it | Simply Ranked

Plus: Concussed SOTY contenders, the best skateboarding [x], getting creative (negative), and more.

Fine, I'll do it | 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.

Fine, I’ll do it

Rank: 1
Mood: 🏆

Don’t get me wrong, Tom Knox’s latest SOTY-seeking video part, Atlantic Drift - Tom Knox - Recurring Dream No. 15, is fantastic. All the more so when you realize the theme of Knox revisiting, intentionally and other times not, skate spots he’d focused on in the past. It’s also clear that his sponsors are pushing for him to take the trophy home, as Dickies released the rough cut of his Dickies Pro Collection part on Tuesday, the day after Recurring Dream No. 15 debuted and just three days before the date (today) when Thrasher is historically finished combing through every piece of media and tabulating the most primo-moves to calculate who is the calendar year’s best skateboarder.

While the campaign for SOTY 2023 has been a little muted, this is still very much a campaign push. But is it enough? While I’d be more than happy to see Knox take it, as he seems like a good dude who also has many mouths to feed, I’m not sure if these latest efforts will do it. Maybe I’ve just been conditioned by years past, where by this time, we’d be left sodden, confused, and amped by an absolute torrent of the most fucked up footage from all corners of the skateboarding world and industry.

Tom Knox? Rob Pace? Yuto Horigome? TJ Rogers? Leo Romero? Miles Silvas? Fabiana or Pedro Delfino? Johns Dilo or Shanahan? They’ve all been doing their jobs as professional skateboarders and doing them exceptionally well, but has anyone shown that they really want it? Are they willing to do the proverbial backside flip over a set of subway tracks? Release five video parts? Give the horns to and stick their tongues out at every camera in their vicinity? Perhaps professional skateboarders are starting to realize that heavy is the head that wears the crown, or tired is the arm that holds the trophy. Whatever.

What I’m saying is that maybe SOTY has become more of a burden than a blessing. Does that mean we scrap it? No! It’s an institution. But perhaps we need a year off from the pressure of these end-of-year pushes. Give the skateboarding world a year to recalibrate and breathe, you know? In the meantime, since we’d still have to have a SOTY, maybe we could give it to someone, anyone, who’s willing to lug it around. And really, that could be whoever. All we’d need is a well-meaning person who wants to help out. I mean, yeah, it could even be — if y’all were into it — me.

Sure, okay, I’ll do it. I’ll be Thrasher’s Skater of The Year.

A celebration of risk

Rank: ?
Mood: 🏅🤕

In the surge, rush, and churn of contemporary skateboarding media, where a new video project gets hyped, lauded, and then forgotten about in a matter of weeks, days, hours, or whenever the next video drops, it’s nice to see something get celebrated. That the work a professional or amateur skateboarder puts in — those untold hours spent at some chipped ledge or multi-kinked handrail, where thrill and agony are earned in equal measure — is given more life beyond an online premiere where a final stock Thrasher bumpers lead us straight into a memory hole.

Celebrated is what Pedro Delfino got and deserved for every part of himself that he sacrificed for his Road to Nowhere video part for Vans, which premiered in-person and online last week. It’s a frighteningly impressive display of skateboarding that is as gripping as it is hard to watch at times. Where will this fleshy cannonball soar next? Will he keep rolling or explode violently on impact? All concerns placed are answered in an instant.

There was a screening of Road to Nowhere at the Baker Boys HQ on Thursday. Free food and drinks were plentiful, and custom merchandise was made for the event.

Photo via Thrasher.

Given how raw and violent Delfino’s skating can be, especially in this recent video part that begins with him taking a disturbing and concussive slam, you can see the promotional reasoning behind giving away a t-shirt with Delfino’s bloody and swollen face on it. However, celebrating another instance of Delfino knocking himself out cold does feel a bit strange.

Over the years and across video parts, we’ve watched him turn his lights out multiple times in an increasingly troubling fashion. Of course, there is an inherent risk to skateboarding, especially at the level of Delfino, and one has to be prepared to accept the consequences as much as the rewards, but do we need to glorify brain trauma in this way? Just one slam of that nature can change the trajectory of a person’s life, with its impact not apparent until years down the line.

While his courage is admirable, seeing slams of that magnitude makes you question what we’re doing here. What he does on his skateboard is ultimately his choice, but is taking damage like this worth it for our entertainment? To advance the sport? For the promotion of a brand? To build a career that, in all likelihood, won’t set you up for the future financially?

The old “skate or die” ethos that had permeated the culture for decades still hangs around like an unruly ghost, and in brutal cases like this, the true “hellride” might not be the oft-hyped devil-may-care attitude or death-defying stunts, but what life looks like after the skateboarding is done.

Who’s the best skateboarding __________?

Rank: 1
Mood: 👩‍⚕️👨‍🏫🧑‍⚖️👨‍🌾👩‍🍳👨‍🔧👩‍🏭🧑‍🔬🧑‍🎤👩‍🎨👨‍✈️🧑‍🚒👷‍♀️

Gary Rogers, of Thrasher’s “Skateline” fame, recently flew to Toronto, Ontario, to challenge Cephas Benson of The Bunt podcast to a game of 1:1 basketball. In his subsequent “Who’s the Best Skateboarding Hooper?” vlog, Rogers explains that this was a sort of personal revenge quest, trekking up to Canada to seek redemption after  Team The Bunt won the 3-on-3 basketball tourney for the second year in a row at this summer’s The Bunt Jam. The vlog is a typical and charming low-budget affair, with shaky handycam angles, muffled audio, and strange, almost intimate, context-free moments. It’s here where the viewer is unsure of what exactly is happening because after being exposed to decades of the crisp, momentum-pushing edits that are baked into our shared media landscape, we have been conditioned to forget about those everyday pockets of nothingness life provides when we see them on a screen.

Anyway, it’s a generally fun watch and made me want to see more videos with this “Who’s the Best Skateboarding [x]?” premise. Looking at prominent skateboarders’ interests outside of skateboarding is a good way to flesh them out as people to the viewers and fans at home. Plus, I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there who are genuinely curious about who the best skateboarding chef is. And what about ceramicist? Oncologist? Chess player? Archer? Civil servant? Hacky-sacker? Heavy duty mechanic? Greco-Roman wrestler? Accountant? Geologist? Getaway driver? Trivia master? Video game speedrunner? Farmhand? Powerlifter? Actor? Small business owner? Cabinet maker? Gardener? Acroyogi?

See? Fun. Sound off in the comments below on who you think is the best skateboarding [x], I guess.

At a stand still

Rank: 55
Mood: 🦅🎶

Snagged via @potzach on Twitter

Not even Tony Hawk — Tony Hawk — who was about to release his last ever video part this week, is safe from the hurdles and perils of music licensing. You’d think that someone of his stature could avoid the fate of countless video projects before him that get hamstrung by the haggling and dead-end negotiations with licensors, like Shari White’s Keepsake for Vans, which was caught in limbo for months. However, being The Birdman does have its perks, as it looks like Tony’s public plea will expedite the process.

Snagged via me :)

This rushed appeal makes one wonder why he is so keen to get the final effort out on this particular timeline among the end-of-year swell of skaters all vying for that — wait, is Tony going for another SOTY? It would be a triumphant career send-off that only he could pull off. And there is undoubtedly a story to be told here. In his mid-50s, after recovering from breaking his fucking femur, he comes back to lay the hammer down one final time…

And he’ll be skating to this song?

That’s nostalgic pandering at its purest. I’m into it in a sick and twisted sort of way. The only thing standing between Tony and the potential of a second dose of eternal glory? The Universal Music Group. Good luck —

Getting creative (negative)

Rank: Last
Mood: 💸

It’s understandable if you don’t have the time or patience to watch a four-hour YouTube video about YouTubers plagiarising the work of writers, artists, and other YouTubers, but if you do, Plagiarism and You(Tube) by hbomberguy is a meticulous, incisive, and bleak look at the reasons why people steal others’ work and what happens as creative work in general continues to be viewed merely as “content” to be created and monetized.

While hbomberguy focuses mainly on the YouTube creator ecosystem, this is a long-building capitalist lean that’s led to the overall devaluation of creativity and the soulless industrialization of most creative industries and the people who work in them. Whatever is easiest and makes the most money for the individual, business, or, more importantly, the shareholder is now what almost always gets top priority above quality or craft.

Spotify CEO Daniel EK recently announced that his company is laying off 17% of its workforce (around 1,500 people) as a cost-cutting measure, the third round of layoffs Spotify has made this year, then saying about real human people, “Today, we still have too many people dedicated to supporting work and even doing work around the work rather than contributing to opportunities with real impact.” Yeesh. Who are some of those people not making a real impact? That would include the teams that make the critically acclaimed podcast Heavyweight and the Pulitzer Prize-winning podcast Stolen, both of which Spotify cancelled this week.

The Verge would note that the Wall Street Journal noted, “Spotify has generally prioritized growth over quarterly profits throughout its history, but the WSJ notes that investors have been increasingly pushing for profitability over the past year. Ek said at an investor day last year that he intends for Spotify to be profitable by 2024. Although the company posted a quarterly profit in its last earnings release, the WSJ notes that it reported losses of €462 million (around $502 million) in the first nine months of this year.”

So Spotify, a company that had never before been profitable or seemed concerned about being so, finds that instead of investing in the people who have built the company’s reputation and gave investors reason to… invest, they are now fit to be cut because it’s the quickest cost-saving measure. Ghoulish shit. It's interesting how Spotify executives like Ek don’t face repercussions for poor earnings or have their salaries cut for the sake of the company, but I guess he does have AI defence system startups that he needs to keep investing in.

That’s without even mentioning the fractions of cents that artists get paid when their work is streamed on Spotify ($.003 a stream) or how the company is about to demonetize most of the music on its platform, per Damon Krukowski of Galaxy 500 in The Guardian.

And now, to make matters far worse, starting in 2024 Spotify will stop paying anything at all for roughly two-thirds of tracks on the platform. That is any track receiving fewer than 1,000 streams over the period of a year. Tracks falling under this arbitrary minimum will continue to accrue royalties – but those royalties will now be redirected upwards, often to bigger artists, rather than to their own rights holders.

It's just a complete disregard for the artists who make the platform what it is. That disregard extends across mediums and contributes to all of the garbage “entertainment” and media being produced right now. It takes money, time, and vision to make good things, and if making money in the quickest and easiest way possible is the only objective, all you’ll get is the cheapest of swill — a slurry of brand-safe SEO keywords and trending topics pressed into the shape of “content” that feels as hollow as it does searingly inauthentic.

This drive for profit via endless production never leads anywhere good at any level. It’s why, as hbomberguy shows us in painstaking detail, a queer YouTuber will blatantly rip off their own community of queer artists, which they claim to uphold, in order to crank out video after monetized video.

In skateboarding, this devaluation of creativity can take the shape of content mills like The Berrics, which exist to churn out the same (mostly) low-effort video series for years on end in an effort to maintain advertiser dollars. However, at least that’s original pablum. On the truly insidious end, you see it in the parasitic aggregate social media accounts that repost clips without properly crediting skaters or filmers, some even selling their own merch or promo opportunities off of the success of their serial theft.

How do you fix these systems and businesses that have such little respect for creative work and the people behind them? When the only creative thing that comes out of them are new ways to wring more money out of people? I don’t know, man. Universal basic income? The complete dismantling of our heartless capitalist system? That’s probably it. Okay, let’s get on it.

Something to consider: “Gaza is not just a (war-) crime scene, it's an AI laboratory. And it's clarifying that the point of AI-enabled war isn't precision—it's scale.” Spencer Ackerman in Forever Wars.

Good thing: Speaking of the surge, rush, and churn of skateboarding media, Thomas Barker put together “A Mindful Approach to Watching Skate Videos” for Jenkem.

Another good thing: Quartersnacks is back with part one of their annual “Year in Review” series. My “Bobby, Bolang, and Those Bootleg Boards” piece from January gets a lil shoutout. Thanks, Snackman.

Until next week… somewhere near you, maybe not in your line of sight or even in your neighbourhood, there is a dry patch of concrete. You must find it. Bring yourself and your skateboard to this oasis. Use its surface however you see fit.

I wrote a book about the history and cultural impact of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and I will keep posting about it at the end of the newsletter for the foreseeable future. Apologies. Right, Down + Circle 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). I think you might like it.

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. He just finished with the last chapter, so you’ve got a whole companion pod to listen to whilst reading. Ted goes on some fun, interesting detours while reading/talking about the book. It’s a nice time.