Jamie Thomas Easton Ellis | Simply Ranked

Plus: Ryan Decenzo shares his 2 Cents, won't someone steal my biometric data, warming up for the curved eight-flat-twelve-flat-twelve-flat-fifteen, and more.

Jamie Thomas Easton Ellis | 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.

Jamie Thomas Easton Ellis

Rank: 1
Mood: 💀

Did Jamie Thomas title the latest video from his longtime brand, Zero Skateboards, Less Than Zero, after the 1985 Bret Easton Ellis novel of the same name? Was the way in which his young stable of team riders floated around Southern California, witnessing one another engage in increasingly depraved and dangerous acts (on a skateboard), a reminder of the way young Clay from Ellis' novel found himself witness to the increasingly depraved and dangerous while hanging out with his old friends on a visit home to Los Angeles during winter break from college? At one point, Clay and his friends are shown a snuff film, which isn't too far off from some of the bails featured in any Zero project.

Or is the video title inspired by the Elvis Costello song that the book is named after? Maybe it gets its name from "Less Than Zero," the original Matt Costa song, which is not a cover of the Costello's, that is used in Thomas' Less Than Zero? Or did Thomas already have the name for the video in mind and ask Costa to write a song with that title?

Whatever the case, this is a great flick. Not only does it reunite SLAP "One In A Million" castmates Reuben Barrack and Forrest Edwards, but the former comes through with a legitimately shocking part backed up by equally shocking efforts from Anthony Vega and earnest melon-grabber and veritable stuntman Ben Havran.

It's hard to articulate, but it just feels good to see another solid Zero video that feels like a Zero video, even as the skateboarders and skateboarding they do evolve. That's likely nostalgia creeping through my typing fingers, but I don't mind. It's healthy to stew in those emotions sometimes. To look back with a fondness in the present, to appreciate how far they've come in the now. Do you think anyone during the filming of Thrill of it All had ever considered the words Cabellerial-hippie-jump-frontside-boardslide in succession?

My two cents

Rank: 2
Mood: 🤘👴🤘

My two cents? Ryan Decenzo is a treasure. That goes beyond national borders and biases. Just consider his body of work and the work he's put his body through as it nears four decades of existence. He hucks. He competes. His continued progression is a feat. The level that he continues to skate at and exceed is almost unprecedented.

Workman-like. Lunch-pail. Blue-collar — all ways to describe his approach to a career in professional skateboarding that sound like insults if you've never worked as a labourer and don't understand that being good and being consistently good at something are two different things that both require day-in-day-out dedication. This is what Decenzo does, day-in-day-out: work. Grind. Sweat. Bleed.

The result? He checks every possible box a sponsor could ask for. He drops a new video part on an almost annual basis, each a new level and dimension of absurd. He makes the top five in nearly every major contest he enters. Instagram clips? You got 'em. Life-threatening tricks for a truck ad? No problem. Loyalty to a brand, probably to a fault? Don't let Moses Itkonen hear you say that.

With all that in mind, it's easy to be a Ryan Decenzo apologist, which I am. And there is nothing to apologize for. Do I know anything about him personally? I do not. I do not wish to. Observing and admiring from afar — like spotting a wolf through long-range binoculars — is good enough for me. He's sacrificed enough of himself for our entertainment, for that uncanny, latent, burning desire to see how far he can push his personal limits on a skateboard, that I think he's earned it.

He's also deserving of our collective grace in overlooking the state of his current slate of sponsors. I will actively ignore how, in his recent FP video part for Footprint Shoes, there's b-roll of him tossing a shoe in the air and flipping off the camera like he's a disgruntled extra in a Payless Shoes commercial. Remember that comical warp clip transition used with impossible earnestness? Forget it ever happened. The fact that the first offering from Decenzo's new post-Darkstar Skateboards board brand, 2 Cents, looks like a series of clip-art illustrations wantonly slapped onto a skateboard, that its logo contains the phrase "United Skates of America,"1 and Decenzo's announcement of his new project last week immediately caused a fracas after the owner of the seemingly defunct Two Cents Skateboards out of Portland, Oregon, commented on the Instagram post with accusations of name and brand theft? That's none of my business.

Image via 2 Cents Skateboards on Instagram.

What we need to focus on here is that Ryan Decenzo is the best of us. A skateboarder who simply wants to skate, our stuffy constraints of taste and aesthetics be damned. If this were a fair and just world, he wouldn't be subjected to such scrutiny. But the world is neither. Yet it keeps spinning, like Decenzo, frontside, from dizzying heights.

Rich and revolting

Rank: Hmm
Mood: 🤳


Clip via @AMAZINGNATURE on Twitter.

It's normal to feel like the frog. That frog being crushed by the towering ball of shit in the video above. The towering ball of shit, in this case, is a metaphor for, let's say, everything we see online. All the things that are always coming. We see them, yet we do not move. Instead, we let the weight of it all roll over us. A viral video of a husky yodelling a profound lamentation, a Russian dashcam car crash, a baby in bright gumboots splashing about in a puddle, endless scenes of death and destruction from a genocidal campaign waged with our tax dollars — we see the shadow of the ball grow until it's over us, then on top of us, and we're pressed into the earth, faces full of its heady mix.

It gets into our mouth, nose, ears, eyes. Often, it burns. The taste rich and revolting. We scroll and the dung beetle rolls. Its ball growing. Squashing more beings with its mass of everything. Is the dung beetle the social media platforms? Their attendant algorithms? Business models? Sure, I think that makes sense. This means that eventually, if we stop looking, the dung beetle must move past, and we are free. Right?

All around us are those who were and are squished and others who are innocent in their unknowing. The latter will look at us confused, wondering why we didn't simply move out of the way. But what they don't understand is that we must look, for we must know

Warming up for the curved eight-flat-twelve-flat-twelve-flat-fifteen

Rank: 47
Mood: 🤦

Ah, yes, the skateboard park and acrimonious civic engagement. A tale as old as skateparks and their development on public and private land. A recent high-profile instance is the planned Brooklyn Skate Garden in Brooklyn, New York's Prospect Park. This 40,000-square-foot facility aims to be one of the largest on the East Coast. A recent New York Times newsletter reports that the Skatepark Project backed project, which mercurial New York City Mayor Eric Adams has already announced construction plans for, is meeting opposition from a newly formed group, Friends of Mount Prospect Park.

Among their points of opposition is that “Pouring concrete is Stone Age,” said Hayley Gorenberg, a co-chair of the organization, citing the lack of available greenspace in the city. They also "raised questions about safety, saying that skateboarders could try their moves outside the park, creating hazards on nearby steps and access ramps. The stone steps from the highest point in the park are only one 'tempting skate challenge.'"

'sletter friend and excellent writer on the NY beat, Ian Browning, pointed out on Twitter on Thursday that these are the "stone steps from the highest point in the park."

Seems doable. Via Ian on Twitter.

This reminds me of a recent interaction I had in a "skatepark committee" meeting. My hometown of Lac La Biche, Alberta, is finally getting a new park, which will replace my beloved but horrible modular metal one I grew up skating on over a quarter century ago. Due to some probable nepotism (my uncle works for the county), I was invited to be on the committee even though I haven't lived there in decades. During a review of some early park designs by the company tasked with the construction, a well-meaning town councillor suggested that we swap out a replica fire hydrant feature as local kids might get it in their heads that they can skate fire hydrants around town if they first skate them in the park.

That might seem absurd — and to be clear, it is — but to those unfamiliar with skateboarding, why wouldn't it make sense? The only version of skateboarding they likely ever see is that at the highest level via the X Games, Olympics, or some gruesome bail fed to them via the Instagram Explore tab; those extremes are most non-skateboarders' only frame of reference. This might explain why the Gray Lady feels the need to contextualize Tony Hawk, founder of The Skatepark Project, like this:

...the Skatepark Project, a nonprofit foundation started by the professional skateboarding star Tony Hawk, the first to land a 900, which is to his sport what the four-minute mile is to running. In a high-profile career, he has cracked ribs, survived concussions, lost a handful of teeth and broken a femur (last year, on a 540-degree aerial rotation).

Why focus on his injuries if you don't buy into the idea that the skateboarder is predisposed to grievous injury and an inherent need to hurl themselves at, over, and down every available piece of architecture, even a "curved eight-flat-twelve-flat-twelve-flat-fifteen set."

While skateboarding is certainly "mainstream" now, that doesn't mean the general populace understands it. Skateboarders are still often seen as outsiders in the communities they inhabit, as evidenced by this comment from the Friends of Mount Prospect Park co-chair.

As a place for skateboarding, said Gorenberg... “The site is a problem. Paving green space isn’t acceptable to the community, and it’s not the way for New York City to look forward to a more resilient future. It’s backwards thinking.”

I'm sure there's a very real argument to be made for preserving greenspace in the city, but to say that building a hub for social and physical activity for local residents is not "acceptable to the community" and "backwards thinking" is certainly presumptuous and excludes skateboarders as members of the community. It reminds me of a somewhat similar squabble here in Vancouver, where a number of years back, a former Parks Board member who lived across the street from a newly built skatepark in a popular local park with ample greenspace and a basketball court, tried to get the skatepark removed, claiming it was too loud and that skateboarders were causing trouble.

Despite their neighbours publicly disagreeing and dozens of skateboarders cramming into a Parks Board meeting to advocate for saving the facility, this one person almost succeeded in destroying something that's most days packed with people. In the end, the skatepark would survive, but it is now caged in, gets locked at 9pm (and at one point, had chains that ran across its length at chest height to stop the skateboarders that were alleged to have climbed the 14' fence to skate it in the dark each night) and has a dumbass "sound barrier" installed on one side, presumably meant to stop the sounds of skateboarding travelling to this one former park board member's home, but instead gives the park more privacy if one did, in fact, want to cause trouble.

All of this to say, municipal governments and a good portion of the people they govern still don't have a great grasp on skateboarders, skateparks, and what it is people do with them. That is slowly changing, as most people willing to learn about the benefits a skatepark can provide a community come to appreciate them, but for those that refuse to even consider it, it's a pretty poor reflection on them and could be considered retrograde, even "Stone Age" thinking.

Take my data... please!

Rank: 404
Mood: 🤖

Via @andrewcurran on Twitter.

A recent report from mathNEWS, a University of Waterloo student newspaper, looked into an unfortunately unsurprising story of M&M-branded candy machines secretly recording biometric data from students on campus. This came to light when a student posted a photo to Reddit of a malfunctioning machine displaying an error message related to one of its curiously titled applications, "Invenda.Vending.FacialRecognitionApp.exe."

The piece also references a similar instance from 2018 that caused a national stir.

Six years ago, Cadillac Fairview (CF)3, owner of landmark shopping malls across Canada, became mired in controversy when the CBC discovered them to be using facial recognition software on unsuspecting patrons. Across eight weeks, they collected data on 5,061,324 patrons using secret cameras hidden within their malls’ informational kiosks.

Great stuff. Can't a person go get a Flexfit at Lids or a big ol' bag of chocolate-covered peanuts in peace anymore? Does the data they collect even help? Will knowing what time of day men between the ages of 18-34 snack realistically help their marketing efforts? Or is this simply data collection for the sake of data collection?

Whatever the case, I'm a little disappointed we haven't had a minor scandal like this in skateboarding yet. Are skate brands too cowardly to spy on us, the purchasing public? Does Venture not want my biometric data? Wouldn't Glassy Eyewear love to know the size and shape of my head? The Berrics are definitely up to something; we just don't know what... yet.

Something to consider:

Aaron Bushnell’s Act of Political Despair
What does it mean for an American to self-immolate?

Good thing: Kyle Beachy is the latest guest on Beyond Boards.

Episode 72 - Kyle Beachy | Ausha
Episode 72 with Kyle Beachy, skateboarder and writer from Saint Louis, Missouri. Together we discussed his life and career from growing up and picking up his first board in Saint Louis, Missouri in 1986 to releasing his second book “The most fun thing” (published by Grand Central Publishing in August 2021), a collection of essays focused on skateboarding, and everything in between through surprise questions from friends of his: Indigo Willing, Dan Piquard, Patrick Kigongo, Cole Nowicki, John Matson, José Vadi, Iain Borden, Alex White, Jason Waters, Sam Korman, Wes Miller, Janie Porche, Ted Schmitz, Kristin Lueke, Jim Daley, Ted Barrow, Terry and Roger Beachy, and John Dahlquist. (00:13) – Intro(01:13) – Kyle life recap(07:12) – Indigo Willing(11:14) – Dan Piquard(14:11) – Patrick Kigongo(16:09) – Cole Nowicki(32:42) – John Matson(36:09) – José Vadi(43:44) – Iain Borden(52:02) – Alex White(54:58) – Jason Waters(59:37) – Sam Korman(01:05:08) – Wes Miller(01:12:00) – Janie Porche(01:14:05) – Ted Schmitz(01:19:32) – Kristin Lueke(01:29:12) – Jim Daley(01:31:41) – Ted Barrow(01:35:50) – Terry and Roger Beachy(01:39:44) – John Dahlquist(01:47:55) - ConclusionFor more information and resources: https://linktr.ee/beyondboards

Another good thing: "Deathwish am Davey Sayles was too ripped to rip. 'I couldn’t skate the first month, I was so top heavy, I was swole,' he says." A great piece from Mike Munzenrider on the softening boundaries between skateboarding and traditional sports.

Identity Politics — On Skateboarding’s Evolving Attitude Toward Sports | Quartersnacks
📝 Words by Mike Munzenrider 🎨 Collage by Francesco Pini Deathwish am Davey Sayles was too ripped to rip. “I couldn’t skate the first month, I was so top heavy, I was swole,” he says. Six years ago, Sayles quit college football. He took a three-day bus ride home from West Florida University to Vista,

Song of the week:

Until next week… have moths eaten through your favourite wool sweater? Consider it an opportunity to get creative. A brightly coloured undershirt will really make the holes in your fit pop.

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Laser Quit Smoking Massage

NEWEST PRESS, available April 1, 2024


I have a new collection of essays coming out this spring that you can preorder now. I think you might like it. The Edmonton Journal thinks it's a "local book set to make a mark in 2024." Please do not tell them that I no longer live in Alberta.

Book cover by the wonderful Hiller Goodspeed.

Preorder 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