Looks like ass (positive) | Simply Ranked

Plus: Generations' worth of Caswell Berry, consensual reality, a low-effort travel blog, and more.

Looks like ass (positive) | 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.

B.C. = V.X.

Rank: 1
Mood: 📹

From Tilt Mode to Toebock, Toy Machine to Thrasher, TransWorld, Enjoi, Osiris, and now Jacuzzi Unlimited, for close to a quarter century now, Caswell Berry has been releasing quality footage. He's been at it so long that video parts are now qualified by the type of camera used to film them.

Berry's Dirt Weasel VX Part, released on Monday, tags "VX part" onto its title as if it's a nod to the discerning viewer, like a call to the silent film fans who are fed up with the talkies. His career has spanned drastic enough changes in technology, his image captured and shared through a generation's worth of differing product development, that it is now an anachronism of sorts to be viewed through the Sony VX1000's lens, to log the tricks contained within its DV tapes onto the computer, and then to YouTube.

It's also interesting to update video naming conventions in this way because HD cameras have been used in skate videos for nearly twenty years and were only preceded by the VX, released in 1995, by a decade. Yet we don't often see "HD Part" slapped onto the name of a video offering (although it's not unheard of). There is, of course, still a strong cultural appreciation for the look, sound, and feeling provided by the VX and the way it captures skateboarding, so it could just be an SEO play to the diehards. And maybe I'm overanalyzing this because it makes me feel old to see those two letters being used as a signal to fans of a bygone era. One where VX wasn't considered a filter to play with for individual projects but how I once viewed the whole world of skateboarding videos.

Whatever the case, what hasn't changed is that Berry is still very good on a skateboard and that he still looks good through the eye of the VX, however many years later.

Looks like ass (negative)

Rank: 1
Mood: 🍑

Via @depthsofwiki on Twitter

Neither description of the Laser Flip in its long-ago revised Wikipedia entry in "skateboarding tricks" is wrong, per se. Laser Flips do kind of look "like ass" (negative), which leads them to be "unpopular due to its low visual appeal." It's important to note, however, that this is not universal, and there are folks who like — and even love — the Laser Flip. Dashawn Jordan did it down the sixteen stairs of Hollywood High. You must have some level of attraction to the maneuver if you're willing to risk your health and safety to such a degree for it.

Still, even with Jordan's flawless execution, it's generally agreed upon that this is an unseemly-looking motion for the skateboard to make. But why is that? Is the fact that the board spins and flips so aggressively behind the skateboarder the cause for ick? Giving the viewer a sense of hucking and hoping instead of purposeful control with the board in view? Has the Laser Flip's mirror, the more accessible 360 Kickflip, coloured our collective perception? It's not like a stanky-leg 360 Kickflip hasn't drawn the ire of skateboarding, though.

Perhaps it's the limits of the Laser Flip's aesthetic range. A 360 Kickflip can be a hideous miracle of physics or achieve the absolute sublime under the guidance of the right feet. Conversely, the Laser Flip's aesthetic apex has never reached a great height, with Marc Johnson's Laser Flip ender in Yeah Right and Jordan's Hollywood High triumph being the only standouts that come to mind. Not helping its case, is that the depths the Laser Flip and its variations can plummet seem bottomless.


A "Nollie-540-Double-Laser-Flip" via Jeff Dechesare on Instagram.

While skateboarders have long pushed themselves to make the act of skateboarding as complicated as possible with endless combinations and technical feats that twist the tongue when verbalized, it's often the simple or refined that stick in our collective memories. A Grant Taylor frontside air, Tyshawn Jones kickflipping a set of subway tracks. The Laser Flip, by its nature, can't appear effortless. It simply requires too much of the operator and demands too much of its viewer, which despite what its name would suggest, makes it hard to get on its wavelength.

Looking at and through the television

Rank: N/A
Mood: N/A


A perfect sequence of Super Bowl commercials, via @marklazerus on Twitter.

It’s hard not to be pulled in by a spectacle as vast and culturally unavoidable as the Super Bowl. You might actually care about American Football and that your team, the Kansas City “End Racism” Chiefs, won their second Lombardi trophy in a row on Sunday. Or maybe you’re just a fan of Usher and were as shocked as most when he pulled off a lightning-fast wardrobe change into roller skates and then proceeded to, well, roller skate around.

It’s also reasonable if you were only paying attention for the cutaways to Taylor Swift, Blake Lively, Ice Spice, and Lana Del Rey in the VIP box, this grip of celebrities on display as they watched their preferred football man do the footballing. And hey, if you were just into it for the commercials, that tracks, too. The longstanding tradition of multi-million dollar advertisement productions that cost multiple millions of dollars just to air is as big a part of the Super Bowl festivities as the football game itself.

This year, we got a Volkswagen ad celebrating the company's long and storied history that, for some reason, excluded the 1940s. A super PAC for oddly yolked anti-vax American presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. aired a campaign spot that he would promptly apologize for. Beyoncé decided to tease her new album through a series of Verizon commercials, and then the genocidal state of Israel dropped millions of dollars on an ad that was beamed across TVs all over the world at about the same time it began a vicious bombing campaign against the 1.5 million Palestinians they’d forced into Rafah, the last place left for them to run, where they were told they would be “safe.”

Over 100 people were reported killed. The Chiefs stole victory from the jaws of defeat. The IDF said all the lives they'd taken were part of a "distraction" as they rescued two hostages. Taylor Swift kissed Travis Kelce as confetti rained down. Israel continued to make evidence-free claims about the UN's Gaza aid agency, which some Western countries continued to withhold funding from, and that Canada's government didn't even pretend to look at the non-evidence provided. Did you see Sir Patrick Stewart throw Arnold by his football-shaped head? Or did you read how Suzanne Collins was inspired to write The Hunger Games after flipping channels between news coverage of America’s invasion of Iraq and American reality television and how the two began to blur together in a "very unsettling way?" What does it say about our world that those books became movies, a blockbuster entertainment franchise born from tragedy and complacency, swallowed without thinking about what it could mean? How about Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in that Dunkin Donuts commercial? Pretty funny, eh?

Consensual reality

Rank: 2
Mood: 🪞

Via Twitter

As the long Twitter thread above explains, during the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday, Alicia Keys reminded us of the dangers of performing live: you might perform less-than-ably in a totally natural and human way — which we cannot abide by. Our demand for perfection from performers is what led to that one Ashlee Simpson lipsyncing "scandal" (20 years ago!) and why the NFL cleaned up Keys' performance to remove a single off-note before uploading it to YouTube.

The tweeter above goes on to argue that changing factual happenings to help burnish brands and reputations works to deprive us of a "consensual reality." That seems true. Imperfections and failures are an essential part of the human experience; to see them is to understand and appreciate the effort those acts take, and editing them out is a cause for concern.

But! Take a moment to imagine what it would be like if we allowed ourselves to meddle with reality just a little. What's the harm, really? Especially in skateboarding. Maybe some work in After Effects turns a "Baker Maker" into just a maker? Get what I'm saying? Some slight adjustments to our collective understanding would alter legacies. With a bit of tweaking in post, Chris Joslin is riding away from his 360 Flip down El Toro.


Via Shrimpdaddy on Instagram

This wouldn't just be limited to the PROs. That clip of yourself you desperately wish you didn't tic-tac on the ride away? There might already be a TikTok filter that'll edit that out. If we're going to continue to lose our grasp on reality, we should at least make the most out of our spiral into mass delusion, you know?

Low-effort travel blog: Pasty edition

Rank: 1
Mood: 🥟

As I write this, it is 10:20am on Thursday, February 15, 2024, in Tempe, Arizona. I'm in town for this year's iteration of Slow Impact, and like last year, one of my first stops while here was the local Cornish Pasty restaurant, where I indulged in a Roast Beef Sarnie pasty (house-roasted beef, red and green peppers, portabello, onions, Cheddar-Swiss blend) that came with a pleasantly tart and tangy horseradish sour cream dip. Yesterday, I returned, this time getting the Cubano (house-pulled Mojo pork, ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and yellow mustard).

For a dip, the Cubano comes with the option of either mustard cream sauce, spicy mustard, or extra yellow mustard. I originally ordered the spicy mustard but was brought the mustard cream sauce and extra yellow in subsequent mix-ups. Eventually, I'd get the spicy mustard, allowing me to triple-dip my pasty in three mustard varieties (plus the classic yellow mustard already inside of it) — no complaints on this end.

There are also some skateboarding-related events happening this weekend, including excellent panel discussions, art shows, readings, and The Great Skate Debate hosted by Sam Korman on Friday, which I'm excited to be taking part in. Of course, if I treat myself to another pasty before this newsletter's time of publication, I will keep you posted.

UPDATE: At 2:30pm, local time on Thursday, I made my way back to the Cornish Pasty for a late lunch and had myself the Lovely Bit of Salmon pasty (marinated salmon, white wine and cream dill sauce, sautéed asparagus, garlic roasted tomato, spinach, and red potato). What a treat.

Something to consider: Luke O'Neil with more coherent thoughts on the Super Bowl and war crimes.

This after this after this
I watched every snap of the game. The result of which was fine. I’m not mad about Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs already being on pace to catch up to Tom Brady and the Patriots’ legacy this quickly. I’m not mad about that at all. I watched the whole thing.

Good thing: Tremaine Glasgow by Chance Swainson.

Another good thing: Max Wasungu by Adam Abada for Quartersnacks.

Postcard From Montreal — An Interview With Max Wasungu | Quartersnacks
📝 Interview by Adam Abada 📷 Photos by Gabriel Barbeau Fresh off his Baker debut in their latest, and a surprise appearance in the Marseille boys’ Canada trip video, Team Horton’s, we caught up with QS-favorite, Max Wasungu, to talk Montreal, Dime, jewelry, and what exactly does a sponsor expect from a skater in 2024.

One more good thing:

The Trans Skaters of America’s Growing Queer Skate Scene
Skateboarding has long had a reputation as a close-knit boys’ club. These athletes are breaking the mold.

Until next week… take stock of each and every pasty you've eaten this past week. Think about what you'd put in your own personal pasty. The things you'd fill it with to bring you flavour, joy. Try to incorporate those ingredients into your life going forward.

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