The best good things of 2021 | Simply Ranked

For me, personally.

The definitive ranking and analysis of all the things that I thought were pretty good this past year.

Making a skate video with your friends

Rank: 1
Mood: ❤️ 📹 ❤️

To be in your 30s and lugging around a big fat video camera to film your friends’ skateboarding is not an unserious endeavour. Well, it is a little unserious, I guess. Because you’re spending your free time cycling and driving to ledges and embankments and curbs and weird winding alleyways you saw on Instagram that might have a sweet wallride instead of, I don’t know, setting up a Registered Retirement Savings Plan. That’s because you’ve chosen fun. To drink ciders, smoke cigs and laugh as one of you bails when throwing their board down.

There is a seriousness involved, though. Through the fisheye or long lens, you can see it. No need to zoom in: we’re trying seriously hard to land our stupid tricks. It takes serious time. Those hours on board also mean hours holding a camera. Commitment from all parties is required. It almost always feels worthwhile, too, even if you don’t ride away. There’s something about pushing yourself and feeling the ache of your body the following day. An earned limp. Roadrash merit badge. It keeps you connected to your mortality in a generally enjoyable way you can see.

The clips. You’ve been collecting and storing these moments with your friends in a timeline that you’ll occasionally slap a song over to see if the vibes mesh. What’s the end goal? You’re not sure. You don’t have sponsors. There’s no hard deadline to “release” anything, so it stays fluid. Months, maybe years pass. You all want one or two more tricks. But to what end? It’s all a lark anyway, so eventually, you decide to really sit down and piece it together. You raid the b-roll folder to help give the video heart. It sits for a day or two, fermenting. Then you all gather to watch it; private bachelor suite apartment premiere. You’re all mostly happy as the past flashes by in minutes.

Who will watch it? Hopefully, someone, but it’s for you and your friends anyways. Proof of life and small victories and vision. So, you upload. It feels good. After the snow melts and the rain abates, you all agree to drag the big fat video camera out the first chance you get, which must mean success.

The horniest video game

Rank: 1
Mood: 👹🍆

I am not wrong.

After a false start, where I made it roughly 45 minutes into The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt before turning off my Nintendo Switch, I would eventually return and become hooked. I spent many pleasurable months roaming the interminably grey lands of Velen, Novigrad and the Skellige Isles as Geralt of Rivia. An extended period exploring the sunny pseudo-France of Toussaint seemed like a vacation of sorts as winter approached in Vancouver.

Yes, there were many monsters to fight in these places, which was fun. But it was the game’s many branching storylines that kept me rapt. Your character sees themself as a loner in this world, but you cannot discount your community of friends and allies and how the decisions you make in-game can affect their in-game lives. Maybe you try to save a band of orphans and inadvertently release a spirit that razes an entire village—it happens! Much like real life.

Plus, for a person who’s had his body’s natural chemical compositions replaced with some magic mix of herbs that leave one sterile and emotionless, Geralt loves to fuck. Whether it’s in a rowboat, on a taxidermied unicorn or falling through the clouds while trapped in the pages of an enchanted book of fairytales. Does this make the gameplay experience better? Hard to say. But it’s been a long year, so it’s just nice to see someone out there enjoying themselves, you know?

Balcony birds

Rank: 1
Mood: 🐦

I sit in my reading chair as the sun spills through the balcony window, covering the slight stretch of my apartment. I watch birds descend on the feeders, titter on the railing, shit on the table. It’s not too unlike sitting at a skate spot and watching friends or strangers roll back and forth. They zip past, jump and dive, talk and eat shit, attempting to solve some bodily calculus in real-time.

Each offers a similar type of warmth to the observer (me), like a mix of appreciation and wonder. “There’s something therapeutic right now about watching something that has the freedom to fly around, and happens to be here in this particular moment.” Writer and artist Jenny Odell said about bird-watching in an interview last year.

It’s those particular moments that sustain.

Spelling Bee

Rank: 1
Mood: 🔤

Because I love to stare at those seven goddamn fucking letters for 30-45 minutes each and every day, working on assembling passable 4+ letter words in the back of my brain before placing them into the app, scoring points to move along its rubric, which includes the categories:

  1. Beginner
  2. Good Start
  3. Moving Up
  4. Good
  5. Solid
  6. Nice
  7. Great
  8. Amazing
  9. Genius

You always want to be a Genius. The sense of validation that washes over as the game celebrates your feat with a special pop-up window is like taking the Nestea Plunge—all-consuming. If you can’t manage to plunge, Amazing is okay. Maybe you’ve run out of time or are thoroughly stumped by a lack of available options—though don’t admit that to yourself, you just have lots to do as the busy, productive person you are, and it’s okay to settle sometimes. Great is not good. Here, you need excuses. My phone fell in the toilet; how do you expect me to find the daily pangram(s) when my fingers keep slipping all over the pissed-up screen? Christ. You tell your friends when they inevitably ask about your score.

Most days, I’ll lie on my couch after lunch to digest and enter the Spelling Bee. From my station, I can see the balcony birds hop and dash, hear the Broadway traffic whoosh and whine and feel the tension build inside me as it becomes increasingly difficult to find new words or to spell ones that describe my current state.

Tangy. Gyrating. Inanity. (26 points)

Friends, family, the guy from the fish market

Rank: 1
Mood: 🫂

I take my conversations where I can get them. Phone calls, FaceTime, group chats, in Q&A’s with fellow patrons of a podcast I pay a few bucks a month to listen to, through the likes and retweets and comments of #skatetwitter, by waiting and watching with wonder as the couple who run the convenience store across the street finish singing karaoke into a golden microphone before asking how their day is going, letting my mask fog up my glasses as I talk aimlessly about anything with the owner of my beloved home skate shop, with a stranger’s dog who just wants me to throw its ball back across the park—how’s your day going, man?—all of these greetings and small talk and single sentence interactions have meaning. These moments can help tighten the screws that keep one in place.

Something to consider: This update to the many disparate landings of old Alien Workshop riders.

Good things: The magic of skateboarding.

Until next week… hit a small, hastily built jump with your toboggan.