Unnaturally shiny and muscular men | Simply Ranked

Plus: Low-effort travel blogs, collecting history, an anniversary, and more.

Unnaturally shiny and muscular men | 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.

Low-effort travel blog, part 1: Portland, Oregon

Rank: 1.1
Mood: 🚞

There are some things you can’t prepare for — those sudden shifts in life when you are pulled from your current existence into another. Crude, abrupt, unforgiving, they simply happen and often without warning, even if there are clues you might be able to piece together afterwards.

Like the nondescript black tow truck attaching itself to a supposedly illegally parked car at 11:30pm on a Thursday. How the truck took up a full lane of NE Grand Ave, a one-way. The roar of a separate vehicle accelerating through Grand’s brick-lined intersection — headed the one way it shouldn’t. How do you steel yourself for the sudden vacuum you’re placed in when the night is broken by sound as the machines meet in discord, where your understanding of how the world works is upended and time sits patiently for fear and adrenaline to catch up?

The question then, really, is how do you prepare yourself for seeing a thing you never imagined you’d see, like a car crash or Nyjah Huston skating Burnside? What about Nyjah Huston wearing pants while skating Burnside in an Instagram Story? In that instance, there’s at least a distance between you and the moment; a Story can be skipped or watched again and again to make sense of it or forgotten entirely in 24 hours’ time. But what if you’re on vacation, skating downtown Portland, Oregon, with friends, and you stumble across Nyjah Huston at a local spot? His shorts are back on, his top is off, and he’s looking at his phone as Dominick Walker risks his young life attempting (and eventually landing) a shocking maneuver at Magic Five.

My fear captured by Niles on Instagram.

That’s when the day breaks open as the surreal becomes very much real. David Loy is here, too? Also topless? When will the fear and adrenaline kick in, allow you to step out of the vacuum, reorient, and call for help?

Unnaturally shiny and muscular men

Rank: 14k
Mood: 🤹 🤹‍♂️ 🤹‍♀️

Direct-to-consumer jewelry is, as far as I know, an unexplored sponsorship territory for the professional skateboarder, but not unexpected at a time when anyone of any level of notoriety can be a “brand ambassador” for any product, real or wholly imagined, like NFTs and cryptocurrency. So one’s initial reaction to seeing Paul Rodriguez modelling JAXXON jewelry could very well be, “Eh, sure. Why not.” However, the morbidly curious might wonder what fresh hell is JAXXON?

JAXXON is the #1 men's jewelry brand, it is a brand dedicated to creating individual style with undisputed quality. JAXXON’s design process is built on the foundation of attention to detail, reimagining classic styles, and utilizing the highest qualities of materials together for the most luxurious shines & finishes.

CLASSIC & CLEAN LOOKS, TECHNICAL & LUXURY FEEL, supported by the most dynamic community of artists, athletes, skaters, surfers, models, and legends.

That’s how JAXXON summarizes their mission in the YouTube video description of a JAXXON-branded “podcast” called “Flip The Script,” which is co-hosted by JAXXON brand ambassador Ryan Sheckler, JAXXON partner and CMO Bear Degidio, and features JAXXON brand ambassador Paul Rodriguez as a guest.

JAXXON has a series of branded shows, including “Fade on Site,” which is co-hosted by former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Degidio, and the “JAXXON Podcast” hosted by just Degidio and a rotating cast of guests. Despite JAXXON calling these shows “podcasts,” they are technically not podcasts as they are not available as audio files on any audio or podcast apps. If we’re being accurate, these are a series of video interviews hosted on YouTube.

That could be seen as a semantic splitting of hairs, but it’s helpful to note as it’s reflective of JAXXON’s marketing strategy as a whole. A practice which hinges on their ability to attach their name to the name of notable athletes and celebrities in hopes that the cultural cache they carry changes the previously defined understanding of their brand and product from what was once obvious — that it’s a gimmick — to something completely different — and legitimate — in the eyes of potential consumers.

The benchmarks of what people understand legitimacy to be have always been a bit murky, but in the age of the influencer, they continue to shift in a particular direction. Is it the quality of the product or the names of those associated with said product that make it quality? JAXXON is betting on the latter. That’s why this DTC jewelry company is creating its own media ecosystem and signs ambassador deals with everyone from Ric Flair to Gustavo Ribeiro. It’s the same reason brands pay legitimate podcast hosts to read their ad copy and how Joe Rogan and Alex Jones make money hand over fist selling garbage supplements to gullible audiences.

People connect to and build relationships with personalities, even if that human touch is all a facade. It’s this shallow style of marketing that Bear Degidio excels at, according to his own agency.

[Degidio’s] large influencer network and vast marketing experience led him to create his own digital creative agency, Hunny Group. With over 10 full time employees & projects across the country involving small businesses to Fortune 500 brands, Hunny Group became a one-stop shop for all brands. When it comes to paid media, influencer and creator strategy, brand management, rebranding, social media content creation, and eCommerce, Bear has simply experienced it all.

Bear’s best skills pertain to non-traditional roll outs and creatively executing campaigns. Hunny Group is centered around creating brand awareness, exposure, and social media traffic through thoughtful campaigns and unique influencers utilization. With over 2000 influencers, & over 700 million collective followers, Hunny Group operates in a space of its own.

Lovely1. So when you listen to Shecks interview Prod, what you’re actually listening to is a “thoughtful” and “unique” “influencer utilization.” Anyhow, this is just how a large portion of the marketing world operates now, shilling products via a tangential association with a bunch of unnaturally shiny and muscular men.

Collecting small, gritty pieces of the past

Rank: 149.95
Mood: 📼

If you’re going to use the cultural cache of notable figures to hawk a tangentially related product, this feels like a decent enough way to go about it. Take the time to reach into our collective nostalgia centres, root around for what informed our youth and inspired a generation, and then sell little bits of it back to us. Mike Mo’s ABD Collectibles’ Yeah Right! 20th-anniversary collection does just that. It features trading cards of a number of the iconic video’s original cast and a select few cards are adorned with little bits of the green griptape from the Yeah Right! invisible board skit. Griptape as a collectible item! Who’d a thunk it.

While the $150 per-card price tag seems steep, from the packaging that apes the original Yeah Right! VHS tape case to the promotion of it — including a 20-year reunion video that is nearly two hours long — it is clear that Mike Mo and company put a lot of thought, care, and effort into these things. Are they $150 worth of thought, care, and effort? That’s up to the individual, I guess. If you have the means, they do seem kind of fun. And hey, if anything, this is better than some bullshit NFTs.

Low-effort travel blog, part 2: San Francisco, California

Rank: 1.2
Mood: 🚞 🚞

The train rattled down from Oregon into California. Now and then, a flash of blue cut through the green rushing past our window, some body of water shining between the trees and shrubs. We ate dinner in the dining car, a cute, cramped thing whose stiff white tablecloths were dotted with surprisingly healthy flower arrangments and drink glasses that shuffled and sloshed across the table with each jump and turn in the track. Back in coach, we tried our best to sleep as night turned the train’s windows a deep, inky black. Nearly as long as the eighteen-hour ride from Portland to Emeryville were the skate spots we stumbled upon almost immediately after getting shuttled into San Francisco.

No thanks.

The first hills we ambled up brought us to the absurd Bush Street gap that Tyshawn Jones somehow managed to switch-varial-heel — the thought of approaching that expanse switch is not a thought I’d personally like to keep in my mind for any period of time — and the Cardiel Ledge, which is as inhospitable as you’d imagine it to be. While perhaps in a haze from a nearly sleepless overnight journey, it did feel special to be confronted with such skateboarding history so quickly. How tightly concentrated the locations of our lore can be. The way your awe at a trick compounds when you’re able to see a spot’s every environmental imperfection.

That said, you do not, under any circumstances, gotta hand it to teenaged Mikey Taylor in cornrows.

An anniversary, a makeover, and an appreciation

Rank: 1 :)
Mood: <3

As of last week, Simple Magic has been running in its current form for two years. That’s 103 of the weekly “Simply Ranked” Friday posts and 12 of the longer form “purple posts” I started doing once or twice a month late last year. That’s a total of 115 posts and 192,823 words, which is honestly a bit excessive.

That said, I have a lot of fun doing this thing and plan to continue. Given that, I thought a wee makeover was in order. Shoutout to my pal and extremely talented graphic designer Allan Korsheed for creating some excellent new Simple Magic logos.

Also, shoutout to my balcony birds.

One of the things I enjoy the most about doing this thing is that you, dear readers, still get a kick out of it (I hope!). So, as a small gesture of appreciation for allowing me into your inboxes each week and for your support these past years(!), I’ll be making sticker versions of the new logos (seen above). If you want some, reply to this email with a mailing address and I’ll send ‘em out when they’re ready.

Okay, this has been pretty masturbatory, and not in the fun way. Let’s end this week’s newsletter with the traditional Simple Magic anniversary song.

Something to consider: You can find inspiration anywhere.

A very good thing: Isaac Walker’s new video part filmed and edited by Nico Marti.

A clarifying and perhaps life-affirming thing: SteeplejackFred Dibnah being introduced to the world via the BBC in the ‘70s.

A potentially helpful thing: Anthony Pappalardo with “A Guide to Buying Skart.”

Until next week… if you find yourself in an art gallery and something captures your attention and you’re not exactly sure why, just keep looking at it. The thing is there for that exact purpose. If you start to feel things, just keep feeling them. The thing is there for that exact purpose. If you feel tears start to slip down your cheek, just let them flow. When you’re done and need to clean up, your sleeve is there for that exact purpose.

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. It’ll be in stores on September 26 and you can pre-order Right, Down + Circle now 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.

  1. My favourite part of Degidio’s work history: “[Degidio] has been seasoned in marketing strategy & brand building for 15 years, getting his start through his managing partner position at the world’s #1 Paintball & Airsoft parks.” lol