A no tear o ah.

It’s been 2 and a bit years since I left home. I’m a few days shy of 2 years in Toronto. I don’t know if it’s some divine coincidence, but lately people have been asking me a ton about homesickness. It must be beeeeeauuuuuuuutiful back there. You must miss everyone so much. What are you doing up here? Aren’t you chomping at the bit to get back? Each time I politely rebuff them, stating that if I wanted to be back home, I probably wouldn’t have come. I’m not remotely interested in going back. There’s nothing pulling me. When you’re so far away from it, everything there seems so small, inconsequential. Major news stories break over bullying on NZ X-Factor or a popular chocolate milk selling out too quickly. You think I joke, but lest we forget Marmageddon happened. I’ve got family back home, but they’ll still be there when I visit for whatever wedding (or funeral, let’s be real) commands it. A good proportion of my friends left the country anyway. They’re either in Melbourne or London. Chances are they’re even making their way around North America, so I’m probably closer here.

The idea of this post wasn’t to shit on good ol’ Aotearoa, so here are some things I do miss about home (that I’m sure my girlfriend NEVER tires of hearing about):

  • Non cash society. Seriously, the fact that in 2015 I still need to withdraw money every week to pay at small stores, bars and many restaurants? Insane. What incentive is there to spend physical money if you’re just gonna have to withdraw more? It’s a pointless exercise. It’s not the 90s, shouldn’t we be past this?
  • Tipping not existing. I’ve ranted about this enough, but it’s as simple as pay your employees more instead of making patrons do it. Since 15% tipping is basically mandatory, you’re not giving incentive for better service. People who think otherwise are buying into a dumb capitalistic dream. I’m keeping it short. That’s it.
  • Tax inclusive. Just add it into the price. Fucks me off every time.
  • Mild weather. The extremes back home (at least in Auckland) weren’t too extreme. Winter got down to maybe 5ºC and summer barely got above 30ºC. Easy living.
  • Consistent metric system. Why are some things metric, some things imperial? I still have no easy conversion for miles, feet/inches or pounds.
  • Clever advertising. It’s really in the minority here. Going to the movies, watching ads makes me feel like my face is being pounded by a sledgehammer. It’s that dumb. Tone it down, learn some subtlety. Not everything has to cater to the lowest common denominator.
  • Dairy and lamb. Ontario, your pork is of the highest calibre. Still, I come from an agricultural island and the lamb doesn’t quite rack up here like it did back home. As far as normal commercially available cheeses, they’re bland and tasteless. Everything tastes the same, there’s nothing with a sharp bite. What the fuck even is marble cheese? Blending two colours of bland to make something equally as grey. You can’t taste colour and this cheese doesn’t taste like anything.
  • Coffee. It’s not like there’s no good coffee to be found here in Toronto, because there are a bunch of really great places. It’s just that your margin of error is much wider. There’s so much shit coffee and a few places that’re the crème de la crema (see what I did there?). Fuck brew, it’s shit. Keep your hogwash. Sorry Mr Horton, but your product is garbage. Stick to donuts.

Seriously though, that’s about it. Considering quality of life and everything, I love it here. There’s something happening at all times. So many diverse groups and opportunities. Bands who’d never tour the southern hemisphere. Public transport that works, despite how everyone bitches about it so relentlessly. Canadian people are pleasant, friendly and generally thoughtful. Social services are pretty damn good, not to mention benefits. Holy shit. The fact that practically all of my basic medical, dental or physical needs are met for a mere $400 paycheck deduction each year? Insane. It’s not like I even hate the weather. It’s exciting to see the extremes. To sweat in the sun, see the leaves colourshift and fall, trudge through the snow and smell nature coming back to life all in one solar rotation? It’s a marvel. Make no mistake, I’m glad to be here. Hence why I’m not sick for home at all.

Just the Marmite.

I mean, what’s to stop you from putting meringue on top of cheesecake? That question wasn’t rhetorical. Please do it. You could buy my love.

Meeting the family was lovely. Her mum’s a great hugger, no awkward pauses, nice to get some backfill on the kind of people my favourite person came from. Spoiler, they’re pretty great. Also we had delicious dinner. I opted for shepherd’s pie, which was as delightful as any pie has right to be. An odd choice for a day that got up to around 30°C, but when you’re a recovering hermit who spends most of the day in an air conditioned lair, shepherd’s pie is always a winner. I mean, shepherd’s isn’t always the first flavour I think of when I think of pie, but when the time is ripe for a stodgy treat, it’s tough to beat. You’d think that since I grew up in New Zealand I’d go straight for a classic mince and cheese pie, but my favourite pie isn’t even a mean concoction. I’m a keen fan of a sweet slice of key lime. There’s something about that crumbly crust, topped with sweet (and slightly tart) lime filling (which is basically liquid candy) and meringue topping. If you’re really cruising my good books you could flip it and magic it into a key lime cheesecake instead, but I’m not fussy. In any case I think you’d have earned three wishes from me.

You’d lose these wishes instantly if you picked up my recently remembered pet peeve. What is it with people who play music from their cellphones in public without heaphones or earplugs? Is it braggado, obliviousness, ambivalence or just a total disregard for those around them? At least twice in the past week I’ve had someone sitting next to me on the TTC playing music loudly from their cellphone that’s just sitting in their lap. If you didn’t have headphones, wouldn’t you keep the noise lower but put it closer to your ears so you could hear it? I know how tinny the speakers on those things are (though it seldom makes a difference if you’re listening to metallic auto tune). You’re actively ruining the music for yourself. Earbuds are very very cheap. Even a crappy pair should sound better than what you’re running with. It makes people stare, which might be part of the attraction if you’re an attention starved individual. If you’re not though, this wouldn’t be motivation. It’s rare for someone to say anything. I’m sure in the US someone would pipe up and start a fight, which could also be what people are looking for. I’m using so many conditional modifiers because I have no idea what incites this kind of behaviour. I was still feeling a little sapped today on my way back from picking up the work laptop and some guy was blaring his music full bore. Many people were staring. After a song or two I politely asked the guy “sorry mate, but your music’s a little loud. Mind turning it down a bit? Cheers.” He did. I was relieved. No fuss. Then as I exited the train I heard him turning it back up. So in that case, perhaps no wider perspective.

Speaking of wider perspective, a couple of times in the last while I’ve been watching something and I’ve noticed a lack of action taken against a certain kind of foe. Invisible enemies, specifically ones who possess physical bodies. I see protagonists go up against them, take a licking, heal their wounds and go in for a second strike. So often they’ll just get a blanket or curtain or something. These things can be taken off easily. WHY DOES NOBODY GET SPRAY PAINT OR FLOUR? This stuff sticks to your foe and makes them far easier to spot. Have you ever tried to get flour off quickly and easily? Fuck no. Wet it and you’ll have glue. They’re still fucked and you can go in for the kill instead of shitting yourselves at your invisible nemesis. Not to mention if you get them in the eyes you’ll temporarily blind them, giving you the advantaged of a stunned foe. Don’t say that these things are hard to find. If you can’t find one then surely the other will be around. Other substitutes could be paint, wine (most any coloured liquid that can stain) or gasoline. It surprises me how often these things come up, but they rarely go for the simplest and most effective answers. I’m no monster expert, but come on people. We need to stop giving these demons more of a fighting chance. If you can’t see that, then you’ve lost sight of the goal.

The stakes have never been lower. Them steaks though…

I’m back, alive and kicking for another day of kicking back in front of the keyboard. Woah, a lot going on in that sentence. I have drugs to cure what has been confirmed as strep throat, so in a few days I should come back around to some sense of normalcy. Terrific. My recuperation has involved being prone, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think I’ve blitzed through about 20 episodes over the last few days. Fun series, it’s aged well aside from any reference to technology, but that’s unfair to bring up nigh on 20 years later. The show has a great linear arc and I’m pulled in by the little pieces strung together to make a more complete narrative. Incidental details from past episodes are brought up again, showing an attention to development that’s understated and underrated. Character development is slow but steady and it doesn’t feel like oh, this is the episode where we learn about Giles. Oh, in this one they give Willow some loving. It’s more subtle and cumulative, making it frightfully easy to marathon. The dialogue is quick (though not Gilmore Girls speed) and it’s got its share of cute one liners and fun banter. Also lots of people die. LOTS. There’s a suicide in school, students are regularly devoured or dismembered by monsters. The bestiary is expansive and varied with just a hint of campiness to keep things light enough. It’s not afraid to go to dark places, but they do a great job of balancing it all out with humour. Hah, as if my opinion means anything when talking about an already critically acclaimed 17 year old cult hit. All I’m saying is that if you were on the fence about watching it and catching up, it’s easier and far more enjoyable to do than you’d think.

Speaking of enjoyment and an inability to make a decent segue, I’m meeting my girlfriend’s family tomorrow. I’m surprisingly excited, if only because being nervous about meeting family seems to be a trope we all ascribe to. I find often enough that if there’s someone in my life that I cherish, some of those elements may have come from family. Not all the time of course, but there are teensy things you can notice if you look hard enough. It might be certain mannerisms, facial features, something about the way certain family members talk. We’re all pretty impressionable and we tend to take on aspects of the people we love. This became apparent when I met my niece for the first time. I wouldn’t say that I look too much like my brothers, but people have told me that a bunch of their expressions or habits hang on me like a cape. My niece somehow clicked into this and was strangely calm when I held her. I don’t know if I’m quite as perceptive as a 3 month old with their mystical infant mysticism of wonder. Still, I hope to be able to find where some of my girlfriend’s many quirks and traits came from.

My lack of fear for familial interaction probably has something to do with having lucked out in the past. I always remember my first girlfriend being deathly scared of me meeting her mother. She painted the picture of a draconian tyrant, all unfair rules and expectations. Meeting her mother, this ruse vanished in a puff of smoke. Her mum was great, a doctor of anthropology, fascinating person in all regards. What’s more, I could see where my girlfriend got her fierce wit from. Maybe she was a different person when I went home, but she always seemed lovely to me. It’s funny, but years after we’d broken up, I ran into her at my university job. Being placed in the anthropology department, I ran into her often. I guess it’s always hard to see the same person in a parent as someone who’s been raised by one, but she was never anything but lovely to me. She suggested some books for me to read, gave me advice for an upcoming American road trip and helped me deal with difficult heartbreak.

So shoot me if I’m eager to meet the woman who brought my girlfriend into this world. The mother who raised her with values and heart, who helped form the strong woman I found so easy to fall in love with.

Also now that I’ve got my appetite back, I could really use a good meal. I swear that’s not my top priority.

David Thorne was right. The internet IS a playground.

So it’s looking like my mystery illness was strep throat all along. I’d never heard of it, but my super sexy nurse has been taking care of me all day and suggested it could be a thing. She took my temperature, up at 39.1°C. She felt my lymph nodes and noticed the left side was swollen up like a balloon. Next she fished out a little flashlight and we peered into my gaping maw in front of a mirror. Little white spotty things were clustered on that skin to the left of my uvula. Consulting various websites, we ruled out cancer and decided it was down to strep throat or tonsil stones. All the signs pointed to strep, so tomorrow it’s off to the doctors to get antibiotics and fix it right up. It’s weird having a painful lump at the back of my throat. That’s not half as weird as my lack of appetite though. You know something’s dire when I don’t want to eat. Thanks to my wonderful girlfriend though, I might come out of this one alive. Knowing me, I would’ve just spent today wallowing in bed, sweating, for all the good that would do. She’s a goddamn hero. Like Enrique Iglesias in that video with Jennifer Love Hewitt.

But enough about sickness. It’s not all that fun to talk about. I could talk about Enrique Iglesias more, but my knowledge is kind of restricted to the fact that he cut his hand on a drone at a gig a few months back. True story, remarkably (even with blood streaming down his back) he kept playing. I’d never really thought twice about Enrique, but that kind of dedication to the cause is admirable at least. It’s like when Pitbull, an artist who I have no room for in my brain, held that breath strip Walmart contest. Whichever Walmart got the most likes on Facebook, he’d fly there and perform. Of course the internet got a hold of it and of course they sent him to Kodiac, Alaska. Pitbull, questionable talent but game individual as he is, went there and performed. That takes balls, to be a straightforward commercial shill and stick to it. I love this quote from the energy strips CEO: “I’ve known Pitbull for a few years now, and he’s up for a party – whether it’s around the corner, or you have to get there by three planes and a boat in between, as I understand it takes to get to Kodiak.” I can respect that.

There have been some fun internet pranks over the years. Usually engineered by 4chan. They’re a wayward bunch of perverted script kiddies, but sometimes they know how to get right to my ulnar nerve. They once tried to rig a contest to send Bieber around the world. Whichever country had the most votes by the end of the contest period would be Justin’s destination. Naturally 4chan chose best Korea, North Korea. Unfortunately the country’s ban on Western music meant Bieber was unable to fulfil the request. Pity, he missed out on the experience reserved primarily for Dennis Rodman, to hang with the late KJI himself. Sounds like he would’ve won the prize there. Even better, he could’ve visited the happiest place in North Korea. Oh the laughs, smiles and encrusted, ill maintained rides.

There was also the time 4chan stacked a contest aiming to name a new apple flavour of Mountain Dew. Judging by the top submitted names, they did their duty well. Mountain Dew admitted the contest lost to the internet and shut it down, but we’ll always have the results. Despite the obvious immaturity of the names, I can’t help but smile at the internet once more getting one over on a corporate entity. It’s hard for me to have sympathy here, so all I can do is share my amusement with others.

Oh, and there was that time 4chan rigged Time’s person of the year

I’m basically wearing a wet do-rag right now.

A warning: This is likely to be awful. If it reflects in any way how I feel right now, it’ll be loathsome, scattered and a little bit loopy. The flu that I picked up through unknown means has not abated and I’ve done a poor job of improving my wretched state. My throat is inflamed to the point that even water hurts to gulp down. I’ve got a fever that cowbell can’t fix and it’s causing me to alternate between burning up and shivering non-stop. My head is throbbing and my eyes hurt. I wasn’t aware eyes could hurt, but I guess you learn something new every day. I’ve washed my sheets twice in the past two days, because I keep doing my best interpretation of Will Graham. The cold and flu medication I’m taking helps somewhat, but I think I’ve had too much and the pseudoephedrine is sending my mind way out into orbit. I’ve spent most of the day in bed feeling sorry for myself and sweating excessively. When I get cold, it makes no rational sense. I was wearing my polar fleece snorlax kigurumi and slippers, still I couldn’t cease shivering. My fingers have been some shade of purple most of the day. I’ve been fading in and out of consciousness and I fear I’m gonna have trouble sleeping tonight yet again. If there’s one sliver of silver lining I’ve managed to watch a ton of TV. That’s how optimism works, right?

Wait, that’s dumb. My silver lining shimmers considerably more than that. While I suffered in the morning, the afternoon brought with it a saving grace: My girlfriend arrived. I’m not one who likes to take help when it’s offered, but given that movement has been tricky, I haven’t had much of a choice. She’s been amazing. Whatever I’ve needed she’s had no trouble grabbing it and helping out. When my fever got to be too much, she dampened a towel with cold water and placed it on my forehead. She’s ensured that I’m drinking enough fluids and even brought a whole host of ingredients to make me home made chicken soup. Though we had other plans today, she blew them off without hesitation in order to stay with me and make sure I’ve been doing alright. She ran her hands softly through my hair and traced light patterns with her fingers across my back. I felt guilty taking all the help she’s offered, but she repeatedly told me to think nothing of it.

While feeling utterly fragile, it’s also made me feel completely loved. I’ve felt ok to be vulnerable, to let her know how I’ve been hurting. In return she’s exceeded anything I could ask for. I’ve felt at home. Safe, secure and cared for without a second thought. I’ve been exuding adoration but anything I’ve said fails to capture the extent to which my feelings reach. It’s not like I had any doubts about her, but this experience has shown me more about loving and being loved than I thought possible. Look at me here turning to floppy mush, but it’s true. Infirm as I’ve felt today, it’s reaffirmed what I already knew tenfold. I’m reassured in what we have together and-much as I’d prefer she doesn’t get sick-I’m awaiting a chance to return the favour. I’m a lucky guy, that’s all I can say.

Though judging by my loopy mental state, I could’ve dreamed the whole thing.

Heroes or zeroes. Why does it have to be so binary?

Farewell brother. Hulk Hogan, my childhood hero (aside from Grimlock that is), ousted from the WWE for shitty racist remarks. Yet another dude I looked up to once in my life now proven to be less than admirable. Why so often do men in positions of power abuse said power? Can’t we have one good dude we can aspire to emulate that doesn’t get mired by crappy behaviour? Or is power too intoxicating to wield? Do we at least get to have Stephen Colbert? He seems like a decent guy and I’ve got all digits crossed that he’ll continue on as such without scandals breaking out. It’s not asking for too much, is it? Maybe it’s my dour mood brought on by the flu I’ve contracted. Fever, aches, excessive sweating, sleep deprivation and intermittent lucid thoughts have plagued me since late last night. I’ve spent the whole day in the bog my bed has become. A sweaty, swampy mass of pillows, blankets and warm moisture. I used my sick day to watch the entirety of Bojack Horseman season 2, so my thoughts are centred on the facetious culture of celebrity. I’m sure being in the public eye changes you, the pressure of always being on causing you to simultaneously feel entitlement to and reject the thoughts of those you consider beneath you. If you’re told you’re of a higher quality than everyone else enough, you’d believe it and act accordingly.

This is one of my favourite articles from the past year. I was reading it again today after thinking recently about a few things. In this day and age of instant outrage and desired accountability, we’re so quick to condemn anyone who deviates from the immaculate standards we hold for them. Dan Harmon, much as I look up to him, is a rich, privileged white alcoholic/workaholic who is known to crack the whip on a writer’s room. His sharp wit and quick temper have landed him in a shit ton of trouble. Repeatedly. Amy Schumer–progressive and uncompromisingly honest as her show Inside Amy Schumer is–oft relied on the low hanging fruit of casual racism throughout her early career. Patton Oswalt is a talented comedian who reacts swiftly and unapologetically, holding fast to his views even after he’s been proven wrong. Rumours have surfaced about Louis C.K, which I don’t want to believe, but given the recent prominent accusations that’ve been undoubtedly true, I’m gonna choose to side with the victims if they come forth.

It sucks, it really does. I’m sure we all want the people we admire to be positive role models, but it rarely seems to be the case. The above comedians I’ve highlighted have far less severe indiscretions than the criminal activity of Cosby, Allen (Woody, not Tim. Though the Tool Man did dip his nose into drug trafficking at some stage of his career) or Ghomeshi. Still, their less than ideal behaviour makes it hard to see them as figures of idolatry. Hearkening back to the above article, can we accept that our heroes are flawed? Talent isn’t predicated on the goodness of humanity and obtaining a position of power doesn’t necessitate considering the shoulders that carried you there. Is there hope for growth? I don’t want this to come out as oh woe for the poor celebrities, but I feel like the standard we hold them to is often unrealistic. If a friend of yours did something shitty, then showed remorse and made a concerted effort to be better, we’d applaud this action, right? It feels like once someone influential is crucified publicly on social media it’s game over for them. No chance for rehabilitation. Will people continue to attribute these negative aspects as prominent components of these celebrities’ personalities?

I brought this up with my girlfriend recently and she suggested Taylor Swift as a figure who’d been grilled for regressive, non-feminist behaviour. She took it as a chance to change and, while still not the bastion of feminist rhetoric, has come a long way. I think of Dan Harmon, who’d been lambasted as non-trans friendly after repeatedly using the wrong gender pronouns. He’d also admitted to a ton of shitty behaviour in regards to his wife. Being an avid listener of Harmontown, it’s emboldening to see how he’s taken it on the chin and put in the effort to improve himself. He’s been going to therapy and couple’s therapy. He still slips up every once in a while with certain social issues, but has steadily been improving in the way he navigates social issues.

I want heroes. I want to believe that the people who create the things I love can make me want to reach that high. I want to aspire to something and I’d love for someone to pave a path I’d eagerly follow. I want these expectations to not be too much to ask for.

That just sounded like I was ripping on scrotums. Full respect to scrotums, have you seen Pom Poko?

I feel like a robot. Not because I’m trapped down some deep emotional well, or because I just watched the Buffy episode about the cyber demon (not to be confused with Doom‘s cyber demon. Man, we’ve come far since the days of visible pixels. If only we’d kept going, this movie looks like a total waste of perfectly good zeroes and ones). I did some hamstring stuff at the gym the other day and as a result, I’m walking like a timberwolf. If only I got a sweet animated series to back me up. Seriously, those CGI scenes were all the rage back in 1994. I love that one of the central conceits of that show was that this invading alien race had an advantage in combat because they could see the world through jaggy CGI.

Ugh, I’ve gotta stop shitting on the quality of technology 21 years ago, elsewise suffer the wrath of future histories when they mock us for not achieving a world consciousness. “Oh those silly 21st centurions (these guys?), still plagued with petty of greed and waste.” Those future humans are probably guffawing at the concept of working out, causing yourself pain in order to increase athleticism and potential attractiveness, predicated on the notion that we want to breed and continue our lineage. I mean, physical bodies? What’s next, a printing press? Powering devices with finite resources? I don’t have a solution (that would require me to possess even one iota of scientific knowledge. Much as I love relentlessly mocking Insane Clown Posse I’d stumble through an explanation of how magnets work), but I can’t wait to hear one.

There’s a subreddit r/Futurology that posts a heap of fascinating technological advancements. Most of them are in pre pre pre development stages, but showcase reasons to look forward to whatever future could exist if we don’t kill ourselves first. Many of the options are simultaneously amazing and have slightly spooky connotations. I’m drooling at the thought of being able to eat everything in the shape of a dinosaur. Having perfectly assembled food would take the humanity out of cooking, but who doesn’t want to encourage the lazy robobutler world of 2nd act Wall-E? Okay, not the best example, but it’s not like having automation would mean we couldn’t do things on our own. People still record in analogue even though digital recording exists. Or maybe I’d be able to cut down on my pained hamstrung robot walks if I just used painkillers harnessed from the genetic superiority of distinct individuals. What a world! All of these things loom just out of reach of these inferior meaty limbs. CURSE MY FEEBLE SKIN SACK.