A pity party is still a party.

Happy birthday to moi. As is de rigueur, it’s been spent way up in a cloud of negativity. I haven’t felt special, I’ve felt shitty, insufficient. I’m at a place in my life that seems comparatively joyless. I don’t like my job and aside from fleeting distractions, my day to day adds up to a cumulative total of fine, I guess. I’m 31 now and feel like the only direction I’ve gone from 30 has been backwards. A year has passed and I have nothing to show for it. A couple more memories to file away, but it doesn’t feel like I had a year’s worth of experiences. I have nothing to complain about, but that doesn’t equal tons to celebrate. My grand plans for the day involve going to the gym, going home, eating dinner and in general wanting everything to go away.

I’d usually treat myself to something, but my patterns of celebration all revolve around consumption. I’d go out to a restaurant or drink myself blind, but keto has stripped the fun out of that. I’ve subtracted the enjoyment from basically my favourite thing to do, which likely forms no small element of my birthday blues. Still, going full humbug has been an anniversary tradition for as long as I’ve been making my own money.

For at least the past 10 years, birthdays have become a mire of self-examination. Another trip around the sun seems emblematic of how much I haven’t done. My lack of progress and general listlessness. It’s navel gazing at its most cruel. Creating unrealistic comparisons is always a fool’s errand, but like a fool I get sucked in every year. Of course I understand intellectually that my life isn’t a garbage fire, but that does little to lift my mood.

The smart thing to do, then, would be to have a paradigm shift. Instead of asking what have I done in the past year? I should be asking what would I like to do in the next year? Nothing as grand as where do I want to be? Something more along the lines of what would make me happy? What does happiness look like to me? What does “good enough” represent? The answers seem self-evident. Of course I want my work to fulfil me. I’d like to be more confident. Fitter, happier et al. The real question should be how do I decide where I want to be without resenting myself for not getting there?

Self-compassion is a skill that we’re not taught. Our society rarely makes a habit of celebrating mediocrity (outside of Rotten Tomatoes’ fruit based rating system) and successes are paraded around as inspiration porn. The side effect is that the yardstick we measure ourselves with goes way beyond our range. It’s unbalanced and the expectations we hold don’t match up to workable metrics. We’re told we can be film stars, entrepreneurs, artists, millionaires. The 99th percentile is achievable if only we try hard enough, right? Sure, for 1% of us. Most people aren’t them.

Look, I’ll be fine tomorrow, when expectations are back to their low bar. Something about the day always makes me feel like there’s pressure to be extraordinary and the surplus of ordinary really twists the knife. It’s a birthday, they come around every year. By the time I sleep I won’t have to worry about it for another sun cycle.

If that ain’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

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Am I too contrite to make an Aziz An-sorry pun? Looks like I’m just trite.

I want to talk about the Aziz allegations, because I think it’s worth putting thoughts out there. I’d like to emphasise that I’m not aiming to grandstand, to throw out some pointed think piece to put people in their place. My experiences aren’t relevant enough for that, there are better voices to listen to. Still, some conversation (is that what it’s called when I put words out into an echo chamber?) is better than none.

With all the allegations flying around right now, I’m sure everyone has a list. Some desert island top five of celebrities who you’re only wanting to hear squeaky clean things from. That may not even be the best way of putting it, ’cause frankly we all want to continue to believe that our faves are beyond issue. However, this ever-relevant piece by Ijeoma Oluo stands true. Anyway, I’ve got a bunch of dudes that I really, really don’t want to hear shit about. Aziz was on my list, as I’m sure he was for most. He’s made some great television, written a well-received book on dating, had compelling stand up bits and half-staked his career on the notion that he’s one of the good guys. It’s to the credit of his work that a bunch of people likely responded to his allegations with oh, is that it?

Pieces like this from the New York Times: Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader. Seeking to find fault in the victim’s behaviour, her lack of verbal rejection or conviction in getting the fuck out of an uncomfortable situation. Making it her problem that she wasn’t more direct in avoiding an unpleasant interaction. I get it. I want to keep on enjoying his material guilt free. The most prevalent reaction I’ve seen online has been that’s not assault. It’s just bad sex. I get it. I understand this reaction 100%. Why? Because I’ve been Aziz before.

I can recall a number of times in my early sexual experiences where I entirely ignored clues of disinterest. Whether this was out of ignorance or wilful desire, there’s no question that I was placing my wants over the comfort of others. Taking a soft “no” as a “not right now”. Slipping my hand between a partner’s legs and being rebuffed, only to try again ten minutes later. Pushing for sex when I got the sense she wasn’t interested, but I was. I don’t think I ever pressured a partner enough that she relented and gave in to get it over with. I did, however, fail to create a sexual environment where enthusiastic consent was imperative. I’m certain that I’m not the only guy who could admit as much. In fact, I’m quite sure that similar stories are likely more of the norm than we’d care to admit. I’m sure many guys wouldn’t even see fault with my behaviour. That’s why there’s fault in how Aziz acted. That’s why the culture of sexual consent in our society needs a major restructuring.

My initial response to the Aziz allegations was resigned frustration. As I said above, I’ve been there before. I’d hoped that someone like Aziz would be better than that, which clearly was hoping for too much. I was embarrassed that Aziz, who was 33 at the time, was behaving like a 21 year old. I was embarrassed that this behaviour in my mind was classified as that of a typical 21 year old. Unlike most of the allegations that’ve come out, this one has resonated with me the most. Why? Because these aren’t the shocking actions of a serial abuser like Harvey Weinstein. According to many of the female voices I’ve heard, they’re pretty run of the mill. That’s why it’s important men listen to what’s being said and swim in how it makes them feel.

If they’re not embarrassed or frustrated, maybe they should look at why that is. This movement marks a departure from what we all considered normal and a necessity to explore past experiences for egregious activity. We need to look at what we’ve done in order to learn how to be better. It’s important to sit with guilt, to use it to recalibrate both expectations and behaviour. The system is broken and fixing it is gonna take wilful intention and education.

Do I think Aziz is a monster who deserves to be stripped of his career? Honestly, despite what I’ve said today, I don’t. I think his story deserves to be out there as a cultural learning moment. I think he needs to have a long look at his past experiences and create meaningful change from here on out. I think if his heart is really where he’s made it out to be, that he should use his platform to admit fault and be a role model for the great many men who think he did nothing wrong.

As for me, I’ve spent years trying to unlearn what I took for granted. I’m not done yet. The movement may be called Time’s Up, but for a bunch of us it’s just begun.

More like High Confide-lity.

It’d hardly be an exaggeration to say that “nostalgia” was one of my six senses. It’s likely on a higher rung than smell. My nose is a fickle friend, but my brain is so laden with memories that touching, seeing, hearing or tasting something is enough to make me tumble back in time. My friend recently started a dating podcast. It’s in its infancy, but both episodes released so far are fantastic. Of course they are, she’s a real life matchmaker. In the most recent episode, she has a conversation with her husband. It’s great. He’s a wonderful dude and he so eloquently and systematically lays out perceptive analysis of himself and his dating experiences. At the same time, so much of what he said resonated intimately with my own experiences. It was like being 20 again, but with the filter only meaningful life experiences can provide.

I was a different person back in my 20s. Naturally some core attributes were still the same. I’ve always loved words and puns, been obsessed with pop-culture. I’ve been fiercely passionate about the things I’ve cared for since I knew how to form an opinion. At the same time, ten years ago I was still very much learning who I was. Hatching from the shelter of an educational system and crawling out into the adult world meant some harsh lessons were incoming. I had to grow and change in order to truly be my own person.

Yeah? I’m sure you’re asking doesn’t everyone? Sure they do. My particular struggles focused around one thing: Confidence. In some areas I strutted by comfortably. I knew I was smart, capable and likeable. Dating though? I had all the experience and wisdom of a child. Years of being overweight had crippled my self-confidence. I questioned why anyone would find me interesting or attractive. I’d say that I crashed and burned, but frankly it was so rare for me to put myself out there that I rarely had the chance. I’d get these deep and debilitating crushes where one conversation was enough to make me obsessively swoon. I’d waste an alarming amount of emotional energy fretting about how to navigate my interest, how unlikely it was that there was reciprocal attraction, etc.

Po, my friend in the podcast episode I linked above, addresses this well. He mentions how outward approval can become your sole motivation in dating. This hit hard. I used to care so much about how the other person thought about me that I’d disregard how I felt about myself. Clearly I didn’t matter, only they did. If I wasn’t the kind of person they wanted, I needed to be. I’d have to change myself to be commensurate with their desires. Po also talks about pedestal-ing, or infatuation causing you to build up the subject of attraction to a level of idolatry. This would happen to me constantly. I’d see myself as some kind of lower life form, which ironically is the least attractive thing a person could do. My response to my own feelings were directly pushing away the people I wanted to get closer to.

Worse, this had a negative impact in any relationships that followed. By seeing the object of my affection as more important than myself, I developed the habit of forcing myself to mould around their desires. While it was great to invest in someone else and care about them, the unfortunate side effect was disregarding my own needs. I’m sure you can see how this would effect long term relationships, right? Of course they all imploded. Unhappiness does that. I’d become gradually more wound up and embittered and that would seep into my view of the relationship. By exclusively catering to them, I also divested them of the opportunity to give back. People who love each other enjoy being able to help their partners and I was stripping them of that recourse.

I’m on the precipice of my 30th year, and certain things are becoming abundantly clear. Time is a gift. I’ve learned that piece by piece with each passing solar cycle. Each rotation only drives the point home. Perspective is everything. It not only helps us understand why the past occurred the way it did, but how better to shape our future. Dwelling with dread doesn’t serve us one iota, but reflection can help us better see the best path forward.

Or am I blatantly trying to justify watching High Fidelity for the 80th time?

Guess I forgot to say the magic word.

Magic the Gathering post. As the usual disclaimer goes, if you don’t play or care about the game, perhaps this entry isn’t for you. Try again later.

It’s been a busy weekend and I’ve been more social than I had in a while. It’s also the Rivals of Ixalan pre-release weekend. I was gutted to miss the Ixalan one, considering this is basically a set tailor made for me. A Mesoamerican themed deck filled to the gills with merfolk, pirates, vampires and dinosaurs. It’s silly EDH fodder, which is precisely my style. I didn’t play much Ixalan limited. In fact, I don’t really play much limited at all. Usually I do alright at pre-releases. Probably around 2-2 or 3-1. Spoilers, I didn’t do well today. In fact I did about as poorly as I could. I went 0-3 then got a bye in my last round, adding insult to injury. I didn’t even get to play one more match and see if my deck was as non-junky as I’d assumed.

Why was I so surprised to punt so hard? Because I’m usually a decent player and my pool seemed quite solid. I had a ton of removal in an aggressive red/black shell. There was a pirate sub-theme, I had a low curve and sitting at the top was Angrath, who I hoped would swing a couple of games my way. Other colours had strong cards (there was a Trapjaw Tyrant, but my white didn’t have enough depth), but nothing that deserved to make it into the deck. Without fixing, there was no real way to effectively splash either. So I was staunchly in red/black. Anyway, let’s get to the deck so you can see what I was working with:

Creatures (15)
1x Skittering Heartstopper
2x Dusk Legion Zealot
1x Fathom Fleet Firebrand
1x Dire Fleet Hoarder
1x Raptor Hatchling
1x Nest Robber
2x Fathom Fleet Boarder
1x Deadeye Tormentor
1x Frilled Deathspitter
1x Thrash of Raptors
1x Brazen Freebooter
2x Dire Fleet Neckbreaker

Noncreature (9)
1x Reckless Rage
1x Mutiny
1x Buccaneer’s Bravado
2x See Red
2x Bombard
1x Impale
1x Angrath, the Flame-Chained

Lands (16)
8x Mountain
8x Swamp

As you can see, my curve was decent. I had a bunch of two drops, a couple of three drops, some decent four drops and Angrath at my top end. My removal was high quality, which should’ve been able to clear the way for my creatures to kill ’em dead. The Dire Fleet Neckbreakers (couldn’t stop reading them as Neckbeards) put in work, making my pirates monstrous. I had eight pirates overall and didn’t spend a ton of time blocking. Having a Fathom Fleet Firebrand attacking for four or more was pretty harsh. The Neckbreakers often meant my three and four drops were hitting for five, which is a big chunk of life. I’m often wary of auras, but See Red put in work. With Skittering Heartstopper or the Firebrand, it started putting a clock on the opponent. It had the potential to turn Dusk Legion Zealots from dumb utility dorks to actual menaces. Buccaneer’s Bravado was an all-star. It either made sure my creatures emerged from combat victorious, or hit for unfathomable damage off the back of the Neckbreaker. When I got Angrath out, it presented itself as an immediate threat that my opponent needed to deal with.

So that all sounds good, right? How did I shit the bed? Because I didn’t just lose a couple of games, but every match I played. Firstly, I wasn’t playing my best. In the first game I kept a hand I should’ve tossed. It was a two land trap that had Fire Fleet Firebrand and See Red. I’d hoped to ride that out and draw a swamp, but I should’ve known better than to have trusted the heart of the cards. I made some questionable plays early on and felt fuzzy brained all day. I don’t know why, but I was having trouble focusing. My brain was wandering non-stop. I was a little shaky and it didn’t help in plans to win. Also mana. Mana destroyed me the whole day. That was the one game that I got mana screwed and aside from two games, I flooded on the rest. It was land after land after land. Starting with a four land hand and drawing six lands in a row seemed to be my deck’s innate line of play. That shouldn’t be happening in a 16 land deck, right? Statistics weren’t on my side.

All that considered, the day wasn’t a bummer. All of my opponents were friendly and chatty. Nobody took it too seriously. I got most of the cards I’d been seeking for my Marath EDH deck. I took my losses without getting frustrated. Sometimes that’s just how the cards fall. You know what? It can be nice to finish the day early and head off home.

I mean, not as nice as winning, mind you…

When you think of it, swap meets couldn’t be more accurately named.

It’s late and I have to be up tomorrow to play Magic. Let’s go for some straight up stream of consciousness stuff.

I just came back from a clothing swap. Since the first time I heard about them, I’ve thought they were the best idea. Our culture is so wasteful. We buy endless things we don’t need and they end up lingering for no good reason. I say this peeping at the broken dehumidifier in the hallway. It has no power cord, it can’t be used. Yet it’s been sticking around for maybe half a year just taking up space? Pointless. Clothing swaps, however, are such a clever way of repurposing previously loved goods in solid condition. It’s like having a thrift store in your friend’s lounge. Each one I’ve been to has had piles of clothes, music and snacks. People goof around and try stuff on. You usually come away with some swell pieces while clearing out the shit you never wear. Win win. This time I had a heap of things I bought for costumes, or sweaters I thought looked rad in the store, but after wearing them once or twice saw nothing but faults. Usually it’s a jarring cut or just not hanging right on my frame. Whatever it was, I’m glad to have rid myself of seeing them sadly draped over hangers, ever hopeful to be worn. There weren’t many other guys at this swap, but I walked away with some fur lined faux leather vest. Seems like righteous festival wear.

One thing I noticed clearing out my closet was how each piece had a story to it. I don’t have an expansive wardrobe, and what’s there has always been intentionally chosen. I’ve needed certain items for a specific purpose. Because of this, I found that for most everything I pulled out, I remembered where or why I got it. The gaudy Hawaiian shirt was for an Ace Ventura costume (the hair was the hardest part). A red sweater came into my life during the JFL42 comedy festival. I’d bought it to save myself from freezing, then realised it really didn’t suit me. There was the blue and white striped shirt my flatmate had given me. She’d ordered a couple (?) for a sailor costume and had one spare. I figured it’d perhaps come in handy for a costume some day. It didn’t, but some guy at the swap grabbed it and the fit was perfect. Guess it was destined for him. I realised that as I was rifling through shirts, jackets and sweaters that I was flicking back through years of memories.

It’s not the first time I’ve thought this, but it’s crazy to look around your home and think of the stories items hold. Stuff doesn’t just accumulate. There’s a how and why to each piece, even if that story was merely “I wanted it, so I got it.” Why did you want it? How did you get? Where did you get it from? Did you have any unusual encounters there. Was it for a party or costume? Did you inherit furniture? Who did that come from? Does it have any stories from its past life? How old are the things around us and what path did they take to get into our grasp?

Is that also why it’s hard to let go sometimes?

It had a Julia Roberts grin and everything.

I know I often joke that all I do here is talk about poop, but today I want to do just that. I mean, wanting to talk about dropping bum bombs is never far from my mind, but occasionally I write something about pop-culture or what I’m eating. Recent entries have focused on the ins and outs of keto. This one’s all about the outs, because today I dropped a game changer. Enough preamble, let’s get into this.

I’m mildly obsessed with what comes out my poop chute. Since childhood I’ve never ceased to find the hilarity in shitting. My first level up came when I discovered how to really poop. The raised ankles technique. Talk about a game changer. Where I’d previously strained and struggled to cleanse my intestines, I found a smooth sortie at my disposal (pun intended, obviously). I had my first metaphorical taste of slick bowel action and I wanted more. I looked into foods with high fibre content and folded them into my diet. Cabbage was a godsend. I oddly discovered it when a bunch of us went out for Korean. As an entree they put down a plate of chopped raw cabbage and QP mayonnaise. I loved it. I started steaming, roasting and sometimes downing it raw. I adapted chia seeds into my porridge. I started drinking coffee. The pieces came together and the faeces flowed easily. Bliss.

Keto has constricted my stream like a noose around my anus. It’s been hard to reckon with the loss of what had once been a point of pride. It’s not my first time mentioning this, so you know I mean it. This was one of the primary tools in my arse-nal. I’ve been recently reaching for something that just isn’t there. Sitting in my misery, waxing nostalgic for those days of long soft-serve strands. Better, more innocent times.

Today I had a breakthrough. Maybe the psyllium husk is kicking in. Or perhaps I drank the right quantity (read: lots) of coffee. In any case I felt a familiar burbling in my bowels and got excited. For some reason the lyrics “I’m gonna do a poo” popped into my head, to the tune of “We’re Going to the Zoo”. I, a nearly 31 year old man, giggled to myself. I was eager to unload. I sat down, raised my heels and grabbed my ankles. I didn’t strain, it all came naturally. I looked down and saw it. In the bowl there was a cute little mild curve, like the mouth of a smiley emoticon. I had a revelation. I felt the next package making its way down. I let a little come through, then pinched off a small nugget. It landed perpendicular to the smile, directly above it. Was I doing this? I tilted my buttocks to the right and moved an inch back in my seat. I pinched off another dot. It landed just to the top left of the first one. I took a breath, shifted my buttocks to the left and pinched out the last dot. I waited a second, heart racing, then looked down at what I’d done. Had I accomplished my grand design? My Mona Lisa Smile?

🙂

They’re pretending to be something they’re not. Doesn’t that make Autobots as deceptive as Decepticons?

Do you know what’s cute? Looking back at stories you wrote as a child. That’s cute. I’ll always remember one of my most salient pieces of kid fiction: “Optimus Prime met Megatron. The Decepticons shot the Autobots with their lasers. The Autobots died.” There’s a clear arc. The stage is set, characters established. We see the characters take action and overcome adversity. Then there’s a satisfying conclusion. I couldn’t write better these days if I tried. Do you know what’s not cute? Looking back at any writing after the age of ten.

Teenage stuff? Oh geez it’s dreadful. I remember, as an adult, finding my diary from age 15. It was firmly couched in the exact time and age to be classified as “emo”. Lots of “I like all the girls, but they don’t like me. Something something System of a Down. Why do adults treat teenagers like kids? We’re way more mature than they give us credit for. Man, getting drunk is so cool.” That wasn’t verbatim, but not far off. Of course there’s no value in criticising our past selves, but fuck it’s fun to rip them new orifices. It’s so easy to shred the versions of us who bled hormones, who felt like adults undergoing constant body dysmorphia. When we could understand more of the world around us, without realising how much wider the world was than our viewpoint captured. There’s a question I oft see floated “would you restart your life with the knowledge and experience you have now?” Each time it’s those teenage years that give me pause. Could all the intelligence in the world counteract the ever-present fear of cumming in your pants at any moment?

A different experience is reading your writing from later. As a 25 year old, you’re technically considered an adult. I’m barely considering myself an adult going on 31. I still don’t consider whoever I was at 25 the kind of bloke who would’ve paid taxes (I mean, I did. No need to come at me, IRD). At 25 I flew to the U.S. with a bunch of mates, rented an RV and drove across The States. Today I stumbled across our old travel blog and read it again. It was about what you’d expect. Some parts were bafflingly hard to digest, either in message or perspective. Certain references are too insular, based around group dynamics or New Zealand memes. Others have fallen by the pop-cultural wayside. A 2012 Twilight reference seems a lot less inspired in 2018. Some viewpoints still needed a few years to slow cook before becoming fit for human consumption. In a few parts it was just poorly written or made scant sense. It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed.

At other moments I was surprised to find passages that read well. Vocabulary I’ve since forgotten or cycled out. There was a creativity and excitement about the world I found refreshing. Occasional lucid moments that still resonate. Most pieces were basically journal entries (what’s changed?), but I found workarounds to lighten them up. One of them I did time based mental snapshots, using certain moments to create a larger picture of the day. Our New Orleans adventure was structured as a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. It was silly and gratuitous, but remains a neat read.

I can’t deny that any of it happened, it’s all there for the decades to lay bare. On the other hand, why would I care? None of us would be who we are without the steps we took. If they didn’t leave an imprint, what would be the point?