Getting more fierce. Work it Leon!

It’s a good thing I haven’t locked the door and closed myself off from opportunities just yet, because a bunch of them have decided to knock, Love Shack style. Nothing lucrative just yet, but things with potential to lead me further down the road I want to walk. I’ve often said in these pages that settling myself has taken far longer than I’d imagined. I’ve bristled at the idea of working without pay in order to get where I need to, but the fact is that my lack of contacts or proven Canadian experience count against me in most cases. Because of this, I’ve done a variety of seemingly random jobs to keep that rent check coming.

There have been the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health research subject roles (all as a healthy, baseline participant). I’ve been introduced to Transcranial Magnetic Simulation, EEG caps and a variety of interesting medical testing devices. I’ve spent hours on end staring straight ahead, concentrating on not concentrating on anything, or counting hundreds of numbers while my brainwaves are measured. It’s actually been pretty fun. I’ve done market research surveys and audience measurement testing, taking advantage of marketing firms’ deep pockets and my spare time. I’m now gonna be an electoral attendant on polling day, helping to ensure that electors can exercise their right to kind of almost affect what happens in this vibrant city. It’s gonna be a long day, but an easy job and well paying too. How could I resist my civic duties with that on the line?

A project that’s been stalled for quite some time is my desire to get into voiceover work. A family friend is an agent that’ll be happy to put out my demo reel once I’ve got one composed. That was supposed to be done months ago. I had some intro work going at one of the student radio stations, which fizzled out and I couldn’t get a hold of my voicing samples. There was another radio project that never panned out. It still might, but I’m not holding out hope. If it does, I’m calling that one a bonus. There’s another voiceover service that I’m submitting a demo to. Hopefully I can bank on the boon of my rare (outside New Zealand and British Columbia) accent. The service has a few Aussies, but I could be quite the commodity if the market demands it. Let’s hope it comes calling. Even if I don’t get much work, even if the pay isn’t exceptional, I could use the end product as material for this inevitable skite tape.

Another card in my stacked house is a food based writing position. It’s unpaid as far as monetary gain, but I’ll reap free restaurant meals and a chance to put out some actual professional writing. Much as I’ve put a ton of words out at this point, very few of them function as examples of focused, marketable pieces. If I’m into the idea of doing something productive with my work here, I should really find ways to make evidence of my skills accessible for potential employers. It doesn’t hurt that one of my first assignments involves a free double pass for The Girlfriend and I to a weekend music festival featuring Interpol and Broken Social Scene. Did I mention the allowance to cover the edible fare on display (actually the prime reason we’re being sent)? Why would I need to get paid for something I’d willingly spend all of my money doing? How could a job get better than this? Isn’t this why I gravitated towards media work in the first place?

So things are bubbling away in the pot, still waiting for that al dente touch. When they’re ready I can put together something delectable, but until then it’s best if I take it slow. No point in rushing before things are at their prime. As I was taught, in any position you should make yourself indispensable. Become the go-to person in any department you’re a part of. If you keep it up, people will have no choice but to notice and commend you. If I keep my head down and concentrate on the quality of my output, who knows how far I’ll travel? So I’m best to keep my nose to the grindstone and door wide open.

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Submit any solutions to all of humanity, everywhere in the world. Thanks.

Finally watched the Elliot Rodger video and one of the most pressing things I took away from it wasn’t just the rampant misogyny, but the insincerity of the whole thing. It seemed so dispassionate, poorly acted but acted nonetheless. There wasn’t the burning intensity we’ve become accustomed to from people who engage in these mass killings. The words may have read like a fiery mandate, but he seemed laconic, almost sedated in his delivery. It felt like he’d cobbled together what he thought a mass murdering manifesto should sound like, recorded it a couple of times and submitted the best take.

What I’m wondering about is the same effect we saw from the recent Dark Knight Rises shootings. These people seem to be obsessed with leaving a legacy, carving a name out for themselves and going viral. I’m sure Elliot Rodger was well aware of the effects his actions would have. Was it his intention to finally get the recognition he sought from all these people that he felt marginalised him constantly? Did it seem to him that the easiest route to getting noticed, to getting his “message” out there was to perform an action so hateful and violent that people couldn’t help but take notice?

It seems like he craved martyrdom. Oddly enough that was the impression that hit me the hardest. To what extent is the current structure to blame? The fact that the people committing these obscene acts get so much screen time, so much exposure. How does that dissuade other would be killers to not rise up and seek the same?

I don’t even have a solution here. I’m definitely not saying “don’t talk about it”. This was a tragedy, like all tragedies, that didn’t need to happen. I know that nothing can “make it better”, but I hope that some good can come out of our reactions to it. I can’t believe the wealth of invaluable discussion this has created and it’s my fervent wish that this discourse actually persuades and educates (to any extent, no matter how small) anyone who previously harboured misogynist thoughts; felt ownership over women in any way, placed their sexual desires over the feelings of another, felt any kind of superiority over another on the basis of gender or social status. Please let’s all keep spreading that message and help others to see how their actions could be problematic or hurtful to others.

If anyone has an idea of how we could stop these people for feeling like they’ve left a worthwhile message behind, like they’ve shone brighter than anyone else, then I’d love to hear it. Anything we can think of to prevent this kind of thing happening again. Humanity should be better than this and it’s our duty as part of it to try and move forward together.

Creed is fun to sing when you treat your voice like a whammy bar.

Isn’t it funny sometimes how long it takes you to “get” something? For that “eureka” moment to really hit? I couldn’t count the number of times that bolt of recognition has struck me like a fist from the heavens. Earlier I was getting into a rousing round of “Creedvoice” (basically when you perform any song in the style of Scott Stapp (that guy from Creed). Usually some form of modern rock à la Theory of a Deadman, Nickelback, StainD, etc) and found myself Creeding along to With Arms Wide Open (actually a Creed song. Empirically proven to be the most fun to Creedvoice). I stumbled over the lines “If I had just one wish/only one demand/I hope he’s not like me/I hope he understands” and instantly realised oh duh, he’s talking about God. I’ve sarcastically Creedily Creeded along to that song for years and never had that understanding, then suddenly out of nowhere, boom! Mass up my ass. Immoral soul up my hole. How could I go so long without picking up on the inherent meaning? It was a weird feeling, especially for something that I’m not strongly attached to.

Full disclosure, I just read the full lyrics and there’s zero doubt he’s talking about his son. I done fucked up, son. It sounds like he’s talking to God though, so I’m not entirely off.

It’s not the first time that something’s sunken in far later than I would’ve hoped. There was this moment stocktaking wigs at my party store part time job. I had to count the number of Beatles wigs. I read it and thought to myself wait, shouldn’t it be spelt “Beetles” like the band? Oh shit, the band is spelt “Beatles”. Beat-les. Like musical beats. Because they’re a musical band. You could hear the pennies I was getting paid drop one by one (that’s dumb, I was paid pretty decently, to be honest. Good part time job). I don’t feel so bad, some people I talk to still don’t get the whole Beatles naming convention. I may well have enlightened someone new simply by writing this. Who’s to say I don’t perform a public service?

How many things are floating out there just waiting for me to understand? Those plastic Kanye West glasses? Hipsters listening to cassettes in the modern day? People who wear hats or make-up inside the gym? Will it all hit me one day and I’ll start working out on the treadmill wearing Kanye West glasses, foundation and a hat, while grooving along to a groovy mix CD involving Deee-Lite‘s Groove Is In The Heart, and Spiller‘s Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)? Because if I understand those things then maybe I’ll be able to understand anything.

What? A wonderful world?

I’m having one of those days where it’s hard not to feel defeated by the world. Not because of any of my own personal tragedies, but in the way the world conducts itself at a wider scale. I find it hard to understand how certain views can still permeate the societal consciousness. Racism, homophobia, gender hate. It’s easy for me to sit here from my privileged, conflict-free ivory tower and espouse a kind of “why can’t people just not hate each other?” mentality, but I’m not everyone and everyone isn’t me. Geez that sounded at least ten times more elitist than I intended it to. There’s a lot of hate out there in ways I thought/hoped we’d have moved past. It’s hard for me to fathom a lot of the rhetoric that floats about due to my own contradictory learned culture. I have a hard time empathising with views of supposed superiority based hatred. So you’re a man? Tell me again how that makes you superior to a woman, because it doesn’t make sense to me. People get so hung up on differences as a way to spurn others rather than learn from them.

I feel like the basic response these days seems to be to ban things rather than understand how they have the potential to be hurtful. I’ve seen the way that children react to things while in the gym. If something scares them, they’ll run away or avoid it as much as they can. There’s a simple move called Skin the Cat (which sounds more malicious than the move itself) whereby kids grab a bar, put their toes to it and flip around backwards. It even sounds more difficult than it is. If kids are afraid they’ll do anything in their arsenal to get away. I’ve had kids who run out of the gym and refuse to come back in. Others just start bawling, yelling, etc. I try to reason with them, demonstrate that I’m strong enough to lift them over my head easily, nothing bad is gonna happen. They’re on top of soft mats, the worst that can happen is their feet hitting the soft mat. Still, if they’re ruled by fear they’re not in any place to respond to logic.

Logic obviously has no place in an impassioned, emotional response to a societal group. If someone is deeply racist or homophobic, there has to be some element of fear nestled in their very core that’s stoking such a vehement backlash. I’m thinking right now, as I’m sure most of us are, of the tragic Isla Vista shooting. Misogyny, pure and simple. Everything about this attack resonated from a harshly misogynistic viewpoint. Elliot Rodger hated women. I haven’t read the manifesto yet (I’m saving myself for a time at which it won’t fill me with an abiding misanthropy, flooding all other senses), but from every summation that I’ve seen/heard it’s obvious that whatever mental state Elliot was in it resonated from a combination of extreme loneliness and objectification. As far as this kid was concerned, women weren’t people. His views upheld a worrying belief that he was somehow entitled to sex, that it was his right as a man. As I said above, logic has no place in such an emotional space, yet these groups always try to apply it. Elliot was a virgin who operated under a misrepresentation of how the world works. Whatever it was that informed his cultural views told him that in order for women to have sex with you, certain boxes needed to be checked off. Looks, money and a fast car. Done and done. If he had these things and women weren’t throwing themselves at him, something was wrong with females not playing by the rules.

Gender relations are always gonna be a minefield when you’re growing up unsure of the world around you. Feelings and urges, while some of the most fulfilling things in our lives, often have the potential to lead us astray. I know in my teenage years that at some point I believed in the regressive concept of friend-zoning”. I read Neil Strauss’ The Game and the concept of finding a checklist of ways to make myself appealing to women thrilled me. I’m not proud of these things. As much as I try to be an ally, as supportive as I seek to be I know that my head isn’t always where it needs to be. It’s a process to strive, at some level, to make this world an easier place to get along in. It took me years to work on myself in order to become a person who people would seek to be around. I had lonely years where I pined for companionship. I “get” the frustration that Elliot Rodger would have felt, but I can’t possibly understand how disconnected someone would have to be to translate that into such heartless, violent action. Surely people can have the basic observation skills to see that if something is wrong with everyone else, maybe it’s you who’s the problem. If women didn’t want to get to know Elliot Rodger it was likely because of the toxic aura that must’ve enveloped him like an odious stench.

Wishful thinking makes me yearn for a way to let these people see the pain they cause. If people understood the chain reaction of hatred that causes so much conflict, maybe they’d see that their actions are only gonna reflect back on themselves. I know that change is slow, that victories such as civil rights and marriage equality are still stepping stones on the way to true acceptance. The weight of this understanding is always hard and some days it’s harder than others. I guess it’s times like these that it’s best to reflect not on the defeat you feel, but hope for the future. We can’t keep making the same mistakes, otherwise whatever future we forge isn’t gonna be worth living .

Ready for my Wicked Witch of the West impression?

It is sweltering and I’m melting. Almost in revolt against the long, hard, Westerosian winter, spring has hit back with a mailed fist. A high of 29 degrees Celsius puts today up with some of the warmer days that my home city of Auckland, New Zealand dares to offer. With a typically mild temperature, Auckland seems to running an average of about 16 degrees going into winter. Don’t know what you’ve got, eh Joni? So instead of getting out and about, the heat has drained my battery, leaving me to recharge from the confines of my air conditioned abode. Much as I wanted to go forth and watch a public screening of Deadly Prey (a homoerotic 80s action film that the trailer calls “so violent it could not be rated”), I couldn’t bear to drag myself out of the house.

I don’t know what my coping strategy is for summer. A paddling pool filled with jelly (As in the gelatinous dessert, not the sweet preserve. Crazy North American cultural slang (as if I’m not the weird one here))? Floor to ceiling scaffolding rigged with fans/rain heads (staging my own personal interpretation of King Lear)? Popsicle suppositories? I think it really just comes down to adapt or perish. I remember curling into the foetal position once it hit zero degrees. A few months later I was walking around in short sleeves once it hit the tropical highs of 3 degrees above. Us humans are pretty good at acclimatising to whatever is thrown in our way. Between our capability for creativity, logical reasoning and ability to use tools, we can overcome almost any adversity. Keep in mind that our species created Sweet Chilli Philly. We’re basically an unstoppable juggernaut of creation. You watch your crabby back, Cancer.

In all likelihood I’ll just adopt enough prevention measures that I might be able to find an equilibrium. Between the hat, sunglasses, shorts and jandals regardless of the circumstances (no half measures), coupled with my accent, people will assume I’m a tourist. Let’s just hope I don’t have to attend any fancy events. A black bow tie doesn’t look so grand sharing an ensemble with foot wear that, coupled with a pair of socks, makes your feet look like a Ninja Turtle’s. Who am I? Leonardo or something? Whichever of the four turtles I resemble (and doesn’t that sound just like an impending Cosmopolitan quiz? What does your bandana colour say about your sex life? Sorry Cosmo, that’s already a thing), I’m gonna have a bummer of a summer if I spend most of it withdrawing into my shell.

I swear my yearbook voted me “least likely to resemble Hunter S. Thompson.”

This is the second time I’ve attempted to write tonight. My first pass was a misguided experiment with Google’s Talk to Text algorithm. Wow, was that woeful. I was all set to go, I had a disclaimer all typed up. I’d let everyone know that there were some limitations, the function didn’t know much in the way of punctuation, I talked quickly, which could complicate certain translations to my New Zealand accent. Even with the English (New Zealand) option, I’m not sure that the archetypal New Zealander talks as quickly or uses quite so many colloquialisms as I do. My Girlfriend was also trying to get to sleep in the next room of her open plan apartment, so she’d basically be unintentionally eavesdropping on everything I said. The whole thing was an embarrassing recipe for self-conscious behaviour. I tried a few sentences and flipped my shit in record time. If I couldn’t handle it for 30 seconds, I don’t think I’d last for as many minutes. Just because it was an interesting idea, didn’t make it a good one.

That doesn’t mean I intend to stop trying new takes on an old game though. How many amazing things has humanity discovered by potentially making mistakes? How many accidental babies grew up prodigious or gifted when they hadn’t been wanted in the first place? If we cease leaving things to chance, how are we ever gonna push ourselves and get to where we need to be? Sometimes these things pan out and sometimes they really don’t. If I were to just give it all up to the classic way of writing I’d be  limiting my potential to discover a whole new world (that’s where we’ll be) of possibility. I obviously don’t think that writing with Text to Speech is gonna be the next Gonzo Journalism (and I’m certainly no Hunter S. Thompson), but maybe I could’ve found an interesting new niche that showed me the way to a refreshing way of putting thought to page. Of course there are times where it doesn’t pan out.

I feel like the movie we just saw, The Battery, fits that description. I don’t necessarily think it was a mediocre movie, but that it attempted a few things that would’ve seemed unconventional at the time. It was a zombie flick based around how the survivors dealt with inhumanity of this new world they’d grown accustomed to. Zombies existed, but the theme of isolation rather than fear rose to the forefront. The movie meandered a fair bit. To be fair, I get what it was trying to go for. I found that the central characters weren’t particularly nuanced and developed. They seemed like intentionally contrary characters who had as much trouble dealing with each other as the state of the world around them. The cinematography was stunning (and the rollicking soundtrack stood right out), but even so it felt a little slow and contrived. Strange, considering it came so highly recommended from a reputable source. Still, at least I tried it. Even though it didn’t pan out it moved in a direction that could be rife for further film making territory.

No matter how familiar we are with our surroundings, we’ve gotta keep exploring otherwise we’ll never discover anything new.

Connected maybe, but not so switched on.

New phone! New phone! My gracious girlfriend was generous enough to gift me her spare (presumed dead) phone to use. Of course the rumours of its death were horsecock and it’s risen like a freshly baked loaf. I feel like I’ve never really known what it was to have a functional phone. My beloved Galaxy S2 was a terrific device, but severely hindered by the $10 text, wifi only plan I had it on. The previous phone I’d been borrowing allowed me to utilise WIND Mobile’s unlimited data plan, but the phone itself suffered from low RAM and generally limited hardware. I’m stoked I got free use of it for so long, but it’s nice to upgrade to something slightly more modern. The new model, unlike the last one, can actually access 4G connections and has enough battery life that I can throw a number of functions that’d make Felix the Cat‘s bag blush out of jealousy. Simple things like upping my screen brightness to a visible level or being able to have GPS on permanently to get the best functionality out of apps is now a reality. My privacy can now be further quashed by Facebook’s location settings. Almost as great, I can now use Google Maps as it was intended. If I’m not sure where I am, I don’t need to hunt myself down with a host of finger pinches and scrolling. I can let the computer do the work for me. If I want to access the net, it happens within 5-10 seconds. My SMS program opens almost instantly. Snapchat doesn’t take a minute to open (the point being moot. I think I’m over snapchat already). The future is now.

In prepping my new phone, it’s interesting to see what gets left by the wayside. Each time I update to a new handset I seem to shave away a number of non-essential apps (which will no doubt be compensated for with new ones that utilise the capabilities of the new phone). It takes a week or so of re-tooling, re-jigging and Gettin’ Jiggy wit It to make the phone truly operational. Contacts and app settings need to be backed up. I’ve got pages of old texts I like to hoard for posterity. While progressing on one hand,  there’s still so much I have trouble letting go of. These digital artifacts are like data souvenirs from my bit based life. It’s the cellular equivalent of moving house. Even as we speak I’ve turned away from my keyboard a number of times to check on transfers and processes from one phone to another.

It’s scary how much of ourselves we place into these devices now. My phone is stocked with little notes I’ve written, errant pieces of writing or bits I’m working on. There are photos from my last few years just floating around the hard drives of these pocket computers. For so many of us, our phones are a portal through which we present ourselves to the world. If it weren’t for my phone, friends and family back home wouldn’t know half of what went on in my life. I feel like every day I mindlessly or willingly cede my own rights away to large corporations and their lucrative data mining. By buying into the functionality and practicality of letting a device organise my life, I’m voluntarily turning myself into neat little market research statistics for these guys. They know where I’ve been, what I write about to my acquaintances, my likes and dislikes. While these products certainly make life easier, there’s definitely a cost to the exchange. It feels like I’m taking these low hanging baubles on short term credit, with the larger price to be charged later. The phones I’ve borrowed may have been free, but what payment am I really owing?

I’m sure Google Play has something I can use to figure it out.