Getting unstuck in time around here.

It wouldn’t be an international trip if I could sleep the night before. Whether tradition, happenstance or annoying habit, my mind is always too wired for trifling rest. Every time, dating back to my USA trip at eight years of age. Why sleep when you could be endlessly processing? Imagining everything that could go wrong? The multitude of things you’ve forgotten? The things you ran out of time to do? Things, things. Always things. Only amplified by the weird mind state induced by taking melatonin and only getting five hours sleep. After waking at 4am, by 5am I cut my losses and figured I might as well be doing something. It’s getting plenty surreal around here. I’m not sure the cat hasn’t asked to be fed in human words.

If that wasn’t fun enough, we get to mess with time zones too. We’re out of Toronto, into Washington, out of Washington and into San Francisco, out of San Fran and into Auckland. San Fran sets us three hours back, which means my girlfriend and I get to celebrate our Toronto New Years midnight kiss an hour before our San Fran flight. Then another one two hours after. As if we needed excuses. As for killing time between all the stops, we have a ton of Game of Thrones to catch up on. We’ll take flight into 2017 on dark wings, with dark words. Somewhere along the line we cross over another few time zones and end up in GMT+13. God only knows where my addled, sleep deprived mind will be by then.

Mostly I’m wondering how much clamato juice I can cram into my baggage. It’s a commodity back home, where bloody Caesars are a family tradition (quick, somebody cue Topol again). If I still can’t manage to sleep on a 12.5 hour flight, I’m gonna need a strong one. We get in at 8.55am (on the 2nd of January), so there’s little choice but to hit the ground running. Either that or we spend the first few days shaking off jet lag.

I still haven’t worked out the kinks of daily entries in a different time zone. Seeing as we’re skipping the 1st of January altogether, will I need to do a double entry before reaching NZ? Or double up on the way back? What did I do on my way over here in the first place? Moreover, will travelling again give my entries a much needed booster shot? Things have gotten stale here recently and I want to try breathe more life into this project. Whatever hopes I had for it way back when, I didn’t intend for it to be the next evolution of Live Journal. I need something to change in order to reignite a spark long dormant. A change in surroundings, reuniting with familiar faces, experiencing the old with renewed perspective. Fingers crossed it works. Otherwise we’re looking down the barrel towards a long descent into describing my daily bowel movements.

And then I’m shit out of luck.

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As always, remember to buy the merchandising rights. That’s where the real money is.

2016 was A Tire Fire.

2016 was The Worst.

2016 was Literally Hitler.

2016 was a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!

2016 was a lot of things to a lot of people. A lot of awful things did happen in 2016. Big political asteroids like Brexit and Trump left a crater in everything many of us believed possible. Our faith in others was shattered and the “Us vs Them” mentality crevasse widened to a gorge. A lot of people died. From the horrific deaths of Syrian refugees to the brutal violence committed on the black population of North America, 2016 was a pedestal for atrocities perpetrated through power imbalances. So many dead beloved celebrities. People who gave us hope and inspiration passing away in rapid-fire succession. So much grief, processing, acceptance.

2016 was also the opposite of doom and gloom in many ways. New discoveries, environmental reclamation, aid for those suffering. While there were infinite instances of sexism, racism and gender based conflicts both online and throughout society, isn’t it amazing that this discourse is finally making it to the mainstream? Five years ago did the vast majority of society even know of non-gender binary as a concept? Had “rape culture” joined our vocabulary? I’m not saying that we’re past any of this stuff. There’s a long road between awareness and acceptance. Many of the conversations we’re having now won’t pay off for years yet. Still, at least we’re having them. That’s gotta be worth something.

I wonder how much of 2016’s “worst-ness” was defined by social media. It feels uncommon to witness this much suffering in one rotation of the sun, but then again have we ever been this interconnected? The concept of online life as an echo chamber is not new. The notion of negative news drawing more attention than the alternative certainly isn’t either. Still, something’s gotta be up when we only hear that “world hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years” in an article basically telling us ‘not to jump’. In times of crisis, social media has become emotionally draining. It’s one thing to wallow in a puddle of grief, it’s quite another when you dive into an ocean of pooled tears. Fear, anxiety and sorrow amplified by a deafening chorus of voices. While it should be comforting that people share your views, it often instead doubles down on them, adding an inescapable weight. It’s hard to find hope when you’re surrounded by dense darkness. This isn’t to negate or downplay the seriousness and validity of people’s emotions at all. I have my doubts (shameless plug) over how much it helps.

For me, 2016 like most years had its ups and downs. Work was a low point. Still stuck in a job that feels menial and draining, things have only gotten worse. The defining factors of a job I could phone in (namely amazing benefits, supportive work culture, excellent location and a quick commute) have all taken a nosedive. No part of my job in 2016 has improved and everything has declined. Fingers crossed I get a new position in the new year. On the flip side of that, things with my girlfriend have been flowing along nicely. She moved in nine months ago and we haven’t looked back. Tomorrow we’re getting on a plane to travel half way across the world. She’ll meet my family, friends and see the country in which I was born. While my job has been a bust creatively, I finally took a leap I’d spent years pining for. As anyone who’s read at least one other entry this year will know, I started a podcast. A Pawdcast to be more exact. It’s been a learning curve, a lot of work and at times, trying. It’s also put me back in touch with my audio editing roots and made me approach the format from a number of different angles. It’s been my biggest accomplishment this year by a large margin and a journey I’m proud to have embarked upon.

If it’s any consolation, 2017 is bound to be far worse than 2016. The world may have voted in Brexit and Trump, but we haven’t begun to see what they can do when they’re actually in power. 2016 was the beginning of a dark trilogy. We’ve merely finished the First Act. Expect 2017 to drive us to the edge of extinction, with salvation coming in the dying hours of 2018. I don’t make the rules, just calls ’em like I sees ’em.

Optimistically Yours.
-Leon

So near, so far, so so, so your wild oats.

With a mere two days until liftoff, it’s getting to the point where the fear of forgetting things has overtaken the anxiety of not having finished everything. In truth, I don’t need to get that much done before I leave, but the spectre of potential loss is real until we’re checked into our flight. At that moment, as long as I have my passport, wallet, phone and a spare change of underwear, I’m golden. Now though it feels like every step is a wrong one, that anything that feels easy was *too* easy.

I exercised my right to work remotely today and logged into my work computer from home. Scratching the commute out of my day meant I had an extra two hours to play around with, clearly an opportunity to sleep in. That didn’t happen. Regardless of getting in from a party at 1.30am last night, regardless of setting an alarm, my body knew what 7.30am felt like and rose accordingly. Cursed internal chronometer. Having awoken two hours before I needed to be “at work” I opened pro tools and resumed editing the season finale of The Air Bud Pawdcast. It was a busy, tangential episode and the audio levels were all over the place.

I soldiered on, taking breaks to shower and get breakfast. If I was gonna be “at work” I was at least gonna be showered and dressed, elsewise fall into the temptation of slacking all day. I logged into the remote desktop application, loaded up all my work programs, checked my emails and alt+tabbed back to pro tools. Throughout the day I continued to work on the Pawdcast, checking work emails ever 15 minutes or so. At around 10.30am I got an email that required action. I spent two minutes completing the task and emailed them back to let them know I’d finished. That was the one and only piece of work that came in all day. Considering the 50 minute commute each way, I’m pretty fucking stoked I neglected to come into the office for all of two minutes’ work I could do from home.

After finishing the episode editing, mixdown and admin around 5.30pm, I felt like I’d completed a day of work. I was handily home to receive my brother’s courier package and started on packing clothing. Oddly enough, the one item I really need is something I don’t own: A hard wearing pair of summer shorts. Let me clarify, I have one, but the pair has a massive hole in the crotch. If I wanted the Dickeys Workwear equivalent of chaps, I’d be pretty damn close.

I still have yet to buy presents for my sub-eight month old nephews. Perhaps I can knock them out at the same place I’ll find shorts. We’ve got a friend coming to house/catsit, but I’ll need to do a write up of things to know. Garbage day, catcare dos and don’ts (I mean, she knows a lot about cats. Just not *this* cat) and what’s handy in the area. I need to start collating costs incurred for the trip in a workable spreadsheet, so my girlfriend can divvy them up afterwards. After I get there I need to have my suit dry cleaned for a wedding and find a suitable gift. We’ve got close to 24 hours travel in front of us, so I’d be dumb not to prep new music, download some movies with the new Netflix feature and put something on my kindle other than that Murakami back catalogue.

So much to do, so little time. When did everything become all early 2000s Olsen Twins up in this bitch?

I’d better be home soon.

After finding a surprising Nerdist interview with New Zealand folk godfather Neil Finn, I started thinking a little about songs I’d missed. NZ music was always a cultural touchstone of growing up down South, even with our ingrained sense of Tall Poppy Syndrome. There are songs that were an important part of my childhood, teenage years and wallpaper to nights of drunken revelry (more importantly, the inevitable backyard singalongs). So as my homesickness tour beckons, here’s some classic New Zealand music (as a sort of cheat sheet for non-Kiwis) to cram in your eardrums:

  • Crowded House – “Private Universe“: Crowded House, most often known for their anthemic “Don’t Dream It’s Over”, have a career spanning over 30 years. This song has long been one of my favourites. Haunting and ethereal at times, but beautiful overall. I remember one Wednesday night in particular at a bar in Ponsonby, hearing the local acoustic performer doing a stunning rendition. It struck a chord (kind of intentional pun) with me and I’ve carried the song in my heart ever since.
  • The Exponents – “Why Does Love Do This To Me?“: Jordan Luck could maybe be considered NZ’s Gord Downie. Ostentatious and energetic. This song is the backdrop to any number of backyard barbecues and ad campaigns. It’s jaunty and associated across the board with good memories. Especially the time we drove up north to see The Exponents’ “final performance” (they’ve since repeatedly come out of retirement) at the Mangawhai Tavern and stayed at the weird cow themed backpackers.
  • Shihad – “Home Again“: It merely takes the first bar of the song to pull me back to the past. Having seen the band live an innumerable amount of times, they were a massive part of my teenage years. An iconic rock band, with this hit towering above a back catalogue of quality music.
  • Bic Runga – “Sway“: A lovely ballad that I’m pretty sure was introduced to overseas audiences in American Pie. You’ve probably heard it before, but just in case, this should be on your cheat sheet.
  • Salmonella Dub – “Love Your Ways“: This track for me is road trip central. Tiki Taane is the quintessential Kiwi MC and this song for me represents rolling hills with the window rolled down.
  • Tiki Taane – “Tangaroa“: Fuck it, I’m throwing Tiki’s solo project in here too. Tangaroa is a fucking ripper of a track, incorporating traditional Maori elements into his familiar electronic frame. A Canadian parallel would be A Tribe Called Red.
  • Shapeshifter – “Bring Change“: I’ve been in love with this track after a blistering Big Day Out Boiler Room set back in 2007. Soulstice was one of my first forays into electronic music and an album still on semi-regular rotation.
  • Fat Freddy’s Drop – “Roady“: Like most of Freddy’s’ stuff, it’s a dub track that builds and builds on itself. A band to catch live at any and every opportunity. They’re dripping with talent and witnessing a set unfold in front of you is an experience to behold.
  • Blerta – “Dance All Around the World“: Just a weird fucking 70s Kiwi band. It’s a bizarre fairy tale complete with gratuitous drum fills and a cute little monologue in the middle.
  • Che Fu – “Waka“: Late 90s Hip Hop. Che Fu has a stunning voice, coupled with a simple beat and lovely harmonies.
  • Supergroove – “Can’t Get Enough“: Catchy as hell. A true 90s classic of rap rock funk, complete with quazi ska elements. It’s a total blast. Irreverent lyrics with referential time capsule elements. Truly one of my favourites.

Hell, I could go on for years writing this list, but you’d run out of time in which to listen. More importantly, I’ve got a mere three days to catch up. I’m almost at the point of counting down the hours.

This post leaves me with a pineapple lump in my throat.

It’s weird the way that homesickness can manifest. I can’t say with confidence that I’ve felt full blown homesickness since I left. With my impending trip all of four days away, however, there’s a familiar itching not in my throat, but in my belly. Of course I’m looking forward to reuniting with family and friends. I’m no monster. Truthfully though, my heart is flooded with a hitlist of foods I miss. Most of them won’t make sense to non-Kiwis, I’m sure. Let’s take a look. What exactly am I craving?

  • Pineapple Lumps: Pineapple flavoured marshmallow covered in a thin layer of chocolate. If that sounds bizarre, have you never dipped pineapple in chocolate fondue? Have you never truly lived? Oddly enough, they’re fantastic after being chilled in the freezer. Gives them a pleasant snap when you bite into them, but the marshmallow becomes far chewier.
  • Whittakers Peanut Slab: Whittakers’ chocolate blocks are floating around in Canadian stores. They’re expensive as all hell though. The peanut slab is a solid little block of chocolate with peanuts. Sounds simple, but the texture is hard to describe. They’re chunky enough that you couldn’t talk with a bite in your mouth.
  • Cookie Time: Third chocolate adjacent item in a row on this list. Cookie Time cookies are large and crispy, but with a soft enough centre without entirely giving way under a bite. It’s hella specific, I know. Once again, you’d understand if you had one.
  • Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk: Why not add one more to the pile? There was enough of a national craze over these that they had to impose purchase limits. Years later the desire has died down, but I still have yet to partake in said craze. Why not get on the bandwagon, even a few years later?
  • Apples: Some kind of Pacific or Rose or Pacific Rose variety. Pacific Queen, even. Dense, crisp and sweet, but with a slightly tart edge. The perfect apples, in my opinion, are like candy from the tree. New Zealand does them well and I can’t wait to grab a bag.
  • Feijoas: Strange sour-sweet little green orbs. They ripen in bunches, enough that when they do you’re usually eating nothing else for a week. It’s been too long.
  • Kumara: Think sweet potato, but sweeter. A purple skin with a noxious yellow interior. I like my sweet potatoes, but they ain’t a patch on a good kumara.
  • Lamb: Canada does excellent pork and its beef is decent. The difference between Canadian and New Zealand lamb is equivalent to the distance between both countries. A big roast lamb leg or a few racks wouldn’t go amiss.
  • Cheese: We’re a dairy oriented country and our cheese is pretty fucking good. It’s at least good enough that I’ve had trouble finding basic cheese blocks here that remotely compare to our classic “tasty” (cheddar) cheese. There’s a sharpness you don’t find in stock standard supermarket brands and it’s a sharpness I sorely miss. Even with Extra Old, it pales in the face of the cheese I grew up with. This isn’t simply the rose coloured glasses of nostalgia, I know it in my heart of hearts.
  • Marmite: Speaking of my heart of hearts, I’ve been longing tubs of this thick, salty nectar since I ran out. Not to be confused with the tamer Aussie and British varieties. Goes great with the aforementioned cheese on a cracker and I can’t wait to chomp down on that little piece of paradise.
  • Coffee: Kiwis love their coffee. Toronto has its fair share of decent cafés, but your benchmark in New Zealand is a lot higher than Toronto. Drip coffee doesn’t exist, most people will get their daily flat white or at worst, french press. Me, I’m all about the mochas. Let it rain sweet hot caffeine all over me. The third degree burns will all be worth it.
  • Pies: If you’d thought I had my fill of pies for life working back at Wisey’s, you’d be wrong. I’ll hardly copy my brother, who had six pies in the first few days of being back Down Under. Still though, I’m missing a mince and cheese something fierce.

If the key to my heart is in my stomach, then I left my heart locked up back home. Soon to be reunited and it’ll feel so good.

Less a knowing nod and more a knowing wave.

As part of our Jewish Christmas yesterday, we saw Disney’s Moana. Fantastically done, it was a classic hero’s journey story with a Polynesian backdrop. Coupled with Zootopia from earlier in the year, it’s a solid sign that Disney’s really buckled down and focusing on the quality of their output. There’s been a recent push (likely from armchair internet commentators) towards diversity and three dimensional characters. From this standpoint, Moana excels. Of course it’s a film for a broad audience and it’s casting a wide net of pan-Pacific cultural influence, so it’s not gonna get everything right. I really can’t speak for the personally affected cultures, but as someone who grew up on the Maui legends of Maori origin, seeing that onscreen held a deep resonance for me.

The story of Maui, as far as I understand it, varies between Polynesian cultures. The Maui I was raised with was a cunning trickster and shapeshifter as depicted in the film. In lieu of a magic fish hook, he was armed with his grandmother’s magical jawbone. I remember fondly the tales of Maui calling together his friends to slow down the sun or fishing up the North Island. I guess they left out the part where he, in a quest to make mankind immortal shapeshifted into a worm and crawled up the sleeping goddess of death’s vagina. A hero being crushed by vagina dentata wouldn’t really belong in the Disney Vault.

Seeing Maui perform a brief haka before charging into battle and Moana embracing a character with a Hongi gave me chills. Having the ocean personified as such a central character was great and, much like Life of Pi, its unforgiving and beautiful nature shone through. The songs were catchy, with some slick writing from Lin-Manuel Miranda and others. Moana’s literal/emotional journey were inspiring and her relationship with her grandmother was one of the film’s cornerstones. It was also nice to see some knowing winks at Disney clichés. The lack of a romantic subplot was an awesome touch in an industry where it’s so often shoehorned in. Romance is great when it fits, but not all stories have to be all things.

On a technical side, the film looked fantastic. Hair has always been such a benchmark of animation quality and they’ve nailed it here. I remember thinking back when Final Fantasy VIII was released that things couldn’t get better. The years have happily conspired to prove me wrong. The ocean being such a central character, is gorgeously rendered in a brilliant blue. The colour palette is lush and visually eye-catching, screens filled with background details. There’s a well cultivated sense of physics (even in a film about gods and demigods) that really comes to life in the action scenes. The film is simply a joy to watch.

Your viewing might be different than mine, but for me it felt very close to home. A home that’s only five days away! See you soon NZ.

Do you think John Tory has a mayor-y Christmas?

Merry Happy everyone. It’s been a pleasant, subdued affair here at home. After a quiet Christmas Adam we spent Christmas Eve with friends. Chowing down on charcuterie like fancy pants people. Eating Christmas crack (white chocolate peppermint popcorn) and quaffing down festive drink such as rosé and Manischewitz (though not combined). We then watched the quality Christmas cinema that is Jingle All the Way. It was hard not to feel that the 90s were like another planet. Aside from copious all out brawls over Turboman dolls, there were lewd sexual advances from the neighbour (R.I.P. Phil Hartman), a postal worker literally threatening to go postal and Arnie knocking a reindeer the fuck out.

This morning we awoke to a bounteous breakfast of porridge, before partaking in our true annual Christmas tradition: Having a family Google Hangout overtaken by technical issues. My girlfriend’s family all logged in and marvelled at the unique joy of her mum being on a 30 second delay from her Texas RV park. The assumption was that clearly our topics of conversation were verboten, thus the CSIS stepped in to clamp down on our treasonous family sedition tradition. As soon as the topic of Trump came up, things got even choppier. Mere coincidence? Or an ominous portent?

In any case, this Christmas train is gonna keep on rollin’, baby. We’re going off to see Moana, surprised it’s taken us this long. I’ve never gone to the cinema on Christmas day, so I have no idea if we’re gonna be greeted by tumbleweed or a packed theatre. Toronto has a ton of Jews, y’know. After chowing down on popcorn and candy, we’re gonna come home to a true treat. We’re ordering takeout (I do it so rarely that it feels like magic every time. Seriously, you click a couple of buttons and delicious, steaming food arrives at your doorstep. How is that not magic?) and having drinks. I picked up a few old favourites from the LCBO the other day, which I’m looking forward to tucking into. A Rogue Hazlenut Brown Nectar, of which I have fond but faint memories. Plus the annual delight of Flying Monkeys’ Chocolate Manifesto. I may be Jewish, but should I get trapped in a Tim Allen-esque Santa Clause scenario I’ll at least have the merriment down pat.

Unlike Tim Allen, maybe I’ll hold off on the coke.

Feliz Navidad, everyone!