More like nostaljerk.

Why is familiarity so comforting? I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately (primarily because I’ve deep dived back into the Laser Time archive for my workplace listening enjoyment) and it’s been delightfully tickling my brain. I listened back to the early 90s “Mortal Kombat: The Album” (you’ll surprise yourself by remembering the absurd hit “Techno Syndrome“. The rest of the album is, if possible, even more cheesy. It features songs about the various characters (or in Sonya Blade’s case, a ballad she apparently sings about herself? And she’s been outfitted with a British accent?). The best part is how token most of the lyrics are. The Immortals were never given comprehensive background information about each character, so they had to write about what they know from playing the game. The result is a bunch of songs about assorted special moves each character uses, or in the case of Sub Zero…

“Whoah, Chinese ninja warrior
With your heart so cold sub zero
Whoah, your life is a mystery
Why you wear the mask? Sub zero”

Also a blatant rip off of Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations”, but instead with the dubious line “Freezing Vibrations” (which makes no fucking sense, but I’ll go with it). AllMusic gives it a grand two star rating. It’s a festering piece of shit. Stock 90s techno coupled with the aforementioned flaccid lyrics. It should be a pain to endure, but instead it’s so fucking bonkers that it comes 180° to being a blast to hear. It’s not even a guilty pleasure for me and the only downside is that “Mortal Kombat: The Album” isn’t on Spotify, making me realise what a colossal waste my $9.99 each month is. If I can’t groove out to dancefloor suicide, what am I paying for?

It’s not new to me how much I adore nostalgia, but what is a recent revelation is how much I want the sensation without doing the work. Anime is a great example. I think so fondly of my years spent watching anime. I’d lounge around with friends into the early hours of the weekend and try to marathon an entire show. So many goddamn series. Casting my mind back to those days warms my heart, but whenever I think about getting back into anime, I realise how little I actually want to watch it. I’m way more critical than I was and getting into a new 24 episode series is a hard sell. I don’t have the time I once did. Much like video games, theory wins out over practice 80% of the time. Even knowing that, I still yearn for the underlying emotions they brought. The excitement of experiencing a whole new fictional world. Or in games, of facing and overcoming challenges coming my way.

Both industries were way smaller back then and I honestly think that was a large part of the attraction. Back in high school, anime and video games were super niche interests. We were the nerds and belonging to rare fandoms made it feel like we were venturing into unknown territory. We’d talk about them constantly, but they seemed like conversation topics only for our little group. When we found anyone else with similar interests, sharing those interests was a revelation, like we were sharing a central part of ourselves. We felt special somehow, because we were different. It may have been an illusion, but we clung to it tenaciously. These days fandom is all too easy to find. Hyperconnectivity means that others like you are only a few clicks away. Neither video games nor anime are particularly esoteric these days, they’ve expanded into normalcy. As dumb as it is, inside me there’s the sense that the experience is now cheapened. There’s nothing unique about them and with that gone, this remote concept of being special has dissipated. What’s more, the plots and character progression don’t feel like they’d live up to other available content. There are way too many clever shows to watch now, so why would I spend time on anything flimsy?

Wait, so I think I’m too cool for school now? That gives me freezing vibrations all over.

If The Gang started a church would they Cultivate Mass?

Is it possible to have watched five seasons of show and still feel like a filthy casual? I certainly did last night at my friend’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia party. I watched the show years back and always enjoyed it, but had trouble bingeing episodes. The characters were such terrible, sociopathic human beings that I found it taxing to spend too much time with them. I thought it was hilarious and novel, pushing episodes into constantly unpredictable territory. Even so, it took me an age to get as far as I did. At some point I meandered off into other fictional worlds and never came back. Leaving me totally blindsided by the fact that there are now 12 seasons with a few more on the way. Insane. As a huge fan of FX Network’s support for creator driven content (Louie, Legion, Better Things, You’re the Worst, etc), I feel kind of indebted to IASIP for trailblazing and making it all possible.

I’d been catching up on important episodes using this handy dandy guide, but I’d only managed to get through five or so in the past week or two. Meaning that walking into the party was like taking a running leap into a bizarre wonderland. A couple of concepts seemed vaguely familiar, but for the most part it seemed an unreal mockery of the outside world. My friend always cranks her theme parties up to 11 and this was no exception. She’d decorated all the rooms with artwork from the series and imagery from various episodes. The “Pepe Silvia” and “Carol” conspiracy was strewn across the wall and the “Nightman” sun lit up the lounge. The playlist for the evening was composed purely of songs used in the show and there were games. OH, there were games.

What kind of Always Sunny party would it have been without “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games? The contest of strength was a game of twister, albeit with the various colours switched for iconic IASIP imagery. Denim Chicken, Original Hitler, Green Man and Rum Ham proved the battleground for drunken twisting. I took part in the contest of spirit, in a game that I understood zero percent. It was a four part contest whereby we had to “huff glue” (or rather, hyperventilate into a paper bag ten times), skull a beer then eat “cat food” (potato salad in gold painted cans) and “fall asleep” (lie down) before the “cats” (everyone else at the party) began to meow. Don’t ask me, but I’m sure it’s relevant. All I know is after years of negligence, skulling a beer is much harder than it used to be. I did most of it in one go, with a tiny sip left at the end. One of the contestants wasn’t so lucky, as she daintily sipped away while a catcophony surrounded her.

I’d planned to be sooo clever by bringing canned spaghetti in ziplock bags for people to snack on. Turns out I’d bought fucking Spaghettios by mistake. Curse this damned country and its novelty shaped foods. Fortunately the host had made her own real spaghetti for guests’ convenience. A partygoer had enough foresight to make an actual rum ham. It was surprisingly delicious. Suitably drenched and well roasted in rum. I felt well roasted after eating some anyway. I bought some “Milk Snacks” which I’d hastily written over in vivid to say “Milk Steaks” (though in my oversight I’d forgotten to bring jelly beans – raw). Someone even filled a large jug with “Riot Punch”, which made its way around most of the party. Glorious commitment to the theme all around.

If anything after the party I still feel like just as much of a damn dirty amateur. Though now with an insatiable thirst to learn more. Also for Fight Milk.

Hirsute Yourself 13: The right to beard alms.

Bye bye beardy, I’m gonna miss you so. For the past three and a half months I’ve been cultivating a lush (read: scraggly and unkempt) head of hair on my chin and cheeks. I use the word “cultivating” loosely, ’cause that sounds like effort was involved. It was more a lack of effort. There was no conscious action that went into this face fuzz. It happened through a combination of time and neglect. I wasn’t aiming for any goals, I simply didn’t bother shaving for a while.

It’s been weird having a beard. Not that I’ve been particularly bothered, but people feel super entitled to just come up and manhandle your chin. As if they’re patting a puppy or something. I guess others flat out assume that you’re used to it and grab a handful. Who do they think they are, former NZ Prime Minister John Key? There’s this pre-existing connotation that if you don’t look like you skin people professionally, then you must be a jolly bloke if you own a beard. Some kind of Boisterous Bruiser type, most likely.

Tonight though, it’s getting the chop. Mother Earth got the hint and finally showed Toronto a crack of light. It’s gonna be the sweaty season soon and there’s no fucking way I’m dealing with a chin carpet in the sun. I’m going to a wedding in a few weeks, so it makes no sense to hold on to it. Also to be honest, I’m sorta tired of accidental water reservoirs dribbling down and staining my shirts. It looks silly (because of the aforementioned lack of styling) and doesn’t really suit my face. On one hand it instantly makes me “that guy” at a social event, but on the other, it means that people are super keen to talk about my beard, something of which I have little to no opinion.

My one regret about dropping the beard is missed costume opportunities. I mean, tonight the costume I’m doing looks better without a beard, which is contributing more than a little to the shearing. Come Halloween though? I’ve always wanted to do a good Wolverine costume and Logan has made the whole look a shit ton easier. It wouldn’t be a stretch to look haggard and decrepit for a change. Much like the beard, it’d be as easy as putting in no effort.

I will miss a thing or two about it. Last night I discovered that if a pen is small enough I can hold it in my beard Pebbles style. It’s a great thinking aid when I’m pondering the mysteries of the universe (when am I not?). Most of all it’s nice to know that I can grow a beard if I want to. Not that I often will, but at least it’s an option.

If only I could donate it to someone in need. Like people shaving their long locks and giving them to cancer sufferers. To use my powers for good. Clearly I’m no hero.

 

Can we go back to the ones where I have super powers?

Like most every other human around, work sucks at the moment. Day after day it feels like death by a thousand cuts. The thing I always respected about my job was that it was something I could ignore. Punch in, do the work, punch out and go home. It was breezy and stress free. I knew full well my job didn’t matter and I’d be replaced by machines in sub five years, but that was fine, I’d be gone by then. Increasingly since the merger, more systems and procedures have been put in place that’ve micromanaged my day to day and needlessly complicated things. With dwindling autonomy, I’m beyond ready to leave the job I already wanted to leave two years back. So far the opportunities I’ve gone for have all come back blank. I know things will get better eventually, but for now it feels like I’m gonna be here in ten years with every day being that same shade of mediocre or worse. Barrel of monkeys, it ain’t.

The last job I had before leaving home was as part of a fascinating project. I was digitising and cataloguing a massive archive of National Radio content. It’d all been recorded onto open reel tape and cassette. I’d port the content into a computer, then go through and export each individual show as a separate file. While the duties of the job itself remained the same, the material would vary wildly. Recordings would differ in audio quality and clarity of content. Early recordings were some professor recording the radio haphazardly and left no record of what was on each tape. So I’d have to sleuth them. Going to the library and looking up old radio schedules. Listening out for snippets of time checks, familiar hosts’ voices, or world events we’d be able to date by pouring over Google News archives from the 60s forward. Even when it was difficult, it was fascinating. My boss was this lovely old guy who’d dedicated his life to audio technology and preservation techniques. He was so patient and wise, always happy to explain something no matter how many times it took to sink in. Very sharp thinker. He was the life of that archive and so passionate about what he did. I remember him sadly remarking to me once that he couldn’t bring himself to retire, since there were very few people in the country who’d be knowledgeable enough to continue his work after he’d gone. He wanted to hold on long enough to do everything he possibly could so future generations would have access to the wealth of material.

I had this dream last night that felt all too real. Like, nobody had the head of a fish or overabundant limbs or anything. I’d left my job and returned home to New Zealand, tail (metaphorical only) between my legs. Rather than spending time with friends or loved ones, I went straight out to find a new job, picking up where I left off. I went straight to my old boss to see if there were any projects he’d need a hand with. He told me that once I’d left they couldn’t find anyone to take on the VCR project he’d hoped I would’ve picked up, so he’d be able to put me straight on that. I gratefully took him up on the offer and started straight away. I got into a rhythm and soon enough months had passed and my old normal became my new normal. I’d always liked the job and time away hadn’t diminished it at all. My boss though, seemed less animated than he had last time around. Less passion and more feverish working late into the night. I became worried that he wasn’t doing so well and made a point of checking in on him regularly. He said he was fine, but things really seemed off. I continued plugging away at my work, but with a nagging feeling at the base of my brain.

I looked up an old co-worker who’d helped us out on the project. Wonderful older woman who’d had endless amazing, fascinating life experiences. She said that a week after I’d left, my boss’s​ wife had passed away without warning. He’d taken it hard and his grief had transitioned to workaholism. He’d been throwing himself into trying to finish whatever he could before he too passed and his knowledge died with him. He hadn’t even been leaving the office recently. I went back to work, took one step in the door and begun sobbing uncontrollably. I woke up trembling and all day I’ve been unable to shake it from my mind. I know it was just a dream, but I can’t get rid of this sense that it wasn’t.

Levi’t to beaver.

I was sitting on the train yesterday, hurriedly doing my daily writing. I’d hoped to squeeze maybe 15 minutes of writing time out of my transit between the gym and a volunteer meeting for this large scale game my friend is running (a meeting I arrived on time for (at the wrong location. In more realistic terms I was late)). I was somewhat distracted, but still trying to focus. All of a sudden I heard a voice pipe up next to me.

“They look like jeans, but what are they really made of?”

My head darted towards the source of the noise. The guy next to me was looking intently at my jeans. The jeans in question are yellow, mildly stretchy. They’re comfy and snug and best of all were all of $15 from H&M. After teen years spent draped solely in black, I’ve made an effort to widen my colour palette. Now dressing is a matter of picking a plain coloured top and a coloured pair of pants. Occasionally there’s a malfunction and I end up mono-coloured like I’m wearing pyjamas. Most of the time it lets me hide in plain sight (or remain camouflaged outside of a McDonalds with a red top and said yellow pants). With this guy next to me, not so much.

I replied that I had no idea what they were made of. Denim perhaps? Oh no, he assured me, that wasn’t denim. He knew his jeans and what I was wearing was no denim he knew. He asked me if they stretched much. I paused and wondered what would be the more practical use of my time, writing my entry or discussing something I knew nothing about with someone I’d never met. I put away my phone.

“So are jeans your thing?” I asked, genuinely curious. “Oh yeah.” He replied. “I got all sorts of jeans. I always liked to dress stylish. Back in school they’d call me ‘Pretty Boy’. Even the teachers.” I nodded. “Right on.” He smiled “yeah man. I got heaps of jeans. I buy good ones, y’know?” [He rattled off some brands that I’m pretty sure I’ve heard before, but can’t remember] “They get expensive though.” “Oh? What’s the most expensive pair you bought?” I asked. He paused for effect. $700 was his answer. My eyes widened. “$700? What kind of jeans do you get for $700? Well, aside from ‘good ones’, I guess. Do they have special jean technology like Bluetooth? Do they glow in the dark? Contain Kevlar? I’m not knocking it, but what do you need to justify a $700 pair?” He looked almost confused “Well they look good and people know they look good.”

I took a moment and tried a different tack. “So if you’ve bought a $700 pair of jeans, is there any special prep you’ve gotta do? That’s a major investment and surely you want to take care of it? I remember reading something about putting new jeans in the freezer or wearing them into the bath for a couple of hours. Are those the kind of jeans you own?” He looked put off. “I don’t do any of that gay shit. I don’t want tight jeans. I’m all about that straight cut.” “Wait” I responded “what’s with the ‘gay’ stuff? How does wearing any kind of clothing make you gay? If it’s vanity you have a problem with, you just mentioned how much you spent on clothes.” “Yeah but” he sputtered. “I dunno, maybe you’re right. Anyway, if you’re making money you might as well put it into shit you like.” I nodded. “Yeah, that works.” He looked down at my jeans again. “So are you a jeans guy?” I burst out laughing. “Nope nope. I buy $10 H&M ones when they’re on sale. I’m not really a clothing person. It’s cool that you are though. It’s nice to have things to care about.” I heard the robot voice in the train announce Spadina coming up. “This is my stop, but it’s been nice chatting with you. You’re really a Jean-ius.” “A genius?” He asked “I just know stuff about jeans.” I fought every internal urge telling me to point it out. “Have a good night bud.” “Yeah, you too.”

It was either that or calling him a de-nimrod.

Much as he would seem a southpaw, Buddy was a retriever, not a boxer.

If finding a copy of Monkey Up at Dollarama a couple of weeks back wasn’t a sign that we need to start the Pawdcast up again, then this definitely is. I’m starting a super low key grassroots campaign to see if we could host the event. Because what’s to lose? The Pawdcast might not be family friendly, but we’ve absorbed enough wholesome entertainment that I’m sure we could fake it. The concept is bonkers, of course, but just crazy enough to make sense. Imagine, my co-host and I standing in the Harbourfront Concert Stage introducing a film about a basketball playing pup to an audience of parents, children and oblivious stoners because one day two years ago I thought the concept of a golden retriever doing back handsprings ad infinitum was funny enough to record a friend and I chatting about its wider mythos for hours.

Buddy never did back handsprings, but he sure did capture our hearts.

It just dawned on me that it’s been almost five months since we last recorded an episode. That’s crazy. We resolved to come back once the weather was warmer and that’s barely been happening in the past couple of weeks. Five months. Fuck. I suppose in having some semblance of a social life again (or at least remembering what my girlfriend’s face looked like, rather than passing like ships in the night), it was too hard to track time as it zoomed past. Five months. I guess that makes sense. I own a beard now. Or maybe it owns me…

The Pawdcast was a lifesaver last year. Much as I dreaded being constantly busy. Much as I dreaded having to sit through children’s film after children’s film. Much as I dreaded having to think of how to fill an hour or more of podcast every two weeks, I needed it. Being stuck in a job that I wanted out of after six months, I had to have a solid creative outlet that would push me to branch out of my comfort zone. The Pawdcast provided that. Writing/voicing parody trailers was tough work at first, but I did it. Getting back into the grind of audio editing was slow going at first, but after a few episodes I got back up to speed. Building up chemistry with new guests week after week was daunting, but I had no choice, so I went with it. Doing these things helped re-awaken long dormant mental muscles and brought back a part of me I thought I’d lost to the daily grind. For all my talk of dreading the work involved, that’s just my natural response to being challenged. It’s not something I enjoy, but it’s something I know is essential for me to keep up momentum or elsewise collapse.

Unfortunately, much as I’m into forcing myself back into the magical world of the ABCU, it’s not on the cards right away. The Pawdcast is not just me, it’s a small team who are all vital to our little operation. Our producer has a sketch group she’s assistant producing. My co-host has jumped off the freelancing train and into full-time work that’s taking up more of his energy and time than he can spare for another project right now. We’re gonna have to stay on hiatus for at least another few months. So Monkey Up will elude me for a little while yet.

The question now becomes, what do I do with myself? I’m still in that dead end job, with no way out on the immediate horizon. It’s an energy vampire that gives me no creative outlet. If I don’t funnel intention into some new endeavour soon I’m gonna regress into going through the motions. I’ve been me long enough to understand these patterns and they don’t head to a desirable destination. I had a writing room I wanted to set up with friends, but people were too busy at the time. Maybe “now” aligns for everyone. I wonder if there are skills I could be upkeeping by giving myself little projects. More audio editing, perhaps? I’d been thinking of taking some improv classes to help foster that mental alacrity. Maybe it’s time to work at letting my brain keep up with my mouth. Or could I finally pick boxing back up after years and mould myself back into shape?

I need something, whatever it is. Because when I get bored, I stagnate. Which seems awfully unbecoming for one of Toronto’s foremost Air Bud enthusiasts. What Would Air Bud Do?

All You Can Eat sushi is a legit mercury poison hazard. Why would that stop me?

Started listening to the Doughboys podcast for the first time today. I’d heard mention of it as a totally dumb podcast where the laughs come hard, heavy and often. The basic premise involves two dudes reviewing fast food chains with a new guest each week. I don’t eat a ton of fast food (that’s not to say my diet is remotely clean), but the idea of ongoing inane delving into depravity and suffering obviously scores high with me. I jumped in at episode 100, their Nugget Power Hour. It’s silly as shit and one of those vital necessities when reading the news is a laundry list of bleakness. The Nugget Power Hour is a variant of what’s known in super classy circles as The Century- 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes (roughly seven beers or so)- but in this case they’re substituting 60 McDonalds nuggets in 60 minutes. The caveat is that at any minute they can swap a nugget for a chug of beer. There’s some preamble up top, but I’m about 40 minutes in and they’ve downed around 15 crispy golden chicken chunks. Things are going downhill fast.

There’s something I readily identify with in tales of ludicrous over-consumption. I’m a sucker for stories of people writing about ill-fated All You Can Eat experiences. Whether they’re shooting for the moon on mozzarella sticks, going for gold at The Mandarin or even trying to form every combination possible with In-N-Out’s secret menu, it’s like they’re committing my heart’s silent whispers to the page. I am them in an alternative reality and I know it. I enjoy the mock-horror and very real disgust (whether it’s at the food, themselves or both) because once again, I’ve been there. With so much talk of representation in the cultural discussion lately, this is how I’m represented: gratuitous overindulgence for comedic purposes. There’s no doubt whatsoever that the joke is on me in the end but if that’s the role I’ve been assigned, then you might as well start calling me the space cowboy.

At the moment, I’m fortunate to not have many enablers in my life. Not because I don’t love those people to bits, but because diving Scrooge McDuck style into an endless vat of chewing, sweating, weird poops and inevitable self-loathing is better reserved as a special treat. All You Can Eat sushi never needs to happen, but I’ve got my fair share of feelings to eat every once in a while. Why not add the above problems to the list? In the past I’ve had mates who’ve shared my enthusiasm for digesting as much as humanly possible until our true nihilism begins to shine through. We had our fun (until we didn’t) testing the limits of our stomachs and self-respect. Let’s be real here, as full as you get, it’s not like food stops tasting good. If it was about being satisfied we would’ve stopped well before our bellies resembled water-logged corpses. I live, I die, I live again.

I can’t remember a time I haven’t loved food. I feel like the back half of any meal is spent thinking about what I could have for the next one. While being one of my core joys in life, I’d be remiss in admitting that it’s a prime source of anxiety. Am I eating too much? Am I eating the right foods? Does this ever get easier? Will the concept of moderation one day feel natural? Or am I looking down the road at a constant tug of war hurling limited discipline at the omnipresent black hole of desire? Short lived bouts of healthy habits crumbling away to ingrained behaviour. Far from condemning people who enjoy what they eat, I’m saying I get the struggle. I’m not saying we should feel bad about enjoying ourselves, I just wish control was easier to access. Like any addictive routines, it’s all too easy to fall into sunken cost fallacy thinking and dig deeper because you’ve already started. Plus, as stated earlier, it’s not like food will stop tasting good.

None of this is to imply that Doughboys is anything but hilarious. If anything, it’s vicarious enjoyment served up with a side of dipping sauces. If only curbing cravings was as simple as listening to constant cautionary tales.