I’m a lot like you were

For some reason I woke up with this video playing in my head on loop.

For context, a bunch of my friends and I thought this was the funniest thing in the world circa 2004. Like “Star Wars Kid” before him, Gellieman was a figure of ridicule, but also strangely some respect? Of course he was a figure of mockery, but like us he too was a teenager. I think on some level we understood that we all were not far off creating something that embarassing. We had that kind of potential. I mean, we were drama geeks. Have you seen Glee? If you substituted the singing for “acting out” and the wheelchair for stunted emotional maturity, that was basically us.

When I think about it more, it was pretty my best friend leading the charge with the “Aicha” video. Thing is, he always posessed this bizarrely infectious enthusiasm. If he got on a tear about something, nine times out of ten, everyone would be on that train whether they liked it or not. So, “Aicha”. We watched it enough times to learn it by heart. We knew the song, we knew the dance, we knew the very specific inflections with which Gellieman said every single line. We’d break out into spontaneous performances from time to time, whether this was in the middle of class or not. It all reached its fever pitch when, for shits and giggles, we created a parody boy band group and performed the song at the school talent show. In retrospect, I’m sure most people had no fucking idea what was going on, but we did it all with such conviction that I think they just rolled with it. We were all Known Individuals by that point.

Look, I could write novels about my best friend. We don’t talk much now, because we live half a world away. Doesn’t mean I don’t still adore the guy. We have one of the most concrete relationships in my life, in that it never needs watering and will always be there. I don’t know that we could have awkward pauses, there’s just too much history. We’ve known each other since we were infants, yet I think fairly often back to high school and his nigh frightening creativity. Saying he was prolific would be a dramatic understatement. He’d just get whipped up into these personal frenzies and create, seemingly apropos of nothing. We’d meet at the same corner to walk to school and weirdly often he’d be like “oh by the way, here’s a script I wrote last night” and hand me a 20 minute performance on paper. Maybe it’d was a faux soap opera script that included a character for everyone in the drama department, totally nailing all our personal in-jokes and isms. Or perhaps it was an ersatz Waiting for Godot, riffing on the fall of communism. It was always something.

Y’know, one time the Prime Minister was visiting our school. What did he do? He went home and painted a red & purple picture of New Zealand’s topography and gave it to her. Burned into my brain is a photo of the two of them standing together, him with a goofy grin, her more than mildly disconcerted. I’m 98% sure she thought he was a special needs student and treated him accordingly. I get it, he was a weird dude (still is) and was entirely unpredictable (still is).

I think one of my many many favourite stories about him was when we did a student directed performance of King Lear themed around the Stock Market Crash of 1929. He auditioned, but ultimately didn’t get cast as a speaking part. I think his part was “Old Man” or something of the like. Thing is, he was always around and constantly goofing off. We were all a pretty tight crew and he was good friends with the director. As the production advanced, he was Just Always Around, riffing and improvising. The more he was around, the more his character ended up being added to scenes. By performance time, Old Man was in a curious number of scenes. Not only that, he had lines. Plural. Was Old Man a big character in the original play? Did it matter? Not when he was around. When I think about it, whenever he was around, it felt like you were in some kind of scene. He made it that way.

I wonder how much it costs to get to Finland…

Advertisements

Today, on a Very Special entry

Hey you there. Yes, you. I’m talking to you. Hey. Keep up the good work.

I don’t know what you do, but keep on doing it and doing it well. If what you do involves the suffering of others directly or indirectly, well, maybe work towards doing less of that, and doing that well. What can I say? I wanna work with you here, but this kinda needs to be a two way street. Look, I’m still on your team, but part of this whole personal cheerleader arrangement requires work on your part to make sure I’m spreading pep to a worthwhile area. Look inside of yourself. Are you heading in the direction of your dreams? If so, that’s great. Reach for the stars! If your dreams are at the expense of others, maybe look for some other, potentially less harmful stars to reach for. I’m not judging. To some extent we’re all a little lost. So this is less a patronising coffee mug slogan kind of thing and more of a “hey, I’m in the trenches too” coffee mug slogan kind of thing. Maybe it involves a cat hanging from a tree branch? If that helps, sure.

If you’re not heading in the direction of your dreams, I’m sorry, that sucks. I’m sure that hurts. Remember though, time is not linear and memories/imagination mean that we’re experiencing all time simultaneously. So really, you have everything you need already to become your realised self. You know what? On some level you already are. You just haven’t met them yet. But you will, and isn’t that exciting? I hope it is. All that potential brewing inside of you and you haven’t even seen it. If you’re not excited, I am for you, you talented motherfucker, you. I mean, goddamn. The places you’ll go. The people you’ll meet. I’d be jealous of I wasn’t in the same damn shoes you wear on your feet.

The thing is, it’s really okay to not be okay at all times. You get that, right? Sometimes things are really tough and that’s not just a you problem. Everybody has trouble dealing with things. The world is A Lot. Living is A Lot. Everything is both so unbearably complicated and disarmingly simple. On a long enough timeline (in which we all experience simultaneously, remember?) it’ll all gel and work out. I KNOW this sucks to hear, that it sounds like bullshit, but it’s not. It really isn’t. The human mind is uncannily resilient and can recontextualise anything. Whatever you experience will change in relation to your other experiences. So basically, the worse things get, the more they lift everything else. I’m not intending for this to solve everything, but it is something. Think about it. While things might not be at their best now and they may not improve immediately, whenever something good does happen, it’ll be that much better because it’s not something bad. Small consolation?

Maybe. I’m sure it’d be preferable for everything to be great all the time, but honestly, it wouldn’t. It’s shitty to face disappointment and hardship, 100%. You also wouldn’t grow without it. Dealing with hard times helps you adapt and become a more rounded, capable, you. Because of everything your part self went through, you’re still here. “Here” might not be exactly where you aimed for, but it’s also likely not where you were. I’d wager that for you to be where you are now, you had to change and grow. If we’re following this logic, for you to be where you want, it’s probably gonna involve change too. I’m sure that sounds scary and difficult, and it probably will be. At the same time, like everything you’ve gone through, you’ll one day be able to think about it in past tense. That’s not nearly as frightening, right? Do you catch what I’m saying? You’re gonna get there and everything that is now hard will feel a lot softer. You’ve got this, even if you don’t know it yet. But I do, so there.

Look, this may just be an improvised rant of a dude trying to fill time on his commute (and a personal obligation he senselessly made over five years ago to write for at least half an hour daily) but that doesn’t mean it’s void of truth. I’m sure, as messy as it is, that there are kernels of goodness scattered throughout that have your back. So keep it up, you’re on the right track, even if that track is veering towards a different path.

I mean, this whole page was blank 30 minutes ago. Potential is everywhere.

I guess you could say I’m seeing more than one quack

I’m moody, for a change.

Frankly, I don’t know if I’m moody or irritable, but I’ve been vaguely on edge most of the day. I started the whole thing with therapy, which seems a conspicuous choice. Hey, you know how most of your days start with a base level of ennui where you habitually open your eyes and think oh great, this again? Why don’t you complement that with a 75 minute session of taking apart your constant mood swings and feelings of inadequacy? It’s like coffee, but the bitterness comes from self-loathing.

Look, I like therapy. I think it’s an incredibly helpful service that can either ease the weight of perceived burdens or give you the tools to dismantle them. Starting therapy with someone new SUUUUUUCKS. It’s especially compounded for me, where I already have a therapist, but benefits limitations inhibit me from seeing her more than three times a year unless I want to commit a bunch of money to it. Frankly, I should probably just commit the money to it because she’s very good at what she does. I have two sessions coming up with her over the next two weeks which is terrific, because by now we’ve built up the kind of rapport where we can tackle things rapidly and get to the core of them. Then I can probably book another few sessions at the start of the year with a refreshed benefits account and hopefully chain them together to actually work through my recent slump.

BUT that’s a really weird view of the horizon when you’re on your second session with a new therapist and have to work through the base level background. Why am I seeing a new therapist if I already have one? Because this one is covered by OHIP, which is an amazing privilege I don’t want to let pass me by. She seems to know what she’s talking about, even if I don’t feel the rapport as strongly as I initially did with my current therapist. Wait, is this new one my current therapist? I don’t know. This is a confusing and non-standard situation to be in. My old therapist tells jokes and gives me shit. I miss that. I guess that’s an earned relationship?

In other news, a friend just let me know that Disney is rebooting The Mighty Ducks as a TV show. I don’t know if they’re just intent on ruining the abundant affection I have for D2: The Mighty Ducks, but they’re doing a pretty good job. First things first, let’s hope they’re rebooting this absolute shitshow of a cartoon about alien ice hockey obsessed humanoid ducks who come to Earth and battle aliens with their ice hockey inspired weaponry. If that’s not the case and it’s instead live action, my next wish is for a Bash Brothers buddy cop show. Maybe they could team up with Casey Jones. Does Disney own Ninja Turtles yet? Or better yet, they could do a concept episode where baby Keenan Thompson hits a knuckle puck so hard that it flies right around the world and we follow it POV style as it befriends everyone it passes and creates world peace basically like a cross between War Horse and that 1971 Coke ad. Or even one where they fly to Vegas for Charlie’s wedding and they get super drunk and spend the entire time shouting “DUCKS FLY TOGETHER” and Coach Bombay vomits all down the aisle.

I guess what I’m saying, Disney, is that I will write all of these on spec at the drop of a hat.

Your move, Disney.

Building: A case against

One of the best developments over the recent month was talking with my manager about working from home.

It’s hard to articulate how helpful it’s been, but I have to do at least half an hour of writing per day, so I might as well try. First off, the commute. It’s 5:17pm and I’m home. I left the house once today, and that was to renew my library card. That’s not even to mention the difference it makes to my entire day. I don’t have the worst commute in the world, but it’s still a shitshow. To get to work I take a bus south to the station. I don’t often have to wait for multiple buses, but often the bus I get on is crammed. Then at the station I transfer to the eastbound subway. This is usually much worse. Either the platform is rammed and I have to wait for a bunch of trains to go past, or I get in first time and it’s so packed I’m sniffing armpits or my back is bent around other people’s bags. Sometimes when the stars align I get a seat, which is swell. I get off after seven stops and wait for a bus south. This usually takes between 3-20 minutes. In the winter it’s even worse. These buses are sparse or three arrive at once. The wait is normally around the corner and there’s no shelter. Once again, sometimes I’ll luck out and get a seat. Otherwise it’s as crammed as the rest of the trips. By the time I get to work (about 50 minutes door to door barring a long wait for the final bus) I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. So that’s how I’m starting my day.

Sometimes I plan to work from home in advance. In that case, I’ll set an alarm for 8.40am (an hour’s sleep in) and casually roll out of bed. I can take my time getting ready, since the “office” is in our spare room. In other cases, I might wake up, look outside and decide that a) it’s gross enough outdoors, b) my workload is light enough to deal with the latency issues of working from home or c) (like this morning) both. If that’s the case I won’t bother going back to sleep. Instead I’ll get up and start my workday just after 8am. It’s so much easier to get stuff done without the distractions of the office. Nobody is talking to me or trying to get my attention. I can knuckle down to work and Get Shit Done. If it’s a light load I can take my time and clear out the majority of the heavy lifting before lunch. I’ll stay at home all day within reach of email, but if I’m done and nothing’s coming through, I can chill out watching Netflix or playing Magic. Maybe I’ll even invite another working from home friend over for a meal.

It’s unfathomable to gauge the extent to which this breaks up the week. By virtue of even one day working from home, the rest of the week feels lighter. I feel like I’ve had a break and come back to the office rejuvenated. Here’s the thing: Deep down, simply being in the office stresses me the fuck out. There’s a lot going on. It’s a massive building, there are shit ton of people to move/work around. They’ve recently moved a new team in around ours and, oddly enough, it’s messed with bathroom availability. I’m not gonna sugarcoat things, I drink a lot of coffee and eat a ton of fibre. Since they brought the new department in, it’s nigh impossible to find a free stall in the men’s bathroom before midday on our floor. I’ll go to the closest bathroom, both stalls taken. I’ll walk to the other side of the floor, both stalls taken. I’ll come back to the first bathroom, still both stalls taken. Yesterday it took 5 bathrooms spread between three floors before I could finally take a dump. I don’t mean to make a mountain out of a molehill, but I’m not taking molehills here. I leave mountains. This is a serious point of contention.

Also, failing anything else, the office fucking sucks. It’s in a shitty part of town with nothing around. It’s out of the way. The lunch options are sparse and overly expensive. The closest decent cafe is at least 15 minutes’ walk. The building itself looks nice, but that’s about it. Moreover, the job itself is the primary stress. The fact that I’m still in this job after all this time really does bum me out. Every time I walk into that office and sit down to do my job, I’m reminded of the many, many, many failures I’ve had over the years in trying to move on to other work. I feel miserable being there at all, which doesn’t dissipate. Those feelings stay with me all day, and that’s a shitty way to feel for the majority of your daylight hours. If I’m home, it’s easy to forget all the stresses of the workplace. I can relax and, while I’m not feeling fulfilled, at least it takes the injury out of the insult.

Does that make sense?

Clearly they should have employed a less talented cast

I read this article and thought it was pretty interesting.

The premise, if you’re too lazy to click, is that TV shows no longer “end”. Long dead shows now have the potential for a new incarnation, whether continuation or reimagining. If Murphy Brown can return in 2018, then every series is a potential Dr Who, regenerating with a new cast, but the same basic character. I’m not here to pass judgement (for once?), I just find the concept fascinating. Why? Well, mostly because I lacked anything else good to write about today.

If you know me well enough, I’m sure you’d immediately pick me as a “fuck reboots” kind of bloke. You’re not far off. Did we need another Robocop? Did we need another Robin Hood? Did we need another Full House? Did we need another Ocean’s 11? Did we need another Ghostbusters? Did we need another A Star Is Born? Did we need another Every Single Disney Film But In Live Action? I could keep doing that for the rest of the entry, but I think the point is well-tread. Originality in cinema feels like a relic of the past. A while back someone used the words “pre-sold” and it made everything click. Hollywood has been making progressively less money as the years have rolled on. Is it piracy? The decreasing spectacle of the big screen? Who knows? All I know is that there have been a shit ton of unnecessary remakes in the past ten years. Franchise building is a huge part of the cinema experience. There are the aforementioned Disney live action films, or the plethora of Marvel spin offs and projects. Legendary has some kind of big monster movie (Godzilla 2014, Kong: Skull Island, etc) thing going on. Pre-sold is what it says, it’s an easy way to ensure a certain segment of the audience. If it’s nostalgic or plays on a beloved property, a number of seats are basically sold irrespective of the film’s objective quality.

Do I think this is lazy bullshit? Yes. Do I think efforts would be better spent on supporting original IP like Get Out or Sorry to Bother You? Of course I do, but I’m not naiive. Hollywood is scared to invest in projects that may not make a return. It’s too much of a risk. Mid-Budget movies (this article mentions them briefly) don’t happen anymore. It’s Go Big or Go To Netflix. I’m also not dumb enough to think that only my tastes matter. You know what? A lot of people were stoked to see Beauty and the Beast rebooted for the big screen and there’s no reason I’d want to take that away from them. There’s nothing wrong with watching entertainment for entertainment’s sake, that’s kind of the point. The relentless onslaught of remakes and reboots doesn’t preclude me from getting the stories I want, so it’s not like there’s an issue there. I just won’t watch them. There’s exponentially more than enough content to go around.

I also think it’s interesting that the reliance on pre-sold IP can actually help buff out mythos’ that were otherwise undeveloped. Castlevania on Netflix is a good example. It was a video game with an unremarkable narrative. The first season isn’t great, but the second season really does develop a fun arc and characters that justify the setting. It’s an original plot that’s been birthed from one that was otherwise super bland. Similarly, I’ve heard that the new Voltron series is clever and engaging for kids, with excellent voice acting. While I’d usually balk at the idea of resurrecting an old IP instead of making something new, why shouldn’t our kids get to understand why we used to love this old shit? I’m happy to fence sit on this notion. I don’t have any answers.

Like I said earlier, I can always watch my own stuff, even if I consider it underappreciated. Part of me wishes it got more attention purely because it deserves it. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is still not a household name. Neither are Stephen Falk, Noah Hawley or Yorgos Lanthimos. Would I adore this stuff as much if it was watercooler conversation? I flat out don’t know. I do think it’d make watercooler conversation more gripping, at least.

I guess if I’m boiling it down, what guts me the most about this whole scenario is that most people don’t know what they’re missing out on and they don’t care. People are already happy with what they have. As far as they’re concerned, they’re getting what they want. There’s a new Star Wars film every year, so why worry about those universes they never explore? If it was good enough for them to hear about, they would.

I guess what I’m saying is, when’s the Community movie being released? We had six seasons.

I swear I’m not *just* saying it either

None of us really just “hang out” anymore.

This wasn’t my exclusive observation. A friend pointed it out while a bunch of us were hanging out as a group. Remember being a teenager and calling friends up to hang out? The motive was simple: Spend time together. That was it. Sure, you could figure out activities as you went, but it was more about being in each other’s presence than looking for an end goal. Maybe you’d “go to the mall” or mill about the house. We’d play video games or dawdle in stores and maybe go to the food court. As I said, there were still activities, but they were secondary to being together. These days that rarely happens, at least for me. It’s about finding an excuse, as if that was a necessity. “Hey, wanna grab Korean?” or “Hey wanna watch a movie?” “I’m looking to get a few things from Kensington Market. Wanna come along?” Constant justification for time spent, as if auditing ourselves. Excessive pretext in lieu of the subtext. We’re still just looking to spend time together, but couched inside a raison d’etre. We can’t *just be*. In this economy? Maybe it’s also fear, in an interconnected world where anything we want is at our fingertips. That’s a lot to compete with. If you want to be in somebody’s company, you better give them a damn good reason to commit to you and not the myriad of opportunities at their command. Time is a big ask of someone else. We’re all so busy busy busy and stepping off that treadmill is a huge emotional bid. There need to be stakes for the scenario to be worth it.

Really though, being together is its own reward. I think we all know that deep down. Having close friends to share yourself with is pretty goddamn fulfilling. Confiding in one another, offering support, reminiscing or joking around. It’s all an excellent use of time if we spare even a few seconds to think about it. Yesterday I spent almost 12 hours hanging out with friends. It was impromptu and the best use I could’ve made of the day. It wasn’t true “hanging out” in the “without pretense” sense, but it kind of became that. It all started with a group afternoon brunch message. We quickly mobilised at a local spot and got our menus. I regaled the group with how my brain works when trying to decide how to order:

“So I’m trying to choose between the PLT and the burger (the linked menu is old and lists a Grilled Cheese Burger. It’s now just a regular burger with additional options). The PLT has most of the options that I want, but it feels like it doesn’t quite get there. The Burger feels sort of like a cop out for breakfast usually, but since it’s 1pm I feel okay about a burger being the most important meal of my day. I really like that the burger feels more substantial than the PLT, but it doesn’t have cheese, which the PLT does. The PLT also has egg, which the burger doesn’t. But at the same time one egg feels insubstantial, so I’d want two eggs or more food. The burger is $2 more expensive, but it does feel like I’d be more full. I mean. Ideally getting the burger with cheese and an egg would get me to my happy place, but with those additions I’m paying $20.50 for a breakfast burger, which feels a little excessive. By the time I’m there, I might as well be getting the steak and eggs for $20 (the prices on the linked menu are also a little outdated. Two eggs costs $5 now). No, that wasn’t an option that I mentioned before, but in the back of my mind I was thinking that if I got past $20, no matter what I was ordering it’d make more sense to get the steak instead, since it’s the premium menu option. So, I guess I’m having the steak?”

The steak was great. Brunch was great. The company was great. We chatted about movies, we got nostalgic about old trends, we reminisced about past parties and our own weird “isms”. We joked around and made puns, all while gorging on excellent tucker. So when someone suggested to keep the party going, it all made sense. With all of us being locals, we stopped off at home to pick up supplies then reconvened at our friend’s place to watch movies. For the next 10 or so hours we did just that. We lay in their basement plounge (pillow lounge. They have a couple of mattresses, lots of soft toys and blankets. We fall asleep there all the time), watched films, snacked and shot the shit. Some people came and went, and the dynamic was always rock solid. It was the utter best, just shamelessly chilling out and being ourselves around friends who encouraged exactly that. We celebrated each other and the people in our lives. We bitched and moaned about things on our mind. We followed narratives and got sucked into nature documentaries. It was totally ideal, and it’s a shame it doesn’t happen more often.

So yeah, we should hang out more.

Time for another Gourd Idea, Bad Idea

I had the dumbest idea for a weird little video series.

So I mentioned the other day that I found my new workmate, Pumplestiltskin. For a quick recap, I was bored and walked the floors at work. I used to work on the 5th floor and people have a habit of leaving free food in the kitchen. Seemed like as good a time as any to leave my desk, so I climbed two flights of stairs in the hopes that a mid-afternoon snack was waiting for me. Pumplestiltskin to be didn’t look like a snack, but that could change, given the right makeover. I drew some eyes, a little nose, a big beard and some eyebrows. With the addition of a promotional Guinness trilby a co-worker had lying around, Pumplestiltskin was complete. I’m not an artist.

I was sitting at my desk, looking at Pumplestiltskin. I started thinking of how satisfying it’d be to see a pumpkin splatter on the ground from a great height. To clarify, I’ve had Pumplestiltskin for a handful of days and I’m already plotting its murder. Maybe don’t leave me in charge of infants. To me it almost seemed like a symbol that Fall was coming to an end. I googled the dates at which seasons in Canada changed. Despite the occasional snowfall, The 21st of December would mark true Winter. This meant it’d be just under a month until, if everything came to fruition, I’d be able to toss Pumplestiltskin from the eighth floor balcony of the office.

The next question was how I’d get permission to do so.

I was chatting with one of the radio program directors downstairs after my last job application. She said that maybe in the future she could get me involved in some content creation for the station. I’m 99% sure it was just a kind, polite rejection, but could there be something behind it? I feel like I’d get reprimanded for just tossing a rotund pumpkin off a building, but if it were part of marketing and promotion? Would that give me the leeway to fulfil a momentary desire? Moreover, how would I pivot Pumplestiltskin into some kind of content (for the protracted excuse of watching it splatter utterly)? Maybe a daily social clip called something like “The Gourd Word with Pumplestiltskin”. I could make a silly intro song with dumb Saved By The Bell style visuals. A real cheesy vibe, flippant and overly long. Then cut to a short video of Pumplestiltskin in some location, with me giving a voice over. My VO could be anything from a stupid pun, a brief reference to a contemporary news story, an old one-liner cribbed from an obvious source (like Mitch Hedberg’s “escalators don’t break” one), or trenchant political commentary. We could vary the location or add props to push the scenes in new directions. Over time they could become more and more elaborate. Then, of course, the outro song (same as the intro) could play and the clip would be over. I’d imagine the whole thing would be 30 seconds, with the Pumplestiltskin clip only 5-8 seconds long. The timing would all be part of the joke.

Wait. Would a pumpkin even last for another month? It’d already been around for at least one. 8-12 weeks, apparently. It was risky, but 8-12 weeks probably left me with the appropriate amount of time to do this.

Hold on, could that be my hook? The gears in my brain started turning over.

Pumplestiltskin is ostensibly aged between 25-35 human years. Over the course of the next month, it’ll age (rot) dramatically. Was there potential for a story arc? Maybe start out with the more absurd, random humour and slowly gravitate towards poignant ruminations on life? As it became clear that Pumplestiltskin was slowly dying, it could dispense pearls of wisdom or hopes for future generations. This, of course, would be punctuated some days by more of random humour or dumb puns. There’d be a real balance to strike. Humans identify with antropomorphic objects surprisingly quickly. Could Pumplestiltskin become a beloved character in under a month? How would we draw people in, making Pumplestiltskin likeable enough that viewers would mourn its death? Do we even have any brands at work that’d suit this kind of abstract humour? Or are they all a bit too stuffy and self-serious?

Pumplestiltskin may not have legs, but this idea might.