I don’t make movies, but if I did…

Well, I did it. I got through three hours of cinematic cinema (I’m a Writer and don’t you forget it) without having the movie spoiled.

So now I’m about to unload massive spoilers. Given the sheer importance of corporate ownership tied up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its various franchises, certain characters got left off the table in Endgame. Disney owns Marvel, it owns Fox, and it has the rights to certain Spider Man characters (I’m assuming the Homecoming ones anyway). I was quite surprised not to see any of the following characters in any of Endgame‘s many many hours:

  • Magneto: It just makes sense, right? Magneto is Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver’s dad. They’re mutants. Wouldn’t Infinity War be a great time to see this all powerful mutant introduce the X-universe to Thanos and his team?
  • David Haller (Legion): Fox owns the excellent show Legion on its FX brand, and since Disney owns Fox why not bring the high tier reality shaper and superhuman David Haller into the mix? Wouldn’t that make for some fun, creepy scenes? Dr Strange has weird mystical magic, is this such a stretch?
  • Silver Surfer: As used in the much maligned Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Marvel’s going all in on the trippy 70s cosmic stuff, why not bring in the Herald of Galactus to wield the Power Cosmic in defence of Terra Nova? Maybe he’d also herald a non-shit Fantastic Four script in the future.
  • Nick Fury: Anyone else remember the classic 1998 Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD? Starring none other than Baywatch babe David Hasslehoff himself? Alternate universes and stuff are big in Marvel (House of M, anyone?), bring in the old guard to help clean house and sweep the floor with any remnants of Hydra.
  • Squirrel Girl: Fan favourite Squirrel Girl could’ve had a hell of a Girl Power moment taking down Thanos with hordes of squirrels. IT WOULDN’T BE THE FIRST TIME. What’s more, it’d teach children that with love (and an army of fluffy rodents), anything is possible.
  • The Incredibles: We just had The Incredibles 2, and we know they have the mettle to go toe to toe with villains of all stripes. They’re bonafide super heroes with great family values. It’d be an excellent chance to capitalise on corporate synergy with their Pixar arm, and there was so much CGI in Endgame that they wouldn’t have seemed that out of place. Am I wrong? Jack Jack could’ve given Thanos a run for his money.
  • Mulder and Scully: Look, the X-Files got a revival last year. Everyone loves Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny. They’d add steamy will they/won’t they tension the film was sorely lacking. Plus there are SO MANY aliens in the MCU, why not bring in extraterrestrial/cryptid/ghost experts? They’re great investigators and no stranger to combat situations either.
  • Super Buddies: In one of the multitude of direct to video Air Buddies sequels, they got super powers. If they weren’t gonna bring in the X-universe, they already had a budding (sorry, Buddy) psychic in yoga dog Buddha. Disney owned the rights, why not do a crossover and rekindle the beloved Air Bud Cinematic Universe with a feature in the MCU? It makes too much sense.
  • The Bash Brothers: Audience favourites from the much loved D2: The Mighty Ducks. When they’re on the ice, they’re practically unstoppable. Why not bring in Keenan Thompson to knucklepuck the fuck out of Thanos and his cronies?
  • Bart Simpson: The 90s It Boy himself. Aren’t we all clamouring for a scene where Captain America walks into a darkened corridor with scant lighting and whispering shadows? He spies a shadowy figure turned away, sitting quietly. Cap calls out “who goes there?” The seat slowly turns, diffused light casts down on a young man’s yellow face. A voice replies “I’m Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?” Why else would Disney have purchased Fox, if not to make dreams of the perfect crossover come true?

Look Disney, I’m happy to hear offers. Just give me an MCU already.

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Just call me the Retrievian Man

This whole project is nothing (could I have stopped the sentence there?) if not a nostalgia factory. It’s such a driving force in my life that I often find myself navel gazing back at my past in the hopes of forgetting what a dismal state of affairs adult life is. Other times I get nostalgic about times in my adult life, blowing my hypothesis of its dismal state out of the water. Did any of this preamble matter? Was I typing just to kill time? Isn’t that really what this whole project is about? In any case, I went back and listened to a bunch of The Air Bud Pawdcast.

You know what? It’s pretty good. At the very least, it gets pretty good. The first few episodes were understandably “ruff” as we were trying to find our footing. Two nobodies with zero experience making a podcast. As the episodes went on, we found our rhythm, added new segments and began to understand how we could create a better listening experience for anyone who dialled in. We started developing chemistry, creating multi-episode in jokes and o’erleapt previous technical difficulties.

As an entirely “impartial” listener (as if), I’ve actually really enjoyed going back through them. It’s funny, and the one-note joke of “isn’t it crazy that us adults are watching a kids’ film?” has way more elasticity than I’d expected. The kind of ridiculous and meticulous details we pull from the movies are both worth hearing and eerily observant. Neither of us get too high on our own supply (it’s hard to be justifiably uppity from a low status position) and tease one another from a place of love.

Once we brought guests on, the show catapulted. Not in popularity, it was ever an indie darling (is that what we’re calling it?). In quality. Bringing a new subject into the bizarre world of animal based children’s cinema was a treat every single time. Each guest took it slightly differently, some with aplomb and others with a reasonable distaste. They all had varied perspectives and points of interest. The sheer fact that we were no longer in an echo chamber allowed us to really branch out. We built up rapport, sometimes instantly, other times over the course of the episode. Listen to Episode 7 with Degrassi alum Raymond Ablack, for instance. Ray was a real sweet dude and immediately jumped on board.

Maybe I’m just getting listless because it feels like I haven’t made anything substantive in some time. Dumb as it was, the Pawdcast gave me some sense of purpose. I was flexing old muscles with audio work, using skills of analysis to find the oddities in each new Air Bud outing, getting to freely riff with a bunch of funny people. The best part of the whole thing? It’s still there for me to listen back and enjoy.

Even if MeUndies never gave us that sponsorship we kept clamouring for.

Nobody wants to talk about Air Bud? Story of my life.

The most bizarre aspect of this trip so far is how my perception of time has warped. In my quotidian existence I’m used to a certain pace. The workweek comes with its own time markers. Toronto, like most big cities, is a time-poor location, in that people are typically in a rush. There’s so much to do, busy busy busy, etc. Taking a step away from that for a week has left me feeling marooned. With no agenda at times I’m left floating aimlessly, unsure of how to fill a whole day.

Typically I’ve been going to bed before 1am, waking up and getting out of the house before 10am. Then returning around midnight or so. This means I’m on the move for around 12-14 hours per day. I’ve been checking out different neighbourhoods, restaurants, quirky shops and generally looking at things. By the time Happy Hour rolls in, I’m usually ready to take a load off and grab drinks/vittles. I don’t know if I’d call it a schedule, per se, but it’s how things have played out over the past few days.

Maybe I’m old, but I’ve been getting weary. I got lost on a jog up a mountain a few days back, which ended up taking an hour+. After several hours walking each day, my right leg has basically given up. Big blisters on my pinky toe and heel made walking fraught and whatever path of least resistance this caused my leg to take, various muscles have tightened to the point where walking is pain. I’ve tried to stretch as I’ve gone, but today was the first time I settled down for a long stretch session. It definitely helped, but my body is still rotting, clearly. Wubbalubba dub dub.

Yesterday I mellowed out a lot. Ate ice cream, roamed the Mississippi and Alberta neighbourhoods and spent a bunch of time on my phone. A lack of abundant social contact has meant more Reddit/Facebook. It feels tacky on holiday, but self-care is self-care, right? A friend on Facebook recommended that I install Tinder as a way of meeting people. I hastily put together a profile:

“A New Zealand Chris Traeger. Begrudgingly adorkable. Your mum thinks I’m funny. Knows way too much about Air Bud. I’m here in Portland until September 13th. Come and be a tourist with me in your own city.

Mainly using this for friends/activity partners. Ethical Poly, etc, but really want to make friends while on holiday. We could chat about Air Bud, even.”

So far I’ve had one brief response and it went less than nowhere. I have zero expectations, but it so far hasn’t met those. I do think it’s absurdly fascinating though. I’m on it to look for friends, but I still find that I’m subconsciously super judgey about who I do and don’t match with. No profile? No match. Just Instagram? No match. I’m on it to make friends but if I don’t find someone attractive I swipe left. Then I’m all ‘hey, why should looks matter? You’re right internal monologue, they don’t’. Then I swipe left on another person I don’t find attractive. It’s fucking stupid. If I do find someone to be super attractive I swipe left thinking ‘they’re way out of my league and won’t respond anyway’. I’m sure they do alright and won’t mind. Self-defeating. I find a billion reasons as to why things won’t work with most everybody I see. It’s not like I don’t swipe right, but it’s also not surprising that I’m not drowning in matches. I’m the last one in the world to realise, I’m sure, but it’s crazy addictive getting a brief glimpse into strangers’ lives.

I went out to a Rick and Morty viewing party at a “weed bar” last night in the hopes of making like-minded friends. The “weed bar” was someone’s house. Most everyone was too high to follow a real conversation. The episode was brilliant, so at least I got that much out of it. As I went to leave the host said that $5 was her standard charge so I paid, having enjoyed the chance to watch the episode. After I left, I realised she thought I’d been smoking and the charge was for pot. Dumb.

I just installed the Couchsurfing App to find people to hang out with. Let’s see how this goes. If worst comes to worst, there’s a bar hosting Magic the Gathering tonight. I can find my tribe. Unless someone on Couchsurfing slits my throat and dumps me in a river somewhere. Then I won’t have to worry about it, I guess.

If I cast far enough, shit might get reel.

Sometimes a moment of clarity will just strike you from out of nowhere. Like a bolt flung from the hands (or tentacles, let’s be real here) of a deity, an epiphany. While I was voicing yesterday, somebody from the station dropped into the studio to hang out. When I came out of the booth, she introduced herself. She asked me my background and what I wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, I replied.

“I want to make podcasts.” I said. “It’s something the opposition does, but we’re really lacking behind.” Someone else chipped in “We have them.” I nodded and replied “we do have them, but the breadth of subject matter is pretty limited, which seems weird considering the vast Intellectual Properties we have access to and our company’s push for consumer engagement. If having a social media presence is so important, why not offer them cause to spend time with us while they work? Give them even more reason to engage with our brands. It’s an intimate, personal medium. Selling the idea to consumers that we’re their friends? It’s hard to buy that kind of marketing. Why not do that?” I stopped ranting. All three people in the room were quiet, nodding.

Where the fuck did that confidence come from?

I’ve had vague ideas about professionally producing podcasts before, but haven’t given it a whole lot of serious consideration. Then all of a sudden that torrent came tumbling out of my mouth. Who would pay me to do it? Where would the funds come from? Today though, I’ve been thinking about it more. Who better than a large corporation? It’s not like they’d have to invest in infrastructure. They have the equipment, the hosting. They can handle traffic and would have umpteen ways to promote it. They have on-air talent. They have content that invites both discussion and promotion. We know that there’s a market for it, given the near ubiquity of podcasting. All it needs is someone to go to bat for it.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately in multiple areas. Aside from near constant impostor syndrome (though I assume this is a universal part of the human condition), I’ve been feeling really down on myself. For years I had a fire burning, mantra of Make it Happen running through my head. I felt indomitable and pushed forward constantly. The past few years have felt like a rut professionally and I’ve started to doubt whether or not I’m a capable person. It’s been harder to get motivated and excited about things. Self-esteem has given way to recursive negative self-talk and I’ve started to stop believing that I deserve opportunities.

This past weekend was spent in the constant company of friends. A couple of them were people I’m quite close with, but most were casual acquaintances. I had an amazing time, but one thing stuck out to me. Almost universally, people there saw me as quick witted and down for anything. They assumed I took chances and opportunities, that I was creative and hard working. Good-natured, compassionate and funny. They saw me as the kind of person I want to be, a person who boldly follows their desires and makes things happen.

I feel like I used to be him. That if circumstances align, I become him again. I realised just how much I want to be as my friends see me. I want to take risks and be okay with failing. I want to put in effort because a lesson learned is the worst outcome. I want so badly to believe in myself again.

If others do, what’s stopping me?

Feeling outclassed? Get your learn on!

If there’s one skill I’ve honed over my past 30 years on this planet, it’s building up an impressive flight response. My flight response is so swole it’s surprising that I haven’t ended up Forrest Gumping off into the wilderness, imbibing nourishment only from sunbeams I photosynthesise. If there’s one thing I love more than getting shit done, it’s finding any excuse not to get shit done. If I could be accountable to nobody, not even myself, that would be my ideal existence. Consequence feels so anathema to my being that getting up every day should be acknowledged as a much larger accomplishment than it is. If I’m scared of something, I’m highly adept at turning and running in lieu of facing those fears.

Which is why I guess it’s good that my friend couldn’t hang out tonight. I’ve been meaning to head along to drop-in improv classes for some time, but handy excuses have popped up without effort. It’s gotten to the point where I was aiming to work out tonight in an attempt to dodge improv class. After 15 years, working out remains something that I force myself to do day after day as opposed to gleefully anticipating it. Improv is something new, therefore terrifying. It’s a skill I struggle with and constantly makes me feel like I’m about to fail. Getting trapped in any kind of situation relying on improv is an anxious razor’s edge that I’m certain will cause me to plummet. Flashes of Carrie rotate in my brain. They are all gonna laugh at me. So I could just not.

I was a drama kid, so of course I faced improv on the regular. That didn’t mean I improv-ed. It’s always been a struggle, I get mentally choked up and it’s hard to go with my instinct when my instinct tells me I’m about to be impaled with negative reactions. My nerves get the better of me and my mind stutters, I choke (in a freestyle rap manner), feel sheepish and fail to deliver. The next time I get an opportunity to improvise, my mind casts back to the previous time I choked (whether it was three minutes or three years) and I follow suit. Unless puns are involved. I guess that’s my safety net.

Thing is, improvisational skills would help me out a bunch. First and foremost, this here piece that you’re reading right now? Improv. I’m putting to paper (metaphorically, of course) the thoughts that’re beamed from my brain to my fingers. If I had better control over how to structure or select from my available pool, wouldn’t that contribute to more enriched writing? What about the Pawdcast? It’s a wonder I manage to talk as much shit as I do bouncing off my co-host, but my ability to yes, and… is severely limited. Oh the places we’d go if only I could come along for the journey. Or my RPG playing. That’d certainly blossom from an increased ability to think on my feet (while I sat on my arse). My girlfriend is fantastic when it comes to improvisational character work and it’s awesome to see. I get mildly envious that I feel so green in comparison (yes, that was intentional) and I’d love to be able to go toe to toe with her and help lift my contribution to the campaign with it.

I’m tired of being scared and feel like it’s time to take action over it. If anything, at least I’ll raise the bar when it comes to making creative excuses.

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?

Van Dammed if you do…

Every now and again I’ll get some reference stuck in my head and want so badly to find it a home. Of course I’ve got a stable of references ready to saddle up at any time, but not all references are equal. Some are super niche, requiring either a certain unlikely scenario to come to fruition. Elsewise the reference itself might be from something esoteric or lost to the past. Quoting Captain America: The First Avenger isn’t tough, but pulling from the 1990 Captain America film takes some work for very little payoff.

The question is why any of this matters. Ultimately, like most of my content, it doesn’t. Of course I want my references to be out of control, but if I navigated my life without constant pop-cultural quotes, I’d be doing alright in my lil’ Maslow pyramid. I’d probably talk less though. Why I do chase the ‘rush’ of a solid reference is truthfully a matter of pride. It feels fantastic to toss out something obscure and have acknowledgement flow back. It’s like the full body hum of making a room erupt into laughter. There’s nothing quite like the idea that even for a second, you were capable of making people happy. Absolutely nailing a reference has that same sensation, but on a much smaller and more concentrated level. You feel in sync with someone else. There’s this communal feeling of goodwill that exists between you. You’ve called to something hidden in the depths of their memory and that discovery brings them involuntary joy. Then you get to feel special for putting them in touch with it. Like I said, it’s silly and ephemeral, but that doesn’t make it any less of a goddamn delight.

All of this is to say, for the last day or two I’ve been searching every single conversation to drop the “For me, it was Tuesday” bomb.

A friend once laid me low with that very quote and I felt tickled inside and out. It resonated in my heart and mind, both of which grew three sizes (as a side effect, I got smarter). In that moment I felt connection and a certain kind of bliss. I don’t know if I’d attain that same glorious sensation when I imparted it upon someone else, but until I know I’m gonna keep chasing that dragon.

There’s a documented moment of me experiencing this kind of euphoria. In episode 14 of the pawdcast I cast out my net with an “I am Queen’s Boulevard” pull (at least I got something from my love/hatewatch of Entourage) and catch a whale. You can hear the joy in my voice as I reel from a successful delve into the deep. Witnessing that, it’s no wonder that I chase that high any time I can.

Once again, it’s stupid, but I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t one of my favourite little moments of rapture. Then again, this would be news to nobody who’s read at least one of these entries.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.