The answer is at least four. Four internet

I’ve been procrastinating over starting this.

Why? Because it’s my day off. Because I’m feeling laconic. Because there’s a lot of stuff out there on The Internet, and it’s kind of hard to be exploring it while I’m writing this. I resolved to finally settle in and write, and you know what I did? I opened a tab to The AV Club to check out what pop-cultural happenings are afoot. That’s how zoned in and on task I am right now. You really want to know how zoned in and on task I am? After writing that, I opened my Facebook tab and clicked around a bunch, accomplishing nothing and learning even less. It’s my day off, get used to it.

So why should you out there be reading what I’m writing here? TL;DR: You shouldn’t. There’s no good reason to be dialled into this slop. Just because I arbitrarily decided over six years ago that I’d write for at least half an hour each day, that doesn’t imply it’ll provide value for others. I kid. Sometimes I write fun stuff, but since I’ve become happy and satisfied in my life, it’s sort of delivered diminishing returns. While I think the tortured artist thing is a harmful myth, I’ve unfortunately been creatively occupied in other areas, and it’s left dwindling scraps for this project. Soz.

The concept of Ikigai crossed my mind yesterday. It’s a Japanese concept relating to finding one’s true purpose, or what activates you. Ikigai takes four poles and overlaps them in a floral Venn diagram. These are: What you’re good at, what the world needs, what you love, and what you can be paid for. There are intersections between the different poles, but the intersection of all four is Ikigai. I’ve talked about it before, but from a sense of longing. It’s such a promising concept, and staring at it from the outside can be a harsh wakeup. Wikipedia explains it well enough, but maybe not as well as this wonderful diagram.

Things lately have changed for me, and looking at Ikigai, I realised I’m in it. I know I’ve been talking often about my job, but it’s a novelty to want to talk about it. I love my job, doing Described Video for television. It’s challenging creatively and mentally. I have to constantly think about audiences, what information they need to know, their capacity for vocabulary, what would make a scene pop for them. I have to write in my head as I go, and fit whatever I think of into restrictive gaps between dialogue. It’s something that the world needs, or at least it helps people. I’m making programming accessible for those who’d otherwise struggle. I do a lot of cartoons, and my brain always goes back to the idea of helping kids get to watch their favourite shows. I know how much I loved cartoons, and how the style of humour totally influenced my world view/creative thought. I could be helping youngsters get the same out of their programming. I’m paid well for what I do, and my shorter shifts allow me to have a real work/life balance. I can tend to my needs both physical and emotional. I don’t get stressed, I’m taking care of myself and having time with the people I love. Lastly, I’m good at it. I’m learning and growing. I care about the work enough to want to improve. I feel personal pride in knowing that these skills I’ve wanted to express for so long are getting used. It’s a bizarre nexus of unconventional skills, and they just so happen to align with ones I’ve been honing for years.

It’s incredibly humbling to look at this list and think back to the last time I thought of Ikigai. I was good at what I did, but it didn’t fulfil me. I hated the work, I was underpaid, and it wasn’t helping anyone. I felt empty, and lacked the kind of self-worth that I knew I could obtain. I’ve now achieved a kind of alignment that’ll enable me to seek out more. To do more, help others and share what I can. I feel activated, and it’s an uncannily worthwhile sensation.

Of course, that doesn’t stop me from procrastinating on my days off. Do you REALISE how much internet is out there?

Swordid business, really

I was at a party last night, and I sat down next to someone playing the new Pokémon.

We chatted a bunch. It was 4am, an ideal time for me to be chilling out, watching someone play. We started chatting about the games, and their evolution. I tried to chart where I stepped off from the franchise. I had Blue and Silver on my Game Boy/Game Boy colour. I emulated Sapphire and Leaf Green. I think I skipped Diamond/Pearl, then played White. X and Y, Sun and Moon and now I’m gonna skip Sword and Shield. I tried to track back how many consoles had existed and got lost. Apparently after the Game Boy Colour there was Advance, Advance SP (looked like a little make-up box), then Game Boy Micro. Did you come here to see me list things? I think I had a point, and largely it’s that I thought I was somewhat on top of things in the Pokémon universe, but I’m actually way behind. The games have continued to explode exponentially and I’m not with it. Cue the classic Simpsons clip. I used to pride myself on my insane Pokémon knowledge. I’d almost rote learned it by playing them so goddamn much. I knew what levels most Pokémon evolved, when they’d learn moves. I knew where most of the hidden items were in the game. I had all the puzzles memorised and could bust through Silph Co. in record time. I could easily finish the game without the Flash HM. Am I flexing? Only if you think this is all admirable behaviour.

These days, my knowledge has slipped into the realm of obsolescence. Things have changed, the world has moved on, and so have I. I still deeply love the franchise, but in a way that I understand is a relic. I don’t think I’ll ever truly play another Pokémon game, and I’m quite fine with that. I still get excited hearing about how the franchise evolves. I love learning about new evolutions, innovative features or spins in the game. That Alolan form thing was nifty, giving Pokémon new elemental types and designs. I did DV on an episode of Pokémon last night, and it was really neat to see just how expansive it’s all become. I was lost, with very few Pokémon I actually knew. It was kinda cool being out of touch, knowing that I had so much more to potentially learn.

It’s weird to think that this franchise is still a goddamn powerhouse. Between Pokémon Go, the aforementioned Sword and Shield, the (probably thousands of episodes by now) animated show still going strong, and Detective Pikachu hitting the screens this year, it’s kind of nuts. There are still toys, card games and apparel being churned out. As far as I know, it’s still massive in Japan, and Nintendo basically have a license to print money.

Yet Facebook, if you think I’m gonna follow the Bulbasaur Propaganda page that you suggested you’re dead wrong. I’ll heart react every post that comes across my news feed, sure, but I’m not giving you the satisfaction of being right.

Is there such a thing as a Nintendo Switch emulator yet?

Guess you could say I was drawn to it

No nonsense entry today.

Okay, correction. I’m plowing ahead with my entry and I’m not stopping till I hit the end. That’s what I meant by no nonsense. You can be rest assured, dear reader, that there will be nonsense. This is me we’re talking about. I took on the ungainly task of writing every day for at least 30 minutes over six years ago. I’m still writing. There’s no way I’d be able to fill that much space with good quality, thought provoking writing. I don’t have it in me. I do, however, have a cup of coffee and a metaphorical fire under my arse, so let’s think about some stuff.

I discovered the site watchcartoononline the other day, and I’ve been diving in deep. I don’t need help finding a stream of recent cartoons, but this site archives years and years worth of animation. It’s been a massive treat looking back at the shows I loved as a kid and seeing how they stack up. So far, honestly, they’ve been pretty great. I hit up The Mask first. The jokes were so so, but the scripting on that show is INSANE. Not since Popeye have I seen a character with such an onslaught of verbal diarrhoea. He simply doesn’t stop. It’s impression after impression for sorta non-jokes. The really impressive thing though, is Rob Paulsen. He’s a goddamn savant when it comes to voice acting, and this madcap character makes use of his absurdly wide palette. It’s non-stop accents, impersonations and characters, and he gives it the whole time. The dialogue is frenetic and almost feverishly quick, and I can definitely trace elements of my humour back to this show’s style.

Samurai Pizza Cats was a similar awakening, but more so. A quick note on Samurai Pizza Cats, Saban adapted the Japanese show Kyatto Ninden Teyandee, but were provided with very few usable translations. So they just completely rewrote the scripts as a wacky farce. It’s insane. It’s a show about, you guessed it, samurai cats who work at a pizza parlour. They didn’t bury the lede. There are puns galore. The writing is intentionally gratuitous, overstuffed with asinine alliteration. It’s ostensibly for kids, but the quantity of jokes that would’ve gone over their heads (talking about inadequate pay for writers, gentle references to sex workers, referencing classic North American pop-culture) is insane. It’s so meta, self deprecating (a line in the intro “they’re stronger than old cheese, they’re stronger than dirt” as a reference to an Ajax commercial) and there are a bunch of characters stuffed with campy pomp. It’s such a good time, and watching it revealed how integral it was to developing my meta humour. The idea of calling attention to the inane and unnecessary really spoke to me. It’s exactly the kind of comedy I like to see in the world, and hope to inject. Without a doubt, this show was one of my pillars.

Last night, I watched Animaniacs. This was a big one. It came at exactly the right time for me, when my brain was elastic, with endless potential. I was thrilled by this show. So many jokes were conceptual on a level I’d never seen. I hear people talk about their first time watching sketch comedy with a type of reverence. Animaniacs was my sketch comedy. Unbound by the laws of reality or physics, it swung for the fences at every turn. It wasn’t afraid to challenge kids, or shoot above their heads. One of the episodes we watched last night was an oral history of the Warner Brothers (and Warner Sister) filtered through a lens of old Hollywood. There were jokes that still went over my head. I remember being a kid, watching this show and not getting jokes, then asking questions to find out more. It made me inquisitive and curious, with a hunger for knowledge so I could get more attuned to the funny. I wanted to understand the references. Also, as an adult I think Chicken Boo is the funniest goddamn thing in the world. I used to be so angry that people couldn’t see that he was clearly just a chicken, and now I’m rooting for the chicken always.

Y’know, for an entry about cartoons, there was very little nonsense. Here’s Chicken Boo.

Yes alarms and yes surprises, please

Last night I set my alarm for work.

My girlfriend and I were readying for bed. I say readying, but I was naked, with the covers pulled up to my neck all cosy-like. I looked at my alarm. I thought out loud “I think I’m gonna set my alarm to 7am instead of 7.15. I wanna make sure I arrive early to prep for my shift.” She blinked and looked back at me, surprised. “Oh?” She remarked “that’s a big difference.” I thought to myself and agreed. I hated my last job. I dreaded going to work, knowing that nothing but disappointment and coffee were going to greet me at my desk. I’d think about the endless emails and urgent changes. I’d think about how we were permanently short-staffed, and the revolving door nature of the department meant we’d never not be. I’d think about my co-workers, and how much they struggled day to day. I’d think about how emotionally drained I’d be leaving the office, to have a break before heading back to do the same thing the next day. I’d think about my weekends, the desperate urgency that accompanied my reprieve from work. Most weekday mornings, I’d think about all of this before I even stepped out the door. I’d get up late, arrive when I felt like it, and leave early. I had no shits to give.

These days I think about what shows I’ll “get” to do, not “have” to do. I think about the kids with low vision who’ll get to watch cartoons because of my work. I think about my bike ride, my heart racing as I zip up hills. I think about my co-workers, all super friendly guys, who look out for one another and offer help whenever they can. I think about my bosses, who trust us as professionals and provide us with whatever we need to get our jobs done. I think of work life balance, and achieving it for the first time. I think of the difference between the unrealistic expectations of the past job, and the support I get in this one. I think of the specialised skills this job requires, the bizarre convergence with my own, and how much I’m learning. I think of how easy it is to get to sleep these days, without my brain freewheeling excessively. I think of how manic I was all of eight months ago, when I seriously thought I was losing touch with reality. I think of the constant cycles of negativity that used to reverberate around my skull. I think of the ex co-workers I still talk to, how they’re always in a state of crisis. I think of how much I like doing the work. Repeatedly doing retakes to get it right. I think about the complete lack of hesitation I have in staying late. I think of all this, and set my alarm to arrive early for my shift.

I think I’m happy, and I think I like it.

If you forget, does it really count as learning?

Oh hey, I’m awake!

Desperate times call for me to be writing now, at 8am on a bus. It’s my first weekday day shift, so I get to see what all the 9-5 fuss is about. Sure, I used to start at 9.30am, but that half hour is a world away. There are spare seats on this bus. I don’t even need to nestle into a hirsute armpit at an odd angle. I have my own seat. I don’t even have a seat mate. Two seats to myself, even. Bag on my lap just in case anyone wants to sit down. We might be only one stop away from the station, by who knows? I’m not used to all this room to roam. The train platform will be the true test of time. When I wanted to get to work on time for 9.30am, the first two or so trains were crammed. It’s 8.20am now and… Welp, first train, no seats, but nigh infinite standing room. This is anecdotal for sure, but day one of 9am works. I even have a pole to hold onto. What luxury!

Imagine if the entire entry was just me talking about my train trip. My locomotion commotion, if you will. I’m not sure I can do much better, but let’s see what’s in my brain today.

At work yesterday I described a bunch of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That episodes. It’s an awesome show I’d never heard of before. Aimed at pre-schoolers, The Cat in the Hat teaches them about science. It’s fully in the spirit of Seuss’ colourful and absurd worlds. It’s formulaic, but kids love repetition. The two kids, Nick and Sally will have a problem that involves science. The Cat shows up and tells them about some place he’ll take them where they can learn. The kids will be stoked, and ask their parents if they can go. The parent will say yes, and make some kind of pun, then they fly away on the Thingamajiger. It’s a setup that lends itself to all kinds of adventures. Yesterday’s episodes were about stuff like gravity, water flow, how to build a shelter, magnets, etc. Important stuff for kids to learn. I can only imagine this show would’ve been my everything in those early ages. It’s colourful, safe, and has a bunch of jokes. The stuff they learn is pretty cool. The magnets episode involved magnetic blue and orange rocks in a river. They had to turn their blue and orange canoe around in the water, so the same coloured end of the canoe would be repelled by the rock, and they could float harmlessly past. I checked in with my brothers, my niece and nephews are all watching this show. How cool is that? They’re all gonna be smart cookies, with a thirst for colours, learning and puns.

Good news, I’m still awake! I’m just about to arrive at the office, and who knows what I’ll do today? If a magical cat shows up and promises to whisk me away to a fantasy land though, you know I’m following that whimsy.

What will I learn today?

Guess I finally have a political platform to run on

I don’t know when you last watched Family Guy, but maybe keep it that way.

When I was 14 or 15, I loved Family Guy. It was this blend of irreverence, dirty humour and pop cultural references that gelled perfectly with a burgeoning teenage brain. It was something fresh, a kind of amalgam of The Simpsons and South Park, an animated comedy where reality played second fiddle to a good joke. The archetypes were way out there, and I watched a lot. It got cancelled, eventually, then brought back. It’s had 17 seasons now, which is probably 14 seasons too many.

At work last night I had to describe some episodes from season 12. It was fun to work on, with a huge variety of description, but egads, what a shitshow. I mean, also a shit show. It’s abysmal. I swear it wasn’t always this bad, but who knows? The plotlines are contrived and unnecessary. There’s very rarely ever any message or meaning to them. Just an excuse for crude comedy. That makes me sound like I’m trying to shit on the hoi polloi, but I’m not. I like crude comedy. Have you seen how often I talk about poop here? I think farts are funny, but part of that is how you use them. Crude comedy for the sake of being crude or edgy lacks real bite. Do something clever with it. I dunno. There was an episode I worked on yesterday where Peter gets a whip (the entire plotline got discarded after ten minutes). During this time he slashes Meg, whips Stewie (the infant) across the face, enough to leave a bloody gash. He goes to a Devo concert and whips fellow concertgoers. That’s about it. I’m not coming at this with any hesitation over an animated show causing violence to an animated, talking infant, but there was no point to the gag. He whips his kid for retreading a dumb “cool whip” joke from early in the show’s run. The kid sits there with a bloody face for two seconds. End scene. The crowd roars with applause?

Here were some plotlines I saw last night:

  • Peter, Jo and Quagmire get ousted from their usual booth at the Drunken Clam by some tough looking dudes. They feel emasculated, and everyone in their lives starts taking advantage of them. Lois tells Peter to Man Up, so they go back to the bar and get the shit beaten out of them by the dudes in a 3-4 minute fight scene. It turns out the dudes were soldiers, and the bar holds them up as heroes. End episode.
  • Stewie and Brian become blood brothers to cement their friendship. Stewie gets herpes from Brian. Turns out Chris got herpes from Brian too. They enact revenge. They sabotage his date. Chris steals his car. Stewie and Brian make up.
  • Chris starts dating Pam, the daughter of Jerome (bartender at the Drunken Clam). Pam is black. The family has no issue, but Jerome doesn’t want his daughter dating a white man. There’s a dumb song (and it’s seen as dumb in the show. Great lampshading there /s) about all the amazing things that white people have given black people. Eventually, Jerome is okay with it. End episode.

I can only imagine what season 17 is like. Who knows? Maybe the show had a major mea culpa and changed course. Maybe it has something to say. Somehow I doubt it. Then again, since Family Guy‘s popularity waned, there have been a ton of great adult animated shows to take its place. Rick and Morty, BoJack Horseman, Archer, Bob’s Burgers. It’s not like the show even needs to be relevant any more, so maybe who cares?

Now that I think about it, “maybe who cares?” is a great motto.

We had a gas. Or in a word, sublimation

I so rarely karaoke.

I did last night. Karaoke was fucking great. I don’t usually, what was different? My girlfriend and I went over to our friends’ house, and they’ve got it all down pat. They built a gorgeous tiki bar in their basement complete with AstroTurf and comfy couches. They also have a karaoke mic. I’d never considered the logistics of home karaoke with modern technology, and it’s actually pretty smart. In lieu of a whole machine, it’s a singular mic that looks a bit like a reporter’s mic. It has a little box thing between the receiver and hilt. Said box has a couple of buttons, but also a built in speaker. Your voice doesn’t get amplified through the wider audio setup, but instead through this handheld gizmo. It means that you hear yourself pretty clearly, others who are close by can hear your non-amplified voice clearly, and people chilling about can have their conversations without disrupting the person singing. It works really well. The other unsung hero of this setup was YouTube. People upload a ton of karaoke versions, and all it takes to find them is using the prefix “karaoke”. So a search term might be “karaoke let it go” and there you are. You can belt out Elsa’s queer anthem for the entire lounge. You’d be surprised at just how many there are, and you don’t even need to fuck around with huge tomes full of arcane numeric codes.

I so rarely do karaoke because the thing here seems to be people coming in with polished song choices. That’s cool, but it’s not me. I just want to fuck around and see if I can imitate voices, or hit certain notes. I don’t care about blowing the roof off, I want to goof off. I don’t feel like I have the safety net to do so when it’s this performative bar scenario. If I’ve had to wait an hour to get a turn, I’m not gonna toss on “Teenage Dirtbag” purely to test if I can do the weedy voice. I’d go for a safe choice instead. In a friend’s basement, things felt a lot looser. I didn’t have to worry about embarrassing myself, because it’s only friends present. If we’re all trying stuff out, there’s a ton of support for merely giving it a go.

It was widely agreed that one of the worst karaoke conventions is being stuck with a song that has infinite outro. You know those tracks where the last minute or two is just the chorus repeating? If you’re not a strong or creative singer, that shit gets stale so quickly. My guess is that trained singers know their voices better, and thus are well equipped to improvise or do neat variations. If you’re like me and pretty much know the song how it was recorded, it’s hard to find the subtle changes to keep it fresh. On the contrary to this, it was interesting thinking about “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. The whole “where do we go” breakdown looks boring on paper, but the vocal inflections are really interesting and fun to emulate. It made me realise that while lyrics matter to some extent, that only goes so far. What are words if not a way of expressing the instrument of your voice? Rhythm and cadence are their own language, and sometimes that supercedes the amount of sense their guiding lyrics make.

What this did for me, at least in a smaller group, was to make me consider approaching songs that were punchy and fun to sing, but potentially problematic in content. Case in point: Sublime. Sublime were my favourite band for years, and while everyone knows “Santeria” or “What I Got”, they also have a bunch of gems. Bradley James Nowell was a very talented singer and songwriter, and it always felt like his heart was in the right place. The thing is, the world’s a vastly different place than it was in early 90s surfer SoCal. For its time, it really wouldn’t surprise me if the conceit of “Date Rape” (dude is a shitty date rapist, nobody tolerates his shit and he gets sent to prison where he’s forcibly butt sexed. Ba dum tss.aiff) was considered progressive. It ain’t now. But songs like “Date Rape”, “Mary”, “Wrong Way”, they’re as much of a blast to sing as they are inappropriate for this time period. The songs have all kinds of rad dynamics, and they’re quite theatrical. With a certain amount of acknowledgement of that, and an understanding that the lyrics themselves aren’t being put on a pedestal, it’s a wicked time singing along with a bunch of friends.

One more thing I learned? I straight up don’t know the Spanish parts of “Caress Me Down”.