But it’s not like they made a black Care Bear. The panda doesn’t count.

The weather’s getting warmer, finally. I’ve been taking advantage of it by going for lunchtime jogs when I can. I work on the waterfront and there’s a bike path I can use the whole way. It’s great to get out into the fresh air, no doubt. Finding the motivation to leave my seat at work isn’t always easy, but I feel better (and monstrously hungry) once I’m done. So if anything, it’s having the foresight to appreciate potential satisfaction in hindsight. My main gripe really is sort of silly, so I’ll explain.

You know that bus driver wave? Two bus drivers going in opposite directions will nine times out of ten give a little head nod or wave just to say I see you. It’s neat, it instils a sense of camaraderie. It’s like saying hey, we both know this isn’t the best, but every cloud, eh? As someone who rides in buses all the time, it’s by far my favourite thing about the experience (aside from when that bus driver told me to organise my life because I handed him a $20 note. I was 12. “We’re not a bank for you kids” he went on. Tosspot). If I was a bus driver it’d brighten my day tenfold. But I’m not, so I don’t get to do the wave.

I’ve tried to bring it in on my runs, because I think it’s important. When I’m jogging near my home I do the little customary nod or wave and most of the time the person nods back. Yep, I’m struggling too I hear them think. Because empathy is basically telepathy. I see how they’re pushing themselves and it emboldens me to keep pushing. One foot in front of the other. Life goes on, and it’s only gonna make me strong. Can’t fight the moonlight (my motivational inner monologue is LeAnn Rimes, obviously). It’s also delightful.

When I run on the waterfront though, it doesn’t happen. People avoid eye contact at all costs. It’s a bummer. Is it me? What have I been doing wrong that they won’t meet my eyes? Do I carry a wafting stench? Is my aroma so arresting that it’s easier to look away than consider a human could smell that sweaty? Is my musk offensive? Or is it the way I dress? All black worked for Johnny cash and New Zealand’s national rugby team, but I have neither the cultural capital nor charisma to pull it off in the same manner. I may not be decked out in head to toe Lululemon, but I can still go the distance. Okay, so I may be wearing golf pants, but they’re from the Canadian Olympic team. Doesn’t that make them authentic enough to count? Are they turned off by my knee brace? Damaged goods too much for them to conceive of as a legit contender? I fought hard to tear my PCL (though admittedly that wasn’t the goal). Now I’m nothing but rotting flesh in motion? The fucking audacity of these monstrous perfectionists.

Or I guess they could just be focusing on their own shit. That makes sense too. I just want to make friends wherever I go, like a care bear in human form. Is that too much to ask?

If you prefer your recommendations a little against the grain.

As I kid, I used to abhor live action television. Believe me, it wasn’t that I lacked for things to watch, but with the exception of puppetry, live action shows seemed boring as fuck. Why would you be bound by the limitations of physical actors when cartoons could be anything? I wanted dinosaurs, super heroes and robots and I wanted them always & forever. These days I watch barely any animated content, but my abstinence from flesh and blood actors lasted waaaay into my teens. I feel like I was probably 16 or 17 before I started watching prime time TV and I have no idea what pulled me in. Still, as a teenage I watched way more TV than I do now. What was I watching? Anime. LOADS of anime. I watched so much anime that I started getting desperate and watched some weird stuff. The kinds of anime you’d never expect would exist. Here are two (of the many):

BECK (Mongolian Chop Squad)

The show has nothing to do with the American recording artist of the same name. I already listened to Beck before I started watching and to be honest, it was more out of a bizarre curiosity over licensing/copyright. What was the show even about? Because there’s now way it’d be an animated retelling of the creation of Odelay. What I found was a slice of life anime about a disillusioned Japanese 14 year old nerd slowly becoming obsessed with rock music. It caught me at a time where I’d been going through similar motions and found solace in the sense of community music could bring. This show chronicles his rise and rise, facing hardships but ultimately working his way up to the big time.

I suppose it worked on a similar model to Twilight: Create a central character who’s an empty but relatable shell and suck in lonely viewers to identify with them. I got sucked in hard and started to really cheer for this character. Once I was there, the series was abound with these huge moments of triumph where the stakes pay off. You’re driven to hope for the character’s success and seeing him overcome adversity delivers this huge emotional reward. It may have been a case of this show finding me at exactly the right moment to become a perfect viewing experience, but I absolutely adored it.

Yakitate!! Japan

I often balk at watching a show when I hear it has 24 episodes. It feels like a massive time commitment. Then I remember that I once watched a 69 episode anime series about a kid who bakes bread. The show starts out relatively innocently, but within a few episodes it leans hard on the farce pedal and floors it to the end. The premise is that the central character has this unnatural power where his hands are a few degrees warmer than most people’s. He uses this ability in his quest to become a master baker, since his breads begin to bake even while he’s kneading them. It has a league of increasingly ridiculous characters with all manner of special abilities that aid their bread baking prowess. It very quickly becomes an ode to dumb japanese puns, as the central character aims to create a national bread of Japan, the Ja-pan (“pan” being the Japanese word for bread). Whenever I talk of this show, I’m always quick to point out how utterly absurd it is, and how much goddamn fun too. Somehow it keeps you holding on right till the end without dragging, including a bunch of interesting baking knowledge in there too.  If you want something carefree and delightful to watch, bun appetite!

I hope at least one of you checks these out, because my next few days will inevitably be spent youtubing BECK songs. They’re where it’s at.

I’m nothing but a shifty cond-man.

If you’re into Rick & Morty and missed the surprise season three episode one drop yesterday, maybe you should go take care of that. I’ll wait. Very minor plot details may follow.

*******

Now that you’re back, how tickled were you by the McDonalds Szechuan sauce running gag? It feels like Limited Edition Zelda Nintendo 3DS all over again. At some point I think Justin Roiland like tossing stuff into the show in the hopes of getting freebies. If it makes for entertaining TV, I’m all for it. The Szechuan sauce joke, however, had legs. The conceit is that back in 1998, as a promotional tie-in with the release of Disney’s Mulan, McDonalds had a limited edition Szechuan sauce. According to Rick, it’s the prime motivation in his character arc, getting more of that sweet, spicy sauce. In the real world, because rabid R&M fans exist, there was already a change.org petition that Justin Roiland linked on Twitter. With the future release of a live action Mulan on the horizon, is there any better time to generate groundswell? Fingers crossed. I’m jazzed enough from the bit that I’ve already considered having home made nuggets for dinner tonight, all to go with some sexy szechuan on the side.

Anyway. I’m a condiment person through and through. Here are my favourite condiments (in no particular order), for your consideration:

  • Tomato Sauce (or Ketchup in North America). It’s a classic. It’s sweet and savoury, plus it goes on practically anything. Any time I have mashed potatoes, they’ll run red with sauce. I used to have fish and chips a lot back home and I’d always squeeze on some lemon then douse them in tomato sauce. These days I have greens and carrots pretty damn often. I’ve found that by sprinkling lemon juice and tomato sauce over the top, my brain almost thinks I’m eating fish and chips. It’s like a mind-hack for a brain with crossed wires. In a similar fashion, tomato sauce and yellow mustard as a combo makes me enjoy yellow mustard (otherwise the least exciting of all mustards), because of the mental association with sausages and burgers. My favourite brands is not Heinz, but MasterFoods. It has the sweetness and consistency I enjoy.
  • Sriracha. There’s a low level spice and pleasant combination of flavours that lends itself to a ton of dishes. If I’m wanting to add a tiny kick to a dish, or cheat on blending in spices, I’ll often squirt some in. I’m a fan of the Huy Fong Foods brand, or rather the one with the rooster on the bottle. Because I’m a basic pleb like everyone else. Sriracha Mayo has gotten to be a little overrated, but it’s still bitchin’ with kumara fries.
  • Garlic Aoli. Speaking of kumara fries, garlic aoli is the classic. It’s really easy too, just mayo, salt, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. It’s great thick and cold served with hot roast veggies. I’d eat more of it, but if I made it I’d never stop eating it. My life from that point onwards would be seeking out foods to eat with aoli, ad infinitum.
  • Tartar. What even is tartar sauce? A quick google says it’s basically the same as aoli, but with pickle relish and minced onion in place of garlic/olive oil. Tartar is good specifically with deep fried fish. That’s how it’s earned its place on the list. When I come to think of it though, I probably prefer sriracha mayo or my dear tomato/lemon juice combo. So you know what? Fuck you tartar, you’ve lost your hard won place. The king is dead, long live the king.
  • Mustard. Dijon is fine, multi grain is great, dijonnaise has its place. The king of all mustards though? Colman’s English Mustard. It’s got the right spice and taste. Nothing is better on corned/roast beef or thickly sliced ham. If you’re dining with your grandma and she brings a pottle of this shit out, your night and anal rings are gonna be set ablaze. I fucking love this stuff and it’s been too long since I’ve eaten it.
  • Sweet Chilli Sauce. Not just because of its god tier combo with cream cheese, sweet chilli lightens up most meals. It’s a joy whenever you see it come to the table. Fried stuff? Sweet chilli is great. Mashed potatoes or green veggies? Sweet Chilli does its job. Anything chicken? You’re way past sorted.

The list isn’t exhaustive. BBQ sauce is all well and good. Sweet and sour is fine. There are some really nice, thick satay sauces out there. Really though, my heart is captured by the above condiments, with the exception of the traitorous impostor tartar. Will I ever get to add McDonalds Mulan inspired Szechuan to that list? If there really is a God, I may find out someday.

Who am I kidding? God is dead, long live the sauce!

Oddly enough, I feel pretty dirty today.

I stayed out late last night (for a decrepit senior like me, anyway) and didn’t get to bed until around 3.30am. Since the weather jumped about ten degrees yesterday, the bedroom was sticky with heat. Great sleep was not acquired. Even with an hour and a half nap this afternoon (I mentioned the decrepit senior thing, right?) I’m still catching up mentally. What I’m saying here is don’t expect Shakespeare in this entry.

Anyway, I was thinking today about mercy and how unstrained it is as a quality.

Dumb.

A friend and I went out to Dance Yourself Clean. It’s an indie music dance party (named after the LCD Soundsystem song. You’d be forgiven for assuming it was an alcohol/drug free gig). Basically a DJ going off a playlist of popular indie tunes both classic and contemporary (the idea of classic indie seems strange to toss around in my head). Throwing out crossfades and unnecessary flange, etc. At some point later in every event they’ll throw on Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” and the crowd will go nuts. It’s a commodified experience being packaged and sold, but I’m pretty okay with that. If I get to come to an event, hear the kind of music I enjoy dancing to and have others on a similar wavelength, I figure I’m in for a good night. It’s not about pushing boundaries and discovering new things, but rather getting that reaffirming tingle from waves of nostalgia all evening. Last night’s event was less grand than the previous one. I dunno, fewer tunes my friend and I knew. I mean, she kept on pulling out Soundhound for evidence. Once again the label throwing the event had their own artist performing live, which felt a little tone deaf. If people were coming for that specific purpose of essentially listening to a playlist, why put live performance in front of them? That’s not what they’re looking for. As with the last DYC, the live performances worked gangbusters to clear the dance floor. Who knows? Maybe it was done specifically to drive people to the bar. Help out the venue a little. In any case, if a night ends with a friend and I going for 2am korean food, it’s been decent enough.

Meeting at the Crafty Coyote was a fun choice. Sitting next to the bar, the fellow behind the bar couldn’t stop plying us with sample tasters. It’s nice when you find someone with a passion for their craft (pun kind of intended). As soon as we described the kind of tastes we enjoyed, he’d fill a bunch of sample glasses and push them our way. I think at one point I had four sample glasses sitting in front of me. One or two of them though, he really stuck the landing and nailed what I was looking for. One cider he picked out for my friend was amazing. If we weren’t heading off we would’ve downed a few pints of it. It was nice too that after an evening of arguing with people on Facebook about connotations of certain gendered terms, the barman called both of us “friend”. An unexpected, but delightful gesture that took the edge off a frustrating evening. It was really great to catch up with my friend. She’d gone through a bunch of stuff in the last while and we’d been to busy to catch up.

It was amusing, then, that some old guy at the bar kept making conversation with me. He must’ve been lonely and he was super friendly/respectful, but also wasn’t catching the social clues that I was really there to hang out with my mate. It was more funny than annoying. Thing was, the conversation got kind of interesting. He was talking about how Toronto has a bunch of remote spots that are really picturesque, but also happen to be sewerage outputs. At some point he started talking about Ghost in the Shell and Akira and it pained me to turn away from the conversation. What part of me didn’t want to talk about vintage anime with some 60+ year old stranger? I had to tell him in all honesty that I was enjoying chatting with him, but I really wanted to talk with my friend. I thanked him for his time and turned around. Once more, unexpected but delightful.

That’s my time, which means I now get to leave and eat (drink?) pea soup with my main squeeze. May you all be so lucky.

Reload, refresh and rewind.

This feels strange. Surreal. There’s an innate familiarity that’s unshakable, but with an indefinable distance. I’m home, but my core understanding of what home means has changed, so my parameters are having trouble adjusting. If home means Toronto, then what is Auckland? It’s as if my brain at some root level can’t understand the concept beyond simple binaries. Clearly I should’ve spent more time learning about quantum physics.

The best explanation of how it feels to be home is as if I’m in a simulation. I know what the simulation of Auckland is like, but every time I see something new it feels like a glitch. That’s supposed to be a hair salon, not an antiques shop, my brain will say. How it’s that oblivious to the passing of time, yet survived travel through time zones without unraveling, is a question for the ages. I woke up early and took a jog through my childhood neighbourhood. A stroll down memory lane at an accelerated pace. So much was familiar, a feeling that seemed almost physical. Then I’d jog past a park that no longer had the same playground and I’d feel deeply unsettled. Strange, but also comforting in a number of ways.

As I was jogging, I thought to myself about my relationship with Auckland. While I was chomping at the bit to leave, it’s undeniable that I have so much affection for the city in which I was raised. The level of attachment I have to random buildings or inanimate structures is bizarre. Jogging under the bridge to the lookout point I felt stirrings of something emotional deep inside. Pangs that I’d never felt. I wasn’t sure what to make of them.

I thought about that sensation more as I jogged and realised something. This reaction had a direct correlation to my own actions. I decided at some stage, knowing that I’d be away from home for some large period of time, to quash stirrings of homesickness or affection for Aotearoa. I knew I wouldn’t be back for many a day, so how would sadness over distance serve me? They were pointless emotions, so I pushed them down far beyond my acknowledgement. As I ran I let these feelings resurface, wash over me. Why be stoic? Why not soak in all I could while I could?

I thought back to the simulation notion, the glitches of unfamiliarity. I thought about how I imagined these surroundings as fulfilling a certain purpose, how they were no longer that one thing I knew them as. I thought more and realised that drawing a dichotomy between what was and what they’ve become is ridiculous. There’s far more nuance and a multitude of layers I never considered. The neighbourhood I grew up was not just a physical place, it was a bastion of memories spread across time. The run down to Fisherman’s Wharf was not merely the place where I ran before heading up to the bridge. I remembered fishing there, walks I’d taken with friends and conversations we’d had there. The Masonic Temple wasn’t just the place I went to vote once, it was also where I found $70 on the sidewalk. I jogged past old friends’ houses, up hills that used to be too steep for me to walk, let alone run. I saw my childhood house, remembered the basketball hoop in the driveway, still sans net. I cast my mind back to the lilac next to the front porch. The bees that used to swarm around.

It’s odd having a sense of comfort and wellbeing just existing in a certain space. It’s strange to be behind the wheel of a vehicle once more, but even stranger how easy it was to drive once more. It’s peculiar feeling reassured sitting on the toilet at my parents’ place, knowing how much has remained the same. I keep throwing these ambiguous modifiers in front of everything. “It’s odd, strange, peculiar”, but that doesn’t quite cover it. You know what? It’s good. Simple, but true.

It’s good to be home.

Shit just got reel.

In the weirdest development for some time, there are actually movies in theatres that I want to see. This practically never happens. I’m so often drawn to wanky dialogue driven shit, which rarely needs to be seen on the big screen. Yes, obviously watching anything in a more immersive environment will change the experience for the better. With most of “my films” I can simply trust in the depth of plot and character to pull me through. Big flashy films are so rarely my jam, but right now they’re filling the cinema. My issue is that I can’t find the time. Hell, I’ve had Don’t Think Twice for maybe a month and haven’t managed to scrape a solid two hour period of solo time on which I don’t need to accomplish something. Ironically, it’s mainly being spent on the adventures of talking puppies. If I wasn’t using up all my January vacation time already, I’d be tempted to take a Tuesday off and thrash the marginal discounts of Cheap Tuesday.
So what’s on my radar, film wise? First up, Moana. Film looks charming, funny and (as often is the case for Pixar) containing a depth that allows a family movie to shoot higher than lowest common denominator aspirations. I’m happy to see a non waif Disney princess, and hopefully a gracious depiction of Pacific culture. It’s culturally close to home and I’d love for it to be well handled. The lead is a virtual unknown, The Rock is always great to see in any role. I may well leave the cinema bawling, but that’s part of the experience. Pixar, don’t steer me wrong here. We don’t need another Cars.
We already tried to get to Arrival once, but we were dumb enough not to pre-book. Fantastic Beasts was the consolation prize. Arrival mixes my love of languages and application of science fiction into real world scenarios. Amy Adams has been outstanding in near every film of hers I’ve seen for the past few years. I still haven’t managed to get around to Sicaro (the two share a director whose name I’ll misspell if I try spell it from memory), but it’s been on my list since I first heard of it. Friends and critics alike have said a multitude of complimentary things that indicate Arrival is my kind of film.
Moonlight sounds like a gorgeous film. I’m a sucker for coming of age films and gradual linear progression. Really though, it’s a character study through the lens of his environment. It looks to be an emotionally grounded critical darling without the hokey nature of typical Oscar bait. While usually I’d leave something like this to the small screen, all indications point to it being gorgeously filmed and worth the price of admission.
After listening to the La La Land soundtrack today, I’m almost tempted to see the film again when it’s released. One of my most earnestly enjoyable film experiences in some time, it’s gripping and visually stunning. Such a wondrous colour palette free from the cynicism that so often calls to me.
Then there’s the rest of the TIFF stuff like Jackie, The Belko Experiment that I’ll likely never find the time for. It’s a luxury problem, to have too much in front of you while desiring what’s beyond your plate. In truth though, I probably won’t see any of them.
Instead I have to watch a movie about talking puppies with super powers. This is my life, after all.

Still should’ve called it Pokémon Go Go Dancers.

If there was ever a perfect fusion of my boyhood and manhood I found it last night. Peepshow TO‘s Pokémon Go burlesque.

A show stacked with sexy, salacious performers dressed in their best Pokémon attire. A 10pm start time meant the crowd was well lubricated, lusty and baying for booty. Was there ever booty to be had. I’ve never really been into strip clubs. Something about the set up feels seedy, creepy and doesn’t click right with me. Burlesque, on the other hand, seems to focus much more on adherence to theme. It’s about using seductive titillation to lead the audience towards the routine’s climax. There’s a larger overall narrative and I fucking love seeing it all come together.

Now when you pair that with one of my central childhood obsessions, you’ve got me by the (poké)balls.

They went all out and dug deep into the theme. All the show assistants were dressed as drowzees (Toronto’s resident pest pokémon). There was a contest where two audience members were pulled on stage, given pikachu/bulbasaur headbands and baskets, then had to try catch styrofoam pokéballs thrown by audience members. All of the performers’ songs were neat double entendres or apt choices for character. The entry of every act was preceded by an in silhouette “who’s that pokémon?” game.

Oh, the acts? A huge number of performers with a range of styles and concepts. There was a pokémon “battle” between a sandshrew and cubone. Set to Christina Aguilera’s “Dirty” (because they’re both ground types, duh doy), it involved them stripping each other’s clothes off in choreographed sections and eventually having a pose-off. Evolution featured in a big way. A tame magikarp act grew into a gyrating gyarados performance, complete with water gun spray across the crowd (water gun being a water type move). An eeveelution trio had a fantastic synchronised routine in which vaporeon and flareon each tried to seduce the eevee into taking their elemental stone. A caterpie-come-dragon dance performance shifted into metapod, which opened up into an amazing butterfree costume complete with scale wing harness. It was naughty and silly and a total riot. A lickitung performance went in the only direction a lickitung burlesque performance could. There was a charizard complete with orange scale mail and fire poi. Mewtwo’s act involved an elaborate Team Rocket capture pantomime and psychic attacks launched from twirling nipple tassels.

One of the things that struck me about the event was the vast range of body shapes and sizes. It was outstanding to see such diverse representation and overflowing body positivity. Everybody brought the sexy, proving attitude is everything. I don’t know if it’s possible to be any more complimentary of the event, but if you’re reading this and have any interest I implore you to check out their Hanna Barbera show next month.

Because who doesn’t wanna see a sexy Yogi Bear?