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?

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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”.

In pokemon it’s pronounced “Kakuna Rattata”

Before any ranting starts, I want to run a valid disclaimer. None of what I’m about to say actually matters. My opinion is not important, and should not deter anyone from any desired activity they choose to pursue. We’re all adults here (I can’t earnestly advise any children to read anything I write. I think it would be ill-advised at best, and actively harmful at worst), and we can choose how we want to spend our lives. I, for instance, climb atop dumb moral high horses and canter around. It serves nobody, least of all myself. The one saving grace is that my errant venting tuckers me out, and likely prevents me from spilling any additional unnecessary vitrtiol, which can only be a positive thing. I don’t have to possess an opinion here, and the notion of people being allowed to like the thing they like as long as they’re not actively harmful to others stands true as ever. With that said.

Fuck this Lion King film.

I say that as someone who grew up with this film. I say that as someone who saw the film in theatres. I say that as someone who made an ardent effort to collect every little bit of promotional material companies would churn out in an effort to get kids goading their parents into visiting their establishment. BP Lion King sticker collection? Check. I probably had little toys, or soft toys or something. I say this as someone who loved the Sega Genesis game. I say this as someone who used to “play house”, but as Simba and Nala with my childhood crush (and how did I not turn out to be a furry?). I say this as someone whose parents’ friends lent them the NTSC VHS of The Lion King (and the cover had a blue, not orange sky), so I had to switch my VCR from PAL, and I watched it no less than 30 times in those few weeks, sometimes multiple times per day. I say this as someone who went along with friends to the theatre 2011 re-release they did with printed sheets of all the song lyrics, bringing every intention of singing along. I say this as someone who, at age 31, excitedly got same day tickets to the broadway musical in London.

Fuck this Lion King film. Disney is wasting our time and doing a disservice to one of their most venerated/beloved movies in their catalogue. It looks fucking terrible, the reviews are not favourable, and it’s going to make a TERRIFYING amount of money.

THIS IS A KIDS’ FILM. The original Lion King delighted audiences with its balance of pathos and magical realism. It was a cartoon, with a wonderfully diverse colour palette and wacky sequences. Timon and Pumbaa were fourth wall breaking loons. There were broadway throwbacks, that whole hula thing. It was silly, and a joyous celebration of imagination. The new film has decided to take a super grounded take, complete with animals devoid of human style features. How are we supposed to connect to these characters when they’re basically CGI Mr Ed? I’m not throwing shade at the animators. It looks gorgeous, no doubt. It’s very much cutting edge stuff, but the decision to cut back on the more fanciful aspects of the film are every part a disappointment.

LOOK AT THIS SHIT. It’s a fucking Aaron Sorkin style walk and talk. Then look at THIS marvellous sumbitch. They use the animation to its fullest. There are spotlights, visual metaphors, even those bugs look goddamn delicious.

The cast is AMAZING. It is. Beyonce’s new song is awesome. But the whole experience is cheapened by the notion that Disney is supposed to be redoing its classics in live action. This film, entirely CGI, shits on that idea. It’s so fucking cynical and crude it makes me want to puke. There’s no point to this film beyond just making oceans of currency (curren-sea?). They’re not looking to push the envelope and create something visionary, they’re looking to create moolah.

Look. I’m very very happy with the idea of giving a new generation of kids something to be excited about and cherish for years. I don’t like to shit on things just because they weren’t from my childhood. I strongly believe that kids deserve good quality entertainment (’cause I adored pop-culture as a child and I only want everyone else to have the best too). Thing is, the originals still fulfill all of this, and I’m not sure that this new film will really be thought about in 20 years’ time. Except in jest, maybe.

At some point I may get to a “no worries” place on this. Hakuna Matata, however, is a long way off. I mean, for the rest of my days? That’s a while away.

Okay, he can kick too. Happy?

I underestimated One Punch Man.

Spoilers will follow.

It’s easy to do. The premise sounds dumb. There’s a superhero who can kill anything with a single punch. You know what? It is dumb, and that’s why it’s great. Because it takes a simple, dumb premise and elevates it exponentially for comedic effect. Saitama, the hero of One Punch Man decided one day to become a hero for fun. His arduous training consisted of doing 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 squats and a 10km run every day, and it caused him to gain limitless strength and endurance. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds. Yes, the anime pokes fun at how the workout isn’t actually well-rounded, and would in no way bring supernatural feats to anybody. In the show, however, he becomes literally unbeatable. He can dispatch anyone or anything with a single punch, and instead of bringing him to new heroic heights, he just gets ennui because it’s all too easy.

It all sounds like a one-note joke, but the magic of One Punch Man is that Saitama happens to be the lone straight man in a crazy world. He’s just a normal dude who reads manga, loves food, gets bored, tired and cranky. He’s ultimately drawn to doing the right thing, but often under duress. He mostly can’t be bothered. The Japan of OPM is filled with superpowered miscreants, monsters and world-ending threats. The stakes ramp up dramatically with each episode, but of course Saitama can defeat them all with one punch, so really there are no stakes (despite how heavily the show leans into the gravity of the situation). At the same time, while we understand this, the world virtually always disregards it. The answer would always just be send Saitama in to handle it, but every time he’s the last ditch effort.

The genius, is that the show makes everything harder than it has to be. The world-building becomes incredibly convoluted. There’s a superhero organisation mired in bureaucracy and lingo. There are hero tiers with definitive rankings, and responsibilities for each member based on rank. The alert systems are based on scale, with differing tiers required to handle issues of ascending difficulty. The number of goofy heroes they create is aspirational, with inane powers that the in-universe characters take extremely seriously. It’s all set up for maximum efficiency, communicative prowess and competence. Which all means nothing when Saitama can just punch the thing. Still, the organisation basically ignores our hero, and when he finally joins it’s at the lowest rank possible (because he did poorly on the entrance exam written test).

The true charm of the show, is that while it’s parodying the unending tropes of the medium, it’s doing so with utter reverence. The non-Saitama heroes all try their best, repeatedly putting their lives on the line against insurmountable odds. The villains all respond in kind, with verbose monologues and worldviews. Everything takes so much longer than it needs to, when invariably Saitama will come in and finish it all off with little effort. The joke doesn’t get old or strained, simply because we all know and love these tropes. In fact, the entire world of One Punch Man could exist as its own show without Saitama, but his mere presence warps everything around him, without the rest of the cast understanding this whatsoever.

The show wears its heart on its spandex sleeve, and it’s hard not to respond in kind. I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed an anime this much since Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It’s a love letter to the genre, and worth sticking with all the way to the end. It only gets better as it goes.

Go Naps! We the Snore!

Congrats to the Raps!

The city is alive today. People climbed atop a TTC vehicle. Idiots were chastised for being menaces downtown. Some dude in the house across from me was playing 80s music and dancing in a circle to himself. Mostly, people are pretty chuffed. I don’t really care about the game itself, but it’s quite satisfying to see people let go of the tension they’ve been holding for anywhere from a week to two and a half decades. It all feels like a Boston Red Sox situation. Years and years of disappointment. Not quite getting there. Have the Raps ever made some kind of finals before? I know googling it would be only too easy, but I can’t be bothered right now. I’m gonna assume by everyone’s reactions that it’s the case. So GO TEAM! You don’t get dudes dancing in a circle on their lawn to 80s tracks without the Raps making the finals for the first time, THEN WINNING. I’m past the weird adversarial stance I used to take in my teens and early 20s. You know, that whole this isn’t my thing so fuck this thing thing? It’s not my thing, but people are stoked and outside of a smattering of douchebag behaviour, that’s all it is. People aren’t taking this excuse to be shitty. That in itself almost feels worthy of celebration. Yay, go Raptor fans!

I finished season 1 of Barry last night. Turns out people were right. The show is excellent. It took me a few episodes to get there, but then again I didn’t find myself truly enjoying Mad Men until near the end of the first season. Good things take time. Especially cheese. Apparently critically lauded cable dark comedies too. The show does a fantastic job of slowly adding in cumulative elements that get adroitly accessed at pivotal moments. There’s not a ton of waste in the script. The characters develop and learn, with the backdrop of the acting class providing thematic advancement. Henry Winkler is a fucking vision in this show. Also, who knew Bill Hader was a legit actor? The layers of an actor playing a hitman playing a bad actor trying to learn to be a better actor without giving away secrets are stacked so high, and he walks that tightrope without slipping. I had a little frustration feeling like they weren’t doing enough with newcomer Sarah Goldberg’s character, but she seemed to get bulked up as it went along. Though Anthony Carrigan kills it with probably my favourite character. Maybe the critics know what they’re talking about with this one.

Ugh, I’m tired. This entry has been a slog, and well over 30 minutes in the making. Some days you have it. Today I don’t.

Maybe I should have a nap instead.

That tunnel ain’t so secret no more

Greetings comrades, who’s ready to maintain the status quo?

I don’t think I’ve run out of things I like (though to be fair, it’s an evergreen topic) so let’s get back in that saddle:

  • Evergreen trees.
  • The colour green.
  • Referring to people being “saddled” with things, when implying a burden. It makes me feel like a cowboy.
  • The fantasy of watching Deadwood someday, despite knowing how unlikely it is that I’ll get around to it.
  • HBO’s twitter presence.
  • Sarcastically using the radio advertising trope of “it’s our birthday, but you get the presents”.
  • Working remotely.
  • The board game Dixit.
  • Becoming instant best friends with strangers I know I’m never gonna see again.
  • Saying “keep the change” when it’s silver coinage.
  • Not taking pamphlets from people, and telling them I’ll check it out online instead.
  • Saying “I’m not here to kink shame” when people talk about their hobbies.
  • Homes that feel lived in, rather than overly showy.
  • Petrichor.
  • Finding out that I share a birthday with someone.
  • Hanging out in kitchens or hallways at parties.
  • Pretending to have an American accent and showing people how good I am at doing a New Zealand accent.
  • Billy T. James’ laugh.
  • When I’m wearing costume glasses, pushing them up the bridge of my nose and feeling like I’m smart.
  • Earned physical exhaustion.
  • Being so tired in bed that I can’t even pronounce words correctly.
  • Getting goofy with intimate partners.
  • Saying “did I stutter?” mock aggressively in a wholly unimportant conversational.
  • Inflatable floaties in pools.
  • Having permission to break things.
  • Eating too much with friends, then lounging around watching a movie. Sometimes naps are involved.
  • Walking very fast, and weaving in between slow movers.
  • Retaining coordination while drunk dancing, but with ALL OF THE ENTHUSIASM.
  • Coordinating caffeine and alcohol to get the perfect buzz on a Friday/Saturday night.
  • Remembering on the Sunday that it’s a long weekend and there’s no work the next day.
  • Finding an old joke I wrote and losing myself to guffaws.
  • Slapping my knee out of laughter.
  • Meeting up with old friends and instantly feeling like no time has passed.
  • When I’ve done a shitty job tying a tie, and someone fixes it for me.
  • The sound of a kereru whomping its wings, then landing on a creaky branch with a thud.
  • Seeing shitty people get what’s coming to them.
  • When four legged animals rear up on their hind legs.
  • Effortless conversations that flow naturally, without people speaking over one another.
  • Shouting “HEEEEEEY YOOOOOU GUUUUUUUUUYS” like Sloth from The Goonies.
  • Scratching the “L” off signs that say “Public _________”.
  • This sign that my dad and I would drive past all the time. It used to say “We’re not fast, we’re old” but someone scratched off letters to make it say “We r  ot fast, we’re old.”
  • Sarcastically using condescending words like “pedestrian” or “banal”.
  • The word “myopic”.
  • Having my low expectations be utterly bowled over.
  • The knowledge that my Neopets aren’t truly dead.
  • Having someone understand a really “clutch” reference of mine.
  • The bit in The Wedding Singer when the guy says “THEY WERE COOOOOONES.”
  • Cosying up and rewatching Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • The “Secret Tunnel” song from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • Finishing up my writing so I can listen to the “Secret Tunnel” song a bunch more times.

Adios.