Mel Gibson ain’t a fan. But who needs fans like that?

What’s Ned Flanders’ favourite brand of sunglasses? Okillys!

For no good reason, today I remembered something from high school. There was this girl that we all had a crush on. She was super cool and disaffected. Really pretty, long brown hair and almond shaped eyes. When I say that we all had a crush on her, I mean it. You know that stereotype of teenage girls excitedly tittering about the quarterback? We were those tittering teenage girls about her. ZOMG it’s mufti day, did you see what she’s wearing? That kind of stuff. Anyway, we were doing speeches for English class. She wasn’t in my class, but one of my friends told me he saw hers. She did her speech on Nelson Mandela, which was a neat subject. He was a cool dude. But she did a real half arsed job and didn’t really know how to finish. Instead she played Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” on a boom box and danced a little bit. Weird, and maybe more than borderline inappropriate. Incongruent enough that as soon as my friend told me, my crush on her instantly died. Simple as that. No more tittering.

In writing that out, I didn’t think I’d type “tittering” half as many times as I did.

Ugh, I used to love doing speeches at school. It was by far my favourite assignment. I was big into public speaking, considering that I spent all day talking shit in class anyway. I think I mostly liked making jokes, and it was an ideal opportunity to do so. I don’t fully remember my speeches from primary school. I did one about books that I kind of phoned in. It wasn’t my proudest work. I do remember getting a kick out of writing my barmitzvah speech, and figuring out metaphors with the rabbi. The friends I invited didn’t understand anything about Judaism, but they did enjoy pelting me with candy as I walked the Torah around the room. As is tradition.

I distinctly remember doing a fun speech during my ‘campaign’ for Deputy Head Boy in highschool. We all knew who was gonna win, so I tried my aim for silver strategy. I spent the whole time doing basically a stand up set. I leaned heavily on my best friend’s suprise campaign-

Which went a little like this:
“Hey bud” he said to me as he arrived at my front door to walk to school “I put up the posters”. I blinked. “Posters?” “Yeah” he replied “for your campaign”. Cue me walking into school, people coming up to me saying “oh man, love the posters. I’m voting for you for sure.” I saw one of the posters containing the image of an elderly Hasidic Jew and in bold: I’D VOTE FOR A JEW. WOULDN’T YOU?

-and really talked up my latent Judaism. I harped on about losing the Nazi votes, but hoping I could make it up with people proving they weren’t Nazis by voting for me. I didn’t win. Maybe I should’ve ended that one with Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and a little dance. Who better to claim the title “Survivor” than the Jews?

If I retconned every memory I had of giving a speech to have ended with that song, would that be the Mandela Effect at work?

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Block-busted. Little Leon Lays down the Law

Children are not the most discerning viewers.

I mean, most viewers are not the most discerning viewers, kids even less so. I remember as a child, being part of a discussion about the Fair Go ad awards with my family. Okay, let’s step back a sec. Fair Go was a TV show about consumer rights, etc. They’d also run annual awards for creative advertising. NZ has always done an excellent job with clever ads, and I’d eerily patriotic about it. So I was a child, and The Adults Were Talking. I heard what they said, then impulsively barged in.

“I think the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers toy ad should win. It’s a toy ad and they show all the toys. The toys look really fun, so it’s a good ad.” I was wrong, perhaps because my metrics were off. At least I gave it some thought.

Like I said, not so discerning. It’s probably why shitty kids movies made to push toys continue to exist. Their audience laps them up without complaining, and it puts adult bums in seats. Then, of course, the real money comes from the toys being sold. Ugly Dolls, Transformers, Trolls 1 and or 2. Plus ça change, eh? That said, here are some movies I thought were shit, even as a non-discerning kid:

Super Mario Bros (1993)

Look, a bunch of these are likely to be video game adaptations. The medium has suffered shitty storytelling, contrived plots and low level talent for years. Sure, gaming is a massive industry now, but in the 90s it wasn’t such an all-encompassing entertainment juggernaut. Super Mario Bros was a big deal. It was the game that people thought of when they heard the words Video Game. The movie, however, was a total fucking shitshow. A bizarre plot where Earth was suffering a planetary overlay from some dinosaur planet. All of the game’s goofy/cute looking monsters were retconned into dinosaurs. Even Yoshi, who may well be a dinosaur already, didn’t fair so well. Look how they massacred my boy.

This film actually had talent involved, but even as a kid I could see the lack of coherence. It just made no fucking sense. And why were goombas so fucking creepy? Did Bob Hoskins actually know what he’d signed up for? Looks like maybe not. I watched it again a few years ago, and may have developed an ironic soft spot that was beyond me at an age where I didn’t know what irony was. Have some drinks and watch, but please leave your expectations behind. Super, it ain’t.

Street Fighter (1994)

As a precocious little seven year old, I guess I was finding my pretention too. This movie was yet another shitshow. Once again, they massacred my boy. Why was US Colonel Guile played by renown non-American, Jean Claude Van Damme? Why did esteemed actor Raul Julia waste his final performance on this piece of arse? I’m not the first to wonder. I hated it, but didn’t know why. I was so thirsty for video game film content that I tried to watch it many many times to see what went wrong. I just kept finding more things. Where were the Hadoukens? Sonic Booms? Shoryukens? Why wouldn’t they just do something awesome and animated (they did. It was awesome. Here’s the entire thing on Youtube)?

Wild Wild West (1999)

This one’s fresh, ’cause I just went to a screening with live commentary by local Toronto drag queen Allysin Chaynes. It was a blast. As a child though, it was a rough movie to watch. Why were all the characters so patently unlikeble? How could a giant mechanical spider be boring? Why was the movie significantly less exciting than the audacious and oftentimes riotous full seven and a half minute music video? Will Smith throws his hat across the room to himself in a full white suit. It’s badass. I think I may even still like the song, especially Neil Cicierega’s brilliant rearrangement. I thought this film was gonna be super cool, and instead it was kinda boring, the jokes didn’t really land. It was a slog.

I watched last night after a bunch of drinks and, egads. It’s fucking terrible. Not only does the script suck, but the characters do too. Salma Hayek is reduced to an accent, pair of boobs and a role as a plot device. The script has an unforgivable amount of racist and ableist jokes. It’s altogether many kinds of hateful. So many non-plot literal devices (it’s steampunk all over) serve no real purpose in the plot. And of course, Smith turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix to play Jim West, which is always notable.

Look, I’m no prodigy. I watched my unfair share of terrible movies. These are just some of the few instances where I realised it.

Today was the day I became a man. My K Bar Mitzvah, if you will

I’d like to take a minute or 30 to talk about New Zealand snacks.

I caught myself in a rabbit hole last night, getting sucked into the myriad snack foods that defined my childhood. There were so many. NZ snacks are pretty adventurous, especially in comparison to those I find here in Canada. I don’t know, Kiwis really push the boundaries when it comes to flavour and texture. Don’t just take my word for it, read this sublime piece of NZ journalism (please do, it’s a fantastic piece and Madeline Chapman is a talented, hilarious writer) detailing the many many types of chips that line our supermarket shelves.

I feel like it’s important to mention NZ’s corn based snacks. Perhaps not because they’re the most hard baked part of our national moreish consciousness, but because I liked them a lot. Burger Rings. If that name means nothing to you, you’re likely sane. Burger Rings occupied a similar position as Funyuns and/or Bugles. They were tactile, and fancy as shit. As a kid, your fingers could be doused in cheeto-esque dust, as you displayed your abundant wealth for all to see. Looking down on all the playground plebs with their chicken chip bullshit. When they called them “rings”, they did not stutter. They were the perfect size, though presumably as an adult they’d fit as far as my nails. And the taste? Ostensibly “burger”, whatever that means. They had abundant tang with a sumptuous umami flavour. An excellent snack option.

There also were a bunch of corn/cheese options I fucking loved. Biguns. BIGUNS. The same kind of jewellery based shenanigans as Burger Rings, but with added CHONK. Imagine a cheese ball that could envelop your finger. That’s the magnitude of what you were dealing with. Dense but puffy corn resplendent with cheese dust. Packed right through with flavour. I fucking loved Biguns, and Cheezels, their more economical but less outrageous cousins. Oh, not to forget the bacon based Rashuns. Those were some DENSE chips. Goddamn Bluebird monopolised the 90s savoury snack market.

Truthfully, I was never much of a savoury snacker. I’m a sweet boy at heart. When it comes to lollies (the Kiwi word for “candy”), my heart was abundant. I never got much into Snifters, though as an adult I’d probably fall right in love. Snifters. A candy shell, chocolate layer, and chewy mint candy centre. K Bars were hard, chewable candy concoctions. They clung to your teeth, lest you forget that you’d just ingested pure sugar. They’d last for ages, a marvel considering they were dirt cheap. Jafas are the quintessential Kiwi movie candy, as far as I know. Not least because they became slang as nationwide disdain for Aucklanders (Just Another Fucking Aucklander). They had an orange candy shell and dark chocolate centre. Think a bite sized crunchy Terry’s chocolate orange.

I think it’s time we talk about the elephant in the room. Or rather, the fucking menace in the movie theatre. Stay with me. Tangy Fruits. Tangy Fruits were iconic for several reasons. They came in substantial little pottles, which were practically only available at movie theatres. They were dense but chewable, colourful fruit lollies. They were, much like K Bars, pure sugar. Now. I don’t think you can understand from that picture just how many there were in a pottle. There were too many, not just for a child, but straight up an unfathomable quantity of sweetness. Kids would get them for the movies and inevitably eat too many. Sugar crash, sickness, raging energy. Whatever it was, they made films damn near unwatchable. Not only would kids up the back do Tangy Fruit races down the aisles, but in the last third of the film, things would get batshit.

See, there was some combination of the lolly’s density and the big plastic pottle that gave it a loud and specific resonance when shook. Agitated and energetic kids would shake these containers so fucking hard, that it’d get difficult to follow the movie. Just a bunch of little fucking wildlings shaking these damn things around like the thunder of wardrums. Little shits everywhere disturbing the peace, with no regard for narrative structure. To be fair, if you had that much artificial energy coursing through your young veins in an enclosed space, what would you do? It’s a marvel we didn’t tear up the upholstery. I so dearly want some tangy fruits right now, always and forever, but nothing good lasts that long. Much like most great Kiwi candy, they’ve been discontinued and only live on in my deepest fantasies.

R.I.P. My childhood.

Getting dente-mental

I did it. I actually took a sick day. Are y’all proud of me?

That said, it’s hard. I’ve never been good at relaxing, and it’s not getting easier just ’cause I’m unwell. I managed to get back to sleep after taking meds, emailing my boss and feeding the cat, but it took a while. I miraculously remained in bed until after 10am, which is huge for me. I’m old, I’m decaying, I’m trying my best. I’ve only checked my work emails three times today, which feels like some kind of restraint. I played some magic, did dishes, applied for a job, put washing on and now I’m trying to get writing done so I can… get back to trying to relax? What am I supposed to do? Read a book?

Actually not a terrible idea. I put a reservation on my library app months back for Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf. It’s finally come in, and I’m realising that my chances of finishing it are pretty damn tiny unless I put effort in. The book is 640 pages. It’s hardly slim pickings. It’s supposed to be a stupendously ambitious fantasy novel by a Man Booker Prize winning novelist. Thing is, I’m a lazy reader. Of books, anyway. I’m mainlining online articles all day. I use reading as an escape on commutes, and I probably get a solid hour of good reading time each day. By the time I started reading, a few days had passed. I’ve been working from home and/or sick this week, so there’s a bunch more potential reading time lost. It expires in two weeks, and since it has a huge waitlist, there’s no chance I’ll get to renew it. Chances are that I’ll get halfway through, then have to wait another 6 months until I can read the other half. Non-ideal. However, if there’s anything an abundance of half-arsed Minion memes have taught me, it’s that the power is within us all to create change in our world. And that lots of old people still find hilarity in “you won’t like me without my morning coffee” jokes.

I’ve been trying with the food too. Been salt gargling, keeping up the kimchi, had some banana and peanut butter toast, licorice tea, and all sorts of comfort foods. I even had Kraft Dinner last night. Okay, I grew up with KD variants, and loved it as a kid. I got older, and my cravings extended to actually making macaroni cheese bakes. I’d do it all homemade from scratch. I’d toss in all kinds of spices and ingredients, then bake that bastard in a big dish covered with breadcrumbs. Crispy top, loaded with cheese and assorted goodness. Ideal comfort meal. I don’t eat much pasta anymore, because I’d only ever cook and eat Too Much Pasta. I don’t know that a substantive serving size is for pasta. It’s usually however much fills you to bursting, and then some. Now that I’m a 32 year old crone, I have to try and take care of myself, or elsewise combust. Toning down on the pasta has helped my body continue to function, instead of my internal gears (oh, did I not mention my cyborg state?) grinding to a halt while trying to process complex carbohydrates and a brick of cheese.

I was sick, wanted comfort food, and KD seemed to fit the bill. I wanted to throw in sundried tomatoes and pickled jalapeños, but I thought I’d be responsible and steer clear of agitative (I looked it up, it’s a word, apparently) foods. This also meant skipping the gratuitous quantity of tomato sauce I used to soak it in. So instead I piled in fresh garlic, kimchi and a little ketchup flavoured popcorn seasoning (which we have on hand because my girlfriend is a popcorn fiend. It’s basically the same stuff as KD flavour sachets). Also, obviously, copious cheddar. It was… fine? I guess. I don’t know what I was expecting. The kimchi somehow wasn’t bold enough to stand out amongst the other big flavours, and the macaroni may even have been a little “over dente”. I had the leftovers today for lunch with a little tuna, which worked much better. I think next time I’ll stick with the grown up stuff and bake my own.

Enough writing, it’s reading time!!!

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.

Has anyone ever told you that you’re similar to a kiss from a rose on the grey?

There’s a note next to my desk. It simply reads “Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams <3”

I think about it often. Almost every time I read it, that is. I don’t read it every day, but on days I do, I sure think about it.

I was listening to “Kiss from a Rose” today. I’d forgotten how much that song geninely pumps me up. Like yeah, it’s a silly ballad that’s been overplayed and meme-fied ad infinitum, but the song is still all kinds of righteous. There are so many goddamn harmonies, the vocals are flawless and I FUCKING DARE YOU not to song along to the “BAY BAEEEE” part of the chorus, while closing your eyes and thrusting a fist in the air. I’m assuming you’ve all followed suit, and I refuse to acknowledge anything else. I remember it very much as a Batman song, for the indisputably goofy Batman Forever. Today I learned that “Kiss from a Rose” was originally written in 1987, but Seal was embarrassed by it and didn’t release it until 1994. It still wasn’t the hit it deserved to be until it was featured in the aforementioned Batman film, playing second fiddle to U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”. Seal’s monster hit went on to become a three time Grammy award winner, and Bono went on to become a sanctimonious prick.

The song still whips the llama’s ass.

I just realised that some of you might think I’m a 9-11 truther. I can assume you that’s not the case. First and foremost, I think about 9/11 so little that I had to google “9 11” to see if it was hyphenated or had a slash. I’m thankful that the first results weren’t for the emergency services phone number.

WAIT A MINUTE. That may be the first time I’ve ever made that connection. And I’m sure we’ve all read the story of Steve Buschemi as a former volunteer firefighter showing up on 9/11 to help out. MAYBE the whole thing was some PR scheme for congress to push for a budgetary increase to emergency services. I mean, have you ever seen a firefighter and a congressperson in the same place? I KNOW I HAVEN’T. THIS COULD GO ALL THE WAY TO THE WHITE HOUSE.

Did I just become a 9/11 truther? I sure hope not.

Y’know, back home in NZ, the emergency services number is “111”. I’ve never called “911” in my life, and to this day it still seems like something they do in movies. When I was a kid, growing up on North American media, everything America did seemed cinematic. It was a place of wonder, and these days it’s become a sad mockery of whatever once made it great. I’m not presenting this as a hot take, but wow oh wow has its worldwide clout ever fallen. I don’t know what the country at large could do to restore faith in its operation. I have one suggestion. It’s very bold, out there and unconventional, but I also think it’d do its part to inspire generations of young Americans to lift each other together.

It’s remarkably simple. Change the national anthem to “Kiss from a Rose”.

Jet fuel may not be able to melt steel beams (though I’m sure the combination of heat and being impacted by a fucking plane could do a whammy on them), but that song can melt the hardest of hearts.

And no lessons were learned…

Well, I’m not dead yet.

Yet…

We did fireworks in the park yesterday. It’s been years since I used to mess around with them. When we were kids, it was mostly about lighting them. I think my favourite ones were the bees/hornets. They had creative packaging design, but they were probably just basic firecrackers. I loved how theyd zip through the air with these colourful tracks. There were cool ones shaped like tanks and battleships too. Oh, and the spinning, screeching pinwheels you’d nail to the wall. I was all about the gimmicks as a kid. The thrill of potential danger mixed with a healthy dose of novelty was like a drug. My friend and I would watch the big kids light stuff, then we’d all run off screaming. It was great. My elders would regale me with tales of the dangerous fireworks they’d experienced and survivived. It was all double happy this and jumping jack that. They wore these stories like badges of honour. Over time, my parents’ lack of enthusiasm in fireworks led to my enthusiasm dampening. I stopped caring once they stopped buying, since I wasn’t personally involved.

As teenagers, the risk taking brought back their appeal. We did STUPID shit, like having Roman Candle fights in my friend’s backyard forest section. Cascades became the hot commodity, because they were cheap, plentiful and easy to handle. A small firework about the size of an adult thumb. Pink light would spray out one end once the wick was lit. A few times we played hacky sack with them, somehow avoiding any serious injuries. My absolute favourite though, was waiting until the wick had just run out, then hurtling them into the air. The light spray would act as a kind of thruster, propelling them further into the air like fiery helicopters. By the time they reached the ground, they’d have petered out. I never cared much for the big stationary cannons. They were fine, but the joy was still more in taking risks than any real light display.

It’s why I’ve never cared much for the classic big booms. Y’know when you go to a big fireworks display? They shoot the massive cannons that are just big colourful balls with a loud crack? Boring. Do them all day, and it’s the same thing in and out. It’s all about skin in the game. Still, it’d been years since I’d done fireworks, and they rarely pique my interest.

Last night we did fireworks. Or rather, we were all hanging out in a big group and a friend of mine wanted to do fireworks. I figured I’d be happy to toss a couple of bucks in to aid her effort. I didn’t really intend to do much, mainly just throw some cascades if I could. We were at a community park, and waited our turn as another group played with theirs. They did a great job, with some big displays of massive fireworks. Ours were a little more meagre. We lit a few, but they were mostly tiny. Very much testing the waters. We started on the cannons.

A friend of ours is in hospital. One of my buds handed me her phone and asked me to film a video for him. The cannon was lit and I started filming. Everything was going fine, it was a pretty big one. Then as I stood filming, I felt a few shots go towards my direction. Odd. Then one whizzed right by me. Realisation set in, and so did bedlam. Everyone scrambled and screamed as coloured bursts of flame flew everywhere. Bystanders took refuge behind park tables. I bobbed and weaved as I ran, laughing maniacally barefooted (making sure to keep the camera focused on the firework for my buddy). I kept laughing as we checked in that nobody was hurt. I clicked on the camera button again, only to realise I’d been on camera, not video mode. I missed the whole thing.

I still think that fireworks are dumb. It’s more about the thrill of potential accidents than any true visual stimulation. I don’t see myself buying them any time soon.

Still, last night certainly was a blast.