In one year and out another

I’m a week away from turning 32. That’s weird. I think by this point in my life I thought I’d have more to show for it than a personality and good friends. Still, a lot of people have a lot less. Years and years ago I had what at the time felt like a prophetic dream. In this dream, an abstract figure told me I’d die at 32. No explanation, just a bizarrely specific non-specific prophecy. No how or why, just a sentence. It’s dumb, but deep down I think I’ve always believed it on some level. Accepted it, y’know?

Unlike heroes of fiction, it’s never spurred me to greater heights. I haven’t warped my life around some quest for purpose on a limited time frame. I haven’t danced like nobody was watching on a mountaintop. I haven’t kissed in the rain just to feel the water form a conduit between my soul and another. I haven’t eaten, prayed, lived, laughed or loved my way across Europe. I got kicked out of the Church of Scientology once for being rude, but that was hardly a triumphant act of rebellion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lamenting a thing. I consider amassing a personality and good friends to be a life well lived.

I might survive the next year, but I might not. Whether prophecy, self-fulfilling prophecy or dumb luck, it’s mostly out of my hands. We can’t predict the future beyond best guesses, and every time I watch a murder mystery I guess the wrong killer, so I have pretty low portent-ial. I could be sealing my own fate here, but maybe I’ll survive to be boring at a ripe old age. I think we all deserve the right to grow into our own irrelevance. What then? What if I roll the dice and overcome my own expectations? Do I have a game plan for survival? What would I want out of a life? What would I do with all those years? It seems like a ton of time to fill. I’m making it sound like a chore. I’m sure at times it would be, but it wouldn’t have to be. Not always. Let’s do a thought experiment. I say “let’s”, but really this is a one sided conversation. If I were to transcend the age of 32, what kind of stuff would I want to have done before my final curtain call?

Like a low-rent The Matrix, it’s Bullet(point) Time, Baby!

  • I want to eat everything. More accurately, I want to challenge my palate and discover exciting flavours I’d not have discovered otherwise. This means all manner of spices, food with unusual viscosity, game meats of all varieties, potentially illegal or problematic foods, breakfast for dinner, dessert for lunch and fondue for breakfast.
  • I want to travel, see sights, talk with strangers and discover walks of life far flung from my own. I want to stop travelling almost exclusively to North America, Montreal, London (England) and down under. I want to see Europe, Asia, South America and places that aren’t immediately coming to my geographically challenged brain. Just because I don’t know them, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love them.
  • I want to find a passion. I don’t yet know what that means. I’ve never had a true passion. I’ve had things I’ve enjoyed, but never something that’s come along and gripped me with hitherto unknown fervour. Life’s worth a lot more than what suffices. Once I know what that is, I’ll report back with gusto.
  • I want to get married, have kids, develop that peculiar fascination that men of a certain age have with World War 2. Just because I don’t necessarily value having a nuclear family right now, doesn’t mean I don’t want those things at some point. When I know, I’ll know. Or I’ll never feel ready, everyone will leave me and I’ll wish I died at 32.

I’m sure I want to do more, but these days I mostly just want to play Magic. Is this adulthood?

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The song ended with the chorus from Edwin Starr’s “War”, sending mixed signals

When I was ten years old and away at camp, our cabin gave ourselves a military theme.

Why? I dunno. We were kids and thought guns were cool as hell. Like I said, we were kids. I guess I’d already said “when I was ten”, so I may have underlined it one too many times. Who knows though? Maybe you assumed I was some boy genius rooming with a bunch of teens. I don’t know how your brain works. Probably because I’m not a boy genius, a boy or a genius. As always, I digress. We gave ourselves a military theme. To be clear, “gave ourselves” means exactly what you think it does. We weren’t assigned themes arbitrarily. We weren’t assigned themes whatsoever. Cabins didn’t even have themes. That wasn’t part of the deal. Our cabin just decided that a) themes were cool and b) ours was gonna be military.

Cabins didn’t have themes, but at some stage we made theme songs. I think it was for some kind of activity or competition. Ours went “Cabin 14 likes the wars. If you slit our throat we’ll slit yours.” Verging on 32, I still think that line’s hilarious. We really committed to our arbitrary theme. We got hyper competitive and tried to win everything. We aced the talent show. Though we weren’t super physical, we still tried our hardest at sport type activities. When it came time for a campwide game of capture the flag, we got ultra serious. We dressed in all black for camouflage, made rambo style headbands by tying t-shirts around our foreheads and made lines on our face with mud. We tried to be strategic, choosing lesser travelled paths over the river, taking the backways wherever possible. We posted lookouts and sent members on reconnaissance missions. We got the flag and crept in behind home base. Once we were close enough, we made a run for it, evading the cabin leaders and winning the prize. I can’t remember if that was the time my best bud and I won Most Spirited Campers, but it felt like we were kings. It’s one of my many treasured childhood memories.

The youthful naivety still gives me a kick. War was this totally foreign concept. We grew up in New Zealand. It was a world away from any real conflict. Ideas of compulsory military service was unheard of. It’s not like the military even held any cultural relevance. New Zealanders aren’t big into war. Gallipoli was the only major campaign our country was involved in. Waaay back in 1915 and we still mourn every year. My brothers thought war was awesome. I didn’t quite get the military bug. If it wasn’t about dinosaurs, robots, medieval or superheroes, I wasn’t interested. Still though, I thought tanks were pretty cool, and I always wanted to fire guns like people on TV. Whenever I fired a gun at targets, I loved it. I’m not gonna lie, I still think it’s cool and fun to fire guns. Weapons still seem rad to me. I’m almost 32 and I’m just a big kid.

I’ve always drawn the line at actual violence, and that line has stayed firm. We all contain multitudes, right? We can hold many simultaneous views. Honestly, I think the machines of war are mostly pretty cool. Bombs, guns, vehicles, advanced surveillance technology. It’s all neat as shit. At the same time, I 100% wish they’d never be used against other humans. I consider war to be a total atrocity. So many needless deaths, tossed away for a cause that wasn’t theirs. So many kids who never got to grow up and out of that reckless mentality. The fantasy of renegades taking justice by force. Who could they have become if not for war? If that energy and passion were directed elsewhere? It’s fanciful to the extreme. We’re gonna continue to kill each other one way or another. Let’s be real. I’m not serving hot takes here. We all know war is bad, etc etc etc. I think I’m just getting whimsical and carried away. I can’t imagine my 16 year old self being dropped into a warzone. I’d be in no way equipped. Regardless of my “training” back in cabin 14, I would have died. Without question. I don’t have the mettle for warfare and I never did. They’d fly me back in a coffin, having accomplished nothing. Like so goddamn many others.

It was nice to be a kid. I wish everyone got to do it.

I’m a lot like you were

For some reason I woke up with this video playing in my head on loop.

For context, a bunch of my friends and I thought this was the funniest thing in the world circa 2004. Like “Star Wars Kid” before him, Gellieman was a figure of ridicule, but also strangely some respect? Of course he was a figure of mockery, but like us he too was a teenager. I think on some level we understood that we all were not far off creating something that embarassing. We had that kind of potential. I mean, we were drama geeks. Have you seen Glee? If you substituted the singing for “acting out” and the wheelchair for stunted emotional maturity, that was basically us.

When I think about it more, it was pretty my best friend leading the charge with the “Aicha” video. Thing is, he always posessed this bizarrely infectious enthusiasm. If he got on a tear about something, nine times out of ten, everyone would be on that train whether they liked it or not. So, “Aicha”. We watched it enough times to learn it by heart. We knew the song, we knew the dance, we knew the very specific inflections with which Gellieman said every single line. We’d break out into spontaneous performances from time to time, whether this was in the middle of class or not. It all reached its fever pitch when, for shits and giggles, we created a parody boy band group and performed the song at the school talent show. In retrospect, I’m sure most people had no fucking idea what was going on, but we did it all with such conviction that I think they just rolled with it. We were all Known Individuals by that point.

Look, I could write novels about my best friend. We don’t talk much now, because we live half a world away. Doesn’t mean I don’t still adore the guy. We have one of the most concrete relationships in my life, in that it never needs watering and will always be there. I don’t know that we could have awkward pauses, there’s just too much history. We’ve known each other since we were infants, yet I think fairly often back to high school and his nigh frightening creativity. Saying he was prolific would be a dramatic understatement. He’d just get whipped up into these personal frenzies and create, seemingly apropos of nothing. We’d meet at the same corner to walk to school and weirdly often he’d be like “oh by the way, here’s a script I wrote last night” and hand me a 20 minute performance on paper. Maybe it’d was a faux soap opera script that included a character for everyone in the drama department, totally nailing all our personal in-jokes and isms. Or perhaps it was an ersatz Waiting for Godot, riffing on the fall of communism. It was always something.

Y’know, one time the Prime Minister was visiting our school. What did he do? He went home and painted a red & purple picture of New Zealand’s topography and gave it to her. Burned into my brain is a photo of the two of them standing together, him with a goofy grin, her more than mildly disconcerted. I’m 98% sure she thought he was a special needs student and treated him accordingly. I get it, he was a weird dude (still is) and was entirely unpredictable (still is).

I think one of my many many favourite stories about him was when we did a student directed performance of King Lear themed around the Stock Market Crash of 1929. He auditioned, but ultimately didn’t get cast as a speaking part. I think his part was “Old Man” or something of the like. Thing is, he was always around and constantly goofing off. We were all a pretty tight crew and he was good friends with the director. As the production advanced, he was Just Always Around, riffing and improvising. The more he was around, the more his character ended up being added to scenes. By performance time, Old Man was in a curious number of scenes. Not only that, he had lines. Plural. Was Old Man a big character in the original play? Did it matter? Not when he was around. When I think about it, whenever he was around, it felt like you were in some kind of scene. He made it that way.

I wonder how much it costs to get to Finland…

Clearly they should have employed a less talented cast

I read this article and thought it was pretty interesting.

The premise, if you’re too lazy to click, is that TV shows no longer “end”. Long dead shows now have the potential for a new incarnation, whether continuation or reimagining. If Murphy Brown can return in 2018, then every series is a potential Dr Who, regenerating with a new cast, but the same basic character. I’m not here to pass judgement (for once?), I just find the concept fascinating. Why? Well, mostly because I lacked anything else good to write about today.

If you know me well enough, I’m sure you’d immediately pick me as a “fuck reboots” kind of bloke. You’re not far off. Did we need another Robocop? Did we need another Robin Hood? Did we need another Full House? Did we need another Ocean’s 11? Did we need another Ghostbusters? Did we need another A Star Is Born? Did we need another Every Single Disney Film But In Live Action? I could keep doing that for the rest of the entry, but I think the point is well-tread. Originality in cinema feels like a relic of the past. A while back someone used the words “pre-sold” and it made everything click. Hollywood has been making progressively less money as the years have rolled on. Is it piracy? The decreasing spectacle of the big screen? Who knows? All I know is that there have been a shit ton of unnecessary remakes in the past ten years. Franchise building is a huge part of the cinema experience. There are the aforementioned Disney live action films, or the plethora of Marvel spin offs and projects. Legendary has some kind of big monster movie (Godzilla 2014, Kong: Skull Island, etc) thing going on. Pre-sold is what it says, it’s an easy way to ensure a certain segment of the audience. If it’s nostalgic or plays on a beloved property, a number of seats are basically sold irrespective of the film’s objective quality.

Do I think this is lazy bullshit? Yes. Do I think efforts would be better spent on supporting original IP like Get Out or Sorry to Bother You? Of course I do, but I’m not naiive. Hollywood is scared to invest in projects that may not make a return. It’s too much of a risk. Mid-Budget movies (this article mentions them briefly) don’t happen anymore. It’s Go Big or Go To Netflix. I’m also not dumb enough to think that only my tastes matter. You know what? A lot of people were stoked to see Beauty and the Beast rebooted for the big screen and there’s no reason I’d want to take that away from them. There’s nothing wrong with watching entertainment for entertainment’s sake, that’s kind of the point. The relentless onslaught of remakes and reboots doesn’t preclude me from getting the stories I want, so it’s not like there’s an issue there. I just won’t watch them. There’s exponentially more than enough content to go around.

I also think it’s interesting that the reliance on pre-sold IP can actually help buff out mythos’ that were otherwise undeveloped. Castlevania on Netflix is a good example. It was a video game with an unremarkable narrative. The first season isn’t great, but the second season really does develop a fun arc and characters that justify the setting. It’s an original plot that’s been birthed from one that was otherwise super bland. Similarly, I’ve heard that the new Voltron series is clever and engaging for kids, with excellent voice acting. While I’d usually balk at the idea of resurrecting an old IP instead of making something new, why shouldn’t our kids get to understand why we used to love this old shit? I’m happy to fence sit on this notion. I don’t have any answers.

Like I said earlier, I can always watch my own stuff, even if I consider it underappreciated. Part of me wishes it got more attention purely because it deserves it. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is still not a household name. Neither are Stephen Falk, Noah Hawley or Yorgos Lanthimos. Would I adore this stuff as much if it was watercooler conversation? I flat out don’t know. I do think it’d make watercooler conversation more gripping, at least.

I guess if I’m boiling it down, what guts me the most about this whole scenario is that most people don’t know what they’re missing out on and they don’t care. People are already happy with what they have. As far as they’re concerned, they’re getting what they want. There’s a new Star Wars film every year, so why worry about those universes they never explore? If it was good enough for them to hear about, they would.

I guess what I’m saying is, when’s the Community movie being released? We had six seasons.

Stan by your man

Like any film character before a monstrous transformation, I don’t feel so good.

Must be nice, is all.

I dunno. Would my life be served by shifting into an inhuman creature? Maybe. It seemed to work out for that sexy fishman in The Shape of Water (spoiler, I still haven’t seen The Shape of Water). If I could get extra appendages or the ability of flight that’d be pretty slick. I know a lot of animals have cool abilities that humans would only dream of. At Te Papa museum my girlfriend and I visited this wicked exhibit on insects. There was a type of flying insect that basically had precognition. Or at least it could rapidly analyse the vectors other organisms and predict their actions. Spider Sense, by any other name. How cool would that be?

On the topic of Spider Sense, I guess it’s worth thinking about Stan Lee a little. Like most men in positions of power, I have no doubts there were times he abused that power. I’ve heard allegations of sexual misconduct and I think we’ve seen enough of this to know they were likely true. I also know that it’s hard to place the sum of a person’s worth upon one aspect of them. We all have nuance. I’m not gonna all out galvanise the guy. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the myriad of times he pushed others out of the spotlight to improve the way he’d appear. At the same time, it’s not possible to trace the sheer hope and inspiration his creations (many co-created with the talented Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby of course) brought to those who found solace in his work. I’m sure a lot of what we consider trope-y was at the time revolutionary and boundary pushing. The X-Men stand in for almost any marginalised group. I know personally that my own resolve was strengthened by the notion that despite insurmountable odds at times, I’d never really be alone. It’s notable too that both Lee and Kirby, of Jewish birth, changed their last names for the purpose of mainstream acceptability. These characters they made, fighting for the downtrodden against oppression, existed in a world with the spectre of WW2 a faint memory. Whatever realm of moral compass I have, I know that being brought up with an array of heroic opinion leaders formed a large part of it. None of us are saints, but if we can leave this place a little better for having lived here, that seems like a worthwhile use of an existence.

I don’t know why I pulled the escape lever on that paragraph, it’s not like I have anything better to follow it up with. I’m feeling a bit green. Last night my stomach was topsy turvy. I thought I was just suffering the effects of an overspiced pasta dish and rice for two means in a row. I don’t eat a ton of complex carbs, I figured, my body was having a rough time processing them. My throat was scratchy and a little warm. I tried TUMS, then covered my bases with some oil of oregano. No dice. Who knows? I drank a lot Saturday night. Maybe I made out with an uncooked chicken and forgot about it. Today my throat has been uncomfortably hot and my energy levels have plummeted. Just all over fatigued. I’m fortunate I had very little work today and could easily work from home. It’s a luxury. I guess the real luxury would be working a job where I didn’t feel I needed to “show up” for the day when I was ill, because I didn’t want to pass my work onto my co-workers. But that would take a major societal overhaul whereby we stopped venerating martyrdom and suffering for the sake of your job. I’ve been in the position long enough that it’s a breeze for the most part, but tons of my newer co-workers still stay after hours, take lunch at their desk or skip eating for hours because they’re too busy. Maybe, as much of a luxury working from home is (and it is), it’s still part of an overall fucked up system.

Look, if I’m about to Hulk out, I’m here for it.

See you in the stars, Stan.

A one stop shop for all your premium Mal content

I have the words “Nightmare Beef or Christmas” in my head and I don’t know what to do with them. I guess it’s gonna be one of those days.

I was listening to the La La Land soundtrack this morning. Ready for the most lukewarm of takes? I still think La La Land was a grossly enjoyable popcorn film with a fantastic colour palette, gorgeous visual composition, likeable leads and a fun score. I think the majority of animosity it gets in certain circles comes from how critically lauded the film was when it was released and its friction with Moonlight for the Best Picture race. Moonlight was a better film, no questions. That doesn’t diminsh that La La Land has an enduring quality to it that leans on a successful musical formula with modern framing. Much as I loved the film, I don’t see why it was viewed as Best Picture material, and being overrated doesn’t inherently make the film bad. No, it didn’t really have anything poignant to say, but that’s also totally fine for cinematic escapism.

In the vein of other musicals, I’m seeing a Rocky Horror shadowcast tonight. First time, “V” on face and all. It’s not my first viewing whatsoever. My best friend growing up was very into it at a possibly unsuitable age. When we were 7 or 8 we’d be watching the exploits of Frank-N-Furter et al, but I was mostly scared. I thought he was a vampire and, at that age, had no time for anything remotely scary. Though strangely I loved Aliens/Predator, so who knows what was up with that? I saw the stage show once, which was a fucking riot. Listening to the soundtrack this morning it all came rushing back. I can’t believe just how many lines are etched deep into my memory. I also somehow made it to this old without realising Susan Fucking Sarandon was in it. Frankly, I’m not even gonna try to learn all the callouts. There are way too many. This isn’t some filthy casual shit like The Room. Rocky Horror has enough of a history that it’s fine to be inexperienced. It seems like that’s half the fun.

My costume isn’t totally sorted. I’m halfway there. I saw a French maid costume at Dollarama and thought it was perfect. Easy Magenta outfit, right? I fretted over the size on the packet, working out which measurement was chest, hip, etc. Turns out it was just a fucking apron. So I currently have an apron, fishnet stockings and purple fishnet gloves. I own a colourful bra (because of course I do), so I think I just need to secure a skirt that fits and, ideally, some form of upper torso wear. If not, I’m basically wearing a bra and an apron. If it was any other event, maybe I’d need to worry about it, but when it comes to Rocky Horror, maybe not. I have friends that can help me with the makeup, which is most of the heavy lifting.

As for today’s work Halloween party (which starts in about 15 minutes), it turns out I owned enough on theme regular clothing to do a lazy Captain Mal Reynolds cosplay. Aside from having to wear a collared shirt to work, it’s just a burgundy shirt, tan pants, suspenders, a crooked belt, holster and gun. That’s all. I’ve done the costume once or twice before, but I now own nicer versions of the shirt and pants instead of incorrectly sized thrift store finds. Years after the initial costume, I’m still using a normal hammer holster (cannibalised from an Al Borland Halloween outfit) as a gun holster, but nobody has called me on it yet. Maybe one day I’ll swap out the burgundy shirt for something in flannel and go as Captain Mal Borland or something.

Would that be… an Improvement?

That’s what we call soFistocation

I have a ton of costume prep to do, a decent amount of time in which to do it and equal amounts of trepidation.

Do you know who Fisto is? Well from the ages of 9-31, I don’t think I did either. I’m sure I was probably a fan as a kid. The Heroic Master of Hand to Hand Combat was a companion of He Man in his ongoing adventures to sell action figures. I thought He Man was tHe Man and as an adult, I get it. The toys were colourful and based around fighting monsters. I played with them all at my mum’s toy store, and only as a tax paying grown up did I realise quite how shit the characters/naming conventions were. There’s no point straining to imagine what Moss Man, Battle Lion, Spikor, Stinkor, Ninjor, Fang Man, Goat Man, King Hiss or Buzz Off did or looked like, because it’s right there in plain English. Consequently, Fisto has a big metal fist. If the show were for adults, I also have no doubt what Fisto’s favourite thing would be. It’s in the name.

If you’ve clicked the link above, you can see what the costume will try and resemble. “Try” being the operative word, because I’m a) not adept which makes this whole concept b) trying. Why am I going as a character I hardly know? Because a group of my friends are donning Masters of the Universe getups and that sounded like a happy funtime to me. As I said, I used to adore the show/toys and when am I not seeking the eternal high of nostalgia? The only issue, is my friends are way more sartorially gifted than I am. I never do costumes that involve work. I don’t have the skills, primarily because I’ve never had to hone them, so they’re still beyond my grasp. My friends, however, know how to sew/stitch/craft pieces that work. Here I am wondering how the fuck do I make a loin cloth?

Luckily my friends are generous people who give freely of their expertise. Unluckily for me, that doesn’t involve them just doing the work for me. Which means I’ve got shit to do. I thought things would be far easier than they have been. Look at this guy. I did and thought right. Hulk hand, loin cloth, belt, boots, shirt thing and shoulder guards. I own blue Doc Martens, which I figure are good enough for the boots. I went to Value Village to look for second hand clothes that’d meet my needs. I found a belt and tank top, but that was it. Somehow they don’t stock loin cloths or hulk hands. For shame. The Hulk Hands I tracked down off BUNZ, which is a Toronto based barter site. Cost me three cans of beer, but that was easy. They were brown for some weird reason. A bottle of cheap acrylic paint solved that. I spent an evening doing quick coats and drying them with a hairdryer. It looks fucking awesome.

The rest hasn’t been so simple. I bought some leggings from Dollarama to make the loin cloth and a friend helped me out with leftover fur she had lying around. I cut them down, then realised I wouldn’t be able to hot glue the fur onto a stretchy fabric so easily. My friend suggested stuffing a pillow or two in a plastic bag, then into the leggings to make them slightly smaller than my body. Then pinning the pillow to the waistband. Apparently making them a little too small would be better than too big. Even after gluing, there’d be some stretch to the leggings. If I went too big, they’d be loose and fall off. I still haven’t done it ’cause I’m afraid I’ll cut/glue it wrong and everything will be fucked forever. I’ll get there.

I thought the shirt would be easy. My answer was to pretty much just make stripes of duct tape and stick them to the tank top. Turns out a) duct tape doesn’t stick amazingly well to a shirt and b) it’s impossible to keep the shape and remove the garment. So now I’m painting the shirt. My friend once again helpfully chimed in. I could get fabric medium and mix it with the cheap paint I already had to have soft drying paint that wouldn’t crack. I could just draw the lines… which I still have to do. It’s not super simple to get straight lines, so I’m putting card underneath the tank top to keep it taught, then drawing my lines on. I’m just gonna draw on the metal shoulder brace thing, because I can’t be bothered making anything else. My fear is it’s gonna take an age for one side to dry and I’ll run out of days before Saturday night. In fact, the longer I spend writing, the less time I have. Maybe I should be doing that now instead of merely writing about it.

Ugh, do you think I can grow a beard in four days? It’d really help.