Oat Brick would likely be my Knight Name.

Hey friends. There’ll be Game of Thrones spoilers coming up later. They’ll be very clearly marked.

Well that eclipse was some kind of whelming. It was neat and all, and the science behind it is pretty choice. In the end though, as a partial eclipse it was good for a minute or two of “ooh”s and “aah”s before walking back indoors to resume unremarkable work. Not to brag (I lied, it’s bragging), but it wasn’t my first. Way back when I was sub ten years we had one in New Zealand. I remember making some kind of shoebox pinhole contraption that kinda worked. I was at a friend’s place and his dad went into the garage to grab his welder’s mask. It worked way better, plus I felt like some kind of 70s sci fi cyborg. Which was basically my childhood M.O.

Fuck it’s great to eat bread again. I’ve been trying not to nosedive straight back into excessive eating, but what I’ve had so far has reminded me all too well of the massive sacrifices I’d made giving it up for Tough Mudder Lent. The cafe I often visit on the way to work has a plethora of baked goods. They’re ultra decadent, like these crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside salted chocolate brownies. For months now I’ve had my eye on these breakfast biscuit things. With no idea what they were, they nonetheless seemed like something I wanted to shove in or around my gob. So today for a treat I got one with a flat white. It was sturdier than I expected, but chewy and semi-sweet. Probably about ten centimetres in diameter and three centimetres high. Some kind of oaty, dried fruit brick. I dawdled along to work with my coffee in one hand, oat brick in the other, bliss in the centre of my being.

*** GAME OF THRONES SEASON SEVEN EPISODE SIX SPOILERS TO FOLLOW ***

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Wasn’t that a shit episode? I’m not trying to imply it was boring in any way, because the show has switched into act three action. The shortened half-season is screeching to a halt and they’ve got a lot of stuff to get done by the time it’s over. I certainly enjoyed a bunch of the scenes we got thanks to the Magnif-Ice-nt Seven grouping of fun fan favourite characters. A lot of cool interactions between characters. I’d forgotten the link of Brienne that chained Tormund and Sandor together. The Jorah/Jon Longclaw scene was nicely handled. Still, the entire adventure was a stupid fucking idea that made no logical sense for the characters concerned. Nobody at Dragonstone thought to seriously question just how shitty it all stacked up on a risk/reward scale (no pun intended, surprisingly)? Just a way to waste a bunch of Redshirts. Also for the first time it feels like temporal complaints were pretty fucking valid. They were surrounded by a ring of zombies. How long did it take a) Gendry to reach The Wall, b) the raven from The Wall to reach Dragonstone and c) the dragons to arrive North of The Wall? I’d wager maybe three or four days at the very least. Did they just stand there in the freezing cold for days? They didn’t seem to have a ton of provisions. Dumb, clumsy writing from a show that should know better.

Speaking of clumsy, what about this whole Arya/Sansa thing? It feels disingenuous to the characters that they would’ve gone through their worldly experiences and not be able to resolve their issues without Arya threatening to wear Sansa’s face. Yes, I get that family reunions have a way of making old dynamics resurface, but that seemed like a flimsy excuse to manufacture drama. Plus Sansa didn’t know that Littlefinger had any idea about the incriminating scroll (I mean, Arya wouldn’t take the fact that Sansa wrote it under duress as a valid argument? She knows how soft Sansa was back then), in that context why would she willingly go to him with information? She knows he’s not to be trusted. Furthermore, Bran is in Winterfell right? And he knows everything? Why not ask him? Is he too busy being aloof and watching Sansa’s highlight reel of traumatic experiences? Good show, but that episode was fucking dumb, clunky and sold out its characters for the sake of expediting the plot.

Still, it hasn’t eclipsed an otherwise enjoyable season.

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That’s one way to put a bounce in your step.

 

I was thinking about this game Ricochet today. Despite the title of this clip, it was a piece of shit and I loved it in a weird way. A Half-Life mod, two friends and I tried it out to see how bad it could be. It was terrible. Bouncing from pod to pod in outer space, aiming to knock one another off balance. The controls were clunky and awkward. The gameplay was repetitive and stilted. It probably took longer to program than the entire time players spent in game. It’s questionable how gaming powerhouse Valve could’ve thought it had the potential to catch on, but life’s about taking chances. I remember this one afternoon where the three of us had nothing much to do. I mean, we were teenagers. There’s jerking off, video games, angst and little else. Anime, probably. So we spent this particular afternoon racing to try and be the first to 100 kills. We all had our particular gaming skills, and while I was likely the least competent FPS player, this was new territory. None of us had spent time on this game, because we were too busy doing things like trying to beat Final Fantasy 7 in a weekend. Y’know, trendy shit. We didn’t give a freak.

So we played this game. I don’t know how long it took. Hours, I’m guessing. We were learning as we went. At first we’d get killed rapidly. We’d catch each other unawares and knock one another off with these silly discs. Then power ups started to come into play. If you hit someone, instead of knocking them off, you’d decapitate them. Points had an ebb and flow. Someone would streak ahead, then the others would catch up and overtake. Kills were racked up. Then muscle memory kicked in. We’d learn how to anticipate attacks, read opponents strategies. Lives began to last longer. The slog from 70-100 was probably longer than 0-70. Because it wasn’t a well designed game, I don’t know if any of us were even enjoying it. Why would that matter though? We were in for the points. For bragging rights on something with no real stakes. The whole time we were yelling to each other “why are we doing this?” “Does anyone even care?” “Is anyone having fun?” Our cries were in vain. We didn’t stop.

I didn’t win, but I also didn’t take umbrage with that. In the end it was within 10 points. While it wasn’t that enjoyable, for some reason it created a kind of bond. Every once in a while we’d mention “hey, you guys wanna go for a Ricochet rematch so I can finally get my title?” The answer was a resounding “no” every time. Still, we talked about it far more often than you’d expect. From time to time the game still pops into my head and I wonder if anyone still plays it. Was there ever a Ricochet community? Is there some dude all lonely waiting out there in space in the hopes that someone will play with him? Did Ricochet actually mean a great deal to anyone, and if so, why? I’m not often 100% sincere, but I really hope there’s love for the game out there. Not everything has to be a success and Ricochet obviously wasn’t. At the end of the day though, it left me with a mostly positive memory that ties me to these two specific friends. I hope I’m not the only one.

I wonder if anyone’s done a 4K port…

It’s hard to tread water when Hell has an undertow.

I’ve got nothing to write about right now. It’s not that there’s nothing to write about. I’ve hardly exhausted the world’s supply of topics in four and a half years. I probably exhausted my supply of topics several years back, but I guess I learned a thing or two from WaterWise in Standard Three and Four about treading water. It’s not that nothing’s happening around the globe, because there’s always something going on. The problem is that I know what’s going on and I don’t have the wherewithal to elucidate anything poignant on the subject (wait, that’s what this project is about???? -ed).

I just watched the Vice News Tonight Charlottesville special and it’s sapped at me. It’s horrifying, brutal and as one speaker so adroitly calls it, appalling. To think that this rhetoric has resurfaced in 2017 when we should instead all have robot butlers and makerbots. Watching the linked video filled me with an unfamiliar feeling. Pure rage. I’m not an angry person. My default negative emotion is sadness and the concept of directing hostility towards other people feels bizarre when I could just beat up on myself instead. Seeing these white supremacy scum grossly disregarding the rights and freedoms of others filled me with a white hot fury. Hearing them spout ignorant hate made me tremble with blinding emotion. All kinds of violent fantasies ran through my head in an instant. A desire to cause pain, draw blood, to see them suffer. I’m the opposite of a violent person. That part of my brain is usually reserved for obscure facts about early 90s animation. These people are cartoon villains flushed into reality. Humans are complex, nuanced creatures and they all seem like two dimensional caricatures. My inability to do anything tangible makes me feel helpless. A surge of energy and emotion put to waste. No number of rants could do anything but blow off steam. Others are doing it better.

Outside of that, I don’t know what to talk about. I mentioned WaterWise earlier. WaterWise was pretty great. We were in Standard Three and Four (so around nine to ten years of age). We’d all pack into a bus and travel up to the Birkenhead Wharf to learn about water safety. They’d divide us up by knowledge levels and teach us accordingly. We learned all about sailing conditions, how to react to the sea when it was choppy, safe. We’d do bombs off the jetty. We learned about kayaks and how to kayak safely. We’d get into kayaks and paddle around the marina. They taught us all manner of knots and how to use each of them. We learned sailing in these little Optimist dinghies. First technique, then practical. We’d move the keel, keep the sail taught. We were shown how to duck underneath the boom (and those who didn’t listen suffered the consequences on their own).

Living in New Zealand, water safety was imperative. It’s a small country surrounded on all sides (and in the middle of the two islands) by water. Beaches and lakes are everywhere. My home city is an isthmus (a word that I get no end of joy typing). Summers were spent on the sand, aside creeks or lakes. While it wasn’t common for all families to own boats (definitely a class thing), what kid didn’t boogie board at least? The education system had realised the importance of a safety initiative and had folded it into the curriculum accordingly.

While I hope Charlotteville is the end of it, I’m not that naive. People will continue to hate, to push their desires over the needs and rights of others. I’d thought that history had made a point of openly condemning the Nazi regime, but apparently the message didn’t stick for all. If we’re looking to move forward as a species, we’re gonna need to move forward together. I’m sure humanity is fucked for good, but on the off chance that we’ll survive our own arrogance, we can’t get there by climbing bodies.

If we can though, I sure hope they’re the Nazi ones.

When cutting corners isn’t gouda-nuff.

It’s time for a confession. I’ve been writing these entries for long enough and if you’ve been following, you’ve earned this much. I’ve definitely told this to some people before. I’ve possibly even written about it here before and simply don’t know how to use the site’s search function effectively. In any case, time to be out with it.

When I was a kid, I did something weird. That’s not unusual. Well, it was unusual, but it’s not unusual (to be loved by anyone) for kids to do weird things. That comes part and parcel with learning boundaries. It’s a rite of passage that I took as my goddamn right. I was a little weirdo and now I’m slightly bigger. Little else has changed.

One day (no idea how old I was) I had a very specific craving. The craving itself wasn’t odd in the slightest. I wanted cheese. The quantity that I wanted wasn’t strange either. I wanted lots. How I went about it was where things took a turn. See, we had a stocked kitchen. This kitchen had not only food, but utensils. Even specific cheese utensils. There was a cheese knife that was handy for brie-esque cheeses. We had a cheese grater, perfect for those moments where you wanted your cheese divided into many small portions. A cheese slicer, for thin, flat segments of cheese. Plus my own personal favourite, the other cheese slicer, but with wire. It could also make thin, flat segments of cheese OR fat, flat segments of cheese. I LIKED MY CHEESE SEGMENTED, OKAY? Or, y’know, I could’ve just used a knife.

What I’m saying is, I had options. I used none of them.

Instead I tip toed near the kitchen and perked up my ears (security footage from the day). I couldn’t hear anyone or anything but my own heartbeat. Good. I advanced slowly around our kitchen table towards the fridge. Still no alarming sounds. I grasped the handle of the fridge (it was one of those flat panels with a small indent for a grip) and gently applied pressure. We kept a glass bottle of water in the fridge door and I didn’t want it rattling. I reached up to the dairy conditioner and quietly wedged it open, grabbing the large block of Tasty cheese.

I stared at the chilled block of gold in my hands, wondering how they’d managed to name it so aptly. I peeled back the wrapper and marvelled at its smooth edges, how the sides dropped so sharply from the flat top. It was so orderly and perfect. I couldn’t have that. For some reason I felt compelled to disrupt it. To this day, I couldn’t tell you why. I raised the block to my mouth and took a large bite out of the corner. The pleasantly sharp taste flooded into my mouth and I sighed with relief. I looked back at the cheese brick and simultaneously felt pride and shame. I hurriedly covered it in the wrapper and shoved it back into the dairy conditioner. There was a felt tension between silence and speed, but I knew I had to be far away from what I’d done. I completed my mission without notice or consequence and got back to my room.

Later that evening, I was walking down the hallway and heard my parents talk.

“It’s just so weird, who would do that?”
“They could’ve just cut off a piece. Why would they take a bite and leave the evidence?”
“Sometimes honey, I have no idea.”

I crept back to my room, holding my secret close to my chest. They never asked, I never told.

Until now that is…

Happy T’ronahversary to me.

Happy Toronto Birthday to me. Four years to the day where I first wondered if I was walking into a hotbed of authoritarian surveillance. Four fantastic years where I’ve borderline Eat Pray Love‘d myself into a journey of self-discovery. I ate and had sex a bunch, anyway (though sadly never simultaneously), plus adopted a wide enough smile to make Julia Roberts frown with envy.

My path to Toronto wasn’t straight or direct. In fact it took many years before I even thought of it as a destination. Age five I decided that when I grew up I’d harness my citizenship and live in Canada. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but with New Zealand’s famed agricultural economy, it was ironic I was so avid to head somewhere US adjacent. It seemed different and exotic, plus they sounded like people in the movies. At age 20 I begun to give it more thought. I’d recently watched Juno and fallen head-over-heels for the idea of Ellen Page. I decided I’d move to Halifax and miraculously stumble into some kind of meet cute. Roll the credits (complete with Hand Drawn Block Letters). Why not? It was a quietly hip port town with a ton of breweries. Sure, I wasn’t into anything quiet or port, but things would work out. Remember the meet cute I probably told myself every night before going to bed.

Then it was Vancouver. I had family in Vancouver and the transition would be easy. I’d lodge somewhere then make my mark on the city. It was a city, right? With my generic media aspirations, I’d slot in just fine. I’d be close to Whistler in case I wanted to… wait, I didn’t really like outdoorsy stuff. What would I do in Whistler? I’d work out the details later, that’s what I’d do. I told some dude at a party just that once and he shook his head. “Toronto is where you want to be, man.” Toronto? I hadn’t really heard of Toronto. “It’s the biggest city in Canada and if you want to get into the media, there’s no better place in the country.” This wasn’t some good friend, just some dude I talked to a handful of times. I’ve got no idea if he has any concept of how much that conversation shaped my life. In the few minutes we talked, my totally vague plans became slightly less vague.

***Several Years Later***

I was 26 years old and I’d just been through the biggest breakup of my life. I was on a short term contract with the local university and it was coming to a close. There was funding for an interesting new contract, but I thought again. I’d never put down the torch I was holding for moving away. It’d been a not-insignificant part of the breakup. As soon as it ended, things fell into place. I bought a one way ticket to Vancouver (with the goal of heading to Toronto via Montreal) a few weeks later. I’ve never looked back.

Starting anew in Toronto was both hard and not. Picking up the pieces is always gonna be tricky, but Toronto kept throwing opportunity after opportunity at me. I hit the ground and started getting out to all kinds of events. I needed people in my life and I found them with ease. Walking back from a concert, running from a bus, OkCupid dates, movie screenings and Magic the Gathering games. Employment was less forthcoming, but I took whatever came my way and rolled with it. I tried and learned things I never imagined: Teaching gymnastics, feeding kids in schools, being a test subject, working the election polling booth, trying my hand as a barista. Toronto meant discovery, excitement and eventually community.

Perhaps it was a matter of getting out what I put in. Reaping the rewards of saying yes to the call of adventure. Maybe I lucked out, or learned to see the potential in coincidence. Toronto has given me so much, including a new lease on life. Over the past few years I’ve changed in ways that I’m still realising from day to day. I hear people talk about how cold Toronto is and possibly I missed out on that because of Accent Privilege. In my time here though, I’ve learned something about this city.

Toronto’s heart beats in its inhabitants, who create something larger than their sum. Toronto is discovering just how much people can surprise and impress you. Toronto is about learning the importance of saying yes, because opportunity is waiting for you to find it. Opportunity might not look like an Ellen Page meet cute, but that’s not to say that your wildest dreams are out of reach.

I mean, The Pink Ranger lives here you guise.

Is there anything mo 90s than Space Jam Pogs?

I had Pogs as a kid, but I didn’t really know why. I think I primarily just wanted to order from Consumers Distributing. I may have been living halfway across the world, but how would a spread like this ever not be enticing? There was some kind of cheap multi pack of pogs complete with a slammer, special mat and some shiny ones.

I may have had Pogs, but I’m not gonna say that I got Pogs. Understood the ethos, anyway. Pogs didn’t make a dent in New Zealand. Ostensibly they had something to do with milk bottle tops? I had my set of ten, but nobody to battle with. I think I tried to figure out how to play solitaire. So mostly, they sat there, destiny unfulfilled. I probably threw them out, eventually. It’s weird, but even at the age of eight, I saw them as a thinly veiled marketing tool. This is saying something, I wasn’t a savvy kid. If it weren’t for my more pragmatic parents I probably would’ve been shaped into the perfect little consumer. I’d read Toyworld brochures for fun. I knew what I was getting into, but I jumped in with both feet anyway, because I wanted to know what it felt like to get a package in the mail. Shit, imagine if we’d had Amazon at that age. I would’ve never left the house.

I remember so badly wanting to get mail. My parents would get letters constantly while I stared with wide-eyed envy. “They’re all bills.” They’d say. “Trust me, when you’re my age you’re not gonna want this mail.” I didn’t care, in a way I think I just wanted to be surprised. When I mentioned how badly I wanted to get letters (it happened in movies and cartoons all the time), my mum turned it back on me. “You want to get letters, but how often do you send anyone letters?” I shook my head “no, I don’t want to send letters. I want to get them.” With the patience of an adult, she explained “but if you never send anyone letters, why would they send them back to you? If you send one of your friends a letter with a question, maybe they’ll send you a response.”

It was a light bulb moment. My bulb switched on. Dimly.

A friend was having a birthday and I saw my chance. I got a birthday card and wrote the following message:

Dear ______

Happy Birthday!

Is today Thursday?

Love Leon

Keep in mind these were pre-internet times, otherwise I’d obviously check out isitthursday.org. I gave him the card. He responded “no, today is Saturday.” I had my answer, but I was in no way satisfied. It wasn’t about the question. Over time, I’d get letters here and there. Our former Japanese au pair girls were lovely and sent the most beautiful letters. Invariably they were on cutesy cartoon themed stationary (Disney was a hot favourite), written with delicate penmanship. They became cherished possessions, tucked away in a special drawer for nice things I liked looking at (as well as many Christmas cards I never looked at again. I didn’t think I was allowed to throw away anything that had intended sentimental value. Once I learned that wasn’t true, I threw out almost everything of intended sentimental value).

I haven’t yet reached the age Mum was when she told me that bills sucked, but I’m old enough to have caught her drift. It’s rare to get anything great in the mail these days (whether E or IRL). A couple of times a year I’ll get a tax return slip that puts a smile on my face (last time I got a whole nine dollars!).

If only Consumers Distributing still existed.

If you took him to jail, would you be committing Scumocide?

When did you last walk into a room pulled straight from your heartfelt dreams and wishes? When were you last face to face with a tangible manifestation of hope? How did your mind react, knowing that the architects of your imagination had erected their monument within your arm’s reach?

Were you also at Tilt last night?

As a kid I adored arcade machines, or “Spacies” as we called them (the moniker derived from Space Invaders, of course). They’d sit in the entrance of takeaway shops or movie theatre lobbies. My parents would rarely give me money to play, so often I watched or pretended to play. On the odd occasions (a friend’s birthday or something) that I actually got to play, I lost my mind. Fighting games such as Street Fighter 2, King of the Monsters or Mortal Kombat 3, side scrollers like Captain Commando or puzzle games in the vein of Snow Bros or Bubble Bobble. I guess I wrote about it a bunch here.

I walked into the doors at Tilt, paid my $5 and had free rein on a collection of 40 or so machines, all set to free play. The aforementioned Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat 3, Captain Commando and Bubble Bobble all made an appearance. Live DJs played a cavalcade of cheesy 80s hits (including a chiptune cover of Haddaway’s “What is Love?”) and the bar was stocked with great beer. I couldn’t imagine anywhere I would’ve rather been.

Playing arcade games with an adult perspective is interesting. With their revenue stream dependent on players pumping in quarter after quarter, you can see how they’ve specifically engineered the games to feed the addiction. Captain Commando and other similar games featured unique and powerful character moves that would do area-of-effect damage at the cost of HP. Health items were few and far between, meaning that the more you used these moves, the more likely you’d have to keep paying the toll to stay in the game. NBA Jam was fucking great. A four player machine. In the years since childhood I’d forgotten that players had to pay per quarter (time period, not currency), with the winning team getting the next quarter free. For that genre of plane games like Raiden, so many bullets were flying through the air that it was nigh impossible to survive without repeated cash infusions. They knew what they were doing.

On free play however, none of that mattered. A friend and I fulfilled a childhood dream and clocked Captain Commando. I finally got to use Mack the Knife (instead of my older brother repeatedly hogging him), the purple alien mummy with twin blades. I’d like to believe that even as a child I would’ve cringed at least a little to learn that the final boss’ name was Scumocide. Let’s be real though, I sincerely thought Street Sharks were jawsome. I was no critic.

I also didn’t realise how physically demanding it was to toggle and mash repeatedly. Some of those beat ’em ups were a one way trip down a long carpal tunnel. If I needed yet another sign that my body is succumbing to the ravages of time, my mangled hands tell the truth.

OH WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE.