I ended up writing a novel on a friend’s Facebook post, and figured I might as well toss it up here in case it was useful for others.
It’s been over six years since I’ve been to the zoo.
I know this, because the last time I went to the zoo it was for a specific event. My friend’s birthday to be exact. It wasn’t long before I left New Zealand for good, and I figured it’d be nice to take the day off to spend it with her. Flashback to two weeks earlier, when I found $70 lying on the ground outside a masonic temple. I then decided to use the money to make pot baking, and take it to the zoo for my friend’s birthday. Flash forward to the day before. Someone who won’t be named helped me buy it (I’ve never in my life bought pot from a dealer. As a 32 year old, I still wouldn’t know how and it’s my secret shame), and someone else who won’t be named helped me make a delicious infused chocolate caramel slice. We took a whole clip container full of the slices, brought a picnic lunch and had a marvellous day getting buzzed watching animals’ natural splendour in artificial habitats. It was an A+ experience, would do again.
I used to love the Auckland Zoo. I went there a ton of times. We’d go on class field trips maybe once every few years. My grandparents would take my best friend and I there each summer. I once helped out a crew for the 48 hour film competition, and we got special permission to film a bunch of scenes there for free. I’ve been here in Toronto for over six years now, and I still haven’t visited. Let’s see, what do I remember about the Auckland Zoo? Bullet Point Time:
- I went there once for an intermediate school trip. I bought a cookie from the cafe. It cost $3, which at the time seemed OUTRAGEOUS for a cookie. It was marbled, chocolate and vanilla. The cookie had a similar consistency to short bread. You know the kind where you take a gentle bite and a piece crumbles off into your mouth? I really loved the cookie, despite its high price, and vowed to get one the next time I visited as a special treat. Unfortunately, enough time had passed between visits that the cafe no longer sold said cookie.
- The playground had this really cool Chinese dragon. It got a bunch of facelifts and new coats of paint over the years, but it was always hugely popular. I remember being surprised at just how spiky its back was. Like, that thing was solid concrete. It’s probably why it’s lasted so many decades, but I’m sure it led to a bunch of bumps and scrapes.
- The polar bears. I used to love seeing the polar bears, but their history is kind of sad. The zoo could never really get the enclosure right, and the bears suffered. One drowned, another got shot trying to escape years back. A ton of them developed skin lesions and died. I remember being surprised to see green polar bears, but that was apparently part of their affliction. They phased them out in 1995, after realising they couldn’t give them a humane home.
- The aviary was amazing. It was this big enclosure with mesh fencing stretching in an arc above. The birds were free to fly in the space, and there were pathways that took visitors around. It wasn’t uncommon for a bird to land in a tree not far from you, so you could get a good look at them. They all had (comparatively, if we’re talking about cages as the alternative) a lot of room to fly, and it was neat to see them interact.
- Eventually they made an ape enclosure that was relatively similar. The various monkeys all had a ton of space to move, swing and interact. There were water features and cool stuff to do for them. They had a ton of facts about the different species, and it was awesome to be able to see the size/scale first hand.
- I always thought it was cool to see the lions being fed. They’d toss the lions these absolutely massive steaks. I definitely had my eye on those steaks. I wonder if I could actually eat one as an adult. I doubt it, but I wouldn’t say no if someone offered me one.
The Toronto Zoo is technically accessible, it’s just really far away. Once the weather warms up, I might take myself there on a day off. I’ve heard they have polar bears and everything.
I was at a party last night, and I sat down next to someone playing the new Pokémon.
We chatted a bunch. It was 4am, an ideal time for me to be chilling out, watching someone play. We started chatting about the games, and their evolution. I tried to chart where I stepped off from the franchise. I had Blue and Silver on my Game Boy/Game Boy colour. I emulated Sapphire and Leaf Green. I think I skipped Diamond/Pearl, then played White. X and Y, Sun and Moon and now I’m gonna skip Sword and Shield. I tried to track back how many consoles had existed and got lost. Apparently after the Game Boy Colour there was Advance, Advance SP (looked like a little make-up box), then Game Boy Micro. Did you come here to see me list things? I think I had a point, and largely it’s that I thought I was somewhat on top of things in the Pokémon universe, but I’m actually way behind. The games have continued to explode exponentially and I’m not with it. Cue the classic Simpsons clip. I used to pride myself on my insane Pokémon knowledge. I’d almost rote learned it by playing them so goddamn much. I knew what levels most Pokémon evolved, when they’d learn moves. I knew where most of the hidden items were in the game. I had all the puzzles memorised and could bust through Silph Co. in record time. I could easily finish the game without the Flash HM. Am I flexing? Only if you think this is all admirable behaviour.
These days, my knowledge has slipped into the realm of obsolescence. Things have changed, the world has moved on, and so have I. I still deeply love the franchise, but in a way that I understand is a relic. I don’t think I’ll ever truly play another Pokémon game, and I’m quite fine with that. I still get excited hearing about how the franchise evolves. I love learning about new evolutions, innovative features or spins in the game. That Alolan form thing was nifty, giving Pokémon new elemental types and designs. I did DV on an episode of Pokémon last night, and it was really neat to see just how expansive it’s all become. I was lost, with very few Pokémon I actually knew. It was kinda cool being out of touch, knowing that I had so much more to potentially learn.
It’s weird to think that this franchise is still a goddamn powerhouse. Between Pokémon Go, the aforementioned Sword and Shield, the (probably thousands of episodes by now) animated show still going strong, and Detective Pikachu hitting the screens this year, it’s kind of nuts. There are still toys, card games and apparel being churned out. As far as I know, it’s still massive in Japan, and Nintendo basically have a license to print money.
Yet Facebook, if you think I’m gonna follow the Bulbasaur Propaganda page that you suggested you’re dead wrong. I’ll heart react every post that comes across my news feed, sure, but I’m not giving you the satisfaction of being right.
Is there such a thing as a Nintendo Switch emulator yet?
No nonsense entry today.
Okay, correction. I’m plowing ahead with my entry and I’m not stopping till I hit the end. That’s what I meant by no nonsense. You can be rest assured, dear reader, that there will be nonsense. This is me we’re talking about. I took on the ungainly task of writing every day for at least 30 minutes over six years ago. I’m still writing. There’s no way I’d be able to fill that much space with good quality, thought provoking writing. I don’t have it in me. I do, however, have a cup of coffee and a metaphorical fire under my arse, so let’s think about some stuff.
I discovered the site watchcartoononline the other day, and I’ve been diving in deep. I don’t need help finding a stream of recent cartoons, but this site archives years and years worth of animation. It’s been a massive treat looking back at the shows I loved as a kid and seeing how they stack up. So far, honestly, they’ve been pretty great. I hit up The Mask first. The jokes were so so, but the scripting on that show is INSANE. Not since Popeye have I seen a character with such an onslaught of verbal diarrhoea. He simply doesn’t stop. It’s impression after impression for sorta non-jokes. The really impressive thing though, is Rob Paulsen. He’s a goddamn savant when it comes to voice acting, and this madcap character makes use of his absurdly wide palette. It’s non-stop accents, impersonations and characters, and he gives it the whole time. The dialogue is frenetic and almost feverishly quick, and I can definitely trace elements of my humour back to this show’s style.
Samurai Pizza Cats was a similar awakening, but more so. A quick note on Samurai Pizza Cats, Saban adapted the Japanese show Kyatto Ninden Teyandee, but were provided with very few usable translations. So they just completely rewrote the scripts as a wacky farce. It’s insane. It’s a show about, you guessed it, samurai cats who work at a pizza parlour. They didn’t bury the lede. There are puns galore. The writing is intentionally gratuitous, overstuffed with asinine alliteration. It’s ostensibly for kids, but the quantity of jokes that would’ve gone over their heads (talking about inadequate pay for writers, gentle references to sex workers, referencing classic North American pop-culture) is insane. It’s so meta, self deprecating (a line in the intro “they’re stronger than old cheese, they’re stronger than dirt” as a reference to an Ajax commercial) and there are a bunch of characters stuffed with campy pomp. It’s such a good time, and watching it revealed how integral it was to developing my meta humour. The idea of calling attention to the inane and unnecessary really spoke to me. It’s exactly the kind of comedy I like to see in the world, and hope to inject. Without a doubt, this show was one of my pillars.
Last night, I watched Animaniacs. This was a big one. It came at exactly the right time for me, when my brain was elastic, with endless potential. I was thrilled by this show. So many jokes were conceptual on a level I’d never seen. I hear people talk about their first time watching sketch comedy with a type of reverence. Animaniacs was my sketch comedy. Unbound by the laws of reality or physics, it swung for the fences at every turn. It wasn’t afraid to challenge kids, or shoot above their heads. One of the episodes we watched last night was an oral history of the Warner Brothers (and Warner Sister) filtered through a lens of old Hollywood. There were jokes that still went over my head. I remember being a kid, watching this show and not getting jokes, then asking questions to find out more. It made me inquisitive and curious, with a hunger for knowledge so I could get more attuned to the funny. I wanted to understand the references. Also, as an adult I think Chicken Boo is the funniest goddamn thing in the world. I used to be so angry that people couldn’t see that he was clearly just a chicken, and now I’m rooting for the chicken always.
Y’know, for an entry about cartoons, there was very little nonsense. Here’s Chicken Boo.
Today I want to talk about propriety.
Propriety was important in my upbringing. Not because my parents were particularly strict, but because I was a loudmouth chatterbox with no filter. I remember how much I loved video games as a kid. Enough that I’d rank it above the company of others. Without hesitation, I can say that some friends I hung out with simply because they had video game consoles. When we left a play date, my parents would often tell me to say thank you. Before being nudged in a different direction, my farewell was often something along the lines of “thanks for the video games”. My parents taught me the phrase “thanks for having me” and it turned into a nifty catch all. I’m better now. Mostly, I have propriety to thank. My parents were big on manners, and being well-behaved. As the youngest kid, I was often thrust into adult situations and/or events. I can’t imagine how much saving face my parents would’ve had to do if not for teaching me those manners. And those manners? They’ve taken me far in life. Being polite has opened many doors, and encouraged me to hold many doors open. I still think manners are great, and I try to use them whenever the situation calls for it.
I don’t tend to see manners and propriety as synonymous. They can be closely interlinked. I’m also not entirely sure if people treat propriety as I do.
I get the feeling that propriety, in its essence, is basically meant to be read the room. It’s acting in a manner that’s contextual. The right way to act in a given situation. I have zero issue with the concept of reading the room, and I think it’s a great way to live your life. Propriety on the other hand, tends to translate to stiff and inflexible guidelines. I think of etiquette and propriety in the same general area. They’re nice in concept, but in practice they don’t always make sense. There’s an air of aristocracy that follows propriety around like a foul stench. Being polite is great, treating others with respect is great, adhering to strict social guidelines regardless of the context feels like a fast track to a headache.
These days, I think about propriety a bunch. I don’t always follow it, but I do think about it. I think about what role propriety plays in my life, and whether it’s doing anything for me. I’m generally a kind, polite individual, but I throw propriety out the window. My girlfriend and I are ostensibly adults, but we’re choosing what that means. We have onesies at home that get used almost daily. We put up Christmas lights inside just because they look nice. We hang up pictures our friends have drawn. They cover a wall of our kitchen/lounge. We’ll buy toys or goofy costume pieces if they fit what we want our lives to be. We also pay taxes, have regular jobs, keep the lawns mowed, cook and clean. I don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing to justify adulthood, but I don’t think some of our more childish proclivities recuse us from it.
I think about this when I’m out and about. If I’m dressed in weird colours or an odd costume, I check myself. Are my actions hurting anyone? Am I infringing on others’ comfort in a meaningful or unfair way? Does others’ sense of what’s normal impact my ability to navigate the world? At work we had this water filter that would sometimes take upwards of three minutes to fill a bottle. During those times I’d often use the break to stretch. This was a public kitchen. A lot more than once I’d notice someone giving me a weird look, but be resolute in my stretching. Sure, it was unconventional of me to stretch in public, but were my actions really affecting others? ‘Cause loosening tight muscles was doing a ton for me. A quick math equation in my head helped me stay the course.
Many people have a sense of right and wrong, but it’s rare for their moral poles to be universal absolutes. I feel like it’s a worthwhile thought experiment for all of us to think of things we’d prefer to do on the daily, but refrain because we’re afraid of looking a little weird. Chances are, you’d probably be fine, and unclenching those tight social constraints would probably feel all too freeing. Is propriety always good? Are the people who preach propriety always good people?
I walked out of work and into a warzone.
It was awesome. Wind whipped wildly in a wicked whirl. I zipped up my coat, and was buffeted back. Branches from tall trees lay strewn across the path. Leaves covered the ground. The construction fence had collapsed on one side, exposing a muddy yard. Traffic lights thrashed from side to side. A bushy tree damn near bent sideways. I struggled to keep my feet. The lake was tempestuous, waves dotted by oddly calm ducks. When the lights changed, I bolted across the street, achieving no more than my normal walking speed. It was madness. It was beautiful.
Unfortunately for my sense of wonder, things calmed down once I moved away from the lake. I expected to come home to crushed cars parked streetside. Power outages, chaos. Instead there was just a mild breeze. Things were oddly calm for 1am on Halloween. I saw only two Joker costumes on my way home. Quelle surprise. It was kind of gutting that the weather dumped down so much. Think of all those kids who were so excited to dress up in pursuit of candy. Hell, Montreal postponed Halloween. Can a city do that? Well they did.
Neither my girlfriend nor I were home to hand out treats to kids. Maybe it was some form of mercy. Making small talk with kids is a legit skill, and I don’t have it. I’ve never really learned to talk to kids like kids, and so I’m just at a loss for words. What am I supposed to ask? So what do you do? Been on any cool holidays lately? What’s been lighting you up lately? My usual mingling tactics are useless here. Last year Halloween came a few weeks after weed legalisation. My girlfriend and I were a little stoned, and it all became a minefield. For the first time in years, Halloween was legit spooky. We were both almost afraid to approach the door, unsure of how to handle these innocuous interactions. Small mercy then, that our area doesn’t get much trick or treater traffic.
I wonder what a loot bag looks like here. Back home, it was a bizarre hodgepodge of things. Sometimes people forgot it was Halloween and grabbed random things from their pantry. Otherwise it’d be a cornucopia of off-brand lollies. Over this side of the world, Halloween is much more of an expected quantity, so people buy in bulk. The easiest way to do so is to grab one of these huge boxes from a supermarket. All the big candy companies put out packs with 70 pieces, 100 pieces, 200 pieces. Fun size candy that’s limited in variety. I can’t imagine how many multiples kids will get of the same stuff. Like, 20 mini Kit Kats and some Swedish Fish?
I saw some police PSA on the TV. It gave out helpful hints like “don’t let kids try any candy before you check it first”. Really? Is that where we’re at? I’m definitely not someone who’s all ugh, PC Culture, etc etc. This seems like overreach. What do people think is gonna happen? Are we still on that whole train of people spiking chocolate with drugs and razor blades? In this economy? It’s 2019, people can hardy afford that stuff for themselves, let alone give it out for free. How many kids are hospitalised because of eating something they’ve been given? Especially with these sanitised bulk boxes being circulated so heavily. Most everything is individually wrapped and sealed. It’d be an absurd amount of effort to poison things, and for what payoff? Surely this is a culture of fear talking, that expects people to want to do malicious things to kids. Is there data to back that up? Or just empty rhetoric?
The craziest thing I saw last night was nature. Halloween, keep up.
What dumb shit did you write in school?
I was listening to a podcast, and someone mentioned a high school essay they wrote. I had a thought, and almost physically recoiled. I remembered my schooling, and the excessive amount of essays I contorted into talking about subjects I already liked. In intermediate school I got put in a gifted stream. It was an elective class outside of our ordinary ones. We’d get together weekly, and were led to work on individual projects of our own design. I felt uncomfortable being moved away from the regular streams, and in no way did I think I deserved to be there. The rest were really smart kids. They loved science and computers. They had a host of extracurricular educational hobbies. I was just some goofy kid who loved superhero comics. I immediately knew what I had to do: Dig in. I decided to do my project on comic creation and the process. I think I really sold our teacher in charge on a piece about production. However, I really didn’t want to do research. So I read a bunch of fluff pieces, and put together a lionised account of Lee and Ditko creating Spider Man. Compared with the rest of the final projects, it was dismal. I’d drawn a dumb little comic, and I was a terrible artist. I didn’t care, I’d gotten off doing the bare minimum. I was relieved.
In high school I got put into the extension class again. I didn’t know why it kept happening to me. We did extension science and English. I flailed helplessly at the science, but in English? I did great. We were given Shakespearean sonnets to learn. I rote learned mine in an hour and said it out loud repeatedly. Soon everyone in the class knew mine. Hell, I still know it off by heart. I know it’s called “O Mistress Mine”, but I’ve got no idea what play it’s from. We were instructed that we were going to film a play. I got cast as Macbeth in a very truncated role. I learned my lines in a day, and turned in a gloriously gratuitous performance. I wasn’t in my element, I made it my element.
In university, I repeatedly warped the assignments around my sensibilities, almost rebelling against taking things seriously. We were to write an essay on a sentimental object in our lives. I wrote about Transformers bedsheets I got as a kid. I turned a feminism essay towards porn, and video game boob physics. I wrote an Environmental Feminism essay on mass production as a result of men’s inability to give birth. I talked about the curves of sleek cars and Coke bottles as commodification of the female form. I turned in an exam essay on creative revolts in the comic industry. Almost every project I put together revolved around subjects of interest, requiring the least amount of effort.
I think what I’m discovering, is that I spent my education trying to do as little work as possible, while getting results. If the schooling system was trying to teach me something, it was that nominal results didn’t really translate into anything tangible. I could get all the good marks I wanted, but I wasn’t really learning in the process. I was doing my best to not change, and teaching myself terrible lessons along the way. I wish that I’d known years back that there’s no way to shortcut the process. That real results came from advancing skills, not abstract marks for turning in projects. I think I’ve finally started to learn, but egads I wish it didn’t take this many decades.
Some gifted student, eh?