A foot in the door still needs to climb eventually.

Screw the preamble. I was at my group mentorship meeting today and the general themes were limitations. What was holding us back from being where we wanted to be? Our “homework” was to watch a TED talk on why most people would never have a great career. It intimated that the vast majority have good careers in lieu of great ones. Those “lucky” enough to have great careers find their way through pursuing passion, saying yes to opportunities and forging ahead even under stormy clouds of doubt. Fear, he said, was the prime reason that truly great careers evade so many of us. It’s not a new idea, but it certainly resonated deep in my gut.

In the mentorship meeting they asked what we were afraid of. I thought about it. I’ve known that I have a debilitating fear of failure for some time. I dug deeper. Why was I afraid to fail? What did failure represent? I have constant ideas, but what stops me in my tracks? I realised that I talk myself out of opportunities all the time. Why? What is it that paralyses me? I dug deeper. When something pops into my head I think hard on it. I conceptualise what form it would take. I consider the steps it’d take to bring it to being. These pile atop one another. More considerations flood in and the pile becomes a towering monolith. A singular entity. All of the tasks combine into an overwhelming obstacle. Fear takes root and it’s too much. How would I be able to tackle all of it? I have a job. I have a social life. I’m afraid to lose precious time on a project that could fail.

Then it hit me. It wasn’t a smooth obelisk, it was a collection of steps. Yes, I’d have to climb to dizzying heights, but the process would be one step at a time. Developments don’t have to happen in an instant, otherwise they’d be called occurrences. The work would consume me, but in the mean time I wouldn’t lose everything I had, it’d fade into the background temporarily.

But still, what if it didn’t work out and it was all for naught? If putting the time and the effort in left me back at square one with nothing to show.

The mentorship facilitator said something that struck me: That while we often think we’ll end up back at square one, we rarely do. We don’t lose the lesson when we lose. I thought how fervent I was when I arrived that I needed to go out and grab opportunities. I said yes to everything because I had no other choice. In doing so, I prospered and grew. I shook myself out of stagnant habits and tried something. I’ve reached a plateau of safety. I don’t have to act out of fear and desperation. You know what though? I accomplished a bunch out of desperation and it worked out great. It didn’t happen instantly, but I got there even if I was afraid. It’s not like I have so much to lose that it’s not worth the risk reaching further.

So I did. After the meeting finished I talked to my mentor. I told him what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I asked him if there was anyone he could put me in touch with to workshop it and make it a reality. He said he’d set something up tomorrow.

What have I got to be afraid of?

At least I know John Farnham believes in me.

They say if you don’t use it, you lose it. Skills have a habit of atrophying if they’re not flexed regularly. It’s such a waste. If you’ve spent time building them up, it’s important to find an outlet, keep them limber. Which is a roundabout way of saying that it felt pretty fucking great to be back in a voicing studio.

Don’t go getting your hopes up, it was in no way a major deal. Just a nice return to a familiar calling. I met with a guy in radio creative about a job that was up for grabs. I was interested to get back into radio, it’s an industry I’ve always loved. TV is fine, but my heart has truly never left radio. We talked about the job and he admitted that they’d already decided on who they wanted. Applying wouldn’t get me anywhere. He did however notice my accent and asked me if I’d done any voicing. I nodded and told him about my past career in audio production.

He thought for a second and told me about the nationwide company voice bank. There’s a directory of available voices for creatives to go through and find one that’s suitable. They list the type of reads that voices are good at (any accents or specific impressions) and have a few samples of their work. We had the same kind of system back home. It meant that if there was a prized voice in a small market the local producer could record them and send the audio up to another one. My current company didn’t yet have any New Zealand accents in the voice bank. The creative guy sent two scripts my way and brought me down to the studio.

Back when I worked in production, I didn’t do a heap of voicing. Part of it was pragmatic. I knew how to run Pro Tools and record. If I was recording it was easy to see how the read was running for time. I could hear it through the monitors and know if it fit the aim of the script. If I needed to record myself I’d often flick it to record, run into the booth, voice, then run out and stop the recording. It wasn’t the smoothest process, but it got the job done in a pinch. We also had a lot of conventional radio voices on station who got used way more often. This meant I got brought in whenever a weird little character voice was required. Aliens/monsters. Yoda. Impressions, mostly. Or a soft read for some kind of heart strings tugging cause. I always liked it, but would’ve loved to do more than I had the chance to.

I was of course a little rusty today, but not atrophied by any means. We did a bunch of takes, tried assorted reads trying to emphasise different parts of the scripts. We worked on pace and mood. I warmed up. It’s always easiest voicing when you’ve built up a relationship with the producer. You know what they’re looking for and they know how to get the type of read out of you they’re seeking. It was fun, I’d forgotten how much I’d missed it. Trying to properly articulate while also shaving five seconds off a read and emphasising correctly in all the right places. Being back in that booth felt like something clicked. Familiar and comforting. I’d like more of that feeling.

We’ll see if it goes anywhere. With people knowing my voice is available, they can write for it. Fingers crossed I can start building up a portfolio. If eventually I could start booking paid gigs, that’s not something I’d sneeze at. It’s pretty damn lucrative for work I’d enjoy doing. Fingers crossed, pray for Mojo.

You know who knew a thing or two about comedy? Dante.

I remember exactly when I decided I had to be funny. I was nine years old. My best friend was moving on from primary school into intermediate. My best friend was the funniest person I knew. I was not. I don’t know if I’d channelled the latent spirit of Miller, but I knew that I was liked, while my friend was well-liked. Something deep in my core told me that being liked wasn’t enough. I needed to be well-liked, as my friend was. I also knew innately that my friend leaving would throw off some integral balance in the schoolyard. We needed joy, but with him gone, that got a little bit harder. Someone needed to fill that void. My precious nine year old brain volunteered as tribute. Heavy lay the crown, but I’d worn a kippah, it couldn’t be that different.

I still feel like a fraud. Playing a role with wit coming from the head, not the heart. I’m don’t worry whether or not I’m funny, I worry about the distance between my humour and myself. All these years I’ve been searching for the kind of jokes that fit me, that feel natural. Comedy that tumbles out out my mouth without a second thought. I latch on to puns and word play because they feel safe. I love words and how they intermingle. Snide or sarcastic commentary feels safe. Using intellectualism as a stand-in for wit, because keeping the joke at arm’s length means I have time to back down from it. If I it doesn’t land and I haven’t fully committed, it lessens the sting. It minimises both negative consequences and potential.

I’ve started taking beginner improv lessons as a way to understand how to be present. I want to get more in touch with where my humour comes from and how it takes shape. Improv flies in the face of my instincts. Instead of keeping a safe distance, it forces me to jump in and commit. Instead of comparing and contrasting five different thoughts, gauging how any audience would receive them and ultimately wait for a better time to yield higher impact, improv tells me to grab the first thought and run with it. Instead of sifting through ideas for whatever makes me sound smarter, improv tells me to jump in and make it work. To trust my instincts and not back down. To listen to others and work with them. That creating harmony is a tacit contract that requires teamwork.

Our teacher told us last night, if a scene breaks up, if someone fumbles a line, take a second and get back to it. Don’t remove yourself to comment on it. You’re shifting the onus off yourself to instead point the blame somewhere else. You’re not being accountable, you’re immediately jumping off a sinking ship instead of trusting one another to fix the leak. It resonated. I immediately thought of my propensity for commenting from a safe distance. How on one hand an arm’s reach feels comforting, but also isolating. Being unwilling to fully embrace often means standing alone.

It’s easy to live a life without taking risks. Just don’t complain when things don’t get better. That needs to be earned.

Thanks for doing me a solid, Snake.

Imagine having the kind of confidence where entering a room didn’t trigger your threat analysis mode.

Before we start with this, I don’t assume I’m anything special or exceptional from the norm. Then again, I don’t often talk with others about all of my eccentricities, so who knows? Every time I walk into a room, take in my surroundings. My eyes will dart around and even if I don’t get to look in all directions, I’ll try to get a feel for people in my vicinity. If I’m putting something down, for instance, I’ll do slightly exaggerated movements, or after setting it on a surface, I’ll pivot. Am I nuts? Well we assumed as much already. Is this, however, the central reason?

I don’t have a solid notion of where this habit came from, but I’ve absorbed enough pop culture that I expect misfortune to come from all angles at any moment. If it’s not a ninja, katana half drawn, it could be a co-worker ready to ambush me with small talk or a telemarketer (*whispering* they’re everywheeeeere). Frankly, it’s probably a latent habit from high school theatre. Having your back to the audience is verboten, so you learn techniques for subtle movement and turns. Side-on conversations, etc. I guess at some point I folded this into everyday life. Even, wait, ESPECIALLY at parties I’m constantly taking inventory of where everyone/thing is situated. If I have my back to a doorway, I’ll repeatedly rotate or gesture around me as a way of increasing my vantage. I’ll subconsciously shift or move, according to anything that could catch me off-guard.

It has to be a modicum of control freakism leaking out. As if instilling a belief that you have status in a scenario, when that’s still to be determined. Hell, even the fact that on some level I’m placing an intrinsic status into my interactions should set off red flags. I DON’T LIKE BEING TAKEN BY SURPRISE, ALRIGHT? When you assume everyone’s trying to get one up or wants something out of you, taking steps to mitigate their reach feels not only helpful, but necessary.

The flip side of this is that if two of me existed, I’d be my own worst enemy. I try not to telegraph my presence unless I think it’d seriously worry the other person. I’ll often quietly walk into a shared space (like a kitchen) and begin doing something without saying hi. There’s also the weird trait I developed after noticing that nobody says goodbye in phone conversations. Now if I’m having a benign conversation I’ll quietly walk away when it dies down rather than dropping farewells and niceties. I’d hoped it would make me more enigmatic, but people probably just think I’m an asshole. Not gonna lie, it gives me a little thrill to go unnoticed. Stealth is exciting to me, which is how I wind up matching others’ breathing and steps without any intention of doing so. I’ll be walking down steps behind someone and find my stride matched with theirs. Or I’ll notice the extra focus my body is putting into masking my footfalls.

Like every societal ill, let’s blame video games for that one. Playing through stealth games, sneaking silently often results in avoiding damage. Perhaps I intuitively translated that to real life. If people don’t know I’m there, they can’t engage me in boring conversation. I get to choose whether or not I want to opt into interaction. What could be better than that?

If I was a therapist, I’d have a bunch of easy points to pounce on. This kind of behaviour has to be a response to childhood bullying and its lasting trauma. Or to feelings of inadequacy. Desiring control on this level is less about getting one up on others and everything to do with intended inoculation against further hurt. I’m only human. If you prick me, I’ll probably bleed out in the gutter. Isn’t it better to stay puncture free?

But they weren’t even giant mechanical spiders? So heartless, but not Loveless.

If my Space Madness was low level yesterday, it became a full blown contagion today. Why? Watch the Skies, my dear friend.

As I said yesterday, Watch the Skies is a full on megagame experience involving 60 or so people in an international (and intergalactic) game of diplomacy, scientific development, espionage, military action and press coverage. Things started slowly and ramped up exponentially.

There was a mass deployment of alien saucers across the world. Some human nations rose to intercept them, but were easily defeated. Then nothing. Total alien silence. Suddenly old nuclear waste began disappearing from the map. The nations were confused. Why were the aliens ridding the world of nuclear material? What could be their objective? Were they here to aid humanity? Or did they have inscrutable plans to doom us all?

A rogue faction rose up, the Humans First contingent. “Why should we trust these extraterrestrials?” They asked. “They may be seeming to help us now, but what will they come for next?” Nobody knew.

Alien missions were conducted across the world with little to no opposition.

The aliens made themselves known in a press conference. They came in peace. Their goal was to rid the world of hazardous nuclear material that spread disease across the world. Furthermore, they had a cure for cancer they were willing to spread across the world. Or at least, to any nations willing to disarm their nuclear warheads. What would the nations do? Accept the alien aid, while losing out on their nuclear capabilities? Could the governments in good conscience deny their people a cure for cancer?

Humans first responded. “Would you really leave yourself defenceless against this menace? If we trust them, what will they do with that trust? Will they offer gifts in one hand while the other holds a knife behind their back?”

Riots broke out across the world. The human race was unsettled. Nations sought to quell these rioters and did so through military force. Bad press came from all sides and the nations’ economies took a hit. They were in turmoil. What would they do?

All the while, Aliens continued mounting successful missions across the globe. Their missions? Unknown.

Most nations took the olive branch offered by the aliens, save Brazil. Brazil ran with Humans First and begun launching a full scale attack on alien troops wherever possible. They were unsuccessful in all of their interceptions. Meanwhile other nations quietly researched their technology and sought to gain stability in their home nations. An Alien base was erected in Turkey.

Russia and the USA united against the Alien base and crushed it completely, gaining valuable alien tech.

Aliens began offering consensual operations to humans, implanting them with alien DNA. Many took them up on their offer. The Aliens gained a seat at the United Nations

Russia decided to launch a nuke at the Alien moon base. Many nations rose to support, while others opposed. Aliens attempted to intercept, but were struck down by a mysterious contagion developed by Russia. Despite a fierce battle on all sides, the warhead was successfully defended. It struck and destroyed the Alien moon base.

Brazilian forces marched on the Alien influenced nation of Venezuela. They successfully destroyed the insurgent army and annexed Venezuela in the name of Humans everywhere. Russia and the UK annexed another nation from Alien influence. The United Nations were in an uproar.

The final battle arrived. Shit went sideways. China built a space ark to leave the planet. Japan joined them and fled the Earth, escaping from all the madness. Russia and Brazil together successfully fired two nukes at the Alien Mars base. However, the base was nothing but an illusion. Their efforts left nuclear craters on the face of Mars.

Aliens appeared all over the map and humans intercepted, casualties on both sides. Outnumbered, many Alien missions succeeded.

With the war over, the true nature of the Alien mission was revealed. Earth had now been greatly infiltrated by Aliens. The result of their missions was slowly infecting as many humans as possible with an infertility treatment. 53% of Earth’s population were now infertile. India somehow escaped unscathed, thanks to their superior medical technology. Nations across the planet were irrevocably shaken, unsure how to adapt to this strange new world. How would the world cope? Only time would tell.

Also apparently Australia was overrun by giant spiders, that they then domesticated and trained for use as transportation. Stuck in the war room as Military Control, so many other subplots escaped my notice. There’s no way I’d be able to describe the sheer scale of insanity going on in that game, but I hope I’ve given some indication.

Once again, blame the Space Madness.

I’d call mine Gilbert Goattfried if it’s any consolation.

Great day. Intense day. It’s no longer day and I’m scrambling to get this entry out so I can finally go to sleep. 1am on a “school night” seems an appropriate time as any to start, n’est-ce pas?

So.

Work got busy right at the end. I was feeling mildly unwell (with the portent of future ailment tomorrow) so I tried to cram a bunch of work in today. You know, ease the strain on the rest of the department in case I do call in sick tomorrow. There was a bunch of stuff I needed in order to finish my work and my manager was not forthcoming with it. Then my manager delivered. Being the grand ol’ chap that he is, he also delivered the news that one of our shows had been pulled and subsequently any sign of it needed to vanish across the network. Prime 4pm news, right? I’d been trying to organise a bunch of people on the side for tonight’s dinner/comedy shows. When the work rolled in I forgot about those plans and took care of business. Subsequently my phone died. When 5.30pm rolled around I checked it for a heartbeat. None. Murdered. Shit. I’d made 6pm dinner plans that were 50 minutes away via public transit.

Time to call an Uber.

Or not, because I’m an idiot and my phone was dead. I flagged down a taxi and asked for a fare estimate to The Royal Cinema. $15-20 he said. I jumped in and we hit the road. I asked if I could borrow his charger for my cellular corpse, but try as I might it’d been slapped with a DNR order. It was my turn to die a little on the inside. Rush hour traffic was predictably grim and during my journey I spent $3 cold hard cash moving 100m. I should’ve walked part way. I made it no more than five minutes late, a small wonder, in the hopes that everyone had gotten the messages I’d sent before my phone kicked the bucket. I waited for another five or so minutes and my friend walked in. I’ve rarely known relief to be such a tactile sensation. My girlfriend arrived, we had an awesome dinner and lined up for Chris Gethard’s live Beautiful/Anonymous podcast taping.

The show was fun, but also a transcendent trash fire that made me question everything I knew about probability. A quick rundown of the show: Comedian Chris Gethard talks to an anonymous caller for an hour. He has a talent for asking the right questions and whittling away the artifice to find the true story beneath the call. Tonight? Tonight was a weird night. Tonight’s hashtag for audience members with questions was #lowrystrong, which would’ve been great if I had a phone that didn’t hate living. We were warned that it could get weird. Like the manic caller the night before. The only thing Chris had been able to glean in an hour was that he owned two goats, one of which was adorably named OKGoat. I’m ’bout it.

The caller wasn’t weird, so much as avoidant. Obviously a fan of the show, it sounded more like he wanted to chat with Gethard, but not about anything in particular. Was he in love with his ex-girlfriend/best friend? Why did he feel so listless? What was his issue with revealing his age? Try as Chris might to delve into this dude’s deal, it felt a little flat. The connection was spotty and whenever Chris really seemed on the mark with a great point, the call would cut out and our caller wouldn’t hear it. With 25 minutes left on the clock, we had a Beautiful/Anonymous first: We took another call. This caller got straight into it and called her ex-boss a cunt right off the bat. The crowed roared, baying for blood. She was a sympathetic character and we all latched onto her. The more details that emerged, however, something seemed off. Were we really getting the whole story? Why had her boss and close personal friend made steps to remove our caller from her family? With seven minutes remaining on the clock, the call dropped. Fuck. Chris took another call, who turned out to be… THE FIRST FUCKING CALLER. 7700 CALLS AND HE GOT THROUGH? WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THAT? UN FUCKING REAL. Things were intense. Chris took him to task and laid straight into him, stringing everything we’d heard into deduction, outlining this guy but good. AND THE CALL DROPPED. FUCK. He took ANOTHER call, which wasn’t the second caller back with some answers.

IT WAS THE FUCKING GOAT GUY FROM THE NIGHT BEFORE. WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE PROBABILITY IF IT’S NOT GONNA DO ITS JOB?

Oh, and my phone rose from the grave, in case you were worried.

There must be Venn intersections between Subway and the PUA community.

Ever have those days where some spectre from the past looms unexpectedly in front of you? You’d forgotten it existed until a comment or sight causes memories to rush back? We all have regrets, whether mild or severe, but without a time machine it’s impossible to erase the past. Today I remembered that pick up artists existed.

I remember reading Neil Strauss’ The Game with rapt attention. In whatever pale defence I can muster, I was all of twenty years old, virginity firmly intact. Not to shit on virgins whatsoever, but when life around you seems to echo that your manhood is defined by your ability to make yourself desirable, it’s hard not to drink the Kool-Aid. I supped from that well heavily and as such, the notion of finding a way to easily relate to women was not only enticing, but enthralling. This book was saying that I could finally explore the connection I’d been seeking? I could be in a relationship, despite crippling anxiety of putting myself out there in a sexual capacity? It wouldn’t even cost me five easy payments of $49.95? Given that I didn’t even pay for the book, this was all icing on the cake.

So I read and was absorbed. Not least because Strauss painted himself well as the protagonist going through his own Pygmalion transformation. It was hard not to identify with the elements of self-improvement (and despite all the toxic shit in there, it wasn’t 100% without merit. There were a cluster of positive messages about respect for your own self-identity and the path to self-confidence). I can’t look back and say how well written it was (and I’d find it hard to burden myself with a re-read), but at the time the story had me hooked. It had clear antagonists and a journey following a steady through-line. Nuggets of development came to Strauss throughout the plot and, as someone down on myself, it was enough to make me take notice. To think that if only I worked at it, I’d be able to find someone out there looking to get to know me intimately. For a lonely guy, the promises of abundant emotional riches felt impossible to ignore.

Of course, by the end of the book I found it hard to endorse Pick Up Artist techniques. They were heartless and manipulative, reducing women to physical attributes and stats rather than three dimensional humans with their own motivations and personalities. The numbers game of running the same routines again and again took any kind of organic element out of meeting someone. The idea of throwing “negs” (backhanded compliments) to weaken their defences and play with status, peacocking, or that stupid fucking “C or U shaped smile” bit to make yourself seem interesting held zero appeal. If you were trying to get a girl’s number, would any part of the exchange consider her agency? Or was it just about finding any cute face to lie next to you for a night? Lonely as I was, I never wanted to “trick” someone into liking me. Plus why the fuck would I want to be going out clubbing?

I’m not remotely knocking people who just want to go out and let their slut flag fly. If that’s what you’re into, you’re getting zero shame from me. My big issue, as someone with a propensity for long term connection, was with the sustainability of PUA sparked relationships. At its core, Pick Up “Artistry” is about trying to pretend to be someone you’re not. You’re running pre-written scenarios and inserting this new person as the second character. Any creativity you’re exhibiting is someone else’s, like a comedian stealing jokes. What would you think the outcome would be? What happens down the line when they discover your wittiness starts to run out? That you’re not the cocky dude you’re putting out there? Would you expect them to fall so deeply for “This Charming Man” that they’d forgive you down the line for being a different person altogether? Why represent yourself as something that you’re not in order to use somebody like that? Because every part of this equation seems to be about what you want and zero about her needs.

This kind of mentality seems to be endemic to the dating culture at large, the idea that representing a persona is the key to having people like you. To pique their interest then trap them into loving you. It’s fucked up. The hard truth is that if someone wouldn’t like who you really are, then they’re not right for you. Don’t delude yourself into chasing after people who like the person you are. That’s a dip into an ocean of misery. I’m not breaking ground telling people to be themselves, but if you’re in search of long term happiness there’s no other valid path. Maybe instead of working the numbers game with verbal trickery, take that time to work on yourself. Become an interesting person who’s interested in others. Treat people with kindness, respect and humour. Find what it is that fascinates you about the world and dive in deep. It may sound intimidating, but working on yourself is way more effective and rewarding than working on others.

Then maybe I can finally forget that this PUA bullshit exists for once and for all.