All You Can Eat sushi is a legit mercury poison hazard. Why would that stop me?

Started listening to the Doughboys podcast for the first time today. I’d heard mention of it as a totally dumb podcast where the laughs come hard, heavy and often. The basic premise involves two dudes reviewing fast food chains with a new guest each week. I don’t eat a ton of fast food (that’s not to say my diet is remotely clean), but the idea of ongoing inane delving into depravity and suffering obviously scores high with me. I jumped in at episode 100, their Nugget Power Hour. It’s silly as shit and one of those vital necessities when reading the news is a laundry list of bleakness. The Nugget Power Hour is a variant of what’s known in super classy circles as The Century- 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes (roughly seven beers or so)- but in this case they’re substituting 60 McDonalds nuggets in 60 minutes. The caveat is that at any minute they can swap a nugget for a chug of beer. There’s some preamble up top, but I’m about 40 minutes in and they’ve downed around 15 crispy golden chicken chunks. Things are going downhill fast.

There’s something I readily identify with in tales of ludicrous over-consumption. I’m a sucker for stories of people writing about ill-fated All You Can Eat experiences. Whether they’re shooting for the moon on mozzarella sticks, going for gold at The Mandarin or even trying to form every combination possible with In-N-Out’s secret menu, it’s like they’re committing my heart’s silent whispers to the page. I am them in an alternative reality and I know it. I enjoy the mock-horror and very real disgust (whether it’s at the food, themselves or both) because once again, I’ve been there. With so much talk of representation in the cultural discussion lately, this is how I’m represented: gratuitous overindulgence for comedic purposes. There’s no doubt whatsoever that the joke is on me in the end but if that’s the role I’ve been assigned, then you might as well start calling me the space cowboy.

At the moment, I’m fortunate to not have many enablers in my life. Not because I don’t love those people to bits, but because diving Scrooge McDuck style into an endless vat of chewing, sweating, weird poops and inevitable self-loathing is better reserved as a special treat. All You Can Eat sushi never needs to happen, but I’ve got my fair share of feelings to eat every once in a while. Why not add the above problems to the list? In the past I’ve had mates who’ve shared my enthusiasm for digesting as much as humanly possible until our true nihilism begins to shine through. We had our fun (until we didn’t) testing the limits of our stomachs and self-respect. Let’s be real here, as full as you get, it’s not like food stops tasting good. If it was about being satisfied we would’ve stopped well before our bellies resembled water-logged corpses. I live, I die, I live again.

I can’t remember a time I haven’t loved food. I feel like the back half of any meal is spent thinking about what I could have for the next one. While being one of my core joys in life, I’d be remiss in admitting that it’s a prime source of anxiety. Am I eating too much? Am I eating the right foods? Does this ever get easier? Will the concept of moderation one day feel natural? Or am I looking down the road at a constant tug of war hurling limited discipline at the omnipresent black hole of desire? Short lived bouts of healthy habits crumbling away to ingrained behaviour. Far from condemning people who enjoy what they eat, I’m saying I get the struggle. I’m not saying we should feel bad about enjoying ourselves, I just wish control was easier to access. Like any addictive routines, it’s all too easy to fall into sunken cost fallacy thinking and dig deeper because you’ve already started. Plus, as stated earlier, it’s not like food will stop tasting good.

None of this is to imply that Doughboys is anything but hilarious. If anything, it’s vicarious enjoyment served up with a side of dipping sauces. If only curbing cravings was as simple as listening to constant cautionary tales.

A sure shank redemption.

I’ve been 30 for several months now and 30 is great. I’ve felt more secure in the ‘me’ I bring to the world. Cared less about what others thought and put focus into the energy I’ve exuded. There’s been no fear of having peaked, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that I’ve got more of my life in front of me than behind. Tonight though, it all changes. Tonight I soar upwards into a crescendo. I’ll high five my zenith and coast for the rest of my life secure in the knowledge that not only have I lived, but for one night was magnificently alive, positively charged with potential. Tomorrow I’ll step foot into a plodding decline but tonight? Tonight I’m the master of my own destiny.

I’m speaking of course of the fact that there’s currently eight kilos of bone in ham shank waiting to be carved in my kitchen.

Eight goddamn kilos. That’s so much fucking ham. All for the low low price of $16. I’m sure you think you know how much eight kilos is, but you’ll find that you’re mistaken. If you were to have a ham sandwich, 150 grams would be a decent sandwich. I could have 60 of those. I’ve got enough ham that I can experiment. Ever had ham curry? Neither have I, but what if it’s a taste sensation waiting to happen? Summer’s coming up. If I’m overheated and hungry, why not kill two birds with small frozen chunks of pig? I could have a hamburger, but with literal ham in lieu of buns. A world of possiblity is unfolding in front of my eyes.

The last time something like this (though not nearly the same magnitude. I’m pretty sure that was a mere four kilos) I had spiral cut ham to work with. It was pre-sliced and hard to truly mess up. This time it’s just meat on a bone. I’m gonna need to employ actual technique in order to maximise meatficciency. This ain’t no two bit operation, it’s a big bite operation. I’ve done my research, but theory has nothing on practice. Thankfully it’s pretty methodical. I need to cut a few slices from the narrower side in order to have a flat base to work from. With that achieved, I can cut thin vertical slices from the top of the shank down to the bone. I then simply cut along the bone horizontally and the slices will fall off. Repeating as such for all four sides will have the job virtually finished and all I’ll need to do with be straighten out the odd shaped bits. Likely with my mouth, in all honesty. It sounds possible, I just need to think confidently. If all goes terribly wrong, at least the whole eight kilos is divided between two shanks. If I butcher the first (maybe the one situation where that verb falls flat), by the second, I’ll have ascended to mastery. Or butchery, as the case may be.

Holy shit folks, I’m just about to walk in the door. Are you excited? Doesn’t matter. I’m excited enough for all of you combined. TIME TO PIG OUT.

If I don’t emerge for a few weeks, does that make the game aptly named?

My teen years were filled to the brim with the obligatory angst and unrequited amorous desire. Time and time again I’d decide on the basis of one interaction that I’d found my soul mate. Confirmation bias would only affirm this belief. Then I’d find out she was into someone else and repeat the process all over. In all my time at high school, only one of my great loves ever gave back: Diablo 2.

I sunk hours into that game night by night. I was exceedingly more studious about it than French, without a doubt (c’est vrai). It took years of my life, until the expansion pack came out and that took the rest. I played the campaign again and again, trying out all of the characters, teaming up with friends late into school nights to crawl dungeons, hopeful for rare or unique treasures. It was a blast and, as with most games, way more fun before we got into any of that min/maxing shit.

After a conversation with some brunch ambushing friends (they keep turning up randomly at spots my girlfriend and I drop into), I remembered that Diablo 2‘s spiritual successor (which surprisingly wasn’t Diablo 3) existed. Path of Exile. It’s a hack and slash RPG made by an independent NZ game studio. It’s totally free to play, with optional micro-transactions that’re only cosmetic. Say you want a little dragon that walks behind you (but doesn’t influence the game state at all?) or your armour to glow bright pink? That can happen for a tiny fee, but none of this play to win shit.

Path of Exile has a monstrous amount of depth, even ignoring the “for a free to play game” addendum. It’s a mash up of game mechanics that’ve worked in the past, smooshed into an intuitive yet complex amalgam. You choose a character, which is basically picking a character skin and being placed at a certain point on the passive skills tree (which is basically the junction system from Final Fantasy X). So you’d have your Marauder (Strength), Ranger (Dexterity) and Witch (Intelligence), then hybrid classes that bridge the gaps. You can follow the passive tree any way you want, offering huge flexibility. Active skills are conferred by gems, that gain experience as you do. All items have coloured sockets that will hold corresponding gem colours. Sometimes sockets will link, allowing you to slot in support gems, that buff the active gems in the same item. It sounds very complicated, but makes a ton of sense as you play.

When you do start playing, it’s a shit ton of fun. Being made in New Zealand, the voice actors all have NZ accents (though varying in severity). Elements of Maori culture have been incorporated, which feels wicked to see represented onscreen. The game can be both serious and goofy as fuck. The character I put together, a summoner, runs around using necrotic magic. She raises zombies and skeletons. There’s a spell that summons Nic Cage as Ghost Rider style floating flaming heads and another that animates weapons to fight for me. A typical battle involves a couple of undead bros flanked by flying flaming heads and hovering dirks, clubs and polearms battering down my foes. I’m sure the game will get a lot harder soon, but for now it’s a riot.

Speaking of which, I’ve gotta go. In the spirit of Diablo 2, I’m gonna raise some hell.

I’m nothing but a shifty cond-man.

If you’re into Rick & Morty and missed the surprise season three episode one drop yesterday, maybe you should go take care of that. I’ll wait. Very minor plot details may follow.

*******

Now that you’re back, how tickled were you by the McDonalds Szechuan sauce running gag? It feels like Limited Edition Zelda Nintendo 3DS all over again. At some point I think Justin Roiland like tossing stuff into the show in the hopes of getting freebies. If it makes for entertaining TV, I’m all for it. The Szechuan sauce joke, however, had legs. The conceit is that back in 1998, as a promotional tie-in with the release of Disney’s Mulan, McDonalds had a limited edition Szechuan sauce. According to Rick, it’s the prime motivation in his character arc, getting more of that sweet, spicy sauce. In the real world, because rabid R&M fans exist, there was already a change.org petition that Justin Roiland linked on Twitter. With the future release of a live action Mulan on the horizon, is there any better time to generate groundswell? Fingers crossed. I’m jazzed enough from the bit that I’ve already considered having home made nuggets for dinner tonight, all to go with some sexy szechuan on the side.

Anyway. I’m a condiment person through and through. Here are my favourite condiments (in no particular order), for your consideration:

  • Tomato Sauce (or Ketchup in North America). It’s a classic. It’s sweet and savoury, plus it goes on practically anything. Any time I have mashed potatoes, they’ll run red with sauce. I used to have fish and chips a lot back home and I’d always squeeze on some lemon then douse them in tomato sauce. These days I have greens and carrots pretty damn often. I’ve found that by sprinkling lemon juice and tomato sauce over the top, my brain almost thinks I’m eating fish and chips. It’s like a mind-hack for a brain with crossed wires. In a similar fashion, tomato sauce and yellow mustard as a combo makes me enjoy yellow mustard (otherwise the least exciting of all mustards), because of the mental association with sausages and burgers. My favourite brands is not Heinz, but MasterFoods. It has the sweetness and consistency I enjoy.
  • Sriracha. There’s a low level spice and pleasant combination of flavours that lends itself to a ton of dishes. If I’m wanting to add a tiny kick to a dish, or cheat on blending in spices, I’ll often squirt some in. I’m a fan of the Huy Fong Foods brand, or rather the one with the rooster on the bottle. Because I’m a basic pleb like everyone else. Sriracha Mayo has gotten to be a little overrated, but it’s still bitchin’ with kumara fries.
  • Garlic Aoli. Speaking of kumara fries, garlic aoli is the classic. It’s really easy too, just mayo, salt, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. It’s great thick and cold served with hot roast veggies. I’d eat more of it, but if I made it I’d never stop eating it. My life from that point onwards would be seeking out foods to eat with aoli, ad infinitum.
  • Tartar. What even is tartar sauce? A quick google says it’s basically the same as aoli, but with pickle relish and minced onion in place of garlic/olive oil. Tartar is good specifically with deep fried fish. That’s how it’s earned its place on the list. When I come to think of it though, I probably prefer sriracha mayo or my dear tomato/lemon juice combo. So you know what? Fuck you tartar, you’ve lost your hard won place. The king is dead, long live the king.
  • Mustard. Dijon is fine, multi grain is great, dijonnaise has its place. The king of all mustards though? Colman’s English Mustard. It’s got the right spice and taste. Nothing is better on corned/roast beef or thickly sliced ham. If you’re dining with your grandma and she brings a pottle of this shit out, your night and anal rings are gonna be set ablaze. I fucking love this stuff and it’s been too long since I’ve eaten it.
  • Sweet Chilli Sauce. Not just because of its god tier combo with cream cheese, sweet chilli lightens up most meals. It’s a joy whenever you see it come to the table. Fried stuff? Sweet chilli is great. Mashed potatoes or green veggies? Sweet Chilli does its job. Anything chicken? You’re way past sorted.

The list isn’t exhaustive. BBQ sauce is all well and good. Sweet and sour is fine. There are some really nice, thick satay sauces out there. Really though, my heart is captured by the above condiments, with the exception of the traitorous impostor tartar. Will I ever get to add McDonalds Mulan inspired Szechuan to that list? If there really is a God, I may find out someday.

Who am I kidding? God is dead, long live the sauce!

Is it possible to exercise demons? Smite them with treadmills and shit?

This post is gonna be a hard slog. I’m operating at 25% capacity today.

I feel swampy right now. In my effort to shunt back to healthier habits, I’ve taken the cold bucket o’ water approach to a couple of things. No coffee today. The duelling tensions of sleep vs activities, artificial vs naturally produced energy, have meant that my coffee use has escalated as of late. It’s been none-too irregular for me to have four or five cups a day. Considering that all bar one of those are shitty brew coffee that I don’t even like, begs the question as to why I’d go there in the first place. Pretty sure it’s a combo of boredom consumption and habitual addiction. Too much coffee has meant flailing afternoons, which have led to crashing in the evening, no energy to get out and do things. I’ve been way less social than I’d like, unless prodded by alcohol. Not the place I want to be.

Drinking a ton of coffee is symptomatic of a larger addiction to consumption. It’s both because of this addiction and a cause of this condition. I feel a need to consume, which extends to filling a cup of coffee. The more I drink, the more my inhibitions are lowered. My sometimes foods, while usually during outside meal times, have become a larger part of my daily intake. I’ll make an exception for something I wouldn’t usually have, then make that same exception the next day “because it was okay yesterday”. Then I feel grumpy and bummed out that I’d veered so widely, leading to eating my feelings later on in the evening. At work our new-ish boss always has a well stocked treat table. If I had the discipline to not be treating myself constantly, I’d exercise it. With the way things have been, it wouldn’t surprise me if a caloric consumption (not that I’ve been counting) of one and a half to two times my normal intake has been the rule, rather than exception.

It’s a dumb, but understandable pattern to fall back into and it’s been throwing my mood way out of whack. I’ve been alternating between extreme grumpiness and fatigue. I’m distractible all the time. It’s shitting on my ability to concentrate on work, turning me into a home-bound mope and making me feel shitty about my body. It sucks. It’s also something that nobody else can really help me with. Sure, there’s emotional support, but emotional support is not habit forming and won’t help me get anywhere. It’s something I need to take care of on my own, because it’s not something I’m doing for anyone else. It’s also far from the first time I’ve hoisted this bugbear atop my shoulders and I’m sure it won’t be the last. As always, a long term view, self-compassion and hard work will be lead me in the right direction. Right now though, it’s slow going.

One foot in front of the other. Again and again.

If they were cassava chips, I’d risk it.

Sometimes you have dreams that you swear are trying to tell you something. Other times you get weirded out by your brain trying to sell you something.

Without further ado, my dream from last night, punched up just a smidge:

 

The shot opens on two hands clasped together. They’re swinging, attached to two bodies walking side by side. The lighting is sunny, with upbeat pop music in the background. Humming vocals, etc. There’s a moving zoom as the shot widens to show a couple walking through a mall. A heap of rapid static shots:

  • The woman runs over to a sunglasses stand.
  • A few quick shots of her wearing different pairs, smiling, goofing around. She gives him a suggestive eyebrow.
  • He runs to her, grabs her by the waist and swings her around, both smiling and laughing.
  • He tries on a selection of goofy outrageously coloured suits. All get a shake of the head from her.
  • She tries on a frilly pink bathing suit (guy shakes no), a bright yellow suit (guy gives the “so-so” hand gesture), an alien mascot costume (big thumbs up from him)
  • He tries on the frilly pink bathing suit she’d tried previously (big smile and nod from her).
  • They’re zooming around the mall in ride on scooters (still dressed in their outfits) racing with some old folks all having a grand time.

The static shots stop and we have motion again. They’re dressed back in their “civvies”, laughing. They up to a small convenience store which has a “Cascade Chips” display out front. The woman points towards it emphatically. Camera zooms in. Vocals in the music cut out, just the beat remains. Cuts back to the guy who’s nodding enthusiastically. Big thumbs up all around. Vocals kick back in. We see her hand reach out to grab a packet. They walk in the store, arms around each other’s shoulders, a bag in each person’s hand. Cutaway to a security camera, red light blinking, zooming in.

They sit down at a table in the food court. It’s a nice food court, greenery and a water fountain in the backdrop, lit by a rooftop window. They’re smiling, the vocals in the track hit their zenith. We can hear the faint pitter-patter of a rotor blade in the background. The guy pops open a bag and reaches in to grab a chip. The Cascade logo is clearly visible. The pitter-patter intensifies. He tosses it in his mouth and crunches down gleefully.

At that exact moment we hear glass shatter and see black garbed SAS agents rappelling through the ceiling. Music instantly cuts. Heavy on the SFX. Glass cascades (intentional) down around them as the agents land on the ground around them. Brutally efficient. Guns pointed at the woman, an agent behind the guy grabs his head and slams it down onto the table. The bag flies out of his hand and lands on the table pointing away from him. The woman is hysterical, screaming at the top of her lungs (as you would if something unexpected and horrible like this happened). The agent holds the guy’s head down on the table firmly. The guy is repeatedly saying “it’s not my fault, it’s not my fault”, almost feverishly. The agent yanks the guy’s arm behind his back sharply. The guy screams out in pain and continues his previous statement. A close up of his face, tears streaming down. The woman behind him is loudly weeping.

The camera cuts to a mid shot of the agent from front on. Arm still holding down the guy. He speaks. “You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?” (guy still muttering in the background). Out of the corner of the shot we see a feminine hand reaching across the table towards the open bag. A hand holding a combat knife instantly appears from off camera and nails the hand into the table. We hear a brief blood curdling scream before there’s a quick cutaway to a static shot of the Cascade Chips logo. The pleasant upbeat pop from earlier plays in the background.

VO: “Cascade Chips. A taste so good, it should be illegal.”

Just pop the tab with your sphincter. Why else would you squat so much?

Well I’m back on the pre-workout. If you remembered my previous experiences on the drug supplement, you’d find no reason to question why. If you didn’t, then the reason is obvious: I want to feel like I have super powers.

Whether or not mild discomfort is a super power is up to you. As I can only imagine Wolverine does as his skin knits together, five minutes after downing it I feel a tingling itch spread across the surface of my body. Like teensy little needles knitting together the fibres of my being, my pores are suffused with a wave of expectation. Hesitation lingers but a moment before realising that I’m about to ride what a mountain of coke would feel like without the euphoria: A disdain for limitations.

Taking pre-workout is indistinguishable from a metric fuckton of microdoses unified into one high. Let me rephrase: It makes you high. Pre-workout makes you feel young again, which is a nice way of saying that it shaves years off your life. You know that scene in Logan? The one with the bestial howls? It’s basically that in the middle of the gym, which is a super handy way of getting people to stop loitering at the squat rack. A heavy-breathing, sweaty dude behind you is a huge incentive to leave whatever you’re doing and never to return. To that end, given the packed gym during the prime 5.30pm time slot, it’s mostly standing around feeling your molecules vibrate rapidly.

The true fun of pre-workout is trying to justify to others why you needed to feel that for once you were capable of ripping a horse in half with your bare hands. Man once looked at the moon and started thinking “how” instead of “if”. Everyone who’s ever taken pre-workout has looked at the moon and started thinking how long would it take me to run there? Pre-workout is not merely to engage the limits of your strength, but to engage the limits of your healing factor. By tearing your muscles asunder, you’re daring your body not to keep up.

Even after these ringing endorsements, you may still be questioning whether pre-workout is right for you. In that case, take a hard look at yourself and search for these answers:

  • Do I crave the sensation of shelving an unopened can of Red Bull?
  • Are my workouts suffering from a lack of graft vs host style fear?
  • Is it not enough to feel uncomfortable in my own skin, that I need to make everyone else uncomfortable around me too?
  • Have I ever been envious of a pitbull’s saliva output?
  • Did I watch any of the Fast cinematic universe and think I wish I was a car?
  • Do I seek to make hummingbirds jealous of my heartbeat?
  • Am I bummed that I’ve never shit myself at the gym?
  • Do my eyeballs sometimes feel too small for my pupils?
  • Have I got #squadgoals for Nicolas Cage in the Wicker Man remake?
  • Is the dial up connection sound my favourite rapper?

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that pre-workout isn’t for everyone. Sometimes though, you just want to know what it feels like for your muscles to exist outside your skin. For those times, pre-workout has your back. And will likely capture your heart.

Sorry, I meant will make your heart seize up.