Am I Billy Corgan? ‘Cause I’m practicing my future embrace

I think I over-coffee’d. Let’s go.

I’ve been wondering lately about the state of this here writing project. It often feels like something I’m compelled to do through obligation, rather than desire. I don’t sit down to the keyboard with a brain full of ideas that scream out for a canvas, I sit down with the hopes that something will be on this page once 30 minutes are up. It was one thing when I was working my old job, desperate for a scrap of creativity in my life. I’d get to the end of the day, and process my feelings on the page. My frustration, anger, stress, angst, and angostura bitterness. Also bizarre observations. For some time I’ve been possessed by this reckless need for an outlet to all the murk that’s been clogging up my brain. These days, there’s a lot less of it.

I don’t know if it’s just that happiness doesn’t sell, but it’s like I don’t know what happened to all my complaints. In general, I’m quite okay these days. My work now encourages the kind of creativity I craved, and at the end of a workday I find myself having spent most of it on the job. I feel dried up and satisfied, instead of having kept it all crammed in. I’ve found it harder to access the font of imagination I accessed out of necessity, because I’m now able to channel that into something I care about. What am I saying?

I’m saying nothing new, effectively. As ever, I wonder how long this project will go for. I’ve long just assumed it’s indefinite. For many years, I needed it to function better. It helped as a form of self-therapy, and let me work through a bunch of stuff. Of course it was mostly nonsense, as it is now. It’s not like becoming happy helped me transition from a goofy rascal to an upstanding citizen. I’m still on my bullshit big time, it just smells different. Not better, different. The idea of putting an end to I Have My Doubts is old as time, if we’re talking the past six years that is. I don’t know if I’ll ever pull that trigger, but I think it’s okay to constantly check in with behaviours and whether or not they contribute meaning to your life.

As it stands, I think I’ve written straight up garbage for the past few months. Really. The idea of a struggling artist is tired and worn out, but I certainly think my content was more interesting when I had more conflict in my life. I’m not being self-deprecating, and I’ll freely acknowledge when I’ve put something to paper I’m proud of. I know that the best stuff I tend to put together comes when I’m feeling sincere, heartfelt and vulnerable. Nostalgia, pain and romance seem to be my M.O. I don’t know how much of that I’ve been going through lately. I’ve been having a genuinely nice time, and my work/life balance has allowed me to feel less hectic. I’ve slowed my roll, and it’s siphoned off some of the steam that pushed me. Look, I’m not complaining that I’m happy and more even keeled, it just hasn’t translated into great writing.

This post is another in a long line of check-ins that effectively say the same thing. I don’t know whether or not this is forever. It’s important to think about what this project is for. Am I writing content for others? Or sifting through my brain, and getting thoughts in order? The answer can be both, but I don’t know that it always is. I think that’s okay, and that I don’t need to have a concrete answer. For the time being, this page is the best way to work out if I’m still alive, and I think that’s as good a reason as any to keep going. It keeps me accountable. I’m sure that every now and again I’ll be able to look back and see where I was. That seems like a gift to future me, and I’m here for it now.

That’s enough for me.

Did you know you’re supposed to wear bum bags backwards?

Work Halloween party in an hour and a half, and I still haven’t figured out my costume.

To be clear, I know what I’m going to wear, I just haven’t figured out what I’m gonna call it. I want to wear my lion onesie, because it’s comfortable and doesn’t require any planning. That’s fine, and the only issue really is that that it has no pockets. I need pockets, because I’ll want my scan card to get in and out of the party. I have a bum bag/fanny pack, which works great for the pockets dilemma, but it doesn’t do wonders for the costume. So if I’m gonna have the bum bag and also retain a modicum of decorum at a costumed event, I’ll need to justify it somehow. Unless…

I’ve definitely told the story here before, but I used to have a friend back home with one particular costume for parties. A taco. She didn’t even own the costume, she just loved it. Her friend worked at a costume rental place. My friend borrowed the taco costume so often that eventually she started getting it practically for free. She’d go to parties as a taco, any parties. Halloween? Taco. Themed parties? Taco. I had a Comicon themed leaving party from NZ, and you can bet your arse she dressed as a taco. It was a fun bit, but it got better. Every time she’d show up at a party, she’d meet new people who didn’t get it. They had no idea that she was some form of wonderful sociopath dressing to her own theme no matter what was on offer. So they’d start making offers. “Oh, are you the character Taco from The League?” Whatever they’d suggest, she’d be like “oh, you totally got it. Good job”. Then if someone else came up with another suggestion, same thing. Everyone thought they were so astute for guessing, and she didn’t have to justify a thing. It was great.

I wonder if I could take the same tack at this work party. Just wear what I want to wear, and put the onus on others to let me know what I am. I know I’ve got a twisty turny brain that’ll contort itself to come up with concepts. If I saw someone wearing a fanny pack and lion costume I’d be like “ooooh, are you Muff-asa?” Maybe not safe for work, but my brain sure isn’t. I can leave the job of figuring out my costume to others, and just have a good time. I can make people feel great for ‘guessing correctly’, and if someone comes up with a really good one, I can take it for myself. No stress whatsoever, and I’ll be comfy as a bean in a burrito.

Or just like, make a cardboard crown and go as The Lion King.

Can a melon change its stripes?

Okay. Workday over and I have an absurdly heavy watermelon by my side. I’m ready for the night.

Really, this watermelon weighs more than one would expect. That was the point. I stood by the box of melons at the supermarket and pondered. What makes for a sweet one? Aside from the obvious- being Summer, not Autumn- I knew there were indicators. The internet said to look for a melon that weighed a lot for its size. Check. It said to look for a big, creamy yellow splotch on the side. Check check. Lastly, a good watermelon should apparently have a hollow sound when you thump the bottom. Check check one two. All set. I’m having dinner with a friend and she asked me to grab dessert. She doesn’t do dairy, or caffeine, so no chocolate either. It’s not like I had prep time, so I scanned the supermarket. My options seemed to be Halloween candy, entire oven baked pies (which seemed excessive for watermelon) and fruit. I thought a non-processed option might be nice, but more so I wanted to see if it was possible to grab a great Autumn melon. We shall see…

Low key night, because everyone is out at Halloween gigs. See, in Canada Halloween lasts for two weeks. It’s marvellous, but this year I don’t really get much of a Halloween. My shifts don’t really align. It’s not a big deal, I’m kind of tired of spending money on costumes to ticketed events. Still, I had an idea this year. It’s pretty evergreen, so I’ll keep it locked and loaded. Okay, I’ll tell. I wanted to be Paddington Bear. I looked it up, I’d basically just need a big blue duffel coat, a red hat and a pair of gumboots. Maybe even a mail tag saying “please look after this bear.” I’d paint a little dot on my nose. Costume sorted. It’s great, because I clearly love Paddington. It’s less great, because if I stepped into any busy event I’d sweat my way out of the coat in a second, and I’m not sure what I’d wear underneath. As soon as I put on some bear costume below the coat, I’d be doubly screwed. My body isn’t made for that sort of heat. It’s fine, I have a year to think about it, and find some kind of suitable event. I’ll practice my hard stares in the meantime.

At work today I was doing description for a show about Nazi Megastructures. This’ll be the understatement of the century, but it was kind of crazy to hear about some of the Nazi machinations. Did you know that Goebbels basically shut down most written publications? Newspapers, etc. He re-centred media around radio, then controlled the means of broadcast. I don’t know the number of closed publications off the top of my head, but it was immense. They created learning institutions to indoctrinate children, raising them in the Hitler Youth programs. The guy talked about the insane stuff they did to make kids face their fears. Making non-swimmers dive into pools from 3m high boards. Swimmers were made to dive out windows onto blankets. Unreal. I’m a grown ass man and I wouldn’t dare. Is this the kind of stuff I’m missing out on by not being a typical male, reading WW2 books on the toilet? Am I really missing out? That’s heavy.

Though not half as heavy as this melon.

Here’s today’s slice of life

I’m feeling a little loopy, and that’s okay.

My sleep patterns have been a bit iffy lately, and it’s translated into a strange and addled state of mind. Yesterday I had a nap around 4pm. Later, I got a little high and cut some cheese. I looked down at the knife, and started singing an improvised song about a “cheese knife”. I’ve never been great at riffing lyrics on the fly, but for some reason I kept going as I prepped to head out for the evening. For maybe ten minutes straight, I kept up with this ditty, going through all sorts of stanzas and iterations. At some point it became a funeral dirge, the same weird little tune, but slower. The lyrics were inane, something like:

Cheeeeese kniife
No matter what, we stood together
Cheeeeese kniife
Through thick and thin, through stormy weather
You’ve been so present in my life
Taken my hand in all this strife
You’ve
Been
My
Cheeeeese kniife…

And so on. It was fun. There was something to be said for disregarding a fear of failure. Not worrying about the outcome, but relaxing into it and keeping up momentum. It reminded me of teaching kids to do back tucks in gymnastics. The thing about a back tuck that will get in your way is hesitation. There’s a point at which you just have to push it, elsewise you’ll get stuck in the wrong position. If you hesitate, you’ll hurt yourself. If you push hard, you’ll land the right way up. Riffing this dumb cheese knife song was similar, in that I just had to go with it and have faith that I’d stick the landing. I stumbled a bunch of times, but I was surprised at how often I managed to come up with a legit rhyme. At times if I thought far enough ahead, I’d get a word into my brain that would be great for the following line, and try to come up with a rhyming word for the line I was currently saying. It made my mind reel at the mental gymnastics that prolific freestyle rappers must do on a regular basis. There’s so much to consider, but someone like Black Thought makes it seem effortless. I can only wonder what he’d rap about a cheese knife.

I realised today that there are a couple of things I’ve had wrong for a while. For instance, I thought that the saying went “Fear is in the eye of the beholder”. Apparently that’s quite not it. I only found out, because I made a pun that I thought was decent about it. It would’ve been, if that was the saying. I also thought that the line in Nirvana’s “In Bloom” was “But he don’t know what it means/Don’t know what it means to matter”. In my head it made sense. Nirvana was all about connecting with the disaffected youth. Big time Gen X energy. Saying that the dude likes to sing along, likes to shoot his gun, but lacks purpose, it all seems on the mark. I kinda want to retcon the lyrics and change them to mine. I’m sure Kurt would be up for it, if he were still around.

I know the sentiment of what would Cobain have become if he lived? isn’t new, but I was thinking about it today. Not in a musical sense, but socially. Nirvana were kind of a beacon for the weird and unwanted. Queer culture wasn’t as mainstream as it is these days. I wonder if Kurt would’ve been a good ally or not. Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I feel like he’d be supportive of LGBTQ+ peeps. I know he idolised Bowie, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him follow in Bowie’s footsteps. As far as I know, Bowie was normally on the right side of history (like calling out 90s MTV for not playing enough black artists). Would Cobain have gone down a similar route? Of course we have no idea. I’m not gonna break any ground here. It also doesn’t serve any of us to imagine would could have been, when it easily could not have happened that way at all. Kurt was frequently unwell, and fame sorta fucked with him a bunch. If he didn’t take his life, would something else have done it for him? Sad. It’s been a while since I listened to Nirvana. Maybe I should go do that now.

Maybe I’ll cut some cheese, and have a listening party.

A giant, troll and elf crab warrior walked into a gingerbread house…

I know things have been very JFL42 focused lately. It makes sense. That’s where my priorities have been at. That said, while I was making sure I could get out to my shows, there was a whole new Magic set released. So here’s one for anyone who’s into that.

Throne of Eldraine is a pretty neat set. I’m not entirely sure how powerful it is, but it’s fun, and the flavour quotient is through the roof. Despite my best intentions on getting the best possible EV out of my Magic Arena gems, I played two sealed pools. It’s a reasonably fast format. Both pools had more than adequate removal, but I was pulled into red each time. The obvious MVP from my first pool was Bonecrusher Giant. Of course it’s great. It’s a removal spell plus above rate body that fits into tempo plans. The less obvious MVP was Robber of the Rich, which I pulled in both pools. There’s a lot of keyword soup going on, which proves to be useful rather than cluttered. The reach didn’t make much sense to me outside of flavour reasons, but Robin Hood being an archer makes it feel worth it. It might be good enough for constructed. Notable is the fact that you can suicide him if you just want an extra card, or want to unlock something he’s previously pilfered. Very cool card.

But that’s not really what I’m super psyched to talk about today. Here’s the current standard deck I’ve got going:

Creatures (28)
4x Pelt Collector
4x Wildwood Tracker
4x Growth Chamber Guardian
2x Kraul Harpooner
3x Barkhide Troll
4x Syr Faren, the Hengehammer
1x Voracious Hydra
3x Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig
2x Nightpack Ambusher
1x Shifting Ceratops

Noncreature (9)
4x Giant Growth
3x Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
2x The Great Henge

Land (23)
1x Castle Garenbrig
1x Gingerbread Cabin
21x Forest

These are not the final numbers, this is what I could assemble with my limited rare wildcards. It wants more Voracious Hydra, it wants Questing Beast and Once Upon a Time. It wants the full alotment of Castle Garenbrig. That said, this deck is still putting up decent results. The Great Henge is The Real Deal. It’s like they took every value thing green likes to do and slapped them on one card. Most of the time in this deck it comes down for 5 mana, then lets you drop an instant Growth Chamber Guardian to gain 2 life, draw a card and chain up as many Guardians as you can get your hands on. If we still had our dearly departed Steel Leaf Champion, it would’ve been obscene. We don’t though, and there’s no use crying over it.

As the deck currently runs, it’s very quick and low to the ground. Yorvo was a card I assumed wouldn’t go as far as I wanted. Just something to eat removal. Thing is, it’s significantly above curve, and if it’s not handled it gets out of control. It’s especially good here because the 1 and 2 drops are so strong. Pelt Collector and Wildwood Tracker may as well be 2/2s for a single green mana. Syr Faren, the Hengehammer, really is the MVP though. The sheer quantity of damage this dude creates is unreal. I had a turn 3 kill with this deck. Turn 1 Pelt Collector, turn 2 Syr Faren, turn 3 double giant growth and turn my cards sideways. 20 damage exactly. If you’re on the draw, that’s one hell of a quick game.

Vivien Arkbow Ranger makes a ton of sense here. She gives some reach/removal, but the trample she grants is awesome. Either she’s pumping up Syr Faren so he can really deliver to ya, or giving your big friendly giant Yorvo the power to beat face with impunity. Or, y’know, keeping Growth Chamber Guardian stocks at the ready. Boy do I love that card. Mostly it’s just really fun to “sleeve” up giant growths again. They play a ton of roles, either representing 6 damage for a single mana with Syr Faren, saving creatures or clinching those games that’d otherwise be just out of reach. Once Upon a Time would really help the deck’s consistency, and allow you to increase your creature quality rather than density. My numbers of Castle Garenbrig are low because I simply don’t have the card, but in the meantime I’d consider swapping another forest for a Gingerbread Cabin. The food isn’t a lot, but it’s also not nothing.

Sometimes it is easy being green.

If you forget, does it really count as learning?

Oh hey, I’m awake!

Desperate times call for me to be writing now, at 8am on a bus. It’s my first weekday day shift, so I get to see what all the 9-5 fuss is about. Sure, I used to start at 9.30am, but that half hour is a world away. There are spare seats on this bus. I don’t even need to nestle into a hirsute armpit at an odd angle. I have my own seat. I don’t even have a seat mate. Two seats to myself, even. Bag on my lap just in case anyone wants to sit down. We might be only one stop away from the station, by who knows? I’m not used to all this room to roam. The train platform will be the true test of time. When I wanted to get to work on time for 9.30am, the first two or so trains were crammed. It’s 8.20am now and… Welp, first train, no seats, but nigh infinite standing room. This is anecdotal for sure, but day one of 9am works. I even have a pole to hold onto. What luxury!

Imagine if the entire entry was just me talking about my train trip. My locomotion commotion, if you will. I’m not sure I can do much better, but let’s see what’s in my brain today.

At work yesterday I described a bunch of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That episodes. It’s an awesome show I’d never heard of before. Aimed at pre-schoolers, The Cat in the Hat teaches them about science. It’s fully in the spirit of Seuss’ colourful and absurd worlds. It’s formulaic, but kids love repetition. The two kids, Nick and Sally will have a problem that involves science. The Cat shows up and tells them about some place he’ll take them where they can learn. The kids will be stoked, and ask their parents if they can go. The parent will say yes, and make some kind of pun, then they fly away on the Thingamajiger. It’s a setup that lends itself to all kinds of adventures. Yesterday’s episodes were about stuff like gravity, water flow, how to build a shelter, magnets, etc. Important stuff for kids to learn. I can only imagine this show would’ve been my everything in those early ages. It’s colourful, safe, and has a bunch of jokes. The stuff they learn is pretty cool. The magnets episode involved magnetic blue and orange rocks in a river. They had to turn their blue and orange canoe around in the water, so the same coloured end of the canoe would be repelled by the rock, and they could float harmlessly past. I checked in with my brothers, my niece and nephews are all watching this show. How cool is that? They’re all gonna be smart cookies, with a thirst for colours, learning and puns.

Good news, I’m still awake! I’m just about to arrive at the office, and who knows what I’ll do today? If a magical cat shows up and promises to whisk me away to a fantasy land though, you know I’m following that whimsy.

What will I learn today?

Maybe it wasn’t me, and was the job after all

I, uh. I think I like my job.

If this sounds outlandish to you, don’t worry, I’m there with you. It’s been so long since I legitimately took pride in my work that it’s boggling my mind. Thing is, I enjoy what I do. This Described Video thing not only provides a valuable service for those who need it, but I flat out enjoy the process. It pulls on so many elements simultaneously. I need to script my descriptions in real time, figuring out how to best relay the non-verbal action happening onscreen. It’s challenging vocally too. I’m essentially voicing for hours on end. I also get to flex weird little Pro Tools tricks when needed, adjusting odd vocal ticks or bringing things up in the mix. Each show is different, each genre is different. Some comedies rely heavily on visual gags. Cartoons necessitate creative description, so as not to lose the joke for those with decreased sight. Some are so stuffed with dialogue that it’s tough to get a word in edgewise. Others have abundant time to really let me chew the mise en scene-ry. Everything I do is without a script, and holy hell it’s a challenge. I love it though, I really do.

Live DV though? Egads it’s difficult difficult lemon difficult. I’m only a few days in, but I’ve done certain shows that barely have pauses longer than a second or two. It’s nigh impossible to squeeze in there without voicing over dialogue. There are certain best practices to follow, some of which really hamper our ability to describe. For instance, we’re not supposed to voice over any English language lyrics. But if there’s an out of context music video clip playing, what’s more important? That the audience hear the lyrics, or know what’s happening onscreen? DV is still a relatively young process. Maybe we’ll develop these best practices further as it expands. Who knows? Live stuff is simultaneously stressful and exciting. It requires knowing when to jump in, and when to stand back. We’ve got no idea how long pauses are likely to be, so we have to quickly get in, then vamp if we have the luxury of extra time. One of the most important aspects is ‘finishing the thought’, and not curtailing yourself because a voice has kicked in. How distracting would that be for a viewer, half a description? Finish the thought and duck out, that’s the game.

Like any any job, I’m new and slow. I still haven’t figured out where to find efficiencies, what kind of stuff is imperative, and what I can leave behind. At the moment, it’s taking me an age to do anything. Mostly because I’m voicing everything I can. In some of these shows, as soon as I have a second or longer, I’m trying to cram in descriptions. I think it’s a bit much. Honestly, I think I’ve been doing a great job at theatre of the mind stuff, but I could stand to describe a little less. There’s a trade-off in efficiency, and I’m not sure I should be spending four hours on one 24 minute episode of Invader Zim. Egads though, that show has a plethora of visual gags.

Strangely, I’ve been quite enjoying working the evening shift. When there’s nobody around, the same building I’ve spent 40 hours a week in for the past few years takes on new charms. It straight up looks pretty at night, the atrium all lit up. I can use all the facilities without waiting. That was meant to imply the water filter, which usually has a line, but it for sure encompasses the bathrooms too. I’ve never had to wait for a stall. I can go to the loo with impunity. I can even sing along to the radio with no fear of judgement. There’s nobody around to hear me. I walk the halls doing vocal exercises to keep my voice fresh. Best of all, I can get my work done at my pace, without people rushing in with requests. It’s a kind of neat I couldn’t conceptualise, and just one more cool aspect of this new gig. It might be kind of weird biking home uphill at 1am, but it’s far from bad.

It’s better than bad, it’s good!