It’s what you call a proper-sition

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?

Proper-bly not.

Millenials may have killed the power lunch, but you killed the economy. Can we call it even?

I said Boomer are you okay? Are you okay? Are you okay, Boomer?

Honestly, I’m in love with this whole “Ok Boomer” thing. It’s perfect. As someone pointed out, nothing is more on brand than Millenials getting blamed for a saying created by Gen Z. The level of contempt and vitriol from Boomers about this phrase is astounding. Maybe it’s just a few vocally outraged twits on Twitter and online op-eds, but Ok Boomer really seems to have struck a nerve. I’m here for it. An infamous post compared the word “Boomer” to the “n-word”. Someone responded with just how important it is to hit the “hard R” in Boomer. Unfortunately for Boomers, Millenials are far more internet savvy, sassy and have endless years of salt built up. They’re rubbing it into the wound.

Why do I like “Ok Boomer” so much? It’s snappy and efficient. It takes so many layers and fits them into two succinct words. It’s cutting and sarcastic. It has an ideal amount of condescension and sadness rolled into a simple reply. It seems to incite reactions that are wholly incongruous for the mild insult that it is. It’s a perfect thing, and we have to appreciate it while it’s here.

Why does Ok Boomer work so well? Many many things. Part of it is this whole greatest generation nonsense. Not to downplay Boomer achievements, but the world was a markedly different place when Boomers came into adulthood. I’m sure life was still tough, but the rules made sense. My parents bought their original home for something like $25k. Even adjusting for inflation, that place would be well over a million now. It’s not commensurate. Without degrees, they managed to get jobs in companies where consistent hard work was enough to lead to promotions. These days, if you’re looking for a corporate job, your CV goes on a stack with 200+ others. That’s not an exaggeration. They get run through algorithms that search for buzzwords, and cull most people who were unfortunate not to use the right vocabulary. Then of course, nepotism puts a few people on top of others. A university degree is mandatory for almost any position, many of which require 2-5 years of experience for entry level positions. Boomers still lived in at a time where single income families were a reasonable expectation. These days, starting salaries are often $30k-$40k. I know here in Toronto, $45k is classified as a living wage, and you’d expect a double income at $45k to be almost reasonable for raising children on. Almost. The thing is, seeing as buying a home is not a realistic goal for this generation, we have to rent. But wages aren’t rising equivalent to rents. For an example, here’s this December 2018 Blog TO article placing an average one bedroom rental at $2,260. Try raising a family on $45k with that cost of living.

It’s not like Boomers are villains, but their young adulthood was entirely different. So they make a lot of well-meaning but misguided statements based on how things were for them. Things aren’t like that any more. The prosperity that was on tap for so long has dried up. It’s not like everything is a disaster these days, but when so much of your life is spent in crisis mode, it’s hard to focus on the positives. Things are exceedingly complicated. We live in a world of nuance that seems vastly different to that of yesteryear. Like, the 80s were 40 years ago. We now know what bullshit trickle down economics are, even if they seemed all the rage back then. We’re now economically, politically and socially disenfranchised. Things are way out of wack. Thisisfine.bmp is just life. We’re never gonna own houses. We’ll raise children with roommates, or be forced to live in corporate owned neighbourhoods/cities. We’ll grow in a surveillance state, where our actions are accounted for by the Five Eyes Network, while the laws are written by sociopathic businessmen who pay for privileges. The new normal.

We’re tired of being told about this bootstraps mentality, because in this corporate world bootstraps are a proprietary optional extra when buying boots. Pounding the pavement and dropping off CVs isn’t quite the affirming action it once was, because everything is run through an algorithmic filter and processed. Having a good handshake is secondary to having a spotless, connected Linkedin. We’re well aware that things were better in your day, and we don’t disagree. We’re just trying to do the best with what we have. It’s not that we’re lazy or entitled, it’s that the rules have changed and simple hard work is not enough. You have to work hard strategically, get lucky, or be connected. Many of my friends work several jobs to make ends meet, and that’s not irregular. I’d argue that this generation is doing remarkably well, considering the circumstances.

Really though, the reason I like Ok Boomer so much is that it’s the summation of turnabout is fair play. For years, Boomers have derided Millenials as lazy and entitled. They’re “killing” all the industries that Boomers set up, because those industries are unwieldy relics of prosperous times. Millenials have spent years continuously explaining why things aren’t the same for them as they were for their parents, which is often met by a condescending chuckle and a dismissive wave. Even the word “millenials” has been thrown around as a stereotype for a clueless generation who thinks everything is unfair, and refuses to put in any work to better themselves. It’s taking a myriad of concepts and boiling it down to a buzzword that denigrates without any analysis or understanding. It’s saying “you’ll understand when you’re older” to people who are already older than Boomers were when they procreated. Yet when they turn around and say “Ok Boomer”, suddenly it’s unfair to distil an entire generation into one dismissive catchphrase.

Ok Boomer.

Black and white and read’s all over

Happy International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists everyone.

I feel like I intended to do some silly piece about getting to parties late, but I’m taking a hard 90°. I’ve been thinking lately. It’s not a change, but it’s a change in direction. Throughout this past election cycle, I’ve really noticed how neutered journalism has become. I’m not breaking ground here. I don’t even know if it’s a phenomena that’s North America specific. Journalism is failing its fourth estate principles. The journalistic code of ethics is playing second fiddle to cultivating an audience. The news cycle no longer works in the best interests of citizens, and that’s a problem. What am I talking about?

I’m talking about softball questions, failing to speak truth to power, and letting the dominant get away with inexcusable behaviour. Impartiality has been compromised and contorted into something all new. Biases are all too evident, and they’re impacting the strength of reporting. It’s no big secret that most major publications have political leanings. It comes with the territory. It’s part and parcel of having an audience. People tend to follow views that resonate with their own. They’ll more readily agree with things they already agree with, or are a few minor deviations away. We don’t want to be challenged, we want to be reaffirmed that we’re on the right track. With media outlets, this leads to a bunch of pandering. They’re less likely to publish material that would alienate their audience, because this could push that audience away. So they reinforce the status quo, and fail to provoke anything.

Why is this happening? Because traditional media outlets are facing challenges from this new online driven world. It’s becoming too difficult to compete with the news cycle, so they’re adopting online techniques. It’s not entirely their fault, but I’m sure it’s out of their hands. The money that was once abundant has now shifted in new directions. In order to stave off extinction, these outlets are trying their best to retain any semblance of an audience. This means reaffirming their views, publishing un-challenging stories and more or less clickbait. It means following the popular stories and picking up their crumbs. Donald Trump has shat all over whatever political structure America had. He’s been a human wrecking ball, taking without giving and leaving a shambles in his wake. Of course people want to know what he’s going to destroy next. It’s like rubbernecking 24/7. He’s news relevant, and people will click on stories about him. Hell, I do. I’m part of the problem here. News organisations are stuck in a difficult position. If they got rid of Trump, where would their ratings go? Where would the money go? Where would the jobs go? It’s not in their best interests to build a case against him, because they’d go down with him.

Lather, rinse, repeat for other contentious figures.

There are nigh infinite things to press these people on. Calling them out on what would be crimes, if they didn’t have the money and influence to contort the law. Let’s look at this election cycle. Why was Scheer given so much room to spread bullshit disinformation without being challenged? Because that would seem unfair or imbalanced, especially from left wing outlets. There’s been this idea on the left of keeping the moral high ground. The right, however, does not have these scruples. So it’s some Prisoner’s Dilemma shit. The right keep spreading the message they want to spread, while the left holds its punches. The right gains ground. The left tries to retain this notion of impartiality by giving corrupt individuals the benefit of the doubt, when their actions deserve anything but. The truth is not impartial. The truth is not biased. If these people have done immoral things, then calling them on these is not media bias. It’s reporting the truth.

It’s not that easy though. Media has been so thoroughly bifurcated, that people of interest can just ignore the other side. Why open themselves to bad publicity? So if journalists grill them, they can just stop talking to those journalists. If that kept happening, these journalists would lose all of their access. They could no longer report on these news relevant individuals, and their ratings would wither away. No ratings = dwindling staff = closed news outlets. It sucks, because the fourth estate principles are a defining pillar of the profession, but the profession has been hamstrung by the fiscal restrictions of the medium. Journalists need to get paid to do their job, but their job has shifted. Fourth estate plays second fiddle to keeping the lights on, and the lights are run by ratings. Good journalism doesn’t rate anymore, and I’m not sure whether it’s gonna exist for much longer outside of the pages of Teen Vogue.

This next generation though? They’re out for blood, and I’m here for them.

Climate change is scary enough, Halloween needs headroom

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.

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.

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.

Yes alarms and yes surprises, please

Last night I set my alarm for work.

My girlfriend and I were readying for bed. I say readying, but I was naked, with the covers pulled up to my neck all cosy-like. I looked at my alarm. I thought out loud “I think I’m gonna set my alarm to 7am instead of 7.15. I wanna make sure I arrive early to prep for my shift.” She blinked and looked back at me, surprised. “Oh?” She remarked “that’s a big difference.” I thought to myself and agreed. I hated my last job. I dreaded going to work, knowing that nothing but disappointment and coffee were going to greet me at my desk. I’d think about the endless emails and urgent changes. I’d think about how we were permanently short-staffed, and the revolving door nature of the department meant we’d never not be. I’d think about my co-workers, and how much they struggled day to day. I’d think about how emotionally drained I’d be leaving the office, to have a break before heading back to do the same thing the next day. I’d think about my weekends, the desperate urgency that accompanied my reprieve from work. Most weekday mornings, I’d think about all of this before I even stepped out the door. I’d get up late, arrive when I felt like it, and leave early. I had no shits to give.

These days I think about what shows I’ll “get” to do, not “have” to do. I think about the kids with low vision who’ll get to watch cartoons because of my work. I think about my bike ride, my heart racing as I zip up hills. I think about my co-workers, all super friendly guys, who look out for one another and offer help whenever they can. I think about my bosses, who trust us as professionals and provide us with whatever we need to get our jobs done. I think of work life balance, and achieving it for the first time. I think of the difference between the unrealistic expectations of the past job, and the support I get in this one. I think of the specialised skills this job requires, the bizarre convergence with my own, and how much I’m learning. I think of how easy it is to get to sleep these days, without my brain freewheeling excessively. I think of how manic I was all of eight months ago, when I seriously thought I was losing touch with reality. I think of the constant cycles of negativity that used to reverberate around my skull. I think of the ex co-workers I still talk to, how they’re always in a state of crisis. I think of how much I like doing the work. Repeatedly doing retakes to get it right. I think about the complete lack of hesitation I have in staying late. I think of all this, and set my alarm to arrive early for my shift.

I think I’m happy, and I think I like it.