If my arm falls off I’m getting a robot one.

My brain feels dead. After two days of constant stimulation, sun and very little sleep, I need to recover from my holiday. I slept for almost 11 hours last night and woke up achy and shambling. There’s a non-zero chance that I’m now a zombie, but I can’t confirm. My skin doesn’t seem necrotic and I haven’t consumed any human flesh, but all body sensations point to the idea that I’m rotting away. I just sniffed myself and it wasn’t pleasant. If I begin compulsively itching, I may just have to find a personal guillotine.

Speaking of which, I just had the idea for a cheese guillotine and I’m happy to report that it already exists. Good thing, as I lack every skill required to birth a product into existence. I have no design or construction skills, I couldn’t begin to understand the physical requirements of such a utensil (what kind of pressure would it have to be able to withstand? Would it cut hard and soft cheeses alike? For thematic reasons, would it be necessary for it to work on head cheese too?). I have very limited marketing skills, and distribution networks are a mystery to me.

I’ve been having issues with reality today. I’ve been having trouble with telekinesis. For some reason I’m always very empowered while dreaming. Telekinesis is a constant, but flying and Spider Man powers are pretty frequent too. At breakfast this morning I legit tried to invoke telekinesis but to no avail. I wish I was joking, but waking up was a shock to the system. I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet. I was checking the microwave and gestured to a spoon on the other side of the room. For a full second I was confused when it didn’t fly towards my grip. My regret (not at attempting, but failing) lasted thrice that. I begun to consider just how much easier life would be if unbound by the need to physically interact with objects. Cooking, for one, would be tons simpler. There’d be no fear of hot objects. Imagine, I could fry bacon naked with no fear. Cut onions with no tears. I’d have no need for oven mitts. Think of the savings!

I’ve often wondered if possessing telekinesis would mean you could fly. I guess it’d depend on your weight capacity. If you were able to levitate large objects, why not yourself? Or if for some reason you couldn’t move yourself, could you make a physical platform big enough to stand on and levitate that? Or a seat?

Ugh, my mind feels like sludge right now. Maybe it’s the necrosis setting in. Perhaps I need to eat someone else’s brain to augment my own ailing intelligence. Yes. Brains. Mmmmm.

I also came up with the band name T’ronahsaurus Rex. Now I have only to come up with the musical talent to bring it into fruition.

I think I found my best self this weekend. Away at a friend’s cottage, far from responsibility, schedules and mandatory apparel. Bare-butted, whimsical and earnest, I came and went with warmth in my heart and joy in my soul. Also puns in my mouth.

The past two days were a whirlwind of future memories. Endless rolling in-jokes and riffing. Extended bits about Guy Fieri that morphed and evolved over hours. I for one can’t wait for his cinematic debut, Mad Max: Fieri Road. With everyone in varying states of dress, somehow I became the Token Naked Guy. Others dressed to the nines, big fuzzy coats, scarves, fluffy pink slippers and glittery face paint. Constant snacking and drink top ups. Hedonism incarnate.

There was a defining element of commitment to the call to adventure. One of my favourite extended excursions centered around a Polaroid camera that was lying around. I was strolling the place garbed in an open green smoking jacket and zebra patterned boxer briefs. Very Hugh Hefner. My friend saw me standing next to a bar stacked with assorted trinkets and baubles. She told me to strike a pose and I gave her an “oh, I didn’t see you there” smise. She snapped it at the perfect moment. We watched the Polaroid develop in real time and realised the permanence of each shot. We had one take and everything needed to align. We walked downstairs into the plush 70s style basement (complete with orange shag carpet) that we’d dubbed the “Fuck Den” (because of The Implication) and found our canvas.

We began a series of 70s Playboy style shoot, each more extravagant than the last. We’d arrange the scene, finding our vision, then I’d direct the talent and create our perfect moment. There was our friend splayed seductively across the table (bowl of keys tucked in the corner of the shot). Other friends dressed in tiger and ringleader garb, her crawling predatorily up the stairs as he leashed her back. Another draped herself over the couch, covered in constellations of fairy lights. One straddling a fireplace with a fire extinguisher and logs in the foreground, cigarette hanging from her lips, lighter aflame. The shots stacked up one by one until we had a portfolio of absurdism as a reward for our efforts. A fun, manic night of revelry and delight.

I can’t hope to capture in words how much I needed this weekend, mind, heart, body and soul. Spending times awash in the giving nature and wit of close friends lightened a burden I’d been carrying for some time. In finding my best self, I hope I can find an ongoing way to represent the aspects I’d come to value over the past 48 hours. I’ve earned it.

Crossroads didn’t work out for Britney, why should I expect better?

To what extent do you define yourself by your occupation? Is the way you pay your rent aligned with the values you hold dear? When people ask you what you “do”, is your reaction to lead with your profession or hobbies? Or are you so disenchanted with your career that you respond with “lots of things” in order to pad for time (while you try to spin some scenario in which the world benefits from you waking up each day)?

It’s no secret that I’ve been having doubts (I mean, it’s in the fucking title, right?) about my career path for some time. For years I thought audio editing was my calling. Then after stepping off the path for the sake of a relationship and leaving the hellhole of Rotorua, I had to look for something else. I grasped around and in lieu of a career, I found jobs to fill the void. After the relationship imploded I bought a ticket to Canada ostensibly to start anew, but realistically to stave off asking the big questions for a few years. I surmised that the city of Toronto would offer a world of opportunity, and it has. Not necessarily in every capacity I’d hoped. After tripping over my feet for a year, I found them lodged in the door of a prominent media company. A promising path on which to find momentum if ever there was one.

The problem is, I haven’t budged. Despite desire and skills to move onwards, I feel firmly lodged where I stand. I can’t help but feel it’s a combination of naivety, inflexibility, laziness and indecision. I’m not well connected here in Toronto like I was back home. The industry tends to grow from student internships. They’ll typically do an internship as part of their education, which will flow into connections and/or gainful employment. I’m not blaming this system, it’s what got me my first real job back home. What this means for a 30 year old foreigner, however, is I’m battling against a well-cemented structure. The jobs that would let me move up the ranks are either going to kids in their early 20s or popping up in small towns. Here we come to inflexibility. I love Toronto. I cherish the friendships I’ve made here and the communities I’ve joined. There’s so much going on and the city genuinely feels like a part of me. I’m in a stable long-term relationship with a live-in partner.

If I want to move forward on this path, there’s a large chance I’d need to leave that behind.

That’s a hard sell, especially because it’d be re-treading ground I covered in my early 20s. I’ve done all this before. I honed my skills as one of those kids in my early 20s. I moved away to a small town and put in the hard yards. It sucked. At the age of 30, doing that again would be heartbreaking. It’s not impossible to see this as an option, but to uproot now that I’ve gotten settled would be a sacrifice of some magnitude. I’m quite unsure whether I’ve got the fortitude of will to keep my spirit intact over that kind of transition.

The only alternative I can think of requires an immense amount of hard work.

Which is where we come to laziness and indecision. If I want to get anywhere, I need to upskill. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of capacity for me to do that at work, which means it’s something to be done in my free time. Here we come to the hard part: deciding what I want to do. Do I want to work with audio? Learn video editing? Write commercials/promos? Scenes? Comedy? Reviews? Am I interested in performance? Storytelling? Or a form of content creation that utilises all of the above? Unless I can decide what I want to focus on, it’ll be impossible to gain ground in any particular direction. In a city that values exceptionalism, journeymen aren’t employable.

So how do I pick a path?

Dear Telltale: Quit playing games with my heart. Also Backstreet may or may not be back, alright?

I’m trying to rush and finish this entry on my way home from the gym. The goal is to get as much time as possible playing vidya games tonight. I’ve got the evening to myself and one of my goals at the moment is to rekindle my love of gaming.

I started the other night, by loading up a year old save file for the Telltale Games Tales from the Borderlands. Like most in the Telltale line, it’s the gaming equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure tale. It’s all on rails, with assorted dialogue options depending on how you want to interact with the game’s characters. Some decisions have consequences that could dictate whether or not a beloved character survives or perishes. Telltale do an astounding job putting together the dialogue and plot. They’re refreshingly funny, and emotionally manipulative throughout. I don’t know what kind of heartless sociopath could through the adventure without becoming immensely attached to characters both central and supplementary. The Borderlands universe was an excellent choice for this style of gameplay, considering the original games did a superb job of etching character into every aspect of that would. Everything oozes personality and Tales from the Borderlands both takes and runs with what they’ve been given. One of the best aspects is how they break down the stats at the end of each chapter. You can see how your choices measured up with other players. It’s fascinating to note how your moral compass measures up with fellow players and just how effectively the writers have toyed with everyone’s emotions.

I remember playing Final Fantasy VIII at age 13 and being so enthralled by the story. It felt like I was playing through a book. I related this to my dad, who responded with a generous attempt at empathy of “that’s great. Glad you’re having fun”. He seemed otherwise unconvinced of its merits. As a kid I never could have predicted that gaming would be the most lucrative entertainment product on the planet. Years ago I had this dream of an interactive movie in a cinema. There’d be certain points where the audience would be able to collectively choose the direction the film took. Having several options, the most popular one would decide the outcome. Each showing then would have the chance for one of several endings, with some endings requiring rare audiences choices. It’d possibly even encourage repeat viewings. Maybe there’d be a discount for each subsequent visit.

After getting into these Telltale games, I’m half convinced the the technology is accessible enough to put into practice. There’d be an expensive set up cost, but the reward would be a wonderfully​ organic experience. I mean, considering Twitch Plays Pokémon, the technology to do this online (rather than in a theatre) more than likely already exists, though it likely wouldn’t feel as immersive as it would with the added proximity of inhabiting the same room.

Is someone out there gonna jump on my idea? I’d certainly love to see it come to life. I wonder if I know anyone at Telltale…

I considered making this a Hirsute Yourself entry, but it was a bit on the fringe.

I don’t know how much further procrastination I can do. It’s 10:20pm and I obviously haven’t finished today’s writing yet. In fact, I’m about as far as you’ve currently read. I’ve been meaning to get around to it for the past three or so hours, but each time I find another excuse to not get around to it. First it was dinner, then watching Fargo, then dishes, etc. The internet itself was pretty damn distracting, whether it was random Magic the Gathering content, Facebook or AV Club reviews. By now though, I’ve run out of those meagre excuses and anything further would be tantamount to self-sabotage. With no pressing subject matter on my mind, it’s gonna be a bullet point kind of entry:

  • I got a mediocre haircut today. My usual salon (oh, we fancy) was closed so I roamed Bloor St in search of anywhere that was open. I’ve got a wedding coming up next weekend and I wanted to make sure I got it clipped by then. I figured I had spare time and it’d free up the pressure to get it done during the week. I ended up in a barber shop close to Bathurst. My barber had started his shift while I was waiting and I was his first cut of the day. If he had any fucks to give yet, he certainly wasn’t wearing them on his sleeves. It was a pretty basic cut. The guy I normally go to does all kinds of fancy texturing and whatnot, plus he knows how I like my fringe. This guy did not. He seemed pretty chuffed with the job he’d done and I’ve always had a hard time bucking up and asking hairdressers to fix things. The cut was surprisingly four dollars more expensive than my usual one. Plus the fringe was noticeably cringeworthy. It’s basically the most noticeable thing about hair on a face. I guess it’s kind of a big deal. Hours later I stood looking at myself in the mirror, not stoked with how things looked. Against my better judgement, I reached into the bathroom drawer and pulled out a pair of small hair scissors. I have no experience cutting my own hair. I’m not aesthetically gifted in basically any fashion. Knowing these things, I decided that it looked terrible enough to take action. He’d cut my fringe in a straight line on an angle, so it looked like a weird, flat, lopsided ‘U’. I took the scissors and started making small snips to break up the strange curve. Give it a bit of texture, y’know? With each cut, I felt less confident about what I was doing. Still, I made sure to keep things asymmetrical. Then after a few more cuts I began feeling incrementally more confident. I put the scissors down and took a look. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better. Easy to ignore. I’d said fie to my worries and come out on top. Also I learned my lesson to never again take chances in my life. Or at least my hair. It turns out shitty most every time.
  • As always, I had a weird dream last night. I remember none of it except for giving my girlfriend this sage advice: “Well if you like farting and sitting then maybe you’d be into pooping.” True wisdom.
  • Saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 yesterday. Without any spoilers, it was an incredibly enjoyable film. The kind of film where you don’t want it to end because one scene after another you’re having such a blast. The soundtrack was awesome (having become such an integral part of the film), the colour palette was gorgeous, the battle scenes were fantastically set out. Really, really funny. Concurrently, I’m not sure it was a ‘good’ movie per se. It didn’t do a ton to advance the overall narrative or characters. That being said, I love that they made the decision to create a wonderfully engaging movie experience instead of leaning hard into the Marvel Infinity War through line. It’s also hard to feel like this criticism meant that the film didn’t succeed at everything it set out to do. So many fun character moments and sequences. I had a great time seeing a big budget blockbuster. I don’t know that I expected them to deliver anything more than that.

There, finished. Now I can finally get around to procrastinating about going to bed.

Solipsister Act.

It sometimes surprises me how self-aware my dreams are. Last night I found myself at work. Well, in a new job anyway. I’d been employed at some large theatre (in the musicals and one person shows sense) but it wasn’t immediately clear what I did. I sat at a piano mounted somewhere within the crowd. I had my own little area, but was totally enmeshed in the audience. I wasn’t facing towards the stage, more so I was on the left hand side, looking towards the centre of the seating. Right in the middle, there was some dude with a massive keyboard/organ contraption. In retrospect he must’ve been blocking everyone behind him. No complaining from the cheap seats, I guess.

This fella was the main musical maestro of the show. A one man orchestra, he handled a ridiculous assortment of tunes, fingers tickling the keys like little spider legs. On the other hand, I sat at my old ragtime piano, dressed like an usher in a vintage movie theatre. A blazer with those gold buttons on both sides. Little cap and everything. I told the musician dude that I was flattered, but ill suited for the position. I had no musical talent and couldn’t even read it. He told me not to worry, that it was a player piano. Entirely automated. All I had to do was sit there and make it look like I had some idea of what I was doing. Okay, so I was an actor then? I could handle this.

Time passed and shifts came and went. For some reason I was a crowd favourite, even though I’d told my secret all my friends who came to see the show. Nonetheless I was a hit, profiting off the hard work of some piano robot. Fine by me. I settled into my new life away from the television industry and time passed pleasantly. After a while I began training new recruits. One show night I’d been working with a new guy, but he couldn’t find his uniform. It was cutting close to the show. We searched all the dressing rooms, backstage, through the props and costume rooms, but found zilch. I heard the opening notes playing out from the theatre and realised I was just about to miss my cue. The fucking show had started! I bolted out as fast as I could. I got to my piano and faced an angry crowd. Our resident maestro threw down his hat and stormed out. The crowd looked towards me expectantly.

All of a sudden I heard a voice from the audience. It was my girlfriend singing some pop song. After a beat or two, backing music slipped in behind her, likely from the sound tech in the booth out back. The crowd turned to her and started clapping. She finished and bowed. Then someone else from the crowd rose up and picked a song. Once again, accompaniment kicked in right away. Sound techs earning their keep many times over. Then another. The show turned into karaoke en masse. Success!

Not all voices were equal and my girlfriend was very clearly the star. She had a better vocal range and projection than the rest of the amateurs. It didn’t go unnoticed. After the surprise hit of the show, I took her aside to thank her.

Me: That was amazing. Thanks so much for filling in.
Her: It felt like the right thing to do, plus I had fun.
Me: Yeah. Well you were clearly better than the rest of the crowd. Your vocal range in particular.
Her: Don’t be silly. This is your dream, right? So in reality while I seem like me, I’m just another projection of you. That means you’re the one with the great vocal range.
Me: That’s not how dreams work. Like, I may have created you as a character, but that doesn’t mean that your skills in this dream translate to real life.
Her: You’re totally wrong.
Me: No way. I dream that I have telekinesis or Spider Man powers all the time in dreams. That never happens in real life.
Her: We’ll just have to disagree then. So are you gonna write about this tomorrow?
Me: I guess. Unless something momentous happens during the day. I’ve got nothing else remarkable to write about.
Her: Is this really that remarkable a dream?
Me: Well if you don’t think so in this dream, then I guess I don’t either. Let’s leave that to any readers to decide.

Can we go back to the ones where I have super powers?

Like most every other human around, work sucks at the moment. Day after day it feels like death by a thousand cuts. The thing I always respected about my job was that it was something I could ignore. Punch in, do the work, punch out and go home. It was breezy and stress free. I knew full well my job didn’t matter and I’d be replaced by machines in sub five years, but that was fine, I’d be gone by then. Increasingly since the merger, more systems and procedures have been put in place that’ve micromanaged my day to day and needlessly complicated things. With dwindling autonomy, I’m beyond ready to leave the job I already wanted to leave two years back. So far the opportunities I’ve gone for have all come back blank. I know things will get better eventually, but for now it feels like I’m gonna be here in ten years with every day being that same shade of mediocre or worse. Barrel of monkeys, it ain’t.

The last job I had before leaving home was as part of a fascinating project. I was digitising and cataloguing a massive archive of National Radio content. It’d all been recorded onto open reel tape and cassette. I’d port the content into a computer, then go through and export each individual show as a separate file. While the duties of the job itself remained the same, the material would vary wildly. Recordings would differ in audio quality and clarity of content. Early recordings were some professor recording the radio haphazardly and left no record of what was on each tape. So I’d have to sleuth them. Going to the library and looking up old radio schedules. Listening out for snippets of time checks, familiar hosts’ voices, or world events we’d be able to date by pouring over Google News archives from the 60s forward. Even when it was difficult, it was fascinating. My boss was this lovely old guy who’d dedicated his life to audio technology and preservation techniques. He was so patient and wise, always happy to explain something no matter how many times it took to sink in. Very sharp thinker. He was the life of that archive and so passionate about what he did. I remember him sadly remarking to me once that he couldn’t bring himself to retire, since there were very few people in the country who’d be knowledgeable enough to continue his work after he’d gone. He wanted to hold on long enough to do everything he possibly could so future generations would have access to the wealth of material.

I had this dream last night that felt all too real. Like, nobody had the head of a fish or overabundant limbs or anything. I’d left my job and returned home to New Zealand, tail (metaphorical only) between my legs. Rather than spending time with friends or loved ones, I went straight out to find a new job, picking up where I left off. I went straight to my old boss to see if there were any projects he’d need a hand with. He told me that once I’d left they couldn’t find anyone to take on the VCR project he’d hoped I would’ve picked up, so he’d be able to put me straight on that. I gratefully took him up on the offer and started straight away. I got into a rhythm and soon enough months had passed and my old normal became my new normal. I’d always liked the job and time away hadn’t diminished it at all. My boss though, seemed less animated than he had last time around. Less passion and more feverish working late into the night. I became worried that he wasn’t doing so well and made a point of checking in on him regularly. He said he was fine, but things really seemed off. I continued plugging away at my work, but with a nagging feeling at the base of my brain.

I looked up an old co-worker who’d helped us out on the project. Wonderful older woman who’d had endless amazing, fascinating life experiences. She said that a week after I’d left, my boss’s​ wife had passed away without warning. He’d taken it hard and his grief had transitioned to workaholism. He’d been throwing himself into trying to finish whatever he could before he too passed and his knowledge died with him. He hadn’t even been leaving the office recently. I went back to work, took one step in the door and begun sobbing uncontrollably. I woke up trembling and all day I’ve been unable to shake it from my mind. I know it was just a dream, but I can’t get rid of this sense that it wasn’t.