On second thought, I had a sushirrito. How could I be the loser?

The other day while foraging for vittles on the mean streets of Chinatown (I ended up finally trying a sushirrito. Expensive but solid. I can roll with that) I bore witness to an amazing scene. More accurately, I heard it first. The squeal of a car horn, uninterrupted. A steady stream both attention grabbing and arrogant. I figure the point at which you become the asshole for honking your horn is about five seconds in. I didn’t see precisely what the conflict was, but I saw a sleek sports car pulling up next to a chunky SUV. The SUV driver began to turn into a side street as the other driver hounded him. The dude behind the wheel of the sports car yelled out “HEY! YOU WANNA GO THEN?” The SUV driver nodded emphatically. The sports car dude replied “ALRIGHT, LET’S DO THIS!” I stood transfixed on the opposite corner, all ready for action. Who was in the wrong? As far as I was concerned, anyone willing to come to fisticuffs over a road scuffle was a prime asshole. I was raring to see the punishment dolled out.

College Street is a busy street and the Bathurst intersection is busier still. The SUV driver parked up on the side street, but the other guy had already shot the mark. There was no way he could U-turn on a busy street, so he had no choice but to aggressively pull back into traffic and wait at the lights for some way to turn back around. I figured his best call was to turn left onto Bathurst, find a side street on the left to turn onto another side street, then get lucky and shoot across College (one way streets being the bane of this guy’s existence). He waited for the light to go green for maybe a minute, then made a speedy left turn onto Bathurst. My body was ready.

That was the last I saw of him.

I figure it’s pretty tough to retain anger. It’s very much an in-the-moment emotion. You’ve gotta be present to truly seethe with fury. Logic and reason have no place in that kind of spontaneous rage. How do you keep that up when you’re waiting for a green light. Say the radio comes on and you like the song? Or you realise that your partner is already at the brunch spot? How do you self-righteously go off and spend several minutes finding parking in a busy spot filled to the brim with bluster, without contemplating whether or not you really want to pump money into a meter just to potentially get your ass kicked? How do you quash common sense from creeping into your bloodlusted mindframe when a Cars for Kids ad comes on the radio? On a sunny Sunday afternoon? That takes commitment to the cause (the cause being most likely a broken nose or at least a bruised ego).

In all honesty though, it was all an act, right? Neither dude really foresaw anything resulting from the altercation. They huffed and puffed out their chests, beat their fists loudly and maybe threw one or two faeces. Then they left, having proclaimed themselves the victor in their own hearts and minds. Some elaborate ruse to convince themselves that they were worthy of their place in the food chain. At least wrestlers require a certain level of skill and fitness for their charlatanry. These two? Well at least they’d sleep at night, having told themselves that they put their best feet forward.

If anything, I was the only one who truly lost in this situation. I was hoping to see a free show.

Putting the trade into trading places.

I don’t truly know how it is to live as a woman. Chances are I never will. I’ve had a life laden with privilege, wearing the assumed status and ease of being a white male at all times. I don’t know what it is to be constantly belittled and undermined on the basis of my gender. I don’t deal with a stream of microaggressions on a daily basis. While I’m sympathetic to the struggles inherent to being female in a patriarchal society, it’d be a stretch of arrogance to claim empathy with any veracity. I can listen android recognise, but implicit understanding will likely remain beyond my reach.

The other day in improv class we were working on character. To come to terms with what it was to quickly assume a new personally, we tried a monologue exercise intended to push us beyond our comfort levels and into the mindset of someone so foreign to our own. At the offset it sounded simple. We’d stand before the rest of the class. Collectively they’d build out our character: What we did, our age, gender, the status we gave ourselves, the status others gave to us and lastly, the environment in which we were. We’d answer questions from the crowd in front of us in character. Sounded challenging, but fun. The classmates who went first did a great job of fully realising their characters. Two guys, one inhabited the persona of a 60 year old naturopath presenting at a conference. He responded to questions so quickly an self-assuredly you would’ve assumed he did it for a living. Another guy played a gender-queer substitute French teacher with total aplomb. Incorporating accurate French and non-binary terms with his explanations to the class. They both made it look effortless, a wonder with such a challenging assignment.

My character was to be a 30 year old female welder. She came from a family of means, but didn’t feel comfortable with that lifestyle. She was constantly struggling to be taken seriously in a male dominated workplace/profession. The rest of the class assumed the role of my male co-workers and the scene began. I walked into the scene looking for an assist on a welding job. There was a pipe that’d been damaged in an accident and needed to be welded before it could resume use. I it was covered in debris and I needed a hand getting access. The response was an immediate flood of misogyny. “I’ve got a pipe you can weld, darling.” Yelled a co-worker. “Good luck finding anyone who wants to go near that rusty old thing Carl” I responded. A chorus of “woooOOOOoooo”s greeted me. A co-worker called out “what’s the matter? Little girl can’t do her job?” I felt my face redden. “I can do my job, I just need a hand to get it done quicker for our customers. Do any of you work?” Someone else chimed in with a dopey voice “what’s actually wrong with it?”

Flustered from the lack of help, I started inwardly panicking. Oh shit, I actually don’t know anything about welding. What the fuck do I say? I stammered out something about there being a hole in the pipe that needed mending. “Yeah” the dopey dude responded “but what’s there problem.” Everyone laughed. At me. I was in this character, but also felt very real opposition. I just wanted to do my job and nobody would take me seriously. “I can fucking weld!” My voice rose “the boss wouldn’t have hired me if I couldn’t.” I heard a voice chime in from the back of the room “I didn’t care if you could weld. I just liked the way your ass looked.” I was fuming. I tightened my first intentionally as a character moment, but with very real tension behind it. “Are we gonna get this fixed for the customer? Or am I gonna have to explain that the rest of the office was too lazy to get off their asses?” One dude spoke up. “Fine, I’ll give you a hand. Since you can’t seem to do it yourself.” Laughter greeted the comment and I stood there fuming as the scene ended.

The frustration of not being considered or taken seriously was such a new, visceral sensation. Of being defined and limited in the basis of my gender. Feeling so intensely the burning rage at this systematic undermining of my personhood. I went back to my seat inwardly trembling, shaken. “Welcome to the sisterhood Leon” called the teacher.

Recycling’s gotta get us a few kudos, surely?

Hey friends. Because today is crammed with meetings, work and extra-curricular activities, I’m stuffing writing into my morning commute. Expect messiness, a lack of class and, frankly, some altogether unbecoming behaviour. Like this fucker clipping his nails at the bus stop. Aw gross, he’s just leaving them on the ground. Tiny bits of body detritus that’re other people’s problem now. Public space is his space too, I guess. I do envy the confidence emboldened by apathy of an old man. He’s given the world his youth and now feels compelled to take whatever space he wants. Though was his youth that different? I may have just described “being male”. I should look into that. It’s a hell of a union with a highly competitive benefits plan.

There’s an ad opposite me on the subway that reads “What do you call a Muslim woman flying a plane? A pilot.” I’ll admit that I first read it as “what do you call a woman flying a plane?” Accordingly, I didn’t get it. I was all hooray for gender equality branding, but didn’t understand what stereotype it was battling against. Then upon re-reading it and finding the word “Muslim” I thought, what does her religion have to do with anything? Then the pin dropped and I felt dumb for not getting it. But also kind of stoked I guess? Oh, so you just thought I’d assume she was a terrorist? Fuck you, buddy. I can only imagine how that sort of ad would age out of relevance with coming generations. How long until equality messaging becomes a relic? The hope is that kids today are​ bombarded with enough of it that it becomes matter of fact. Like drink driving ads in our youth. I’ve often talked about the brutal drink driving ads back home. The fact of the matter was that years before I even had keys put into my hands, I innately knew that “if you drink then drive, then you’re a bloody idiot.” How many generations are we from kids who grow up without preconceived notions predicated on skin colour, ethnicity or religion? Will this be something I get to see in my lifetime?

I often wonder, on a long enough timeline do people just get better? As society progresses do people continue to improve on the mistakes of their forebearers? I’m sure it’s not that simple. I’m sure there’s a give and take, that while we move forward in some areas, we also lose more than we notice. I know for a fact that I straight up don’t have many of the practical skills that my parents’ generation leaned as a matter of course. There was a necessary self-reliance that our generation simply doesn’t need. The time I could spend levelling up in any number of trades and skills, I can simply offset the work to qualified professionals and focus on what I do best. Capitalism has meant that we don’t need to be well rounded if we can excel at “our thing” instead. I also have my doubts over whether or not I’m kinder than the average so and so of my parents’ generation. I’m certainly more aware of the world at large. I have a more nuanced and considerate understanding of the socio-cultural makeup of those around me and how to be respectful of that. On the flip side, I’m leagues more entitled than they were. Because I know the world is out there and the internet tells me it’s at my doorstop, I expect to fling open those doors and take what I want. I wonder how much of my life I take for granted. Furthermore, just how much I have because of my parents’ struggles and how rarely I acknowledge that. Hell, I haven’t spoken to them for months (not intentionally. It’s up the top of my list). How entitled is that?

I don’t usually think this much before 10am. It’s like mental stretching. Maybe I’ll actually make it through today’s clusterfuck onslaught after all.

I digress in excess on progress.

Is it weird how much of our lives are spent online now? I don’t know if I’m talking sheer time or the amount of activities we’ve relegated to digital spaces. The point is, we invest so much of ourselves in this platform. It’s a marked change from 20 years ago, but then again, so is gender. Things change. I wonder then how much we’ve changed accordingly. Have our expectations altered given our constant connectivity? Working in television, I know our expectations have definitely altered. Immediacy is the name of the game. We want things straight away on our schedule, whether this is entertainment or communication. Waiting is pretty much insufferable now. Whether it’s streamable content buffering, a release schedule or a response from someone. If you’re online, why aren’t they? Is this everyone? Or am I the lone arsehole here?

I wonder if we’ve all become more or less insufferable than 20 years ago. It’s impossible to tell, because it’s not 20 years ago, our memories aren’t that great and we can’t peer into alternate realities through some high tech pensieve. I know for certain that I expect more than I ever did, because my expectations have been continually surpassed. The world kept delivering beyond what I assumed its capabilities were. Accordingly, my beliefs of what should be capable rose. Ironically in a world that’s transcended my hopes, I’m disappointed constantly. I’ve become entitled to this idea that the world now owes me the sensation of being impressed. With artificially inflated standards, I should know that’s not gonna happen. Still, I often catch myself getting angry with a world that doesn’t owe me shit.

Oddly enough, the older generation often has the opposite problem. They’re angry that the world has progressed beyond their comfort levels. In their ironic twist, we’re achieving what they fought for and it’s making them feel insignificant. How many times have you heard the refrain of “in my day we had to…”? Safe spaces, non-binary genders, a whole spectrum of sexual attraction and identities. “You want safe spaces? In my day we had to deal with polio. You can’t handle someone calling you a boy? We were lucky if we lived to 30!” I’m being deliberately being both facetious and straw-manning. The point is, people don’t have the same struggles because you beat them. Thank you.

The wars we fight revolve less around literal bloodshed (though let’s not undermine the fact that many minorities still face disproportionate fatalities in our society) and more about wars of identity. Struggles of freedom to be who you are, they’re a good thing. Believe it or not, this is actually what you fought wars for. Your generation died specifically so that this generation could have their battles be ideological. I’m telling you folks, you’re winning. Is the concept of people wanting a safe space that offensive? Are you really that against the fight for acceptance? Or would you prefer that they suffered the same indignities you hated? Because that seems like a shitty thing to wish upon others.

At the same time, I often find myself being a shitty person without realising it. I spend so much time reading the thoughts and feelings of others online and reacting. I might read something and feel inflamed. I get these uncontrolled, unmeasured reactions in the heat of the moment. Thing is, I’m not interacting with somebody else, I’m seeing their words devoid of their delivery. I’m taking the distillation of their thoughts, lacking the emotions that birthed them, then basing my reactions on how my brain filters how I’d perceive those thoughts in my head. So I’m reading those words in my brain without taking into consideration their gestures, inflections, cadence, or backgrounds. It’s pretty easy to see why we come to so many misunderstandings when we really don’t put much effort into understanding one another. But, of course, that would take too long and immediacy is the name of the game.

We could be living in a utopia folks, but it’d take a lot of patience and hard work.

Where did “It’s 2016” go?

What? How? Fuck. Wait, WHAT? No. No. NO. Fuck. FUCK. Fuck.

I’ve got nothing.

I don’t know what happens now. It’s a bleak day here in London. The sky is black, the heavens have opened and I heard crows. Dark wings, dark words. I’m not convinced the earth isn’t crying right now. I haven’t really slept. I curled up on a small couch just before 4am, terrified that what seemed to be happening, was. I hoped that by going to sleep I’d wake up to find it had all gone away. Instead I tossed and turned as my mind did back flips. Imagining foreboding realities where a soulless demagogue rode a wave of hateful rhetoric, giving voice to the bigoted, oppressive, angry and violent undercurrent of a global superpower. I woke to find those nightmares made flesh. This is not the same world as it was when I closed my eyes. Existence has been compromised, Cronenberged. Nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.

We’re all complicit in some way. We laughed at his insane ramblings and disconnect. Mocked his inability to capably voice policy. We clicked, watched. We paid attention to an entitled misogynist megalomaniac who’s never been told “no” in his life. Whatever our intentions or views, we helped give him the spotlight and this platform elevated him. People who conflated notoriety and popularity with intelligence and ability saw him as someone worth listening to In this society where we’re judged by likes, retweets and impressions, how would they know any better? We made him and I am so sorry.

I’m so sorry for every non cis male who finally got the chance to put their support behind a female candidate. I’m sorry for every generation to follow who’ll think their dreams aren’t viable on the basis of their gender. I’m sorry for people of colour, LGBTQ+ folk and anyone else who faces discrimination or systematic oppression because of who they are. I’m sorry for anyone who’s afraid, angry or hurt right now. I’m sorry that you weren’t heard or that nobody listened. I’m sorry that apologising won’t change a fucking thing, otherwise I’d never stop.

What happened to hope? Progress does not mean going backwards.

Is this regular behaviour? I’m starting a movement here.

Is anyone remotely surprised by Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” comment? The guy has proven repeatedly to be racist, aggressive, dishonest and misogynist. Is the idea that he treats women like they’re coffee mugs really out of left field? We’ve seen Trump’s type again and again. They’re the same entitled shitbags who’d flout the law and get bailed out by rich parents. They’re the kids who never learn from their mistakes because real consequences don’t exist in their lives. They’re the ones who are taught that the world is theirs for the grabbing, and they go on to treat everyone like shit, because they feel like the world owes them something. They’re also the first to get outraged by infringements on their worldview, because they don’t believe in boundaries.

I live in a bubble, so I don’t know what the other side sees when they go on Facebook. I’m sure there’s a large contingent of men loudly proclaiming “men don’t talk like this”. Bullshit. I went to high school. I know what it sounds like when immature men are deep in the throes of raging testosterone. I know the kinds of things they say. Yes, women are objectified (in the purest sense of the word- treated like non-sentient objects) by high school kids, for sure. In truth, I haven’t heard this kind of locker room talk in years. Most male locker rooms I’ve been in are usually full of silent, hurried men trying desperately not to look at one another. Because toxic masculinity and gay panic. That being said, I’m certain that there are 25+ year old high schoolers who never really grew up and still act the same way they did in the midst of puberty. Men like Donald Trump.

I’m thankful that I don’t seem to know guys like this any more. It’s a wonderful existence to not be constantly reminded first hand of the shittiness inherent to a patriarchal society. This is not something to get complacent about. This kind of rhetoric is obviously still floating around and it should be guys like me, those who are lucky enough to have grown up, to help inform these kind of Cro-Magnons that they should have evolved by now. It’s not enough to desire change without stepping in and helping where we can. Do you think men who treat women like things are gonna listen to their opinions? Or are they more likely to open their ears to someone they can’t push around?

Are you someone who can stand in and say a few words the next time you hear talk like this? If you are, the next time you hear the words of a teenager coming from the mouth of a grown man, let him know why that’s not okay, why that language is damaging on a personal and societal level. And if he doesn’t listen, wait till he leaves the locker room and shit on his spare clothes.

Because that’s what moral fibre is for.

Talking about talking.

Well there goes that experiment. Barring yesterday’s gig review (I needed to get it done and I was too lazy to write twice in one day), my attempt at doing a week of dialogue was a mixed bag. It’s not a skill I’ve refined, nor did I put a lot of time into each entry. Writing dialogue is simply an area I’ve often been interested in, but haven’t veered towards. Thus my week (six entries in all) involved trying a few different scenarios on for size.

Each entry involved very little pre-planning. Most of them I toyed with in my head during my workday. I tried to imagine basic scenarios with some kind of differential. There didn’t need to be conflict per se, but I knew things would work better if the characters could be parsed from one another. The one stipulation I had for the week was to not mention gender. Why? Because I don’t know whether my dialogue comes across in a gendered fashion. I was curious about gender neutral notion, to see how characters would evolve stripped of descriptors. The goal was to have them sculpted by their views/opinions and not to have that coloured by preconceived assumptions. How much does a character’s gender shape how you internally define that character? I don’t know how important it really is, being a socially constructed concept and all. I’m not gonna claim some kind of “I don’t see gender” mantle, I definitely had gender in mind when I wrote. I’m curious to hear if any of you readers placed certain genders on certain characters and how that matched up to my views.

I quickly learned that I have a habit (as I’m sure most people do) of creating characters as a mouthpiece for myself. I wanted to move past it as best I could, but “best I could” meant that characters were often pop culturally obsessed or intentionally possessing widened perspective. I didn’t want to straight up write two dimensional cardboard cutouts, but simultaneously was writing each entry in just over 30 minutes, which didn’t give a hell of a lot of time for development. It’s damned hard to tap into the kind of empathy that lets you think like an entirely different person. I feel like the characters that felt less developed were those more distanced from myself. I tried not to set up straw man characters, to make sure they were at least more nuanced than sticking to one central conceit. Still, a few came off a little stagnant.

It’s really evident how much I was stumbling by reading the first few lines of each conversation. I began each piece with one line and in my head improvised the dialogue that would flow from that point. I didn’t know how well I’d deal with conflict. The friend calling the other friend out on being narcissistic, tensions of a date that wasn’t working out, the introvert vs extrovert conversation. That one was actually the piece that had me sweating. I’m pretty extroverted and don’t have a lot of experience looking at things from an introverted lens. I didn’t want to short-change either side, but didn’t have as much capital of experience to put behind the introvert. How was I supposed to drive their through line of action without creating a narrow petulant teenager?

The other tension that surfaced was attempting to not make everything a lesson or have some kind of greater resolution. Characters didn’t have to evolve in half an hour. Situations didn’t necessarily have to come back around into a verbal ouroboros just because it was a neat bow to tie. People don’t. Situations rarely have a clean ending. Yet I have this predilection for personal growth and change that’s almost patronising. Once I start writing characters, I want the best for them. Killing my darlings is hard and while they don’t all have to be Mary Sues, I just want them to be happy. I want characters to undergo challenges, to face up to them, get hurt and come out better off in the end. Most of all I wanted conversations to feel like they could’ve come from real people. Like my characters could come off the page enough for people to identify with a little.

Is dialogue something I’ll dip back into? I think so. It’s a nice way of working out how to set a scene rather than falling into my patterns of stream of consciousness ranting. I want to try different differentials and see how they work. I’d like to play with age, status, gender and feel out those tensions. Like everything else I do in this project, my fervent wish is to improve, to experiment more and understand the hows and whys of stylistic changes.

Cheers for coming along for the ride.