It’s not always about throwing a spanner in the works

I can’t think of anything more Kiwi than some dude having COVID-19, thinking yeah, but I don’t want to miss this Tool concert and going anyway.

I used to love Tool. I still like the band, but I’m definitely not a fanatic. I keep forgetting that they even released a new album last year. For a long long time, metal was my thing. Rock/metal/prog was my wheelhouse, and I wasn’t interested in much outside of that. These days my tastes have sprawled. I’m less of a rock/metal listener, or rather I’ve shirked away from the more mainstream outlets. I like indie pop/rock, I’m into R&B/hip hop/rap. I’m big on electronic music in a range of flavours. I’ll even listen to big pop artists if I like what they’re putting out. I think out of principle, me at 20 would never have given a Beyoncé album the benefit of the doubt. I was too stuck in my ways, I bought into dumb rhetoric, and kept my tastes rigid. Over time that opened up, but it all stems from one interaction.

Back in university, there was this girl I thought was very cute and cool. She had short cropped hair. How do I know this? Because I wondered if “cropped” was the right term, googled it, and one of the first results was this picture, which looks quite similar to how she did. She also had a green Radiohead sweater, and carried kind of a “scene” vibe around her. I crushed on her from afar, but basically never talked to her. I didn’t think she was standoffish, but I definitely thought she was too cool for me. Like most straight beta male unrequited crushes, I had no idea who she was, but I thought I did. Anyway, one time at the student bar I walked up to her and said hey, I know you’re into indie music. I feel like I’d probably get into it, but I don’t know where to start. Is this something you could help with? She immediately pulled out a notepad and a pen, and wrote down about 12 bands to check out. Flaming Lips, Sufjan Stevens, etc. However, the first band on the list was The Decemberists.

I went home and downloaded The Crane Wife, their most recent album, then pressed play. This is what I heard. I was instantly hooked. It sounded different from my regularly scheduled diet of rock and metal. I liked the tune, the harmonies were great and the lyrics were fantastic. I wasn’t used to so many evocative and polysyllabic words in my songs, or the concept of translating a classic folk tale to song so accurately. I loved the album to bits, and I went through the list. I soon found Sufjan Stevens’ Sufjan Stevens Invites You To: Come On Feel the ILLINOISE and it all cemented. “Chicago” won my heart over, and I couldn’t get enough. I ravenously explored music blogs and review sites. I asked other friends for recommendations, and loaded them onto my computer. My tastes shifted over time like Pangea, and my mind boggled with all the new and diverse music out there.

I can’t remember the last rock album I really dug into. Now I listen to music, and if it hooks me I listen more. I’m less bound to genre than I am finding what ignites me. I’m less about “Down with the Sickness”, and if I was down with the sickness, I wouldn’t be desperate enough to bring a HIGHLY INFECTIOUS VIRUS into an arena that holds 12,000 people.

What a goddamn tool.

Mark your calendars for a date to be forgotten

We haven’t moved in, but I’ve already pooped at the new place.

I dunno, we have about 20cm of snow, high winds, and I’ve developed a severe disinclination towards straying far from home. It’s warm and comfortable in here. I walked in the door after checking out our new abode and felt an unfamiliar wistful tinge. I realised that my time here is coming to an end. I’ve been in this apartment for six years (I mean, contrary to the paragraph intro, I’ve been outside a few times), and I really have loved it. The neighbourhood is quiet and peaceful. There are young families around and local amenities. There’s an innate security that comes with walking to a place where all your stuff lives. Yesterday it was a little chilly outside. I entered and I’d left the lights on. The central heating was turned up. Our scarves and jackets lined the entrance. I didn’t have want or need of anything that wasn’t there. So much comfort, and walls that held memories. When we move to the new place, it’ll concretely leave those memories in a past stage of life. I understand that our new place isn’t that far away (it’s about 1km south of here), but the physical change is a specific demarcation. Change is always hard, yknow?

Which brings me to my second big change, this. The thing you’re reading here. I Have My Doubts is closing up shop. At the very least, I’m gonna call it quits with the daily writing. My enthusiasm has been waning for years, and it’s no longer a project that brings me joy. I can throw out all the it’s not you, it’s me platitudes I want, but the truth is that this feels like a burden. No, 30 minutes is not a lot of time to set aside daily, but it’s immensely rare that this takes a mere 30 minutes. My “30 minutes” is often upwards of an hour or two. Either I’m forced into writing some kind of nonsense while in transit, or I sit in front of a computer procrastinating until I force myself. In either case, I’m not jumping in front of the keyboard out of enthusiasm. I’m stoked that I’ve had the discipline to stick with it for as long as I have, and maybe that’s what I’ve taken most from it. My writing has definitely picked up. At the very least, I’ve vastly improved my cadence. I feel like I used to think there was some charm to endless prolix. I’ve learned with time that, nope, this ain’t it, Jack.

I looked up my start date a week or so back. I tend to like round numbers, and taking my leave at exactly seven years seemed appropriate. March 25th (New Zealand time, so who knows how that works?) will be the last day I post. I’m not putting out any kind of special lead up to it. That would feel disingenuous. It’s gonna be business as usual until the end. At this stage, even I don’t know what as usual implies. I expect I’ll talk about pooping once or twice. There will be puns. I’ll probably go on wrong-side-of-history pop cultural rants. I’m certain whatever it is, I’ll be able to look back in ten years and thank all the deities that I matured the fuck up and left the nonsense of 33 year old Leon behind. This project made a lot of sense when I was in a tumultuous time in my life. When I was on the verge of a huge transition to the other side of the world. When I wanted to explore my creativity and see where it would take me. In many ways, this seven year project will give me a lifetime’s worth of content to digest, to understand who I was and how I’ve grown. Failing anything, 2555 days of writing in a row is nothing to be ashamed of.

But there is a lot in there to be ashamed of.

Talkin’ ’bout my Gem-eration

I just came back from brunch with a buddy.

Do I talk about The Gem around here enough? I mention it frequently, but should I do it more often? Goddamn I love this place. Solid, affordable menu items and an ever evolving specials board. Great music on the turntable. A gentle, meandering atmosphere. Coffee on hand at all times. It’s a Sunday morning oasis, and an ever-treasured part of my weekly ritual. The place isn’t perfect, and that’s what makes it ideal. Par example, today I ordered the hot chicken sandwich from the specials board. A piece of toast, draped with a generous portion of chicken strips (non-breaded) covered in gravy. Home fries were topped with obviously pre-frozen veggies (corn, green beans, peas), flanked by a side salad and dressing. Absolutely bizarre, but tasty and filling. My mate and I ordered Caesars and had a good ol’ gab. Wonderful way to spend Sunday afternoon.

I had this thought the other day, about how neat it’d be to fill the place. Have the tables all packed out with friends, give the bar a solid day of money-making. We could all hang out together, grab some drinks and run the kitchen through its paces. With a take-over of the establishment, we wouldn’t be so worried about wait times. We could have a rad Sunday afternoon party, with everyone able to get in some fun without ruining Monday morning. We could all be home by 7pm or so, ready for an early night. Doesn’t that sound like a fucking riot?

My friend has been going through a period of instability that feels all too resonant. It seems like many of my close friends are undergoing a metamorphosis, or recalibration of sorts. So many of us have been dissatisfied with where we’re ended up. Maybe disillusioned about who we thought we’d be by our early to mid-30s. Commonly, we’ve been at crossroads, having evolved or matured in our values. Passions and interests changed to reflect how the world has shaped us. Friends are quitting their jobs, losing security and stability they once had. They’ve been branching out in work and hobbies, making big and different life decisions. Coming to terms with where they are and its proximity to where they’d like to be.

It’s hard living in a 24 hour news cycle, where it feels like pressure surrounds us. Where the world appears to be coming apart at its edges, and we’re deciding what matters to us. What callings speak to us, and how to realign our efforts with societal changes we want to see. How to support ourselves and those close to us when the pendulum appears to be swinging away from the vulnerable. Where to place our intentions and care, and how we can get out what we’re putting in to life. I don’t know that a 30s sea change is a modern convention, but it does seem to be happening a ton with my peers lately.

And we’ve got The Gem if we want to talk about it.

Mostly for the bones these days

Y’know what? This entry is for me.

Pork bone stew tonight! I’m getting pork bone stew tonight! I’m sure none of y’all are as excited about this as I am, and that’s on you. I, myself, am utterly stoked. It’s been too long since I had that meaty, beautifully spiced mainstay of Korean cuisine from my favourite locale, but it’s cold as fuck and I want it. I’m an adult, and that’s my decision to make. If I’m gonna buy into capitalism, I may as well take advantage of it and follow my desires as they arise. Or at least the pork bone stew based ones. What’s the harm? It’s cheap and incredibly filling. I might even get two meals out of it. They tend to put it together with a ton of side dishes. What’s more, I can use the bones afterwards to buff up the next bone broth we make. Pork bone stew, the gift that keeps giving.

I’m getting the stew to go, because I’ve got a date with Twitch tonight. It’s the greatest time of the year in the online Magic the Gathering community: Cubemas. Let’s back step a little. In Magic there are a bunch of formats. Limited Magic means you’re opening a bunch of packs, choosing an individual card from each pack and making a deck from what you’ve chosen. The format is extremely high variance and skill testing. Not only do you need to know a bunch of deck archetypes, but you need to understand colour signals to read the draft and suss out which colours are open. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll end up with a stack of cards that barely fit together. Your deck will be sub par, and you’ll get run over. On the contrary, if you’re great at limited, you’ll end up with some amazing decks and run over others. I’m not great at limited, but I love watching skilled played. Which is where Twitch comes in. I’ve got a handful of players I regularly watch. Some of the best players in the world stream often, and you can watch live as they draft a deck, interacting with chat. It’s really cool to be able to ask questions in real time and learn the ‘why’ of what they’re choosing.

Cubemas is another step up entirely. A “cube” is a subset of cards deliberately chosen to be put together in rotation. They’re randomly assorted. You won’t see the same card twice. Often cubes tend to be higher powered than normal sets. Around Christmas, Wizards (the parent company) puts together a curated collection of some of the most powerful cards in the game. Accordingly, the decks people make are absurd. The potential for both success and failure are off the charts. Watching amazing players do insane things never ceases to be a good time, especially when they have the skill level to mess around and still do pretty well. I’ve got my pork bone stew, I’m almost home, and I can hardly wait.

Like I said, I’m almost home. I hardly have to.

Didn’t mean to jerk all y’all around here

Hey folks, today I’m gonna talk about masturbation habits. I don’t imagine it’s gonna get particularly lewd, or that I’m gonna talk about anything to do with my body, but here’s your warning up top.

When I was hanging out with friends yesterday, someone mentioned that they’d recently gotten a Hitachi. As they’d put it, it felt like a queer rite of passage. They said it now typically took them around 45 seconds per orgasm. Most of my buddies these days tend to be relatively pervy, and I thought it was interesting hearing people talk about it. It’s not something that people often feel comfortable talking about. At the same time, I assume that for most of us, masturbation plays a relatively common role in our lives. Some friends mentioned that they typically did it most mornings to prep them for a day. It tends to be an evening thing for me, to relax and get ready for bed. I chatted with my girlfriend about it and- without spilling the beans on her personal habits- was fascinated to hear just how differently things play out for her. I tend to be pretty liberal about this kind of thing. My stance on sex/sexual stuff is that I hope everyone is having as much of it as they want, and enjoying themselves to the fullest.

It’s a pretty regular occurrence in my life. It relieves stress, helps me calm down, and straight up feels great. Why wouldn’t I? I probably started around age 12 or so, and obviously was quite into it as a teen. Weren’t we all? Things that I’ve been into have fluctuated over the years, and as I’ve grown I’ve branched out into all kinds of different material. There are so many things I find fascinating. There are a myriad of power dynamics that are interesting in all sorts of different ways. I’ve definitely watched a ton of porn that was more about curiosity and entertainment than any actual pleasure. We’re talking Pterodactyl Porn and Segway Cuckold kind of stuff. I once watched this six part series looking at different dynamics within latex-y stuff, and the final episode was just an interview with the cast/director. Nothing erotic. It was fantastic. She talked about her experiences with the industry, pitfalls and how she got ahead. She started as a performer years back, and had a ton of wisdom to share with her younger cast.

There’s a huge spectrum of stuff I’m into, and particular tastes come in ebbs and flows. Every once in a while I’ll be like oh yeah, that’s something I was into a while back and maybe I still will be. I’ve developed odd habits around privacy/secrecy with this stuff, even though I’m the only one who uses my computer. I always browse in a private browser. I never save anything to my computer. Instead I just hope that I’ll remember where stuff is. I have a ton of favoured videos/pictures/stories from across the years, and I rely on memory to recall where I found them. It’s a mixed bag, honestly. They could be from one of 20 or so tube sites, from a random Tumblr page (that probably doesn’t exist anymore), or even from Bing Video. Oh, that’s a bizarre thing more people should know. While Bing is mostly a much maligned search engine, it excels when it comes to searching for adult videos. Exponentially better than Google Video. Odd, that. Occasionally I’ll spend a ton of time trying to locate something I previously found, and it’ll end up being anticlimactic (or anti-climax-ic?). Other times it’ll be precisely what I’m looking for.

Weirdly (or at least I tend to think so. We’re all freaks here, right?) I tend to be into a lot of non-nude stuff and Instagram has been great. It’s also nice to know that stuff has generally been uploaded by the user themselves (or at least consensually uploaded by their social team). Like anything I sign up for (for the purposes of lewd browsing) I have a particular user name/password combination that I don’t use for anything else. I used to use Tumblr before they cracked down on adult content. Instagram has a pretty far reach, and gives me a ton of flexibility in what I search. Typically I’ll spend a bunch of time searching pictures (having 20-50 pictures loaded up in tabs), then going off to find some tube video. It makes me wonder why I spend so much time looking up pictures in the first place, but maybe that’s what my brain classifies as foreplay. I have a common rolodex (rolo-dicks?) of tube sites that I use for different purposes. Some cater to different kinds of material, or I’ll know that a particular actor has a lot more work stored on one site. I have so many different search terms that I use, and tend to be hyper specific, spending time paring search terms down to find exactly what I’m looking for. The idea of someone getting off in 45 seconds feels so alien to me, considering the amount of time and specificity I take during my “process”. Of course, if I had the potential to be multi-orgasmic, I imagine things would change substantially.

I don’t know that there was a message in all this. Masturbation is an entirely healthy practice that I hope people feel great about doing. I love that we’re all different, that we’re into a variety of stuff and I’m always happy to hear about how others take care of themselves.

If I’m not getting my life back, y’all are coming down with me

Oh dear, I’ve been sucked back into Shandalar.

Let me explain. Shandalar is a Magic the Gathering video game from 1997. MtG has had many other video game properties since 1997. Battlegrounds was weird, real time stuff. Didn’t work. Duels of the Planeswalkers (later known as Magic: Duels) was okay, just straight games with a story mode and deck builder. Sometimes neat little bonuses. Then that got discontinued. Magic Arena has been amazing. It’s like a streamlined version of Magic Online. It’s colourful with cool effects. The UI is mostly pretty well done. It’s free to play with in game currency. They’re hunting for their white whales, and the rest of us plebs provide a player base for them to battle. It’s a working eco-system and a pretty huge deal for the future of Magic. I’ve spent innumerable hours in the past year on this game. I love it to bits. It’s not Shandalar.

Shandalar is my forever mistress. It’s hard to escape, because it’s so fucking fun. For people who haven’t played before, I figure I might give some tips. First of all, if you want to play on Windows 10, here’s a really good tutorial from streamer Gaby Spartz. It’s an old game, there’s some finagling required. Okay, the gist of Shandalar is that it’s a MtG based RPG. You wander around a world map battling cronies of evil wizards, building your deck up over time. Eventually you battle the wizards and save the land. Sometimes you’ll find dungeons, which have old cards very few of us get to play in real life. Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, etc. The game also features an ante system, which means you can lose your precious cards, or steal cards from opponents. The ante system, while heartbreaking in real life (and thus has been expunged from paper magic) actually makes the game really fucking exciting. You’ve got skin in the game, and you’ll feel super shitty losing a Mox Sapphire to some dork on a horse.

With that out of the way, here are some tips for the game:

  • Money. Money is a thing in this game. It helps you buy cards in towns, or from vendors. You can use it to buy food, which helps you keep a good speed walking around the map. Money is important.
  • Towns have different economies based on their size. It’s a good principle to buy cards you want from smaller towns. Or if something’s a good card in a small town, you might be able to flip it for more money at a larger town. Buy your food from small towns if you can.
  • Liquidate everything you’re not gonna use, and try to sell your more expensive cards at big cities. You’ll get a lot more for them.
  • Once you can consistently beat enemies, they’re a great source of revenue. Sometimes you’ll randomly get really powerful cards from them too.
  • Travel by roads. It’s faster and you can evade enemies.
  • The honest to god best thing about having money in this game is being able to pay off enemies instead of battling them when you’re trying to get around the world map. When you start out, your deck will be shite. A multi-coloured monstrosity. You can streamline it eventually. Before you do, however, your win loss rate will be pretty rough. If the choice comes between risking losing a good card to ante or paying 40 gold, the gold is well worth it. I mean, you’re in the game to play Magic and have fun, so do that too. Just don’t lose your key cards to errant druids.
  • The upside of paying people off is that it frees you up to do quests for towns. This will help you power up faster.
  • Quests: Take quests that give you mana links. Your life starts at eight or ten. Each mana link you get raises your life total permanently by one. Once you have 15-20 life, the game gets more reasonable and you’ll find yourself actually winning games.
  • Quests: At the start, do the dorky quests that just require you to take messages around in exchange for single amulets or mana links. When your deck gets good enough, you can start doing battle quests where you’ll get two or three amulets for defeating powerful enemies. It’s great. You can use these to buy new cards.
  • Amulet rates: Vendors sometimes sell cards by type and amulet colour. Rares cost three (very occasionally, four) amulets, uncommons cost two and commons are one. It’s a good idea to have multiples of three amulets whenever you open dialogue with a vendor. Once you choose to engage with a vendor, you won’t be able to engage with that same vendor again.
  • Contract from Below is in this game. It is fucking insane. Take a chance to play with it, because you’ll never, ever get a chance to play it in real life. The extra ante is irrelevant. If you’re drawing 7 cards for B, you’ll usually be winning that game.
  • There are different random locations that appear on the world map. Little mountain crags, sunken ships, graveyards, alabaster columns or little forest hovels. They’re random events, and usually have a more positive outcome than negative. Sometimes you’ll wander into a thieves den and they’ll steal half your amulets or gold. Mostly though, you’ll find cards, merchants who’ll sell cards for gold or amulets, or dungeon clues. Sometimes you’ll find a powerful monster with good spells up for grabs.
  • When you have a random encounter with a powerful monster, you usually don’t put cards up for ante. It’s risk free. You might as well take the battle and sell the cards, because otherwise the monster will just disappear for good.
  • Dungeons. Get dungeon clues so you know what you’re encountering. Life losses/gains are carried over between matches. There are dice that will give you a bonus of either extra life or a card to start with. You can accumulate life bonuses, but once you have something to start with, getting a new dice replaces that entirely, even if it’s another life bonus.
  • Dungeons, cont: The best practice in a dungeon is to entirely avoid battles if you can. Scope out every available hallway without taking dice if you’re able to. Leave dice scattered around, and once you have no choice but to battle someone (to get a treasure (which in this instance is always an amazing rare card)), collect dice until you have something good to start with. It’ll make the battle a lot easier.
  • You can run as few as 40 cards. Once you’re below 40, the game will start randomly adding in lands to your deck. Try to keep at 40-43 (in case you lose a battle out in the world and want to stay above 40 cards). You can run up to three of each card until later.
  • Worldmagics: There are a bunch of worldmagics. They’re not all created equal. The ones to get are:
  • The one that lets you walk through swamps faster.
  • The one that lets you walk through mountains faster.
  • The one that stops you consuming food when you’re walking through a forest.
  • The one that makes cities offer more cards for sale.
  • The one that lets you run up to four copies of each card in your deck.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: The one that makes the evil wizards require five conquered cities instead of three. It’ll give you so much more time

Speaking of time, that’s all I have right now. If you’re into Magic I implore you to check this game out. It’s sincerely amazing, and despite (or even because of) the graphics, it’s a riot. It’s very exciting, gripping, and I don’t think Wizards of the Coast will ever make another game like it. It’s not a lucrative enough system.

Happy casting, friends.

Well it ain’t sham-dalar

I’m swimming in spare time, but I did also drink a ton of coffee, so I’m very distractible (for a change). I want to get this done, so it’s a regular ol’ stream of consciousness deal.

Yesterday was great, today’s been great. I guess it’s hard to have a shitty time when you have regular four day weekends, but I haven’t gotten bored yet. Turns out there are other people with non-standard schedules. A bunch of them are my friends, too. It’s neat. I met a writer friend for brunch. We hadn’t caught up in ages, and tend to do a lot of JFL42 stuff together. She’s always a blast to hang with, and it was worthwhile comparing JFL42 must sees, etc. More importantly (because let’s be real), the food was awesome. As soon as I mentioned brunch she was like LEON WE’RE GOING TO DONNA’S FOR ROAST BEEF SANDWICHES. I didn’t argue. It worked out. The sandwich was incredible. The meat was succulent, and a lovely jalapeño spice pervaded each bite. There were crispy onions and soft, thinly sliced wedges of parsnip. It looked like cheese, but the texture was awesome. We had a pea salad on the side, which also featured solid quotients of both crunch and spice.

Then it turned out I was around the corner from another friend who I was gonna have a late lunch with. I biked a literal two minutes, and hung out at hers. We put on sunscreen, then headed out to walk the streets. Our goal was to hang in a park, and we did errands while we walked. She’s trying to learn Latin, so she picked up a copy of Winnie Ille Pu she’d booked from the library. I stopped by CAFE (a local pot shop) who’s been forced into weird sidewalk sales stuff by archaic provincial laws. I put an order in for a gram of indica (it’s been great for powering down and getting rest after late night work shifts) that I’d be able to pick up half an hour later, then we kept walking. I got some cash out, my friend bought a spinach pastry, she got a “Fat Mac” slice from Apiecalypse Now, and we lazed in Christie Pitts park. It was fucking great.

I have the rest of the day off, with zero commitments. I’m realistically gonna get pulled back into the world of Shandalar, a 1997 Magic the Gathering game that to this day is still the best MtG video game ever created. One of my favourite streamers Gaby Spartz plays it periodically, and it whets my appetite. The system is so old and clunky, and it features rules that’ve been long since updated in the card game. I’ve played the game so much that it’s a total nostalgia blast. It’s a fun RPG where you wandering the land trying to take down evil wizards and their cronies by battling them in a card game. There are elusive mythical cards you can find out of nowhere, and old ante rules means you can lose your top cards suddenly. It’s exciting, and a weirdly compelling game to view on Twitch.

Oh shit, she’s playing right now. I think I know what I’m doing this evening. See ya.

I shall not fall for your siren song

Do you ever drink enough coffee that your absent minded thoughts get super arrogant?

I legitimately had the thought today “I need a new hobby. Maybe I should become a volunteer firefighter.” Easy as that. Just become a volunteer firefighter. No doubt, just should I? And ok! But then I thought again, once I realised the audacity of what just trailed through my head. I could probably pass the fitness test. I’ve got enough logical aptitude to do okay at the other tests. I’m not saying I couldn’t get the position (I’m also not saying that I definitely could either). I’m saying that in that kind of crisis position, unless I had extensive training, I’d just be dumb. Maybe I’d misunderstand the physics of a set of charred stairs and tumble through. Perhaps indecision would have me stupidly standing around in a domestic inferno scratching my helmet and waiting for instructions. Would I take off my gloves because I was sweaty? I’m not sure of anything, except that I’d find some way to screw it up.

Honestly though, it’s not the first time I’ve absentmindedly considered joining an organisation just so I could take a fitness test. They sound fun. As long as it’s not the Beep Test, I like the idea of doing drills to see where I’m at. I’ve actually thought about both the military and police force, just for said tests. I haven’t followed through on either because a) I think war is bullshit macho bollocks and b) All Cops Are Bastards. Still, their boot camps sound like fun. I sincerely would like to know if I’m fit enough to do immoral things for the inscrutable purposes of the asshole men running these organisations. Sure, they’re bad guys, but gym memberships are expensive.

I’ve never wanted to be a firefighter before. Or a cop, or army recruit for that matter. When it all boils down to it, I just want to know that I could if I wanted to, which clearly is not on my agenda. It’s not that I dislike the idea of helping others, but more my innate disincentive to put my life on the line to do so. And hey, it’s not even that I don’t want to die. I’ve made it abundantly clear by now that’s on my agenda. I just want to go out doing something I love, which is more along the lines of being crushed by rubble while singing that Quad City DJs – “Space Jam”, or eating too much cheese. I don’t know that any of the above institutions condone eating cheese on the job, y’know? I need to stick to my guns, which involves not wielding guns whatsoever.

But as I said, I like the idea of helping people, I just don’t know how to do it. Years ago I had some naive idea that for my 20s and 30s I’d be selfish and pursue a lucrative media career, before transitioning into something more compassionate like counselling or psychiatry. Now that I’ve been in media for a while, I know how lucrative a field it isn’t. I may love it deep down, but it hasn’t really done much for me career-wise. The jobs have been consistently low paying, and I’ve spent maybe 2-3 years in total since graduation working a media job I actually enjoyed. It paid $30K a year. Despite my above sentiments, money has never been hugely motivating as long as my basic needs are being met. I don’t think any part of this post is a sudden epiphany that I’m following the wrong path. But maybe it wouldn’t be a silly idea to consider other stuff I could do.

But let’s save that for another entry, shall we?

Back in the saddle for a bumpy ride

Be proud. I went and did an open mic set all on my very own. It went fine.

I guess the meds are doing something, because I woke up on Wednesday wanting to try out some new material. It’s been a while. The last time I did a set was at the insistence of my therapist. I did the set, things went fine. Then I was too depressed for months and found the drive to get back up was beyond me. I knew that while I wanted to really try my hand at improving, it wasn’t gonna happen if I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone and do something about it. So I did nothing. Consistently. I realised that I’d first tried it out maybe 10 years ago, that if I’d kept at it I’d be a lot better by now. But I wouldn’t get better at all without actual practical experience. So while it would be tough to sign up for open mics, stay out late listening to white dudes make shitty rape jokes, and deal with potentially mediocre sets for a while, it’d be a necessary evil.

Last night I had no real plans. My girlfriend was gunning for a burlesque game show, but I wasn’t in a burlesque mood. My friend runs an open mic that’s within walking distance from my home. I’d never been, but I knew that if I did bomb hard, I could very easily run home and cry. Always have an escape plan. I looked up some jokes I’d been considering telling. I worked over some of the wording, and practised one in which specific wording would lift the performance. I weirdly didn’t feel as nervous as I had in the past. This was all low stakes, just a Friday night open mic at a bar. My friend was hosting, and I had every hope she’d put together a pretty friendly room. At worst I had backup plans to go drink with friends afterwards. Plus it was a venue I hadn’t tried before. It’s cool to take the temperature of new places.

I walked in 5 minutes after sign up, and joined a line of white dudes. Assumptions confirmed. The scene hadn’t changed all that much. By the time I got my name on the list, I was 13th. After all the booked spots, and with a show that rightfully pushed non-cis males to the front, it’d be a while. The show started at 9.30pm. Spoilers, but I didn’t get on until around midnight. Once again, the scene hasn’t changed.

It was a mixed bag. I tried to sit up front so that comics would know they had someone listening. For the most part, the bar was filled with dudes just waiting to do their material and leave. Most of them weren’t listening to whoever was onstage. They were just thinking about their own sets. However, as other attentive comics did their sets and left, it was basically just me sitting up the front while a rowdy bar talked over whoever had the mic. Rough. I felt awkward being so close. Still, I tried to give everyone the respect they deserved for getting up and giving it a go.

I felt pretty shitty for the people who got drowned out. They had some great jokes, and probably felt like they were pounding sand talking to a bustling room. One of the female comics got a temporary reprieve by calling out one of the dudes at the back. “Hey ________” she started “should I tell everyone how you’ve been blowing up my Facebook? Maybe shut the fuck up, or I’ll start reading your messages verbatim. I’ve got time.” Hell yeah. People filtered out, the room quietened down. By the time I got on, people were at least half listening.

The set went well enough. I’d had two beers in the two or so hours I’d been sitting there, so I was a little looser than I’d expected. Still, I didn’t step on my own toes or fuck up any punchlines. I naturally fell into a very singsong-y Rhys Darby style delivery. Was it pandering? Some. Did it catch people’s attention? It did. All of my jokes landed, and got somewhere between a chuckle and a laugh. For such a sparse room, I was pretty happy with the reception. I’d written notes on my hand, and this morning I still have the following scrawled but faded:

  • Winter Gloves
  • Video Game Saves
  • Hakuna Matata
  • Ghost Crowd
  • Office
  • Kegels
  • 50 Cent

Maybe I’ll try this again soon. See if it sticks this time.

If you have an interim job in a bowling alley, would you call it tem-pin’ bowling?

I don’t normally think of Bowling as a drop in activity.

We tried, yesterday. We were walking out East with no particular designs on the day, when we stumbled upon a bowling alley. A simple sign advertising a bowl-o-rama or bowleria or whatever. We walked down the stairs into a small establishment, perhaps eight lanes. The music was loud, the lighting was cosmic. There was probably a kid’s birthday party going on. A mustachio’d gent who looked like he’d been churned through an algorithm to be the perfect bowl-o-runner (one who runs a bowl-o-rama, obviously. It’s in the name). Did you know that it costs about $20 for half an hour to rent a lane, and that shoe rental is $3? Did you realise that you could probably get a game finished in 30 minutes? Especially with two people. You could 100% throw down $13 and have a game of bowling out of nowhere. I haven’t gone bowling in years (the last time was part of a planned “low class date”), but it’s apparently more accessible than I thought. If I’m prepared to drop $5 on a coffee, $13 isn’t as much of a stretch for some good ol’ fashioned novelty entertainment.

Of course, for a ton of people bowling is a pretty regular activity. At least, movies have taught me that bowling leagues are commonplace, especially for dysfunctional men with a ball-and-chain mentality. I’m not one of them, so bowling rings in my mind as a mainstay of children’s parties. It’s funny to think of how subjective “regular” is. Our hobbies and interest help us find delight in the world, to meet other like-minded folks. I’m sure most would find the amount of time and brain space I devote to Magic the Gathering to be pretty weird. I’m one of them. But it gives me an area to focus on, and helps keep me engaged. To me, Magic is like an endless puzzle, with nigh infinite pieces (but realistically, over 18,000 unique ones. It’s actually relatively quantifiable). New sets are released on a regular schedule, which means constant recalibration and adjustment. Novel options arise to change decks that’ve held in their form for years. Archetypes shift, and the metagame is in a continual state of flux. I’m sure this is exciting for exactly me, and the hordes of players worldwide. I’ve found a niche I like, for others, that’s bowling.

I truly know nothing about the life of an avid bowler. Are there variations in strategy? Or is it all getting that technique honed to a fine point, then lather, rinse, repeat? Do people at high level ever make mistakes? Or do they dole out constant 300 point games? When you’re of such a calibre, where does the excitement come from? Are there hair trigger differences that can throw a match? Is ball technology important? Are there specific resins or chemical compounds that make for better balls? What role does superstition play? Or do players know that technique makes the difference, and superstition takes a backseat to physics? Are high level bowlers held with the same esteem we reserve for NBA players? Does the sport have legends, competitors who rose above and beyond? What of controversy? Is there a Tonya Harding of bowling? What of gender bias? Does the difference in ball sizes eliminate score differential between genders? Since everything’s turn based, does that mean women and men compete in the same leagues? Or is there still a massive disparity, like so many sports? Hell, what does an ideal bowling body look like? Would the Sports Illustrated Body Issue of a bowler have one massive arm? Are there specific body parts that get toned? Do they have super rigid wrists from keeping the ball aligned? Or are there surprisingly jacked back muscles that help send the ball straight and true? I have so many questions.

But I’m just a filthy casual who now thinks about drop ins. Will I ever learn who the Michael Jordan of bowling is? Have I ever had the impulse to know these things before?

Guess I should strike while the iron’s hot.