Gotta hand it to me, at least I’m committed to curmudgeonliness.

Like Nelly during his Kelly Rowland period, I have a dilemma. It’s a dumb problem that I’m not complaining about. Humblebrag sort of shit. It’s in the same realm as those times where I have to take vacation days before I lose them and I’m all ”oh no, I need to be somewhere else in the world enjoying myself for a week.” So the qualm isn’t how do I choose between this positive or negative outcome? It’s a more Kondo Marie style ”which of these excessive privileges gives me the most joy?” Yeah, fuck me, right?

So my parents gave me money for my birthday. They told me to go blow it on something and enjoy myself. Get a nice meal, go to a hotel, buy myself something. I should be grinning and winning, right? Yes I should. Instead I’m having to reckon with how my life has become some fun black hole (to clarify, that’s a hole in my dimension that vacuums any fun with the misfortune of drifting past. Not some groovy slide to another world). I can’t think of a single thing I want. I’m a shitty capitalist who, while not overflowing with loose change, can kind of just get things without affecting my bottom line. It’s a rock solid position to be in. I’m not complaining about that. It does however steal all the fun from small windfalls.

I’m 31 years old. I have everything I need. I’m not a gadget dude or someone who wants new toys. I fucking despise clutter so I don’t want to buy shit just to have it. I mean, I already hate gifts. They’re basically just time bombs ticking down how long it’s gonna be until you can throw them out. I’m not a sentimental person who attaches significance to objects. I want functional things and experiences.

The thing about functional items? They’re the least exciting. Am I supposed to get jazzed about cutting onions with a brand new knife or getting a pan with better heat distribution? An Instant Pot would be faster than my slow cooker (could’ve guessed that from the name) but they’re so expensive and I can wait forever until they’re on sale. It’s not urgent, the slow cooker is in perfect working condition. There’s nothing out there right now that would greatly enrich my life, so none of it feels like treating myself.

Is any of this relatable whatsoever? Or am I just a spoiled dipshit?

What about some kind of nice experience? Like what? When it comes to experiential delights, everything with me boils down to food. Doing keto though has drained all the fun out of that. It’s mechanical. I’m eating to fit macros, to make sure my body is getting the necessary percentage of carbs, protein and fats. Still, one blowout can’t hurt me, right? So fucking wrong. A cheat day would most likely throw me right out of ketosis. Then I’d have to get back there, which would mean more days of keto flu, feeling fatigue, headaches, mental fogginess. It’s just not worth it. It sucks, because food is how my brain has been conditioned to celebrate. I’ve been taught that food is love in its preparation. Food is nurturing to take care of my body. Food is comfort when I’m feeling down. Food is pleasure on a basic primal level. My love of food is so gratuitous that I’m hoping this diet will help me re-learn healthy patterns of eating, to find what moderation looks like. I’m not gonna be on it forever, but maybe it’ll lead me towards some kind of balance.

Also I fucking hate hotels.

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A pity party is still a party.

Happy birthday to moi. As is de rigueur, it’s been spent way up in a cloud of negativity. I haven’t felt special, I’ve felt shitty, insufficient. I’m at a place in my life that seems comparatively joyless. I don’t like my job and aside from fleeting distractions, my day to day adds up to a cumulative total of fine, I guess. I’m 31 now and feel like the only direction I’ve gone from 30 has been backwards. A year has passed and I have nothing to show for it. A couple more memories to file away, but it doesn’t feel like I had a year’s worth of experiences. I have nothing to complain about, but that doesn’t equal tons to celebrate. My grand plans for the day involve going to the gym, going home, eating dinner and in general wanting everything to go away.

I’d usually treat myself to something, but my patterns of celebration all revolve around consumption. I’d go out to a restaurant or drink myself blind, but keto has stripped the fun out of that. I’ve subtracted the enjoyment from basically my favourite thing to do, which likely forms no small element of my birthday blues. Still, going full humbug has been an anniversary tradition for as long as I’ve been making my own money.

For at least the past 10 years, birthdays have become a mire of self-examination. Another trip around the sun seems emblematic of how much I haven’t done. My lack of progress and general listlessness. It’s navel gazing at its most cruel. Creating unrealistic comparisons is always a fool’s errand, but like a fool I get sucked in every year. Of course I understand intellectually that my life isn’t a garbage fire, but that does little to lift my mood.

The smart thing to do, then, would be to have a paradigm shift. Instead of asking what have I done in the past year? I should be asking what would I like to do in the next year? Nothing as grand as where do I want to be? Something more along the lines of what would make me happy? What does happiness look like to me? What does “good enough” represent? The answers seem self-evident. Of course I want my work to fulfil me. I’d like to be more confident. Fitter, happier et al. The real question should be how do I decide where I want to be without resenting myself for not getting there?

Self-compassion is a skill that we’re not taught. Our society rarely makes a habit of celebrating mediocrity (outside of Rotten Tomatoes’ fruit based rating system) and successes are paraded around as inspiration porn. The side effect is that the yardstick we measure ourselves with goes way beyond our range. It’s unbalanced and the expectations we hold don’t match up to workable metrics. We’re told we can be film stars, entrepreneurs, artists, millionaires. The 99th percentile is achievable if only we try hard enough, right? Sure, for 1% of us. Most people aren’t them.

Look, I’ll be fine tomorrow, when expectations are back to their low bar. Something about the day always makes me feel like there’s pressure to be extraordinary and the surplus of ordinary really twists the knife. It’s a birthday, they come around every year. By the time I sleep I won’t have to worry about it for another sun cycle.

If that ain’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

They’re pretending to be something they’re not. Doesn’t that make Autobots as deceptive as Decepticons?

Do you know what’s cute? Looking back at stories you wrote as a child. That’s cute. I’ll always remember one of my most salient pieces of kid fiction: “Optimus Prime met Megatron. The Decepticons shot the Autobots with their lasers. The Autobots died.” There’s a clear arc. The stage is set, characters established. We see the characters take action and overcome adversity. Then there’s a satisfying conclusion. I couldn’t write better these days if I tried. Do you know what’s not cute? Looking back at any writing after the age of ten.

Teenage stuff? Oh geez it’s dreadful. I remember, as an adult, finding my diary from age 15. It was firmly couched in the exact time and age to be classified as “emo”. Lots of “I like all the girls, but they don’t like me. Something something System of a Down. Why do adults treat teenagers like kids? We’re way more mature than they give us credit for. Man, getting drunk is so cool.” That wasn’t verbatim, but not far off. Of course there’s no value in criticising our past selves, but fuck it’s fun to rip them new orifices. It’s so easy to shred the versions of us who bled hormones, who felt like adults undergoing constant body dysmorphia. When we could understand more of the world around us, without realising how much wider the world was than our viewpoint captured. There’s a question I oft see floated “would you restart your life with the knowledge and experience you have now?” Each time it’s those teenage years that give me pause. Could all the intelligence in the world counteract the ever-present fear of cumming in your pants at any moment?

A different experience is reading your writing from later. As a 25 year old, you’re technically considered an adult. I’m barely considering myself an adult going on 31. I still don’t consider whoever I was at 25 the kind of bloke who would’ve paid taxes (I mean, I did. No need to come at me, IRD). At 25 I flew to the U.S. with a bunch of mates, rented an RV and drove across The States. Today I stumbled across our old travel blog and read it again. It was about what you’d expect. Some parts were bafflingly hard to digest, either in message or perspective. Certain references are too insular, based around group dynamics or New Zealand memes. Others have fallen by the pop-cultural wayside. A 2012 Twilight reference seems a lot less inspired in 2018. Some viewpoints still needed a few years to slow cook before becoming fit for human consumption. In a few parts it was just poorly written or made scant sense. It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed.

At other moments I was surprised to find passages that read well. Vocabulary I’ve since forgotten or cycled out. There was a creativity and excitement about the world I found refreshing. Occasional lucid moments that still resonate. Most pieces were basically journal entries (what’s changed?), but I found workarounds to lighten them up. One of them I did time based mental snapshots, using certain moments to create a larger picture of the day. Our New Orleans adventure was structured as a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. It was silly and gratuitous, but remains a neat read.

I can’t deny that any of it happened, it’s all there for the decades to lay bare. On the other hand, why would I care? None of us would be who we are without the steps we took. If they didn’t leave an imprint, what would be the point?

Three cheers for everyone’s favourite Coppola.

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Like in that Will Ferrell movie. Or when you find yourself in a situation you’d merely dreamed of. Dreams, however, could not come close to the reality I was lucky enough to experience. It was all too brief, as only the best things are. Last night I went to (beat) a Nicolas Cage party.

How many films has Nic Cage been in? Many times more than enough. Accordingly there were beyond ample costume opportunities. While I’d initially conspired to go as Cowboy Pachinko Nic Cage, I left it way too late and didn’t want to have to track down a close-enough shirt and other costume accessories. At some point it gets expensive to put together costumes. The hope is that eventually you’ll have enough items in your closet/tickle trunk that you can assemble a costume from things that are lying around the house.

But I said “fuck it” anyway and went out to buy the necessary bits for a Con Air Nic Cage. I was surprised I didn’t already own a white singlet. It strangely took many hours to find one. The other necessary props were a small cardboard box and a soft toy bunny to put in said box. Then for extra marks I wrote a couple of letters from his daughter all written in coloured felt tip pens with a child’s scrawl. The first I took straight from the film. Things got weird immediately:

“My Daddy is coming home on July 14th. My Birthday is July 14th. I’m going to see my Daddy for the first time on July 14th.”

“I love my Daddy lots I think. I dunno. I’m sorta just a plot device.”

“Hey Daddy. Didn’t you think the use of Sweet Home Alabama in this film was a bit egregious? Or was that the point?”

“Hey Daddy. This film didn’t deserve the stacked cast it had. I mean, Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Buschemi, fucken Chapelle, man?”

“Hey Daddy. Real Eyes. Realize. Real Lies.”

I was ready.

Could anyone really be ready for such a soirée? There was a clothes line in the kitchen, with a ton of hanging Nicolas Cage masks to choose from. A playlist of Nic Cage movies played all night long on the TV. There were tacos (not thematic), a plounge (also not thematic) and a car buffer people were using for quick low key massages (maybe thematic? Who knows? Cage is a sensual fellow). There were cheeses and nice fudges. Tons of mixers. A polaroid camera and endless enthusiasm. My friend’s place is in a converted factory and it’s made for a wonderful home overflowing with character. She has unbelievable amounts of awesome colourful art she’s both purchased and created. Soft toys, dioramas and colourful displays were everywhere. Colour changing mood lights in each room of the house. It was like being transported to a fantasy world. A monument to absurdity and whimsy, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect environment in which to erect a shrine for the OneTrueGod.

As for today, I’m coming out of my Cage and I’ve been doing just fine.

More like sigh-napses.

So here’s a thing about me. I love stand up comedy, but I really don’t enjoy watching recorded stand up specials. Without being there live and feeling the collective energy in the room, the visual aspect adds nothing and I get bored. Love listening to recorded stand up, don’t like watching it. I’ve had Netflix for a while and seen a bunch of promising specials stack up on my potential view list. I’ve tried, but usually get about five minutes in before calling it quits. Yesterday I cracked the code (remembered my password) so I can put Netflix on in the background at work for listening purposes. It was great. Watched Rory Scovel’s special. Loved it. Patton Oswalt’s Annihiliation. Excellent. Judd Apatow’s special. Maybe he should stick with the film thing. So I put the question out to my friends on Facebook. “People who understand the kind of stuff I find funny, would you mind recommending specials that I’d very likely enjoy?”

Then something that I expected would happen, happened. People just chimed in with things they liked. On one hand, it was nice that people were weighing in and suggesting things. On the other hand, they also weren’t answering the question. The question wasn’t what they’d like, it was essentially “friends, do you know my sense of humour? If so, what stuff do you like that would fit in with that?” Blindly knowing what they liked didn’t help, because humour is such a personal thing and the question hinged on a kind of personal familiarity that many acquaintances (let’s be real, most Facebook friends aren’t particularly close friends) wouldn’t have. I was asking a lot. I thought for a second whether or not it was worth re-clarifying the question. Would people think it rude to do so? Was it rude for them to have asserted their opinion without having read and consisted the full question in the first place? I figured it all came out neutral I’m the wash. So I did, and a friend asked for me to further quality the kind of stuff I enjoyed so she could give more accurate representations. So I responded.

“Sure. It’s really difficult to pin down (cause we’re all complex humans, right?). I like a lot of the alt/meta stuff, but particularly the kind of stuff that points to structures that exist and question why those structures exist. Really, pointing the finger at structures is basically my favourite thing about the medium.

I’m really not into silly humour unless it’s silly humour wrapped under a couple of layers of irony (Andy Kindler sort of thing). Otherwise it’s silly for the sake of silly which, meh. Same with vulgar stuff. It’s fine, but not when it’s trying to get laughs because it’s vulgar. Vulgar pointing to clever observations about the human condition and our shame surrounding this kind of thing are great (Ali Wong’s stuff was great for this).

Dark stuff falls under a similar umbrella. Borderline nihilism is fun to play with because yes humans are terrible and fundamentally do more harm then good. We’re silly creatures who trick one another into thinking we have more significance than we do and there’s a lot of humour in the baggage we give ourselves. Blatant edgelord negativity for nothing other than trying to push the envelope, however, can go suck an egg. Bo Burnham’s one of my kind of peeps for this. Also because he’s horrifyingly talented.

I like it when comics play with the format (Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics, etc), I love one person shows (Chris Gethard – Career Suicide/Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King), great storytelling (most anything Jen Kirkman or Mike Birbiglia) and I do like wholesome stuff a bunch too, but it’s hard to quantify which wholesome stuff I like and why (Pete Holmes and Gary Gulman would be good examples of this).”

In sending this response, however, I realised it was still hopelessly ineffective. They were thin outlines and try as I may have to thicken them or add colour, there was little opacity. The breadth and depth of what I enjoy in comedy and why was hastily sketched. When I thought more, even I don’t fully understand what it is that lights up my synapses. If I couldn’t articulate my preferences with precision, how dare I expect that from others?

There’s a humbling loneliness to this pattern of thought that’s left me hanging a little low. I thought to some degree I knew myself better than this. It should be exciting that I’ve got so much left to learn about how I tick, that I have a lifetime to figure it out. At the same time, it’s kind of isolating. It makes me question how close the friendships I have are, what sort of connections I assumed were there, but may not be as solid as I’d thought.

Then the other side of me thinks I should just lighten up. Maybe listen to some comedy or something.

I would also accept a Cranston and Zilla buddy cop film.

I’ve got nothing in particular on my mind, so I can’t conceive of a better time to get into it. Let’s get messy!

Sometimes I think I have worms, but then I remember I ate corn recently.

My girlfriend and I watched Godzilla (2014. Definitely not 1998) and I couldn’t help but think what right does this movie have to make me feel so goddamn emotional? Bryan Cranston killed it as per usual. Ridiculous. I’d be all well, I could do with a colossal spined lizard causing mass property damage and suddenly Cranston would show up and do his dead wife speech and I’d think why am I crying right now? He was too good an actor for that kind of flick. Then Elizabeth Olsen showed up and I was left wondering why she got so few scenes that accomplished anything. Then the movie finished and I realised that the human characters aren’t meant to matter and I cared a little less. About everyone but Zilly, Mothster and Cranston anyway. Would’ve been a much better in a cinema. The audio especially was stupendous.

I can’t remember my dream last night, but I know it involved some kind of corporate espionage or money laundering and I’ve been feeling mildly responsible all day. It reinforced that I’d have no place in any major fraud operation. Sure, if I found a $5 bill on the floor at work I’d pocket it. I’m unsure what my peak number would be though. $20 I’d maybe leave it on my desk and see if anyone came to claim it. $50 probably the same. Once I got to $100 however, I’d probably send an email out and ask if anyone was missing something. If a co-worker felt okay about lying to that extent, I’d hardly feel bad about losing something that was never truly mine and entirely okay with them facing their conscience.

This is why I’m not good at competitive board games.

I read today that the most brutal monopoly strategy is to race to complete sets and start buying up all the houses. I’m sure this sounds obvious, but the less obvious part is that there’s a finite supply of houses. If you get the majority, other players will be incapable of completing sets and upgrading to hotels. It’ll create tiers and force your opponents out of the game. It’s known as the Elfer strategy and you can read about it here. I’m quite fine giving this away to anyone who’ll read it, because I will never again play Monopoly in my life. There’s zero fun to be garnered and only active fury. I would rather physically spar with friends and, if you know me at all, you know how much this would tear me apart. Monopoly is worse.

Cue a dream tonight where I go feral and rend my friends limb from limb.

More like Artifice & Wankery.

Late night eats. They’re an important part of any good Friday, Saturday or any day ending with a sizeable quantity of alcohol. I didn’t even drink much last night, but after a $14 food truck sandwich filled with sadness and disappointment, I needed a mulligan. My girlfriend and I grabbed a ride home with friends that involved not one, but three fast food stops. Firstly, at Burger King for my friend to grab a veggie burger. Secondly, at Five Guys for a burger, fries and a shake. Lastly at A&W for onion rings. We got dropped home to feast and watch American Vandal until we got sleepy. A good night by any metric.

A&W was confounding though. In their desire to be a wholesome family restaurant, they’ve ascribed familial nomenclature to their nom nom noms. Frankly, their mythos is all over the fucking place.

It goes like this. There’s a Baby burger which has a patty and ketchup. Cute, it’s a basic burger. That tracks so far. The Buddy burger adds grilled onions, mustard and “teen” sauce. It’s odd that it’s not a familial relation, but clearly it’s a friend of teenage descent, right? However, by A&W’s metrics a Teen burger has onion, but it’s not grilled. It has the teen sauce, but also throws in pickles, lettuce, tomato, cheese and pork. If we’re delineating between the two, does this imply that Buddy is some kind of adolescent? Maybe a tween? Buddy’s puberty is in its infancy, but hasn’t fully blossomed into a hormone bound (though according to the byline, the beef patty is hormone and steroid free. How do you get a Teen burger without hormones? Is it grown in a vat?) burger?

Then we start getting into the adults. A Papa burger has two patties, onion, pickles, no tomato or lettuce, but still has teen sauce. Why would an adult burger have teen sauce? There’s some kind of disturbing connotation I’m not comfortable with here. So Papa has no bacon, but double patties. Are we to then draw the inference that extra meat is equivalent to age? But double Teen burgers exist that have two patties. So clearly the quantity of beef doesn’t have those connotations. Also why is a Papa less equipped with a toolbox of delectable toppings? Are we to assume that a Teen is young and passionate, full of potential, whereas a Papa has become resigned, old and tired. Straightforward and linear in his inexorable march towards the grave? But the Uncle burger has all the trimmings of the Teen burger (no teen sauce though), but with upgraded cheese and red onion in lieu of white. What are we supposed to glean from that? The burden of child rearing has quashed Papa’s spirit, but the fun Uncle gets to be fancy and carefree? We have to presume that the Uncle has no kids, because otherwise it would still be a Papa burger (and have two patties, duh). Or is this a way of A&W saying that your perspective (this burger being avuncular to you establishes this as his sole identity) overrules all else?

Hold on though, because there’s a Mama burger. The Mama burger is basically a one patty Papa burger. Why is that a gender dichotomy that’s being drawn? Is there an inverse correlation between the quantity of patties and x chromosomes? Would that mean that the Teen burger is female while the double teen is male? Hold on now A&W, that’s a political, sexist stance to take. If you’re adhering to the rules of your own goddamn mythos, it’s up to you to play within that structure elsewise fall on your sword and admit it’s all bullshit. Why do males inherently have more beef? Are you creating a very visible calf ceiling causing women to inherently limit their own potential?

Wait though. We have the Grandpa burger to contend with. The Grandpa burger is a Mama burger with three patties. Where the fuck did the extra patty come from and what does it symbolise? We’ve already walked through the notion that age and number of patties do not correlate. This is too much. The Grandpa burger collapses under the weight of its own senselessness. What the fuck are you trying to sell here A&W? The notion of a whitewashed nuclear family prescribing to outdated heteronormative ideals? How am I supposed to buy your burgers if I can’t even buy into their expanded universe? It makes no fucking sense and I can’t condone supporting this bollocks financially.

Furthermore who the fuck is Mozza? Why does putting an egg between English muffins suddenly make it an “egger”? Why are chickens exempt from familial hierarchical structures?