Am I too contrite to make an Aziz An-sorry pun? Looks like I’m just trite.

I want to talk about the Aziz allegations, because I think it’s worth putting thoughts out there. I’d like to emphasise that I’m not aiming to grandstand, to throw out some pointed think piece to put people in their place. My experiences aren’t relevant enough for that, there are better voices to listen to. Still, some conversation (is that what it’s called when I put words out into an echo chamber?) is better than none.

With all the allegations flying around right now, I’m sure everyone has a list. Some desert island top five of celebrities who you’re only wanting to hear squeaky clean things from. That may not even be the best way of putting it, ’cause frankly we all want to continue to believe that our faves are beyond issue. However, this ever-relevant piece by Ijeoma Oluo stands true. Anyway, I’ve got a bunch of dudes that I really, really don’t want to hear shit about. Aziz was on my list, as I’m sure he was for most. He’s made some great television, written a well-received book on dating, had compelling stand up bits and half-staked his career on the notion that he’s one of the good guys. It’s to the credit of his work that a bunch of people likely responded to his allegations with oh, is that it?

Pieces like this from the New York Times: Aziz Ansari Is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader. Seeking to find fault in the victim’s behaviour, her lack of verbal rejection or conviction in getting the fuck out of an uncomfortable situation. Making it her problem that she wasn’t more direct in avoiding an unpleasant interaction. I get it. I want to keep on enjoying his material guilt free. The most prevalent reaction I’ve seen online has been that’s not assault. It’s just bad sex. I get it. I understand this reaction 100%. Why? Because I’ve been Aziz before.

I can recall a number of times in my early sexual experiences where I entirely ignored clues of disinterest. Whether this was out of ignorance or wilful desire, there’s no question that I was placing my wants over the comfort of others. Taking a soft “no” as a “not right now”. Slipping my hand between a partner’s legs and being rebuffed, only to try again ten minutes later. Pushing for sex when I got the sense she wasn’t interested, but I was. I don’t think I ever pressured a partner enough that she relented and gave in to get it over with. I did, however, fail to create a sexual environment where enthusiastic consent was imperative. I’m certain that I’m not the only guy who could admit as much. In fact, I’m quite sure that similar stories are likely more of the norm than we’d care to admit. I’m sure many guys wouldn’t even see fault with my behaviour. That’s why there’s fault in how Aziz acted. That’s why the culture of sexual consent in our society needs a major restructuring.

My initial response to the Aziz allegations was resigned frustration. As I said above, I’ve been there before. I’d hoped that someone like Aziz would be better than that, which clearly was hoping for too much. I was embarrassed that Aziz, who was 33 at the time, was behaving like a 21 year old. I was embarrassed that this behaviour in my mind was classified as that of a typical 21 year old. Unlike most of the allegations that’ve come out, this one has resonated with me the most. Why? Because these aren’t the shocking actions of a serial abuser like Harvey Weinstein. According to many of the female voices I’ve heard, they’re pretty run of the mill. That’s why it’s important men listen to what’s being said and swim in how it makes them feel.

If they’re not embarrassed or frustrated, maybe they should look at why that is. This movement marks a departure from what we all considered normal and a necessity to explore past experiences for egregious activity. We need to look at what we’ve done in order to learn how to be better. It’s important to sit with guilt, to use it to recalibrate both expectations and behaviour. The system is broken and fixing it is gonna take wilful intention and education.

Do I think Aziz is a monster who deserves to be stripped of his career? Honestly, despite what I’ve said today, I don’t. I think his story deserves to be out there as a cultural learning moment. I think he needs to have a long look at his past experiences and create meaningful change from here on out. I think if his heart is really where he’s made it out to be, that he should use his platform to admit fault and be a role model for the great many men who think he did nothing wrong.

As for me, I’ve spent years trying to unlearn what I took for granted. I’m not done yet. The movement may be called Time’s Up, but for a bunch of us it’s just begun.

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More like High Confide-lity.

It’d hardly be an exaggeration to say that “nostalgia” was one of my six senses. It’s likely on a higher rung than smell. My nose is a fickle friend, but my brain is so laden with memories that touching, seeing, hearing or tasting something is enough to make me tumble back in time. My friend recently started a dating podcast. It’s in its infancy, but both episodes released so far are fantastic. Of course they are, she’s a real life matchmaker. In the most recent episode, she has a conversation with her husband. It’s great. He’s a wonderful dude and he so eloquently and systematically lays out perceptive analysis of himself and his dating experiences. At the same time, so much of what he said resonated intimately with my own experiences. It was like being 20 again, but with the filter only meaningful life experiences can provide.

I was a different person back in my 20s. Naturally some core attributes were still the same. I’ve always loved words and puns, been obsessed with pop-culture. I’ve been fiercely passionate about the things I’ve cared for since I knew how to form an opinion. At the same time, ten years ago I was still very much learning who I was. Hatching from the shelter of an educational system and crawling out into the adult world meant some harsh lessons were incoming. I had to grow and change in order to truly be my own person.

Yeah? I’m sure you’re asking doesn’t everyone? Sure they do. My particular struggles focused around one thing: Confidence. In some areas I strutted by comfortably. I knew I was smart, capable and likeable. Dating though? I had all the experience and wisdom of a child. Years of being overweight had crippled my self-confidence. I questioned why anyone would find me interesting or attractive. I’d say that I crashed and burned, but frankly it was so rare for me to put myself out there that I rarely had the chance. I’d get these deep and debilitating crushes where one conversation was enough to make me obsessively swoon. I’d waste an alarming amount of emotional energy fretting about how to navigate my interest, how unlikely it was that there was reciprocal attraction, etc.

Po, my friend in the podcast episode I linked above, addresses this well. He mentions how outward approval can become your sole motivation in dating. This hit hard. I used to care so much about how the other person thought about me that I’d disregard how I felt about myself. Clearly I didn’t matter, only they did. If I wasn’t the kind of person they wanted, I needed to be. I’d have to change myself to be commensurate with their desires. Po also talks about pedestal-ing, or infatuation causing you to build up the subject of attraction to a level of idolatry. This would happen to me constantly. I’d see myself as some kind of lower life form, which ironically is the least attractive thing a person could do. My response to my own feelings were directly pushing away the people I wanted to get closer to.

Worse, this had a negative impact in any relationships that followed. By seeing the object of my affection as more important than myself, I developed the habit of forcing myself to mould around their desires. While it was great to invest in someone else and care about them, the unfortunate side effect was disregarding my own needs. I’m sure you can see how this would effect long term relationships, right? Of course they all imploded. Unhappiness does that. I’d become gradually more wound up and embittered and that would seep into my view of the relationship. By exclusively catering to them, I also divested them of the opportunity to give back. People who love each other enjoy being able to help their partners and I was stripping them of that recourse.

I’m on the precipice of my 30th year, and certain things are becoming abundantly clear. Time is a gift. I’ve learned that piece by piece with each passing solar cycle. Each rotation only drives the point home. Perspective is everything. It not only helps us understand why the past occurred the way it did, but how better to shape our future. Dwelling with dread doesn’t serve us one iota, but reflection can help us better see the best path forward.

Or am I blatantly trying to justify watching High Fidelity for the 80th time?

In retrospect the heart swelling could just be from the immense quantity of bacon I ate.

I am a shadow of a functioning human. After seeing a mostly unremarkable year off with a downright remarkable party, today has been spent stewing in my own fragile state. I partied hard, slept little and paid the price. In my eyes, an equivalent exchange. Enough about me being a mope though, how was the shindig?

Firstly, some scene setting. One of our friends decided she wanted to go all out and have a mega fancy house party for new years. She and her boyfriend planned everything and set out making it happen. They painted the basement and turned it into a big plounge area. They set up a dance floor with visualisations on the projector and lights everywhere. They’d asked for $20/$10 from all attendees based on what they could afford, in order to cover costs. They used the money to stock the place with all manner of necessities. There were all kinds of hors d’oeuvres: mini quiches, shrimp cocktail, charcuterie, cheeses, crackers and chips. Frozen snacks like samosas and a fuckton of pizzas. A host of mixes, juices and soft drinks. The bar was filled with a ton of champagne bottles and spirits. Most importantly, there was a chocolate fountain. Like I said, it was a fancy fucking soiree.

The party also had varying zones. The ground floor was the general party zone. It was all about fancy dress, dapper attire. At a certain point in the evening, many stripped down to lingerie, underwear or classy lounge attire. The basement plounge was a space for cuddling, clothing optional garb and, if people felt like it, consenting light sexual play. There were bedrooms upstairs that had been rented out in which guests were welcome to engage in more intimate interactions. The couple hosting had written a lengthy mandatory rules post covering the importance of consent and acceptable behaviour in different areas of the house. It was pretty rad entering a space with a certain understanding that people would be on the level.

It all went off without a hitch. The party was fucking stellar. I got to catch up with a ton of great friends and met a bunch more. I got to sync up LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yourself Clean” like I wanted so the beat kicked in as the clock struck midnight. I drank, well, obviously a bunch. I chowed down constantly and had a pretty happy tummy. Also with everyone all dolled up, there were wall to wall babes. We all dressed to kill and looked like it. After the formal wear came off, it was wonderful to feel so comfy in my smoking jacket and underwear. My girlfriend and I ended up crashing in the plounge sometime around 6am. An unbelievably great night.

Today was spent working my way out of purgatory by being a useless fucking lump. My head hurt, I felt nauseous and threw up until I had only bile left to give. It was biblical. Friends being friends, helped. One of my friends made me a Bloody Caesar for some hair of the dog remedy. A guy gave me a quick five minute reiki massage that helped a ton. People pitched in to make omelettes and bacon for everyone. I ate all day. We lay about the living room and watched The Jerk, Shrek and Brooklyn Nine Nine on the projector. In my state I took maybe 45 minutes to make frozen pizzas, after foolishly assuming the Fahrenheit based oven was in Celsius. 220° F isn’t enough to melt cheese in 15 minutes, apparently. So after a while, we ate pizza. I had another Caesar. I ate chips even though I didn’t really want them. We eventually ordered Thai. After a day of doing absolutely nothing, I feel mildly queasy, but my heart is swollen with love. If this is any indication of the year to come, it’s gonna be hard to beat.

Tomorrow I start keto. Even if this year rocks, this month will be an uphill climb.

Sleighing it.

This place has descended into chaos and I love it. It’s a total mess, which couldn’t be more indicative of our frenetic and magical cohabitation. It feels like Christmas, but more so it feels like our Christmas. We have our weird little blue tree with its Star Lord topper. The central heating is causing our hand drawn pictures to periodically fall to the floor (blue tak and all that). Our sense of time has fallen away after a night out at a friend’s place. There’s no structure and bedlam is the word of the day. Bedlamham?

No festive ham, but we are having ribs. This recipe, to be exact. We had an 11am Skype date with my girlfriend’s mum, so waking up at 10am I got to work prepping the ribs. I lathered them in garlic, salt and pepper, then mixed the sauce. It couldn’t have been easier, just a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce and 180ml of coke. Put the ribs in the slow cooker, drenched them in the sauce and left them on low. They’re five hours in and smell divine. They’re gonna be unbelievable flanked by sweet potato fries and maybe some broccoli if we’re feeling sporty.

My girlfriend got me a nice little stay at home kit for Christmas. It had dark hot chocolate mix and home made cookies/marshmallows that one of our baking-ly gifted friends put together. We started the morning off with special hot chocolates, mixed with a liberal application of Baileys cherry chocolate. If this all sounds idyllic, keep in mind that it involved me accidentally tripping one of the fuses in the kitchen. The guy who lives downstairs (and thus has access to the fuse box) is away for some amount of time (hopefully just today) so a section of our place is without power. Oopsies. I had to plug the microwave/kettle into the hallway. Accordingly, making my breakfast meant crouching down on the floor in my giraffe onesie, taking my porridge out of the microwave to stir in peanut butter, then putting it back in. Looking around I saw the stack of pictures that’d fallen down, the kitchen table used as storage space, the microwave and kettle on the hallway floor, our weird little tree. I smelt the ribs cooking away. I don’t know that I’ve felt more at home in a while.

To truly go with the theme, we’re gonna have our own little home made Jewish Christmas. We’ve still got Kill Bill: Volume 2 in the chamber ready to fire off at will. In lieu of ordering Chinese food, we’re gonna cook up a stir fry and pig out (before pigging out on pig ribs later on). We have no reason to put on clothes for hours and only leisure on our schedule. It may be lawless chaos, but I have no complaints.

Wherever you’re at, whatever you’re up to. I hope you’re double-fisting merriment and cheer.

Favourite Christmas movie? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, hands down.

Merry Happy, everyone. I’m in jovial spirits on this Eve of Christmas. I’ve had a hashtagblessedly slow paced day. Got to the gym, did a little food shopping and I’ve been relaxing in front of the computer. No stresses or responsibilities, just “me” time. Plans for the next few days are constantly in flux and I couldn’t be more pleased. Well, that’s a lie. I’d be chuffed if I got a Turbo Man doll for Christmas, but peace and quiet is some consolation. Why is any of this notable at all? Because it’s all a departure from the norm and shows character development. What am I talking about? Let’s harken back a few years.

Christmas wasn’t always the easiest time as a kid. Yes, it was nice that classes often devolved into watching The Santa Clause, but it was also an emotionally difficult period. I grew up Jewish in New Zealand. Do you know how many Jews NZ had in the 90s? Roughly 8,000 or so. It was a “menorah-ty” as one of my friends oft’ said. Christmas in my eyes was like cruel window shopping. All the kids around me had a great time, getting big gifts, new toys and the like. It wasn’t all a wash. We had close family friends and we’d go around there for a barbecue every Christmas. Their family business was holiday/party supplies, so accordingly they cranked (but not Kranked, thankfully) Christmas up to 11. It’d be bacon, eggs and sausages, plus beer once we got old enough. We’d go over there for a few hours, then in the afternoon I’d call up all of my friends to hear what they got for Christmas. Vicarious enjoyment was half as good as the real thing. There was no disguising the fact that I felt kind of left out. It sucked, which led to a general contrarian approach to the season. I’d pride myself on “sticking it to the man” and giving Christmas the middle finger. The Grinch became my patronus and I’d wallow in negative feelings for the holiday period.

As I entered my early 20s and our close family friends moved away, Christmas fell apart. I had nothing to do, so I’d hang around on my own and drink. This morning I was checking my Facebook memories and it was one drunken lonely Christmas after another. It wasn’t all bad. While I was flatting with friends, for instance, I’d start drinking in the morning and in the afternoon they’d come home and join in. One year we created a Community drinking game, then discovered the joys of live heckling Jersey Shore while devouring our friend’s gingerbread house (he was there, it wasn’t a rogue demolition). Or even better was the year at Sky TV I managed to work during Christmas. I got time and a half and a day in lieu. They fed us, gave us a bottle of champagne and movie tickets for coming in on Christmas. It was all sorts of great.

After I moved to Canada, things shifted yet again. My flatmate at the time had family across the other side of the country. We had a few other friends who were transplants, so we started doing Orphan’s Christmas. It was messy, wacky and a total blast. It quickly became a tradition that outlasted that flatmate. It’s now become a valued part of the holiday season each year. A few weeks beforehand we’ll put out a message welcoming anyone without family or friends around to join our table. Everyone brings food or drink and we get merry to our hearts’ and stomachs’ content.

This year it didn’t happen. We put out the offer, but everyone seemed to have plans, which left us marooned without any. As it stands, we’re still not sure. A couple of things are floating, but with zero urgency it’s kind of nice. Friends are hosting a casual Christmas Eve get together today. We’ve got some ribs defrosting that we’ll toss in the slow cooker tomorrow. A friend who lives close by is also unoccupied so we’ll probably head around there for some cheer. Other friends are keen to do a movie night later on. We’ll probably go see a Star War on boxing day. The greatest part is, we’re free and flexible to follow our own schedule. Look at me, I’m having an afternoon beer simply because it’s a nice idea.

Maybe I haven’t changed that much from my early 20s. At least I’m not drunk before midday.

In a word? Billiant.

In possibly the greatest Christmas/Hanukkah gift I could’ve imagined, I recently discovered that my girlfriend had never seen Kill Bill. Look, nostalgia is a big driving force in my life. I feel like 30% of my mental energy is constantly devoted to wondering how pop culture has held up with time. I saw Kill Bill in my teen years. It was R18 but I went with my mum. Nobody asked any questions. It’s been almost another lifetime since my first viewing, so naturally the question of how time would treat it was burning deep in my synapses.

The statute of limitations should apply here. Just in case you’re like my girlfriend was several days back, there will be spoilers for Kill Bill Part 1.
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I loved it. I fucking adored it. The film lived up to every expectation and new facets sprung forth. At 16 I couldn’t have understood the genre conventions and subversions as I do now. I plumb hadn’t seen enough film. At 30 it’s all too apparent. The postured dialogue laden with purpose. Totally anachronistic and intentionally overwrought. The glorious union of Kurosawa come John Wayne swagger. The honour and ceremony of samurai culture filtered through western accoutrement. Kill Bill wore its influences on its sleeve in the most affectionate way possible.

The pacing is fantastic. We sat down to eat dinner as we watched and a few minutes into the film is the household fight. It’s a brutal white-knuckle affair. So fast paced and dynamically shot that we sat there, mouths agape, food untouched. There’s an ebb and flow to the proceedings that makes it effortlessly enjoyable to watch. It’s harrowing to see her waking up in hospital, coming to terms with the child she’s lost then switching into action mode against the men about to abuse her body. There are jump cuts, tonal shifts and stories within stories. It’s immaculately composed and entirely gripping.

The choreography is unbelievable. Each fight scene has its own mood and cadence. From the more realistic confrontation with Copperhead, to the stylised whimsy of the battle with the Crazy 88. That battle in particular could’ve been so trite and tired. It never feels overlong. It dynamically shifts from the floor to the railings, trailing blood on the dancefloor. The cinematography is gorgeous. There’s the crane shot as Black Mamba goes to change in the bathroom, or the few times the camera finds its best vantage point behind the stairs, perfect for watching the ensuring carnage. The colours are sharp and bright, but in the blink of an eye it switches to a black and white palette. Then after a blink we’re seeing silhouettes on a fluorescent blue background. How the film manages to be so ambitious without feeling pretentious escapes me. It’s a damn fine film and a wild ride throughout.

The best part? We still have Part 2 to watch and I remember enjoying it a whole lot more. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Adulthood: It’s less fun when you’re paying for it.

In a bout of chronic bad timing, I feel like I’m starting to come down with some form of flu variant. Pressure at the back of my throat, occasional throbbing right ear, vague dizziness. It’s fine, I have drugs. I’m not here to complain (for once). I more wanted to remark that whenever I start to feel unwell, my mind ticks back to thoughts of being at home. I recall my old blue bedroom with the cutesy carousel curtains. I’m reminded of comforts and that inimitable feeling of safety in being taken care of.

In the past four and a half years, it’s been rare for homesickness to rear its head. It’s still not the case this time either. That being said, it’s possible to cast your mind back and be appreciative of what you had without pangs of regret setting in. For me, a big part of what I enjoyed came from ritual. Little conventions that gave me structure, familiarity, security. Today, couched in mental convalescence, I recalled a two things I do miss from being home.

First up, grocery shopping with my mum. There was something both cathartic and fun about the experience. No matter what age, I loved getting to drive the cart. It was fun to check how each store’s trolleys handled (except those shit ones that for some cursed reason had a singular wheel that got stuck). One important detail to note is that money was always off the table. I wasn’t one of the main household providers, so I didn’t pay for a thing. It’s not like I got to demand everything I wanted, but I got to window shop and sometimes open said window to grasp my desires firsthand.

The aisles held an array of colours and shapes. Food being one of my favourite things (past, present and future tense), trying new varieties and flavours was a grand experiment. Mum would send me on missions to pick up certain items, so I got to zip around and accomplish tasks. Sometimes I’d get to request all new food to fold into the routine. Perhaps I’d get to search through produce for perfect looking fruit. Mum and I would play the guessing game at the register about the final total. Oh, and if it was a shopping night you could be damn sure that we’d pick up a rotisserie chicken, bread rolls and coleslaw for an easy dinner.

That conveniently segued into the next one. Family dinners. I had two older brothers (seven and nine years, respectively) and, for the most part, conversation would be blood-from-a-stone. How were our days? Fine. How was school? Fine. What did our parents expect? Aside from that, there was still conversation. We’d talk about movies or TV we’d seen. I’d hear about my brothers’ experiences at school (I can still remember having my mind blown by my brother talking about CD Rom technology). It forced us to spend time with each other, which was something I think we all secretly appreciated. Once again, there was ritual, structure and inherent comfort. We didn’t lack for our needs. We were fortunate to always have food on the table.

Our parents gave us responsibilities in stages. Tasks to be accomplished were setting the table, clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and taking care of pots & pans/condiments. The three of us would take turns. There’d be arguments and fights, sure, but the work would get done. Mum was a good cook and we’d be encouraged at helping out with the meal for lenience in the chore department. Maybe if we made a salad, we wouldn’t have to be on pots & pans (the worst and most arduous job). As my brothers aged, they both took interest in cooking. One of my brothers eventually went on to become a chef. Being the little brother, if they thought cooking was cool, of course I wanted in too.

I guess the unifying factor is that both experiences taught me important life skills. In shopping I learned all about nutrition, fiscal responsibility and being critical of what I purchase. Evening dinners taught me meal prep, cleaning up after myself and the joy of a table full of people. Really, they were important stepping stones in how to adult. While on one hand they’re things I miss about being at home, they also helped form the blueprint of what I’d like my home life to be.