Oat Brick would likely be my Knight Name.

Hey friends. There’ll be Game of Thrones spoilers coming up later. They’ll be very clearly marked.

Well that eclipse was some kind of whelming. It was neat and all, and the science behind it is pretty choice. In the end though, as a partial eclipse it was good for a minute or two of “ooh”s and “aah”s before walking back indoors to resume unremarkable work. Not to brag (I lied, it’s bragging), but it wasn’t my first. Way back when I was sub ten years we had one in New Zealand. I remember making some kind of shoebox pinhole contraption that kinda worked. I was at a friend’s place and his dad went into the garage to grab his welder’s mask. It worked way better, plus I felt like some kind of 70s sci fi cyborg. Which was basically my childhood M.O.

Fuck it’s great to eat bread again. I’ve been trying not to nosedive straight back into excessive eating, but what I’ve had so far has reminded me all too well of the massive sacrifices I’d made giving it up for Tough Mudder Lent. The cafe I often visit on the way to work has a plethora of baked goods. They’re ultra decadent, like these crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside salted chocolate brownies. For months now I’ve had my eye on these breakfast biscuit things. With no idea what they were, they nonetheless seemed like something I wanted to shove in or around my gob. So today for a treat I got one with a flat white. It was sturdier than I expected, but chewy and semi-sweet. Probably about ten centimetres in diameter and three centimetres high. Some kind of oaty, dried fruit brick. I dawdled along to work with my coffee in one hand, oat brick in the other, bliss in the centre of my being.

*** GAME OF THRONES SEASON SEVEN EPISODE SIX SPOILERS TO FOLLOW ***

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Wasn’t that a shit episode? I’m not trying to imply it was boring in any way, because the show has switched into act three action. The shortened half-season is screeching to a halt and they’ve got a lot of stuff to get done by the time it’s over. I certainly enjoyed a bunch of the scenes we got thanks to the Magnif-Ice-nt Seven grouping of fun fan favourite characters. A lot of cool interactions between characters. I’d forgotten the link of Brienne that chained Tormund and Sandor together. The Jorah/Jon Longclaw scene was nicely handled. Still, the entire adventure was a stupid fucking idea that made no logical sense for the characters concerned. Nobody at Dragonstone thought to seriously question just how shitty it all stacked up on a risk/reward scale (no pun intended, surprisingly)? Just a way to waste a bunch of Redshirts. Also for the first time it feels like temporal complaints were pretty fucking valid. They were surrounded by a ring of zombies. How long did it take a) Gendry to reach The Wall, b) the raven from The Wall to reach Dragonstone and c) the dragons to arrive North of The Wall? I’d wager maybe three or four days at the very least. Did they just stand there in the freezing cold for days? They didn’t seem to have a ton of provisions. Dumb, clumsy writing from a show that should know better.

Speaking of clumsy, what about this whole Arya/Sansa thing? It feels disingenuous to the characters that they would’ve gone through their worldly experiences and not be able to resolve their issues without Arya threatening to wear Sansa’s face. Yes, I get that family reunions have a way of making old dynamics resurface, but that seemed like a flimsy excuse to manufacture drama. Plus Sansa didn’t know that Littlefinger had any idea about the incriminating scroll (I mean, Arya wouldn’t take the fact that Sansa wrote it under duress as a valid argument? She knows how soft Sansa was back then), in that context why would she willingly go to him with information? She knows he’s not to be trusted. Furthermore, Bran is in Winterfell right? And he knows everything? Why not ask him? Is he too busy being aloof and watching Sansa’s highlight reel of traumatic experiences? Good show, but that episode was fucking dumb, clunky and sold out its characters for the sake of expediting the plot.

Still, it hasn’t eclipsed an otherwise enjoyable season.

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Beetloaf? How would anyone ever figure that out?

I was listening to a playlist and David Bowie’s “Heroes” came on. It’s a great song, obviously. This ain’t no hot take. It’s not like you were in doubt about Bowie’s discography until I came down from on high and anointed it with my blessing. Oh, Leon thinks it’s a sweet jam? I better slide this one into my A rotation tout de suite. Bowie don’t need my help. Also, having passed into the pale, he’s beyond my reach.

It got me thinking, when did I get into Bowie? It was likely after hearing a bunch of his stuff on Radio Hauraki. I was 20 or so, working part time at a party store. Despite his legendary status in the rock canon, I didn’t know his stuff intimately. I liked that “Ziggy Stardust” one, but knew piss-all outside of that. I downloaded the rest of the Spiders from Mars album and soaked it in. Then Diamond Dogs. My appreciation of Bowie never passed into true idolatry. Since listening more intently, I’ve always thought he was great, but didn’t get sucked into the orbit of his mythos. I think I missed the boat, his contemporary relevance having happened before my time.

Then Bowie passed away and, well, nothing much changed. I still think he’s pretty great, but even more so than my own appreciation of his work, I love how his music and persona inspired so many. The pop cultural sphere was overflowing with tributes and it was hard to escape (not that I’d care to) from his pervasive oeuvre. Watching interviews where he clearly thought in a manner that was beyond his time, knowing that he constantly championed new and emerging artists only increased my admiration.

I noticed all the furore after his death (partly sparked by his late game release of Blackstar and the oddly prescient “Lazurus”) and wondered, cynically, if any artists had considered faking their death for the sweet, sweet tributes. I thought back to Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, how the boost to their discography rotations must’ve aided their estates. In poker you’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. For an established, but fading artist (like Kenny Rogers himself), could it be time to cash out and escape to serene seclusion? Set up getaway plans, have lawyers plot everything out, then disappear leaving only grim fiction of your demise in your wake.

How hard would it be to fake your identity, buy a small plot of land and enjoy the quiet life somewhere outside of public scrutiny? You could chop wood and portage, whittle and play the fiddle. Plus other shit that country people do day in day out. How am I supposed to know? I’ve never shoved my arm up a cow’s butt. Royals and residuals lining your coffers, leaving the rest of your days unencumbered by the need to perform for others. For someone who’d lived in the public eye, wouldn’t that be idyllic? Meatloaf would do anything for love, would he fake his death? C’mon dude, it shouldn’t be hard to create some plant-based persona and find the sweet bliss of obscurity. Kill your public persona and live for yourself, not for anyone else. Then if you need a huge cash infusion, re-emerge from the grave like a Bat Out of Hell.

What are you waiting for? Your career has written itself to this moment.

Sure, complain about opportunities. That’s the essence of charisma, right?

Aren’t holidays meant to alleviate stress? First day back at work and it feels like I need a grappling hook to catch up with my backlog. I’m clearly to blame, considering I actually took a holiday instead of working on all my side projects. It feels like I’ve become beholden to a mass of metaphorical mistresses, demanding my attention without being aware of one another. My fault for straying, I guess.

The biggest bugbear right now is Just For Laughs Montreal. The question of my accreditation has been swaying pendulously, just out of reach. The PR team and I are in the world’s slowest tennis rally. They seem to answer one question daily and don’t work weekends. I do understand that I’m a small fry, all things considered. They’ve got a mountain of a festival to sort and I’m a mere rock. I’m also asking a ton of questions, having never covered Montreal before (the festival and accreditation process is pretty different from Toronto). Still, the pace is making it tough to get traction. I’ve got accommodation and transport to book, both of which are contingent on getting accreditation.

So far I’ve learned that my access is pretty limited. I won’t get to cover any big name comics. They seem to be obsessed with booking interviews, but I’ve told them I’m not particularly interested in doing any. I’ll be running a festival blog on Live in Limbo, then concluding with a wrap up article. It means I can keep things fresh and varied, giving my coverage a more up to date feel. It also means I can keep up a more conversational style, which is more in tune with my voice. My hope is to see a bunch of comedy and promote all the solid acts so people can check them out.

They got me doing one interview, but obstacles are making it a hassle to sort. They want pre-promotion which, consisting the comic lives in LA, means it needs to be a phoner. I’m not arguing that his time is more important than mine, so we’re on his schedule. We’ve booked in a 3.15pm call on Thursday, during my work hours. My phone gets no signal at work, so I had to source a landline. I can’t take a speaker phone call at my desk (for transcription purposes), so I had to find a meeting room. By this afternoon, most meeting rooms were booked for Thursday, especially (it seemed) the ones with conference call capabilities. So I had to spend 15 minutes shopping around for the right one. Also because of the aforementioned backlog, I had actual work to catch up on. Guess tomorrow night is gonna be spent researching for the interview.

Now that I’m finally on my way home, I get to put some work into another sidebitch of a personal project. How many ways does the universe have to warn me that the holiday’s over?

Does this make me The Big Sycophant?

Friday night. Taking myself out to see an early showing of The Big Sick because I forgot how much I love seeing movies alone. It’s such an honest experience. I don’t know about others, but when I watch films in company I’m not able to fully let go. I feel this bizarre compulsion to mask my reactions. To, I dunno, hide weakness? It’s primal ape type shit and probably symptomatic of a culture where toxic masculinity still holds sway. As if losing control would make me inherently less dominant. It’s weird and makes no fucking sense in not only 2017, but especially with my own personal values and politics. If I were really secure in myself I wouldn’t give two asses for friends (who were obviously close enough to me that I invited them out) seeing my vulnerability. Idiocy most profound. So I’m gonna enjoy The Big Sick in an entirely unfiltered fashion on my own.

Also because I clearly have no friends.

This is one of those films that means a bunch to me. Starring Kumail Nanjiani in a movie co-written with his wife Emily V. Gordon, it’s the story of how they met, loosely adjusted for slightly more dramatic effect. I say slightly, ’cause their story was pretty fucking dramatic. Why do I feel attached? Why do I care? Because they co-hosted an outstanding video game podcast called The Indoor Kids. Podcasting is such an intimate (admittedly one way) medium that it was hard not to fall for them. They’re a brilliant, supportive couple who are equal parts adorable and awe inspiring (why not “awww inspiring?” -ed). Over the years they’ve climbed the rungs of the Hollywood career ladder. His comedy career has taken off, which in turn lifted his film and television portfolio. She’s a former therapist for at-risk teens who’s folded that talent into managing the egos of fragile comedians. She’s also a super talented writer and really fucking funny herself. They’re dynamic, inspiring and deserve every success.

Okay. Waiting for the film now. Observations:

Every old person in Toronto is at this 7pm movie. This is 30.

They’re calling their kids and shit. It’s like being in another world.

An old couple of staring at their phones, not talking to one another. OLD PEOPLE ARE JUST LIKE US YOU GUISE.

Everyone’s wearing glasses and it’s not even a 3D film. I missed the memo.

Dude behind me doesn’t realise he’s eating popcorn with his mouth open like a fucking sociopath because he’s too old to hear a goddamn thing.

There’s an Inconvenient Truth sequel. Everyone around me has an aura of “not my problem”.

To be fair, Al Gore is everyone’s problem.

Oh, movie’s starting. I’m looking forward to the couple next to me repeating all the jokes one second later.

Van Dammed if you do…

Every now and again I’ll get some reference stuck in my head and want so badly to find it a home. Of course I’ve got a stable of references ready to saddle up at any time, but not all references are equal. Some are super niche, requiring either a certain unlikely scenario to come to fruition. Elsewise the reference itself might be from something esoteric or lost to the past. Quoting Captain America: The First Avenger isn’t tough, but pulling from the 1990 Captain America film takes some work for very little payoff.

The question is why any of this matters. Ultimately, like most of my content, it doesn’t. Of course I want my references to be out of control, but if I navigated my life without constant pop-cultural quotes, I’d be doing alright in my lil’ Maslow pyramid. I’d probably talk less though. Why I do chase the ‘rush’ of a solid reference is truthfully a matter of pride. It feels fantastic to toss out something obscure and have acknowledgement flow back. It’s like the full body hum of making a room erupt into laughter. There’s nothing quite like the idea that even for a second, you were capable of making people happy. Absolutely nailing a reference has that same sensation, but on a much smaller and more concentrated level. You feel in sync with someone else. There’s this communal feeling of goodwill that exists between you. You’ve called to something hidden in the depths of their memory and that discovery brings them involuntary joy. Then you get to feel special for putting them in touch with it. Like I said, it’s silly and ephemeral, but that doesn’t make it any less of a goddamn delight.

All of this is to say, for the last day or two I’ve been searching every single conversation to drop the “For me, it was Tuesday” bomb.

A friend once laid me low with that very quote and I felt tickled inside and out. It resonated in my heart and mind, both of which grew three sizes (as a side effect, I got smarter). In that moment I felt connection and a certain kind of bliss. I don’t know if I’d attain that same glorious sensation when I imparted it upon someone else, but until I know I’m gonna keep chasing that dragon.

There’s a documented moment of me experiencing this kind of euphoria. In episode 14 of the pawdcast I cast out my net with an “I am Queen’s Boulevard” pull (at least I got something from my love/hatewatch of Entourage) and catch a whale. You can hear the joy in my voice as I reel from a successful delve into the deep. Witnessing that, it’s no wonder that I chase that high any time I can.

Once again, it’s stupid, but I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t one of my favourite little moments of rapture. Then again, this would be news to nobody who’s read at least one of these entries.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.

If you prefer your recommendations a little against the grain.

As I kid, I used to abhor live action television. Believe me, it wasn’t that I lacked for things to watch, but with the exception of puppetry, live action shows seemed boring as fuck. Why would you be bound by the limitations of physical actors when cartoons could be anything? I wanted dinosaurs, super heroes and robots and I wanted them always & forever. These days I watch barely any animated content, but my abstinence from flesh and blood actors lasted waaaay into my teens. I feel like I was probably 16 or 17 before I started watching prime time TV and I have no idea what pulled me in. Still, as a teenage I watched way more TV than I do now. What was I watching? Anime. LOADS of anime. I watched so much anime that I started getting desperate and watched some weird stuff. The kinds of anime you’d never expect would exist. Here are two (of the many):

BECK (Mongolian Chop Squad)

The show has nothing to do with the American recording artist of the same name. I already listened to Beck before I started watching and to be honest, it was more out of a bizarre curiosity over licensing/copyright. What was the show even about? Because there’s now way it’d be an animated retelling of the creation of Odelay. What I found was a slice of life anime about a disillusioned Japanese 14 year old nerd slowly becoming obsessed with rock music. It caught me at a time where I’d been going through similar motions and found solace in the sense of community music could bring. This show chronicles his rise and rise, facing hardships but ultimately working his way up to the big time.

I suppose it worked on a similar model to Twilight: Create a central character who’s an empty but relatable shell and suck in lonely viewers to identify with them. I got sucked in hard and started to really cheer for this character. Once I was there, the series was abound with these huge moments of triumph where the stakes pay off. You’re driven to hope for the character’s success and seeing him overcome adversity delivers this huge emotional reward. It may have been a case of this show finding me at exactly the right moment to become a perfect viewing experience, but I absolutely adored it.

Yakitate!! Japan

I often balk at watching a show when I hear it has 24 episodes. It feels like a massive time commitment. Then I remember that I once watched a 69 episode anime series about a kid who bakes bread. The show starts out relatively innocently, but within a few episodes it leans hard on the farce pedal and floors it to the end. The premise is that the central character has this unnatural power where his hands are a few degrees warmer than most people’s. He uses this ability in his quest to become a master baker, since his breads begin to bake even while he’s kneading them. It has a league of increasingly ridiculous characters with all manner of special abilities that aid their bread baking prowess. It very quickly becomes an ode to dumb japanese puns, as the central character aims to create a national bread of Japan, the Ja-pan (“pan” being the Japanese word for bread). Whenever I talk of this show, I’m always quick to point out how utterly absurd it is, and how much goddamn fun too. Somehow it keeps you holding on right till the end without dragging, including a bunch of interesting baking knowledge in there too.  If you want something carefree and delightful to watch, bun appetite!

I hope at least one of you checks these out, because my next few days will inevitably be spent youtubing BECK songs. They’re where it’s at.

With the right makeup though, that gaze does pop.

I read this interesting article today. I was a 2011 NPR article entitled “How Much Does It Cost To Make A Hit Song?” I’ve known for years the manufactured nature of blockbuster pop music, but it was all pretty vague. This article put substantive outlines around how that process goes and it was a fascinating read. I always thought it was a little odd that the overwhelming cultural narrative of pop music was that of individuals in control of their career. THERE’S SO MUCH INVOLVED IN CREATING A POP STAR, how could that be one person’s job? Is it expected that these people write all their songs? Dictate the creative direction of music videos? Album art? Costuming? Etc etc? There are way too many things to do for one person.

I heard this term in an article years back, the “Britney Industrial Complex”. The notion was that Britney Spears was such a pervasive cultural force and her mere existence formed part of the economy. Laugh it up, but aside from Britney still making a hefty chunk of change each year (between X-Factor judging and her Vegas residency, she’ll be bringing in a heap more than “mere” residuals), she’s a part of a cultural narrative that sells products and creates jobs. It takes teams of people to make Britney what she is. Outside comparatively smaller roles surrounding her music like hair and makeup, costuming, choreography and songwriting, her PR and marketing are huge. Agents to sell her songs to radio, find appearances, interviews and other opportunities for her to stay in the public eye. There’s media coaching so that she’ll be perceived in a complimentary light, people to sell her songs to radio and keep her heard. There’s a company of people keeping her in business and that company churns a profit because of it.

This makes a lot of sense to me, considering that so many pop stars come into the scene at such a young age. Of course they would, that’s what’s marketable. I’m sure a ton of talents get themselves taken advantage of when they’re new to the game. Backstreet Boys certainly did. I’d hope that as they aged into the role they’d be given more creative control. The more music that’s produced under their name, I’d hope they’d have more of their hands in the pie. I’ve heard Beyonce is pretty involved in the production process, which is pretty cool. I still haven’t heard Lemonade, but a project with that much talent attached has got to be all kinds of impressive.

I don’t get why pop stars’ personas aren’t treated more like films. Films aren’t just about the stars, there’s a whole host of creative crew behind the project making it into the best possible product they can. Directors, writers, editors, agents, marketers, distributors, trainers and coaches. Rihanna, Bieber, Taylor Swift, how are they any different? They’re people playing parts in a larger construction. Why do we assume the stars are responsible for the end product? When hundreds of eyes have gone into creating an image to present to the public, why do we only question the gaze of the person standing in front?