Climate change is scary enough, Halloween needs headroom

I walked out of work and into a warzone.

It was awesome. Wind whipped wildly in a wicked whirl. I zipped up my coat, and was buffeted back. Branches from tall trees lay strewn across the path. Leaves covered the ground. The construction fence had collapsed on one side, exposing a muddy yard. Traffic lights thrashed from side to side. A bushy tree damn near bent sideways. I struggled to keep my feet. The lake was tempestuous, waves dotted by oddly calm ducks. When the lights changed, I bolted across the street, achieving no more than my normal walking speed. It was madness. It was beautiful.

Unfortunately for my sense of wonder, things calmed down once I moved away from the lake. I expected to come home to crushed cars parked streetside. Power outages, chaos. Instead there was just a mild breeze. Things were oddly calm for 1am on Halloween. I saw only two Joker costumes on my way home. Quelle surprise. It was kind of gutting that the weather dumped down so much. Think of all those kids who were so excited to dress up in pursuit of candy. Hell, Montreal postponed Halloween. Can a city do that? Well they did.

Neither my girlfriend nor I were home to hand out treats to kids. Maybe it was some form of mercy. Making small talk with kids is a legit skill, and I don’t have it. I’ve never really learned to talk to kids like kids, and so I’m just at a loss for words. What am I supposed to ask? So what do you do? Been on any cool holidays lately? What’s been lighting you up lately? My usual mingling tactics are useless here. Last year Halloween came a few weeks after weed legalisation. My girlfriend and I were a little stoned, and it all became a minefield. For the first time in years, Halloween was legit spooky. We were both almost afraid to approach the door, unsure of how to handle these innocuous interactions. Small mercy then, that our area doesn’t get much trick or treater traffic.

I wonder what a loot bag looks like here. Back home, it was a bizarre hodgepodge of things. Sometimes people forgot it was Halloween and grabbed random things from their pantry. Otherwise it’d be a cornucopia of off-brand lollies. Over this side of the world, Halloween is much more of an expected quantity, so people buy in bulk. The easiest way to do so is to grab one of these huge boxes from a supermarket. All the big candy companies put out packs with 70 pieces, 100 pieces, 200 pieces. Fun size candy that’s limited in variety. I can’t imagine how many multiples kids will get of the same stuff. Like, 20 mini Kit Kats and some Swedish Fish?

I saw some police PSA on the TV. It gave out helpful hints like “don’t let kids try any candy before you check it first”. Really? Is that where we’re at? I’m definitely not someone who’s all ugh, PC Culture, etc etc. This seems like overreach. What do people think is gonna happen? Are we still on that whole train of people spiking chocolate with drugs and razor blades? In this economy? It’s 2019, people can hardy afford that stuff for themselves, let alone give it out for free. How many kids are hospitalised because of eating something they’ve been given? Especially with these sanitised bulk boxes being circulated so heavily. Most everything is individually wrapped and sealed. It’d be an absurd amount of effort to poison things, and for what payoff? Surely this is a culture of fear talking, that expects people to want to do malicious things to kids. Is there data to back that up? Or just empty rhetoric?

The craziest thing I saw last night was nature. Halloween, keep up.

Time to parcel on some knowledge

What dumb shit did you write in school?

I was listening to a podcast, and someone mentioned a high school essay they wrote. I had a thought, and almost physically recoiled. I remembered my schooling, and the excessive amount of essays I contorted into talking about subjects I already liked. In intermediate school I got put in a gifted stream. It was an elective class outside of our ordinary ones. We’d get together weekly, and were led to work on individual projects of our own design. I felt uncomfortable being moved away from the regular streams, and in no way did I think I deserved to be there. The rest were really smart kids. They loved science and computers. They had a host of extracurricular educational hobbies. I was just some goofy kid who loved superhero comics. I immediately knew what I had to do: Dig in. I decided to do my project on comic creation and the process. I think I really sold our teacher in charge on a piece about production. However, I really didn’t want to do research. So I read a bunch of fluff pieces, and put together a lionised account of Lee and Ditko creating Spider Man. Compared with the rest of the final projects, it was dismal. I’d drawn a dumb little comic, and I was a terrible artist. I didn’t care, I’d gotten off doing the bare minimum. I was relieved.

In high school I got put into the extension class again. I didn’t know why it kept happening to me. We did extension science and English. I flailed helplessly at the science, but in English? I did great. We were given Shakespearean sonnets to learn. I rote learned mine in an hour and said it out loud repeatedly. Soon everyone in the class knew mine. Hell, I still know it off by heart. I know it’s called “O Mistress Mine”, but I’ve got no idea what play it’s from. We were instructed that we were going to film a play. I got cast as Macbeth in a very truncated role. I learned my lines in a day, and turned in a gloriously gratuitous performance. I wasn’t in my element, I made it my element.

In university, I repeatedly warped the assignments around my sensibilities, almost rebelling against taking things seriously. We were to write an essay on a sentimental object in our lives. I wrote about Transformers bedsheets I got as a kid. I turned a feminism essay towards porn, and video game boob physics. I wrote an Environmental Feminism essay on mass production as a result of men’s inability to give birth. I talked about the curves of sleek cars and Coke bottles as commodification of the female form. I turned in an exam essay on creative revolts in the comic industry. Almost every project I put together revolved around subjects of interest, requiring the least amount of effort.

I think what I’m discovering, is that I spent my education trying to do as little work as possible, while getting results. If the schooling system was trying to teach me something, it was that nominal results didn’t really translate into anything tangible. I could get all the good marks I wanted, but I wasn’t really learning in the process. I was doing my best to not change, and teaching myself terrible lessons along the way. I wish that I’d known years back that there’s no way to shortcut the process. That real results came from advancing skills, not abstract marks for turning in projects. I think I’ve finally started to learn, but egads I wish it didn’t take this many decades.

Some gifted student, eh?

Mel Gibson ain’t a fan. But who needs fans like that?

What’s Ned Flanders’ favourite brand of sunglasses? Okillys!

For no good reason, today I remembered something from high school. There was this girl that we all had a crush on. She was super cool and disaffected. Really pretty, long brown hair and almond shaped eyes. When I say that we all had a crush on her, I mean it. You know that stereotype of teenage girls excitedly tittering about the quarterback? We were those tittering teenage girls about her. ZOMG it’s mufti day, did you see what she’s wearing? That kind of stuff. Anyway, we were doing speeches for English class. She wasn’t in my class, but one of my friends told me he saw hers. She did her speech on Nelson Mandela, which was a neat subject. He was a cool dude. But she did a real half arsed job and didn’t really know how to finish. Instead she played Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” on a boom box and danced a little bit. Weird, and maybe more than borderline inappropriate. Incongruent enough that as soon as my friend told me, my crush on her instantly died. Simple as that. No more tittering.

In writing that out, I didn’t think I’d type “tittering” half as many times as I did.

Ugh, I used to love doing speeches at school. It was by far my favourite assignment. I was big into public speaking, considering that I spent all day talking shit in class anyway. I think I mostly liked making jokes, and it was an ideal opportunity to do so. I don’t fully remember my speeches from primary school. I did one about books that I kind of phoned in. It wasn’t my proudest work. I do remember getting a kick out of writing my barmitzvah speech, and figuring out metaphors with the rabbi. The friends I invited didn’t understand anything about Judaism, but they did enjoy pelting me with candy as I walked the Torah around the room. As is tradition.

I distinctly remember doing a fun speech during my ‘campaign’ for Deputy Head Boy in highschool. We all knew who was gonna win, so I tried my aim for silver strategy. I spent the whole time doing basically a stand up set. I leaned heavily on my best friend’s suprise campaign-

Which went a little like this:
“Hey bud” he said to me as he arrived at my front door to walk to school “I put up the posters”. I blinked. “Posters?” “Yeah” he replied “for your campaign”. Cue me walking into school, people coming up to me saying “oh man, love the posters. I’m voting for you for sure.” I saw one of the posters containing the image of an elderly Hasidic Jew and in bold: I’D VOTE FOR A JEW. WOULDN’T YOU?

-and really talked up my latent Judaism. I harped on about losing the Nazi votes, but hoping I could make it up with people proving they weren’t Nazis by voting for me. I didn’t win. Maybe I should’ve ended that one with Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and a little dance. Who better to claim the title “Survivor” than the Jews?

If I retconned every memory I had of giving a speech to have ended with that song, would that be the Mandela Effect at work?

Today was the day I became a man. My K Bar Mitzvah, if you will

I’d like to take a minute or 30 to talk about New Zealand snacks.

I caught myself in a rabbit hole last night, getting sucked into the myriad snack foods that defined my childhood. There were so many. NZ snacks are pretty adventurous, especially in comparison to those I find here in Canada. I don’t know, Kiwis really push the boundaries when it comes to flavour and texture. Don’t just take my word for it, read this sublime piece of NZ journalism (please do, it’s a fantastic piece and Madeline Chapman is a talented, hilarious writer) detailing the many many types of chips that line our supermarket shelves.

I feel like it’s important to mention NZ’s corn based snacks. Perhaps not because they’re the most hard baked part of our national moreish consciousness, but because I liked them a lot. Burger Rings. If that name means nothing to you, you’re likely sane. Burger Rings occupied a similar position as Funyuns and/or Bugles. They were tactile, and fancy as shit. As a kid, your fingers could be doused in cheeto-esque dust, as you displayed your abundant wealth for all to see. Looking down on all the playground plebs with their chicken chip bullshit. When they called them “rings”, they did not stutter. They were the perfect size, though presumably as an adult they’d fit as far as my nails. And the taste? Ostensibly “burger”, whatever that means. They had abundant tang with a sumptuous umami flavour. An excellent snack option.

There also were a bunch of corn/cheese options I fucking loved. Biguns. BIGUNS. The same kind of jewellery based shenanigans as Burger Rings, but with added CHONK. Imagine a cheese ball that could envelop your finger. That’s the magnitude of what you were dealing with. Dense but puffy corn resplendent with cheese dust. Packed right through with flavour. I fucking loved Biguns, and Cheezels, their more economical but less outrageous cousins. Oh, not to forget the bacon based Rashuns. Those were some DENSE chips. Goddamn Bluebird monopolised the 90s savoury snack market.

Truthfully, I was never much of a savoury snacker. I’m a sweet boy at heart. When it comes to lollies (the Kiwi word for “candy”), my heart was abundant. I never got much into Snifters, though as an adult I’d probably fall right in love. Snifters. A candy shell, chocolate layer, and chewy mint candy centre. K Bars were hard, chewable candy concoctions. They clung to your teeth, lest you forget that you’d just ingested pure sugar. They’d last for ages, a marvel considering they were dirt cheap. Jafas are the quintessential Kiwi movie candy, as far as I know. Not least because they became slang as nationwide disdain for Aucklanders (Just Another Fucking Aucklander). They had an orange candy shell and dark chocolate centre. Think a bite sized crunchy Terry’s chocolate orange.

I think it’s time we talk about the elephant in the room. Or rather, the fucking menace in the movie theatre. Stay with me. Tangy Fruits. Tangy Fruits were iconic for several reasons. They came in substantial little pottles, which were practically only available at movie theatres. They were dense but chewable, colourful fruit lollies. They were, much like K Bars, pure sugar. Now. I don’t think you can understand from that picture just how many there were in a pottle. There were too many, not just for a child, but straight up an unfathomable quantity of sweetness. Kids would get them for the movies and inevitably eat too many. Sugar crash, sickness, raging energy. Whatever it was, they made films damn near unwatchable. Not only would kids up the back do Tangy Fruit races down the aisles, but in the last third of the film, things would get batshit.

See, there was some combination of the lolly’s density and the big plastic pottle that gave it a loud and specific resonance when shook. Agitated and energetic kids would shake these containers so fucking hard, that it’d get difficult to follow the movie. Just a bunch of little fucking wildlings shaking these damn things around like the thunder of wardrums. Little shits everywhere disturbing the peace, with no regard for narrative structure. To be fair, if you had that much artificial energy coursing through your young veins in an enclosed space, what would you do? It’s a marvel we didn’t tear up the upholstery. I so dearly want some tangy fruits right now, always and forever, but nothing good lasts that long. Much like most great Kiwi candy, they’ve been discontinued and only live on in my deepest fantasies.

R.I.P. My childhood.

It’s finally Summer. Why don’t you slide?

It’s easy to forget simple pleasures.

I went swimming yesterday. I’m not talking arduous lap swimming, I’m talking splashing around in a community pool. It was awesome. The day was sunny, we had a bunch of friends there. Kids were playing all kinds of games, throwing balls, some form of tag, squirting each other with water guns. It was a fun, idyllic Sunday afternoon. I got there, found my mates and almost immediately was ushered off. “Dude, the slide is closing in two minutes. You gotta get on it.” My instant brain reaction was who the fuck cares? I’m an adult. Then I pulled my brain out of my arse and thought wait, why would being an adult make slides less fun? You know what? IT DOESN’T. Water slides confirmed still neato as an adult. I got in line just before it closed. An excited, husky kid behind me was thrilled to have gotten in before close. He was breathing heavily, having just run there, and it immediately reminded me of myself at that age. Endless enthusiasm. especially after the lifeguard stood at the bottom of the ladder behind us, telling people sorry, but these folks are the last for today. The slide was great. I crossed my arms across my chest coffin style, and whipped on down, pushed by rushing water. It really was a blast, and I figure it’d be silly of me not to take a day trip to a big water park over the summer.

My girlfriend and I got to be kids again. We went on the diving board and tried a bunch of dives. I’d never been one to do head/handfirst dives as a kid, so as an adult I gave it a go. It’s funny, knowing that I now have an adult body and greater understanding of movement, I still felt that tiny stab of fear standing on that board. What if I faceplanted? Or fell on my back? What if I slipped and hurt myself on the diving board? I know I used to be able to do front flips. Was it worth trying one? Or was that just a path to pain? I skipped the flips, but I did try a couple of traditional dives. I did some bombs (or what people here call “cannonballs”). I jumped really high and landed feet first, attempting to touch the bottom. The pool was 3.6m deep, far deeper than I’d expected. I touched the bottom, then pushed myself off, breaking through the surface of the water effortlessly. My body experienced all these familiar but long forgotten sensations. I had water burning through my nostrils. My ears popped underwater, then had trace amounts of water stuck in them. Not remotely pleasant sensations, but extremely nostalgic ones.

We played around, just being goofs. We got to do “horsey rides” and carry each other around. We dipped one another, we picked each other up. Basically the kind of shit you’d do to entertain a toddler. Y’know what? As an adult it was legitimately fun. I used to love being thrown around and picked up as a kid. Because of my large adult body, it’s rare that anyone can do that with me anymore. The weightlessness of water enabled a whole host of activities, even my girlfriend being able to legit pick me up. What a totally unexpected thrill, that was all too simple to access. I mean, I was always a water baby. Back home in NZ, it was everpresent. We spent so many summers in pools, going to the Glenfield Community Centre to ride their hydroslides. Waiwera Hot Pools was pretty far off, but they had so many great slides. The Point Erin Pools was another hot spot. My best friend and I would go there with my grandparents during the weekends. I rarely realise how important spending time in water is for me until I’m in it.

But mostly, waterslides still kick arse.

We re-laughed, re-loved, Real Eyes, Realize, Real Lies

My workday was spent dealing with an IRL Surprised Pikachu meme. I don’t want to re-live it, so let’s go somewhere else.

What days would I want to re-live, and not change a thing?

I had this birthday once where I went to Rainbow’s End with friends. Rainbow’s End was a low rent theme park back in Auckland, that was the highest rent theme park we had as kids. There was a log flume with questionably macabre pirate statues, a Motion Master Ride that changed video very rarely, and a corkscrew coaster. I ate a ton of chips, then vomited mid corkscrew. It was awesome. As kids, rides had nigh unlimited replayability. We must’ve gone on that Motion Master like 7 times. It was probably one of the first days I was tall enough to ride everything, and I finally felt like an adult. I was likely 10 years old. What an awesome birthday.

I lived in this flat once with a bunch of university mates. It was my first time leaving home, and I couldn’t have found a better bunch. For some reason, my buddy and I were fucking around with nothing to do. We knew that one of our other flatmates was going out to pick stuff up, but was otherwise planning on coming back. We had this tiny room off the lounge, we saved it for friends who need to crash. For some reason my buddy and I decided it’d be hilarious to stay in there for ages, then pop out and scare our flatmate. Simple dumb prank. We parked the car on another street, so she wouldn’t know we were home. Then we snuck into the side room and waited, listening for her keys at the back door. It took ages, a comically long time. We assumed she’d be back in maybe 10 minutes, but I think it was at least an hour before we heard anything. We heard her walk into the lounge and sit down on the couch. We gave each other a countdown, then jumped out screaming “BOOOO”. Real creative stuff. She shrieked in delight, but we realised we’d spooked the wrong flatmate.

We all decided the prank wasn’t over, so the frightened flatmate came into the side room with us and we waited. It was once again, a Very Long Time. Eventually we heard her key in the backdoor. We heard humming and a shuffling of feet, her trademarks. Wide eyed with giddy excitement, we whispered to one another. What if we kept waiting, to make the spook even spookier? So we kept waiting. We were in that side room for maybe another 40 minutes, to really throw off our flatmate’s expectations. After time passed, we were ready. We signalled a 3, 2, 1 countdown, then jumped out screaming at the top of our lungs. Our target hit the fucking roof. She was terrified. We were gasping for air, that’s how hard we were laughing. We realised that she was actually legitimately shocked, so we chilled out and stopped laughing at her. Then we made a couch fort while our co-conspirator baked cookies, and we all enjoyed fort cookies as a family. It’s such a treasured memory, even if it is quite mean spirited. Those were the days. When we felt fine wasting many hours of the day on a dumb prank.

Y’know, it’s like by simply writing it down, I’ve re-lived it. I feel a lot better now.

Grade expectations

I was thinking about Intermediate School today.

It was what we, back in Middle Earth, called Middle School. I think. Honestly I still have yet to understand the North American schooling system. Not because it’s egregiously complicated, but because ours was. I devoted enough brain space to decode the intricacies of kindergarten, J1, J2, Standards 1-4 and Form 1-7 (which all later got overhauled into a system that just numbered Year 1-13). People will be like back in Grade 8″, which translates into me trying to revert to the Year 1-13 system, but forgetting that kindergarten in North America counts as schooling? Oh, and they don’t start until age 6 here? It’s complicated, and largely unimportant. Suffice to say that there’s a little sliver of separation between young adulthood and even younger adulthood. Children are just diminuitive adults, I guess is my hypothesis.

Intermediate was a weird time. By my own hand I got shipped off to a different school from most of my friends, primarily because I wanted to follow my best friend. He was in the year ahead, but luckily by the time he’d left, I’d picked up friends of my own. The school was actually pretty decent. The facilities were impressive, probably because of zoning and socioeconomic deciles. Teachers were generally nice, with one or two to watch out for. Children are great at spreading urban myths and legends about any figures of authority. One particular teachers was nicknamed The Dragon. A severe looking older lady with a frizzy afro of fiery red hair. In second year, she was my homeroom teacher.

It was mostly pretty uneventful. She yelled at us a handful of times, but things were mostly uneventful. Occasionally she’d get unnecessarily wound up about seemingly unimportant stuff. The Dragon wasn’t so bad. She was mostly just boring and incredibly out of touch. She didn’t have any idea how to talk to kids, and I have zero notion as to why she worked with them. I don’t have a ton of stories about her. I remember this one time though, we were doing an in-class Secret Santa. She lectured us all about gift giving. Her impression was that it would be a misguided idea to get something silly or entertaining, when in fact it was an excellent opportunity to find something useful. Like a highlighter. As I said, out of touch.

So we had our Secret Santa and, as always, nobody listened to her. There were games and toys, stickers, candy and novelty goods. The kind of shit that 12 year olds actually like.  Most people were pretty stoked. Most people. Our teacher, The Dragon, sat there holding a highlighter in her hands. Lips pressed tight, nostrils flared. I was stoked, I got exactly the reaction I’d been lookng for. Since this was back when parents bought gifts for students to give to teachers, I’d told my parents about my plans. They’d egged me on, knowing that this teacher was kind of a dick, and felt like it’d be good to give her a taste of her own bullshit. To be clear, I had parents who happily bought boxes of chocolate or cookie samplers for teachers as Christmas presents. I had a bunch of great teachers over the years, it was probably warranted. Plus I was a fucking nerd, I generally liked teachers and school.

Still, when it comes to memories of this teacher, the Secret Santa story is always a highlight.