All in a day’s doom

I want to talk about Pittsburgh.

Well, let’s take one step back from that. I don’t want to talk about Pittsburgh, but I feel like I need to talk about Pittsburgh. I feel like I need to talk about Pittsburgh because, somehow I’ve gone from basically forgetting Pittsburgh existed to that word bringing me roughly three seconds away from tears at any moment. I feel fragile and volatile and furious and scared. I’m reminded that there are myriad people in this world who have not met me, but want me dead. It’s not personal, but is an intensely personal feeling. It’s not about me. It’s not about most anyone alive today, but it’s very real. It’s about a legacy of hate charting back centuries that’s somehow survived nigh universal public condemnation. But private and public are very different things, and none of us can really know what’s bubbling between the surface at any moment.

Few people around me would know that for the past few days, even thinking of Pittsburgh has made my skin flush. You know that prickly feeling where you’re teetering on the edge of breakdown? For me it’s been an almost constant sensation. Why? I don’t live in Pittsburgh. I don’t live in America. I don’t interact with people who own guns, who hold open prejudice. I don’t interact with violence in my life. I don’t. I live in a bubble that innoculates me against the worst of humanity.  At the same time it’s knocking on my door constantly. I know that hate exists. I know that prejudice exists. I’m taught to fear. I see it every day on my social media feeds. In the news cycle. It’s hate, prejudice and fear all day long.

I don’t have personal reason to fear. Really. I live in a privileged position of security. I have a job that keeps a roof over my head, food in my stomach and my health in check. I live in a quiet neighbourhood with nice families around me. I don’t deal with outward aggression, unwanted advances or any kind of substantive threat. I’m a straight white cis male who hasn’t known the sting of real prejudice as so many others do daily. I always felt different, growing up Jewish in New Zealand. I was basically the only Jewish kid at my school. I hated it. I didn’t feel special, I felt weird. Mismatched. Unwelcome. It’s not like anyone really went out of their way to make me feel this way, I just did. Anti-semitism had a hard time surviving in a country where we had maybe 8,000 Jews max. We were statistically insignificant enough not to matter. Who would care? Auckland was a cultural melting pot of foreigners and misfits. I’m sure we all felt like outsiders. I was gently forced to go to Hebrew school on Sunday mornings. I hated it. I didn’t want to be Jewish. I didn’t want to feel different. I never connected to the religion and had no interest in it.

I felt connected to suffering though, with no real idea why. Holocaust stuff didn’t really have much to do with me, but it stung in a way that made it feel personal. It always has and I trust it always will. Anti-semitism seemed abstract, so far from my lived experience. I didn’t know why it hurt so innately, considering I’d never felt it tangibly. But it did. It’s always felt that way. I’ve never had a Jewish slur thrown my way with any form of malice. Still, I don’t know that it’s possible to be Jewish without the ever-present awareness of the legacy you’ve inherited. It’s just a fact of life. There are people out there who wished the Holocaust stuck the landing. I don’t even think they know why. I’m not sure they’ve had much real interaction with Jewish people beyond obnoxious sterotypes handed down from their forebearers. Hate is taught and I’m not sure if it can survive empathy.

Of course I’m not saying that suffering is uniquely Jewish. Far from it. Whether you’re black, Muslim, queer, outside of gender norms or in any way divergent from the paper thin definition people use for “normal”, you deal with it daily on some level. So many people out there have to tolerate far worse than me on a more regular basis. Suffering is known by too many and tolerated by many more. The worst thing is, it’s not going to get better. These feelings I’m sitting with, that people sit with constantly, they’re only increasing. It’s all reaching a fever pitch, which will only rise. As bad as we think it is, that’s how things are trending. We’re not there yet. Suffering will continue, as it always has.

We’re diverging day by day and I don’t know how that rift heals. There are sides and we all draw lines in the sand. We retreat from those who disagree. Why engage with them when we could have our own views reaffirmed? Now it seems like we’re living in dichotomous realities where we’ve each made monsters of the other and are jumping at shadows. We’re all scared of losing what we have, that everything is temporary. We don’t bother trying to foster understanding, because what’s the point in wasting effort? Empathy is trying and it feels impossible to teach someone how to care. I don’t know if we’re minutes from midnight, but it sure feels that way.

The weird thing is, we’re probably statistically in a better place than we ever were. Terrifying as the world seems every day, it’s likely not that way for most of us. The resonance of fear and hate has been amplified by connectivity. The more it resonantes, the more we hear of it. It’s not going anywhere either, because it sells. Suffering is something we can all connect to, so we share in it. We see more of it, because we’re attuned to it. Because we’re all attuned to it, it’s what we’re shown from all angles, but not with any nuance. We get soundbites and snappy phrases, but not depth. Because we live in a constant news cycle and we don’t have time for in depth journalism. Plus nobody really wants it anyway, when they can “understand” a headline so much quicker. And we’re not seeing principled journalism ethics at play, because news is just something to sell advertising by. They have overheads too and really, they’re just trying to do their jobs with what they have. So we’re all scrambling to hear from opinion leaders to let us know what to believe, but nobody knows what to say that helps. Everyone just wants to put their head down and get by. Plus we just want to hear what reaffirms what we already believe anyway. It’s all so much bigger than us, that doing anything about it is overwhelming.

So what am I gonna do about it? Probably nothing. It’s so fucking hard to deal with this stuff at all when it’s so simple to disengage and distract myself. So instead I’ll likely stay where I am and nothing will change. Despite any differences between myself and those I disagree with, we’re mostly the same in that regard. It’s more difficult to think about how to help than it is to do nothing.

So nothing gets done. And this is amplified. And we’re all doing nothing. And we’re all suffering. And we’re all distracted. And the ones who act out are scared and suffering too. And we’re all fucked until something shifts. But it won’t. So we won’t. So more will die. And this will continue. Until someone does too much. And there’ll be nothing left to talk about, because nobody is listening. And that’s why I don’t want to talk.

Because mostly, I’m scared. And it won’t help.

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Mercury in sweatrograde

Les Mills classes never change.

Sure, they update the music, but it’s fundamentally the same experience. Don’t take that as a slight, it’s kind of the point. You know exactly what you’re in for when you arrive. A Saturday morning Body Attack class is something I hadn’t experienced for some time. Between injuring three of my favourite limbs, to getting back into drinking again, peaceful (relatively early) Saturday mornings haven’t been in abundance. However, a quiet night at home with my girlfriend cooking soup and marathoning Big Mouth was the ideal recipe for a 9:30am Body Attack.

I’ve been going to Les Mills classes since I noticed a trail of spandex clad butts walking upstairs at Auckland Les Mills aged 16. Like the pied piper, the siren song of teenaged gawking was enough to get me into the room. The class was fun enough that I kept going back for all the intended reasons: Spunky instructors cultivating a fun environment. Upbeat tracks that motivated me to keep moving. A low barrier to entry and the promise of an efficient workout within an hour.

It’s still the same moves with slight tweaks. Repeaters (standing on one leg and bringing the other knee up and down), jumping jacks, running on the spot, running with high knees, running with ankles to butt, high kicks, skaters (jumping from foot to foot, pausing on each side), tricep push ups, shuffles. It’s all the same. Just add music and an overly jazzed instructor. Sure, the order changes sometimes. Maybe there’ll be a small addition like mixing jumping jacks with squats. Really though, there haven’t been any serious shifts in the past 15 or so years I’ve been going.

Even the archetypes are the same. In every class there’ll be someone trying it for the first time. There’s always a frail elderly woman who you’re not sure actually knows there’s a class going on. She’s kind of just doing her own thing, which is amazing at her age. Maybe she lives there, who can say? There’s also another older lady (old dudes just don’t seem to show up with the same regularity) who’s been going for 30 years and knows all the moves. She’ll move into the advanced stuff before the announcer even brings it up. She’s perfectly optimised the whole moveset and has no interest in slowing down for anyone else’s sake. There’s someone for whom it’s not their first time, but they’re still having trouble with the choreo. There’s the overly enthusiastic dude (oh hey, it’s me) who adds some extra little flair into his moves, but is also a bit clumsy. A group of three girls in their early 20s who are going out for coffee after class. One of them doesn’t seem to like it as much as the others, but probably just wants an excuse to grab coffee with mates. Someone young with a dead set stare taking it all way too seriously. They never miss a rep and don’t bring water or a towel.

It’s perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. They’ve cottoned onto a successful formula and it’s all for the best. Honestly, I love being able to sweat a bunch in the morning (especially if I’ve had one or two drinks too many and I’m pushing out those toxins), then have the rest of the day to slowly meander home via coffee. Maybe even see the group of three at the cafe.

Oh Les Mills classes. Never change.

I wonder if Matthew McConaughey has ever tried marmite…

Lately I’ve done a pretty decent job of finding a topic and staying on it. I’m formally congratulating myself on this development before I dive into a fragmented mess of an entry.

Good job.

Honey, I Shrunk The Kids holds up. I’m not saying that it’s landmark cinema. I *am* saying that it’s a silly family adventure film that’s both harmless and entertaining. The plot is dumb and contrived, they need to give themselves a little push to get over the finish line, but it’s fun to watch. At it’s heart, the move has a simple concept that allows them to write a bunch of neat little scenes and make great sets. It’s not the kind of film that holds up to scrutiny, but that seems like a fool’s errand at best. It’s neat to see the late 80s creature animation of “Antie” and the inexplicable scorpion. Does everyone have a scorpion in their backyard? I don’t care. It looked cool and gave birth to a choice action sequence. The film considered its environment which gave us silly stuff like a Lego brick being an ideal spot to sleep, a fallen cigarette making for perfect torches and an errant baseball somehow being the missing element between a working and non-functional shrink ray. The parental relationships were oddly mature for a kid’s film and the whole thing was a joy to watch.

I kind of miss 80s adventure movies. I’m thinking stuff like The Goonies or The Wizard. Just kids going on wacky, unconventional journeys and adapting to unfamiliar situations. They’re essentially less like structured films and more a collection of scenes they wanted to write, then loosely tied together. I don’t care. I love the Power Glove. It’s so bad. Even for someone who’s as much of a grumpy buzzkill as I am, occasionally it’s fun to switch your brain off and watch light conflict and bright colours. People coming together after learning a valuable lesson about friendship. After all, the real adventure was the friends we made along the way. Right?

Do you remember being a kid and just falling over? Losing your balance for no good reason? I used to stumble all the time. I’m sure it was a matter of getting used to the dimensions of my body. Equilibrum was earned, not given. This isn’t super relevant and I don’t have much to say on it. I just thought that was kinda funny. In general I move quickly these days. I figure as a blanket notion that the faster I move, the more things I can do. The other day in the kitchen I was walking and reaching over for the fridge door. I sort of started keeling over before reorienting myself. I guess that’s what made me think of it. By the way, I was never a bouncing baby boy. I’m quite certain that I hit the ground with a *thunk* and not a *boing*. Just like everyone else.

I realised today that I wouldn’t be able to recognise a DJ Khaled song. To me, Khaled is just that guy who won’t go down on his girlfriend. That’s his enduring legacy and, as such, I’m pretty okay not listening to his music. Nothing of value was lost.

The other day my mum was bringing me marmite from NZ and it got seized by customs. That’s a bummer. Quelle betrayal, right? I was relying on the shipment. I’ve been out of marmite for some time and it’s kind of a comfort food. I expressed my disappointment on Facebook and friends didn’t really get it. To them it’s a silly, absurdly salty prank nutella. To me, I dunno, it’s more evocative of different stages in life. I remember feeling incredibly proud when I made marmite and cheese on toast in our toaster oven. It felt like one of the first things, as a child, that I cooked. I think of eating marmite and chip sandwiches with my best friend at his old house. I’d never tasted the combination and it was eye opening. The different bold flavours and textures. I even recall the white and grey penguin placemats we ate off. They were wearing tuxedos. I think about all those times I came back drungry from nights out and fixed myself marmite and cheese toasties. Or when I started making elaborate brunches with marmite and poached eggs on toast, complete with cheese, avocado and sundried tomatoes. Marmite was a big part of those dishes. Marmite has been a big part of my life. It’s more than a novelty food stuff, on some level it’s part of my history. I have every intention of making it part of my future. Luckily a co-worker is heading back to Australia soon and she’s promised to pick me up some Kiwi marmite.

Do you think when Matthew McConaughey is happy All’s right alright alright with the world?

More like “cumtries”, because they’re a load of wank, geddit? Also, am I 12?

I’m in a pissy, unrelatable, First Year University Student mood. Blame coffee.

For some reason today I’m inexplicably mad that people think nations exist. They don’t. They’re just very popular memes. A “country” as we see it is a fictional concept. It’s a handy way of collectively grouping a series of people who settled on a landmass and then telling them what being part of that group entails. It’s all fabricated. It’s a very functional method of rallying people behind a cause or getting them to follow orders. Want people to go to battle for something imaginary? Tell them they’re fighting for nationhood. The enemy force? They hate your claim to your nationhood, so you should die to defend it. But wait, the enemy force is a cluster of individuals galvanised in the same manner, also fighting in the name of a fairy tale. That’s all it is. If you tell it often enough and in an impassioned enough manner, they’ll start to believe it. There’s no real reason why a person born in Canada would be innately polite. It’s a social construct. Just read Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities”. While we’re at it, gender and money are also fictional concepts that gained a lot of ground because they’re useful tools for controlling people.

I’ve always fucking hated the idea of nationality and patriotism. They don’t make any sense. I was born in New Zealand, so I was told that I had a natural connection to those around me. A shared consciousness. Why? Our heritage all comes from different places anyway. The only reason why any kind of collective identity exists in a hypothetical sense is because we’re told it does. We’re told that being a Kiwi means you like rugby or that if you’re a real American you have faith in a fucking gaudy piece of fabric emblazoned with stars and stripes. Why? If you hate flags, are you not a true American? Maybe you’re more into stonework than fabric or something. I don’t like sports, I’ve never lived on a farm, does that disqualify me from being a true New Zealander? It’s fucking insane.

Also while I’m on this tear, I can’t believe how long it took me to realise that “The Star Spangled Banner” is a fucking terrible national anthem. It’s a convoluted mess. The song is difficult to sing for those who aren’t exceptional vocalists. Why would that be appropriate for something that’s meant to be accessible to millions of people. Much like the majority of American culture it celebrates exceptionalism and individualism, while effectively telling anyone facing difficulty to go get fucked. If you can’t sing it, too bad. Guess you should’ve been born with a better voice. Oh, you don’t have the exorbitant amount of money necessary to pay for health insurance? I guess you just go bankrupt or die. Too bad. Oh, you can’t afford talented lawyers to defend yourself legally against the ill deeds of large corporations? Whoops, sorry. I guess you don’t have rights after all. Justice has a high barrier to entry.

The worst thing about all of this fictional nationhood bollocks is that it takes advantage of the needy and less fortunate. Of course it’s not the rich and powerful dying on the front lines or forfeiting their right to life and liberty over unpaid hospital bills. It’s those who don’t know any better laying themselves down for an ideal that’s only used to manipulate the powerless. It’s no wonder that American patriotism and Christianity are often so inexplicably linked. They’re archaic systems of control that lead the most vulnerable to follow the desires of those who aren’t.

Maybe I’m just bitter Laser Kiwi didn’t become the new NZ flag.

Why screw my courage to this sticky place?

I was thinking about my death row meal today.

In full clarity, I’m not going to death row. Well, I don’t think so. Okay, I haven’t currently done anything to necessitate my execution. Ask me again in a few hours. I feel like my plans are benign enough that I’m unlikely to commit murder, grand larceny or something super vile like jaywalking before bed. It’s not impossible. After a little too much caffeine I stop questioning what I’m capable of doing and start worrying about it instead. Mostly I just get very regular.

I know what my death row meal would be. It’s very specific and I’m quite surprised (I tried a quick search of past entries) that I haven’t mentioned it before. My death row meal would be my mum’s chicken wings and spare ribs.

It’s my favourite meal, hands down. Well, hands in too. It’s very involved. A huge batch of chicken wings and spare ribs in a gorgeously sticky sauce. It’s usually accompanied by rice and sometimes peas. It sounds simple, but it’s so much more than that. Like any tradition worth a damn, there’s ritual. I can’t overstate how much food there is, several kilos of assorted small meats almost dripping off the bone. The sauce is thick and sweet, without the gross mouthfeel of shoddily made teriyaki sauce. It’s the best kind of meal: One where you can get your hands dirty. Across the table are several bowls, some empty and others filled with warm water. Bones bowls and finger bowls. It’s rare to not have hands caked in sauce, and the finger bowls help mitigate the struggle of sticky fingers (besides what you’re able to lick off). The meat is tender, having been grilled with garlic before the sauce was applied. There’s something in the combination of density and softness that’s indescribable for an author of limited skill. Like all the best things, it’s supremely messy, but also intimate. The sauce goes so well over the rice, which soaks it up perfectly. If there are ever peas, they’re a small oasis of greenery in a desert of meat, sugar, soy and rice. You do not leave the table hungry. Very occasionally I’ll dream of this meal, which begs the question: Why don’t I just make it?

It’s not a challenging meal to recreate. As far as I understand, you slather the meat in garlic and grill it in the oven. After it’s well-cooked, you add equal parts brown sugar and soy sauce to an amount of water. You slowly heat it in the microwave, stirring every few minutes. When it’s starting to thicken, you douse the oven meat in this sauce and let it cook. Every once in a while you’ll reapply the sauce with a baster so nothing dries out. At some point you cook rice. That’s basically it. For all I know my mum just got it from a cook book, but it’s (at least in my mind) become her enduring signature dish. Whenever I eat this meal, I think of my family. This meal is love.

I’m an adult, I’ve made more complicated dishes than this. Frankly, I could probably just bung it all in the instant pot and have it ready in under an hour. For some reason though, I don’t. There’s no reason it needs to be bound to a time and place, but for some reason in my head it is. It’s a family meal and I haven’t pulled it out for other means. It makes no earthly sense. I’m resigning this to my impending death because… why again? My friends here are practically family. I think it’s high time I had a dinner party and shared with them the last thing I’d eat before I die.

I just hope that’s not tonight. We don’t have any chicken wings or spare ribs in the freezer.

The real deal or no deal

I saw St Vincent last night.

It was one hell of an experience. Then again, it always is. I think it was the third or fourth time. Given that I’ve been tracking her career for years, it was also somewhat surreal. When I saw her at The Kings Arms back in 2012, she almost kicked me in the head. The Kings Arms (R.I.P.) was a legendary venue back in Auckland, New Zealand. I saw an absurd amount of now huge indie bands there in my burgeoning concert-going years. I think it was around a 500 capacity venue. It was always tightly packed, sweaty and a riot in the making. There was a great beer garden and they’d always have earplugs on hand if you needed them. I fucking miss that place.

I next saw her at Yonge and Dundas Square touring her self titled album. It was her mainstream breakthrough and the scale had changed. Like zooming out on Google Maps. Big stage persona and sets. Her image was tweaked. Her sound had morphed from unsettling indie rock to something resembling art pop. Evolution in an artist is a healthy thing and her music still kicked ass. Still, the stage at Yonge and Dundas was quite a departure from the lil’ ol’ Kings Arms. Still, amazing show.

Last night’s Sony Centre performance was another couple of Google Maps zoom outs again. The Sony Centre is a big deal venue. The lighting and sound are fantastic. It’s all seated and, unlike shitboxes like Rebel, they’ve actually considered acoustics. The way that Annie Clark tours now is a world away from The Kings Arms. There’s no judgement, simply observation. She’s a big fucking deal now. She’s not an indie artist. I don’t know if it’s possible to be an indie artist with billboards in Times Square. The scope of what she presents onstage is entirely different. I feel like she’s at the stage where now, she has people. Like Donald Glover or Beyonce or something. It’s not that she doesn’t have creative input, but that she’s likely presented with ideas and she gets to say yay or nay. Her costumes are involved and creative. The lighting is enormous and complex. She changes to a new coloured guitar in every song. There’s actual choreography. I can’t imagine old Annie doing stadium style fists in the air to encourage crowd clapping. It just wasn’t her style. Economies of scale, right?

Let’s get something out of the way: I think Annie Clark is the coolest fucking person in the world. She’s an immensely creative, talented artist. She writes these songs that drip with menace and humanity. Her music strings along this kind of existential madness that no doubt scares me on some level. I find that unbelievably exciting. In interviews she’s so quick, clever and funny. She seems like a very genuine person who appreciates where she is. She can shred a guitar solo to bits. I don’t know how many bands feature their lead singer as their lead guitarist, but I feel like those duties are usually divided between multiple people. Not when it comes to St Vincent. She looked me dead in the eyes back at Yonge and Dundas Square and I literally swooned. I’m entirely taken with her. There was this moment right before the chorus in “Cheerleader” where she reared her head up and spat before singing. As a distilled moment, it sticks in my brain as one of the coolest, most rebellious, sexiest things I’ve ever seen. I say all of this not because I objectify her, but because I adore her. I don’t know if it would’ve even been possible to have not enjoy the gig.

My seats weren’t perfect. I was pretty far back, enough so that I had trouble making out her facial features. Still, she sounded fucking awesome. The lighting looked amazing and was totally captivating. Everything worked in concert (pun obviously intended) to distill a certain mood. Her setlist was great, showcasing her more recent material but still with at least four songs from Strange Mercy (and “Marrow” from Actor, which was a delight). I’ll never hear “Huey Newton” the same way again. Despite a weird internal disconnect with the scale, I had a goddamn riot of a time.

If this is what “selling out” resembles for St Vincent, it puts paid to that notion even existing in the first place.

Could I be any more of an ideal spokesman?

I rode a bike yesterday!

It was magical. The wind whipping through the phantom locks I had in my experimental hair phases. Engaging my calves pushing uphill. Trying to wrap my head/hands around the odd downward sloping bullhorn style handlebars. An all new familiar experience. Unexpected and thrilling. I used to bike all the time. As a kid, from ages 10-15, I’d bike to school. I buckled my wheel at some stage and kept riding on that wheel for several years. It was so freeing. As a cookie-doughy child, I got to be active and experience the joy of speed. To have that control, to find new hidden routes and side streets. To zip around in charge of my own direction. I’d cover so much ground and see small changes on my day to day route. I tried besting my old times, it was awesome. I never really got the confidence to ride on the road, plus bike lanes virtually didn’t exist yet. So it was always ducking and weaving around pedestrians on the footpath.

Last night a bunch of us went out to Kensington Market for drinks. After chatting and chilling, we piled back to our friend’s place for more relaxed hangabouts. It was a no brainer. We could stay in a bar grabbing expensive drinks, or go back to her plounge and tailor our own vibe. Thing was, all the liquor stores were closed. Not even Wine Rack, the last refuge of desperate drunks, was open. She had a couple of bottles, but it felt like a dick move for us all to deplete her stash. When we arrived, I opted to go and grab some bottles from home. I was just down the hill, after all. With a monthly pass, I could even grab a bus there and back if the times synced. She off-handedly offered her bike. I opened my mouth for polite refusal and thought for a secondHow many years had it been since I’d ridden? Too many. It’d be faster and maybe more fun. The five or six drinks I’d had by then nudged me in the direction of yes and I went for it. I grabbed a helmet and climbed aboard.

Maybe the beers helped. It was just like riding a bike. Sure, the handlebars were more narrow than I was used to. My recovering wrist made things a little less secure. Given that it was almost midnight, nobody was around, so I took the footpath. It was great. I reined in my speeds coming down the hill and made it home in sub five minutes. I parked up front, put together a goody bag of liquor and climbed back on. Was it a fixie? Oh, it totally had gears. they were these odd little toggles that were quite estranged from what I’d grown up with, but they worked. Away I went. Even in my drunken state, the hill was a breeze. I didn’t even need to stand. I guess when you grow up in the land of dormant volcanoes, everywhere else is flatland by comparison. I was back at my mate’s place within 15 minutes.

Every year I think about buying a bike. Every year it gets late into summer and I think well, next year will be the year. It isn’t. Every year. Maybe though, and hear me out here, maybe next year will be the year. Not this year, because my wrists need time to heal. Next year though? It’s perfect. I’m sure it’ll happen. I do get bogged down by the artifice of owning a bike though. I’d need all the accessories; helmet, lock, etc. I’d have to consider lugging the vehicle around or where I was gonna store it. It’d make navigating public clunky at times. It’s that stuff that gets in my head ever year and thwarts plans to get one. Really though, I’m sure it’s not as bad as I think. It’s not an all or nothing conundrum. Just because I have a bike, doesn’t mean I need to use it all the time. I can take it when I want to, when the sun is shining just right. When I’d otherwise walk but want a swifter trip. Maybe if I was picking things up and slung my backpack over my shoulders.

2019, you hear me? Twenty biketeen. It’s coming.