Quite quote unquote, quid pro quo?

I’ve been humming and hawing (a word I’ve been using for years without knowing the true meaning. Apparently it’s to hesitate in speech) about what to write. No cohesive themes are popping into my head. I don’t have the darndest notion of where to start, but if I’ve learned anything from this project it’s that starting is the quickest route to getting somewhere.

Man, that sounded like I dropped some serious wisdom:

“Starting is the quickest route to getting somewhere” – Albert Einstein.

Maybe I’ve finally gained the ability to casually drop aphorisms on the fly. Wouldn’t that be a rad superpower. It sounds meek at first blush, but the more you think about it, you’d be able to give your opponents pause while you came in for the coup de grâce. They’d be standing there doing some serious hawing (’cause the only way to truly learn a word is to use it in a sentence, right?), and I’d take advantage of their flat footed predicament. An ability to drop truth bombs at will sounds like a great power with great responsibility.

I read an Onion article the other day “Man Forced To Reverse-Engineer Point In Midst Of Meandering, Absentminded Rant“. I was just happy they had the restraint not to print my real name. Perhaps it’s come from years of downing Harmontown episodes, but I totally do this. I’ll start at a certain point in a conversation with this unearned confidence that I’ll be able to spout something vaguely resembling sense. I’ll twist and contort, taking non-linear sidesteps while engineering a through-line that comes together at the end. It’s a high wire act. I’m well aware that most of the time it doesn’t work, but when I have a couple of drinks, any potential self-doubt is clipped in favour of blind faith. I’ll make it happen, even if I have to force it with clunky segues and tenuous narrative links.

I get away with it far more than I should. Maybe here in Canada it’s an offshoot of accent privilege. I’ve mentioned it a bunch of times before, but I feel like having a Kiwi accent affords me a great many privileges here in a foreign country. You know that socially observed phenomenon whereby attractive people go through life with strangers being nicer to them? 30 Rock did a great episode on it with John Hamm. Living in a foreign country, I feel like having an accent gives shades of the same. So perhaps people smudge over those times when my conversational crafting is bumbling at best. Possibly they’re not even understanding the words I’m saying, but get a kick out of my cadence. If neither of us notices and it gives me neat little advantages, I’m certainly not gonna complain.

I was saying to my girlfriend the other day that I’d love nothing more than to have a job where I could just be amicable and charming all the time. Spout total nonsense, but help facilitate others having a blast. I like making people happy as much as I enjoy being liked. Win/win all around. I was speaking to a French dude today who said when he was in Korea, he got invited on a popular KPOP panel show just because he was a) tall and b) spoke English. They were all oh, your English is so great as he spoke in his thick French accent. He told me he had zero qualms about monetising that shit, because it made others happy and he benefited from it. Is there some way I can do the same? Find a line of work where I can be me and that’ll be enough for others? Where my meandering absentminded rants are marketable? How do I even set out to find that?

Then again, as the great Albert Einstein once said: “Starting is the quickest route to getting somewhere.”

Wise words indeed.


Bill da wall.

I’ve been in a monologuey mood since my trip. I’ve had a bunch of Facebook discussions with friends. Here’s something that cropped up from a chat about American folks tendencies to look at the world as existing within their own borders. It’s very much a thematic extension from yesterday’s topic.

You’re totally on the money there. When we took our US RV road trip in 2011 we had a lot of thoughts on this. There’s a shocking statistic out there that without exaggeration something like 87% of Americans don’t own a passport. For many it’s a financial issue. You know that post about “Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires” that was going around during the election? I think that plays into it a bunch. There’s also the notion that for years they’ve been fed this message that America is the greatest country in the world, so why go anywhere else? The message is so pervasive that as a kid growing up on American TV, I used to believe it.

Living in NZ it was insane to me that some people had never seen the ocean. In NZ the ocean is everywhere. I think you’re something like 2 hours drive away from the ocean at max at any time. It’s a huge element of our way of life. Because of the scale of the US you can drive for days without seeing it. Some people go their entire lives without the opportunity. For me I just had to cross the street.

Then when you travel the US you realise how geographically and (relatively) culturally diverse most states are. It’s like traveling between countries. Add to that a country with a dense fear of change. If they’re sticking to their own borders they don’t need to think about different currency, languages or customs. They can be unapologetically themselves.

While I couldn’t be more vehemently opposed to the mentality, I understand it. I love travel and it’s led to a lot of my opportunities for growth. I’ll always remember meeting Peggy Sue, who worked at a checkout in a Roanoke Walmart. She was the sweetest. Very funny and kind, but had also never heard of New Zealand before. When we told her about our plastic money, she laughed at the absurdity of it, handed us a coat hanger and said “here’s your chance, sir”. She thought we were making it all up. She’d never in her life traveled more than the next town over. I don’t think it’d really occurred to her. We all felt a little sad, but at the same time realised that thinking any less of someone because they haven’t had the same opportunities as you was a shitty, elitist and classist mentality.

It’s tempting to look at the insular nature of the US and think “oh, it’s just cause they’re dummies” and be done with it, but this is a hella myopic view when the reality is so much more complicated.

Skeletons of memories.

I’m starting this by saying that this entry won’t be me at my top of my game. It’s been a long day. I went maybe 6 hours without drinking water and now my brain is all backed up. My phone is stuck on some booting loop and the suggested solutions from the internet aren’t working. It’s 10.30pm and I’ve just eaten dinner. You know what that means, right? LIST TIME.

While I was prepping dinner, the phrase (or combination of two words. Not 100% sure it’s a “phrase”) “Remember When” popped into my head. That’s enough of a writing prompt for me to go go gadget bulletpoint:

  • Remember when buying candy was super exciting? When you’d go to the corner store and they’d have something like pop rocks that came in a little plastic toilet? You’d lose your mind at the novelty of it all, even when it was just sugar at the end of the day. Or that tongue colour changing technology? You’d walk up to some adult and they’d be all “what’s going on you young whipper snappin’ youngin’?” and you’d be all “BLARGH. LOOK AT MY TONGUE” and it’d be blue and you thought they’d be like “WOAH, THIS KID MUST BE PART GIRAFFE” but instead they were like “have you been hitting the jenkum too hard again? I had a storied childhood.
  • Remember when it was totally acceptable for someone’s gender identity to be the butt of a joke? When TV execs thought it’d be hilarious to make a dating show like The Bachelorette then be all whoopsie, she’s trans like that was some hilarious switcheroo instead of reducing someone’s very being into a joke? Then the contestants had the gall to try and sue for psychological damages? Is there a better illustration of gay panic lying around?
  • Remember when you were a kid and your friend’s parents would have one of those rotary telephones sitting in the corner of a room and you’d play with it as if it never had a tacit practical use? Then the parent would be like “well in my day” and you’d be all “your day is past. Hurry up and expire you sack of dry bones so we can inherit the earth.” Then we did inherit the earth and phones hardly have physical buttons let alone some rotating finger trap, yet we still have the audacity to use the word “dial” when we talk about calling someone.
  • Remember when Robbie Williams tore off his skin and we found out he was actually a skeleton in disguise the whole time? That was pretty trippy.
  • Remember when Pokémon hospitalised a bunch of kids in Japan and you were all “holy shit, a cartoon killed people?” but also those monster things look kind of cool. I wonder when this show will make it over to New Zealand?
  • Remember when coffee, alcohol and avocado were gross and now they’re the only things that sustain your boney old bones?
  • Remember when Bone Thugs N Harmony hung out at public transit buildings with Phil Collins and he looked into the camera all staunch? Then he’d loosen up when the chorus came around?
  • Remember when people would use the word “bones” in lieu of a currency? Like “How much for a night in your fine inn?” “three bones, goodsir and I’ll toss in a bowl of soup with a heel of crusty bread”? Me niether, but I’d like to live in that world.
  • Remember when you got your first bra and you were a 30 year old male? Then you went to a drunken art party on a train wearing said bra and drunken people were like “I guess it’s fine to shove fake money into your bra and that bit will never get old” and you sorta adopted a grin and bear it approach and you weren’t so much offended by people’s ownership of your body autonomy as you were that they failed to realise how hack and uninspiring the joke was. Then an all female Van Halen cover band played and that was kinda cool.
  • Remember when your parents got you a subscription to the Delta Airlines kids travel magazine and it had stories/comics with the characters? Plus it’d showcase the kids meals which looked super exciting? Then you got to fly with Delta Air and were super pumped, but it was a mediocre airline and the kids meals fucking sucked and your dreams died with your mortal shell soon to follow?
  • Remember when petrol broke $1/L back in the 90s? Then by the time you had a car you were paying $2.20/L and it cost over $120 to fill your tank?

I had a time. No bones about it.

Should I rename myself NapoLeon?

It’s weird when old memories pop into your head. I was just recounting the “cheese block incident” on some Facebook page. The conceit of the thread was about old stories that you got away with as a kid. Now that we’re (ostensibly) adults, we could tell our parents because none of it matters any more. What would they do? I was a pretty well behaved child. I had no interest in drugs or alcohol for the most part (though teenage binge drinking was a) something I did and b) something they knew about. Not supported, but more of a *sigh* boys will be boys kind of thing). I got good marks and most of my friends were the same. In short, we were nerds. My older brothers were the opposite. They’ve grown into upstanding adults with kids of their own, but it took a while to get there. Nothing that ruined their lives, but they have great stories. Mine are just medium. I was precocious more than anything.

Which is why this following story is more for me than it is for you.

My parents were having a party, as they often did. They’d constantly invite their friends around for big barbecues or dinners. The adults would put on music, drink and chat. They’d bring their kids and we’d have a little cluster of sub-adults. Usually there’d be more kids my older brothers’ ages (7-9 years older), but I’d invite a friend to keep me company. The older kids would usually mess with us. They weren’t cruel, but the games we’d play would usually cast us in the losing role. “Chasies” was a popular one. Kind of a “Hide and Go Seek” variant. The little kids would hide while the big kids counted down. If we were discovered, we’d have to run and avoid tackling. If we whined or cried, they’d tag instead. The unique aspect of “Chasies” is that the little kids were armed. We had a collection of toy weapons (a plastic bat we called “The Magic Bat”, swords, etc) that we could fight back with. If we fought them off again, it would give us space to run away more. I don’t know if we realised what a losing game it was, we’d be caught eventually. Seriously though, we were allowed to wail on the big kids. Given the age difference, our damage potential was limited only by our shrimpy bodies.

This particular night, we weren’t doing well. I had one friend, this fiery little guy with a bright red afro. I got tackled hard at some point and started crying. I sulked and ran off to my room, real worked up. I pulled out one of my dinosaur books and showed my friend these dinosaurs that slammed heads together (Pachycephalosaurus, according to wikipedia). This, I told him, would be our winning tactic. One of the big kids came into the room and I screamed at him to get out. I got my felt pens out and starting writing “Leon’s Private Room” on the door so they’d know. One of my parents caught me and told me to cut it out, that I should know better than drawing on my door. I don’t know how many years it lasted, but for maybe a decade “Leon’s Priv” stood boldly in the centre of my door.

Anyway, where it gets good is that my parents forced us to suck it up, go out and get playing again (I don’t blame them, they wanted to get back to the party). I’d kind of forgotten about my whole Sun Tzu monologue from earlier. My friend hadn’t. I was hidden in a bamboo bush, Magic Bat at the ready, when I heard an older kid shout out in pain. I rushed out of my hiding spot and the game was called off. My friend had headbutted one of the big kids right in the fucking face. A big bruise was on its way. The adults chastised the older kids for riling us up and the game was over for the night. For once, we’d won.

Come to think of it, maybe I missed my calling as a legendary general.

If I started a town of things I hated, he’d be the Mayer.

As I’ve aged, my edges have softened. There was no avoiding it. Whether by natural decline or deliberate change, I’ve tapered down the animosity and upped the empathy. It felt unavoidable. The more I went through, the less simply I could blindly judge without consideration. Is that what growing old is? Innate understanding through experience? Inescapable worldly wisdom? Compassion as a rite of passage?

I’m burying the lede, but what I’m trying to say is that despite all this, sometimes it’s really fucking fun to hate on things with no good reason.

John Mayer. My distaste for John Mayer originated in that same petty part of my teen existence that shunned pop music because it wasn’t tailored to my tastes. It was cool to act like you were better than others (believe me, I knew I wasn’t. Social hierarchy and my affinity for fedoras taught me as much). The early 2000s were my height of needless animosity. All the dime store Hootie and the Blowfish imitation acts, anything bubblegum or “techno” or syrupy ballads. To teenage Leon it was all shite. John Mayer fit squarely into this mould. “Your Body is a Wonderland” had vast reach and all of that saccharine bollocks I loathed. Plus he was popular with girls and I wasn’t. That was about all it took. The fact that he was an quite very accomplished guitarist was just fuel for the fire (not that which I desired). Jesus, just listen to Neon for fuck’s sake. What a smug bastard.

I was overjoyed, then, to discover that he was apparently a total prick. Snide and arrogant, rude and self-centred. Plus he was (intentionally or not) rude to Kumail. What’s not to hate? He was on this week’s Harmontown, surprising by any yardstick. He just didn’t seem the kind of guest they’d have on. I had no idea how I’d feel about him, given all that growth talk I shoehorned into the intro. Would I have gotten over it all, given that I’ve changed in leaps and bounds since I was a teen? Well, it doesn’t sound like Mayer has changed all that much. It wasn’t so much that Mayer was rude, but was still as self-absorbed as ever (though that’s rich coming from a Harmontown fan). His attempts to sound self-deprecating came off as endless bragging. He was nowhere near as clever or funny as he thought he was (as evidenced by his past stand-up material). All in all, I was vindicated.

Why any of this should matter, I have no idea. I don’t know this guy. His material has no bearing on my life. Still, I get some perverse joy from holding the guy in low esteem. Then again, Mayer isn’t the only thing I purposefully hate on. Without further commentary, here’s some other stuff I loathe for no good reason:

  • The DC Comics universe.
  • Stella Artois.
  • Marble cheese.
  • Mark McGrath.
  • Star Wars branding on produce.
  • Portable media.
  • The Emoji Movie.
  • The Big Bang Theory.
  • The Munchkin games.
  • The Cherry Poppin’ Daddies’ band name.
  • Carlos Mencia.
  • Canadian bus stop ads.
  • Wearing more than two layers.
  • Orange Pekoe tea.
  • Katherine Heigl.
  • Jimmy Fallon.
  • Instagram.
  • Digg.
  • Starbucks.
  • Kevin James.
  • Boss Baby.
  • People complaining about award ceremonies.

But mostly John Mayer. My life has no room for squares.

There’s a VR game we could all use.

I may have overdone it with the coffee today and I think my body is imploding. You’d think I’d be bouncing off the walls, but instead my corporeal form is in disrepair attempting to process it all. I’m wading through mental sludge and progress is both slow and plodding. Can you plod in a swamp? Is plodding tied to speed or specificity of action? In my head it’s onomatopoeic and relies on heavy footfalls. Do you make heavy footfalls in a swamp if any evidence is mired within dense and viscous liquid? Does a foot fall of nobody can see or hear it?

Why is there no Buddhist film making team called the Kōan Brothers?

I bought a VR headset yesterday simply because it was cheap. $10 down from $50. Came with a bluetooth controller and earphones. It’s not advanced and for the most part it’s just plastic housing for a mobile phone. Still, I’ve been curious to give VR tech a try for a while. I’ve always had issues with motion sickness and my pre-eminent worry is that VR will be a quick way to throw up. In the past it’s been a depth of field issue. With First Person Shooters if I can’t see the character’s hands, I get queasy. I tried downloading this game Zombie Shooter last night, but five minutes in I got sorta nauseous. I’m hoping it’s not a VR-wide issue. Youtube has a ton of 360 degree videos. Perhaps I’ll try one of them. It’d be sort of shit to be pushed out of an emergent technology because my brain can’t handle choppy visuals.

Wait. Maybe the secret is to overdose on coffee first. How many cups have I had today? Four or five? If my brain is too tired to properly process the information being fed into it, maybe that’ll smooth out the lacklustre frame rate. I can hack my body chemistry with bro science! Or I’ll see what my innards look like on the floor. Bad end.

I got distracted and stopped typing. I’ve gotta keep this train rolling by any means necessary. Is Barney the Dinosaur still around? Apparently it finished back in 2009. Odd as it sounds, when I was younger I half wished I was even younger so I could’ve enjoyed it. Of course I would’ve wanted to learn math from a dinosaur. Still, when it premiered I was old enough to take joy in mocking the show. I remember hearing about a Doom 2 mod called Barney Doom. Back in those pre-internet days, everything was hearsay and bootlegs. It was rare to get a hold of those prized rarities. They were like contraband. I’d heard of Barney Doom but never played it. As a seven year old, nothing sounded funnier than blowing Barney to bits with the BFG. Was it some latent counter-culture manifesting at my young age? Rebelling against what exactly? Saccharine educational content aimed at a younger generation? Woah, don’t cut yourself on that edge, kiddo. Then again, it sounds like the wheel has turned and Barney now has lessons I’d benefit from.

Now all that free love he was spouting makes an awful lot of sense.

Ad-Just my type.

I lately feel like I’ve lost the ability to type and furthered my ability to typo. Why? Because I made seven typos in that first sentence. I’m not shitting you (and I swear it was by no means intentional). My fingers have recently become leaden and clumsy like a golem trying to tango. I wish it weren’t so, but I’ve clearly inherited a voracious brain disease and it’s chowing down on all my synapses. Sure, I never actually learned to touch type and that could be a large part of this whole mess. Maybe I’m just getting lazy and assuming my fingers will get to where they need to be without actually visualising the keyboard. Or perhaps I’ve gotten reliant on my phone’s swype functionality. Whatever it is, if you’ve been wondering why my entries have been shorter lately, it could be because I’ve used the backspace key more than any one letter.

When I was a kid I thought the “spacebar” sounded cooler than any other key. Escape was a close second. I had no idea what that little cluster of Insert to Page Down did. The F keys occasionally got used in games, but beyond that I was clueless. There’s no moral to this story or hidden parable. I just thought it was cute to mention.

I could probably fill a week with little “when I was a kid” anecdotes. Let’s put my money (a sliver of it) where my mouth is and see if I can do one entry.

When I was a kid I split more than one pair of pants by farting. I don’t know if I had a propensity for bending over and flexing the butt fabric as much as possible. Maybe I just lucked out. For sure though, I’d push those little seams as far as they could go and toot my way through. This wasn’t sabotage. I was mortified. It was quite possibly even psychologically damaging. Perhaps that’s why I started wearing almost exclusively track pants on my lower half.

When I was a kid I’d find toy adverts exciting beyond all else. Even toys I had no interest in. I just got excited seeing the child actors getting excited and that made me want to join in. Perhaps I was super empathic or something. In the event that I did get something advertised on TV there was this whole “monkey see” aspect. I’d repeat the action I saw onscreen. Then I’d usually become oddly disillusioned when I wasn’t having as much fun as the kids in the ad did. I remember interrupting an adult discussion of ads that deserved to win at the annual Fair Go ad awards. I told the adults in no uncertain terms that the Power Rangers toy ad was a shoe in, because it showcased the full line of toys and which looked fun to play with. What else could an ad possibly do? I mean, it’d worked on me, for one.

When I was a kid my Nana used to make the coolest jelly. It’d be three colours in layers, then have little bits of banana in there. As an adult I’ve thought about that jelly on a weekly basis, but I don’t think I’ve ever completed the simple steps of a) looking up a recipe or b) following through on that recipe. My Nana never had the internet and I’ve never had a good excuse.

When I was a kid I’d develop crushes on actresses and cartoon characters all the time. Cameron Diaz in The Mask, the Pink Ranger in the aforementioned Power Rangers. Lola Bunny for obvious reasons. Nala from The Lion King for less obvious (though I think I identified with Simba because… actually I don’t know. Maybe there was something in my brain about my name meaning “lion” and having some illusory kinship because of it?) reasons. Thing was, I’m pretty sure there was nothing sexual about it. I was immensely sexually naive as a child, but hyper-romantic. I fell in love with girls from school every second day from the slightest gesture. They lent me a pencil? SOUL MATES FO LYFE, YO. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do with that notion. I think I kind of liked the idea of kissing/being kissed. Holding hands with a girl was basically a tacit marriage contract. The concept of sharing something secret that existed only between myself and a girl inhabited this forbidden space walled off by shame and self-loathing. Of course they wouldn’t like me back, but a guy could dream, right? To be clear, this all kicked in around age six. I was a fast learner.

When I was a kid I never got my pen licence. My handwriting was abhorrent and I often had to stay after class to finish lines. I guess the educational system thought that rote learning could fix my aesthetic inability. I guess they were wrong. At some stage I wrote tiny letters and decided it looked neater, so from then on I made my handwriting tiny. To be clear, it was still borderline indecipherable. The habit, however, stuck. By the time I was in university, I’d be writing these dense essays that weren’t merely crammed full of polysyllabic words, but in joined letters with minuscule letters. I’m surprised I ever got a passing grade.

Maybe constant typos are my fingers’ way of getting nostalgic.