If I was a contender, I’d go by the name MeLeeon.

When I was around seven or eight years old, I thought medieval stuff was the coolest. I still loved super heroes and transformers, dinosaurs were right up there, but medieval anything was a newfound obsession. It started exactly where you’d expect: Reading King Arthur. Here was a person who came to rule through exceptional circumstance. He started with nothing and ended up a king. If that wasn’t enough, he surrounded himself with a bunch of badass knights who all had their unique skills and attributes. To an eight year old, Arthur was pretty rad, but Lancelot was where it was at. The greatest swordsman in the land, but not an infallible hero. Even at that age I was drawn to characters with flaws, anti-heroes or those whose moral compass veered slightly off due north. I thought the whole affair with Guinevere thing was a bit shit, but created an interesting conflict. Then along came Galahad, who seemed too righteous to be any fun.

Finishing the book caused me to dive deep into fantasy novels. Courageous heroes wielding swords, shields and axes. Grizzly monsters and fire-breathing dragons. Magic and back-stabbery galore. I fucking ate it up. I fell hard for Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf series and its diverse skillsets of magika and mental abilities. I loved Diablo and Warcraft, tried Dungeons and Dragons. I devoured Song of Ice and Fire, which went on to become the biggest fucking thing in the world. To this day I still play Magic the Gathering heavily. As it stands though, there’s still one thing I have yet to do to really harness my love of fantasy. In three hours, there won’t be.

I’ve never visited Medieval Times.

I first saw it on the 1996 Jim Carrey film The Cable Guy. It looked amazing, but also didn’t seem real. I was convinced that it was just invented for the film. Keep in mind that this was pre-internet and I lived across the other side of the world where it certainly didn’t exist. A friend and I took a trip to Chicago once and found out they had one. Without a car though, it would’ve been way too far out of the way. Disappointed. We then did a road trip across America, but still didn’t come close enough to one. Then I moved to Toronto and discovered that not only was there a Medieval Times, but they did birthday discounts. HOLY SHIT.

Three years have passed since then and I still have yet to go. Tonight however, tonight is the knight. I get a 45% discount through work, which makes it pretty damn reasonable for a night out. I’m pumped. It’s not logical how stoked I am right now. Friends are coming over, we’re gonna have drinks then go out to see the fantasy world of my childhood come to life. You know those moments where you’re reduced to that state of youthful wonder? I feel like that already and I’m not even dressed yet. Thing is, I don’t even know what I’m in for. It sounds dumb, but I’m not actually sure what the show contains. I assume jousting and sword fights. People have said you get a crown. I know that one of my co-workers used to play the executioner as a part time job back in college. We’re gonna get a big meal and drink beer. I may go hoarse from cheering on our very own Lancelot. I’ll likely be amped up from a little pre-drink before we go.

Goddamn I’m excited and the more I talk about it, the more excited I’m getting. Is this how normal people feel about watching sports? Why don’t we go out to watch athletes joust and melee any more?

Who cares? I WILL TONIGHT!

Is today the day I’ll finally get to see Greene Daeye perform? They’re somewhere out there.

Happy St Patrick’s Day, if that’s a thing that makes you happy. It’s been years since I went out to celebrate. I used to love it back in university, but most of my post uni celebrations have fizzled. I’ve got no connection to any Irish heritage. I like the colour green and enjoy celebrating things, but that’s about it. St Paddy’s in my head has kind of become synonymous with a certain brand of douchedom, long lines, aggressive loudness and bizarre acculturation. U2, The Cranberries and oddly enough in some cases, The Proclaimers, on repeat all day. Conversely, I enjoy an excuse for a few pints of Guinness and rarely make them outside of the holiday. I’m sure it’d be painful after having had legit delicious Guinness in Belfast (people telling you it’s better closer to the source are 100% correct), but sometimes it’s nice to have your beer more closely resemble a thickshake.

I’m going out with co-workers today. Our team at the moment is actually a pretty decent group. They’re outgoing and friendly and there’s some value in spending together outside work hours for a more cohesive work atmosphere. It happens that a day where drinking is celebrated is a good way to get them enthused with the idea. Given my team, douchedom should be thankfully absent and it could be a fun outing.

Back in my early 20s, I felt like drinking was a part of my identity. That’s a terrifying concept to me now, but I was a lot younger back then. If not only physically, then definitely emotionally. It’s a thing that I do, but by no means does that consumption define me now. Gross. At that age, it represented a kind of community. Fellow BCS students would come out together and get to know one another. The openness it encouraged helped solidify friendships. It was an essential part of my time as a student (no doubt buoyed by New Zealand’s rampant binge drinking culture. Definitely not something to celebrate).

I can remember the first time I went out for St Paddy’s being a nigh magical experience. A couple of us had finished lectures by 11am, so we went out for a jug. Everyone we met was uncommonly friendly, so we got another. Then strangers told us about a couple of other bars that were hosting festivities, so we went along. The Fiddler had Irish tunes going strong and a bunch of middle aged folks getting ripped. It was a blast. Then out of nowhere, a little person dressed as a leprechaun descended on a platform from the floor above. It was a major WTF moment for us that seemed to be taking advantage of this dude. We chatted with him afterwards, said he loved it. That the owner was a nice dude and he was getting paid pretty handsomely for the gig. He was training to be a vet, so any extra cash was well appreciated. He was working the whole night, so he couldn’t come out with us, but we picked up other strangers to join our motley crew.

It was crazy, processions of people roaming the streets dressed in green. It may have been the boozy haze glossing over things, but I remember everyone being in great spirits. Friendly randoms giving out free drinks (SO welcome to our poor student budgets) and smiling faces wherever we went. It felt like people made time and space to get to know us (for the night at least, I’m sure the next morning would’ve felt like Memento). Good natured partying all around.

I think every year since then has failed to live up to that first time, which is why I laid the idea to rest a couple of years back. It seemed unnecessary, gratuitous. Who knows though? Maybe it’s a matter of attitude, choosing the right things to celebrate. If we can sidestep the less desirable acculturation elements, could we have a good time just celebrating camaraderie?

Another life, a lifetime ago.

There’s this radio ad I keep hearing (given that the radio is played in the kitchen and toilets (ya rly) at work). It’s terrible. It’s one of those client voiced ads and every time I hear it, I cringe a little harder. It’s the sound of a production engineer giving zero fucks and wanting to be finished by 5pm. “Here at [insert disability lawyer’s name here] we ONLY GET PAID. when you get paaaaid.” Weird fucking line reads with emphasis erratically sprinkled throughout as if by some darkest timeline Salt Bae. It’s not Prod’s fault that the ad turned out awful. They no doubt got press-ganged into it. Some sales rep with no regard for the on air result wanted an easy sale. I get it. I know how these things happen because I’ve had it happen to me time and time again.

Why is a client voicing at all? Because it’s an easy sales pitch. Appealing to the ego is the lowest common denominator of pitches, it’s pretty gross shit. “Oh, you’d be great. You’re such a big personality and you’d sound amazing on the airwaves. Just think of how much new customers will love walking in and meeting that celebrity they’d heard on air.” Vomit. The only thing more disgusting is how easily it works. Then you as a production engineer have to deal with the fallout.

Sales rep walks into your studio at 4pm telling you that a client is coming in to voice. Notice the lack of the word “ask” anywhere in that sentence? Typically this “conversation” happens ten minutes before this client is due in the studio. You ask them why a client is voicing again. Was it really necessary for the script to have it client voiced? Of course, they assure you. You tell them they’re lying. They reassure you that you just haven’t met this person yet. They’re hilarious, they’ll be fantastic. You tell them they’re lying, that they’re always lying and that they’re scum. Scum who makes three times as much as you do. You tell them (notice the lack of the word “ask” anywhere in that sentence?) to leave your studio, that you have rules about Sales Reptiles leaving their slime around. Tell them it’s bad for the equipment. They leave and you briefly consider self-mutilation as a less painful experience than the one you’re about to undergo.

After they leave, creative (the writers) walk in to apologise. They assure you they ripped out 70% of the copy to make it workable. They said the original script they were given was abysmally overwritten. Also it made no sense, mentioning a plethora of irrelevant details, but the sales rep told the client it was fantastic, so they felt chuffed. Creative apologises, but you’re not gonna shoot the messenger. You briefly regret that it’s illegal to shoot sales. As you do every day.

Sales arrives at the door with the client. “I leave them in your capable hands.” You look down at your “capable” hands and wonder how quickly they could strangle the life out of the reptilian shapeshifter standing outside the door. You invite the client in. Sales thankfully stays behind the door frame. Outside arm’s reach. Next time.

You get them in the booth and give them a couple of notes:

  • Stand up straight, but relax your shoulders.
  • Smile as you talk, it comes through in the voice.
  • Don’t stress about getting it on the first try, we have the technology.
  • Don’t just read the words, think about what they mean.

They may get one or two of the four things, but three or four requires some arcane planetary alignment. Usually they mumble, slouch, emphasise the wrong parts, speak too quickly or slowly. You reassure them not to worry, that it’s going great. You look over at the pile of work already sitting in your In Progress tray and cry on the inside. After 15 minutes of audio for a 30 second ad, you tell them they nailed it. Good job. You know you’ll fix it in post. You take them back out to reception. Two minutes later Sales comes in to say thanks. You tell them to fuck right off. You mean it. Five minutes later Creative walks in, apologises. Asks you if you want to grab a beer after you’re finished.

You say sure. Tell them you’ll be finished by 5pm.

The ad is in the client’s inbox before they arrive back at the office.

I wonder if Shirley Manson ever did turn the tables.

Did anyone else realise that Frances Bean Cobain was not only not a child, but an actual adult? And an artist? That by the age of 24 she was (past tense intens-ional) married? I only know this because of some headline about her getting a court order to have her father’s acoustic guitar (from the MTV Unplugged performance) returned from her ex-husband. Fancy that, Kurt’s little girl is a person now. For all I know she’s been a person for years, but like Macaulay Culkin and Hayley Joel Osment the world will always think of her as a child. Wait, in the case of those last two, maybe it’s that the world would prefer them to still be children. I kid. The Pizza Underground are a slice of good ol’ American national treasure.

There’s probably some internet neologism akin to sonder about children we once knew/knew of who grew up. It shouldn’t be weird or unexpected, I mean, that’s what time does after all. Still, it gets me whenever I’m faced with an adult I used to know as a child. Hell, I’m sure I’d feel the same about old friends of mine I only knew as children. As if I needed yet another surefire sign I was ageing into irrelevance. My vacation back home was a lesson in the aforementioned as yet unnamed internet neologism (see how much cleaner it could’ve made that sentence?). Not only my two and a half year old niece (who I last saw at four months), but younger cousins (I’d guessed they were about seven and nine by now, not 11 and 13) too.

We’re all too aware of how we grow as we age, but with someone who’s been out of sight it seems crazy. I can wank on endlessly about my mental and emotional progression from 16-30. Concurrently there’s this dumb lizard part of my brain that doesn’t extend the same courtesy to those who I’m rarely near. It’s like my internal logic imagines some Schrödinger-esque quark-y existence whereby they could be any type of person in the time between our last contact. It’s only my proximity that solidifies their personality, before that they’re a jumble of potential, positive or sub-optimal. I’m clearly an idiot and a narcissistic one at that. It’s fine.

Kids’ll often grow up to surprise you. Who knew my niece would be so goddamn intelligent and perceptive for a two and a half year old? Seriously, you’ve gotta watch your mouth around that gal. She’ll pick up any conversational scraps left behind. Who knew my cousins would have their own interests and passions that they’d ardently stuck with? Who knew cute lil’ Hayley Joel Osment could be utterly reprehensible in the equally reprehensible Entourage movie (I mean, Entourage being a odious shitpile surprised nobody)?

I guess it’s just weird to think of somebody else for a change. When I grow up maybe I’ll get better at it.

A Mood for Mouthing off.

Because I’ve been procrastinating on the internet all night, it’s time to dig in and get this done. How about a round of dumb complaints?

  • I’m tired because I procrastinated on the internet last night instead of getting a good night of sleep.
  • I’m tired because I’ve been abstaining from drinking coffee. New Zealand’s coffee was so good that I’m loathe to drink shitty coffee and be disappointed.
  • I’m tired because jet lag has finally caught up with me after gloating about avoiding it for the past 24 hours.
  • I’m tired because getting back into work after three weeks of vacation is exhausting (oh poor me).
  • I’m tired because my diet was in travel mode. Getting back to normal food has been a shock to the system.
  • I’m craving rich foods because I’m trying to curb my diet back to something reasonable. The worst part is that they’re easily within reach and I have to exercise willpower. Once again, oh poor me.
  • After eating cheese, bakery food and quaffing booze most nights of my holiday, I feel bloated. I haven’t worked out whether my clothes seeming tight is psychosomatic or not. All I know is that my movement feels sluggish.
  • My body feels achy after my first time back at the gym post holiday. As with everything else, it’ll take a week or two to feel back to normal. Right now it’s like I’ve body swapped with a sloth.
  • Not drinking coffee after drinking so much coffee on vacation is wreaking havoc with my regularity. I used to pride myself so much on my ebullient bowels.
  • I got new slippers. That’s not really a complaint. They’re comfy and come half way up my calves, keeping me warm and toasty. The problem is that when I sit on the dunny my pants (both over and under) can’t slide all the way to the ground.
  • I wanted to chill out and watch something, but as I mentioned I wasted too much time on the internet and the evening is rapidly dwindling.
  • Neil Cicieraga just dropped the third album in the “Mouth” trilogy and because I’m taking a week off Facebook I have nowhere useful to share it.
  • I so want to listen to “Mouth Moods”, but I know how much it’ll lift my morning commute if I save it for tomorrow. I’m part of the internet generation, I’m no longer used to waiting for anything.
  • Then again, part of my identity was forged listening to this twelve times in a row in order to spend several hours downloading Weird Al parodies off Napster. So I guess I need to hand in my Still Jenny from the Block badge.
  • I wanted to go out and watch Moonlight tonight, but as I previously mentioned, I was tired. This means I either need to wait a week for cheap Tuesday tickets (and as I previously mentioned, I’m no longer used to waiting for anything), or see it for full price.
  • I’m mildly miffed that Amy Adams didn’t get a nomination for Arrival. She was fantastic. Then again, The Lobster was nominated for Best Original Screenplay so I have very little to complain about.
  • I like having things to complain about, so I guess The Lobster ensuring that I can’t complain is something to complain about.

If clouds are gonna rain on my parade, at least they have silver lining.

Let’s Face facts and noun a verb.

Having returned to Toronto, it’d be all too easy to post a diary style update of my first day back. Hell, it worked for most of the trip. Instead I want to spend some time thinking about one of the biggest (currently) lasting changes of my holiday. I made a decision early on that if I was gonna be back home in New Zealand I wanted to really be there. Presence and all that. I wanted to ensure that spending time meant getting the most out of my journey. To leave most of Toronto where it was and focus while I could on those in my proximity. A side effect of this was dropping Facebook.

It started as less of a decision and more as a matter of pragmatism.. I’d always been a heavy user. At work my phone sat in front of me, so any flashing notifications would cause me to reflexively pick it up and log on. Checking one notification could mean losing anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. Often multiple times per hour without thinking about it. This was fine while I had Wi-Fi or unlimited data, neither being constantly within reach on vacation. When I visited London back in November, I switched off all Facebook notifications, opting for direct Messenger notes only. I was on holiday anyway, it’s not like I wanted to be constantly logged in while a new city stood around me. It worked, and I had a great time looking in the spirit of the late Kim Jong-Il. When I returned to Toronto, I kept notifications off. It helped more than I thought. I was still an active Facebooknik, but it was less intrusive, more on my terms.

A few days after arriving back home, I opted in for logging out. I spent more time with people or out and about. Most of my (reduced) online time was spent pouring over new Magic the Gathering spoilers. It was noteworthy how little I missed it. As I noted recently, it started having a real effect on me. I was more present, yes, but I also felt better in general. No small part of that could be attributed to being on holiday. I mean, geez, spending time with my closest friends, seeing the country and gorging on all the rich food NZ had to offer. It’s not like I was in any danger of feeling shit anyway. More than that, though, avoiding Facebook lifted a burden I was unaware to be shouldering. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my News Feed a lot. I love absorbing the general wittiness of my friends and clicking dumb links. People share a shit ton of interesting or thought provoking articles.

People also share a lot of themselves, which isn’t inherently a big deal. If I didn’t like these people and want to know more about them, why would I have them as friends? The other side of this is that a lot of people I know have a lot of feelings. Yet again, I want to know when my friends are doing well. I also want to know when they’re having a hard time so I can either help or understand better how to be considerate of them. There are a lot of people in my feed and a lot of these people have a lot of feelings. It’s great that people feel safe enough to share. That’s something special.

The other side of this is a form of mass emotional shift similar to hysteria (which I hope I can say without belittling or minimising the relevance of these feelings). It may be a cognitive bias of sorts, but it feels like bad news is shared a ton more than its positive counterpart. The more that people share these stories and air their grievances (once again, better to be talking about these things than not), the more opaque things seem. If negativity is everywhere, it feeds into itself. The dying few months of 2016 held an unprecedented pervasive despair online that didn’t quite match up to its offline counterpart. As “Fuck 2016” gained meme status, people gave it more and more credence until everything was 2016’s fault à la The Fat Boy. It’s a lot for anyone to take in. Seeing these sentiments amplified and magnified, day in day out, hour after hour was tough to bear.

While on holiday, I knew that Trump was gonna cause a lot of anxiety for many people. With good reason, too. A lot of very valid fears, instability in the air. Self-care being one of 2016’s big buzz words, I thought it best to keep my distance from repeated sharing of awful news, hurt feelings and inner pain. I’m sure the time offline helped more than it hindered my experiences.

Returning home to Toronto, I’m conflicted. I feel better having moved away from the deluge of emotions Facebook pushes my way. At the same time, I’m loathe to admit that it’s the core of my social existence. It’s how I communicate with the multitudes of friends I’m often too busy to meet in person. It’s how I get the invitations to spend time with those who I am lucky enough to see. It’s how I’m kept abreast of what’s going on not only in Toronto, but in the wider world. Hell, it’s where I created a group to organise Magic games on the fly. It’s even where I promote the Pawdcast (aside from here. That was pretty sneaky, right?). If I don’t go back to Facebook, will I lose touch with a ton of people? I love these friends and having constant contact and online engagement is a big part of my life. That’s a big cost to pay for emotional stability.

As it stands, there are pros and cons in each camp. One day in, I haven’t checked in. I might see if I can last the week and chart how I feel on the other side. I’m sure there’s a balance to be struck, but damn if I don’t have enough unpacking, shopping and washing to do for the moment. Maybe I should get my life in order before prying into anyone else’s.

What’s the use in complane-ing?

Maybe I shouldn’t have regretted my Toronto homecoming so much. Circumstances are conspiring to make my wishes come through. First our flights changed (without any email confirmation) to redirect through Chicago instead of New York. Then we spent over 40 minutes on the tarmac at San Francisco waiting to take off. We initially had under half an hour from deplaning to boarding for our ORD-YYZ flight, but as “luck” would have it, our flight was delayed by half an hour (all adding to bed time back in Toronto before work tomorrow morning). We boarded the plane, sat down, then things got fun.

Our pilot got on the intercom. Apparently United airlines commanded all currently grounded flights to stay grounded and await further instructions. Our pilot said instructions would likely take at least another hour. Apparently it was only United wide, so if we wanted we could go and try book on another airline. He then suggested that anyone was welcome to leave the plane, but anyone who did would need to take their baggage, boarding pass and passport. A few people bee-lined it towards the door. I looked at my girlfriend who suggested getting actual food (rather than the delicious but ultimately empty crackers and cheese we’d eaten today). We grabbed our things and walked up the flight tunnel, only to be stopped at the entrance.

A cluster of passengers stood around as airport staff held the front. They said they hadn’t heard anything about us being allowed to leave and we were to stay put. Some Bro-y McBroseph behind me chimed in with some smart ass comment about the staff’s lack of knowledge. I turned to him and politely said “honestly, this is probably as weird for them as it is for us.” He replied “yeah, you’re right” and piped down for a solid ten seconds. He walked back down the hall and his booming voice could be heard proclaiming top notch bro science “it’s not like we’d stay sitting. They’ve done studies, sitting is literally the worst thing you can be doing. Office jobs are basically killing us.” Somebody get that dude a Brobel Prize. In any case, we were soon informed that the pilot had no idea what he was talking about, that we were to return to the plane right away. We stood on the flight bridge, waiting to hear word back. I noticed one of the first class passengers had already tumbled into a restful sleep. The flight bridge staff told us to hold tight, that really nobody knew anything for sure.

A minute later, they told us to hurry up and get on the plane, that they’d found a loophole to let us fly. We rapidly waddled back to our seats, bags in hand. The pilot came back on the intercom, stating that since we were an international flight, technically we didn’t have to stand by the grounding order. He and the co-pilot had manually programmed in a course for Toronto and we’d be ready to leave as soon as everyone’s bags were stowed and people had found their seats. Cheer abounded, the engines roared to life and the flight attendants performed the safety briefing. We were off…

… Except for one thing. That’s when I started writing this entry. We’ve been sitting on the tarmac for the past half hour just idling. I’m pretty sure we’re gonna die here in this aeroplane.

At least I won’t have to worry about the morning commute.