The best offence is a good defence, right?

Kind of as corollary to yesterday’s post, the discussion with my friend about comedy, punching down and causing offence continued. A bunch of it is too specific to be of use here. One thing that stuck out was my friend saying that in his opinion, being offended is a choice. I disagreed.

“As for “being offended is a choice”. That stance is a luxury that not everyone has. As far as the two of us go, we have enough cultural capital to inoculate ourselves from a ton of stuff. We’re both white dudes from affluent, supportive, loving families. We didn’t have to struggle with issues of inequality in the same way others probably did. We weren’t beaten or relentlessly tormented for who we loved. We never had to fear for being shot because of the colour of our skin. It’s very easy to be unaffected by issues that don’t affect you, y’know?

At the same time, just because I don’t feel personally attacked, insulted or used as a punchline by a lot of comedy that punches down, that doesn’t mean to me that people can’t or shouldn’t be. I’ve got no place to judge how others react to anything based on their life experiences. If someone feels hurt by something, I’ve got no right to say that they’re not allowed to feel that way. I haven’t been in their shoes. For a lot of people it’s not a choice, and I don’t think it’s charitable to judge other people based on our own metrics.

As for being offended, it’s rare that I really am. What does happen though, when I hear lazy, sexist, homophobic, racist, etc etc etc content, is that I get disappointed or disheartened. I feel shitty for the people who feel like their struggles are being mocked by someone who has never lived them. I feel sad that people don’t understand the inherent power structures in our society and care more about trying to get cheap laughs by catering to the uncaring majority than considering how to more adeptly structure what they’re saying. Because that would require too much thinking. That’s lazy.”

The thing is, this is all a learned response. It’s not like most of this would be apparent unless someone pointed it out. Has anyone ever done that to you? Made you aware of something that you then couldn’t ignore? A friend once told me that Matt Bellamy, the lead singer of Muse, inhales sharply while singing. I couldn’t help but notice it every goddamn time after that. I’m not gonna say it ruined their music, but it definitely changed how I experienced it. This desperate gasp at the beginning of every sentence. How could you not?

Look, I’m a big ol’ loudmouth know it all. It sure is fun to spread your opinion all over the world wide web in a feeble attempt to get Internet Points. I’ve also, as I’ve aged (rapidly), learned a lot more about what feels worth speaking up about. Comedy, language, and progress are important to me. I’ve put a ton of effort into recalibrating my views on the world and figuring out where the disparity between my perspective and others’ lies. I know that there’s a heap of animosity between polarised political ideologies and, while I’m generally heavily left leaning, I don’t think anyone is totally right all of the time.

There’s a phenomenon we see in progressive circles quite often, where someone will learn something, then turn around and chastise others for not knowing what they themselves just learned. I don’t know what part of this is tolerance or progress. It directly feeds into the notion of holier than thou, ivory tower academia and it’s serving nobody. Learning isn’t always a one way street. Having conversations enables us to teach one another by sharing perspectives the other may not have considered. For this to work though, we have to be open to our own fallibility and view this as a strength.

The thing is, that’s hard. So much of society teaches us that to succeed, we need to be confident. For many of us, we take that to mean steadfast obstinance. If you don’t believe in yourself, your growth will wane. In reality, confidence includes openness to criticism. If you’re confident, you’ll know not to take it personally. That adaptability is a huge strength. That criticism is not an insult, but an opportunity. It’s difficult to hear that you’re not always right, y’know?

Be pensive, not defensive.

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Let’s hope it all comes out in the wash

If you wanted to know how my day’s going, I pointed to a dishwasher with an “out of order” sign and said “working hard, or hardly working?”

I expect that was as clear as it needed to be.

Felt a little raw today, so of course I watched my go-to short film that reduces me to a pile of emotional rubble. It just felt apt, y’know? It’s a wonderful, self-contained short story that epitomises show don’t tell. Gorgeous music, sans dialogue, preciously fragile animation and a slow beating open heart. No matter how many times I watch it, I still choke up. The pacing is phenomenal, a slow build that adds layer after layer. The best part is how it gives you as much as it needs to in order to hint at depths beneath the surface. It’s bittersweet, cute and heartbreaking simultaneously. So, perfect Tuesday fare, I guess?

Speaking of stuff that was good for the heart, I’m glad I went out to the open mic after all. It wasn’t precisely an open mic, but it was a terrific showcase of the kind of creativity inherent to Toronto’s alt comedy scene. The general notion was that of a late night talk show, but completely improvised. As it was a benefit (ish) show, performers and viewers alike were encouraged to bring a can or two to donate. The hosts had a couch and invited people to take part. People could write anonymous “monologue” jokes for one of the hosts to blind read (which resulted in maybe eight “Baby It’s Cold Outside” jokes. “Have you heard about this” certainly loses its lustre after the fourth “Baby It’s Cold Outside” joke in a row). This in itself was a riot. People had all of five minutes to write their jokes before the show started. Most of them were pretty terrible, and the host had a great time ripping on the underdeveloped punchlines, but it was all in good sport. Nobody was taking anything too seriously, and the douchebaggery was altogether limited.

The performance slots they offered were divided into two options. You could either do a stand up set for three minutes, or sit on the couch and riff with the hosts for five. Most people opted for the increased time, which led to a series of wonderfully phoned in “interviews”. A bunch of people had pre-written bits they tried to weave in, but primarily people were wanking around, so to speak. Someone bought his phone onstage and watched the first three or so minutes of Inglorious Basterds with the hosts. Another guest tried to teach one of the hosts how to have “attitude”, mostly trying to goad him into saying “bitch” sassily, to the host’s constant protestations. The majority of the couch segments were straight up dumb and half-arsed, which honestly fit the show to a tee. I got entirely taken by a prank phone call bit in which the comic “called 911” and said there was a fire at the venue, then hung up. He had an actor friend at the back of the bar pretending to be the respondant and, honestly, I was totally suckered. It was a pretty mean-hearted joke, but goddamn if it wasn’t provocative.

You know what? I did fine. With three minutes, I didn’t do all the jokes I’d prepped, but I felt good about it. No jokes fell flat, every one of them got a response and the audience was warm. The vibe was friendly all over, and while I was pretty nervous, I was chuffed to be able to stand up without bombing. I’d spent the day stressing out. I’d spent the previous night lying awake with my eyes closed, trapped in circuitious thoughts. I was a total wreck, but performing felt like a release. I can’t say that I’m gonna dive in head first, heart full of fire, but I’m gonna get up again, sooner rather than later this time.

It’d be downright selfish to waste my best material on kitchen appliances, after all.

Stand up for your mics

I’m doing the open mic tonight!

I think. I hope? I read on the site that the show was at 10pm, sign up was at 5pm. Weirdly, the bar opened at 6pm. I happened to be home today, so I jogged down and got there around 5.10pm to be early like the bloody nerd that I am. It was closed. I looked in and there seemed to be someone inside, so I knocked. A bartender came out and was like “we don’t open until 6pm”. I was like “I know and this feels really dumb to ask, but the website said 5pm sign up so I came down to check it out.” She stared through me and said “well you read wrong, signup is at 9.45pm, so come back then.”

Cool. So now I feel nervous, insecure and that I’m a fucking idiot. Seems fun. It’s also a different format tonight and I’m kind of confused, which isn’t helping anything. I thought it was 5 minute sets, but it might be 3 minutes? But also maybe that’s just for the 8pm show and there’s an open mic afterwards? Who knows, maaaaan? My brain is kind of fixating on doing a set, since it’s been a long time, so maybe I’ll just write out the jokes I’d like to tell.

I go to see a bunch of standup and I’ve seen comics do this thing.
They’ll be all “how’s everyone out there feeling tonight?” and the crowd is like “WOooooOOOOoo.”
Which is fine in a group.
But if I saw a friend on the street and was like “hey bud, how’re you doing?” And they went “WOooooOOOOoo” I would maybe think they were a ghost.

I work in an office. Does anyone else here work in an office?
[hopefully one or two WOOs] – A couple of ghosts. Cool. Spooky, but cool.
If you haven’t worked in an office before, it’s basically just saying hi to coworkers as you pass in the hallway until one of you dies.
Then you get to do their work too.

At our office they play some of the oldies stations and TLC is now considered “oldies”.
I was listening to that song “No Scrubs”, and it’s kind of ambiguous.
You know the one. “I don’t want no scrubs.” It’s confusing.
They’re all “I don’t want no scrubs. A scrub is a guy who can’t get no love from me. Hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me.”
So either Lisa Left Eye Lopez and Co don’t know how double negatives work, or No Scrubs is an ode to their terrible taste in men.

I listen to a lot of music, and honestly, I’m fascinated by 50 Cent. For a while I thought that he was super clever.
He’s got this song “PIMP” and his has this line “A bitch can’t get a dollar out of me.”
Which is great, right? Of course a “bitch” can’t get a dollar out of him. He’s 50 Cent. He’s only half a dollar.

And y’know, that’s not even the most egregious part of the song. So he’s all “I don’t know what you heard about me. But a bitch can’t get a dollar out of me.” And his reasoning is cause he’s “a motherfucking P.I.M.P.”
The thing is, pimping by its very nature is transactional. You’re a business owner who employs contractors to serve clients. Those clients pay you and you take compensation for facilitating the transaction. So if “a bitch can’t get a dollar” out of you, you’re not paying your contractors. You’re not a motherfucking P.I.M.P. You’re an illegal sex trafficker.

Then again, 50 Cent did file for bankruptcy. So maybe “a bitch can’t get a dollar” out of him after all.

That might be a 5 minute set, but it’s certainly not a 3 minute set. If that’s the case, I might drop the TLC bit and see how it goes. Wish me luck?

And maybe a better mood?

I’m dyin’ down here, why not die up there?

Work Christmas party today.

Look, this weekend is about to involve a ludicrous amount of frivolity. As soon as this is done I’m loading up with a “special” coffee to “pregame” the work party. We get two drink tickets each (plus whatever we can scavenge from unscrupulous sources), pregaming is a necessity. There’s a “decades” theme this year. I had every intention of coming as 90s grunge. I was planning on making one of those dumb lighter top pocket clip things (you know, where people took the metal tops off disposable lighters and crimped them around their pocket?) and a wallet chain. I’d have topped this off with some kind of black grunge band shirt, be it Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. A red and black plaid shirt with Doc Martens. I’d have been set.

I’m sure you all divined the past tense from that. paragraph. Ultimately, I couldn’t be bothered. The costume parts were all available from friends, but I didn’t muster up the energy to go around picking it up (and inevitably, dropping it back off). Fortunately, years ago I found a vintage suit for super cheap at Cabaret Vintage on Queen. They used to (before the store shut down) have a basement with incredible $8 deals. I bought a vintage suit reduced from $153 to $8 because it had one tiny rip on the leg. It’s barely noticable to this day, but a swanky vintage suit is in every part noticable. I’ve amortised the $8 I spent over 10+ events. I have no idea what my cost per wear is sitting at, but whatever it is, I’m sitting pretty. Honestly, I’ve spent more on dry cleaning for this suit than I did buying it in the first place and I think I only had it dry cleaned once.

Why am I writing about meaningless drivel to pass the time? Honestly, because therapy was hard yesterday and I’m still dwelling in it a little. She gave me homework and I don’t want to do it. Like, I do, but also I’m scared and avoidant, and pretending it doesn’t exist for a day or two seems a lot easier. She says that, amongst other things, I need to find a creative outlet that gets my mind ticking over in a productive manner. This whole writing project is neat, but I’m not fooling anyone into thinking it’s barely more than a thought dump. She wants me to actually create and push myself into a live, accountable environment. My homework, by next Thursday, is to go to a comedy open mic.

And of course I want to do it, but getting there is goddamn tough. It’s not just getting on stage, it’s getting to the venue and entering the door. It’s not just getting there physically, it’s getting to a place emotionally where I feel like I’m entitled to stand on that stage. It’s not even just that, but writing jokes that I feel are worth people hearing, that they have actual well thought out punchlines that make sense and are congruent with the rest of my set. It’s putting out content that I feel intrinsically has value, and part of that is valuing myself enough to believe that I deserve it.

And it’s not that hard, but it’s fucking hard. I have jokes. I have a lot of jokes that could stand up there, but it’s still work to sit down, be accountable and work out the beats. They need to be punched up, tightened and I need to figure out conduits between one topic and another. There are loose ideas with a ton of potential, that still need to be shaped into workable lines. I probably have a set all written, really, but it’s committing to seeing it as valid and worthwhile. That’s hard for me. Ever the critic, putting my money where my mouth is seems like an insurmountable goal. Which is dumb, because it’d be far from my first time on that stage. I know how much I love it, how my heart beats like a fucking hummingbird, how I’m excited and terrified and simultaneously out of and right in my element.

And I’ll do it, because I have to, and I know it. Because she’s right. Because she’s always right. But that doesn’t make it easy to get there. But I will.

But like, not before the work Christmas party.

Think I could get them to analyse each other?

I don’t really know how to start, so I just will. I feel like that’s the first step. I feel like what I’m gonna talk about, I’ve probably talked about before. Who can remember these things? I talk about a lot of stuff here. Anyway.

I had my first session back with my original therapist in a while. Why am I making the distinction? Because I’m in the bizarre mirror-world scenario of having two therapists at the moment. It’s not that I left one for another. I’m seeing them concurrently, kind of. See, maybe ten or so months ago I mentioned to my GP that I’d been off and on depressed and anxious. She let me know that Ontario does actually provide OHIP coverage for certain therapists, that the wait lists were long, but she could put me on one. I jumped at the chance, then forgot about it a week or so later. Perhaps six weeks ago, when I found myself at the bottom of a deep emotional trough, I realised it’d be a wise decision to go back to therapy. My original therapist happens to be very good, so she was booked solidly for 6 weeks. As in, no openings whatsoever. Having enough benefits coverage for two more sessions, I booked ahead. In the meantime the OHIP sponsored therapy came up and reminded me that was a thing I’d signed up for. So I went and did two sessions with a new therapist, knowing I’d be going back to my original one for two sessions.

It’s weird. It almost feels like I’m cheating, but I’ve made them aware of each other. So it’s kind of more like a poly relationship, but my metas won’t ever meet. I’m careful about what I mention about one to the other, because I don’t want to muddy the waters of treatment. But of course they’re curious, while at the same time applauding the actions and methods of the other. So it’s not like it’s unsupportive. Look, it’s fucking strange, okay? At the same time, it’s so hard building up a therapeutic relationship with someone new. Her style feels rigid and doesn’t gel succinctly with the way my brain does. Still, she definitely knows what she’s talking about and I have every confidence that her methods would be very helpful in the long run. I’m so lucky to have OHIP coverage, so I want to put the work in. My original therapist and I both agree it’s worth sticking with the OHIP therapy in lieu of my original therapist until the end of the treatment module, that it would benefit my mental health to do so.

At the same time, the fact that my original therapist is right is what makes this so difficult. We stepped into that room and got right into it. She knows me so fucking well. She understands how my mind works because we’ve done the foundational work. She gets my struggles and tailors her suggestions explicitly to how she knows I operate. She expertly pinpoints the right areas of my long, scattered rants. She calls me on my shit and doesn’t let me off the hook. It’s exactly what I need. And I feel raw right now because she’s right about everything. We hadn’t seen each other in so long that it was an info dump where we constantly tried to taper down into workable ideas, solutions and talking points. Still, there was so much I never even got to. It’s hard to know where to start, what to talk about, because there’s so much.

To be honest, I think that’s where I want to leave things for now, because it fits where this entry is. This stuff is too fresh and I haven’t worked out where I am with it. Expect that I’ll probably work through it over the next while. If that’s your thing, you know where to reach me. If not, well it was nice knowing ya.

They should start more poetry slams with “It’s time to slam now”

How often do you give thought to when the things you care deeply about arrived in your life?

That was an amazingly clunky sentence, but I swear there was something in it. Firstly, I want to state that I rarely do. I find this odd because firstly, I’m an obsessive navel gazer. just look at how many times I’ve written “I” in this paragraph alone. Secondly, it’s a bigger part of what makes you tick than you’d expect. Think about all the music that defined your teen years. What if you heard different bands instead? Think about the many character defining stories that shaped what excites you in life. Would you still be the same you if not for them? Who would you be? What part of those texts primed you to receive the world with your own earned worldview?

I’m a clusterfuck of a basketcase, likely because I was raised as a cartoon. This has nothing to do with casting aspersions on my upbringing, and everything to do with my childhood desire to replicate behaviours I respected most. Ergo, I became a cartoon. Larger than life reactions, odd responses and strange comic timing. A colossal portion of my personality is based on how I perceive humour. This all started with cartoons. Whether they were the endless Loony Toones reruns on Cartoon Network all day, or the Saturday Morning cartoons from Captain N: The Game Master to Bucky O’ Hare. I am my own special weirdo and that’s double-plus okay. It’s thanks mostly to the many, many cartoons I consumed during my years of major cognitive development.

I mention this because today, at the age of 31, I discovered a band that would likely have defined my late 20s had I known they existed. Okay, saying I discovered them today is mildly disingenuous. I’d half-heard of them before, but I didn’t really know them, y’know?

Discovering them went a little like this: I started listening to the latest Good One podcast with Rachel Bloom (of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame). It centred around a Space Jam chorus line parody she wrote years back that helped lead towards the style of musical comedy she’d grow to inhabit. The podcast started with the sketch itself. Seven minutes into the podcast (before the joke itself had even finished) I remembered that some band once wrote a nine minute song recounting the plot of the movie Space Jam. So of course I abandoned ship and checked out the song (for far from the first time). Having listened to the song many times over the course of as many blue moons, I started wondering who this band was that had the hubris to commit such an audacious track to tape. I did a quick google and discovered that not only had they recorded the song, but they created an entire Space Jam EP on a dumb lark.

It turns out, Come On and Jam is actually fucking great. Sledding with Tigers are a musically talented San Diego folk punk band. The tracks are catchy and funny as hell. They manage to build premises based on silly plot points and expand them out into decent little jams (that’re at times oddly emotionally poignant). I listened, then immediately re-listened. The songwriting was on point and gave a hint to potential depth beyond 90s live action animation hybrid parody pop songs. If there is such a thing. Curious, I checked out some more of their stuff.

Once again, it turned out that they really were just an excellent band. Kind of like a softer Car Seat Headrest cum (in the Latin sense, pervert) Bright Eyes. Their songs spanned emotional insecurity, friendships and relationships, fear of opening up and pop cultural ephemera. Their discography is sweet, pleasantly twee and EXACTLY THE KIND OF MUSIC I WOULD’VE THRASED AT AGE 25+. 25 was the age where I finally began moving beyond my more edgelord-y proclivites and embracing a softer outlook. I got more in touch with my emotional IQ and sought out opportunities to connect more closely to others. I immediately went back to their Bandcamp and bought their entire discography for under 20. The songs are that good. I’ve been listening to three of their albums on repeat and I’m actively excited to download the rest when I get home. I think of who I am and the path it took me to get here. I wonder what that path might’ve looked like had this band been on my iPod. I am, once again navel gazing, proving maybe nothing would have changed at all.

But, I dunno, could they have?

Today, on a Very Special entry

Hey you there. Yes, you. I’m talking to you. Hey. Keep up the good work.

I don’t know what you do, but keep on doing it and doing it well. If what you do involves the suffering of others directly or indirectly, well, maybe work towards doing less of that, and doing that well. What can I say? I wanna work with you here, but this kinda needs to be a two way street. Look, I’m still on your team, but part of this whole personal cheerleader arrangement requires work on your part to make sure I’m spreading pep to a worthwhile area. Look inside of yourself. Are you heading in the direction of your dreams? If so, that’s great. Reach for the stars! If your dreams are at the expense of others, maybe look for some other, potentially less harmful stars to reach for. I’m not judging. To some extent we’re all a little lost. So this is less a patronising coffee mug slogan kind of thing and more of a “hey, I’m in the trenches too” coffee mug slogan kind of thing. Maybe it involves a cat hanging from a tree branch? If that helps, sure.

If you’re not heading in the direction of your dreams, I’m sorry, that sucks. I’m sure that hurts. Remember though, time is not linear and memories/imagination mean that we’re experiencing all time simultaneously. So really, you have everything you need already to become your realised self. You know what? On some level you already are. You just haven’t met them yet. But you will, and isn’t that exciting? I hope it is. All that potential brewing inside of you and you haven’t even seen it. If you’re not excited, I am for you, you talented motherfucker, you. I mean, goddamn. The places you’ll go. The people you’ll meet. I’d be jealous of I wasn’t in the same damn shoes you wear on your feet.

The thing is, it’s really okay to not be okay at all times. You get that, right? Sometimes things are really tough and that’s not just a you problem. Everybody has trouble dealing with things. The world is A Lot. Living is A Lot. Everything is both so unbearably complicated and disarmingly simple. On a long enough timeline (in which we all experience simultaneously, remember?) it’ll all gel and work out. I KNOW this sucks to hear, that it sounds like bullshit, but it’s not. It really isn’t. The human mind is uncannily resilient and can recontextualise anything. Whatever you experience will change in relation to your other experiences. So basically, the worse things get, the more they lift everything else. I’m not intending for this to solve everything, but it is something. Think about it. While things might not be at their best now and they may not improve immediately, whenever something good does happen, it’ll be that much better because it’s not something bad. Small consolation?

Maybe. I’m sure it’d be preferable for everything to be great all the time, but honestly, it wouldn’t. It’s shitty to face disappointment and hardship, 100%. You also wouldn’t grow without it. Dealing with hard times helps you adapt and become a more rounded, capable, you. Because of everything your part self went through, you’re still here. “Here” might not be exactly where you aimed for, but it’s also likely not where you were. I’d wager that for you to be where you are now, you had to change and grow. If we’re following this logic, for you to be where you want, it’s probably gonna involve change too. I’m sure that sounds scary and difficult, and it probably will be. At the same time, like everything you’ve gone through, you’ll one day be able to think about it in past tense. That’s not nearly as frightening, right? Do you catch what I’m saying? You’re gonna get there and everything that is now hard will feel a lot softer. You’ve got this, even if you don’t know it yet. But I do, so there.

Look, this may just be an improvised rant of a dude trying to fill time on his commute (and a personal obligation he senselessly made over five years ago to write for at least half an hour daily) but that doesn’t mean it’s void of truth. I’m sure, as messy as it is, that there are kernels of goodness scattered throughout that have your back. So keep it up, you’re on the right track, even if that track is veering towards a different path.

I mean, this whole page was blank 30 minutes ago. Potential is everywhere.