See, reading this was time you will never get back. Lesson learned?

I’m having my 30th birthday party tonight, a few weeks early of my actual birthday. I thought I’d write something for the occasion.

Now that I’m approaching 30, I’ve had a lot of time to make mistakes. Nigh on three decades of fucking up, gathering the pieces and reforming opinions. I think that’s called learning (at least in the curriculum of the school of hard knocks). It might seem narcissistic and self-indulgent to write a speech for my 30th but you know what? I write every day. If it wasn’t this, it’d probably be a listicle of my top 7 shitting secrets to success. As the years have passed, the more I’ve grown, and the more years that pass, the more I realise I have left to learn. I swear it’s some kind of pyramid scheme, or at least can be blamed on the illuminati. As my body slowly degenerates, I hope I’m coming off on top trading youth for wisdom. So approaching 30, here’s some stuff that’s stuck with me. Let’s see if I can ace this without sounding like a “Live Laugh Love” Lululemon ad:

 

1. Time 

We trade so much of our time for money, but money will come and go. Time is the one thing we’ll never truly be able to get back. Aside from Georgie Pie that is. We’re all getting older and moving on with our lives. Some of us are getting married, having kids, buying homes and other stuff that’s supposed to be the domain of “adults”. We’re looking back at past years with a rosy fondness. Hitting peak nostalgia, which leads us to believe egregious things like Georgie Pie having had any semblance of quality. The ball pit was great, the pies were shit. Let it go already.

We’re not the only ones getting older. As we bring new life into the world, our parents are getting on too. Some of us have already said goodbye. It’s sad, but it’s also part of life. We can’t do anything about that. We can, however, spend time while we still have it. Time is the one thing we can’t take for granted. Please don’t add your loved ones to that list. It may sound cheesy, but cherish the people in your life while you have them. Nothing lasts forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them what you have while you can. Which leads me on to the next item.

2. Pooping (and yes that was a pun)

Perhaps the most important lesson of them all. If you want to have easy, smooth poops, try raising your heels and bending over to grab your ankles. It’ll change your life.

3. Presence and intentionality

It’s so easy to be distracted. We carry around small beeping, flashing computers. Eye catching advertisements are everywhere. Our society is geared towards capitalising on all our mental stimuli at all times. There’s always something to do and being bored is a luxury left to eras long past. What’s harder these days is being present. Remember when I was talking about how important time was? (Hint, it was item number one on this speech) Well you only get the chance to live each moment once. Until we invent time travel and this whole speech becomes defunct, anyway. Over the past few years one of my most important discoveries was how my interactions grew with intentionality of presence. Putting the phone down, directing my focus.

Instead of using conversation as an excuse to say things and wait until I could say more things, I started asking questions and listening to responses. Authentically being with the person seated in front of me. The inverse of this sits too. If you’re not invested in the people around you, if you don’t care about them and aren’t interested in what they say or think, why are you with them? Be intentional and seek out the people who enrich your life. Then when you’re around them, be there. Save Twitter for when you’re on the toilet. You know that’s when you think of the wittiest tweets anyway.

4. Empathy

There’s nothing quite like having your opinion heard and respected. It feels great when people agree with you. Thing is, not everyone does. I know, for one, that there are people who got defensive when I shat on Georgie Pie earlier. That’s fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Even people who believe things that to you seem abhorrent. The world is made up of a spectrum of moral compasses and just because someone doesn’t agree with you, that doesn’t make them a monster. Your culture is the summation of the entirety of your lived experiences. Everything you’ve seen and done has in some little way shaped you towards the human you’ve become. It’s what makes you, you. It’s also why you see the world the way that you do. Nobody else has your distinct perspective, but that’s why the world is such a fascinating place full of myriad people. Do I sound patronising yet?

Here’s my point. If you truly believe that someone is behaving in a morally repugnant fashion, you cannot ever hope to change their perspective without first acknowledging it and seeing it from their point of view. If you start a conversation by telling they’re an asshole, they’re never gonna agree to anything but to disagree. It’s very rarely easy to put aside your views in order to understand someone (especially if they’re being a dickbag), but if the overarching hope is to be on the same side, it’s essential. Empathy. People are much more likely to be ignorant than malicious and they certainly haven’t lived your life. Consider others and it may change people in your mind from being “bad” to “different”.

5. Fulfillment

We all have needs and tending to each and every one feels almost impossible. Ask Maslow and his illuminati pyramid. Learn how you operate and it’ll do wonders to fix your mood. My girlfriend has helped me create a mental checklist that comes in handy if I’m ever grumpy.

  • Have I eaten recently?
  • Am I dehydrated?
  • When was the last time I was physically active?
  • Have I slept more than seven hours in the past three days?
  • Have I been able to switch off and decompress at all?

Or in IT speak, have you tried turning it off and on again? Learn what you need around you and life becomes easier to deal with. My biggest fulfillment lesson in recent years was how to find a creative outlet. I’m a creative person and it’s been a while since I’ve had a job that allows for creativity. Since I can’t exercise my creativity through my professional life, I’ve been leaning hard on external sources. I write every day for at least half an hour. It’s been massively helpful in expression and sometimes wrapping my head around difficult situations. It’s made it possible to cope at times where I would’ve otherwise crumbled. This last year I started a podcast (www.airbudpawdcast.com. Sign up for your free 30 day audible trial at audibletrial.comp/PAWD, that’s audibletrial.com/PAWD) and it’s allowed me to rediscover parts of myself I thought I’d lost. I feel more like myself than I have in years. I’m not telling you to start a podcast where you analyse the irreverent adventures of a sports playing dog and his incorrigible lineage (frankly we don’t need the competition), but have a think about what you need in order to be your best you. You won’t regret it.

6. Love

We don’t tell one another that we love each other enough. In western society we make the mistake of assuming love has to be romantic. If there’s someone in your life that gives more than they take, whose mere presence has made your life richer for having known them, isn’t that deserving of love? I’m so fortunate (#blessed) to be surrounded by people who inspire me. People funnier, smarter, more gracious, caring, witty and insightful than I am. I love that I can stand here talking to all of you, the people who shaped me and allowed me to be this person right here talking to you. I love you, sincerely, for having been part of my life.

Thank you. I love you.

Also thanks for indulging this extended wankfest of a monologue. Cheers to each and every one of you, you magnificent bastards.

As always, remember to buy the merchandising rights. That’s where the real money is.

2016 was A Tire Fire.

2016 was The Worst.

2016 was Literally Hitler.

2016 was a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!

2016 was a lot of things to a lot of people. A lot of awful things did happen in 2016. Big political asteroids like Brexit and Trump left a crater in everything many of us believed possible. Our faith in others was shattered and the “Us vs Them” mentality crevasse widened to a gorge. A lot of people died. From the horrific deaths of Syrian refugees to the brutal violence committed on the black population of North America, 2016 was a pedestal for atrocities perpetrated through power imbalances. So many dead beloved celebrities. People who gave us hope and inspiration passing away in rapid-fire succession. So much grief, processing, acceptance.

2016 was also the opposite of doom and gloom in many ways. New discoveries, environmental reclamation, aid for those suffering. While there were infinite instances of sexism, racism and gender based conflicts both online and throughout society, isn’t it amazing that this discourse is finally making it to the mainstream? Five years ago did the vast majority of society even know of non-gender binary as a concept? Had “rape culture” joined our vocabulary? I’m not saying that we’re past any of this stuff. There’s a long road between awareness and acceptance. Many of the conversations we’re having now won’t pay off for years yet. Still, at least we’re having them. That’s gotta be worth something.

I wonder how much of 2016’s “worst-ness” was defined by social media. It feels uncommon to witness this much suffering in one rotation of the sun, but then again have we ever been this interconnected? The concept of online life as an echo chamber is not new. The notion of negative news drawing more attention than the alternative certainly isn’t either. Still, something’s gotta be up when we only hear that “world hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years” in an article basically telling us ‘not to jump’. In times of crisis, social media has become emotionally draining. It’s one thing to wallow in a puddle of grief, it’s quite another when you dive into an ocean of pooled tears. Fear, anxiety and sorrow amplified by a deafening chorus of voices. While it should be comforting that people share your views, it often instead doubles down on them, adding an inescapable weight. It’s hard to find hope when you’re surrounded by dense darkness. This isn’t to negate or downplay the seriousness and validity of people’s emotions at all. I have my doubts (shameless plug) over how much it helps.

For me, 2016 like most years had its ups and downs. Work was a low point. Still stuck in a job that feels menial and draining, things have only gotten worse. The defining factors of a job I could phone in (namely amazing benefits, supportive work culture, excellent location and a quick commute) have all taken a nosedive. No part of my job in 2016 has improved and everything has declined. Fingers crossed I get a new position in the new year. On the flip side of that, things with my girlfriend have been flowing along nicely. She moved in nine months ago and we haven’t looked back. Tomorrow we’re getting on a plane to travel half way across the world. She’ll meet my family, friends and see the country in which I was born. While my job has been a bust creatively, I finally took a leap I’d spent years pining for. As anyone who’s read at least one other entry this year will know, I started a podcast. A Pawdcast to be more exact. It’s been a learning curve, a lot of work and at times, trying. It’s also put me back in touch with my audio editing roots and made me approach the format from a number of different angles. It’s been my biggest accomplishment this year by a large margin and a journey I’m proud to have embarked upon.

If it’s any consolation, 2017 is bound to be far worse than 2016. The world may have voted in Brexit and Trump, but we haven’t begun to see what they can do when they’re actually in power. 2016 was the beginning of a dark trilogy. We’ve merely finished the First Act. Expect 2017 to drive us to the edge of extinction, with salvation coming in the dying hours of 2018. I don’t make the rules, just calls ’em like I sees ’em.

Optimistically Yours.
-Leon

To think, it all started with a little barksketball.

My plans for today were to sleep deeply, sleep late and rise to visit friends. I would feast, sup deeply from the cup o’ life (why is that a thing in my reference Rolodex?) and revert back to the sleeping thing.

Instead I awoke at 7am and started editing episode 15 of The Air Bud Pawdcast. Because what better use for a Saturday morning could there possibly be? Holy shit was this ever a fun episode. There was the high of having reached the end of season 1. Super Buddies was actually a fun, if ludicrous film and the perfect way to cap off the Air Bud Cinematic Universe proper. Being the end of the year, end of a good run and Christmas time, I shelled out to buy our team branded T-shirts. I told my co-host what I was looking for (since he’s the one with the visual skills) and he manifested my dreams into reality. We also recorded the episode with one of my favourite people. My friend, who hosts monthly bad movie nights in Toronto. The episode was smooth, given that my friend and I already had palpable chemistry, plus the chemistry I’d built up with my co-host over 14 episodes prior.

Like the years, the jokes started coming and they didn’t stop coming (though I bet Steve Harwell wishes they would). I wouldn’t say that we went off the rails so much as that where we were going, we didn’t need rails. We took tangents, took them further then came back around again to where we started. It got silly, siller and flagrantly absurd. In short, it was everything I’ve been wanting to get out of this podcasting experience. The episode rang long, nearly an hour fourty five. The only reason it ended where it did was calling it out of necessity. I could’ve kept going ad infinitum, having found my happy place.

Which is a nice perch from which to give a retrospective. It’s been six months since we released the first episode. We started recording a month or so before that. So many of the early episodes found themselves through trial and error. We saw what worked, what didn’t and got better with each release. My co-host is an expert at making things happen, planning ahead and keeping us all committed. I’m more of the she’ll be right persuasion and having a more rigid structure to work within did wonders for our quality. It was an exciting new pursuit. I’ve been wanting to put together a podcast for years, and seeing it come to fruition stoked some flame of recognition in me that oh, we MADE SOMETHING.

That hard work paid off, resulting in an end product I’m proud of. It was a lot of work and I haven’t felt one pang of regret that it might not have been worth it. Even when I’ve felt the pressure of getting things done to deadlines, to have to work at something that wouldn’t pay off financially, still no regrets. And yes, having the creative outlet of the Pawd has pulled my focus away from I Have My Doubts. I’ve definitely felt like I’ve been phoning it in a bit lately. Then again, I’ve felt like I’ve been phoning a lot of things in lately and it’s nice to look at the list of episodes and realise #notallthings. 2016 has been a hell of a year, but it wasn’t a total tyre-fire.

Not all I got was this fucking shirt.

It was furtile ground after all.

Shameless self-promotion time. This entry is gonna be nothing but a big ol’ plug (with a flared base of course. Safety is important) for The Air Bud Pawdcast – Episode 12.

Why? Because I feel like I’m often negligent in my promotional duties as co-host. It’s my baby. This beautiful abomination is all my fault and I’ll be damned if I’m ready to be an absentee dad. We’re recording episode 14 tonight for fuck’s sake. That’s a lot of work put together. Just think of the hours I’ve sunk into this project. Approximately two and a half hours of viewing/note taking per film (13 films we’ve watched so far (the first episode was an episode zero), which means that’s 32.5 hours of viewing/note taking). A recording session takes around another three hours once you factor in technical difficulties, etc (so add another 39 hours). Then there’s the editing/mixing process, which adds another six hours per episode. So let’s add 72 hours to that (I haven’t edited episode 13 yet).

So by rough estimation I’ve put about 143.5 hours into this Pawdcast, not including social media and organisational duties. A mere 9856.5 hours and I’ll have achieved mastery, according to Malcolm Gladwell. I figure I’ve earned a little masturbatory promotion.

I listen to a ton of professional comedy podcasts and consequently, I’ve been feeling a little glum about our little pup. The quality differential is massive, and it seems pointless to tell people to listen to ours when there are much better options out there. Lately though, I’ve given a few amateur podcasts a spin and, well, The Pawdcast doesn’t come off so badly in comparison. Then during editing episode 12 I noticed how often I was involuntarily laughing out loud. It was a riot to record and listening brought back just how much fun we were having. It really shows in the packaged episode. Why was episode 12 so good?

Episode 12 marks one of the first times we’ve watched a Buddies movie and loved it. We really did. Spooky Buddies was ridiculous, but didn’t take itself too seriously. At the same time, the villains were spectacular (and in the case of the Howloween Hound, legitimately frightening for children). It was camp as hell, but actually had some great lines and attention to detail. Stockholm Syndrome maybe, but we had a fantastic time.

More importantly, our guest Tom McGee really brought his A-Game. A last minute addition (our booked guest got food poisoning), I’d wanted to bring him on for a later episode, but he took the call to adventure and stood up to the plate. He did his research, not only watching the film but listening to past episodes, getting into the flow of the Pawdcast. He researched the series and blew us away. Being a script writer himself, his understanding of structure and characterisation were a blast to hear. At one point he gives us a beat by beat list of every plot point shamelessly lifted from another film.

Moreover, the chemistry clicked. Tom jumped in less as a guest and more as a third co-host. We spent the whole time riffing, punning and dissecting whatever we could. The end result is an episode I’m quite proud of and perhaps justification for following this ludicrous idea to execution in the first place.

Enough talking. In case you didn’t get the link yet, here it is.

In a world where the Pawdcast was my job, I’d find some way to hate it too.

Wow. Today’s been up and down and up and down and up and down like an elevator riding a rollercoaster on a moonhopper. First up, Pawdcast emergency! Our prepared guest was sick in bed with food poisoning. She’s a great comic and it’s more than a little gutting to have lost her appearance on the Pawd. Things have been going great since adding guests (even with the absence of my fake trailers). While my co-host and I have built up fantastic chemistry, having someone else in there too add unpredictable angles and elements really lifts each episode. If they’ve never before seen an Air Bud Entertainment film they really have no idea what they’re in for. Good or abysmal, or anywhere thereabouts in-between, there’s no way the film doesn’t leave a significant impression.

The last few have been beyond ghastly. I’ve had more than enough Christmas for one year and it’s still two months away. This one though, was Halloween themed. Halloween is my favourite holiday and this film was the perfect experience to put me in good (you know it) spirits. I’m seriously considering the possibility of low level Stockholm syndrome at play. Having been so repeatedly conditioned into mind numbing celluloid trash by this franchise that we’ve fallen for our captors. That the past few films were so terrible, we’ve lost all critical objectivity and anything beyond a streaming pile of shit seems like gold.

Things came back on the upswing when my friend offered to step in at the last minute to record with us tonight. He could spare the time today to watch the film and chat with us and it’s gonna be an outstanding episode. He’s a renown Toronto playwright, clever, quick witted dude. I’d intended to try get him for a later episode, but he’s gonna knock this one out of the park. I’m back up, right?

But work. Work happened, as it does five days a week. Work today was a shitshow with a morning that got blown out, leaving me playing catch-up all afternoon. I’m trying to get way ahead of schedule so as not to leave my co-workers with a massive clean up job after me. A holiday that can’t come fast enough. I’m burned up, I’m significantly past sick of my job and it’s making each day a struggle. Back when we were up on Bloor it was easy enough to ignore. Transit was half the time. There was cheap, healthy food easily accessible. I could use my lunch breaks to go to the gym, leaving my evenings free. I can’t do these things any more and it’s taking an extra two hours every day. It’s draining, enough that I find I actually need to leave the building a few times per day to cool down. If I was doing a job I enjoyed, that challenged or interested me, that wouldn’t be so bad. But being in a mind-numbing entry level position almost two years later makes me feel like I somehow failed. I’ve applied to other jobs, but no dice. I’m at that limbo point with no idea of direction. I’ve been bouncing about doing job shadowing within the company, but that’s not a new job. It’s no indication of anything at all. Where previously things were fine, now I can feel how much they’re taking from me. No bueno. Very no bueno.

But on the other hand, I’m seeing someone again. Like, seeing a person I was seeing before. Again. Time constants had me worried I couldn’t give enough for a proper relationship, but we agreed to give it another shot without being worried about quantity of time spent. She has a partner, she’s not looking to be completed, only complemented. We got a lot from each other’s company and I’m sure that’s not gonna change. Plus, we’re gonna work together on completing one of my childhood dreams: Clocking Gunstar Heroes. She’s an excellent person. I’m happy. For today, that’s enough.

Oh, plus the MOTHERFUCKING EXCELLENT PAWDCAST WE’RE RECORDING TONIGHT. RAWK OUT!

Ahem. It’s nice to have things to be excited about, I guess.

Is that what Campbell called The Meeting with the Goddess?

Let’s skip the bit when I wank on about my withering mental acuity. Last night was magic.

4.30pm – Harmontown pre-show meetup.

Not an official anything, there’s a Harmontown fan group on Facebook, organised by the amazing Earthshine Janne. A known personality on the podcast, Janne brews her own Earthshine (moonshine, but for a podcast whose premise is leaving Earth to start a moon colony) and Absinthe (of Malice, as it’s known). She travelled across the border with a few fans and about 30-40 of us met up at the Brazen Head.  It was something special to meet up with fellow fans of a show that’s niche enough to appeal to a select few. We had some drinks, laughs and tried the infamous Absinthe of Malice. Smooth stuff. It was cool to make some friends and build a sense of camaraderie before heading off to Kumail’s sold out show.

7pm – Kumail Nanjiani.

Kumail’s long been one of my favourites and this show was a barn burner right from the start. Kumail writes great jokes, but it’s his delivery that really kills. He has this beautiful, lilting voice, and he has a way with sarcasm and incredulity. There’s also something about his turn of phrase (like calling an emu an ostrich with the eyes of a sad human being) that’s unique and makes him stand out.

With an already great set, a perfect moment arrived when he started to tell a personal anecdote. “Wait, there’s nobody from Pakistan here, is there?” A small cheer rang out. “Shit.” He replied. “I don’t know anyone here do I?” Some guy called out that he’d gone to the same school, but one year younger. “Oh gawd. I’m not related to anyone am I?” A voice called out, his cousin Nather who’s been living in Dallas. Visibly flushed, Kumail started fretting. “I can’t tell this, I just can’t. Oh fuck.” After a roaring cheer from the crowd, he relented. “I’m gonna regret this. But this is the story about how I started wearing underwear.”

9pm – Harmontown.

Insane. A brilliant show from start to finish. Celtic, vegan, Mennonite improv, a quick spate of rapping, breakdancing and striptease. Former therapist (and Kumail’s wife) Emily V. Gordon doing some couple’s therapy on stage (and very well, I might add). Audience gifts, an audience member delivering Dan an absurdly large amount of Tums. Kumail completing the anecdote he was too bashful to tell after learning his cousin was in the crowd at the earlier show. Crazy amounts of riffing. As a real fan, I couldn’t believe how great the show went. I talked to a couple of people who’d never heard an episode but just liked Community/Rick and Morty. Chatting post show, it’s safe to say Harmontown has some new fans.

Post show a bunch of us went to Cabin Fever on Bloor for a few drinks. Dan, Jeff and Spencer came along to talk with fans and it was a blast meeting a bunch more Harmenians. Testament to the sense of community was how nobody was particularly interested in interrupting Jason Sudeikis from playing his pinball tournament in order to grab a selfie.

Like I said, a magical night.

I haven’t vacuumed the rug in ages, mind.

I feel like I’ve been repping enthusiasm pretty hard as of late, but I’ve been sharing very little of my own.

Perhaps it was the dense feeling of dread permeating my cerebral cortex after realising that for the second week in a row I had no choice but to watch yet another contrived kids’ film revolving around the misadventures of five golden retriever puppies and their newfound friends. In fact, that’s almost exactly what it was. The prolix has it!

Instead of focusing on how little desire I have to watch yet another Air Buddies film, I should focus on things that I’m excited about right now. Here goes:

  • Tough Mudder: I’m so goddamn close I can almost taste it. The taste is muddy, of course. Kind of like kava but with fewer weird mental hijinx. Many mental hijinx, but mostly excitement. Last year I ran around the course like a maniac. I devolved into some hyperactive monkey/cocaine fairy, climbing things with a terrifying glee and extolling the virtues of consensual butt touching. Team work was everywhere, with bonds that extended beyond actual team mates. Total strangers helping one another out as a matter of course (pun intended). Great costumes all around, with some neat themes (we went for bright and tight) that became all too irrelevant once everyone was caked in wet earth. I’m tapering things down right now as Saturday closes in. The next few days are the calm before the storm as I try not to strain/break anything.
  • Television: You’re the Worst is back! First episode of the season brought to the forefront everything I’d been missing. Hilarious, sharp, sexy and poignant without being maudlin. I’ve become obsessed for a reason. Atlanta screened last night and I haven’t gotten a chance to watch yet. Donald Glover in his first starring role. It’s a virtually  autobiographical series that supposedly delicately walks that comedy/drama tightrope with aplomb. Better Things has started its press tour, so it can’t be far off (looks like it starts tomorrow on FX). Pamela Adlon has been fucking brilliant in everything she’s been in over the years (King of the Hill, Californication, Louie) and I couldn’t be happier to finally see her get her own vehicle. Take My Wife is already out, but living in Canada without a VPN service, I don’t have easy access to comedy streaming service Seeso. For now, this means no dice. Cameron Esposito and Rhea Butcher, real life married couple, feature in yet another semi-autobiographical comedy. I think I’ve got a “type”. Both Esposito and Butcher are funny as hell. I’ve seen them live a few times and can’t wait to catch Cameron when she’s in town for JFL42 in a few weeks. Which brings me to…
  • JFL42. I got my accreditation last week, which is outstanding news. For the last two weeks of September I’ll be a ghost, floating around from show to show all ephemeral-like. I haven’t even planned my schedule yet, but very luckily I should have some access like last time to sold out shows. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to hit item one on my wishlist: Dan Harmon’s VIP/ComedyCon show at The Royal Theatre. Pray for Mojo.
  • The girlfriend and I finally got our tickets to New Zealand. Leaving Toronto on the 31st of December, leaving Auckland on the 22nd of January. Three weeks of friend/family time and whirlwind touring of my home country. It’s been three years, let’s see what a homecoming feels like.

And now I get to go discuss that precocious canine space caper Space Buddies in podcast form.

Don’t let the existential dread set in.