Wrack some racks son

I have eaten very little today.

I’ve had no room. Yesterday was my friend’s birthday, and I did not stop eating. It’s like it was my birthday or something. Firstly, we went to Cats. A bunch of us. Upon viewing it for a second time, slightly less high than the first, I had a revelation. On my first viewing I was so high, and I don’t think I heard almost any song lyrics. I didn’t follow along, I garnered meaning like an animal. I was all facial expressions and intonations. Naturally, I was terrified. Why were so many inexplicably senseless things happening, and why was it all permeated with an aura of menace? This time, I actually heard the lyrics. Turns out, the nightmare was real. It’s still a terrible movie even if you’re following. Maybe worse. I still have more questions. Like, it’s ostensibly they’re in a human’s London, but they’re scurrying around. Why then, do the humans have so many cat pun based stores? Why do they go to the Catsino, not a casino? Are the Cats held in a venerated position? They shouldn’t be. Jellicle cats are a plague, of a lower caste than normal cats. They seek only to sew misery and do the bidding of Eros. That Skimbleshanks song though? It’s a banger. This screening was far more intimate, and invited a bunch of interaction. We did drum roles, heckled, and did a full theatre sing-a-long to Mr Mistoffelees. I might wait a while for my third viewing.

After the film we piled back to my birthday friend’s house, and her boyfriend started serving up snacks. He’s a chef, and he’d relished a chance to make some great meals for us all. We started with smoked oka, sharp cheddar, challah bread and raspberry jam. There were barbecued chicken chunks, a mac & cheese pie, and home made fried chicken. A rack of lamb draped with pomegranate seeds and pistachios, flanked by a balsamic reduction. Buttered cod with chilli slices. He even made mini sunny side up crostini with spiced sausage, quail eggs and chilli rinds. Oh, and for dessert we had strawberries covered with frozen nutella, speckles of some ground nut over the top. Ice cream for good measure. I earned my keep as The Bone King and demolished many a bone. My friends paid homage, and gifted me their lamb bones to strip. I spent almost the entire night eating, and it was divine.

Today? I’ve eaten a protein bar and a sandwich. It’s 6pm. I’m anything but hungry.

LOLd into a false sense of security

Welp, I watched Joker. Spoilers for Joker will follow. If you don’t want them, please don’t read this.

SoJoker was.. a movie? I dunno, I’m having a hard time with this one. It wasn’t a capital B/M Bad Movie, but it also wasn’t good. It had a great cast who tried their absolute best with what they were given, but therein the problem lies. The film wanted to be Serious. It wanted to have A Message, but a lot of that got garbled up with genre problems and a difficulty with what it wanted realism to mean. The movie had a bunch of fun set pieces, and a cluster of modern ideas relevant to inflammatory social issues. It seemed like it wanted to say things about mental illness, about protest culture, literal class warfare and rampant inequality.

Unfortunately, it couldn’t escape from its own trappings. For all of its ambition to raise beyond comic book stakes, it played out like a cartoon. Peoples’ reactions were nearly always wildly out of proportion. I’ve never been to Gotham, but it seems that pedestrians hand out arse kickings like greetings. It’s literally unbelievable how many times people beat the shit out of Arthur while he’s curled up on the ground. Nobody seems to be able to act like an ordinary person. Most characters’ delivery is garishly over the top and the dialogue is trash. Just clunky as shit. Unnecessary roughness all the way down. The film takes a complex series of interrelated societal issues and makes sure you got the point. Everything is triple underlined, with all the subtlety of a cast iron pan to the face. A protester runs past at some point with a sign that says “RESIST”. No further context or explanation. It’s all shallow, surface level stuff. It wants to be greater than the sum of its material but as Scorsese himself said “I saw clips of it. I know it. So it’s like, why do I need to? I get it. It’s fine.” The price is on the can, yo.

It’s hard not to have sympathy for Arthur, a character that Phoenix disappears into. He’s a wretched creature, literal skin and bones, and his laughing affliction is genuinely affecting in its scope. We see the difficulty he has with simple social interactions, and it’s heartbreaking. It just sucks that all the peripheral characters behave like anthropomorphised cardboard cutouts. Of course, because it’s a DC film, Bruce Wayne gets shoehorned in, and it directly cheapens the movie. I’ve got no issue with fanservice, but the Joker character created in this film is not the Joker we love. He’s emotionally stunted and fragile, a simple and kind man relentlessly kicked around by the world he inhabits. He’s not, however, clever. He isn’t a criminal mastermind. Even giving the film a ton of leeway, assuming that this was all hiding behind his myriad of medications, for instance, is stretching suspension of disbelief too far. Aside from shooting his beloved talk show host, this Joker character doesn’t commit crime with intention. The actions he’s eventually praised for were accidental, or a byproduct of other decisions. He’s a symbol for a movement, but he’s not an architect. If we’re to believe that the riot he birthed resulted in Bruce’s parents’ death, it’s impossible to see this Joker as an adversary for this Bruce’s Batman. Or at least, he wouldn’t be a super capable one. If this was an unrelated movie to the franchise, honestly it probably would’ve read a lot better. But it wasn’t, and this film has no right to the Best Picture or Best Adapted Screenplay categories.

2019 was a great year for film. This wasn’t one of them.

If you must Call Me By My Name it’s Pauly, Pauly Shore

Okay, it’s time to finish this nonsense. I’ve been snarky over a film I haven’t seen for too long. I’m watching Joker.

Honestly, before all the hubbub, I had interest in seeing the movie. I like Joaquin Phoenix a bunch. I loved You Were Never Really There, hard to watch as it was. I don’t really care much for superhero films these days, but a mashup of Scorsese stylings and King of Comedy sounded enjoyable enough. Then came the cavalcade of critics. Joker was irresponsible, mediocre at best or just plain trying too hard. The refrain of We Live In A Society rebounded in my brain and I found the concept of watching it harder to justify. Then it got an eight minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, and I didn’t know what to think. Film Twitter produced meme up meme about its unremarkability being put on a pedestal. Other people were like look, it’s an enjoyable film, just ignore the critics. But there was so much snark that I had trouble pulling my head out of my arse. I didn’t watch the film.

It got 11 Oscar nominations. I have such little faith in The Academy that I don’t take the nominations as a sign of its certain quality, but now I feel like I have to know. Is this film actually good? Did The Academy want to stir up controversy? Or was it just that the movie made so much fucking money? In any case, it worked. I’m watching the film tonight to discover for myself how I feel. Mostly I’ve been shitting on it for long enough that, without having a concrete opinion, I feel like a fraud. Who knows? I might actually really like the film. I’m doing my best to, despite my innate bias, give it a fair shot. Look, I’m crabby that The Farewell didn’t get nominated for Best Picture. I’m also quite excited to see Uncut Gems, and from what I’ve heard it should’ve been in contention. The thought that in any universe I could precede Sandler’s name with Academy Award Winning Actor is a dream brought crashing to the ground. I’m gutted that they’re obviously gonna give Best Foreign Picture to Parasite so they don’t have to give it Best Picture too. That’ll probably go to 1917 or Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood, but who can tell?

It’s been a surprisingly robust year for cinema, despite the endless onslaught of Disney produced franchise films. My list of what I haven’t seen greatly outweighs those I have. Word of mouth has convinced me that Knives Out, Little Women, Portrait of a Lady on Fire and The Lighthouse should be on my shortlist, to join Us and Midsommar. Goddamn what a happening year. I don’t know if I’ll have time to watch The Irishman, when I could lend that time to seeing Toni Erdmann instead. It’s funny, but I go through these motions every year. I put together a stack of films to watch, and don’t get around to it. I just found 2017’s one: Molly’s Game, Call Me By Your Name and The Shape of Water. How could I get this far without having seen that hot and steamy fish sex story? A bodice ripper to be shore.

GET IT? TO BE SHORE?

Is “I watch too much TV to watch TV” a real issue?

I watch more and less TV than ever.

Most of it isn’t elective viewing. Given that I’m working in Described Video, my job literally requires me to watch TV for eight or so hours per shift. I have very little control over what I watch. Sometimes it’s good, most of the time it ain’t. Whatever, that’s my job. I’m not complaining. It still boggles my mind how dominant reality TV is after all these years. Entertainment is entertainment, and I judge nobody for what they choose to watch. That said, egads these shows are fucking garbage, and I’m sure that’s part of the attraction. Rich white women with manufactured conflict and unrelatable issues. I’m sure it’s part train wreck, part vicarious. What would it be like to have all that money, and such simple problems? Hell, I see these dating shows and mentally insert myself into the situation. What would I say? How would I react? I get that. What I don’t get is how, in the Golden Age of Content, we’ve placed the mundane on such a pedestal and made stars out of unremarkable nobodies. Things like Bravocon freak me out. I don’t know at what stage people go from mocking to idolising these figures. It’s beyond weird. Celebrity is fucked up, but that’s nothing new. I mean, it gave us Trump, right? That played out well…

I don’t know what the point of that preamble was, if not to say that I’m watching TV all day at work. When I get home, it’s hard to sit down and get invested in a narrative. My stack of TV I meant to watch has grown out of control. I never got around to Chernobyl, which I’ve only heard amazing (and bleak) things about. I think I’m a series behind in Killing Eve, which feels like a travesty. That show is a goddamn marvel. Excessive critical response to Succession tells me that I’m far overdue to watch and catch up. Search Party is one of the most original shows I’ve seen in years, and my girlfriend and I have been at the start of season 2 for yonks. I don’t know what, aside from discomfort maybe, has kept me from diving deeper into Baskets. It’s as funny as it is cringeworthy. I have yet to finish Hannibal, a show that I can’t believe ever made it to network television. Still haven’t finished Legion, something I would’ve chastised myself for a year ago. I loved True Detective season one so much, and while season two was a shitshow, I’ve heard overwhelmingly good things about season three. The Americans is apparently impeccable, but the amount of seasons feels daunting when my list is already so long. It’s part of nobody’s water cooler talk, so I think I’m safe for now. Speaking of which, when am I gonna start Deadwood? Will I ever get far enough into Lodge 49 that I understand the widespread adoration people feel for it? Then again, Fosse/Verdon is supposed to be fantastic and the people involved are amazing. But what of Watchmen? It’s been so high on critics’ lists and makes sense given all of my tastes. It feels like if there’s a time to start, it’s now. But Kumail/Emily’s Little America is only a week or two away. When am I gonna find the time for that?

All of which is to say that I started Ramy last night at around 2am and instantly fell in love. While I’m not and have never been religious, I really appreciate media that depicts religion as an everyday part of normal people’s lives without being preachy. It’s something that’s integral to so many, and in the kind of narratives I watch it’s usually some kind of boogie man or metaphor for a system of control. Thing is, belief is something we all have whether religious, spiritual or systemic. While much of the cultural climate depicts faith as an outmoded concept, for so many it isn’t. Ramy, from the one episode I saw, manages to depict the struggles of living a modern Western life, balanced with the demands of personal faith. Specifically with the Muslim faith, I’m so naive as to what it means in a mundane context. How does it change dating? Work? Social interactions? Does it even affect those things? Is it possible to package all that into a hilarious, heartfelt show that’s immensely accessible? It looks like Ramy may well have those answers.

So I guess that other stack can wait.

When there’s Big Willie, there’s a way

Greetings from Will2K20. We survived the second decade of this new Willenium not unscathed, but forged. Despite the ravages of an increasingly divisive reality, the Wild Wild Western world may have undergone a seismic shift. Y’know what? In 2020 I’m Getting Jiggy With It.

I feel like the night never ended. It’s midday on the first and sleep is still a few hours away. Thank the Gods, but mostly caffeine. It’s been a remarkably sound way to ring in a new decade. There was one thing I wanted out of a NYE bash, and I did the fuck out of it. My simple wish was to lean against a kitchen counter and talk absolute nonsense with new friends. Achievement goddamn unlocked. I don’t know how many hours I spent trying to unlock why I just can’t find the vibe with Lana Del Rey. Verdict: Still no fucking idea when or where to listen to her and get it. Who cares? I’ve got Joni Mitchell. Some dude talked my ear off about toffefe and, most pertinently, when did toffefe become a thing that everyone just knew? Someone at the party was like “my friend’s boyfriend is coming. He’s a magician. He has never had a career outside of being a magician. He hasn’t earned a cent outside of illusions. Isn’t that fucking insane? Wouldn’t you want to know absolutely fucking everything about this man’s existence? I sure did. I was so psyched for him to turn up. Then I got to the afterparty and I talked about it with someone. She was like “oh year, he was there. His name was ____”. And I realised I’d met the magician. He was really swell. I gave him pineapple faygo to mix with his gin. AND I NEVER REALISED I WAS SHARING LOW RENT PINEAPPLE POP WITH A GODDAMN MAGICIAN. Egads. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing me to share my faygo without revealing he was a BLOODY MAGICIAN. And like, can you, verging on 33, change what your favourite pokémon is? To which a friend later remarked “dude, you’re poly, you can have any number of favourite pokémon”.

I met someone called Adrian, and it reminded me that back in high school I had a friend called Adrian. I didn’t call him Adrian, however. I instead greeted him as Adrian The German Who Throws Apples At Policemen Out Of Buses. One breath, of course. Why? Well I feel like it’s self explanatory. I related this story to my girlfriend later in the evening, and remembered that Adrian The German Who Throws Apples At Policemen Out Of Buses wasn’t the worst of it. One of my friends Mike I instead knew as Robot Communist From The 1940s Russia Who Was Created As The Ultimate Weapon But Then They Figured Out Nuclear Warheads Were More Powerful So They Scrapped The Project And He Was Brought Back As A Sixteen Year Old Nowadays After Being Put In Cryostasis. The nickname didn’t start out so convoluted, but hell if I have any idea how it got there. I was a weird teenager. Fuck it was funny to remember it out of nowhere.

Of course, I’m not even at that party now. For the past five or so hours, I’ve been surrounded by my favourite goddamn people. At an afterparty where I can just be naked, and nobody gives a shit. Where I can go for a polar bear vape, nude but for socks. I’m not a monster, eh? Ringing in the new year with great tunes from decades past. Having a big brunch cookup. Spiked coffees. Endless bullshit and love.

Just like Big Willie intended.

How does this thing work again?

Let’s face it, I’ve lost track of how to keep this place neat and tidy. I’ve been writing for years, and at first there was some semblance of organisation. I did a catch up every 100 posts. I’d do a NYE round up of the previous 365. It’s not the 31st of December, but I can’t be bothered waiting. I used to be considerably more strict about order, and it was likely for the better. I’m not saying that I Have My Doubts has dissolved into a flagrant dung pile, but that I’ve steadily lost interest as the years have continued. I’m honestly toying with the idea of closing up shop at some point in 2020, unless sentimentality takes over. This project has been by my side through the wonderful, weird and woeful, and I regularly question whether I still need it. Who’s to say? But that’s not anything I need to decide today.

Today is about getting the band back together and reliving a tradition that dissipated years ago. 2019 has been a mixed bag of mostly highlights. While many suffered heavily this year, I found myself buoyed by some life changing upswings. Let’s get into those topics.

Career:

Egads, things turned around. I had a bunch more disappointment flow through from 2018. Application after application gave me rejection after rejection. I did interviews and came away with good impressions, which failed to materialise. So of course the one job I didn’t interview for was the one I got. It involved a bunch of last minute hustle, which all came up Milhouse. Now I work in Described Video. I love my job. I’m happy to go into the office. I get to be creative all day long. It’s a combination of writing, performance and audio production that seems to be at a crux of every skill I wanted to harness. What a weirdly fitting position to be in. The pay is excellent, and the work life balance of four days on/four days off is unbelievable. After struggling for years, the gratitude I have for this role is staggering. If anyone expresses the slightest curiosity for my work, I’ll gladly talk their ear off. I’m passionate about it, I love the craft and I’m so happy to finally be doing something that helps others. It’s Ikigai pure and simple, and I still can’t believe I’ve found it.

Health:

This was a big one. After years, maybe decades, of suffering through undiagnosed depression, I finally got a diagnosis. Turns out all that time I thought I was depressed, I was. Getting my diagnosis was a cluster of factors. Firstly, a couple of friends posted openly about their experiences with medication. On some small level, I had a personal stigma against trying it. I’ve long carried a deep seated mantra that if I can’t do something on my own, I don’t deserve to have it. Stupidly, mental health got sucked into that moronic morass. Secondly, I’d been seeing an OHIP sponsored therapist, and we weren’t clicking. We’d been looking into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a method, and the results were minimal. During one session, the therapist talked candidly. She said that I was entirely understanding CBD and using elements of it myself, but the methods weren’t helping. She said that there’d be nothing wrong with bouncing between therapists, but I’d be wise to consider that maybe medication was the way to go.

I talked to my GP, and she was amazing. She consulted me on every decision, carefully taking the time to explain anything and everything I could want clarified. She gave advice, but ultimately left choices up to me. Together we worked out which medication would be best, and it worked. My bioaccumulation period was mercifully gentle, and the medication did what it needed to. It softened sharp edges. It froze spiralling thoughts quickly enough that I could work out what was worth caring about, rather than getting overwhelmed. It helped me take stock of my life, and turn things around. I’m not gonna say the power of positivity was my saviour, but releasing the constant tension in my brain did wonders for me. I worked through my issues slowly and methodically. I came to terms with what I had the power to change, and things that weren’t worth the significance I gave them. In no small terms, it turned my life around. It was the best decision I’ve made in years.

Comedy:

I know “less is more” is a common enough expression, but it sounds like quitting talk. In 2019 I did very little comedy, and mostly gave up. The desperate creativity my depression forged fell away with the medication. My thoughts are less jagged, but my mind feels less sharp. It’s been a worthy sacrifice, but it has driven away my thirst to do comedy. I’d wager that while I became happier, 2019 has been a low point for my writing in general. It’s felt obligatory to an extent that it hadn’t in previous years. The saving grace, I guess, is that I’m producing a friend’s podcast at the moment. Perhaps that’ll ignite something, or at least I’ll get the joy of enabling someone else.

Relationships:

2019 felt like the first year that poly paid off for me. I’ve been able to more adroitly narrow down what I’m wanting out of it, and that’s really helped. I’ve realised that I don’t have a ton of bandwidth for full on relationships. What I’ve been seeking are close friendships that may or may not involve sex/romance. To that end, 2019 has been a resounding success. I’m going into these connections without expectations. Some of these people I’ve kissed, some I haven’t. Some I’ve gone further with than others. They remain in flux. Just because I’ve shared romance or sexual activity with someone, it doesn’t mean that’s a mainstay of our friendship. Maybe we’ll do it again, maybe we won’t. In either case, it doesn’t change the friendship. I’ve been enjoying that kind of intimate entanglement with others, to whatever extent it encompasses. Finally, after years of instability, it’s felt like I’m starting to understand how poly fits into my lifestyle. All good things.

Pop Culture:

Look, I’ve watched a fair bit in 2019, but most of it was Pre Cats. Cats was an insane fever dream that should not have happened, but defined the laws of nature and decency to exist in abundance. The screening was unreal, a collapse of order in the highest level. It was thrilling and unexpected at every turn. This film is unquestionably abysmal, and I will see it again in theatres. I cannot wait for it to become a mainstay of midnight screenings, in the vein of The Room and Rocky Horror. Also I think I made a personal pact not to see Disney movies in theatres anymore. We’ll see how long it takes me to break that oath. I’m fucking tired of big tentpole franchise films. It’s cool that they exist, but I’m okay with Marvel sitting a few years out. These live action Disney remakes are needless nonsense, and Star Wars films have stopped being special.

It’s almost 2020. I ordered a nice new cheese slicer. Things are looking up.

Is there a Cats planet in the Star Wars Expanded Universe?

Yesterday felt like a big news day.

Of course there were the impeachment proceedings, where Trump proceeded to get impeached. As I said yesterday, it was gripping viewing. As part of a generation raised on cringe television, it was staggering to see the inane bullshit republicans would bring up to talk around the issues at hand. I dunno, deep down I think I believe in the ability of politics to do good, or the fundamental desire for people to want to help others. Almost everything I’ve seen tells me that idea is naive bollocks, but that doesn’t want me to stop believing. It’s crazy that the system has been so irrevocably broken that we’re at a point where impeachment is just a comma in a president’s ledger. The senate has already said it’s entirely biased in favour of Trump, so there’s no hope for any real success. He will be acquitted and free to continue campaigning in 2020. There’s nothing in the law that can force him to testify, and none of the guilty parties will either. They are, for all intents and purposes, above the law. So it’s a dead end. We get the hollow victory of officially having it in writing that Trump’s a piece of shit, but that’s it.

Star Wars. Without spoilers, the reviews are in. Apparently it’s overstuffed with plots. A convoluted mess made to salve the vitriol of whiny man babies. Kelly Marie Tran, target of an insane amount of online hatred (for no conceivable reason I can grok), got sidelined. Her lines generic enough that they could’ve gone to any character. I’ve never been a massive fan of Star Wars and mostly I don’t care. I am, however, a big detractor of Disney in their endless quest to homogenise entertainment into safe, boring bullshit they can peddle to China without making ripples. I also think that it’s really funny that Disney bought one of the world’s biggest entertainment properties and totally shat the bed on it. Mostly it really irks me that, in a time of propulsive social change and development (aside from the previous paragraph, of course), this generation is being robbed of stories that could embolden and encourage the vulnerable and marginalised. It’s almost 2020, and we should be getting tent pole family franchises that raise LGBTQ+ voices and awareness. Elsa should be an unambiguous icon for young gay kids. Valkyrie’s bisexuality should not be hinted or winked at, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with queer romance. Period. There’s nothing unsafe for families, wrong messages to send to children, or social ills that would be perpetrated by sending the very real message that love is love, irrespective of gender. Instead Disney drops little crumbs like “oh there’s a gay character in Beauty in the Beast” which amounts to little more than nothing. Great job patting yourself on the back with one hand while jerking yourself off with the other.

Also Cats sounds fucking bonkers. From what early reviews have said, it’s an absolute train wreck. Characters motivations and lines make very little sense, the scenario has not been well adapted from the stage play or filled out. The logic surrounding this cat world is tenuous at best, and it’s resulted in a surge of uncanny valley. Moreover, the movie looks like it hasn’t been finished, with half rendered CGI in places, and at one point an old human dude with a scarf and hat is in the background of a scene. Lazy, sloppy and unnecessary. Mostly what Hollywood resembles today.

Maybe today could ease the pedal a tad. Cheers.