How far do I want to push this metaphor? If I tried hard enough, could I cash in on the lucrative key ring sponsorship market?

At what point do you decide that something has given you all it ever will?

Okay, that’s way too wide a question. I’m not sure how you’d define that into a focused answer. So I’ll start rambling instead. We had two bands play short two song sets at work today. The New Pornographers and Cold War Kids. Both are bands that I used to listen to with some regularity. I had TNP’s Mass Romantic and Electric Version on repeat for months. Fun, poppy hits with excellent harmonies and toe tappin’ tunes. I listened to Twin Cinema and Challengers, but neither impacted me as much as their initial albums had. When Together failed to deliver, my enthusiasm for the band petered out (a phrase which I only just read may date back to the depletion of mineral refinery. The mORE you know, eh?). I haven’t as of yet listened to their 2014 release Brill Bruisers and it’s unlikely I’ll hear the follow up in two weeks. I got from this band what I wanted, which has served me well. No regrets, but neither am I mining their subsequent albums for new, fresh material. In my mind, they’re petered out.

Even if you weren’t, I was pretty impressed with how I turned that etymology around. Self love, people.

New Pornographers were a band I enjoyed. Cold War kids were a band I adored. I thrashed Robbers and Cowards. A distinct vocal sound combined with innovative production and refreshing songwriting. “Hospital Beds” (which has an excellent Florence and the Machine cover), “St John”, “We Used to Vacation”- fuck, I’ve gotta stop or I’d be quicker to say “the whole album”- hit me hard. I fell in love with all of these tracks and they found their way to every contemporary mix tape I made for years. Loyalty to Loyalty had a couple of neat songs too. The ones I liked worked into my constant rotation. “Mine is Yours” bombed hard for me. The sound, more stadium oriented, was no longer what I wanted from them. Much like The New Pornographers, it wasn’t for me, so I stopped cold (War Kids?). So it goes.

I could name a stream of bands who followed a similar pattern for me. The aforementioned Florence, my almost eponymous Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, TV on the Radio. I don’t know if this is more a comment on the effects of wider audience reception, fame and success, or that I have specific tastes. All I do know is that at some point, these bands have taken a fork in the road where I’ve refused to follow. The journey to that tangent was fantastic, but we’re clearly not meant to go down every road we see.

Seeing Cold War Kids in particular today, the band sounded great. Previewing new material off their forthcoming album, the experience of seeing them live (and shaking the lead singer’s hand. They awkwardly didn’t know what to do after the short set. He’d seen me kneeling on the ground during the performance, walked over and extended his hand) still had a stirring effect on me. While things may have changed, the seeds of that which had called to me were rooted fast. I don’t know how I feel about the new tracks, but I loved them in that context. Would I feel the same with the mixed versions? I’ve got no idea. Are there gems hidden in their past two albums I ignored? There may well be.

There are some messages in here about persistence, trust and faith. Like Cold War Kids’ past two albums, I haven’t decided if I’ve got the energy to search for them right now. Maybe though, just because I’ve pushed a door close, it doesn’t mean I need to lock it.

Luckily we didn’t break the mould. We did do midsection surgery with floss though.

Despite writing up a big post for Valentines Day, my girlfriend/valentine and I didn’t get to celebrate much on the day. That wouldn’t do. Never one to shy away from a good ol’ celebration, I still wanted to do have some fun, even a day removed. I thought about what we could get up to. The weather was typical February fare. Leaving the house merely to go to a restaurant didn’t seem that enticing. There were no places we’d been especially chomping at the bit to try. Leaving the house at all didn’t seem overly great. What kind of activity was possible at home then? It was a school night, so hookers and blow would’ve been sub-optimal. Creating memories had always been the best kind of celebration, but what if we could make memories that resulted in tacit reminders? Arts and crafts were always fun. How about a totem to remind us of spending time together? What about some type of sculpting or moulding? I had it. We could get a bunch of modelling clay and make one another. Then we’d have dinky little statues. Sure we’d be smote by God for creating false idols, but who needs heaven when you basically have your own action figures?

It was really fucking rad. I hadn’t used clay since I was ten or so and had to make an emperor penguin out of Fimo for school. I’d hardly been an inspired artist as a kid and the penguin was no exception. Its back was all warped and it had human eyes, but all things considered it more composed than Beast Jesus. My girlfriend picked up a stack of different colours and a heap of tan clay. We opened the packs, rolled it flat and started moulding. I had no idea where to begin, but her suggestion of the torso was a good call. I got to work on this lump, trying to figure out proportions. I thought of what my girlfriend looked like naked and tried to emulate her curves as best I could. It was remarkable how the clay shifted underneath my fingers. I’ve got warm hands and they smoothed over any blemishes easily. I concentrated on certain aspects, the gentle shape of her hips, those cute little bones that frame her belly button. It was pretty handy having her right next to me. The breasts were something I wanted to get right. Tired of how so many guys tend to create art with these unrealistic basketball boobs, I aimed to represent as best I could. Not too big, but as perfectly proportioned as her own. I wasn’t putting together some monument to cheesecake, but a sweet little totem of the woman I love. I can’t tell you how handy it was having her next to me. A simple “hey love, mind lifting your shirt? I want to make sure I get your tits the right size”. I got an excellent reference, plus the chance to sneak a peek. The perfect crime…

Proportions were tough, but I tried using my mind’s eye as much as possible. It was fascinating. How far did her arms reach when they were hanging at her side? To the edge of her bum? What about legs? What kind of musculature do legs have? Could I create definition between the thighs, knees and shins? Did I have the right texture to her belly? What about her back? Was there enough flesh there? How big was a head, exactly? Could I shape the cheeks? Nose? Leave space for eyes without getting all uncanny valley (“my lips aren’t a third the size of my head, darling”)? Feeling the clay shift between my fingers, I briefly wondered if this was how FSM felt when he sculpted us with his noodly appendage. I looked over. Her version of me was flatter, with Earthworm Jim legs. She’d done an excellent job of creating textures though. The pubic hair, little penis with its urethra. She’d done some rad facial features too, it was all kinds of neat. I couldn’t get her to free-stand, despite all my efforts. While I’d initially sculpted legs I was chuffed with, I’d bulked them up in order to try and establish some literal balance to the piece. I didn’t want it to fall flat on its carefully sculpted cheeks. Either set.

How do they look? Well her legs are chunky, there’s no getting around that. Proportion-wise I think I did a decent job. Her face doesn’t look nightmarish, even if I forgot to give her eyebrows. I’d put such effort in sculpting a representative nose, but it was flattened in the process. I’m bummed that I missed her armpit hair, ’cause that’s something she’s proud of IRL. I’m stoked with how her hair came out. I decided last minute to try texturing her long locks and while I did it hastily, it looks alright. Her version of me is a behemoth. I’m maybe two heads taller than she is, with neat little flat “mannaries” and nipples. All the facial features are choice and the hair came out superbly. My little peen looks great, if I do say so myself.

All in all it was a really fun night and a hell of a way to spend Valentines Day. Plus now if I’m ever feeling small, I can remember that she thinks of me as a giant.

Also her farts smell real bad. Just another feature.

It’s Valentines day, and I think discussions of romance have been pretty scant around here as of late. Mentions of “love” or “relationships” have been reduced to a few token mentions of my/the girlfriend, hardly a sentiment overflowing with evocative imagery or flowery prose. I haven’t been talking about how things are going between us, ongoing tensions or resolutions. Peaks we’ve overcome or trials we’ve faced. Really though, I haven’t mentioned anything purely because things are going so well, and that’s boring to hear.

On the other side of the equation though, things going well feels anything but boring to experience. I remember the early days of the relationship fondly. One of our biggest issues was that we were terrible at watching things together. In short, every time we lay down to switch on a movie or show, we realised we could be fucking instead. Pure, adrenaline fuelled passion while we were figuring one another’s bodies out. Discovering sweet spots, how to drive one another wild. Steamy and unshackled, almost furious with desire. Throwing ideas at one another to see what stuck. Once again, fond memories. The unspoken element however, were nerves. Being unsure of how things could go, often being afraid to ask. At times, holding back or pushing too far. Communication, endless communication that to this day I still cherish. Asking before pushing blindly into new territory. Enthusiastic consent, or offering suggestions. We worked at it and improved on our chemistry together, discovering all the areas where we meshed. Aiding one another through the areas that needed help. The sex is less frequent now, as spare time, physical and emotional energy have been in shorter supply. It’s also a lot warmer, deeper (emotionally. My dick didn’t somehow grow an inch or anything) and satisfying on a whole different level. We’re still more than happy to try new things, but the way we communicate about them is much smoother, there’s no ego about it. We’re great together, we both love our sex and simply being able to touch skin night after night is one of the greatest daily pleasures I couldn’t have imagined a year ago. It’s not possible to take something for granted when it brings you so much joy.

This time last year we had a pending move on our hands. Time was wrapped up in prepping, packing and dealing with the associated stresses. A see saw of excitement and dread. So much potential hidden under piles of exhaustion. Once it happened, the stress seemed to fall away and we stumbled joyfully through the new boundaries of living together. Thankfully because of who we both are, it couldn’t have been easier to navigate. Learning about how to make space for one another, the tensions of desire for intimacy and a need for solo time. I don’t want to sound too saccharine about it, we had tons of fun. It allowed me to see a whole different side of her. Yeah, I knew who she was before we shared a home, but it wasn’t the same. When we’d visit one another there was an implied necessity to be “on”. If we were hanging out it sorta felt like we had to be our best selves, constantly try to remind the other why we were so rad to be around. Living together the artifice is gone. We have nothing to prove, we know we love one another and that ultimately we’re on the same team. We want the relationship to thrive and grow. Part of that being the ability to accept one another as we are. To accept the things that at first glance aren’t our favourite aspects, but are just another feature of the person we’d each love to spend the rest of our life with. To know and trust that we can talk things out. That if something truly bothers us, our partner is likely not being intentionally malicious, but blissfully ignorant. Using our words.

I’ve found myself sharing my life with a gorgeous soul through and through. She has a passion for the things she holds dear that’s awe inspiring to behold. I’m the luckiest person in the world to be one of those things. She’s smart and sensible, in ways that complement me. We work well as a team. She’s boisterous in all the right ways, always happy to look for the adventure in the simplest of errands. She shares my love of play, whenever we can find it. She’s a goofball, makes me laugh deep resonant belly laughs till I cry. Seeing her smile lights up my world. She’s so giving in everything she does. Her heart’s in her hand always, in her touch or desire to help those she loves. She cares so much and it warms me to my core, inspires me to look for the good in others. She’s beautiful and sexy and catching her eye is enough to make my heart quiver. It’s so effortless to be in love with her, because I can’t imagine any alternative. She makes me say things that could only sound cheesy if you hadn’t met her. I tell her I love her time and time again every day. I mean it every single time. My biggest worry is that no matter how many times I do, it won’t convey the depth. Then again, words never could. That’s something I’ve got the rest of my life to keep working at.

So that’s “the girlfriend”. She’s one hell of a dame and I’m one of a lucky fella. Happy Valentines day Lioness. Once again (but never enough), I love you.

In other words, failing to work against type.

I’ve spent the last half hour staring at my screen, finding nothing but weak excuses not to write. I could’ve spent that half hour writing about weak excuses not to write and then I’d have the next half hour to do whatever I wanted. So for the next half hour, I’m gonna list weak excuses not to write:

  • I need to find things other than the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 villain that look like Cee Lo’s grammy outfit.
  • 11 minutes having passed since I last opened the fridge, looked around, was tempted by a swig of pineapple juice but instead closed the door and walked back to my computer. I mean, I could’ve at least picked up some water or something. I should probably go check again in case something has changed.
  • Combing through GP Pittsburgh’s top 32 to find at least one deck that wasn’t BG Constrictor, Mardu Vehicles or Copy Cat combo. Whoops, not gonna happen (though seeing Gonti get its time in the sun was some good time).
  • Ignoring the terrible dialogue and gratuitous CW style cheesecake to watch what’s quickly becoming a pretty well crafted teen drama; Riverdale. Oh wait, no new episode until next Friday.
  • Scrolling through Twitter to see people talk about The Grammys, so I can get worked up about an increasingly irrelevant award ceremony that may as well be called the Golden Lobes, vestigial as they are. Also I’m the asshole here. They’re not targeted towards me, why should I give a shit?
  • Meowing back at the cat, who keeps meowing loudly at me like I understand what she’s saying. C’mon cat, can’t you just speak human like the rest of us? Such an intolerant animal.
  • Reading Clickhole headlines out loud at my girlfriend, who’s trying to do her own mindless internet browsing. Then when she’s finally focused in on what she was reading before I so rudely interrupted with my emotional bid, read another one at her.
  • Checking on the pantry, in case it held something alluring that the fridge couldn’t match. Do I ever really need to have something to put marmite on? Or can spoons suffice?
  • Looking around at the many projects I said I’d start before getting distracted. Procrastinating through procrastinating about things I’ll inevitably procrastinate about again? Maybe later.
  • Buying Hindenburg Journalist recording software (tailor made for podcasting) for no good reason other than it’s absurdly cheap right now ($1.90 for World Radio Day instead of $80+). I have Pro Tools. Why would I ever need this?
  • Checking to see if any of my Facebook comments got more likes (even though I have the tab open and I can clearly see that they haven’t).
  • Trying to figure out a wittily worded Facebook post about Cee Lo’s GotG2 Grammy’s outfit.
  • Seeing others do it better.
  • Crying about it.
  • Cheering up once I realised half an hour had passed and so had my daily writing.
  • Finishing without so much as a snappy conclusion.

It snows or never. Or later. Any time, in fact.

For all that I’m not doing this weekend (namely anything active or outgoing), there is one thing I’m doing remarkably well: Hiding from the outside world. This whole weekend I left the house three times. One gym visit and two supermarket shops. If I had’ve gained a tan on my New Zealand summer holiday (the rain and clouds said nope) it would’ve been gone by now. Is it time for me to start desperately chugging vitamin D yet? Maybe I can get one of those orange filters for my halogen lamp, affixing it above me as I sleep. Surely that works, right science? Then again, halogen lamps are bloody hot. My girlfriend wouldn’t likely be too happy to find her boyfriend having morphed into a fried egg. Since spending time outside isn’t a viable option, I should probably keep up with the moisturiser, elsewise get used to my new reflection. Once again, unhappy girlfriend. Vitamin D it is then.

Despite my aversion to the outdoors, I managed to not become a total recluse. I’m fortunately surrounded by enablers. Instead of having to leave, people came to me. All I had to offer them was nourishment both physical and mental. We had friends over for dinner last night, an activity that felt very mature and not at all an excuse to utterly gorge ourselves on delicious vittles. Not one iota. We put together a roasted pork loin with an assortment of roasted veggies, they brought bruscetta’d green beans and ice cream. It was an excellently chilled out night where we got to relax and just hang out. Given my more introverted tendencies lately, I couldn’t have thought of a better evening plan that didn’t involve riding off into the sunset on cybernetically armoured dinosaurs. Maybe next weekend.

Something that came up during dinner was the notion of plastic surgery. Without any intended shaming, I brought up my own personal discomfort with the idea of looking into the mirror and seeing things on my face that weren’t naturally of my own body. I’m pretty lucky, in that matter, to be happy enough with my own features. The idea of changing something cosmetically and potentially not being happy with the result feels deeply unsettling. Maybe I watched too many 90s after school specials in my youth. When I mentioned it, my friend piped up saying she’d actually had work done as a child to alter her deviated septum. When she was younger she had constant shortness of breath. Once it was cleared out, the issues went away. She couldn’t speak highly enough about having the procedure done.

A while back my girlfriend mentioned to me that I had a deviated septum, which was news to me. I’d never known what that was. Looking in the mirror though, it’s glaringly obvious that my nasal passages are differently sized. My whole life I’ve had difficulty breathing through both nostrils. I take a nasal spray every day and that helps. What if I could get that fixed though? If I had the surgery done and stopped it from being an issue? According to some quick googling, the procedure of septoplasty (with no cosmetic aspect) is covered by OHIP. I’d have to take time off work (though I do have the potential to work from home), but taking that time now to make a positive change for the rest of my life could be worth it in the long run. By the sounds of it, the shape of my nose wouldn’t be too affected either. Which is great, I like my nose. It’s noble looking. It’s even better when it works properly.

Should I do it? WHO NOSE, MAN?

Things could be worse.

I used to pride myself on my ability to be current, on top of trends. I feel like I’ve been saying this for years, when it likely refers to a stretch of years from 2008-2010. Back when I’d moved away to the small town of Rotorua, population 60,000. Before I had things like an active social life, a lengthy commute and a girlfriend. I could spend the evenings scouring the internet for fresh new TV shows, albums, video games. Also, because I scarcely slept, I could watch these things in the same night. From around 7pm until 2am every night, seven solid hours of me time.

I don’t do this any more. I can’t. I have friends in close proximity (rather than two hours’ drive away), a live-in girlfriend and a 50 minute commute (instead of a five minute walk) each morning. At some point through the years between then and now, I also discovered a causal link between my frenetic nature and sleep deprivation. Adding to this mess is the proliferation of content driven by greater internet presence. There’s too much goddamn stuff out there and I’ve got no hope of remaining current without forsaking those aforementioned important aspects of my life (people). That’d be a full time job (albeit one I’d probably enjoy).

Which is to say, these days I’m often late to the party. Even when I get there, it’s often because I’m led by friends telling me how I’ve been missing out. FOMO is a mean, effective motivator. Funny, I talk about not having enough time, then lay a fuckton of pipe to get to the point. The point is, the show Catastrophe is many kinds of great.

A 2015 Amazon Prime show, Catastrophe is a relationship based comedy about an Irish school teacher (Sharon Horgan) falling unexpectedly pregnant to an American businessman (Rob Delaney) after his trip to London. Geez, I could’ve described this better. It’s not like he arrives, looks at her and she’s all “HOW DID A BABY GET IN MY BELLY? GET IT OUT!” She calls him months later when he’s back home. Anyway, he comes back to London and the show picks up from there.

I understand if, based on that brief blurb you’d start questioning both my recommendation and sanity. It’s not a super compelling or original premise for a show. It also has that shaky camera style that for some reason is seen as a representation of grounded content. It’s more “real” or something. It also means I go from normal to borderline vomiting within ten seconds. HOW EXPENSIVE OR HARD TO USE IS A FUCKING TRIPOD? Anyway, I’m still not selling it well. I watch it from a bed a couple of metres away from the computer screen. That helps

Why watch it then? Because the show is gut-wrenchingly funny (or maybe that’s just the shaky camera playing with my innards). I’m not the kind of person who often watches shows alone and laughs out loud, but Catastrophe has that rare quality. Both Horgan and Delaney are hilarious, throwing quips and witty non-sequiturs back and forth. The dialogue is fantastic, but it wouldn’t go anywhere without solid chemistry. Despite misgivings about the “real” camerawork, the show is grounded and believable. So many sitcoms have a habit of feeling contrived or needlessly amping up a scene for greater impact. Catastrophe doesn’t put situations outside the realms of believably, letting the fantastic writing do the heavy lifting instead. Seeing Rob and Sharon together puts you totally on their side, deeply hoping that things will work out.

Thing is, the characters are so well defined that there’s realistic conflict. All the time and on resonant tensions like job stress, money, wavering libidos, shitty family, birth fears and postpartum depression. They argue, more and more viciously as the show pans out (it really hits its stride in s01e04). They’ll yell and tear each other down. They’ll also, within the same conversation, joke and de-escalate, apologise. Like actual human beings who are on the same team, they love each other deeply and don’t really want to leave one another. They’re surrounded by interesting, diverse supporting characters, many of whom are hugely flawed. It’s non-judgemental and sex positive too. Being a British show, there are only six 23 minute episodes in a season (two so far), so it’s easy to dive into.

I slept on this one, but you no longer have to. Have you got five hours? In that case, you certainly don’t have an excuse.

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.