A pity party is still a party.

Happy birthday to moi. As is de rigueur, it’s been spent way up in a cloud of negativity. I haven’t felt special, I’ve felt shitty, insufficient. I’m at a place in my life that seems comparatively joyless. I don’t like my job and aside from fleeting distractions, my day to day adds up to a cumulative total of fine, I guess. I’m 31 now and feel like the only direction I’ve gone from 30 has been backwards. A year has passed and I have nothing to show for it. A couple more memories to file away, but it doesn’t feel like I had a year’s worth of experiences. I have nothing to complain about, but that doesn’t equal tons to celebrate. My grand plans for the day involve going to the gym, going home, eating dinner and in general wanting everything to go away.

I’d usually treat myself to something, but my patterns of celebration all revolve around consumption. I’d go out to a restaurant or drink myself blind, but keto has stripped the fun out of that. I’ve subtracted the enjoyment from basically my favourite thing to do, which likely forms no small element of my birthday blues. Still, going full humbug has been an anniversary tradition for as long as I’ve been making my own money.

For at least the past 10 years, birthdays have become a mire of self-examination. Another trip around the sun seems emblematic of how much I haven’t done. My lack of progress and general listlessness. It’s navel gazing at its most cruel. Creating unrealistic comparisons is always a fool’s errand, but like a fool I get sucked in every year. Of course I understand intellectually that my life isn’t a garbage fire, but that does little to lift my mood.

The smart thing to do, then, would be to have a paradigm shift. Instead of asking what have I done in the past year? I should be asking what would I like to do in the next year? Nothing as grand as where do I want to be? Something more along the lines of what would make me happy? What does happiness look like to me? What does “good enough” represent? The answers seem self-evident. Of course I want my work to fulfil me. I’d like to be more confident. Fitter, happier et al. The real question should be how do I decide where I want to be without resenting myself for not getting there?

Self-compassion is a skill that we’re not taught. Our society rarely makes a habit of celebrating mediocrity (outside of Rotten Tomatoes’ fruit based rating system) and successes are paraded around as inspiration porn. The side effect is that the yardstick we measure ourselves with goes way beyond our range. It’s unbalanced and the expectations we hold don’t match up to workable metrics. We’re told we can be film stars, entrepreneurs, artists, millionaires. The 99th percentile is achievable if only we try hard enough, right? Sure, for 1% of us. Most people aren’t them.

Look, I’ll be fine tomorrow, when expectations are back to their low bar. Something about the day always makes me feel like there’s pressure to be extraordinary and the surplus of ordinary really twists the knife. It’s a birthday, they come around every year. By the time I sleep I won’t have to worry about it for another sun cycle.

If that ain’t something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

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Three cheers for everyone’s favourite Coppola.

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Like in that Will Ferrell movie. Or when you find yourself in a situation you’d merely dreamed of. Dreams, however, could not come close to the reality I was lucky enough to experience. It was all too brief, as only the best things are. Last night I went to (beat) a Nicolas Cage party.

How many films has Nic Cage been in? Many times more than enough. Accordingly there were beyond ample costume opportunities. While I’d initially conspired to go as Cowboy Pachinko Nic Cage, I left it way too late and didn’t want to have to track down a close-enough shirt and other costume accessories. At some point it gets expensive to put together costumes. The hope is that eventually you’ll have enough items in your closet/tickle trunk that you can assemble a costume from things that are lying around the house.

But I said “fuck it” anyway and went out to buy the necessary bits for a Con Air Nic Cage. I was surprised I didn’t already own a white singlet. It strangely took many hours to find one. The other necessary props were a small cardboard box and a soft toy bunny to put in said box. Then for extra marks I wrote a couple of letters from his daughter all written in coloured felt tip pens with a child’s scrawl. The first I took straight from the film. Things got weird immediately:

“My Daddy is coming home on July 14th. My Birthday is July 14th. I’m going to see my Daddy for the first time on July 14th.”

“I love my Daddy lots I think. I dunno. I’m sorta just a plot device.”

“Hey Daddy. Didn’t you think the use of Sweet Home Alabama in this film was a bit egregious? Or was that the point?”

“Hey Daddy. This film didn’t deserve the stacked cast it had. I mean, Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Buschemi, fucken Chapelle, man?”

“Hey Daddy. Real Eyes. Realize. Real Lies.”

I was ready.

Could anyone really be ready for such a soirée? There was a clothes line in the kitchen, with a ton of hanging Nicolas Cage masks to choose from. A playlist of Nic Cage movies played all night long on the TV. There were tacos (not thematic), a plounge (also not thematic) and a car buffer people were using for quick low key massages (maybe thematic? Who knows? Cage is a sensual fellow). There were cheeses and nice fudges. Tons of mixers. A polaroid camera and endless enthusiasm. My friend’s place is in a converted factory and it’s made for a wonderful home overflowing with character. She has unbelievable amounts of awesome colourful art she’s both purchased and created. Soft toys, dioramas and colourful displays were everywhere. Colour changing mood lights in each room of the house. It was like being transported to a fantasy world. A monument to absurdity and whimsy, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect environment in which to erect a shrine for the OneTrueGod.

As for today, I’m coming out of my Cage and I’ve been doing just fine.

More like sigh-napses.

So here’s a thing about me. I love stand up comedy, but I really don’t enjoy watching recorded stand up specials. Without being there live and feeling the collective energy in the room, the visual aspect adds nothing and I get bored. Love listening to recorded stand up, don’t like watching it. I’ve had Netflix for a while and seen a bunch of promising specials stack up on my potential view list. I’ve tried, but usually get about five minutes in before calling it quits. Yesterday I cracked the code (remembered my password) so I can put Netflix on in the background at work for listening purposes. It was great. Watched Rory Scovel’s special. Loved it. Patton Oswalt’s Annihiliation. Excellent. Judd Apatow’s special. Maybe he should stick with the film thing. So I put the question out to my friends on Facebook. “People who understand the kind of stuff I find funny, would you mind recommending specials that I’d very likely enjoy?”

Then something that I expected would happen, happened. People just chimed in with things they liked. On one hand, it was nice that people were weighing in and suggesting things. On the other hand, they also weren’t answering the question. The question wasn’t what they’d like, it was essentially “friends, do you know my sense of humour? If so, what stuff do you like that would fit in with that?” Blindly knowing what they liked didn’t help, because humour is such a personal thing and the question hinged on a kind of personal familiarity that many acquaintances (let’s be real, most Facebook friends aren’t particularly close friends) wouldn’t have. I was asking a lot. I thought for a second whether or not it was worth re-clarifying the question. Would people think it rude to do so? Was it rude for them to have asserted their opinion without having read and consisted the full question in the first place? I figured it all came out neutral I’m the wash. So I did, and a friend asked for me to further quality the kind of stuff I enjoyed so she could give more accurate representations. So I responded.

“Sure. It’s really difficult to pin down (cause we’re all complex humans, right?). I like a lot of the alt/meta stuff, but particularly the kind of stuff that points to structures that exist and question why those structures exist. Really, pointing the finger at structures is basically my favourite thing about the medium.

I’m really not into silly humour unless it’s silly humour wrapped under a couple of layers of irony (Andy Kindler sort of thing). Otherwise it’s silly for the sake of silly which, meh. Same with vulgar stuff. It’s fine, but not when it’s trying to get laughs because it’s vulgar. Vulgar pointing to clever observations about the human condition and our shame surrounding this kind of thing are great (Ali Wong’s stuff was great for this).

Dark stuff falls under a similar umbrella. Borderline nihilism is fun to play with because yes humans are terrible and fundamentally do more harm then good. We’re silly creatures who trick one another into thinking we have more significance than we do and there’s a lot of humour in the baggage we give ourselves. Blatant edgelord negativity for nothing other than trying to push the envelope, however, can go suck an egg. Bo Burnham’s one of my kind of peeps for this. Also because he’s horrifyingly talented.

I like it when comics play with the format (Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics, etc), I love one person shows (Chris Gethard – Career Suicide/Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King), great storytelling (most anything Jen Kirkman or Mike Birbiglia) and I do like wholesome stuff a bunch too, but it’s hard to quantify which wholesome stuff I like and why (Pete Holmes and Gary Gulman would be good examples of this).”

In sending this response, however, I realised it was still hopelessly ineffective. They were thin outlines and try as I may have to thicken them or add colour, there was little opacity. The breadth and depth of what I enjoy in comedy and why was hastily sketched. When I thought more, even I don’t fully understand what it is that lights up my synapses. If I couldn’t articulate my preferences with precision, how dare I expect that from others?

There’s a humbling loneliness to this pattern of thought that’s left me hanging a little low. I thought to some degree I knew myself better than this. It should be exciting that I’ve got so much left to learn about how I tick, that I have a lifetime to figure it out. At the same time, it’s kind of isolating. It makes me question how close the friendships I have are, what sort of connections I assumed were there, but may not be as solid as I’d thought.

Then the other side of me thinks I should just lighten up. Maybe listen to some comedy or something.

Jeff Whinger would’ve been a less likeable lead.

You know how you sometimes get in a dark mood because of one thing? How all your focus goes to that one thing at behest of everything else that’s going on in your life? Those times where enough of your energy is spent trying to think of anything else, that you’ve used up any resources you had to do so? It feels like that’s been my past few months. I know I’ll emerge out of this dark hole eventually and in doing so, marvel at the fact that light exists, absent as it’s been.

Look, I’m not vaguebooking here. The only thing I hate more than my job at the moment is my inability to propel myself towards something else. Despite knowing that my job isn’t a big enough part of my identity for it to be absorbing the majority of my mental energy, I still have an inability to phone it in. Little as I care about the position, I just don’t have it in me to not do a good job. I want to not give a shit, barely tow the line and be astral projecting when I should be in the office, but I can’t. I keep doing a good job and my “reward” is that they keep heaping more work on me. It’s all kinds of shit.

Geez, when did this place become a whinge zone? I used to use it as a contemplative space to muse on happenings and curiosities. I’d let my mind unfurl and ramble. I’m not saying it was good writing, but it was a hell of a lot more compelling than “I’m 30 and I’ve realised I’m just as mediocre as I always feared”. I travelled and got invested in the world around me. There was some sense of personal development, progress as I challenged long held ideas. Instead I became Eeyore, but less adorable. Things have been going downhill for a while and I’m waiting for the upswing.

(Ready for the ill-advised Winger-esque monologue?)

Obviously that’s the problem, right? I’m waiting. Staying static doesn’t create momentum and I don’t know why I thought it would. I didn’t take advanced science in high school, but I’ve read the dictionary and as such I know that inertia is the opposite of progress. I’ve become paralysed by indecision and my lack of direction has me spinning in circles. Sure, spinning creates a certain kind of energy, but all it’s managed to do is burrow me further into place. What I need now is a propeller. Something to hold onto that can lift me out of the hole I’ve created for myself. I know there’s light out there, but it’s become hard to remember what it looks like. I need to figure out where I’m going before I have any hope of getting there.

Or, y’know, give up and have a kid. It works for some.

A plea for coffee more than anything else.

I went out for dinner with family last night. It was nice and some parts of it have stayed with me. Namely the parts blocking up my digestive tract. We ate a lot of meat. More than that, it was a good chance to catch up and chat extensively. EXTENSIVELY I say. We all got there earlier than our 7pm reservation and left at 10:30pm. Then we did late night ice cream for dessert. I think the only reason we ceased our catching up and extensive chatting was that the ice cream joint was shutting down and my girlfriend needed to use the bathroom.

I’d say shit happens, but I’m gonna need a coffee before anything’s happening in my system.

Anyway, we shot the shit, chewed the fat and talked ourselves to death. It was a great chance to discuss all manner of issues with people at a different stage of life than us, who have experienced the world in a different manner. I don’t want to make it sound like they’re eternal vampires who’ve witnessed the turn of many centuries. They’re not that old, but I’d wager being on the other side of having borderline adult children gives you a different perspective from disillusioned avocado toast munching snake people who’ve abandoned this cesspool of a world in favour of retiring to Never Never Land.

I dunno. I got worked up and ranted a little bit. Not like this is a huge deviation from the norm. At one stage I was asked something about coping mechanisms. In short, if everything seems dark out, how do you lighten up? I thought about it for a while, then went to the domain of thought: the bathroom. I certainly wasn’t doing much else there, the dinner had been lacking in dietary fibre (though overflowing with some manner of moral fibre). I considered it and later reflected. Escapism was my answer. Drinking, eating, watching endless TV shows, deep diving into video games. Many hours of mindless internet perusing. Basically all numbing behaviour. The response to a world in which seems to be circling the drain.

I posited that this kind of mentality had coloured the humour of this generation. I thought back to Generation X and the rise of sarcasm as humour in response to feelings of discontent. I considered this generation’s reliance on memes. Sarcasm, irony, meta narratives where the joke is on larger structures that society enables. Nihilism as common parlance. An understanding that we’re all fucked and if we don’t laugh about it, we’ll have no recourse but to cry. Frankly, we can only cry so much in a day.

I wanna point out that I’m not naive or ignorant enough to steadfastly believe that absolutely everything in the world is on fire. Small victories exist all over the place, it’s frankly just hard to see them through the smoke sometimes. Of course social media and groupthink play a big part in it. Disasters draw more notice than wins. We have rubbernecking on a global scale at a frequency that’s causing whiplash. I’m sure there are amazing scientific discoveries and advancements occurring every day. I’m sure that there’s probably more good in the world than bad. Thing is, you can only walk two steps forward, one step back for so long before you start focusing on how much further ahead you could be.

I mean, didn’t we all think we beat the Nazis over 70 years ago?

My brain, too, feels like it’s floating.

This is gonna be a messy one. It’s been a while since I’ve had a decent sleep. For the past couple of months the cat has been noisy at night most evenings. Over the past few days it’s gotten ridiculous. I’m a light sleeper. Last night I probably got woken up around once an hour and, because it was a sweaty night, often found it hard to get back to sleep. Here’s an example of how nuts it’s been: We went to bed just before 11pm last night. Between 11pm and 11.30pm (when I finally came out to spray it with a mist bottle- our discipline method) it intermittently yowled six or seven times. It’s a catch 22. It’s gotten to the point where it’s obviously doing it for the attention (we feed it before bed) and while coming out to spray it obviously gives it the attention it wants, spraying it is the only thing that stops it from yowling.

My girlfriend, of course, sleeps like a rock and doesn’t notice any of it.

It’s becoming too much for me. I’m at the point where if it goes on for another night or two I’m seriously considering trying to find a friend’s house where I could crash for a couple of days. Just to sleep and recharge. To put that into context, I’m considering leaving my own house because of the cat that moved in. In short, if this is a war of attrition, the cat is winning. It probably doesn’t even know anything’s up. It’s dire. Things are starting to get a little The Shining around here. I haven’t started hallucinating yet, but it can’t be far off. I’m coming apart mentally. I feel hollow and ephemeral. I’ve started trying to calculate in my head how long it’ll be until natural causes take their toll. I’m not sure whether that’ll be on me or the cat.

For some reprieve, in any case, my girlfriend and I are seeing It tonight. I’m sure the film will be tame compared to the thoughts circulating around my noggin. I like horror films and the miniseries was pleasant, innocent fun. Hopefully the movie has benefited from time and increased SFX technology. I’m not one who usually gets scared in films, but perhaps there’ll be more affecting body horror than telescopic shower faucets. We can only hope. I’ve also got my fingers crossed that the repeated catchphrase “you’ll float too” will have more relevance. We saw far fewer floating bodies than balloons in the original. Also insufficient bodies floating in balloons. Has Pennywise ever considered investing in a hot air balloon company?

In other news, our newly elected Prime Minister just publicly laid the smackdown to capitalism. Maybe she’s afraid the dollar will float too. I’m just stoked to finally be hopeful about politics again. Make us proud, Jacinda!

Please do it before I lose my mind.

Or I could go astral travelling. Might be a nice vacation.

I only saw one JFL42 last night in an attempt to catch up on sleep. A combination of unseasonable heat and the cat being an anus made that decision null and void. So now I’m validating the lyrics to Katy Perry’s Firework. I feel like a plastic bag floating in the wind. Except it’s been previously used to hold rotting meat. Plus there’s a hole in the bottom, leaking the putrescent juices everywhere. Oh, and the meat was heavy, so the handle got stretched out till it broke. I think I may have accidentally suffocated a dolphin too. The burden of weariness is a grim load to bear.

I was thinking today how much it bums me out that “Influencers” exist. People whose job it is simply to be popular and shill on social media. It’s disturbed the natural order of being. The high school socialites weren’t meant to have viable careers post high school. They were supposed to peak at 17, then dwindle away into insignificance. Now they get free products and a shitload of money to exist and be admired. Maybe I’m just jealous. Of course I’m jealous. Sigh. I think selfie skills might legit be a more important life skill than algebra now. Too bad I’m awful at both. What viable career path is left to me?

I was also thinking today how weird it is that soft skills aren’t really taught in schools. It was oft spouted rhetoric that kids should be learning budgeting in high school. So many people don’t come by it organically and it’s pretty damned important. Knowing how to balance income against outgoings and forecast your needs is huge. Aside from this, teaching social skills would be a massive help to so many. Reading facial, tonal or conversational cues and hints could drastically change everyday interactions. Understanding how to be considerate to other viewpoints, to better interact in public or in the workplace would be a boon all across society. We’d hopefully see a ton less invasive/stalker-y behaviour. I’ve heard that at least here in Canada, consent is becoming part of the curriculum (which is amazing). This seems only a sidestep from that. Imagine how much better virtually any fandom could be. No more vicious nerds stabbing one another in the eyes with pens. What a wonderful world.

Ugh, even this paltry offering of writing has been a chore. I don’t know how I’m gonna manage to stay tethered to this plane of existence tonight. Perhaps I’ll have to bribe myself with a plate of nachos. Geez. Midnight Alt Comedy shows begin tomorrow. How long before I’m a mere shadow passing through this realm? At least plastic bags have some substance.