#juststrangerthings

I’ve lived a life. Most living people have. I’ve met many people in those years I’ve spent alive. Some I’ve been fortunate to keep around me and get to know better. Others have passed through like, well, people who are no longer living. I hope they’re still living though. A few people in particular really livened up the time I spent with them. Some left a hefty impression. In fact, there are a handful I think of on the regular. I wonder what they’ve done with their lives, where they are, who they are now. Let’s meet some. Story time, starting with the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.

Some context. I was a chubby 11 year old at the Takapuna Normal Intermediate School social. If you needed to guess the year, I was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and zip off khakis with at least six pockets (think 90s proto Guy Fieri). One of the most exciting features of the night was a potluck snack table. It was in the music room, around the corner from the school hall. I had a bunch of friends, but I was far from one of the cool kids. The teacher chaperone announced that if we wanted to go to the potluck room, we’d have to ask someone of the opposite gender (I repeat, it was the 90s) to link arms with us and walk there side by side. In short, we needed a date. I was excited about the snacks, but really nervous to ask anyone. I asked three or four girls, who all turned their nose up and said they were taken already. I felt awful, shaken and on the verge of tears.

Then this girl walked up to me. We weren’t super close friends, but I’d always thought she was really smart and cool. “Hey” she said “I don’t know about you, but I really wanna go pig out. I’d be so happy if you’d join me.” She offered her arm. My heart swelled and my smile went full on Julia Roberts. I think it’s the most mature thing I’ve ever seen a kid do. It totally made my night. It’s not like we grew into best friends after that or anything, but I always appreciated what she’d done. I swear I’ve thought about that moment every week for my life thus far. I don’t even remember her full name, but every time I think of it, I’m so hopeful she’s gone on to have a wonderful life.

I was once at McDonalds at around 3am. Some drunk dude was having a riot of a time with the self service kiosk. He figured out that if you ordered a sundae, you could keep adding crushed peanuts for no additional cost. He said his goal was 100 packets. My order came and I really wanted to get the hell out of there. When I last saw him he was up to 53 additional packets. I have no idea what happened, but my sincere wish is that he walked out that door with a sealed box full of peanuts and a sundae as the cherry on top.

When I was in Thailand with friends, we visited a small town called Krabi. We were keen to go out and get buckets. I noticed a sign for a place that was advertising buckets, but they were way over the normal market price. Surprised at the audacity, I popped in and asked what it was that made their buckets so special. The guy behind the counter, a French dude, shrugged. He thought for a second and pulled out a bottle of Sangsom from under the counter. He exclaimed “with my buckets, you do your own pouring.” *It was unanimous, we were in. What followed was a debaucherous night of drinking. The guy, François, had been through hell (largely due to his own idiocy) getting to Krabi.

Three times he hired sex workers, then kept falling asleep and they kept taking large sums of money from his wallet (he’d lost $4000 combined from the three times). He’d injured his leg during his travels, then the bus he was on in Cambodia (they managed to evacuate first) had burned down, taking his baggage with it. He’d gotten in touch with a friend who said he could come manage this bar in Krabi. All he wanted was to hear hip hop from around the world and play bingo with pocket change. The next morning may have been the roughest hangover I’ve had in my life, but it was entirely worth it after the preceding night. Every once in a while I think back to that night and wonder what François is up to now.

Thing is, I must be this person for a bunch of people. I wonder at times what random encounters people have had with me over the years. Is there any chance I treated someone with the kindness that this girl did for me? Am I someone’s mysterious stranger?

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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?

Do readers really digest?

I had a thought earlier about how often I consume and how little I digest. I’m not talking about my propensity to inhale cheese. This is more of an intellectual intake. It’s amazing that we can have the entire world an arm’s length away from our face. We’ve all got the internet in the palms of our hands these days. Hell, some people have psalms in the palms of their hands these days. I’m not sure how much I read or watch in a day. I literally couldn’t tell you everything I passed on my journey down the information super highway today. There was too much and I wasn’t paying enough attention. That’s sort of the crux of what I’m talking about. So often I’ll get to the end of an article/thinkpiece/rant/movie/episode and reflect well that was interesting, wasn’t it? That’ll usually be where my interaction with that text ends. If I cast my mind back to it later, I’ll recall only scant details. I think they call it The Google Effect (would looking it up be ironic?). Essentially I assume I can always find it and re-read it if it’s important enough.

I was in the bathroom maybe an hour ago reading an article, got to the end and asked myself how much of that did I really take in? Yes, I appreciate the juxtaposition of thinking about digestion while sitting on the loo. I thought back to learning techniques used in school. Doing book reports or going through supplied questions about the texts. Provoking thought on something I’d just taken in. Just because I’d devoured it didn’t mean my mind took any nutrients before flushing it out. I started to think about my regular daily intake and how much I retain when I rise the following day. Maybe 1% at a conservative guess. If that’s true, then why read so much? Why am I bothering to cover so much ground if its footprint is so small in my brain?

I’m thinking about my habits and what they do for me. Modern online life revolves around getting as much as we can all the time. Apps and websites are designed in a manner that encourages consuming more and more. It makes sense. They want to sell ads and monetise our consumption. They want us buying their products, subscribing, etc etc. Synapses in our brain are constantly firing off as the carefully cultivated content hits all of our pleasure/reward centres. They know what they’re doing. Do I? What’s the point of reading so much if it’s not doing anything for me? If I go to a buffet and eat till I’m in pain, did I really get more value for money than if I’d stopped when I was satisfied?

I don’t know for sure how you all use the internet, but did any of that ring true for you? If so, I want to put something out there (I’ll probably say this then forget about it (I can just google it later)) that I think might help to ring more out of a text. After you’ve finished an article/thinkpiece/rant/movie/episode, ask yourself questions. Do a little book report for yourself. Ask how the piece made you feel. What arguments did you particularly like that it put forth? Was there anything that felt underdeveloped or you disagreed with? Why? What were your takeaways from the piece? If you were to tell someone about it at a party, how would you phrase it? What important or novel things did you learn from it? How was your perception of the piece shaped by your wider societal views?

It sounds like a waste of energy, but if I did this for everything I took in and only consumed two pieces in a day, I’d probably come out having learned more than I do at the moment. I may read 20-30+ pieces in any given day, but retain very little. In retrospect, that sounds like a waste of energy.

Do androids post clickbait for electric sheep?

Spoilers ahead for Blade Runner 2049. My girlfriend posted this article on Facebook and it prompted discussion. I spent a while writing a response to the discussion and figured I’d done my daily writing. Here goes.

So I think these are all pretty valid criticisms of the movie. The one conceit that I’m not buying into is that the sequel’s box office performance is tied to its lack of representation. Films with shitty representation go gangbusters at the box office all the time. It sucks and it’d be great if that wasn’t the case. It’s a niche, long and contemplative Sci Fi sequel of a cult film released something like 30 years ago. Also like they said, the original wasn’t a huge hit either. Also how often are people buying tickets to films knowing how effective their representation is? Isn’t that something you learn after watching the film? Using its box office performance issues as a tag for an otherwise pretty decent article seems pretty clickbait-y.

So first off, I’m not positing this as me having some crazy hot take. Unabashedly I really enjoyed the film and kind of just want to have people to talk about it with. I’m also of the opinion that you can both love a piece of art and criticise it without detracting from the fact that it meant something to you. I think that this article’s author had a bunch of pretty salient points and I’m interested in a discussion.

She’s on the money saying that women in this film were primarily relegated to window dressing and signposting. I mean, Robin Wright, in typical Robin Wright fashion, was fantastic. She was certainly a Boss Ass Bitch, but even she was reduced to essentially a gatekeeper making sure to quell the uprising in a very motherly position.

So how would we go about fixing the script? First and foremost, I don’t think the gender of K is super important to the plot. I mean, the commoditization of female bodies is sort of a central idea, whether it’s the corporation mass producing replicants like some kind of big baby factory, or trying to obtain the replicant born child to cheapen the reproduction process. Having K be female could’ve opened avenues for her to navigate these themes as well as the nature of reality, humanity and all that jazz. Then again, it’s not like this movie needed a longer run time.

I don’t know where I sit on the whole JOI aspect of not having agency, because that was kind of the point, right? She was a product created by the corporation to sell to their own products (I mean, grow your own consumers? That’s gotta help your bottom line). The whole “I tell you what you want to hear” idea was central to the plot and eventual twist. I think it would’ve gone some ways to have depicted male JOI units too (because surely the corporation wouldn’t skip out on selling to half their market?). Maybe even including a scene with The Lieutenant using one? Could’ve added a nice layer. Maybe have male sex workers too? Sexy nude dudes on that Vegas planet as well?

I mean, the Vegas planet was a nice backdrop for a film obssessed with the nature of reality and illusion, the holographic performers, etc etc. I did think it was a bit much that we were only seeing female bodies sexualised.

As for the sex scene, it felt more like they were using it to show off impressive SFX than super important narrative pathos. Was JOI organising the sexual encounter an extention of telling K what he wanted to hear? Did it show how much he was tied into the idea of her as real? They had the rain scene, him pouring her a glass, that dumb “buckle up” line. Did it add enough to necessitate its inclusion? I’m not sure. It looked pretty, but felt kind of throwaway to me.

Luv is another matter. I think [my friend in the thread] made a pretty great point about the sociopathic relationship with Wallace. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit sleepy when I saw the film, especially during the Leto scenes. This strikes me as a pretty astute read on the character. The details were either subtle enough that I missed them entirely or maybe dozed through them. It would’ve been great to have just a little bit of dialogue implying that she had agency in her decisions, or furthering her motivation along those abusive relationship lines. We know she was his tool. Hell, K was just a tool himself after all (and the question of agency was another big part of the film, right?) but the film was built around him. It could’ve done a ton to build her out as an antagonist if her motivations were more apparent.

I kinda want to watch this film again…

Something’s awesome in the state of Denmark.

I was checking Facebook memories this morning as I always do and saw an interesting link pop up. Past me seemed to find it compelling and present me went along for the ride. It was about a 1938 conference called the Évian Conference. Established by the United States, it called together a bunch of countries to tackle the growing Jewish refugee crisis in Europe. I’m not much of a history buff, but I read on.

The most salient point piquing my interest was that Hitler was there too. Before the thrust of his final solution, it was pretty clear that he saw the Jews as little more than meddlesome stray animals. His pull quote was thus: “I can only hope and expect that the other world, which has such deep sympathy for these criminals [Jews], will at least be generous enough to convert this sympathy into practical aid. We, on our part, are ready to put all these criminals at the disposal of these countries, for all I care, even on luxury ships.” Unfortunately, most countries decided that there wasn’t much they could do about taking in refugees. The US and Britain both took around 30-40K per year for three years. Australia took about 15K and the Dominican Republic took in around 100,000. Canada was conspicuously silent. It’s both mind-blowing and heartbreaking to me to think of the massive loss of life that could’ve been averted. All the suffering that amounted to history’s most infamous genocide.

So there I was at the bus stop getting pretty emotional reading about all this. Holding back tears thinking about how monstrous humanity can be. The ramifications of this huge event still being felt all these years later. Not just the death and suffering, but the callous reduction of human beings to lesser life forms in the eyes of those who rounded them up. It struck a personal note as my own heritage that, while not a massive cultural part of my life, was certainly warped by the Holocaust. Not only harrowed that this could happen in the first place, but that, even with this kind of racial persecution widely considered to be at the foremost of humanity’s atrocities, the resurgence of Nazi mentality exists in these times. How is it possible to hate an entire culture of people enough that you don’t consider their claim to life to be valid? It’s heavy stuff and it burns a hole in my soul to consider that there are obviously people out there who wish it had fully succeeded.

My dark haze was lifted somewhat by learning of the lengths to which Denmark went to in order to get refugees to safety. Apparently 99%, or roughly 7,800 Jews were safely evacuated to the safe haven of neutral ol’ Switzerland. Denmark, at the time, was gripped with a fierce national mentality of a close knit lifestyle. Of treasuring one’s community and neighbours. They took in those who hid, went out of their way to search up anyone who sounded Jewish in the phone book and warn them, offering asylum and passage elsewhere. Officials opposed orders from the Nazi regime and a number of Nazi soldiers stationed locally were encouraged to turn a blind eye. Members of the upper class contributed of their own fortunes to help contribute fare for travel. Locals put themselves at great personal risk to hide and ferry Jews across boarders under the watchful eye of the Nazi regime. Reading all this, the strength of human spirit and courage in the face of adversity was unbelievable. The citizens of Denmark could’ve rolled over like so many, but instead chose to fight for what was right. It gives me hope that, should another inhumane regime rise once more, the world would not stand for it. Not now, or ever again.

But then again disasters and genocides seem to happen every other week and the Western world doesn’t give two shits. Let’s not break a rib trying to blow ourselves here.

Are you Heron me correctly?

I got to wake up this morning to the news that New Zealand has elected a new Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern. I feel like this just washed over most of you, so here’s some backstory:

In New Zealand our government runs on an MMP system. To be honest, I’m not 100% on what that acronym stands for. Mixed Member Parliament? In any case, it’s proportional representation. People vote, they tally all the votes and give each party a number of seats in parliament depending on the percentage of the population that voted for them. They get one seat for every 5% of the total vote they earned. That’s super simplified, but my simplistic understanding could be why I think it’s a pretty decent system.

In any case, the two big parties (centre left to centre right) are Labour and National. I’m sure the difference isn’t as stark as the parties would have you believe, but Labour has a slightly more socially conscious bent, while National is more economically focused. Then there are all the smaller special interest parties who fill in the gaps and create coalitions to get the ruling parties over the magical 50% point. We haven’t had a Labour led government this decade, so it feels like a while. In part because Labour hasn’t had strong leadership in some time, but also because the last elected PM John Key (commonly nicknamed the smiling assassin, if you wanted a quick character reference) was oddly popular for some unfathomable reason. Can you hear my bias leaking through? Good. He was an old rich wanker/banker who frequently put his foot in his mouth. No, he wasn’t as bad as Trump, but that’s not a glowing review either.

This last election was straight up bonkers. First off, John Key (in an admittedly Cool Move) decided to retire before the end of his term to let the public get to know his choice for replacement party leader, Bill English. Made sense in the lead up to the election. English had run for PM before, but didn’t get elected. So he still hasn’t been elected PM, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Anyway, English was up against Labour’s Andrew Little in the main event. Little still wasn’t popular and was getting crushed in the polls. With something like three or four months until the election, Labour decided to jettison Little and put popular List MP Jacinda Adern in his place. It was a gamble for sure. Jacinda had been a career politician for all of her adult life, but at 37 that was maybe 15 years or so. She’d been doing a ton of good work, was young and passionate about social causes and well spoken. She didn’t have much leadership experience- which is I guess a desired qualification for the country’s top position- but in a dire time there was no better candidate. I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m ragging on her. For years I’ve thought she seemed competent, focused and that her heart was in the right place. Plus she knows how to DJ. You can bet your ass she’d run a fun political party. Maybe now the ‘M’ in MMP will stand for “Mixtape”.

Anyway, she ran a solid campaign, Labour bounced back as the country was hungry for a change. It’s not like she’s our first female PM (third. Only our second elected), but the top governmental seats had been pretty male dominated for a while. I’m sure at this point you’re all “yeah dickhead, we know she won. End of story.” Not so, assumptive reader! The votes came out to something like 37% Labour and 45% National. Greens formed a coalition with Labour (which was always on the cards), bringing the overall coalition to something like 43%. Then came Winston Peters. Peters is a character. He’s been around in Parliament forever. Maybe he’s part bed bug? Kind of reminds me of Saul from Better Call Saul. He was a former lawyer, maybe that’s it. He’s a constant agitator. I’m not sure how great he is in a position of influence, but he sure keeps everyone honest. Old people love him for some reason. Anyway, his party NZ First got about 7%. None of the unmentioned parties got enough votes to gain a seat, so ol’ Winnie was thrust into the position of kingmaker. Would you want Saul Goodman in the position if parliamentary kingmaker? How do you think that’d go? Meetings. Deals struck behind closed doors. After several weeks without a new government, New Zealanders begun channeling that emotional energy into somewhere it could do some good: NZ Forest and Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition. Looks like Kea’s gonna scoop up a first time win this year. Good on it. Clever bird. Destroys cars with its beak, for real.

Anyway, after much deliberation on Winnie’s behalf, we have a brand new Labour led government. It might be idealistic to hope for real change, but sometimes I can be pretty damn idealistic. Congrats to Jacinda and fingers crossed she can live up to our massive expectations.

As for the other looming election, voting closes on October the 23rd. I’d say the Bird of the Year competition will be less controversial, but you never know…

Is a Blade Runner someone who walks the razor’s edge frequently and at high speed?

Spoilers: There will probably be Blade Runner 2049 spoilers.

Probably. I saw it last night so chances are I’ll want to talk about it. If that’s the case I’ll leave them until at least the third paragraph.

This is the second paragraph. I can’t say for sure that there’ll be spoilers in the next one, but there won’t be any in this one. This one’s reserved for my semi-weekly work bitching. I’m in this weird position at work. I don’t like my job. I don’t like my job because I’ve done my job for almost three years now and I really only wanted to be there for two years max. One year after that, it’s hard not to look at the static nature of my role and feel crippling disappointment. Yes, I’m lucky to have a job. My co-workers/bosses are nice people. I’m not being harassed or compromised on a moral/ethical level. The job isn’t even that bad, it’s more that I’ve been doing something that holds zero interest for me for almost three years now. Boo hoo, right? I guess I was raised in a culture that said to follow your passions. Past generations and many cultures don’t have that luxury. Now I’m stuck at 30 at the intersections of responsibility, creative expression and ambition. I feel like I should have accomplished more. I’ve put energy out there a bunch of times and each disappointment makes it harder to justify continuing to put out energy. So the rut deepens.

The biggest weight at the moment is that we have performance reviews scheduled for next week. I guess I lied about the Blade Runner spoilers in this paragraph. Guess you’ll have to keep reading. Anyway, at my last performance review I talked candidly with my boss (she’s on the level) about where I was at. How I had the ability to do the job no sweat, but had no real interest in progressing along the career path where this specific role would lead. She said it was fine to use the job as a jumping off point to something more suitable within the company. She’s been supportive when I’ve asked, so none of this is on her. I told her I’d be pretty disappointed to be having this same discussion in a year’s time. So I guess I have that to look forward to. I haven’t nothing, but I also haven’t done enough, clearly. So with morale at an all time low I’m basically checking into work to cover the bare minimum, get the job done and go home demoralised every day. It’s not the team’s fault, it’s not my boss’s fault. There are things I need to do and I a) haven’t figured out what they are because I haven’t b) figured out where I truly want to be and c) put the work in towards making that happen. With time it gets harder. I’m not a joyless person, I’m not an idiot, I do have potential but as time progresses it’s becoming harder to believe that any of these are true. Maybe two years back my therapist said that I needed to get out of this job, that it was taking more than it was giving. Time doesn’t change everything.

Am I still gonna be doing the same thing in 32 years? What year would that even be?

OH. ARE YOU ALRIGHT? OR DID YOU LOSE YOUR BALANCE ON THAT SLICK TRANSITION? It’s time for me to share some thoughts on Blade Runner 2049.

In this paragraph. I thought it was fantastic. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, of course I was gonna think that. It looked stunning and managed to capture the daunting atmosphere of the original, but larger in scope. I liked the eye motif. I thought Jared Leto’s scenes were maybe 20% longer than they needed to be, but thought the creepy role was a nice fit for him as a person. Dude creeps me out big time. To be honest, I was fine with the overall length of the film. It was nice how scenes were left to breathe. I was too absorbed to notice, anyway. I thought the pacing was fucking brilliant. The action wasn’t too protracted or sparse. Has Robin Wright ever been bad in anything ever? I thought the aspects of homage were tasteful for the most part (like that fluorescent ramen sign in one of the first glimpses of night time LA). Ford got more screen time than I expected, but I really enjoyed how he was used. For basically the first time in history, I got the twist right away. I’m a dummy when it comes to film twists, so either it was super obviously telegraphed or I’m getting better. It just made sense for the script. The line “buckle up” felt really cheesy and I assumed that was intentional. My girlfriend said that while she hadn’t seen the original, it seemed like it was probably a throwback or reference. I hadn’t seen it in about 12 years, but I thought she sounded on the money. I don’t know how much sense the line made, because I wasn’t totally sure about the physics of the JOI unit. Oh, let’s talk about her. I don’t know if their attempts to craft her into a character really worked, but wasn’t sure if the lack of her three-dimensionality was intentional because she was a computer program. I did kind of like how that dovetailed back into the plot/twist. She seemed well programmed at giving the audience exposition, in any case. The sex scene seemed super unnecessary for plot purposes, but as a self-contained scene looked cool, was a neat idea/implementation and felt like the SFX department cracking their knuckles and saying “MUM! DAD! LOOK WHAT I CAN DO.” To this day I don’t know how well dogs can process alcohol. I kind of like the mystery of not knowing. I also had a ton of other thoughts, but they’ll probably get lost in time like tears in rain.

I want a large green fur-lined leather coat.