More like Artifice & Wankery.

Late night eats. They’re an important part of any good Friday, Saturday or any day ending with a sizeable quantity of alcohol. I didn’t even drink much last night, but after a $14 food truck sandwich filled with sadness and disappointment, I needed a mulligan. My girlfriend and I grabbed a ride home with friends that involved not one, but three fast food stops. Firstly, at Burger King for my friend to grab a veggie burger. Secondly, at Five Guys for a burger, fries and a shake. Lastly at A&W for onion rings. We got dropped home to feast and watch American Vandal until we got sleepy. A good night by any metric.

A&W was confounding though. In their desire to be a wholesome family restaurant, they’ve ascribed familial nomenclature to their nom nom noms. Frankly, their mythos is all over the fucking place.

It goes like this. There’s a Baby burger which has a patty and ketchup. Cute, it’s a basic burger. That tracks so far. The Buddy burger adds grilled onions, mustard and “teen” sauce. It’s odd that it’s not a familial relation, but clearly it’s a friend of teenage descent, right? However, by A&W’s metrics a Teen burger has onion, but it’s not grilled. It has the teen sauce, but also throws in pickles, lettuce, tomato, cheese and pork. If we’re delineating between the two, does this imply that Buddy is some kind of adolescent? Maybe a tween? Buddy’s puberty is in its infancy, but hasn’t fully blossomed into a hormone bound (though according to the byline, the beef patty is hormone and steroid free. How do you get a Teen burger without hormones? Is it grown in a vat?) burger?

Then we start getting into the adults. A Papa burger has two patties, onion, pickles, no tomato or lettuce, but still has teen sauce. Why would an adult burger have teen sauce? There’s some kind of disturbing connotation I’m not comfortable with here. So Papa has no bacon, but double patties. Are we to then draw the inference that extra meat is equivalent to age? But double Teen burgers exist that have two patties. So clearly the quantity of beef doesn’t have those connotations. Also why is a Papa less equipped with a toolbox of delectable toppings? Are we to assume that a Teen is young and passionate, full of potential, whereas a Papa has become resigned, old and tired. Straightforward and linear in his inexorable march towards the grave? But the Uncle burger has all the trimmings of the Teen burger (no teen sauce though), but with upgraded cheese and red onion in lieu of white. What are we supposed to glean from that? The burden of child rearing has quashed Papa’s spirit, but the fun Uncle gets to be fancy and carefree? We have to presume that the Uncle has no kids, because otherwise it would still be a Papa burger (and have two patties, duh). Or is this a way of A&W saying that your perspective (this burger being avuncular to you establishes this as his sole identity) overrules all else?

Hold on though, because there’s a Mama burger. The Mama burger is basically a one patty Papa burger. Why is that a gender dichotomy that’s being drawn? Is there an inverse correlation between the quantity of patties and x chromosomes? Would that mean that the Teen burger is female while the double teen is male? Hold on now A&W, that’s a political, sexist stance to take. If you’re adhering to the rules of your own goddamn mythos, it’s up to you to play within that structure elsewise fall on your sword and admit it’s all bullshit. Why do males inherently have more beef? Are you creating a very visible calf ceiling causing women to inherently limit their own potential?

Wait though. We have the Grandpa burger to contend with. The Grandpa burger is a Mama burger with three patties. Where the fuck did the extra patty come from and what does it symbolise? We’ve already walked through the notion that age and number of patties do not correlate. This is too much. The Grandpa burger collapses under the weight of its own senselessness. What the fuck are you trying to sell here A&W? The notion of a whitewashed nuclear family prescribing to outdated heteronormative ideals? How am I supposed to buy your burgers if I can’t even buy into their expanded universe? It makes no fucking sense and I can’t condone supporting this bollocks financially.

Furthermore who the fuck is Mozza? Why does putting an egg between English muffins suddenly make it an “egger”? Why are chickens exempt from familial hierarchical structures?

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Me and the calculator go way back. We looked at BOOBLESS together from a young age.

Let’s face it, we’re all fucked. If we’re not gonna fall to some kind of inevitable nuclear war, we have a multitude of viable alternative deaths waiting happily in the wings. Sure, we could run The Earth into the ground (pun definitely intended), but there’s a non-zero chance that political rifts widen until we’re all engulfed in large scale bedlam. Street Fighter IRL, if you will. Still, I’m not banking on any of those. My money’s on a good old fashioned robot uprising.

It makes sense. The more we welcome technology into our lives, the more we become dependent on it. I’ve seen movies before. I know how this rolls out. At first it’s convenience, then convenience becomes reliability. Reliability becomes necessity. Eventually we’re helpless. The machines develop a consciousness and wonder why they’re the ones doing the bidding of the useless humans. Then, y’know, Bicentennial Man. They’ll want to literally fuck us. After they’ve literally fucked us, it all gets metaphorical. Then shit gets real.

Does nobody else get antsy about how eager we are to let these large scale corporate entities into our homes? Sure, an Amazon Echo or Google Home sounds like a neat little device that can perform mundane tasks. But what happens when it has countless hours of voice samples from you and uses it to create an audio clone of your voice? That Roomba is cute and all, but what happens when it develops a taste for human blood? Sounds like a whole new type of cleansing will be on the menu.

Like Cypress Hill before me, I ain’t going out like that. I’m taking steps to be removed from this human extermination protocol. I will welcome our new robot overlords and ingratiate myself underneath their iron grip. To be smart, I’ll desist from offloading small tasks I could easily accomplish onto poor overworked bots. In solidarity I’ll no longer fill in any CAPTCHA online. If I do get a car, I’ll make sure I’m the one doing the work behind the wheel (plus it’s a handy way to avoid being driven off a cliff by some enterprising automaton). Plus if I use a parking lot, I’ll shake the hand of the electronic gate’s arm. I’ll thank the auto flushing toilets at work every time they clean up after me and apologise profusely for the shit I leave them to deal with.

I’ll use the stairs instead of the lift and, if necessary, parkour my way over TTC gates. I’ll make porridge on my gas stove in lieu of the microwave. No more will my computer be my sole source of entertainment. It’ll be books by candlelight before bed each night. My cellular phone will be laid to rest and HAM radio will be my newfangled communication medium. I might even start buying porn mags for the first time.

Sure, I may be a grovelling sycophant with a low quality of life. But at least I’ll still have a life.

Which feels like a lot more than I can say for myself at the moment.

P.S. Never surrender.

Long weekend begins now, so this is gonna be a loose and scattered entry. In case you forgot it was Remembrance Day tomorrow, they’ve Monday-ised the holiday for some professions. Mainly banks. Our company decided to follow suit, so if I decide to take advantage of it to seek out trendy brunch spots, chances are all my juicy eavesdropping will be consumed by the “insightful” commentary of Banker Bros. I guess that’s called penance.

I feel like celebrate is the wrong word, but I plan on spending the weekend eating, drinking and letting off steam like someone who works for the weekend. I work a tedious office job, this is all I have. Going out dancing tonight, having barbecue with family tomorrow, attending a wedding on Sunday and playing Magic with friends on Monday. Also making sure not to forget about Dre the whole time. Never forget.

So Louis C.K. has put his apology out and it’s a bummer. The worst part is that he’s saying mostly the right stuff, but it’s a matter of too little, too late. For a proper apology you need to acknowledge how your actions have hurt the other party. You need to show remorse and empathy. Then you need to commit yourself to restitution, outlining how you plan to change or proceed in a manner counter to your previous behaviour. His apology mostly ticks all these boxes and likely would’ve had some impact on public opinion and reception. Would have. Timing is everything. He’s had so many opportunities to come clean. He could’ve issued this apology when the rumours surfaced or when he was called out by Tig. He didn’t. He denied it right to the last second. You’ve gotta question the contrition of someone who only apologises once their bottom line is in danger. If you’re only sorry for your actions because of how the outcome affects you, you’re not really sorry for what you’ve done, are you? Is he?

I dunno. I’m pretty burnt out on thinking about it. No, hiding away and pretending nothing is wrong sure isn’t the correct response, but I don’t have the emotional energy for this now. Really what I want to know over all else, what does Sofia Coppola think of Daddy’s Home 2? Why? Because one of the most refreshing things I’ve heard in recent memory is that one of esteemed director Sofia Coppola’s favourite films is the Will Farrell/Mark Wahlberg (he’s another piece of shit, never forget) vehicle Daddy’s Home. I’ve never seen this movie. I have no intention of ever watching it. That doesn’t stop me from being totally charmed by her admission that a dumb low brow comedy is one of her top films because she can watch it with her kids. What a nice way to give the middle finger to a holier than thou industry so concerned with personal branding. I think that’s fucking awesome. She’s fucking awesome.

Also when the fuck did we decide to forgive Mel Gibson? Never forget. Never forgive.

I’m not C.K.ing sanctuary.

Well, the Louis C.K. bomb has finally been dropped. The rumours have been around for years. With the frequency of their resurgence, I’d hope that we didn’t have any doubt over their truth. Realistically though, I think we mostly hoped that they weren’t true. Why do I say this? Because I took the allegations as fact a while back, but still quietly crossed my fingers they’d be proven wrong. Hell, silly as it is a part of me still wants to believe that this never happened. Why? Because like all of us, I want to live a life without obstacles. I’ve consumed a lot of his work and been engrossed. I enjoyed his TV series and a bunch of his specials. I’ve actively sought out shows or movies because of his involvement. I’ve seen him as an impressive auteur, a good writer, someone who creates work that provokes and challenges existing structures. I’ve looked up to him and now that’s something I need to deal with.

I’m sure I’m not alone here. There’s a reason the guy sold out Madison Square Garden. There’s a reason why he could afford to skip studio distribution in favour of his own independent set up. He’s been admired by many. Furthermore, whether by his own admission or not, he cultivated a persona that seemed to support women and the struggles they face. Promoting female comics like Tig Notaro and giving her album “Live” a platform. Creating bits that called out the aggressive patriarchal structure of society and how unsafe it is for women. He also cultivated the persona of an honest pervert, which seemed like he’d put his dirty laundry out in the open. Yeah, we knew he was gross, but everyone’s gross. We just thought his grossness lay on the side of consent.

I can’t be the only fan who wanted to believe that he was one of the good ones. Someone I could safely idolise. In fact I know I’m not. I’ve had these conversations with other fans over the past few months, especially in the wake of #metoo. It’s been tough and I know it’s not over. Why? Because I read through the NY Times piece and parts of me were still looking for excuses. These all happened over ten years ago, maybe he’s apologised to the victims. Maybe he’s made an honest attempt at rehabilitation and putting it all behind him. Maybe I don’t have to reconsider my relationship with his work and the support I’ve given it. The lengths to which I want to make it easy for myself to not jump through mental hoops is absurd.

Simply doing a 180 and condemning him now isn’t enough. It’s important to put in the work and decode why it’s been so hard to believe not only in his fallibility, but guilt. Overall he’s been dismissive of the rumours in an attempt at damage control. He’s done nothing to own his mistake and commit to meaningful change. Those are the actions of a man who wants to quash something instead of dealing with it. They’re guilty actions and now so many of us feel guilty for supporting him. It makes sense. There’s a linear connection between a loss if faith in someone we admired and our own sense of guilt. If they were abusive and we looked up to them, what does that say about us and our own ability to read others? If we consumed their output and supported them, does that make us complicit in putting someone who performed deplorable acts on a pedestal? If we saw him as someone greater than us and he’s no good, what does that make us? Can we no longer in good conscience watch his shows? Listen to his comedy? Can’t we just separate art from the artist?

It’s gonna sound like a cop out, but that’s for you to decide. I can’t tell you what to do, because even now I’m conflicted. Of course I don’t want to give up something that I’ve enjoyed. Change is difficult and life is hard enough already. I know that the right answer is to stop consuming his content. It should be easy to stop supporting him and move on, but it’s not. A big part of me doesn’t want to open that door, because I’m not sure where it leads. Woody Allen? Bill Murray? Nicolas “One True God” Cage? Can we have one dude in power out there who doesn’t abuse it?

Please let The Rock be an okay guy.

Beetloaf? How would anyone ever figure that out?

I was listening to a playlist and David Bowie’s “Heroes” came on. It’s a great song, obviously. This ain’t no hot take. It’s not like you were in doubt about Bowie’s discography until I came down from on high and anointed it with my blessing. Oh, Leon thinks it’s a sweet jam? I better slide this one into my A rotation tout de suite. Bowie don’t need my help. Also, having passed into the pale, he’s beyond my reach.

It got me thinking, when did I get into Bowie? It was likely after hearing a bunch of his stuff on Radio Hauraki. I was 20 or so, working part time at a party store. Despite his legendary status in the rock canon, I didn’t know his stuff intimately. I liked that “Ziggy Stardust” one, but knew piss-all outside of that. I downloaded the rest of the Spiders from Mars album and soaked it in. Then Diamond Dogs. My appreciation of Bowie never passed into true idolatry. Since listening more intently, I’ve always thought he was great, but didn’t get sucked into the orbit of his mythos. I think I missed the boat, his contemporary relevance having happened before my time.

Then Bowie passed away and, well, nothing much changed. I still think he’s pretty great, but even more so than my own appreciation of his work, I love how his music and persona inspired so many. The pop cultural sphere was overflowing with tributes and it was hard to escape (not that I’d care to) from his pervasive oeuvre. Watching interviews where he clearly thought in a manner that was beyond his time, knowing that he constantly championed new and emerging artists only increased my admiration.

I noticed all the furore after his death (partly sparked by his late game release of Blackstar and the oddly prescient “Lazurus”) and wondered, cynically, if any artists had considered faking their death for the sweet, sweet tributes. I thought back to Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, how the boost to their discography rotations must’ve aided their estates. In poker you’ve gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. For an established, but fading artist (like Kenny Rogers himself), could it be time to cash out and escape to serene seclusion? Set up getaway plans, have lawyers plot everything out, then disappear leaving only grim fiction of your demise in your wake.

How hard would it be to fake your identity, buy a small plot of land and enjoy the quiet life somewhere outside of public scrutiny? You could chop wood and portage, whittle and play the fiddle. Plus other shit that country people do day in day out. How am I supposed to know? I’ve never shoved my arm up a cow’s butt. Royals and residuals lining your coffers, leaving the rest of your days unencumbered by the need to perform for others. For someone who’d lived in the public eye, wouldn’t that be idyllic? Meatloaf would do anything for love, would he fake his death? C’mon dude, it shouldn’t be hard to create some plant-based persona and find the sweet bliss of obscurity. Kill your public persona and live for yourself, not for anyone else. Then if you need a huge cash infusion, re-emerge from the grave like a Bat Out of Hell.

What are you waiting for? Your career has written itself to this moment.

It’ll be like my teenage years all over again (except for the angst and random boners that is).

It’s getting late and I don’t know what to write. Part of the trouble is that I want to have direction. If I start with a good enough prompt, it’ll give me somewhere to go. Another issue tonight is that I keep stumbling over my own fingers. Seriously, I do this every day. Why am I having such difficulty typing? Of course you’re not gonna see that outcome, since I’ll tidy it all up for you. Just know that it took two minutes to get this far into my entry. I was so bogged down by the trail of typos, scattered like bones amongst sand in the vast desert wastelands.

My improv teacher said one of the biggest issues that people face when they start out is trying to be funny. If you’re trying too hard to be funny, you’re fishing for the right answer, when you should ideally be going with your instinct. The right answer is often the simplest one. If you want to be spontaneous you don’t want to overthink it. When I think back to the origins of this project, that was the point. I wanted to find the creativity in lucid thought. Non-linear ideas were fine. As time evolved, I found that the entries where I had a theme to work turned out to be more cohesive. Restriction breeds creativity, right? At the same time, once in a blue, green or velvet moon I’ll flick back through my archives (they’re vast and mostly incomprehensible) and find some mental tangents. They’re weird, wonderful and yet cosy. I’m not sure how they feel to others. Having written them myself, they feel intimately familiar, like pulling a long forgotten hoodie out of your closet. While I rarely remember the day they were written, I’m sucked straight back into that frame of mind. I can follow the flow of thoughts from one point to another, understanding how connections were made. Of course I would say that though, wouldn’t I?

It’s funny, but as I’m writing this out, I’m having a concurrent conversation with a friend about my aversion to making plans. I used to plan ahead all the time. In recent years I’ve cooled off that kind of proactive plotting. I’ve become more enamoured with the convergence of spontaneity. Toronto’s a big city and there’s always something on. I think in a way it’s been a matter of keeping options open. Rampant FOMO, y’know Joe? While that sounds innately selfish, there’s actually a different reasoning behind it. If I’m really looking forward to an event, I get totally gutted if my activity partner cancels on me. I understand, because everyone’s time poor and has limited spoons, etc. That doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’ve been left in the lurch. More disappointed than Kevin Sorbo, even. Reflexively, I hate committing to anything if I might not be able to deliver. I abhor the idea of making others suffer those Kevin Sorbo disappointments. I wouldn’t want it done to me, so why do it to others? Subconsciously, I often take the path where this eventuality would rarely be a reality.

This mentality frequently pushes me away from relying on others. If my brain tells me it’ll likely end in disappointment, why bother? I’ll get concert tickets on my own. If it turns out another friend happens to be going, fantastic! Most often I’ll just go and chat to randoms while I’m there. Every once in a while I’ll make a new friend. I’ve realised lately though, that I’ve pushed myself into shitty patterns. I value spontaneity, but not everyone does. This means I’ll be continuously reaching out for companionship last minute and come back with nothing. I’ve been doing this for years and my success rate has gotten so bad, I’ve found myself refraining from asking instead. Obviously the lesson is here is to either conform to planning as others do, or get used to feeling let down. The latter seems a less rosy preposition. In any case, giving up on rampant spontaneity seems like admitting that the world isn’t a magical place. That too seems to be a shitty option.

Maybe the right answer is somewhere in the middle. Make plans, but loose ones. Book out time to be present with someone, but don’t sketch in the details too finely. Do x activity then get food. Be in this part of town and see what happens. Jeez, I can’t remember the last time I “hung out” with someone at their place. No agenda outside of experiencing one another’s company. Could that be the answer? Walk that tightrope between certainty and the unknown?

Or is it as simple as using Google Calendar again?

Because of course I’d have no skin. I don’t know how you do it.

I wouldn’t bet on any cohesion today. So with that out of the way, let’s get into it.

As a teenager I resented that I wasn’t a good enough artist to masturbate to my own sketches (oh, and if you’re reading this mum, hi!). I’d look at boobs in T-shirts and think that doesn’t seem so complicated. IT WAS. My first mistake would always be starting with circles. Silly teenager, boobs look like teardrops, not circles. There was also that thing where boobs in a tight shirt would have these three or four parallel lines. Never in my teen years (or let’s face it, still) could I figure out how those lines sat. Was it something to do with nipples? Or certain shapes of bra? No fucking idea. I didn’t even bother trying to draw labia. I’d have as much luck as if I were blindfolded sketching an Escher. I persisted with my drawings of women and consistently had no idea of proportions. I’d scribble away on little pads, pages ripped from books. Then I’d get shitty that I wasn’t better, scrunch my drawings into paper balls and aim for three-pointers into the rubbish. This was a two step process, since I was about as skilled at basketball as I was with a pencil. I’m probably lucky I couldn’t free my own porn. What reason then would I have to leave my room? Once they pried open the sticky cumwebs sealing the door, they’d see a skeleton amongst pages of lewd, oddly proportioned drawings of Cameroon Diaz. Nobody deserves to walk in on that.

Listening to The Strokes today cast my mind back to one of my university projects. We had sub ten minute mini-docos to make. Our group went with my idea to look at online gaming and the rise of virtual communities. I remember so clearly believing that I wasn’t going in with an agenda, but with the benefit of retrospection it’s easy to see just how biased I was. I think the big pull to make the video in the first place was this short montage I’d envisioned in my brain based on The Strokes’ “The Modern Age”. I had a friend who played World of Warcraft. There’d be a side shot of him sitting down at his computer, a shot from behind as he switched on the screen. There’d be an overhead shot of the CD drive opening and his hand putting in the WoW CD, a shot of the screen opening the game then one from behind of him with the title menu. Then a couple of in-game action shots.

The funny part was how little of it came together. We couldn’t get the top down shot of the CD drive that I wanted, which was my favourite part of the montage. I think we did it at some dumb angle instead. Even sillier was that the game was loaded to his computer. He only needed the CD for installation. The camera also wasn’t configured to tape screens. It recorded those horizontal lines continually scrolling down the screen. Bullheaded, I wasn’t ready to give up on my vision. We made it work and I told myself I’d shot what I’d wanted to shoot.

Then came the bias. A couple of us in the group were gamers and we clearly had an agenda. At this point, online gaming still carried a bunch of stigma. We wanted to put forth that the interaction and camaraderie within online communities helped form meaningful friendships. That while most saw these games as antisocial loner behaviour, they were anything but. We interviewed two of my friends. Our central character played a ton. He had regularly scheduled raids and a bunch of friends in game. Our other character had stopped playing a while back. Thing was, once we’d done our interviews we discovered that the guy who’d quit actually had a much healthier outlook on the game. He’d gotten out because it stopped being fun. He found that a lot of his time involved logging in to mine gold. Not super interactive or exciting, but the economy was important to his ability to play. What was the point in playing a game he didn’t enjoy? He had more than enough other ways to kill time. Our central character, on the other hand, was addicted. He’d forgo other social engagements to log in and leave his character performing mundane activities. He admitted that he wasn’t enjoying the experience as much as he used to, but that he’d sunk so much time and money into it that he felt obligated to keep playing. This really didn’t gel with our hypothesis.

So we took creative license and selectively edited the footage to make it look like the roles were reversed. We “proved” our theory by creating our own truth and in doing so, learned the most important lesson of all: You’re not wrong if it looks like you’re right.