They’re pretending to be something they’re not. Doesn’t that make Autobots as deceptive as Decepticons?

Do you know what’s cute? Looking back at stories you wrote as a child. That’s cute. I’ll always remember one of my most salient pieces of kid fiction: “Optimus Prime met Megatron. The Decepticons shot the Autobots with their lasers. The Autobots died.” There’s a clear arc. The stage is set, characters established. We see the characters take action and overcome adversity. Then there’s a satisfying conclusion. I couldn’t write better these days if I tried. Do you know what’s not cute? Looking back at any writing after the age of ten.

Teenage stuff? Oh geez it’s dreadful. I remember, as an adult, finding my diary from age 15. It was firmly couched in the exact time and age to be classified as “emo”. Lots of “I like all the girls, but they don’t like me. Something something System of a Down. Why do adults treat teenagers like kids? We’re way more mature than they give us credit for. Man, getting drunk is so cool.” That wasn’t verbatim, but not far off. Of course there’s no value in criticising our past selves, but fuck it’s fun to rip them new orifices. It’s so easy to shred the versions of us who bled hormones, who felt like adults undergoing constant body dysmorphia. When we could understand more of the world around us, without realising how much wider the world was than our viewpoint captured. There’s a question I oft see floated “would you restart your life with the knowledge and experience you have now?” Each time it’s those teenage years that give me pause. Could all the intelligence in the world counteract the ever-present fear of cumming in your pants at any moment?

A different experience is reading your writing from later. As a 25 year old, you’re technically considered an adult. I’m barely considering myself an adult going on 31. I still don’t consider whoever I was at 25 the kind of bloke who would’ve paid taxes (I mean, I did. No need to come at me, IRD). At 25 I flew to the U.S. with a bunch of mates, rented an RV and drove across The States. Today I stumbled across our old travel blog and read it again. It was about what you’d expect. Some parts were bafflingly hard to digest, either in message or perspective. Certain references are too insular, based around group dynamics or New Zealand memes. Others have fallen by the pop-cultural wayside. A 2012 Twilight reference seems a lot less inspired in 2018. Some viewpoints still needed a few years to slow cook before becoming fit for human consumption. In a few parts it was just poorly written or made scant sense. It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed.

At other moments I was surprised to find passages that read well. Vocabulary I’ve since forgotten or cycled out. There was a creativity and excitement about the world I found refreshing. Occasional lucid moments that still resonate. Most pieces were basically journal entries (what’s changed?), but I found workarounds to lighten them up. One of them I did time based mental snapshots, using certain moments to create a larger picture of the day. Our New Orleans adventure was structured as a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. It was silly and gratuitous, but remains a neat read.

I can’t deny that any of it happened, it’s all there for the decades to lay bare. On the other hand, why would I care? None of us would be who we are without the steps we took. If they didn’t leave an imprint, what would be the point?

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Firing them off one after one.

I have evening plans, but I need to get this out of the way before I get there. So this is gonna be one of those entries where I basically plagiarise little scraps of writing I’ve been doing all day. You could say I’m… scraping the bottom of the barrel? So in that vein, I’ve been in a punny mood today.

It all began at the gym. For some reason lately I’ve gotten into a habit of having to poop when I arrive. I put my phone on airplane mode, chucked it in my jacket, threw my jacket in a locker and went to do my bizzniss. Then for some reason the word “incendiary” popped into my head. Then I realised that incendiary contained the word “diary”. I started thinking of what kind of fiery character would write their journals in an incendiary. My first thought went to a phoenix, but I realised the rebirth aspect was far more significant to their persona. I flopped back and forth over whether it fit, or if there was something in the idea of a phoenix’s New Years’ resolution every year being to get back into journaling. I decided there wasn’t. I thought of fire elementals, then settled on Johnny Storm. The resulting status being “Does Johnny Storm write down all of his feelings in an Incendiary?”

Then I had the word “diary” stuck in my brain. I thought about that show Secret Diary of a Call Girl with Billie Piper (who to me will always be of “Honey To The Bee” fame). I had a flash in my mind of some Japanese word or phrase to describe a certain kind of fashion style. Was it “kogahl” or “khogal” or “kougal” or something? I tried googling, but to no avail. So I thought about other words that sounded similar and landed on “kugel”, a type of Jewish pudding. I started out with that and felt sort of satisfied, but felt there was more to this. Over the next while I kept writing them as they came to me:

  • Why is there no Jewish cook book called Secret Diary of a Kugel?
  • Or a bird-watching guide called Secret Diary of a Caw Gull?
  • Or a Chimeras for Dummies style ‘how to’ called Secret Diary of a Paw Gill?
  • Or a Star Wars political thriller called Secret Diary of a Porg Earl?
  • Or a vegetarian BBQ book called Secret Diary of a Corn Grill?
  • Or a mortician’s memoir called Secret Diary of a Pall Girl?
  • Or Lena Dunham’s Behind the Scenes book called Secret Diary of Recall Girls?
  • Or a cis male dating guide called Secret Diary of Appal Girls?

Then a couple of hours later I realised the Japanese word I was looking for was “Kogal”, a type of Japanese fashion that sorta emulates the Valley Girl aesthetic. They often use fake tan and dress in short skirts mixed with schoolgirl chic as some kind of counterculture move. I assumed they’d have a fashion blog called Secret Diary of a Kogal somewhere.

Thinking back on my Johnny Storm pun, the Bruce Springsteen song “I’m on Fire” popped into my head. So I did one of those ‘laying the breadcrumbs’ jokes asking “What would Bruce Springsteen say if he got immolated?”

I wonder if he wrote that song in his Incendiary…

As the wise philosophers Destiny’s Child once said: “Question”.

I’ve got no salient thoughts right now. One of the pitfalls of my current schedule is that I often end up writing at the end of a workday. I’m drained and mentally flaccid (though alternatively being mentally turgid is equally as abhorrent. Perhaps I should stop comparing my brain’s most complex organ with my most cum-plex one) and the result is commonly lacklustre. Surprise surprise, it’s hard to be inspired when your day hasn’t been. I hope you’re not looking for some grand proclamation here. This isn’t time for a state of the nation style address. I’m moreso looking to fill time and pad out while making it seem like I have a topic to roll with. Spoiler, I don’t. So I’m gonna look elsewhere for inspiration. Note, the questions I’m getting are unlikely to match yours.

Have you ever been in any YouTube videos?

I might be in more, but I know that somewhere on the internet there’s a video of some dude on a drug freakout at Lollapalooza 2011. I was not that dude, but I was watching that dude. It was hard not to. He was garbed in a tartan skirt, rolling around in the mud while his peen was lollapalooza-ing all about. I was pretty drunk at the time, but I was doubled over with laughter. My hope is that I’ve learned to dress better, but at the time I was garbed in not only a silly trilby, but white socks with black shoes. If I needed some kind of indication of emotional growth, that’d be it.

How would you define success?

I’d say some combination of self-satisfaction and love. On a personal level, it’s having people to confide in, feeling like you’re contributing to the lives of those around you. Warmth and humour in abundance. Meeting goals and challenges set for oneself. On a professional level, there’s gotta be fulfilment in the work you do. You don’t have to love every moment of your job, but being able to sit back and think you know what? This is alright every once in a while means something.

What do you like to do on a rainy day?

The same thing I do every day Pinky, marathon TV shows, play video games, eat excessive amounts of delicious food, snuggle up with a warm body and drape myself in cozy things.

What things are you passionate about?

Mostly things that don’t matter. Good writing in pop culture. Clever, emotionally devastating or gripping. Humour that challenges pre-existing structures and does its job of punching up. Hearing music that makes me feel something, whether that’s giddy, distraught or cowed with wonderment. Words. Puns, mostly. Apples.

Are you smarter than your parents?

No idea. I’m more educated than my parents, but I feel like that’s symptomatic of a generational divide. My parents encouraged me towards education, so that’s points for them. They’re certainly wiser than I am, but in that case they’re older than me. With age comes wisdom, or thereabouts the maxim goes. At the same time, my brain is younger and thus probably more pliable, quick. This question is odd.

What was the last book you read?

I don’t read nearly enough, but when the film adaptation of The Dark Tower was announced, it encouraged me to go back and start the series. I got two books in and fell off the wagon. I’ll probably go back maybe. Possibly. Aren’t TV shows the new literature these days?

What do you wear to sleep?

Ennui.

 

Well wasn’t that a fun departure from the norm? It feels like cheating, but considering there’s no real point to this project other than getting words on a page, I’m not sure if cheating is possible. Is it? Ask my parents, they’re clearly wiser than me.

Is this that movie moment where you look back and realise “Oh, so I was the problem all along”?

I’m not good at social norms. I’m not tossing this out there like I’m some roguish rebel with no cause to speak of. This also isn’t some edgy Hot Topic mall goth style “I’m so weird and random lol” thing either. It’s more that a lot of established niceties don’t make a lot of sense and seem like a waste of energy.

Take “how’s it going?” for instance. My usual response is honest. I’ll say how I feel. If things are going great, I’ll say so and give an explanation. If they aren’t, #same. If they didn’t want to hear it, then they shouldn’t have made an emotional bid. Why waste the words if they didn’t care? If all they wanted was to acknowledge my presence, a nod would’ve sufficed, right?

Now I’m fine with this as a concept, but the execution doesn’t always stick the landing. Lately, as things have been generally sub-par, I’ve found myself unloading on unprepared people and giving them more than they signed up for. Nobody has had a massively adverse reaction or anything. People have listened and responded as best they could for the most part. The issue I have is that it’s created an unbalanced dynamic. I often end up talking about myself (which is everyone’s favourite thing to do, don’t lie) and they don’t reciprocate. I’d be happy to do the emotional labour for others. I’m open to be there and listen. The thing is, people aren’t conditioned to know that it’s an option. If I ask “how’re you doing?” I get back an auto-response. “Fine. Good. Alright.” It’s shorthand for “I’m not looking for a conversation.”

This isn’t to mention my odd conversational disappearing act thing. That one I fully understand is absurd, but it’s been an intentional bit. A while back I decided that I liked how in movies nobody ever says goodbye when they hang up the phone. I decided it’d be amusing (to me only, clearly) if I just vanished once the conversation had run its course. No so long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen or goodnight. Why? Because I wanted to cultivate an air of mystique. Because I realised a while back that to some people I was basically a magical creature who apparated, said something interesting or different then disappeared into the aether. Why not lean into that? I thought.

So for the past few years at work, I’ve engaged with people, had conversations beyond the mere “so how’s it going” mentality and just kind of left. It’s often dawned on me that it’s probably considered quite dick-ish, but my commitment to the bit is strong enough that I don’t want to relent. In retrospect, this is likely all the more dick-ish and serves nobody but me. If nobody else is in on the bit, what would it do for them. Furthermore, does anyone consider me to be enigmatic and magical? Who knows? I probably disappear before they could mention it.

The un-examined life is not worth living, right? So I figure it’s pertinent to question why these structures exist. What are people really getting out of these minor social flourishes? Does it serve us to continue using them? Or is it up to us to find some that serve a purpose?

Are you complicit? #metoo.

Any of you been on social media today? It’s sad that this #metoo campaign had to exist, but the hope is that the bravery of sexual assault survivors (A.K.A. every woman ever) in coming forward both highlights the alarming frequency of these assaults and provides solidarity for those whom it’s an all too common occurrence. I mean, there should be little argument that any occurrence is all too often, but let’s be real. We live in a world of shitty gendered bias. There are many reasons it sucks to be a woman in our society. Whereby so often these assaults went unmentioned or understated #metoo seems to have changed those ellipses to exclamation marks. Good. I (naively?) hope any who’s been wilfully hiding under a rock starts to take notice.

I’ve seen an avalanche of invaluable conversations. I feel stuck in this weird rally back and forth. It’s not the least bit surprising to hear of how widespread this behaviour is, but that doesn’t make it nice to hear. It’s fantastic to see these aforementioned conversations being raised, but disheartening how commonly the #notallmen brigade jumps in to recuse the statistical validity of calls against men to do better.

I don’t know if any #notallmenonites are reading, but maybe try looking at women calling on men to do better a little differently. It’s another way of saying “the exception proves the rule”. If a woman is talking about her mistreatment at the hands of men and you don’t think it applies to you, maybe you’re the exception that proves her overall rule. If that’s the case, try not jumping in and making it about you, because it probably wasn’t about you in the first place.

The thing is men, we’re all complicit in this societal bias whether we realise it or not. I’d be very surprised to hear otherwise. It’s pervasive enough to be unavoidable. Over the years I’ve said and done a ton of things that contributed to the culture without understanding the insidious ways in which I did so. I’m sure I still do. Acknowledging past faults is important in seeing the path towards better behaviour. Here’s a short list of the stuff I have done and/or may still do unintentionally:

  • Rape jokes. In my teens/early 20s the concept of punching down wasn’t even a blip on my radar. It was all about being as edgy as possible, to push the boundaries to reassert some misguided sense of bravery. Oh no, of course I didn’t think rape was funny, but using it as an abstract concept showed, I dunno, my unwillingness to adhere to rigid social structures? Fuck that. How brave I was as someone who didn’t most likely would never have to face the act firsthand. Fuck off forever, this mentality.
  • Devils Advocate. Forcing people to argue something that caused them emotional strife. Never mind that I had no emotional stake in the subject, I just wanted to argue and flex my intellectual muscles. Or I just liked being “technically right” or some other shitty nonsense. Once again, fuck off forever.
  • Placing my desire for sex above the autonomy, needs and wants of women. Even if I’d never physically pushed anyone towards any sexual activity they weren’t actively seeking (I may well have), so much of this stuff is insidious and ingrained. Did I wilfully misinterpret or ignore “no” signals and keep pushing for a “yes”? Did I objectify women and see them for how their sexuality could benefit me rather than as a person? Befriend women purely because I wanted to sleep with them?
  • Judging women on the way that they looked or dressed. Way to discount someone’s humanity. The clothes that I wear do not fully express the person that I am. Why would anyone else be different?
  • Ignored or spoken above women because I innately didn’t value their opinion? Of course. I’ve spent my life as a loudmouth and it feels like I’ve only recently learned the importance of listening. I have no doubt that I constantly did this and likely still do without thinking.
  • Constant use of gendered language. I’m sure a ton of people mock this kind of specificity, but I feel like there’s something in the way that we talk. Language is an important tool in conveying both meaning and intent. The number of times I’ve referred to large groups of mixed gender as “guys” doesn’t sound like much, but it also sends subtle messages about gender based hierarchy. It’s something I’ve picked up unintentionally throughout my life, but there’s no reason why we can’t unlearn unhelpful patterns. Nobody is truly ever too old to change.

This is not even the tip of the iceberg. Like it or not, all men contribute to patriarchal dominance and oppression. If you’re interested in changing this, maybe examine your behaviours and decide which of these contribute to the kind of world you want to see. Listen to women, not just when it’s trending. If they’re not talking, become the kind of safe space where they feel they can confide. If women are confiding in you, don’t just be horrified. Act, change, grow and help embolden this change in others. Call in shitty behaviour when you can. Call it out when it’s necessary. We can all be better and we have no reason not to continually work towards whatever shape “better” takes in our lives. It’s not a destination, it’s a journey.

Happy T’ronahversary to me.

Happy Toronto Birthday to me. Four years to the day where I first wondered if I was walking into a hotbed of authoritarian surveillance. Four fantastic years where I’ve borderline Eat Pray Love‘d myself into a journey of self-discovery. I ate and had sex a bunch, anyway (though sadly never simultaneously), plus adopted a wide enough smile to make Julia Roberts frown with envy.

My path to Toronto wasn’t straight or direct. In fact it took many years before I even thought of it as a destination. Age five I decided that when I grew up I’d harness my citizenship and live in Canada. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but with New Zealand’s famed agricultural economy, it was ironic I was so avid to head somewhere US adjacent. It seemed different and exotic, plus they sounded like people in the movies. At age 20 I begun to give it more thought. I’d recently watched Juno and fallen head-over-heels for the idea of Ellen Page. I decided I’d move to Halifax and miraculously stumble into some kind of meet cute. Roll the credits (complete with Hand Drawn Block Letters). Why not? It was a quietly hip port town with a ton of breweries. Sure, I wasn’t into anything quiet or port, but things would work out. Remember the meet cute I probably told myself every night before going to bed.

Then it was Vancouver. I had family in Vancouver and the transition would be easy. I’d lodge somewhere then make my mark on the city. It was a city, right? With my generic media aspirations, I’d slot in just fine. I’d be close to Whistler in case I wanted to… wait, I didn’t really like outdoorsy stuff. What would I do in Whistler? I’d work out the details later, that’s what I’d do. I told some dude at a party just that once and he shook his head. “Toronto is where you want to be, man.” Toronto? I hadn’t really heard of Toronto. “It’s the biggest city in Canada and if you want to get into the media, there’s no better place in the country.” This wasn’t some good friend, just some dude I talked to a handful of times. I’ve got no idea if he has any concept of how much that conversation shaped my life. In the few minutes we talked, my totally vague plans became slightly less vague.

***Several Years Later***

I was 26 years old and I’d just been through the biggest breakup of my life. I was on a short term contract with the local university and it was coming to a close. There was funding for an interesting new contract, but I thought again. I’d never put down the torch I was holding for moving away. It’d been a not-insignificant part of the breakup. As soon as it ended, things fell into place. I bought a one way ticket to Vancouver (with the goal of heading to Toronto via Montreal) a few weeks later. I’ve never looked back.

Starting anew in Toronto was both hard and not. Picking up the pieces is always gonna be tricky, but Toronto kept throwing opportunity after opportunity at me. I hit the ground and started getting out to all kinds of events. I needed people in my life and I found them with ease. Walking back from a concert, running from a bus, OkCupid dates, movie screenings and Magic the Gathering games. Employment was less forthcoming, but I took whatever came my way and rolled with it. I tried and learned things I never imagined: Teaching gymnastics, feeding kids in schools, being a test subject, working the election polling booth, trying my hand as a barista. Toronto meant discovery, excitement and eventually community.

Perhaps it was a matter of getting out what I put in. Reaping the rewards of saying yes to the call of adventure. Maybe I lucked out, or learned to see the potential in coincidence. Toronto has given me so much, including a new lease on life. Over the past few years I’ve changed in ways that I’m still realising from day to day. I hear people talk about how cold Toronto is and possibly I missed out on that because of Accent Privilege. In my time here though, I’ve learned something about this city.

Toronto’s heart beats in its inhabitants, who create something larger than their sum. Toronto is discovering just how much people can surprise and impress you. Toronto is about learning the importance of saying yes, because opportunity is waiting for you to find it. Opportunity might not look like an Ellen Page meet cute, but that’s not to say that your wildest dreams are out of reach.

I mean, The Pink Ranger lives here you guise.

Just a bunch of haw-seplay.

In attempt to warm up my mojo and finally get down to business, I’ve garbed myself in my new donkey onesie and chunky slipper boots. It’s almost 9pm and I have no good reason to not’ve written. I mean well, but it’s all too easy to get distracted by shiny things and when there’s a task at hand, everything but that task glistens alluringly. I wrote the word “alluringly” assuming it wasn’t a real word and I’m kind of disappointed to discover that it is. It sounds clunky, which is peculiar for a modifier to “alluring”. “Alluring” is such an enigmatic and exotic word. It’s shiny, shimmering, splendid. It holds a kind of taboo promise. Seems that little bit naughty. If “alluring” was the suave dude you went home with, “alluringly” would be his Ed Hardy laden wardrobe. Those two letters do nothing but taint the potential of all that came before. “Alluringly” are The Matrix sequels. “Alluringly” is realising 16 years later that Lucas was actually a pretty shit director. Jar Jar Binks is the poster child of “alluringly”.

“Alluringly” was the rigid side dish regime at The Rooster Rotisserie and Grill on Bloor. Don’t get me wrong, the portions were gargantuan. The food was delicious. Service (though pushy for a bewildered newbie) was quick and the prices were good for the meal size. There are a heap of side dishes, but their policy is so inflexible. You get two side dishes with a combo, no complaints there. I saw the beetroot and thought how my poop hadn’t been noxiously red in a while, so I picked it. As the woman behind the counter started heaping it on, I realised just what a commitment that much beetroot was. I asked if she could possibly give me a third of that and a small amount of broccoli instead of what had amounted to around three large beetroots. Nope. No way. Two side dishes, no mixing. I’m not blaming them, I’m just complaining because I’ve built my own soapbox here. I understand their policy in theory, but they’ve also opted for a separatist movement between foods. You get two mammoth amounts (in that they’d each feed a mammoth) of individual vegetables. There is no “steamed vegetables” option or selection based on rough grouping. So I had a generously sized pork chop flanked by mountains of potatoes and beetroot. “Alluring” was the sight of the plate beforehand. “Alluringly” is my body figuring out how to process all that starch.

If I wasn’t entirely explicit, I’d still fully recommend this place if you have a massive appetite and want to eat a lot of a few things.

On the contrary, I don’t have a large appetite right now, but that isn’t stopping me from wanting to eat a lot of a lot of things. Due to insufficient planning, it’s one of those Friday nights where I’m tooling around on the internet in lieu of meaningful human interaction. Please don’t think I’m complaining. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff there is to do on the ‘net (as kids these days call it. In my day we just said Information Superhighway for short). I’ve got Netflix, a ton of games and so many unread stories on r/NoSleep. While I’m doing all this (ALL OF IT) though, I want stuff to nibble on. Something cold like ice cream or maybe wobbly like jelly. There’s chocolate around the house, but I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that if I have some of the chocolate there’ll be less in the house once I’ve finished. What if I want chocolate another time and there’s none to be had? I don’t think I wanna live that kind of dystopian existence. So the idea of eating chocolate, while alluring, is appearing more alluringly by the second.