In my day, we had flesh and blood corporeal forms and reproduced sexually instead of memetically.

I feel like I’ve been using the word “perfunctory” a lot lately. Is that a reflection on my life choices? Or just a recently expanded vocabulary leading to unnecessary shoehorning of an otherwise innocuous word?

I’m leaving for the airport in an hour, so the word seems particularly apt.

This trip seems unreal. I don’t mean that in some wide eyed dreamer style ZOMG ALL MY LIFE I’VE BEEN WAITING. Rather, it’s been shoved in the back of my mind for so long, it looks a little messy holding it up to the light. I feel like I just came back from Austin and now I’m jet setting off to London. England, not Ontario as everyone around here has assumed. I’ve done very little in the way of planning. My girlfriend and I have been particularly laissez-faire (is that a euphemism for “negligent”?). We have no itinerary outside of a wedding, and a beer/curry catch up with some friends. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a colour coded interactive Google map with an assortment of activities and coffee spots, it’s just that we haven’t pinned down particular days to anything. We’re as free as the wind, or Willy the whale.

It’s also meant that today has been a shitshow. Not because there was an overwhelming amount of stuff to take care of. More so that we created hurdles for ourselves to then o’erleap. I’ve created this bizarre tradition where, before a big flight, I create an enormous sandwich to take on board. I figure in flight meals are excessively costed, so why not have a little fun and bring something made with love… and a gratuitous amount of deli meat? The plus is, that since I’m not travelling alone this time, I have someone to share it with. We bought a gluten-free loaf (for my GF GF) and hollowed it out a bunch. We’ll use the innards to make gluten-free stuffing at Thanksgiving. First up was the mayo layer. The mayolayer, if you will. I mixed a healthy spoonful of mayo (is that an oxymoron?) with sriracha, then spread it across the base. I sprinkled lemon pepper, then grated in some sharp cheddar. Then it was meat time. In went 125g of aged black forest ham and 75g of paio hot salami. I folded the slices in half on the borders of the sandwiches, crescent side pointed inwards. Then I made little bi-folds and did a centre line to keep a dense consistency to the sandwich. I ain’t no schoolyard sandwich architect. Then a layer of gouda to break up the meat selection before tossing on 100g of smoked chicken. I wanted a little more moisture on my half, so I put in some chipotle barbecue sauce. My girlfriend opted to leave it au naturale. Next came slices of sour dill pickles and sundried tomatoes. One layer of dijon mustard on top and we closed the lid on it. It must’ve weighed about a kilo.

I must stress, that sandwich was the most planning we put into our entire trip.

Then I decided for some reason it’d be a good idea to go for a swim. I hadn’t swam in a few years, but why not then, right? Turns out it was an excellent idea. My muscles (and back in particular) were munted from going all out at the Kpop party on Friday. The swim really sorted everything out and I left feeling relaxed. That was maybe two hours ago. I came back and at the consummate protein packed lunch: A tin of tuna tipped into the remainder of our cottage cheese tub. If it was gonna go off while we were in London, why not, right?

I came home and decided it’d make sense to start packing. As always, I put too much stuff in there. Imagine the horror of wanting a yellow hoodie and not having one? Madness, right? I learned once more how to fold a suit, remembered to stuff in both of my knee braces and most importantly, packed my bluetooth keyboard. It’s been a godsend for travel writing. One day I’ll tell my future grandchildren how their grandfather used to write by hand on his tiny little phone screen.

They’ll be like “hey grandad, what are phones?” “What’s typing? You mean you weren’t all connected on a grand scale mindmeld? How archaic and inefficient.”

Then I’ll tell them about how I boarded a plane and the thought of non-instant teleportation will blow their sweet little minds asunder.

“How perfunctory” they’ll say. My grandkids, after all.

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I would hope it involves tuna for lunch. Some things never get old.

Today at work I…

Normally this is a statement that leads right to the middle of nowhere. I arrive at my desk. I make coffee. I small talk with co-workers for longer than is reasonable and leave at the end of the day entirely unfulfilled. It’s my job, it pays the rent and feeling dissatisfied is better than destitute in my mind. At the same time, it taxes me. Have you ever felt like your day to day takes more than it gives? Like you’re running on a wheel going nowhere, just getting tired?

Well today at work I…

Knew that I had a lot to do and less time than normal. Still didn’t stop the morning coffee and small talk. I was doing some voicing for a smaller market. They needed a golf announcer voice. Naturally I went to youtube for some research and stumbled upon this little gem. I was voicing with one of the production engineers that really digs in and gets to the heart of it. We’ll do tons of takes, trying alternate reads, going for specific styles and unintuitive angles. It’s considerably more fun than my desk job and helps to make said desk job more bearable.

With less time, I loaded up a Kpop playlist (and to be honest, I think I’m deeply, sincerely in love with Kpop now) and got down to business. I churned through a stack of work in an hour, before deciding that I could probably still fit my day’s  tasks in if I went off to engage in a company supplied pilates class. So I vanished for an hour to do pilates.

You know what? It was a fucking hard class and that was awesome in itself. The instructor has done a fantastic job of ramping up the learning curve over the past month or two. She’s funny, plays great music and structures the class with easier exercises that lead into those that’re more difficult. It’s been so much of a boon for the company to have shelled out for an instructor to come in and take these classes once per week. A nice way of redirecting energy in a physical manner that brings us into the afternoon all refreshed.

Having gotten my sweat on, I had about an hour before my next engagement. So I got some lunch and once again did my job (you know, that thing they pay me to come in for?). For that hour. Then it was off for two hours to one of our optional, company supplied lectures.

I’d been on the waiting list and just got my acceptance this morning. Today’s lecture was on storytelling. Out of no vocational necessity, but pure interest, I figured I could learn a thing or two regardless. The instructor was great, and the course brought to mind a lot that I’d never considered. He had a manner of putting into words things that were maybe subconsciously known, but I hadn’t tacitly heard.

Here’s the thing. I feel like humans are natural storytellers. It’s innate to our upbringing. We’re told parables and fairy tales to teach us lessons. The entertainment we so eagerly consume is all based on fundamental rules that’ve evolved over generations. We so rarely put into words what makes a compelling story, but we know it. If the tale doesn’t hit those points, we switch off. Just like that.

Something the instructor raised really stuck with me. It was about audiences. He said that people don’t care about the how, they care about the why. That intrinsically what they care about is what’s in it for them. So to tell a truly effective story, you need to consider what the audience stands to gain from hearing your story. Don’t tell a story just because you want to, but shape it into a tale that benefits those who hear it. Can they learn something? Will it make them laugh? Excited? Emotionally invested? Will it endear them to you and the struggles of the central characters?

When you’re telling a story, don’t just list the facts, plot and outcome, invite the audience inside your story. You’re not giving them empty words, you’re creating a narrative perspective and it’s your goal as a storyteller to bring their view in line with yours. Help them see the world of your mythology as you do. Cause them to invest in the characters, conflict and stakes. Understand the type of story you’re telling and its structure. Is it a rags to riches tale? A quest? A triumph over insurmountable odds? A story of tragedy or rebirth? If you know where you’re going, you’re better able to guide an audience there.

It was all kinds of gratifying to hear this stuff, to participate in discussion and feel like I’d given something back. To feel involved and cared for, to learn little tips of how to expand my knowledge in an area I care deeply about.

After that kind of day, I’m wondering what tomorrow at work could hold.

Are you?

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?

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.