Thursday, 19 June 2014


Hello Friends.

Hey, real quick: whatever happened to adults? I guess I'm speaking to pop culture specifically, but the same phenomenon is reflected in large social trends. Why, for instance, are we so enamoured of books and movies for young audiences? I'd rather be shot in my goddamn face than learn how to train my dragon 2. And I like Jennifer Lawrence fine, but does she really have to be the biggest star in the world right now? She's barely out of being a bween! She hasn't bweaned, if you will.

Every male star seems borne of some franchise (again, intended for children), and reduced to soundbiting on late night TV. If there is a Dustin Hoffman-type actor coming up today, we'll never meet him unless he's in Spaghetti Kids 4: Uh-Oh, Spaghetti Kids! And Jimmy Fallon has to reduce everyone on his show to viral-worthy clickbait, which I understand gets good ratings, but I can't imagine Dick Cavett and Norman Mailer engaging in a lip-synch battle or forming a barbershop quartet.

I don't mean to suggest that we need proto-typical adult men and women role models to enforce some kind of arbitrary gender binary, but can't we place a little bit more emphasis on maturity? I don't mean we should all find jobs, homes, and families in short order; nailing those first two down is nearly impossible in our economy, but rather that we should be more realistic about just how great it is to be young and cool all the time. I'm neither cool nor particularly young and I've never been good at either. I really feel like I'm becoming more of a person by growing older and having new experiences; why doesn't everyone feel this way?

Dream: Embrace becoming an adult.

Goal: Achievable. In many cultures, adulthood is something that is simply thrust upon you, there's no choice about working to support the family, getting married, providing. But here in North America, there is a generation of us unwilling or unable to move out of a younger person's dynamic, whether that means living at home, having little to no full time work, or being a perpetual student. Contrary to blowhard thinkpieces in several "esteemed" publications, that's not laziness, that's just the reality for many people in this economy. Yet, I still there are things that we can do, that I can do specifically, to grow up a little bit.

Plan: Set foot on the path to maturity by making the following changes:

Cut my hair. No, I can't do that one. While the part may have moved from the centre to the side, I've had the same long shaggy hair in my long shaggy face since I was 14. I know a clean, close-cropped cut looks more professional and less like I slept in a car. But then what would I play with when I'm bored (suggestions aren't welcome)? What would I tug on nervously, or run my fingers through constantly? I was in a play once where a director accused me of relying too much on my hair. This particular show started with my hair slicked back and, over the course of the evening (the play more or less took place in real time), my nervous tics (and hot theatre lights) left my hair bedraggled and wild and I loved that, it was so much fun, and the director wanted to cut my hair because it was distracting. I fought and won that battle, thankfully. I know it's just fucking hair, but I'm also proud to have it. Someday I'll start balding and get that awful Michael Bolton/George Carlin no-hair-up-front-tons-in-the-back look and have to rethink, but that day is not today.

Wear a suit. No, I can't do that one. Suits are flattering and classy on the right person, but I'm no Diane Keaton. Even after working in (and getting a substantial discount on) nice menswear, I still look like a kid in his Dad's clothes when I wear a suit, or a pregnant bean on stilts. At my current job, I can get by in pressed pants and a dress shirt or polo. I never interact with clients, so I could also wear a garbage bag and a Tilley hat and no one would care. Some colleagues are suited up, though, and look great. Maybe if I was a little broader in the chest and narrower in the waist, I could be poured into some quality threads, but I'm not about to starting working out just to look a little better than Jason in Human Resources.

Develop a taste for wine. No, I can't do that one. Wine is so gross, you guys! It's sour and bitter and coats your mouth and makes your teeth disgusting. But people LOVE it! Guzzle it by the bottle, they do! I've heard that your tastebuds supposedly change as you age, thus explaining, for instance, why kids like the taste of Kool-Aid and adults like the taste of wine. I think I missed that all-important transition. The booze I like are sugar-bombed vodka coolers, like Smirnoff and Vex. These selections are terribly gauche and so, so bad for me, but taste so good! Give me a Raspberry Lemonade something with a 7% alcohol content over a Cabernet that was nestled with baby lamb for two hundred years any day of the week.

Travel. No, I can't do that one. Travelling is supposedly a fulfilling life-changing experience, but when I picture doing it myself all I can think is: are the beds comfortable, and will the food make me puke? Well-travelled friends make fabulous guests at a dinner party. Tales of backpacking through some awful mountain and bunking in some kind of eco-treehouse sound admirable from a distance, but I don't want to do any of those things. You know where I'm going on vacation next week? The Big City where I lived for many years. You know where I'm staying? With friends, and then a hotel. Maybe I'll travel someday, but from where I'm sitting, it's better to be home. But about that...

Own a home. No, I can't do that one. Home ownership is freaking impossible, and it's only getting worse, but I think in a sly way, Doc and I might have the market beat. Right now, we rent a small 1 bedroom apartment for $1100/month. I don't know anyone who pays that little for a mortgage and fees. If we were to buy a condo of comparable size, we'd pay at least $1100 per month on a mortgage payment in addition to condo fees (by the way, what the fuck are condo fees? It costs $800 per month per resident to shovel the snow?). The Doc and I don't have any debts, and we're able to squirrel away some nice chunks of change because our rent is so small. If we keep saving, we'll eventually be in a place to buy a little property without hurling ourselves into a massive money-owing pit of despair we won't be able to hoist ourselves out of until we're ready to retire.

Make peace with the younger me. That's the hardest one. I was always the kid who wanted to be older than he was because I never thought my current self was all that interesting. I was a neurotic, overly-sensitive child, prone to tantrums and tears. Despite having a marvelous childhood, I was not a marvelous child. The adults I knew were great role models of how to grow up and it infuriated me that I was not their contemporary. Now I'm the same age my parents were when I was small and I feel like the biggest faker. As if someone will see through my pretentious blathering and self-important dreams and point out that my grasp on adulthood is tenuous; that my veneer of maturity is paper thin. If I could go back and meet Younger James, a device often used in terrible films, I don't know what I'd tell him, necessarily, but I hope I'd be kind. Maybe he'd look at my little apartment, my paltry resume, my schlubby clothes and messy hair and think, "Oh fuck, I'm gonna turn into this guy?" Or maybe he'd take it all in, reserve his fleeting judgments, and decide that I must be trying my best.

Thursday, 12 June 2014


Hello Friends.

There's this woman I've been following on Twitter. At least, I assume she's a woman, her profile picture is some kind of Second Life fairy nymph (although you know she spells it 'faerie'). I won't reveal her screen name, but she's easy enough to find because she is occasionally retweeted by a news personality we'll call Debbie Couchfarm. Debbie Couchfarm retweets the tweets of this woman because every single tweet she sends is directed at Debbie Couchfarm. Every one, morning until night. She will say, "@DCouchfarm Believe in your dreams as I believe in you!" or "@DCouchfarm Do you still like dancing?". It's WEIRD! Weirder still, as I've said, is that Couchfarm seems to be, if not encouraging the parade of fawning tweets, not stopping it either.

For the Twitter illiterate, congratulations on not wasting your time, but the tool works like this: Someone has a Twitter account, from which they tell jokes or talk about their lunch. Twitter users send tweets out from their account, and people who Follow them can read those tweets. I follow Debbie Couchfarm, who is a popular news personality less famous than Diane Sawyer, but more famous than Linda Talisman, an NBC news correspondent I just made up right now. Anyway, the Faerie Nymph lady sends tweets to Debbie, and Debbie retweets them, meaning she publishes them on her own Twitter page, which is how I found this person. I'm sure Faerie Nymph is a harmless fan, but what if a response from Debbie Couchfarm leads her to suppose a friendship is developing when it's not? What if Faerie Nymph reads so far into these meaningless digital interactions that it affects her mental health, if it hasn't already? 

This is the point in the show where I'm awarded Lifetime Achievement in Hypocrisy because I am the WORST for tweeting at famous people. People like Josh Mankiewicz, Julie Klausner, and The Bean Institute receive replies from me to messages that were not intended for me. I'll do that obnoxious "top a joke" thing that lazy internet commenters do, where a famous person will tweet something funny, and I'll try to add to it in a way that's not funny at all. Some famous people have kindly responded something non-committal like :) or "Haha", but to my surprise, no one has ever said, "I must get to know this James better", followed my Twitter account, sent me emails, and become my dearest friend/offered me a job. Because famous people recognize blatant fawning for nothing more than blatant fawning. Behaviour like mine and Faerie Nymph shouldn't be encouraged because, in certain circumstances, we become obsessed.

Dream: Recognize and curb my obsessions.

Goal: Achievable. I'm throwing around the term "obsessed" pretty loosely here. I know true obsession is no blog fodder; that people are tortured by compulsive behaviour that makes day to day living unbearable. But I also think that popular usage dictates a distinctly millennial version of obsession, where unprecedented access to things we like has turned my contemporaries and I into voracious cultural consumers where we feel entitled to not just like something, but love it. We can't just embrace something new to the culture, we have to beat it until it is dead. To that end, here are some things I'm obsessed with, that I must let loose and fly free (like a little bird), lest I kill it (like a little bird).

Dateline. Yeah, here's Dateline again. But it's SO good. A few weeks ago, there was an episode where this man was on a hike with his wife and then she died. Either she fell onto some rocks, was swept away by a rushing current, and was found pinned underwater by an errant tree branch, or she was attacked by her husband, drowned, and pinned to the same errant branch in the creek. Holes were poked in both theories, aspersions were cast in all directions, three devastated children mourned their mother, which doesn't deserved to be minimized in my cavalier write-up. What was truly exceptional about this information, though, is how it was so gloriously unspooled. Over two hours, details were teased out and new information brought to light. A narrative structure is imposed on these stories that make them absolutely captivating. You forget you're watching a story where a woman died on some rocks and you instead feel like you're watching a really good mystery movie. Is this exploitative? Does it minimize the tragedy, or wrongly suggest a sinister pattern where none exists (although thankfully, Dateline has strayed from the "It's one of the most deadly substances in America and you're probably topping your dessert with it" stories)? These questions are not for me to answer. But I should stop reveling in the great storytelling every so often to remember that these are tragedies being recounted week after week, and the pain on the screen is real.

Orange is the New Black. This SHOW, you guys! It's ironic that the show so many of us gleefully binge-watch is so good that it should probably be spaced out a little bit. Since season two debuted, I've been trying to limit myself, but I'm already on episode 7 or something. The writing, the characters, and the acting are SO good, though, that I should probably stop and appreciate it more. There is so much that is dense and layered and clever, and I'm not reflecting on any of it. For instance, when's the last time you saw a diverse group of actresses on the same television show all wearing the same outfit?

Firm pillows. Jon bought me a firm pillow for my birthday (although not just that) and my reading in bed has QUADRUPELED! If firm pillows were a World Cup team, I'd watch.

Body shapes. I'm obsessed with body shapes beyond fat and skinny. Here's what I realized and it's about to turn the diet industry on its head: you can't change the basic shape of your body. Yes, I know there are some people that go from very small to very large, but otherwise, we're all fighting the same battle against a natural shape that can't be won. I know a woman, for instance, who is smaller than a hummingbird. She exercises and eats heartily, but will always be about the same size. By the same token, I know a broad woman who is big because she is broad. She is extremely health-conscious and athletic, but has wide hips and broad shoulders that will never suddenly change their shape. It's crummy to think that people judging her for the size of her jeans might think she is fat, when she's the farthest thing from it, but her bone structure is such that she's broad. That's a thing that happens! I got a free trial at a fancy gym and I've been using it to spy on people who prioritize their fitness. Even the ones huffing and puffing at the toughest equipment have bodies that aren't perfect, but that's because there are no perfect bodies. The point is, we're gonna look how we're gonna look, so we'd better chill out about it a little bit.

What I'm really obsessed with is leisure time, which is why I'm hurrying to finish this before making dinner and watching some more of Piper & the Cons. I know obsession is, by its very definition, unhealthy. But if you replace obsession with enthusiasm, and are more conscious about what earns that enthusiasm, then you're just an enthusiast! I think people stay young when they cultivate interests and explore them fully. In addition to firm pillows, I guess you could say I'm obsessed with novels about sexless lady detectives (Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency, Hetty Wainthrop Investigates, The Flavia de Luce Mysteries, what WHAT!), cooking with garlic, being a good guy, and sunscreen application. Those last two will serve me well throughout my life! So what's a little obsession, particularly if it gets you on your feet and off the couchfarm.

Friday, 6 June 2014

In the Year 2000...

Hello Friends.

I couldn't write anything for this blog yesterday because a particular work assignment had a pressing due date and required quite a bit of evening work at home. I rarely have to take work home and had no plans beyond watching YouTube documentaries about Michael Jackson's fucked-up face, so this assignment was little more than a slight inconvenience (by the way, I'm really annoyed that we can release an album of all new Michael Jackson material as aided by other musical artists, but no visual artist can take a stab at what MJ's 2014 fucked-up face would be? That's careless). That said, the inconvenience of after-hours work would have been extremely annoying if I actually had to do it at work. I sent a final draft off at 10.30 last night, but I was in my jams listening to my jams, and I went to bed after hitting send. But it wasn't that long ago that you couldn't electronically send a work file to your home to continue working on. Even this blog entry, as I start this morning from home and will send to myself to finish and post over lunch from work, digitally exists in two places at once and could be sent anywhere in seconds.

I know we live in a futuristic wonderworld with technological capability our ancestors only dreamed of. It's remarkable that, just a few short years ago, I remember tearing the perforations off of printed paper before handing in a school report and now I get mad when my internet porn has to buffer for more than ten seconds. But part of me sees the progress we've made as an indicator of what subsequent generations will enjoy and thinks, "Well fuck."

Dream: Live an extra hundred years, able-bodied and healthy.

Goal: Maybe achievable. TEDTalk speakers love to trot out the statistic that, because science, the first human to live to be 150 has already been born. Then they go back to openly masturbating in front of nerds. I don't know how reliable such a statistic is, or if medical science is making leaps and bounds behind closed doors (forget about boner pills and work on cancer, why don't you?), but I'd like to be that guy, provided I'm not drooling or dotty, just to see what the future holds.

Plan: Reduce my Dorito intake by 17% percent in order to live to see the following innovations:

The Transporter.  I don't know what else to call it, but I want one of those machines where you enter one portal and walk out the next instantaneously, anywhere in the world. So you get in a chamber in Regina, say, "Saskatoon!" and you walk out of a chamber in Saskatoon in 5 seconds. Although, I mean, it's not a long drive, don't waste your transporter credits on that, go to Paris or something.  I don't know how far we are from this technology, but with fax machines, email, and 3D printers, we must be getting closer. I'm worried they'll develop the first shaky prototype when I'm like 90, and getting in one would kill me instantly because of my old bones and cotton candy hair that would get caught in the mechanism. Think about the ways in which this technology will change the world. Soon, it will go from being a luxury available to the very rich, to a government mandated necessity. We could feed the starving in Africa, illegal labour would skyrocket, and I could finally find that Genesis cassette I left behind on a family trip to Michigan when I was nine. 

And won't it be satisfying to watch the airline industry dwindle and die? Air Canada would be frantically spinning plates and tap-dancing, begging us to please deign to take air travel. "We don't care about carry on allowance! Forget security lines! Take the whole can of pop! PLEASE GOD, FLY WITH US!" Flights would get cheaper and cheaper, and airplanes more and more luxurious. Like a cruise now, a flight would become a destination in itself. Take a vacation ON a WestJet plane. Eventually, though, even that would shut down, and we could convert airports into prisons and convert prisons into cute loft apartments.

No more offices. I love having a little office, though I've been told I'll soon have to share it with a new hire. But it seems counter-intuitive that I'm more productive on certain assignments when I just take them home. Plus, with bosses in Vancouver and Toronto, the only way I'm connected to the clients I write for is electronically. Therefore, my commute can feel like a bummer, and it's definitely productivity lost. We are already a paperless office (never print anything, all materials are digitized), but soon we will be an office-less office, I'm sure of it. If you're not in a line of work that requires face-to-face interaction, what's the point of having warm bodies in a building five days a week? I'll be angry when I retire in order to live my dream of writing full time from home, my replacement will be working full time, writing from his home.

Food pill. I love eating, but I would love it even more if I only had to do it once a week and could indulge in whatever I want. Why haven't we perfected the pill that gives you all your vitamins, nutrients, and energy without leaving you feeling hungry, so that you can live off the stored fat of your once-a-week mega meal? Eating can be an important social ritual, but so often it's grilled cheese in front a computer screen. Such a pill would cure not only world hunger, but eating disorders as well. If food was strictly pleasurable, but nothing beyond the food pill was required for nutrients, people could stop eating, theoretically exercise themselves down to skeletons, but still be somewhat healthy. This trend would mean a terrible increase in stick thin models and unrealistic beauty expectations, but I would suspect a food pill would be rushed into production when our natural food resources started becoming more and more scarce. Therefore, actual food would be expensive, the ability to dine on real food would become a luxury, a fat person is suddenly a status symbol, like the white-pale Victorians of old. Suddenly, the most celebrated famous people start sporting tits and ass again. John Goodman becomes a symbol for virility and manhood, if he isn't already.

Cures for cancer, HIV, and AIDS. In my lifetime, the scourge of the Western population has been cancer, while other parts of the world (as well as here at home, of course) have been ravaged by HIV and AIDS. Surely another superbug will come along to replace them, but for a glorious while, I hope I live to see every cancer patient leave a clinic cancer-free, and no more AIDS orphans. It's just too sad that. Statistically, cancer will a lot of us, and I hate that we're still so in the dark about root causes. In a few generations, people will look back and say, "I can't believe people didn't know that cell phones were responsible for all the cancer in the world." And people putting cell phones to their head will suddenly become imagery that is daring and punk rock, like a rockstar holding a gun to his head on an album cover or something. I don't know if it's cell phones, or sugar, or air, but something is killing us, and we seem more focused on treatment rather than prevention.  Doctors, just find out what's making everybody sick, you can even take time off developing the food pill.

New prejudices. I'm not looking forward to this one, but it will be very interesting to see how our views evolve and we pick new groups to be scapegoats for our cultural fear and hatred. I hope, at least, that we evolve beyond our current roster of "Others". LGB (but not much T)-bashing is less and less culturally acceptable, racism is pervasive, but we'll all eventually become so intermingled that it will naturally subside, yet I worry that women will continue to bear the brunt of our deepest prejudices because so many people are convinced that misogyny isn't a thing. It's a thing. I have never and will never experience what it's like to be a woman, but I am confident that we are waist deep in our own bullshit when it comes to society's treatment of more than half of its members.

Maybe it's greedy to want to experience the future through the lens of the present. It's not as if there is a solution to all of society's ills, and even if there was, it wouldn't be found in advanced technology. If anything, I am grateful to experience my life at the age I am with the experiences I've had. I don't really understand wanting to be older or younger when you're neither old nor young. I'm so glad I'm old enough to appreciate what I have, and young enough to know the best may be ahead of me. Whatever the future holds, I'm ready for it.