whyCarly?: An Experiment

For those stalwart few devoted listeners of the VTAN Podcast who are wondering why it’s been so long since we’ve released a new episode, prepare for some exciting news.

We’re not gone. We’ve just been busy preparing our newest endeavor.

On July 1st (that’s Canada Day to the international crowd) we will be launching our new iCarly appreciation podcast whyCarly at whyCarly.Rocks

whyCarly-logo

I’m sure a lot of you are asking yourselves, “Why Carly?” and the answer is simple.

iCarly, a show that ran for 109 episodes (or 107 depending on who you ask) from 2007-2012 is a Nickelodeon show that was aimed at tween girls.

It is also (along with The Simpsons, Battlestar Galactica, Community and Frasier) one of my Top 5 Favourite shows of all time.

Listeners of the podcast will have heard me talk about it before and you almost certainly have heard Kyle make fun of me mercilessly for it.

That’s the point of this new podcast. To show my best friend and co-host Kyle the value of a seemingly innocuous kid’s show and to try to get him to change his mind. To convert him, as it were, into an iCarly fan.

Look for us on iTunes this Canada Day and follow us on twitter @whyCarlyPod

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Play the Grammar Game

Nouns of Assembly.

What the hell are those?

I didn’t know, or at least I didn’t know that I knew, until I played a rather rowdy game of Anomia with my good friend Ryan, my bro Jaron and his lovely girlfriend Paige.

[*on a side note everyone should go out and play some Anomia RFN! Adults in general should make a point to play more boardgames*]

Nouns of assembly are special words used to describe a collective mass of any one particular thing. Most commonly in English they’re used to give different names to groups of animals. Everyone has probably heard of a herd of cows or maybe even a Flock of Seagulls but some of the more obscure ones are pretty fun.

Here are my favourites:

An army of ants.
A group of bears is called a sleuth.
Boars come in a sounder.
A caravan of camels.

If you were a kid in the 90’s Simba and Nala probably taught you that a group of lions is called a pride. Domestic cats come in a clowder but a group of wildcats is called a destruction! How cool is that?

A murder of crows, a convocation of eagles, a wake of buzzards, a parliament of owls and a pandemonium of parrots. A sedge of cranes, piteousness of doves, a paddling of ducks. When geese are on the ground they’re called a gaggle but in flight they’re a skein. A charm of finches, a kettle of hawks and an ostentation of peacocks. So many different names for so many different birds.

A group of giraffes is a tower, hyenas are a cackle and gorillas come in whoops. Africa… gotta love it.

A business of ferrets, family of beavers and a mess of iguanas but my absolute favourite is mice.

A group of mice is called a mischief.

My number one favourite word in the English language is mischief and I feel like it fits so well with mice. They’re such mischievous little mischief makers.

My birthday is only about 2 weeks from now.

Maybe I should get myself a pet mouse. I’ll name him something cool like Oliver or Nacho.

Attempt the Weekly Challenge

The Daily Post at WordPress holds writing challenges every week and so I decided, after telling myself  “I should try that some day” to make today that day.

The deadline is like, right now but seeing as how I’ve been up all night and have crossed the border between late night and early morning and most people aren’t awake yet I think I still might slip in at that last second.

The challenge for the week of September 9th is: Be Kind. Don’t Rewind

We’re taught to think that a well-told story — fictional or not — starts with A, goes on to B, and ends with Z. We automatically follow the rule established by the King of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. ‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.

‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’

(Louis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

For this Writing Challenge, we’re asking you to disobey the King.

Sounds easy enough right?

Well here goes.

                                                                                                                                   

There’s really nothing in the world quite like the feeling of relief that one experiences when it’s all over.

We all need to eat but I’m confident in assuming that aroma, taste, and that gastronomical joy that accompanies some well prepared food all play a major role in making us want to as well.

Why else would the best tasting meals be the most unhealthy?

The rush of flavours. The surprise in feeling your mouth suddenly full of many strange and overwhelming combinations. You know that it’s not proper etiquette to sit at a dinner table with your cheeks puffed out like a chipmunk, but you can’t help it. Your face is stuffed and as ashamed as you’re supposed to feel you’re even more disgusted by how much you’re enjoying this.

It’s delicious.

A sweet start, salty notes throughout, a chewy finish and just the tiniest hint of acidity that you manage to choke back and hold on to as your vision blurs with unexpected tears.

The route from mouth to stomach is direct and even the most inept navigator would have no trouble, but tonight traffic is just zooming. It’s as if they’ve opened up extra lanes on the highway, and this sickeningly scrumptious bouillabaisse, the artisanal meal that your mouth has pulverized into gourmet mush, is literally spewing through your esophagus.

A gurgle.

A rumble.

You’ve always wanted to speak other languages but you’ve never had an ear for interpretation. It’s no surprise you don’t understand what messages your stomach’s sending, though the guests seated nearest have picked up the clues and have begun to inch away from you.

“Hear, Hear” the person to your right exclaims.

“My compliments to the chef!” you call out, “That was exquisite.”

Dinner is served.

Eating Spelled Backwards is Puke

By: J. Alex Alferez

Elevate the Customer Experience.

“I’d like to purchase these products please!”

Anyone who’s been unlucky enough to go shopping with me knows that is my customary greeting to cashiers as I plop my merchandise on the checkout counter. Usually they’re not expecting such candor from the long serpentine line of customers trying their damnedest to get out of the store as quickly as possible, so depending on their reaction (mild annoyance or curious amusement) I’ll either try to engage them in a little droll conversation or just clam up and pay for my goods.

It wasn’t always this way. I used to hate forced social interactions and stumble through them with the tension you’d expect from someone as awkward as me but about a year ago while stopping at Food Basics for a couple of bottles of Coke Zero and hair conditioner with my surrogate parents, I began to have a change of heart.

I should explain.

My friends Kyle and Callie a are couple with whom I spend the majority of my time. They’re usually the first ones to hear about any crises(plural) I’m going through and have on multiple occasions shown the ability to shake some sense into me and bluntly tell me when I’m acting like a fuck up. I’ve said before that they’re like parents who are the same age as me and I can get wasted and talk about sex with too.

Kyle scolded me for being a dick when being nice to the sweet innocent checkout girl requires a minimum effort and would probably make her day.

I started thinking about the possibility of making people’s days. It took me years to admit to myself that I could never don a cape and cowl and fight crime but now here was a real and simple way that I could inject a bit of positivity into the world.

So I started being nice to every retail and service industry professional I encountered. Making chit chat, telling jokes and always finding something to compliment them about. An ol’ shot in the arm as it were.

I sort of got hooked on it because I started to do it to real people. I made a decision to let everyone, friends and strangers alike, get a taste.

I went over to Kyle and Callie’s for dinner one night and right as I walked in the door I said to her “Callie, I don’t usually take the time to come out and say this, and for that I apologize, but you are looking lovely tonight.”

I learned that it’s fine when you do it to close friends and family but when you to it to strangers or even acquaintances, friends of friends, it can come across (at best) as flirty or (at worst) as super-goddamn-creepy-as-dicks.

I did it to K&C’s winsome redheaded neighbour and I think I really freaked her out.

So I had to pump the brakes a bit and went back to just being awful when it comes to social interactions.

That is except for, the genesis of this whole experiment, customer service reps.

A few months ago I had an issue with Rogers, my Cable and Internet service provider, and so I used their online live chat service to try and ask for help.

I’ve posted this before on Facebook but I think it bears repeating. I didn’t have the presence of mind to take any screenshots so what follows is a transcript of our conversation:

7:01 PM  Connecting…
7:01 PM  Connected. A support representative will be with you shortly.
7:01 PM  Support session established with Eric.
7:01 PM   Eric:  Hi, you’ve reached Eric, how may I help you?
7:01 PM   Joshua Alferez:  Eric, a fine strong name if I’ve ever heard one. I’m having difficulty logging on to the MyRogers website
7:02 PM   Eric:  Have you tried the forgotten password feature? If so, did you receive any type of error message when using the forgotten password link?
7:03 PM   Joshua Alferez:  Your site has erred on the side of caution. In an effort to keep my information secure it requires me to answer a “secret question” before it sends me a temporary password via email
7:03 PM   Joshua Alferez:  i dont remember my answer or my password
7:04 PM   Eric:  I can update the secret question and reset the password for you. In order to access your account, I will require some information from you. Please click on the following secure link to enter your personal information. You will notice I requested a four digit PIN. If you do not have one associated to your account, please leave this field blank. Please let me know when you are finished.
7:04 PM  Eric has sent a link: https://safesend.rogers.com/index.php?ut=c055fbfb2a0df99ca317eecd0143a979f73399c1b372093fdea5b19a0d9fb705&vq=y
7:06 PM   Joshua Alferez:  The task is complete, sir!
7:06 PM   Eric:  This will just take 1-3 minutes to bring up your account. While I am bringing up for account, is there anything else I can assist you with at this time?
7:07 PM   Joshua Alferez:  You’ve already been so helpful it would be selfish of me to ask for anything more dear lad
7:11 PM   Eric:  In order to reset your password, we will also require you to provide us with your preferred temporary password in the secure link I have just sent you.
7:11 PM  Eric has sent a link: https://safesend.rogers.com/index.php?ut=28b73b58e4d1889301dcbd7891fe4cd247a94aa888e80782e748f6bb58090d2b&vq=y
7:12 PM   Joshua Alferez:  done
7:13 PM   Eric:  I have successfully reset your Rogers.com password to the temporary password provided in the form. This temporary password will be valid for up to 24 hours. Once you log in, you will be asked to create a new personal password. Please ensure to store this password in a safe place for future use. Please go to rogers.com/signin and let me know if you can login.
7:16 PM   Joshua Alferez:  SUCCESS! It works, HUZZAH FOR TEAMWORK. We did it Eric, we did it. They all said we couldn’t but we proved them wrong
7:16 PM   Eric:  Thank you for choosing Rogers Live Chat. For your references your session id is: 152148899. Also, please feel free to bookmark our direct link www.rogershelp.com/chat. We are available between the hours of 7AM to midnight Monday to Friday, and 8AM to midnight Saturday and Sunday EST.
7:18 PM   Joshua Alferez:  I’m going to very upset in the sequel when you are revealed to have secretly been a robot this whole time. Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!
7:19 PM  Eric has ended the session.

You see that!?!?!

You can see how I tried my damnedest to engage the guy but he was giving me NOTHING.

Undaunted however I decided to try again.

A few days ago I used the service once more. This time I took some super lo-rez pictures for your enjoyment:

007008009As you can see Rob was just as unreceptive to my charm as Eric. When he responded so flatly to my introductory salvo of compliments I didn’t bother pressing the matter and just let the rest of the session play out mechanically like a long term relationship’s obligatory birthday sex.

It was just as unsatisfying.

Just a few hours ago I had my third interaction with Rogers Live Chat and it has reaffirmed my faith in humanity and has caused me to vow, anew, to be more social.

See for yourself:

016017018020Wow!

I grant you it’s not much of a two way conversation, it’s obvious I did most of the heavy lifting, but for the first time ever I got someone at Rogers to acknowledge the extemporaneous conversation I, up until this point, had been having with myself.

Persistence pays off.

I’m gonna keep trying to be friendlier and I think it’ll go a long way towards my ultimate goal of just being happier.

Unleash the Digital Monster!

Don Draper had it wrong.

I don’t say that flippantly, it took me hours of contemplation to make that decision. Don Draper is in the top 3 on the list of my favorite “Double D’s” in the world and I usually take his words as the gospel truth, but in the season 1 finale of Mad Men, Draper gives an awesome speech about nostalgia that I’m starting to interpret in a new way.

He’s pitching an ad campaign for Kodak’s new slide projector. Being that it’s the middle of the 60’s during the U.S./Soviet space race, the muckety mucks at Kodak want to market the sleek curves of their new “wheel projector” as a spaceship. They’re trying to cash in on the NASA zeitgeist. Don Draper puts together an alternative campaign that causes one of the stuffedshirts in the boardroom to burst into tears and run out of the room crying.

He decides they shouldn’t look towards the future to market this product, but rather the past. To use the slide projector as a time machine. To let us catch a glimpse of days gone by.

Better days.

 draper5

Up until recently I would’ve agreed. If you asked me I’d have said that looking back into the past is painful and as Draper says, “takes us to a place where we ache to go again… a place where we know we are loved.”

But over the last few days I’ve been swimming in nostalgia and it’s making me happier than I’ve felt in the longest time. And not just happy about old memories but rather happy with myself as I am today.

Netflix has added to their Library, the first two seasons of Digimon: Digital Monsters.

Now for anyone who doesn’t know me very well, I consider myself to be musically inclined. I sing in the shower a lot and I’m a 10 speed dynamo when it comes to karaoke but I also play a handful of instruments with varying levels of competence.

Here’s me shredding on guitar.

I play a little bit of accordion, drums and piano as well but the first instrument I ever learned, the one that started me on this musical journey nearly 15 years ago was the harmonica.

photo(20)

Yes, ladies, he’s STILL got it… and by “it” I mean cripplingly low confidence and that self deprecating charm that drives the girls wild.

There is exactly one reason why I, as a child, decided to learn to play the harmonica.

It’s because of Matt, a character from Digimon. More specifically, Matt, my favorite character on the first two seasons of Digimon.

Now he wasn’t the star of the show, he wasn’t the hero. He was always sort of the “second banana”. He had a cool exterior that belied a tumult of emotion contained just under the surface. His mom and dad were divorced and he and his little brother had been split apart as each of them went to live with one of their parents. During their adventures with the Digimon he always worried about his brother’s safety, attempting to be a responsible caretaker, but often having to face the sad reality that he wasn’t well suited for the task. When his younger brother starts to develop a strong bond with the show’s goggle-headed protagonist he gets jealous and further questions his self worth.

He was far too complex a character for what was meant to be a kid’s show but he played the hell outta the harmonica and I always thought he was super cool.

People have told me that it says a great deal about my personality that I don’t ever identify with the main protagonist of any story. If there’s any leading man in any movie, book, TV show, video game or comic, I always see more of myself reflected in the main character’s best friend or sidekick.

It turns out there’s even a name for that ultra important character in literature. It’s the Deuteragonist. He’s the secondary character who shoulders a lot of the burden when it comes to the plot, but he’s not always a hero in the traditional sense. Sometimes he’s a rouge or scoundrel, sometimes he’s just a weaker character who needs the support of the hero to fully develop. Whatever the case I’ve always thought I shared a similar temperament to the Dueteragonists of my favorite stories.

Let’s go through the list shall we:

and of course the guy this whole thing has been about,

matt

Yes, ladies, he’s STILL got it… and by “it” I mean cripplingly low confidence and that self deprecating charm that drives the girls wild… and a digimon, I suppose.

Now while these characters, for the most part, may not share many personality traits with each other I always identified with them more than I would with the heroes of their respective stories.

I guess I just lack the confidence to consider myself the leading man in the story of my life.

I’m definitely sidekick material though.

Watching Digimon for the first time in almost 15 years has transported me back into the past in a way that has let me see all the ways that I’ve changed in the intervening years.

And all the ways in which I haven’t.

But it’s been nothing but a joy.

I’m not a fan of anime. People are shocked to hear that just like they’re shocked when I say I don’t really like Sci-Fi. They think that just ’cause I’m a geek I like Doctor Who and Star Gate. It’s the closest to racial pigeonholing I’ve ever experienced.

People just expect me to have an interest in things that are considered “geek”. The truth is I couldn’t give a single fuck about Dragon Ball, or Bleach or Gundam and Evangelion. I think Akira sucked balls and Miyazaki is boring. No I don’t loooooove Full Metal Alchemist and I think people who read comic books backwards are a bunch of pretentious jackasses.

I am a self proclaimed geekI I love Star Wars and DC Comics. My thumbprints are concave from decades of videogames. I have toys in my house. But when it comes to anime I just never delved into that word. Ironically it always seemed “too nerdy” for me to get into.

I was an Inbetweener in the schoolboy ecosystem. I occasionally got picked on by some of the more popular kids, but I still would make fun of the guys playing with their Yu-Gi-Oh! cards at lunch.

So as a total anime neophyte, and with nothing to compare it to, I just randomly got sucked into the world of Digimon in 1999 and it was my favourite show for 2 years. Then by that time I mysteriously became more interested in boobs and rock music than cartoons and I stopped watching.

Now that I’m revisiting the series after so long it’s made me feel totally nostalgic but more than anything it has, surprisingly, helped me with my goal of moving forward with my life.

I’ve never been able to think about the future. When I was young I didn’t think I would live a very long life because I couldn’t fathom what I would be like as an old guy. I’ve never really made any plans for the future and have always been sort of ambitionless. My mind functions only in the immediate present and so it’s especially difficult for me to ever hope for the best. If I’m going through a painful emotional experience I literally can’t imagine a time when I’ll no longer feel that way.

But by watching this show that makes me feel the way I did as a child, and then thinking about how different I am today, it makes me wonder for the first time ever what I might be like 15 years from now.

And aside from all the philosophical revelations it’s still just such a damn good show. It holds up so well even after all these years.

At least to me.

So, Don Draper talks about nostalgia as being painful, of making you want to go back and relive better times.

As stupid as it may sound Digimon and the nostalgia I feel for it has made me excited about the future for the first time in recent memory.

For those of you who remember the show fondly, or for those who may have never seen it, here’s a clip from season 1 of Matt playing the blues.

There are 104 episodes in the first 2 seasons of Digimon.

I’m going to watch them all!

Josh the Terrible Mixologist

I’m gonna stop it before it even starts. Josh is a verb, it means to engage in banter or to tease good naturedly. Maybe it doesn’t fit my regular scheme, at least not in this particular context, but I wanted to spend more time writing this entry than choosing the title so let’s just chalk this up to my ineptitude with double entendres and move on.

I find it has become more and more difficult to deny the claims of friends and family that I may be drinking too much.

My father has always had issues with alcohol and as a child I remember thinking to myself that I wouldn’t be like that when I grew up.

Somewhere along the way that ambition, like most for me, just fizzled out. I don’t even remember how or when but I became, I wouldn’t say a heavy drinker, but a drinker nonetheless.

Right now I’m drinking straight Jägermeister, and not out of a shot glass. I’ve got an 8 ounce High Ball of teeth staining, anise flavoured, godawfullness and I’m wincing as I pound it back. Earlier this afternoon I was mixing it with Pineapple juice, making “Chuck Yeagers” as they are called, but I found the 7-1 juice to alcohol ratio just wasn’t cutting it for me. At least not for what I had had in mind.

That’s when I realized just exactly what I had in mind.

I was intentionally trying to get drunk.

I never did any underage drinking. I didn’t have a drink until well after my 19th birthday. Prior to that I just had no interest in alcohol. Because it was never a “forbidden fruit” type situation I never overdid it, I never got blackout drunk. What I’m trying to say is that for me drinking was never the “thing to do” it was always just what I would do while I was doing whatever I was doing.

I would have a few beers while watching the hockey game, have wine with dinner. I never sat in a parking lot just getting wasted, and I never drank alone.

Over the last 4 or 5 years I’ve been doing a lot of recreational drinking. I was doing it for the same reason I do most things. I always get obsessed in the minutiae of whatever hobby I stumble upon and when it came to drinking I wanted to become an expert. I wanted to know everything about wine and spirits, I wanted to be able take a blindfolded taste from any random cup and tell you if it was a Cabernet or a Malbec and what country it came from. With a single sip I can, and will even if you repeatedly ask me not to, correctly tell the difference between Bourbon, Scotch, Whisky, Whiskey and Rye.

Since the beginning of this year I’ve been interested in more than just connoisseurship. I’ve been trying to get drunk.

photo(18)

There are even more empties under my sink that wouldn’t fit on the stove. It’s like a liquor bottle grave yard and I killed each and every one of them!

It’s become evidently clear when I started creating my own terrible, terrible cocktails.

I’ve mixed iced tea with cinnamon flavoured vodka, I call it an IV Drip (IV for iced tea and vodka, and drip ’cause I’m trying to be clever) it was gross.

I mixed tequila and Strongbow. I called it a Juan-y Appleseed… it was gross.

I was gonna call Pineapple Juice and Jägermeister a Pacific Rim until I discovered some genius had already called it the Chuck Yeager. It was gross

I routinely mix vanilla vodka with orange crush. It tastes just like a creamscicle but I’ve been calling it Riot Punch because it gets me drunk as dicks and makes me want to run in the streets and take my clothes off while punchin’ stuff.  It tastes like a dream.

I took caramel sauce that is meant to be drizzled over sundaes, stirred it into a glass of milk and then poured in 3 fingers of Glenfiddich.

I called it Butter Scotch.

It was so, so fucking gross.

I don’t know what, if anything, I’m trying to say with this post.

I feel like I’m straddling the line of alcoholism. I’m not yet at the point where I feel like I’m in any danger. I do drink when I’m feeling sad but I don’t ever get strong cravings or feel desperate for a drink. I don’t blow all my money away on booze, I don’t ever drink to give myself more confidence or exhibit any of the other lame ass self diagnostic traits you’ll find on the dozens of online self assessments.

My biggest problem is, as with all things, moderation. I’ve said before that I’m a binary creature. I live in a world of mutually exclusive blacks and whites. So when it comes to alcohol I either have none or get completely wasted.

So I’ve decided that after I’ve finished this bottle I’m working on, I’m going to go through an extended period of abstinence. A month ought to do it. Maybe longer.

It won’t be hard. Like I said I don’t need to drink.

The only tragedy is I’ll have to deny the world of all of my amazing cocktails.

Cross The New Frontier

In 2003 Darwyn Cooke wrote and illustrated a 6 issue limited series called DC: The New Frontier. I submit that my opinion is obviously biased but that shouldn’t stop you from believing me when I say this story is AMAZING!

dcnf

There are only 2 types of people in the world. Those who (if they don’t love it, can at least) appreciate The New Frontier and those who haven’t read it yet,

It was a piece of revisionist history, mixing real world events into the lore of classic Silver Age comics. For people who laugh when I say that comic books are legitimate forms of both art and literature I urge you to get your hands on a copy as soon as possible. It tackles issues like McCarthyism and the HUAC hearings, the burgeoning civil rights movement, the atomic scare and conscientious objectors to the Korean War all while throwing Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and The Flash into the mix. It was re-released as a two volume graphic novel both of which I owned.

My copy of the first volume was lost when in June of 2012 my whole life was upended, packed into a collection of boxes and I was forced to begin a whole new chapter in the story of Josh.

It’s one of my favorite pieces but I’ve avoided going out and buying a replacement for reasons I can’t really explain. I’ve wanted to revisit the story and reunite with these characters for a long time now but I’ve felt almost unworthy. Mentally and emotionally I’ve been in such a fractured state to the point where some twisted, irrational logic tells me that my comic book collection isn’t allowed to be complete until I’ve rebuilt myself into a more complete person again.

So for months now I’ve looked at my copy of DC: The New Frontier vol. 2 with a sort of sense of longing. Like I’m saying to myself: One day! One day I’ll feel good enough about myself to go out and pick up a copy of vol 1. Then I can just enjoy the simple pleasure of sitting back with bowl of popcorn, maybe a tall frosty glass of apple cider, some light ambient music and a pair of my favourite books of all time.

photo(9)

My Preciousssssssss…

Right now I don’t think I’m anywhere near that level of self-confidence but I will admit that I’ve worked hard and made some progress.

Every week I look at what titles have been added to HBO and TMN onDemand. Today I came home from work and was pleased to see that the DCAU version, aptly titled Justice League: The New Frontier was added and for a solid 5 minutes I sat here trying to decide whether or not I should watch the animated film adaptation.

In the end I did. It was great. Not nearly as good as the book but as good as you could hope for when turning a 400+ page story into a 75 minute film. I felt good about myself. Watching this movie felt well deserved and more importantly it’s made me that much more motivated to continue along the path of self improvement.

It’s been slow going but I’m hoping I’ll soon be able to get back on track and be able to take pleasure in the simple joys of life again.

P.S. As a self indulgent and smart-assed side note, I am normally only able to keep my open disdain towards Superman barely in check.

So, to all the fans of the Blue Boyscout out there, one of the reason’s why New Frontier is so damn good is because it is yet another in a long line of masterfully crafted DC stories that shows us how much cooler the Justice League is without Superman. His goofy ass is taken down early and Bruce, Diana, Barry and Hal are left to pick up the pieces and show the world how the real heroes do it.

What we have here is a failure to communicate!

Man of Tomorrow? Who needs ‘im?

Explore the New Artform

In 1939 Ernest Wright wrote a novel called Gadsby. Not to be confused with The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (from whom I drew inspiration for the way I stylize my own name), Wright’s book was more of an experiment than anything else. He set out to write an entire 50,000 word novel without using the letter E.

I am a good work... guy

I am a good work… guy

I vividly remember stumbling across this book in the 9th grade and enthusiastically showing it to my English teacher. His reaction was the complete opposite from what I expected. Instead of “Wow, that’s interesting” he just rolled his eyes and scoffed in a cynically derisive way and said “No real writer would ever subject himself to self censorship. There’s no way to express yourself within any strict confines, you have to break rules to create true art. Now everybody take out your notebooks, today we’ll be learning how to write a haiku!”

In retrospect this guy probably had half a dozen unfinished manuscripts in his desk and hated the fact that he needed to waste his days babysitting a bunch of teenagers. I just found it so ironic that before any of us were allowed to read our haiku in front of the class, he forced us to listen to about a dozen of his own. And he really seemed to dig his own work. He really thought he was saving the world one haiku at a time and he projected his smug satisfaction in the most despicable way. He had this look on his face like a dog finally getting to pee after an 8 hour road trip, or a sleazy dude discovering that his sleepover buddy forgot her underpants on her pre-dawn walk of shame.

017

My words burn with passion for I have the soul of a poet!

For anyone not following my meandering train of thought, a haiku is a type of Japanese poem with very strict rules. It’s composed of 17 syllables arranged in 3 lines. 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second and 5 in the third. Here’s an example:

Josh is very cool
He’s the coolest guy around
Disagree? You die!

A haiku is an example of writing within the confines of self imposed restrictions. You can choose to break the pattern if you want, but then what you’re writing is no longer considered a haiku.

Now, Josh, what’s your point? What was it that you were trying to say this whole time but just couldn’t, before making us sit through 400 words of build up?

Well aside from the fact that my teacher was a dick, my point is this.

I think tweets are the newest form of poetry.

Much in the same way that your haiku must fit into a very strict syllabic format, tweets are restricted to a maximum of 140 characters.

Most people may not even notice or care since the majority of tweets don’t even come close to using up all 140 characters. The shocking statistics show that 90% of twitter users have fewer than 100 followers, twitter has devolved into a celebrity promtion service. When we non-famous, or normies as they call us, tweet most of what we get is stuff like:

tweet

Few people are actually conversing, sharing thoughts or ideas.

It’s no secret I have a problem being concise. For me it’s almost impossible to say what I want to say in 140 characters or less. Almost all of my tweets come in right at 140 character mark, and that’s after 2 or 3 edits to trim the fat or substitute some words with shorter synonyms. I realised, with a bit of that same smug pride my 9th grade teacher had,  that it’s quite an accomplishment. I make funny, thought provoking observations and for the most part I do it in EXACTLY 140 characters.

It’s like a 21st century haiku!

Here are some examples of tweets of mine that are exactly 140 characters on the nose:

I literally JUST found out that the MS in MS Paint stands for Microsoft. I thought it was just the “pink bow wearing” sequel like MS. PACMAN

Americans spend 2BILLION more on potato chips than the government does on researching alternative energy sources You really CANT eat just 1

It’s like I’m a living Oscar Wilde play: I’m on 2 meds, one perks up my energy but kills my libido. The other knocks me out but turns me on

Google you are freaking me the fuck out!! Why does every male celebrity name auto-complete with “net worth” and every female’s with “feet”?

Life tip number 37: When suffering from dry elbows so severe you’d do ANYTHING for relief dont resort to using Chapstick. Splurge on lotion

I have embarrassing drool stains on my couch they look all jizzy and won’t come out. It’s ironic ’cause the jizz stains DO come out easily!

                                                                                                                                                

Well if that ain’t poetry, then I don’t know what is…

It’s actually entirely possible that I don’t but I’ll stick with my original assessment.

People should have more to say. Twitter is the new venue for experimental writing and we should all take advantage of this everyday opportunity to make some poetry.

…until I get bored and move on to the next thing

Long Distance Bromance

True Bromance

True Bromance

The moment you’ve all been waiting for! Episode 2 of the popular and highly acclaimed podcast.

Long Distance Bromance Episode 2

Jaron Francis and Josh Alferez bring you a unique perspective on the world of geek news.

On this episode we discuss the sweet nostalgia of Dawson’s Creek, my debilitating Skyrim addiction, the upcoming Star Trek and Star Wars movies, the Justice League, the Oscars and MAGICIANS.

I know the ones of people out there are just burning with questions so send your queries, comments and hateful death threats to longdistancebro@gmail.com

Nurture the Latent Skill

It’s almost 2:30 am.

At 8:55 I picked up my guitar that was gathering dust in the corner nearest to my bathroom and decided that I would fiddle around with it to keep my hands busy while watching the newest episode of The Walking Dead.

I’ve always been pretty musically inclined. When I was 14 I took a year of piano lessons and then used that knowledge to teach myself to play the accordion and harmonica.

I mess around pretty regularly. I know 10 different chords and can play 3 or 4 full songs. I don’t own an amp but one of my guitar cables has a USB adapter that I use to make loud noises, that could technically be called music, come out of my computer speakers. It never occurred to me until about 5 hours ago that I could use that cable to record on to my laptop.

On guitar I’d describe my level of skill somewhere between Beginner and Novice but when it comes to recording and editing audio my skill level is non-existent.

So after 5 frustrating hours of trying to teach myself to use Audacity, I present my first ever original composition. You can hear a few obvious edits but I couldn’t figure out how to smooth them out and it’s too far past my bedtime to keep trying.

It has no title but if I were going to call it anything it would be My Fingers Hurt

Enjoy

Cast the First Pod

Today we make history. I recently had the distinct honour of being invited to co-host a new podcast. Here’s the inaugural episode.

Long Distance Bromance Episode I

We haven’t yet figured out a permanent solution for getting our words into your ears so for now I’ll apologize if you find that the audio quality isn’t perfect. We recorded separately while talking on the phone and overlaid both audio tracks. My mic was on my desk next to my computer but getting a phone call from Jaron gets me excited like a 13 year old Bieber fan and I spent the entire time nervously pacing around my whole apartment. When I’m actually sitting at my desk you can hear me fine.

Also we’ll find a better way to host it in the days to come but I couldn’t contain my excitement any longer and just threw it up online as quick and easy as I could.

(Edit* The podcast is now being hosted directly off of VTAN and as more episodes come out we’ll see about throwin’ her on iTunes.)

Listen if you dare but before you do, allow me in my tediously roundabout way, to give you some background information.

This podcast was created by Jaron Francis and me. I know that’s bad grammar but I can’t put my name before his.

I talk a lot about both my love of Batman and my tendency to take command of any situation making myself the focus of everyone’s attention. All that posturing dissolves immediately when I’m in the presence of Jaron Francis. One of my favorite people in the world, Jaron is pretty much the only person I’d gladly play Robin to. I follow his lead, defer to his wisdom and when he’s not looking I dress up in his clothes and pretend to be him  he suggested that we start a podcast together I jumped way the hell on board.

Jaron Francis is an actor, playwright, film maker, a dreamer and a chaser. He’s a lover and a fighter, a lapsed Norwegian, a man afraid to dance and, I can only speculate, a generous lover. He’s a stoic agnostic, he’s Kirk in spirit but Spock in actuality and more than anything Jaron is a man happy to be merely content.

True Bromance

True Bromance

In Ancient Greece, Plato posited the idea of the ideal forms. He said that for every imperfect circle in the world, there must exist, on some ethereal plane, a perfect circle from which every other circle in existence derives. The same is true for every physical being or object. Trees, rocks, lions and spiders are all unique in their physical makeup but all of them follow the intrinsic “blue print” of their respective ideal forms.

When it comes to man, Jaron Francis is Plato’s ideal form.

He is the perfect man and we should all aspire to be like him.

It's a matter of public record that I get sexually aroused by breakfast foods.

It’s a matter of public record that I get sexually aroused by breakfast foods.

So when he asked me to partner up with him on this project I immediately relegated myself to sidekick.

However, together, we recorded the first of what we hope to be many episodes.

It’s a show about 2 friends separated by nearly 3000 kilometers who just like to hang out and talk about movies and stuff but can’t because of the distance. So we record our long distance phone calls and you all get to have the pleasure of listening.

Enjoy!

Explain the Crazy Obsession

People think it’s an obsession. A compulsion. As if there were an irresistible impulse to act. It’s never been like that. I chose this life. I know what I’m doing. And on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however, isn’t that day. And tomorrow won’t be either.

Batman, Brad Metzler “Identity Crisis”

I didn’t want to do this. At least not this soon. I started this whole thing because I never talk about myself. Most people know me as a goofy, fun loving joker and very few get to see the gears working behind the scenes in this crazy messed up head of mine.

I never talk to anyone about how I’m feeling. Even with my closest friends I only ever have hollow conversations about pop culture, so books and movies rather than thoughts and emotions are standard topics of discussion. But since today marks the release of the latest in the series of DC Animated Universe films, and since I’m running out of ways to distract myself from having to deal with my whole “dad situation”, I want to take a little time to talk about Batman.

Today I went out and bought a copy of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns part 2 on BluRay.

photo(2)

I imagine it would’ve had to have been an amusing sight, watching me watch this movie. Every now and then I’d catch myself involuntarily whispering, “Damn, I fuckin’ love Batman!”

I thought about maybe writing a review but instead I decided to be a little more self reflective and try to put into words why Batman matters to me so much.

So? Why am I obsessed with Batman?

Because I feel more emotionally connected to him than to most real people in my life.

It takes a person of a special disposition to consider a fictional character, originally created for ten cent pulp rags, as an emotional touchstone. I am aware that most people will say I’m crazy when, in a world full of poverty and violence and real suffering, I say that Batman is important, but he is to me. The effect that this character has had in shaping me into who I am today is so significant I’d go as far as saying that it makes me understand religious fundamentalism in a frightening way.

I’m not saying I agree with the fundees AT ALL, I’m just saying that I understand how these crazy nutjobs can get so incensed over their most strongly held beliefs. If I can almost come to blows with a stranger at the comic shop over something as trivial as a freaking superhero book, then it makes a weird sort of sense that people would go to war over religion.

And that’s really what I’m trying to say. Since 1992 Batman has been my religion.

June 19th 1992.

I remember the exact date because it was my older brother’s 12th birthday as well as the original theatrical release date of Batman Returns.

I’ve been obsessed ever since.

At first it was about the adventure of it all. I was only six years old at the time. Little kids are impressed by the car and the gadgets and the BILLIONS OF DOLLARS. As I grew older and read the works of Grant Morrison, Jeph Loeb, Paul Dini and especially Frank Miller, I started to see the true complexity that makes him so interesting.

Batman is as crazy as I am.

I am crazy.

I say it so often and so candidly that people sort of just shrug it off without really letting it sink in, but the truth is that there’s so much wrong with me that just the thought of trying to list it all is exhausting. I’m psychologically damaged in a way that I fear may never be fully repaired and while I’m certainly not dangerous I’m self aware enough to know how unpleasant it can be having me around. This means I either spend a lot of time alone or having to apologize for myself.

If you read Batman through a certain lens, it becomes very clear, very quickly, that he’s not at all a hero in the traditional sense. He’s more insane than the weirdos he’s always locking up.

He’s a an obsessive compulsive, paranoid sociopath with dissociative personality disorder and an infallibility complex. He went through emotional suffering at a young age and has never been able to get over it and, more to the point, it appears he’s not even trying since he’s intentionally putting himself into situations that will make it worse.

I feel like I’m talking about myself when I write that.

One day I’m going to write about the experiences both past and very recent that have contributed to my overall mental instability. For now I’ll just say that I recently sat down and had a real conversation with someone recovering from a substance abuse problem. Although it was a brief talk, and I’ve never dealt with this kind of problem myself, I was amazed at how connected I felt to this person. Being able to talk about feelings with someone who could draw upon their own personal experiences to really understand the type of pain I had been feeling was so different. Even now I’m still trying to work out how I felt about it.

What I’m hamhandedly trying to say is that never before did I have anyone who I felt I could relate to emotionally and so I used Batman as a surrogate.

I would read about this poor little boy so full of anger who grows up to be a man with no hope for a happy future and while it didn’t necessarily give me hope for the future it did give me that feeling of “at least I’m not alone.”

I started this entry with a quote that gives us a glimpse at the denial that Batman lives with everyday. He’ll never admit to himself just how crazy his actions are and how little control he has over his obsessions.

That’s at least one thing I’ve got going for me. I’m happy that I’m able to recognize that I’m all messed up in the head.

It makes me feel like maybe one day I won’t be.