April Fool’s (Wedding) Day!

Kyle and Callie got married.

Josh watched.

Now, a week later the three of them talk about everything that went into planning and executing the greatest wedding of all time.

(P.S. A nasty cold has been going around and Callie’s mic cable kept falling out, so please excuse all the coughs, sniffles and intermittent fuzzy audio)

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Screwy Guy Pod

It’s finally here!

Suicide-SquadNope, we’re not just talkin’ about Suicide Squad, we’re talkin’ about VTAN!

A new episode of the podcast is also FINALLY here and we’re giving our thoughts on DC’s latest.

Did we love it? Hate it?

Find out on today’s episode of the VTAN Podcast!

 

Bored Games 6: Settlers of Catan

It’s that game that everybody seems to think is so good! Settlers of Goddamned Catan!

Rip the Pearl Necklace

I just watched Gotham on Fox.

After an hour on Twitter, discussing everything I liked (and hated) about the premiere with a buncha strangers I decided to come here, stand on my soapbox and rant a bit.

What the fuck, Fox?

Seriously?

The original logline for the show, the basic premise that intrigued me, AND THE WHOLE INTERNET, was: Gotham City before Batman. A police procedural set in the seediest, most corrupt, crime infested city.

The idea was intriguing. “But who would watch a Batman show without Batman?” I heard a ton of people who weren’t hardcore fans of the universe ask.

Smart people. That’s who.

I wanted to see a few good cops trying to go up against a corrupt system, just trying their best when even the highest ranking officials in the city are on the mob’s payroll. I wanted to see characters only tangentially related to Batman because Gotham City itself should’ve been the main character.

I’ll argue that Gotham City is Batman’s true nemesis, more so than any of the Rogue’s Gallery. Gotham killed his parents and Gotham never changes despite all his efforts to clean it up.

Having a dark, gritty series that showcases just how fucked up a place Gotham is would have given us a better appreciation for everything Batman does in his Sisyphean quest for justice.

“But Josh, you foolish asshole,” I hear you screaming. “How do you make that interesting to the average viewer?”.

The same way that DC Comics has been doing it for almost 80 years! Good writing and interesting characters.

They have so much lore to borrow from. They could’ve stolen from the best and it would’ve been completely within their rights. Take a bit from Grant Morrison, a huge chunk of Geoff Johns’ Earth One, add a dash of Scott Snyder for flavour and the makings of an awesome show are apparent right from the start.

Make Thomas and Martha Wayne THE MAIN CHARACTERS.

At least for Season 1. You make Tom an idealistic physician with political aspirations. Everyday when he drives past the Solomon Wayne Court House on his way to work at the Alan Wayne Memorial Hospital he can’t help but feel like the city that his ancestors built is going to hell and he’s doing nothing to stop it. So he runs for mayor hoping to right some wrongs.

Meanwhile Martha Wayne (who in this version was born Martha Arkham) struggles with mental illness. It’s a Gotham urban legend that her father went insane and murdered her mother when she was a girl so the people of Gotham all gossip in hushed tones about how all members of the Arkham family are crazy. Going all the way back to when Jeremiah Arkham built the famed Arkham Asylum for his insane daughter, mental illness is suspected to be heredity in the Arkham bloodline.

Martha’s dependance on Lithium and her dangerous bouts of manic depression are a huge scoop for the gossip magazines and threaten to derail Tom’s mayoral campaign. So she puts on a happy facade and plays the doting wife all the while she’s terrified that her genes have poisoned the mind of her young son who is already displaying sociopathic tendencies that she hides from her husband. She doesn’t want him to see any doctors because if is is diagnosed then she can’t keep living in denial that he’s a normal little boy.

The whole season is about the campaign leading up to election. The mob wants the incumbent Mayor to win and the throughline of the show is a plot to murder Thomas if he wins, but to leave him and his family alone if they can force him to drop out of the race through intimidation, or just steal the election all together.

Jim Gordon, who is still a uniformed cop, is assigned to protection detail. He’s one of many body guards for Thomas and Martha Wayne but most importantly he’s not a boy scout. He’s a bent cop, “on the take”. That’s the way it works in Gotham. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just pragmatic and accepts that he can still do a modicum of good as a member of the police force, but to survive he has to occasionally turn a blind eye on some shady dealings. He spends a lot of time with the family and bonds with Bruce.

Jim and Tom become good friends. They spend a year getting to know each other, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, the audience gets to know him. And Martha.

That way when they’re killed after he wins the election AT THE END OF THE FIRST SEASON we give a shit about it. We’re not just sad because the TV is telling us to be sad and sad music is playing on a close up of a kid with a sad face.

We’ve lost characters we care about.

THEN in the second season Gordon is a detective, he’s personally invested in the case. He DOESN’T WANT to turn a blind eye anymore. He’s gonna solve the murder BY THE BOOK.

This is called character development. Growth.

He’s not just a cookie cutter good guy. He knows that by seeking justice he might even implicate himself, but his guilt just won’t allow him to just let it go.

Now little Bruce’s problems seem to come from the trauma of losing his parents and not inherent mental instability so he continues to go undiagnosed and without the medication and therapy that he needs. His obsession with revenge starts and we see his quest for justice as more of a poor kids delusion and we sympathize with him.

There’s so much potential story and character study here. It’s like ripe fruit begging to be picked and instead we get the exact same origin we’ve seen in film and TV a million times. We get Catwoman witnessing the Wayne’s murder, The Riddler working for GCPD, The Penguin ratting out the mob to Jim Gordon and Poison Ivy namechecked FOR NO FUCKING REASON.

We all love Batman and I guess the guys who created this show thought we’d like the show more if they crammed a whole bunch of nods and references to Batman in THE FIRST GODDAMNED EPISODE.

Remember how much we all LOOOOOOVED it when Anakin Skywalker built Threepio?

What makes Batman so interesting, at least to me, is how ineffectual he is.

He could probably fix the city with his mind and his money, instead he puts on a mask and beats people up. The truth is he creates the villains he fights. If not directly (like Two Face) then by just appealing to the crazies sense of the dramatic. When a psycho criminal sees a guy dressed as a bat, he decides to wear clown make up.

This was my main issue with all the recognizable villains that popped up in the premiere. They shouldn’t exist without Batman.

Last winter Kevin Smith and Paul Dini recorded an episode of one of my favorite podcasts ever: Fatman on Batman. They discussed a dream project of theirs, a TV show (like Smallville), that took place during Bruce Wayne’s youth.

The zeal and pure enthusiasm with which these two dreamers talked about this TV show that would never be, got me really excited. I can’t help but feel that the creative team either heard the show, or the massive fan response on Twitter, and at the last minute scrambled to include as many of those ideas into Gotham as they could.

I was hoping for a more subtle approach.

The show is called Gotham.

Instead they gave us the prequel to Batman Begins: Batman Before.

I’m gonna keep watching because I really want to love this show.

It’s just that so far, there’s seems to be too much Batman in a show that was supposed to be about Gotham City without Batman.

Blackout! pt 2: The Fall of BlockBuster & The Rise of Josh

We get real in this episode. It was never meant to come out so we spoke more candidly than normal. You’ll hear LOTS of bleeps to hide names of people or other possibly incriminating details and lots of interruptions midsentence because huge sections have been cut out.

 

So if you’re a devoted listener you probably heard Kyle, Callie and I sitting at The Duke of York for our weekly trivia night when the lights went out. The blackout last April affected a pretty substantial part of the west end of Toronto.

The subway wasn’t even working so I couldn’t get home.

I take prescription medication for anxiety and my intense, irrational, fear that the power will never come back made me take more than I should have. You’ll notice I talk super fast and you can tell by how I talk that I’m riding an intense high.

Kyle and Callie, (heretofore to be known as Kylie) being proud “Eastenders” where pretty sure their building would have power.

In Part 1 of The Blackout we walked to Kylie’s and the episode ended right before we got into one of our famous 6 hour conversations since I figured nobody would want to hear it.

I managed to chop it into just under an hour of interesting conversation.

In this episode I try to convince Kyle to watch One Direction: This is Us on Blu-Ray and since he vehemently refuses we end up talking about the poor business decisions that caused BlockBuster Video to go out of business, my rampant alcoholism, the possibility of having a child and being a good parent and all the reasons why, after taking a crazy ride on the pussy train and having a revolving door of meaningless sexual relationships, I don’t want to date

ever again.

The intro song is Gold Rush by Ed Sheeran.
Buy his album.

Make the Minimal Effort

Sane people, I’m told, regularly have cravings for certain foods.

Most of the time when I experience that feeling most aptly described as “craving” it’s for experiences. Sometimes I’ll restlessly get out of bed because I crave a late night walk through deserted streets. Other times I can’t sleep because of an addition-like “jonesing” to watch Gremlins or Jurassic Park.

Today I have this itch… this craving to make a blog post.

I don’t even have anything interesting to write about.

OK, let’s see, let’s see. What can I write about today?

I got nothin’ .

 

 

 

That was wildly unsatisfying.

 

BLACKOUT! (Kill the Lights)

A few weeks ago there was a pretty big blackout that affected some parts of downtown Toronto. I was at The Duke of York for Tuesday Night Pub Stumpers Trivia so I took out my iTelephone and began recording the shenanigans.

 

On this special edition Kyle, Callie and I are joined by two of our trivia team members, Eric and Rowena, as we navigate a dark pub and the apocalyptic streets of T.O.

Find out what happens when we Kill The Lights

Kyle will be gone for the next 6 weeks and so in order to pass time I’ve been listening to recordings of his voice to fill the empty void in my soul. It only worries me when I start trying to have a conversation with these recordings.

To stop myself from becoming the kind of crazy person who talks to himself, I’m gonna try to actually get some use out of the recordings we never intended to release to the public.

Also, we’re finally  on the iTunes click here to subscribe and while you’re there downloading our podcast FOR FREE, buy some of David Usher’s songs. He’s my number one favourite recording artist of all time and it’s always good to support Canadian Arts.

Footnotes:

Kill the Lights (Accoustic Ver.)
Duke of York
Toronto to Barrie
Wentworth Miller comes out
CHUD
Skittle Bräu
Magic: The Gathering
Joe Flaherty
Jim Flaherty Dies
Rock Death Hoax
Ultimate Warrior Dies
John Pinette Dies
Mickey Rooney Dies
Canada Gun Ownership
Our friend Brian’s Uncle Fred
Kill the Lights

Missing the Damn Point

I’m about to show everyone the depths of my insanity.

Admittedly I usually am the type to dramatically overreact but let that not allow you to discount the SCIENCE I’m about to drop on your face, INTERNET!

I am a dreamer. Unlike Mötley Crüe, however, I am about to make it evidently clear that my heart is not o’ gold as I switch settings from normal (for Josh at least) to BATSHIT VEHEMENCE.

As a Champion for Imagination I have to speak up.

Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the worst fucking thing to happen to storytelling and should be seen as nothing less than a personal attack, A HATE CRIME EVEN, against storytellers or anyone with enough whimsy to see the inherent value in daydreaming.

Pictured: Hate Crime

Pictured: Hate Crime

In the past I’ve railed against people who “judge books by their covers” and who, in general, form opinions before collecting all the facts. It’s the reason why I’ve suffered through every single goddamned episode of The Big Bang Theory. I feel that it’s the only way to speak with authority when I say that it is THE WORST MOTHERFUCKING SHOW IN HUMAN HISTORY. It’s a right that I have earned through hours of torture at the hands of Chuck “Fuck-me-in-the-eye-hole” Lorre.

Pictured: Hate Crime

Pictured: Hate Crime

But when it comes to the new hashtag@mittymoviedotcom the trailer and the short clip I saw on Ellen today are enough for me to risk absurdity by declaring, sight unseen, that this movie is the slimy afterbirth of a bloody abortion of cinema.

I know you must be thinking, “Tell us how you really feel, Joshie!” and I’ll concede that it may not be completely out of line to call the Hyperbole Police on me, but there is some truth fueling my rage.

The tagline is “A life discovered is better than a life imagined.”

FUCK YOU 20TH CENTURY FOX! FUCK YOU RIGHT IN YOUR FUCKING DRUMS AND SPOTLIGHTS! YOUR FANFARE WILL NEVER AGAIN PRECEDE A STAR WARS MOVIE AND SO I NO LONGER OWE YOU ANY LOYALTY. FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU,
FUCK YOU!

Earlier this year Brad Pitt took my favourite book, tore it to shreds and wiped his ass with the scraps. Whether or not World War Z was a “good” movie is not the issue. He took a ground breaking, genre bending, cerebral and emotionally jarring, global scale masterpiece and churned out a generic ‘spolsion heavy action hero movie.

I don’t care that the plot deviated, my teeth gnash because the “creative minds” behind WWZ completely missed the point of the source material.

I’ve said numerous times that World War Z is not about zombies and these movie producers proved me right.

They took a story about the unpreparedness of world governments when dealing with disaster and the necessity of global cooperation and they turned it into a story about zombies.

More specifically a story about one man’s journey to TREK ACROSS THE GLOBE, REUNITE WITH HIS FAMILY AND SINGLE HANDEDLY SAVE THE WORLD from zombies.

Pictured: Hate Crime

Pictured: Hate Crime

Missing the Damn Point.

Now here comes Mitty, a giant lump of coal in my Christmas stocking.

Missing the Damn Point.

From what I can tell (and the tiny part of me that desperately wants to enjoy this movie hopes I’m way, way wrong) this Mitty movie is about a pathetic schmo who whittles the day away “zoned out” in his daydreams and learns that he needs to step up and have a REAL adventure in order to have a fulfilling life. They’re telling us all that our dreary boring lives aren’t good enough unless we’re jumping out of helicopters or street luging down some Icelandic mountainside.

Ben Stiller himself says “It’s about a daydreamer and a guy who sorta lives in his head and then he’s kinda forced to go out into reality.”

Any half-comatose jughead with a 7th grade education and A FUCKING LIBRARY CARD can tell you that is NOT what this story is about. That is, quite possibly, the exact fucking opposite message that is contained in James Thurber’s FOUR FUCKING PAGE SHORT STORY!

Walter Mitty is a story about a man whose overbearing tyrannical wife leaves him feeling worthless and emasculated. In order to cope he takes comfort in the adventures that he creates in his dreams. The story professes the VALUE OF IMAGINATION.

In this GoogleflixTweetbookXbox4 world I can’t think of a more necessary message we need right now.

Kids today can’t entertain themselves the way they used to. Most adults have forgotten how.

J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst recently released S. an amazing new book with a complex story that seemingly couldn’t possibly have been told in any other medium. ALMOST IMMEDIATELY the Internet is buzzing with “I can’t wait for the movie” and “Is it available for e-readers?” proof that our collective imagination is stagnating.

Every day another remake, adaptation, reboot or comic book movie is greenlit. Netflix is making a Jessica Jones series.

Don’t even get me started on Guardians of the Goddamned Galaxy.

Our lack of imagination makes it impossible for us to accept something we haven’t already seen. It’s the reason a Walter Mitty movie was even made in the first place. Movie studios scoop up the rights to any IP with a built in fanbase because they know they can sell it.

But again, they just don’t seem to be getting it.

Why go to all the trouble of adapting a story if you’re only going to strangle it to death and display it’s hollowed out corpse as your “version of it”?

World War Z would have been fine, and would’ve pissed fewer people off if it had been called Zombie Wars.

Ben Stiller turned 4 pages to 125 minutes. What we’re left with, I’m sure has nothing more than a passing resemblance to its namesake.

He should’ve called it Daydream Believer, licensed that Monkees track for the soundtrack and called it a day.

[note: it’s been almost three months since my last post. depression and poor physical health has made it impossible to motivate myself to write. the outraged fury that this innocuous episode of The Ellen Degeneres Show stirred in ma bellay finally shook me out of my funk. don’t get used to it. i might not be back for another three months]

Écoutez la Meilleure Chanson

The statistics say that the world uploads 100 hours of video to Youtube every single minute. That means that if I tried to watch Youtube in its entirety then I would never be able to catch up. You fall behind four days every 60 seconds.

Must... watch... Youtube

Must… watch… Youtube

It’s for this reason that I don’t feel bad when I stumble upon a viral video that’s been up for 2 or 3 years but has somehow gone completely below my radar. Funny skits, or animations or music videos that seemingly everyone else has seen but I’ve, for one reason or another, never noticed.

This is different from the flash in the pan cultural phenomena I go out of my way to avoid like “Gangam Style” which I went almost a full year without ever hearing, or “Thrift Shop” which I miraculously have still never heard.

I still don’t know what “twerking” is and if I go to my grave without knowing, I’ll be happy.

I’m talking about videos I’d genuinely want to watch but have just remained oblivious to until very recently.

I only just discovered the amazingly talented Youtuber SweetAfton23 and I feel something approximating love beginning to stir in my withered black heart.

Her album is only five bucks on bandcamp so everyone should go buy it.

MyHope, I Pity the Fool, Peep Fight and Our American Cousin are all solid tracks but It All Makes Sense in the End is my new #1 favourite song in the world and possibly the best breakup song ever written.

I feel like this song was written especially for me as the complaints she makes are things I’ve been told before by those poor ladies unfortunate enough to have dated me. The actual subject of the song, though, is pure genius.

I did that fancy thing where you have to highlight the text after the song to read the spoilers. Listen to the track then drag your mouse underneath to find out, if you haven’t already, why it really does all make sense in the end.


It’s a break up song about wikipedia. She’s breaking up with a website. How cool is that?

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.

Dissect the Romantic Comedy

Anhedonia.

It’s frustrating. It’s made me stop consuming as much movies, TV and video games as I used to. I just don’t see the point of wasting my time with any of that stuff if I’m not even able to enjoy it.

It has, however, left me with some free time to make some revelations about why I’ve been feeling so shitty.

Pop culture has influenced my life and the lives of most people who are close to me. In my case to a dangerous extent.

It’s not hard to predict how a movie is going to end because we’re so familiar with all of the Hollywood tropes. We all know what is supposed to happen and that’s why it’s so unsettling when a screenwriter or director shaves against the grain and does something unexpected.

boom-headshot-o

But… but I’m the Hero!

I think a lot of my unhappiness stems from my inability to differentiate real life from the movies. I guess I’m just expecting real events to follow the same structure of Premise->Conflict->Resolution. Having things not turn out the way Hollywood has told me they’re supposed to has left me feeling empty and unsatisfied.

I find it difficult to open up to people, mostly out of embarrassment. I’m legitimately worried that if my friends knew how crazy I really am they wouldn’t want to be my friends. On the rare occasions when I’ve shared these thoughts with people, those select few, have told me they feel the same way, albeit to a lesser degree. We’d all want to find love via meet cute or to have all our problems just magically solve themselves but very few of us expect it to happen.

Romantic comedies all play out the same way.

The Boy meets The Girl. He falls in love and has to win her heart. He messes up in some way that angers The Girl and she runs away. The Boy then has to look deep within and discover some hidden truth and when he makes this realization he goes after The Girl and wins her back. All is forgiven and they live happily ever after.

That’s the way things are supposed to happen.

That, I am only now prepared to (shamefully) admit, was what I was expecting to happen.

tumblr_lz9qleCbgt1qm7heqo1_500It was 3:30AM and I was staring, red eyed, at my ceiling trying to fall asleep. The aggressively loud sex noises coming in through the wall I share with my neighbour were exacerbating my insomnia. I found myself involuntarily wailing from emotional agony and when the crying left me exhausted and dehydrated I laboriously came to my moment of clarity.

There’s another version of the story.

As much as we complain that there are no original ideas in Hollywood and everything follows a formula, there are some slight variations.

Here’s an example.

The Boy meets The Girl and falls in love but she is already with The Other Guy. The Other Guy is cruel and doesn’t deserve her but her misguided devotion to their relationship is the only obstacle standing in the way of The Boy and The Girl experiencing True Love. The Girl goes through trails until she makes this realization and she leaves The Other Guy and falls, lovingly, into The Boy’s arms. They live happily ever after. The Other Guy ends up alone.

I was feeling like the world didn’t make sense. I was upset about the events and circumstances in my life but in truth, because of the lack of the Hollywood Ending I’d come to expect, I was less upset by what happened and more or less just puzzled by how unnatural it all felt.

It was as if the laws that govern realty had an off switch and someone had flipped it. The feeling of life not playing out like the movies, not playing out the way it`s supposed to was as unnatural and disorienting to me as if gravity randomly went away.

Now I have a different understanding. Things are playing out the way they’re supposed to. I had just cast the wrong people in the wrong roles.

With this revelation the world seems to make a bit more sense, and I feel a little less sad.

Maybe even slightly happy.

In the meantime I’m going to take this bit of wisdom and use it to help me reconcile some lingering issues but I’m also going to go back to absorbing as much media as I used to only now, I suspect, I’ll be enjoying it almost as much as I did before.

I don’t know who’s reading this. If you’re like me you probably like video games. Some people may hear “Video Games” and think Pac Man and Donkey Kong not realizing that today’s games have complex narratives that can deliver quite and emotionally satisfying punch.

One such game is Braid. It came out in 2008 and has been one of the most critically and financially successful indie games ever. It plays much like your basic run-of-the-mill platformer with one exception. You play as Tim, a young man with a mysterious past who lives with deep regrets but has been given the power to rewind time. You can use this ability to fix any mistakes you make along the way, like accidentally falling into a pit of lava or flipping a switch you weren’t supposed to.

In the game Tim has to rescue the princess from a monster and in the last level you have to work together. You are both running away from the monster and she is flipping switches to raise bridges and open doors allowing you to proceed.

It’s only when you get to the very end does the game take control and replays the entire final level from the reverse perspective. When you watch it play out backwards, the princess is actually putting up doors and dropping bridges to try to keep Tim from catching up with her.

It’s only then that Tim realizes he’s the monster.

The princess is gone. She doesn’t need to be recused, and she certainly doesn’t need him.

Check it out, the music and art are beautiful.

Fight the Rising Panic

I broke up with my girlfriend.

I was a difficult decision.

She cried. I felt terrible.

“Why would you do it?” you might ask. “If you feel so terrible about it, what was the point? Why not just keep the relationship going?”

It’s because even before the break up I was feeling terrible.

It was becoming increasingly difficult spending time with someone who was always so happy to see me, so happy to just be around me, when I was physiologically incapable of matching her level of enthusiasm.

I feel like a broken record constantly talking about how unhappy I’ve been recently. I worry that people will eventually lose their patience with me. After a while most people’s response is “Get the hell over yourself! You think you’re the only one out there with problems?”

I know that’s how I feel. I lost patience with myself a long time ago. I can’t tolerate what a miserable piece of crap I’ve become and so I can’t imagine how infuriating I must be to the people around me.

A really good friend of mine recently told me that he thought I drink too much. It was sort of funny because I was doing my typical rant about how shitty I was feeling and he flat out asked “Well, how much have you been drinking?” and before I could respond he interrupted me and qualified the question with “And answer honestly!”

I had to stop and take inventory of how much alcohol I consume in any given week and when I told him he sort of slapped me in the head and said “Well there’s your problem, genius! Alcohol is a depressant!”

He went on to tell me a story about how years ago he went through an extended period of serious drinking and realized, gradually, that it was taking a heavy toll on his emotional sate.

I drink a ton of whiskey. Whenever I buy a 6 pack of beer or cider it’s done before the night is. I also, over the last year have been smoking a ton of pot.

I usually sleep 2-4 hours each night unless I take a couple of over-the-counter sleeping pills which I know I shouldn’t be taking because they can react dangerously with my antidepressants and anti anxiety medication.

Add to that an addiction to Pizza Pizza, potato chips, pop tarts and McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches and you have a brain that is being bombarded by a whole slew of biochemical triggers that have been making me feel and act like a crazy person.

I think that in the past few months I’ve overloaded myself in some way because recently I’ve been unable to feel anything.

I have not been able to enjoy any of the things that usually make me happy.

Not only does food not make me feel that rush of satisfaction that it used to, but I haven’t felt genuinely hungry in almost 3 months. I eat because intellectually I know that my body needs its gasoline. I eat when social situations require me to and I eat when I smoke pot, but even those effects have started to peter out.

Before 2012 I would never do any drugs but since last summer I’ve smoked so damn much, and not just pot either. I recently pulled a Miley Cyrus and started smoking Salvia. I went online and found a website that sells what they, very cloak and daggerly, call “herbal incense” which are basically lab grown, mutant plants that they can sell legally in the US and Canada because they are artificially created and their genus classification (which is made up by the creators) doesn’t fall within any of the DEA’s lists of banned or controlled substances.

Now after a year of overindulgence when I do smoke it doesn’t make me feel good at all. It doesn’t make me feel anything. And just like I’ve said in many of my past entires I feel like I’ve become immune to whiskey.

I feel nothing.

And it’s not just substances. All the things that used to bring me joy have become insipid and boring.

Video games and comic books, YouTube videos and podcasts. All the myriad forms of distraction that I used to use to trick myself into not dealing with my problems no longer hold my attention. I feel like if I’m not doing 3 or more things at once then I can’t get any enjoyment out of anything.

I have to be watching a movie while simultaneously listening to a podcast and playing a video game in order to get any kind of joy out of it.

Even sex was unsatisfying. I found myself playing the role of an accommodating participant rather than enthusiastic instigator when it came to doin’ it.

There are exactly 3 things in the world right now that have been able to break through the numbness and actually make me feel some joy:

1) Watching new episodes of The Newsroom on Sunday nights.

2) Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim

3) Recording Long Distance Bromance with Jaron Francis

Other than that, the only emotions I feel are negative.

So taking the advice that I’ve been ignoring for so long I decided to cut out all the bullshit. I’ve decided to make the following changes:

1) No more drugs and alcohol

2) No more eating shitty fast food

3) Actually sleeping at least 6 hours each night WITHOUT any sleep aids.

4) Jogging every day. I usually walk home from work but my pace is too leisurely. I’m gonna bring a change of clothes and start doing time trials.

5) Focusing my attention on one thing at a time. No more of this sick entertainment multitasking.

6) Forcing myself up and out of bed on all those days where it would be so much easier to just curl into a ball and pray for death.

7) Be happy.

I’m on day four of this new regime. I feel sick and have been suffering from the worst throbbing headaches I’ve ever experienced but with the exception of not being happy and still playing video games and watching TV at the same time I’ve managed to stick with all the other goals.

Part of me wants to fail. Part of me wants to give up on this plan halfway through. Because if I actually stick to it and I make all these changes and I still feel this way then there will be nothing left to blame my problems on. It will confirm my worst fear that there is something fundamentally wrong with me as a person.

I don’t know what to do if that’s the case.

Make the Triumphant Return

He’s back ladies and gentleman. After almost 2 whole months of depressed, motivationless wallowing, the prodigal son has returned.

I feel I owe it to you all to preface this post by admitting that I’m drunk as dicks right now.

Try to picture that. A bunch of disembodied penises all crowding the bartender, getting all up in his grill shouting things like “I’ll tell YOU when I’ve had enough”.

That’s how I feel right this very now.

Maybe it’s the 375 ml of vodka flowing through my veins or the fact that a piece I wrote about online dating has just been published on the far more interesting Steph not Stephanie but whatever it is, I’m back.

Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen.

I’m a self delusional sociopath.

I started this blog as a way to be honest with myself, just to organize my thoughts and get my jumbled up feelings out in the open. Then a couple dozen people started reading it, then over a hundred subscribed and then I sort of lost track of what I had originally intended.

As much as I want to be entertaining when I write, this blog is really, at it’s core, about an emotionally stunted, chronically immature man-child and his struggle with mental illness.

It should come as no surprise then, that the extended sabbatical I took from blogging was due to a relapse I had in my ongoing lightsaber battle with depression.

For almost a year I have been taking 2 different mood stabilizing medications to stop me from collapsing in the middle of the street in a fit of sobbing and to prevent me from driving my fist through the faces of the ever growing population of mouth breathers that surrounds me.

It was going well until about 10 weeks ago when I just stopped taking me meds.

It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was more like a growing apathy that started with me taking my doses much more sporadically and then eventually just reaching a point where I couldn’t be bothered to follow the routine that I had set.

The routine that was specifically set up to give my life structure and stop me from going crazy.

After 2 weeks off of my antidepressants and anti anxiety medication I started to feel sick. It was withdrawal but rather than talking to my doctor I just missed a couple of weeks of work, ignored all calls from my friends and family and started a series of 40 hour days.

The calendar meant nothing to me. I’d stay awake for 30 hours straight and then sleep for 10 only waking up to repeat the process.

It was during this time that I started having really bad nightmares.

They scared me so much that I went back to my doctor, stopped cancelling my psychotherapy appointments and started taking my meds again.

During this transitional period I suffered an extreme case of anhedonia.

Now for those of you who don’t know how to google definitions of words you don’t recognize, anhedonia is the inability to feel happiness or pleasure.

During this time I was watching all the TV and movies I wanted, playing TONS of video games, reading (and spending the majority of my disposable income on) comic books and having regular sex.

I mean regular as in “on a regular basis” not regular like “same ol’ same ol’ boring” sex.

I guess it would be more accurate to say, frequent sex.

I need another goddamn drink. It’s time to crack open the Ballantine’s, fuck this vodka! Everyone knows that clear alcohol is for rich ladies on diets.

But to get back on track, of all the “fun” activities I had engaged in, none of it made me feel anything.

All of it felt wholly unsatisfying and coming to terms with the idea that the word is giving me everything I could want and I was still unhappy, filled me with shame and made me hate myself.

What the fuck is wrong with me? I’d go to bed every night thinking that and I’d wake up in a cold sweat from a terrifying dream that I couldn’t even remember.

After a while it wasn’t dreams anymore. Just an overwhelming sensation of dread whenever I’d go to sleep. Even dozing off for a few seconds on the subway would end up with me waking up screaming.

As it stands I’m back at work, I’ve reestablished the lines of communication  with my social circle and I’ve been trying to regain some semblance of normalcy in the freakshow that my life has become.

The dreams haven’t stopped though.

Even though I’m back on my meds I still can’t get a decent night’s sleep without waking up covered in sweat and tears with my heart threatening to erupt from my chest.

It’s for all these reasons and more that I’ve been ignoring this blog. Maybe I’m flattering myself in thinking that people actually missed my regular posts, but the truth is the interest of readers hasn’t brought me back.

When I first started writing I found it to be a very therapeutic experience.

It made me feel less crazy.

It made me happy.

I’m trying to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. I’m hoping that by coming back here after so long an absence, I can recapture the peace of mind this blog had originally afforded me.

I promise my future posts will be less maudlin and self indulgent. I just needed to get this out of my head and onto the screen to stop me from going nuts.

The next post will be funny.

I promise

 

 

 

 

Endure the Unending Exhaustion

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Over the last 2 or 3 weeks I’ve been feeling more and more weak, tired, apathetic, depressed and angry with myself.

It’s such a radical change from how I was feeling when I last posted.

I’ve been having a hard time sleeping.

I thought I had got passed this but the insomnia that was crippling me all winter is back.

Also I feel like I’ve been drinking more than I’m comfortable admitting, but I seem to have developed an immunity to whiskey. I drank a half bottle of Johnnie Walker while I watched almost a whole season of The Sopranos this evening. It doesn’t seem to have had the desired effect.

I don’t know what’s caused this shift in my emotional state.

Actually that’s not entirely true. I know exactly what the cause is. It’s an uncontrollable compulsion to look back and remember some pretty low moments in my life. I can’t stop these negative thoughts and my mind will drift towards painful memories seemingly of its own accord. What I don’t understand is why.

Things have been going better for me than they have in a long time, so why do I feel so shitty?

I have a pretty sweet job that makes me feel like I’m actually contributing to society and making a difference by helping people. So why is it so hard for me to get out of bed and go to work in the morning?

I have a lovely new girlfriend who is such a joy to be around and I feel like she genuinely likes me in spite of all the glaringly obvious reasons not to. So why am I spending so much time and mental energy thinking about the girl who broke my heart even though, by my own admission, I didn’t even want her anymore?

I’ve made so much progress in therapy gaining valuable insight and acquiring new tools to unravel the jumbled up mess in my head. So why can’t I look in the mirror without feeling so damn angry with myself?

I need to sleep.

There’s no two ways about it.

If I don’t start getting some real rest I’m going to collapse in the middle of the street. I might punch a little old lady while waiting in line at the super market or bite the head off someone’s tiny yip-yapping accessory “purse dog”.

I just want to stop feeling this way.

I don’t want to be splayed out on my uncomfortable bed staring at my ceiling at 1AM every night. I don’t want to keep replaying past events in my head over and over, conjecturing the innumerable ways in which things could have gone differently.

I don’t want to be unhappy anymore.

It’s been a Sisyphean effort. A perpetual motion machine of negativity. I get bogged down by all these feelings and then I start feeling ashamed of myself for feeling this way so I feel even worse so it causes more shame.

I need to interrupt this cycle because it’s keeping me up all night and driving me closer and closer to a complete emotional breakdown.

Usually I go back and revise these posts. I write in free flowing streams of consciousness and I have a whole editorial process to try and make them make sense.

Not this time.

If you feel like this post has been self indulgent, whinny, repetitive and nonsensical THEN GO FUCK YOURSELF!!! You knew what you were in for when you came here so quit complaining.

I’m sorry…

That was uncalled for. I’m clearly delirious and more than a little bit stressed right now.

It’s 1:12AM on Friday May 31st 2013.

Goodnight.

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?

Receive the Unexpected Honour

NOM NOM NOM!!!

My German's a little rusty but I'm pretty sure "liebster" means Sex Cowboy

My German’s a little rusty but I’m pretty sure “liebster” means Sex Cowboy

That’s usually the sound you hear when I get my hands on a plate of PC Veggie Chicken Fingers and plum sauce.

Today it’s short for NOMINATION!

J. Alex Alferez, and his brain-baby Verb the Adjective Noun, have been nominated for an award for blogging. I didn’t even know there was such a thing so imagine my surprise.

The only thing I’ve ever won before was a lip synching contest when I was 5. I performed Brian Adams’ Everything I Do (I Do It For You) from the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack. I was promised a $20 cash prize.

I never got it.

I cried…

After a scathing indictment of the meaninglessness of awards on my most recent podcast, you’d expect me to be ambivalent about being nominated for an award myself.

WRONG!!!

I am both honoured and humbled to know that at least one person thinks that my little corner of the world wide web deserves recognition. Honoured because it’s always nice when somebody throws you an “attaboy” and humbled because it was literally one person who determined I was worth mentioning. No write in campaign, no droves of adoring fans waving “Affleck was robbed” signs. Just a single reader who thought: This guy is pretty cool. Let’s give him a prize!

Not that I don’t appreciate it, but is it REALLY too much to ask that EVERYBODY love me?

If Morgan Freeman played Dumbledore, dressed as Yoda for Halloween the world would implode from a wisdom overload.

If Morgan Freeman played Dumbledore, dressed as Yoda for Halloween the world would implode from a wisdom overload.

I got word a few days ago that VTAN had been nominated for a Liebster Award. I was sent a message by my good friend Amy who nominated my blog.

One of the most interesting and not coincidentally one of my favourite people in the world, Amy is a red headed, bespectacled, vegan lesbian blogger/slam poet/mischief maker. She is the henchman without whom my plans for world domination would never come to fruition. She’s also one of two people who constantly kept pestering me to start a blog.

Well, I hope you’re happy Amy! You’ve created a monster.

Along with the message there was a list of instructions for what I needed to do to accept the nomination and submit myself for consideration.

I gotta tell ya, I don’t think I can summon the effort necessary to follow through. It’s not that I’m not appreciative, I just really don’t do this for any sort of reward or recognition. I don’t pimp my blog out or actively seek to expand my readership. Often times I hope nobody reads what I’m writing so that they don’t suddenly realize how crazy and despicable a person I really am.

The one really cool part about the nomination was that I was asked to list 11 interesting facts about myself and to answer 11 preselected questions. That part seems like a lot of fun, so I’ll fill those in here. Other than that I don’t think I’ll be throwing my hat into this particular ring.

spideygwen

Wealth and fame he’s ignored
“Action” is his reward!

11 Interesting Facts

1) In 2006 I auditioned for Canadian Idol. I made it to the second round.

2) I’ve been an atheist for as long as I can remember. At a barbeque one summer I had a 2 hour conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness. It began with him telling me about the merits of the church. It ended with him questioning his belief in God. I was like Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones.

You want to go home and rethink your life.

You want to go home and rethink your life.

3) I have peed in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.

4) I invented the word “fauxhawk” and I will fight anyone who argues.

5) I am very susceptible to the power of suggestion. Advertising works on me and I will always say yes when a store clerk tries to upsell.

6) Even though I had never seen Star Wars until 1997, when they were re-released for the 20th anniversary, I distinctly remember that my mother would sing Frère Jacques to me when I was in kindergarten (circa 1990) and she had modified the lyrics. The version she sang to me went like this:

R2-D2, R2-D2, C-3PO, C-3PO,
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, Han Solo

7) In 2002 when Josh Hartnett’s 40 Days and 40 Nights came out I was inspired to complete the same challenge as the film’s hero. I was in 11th grade and when the girls in school found out about it they conspired to sabotage me. For a month and a half I had the hottest girls all wearing super revealing clothes and throwing themselves all over me, getting very handsy and trying to get me to crack. I lasted 38 days and was eventually disqualified due to nocturnal emission. In retrospect I should’ve just given in and let one of them blow me, I mean YOLO, right?

8) I became a Vegetarian out of spite. When I was 16 I saw David Suzuki speak about environmentalism and factory farming. He challenged everyone in the audience to go one month without eating meat. After his lecture we had a chance to wait in line for autographs and handshakes and when it was my turn I said “Mr. Suzuki I think I’ll take you up on your 30 day challenge.” He shook my hand and said in a slightly condescending tone “I don’t know. It’s harder than it seems, do you really think you’re up for it?” I’m sure he meant it as goodnatured ribbing but in my head all I could think was: WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!?!?!?! YOU DON’T KNOW ME!!! I’LL SHOW YOU, YA SMUG BASTARD!

I didn’t eat meat again until I was 25. Now I’ll eat pretty much anything. I prefer not to eat meat and I don’t ever keep any in the house but I don’t treat it like an allergy. When I’m at people’s houses and the hosts ask “Oh Josh, can you eat…” I always say I can eat ANYTHING, I don’t turn food away just because the cook doesn’t share my preferences.

9) The first time I really listened to a Beatles song was in 1998 and it wasn’t even sung by The Beatles. I watched the movie Pleasantville with Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon. During the end credits they play Fiona Apple’s version of Across the Universe. I was 12 years old and I remember being moved to tears. I asked a clerk at Music World and he told me it was a cover of a Beatles song. When I got my hands on a copy of the original I remember playing it again and again and again. I can’t verbalize the emotional impact this song had on me. I remember, irrationally, thinking that this song could not have possibly been written by human men. It was transcendental. Very few pieces of music have ever made me feel the same.

It’s the reason why I don’t understand the question “Beatles or Stones?” It doesn’t make a lick of sense to compare the two. It’s like asking if I’d rather breath oxygen or argon.

10) My family comes from Latin America. I’m the third of 4 kids but I was the first to be born in Canada. The thought that from now on every member of my family, that all future generations will be Canadian has caused severe cultural disconnect for me. I don’t identify at all with Latin culture. My culture has always been Pop. My father thinks it’s a travesty that I’ve “turned my back on my heritage” and it’s one of the many reasons he and I don’t get along.

11) Batman. That’s it… just Batman.

You can see that I play fast and loose with the definition of the word “interesting”. Now that I’ve listed the facts it’s time to answer the questions Amy sent me.

11 New Questions For You

1) What website do you subconsciously always type first in your internet browser even though you mean to go to a completely different website?

Cracked.com

 
2) What are you MOST looking forward to in spring? (Patios? Birds? Women wearing less clothing? (that’s obviously mine))

Wearing shorts. I think I’ve got some pretty sexy legs. My calves look like my knee swallowed a grapefruit.

3) What’s one of the weirdest gifts your parents have given you since you became an “adult”?

Thankfully I don’t have an answer for this. I refuse to accept gifts. I actively request not to have any birthday gifts as it’s usually the worst day of the year for me. I hate it so much and so I try to draw as little attention to it as possible. The only person who still gets me anything is my well meaning older sister, but none of her gifts are weird. Usually books or movies that I want or clothes because I’m really not responsible enough to dress myself.

 
4) Did you ever read a book all the way through even though you knew you weren’t enjoying it/going to enjoy it? School books don’t count.

This question could have pretty much been phrased as “Have you ever been on a plane?” I read the first Twilight book on a plane ride. I hated myself halfway through but I sure as hell wasn’t going to let that book “beat me”!

5)Ditto the above for movies (though replace “read” with “watch”/”pay for”)

My cousin Brad is really more like an older brother to me. He’s the guy who first showed me Star Wars, and Raiders, Princess Bride and Mad Max. As part of my cinematic education he’s shown me tons of other gems, but for every Motorama, Fandango or Streets of Fire there’ve easily been a dozen duds I’d care not to mention. I’ve sat through a ton of movies just waiting out the clock but it’s a small price to pay for all the great stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.

6) If you had to write a haiku (and you do have to) about your favourite Superhero, how would it go?

Oddly enough in my previous entry I wrote a haiku about myself. I don’t want to use the same one, even though I AM a hero of some renown, so here it comes

Hidden in shadows
the world’s greatest detective
watches over us.

7) What is your least favourite board game and why?

Pop-a-matic Trouble… she knows why!

 
8) You’re trapped on an island. You can only bring with you one celebrity of your choice. Who do you choose? (For sexy times? For eating? Who would be the best at figuring out an escape plan?)

Emma Stone won’t answer any of my letters, EVEN when I send her expensive flower arrangements so she’s out! I think I’d choose Louis C.K. I feel like he would be entertaining and there would be no problem with hierarchy because he’d be intimidated by me physically. I’d basically use the whole experience as a workshop to perfect my own stand up comedy routine

9) What is your go-to easiest meal to make yourself?

The very best thing I can make is Vegan Shepherd’s Pie. I got the recipe from a comic book so you KNOW it’s good. On a regular basis when I’m cooking for myself I usually make this or these. I have both recipes memorized but I still open up the bookmarks every time I make them.

10) Sprite or crab juice?

I’m glad you got the quote wrong. It’s supposed to be Mountain Dew or Crab Juice. I HATE Mountain Dew so much that you really would’ve had me stuck between a rock and a hard place. In this case I’ll gladly choose Sprite. Ya gotta “Obey your thirst” amiright? (see above: Fact #5)

11) How obvious was it that I ran out of juice on that last question? GET IT BECAUSE I SAID JUICE! Hahahah. How funny am I? (Don’t answer that)

I won’t… oops!

Well that was fun.I hope it took you 1/10th of the time to read it as I took me to write it and if you enjoyed it even only half as much as I did I’d count myself lucky.

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.

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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

Polish the Dirty Mirror

In third grade I changed schools. Upon arrival I was immediately smitten with a girl in my class. It was one of those “pod” classrooms. The ones that housed 2 classrooms worth of kids, had 2 teachers and one of those retractable dividing walls that would allow the 2 classes to either unite or separate as the situation demanded.

I was in one half and she in the other and I remember focusing on her from across the room when I should have been learning cursive. I never did learn all the letters and I’m sure that will come as no surprise to anyone who has had to suffer reading my writing (before the “your blog sucks” zingers start flying I mean my actual chicken scratch handwriting).

QhON9


Go ahead and steal my private diary… good luck reading it!

Since I was “the new kid” and since I hadn’t yet developed my obnoxious habit of forcing everyone to pay attention to me, I avoided any kind of conversation and hopelessly pined for her through the years.

By the time we reached 7th grade I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with or  to her but I no longer just stared while avoiding her completely. Instead I created excuses to be around her as often as possible. It strayed into a weird place when I began walking her home every day after school. I’ve never been a particularly well adjusted person but I think that I actually started going crazy at about this time in my life.

When the school day was done I would walk home West and she would go East. We lived in opposite directions and so it took me twice as long to get back to my house whenever I walked her home. I tried not to call too much attention to it but when she started asking me why I was suddenly taking this new route home, rather than telling her that I just enjoyed spending extra time together I began a Jan Brady-esque web of lies.

george


If they made this show TODAY this kid would be on Ativan, Ritalin and Zoloft.

I told her, and even now 15 years later I can’t explain why I did this but I told her that my parents got divorced and that my mom lived in a new house. That was the reason why some days I walked home one direction and some days the other.

The strange thing is that the next year my parents did get divorced and I ended up changing schools again. It made me feel weird. In addition to all the regular stress that kids go through when their parents split up I also had this weird feeling that I had caused it to happen.

Up until the point when my Mom actually left, there was never any indication that she was going anywhere. Everyone in the family knew that there was a lot of unhappiness in both the marriage and the household overall, but no one ever thought she would pull the trigger and go.

Because it shocked everybody with it’s suddenness the divorce made me think that either I was clairvoyant and could predict the future or that I had magically willed  it to happen.

We all know that mischievous preteen boys are often bestowed with godlike abilities.


We all know that godlike abilities are often bestowed upon mischievous preteen boys.

Since then I’ve had a strange symbiotic relationship with dishonesty. I never wanted to be intentionally deceitful but in the past, usually when I’m asked about topics I wish to avoid altogether (family, future goals, emotions) I just wouldn’t tell the truth. Not even to myself.

This blog was created as a means for me to face what I used to make a habit of ignoring, to clean the cobwebs out of the closet so to speak. It’s been difficult being so honest and open because a lot of the words that I’m committing to perpetuity on the Internet, are things that I don’t even want to admit to myself and yet here I am on a regular basis telling the whole world.

By now most readers are no doubt thinking “get to the fuckin’ point already” and I apologize for my propensity to ramble and my penchant for $10 words. I can’t help it, I grew up watching Dawson’s Creek and Kevin Smith films. What I’ve been trying to say is that this 7th grade “love” story  has been on my mind recently.

This was my first taste of unrequited love. Since then it’s happened again occasionally, but I’ve found that most of the time I avoid this kind of drama altogether. Rather than holding a torch for someone when I know I have no chance I’ve realized, upon reflection, that I’ve been playing things a little safe.

By only pursuing ladies that I know are interested in me, I’ve skewed the odds in my favour making me much more successful with women then I have any right to be. I do this with the people I choose to be friends with as well. I search out specific types because, and I don’t mean to offend the people who are closest to me,  I always want to be the smartest person in the room.

I like it when people are impressed by how clever I am or by what books I’ve read. I love introducing you to great music and movies that you’ve never even heard of.

When I’m lucky enough to make friends with guys who are cooler and smarter or better looking than me, I don’t get intimidated. Instead I fall into this “little-brother-tag-along” role. It’s just another obstacle I face when it comes to connecting with people. I either feel superior and hold myself above my friends, or I develop and almost obsessive hero worship relationship with them.

So what happens if I meet a girl who isn’t impressed by me? What if she’s smarter than me or funnier? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have someone understand why my jokes are funny? Wouldn’t it be great to not have to explain pop culture and literary references? As it turns out it’s more frightening a prospect than I would’ve ever imagined.

I always talk about how I have a love for Batman and an almost hostile disdain for Superman.

bat


Nuclear Apocalypse and Divine Intervention aside, NOBODY BEATS BATMAN!!!

I never understood the appeal of Superman. He’s just a jerk who can do anything. He never has to work or try hard, he’s just naturally gifted and is the best at everything.The writers always try to introduce conflict by making him lose his powers and this is where my preference really makes itself clear.

If you take away all of the things that make Bruce Wayne into Batman, the BILLIONS, the suit, the car and the gadgets, he would still be an expert martial artist and a genius detective. If you take away Superman’s powers he’s NOTHING. He’s a whiny little bitch. He’s never had to learn to fight because he can knock dudes out with a flick of the pinky. More to the point he’s never had to learn to take a punch. He’s spent his life being invulnerable so the second he loses his powers and some third rate street thug socks him on the chin he suffers massive physical AND emotional trauma.

Feeling pain for the first time in your life when you’re 30 years old will fuck up anyone’s day. And the feeling of impotence that comes with knowing that you used to be all powerful and now it’s all gone is worse than the pain itself.

This is how I feel now.

People will point to a certain type of woman, smart and sophisticated, a raconteuse who can keep up with and even beat me when it comes to my long winded  ramblings, and say “She’d be perfect for you!”

When my charms fall flat, and she doesn’t fall for the tricks that usually work for me I end up feeling like Superman without his powers.

Like I said, I’m used to being the smartest, most charming person in the room and while I would love the opportunity to share time with someone more like what I’ve described, when the opportunity does present itself I feel strangely intimidated.

Paralyzed with fear actually.

I usually rationalize that “opposites attract”. If I’m being honest with myself what this actually means is that I look for someone who I feel superior to and isn’t challenging.

Because I’m intimated by women who I’d see as equals, or better than me, I’ve limited the possibility of sharing some great experiences with someone who would ACTUALLY APPRECIATE ME MORE.

I need to take a better look at myself because by my logic only 1 of 2 explanations exist.

  1. I’m too afraid to be challenged intellectually and lose any perceived power I may have had in a relationship OR
  2. I don’t want to, or more likely don’t think I deserve to, feel appreciated.

This is just another thing I need to add to the list of stuff that’s wrong with me.

Admit the Hard Truth

They say that when an ostrich is in danger it buries its head in the sand. It leaves its entire body exposed to harm, but it takes comfort in the fact that it can’t see whatever problems it needs to face.

Intellectually I understand how illogical and impractical this defense mechanism is, but I can’t say that I haven’t done exactly that during difficult times. For almost a full week now I’ve been ignoring my problems rather than actually facing them.

Why are you hiding your face? Was it burned by acid or something?   Oh no. It's just that it's terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be doing it in the future.</p<

Why are you hiding your face? Was it burned by acid or something?

Oh no. It’s just that it’s terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be doing it in the future.

 

One of the things I write about most is how anti-social I’ve always been. I’ve said multiple times that I frequently feel a greater emotional connection with fictional characters than I do with real people. I’ve been depressed for months but I was managing my depression. Over the last week I’ve had a severe relapse and have started to become more and more disconnected from reality as a result.

To protect myself from the stimuli that would trigger an emotional breakdown I’m finding that I take more and more comfort in isolating myself from others. Literally locking myself in my apartment and not leaving for days at a time or,  just flat out, not responding to phone calls and emails.

I haven’t had any proper sleep in months and since I’ve got a whole extra 8 hours every day that I now need to fill, I’ve found that I’m immersing myself in movies, TV shows, video games and comic books…  much more so than usual, I mean.

In the last month and a half I’ve watched the following series in their entirety: Red vs Blue (10 Seasons), Seinfeld (9 Seasons), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (8 Seasons), The Office (8 Seasons), The Twilight Zone (5 Seasons),  Batman: The Animated Series (4 Seasons), Parks and Recreation (4 Seasons), The Life and Times of Tim (3 Seasons), The Inbetweeners (3 Seasons), Game of Thrones (2 Seasons), The Newsroom,  underGRADS and Clerks: The Animated Series (1 Season each)

Conventional wisdom would tell you that there aren’t enough hours in 6 weeks to watch that much television but what’s crazier is that THAT’S not all I’ve been doing. In order to keep myself distracted and to keep crippling anxiety at bay, I have to multitask.

While these DVDs are playing on my laptop I’m either simultaneously playing Xbox on my TV or reading comic books, and I don’t mean 20 page single issues. Some of them are 350 page hardcover anthologies.

In September of 2011, DC cancelled all of their ongoing comic book series and rebooted the whole continuity. That means that there are 52 different titles that are published on a monthly basis and all of them started the stories off fresh with whole new “Issue #1’s”. The project is referred to as DC’s The New 52.

I’ve been going through and catching up on it.

All of it.

That’s almost 2 years worth of FIFTY TWO DIFFERENT COMIC BOOK SERIES.

A guy at work found a copy of Swamp Thing on my desk. He didn’t say anything but he just gave me a look that said “Swap Thing? SWAMP THING?!?!?!? Dude! What is wrong with you”

In my defense, I will read ANYTHING by Scott Snyder


In my defense, I will read ANYTHING written by Scott Snyder

What I’m saying is that there are plenty of real problems in life, obligations and commitments, that I’ve been neglecting because I’m more interested in my fake virtual life in the Mass Effect Trilogy on Xbox. I played through all 3 games in 115 hours and was so pissed off that a decision I had made halfway through the first game resulted in the unavoidable death of one of my favorite characters in the final chapter, so I’m playing through the whole series AGAIN so I can “Marty Mcfly” the situation and change history, so to speak, to ensure that he would survive.

The reason I’m writing all this is because it’s time to stop. I have to pull my head out of the sand. I have to realize that just because I’m distracting myself from my problems it doesn’t mean I’m protected against them. The ostrich’s whole body is exposed to predators.

He’s gonna end up getting eaten and won’t even be able to see it coming.

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

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.