Monday, January 31, 2011

Don't Try This At Home

Think of your life as a narrative.  A story being written as it unfolds.  The protagonist is not you.

I have a legendary appetite.  It is truly a beast of epic proportions, and it has laid waste to many a buffet and family dinner and left many a peasant standing, teary-eyed, next to the smoldering ruins of his one-room shack wondering "What the fuck just ate my family?"  I am completely and utterly insatiable.

But not really.

This fact, however, is part of my own Personal Mythology.  In many circles it is completely indisputable.  It is carved in stone.  It would be considered heresy for anyone -including myself- to dispute this fact and the guilt party would undoubtedly be burned at the (not so) proverbial stake, roasted with an apple in his mouth, and then served to me for a mid-afternoon snack.  (Of course, if the perpetrator was actually me, then this means that I would have to eat myself, which, were I able to achieve it, would almost certainly be a first in the history of creation, but it would also mean I would be the fucking man.)  One of the main proponents of this myth is my mother-in-law.  When I first started dating my wife (back before she was my wife and still had the chance to escape) I dined with her family on several occasions and on some of these occasions I -as the French say- made a fucking pig of myself.  I went back for seconds.  Thirds.  Fourths.  It wasn't long before my eventual-mother-in-law began adding the NathaN Clause to invitations to Sunday night dinner: like she made two roasts because she knew I was coming or bought an extra pizza to satiate me or prepared an extra pack of hot dogs (insert gay joke here).  I always tried to politely tell my wife's family that it was unnecessary to make extra food, but I didn't protest too hard  because A) I'm a chronic mooch who won't protest very hard (at all) when somebody offers me a free meal and B) I could see from the fervour in my mother-in-law's eyes that it was already too late.  The legend had taken hold and no amount of empirical evidence to the contrary would convince her that I was not  lean, mean tube steak gobbling eating machine.

And so another chapter in my Personal Mythology had been written.  A few isolated incidents taken out of context and then exaggerated -ever so slightly at first- turned into indisputable fact.  I could eat a fucking horse then come back for dessert.  Probably a slightly smaller horse dipped in chocolate and deep fried in beer batter.(Mmmmm... chocolate fried horse cock... oh wait, where was I?)  Somewhere in the process, though, I was removed from the loop.  I couldn't control the story, at least not without severely alienating my in-laws.  The story was no longer about me in the objective sense.  It was about Mythical NathaN.  He could eat twenty hamburgers, not me.  He could drink four litres of milk in two minutes, not me.  These attributes were not mine per se, but they became associated with me, and so I did the best thing I could do.  I kept quiet.  The best thing to do when a story about you gets exaggerated -especially when it doesn't make you look like a douchebag- is to sit back and let it grow.  Let people build your Personal Mythology, and sing songs of your great and terrible deeds for generations.  And grab a free meal or two along the way.  Why the fuck not?

Sometimes, though, your life narrative takes strange, and terrible turns.  Sometimes it's not a gradual process.  Sometimes it's not some quiet epiphany about the true nature of your being. Sometimes your narrative evolves in fits and starts in ways you never thought possible.

December 29 / 2010 would take my story to places I never thought possible.

The day started uneventfully enough and by 6:30pm there was really no discernible difference between that evening and a thousand others like it that I had lived through, except of course that it was the eve of my birthday.  At about 6:30 my wife left with my three month old son (I won't mention that she was going to Weight Watchers, just in case it embarrasses her) as she had been doing for the past eight (or so) Wednesdays.  I finished my short list of chores as quickly as possible in order to waste my time playing video games in the basement.  Clean kitchen, unload dish washer, do load of laundry.  Check, check, check.  Finally, it's Xbox time.  I'd been playing Oblivion for just under a month and was eager to raise my character's level.  I believe that at the time I was on a quest to become the leader of the fighter's guild, an irony that would only occur to me weeks later.

Just before 7:00pm I answered a phone call from my mother-in-law (Yeah, that's right!  The same one from before!) and ended the conversation as quickly as possible in order to level up my knight character.  No more than two or three minutes later I heard a tapping on the basement window on the side of the house.  I remember my first thought was that it was that fucking raccoon that had gotten into our garbage so may times before and he was back for more.  Imagine my surprise then when I peeked through the blinds to see a shadowy figure holding an object (which I would later discover was a cane) who motioned towards the side door of our house.  I remember that at first I thought that maybe this was one of my friends playing a practical joke, or a neighbour with a bone to pick.  So I walked up the stairs to the side door to take a look out the window to see what the hell was going on.

Imagine my further surprise when I got to the side door only to find it already ajar.  All of a sudden shit started to get real, in the GODFATHER-horse's-head-in-your-bed sense of the word.  The shadowy figure already had the door open three or four inches (about 10.2 cm for all you metric fans out there).  Immediately I put my hand on the door and try to close it, but this guy pushes back hard and says something about shooting.  All of the sudden I get this sinking sensation.  My heart starts pounding in my ears.  I run out of cliches.  I back up and he pushes his way into my house closing the door behind him.  I am in utter shock and disbelief.  Several things run through my mind:

1) This can't happening.
2)Where's the gun?
3)What does this guy want?
4) Is this some kind of joke?

It's funny the things you think of when you're in that kind of situation.  The 4th one I actually verbalized. "Is this some kind of joke, man?" I heard my voice say.  "This is no fucking joke," came the reply from behind a black scarf.  I suppose it still came from the desperate hope that this dude dressed mostly in black and/or dark clothing who had at least three inches on me (Height-wise, that is.  I naturally assume he's hung like a pygmy marmoset.) was part of some twisted practical joke.  Then I knew -if not in those exact words- that I was in deep shit.  I was the victim of a home invasion.  My invader (?) made several things clear right off the bat:

1) He was looking for "the drugs" and "the money," in that order.
2) He was looking for my address, which he asked me several times to verify.
3) He just saw a black woman and her boyfriend leave my premises.
4) This was indeed "really happening."
5) He enjoyed eating cock.  Not because he was homosexual.  Just because he liked the taste.  (OK, this one I kind of inferred)

I had no idea what to do.  As shock and disbelief gave way to pant-wetting (metaphorically speaking) terror I kind of froze up.  What do you do when somebody pushes his way into your house?  This kind of thing didn't happen in real life.  It happened in the movies, or some war torn country in the Middle East or in New York or Toronto.  Not here.  Not me.  My immediate response was to confirm (several times) that this was indeed the address he kept quoting like it was part of some unholy mantra and to deny possession of any drugs or money.  Every time I told him that the address he quoted was was indeed the address posted outside my door he seemed more resolute and self-assured as if he had forced me to admit something.  Now his demand for "the drugs" and "the money" is important and comes into play in the larger context of this story, however at the time I remember thinking to myself that I actually did have several hundred dollars of birthday money in my wallet at the time, but he never asked specifically for my wallet and I remember thinking "There's no fucking way anybody is taking my birthday money," so I never brought it up with him.  To be fair, though, I didn't really know him at the time and I'm not in the habit of announcing to random people on the street how much money I have in my wallet at any given time.  Plus I really wanted to buy some iteration of Rockband for my birthday (I'll save you the suspense: I picked up Beatles: Rockband for $99.99 the next day.)

I want the drugs and money.

"There's no drugs here."

I just saw that black bitch and her boyfriend leave.

"Dude, I've been alone all night.  My wife left half an hour ago."

I remember there was more to the conversation, but I can't remember specifics.  It's still pretty hazy, but I remember arguing with this deranged creature the way I used to argue when I was a child: simply and desperately.  There was no guile, no time to think of any lies or set up mental decoys.  I remember later thinking that if I had lied and told him the drugs were in the basement or the back shed I could have bought some time to grab a weapon, but at the time these things didn't even occur to me, and things might not have gone quite so (relatively) smoothly had I decided to feed his delusions.  Amazingly I do remember that I had some other strategies that popped into my head.  As I backed up from my side door through my kitchen and living room I had one destination in mind: the front door.  I never liked the feeling of having my back against the wall and figured that in this case my best bet would be to make it to an exit post haste.  My other strategy oddly enough was to play to my invader's sympathies.

"Please, my daughter is upstairs."

Sit down and she won't get hurt.

"Do the people you're looking for have a daughter?"

What an odd thing to ask.  What the fuck are you up to, NathaN? I wondered.  Of all the things that run through your mind.  Try to evoke sympathy from the douchebag who's trying to rob you in your own home.  Question his reality.  Plant a seed of doubt.  Never in a million years would I ever have thought such a thing.  The crazy thing is, it seemed to work.  The guy seemed to pause.  To ponder.  He almost seemed confused.  This shouldn't have been altogether that surprising considering how twitchy he seemed.  I noticed that he kept playing with the scarf covering his face, even moving it to reveal his face for a few seconds.  I had the sneaking suspicion afterwards that he had been either on drugs or coming suffering from some kind of withdrawal, but at the time things weren't really registering in the FORREST GUMP life-is-like-a-box-of-chocolates sense.  Whatever my brain was up to didn't work for long and my invader kept advancing.

By this point I had been able to slowly make my way to the front door and open it.  I still don't completely understand how I managed to get it open without my perfect stranger putting the kibosh on it, but I did.  (If you're waiting for the exciting part, don't worry, it's coming.  It's called building suspense, jackass.)  At this point -as they say on the street (I assume)- shit started to go down.  I have secured a point of egress and had my finger on the button.  I had the front door wide open and my hand is on the handle of the screen door getting ready to get while the getting was good.  My dilemma was this: do I stay and do what he says and see how everything plays out for the sake of my sleeping daughter upstairs or do I make a break for it and get to a neighbour's house to get some help?  This is not an easy decision.  Even though I had mentioned my daughter (I fact which I later realized might have done more harm than good had my home invader been a professional and not some tripped out junkie.  Is it too much to ask for just a little bit of professionalism?  Of all the mentally deranged fuck-ups, I get the one who's not even smart enough to leverage my daughter's safety against me.  I mean, did he fall asleep in Criminal Mastermind class or what?)  In the next moment, however, he made my decision very easy.  Or at least, slightly less difficult.

Close the door.  Just go sit down or I'll have to hurt you.

Bam.  There it is.  He had already made physical contact at this point.  He had one hand on the door trying to close it and his other hand on my hand which in turn was on the screen door ready to ensure my escape.  With the threat of violence and with all of his attention trained on me I realize that if I stay this will only end badly.  My muscles tense.  My hand opens the door.  I turn to bolt.  He grabs at me but only gets a handful of shirt (that's right, I said shirt, with an "r" although at this point I was so scared that it's quite possible he might have gotten the other).  I make a mad dash down the front steps of my home and end up with one foot in the snowbank, which was quite cold because like most criminals mine was not considerate enough to let me get my shoes on first.  What a dick.  I had little time to contemplate it, however, as he was on top of me almost instantaneously, and I remember taking several punches directly to the left side of my face.  Some of it happened so fucking fast that I can't remember it and some of it slowed right down and I remember complete sentences of thought.  It was like Paul Greengrass and Zack Snyder had gotten together to make a movie.  A cross between THE BOURNE SUPREMACY and 300.  Not in terms of action, just stylistically.  This was a 300 moment.  I remember thinking something like Wow, this guy is really punching me, like, hard.  He is not holding back.  This is for real.  And I don't know what happened next.

The next moment -or series of moments- was my BOURNE SUPREMACY moment, in more ways than one.  I vaguely remember my invader-turned-attacker pushing me to the ground and reaching out to grab him, but I don't really remember what exactly I did next.  The next thing I do remember clearly is holding him by the collar of his jacket straddling him with my right arm cocked and ready to punch.  300.  I'm not supposed to hit people.  I'm not supposed to punch people in the head.  Years of social programming were not paying off in this particular scenario.  I realized that night that despite violent fantasies aimed mostly at dickheads I knew from high school that I was not by nature a violent person.  When you hesitate in the middle of a (potentially) life and death struggle in (or at least around) your own home I think you can safely conclude that you are not a violent person.  We are all programmed from a very early age to find peaceful solutions to our problems.  Avoid violence at all costs.  Dad never taught me to fight.  Under normal circumstances this urge would probably be a benefit.  Now it might cost me everything.



Maybe Three.

Aim for the head.

He doesn't like that.  He's rolling away from me.  Giving up his back.  Now before I go on I really can't stress enough the usefulness of taking some kind of martial arts class.  Even for a year or two.  It may sound overly dramatic, but it could just save your life.  Just by having even a few simple tools and a little bit of muscle memory you just might turn the tide of battle.  In this case my year of jujitsu made the difference between making it to the front page for fighting off a home invader instead of being sent to the hospital (or potentially morgue) by one.  OK, flame on.  My attacker gives up his back and my left arm immediately cuts across his neck and grabs hold of my right elbow joint as my right hand moves to the back of his head.  Rear naked choke.  Instinct.  Still 300.  I can see it all clearly.  BOURNE SUPREMACY.  We're rolling around on the cold, hard asphalt of my driveway.  I'm underneath him now still trying to choke him.  300.  Get your hooks in.  Wrap your legs around his to complete the hold.  Immobilize him.

Let me go and I'll leave.

At this point there are several things that must be noted.  One, whether because of his jacket or because I had the hold incorrectly I just could not sink in the rear naked choke enough to knock him out.  Two, through the whole battle I had been screaming at the top of my lungs to try and get somebody's attention.  Help.  Call the police.  Fire.  But nobody in the neighbourhood seemed the least bit interested. (I later talked to my neighbour who lives in the other half of our semi and I told him I had been screaming.  He said he never heard a single thing, so apparently my girly screaming had all been in vain.)  Three, now that there was a lull in the action I didn't know what to do next.  Four, my feet were getting really cold.  Five, I wanted to be as far away from this asshole as quickly as possible.  It might seem crazy that I would take the word of a potentially drugged up, potentially armed, and obviously dangerous criminal that if I let him go he would just leave, but honestly I just wanted the thing to be over.  I always thought that in a situation like that I'd want to punish the guy, but honestly I just wanted the whole thing over.  Any way possible.

THE BOURNE SUPREMACY.  I'm on my feet with a shovel in my hand yelling "Get the fuck off my property."  He stops to pick up his hat and his watch which I remember seeing broken on the ground as we were rolling around (in a totally non-gay way...).  He doesn't run.  He walks away slowly.  And then one of my favourite parts.  As the man in black (or maybe dark blue) walks away he yells back at me.

"We're not friends anymore."

At the time I remember this being quite odd, as despite not being able to see most of his face, I didn't get that sense that we had met before.  I was slightly confused, but not so confused that I didn't throw down my shovel and run back inside my house.  As I locked the front door and made my way to the kitchen to lock the side door I saw the cane clearly for the first time.  He had leaned it against the wall near the front door in order to grab me to try and prevent me from leaving.  300.  It clicked in that the way he had been holding the cane before was the way you'd hold a rifle.  I also thought Don't touch the cane.  Preserve the crime scene.  Thank you CSI.  The things that run through your mind.

Luckily I found the phone in the kitchen actually quite close to the door.  I hadn't even noticed when he first came in.  This time the programming paid off.  No hesitation.  Dial 911.  It was the first time I ever dialed 911.  It doesn't seem real until you have to use it.  Even as I dialed I wasn't sure anyone would actually pick up.  People called 911 in the movies not in real life.  Within five or ten minutes the police arrived.

One car.

Two cars.


I haven't had much experience with the police aside from an unfortunate run-in with a self-important bike cop last summer (which you can check out here), but I would have to say that the manner in which they dealt with this specific incident was commendable.  The first officer to arrive on the scene (I won't mention his name for the sake of privacy, but if you're reading this, thanks buddy) pulled into the driveway and immediately got out and started scouring the driveway for clues.  I went out to meet him, still in my sock feet.  The reason for this was because my boots were close to the cane, and I didn't want to risk contaminating the crime scene.  Thank you CSI: Miami.

Now comes the small town part.  As I was drinking a glass of water and pacing back and forth due to the massive amounts of adrenaline still pumping through my veins I happened to look out the front door again to see a woman walking her dog who had stopped to talk to the police.  It took me only a second to realize that this was my sister-in-law who lives around the corner from us.  Immediately I knew that she must be freaking the fuck out seeing a large police presence outside her sister's house.  I go outside and yell at her that everything is OK, but I know how the grapevine works and I know that within the next twenty minutes we will be receiving a frantic phone call from my mother-in-law.  The things you think about.

Shortly after that the first responding officer enters my house to take my first Official Statement.  Wow.  The first thing I can't help noticing is the striking resemblance this police officer had to Gord Downey.  Now I'm a huge Tragically Hip fan so naturally this helped put me at ease.  I almost mentioned the resemblance to him, but I didn't wan to ruin the mood of my first Official Statement to the Police.  The second thing I noticed was how he didn't take his shoes off as he walked across our brand new hardwood floors.  But I don't say anything because he's here to help and I don't want to spoil the atmosphere of my first Official Statement to the Police About the Incident.  And I totally get into it.  By this point I've discovered that my left elbow is bleeding so I'm holding a paper towel on the wound which adds to my story.  And I'm totally getting into it.  I'm recounting the whole ordeal with emotion, injecting the proper amounts of suspense and fear with a little comedy to lighten the mood.  I'm totally In The Zone.  And about halfway through my wife shows up.

Now, my wife comes in through the front door and she rushes over to make sure I'm OK.  Now her first reaction as she pulled up to the house was not concern, but ambivalence.  She told me that she thought the police were there dealing with something or someone in the house across the street which had been visited by the police before.  She thought the police car parked in our driveway was there because there wasn't enough room left on the street.  As she drove up to the house the thought never entered her mind that the police were parked outside our house.  And why would she?  These things don't happen to upper-lower-middle class people like us.  They happen to the very rich or the very poor in faraway exotic places like London, Dubai, New York, or in the back alleys behind opera houses.  We were the unseen, amorphous majority, not special enough to win the lottery and certainly not distinct enough to be targeted for a crime.

So I give my statement to the police and I get the impression that the police might already have a lead on this bozo.  Besides the cane my attacker also left behind some very clear footprints and several items including a flashlight and some condoms.  (Read into that what you will.)  The local CSI dude took a bunch of pictures including of my visible injuries which included the bleeding elbow and a pretty bad ass black eye.  I have felt adrenaline rushes before, but now I realize that they were really nothing by comparison.  It was like jerking off for twenty-seven years and then finally having sex.  With twins.  And a goat.  And a bottle of Viagra.  And a mirror on the ceiling. And Ron Jeremy giving me pointers via a wireless, bluetooth headset.  It was not until about two hours later that I really felt any pain at all.  Then it all hit.  The face.  The elbow.  My neck.  My stomach.  Now, the stomach was not from the fight, but because I had been waiting until my wife got home in order to eat.  The plan was to have my special birthday dinner a day early.  We were planning t get wings and poutine from a local bar called The Moose (not even a made up name).  So we figured, fuck it.  We're not going to let some ass clown with a fucking cane ruin our plans so we order our wings.  For delivery as I don't really feel like going out at this point.

That first night was a long one.  My wife went to bed at a reasonable hour with our infant son (after answering a phone call from her mother, which I totally called), but I was still shaken and stayed up until all hours of the morning watching movies and clutching a hammer like a baby clutching his safety blanket.  Finally about four thirty in the morning -now officially my birthday- I finally gave in and went to bed.  About five minutes later the phone rings and I just about lose my shit because I'm still on edge.  It was the police telling me that they had somebody in custody and that it was probably The Guy.  My Guy.  Like it or not he had become mine, my unholy adopted bastard.  Somebody had to claim this sorry excuse for a home invader because I had the feeling nobody else would.  He had obviously been abandoned on the doorstep of humanity and now somebody had to sign the birth certificate.  Whether by fate or by design the ball had ended up in my court and in some strange, twisted way I had become part of the family.  It is my sincere hope that he carries with him the lessons that I taught him for years to come.

The next day I tried to go about my business to make sure that this dickhead didn't ruin my birthday.  So my in-laws come over for lunch.  I recount my story to their awe and amazement.  This was the beginning of my collection of reactions to my story.  The reactions are typically split along gender lines.  Almost every chick that hears the story seems pretty impressed that I was able to fight back and protect my family.  Now the dudes that I talk to seemed pretty split: about half of them were also impressed and said that they probably couldn't have done the same thing and the other half said they would have beaten the shit out of the guy.  I'm not sure what it means, or if it means anything, it's just an observation I've made.  Anyway, it's my birthday so I want to try and make the best of it.  After the police stop by to collect my watch as evidence (pretty cool shit) to swab for DNA and whatnot.  Later on I go out for some birthday shopping because I don't want to let all this shit interfere with my life.  So I make a point of going out.  I buy Beatles: Rockband and also a set of dumbbells as I have now resolved to work out even harder for obvious reasons.  Later I go out to see TRON LEGACY with my brother-in-law because it's tradition to go out for a birthday movie and I'm not going to let the incident interfere with my life.  Now while I believe that this was the correct attitude and the healthiest course of action to take, it was fucking hard.  At the mall I kept scanning the crowd for my attacker even though I knew he was already probably in custody.  At the movie there was a point at which I started freaking out, nothing loud, just an overwhelming sense of panic and fear and some hyperventilation.

The story kind of tapers off here.  The day after my birthday -December 31- is actually my niece's birthday but instead of going to the party I go down to the police station to give a video statement and give them a DNA sample (just some blood, I didn't have to fill a cup or anything).  The room I was put in for my statement was one of the police interrogation rooms, and once again nothing like TV.  It was brightly lit with a table, two comfortable chairs and two security-style cameras in domes on the walls.  There was a red band tat ran around the perimeter of the room about four feet off the ground which if touched would set off an alarm and get some backup in there on the double.  As I sat down in the chair opposite the detective who was working the case I tried to pull my chair in, but found I couldn't move it. 

"Bolted to the floor.  So you can't throw it at me."

I never would have thought of a suspect using  chair as a weapon against me in an interrogation.  I guess that's why I'd make such a shitty cop.  I make it back to my niece's party in time to grab a few slices of pizza and some cake, then leave as quickly as possible because I'd gotten my free meal and also because I kept having visions of people breaking into my house.

Unbeknownst to me a month ago the story would take some strange and unexpected turns.  So far there have been two stories in the local news about my ordeal.  The first was the Monday after it happened because my attack happened at a very busy time, what with it being New Year's Eve and all.  So I finally pickup a paper and discover that my story has been pushed to page three.  Page fucking three.  And you know what was on the front page of that paper?  The first baby born in our city in 2011.  Really?  I lost out to an infant?  That's not news.  Any moron can buy a six pack, stick it in his girlfriend, and then have a kid nine months later.  That's not news.  It's a biological function.  It's like doing a story on dad because he had a bowel movement this morning.  What happened to me was news.  I fought off a home invader.  I protected my home and my family.  I fucking took charge.  An ordinary citizen fighting back against the dark tide that threatens to eat away at the very heart of our society.  In the hands of a half-way capable writer my story could have been inspirational.  A call for the Everyman to stand up and to take back what was rightfully his, a revolution for the common man.  In a perfect world.  Anyway, the first story was a pared back recounting of the basic facts.

Now the second article a few weeks later helped put my particular situation into a larger context.  I already knew from the police that my guy had had previous charges and was "in the system."  What I did not know as that he was wanted in four different cities for various charges including assault and weapons charges.  Feel that cold shiver down your spine.  Apparently he's being shipped off to Napanee to face some charges down there.  Something in this article really caught my eye and the eyes of several of my friends.  Apparently this guy used to play hockey in the OHL.  And -get ready for this- was a fourth round draft pick for the New Jersey Devils.  Never played an NHL game apparently, but was still drafted.  I know that everybody used to be somebody, and people have pasts, and even criminals may have had other professions, but this is just a really strange twist. At least it is to me.  Maybe you're used to being accosted by former NHL hopefuls who break into your house looking for non-existent drugs, but where I come from it doesn't happen a lot.  I can tell you one thing, I won't be watching hockey again any time soon.  I'd be too busy focusing on which of the players looked like they were hatching some twisted scheme and wanted to spontaneously attack me to enjoy any aspect of the game.  However, at least of few of my friends were more impressed at discovering that I had kicked the ass (yeah, I went there) of an NHL-calibre defenceman.  Apparently defencemen are typically bigger guys (I don't know much about hockey...yup)  and so it helped put my achievement in perspective.  I guess before that they thought I was beating up some emaciated crack-head instead of a strapping young man who almost made me look small by comparison (At 5'11 and about 205 (relatively) solid pounds I'm not considered small in my social circles.  After ten years of working out (on and off) quite a bit of that is muscle.  Yeah, I'm fucking huge.)

So now the question becomes how will this incident work into my Personal Mythology?  The answer is beyond my comprehension.  Like all myths this one will evolve in ways I can't possibly imagine.  The obvious connection would be to make me into some kind of super hero, criminal ass-kicking machine.  This also jives with one my favourite parts of the story, an innocuous little detail that usually gets a chuckle from most people.  The night of the attack I just happened to be wearing my Superman shirt.  This could be the dawn of The Age of Ass-Kicking in my narrative.  This may sound self-aggrandizing, however from an objective perspective (I'm a poet and I don't know it) just looking at the facts and not taking into account the gut-wrenching fear I felt which is impossible to describe anyway and which an impartial observer might casually ignore because they can't understand it really, I technically kicked some ass.  While I didn't get the knock-out, I did get a TKO as the bastard basically tapped out.  In a street fight.  Who does that?  And while we're on the subject, who uses a cane as a fashion statement?  What is this the 1920's?  Did he think he was a count or a sex-starved vampire from Transylvania?  The motherfucker didn't even walk with a limp.  What a fucking poser.

But aside from carrying a cane he didn't need what my attacker did was force me into the role of the good guy.  Narratives tend to be-by their very nature- polarizing.  This helps make for a more engaging story where you can hate the "bad guy" and empathize with the "good guy."  In this particular narrative my attacker was the bad guy so I ended up as the good guy by default.  I say by default because I didn't try to be a hero.  Given the choice between fight or flight, my first instinct was flight.  Only when pushed to the brink did I turn to my second option.  Only it wasn't me.  It was Legendary NathaN.

Thinking back, long before I met my wife or my mother-in-law, all the way back to my university days I remember a residence social event.  It was a Christmas party or Easter party, or some stupid shit like that.  The point is that a lot of people from the residence were there and lasagna was being served as the cheap main course.  And I was hungry.  I went back for a few more servings and then the real fun began.  I started eating the lasagna people couldn't finish right off their plates.  Not perfect strangers of course, people we knew, but still.  People don't do that.  Legends do.  In the course of the evening I might have eaten maybe half a lasagna.  But if you asked my friend Ryebone he would probably tell you it was at least a whole one.  He'll probably tell you I was still hungry, but there was nothing else left to eat and I had to have a snack when I got back to our apartment.  Legends are not born.  They evolve.  My best bet is to tell the story and then keep my head down.  If I don't say anything the myth will take it's natural course as people's imaginations and perceptions run wild.            

Think of your life as a narrative. A story being written as it unfolds. The protagonist is not you.

But he kind of is.



Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pete Postlethwaite Dies at Age 64

2011 is off to a bleak start in Hollywood as legendary "that guy" actor Pete Postlethwaite died on the second of January as a result of everybody's favourite terminal illness - cancer.  And I feel kind of bad.  Not just because a really capable actor passed on, but because I'm taking the time to write an obituary about a man who's name I didn't even bother to look up until after I heard that he died.  I know I shouldn't feel guilty about not knowing a celebrity's name, or that a vitual relationship shouldn't evoke any real feelings, although to be completely honest I suppose it didn't.  I'm not sure if I experience genuine emotional reactions or calculated displays of what I think I should be feeling.  In a society so media conscious I can never really be sure whether I actually have genuine emotions or whether I am simply inclined to react in a manner that society expects of me because that's the way I have been programmed.  So perhaps any (slight) sadness or sense of my own mortality that registered with my brain were virtual feelings.  But perhaps not.

And why all this intrapersonal bullshit philosophical rambling when the purpose of this article -clearly outlined by the title and the first few lines of this passage- was to commemorate the life of an artist whose work I (at least claim) to admire or at least appreciate for its entertainment value?  Because fuck the dead, that's why.

All of these funerals, memorials, graveyards and other rituals that surround death aren't for the dead: the dead don't give a shit.  They're dead.  If you don't believe in an afterlife then the equation is simple.  Your dead friends/relatives/strangers you just felt like running over with your car on a lazy Sunday afternoon "just because" no longer exist except as an inexpensive source of fertilizer and/or leather if you start tanning the hide soon enugh after death.  If you do have some kind of belief regarding death then it still doesn't matter because A) He or she is in a far better place having sex with dead celebrities while/or playing Risk with Jesus and Buddha, B) He or She is in a far worse place being raped by the souls of aborted babies and the one-eyed ghost of Hitler while the Devil smokes the penis of a child molester like a Cuban cigar and chuckles merrily to himself, C) He or she has already been reincarnated as an old lady in France with too much facial hair and not enough personal hygiene or D) He or she is too busy spying on hot chicks while they take a shower and/or masturbate gratuitously. (OK, maybe that last one is just me.)

Any way you cut it death does not matter to the dead.  The only significance death -and the rituals surrounding it- has is how it affects each of us personally.  How we interpret it's relative significance.  The funeral isn't for the dead guy.  It's for the people who are still alive.  This article (and the others like it) which details the death of a celebrity aren't meant for that dead celebrity.  They're meant for me.  Their significance is relative to my subjective experience of whatever work they produced and my articles about them are in some small way tributes to their influence on me and really milestones in understanding my own life.

It may seem like I've hijacked my own article about Mr. Postlethwaite to rant about my own self-importance, and you'd be half right.  The point is that since I can only experience the world as myself and no one else then in order to make meaning out of anything ultimately I have to find some way to relate it to myself.  Maybe it's self-absorbed or maybe it's self-enlightened.  Or maybe a little of both.

What I do know is how I remember Pete Postlethwaite.  I'll remember him as the reluctantly heroic monk in DRAGONHEART,  as the master hunter in THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, as Keyser Soze's messenger boy in THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and most recently as a humble fisherman, dying (and dead) father and a hardcore gangster in CLASH OF THE TITANS, INCEPTION, and THE TOWN respectively.  For me the significance of his career is his ability to be in the spotlight without being in the spotlight.  He acted in some huge blockbusters, and oftentimes as well as, if not better than, the stars of these movies.  I didn't know him personally but it seems to me that he was that rare beast: a truly talented artist with an honestly small ego.  Something I would never aspire to be but also something which I admire.    

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's the End of the World as We Know it and I Feel... Bored

We are a culture obsessed with its own destruction.  This is quite funny because we are also a culture that believes in its own inherent superiority and immortality.  We are also a culture that believes in breast implants, keeping up with the Kardashians (whoever the fuck they are), penis piercing, Bill O'Reilly, novels about vampires that sparkle in the sunlight and fuck teenage girls, (supposedly) comedic movies about people with the last name Focker, oganized religion, female singers shooting something out of their breasts be it fireworks or whipped cream, invading countries looking for weapons of mass destruction that don't exist, and texting.  Perhaps we feel some kind of inate cultural guilt and deep down inside we know that our disappearance from the earth wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. 

Or perhaps it's egotistical.  One of the reasons apocalyptic fantasies are so engaging is because of the way we have constructed them.  The scenario is always (basically) the same: some force, be it natural, human, or extraterrestrial, ends up destroying 99% of the human population leaving a small group or groups to either A) Fight back against this destructive force,  B) Wander the barren wastelands trying to eke out a living, C) Fight other people in the aftermath of the catastrophe, D) Quest for an item or place to help rebuild society to its (supposed) former glory, E) Having sex with beautiful post-apocalyptic women who seemto be unaffected by disease or poor hygiene or damading radiation which have hadsuch a detrimental effect on everybody else around her, or F) Any combination of the above.  The key to post-apocalyptic movies (moreso than other genres) is the question: What would you do?  The conceit of the audience of any post-apocalyptic story is that they will be the ones who somehow survive the Ultimate Catastrophe.  In this type of fantasy one aways imagines oneself as one of the lucky (?) few who survive and not one of the millions who perished and so, whether consciously or unconsciously, we, as the audience, put ourselves in that position in the context of the narrative.  What if the polar ice caps melted and the whole world was flooded?  What if a virus broke out that either killed most of the population or turned them into walking corpses with nothing better to do than eat you alive?  What if somebody dropped "the bomb" and wiped out most of human exitence?

This kind of fantasy narrative plays to the ego because in order for us to engage with the fantasy we put ourselves in the position of the survivors, which by necessity means we think of ourselves as exceptional.  Either by design or through our own ingenuity we will have survived.  The idea of surviving the apocalyse, should it indeed occur, is, in essence, the idea of celebrity.   You're one in a million.  One in a billion.  You are the sperm that made it.

But probably not.

Just by simple averages you are most likely dead.  If 99% of the human population was wiped out tomorrow, your chances are simply not that good.  You are not some lone gunman wandering the wastes like Mel Gibson in THE ROAD WARRIOR.  You are most likely one of the skulls crushed by a T-800 in the opening sequence of TERMINATOR 2.  But you don't believe that.  And that's OK.  The effectiveness of a post-apocalyptic movie -and indeed our society itself- is predicated on the fact that you are just as unique as everybody else.  And we all understand this at least on some amorphous, subconscious level.  We are all the heroes of our own personal narratives and so it is only natural that in a hypathetical narrative (in this case the future) each of us s still the centre of the universe. This is imortant because it keeps us from killing ourselves in record numbers.  Besides, there'll probably be a meteorite or an infected monkey or a freak storm to kill most of us off anyway.  It's only a matter of time really.  I mean, it could be as soon 2012.  One can only hope.

The most egocentric of post-apocalyptic movies are not actually post-apocalyptic movies, but fall into that category by default.  These are the movies that deal with the apocalypse itself.  I suppose these might simply be called apocalyptic movies, but that sounds kind of crazy and depressing like one of those nut jobs running through the streets carrying a sign that says "Repent, For The End is Nigh" or "Vote For John McCain" or "Buy Soy Milk."  Fucking crazies.  No, post-apocalyptic has a nice ring to it, like you've accomplished somethng: you've survived the apocalypse.  Congratulations.  It's like winning the lottery only instead of winning money you win the chance to try to survive in a cold, harsh world where the only way to survive is to scrounge for food and clothing and try to avoid the zombies or aliens or cyborgs or Cyborg Alien Nazi Zombie Vampire Clones (I totally call that fucking movie title, Copyright from now until infinity years) and suicide is actually starting to look like a pretty good alternative.  But that hasn't happened yet.  The apocalypse has just begun.  So now we need an enemy.  For a movie that centres around the apocalypse you need some kind of active agent to fight against: a virus or plague is just plain boring.  It could take years to watch billions of people die.  The classic Man vs. Nature doesn't really work here either.  You can't actually fight back against the weather, and this makes for a shitty movie like THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.  Zombies are a good choice, and my personal favourite, but for the ultimate unite-the-human-race-against-a-common-enemy-which-we-can-heroically-fight-back-against-with-sometimes-sexy-results bad guy we tend to look for otherworldy invaders: namely aliens.  No, not that dude from Mexico who spoke very little English and who you hired to fix your toilet even though you were pretty sure he wasn't really a plumber, but he was cheap and his wife was hot and up or anything (and I mean ANYthing).  I'm talking extraterrestrials.

In narratives there's basically two types of extraterrestrials: the passive explorers or the ass-kicking annihilators.  They either travel a billion light years in ships that can make the Kessel run in less han twelve parsecs to drop in and say "Hi" or to enslave and kill us for some evil purpose (but most likely harvestingour natural resources and to sleep with our women in multiple, increasingly erotic positions).  Aliens are great because they provid a tangibe enemy who, although always technologically superior, is still perceived as beatable, though sometimes just barely.  Whenever I think "alien apocalyptic summer blockbuster movie" the first thing that obviously comes to mind is INDEPENDENCE DAY, which for some reason tried to tie in an American nationalistic message with a narrative about psychic space reptiles trying to wipe out human civilization.  I recently went to see SKYLINE and I couldn't help but draw comparisans between these two movies because they are so similar in subject matter: basically aliens come down in giant ships to major cities and start fucking shit up and we are powerless to stop it.  However, where INDEPENDENCE DAY mildly succeeded SKYLINE depressingly failed even though these two movies are practically sisters.

The plot of SKYLINE follows a group of friends, well really two friends and a bunch of acquaintances, who wake up after a party to find that Los Angeles is besieged by aliens who are abducting citizens en masse for what is obviously a sinister purpose (we later find out that these particular aliens love human brains, maybe for use as aphrodesiacs, we don't know, it's unclear, but I'm pretty sure that was the reason).  The rest of the movie basically illustrates how totally fucked we all are by showing how impervious the aliens are to our "conventional" weapons.  (At one point the army comes in and drops a nuke on the mothership.  This seems to destroy the vessel, but then the move promptly shows that the alien technology includes regenerative powers, which means even if you do manage to destroy some of their technology it will simply repair itself, Borg-style.  There's always something with these fucking aliens...)  I hesitate to use the word "movie" because what SKYLINE really was was a collection of scenes kind of cobbled together.  There was no real plot per se, rather a bunch of scenes where characters argued about what to do and then usually did nothing except maybe die.

So while SKYLINE failed from a narrative point of view, and in many ways from a filmmaking point of view, I was really intrigued by the thematic elements especially in relation to INDEPENDENCE DAY.  Whereas INDEPENDENCE DAY was about a bunch of scientists and government officials who had the inside scoop (so to speak) on the whole alien invasion thing, SKYLINE was about a bunch of random dudes who had absolutely no idea what the fuck was going on.  They didn't have access to fighter jets and they had no idea about any secret signal the aliens were using to coordinate their attack an they didn't have access to Area 51 or an eccentric Brent Spiner to fill them in on what was going on.  This is something that really struck me about SKYLINE: how aware it was of itself and its genre.  The makers of INDEPENDENCE DAY went out of their way to make give it this bloated epic scale, SKYLINE seemed to be trying to do the opposite.  The makers of SKYLINE seemed to be purposely making it as un-epic as possible.  And I think part of the reason for this was because they (wrongly) thought that if they made the characters less grandiose (ie. instead of a President of the United States we get a struggling artist) and showed an alien invasion from the point of view of oblivious citizens that this would appeal more to the audience who would probably be in the same position (metaphorically) if this ever happened and allow them to more easily engage with the movie.  Actually all it did was limit them narratively and creatively.  The characters were always helpless at all times and I simply could not empathize with them at all.  Instead of thinking "What would I do?" the only question that came to my mind was "Why don't they do something?"  Instead of drawing me deeper into the narrative this attempt to show the alien invasion from the point of John Q Everyman had the opposite effect because the answer to my question was always blatantly obvious: because they can't.  The filmmakers not only disempowered their characters but in so doing disempowered their audiences as well. 

Initially, I liked the concept of watching the invasion from the point of view of ordinary citizens. (Just like I liked the concept of three new STAR WARS movies back in 1999.  We all know how that turned out.)  Or maybe more accurately I wanted to like the concept.  Because I am an ordinary citizen.  But then as I watched SKYLINE I realized that ordinary citizens sucked goat balls.  I had been stripped of the egotistical idea of my own specialness.  I wasn't the misunderstood mutant warrior in WATERWORLD.  I was one of the corpses at the bottom of the ocean who happened to look out the window in time to see the tidal wave then turned back to the lesbian porn I was watching on my laptop and pumped a little faster hoping to squeeze one last one out before I drowned.

The thing is SKYLINE could have been a decent popcorn flick that I might have picked up eventually in the cheap bin at Wal-Mart, but only after seriously weighing the pros and cons of buying PINEAPPLE EXPRESS instead.  Now it will go down in history as worse than THE POSTMAN and I AM LEGEND combined.  It's movies like this that make the common person make cynical comments about Hollywood like the one that will follow this sentence.  SKYLINE was a clearcut case of style over substance.  It's like the big (and sometimes slightly less big) studios think that it's audiences are a bunch of fat kids and if they put enough icing on pile of dog shit we will gladly eat it and hopefully be fooled into thinking it is actually chocolate cake and then thank them for it.  Even the icing wasn't all that sweet.  The special effects were outstanding, there's no doubt, but even the actors had no real star power to blind us and distract us from the mess of a movie.  The most recognizable faces were Eric Balfour (SIX FEET UNDER, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE remake) and David Zayas (Batista from DEXTER.  Got to love that fucking hat, dude.)  Not to mention the fact that the filmmakers couldn't decide what to do with he most interesting thread of the whole movie which was Balfour's character seemingly getting some kind of super powers after being twice exposed to some kind of alien hypno-ray.  I suppose the tacked on ending (which was so obviously setting up a sequel that they might as well have just shown the trailer for the goddamn thing at the end of the credits) kind of covered it, but not really.

If you want to immerse yourself in post-apocalyptia then go check out THE ROAD WARRIOR, or PLANET OF THE APES, ZOMBIELAND, DAWN OF THE DEAD, or do yourself a real favour and check out THE ROAD.  Overall SKYLINE was about as satisfying as an orgy with a bunch of department store mannequins.  My rating is 4/10 = One Alien Invader's Head Sucking the Brain Out of A Living Human Being Simply Because He Can


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Irvin Kershner Now One With The Force

On November 27 / 2010 the world of film lost one of the most influencial and lesse known directors of our time.  Irvin Kershner, known to the geek community the world over as the director of one of the most influencial science fiction films ever and arguably (but not by me) the best STAR WARS film THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.  Although George Lucas will forever be hailed as the creator of STAR WARS and he has some pretty fucking cool ideas (I mean, who the fuck wouldn't want a light saber?) I think it can generally be agreed that he's pretty shitty at actually directing movies.  I won't deny old George his own achievements and the undeniable influence he's had on the collective consciousness of humanity but I don't think his vision would have come to (the same level of) fruition without the involvement of Mr. Kershner.  I don't know what magical combination of events lead to te awesomeness that is EMPIRE but it is undeniable that Irvin Kershner was a big part of that magic.  He helped create one of the most seminal pieces of science fiction of the 20th century, but to me that's not his legacy.  Or at least, not all of it.

To me Irvin Kershner's career is the ultimate embodiment of kharmic redistribution.  He directed one of the most iconic movies of his (or any) generation, but then he also directed one of the shittiest.  The same man who directed the superb and influential THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK also directed ROBOCOP 2, one of the worst movies I've ever had the displeasure of watching.  He also directed NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, easily of the worst Bond movies ever, and definitely one of the worst movies ever. I mean ROBOCOP 2 and NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN aren't at the very bottom of the barrel, but they're pretty fucking close.  This is not a bad thing, though.  His amazing success and subsequent failures make Irvin Kershner's career and life almost mythic.  It's as if, like Achilleus, Kershner was given a choice by the gods themselves: Make a lifetime of mediocre movies with moderate financial success but be lost in the deserts of history, or make one of the most important movies of your generation and be cursed to make some of the shittiest and have your name live forever amongst nerds around the world.

Irvin Kershner was lucky.  I would consider myself lucky if I only produced one game-changing cultural work and then produce nothing but garbage in comparison.  Because the thing is even though he directed ROBOCOP 2, when I hear the name Irvin Kershner I think EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.  Kharma is a funny thing.  I always wondered if Neil Young was right about it being better to burn out than to fade away.  Irvin Kershner was one of the lucky few: he was able to do both.  May the Force be with you, Irvin Kershner.

2010: A Year in Review

New Year's Eve is a particularly strange holiday insofar as it isn't really a celebration of, well, anything.  When you actually stop and think about it you realize that it makes very little sense.  It's not based on any ancient religious customs, it has nothing to do with celebrating the harvest or any other event that was integral to the survival of our ancient relatives.  It's basically a celebration based on turning a page in a callender.  It's pretty fucking arbitrary.  It's basically like the government declaring a stat holiday on a random Monday in July simply because it was a Monday.  I mean nothing fundamentally changes in your life or in the world at large from 11:59 pm December 31 and 12:00 am January 1.  Basically we are celebrating the linear nature of time.  But I guess New Year's sounds better than Linear Time Day.  And, I mean, what the fuck do we do to celebrate?  What are the traditions typically associated with New Year's celebrations?  There's a lot of drinking, the midnight kiss and the resolutions.  I suppose when you think about it, New Year's is really the holiday that embodies Western culture.  It is devoid of any real meaning or purpose, and it espouses all of our major cultural traditions: sexual promiscuity, excess of alcohol (but really anything) and self-deception.  The only thing it's missing is the consumerism, but that will come in time.  Eventually Christmas and New Year's will be morphed into one Generic Holiday and we can cut out the bullshit and just have a whole week of drunken orgies and excessive shopping and meaningless resolutions.  The future is golden.

As (relatively) meaningless as New Year's Eve/Day is the simple fact remains that another callender year has passed and it is also customary at this time to indulge in at least some small degree of self-reflection and nostaliga and all that bullshit.  So this is my personal retospective on the past year.  Like most years 2010 was pretty fucking boring.  Some people were born, some people died.  Some people fucked, and some didn't.  The economy got better, but not really.  Apparently global warming is still a thing, but nobody (and especially no governmet) really seems to give a fuck, so why should I?  There were some wars waged, some movies made, and some celebrities arrested (looking at you Lohan...).  Nothing really game-changing.  I suppose it's all relative, though.  I mean to me the war in Iraq is an astract concept, but it probably feels pretty fucking real to the soldiers and their families.  Just as finally getting a look at Gillian Anderson's tits (thanks to an article over at after all these years was a meaningful and I dare say spiritual experience for me, but for someone who was never a fan of the X-FILES it was just another pair of milk cannons in the vast (and glorious) porn-factory known as the Internet.  So some of the following events were shared experiences and some were only meaningful to me personally, but probably not for the reasons you'd think.  Let's start off with the high points.


1: Video Games

2010 started out as the Year of Gaming, mostly video but also a lot of board.  I finally got around to getting an Xbox Live Gold Membership so I could indulge in online gaming with friends and angry strangers.  Online gaming is fantastic because it allows me to interact with my friends in a purely virtual manner without actually having to be in the same room as them.  This is the ideal relationship and what I expect will eventually become the norm for the majority of people in the 21st century.  This social structure allows two or more people to come together for a single purpose (ie. killing zombies) so the whole interaction is directed and focused: it allows people to cut through all the bullshit small talk.  It also allows you to interact with people without having to actually be with them, which again streamlines the whole social experience.  You don't have to worry about bringing snacks or what to wear: you can be sitting there in your underwear drinking a mixture of Mountain Dew and milk (I call it an Avalanche) and wearing the same underwear you've been wearing all week and still be taking names and kicking ass in Call of Duty.  There's no pressure to conform, unless it's teabagging, and then all of the sudden you're shunned for some fucking reason.  But anyway.  The best part of the Online Gaming Model of Social Interaction is the ability to end the interaction at any time you want.  Unlike in "real life" when your wife is yelling at you for putting your favourite tie-dyed t-shirt in the wash with the whites or your boss is giving you shit for showing up three hours late for work and you have to deal with the situation if somebody starts fucking with you online you can simply turn them off.  You decide how and when to end the engagement.  It's like having friends who come with an Off switch.  The thing of it is, you don't even need to makefriends.  With most games now you can enter a gaming session with a bunch of total strangers who become your surrogate friends.  Disposable friends.  One use, then you throw them away.  The future is now and it is more beautiful than I could have possibly imagined.

But I digress.  Really the extent of my online gaming was Left 4 Dead and then Left 4 Dead 2.  These games were another High Point for me this year.  I've kind of had a strange obsession with zombies this past little while and these games fuelled that obsession perfectly.  I suppose that there is a growing subculture obsessed with zombies, which makes me that much less unique.  I suppose in some way it offers some validation but for some reason I really wanted my zombie obsession to be less mainstream.  I just like to disagree with people and I will find any excuse to do so.  Anyway.  In keeping with the Year of the Video Game I also played several other games.  The list below includes only the games I completed, not all the games I have simply played:
  • Fallout 3
  • Assassin's Creed 2
  • Bioshock (twice)
  • Bioshock 2
  • Uncharted 2: Drake's Fortune
  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • The New Super Mario Bros.  
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum   
2: Hetersexual Baseball Adventure

Another High Point in 2010 happened in the summer when my family and I went to visit my parents and brothers and sister.   Not the whole visit, mind you.  My family is quite insane and spending any amount of time with them is a practice in masochism and patience (in that order).  During our visit there I was invitd to play on my brother's softball team.  The game itself was fine, we lost, I was one of the better players, whatever.  But after the game we embraced the ancient softball tradition of Drinking our Asses Off.  The softball seemed to be merely an excuse for drinking copious amounts of alcohol, which I have no problem with.  My brother's team had the youngest average age of players by at least ten years ( I was the oldest by far at 28) and so we ended up being the last ones at the field drinking and talking and whatnot.  I don't know how it happened, but I do know that I started it.  As part of heterosexual male social interaction it is important at some point to engage in contests of physical strength in order to establish, in at least an abstract way, "who could kick who's ass."  This is usually theoretical because the only real way to know who could defeat everybody else in a fight is to actually fight everybody in your peer group.  But this is timely and painful and theoretical force is just as useful (if not more so) than actual force. In this case the means used to engage in our heterosexual social interactions was arm wrestling.  The age old art of holding hands, looking deeply into each other's eyes and trying to force the other person's hand somewhere he doesn't want it to go.  Just like prom night.

So we all began taking turns arm wrestlingon the tailgate of my cousin's pick-up truck -the manliest of vehicles- and it quickly became apparent that A) I was beating all of my challengers, B) Holding hands with a bunch of sweaty young men was a lot more fun than I remembered and C) Beer makes me better at everything than everybody else.  It also quickly became apparent that my cousin was the other leading contender for the title of Ultimate Arm Wrestling Champion of the Known Universe and inevitably the crowd began chanting our names.  The inevitable showdown was easily more exciting (and potentially more meaningful) than the Superbowl, the first democratic election in Afghanistan , the invention of cheddar cheese and the 1969 moon landing combined.  The tension in the air was palpable.  As I grasped my cousin Adam's beefy hand and got into position I made eye contact I took a deep breath and settled in for a long and gruelling battle.  Then it began.  We both flexed our massive biceps and an amazing thing happened: nothing.  We were almost evenly matched.  It was obvious from the getgo that this would ultimately come down to a battle of wills.  We remained locked there in battle for what seemed like hours but was probably more like days.  Those days turned into weeks.  Those weeks turned into more weeks.  Through sun and rain we stood locked in battle, like two great Titans vying for the tortured souls of mankind.  Finally I felt it move (not like that you sick bastard).  His hand budged only a fraction of a portion of an inch, but it was the beginning of the end.  With the strength of ten ordinary men and iron in my thighs I wrenched his arm right out of its socket and slammed it down with so much force that it shattered windows and set off car alarms in a twenty kilometer radius.  OK, maybe I remembered it a little differently from how it actually happened.  It could have been only a ten kilometer radius.  The point is I beat everybody from the team who challenged me including some dude with my left hand.  My right arm was sore as shit for the next two weeks, but it was totally worth it to impress a bunch of guys I don't know and will most likely never meet again.

3: Would You Give Me Aural Pleasure?

My third High Point started in April of last year and has yet to end.  I'm talking of course about my podcast, currently titled Cylon Bingo (check out on iTunes, dudes and dudettes).  I say "my" but it was really the brainchild of my friend Adam who basically runs the whole show.  By that I mean he got the equipment (and by equipment I mean the microphone and the lube) and he edits all the episodes together and he maintains a blog about the podcast.  I'm just amazed that we all stuck with it this long and that we put out a ((n) arguably) quality product on a (semi-) regular basis and we have an establised fan base.  This would be the time where I thank all of our fans and urge you to tell all you friends about our witty and insightful dialogue.  I would also like to issue this challenge: for every dollar you send us we will double your contribution.  That's right, double.  Hey, you can make our challenge your New Year's resolution.  If you're like me you're just going to waste you money on a bunch of useless crap anyway, so why not waste it on us?  We're at least as useless as third spatula or a Lady Gaga album or a nipple ring.

4: Maintaining a Consumer Base

Keeping in mind that this list is written in no articular order my fourth High Point would definitely be the birth of my son.  If you've never had kids then you should probably just skip this paragraph because it will probably be as borng as shit and you really have basis for compasrison so you can't possibly understand my experiences on either an intellectul or emotional level.

When your wife is pregnant you bombarded with a whole host of new stupid questions.  Near the top of the list is "Is it a boy or a girl?"  My wife and I both liked the idea of having some kind of surprise and so when we told whatever dickhead who just asked us they would ask us an even more annoying question: "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?"  What a stupid fucking question.  The more specific question to me was "Do you want a boy?"  This always struck me as a particularly ignorant and insulting question.  It was ignorant because it implied that as a man I somehow wouldn't be complete without a Male Heir to carry on the chauvanistic spirit for the next generation.  It was insulting to society as a whole because people presumed that as a man I somehow valued male life more than female life.  What really surprised me was that a lot of women asked me this question.  I never really thought of myself as progressive in any substantial way (for example my wife still took my last name when we got married) but it seems kind of regressive in regards to gender relations to assume that women want girls and men want boys.  I always told people that I didn't give a fuck about whether there was going to be another dick or vagina in the house as long as he or she was born healthy with no major birth defects.  When my son was born my wife and I finally admitted that we had both wanted a boy and I don't feel the least bit hypocritical because the simple fact is that I wouldn't have been disappointed if we had had another girl instead.  In fact one of our biggest reasons for wanting a boy was simply because we had an awesome boy's name picked out that we really wanted the chance to use it and we still weren't completely decided about our choice for a girl's name.

For those of you who haven't had kids and are still reading this there is no way to describe how it feels when A) Your child is born and B) This is something you wanted.  It is an amazing fucking high seeing your child for the first time and holding him in your arms.  And you'd think that after the first time it wouldn't be as potent.  You'd be wrong.  Seeing my son for the first time was just as emotional as seeing my daughter.  Several months later those emotions have changed somewhat and I have a consult with a doctor on the 25th of January about getting a vasectomy.  Having kids is great, and I highly recommend it to anybody who has legendary levels of patience, enough money to pay for daycare and/or a nanny, a strong gag reflex and stain-resistant flooring.  Don't get me wrong, my kids inject a lot of happiness, but honestly, there's only so much happiness one man can take.

5: Cinema Synergy

In a year of lacklustre movie releases I was blown away by two movies in particular: INCEPTION and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD.  These films both resonated with me very deeply for several defferent reasons and one common thread.  INCEPTION was a philosophical manifeto about the cartharsis that comes from accepting one's percieved reality and the importance of that perception over the reality itself.  SCOTT PILGRIM was about navigating one's own feelings of sexual inadequacy when beginning a new romantic relationship with a more experienced partner.  However both, to one degree or another, used video games as a framework for percieving and interpreting reality.  I covered this particular sociological concept as it relates to SCOTT PILGRIM at length (but still didn't say everything I wanted to say) but never really touched on it with INCEPTION.  There's this really great interview that Chris Nolan gave to Wired in which he answers a bunch of questions about INCEPTION, but there was one really significant quote as it relates the idea of video games as a sociological tool.  When talking about the themes of architecture and architects and the process of creation in his movie INCEPTION he says

"I think it’s very analogous to the way people play videogames. When you play a videogame, you could be a completely different person than you are in the real world, certain aspects of the way your brain works can be leveraged for something you could never do in the real world. It was important, for example, that Cobb not be as physically skilled in the real world. And when he’s charging through Mombasa, I think Leo does a tremendous job of slightly differentiating his body language and the way he moves in that world. Of course, that can be based on what he believes of himself in that particular reality, so …"

And when I read that I was so totally pumped because I hadn't really considered it at the time, but the dream worlds in INCEPTION are completely analogous to the worlds created in video games.  When I realized that my theories about the cultural significance of video games were (at least partially) validated by a genius like Nolan I was totally stoked.  I was also somewhat dismayed that I seemd to be insecure enough to need that kind of validation from a total stranger.  Then I had this epiphany that as a self-actualized human being with a moderate level of intelligence and a descent capacity for abstract thinking I don't actually need validation from anyone, not even Chrisopher Nolan (sorry Chris, we'll talk.  Call me...?).


I can't think of quite as many low points or as many.  This is possibly because of my (a-hem) positive attitude towards life but it could also be becuase of a large dose of denial and self-deception.  Either way.

1: Kiss My Flabby Ass

Now I realize that in the grand scheme of the universe and when compared to the vast majority of the population I am in pretty fucking good shape and that any complaints about unwanted body fat would seem like a billionaire complaining about losing $20 (but, like, you know, in reverse). But fuck it.  One of my goals in 2010 was to get in wicked awesome shape but instead I had a net gain of about 10 pounds over the course of the year and I think most of it was unwanted body fat and not lean muscle mass.  I'm in good shape, but I want to be in great fucking shape.  I want to be strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark.  Or maybe the arms off a wookie.  I haven't decided yet.

2: Mortal Kombat vs. Street Fighter

I admit I've led a pretty sheltered existence and violence and fear are generally concepts that apply to people on the news or in movies. It was a shock, therefore, to experience both of these things first hand when some dude broke into my house the day before my 29th birhday and I ended up fighting him off in the driveway.  I think he technically broke into my house, but I think the door he came in was probably unlocked, and the fight (my first real fight) was me reacting to getting punched in the head by a stranger as I was fleeing my house to get help and the fear was actually more like terror.  There's still a lot about that night I don't know for sure (mostly how I feel about the whole experience) but I do know that it was pretty shitty to be terrorized in my own home five hours before my birthday no less.  Definitely a Low Point of 2010, though thankfully only for me and not for my family who were either gone or sleeping upstairs at the time.

3: For Whom the Bell Tolls

I almost hesitate to mention this after the amazing job the police have done while responding to and investigating my assault, however it was definitely another Low Point of 2010.  I'm referring of course to my now infamous Bike Bell Incident which pissed me off to such a royal degree that I almost considered going down to the cop shop to air my grievences (read: yell at some police officers) for enforcement of nonsensical transportation laws. (You can check out the whole article here.)  And I realized even at the time that it's not the cops' fault, it's mostly the lawmakes and by and large as an upstanding citizen I rely on and appreciate the work that they do.  Especially with all the bullshit going on surrounding the behaviour of the cops during the G20 summit I appreciate their societal contribution even more.  (I am, by the way, on the side of the cops on this one.  Those protesters should have all been locked up.  Unfortunately stupidity is still not technically a crime.)  I hereby formally take back most of what I said (bad) about the police.

So there you have it, my year in review.  You may have asked yourself by now what the fuck any of this has to do with you.  Well literally it has very little to do with you.  I reviewed my own personal perception of 2010 and all of the events described herein have only literal relevance to me and maybe a few people who were involved (lookin at you home break in guy).  However there may be some figurative or metaphorical relevance found in some of the main themes or ideas.  Fuck it though.  My epiphany about no longer requiring validation was not facetious or hyperbolic and Chrisopher Nolan was simply the dick that broke the (proverbial) hooker's (proverbial) pussy.  Self-actualization is not a state of being, but a process.  The truth is that it doesn't matter if you find any of this relevent or not.  When it comes down to it I'm ultimately writing for myself and not anyone else (which explains why I find y own jokes so damn funny).  Ultimately anything you do has to be for you and you alone.  It's not about being selfish (though I am definitely guilty of that most of the time) it's about being self aware (guilty until proven innocent).  It's a fine line to walk, but ultimately it's almost as fulfilling as seeing the tits of a movie star you never thought you'd see.  Epiphanies come in many forms.  Be vigilent.

This one's for you, Scully...