Friday, 29 September 2017

Fuck Your Pineapple: How I Went From Meat-Only Pizza to Full-Blown Veganism in a Few Short Years

     TRIGGER WARNING: Vegetables.


      You know how everyone hates when vegans talk about veganism? I'm about to do a lot of that.

The only Slaughterhouse I'm interested in supporting.
      Seems to me standard omnivores, when they talk to vegans, are a lot like hetero, cis-gendered
white males when they talk to...well, anyone else, which is to say, they know everything about someone else's experience and what's best for them without actually accepting any outside information at all.

      I get made fun of by customers at work for being "preachy."

      I have never, and I mean literally NOT ONE TIME EVER, opened up the topic of my diet. They wouldn't even know if they didn't just have to make a comment about me eating a pepper or drinking a smoothie. Everything I've ever said was in response to them, whether their earnest questions or their bullshit chirps.

      I had deliberately intended to never directly address this topic as, seriously, average people really hate when vegans talk about veganism, and the cause doesn't need anymore bad press.

      But average people think average thoughts and do average stuff.

      So I gave my head a shake. Imagine me giving a shit what anyone thinks? I came into this bitch making friends the hard way, I'm not going to switch it up now.

      However I find it incredible how little time it took me to move from one side of that line to the other. In 2013, I wrote this article stating that vegetarians were assholes for not wanting meat on their pizza. Okay, it was a little more nuanced than that, and semi-parodical, but the point is, I'd have laughed in my own face if I could go back in time and tell me I would be a vegan one day. I didn't want to hear any of the shit I'm about to write.

[Worth noting: I still believe that the single person who makes an entire group of people order a vegetarian pizza is an asshole. While I have some wonderfully respectful and frankly, frickin' cool relatives and friends who enjoy cooking for me, I never, ever ask that anyone cater to me (and usually insist that they don't, but your Grandma is gonna win that argument 11/10 times, friends).]

      While it's a little less than idealistic to admit, I did not go vegan for the animals. Here's the progression.
  1. In early 2013, I start really working on my kitchen game. I'm 25, and want to eat well. 
  2. I notice meat is really expensive. Look into alternative protein sources. Introduce quinoa and black beans as staples.
  3. Over the next 3 years, primarily as a matter of economy, I whittle meat out of rotation, except for the occasional fish at home, or whatever a friend is cooking.
  4. By early 2016, I haven't bought beef, bacon, or chicken in any memorable amount of time. Salmon remains, as does the carte blance on meals out. 
  5. In October of 2016, I chance upon a truck hauling pigs, likely to slaughter, at a highway rest stop. Now, at this point, I don't really eat pork anyway, but I had no reason besides just not liking it. I also know how intelligent pigs are. Timidly, knowingly, I approach the trailer...and the veil rends. The recognition in their eyes of me as another creature was enough. I don't know why this specific event was so much more powerful than any other, but it hit me like...well, a truck. 
  6. Spent the next 8 months or so on a vegetarian diet. Dairy was gradually troubling me (both physically and psychologically) more and more, but I didn't imagine I'd ever cut eggs or cheese because of breakfast, and love, respectfully.
  7. I cut eggs and cheese.

      This all started because I was cheap. I can buy a pile of vegetables and a couple bags of grains or beans that will last me weeks, for the same price as three days worth of meat. For the same money, I now get so much more. Then I realized I was actually feeling better. Then I researched the health effects of meat and dairy and cut the cords to each.

      I feel that I have the knowledge and resources to effect positive change in the world. I value my life selfishly, but I also value it in service to others. Therefore, I want to take the best care of myself. So after I knew my finances were straight, my biggest reason for going vegan was my personal health.

      I found a website called Cron-O-Meter that allows you to input your basic body metrics as well as your workouts, and most importantly, food. My fears for my diet say the least, unfounded.

The target I missed was water, because I didn't enter the 9000 glasses I drink per day.

Average day.

      Once I knew I'd be okay, my priority shifted to the planet, or rather, our existence on it. Livestock farming has bulldozed natural ecology. We can't live without that. I do not believe the planet needs us to take care of it. The planet will be fine; we're a blink of time to Mother Earth. However if we want to survive and thrive, we have to shape the fuck up.

      [I'm a tree hugger. I have literally hugged trees before. I'll do it again. Trees are fuckin' dope. If you've never stopped to contemplate a tree, I invite you take this moment to ponder your own insignificance. So let's stop cutting down trees for livestock land. We don't need anymore.]

      You know what's a crime, a real humanitarian issue? When we have enough food to feed the world - and I do mean the entire world - today, but most of the grains and produce grown in developing countries feed livestock for developed countries to eat. That is wrong. There's no way around that, besides cognitive dissonance.

      There is ALREADY a fresh water shortage throughout a large portion of the world, and I don't just mean in the desert. Try North America.

       If you don't care about animals, fine. Care about people.

      Because for me, the animals came last. I'll spare you the slaughterhouse images. I don't think they work anyway.

      I've always been an animal lover, which is immediately difficult to square with an omnivorous diet (I'm specifically a dog person, but I've always lived in awe of whales and birds. They're just cool as hell.).

You know what I like? Being alive.
      What I realized was that I was, at least to a point, a speciesist. Specieism is the philosophy that being highly evolved creatures entitles us to the resources of the rest of the world, including the other creatures. As a human living on a planet in a merciless and indifferent universe, I have to push back for my existence. I have to tread on some things. I value myself, and I value humans in general. I think our lives our worth living. So I accept a degree of the wrong that we do.

      We're all speciesist, to an extent. We use the planet for our gains. Therefore we intrinsically acknowledge, even by doing something thoughtless, or seemingly harmless,  like using electricity or wearing clothes, that we are more important than someone or something else. I recently took up rock climbing - my search for the right shoe was the first time I've ever thought to investigate what my clothes are made out of.

      [But did you know that synthetic fibres are also polluting the oceans? Not nearly to the degree of livestock farming, which would get you the leather, but they aren't harmless either.]

      No matter how much I love the environment and other living creatures, pretty much by existing, I am treading on something. I had to square that with my own goals and happiness. I also had to see how far I could scale my speciesism before I had a real issues.

      Veganism isn't a perfect reconciliation with that, but it cuts out the vast majority of harm done. Obviously, you aren't killing anything to eat it. You aren't supporting any industries that do. You've cut out the primary source of climate change and ocean toxicity. That gets you (and society, on larger scale) out pretty far ahead, and if you don't have the moral high ground, you're at least a couple paces farther up the hill.


      While all vegans are living the life for all of these reasons, everyone has a primary priority. So, to be clear, here were mine when I came into this journey:

  1. Vegan (vegetarian) for my wallet
  2. Vegan for my health
  3. Vegan for the planet
  4. Vegan for the animals
      It's not that I didn't worry about animals, or acknowledge the horror show. I just felt they were inevitable because I didn't understand a different way of being. And after accepting new information, fixing my mentality, and finding how good it feels to feel good, here's the new ranking:

  1. Vegan for the planet
  2. Vegan for my health
  3. Vegan for the animals
  4. Vegan for my wallet
      Which is not to say I think non-vegans are necessarily immoral, just because they lack these priorities. In the same way most people don't think about what their diet does to them, they especially don't think about what it does to the world. That information is rarely presented, which is, I would guess, a big reason people balk so hard when the truth gets thrown at them. It's shocking, and seems insurmountable. So why bother?

      Because your diet isn't killing the planet. The planet will be fine,very, very fine. It will change, and then wipe us off and carry on.

     By being the largest contributor to the ruin of the global ecosystem THAT WE NEED TO SURVIVE, your diet is killing you.

      It's not "your grandchildren," and it's not "we'd better act soon or else maybe," it's now. This problem exists right now. It's too late. There's no longer a threat of cataclysmic ecological upset, it has begun. The west coast is on fire. The east and south coasts are underwater. Indonesia is a swamp. Puerto Rico, Barbuda, and St. Martin are in ruins. Ancient diseases are awakening from under the ice. And we still talkin' 'bout "soon." NO. Now it's too late. The climate has CHANGED. Now, we adapt, or die.

      Aside - I recently had a conversation with someone who accused me of being a doomsayer because I said it is already too late. Me, the bicycling vegan who wears his clothes until they turn to rags and sorts other people's recycling for them. I'm out here making all these fuckin' positive changes because I'm a nihilist? He obviously did not grasp that I meant it already too late to use those old methods, and those old ways of talking about the problem. It is important to understand the facts for real. This is a current issue. This is now. This is us.


      Compared to moving from a standard North American diet to vegetarianism, the jump from vegetarianism to veganism was much, much easier. I was already on the train, I just had to ride it to the next station. Dairy was pretty easy to cut. When I finally axed animal flesh, my dairy intake went up. I thought it was a good source of protein, which it is, but the wrong protein. I was much, much gassier (and stinkier) on account of all the rotting milk and eggs inside me. Yogurt, cheese, whey proteins, and lots and lots of eggs were all just waiting to be released. My stomach hurt often.

      I have no shame in admitting certain pop-media like What The Health and Forks over Knives put me on to the horrors, not just of the dairy industry, but of dairy's impact on your body. Since I don't take anything as canon solely on its own merits, I read some more, and watched some more, and felt things out. What I noticed was that on days I didn't eat eggs or yogurt especially, I felt much better. Soon, I knew what I had to do. It took a little longer than I'm proud of, a few weeks instead of a few hours, but I did it.

      I have a few friends who feel it is their right as intelligent primates to eat meat, and I'm a lot more comfortable with this simple, bold (albeit, wrong) and honest position than I am with all the excuses made by otherwise compassionate humans. Sure, they're mostly fueled by ignorance and driven by convenience, but ignorance is a choice in the information age.

    IV. (Common Excuses)

      "Go vegan? I would, but..."

      I had a friend who went vegan and almost died.
      Right, no one who eats meat ever got sick.

      You don't get enough protein/iron/B12 in a vegan diet.
      Congratulations on receiving your degree in nutrition the moment you found out about my diet! How coincidental. Do go on?

      This is the kind of dumb shit people say when they can't be bothered to slice a fucking cucumber.

      But seriously, because of those concerns, I had a heavily increased focus on nutrition, when I changed my diet. As a result my protein, iron, and B12 levels are all higher than they were a few years ago, and much higher than the average. The simple truth is that most people don't pay much attention to what they eat past the taste and if it fills them up. A simple B12 supplement, which is made from the same microorganisms that the animals we eat get them from gives me more than enough. Check this Cron-O-Meter diagram.

      The meals are bland/flavourless/unfilling.
      Tell it to my Instagram feed! Such a lazy and ignorant criticism. You know what's fucking bland? Chicken.

      It's an extreme lifestyle.
      Vegetables. Vegetables are extreme? ...vegetables?

      Here are some of the extreme consequences I've suffered:
  • Skin clearing up like it never has before (I have always had big pores and oily skin, but somehow avoided full blown acne. Still, I think this is one area where we all want better).
  • drop in gas and bloating
  • big boost in workout recovery
  • no mucous/phlegm
  • Potential reduction in migraines? Because migraines aren't well understood, it's hard to say what causes them. What I can attest to is that the recent humidity swings that usually cause me absolutely punishing migraines, have not done so. Normally, I live in perpetual fear of drastic changes in atmospheric pressure because they shut me down for days. I won't trumpet that one too loudly yet, though. We'll give it a few years. 
      It's hard.
      I realize this may be a HAIR easier for me as a happy healthy vegan to say, but, it's not hard. At all. You just haven't done it. You haven't even tried. It may be a little tricky to eat out depending on your locale, but I've been able to make it work. Here is a far-from-comprehensive list of things that may be difficult if you've never attempted them:

  • walking
  • tying your shoes
  • riding a bike
  • reading Shakespeare
  • reading anything
  • shooting a gun
  • yoga
  • running a marathon
  • running a half marathon
  • running anywhere at all
  • driving a car
  • driving a nail
  • driving sales
  • sailing
  • playing Starcraft 2 against a 17 year old South Korean
  • making falafel
  • dental surgery
  • running a multinational conglomerate
  • training a dog
  • teaching French
  • learning French
  • kissing French  (most of y'all still haven't really learned this one correctly)
      And some of the aforementioned are so necessary that we teach every single child how to do them. Stack that up against the difficulty of:
  • chopping some vegetables
  • boiling some grains in water
  • throwing some spices on it
  • masticating 
  • swallowing
      I believe in you!

      It's unnatural.
      Could you please remove your clothes, catch the measles, walk everywhere you ever go, unstraighten all your teeth, uncut your hair, uncircumcise yourself, throw your phone away, and go live in a forest when you say that? I eat a bunch of plants and I'm out of touch with nature. You drink neon green energy piss and you are the authority on evolutionary biology. Okay. Okay.

      Even if a vegan were protein/iron/B12 deficient, that does not automatically mean that it has anything to do with avoiding meat - have you ever even heard of someone with a protein deficiency? But iron and B12 deficiencies are so common they all have their own names, and very much affect meat eaters. In fact, I don't have any anemic vegetarian/vegan friends. Sure, that's anecdotal, but it's a pretty good anecdote. Plus, healthy vegans are likely to have an abundance of other vitamins, minerals and micronutrients in their system that the careless eater does not.


      As of this writing I'm just a year shy of my last meat meal, and only a few months since dropping dairy (it has crept in a few times with sneaky ingredients) but I cannot imagine going back. This is so easy. It feels so good. I love it. That's amazing to me! No cravings, not for bacon or cheese or even salmon. Had the best poutine of my life a few weeks ago in Ottawa - yepper, it was vegan.

      Since I began paying more attention to what I eat, I've experienced so many positive changes. My body looks and feels better. My priorities, both on small and large scale have changed. I no longer have to deal with being part of the grinding machine that is industrial livestock, which has done absolute wonders for my mental health. It's given me a pebble-sized concrete foundation to stand on, a place to say this is me.

      I'm not brave. This was a well-worn path by the time my feet found it, and the O.G hippies who did all the real work for us deserve our respect and appreciation. I can go to the store and buy vegan cheese, butter, ice cream and protein supplements, and find simple (or not) recipes online to make just about any dish I want. The stuff I can't, I don't worry about.

      And as with anything else, I don't count days. That doesn't matter to me, and I think it makes it harder, especially if you're craving. Trying to "stay on the wagon" is an awful mentality. Instead,
      a)eat well and
      b) enjoy food;
      c) a lot.

      Life is a game of percentages, and this is the same. I'm not fixing the world by going vegan. There are still many problems. I bet I contribute to some of them. However, if I make a lifestyle change in the right direction, that helps! Imagine if everyone went vegan tomorrow. The number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions disappears overnight. That's right friendos. Not cars. Cows.

      So do you accept facts or don't you?

      If you have honestly considered all of the consequences of a standard diet and they don't bother you, that sucks, but hey, at least you're consistent. Hopefully close-minded people like you will go extinct before we as a species do. But if you are at all disturbed, and don't know where to begin - just start! Don't order extra bacon. Eat a salad. Make guac. Cook some beans. Try a veggie burger, they're fucking delicious. Don't make a hard shift if you can't, just play around with your options.

      The number one way I am able to live this life is BECAUSE I ENJOY IT. Let me state again in case you can't re-read that. I LOVE EATING LIKE THIS. I don't feel restricted, at all. My cooking is delicious. My body is lean muscle. My compost breaks down quickly. My poops are great!

      Worth noting - every time I share vegan meals with non-vegans, they tell me two things: how great they feel, and how great they pooped. Who knows, maybe switching up your diet is the answer to that shotgun-blast trumpet (or leaky faucet) of an asshole you've got there. I'm not a doctor, I just hear about my friends' bowel movements a lot.

      So don't treat it like someone put cuffs on you, ya fuckin' drama queens. Imagine you just walked through a door with a great feast laid out before you...and fucking eat! I don't recommend everyone throw all their eggs and cheese out right now. On the contrary, I think that's wasteful, and is worse than the original sin. But maybe, juuust maybe, try a pizza without meat next time.

      But not pineapple. That shit is just wrong.

Don't make me make a vegan fitness Instagram page. I'll do it. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Goal Setting

Currently reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. This brings a lot of interesting thoughts to mind, not least of which is what I would actually do if money was not an object. I'm hurrying to get this all out while I'm still inspired, as it is also a fairly significant exercise if you take the book seriously. So here goes, in order of priority.

  1. Open a vegan restaurant in Windsor. Boon Burger Cafe in Barrie impressed upon me greatly, for portion size and taste, and they also, as a matter of principle, compost and recycle. I'd love to fund one of these here, and I think it would do quite well. 
  2. Start up a solar shingle company and make them mandatory for new homes.
  3. Fix everything wrong with my house, and renovate it, then buy (or likely, build) another one in the county. The flat in Paris and the Chateau in Provence would come after that. 
  4. Make a rap album. Something I've always wanted to do. Time is much more an object than money in this case - it's just a matter of being able to do it. Then, make a metal album.
  5. Travel across the continent in an RV, with my dogs, rock climbing, hiking, and living like a vegan hippie, minus the peyote. I'd have no particular schedule, and I'd probably fill the downtime with reading, writing, and video games. I'd stop at farmer's markets and the best tattoo spots in North America. 
  6. Fund my brothers' business so they could keep gettin dat money. 
  7. Fund my friend so he could start flipping houses and gettin dat money. 
  8. Lobby town council to fix the sewers around here so people don't flee the area that we've just started bringing back to economic life. 
  9. Be a loudmouthed ecologist everywhere I went.
  10. Bicycle across Canada. Possibly alone. 
  11. Help people. Any way, any time, just stop what I was doing to help others. Not to a debilitating degree that derails my life, but so I can sleep at night. 
I realize I blew over the list of 5 I was supposed to make, but it's a start. Also, several of those things overlap and would be ongoing, so call it 7.5. I am often not sure what the hell I'm even working for, so this was a good exercise. 

One down.

#goals #fourhourworkweek

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Lively? He's Just Loud.

     At the start of 2015 I decided that year would not be as terrible as the one that had preceded it, and by and large it wasn't. I got two new jobs, both of which I love, a new car, a new (first!) house. I put a pretty nice bow on it, if I do say so myself - which I do at length, ask my friends.

     2016 was a different beast, and the year that sucked for everyone also sucked a lot for me. Mostly, I just worked too much, with every weekday being devoted, from 7 a.m to 10 p.m, to one job or the other (and that's not counting the shifts every Saturday). Coincidentally, (but maybe not?!) two different pop songs were heavily present on the airwaves last year, the choruses of which were just "work, work, work, work." I'm a one man show, so I had no time for anything or anyone, because even when I wasn't at work, I was focusing on my own welfare and responsibilities. I'm not upset that I got my finances right, and I'm not upset that I spent my minimal free time keeping myself healthy, my dogs walked, and my house clean (mostly). What I'm saying is I don't regret my choices, but that lifestyle caught up with me towards the end of the annum. 

     I felt lonely. I felt exhausted. I felt like I had missed out on everything. I felt estranged from my family and friends. I felt like I was shortchanging my furry, four-legged charges, which is inexcusable to me. The one week of vacation I took didn't do much for my stress level. I couldn't even remember what I really liked. How much had I written? A few thousand words, all year? How many books had I read all year? Eight or nine, maybe? How goddamned long had I been single? Even the American election deeply affected me, perhaps more profoundly than it should have (time will tell). I buckled. That opened the door for an old friend.

     It's taken me most of my life to be able to talk about it in anything besides hushed tones or self-deprecating jokes (though those latter still help), but I feel like I don't care what anyone thinks anymore. If they're uncomfortable, fuck 'em, not the kind of people I need around. If I must normalize it to everyone around me, I will do that alone, as I do everything else. I never had the assistance of the Tumblr hordes or a counselor. My mom made a deal with me to talk to a therapist, once, when I was much younger. What I got from that deal was one of the most uncomfortable, irritating, sad hours of my life, a personal disposition against therapists, and a copy of Final Fantasy VIII (a game I still love, and quote). 

     Not that it's quite en vogue now, because many (most?) people still don't know what to do when others can't be cheered up, but a lot of the stigma about depression has evaporated, especially as more and more famous folk come out with their struggles. The Rock is one such, the kind of personable, funny, handsome guy whose achievements are legion, but who has dealt with "that beast" throughout his life.

     Some have even framed it helpfully, like comedian Jim Jefferies, who puts forth (I'll paraphrase) that all the most successful people in the world are deeply unsatisfied with life, and the reason is that they don't bother with glass half full or empty bullshit, but simply ask, "Why isn't that fucking glass full?" This wasn't just an ego boost for me, it made a lot of good sense. 

     That said, depression hasn't really gotten any easier to talk about, past breaching the subject, because it's such a strange phenomenon. 

     If you don't experience it, it's something you simply can't know. I've tried to describe depression a million ways, but the best I ever came up with is: no matter what you do, everything sucks. Drop yourself in a situation that nine of ten times you love, but under the dark cloud, you hate. You can't explain to the people that brought you to your favourite restaurant why you aren't hungry, you just aren't. You don't know how to describe to your girlfriend that of course you still love her but something is wrong inside you.  And that's only my experience. I'd wager someone else would tell it to you very differently. 

     Depression doesn't mean you're an introvert (though I am). It doesn't mean you're a loser (I probably am), or that you like The Cure (I most certainly do not). Like atheism, depression says very little about any of your other attributes, at least when you're your best self. Yes, thank you, I have, in fact, been told that I have a lovely smile and should show it off more, but my face doesn't work like that. We aren't trying to be difficult. It's simply that our shadows talk back to us.

     When it's on you, you don't want to shut anyone out, and you don't want to make excuses, but no one helps (and they usually make it worse), and, as I said, everything sucks. You don't really want to be alone, but everyone wants to talk about it, and try and help you in the normal ways. It isn't their fault, but that shit doesn't work.

     Plus, there are some who don't try to help, and don't care to understand. To them, you're just a whiny bitch. Yes, everyone gets down at times. I would hope it goes without saying in 2017, but for the love of god and Batman, it is not the same thing. How can I be so sure? Because I've been in a good mood, and stubbed my toe, or lost my car keys, or got a shitty paycheque, or been rained on during my commute, or whatever. I've gone through breakups when I was in a healthy mind state that didn't bring me half so low as depression did while I was in a good relationship.

     It. Is. Not. The. Same. Thing.

     There are a lot of drugs out there for dealing with it, but I'm anti-drug except when really necessary (I write this with a strong antibiotic hopefully killing the bacteria in my sinus and lungs, because I'd really like to hit the gym). I have friends who have used some of these treatments, and the verdicts are roundly poor: A strange, plateaued existence that didn't allow him to experience sadness, but neither joy; a loss of her appetite; a huge increase in his appetite; dissolution of her treasured sex drive; et cetera. These drugs screw with our brains and bodies in ways that cannot be accurately predicted, and I'm not down with that.

     Besides, I feel the verdict isn't really in on depression. Maybe this is an amateur evaluation, but it doesn't seem to affect everyone the same. Some people experience it only in their teenagers years, when hormones are the worst. Others have episodes intermittently, and some only after some kind of trauma, while still others fight all their lives. That's before you even begin to examine the physical and mental sources. How many cases could be solved, or treated, with exercise? How many people just need more niacin in their diet?

     How do you start a relationship in a healthy state of mind, but also prepare another person for the crash? I realize everyone has their demons, but it seems unfair. "Oh yeah, and by the way, some times I'll be inconsolably miserable. It's got little to nothing to do with you,but you'll have to deal with it peripherally. Sorry."

     It's a beast that you have to make friends with, and accept, because the fight will tire you beyond self-recognition. Depression doesn't beat you violently, it wears you and pulls you down, like an abusive relationship. In fact, it's a lot like an abusive relationship with yourself, except it's pretty much impossible to annul, so you have to frame it on your terms.

     In this respect, I'm lucky for my natural intolerance to alcohol, and I never had any interest in drugs or cigarettes. Any kind of vice coupled with depression can be a death knell, we've all seen it. I have friends with no such luck, and the things that combination has done to them are hideous.

     I've stumbled upon a few coping mechanisms in my days. I maintain that getting a dog is one of the best decisions I ever made; there's something transcendent and simple about the love of an animal. Besides the responsibility and care I learned, there's a consistency there that exists few other places in the world. In a sense, pet ownership was the first real act of my adult life. At the time, I only did it because I've always liked dogs, but the therapeutic value was immeasurable.

     Nutrition and physical fitness, too, have been great aides. All of this seems very straightforward now - if you eat well and exercise, you'll feel better - but in the worst years, during high school and early university, you couldn't have paid me to eat the vegetables I enjoy so much now, and to this day I'm still not sure I really enjoy working out, for the lack of mental stimulation (I know, I know, probably what I need). But I do it, and it definitely works. In fact, I thought for a while I might have cured myself in this way, but when I wasn't able to attend to my training, as per my Year of the Grind, depression came surging back.

     But all these things came later. They weren't there when things were worst. At those times, the only tool I had was the earliest gift my mother ever gave me (Well, besides life. Don't split hairs.) What I had was reading, and writing. I had, and have, words. 

     I had the words and voices of Poe and Lovecraft and Yeats (and like... every Irish writer [person?] ever) and Tupac (yes I am hereby asserting that Pac was depressed), with all their summary flaws, and I had my own words. In the same way, in the realm of music, I'm a lyrics guy first, the aesthetic is rarely enough on its own. So, sorry Paul McCartney, some of your songs are real dumb. 

     The Raven will forever be my favourite poem, maybe my favourite piece of writing entirely, because it A) is just a very, very, well constructed piece of awesome, and B) conveys an obvious understanding of emotions that are extremely difficult to phrase. 

     Even video games, though a favourite target of pushed-away parents, are often just playable stories, and who discounts the value of a good read? Worth mentioning: In a bizarre twist, the protagonist of the aforementioned Final Fantasy game is a loner with an endlessly analytical internal monologue, who exhibits many signs of depression, and I'd wager that, subtly, that game probably helped me a lot more than the therapy did. Sad people can save the world!

     In that a depressed person often doesn't necessarily want to be alone, but also doesn't want to try and explain their inexplicable malaise, a few words that come from the same place can be infinitely more helpful than hours of circular, frustrating conversation - just for their silent companionship, just to know you're not alone.

      I guess it seems internally contradictory that something depressing can help with depression. But that's an outsider's observation. When you're already there, when you're in the pit, that kind of connection is a lifeline. 

     "I dream of blood, and suffering, and a loneliness so empty that an echo can't survive." That's a quote from Lamb, a comedic take on the life of Jesus, probably the funniest book I've ever read. Great line, isn't it? Seems out of place for a blasphemous, funny book, doesn't it? It also speaks to me on a level that most people can't. It tells me that your profession, your very essence, may be laughter, but you can still fight the dark inner demons that some are fortunate enough to never know. It tells me those demons hide everywhere.

     Of course, you don't know this is why you gravitate towards these things, especially when you're younger, but I propose that doesn't matter in the slightest. It definitely doesn't for me.

     There was nothing that prompted this writing besides the acknowledgment, to myself, of what it is I live with. Maybe the shit storm of 2016 made me realize that my personal issues really aren't that big a deal. Maybe I'm just too old to care anymore. 

     When I wrote my prediction for 2015, I wasn't being specific, I had no real game plan. I just wanted better for myself, so I took, and made, opportunities. The job I was working when I wrote that was a huge source of misery for me (and continues to be one for my unfortunate friends still stuck there). The idea that you can completely block out the influences of others sounds very mature and independent, but it's more naive than anything. So I changed my situation, and things got better. Then I changed it again, and they turned downward. 

     Now, I'm changing them yet again. 

     Depression will never not be a part of me. That acceptance brought me a strange contentment, bordering on joy. When I viewed it logically, I knew what to do.

     I've written twice as much in the three weeks since New Years than I did for the entirety of 2016. Yesterday, while I was resting, letting my body fight this bacterial infection, I played Skyrim for hours (between naps), and had no guilt about wasted time. I've been to the gym more in the last month than in the three months before that combined. I haven't yet had time to read a lot, but I have a doozy of an order coming in from Indigo, and I dug up a bunch of great new music while I sat around drinking coffee this morning. 

     I don't do New Years' resolutions, I just resolve and do. That's me, that's who I am. I don't want to parade my happiness anymore than I want to parade my depression. That's part of the introvert in me, but it's a pretty personable introvert. So I won't mark my changes, I'll just change. I don't want mile markers, I'll remember the journey by the trees and the sky. 

     Speaking of, if you'll excuse me, my dogs and I are going for a run. 

Sunday, 24 July 2016

I Once Ate the Front Bumper of a Taurus From Below

     I'm not much of a joiner. Never have been, never will be. When I form my own uninfluenced opinion of something, then find it in line with that of others, especially popular opinion, I second guess myself.

      When I heard Uptown Funk, I thought it must be the best song of the last ten years. Then everyone loved it, and I didn't anymore, and I had a lot of (valid) reasons why, but the suspicion started with my distrust of the crowd.

      So now that there is a burgeoning local cycling movement, I am conflicted. Cycling is quick, easy, healthy, and cheap. It's good for you, and the environment, and for most people who live in a city of any size, can get you where you need to be without much difference in commute time. In many places in Europe, this is the sort of thing that is just known. Some of the most famous tourist destinations in the world are car-free, or else, car-limited. [I strongly recommend a perusal of this link.]

      There are great resources, such as local bike shops that offer goods and services that just would not be available without the upswing of cycle culture.

      But, I don't want to take a dozen pictures of every bike related thing I do. I don't want to ride with fifty other people. Hell, I often don't want to ride with one other person, because I'm either going too fast for them, or too slow, depending on who I'm with. I don't want to be in a club, or on a billboard, I don't want to fetishize cycling.  I just want the world to make sense. I just want to ride my bike, and be left the hell alone, most significantly by cars in a hurry. I'm Freddie Mercury out here, people.

      As with all important issues (yes, emissions reduction and a healthier lifestyle for the general population is massively important), I wish no one ever had to say anything. I wish the facts were evident without having to take a needle to every personal bubble where people think their silly little misinformed thoughts. Look at the hate that pride groups, or civil rights groups, or feminists, or really anyone trying to do something to make the world better, experiences. That's common, and such hate is a common reaction to any group like that on the come-up. Hell, the term "Social Justice Warrior" has somehow become a pejorative.

     So, I don't want to join that group. I can articulate on my own, without logos, labels, or limericks; I don't need or want someone to speak for me.

     Further, I've noticed that, when it comes to cycling, almost everyone is wrong (and I am not here suggesting I am totally in the right, but, righter than many). Most people can be forgiven their prejudices pretty easily; for both cyclists and motorists there is no public education program for how to deal with this new plague of eco-friendly, healthy monsters.

      That means a lot of cyclists don't know how to behave on the road, and a lot of motorists don't know how to behave around cyclists. I don't want to discuss the rules. I am not a public educator. I am a goon, here to whack people over the head with the mallet of sense. I'm like nerdy Thor.

      Not being a part of such a community does stir some internal conflict. A united front would go a long way to influencing both policy and public opinion, which is desperately needed. However, all debates around the subject inevitably degrade into useless shouting/typing matches, and have no use for things like facts, evidence, and logic.If you've looked at any groups going head up these days, you might notice that "united fronts" seem only to further divide people.

      We're a small minority, I know, but we're growing (even that "we" hurts my soul). Cycling is coming into vogue, and big cities especially are adding them into their urban plans. People, even old curmudgeons, will have to approach this issue with maturity and logic instead of anger and habit...or habitual anger.

     And I well understand the motorist's frustration with bikes. With Windsor lacking protected lanes in most places, bikes are, at best, in the way, and often in dangerous violation of the law.

      Asshole Cyclists I've seen in the last month:

      -A group of idiots riding against traffic on a busy road. This is a good way to die.

      -A man who looked like he should really know better in his full cycling kit complete with helmet and rearview, probably in his mid-fifties, cut around me (I was in a truck) then circled left around a car at a red light, to go on through the red.

      -People zipping up sidewalks with no regard for pedestrians.

      -An old guy in my neighbourhood who almost certainly lost his licence to a DUI, balancing a case and a garbage bag of empty bottles for return to The Beer Store, dumped his load in the street - shattering glass all over the road and sidewalk. He rode away.

      All of these are reprehensible behaviours, and I won't even start in on what the hell people on E-Bikes think they're doing. Stupid cycling can make accidental murderers out of motorists, devastating someone's life for no fault of their own.

      But this is not every cyclist, so let's cut the fuckin' shit.

      I've heard many blisteringly stupid arguments against bikes, such as:

      -They slow down traffic.
      Except, no, they don't really, especially in a city, with stop lights and lots of cars on the road. Time it, I dare you.

      -They don't deserve the roads that motorists pay for.
      Except most cyclists still pay taxes, and the majority also drive cars, so, no. If you really want to allocate the road based on whose taxes pay for the largest portions of it, then we can all drive on about a six foot patch of pavement. Sounds efficient.

      -They break the rules.
      You don't speed? You don't check your phone in the car? Never done a rolling stop? Everyone breaks the rules. The average cycling infraction is far, far less consequential than that of a motor vehicle, so unless you're prepared to go after jay walkers and people doing 10 km over the speed limit on the 401, temper your argument with sense.

      Here's my argument.

      Bikes, the easiest way to make sure you aren't being an asshole on the road is to just act like you're in a car. Since you're going slow, move over to let people pass as long as it is safe to do so. For the love of god, stop at stop signs and lights. Don't be an asshole just because you can. 

      And if you're in a car and come upon a bike, act like they're a car. You wouldn't pass a car within millimetres, and you wouldn't scream at a car for exercising their basic right to turn left. Your hurry is not more important than my life. Your hurry is not more important than my life. Your hurry is not more important than my life. Your hurry is not more important than my life. Your hurry is not more important than my life.

       It won't solve everything every time, but it's a really good way not to kill anyone.

      I don't want to be a cycling advocate. That does not mean I want to be in the opposing group. I just want healthy people and a healthy planet.

      Although Jaws is definitely my scene, and I do like Star Wars.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

UnderOath Rebirth Tour

Friday, April 8, 2016.

Feels like coming home.

Top 5 best shows ever (+ Elton John solo, BtBaM's Parallax II tour, Protest's Fortress front-to-back tour, and Ke$ha.)

My neighbours my neighbours.

Caspian's frontman looks like Kev.

Casting Such a Thin lens flare.  
Spencer's gonna eat your heart. 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Goliath and David, Swords and Pens

       The shepherd boy, with his sling stolen from a dead soldier who was surely more practiced with it than he, nonetheless let fly a stone straight and true. Onlookers marveled at his courage, his faith. When the projectile struck its mark, and the giant staggered, hearts on one side of the ravine sunk, those on the other side soared.

      Goliath recovered his footing and straightened up. His forehead was already sprouting a mighty goose egg, so he discarded the helmet that chafed at it. Then he laughed.

      David, to his credit, only stood there, shaking, for a moment, before loading up another stone. Marvelously, this one, too, hit Goliath, but it glanced off the bronze breastplate and caused no damage.

      Goliath was a warrior, from a race of warriors, who admired valor and lived by a code of honour, crude and violent though it may have been. As such, he respected the valiance of the youth, but could not bring himself to treat him as an equal.

      "What god is this that would send a child against men?" he asked his steward.

      "They believe their faith strengthens them," the steward answered. It was a strange custom to the Philistines, who made sacrifices, but of their enemies, not their children.

      "I will not give battle to a boy," he told the steward. Then, to the enemy camp, he shouted. "Will you hide behind your children? Not one of you is man enough to face me? Saul? Will you not stand for your people?"

      No voices made reply, and the wind mocked them all.

      Then, as Goliath stared down his cowardly opponents, another stone struck him, straight between the eyes. It had not come from David, who had been stock-still, muttering to himself with his eyes closed since his second shot found itself ineffective. Goliath stumbled backward, slipped, lost his footing, and buckled sideways to the ground.

     "Now, boy!" yelled a voice. A cacophony of similar cries rose to join it.

      David ran forward to where the giant lay dazed in the dirt. "Not so big on your back, eh Philistine?" he mocked, reaching for Goliath's sword. "Your size is nothing to the God who made us all."

     "I let you live, shepherd. What do you mean to do now?"

      In answer, David grasped the sword, nearly as tall as he, with both hands, but he struggled to raise the blade. He fought with the weight as Goliath sat up, shaking the cloud off his head. David's small arms shook and strained, but he dropped the sharp edge in the dirt, the point grazing Goliath's breastplate harmlessly.

     "You're brave, I'll give you that," said Goliath, snatching the sword from David, then throwing it to his steward who caught it easily. "Would you like to learn how to use that properly? Would you like to grow up strong, instead of herding sheep?"

     "The Lord is my strength!" David yelled, and rushed at the giant, throwing his fists wildly.

     Goliath stuck a huge hand out and snatched the boy by the face. "Look at me!" He shook the youth's head in his grip, but the crazed look would not leave David's eyes.

      "Fine," said Goliath, "then go. But remember who let you live, and who sent you out to die. When your brothers lie dead all over this valley with mine, remember that if they had been men, they could have ended this with almost no blood." He threw the boy, headfirst, into the dirt, disgusted, then turned and walked back up the ridge with his steward.

       "What shall we tell the men?" the steward asked.

       "Nothing," said Goliath. "Unless these Hebrews come to face us like men, we will leave this place in three days. There will be no battle to record. There is nothing for us in this desert, anyway. I will not stain the sand or the men's blades with the blood of fanatical cowards for a scrap of desolate coast."

       David picked himself up from the dirt, scared and scraped and scratched but otherwise unharmed. He ran with all the speed he could muster back to Saul's tent, and recounted what happened through trembling lips, his stutter plaguing him the whole while.

      The wind picked up, and tore through valley. A rare rain broke through the skies that evening, lashing at the tents in both camps. The next morning, Goliath and his steward stood in the mud, calling the same challenge, but it went unanswered. For two more days, the camps faced each other silently, until the orders were given and the Philistines packed up and headed back down to their ships.

      The Hebrews cheered their victory, saying the Lord sent the storms to chase the invaders off, saying the faith of the shepherd boy broke the giant's courage. They broke camp and headed for home. On the march, Saul ordered his scribe.

      "The world must know how the Lord sent the boy to turn back the giant. Write what happened here, that the kingdom will know their God protects them."

      "Why not kill the giant?" asked the scribe.

      "Hm?" asked Saul.

      "They're gone, either way, right? Perhaps the Lord gave the boy the strength to slay Goliath. Perhaps this was a heroic victory for the Hebrews." The scribe bounced his eyebrows and gestured to where David sat, shaking and mumbling, rocking side to side as the donkey carried him dutifully along. "The boy has faith in spades, that cannot be denied."

      "Whatever," said the king, with a wave of his hand. "Just write something."

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015 is...

...not going to be miserable and depressed. I've decided. Over it.