“I don’t want to be a writer anymore.” A moment’s silence hangs in the air in the hope that it will convince Steve. Or someone. Anyone. “And it’s not because those guys at the real estate agency never called me back about the copywriter position that I applied for,” I say with a little more bite than intended.

Steve examines each of his fingernails with the ferocious intensity of a surgeon, moving his hand down and away from his face in an effort to see each nail in a different light. “Are you even listening, man? I said I don’t want to be a writer anymore. I’m done. Kaput. No more.” I wave my hands frantically to illustrate my nihilistic determination. “Writing’s a dead end and I’m not as good as I thought I was anyway.” Another moment’s silence as I watch him for a reaction.

I continue. “I totally get all that stuff they say about how if you want to be successful writer you have to push past the rejection and just keep trying, but this isn’t that. It’s different. I genuinely, honest-to-Allah don’t want to be a writer anymore. I tried doing a writing exercise the other day, but I just ended up drawing a picture of David Hasselhoff on Microsoft Paint. See?” I show him the picture on my phone. “I guess I got distracted or something.”
hasselhoff
Steve’s not listening, it seems, so I allow myself to indulge in this tangent. “I don’t know why I felt the urge to draw him, it’s just what came to mind. I think I saw him in an ad on TV recently. Good on him for getting back on the horse, you know? All that stuff with his daughter filming him eating a burrito while he was drunk a while back. So sad when a family falls apart in the spotlight. But I always thought him doing SpongeBob square pants was a good career mo-“

“Bullshit.” Alas, Steve finally speaks, looking up from his freshly cleaned nails.

“Excuse me?” I say in mock disbelief.

“Bullshit,” he repeats.

“Do you care to elaborate?” He doesn’t, actually. He goes back to his fingernails, much to my irritation. We’re sitting at an outside table at café Blue, or Rouge, or some fucking colour on Little Lonsdale Street, and it’s serviced by hipsters just like me. I openly loathe the waiter’s arm tattoos because they’re at least as original as mine, and decide to sneer at him as he hands me my skinny decaf latte. His beard is potentially more pimpin’ than mine, too. Fucking hipsters.

The sun is out but the wind blows cooler than I prefer. 24 degrees my ass. “Hello yellow! … Yo, Steve!” I yell, cupping my hands around my mouth to disturb his vow of silence.

“I said bullshit. As in, you’re full of it,” he quips with a straight face. I stare at him with my mouth open, again in mock disbelief and allowing my chewing gum to spill out and on to the table. I keep my eyes on him as I pick it up and put it back in my mouth. He offers a brief glare of disgust, and then continues. “You do want to be a writer, and you’re not ‘over it’. You’re just afraid. Stop being such a pussywillow.”

“Well I-“

“You think that if you quit you’ll be doing yourself a favour. Choose something less stressful, or something that requires less effort and all that.”

“Yeah but-“

And you think that by complaining about it to me, you’ll be able to garner some sympathy or – worse yet – get me to convince you that it was a bad idea to begin with, and that it’s better for you to give up on it and do something else. What kind of fantasy are you living in, man?”

“Kiss my a-“

“And you know what? Maybe it was a bad idea. Or maybe it wasn’t, pursuing this writing thing. But the facts – as I see them here” (he taps the table with his index finger to bring home the point) “is that you’re too afraid to stick around and follow through on it because ‘it hasn’t worked in the past’. And let me tell you, that story has been played, man.” Steve says ‘it hasn’t worked in the past’ in a childish, pouty voice while scrunching up his face.I grimace. Do I sound like that? 

“I don’t sound like that.” I point a cautionary middle finger at him with the hand that picks up my latte-to-go.

Steve continues his verbal assault. “What was it, two weeks ago? You said to me – and I quote – ‘I couldn’t think of a better job than being a copywriter. It’s creative, there’s freedom to travel, and it has the potential to pay really well.” He’s still doing the whiny kid routine.

“Yeah but that was before I realised that-“

“‘and I’m good at it, and I think I’d enjoy it,” Steve continues, counting the quotes from our conversation verbatim on his impeccably spotless fingers.

“Yes, but-” I say patiently, “but that was before this last interview, whereby I clearly demonstrated that I lack the required steely nerves to write to deadlines. You gotta write to deadlines in the writing industry, mate. I choked on a simple writing task, and I totally choked in that interview.” I feel smug and look self-satisfied as I sit back with my arms behind my head, nodding to bring home the point. And then I realise that I’m doing my whole self-defeating shtick again.

“Wait,” I lean forward, serious faced again. “So you think I should continue with the writing thing? Is that what I’m hearing?”

“I think you should do whatever you want. Write, don’t write. Hiss at the waiter because his beard is bigger than yours. It’s your life, hermano.”

“I didn’t hiss, I sneered derisively.” I point out matter of factly.

“But lose the codependency spiel, man. It’s your life. I’m just statin’ the facts as I see ‘em.” He goes back to polishing his nails. I make a mental note to write a short story about our conversation today. But not before I take a sip of my latte and glare in the direction of the hipster waiter.

“And, for the record,” Steve says, breaking my concentration, “it was a burger. Did you even watch the video?”

“I beg yours?”

“Hasselhoff? His daughter? He was eating a burger. Not a burrito.”

“Well I still think SpongeBob was a good career move anyway.”

“At least we can agree on that,” Steve Chuffs.

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Reel Time #1: A Review of Burnt

Should I or shouldn’t I? It’s the Melbourne Cup, and it’s my day off, and I want to see a movie. But you’ll be out of a job in February. And your lease expires in Feb, too. I think you should take the safe route and save your money, says the Daniel on my shoulder dressed in the latest angelwear.

Nah. I fucking love movies, man. Which means I gotta find the time and money for them, because they’re my passion.

I’d already done my yoga, my walk, and some writing for the day. Emails were all sent. All the little boxes in my checklist, ticked. Now, I wanted to see a movie. And see a movie I did.

Burnt is the story of Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper), the ex-drug using, foul-mouthed and foul-mooded 2-star Michelin chef who’s just shucked his one-millionth oyster in self-imposed exile. Why? As penance for the disgraced drug, booze and sex-fueled spiral that led to his downfall from the top of the heap as Paris’s most celebrated chef.

And now he’s back – but this time in London – and he’s after his 3rd Michelin star. Director John Wells tells the story of Burnt in rapid bursts, using quick shots and stylish editing to bring to life the insanity and fury that encapsulates Jones, his kitchen, and his relationships, as well as his single-minded method of madness.
Burnt_Poster
The cast is pretty spot on, too. Sienna Miller plays Jones’s adversary-then-lover. Daniel Brühl, of Joyeux Noel and Inglorious Basterds fame, is the charismatic and slightly camp South-American maître d’. There’s a quick cameo from Uma Thurman as a hard-hearted food critic with a soft spot for our protagonist, but I was most happy to see the much-loved (well, I love him) Omar Sy slowly edging his way in to the American market as the questionable Michel.

But the greatest thing about Burnt is that it’s a movie about the pursuit of one’s passion. I felt thoroughly moved watching Jones as he doggedly claws his way back from obscurity and addiction, winning friends and losing them along the way.

It got me thinking a lot about the inherent need to put yourself out there if you want to achieve your goals. How, if you want something bad enough, you need just the right mix of grit, grovel, craziness – and a little help from your friends – to get to the top of your desired heap.

I’ve spent a great deal of my life hiding from the spotlight, because it scares me. Pure and simple. It’s easier to hide in obscurity than try and fail, and have your efforts subjected to scrutiny. It links closely to the experience of shame, that horrible feeling that rarely has a good word to say about anything positive.

But here I am, trying still, one day at a time. Here’s to good flicks and fervent determination!

Michael Jordan is probably good at Self-Care.

Michael Jordan said you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. He’s also quoted as saying that he’s missed game-winning shots on multiple occasions, much to the dismay of his team mates.
Jordan vs Magic
I thought of these things today while I was stewing over an article I attempted to write yesterday. Once I’d completed the first draft, I re-read it multiple times. In my head, my evaluation started off well enough: ‘This is good, it makes sense,’. Then slowly it turned in to ‘maybe if I just tweak this paragraph here, then it’ll flow a little better’, and not long after that ‘I have to re-arrange the entire thing. It’s crap,’ before it collapsed in to ‘It’s useless. I’m useless. What’s the freaking point?’

The negative feedback loop escalated pretty quickly in my head. Interestingly, I completely forgot (or neglected) to do all the little self-regulatory things that keep me balanced throughout the day.

Things like doing a random body scan to check in with my body, drinking plenty of water, going to the bathroom, and eating lunch. If I’d done these things, I’d probably have noticed in the moment that I was feeling quite anxious about the outcome of the article.

Not that it mattered; there was no deadline and it was for my own practice. But the feeling of it not being good enough – relative to all the other writers out there – crept in as a whisper at first, then as though it were being broadcasted over a megaphone, causing me to backtrack and re-write, and ultimately to doubt myself and the choice I’ve made to pursue writing.

Clearly, this self-hate shtick has to change. And it will. But only through self-compassion and mini-steps. True, I’m new to the whole “writing an article” thing, so my method isn’t perfect yet. But I reckon I’ll learn all that stuff in time if I stick at it. That’s the key, right?

Everybody knows that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because he sucked ass. What clearly makes his story so impressive is that he didn’t give up. He kept practising despite the odds, despite his own failures. He kept looking for ways to get better, and he kept saying ‘no thanks’ when the word ‘no’ was repeatedly thrown in his face.

So with regular self-care, self-confidence built form the ground up, bit by bit, I will find my success. Day at a time and all that, you know? Anyway, I think I’ll buy myself some Air Jordans today.

Dreams: A Reflection of Self or a Process of Recovery?

I had an intense dream last night, which I associate with my ongoing recovery. The content was a little distressing, but for the most part it just involved dinosaurs – a Stegosaurus defending its eggs against a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It was a pretty epic battle, I must say. In the dream, the Stegosaurus loses the fight, and its eggs. I was shattered when I woke up.

The intensity of the dream got me thinking this morning about how much stock to invest in the meaning of dreams. When I have a bad dream, am I a bad person? Or just someone who is processing bad things? I’d like to think the latter, and like most people I suspect it, too. I suppose we put as much stock in dreams as we choose, and we just roll with that.
nycplatformpic
And I’ve certainly put much stock in some of my previous dreams. For a time, I had a recurring dream that I was standing on the platform of a train station in Brooklyn, looking towards the Big Apple. This was one dream I could not let go; I ended up buying a ticket to NYC, based on that dream, and stood on the very platform I stood on in my dream. It seemed like a very Paulo Coelho/Alchemist-like experience.

This time though, with my most recent dream, I’m just gonna chalk it down to my brain trying to make sense of the past. And maybe I’ll watch Jurassic Park, too.

Sweet dreams!

Passion and the Pursuit of.

A few days ago my friend Michael and I were at a pizza bar discussing the practicalities of pursing one’s passions. As he swigged his pint o’ pale ale, he declared in a charming British accent (he’s British) his well-rehearsed dilemma: “I love F1 racing cars, but I work in finance. It’s killing me.” As my pizza arrived, I related to his predicament. “Me too. I totally get that. I mean, cars bore the shit out of me,” I said without filter, “but I do love writing.”

There we were, just a couple o’ disenchanted chaps sheepishly washing down life’s bitter disappointments, him with his beer and me with my delicious pizza pie. On the surface, he and I could acknowledge that we both had our reasons for not pursuing what we loved with a more go-get-‘em oomph. We both have adult responsibilities to keep, we mused. His wife had recently had a stroke, and he has two kids to provide for too. “That’s some heavy shit,” I conceded, patting my greasy hand on his shoulder. It just wasn’t practical for him to follow his passion at this juncture of his life. And me too, I pondered, hoping the denial would stick.

“And you,” he faithfully consoled, “you’ve got…you’ve got your, uh…” I have various plants that require biannual watering, and a subscription to the Big Issue that doesn’t pay for itself, I thought sheepishly. We could easily have gone on and on about the various obstructions on our path to the Good Life. Actually, we did go on and on. Several beers later, as we pissed into the urinal we deduced that what it really came down to was just a sense of fear. I’m afraid of pursuing my dreams because what if, you know? And Michael’s afraid of losing it all, and he doesn’t even have that much to lose, he pointed out.

Fuck it. “There’s no shame in being afraid,” I said defiantly as we sat back down at our booth. I picked up his beer and, with one eye on him, proceeded to drink what remained. Our eyes locked, but the challenge went unanswered. “I mean we’re human after all, right?” And it’s true. Although they say that fear is the greatest motivator, when fear of failure takes over it loses its motivational edge and just feels more like a…like a…“Like a blunt object taken to the side of your head,” my English compatriot remarked despondently. Sure, why not. The conversation trailed off to an uncomfortable silence. The obstacles to pursuing our passions, and the dull throbbing that comes with being clubbed in the face by one’s own fears, hung in our collective air space with an unmistakably chunky weight.

“But,” Michael cleared his throat, murmuring “at the end of the day, passion is passion, right? If you want it, you just gotta go for it in spite of the shit that gets in the way.” I looked up from my pizza, wide-eyed and with a stringy piece of mozzarella dangling tenaciously from the corner of my mouth. I nodded in agreement with his simple union jack profundity. Passion is passion. That’s all there is to it, really. All the rest is static if you just stay focused. Which is not to say that family responsibilities and financial obligations are background noise. “I just have to make it work for myself,” Michael said resolutely. Invigorated, I briefly considered purchasing a motivational poster with a picture of an orca whale and a definition of the word Focus underneath it.

His logic was undeniable: If you want it, you just make it work. I decided not to query Michael on how he would simply make it work for himself. But then maybe it’s not meant to be simple. Maybe it’s a two steps forward, one step back kinda process, you know? You just take the blows as they come, always keeping your eyes on your passion prize. Michael lunged across the table and grabbed my last slice of pizza as I reached for it. “Besides,” he said, finally returning the challenge, “how am I supposed to ignore that nagging shit of a voice that whispers, ‘Well how bad do ya want it, anyway?’” How indeed, I thought as I contemplated where the closest poster-framing establishment might be located at.

Review: Samba (Movie)

Reel Reminiscent #2: A Review of Samba 
Directed by Eric Toledano & Olivier Nakache
Starring Omar Sy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Tahar Rahim, Izïa Higelin

Samba opens with an extravagant and flamboyant wedding reception contrasted with the tireless hospitality workers who serve behind the scenes. Here we meet Samba (Omar Sy), a heavy-hearted kitchen hand who spends his days working menial jobs to provide for his family in Senegal, before returning to a detention center where he has been incarcerated as an illegal immigrant for nearly a decade.

Samba-promo-pic
The plot is divided between the accidental love story that evolves between Samba and the burnt-out executive Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg), whose stressful day job has led her to charity work at a legal aid center, and on Samba’s unlawful efforts to find work while simultaneously avoiding immigration authorities.

Viewers expecting to see a carefree, audacious and ill-behaved Omar Sy in Samba as they did in The Intouchables will be slightly disappointed. While there is still an element of the boyish light-heartedness filmgoers fell in love with in his previous collaboration with directors Toledano and Nakache, one senses quickly that the world Sy inhabits in Samba is indeed a more somber (and sober) one. Which is not to say that Sy’s onscreen presence, this time as a hapless fugitive, is lacking. Sy manages to portray through sad, smiling eyes and an all-but-defeated posture the weight that comes with an immigrant’s obligations to both family and friends amidst growing pressures to either assimilate or vacate in modern day Paris.

samba-on-train
Although humour is an expected staple in Samba, additional comic relief is found in the protagonist’s nonchalant “Brazilian” chum Walid (Tahar Rahim). To those only vaguely familiar with Rahim’s film credentials, his comical efforts are an unlikely but welcomed departure from his Godfather-esque performance in The Prophet. The chemistry between Sy and Rahim is generous and intimate, and no more so than in a scene where they attempt to evade immigration authorities on foot and over a Paris rooftop.

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The film’s editor, Dorian Rigal-Ansous, does reasonably well to create a seamless story. Scenes are playfully juxtaposed with the intention of giving the viewer the sense that the plot has skipped a crucial moment. This subtle effect is evident when, after a boozy celebration at the legal aid center, the viewer is transported to Alice’s apartment, where Samba sits awkwardly on a couch engaging in what appears to be uncomfortable post-coitus chatter. Thankfully, the plot continues to unfold in a more logical fashion.

The score, composed by Ludovico Einaudi, is at times reminiscent of the dreamlike piano compositions that Yann Tiersen created to help make Amelie an unforgettable viewing treat. The haunting but hopeful compilation augments the sense of angst Samba faces in balancing his various responsibilities and relationships while constantly being pursued. The soundtrack compliments the optimistic overtones Samba aims at portraying, with the choice to include Syreeta Wright and Stevie Wonder’s To know you is to love you subtly augmenting the film’s exploration of the themes of identity and relationships.

All in all, Samba is a feel-good flick that continues the successful collaboration between its duo directors and the charming and expressive Omar Sy. With plenty of laughs and just the right amount of catastrophe, Samba is well worth the price of admission (or, in this case, the $3.95 from your local video store).

Nice touch: Gainsbourg’s quip about “excessive sex” seems to be a cheeky nod to her role as a sex addict in the exploratory 2013 flick Nymphomanic.

Welcome… To Jurassic park! Er, no, wait…Welcome to my blog!

Welcome, welcome.

My name is Daniel and this here is my brand-spanking new blog! I’ll level with you. The reason I’m starting this blog is because I won’t have a job in February 2016. Well, to be slightly more accurate, my contract of employment won’t be getting renewed. Shitty, hey?

I work for a call centre that pays pretty well. But to honest, I don’t enjoy it. I work there because I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and there’s a part of me that thinks that it’s all I can do, all that I’m good for. It’s obviously a little more complicated than that (and it’s obviously not true, either!), but I’ll keep going, it’ll make more sense in a moment.  Continue reading “Welcome… To Jurassic park! Er, no, wait…Welcome to my blog!”