#9 The one where we go 420 in 2020

Kia ora whānau,

I’m working on a new story and I’m pretty excited about it. Okay, you got me. I’m “planning” to work on a new story. It’s going to cover a lot of my worries about the future and where we’re all headed. My hope is I share it week by week, chapter by chapter. I’m not sure how long it will be. Although I have plotted a rough outline, I want the story to dictate how it will be shaped. I do have a tendency to rush through stories rather than linger in them, hence my preference for writing short stories. I’ll use this story as practise, to try and stay in the scene if you will.

My favourite bit about writing is the brainstorm, throwing every idea at the page and solving the puzzle. The worst? The fear and procrastination leading up to the writing. Let’s see if I can break through that wall.

So while I get that going, here’s Mike’s Soapbox. Funny how my newsletter was originally themed on Mike’s Minute and now I’ve full gone full Mike Hosking. The anti-Mike-Hosking mind you. My ideas on politics and society are what you might say, completely opposite to his.

Mike’s Soapbox

The Reeferendum

Heard about that 2020 reeferendum? I’ve been following Chlöe Swarbrick’s time in parliament with great interest. Not only is she parliament’s youngest mp but is easily one of the most progressive. Early last year she came on one of our tramps as part of Ōtaki Summer Camp. I was too shy to actually approach her about anything political but I did manage to make a fool of myself in front of her and freak out at a spider on my backpack. And that wasn’t even the first time…

The first time, I was at PSA Youth’s hui in Palmerston North and I found myself eating lunch and stuck in a circle, awkwardly trapped and unable to leave. With Chlöe present conversation quickly turned to politics and Patrick Gower. Not wanting to be the silent weird guy nodding I made a comment about Patrick Gower and Gollum. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have gone for the lazy joke. Yes, he’s done a lot of crap but god knows we should be better than reducing people to their appearance. But enough about my awkwardness. Onto the meaty stuff!

Late last year I was in parliament to see The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill read by a passionate Chlöe Swarbrick, my first time in parliament to listen to a particular bill. There were many supporters up in the gallery also keen for people who use cannabis for chronic pain relief and terminal illness not to be treated as criminals. After Chlöe spoke we erupted into applause and we were next warned by the Speaker that we would get removed from the gallery if we continued to interfere with the debate. Unfortunately, it didn’t pass with its original aims and instead, we got a watered-down bill.

Why do I support legalising and regulating cannabis despite not using it myself? Well, quite simply it’s about decriminalisation. I truly believe cannabis should be legal and regulated like alcohol but instead many people are caught up in the justice system because of cannabis. Cannabis isn’t going away. As we’ve seen, the war on drugs doesn’t work. Legalising will also help address black markets provided we don’t go the route of big corporations swallowing everyone whole. Chlöe’s really read up on this stuff. Seeing her debate is something to be seen.

Review

The Master (2012)

Paul Thomas Anderson loves a good poisoning, doesn’t he? Perhaps there’s a metaphor here, for how he likes to drug and sedate his audience. Like I found with his two latest films, Inherent Vice and Phantom Thread, they tend to drag after the mid-point. There’s not enough meat on the bones to justify the extensive running time and these films tend to circle themselves over familiar themes. At least The Master is a something to drool over. The cinematography by Mihai Mălaimare Jr. is gorgeous and captures some stunning performances.

I sat riveted as Joaquin Phoenix stretched the muscles in his face, contorting and twitching as he took part in a psychological test. I can see why they picked him for the upcoming Joker movie. He’s also an excellent drunk and a creative mixologist. Who knew a dash of paint thinner could help make moonshine? Let’s just say I won’t be going to him for a cocktail anytime soon.

I’m surprised I’m still finding films with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is sadly no longer with us. He is unquestionably his phenomenal self. There’s not much disguising it. Hoffman’s character is clearly inspired by Scientology’s L. Ron Hubbard, who also writes spiritual texts and starts a religion. ‘The Cause’ is complete with dianetics and auditing (reliving past experiences).
Reading

  • I’m continuing my non-fiction buzz with Console Wars by Blake J. Harris. It’s about the history of videogames and the “war” between Sega and Nintendo. Being part of the Sony PlayStation generation I wasn’t immediately interested in this, despite the hosts of my goto videogame podcast raving about it; DLC. But they recently had the author on as a guest and as he described how the book was written my ears pricked up. It’s not your standard fact-fest, blow by blow, but more of a novelisation, with dialogue constructed from interviews and other sources. Think, more of a biopic; and with a documentary and film in the works I can see why. Harris also noted George R.R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire as inspiration for the book and the metaphorical Iron Throne, in this case, was top of the videogame world. I haven’t enjoyed a videogame history book as much as Masters of Doom by David Kushner and so far this one is hitting all the right notes.
     
  • Also recommended by Harris was The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr., E.B. White. Reading it so far, it’s more than just a general style guide, but rather, how to write in the English language cleanly and economically by stripping away unnecessary words. I have a lot to learn in that regard.
     
  • Prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, wrote about The Christchurch call to action in her op-ed with the New York Times. She met with world leaders and tech representatives at the Christchurch Call summit to talk about taking action on extremist content on social media platforms like Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t show up but Twitter’s Jack Dorsey did. Of course, just showing up isn’t the same as taking action and Facebook at least has made a commitment to remove white nationalist content while Twitter has continued to do nothing.

Listening

  • I’m not a big music guy. I listen to music, of course. But my knowledge of the industry and artists, in general, is severely lacking and my tastes haven’t really changed since college. I tend to swing towards the operatic alternative. I’ve been listening to The Cranberries’ final album, In the End, released in April. You may have heard the lead singer, Dolores O’Riordan, died last year. The band were working on the album when she passed and they had the difficult undertaking of completing it without her. Interestingly, as part of their process, she often recorded her vocals at home. This episode of the podcast, Song Exploder, goes into more detail on the track, All Over Now. Anyhow, as noted I don’t have the best background in music but I can only describe it as a sombre experience especially with songs like In the End. Dolores’ voice is soft but retains the distinct and cutting vocals she is known for.
  • Two of the biggest things in pop culture have wrapped up. We had Avengers Endgame last month and (as of today) the final season of Game of Thrones. I’ve listened to so many podcasts dissecting both of these juggernauts. But recently I’ve found simply returning to the scores can help recapture the goosebumps from certain cinematic moments. Like Ramin Djwaldi’s 9 minute piano score, The Night King, for the big battle episode of Game of Thrones. It actually reminded me of the score for Westworld, another HBO show, known for its piano music, which as luck would have it, is also created by Djwaldi. And Alan Silverstri’s Portals which plays in Avengers Endgame’s climactic battle, concluding the saga of 22 Marvel films.

Watching

  • Noclip has done it again with this doco on Telltale Games. Danny O’Dwyer talks to four employees who were unceremoniously dismissed last year along with everyone else when the studio shut up shop. It’s a poignant reminder about the precariousness of work in the games industry. They’re living what most would consider a dream job (it was my aspiration for a good many years) but “crunch” and toxic management can destroy all passion and creativity.
     
  • This explainer video covers the abortion ban in Georgia. Then there was the move in Alabama.  I’ve come a long way since the days when I naively thought if someone had an unwanted pregnancy they should carry it to full term for adoption, never mind the dangers of pregnancy and the broken adoption system. Oh yeah and it’s not my body, why do I get a say? Why does anyone? Sign the petition to remove abortion from the New Zealand crimes act.

Final Thoughts

Now for some unsolicited advice. Leave a nice review of your favourite thing you repeatedly return to; whether it a cafe, restaurant or podcast. It not only means the world to them but helps get others to check out their stuff. I’m prone to thinking, oh yes I’ll do it later and I’ve been back to these places for years. So do it today, before you put it off again.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, rate it 5 stars on Apple Podcasts.

*flicks lighter*

Michael

@mriceguy
michaeljgray.com