A Letter to Future Generations: Chapter 1

Dear Future Folk,

Hi. My name is Jordan and I’m almost 30 years old. I’m not anyone famous or important. I’m just someone who wants to be a writer, or an actor, or maybe a musician. I also care a lot about the terrible things that are happening now – 2018 – and feel it’s important to let you know that not everyone just…went along with it.

I know – from experience – that it’s easy to look back on a people or country or whathaveyou and just want to shake them by the shoulders and shout, “What were you thinking? Why did nobody stop this?” And, now that I feel like I’m living through a time like that, I don’t think there’s any kind of easy answer.

I’m Jewish, by the way, so when I talk about looking back, I’m looking back to World War 2 and Germany and the Nazis and the Holocaust and thinking, “Why did no one care?”

And it’s easy to say, “Well, it was a different time, people didn’t necessarily know what was going on. And besides, the secret police!”

And, sure, maybe all that applies. But at the same time, it’s more than that. In the United States right now, a former reality TV star is president, and he’s ripping children from the arms of their parents and putting them into camps. People are angry about it at least, which is good, saying, “This is not America!” even though America did this a bunch of times.

The President then signed an order saying the kids could stay with their parents, as long as he could detain the whole family indefinitely in prison. Of course, that’ll get voted down, which means he can keep stealing the kids and prosecuting the parents for being “illegal immigrants”.

Meanwhile, he got the idea from us here in Australia, where we take boatloads of refugees/asylum seekers/illegal immigrants and throw them into horrible prisons in a different country and, essentially, throw away the key. In fact, we were condemned by the United Nations for crimes against humanity for the way we treat them. And our Home Affairs minister just asked us to “abandon compassion” for these refugees, because that would allow people smugglers to win.

This is all done in the name of “border security” which, of course, is nonsense. We here in Australia – and those in the USA – just want to maintain the whiteness of our countries. More brown people, especially if their Muslim = bad. White people, especially if their Christian = just fine and dandy.

And, no, there aren’t protests in the streets every day. Most people have tuned it out – and that includes me. I write articles for an online newspaper every now and then, and I get mad in person when it gets brought up in conversation, and I vote the right way, but overall that’s it. I don’t go out there and stomp any head. I don’t march on the capital.

And you know why?

Because people just want to get on with their lives. They want to enjoy life. And we’re lazy. We’re so lazy. It’s so hard to organize standing up for something when you have work and weekend plans and dreams. And that sounds selfish, but there is fucking is. That’s who we are.

And that doesn’t make us bad people. It just makes us people. If there was a protest on the weekend, or of an evening, yeah I’d do. But I’m not going to organize it. I can’t just not show up to work, or not work at all, I have an apartment to afford, and I need to eat. That’s the thing about all this: it’s all well and good to say, “Well I would have stood up!” But let’s see how big your talk is when you’re in my situation.

It all happens gradually, and the government makes it all legal – which, no, is not the same thing as moral – and after a while of eating it all up in the news day after day after day, you just become numb to it. You’re unable to muster the same rage. Because rage is exhausting, and so is life.

Don’t think ill of us. There’s lots of us trying really hard, doing more than I am. And I believe we’ll win – we’ll throw the bums out and shame them into living in caves – but the streets aren’t rioting all the time because, honestly, we just…don’t operate that way. Humans never have, and probably never will.

Until next time, shalom.

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No New Monsters

I was thinking about movie monsters the other day. The thought train probably started when I was looking up the first reference to the story of the Monkey’s Paw. For those unfamiliar, the idea is that a mummified monkey’s paw offers a certain number of wishes, but the results end up twisted and horrible. The number of wishes often depends on the telling, but the twist is always the same.

It’s so commonplace in our popular culture that it’s become a joke online recently about how things have turned out in the world.

I was certain the monkey paw story was some ancient parable about being careful what you wish for, and maybe it is, but the earliest reference to is the 1902 short story by W. W. Jacobs. And I thought that was so crazy. It’s just over 100 years old, but the idea of the monkey’s paw is so prevalent that it just is the thing that ruins your wishes. More than genies. More than demons or devils.

It then occurred to me, as often happens when you get on a thought train, that there haven’t really been any new monsters created in a really long time. Like, we do a lot of different stuff with the same old monsters, which is great, but there’s really about five categories: aliens, undead, giant animals, robots and science experiment. To a lesser extend magic objects and manifestations occur here, but those are less monsters and more catalysts; things like The Babadook for example.

The undead covers zombies, vampires, skeletons, mummies, etc. Science experiments covers things like Frankenstein-esque corpse-stitching to make new life, cyborgs – which are also, kind of, robots – and, I think, mutants belong here, too, as the mutants are often as a result of something mankind has done.

I just keep thinking of the first person to write a story about robots, or cyborgs, or aliens, and how terrifying it must have been. Night of the Living Dead was the first film to ever have cannibal zombies, and that was in 1968. Before that, zombies were always at the control of a necromancer or were at least raised by magic. Cannibal zombies are now the go-to.

I don’t know what a “new” monster would look like; it hasn’t been invented yet. A lot of the monsters we already have are based on old folklore and stories, we just have interpreted them in a variety of ways over the centuries. And I’m not saying I’m capable of just inventing some new horrifying monster, but I just find it noteworthy that we haven’t really seen anything especially new in a while.

Mahalo.

Lifebroker; Navigating Insurance in the Gig Economy

Freelancing is a huge part of my life, as I know it is with a great many others in my social circle; and seemingly the most popular way to earn a few extra dollars. If you work in television production, food delivery, IT or writing, this is especially true, although the “gig economy” affects a great many other sectors. I can only speak from experience.

 You’re never sure where your next paycheck is going to come from. As soon as you send in your invoice and get paid, it seems like it’s all gone out to pay bills. It worries me that, if I ever got sick or injured or had my laptop stolen, I wouldn’t be able to pay the bills at all. While the ‘gig economy’ is popular at the moment, with Uber and Deliveroo dominating our social media feeds, it pays to understand how we can both enjoy the flexibility of the gig economy but also ensure we see the benefits of traditional employment.

 That’s why insurance is so important. If anything should happen to you, or your property, insurance can be there to cushion the fall. If you remembered to make your payments on time.

 I know a lot of my friends, who work gigs as well, don’t have insurance because they think they don’t need it. The biggest barrier for many navigating the gig economy is what we are actually entitled to, and what we are not. For example, a freelancer generally has to work at minimum 20 hours a week before they can be eligible for income protection insurance. I have always worked more than this, and never realized I fell into this category. Finding the right insurance, though, can be a nightmare. Navigating the landscape can seem like something impossible to do.

 That’s where Lifebroker comes in.

 Whether you’re looking for life insurance, income protection, business expenses, total and permanent disability cover, or trauma cover, they can help you compare a wide variety of options.

They have 8 of Australia’s leading insurers you can choose from including TAL, MLC, and AMP. Depending on what you need, and how much you can afford, they can point you in the right direction. They even have great life insurance calculator, as well as an income protection calculator, to help you figure out how much cover you may need. It’s easy to use, and you can compare policies in detail, or simply by price. Compare income protection policies, and see what’s available out there.

 If, after all that, you’re still not sure what to do, you can call them on 13 54 33 to speak to an insurance specialist. Or, of course, you can email them using their online form.

 Sure, I love the flexibility and excitement of the gig economy. I love not knowing where I may end up working next week; but I don’t love not knowing how I will pay my rent should I unfortunately get ill or injured and cannot work. Fortunately, the ease of Lifebroker’s digital platform allowed me to understand what is available to me and most importantly, and easy want to access it. As someone who loves having options, I am glad that companies like Lifebroker provide options to those of us navigating the gig economy.

 Lifebroker only provides general advice, which means they haven’t considered your individual financial situation, objectives or needs. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement to understand if the product is right for your financial situation or needs.

We need to Be Better

I wrote something similar to this last year after reading Clementine Ford’s Fight Like a Girl, but with the #MeToo hashtag making the rounds, I feel it’s important to talk about it again. All these women around me, more every day, who have suffered. It’s heartbreaking.

I saw a post, from where I can’t remember, talking about how #MeToo places the onus on victims/survivors to display the scale of the problem, forcing them to “out” themselves to affect the social change necessary to stop sexual assault and harassment from being such an epidemic. I can see it from both sides.

On the one hand, seeing just how many women in your life have suffered at the hands of men like and unlike you will certainly show the scale of the issue, which may then cause you to stand up where before you may not have realized the intensity of the issue. On the other hand, it shouldn’t take innumerable women sharing their stories for you to act in a positive way towards women, or help them or speak out when you see them being mistreated.

Other posts I read – some from women, some from men – turned it back around on the men, bystanders or offenders. It stated that men should be posting #MeToo, accompanied by the times they did nothing when a man was making a woman uncomfortable, or when they did something to make a woman uncomfortable.

And that’s hard. And it should be hard. Just because you seek forgiveness, doesn’t mean it will be given. The important part is being self-aware and trying to become a better person. I’ve already seen a couple of men in my feeds do this.

#MeToo

There were times when I pursued a woman despite her insistence of being uninterested. Pop culture teaches young men that “no doesn’t really mean no, you just have to be persistent”. This is wrong. No means no. We are regaled with tales of men “wearing women down” until they said yes, or other such manipulations. This isn’t okay. We can’t keep teaching men this.

There were times when I said nothing when I knew a friend of mine was being harassed. I was a teenager and my friend’s boyfriend was being cruel to her and I did nothing, because I was scared of him. I counseled another one to leave her boyfriend because he was becoming violent, but again he was older and bigger than me, and I was scared. I never confronted him or her other friends to help her.

I’ve spoken about a woman as if she were an object, once right in front of that girl. Young and stupid and drunk is no excuse. I knew better. I should have been better, but I wasn’t.

When I was a teenager, I used manipulative tactics to try and get a girl to be with me, and then was angry when she refused. I felt I was “owed” something. I didn’t really realize what I had done until years later when I reflected on it, learned more, tried to be better. Doesn’t change what was done.

Growing and becoming a better person involved re-examining uncomfortable truths about who you are, who you were, and who you want to be. It sucks. It hurts. And the people you hurt may never hear how sorry you are, and even if they do, they may never forgive you. That’s okay. You just have to work at being a better person, every day, all the time.

This was hard as hell to write and my guts are roiling and I want to cry, but it’s important that we, as men, own up to our shit. We have to call our friends out on it, too, because if we don’t, we are complicit. We have to help ourselves, and each other, #BeBetter.

Long Live the King of Zombies

I can’t really explain what George A. Romero zombie films mean to me without sounding silly. I mean, they’re just zombie movies, right? Shuffling monsters slowly making their way to devour your flesh. Your FLESH, NOT your brains – that’s only because of that stupid Return of the Living Dead. Thanks, John A. Russo.

But these films were more than that. Often bottle films – taking place in one location – and made on a small budget, these films were discussions of human nature, of the end of times, of people enduring it all. All that with gorgeous, ahead-of-their-time gore special effects that made your skin crawl.

Night of the Living Dead is, to me, essentially a perfect movie. The people are horribly imperfect, the setting is a dark house in woodland country, all with a bummer ending that still haunts me to this day. It was made in 1968 and Romero cast the best actor he knew, Duane Jones, who just happened to be black. There’s a quote attributed to Romero saying that Jones, “simply gave the best audition”. It’s easy to see why: Jones played Ben with such intensity with equal measures of softness that it’s hard to picture any different kind of portrayal.

Initially, Romero didn’t intend for the film to make any kind of comment on race relations in America, but he kind of couldn’t avoid it by casting a black man as the lead hero in a film in 1968. The ending of the film, which sees Ben killed by sheriffs after surviving the entire night alone, surrounded by the undead, is heartbreaking.

The film was also addressing a taboo that had never been filmed before: cannibalism. Night was the first zombie film to feature cannibal zombies, whereas before they had only been black magic-related. Romero essentially founded half the pop culture we have today by making the decision to turn his zombies into cannibals.

Dawn of the Dead was the big magnum opus that everyone knows: survivors doing their best to ride the apocalypse out in a mall. It’s a trope. The Dead Rising games made a franchise out of it, Zack Snyder “remade” the film in what was essentially a modern homage to the genre. The ending, which features two of our heroes flying out on a helicopter, was originally much darker. Originally, while trying to board the helicopter, something was supposed to go wrong and their heads were meant to get cut off. Romero was obviously a fan of grim endings.

Day of the Dead, though, that one was my favourite. It got remade in the 90s in essentially a shot-for-shot remake, but the originally from 1985 is so much better. Taking place in an abandoned missile silo, scientists and soldiers must deal with each other in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. It doesn’t go well.

The flesh-eating effects in that film were beyond excellent. It also features an amazing line: as the lead soldier is being devoured by zombies and he starts screaming, “Choke on it!” It was improvised, which was a risky move considering the production had essentially fun out of film, so if Romero didn’t like it, they couldn’t reshoot it.

These movies make me think about death, about people, about the world. They bring me comfort, they disturb me, they make me laugh and scream and everything in between. I can’t explain it. Even the later films that were not reviewed kindly (Diary of the Dead, Survival of the Dead) I enjoyed. Except Land of the Dead, which I thought was a bit dumb, but it had Dennis Hopper in it, so it was still very enjoyable to watch.

Romero “…of the Dead” zombie flicks were one of those franchises I thought would keep going long into the apocalypse. Romero was this undying (no pun intended) figure, the smiling grandfather of modern creature horror. He was, by all accounts, a lovely man who just loved making these movies. The world is sadder without him in it.

Putting a Name to It, Officially

I have been convinced, for pretty much since I’d heard about it, that I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The ticks, the patterns, the thought processes, it all felt so familiar. After reading Mara Wilson’s wonderful article on Cracked, I was more convinced than ever that this was something that was living and breathing in my brain.

Today, I had that confirmed.

I started therapy a few weeks ago because, for a variety of reasons, I felt like I hadn’t been coping with life. My panic attacks were becoming a little worse and somewhat more frequent; my social anxiety was increasing; and my lethargy, and general lack of motivation, was affecting my creative life as well as my work.

It didn’t take me long to bring up the fact that I thought I had OCD, and listed all the symptoms I had. My therapist decided to give me a test and, there it was in black and white: mild to moderate OCD. Actually, closer to the ‘moderate’ end, 2 points off of the “moderate to severe” spectrum. Then we went through a list of the things I obsess over and the compulsions I have.

Next week, we begin on coping strategies.

I can’t even express how good it feels to be…vindicated. That this is real. That this is happening. That I’m not crazy in my beliefs. It was like a weight off my shoulders. It has a name, it is real, and I have it, and that’s okay.

Mahalo.

13 Reasons Why

Let’s talk about 13 Reasons Why for a minute. Be ye fairly warned all who tread here: this article will have spoilers, and will also be discussing suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, Lifeline Australia is there to listen on 13 11 14.

To say that the show is controversial is, perhaps, a bit of an understatement. There seems to be an argument going around that the show is damaging and that it romanticizes suicide. While I can see their point, I don’t agree.

First of all, for all those saying that it’s “dangerous for kids to watch”, the show is rated MA15+. No one under this age should be watching it, and there’s good reason for it. The show discusses (and portrays):

  • rape
  • sexual harassment
  • severe bullying
  • suicide
  • violence

And I know, we’re all old hats at watching violence by now, but still. At 15, teens are assumed to be old enough to be able to understand what’s going on, and the intricacies of at least some of it. While some say that’s too young, it kind of isn’t. Think about yourself at 15 and you’ll realize you knew more than the credit you’re willing to give to kids.

Besides that, around that age is when – horribly, one way or another – most people begin to interact with the above, as well as strong emotions, consensual sex, and a variety of other self-discovery moments.

Now, for anyone suffering from depression, I can see the worry. This show seems to make an “excuse” that Hannah’s suicide “solved” some things in this town. People’s crimes come to light, revenge is had, comeuppance is served, etc. It seems to give some purpose to her action.

But, if you paid any attention at all, you see it was a horrible thing that happened to a scared, sad, damage young woman. And her actions, by sending these tapes around, were vindictive, dramatic, and damaging. Especially to Clay.

She says on “his tape” that he doesn’t deserve to be there, and – later on – that he  “didn’t care enough”. That’s a load of horse shit. if she had been an inch more honest with him, then maybe he could’ve seen what was going on. Or maybe not. The point is, Hannah isn’t perfect nor is she forgiven, at least not to a discerning viewer.

The show does not flinch away from the brutality, pain, and sadness that is her suicide. The moment she slits her wrists is physically and emotionally painful to watch. And the following scene where her parents find her is, in a word, devastating. This show does not romanticize suicide, it shows it as it is: an awful thing that happens. If you think that Hannah’s suicide is romantic, then you need to reassess your idea of what romantic is.

One aspect of that idea is that, although people did not respect her in life – except for a precious few people who were there for her – they respected her, loved her, talked about her, in death. And that this was some kind of desirable outcome. But this fundamentally misunderstands the reason people were talking about her. The attention is sad, in some cases sinister, and she was responsible for hurting the lives of people she cared about.

In the show, there is legitimately no reason why Clay should be on the tapes, other than he respected her wishes and walked away from her when she demanded it. Sure, he said some insensitive things, but who didn’t at 15, 16, 17, 18, 28? And yet she put him on there, and broke him. And he is broken, make no mistake.

What this show does, and I feel like this was much of its purpose, was to make me reflect upon every interaction I have ever had with another person.

In high school, an acquaintance of mine took his own life. We didn’t know each other super well, but we greeted each other in the halls, talked in the library or at the bus stop. We had interactions. And after he died, I racked my brain for anything, anything, I could have said that may have contributed. And I know that down that road lies madness, but how could I not? How could anyone not?

Clay did the very same thing, and instead of Hannah merely saying “you did nothing, I just needed you to know”, she says “I demanded you leave, and you left, and that was the reason you made me kill myself”. And that’s self-absorbed and horrible.

And I guess that’s the point here. Hannah isn’t perfect, what she did was damaging and wrong. The other people on the tapes? Perhaps they deserved it, perhaps not. The idea is to get you talking about how you deal with your problems – especially teens – and how we talk and interact with other people.

My point here is that 13 Reasons Why is not romantic, it’s depressing, and it should be. If it was treated any other way, it wouldn’t be treating the topic with reverence. There are many other places to point fingers in Hollywood for romanticizing suicide – we do it all the time. Acts of heroic self-sacrifice are the most common, and I think I’ve only seen it treated with enough heavy emotion twice (in JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek and in Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman).

This show is starting an important conversation about a lot of things, but most especially about the important of talking to someone when something is going wrong. Hannah never did. Clay didn’t. None of these kids do. And I know it’s naive to think they’ll talk to their parents, but they barely talk to each other!

Talk to each other. Be kind to each other. And pay attention.

Mahalo.