Weakening Resolve

At the gym when I was 23, if someone was using the piece of equipment I needed I took it as a hint to try a different variation for that muscle group.

At the gym at 32, if someone is using the piece of equipment I need I take it as a hint that I should skip that body part today altogether, as it's a sign from the universe that it's diverting me from a new, chronic injury.

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The woman with the fake tan stepped into my office, sat across from my desk and lit a cigarette.
At least, she would, sometime in the next 20 minutes. Smelling the future has advantages, but precision isn’t one of them.

Breadism III

2011. I had a bread addiction.

When the psychiatrist asked me to think of situations that triggered my behaviour, I answered Woolworths bakery, close to the end of the day.

He showed me an inkblot, symmetrical and jagged, like the crossbones of a roadkill Jolly Roger.
"What do you see?" he said.
"A Mocha Hot Cross Bun."

Flashbacks from six years ago. My last relapse, sucking down a six-pack a day. Buying a dozen with the intent of freezing buns that were never frozen.

I thought it was all behind me, that my penchant for those delicious, sweet bread-sacks of wheat, chocolate and coffee had gone stale. After all, Jesus had risen, Woolworths stopped selling them, and in the years that followed I never even felt the urge to eat them again.

Then, in 2017, I saw the sticker.

image 1626 from bradism.com

Not just that sticker, but the other sticker too.

image 1627 from bradism.com

Later I would discover Woolworths stopped making them after 2011. I guess those piles of packs marked down for clearance were because the bakers shared my lack of impulse control. For whatever reason, six years later, they decided to bring them back.
Mocha Hot Cross Buns - The Resurrection.

I'll just buy a packet and eat them for the sake of a journal entry, my brain lied. It wasn't really my thoughts. It was the voice. The whispering of addiction. Would I be foolish enough to break bread with that monkey on my back? The voice told me it would be okay. The voice told me one wouldn't hurt.
"I don't think so," I told the voice.

We got home from food shopping. The buns were on the top of the bag. Adding them to my trolley, putting the self-service checkout on mute, using a 5.25% discounted Woolwoths E-Gift Card at the register, ignoring the checkout assistant, stealing a pump of her hand sanitiser as I left. I didn't remember any of this. The voice had whispered in my ear the whole time, keeping me complicit.

It was debatably morning tea time. I unwrapped the plastic and pulled one free, placing it in the microwave on a sheet of paper towel. It was almost all muscle memory. The 10sec button once, the 1sec button seven times. Too long and it would burn me. Too short and it would maintain too much structural integrity. Seventeen seconds The perfect amount of microwaving to bring the bun to that ideal penumbra between food and delicious, chocolatey nourishment goo. I slurped it down, deaf to the world and the feelings of guilt and shame and regret. There was only thing I could think of.

"More," said the voice. Mocking me. It was back. "You forgot to take a photo. Eat another one."

I tried to recall the 12 Step Program and I heard the voice say, "Two more six packs."

By lunchtime the packet was down to 2. In a sudden moment of clarity I considered flushing the rest down the toilet, but that joke was only funny when I was renting. I felt anger, confusion and, according to the voice, hunger.

Worse, I hadn't even thought of a single good thought to journal about my relapse.

"Relax," said the voice. "You have until April 16."

I stared at the remaining two buns, slick with doughy-sweat on the inside of the packet. The bread tie all that separated me from another backwards step. And I replied to the voice, "No."

No. I was not the same person I was in 2011. My base metabolic rate was 40 calories per day higher then. Also I have a wife and a dog now.

The voice said something, I couldn't make it out. It's strength was crumbling.

Those two buns sat in the pantry for another seven days, waiting for me to falter. I never faltered.

At the end of the week they were weak, drying. They still looked edible.
"Eat them," the voice begged as I opened the garbage bin. "The flavour, the texture, the fuzzy feeling in the brain. Eat them."

"Who are you talking to right now?" I said. "Who is it you think you see? You clearly don't know who you're talking to, so let me clue you in. You are not the flavour, bread. I am the flavour! A guy opens his door and gets crossed and you think that of me? No...

I am the one who mochs."


A new person attended writer's group tonight with an old, leather-bound tome. Between discussing the character motivations of ghosts, and a debate about if using the phrase "Don't look at gift horse in the mouth" was inspired or clumsy when it involved looking an actual gift horse in the mouth, we heard the ancient book's owner read a passage. The book belonged to his grandfather, and was written between 1895 and 1908. It was a historical account that documented the travels of a Scandinavian tradesperson as they wandered through western Europe in search of the next job. Along with some amusing anecdotes, philosophical musings and weather updates were many drawings by the author of the things he had encountered.

That's when I realised it was the oldest blog I'd ever seen. And it inspired me to write this entry and share a picture too.

image 1628 from bradism.com

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A Moment of Piece

What kind of person likes doing jigsaw puzzles, I asked myself, as I attempted to find a place for one of the thousand freaking fragments of Starry Night. My progress on recreating the painting on my kitchen table was slow, and I wasn't gaining any new appreciation of Van Gogh's brush style. (Starry Night is actually the best painting I've ever seen "live", but that didn't help my mood either).

image 1629 from bradism.com

There had to be some cognitive benefit to puzzle work, I hoped more than truly believed, that would justify the weeks I'd spent. Critical Thinking, surely? I decided to Google it.

At first I was excited, many websites listed brain improvements from puzzling. Unfortunately the closer I looked the less scientific backing I found. I needed empirical evidence. Finally I uncovered one study, which identified only a single benefit: relaxation.

Well I wasn't feeling particularly fucking relaxed at that point. I really just wanted the puzzle completed so I could use the table for assembling 10246 Detective's Office (I'm hoping it will inspire another novel). I continued searching, and finally I found another study that listed a benefit of doing puzzles as "increasing skills solving further puzzles."

Book Review - Anonymous Rex

I read a lot of books, typically I don't review them. I'm more comfortable judging my fellow, unpublished writers than I am those who have sold something that I've then read. I keep thinking I should change that, and so I'll start my first published book review with the novel I completed yesterday, Anonymous Rex by Eric Garcia.

Spoiler Warning, I guess...

Published in 1999, Anonymous Rex is an nearly unbearable by-the-numbers American detective story with a single redeeming twist: dinosaurs never went extinct. They spent the last 65 million years evolving to be smaller and now they live among humans in society in latex/poly-suit suits. All your favourite dinosaur species are accounted for - triceratops, tyrannosaurus, brontosaurus, diplodocus, duck bills, stegosaurus - each now human sized. The subject of how they lived among society before latex was invented does not come up.

...a pinch lances out from my tucked-away tail. I shake my rump, but the pain persists, small and sharp, as if a minnow with shark's teeth has found himself at an all-you-can-eat brunch on my tail and refuses to leave the buffet line. It's my darned G-3 clamp—somehow it has shifted to the left, the metal buckle digging into my hide, and there's no way to rectify the situation other than to completely readjust the entire G series. It's a quick process, simple enough, but would necessitate releasing my tail out into the great wide open for a few precious minutes. If any humans were to come in...

Our narrator, and down-on-his-luck detective, is a raptor named Vincent.

The dinosaurs among the populace can easily tell who the other dinosaurs are based on smell, as all dinosaurs scent glands produce strong, unique odours. Vincent has an extremely acute sense of smell, as well as a charming and flirty nature, an ability to open almost any door with a credit card, and the ability to waltz, tango and cha-cha impressively. Beyond the smells it's very easy for dinosaurs to completely change their appearance by wearing a new poly-suit.

The smelling part comes is important later, because later it turns out a human (with no smell) is actually a dinosaur! And then a dinosaur with a smell is actually a human! Those two twists underpin the whole mystery, which Vincent unwraps with a sense of predictability. He encounters the grieving widow, the femme fatale singing jazz at an underground bar, the eccentric scientist. The plot might have been the inspiration for Threat Level Midnight. In fact, when I was a third of the way through I began to ponder if this originally started as a terrible detective novel that never intended to mention dinosaurs until it needed an angle. Jurassic Park was probably at the height of its popularity at the time this book was being written.

Eventually the dinosaurs and their species became important to the story. Different kinds of dinosaurs can't interbreed, which makes certain characters work beyond the laws of nature and the dinosaur council to find a solution. The idea of a dinosaur and a human breeding comes up too, but that is strongly frowned upon by dinosaur society, the same way humans look down on having sex with lizards in real life.

Vincent's investigation takes him to New York, back to L.A., then back to New York again. A lot of his breakthroughs come from people mailing him things they thought he might need, or characters simply spilling way too much information when Vincent talks to them, both methods of reveal that I didn't like. His final breakthrough came accidentally when a human walked in on him with his poly-suit pants off (and tail swishing around). He thought he would have to kill her, but she revealed she was a dinosaur with no scent glands! If only he had found that out before he had that weird, forbidden sex with her….

...my engorged member tight against the confines of the poly-suit extension, tight within the confines of my new lover, she moves with me, our energies coalescing into one great wave of movement and heat. With dinos, the sounds are shrieks and moans, howls to the religion of pleasure. With Sarah, there are soft murmurs and syncopated heartbeats, delicate gasps and whispers to the night...

Because this scene happened towards the climax of the novel I figured I'd lost enough to keep on reading until the final scene.

I mean, that was a good twist. It could have been set up better if Vincent had encountered another dinosaur without scent glands earlier in the story, instead of in the preceding chapter, which kind of flagged that it was about to happen. Like how I mentioned the dinosaurs had scent glands at the top of this review. That's how to structure!

I'm not sure if this novel would have been published in present times. I guess that's because I'm cynical and feel like twenty years ago it was easier for books to be published because a brick-and-mortar bookstore was still a valid business model. That said, not only was this book published but there were actually two sequels published as well! Then I guess the author took a look at himself in the mirror, or couldn't mind-map his way out of the plot holes.

Anyway, despite his corny jokes, I truly admired Garcia's commitment to the premise and determination to push through no matter what. The fact that he got this published fills me with optimism about my own writing, and thus I give it five stars.