Reviving the Journo

The Age of Information is rife with promise for global enlightenment. There are enough free tutorials, language courses, books, lectures, and documentaries to last a million lifetimes, and a motivated individual can learn as much, or more, about a given niche with a wifi connection as in a top-flight university. We live in the most high-velocity period of human adaptation and change so far, and unprecedented period of fundamental alteration. It’s a cool time to be alive.

The addition of nearly every human voice to this collective shout brought with it some interesting notions. The concept that everyone could become a form of ‘expert’, that we had ears to the ground everywhere in the world, is a romantic one. But this idea has lately come in to competition with a basic tenet of human kind: roughly one out of four people in the world, or 25%, are complete and utter fuckwits. They have zero concept of rational argument, they aren’t intelligent enough to realise that some concepts aren’t black-and-white, and when notions go over their heads? They dig in even further to their impossible position, invoking every form of nebulous evidence under the sun to back them up, or claim ever-more absurd forms of prejudice as the ‘real’ reason their point of view hasn’t been wholeheartedly adopted.

Let’s take the anti-vaxxers. These group of fine, civic-minded individuals would rather choose to believe in a global conspiracy to infect their children with some manner of mind-control. Wiping out a number of deadly diseases is only a side effect. These notions, which ordinarily would only be directed at commuters from the pulpit of a cardboard box, now can be proven and confirmed with a basic web search. People can confirm any crackpot notion this way. We haven’t yet evolved to question the supposed knowledge that we find online. If it’s got a URL, it must be true. Confirmation bias is a real problem in today’s world, but the inflexible mindset of idiots is the cause of it.

And this is the problem: the mainstream media has lost any form of legitimacy. In places, this has been well-deserved, and has been derived from a more informed look in to who is being paid. They are big businesses, after all, and the elite will often have their hands in a number of pies. But the simple fact is, they have something to lose with shit writing and a lack of fact checking. They can be taken to task. They have a history to protect, unlike the blogger who can cut and run.

I see, in the future, a step back towards reporting under the edifice of an agency with a taste for ideals. The individual will now require a history, and qualifications, before he can be broadly accepted. Think Bellingcat, or early Salon-era Greenwald (before they turned clickbait).

Perhaps a rating agency? A Moodys of the writing and journalism world, who’s job it is to vet the supposed ‘proof’ of a journalist, before they can be taken as gospel. A mark of legitimacy. Such a thing should never ask that the writer, necessarily, be revealed. Such a notion would destroy part of the reasoning behind the gift of a truly anonymous, far-reaching news landscape: the notion of keeping people honest. But it might begin to clear up the rubble.

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Northerning Pt. I

You can never really put a proper grasp on your hometown until you’ve travelled, and after seven years on the road, there’s a few elements of southern ontario that create a good, solid cringe. The yokel accents. The incredible lack of style awareness. The bravado on the roads. It’s still possessive of that distinctive Canadian politeness, but there’s a lot under the hood here.

The urban life in Toronto is something you tend to grow out of. It lacks the style or action of a New York or London, the controlled chaos of a Bangkok or Hong Kong, or the grit of Melbourne or Mexico City. It’s too spread out, the weather is sticky humid in the summertime and downright depressing in the winter. And the transit system is so laughably poor, mired in the 1970s (what kind of first-world city uses diesel locomotives for commuter trains?), that you either wind up dropping nearly $100 on nightly transit (if you live in the suburbs), staying sober, or slumming it on a friends’ couch. Not my cup of proverbial tea.

But the true appeal of Ontario isn’t the city life, it’s in the huge tracts of unpopulated land to the north, rife with Canadian Shield lakes and forests. Apart from a few mining or pulp logging concerns, there isn’t much to offer industry here, and the towns are suitably small and modest. It means less pressure on lakes. And it means that with a little work, there is some outstanding outdoors pursuits to be had. I’m biased – I summered on the Great Lakes for the first twenty years of my life – but I’ve yet to find its equal.

I was still jetlagged halfway to Sodom by the time we left the city at 4am, on the strength of a 36-hour turnaround after the flight landed. I’ve never dealt well with jet lag – random acts of extreme fatigue tend to knock me down a peg – but not unlike a serious hangover, distraction is absolutely vital. Besides, who cares how badly you’re hurting? You’ll feel better at some point. In this case, the sunrise in the east over the stretch of rural farmland off the 400 was easily attractive enough to wake me from my torpor, and a body clock that had essentially done a bolt.

We fortified with some ghastly coffee after a few hours, and almost exactly on target, I had to piss. It’s a truly annoying element of North America, on the whole: the coffee sucks. Its absolutely brutal. It’s brackish, overly sweet, way the fuck too big, and weak as piss. Four years in the land of espresso machines and proper mixes will destroy anyone’s illusions that what we’re drinking isn’t processed garbage.


Six hours of asphalt, and we made it up north to Temagami, set up, gained our permits, and launched. The fatigue had properly began, as I found out on our way out, nine days later, when I couldn’t recall nearly any of the landscape. But there was nothing for it. Eight hours of shoulder-wrenching paddling, and three stinging portages later, we set up our first camp, on a canoe-only lake surrounded by naught but the purest wilderness.


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Bruised Ribs


I’ve broken or bruised ribs four times in my life. One each for skiing, hockey, basketball, and one drunken occurrence for which memory is lacking. I’m in this halfway immobilised state now, courtesy of a relatively mild elbow on the court three weeks ago, which is still keeping me largely off my typical gym pace.

It feels like a fucking eternity. It’s the first time I’ve wrecked my ribs in six years, and none of the rest of them took nearly this long to sort themselves out. But it’s par for the course, and easily the most noticeable aspect of hitting one’s thirties: you just can’t heal as fast. This runs true across hangovers, illnesses, injuries. As memory lengthens, so too does your recovery.

It seems to coincide with a period of time when you begin to grow impatient, or even desperate, for that big change. Or maybe it just serves to underline the growing awareness of a ticking clock on your truly productive years. I always postulated that the spongey adaptive quality that defined my earlier travel years might wane as time passed, and creature comforts, and routine, became more friendly or familiar. I have fought the dying of the light, but in truth, it is comforting to know that I’ve got a warm bed with food in the fridge, and good friends at the pub.

The popular notion exists that 20 is the new 30, 40 is the new 30, and a whole host of other trendy articles about the eternal option of reviving your youth. I’m not so sure. When I think back to the pace that myself, and a few good friends maintained in the height of our balls-to-the-wall phase, there is not the slightest chance I have the energy now. We were young, stupid, and living large. Work all day in the sun, physical work, with heavy gear and machinery, and the responsibility for guests and fellow crew. Crush a bottle of rum for dinner, fuck all night, sleep for a couple of hours, and arrive at work (relatively) fresh. One day of that, and now, I’m laid low for half a week.

It stands to reason that getting your proverbial shit together isn’t the result of an epiphany, or becoming bored with excess. You simply can’t do it, physically, any more. Waiting around for one’s retirement to travel and live large is like waiting until your dream car has half a million clicks on it before you take it out; it might run, it might get you there, but at a pretty average pace, with a lot of work thrown in to get it out of the garage every morning.

Not that this will stop us from trying. Salut, and rage on.

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It’s the dawn of a new day here in Sydney, and fuck it all, let’s lay down some goals for the remainder of this year.

French. A good friend is currently building solar installations in Sierra Leone, and I want in. It’d be badass. How? Vocab books, check. Duolingo for a half hour nightly. Check. A pair of French friends? Done.

Read more. I have Edwards Gibbons’ ‘The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire’ on my bookshelf, and I’m going to read it. Half hour nightly, and more on the weekends.

Build my all-rounder mountain bike. My old commuter needs investment in a seat, a bottom bracket, brakes, pedals, and some fresh wheels. It’ll suit the trail, and the hard stuff, with different rubber.

Motorcycle license.

Save towards my pilot’s license.

Book a flight to India for January/February 2017 for a trip on the rails.

Become a better boxer during the week, and surfer during the weekends.

You saw it here, folks. Six months to go.




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Let’s back up

We’re back. CNG has risen from the ashes of the 404 pile.

It’s been over two years since I put the pen to the proverbial paper in here. I honestly wish I could say that shutting the site was a function of my workload, or something – but how long does it take to smash out a few words here and there? No, I shut it down for lack of imagination.

I wasn’t travelling anymore. I had been sedentary for nearly two years at that point, and I didn’t feel I had much to say anymore. It didn’t cross my mind that my own spot of the writing world was mine, no one else’s, to be used and abused for what purpose I could think of. A sideways jaunt in to the thrills of grad school? Why the fuck not? How is that any less of a journey?

Part of me was somewhat unhappy with turning my back on traveling pursuits and a lifestyle of hedonism. I was unsure about this new direction, and wanted some time to hash it out of its own accord. An inherent insecurity kept me from securing them in writing. Now, a record of two years or so, along with the originals who went out with a stolen laptop, are gone.

So yeah, not my finest moment.

But big decisions have never been my strong point, and the last two years have featured a few of them. I got serious with a woman. I started, and finished, graduate school. I’m a few months away from applying for citizenship. I have chosen a career path, and I’m pursuing it with vigour. I’ve changed cities. It’s not all good, but enough of it is too keep me happy, for now.

In retrospect, there was pride tied up in this bull-headed decision to stay. I just didn’t want to head home in 2012. I had a great group around me, was enjoying it immensely, and wanted to leave on my own terms. I still haven’t. Australia has an annoying tendency to keep you trapped: the cost, including the astronomical urban rent, keeps my cloistered. The beach, the gym, and the road bike are the only real escapes. Operating a car is murderously expensive. These are all surmountable with decent employment, but even that is by-and-large closed to foreigners, especially without decent connections. I chose a tough land to spend half a decade in.

But the rewards?

The climate kicks fucking ass. Year-round, I’m outside. There is more exploring to be done in this underpopulated land than you can shake a froth at. The work, once you get your nose in, pays well. The people are open, hilarious, creative, and kind-hearted. The sailing is some of the best in the world. It’s clean, it’s stable, and it’s on the rise. It’s been four years in this weird land, and I love the shit out of it.

Currently, I’m working as a content write. I’m saving cash. I’m a busy guy, and that feels all right. But it is hard to shake a despondent sense of stagnation. While peers are hitting their stride in careers, I’m just starting out…nah, just kidding. If I’d have spent my twenties like my corporate drone friends, I’d have lost my fucking mind.

It’s good to be back, let’s catch up.

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