I did knot expect to tie that all together.

I’ve been procrastinating about starting this. The Internet has been far too alluring. So to make up for it, I’m gonna let you in on what I’ve been reading. Doesn’t that sound exciting? Sorry, messed up the word order there. Meant to say That doesn’t sound exciting!

Let’s begin.

I watched the trailer for Ready Player One. I enjoyed the book. It was a silly wish fulfilment narrative. The lead characters weren’t terribly well carved out. The whole thing was pandering stacked upon pandering. It was also a lot of fun, and even if it felt like the evocation of something my friends and I used to play called The Anythink Game. The premise was simple, you could be anyone and do anything you could think of. We used to play it on a trampoline. We’d be Transformers one minute and Ninja Turtles the next. I don’t know if we ever played as everyone’s favourite female Street Shark, but that was obviously a missed opportunity. Ready Player One felt in the same spirit and as such, it was a neat world to slip into. If I’d read it at age 13, I can guarantee you it would’ve been my favourite book of all time. I have no idea how Spielberg’s team is legally gonna get a hold of all that copyrighted material, but they’re the real heroes of the film. The scale of the idea makes sense on the big screen and in watching the trailer you can already see how specifically tailored to 3D they’ve made it. A big dumb film perfectly fit for a cheap Tuesday.

I had forgotten how cringeworthy a bunch of it was though.

I bought a new keyboard. I’m so tired of having to write on my phone while in transit. The Swype keyboard sure speeds things up, but it also gets overworked pretty easily. My poor Moto G can’t keep up with my fingers. I’d been considering buying a tablet or laptop, but if a keyboard can fix all my issues, why not go with the simplest solution? I realised the other day how I still haven’t adjusted to Bluetooth as a technology that exists. I’m a curmudgeon who’s already been made technologically obsolete. I was at the park the other day, marvelling at my friend’s rugged and robust bluetooth speaker. In my head, if it’s not hard-wired, it won’t work. I guess I’ve acclimated to the understanding that I often buy technology that’s behind the curve. Since my gear’s never top of the line, I just assume that all technology is as shitty as mine. The last time I bought something cutting edge was my beloved Samsung Galaxy S2. Even when it was dated, it still worked great. Stupid different Canadian networks not working with my pride and joy.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to constantly carrying a heavy work-around everywhere I go.

Lastly, T.J. Miller. I always thought of him as a provocative performance artist in the vein of Father John Misty. If that’s what he’s going for, judging by this interview he overshot the moon and ended up in another galaxy. Ugh, he comes off as a totally snarky, condescending prick. Just an unrepentant asshole. It’s a pity, his live performance at JFL42 2015 stands as one of my all time favourite comedy experiences. Densely interwoven meta commentary that was both flashy and subtle. He’s always walked that line for me, but if he’s trying so hard to present an unlikable persona, I’m fine accepting him as thus. Bummer. I hope he gets hoisted on his own petard and comes back to earth.

By the time he does, I might even have my own Bluetooth keyboard on which to write about it.

Maybe it’ll be after seeing him in Ready Player One.

Now I feel bad for not knowing the right kind of card tricks.

Magic the Gathering post. If you’re not into that, come back tomorrow.

Well we’ve reached the end of my Magic Grand Prix adventure. Immersing myself in a game I’ve been playing for 17 years now. I knew that I enjoyed it, but I didn’t realise how entrenched I’ve become in the culture surrounding it. I have good friends who I’ve met through the game. I read daily articles on strategy and changes to the metagame. I follow Magic stocks, the fluctuation of how much cards are worth. I get the jokes rising from the endless online circle-jerks. I knew it was a hobby, but didn’t understand that it was really a part of my life.

Spending two days at the GP was great. I always had people to chat to, given the commonality of our hobby. It was exciting to hear how friends were faring in their matches and overall records. I had consistently skill-testing matches and played a ton of players who were far better than I was. I learned a ton about the format and drafted a bunch. My drafts started off a little bit dicey, but by the end I realised where I was erring. I’d remembered that Amonkhet was a hyper aggressive format and I was convinced that playing five drops or six drops was a dead man’s game. That was true. It was all cartouches, trials and fucking Slither Blade of all things. The addition of Hour of Devastation slowed things right down. It’s entirely possible to splash cards. You can get to late game and mount a comeback. In short, if there’s fun, splashy stuff you want to play, go ahead. Play it.

It’s hard, getting a couple of bad beats in a row. It really shits on your morale. After a rough morning of being outplayed, I started getting almost delirious. I was clearly losing my mind and decided I could either let the pressure drive me insane, or stop taking it so seriously. It was just a game. If I wasn’t doing it for enjoyment, why was I doing it at all? I chilled out a little and tried to draft what I felt like drafting rather than what I felt I should. I managed to eke out a win in my third draft and felt the upswing. Then tragedy. Common practice in drafting so far had been to split after the first round. In short, declaring that the top four players all came out even. It meant everyone could walk away with ten boosters and go off to draft again. Everybody barring this one confident dude was up for splitting. This guy wanted to play it out. So we were all forced to play, then that guy got totally crushed. I got destroyed by my opponent and walked away with six boosters rather than ten. Fuck that guy (a sentiment I heard repeated later by other players in other drafts).

I did one last ditch effort draft. I started out picking Resilient Khenra, then got fed a number of solid red cards and began to question my green pick. Then the pendulum swung back and nearing the end of pack two I was solidly in RG, but with a bunch of fixing just in case. I noticed a super late Obelisk Spider coming around and decided what the hell, why not pick it and splash? The card is neat and I’d never been able to solidly get in that archetype. It was my last draft of the day. Fun was my motto. I opened pack three saw Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons staring me in the face. Time to commit. I was hoping to find a couple of those -1/-1 counter green creatures. Then Plague Belcher was passed and I knew I was set. I had fixing and three powerful themed splashes. ROCK AND ROLL MOTHERFUCKER.

The deck played out like a dream. It had a bunch of aggressive critters, but truly came alive in the mid-game. I didn’t see Hapatra, but hell that Obelisk Spider and Plague Belcher put in work. Both games they showed up and made things difficult for my opponent. I had a blast and did some tight aggressive manoeuvres. I felt like I was playing limited like it was meant to be played. I felt centred. Then our pod all decided to split because they weren’t assholes. I left the convention centre with a lightness in my heart.

AND A FUCKING STACK OF BOOSTER PACKS. YEAH BOI.

If I didn’t wake up tomorrow, I could hardly be that angry.

Oy vey, if the point of life is to live, then today was a fulfilment of my true prerogative. What a full day. Stacked to the brim with bustling activity, decadent consumption and love all around.

I woke up with plans to meet friends for lunch. Headed to my local for a coffee, which delivered on everything a decent coffee should. Why else would the place be my local? Do you think my standards are low enough to settle for shit in a mug? Fuck no. The baristas are super consistent and the beans are smooth and aromatic. I walked out of there with a mocha in hand and sunshine in my heart.

BRUNCH. Brunch plans came together hurriedly late last night. I basically got tacked onto a friend’s already scheduled brunch engagement. There was very little planning or discussion, but I figured I’d go with it and see how it turned out. As it happened, the brunch skewed more towards fine dining at Globe Bistro. It’d been yonks since I last visited a fine dining establishment (maybe Liverpool House in Montreal?) and was more than up for it. Even better, Summerlicious happened to be on. Summerlicious is a period of prix fixe menus, often experimental. A $23 three course meal at 11am? Why the fuck not? I call that a Saturday.

I started off with the Dry-Aged Steak Tartare. I’d never had Steak Tartare before. I’d been yearning to give it a try ever since hearing a story of my dad on his first date at a fancy French restaurant and ordering the steak. The Tartare wasn’t what he expected. It was, however, what my body wanted this morning. A little pool of miso aioli sat to the side, with a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts, mustard greens and rice chips planted in a nicely sized circle of minced beef. It was so goddamn rich and all the flavours alley ooped one another like fucking champs.

For my main, I went for the Lake Trout. Served on a corn sake kasu broth, with Norther Woods oyster mushrooms, baby bok choy and scallions. Bloody divine. Soft and flakey, with crispy seared skin running along the top. I’d never imagined corn and mushrooms complementing one another, but somehow the textures meshed. Perhaps soaking in the sake broth mellowed them out. An A+ success.

The dessert was a Milk Chocolate Pannacotta. Soft and smooth, with a hazelnut meringue, Chantilly cream and salted caramel sauce. Decadent enough to melt my tastebuds to blissful numbness.

Then with a stomach fit to bursting, I met my girlfriend for rock climbing. I hadn’t climbed in some time and I think all the rich vittles were dragging down my centre of gravity. I did a bunch of climbs and to be honest, they weren’t too shabby. I got up those walls, I had a couple of well executed foot placements. I made it up a few walls easier than I’d expected. Defeated an overhang or two. Sure, I was still lunging for more holds than I would’ve liked, but having not climbed for aaaaaaages, I did pretty damn well. I also went upstairs to try out some stuff on the rings and it turns out my muscle ups are still solid. Stoked to bits.

We walked down the hill to Christie Pitts park and met up with a bunch of friends we hadn’t seen in far longer than was cool. All of us had been somewhat reclusive and had sorely missed one another. We snacked on cheese, fruit, popcorn and chips (because I hadn’t eaten enough already). We unleashed pun after pun. I got to try out handstands and round-offs after what’d felt like forever. All of which turned out really bloody great. We felt full of food and love, content with a day well spent.

Then went home to spend some quality time without clothing. Because there’s no such thing as too much love.

We also spent a surprising amount of the lesson talking about characters with hooks for hands.

Taking improv classes was a good decision, not only for having reigniting my joy of performance. It’s been challenging mentally and at times emotionally, but it’s certainly forced me into dealing with discomfort that lies beyond my comfort zone. It’s been so rewarding to notice the class collectively adapting to each new lesson, progressing and coming out of their shells. You’d think we were taking… improve classes or something.

Last night’s class was on character and relationships. Given the rapid fire nature of the format, being able to snap instantly into a character is vital. Character encompasses so much. How big is your character? Are they a “straight man” or something more absurdist? A pivotal part of the scene? Or a mechanic to help along the narrative? What is their relationship with the other characters? High or low status? What is the mantra that they hold on their heart? How could we decide all of this in the instant before we entered the scene?

As always, our teacher encouraged us that we knew this already. That a lifetime of stories had taught us that this was instinctive. If a character was a yoga instructor, what did we already know about them? What about an investment banker? There were no wrong answers. Our first thought was usually right and we just needed to follow those threads.

We tried a technique called The Alexander Method. We walked about the room in a neutral fashion. Neutral pace, posture, expression. She gave us instructions that we slowly incorporated. Light on our feet, quick, indirect How did that inform posture? Breath? Emotion? What did our character think about when they woke up in the morning? Then simply turning to a partner and introducing ourselves, our names and mantras. Committing to the choices we’d made. We tried again, this time heavy, direct. We were instructed to lead with a body part. How did it hold tension? What was our mantra this time? Again we introduced ourselves to sometime, as if at a networking event, gave them our mantra. Then break, back to walking around the room. Light, direct. Who were we? How did we relate to others? Then introducing ourselves to the nearest person as if they were an ex we hadn’t seen in some time.

I knew my character was constantly off in their own head, ceaselessly analysing. My yoga teacher ex was trying to catch up while I was mentally only scantly there. Feeling entrenched in character, I realised that this had always been the case, that she’d been looking for something in me I wasn’t interested in providing. My charger was baffled by human interaction. I could sense her frustration in the moment, but felt so in character. I was genuinely confused. Why did she think she was worth my time? Why would she think to divert my attention. I was adroitly dismissive, looking for an excuse to be physically elsewhere too.

Later in the class we sat down and volunteered to do scenes two at a time. I was paired with a woman and told that we were characters on the verge of divorce, but we’d both unintentionally turned up to collect our child from school. She arrived after I did and instantly I knew. She was always like this. Late, unreliable. She was the “fun one”, but it was always on me to pick up the pieces, be the bad guy, sort out appointments, keep the house in order. The scene became very visceral and raw as it all flooded out. Our child arrived, oblivious to the tension. “Do you think I’m a bad mother?” My partner asked. My eyes narrowed and I felt the pettiness come forth. I wanted to be cruel, to stick the knife in. I replied. “What kind of mother do you think you are?” The test of the class made an involuntary noise, like they’d seen a small animal harmed. The teacher cut the scene. I tried too let go of it, but holy shit were my shoulders tense. I was shaking slightly. Too real. After class I took my scene partner aside and checked in with her. She felt the same way. It worked, but did we ever feel it.

Now I can’t wait for next week.

Do you think Natalie Imbruglia enters Tornaments?

I’ve played Magic the Gathering for years. 17 of them to be exact. During all that time I’ve never set foot in a big tournament. I’m strictly casual and a competitive environment doesn’t excite me. The idea of grinding away at opponents in the hopes of being able to make day two of a tourney seems like a great way to welcome disappointment in my life, which has no place in one of my prime leisure activities.

With that out of the way, Grand Prix Toronto starts tomorrow and I’m pretty chuffed. I think the majority of that chuff-ed-ness comes from the fact that I’m not grinding away. I’m planning to pop in and out of the event all weekend. Unlike the pro players assembled from across the globe, I’ve got nothing riding on the weekend. I’m purely going to have a great time, take part in some small side events, trade and get a bunch of EDH games in.

There are draft pods firing off all day, with the chance to finally try out a multiplayer Conspiracy draft. I can do some spectating and see just how degenerate the cEDH format is. Plus the prize payouts are insane, with something like six boosters for a third or fourth placed finish, ten boosters for second and eighteen boosters for first. There’ll also be a bunch of rare stuff for sale/trade and I’ll hopefully be able to pick up a shit ton of stuff for various EDH decks. I miss being able to trade stuff away all the time. In recent years I’ve accumulated a pile of cards I don’t need, but others might. I’m more than happy to offload a heap of rares for a couple of specific rares. Why stockpile tons of cards I’ll never need? There’ll be so many casual players in attendance that I can probably spend hours simply trading and not even playing.

Playing will be fucking great too though. One of the best parts of this game is seeing the variety of decks and strategies that players employ. Interesting, bold and tight lines of play, curious interactions and quick thinking are the bedrock of Magic. A Grand Prix is a world class event and you can bet your arse I’ll be able to find the kinds of players I enjoy facing. There’ll be players who’ve stopped taking the game so seriously, just looking to get in neat interactive games. There’s a higher chance of seeing hard to find commanders in a tuned shell, honed from years of use. I’m sure there are stock lists that people will be running. Your Merens, Nekusar, etc. But there might also be Rasputin Dreamweaver or Diao Chan, Artful Beauty, maybe one of the original Elder Dragons. Hell, it’s even been years since I faced a Norin the Wary deck.

I’m looking forward to spending the weekend in a Magic smorgasbord, picking and choosing how much I want to partake. It’ll be exciting exploring my hobby with others who’re passionate about it. Not to mention the fact that I’ll have friends there to hang out with anyway. Who knows, we might even enter a team event. What’ve we got to lose?

Aside from the event, that is.

Just the motivation I kneeded.

I had one of those moments today where I realised what a sloppy garbage person I can be. I’d been for my run and felt both physically exhausted and sweat soaked. I’m lucky, in that my sweat is rarely that pungent. Still, something smelt stale. Was it me? Nobody else in the office had been recently active. My clothes had a “damp” odour, but nothing distressing. I looked over at my knee brace that I’d left to dry out. My eyes narrowed. I picked it up and took a big huff. My innards recoiled. Bingo.

Did knee braces need to be washed? What was mine made of? Some kind of compression fabric with metal bands sewn in for support. Would that rust? How would it handle a washing machine? A dryer? It was a $350 piece of apparel that I greatly need. The notion of ruining it holds no appeal. I thought back to whether I’d ever washed it. Presumably each year after Tough Mudder to get the copious mud and grit out. So maybe twice in almost two years. I entered a Google search string long enough for it to presume I wasn’t human. “Can I wash my knee brace in the washing machine?” earned me a captcha. I got a full page of answers and clicked a few. I was to leave it soaking in warm water and dish soap or vinegar. I was to hang it out and let it air dry. So no on the washing machine/dryer combo. Pity, despite my propensity for jogging, I clearly enjoy taking the easy route.

How often was I supposed to wash it? That depended on the severity of activity. If it was light work such as gardening or short walks, once every three or four uses wood be sufficient. For anything more intense it was advisable to wash it each time. Each time. Per use. I gave a quick thought to how many uses I’d have had in that past year. What was I using it for? Jogging, obviously. Hey lower body workouts for sure. I wear it when I go out dancing. Often I’ll use it for two intense physical sessions in a day. So altogether I’d possibly use it four or five times each week. So maybe I’d given it 200+ fewer washes than it needed? How was it still intact? Why had it not disintegrated into filth? How was my knee not a cluster of lesions and necrotic flesh? I was surprised the connective tissue had yet to become gangrenous. How the fuck hadn’t I smelled it yet? Boxing wraps I’d wash after each use or otherwise risk a nasty fungual infection. Yet I was fine leaving this harbinger of infection clasped around my second favourite leg joint?

I strongly desired sterilised tongs and a hermetically sealed clear plastic bag. This thing needed to be sent to a testing lab to examine the emergence of nefarious new lifeforms. Why are scientists wasting their time on teleporting photons to the edge of space when an all new lethal pathogen has been discovered on my knee brace. Wait, is this finally it? Am I patient zero? Can I finally go and loot sport stores to stockpile for the inevitable zombie apocalypse?

Oh boy, daddy’s gonna get himself a boomstick!

No man is an I LAN.

Are LAN parties dead? A relic of 56K modems? Left in the dust by Steam’s handy functionality? X-Box Live supplanting the need for proximity co-op gaming? Do we sound the keening bell in lament of fond memories? Of late nights and tired eyes? Of Red Bulls and caffeine pills? Of companionship born out of necessity? All laid to rest at the altar of a new age.

Without sarcasm, I can say that LAN parties were some of the highlights of my teen years. I’d pack my bulky desktop computer and CRT screen into a large rubbermaid and bug my parents for a lift to a friend’s place. Typically their parents would be out of town. While other kids would be conducting Risky Business, we’d get hopped up on sugar and play video games until our eyes bled.

It was the natural evolution of sleep overs, but with added ixnay on the sleeping. You’d maybe catch a couple of hours if you were lucky, optimal downtime to leech video games, movies, music and anime off others. If your computer was gonna be out of use for three hours, why not let yourself recover? Much like sleepovers, LANs offered the optimal outlet for a good D&M (Deep and Meaningful chat) about who you had the hots for, typical teenage gloating and all sorts of angsty shit. Unless a game was in progress, of course.

What games? Whatever was in the nerdcore zeitgeist, in as much as we could all run it. We tended to cater to whoever had the lower spec’d rig (usually me). Starcraft was a common favourite, making sure we evenly divided skill level across teams. A few years later Warcraft 3 was Le Jeu Du Jour. We’d mess around on Heroes 3, Counterstrike (NO FUCKING AWP CAMPERS) or if I begged enough we’d give the much maligned Ricochet a try (I mainly loved the death sound). Star Wars: Jedi Knight was awesome. While we began by tearing apart one another with guns, eventually we learned how much fun it was to go HAM at one another with lightsabers and force push/pull. You could deflect bullets and turn opponents’ attacks back on themselves. Who wouldn’t want to play a recurring game of stop hitting yourself?

Aliens vs Predator 2 was possibly one of the best multiplayer experiences I ever had, primarily because one of my friends Lost His Shit Constantly. We’d play survival mode, in which we started out with one xenomorph and everyone else was human. Whenever you died, you became a xenomorph and hunted down the humans in a pack. Our friend would constantly be in a palpable state of terror, literally screaming and borderline hyperventilating. I think he enjoyed it, though clearly not as much as we did.

As we aged, contraband got folded into the equation. Someone would always have an older brother or lax parent. LAN parties continued to help us unwind, while also resembling very real parties. We’d trade silly Newgrounds videos and obscure internet phenomena. If someone was temporarily absent, we’d go through their computers in search of their hidden porn stash. Or anything else equally incriminating. There was rarely any bullying, but friendly ribbing was a mainstay. Functionally it allowed a bunch of us to spend a large block of time together without having to part ways.

I don’t know what modern experience would emulate LAN parties. Do kids these days hang out with tablets? Does Nintendo Switch fill the void? Or do they get their kicks at their respective homes all playing Overwatch? As an adult, this seems like a hard sell. People enjoy going home to their beds and pets. Friendships seem emotionally closer, but less time intensive. Would people want to spend that long in a basement, huddled around computers? Or does that remind us too much of being at work?