No tapping for white after labour day.

Because I know my audience and how my bread is buttered, I know exactly how to alienate them. Which means today’s entry is devoted to previews from the newest upcoming Magic the Gathering set Commander 2016.

Because everyone’s wanted to have the nephilim as commanders since the format existed (especially the most phallic of all nephilim), Wizards has listened. Have they listened enough to make a U/R artifact themed legendary creature in this set? Logic says yes, but the spiteful history of Wizards’ carrot trolling says it’ll happen alongside the Damnation reprint. They’re printing legit four colour commanders in this set and the first one’s a doozy:

Say hello to Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice.

That’s a pretty spiffy job of making a build around commander that fits a veritable buffet of play styles. Superfriends? Infect? +1/+1 absurdity? Sunburst and charge counter artifact shenanigans? So much stax fun (for you and nobody else)? How much room have you got? You’ve got abzan, and simic to call on. Plus she’s cheap enough and in hexproof colours, so she’s gonna stick around. Plus the art is fucking gorgeous. Nice first preview card.

There’s also another interesting new commander mechanic called “partner”. Partner reads “You can have two commanders if both have partner”. So you can mix and match to make your own colour combinations of three and four colours. It sounds gimmicky, but we’ll see how much crossover there is between them. Most of them are kind of okay at the moment (with the exception of this fucking monster, Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix), but we’ll see how they play out once we see the whole set.

Like any infomercial though, that’s not all.

This card (currently only available in Portugese, which has the creature type “Elemental Boi” (o shit waddup!) is a great little beater. Quickly rising incremental damage is an excellent way to force action on a stale board. Get three players in on the mix and dat boi’s damage is gonna stack up. I can’t wait to toss it into an aggro gruul deck and beat face.

Sublime Exhaltation, despite having great art, seems ultimately lacklustre. If you’re playing a game with enough players to reduce its cost below Day of Judgement you probably want to kill yourself instead of prolonging an already trying experience. There are so many wraths already. Just play Wrath of God, or Day of Judgement, or Rout, or Fumigate, or Austere Command, or Hallowed Burial, or Terminus, or Akroma’s Vengeance, or Final Judgement, or Planar Cleansing, or Phyrexian Rebirth, or Martial Coup, or Winds of Rath, or leave the game and start something reasonable like a three or four player match. If you’re casting this for four or five, there are much better options.

Primeval Protector will sometimes win you the game, but in that situation you’d often be winning the game regardless, or if you drew practically any other creature. Yes, you’ll probably be paying 5G for a 10/10 that boosts your board, but you still have a big dumb beater that gets chumped all day. It’s even quite likely that it’ll be 1G or G for a 10/10 that boosts your board. If the board is that clogged, it’s probably not gonna do a lot. Sure, tell me how amazing it’s gonna be in your Xenagos deck to do 20 damage out of nowhere. Or play a 6/6 with any kind of evasion and watch me actually shiver a little bit. Believe me, I want this guy to be a house. I’m just not sure he’s really gonna get there.

I’m running out of time, so here are a few quick thoughts.

Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder is lord of oxen and thus lord of my heart. I do wish they’d stop putting the bore into boreos commanders though.

Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus actually seems like a top notch way for izzet decks to keep their hands full to engage in fun shenanigans (which I think is an izzet mage’s favourite word).

Vial Smasher the Fierce doesn’t immediately shine to me due to the random direction of the damage, but it’s also a three cost creature that likely gets ignored and does even more damage than Dat Elemental Boi. So that’s something. A fast game’s a good game.

Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa feels poopy. If you’re going wide with small creatures, isn’t the idea to crush them under the weight of +1/+1 counters and anthem effects, thus rendering his ability sort of pointless?

Silas Renn, Seeker Adept likes Glaring Spotlight a lot. I’d worry about how mana intensive that was if he wasn’t a fucking artifact general, thus littering your board with mana rocks. Saboteur effects all day long. Did someone say “cipher”?

Wizards have been knocking it out of the park with their casual/multiplayer friendly sets lately and this looks to be no exception. I’m not gonna say that I can’t wait, because I can and I will. Spoiler season is always in season.

A true company man.

I haven’t had an alone day in yonks, but holy hell, it’s been delightful. Having minimal human interaction has felt really calming, which is weird seeing as I’m so often craving interaction. My girlfriend went off to work in the morning and I’d planned to meet a friend for lunch. Well, meeting up for lunch was what I intended to do, but I didn’t tell anyone else of these plans until this morning. I sent off a few messages while I mixed down episode 11 of the Pawdcast in my underwear, while snacking on an apple. No stress, just calmly monitoring while enjoying the serenity. It all fell apart and nobody was free/interested. No worries, I thought, my body is shutting down without food so I’ll just go it alone. My heart was set on a big bowl of pork bone soup and my body desired little more than catching up with my heart.

I found a quiet place and was stoked to see very few other customers. I took a seat by myself close to a heater, made my order and pulled out my phone. I had nowhere to be, no time constraints, plus the bowl came out bubbling and fresh. For the next hour or so I peacefully worked away at the soup. Aimlessly surfing around the internet, no agenda or direction, slowly enjoying the different components of my meal. I’ve been to a few Korean places now, and I’m used to the general assortment of side dishes. Sweet potato, glass noodles, pancake, mung beans, etc. Radish was one of the side dishes, which is not out of the ordinary. Cold macaroni and cheese is unusual and a cold sweet corn/apple medley was equally novel. It took a good half hour for the pork bones to be touchable and I relished in pulling them apart, tearing soft flesh from the bones one by one. I took my time finishing up, then wandered home in my own time, serenely taking in the surroundings.

The rest of the day has been totally placid. Fiddling around on the internet, watching Black Mirror (okay, so not entirely placid), eating rice crackers with hot English mustard (the things you do when nobody’s watching, eh?). After having been balls out busy for the past while, taking a day to relax and reset is doing wonders. My somnolence will likely hit its zenith around 9pm and I’ll gently slip away into animated dreams. It’s been by far the least eventful day I’ve had for weeks, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. No matter who you’re with, as soon as you’re around another person your behaviour skews performative to some degree. It’s like that part of my brain has been switched off and cooled down. Hence the rice crackers/mustard thing.

And now that I’ve finished up here, I have company to attend to. Myself.

Dancing to clean, impress.

I love dancing. If that’s a secret it’s the world’s worst kept one. It usually takes few drinks to come out, but once I hit a certain level of intoxication it seems futile to do anything else. It’s reckless, ridiculous stuff too. Big kicks, dropping low, twists, jumps, erratic, jerky movements. I know how silly it all is but that’s never stopped me. Why stop myself from having fun if it harms nobody? Well, nobody else, I should specify. As much fun as I have on the night, my body has a choice bundle of four letter words awaiting me in the morning. My back lets me know just how much twisting I did the night before. Blisters are an occupational hazard and before I got my knee brace, I’d be hobbling for the next few days. Being a dance floor whirling dervish is one hell of a workout.

Some nights are on a different level to others. Some nights the music resonates somewhere deep inside and it lifts you with it. You know where this is going, obviously. Last night was one of those nights. Dance Yourself Clean is a touring event playing a bunch of indie dance tracks. Not esoteric stuff, just the kind of songs you’d rarely find at a club. As my friend put it so adroitly, they’re the kind of tracks you dance to at home. LCD Soundsystem, CHVRCHES, Neon Indian, etc. Tracks with a great beat, that you’ll eagerly devour on transit en route to work, with moves that rarely show on the subway.

I’m gonna put it out there that I’ve never been to a dance event playing “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem. I’ve got a massive emotional attachment to that song (given a weird night driving an RV between Jersey and Baltimore for the first time on the opposite side of the road). Last night I had the inclination and the space to move. So, spurred onwards by fellow enthusiasts, I spent the four or five odd minutes tossing out eccentric movements, using my space like Stanislavski taught me. It was a moment I feel like I’d been waiting for years to experience. My friend had SoundHound virtually permanently open. If there was anything that sounded neat but we didn’t know, she pounced on that. Just because it wasn’t esoteric, didn’t mean that we weren’t in on it.

They had a live performing artist there, the first artist signed to their label. It was a really interesting instance of a label being totally tone deaf. The guy wasn’t bad by any means, but when you’ve got a crowd coming for this predetermined nouveau nostalgia, it’s strange to throw a new cog into that machine.His appearances were usually dance floor anathema, or a call to grab a drink.

Still, at any time when he wasn’t gracing the stage, my friends and I were either packing the dance floor or finding uninhabited areas in which to creatively use space. There’s something to a brand of music that you’ve always wanted to hear when you’re out for a good night, but rarely do. I’m unsure if the rash from my knee brace, plus belly full of 3am Korean food, would be considered dancing myself clean. In any case, I danced myself silly and that’s an always welcome outcome.

More than one job? Well done.

Apropos of nothing, here are some things that have happened at various jobs:

  • When I worked in Media Ingest we had to ingest (basically upload) material and make sure all the details were correct in the system. There was a comments field where we could mention any anomalies, etc. In this job, we also had to QC a bunch of porn that we’d later ingest. At some point in time (and it may well have happened by now), somebody will discover that in the entry for Booty Island 3 the comments read “Some interesting concepts, but lacks the deep character development of the original.”
  • Setting up for a children’s party, they wanted to watch Spongebob. There were two TV remotes that looked near identical. “What’s the difference between them?” Asked a small child. I thought for maybe half a second and replied “They have different names.” I lifted the one in my left hand and said “This one’s Jeffrey” (the first name that came to mind) then raised the right and said “and this one’s Dharma” (thinking of Dharma & Greg for possibly the first time in ten years). Upon my brain catching up to my mouth, I realised any sane adult could’ve just heard “Jeffrey Dahmer”. These were not sane adults and as such it passed right over their heads.
  • One of the places I worked had a Friday night post work bar. It was great. Our management worked behind the bar and drinks were bottom dollar. $2 for a shot or beer. It was the company’s way of giving back. On the last night of my employment there, I felt like doing cartwheels down the hallway would be an excellent idea. It was all going fine, until my foot graced the side of a picture frame. I stood up, shaky from both booze and having been repeatedly upside down. I hurriedly adjusted the frame and noticed a security camera right above me. I stopped, deer in headlights, before realising that a) it wasn’t motion sensitive and b) it would’ve seen me all the way up the hall regardless. I quickly scampered out of there, realising that some of the last security footage of me in that job would have showcased my alcoholic athleticism. Is that basically a mic drop?
  • For one of my jobs, I worked in a small town. My boss and I lived together and he was probably my best friend down there. We’d both driven up to Auckland independently for a Pixies concert. We’d also both had a shit ton to drink. I was hanging out with a friend post-show and saw my boss taking a leak on a small shrubbery. As I saw him finish up, I called out to him. He lumbered over and gave me a hug, then shook my friend’s hand. Like a night dwelling animal, he heard something and his ears metaphorically perked up. He turned his head and dashed. I turned to my friend and said “So I guess my boss just pissed on your hand.”

Yes, Ampersandman…

I’m a vivid, sometimes lucid dreamer. I’m hesitant to throw the term “lucid” around, because it’s something that ebbs and flows. I’ve deliberately tried to lucid dream before and done so effectively. It was great. Immediately I started flying and teleporting around the world. I went to Glastonbury festival and watched a bunch of bands. I flew around the streets in my neighbourhood just to see what it felt like a few metres in the air and at high speed. Lucid dreaming was A+. It was also more effort than I wanted to keep up. Lucid dreaming meant applying a lot of attentive thought to the idea right before I fell asleep. Reminding myself to try and look at the written word in my dream. A page from a book, signs, a clock. Telling myself that if I looked closely, glanced away, then looked back to see different or scribbled text, that I was in a dream. I could then guide the dream from that point onward. The hardest part was knowing that I was in a dream and not waking myself up. Even in that subconscious state there was the faint physical sensation of sheets against my resting body. There was an active push to stay in that fantasy world that so often I would lose.

Even when I don’t lucid dream, I’m super fortunate to often be in a position of dominance. Either I’ll possess some kind of powers, or this faint understanding that there’s nothing I can’t accomplish, for some reason. I remember a recent dream where I had to pass a series of tasks in order to win a woman’s hand in marriage. One of the tasks, for instance, was to work a bent cast iron pot back into shape with my bare hands (that’s dream logic for you). I looked at it and thought this is impossible, but no sooner had I taken hold of the pot that I realised oh wait, this is malleable. Everything is. I can’t remember the rest of the tasks, but they were a breeze after that. I also remember her family being a bit creepy, strangely enough. Her brother looked like Stephen Baldwin.

I’ve had flying dreams on the regular since I was a kid. The first one I remember had me as this little kid, no older than 7 or so. I was at my best friend’s house in their pool area. I tried to leave through the gate, but there was no handle. I looked and looked, but couldn’t find a way out. I realised there was a way up and levitated above it. Since I was already airborne, I stayed there. Why not, right? I have Spider-Man dreams a lot. Well, perhaps three times a month. I’ll be going about whatever narrative the dream casts me down, then I’ll realise things would be easier if I just walked up that building. I’ll “thwip” out a web or two and start swinging away. I’ll be strong, agile, bouncing about. Upon waking there’s always a beat of dismay, before realising I’ve got it pretty good, so there’s no point complaining.

The weirdest part is that I don’t even like sleeping. I do it out of necessity, but it’s hard to shake the notion that if I’m dreaming I can’t actually be doing anything. Like Gustav Graves, I’d rather be super productive and rule the world (or at least catch up on all my TV shows). All this power at my disposal and I waste it frivolously. I guess not everyone’s bent on total domination.

Let’s face the truth: I obviously got bitten by a radioactive scrotum.

Something lately has changed in me. My posture has naturally shifted. I’ve been walking with my head held higher, chest more pronounced. Not bogged down so much by the weight of the world. Perceiving life through a different lens. Slights that once seemed so daunting have shrunk in my eyes. There’s a confidence I carry that for years was absent and nigh insurmountable goals feel closer. At times I feel like I can reach out physically and pull myself past them. I’m less inclined to meekly accept, when I could instead act. At the same time I’m mindful that my patience has dwindled somewhat. I’m quicker to frustration at being incapable of making things work out. When I see the obstacles in my way and understand they’re immovable, it feels like I’ve somehow failed myself. While I’m suddenly conscious of my capability, the area beyond my reach itches like a phantom limb.

I think my body has finally worked out how to produce testosterone.

I’m only half joking. Post Tough Mudder I’ve been cognisant of my own wherewithal to a greater extent. I’ve been putting effort into keeping active. I’ve also been buoyed by acknowledgement from others. Is this a psychological phenomena? Or could there be a chemical element to it? It’d explain the mood shifts I’ve been having, the chaffing of constraints and the perception of potential. The assurance in my back pocket of my own capability. The ability to dampen white noise in favour of the peaks. A reduction in seeing myself as the problem in all scenarios and an ability to instead look outwards.

It’s worth considering, if only to manage any potential harm it could do. I’ve definitely noticed myself being easily irritated at work lately. On one hand, since moving buildings while being stuck in the same job, there’s the awareness that I could be doing so much more. I’ve been trying to move on up (like M People). The fact that I’m not, after almost two years of a role that rarely changes, has become increasingly stifling. Over the past week, every time I leave the office to grab lunch I note my shitty mood. Stepping outside to take a breath has become less of a treat and more of a necessity. I don’t think I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve treated people with less respect. Still, I’m mildly concerned that this decreased inward reflection could cause me to at bullheaded or indelicate.

Like the majority of my thoughts, it’s probably bullshit. Concurrently, like any good coprologist, it could be bullshit that’s worth keeping tabs on.

Also if I hoist a car above my head, I think that’s an affirmative.

Finally fulfilled my bucket list dream of writing that dumb (née) thing in a published work.

The usual story. After the review is published on the mothership, I’ll change the entry to a link.

If the recently renamed and renovated REBEL (née Sound Academy) wanted an effective litmus test, it’d be hard to find a better candidate than M83. The French electronic band isn’t known for half measures, with a sound that’s cinematic in scope and a zealous stage presence drowned in light. Sound Academy was always a much maligned venue, distant and cramped with lacklustre sound, whereas M83’s live shows are often spoke of in reverent tones. The outcome was anyone’s guess.

M83 bolted straight out of the gate with 2012’s “Reunion” and the crowd collectively lost its shit. An anthemic audience favourite, its scale was matched perfectly by the floodlights illuminating the room. Mounted beams of light were scattered throughout the stage, pulsing and rotating as the band let rip. Showmanship was in abundance, whether it was lead singer Anthony Gonzalez emphatically posing as massive beats hit, or multi-instrumentalist Jordan Lawlor bounding around the stage, leaping from the drummer’s platform. Joe Berry earned an ovation every time he strutted out for a saxophone solo, while new addition Kaela Sinclair stepped away from her keys and showcased her stunning vocal range in “Oblivion”.

The setlist ranged across their discography, which raised a question of its own. Junk, M83’s most recent album, is a significant stylistic departure from their others. How they were gonna meld the laden, atmospheric shoegaze tracks with their new irreverent French electropop vibe? In all honesty, it wasn’t seamless, but it was altogether too much fun to care. If the tone wasn’t obvious enough, the visual distinction was marked. The headier songs were bathed in cohesively coloured solemn lighting. The newer tracks eschewed balance for flashy, saturated tints, with a general sense of ‘fuck it, just dance’. The addition of vocalist Mai Lan cavorting about the stage brought a renewed playful ambience. Hell, she kicked above her head at least once.

So that’s M83, how did REBEL do? For the most part, pretty damn well. The stage is expansive, showcased by sublime mid-set surprise “Sitting” from the M83’s self-titled debut. Purely instrumental, the song saw the band working the stage while Lawlor danced about, bashing away at a toy drum. The venue is no longer a sardined sweatbox, with at least breathing room in lieu of the old to shoulder-to-shoulder space. The sound is… better than it was. The peaks and troughs were all clear, but while M83 were giving it all they had, the presence of the sound was slightly lacking. You could hear it, but not 100% feel it. The lights, on the other hand, were where they brought their A-Game. Top to bottom splendour. Altogether, the renovations were much better than the cringeworthy name REBEL suggested.

M83 on the other hand were a spectacle to watch. Their joy in performance was effortlessly evident and lifted the crowd with it. The band bowed for a curtain call before walking off, glistening with sweat, waving and smiling. I can’t be the only one counting down the days till they return. But, y’know (maybe at some other venue?)…