Grin, care and bear it.

Today owes me. Tonight didn’t quite pan out. I had every intention of doing anything, but none of it came to fruition. Accordingly, I’m expecting today to double deliver. We have a White Elephant Secret Santa party at work then I’m off to a friend’s birthday drinks. Everything should be in order. So what went balls up last night?

Well we have this White Elephant thing today, right? I thought I’d be a smarty face and work ahead. I stayed late and got a bunch done so I’d have precious little to do pre-party today (that part panned out swimmingly, he says before the White Elephant has started). I left late and, as I’d planned, went to the gym. The nice thing about going to the gym late is that it’s easy to get in on squat racks, etc. The gym is barren and wonderful. The shitty thing is that it’s hard to gauge how much to eat before a workout. You don’t want to eat too much and feel bloated, but if you have nothing in your belly you’re already ruining your chances of performing in said workout. Not ideal, Neil. It’s tricky and usually means you’re famished by the time you’re finished. I was, but given the big weekend of food and drink I was resolute in waiting until I got home to eat. Alluring as pizza or Korean would be, I needed fibrous greens and clean protein.

The TTC did not abide by my desires. There was a delay on Line 1 due to fire, which meant I wasn’t going anywhere. At least I had last night’s writing to do, which helped some. Still, after seeing no progress 30 minutes in, I ditched the subway and opted to find a streetcar. Walking up to street level, I jumped into the first westbound streetcar I saw, but it turned out to be on short-turn. It was gonna take me all of five blocks north. So I needed to jump on another westbound streetcar which would lead to a northbound bus to take me home. Suffice to say it took me 90 minutes to get home instead of 40. I needed to eat.

I was content to eat and watch something, but I had to give the cat its meds. Then I had to upload last night’s writing. Then I had washing to do. Then I needed to wrap my present for the White Elephant. It was cumbersome. I’d bought three oversized Care Bear soft toys and paid no mind to how much paper they’d take to wrap. We had one mostly used roll of wrapping paper, it was 11pm and I had no options. Fuck. I’d thought I could’ve chucked them in a large black plastic rubbish bag, but we only had small white ones. Shit. What could I do?

I tried rolling off the remainder of our wrapping paper to see if they’d fit. It was close, but not quite there. They needed to be condensed. So I did what anyone with no concern for presentation would do; I grabbed a large-ish plastic bag and I smooshed them all together. I crammed as much as possible into that bag, then drew the string tight. I pushed it down again and drew it tighter. I needed to squish them to 2/3 their size. I smooshed, squished and squooshed as much as I could and tested the paper again. They just fit. It was a Hanukkah-esque miracle for Christmas. How’s that for acculturation?

That was it. That was my night. Is this what it’s like when you have kids? Think that was a boring entry? How do you think I felt living it? So I’m putting pressure on today to give me what I need. For your sake and mine, for the sake of tomorrow’s entry, let today bring something interesting with it.

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Adventageous for some, mayhaps.

You know what’s always great? Discount candy! Especially here in North America, where capitalistic excess is the spirit of the season and holiday candy supply drastically outpaces demand. Because of this, the supermarket opposite work was selling advent calendars for 24 cents each. Naturally I did what any responsible adult would do and bought 15 of them for my adult co-workers. What could make their day better than being given Paw Patrol or Disney Princess calendars? They even came with colouring segments on the back! My grand gesture cost me less than I’d spend on a coffee and lifted the spirits of 14 others. It was a pretty choice exchange and one I’d happily make at any time. Every now and again, capitalism can be pretty damn fantastic.

Then again, net neutrality was repealed today in America, so maybe I shouldn’t speak too soon. I don’t know enough to make an informed, well researched post, but I know it’s not gonna lead to anything positive for consumers. The tl;dr is that in the U.S. depending on your habits, you’re soon likely going to have to pay more for the luxury of surfing the web as we do now. Internet service providers are going to be able to restrict speeds to certain websites, based on whatever package their customer has purchased. Do you primarily use the internet for social media? Cool, get the social media package. But what if you want to play games online too? Well you’ll have to get the gaming bundle as well. Streaming Netflix? That’ll be a different package too. Of course they’re going to sell it as a benefit. There’s a slim chance that for you, it may be. More likely though you’ll have to pay more to use the internet as you currently do. It’s bad news and is most likely the result of powerful lobbying groups slipping fat stacks of cash into the back pockets of the politicians involved in making this happen. Here in Canada we’re safe for the moment. Trudeau himself has come out as saying it’s a threat to personal freedoms. We’ve got no reason to be smug or complacent though. Never underestimate the desire of big business to place profits over people.

Oh also in big capitalistic moves, Disney bought a ton of Fox properties today for $52B. That’s a whole lot of schmeckles. In the short term, it’s gonna make a lot of comic fans very happy. Fox owns X-Men, which means that now Disney does too. This means they can stop clumsily pretending that mutants don’t exist in their Marvel priorities. Yay. So it’s all good, right? I’m a lot less optimistic. Fox didn’t only own the X-Men, it owned a ton of adult entertainment (not porn, but probably not far off either). Disney is famously litigious and tight about what kind of material makes it into Disney owned properties. In a perfect world, Disney lets FX and FXX keep running as they always have. They continue producing creative and risky television that pushes the boundaries in wonderful ways. This seems likely for the short term at least. I wonder though. Logan was one of my favourite films this year. It was an emotionally cathartic farewell to a longtime fan favourite character. It was heavy, violent and wholly inappropriate for kids. How would Disney feel about killing off a cash cow? Or the lack of marketable action figures from such a film? Will we ever see another “Logan” under Disney’s Marvel? What about the Netflix properties? The Defenders stable? Will Disney continue to fund adult targeted original content? There’s hope that maybe with the acquisition of Hulu that they could continue where Netflix left off. Or possibly Netflix negotiates some kind of deal where they can keep keeping on. Once again, not hugely hopeful.

Oh well, at least I can console myself with cheap candy.

More like sigh-napses.

So here’s a thing about me. I love stand up comedy, but I really don’t enjoy watching recorded stand up specials. Without being there live and feeling the collective energy in the room, the visual aspect adds nothing and I get bored. Love listening to recorded stand up, don’t like watching it. I’ve had Netflix for a while and seen a bunch of promising specials stack up on my potential view list. I’ve tried, but usually get about five minutes in before calling it quits. Yesterday I cracked the code (remembered my password) so I can put Netflix on in the background at work for listening purposes. It was great. Watched Rory Scovel’s special. Loved it. Patton Oswalt’s Annihiliation. Excellent. Judd Apatow’s special. Maybe he should stick with the film thing. So I put the question out to my friends on Facebook. “People who understand the kind of stuff I find funny, would you mind recommending specials that I’d very likely enjoy?”

Then something that I expected would happen, happened. People just chimed in with things they liked. On one hand, it was nice that people were weighing in and suggesting things. On the other hand, they also weren’t answering the question. The question wasn’t what they’d like, it was essentially “friends, do you know my sense of humour? If so, what stuff do you like that would fit in with that?” Blindly knowing what they liked didn’t help, because humour is such a personal thing and the question hinged on a kind of personal familiarity that many acquaintances (let’s be real, most Facebook friends aren’t particularly close friends) wouldn’t have. I was asking a lot. I thought for a second whether or not it was worth re-clarifying the question. Would people think it rude to do so? Was it rude for them to have asserted their opinion without having read and consisted the full question in the first place? I figured it all came out neutral I’m the wash. So I did, and a friend asked for me to further quality the kind of stuff I enjoyed so she could give more accurate representations. So I responded.

“Sure. It’s really difficult to pin down (cause we’re all complex humans, right?). I like a lot of the alt/meta stuff, but particularly the kind of stuff that points to structures that exist and question why those structures exist. Really, pointing the finger at structures is basically my favourite thing about the medium.

I’m really not into silly humour unless it’s silly humour wrapped under a couple of layers of irony (Andy Kindler sort of thing). Otherwise it’s silly for the sake of silly which, meh. Same with vulgar stuff. It’s fine, but not when it’s trying to get laughs because it’s vulgar. Vulgar pointing to clever observations about the human condition and our shame surrounding this kind of thing are great (Ali Wong’s stuff was great for this).

Dark stuff falls under a similar umbrella. Borderline nihilism is fun to play with because yes humans are terrible and fundamentally do more harm then good. We’re silly creatures who trick one another into thinking we have more significance than we do and there’s a lot of humour in the baggage we give ourselves. Blatant edgelord negativity for nothing other than trying to push the envelope, however, can go suck an egg. Bo Burnham’s one of my kind of peeps for this. Also because he’s horrifyingly talented.

I like it when comics play with the format (Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics, etc), I love one person shows (Chris Gethard – Career Suicide/Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King), great storytelling (most anything Jen Kirkman or Mike Birbiglia) and I do like wholesome stuff a bunch too, but it’s hard to quantify which wholesome stuff I like and why (Pete Holmes and Gary Gulman would be good examples of this).”

In sending this response, however, I realised it was still hopelessly ineffective. They were thin outlines and try as I may have to thicken them or add colour, there was little opacity. The breadth and depth of what I enjoy in comedy and why was hastily sketched. When I thought more, even I don’t fully understand what it is that lights up my synapses. If I couldn’t articulate my preferences with precision, how dare I expect that from others?

There’s a humbling loneliness to this pattern of thought that’s left me hanging a little low. I thought to some degree I knew myself better than this. It should be exciting that I’ve got so much left to learn about how I tick, that I have a lifetime to figure it out. At the same time, it’s kind of isolating. It makes me question how close the friendships I have are, what sort of connections I assumed were there, but may not be as solid as I’d thought.

Then the other side of me thinks I should just lighten up. Maybe listen to some comedy or something.

Admit it, you were Let Down by those Thom Yorke jokes.

Today’s gonna be one of them mad dash to get this finished pieces. Don’t expect insight, salient views or scrumptious mental titillation. I wouldn’t ever expect that, but today will be devoid of any valid content. Bullet point time.

  • First up, Crabcore. Crabcore isn’t something that springs to mind often, but every once in a while I remember it and giggle a bunch. Then I’ll watch “Stick Stickly” a few times. If you’ve never seen Crabcore before, it’ll become apparent pretty quickly in the video. My favourite move is the Crabhammer. I might try a couple of crab moves, but invariably my pants are too tight.
  • It’s rare that I don’t flirt with memories of Crabcore without going back to check in with Crunkcore. It also was a thing. The music is twice as terrible and the imagery is silly as hell. I’m not gonna lie though, I’m kind of a fan of saturated colours. Maybe I have residual goodwill because one of the guys reminds me of Kevin Nealon, but much shorter.
  • When I think of saturated colours, I can’t help (falling in love) thinking of Hobo with a Shotgun. Brutal cartoon violence and a deeply uncomfortable colour palette. It was not a great movie, but with a couple of friends and a few drinks, it was pretty damn enjoyable.
  • A film that was great? Turbo Kid was great. I’ve raved about it here before. Set in the post apocalyptic future of 1997, it’s a glorious mishmash of Mad Max imagery with the spirit of BMX Bandits. Like Hobo with a Shotgun there was gratuitous cartoon violence, but it was a considerably more light-hearted affair. Great 80s throwback soundtrack and iconography. A joint Canadian/NZ film production, it’s one I need to see again.
  • Would Thom Yorke be considered idiosyncrateque?
  • Would Thom Yorke date on OKCompupid?
  • Is Thom Yorke’s first child named Kid A?
  • Was “Honey” Thom Yorke’s nickname for Pablo Escobar?
  • Does Thom Yorke remember Amnesiac?
  • Does Thom Yorke poo out moon shapes?
  • Does Thom Yorke call yoga “The Bends”?
  • Does Thom Yorke consider Lamb Shank the King of L(i/a)mbs?

I’ve done enough damage here. I’m out.

An astutorial could’ve been handy.

Magic The Gathering themed post. As always, if that’s not your thing maybe don’t read this one?

I’ve been searching for a way to play Magic online for many years now. The more astute (or smart arse) of you probably just said “how about Magic Online? It sounds tailor made for just that.” I hear you, it does sound like a solution. Frankly though, I’ve invested a ton (too much) in my paper collection over the past 17 years and the notion of opting into digital product has zero appeal. What I’m looking for then, is all the action at no cost. A lofty goal, but an admirable one (unless you’re Wizards of the Coast or someone else whose livelihood is dependent on customers). I’m sure those “astute” folks who were quick to point in the direction of Magic Online are now asking why I don’t just play with my physical cards. I do, so don’t get so judgey. It’s just not always viable at 11pm on a Monday.

I used to use Magic Workstation. While it wasn’t technically a program for playing online (it ostensibly was to organise your collection?), that’s exactly how everyone used it. There were no strictly enforced game rules, it just operated on a general principle of Don’t Be A Dick. Most people were. Still, I wasn’t gonna complain about the price. I used it for years, made a ton of decks, tried out strategies I never would’ve been able to afford with physical cards. I played with people from all around the world at all times of day and night. Things were great. Over time it got harder to find a game. I hadn’t been blacklisted, I think users migrated to other options when they became viable. I didn’t. I just retreated back into the 90s Microprose game when I need a quick fix.

The other day I saw a post on Reddit looking for non-Magic Online options for online magic. I mentally jotted down the suggestions and gave them a try.

Untap.xyz was cited as having a friendly community, so I hopped on and gave it a crack. It was an online UI. Nothing to download, I merely had to make an account. I downloaded a generic EDH list from EDHREC and got stuck in. The interface looked really nice. It was a joy to not have to download a ton of images and additional files. The deck building tool was easy to use. It was quick to find a game. There were a ton of options and things weren’t too difficult to find. Great, right? It was also slow as fuck. I’ve got a decent internet connection, but actions still lagged. Magic is a game with fucktons of actions. An EDH game that didn’t even go for that many turns still took about an hour. I tried learning hotkeys, but they were unintuitive and didn’t work if the chat window was selected. No deal.

I moved to the next suggestion, which was XMage. The interface reminded me a bit of Magic Workstation. I had to downloaded software, but if that meant it would run smoother, I was in. All I had to do was download the images. Turns out though, that the image pack was 50 gigs and would take around ten hours to download (the server was slow. I usually get about 5MB/s). I tried it without images, but it wouldn’t show the cards’ casting cost. Less than sub-optimal.

Last up was Cockatrice. I remember trying it years back, but not wanting to shift to a new program and lose all my decks. With no decent alternatives, why not now? People on Reddit complained about the community, but having weathered Magic Workstation, my standards weren’t astronomical. The interface was simple. Maybe a little nicer than Magic Workstation. The hotkeys were exactly the same. It ran quickly. It all felt intuitive. It had four player capability. Wary as I was of the community, it took no less than five minutes for someone to invite me to draft a Commander Cube with them. The players were friendly, we had a fun, interactive multiplayer with big splashy plays. In short, it was exactly what I’d been looking for as a replacement for Magic Workstation.

So what do you smart arses have to say about that?

Rice rice baby 12 rolls, 12 rolls.

A Sunday with almost zero plans. I was all set to be a good boy and get to a gym class, but I was thwarted by uncooperative buses. Bambuszled? The wheels on the bus went ’round and ’round too slowly for my tastes, so I changed it up for a run instead.

It’s great that Toronto seems to have noped out so far on snow, but winter running still ain’t the greatest. Inhaling too sharply sends daggers down your throat. It may just be the ravages of old ages, but joints tend to be less lubricated than usual. Your nose drips uncontrollably, then your snot gets cold against your upper lip (or in the case that you’re mustachioed, it nestles into the foliage and chills away). Knuckles may be the worst part. They get all dry, cracked and sore. Then you’ve gotta work at controlling your body temperature. Too many layers and you’ll drench your way through them all. Insufficient layers mean you won’t even sweat. Until you come back inside, that is, then your pores become waterfalls. I’m sure there are valid solutions to every one of these issues, but I have yet to find them.

I did say I had almost zero plans today. A friend of mine posted the other day looking for people to All You Can Eat Sushi with. Each sunset has brought me closer to that moment and since I’ve risen, I’ve thought of little else. All You Can Eat Sushi is both ascension to the divine and an abomination most foul. It’s the epitome of North American culture, to take a delicate flower and add flamethrowers. In my mind, sushi is an example of grace and craft. Everything is just so. I think of beautiful presentation, finely sliced sashimi, and a balance of flavours. All You Can Eat Sushi asks the question that if a small amount of something is pleasant, wouldn’t having all of it be an orgasm on a plate?

All You Can Eat Sushi charges extra for any unfinished food, which is entirely fair. The other side of this is that people drastically over-order, then struggle to wolf down everything in front of them. There’s no time limit, but you can be assured that most anyone going for All You Can Eat Sushi has mildly starved themselves to get the most “value” out of their meal (I mean, regardless of quantity wouldn’t “value” mean enjoying your food until you’d had enough?). As soon as it starts, people go ballistic and order five of everything. Then when it comes they start eating and order more so they’ll never have to take a break. Then the second lot comes and they realise they might be full. But it’s not like you can go out for All You Can Eat Sushi and not get dessert, right? Stuffed as they are, they shovel more until their stomach bulges like they’re smuggling several kilos of coke. Wait, why am I talking in the third person like this isn’t exactly what I do every time? Because of course it is. I can’t wait.

I’ll have to though, which is life’s most cruel betrayal.

If you look at this board game without the slightest trace of irony…

Woowee, I feel shattered. Last night was a big one (as things tend to be when you start drinking at 3pm). Today has been far more restrained. I’m chilling out, maxing and relaxing at home in a cosy bubble of lethargy. If I get anything accomplished before bed, I’ll have ascended my personal Mt Olympus. I had goals today and succeeded in basically none of them. However, I managed to complete missions I didn’t even know that I had. I guess we can chalk that down as a success.

One of my big goals today was to get some new pants. I’ve been going through pants like crazy over this past year. I don’t know what it is. I’ve been wearing them down/out enough and scrambling to replace them. Then yesterday at the work party I dropped a little too low while dancing and tore a small, unnoticeable hole in my mustard yellow jeans. Bummer. Well, more inside leg than bum, but regardless, I was non-stoked. I once had these perfect dark green pants. They lasted for years, but they developed a hole in the pocket that wasn’t close to the seam. Game over man, game over. So I’ve been trying to find some evocatively lush/verdant/flourishing trousers to replace them. I didn’t realise I was such a fucking stickler, but it hasn’t happened. Failure all around. They’ve been too expensive, too big or small. Some real Goldilocks shit. The day I find some that are just right is the day I’m devoured by bears. You heard it here first.

I will not be eaten by bears today. I went to a thrift shop and value village, but found nothing. I looked at a shirtload of pants, tried a couple on, but no dice. I did however, find an old cheesy smoking jacket adorned with blue roses. I had this sweet one that I grew to quickly love until I fucked up and put it in the wash. It got torn to shreds. This new one will do nicely. I spent quite some time in Value Village searching the racks for slacks but there was a lack. They’d be taxed anyway. I had time to kill so I looked for a good dress up suit. There was a slick purple number, but just to break my heart it was a large. Boo-urns. As I wandered I found two onesies to try on. A zebra and giraffe. The zebra was way too small and the giraffe was only mildly too small. For $5, I could live with that. Still no pants.

I looked at the kitchen supplies for a cheap frying pan in good nick. I found nothing but disappointment. When I turned the corner to see the framed pictures, I was hit by a bolt of inspiration. The work Secret Santa was coming up and there was a $15 limit. This place was perfect. My heart soared seeing a sublime picture of two cats. It was glorious, ghastly and colossal. It’s hard to see the scale from that image, but this thing was roughly the size of a coffee table. We’re playing the game version with gift stealing. Can you imagine how hard people would work to get rid of that? Brilliant. Unfortunately, there was a tear in the plastic seal covering it. I’d feel bad giving something damaged as a Secret Santa gift, no matter how amazing it was. I looked around for any other pictures even half as tragic, but came up with zilch.

I tried looking around for weird appliances, but came up similarly short. I found a Jeff Foxworthy You Might Be a Redneck If… board game, but figured my co-workers might be a bit young to get the irony. Not worth letting a joke fall flat. I looked at the soft toys, hoping to find something both ugly and outrageously sized. Then I noticed a Care Bear roughly the size of a toddler. It was $5. Better yet, I noticed another one. Then another. Perfect. I’m hoping they straddle the line between desirable and not. Will people fight over them? Or try to dump them on someone who really doesn’t want them? Both, I hope. We’ll find out on Friday.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss my accomplishments after all. Today was a good day.