Teh Fire, Teh Feri

Magic the Gathering post. Usual disclaimer applies. If you’re not into the game, come back tomorrow for more relevant content. Like when I inevitably talk about poop. That’s relatable, right? If you are into the game, AutocardAnywhere is a useful Chrome extension to have.

Happy Dominaria pre-release day everyone. I’ve been psyched for this set ever since it was accidentally leaked. I started playing the game waaaaay back in the year 2000 (or as it was commonly known, the Willenium). Invasion was my first set and couldn’t have found a better time to start. Multicolour cards, big splashy dragon legends. War on a planetary scale. Kavu being kavu. Aces all around. Ergo, the plane of Dominaria held a special place in my heart. My parents got me the Invasion novel for my birthday and I spent years reading all of the trashy fantasy novels in order to devour the flavour of the game I loved so much. Dominaria the set then felt like a homecoming. New takes on some of my old favourite characters. The concept of legacy and history, destiny coming full circle. Juicy stuff. The set looked wonderful and complex, with strong build-arounds for EDH, standard and limited alike. The removal was solid and the format seemed to promise some actual interaction. My question then, was how pre-release day would play out.

Have I done enough of that stupid food blog recipe bullshit yet? You’re all “where’s the fucking decklist” and here I am self-fellating with unnecessary preamble. Look, here’s your goddamn decklist. Cast your eyes upon it and feel disgusted:

Creatures (10):
1x Valduk, Keeper of the Flame
1x Sergeant-at-Arms
1x D’Avenant Trapper
1x Pegasus Courser
1x Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1x Two-Headed Giant
1x Keldon Raider
2x Skizzik
1x Siege-Gang Commander

Non-Creature (13):
2x Shivan Fire
1x Short Sword
1x Seal Away
1x Dub
1x Forebear’s Blade
1x Wizard’s Lightning
1x On Serra’s Wings
1x Call the Cavalry
2x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1x Gilded Lotus
1x Blessed Light

Lands (17)
3x Island
6x Plains
7x Mountain
1x Mountain (foil) :p

For once, my pool was fucking ridiculous. I had a Jhoira I didn’t play, because it felt unnecessary. There was an abundance of efficient removal and some truly insane spells. It didn’t look like I had a lot to activate Valduk, but somehow he always seemed to get stacked up. Aside from Short Sword (which was just efficiently costed. Sometimes you’d cast him on turn four and immediately equip to get an elemental). Once I dropped Forebear’s Blade and Dub on him and attacked for 14. It was double-plus swell.

It turned out I had a bunch of Historic stuff and accordingly, D’Avenant Trapper did work. A lot of the time it was letting something beefy get through, but I can imagine she’d shine in a RW equip/aura shell, letting you aggro all over unprepared poindexters. On Serra’s Wings was straight up nutty every time, especially in accordance with the aforementioned D’Avenant Trapper. Whatever you drop it on is very hard to block and makes it nigh impossible for your opponent to race. God forbid you drop it on something that already has first strike. It’s basically like assembling an Akroma, Angel of Wrath.

As I mentioned, my pool was beyond reasonable and utterly stacked with bombs. Even if I wasn’t playing green, Shalai was astoundingly strong. Base stats above the curve and the hexproof ability shat on Icy Manipulator all day. The only way I could use her activated ability was with Gilded Lotus but it never came to that. Very silly card. It was also my first time getting to play Siege-Gang Commander in limited. Yeezus Christ it was a beating. Such a versatile card. Not only does it put down 5 power for 5 mana spread over four bodies, but if you untap you often have 6 direct damage sitting on the board. If you’re playing a rampy deck, 8 damage. Insane.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Teferis, right? I couldn’t believe it when I opened one. You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when the second showed up. Teferi was amazing every time. At least three times I found myself with a Teferi stranded in hand because the first one wasn’t dying. The +1 ability was insane. You’re outdrawing your opponent, and untapping the mana means that even in the absence of a blocker, you can still potentially defend him on your opponent’s turn. I happened to have a bunch of instant speed removal (Shivan Fire, Blessed Light, Seal Away) that really came in handy and took opponents by surprise. I was wary of the second ability putting him down to 1 loyalty, but honestly planting the creature third from the top gave several turns to shore up defences. It was like casting Delay on an on-board creature. I never lost a game when I had Teferi out. Then again, I never lost a game. I split with my opponent in the last round, but we played three games for fun and I won each of them.

When skill fails you, luck sure comes in handy. Dominaria totally delivered.

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Holy mole!

Today I had an ideal burrito.

As a disclaimer, I’m no burrito connoisseur. I think they’re delicious. I greatly appreciate the breadth and depth of ingredients used. Hell, I just love beans. They’re neatly tactile as a food item and enjoyable to consume on the go. Even a nightmare scenario burrito would probably still be secretly tasty on some level. There’s a wonderful mouth feel to a well cooked burrito that I rarely find shawarma achieves. A beautifully crispy exterior giving way to a warm and softer centre. It’s a thing of magic. Despite how it sounds, I rarely get burritos. I doubt I’d clear one per month. Perhaps if I ate Korean a little less often it’d make room for one of these dense savoury bullets on the reg.

Before we get any further, I’d love to extend some hype towards the creators of my lunchtime pride and joy: Bolet’s Burrito. If you’re near the intersection of Sherborne and Front in Toronto, give them your love and money.

With that said, everything came together for this blessed bundle. I don’t know how this magnificent confluence occurred, but I’m so stoked that it settled into my very own stomach. I’m using a lot of gratuitous praise here, like the word “ideal”. I want to put it out there that a) it was deserved and b) I’m not trying to make out that this restaurant is the second coming. I’m not saying that you all need to bum rush Bolet’s, or that it was Michelin Star level. It simply delivered everything that I wanted out of a burrito in one tidy package.

First off, it was massive. One heavy boi. If I were more douchetastic I could’ve started doing bicep curls before my meal to whet my appetite. $9 for a large burrito. The difference between regular and large was a dollar, so I figured I’d splash out. I never figured fish was a hugely popular burrito order, but I was quickly proven wrong. The woman before me ordered one, I ordered one and the dude after me ordered one. After my first bite I realised why. I’m not the biggest fan of deep friend fish. Frankly I prefer the consistency when it’s lightly pan fried. This time around, the deep frying came up Milhouse. The exterior was crunchy, giving way to a soft and flakey flesh. Rather than compensating for a lack of filling with solid fried oil, it was good fish. Copious quantity too. As I said, one heavy boi.

I can’t remember all of the fillings. I just told them to dump in everything and make it spicy. It had both of those things. Aside from the common guac/tomates/lettuce/salsa combo, they chucked in a couple more ingredients. The most notable was the capsicum. Everything was super fresh and the capsicum had a reassuring crunch. There was some kind of sweet potato paste in there too, which backed up the beans and rice nicely. Every bite was something different. A whole range of textures and flavours. They also didn’t bail on the spice either. Without being overpowering, my mouth had a pleasant warmth that lingered for a few minutes post meal. Instead of wolfing the weighty bastard down in one go, I took my time. I savoured it. Also the tortilla swaddled smorgasbord was too massive to inhale. The sun came out and I strolled around with my bundle of joy in hand(s). Today could have gone any number of ways, but I certainly didn’t expect a development this grand.

Apropos of nothing, hard shell tacos fucking suck. Fight me.

Alternatively I could just get a fidget spinner

I’m getting antsy. I was gonna say that I have an itchy bottom, but that mainly sounds like I don’t know how to wipe. I’m listless and need to move in both a physical and metaphorical sense.

Physical:

Maybe two weeks before I left on holiday I did something to my legs/feet. I’ve been meaning to make a physio appointment, but I opted to procrastinate instead. Smart move, eh. It seems less smart now, because I’m not moving at the level I want to. I thought I’d done something to my metatarsals, but that was primarily because they’re the only part of my foot I can accurately name. I know I haven’t *just* done something to my metatarsals because the pain ebbs and flows through different parts of both feet. While I was walking around London I noticed all sorts of little jolts day by day. No common pattern, just brief soreness. I guess thankfully the weather in Toronto isn’t conducive to running, otherwise I’d be altogether consumed by FOMO. There’s still snow on the ground, which seems reason enough to lay off pulling out my jogging outfit.

On the other hand, I’m wistfully (in a future sense?) thinking about summer. I want to be out there, sun beaming down, beads of sweat streaming across my skin. I want to feel the wind at speed. I want to play in parks. It’s been too long since I played Bat Down. I’m keen to mess around with cartwheels, round-offs and handstand walking. Hackey sack or climbing trees. I’m yearning to pick up the pace and remember what it was like to wear something less than a down jacket. Cue four months down the line, when I’m pissing and moaning about sunburn. At the moment, however, I’m thinking about green grass, which on this side hasn’t yet bloomed. I wanna go dancing and not have to bring along cash for coat check. Maybe even make some kind of sandcastle or other structure. Could this year be the year I make it out to Hanlan’s Point again? Or will I follow the time honoured tradition of making excuses and ditching plans last minute?

In short, I’m ready for winter to be over and I think that’s a reasonable demand three weeks into Spring.

Metaphorical:

I’m tired of doing the same thing. It’s a rich thing to say after freshly returning from travel, but I feel stagnant. A new job would of course go some way towards assuaging this existential angst, but maybe I just need a new hobby. I want another creative outlet. Do I start a brand new podcast? Finally try putting together a writer’s room for this TV concept I had? Actually push myself out of the house in the evenings and work on the open mic comedy scene again? Put together material for some storytelling evening? Find a whole new pursuit that’d scratch my metaphorically itchy bum?

The truth of the matter is, this antsiness is a whole lot tougher to get on top of. I can’t just go to a physio who’ll poke, prod, re-track and elbow me into everything feeling better. It would require personal diligence and perseverance. It’d mean I’d have to push myself to making something happen, which is a world away from the kind of navel gazing armchair commentary I do here everyday. Then again, this kind of bold statement of “I should” is enough of an evergreen occurrence around these parts that it’s starting to ring a little hollow. How can I keep telling people that I have creative value if I don’t actually prove it? How did Stella get her groove back? Do I need to travel to Jamaica and encounter a handsome young islander, Winston Shakespeare, who is twenty years younger? Would his pursuit of me turn into a blossoming romance that’d forces me to take personal inventory of my life and try to find a balance between my desire for love and companionship, and my responsibilities as a mother and corporate executive?

Or should I, in a metaphorical sense, learn how to wipe my own arse?

Being grounded doesn’t mean six feet under

I feel ungreat.

The last time I went on holiday I came back a new man. I don’t know what it was precisely, but it did for me what a vacation is meant to do. I felt renewed, confident and ready to tackle any opposition life could throw at me. The one bugbear in my life, my career (or lack thereof) taught me that by its status as my only real issue, stuff was going pretty damn spectacularly. I used this newfound vim to launch myself at everything possible. I made more time with friends and was enthusiastically present. I disregarded my displeasure for my job and instead focused on the things that fulfilled me. My attitude, which had been in a severe downwards spiral for the previous nine or so months (since returning from my trip to Portland), pulled out of its nosedive and ascended. Things were better than bad, they were excellent and I knew I had the personal provisions to keep up that momentum.

After returning from London, I feel the same way as I did post-Portland.

I’m miserable to be back at work. The job still sucks. It’s busier than it was and any motivation I garnered was dissipated by my disappointment that I never got so much as a reply about the job I applied for pre-vacation. I don’t feel renewed by my trip. I feel exhausted. I’m sick with a cold. 22 hours after touching down my ears still haven’t fully popped. I’m unbalanced (physically. I forgot how much hearing dictated your sense of balance) and all congested. I’m exhausted, because the cat decided it’d be prudent to meow outside our door literally all night. It’s Spring and the ground in Toronto is covered in snow. Physically I haven’t been active in a week and a half and my body is letting me know. In short, I’m a bit of a wreck.

What went wrong?

Honestly, I don’t know that I was ready for a vacation yet. My holiday in Austin was at the end of February. That’s only six odd weeks ago. Travel takes a lot of planning, which for me at least requires a lot of emotional energy. I didn’t muster up enough to make adequate plans and as such, the holiday suffered. Travel is expensive. My nine day trip to London, including airfare, cost about $1,800. $200 per day and that’s with free accommodation. The exchange rate from CAD to Pounds was brutal and my wallet felt the sting. Furthermore, aside from the wedding (the reason for the visit) and the allure of seeing old friends again, I wasn’t particularly excited about anything London had to offer. I just went to London back in late 2016. This time around, nothing was really taking my fancy.

Linking all this together, here’s what happened: I spent a bunch of money going on a trip I wasn’t hugely looking forward to. The pace of the trip felt off. I’ve gotten used to a certain style of holiday. I want to be on the move constantly, covering a bunch of ground, going to interesting local events, eating everything fascinating and having fun through spontaneous encounters with strangers. That to me is an ideal holiday. I just had my ideal holiday in Austin. London wasn’t my ideal holiday. It was too soon and didn’t scratch that itch. It burned more emotional energy than it gave and as a result, going on the trip felt more taxing than staying home. As shitty as it sounds to complain about a holiday, here we are.

I know I keep mentioning the finance aspect, but that really isn’t as much of the issue as it sounds. The fact of the matter is, I was in a really good place before going on holiday. I’d had a massive swell of personal development. I’d turned a corner on a truly shitty mire of anguish and anxiety. I felt like I could conquer the world. Now I feel like I’m back where I was when all of that started. It really fucking sucks. Maybe a good night’s sleep will make everything better in the morning, but I have an inkling that there’s something deeper at play here. Fingers crossed this is only temporary. If it’s not, I’ve got some work to do.

Aside from the shitty job, that is.

Why sleep when I could feel subhuman instead?

Is reverse jetlag a thing? I haven’t even left for the airport, but my sleep schedule is already neatly fucked up. I’m going back to my traditional cellphone finger typing, non bluetooth keyboard fashion? Why? Because it’s just struck 6am and I want my girlfriend to have some chance of sleeping until 8. The clicking and clacking of my rhythmic typing would not be conducive to good ol’ shut eye.

Let’s be real. I could spend the rest of the entry complaining about my lack of sleep, how sick I am and the fact that I’m on the verge of returning to a city that, in spring, has been struck by a left field ice storm. None of that sounds fun though, does it? Where else can I go with this?

My girlfriend and I went out for cocktails in Shoreditch last night. Disregarding how touristy 101 that plan is, it proved to be a pretty fun night. Most places do happy hour two cocktails for £10. We hopped around a bunch trying all manner of assorted cocktails of varying quality in varying glasses. One venue was pumping, a blues house with live music every night. We’d stumbled across a day where they had not only £5 cocktails, but £10 stacked plates of ribs. I stumbled upon three other Kiwis there, so you know the booze was both cheap and effective. The next place we tried was a quieter venue who made their own infused spirits. Prague bar or something. The bartender was heavy handed and the “Gingerbread” cocktail we both order came loaded with liquored up prunes. It was a great place to unwind and sink into our phones while we de-stressed and chilled on a comfy couch. It was neat to be somewhere that wasn’t playing any music in English. The playlist was all manner of pop/rock, none of which we could understand. In a simple way, it helped us zone out to The Max (do people do stuff to The Max anymore? Or was that purely a 90s thing?). Then in a misguided move we checked out a bar whose happy hour ran until 9.30. It was dead. Nobody else was in there when we entered. The cocktails took ages and it felt so oppressive to be in there that when they finally did arrive, we chugged them and went back to the blues house to share a plate of ribs.

We were talking about different cities we’d visited and whether or not we’d want to live there. My mind went to Portland, Austin, New York and now London. I realised that a lot of the time I innately travel to places I’d consider as potential homes. It’s baked into the way I travel too. I hate feeling like a tourist. When I visit a new city, I want to have an experience that’s representative of how life there would be. I check out local recommendations of restaurants and cafes (Reddit has been a massive help in this department). I try to find the sites of local papers or blogs to search for events.  I want to meet locals when I travel and try my best to see what their home looks like through their own eyes. It’s what I’d recommend for anyone visiting Toronto. I love Toronto to bits, but it’s not because of the CN Tower or waterfront. A friend of mine visited last year during Easter and the city was dead. I was mortified. Sure, places were open, but nothing was happening. No good events or parties. Zero.

You could treat Toronto like any other sizeable city, but I think you’d just come out the other end disappointed. It’s not as big as New York. It doesn’t have the history of London. Its public transit, while not as terrible as locals think it is, doesn’t stack up to either. Toronto is a city built in an inferiority complex, which is why locals bizarrely celebrate insane shit like Cheesecake Factory style American franchises step over the border. The heart of Toronto that I’ve found beats in its people, the weirdos who somehow never listened when the world told them to stop dreaming. These weirdos make and do ridiculous stuff as a way of finding their tribe. Best of all, it works. A friend of mine decided that Toronto needed a True Crime festival just cause she was really getting into the genre. So she made one. A bunch of my friends run comedy rooms or storytelling events. Toronto is home to darling independent cinemas that screen all kinds of cult films or run strange movie events. There are regular dance nights in bars for disco, guilty pleasures and chronological pop from the medieval era to the modern day. There’s even a party that plays Ginuwine’s “Pony” on the hour every hour. Experimental local theatre is always on. The music scene is fantastic, with cheap gigs constantly rolling through a vast range of venues. Toronto may not be New York or London, but squint a little and you may not see much difference.

You may just hear “sorry” a little more often.

When I’m there, it’ll be more like “The Puns of Brixton”

One day left in London. One and done. Lon and Don? We’ve migrated to South London. I think. Croydon. It sounds like the name of a pokemon, so honestly I couldn’t be happier.

We’re staying with a friend in her actual very own (very owned) place. Like in any city of size, to have any change of owning property you have to move way the fuck out in London. Also like any city of size, most every formerly rough area is on the crest of gentrification. Croydon has its own Boxpark, for instance. A structure composed mostly of 20ft containers, which each serve as stores. It’s both trendy and very cheap real estate. Win win. Also, wings, if you go to the barbecue place. I did, which is how I ended up with a beef rib roughly the size of my forearm. If only I’d been forewarned. Was it good though? Foresure! The “revitilisation” of Croydon has been contentious for some. It’s basically involved trendy spots like Boxpark moving in and formerly historic pubs reforming to grab a hold of that sweet, sweet yuppy gold. Then they get to charge central London prices too. There is a bunch of really neat street art and brutalist architecture, so it’s not like ol’ Croydon doesn’t have the chance of going in a direction that’d actually be all sorts of rad. On the other hand, the Tescos Express we visited last night was in the remnants of a pub from 1896. It’s a coin flip right now. Only time will tell if it’ll come up heads. Or tails. What’d we call?

We’re checking out Brixton today and I have no idea what to expect. When you think about it, that was a bloody silly way to start a paragraph. I didn’t come on this trip with a solid grasp of London geography and socio-political climate. All I know about Brixton is that someone wrote a song called “Guns of Brixton” and Nouvelle Vague covered it. I’m not even sure enough that I’ve listened closely enough to the lyrics to understand what it was about. Street gangs maybe? So I’m guessing it’s a formerly rough and tumble area. Maybe some kind of epicentre for the 70s punk movement? Our friends told us it has a nice market, so that should be a jolly ol’ time. Who knows? Toronto has been dumped on by a massive ice storm. It’s covered in snow, homes without power. Typical Toronto spring, eh? All I know is it makes a dreary day spent exploring the mysteries of Brixton sound righteously exciting.

Also I’m fighting my keyboard something fierce right now. While travelling I use this excellent Logitech bluetooth keyboard.  It’s battery powered. This might be the third or fourth holiday I’ve spent using it for my daily writing. Today it’s sluggish in response, it sometimes skips keystrokes or randomly inserts excessive amounts of certain letters. It’s making writing a total pain. Realistically, the batteries are probably just running low. Let’s try an unedited example of a sentence and see if it’ll act up:

The quick bbrown fox jumps ovvvver the lazy dog.

So imagine that, but for a whole entry.  Grossness. By now I’ve struggled with to enough to happily sign off.

Also I’ve totally run out of anything interesting to say. Ciao!

In Britain, “fancy” means to like someone, eh?

Well that was the only, but most, British wedding I’ve ever attended. As soon as the word “Vintner” is included in the name of the venue, you know some fancy ass bullshit is going down.

I’m being crass only to levy the sincere grandiose nature of the wedding. Stately would also be an appropriate word. Please don’t confuse that for pomposity, because that really wasn’t an issue. That kind of mentality wouldn’t gel with the bride/groom, who had a literal cheese cake (stacks of cheese rounds) for their wedding cake. It was delightfully gluten-free too. I couldn’t believe how many moving parts the wedding had. The ceremony was in a room downstairs, guests were then escourted upstairs to a courtyard and introduced one by one to the couple (by this amazing ex-navy dude). Then there was the reception, during which attendents were on hand roughly every 90 seconds to top up champagne. It was nuts. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a situation before where I had to say “no thanks” so often to free champers. “Champers”. Listen to me. I’ve nary been here a week and I’m already picking up the lingo. The place also had a super exclusive (it could only safely hold 25 people) rooftop patio that we visited in turns via elevator. Then after the reception, we were ushered into the dining hall by our favourite ex-navy MC announcing “ladies and gentlemen, dinner is served.”

Dinner was a riot. One of my favourite things about the event (which was stacked with a lot of my favourite kind of things. I mentioned the cake o’ cheese, right?) was that we got set up on the table with a ton of old uni friends/collegues. I knew the groom from uni/work/living together for several years. Naturally this meant a stack of radio people present. Getting to catch up, hear where they’d all gotten to in their lives and just hang out with old friends was almost a gift. I’d suspected one person who might be there, then another three or so unexpected guests ended up being placed on my table. It was fucking great. It was also surreal to see friends who, maybe I’d stalked on Facebook once in a while, in the flesh ten years later. Thing is, people are doing really cool shit. Some are still in the industry, doing audio work and/or DJing. Others have gone freelance. One pal is licensing films for Amazon Video. They’ve all travelled and moved up in the world. Some are married, have kids and all that etc. It was so fuckin neat to enjoy a bunch of drinks and fine food in their company.

After dinner, we were shepherded off to a (predictably, I guess) fancy bar. Everything looked like it was tailor made for maximum instagrammage. There was a bar tab in place, which I hadn’t expected. This was the second wedding the couple had gone through (which I guess is an option when the groom is a New Zealander and the bride is from Oxford), so I kind of thought they might look for the cheap option. I mean, you’ve probably read the entry thus far. That clearly didn’t happen. I had a few drinks, but also felt like it’d be shitty to take advantage of generousity, so started paying after my first bunch. The music was all Cheesy Wedding 101, in that it could’ve been lifted straight from a Spotify playlist. I mean this only as a compliment. My girlfriend and I tore up the fucking dance floor. Naturally, her and I are both total hams. So there was impromptu Macarena-ing (which the DJ endorsed by actually playing the track) and all kinds of silly interpretive dance. It’s who we are and I wouldn’t change a thing. Most importanly it was wonderful to see the bride and groom having such an excellent time. It was her birthday the day after, so the groom planned with the DJ to play the cheesiest birthday song he could at exatly midnight. We all blew up balloons in secret and cheered once it came on. Drenched in sweat, my girlfriend and I peaced out just after midnight. I mean, we’d been drinking and dancing for hours by that point. We caught the tube, got a ginormous kebab and settled into bed around 2am like boring old people.

Fantastic company, awesome wedding. I don’t know about their bedding, but for us crashing hard felt pretty damn great.