Could the release of Aether Revolt be any more apt?

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. It’s a complex place filled with all manner of motivations, desires, fears and ambitions. For some people it may well seem to be the apocalypse. Others are happy as pigs in shit. Some feel persecuted and fear that ripples in the water now are foreshadowing of a tsunami on the horizon. I’m sure there’s optimism out there, at the same time I’ve witnessed foreboding that history is doomed to repeat itself. Hell, many people are ignoring politics and world events altogether, whether wilfully ignorant or not. It may be self-preservation or a lack of interest. It is possible to have a multitude of passions. Maybe you’re simultaneously terrified of what’s going on, but also really invested in the next season of Game of Thrones. Since I’ve returned to Facebook, I’ve had heightened anxieties about the state of things. I’ve also had a couple of Magic the Gathering deck ideas. The two aren’t necessarily connected, but neither are they mutually exclusive.

It’s been amazing seeing masses coming together in protest over the recent travel bans. People who are willing to stick up for one another, to put themselves in the midst of trouble because of their love for one another. To see active allyship in a concrete fashion. To draw on the strengths of all walks of humankind The lawyers present on the ground, actively aiding those being held. Nonprofit organisations like the ACLU doing their best to stick up for what’s right. People at home donating, helping them gather resources. People spreading awareness on social media, or harnessing compassion to educate when it’s been difficult. It’s been a heartwarming sight to witness humanity coming together and I hope everyone has enough emotional strength to weather the coming storm. I’m sure it’s just beginning.

I’ve decided to dismantle my Sapling of Colfenor deck. I’ve had it together for years and it’s stopped being fun. It does oppressive things, but in a directionless sense. It also fringes upon deck themes of my other EDH creations. Sometimes it’s in position where it can prevent others from doing anything, but can’t flat out win at the same time. It makes it boring for everyone present, myself included. Instead I’ve decided to put together a partner deck of Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper and Tymna the Weaver. The goal is to get creatures with high toughness, connect and gain life. Doran the Siege Tower and Assault Formation will be used to best bring the strength of my creatures’ resolve to the forefront. Wave of Reckoning, Retribution of the Meek and Austere Command will give purpose to their righteous mission. Then since I’m gaining so much life, use these resources to widen my on-board position. Whether this is bolstering my creatures already on board or drawing more cards to add to my creature count. This higher life total can do some amazing things, whether it’s going HAM with Aetherflux Reservoir or some truly dumb Cradle of Vitality/Well of Lost Dreams shenanigans. Strength together!

On the other hand, while I’m truly impressed at the mobilisation of so many people for a good cause, I’m a little worried about moving in one direction in such a headstrong fashion. Being distracted like that opens up a massive opportunity to be blindsided. It’s a typical political tactic that’s been done time and time again. Back home in New Zealand there was a lot of furor kicked up over potentially changing the flag. People got worked up en masse about altering our national symbol. Meanwhile, the government pushed through bills while everyone’s heads were turned. By the time we all stopped rubbernecking, it was too late to take back what’d happened. While everyone’s (rightfully) kicking up a stink over Trump’s immigration policies, what else is he doing? Is anyone following the money? Any collusion going through with foreign investors or interest parties? What’s left uncovered about his close ties with Putin? Is our anger and indignation being used against us while we’re being played like fools? While we put resources we put into attacking on one front (that may or may not be of major concern to Trump’s inner circle), does it strengthen their true agenda?

I love the card Faerie Artisans. I think it’s super flavourful and should’ve been the card for Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist instead of the milquetoast piece of shit we were given. It even makes things out of other people’s resources. Isn’t that perfect for a necro-alchemist? I’ve been craving an excuse to use it since Commander 2016 was released. My love of this card has driven me to want to create. I’ve got a desire to copy my opponent’s permanents and use their efforts against them. In goes Warstorm Surge to ensure that my copy kills theirs, or Cackling Counterpart to make my own copy that sticks around. Then if they try to play another creature to remove my token, I can use it as a resource. I’ll load the deck up with sacrifice fodder such as Krark-Clan Ironworks, Ashnod’s Altar, Phyrexian Altar and Daretti (both Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast and Daretti, Scrap Savant), or harness Master Transmuter before the token is exiled. Phyrexian Metamorph, Sculpting Steel and Clever Impersonator will pull double time either copying my opponent’s permanents or my own tokens. Soul Foundry and Prototype Portal can keep the shenanigans going. Neurok Transmuter will be there to ensure that if I want to copy something, it’s gonna be the right type. Frankly with all the artifact synergies around, it’s gonna be hard keeping the deck to 99 cards. Silas Renn, Seeker Adept and Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus should be the right figures to command such nefarious schemes.

I get that it seems tasteless to trivialise events that are inspiring fear and anxiety across the world. Any worries based on historical precedent are 100% justified. To anyone who’s suffering right now, I’m happy to make space to hear your worries and listen to concerns. I don’t know exactly how you feel, but I understand the amassing pressure present in the lives of so many people I care about. At the same time, if we entirely lose ourselves to our fears and don’t keep our wits about us, then we really have lost. Find levity where you can, even in dark places. Keep your head up, heart strong and reach out if you need a hand. This next bit may get rough.

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Weight and see.

I could write up a snazzy preamble slowly working into the topic, but frankly it’s better to put it out there. I’ve gained weight recently and it’s bumming me out. Eight kilos altogether. I’m the heaviest I’ve been in years and I can feel it, you know? It’s there when I see myself in a mirror. I see it in my face, a softness there. When I’m clothed, there are bulges I haven’t seen in years. When I’m not, curves have replaced definition I worked pretty hard for. I feel it at all times. Not just emotionally (I mean, that’s present too), but physically. My pants are tighter, less comfortable. Before I left, I bought a larger belt than normal because it was all they had close to my size. It fits pretty snugly now.

Emotionally I’m coping. Handling it. I’m not happy with how things have turned out, but I’m not letting it consume me either. Credit to my therapist, she coached me a little in case this came up. Yes, I’m in a situation I have control over. No, my identity is not tied to the way I look. Yes, my friends and family still love me as much as they did before. No, this one thing will not drag down every other aspect of my life. Sound melodramatic? That’s just how my thoughts manifest. You try telling your brain not to think like it does.

Now the why. Diet and exercise. End of year celebrations always involve a cluster of celebrations and I’ve rarely been one to shy away from celebrating. Due to barely taking a holiday in the past few years, I had to burn through a ton of vacation time. From the start of November to the end of January, I was away for five weeks. Five weeks of travelling, dining and drinking. I’ve found that a huge part of maintaining healthy habits is routine. It’s a lot easier to keep plugging away if the pieces are close at hand. The less effort you need to put into making more informed choices, the harder it is to fall back on excuses. Do you have healthy food in the cupboard or accessible at work? Whatever your fitness plans, are they close to your usual route? It’s hard to be as consistently active when you’re overseas. Between that we had Christmas in all of its splendour. Much feasting and revelry. I had a great time and even now I don’t regret it. Just keep breathing.

What now? First, compassion. A big thing I’ve learned in struggling with weight is to forgive myself for slip ups and deviations. At the same time, it’s important to recognise that this is nobody else’s issue to bear. They have their own trials. I’m not a robot, and to err is to be human. Letting go every once in a while stops me from fetishising unhealthy food. If I use it to reward myself, then I’m setting up an unhealthy relationship with my consumption. Casting rich cuisine as a “treat” ascribes a correlation of ethics to food. Food is neutral, it’s inanimate. If I give it a moral compass, that effects my relationship with it. If I feel guilty for having “bad” food, what is that gonna do to the way I feel about myself? It’ll set up a self-perpetuating cycle where I consume because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because of how much I’m consuming. Compassion is important.

Next, adherence. Routines. Simpler, healthy foods. More basic proteins and green/fibrous vegetables. Fruit instead of baked goods. Dropping alcohol consumption for a while (and when I do, moderation). Physical activity at least three times per week (cutting alcohol makes it a lot easier to get in for weekend workouts). More of a reliance on cardio (such a pity it’s winter, making outdoor running pretty tough). Maybe putting the money saved on alcohol into fun rewarding physical activities like indoor parkour, rock climbing or obstacle courses. There’s a non-zero chance that I’ll start to shed the first few kilos simply by being back to a regular routine. As always though, moving ever forward. Not beating myself up for what’s happened, but looking towards a solution and not at myself as a problem.

And now? Patience. With myself mostly.

It’s gross out there in more ways than one.

Today’s been an outstanding exercise in not leaving the house at all. After last night’s “surprise” party (evidence of which was sloppily written all over yesterday’s entry), I managed to extraordinarily stay in bed past midday. For me that’s one hell of an achievement. A modest hangover, likely due to a lack of solid food in my stomach, was taken care of by putting solid food into my stomach. Easy as that. My friend made two exquisite cakes yesterday and the remnants were still in the fridge. She made a cookie cake covered in cookie dough icing (with crushed oreos throughout) and covered in home baked cookies. Ridiculous, right? The other cake was a dense chilli chocolate concoction, cooked with rich dark chocolate and scotch bonnets. Determined to do something other than lie in bed, I pulled out a slice of cookie cake and went around cleaning the house. I told myself I could have one bite every time I cleaned something new. So thanks to the delicious cake we now have a clean kitchen table and vacuumed floors for the first time in months (we’re sorta slack around here). Clean sheets and an empty laundry basket. We also have less cake than we did too.

After last night’s blowout (an unholy assortment of chocolate cherry stout, vodka and boxed wine), I vowed to eat at least somewhat healthily. While I craved nachos pretty hard, I used what little resolve I possess to instead make small cabbage taco things. I pulled off intact cabbage leaves to use as tacos. In a saucepan I cooked up a batch of refried beans, tossing in some cumin, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and chilli. I chopped up a few sun dried tomatoes and fetched cottage cheese. I made a layer of beans, then cottage cheese, sun drieds and Kaitaia Fire. Tasty, filling, farty as fuck.

I re-entered the world of Facebook to find that nothing has changed. There were a ton of lovely birthday messages people had posted a few weeks back. Then Trump. All Trump. Trump and his fucking travel ban. The deplorable actions of a fucking monster. If this is how the Trump administration has conducted itself within the first few weeks, I can only fear for how far it’s gonna go. It’s awful. People unable to return to their families, jobs and friends. Imagine going away for a weekend and returning home to be told that you’re no longer welcome. What would you do? What could you do? If recent refugee crises weren’t enough, now they’re making refugees of citizens? From everything I’ve heard, getting a green card is monstrously difficult, tedious and can take years. It’s hard work. Ironically, a country whose national identity is centred around working hard to achieve success is doing its best to rid itself of honest, hardworking people in waves. All this off the back of a man who’s probably never had to want for anything in his life. Disgusting. Fucking disgusting.

No wonder I don’t want to leave the house.

Sunshine doesn’t carry the same amount of critical acclaim. Blame Cliff Curtis.

This one may be up a little late (as if anyone is that litigious about these things). I’ve got my suspicions and we’ll see if they’re confirmed. I’m expecting that my girlfriend is trying to throw a surprise birthday party. I had my “birthday party” two weeks early of my actual birthday. At the same time I hadn’t had an actual Toronto birthday. I feel like something was up. She mentioned a night cooking together at home alone (which could’ve been any other night of the week). Then she checked whether or not I’d seen her Facebook page. After which, the super big clue, when she told me I’d be missing out by not drinking over a weekend because of Call of Cthulhu. She rarely turns away my decision to not drink. It’s not like we were lacking for spare time. It’s a Saturday and I’ve had a full day out. Original plans were to play another round of Call of Cthulhu, our RPG campaign held by our game master extraordinaire. Either he tends to overstuff his campaigns or we ask too many questions, in any case, one shot campaigns usually end up taking two or three sessions instead. Because we’re trying to mobilise six people altogether, instead of being weekly, we do what we can. Which is a nice way of saying that it’s often months.

In any case, our game master had to work double overnights and our game was cancelled. So my girlfriend and I hit the movies. Plural. After catching Moonlight we snuck into Manchester By The Sea. Sorry not sorry. Two VERY different movies. Moonlight was fantastic, harrowing, inspiring, gorgeous and filled with shaky camera work. Within minutes I felt nauseous, and considerably ill by the end of it. Which is a major pity, cause there really was some stunning character work and cinematography. I loved what I saw when the camera was still, and when it wasn’t I just looked at the floor. Regardless, many tears were shed. Especially with a couple of the musical cues.
***
Okay, so admittedly I’m seven hours into a “surprise” party  that I expected. People have come and gone. I had mass amounts of love around me, buoyed by onesies and booze and puns. I can’t imagine anything more Leon than that. Just for good measure, I threw on some Neil Cicieraga. I have a lot of people here in Toronto who love me. A number who enrich my existence, who with no exaggerations make my life worth living. That could also be very much my drunkenness typing. There were good humans here tonight, which was a testament to Toronto denizens.
Despite the long day. Despite the two movies (the second of which I’ve barely talked about), I’ve had a day where I’ve dealt with the amazing humanity around me. I’m a lucky guy, and luckier still to have a girlfriend who not only knows best, but cares.

Jughead has always been somewhat of a role model. Who wouldn’t want the mutant power of infinite consumption?

I waste too much time on the internet not doing anything. Well don’t get me wrong, I’m only playing an hour or two of Cookie Clicker per day. More realistically, I’m lurking Reddit threads on r/magictcg and r/whowouldwin. It’s not productive and I forget 90% of what I’ve read ten minutes after I’ve read-dit (ged-dit?). Perhaps I’m just unused to having spare time, given the production schedule of the Air Bud Pawdcast last year. For the very limited time being, however, I’ve got time to kill. It’s time to sink some hours into entertainment across the board.

After years of hearing recommendations to do so, I grabbed a copy of the first Dresden Files book. I was expecting something pulpy, a kind of dumb, quippy, popcorn novel. In the first 20 or so pages, I got exactly what I expected. I’ve heard the series gets better as it goes on. That the world gets built out and is ultimately a bunch of fun. One of my old flatmates said the first book was a little shite, but Dresden Files was ultimately enjoyable despite the writer falling too in love with his central character.

So far it’s suffering from heavy-handed exposition [“Is this sign on the door for real? Frank Dresden, Magician for hire?” yeah that’s me, Frank Dresden, like he says, I’m a magician for hire] and that kind of shit. Also, I dunno, *male* writing. Seriously, it’s like the guy is drawing character outlines with his semi as the pencil. The first time we meet some hard nosed female detective (and likely love interest) its all [She was wearing a pantsuit, but she probably had shapely legs built up through years of cheerleading. Blonde haired, blue eyed, she’d be better looking if she smiled more] kind of shit. Tons of clunky ways of tossing in world-building and backstory. At the same time, it comes with enough endorsements that I’m going into it with zero expectations happy to at the very least be mildly entertained. At worst it has me reading again. Throwaway enjoyment, which is perfect for my use as a way to ignore the bane of my existence: The morning commute.

The other thing that’s caught my eye is this new Riverdale show. Growing up I read a metric shitton of Archie comics. I had a close friend and the double digests littered his house. In every room there’d be four or five of the things, they had hundreds. It was harmless fun, with short storylines based on simple characters who rarely strayed from their core definition. Riverdale on the other hand, sounds like it builds on those same characters to not only subvert its own tropes, but the wider tropes of teen entertainment. Ironically it’s on CW of all places. Billed as teen drama/Twin Peaks, this usually wouldn’t be anywhere in the same neighbourhood as my alley.

On the other hand, Archie comics have been known to do weird, subversive, progressive shit for years. Over the years they’ve adopted positive representations of LGBT/differently abled characters without tokenism, blending them straight into the fabric of Riverdale. They’ve also not strayed from the utterly bizarre. Anyone remember the frenzy of 90s team up comics? What about Archie Meets the Punisher or Archie vs. Predator? Whatabout that storyline where Sabrina the Teenage Witch marries H.P. Lovecraft’s #1 ancient one, Cthulhu? Internalised prejudice against CW aside, I’ve got enough goodwill built up through those stacks of double digests to watch a couple of episodes and test the waters. It could end up being as much of a surprise breakout as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (also CW, now that I think of it).

Anyway, I’ve got more cookies to click. See you in Riverdale!

I wonder if Shirley Manson ever did turn the tables.

Did anyone else realise that Frances Bean Cobain was not only not a child, but an actual adult? And an artist? That by the age of 24 she was (past tense intens-ional) married? I only know this because of some headline about her getting a court order to have her father’s acoustic guitar (from the MTV Unplugged performance) returned from her ex-husband. Fancy that, Kurt’s little girl is a person now. For all I know she’s been a person for years, but like Macaulay Culkin and Hayley Joel Osment the world will always think of her as a child. Wait, in the case of those last two, maybe it’s that the world would prefer them to still be children. I kid. The Pizza Underground are a slice of good ol’ American national treasure.

There’s probably some internet neologism akin to sonder about children we once knew/knew of who grew up. It shouldn’t be weird or unexpected, I mean, that’s what time does after all. Still, it gets me whenever I’m faced with an adult I used to know as a child. Hell, I’m sure I’d feel the same about old friends of mine I only knew as children. As if I needed yet another surefire sign I was ageing into irrelevance. My vacation back home was a lesson in the aforementioned as yet unnamed internet neologism (see how much cleaner it could’ve made that sentence?). Not only my two and a half year old niece (who I last saw at four months), but younger cousins (I’d guessed they were about seven and nine by now, not 11 and 13) too.

We’re all too aware of how we grow as we age, but with someone who’s been out of sight it seems crazy. I can wank on endlessly about my mental and emotional progression from 16-30. Concurrently there’s this dumb lizard part of my brain that doesn’t extend the same courtesy to those who I’m rarely near. It’s like my internal logic imagines some Schrödinger-esque quark-y existence whereby they could be any type of person in the time between our last contact. It’s only my proximity that solidifies their personality, before that they’re a jumble of potential, positive or sub-optimal. I’m clearly an idiot and a narcissistic one at that. It’s fine.

Kids’ll often grow up to surprise you. Who knew my niece would be so goddamn intelligent and perceptive for a two and a half year old? Seriously, you’ve gotta watch your mouth around that gal. She’ll pick up any conversational scraps left behind. Who knew my cousins would have their own interests and passions that they’d ardently stuck with? Who knew cute lil’ Hayley Joel Osment could be utterly reprehensible in the equally reprehensible Entourage movie (I mean, Entourage being a odious shitpile surprised nobody)?

I guess it’s just weird to think of somebody else for a change. When I grow up maybe I’ll get better at it.

It hasn’t even been One Week.

How’s a guy supposed to get his jollies in his personal impermanent post Facebook pass time? In the least important self-directed experiment I’m taking a week off Facebook. I did it for two weeks while on holiday and I’m extending this into my first week back. Why? I feel like part of me is trying to make some dumb self-righteous statement that the rest of me knows is bullshit. I don’t need my feed or  I’m more than this or misguided sentiments that rhyme with “steeple”. Perhaps I’m of the opinion that it’ll stop me from spending so much time online (when in reality I’m just spending more time refreshing Reddit instead). It may even be a reaction to having been absorbed in so much face to face with friends that I’m taking a break from people for a week. Any or all of these could be true. Hell, there’s also the question of what the point is, given that I’m 99.24% likely to return to it next week.

In the meantime (-5:00 if we’re talking about Greenwich) some aspects I’m missing more than others. Given the death of Mary Tyler Moore (an actress “before my time” enough that I have no real concept of her. As far as I know she was hugely influential in the realms of comedy, talented and someone the years to follow took inspiration from), I’m quite okay with missing an onslaught of think-pieces. It’s also nice not to be bombarded with Trump news 24/7 (as if wilful ignorance was ever a sensible coping mechanism). Do I really want to know all about the multitude of ways he’s failing America and society at large? I’m sure people everywhere are doing shitty things because that’s part and parcel of being human, but right now I’m hearing less about that and compensating with Magic the Gathering news/decklists.

On the other hand, I want little more than to be constantly engaging with friends about how great the new Neil Cicierega album Mouth Moods is. Having saved it till this morning as a treat, for the first time ever I was dismayed to find my commute being smooth and hassle-free. No delays, long waits or anything. By leaving at the right time I somehow hit the perfect stride, doing a 50-55 minute trip in 40 minutes flat. What this meant was not being able to listen to the album in full while nothing else was occupying my thoughts. It’s fucking brilliant, if you’re into his particular brand of absurdism.

The opening track has judicious use of Montell Jordan’s 1995 smash hit “This Is How We Do It”. “All Star” references are throughout, but its pole position in the “Mouth” trilogy has been supplanted by Canadian darlings BNL‘s “One Week” (not without a sublime tail out on a wondrously uplifting YMCA/Hans Zimmer track). My current (ever-changeable) track is “Annoyed Grunt“, an ode to gratuitous vocal punctuation featuring Tim Allen and that guy from Disturbed. Of course, I’d be doing myself (and frankly, humanity) a disservice if I didn’t toss a mention towards “Wow Wow”, a new spin on Will Smith’s eponymous hit to the 1999 critical disaster “Wild Wild West”. To be honest, I could emotionally jizz over every fucking track on this album, and honestly that’s a little unbecoming. If you’re into weird send ups of 80s/90s pop culture then plug this into your ears right away. If you’re not, why are we friends in the first place?

Anyway, I’m off to the gym. I wanna see if Mouth Moods makes for good lifting music. Moodsic?