What does She do? Well She does Ra a lot. Is that a verb?

I was listening to my theme song playlist this morning. Why do I have a playlist featuring four or five hours of TV themes (also consider just how many theme songs that consists of. How long are most? 60-80 seconds)? Because when I left home for the Great North, I had a Comic Con themed leaving party. I thought, in my infinite wisdom, that it’d be neat to have background music composed entirely of TV themes. In practice it was silly and underwhelming. The tracks all varied in quality and volume. Some were obnoxiously loud and others far too quiet. I’d hoped the playlist would stimulate discussion, but that was mostly a wash. Every now and again a friend would comment on some theme song and that was enough for me. One large booster shot of ego validation. Considering the party revolved around me, it was like I was double dipping into narcissistic territory. Could you blame me?

Listening this morning was all kinds of choice. First up, it was an IV drip of nostalgia straight to my cerebral cortex. I got to relive all my Saturday Morning Cartoons. I even got to relive all the Saturday Morning Cartoons my parents watched. Years of animation binging meant my tastes spanned decades before my birth. Thanks Cartoon Network. It made waiting for a bus in the heart of Canadian winter mildly more pleasant. Anyway, here are some thoughts.

I miss the convention of TV themes that blatantly explain the plot so kids can plug in at any time. Not only is this Fantastic Four intro fabulously campy, but it tells me precisely what I need to know: Reed Richards is elastic, Sue can fade from sight, Johnny is The Human Torch, The Thing just loves to fight. I’m sold. Count me in. Or what about the She Ra theme? Not only does it explicitly get into the nitty gritty, but She Ra has a bizarrely antediluvian voice. Why does she sound like she’s 200 years old? Is that just a holdover from old timey radio dramas and whatever the US equivalent of Received Pronunciation was?

Other songs reminded me just how great some of our shows were. Samurai Pizza Cats was righteous. This isn’t just me being needlessly nostalgic. Filled with madcap quick-witted writing and stuffed to the brim with pop culture references, I’m sure certain elements haven’t aged well, but it’s a great little time capsule. One of the coolest thing about this little gem was how they basically had to reconstruct a ton of it from scratch. Back in the pre-internet days of 1991, translations weren’t as comprehensive as they could’ve been. The writers, then, had to make do with what made either made sense or dipped into total irreverence. I remember Lupin III being rather similar. The English version had to be contextualised, because the humour in the original was so culturally resonant. Thus you got references to Halle Berry and other Western cultural artifacts in the US one. Nifty.

If I can’t turn back time and be a kid again, I might as well engage in a little bit of mental time travel.


It’s their fault I can’t look at corn without imagining a typewriter.

I talk about rewatching movies all the time. No doubt because I endlessly scour the internet and live in a cosy bubble of nostalgia. I’m a colossal child (both in scale and mass. If I were actually a child in this body it’d be some André the Giant shit) and the notion of getting back in touch with the media that influenced and informed my adult persona holds a certain allure. The ratio, however, of talking about it and delivering on it is notoriously one-sided. So much of my viewing is mood dependent. Hell, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to engage with a narrative. If I’m not paying attention to what I’m watching, why watch it at all?

What I’m saying is, last night I watched Space Jam with a group of friends.

You know what? I’m willing to go on record and say it held up. Not as landmark cinematic genius. Everything it did, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? did better a decade earlier. It wasn’t a phenomenal film or anything, but I wasn’t viewing it as I did as a kid. I was peering at it with adult eyes and looking for how it would’ve appealed to children. Shitting on a kids’ film as an adult is a certain amount of unnecessary roughness (says the guy who recorded a podcast series about the Airbud Cinematic Universe) that leaves us all as lesser. Space Jam didn’t have the most coherent plot (as evidenced in this accurate nine minute song). It was obviously a cynical attempt to capitalise on late game Michael Jordan’s popularity and to keep the Looney Tunes relevant for another generation. Jordan is absurdly lionised throughout. He’s not the best actor, but to his credit he looks like he’s having fun. There’s a spectacular montage of Charles Barkley et al dealing with their lost talent. The film has a buttload of jokes for kids and a bunch that’re pitched way over their heads. It has all those characters you love, more cameos than episode of Entourage (oh yeah), plus Bill Murray shows up to save the day at the end. A silly but entirely defensible way to spend 88 minutes.

My biggest takeaway from the whole endeavour was how great Looney Tunes have always been. I guess I just forgot. Do you realise just how many conventions were drilled into your head by the adventures of Bugs and co? When Lola Bunny was introduced in Space Jam, Bugs swoons and there’s this small musical sting of sexy jazz. It’s so familiar to us now as a sort of language, but those conventions needed to be created somewhere. Cast your mind back to the original Looney Tunes. How instrumental was it in the formation of these tropes? You can see how necessary they’d be, right? These zany (never thought I’d see the day I used that word unironically) cartoons had out there plots, and the more shorthand they could use to instantly convey meaning, the better. I rewatched The Rabbit of Seville and it’s astoundingly creative. Animation unhinged these creators from the need to obey formal logic, so they created their own sense of it. It’s a clever play on an opera that would go way over the heads of kids, but still relates to them on their own level.

Not only were the cartoons clever as fuck, well animated and spectacularly voiced (thanks Mel), but the characters were so diverse and interesting. Can you imagine Bugs being a protagonist these days? He’s a cruel, manipulative sociopath, but we all love him. Daffy Duck is a total narcissist. The Sylvester and Tweety dynamic is a one note joke that somehow spawned years worth of scenarios. Most everyone is at each other’s throat, just trying to get the best for themselves. Loose, unscrupulous morals all over the show. In other words, they’re a total blast to watch.

What’re you still doing here? Go and Tune in already.

After all those puns, who wouldn’t consider me a lunatic?

First review in a while. As always once it goes up on the mothership, I’ll change this entry to a link.

Get yourself a band that can send you to the moon. Failing that, get yourself a band that can bring the moon to you. July Talk, in a stellar Massey Hall show, did just that. Their debut performance at the beloved Toronto venue managed to be both special and spatial. Flanked by a planetary backdrop and massive floating moon balloon, they brought an otherworldly spectacle to an adoring crowd.

Did that come off as too cute? Blame the band, whose charismatic leads bring a sultry energy to their live sets. The vocal interplay between Peter Dreimanis’ gravelly bourbon and Leah Fay’s smoky punch forms their iconic sound, which shines on the stage. The two bring together Nick Cave swagger and bratty spunk, complemented by a talented band. There’s a stylish anachronism to the nine piece ensemble, which features Motown style backup singers, two full drum kits, dirty rock guitar and an abundance of keys. In short, it’s one hell of a show.

There was a dynamic energy throughout. The stage was a constant blur of movement and crowd engagement. Peter and Leah would sink down and sing directly to the front row or grasp their hands tightly. Whether it was a rollicking rock number or a somber ballad, the band’s intensity never wavered. They gave themselves to the sound and the audience lapped it up.

So often performances will be defined by one memorable moment. July Talk kept those moments coming. There was Dreimanis thanking his 92 year old grandmother for coming to see him perform (prompting crowd chants of “grandma, grandma, grandma”), or Fay walking through the crowd to serenade a concertgoer face to face. A surprise guest performance by Toronto singer-songwriter Jason Collett (of Broken Social Scene fame), or the tender Leonard Cohen cover “If It Be Your Will” with (five month pregnant) guest vocalist Elisapie.

As Leah brought down the floating moon in their final song, “The Garden”, there was a sense that we’d arrived. Equal parts ascension and send off, it was a charming way to say farewell to a good night.

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?

More like Dicks-ney. I said it.

You know what? I’m on team Fuck Disney now. They’re on my shitlist. You heard me. Move over Mr Smashmouth, go walk on the sun. From now on, the House of Mouse is my one of my prime rat kings. Or at least for today and periodically when I feel like it.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been an unnecessary class warrior. Something about large corporations instinctively makes my asshole tighten. It’s probably a safe assumption to guess that their prime consideration is to keep the cash flow coming in at all costs. That they care not for the little people beyond how their base earnings will be affected. That’s what being a business is all about, right? Some businesses are brazen about it. Disney, however, never has been. Disney is all about its image, about this magical evocation of a dream brought to life. Disney insists that it’s a wonderful place for the whole family and inserts itself into the lives of children and adults alike. How? Through careful image control and corporate pressure.

Disney’s a behemoth, it can afford to throw its weight around. While I’ve never had first hand experience with them, I’ve definitely felt the grip of its second or third one. Disney knows it owns all the most desirable entertainment properties and throws its demands out accordingly. Disney dealings go as Disney wants them to. Case in point is this investigative piece from Daniel Miller for the LA Times, which puts Anaheim in the palm of Disney’s hands. This will all be old news by the time I post, but the above article got the LA Times banned from advanced Disney film screenings (an important part of pre-press and promotion), which prompted a solid media backlash to Disney itself. That’s a total bullshit move, a company trying to bully journalists into submission over doing their job. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but it shouldn’t. Perhaps if they wanted to face less scrutiny they could conduct their business in a way that doesn’t invite scrutiny? Anyway, Disney quickly relented and rescinded its ban after all the opposition. It’s the happiest place on earth because that’s what the lawyers tell you. Also did you know tickets to the park are $110 each? That’s fucking obscene.

So why do I care about Disney so much when there are large multi-nationals and oil companies ruining the world? Because I’m a big dummy and Disney’s a lot more visible than they are. These huge corporations don’t do much to hide the fact that they’re bottom line entities, whereas Disney still tries to spread the message that they’re the bastion of hope and joy for families everywhere. Happily Ever After is their mantra, to the extent that some people shell out thousands and thousands to buy into it. Hey, good on them if it makes them happy, but the fact that this kind of package is so obscenely expensive is what bums me out the most.

My big pet peeve is that Disney will eventually own everything that Netflix doesn’t. Marvel, Star Wars and maybe 20th Century Fox soon? So Maggie and Lisa will be Disney princesses? It’ll all be behind a restrictive paywall and we’ll have to pay through the nose to get it. Think Tidal. Have you seen Lemonade yet? I sure haven’t. Though I’m sure if I wanted to that badly I could find it through other means. The internet is out there. Is my dislike of Disney Corp gonna have any meaningful effect on the way I consume their products? Probably not. I don’t see a boycott percolating in my brain. I already saw Thor: Ragnarok. I’ll most likely still go to the other MCU films that seem worth it. If Incredibles 2 ever sees the light of day, you know I’ll be straight in line.

But know that I’m doing it for the creatives behind the film, Disney. Brad Bird is my boy, not you.

I guess you could say that it’s my cup of tea.

I wish someone would bottle the feeling of a long anticipated experience paying off. There’s something so satisfying about having hopes come to fruition, so gratifying to have adroitly placed your faith. While so many dreams never grow legs, seeing those that do gives birth to the notion that they can.

Let’s bring the grandeur down a notch. I played a video game and it delivered on everything it promised.

For context, let’s jump back a bit. Last year I was dating this gal who was a professional artist. Her current project was doing watercolour backgrounds for this video game called Cuphead. A side scrolling platformer modelled in the manner of Gunstar Heroes, Contra, etc etc. Stylistically it was taking its cues from early Fleischer Brothers cartoons, Steamboat Mickey, and Betty Boop. It looked awesome. I was floored. This was exactly the kind of game I loved playing as a kid. Fast twitch style gameplay, power ups and two player co-op. I was excited right from the start. As we dated, I saw so much of the work she and her partner were putting in. Modelling props for a combination of CG and video, endless watercolour world maps, shop backgrounds. So much creativity going into each frame. She took me through a bunch of the animation influences. We watched classic Popeye and Bimbo. I learned about the techniques used, and how Fleischer Studios invented rotoscoping. I saw little Easter Eggs strewn around the game. I never saw gameplay or got hands on experience, but watching everything come together was such a thrill, imagining how the final product would look.

The game was getting a lot of press. She showed me fan art that people had submitted an entire year before the game was even released. Whenever I mentioned the game around game dev friends they’d perk up. The trailer was released. I saw international gaming sites talking about it. Conan O’Brien featured it on his Clueless Gamer segment. I realised that this game was a Big Deal.

Cuphead was released and the reviews were great. It sounded like the difficulty level was right where it needed to be. People were digging the art direction, the soundtrack and all the love that’d gone into curating the experience. I was pumped to play. I wanted to find a gaming friend who’d commit to playing through this thing. I wondered who of my friends had the controllers and wanted to invest the time. I asked around and got some vaguely interested parties, but I never followed up or went through and bought the game. It’s been out for a month (exactly) and I still hadn’t played it. Note the change of tenses? It was intentional, I’m not that shitty a writer.

I had lunch with my friend today. We hadn’t hung out in a while so catching up was très nécessaire. While we were eating, I asked about the game and how she’d enjoyed playing, how the controls worked out and whether it’d fulfilled all of her expectations. She was over the moon with it and so pleased that everything had come together. She asked if I wanted to come over and play. I did. We did. It was exactly what I’d hoped for. The controls were fluid and intuitive. The animation followed suit. The world was gorgeously colourful, cute with hints of menace. The soundtrack was perfect, evoking the moods of the era. The gameplay was hard. Very hard.

At the same time it never felt too much. Dying happened frequently, but wasn’t oppressive. The levels weren’t too long, so restarting never set you back to the point of frustration. Power ups helped so much. The boss fights were fun and involved several transformations, so once you got used to a certain attack pattern they changed up. It felt dynamic and exciting, fast paced without being overwhelming. Even in the midst of battle, little details really stuck out. The enemies were incredibly creative and so well tied to the theme of their levels. Playing with her was a blast, as she’d explain cool behind the scenes tidbits as we advanced. I’m so excited to get the game myself, buy a controller and get stuck in.

Let the games begin.

Would The Land Before Clocks be more apt of a title?

I feel like there are some films I keep coming back to. Not all movies age gracefully (tried watching The Breakfast Club after age 25? It’s pretty rough), but some are so well constructed that they stand the test of time. Maybe it’s well-rounded characters, realistic stakes and proportional drama. A cohesive plot that doesn’t cheapen itself with meaningless throwaway lines in an attempt to get easy laughs. Whatever it is, The Land Before Time still works. Watching it at age 30, it almost makes sense that they produced 10+ sequels. Not 14 though. Hey, not all films can have the kind of deserved legacy that Air Bud does.

Land Before Time goes for the heart strings and yanks hard. It’s brutal. Littlefoot’s mum gets murdered maybe ten minutes in, there are catastrophic earthquakes and all these kids are left alone with little but their misery and misplaced pride. From then on out they slam the pedal to the floor on starvation and racism parallels. These kids need to learn about accepting help from others, belief in oneself, understanding that hard paths must sometimes be taken, faith and love, etc and whatnot. It’s great. It’s still funny, adorable and so goddamn mournful. The score by the London Symphony Orchestra is still so fucking stirring to this day. Heavy as it gets, it doesn’t bask in it for too long. There’s levity galore, and great character moments abound. Petrie may be comic relief, but he still has important lessons to learn. Of course as a child I thought Sarah was an asshole, but as an adult I can see that Sarah’s a great character. As an adult it’s easier to look at the influence of her parentage and understand why she’s too proud to work with others, divisive and headstrong. You can see her journey and its necessity. Of course racism isn’t natural, it’s taught. Kids watching aren’t gonna understand why Three Horns can’t play with Long Necks. It’s so stupid, they’re all dinosaurs. That’s a pretty great legacy for a film to have that’s still alarmingly relevant today.

I still can’t believe it took me until age 30 to realise that I’m not a Littlefoot, I’m a Ducky. Don’t worry folks, that’s great. Sure, Littlefoot is the protagonist and reluctant leader, but Ducky is where it’s at. She’s the heart and soul of the team. Duck’s the glue keeping everyone together. She raises morale, encourages everyone to push through and try their best. She’s caring and considerate, refusing to give up on those she loves. Without Ducky you wouldn’t have a troop, you’d have lonely disparate children going their own way only to perish. Yup yup yup, Ducky’s the MVP.

Why did they call him “Littlefoot”? Why “foot”? Compared to his parents, everything about him is smaller, not just his feet. Are they saying his feet are disproportionately tiny? Way to give the kid a complex. Why not go with Ducky’s superior suggestion of “Flathead”? Ducky all day long. What’s with Sarah’s dad sounding like an accountant? Is it because he spends all day counting horns in order to further his own racist agenda? Do kids movies these days show animals being eaten by other animals? Or is that considered too violent for children’s entertainment? Isn’t calling it “The Land Before Time” a bit narcissistic? Time existed before humans came along. We named it, we didn’t invent it. Therefore this film isn’t set before time began at all.

Failing anything, it lifts my heart to know that when I eventually have kids, this is a movie we’ll be able to watch together. It’ll be nice to share with them something I love so much. Frankly, I think that’s half the reason I want kids. I want a captive, easily influenced posse that’ll listen to all my pop culture based suggestions. Maybe I shouldn’t spawn after all.