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?

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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.

It’s a good thing I’m still on holiday, cause this is in no way safe for work.

I’ve never written a fanfic before. One of my friends is hosting a competitive erotic fanfiction party tomorrow night. There was the option of finding something to read online, but I thought it’d be a fun chance to delve into something new.

 

Beth felt… listless, With Jerry gone the house was quiet. Empty. Sure, Morty had been grounded after taking in a stray Klaxion war criminal, and Rick’s attempt at making braces for Summer had left her with three rows of pearly Great White teeth. “You’ll never have to worry about her dental bills again.” He said. “If she loses any she’ll just grow more.” She’d been working late nights at the horse hospital to pick up the slack Jerry left behind. Somebody had to keep this family afloat. Still, it seemed like something was missing. She felt… thirsty. Maybe a glass of wine could scratch that itch.

She opened the cupboard to see an array of reds stretched out before her. And a bottle of something… pickled? Curious, she reached for it until she noticed two glowing green eyes staring back at her. She flinched and went for a pinot instead. If she needed to know what that thing was, she was sure Rick would’ve told her. She pulled the bottle down and grabbed a glass when suddenly the thrumming of coalescing energies erupted behind her. She turned and dropped the bottle. Her father emerged from a green portal. Beth sighed. “Jesus Dad, give me some warning next time. That’s the third bottle this…” “Tell it to your therapist…” Rick interrupted “Next week I’ll take you to a dimension where angels piss the stuff. There’s no time right now. Daddy needs your help.” Her eyes widened and hope filled her heart. Her father, the brilliant scientist, needed HER help? “Of course Dad. Whatever you need.” He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into the portal. She heard the whipping of wind as the whirling energies enveloped her.

She emerged in a swanky living room. A large window overlooked the… Hollywoo… Hills? Where the fuck was she? “Welcome to Hollywoo.” Her father barked. “We can check out Disneyland later. The flaming coaster is the shiiiiiit.” He strode through the living room and pushed open a set of double doors. “This is why we’re here.” She followed and stopped in her tracks. In a plush king sized bed lay… Was it a horse? A man? Some kind of.. Horseman? Whatever it was, it looked like shit. Her nose caught up with her. Vomit, blood and, well, she had a teenage boy. That smell was unmistakeable. “Daddy’s drinking buddy ain’t doing so well. I’d take care of it, but the Ball Fondlers premiere starts in ten minutes and Noob Noob’s holding my seat. Anyway, you’re a Horse Vet…” Beth cut in angrily “For fuck’s sake Dad, I’m a Horse Surgeon!” “Even better.” He responded. “You’ll figure it out.” He fired his portal gun at the wall and was gone. The thing on the bed stirred, turned to the side and vomited. In its hand it was clutching a magnum of Jack Daniels. It looked at her and spoke. “Yeah, room service? Another bottle. This one’s almost done.” It promptly passed out. Well Beth, she thought as always you’re left to clean up another man’s mess. At least, I think it’s a man. She approached the side of the bed to get a better look. She leant down, resting her hand on the sheet. It landed on something… large. Her eyebrows lifted. That’s a man alright, she thought to herself, smirking. That strange thirst began stirring in her for some reason. She reached into her pocket for her scalpel and a pair of rubber gloves, then pulled the gloves on with a snap. Ugh, here goes, Beth. Always with the fucking Hayppocratic Oath.

Beth stirred groggily. Her head felt like fire. In fact she felt sore all over. Where was she? The last thing she remembered was pouring herself a drink or two after the successful operation on that horse… thing. She sat up and opened her eyes. She was in bed. She was naked. She wasn’t alone. Then the smell hit her and she nearly passed out. What happened? She looked to her right to see that same horse man snoring loudly. Her eyes widened with shock, then hazy memories drifted back to her.

She was on all fours, a large cock plunging deep into her repeatedly. In and out like a piston, filling her totally. She hadn’t felt like this in… had she ever felt like this? Hands grasped her waist tightly, holding her fast and pulling her into each thrust. She moaned as it filled spaces that’d never felt the touch of another. A hand reached up and sharply yanked her hair. She gasped, the sensations of pain and pleasure entwining in an indistinguishable strand. “SAY MY NAME” coaxed a voice from behind her. “I’M CLOSE, SAY MY NAME.” She stammered between thrusts “I have no… fucking clue… what your name is”. She shrieked and pushed her hips back involuntarily, only for the thrusting to stop cold. His hands dropped to his side.

“What?” Snorted the voice. “I’m BoJack Horseman. Don’t act like you don’t know.” Beth sighed and replied “nope. Never heard of you. He sunk back into her, but at a disjointed pace. Something was off. “Seriously?” He sputtered, unbelieving, “BoJack? Star of perennial family favourite and 90s classic comedy Horsing Around? Secretariat. Oscar nominee?” “LESS TALKING, MORE FUCKING.” She screamed. “I don’t want to think about it. This is crossing too many lines for me already.” “Fuck you” he mumbled. Beth grew furious “fuck me? Fuck YOU. FUCK ME ALREADY.” She aggressively shoved her hips right to the hilt. They both grunted in unison. “Give it to me BoJack. Give it to me like the love your parents obviously never gave you.” BoJack’s nostrils flared. He brought his hand down to her ass in a vicious arc. It stung, the sensation drove Beth wild. She pulled back to the tip then thrust into him sharply. “Again.” She howled. “Show me you hate me as much as you hate yourself.” He slapped her again. She seethed. That one would leave a mark. She drove back into her stationary hips, pulling in and out. He growled and grabbed a fistful of her hair. He pulled her face to meet hers. “Are you gonna leave me like everybody else?” he demanded, breathing ragged and shallow. She increased her pace and they both groaned. Her eyes narrowed as she stared straight back at his. “I’m already gone.” He shoved her face to the bed and buried himself all the way inside of her. The thrusting reached a fever pitch and Beth’s back arched. BoJack brayed with pleasure. Beth moaned and shuddered, feeling filthy, horny and filled to the brim with fury. She shook as the orgasm spread throughout her body, then her knees gave out and she slid to the bed feeling nothing at all. BoJack fell to her side, unconscious, but breathing.

Back in bed, Beth cradled her head in her hands. This would be one for Dr Wong. She quietly got up, got dressed and gathered her things, pain filling her body with each step. She gently opened the door and stepped out into the living room, closing it after her. She sat down in the corner next to a stack of framed photos of David Boreanaz. The familiar thrumming of an opening portal sounded to her right as Rick stepped into the room. “Sorry I’m late, Daddy had a little bender. Did you know there’s a dimension where the cheese is alcohol? I think I just became lactose intolerant. INTOLERANT OF BOOZE-FREE CHEESE THAT IS. HAHAA PSYCHE. REMEMBER THAT FROM THE 90s? PSYCHE?” She looked up at her dad and sighed. Beth no longer felt thirsty, but booze cheese sounded good right about now. “Show me, Dad. I think I could use a drink.”

Is there anything mo 90s than Space Jam Pogs?

I had Pogs as a kid, but I didn’t really know why. I think I primarily just wanted to order from Consumers Distributing. I may have been living halfway across the world, but how would a spread like this ever not be enticing? There was some kind of cheap multi pack of pogs complete with a slammer, special mat and some shiny ones.

I may have had Pogs, but I’m not gonna say that I got Pogs. Understood the ethos, anyway. Pogs didn’t make a dent in New Zealand. Ostensibly they had something to do with milk bottle tops? I had my set of ten, but nobody to battle with. I think I tried to figure out how to play solitaire. So mostly, they sat there, destiny unfulfilled. I probably threw them out, eventually. It’s weird, but even at the age of eight, I saw them as a thinly veiled marketing tool. This is saying something, I wasn’t a savvy kid. If it weren’t for my more pragmatic parents I probably would’ve been shaped into the perfect little consumer. I’d read Toyworld brochures for fun. I knew what I was getting into, but I jumped in with both feet anyway, because I wanted to know what it felt like to get a package in the mail. Shit, imagine if we’d had Amazon at that age. I would’ve never left the house.

I remember so badly wanting to get mail. My parents would get letters constantly while I stared with wide-eyed envy. “They’re all bills.” They’d say. “Trust me, when you’re my age you’re not gonna want this mail.” I didn’t care, in a way I think I just wanted to be surprised. When I mentioned how badly I wanted to get letters (it happened in movies and cartoons all the time), my mum turned it back on me. “You want to get letters, but how often do you send anyone letters?” I shook my head “no, I don’t want to send letters. I want to get them.” With the patience of an adult, she explained “but if you never send anyone letters, why would they send them back to you? If you send one of your friends a letter with a question, maybe they’ll send you a response.”

It was a light bulb moment. My bulb switched on. Dimly.

A friend was having a birthday and I saw my chance. I got a birthday card and wrote the following message:

Dear ______

Happy Birthday!

Is today Thursday?

Love Leon

Keep in mind these were pre-internet times, otherwise I’d obviously check out isitthursday.org. I gave him the card. He responded “no, today is Saturday.” I had my answer, but I was in no way satisfied. It wasn’t about the question. Over time, I’d get letters here and there. Our former Japanese au pair girls were lovely and sent the most beautiful letters. Invariably they were on cutesy cartoon themed stationary (Disney was a hot favourite), written with delicate penmanship. They became cherished possessions, tucked away in a special drawer for nice things I liked looking at (as well as many Christmas cards I never looked at again. I didn’t think I was allowed to throw away anything that had intended sentimental value. Once I learned that wasn’t true, I threw out almost everything of intended sentimental value).

I haven’t yet reached the age Mum was when she told me that bills sucked, but I’m old enough to have caught her drift. It’s rare to get anything great in the mail these days (whether E or IRL). A couple of times a year I’ll get a tax return slip that puts a smile on my face (last time I got a whole nine dollars!).

If only Consumers Distributing still existed.

Spidey must have such a rubbish time at Haunted House attractions.

It’s been years since I owned a TV. The last time I had frequent access to one was when I flatted with a bunch of friends back in New Zealand. “Frequent access” is a bit of a misnomer, because it was mostly in use already. I’m not hanging lopsided streamers for a pity party here, it was excellent. Not least of all because one flatmate had a PS3 and Wii. Aside from getting verbally abusive playing NBA Jam (2010) and mildly less abusive playing You Don’t Know Jack, access to the PS3 meant I could actually dig in and play quality games, without digging deep in my pockets to get the systems. After my flatmate virtually forced me to play Bioshock (thanks J), he also suggested I give Batman: Arkham City a try.

The game was a revelation. No mere fun romp around the high rises of Arkham, the game made you Batman. Which Batman? Whatever fucking Batman you wanted. Love gizmos? You could be guns-a-blazin’ Batman with all manner of widget stuffed batarangs and bombs in your arsenal. There were stealth components to the game and a plethora of handy nooks, crannies and outcrops for staying out of sight. Then all of a sudden you could swoop in for an unnoticed knockout. Or, if you were like me, you could stick with dickhead brawler Batman and beat the shit out of innocent thugs and louts. The combat system was fluid freeform. You could rack up lengthy combos, even incorporating your fancy whizzbangs and gadgets for more flare. The background characters had fun conversations you could spy on. There were numeros puzzles to solve throughout, unless you took the Riddler route in which case there were hundreds. The boss fights were varied and interesting. The voice acting was impeccable. Top to bottom, the game kicked ass.

Which is why I was so taken with this E3 trailer for the new PS4 Spider-Man game. It’s a near nine minute gameplay trailer that’s worth every second you spend on it. In every way that Arkham City made you Batman, this looks to do the same for Spidey. It’s packed to the brim with all his characteristic quips and webs. Of course this play-through is optimised for presentation, but it looks so goddamn smooth. It moves quickly, with a multitude of options in play style. It’s fun and clever with a bright colour palette. The action is fast and varied. There look to be beat ’em up moments, stealth kills and gadgets galore. This level at least takes into account the surrounding environment in order to aid combat and puzzle solving. There are quick time events like God of War and it flows effortlessly between cut scenes and gameplay. Spider-Man, like Batman, has a fun rogue’s gallery that’ve always been fun in past games (Ultimate Spider-Man was a splendid play through).

I don’t think this is gonna be the title, but one of these days a console game will come along that’s so compelling, I’ll have no choice but to get one. In any case, this definitely has my Spidey Sense tingling.