The site name spells it out explicitly

Having distractions in these trying times is immensely necessary.

A couple of months back a friend introduced me to Watch Cartoons Online. I’m certain it’s incredibly illegal, but it’s also an incredible resource for long forgotten cartoons (as well as current ones if that’s your flavour). If you’re bored and looking for some animated ways to pass your time, here are a handful of suggestions:

  • May I suggest this fantastic workplace comedy about a cantankerous Chosen One fighting demons? Written by Toronto comic Mark Little?
  • Or Samurai Pizza Cats?Likely the most influential piece of media on my burgeoning absurdist sense of humour? Re-written by Canadians who couldn’t work with the abysmal Japanese translations they received? It holds up exceptionally well.
  • Or Gravity Falls? Which people have been telling me to watch for years. Supposedly a fun intersection of family adventure and X-Files style monster of the week?
  • Or Unikitty? A breakneck slapstick absurdist cartoon that I fell in love with from DVing it?
  • Or ProStars? Where Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Wayne Gretsky are international superheroes with the power of SPORTS?
  • Or Venture Bros? The most dense and tightly written adult cartoon I’ve seen in my entire life?
  • Or the original TMNT? With no explanation necessary?
  • Or Over the Garden Wall? An ideal 10 episode self contained story that’s a rollercoaster of a watch?
  • Or Harmonquest? Where Dan Harmon and friends play D&D and it’s animated?
  • Or Gargoyles? The Avatar:The Last Airbender of the 90s?
  • Or Denver, The Last Dinosaur? Because the theme song is catchy as fuck?
  • Or Cupcake and Dino? Because even though it’s on Netflix, I just like repping this cute and very funny show?
  • Or Captain N: The Game Master? Because a 90s Nintendo ad disguised as a cartoon probably hasn’t aged well?
  • Or Captain Planet? Because honestly a green mullet is probably all that stands between us and a total climate collapse?
  • Or Batman: The Animated Series? Because you want to cry watching the Mr. Freeze episode?
  • Or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Because there was a time where people adapted R rated Z grade horror films into children’s cartoons?
  • Or Toxic Crusaders? For exactly the same reason? His best friend is a goddamn mop?
  • Or Beast Wars? Because I remember it having some pretty satisfying arcs, and it was at a time where we thought CGI animation was super impressive?
  • Or The Tick? Because I’m wagering it probably holds up pretty well?
  • Or The Mask? Because while I’m not certain it holds up, I remember the voice acting talent being something fearsome to behold?
  • Or The Berenstain Bears? Because you’re a conspiracy theorist who wants to prod for loopholes?
  • Or Steven Universe? Because I know a lot of people who love the shit out of it and it’s probably a fantastic show for kids?
  • Or Star Trek: The Animated Series? Because apparently Trek is pretty popular and it’ll probably make a lot of y’all nostalgic?
  • Or Spawn? Because it was made by HBO and I remember it being exponentially better than the terrible film?
  • Or Jackie Chan Adventures? Because I have pretty positive memories of it?
  • Or Garbage Pail Kids? Because I’ve never watched it but I’m CERTAIN it’s fucked up as all hell?
  • And lastly, Earthworm Jim? Because while it probably doesn’t hold up, my childhood self would strangle me with a skipping rope if I didn’t include it?

That should do y’all for the next week. Stay in and THRIVE.

I had a drive like Jehu

Who would’ve thought my first and most personal victim of COVID would be my computer?

A few days back my computer stopped booting. That’s unfair. A few days back my computer had trouble booting. I tried a few things, opened it up, and managed to get it working sporadically. I was Surprised Pikachu central. How could this happen? My otherwise fine computer suddenly having a hard time? Then I thought more, my computer wasn’t a spring chicken. I did the math and worked out that it was nine years old. Egads. THEN I thought harder. My computer was a DIY job, at least for one of my friends. He worked out the parts to get, then helped me through putting it together in his lounge. It has two hard drives. We bought a 2TB drive so it would have lots of space, and I already happened to have a 500GB drive from my previous computer. Turns out that drive was eleven years old. When drives are that old, it’s less of a tragedy and more of a mercy. A friend chimed in and pointed out that yes, the older hard drive was the problem. Fortunately, I’d separated my two drives by uses. The old drive was purely for Windows and other program files. The second drive was where I stored all my media, documents, applications, etc. It was a clear delineation, which meant I could replace the old drive, install Windows on a new one, and have a working computer once again.

It took hours. He’d worked out that the reason why the drive wasn’t booting, is that it was clicking. He said this was a sign of overheating, that the drive had expanded and was now struggling to spin. He said there was a slim chance it could still boot, and if that was the case he’d be able to replicate the drive. He tried holding the drive and physically spinning it to encourage the boot process. No dice. He had drive repair software, but it didn’t manage to connect to the drive. Turns out new drives are pretty cheap. A 500GB solid state drive was $90, so he bought one and did the install. Fortunately I’d kept a folder full of applications and drivers over the years. It made the whole thing a shit ton easier. We had most of what we needed ready to go. He finished the install and refused any kind of payment, so I offered to donate to a charity of his choice instead. I think it’s important not to take your friends skills for granted, especially if it’s something they normally charge for.

Holy hell it’s a long and laboured process reinstalling software. Sure, Ninite is exceptional. But there are so many Windows updates (especially since I had to stay on Windows 7 to enable my Pro Tools hardware to keep working). Now that Microsoft has stopped supporting Windows 7, the files aren’t all available. There are supposed to be shortcuts, but the critical downloads had been removed from Microsoft’s site. So many programs need certain prerequisites before they can be installed themselves. It took me until about 2am to get all the security updates installed, to get drivers, antivirus software, and finally (probably most importantly) Magic Arena. Woof.

You know what though? The system had been bloated for years, and I just assumed that was regular wear and tear. Now I can clearly see how long the boot drive had been in decline. It was taking upwards of ten minutes to start up my computer. Now it takes maybe a minute. It was entirely unable to sleep. Instead I just logged out and turned off my screen. Now it automatically goes to sleep, the drives stop spinning and it’s like a whisper. If I clicked on an internet video and hadn’t recently watched any, it’d be maybe 30-40 seconds before it’d actually play. Now they play immediately. It’s running like a dream, and I can’t believe how long I slept on fixing it up. I mean, at some point I’ll just have to replace it anyway. Nine years is already too long.

Though if this was really supposed to be a COVID victim, it would’ve at least have been taken down by a virus.

It’s me, I’m the one who watches

Well Watchmen was a goddamn satisfying endeavour.

I’m not gonna do spoilers. I don’t know what the statute of limitations on a highly critically regarded 2019 HBO show based off a popular graphic novel series is, but I feel like we’re still within it.

I like the Watchmen universe, and I rarely think about it. I read the graphic novels in my early 20s and thought they were fantastic. Totally gripping. The Snyder film came along and it was kind of meh. It had a slavish reverence for the source material, right down to framing. The only times they tried anything different were when they changed the action to better reflect the popular Wushu trend The Matrix brought in, and Snyder’s trademark brand of unnecessary slow motion/zoom shit.

I came into the Watchmen TV show expecting a dour rumination on racial politics in a small American town. Instead I got a vibrant and colourful show, caked in bizarre and specific humour. Watchmen is endlessly imaginative and actually builds on the IP it inherited in fascinating ways. The racial politics aren’t remotely throw away. Instead the show uses its platform to examine themes of racially motivated violence, prejudice, and inherited intergenerational trauma. Unlike the Snyder film, they deviate from the source material in ways that only strengthen the world-building. Much like the Snyder film, the needle drops are a little on the nose, but not enough to bring down the show.

The structure of the series is awesome too. The first half centres around developing its most prominent characters. It builds up a butt-ton of mysteries, and ties them up in the back few episodes in a pretty satisfying manner. There’s nuance to the characters, and their trauma is a pathway into greater understanding of the society they inhabit. It also has this nice little trick that it does a few times. It’ll put you into a scene where you’re like, okay this is slightly weird, but I guess I’m in. Then it’ll zoom out just a little bit and you’ll be like oh, OH SHIT.

I think over time I’ve become naturally hardened to reboots, etc. When there are so many new ideas waiting out there in the wings, it’s massively disappointing to be fed the same old content. Yes, there are only 7 types of stories, etc, but there are infinite untold ways to tell those stories and so much colour with which to inhabit a world. At the same time, I do understand that corporations are hesitant to waste money, so they rely on pre-sold content. A Star Wars will always make money, because at least a certain number of people will watch a Star Wars. In this post MCU landscape, it’s not like people don’t make new superhero IP or adaptations all the time. People love The Boys, right? I didn’t see any reason for a new Watchmen show to exist, and I’m happy to say in writing how wrong I was. Watchmen is not a reboot, but actually builds upon the original in all new ways. It’s not pointless, they used their big platform to tell a new story that raised all sorts of interesting quandaries, ideas and themes. Dare I say that I’d be open to more of this stuff?

On that note, how is Hulu’s High Fidelity reboot?

LOLd into a false sense of security

Welp, I watched Joker. Spoilers for Joker will follow. If you don’t want them, please don’t read this.

SoJoker was.. a movie? I dunno, I’m having a hard time with this one. It wasn’t a capital B/M Bad Movie, but it also wasn’t good. It had a great cast who tried their absolute best with what they were given, but therein the problem lies. The film wanted to be Serious. It wanted to have A Message, but a lot of that got garbled up with genre problems and a difficulty with what it wanted realism to mean. The movie had a bunch of fun set pieces, and a cluster of modern ideas relevant to inflammatory social issues. It seemed like it wanted to say things about mental illness, about protest culture, literal class warfare and rampant inequality.

Unfortunately, it couldn’t escape from its own trappings. For all of its ambition to raise beyond comic book stakes, it played out like a cartoon. Peoples’ reactions were nearly always wildly out of proportion. I’ve never been to Gotham, but it seems that pedestrians hand out arse kickings like greetings. It’s literally unbelievable how many times people beat the shit out of Arthur while he’s curled up on the ground. Nobody seems to be able to act like an ordinary person. Most characters’ delivery is garishly over the top and the dialogue is trash. Just clunky as shit. Unnecessary roughness all the way down. The film takes a complex series of interrelated societal issues and makes sure you got the point. Everything is triple underlined, with all the subtlety of a cast iron pan to the face. A protester runs past at some point with a sign that says “RESIST”. No further context or explanation. It’s all shallow, surface level stuff. It wants to be greater than the sum of its material but as Scorsese himself said “I saw clips of it. I know it. So it’s like, why do I need to? I get it. It’s fine.” The price is on the can, yo.

It’s hard not to have sympathy for Arthur, a character that Phoenix disappears into. He’s a wretched creature, literal skin and bones, and his laughing affliction is genuinely affecting in its scope. We see the difficulty he has with simple social interactions, and it’s heartbreaking. It just sucks that all the peripheral characters behave like anthropomorphised cardboard cutouts. Of course, because it’s a DC film, Bruce Wayne gets shoehorned in, and it directly cheapens the movie. I’ve got no issue with fanservice, but the Joker character created in this film is not the Joker we love. He’s emotionally stunted and fragile, a simple and kind man relentlessly kicked around by the world he inhabits. He’s not, however, clever. He isn’t a criminal mastermind. Even giving the film a ton of leeway, assuming that this was all hiding behind his myriad of medications, for instance, is stretching suspension of disbelief too far. Aside from shooting his beloved talk show host, this Joker character doesn’t commit crime with intention. The actions he’s eventually praised for were accidental, or a byproduct of other decisions. He’s a symbol for a movement, but he’s not an architect. If we’re to believe that the riot he birthed resulted in Bruce’s parents’ death, it’s impossible to see this Joker as an adversary for this Bruce’s Batman. Or at least, he wouldn’t be a super capable one. If this was an unrelated movie to the franchise, honestly it probably would’ve read a lot better. But it wasn’t, and this film has no right to the Best Picture or Best Adapted Screenplay categories.

2019 was a great year for film. This wasn’t one of them.

A giant, troll and elf crab warrior walked into a gingerbread house…

I know things have been very JFL42 focused lately. It makes sense. That’s where my priorities have been at. That said, while I was making sure I could get out to my shows, there was a whole new Magic set released. So here’s one for anyone who’s into that.

Throne of Eldraine is a pretty neat set. I’m not entirely sure how powerful it is, but it’s fun, and the flavour quotient is through the roof. Despite my best intentions on getting the best possible EV out of my Magic Arena gems, I played two sealed pools. It’s a reasonably fast format. Both pools had more than adequate removal, but I was pulled into red each time. The obvious MVP from my first pool was Bonecrusher Giant. Of course it’s great. It’s a removal spell plus above rate body that fits into tempo plans. The less obvious MVP was Robber of the Rich, which I pulled in both pools. There’s a lot of keyword soup going on, which proves to be useful rather than cluttered. The reach didn’t make much sense to me outside of flavour reasons, but Robin Hood being an archer makes it feel worth it. It might be good enough for constructed. Notable is the fact that you can suicide him if you just want an extra card, or want to unlock something he’s previously pilfered. Very cool card.

But that’s not really what I’m super psyched to talk about today. Here’s the current standard deck I’ve got going:

Creatures (28)
4x Pelt Collector
4x Wildwood Tracker
4x Growth Chamber Guardian
2x Kraul Harpooner
3x Barkhide Troll
4x Syr Faren, the Hengehammer
1x Voracious Hydra
3x Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig
2x Nightpack Ambusher
1x Shifting Ceratops

Noncreature (9)
4x Giant Growth
3x Vivien, Arkbow Ranger
2x The Great Henge

Land (23)
1x Castle Garenbrig
1x Gingerbread Cabin
21x Forest

These are not the final numbers, this is what I could assemble with my limited rare wildcards. It wants more Voracious Hydra, it wants Questing Beast and Once Upon a Time. It wants the full alotment of Castle Garenbrig. That said, this deck is still putting up decent results. The Great Henge is The Real Deal. It’s like they took every value thing green likes to do and slapped them on one card. Most of the time in this deck it comes down for 5 mana, then lets you drop an instant Growth Chamber Guardian to gain 2 life, draw a card and chain up as many Guardians as you can get your hands on. If we still had our dearly departed Steel Leaf Champion, it would’ve been obscene. We don’t though, and there’s no use crying over it.

As the deck currently runs, it’s very quick and low to the ground. Yorvo was a card I assumed wouldn’t go as far as I wanted. Just something to eat removal. Thing is, it’s significantly above curve, and if it’s not handled it gets out of control. It’s especially good here because the 1 and 2 drops are so strong. Pelt Collector and Wildwood Tracker may as well be 2/2s for a single green mana. Syr Faren, the Hengehammer, really is the MVP though. The sheer quantity of damage this dude creates is unreal. I had a turn 3 kill with this deck. Turn 1 Pelt Collector, turn 2 Syr Faren, turn 3 double giant growth and turn my cards sideways. 20 damage exactly. If you’re on the draw, that’s one hell of a quick game.

Vivien Arkbow Ranger makes a ton of sense here. She gives some reach/removal, but the trample she grants is awesome. Either she’s pumping up Syr Faren so he can really deliver to ya, or giving your big friendly giant Yorvo the power to beat face with impunity. Or, y’know, keeping Growth Chamber Guardian stocks at the ready. Boy do I love that card. Mostly it’s just really fun to “sleeve” up giant growths again. They play a ton of roles, either representing 6 damage for a single mana with Syr Faren, saving creatures or clinching those games that’d otherwise be just out of reach. Once Upon a Time would really help the deck’s consistency, and allow you to increase your creature quality rather than density. My numbers of Castle Garenbrig are low because I simply don’t have the card, but in the meantime I’d consider swapping another forest for a Gingerbread Cabin. The food isn’t a lot, but it’s also not nothing.

Sometimes it is easy being green.

Did I just have a date within a date with that corn dog?

I went on a date the other night. It was lovely.

It’d been a while, not sure why. I haven’t been doing much to seek out intimate encounters outside my anchor partner. Or maybe it’s just that everyone I’d been growing close to had been poly, are interested, but are also in relationships that are currently closed. Which has been fine. Emotional intimacy has always been far more important to me than physical. In those instances, it’s just been nice to have new friends. This person, however, is poly. So we got to have an actual date. It’s something that’s been in the works for ages. We’ve hung out at parties, but never one on one. She has a weird schedule. I now have a weird schedule, and for the first time ever, our free time coincided. I asked if she wanted to grab a food, or a drink, or overthrow the bourgeoisie, or do amateur parkour, or get stoned and watch a dumb movie, or go to Tilt. She said Tilt, the local arcade bar, sounded great.

I vowed to do wreck my face doing amateur parkour on my own damn time.

I think we were both there for about half an hour before I noticed her. Not because she wasn’t worth noticing, but because she was wearing all black and playing a game in the corner. Somehow, in a room full of garish fluorescent lights, she’d discovered camouflage. She played D&D with the barman, so I got to meet him too, and he was really friendly. Their DM used to DM our games of Call of Cthulhu, and was by far the best DM I’ve had for any game ever. We all gushed about how great he was. Then she and I grabbed beer and a seat. We chatted. We chatted for a long time, actually. Seeing as we’d never hung out one on one before, it was the perfect time to get to know each other better. I mean, it’s kind of the point of a date.

More importantly, the fact that we were sitting meant I had the perfect excuse [you didn’t need an excuse -Ed] to order a corn dog. As an aside, I love corn dogs. They’re a favoured treat of mine. I’m not wild about fried food, but back home when we got fish and chips, you ordered a “hot dog” and got given what North Americans call a corn dog: A battered hot dog on a stick. It’s one of my exceptions to my ambivalence about fried food, likely because of nostalgia. I’d never tried Tilt’s corn dogs, but I can now confirm they’re fucking fantastic. The batter is made in house. It’s pretty thin, but with some nice crispy flourishes. Also, they’re huge. I’m used to corn dogs on popsicle sticks. These ones come on skewers. You know the type that people use for BBQ kebabs? Picture a hot dog on that, except the only available bit of stick to hold is 1-2cm long. That’s a lot of dog. It was meaty and sumptuous, and a truly fantastic snack with beer. Have I now written a longer love letter to this corn dog than I have to this date? Maybe, but that corn dog and I shared something that no date and I ever will. R.I.P.

Anyway, it was fun to chat. She’s funny, and we’ve got a lot of geeky interests in common. A theme of adulthood that I’ve noticed, is I’m not actually aware of what most of my friends do to pay rent. I hang out with them because I like their company, but their jobs have never defined who they are to me. So I got to hear what she does for work and what she likes about those things. I got to learn how growing up was for her, familial connections and perspectives. She had been to the nigh legendary Florida theme park: Gatorland. I’d heard tales. She told me more.

After a while, I chimed in that while I was having an excellent time hanging out, I also wanted to play some vidya games. We played an isometric D&D style crawler called Gate of Doom. It was super button mashy, but nostalgic and silly. The magic system was quite unusual. All four characters had the same spellbook and system, but you had to wait until your magic bar filled up. The spellbook would flick periodically between spells, and whatever was active was the one you had access to. I kept turning into a walking flower, which was kinda neat. I had some kind of stun pollen with a radius effect. We beat the game, and my hand damn near cramped up. We played some Puzzle Bobble, and evened up at 5 wins. We chatted some more, and it was last call.

I think one of the more important things I learned from the date, is that I’ve finally reached a certain level of confidence. It always used to be that I was too afraid to make a move, and that nothing would happen until my date was like “dude, are you actually interested? Do you want to have sex or not?” Then I’d be all “oh, of course. That’d be great”. It largely came from feelings of inadequacy and not knowing how to navigate those spaces with utmost consent. These days, a better knowledge of consent has informed massive change. I’ve realised that I can just ask, and in ways that leave things very open for the other person to say no. A lot of the time these things happen organically, and I think societally people have assumed that organic was the only option, anything else was clunky and took you out of the moment. I haven’t found that. I’m getting better at reading signs, but still like to clarify. There was a point where we were sitting close to each other. I think her hand was resting on my arm, mine resting on her leg. I realised and said “I just want to check, do you like this kind of touch”. She said yes, definitely. Simple and clean. I knew she was interested, she had every opportunity to be like hmm, maybe not at the moment or actually, maybe no and that would’ve been fine. Instead, I actively knew we were on a wavelength, that she was interested and the waters weren’t muddied. Consent is the fucking best, and anyone who thinks it ruins the moment maybe hasn’t learned how to ask in a non-intrusive manner.

Since things were winding down at the bar, we were both still awake and having a good time, I asked if she wanted to keep hanging out. She invited me over, and we spent a bunch more time together at her place. I left some time after 6.30am, and since she lives with one of my friends, I got to give my friend a good morning hug when she got up to go to work. Since I live maybe 5 minutes walk from her, I got to go right home and to bed.

Is it time to bring back I Have My Dates?

If I’m not getting my life back, y’all are coming down with me

Oh dear, I’ve been sucked back into Shandalar.

Let me explain. Shandalar is a Magic the Gathering video game from 1997. MtG has had many other video game properties since 1997. Battlegrounds was weird, real time stuff. Didn’t work. Duels of the Planeswalkers (later known as Magic: Duels) was okay, just straight games with a story mode and deck builder. Sometimes neat little bonuses. Then that got discontinued. Magic Arena has been amazing. It’s like a streamlined version of Magic Online. It’s colourful with cool effects. The UI is mostly pretty well done. It’s free to play with in game currency. They’re hunting for their white whales, and the rest of us plebs provide a player base for them to battle. It’s a working eco-system and a pretty huge deal for the future of Magic. I’ve spent innumerable hours in the past year on this game. I love it to bits. It’s not Shandalar.

Shandalar is my forever mistress. It’s hard to escape, because it’s so fucking fun. For people who haven’t played before, I figure I might give some tips. First of all, if you want to play on Windows 10, here’s a really good tutorial from streamer Gaby Spartz. It’s an old game, there’s some finagling required. Okay, the gist of Shandalar is that it’s a MtG based RPG. You wander around a world map battling cronies of evil wizards, building your deck up over time. Eventually you battle the wizards and save the land. Sometimes you’ll find dungeons, which have old cards very few of us get to play in real life. Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, etc. The game also features an ante system, which means you can lose your precious cards, or steal cards from opponents. The ante system, while heartbreaking in real life (and thus has been expunged from paper magic) actually makes the game really fucking exciting. You’ve got skin in the game, and you’ll feel super shitty losing a Mox Sapphire to some dork on a horse.

With that out of the way, here are some tips for the game:

  • Money. Money is a thing in this game. It helps you buy cards in towns, or from vendors. You can use it to buy food, which helps you keep a good speed walking around the map. Money is important.
  • Towns have different economies based on their size. It’s a good principle to buy cards you want from smaller towns. Or if something’s a good card in a small town, you might be able to flip it for more money at a larger town. Buy your food from small towns if you can.
  • Liquidate everything you’re not gonna use, and try to sell your more expensive cards at big cities. You’ll get a lot more for them.
  • Once you can consistently beat enemies, they’re a great source of revenue. Sometimes you’ll randomly get really powerful cards from them too.
  • Travel by roads. It’s faster and you can evade enemies.
  • The honest to god best thing about having money in this game is being able to pay off enemies instead of battling them when you’re trying to get around the world map. When you start out, your deck will be shite. A multi-coloured monstrosity. You can streamline it eventually. Before you do, however, your win loss rate will be pretty rough. If the choice comes between risking losing a good card to ante or paying 40 gold, the gold is well worth it. I mean, you’re in the game to play Magic and have fun, so do that too. Just don’t lose your key cards to errant druids.
  • The upside of paying people off is that it frees you up to do quests for towns. This will help you power up faster.
  • Quests: Take quests that give you mana links. Your life starts at eight or ten. Each mana link you get raises your life total permanently by one. Once you have 15-20 life, the game gets more reasonable and you’ll find yourself actually winning games.
  • Quests: At the start, do the dorky quests that just require you to take messages around in exchange for single amulets or mana links. When your deck gets good enough, you can start doing battle quests where you’ll get two or three amulets for defeating powerful enemies. It’s great. You can use these to buy new cards.
  • Amulet rates: Vendors sometimes sell cards by type and amulet colour. Rares cost three (very occasionally, four) amulets, uncommons cost two and commons are one. It’s a good idea to have multiples of three amulets whenever you open dialogue with a vendor. Once you choose to engage with a vendor, you won’t be able to engage with that same vendor again.
  • Contract from Below is in this game. It is fucking insane. Take a chance to play with it, because you’ll never, ever get a chance to play it in real life. The extra ante is irrelevant. If you’re drawing 7 cards for B, you’ll usually be winning that game.
  • There are different random locations that appear on the world map. Little mountain crags, sunken ships, graveyards, alabaster columns or little forest hovels. They’re random events, and usually have a more positive outcome than negative. Sometimes you’ll wander into a thieves den and they’ll steal half your amulets or gold. Mostly though, you’ll find cards, merchants who’ll sell cards for gold or amulets, or dungeon clues. Sometimes you’ll find a powerful monster with good spells up for grabs.
  • When you have a random encounter with a powerful monster, you usually don’t put cards up for ante. It’s risk free. You might as well take the battle and sell the cards, because otherwise the monster will just disappear for good.
  • Dungeons. Get dungeon clues so you know what you’re encountering. Life losses/gains are carried over between matches. There are dice that will give you a bonus of either extra life or a card to start with. You can accumulate life bonuses, but once you have something to start with, getting a new dice replaces that entirely, even if it’s another life bonus.
  • Dungeons, cont: The best practice in a dungeon is to entirely avoid battles if you can. Scope out every available hallway without taking dice if you’re able to. Leave dice scattered around, and once you have no choice but to battle someone (to get a treasure (which in this instance is always an amazing rare card)), collect dice until you have something good to start with. It’ll make the battle a lot easier.
  • You can run as few as 40 cards. Once you’re below 40, the game will start randomly adding in lands to your deck. Try to keep at 40-43 (in case you lose a battle out in the world and want to stay above 40 cards). You can run up to three of each card until later.
  • Worldmagics: There are a bunch of worldmagics. They’re not all created equal. The ones to get are:
  • The one that lets you walk through swamps faster.
  • The one that lets you walk through mountains faster.
  • The one that stops you consuming food when you’re walking through a forest.
  • The one that makes cities offer more cards for sale.
  • The one that lets you run up to four copies of each card in your deck.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: The one that makes the evil wizards require five conquered cities instead of three. It’ll give you so much more time

Speaking of time, that’s all I have right now. If you’re into Magic I implore you to check this game out. It’s sincerely amazing, and despite (or even because of) the graphics, it’s a riot. It’s very exciting, gripping, and I don’t think Wizards of the Coast will ever make another game like it. It’s not a lucrative enough system.

Happy casting, friends.

iPod, iSaw, iCompared

It’s 2019. I did not expect that I’d be struggling to buy an mp3 player.

My ipod classic shat the bed, and it’s gonna cost $450 to fix. It cost $350 to buy, so this seems like a big stretch. It’s probably the fourth ipod I’ve owned in the past 15 years. I use them all the time, 1-2 hours daily. I’m not kind to my electronic devices, and that’s clearly shown in the life expectancy of my gadgets. With an ipod, there was so much I didn’t need to think about. Since it was the market leader, the proof was on them to make a solid product that was easy to use. I didn’t love going through itunes, but it worked. Everything was categorised and simple to scroll through. I liked the tactile, physical nature of the product without touchscreen. I could operate it without looking. It sounded good, and was surprisingly robust. I could take it to the gym, and it weighed enough to not constantly bounce around. The UI was excellent, and while I didn’t use most of the features, I didn’t have to. It just worked.

With my ipod dead, I’ve had to do my research on figuring out what to buy next. For the past few months I’ve been using my phone. I hate it. It’s too bulky, and fits awkwardly in workout clothing pockets. I don’t have an online music subscription, primarily because my internet connection isn’t reliable. I want something with a huge storage capacity, so I can curate what I want on there, but also don’t have to worry about filling up any time soon. I’ve had so many issues with my ipod over the years, and it’d be kind of cool to have removable stuff so I don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Removable batteries, storage, etc. That way I can just get a new microSD card instead of having the whole unit repaired for hundreds of bucks. I want something sturdy and rugged, physical controls rather than touchscreen. I want a decent battery life of around 10-15 hours per charge. I want 200+ gigs of storage. I want a UI that’s functional, easy, categorises by artist, album and whatnot, taking ID3 tags into account. If I’m stuck with a file tree to navigate, that’d feel clunky and undesirable. I want a player that sounds good. I’ll most likely just be using mp3 320kbps. It’d be too much work to start getting FLAC by this point. Still, to my untrained ears 320kbps plus my M50x headphones should be good enough. Who knows, maybe I actually try buying a good pair of earbuds for active work like running or gym stuff. I don’t want apps, internet connectivity or wifi. I want something that runs as a self-contained unit, that just plays music and does it well. I’m sure that’s not too much to ask.

And yet, holy hell it’s a lot of work navigating the landscape. There are things like the Sandisk Clip that would be perfect if only it had expandable storage. The FiiO III Mark 2 looks like exactly what I want, but it only supports storage up to 120 gigs. The FiiO III Mark 3 doesn’t have the same weight or size as the Mark 2, which is disappointing. But at the same time it’s still an all tactile, non touchscreen unit, plus it handles larger expandable memory. The UI is apparently a little slow. The HIDIZ AP80 has so many features that I like. It can hold up to 1 TB of expandable storage. It’s a little smaller and dinky than I’d like though. Apparently the UI is functional, but it’s all touchscreen with tiny onscreen buttons. My fingers are not diminutive. Then there’s the Ibasso DX50, which looks like it mostly has everything I want. It’s a tactile unit with decent weight. It has up to 2TB expandable storage. The battery is user replaceable. But I can’t find any in Canadian stores. It’s gonna cost a mint to import from the USA. Apparently the software is a little sluggish, but if I can find one that works, maybe that’ll be the go. I spent hours last night looking up models, comparing specs, figuring out how one of these units would fit into my life. I even made an excel spreadsheet to help make my decision.

It’s almost enough to make me want to resurrect my dead ipod once more.

Okay, he can kick too. Happy?

I underestimated One Punch Man.

Spoilers will follow.

It’s easy to do. The premise sounds dumb. There’s a superhero who can kill anything with a single punch. You know what? It is dumb, and that’s why it’s great. Because it takes a simple, dumb premise and elevates it exponentially for comedic effect. Saitama, the hero of One Punch Man decided one day to become a hero for fun. His arduous training consisted of doing 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 squats and a 10km run every day, and it caused him to gain limitless strength and endurance. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds. Yes, the anime pokes fun at how the workout isn’t actually well-rounded, and would in no way bring supernatural feats to anybody. In the show, however, he becomes literally unbeatable. He can dispatch anyone or anything with a single punch, and instead of bringing him to new heroic heights, he just gets ennui because it’s all too easy.

It all sounds like a one-note joke, but the magic of One Punch Man is that Saitama happens to be the lone straight man in a crazy world. He’s just a normal dude who reads manga, loves food, gets bored, tired and cranky. He’s ultimately drawn to doing the right thing, but often under duress. He mostly can’t be bothered. The Japan of OPM is filled with superpowered miscreants, monsters and world-ending threats. The stakes ramp up dramatically with each episode, but of course Saitama can defeat them all with one punch, so really there are no stakes (despite how heavily the show leans into the gravity of the situation). At the same time, while we understand this, the world virtually always disregards it. The answer would always just be send Saitama in to handle it, but every time he’s the last ditch effort.

The genius, is that the show makes everything harder than it has to be. The world-building becomes incredibly convoluted. There’s a superhero organisation mired in bureaucracy and lingo. There are hero tiers with definitive rankings, and responsibilities for each member based on rank. The alert systems are based on scale, with differing tiers required to handle issues of ascending difficulty. The number of goofy heroes they create is aspirational, with inane powers that the in-universe characters take extremely seriously. It’s all set up for maximum efficiency, communicative prowess and competence. Which all means nothing when Saitama can just punch the thing. Still, the organisation basically ignores our hero, and when he finally joins it’s at the lowest rank possible (because he did poorly on the entrance exam written test).

The true charm of the show, is that while it’s parodying the unending tropes of the medium, it’s doing so with utter reverence. The non-Saitama heroes all try their best, repeatedly putting their lives on the line against insurmountable odds. The villains all respond in kind, with verbose monologues and worldviews. Everything takes so much longer than it needs to, when invariably Saitama will come in and finish it all off with little effort. The joke doesn’t get old or strained, simply because we all know and love these tropes. In fact, the entire world of One Punch Man could exist as its own show without Saitama, but his mere presence warps everything around him, without the rest of the cast understanding this whatsoever.

The show wears its heart on its spandex sleeve, and it’s hard not to respond in kind. I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed an anime this much since Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It’s a love letter to the genre, and worth sticking with all the way to the end. It only gets better as it goes.

It’s “doing” time, not jail

Today was slow until it wasn’t, so today’s entry is coming in a little late. If I have any eagle eyed readers who noticed… well I don’t think that’s something that exists.

Errand day. I’ll take y’all en route with me. Not because it’s exciting, but because that’s where I’m at. I’m heading on the 510, Spadina car to get an HDMI/DVI cord so I can see how having a 32 inch TV screen for a monitor feels. Wait, I didn’t even check which streetcar I got on. One moment…

Turns out I’m on the 509. Disembarking and changing. Fortunately I picked up on it at the last possible shared stop between the routes.

It’ll be here in a few minutes, I’m sure. So yeah, I wanna see what this monitor is like. I know it’s gonna be a lower resolution (only 720p, sadly), but maybe the large size and the lack of real gaming I do on it will make up for it. Or if I fall in love with the size, maybe I just buy a 32 inch monitor. How much would it be? $300 or so? I mean, my 24 inch one at home is fine, but it could be great to watch stuff on…

I’m on the new streetcar. I even got me a seat this time. Clearly these are the scintillating observations you’ve all come here for. Oh well, I promised you nothing and I deliver on that regularly. This is all status quo, no? We’re above the Go Train line and I just looked both ways. Condos and condos in progress as far as the eyes can see. In 20 years Toronto is just gonna be one big condo that resembles the world’s most complex Habitrail. Honestly, as long as it’s not another Starbucks or Shoppers Drug Mart.

I’m so hungry and want to eat everything, for a change. Realistically though, most of my errands are food based and in Koreatown. I don’t have the discipline to not eat Korean on the best of days, let alone a day I’m already craving a big meal. I have to pick up another kilo of kimchi. How am I supposed to grab that beautiful tub and not be seduced into ordering its wonderful, wonderful cuisine brethren? I want me some pork bone stew, and it’s been at least a week (probably). Sure, I spent all weekend eating out, but why would that stop me? The heart wants what the heart wants and my heart belongs to food. 5 minutes more and I’ll get to Canada Computers, so I can spend $10 to discover that I don’t like using a TV as a computer monitor after all. Them’s the breaks, I guess. Oh fuck, a stranger is open mouth chewing maybe 30cm away from my ear. This is hell, let me out.

Okay, she finished. Wait. Maybe I will too. I don’t want to lug stuff around and type simultaneously. Plus this entry has gone nowhere (while I very clearly have. Streetcar, etc).

See you tomorrow, maybe on a TV screen, even.