Which reminds me, Canadian Mummy’s Day is in three weeks or so.

Magic the Gathering oriented post. If this isn’t up your alley, come back tomorrow when I’ll most likely visit a different laneway or boulevard.

After all that build up, Amonkhet is finally here! I unintentionally stayed out until just after 5am last night, had maybe three hours sleep then got back up for the 10am pre-release. Who’da thought I’d still be burning the candle at both ends after hitting 30? Most anyone who knows me, probably. In any case, I was shattered this morning and felt like I’d been embalmed. Fitting, given the Egyptian themed set I’d be playing. I prayed to whoever the Egyptian deity of Magic was to either have a solid pool or understanding opponents who wouldn’t mind me making terrible plays all day.

My prayers were answered. Praised be Heka and Isis, you did me a solid one.

My pool was actually pretty decent for most colours. My rares were Sandwurm Convergence, Channeler Initiate, Rags///Riches, Dispossess, Heaven///Earth, Regal Caracal, Plague Belcher and Nissa, Steward of Elements. Like I said, I did well all around. Looking at my blue, it was an easy disqualification. There were a ton of counterspells and good draw, but very few creatures. The red couldn’t muster enough to back up Heaven///Earth, so that went by the wayside too. I liked the look of my green. It had a bunch of early beaters, the Cartouche of Strength, the absurd Exemplar of Strength (that I’m pretty sure snowballs Longtusk Cub style if it gets dropped on curve), Rhonas’s Monument and some tricks. I matched it up with my black and had a look at its curve. I had very little in the way of mana fixing, but considered running Nissa as a small splash. To be honest, it looked marginal. The creatures were fine, but not consistent all the way up the curve. I didn’t have enough removal to make it worth it. Bummed, I cast another look at white. I had the Regal Caracal, which was a house. A couple of cheap conditional removal spells. Oh, and a ton of zombie synergies with black. The Binding Mummy could trigger a bunch with a combination of natural and embalmed zombies. Reluctantly, I put my green away (you’ll still be loved, my Channeler Initiate) and looked at the curve with white. It actually looked a little something like this:

Creatures (16)
1x Fan Bearer (z)
1x Gust Walker
1x Doomed Dissenter (z)
1x Binding Mummy (z)
2x Cursed Minotaur (z)
2x Unwavering Initiate (z)
1x Blighted Bat (z)
1x Plague Belcher (z)
1x Bone Picker
1x Tab-Crop Elite
1x Grim Strider
1x Regal Caracal
1x Oketra’s Attendant (z)
1x Winged Shepherd

Non-Creature (7)
1x Time to Reflect (z)
1x Impeccable Timing
1x Rhonas’s Monument
1x Forsake the Worldly
2x Final Reward
1x Stir the Sands (z)

Land (17)
8x Plains
8x Swamp
1x Grasping Dunes

*(z) indicates zombie or zombie synergy.

As you can see, I had a ton of zombies or zombie aligned cards, which were excellent with Binding Mummy, Plague Belcher and Time to Reflect. My curve was reasonably low and had a couple of removal spells to back up my solid creature base. Provided I drew lands, I tended to win games. In fact the only games that I lost were to mana screw (and poor choice of hands to keep, let’s be honest) and even then I managed to come back and stabilise after missing my land drops for several turns in a row. Fun interactions:

Plague Belcher and Doomed Dissenter was my dream curve that never happened. One time I killed the zombie token though. Worth it for a 3 mana 5/4 Menace, plus the Belcher drained my opponent for 1 when it sacrificed itself. I never got to play Plague Bearer and Bone Picker in one turn, but that would’ve been saucy as fuck. A couple of times I had an Unwavering Initiate and Rhonas’s Monument. I’d play the Belcher and pump the Initiate, then drop my counters on it. I’d get to attack for 3, then it’d die at the end of turn (leaving it in the graveyard to embalm later).

Binding Mummy did work. Between Fan Bearer and its bigger mummy, I could play an aggro control game. So often I’d curve out post Binding Mummy with a Cursed Minotaur or Blighted Bat and be the beatdown. If Rhonas’s Monument was in play, things went south quickly. My favourite play of the game was at a potential stall, I’d set up a whole table of lifelinking cats (via the Caracal), dudes and a Tab-Crop Elite ready to exert. The Binding Mummy triggers off zombies coming into play, not zombie spells or some kind of cast trigger. I played Stir the Sands and got my three zombies, tapping down the big threats on his board. I swung in with a pumped up team and took him from 15 to 4 in one barrage. Noting that I also had three zombies back on defence in the event of any counterattack.

Obviously Regal Caracal was a bomb, but I wasn’t expecting to get such a swing from it. Having the backup from Tab-Crop Elite or Rhonas’s Monument really pumped up the amount I gained back, letting me stabilise in dire times. I was constantly worried that my opponent would kill my main kitty, neutering my team in the process, but then I RTFC and realised the tokens naturally have lifelink anyway. Dumb card is dumb.

I never got to use my Winged Shepherd or Gust Walker. I played both of them, but they never had a chance to attack. Either I’d win before Winged Shepherd could do anything (or it was fodder for a Rhonas’s Monument pump), or my opponents would kill Gust Walker on sight. Happened three or so times today. Weird. Card’s good, but not backbreaking. Rhonas’s Monument though, Jeebus. It’s a dumb card, even off colour. +2/+2 and Trample is a huge boost every turn. The boost is one thing, but you disregard how easily it lets you punch through. Your beaters usually just end up bigger than theirs. Heka/Isis forbid I dropped two creatures in one turn. Which I did. Ain’t I a stinker?

All in all I came away with a 3-1 record (reminder: Two land hands are a trap no matter how good they look. Don’t get greedy) and 7 prize packs. I didn’t open anything truly amazing, but got the Prowling Serpopard and Pull from Tomorrow I’d been wanting for EDH. Day well spent.

More like pizzazz party, amirite?

We played Boggle Pizza Party last night. Boggle Pizza Party is a subset of a regular pizza party, whereby the goal is to encourage innovative and unintuitive pizza creations. I’ve always loved Make Your Own style meals. We did it a ton growing up. A typical MYO night was Mexican. We’d have a selection of basic ingredients on the table (grated cheese, red onion, diced tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, mince) and a combination of hard and soft shelled tacos. It was fun assembling meals in different combos, or testing assorted structural arrangements (what happens if the mince is on the bottom? Or perhaps setting a bed of cheese first to soak up any juices and keep the taco crispy?). We had sushi nights where we’d make all sorts of rolls. Then we’d do pizzas. It’s hard not to enjoy pizzas.

Boggle Pizza Night differs with the idea of “points” as incentive. Much like Whose Line, the points don’t matter for much more than bragging rights. If you somehow haven’t played Boggle (I hadn’t until 2013), the goal is to find as many words as you can in a block of letters (“super” in this instance) in a limited amount of time. Once the round is over everyone runs through the words they found. If anyone had the same words as someone else, nobody gets points for those words. Unique words only. Like Scattergories, really. This way people are encouraged to think outside the box and bring creative toppings. We supplied the basics. We had gluten-free tortillas to use as bases (my GF is GF, geddit?), which surprisingly worked gangbusters. We put two together with a thin layer of cheese between for adhesion purposes. They came out crispy and thin, which also meant we could make/eat a ton of them without getting instantly full from the dough. We had cheddar and an assortment of pizza sauces (tomato and garlic, hot and spicy and “authentic”, which low key sets up a classist divide between pizza sauces that I never expected to see). From there, we set sail with others’ creativity.

One of the couples was really late, so they just brought pizza with them. No points awarded (until later when we cut up chunks of the cheese pizza to use as meta toppings). We had ham (because of course we did), pineapple, mushrooms (a friend brought more. NO POINTS), cranberry sauce (in case anyone wanted to try a Thanksgiving pizza), garlic slices and, well, a fridge worth of backups (like pickles, etc). Our other friends won by a one-two punch of sheer quantity and ingenuity. Sundried tomatoes, regular tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, artichokes, salami, baby eggplants, brussels sprouts, broccoli and potatoes. Their choices were mind Boggling.

Then creation happened. We chopped and sautéed up the eggplant (because we didn’t want it going in raw) and put it together with olives, thin potato slices, salami and artichokes. We had a Canadian special with ham, pineapple, mushrooms and garlic. A vegetarian sundried tomato, broccoli, olive, artichoke and mozzarella special. The mandolin was pulled out for more potato work and my friend assembled a pizza base from thinly sliced spuds that looked a little like a scalloped potato mandala. It could’ve used a little bit longer to crisp up but it was surprisingly excellent. Will try again.

The wine kept flowing, which kept the conversation going. We had a constant production line of pizzas baking, topping assemblage and base prepping. Boggle Pizza Night was tons of fun for the whole family.

Next time, Scattergories Pizza Party.

Van Dammed if you do…

Every now and again I’ll get some reference stuck in my head and want so badly to find it a home. Of course I’ve got a stable of references ready to saddle up at any time, but not all references are equal. Some are super niche, requiring either a certain unlikely scenario to come to fruition. Elsewise the reference itself might be from something esoteric or lost to the past. Quoting Captain America: The First Avenger isn’t tough, but pulling from the 1990 Captain America film takes some work for very little payoff.

The question is why any of this matters. Ultimately, like most of my content, it doesn’t. Of course I want my references to be out of control, but if I navigated my life without constant pop-cultural quotes, I’d be doing alright in my lil’ Maslow pyramid. I’d probably talk less though. Why I do chase the ‘rush’ of a solid reference is truthfully a matter of pride. It feels fantastic to toss out something obscure and have acknowledgement flow back. It’s like the full body hum of making a room erupt into laughter. There’s nothing quite like the idea that even for a second, you were capable of making people happy. Absolutely nailing a reference has that same sensation, but on a much smaller and more concentrated level. You feel in sync with someone else. There’s this communal feeling of goodwill that exists between you. You’ve called to something hidden in the depths of their memory and that discovery brings them involuntary joy. Then you get to feel special for putting them in touch with it. Like I said, it’s silly and ephemeral, but that doesn’t make it any less of a goddamn delight.

All of this is to say, for the last day or two I’ve been searching every single conversation to drop the “For me, it was Tuesday” bomb.

A friend once laid me low with that very quote and I felt tickled inside and out. It resonated in my heart and mind, both of which grew three sizes (as a side effect, I got smarter). In that moment I felt connection and a certain kind of bliss. I don’t know if I’d attain that same glorious sensation when I imparted it upon someone else, but until I know I’m gonna keep chasing that dragon.

There’s a documented moment of me experiencing this kind of euphoria. In episode 14 of the pawdcast I cast out my net with an “I am Queen’s Boulevard” pull (at least I got something from my love/hatewatch of Entourage) and catch a whale. You can hear the joy in my voice as I reel from a successful delve into the deep. Witnessing that, it’s no wonder that I chase that high any time I can.

Once again, it’s stupid, but I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t one of my favourite little moments of rapture. Then again, this would be news to nobody who’s read at least one of these entries.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.

A sure shank redemption.

I’ve been 30 for several months now and 30 is great. I’ve felt more secure in the ‘me’ I bring to the world. Cared less about what others thought and put focus into the energy I’ve exuded. There’s been no fear of having peaked, because it’s becoming increasingly clear that I’ve got more of my life in front of me than behind. Tonight though, it all changes. Tonight I soar upwards into a crescendo. I’ll high five my zenith and coast for the rest of my life secure in the knowledge that not only have I lived, but for one night was magnificently alive, positively charged with potential. Tomorrow I’ll step foot into a plodding decline but tonight? Tonight I’m the master of my own destiny.

I’m speaking of course of the fact that there’s currently eight kilos of bone in ham shank waiting to be carved in my kitchen.

Eight goddamn kilos. That’s so much fucking ham. All for the low low price of $16. I’m sure you think you know how much eight kilos is, but you’ll find that you’re mistaken. If you were to have a ham sandwich, 150 grams would be a decent sandwich. I could have 60 of those. I’ve got enough ham that I can experiment. Ever had ham curry? Neither have I, but what if it’s a taste sensation waiting to happen? Summer’s coming up. If I’m overheated and hungry, why not kill two birds with small frozen chunks of pig? I could have a hamburger, but with literal ham in lieu of buns. A world of possiblity is unfolding in front of my eyes.

The last time something like this (though not nearly the same magnitude. I’m pretty sure that was a mere four kilos) I had spiral cut ham to work with. It was pre-sliced and hard to truly mess up. This time it’s just meat on a bone. I’m gonna need to employ actual technique in order to maximise meatficciency. This ain’t no two bit operation, it’s a big bite operation. I’ve done my research, but theory has nothing on practice. Thankfully it’s pretty methodical. I need to cut a few slices from the narrower side in order to have a flat base to work from. With that achieved, I can cut thin vertical slices from the top of the shank down to the bone. I then simply cut along the bone horizontally and the slices will fall off. Repeating as such for all four sides will have the job virtually finished and all I’ll need to do with be straighten out the odd shaped bits. Likely with my mouth, in all honesty. It sounds possible, I just need to think confidently. If all goes terribly wrong, at least the whole eight kilos is divided between two shanks. If I butcher the first (maybe the one situation where that verb falls flat), by the second, I’ll have ascended to mastery. Or butchery, as the case may be.

Holy shit folks, I’m just about to walk in the door. Are you excited? Doesn’t matter. I’m excited enough for all of you combined. TIME TO PIG OUT.

Ours is not to reason why, but when.

Much like acclaimed musician, philosopher and scientist Pitbull, I went “Back In Time” last night. Toronto has a semi-regular event called Chronologic, a dance party spanning the years of 1890 to 2017. What does 1890s dance music sound like? NO IDEA. The event started at 10pm, moving forward through the years towards 2017. I’d wager very few people arrive early enough to hear the good ol’ baroque-n beats. By the time we got there (after hanging out, catching up and downing a few Lokoschewitz’ (Four Loko and Manishcewitz, obviously)), close to 11pm, we’d already reached the 60s or so. Some choice Motown tracks informed us we were in the right place. Without further ado, bullet points:

  • Since the playlist spanned such a massive period of time, it gave the DJs so many endless gems to work with. I’m seriously not trying to belittle anything in saying that low hanging fruit was the name of the game. Every track seemed to be a time tested dancefloor classic.
  • The douchebag quotient was astonishingly low. I didn’t see anyone having fun at the expense of others. The crowd was generally respectful, with no pushing or assorted friction.
  • People really came to dance, which I guess was the point. Given the lack of specific genre cohesion, the event required some ability to move along to a range of beats and styles. Something like that takes commitment, at least more than a focused playlist. Some dancers though, knew their shit big time.
  • At some stage the projector at the back of the stage was screening game footage from the 1983 Nintendo Entertainment System game Track and Field. On one hand it was quirky and neat to watch in the background. On the other, you feel so powerless watching people who are average at video games. If you feel like you could do better, there’s almost a phantom itch imploring you to get your hands on the controller.
  • People were friendly and well behaved, but concurrently I’m not sure I’ve been on a dancefloor with so much broken glass. Was it just that attendees were super drunk and clumsy? Or were staff not hyper vigilant about clearing the mess on the floor?
  • At one point my friend and I climbed up to the stage to dance along with twenty or so others. As I got up, a small shard of glass stuck in my hand. A woman offered to pull it out with her self proclaimed tiny hands, averting tragedy. At some stage later I looked down and my hand was covered in blood. Worried about getting it on my clothes (personal well-being was nowhere near the top of my concerns), I cleaned it in the bathroom and it stopped bleeding rather rapidly. If this is a sign I’m becoming Wolverine, I couldn’t be more stoked.
  • It’s not uncommon at dance events for a stranger to come up to me and compliment me on my dancing. Something along the lines of “Hey man, I’ve been seeing you dance the whole night and it looks like you’re having a blast. It’s awesome.” It’s true that I don’t take myself seriously when I dance and focus on having an awesome night. I’ve never detected a tone of sarcasm, they seem genuine every time. It’s the most delightful thing. Last night it happened twice. I was understandably chuffed.
  • I think I’ve deeply underestimated how much Britney’s “Hit Me Baby One More Time” crushes a dancefloor. The whole place collectively lost its shit. “Toxic” came later and was suitably huge, but didn’t dominate to the same extent.
  • At some point in the night I noticed a massive sweat stain taking up around 60% of my shirt. By the time the event finished (over three hours of dancing later), my clothes felt like I’d been swimming. Pants soaked entirely through. The best way to get your cardio on.
  • Pitbull’s “Back In Time” was notably absent.

Chronologic. It’s a trip!

Tour on TO.

I heard from a friend today that she’s thinking of stopping off in Toronto for a couple of days. Naturally, this is fantastic news. It’s always excellent to see good friends from far and away. Even better when you have the home court advantage. If she does come, it’ll be over Easter weekend, which has its pros and cons. I didn’t have any big plans over the weekend, so spending quality time with a good mate trumps anything else. It’s also during a time where I naturally have time off. Another plus. On the other side, I’m worried that Toronto may slow down over Zombie Jesus’ Cave Time. What if nothing’s on? How am I supposed to show her the best that Toronto has going for it, if there’s nothing going on? She’s coming from London (the good one) for fuck’s sake. How am I supposed to one up that?

Let’s work on a wish list. What ideally would I love to show her about Toronto?

  • Weird movie screening: Maybe something at The Royal, The Carlton or The Revue. Local cinemas working together with niche community groups to give the public access to lesser known filmic works. If there’s anything by Exploding Zebra or The Midnight Society, The MUFF Society, etc. Perhaps some horror film fest or an interesting TIFF screening/Q&A session.
  • Food: Always food. Toronto has several cities’ fair share of brunch spots with a ton of options for all diets. She’s vegetarian and Toronto will provide. Failing anything, it’s another excuse to get Ethiopean, as if I ever need one. Spring will come with a ton of pop-ups. There are also the regular spots like Bang Bang/Bakerbots, Sweet Jesus (thematic) and everything Kensington has to offer. Oh wait, how could I forget poutine? It’s Canadian food incarnate.
  • Bars: So many theme bars here, and surprisingly few I’ve checked out. As a local, you rarely explore your own backyard much. Why not put paid to that idea and dig around? I’ve never been to Eat My Martini or Nightowl. The hubbub surrounding “Harry Potter Bar” The Lockhart has probably died down by now. Get Well is always the best and I haven’t been in aaaages. the Get Well owned bar Greater Good has opened up close to me and I’ve still not stopped in for a pint. Not to mention great local breweries like Blood Brothers and Bellwoods. There’s so much excellent alcohol on offer.
  • Shows: There’s always some type of performance going on in Toronto. There’s a vibrant art scene between the visual arts, theatre, dance and more abstract stuff. Could she be interested in a themed burlesque show? Comedy gigs, whether improv or sketch? An offering from one of the many talented local theatre companies? An exhibition or gallery? Art battles or cooking competitions?
  • Dance: The anachronistic charms of Chronologic? Disco vibes of Beam Me Up? Guilty pleasure pop? K-POP? Queer femme hip hop? MTV Throwback? Whatever she’s into, like good beer, it’s probably on tap.
  • Funtivities: Escape rooms? Axe throwing? The Rage Room? Archery Tag? An escape event at Casa Loma?
  • Oh the Places to go: Toronto Island/Hanlans, The Beaches, Trinity Bellwoods, The Distillery District, Evergreen Brick Works.

Really though, it’s not about what I want to show her, but what she’s into seeing. First and foremost, is she even coming? If not, nothing’s stopping me from doing any of this stuff.

Y’know, Toronto’s quite something when you think about it.

Never never? Call me JaPeter JaPan.

Hi there. I’ve got no idea where this is going, so keep your hands inside the cart and let’s all enjoy the ride.

I haven’t been to an amusement park in longer than I’d like. Last time I went was to Canada’s Wonderland. The weather was borderline scummy, which was great. The park was sparsely attended through threat of rain. My cousin and I cleared every ride in under two hours. At one point they closed the rides for all of 15 minutes, so we got lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent doubling/tripling back on all the rides we loved (I got to take Behemoth six times!). Pretty much ideal. I’m a big fan of roller coasters or basically anything that allows me to get as close to g-force in my extremities as possible. I don’t typically get scared on rides. It’s no brag, but a faith in rigorous safety testing and statistics. Discounting that horrific freak accident at Dream World (on a fucking benign river ride of all things), large scale amusement parks tend to be pretty safe. If I feel like I’m not in any danger, extreme rides feel fun, not frightening.

It makes sense for me to be thinking about amusement parks. A friend of mine just came back from a holiday to LA, which naturally involved a trip to Disneyland. I did the Disney parks in Orlando as a kid and had the time of my life. When I think of stuff I’d like to do on vacation, going to a bunch of theme parks would be right up there. I’m still a child (with larger limbs) and the thrill of going on a bunch of rides, but with the executive decisions and flexibility of being an adult, is palpable.

Good thing, because once again I’ve got vacation I need to use.

I don’t know how I ended up with another five days. It looks like I miscalculated my vacation days over the past six months and I still had a few to take. They allowed me to roll over the five days on the proviso that I use them up over the next few months. So once more I’m in the enviable position of having to decide where I’d like to travel.

To be honest, I’ve always wanted to travel to Japan. Since being a child obsessed with anime, Disney and video games, it’s been top of my list. As kids, we had a succession of Japanese au pair who stayed with our family. It was a pretty neat cultural influence that left me with fond memories. Visiting Japan has been a dream of mine ever since. Financially I haven’t been in the position to follow through, but I’m fortunate for that now to be a reality. For the next two months it’ll be Spring there, which seems the perfect time to visit. I could do a Tokyo trip, visit Disneyland, check out some beautiful old temples and finally tick it off the bucket list. There’ll be sake and sakura and everything. What’ve I got holding me back?

Right now? Logistics and planning. I’d love to do the trip with a friend, to have someone I can bounce ideas off in a foreign country. I don’t speak or read the language (though I’m sure that hasn’t stopped others before). I don’t know my way around Toyko, the transport system, the best spots to visit and how much things should generally cost. Trip planning has never been a strong skill of mine. As always, there are endless resources on the internet and I definitely have friends who’ve been there. So really, it’s on me to get off my arse and look into it. Dreams rarely come true without a lot of hard work.

Still, that’d be one hell of a ride.