Success or phalanx?

I have exactly nothing to talk about today. So let’s see how this plays out.

My left thumb is sore, because I’m a dumbass who doesn’t know how to properly wrap his hands before boxing. You’d think this’d make typing insufferable, but I don’t type using a structured Mavis Beacon style touch typing approach. So while my left thumb rests right by the spacebar, it never really sets print on the keyboard. “Sets print”? I wasn’t sure either. My thumb’s hardly gonna set foot, but I’m not entirely sure what that part of my thumb is called. The pad perhaps? What does Google say? Obviously I was indicating the second phalanx (duh. it’s not like we’re talking about metacarpals like some AMATEUR FUCKING MORONS AMIRITE?), but the fleshy part rather than the nail. “Print” will have to do for now. Anyway, it’s sore. Not prohibitively so, but just enough to justify complaining. Since this is my space and I can do what I want, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.

Waah, my thumb hurts. I wish it felt pain free as per the norm, but it doesn’t.

Done.

Clearly you’re all here for these breaking stories. Hope you’re getting all you wanted. Frankly, I’m not sure why most if any of you are reading this. It’s been some time since anything interesting went on around these parts. I apologise for my lack of compelling life changes. I guess going to Portland was fun. Remember when I metaphorically took you on a trip with me? That was exciting. People were smiling in the streets. I drank a lot of beer. I had coffee in a reclaimed bus. Marijuana was legal to purchase. It was like being in another world. Maybe my life is feeling worn in right now because I’m not trying many new things. Perhaps I need more hobbies, or some kind of way of sampling novel experiences on a regular basis. Anything can get boring if it becomes overly repetitive. That’s how relationships find slumps. Perhaps I need to spice up my relationship with myself.

What could I do?

I could force myself to go somewhere new every week. It could be a new bar or restaurant. It could be exploring a new neighbourhood just to look at things. Or perhaps jog in a new environment (though to be honest, when I’m jogging I’m paying more attention to the music in my ears than my surroundings). Maybe I need to find books to read that challenge me in some way. Frankly, I barely read at all any more, so simply adhering to flipping pages in my leisure time would be challenge enough. What if I went to a library and got a book out on some new skill, then worked on that skill? I don’t know if I’ve made something out of wood since I was sub ten years old. What if I messed around with audio editing again? I’m a mic away from recording things. They’re easy enough to find.

I guess the unspoken truth here is that there are infinite things I could do to work out of this rut. The difference is whether or not I do them. I’m so used to reacting to change, having it forced upon me and adapting. Enacting change from within requires discipline, motivation and the endurance to carry on past obstacles. Where does that come from? What drives me and how can I harness that in order to regain momentum? It makes sense that the hardest time to see the road ahead is when you’re down a hole. At the same time, it’s the most crucial juncture in which to launch yourself back to that path. If I’m struggling at harnessing that will, is it time yet to ask for help?

It’s a pity my thumb is sore, I could’ve used it to hitchhike somewhere new.

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Here I was thinking a plastic book was called a Kindle.

After a hectic but enjoyable weekend, it’s time to rejoin the work week and discover the limits to which I can push my sanity. If I thought it was silly getting home at 1am on a work night, that silliness has been redoubled after our noisy cat made sleeping a quest and a half.

We visited an open home yesterday because it was maybe two doors away from us. We were curious to see what prices in the area were like. It’s a lovely area that, if we were looking for somewhere, would fit the bill. I’d for sure expected that something in our street would be close to a million, because I’ve been conditioned to expect anything that’s not out in suburbia to be absurdly out of reach. It wasn’t. I mean, it was more than my brain tells me homes should be (because base prices in my mind haven’t been updated since the 90s), but not by a lot. It had 2.5 bedrooms upstairs and an unfinished basement. The basement was furnished and everything, but the concrete floors were uneven, the wooden floor in the basement bedroom wasn’t 100% sealed, and the books in the bookcase were fake plastic books. Like some kind of ridiculous Anthropologie serving suggestion. The place was also pretty cute, the porch had glass doors for protection from the elements and there was a sun room in the back leading out to a grass lined path that led to the laneway. One day. Maybe. Is our generation allowed that? Or do we need to massage our expectations down to finding a nice rental? Reach for the skies, not the stars.

I’ve seen 14 comedy shows since Thursday. I’d say it’s getting ridiculous, but honestly it was ridiculous by day two. It’s become an art just getting around. Yesterday I managed four and a half shows. I’ll explain. My friend and I saw Jenny Slate together at 7pm. Rachel Feinstein at 9pm. Maybe ten minutes into her set, my friend turned to me. “She’s doing her special. I just watched this before interviewing her last week. I’m gonna get out of here and see if I can catch Roy Woods Jr.” It dawned on me that the reason why her material wasn’t killing for me as hard as it had been last time was because it was the same material. Damn Rachel, that’s a bit of a faux pas. We caught an Uber at 9.40pm and managed to get into Roy’s 10pm show. Aisha Brown was opening and destroyed like she always does. So fucking talented, I’m surprised she hasn’t left for LA yet. Roy had been sold pretty hard by one of my comedy encyclopedia friends and he didn’t disappoint. A solid set the whole way through. So glad I managed to sneak him into my lineup.

We’d both booked into the 11pm Ali Siddiq show and didn’t want to lose our credits, so we caught another Uber and sped over there. It was so hot and sweaty. The fan was working overtime and sounded like am airplane about to take off. Ali was more of a storyteller than strict stand up. I got pulled in quickly, but he lost me on his second joke, a rape joke that was unnecessary roughness for very little payoff. It took a while to work back into his set, but it was pretty fucking fascinating. He talked about growing up in a culture of violence and his experiences in the prison system. He was a riveting storyteller, and I found myself being won back over. Then at the end of the show, he started “rating” individual audience members on their performance. It was a super novel and enjoyable bit. The Garrison is one of the few intimate venues where comics aren’t blinded by the lights and can actually see the crowd. Ali’s post script showed that he was paying attention to how people were perceiving his act, something which audience members often neglect to appreciate. It created this unique aspect to his set that bonded that specific crowd with their memories of the night. Altogether, quite great.

Tonght is a light night. Maybe I’ll just see the one show. I was gonna tap out entirely, but a 7pm show opened up that I was raring to catch. I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t pounce on the chance. I’m sure my sanity can stretch that little bit more, right?

Someone in Toronto has the tagger handle Faygo Freak. Hey, if you know what you like…

Day three of JFL42 and the past 24 hours have been, in the words of the great philosophers Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent Jay, pure motherfucking magic. In all my plotting and planning pre-fest, the constant back and forth with PR, my anxiety over seeing all the acts I wanted to see, I think I lost sight of the quintessential truth: I love to laugh.

I know it sounds ripped from a terrible dating profile. Who doesn’t enjoy laughter? Really though, being totally enmeshed in stand up comedy does something fundamentally good for my heart. I remember being on a cruise once and going to a seminar held by a comedian on the importance of laughter. He said something about one minute of intense laughter being equivalent to 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. I’m sure that’s bro science more than anything, but he led the entire crowd on joined, sustained laughter for a minute. It started out fake, but soon enough the small giggles became real laughter. Roaring laughter. By the end of the minute, I was sweaty and tuckered out. Maybe there was something to this.

When I get stuck into stand up that resonates with me, I’m a sweaty laugh-er. I’ll rock back and forth, I’ll shake uncontrollably and sometimes just vibrate, my body humming as I gasp for air. It actually helped me meet some good friends on my way to Toronto. I saw this couple taking a selfie and asked them if they wanted me to take a nice photo for them instead. I took the photo and they asked me “were you just in Pete Holmes’ podcast recording?” I replied in the affirmative. “Thought so, we noticed how hard you were laughing and thought this guy gets it.” I haven’t seen those two in ages, but they’re awesome people who I’m so stoked to know.

Chris Locke induced that kind of laughter in me last night. He’s a Toronto local with a rambling style. Brilliantly scatterbrained, he has structured material, but also is content to follow random thought patterns to find the funny. He’s a total gem and well worth checking out. Morgan Murphy also had a bunch of great bits. I was impressed by her ability to put jokes together and subvert audience expectations. One of her jokes started “My doctor told me I can’t have kids” and followed it through to a great punchline without denigrating the medical profession, pregnancy or parenting, all through the magic of clever wordplay. She had this great bit about how we tend to judge people with voices we’d deem stupid (say Vocal Fry or Valley Girl kind of stuff) when it has no bearing whatsoever on their intelligence. It’s so true and can easily be seen in those who treat non-native English speakers like idiots. Of course they’re not stupid, they just have a whole different hurdle to reframe their thoughts through than you do.

This morning I had the pleasure of seeing an In Conversation session with Jenny Slate. She was a wonderful guest, thankful for her success while giving rambling heartfelt answers that obviously weren’t pre-written soundbites. She was candid and it was fascinating listening to her chart how her career had changed as she’d aged, the environment in which her standup flourished (I had no idea she was a contemporary of Aziz, Mulaney, etc) and how she found herself actually having a voice in her work. A great way to spend an early Saturday morning.

I’ve also been appreciating seeing so many of my festival friends. Going to a gig and discovering someone I know is there too. Catching up and hanging out, comparing festival experiences. As always, when I go alone I love talking to strangers about their perspectives on comics they’ve seen. This year has been no exception. It’s such a pleasure making acquaintances that I see throughout the rest of the fest. It’s my favourite time of the year for a reason, after all. For all the stress getting here, it’s been well worth it.

Well I certainly won’t be motherbored.

At the moment life looks like a bunch of pixels. My brain is unravelling and I can see The Matrix. It’s not bad enough for my vision to have devolved into binary, but I could be in need of a graphics card upgrade. RAM’s usually pretty cheap. Let’s toss some more in there too. I don’t know if that ol’ 512MB of DDR RAM can keep up any more. It’s been a decade since I last knew anything about computers and it seems like my mind is similarly outmoded. Oh well, it’s not like overclocking could have any severe ramifications…

I still haven’t caught up from my holiday hangover. I caught a cold and instead of shirking it off, I spread it to my girlfriend who begrudgingly held up her end of keeping the contagion going. Thanks honey. So I spent the weekend soaking in the festering putrescence. I’m still congested and my squishy think-y bits are accordingly dealing with my internal traffic jam. Everything’s taking a while to process. Pity, because returning from holiday has meant a significant backlog at work. We’re ramping up to the busiest time of the year, which co-incidentally coincides with the colossal comedy festival, which I’m covering. Cool. Cool cool cool.

Buuuuut, my accreditation hasn’t yet been sorted. Normally I’m all geared up a week or two ahead of time. This year, a combination of poor communication and a new PR firm covering the festival has meant that three days out I still haven’t been told the status or extent of my accreditation. They want me to submit my requests, but they haven’t told me what level of shows I get access to. This means I have to put together requests with contingencies. I usually plan pretty carefully to maximise what I’m able to see. Some comics stay for a couple of nights, others pop in for a night or two. This makes the festival into an elaborate puzzle.

This puzzle is further compounded by travel times. It’s all well and good to book a 7pm show and 9pm show, but if the 7pm show is at the Sony Center and the 9pm show is at Comedy Bar, it can be pretty fucking tricky to make it from the first show to the second in time. Sometimes shows run long. Furthermore, now that they’ve included Yuk Yuks in the venue list for midnight shows, it’s damn near impossible to get from a 10.30pm show to the midnight show in time, even after taking an Uber (RIP the novel experience that is Andy Kindler’s Alternative Show).

So one axis is timing and venue distance, the other is headliner access. If I can see headliners, it’ll change which shows I prioritise. If I don’t, that’ll change the shape of my festival. Without knowing whether or not I get headliners then, will affect the structure of my schedule. If I get Mulaney on Thursday night, for instance, it won’t only change what I see on Friday night, but could affect which shows I opt in for on Friday, Saturday and Sunday too. Which means I need to submit multiple contingencies based on what access I will get, without knowing how this will play out. Anyone else confused?

Then while all this is happening I’ll also have daily coverage, a full time job (which could be in another department with later hours if I get the job (it’s a six month assignment that would start over the next week or two. Fingers crossed) and the necessity of keeping up physical activity (or otherwise truly go insane). Sleep comes in there somewhere too. Is caffeine more effective if I shelve it?

The scary part is, this is what I do for leisure. I think I need to learn what priorities are.

Hold on to your butts, we’ve got some probing to do.

Magic the Gathering related post. Some people won’t be into that, I’m sure. If so, come back tomorrow. If you’re sticking around, AutocardAnywhere would sure be handy.

ALL HAIL IXALAN, BRINGER OF DINOS TO THE WORLD OF MAGIC. Sure, dinosaurs have been around since Ice Age, but only because of soon to arrive errata. I’ve been waiting for dinosaurs in Magic the Gathering for years. I’ve always had a love of those big scaley/feathery lézards terribles and the notion of using them to smash face in one of my favourite games is too much to ignore. So I’m gonna start brewing already.

Let’s get some mood music.

Back when Ixalan spoilers were leaked, we got a glimpse of the lizard commander himself: Gishath, Sun’s Avatar. Gishath’s pretty neat, but everyone’s gonna be brewing that style of dinosaur deck. You know the one that clears the way, stacks the top of the library with something like Scroll Rack. Seems too easy. I wanna go for something that really lets me BE, AGGRESSIVE, BE, BE, AGGRESSIVE. Where’s my homeboy Marath at? It’s fight club time, baby.

Enrage is the new dinosaur keyword and it’s a doozy. [Whenever ~ is dealt damage, x] One of the prime examples is this fella here: Ripjaw Raptor. So you’ve got a stack of big lizards ready to rumble. They’re fine tanking a bunch of hits for profit, so let’s ring in some damage. Another (untranslated, as of the time I’m writing this) neat critter is this Ankylosaurus. It’s gonna pump the rest of the team when it takes a hit, which is handy because it lets our team take more hits, ya dig? Sun-Crowned Hunters lets us ping other players 3 damage at a time. I’m sure there are more Enrage creatures left to be revealed, but this is our rag tag starting line-up. We can round out the rest of the crew with perennial favourites like Boros Reckoner, Spitemare, Phytohydra and Stuffy Doll.

So how do we start dealing damage to our own creatures? Why not start thematically. Aether Flash (the 7th edition art in particular) starts the value train rolling in as soon as we play our pals. It also hoses opposing token strategies. To be honest, they’re gonna be having a bad time all over. Let’s throw in Powerstone Minefield and Lightmine Field to discourage opponents attacking, but also to let us clothesline any poor bastards with a field of weenies. To give us a bit more control over the board, lets harness the colour-shifted Pestilence, Pyrohemia. It means we can take into consideration our own creatures with lower toughness, making sure we’re only dealing a small amount each turn. Plus it’s pretty damn baller with the aforementioned Ankylosaurus and the enchantment Fungusaur: Rite of Passage. This means our dinos will be legit monsters by the time it gets back to our turn. I don’t think Subterranean Spirit has aged well, but I’m sure it can find a place in our little brew.

Let’s get some more brawlers in on this action. Gruul Ragebeast never says no to a fight. Triskelion likes getting frisky, as does its little cousin Walking Ballista. Foe-Razer Regent likes our creatures getting into boxing matches. Dromoka’s Command is super versatile, as is Boros Charm (that has the super valuable indestructibility we’re looking for. We should probably chuck in Heroic Intervention and Dauntless Escort while we’re there). Setessan Tactics can work as a one-sided board wipe, while Vicious Shadows can profit from the endless death happening all around us. Also Blasphemous Act, because we’re playing EDH, aren’t we?

The set isn’t even out and we’re already ahead of the curve. I knew life would find a way!

I for one am looking forward to talking about something else. Like, did you know they’re doing a live action Jetsons? Why?

Like every other year, the last week before Tough Mudder absorbs all other thought. I’ve become a broken record. Talking about much else would be disingenuous, because I’m not thinking about an array of topics. I’ve got tunnel vision that’s concentrated on how I’m gonna get up those hills.

I’m thinking about what to eat and when to eat what. While common knowledge says that carbo loading is the way to go, I’m borderline petrified of getting constipated and having to navigate the course with a food baby as the monkey on my back. It’s a trap for sure. If your body isn’t used to certain types of food, why vary things up before the race in the hopes of getting a slight boost? I know that I’ll have shit all chances of sleeping the night before, so adding any kind of indigestion is a fool’s errand. Keep it simple, proteins, fibre and small amounts of complex carbs. Then fill in the gaps before the race with excessive pre-workout. I’ll practically fly up St Louis Moonstone.

I’ve kind of divided life into PM and AM (Pre Mudder and After Mudder respectively) and for the most part I’ve pushed everything after the race out of my head. One nagging issue though is footwear. There’s no way my shoes will be operable post race. My beloved Saucony Excursion TR8 GTXs. I bought a pair a few years back and found them to be the most comfortable running shoes I’d ever owned. So of course I got another pair once they were done. It took work and Google-Fu. I searched across the world and found a pair close to home in Edmonton. Paid way too much, but it was worth it not to mess with what my feet were used to. I’m no stranger to foot pain, which has a habit of becoming knee pain all too easily. So the path of least resistance was best paved with becoming a creature of habit. This year, the shoes are nowhere to be found. I’ve looked. I’ll have to figure out what about them worked and seek the next best thing. That’s a job for my Sunday hangover.

Tonight is all about stretching and foam rolling. In other words, a torture session. It’ll hurt like fuck now, but anything I do beforehand will only ease pressure on the day. Why is it that myofascial release is so goddamn painful? Somehow pressing dense foam into my muscles feels like a stabbing. The foam roller will deal with my IT bands, thighs, calves, groin, glutes and rotator cuffs, while a lacrosse ball can get into those hard to reach spots on the upper body. Is this boring you? Good, it’s gonna be even worse for me. I have no idea how real athletes deal with this stuff on a regular basis. Those fucking Supple Leopards. Staying limber seems to be a full-time commitment. I can’t imagine how much time you’d have to devote to keeping the machine running well if your body was the tool of your trade. Last year it was so easy. I had benefits that covered regular athletic therapy. I just offset the work and knowledge onto those who knew best. Maybe I can convince myself that doing it on my own makes it worth more or something. Am I that gullible?

Two sleeps, then it’s here. I’ll be able to remember what my life was like when it had nuance. Maybe I’ll learn from walking a mile in some different shoes.

I am somewhat driven towards a Mairsiélago deck through.

Magic the Gathering post. Here be dragons (literally. It’s one of the four tribal decks I’m gonna talk about today).

Commander 2017. The release which made me realise that I don’t own any tribal EDH decks. What gives? I’ve always loved tribal mechanics. Or at the very least, I’ve enjoyed making tribal decks with little to no synergy. Like that 60 card Insect highlander that vastly improved with the printing of Swarmyard. Or the plant deck I put together before Avenger of Zendikar actually made it viable. Forget that noise. My big hitters were Vineslasher Kudzu, Vulturous Zombie and… Lichenthrope. I’ve always wanted to build a tribal EDH deck, but it’s never happened. I’m too much of an edgelord that wants something non-standard. Maybe one day I’ll really commit and make all of my Camarid dreams come true.

Until then, let’s look at some neat stuff from Commander 2017!

  • Mairsil, the Pretender: Here’s a complicated card that no doubt has a million infinite combos. Yeah, of course you can blink him with Deadeye Navigator, but since when did that card need help being effective? More importantly, Mairsil gives you the opportunity to do downright silly things. Want to turn him into a vehicle? Go right ahead, get all John Malkovich on him. This guy might finally make Quicksilver Elemental worth something.
  • Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist: They did a hell of a job bringing back an old favourite (even if that old favourite wasn’t Baron Sengir) and making them formidable. Mirri lets you swing in with impunity, unworried about the backswing. More importantly, she finally legitimises the Centaur Omenreader/Glare of Subdual deck I’ve always wanted.
  • Edgar Markov: A new Baron Sengir he isn’t, but I do like how they’ve made going wide very much in reach. He may have benefited from shaving off one mana, but at least by the time you drop Edgar you should have four vampires already on the board. The first strike/haste combo pulls back on some of the feel bads of being a Cadillac general, but not entirely as he’s only swinging for five.
  • The Ur-Dragon: Big, dumb and goofy, but likely pretty effective. I can imagine just how fun it’d be loading your deck up with all the dragonlords and swinging. Hellkite Charger could give you double the pleasure and Utvara Hellkite could make things worse and worse for your opponents.
  • Path of Ancestry: A bonafide EDH staple. At absolute worst it can tap for your general’s identity and gives you a scry when you play them. In a dedicated tribal deck you’re most likely scrying every turn with no real cost. That’s fucking amazing. It’ll feel subtle, but your draws will be smoothed out for the remainder of the match. This card is big game.
  • Teferi’s Protection: It wouldn’t surprise me if this made waves in legacy. Does this work with Ad Nauseum? In any case, Sunforger packages cried out worldwide in exultation. How does my Shu Yun deck not yet have Mistveil Plains?
  • Vindictive Lich: Selfishly, I just put together Chainer, Dementia Master so I’m looking to jam this in there. Is this worth the extra mana than Merciless Executioner and Fleshbag Marauder? I think so. None of these are tiny effects (two cards and five life are a chunk) and if you’re more than 1v1, this card seems solid.
  • Mathas, Fiend Seeker: I’m far from the first to mention this, but it’s a spectacular flavour win how well this goes with Bounty Hunter. This dude seems like the basis of a neat political deck, with a commander who can get in for small digs here and there.
  • Ramos, Dragon Engine: These DARGONS were all spoiled months back, but Ramos seems like it’ll be heaps of fun. It’s a great pull of an old character and happens to produce the same amount as all of its Mercadian Masques body parts would. It also makes Increasing Savagery provide six mana first time around and 20 on the second cast.

To be honest, I probably won’t buy any of the product this year, but I might pick up some singles. They’ve done a good job of printing some truly neat and clever cards, but also evergreen tribal effects (one cycle in particular) that really work in this format. I may not want a vampire deck, but Mirri will most likely worm its way into some of my decks. Not just my heart.