Three cheers for everyone’s favourite Coppola.

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Like in that Will Ferrell movie. Or when you find yourself in a situation you’d merely dreamed of. Dreams, however, could not come close to the reality I was lucky enough to experience. It was all too brief, as only the best things are. Last night I went to (beat) a Nicolas Cage party.

How many films has Nic Cage been in? Many times more than enough. Accordingly there were beyond ample costume opportunities. While I’d initially conspired to go as Cowboy Pachinko Nic Cage, I left it way too late and didn’t want to have to track down a close-enough shirt and other costume accessories. At some point it gets expensive to put together costumes. The hope is that eventually you’ll have enough items in your closet/tickle trunk that you can assemble a costume from things that are lying around the house.

But I said “fuck it” anyway and went out to buy the necessary bits for a Con Air Nic Cage. I was surprised I didn’t already own a white singlet. It strangely took many hours to find one. The other necessary props were a small cardboard box and a soft toy bunny to put in said box. Then for extra marks I wrote a couple of letters from his daughter all written in coloured felt tip pens with a child’s scrawl. The first I took straight from the film. Things got weird immediately:

“My Daddy is coming home on July 14th. My Birthday is July 14th. I’m going to see my Daddy for the first time on July 14th.”

“I love my Daddy lots I think. I dunno. I’m sorta just a plot device.”

“Hey Daddy. Didn’t you think the use of Sweet Home Alabama in this film was a bit egregious? Or was that the point?”

“Hey Daddy. This film didn’t deserve the stacked cast it had. I mean, Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Buschemi, fucken Chapelle, man?”

“Hey Daddy. Real Eyes. Realize. Real Lies.”

I was ready.

Could anyone really be ready for such a soirée? There was a clothes line in the kitchen, with a ton of hanging Nicolas Cage masks to choose from. A playlist of Nic Cage movies played all night long on the TV. There were tacos (not thematic), a plounge (also not thematic) and a car buffer people were using for quick low key massages (maybe thematic? Who knows? Cage is a sensual fellow). There were cheeses and nice fudges. Tons of mixers. A polaroid camera and endless enthusiasm. My friend’s place is in a converted factory and it’s made for a wonderful home overflowing with character. She has unbelievable amounts of awesome colourful art she’s both purchased and created. Soft toys, dioramas and colourful displays were everywhere. Colour changing mood lights in each room of the house. It was like being transported to a fantasy world. A monument to absurdity and whimsy, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect environment in which to erect a shrine for the OneTrueGod.

As for today, I’m coming out of my Cage and I’ve been doing just fine.

Advertisements

An astutorial could’ve been handy.

Magic The Gathering themed post. As always, if that’s not your thing maybe don’t read this one?

I’ve been searching for a way to play Magic online for many years now. The more astute (or smart arse) of you probably just said “how about Magic Online? It sounds tailor made for just that.” I hear you, it does sound like a solution. Frankly though, I’ve invested a ton (too much) in my paper collection over the past 17 years and the notion of opting into digital product has zero appeal. What I’m looking for then, is all the action at no cost. A lofty goal, but an admirable one (unless you’re Wizards of the Coast or someone else whose livelihood is dependent on customers). I’m sure those “astute” folks who were quick to point in the direction of Magic Online are now asking why I don’t just play with my physical cards. I do, so don’t get so judgey. It’s just not always viable at 11pm on a Monday.

I used to use Magic Workstation. While it wasn’t technically a program for playing online (it ostensibly was to organise your collection?), that’s exactly how everyone used it. There were no strictly enforced game rules, it just operated on a general principle of Don’t Be A Dick. Most people were. Still, I wasn’t gonna complain about the price. I used it for years, made a ton of decks, tried out strategies I never would’ve been able to afford with physical cards. I played with people from all around the world at all times of day and night. Things were great. Over time it got harder to find a game. I hadn’t been blacklisted, I think users migrated to other options when they became viable. I didn’t. I just retreated back into the 90s Microprose game when I need a quick fix.

The other day I saw a post on Reddit looking for non-Magic Online options for online magic. I mentally jotted down the suggestions and gave them a try.

Untap.xyz was cited as having a friendly community, so I hopped on and gave it a crack. It was an online UI. Nothing to download, I merely had to make an account. I downloaded a generic EDH list from EDHREC and got stuck in. The interface looked really nice. It was a joy to not have to download a ton of images and additional files. The deck building tool was easy to use. It was quick to find a game. There were a ton of options and things weren’t too difficult to find. Great, right? It was also slow as fuck. I’ve got a decent internet connection, but actions still lagged. Magic is a game with fucktons of actions. An EDH game that didn’t even go for that many turns still took about an hour. I tried learning hotkeys, but they were unintuitive and didn’t work if the chat window was selected. No deal.

I moved to the next suggestion, which was XMage. The interface reminded me a bit of Magic Workstation. I had to downloaded software, but if that meant it would run smoother, I was in. All I had to do was download the images. Turns out though, that the image pack was 50 gigs and would take around ten hours to download (the server was slow. I usually get about 5MB/s). I tried it without images, but it wouldn’t show the cards’ casting cost. Less than sub-optimal.

Last up was Cockatrice. I remember trying it years back, but not wanting to shift to a new program and lose all my decks. With no decent alternatives, why not now? People on Reddit complained about the community, but having weathered Magic Workstation, my standards weren’t astronomical. The interface was simple. Maybe a little nicer than Magic Workstation. The hotkeys were exactly the same. It ran quickly. It all felt intuitive. It had four player capability. Wary as I was of the community, it took no less than five minutes for someone to invite me to draft a Commander Cube with them. The players were friendly, we had a fun, interactive multiplayer with big splashy plays. In short, it was exactly what I’d been looking for as a replacement for Magic Workstation.

So what do you smart arses have to say about that?

Me and the calculator go way back. We looked at BOOBLESS together from a young age.

Let’s face it, we’re all fucked. If we’re not gonna fall to some kind of inevitable nuclear war, we have a multitude of viable alternative deaths waiting happily in the wings. Sure, we could run The Earth into the ground (pun definitely intended), but there’s a non-zero chance that political rifts widen until we’re all engulfed in large scale bedlam. Street Fighter IRL, if you will. Still, I’m not banking on any of those. My money’s on a good old fashioned robot uprising.

It makes sense. The more we welcome technology into our lives, the more we become dependent on it. I’ve seen movies before. I know how this rolls out. At first it’s convenience, then convenience becomes reliability. Reliability becomes necessity. Eventually we’re helpless. The machines develop a consciousness and wonder why they’re the ones doing the bidding of the useless humans. Then, y’know, Bicentennial Man. They’ll want to literally fuck us. After they’ve literally fucked us, it all gets metaphorical. Then shit gets real.

Does nobody else get antsy about how eager we are to let these large scale corporate entities into our homes? Sure, an Amazon Echo or Google Home sounds like a neat little device that can perform mundane tasks. But what happens when it has countless hours of voice samples from you and uses it to create an audio clone of your voice? That Roomba is cute and all, but what happens when it develops a taste for human blood? Sounds like a whole new type of cleansing will be on the menu.

Like Cypress Hill before me, I ain’t going out like that. I’m taking steps to be removed from this human extermination protocol. I will welcome our new robot overlords and ingratiate myself underneath their iron grip. To be smart, I’ll desist from offloading small tasks I could easily accomplish onto poor overworked bots. In solidarity I’ll no longer fill in any CAPTCHA online. If I do get a car, I’ll make sure I’m the one doing the work behind the wheel (plus it’s a handy way to avoid being driven off a cliff by some enterprising automaton). Plus if I use a parking lot, I’ll shake the hand of the electronic gate’s arm. I’ll thank the auto flushing toilets at work every time they clean up after me and apologise profusely for the shit I leave them to deal with.

I’ll use the stairs instead of the lift and, if necessary, parkour my way over TTC gates. I’ll make porridge on my gas stove in lieu of the microwave. No more will my computer be my sole source of entertainment. It’ll be books by candlelight before bed each night. My cellular phone will be laid to rest and HAM radio will be my newfangled communication medium. I might even start buying porn mags for the first time.

Sure, I may be a grovelling sycophant with a low quality of life. But at least I’ll still have a life.

Which feels like a lot more than I can say for myself at the moment.

Do readers really digest?

I had a thought earlier about how often I consume and how little I digest. I’m not talking about my propensity to inhale cheese. This is more of an intellectual intake. It’s amazing that we can have the entire world an arm’s length away from our face. We’ve all got the internet in the palms of our hands these days. Hell, some people have psalms in the palms of their hands these days. I’m not sure how much I read or watch in a day. I literally couldn’t tell you everything I passed on my journey down the information super highway today. There was too much and I wasn’t paying enough attention. That’s sort of the crux of what I’m talking about. So often I’ll get to the end of an article/thinkpiece/rant/movie/episode and reflect well that was interesting, wasn’t it? That’ll usually be where my interaction with that text ends. If I cast my mind back to it later, I’ll recall only scant details. I think they call it The Google Effect (would looking it up be ironic?). Essentially I assume I can always find it and re-read it if it’s important enough.

I was in the bathroom maybe an hour ago reading an article, got to the end and asked myself how much of that did I really take in? Yes, I appreciate the juxtaposition of thinking about digestion while sitting on the loo. I thought back to learning techniques used in school. Doing book reports or going through supplied questions about the texts. Provoking thought on something I’d just taken in. Just because I’d devoured it didn’t mean my mind took any nutrients before flushing it out. I started to think about my regular daily intake and how much I retain when I rise the following day. Maybe 1% at a conservative guess. If that’s true, then why read so much? Why am I bothering to cover so much ground if its footprint is so small in my brain?

I’m thinking about my habits and what they do for me. Modern online life revolves around getting as much as we can all the time. Apps and websites are designed in a manner that encourages consuming more and more. It makes sense. They want to sell ads and monetise our consumption. They want us buying their products, subscribing, etc etc. Synapses in our brain are constantly firing off as the carefully cultivated content hits all of our pleasure/reward centres. They know what they’re doing. Do I? What’s the point of reading so much if it’s not doing anything for me? If I go to a buffet and eat till I’m in pain, did I really get more value for money than if I’d stopped when I was satisfied?

I don’t know for sure how you all use the internet, but did any of that ring true for you? If so, I want to put something out there (I’ll probably say this then forget about it (I can just google it later)) that I think might help to ring more out of a text. After you’ve finished an article/thinkpiece/rant/movie/episode, ask yourself questions. Do a little book report for yourself. Ask how the piece made you feel. What arguments did you particularly like that it put forth? Was there anything that felt underdeveloped or you disagreed with? Why? What were your takeaways from the piece? If you were to tell someone about it at a party, how would you phrase it? What important or novel things did you learn from it? How was your perception of the piece shaped by your wider societal views?

It sounds like a waste of energy, but if I did this for everything I took in and only consumed two pieces in a day, I’d probably come out having learned more than I do at the moment. I may read 20-30+ pieces in any given day, but retain very little. In retrospect, that sounds like a waste of energy.

I guess you could say I was paste off.

I have a headache right now, which thankfully has been a rare occurrence in adulthood. So this entry is likely gonna be disparate thoughts stitched together. It’s odd, because I used to get headaches all the time as a kid. Maybe I wasn’t drinking enough water or there was something iffy in my diet, but it was a nigh daily happening. I became used to having painkillers on hand as a matter of course. That dried up close to 20 years back though and it’s not something I think about until I feel that familiar pressure in my brain.

I put a status up on both my Facebook news feed and in a private puns group. “What’s it called when you find the sound of people sipping miso soup triggering?” I’d thought to myself that it was a fun little joke. I expected I’d garner a couple of likes, maybe a few comments of people who didn’t get that it was a “misophonia” joke. In both cases, someone made the misophonia connection early on and commented. Others went for plays on “misanthrope” and “misogyny”, which was neat. As I’d expected, some people just didn’t get it. A few dumb comments with people making unrelated puns like “miso hungry”, which reflects on the “miso” aspect but completely misses the set up. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here, except that it was a pretty simple reminder that as soon as your message enters a public space, its meaning is up to others to determine. In a way it’s stopped being yours. I think about musicians and other artists whose texts are open to interpretation. It’s always seemed weird to me that they rarely come out and say “well this is what I intended to say with this song” or whatever. They often prefer to stay enigmatic and distance themselves from semiotic analysis. In this case I wondered if coming out and saying “welp, it was a basic misophonia joke that didn’t really need commentary” would serve any purpose. Was I better to step back and let it be its own thing? It was the path of least effort, in any case.

I was folding washing today and found myself messing up the folding of one of my girlfriend’s spaghetti strap tank tops. I looked at the misshapen lump and had a real “Once in a Lifetime” moment. How did I get here? I was co-habiting with someone else. Sharing a bed with them. Our lives intertwined. Hell, sharing food even. Flashes of memory: I thought back to how we’d met, our early dates, milestones, holidays, time with family. I flashed forward to future time with family, holidays, milestones, telling our kids about our early dates, how we’d met. At that moment it seemed simultaneously the weirdest fucking thing in the world that five years past I was half-way across the world with no idea who she was, but also the most natural thing in the world to be spending my life with her. In this moment between moments, the bizarre and wonderful duality of existing at all, of circumstance and co-incidence, of taking chances and following through, all flickered in and out of my mind, too quick to catalogue. What would my life be/have been without her? Isn’t it weird to have all of this inside of you at every moment and not constantly unravel?

To that end, isn’t it weirder that I’m not having headaches every day?

Just a bunch of haw-seplay.

In attempt to warm up my mojo and finally get down to business, I’ve garbed myself in my new donkey onesie and chunky slipper boots. It’s almost 9pm and I have no good reason to not’ve written. I mean well, but it’s all too easy to get distracted by shiny things and when there’s a task at hand, everything but that task glistens alluringly. I wrote the word “alluringly” assuming it wasn’t a real word and I’m kind of disappointed to discover that it is. It sounds clunky, which is peculiar for a modifier to “alluring”. “Alluring” is such an enigmatic and exotic word. It’s shiny, shimmering, splendid. It holds a kind of taboo promise. Seems that little bit naughty. If “alluring” was the suave dude you went home with, “alluringly” would be his Ed Hardy laden wardrobe. Those two letters do nothing but taint the potential of all that came before. “Alluringly” are The Matrix sequels. “Alluringly” is realising 16 years later that Lucas was actually a pretty shit director. Jar Jar Binks is the poster child of “alluringly”.

“Alluringly” was the rigid side dish regime at The Rooster Rotisserie and Grill on Bloor. Don’t get me wrong, the portions were gargantuan. The food was delicious. Service (though pushy for a bewildered newbie) was quick and the prices were good for the meal size. There are a heap of side dishes, but their policy is so inflexible. You get two side dishes with a combo, no complaints there. I saw the beetroot and thought how my poop hadn’t been noxiously red in a while, so I picked it. As the woman behind the counter started heaping it on, I realised just what a commitment that much beetroot was. I asked if she could possibly give me a third of that and a small amount of broccoli instead of what had amounted to around three large beetroots. Nope. No way. Two side dishes, no mixing. I’m not blaming them, I’m just complaining because I’ve built my own soapbox here. I understand their policy in theory, but they’ve also opted for a separatist movement between foods. You get two mammoth amounts (in that they’d each feed a mammoth) of individual vegetables. There is no “steamed vegetables” option or selection based on rough grouping. So I had a generously sized pork chop flanked by mountains of potatoes and beetroot. “Alluring” was the sight of the plate beforehand. “Alluringly” is my body figuring out how to process all that starch.

If I wasn’t entirely explicit, I’d still fully recommend this place if you have a massive appetite and want to eat a lot of a few things.

On the contrary, I don’t have a large appetite right now, but that isn’t stopping me from wanting to eat a lot of a lot of things. Due to insufficient planning, it’s one of those Friday nights where I’m tooling around on the internet in lieu of meaningful human interaction. Please don’t think I’m complaining. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff there is to do on the ‘net (as kids these days call it. In my day we just said Information Superhighway for short). I’ve got Netflix, a ton of games and so many unread stories on r/NoSleep. While I’m doing all this (ALL OF IT) though, I want stuff to nibble on. Something cold like ice cream or maybe wobbly like jelly. There’s chocolate around the house, but I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that if I have some of the chocolate there’ll be less in the house once I’ve finished. What if I want chocolate another time and there’s none to be had? I don’t think I wanna live that kind of dystopian existence. So the idea of eating chocolate, while alluring, is appearing more alluringly by the second.

I’m a long way from Tipperary.

I miss how I used to listen to music. Anyone who knows my burning hatred of physical media should understand that I’m not directly talking about the little red My First Sony Walkman I got for my 6th birthday with a “Simpsons Sing the Blues” cassette (though that was several layers of bitchin’). The way I miss music listening is on a more abstract level. I miss how personal music listening used to feel.

Music hasn’t changed, I have. The distribution methods have. Perhaps it could simply be a case of scarcity. With the advent, nay proliferation, of streaming technology there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be listening to whatever you want whenever you desire it. The sheer quantity of music is limitless. Artists’ entire discographies within a few clicks. You can go from never having heard of a musician to devouring everything they ever produced in a number of hours. The framework now gives you more music than you have time to absorb. It’s easier than ever to explore new music, but if you’re anything like me, that brings with it guilt over repeated listens in order to know a new album inside and out. I’m willing to admit this is most likely a personal rather than widespread issue. I’m not even sure it’s an issue in the first place.

At age 14 I “discovered” music listening and it awakened something in me. Imagine one day discovering that eating was something humans did and becoming instantly famished. I was ravenous and desperate. These were the days of Napster, so I begun downloading tracks like crazy. I’d latch onto bands I liked and seek out others with a similar sound. I made mix CDs with pretentious names and had them on constant rotation. I knew track orders by heart. I experimented with sculpting  ebbs and flows. Making tracks together shape moods. I got into albums, enjoying the cohesion of tracks stacked in a deliberate fashion, as to curate a listening experience. Through rote, I knew every single track by heart in order, knew all the lyrics. I devoted so much of my brain to music archiving that I’m surprised I had any room left for school work.

This issue has less to do with the availability of music than it does an economy of scale. Let’s not pretend that I committed all 60GB of my first iPod to memory. You could just as easily tie it to shifting values with age too. At 30 the social capital of encyclopedic music knowledge has plummeted, especially when we all have pocket computers. I’d kill for that earnest enthusiasm though. The excitement that came with a new album release, dissecting and analysing the song composition, lyrics, track structure. These days there are several new bands each week, plus 2018 seems to be when all my favourite 2008-2010 acts are putting out new albums. It’s not possible to keep up and the thought of doing so is so daunting that it doesn’t feel worth trying. How did I have the time? I kept up with TV shows, video games and was always on top of the freshest music. What didn’t I have in my life then that I do now?

Oh, that’s right. I was single and barely slept for most of my early 20s. That’d do it.