If you have an interim job in a bowling alley, would you call it tem-pin’ bowling?

I don’t normally think of Bowling as a drop in activity.

We tried, yesterday. We were walking out East with no particular designs on the day, when we stumbled upon a bowling alley. A simple sign advertising a bowl-o-rama or bowleria or whatever. We walked down the stairs into a small establishment, perhaps eight lanes. The music was loud, the lighting was cosmic. There was probably a kid’s birthday party going on. A mustachio’d gent who looked like he’d been churned through an algorithm to be the perfect bowl-o-runner (one who runs a bowl-o-rama, obviously. It’s in the name). Did you know that it costs about $20 for half an hour to rent a lane, and that shoe rental is $3? Did you realise that you could probably get a game finished in 30 minutes? Especially with two people. You could 100% throw down $13 and have a game of bowling out of nowhere. I haven’t gone bowling in years (the last time was part of a planned “low class date”), but it’s apparently more accessible than I thought. If I’m prepared to drop $5 on a coffee, $13 isn’t as much of a stretch for some good ol’ fashioned novelty entertainment.

Of course, for a ton of people bowling is a pretty regular activity. At least, movies have taught me that bowling leagues are commonplace, especially for dysfunctional men with a ball-and-chain mentality. I’m not one of them, so bowling rings in my mind as a mainstay of children’s parties. It’s funny to think of how subjective “regular” is. Our hobbies and interest help us find delight in the world, to meet other like-minded folks. I’m sure most would find the amount of time and brain space I devote to Magic the Gathering to be pretty weird. I’m one of them. But it gives me an area to focus on, and helps keep me engaged. To me, Magic is like an endless puzzle, with nigh infinite pieces (but realistically, over 18,000 unique ones. It’s actually relatively quantifiable). New sets are released on a regular schedule, which means constant recalibration and adjustment. Novel options arise to change decks that’ve held in their form for years. Archetypes shift, and the metagame is in a continual state of flux. I’m sure this is exciting for exactly me, and the hordes of players worldwide. I’ve found a niche I like, for others, that’s bowling.

I truly know nothing about the life of an avid bowler. Are there variations in strategy? Or is it all getting that technique honed to a fine point, then lather, rinse, repeat? Do people at high level ever make mistakes? Or do they dole out constant 300 point games? When you’re of such a calibre, where does the excitement come from? Are there hair trigger differences that can throw a match? Is ball technology important? Are there specific resins or chemical compounds that make for better balls? What role does superstition play? Or do players know that technique makes the difference, and superstition takes a backseat to physics? Are high level bowlers held with the same esteem we reserve for NBA players? Does the sport have legends, competitors who rose above and beyond? What of controversy? Is there a Tonya Harding of bowling? What of gender bias? Does the difference in ball sizes eliminate score differential between genders? Since everything’s turn based, does that mean women and men compete in the same leagues? Or is there still a massive disparity, like so many sports? Hell, what does an ideal bowling body look like? Would the Sports Illustrated Body Issue of a bowler have one massive arm? Are there specific body parts that get toned? Do they have super rigid wrists from keeping the ball aligned? Or are there surprisingly jacked back muscles that help send the ball straight and true? I have so many questions.

But I’m just a filthy casual who now thinks about drop ins. Will I ever learn who the Michael Jordan of bowling is? Have I ever had the impulse to know these things before?

Guess I should strike while the iron’s hot.

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Tha Twitch does not kill. Makes you stronger

Had to do a little write up of something media related for a team meeting tomorrow. I decided to write about Twitch, because it took the least amount of effort and/or research. If you ever wanted to know a little more about the medium, here you go:

What is Twitch?

Twitch is an online streaming platform, primarily dominated by video games. At its most basic, Twitch allows viewers to log in and watch their favourite professional gamers just play games. There’s a chat function hardwired into the format, whereby viewers can actually start a dialogue with these notable personalities. Owned by Amazon (bought for $970M in 2014), it’s mostly ignored by the mainstream, but concurrently happens to have a steadily growing audience:

Who is Twitch?

Let’s look at some stats quickly.

Top 5 streamers with the most followers:
Ninja – 13.6M
shroud – 5.96M
Tfue – 5.22M
TSM_Myth – 4.92M
summit1g – 3.67M

Streamers with the most viewers (average concurrent past 30 days):
OverwatchLeague – 121K
Riot Games – 58.1K
shroud – 53.7K
CSRuHub – 47.2K
Tfue – 46.6K

Twitch streamers with the most channel views (all time):
Riot Games – 1,105M
ShadbaseMurderTV – 659M
Ninja – 426M
Sarladder1 – 397M
BeyondTheSummit – 386M

When is Twitch?

Always. Twitch doesn’t turn off. Individual streamer schedules vary, but the framework of Twitch is set up to reward networking. Like YouTube personalities, Twitch streamers typically build up interconnected rings/clans/groups for the purposes of mutual cross promotion. A streamer may be online for 5-8 hours, then handshake with another streamer at the conclusion of their broadcast. In short, they’re passing their audience onto a friend, a movie that seeks to keep the viewer on the platform, and can potentially bolster subscribers for each channel.

Not only is Twitch live, but it has a comprehensive VOD section to catch up on past broadcasts. Viewers can even submit clips from the stream, cataloguing highlights and virtually giving free promotion to streamers.

Where is Twitch?

The beauty of Twitch, is that the system is set up with a low barrier to entry. Most of the successful streamers are simply broadcasting from their bedrooms. The production values aren’t high. If you have a USB mic, a camera and maybe some basic lighting, you’re set to go. Having a “professional” operation is accessible, and there’s not much of a ceiling. Green screens and larger production elements aren’t verboten by any means, but as a young medium they have yet to become standard.

Why is Twitch?

You better believe that money is a big part of the equation when it comes to Twitch. First off, subscribers. Subscribers typically pay $5 a month, which translates into a base income for streamers. Not to be confused with Followers, Subscribers usually get some kind of token VIP advantages like custom emotes and whatnot. It’s more of a way for fans to support their favourite streamers as opposed to concrete perks. Donations are also a common part of the economy, whereby viewers will just donate to the streamer in question in any quantity (the largest donation I’ve seen on stream was $2000.00).

There are sponsorships galore, integrated advertising and uncapped marketing potential.
I’m not gonna argue that Twitch is the future of broadcast, but I think it’s worth considering the medium as a path that some broadcast could take. It’s community based, and lowers the barriers between talent and audience. Unlike standard broadcast models, it offers certain amounts of two-way communication with effective immediacy. It has a primarily younger audience, with opportunities for growth. It’s wildly customizable, and innovation is encouraged. At the same time, it’s rife for marketing opportunity. Drake famously did a drop in session with popular streamer Ninja, which opens up all kinds of promotional potential.Twitch, like any good social network medium worth its salt, collects personal information that it can 100% use for marketing purposes.

From a broadcasting perspective, a Twitch style broadcast allows for access to new and different markets. It’s a personality driven medium with incredibly low overheads and high potential. The Just Chatting category also hints at possible simultaneous directions for the format. It’s merely streamers holding court and chatting with their audience. Twitch itself is not revolutionary, but it is an emerging entertainment medium with a lot of untapped potential.

And yes, as a primarily Magic the Gathering viewer, that pun was intentional.

It’s on my skin, it’s not getting under it

I have a problem.

Which, of course, is unnecessary roughness. I don’t have a problem, issue, or even really concern. I’m just hungry. I want to leave the house and grab a meal with a friend, but I’ve had no bites over the past hour so I’ve taken matters into my own hands and done nothing about it. I’m not as hungry as I should be by now, which is weird. It’s past 2pm and so far I’ve eaten a banana and small amounts of kimchi. I also had a coffee. So eating would be smart, going out to eat would be easy and doing it with a friend would be fun. It’s some kind of holy trifecta. But that hasn’t happened.

It’s not a problem, as such, because I have a lot of food here. I could make a sandwich, warm up some frozen soup, make a dish with eggs, or even set up some elaborate but simple instant pot meal if I so desired. It’d be easy enough to make turkey burgers, or a kimchi omelette, or a rack of ribs. None of it is out of the question, but it’s not precisely what I want right now, so I’ve done none of it. Instead I’ve bemoaned my lack of plans, when I didn’t make any effort to plan things out ahead of time. I think that’s just causality.

To be clear, my lack of plans don’t equate to a catastrophe. I had no plans last night and somehow managed to cobble together an enjoyable enough, quiet night. It’s gotten to the point where the local Chinese takeaway guy knows my name over the phone, so I gave him a call and sussed out some cheap and cheerful post gym dinner. I tucked in while playing a bunch of Magic. I watched the new dumb Netflix dating show, which basically seems to take Master of None‘s “First Date” episode and expanded it into a series. In the early hours of the morning, it kid of morphed into more or less navel gazing. What would I say in this situation? How would I react to these suitors? Would any be people I’d want to date? How are they using non-diegetic sound and editing to shape my views on who I like? What’s their angle? It was fun and stupid, pretty much ideal for a lazy Friday night. Any of the above could work just as well for a Saturday.

But I do want an excuse to leave these four walls. I’ve been sorta housebound because of this annoying rash. I don’t need to stay at my abode, but I feel less inclined towards being outwardly social. It’s not a massive imposition, but I feel gross and iffy. My skin is itchy. I’m not certain yet if there’s a direct correlation, but it seems like if parts of my body get too hot/sweaty, the rash grows more prominent there. I’m sure it’s really not that bad, but on a personal level it’s making me less inclined to go out and do stuff in case it gets really bad. I don’t actually know how it’d go, but I get the sense that if I went out dancing or something else active, I’d look all polka dot by the end of it. I want to be able to hide away if need be, and resignedly lather my body in lotion like I’m working in a harem or shaping myself up to be someone’s skin suit. You know what? They can have it, rash and all.

Fuck it. I’m making a sandwich.

Some kind of class warfare

It’s been years since I last played Dungeons and Dragons.

I’m not saying this as if I grew up on it. Sure, I was incredibly taken with fantasy tropes. I got into King Arthur in a big way from around age 7-9. It all seemed so terribly exciting. Knights and dragons and magic, oh my. Guns and artillery seemed way less cool than going medieval. Warcraft forever, Command and Conquer for never, or something. Had I known anything about D&D, I probably would’ve fallen hard from an early age. But I didn’t, so I didn’t. Towards the end of high school, a friend decided he wanted to get into it and I figured I might as well try it out. Turns out I did like it heaps. The idea of interactive storytelling was a blast. It was neat to see character progression, overcoming obstacles and an arcane bestiary. Right up my alley.

Not only that, but everything was so meticulously categorised and thorough. As someone with the kind of brain that obsessed over Pokémon, their evolutions, movesets, typing, etc, it was my kind of crack. I’d already been very into Magic the Gathering, so Wizards of the Coast had me hooked. D&D was only a sidestep away. I loved learning about the different stats, classes, feats, races and spells. All the monsters were cool as shit. I couldn’t wait to explore it all, and spent hours making my first character. I remember going as a sorcerer, ’cause I wanted a familiar and spellcasting seemed neat. I also remember my spells being so terrible that my crossbow was my usual recourse in combat. It just did more damage. Probably more me doing a poor job creating a character than anything. I mean hey, character creation has always been one of the most defining “characteristics” of the game. It’s intricate and endlessly customisable. It’s fun making a character, because you get to be whoever you want to be. Wanna be a gnome cleric? You got it dude. An orc ranger? Go ahead. A half-elf barbarian? Hack away. You be you.

I was chatting today with a friend, and casually mentioned D&D stats in relation to real life. It’s kind of a fun thought experiment to imagine yourself aligned with the character creation sheet. What sort of stats would you have? What class would you be? I feel like the easiest part is working out your weakest stat. I have no question that my dexterity is a lost cause. I’m clumsy and uncoordinated. I don’t have fine motor skills, I tend to force my way through things in an ungainly fashion. Mostly I get there, but without finesse. Most of my stats would probably be pretty average. I manage most activities without excelling at anything. I’m above average smart without nearing genius status. I definitely lack street smarts, but I wouldn’t say I’m totally without wisdom. I’m reasonably hardy, so my constitution would be decent. I also catch most any cold that goes around. I’m strong enough, but not totally musclebound. I’m charismatic, but also weird. So I guess I’m charismatic in certain situations.

I feel, if anything, I’d probably be some kind of druid. Not because I have any attunement to nature, but because it’s a fairly versatile but non-specialised class. They have a wide assortment of skills to adapt to most any situation, but they’re not super effective at any of them. They can shapeshift into all manner of natural forms, which is pretty neat. Need to tank hits? Why not shift into a bear? Need to get in some damage quickly? Sure, just be a wolf. Need to get the fuck away? Transform into a horse and get the fuck out of there. They can heal, but not as well as clerics. They can spellcast, but not with the same efficacy as a wizard. They have survival skills, but not to the same extent as a ranger would. In life, I manage to get by mostly fine. Concurrently, I’m not pulling ahead in any area. A classic journeyman. I have experiences aplenty, but rarely tales to astound and amaze. Shit happens and I’m there for it, but I’m rarely the hero. A druid seems like an apt role.

Ugh, I could really do with playing another campaign. The last time I tried to make a druid, things didn’t end well.

Not even a medium-rare drafter

Magic the Gathering themed post. If that’s not your kind of thing, come back tomorrow.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy. It’s draftin’ time.

As a free to play-er on Magic Arena, my drafting habits are entirely at the whim of Wizards. I got kinda bored of Guilds of Ravnica. Maybe it was mostly that green was shafted, with both Selesnya and Golgari turning out to be massively lacklustre. I like drafting green, y’know? So with Ravnica Allegiance on the horizon (and a total lack of gems), I took time off drafts. I wasn’t gonna waste my time on Core Set 2019 or Ixalan when I could bank a bunch of gold for Allegiance drafts. Of course, Allegiance (thanks Magic, I now know how to spell that word) was behind a paywall of sorts for the first while. I could merely window shop while all the pros streamed their drafts, staring longingly at all the fun they got to have. I saved up about 40,000 gold through incidental daily rewards and eagerly awaited Allegiance coming to Ranked Draft. The wait is over. Allegiance is out and I eagerly dived in headfirst yesterday. Here’s how my drafts have gone so far.

As a disclaimer, I shamelessly rare draft so I can build up my collection for constructed. My decks aren’t always amazing, ’cause I’m passing good cards for rares. I’ve come to terms with it, I hope you can too.

Here was my first draft. I first picked a Biogenic Ooze and went to town. Kinda. I got stuck in a lacklustre Temur build, mostly because I got confused and didn’t know what to play. I ended up more Simic with a red splash. There was no way I was gonna let the machine gun of Bolrac-Clan Crusher and Biogenic Ooze go to waste. It was clunky. I got stuck on land once or twice, and my creatures weren’t of high quality. I would’ve taken every single Sauroform Hybrid that came my way, but I failed to get any. I was lucky enough to draw Biogenic Ooze a ton, and won most games it came down. It usually let me stabilise if my opponent wasn’t on the mono fliers plan. One of my opponents had a sick play with Priest of Forgotten Gods and Undercity Embrace, forcing me to get rid of both oozes while I was tapped out. Well played, good game. I think I got to three wins? I dunno, I was sorta drunk.

My second draft is lost to the ages. I came back at 2am after a night of drinking and decided that drafting was a smart call. I ended up with a terrible Orzhov deck that lacked fliers or payoffs. I think I first picked a Pitiless Pontiff and proceeded to not remotely build around it. My removal sucked. I think I had 5 Noxious Groodions and a few Viskopa Vampires, so I was on Team Three Drop. This couldn’t have been more accurate, ’cause I played three games, lost them all and dropped out. Zero wins, but still fun to try. Don’t draft drunk and expect to dominate.

This afternoon I got my first taste of Azorius. Bant? I splashed for Guardian Project, because the card seems absurd. I ended up lacking a full complement of playables, once again because of my shameless rare drafting. Still, when I wasn’t mana screwed (drew an inspirational amount of 2 land hands), the deck went off. Lots of evasion, plus High Alert shenanigans. I’m still pretty medium on Justiciar’s Portal, but it worked here. It’s fantastic with Faerie Duelist and Forbidding Spirit. Being able to flash reduce an opposing creature’s power or slow their tempo worked wonders to keep me in the game. Best of all, it counted for Guardian Project, so I got to be greedy with cards. One game I curved from High Alert into Guardian Project, but my opponent had Bolrac-Clan Crusher and Sharktocrab. I managed to buy time with the aforementioned Forbidding Spirit and Faerie Duelist shenanigans, then pull out combat tricks/bounce to get ahead. It was very fun, tight Magic and I played the game incredibly well, which I rarely do. Sphinx of Insight is also obviously dumb, the scry 3 is a big boost at the start of the game, and a 4/4 flyer for 4 is tight tight tight. Even if it’s not gonna make waves in constructed. Azorius Skyguard was an excellent curve topper, and made combat very tough for opponents.

Here’s my current deck in progress. I once again shamelessly rare drafted, but ended up with something workable. I had too many playables, for once. I’d love to do well with it, but I’d also be quite satisfied with just one game where Biomancer’s Familiar or Simic Ascendancy enable dumb plays. Not pictured are the Deputy of Detention, Seraph of the Scales and Gruul Spellbreaker I picked for other decks. I’ve played one game and it was ruthless. Fingers crossed it keeps up the pressure.

Anyway, it’s high time I try to see how well I can do with it. Later sk8r boi.

If that’s not a mantra to live by, do I really want to live?

2018 wasn’t all bad.

For most people, that’s a given. I’m not most people. I live in an echo chamber that amplifies all of the worst things happening and broadcasts them on a constant stream. The Internet is a lot, folks. 2018 was a rough year for me. It seemed to be a year in which failure climbed atop failure in a shit heap of failures, odious and all-consuming. I weathered some of the worst depression I have thus far. 2018 has been a year in which I’ve put out a ton of energy and gotten little but exhaustion back. It’s sucked. It’s also, as the trope has gone, felt like a decade crammed into 365 days.

That said.

Not everything was an implosion. Of course I’m trending towards the dramatic, a) because it’s more interesting and b) it’s what I’ve learned from my online peers. 2018 had its good points too. There were a bunch of moments that made me truly happy. Since I’m trying to put myself into a positive mood for tonight’s celebrations, I might as well look back at them. Bullet (point) Time:

  • Austin. Going to Austin this year was one of the best holidays I’ve taken in my life. I’ve talked at length about it, so why not talk more? I went with a couple, two good friends. We found a wavelength and rode it all the way. We spent the whole time having great conversations and amassing a ton of running jokes. There was an abundance of tasty things to eat and drink. Booze was incredibly cheap, being the US, so we took advantage. We saw sights, met locals and I got to get up early to write every day. I also, with the help of a friend, was encouraged to give stand up another try and it made my holiday. I returned from the trip glowing, filled with a new sense of purpose and perspective that 2018 quickly crushed to dust.
  • Baby’s First Burn. Don’t worry, they’re not all gonna be holidays. Aside from Austin, the other big trip I took was considerably closer to home. I went to Hyperborea, a regional Burn and my first ever. When I say “Burn”, it’s basically Burning Man on a small scale. Going to Hyperborea meant spending a critical mass of time with close friends. I deepened pre-existing connections and met a ton of new people. Campers were so generous with time and resources. Disengaging from a workplace schedule meant everyone was more present than they would be in the city. I got to throw flame tipped darts at kerosene filled balloons, participate in a live dating show, try infused spirits from an apothecary and dance my ever lovin’ footsies off. I felt able to be so authentically me, and left the camp with a new sense of purpose that 2018 once again obliterated.
  • Asking For Help. I hate asking for help. Always have, hopefully won’t always. This year though, I had no choice. I could either reach out or wither completely. I managed to find my way into OHIP sponsored therapy, which is unbelievably lucky. I laid things out honestly for my boss and told her my needs. I wanted to be able to disappear for therapy when I needed and work from home if I was having a rough day. She was on board, providing my work wouldn’t suffer. I’ve been there for long enough that I could probably do the work in my sleep, so that has yet to be an issue. It helped. Taking ownership of what I was going through and finding resources to mediate my experiences was a big fucking deal. I’m still here, and that counts for a bunch.
  • Magic Arena: Wizards’ latest foray into the digital world was a colossal success. I’m not sure how many hundreds of hours I’ve logged on this game, but I know I’ve spent a grand total of $5USD. I’ve entirely stopped buying physical cards and I’m likely saving a bunch accordingly. For the first time in my life, it’s let me draft consistently. Also, for the first time in years, I may actually be spending more time playing Magic than reading about it. Will the wonders never cease?
  • Five Years Writing. I hit my five year mark at this here project. While in abstract the five year milestone told me I could actually commit to something and see it through, it was a little more than that on an emotional level. I hosted an intimate night with friends where we did readings of our favourite entries. Yes, it was the most narcissistic thing I’ve ever done, but it was also hugely affirming. People reading stuff I’d written and long forgotten felt great. Hearing my words through the mouths of friends made me realise that I’ve actually done some pretty great stuff here. Sure, I might phone it in 99% of the time, but I haven’t called it quits. Every now and again I bang something out and feel great about it, which means there’s still a point to this whole arrangement. Regardless of what happened in 2018, this was an accomplishment.

I’d say that 2019 is going to be my year, but I feel like I say that every year and it rarely is. So here’s to low expectations.

Speaking of segues…

Nothing to report.

Maaaayun, if only it were that easy. No comment. Come back tomorrow. On hiatus. Snow day. Dave’s not here, maaaayun. If only.

It’s not. Ride till I die and all that. I wouldn’t say that you’re stuck with me, cause it’s entirely optional to visit. I, however, am stuck with this until I either reach 20,000 entries, quit or die. Realistically, if I found a full-time writing gig I’d stop devoting my daily energies to whatever this all is. Until that day I have to think about how to kill 30 minutes of mental ejections. Mental ejections? I don’t like the sound of that, but I’m running on empty and it was the least off-putting of four choices.

Speaking of snow days, I’ve called one for tomorrow. This week, even as a short week, has left me fresh out of fucks to give at work. It’s been emotionally draining and I’ve been fighting battles I know better than to get involved with. Head down, do the work and leave. Give the job as little of yourself as you can. That’s the mantra that makes the most sense right now. Caring makes no sense from this vantage point. Still, much as I hate my job and wish I were anywhere else, I don’t know that I have it in me to not care at least a little about something that absorbs so many of my waking hours. I’ve been pushing back because it’s the right thing to do, because honestly, there are younger employees on my team struggling and they work hard enough. They don’t need more shit to worry about. I feel bad and it’s not fair on them. As for me, I looked outside this afternoon and saw the snow. I thought of my shitty commute augmented by unwanted sleet and figured why? I’m at a point where I can kind of just say that I’m working from home and nobody questions it. They know I’ll get the work done and for my own peace of mind, I can do it at my own pace. Small victories.

Speaking of small victories (what if my “thing” now was starting every sentence with “speaking of”? I could join new entries to previous entries and give the illusion of continuity. Time is a flat circle and all that. I wonder if the upcoming season of True Detective will recapture the magic of the first. Sophomore slumps are tough), Direct Challenge has arrived in Magic: Arena. That may mean virtually nothing to all of you. For me, combined with this whole Work From Home business, means I may never have to leave the house again. I can rot away in front of the computer, ordering my groceries online, dilapidating day by day. It’s basically everything I’ve ever wanted. My demise comes not with a bang, but a slow grind as I lose touch with the outside world. Imagine how long I could grow my nails. I could finally achieve that Quasimodo posture I’ve sought for so long. The house could fall into disrepair as I dither away the tattered remnants of my failure with the help of my high speed internet connection. Isn’t that the dream? The spirit ascends while the body withers.

Speaking of terrible transitions, it’s time for me to rebuke the previous paragraph entirely and leave the house for a friend’s comedy show. After consistent hard work hosting a bunch of regular shows, she’s landed a spot at one of Toronto’s most beloved comedy institutions: the eponymously named Comedy Bar.

With that, I’ll depart and leave you to figure out if I used “eponymously” correctly.