Just call me the Retrievian Man

This whole project is nothing (could I have stopped the sentence there?) if not a nostalgia factory. It’s such a driving force in my life that I often find myself navel gazing back at my past in the hopes of forgetting what a dismal state of affairs adult life is. Other times I get nostalgic about times in my adult life, blowing my hypothesis of its dismal state out of the water. Did any of this preamble matter? Was I typing just to kill time? Isn’t that really what this whole project is about? In any case, I went back and listened to a bunch of The Air Bud Pawdcast.

You know what? It’s pretty good. At the very least, it gets pretty good. The first few episodes were understandably “ruff” as we were trying to find our footing. Two nobodies with zero experience making a podcast. As the episodes went on, we found our rhythm, added new segments and began to understand how we could create a better listening experience for anyone who dialled in. We started developing chemistry, creating multi-episode in jokes and o’erleapt previous technical difficulties.

As an entirely “impartial” listener (as if), I’ve actually really enjoyed going back through them. It’s funny, and the one-note joke of “isn’t it crazy that us adults are watching a kids’ film?” has way more elasticity than I’d expected. The kind of ridiculous and meticulous details we pull from the movies are both worth hearing and eerily observant. Neither of us get too high on our own supply (it’s hard to be justifiably uppity from a low status position) and tease one another from a place of love.

Once we brought guests on, the show catapulted. Not in popularity, it was ever an indie darling (is that what we’re calling it?). In quality. Bringing a new subject into the bizarre world of animal based children’s cinema was a treat every single time. Each guest took it slightly differently, some with aplomb and others with a reasonable distaste. They all had varied perspectives and points of interest. The sheer fact that we were no longer in an echo chamber allowed us to really branch out. We built up rapport, sometimes instantly, other times over the course of the episode. Listen to Episode 7 with Degrassi alum Raymond Ablack, for instance. Ray was a real sweet dude and immediately jumped on board.

Maybe I’m just getting listless because it feels like I haven’t made anything substantive in some time. Dumb as it was, the Pawdcast gave me some sense of purpose. I was flexing old muscles with audio work, using skills of analysis to find the oddities in each new Air Bud outing, getting to freely riff with a bunch of funny people. The best part of the whole thing? It’s still there for me to listen back and enjoy.

Even if MeUndies never gave us that sponsorship we kept clamouring for.

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Teh Fire, Teh Feri

Magic the Gathering post. Usual disclaimer applies. If you’re not into the game, come back tomorrow for more relevant content. Like when I inevitably talk about poop. That’s relatable, right? If you are into the game, AutocardAnywhere is a useful Chrome extension to have.

Happy Dominaria pre-release day everyone. I’ve been psyched for this set ever since it was accidentally leaked. I started playing the game waaaaay back in the year 2000 (or as it was commonly known, the Willenium). Invasion was my first set and couldn’t have found a better time to start. Multicolour cards, big splashy dragon legends. War on a planetary scale. Kavu being kavu. Aces all around. Ergo, the plane of Dominaria held a special place in my heart. My parents got me the Invasion novel for my birthday and I spent years reading all of the trashy fantasy novels in order to devour the flavour of the game I loved so much. Dominaria the set then felt like a homecoming. New takes on some of my old favourite characters. The concept of legacy and history, destiny coming full circle. Juicy stuff. The set looked wonderful and complex, with strong build-arounds for EDH, standard and limited alike. The removal was solid and the format seemed to promise some actual interaction. My question then, was how pre-release day would play out.

Have I done enough of that stupid food blog recipe bullshit yet? You’re all “where’s the fucking decklist” and here I am self-fellating with unnecessary preamble. Look, here’s your goddamn decklist. Cast your eyes upon it and feel disgusted:

Creatures (10):
1x Valduk, Keeper of the Flame
1x Sergeant-at-Arms
1x D’Avenant Trapper
1x Pegasus Courser
1x Shalai, Voice of Plenty
1x Two-Headed Giant
1x Keldon Raider
2x Skizzik
1x Siege-Gang Commander

Non-Creature (13):
2x Shivan Fire
1x Short Sword
1x Seal Away
1x Dub
1x Forebear’s Blade
1x Wizard’s Lightning
1x On Serra’s Wings
1x Call the Cavalry
2x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1x Gilded Lotus
1x Blessed Light

Lands (17)
3x Island
6x Plains
7x Mountain
1x Mountain (foil) :p

For once, my pool was fucking ridiculous. I had a Jhoira I didn’t play, because it felt unnecessary. There was an abundance of efficient removal and some truly insane spells. It didn’t look like I had a lot to activate Valduk, but somehow he always seemed to get stacked up. Aside from Short Sword (which was just efficiently costed. Sometimes you’d cast him on turn four and immediately equip to get an elemental). Once I dropped Forebear’s Blade and Dub on him and attacked for 14. It was double-plus swell.

It turned out I had a bunch of Historic stuff and accordingly, D’Avenant Trapper did work. A lot of the time it was letting something beefy get through, but I can imagine she’d shine in a RW equip/aura shell, letting you aggro all over unprepared poindexters. On Serra’s Wings was straight up nutty every time, especially in accordance with the aforementioned D’Avenant Trapper. Whatever you drop it on is very hard to block and makes it nigh impossible for your opponent to race. God forbid you drop it on something that already has first strike. It’s basically like assembling an Akroma, Angel of Wrath.

As I mentioned, my pool was beyond reasonable and utterly stacked with bombs. Even if I wasn’t playing green, Shalai was astoundingly strong. Base stats above the curve and the hexproof ability shat on Icy Manipulator all day. The only way I could use her activated ability was with Gilded Lotus but it never came to that. Very silly card. It was also my first time getting to play Siege-Gang Commander in limited. Yeezus Christ it was a beating. Such a versatile card. Not only does it put down 5 power for 5 mana spread over four bodies, but if you untap you often have 6 direct damage sitting on the board. If you’re playing a rampy deck, 8 damage. Insane.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Teferis, right? I couldn’t believe it when I opened one. You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when the second showed up. Teferi was amazing every time. At least three times I found myself with a Teferi stranded in hand because the first one wasn’t dying. The +1 ability was insane. You’re outdrawing your opponent, and untapping the mana means that even in the absence of a blocker, you can still potentially defend him on your opponent’s turn. I happened to have a bunch of instant speed removal (Shivan Fire, Blessed Light, Seal Away) that really came in handy and took opponents by surprise. I was wary of the second ability putting him down to 1 loyalty, but honestly planting the creature third from the top gave several turns to shore up defences. It was like casting Delay on an on-board creature. I never lost a game when I had Teferi out. Then again, I never lost a game. I split with my opponent in the last round, but we played three games for fun and I won each of them.

When skill fails you, luck sure comes in handy. Dominaria totally delivered.

Do you think Grimace is secretly deeply unhappy?

Mostly it feels good to laugh. Sometimes it hurts. Not in an emotionally draining sense, but in a “my cheeks feel like they’ve been pulled into a Clockwork Orange style contraption and was it possible for my eyebrows to feel pain?” sort of manner.

We’re staying with old friends of mine at the moment. Last night was the only evening this week where we were all free. I posited that instead of going out to a bar, we could just grab a few drinks, order take out and chill in the lounge. We did just that. It may well have been my favourite experience we’ve had here so far. It’s easy to forget the depth and breadth of experiences we had together. Never the cool kids, nor were we losers. We floated around in clique limbo long enough that we eventually amassed a cluster of weird mongrels. We were nerds, but not maligned as 80s teen films would have us believe. We did a lot of bizarre stuff, made insane bets and travelled across New Zealand and the world at large.

Last night we sat around the lounge and reminded ourselves how far we’d come. Having lived in big cities across the globe, progressed from our admittedly awkward early twentysomething phases. The world around us had changed and we’d changed with it. Still, we’d somehow not lost sight of who we’d been. Wait, am I writing about us? Or have I somehow transitioned to a longform rendition of J.Lo’s “Jenny from the Block”?

I’m not sure about J.Lo’s history of drunken shenanigans, but we had more than a few. Whether it was minor vandalism, regrettable hook-ups, regrettable relationships or odd experimental phases, we’d done it all with the grace of teens/early twentysomethings. Is this what getting old is all about? Revisiting your greatest hits of fuckups as validation of the notion that you’ve become better people? Will the stories we’re telling now be the same stories we tell for the next 30 years. I hope so, because they’re good ones. We were animals, but at the very least animals who knew some solid tricks.

Years back, while on holiday, we mocked up a loose draft of our own sitcom. “A Shore Thing”, we dubbed it, given most of us were kids from Auckland’s North Shore. It was insane the number of ridiculous scenarios we had that could’ve been self-contained episodes in their own right. So many different partners, whether short or long term. Certain character arcs or narrative feints. Sometimes an actor would leave for a season or two then come back, being audience favourites and all. It was nothing more than a farcical thought experiment, but it really was humbling to look back at how long some of us had been friends. Friendships since kindergarten stretching all the way through university and beyond.

If anything could be more emblamatic of “friends for life”, it’d be the fact that we’re staying gratis with friends in London and that if the tables were turned, we wouldn’t think twice about offering our spare room back in Toronto. I woke up in a comfortable bed and felt fully refreshed. Maybe because of the nine hour sleep. More likely on account of the massive cardiovascular workout of laughing so hard my face felt pain.

Calling it “Beggar’s Choice” was literally impossible.

I have an announcement to make. Something new has happened ’round these here parts. Isn’t that exciting? I guess in order to determine that I’d need to stop with my waffle-y prolix and get to the fucking point, right?

If you look to the sidebar on the right hand side of the page, you’ll see a new category. “Editor’s Choice”. While it sounds like a marketing scam Amazon would use to push specific titles, to me it’s more than that. Editor’s Choice is a work in progress. This here project, I Have My Doubts, is enormous. Tomorrow will mark five years of daily writing. That’s several metric fucktons. How many of those 1825 entries are worth reading? Far fewer than 1825, that’s for sure. My girlfriend suggested creating some kind of “Best Of” category, which to me sounded abhorrent. That would imply that I thought any of this had merit. Absurd, eh? The more that I thought about it, the more I realised that if I just shifted the language a little, it’d sound a lot less flagrantly arrogant. It’d be something that could sit well with me. Why? Because I know that when I started listening to This American Life, the archives were overwhelming. Having a shortlist of episodes really helped me get into the flow of the show. I started to understand the conventions and helped as a conduit for jumping into the back catalogue. My idea with the Editor’s Choice section is that every once in a while I might read some of the archives. If an entry seems decent or stands out from the rest in some fashion, I’ll slap an Editor’s Choice on there and have it easily accessible for anyone looking to see what this whole thing is about. Plus, I dunno, maybe I’ll one day want to use some of this stuff for a portfolio? Weirder things have happened. Once I did the calculations in my head, all the pieces came together to form a pretty little picture. So are we good on that? Great.

That’s not all.

Editor’s Choice also came about because of last night’s happenings. In honour of my impending five year anniversary with this project, I hosted an I Have My Doubts reading party. It was an intimate gathering of close friends. I read a couple of pieces and invited others to read anything that’d struck them over the years. The whole experience was a) self-indulgent and b) gratifying beyond belief. To be very real with you fine folks, I don’t know much about my “audience”. I don’t know which friends have/do read my writing. I also mostly dump entries here and forget about them. I don’t think about their quality, whether I’m actually worth my salt as a writer, or how others approach and/or appreciate my writing. Hearing others reading my pieces was amazing. Being able to bask in my words from others’ mouths brought home that I actually like what I do and it’s worth being proud of. Having a physical audience brought home that I’ve done some solid work over the years. Some of which I’d totally forgotten about. I think that’s notable and worth celebrating with this whole Editor’s Choice thing.

What kind of stuff did people read? There was my first ever entry (which was all kinds of cringeworthy and embarrassing, but really brought home how much my writing has grown). There was the piece about how our internal maps existing outside of liminal time. One where a chance meeting at a party made me reflect on bringing back the childlike wonder I had for the world (a reflection that created huge lasting change in my life and persona). One I’d totally forgotten about where a bathroom questioned my humanity and I was kind of on its side. The time in Vancouver where I discovered that as a guy, I was allowed to reject the social script and voice disinterest in a hook up. I read my favourite online dating message I’ve ever sent. My girlfriend read the most visceral and honest piece I’ve written on my own body image struggles. Literal tears were shed. As a palate cleanser, I performed a rap I wrote about a classic New Zealand children’s book. Then my girlfriend and I double teamed some “erotic slam poetry” we’d written to one another years back. A friend pulled out a fantastic series of potential screenplay ideas I’d written. Cocky or not, I couldn’t stop laughing at them. Another friend read something I’d put together before giving her boyfriend a literal cunnilingus lesson. There was a somber find I stumbled upon about a bus stop interaction I’d somehow lost memory of. My girlfriend read my attempted Clickhole style article about The Oscars.

If you’re interested in reading any of the above, oh buddy do I ever have a site section for you.

Nothing adventured, nothing gained.

I was thinking today, what would I do if a wizard popped up out of nowhere and said “Hey Leon, you like pokémon, right? Wanna live in a world of pokémon?”

In this scenario, I’d be transported to an alternate realm where pokémon roamed the land. I don’t need to deep dive into an explanation, right? The conceit rings true? Exploring, capturing and training pokémon, battling at gyms. A life of constant adventure, making friends and memories. Having a stable of pets to grow close with. Intelligent creatures who could learn, grow and evolve.

The caveat, of course (cause next to spells, those are wizards’ favourite things) is that I’d have to leave my existence behind. Friends? Gone. Loved ones? Poof. As if they never were. My girlfriend, the woman I wake up beside every morning? Nada. She’d be back here in this reality. The life I’ve spent years cultivating and crafting for myself? All that hardship and horizontal movement? My bank accounts? Possessions? Kaput. All given to the void so I could travel the land in a Hakuna Matata state of being.

It’s a harder choice than it first seems, because how can we not build attachment to the life we put our heart and soul into. Is love something that can simply be dropped at will? Of course it isn’t. The bonds of a relationship are forged through diligence and perseverance. You earn the people around you by virtue of giving back to them. Think about all that effort, vanished in an instant. Think about your feelings, cursed to still be tethered. Permanently unrequited. With time they’d fade, but imagine losing your everything all at once. Wouldn’t you be reeling?

But on the flipside, you’d get to form whole new attachments. I dropped most everything when I moved from NZ to Canada. Okay, that’s a falsehood of sorts. The internet exists. I still had contact. The fact that I’m useless at maintaining connections over geographical boundaries is a moot point. Others aren’t so dumpy when it comes to keeping in touch. On the other hand, I’d get to constantly see new sights. I’d be lost in a world where hard work could pay off through my devotion to training. I’d have the chance to discover new parts of myself. To really harness the opportunity to put myself out there. Because that’s what this really is. This whole scenario is simply weighing up the call to adventure against the comfort of security and attachment.

Out of the two, which pulls to me more?

Which is to say, I’ve entirely buried the lede. All this preamble and pokémon rhetoric was just a ruse to say that I’ve taken the call to adventure. Sorry fam. I’m auditioning for a friend’s play tomorrow. I think. Maybe. I put my application in awful late (like 15 minutes ago late). My girlfriend is too. We went out to an info night on Tuesday after I nudged her to audition. She’s a terrific performer and it’s been too long since she’s had stage time. I think she’d do a fantastic job and the whole production is right up her alley.

As for me? Going with her to the info night, it sounded like a really fun troupe. I used to adore acting and I’d low key been thinking maybe I’d try out for something small in Toronto eventually. Knowing the friend who’s directing/co-wrote, it’d be a great time. I remember so fondly the times I’d spend in high school or university hanging around with a cast. My social circles were swarming with theatre geeks and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. They’re generally pretty creative, spontaneous folks. Plus most of them are a blast to drink with. I’d be very happy to sacrifice my spare time to re-engage in that kind of environment. I guess we’ll see if I even get an audition before raising any kinds of hopes.

Adventure, I choose you!

This land is your land, this land is Auckland.

I was chatting to someone in a cafe yesterday. As soon as she heard my accent, she asked where I was from. Turns out she did her university education back in Auckland, my home town. We chatted for a while about the city, various locations, etc. I found myself running through the map in my head. Trying to pinpoint exactly where she’d been living, working, etc. It was so vivid. I remembered street names and could visually run through the streets and routes. The more I thought of it, the more I realised: I love Auckland.

It was my home for the better part of 26 years. Auckland has this reputation back in New Zealand. It’s maligned by the rest of the country, but the New Zealand mentality also has this odd Tall Poppy aspect to its patriotism. Even for those who truly love “Godzone”, they can’t help but shit on their home turf a little. Aucklanders probably love Auckland for the most part, but are also quick to tear it to shreds. Whether it’s complaining about traffic, wannabe trendy areas or poor comparison to overseas metropolises, we’re always pretty quick to pile shit atop it.

When I went back to New Zealand last year, it brought back a ton of the things I appreciated about my home. While I held this view, I kind of thought it applied in a wider sense to the country. The more I tumble it through my brain, I understand that a lot of it specifically applies to Auckland. Tāmaki recently placed third on some world liveable city ranking. Of course there’s douchebagginess to it, but something truly underrated about Auckland is how varied the city can be. The downtown core may be a little trashy/clubby. The nightlife is all kinds of mediocre, for the most part. The public transit is laughable at best. On the other hand, it’s a city filled with beaches. There are parks, hikes and bushwalks everywhere. You’ve got metropolitan centres, local communities, suburbia and dumpy commercial malls. The city has been pushing to lift arts and culture to the forefront over the past decade and it’s starting to show. You need a car to get anywhere, but oh the places you can go.

I think even of the area I grew up in: Northcote Point. We lived across the road from a small inlet, connected to a larger beach. There were local shops with a hairdresser, community movie theatre and bistro. Going up the road we could get fish and chips from the takeaways. There was a cafe, a wine shop and a dairy not far off. With bikes we could go even further. Riding down the street we could go and loiter under the bridge. Alternatively, down the hill was a wharf fit for fishing. There was a tunnel leading to another fishing wharf and several parks with great playgrounds were within five to ten minutes’ ride. One of them even had a skate ramp where teens would hang out and smoke. The area nonetheless felt pretty safe, enough that our parents were content to let us run amok.

In the grand scheme of things, Auckland was pretty safe. I don’t think I ever saw anyone carrying a gun. Not even cops. It’s not like everything was rosy all the time, but on an international scale of danger, it’d rank pretty low. Furthermore opportunity was everywhere. Anything we needed was only a suburb or two away. Local schools were pretty decent. I’m certain my views were coloured living on the North Shore, but Northcote was a neat vantage Point.

I guess I’ll just pits and moan about it forever instead.

I. Had. Too. Much. Coffee. Today. So it’s gonna be one of those entries.

I’m adamant about washing my hands after I pee. It makes sense in the abstract. Pee is unsanitary, right? Of course you’re gonna want to wash your hands if they have pee on them. Thing is, it’s pretty rare for me to pee on my hands. Statistically my chances of coming away from a tinkle with pee-palms is don’t count on it. My hands rarely stray to my urethra. It’s not practical. I hold the shaft betwixt my thumb, index and middle (I’m not here to brag and I’m certainly not here to pee erect). None of those fingers wander into the stream. Yet time after time, I wash them post-urine. They shouldn’t be dirty, but I feel like I can’t not wash them. I’d most likely side-eye other guys who peed then immediately left the bathroom.

At the same time, is there any necessary reason to Horoi o Ringa Ringa? Your penis isn’t fundamentally dirty. It lives in your underwear pouch all day. I guess there’s an argument that the head could gather stray dried droplets as it sits in its lil’ hammock, but you don’t touch the head (unless other dudes have interesting techniques. Come to think of it, are there any hyper-efficient pee manoeuvres I’m missing out on?). Most of a penis is just skin. Folds and folds like some weird sexy Shar Pei. It’s not like it sweats unnaturally. There’s no silver trail of excretion. Is everything underneath your knickers dirty by association? If you touched your upper thigh, would you need to wash your hands? You could wager that it’s not possible to over-clean your hands and thereby you may as well. I think that’s where I fall on this argument (for fuck’s sake Leon, there is no argument. You started this). I’m glad we discussed this.

Years ago I went on an RV road trip with friends across America. One of our many stops was Huntsville, AL. Our prime stop (aside from our RV-mate’s relatives’ place. It had real showers and beds) was the U.S. Space and Rocket centre. Space Camp incarnate. Of course we exited through the gift shop (though we also kind of “excited” through the gift shop. It was a snazz factory). What happened next, I think about every so often (emphasis on the so). We saw a rack of NASA flight suits. They were a mere $80. We considered the rest of our trip. Heading through the Southern states and up to Los Angeles. For that nominal amount of cash, we could turn situations into events. Anything we did would be a story. We’d create buzz (pun surprisingly not intentional) wherever we went.

Filling up on gas isn’t worth mentioning. NASA staff filling up an RV is certainly an anecdote any stranger would fear to miss out on. Walking the Vegas strip garbed in NASA flight suits would be out of this world. Imagine the Billy the Kid memorial site. Now imagine it with five fucking astronauts. See you Space Cowboy. Talk about paying respects. Not only that, but once the trip was over, once we scattered to opposite sides of the globe, we’d always have something pulling us back together. Every time we met up after that we’d have no choice but to bring the suits. It’d be like Captain Planet, but with the entirety of Outer Space. I’m not even a big “space guy”, but I certainly mourn the loss of every single occasion I missed out on enhancing with a NASA flight suit. Unfortunately, one of our team didn’t want to. With one lone duck, the unity of such a fiscally frivolous fantasy was thrown out the window. Our dreams were tethered to reality and as such, never learned to fly.

Maybe now we never will.