Maybe now’s not the best time to ask What Would Morrissey Do?

Today’s been somewhat of an idyllic Sunday. I got a luxurious lie in while my girlfriend had to get up for work. There she was putting on clothes like a chump while my limbs adventured to all four corners of the bed. She had her head full of pending customer interactions while I swam in the bliss of a day full of potential. I didn’t need to do anything, it was up to me. I knew that at some point I’d get out of bed, but beyond that I was following primal urges.

My first urge thrust me out the door in search of coffee. It was beautifully sunny. One of those not scorching or remotely chilly days. A man was biking down the road with a cart on the front of him. A little girl perched excitedly in their. I smiled. “Good morning” he bellowed. “Good morning” his kid followed. It was cute and borderline idyllic. I carried the smile all the way to my usual coffee spot and my usual baristas smiled back. Great coffee as per usual. As I walked out the door, I saw the same father and child from earlier going past. “Good morning again” called the girl. I did some shopping on the way home, picking up a heap of pork chops on sale.

The rest of my pressure-free day followed swimmingly. I finished a presentation for the office. I went to the park and hung my rings on a swings set. I practiced a bunch of muscle ups, pull ups, horizontal holds and ate shit trying to see how well I could iron cross. The answer was not in the least. I came back home and fixed lunch, washed bedsheets and watched some high level pro tour Magic the Gathering. A friend messaged and asked if I wanted to walk to a park or something. I did. We did. We explored a nice forest path around her house, then stopped in at an ice cream parlour that specialised in cookie sandwiches and home made ice cream. In short, my day was top to bottom ideal.

In Charlottesville, things haven’t been so ideal. I watched yesterday as the news rolled in. A white supremacist rally. Young men claiming oppression, chanting “blood and soil”. Carrying fucking tiki torches (if that isn’t cultural appropriation…) in some approximation of a Klan rally. Nazi flags being openly carried in the streets. Semi-automatic weapons being openly carried in the streets. Naked aggression, physical violence. A 20 year old mindless Nazi sympathiser driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19. These people who’ve don’t know what it is to be denigrated and spat on for the colour of their skin, to be seen as a lesser form of humanity, to have suffered discrimination and prejudice by the legal system meant to safeguard them, to die at the hands of those meant to protect and serve them. Calling them “people” is strong language. They’re callous scum who are so concerned with their own agenda that the thought of consideration and equality for others to them actively means oppression.

It worries me that I can’t truly say I’m surprised. No, I didn’t expect these kind of atrocities, this mindless hateful rhetoric to resurface. I’m not, however, surprised that it has. We’re seeing a paradigm that hadn’t disappeared, but had merely sunk beneath the surface. The fact that a demagogue sits in the White House and can’t bring himself to condemn this terrorism in his own country out of fear of alienating his own voter base is an atrocity I’m sure the world will feel for years to come. I know we live in an increasingly interconnected world, but we’re seeing instances of hate speech and othering rhetoric rise day by day. It’s a tragedy that in a world where we could do so much to elevate society, restore the natural world, tend to the needs of the less fortunate, we’re losing time, energy and resources to the words and actions of bigots. Remember the strong police presence at Black Lives Matter rallies? Remember peaceful protesters being shot while the police absolved themselves of blame? “He had a gun” or some other lie used to mask blatant injustice? Well where is the strong police presence now? Now that armed protesters set up camp and are actively harming others? Open carry isn’t enough to provoke violent reprisal when the hands carrying the guns are white, apparently.

It frightens me that I can be complacent while others suffer. That I can go on totally disconnected and unaffected while people fear for their life because of their heritage. As a non-practicing Jew, the world hasn’t forgotten a time where my head would’ve been on the chopping block, irrespective of the person I grew to be. I want to say never again. I want to have the conviction that we as a species have evolved beyond reducing complex and nuanced individuals to skin colour. I want to tell myself that this was an anomaly, that open condemnation on the world stage is enough to shock these idiots that’ve bought into an archaic, harmful mindset into realising the error of their ways.

Please, please let me get what I want. How are any of us meant to enjoy idyllic days if we know that others are dying for their right to exist?

Hard to take it personally.

I’m using this occasion primarily as a chance to try out my fancy new bluetooth keyboard. Right now I’m waiting on the subway platform. While I’m a massive fan of Swift Key, it’s doing wonders to fuck up my typing here. It auto spaces after a full stop and corrects any non-standard words I try to type. It’s a work in progress.

I was thinking earlier how technically being a “foreigner” here in Canada hasn’t ceased to create strange little scenes from time to time. People remember me. I guess that should be expected enough. The Kiwi accent sticks out amongst all the Canucks. I was sitting at a cafe this morning having breakfast and I heard someone call out “Leon. Leon.” There were kids around. I assumed my parents weren’t the only people in the world to think that Leon was a nifty name (my life experiences aren’t THAT far from that hypothesis). I turned around and an older woman was looking straight at me. “Hey Leon, you’re ‘x’s cousin from New Zealand, right?” She and her husband had met me at a BBQ with my extended family. I couldn’t remember them, but with respect for my 20, my inability to recall doesn’t negate that life happened. We chatted briefly, before she let me get back to my parfait and coffee. Someone at another table overheard that I was from down under. “Where abouts in NZ are you from?” She asked. “Auckland” I replied. “Oh” she said “I have a cousin in Dunedin who’s having a baby.” I had nothing urgent to get to, so we chatted.

I say that we chatted, but more so she asked questions and I answered. It’s not that her line of questioning was unwelcome or overly personal, but that I figured the conversation was more for her than me. It happens, you get used to it. When someone hears that you’re a Kiwi and it spawns chatter, there’s always a reason. They knew/know someone from there, they visited/are visiting. There’s some personal connection they have and you become a conduit for that. It’s not about you personally, rather you’re a stand in for them to have purpose to re-engage a part of their life. Am I making sense? These conversations have nothing to do with you and everything to do with what you can be to them. It doesn’t happen all the time, so I don’t get worked up about it.

Accent privilege both giveth and taketh. People are genuinely pretty friendly when I speak. It makes it easy to reciprocate. Attractive people here are more likely to talk to me here than back home. When it happens though, it’s mildly impersonal. I look at it two ways. It gives me a chance to get to know those who might not otherwise give me the time of day. Weirdly at times it feels oddly infantalising, they’re amazed when I have a personality and know things, as if that would’ve been impossible for someone from such a “simple” country. I know that my heritage has little to do with who I am, they don’t. It also feels a bit disheartening sometimes, that people expect me to be some stereotype. It’s far from identical, but probably not 100% dissimilar to what attractive people experience when people chat to them for no reason other than their attractiveness. You realise that people’s motives are sometimes downright transparent. If that’s mutual, fantastic. Otherwise it can make you feel lonely and strangely worthless. If your value to others is tied up in a factor that’s outside your control, then how can you rightfully take credit for it? If this is all people are gonna see in you, how much are you actually contributing?

Like I said, it’s an occasional happenstance and the accent opens more doors than it closes. It helps make me memorable and generally greases the wheels of my everyday life. The ceiling and floor alike are both pretty high, so I can’t complain too much. Altogether it’s just a bit weird that four years in, while I feel at home for the most part, occasionally a few words can make me feel like I’m not.

You know, like being asked where in Australia I’m from.

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.

When we evolve beyond words, that’s when I’m calling life quits.

New old phone! I’ve got a new phone which happens to be my girlfriend’s old phone. Nants ingonyama bagithi baba! I feel like the living embodiment of the recycling Möbius triangle. I now get to acclimate to the idiosyncrasies of a device that my girlfriend has well worn in. Am I excited? Well, that’s not the right word for it, but it’s gonna be a step up (2: The Streets or 4: Miami? I can’t decide).

It’s always an adjustment. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a super smooth transition. No matter how technology progresses, shit seems to get left behind. Maybe in the end though, it’s me who’s getting left behind. My ritual with each subsequent phone upgrade has been to reach back for all of the same apps. It’s very possible that everything I use is outmoded. Of course the apps get upgraded, but there are probably far more efficient ways to do the same thing. They were top of the line back when I got my Samsung Galaxy SII, but that was waaaay back in 2011. The world has evolved in the past six years. What kind of apps am I talking about anyway?

  • GO SMS: I’ve always liked this little texting app. It’s got a bunch of useful functions that I rarely use. You can blacklist numbers, have a private password protected text area (neither of which I’ve needed). The prime function that I’ve always loved was scheduled texts. You can set the date and time and it’ll automatically send the text off then.
  • GO Launcher: It’s basically a super customisable launch screen. I use possibly 2% of the functionality, but now it’s so familiar that I find it hard to operate without it. I could, if I were that inclined, mess around with screen transitions, custom icons, widgets, etc. Instead I keep it so simple I should probably avoid the app altogether.
  • Alarm Clock Plus: Hugely customisable. I like being able to set multiple alarms that trigger at certain times on certain days. The gently rising alarm is a blessing on rough mornings (though the first vibration is normally enough to rouse me). It’s got all kinds of neat features like making you solve a math equation before it’ll turn off. There are a ton of variations on snooze (which I disable. No snooze for me).
  • Swipe Pad: It sets up any number of hot spots around your screen’s periphery. I use the top left hand corner. When you activate these hot spots, a customised menu of apps, etc pops up. The best part is you can activate it no matter what you’re doing. Say you’re scrolling through Facebook, you can activate your hotspot then cut to a notepad. Then say you see something silly, you can switch to camera, all without having to revert to your launch screen. It’s all kinds of neat.
  • 1 Weather: It’s a weather app, no doubt like any other. If you’re going on holiday it’s pretty nifty to be able to create a bunch of zones to check out how the everyday weather is over that side of the world. It sits permanently at the top of your screen to give an indication of temperature and launching the app has a host of useful functions. Forecast, UV index, precipitation levels, sunrise and sunset. It’s often pretty accurate.
  • ES File Explorer: It used to be a handy file directory system. Now in its quest to Swiss army knife directory functions, I feel like it’s become the epitome of bloatware. It has a space saver/analyser, all kinds of subsidiary apps and probably an anti-virus thrown in there. It also may be a virus on its own.
  • Swift Key: GBoard has taken some decent strides in recent years, but it still has nothing on Swift Key. By simply giving up your right to privacy and letting it read your emails/Facebook, etc, it’ll analyse how you write and offer helpful suggestions for your next word. While I spend most of my time in GBoard deleting its predictions of my swyping, Swift Key is accurate and quick. It’s one of the few paid apps I’d say is well worth the money.

So in case you were wondering what apps were the height of fashion and functionality in 2011, I’m happy to have delivered. My Nexus 4 will now feel as good as old.

It is only August, but I could go for a 2.5 month nap right about now.

I had this thought today of how audacious it would’ve been for Microsoft back in the 90s to licence The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” in order to advertise Windows 95. Seriously, right? How on the nose and garish. “The baby boomers will SHIT THEMSELVES.” Wouldn’t that have been fucking dumb?

Turns out that was a memory, not a thought. The 90s was a silly time.

In other news, looks like Seeso’s dead. That’s a real pity. It was fantastic to see yet another streaming platform putting money in the hands of creators to go out and do what they do best: create original and well produced content. I certainly didn’t see all their originals, but loved the shit out of MBMBAM, Harmonquest and Take my Wife. They also had a back catalogue of years worth of quality comedy. Decades of SNL, all the Monty Python stuff, tons of stand up specials. It’s the kind of service I would’ve happily shelled out to support. Too bad that they never branched outside of the US. I’m sure it had to do with all manner of rights and distribution contracts, but I know I’m not the only one who actively wanted to push money into their hands. When you’ve got a heap of consumers keen to throw dollar bills at you, wouldn’t you want to pull out all the stops to make that a reality? Yet again, I’m certain it’s far more complicated than I’m making it out to be. Thankfully a bunch of their shows found a home on the VRV platform. Another platform that’s still not available in Canada…

Speaking of American Idiots (I kid, but I needed the segue), I listened to the 2004  zeitgeist album on my run today. At the age of 17, that album was gargantuan. In the context of 2004, Green Day’s popularity was waning hard. To give further context, in 2002 they’d co-headlined with Blink 182 (as opposed to sitting atop that throne as you’d expect). American Idiot came out of nowhere and suddenly was everywhere. Each subsequent single utterly dominated the airwaves. We threw it on at every party, road trip and holiday weekend away. To us, “Jesus of Suburbia” was a sprawling epic. The album had punch, flair and the most relevant social commentary 17 year olds could imagine possible.

As a 30 year old, it’s a neat listen. Like a grand ol’ rock opera. It’s still catchy and tons of fun, but it also sounds like clever pop punk juggernauts capitalising on a movement. Sweet to run to. In the era of Trump, the anti-authoritarian sentiment feels mellow and wholesome. Equal parts melodramatic and innocent. The title track would probably have hit just as hard had it been released in 2017, but would’ve taken on an entirely new level of meaning. Maybe it’s my inherent nostalgia, but I’d say the album holds up to the fanfare 13 years later. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” may drip a little saccharine, but the tracks have an excellent ebb and flow, coming together as a cohesive record. If you were a fan at the time, try dipping your toes back into that water.

You watch. In five years I’ll book a vacation from an ad that features Green Day’s “Holiday”.

I’m sure Justin Timberlake would agree.

Every once in a while I’ll buy myself a toy. Most recently it was a pair of wooden gymnastics rings. I guess toys get more functional and less exciting as an adult (though nothing in the world is prohibiting me from attaching LEDs and glitter to the straps (except maybe potential reduction in functionality)). Or you know what? Fuck that noise. I’m gonna straight up contradict myself and here’s why: Gymnastics rings enable a bunch of great outdoor fitness work that would’ve been tricky before.

So what’re the benefits of rings? I’m sure you asked (though more likely you were asking where the nearest toilet was. I have selective hearing). They’re versatile and useful in all manner of places. All you need is a sturdy horizontal bar and you can use them in some manner. Full range of motion the bar would ideally be around 3m tall, but you can work around that just fine. They normally come with adjustable straps, allowing for a bunch of differing exercises at each height.

One of the fundamental reasons that gymnastic rings are such a great tool for workouts is that they’re free-hanging. Bars are usually sturdy, meaning the work of stabilisation can be offset onto them. You don’t need to work to keep a bar in place. If that’s the case you should probably find somewhere else unless breaking your body is top of your list of priorities. Rings, however, will go wherever your body lets them. It takes work just to stay in position for each exercise, let alone doing a ton of reps. You’d be surprised how hard it is just to keep still with a straight body, your arms locked out, holding yourself above the rings. For a bunch of stuff, that’s your starting position. With that in mind, if you’re using rings be kind to yourself and understand that strength and higher reps will come with time. Don’t beat yourself up for finding it difficult at first. Your body will invariably beat itself up just trying, it doesn’t need your help. This will train your core to stay rock solid.

So what can you do with rings?

DIPS: Dips are a fundamental exercise. You’re holding yourself upright above the rings, palms gripping the inner bottom of the ring. Dips involve lowering yourself with elbows coming back into a right angled position, then pushing back to the starting position. Range of motion will come with time, but this will be pretty tough at first. It’ll fire up your triceps, work rotator cuffs and help your core stability.

Pull Ups: Pull ups are pull ups, so they’re always gonna be a slog. Rings will let you do chin ups (to work biceps), wide or narrow pulls. A big difference is not having to work around the bar, so you can pull straight up. It’s killer for your lats, biceps and a slew of back muscles.

Horizontal Row: Ring rows are fantastic. It’s often hard to work your horizontal pull muscles and rings allow for a great range of movement. One of the best things about ring rows is that they’re adjustable for any skill level. The more upright you are, the easier. Eventually you can work into this kind of shit (without someone holding your foot) which is totally badass (and really fucking hard).

Ring push ups: Working the opposite muscles, you’ll find ring push ups to be far harder than normal. Keeping stability takes a lot of work and your range of motion will be different when you’re suspended. Like regular ol’ push ups, you vary the width to hit a bunch of assorted muscles.

Mountain Climbers: Get into that lower body too. You’ll find that your stabiliser muscles work overtime to keep your back flat and stop you rotating too hard. TL;DR you’re in a push up position with your feet in the rings, bringing your knees to your stomach (alternating legs).

Ring Pike (with feet in loops): This one will grind your core pretty hard (and works as great progression to Pike Press) and gets into shoulder press territory. Ever wanted to learn handstand push ups? Why not start here?

L-Sits: They’re so much harder than they look. If you can get to 30 seconds you should be pretty stoked. This takes so much core stability. Letting yourself down after a long hold has the same level of satisfaction as taking a huge shit. The height of your legs will dictate how difficult the hold is.

So most things that a TRX could be used for, rings stand in perfectly. There are also a bunch of more advanced exercises you’d be hard pressed (sorry not sorry) to try on a TRX.

Muscle Ups: Using a false grip, these take a shit ton of strength and technique. Especially if you’re doing strict non-kipping ones. I find muscle ups to be far easier on rings than the bar, primarily for the same reason that I like doing pull ups with them. You’re not having to phase shift through a solid metal object, which is a tough endeavour for non-Kitty Pryde folks.

L-Sit to Handstand: Do you wanna look like one of those old timey Venice Beach muscle men? Is holding yourself rigid off the earth not tough enough? Set up next to a boardwalk and master this shit. The transition can be worked on with a tuck to tuck shoulder stand. It’s next level shit, but holy hell is it a great show-off move.

Was all that not tough enough for you? Why not master a Front Lever? Back Lever? Iron Cross (with muscular Jesse Eisenberg)?

Who wouldn’t want to be muscular Jesse Eisenberg? What’s cooler than a billion dollars and muscles?

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?