Friday, December 14, 2012

Feedback

I tried something new last week.
At the behest of my editor, I started writing outside of my comfort zone. Whereas my old pieces were focused on a broad topic and wound their way to a point, my new article was the opposite. I had a laser point focus- a deck primer- and worked backwards. Sure, I had written articles like this before, but for whatever reason, this time it felt different. 
Was it because the deck I was presenting was one of my own creation? Maybe. Was it because I finally felt like I was making it as a writer, listening to my editor? Sure! It was all of these, and everything else. 

I was thrilled when I attached the document to my e-mail and hit send.
I waited. 
It went up.
I waited some more.

I'm hard on myself. I always feel like I can do better. At my job, I;m always asking what else I can do, feeling like there's some little extra I can give. When I'm playing a game (any game) I'm constantly reevaluating what can be done, going back and looking forward. It can be your typical paralysis by analysis, where I think so much, I fail to act properly. In writing, I am much the same way. I am not the best writer, nor am I the worst. But I like to think I am better than average. The best way for me to get better is to keep writing, but the second best way is for me to write better. How do I write better? Via feedback. 

When publishing a Magic article, you're limited in some ways. Some people will only focus on the content, not how it is written. Some will only focus on your "record," ignoring the quality of what you have to say. Sometimes, you'll get people who will take the time to agree and disagree with your points and let you know what they think. I welcome all these people because what they have to say matters. They are my audience and what they have to say can influence my writing.

I'm still waiting.

More than before, I really wanted feedback on this article. I got almost none. I had tried something new, and I wanted to know how I did. Writing is a challenge to myself, and I want to get better.

Let me tell you, the worst thing as a writer isn't negative feedback - it's the absence of anything. 

The absence means the only person giving me feedback on my work, is me. This is dangerous, as it can create a feedback loop where, if I'm not careful, I become the only person that matters. Do I think this will happen? No, but it might.

One of the writers I want to emulate generates a ton of comments, quite a few from people detracting him. He's been in the game for at least a dozen years, tripling my years as a writer and obliterating my output. His recent writing has made me envious. The way he gets feedback does the same, because for every five comments that have no substance, there is one that makes me a better writer.

If you like an article, or if you don't, let the author know. No one gets good at their craft by just repeating their mistakes. And sometimes, you need people to point them out.

Be the red pen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"Unicorn Odyssey" - Brendan Kelly and Brian Fallon


One of my absolute favorites, and this version rips.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jenny Owen Youngs might be my new favorite artist

Dave Hause, Brian Fallon, Brendan Kelly, Jenny Owen Youngs- "Trusty Chords (Hot Water Music)"

Personal Times with JADEDPUNKHULK

I'm sitting at my desk, drinking a coffee the size of my head, trying to figure out what to say.
Music, is an intensely personal experience. For a long time, I was one of those people who would cast judgement based upon the songs someone had on their computer. That all changed Junior year when someone very close to me said "who cares what you listen to, as long as it makes you happy?"
That stuck.
Music is still something important to me. It has given me great memories, wonderful friends, and more than one bloody lip (and one time throwing up into a biohazard bag backstage). When I started dating my girlfriend, it became clear that our music tastes did not line up, and that was okay. This is what adults do- they look past the little things for the bigger picture. But I wasn't going to stop going to shows, and wanted to introduce her to this part of my life.
Last night seemed like the perfect opportunity- singers from some of my favorite bands were playing solo acoustic sets in Brooklyn at the Knitting Factory. Perfect, I thought.
Her ride from Manhattan was far shorter than mine from Brooklyn (thanks G train) and I started the night by taking her to get tacos. We enjoyed a fantastic meal and Taco Chulo (right by the Twenty Sided Store) and made our way back over to the Knit. She met friends, and the show started.
Brendan Kelly, he who I am trying to emulate, came out and tried to introduce the show. He did so in his typical meandering stream of humorous banter. It was a perfect precursor. 
First off was Kyle Kinane, who killed. The GF doesn't enjoy stand up comedy, but Kinane had a knack for communicating to the audience. His rhythm was perfect, and the subject matter was just left enough of center to get the audience excited. 
One of the best things about acoustic shows is the quick change over time. Almost immediately after Kinane, Jenny Owen Youngs took the stage. I had done my "research" on Youngs, listening to her records on Spotify during work. I was stoked. She has some serious songwriting chops and a voice that can carry what her pen puts to paper. Songs about "doing it (her words)" and serial killers, as well as a killer cover of Nelly's "Hot in Here" made the night. Of course, then the "special guest" was introduced (Brian Fallon from Gaslight Anthem, to the surprise of absolutely no one) and they proceeded to rip through a fantastic rendition of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." The GF likes country, and pop, so these two covers were right up her alley.
Dave Hause was next up. I've never seen the Loved Ones play, but I've seen Dave play three times, and each time is better than the last. The man is a consumate showman, and always brings down the house (groan). He tore through a set filled with songs from his solo album and some of my favorite Loved Ones tracks. The GF, finally succumbing to sleep, hopped in a cab around 10pm, so I enjoyed most of this set, and the rest of the night, without her.
Sharing music, sharing that part of my life, was so important. She felt bad for leaving early, but the fact she came at all tells me she's a winner. I'm crazy for her.
Dave Hause was hysterical. A common theme of the night was the playful banter between performer and audience. Telling tour stories, Dave asked everyone to put away their "YouTube Machines" (my new favorite term for cell phone) and launched into hit after hit. Closing with Fallon and Youngs on stage with "Prague" - a mind blowing song.
The hour grew later when Brendan Kelly finally took the stage. It was two years ago when I saw his band, the Lawrence Arms, play a double bill at this same venue. At those shows, he was under the influence of something (many things?) and was hilarious in his flailing. Last night, he was far more sober and played through a fantastic set of Lawrence Arms and Wandering Birds songs. Highlights of the night, for me, include "Abracadaver," one of my favorite TLA songs, and his pre "Kiss the Bottle" rant. Seeing as my sister has been served beer by Blake from Jawbreaker at the Double Windsor, I found it hit home to hear BK talk about how he though Blake would feel about the show. When the crowd asked for "Skulls" by the Mistfits, Kelly smiled and obliged. He closed the set with a Fallon infused rendition of my favorite Falcon song- "Unicorn Odyssey."
Fallon took the stage, and played a passion filled set of plodding, persistent versions of his songs. There was no aggression, but the words still hit home. The man can sing and write, and took his new found fame in stride. The set featured some of my favorite Gaslight Anthem songs, including "1930," "Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts," and "Great Expectations."
The night closed with an encore. Of course.  Dave Hause took the lead of the entire lineup (minus Kinane) for a rendition of Hot Water Music's "Trusty Chords." Brendan was selling merch at his booth at dragged himself on stage for a rip roaring version, where only Hause knew all the words. It didn't matter that it was late and no one on stage knew the words. It was a perfect end.
This show reminded me why I love music. It was a good time, amongst friends. The people performing seemed to have  genuine admiration for each other, and a love for the fact they got to play music for people. 
Big thanks for JADEDPUNKHULK (because you have to type his name in all caps)  for putting together this show. This giant coffee is dedicated to you, and your ability to give Brooklyn a great time.




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Grand Prix: Philadelphia

I didn't win. I made a mistake in a grinder that cost me a spot in the finals. I did not swap into a better deck when appropriate in the Grand Prix and promptly dropped at 2-3. I rushed home Sunday to beat home Hurricane Sandy.

That is the "too long; didn't read" version of my weekend for the Twitter generation. But here's the story:

Until this past weekend, I had never been to a Grand Prix. I had been moderately serious about Magic for a long time, but it is only in the past year that I have acquired a job and a life situation that allows me to travel with friends for a weekend. Philadelphia is also a prime location, being just about two hours from where I live and is a city I have visited before (once for a PTQ, twice for work). The fact that the format was Return to Ravnica limited cemented the fact in my head: I had to go to Philadelphia. Luckily, I am keyed into a fantastic gamer network centered around the Twenty Sided Store- I would not be alone. 

Even at 28, the prospect of going to such a large event alone seemed daunting. Sure, I would know people, but knowing there would be at least a dozen familiar faces eased any nerves I would have had.

Although my original hotel plans fell through, the NYC Magic Google group came through and I was set up to stay in a room with two other competitors and a judge for the event. I opted to take the floor since I have a bed roll and don't mind using it. Friday morning rolls around and I finish packing and get the call: two of my passengers, Li and Zach are here. We go to load up the car and stroll back to 7th and 9th. We spot our final party member, Connor -the judge I am staying with- and wave him over. We load up on provisions (coffee) and promptly get on our way. 
The ride down was uneventful, and full of discussions about (what else) Magic. The only disturbance (if you can call it that) was the obvious odor when we entered New Jersey.  We reach Philadelphia in under two hours, and see other 20 Siders walking towards the hotel. I roll down my window and holler, happy to see familiar faces. It takes me a while to figure out exactly how to get to the valet area, which leads to a sequence of rights and lefts around what can only be described as a traffic spiral. Finally, our bags are dropped off and we proceed to the convention center to try an earn byes.

Grand Prix are large tournaments that qualify the top four finishers for the Magic Pro Tour. Players can earn up to three byes (free wins) by holding a certain professional level or competing enough in the previous season. The day before the main event, there are feeder tournaments known as grinders that allow people to win the right to start with three free wins.

Once our party reaches the tournament site, we all go to register for Saturday. At the registration table, I run into the incredibly tall Nathan Holt, who makes the Walk the Planes videos. I make a joke about our disparate height and he chuckles. I wander the dealer booths and eventually run into Eric Klug from Klug Alters, and talk to him (at him?) briefly about Cube. I regroup with my friends and head back out to the Reading Terminal Market. This is one of the reasons to play major tournaments in Philadelphia- a huge food court of awesome options located across the street. Our mixed group scouts the location, and I opt for the Cajun stand. On the way to get my food, I run into Chris Pikula and introduce myself. I had been communicating with Chris on Twitter leading up to this event, as I live in his former neighborhood. We share a laugh, and head on our way. Once we have all acquired food, it was time to grind.
Out of the 32 people in the tournament, 7 of us came from the same store. I win my first three rounds with ease (my pool of cards was quite strong) and it was my overly aggressive play in the last game of the semi-finals that cost me a chance to play for the byes. However, I am not upset. I know I cost myself the byes, and I tell myself I will not make the same mistake in the Grand Prix.

I guess I lied to myself just a little.

Rather than sign up for another event, I opt to get dinner and wander around the convention center for a while before opting for sleep. I make my way back to the hotel and eventually pass out in my corner, excited for what Saturday would bring.

Saturday morning rolls around and I make my way to the shower in the darkness of the room, attempting to not wake anyone else up. It does not matter, as by the time Connor and I leave to get breakfast, everyone is starting to get ready. I wear my Twenty Sided Store shirt, donated by the store, and proceed to the site.

Lauren and Luis run the store, and sent down the shirts with a few regulars. They did not ask me for money, instead giving us the shirts as a way to promote their store. However, for the first time in I do not know how long, those shirts made me feel like a part of a team. It was made even cooler by the fact that one of the people I was staying with, the one who booked the room, helped to get the store started before moving to California. 

I mill about the site, seeing familiar faces. Some of them I know personally, some I recognize from Magic coverage. There is tension in the air; the tournament is about to begin, but the specter of Hurricane Sandy lingers at the back of our collective consciousness. However, they seat us and we get to start looking at the pools of cards we will be registering. Finally, we have the opportunity to get the cards we will be playing for the day. I'm seated next to Owen Turtenwald, former Player of the Year. Part of me wants to ask him to take a look, to give me advice. I know it is against the rules, but my desire to get better is kept in check by my desire to compete.

The tournament itself does not go well. I win my first two rounds, but make a mistake that costs me a game in round three. I never get a chance as my opponent easily takes game two. In rounds four and five, I play against decks that are much better than mine and proceed to resign from the tournament. But my weekend was just getting started.
After refueling on food, I start making my way around the hall. I end up grabbing friends who had been eliminated for a Cube Draft. We sit ourselves a table away from Adam Styborski. Adam is someone I count as a friend. We started chatting about Pauper Cubes almost two years ago, and have kept up communication. He tried to lure me out of semi-retirement for writing when he took over Gathering Magic, but I declined. A few weeks later, I was writing for Star City. Oh well. I show him my draft deck and he gets a devious gleam in his eye. During this time, I run into Chris Pikula again and he introduces me to other gamers from Park Slope. Small world. 
As the day draws to a close, we stop playing and start watching our friends, looking out for those who will get to come back on day two. One by one our friends are eliminated. But one makes it through. Lirek, the youngest of our group finishes his round and comes running over to us, arms in the air. He made day two.
If I take one thing away from the Grand Prix, it will be the look of happiness on Lirek's face as he got lifted into the air.
I close the night by speaking to Steve Sadin of the coverage team after he finishes his shift. Steve is a good man, and we had run into each other the weekend before the Grand Prix at a food fair. We chat about limited and New York Sports. Eventually I meander back to my friends, make plans for the next day (as Sandy is definitely going to be an issue) and eventually pass out.

Sunday comes and I once again grab breakfast with Connor. He judges, I pass time at the tournament site. I play a few games of one-on-one Commander, watch friends draft, and try to help Lirek keep his cool. Eventually I run into Nathan and Adam again, and watch them crack packs of Mirage for some free-for-all multiplayer sealed. I'm introduced to Jon, one of the writers for Gathering Magic who just finished an ambitious and epic writing project in 52 FNMs. 
I wanted to stay, but the sky was getting darker. Last year, Hurricane Irene altered my plans for moving. This year, it altered my plans for fun. 
We loaded up my car, swapped Connor (who had to stay and judge) for Tim, and headed home. Again, no problems (aside from the smell in New Jersey, and my GPS falling off the windshield) and made it home with enough time to stock up in advance of the storm.

I scrubbed out, I made mistakes, and I had an amazing time. I regret my play mistakes, but what I regret more is not making an effort to talk to some of the luminaries of the game. I guess this just means I will have to do it again at the next Grand Prix I attend.

Because I am going to go again. How could I not?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Re: My last post

To the person who commented on my last post:
Please e-mail me at my staff account- let's start the conversation again.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Becoming "The Man"

I never set out for this to happen.
In my life outside work, I don't think anyone would confuse me for "The Man." I'm  a self-professed nerd, lover of Star Wars and superheroes. I listen to punk rock. My main hobby is a card game. I may be 28, but in a lot of ways, I'm just a boy who grew up.
Of course, unlike children, I have a job. More than that, I have a career.
I work in Student Affairs. It's not a well understood job by people outside the field (although anyone who has gone to college has probably interacted with someone who works in Student Affairs). My job is to help ensure students at the college I work at have the best possible time outside of class. Other people in my field help them with their residence situation, their mental health, or help tutor them. Student Affairs attracts a certain kind of professional- one who wants to improve the quality of life for the people they work with. It is incredibly rewarding, and there is rarely a day when I do not want to go into work.
There are challenges, however. Even though we work closely with students, we are no longer students ourselves. I can strive all I want to put my finger on the pulse of what a college aged person wants, but I can only approximate their desires based upon anecdotes and trends. I also am beholden to the college at large, and have to take a long view. This is not a bad thing, but sometimes students can look past this. After all, most of them are around for four years- many long term projects will not be completed in their tenure. 
But this is not about them.
At the start of 2012 I began a project to open up some space for general student use. I had (and have) the support of my supervisor, my division, and other important parties on campus (including students). However, a vocal minority wanted more input, spearheaded by one former student. This made sense: the space was supposed to be for students, and our plan took student input into account, just not in the way this group imagined. They denied my request for meetings and slowly faded into the background.
Until the Diversity Committee started to meet. The same former student attended, and he and I got into a heated exchange. He wanted to open up our facilities to the public for a free education. I took the long view and said it would devalue an education here, and that our students should come first.
It was brief. It ended quickly.
Then I got an e-mail. It's an e-mail many SA Professionals get in their career. It is the e-mail that labels them a racist. 
It was then that I really had the realization that to this student, I was part of the system. I was an oppressor, keeping the students down, putting limitations on freedoms, and generally doing all the things one thinks "The Man" should do. 
I sent a polite reply, apologizing for my tone, but not for my position, and the student disappeared until this week. 
The project I had been working on for student space is ongoing, and we opened to the campus community at the start of this semester. The reaction has been slow- many members did not even know the place existed, and drawing people to a cavernous room, even with comfortable furniture, has been a challenge. This person appeared again, in an e-mail to my and my Vice-President, sarcastically pointing out the failure of the space in his eyes. My VP responded back, asking this ex-student to be constructive and defended me.
That felt nice. However, there I am again, being firmly entrenched in the role of "The Man," standing there, with support of the institution.
One more e-mail came, one that received no reply.
In this e-mail, I am blasted for what this student perceives as a project solely for my ego, and then called me Napoleonic.
I had a laugh, and realized I could not turn back.
I had been attacked on the basis of my height, something I had no control over.
I had been insulted without base, but rather because I disagreed and stood my ground.
And yet, I am still The Man. I am standing in someone's way of their perceived utopia.

And I am perfectly fine with this. 

I am the Man, in this respect. I am part of the system. I can do all the good I can, but there will always be someone who is not pleased with my action.

And when they fall back to attacks on me, and not my actions, they become part of a system too.

Me? I'll be playing cards and rocking out.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Death and the Force

I had an article published on Star City Games yesterday. This is nothing new. Neither is the criticism I received in the comments. What was new was my reaction: for the first time, I felt uneasy. I felt like someone had hit me right in the emotion box. Maybe it was because I was reading it at 8am, or maybe it was because the criticism was articulate and did not attack me, but rather attacked the site for publishing my content. 

Ouch

I am not one to shy away from criticism- I actively strive to improve my output. Whether it is writing, my work, or just being a friend- I want to do better. Unlike work and life, writing necessitates a separation from the time of intent and the reaction of the public. Even with the quick turnaround time of Magic writing, I can write an article and have it sit for a week before it goes live. This is nothing compared to books and other publications, which can sit for long periods of time, going through multiple revisions and little deaths before the final product is consumed. My writing is far more raw- one, two, maybe three vut downs and adds, distilling my perfect thought into crude words. Nothing I write is ever exactly what I want to write, but just a gross approximation- the shadows on the walls of a cave.

But this is the death every author, every writer, has to experience. One of my favorite moments of college was learning about Barthes' "Death of the Author." As I learned it- as it was instructed in English 301- Introduction to Theory and Criticism- the basic idea is that once a work is released into the world, the author no longer has any say in how it is received. The intended meaning does not matter, as the work now belongs to the masses and everyone can assign their own, sometimes personal, interpretation. 
This resonated with me for many reasons, not the least of which was the Star Wars Prequels were out at the time. Being a  huge Star Wars fan, it struck me as arrogant that George Lucas could go and revive his authorship of the Star Wars Universe, one that was "owned" by the world, and turn it on its ear. Lucas yanked Star Wars away from the fans, away from people who had loved it for their entire lives and changed it. We were the authors of our own imagination, but Lucas erased that with a metric-fuck-ton of CGI. 

In the modern world, can the author ever really die? The internet makes feedback instantaneous and visceral. Trolls proliferate, sometimes just for the sake of being critics. This loop means that the author and critic can have a nearly real time conversation, where the stronger will can impose his/her meaning for the world to see. 

The Force is strong with this one.

I try avoid commenting in my articles (unless I make a glaring omission or want to clarify a point), The truth is, I am rarely happy with what I write. I expect it to be dissected and critiqued. I use it as fuel to improve, and source material for more writing (such as this piece here). So do I die as an author? I'm not entirely sure. I think for any one who is an internet person, Barthes' death is more akin to the state of Schrodinger's Cat. 

But who is going to check the box?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

I've been intending to use this blog to chronicle some of my EDH/Commander escapades and decks. After much prodding my Mike (my 2HG partner from my previous post), I am going to post my updated Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord deck.
This deck started years ago as a Darigaaz, the Igniter deck. Then, it transformed into a Glissa, the Traitor deck followed by a Skullbriar, the Walking Grave deck as described here.
Jarad is a graveyard based deck. Shocking, I know. It differs from many other Commander decks I have seen in that it runs only two spells that cost six or more. This is to help make Dark Confidant better (and I was inspired by Sheldon Menery's work on this Nath of the Gilt-Leaf deck). This skews the deck towards being aggressive, which is fine by me. I run quite a few ways to fill my graveyard (Survival of the Fittest, Hermit Druid, Life from the Loam, Jarad's Orders, Greater Good, Lotleth Troll, Splinterfright, Corpse Connoisseur, Phyrexian Plaguelord, Gobbling Ooze, Grim Backwoods) and other cards to take advantage of this fact (Life from the Loam, Splinterfright, Reanimate, Coffin Queen, Necromancy, Kessig Cagebreakers, Genesis, Grim Harvest, Volrath's Stronghold, Phyrexian Reclamation, Living End). There is also a +1/+1 counter theme, a hold over from Skullbriar, but still potent (Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, Corpsejack Menace, Dreg Mangler, Deadbridge Golaith, Champion of Lambholt, Increasing Savagery, Gobbling Ooze, Scavenging Ooze).
The deck is a machine in that everything works well together, and right now, I am very happy with how the deck plays. It is a ton of fun and is never really lacking for resources.

General
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord

Black
Blood Artist
Bloodghast
Bloodgift Demon
Bone Shredder
Coffin Queen
Corpse Connoisseur
Damnation
Dark Confidant
Demonic Tutor
Disciple of Griselbrand
Falkenrath Noble
Grave Pact
Grim Harvest
Harvester of Souls
Living Death
Necromancy
Phyrexian Plaguelord
Phyrexian Reclamation
Reanimate
Shriekmaw
Skeletal Scrying
Skirsdag High Priest

Green
Awakening Zone
Champion of Lambholt
Deadbridge Goliath
Eternal Witness
Garruk Wildspeaker
Genesis
Gobbling Ooze
Greater Good
Harmonize
Hermit Druid
Increasing Savagery
Indrik Stomphowler
Kessig Cagebreakers
Life from the Loam
Lotus Cobra
Mold Shambler
Oracle of Mul Daya
Scavening Ooze
Splinterfright
Survival of the Fittest
Sylvan Library
Yavimaya Elder
Yavimaya Granger

Multicolor
Corpsejack Menace
Creakwood Liege
Dreg Mangler
Gleancrawler
Grim Feast
Jarad's Orders
Lotleth Troll
Necrogenesis
Putrefy
Savra, Queen of the Golgari

Artifact
Lightning Greaves
Nihil Spellbomb
Nim Deathmantle
Skullclamp
Sol Ring
Solemn Simulacrum
Sword of Light and Shadow

Land
Barren Moor
Bojuka Bog
Command Tower
Evolving Wilds
Golgari Guildgate
Golgari Rot Farm
Grim Backwoods
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood 
Pine Barrens
Polluted Mire
Rogue's Passage
Slippery Karst
Tainted Wood
Temple of the False God
Terramorphic Expanse
Tranquil Thicket
Treetop Village
Verdant Catacombs
Volrath's Stronghold
Wasteland
Winding Canyons
Forest (9)
Swamp (7)

Monday, October 1, 2012

For the Swarm- My Return to Ravnica Prerelease Weekend

To say I was excited for the Return to Ravnica prerelease would be a gross understatement. Wizards has been doing an excellent of making a prerelease feel like an event rather than just a tournament. Playing with Return to Ravnica would allow me to preselect one of my favorite color combinations- green/black AKA Golgari- and receive a special guild pack full of Golgari goodies. I could not wait.
Seeing as I had work for an unknown amount of time on Saturday, I signed up to play Sunday morning. Work, thankfully, was over by 1pm which gave me enough time to drive over to the 20-Sided Store and see if there were any slots for the afternoon sealed or evening 2-Headed Giant event. I was in luck- one of the players had signed up for 2HG alone, hoping to find a partner on site- a role I gladly took. I left after the afternoon flight fired and returned a few hours later to partner with Mike. We opened a fun pool, with a shocking three Lotleth Trolls (I was Golgari, he was Rakdos and got two of the Trolls in his packs). We built our decks poorly but had a blast anyway, ending up at 1-2. 2HG is not my cup of tea, but I would do it again if I found someone to team with. However, my heart was set on the next morning.
After far too little sleep, I woke up before my alarm and trudged through a morning routine of showering, getting a bagel and coffee, and driving to 20-Sided. Unexpected traffic meant I arrived with a few moments to spare, but still early enough to not have Luis frantically calling me and other players clamoring for my spot. I got my guild pack and sat down, said hi to the other players at my table, and waited. After what felt like forever, I cracked my packs and sorted their contents. This is the pool I was given to do battle with on the day (I've opted to go color-guild-color, breaking up WUBRG for organization purposes):

White

Armory Guard (2)
Azorius Arrester
Concordia Pegasus
Eyes in the Skies
Sunspire Griffin
Swift Justice
Rest in Peace (2)
Trained Caracal
Trostani's Judgement

Azorius

Dramatic Rescue
Hussar Patrol (2)
Lyev Skyknight (2)

Blue

Faerie Imposter
Chronic Flooding
Isperia's Skywatch (2)
Runewing
Soulsworn Spirit
Sphinx of the Chimes
Syncopate
Voidwielder

Izzet

Essence Backlash
Izzet Charm
Pursuit of Flight
Teleportal

Red

Bellows Lizard
Explosive Impact
Gore-House Chainwalker
Lobber Crew
Racecourse Fury
Splatter Thug
Tenement Crasher
Traitorous Instinct
Vandalblast
Viashino Racketeer

Rakdos

Deviant Glee
Havoc Festival
Rakdos Cackler
Rakdos Shred-Freak
Spawn of Rix-Maadi

Black

Catacomb Slug
Cremate
Destroy the Evidence
Drainpipe Vermin
Launch Party
Mind Rot (2)
Perilous Shadow (2)
Slum Reaper
Shrieking Affliction

Golgari

Corpsejack Menace
Dreg Mangler
Golgari Charm
Golgari Guildgate (2)
Golgari Keyrune (2)
Golgari Longlegs
Grisly Salvage (2)
Jarad's Orders
Slitherhead
Sluiceway Scorpion (2)
Stonefare Crocodile
Trestle Troll

Green

Aerial Predation (2)
Archweaver
Centaur's Herald
Chorus of Might
Drudge Beetle
Gatecreeper Vine (2)
Giant Growth
Korozda Monitor
Rubbleback Rhino
Urban Burgeoning

Selesnya
Selesnya Sentry

Artifact
Chromatic Lantern
Tablet of the Guilds

This was a challenging build (or at least my sleep deprived mind thought so at the time). Golgari was nice, but the curve made me nervous that morning. I also felt the need for greed, as two Gatecreeper Vine and a Chromatic Lantern would make it far easier to play multiple colors. I was also excited by the plethora of creatures with Detain in blue and white, as well as their nifty combat tricks and their almost dragon. After laying a few different builds out, this is what I did battle with on Sunday morning:

Azorius Arrester
Trostani's Judgement
Launch Party
Isperia's Skywatch (2)
Soulsworn Spirit
Sphinx of the Chimes
Voidwielder
Lyev Skyknight (2)
Hussar Patrol (2)
Dramatic Rescue
Launch Party
Corpsejack Menace
Golgari Keyrune
Slitherhead
Centaur's Herald
Drudge Beetle
Gatecreeper Vine (2)
Korozda Monitor
Rubbleback Rhino
Chromatic Lantern
2 Golgari Guildgate
7 Forest
4 Island
4 Plains

Relevant Sideboard
Runewing
Syncopate
Golgari Charm
Golgari Keyrune
Golgari Longlegs
Aerial Predation (2)
Archweaver

I am fairly certain this was not the correct build of this color combination, let alone for the pool. If I could do it again, I would definitely include the Syncopate main, as well as the Faerie Imposter, likely at the cost of Centaur's Herald and Corpsejack Menace (which is not very impressive in my deck). It is also possible that I missed a fairly strong Simic-Golgari build, splashing white for the two Skyknights and the Judgement, and adding better black cards.

After laying out all my cards after (and letting my rubber band brain snap back to original size), it became obvious to me I missed a pretty strong Golgari-Rakdos build that ran Perilous Shadows that could get scary when fueled by Chromatic Lantern. While I am never happy about making an error (especially one that looks so obvious now), I am happy it happened at a prerelease.

As far as the tournament itself...

Round 1 I played against Malcolm, a Small Child who opened his pool at my table. I knew he was Azorius and his deck was pretty strong (but had shaky mana to support green and Loxodon Smiter). I took game one on the back of Detain creatures, and he repaid in kind in game two. Game three he stalled on land and it was over quickly.
After the round another store regular (Seth) and I helped Malcolm tune his deck. I remember the days when the other Grown Ups would do the same for me, and I won't lie- it makes me smile to think I'm now that guy.

Round 2 was against the terse Sam. I could tell from the way he carried himself that he took this seriously. Game 1 was a back and forth affair, with his Bant deck pumping out tokens and my Bant deck Detaining them. He gained a ton of life off a Azorius Charm and then wiped the board clean with a Supreme Verdict, before dealing the killing blows with a bird token when I could not find a blocker. When I finally drew a Skyknight to detain the token and buy me a turn, he exiled it with Trostani's Judgement on my end step, netting himself another attacker.
In game two, I sided aggressively, taking out a land for a second Keyrune, and bad cards for Aerial Predation, Golgari Charm, and Syncopate. Sam was the aggressor early in this game, and I had to play out my hand quickly to keep my life total high. Eventually the board is empty, as is my hand. Same lays an Archon of the Triumvirate, which is sure to do me in. So of course I rip an Aerial Predation. Sam musters another creature that is going to do me in, but I rip a creature with Detain to stop his attack and crack back for the win.
Side note: This is why I was so drawn to the build I played. Detain is incredibly powerful in the stalled board states of sealed, and they make for excellent topdecks.
Game 3 was unexciting, as I curved out and smashed Sam in fairly uninteresting fashion.

Round 3 I was paired with Andrew who won game one on the back of Guttersnipe and multiple spells. Game two my mana base came back to bite me and I was quickly down 0-2.

Round 4 set me against my nemesis- Dyan. I like Dylan, but the previous two times we have played, he has won the match on the back of epic bluffs. However, we always have good fun when we play, and agreed on a split for four packs each. We sat down to play for fun...because Magic. Dylan dispatches me fairly quickly with his nuts Golgari deck in game 1. Game two I stabilize (and manage to counter his Deadbridge Goliath with Syncopate, which elicited a string good natured swears). However, Death's Presence was too much, and I died.

2-2, four packs, and good times. The weekend was a success, and it was only Sunday afternoon. Dyland and I got our packs and "drafted" them to see who would get which pack. After some shenanigans and trades, we decided to each open one pack. Dylan went first and cracked nothing exciting. Then it was my turn.

I cracked Jace.

Sometimes, the rich get richer.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Video roundup

Two more amazing songs and videos:

Perdition-"I'll Be Careful, You'll Be Dead"


Awesome beard, even better reference

Frank Turner- "I Still Believe"


Fantastic Frank on Conan...can life get better? I submit that it cannot!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ben Folds Five- "Do It Anyway"


This song is absolutely amazing.
And the video is killer as well.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pen and Paper

In my quest to improve the quality of my writing, I took a huge step backwards. You see, I started writing again.
Huh?
When working on articles, I would keep files in two places- my Google Drive and my laptop at home. I would always have them open, writing in dribs and drabs, but my flow would always get disrupted. I learned a long time ago that I do not write well in long fell swoops, but rather in fits and spurts. However, without the help of an academic assignment, I would lose focus. This would lead to articles that would have half formed thoughts- ideas that were not fully fleshed out. I never like editing my work on a screen- I am too much a fan of the red pen.
When I was living at home, I would have my dad edit my papers. I would be so proud to have finished five pages of obvious awesomeness, and would present them with a smile on my face. Dad would take out the red felt tip pen and demolish my work. Five became four, or three, or sometimes two pages. I would be livid, and fix the paper, making it better. The pen would come out. Dad would always find something to fix, some way to make my work better. After five or so revisions, I would stop showing him my papers, because they were due. Eventually, I would only need one or two revisions from the Red Pen of Dad. I would find my own red pencil, and take the task upon myself.
Needless to say, I am not always happy with what I submit. Sure, I like it, but I always feel like I can do better. And then I decided to start physically writing again, with a pen, in a spiral notebook. Suddenly, everything was easier. I could pick up my notebook on the subway and write,  put it down for my work day, and pick it up on the ride home and not feel like I lost my train of thought. For me, writing is as much a physical act as it is a mental exercise, and this revelation has allowed me to do better. When I write something in ink, it is ingrained in my brain, and I can pick up right where I left off. I'm enjoying writing again. 
This is a shock to me.
I am left handed, and hated writing in grade school. I went to a New York City Public School, and got a stellar education. However, I was never taught the proper way to write  for a left handed person- the instruction all was geared towards righties. My hand writing is absolutely atrocious, to the point where sometimes if I write too quickly, I can't read my own notes. Teachers would always tell me how strong my work was, but how hard it was to read. learned how to type quickly at (what was then) a relatively young age. I would always ask if it was okay to type my assignments, because I grew to resent my handwriting. To some extent, I still do. 
The joy of writing, of putting pen to paper, has never left me, however. I could only deny it so long before I picked up something again, to put the thoughts on paper. I have a strong feeling that this will lead to better articles and more writing in general. Only time will tell.
Let's just hope I can read my notes when it comes time to transcribe.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Moving forward

Sexism exists in the gaming communities. This topic has been lingering in the back of my head a while, and rather than launching my thoughts sporadically at various friends, I am going to attempt to put them all down here. 
I play Magic. It is my main hobby, the thing into which I put a sizable about of my spare energy. I have been playing the game for 18 years, and plan on playing it for much longer. I would be lying to you if in my younger days I used terms to describe my game play, and my opponents, that would abhor the Alex of 2012. 

When I still lived at home, one day I called my younger sister a bitch in anger. My dad overheard this. My parents rarely yelled, and punished only when it mattered, but I had never seen my dad so angry. He took me aside and yelled in my face "Do you know what that means?" to which I nervously nodded. "You never call a woman that, especially your sister." I may not have gotten it that day, and maybe I still don't fully understand it, but I know I don't use the word "bitch" in the same way anymore. Sure, I have female friends who self identify as a bitch, and use it in an empowering way. I still say son-of-a-bitch when I get cut off in traffic. I probably shouldn't use the word that way either. But I'm not perfect- I'm learning, and I'm human.

Almost one year ago, Geordie Tait wrote what I feel is one of the most important Magic articles in history: To My Someday Daughter. If you have some time, please read it (it is long, but not unnecessarily so). The article was written in response to "FinkelDate", where Jon Finkel went on a date with a blogger, and she lambasts his Magic history. The response from the community was disturbing. They rallied against the woman, using all sorts of language and posting private information about her. It disgusted me. 

I wanted to understand where these people were coming from. They were the nerds who never got a date, and in their eyes it was because they were deficient...maybe they felt ashamed of their nerd-hood. I know for a long time I was. It wasn't until I became comfortable with folding the identity of gamer into my identity of male that I was able to date successfully. 

My first year of graduate school was tough. I was placed in an assistantship with a supervisor who I clashed with. There were many moments that made it tough- including having to hear her say "I dunno, they're [Jews] all named Abraham", but two of the biggest ones took place months apart. In the first week of work, my boss had a girls night at her house. The male members of our class weren't invited. I had no problem. However, come October I wanted to help set up for an event, and was told by my boss "I want the men to do it." To her, I wasn't a man and I wasn't a woman. I was nothing to her. It was a tough moment to have, and I took time, with the help of an advisor and my supervisor in year two, to quite literally define myself.

Recent events in the video game and online nerd community have brought the issue back to the forefront. When I ran drafts in my old apartment, the younger players would often use the words "gay" and "fag" in ways that are common. I told them not under my roof, and explained why; I saw a decline in the language at the game store from these players. Was it because I was there? Possibly. At a recent event, I told a player flat out not to use the word "rape" to describe a loss. "Rape is terrible. Do you realize what you're saying?" I don't know if what I do works, of if it's tilting at windmills, but I won't stop.

My second year supervisor was (and is) gay. He said something to me one day. "I used to call people 'fags.' That's the past. We all make mistakes. We learn, and we're better for it."

Some people view this as a systemic problem. They feel that we are all complicit, and often the people who try to help are doing more damage. They might call out people that, in my opinion, are trying to help, and chastised them for not doing enough. It is their way or the highway. They want to be heroes- Batman without Robin.

A movement takes all kinds. 

 Maybe some people are, or can be on their side. Sexism is a problem, but bullying people who agree will not make things better. I want to know if this group would find me abhorrent or one of the good guys. I fear I already know. 

Change does not happen overnight. It is going to take the entire community of gamers, and quite possibly the entire community humankind to make a change. So much of this goes beyond game stores and draft tables. It is on television and in advertising. It is in history books and imprinted into our thought patterns. We need a generation of parents to raise their kids to respect everyone, and then we need their children to do the same, and so on and so on. This does not absolve us- we should still stand up and fight against inequality, wherever it is seen. It takes all of us making a commitment to stoping the use of words like rape and bitch and fag as derogatory terms, and then explaining why in an educational way- not an accusatory one. Not everyone is aware of the power of words, be the person that educates them.
It takes all of us to support the people who are standing up against the words- it is important to know we are not alone. 

This is not to our someday daughters- this is to everyone that will come after us.  I am still going to do what I can, make what changes I can and be an entity of change, inclusion, and equality. 

Even if some people don't like how I do it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Paper Pauper- guest post from Inkwell Looter

Twitter friend, Magic cartoonist and token artist, and all around good man Inkwell Looter played in a Paper Pauper tournament this weekend. Here is his write up (posted with permission):


Here's a quick report from the Pauper tournament I played in this past weekend, at a game shop called Eudemonia in Berkeley, California.

The deck construction rules for this tournament required cards to have common printings in paper sets. The banned list was Cranial Plating, Frantic Search and Hymn to Tourach. The paper stipulation meant that the card pool was mildly different than the pool available to the vibrant Magic Online Pauper scene. Certain paper commons haven't appeared at common online while certain paper non-commons have been printed at common in the online-only Masters Edition sets. A prominent example is Sinkhole, which appeared at common in the first paper core sets but has only appeared at rare online (in a Masters Edition). Despite its legality, I didn't see any Sinkholes in attendance.

Twenty players entered the event. Given that the minimal event promotion and unusual format, having that many players come out of the woodwork and pay an entry fee seems like a success. The crowd had good enthusiasm for their rare opportunity to leave rares on the bench.

Unfortunately there was some severe Pauper Shock too. Players fresh to the format (and to competitive Magic altogether) were thrust against the blood-encrusted spikes of MTGO Pauper machines. I suspect that half the players in the room had no idea that there's a Pauper meta-game or that there are known good decks. My estimate is that a third of the decks were upper-tier, well-tested Pauper staples, another third were functional (but not particularly powerful) and another third were hastily chucked-together piles of whatever commons were on hand.

I played an unoriginal mono-blue list:

4 Delver of Secrets
4 Spellstutter Sprites
4 Cloud of Faeries
4 Phantasmal Bear
3 Ninja of the Deep Hours
2 Spire Golem
4 Counterspell
4 Preordain
4 Gitaxian Probe
3 Brainstorm
3 Snap
2 Daze
1 Echoing Truth
1 Gush
17 Island

Sideboard:
3 Hydroblast
3 Steel Sabotage
2 Curse of Chains
2 Viridian Longbow
2 Dispel
2 Echoing Truth
1 Weatherseed Faeries

My summary: 4-1 in rounds, beating W/R landfall, W/B Pestilence, W/B Nightsky Mimic shenanigans, Mono-R aggro (heavy on AVR humans), and losing to Mono-W aggro. Won a tense Delver mirror in the quarterfinals then lost in the semis to a sturdy Tortured Existence deck with an extremely capable MTGO pauper vet at the helm.

My first-round opponent received a frustrating game loss for having Death Spark in his deck. Death Spark is an Alliances uncommon that was released as a common online in a Masters Edition. This guy had checked his rarities on Gatherer, was not aware of the online-only nature of Masters Editions and figured, hey, it's common. He was surprised and embarrassed when someone watching our game pointed this out (thankfully he was able to continue in the tournament with basic lands instead of the Death Sparks). If you are planning a pauper tournament I suggest you be particularly conscious of this issue and do all that you can to alert your players about it and/or reduce the discrepancy between the online/paper pools.

The Pauper Shock is a thornier issue. How do you gently warn the bright-eyed and uninitiated that "common" does not necessarily mean "chill" and that they might just get poisoned/Grapeshot to death by turn 3? Is it better to pre-crush their souls rather than let them play War Mammoth and be crushed on the battlefield? I'd at least provide links on my event info page to some basic Pauper resources.

But beyond those issues the day had a positive feel. New Pauper players were dazzled at this format with both deep history and easy entry and several Pauper vets expressed gratitude to be able to play their favored format in an event. Another nearby game store was having a pauper tournament the next day and many of the players at this event said they were going to that one as well. Representatives from both stores told me that they plan to continue having regular Pauper tournaments.  

Something everyone needs on a Monday


Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Grand Prix Trial

Grand Prix Boston-Wocester is happening in a few weeks, and I am unable to go due to work. However, that did not prevent me from attending the Twenty Sided Store Grand Prix Trial today. The original plan was to meet my friend Seth in the finals, then scoop to him so he could be the recipient of the byes. 
Things did not go according to this plan.
It all started last night. Seth had attended a GPT in Nanuet, and went 4-2. He was not able to pre-register for the Brooklyn event, and so had to opt out. Fine, I thought, I'll still make the finals and scoop someone else in
So I packed up my bag and headed to Williamsburg. I grabbed an iced coffee after parking, and made my way to the store front. After sitting down we were asked to leave, so we could walk back in to be check off the registration list. The packs were passed and we were tasked with registering pools for other lucky participants. The pool I registered was strong, featuring Nefarox, Magmaquake, and Volcanic Geyser, and enough cards in black and red to support a solid deck.
On a side note, it has been quite a while since I have played in a competitive level event. It was oddly reassuring to be marking down lists on paper again.
After a convoluted musical chairs with decks, this is the pool I was given with which I was going to battle:
White
Angelic Benediction
Battleflight Eagle
Divine Favor (x2)
Divine Verdict
Erase
Glorious Charge
Guardian Lions
Guardians of Akrasa (x2)
Pacifism
Planar Cleansing
Prized Elephant
Silvercoat Lion
Safe Passage
Touch of the Eternal
War Priest of Thune
Warclamp Mastiff

Blue
Archaeomancer (x2)
Essence Scatter
Faerie Invaders
Mind Sculpt
Negate
Scroll Thief
Veldalken Entrancer
Welkin Tern
Void Stalker

Black
Bloodhunter Bat
Bloodthrone Vampire
Disentomb
Essence Drain
Giant Scorpion
Harbor Bandit
Liliana's Shade
Mark of the Vampire
Mind Rot
Murder
Ravenous Rats (x2 )
Rise from the Grave
Sign in Blood
Vampire Nighthawk
Veilborn Ghoul
Walking Corpse

Red
Arms Dealer
Chandra, the Firebrand
Chandra's Fury (x2)
Craterize (x2)
Crimson Muckwader
Dragon Hatchling
Fire Elemental
Flames of the Firebrand
Kindled Fury
Krenko's Command
Mindclaw Shaman
Mogg Flunkies
Reckless Brute
Smelt
Torch Fiend
Volcanic Strength

Green
Arbor Elf (x2)
Bond Beetle
Boundless Realms
Farseek
Flinthoof Boar
Prey Upon (x2)
Primal Huntbeast
Revive
Roaring Primadox
Sentinel Spider (x2)
Serpent's Gift
Silklash Spider
Titanic Growth
Vastwood Gorger

Artifact
Primal Clay
Ring of Valkas
Tormod's Crypt

Land
Evolving Wilds

How would you build it?
Obligatory blank space.


















Blue was the first color I dismissed. While Double Archaeomancer makes any spell more valuable, the supporting cast was not there. White was next to go, being one, probably two cards shy of playable. I looked at Red Black aggro and Green Red aggro before settling.
This is what I came up with:

Bloodhunter Bat
Essence Drain
Giant Scorpion
Mark of the Vampire
Murder
Ravenous Rats (x2)
Rise from the Grave
Sign in Blood
Vampire Nighthawk
Arbor Elf (x2)
Farseek
Prey Upon (x2)
Primal Huntbeast
Roaring Primadox
Sentinel Spider (x2)
Silklash Spider
Vastwood Gorger
Chandra, the Firebrand
Flames of the Firebrand
Evolving Wilds
8 Forest
7 Swamp
1 Mountain

Relevant Sideboard
Pacifism
War Priest of Thune
Mind Rot
Chandra's Fury
Mindclaw Shaman
Smelt
Primal Clay
Tormod's Crypt

After the event, I showed my pool around. The general consensus was that I should have played Flinthoof Boar over Vastwood Gorger to help lower my curve and provide an additional 3/3 body. 
As for the tournament, one of the things I like best about playing at 20 is that know most of the regulars, so even if I lost, there is a very good chance I'm losing to someone I like. 

Round 1 was an example of the camaraderie. I was playing against Mike, another regular. Even though my pool was better than his, and I easily overpowered his deck, it was still a fun match, and there was no sense of animosity. I wished him luck, and he did the same.

Round 2 I played against Richard. He had been sitting across from me during registration, and knew he had an uphill battle. His UW deck could not muster anything and I was quickly at 2-0, feeling confident.

Round 3 was against Brian, with his incredibly strong UB deck. Brian is another likable regular, and will be missed when he moves for school. He has a levity about him, but never loses a competitive edge. Playing against him is always fun. Game one I was able to muster an offense, but when Brian asked the judge about the rules regarding Prey Upon, I knew things would not go my way. A removal spell dispatched my fighting Sentinel Spider, and I was never able to get back in the game.
Game two I made a mistake, walking into a Public Execution. I still managed to pull out the game thanks to a series of amazing top decks, including removal spells and Silklash Spider.
Game three Brian's deck came to play, providing a Staff of Nin I had not previous seen. I was holding on to the game by the skin of my teeth, but eventually, the combination of Staff of Nin and what felt like infinite removal spells did me in.

Round 4, I was paired against Alex with BG. Game one was over rather quickly, as he had a Walking Corpse with two Rancors. I managed to remove the Corpse, but could not deal with a Stuffy Doll wearing two pairs of angry pants. I sided in Pacifism in an attempt to hold off anything wearing Rancor. Game two was closer, with only one Rancor making an appearance. However, Sands of Delirium was what did me in- I had no way to deal with it and I lost, unable to push past a Stuffy Doll.

Round 5 I played against Zac with GW. Game one I messed up my sequencing of plays- the second mistake I remember all day. It cost me, and eventually his army overwhelmed me. Game two I could not deal with double Pacifism, and just like that, I was out of contention for prizes. 

I dropped, but I was not really upset. I played well, and only one of my errors hindered me. I built my deck well, and just ran into better decks (both Alex and Brian would make top 8). I had my fill of Magic for the day, and I was happy.

But I signed up for a draft anyway. After drawing too many lands in round 1, I realized my heart was no longer in playing, and I dropped at 0-1 to go home and eat some dinner.
So my plans went awry...so what? I went and played near my very best, and more than anything else, I enjoyed myself. I remember a time when going to play Magic and losing in this fashion would have aggravated me. Instead, today, I used it as a chance to examine exactly what happened. And it taught me: sometimes, it isn't anything you did. Sometimes, they're just better.
Sure, in Round 5, I might have been able to win game one if I had sequenced correctly, and maybe I would have won that match and earned myself some packs. 
I know now. I'll know for next time. 
And in the end, I had fun, and there isn't anything else I can really ask for from a game. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Momentum

Writing is hard.
I have a folder full of half-finished articles to attest to this. It isn't because I don't have time- it's because I lose the drive. I get distracted. 
Look at the shiny car!
My brain does not work in a linear fashion- scatterbrained would be an apt description. I could easily find a link between bacon and just about anything through leaps and bounds of logic and connected ideas floating through my gray matter. This gets in the way.
Sometimes, in groups of friends, I will drop out of the conversation and continue it in my mind, going to a drastically different end point that those who stayed in the loop. Hilarity ensues when I rejoin the conversation talking about Burn Notice while they're discussing where to grab a drink.
With writing, I half ideas whizzing through my brain, and I'll start. I will work and get about halfway done with a piece...and then life will get in the way. The file will stay open, mocking me on my desk top, eventually discarded to the "almost" pile as another newer, and obviously better(!) idea for an article presents itself. 
This would not be a problem, except I forget the accumulated almosts. I leave them to gather digital dust, and rarely revisit. Google Drive has made this easier, since I can carry my entire collection of works-in-progress with me to any computer...but there's always that new shiny car catching my eye.
My own fault, I just have to focus. I have to remember the feeling of finishing something, because nothing feels so nice. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Masked Intruder- "Heart Shaped Guitar"

Public Education


This is pretty darn close to how I feel about education, only with far more energy than I can muster at the moment.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Big Wig- "Sore Losers"


It's impossible to listen to this song and not run faster.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hey...New Orleans!

I really wanted to try some alligator this weekend. Instead, I settled for goat.
Rewind: My sister is attending medical school at Tulane. This past weekend was her White Coat ceremony- the culmination of orientation and the kick off to her med school career. Of course this meant a family trip to New Orleans, hence my resolution to enjoy some gator.
We departed on Friday. My parents were driving, so I was alleviated the horror of the Belt Parkway and Flatbush Avenue. Once we arrived at JFK, we made our way to the Jet Blue terminal and relaxed until boarding. And we waited.
And waited.
We taxied. The taxied back to the gate for more gas. 
All the while, it was made very clear to us that there was some dangerous weather forcing us to reroute, as if to fully absolve JetBlue from any wrongdoing. To make up for the almost two hour wait, we were all awarded free headphones and access to the pay-movies. I spent most of the flight watching the Avengers, which did not translate well to the index card sized screen on the seat in front of me. The flight was uneventful, aside from my dad giggling like a fan boy at the "Puny God" scene. 
We made our way off the plane and to the hotel, smack dab in the middle of the French Quarter. I was not ready for it. I graduated college in 2006, and left behind the bar crawls. Or so I thought until this past weekend. It was an odd experience, watching a frat party sprawl over city blocks and seeing a fully stocked bar in every eatery. 
The weekend itself was a whirlwind. My sister was busy with orientation events, and my parents wanted to explore. I did so as well, but also spent a decent amount of time sleeping in the hotel room. For whatever reason, travel makes me anxious, and sleep was fleeting last week. Saturday afternoon, after enjoying a nice lunch of jambalaya, I made my way back to a nice air conditioned room and slept. Hard. Dinner that night was at a style of place I would not find out of place in Williamsburg, and the only thing on the menu that looked interesting to me was the plate of goat tacos. I had never had goat before, but I enjoyed it immensely, So much so that I am now looking for places to purchase the meat.
Sunday I slept in and got some souvenir shopping in. Finally, the time came for ceremony itself. It was brief and nice, and it was wicked cool to see my little sister get the "uniform" of a doctor. After a brief recess to the hotel room, we made our way to John Besh's August, where we had an absolutely amazing meal. We all slept well.
Monday came, and a trip back home. This was also uneventful, except when the hot sauce and pepper jelly I bought for friends was deemed a threat to safety and I had to go check my carry on. I'm thankful the New Orleans airport had about 12 people in it, making my second trip through security a rather quick one.

But New Orleans itself...that was the feature player this weekend. I had never been, and was honestly excited to see the city. Walking around, there was a persistent feeling of both history and destruction. Sure, there was fantastic architecture and a true sense of local culture. But for every rising structure I saw, I also so the ruin left by Katrina. It permeates the area, like a subtle prod, making sure everyone there does their very best to bring the city back. It was refreshing, in a way.
And as much as I am a fan of drinking, it was incredibly weird and jarring to see such drunkenness. At dinner on Sunday, a gaggle of lushes planted their faces on the window by our table and started taking pictures and generally being ass hats. Now, there's a time and place for everything, but interrupting our nice dinner? Well, my family was amused, but happy when they grew bored.

If I ever make it back (and I will) I will not stay on the main drag. And I'll have my gator.

And I won't be staying with my parents...that's for sure. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Nostalgia

Last week, I rescued my old Super Nintendo from my parents' closet.
Technically, it belongs to me and my sister, but she's off learning how to save lives and go into debt in New Orleans, so I think her schedule is full.
Playing these old games has been a blast, and not just because they're awesome.
I was never a huge video gamer. I owned an N64, but only own 6 games for the system. In college I played pirated copies of Knights of the Old Republic and Counterstrike. I even tried World of Warcraft. Nothing really stuck. I never stopped playing Magic, but video games never called out to me the same way the cardboard did and does.
But Super Nintendo, they were doing things right. I put in Donkey Kong Country 2 (compressed air cleans these cartridges out so much better than lung power) and I am in awe of how great the game is. More than that, I am still impressed with the quality of the graphics and the music, and the timeless quality of the game. I remember everything- it's the ultimate sense memory. I am transported to my parents basement, the same place that has become my dad's office/Frankenstein guitar center, sitting in Ikea chairs playing this game with my friends for way too long. It's the same way I feel when I open a pack of Magic cards- the smell takes me back to opening starter decks in the car.

Today I found out Tony Sly of No Use For A Name died. I was never a huge fan of NUFAN, but I enjoyed the music when it came on and they are contemporaries of the bands that got me into punk. Hearing this news, it made me realize that same part of my past that I visit whenever I slide the power switch on the gray box, is gone. I felt the same way I did when Gary Carter passed- I have no memories of watching him play, but he is part of my cultural history as a Mets fan. 

I guess that's part of why I still play the SNES... it reminds me that the past might be gone, but it isn't dead. It's still there, in 16-bit graphics, the smell of cards, the music, the memories. It can never really go away, but then again, it is never quite here. 

House Boat Live




AVI's and a bowl in bed 
I'm trying to wipe out the sound in my head
Check the phone for the forty-ninth time 
You crawled out of the woodwork
and into my mind 
I guess that I don't mind 

And I don't think that you're telling lies
but I wasn't raised to believe in Julys
I'm turning the light off
and closing my eyes again

Stay awake for a few more days 
the sun's always rising 
the weeks melt away 
Get a message and I hit reply
I create my own problems
I'm hung out to dry 
and I know why 

The dog and I are gonna just stay home 
I blacked out the windows 
and blew up the phone 
I figure I'm just gonna end up alone again

So I guess I'm gonna stay at home 
locked in my bedroom 
one hand on the phone 
hoping that I won't end up alone again
Sunrise and I close my eyes 
I'm tired of drifting through everyone's lives
I don't think I ever believed in July
I don't think I ever believed in July
I don't think I ever believed in July...