Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Ideas are the worst.
They are the gamer on their fourth can of Red Bull.
Ideas will poke and prod and tear their way out of your mind and on to paper or a screen or whatever is handy.
If you ignore your ideas they will gnaw at you like so many black gnats in a humid summer.
So what can you do but obey your ideas. It's the only choice, really. And once they're out of your brain, it's amazing. It is one of the most freeing feelings in the world.
Until you realize the thoughts, the concept, maybe was not as good as your first imagined. The new procedure is a rehash of one from two years ago, the article just does not have a point.
This blog post, it rambles.
But the bad ideas, they drive you back to make new ones, better ones. Reaching into the deepest recesses and crevasses of thought, trying to pull the one diamond from the eternal pit of coal.
And you write them all down anyway. If you're crazy, like me, you put many of them out for public consumption.
Here, eat what I just made.
The worst, perhaps, is when the bad ideas are consumed with greater joy than the ones you loved. The cherished ones, they become the darlings and sometimes the bad ones become popular.
But that's the thing about ideas, there are always more.
Just have to remember to write them all down.

Ideas are the worst.

Matt & Kim - "Now"

This song is amazing. I wanted to post a live version, but all the sound quality was bad.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Name Drops

It's easy to talk about the big names that influenced my writing. Writing for the people that read this stuff (friends, people on twitter), using the big names makes more sense - they are characters you can easily identify (or Google). There are three people I don't talk about as often when it comes to my writing. They aren't people I aspire to be like, but figures that have shaped me.
Sadly, I cannot recall the name of the first. He was a professor in my junior year of college, teaching the 19th Century British Novel. It was a fantastic course. This man looked every part of an elderly English professor - flannel shirts, gray hair, teeth stained from too many cigarettes, and a perfect cadence. I remember our first assignment very clearly:
"Write a five page paper, but do it in two pages."
That resonates. Even though I no do not always adhere to this, it influences my editing. Do I really need that modifier? Is this really the "most" or "best"? I feel so much shame that of all the things I forgotten, his name is one, especially considering that almost ten years later one of his assignments still sticks.
The papers I would get back from class would be covered in pencil edits, more than I had ever seen. From the amount of marks, I thought I had failed. I would flip to page two and see a B+ or an A. It does not matter if your work is excellent, it can always be better. If he had just let me rest on a strong paper and not shown me the errors, well, he'd be an awful teacher.
He wasn't. So thank you.
The second is another professor of mine from college, whose name I remember clearly- Allen Eller. I signed up to take four classes with him during my college years. The first was Science Fiction, the second was Horror Fiction. What professor Eller taught me was that there is value in all great writing, no matter the subject matter. He knew he had important things to say, and would routinely throw students who were disruptive out of lecture (in the 400 person lecture hall). When I finally signed up for British Literature 1 (a required course examining the basic texts, think Chaucer and Beowulf) I could finally see the path from these ancient texts to Star Wars. It was so cool. I loved that class so much I signed up to take a course on Beowulf with Eller the next semester.
I never got to take the course with him, which is why I remember his name so clearly. A horseback riding accident ended his teaching career. I took the course, but it wasn't the same. I never got to thank him. For everything.
The last person who shaped my work, well, I hated his style of teaching. He would take his red felt tip Bic pen and mark up a wonderfully crafted five page paper, and reduce it to four pages. I'd come back with more edits and improvements, and the red pen would come out again. Over and over, nothing would ever please him. I would finally relent and turn in the paper. Get an A. 
He'd still want to make changes.
His name is Seth. 
He's my dad.
Without him constantly pushing me, forcing me to think about my words and sentence structure, I wouldn't have made it through college as an English major. I don't think I would have made it through grad school either. Those days, hunched over an old NEC desktop were master classes in writing, from one English major to another.
Thank you dad.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lucky Little Kid

I was born and raised in New York City, and for that I am lucky.
Not only did it afford me a great childhood, a wonderful education, and access to culture, but it facilitated me becoming who I am. 
Parsing myself down to words, a few pop into mind. Punk is one, gamer is another. Growing up in Brooklyn afforded me the chance to go to tons of punk shows. But it also gave me the chance to grow in one of the epicenters of Magic- Neutral Ground.
I remember reading about the store in the back pages of the Duelist magazine. I recall having my parents escort me there one day, to their first location, where I bought my first twenty sided die (a really cool blue/green mix I still have today). I knew I would be back, spending quite a bit of my allowance there. 
Sure, I did not really know what I was doing (40 card Standard deck featuring Brushwagg and Air Elemental anyone?), but I went and played and had fun. When the store moved, I moved right along with it. Located right off my beloved F Train, I was able to spend my afternoons there, hopping from school to NG back home. I PTQ'd, I drafted, I won sometimes, but more often, I lost. But mostly, I just played Magic without a care in the world. 
Something else was going on at Neutral Ground. I was becoming part of the NY Magic scene, and I didn't even know it. I, somehow, ingratiated myself to founder and owner Brian David-Marshall. One of the moments I remember with crystal clarity is huddling with him around a small tv set in the fall of 2000, watching the Mets take on the Cardinals for a chance to play in the World Series. There, nestled in a game store, on a shelf full of role playing books, two generations of Mets fans celebrated. 
BDM has always been kind to me. He watched me grow up, in a sense. If I had been aware of what I was doing back then, I probably could have been a much better player today, but then I doubt I'd be writing. When I started, BDM encouraged me. 
Today, Brian posted on twitter about Sage Francis. My memory somehow jostled loose the memory of a mutual friend recommending this artist to BDM, which sparked an interest in the past. This friend, the Rev. Toby was another person I somehow befriended, despite my best efforts.
We had a tangential connection through rival summer camps and him knowing my cousin. However, he took me under his wing, and helped me get better. When he figured out I was writing about Magic, he sent well wishes. 
These are people who were always my peers as gamers and today I can see them on the same level (Well, maybe above my level), but back then, I was the Little Kid. It was awesome to have these people I perceived as "good" giving me the time of day and actively trying to improve their community. To me, these people were titans.
There was the judge who had to disqualify me from an event for registering 39 cards, and then since I had paid for both halves of a double draft challenge, slotted me into the first 8-man. I see him today, and catch up. He has never stopped being kind (thanks Steve).
There's Mike Flores, a writer to whom I aspire. He was always around, and before I even had intentions of writing I would flub around him, making awkward comments, one that prompted a death stare (this is when I was older and knew who he was). There was the afternoon last June when I saw him on the subway and worked up the gumption to start a conversation. I learned more about writing for Magic in those few minutes than I could have ever taught myself through practice. Just yesterday, I asked him to review a short piece. What did I get? Crisp, succinct critique.
All this, because I'm a New Yorker. All this, because I never really stopped being that Little Kid. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013


My last post got me thinking about the term "fire" as it applies to competition. So often, we hear of someone catching fire (doing particularly well, seemingly on an ascent) or having the Fire (the passion, drive, and skill to win). This is normally seen as a good thing. 

But what about the consuming nature of fire?  When you play at such a high level for prolonged periods, can that drive consume you? Can the desire to win and compete at the highest level spell your doom?

The converse to having the Fire is Burning Out. I think it is subtly telling of how we view greatness in the realm of Magic by the fact we are using these words. Greatness is supposed to be fleeting, and it is the true greats, with sustained success, that transcend heat metaphors.

I wonder if we expect people to falter, to stumble, and if that adds pressure? Are there better terms we can use, or are these so ingrained into lexicon that we cannot avoid using them?

Fire is good, and yet, fire is bad.

Nothing is ever simple.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Friday started like so many other days. I set my alarm for 5:50am in order to hit the gym before work. That day, like so many other days (too many, perhaps) I set "screw it" and set a different alarm to wake me up an hour later, deciding that sleep was more important than exercise that day. I drifted back to sleep until I got a text.
Normally, at this hour, the only person who texts me is one of my friend's who teaches in the New York City  public school system. At 6:10 in the morning I'm usually stuffing my bag into a locker, so I answer her messages after the gym. Today, I curse her name under my breath and check the phone. Except it's a message from my boss, without a subject, which means it is sent to me and my colleagues.
I open it up and scan the message once. Twice. I get in the shower and speed off to work.

I don't know if you heard, but there was a fire last night. Our office is flooded.

I do not have a typical office job. I work at a prestigious art school in Brooklyn. Where many college students are worried about finishing papers and projects, our students are slaving away in their studios. I never understood what went into being an art student until I started working here, and even then I never got it until the fire.

And that's a shame.

The fire devoured two floors of a building, taking out the studios of multiple upper class people. The subsequent efforts to fight the fire flooded out the main offices of my department (I had never been so glad to be across a court yard) located in the basement. The morning of the fire we opened up the Student Union and watched as  people arrived. Many had no idea they could not access their offices and buildings.

Then the students showed up.

Many were handling it well, but a few...it was hard to watch.

My college girlfriend once lost a paper to her computer. She was frantic, but some quick thinking and one system restore later, she got back most of her evening's work.

These students will never have that option.

I write. I save documents in multiple spaces. Google is a godsend. When I lose some work, I lose it on purpose. I can write and revise, throw out scraps and eventually come to a final piece that might be written on four different computers on multiple days. If something fails, that's alright, since I have part of it here.

These student will never have that option.

It is a shame it took me this long to realize the art of creation. The only solace I can take is watching the community at the school, and that of the local art community at large, striving to support the seniors who lost their final projects. The culmination of their career.

I hope it helps them.