deep breath. this is about to out me as the mega-geek i truly am. the game i should like to discuss is magic: the gathering. yeah. i know, even dungeons & dragons dweebs look down on c.c.g. (collectible card game) players like me. in fairness, i don't think i've had a game in over two years. and i haven't bought cards for a while either (although david dreadful got me some for my birthday). but i do love it. really, really, really love it.

i possess a folder with hundreds of articles on magic theory. yes. magic theory. i also had this book. i lent it to some bastard who never gave it back; it's fifty quid new now. suffice it to say, i know what sligh means, and how to counter its weenie aggro. i can stay ahead of the mana curve, build a necro deck or furnish you with the precepts of the weissman school. ah, the weissman school. but, first, an intro is necessary.

magic is a game where two (more can play, but it's shit that way) people make their own deck of cards from the thousands available and play against each other. this is the best bit: sitting on your own (ALERT: INSIGHT INTO CHILDHOOD!) and coming up with a strategy based on the cards available to you. crucially, you don't have to have the best cards to have the best deck. i have never had a copy of the card generally regarded (at least if price means anything) as the greatest in the game: black lotus. neither have i ever had a mox. or any of the other restriced cards. a quick google reveals that they have, in the past, been known as the power nine. but, i think i might be getting ahead of myself...

there are various kinds of cards that do different things, but the chief aim is to reduce the opponent's score from twenty to zero. one does this by getting land cards (which will normally make up just under half of your deck) and using the power this gives you to cast spells of a particular colour. the first decision you generally have to make is what colour you should like to play with: white, blue, black, red or green. each has its relative strengths and weaknesses (or in green's case, just weaknesses. SLAM! take that, green! i am such a dork). you may play with more than one colour, thereby harnessing multiple strengths but laying yourself open to the possibility of not being able to use them - as each colour depends on a specific type of land being present.

i know that's a very quick rush through the rules, but it's my blog and i want to get onto the interesting shit. most players, when they first play the game, will opt for the simplest strategy: creatures. (the image that appears above is of the lovely serra angel, an example of a particular white creature - white cards require a particular land (plains) and their speciality is, in general, defence). this strategy is: get creatures on the board; use them to hit the other player.

that never interested me. i fell for the high concept weissman school wherein you do everything in your power to stop the other player doing anything, and then send over a single serra angel to kill them. it is immensely satisfying to play with and intensely irritating to play against. it relies on a principle called card advantage. this is, roughly speaking, trying to gain an edge on your opponent by getting more cards or, crucially, by taking multiple cards of theirs out of play with just one of your own. for instance, there's a card which allows you to draw an extra card every so often (there are a few - i'm thinking of the jayemdae tome... god, i am awful). the more cards you see, the greater the chances of you having the one you need to beat the opponent. also, if i use a card that says destroy all creatures, i'm using one card to deal with (potentially) loads of the opponent's cards. in addition, if i have no creatures myself, i'm at an even greater advantage.

i've realised i've probably said too much already. but... does anyone fancy a game?


back round to thursday! very exciting. i've never managed to keep a blog up-to-date for a week before. which is fairly damning, i realise. it's back to games, then. haven't yet decided what the games will be that i shall discuss. during the meanwhilst* i shall tell a story that my brother told me last night.

as a preface, i'll give you the story that prompted his response. it was glastonbury (2005 think) and i, and the other dreadfuls, was being paid to be there. we were promoting a truly dreadful book and were staying behind the circus tent. i had decided that we definitely should go and see the wonderful go! team at the john peel stage. but, noone would come. so i got a little bit hammered and went on my own. on the way i took something illicit that would make me dance and met a man selling booze from a plank by the side of the path. very, very cheaply. i bought a bottle of courvoisier for a tenner: a good deal in anyone's book. but, then i had a revelation: i'm about to be chemically induced to dance and the shape of this bottle is... um... reminiscent of a cudgel. i realised it was perhaps not the best idea to boogie quite as much as i was going to with a weapon in my hand. so i also had to buy a manbag on the way. which was fine. because i had this bottle of brandy, i made lots of new friends. one of these offered me something and i took it and woke up in the hospital tent.

my brother's story is quicker and funnier: he was at some festival and woke up in his tent in the morning on top of his sleeping bag, completely naked. he asked his tentmate (male) what had happened. apparently they had been walking back to their camp and the bro had spotted a bathtub that had filled up with rainwater. so he had a bath.

i'll be back later with a game.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
*points awarded for the reference.



wednesday will definitely be comedy day. i work (sorry, "work") in comedy. as a consequence i have lots of reasonably strong opinions. but i have decided that i will not be voicing half of them - the negative half. there isn't really much point in doing so and i'm very sick of the mcintyre jealousy. so, i shall be telling you about comedy wot i like.

the best show i saw at the edinburgh festival this year (and i only know of one other show that any of my friends thought was best) was nitwit by william andrews, a man i am lucky enough to know reasonably well. it was billed as a one-man sketch show, but in truth it was a great deal more than that. many of the scenes had real emotional truth and all of them were super funny. i had just read born standing up, steve martin's autobiography, and the show really put me in mind of its author's determination to let people decide for themselves. a couple quotes (from martin) about his work that i think apply to will:

i was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a by-product. the course was more plodding than heroic: i did not strive valiantly against doubters but took incremental steps with a few intuitive leaps.”
he had an... um... unfortunate time at the festival. all the reviewers came on the same day when his (massively tech-heavy) show went wrong... so people didn't find out about how wonderful the show could be. he is supposed to be doing a show this year, but his resolve his weakening. i hope that he continues down the path...

another rule was to make the audience believe i was fantastic, that my confidence could not be shattered. they had to believe that i didn’t care if they laughed at all, and that this act was going on with or without them.”
...of comedy righteousness. his reward will be great in comedy heaven.



hullo interwebs. forgive me if my spelling is poor or i am prolix. i'm a bottle of wine in.

sorry this is late. i, along with the rest of clan tuck, have been celebrating pater's birthday. compounding my tardiness is indecision about what i should write. i put out the call on twitter which also updates my facebook status, and got a number of replies. i thought, in the spirit of interaction, i'd do them quickly first.

1. food, obviously
this suggestion comes courtesy of helen. thanks, helen. i'm a massive foodie. (i suppose that's a way of saying i'm fat - but i don't just like any old bollocks). i do most of the cooking for my girlfriend and me, and enjoy it massively. i think anyone who doesn't has got too much money or too little sense.

2. me?
this came from mr tom lorcan ne barber. what would i write about him? how much of a SLAG he is? i think not.

3. hats. because hats rock.
they do indeed. i have many, many hats. i've been told that my first hat i stole from a shop in kandy (sri lanka) and my mum had to go back and pay for it. i strongly believe that my idiosyncratic hat choices got me elected as president of my sixth form college as well as "most unpredictable male" in high school. my hats have, sadly, been toned down a wee bit since the vastly garish nepali felt things i used to wear, but they remain very important to me.

4. theatre? an interesting memory? art?
from @lozopus on das twitters. i will take them v quickly as there are three. theatre? best show i've ever seen is the trackers of oxyrhynchus by tony harrison at the west yorkshire playhouse by northern broadsides (my favourite company. probably.). an interesting memory? my mother didn't believe i had pneumonia; she told me to shut up and go back to bed. art? ah! this draws all three together. my first theatre piece since leaving school (where i had written two) was called one more layer of skin (five points for the song from which that's a quote) and was about art.

5. super random stuff
fish fish eight remote fish leprechaun yellow alan, ALAN, ALAAAAN. the crab has lost. one two three wisky.

6. what i meant to write about

ok. so i meant to write about language. i only really had three things to say: a joke that doesn't quite work; a question; and a theory.

the joke is roughly thus: i went to florence. i didn't have enough money to get there, though. so i did jobs for people who would give me lifts. i was working myself into firenze. the reason for the joke is that when my girlfriend went to copenhagen recently (yes. for that.) i told her that it was actually called københavn, because i am a prick and i happened to have lived there. she said it didn't matter. and we couldn't quite come to an amicable conclusion but i think the joke makes the point well. firenze means the floral (or flourishing) city and, so, florence is a fair enough name. but copenhagen is just an ignorant mispronunciation; we make fun of americans who say EDinBURRG... so the question is thus: am i being a douche?



and so, like god said, on the seventh day i will rest. and now monday hoves into view... on twitter, there is a hashtag called #musicmonday. the twits (or twats, like david cameron) all give their views and recommendations on musics we should all listen to. in addition, it's that time of the year when critics give us their top ten lists. christ on cheese i love top ten lists! it's like crack for the opinion glands. the very awesome (& useful) website metacritic has a list of top tens. the only way that that could be more my cup of tea would be if they ranked the lists themselves; they would be truly living up to their name.

last year (2008) i had a very clear idea of what my favourite albums of the year were. i have mentioned them previously, but i will do so again. alas i cannot swim (spotify link) by the young english folkie and superb lyricist, laura marling. the album is almost flawless and very idiosyncratic but missing an excellent single (new romantic) with an equally well executed video (youtube link). very excitingly, her new album is being produced by ethan johns of heartbreaker fame and is out in march 2010.

the second album i loved last year was boxer (spotify link) by brooklyn band the national. it is a brooding, compulsive darkness of a record that has drums that propel the songs forward relentlessly while the singer's languid baritone intones tales of loss, regret and dancing. it's well good on earphones too.

third... play this. yes, that's three kids busking with video killed the radio star. and yes, those instruments are mandolin, harp and double bass. that's how i first came across them... how could you not love that? the band are called the wrong trousers (chilling moment of realisation about quite how young they are came when i was watching an interview of theirs and they described the wallace and gromit feature they are named after as "an old claymation movie") and are from san diego. they self released their only album so far, one and counting, and i strongly urge you to get it. hopefully they'll make a second if enough people get it.

i suppose i'll list my favourite stuff of 2009 next monday, but it certainly isn't as clear cut a decision. is it sacrilege to not really like merriweather post pavilion yet?



so. saturday and sunday will count as one day, and will be the closest thing to what my proposed book will look like (as far as i can tell at this point). this will feel somewhat like an essay. and it might feel quite weird. and this is the part of the blog that i would love you (the interwebs) to comment on. am i making sense? do you care? should i stop? so, here goes:

part one - after plato
we stand in a cave you and i, facing the entrance (or should we prefer, an exit). behind us is a fire. behind that, some ropes - cut and discarded. the fire throws a dancing light on the jagged back wall where, in the corner, scrawled in chalk are the words: Plato woz 'ere.

cascading down in front of the entrance is a waterfall; we won't be leaving any time soon. at least, not without a smidgen more of an idea about what lies beyond. we stick our hands into the water and count our fingers. 1. 2. 3...

part two
- some numbers are bigger than others
we count to ten and the ticker goes up: we reset the units and start the tens. when we get to one hundred, we do it again. no great revelation to you, i suspect. unless you are a minicoy islander, an ignorant robot or other entity not au fait with our collective predilection for base-10 (for that is what it is).

there isn't any better explanation for why we favour base-10, or decimal, in our counting system than simple appeal to fingers. it certainly isn't efficacy driving the system. base-12 (duo-decimal) is, mathematically, far more elegant. it is the smallest number with four non-trivial factors. it is certainly easier to use and, as anecdotal evidence, i present its prevalence in the doing parts of our life: eggs, weights + measurement, telling the time. if i've got one, two, three, four, six or twelve people (including me) at my gaffe demanding a butty, it's loads easier if i buy my eggs in twelves.

is it just our hands? well, the truth of the matter is that it is unimportant why we have ended up counting eggs and votes decimally. it is, however, vitally important to keep in mind that it needn't have been so; we gain no benefit and it bears no relation to the world of mathematics or the state of the world as expressed through mathematical statements.

part three - some numbers' mothers...
as it stands, we have a certain set of numbers that we call the counting set. one, two, three and so on. so far, so kindergarten. once we have mastered the infinity thus presented, we get another: the negative numbers. the two are, of course, held apart by mr zero - neither one nor the other.

but i've got one cake and three hungry mouths and so, after a fashion, i invent fractions: one third each: one over three. and here we have another infinity, for as well as i can have one over three, i can have one over four, over five, over six and so forth; a neat transposition of our very first set. and all of this infinity exists between a half and zero, each subsequent fraction getting incrementally smaller. of course, there are other mappings we can do with the counting numbers. where n is the counting number, we can have n minus one over n, giving us an infinity existing between a half and one, each subsequent fraction getting bigger.

because we operate in base-10, it is fairly natural for one over ten to be an easy number for us to grasp (0.1). so too is one over ten plus one over a hundred, plus one over a thousand (0.111). and here we are at the decimals. there is an infinity in between any two decimals (if you need help with that one, shout).

so we should be pretty set to deal with the world with maths, right?

i am not a great snapper

but i enjoy the process. the blog will, i should imagine, come to be a lot about process: rules, functions, boundaries & games. and language. i meant today to take some photos and choose one about which to comment: perhaps explaining the shot or the circumstances. it is, however, christmas day and i have mostly been busy being bastard-fat.

fridays will involve, it has been decided, one and only one photo. above is a nice photo i took in sicily - somewhere near siracusa but i forget where. it was a lovely old town dominated by these monstrous sandstone churches towering over the general deprivation of every other street.

to pretend like i know what i'm on about: i like the composition of the photo; it communicates; they are bells. yes. yes, they are.


*the photo at the top of the blog itself is cropped from my new headshot by queen idil sukan (del rio).



so. after games night, we arrive at friday. this friday in particular is christmas - and the first white one i can remember for a while, at that. i've felt christmassy ever since the last karaoke circus of the year and, specifically, matthew crosby holding tom parry's energy together during their slade cover. but now, it is here. presents are wicked; my aunt has bought me a bottle of sambuca.

and i have decided that friday will be photography day. i know that photographers are often quite geeky about their kit, so i thought i should let you know that i will mainly be using a sony ericsson w8880i. but i might also get a go on my brother joe's canon. i'll also be trying to put the posts up using blogger's email function, which looks pretty sweet.


ok. so thursday is games night.

i am going to do one of the following: detail a game i have invented; a game i have played; or the concept of games. it's something i feel strongly about - as i'm sure will come to be apparent.

i think i'm going to start with "lemon cricket". myself and my best friend at the time (it would be untrue to describe him as such now, given that i haven't seen him for over a decade and the last time we did i was so deeply depressed i couldn't speak) were trying to invent another game to play indoors. we had, you see, just broken an internal window with a game of "sock soccer".

michael, as that was his name, is a deeply anglophile swiss-german whose father is a diplomat and with whom i shared an abiding interest in european politics, british sport and the norwegians' collective affection for donald duck. he may be the only swiss child in the world to have ever created a game based on the english national game.

his room, the scene of hundreds of self-invented games, was turned into the "lemon wicket" by placing the spare mattress lengthways towards the stumps, leaving a foot or so as the crease. the stumps themselves were an elaborate concoction comprising three parts: a cylindrical, cardboard whisky container; a red playmobil carriage; and, a knock-off ed the duck hand puppet. the wicket was not taken unless ed fell.

the methods of dismissal were exactly the same as normal cricket - although lbw decisions were rare. what made "lemon cricket" such a beguiling pastime and, indeed, gave it its name were the peculiar dimensions of the ball. no quotidian sphere for michael and i! following a game of sort-of-actual cricket in the garden where we had broken a tennis ball, we had repaired indoors to repair the orb. only, with packing tape and the patience of children, we managed to create an ovoid playing object. we tested it, and the spin and bounce were unbelievable. what made this an even game, however, was the fact that instead of facing the random deliveries with a mere bat, the man at the crease was armed with a red, plastic snow shovel. huzzah.

we broke a window with this game too.

Dear The Interwebs,

______________ it is a snowy day where i sit, starting this blog. i have, on other occasions, attempted to kindle in myself the blogging spirit; i have been found wanting. this time, i want to make good on my promises to myself and actually write every day. well, every weekday. the purpose being, à la richard of herring, to warm up the brain muscles before a day of writing.

i have an idea that each day should bring its own thing to the party: monday could be games day, tuesday recipes and wednesday discussion of post-lacanian film criticism. hopefully, these threads will start to intertwine to some degree and help me - and, hell, you too - understand what i am on about.

the overall idea is to write a book. obviously most of the bollocks that gets inserted forcibly into this e-thereal notepad will be irrelevant. see if you can spot the joins.

i'll be back when i've decided what wednesdays (is it wednesday? no. it is thursday.) will be.