One of the most compelling voices in the Magic community, Patrick Chapin “The Innovator” is a member of the Magic Pro Tour Hall of Fame and the author of Next Level Magic.
This article contains profanity, including gay and racial slurs.
“Don’t be a faggot.”
When we communicate, it is not just some trivial exercise. It is not about repeating words in familiar patterns, like a machine.
Real communication is about conveying meaning.
I generally don’t use the word “nigga” (or its various analogues)—not because it is taboo, but because it tends to obscure meaning, rather than convey it.
I spent a number of years in prison. During my time there, I dwelt in an awful lot of circles that used the term very freely. In public settings, it would have been inappropriate to use this language. However, it is a term that has taken on many ironic reversals and additional meanings over the past thirty years, and when it was just me and people I knew, it was generally acceptable for Caucasians, such as myself, to use the term and be referred to by this term.
However, just because the group had accepted this language doesn’t mean it promoted healthy thought patterns. If I can say it another way, a way that is clearer and contains more real meaning, why would I cling to a word that can cause misunderstanding and confusion?
“Don’t be a faggot.”
We can go on about how that word doesn’t mean what it used to, so people shouldn’t be offended by it, but in the real world, that hurts people, particularly ourselves. It influences how we think, and not necessarily for the better.
Words mean things.
Many boys grow up in environments where they are pushed around or otherwise made to feel inferior. Sometimes they are bullied. Often, fathers, brothers, or other older boys will assert themselves as “the dominant males” over the younger ones.
These older males provide the models that the younger ones use to formulate their worldviews and their strategies for interacting in life. If a boy’s role models use bullying and abusive behavior to try to control the people around them, this provides a blueprint for the boy to follow, often long before they are even aware of it.
The Magic community contains quite a few adolescent boys. A common phenomenon in adolescent boy cultures is the use of rape slang, which reveals a lot about the nature of rape.
Rape is about power.
Some men treat or see other people, usually women, as objects rather than as human beings: trophies to be fought over and won; dogs to be commanded and punished for misbehaving. At its core, rape is about power over an individual, making someone submit to one’s will and transforming that person into an object or an obedient animal.
Part of it is an attempt to release anger and frustration, but the release is only temporary. Because of this, the rape mentality generally leads to repeated behavior.
What does this have to do with using the word “rape” as slang for “won by a large margin?”
When someone uses the expression, “He got raped,” they are generally just repeating something they’ve heard someone else say. After all, if you or a loved one has been raped, the expression is a lot less funny.
“He got raped.”
I used to do commentary for the Top 8 of Pro Tours sometimes, way back about ten years ago. Back then, there was a rotating cast that included Chris Pikula, Brian Weissman, Brian Hacker, Brian Kibler, Randy Buehler, Michael Flores, Matt Place, myself, and more.
During the Top 8 of a Pro Tour, I was in the booth, in a role not unlike the one I adopt from time to time for SCG Opens. Between rounds, a WotC employee pulled me aside and asked me to watch my language. I was taken aback. What had I said? I wasn’t swearing.
“It’s not cool to describe one player as raping the other.”
I hadn’t even been thinking and obviously didn’t mean anything by it, but here I was, a dumb kid who didn’t know anything about anything, and I was using rape slang in the official WotC commentary.
Now here is the part that makes me look back and cringe.
My response was to try to explain to this person—who was only representing the interests of a company that sells games to people of all ages—that “rape” doesn’t always mean forcing someone to have sex. It is also “slang” for beating someone badly.
It’s amazing how much you know when you are 18.
“Words mean things. If that is how you talk when you are with your kid friends, that is your business, but if you want to interact with the adults, you are going to have to face the reality that words mean things. You aren’t talking to hear yourself speak. Whenever you talk, whoever can hear you is your audience. Remember what it is you are doing.”
I felt like an idiot. Despite knowing everything (I was 18, so kind of a given), I realized that just as chronic swearing is a symptom of a shortage of intelligence, so too is the inability to adjust one’s language to the situation at hand. Looking back, I didn’t even consider at the time just how inappropriate that kind of language was in an official capacity, let alone in any kind of public forum.
However, it is not just being mindful of the language we use in public. The language we use behind closed doors influences our thought process.
“Don’t be a faggot.”
The expression is said to have nothing to do with sexuality, a way of saying, “That’s not cool.”
At its core, this expression means “Homosexuality is so not cool, the most powerful way I can condemn your action is by suggesting that it is as bad as being homosexual.” That may not be one’s conscious thought process, but that is what they are saying.
The use of “faggot” as a derogatory term stems from hateful origins towards both women and homosexual men. Eventually this led to its popularity as a term boys say to each other in an attempt to assert their own masculinity by challenging the masculinity of other boys (following the example of those around them). In this context, “faggot” is not a permanent identity, such as one’s ethnicity or name. Rather, it is fluid, an identity that one seeks to avoid, such as being “it” in a game of tag. Many boys play this game of tag for years, back and forth with other boys.
“You are a fag!”
“No, you are!”
That’s adorable, but words mean things. If that is how you talk when you are with your kid friends, that is your business, but if you want to interact with the adults, you are going to have to face the reality that words mean things. You aren’t talking to hear yourself speak. Whenever you talk, whoever can hear you is your audience. Remember what it is you are doing.
When we are at a Magic tournament, we are confronted with a whole lot of people, many of whom we don’t know all that well. It can be very tempting to try to assert our masculinity by challenging the masculinity of others.
Want to know a secret?
If you are actually secure in your masculinity, you have no need for such petty tools.
What’s more, use of this language speaks volumes about a person, and the people around them pick up on the message between the lines.
Do you think Brian Kibler uses those words? What about Luis Scott-Vargas?
The words we use shape who we are. They influence our thought patterns and steer how we approach things.
The reasons to avoid such language in public settings, such as a Magic tournament or Facebook, are obvious. After all, when you are talking, everyone who can hear you is your audience. We did not come to this game accidentally. We are intelligent. We have more effective ways of communicating.
However, reconsidering hateful speech publically is only part of the equation. It’s not about the word itself; it is about the thought process. This thought process is toxic, and if you indulge in it in private, it will influence you in public.
You know why rape and hate slang continues? The same reason all slang does — because of people repeating it. From experience, I can tell you, it is relatively easy to clean up a circle’s language. If you resolve that something isn’t cool, it doesn’t take long for it to impact the circles you run in. That circle reflects who you are but also leaves impressions on you. If you do not impress on it, it will impress on you.
I am blessed with a number of close gay friends who have greatly enriched my life. Each of my experiences leads me to believe that potentially shutting out a percentage of people from my life by using hateful language is a huge mistake.
We all have our own path to walk.
There is room for an awful lot of people to live lives that are not identical to our own. What is right for someone else is not necessarily right for us, and what is right for us is not necessarily right for them. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt, especially if they are not hurting someone else?
No matter how tempting to try, we can’t make everyone else do what we want. What we can do is decide who we are, right now. It might not be the same as who we were yesterday, and that is okay.
When we see someone making fun of someone else at a Magic tournament for being different, we have lots of options. Are we someone who joins in, attempting to assert our masculinity? Are we someone who just tries to fit in with the crowd? Are we someone willing to stand up for someone who is outnumbered? Are we someone who is just afraid to say something, fearing becoming the next target? Are we someone who believes it is wrong to treat someone badly because of their race, sexuality, or gender?
Obviously none of this is to say that censorship is the answer. Words mean things, and if a given word is what you really want to say, more power to you. Rather, I’m trying to dispel the naïve notion that just because you might not be offended by a word, it doesn’t mean it’s not harmful and needless. Look, I am always touched when a straight, white American male is not offended by something, but maybe we are forgetting what it is we are doing.
There is a real temptation to defend slurs by arguing that the burden is on the other person to not be offended. After all, can’t anyone just say they are offended by anything? The thing is, asking someone if they are offended by something isn’t particularly fruitful. You don’t think it just puts all the pressure on them and risk being hated more? Likewise, a single person saying they are offended by something doesn’t make it offensive. It is a piece of evidence that helps build a case, but declaring something offensive does mean other people are offended by it.
Using slurs is harmful, not just because of the possibility of offending someone. It is harmful because of the implications. It makes people uncomfortable; it’s disrespectful; it’s bullying; and sadly, it leads to influencing the victims to go out and find victims of their own.
Words mean things.
Whenever people do something differently, someone is going to lash out against them. Maybe they’ll laugh at them, ridicule them, or hate them. People are scared of change, and they fear what is different from them.
Recently, I heard a young man, who considers racism obviously stupid, verbally attack a transgender individual he had never met.
What had this individual done to earn scathing slurs in front of countless people?
They had succeeded at something the boy wished he could succeed at.
Here we have a boy who considers himself a moral authority, who realizes the foolishness of racism; and yet when confronted with someone different from him, he didn’t even realize what he was doing.
Just as any woman who Top 8s a major event is greeted by some percentage of boys who hurl degrading remarks about her gender, someone transgender and successful is greeted with hateful slurs. Why?
It’s hard enough to live a transgender life. What do we gain by making their life harder, more painful? You don’t have to agree with all of someone’s choices or even understand them. However, if they aren’t hurting someone else, why attack them? Why be cruel?
In my experience, an awful lot of young men playing Magic have had some experience with racism. They’ve come to realize that it is not useful and not who they are; not as many Magic players have interacted with transgender individuals, so perhaps looking to broaden our perspective is worthwhile.
Imagine what it is like, everyone telling you that you are wrong about who and what you are. It can be a pretty tough spot to be. Imagine a bunch of people telling you what you should or should not be, say, or feel, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t necessarily reflect what’s going on inside of you.
Being transgender can be like that.
You may disagree with the actions someone is taking, and it may not be something that meshes with your worldview, but are they are hurting anybody? There is no question the life they are living is potentially fraught with hardships and pain, and you are certainly not obligated to do anyone any favors. However, do you really need to torment them and make their life harder? What does that accomplish?
Maybe they will eventually evolve their views. Maybe you will eventually evolve yours. Still, if neither of you changes your views, so what? No one needs to be hurt.
Picking on people in a position of weakness (such as being different from everyone else and having to deal with a world that is not built for them) is an act of cowardice. Whether using slurs because of anger or hate or using them out of ignorance of the implications of slang that carries with it pain and negativity, you have the choice to decide for yourself if that is who you are, or if you are better than that.
You also have the choice to act when you see someone else repeating this noise, without even thinking. I know I am so thankful for that individual who talked some sense into me all those years ago. People may push back, as confronting the truth can be scary, but they may thank you someday.
The signals you send to the world dictate what the world brings you. Make a statement to the world that you are full of kindness, courage, or love, and the world will bring you experiences to match. Make a statement that you are a coward, insecure, or full of hate, and the world will bring you experiences to match.
You want to win more at Magic?
You want to succeed more at anything you do in life?
Be strong. Be open-minded. Be courageous. Be a force for positivity. Be the greatest version of yourself you can envision.
It took a couple of weeks to get up and onto the Internet due to some (admittedly understandable) stumbling blocks on the MTGCast side, so some of the discussion is a little dated [like whether Craterhoof Behemoth is good in Standard or not -- LOL]. But… hopefully Top8Magic fans will love it anyway. On deck is our Thanksgiving podcast that is, like, only one week old
Show notes I wrote /+ pilfered from MTGCast:
A bunch of excuses as to why Mike and Brian started podcasting Podcasting in September… and then, you know, stopped.
Brian is a big traitor that goes and hangs out on Limited Resources.
Name dropping Brandon Sanderson (Mike — aka Fichael Mlores, Reality Bender — is the Brandon Sanderson superfan)
Lots of stuff about Standard (“lots of” being “relative”)
STAFF OF NIN! -Mike // Abrupt Decay? (“It probably isn’t good enough,” -Brian)
Brian talks about baseball. Mike doesn’t know anything about baseball.
Whew! Basketball! (“He doesn’t coach defense… AND he doesn’t coach offense!” -Sadin [Sadin appears])
Talk about Magic some more (“… Guess you can play whatever you want” -Mike)
Apparently Lingering Souls is bad in every format (Reid Duke is the nicest man in Magic)
Mike, Brian, and Steve talk about some podcast they never put up where Steve turned out to be right about a bunch of stuff but you will never know for sure. Brian blames Will (not pictured) for saying “something unseemly”.
What it’s REALLY like to do coverage. (gray hamburgers, “Brains! Brains!”)
Shout out to Douglas Scheinberg (not actually in the podcast).
Surprisingly, lots and lots of discussion about Legacy combo decks! (“lots and lots of” again being relative)
Stuff that you probably already know but is awesome to mention anyway:
If you have been to StarCityGames.com recently you have probably seen something new, different, awesome at the top of the page; no — I don’t mean my handsome face (though that is certainly awesome) — I mean the banner for SolForge, Brian Kibler’s new game, currently being promoted up on Kickstarter.
I have not played any SolForge (yet) but I intend to; well, I guess I am going to be stuck doing so actually on account of I just got all these cool future SolForge bonuses as a backer. Anyway, like I was saying, I haven’t played SolForge yet so it’s not like I can tell you it is the greatest thing since sliced bread but besides the fact that I assume it will in fact be awesome (they had Richard mother effin’ Garfield on the squad!), but as you probably know about me, I admire people who put themselves out there and do things. Kibler et al put together an ambitious goal of $250,000 and they have less than a week to get there.
At the time of this writing, SolForge is just past $224,000.
They need circa $6,000 a day to finish it out… Come on cats! I would love to see these guys get there! I just threw a couple of #TheOMG dollars SolForge-way (aka “all the cool kids are doing it”).
Oh, and while you are in the generous / buying mood, The Official Miser’s Guide is going strong, but could certainly be going $37 stronger if you know what I mean
What heretofore untapped outrageous force of nature could knock the cobwebs off of BigHeadJoe Panuska, prompting the return of legendary podcast duo Yo! MTG Taps!?
The Official Miser’s Guide of course!
The Official Miser’s Guide (aka #TheOMG) is a labor of love that represents my every spare minute for over a year of my life. It is late nights hunched over a laptop keyboard, cross-state commutes tapping at the iPad screen, and hours upon hours crammed physically into a closed-in closet recording audio eps. The Official Miser’s Guide details most of what I know about Magic, and tons of new things I learned about myself (and lots of other kinds of people, actually) over the course of writing it. It includes everything from basic Magic concepts like card economy, to visualizing the end game (of a duel or where you want to go in life, it makes no difference), to the how-tos of selling your opponent on your version of reality.
You can read The Official Miser’s Guide in e-book form, or you can listen to it while you do something else, like play MTGO, run on the eliptical, or pretend to pay attention in class / at work.
Chris Grant is the current General Manager of my Cleveland Cavaliers. I am under no illusions that Grant is the equal to R.C. Buford (General Manager of the San Antonio Spurs, aka the best-run organization in professional sports), but I think he has made some good moves. Bleacher Report contributor Leo Florkowski seems to disagree (i.e. above and beyond the article title, “… he has proven to be the worst GM of any Cleveland professional sports team… “). Like I said, I am all for a diversity of ideas, but — and remember this is ME talking — I don’t know how seriously you can take a writer (commenting on a professional) who says things like “I have more basketball knowledge in my little finger than Chris Grant does in his entire body[,]” and “Facts are good” IN THE SAME PARAGRAPH OF THE SAME POST.
Florkowski seems to know something, though, because at the time of this writing he is running on 159 comments. Well played, etc.
And while I have that deep respect for a diversity of ideas, and different people’s different and personal models of the universe, that doesn’t mean that they all have equal merits. To wit:
Anyone with an eye for talent such as myself scoffs at sabermetrics as the end all be all. When I see a talented player, I do not need some stat geek to confirm what I already know. When a player is not that good, I will roll my eyes when the stat geek tries to tell me otherwise. Poking holes in the sabermetrics argument is easy.
This past weekend I saw the new Disney Pixar film Brave with my son, the shockingly handsome Clark Flores (aka Version 2.0).
Brave was fine. I know it has gotten some mixed reviews but I mostly liked it. I like girl-power-y stuff in general (Aimee Mann is my favorite celebrity), and Brave isn’t just girl-power but mommy-power.
This blog post isn’t about Brave but one of the previews I saw, which was for an upcoming prequel to Monsters, Inc. If you haven’t seen the trailer to Monsters University, I am embedding it here:
Did you watch that?
Did you catch how effin’ effed-up it is?
At approximately the one-minute mark, the Monsters University trailer cuts to a shot of Billy Crystal’s character Mike Wazowski hanging from the ceiling as Spandau Ballet 80s hit “True” plays in the background. Now the more well-read among you are probably already wincing.
Yes, dear readers, somebody at Pixar has an effed-up sense of humor.
This is an Easter Egg wrapped in a reference covered by a security blanket and topped with bacon.
The band took its name from Spandau Prison in Germany, where many executions by hanging were carried out before and during World War II. While dangling at the end of the rope, many victims would twitch and jump, which came to be called the “Spandau Ballet”.
No, I don’t like Avacyn, Angel of Hope. More on this later.
Yesterday was an absolutely epic day here in Five With Flores land.
243 Facebook Likes? Are you m-f’ing kidding me?
We crushed any and all all-time records with well over 10,000 visits. And why?
No effin’ clue.
I literally saw Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded circa 6am when my toddling monsters awoke me from my Thursday evening slumber, and decided to comment based on — if you read yesterday’s blog post — what I saw as some unnecessarily reductive forum posts.
Was I a little too harsh?
But it’s not like this is the New York Times or something; if one can’t be self-indulgent on one’s own blog, where can one?
Over 300,000 people have visited Five With Flores over the past four years or so, but we have never welcomed 10,000 of them in a single day before, not even when being linked to by ye olde Mother Ship. Was the universe just trolling me on account of it being Friday the 13th?
Thank you any and all for validating me, per usual.
At this point, I would like to thank my Twitter friend Scott MacCallum, better known as @MrScottyMac. A short time ago I appeared on — to be frank — a surprisingly unpopular episode of Scott’s podcast The Eh Team.
I am a “what’s great about this problem?” kind of person, and took something really compelling out of that appearance, which is that all The Eh Team guys talked about loving this blog, and lamented that I had let updating it slip since, you know, December of last year… Scott in particular.
So if Scott (and KYT, Medina, and Jay) didn’t give me a little push, I might not have ever had a day like yesterday.
Quid Pro Quo, Scott recently did an interview at Medina’s site LegitMTG (“what is LegitMTG?”) that he asked me to look at. I actually enjoyed this interview. I think you should visit LegitMTG and read it.
Scott taught his son to read via Magic: The Gathering cards (he saw how much fun they were having and wanted to join in)
Actually the whole thing was heartfelt; I learned lots of stuff about Scott I didn’t know, despite chatting with him regularly and listening to quite a few episodes of his cast for the past handful of years… Well worth the read.
Things that could have been better:
Not enough michaelj. Sure, Scott says that I was a podcast inspiration and that being able to chat with me on Twitter was cool… But most of you on Twitter know that I will chat with most anyone there! Examples for improvement: 1) naming me as the hero of his story (over the ridiculous choice of Brian Kibler), 2) drafting me for his “surviving the Zombie Apocalypse” team, or 3) at least mentioning Top 8 Magic in his favorite podcasts!
… But hey, we all have room for improvement
On the subject of fellow Twitter folk / podcasters / personalities elsewhere, Chris Lansdell of Horde of Notions recently did a nice write-up of deck design principles he learned from me (and some other guys but I don’t remember who any of them are).
One thing I find to be super ingenious and super useful is anything that is both blatantly obvious and true being said in plain language. I absolutely love stuff that has some people saying “well, duh…” You know why? Because even if something is obvious to you, that doesn’t mean that it is obvious to everyone, and especially in a game as fast-growing as Magic, we have new players who are eager to learn joining our ranks every day.
This is what I am talking about in Chris’s post:
“It’s a fundamental truth that the power of your spells increases with the mana cost, at least when it comes to tournament-quality cards.”
I was talking about a very similar concept in the most recent Top 8 Magic podcast *, specifically why I don’t like Avacyn, Angel of Hope.
Most of my compatriots were talking about how she has a lot of board presence. Yeah. Congratulations. She costs eight. If I am spending eight, I don’t want an “indestructible” creature that dies to Tragic Slip. My God, Vapor Snag is probably the most common creature control card being played in Magic: The Gathering right now.
“Well you probably aren’t paying full retail for it.”
Well if I am reanimating… Or I am paying eight, and I am allowed to play Avacyn Restored cards, why do I have dumb Avacyn, Angel of Hope in my deck rather than Griselbrand?
“Pick me! Pick me!” -Griselbrand
Even the most Spreading Santorum-leaning conservative player can, you know, gain seven to pad HIS life total a bit before paying the seven to, you know, completely take over the game.
“One of these things is not like the others.”
(when the DailyMTG fans were voting on Crucible of Worlds versus other, less card advantageous, options)
Anyway, Chris’s plainly spoken statement pretty much echoed what I was thinking about last week, and as you know, that gives you like +1 points in my book.
Check out Chris’s blog post and see where you can agree, disagree, or just pick out michaelj name-drops (also an admirable way to spend a Saturday evening).
Last “everywhere” in this roundup: AJ Sacher put up a blog post on EV and how to deal with girls, possibly “for whom you care deeply” (AJ’s terminology).
I would recommend clicking the above and checking out AJ’s story before reading this next bit.
I have been in similar spots, especially early on in my dating / married life to / with Katherine. One thing that women I dated found odd about me — and I don’t know if this is the same with you or what — but they often didn’t understand the adversarial / competitive relationships I had with some of my best friends. Think about how you deal with some of your best buds… Many of mine are duels of oneupsmanship, or running beats, shenanigans, or dirty tricks on each other. Who’s the barn? Who’s the hull? Different question: Who’s winning? How do we keep score?
In AJ’s spot I hope I would have recognized the communication disconnect and just acceded to her. It is just simpler to let her thank the other guy than inadvertently step on feelings. If there is one thing marriage has taught me, it is that avoiding conflict is generally more desirable than “being right” (or perceived as right).
Being Filipino in America is kind of weird. When I was a little kid growing up in the foothills of the Appalachians, the White folk would scratch their heads trying to decide if whatever I had just claimed to be meant “Chinese”, “Japanese”, or when you really get cosmopolitan, Korean. Other Asians don’t really know what to make of you, either. Do you even count as Asian? A college professor once asked me if I was from Samoa.
For those of you who don’t know anything about the Philippines… Well… I am not really going to use this blog post to either propagate any stereotypes or give you boring information that you could just Google for yourself on, you know, Wikipedia.
This is more a story about Yoshinoya.
For those of you who don’t remember, Yoshinoya was a regular location for the Top 8 Magic podcast in the early years. Back in 2006 or so BDM and I would walk about twenty blocks up from the then-Top 8 Magic offices (near the then-site of Neutral Ground), maybe end a long evening of chatting plus jackhammers and car traffic with a late-nite double dinner at the Times Square Yoshinoya. These days BDM refuses to go there (something about a cockroach the size of the palm of your hand crawling up the wall, and this one time when we got literally gas-attacked by some weirdo with — you know — a gas can). However I never held it against “the Yosh” and continue to eat there, albeit not very often; admittedly.
* Bella recently convinced Clark to have lunch at Yoshinoya by claiming it was a Super Mario Brothers-themed restaurant (it isn’t). He was disappointed at the absence of egg-eating dinosaurs and refused to eat his lunch in protest.
Yoshinoya is ostensibly a Japanese restaurant. They basically serve bowls of rice with some kind of meat (beef or chicken), soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, maybe some pickled ginger. It is also just a restaurant in New York City, which means that in addition to the Japanese staff, there are Hispanic (probably Mexican) people working the counter as well.
Remember when I said I am Filipino?
I don’t know what that means to you, but it might be interesting to think about what it means to one of the two most common kinds of Yoshinoya servers:
Every time I get a Japanese server, she gives me a fork.
Every time I get a Mexican one, she gives me chopsticks.