Entries from February 2011 ↓

The Best Thing I Ever Owned

It’s hard to explain how much I love my Nintendo Wii.

My parents actually won it in a raffle last year, but (unsurprisingly) did nothing with it but let it collect dust in the box, so for Christmas this past year, they shipped it to us (well, ostensibly Bella and Clark). So there you have it, for the past two months or so I am (that is, we Floreses are) the proud owner[s] of a Nintendo Wii.

“Blah blah, just another video game system, blah blah.”

Despite being a hardcore gamer, as “definitions” go, I have not been much for video games since maybe the early 1990s. I mean in 1992 I was a fierce Street Fighter II competitor (albeit my Dragon Punch was inconsistent from the right), but since I got into Magic seriously in the mid-1990s, I have focused most of my gaming energies in that direction… Almost no video games for the past… can it really be 17 years?


I mean I will still game LEGO Batman with Bella or help Clark with his StoryLand adventures or whatever, but not for myself, for my own focus. To wit, I was the worst Kart player in our group in the 1990s, whereas before Magic, I was one of the best Street Fighters.

So a decade and more later… Enter the Nintendo Wii.

When these things first came out a couple of years ago, my friend Drew Nolasco (newest member of WotC R&D, but then working full time at Top 8 Magic) was telling me that the Wii was changing the face of video gaming. It was a platform not to reinforce the addictions of hardcore gamers like ourselves, but “would get grandmas playing Nintendo” … at least that’s what Drew predicted.

And true to form, since seeing how I and my family have been using her Christmas present, my mommy (herself a grandma and former owner of an essentially unused one) has elected to re-Wii.

So from the one hand, she shipped something she wasn’t using, and now has to go buy a new one; from the other, I am the owner of a used video game system… that I have declared to be the best thing I have ever owned.

Okay, so why is the Wii so awesome?

Though I am a great lover of Mario Kart from my college days (YT, TunaHwa, and altran would play Mario Kart Wii and Goldeneye on altran’s N64 when we needed a break between playlets sessions… I was playing maybe 50 hours of Magic a week back in 1997 or 1998). So yes, I Kart with the kids, which is made fun by these wheels that they let you plug your controller into.

A Kart controller.

But that’s not why the Wii is so awesome for me.

First of all, we get a lot of mileage out of our Netflix subscription.

I am toying with the idea of just canceling our cable. For what we spend on cable tv per year, we can basically buy another Mac Air (ever think about it that way?), or an iPad… Which based on our Netflix subscription (a paltry $5 a month), plus Hulu (free), we would be getting a better ROI. The down side is that much of our tv consumption is premium (Dexter, Entourage, upcoming Game of Thrones and so forth), so @craftyK is currently putting on the objections.

That said, I have mentioned how much I like Spartacus a couple of times, and since I don’t actually subscribe to the premium channel Starz, I only get to watch Spartacus thanks to my Netflix subscription… which I run through the Wii, onto my tv. Yes, it is kind of strange using a video game system as a proxy Internet interface for an online streaming service that approximates television, which is then piped back through the television as the UI… But long story short, I like me some Spartacus: Gods of the Arena; and I like being able to watch it from the couch rather than the desk.

The Wii lets you watch tv like Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, through the Internet, using your tv. Confusing, I know.

The other reason I like the Wii is the Wii Fit. Right before I started writing this blog post I did an hour of yoga on the Wii and feel great! (Actually, it inspired me to post this post.)

And unlike using a yoga video or phoning it in at the gym, the Wii Fit can actually critique your form! The Wii Fit knows when you drop your other leg for stability on a difficult pose, and cautions you for being too jittery. It can even track your pace in free run mode (running while you change the channel and watch something else), which keys into our drive as gamers to get a better score and battle past our personal bests. When Bella first started studying karate seriously about a year ago, she impressed her instructor and everyone else with how long and confidently she can hold a bridge (the bridge is basically the perfect exercise, challenging every part of your body simultaneously… look it up); I tried to match what my five- or six-year-old daughter could do for 90 seconds or more and just ended up giving myself back spasms. Today I can effortlessly move from a Wii modified “bridge pose” into a “real” wrestler’s bridge and hold it for 30+ seconds. My personal goal is to eventually be able to beat Bella, who can hold a full bridge for over 3:30.

A bridge, sometimes called a “wheel pose” (obviously not Bella doing it)… This is harder, much harder, than it looks.

Modified “bridge pose” you do on the Wii. By practicing this, I have trained myself into being able to transition into a “real” bridge.

When I first got together with Katherine — going on ten years now, most of them joyous — I was almost 25 pounds lighter. In full dating mode, I was running maybe eight miles a day, and very mindful of my weight, diet, and ability to trick beautiful women into thinking I was cool, interesting, a decent prospect, whatever. But after successfully roping the optimal wife into my long-term clutches with a tiny band of platinum and what I can only assume is a magic shiny stone… Honestly, there aren’t any excuses. Even when I was awesome at running endurance with a sub-60 beats per minute resting heart rate, I was never flexible and was always hurting myself by pushing too hard at the gym without warming up. It’s amazing to me that basically a video game is putting me into a position of being more flexible than I was when I was ostensibly in much better shape.

And as far as new year’s blah blah blah goes, I’ve already dropped about six pounds while still hitting BonChon, Hill Country, etc. with my friends every week. Just from doing yoga, free running, and other fun exercises on the Wii. It’s actually amazing to me.

Really and truly the best thing I’ve ever owned.

I love mine.

Here’s a blatant affiliate ad for one:


PS – Deckade!

How to Use YouTube


How to use YouTube :: The top 100-ever cartoons and stuff :: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Death Note :: Ahsoka Tano’s new… um, lightaber :: … and How to Use YouTube

Ahsoka Tano, new costume, peek-a-boo and TWO FREAKING LIGHTSABERS

Having already figured out the strategy to be discussed in this blog post, I ended up happening on IGN’s list of the Top 100 animated programs of all time.

I don’t really visit IGN all that often any more, but I still have warm feelings RE: them from the days — more than ten years ago — that The Dojo made like $5,000 a month as an IGN affiliate.

Anyway: Their list.

IGN gets a lot right.

They have (spoilers!) The Simpsons as the best animated show of all time; they have Batman: The Animated Series as number two. That seems like they got the big stuff right!

Some stuff they got wrong, but it is mostly personal preference (i.e. I have good taste); for instance The Smurfs (terrible) is not better than M.A.S.K.

Though IGN tipped the hat to a lot of the great Disney afternoon cartoons, they missed Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, which was much better than some of the ones they mentioned (like the boring Tail Spin).

In any case, I mention the list because I am going to use it for inspiration; inspiration of what to watch of course! Here are some shows I am going to check out that I’ve never really thought to follow before:

  • Fullmetal Alchemist
  • Death Note
  • Naruto
  • Cowboy Bebop

Firestarter: Any more suggestions?

Plus, given how high they rated Neon Genesis Evangelion, I’ll probably go back to that. I have memories, still, of VHS tapes and how much better the Japanese subtitled eps of Neon Genesis Evangelion were than the English dubs back from the summer of 1999 (my first summer in New York). The old guard — altran, TunaHwa, and even Adrian Sullivan — working at The Dojo used to watch us some mecha.

But the title of this blog post is “How to Use YouTube” not “Some Top 100 List from IGN” … What’s up?

Recently I have been complaining about the new outfit on Ahsoka Tano (Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice on Star Wars: The Clone Wars). IRL friends who also happen to be Twitter friends like Teddy Card Game and Luis Not-Vargas have been commenting on the season and the costume change on Twitter with me. Why does Ahsoka suddenly have peek-a-boo boobs? Why does she have two lightsabers now?

Apparently I missed an ep or two… But it’s not like they explained the costume change. Whatever!

Luckily, I could find the eps I missed pretty easily. Hooray!

It turns out that if you know what you’re looking for, you can find anything you want on YouTube. For example, I was looking for episode 10 of season three of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (according to Teddy Card Game the first appearance of Ahsoka’s peek-a-boo boobs), and found it instantaneously!

How insane is freaking YouTube?

I looked up Death Note episodes on Wikipedia to find the first one… Turns out it is on YouTube! (not a surprise)

I haven’t watched these yet; but I presume they are awesome. I’ve already been warned not to read any spoiler sites because the show is supposedly full of more twists and turns than the letter S.

I was amazed that I could find any episode from obscure, short-lived series like Visionaries (I used a half-remembered reference from age 11 or so in the big project I am writing and recording for SCG), as well as what I wanted from M.A.S.K. On this, the manufactured Hallmark holiday of romance, I can say for true: YouTube, I love you.


P.S. Don’t forget the Firestarter!
P.P.S. A pal would buy Deckade
P.P.P.S. Y’all know how mono-seriously I take lightsaber fightin’. Just sayin’. SHARE AND ENJOY (please)

The Long-Awaited Smoke and Guns Review

Concerning: Smoke and Guns by Kirsten Baldock and Fabio Moon

Smoke and Guns is like no other graphic novel.

It is almost like a Wes Anderson film. Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson say that when they make their movies, they try to describe a world that follows the rules they like, rather than the rules of the real world.

Smoke and Guns — without ever really coming out and saying so — kind of imagines a prohibition-esque world where beautiful girls sell cigarettes on the street… and lethally guard their street corners and local bar real estate with… you know… guns.

Kirsten Baldock was herself a real-life cigarette girl before writing this graphic novel… Though I assume the more conventional type rather than one of the heat-packing adventurettes depicted in this story; you get this sense of sisterhood and hidden knowledge and almost pride from reading the book that you might not expect given the plot.

Smoke and Guns follows the story of ambitious cigarette girl Scarlett who gets into trouble picking a fight with another merry (and murderous) band of cigarette girls, ends up hostess-ing the wrong party after she is disciplined by her madame-esque cigarette-hawking boss-lady, and ultimately excites a gang war. She is not so much the hero as the protagonist for no other reason than the story mostly follows her. I mean she has a really big chip on her shoulder and I think you want to cheer for her in the same way that you want to cheer for Tony Soprano versus any of the other dirtbags and murderers who happen to share screen-time with him. Beautiful? Yes. Nice? Not so much. You get the feeling that Scarlett has everything coming to her, but she has enough Indiana Jones to her that you don’t care.

Pretty girl, pretty girls, cigarettes, turf war… that’s it?

If it sounds like a thoroughly superficial story… It is.

Yet it’s freaking great!

Smoke and Guns moves with a rare velocity in modern comics. Fabio Moon’s visual storytelling can flow from frame-by-frame, panel-by-panel description of a single cigarette being lit, to ice cold ultra-violence, gun-play, and grenades lobbed between nubile cancer-peddlers. The story tries very hard to be crass — cigarette girls dressing up as everything from sexy nurses to Chun-Li from Street Fighter — but it manages to be demeaning… never. Really never. The book is so overloaded with girl power, the fact that the violent participants are also sexy kind of never comes up.

In that sense, it is a storytelling triumph.

Of course I found this indie book because of Fabio Moon, previously mentioned in my Ursula review. Smoke and Guns was Moon’s first work without his brother Gabriel Ba; and it is well worth the look.

While no one is going to mistake this quick read for Watchmen, Smoke and Guns really does have something unique going for it. It is one of my favorite graphic novels, I read it several times a year, and love almost every page (the Chun-Li stuff is sadly more cheddar than cheesecake).

You can get it for a whopping $1.49 on Amazon 🙂


Almost Missed Bonehoard


Bonehoard :: Lhurgoyf :: Inevitability
TDC Heat :: Sword of Feast and Famine :: … and Bonehoard


I can’t believe I missed this one when initially, especially given my history.

Bonehoard is almost strictly better than a card that I considered a bomb in previous years, Lhurgoyf.

I played Lhurgoyf in my 1998 Northeast Regionals deck, TDC Heat (you may remember this deck from the pre-Psylum version of The Dojo, or perhaps from my writeup of Lord of Extinction two years ago). I think I testedmore for that Regionals than almost any other tournament I’ve ever played. The big decks at the time were Deadguy Red, Tradewind Rider decks, and Mono-Blue Control. TDC Heat, with its islandwalking River Boas, was extraordinarily effective against the Blue decks. Against the Red ones,  your creatures were simply better than theirs, you had Uktabi Orangutan to smash Cursed Scroll, and would trade one-for-one with everything else. Then, as the dust cleared, you would untap with a gigantic Lhurgoyf. Rawr.

TDC Heat

4 Giant Growth
4 Granger Guildmage
4 Jolrael’s Centaur
3 Lhurgoyf
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Muscle Sliver
4 Quirion Ranger
4 River Boa
3 Uktabi Orangutan

2 Fireball
4 Incinerate

9 Forest
2 Karplusan Forest
3 Mountain
4 Mountain Valley
2 Undiscovered Paradise

2 Simoon
4 Tranquil Domain
1 Uktabi Orangutan
2 Boil
3 Dwarven Miner
3 Pyroblast

Bonehoard, as I said, is almost strictly better than Lhurgoyf. For four mana, you tap for a [potentially] huge X/X… just one tiny toughness off of Lhurgoyf. The differences are:

  • Bonehoard’s Living Weapon is Black, not Green. Black creatures don’t die to Doom Blade, and therefore are more resilient than Green creatures, all other things held equal.
  • You don’t stop at just one.

I honestly don’t know how I missed this one. Not only is Bonehoard the stones by itself, but you can move it onto an evasion creature for a mere two mana. You can not just play — but continue to play — the attrition game. One problem with Lhurgoyf was that as big and powerful as it could be — including after a Wrath of God against a control player — it was still just one creature. Someone might kill it. You might be able to kill the Living Weapon, but the next guy, and the Next guy, and the NEXT guy after that would all be able to hit as hard.

Also, you might kill in one with Inkmoth Nexus 🙂

So… Bonehoard or Sword of Feast and Famine?

I am pretty sure — especially given Sword of Feast and Famine’s performance in Paris this week — that the latest Sword is the higher ranking piece of Mirrodin Besieged equipment, but there will probably be decks that want to play lots of Bonehoards. I can envision some future incarnation of Green or White creatures tapping and trading and playing Bonehoard after Bonehoard. “Just” creature elimination is not going to be able to deal with these beyond the Living Weapon. Even a puny Birds of Paradise will go lethal very quickly, given the right conditions.




Currently Reading: The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, Book 5)
Even Better Book: Michael J. Flores Deckade: 10 Years of Magic: The Gathering Strategy and Commentary (no shipping!)

DC Showcase: Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam

I have been writing so much recently.

I don’t know if you understand what “so much” is, exactly. Almost all of it is hardcore Magic stuff (which is why I have been updating this blog a bit less, and a bit less about Magic, of recent). But “so much” is as much as 12,000 words in a day. Do you know how much 12,000 words is? It’s between six and eight Premium Magic articles. In a day.

Big brags, I know.

The weird thing is that so much of it is blending together. Today when I was polishing off Flores Friday, and then transitioning back into my larger project, I was getting confused where “Ten Rules of Reaction” ended and “One Rule: What Makes a Deck?” began, versus my longer project, versus my next project, which I am planning with BDM.

The amazing thing? I can’t believe how some of it is pretty good! 🙂

Okay, enough big brags.

Today I was watching DC Showcase: Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam on Netflix streaming. I don’t know if I’ve said a lot about Netflix streaming, but it is about the best five bucks you can spend per month. Anyway, I found this stream-able video, which actually includes four shorter animated films, all directed by the excellent Joaquim Dos Santos.

The Superman/Shazam! section is the longest of the four at 22 minutes.

I was a bit puzzled by this one. Its visual style is very reminiscent of Joshua Middleton. Middleton was the artist on a Superman/Shazam! limited series a few years back. If memory serves, production on “NYX” was so slow, Middleton’s Marvel exclusive ran out and he signed an exclusive with DC.

In case you don’t know who Joshua Middleton is, he is maybe the best artist in comics. I mean there are a lot of great artists in comics, but there is only one that my wife (who is not a comics fan, but who has to put up with my thousands of comics and graphic novels, and also has a fine eye for aesthetics) says is the best, and that is Middleton. Also, traditionally writers get top billing in comics credits, but when Middleton collaborated on “NYX” with Joe Quesada (the writer of the project, one of the biggest names in the game as the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, and himself an accomplished illustrator), it was Middleton who got top billing. This is a pretty famous spread from “NYX”, colored and not:

Anyway, I found the visual style reminiscent of Middleton, which seemed appropriate based on the existence of the aforementioned limited series… which was a completely different story. This “makes sense” in that earlier DC direct-to-DVD releases aped the styles of the original comics artists (Ed McGuinness on Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Darwyn Cooke on New Frontier, and so on).

I have very little so say about this longest of the four other than that. It was only pretty good.

The next up was DC Showcase: The Spectre, which was stone awesome.

I was pretty surprised because the Spectre is not exactly one of my favorite characters, but the visual style was unbelievably cool. Despite being an animated short film, this chapter used a dramatic 1970s-esque noir visual style… It could have been Grindhouse or shot on a super 8.

The Spectre is a bit different than in the comic books, often animating stuff — from special effects dummies to flying cars — to take out villains. In the (spoilers!) final scene, Spectre kills Alyssa Milano’s (!) character in a tornado of paper cuts, animating hundreds of hundred dollar bills in a gruesome finale.

Awesome segment, up to and including the blacksploitation-esque music running during the closing credits.

DC Showcase: Green Arrow was also pretty fun. Another 12 minute, action-oriented short film, this time starring — you guessed it — Green Arrow.

This ep is just Green Arrow at an airport, stumbling onto an assassination attempt of a ten-year-old princess. It is dominated by tongue-in-cheek puns, so like LSV would like it.

(Stuck in traffic) “Come on! The arrow’s green!”

(Later) “Green light!”

In the final scene, an embattled Green Arrow is about to be defeated by a final enemy after taking down the ostensible End Boss, but is saved by longtime love, Black Canary. He proposes to her on the spot, and his new friend, the princess encourages Black Canary to say yes, because “Every queen needs a consort.”

“Yes,” concludes Green Arrow. “Every Queen does.”

I told you it was pun-ny! Green Arrow’s civilian name is Oliver Queen.

Finally is DC Showcase: Jonah Hex. I was pretty surprised they ended with this one. Obviously Superman is the most popular and starting with him makes sense. I would think that Green Arrow and Black Canary would be the second most popular; whereas I don’t give a hang about Spectre (which ended up stone awesome!) or Jonah Hex, who is a disfigured gunfighter. Why end with Jonah Hex?

Well, they pulled out all the stops on this 12-minute segment. The Jonah Hex ep included Thomas Jane (“Hung”) as Jonah Hex; Linda Hamilton (Terminator series) as a sexy, villainous, madam; and Michelle Trachtenberg (“Buffy: The Vampire Slayer” and “Gossip Girl”) as a barmaid / snitch. Basically, an unreal cast for such a seemingly small — 12-minute — project.

I loved the Jonah Hex segment as well, which is a combination of Old West prostitution and vicious fighting. In one particularly gruesome exchange, Hex hurls a thug face-first into scalding metal, scarring his face (a mirror of Jonah’s own disfigured visage). I physically winced at how horrible that would be for the character… But then realized there was no way he was getting out of this fight.

As a whole, the four were outstanding, and I am going to re-watch them again this week, probably.


Superman/Shazam: The Return of Black Adam (DC Showcase) on Amazon
Currently Reading: The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, Book 5)
please Please PLEASE: Michael J. Flores Deckade: 10 Years of Magic: The Gathering Strategy and Commentary (eBook on Amazon)

TV, Top Chef, Stuff Like That

So there is more on television than there… was a few weeks ago.

I have been watching more Netflix streaming — specifically burning through Spartacus and Spartacus the past couple of weeks — but all that deserves its own blog post (or more than one, probably). For now I’ll concentrate on regular tee vee stuff.


“Gossip Girl” is back!

I love “Gossip Girl”!

I love Blake Lively!

I loved Blake Lively before you ever heard of her!

Everyone knows all this!

Seriously, Lilly is a disaster. Thea Steele says you almost have to forget everything Lilly has ever done to watch any episode of “Gossip Gir”l. I think she might be a worse mother than January Jones on “Mad Men”.

Did I mention I love “Gossip Girl”?

I think there might be an inevitable end game where Dan ends up bumping up against Blair… I mean they are almost the only main cast members who haven’t hooked up with each other.


“V” has been okay. I hope it keeps going is all I can say… The first hand full of eps this season have been weaker than the first couple of eps last season, &c.

I have been enjoying “White Collar” immensely. The USA shows are lovable in general, and “White Collar” is basically about a well dressed guy who runs mono-shenanigans for a living.



“Top Chef” was a disaster for the good guys this week.

Spoilers! in case you didn’t see it coming…

I had two horses amongst the Top Chefs (out of four), and lost the win to Antonia (Megan’s only remaining chef).

Then, in the bottom three, PNaps had two horses there; both of whom prepared worse dishes than Tre. As far as I could tell, Mike Isabella — who is an Italian American chef — completely botched his pasta, and Filipino Dale made a dish “he makes for his girlfriend” that would keep him from ever getting laid… Tre on the other hand cut his vegetables too thick or something.


  1. Phil Napoli: 1
  2. YT: 5
  3. Luis Neiman: 15
  4. Megan Holland: 29


Thursday is like a renaissance of television. “30 Rock” has had two eps this season that rival the best episodes ever, and this week’s “Community” — centered around Dungeons & Dragons — was absolutely charming (especially for gamers like YT). But the one show that I look forward to the most is the returning “Parks and Recreation”.

I have been watching a lot of “Parks and Recreation” on Netflix streaming while I have been working on my big upcoming project for Star City Games. Sister City from last season is simply one of the funniest half hours of television you could ever watch… But I couldn’t find a link to embed. So instead, here is last night’s “Community” … Which any fan of The Lord of the Rings movies (or most gamers) will appreciate:

A Dark Elf.


I have to catch up on “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. I have basically every ep from this season on DVR but have only watched maybe two or three. I fault the kids, who have vastly diversified their limited tee vee time across more varied (but not interesting to me) interests. A lot of the commercials and teasers have looked absolutely awesome.

“Young Justice” returned to form this week! Last week was only okay, and I didn’t love the week before, but this week’s Schooled was very nice. It featured the first training session with Black Canary (one of my favorite characters in the DC Universe) teaching the kids how to fight. Canary opened up with this nugget of wisdom (before being hit on by Kid Flash):

“Combat is about controlling conflict — putting the battle on your terms. You should always be acting, never reacting.” -Black Canary

I am 100% stealing that for some future Magic article on mindset (surprising, I know).

Last, “Ben Ten: Ultimate Alien” returned tonight with a pretty decent ep. Not the best Ben Ten effort, not by a wide margin, but still a good fight with an always welcome short cameo by Azmuth. I like how, even though Ben has to use all different new aliens for toy sales purposes, he is more adept with some of the older models (or variations), and can close out basically any opponent. Per usual Kevin evolves in terms of model just a little bit as he has with every season… Still 100% recognizable, but with big Popeye forearms in his “stone” mode this week. As humans we love a mixture of the familiar and variation, and little tweaks like Kevin’s visuals offer just that.

It’s possible I will be able to watch the new Spartacus: Gods of the Arena later tonight, but probably not. It’s probably the best show on television right now.


Who knows?


I’m a bit behind on some of the premium cable shows, but have been religious with “Episodes” — the new Matt LeBlanc vehicle on Showtime. Very good… funny… and eye-opening, kind of like the first season of “30 Rock” alongside “Studio 60 and the Sunset Strip” (but a slightly different subject matter, obviously).

That’s it for this update.


Currently Reading: The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, Book 5)
Be a pal and buy: Deckade