Entries Tagged 'Writing' ↓

Desperate Ravings #6 … This Homework is BANANAS!

Welcome my friends to the penultimate episode of Desperate Ravings.

I hope you have enjoyed the story so far, and invite you to finish out today’s and tomorrow’s assignments.

By this point most of you know what is what, but for those of you who are just joining us, you can check out any ep marked Depserate Ravings, or read the explanations from Episode 1 or Episode 5 to get your bearings.

Now that we are past the point of daily $10 bribes, I feel confident in revealing the two hand-copying exercises I love the most. Longtime readers of my greater Magic writing have probably encountered both already.

The first one of these two is from Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.

Josh Ravitz and I, working together at the time, heard of the 1973 novel, unanimously elected to the Pulitzer Prize by the three-person novel-selecting committee… with the award later overturned by the other eleven members of the Pulitzer illuminati. No award was given out that year.

Gravity’s Rainbow did earn the 1974 National Book Award… But Pynchon chose to neither acknowledge nor accept it. He has been depicted as a secretive recluse, you know, like on The Simpsons.

I would guess none of my readers actually visit seemoretube

In the novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell, Susanna Clarke paints this wonderful idea, when one of the titular wizards distills the idea of madness itself into a vial, so that he can take a few drops when he wants to do magic, to touch madness itself. As a writer this is an incredibly attractive idea for me. I hope that exploring this passage from Gravity’s Rainbow will give you the chance to touch on the same scary and exciting experience, even for a moment:

With a clattering of chairs, upended shell cases, benches, and ottomans, Pirate’s mob gather at the shores of the great refectory table, a southern island well across a tropic or two from chill Corydon Throsp’s mediaeval fantasies, crowded now over the swirling dark grain of its walnut uplands with banana omelets, banana sandwiches, banana casseroles, mashed bananas molded into the shape of a British lion rampant, blended with eggs into batter for French toast, squeezed out a pastry nozzle across the quivering creamy reaches of a banana blancmange to spell out the words C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre (attributed to a French observer during the Charge of the Light Brigade) which Pirate has appropriated as his motto … tall cruets of pale banana syrup to pour oozing over banana waffles, a giant glazed crock where diced bananas have been fermenting since the summer with wild honey and muscat raisins, up out of which, this winter morning, one now dips foam mugsfull of banana mead … banana croissants and banana kreplach, and banana oatmeal and banana jam and banana bread, and bananas flamed in ancient brandy Pirate brought back last year from a cellar in the Pyrenees also containing a clandestine radio transmitter …

Yes. That’s pretty much one run-on sentence. One wonderful run-on sentence. No. Josh and I never finished the book.

What to Do Next:

  1. Copy down the above passage from Gravity’s Rainbow, by hand and in triplicate.
  2. Upload it to the Desperate Ravings HOMEWORK page on Facebook, separately known as http://on.fb.me/DesperateRavings and http://facebook.com/groups/DesperateRavings

The daily prizes ended yesterday…

But for at least three lucky Desperate Ravings readers, Day Five was the most important one of all!

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from GatheringMagic: Eric Blanc

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from LegitMTG: Avery Garon

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from ManaDeprived: Devin Brown

Congratulations to Eric, Avery, and Devin on their $10 gift certificates from our generous sponsors!

And get to it every one — You have until June 12 to finish all seven Desperate Ravings assignments and qualify to win one of our four big prizes (three $50 gift certificates or a one-hour call from YT)… Plus the unprecedented long-term awesome sauce of Desperate Ravings – Flashback. Bring it!


Thanks for visiting our Desperate Ravings sponsors:

So Much Depends Upon… Desperate Ravings #5

Here’s What I’ve Got: Desperate Ravings Assignment #5

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Here’s What It’ll Do for You:
Considered a masterwork of 20th Century imagist poetry, “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams — probably even more than Rachel Maddow’s Drift selection from yesterday is a great example of writing that engages your visual imagination.

Here’s What I Want You to Do Next:

In case you are just joining us, Desperate Ravings is a collaboration between myself and the good people at GatheringMagic, LegitMTG, and ManaDeprived. Aspiring writers (or just contest participants) are given passages each day of Desperate Ravings to copy and upload to the aforementioned Facebook group. For each of the first five days — today being the fifth and last — our sponsors select a single winner of a $10 gift certificate. For example, here are yesterday’s winners:

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from GatheringMagic: Marcus Bastian Hensing

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from LegitMTG: Jarrod Keith Williams

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from ManaDeprived: Bernhard Zander

The thinking is that anyone who drives himself — or herself — to do all seven assignments, consecutively, will have shown the shoulder-to-the-grindstone commitment necessary to become a consistent producer of content for one of the above sites.

Simultaneously, the thinking is that copying down some of the great passages selected by Desperate Ravings will help aspiring writers / contest participants to internalize that elusive turn of phrase that makes for engaging or entertaining writing.

… Plus there’s the, you know, prizes!

In addition to the 3×5 daily prizes from GatheringMagic, LegitMTG, and ManaDeprived, anyone who finishes all seven assignments by June 12, 2012 (ten days total to finish seven assignments) may qualify for…

  • One $50 gift certificate from GatheringMagic
  • One $50 gift certificate from LegitMTG
  • One $50 gift certificate from ManaDeprived, or
  • A one-hour coaching call from Yours Truly!

… Plus consideration for actual feature writing gigs at the sponsor sites (though we’ll shake all that out in the second phase, Desperate Ravings – Flashback).

So… If you’re late to the party, it’s okay!

Do today’s assignment and you might just get lucky on Day Five. You’ve still got until June 12 to get all of them in!

Good luck and have fun.


Please visit the Desperate Ravings sponsors:

Desperate Ravings #4 – Digital Jeet Kun Do

I was surprised at the lukewarm (and perhaps “lukewarm” is generous) reactions to yesterday’s selection from Thinking, Fast and Slow. It so happens that I am reading Thinking, Fast and Slow right now and I pretty actively try to highlight and add from stuff that I am reading at any time.

That was half, anyway. Some readers commented that they didn’t love Kahneman’s prose. I actually thought it was well written, but that wasn’t really why I picked it. Kahneman, in this segment, uses simple and very clear language. He describes a fairly complex sequence… but I think all of us got it, and more than that, believed it.

As for the content? It kind of reminded me of this old Matt Sperling comic.

Speaking of stuff I read recently, these are the first two paragraphs from Rachel Maddow’s excellent Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power:

Homework #4!

IN THE LITTLE TOWN WHERE I LIVE IN HAPSHIRE COUNTY, Massachusetts, we now have a “Public Safety Complex” around the corner from what used to be our hokey Andy Griffith-esque fire station. In the cascade of post-9/11 Homeland Security money in the first term of the George W. Bush administration, our town’s share of the loot bought us a new fire truck — one that turned out to be a few feet longer than the garage where the town kept our old fire truck. So then we got some more Homeland money to build something big enough to house the new truck. In homage to the origin of the funding, the local auto detailer airbrushed on the side of the new truck a patriotic tableau of a billowing flaglike barrier, a really big bald eagle, and the burning World Trade Center towers.

The American taxpayers’ investment in my town’s security didn’t stop at the new safety complex. I can see further fruit of those Homeland dollars just beyond my neighbor’s back fence. While most of us in town depend on well water, there are a few houses that for the past decade or so have been hooked up to a municipal water supply. And when I say “a few,” I mean few: I think there are seven houses on municipal water. Around the time we got our awesome giant new fire truck, we also got a serious security upgrade to that town water system. Its tiny pump house is about the size of two phone booths and accessible by a dirt driveway behind my neighbor’s back lot. Or at least it used to be. The entire half-acre parcel of land around that pump house is now ringed by an eight-foot-tall chain-link fence topped with barbed wire, and fronted with a motion-sensitive electronically controlled motorized gate. On our side of town we call it “Little Guantanamo.” Mostly it’s funny, but there is some neighborly consternation over how frowsy Little Guantanamo gets every summer. Even though it’s town-owned land, access to Little Guantanamo is apparently above the security clearance of the guy paid to mow and brush-hog. Right up to the fence, it’s my neighbor’s land and they keep everything trim and tidy. But inside that fence, the grass gets eye-high. It’s going feral in there.

I love Maddow’s diction, humor, combination of simple and unusual words, and sense of the bizarre. But what she does really well in this segment is to engage your visual imagination. You can see the fire truck sticking out of the too-small garage; the flames and towers detailed, the little pump station, couched and hidden behind too-tall “frowzy” grass.

Anyway… same stuff as the last three days!

  1. Copy down the assignment, by hand and in triplicate
  2. Upload to http://facebook.com/groups/DesperateRavings
  3. (maybe) topdeck some fabulous prizes!

Note that address change – Facebook has upgraded our HOMEWORK page to http://facebook.com/groups/DesperateRavings!

Yesterday’s fabulous winners:

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from GatheringMagic: Tony Merriam

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from LegitMTG: Wil Rosario

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from ManaDeprived: Armando Lope


A Note on Homework and Prizes:
Just because you miss a day or caught on a little late doesn’t mean you can’t participate! I designed Desperate Ravings to give you 2-3 extra days to get all the homework in and potentially qualify for one of the four big prizes. Remember – We are giving away three $50 gift certificates next week to those who complete all seven assignments!

Desperate Ravings would not be possible without our generous sponsors.

Desperate Ravings #3 – Rhymes and Reasons

So how did you like yesterday’s assignment?

Like I said, that one from A Shropshire Lad is one of my favorite poems ever… And all I did in college (other than play 50 hours of Magic per week) was read poems (mostly). Remember how I said to pay attention to your punctuation? The genius of Housman’s poem is how — via just a couple of English single-quotes — he shifts the speaker one-line-per-stanza in order to give us the overall experience of a surprisingly unsuccessful seduction.

In case you missed it, me and Bella reading, again:

(more on this… someday)

While the content was from my perspective super fun, the more important lesson for the day was one of form, and using punctuation and pattern in order to shift emphasis and uncover meaning in the text. Ever hear the phrase “it’s not what you said, but how you said it”? How you present an idea — what tools you use, what format or technique — can be the difference between just another boring “play my awesome deck list” that no one reads and a line-in-the-sand format-breaker that changes the composition of the next GP’s Top 8…

… Even though they might be the same deck list!

One of the reasons I make you write these exercises out by hand (rather than typing, or worse, copy and paste) is that the process forces you to slow down and absorb passages — both what is written and how they are written — more closely in order to graft the skills of a Stefani or A Shropshire Lad onto your very  spine.

Here’s a grammatical time bomb I use fairly often: repeat, Repeat, REPEAT.

I am sure you’ve seen some variation on that three-beat in my work in the past. I have come to lean on that capitalization progression something like every other week. I like how it looks.

Flores Fact:
I stole it from faster / Faster / FASTER in the letter column of an old issue of The Flash comics. True story.

Now on the subject of form, if you want to get a message to stick, learning to add a little poetry to your prose is an effective vector to covert hypnotism. I do a fair amount of not only caps / Caps / CAPS but alliteration and internal rhyme in order to increase the convincingness of my various articles and blog posts.

But don’t take my word for it!

Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman, in his best-selling Thinking, Fast and Slow cited a stunning study thusly:

“… Put your ideas in verse if you can; they will be more likely to be taken as truth. Participants in a much cited experiment read dozens of unfamiliar aphorisms, such as: Woes unite foes. / Little strokes will tumble great oaks. / A fault confessed is half redressed.

“Other students read some of the same proverbs transformed into nonrhyming versions: Woes unite enemies. / Little strokes will tumble great trees. / A fault admitted is half redressed.

“The aphorisms were judged more insightful when they rhymed than when they did not.”

Now you know why we marketers love those jingles 🙂

Today’s assignment comes from a different, in my mind surprising and delectible, section of Thinking, Fast and Slow:

Assignment #3!

In one of the most famous experiments in the history of psychology, Walter Mischel and his students exposed four-year-old children to a cruel dilemma. They were given a choice between a small reward (one Oreo), which they could have at any time, or a larger reward (two cookies) for which they had to wait 15 minutes under difficult conditions. They were to remain alone in a room, facing a desk with two objects: a single cookie and a bell that the child could ring at any time to call in the experimenter and receive the one cookie. As the experiment was described: “There were no toys, books, pictures, or other potentially distracting items in the room. The experimenter left the room and did not return until 15 min had passed or the child had rung the bell, eaten the rewards, stood up, or shown any signs of distress.”

The children were watched through a one-way mirror, and the film that shows their behavior during the waiting time always has the audience roaring in laughter. About half the children managed the feat of waiting for 15 minutes, mainly by keeping their attention away from the tempting reward. Ten or fifteen years later, a large gap had opened between those who had resisted temptation and those who had not. The resisters had higher measures of executive control in cognitive tasks, and especially the ability to reallocate their attention effectively. As young adults they were less likely to take drugs. A significant difference in intellectual aptitude emerged: the children who had shown more self-control as four-year-olds had substantially higher scores on tests of intelligence.

Per previous, just:

1) Copy down the above, by hand and in triplicate, and
2) Upload your efforts to the Desperate Ravings HOMEWORK page

… To improve your game and qualify for fabulous prizes!

Why Am I Doing This Again?

I just said “fabulous prizes” didn’t I?

Each of the first five days of Desperate Ravings comes with it three generous prizes from our sponsors, GatheringMagic, LegitMTG, and ManaDeprived.

Yesterday’s big winners:

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from GatheringMagic: Michael Marsala

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from LegitMTG: Susan Zell

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from ManaDeprived: Carlos Gutierrez

Carlos, Susan, and Michael were chosen by KYT, Medina, and The Stybs for their efforts on the Desperate Ravings HOMEWORK page (my homework is already uploaded there!).

Want to join the growing legion of winners (and topdeck the communication skills of a Nobel laureate while you’re at it)? You know what to do.


A Note on Homework and Prizes:
Just because you miss a day or caught on a little late doesn’t mean you can’t participate! I designed Desperate Ravings to give you 2-3 extra days to get all the homework in and potentially qualify for one of the four big prizes. Remember – We are giving away three $50 gift certificates next week to those who complete all seven assignments!

Desperate Ravings would not be possible without our generous sponsors.

Desperate Ravings #2 – The Pickup Artist of 1896

Once upon a time I held the respect of Isabella Jane Hill Flores.

She had, at an early age, decided she was going to be Girl Iron-Man and has, admirably I think, done a good job of focusing on math and science and disciplined thinking and strategy… at least for an eight-year-old.

… Once upon a time…

Today if you ask her which parent she thinks is smarter, me (the primary breadwinner) or her mommy (the infectious, more accessible @BastardStory) she will laugh at you.

“Mommy has a Masters Degree in Physics,” Bella will declare, and with contempt. “Daddy studied poems. Poems!”

You see, I had a strategy backfire a couple of years ago. Mommy was always there, kind, and focused primarily on taking care of the kids. They loved — and of course still love — her, but I didn’t feel they were showing her sufficient awe (Katherine really is one of the most impressive persons I know). So I informed my Girl Iron-Man-to-be which of us had the full-ride advanced degree in Physics (though she went into publishing and later conventional advertising pre-full-time mommy); and which of us studied poems. Poems!

I got it half-right. At least she now respects mommy.

So on the subject of poems, longtime readers know that in the years before FiveWithFlores, my online handle was madmanpoet. Paul Jordan (and I would guess relatively few others) have figured out that I stole that from the wonderful Dar Williams song Are You Out There.

But anyway, at the age of 18, freshly off my first national publication (in a poetry journal) I decided I was going to devote my college years to British poetry (Americans, in my 18-year-old estimation, couldn’t write). One of the poets I most liked was A.E. Housman; today’s assignment was a piece I fell in love with in the spring of 1994:

Today’s Assignment – The Pickup Artist of 1896

OH see how thick the goldcup flowers
  Are lying in field and lane,
With dandelions to tell the hours
  That never are told again.
Oh may I squire you round the meads        
  And pick you posies gay?
—’Twill do no harm to take my arm.
  ’You may, young man, you may.’
Ah, spring was sent for lass and lad,
  ’Tis now the blood runs gold,        
And man and maid had best be glad
  Before the world is old.
What flowers to-day may flower to-morrow,
  But never as good as new.
—Suppose I wound my arm right round—        
  ‘’Tis true, young man, ’tis true.’
Some lads there are, ’tis shame to say,
  That only court to thieve,
And once they bear the bloom away
  ’Tis little enough they leave.        
Then keep your heart for men like me
  And safe from trustless chaps.
My love is true and all for you.
  ‘Perhaps, young man, perhaps.’
Oh, look in my eyes then, can you doubt?        
  —Why, ’tis a mile from town.
How green the grass is all about!
  We might as well sit down.
—Ah, life, what is it but a flower?
  Why must true lovers sigh?        
Be kind, have pity, my own, my pretty,—
  ‘Good-bye, young man, good-bye.’

-from A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman

Please make sure to pay attention to your spacing and punctuation in this one; it’s both tricky and rewarding.

Here is a short, two-minute, recording of YT & Bella that illustrates just why:

Same deal as yesterday!

1) Copy today’s assignment, by hand, and in triplicate.
2) Upload to on.fb.me/DesperateRavings
3) Like this post!
4) Become eligible for fabulous prizes!

On the subject of “fabulous prizes” here are yesterday’s winners —

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from GatheringMagic: Sonja Boschman

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from LegitMTG: David Weitz

The winner of a $10 gift certificate from ManaDeprived: Shaun Louis Korb

The Story So Far…
In order to qualify for those prizes, Sonja, David, and Shaun wrote out a short segment from Gwen Stefani’s Early Winter and uploaded their work to the Desperate Ravings HOMEWORK page:


Why do you act so stupid?


You know that I’m always right.

(in case you were wondering my homework for today has been up there for hours!)

The Gwen segment perfectly encapsulates how I feel about the comments from some — especially combative — commenters and forum denizens. It is important if you are going to write down your thoughts and present them to large groups of people — and certainly if you expect to be paid for them — that you can develop some sense of confidence (that your words are worthy of publication, and to be appreciated by others), and a bit of a thick skin (haters gonna hate).

I love a lot about Gwen, but really, really, thank her for the above fourteen words.

Secondly, one of the classic openings in the Magic writing game is the asking of a question. To wit:

I wanted to prime the Desperate Ravings pump with a super simple one, and one of the best — and reminiscent of likely the absolute most influential and important articles — despite its being an easy and simple one to start us off right… Even if the question itself (“why…”) wasn’t a particularly useful one.

If you think you’re late to the game — that’s okay! You might have missed the first day’s $10 gift certificates, but you have until June 13 to complete all seven Desperate Ravings assignments in order to qualify for one of the big prizes.

The Desperate Ravings Calendar:

  • June 4, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #1, $30 in gift certificates went to Sonja, David, and Shaun!
  • June 5, 2012 – (today) Desperate Ravings assignment #2, $30 in gift certificates to Like-ers and contest participants
  • June 6, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #3, $30 in gift certificates to Like-ers and contest participants
  • June 7, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #4, $30 in gift certificates to Like-ers and contest participants
  • June 8, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #5, $30 in gift certificates to Like-ers and contest participants
  • June 9, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #6
  • June 10, 2012 – Last Desperate Ravings assignment, #7
  • June 12, 2012 – Everything is due! Shortly thereafter we will finalize an additional $150 prizes, a personalized coaching call, and the possibility of Desperate Ravings – Flashback.

I hope you guys are having fun.


Desperate Ravings Facebook Page
Desperate Ravings Homework Page
All Desperate Ravings Posts on FiveWithFlores

Please remember to visit the Desperate Ravings Sponsors:

Desperate Ravings #1 – The First One’s Free!

Dear Friend,

Are you desperate?

Given perhaps to a ravings or so?

Or would you like a wider opportunity to express yourself, and share your ideas, to the greater Magic and gaming communities? Do you want to improve your communication skills or become a better writer? Or try your hand as a writer at all?



Have we got some hoops for you to jump through this week!

A month or so ago I was on the phone with Adam, “The Sybs” Styborski, puppet master and proprietor of GatherringMagic.com; Adam and I were chatting about the quality of content on GM and areas where it could improve. One thing that Adam pointed out — that has been a refrain even when talking about some of my favorite writers on certain bigger sites —

… Isn’t the quality of ideas themselves, or the passion behind those ideas, but the qualities that make for a good — and consistent — Magic columnist.

Now this got the gears in my head turning.

I grabbed Evan Erwin to make sure the Shadow Cabinet / Parliament of Trees in Roanoke, VA were okay with a small collaboration with my friends at some of the up-and-coming sites.

All clear!

Now not every subscriber and follower loved the videos I posted last week; certainly they were not my best work, but that was the point — they weren’t supposed to be. It might surprise some of you to learn that most of what I write and do ends up on the floor. I think that the only way that you can get good at something is by doing it over and over, and that’s what I try to do. I write as many as 8,000 or even 12,000 words in a day, but professionally publish less than 8,000 words per week, so you do the math.

Now to Geordie’s point, the essential something that can make an entertaining writer — in whatever niche — is that “turn of phrase” … not just whether you agree with him or he is always publishing cutting-edge deck technology.

I can’t do much in terms of kindling your The Fire or improving the substance or your ideas (only the process by which you form them), but I can pass on two things that can help make you — if you are interested — into a consistent and desirable Magic content generating machine: 1) That “turn of phrase”, and 2) Consistency!

Here’s the thing: If you go back and read The Ferrett’s essays on producing content for Star City Games back in the early- and mid-2000s, you will learn something… Consistency is more-or-less the most important thing Magic websites need.

“My favorite writer is, undoubtedly, me. I find me very easy to edit, and me always makes the deadlines that I ask him to. Furthermore, if I’m short on good articles, me can usually pull one together with very little notice. Plus, I hear me always speaks well of myself.”
-The Ferrett, 11/19/04

One-of articles — especially great ones — are (or at least can be) great… But they can also set expectations that, long run, are impossible for a site to maintain.

In the same 11/19/04 Ask the Editor, The Ferrett criticizes “guy who has few ideas, but wants money” … and decries in particular that “Pros tend to be the worst at this – but who can blame them? The winner of the last Pro Tour knows darned well that if he wrote ‘How 2 not Seck N Xtendud’ on toilet paper, his articles would still get more hits than 99% of the PTQ-grinding articles out there. I can’t really blame ’em, but turning them down can sometimes backfire.”

So how do we solve this issue?

Star City hasn’t got any shortage of guys and gals who can turn in that turn of phrase eight years later.

As @FloresFacts reminds us, I constantly add and jettison to my algorithm.

One of my strategies is to steal / add / approximate the prose styles of writers I admire by using a specific exercise; I am going to share some iterations of this exercise over the next seven days.

You — if you are interested in awesome prizes, and / or making a go of becoming a featured writer on one of our sponsoring sites (itself an awesome prize) — are going to do them!

Each day, I am going to put up a short piece of prose, poetry, or song. It will be awesome. You will copy it down BY HAND, three times, and upload your work to the Desperate Ravings Facebook HOMEWORK page.

There will be seven such exercises.

But because I am a kind slavemaster, you get ten days to complete all seven.

As the exercises for the most part aren’t easy, if you can complete all seven in this relatively short time frame, you will show — in my opinion anyway — some of that capacity for consistency that is essential in a featured Magic writer.

If you can do them all, you will not be able to avoid adding tools that will help you ask questions, craft descriptions, develop characters, and make arguments with more beautiful, horrifying, clear — or when necessary, obfuscating — turn of phrase.

Our Sponsors:

Like I said earlier in the post, this idea came out of a conversation I had with Adam. I haven’t had a chance to work with Adam on anything before (despite our both being longtime writers on The Mother Ship DailyMTG), and I am excited to do something special this week. Thanks to Adam and GatheringMagic for participating, and sponsoring!

A month or two back, Jonathan Medina had the idea of resurrecting Flores Rewards. Gavin Verhey is in R&D lockdown, and we haven’t had a Flores Rewards hoop to jump through in over a year (despite certain proprietor’s “promises”) … Desperate Ravings seemed pretty Flores Rewards-ish, and I knew Medina would be excited to participate. He even came up with the name!

KYT has proven himself one of the most enthusiastic young influencers in the Magic community over the past few years, and single-handedly rallied the entire country of Canada around his black-and-blue lightbulb. Most recently, ManaDeprived was rewarded with a PT win when their Alexander Hayne spiked Barcelona with his magical Miracles. KYT was the first person I wanted to include; he quickly ponied up the dough.

… What dough?

Desperate Ravings Fabulous Prizes:
There are at least $300 in fabulous prizes being awarded by our sponsors:
GatheringMagic / Cool Stuff, Inc.
LegitMTG (“what is LegitMTG?”)
ManaDeprived / Face to Face Games

… and one priceless one from YT!

Over the course of the next five days, each of these sites is going to give out a $10 gift certificate to a lucky reader who:

  • Likes the DesperateRavings exercise of the day, and / or
  • Completes the DesperateRavings exercise of the day and uploads their three pages on our Facebook HOMEWORK page.

So if I were you — and I were interested in getting a $10 gift certificate — I would upload early and often!

Need some practice? Go like this blog entry now!

Anyway, that is $30 in prizes for the next five days, or the first $150.

At the end of the line — on June 13, 2012 — we are going to assess everyone who has completed all seven assignments.

At that point we will hand out three $50 gift certificates among any cats who have done all seven.

In the unlikely case that only one person has finished all the assignments? That lucky hard-working cat is going to claim all $150!

On top of the $150 from GatheringMagic, LegitMTG, and ManaDeprived, I am personally going to award one hour of coaching / consulting to a fortuitous finisher.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Anyone that finishes all seven Desperate Ravings assignments is going to be eligible for a long-term / permanent writing gig on one of our sponsor sites. We don’t really know how this promotion is going to stick at this point, so we don’t know how that is going to shake out in its entirely, but LegitMTG’s Jonathan Medina has an idea he likes to call:

Desperate Ravings – Flashback

More on that when we get there!

Prizes, In Summary:

Five $10 gift certificates from GatheringMagic
Five $10 gift certificates from LegitMTG
Five $10 gift certificates from ManaDeprived
… Distributed randomly among those who Like and / or complete Desperate Ravings assignments

Three $50 gift certificates from GatheringMagic / LegitMTG / and ManaDeprived distributed among those who complete all seven Desperate Ravings assignments

One one-hour call from YT, to one all-seven-assignments completer as well.

And for those who want to land a long-term gig… the next step is: Desperate Ravings – Flashback!

Desperate Ravings Calendar:

  • June 4, 2012 – (today) Desperate Ravings assignment #1, $30 in gift certificates to Like-ers and contest participants from the good people at GatheringMagic, LegitMTG, and ManaDeprived!
  • June 5, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #2, $30 in gift certificates to Like-ers and contest participants
  • June 6, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #3, $30 in gift certificates to Like-ers and contest participants
  • June 7, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #4, $30 in gift certificates to Like-ers and contest participants
  • June 8, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #5, $30 in gift certificates to Like-ers and contest participants
  • June 9, 2012 – Desperate Ravings assignment #6
  • June 10, 2012 – Last Desperate Ravings assignment, #7
  • June 12, 2012 – Everything is due! Shortly thereafter we will finalize the $50 prizes, coaching call, and the possibility of Desperate Ravings – Flashback.

Today’s Assignment – The First One’s Free

Since I already made you read 1,000 words explaining what Desperate Ravings is, I decided to be super kind on the first assignment. It’s a short segment from Gwen Stefani’s solo hit Early Winter.

What to Do:

  1. Copy down the following short excerpt from Early Winter, 1) by hand, 2) three times.
  2. Upload your work to the Desperate Ravings Facebook HOMEWORK Page.
  3. That’s it!


Why do you act so stupid?


You know that I’m always right.

That’s it!

Writing out this entire assignment shouldn’t even take five minutes.

I am going to be doing these with you every day. Here’s mine!

You want prizes? You want to grow up to be a fabulously influential Magic personality? Get to it already! These pages ain’t gonna pencil themselves.

Discuss on Twitter at #DesperateRavings


Weird Note on Facebook:
Facebook is weird. I mean we all love Facebook but it is em effin’ weird about some stuff. Ergo, we have two Facebook locations.

Visit the Desperate Ravings Sponsors:

DVD Extras: Brian Kibler’s Deep Anal Probe

A few months ago I referenced to professional wrestling in the 1980s in my DailyMTG column Top Decks, in relation to the explosion of popularity of the Legacy format. This is how it came out in published form:


Some readers sometimes enjoy finding out what gets left on the cutting room floor. So I figured I might share the original (check my emphasis):

Thirty years ago, professional wrestling consisted of two burly — if “manly” and hairsuite — fat men overacting across a padded square, catering largely to regional audiences. First Vince McMahon, then billionaire Ted Turner, the emergence of high production value cable television, and even the emergence of mixed martial arts as a national phenomenon transformed the rasslin’ landscape… And its audiences. We have gone from thuggish strongman contests in smokey high school auditoriums with tabacco spit all over the floor to multimillion-dollar IPOs, high resolution video games played on your iPad, movie stars, and — by force of competition and focus — in-ring performances of such grandeur and violence that the long ago regional beginnings seem a different animal entirely. Once upon a time, Legacy was played infrequently at a large scale and the highest levels (maybe one domestic Grand Prix per year) and catered to a comparatively small and specialized audience; but today, the Star City Games Open Series highlights a competitive Legacy event almost once a week. As a result, we have a format that is full of lively, week-over-week, innovation and give-and-take, with many of the greatest minds in the game devoting time, care, and technology to curating the still-emerging metagame.

My original assumption was that then-editor Kelly Digges didn’t want me comparing longtime Legacy aficionados to chaw-spitting West Texas rednecks (not actually my original intention), but just thought the cut-down version read better.

I liked the original 🙂

This past week in my Flashback review, Flashback to Flashback, the DailyMTG folks exercised some good judgment and edited an old Kibler deck list to “something uncouth” …


Wonder why Brian played One Deep Analysis in the sideboard of his ‘Tog deck?

Here is the original text (emphasis, again):

To be fair, at the time, we got to play with Fact or Fiction, and it wasn’t immediately obvious that Deep Analysis was that good. Kibler played the one copy — in his sideboard no less — simply so that he could call his deck “Deep Anal Probe” (notice the three copies of Probe in the main deck).

Yes ladies, even nine years ago, he was a dreamboat of unparalleled wittiness.

Well, it turns out that that one Deep Analysis was better than anyone had anticipated. You could discard it to Psychatog or Probe and it would be a fine two mana draw two. Other players were even more focused and aggressive with Deep Analysis, pairing it with faster discard outlets like Wild Mongrel, Merfolk Looter, or Aquamoeba.

Such a dreamboat 🙂

Take care of each other.


Comics, Messing Around on my iPad, etc.

I don’t remember how I got on this train but I was reminiscing about what was supposed to be my smashing career in comics and / or movies. Most of you probably aren’t longtime-enough readers to know that I was a high finisher in a comics competition a few years ago called Comic Book Idol (I finished third)… Second-place finisher was Jonathan Hickman, who is now a superstar at Marvel Comics, killed the Human Torch, etc.

Anyway, believe it or not I made it into Variety (premier showbiz mag) at the tender age of 27.

Click the above for the story starring YT!

I got plucked out of Comic Book Idol and was immediately signed onto a movie / comics adaptation for a book called Seen. Long story short, I was distracted with other projects (i.e. my Magic writing career was just taking off, and I played in the Magic Invitational), and Seen never got done [by me, anyway]. Earlier this year the same studio / comics company that hired me put out a little film called Cowboys and Aliens.

Anyway, partly inspired by something Justin Treadway linked to on Twitter I decided to download some drawing software for my iPad.

I haven’t drawn — seriously or otherwise — in literally 5-6 years, but I think I am going to screw around and put up sketches and stuff.

So… These aren’t up to pro quality or anything, but maybe we’ll get to an interesting place again. It’s like Nikolai Dante says about fightin’ … The only way to get good at anything is to do a lot of it.

First swipe…

Sketch 2


That’s it!


Complete Innistrad Review (and other housekeeping)

Somewhat Fake-tacular (though, for those who haven’t consumed DI, DI-content-filled) update today.

At the end of last week I did essentially a FULL REVIEW OF INNISTRAD (more or less every card, more or less)… Over at Top 8 Magic with the Pro Tour Historian Brian David-Marshall.

So if you haven’t downloaded the five parts (one for each color, with goofball stuff bundled into Red), hop on over to the first-ish [and still best!] Magic podcast’s home for all of that jazz. Warning: I don’t know if BDM and I actually understand / understood how Tree of Redemption works… But it’s all a riot anyway / five hours or so of good-natured awesome sauce over there:

Local Awesome Sauce

You may have noticed that we went from “not updating for months” to “updating more or less every day” (more or less) over the last week or two [yes, I took the weekend off]. So for those of you who missed what went on last week, here are some helpful helpings:

You Make the Play is (historically, analytics-wise) the most popular kind of update I do on Five With Flores, and this one was pretty hip, too. Expect an article-length, relatively in-depth follow up on that one tomorrow-ish. You can still weigh in on the Facebook Social Plugin (or comments) here.

Speaking of the Facebook Social Plugin, no idea what is going on there so far. It seems like it splits into Parallel Lives and creates two different comments sequences for each post. No idea why the heck it does that, but it is making me turn green, rip my purple pants, jump 40 miles at a time towards New Mexico, etc.

(please bear with us)

Technology 🙁

Last thing… NEW DECK LIST

2 Batterskull
2 Spellskite
4 Sword of Feast and Famine

3 Dismember

2 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Mana Leak
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Twisted Image

23 Island

Pretty surprised we didn’t get any Firestarter on the Snapcaster Mage deck I PS’d into the end of last Friday’s update. Here it is again:

Thanks for visiting!


Pulling Open the Kimono


Basically some DVD Extras to “How to Think About Magic

You’ve probably read it already. Like I said on a recent Top 8 Magic Podcast, I was pretty nervous putting this one up; it was a stark left-turn for Top Decks, but my Twitter audience demanded it. So mise.

I said in the article…

One last thing before we begin … I’ve written, read, re-read, and re-written this article four times at this point. Only now do I realize—though, I knew at all times, that I wasn’t using all of my notes—that I was only submitting a portion of the totality of how I think about Magic. I didn’t put in all the stuff about how the line between my “Magic” friends and “friends” blurred as I reached adulthood, about how giving and giving leads to more getting. Nor did I write about never settling, constantly striving for self-improvement, or how each of us is, at least partially, driven by a need for significance (and how all those things intersect and even direct my relationship to Magic). Instead, I guess this stuff is mostly about how I think about strategy, card selection, making decks, choosing decks, and advising my bullets and apprentices. Just so you know, while you’re reading.

So I thought it might be interesting to share some of the notes and concepts that I didn’t use (you know, like the ongoing traits of the best deck we look at on this blog); here — in case you were wondering — are all my notes for the article:

It’s fairly likely you can’t read those — and even if they were hella big you wouldn’t be able to read them — so I’ll help you out:

First Page

  • Drill
  • Signif –> Naya mana base
  • Sieze opportunity
  • Don’t Major in Minor Things
  • Relentless Self-Improvement
  • Logic >
  • Get by GIVING

Second Page

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • No allegiances – LIMITING
  • Basic #s
  • Long view
  • Friends blur

Third Page

  • Ask the best questions
  • Nobody remembers #2
  • We build for one goal
  • Results-oriented
  • If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist
  • All players run in the same –> direction

Fourth Page

  • All meaning –> difference

Anyway, here is a section that I wrote — and was originally the second bullet — but I chose to cut before sending to the Wizards of the Coast editors. I generally stand behind it, but I try to stay positive, and I felt like the segment came off a little too “Tony Robbins” while at the same time overtly negative (which to be fair is the opposite of Robbins), if that makes sense.

Today I was very glad for my policy of not interacting on Internet forums.

If you haven’t read my article TurboLand Again at TCGPlayer yet… I thought it was pretty good. But apparently the forums didn’t? I tested the deck a fair amount and it seemed stupidly powerful to me. However the forums over at TCGPlayer… Oh well. I don’t want to paint all the responders with the same brush (because tydobbs in particular had some productive technology to share)… But for the most part I feel like today’s responders were shall we say less than logical. For example there were several who said my deck would lose to Memoricide; when I beat Memoricide and even Sadistic Glee 2-3 times in the matches outlined; in addition I talked about how you would approach those cards and beat them in Attrition fights (which I did).

I also said that I wasn’t sure the deck was the best implementation, but that I thought it was about the best idea. Which means its Stage Three in particular can be improved (I even posed some ways that it might). Well, whatever. No reason to dwell on the point. I decided at age 11 that I didn’t care what other people think, and — as much as I relish attention — I’m not really going to start now. Here’s the never-was excerpt:

2. Significance is a Fundamental Human Need

Why do I write Magic: The Gathering articles?

There are lots of reasons, actually.

One of them is that they pay me.

It’s great! I get to do this great thing that touches hundreds of thousands of lives — some lives quite significantly — and they actually pay me to do it! It’s basically the life.

Well, they can pay you to do lots of different things.

What makes writing Magic: The Gathering articles special?

Of course I love Magic. As Aaron Forsythe once said, you can track the course of my entire adult life by watching the Internet sites various I have written for over the years… Usenet, The Dojo, Star City Games, The Sideboard, Neutral Ground, Brainburst, Star City Games again, TCGPlayer.com (formerly Brainburst [again]), Five With Flores, Top 8 Magic, Flores Rewards; even Twitter!

Of course I love Magic!

It is a privilege to be able to write Magic articles, to touch hundreds of thousands of lives, to do so in an intersecting fashion. It is much less commercial than it is an exercise in significance.

Everyone wants to feel significant. You can fill this need with the attention of a lover, a parent, a child; you can get a pat on the head at work; you can change the course of mighty rivers, or murder a president.

Or, you can write articles about something that you love, share the almost tactile love for something that you love with other people who also love it; share your years of experience, spirit of innovation, and copious mistakes.

Or, you can be a gigantic raging butthole.

Bullies, nitpickers, etc. gain a feeling of significance by poking at little things, trying to pull down popular public figures, etc.

Earlier in my writing career I engaged a lot on forums. As I wrote, above, I actually cut my Magic writing teeth on Usenet. However I have actively avoided forums for about the past two years. I still read them for the most part, but I no longer spend my life getting in fights on them.

Most of the nitpickers, complainers, detractors, and so on have nothing productive to say. They are limited in their experience or scope, and have nothing to contribute to the conversation. They, however, still feel a burning need for significance; they fill that need by holding up a gigantic neon sign that says:

“Hey! I’m a raging butthole!”

But you have to hand it to them, somebody paid attention.

Well; that’s it… Kimono open.

Ask about other notes and points I didn’t use in the comments below.