roadtrip zoofights!

May 5, 2010

In my overflowing excitement about this year’s Zoofights (read here for my description), I forced my entertainment will on my recent roadtrip companions through an improvised car-bound minature version of it! We happened to have a giant sack of animal crackers with us, from which I traced around eight different shapes. These provided the outline for A-Cool and Catmanuel to enhance as they saw fit. What resulted was this fabulous initial roster:

As you can see, all contenders came well-equipped for the conflict. Each of these fearsome combatants engaged one other in a battle to the death, the victor being determined by a vote-weighted roll of a 100-sided die. Essentially, each of my traveling companions would vote for their favourite of a pair and I would cast my vote in secret (though I always voted for the underdog to insert the potential of an upset).  I would then map these votes to numbers on a die and roll it to determine the winner.  This result, however, was revealed only through my narration of the battle’s proceedings. And proceed they did! Notable features of the first round included:

  • Slab the Killer Bear and Robin Hippo fighting atop two semi trailers speeding down the highway, both driven by Vin Diesel. Does it get any more extreme than this?
  • The Jungle Crook, after employing Pokemon stolen from Ash Ketchum, kicked Tapman through the wall of MIR and into space where he promptly exploded. The Jungle Crook, for an unknown reason, did not. Probably stole a space suit or something.
  • A ridiculous amount of collateral damage and civilian casualties were inflicted, attributed evenly to all of the contestants.

Those who won the initial round moved on into the semi-final bracket, but were encouragedto scavenge the corpses of their fallen foes for enhancements, which as you can see, were well-applied:

Though I’m not sure at this point if the acquisition of an outside unicorn horn was completely legal, the semi-finalists were quite liberal in their application of upgrades. Robin, seeing the unclaimed wings of Tapman and the Chainsaw of Irrelephant, quickly acquired and applied these items to her battle ensemble, not wanting to be outdone by the now triple-belted Jungle Crook. Fire 2 Silk Fox put on forty pounds while TUSQUATTO sought out a touch of class, in addition to Slab’s killer moustache. This round saw the triumph of both underdogs, as Robin Hip-Hop-A-Chainsawtomus flitted nimbly between cars on a traffic jammed Golden Gate Bridge to eventually chainsaw the shit-eating grin from her opponent’s face. Meanwhile, Fire 2 Silk Fox proved that her ninja training went far deeper than physical amorphousness, though the end of the battle found her slowly sinking into the magma of an Icelandic volcano (yes, that volcano).

However, any beast that could make it to the final round must have some tricks up her sleeve and so, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our finalists, vying for the title of Roadtrip Zoofights King of the Animal Crackers:

Having appropriated The Jungle Crook’s shit-eating grin (which was determined to be the root of his kleptomania), Robin was well equipped with armaments of all sorts, including her very own unicorn horn (as that looked to be quite an asset) and a massive horde of hungry hungry rabbits. The fox was, as should be expected, transformed and enhanced by her encounter with the volcano and so added control of fire and a chain axe to her already considerable set of weapons and ancient martial techniques.

For this epic and final confrontation, Disneyland was selected as the battleground. The finalists quickly ascended the fantasyland castle, only to realize that the entire population of overfed and spoiled children had transformed into (or perhaps were already equivalent to) flesh-eating undead and were slowly ascending the battlements. In between exchanging blows, the combatants had to fling the corpulent vermin from the roof to keep from being overrun. Robin was unable to employ her rabbit horde in the focal conflict, instead needing to direct them against the encroaching throng of pasty pre-teens.

As the mass grew thicker, the two combatants looked at each other with something other than pure malevolent rivalry. It was clear that they would have to work together or risk utter annihilation at the sticky hands of the fleshy tide. So, tapping into the magic of Disney, Fox, Robin, and the horde of rabbits joined together into one gargantuan abomination, which promptly crushed both the castle and the gibbering mass that was covering it.

However, despite their momentary cooperation, the two finalists had not come this far to share in the glory of a Zoofights championship. Since they now occupied one grotesque and almost completely immobile body, they retreated in spirit to the astral plane to resolve their conflict. It was here that the battle was decided as all of Robin’s stolen equipment was of no use in this alternate realm. Magma Silk Fire Fox’s years of ninja training extended far beyond her physical body and, through discipline and force of will, she managed to utterly obliterate the essence of Robin Hip-Hop-A-Chainsawtomus the Third, Esquire, leaving her the sole occupant of their massive combined body.

As with all messes in Disneyland, staff was almost immediately on the scene to clean up, bringing in helicopters to coat the beast entirely in bronze, an opportunistic replacement for the demolished fantasyland castle and an eternal monument to the glory of Zoofights. As the bronze hardened, encasing Fox inside her monument, a familiar shit-eating grin floated gently on the breeze and settled delicately into place on the statue. The end?

Thanks, friends, for humoring me in my latest obsession. That was a lot of fun. And if you haven’t checked out Zoofights proper, what the hell are you waiting for?



April 28, 2010

Let’s play guess my favourite thing!

  1. It is a game.
  2. It is not a video game or a board game or a table game or a playground game.
  3. You play it with a select group from all over the world.
  4. It involves a tournament of 16 horribly cobbled together montrosities of flesh and steel fighting it out in no holds barred deathmatches to determine who is truly the king of beasts. Those involved play a character of their choosing and root for their favourite champion, an act which influences the outcome of the matches. Things inevitably become more and more epic as the game progresses, as winners bolster their armaments and losers piece together new ways to get back on top. This is not only narrated but illustrated as well through a collaborative effort between the organizers and those involved. Sometimes there are songs and cartoons as well. It is amazing.
  5. It is Zoofights.

Summarily, Zoofights is an annual month-long forums event over at somethingawful. If you didn’t know, SA’s forums are essentially the heart of the internet. Yes, 4chan maybe the raw, unfiltered source of a vast majority of internet emergences, but SA imposes some order on all this noise and gives me a bit of hope for the internet as a social forum. Access to the forums is limited unless you buy a $10 account, which allows you to post in threads and view a much larger chunk of the site. By charging for participation and strictly enforcing site rules, the administrators quite effectively filter out a lot of the general internet shit-throwing that usually goes on. As a result, people actually cooperate in creative efforts such as Zoofights. Which I am going to talk about some more.

The organizers invent sixteen combatants who will enter into the tournament. These are guided somewhat by the setting (Victorian Steampunk for ZF III, TimeFights for IV), though really, anything goes. Past favourites include Steamcrab and Bisontrain, as well as jokey meme contenders (still awesome, though) such as Oh the Huge Manatee. These creatures are imbued with a ton of personality through the organizers’ descriptions as well as really charming cartoon pencil drawings of the combatants as well as their fights. Many of those who participate in the thread also contribute art for it, so you end up with quite a lot of imagination and talent being put on display. Everyone posting in the thread creates a setting-appropriate character and posts as them exclusively, rooting for their favourite and crying foul when their champion is torn apart. Shit goes down, it is quite riveting, and I really can’t do it justice in describing it.

Have a look at Zoofights III (my personal favourite) over at the forums for the firsthand experience, or check out the brewing Zoofights V. This upcoming Zoofights appears to be set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with mighty champions such as “bucket of ants plus owl on rop” and “tortois w/ angry face on it,” so you know it will be epic. I’ll be joining in this time around for a front row seat. Come and join me; I will personally ensure that you have a good time.

And keep your internet dial turned to this station as I will soon be posting my very own carbound Zoofights, run during my recent trip to Lloydminster!

flashback. three days ago. roadtrip.

April 27, 2010

There was a time when I would lament a weekend that didn’t involve at least six hours of video games and considerable languorous indulgence. This is not that time.

Saturday I was party to a fine roadtrip with Stephabee, A-Cool, and Catmanuel, who I can now say even more emphatically, are awesome. Roadtrips have a way of clarifying relationships and I am quite fortunate that what lurks behind the jungle foliage of my traveling companions is not a horrible tiger-boar amalgam but a waterpark! I am further convinced of my considerable good fortune. Massive Framage had intended to join us for the day but withdrew upon waking up to leprous resurgence.

We set out for Lloydminster, being the purported home of a most odd and extensive collection of taxidermy. As far as roadtrips go,  a 2.5 hour drive each way is pretty much ideal. Everybody gets a chance to share some music, conversation flows naturally, and you can still enjoy the evening upon your return. Additionally, as A-Cool put it, a day trip is really just an excuse to snack constantly. More than one day and you get a little saturated with sugary FatSnax™.

This museum (which I will not name for fear of being tracked down by them for covertly shooting pictures in their no photography allowed areas </paranoia>) was incredibly bizarre. Every exhibit took the shotgun approach of displaying absolutely everything in the collection, making for a very dense, and in the case of the taxidermy, overwhelming presentation.

Take this, for example. OH GOD LEG TABLE. This is the single most unsettling piece as far as I’m concerned. Well, maybe this or the coat hooks which were actually bent deer feet. I would estimate that this fellow had on display upwards of six hundred taxidermied animals, all jammed in and wholly terrifying. I unfortunately did not get any snaps of the horribly twisted faces on a lot of these creatures, though let me assure you that a lynx is not supposed to look like Chowder.

Oh, and for good measure, let’s do some anthropomorphization! Yeehaw! These remind me a little bit of Mr. Keith’s awful D&D horse beasts, horses whose bodies had been broken and reshaped into humanoid form by the primal forces of chaos. I still hear their whinnies.

We all felt a little bit nauseous after our run through the repackaged wilds, though we did check out the other galleries. There was quite a bit of history in the form of hundreds of painted portraits and thousands of old-timey artifacts, but as I said before, the presentation was a little excessive. Oh neat, an old sewing table. Oh neater, nine of them in a row! I guess it beats having to pay for storage.

After we’d all taken in our fill of history and bemangled wildlife, we grabbed some food and turned our ship back home. There is an important thing that happened in the car, but I don’t want to deny it full justice by appending it to this post. You will see it in its entirety very soon. Finally, with about an hour left in the trip, I revealed my secret plan: trunk sundaes! Yes, the ice cream was a little soft having spent the day in the trunk cooler, but with some chocolate sauce, bananas, broken up Skor bar, and animal crackers, it was damn grand.

Thank you friends, for being up for awesome times. There will be oh so many more to come.

I’ll leave you with a few pics of my lovely entourage as everybody would like that.

2 2 2 grand

April 22, 2010



guess how many awesome people I know?


i’m pretty excited about this.

hello my fellow cyclists

April 19, 2010

Now that the roads are clean and the weather lovely, I am rejoined on the road by Saskatoon’s contingent of cyclists.

First, a knowing wink to you. Thanks for choosing an alternative mode of transportation. To quote H.G. Wells, “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”

Second, please do what you can follow the rules of the road. Are you freaking crazy!? Cars hate us enough without the frequent attempts of cyclists to sandwich themselves in between fenders. Here are some easy tips to avoid getting killed and, indirectly, make my life easier:

  • Signal when weaving between lanes. At the very least, shoulder check. It is a statistical anomaly that I have yet to see someone creamed as a result of not doing this. As a corollary to this, it’s better to ride in a straight line in clearly demonstrated space than to duck in and out of parked cars. Predictability is key.
  • Try to avoid cheating in between driving lanes at intersections. It places you in this horrible nether space that does not have an easy exit. Motorists are forced to yield to you until you commit one way or the other.
  • You do not always have the right of way. Four-way stops work in the same way they do when you’re in a car. Also, try to make it clear that you are in fact stopping. When you play the stall-out game, everyone loses.
  • Have the same patience that you wish from motorists. We’ve all got somewhere to be, but it is not your right to get there at all costs. Nor is it the right of motorists. Chill. If  you arrive late, someone will fill you in on what you missed.
  • Why are you riding on the wrong side of the road? Stop that.

I’m not perfect and yes, I do bend the rules sometimes, making use of my small footprint and overland mobility. But even in doing this, the biggest thing I try to keep in mind is the presence of others on the road. Driving is firmly rooted in trust and cyclists bring a more volatile potential to the equation, being substantially more erratic as well as less established in any particular road space. By considering what’s around you and accurately telegraphing your intentions, we can eke out a better place for cyclists in Saskatoon and minimize the amount of rage coming from the filthy metal beasts. Damn, there goes my objectivity. As if that was present in the first place.

Anyways, now that you have endured my elitist and preachy rant, please enjoy the sunshine.


April 19, 2010

Blog, come here. I have need of you once more.

There are two things.

One: I said I would move to Toronto. ETA six months; necessary preparations laid. A world of opportunity awaits. But here I am, enjoying Saskatoon and its potential like never before. Is it simply the scarcity = value phenomenon rearing its head or had I committed too quickly, in one of my many anti-nodes, to the fallacy that Toronto would assuage all of my doubts and fill in my deficiencies?

Two: There’s a girl. It’s complicated, but suffice it to say that it hasn’t worked out in exactly the direction I’d hoped it might. However, it has instead settled on a path that could be a very good thing for someone quite close to me. As a result, I am in constant oscillation between self-pity and altruistic joy. I feel like Schrodinger’s Cat. Get over it, sponge boy.

Life is good. Whichever way any of this works out will see me with a net gain; there’s just this process of resolution that I have to deal with first. Can’t we just roll this out and be done with it?

(Okay, I rolled a 16. What does that mean?)

Battle on, battle on, tireless soldier.

Let not regret give you pause;
Let not second thought stay your weapon;
Let not that which could have been keep you from your duty.

For this is the fight of your life.


November 10, 2009

I’ve been sick over the last ten days or so and, though the majority of my ailments faded near the end of last week, I was stuck with greatly reduced lung capacity and a small amount of breathing pain. Not terrible, as far as impairing my ability to do the things I do, but suddenly being unable to run or give it on my bike was a little bit jarring. I take this body for granted sometimes and don’t realize how much I enjoy using it.  I thought idly yesterday about what it would be like if I didn’t get better and I was stuck with broken lungs for the rest of my life. That would really impact my ability to do everything that I want to (eventually) and I’ve gained a bit of empathy for those with chronic illness. Having everything cleared up upon waking this morning brought about a hugely liberating feeling, knowing I could return fully to my life of infinite potential and not need to close down a branch because of some condition. The cerebral counterswing here, of course, is that I should make better use of my toolset. But I’m working on that.

Speaking of doing things, I’ve fallen grievously behind with nanowrimo and keep making excuses. My story keeping changing directions and very little of it falls into line with the other bits. It’s hard to just sit down and write when you’ve no clear idea of where you’re going or even where you’re at. I wish I read more. SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP and write, you Berk. If you don’t do anything, nothing gets done. Although my strongest motivation write right now is to spite the one person who doubted my ability to write a novel in a month, this is ultimately about me. Just like the TECHNO VIKING (post coming later, maybe), this is a personal goal and I simply need to do it. I have to say, though, that the pep talk e-mails nanowrimo sends out are fantastic. There’s a lot of love in them.

I got back from another trip to Toronto at the end of last week, a place that continues to be excellent. In addition to trying the strange juxtapositions of Korean food, I further consolidated my realization that bearing individuals as idols is a fallacy. There are no gods, there are no there are no mermaids, there are only people. People trying to figure out what they’re doing and heading in whatever direction seems to make sense. See, I have a tendency to elevate certain individuals and idealize them to the point where they exist almost solely inside of my head. Obviously, this is not the greatest habit to have, but I justified it by framing it as inspiration to achieve a higher level of personal functioning closer to what I perceived theirs to be. Realizing that this is based in fiction, though, is kind of relieving. It makes those lofty heights so much more obtainable, while keeping me grounded in my reactions to people. We’re all just doing a thing.

I love music. Looking back over the past week, the moments that stand out as beacons of contentedness and fully embodied satisfaction are those moments when I was just listening to music. I’ve commented on this before, but having a song speak to your state of mind or the way you’re feeling has to be one of the most enjoyable experiences there is. Any work of art has the potential to resonate, sure, but given the multiple levels present in music, I think it has a better than average chance of doing so. Whether it be the lyrics, the tune underneath everything, or just the overall feeling of the song, finding music that lines up with your present mind is so very nice, very near completion. I would almost call it empathy, finding something that echoes your sentiments but projects them in a unique way. I’m in the middle of composing a mix CD of songs that represent who and where I am at this point in my life, which is essentially finding others’ words to describe myself. Damn if they ain’t articulate. Whenever I stumble upon something that clicks, I wish I’d said it that way. Clearly I need to become a musician. And write more. And read more. Bloody Dragon Age; why do you have to be so compelling right now?

beard lyfe

October 25, 2009

This beard of mine, my constant companion over the last four months, has reached its final days. I have been reflecting on this and thus have prepared a retrospective.

When I began to grow this beard, it developed primarily out of laziness. I don’t like shaving and tend to put it off as long as I can. After a particularly lengthy bout of procrastination, I realized I had the beginnings of a beard. On the very day I was about to shave it off, Nikki Naners commented that she thought it looked good. So I stayed my berazored hand for a day. Then another. And another. And so on until I began to think, “Hey, maybe that does look good!” Ha ha, fool Berkley of the past. Anyways, I held off shaving long enough to discover the TECHNO VIKING. And it was upon discovering the TECHNO VIKING that I discovered the true purpose of my beard. Not only is he a god to be emulated, but he and I share a similar facial structure, as well as the ability to grow facial hair and dance like we’re killing the air. So my goal was clear: do everything I could to become him by Halloween. It’s been going pretty well; I’ll probably post about that after it hits. But this is a post about my beard. So I return to the subject under discussion.

Having found the TECHNO VIKING, there was now not even the smallest possibility that I could shave off my beard. Nay, I was even loathe to trim it. So I’ve been living with this chin tribble for a while now. Beard hair is a strange sort of hair, quite similar in texture and thickness to pubic hair. In my case, being blessed with curly facial hair, the two sorts are nearly indistinguishable. For this reason, I apologize to those around me for the inordinate amount of beard hair scattered about my office and home. I have not become a sex pervert, only one of the bearded.

Somewhere in recent history, beards became fashionable amongst the indie crowd. What!? As bizarre as this sounds, I think it helped me to blend in, appearing less as a hobo and more as a hipster. Still, I kind of felt a little bit less special, knowing my beard might be seen as an attempt at becoming hip to the times (which I take great pride in not being). However, on the topic of blending in, I found I could now avoid many of the people I didn’t want to see! Huzzah! Their eyes would just pass over me, not recognizing my smug face beneath its ginger shroud.

But a beard is always hanging off of one’s face, and eating becomes much more of an ordeal. Yogurt and soup are among the foods most easily transferred to a beard, where they will stay until I look in a mirror. Any sort of sandwich with an excess of sauce makes sure to deposit leftovers within easy reach of my mouth. Oh! And flossing my teeth! Sometimes, working my way to the back of my mouth, one of the hairs on the edge of my moustache would get pushed by the floss in between two molars, twisting my face with no small amount of discomfort until I could figure out what was going on and free the hair from my teeth. Also, the increasing length of my moustache hairs meant that, when not sufficiently tamped down, they would sometimes make their way into my nose, causing me to sneeze. Bastards.

It struck me recently that people I met for the first time over the summer or in more recent months have never known a Berkley without a beard. In their minds, that is what Berkley looks like! I have great difficulty reconciling this as my mental picture of myself still doesn’t have a beard. BeardoBerk looks like an imposter. To those who met me in the last four months: do not trust this man; he has been lying to you consistently from the moment you saw him. It would serve you best if you severed all ties immediately. In the future, however, you may meet a man who looks like he might have had he not that beard. Trust this man implicitly and give him all the benefits you would a trusted friend. He is the messiah.

At least three times in September I had beard loss anxiety dreams. They usually involved me being a little absent-minded during a trim and ending up shaving off the whole thing. This was most dismaying, as growing a beard you don’t really like for three months and then losing it before its purpose is realized is a bit of a pisser. Fortunately, this has not happened in reality. I am consciously avoiding any trims this week to maintain this success.

And now it’s almost over. After I trim it into the appropriate shape and add a braid to my chin, it will have a scant two days to enjoy its new shape before I scrape it from my visage with zeal. Does anyone know where beards go when they no longer have a face to live on? I’m not very good at imagining, but here is a try:

hubble space pic aug 08 Large_Magellanic_Cloud

Goodbye, my beard. I can’t say I will miss you but you were certainly an interesting experiment.

Toronto pt. 3 – Bros

October 21, 2009

Having now met the entire Frange clan and spent a good deal of time with the bros, I have to say that good bros are one of the finest things in life. In saying this, I make it painfully obvious that I am either a terrible sexist or have not yet encountered a similar example of good sisses.

Assume whichever you like; I am going to talk about bros. *Additionally, this is “bros” as in “awesome brothers” and not as in “bro culture.”

Since its inception, I have held my relationship with my brother in very high regard. We’ve had our conflicts and disagreements, sure, but there is something unique about our shared headspace and understanding of one another that makes us a very good match. We relate very well to each other and are in a good position to challenge or question the other without it being looked upon as an attack. He’s the sort of person I would like to face the zombie apocalypse with, not only because it’s nice to have covering fire, but because we would keep each other focused and in check, all while making the whole thing a grand adventure.

I don’t come across this sort of relationship between siblings very often and, I would argue, had not seen anything quite as meaningful outside of my own experience… until I saw the Frange clan in action. A/B/CJ were like the lions that make up Voltron… effective and awesome on their own, but rebounding off of each other to maximum effect when combined. I enjoyed spending time with each of them on their own and, frequently, in units of two, but when all three were together, I could hardly penetrate the forcefield of shared and happy bro-dom that was created. Too awesome.

There must be something about the combination of shared genetics, overlapping upbringing, and the eventual (though not necessary) development of agreeable perspectives that makes this sort of bond so strong. The level of comfort, confidence, and compatibility (in tandem) enabled by this sort of relationship would seem unlikely enough to require some ridiculous dice rolls… am I just incredibly lucky?

ancestors realized

October 19, 2009

Okay. Remember the poem I wrote about my ovary-punching ancestors? The delightful Stephabee has found my artist. Oh yes. Oh very yes.

Very NSFW, so be warned. “Making Love to Kundalini” and “Destrudo Libido” best embody the sort of terrible shoddy rough painting that I had envisioned for my bestial kin.

Ha ha ha ha haaaa. The universe again bends to my will.