I am happy to announce that I will be hosting a panel at Ichibancon in Concord, NC on January 12th, 2019. The convention is held at the Embassy Suites Hotel Concord from January 10th through the 13th. My panel will start Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Events 2 room. I will cover Japan travel tips, planning basics, fun facts, and a sushi etiquette crash course. The full convention schedule can be found here. If you plan to attend the convention and would like to meet up, send me a message. I plan to be a Ichibancon most of Saturday wearing my full kimono outfit.
I recently went to a friend's house for a casual Magic: The Gathering (MTG) card game format called Cube Draft. Cubes are created by players using various old and new cards from the game. They contain 360 cards put in 24 specialized 15-card packs. Some players make themed cubes or include very powerful cards to make games interesting. A benefit of cubes is that they are reused over and over again. Typically, you draft with 24 sealed booster packs containing 15 cards. Once opened, sealed booster packs are not used again. Eight players are ideal for any drafting format using 360 cards, or 3 packs of 15 cards per player.
Alex, David, Ben, and I were the only players able to attend the recent Cube Draft night. Typically, we have six to eight players come to MTG game nights. Instead of having a normal cube draft, we decided to play a one-on-one format called Winston Draft. A Winston Draft uses 6 booster packs of 15 cards shuffled into one pile. The top 3 cards are laid out separately and face-down next to the large pile. The starting player looks at the first card. If they want the card they can take it; otherwise, they must add one additional card from the large pile. The player repeats the process for the next card laid out. If they pass over it, they once again add a card to it and look at the third face-down card. Finally, if all three cards are passed over, the player repeats the steps as stated before and takes a random card from the top of the large pile. Players go through this process until all cards are taken by either player. There is a risk-reward scenario when deciding to take cards. You can end up with a stack of 3-5 face-down cards continuously passed over and must decide if it is worthwhile to take it. Usually, taking a large pile means that at least half of the cards are unplayable for a specific strategy, but it opens up more options. Magic is a much deeper strategy game than many people realize; especially, when playing with a cube.
One of the great aspects of playing MTG in a casual setting is enjoying a few beverages while socializing with friends. Alex tries to host a monthly event to get everyone together. Formats change each month depending on player interest and new card set releases.
Alex and David started playing Magic in 1994 and quit a few years later. After a 20 year hiatus, they both returned to a game from their childhood. Alex's return to MTG started after his first child was born. He began looking for ways to have fun with friends while at home. What started as game nights with friends led to the creation of a Meetup group called the Queen City Game Club. The group brings together adults around Charlotte, NC interested in various strategy games and board games. Ben met Alex by attending various group gatherings. I asked Alex, David, and Ben what they enjoyed most about the game and why they play now.
Alex: "I like the depth of replayability. I came back after being invited to a draft in 2017 for the Hour of Devastation set."
David: "I got back into the game to teach my kids strategy and critical thinking skills. The game had enough depth to keep their interests."
Ben: "Every game is different in limited formats (e.g. draft). I am not as interested in deck building, but I enjoy Magic in other game types such as commander."
MTG is game enjoyed by millions of people around the world. There are many ways to play the card game between two and eight players. Some players stick to a particular format while others play them all. Each game between players creates different strategic decisions and scenarios. MTG celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. There are not many games in existence that have captured players' attentions for such a long time.
The Belk Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center is the premiere theater in uptown Charlotte to attend Broadway shows. Located at 130 N. Tryon Street, Belk Theater is surrounded by restaurants, bars, and other forms of entertainment in uptown. The theater hosts multiple Broadway shows, concerts, speakers and other events. While Belk Theater hosted many Broadway shows for 2018 including The Lion King and The Book of Mormon, the most anticipated show to come to Charlotte this year was Hamilton.
Belk theater offers multi-level seating with tiered ticket pricing. There are a few impaired viewing seats along the sides of the theater. I would not recommend purchasing any seats available with impaired viewing. If you purchase seats further in the back, consider bringing glasses or wearing contacts to see everything and everyone on stage. Each level has their own bar area and bathrooms. Bars are open before the show and during intermission. One great tip is to pre-order your intermission snacks and beverages for pickup. This saves precious time during intermission instead of waiting in line for the bathroom and bar. Pre-orders are arranged by last name and require a receipt or photo ID for pickup.
I was fortunate enough to purchase reasonably priced tickets through CarolinaTix for one of the Hamilton shows. Blocks of seats were released daily for purchase while Hamilton was in Charlotte, NC. Hamilton is an amazing show with incredible writing and creativity. It was the best written show I have ever seen. There is a reason why shows sell out even when tickets are twice as much as any other Broadway production. I highly recommend going to see Hamilton if you enjoy Broadway productions and want to see the best show currently on tour.
Online streaming of anime shows has evolved over the last few years thanks to Netflix and Hulu. The library of shows to watch on both platforms is incredible in both quality and quantity. In the past, the only legitimate way to watch new Japanese anime shows was to wait for them to either air on American television or release on DVD. Thankfully, Netflix and Hulu have helped to bridge this gap for American audiences. One fact worth noting is that each streaming platform offers a differentiated assortment of shows.
The quality of shows on Netflix is amazing. The streaming service offers fantastic shows such as Full Metal Alchemist, Gurren Lagann, and Soul Eater (a great choice for Halloween binge watching). You could spend many days watching highly rated shows. Netflix also offers exclusive shows and original anime content. Devilman Crybaby is an example of an original anime show on Netflix. In addition, Netflix has exclusivity distribution rights for a few shows. Some of the better Netflix exclusive shows are Knights of Sidonia and Ajin: Demi-Human. The only complaint with Netflix's offering of shows is the lack of newer episodes available. If you want to see new episodes of popular anime shows, you need to look else where.
The major benefit of using Hulu is to watch the latest episodes of your favorite anime shows. Hulu does an amazing job airing new episodes of popular anime shows like My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan. Hulu is able to simultaneously release weekly episodes as they air in Japan. Adding shows to your watch list will allow new show notifications to appear. Beyond new shows, Hulu offers a generous catalog of great shows from past and present. The amazing Hunter X Hunter and Cowboy Bebop are just two examples of Hulu's premier shows available. It is hard to find weakness in Hulu's anime offerings.
There are anime shows available on both Netflix and Hulu. For example, One Punch Man has been available on both platforms. You may not miss out on some shows by only having access to one streaming service. If you were to have to choose between Netflix and Hulu, it would be hard not to recommend Hulu as the service of choice. With access to new weekly content and a huge catalog of past shows, Hulu comes out ahead of Netflix. However, you should get Netflix if you are interested in some of their exclusive shows and other shows not available currently on Hulu. Either way, it is a great time to be an anime fan with so much content included with an inexpensive monthly subscription.
The AvidXchange Music Factory is an entertainment venue near Uptown Charlotte. There are multiple bars, restaurants, clubs, and concert venues located in one complex. World is one of the nightlife clubs at the Music Factory open on the weekends. The club focuses on hosting Electronic Dance Music concerts and other related events. I had the opportunity to visit World recently for a weekend EDM show featuring Tritonal.
I have been to the nightclub before when it was known as Label. New management took over the nightclub last year and made improvements in security and customer experience. Many of the events held at World are EDM concerts. You can except fast-paced music, flashing lights, confetti, and other visual effects. The opening act typically starts between 10 and 11 p.m. with the main act coming on around midnight. The concert usually ends around 2 a.m. There are three types of tickets available for shows. General admission tickets give you access to the floor space of the venue with bars on either side and bathrooms behind the stage. These tickets are the least expensive option with prices varying by show. You should expect to spend $20-40 for a general admission ticket. Prices vary depending on the popularity of the artist. The next level of ticket available is for the VIP area. This area is above the floor space on the right-hand side of the venue. You get a bird's eye view of the concert along with a separate bar and bathroom just for VIP ticket holders. These tickets range from $10-30 more than a general admission ticket. The third option to attend a show is to buy a service table service for a group of people. This is much more expensive than a normal ticket, but it does include alcohol, mixers, a private seating area, and table service for your group. It is common to see people celebrating a birthday or special event when purchasing a table service package.
Over time I have purchased floor and VIP tickets depending on the artist and pricing. I almost always buy a VIP ticket because it is less crowded and a better view of the show. However, you do not get the same vibe from the crowd and have much less space to move around in the VIP. The floor space is a better option for those that want to jump, dance, and be fully immersed in the show. World is one of the more intimate venues I have been in to see popular EDM artists like Hardwell, Blau, and Borgeous. The size of the venue allows you to always have a good view of the artists and visual effects. I am thankful to have a concert venue in Charlotte that brings my favorite EDM artists to town.