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1. I've been listening a lot lately to the podcast Film Reroll, which has the premise that each episode a group of people play a one-off roleplaying campaign based on a famous movie, just to see how far off course the plot can go when it depends on dice rolls and player imagination instead of having an author handing out plot points and making sure things pan out in the way they intend. Pretty far off course, it turns out; apart from the obvious consequences like people muffing their dice rolls really badly and everybody dying, one of my favourite examples so far is an episode where one of the players ended up sitting on the sidelines for the whole thing, because the plot took a direction early on that completely bypassed the character they'd been planning to play.

Another example is the campaign I've just finished listening to, The Wizard of Oz. It follows the movie fairly faithfully up until the protagonists meet the Wizard (though a bit more smoothly in some places, as the players get some good dice rolls in when facing the obstacles the Wicked Witch puts in their path) -- and then the players have to decide how best to tackle the job of stealing the Wicked Witch's broom for the Wizard, at which point the plot jumps dramatically off the rails, and the campaign ends up turning into a four-episode, eight-hour epic fantasy quest with cut-throat politics and dragons. Bits of it are amazingly poetic and surprisingly moving, and it's the one so far where I really felt at the end like I had been immersed in a story and not just been listening to a group of friends joking around. (Not that there's anything wrong with listening to a group of friends joking around; that describes most of the podcasts I listen to regularly.)

2. Our run of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has ended, as usual just when I felt I was really beginning to get the hang of it. (If I ever get to the end of a show and think, that's okay, there wasn't anything left to do here, that's when I'll really be sad.)

Next up is another production with a very long title, The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society production of The Mikado. It's this year's big production by the director who's done Oliver! and Chicago and suchlike in previous years, and I was actually quite looking forward to having nothing to do with it for a change, but then I was invited to come on board as assistant director and gets some hands-on experience in the running of a big production, and I didn't feel I could say no.

3. I got to go to exactly one meeting of the gaming group between the end of rehearsals for Spelling Bee and the beginning of rehearsals for Mikado, but I got to do the things I'd wanted to do, so that was good. As I mentioned last time, I had two games I wanted to play, and I got to play both.

Ingenious is an abstract pattern-based competitive game with a tricky scoring mechanic where each player is scored on several different criteria and only the lowest score counts, so if you get too focussed on building up on one score and neglect the others you can easily find yourself in real trouble. I started playing the app version last year and was sufficiently impressed by it to buy the physical game in the hope of finding people to play it with me. As it happened I found two, which made things interesting because the app version only does two-player games and so I'd never played a three-player game before. It turns out that, like many other games, it's rather more complicated and more difficult to get on top of with two opponents than with only one. I ended up not coming last, and considered myself well satisfied with my performance. The other two players seemed to enjoy themselves too, so I expect I'll take it along again another time.

Forbidden Island, which my brother gave me for Christmas, is a collaborative game in which the players are exploring an island for centuries-old lost treasures while dealing with the inconvenient fact that the island is rapidly sinking. (If memory serves, the manual claims that this is the result of an ancient booby trap set by the owners of the lost treasures, who apparently really didn't want them to be found again.) Mechanically, it's kind of like a more family friendly (less complicated, less worldwide catastrophe depicting) version of the collaborative game Pandemic, which is not a coincidence as they're both designed by Matt Leacock.

4. Recently the emergency jump start box in the car ran low on juice, which it announced by beeping loudly and regularly and loudly, which inspired me to drive directly home and look for the charge cable instead of stopping on the way to do the shopping as I'd intended. This prompted three observations:

First, that it was probably designed deliberately to make a loud and irritating noise clearly audible throughout the car specifically to make it impossible for its owner to contemplate putting off the job of recharging it, because it's not a good idea to put off charging a piece equipment you might need in an emergency. In which case, congratulations to the designer, it worked.

Secondly, while driving home I had cause to ponder the subjective nature of time, because the beeps didn't always seem regularly spaced; sometimes they seemed closer together, and other times further apart. The most convincing mechanism I've seen proposed for the subjective experience of time changing speed is that it's a function of memory; the same amount of information is coming in at the same rate all the time, but when nothing much is happening we don't bother to remember most of it, and then it seems like time has gone by really quickly, but when things get exciting more detail gets stored and then it seems in retrospect that the experience was stretched out more.

Thirdly, if I hadn't been able to find the charge cable when I got home, I'd have been stuck with a loudly beeping box that I had no way to shut up, and that would not have been fun. Here's where I benefited from some of the work I've been doing sorting my clutter into boxes. It took a few attempts to guess which box I would have sorted the charge cable into (gadgets and accessories? extension cords? stuff I'm going to put away as soon as I figure where it goes?) but it was still probably faster and less stressful than if I'd had nothing more to go on than "it's in this huge pile of clutter somewhere, probably".

5. We had the state election last weekend. Overall, it was a landslide victory for the Labor Party, which has been in opposition for the last eight years, and a crushing defeat for the Liberal-National coalition government. (Obligatory Aus politics footnote: The Liberal Party's name refers to their economic stance; they're conservative on social issues.) In my local electorate, the contest was much closer, to the point that we still, a week later, don't know exactly who the winner is. Normally by this point in a vote count it's clear who won and the rest of the ballot counting is just to find out by how much, but in this case it's split almost evenly between the three major party candidates, which never happens. In this case, the Labor candidate has the lift that his entire party's getting but is a newcomer to politics running against two well-known local identities with long track records in public service. The Libs' candidate may even have got a boost from his own party's misbehaviour, or rather from his response to it; a couple of times during the election campaign he got caught wrongfooted when his party announced policies that would have a signficant local effect without warning him first, and he wasn't shy about saying what he thought about that.

(In other news, the populist party that was expected to be a protest vote magnet did much worse in the election than expected, possibly because they were frankly and very visibly incompetent, with several of their candidates being kicked out of the party during the election campaign for doing things that a proper recruitment process ought to have caught ahead of time. It's all very well going "vote for us because you can't trust those professional politicians and we're not professionals", but being so utterly unprofessional inevitably invites people to wonder how you can be trusted to the run the place if you can't even hold the party together long enough to get over the finish line.)
pedanther: (Default)
1. Our production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opened this week. Everyone seems to be enjoying it so far. (Including us; not that we weren't enjoying it anyway, but it helps to be reminded how funny some of the bits are that had faded through over-familiarity.)

2. This weekend was the area final of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest and Evaluation Contest. I represented my club in the Evaluation Contest, and came second -- which came as a nice surprise, because I was pretty sure there were at least two other competitors who'd done better than me. My friend who represented the club in the International Speech Contest, with a speech about dealing with negative self-talk, was even more surprised to come first (but I wasn't, because it was clearly the best speech in the contest -- though I may be biased).

3. Now that rehearsals for Spelling Bee are over, I'll be able to start going to gaming group meetings again; I'm looking forward to it. Usually I just show up and see who's got a game that needs players, but this time I'm planning to suggest a few games of my own: Forbidden Island, which my brother gave me for Christmas, and Ingenious, which I gave myself for Christmas after getting hooked on the app version.

4. I've played a bit more Mass Effect since I last posted, and now know Garrus, Wrex, and Tali as more than just faces on Tumblr posts. I also, being me, managed to put my foot in my mouth with all three of them during their respective tell-me-about-your-backstory conversations. (No, that's not quite true; I did fumble things with Wrex and Garrus, but when I hacked off Tali I knew exactly what I was doing. Attempts to justify genocide make me prickly; who'd've guessed?)

5. Movie-wise, I have been to see Rogue One (I teared up at the end, in the good-heartwarming way not the bad-distressing way) and Moana (lots of fun).
pedanther: (cheerful)

1. I have been to the cinema to see a movie for the first time since, according to my notes, July. The movie was Arrival, and it was worth going to see. I will probably go and see some more movies this month, because we have Rogue One arriving this week and then Moana in the post-Christmas summer season.

2. I finally got around to reading The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards, which has been lurking in my to-read pile for years. The author is the wife of the film director Blake Edwards, aka the actor and singer Julie Andrews, and I'm pleased to be able to say I enjoyed it, although probably not as much as I would have when I was the target age and less capable of spotting the bits that are designed to impart important life lessons. Other things that stuck out to now-me that wouldn't have to child-me were the puns (especially having recently read the bit in Summer in Orcus where the child protagonist is scornful of the kind of puns adult fantasy writers put in children's fantasy), and the wise token adult's attitude to the designated adversary's concerns, which I felt should have had a hashtag on them saying "#notallhumans". I was very pleased that the designated adversary turned out to be not evil, just doing his best in very trying circumstances, and that the token wise adult was shown to be a human being with his own flaws and blind spots (and that he started listening to his former adversary more by the end), but I felt it could have done with an explicit call out that even though the designated adversary turned out to be wrong about this specific group of humans he had perfectly valid reasons to be distrustful of humans in general.

(PS. I probably would have identified with one of the children when I was a child, but as an adult the designated antagonist is definitely my favourite character.)

3. Another thing that's been sitting on the shelf that I finally got around to is the Big Finish audio drama Storm Warning, the first of their series featuring Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor. It was okay, I guess? I mean, I enjoyed it, but I'm not in a big hurry to find out what happens next. (Although part of that's obviously because I'm starting the series fifteen years late, so I already know from fandom osmosis quite a bit about what happens next.) And, to be fair, I've never been all that good at audio dramas; I don't tend to find them engaging enough to sit still through.

4. The Rep Club Christmas Show has been and gone. I was involved only as an audience member, which I think may have been the right call. On top of the reasons for making that decision in the first place, I'm now in a position to tell that I enjoyed watching it once but it would probably have worn a bit thin through a month of rehearsals and performances. (It would also have been a crimp on my social life that I'd have regretted, in terms of things I've been able to go to on what would have been show nights.)

The next Rep Club production is, as I've mentioned, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I've been cast as the socially awkward science nerd, which as you can imagine is going to be a stretch.

5. Fanfic rec: Third Wheel, in which Bruce Wayne makes his first official visit to Metropolis, and Lois Lane is assigned a celebrity profile that turns out to be more interesting than she expected, while Clark Kent investigates sightings of a mysterious bat-man.

"I've always wanted to learn how to fly," Clark said, sounding impressed.

"You should," Bruce said. "It's fun."

"It always seemed like it would be."

pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
(anonymous). Little Spinners: Dancing Princess
Michael Dahl, Oriol Vidal. Little Monkey Calms Down
William Finn, Rachel Sheinkin. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (re-read)
Kim Newman. Angels of Music (e)
Daniel Pinkwater. The Big Orange Splot (e)
Daniel Pinkwater. Lizard Music (e)
Terry Pratchett. Hogfather (e) (re-read)
Anthony Price. Here Be Monsters (e)
Robert Louis Stevenson. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Jingo (e) (re-read)
Ursula Vernon. Summer in Orcus (e)

Non-fiction books in progress
Jimmy Maher. Let's Tell a Story Together (e)

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Ben Aaronovitch. The Hanging Tree
pedanther: (cheerful)
We have completed our run of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It had some complicated staging and lighting requirements, and I was worried it wasn't all going to come together in time, but it was working well enough by opening night. (On closing night I felt as if we were stopping just as we were really getting the hang of it, but I always feel that way on closing night regardless.) It would have been nice to get larger audiences, but the people who did come enjoyed it, and that's sometimes all you can ask for in community theatre.

A few days after it closed, I read the original novel for the first time, which I'd decided during rehearsals that I wanted to do for comparison purposes but also that I would leave it until after the show closed so I wouldn't get confused if it turned out to be very different. It did turn out to be quite different, most obviously in the fact that it makes "Who is Mr. Hyde?" the big central mystery in a way that is now impossible. Another striking thing was that in the novel there is a minor character named Enfield who appears in only two scenes and exists mainly to trade exposition with the protagonist about the mysterious Mr. Hyde; in Noah Smith's stage version, Enfield has a greatly expanded part, becoming one of the six main characters and the biggest villain beside Hyde himself.

Next up for the Rep Club is the annual Christmas show, which this year is a vaguely Arthurian bit of business entitled A Knight to Remember. I will not be involved, as I have been in rehearsals or performances continually since March, and I feel the need for a bit of a break. Particularly since I have already been offered a part in the first show for next year.

The first show for next year is to be a musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The director first tried to do it here a couple of years ago, but that didn't work out for various reasons beyond anyone's control, and about half the people who were cast then have subsequently left town. Those of us remaining have been guaranteed parts in the second attempt if we're still interested (which I am), although not necessarily the same parts, because it will depend who auditions to fill the gaps and how the group dynamics shake out.

I've been vaguely pondering directing something again, but have no particular ideas about what.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Over at Mark Reads, where Mark Oshiro reads popular works of literature he's somehow managed to avoid knowing anything about, Mark has just begun reading the Discworld series. It's really entertaining watching him encounter for the first time things that we long-time Discworld fans have become used to. (Like the Discworld itself, flat and resting on the backs of four elephants which themselves stand on the shell of an enormous turtle.) (And then there's the Luggage...)

2. I am continuing at the gym fairly regularly, though not quite as regularly as I'd like; I'm aiming for at least three visits a week, but often only manage two. (My evenings are pretty crowded these days, and I am very much not a morning person so going before work isn't a thing that is happening.) An unanticipated side-effect, thanks to the gym's choice of background noise being a hit music channel, is that I'm now more familiar with the current popular singles than I've probably ever been in my life.

3. We're not doing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee this year after all; the new year brought unanticipated new workloads and time-sucks for several key people (and, in one case, the news that his employer was relocating him to a city 400 miles away). The club has regrouped and scheduled The Importance of Being Earnest to take its place; all the remaining cast of Bee were invited to take part, but I opted to step back and concentrate on preparing for the National Band Championships.

4. Because, and I may not have mentioned this yet, we will be defending our title at this year's Nationals, even though it means flying over to the other side of the continent to do it. (The flying is actually the bit I'm most worried about; it will be my first experience of commercial air travel, and I could have done without the extra worry of how my instrument case is going to interact with the luggage limits.) The guest conductor who helped us get into shape last year has been back, and I don't know if we're going to win again but I think we have a good chance of not disgracing ourselves.

5. Back to talking about local theatre, our other local theatre group has announced that its next production is going to be Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth. That's an... interesting choice; the play has some tricky staging requirements which I expect would be especially challenging for a community theatre production. I look forward with interest to seeing how it comes out.
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
GK Chesterton. The Wisdom of Father Brown (e)
William Finn, Rachel Sheinkin. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Barbara Hambly. A Free Man of Color
Nina Kiriki Hoffman. The Thread That Binds the Bones
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Balance of Trade (re-read)
Elinor Whitney. Tod of the Fens (e)

In progress
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Trade Secret (e)
Tamora Pierce. Trickster's Choice

Non-fiction books in progress
Joachim Fest. Plotting Hitler's Death

short, screen, and stage )
books bought and borrowed )

Top of the to-read pile
Tamora Pierce. Trickster's Queen
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. I attended a concert headlined by John Schumann and the Vagabond Crew, whereof I have now seen Schumann's "I Was Only Nineteen" performed live by a line-up including the man himself and at least one of the people who backed him on the original single thirty years ago.

2. I had the opportunity to introduce a group of my brass band colleagues to the game Werewolf. Several professed themselves uncertain at first, but they enjoyed the game once they got the hang of it, and at least a couple have expressed an interest in playing again sometime if suitable circumstances present themselves.

3. The Rep Club's big musical for next year will be The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee; auditions were held this month so we can get a head start on learning the songs before rehearsals start in earnest after the Christmas/New Year break.

4. I took part in a quiz night with a group of friends, and upheld the proud family tradition of coming in second place at quiz nights. We like to think that we were the moral victors, because the team that beat us took advantage of a scheme by which large donations to the cause that the quiz night was raising funds for would be rewarded with extra points. (On the other hand, we were technically over the specified team size, though two of the team-members were only there to socialise and provide moral support, and proudly announced at the end that they hadn't answered a single question between them.)

5. Yesterday was the Toastmasters club's annual International Speech Contest and Evaluation Contest. I entered the evaluation contest, as usual, and this year came third, my best result to date; I even managed to present my evaluation in the proper structure, with a conclusion and everything. This year, I was also co-organizer and emcee of the International Speech Contest, which meant that for me the very best part of the whole event was waking up the next morning and realizing that for the first time in several days I didn't have any rushing-around-preparing to do.


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September 2017



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