pedanther: (Default)
1. It's coming up to time for the Doctor Who season finale, and for the first time in a while I'm -- "really looking forward to it" isn't quite right, for several reasons; perhaps "firmly emotionally invested" is better. The last few season finales, I've been interested to see how things turned out but I wasn't particularly feeling a sense of jeopardy, or any doubt that the Doctor was going to save the day in the end. (And, it has to be said, in some cases the danger was too bizarre to be properly frightening.) But this time we've got the Doctor's companion Bill, who's one of my favourite characters in the series, in direct concrete peril, and I'm not at all sure the Doctor is going to be able to get her out, or that even if he does that it's going to be something they're going to be able to come back from.


2. Our production of The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society production of The Mikado went pretty well. There were bits I would have liked to have done better (there always are), and I didn't really feel I was giving the performance I'd been aiming for until a couple of performances before we closed (I never do), but everybody on stage and in the audience had fun, and that's the important thing.


3. There is another attempt afoot to get a regular-ish improv event going here, with the first workshop being held this week. I'm not going to prognosticate about its chances, because I said the last one looked like it might survive and then it immediately collapsed. I'll just enjoy it while it lasts, however long that turns out to be.


4. At the gaming group last week, I got invited to play a game of X-Wing Miniatures, using pre-made teams based on the more recent Force Awakens ships and characters: I had Rey and Finn in the Millennium Falcon and Poe and R2-D2 in an X-Wing, while the guy who owned the set had Hux's flagship and Kylo Ren's shuttle. The encounter was a victory for the Resistance, which I attribute more to the inherent strength of the team I was given than to my own rather fumbling efforts. (In particular, I kept forgetting the movement order, with the result that nearly every turn the Falcon rear-ended some other ship because I'd incorrectly assumed it would have moved out of the way before the Falcon got there.)


5. I tried watching Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight again recently, and found it a lot less entertaining now that I know what's coming. I mean that two different ways: First, it's a movie that depends a lot on surprising twists, and is at a disadvantage when the viewer knows all the twists in advance. Second, the events of the sequel cast a shadow back over this movie, not always to its benefit. Also, for a Batman movie, there really isn't all that much Batman in it.
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (e)
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. The Gathering Edge (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. The Truth (e) (re-read)
Kai Ashante Wilson. A Taste of Honey (e)

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

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

Top of the to-read pile
Paul Beatty. The Sellout
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Terry Pratchett. The Fifth Elephant (e) (re-read)

In progress
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (e)
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. The Gathering Edge (e)
Terry Pratchett. The Truth (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

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

Top of the to-read pile
Kai Ashante Wilson. A Taste of Honey
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Lois McMaster Bujold. The Curse of Chalion (re-read)
Lee Falk, Ray Moore. The Phantom: The Complete Newspaper Dailies volume 1
Gail Carson Levine. Fairest
Anne McCaffrey. The Ship Who Sang (e) (re-read)
Anthony Price. A New Kind of War (e)
John Scalzi. The End of All Things
John Scalzi. The Human Division
Ursula Vernon. Summer in Orcus (e)

In progress
Katherine Addison. The Goblin Emperor (e)
Terry Pratchett. The Last Continent (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books In progress
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

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

Top of the to-read pile
Anthony Price. A Prospect of Vengeance
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
Ben Aaronovitch. The Hanging Tree (e)
Julie Edwards. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
Terry Pratchett. Jingo (e) (re-read)
Anthony Price. For the Good of the State (e)

In progress
Katherine Addison. The Goblin Emperor (e)
Ursula Vernon. Summer in Orcus (e)

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

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

Top of the to-read pile
Terry Pratchett. The Last Continent
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)
Fiction books
Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Mad King (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Hogfather (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books
Eleanor Herman. Sex with Kings

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

Top of the to-read pile
Ursula Vernon. Summer in Orcus
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Lois McMaster Bujold. Diplomatic Immunity (e) (re-read)
Lois McMaster Bujold. Komarr (e) (re-read)
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca. Darth Vader volume 1
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Alliance of Equals (e)
John Ostrander, Luke McDonnell, et al. Suicide Squad volume 1
Terry Pratchett. Feet of Clay (e) (re-read)
Anthony Price. Sion Crossing (e)
Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell, et al. Prez volume 1
William Shakespeare. Hamlet (re-read)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Hogfather (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books
Adrian Goldsworthy. Augustus (e)

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

Top of the to-read pile
Eleanor Herman. Sex with Kings
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Paul Dini, Bruce Timm. Mad Love and other stories

In progress
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Alliance of Equals (e)
Terry Pratchett. Feet of Clay (e) (re-read)

Abandoned
Diane Duane. Deep Wizardry (e) (re-read) (not a bad book, just not the right book for me right now)

Non-fiction books in progress
Adrian Goldsworthy. Augustus (e)

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

Top of the to-read pile
Terry Pratchett. Hogfather
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. We have finished the run of Oliver!, to the disappointment apparently of many people who left it too late to get tickets. Apparently there were enough enquiries to suggest that we could have sold out a fourth weekend of performances, but that wasn't practicable because everyone in the cast and crew had already made other plans and in some cases would be out of town.

Despite the logistical complications (and having to share the green room with a crowd of small noisy people), I'm glad we were in our theatre instead of the big one. The trouble with the big one, which I think I've mentioned before, is that it's impossible to book it for more than a few days at a time, so we'd have only been able to do one weekend and would have had to stop just as we were all getting settled into the thing. As it was, we had the first weekend to get settled and then two more weekends to enjoy doing it properly.

The director says that between seeing me in action as Fagin, and hearing the violin player who got recruited for the pit orchestra, she's seriously considering doing Fiddler on the Roof as her next big show. That won't be for a year or two, though. What's coming up now is our annual season of one-act plays, then The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


2. I've been to the gaming group a couple of times since I last mentioned it.

The first time, we played The Resistance and Cards Against Humanity, and I was reminded why I don't like playing The Resistance or Cards Against Humanity. (The Resistance is one of those games that's all about watching people's body language to figure out who's the traitor, and I'm frankly terrible at it. Cards Against Humanity is kind of a joke game, and it's basically the same joke over and over again, which gets boring very quickly if you're not in the mood for that kind of joke, and I'm usually not.)

The second time went better. We played Formula D, a game where you roll dice to move a car around a board shaped like a race track, which is a lot more fun than it sounds. You get to roll different shaped dice depending on what gear you're in, and you have to be careful not to go around corners too fast, or bump into other cars, or several other things that can damage your car and put you out of the race. I drew pole position at the beginning, and had a lot of fun hogging the track by placing my car where it would be more difficult for the others to get past. Later in the race, I fell behind a bit due to some conservative cornering, and in the end I came in third.


3. For SF Writer Appreciation Day this year, I showed appreciation for Tim Powers by putting money down for his latest novel. And the one from a couple of years back, because I somehow hadn't got around to that one yet.


4. This week's fanfic rec is a sequel to the Batman & Catwoman one from last time: Give and Take


5. My current favourite podcast, and the one I'm most consistently keeping up with, is Robot or Not? with John Siracusa and Jason Snell. Episodes drop once a week, and are all under ten minutes long; many are under five minutes, and the shortest to date is 48 seconds including the opening and closing music. The format is very simple: Jason nominates a topic, and John explains why it is or is not a robot. Topics include robots, cyborgs, and AIs from fiction, mechanisms from real life, and occasional left-field balls such as "the dance called The Robot". John's answers are based on intuition rather than a pre-determined set of rules, although as the series progresses an empirical set of guidelines is beginning to take shape, and sometimes don't fall how you might expect. (Assembly-line robot arms? Not robots, for reasons that actually make sense when John explains them.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. The opening night of Oliver! went well, though not without a few hiccups.

We got the feature photo on the front page of the Saturday paper, and more photos inside accompanied by a basic write-up. No review; the chap who's been covering the theatre beat for the local paper has moved on (which is a pity, because he wrote proper reviews and I was looking forward to seeing what he made of it), so the paper only sent a photographer to the dress-and-press and then had someone back at the office write the accompaniment for the photos. Which may explain how they managed to relocate the show to a different theatre a fair way across town from the one it's actually in...


2. I recently rewatched "Curious Jarod", which has always been one of my favourite episodes of The Pretender. It still is, but this time around it struck me that it was an example of one of the patterns that the Bechdel Test exists to encourage awareness of. It has an unusually large number of female characters for an episode of The Pretender, in a range of ages, ethnicities, and social positions -- and not once do we see any of them interact with each other, even the ones who are said to be co-workers or otherwise have interacted off-screen. They're all on separate spokes off the hub of the male lead character. By contrast, most of the male characters in the episode have at least one conversation with at least one other male character who isn't the lead.


3. In other old TV news, I've finished watching my way through the World War II-set drama series Enemy at the Door, which I got on DVD after [livejournal.com profile] lost_spook posted about it. I enjoyed it a lot, if "enjoyed" is the right word for a series which is all about moral dilemmas and compromises and features a large number of unhappy endings.

Since I raised the subject already, I can't remember whether it passed the Bechdel Test; there are a fair number of female characters, and they often have conversations with each other, but the ones that come to mind are about husbands or sons or boyfriends. But it does pass [livejournal.com profile] capriuni's disability representation test: one of the recurring characters, Helen Porteous, is in a wheelchair, and although the initial impetus for introducing her is clearly to give her son someone to worry about, she's depicted as a character in her own right, with her own wants and needs that never include the stock disabled character motivations of Death, Revenge, or Cure.


4. For anyone who might be interested, Kim Newman's next book has been announced as Angels of Music, a 19th-century take-off of Charlie's Angels with the Paris Opera Ghost as Charlie, the daroga as Bosley, and a line-up of Angels that includes Christine Daaé, Trilby O'Ferrall, and Irene Adler. It will presumably incorporate in some fashion the short story with that premise Newman wrote a while back, in which the Angels of Music were pitted against the Countess Cagliostro and an army of Dr Coppélius's mechanical dolls.


5. And in what seems to be becoming a tradition, another recommendation for Batman fic from the usual source: Reviving a Tomb, in which Selina Kyle meets Bruce Wayne and Batman meets Catwoman.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Oliver! opens on Friday. I've been singing the bridge section from "Another Op'nin', Another Show" a lot. One week - will it ever be right? Actually, we're doing pretty well, apart from a couple of scenes and a couple of crowd songs where the choreography could stand to be tightened a bit.

The junior contingent of the cast is doing pretty well on the stage, but is getting on a lot of nerves backstage. The last time we did Oliver!, about fifteen years ago, it was in a big modern theatre with a soundproofed backstage area and a separate room for the kids and their minders. For this production, we're back in our home theatre, which is older, smaller, and more rickety, so we're all sharing one green room and spending a lot of time trying out new variations on "Hey, pipe down, the audience will be able to hear you" in the hope that one of them will stick.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should mention that there was one scene that kept going wrong because somebody was getting their lines out in the wrong places, and when we dug the script out to check it turned out to be me. Whoops. Still, I'm pretty confident we've got that straightened out now.


2. At the gaming group this week, we played Talisman, subtitled "The Magical Quest Game". Well, we started playing; the designers took the "epic quest" brief very seriously, so it's not a quick play. Three and half hours later it was nearly time to pack up and nobody was close to winning, so when the first player died we decided that would have to do as an outcome and ended it there.

Each player picks a character out of a deck of about a dozen, each of which has varying strengths and weaknesses. (I was playing the Minstrel, who has high intelligence/magical ability, low physical strength, and a special ability that means that if he is attacked by a wild animal, instead of having to fight it he can try to charm it with his music, and if he succeeds it will follow him around and help him fight things he can't charm.) If you're not playing with a time limit, the rule is apparently that when your character is killed you get to pick another one and start again from the beginning (otherwise you'd be sitting around for ages waiting for someone else to win, which would be no fun).

The board is laid out in three concentric rectangles. The outermost area is the settled world, with towns and fields and forests, and the best places to stock up on weapons and armour and other equipment before setting out on the quest properly. Across a river is the middle area, which has more adventurous climates, like deserts and mountains, as well as the royal palace and the high temple, and a big sinister portal that leads into the mountain fastness that is the object of the quest. The innermost area has encounters with vampires, werewolves, Death itself, and another door that can only be opened with the eponymous talisman, and leads to the treasure everyone seeks.


3. I finally got around to seeing the caper film Now You See Me, which was very entertaining but I suspect is going to make less sense the more I think about it. (It's certainly a lot better constructed than The Illusionist, the last trick-ending movie featuring stage magicians I saw, but that's really not a high bar to clear.) I wish I'd gotten around to it before someone told me which character was the Fifth Horseman, because that's the kind of thing I enjoy trying to figure out for myself. I think I might have managed it; I'm pretty sure that even without knowing the answer in advance I would have ruled out three of the suspects by the time the endgame started, which would have narrowed the field considerably. (One of them gets ruled out for you at the end of the second act, another I think would have pinged my red herring detector from being pushed a bit too hard as Suspicious, and a third either can't be or must be the Fifth Horseman, depending on how much I-know-you-know one applies to the hints about the Fifth Horseman's motives, and I think I would have come down on the correct side.) But it would have been nice to find out.


4. It's not been a good month for my childhood, with the deaths of author Nicholas Fisk (Grinny, Monster Maker, et al.) and actor Alan Young (the definitive Scrooge McDuck, among many notable roles in a varied career).


5. This week's Batman fanfic rec: Unpaid Internship, in which there's less than an hour until a quarter of the earth's population meets explosive doom and Batman is carrying something that he's adamant isn't a baby.
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Janet Kagan. Hellspark (e) (re-read)
Janet Kagan. Mirabile (e)
Terry Pratchett. Interesting Times (e) (re-read)
Noah Smith. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

In progress
Diane Duane. Deep Wizardry (e) (re-read)
Terry Pratchett. Maskerade (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books In progress
Adrian Goldsworthy. Augustus (e)

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

Top of the to-read pile
William Shakespeare. Hamlet
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Last night (Friday) we had a showcase night at the Rep Club, with members performing songs from various musicals -- ending, of course, with a couple from the upcoming production of Oliver!. I got called on to perform "Reviewing the Situation", which was a bit nerve-wracking, particularly since at the point where it was added to the program we hadn't actually got up to it in rehearsals. I'd been practicing it at home, but never with someone else accompanying, and it's the kind of song where that can make a difference. I did manage to get in some practice with the showcase night's accompanist, and in the event it went off well. The other performances were also good, and all in all it was a fun night.


2. Three weeks until Oliver! opens, which puts us into the traditional period for worrying about whether the whole thing will come together in time. We still haven't had any rehearsals with the pit orchestra yet, for one thing. I suspect the big test might be in about a week, when we start doing the head-to-tail run-throughs, and we find out how much the children still remember of Act One.


3. My current favorite author of DC superhero fanfic strikes again. The title of this one is Arm Candy, and the summary is: Where Bruce Wayne goes, models follow. It's almost a joke, the way he wears them like watches, girls too young for him hanging off his arms. It's a wonder he can even tell them apart. Both are ironic.


4. I did a piece of adulting recently that I was quite proud of. The venetian blinds on one of my windows weren't staying up, and I figured out that some of the brackets that held them in place had been twisted out of shape. I found a shop that sold replacement brackets, installed them, and re-hung the blinds all by myself. I even dealt calmly and collectedly with the part where I learned why the original installer had drilled two holes for one of the brackets, which I did by inadvertantly screwing the bracket into the wrong hole first and discovering, as the original installer presumably had, that when it was placed there it got in the way of the mechanism for raising and lowering the blinds.


5. The local high school's big production of the year was the musical Hairspray. I went along, and it was one of the most entertaining nights out I've had in a while.

(One thing I was a bit worried about going in was how they were going to handle the fact that a significant subset of the characters are African-American, a group that isn't represented in large numbers in these parts. Apparently, this is not an uncommon problem; there was actually a message in the show programme from the authors of the show saying that they encouraged high school productions to find creative solutions to it -- ie., absolutely not blackface -- and asked the audience to get into the spirit of the thing. In the event, what this production did was have all the white characters played by white actors and all characters who are people of colour played by actors who are people of colour, if not necessarily the colour originally intended. That seemed like a reasonable compromise.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. The fanfic I recommended last week has a sequel now: Christmas in Kansas, the story of the first time Clark Kent brought his colleagues Bruce and Diana home for the Christmas holidays. There's inevitably quite a bit of focus on Bruce, due to the inherent incongruity of Bruce Wayne + relaxed family holiday, but Diana gets some really nice moments, too.


2. Since I'm already recommending out-of-season Christmas fanfic, I don't think I've recced back in anno domini here; it's a crossover in which Susan Pevensie goes to stay with a friend in Tatchester and ends up befriending Kay Harker. It's really beautiful, but it hasn't got a lot of attention possibly because there aren't a lot of people on AO3 who know who Kay Harker is. (I mean, I suspect it would still be a beautiful story even if you have no idea, but I can see why people might be cautious.) (And of course I could be wrong, since I've known Kay nearly as long as I've known Susan.)


3. Rehearsals for Oliver! continue. I'm beginning to really get a feel for Fagin's physicality: how he holds his shoulders, how he moves his hands, how he walks. Not so much, alas! for how he speaks - I'm shifting unreliably between several different accents, and it seems like the more I attention I pay to how I'm speaking the less likely I am to get the result I'm after.

The children of the cast seem to have largely accepted me, in (will-I or nill-I) the role of the fun adult who'll often play along with a joke but needn't be paid any attention to if he tries to get one to settle down. Fortunately, there are other adults in the cast who can achieve more success if settling down is what's needed, including our Nancy, who's a teacher in real life.


4. I've been to see Captain America: Civil War. I have previously had occasion to comment that the MCU doesn't have a track record of sticking the distance with moral dilemmas or good-vs-good conflicts; the side that the heroes aren't on tends to see the light, or do something that allows their viewpoint to be swept under the carpet, like die or turn evil (or turn evil and then die). I didn't expect this movie to be any different, and it wasn't. Doubtless there will be bloggers who will examine the details in more depth, but that's not really my thing.

I like the new version of Spider-Man.


5. At the gaming group this week I played Hoax, Council of Verona, and Goblins, Inc..

Hoax is one of those bluffing games where you have to figure out what cards your opponents have while being free to lie as much as you like about your own. I've generally been pretty terrible at bluffing games because I have no poker face when I get a good card, but between Batman Love Letter last week and Hoax this week I've been working on a strategy where I attempt to mask my reaction to good news maintaining a cheerful demeanor all the time regardless. I was getting pretty good at it by the time we moved on to the next thing.

Council of Verona involves a meeting to settle the feud between the Montagues and Capulets, and cards representing various characters from Romeo and Juliet, each of which either has a goal for the outcome of the meeting or an action that will affect the outcome. (For example, Lord Montague's goal is to end the game with more Montagues at the meeting than Capulets, and there's a lesser Montague whose action can be used to have one of the Capulets kicked out of the meeting. Another character, I forget which, has the goal of ending the game with more people kicked out of the meeting than still in. Romeo, meanwhile, doesn't care what happens at the meeting, or whether he's in or out, only whether Juliet is there with him.) Where it gets complicated is that players score by betting on which characters will achieve their goals, and using the action characters to influence the outcome - and some of the characters' actions, instead of directly affecting other characters, can be used to mess with the other players' bets. I still don't think I've quite got my head around it.

Goblins, Inc. is about designing giant fighting machines and then playing them off against one another. It's an interesting mix of co-operation and competition. It's played with two teams of two, but halfway through the game the pairs are split and rearranged so that you end up allied with a former opponent. At various points in the game, each player is required to make important decisions without consulting their ally. Players are scored individually, and each player earns a different number of points from a victorious round depending on their secret agenda. (For instance, one player might earn points for each of their opponent's weapons that's destroyed, while another might earn points for each bit of armor; and similarly when it comes to the bits of their own machine remaining intact at the end of the fight.) In theory, the secret agenda might also influence a player to make a decision during the round that helps them but harms their ally. In practice, I found that I paid a lot of attention to my intactness agenda during the design phase (points for every intact weapon at the end of the fight? okay, we need to start with lots of weapons) but during the fight phase I would just forget about the destruction agenda and concentrate on the best outcome for the team. That seemed to work well for me, since I won the game.
 
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Diane Duane. So You Want to Be a Wizard (e) (re-read)
Ryk E Spoor. Phoenix Ascendant (e)
Ryk E Spoor. Phoenix in Shadow (e)
Ryk E Spoor. Phoenix Rising (e) (re-read)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Interesting Times (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Adrian Goldsworthy. Augustus (e)

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

Top of the to-read pile
Diane Duane. Deep Wizardry
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Since I mentioned that the brass band was contesting at the Nationals, I suppose I should add that they came second in their grade, which is pretty good going considering (a) there were around a dozen bands in that grade, and (b) it's a grade up from where we competed last time.

But I wonder what it says that my immediate reaction to the news was a little voice somewhere inside me asserting confidently that they'd never have done so well if I'd gone and played with them.


2. I have now seen every episode of the original series of Star Trek, plugging an obvious gap in my geek credentials. I started at the same time Mark Watches did, nearly two years ago, but fell behind almost immediately because I wasn't willing to buy the DVDs just to watch them once, and this turned out to be a bad part of the world to borrow them. Star Trek wasn't available on any online streaming service in Australia at the time, and none of the local bricks-and-mortar video libraries had it, so I ended up relying on a mail-order video library that would only send them out one disc at a time and took a whole week to get the next disc to me when I sent the previous disc back. It was a considerable relief when one of the Australian streaming services finally started offering Star Trek, and I could knock off the second half of season three in under a month.

(And yes, "it has Star Trek" was literally the sole criterion I used to decide which streaming video service to sign up for. It wasn't a bad decision, though; the same provider also has the Australian streaming rights for Doctor Who, as well as a pretty large collection of shows I've always intended to watch some day but couldn't be bothered when the best option looked like being the mail-order video library.)


3. A little while ago I discovered a YouTube channel dedicated to Tiny Planets, an animated show that was one of my favourite things in the world when I was younger. I’ve been watching episodes on and off since, and it’s just as delightful as I remember it being. (In fact, it’s even more delightful, because the version on YouTube is without the intrusive narration that was added when it aired here.)


4. This week I finally got around to attending a meeting of the local gaming group, whose existence I learned of a bit over a year ago. I insist that this is partly their fault for giving the impression that they don't want new people to find them: before this week, the only evidence I'd seen of their existence was a single flyer on the wall of a shop that is itself quite hard to find. (They also have a Facebook page, I'm told, but it's not visible to people who don't have Facebook.) To be fair, they're not hurting for members; there was a pretty good crowd the night I went.

They cover a range of tabletop gaming areas: the meeting I went to had a table each devoted to an RPG campaign (Pathfinder), a miniature wargame (Warhammer 40K), and Magic: The Gathering, as well as several tables devoted to more casual boardgaming.

Not being the kind of person who's good at interposing myself, I hovered until one of the organisers noticed me and gave me the tour, then hovered some more until one of the boardgames finished and the people on that table invited me to join their next game. They turned out to be a pretty friendly bunch, and did a lot to counteract the uncertainty I was still feeling about whether I was welcome.

We played 7 Wonders (I came third) and Love Letter: Batman (I came dead last, partly because I was having too much fun to concentrate on strategy). Love Letter: Batman isn't as weird as it sounds, and doesn't actually involve any love letters: it's a spin-off of a game about deducing the location of a compromising letter, but in the Batman edition you're deducing the hiding places of villains instead.

Once I got past the nervous hovering I had a lot of fun, and I don't intend to wait a whole year before I go again.


5. The single best thing I've read recently is a fanfic called Empty Graves, which is the story of why you never hear about anybody going back in time and killing Superman when he was a defenceless two-year-old. (The short answer is Martha Kent. The long answer is more complicated, and ends in a brighter place than I was afraid it would when I was halfway through.)

 
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Brian Clevinger, et al. Real Science Adventures: The Billion Dollar Plot (e)
Lian Hearn. Across the Nightingale Floor (e)
Lian Hearn. Grass for His Pillow (e)
Tim Powers. Dinner at Deviant's Palace
Terry Pratchett. Soul Music (e) (re-read)
Josephine Tey. Brat Farrar (re-read)

In progress
Diane Duane. So You Want to Be a Wizard (e) (re-read)
Terry Pratchett. Interesting Times (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books
Harley Granville-Barker. Prefaces to Shakespeare: Hamlet

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

Top of the to-read pile
Ryk E Spoor. Phoenix in Shadow

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