pedanther: (Default)
1. A pretty slim fiction log, this month. In particular, I think this may be the first month since I started that I had no completed books to list. It's been kind of a stressful month, and the books I have on the go are mostly ones I'm reading more out of a sense of obligation than because I'm actively enjoying them, so they didn't work as a way to escape from stress. (Apart from the Discworld novel, obviously, but I'm reading that one on a schedule with a reading group, and it happens that we ended the month with one section to go.)

Although the first section of the fiction log doesn't tell the whole story, because I did read one novel-length work this month: Triptych, a Star Wars fanwork set after The Force Awakens. (This not-telling-the-whole-story is precisely why I started including novel-length fanworks in the log, of course.) It was an effective stress escape while it lasted, and comes to an emotionally satisfying conclusion (although not, I think, one that will turn out to bear much resemblance to whatever the films end up doing).


2. One of the sources of stress has been that for the past year I have been president of the brass band, a situation I have completely failed to mention here because it doesn't reflect any actual achievement on my part except being the slowest to dodge. Everybody agrees that the president is an important position that needs to be filled, but nobody in the band wants to be the person who actually fills it. I didn't want to do it even before I was pushed into it, and now that I've actually given it a go and found myself unsuited to it, I really don't want to do it. There were times -- plural -- when I was finding it so stressful that I had to talk myself down from dramatically announcing my resignation not only from the presidency but also from the band and flouncing out of the rehearsal hall, never to return. We had the AGM recently, and I managed to dodge better this time, so hopefully things will be less stressful from now on.


3. This month has also been crunch time for the annual performing arts festival, which started last weekend. We're sticking with last year's arrangement where all the singers are on one weekend and all the instrumental performances are on a second weekend, with separate adjudicators for each. The vocal weekend went really well, with the adjudicator also running a couple of good workshops. There was less going on in the experienced solo sections than usual because a couple of people who usually enter those have left town since last year. Maybe this is a sign that next year I need to act on my perennial threat to enter the solo sections myself.


4. Another thing we're getting into crunch time for is the next Rep Club production I'm involved in. I mentioned that there's an improv group going again, and we have a couple of performances coming up. What's making it interesting is that in addition to the usual sort of improv scene games, where a couple of people go on stage and improvise a single scene, we're going to be featuring a long-form improv, which will run for multiple scenes, include all the actors, and hopefully end up with some kind of comprehensible storyline pulling the whole thing together.


5. Toastmasters annual Table Topics and Humorous Speech Contests. Entered the Table Topics contest, won, advanced to Area finals, didn't win. Probably just as well; not sure if I'm going to be free for the Division finals.

Anyway, I'm thinking about letting go of Toastmasters entirely. I've advanced to a level where a person really needs to invest time and energy to keep getting something out of it -- or rather, I advanced to that level about two years ago and haven't progressed since. And the thing is, I don't think I have the time and enery to spare: I'm using it on other things that matter more to me, like the Rep Club. The last year or so, it's seemed like I've had something else on every night there's been a Toastmasters meeting, and the couple of meetings I've been to I've been very aware that I'm rusty and not making up for lost time, let alone advancing. So I think it might be time for me to acknowledge that Toastmasters has been a valuable part of my life that I've gained a lot from, but isn't something I need to keep holding on to.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. This week I have five Christmas/end-of-year social events in six days; in no particular order: work, the Rep Club, the other theatre group that isn't the Rep Club, Toastmasters, and the brass band. Three of those have already happened, and all of them were on evenings when I would have had to give them a miss or leave early if I'd been in the Christmas Show, as I was saying last entry, which would have been regrettable.

Also on the list of things I'd have had to miss out on: going to see the WA Symphony Orchestra's annual public concert with the family. (Does that count as an end-of-year social event? I'm inclined to say not, because nobody fed me.)


2. The choral group I mentioned joining has finished up for the year. I've been enjoying it and will definitely be back next year.


3. I have been to two charity book sales recently. I donated a box of books to the first one, so I came out with a net decrease in the number of books taking up space in my house. Win!

A significant amount of the box I donated consisted of duplicate copies, many of them a result of seeing a book at a sale and going "I've always wanted a copy of that" and then finding when I got home that I already had one in the to-read pile. I managed to do it again at both of these sales, so I've already made a start on the next box...


4. So far since the new $5 note was released, I've only had one pass into my hands. It was weird and disconcerting and I spent it in the very next shop I went into so that I wouldn't have to keep looking at it.


5. At work, my computer finally got old and unreliable enough that the boss felt obliged to find room in the budget for a new one. This meant leapfrogging from Windows XP (yes, it was that old) to Windows 10, which despite my reservations has been relatively un-horrible. The worst of it were some initial issues with the wireless keyboard, which seem to have sorted themselves out, and a weird tendency to reboot itself without notice, which I think has been fixed now that I've tracked down the option switch that was set to "Reboot immediately after installing a system update" (the documentation says that that option will still wait until the computer is standing idle, but such was not my experience).

There's also the unanticipated side-effect that my computer at home, which had always felt speedy and powerful compared to the one at work, is now by comparison showing its age and small memory.
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)
1. Swancon soon! I haven't packed yet, because I usually do that after laundry day, so as to have the widest range of clothing options, and laundry day this week has been postponed because of rain. (Note to self: Go and bring the laundry in off the line once this is posted.)


2. The brass band is contesting at the Nationals again, but I'm not going with them; I've already missed one Swancon and most of another for the previous two occasions, and I feel that's quite enough. I went to all the rehearsals, though, because it's good practice and because the person who will be filling in for me won't be available until just before the contest, so until then it was useful to have someone filling in for them.


3. I've recently rewatched some episodes of Davies-era Doctor Who that I hadn't watched in years. (Part of the impetus was that the Verities are rewatching both first seasons of Doctor Who for their podcast this year.) The stories and performances hold up pretty well, and I don't think any of the special effects struck me as fake-looking that didn't already the first time, but the incidental music! I remember, back in the day, there were a lot of complaints about Murray Gold's music being obtrusive; it never seemed so to me then, but it does now.


4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on TV last week, the 1992 comedy film version, and I'd never watched it all the way through before, so I did, and now I kind of want to see the Yuletide Buffy fanfic we'd be getting if there'd never been the TV series afterward. There are all these hooks in the movie that everyone ignores now because the TV series went a different direction, like the idea that there's just one Watcher and one Slayer, endlessly reincarnated. Or even Buffy's ludicrously uninvolved parents - imagine what a fanfic exploration of that could be like... (I tried looking at AO3 to see if it had any movie Buffy fic, but all I found was a bit of Pike/Benny slash and a lot of TV Buffy fans who don't understand how fandom tags work.)


5. At Mark Reads, Mark has just finished reading all of Tamora Pierce's novels, and is just about to embark on Diane Duane's Young Wizards series. I was really keen on those when I was around the same age as the protagonists, but I've never re-read any of them, so that'll be interesting. (Actually, I've started re-reading the first one already, and it's holding up pretty well so far.)

ETA: 5a. Mark is, of course, also still reading through the Discworld series. He's just started on Interesting Times; it makes an... intriguing accompaniment to Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori, which I'm reading as homework for Swancon.
 
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. I mentioned that I was planning to keep the moustache I grew for a role last year until I found out what, if any, role I'd be playing in the Rep Club's next production, which is a season of short plays. As it turns out the role I've got is that of a director instead of an actor. This will be the second short play I've directed, and I realised after I picked the script that it has some interesting similarities to and differences from the first one. It's going well so far. (And I'm keeping the moustache, because having a colonel's moustache helps me feel like someone who is and should be in charge.)


2. I have managed to maintain fairly frequent gym-going even after the holidays ended and all my other time commitments started up again. I've even managed to schedule another meeting with the trainer without an unreasonable amount of procrastination, and was rewarded with a more challenging exercise routine.

I did slightly squib out the last time I was at the gym, though: one of the exercises requires a bit of solid flat wall, of which there isn't much in the gym that isn't rendered unsuitable by, for instance, being covered in floor-to-ceiling mirror glass, and the one bit of wall I've come to rely on is currently unavailable because they've parked a membership drive display in front of it.


3. One of the commitments that's started up again after the holidays is the brass band. So far this year, I've been alternating between playing trombone and baritone: I was moved from trombone to understudy first baritone last year, but most of the trombone section have left town and the old first baritone player hasn't yet, so depending on who shows up to any given rehearsal or performance I'm sometimes needed more in my old chair.


4. In a tiny victory against the forces of clutter, I obtained some press-seal bags and sorted all the counters and cards and tokens in my copy of A Study in Emerald so that if I ever play it again it will take a bit less time to set up. (The game did ship with some press-seal bags, but not enough to do a full divvy; I think whoever chose the number was expecting all the player bits to be kept together, but it's more useful to make a separate "here's all your starting bits" bag for each player.) My immediate reward was that I got to confirm that all the bits are present and correct, including the card that was apparently missing when I played with my brother (it was stuck to the back of one of the other cards).


5. The first two seasons of Sherlock have recently been being reaired here, with "The Reichenbach Fall" scheduled this evening. (I had hoped they'd also be doing season three, which I still haven't seen yet, but no dice: next week it's new episodes of Broadchurch.) There was an exchange in Steven Moffat's season-two episode that in retrospect strikes me as marking one of the stops on the train of thought that led to the latest Doctor Who season finale.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Having got the brass band competition out of the way, I've got time for acting again. I'm in rehearsals for a production that opens at the end of June, and after that it'll be straight into rehearsals for another production opening in October.

The June production is the stage adaptation of 'Allo 'Allo, in which I will be playing an amusing Nazi. It's a bit of a departure for me, in that it's being put on by what I think of, and have occasionally referred to here, as "the other local theatre group". I've been to see some of their shows, and learned from their workshops, but this is the first time I've been in one of their productions.

The October production is a staging of a 115-year-old West End melodrama called The Duchess of Coolgardie, which was given a topical spin by taking as its setting the gold rush that was going on in Western Australia at the time. This will be the first time it's been put on in the part of the world where it's set. Being a melodrama, most of the characters are broad stereotypes, and the supporting cast are mainly distinguished by being The Irish One, The Yorkshire One, and so on. (Also, The Aboriginal One, who occasionally wanders into talking more like The Native American One when the authors have a lapse of concentration.) I've been cast as the villain; it's not clear yet whether moustache-twirling will be involved, but I've already found a stage direction calling for me to laugh sardonically at the heroes' misfortune.


2. The Rep Club's most recent production, the one which I didn't audition for because brass band competition, was The Importance of Being Earnest. I have a feeling that anybody who knew much about Victorian dress, behaviour, or interior decoration would have picked up a lot of lapses in those areas, but it was pleasantly entertaining, and it got major props from me for playing the butlers straight. (Every professional production I've seen in years has cast physical-comedy actors as the butlers and let them wander around upstaging Wilde's dialogue with slapstick sight gags. Drives me nuts, and I can't imagine why the directors thought that would be a good idea.)


3. Back at the brass band, there are deliberations afoot regarding shifting some of the players to new positions, to cover gaps left by players leaving and what have you over the past few years. (When we were at the competition, we had guests from friendly bands, including a few temporarily-returned ex-members, helping to bring us up to full strength.) I have been approached about possibly being shifted not only to a different position but to a different instrument.

There are two things to note here: The first is that every brass intrument except the trombone is built on the same basic system, so if you know how to play one it doesn't take long to learn a different one, if the one you know isn't the trombone. The second is that the only brass instrument I've ever learned to play is the trombone.

Actually, the conceptual leap was the difficult bit; now that I've actually started learning the new instrument it's going pretty smoothly, and I may actually be up to speed on it by the time they decide whether they want me to play it or not.

(I'm still not entirely convinced they're going to end up shifting me off trombone. It's not that there's a shortage of players: even without counting me, there are more players who identify trombone as their preferred instrument than there are trombone positions, which is one of the things that triggered the deliberations. It's just that when the trombone players were polled on which position they would prefer to play, given free choice, all of them except me wanted the same one.)


4. I have given another project speech at Toastmasters, this one on the subject of Nancy Pearl's Doorways into Reading, which I have written about here before.

I have one more project speech to do and then I will qualify as an official Competent Communicator. If I do it before the end of June, I'll boost the club's standing in the annual assessment of club performance. I don't think that's going to happen, though, partly because I'm not sure I'm going to be available for any of the June meetings, and partly because the requirement for the final project speech is to be inspiring, and I have no ideas for a topic I could be inspiring on.


5. Today's Google Doodle on the Australian Google homepage pays tribute to cartoonist and puppeteer Norman Hethrington, creator of one of Australia's most-loved children's television shows (also, with a suitable amount of hand-waving, arguably the long-running science fiction TV series in the world).
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. We won our division again, and retained the title of National D Grade Champions. I gather this means that if we contest again next year, we'll be required to move up to C Grade and give someone else a shot. I also gather that we're probably not going to be contesting next year; the expense in time and money is not sustainable for many years running. (Of the two, the time cost is perhaps the more important. Over the past few months, the amount of time we've spent preparing for the contest has meant that we've done hardly any performances locally, and those we have done have sometimes suffered for our attention being elsewhere. That's no way to carry on.)


2. The flying turned out to be no problem. It was actually a lot like being on the train, except that it's been years since the train had a meal service included in the price of the ticket. (And the view out the windows, of course. One striking moment there was when I realised that not only were we flying above the clouds, we were so far above that they seemed to be almost on the ground themselves.)


3. Brisbane continued the theme by being a lot like Perth. The details varied, but the only time I got a visceral sense of unfamiliarity was on the second day, when I was walking down the street at twilight and heard an utterly strange bird call out of the gathering darkness.


4. Saw quite a bit of the South Bank while I was in Brisbane, it being on the route between the hotel and the contest venue, as well as the Botanical Gardens, Australia Zoo, and the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. At the latter two, I kept wanting to tweet a running commentary of the animals I had now seen in the flesh ("Have now seen a real live komodo dragon. It was asleep."), but since I don't have Twitter I settled for texting my observations to [livejournal.com profile] poinketh instead. ("Giant African tortoise: on close inspection, probably awake.") I didn't take many photos myself, since I'm not much of a photographer generally and anyway the whole point of the experience was about seeing the animals without a camera acting as intermediary, but I did decide I might as well shell out for the official Portrait of Tourist and Koala.


5. At one of the ANZAC Day services yesterday, in between a hymn and the recitation of the Lord's Prayer, a choir sang "Imagine". I think this means "Imagine" has now reached that point of comfortable familiarity where the words go straight through the listener without slowing down.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. We leave tomorrow for Brisbane to defend our title at the Australian National Band Championships. After tonight's rehearsal, we're feeling pretty confident.

More importantly, it'll be a fun trip full of new and interesting things to see, even if we don't actually win.


[1a. It's a sign of how focussed I've lately been on the upcoming Championships that I'd completely forgotten, until I saw what this post was next to on my friendslist, how annoyed I was when I realized it would mean missing Swancon. It would happen in a year when the Guest of Honor was somebody I particularly wanted to meet. I hope those of you who are going have a good time.]


2. After poring over various lists of new and interesting things to see in Brisbane, the one I really have my heart set on is the Lone Pine Koala Santuary. (More for the platypodes than the koalas, if I'm honest, though I expect I'll also look at the koalas while I'm there.)


3. Another new and interesting thing is that it'll be my first experience with commercial air travel: several hours in a Boeing, with all the attendant luggage hassles and waiting-around-between-connecting-flights and so on, when my only previous experience with air travel was a brief sightseeing trip in a plane that seated about eight people. That wasn't too bad, except when something happened that reminded me there wasn't anything solid holding us up, but it remains to be seen what kind of force multiplier will come into play when the time stretches in hours.


4. The Brisbane trip turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back (that's kind of a violent image, come to think of it; are there any less unpleasant alternatives?), and I have bought my first mobile phone. Yes, my first. The shop assistant, who is about my age, was appalled when I told her. It's actually not been that much of an adjustment; I've owned personal digital assistants of various kinds for many years, it's just that this one also makes phone calls and does text messages.


5. Despite the mobile phone, I don't expect to be on the interwebs much while I'm away, so this is probably the last you'll be hearing from me until I get back.
pedanther: (cheerful)
One corollary of the upcoming National Brass Band Competition is that I'll be in Brisbane for a few days. I've never been to Brisbane before. Anybody got any suggestions for things I should try to see while I'm there?
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)
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.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. In case you haven't already heard, the BBC has announced that nine previously-lost classic Doctor Who episodes have been recovered from an archive in Nigeria, comprising most of two stories starring Patrick Troughton.

The two stories, which for the last few decades had been down to only one surviving episode each, are "The Web of Fear" (The One With Yetis in the Underground, and Nicholas Courtney's first appearance as Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart) and "The Enemy of the World" (The One Where the Doctor's Evil Twin is a Bond Villain with an elaborate underground lair in Australia). "The Enemy of the World" is now complete again; "The Web of Fear" is still missing episode 3, the episode in which the Doctor first meets then-Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart.

Here's the official announcement, and here's an interview with the chap who found them.


2. Speaking of things that turn 50 this year, the brass band had its 50th anniversary celebrations recently, with other bands visiting and a big community concert ending with all the bands combining into a single mega-band. Also there was an anniversary dinner for the band members, where several people talked about their memories of the band's early years, and several presentations were made. Two new life members were announced, one of whom was, um, me. So that was a thing that happened.


5. I started doing the "five things make a post" thing because I kept putting off posts because they didn't seem big enough on their own. Now it's just turned into me putting off posts because I don't have exactly five things to put in them. I think I'd better think this out again.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Best thing that's happened to me recently: waking up to a flurry of Teaspoon notifications and the news that one of my fanfics has been recced on [livejournal.com profile] calufrax. Made my day.


2. All that emceeing I did at Toastmasters in July and August stood me in good stead in the first weekend of September. I was volunteering at the annual performing arts festival this year, and I ended up emceeing most of it because none of the other volunteers were comfortable in that role. One of the sections I didn't emcee was the evening they did bands, ensembles, etc., because I was performing; the brass band did the usual, and this year several groups of band members also entered as ensembles (the ensemble I was in was beaten by the ensemble I wasn't in). The Character Vocal section was once again free of the scourge of Those Same Three Disney Songs; I'm pretty sure now that that was the work of one particular singing teacher who has now left town, though I kept forgetting to ask the more senior volunteers if they knew for sure. Being a volunteer, I saw all the parts of the festival I often don't bother with, which I think was a net plus; if I'd skipped the piano sections as I usually do, I'd have missed out on this year's trophy winner, who played a Clementi sonatina, a Beethoven eccosaise, and a piano solo version of the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean which featured lots of fancy fingerwork and ended with a dramatic chord that he played by leaping up and sitting on the piano.


3. My Re-Reading Liad project progresses. Tomorrow will see the conclusion of Crystal Dragon, then there's a week of short stories (mostly Tales of Moonhawk and Lute, slightly complicated by the authors recently releasing a new one) before beginning on Balance of Trade.

It's been interesting re-reading these books. I've been noticing details, and having reactions, that I didn't the first time I read them. Having to find something to say about each chapter, I'm paying more attention to details, and spreading them out over two months (the first time, I bolted them in something more like two days) makes a difference to how some things affect me. Although I often do notice new details and have new experiences the first time I re-read a book, even when I bolt it again, so it'll be interesting to see if anything changes when I get up to the books in the series that I've already re-read several times.

(In the mean time, I'm learning new things, and not just about things in the books: for instance, a passing remark led to me learning about the idea that a galaxy's spiral arms aren't rigid collections of stars, but standing waves that individual stars move into and out of over time. Wikipedia's article has some nifty animations.)


4. Another nifty thing involving spirals: Akiyoshi Kitaoka's blue-green spiral illusion.


5. The Hidden Almanac is what happens when an award-winning dark fantasy writer and cartoonist (namely Ursula Vernon, author of Digger and Dragonbreath and co-host of the podcast Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap) hears too many people describing Welcome to Night Vale as "A Prairie Home Companion meets H. P. Lovecraft" and starts wondering what would have happened if Lovecraft had met Garrison Keillor's other radio show, The Writer's Almanac, instead.

There are new episodes three times a week, written by Ursula Vernon and performed by Kevin Sonney, the other half of Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap; in each five minute episode, Reverend Mord describes a couple of events that occurred on this date in history, profiles a saint whose feast day it is, and offers some seasonal gardening tips. (The events are strange and the saints eccentric. The gardening tips, at this time of year, largely revolve around Ways of Getting Rid of All That Zucchini; even in a world where people spontaneously explode into swarms of butterflies, some things never change.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. So, the National Band Championships? To our utter, utter astonishment, we won our division, and are now the Australian D Grade Champions. Discussions are underway about the practicality of going to next year's championships (which will have returned to the far side of the continent) to defend the title.


2. My hotel room number for the weekend (assigned entirely without any input from myself) was 42.


3. I got to more of Swancon than I'd feared, if less than I'd hoped (and in the process usefully expanded my working knowledge of the city's public transport options). I enjoyed what I got to, and caught up with the usual suspects, including [livejournal.com profile] leecetheartist and [livejournal.com profile] rdmasters, who as usual introduced me to several games I was not previously familiar with. (I particularly liked Winter Tales, where the movement of the pieces on the board is just the skeleton of the game, and the emphasis is on collaboratively spinning a story about what the characters represented by the pieces are up to. I like collaborative storytelling. Other games I was introduced to included King of Tokyo, a silly but fun game in which giant monsters slug it out for the chance to trash Japan, and Roll Through the Ages, which had a bit too much number-crunching and not enough story for my taste.)

The guests at next year's Swancon are to include Tamora Pierce and Isobel Carmody.


4. I have a new gadget, a Kobo ebook reader. I haven't really used it much yet, because when I'm at home I prefer to make inroads on the enormous pile of unread dead-tree books in my living room, and save the ebooks for when I'm travelling. (I had intended to put it to work on the trip back, but it turned out I couldn't actually activate it and load it up until I got home.)


5. Too many people dying lately. I particularly regret the loss of Richard Griffiths, who played one of my favourite fictional detectives, Henry Crabbe, in the TV series Pie in the Sky. If that doesn't ring a bell, his film credits include wicked uncles in both Withnail and I and the Harry Potter series. He also had a noteworthy stage career. By all accounts he was a really nice guy, and will be missed.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. I'm going to be away from the internet for about a week. (You probably won't even notice I'm gone.) This year the National Band Championships are going to eat most of the weekend, though I still intend to get to as much of Swancon as I can, even if that turns out to be only Monday afternoon. Then I'll be staying in town for a few days to catch up with some people and get in the annual shopping spree before heading home.

For the first time since I got it, I won't be taking my favourite gadget with me. Another thing that reminds me that, while it's still my favourite gadget, as time passes it's gradually becoming less and less actually useful and relevant.


2. I have been cast in the Rep Club's next play, Dorothy Hewett's The Man From Mukinupin, just in time to miss the first week of rehearsals. I'm not sure what to make of the play yet, except that one way or another it's definitely going to be an experience.


3. For the list of things I have now done and don't need ever to do again: At the community fair this year, I let myself get talked into going on one of the Rides That Go Around Very Fast. (This one, to be specific, although that's a different fairground.) It... wasn't too bad, actually. At least it wasn't one of the Rides That Go Around Very Fast And Suddenly Turn You Upside-Down.


4. A fanfic recommendation: Victory Bonds, by [livejournal.com profile] copperbadge, is a tale of the Justice League set in the 1940s. It features the best Clark Kent and Lois Lane I've encountered anywhere in quite some time. Clark narrates.

It wasn't easy, trying to be a reporter and a hero. The number of times I had to beg off a dinner or apologize for being late to work...well, it's a good thing reporters don't keep normal hours, or I'd have been fired many times over. As it was, Perry sometimes put me on garbage stories to punish me for disappearing on him. Some of them turned out to be gems in disguise, but the little scoreboard Jimmy kept showed Lois was clearly winning in the "probably going to win a Pulitzer" competition.

Bruce Wayne was one of my punishments.


5. Probably anyone on my friendslist who'd be interested has heard already, but just in case: Agent of Change, the first Liaden novel by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, is now a member of the Baen Free Library.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. You probably didn't notice, but my computer's been in the shop for over a week, restricting my internet access to what I was able to get at work. (The actual amount of time required to fix it, according to the bill, was less than two hours.) Funnily enough, I hardly missed it. For all its ability to fill up my waking hours, apparently I don't really depend on the internet all that much.

2. It probably also helped that many of my waking hours for the last week that would otherwise require occupation have been taken up with preparations for the National Band Championships, which are being held on this side of the continent (and thus within a reasonable travelling distance of us) this year. We have a Resident Conductor visiting from over east for a few weeks, helping with rehearsals and fixing up our technique, and there have been a bunch of extra rehearsals and workshops to take advantage. He's been picking us up on a lot of little things, the small-but-important details that you miss out on because either your teacher didn't know about them or thought they were too obvious to mention explicitly. Personally, I've been picked up on everything from how I hold my trombone to the size of the mouthpiece to how I breathe. (That last one doesn't sound like much, but honestly it's worth the price of admission all by itself.) I've been feeling a lot of the same sense of discovery I felt when, at the age of 28, somebody finally taught me how to tie shoelaces properly.

3. And now I'm enjoying playing the trombone again, to a degree I haven't felt, except in brief bursts, for a long time. This calls for further thought, because there are other parts of my life that I don't enjoy and that seem like they might profit if I could find a way to get them similar treatment. (And also because there's an area of my life that I do enjoy, where in retrospect it's at least partly because one way and another the opportunities for self-improvement have been available in the last few years.)

4. I have now seen Les Misérables and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Short version: Entertaining enough, but on the whole I'm not entirely sure I approve (though I did like that one scene where the protagonist is given more motivation than in the corresponding scene in the source work).

5. I may be gradually getting the hang of the valuable skill of knowing when to give up on a novel that isn't working for you. Sword at Sunset, Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling of the King Arthur story in historical post-Roman Britain, is not a bad book (and it's got a better grasp of "historical" than the 2004 film that attempted the same thing, not that that's a high bar), but it's not my kind of thing. There's an essay about recommending books I read once, and wish I could find again, that posited several approaches to fiction which each reader prioritises differently. Sword at Sunset is a good book for people who read for Descriptions (of landscapes, historical details, etc.), but I'm one of the readers for whom that sort of thing is what you wade through to get to the good stuff, which for me is Plot and Character. The plot has one handicap in being derived from a familiar story, and another in that the novel is written in Retrospective Regretful (never my favourite form) so that even when the plot goes somewhere new you have a pretty good idea of how it's going to turn out. The characters I didn't find very engaging; I didn't outright say Dorothy J. Heydt's Eight Deadly Words ("I don't care what happens to these people"), but I did say something less snappy to the effect of "Particularly given that I already know what happens to these people, I'm not looking forward to wading through all this prose just to find out the details".
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. To anyone I haven't already, Season's Greetings! (Or General Well-Wishings, if you're one of the people who don't find anything remarkable about this time of the year.) And a happy new b'ak'tun!


2. I got some nice presents for Christmas this year, but none of those really great surprises that was exactly what you would have wanted if you'd expected to get it. I did manage to hit the target a couple of times in my gifts to others, which was just as good. And it was really nice just to get to hang out with the family for a while. (At one point we were watching Fantasia, and the narrator asserted that the dinosaurs were mostly peaceful herbivores apart from a few gangsters and bullies like T. rex. A few minutes later, [livejournal.com profile] poinketh remarked out of the blue that he could picture a T. rex rocking a fedora, but he was having trouble figuring out how it worked the Tommy gun.)


3. There has been some good stuff in the Yuletide fic exchange this year.

* I particularly liked If the Fates Allow, which is the one for anybody who's suspected that Captain America: The First Avenger (2011, dir. Joe Johnston) is set in the same twentieth century as The Rocketeer (1991, dir. Joe Johnston). Though not so much if your interest is in blazing action sequences; the focus here is on the quiet moments between the adventures (which, given that time takes its toll, are not all happy).

* The Butterfly Also Casts a Shadow is another good one for fans of underappreciated retro action movies of the 1990s, in this case the 1994 version of The Shadow.

* On a different note, What You Make of It is an epistolatory fic, consisting of emails sent between Terry Pratchett's Johnny Maxwell and his friend Yo-less during their gap year after high school. Johnny is working at a dusty old second-hand book shop that never sells anything, which since he's Johnny turns out less boring than it sounds, while Yo-less is volunteering on a marine biology expedition and making new discoveries in the area of human biology.


4. Have I mentioned we finished our run of Snow White's Pizza Palace? Well, that was a thing that happened. I enjoyed it, and I think I'll try doing more comedy next year. The first production in the new year will be a Season of Short Plays (we're officially not calling them "one-acts" any more, because informal market research has suggested that people think that means there's only one actor). I won't be involved with that, because it overlaps with preparations for the National Band Championships, which the band is going to take a shot at because they're on this side of the continent for a change.


5. Haven't seen The Hobbit Part One or Les Mis yet, because the people I was planning to see it with are out of town. (I suppose I could see Wreck-It Ralph by myself, since the person I was hoping to see it with was [livejournal.com profile] poinketh, and I know he won't be back before it closes.) Have seen the Doctor Who Christmas special, and wasn't super-impressed; it was enjoyable enough and had some really good moments, but I'm not sure it all held together, and there are worrying signs that Steven Moffat still hasn't remembered that when people say the hero of the show is a clever, unpredictable trickster figure, they're not talking about him.
pedanther: (Default)
1. There've been some upheavals in the United States since I last posted, what with the hurricane and then the election. I hope all of you who were in the path of either or both got through unscathed.


2. I had something timely to say about procrastination, and then I didn't get around to saying it. But recently I finally girded myself up and did a job I've spent hours actively avoiding over the course of several months. It presented no great difficulties, and was done and dusted in half an hour. (Rita Emmett has something very pithy to say in The Procrastinator's Handbook about putting more effort into putting a job off than it eventually takes to do the job; it's a common experience, apparently. It may be about time I read the Handbook again.) One thing I note is that after the first few weeks, I suspect I was largely putting it off because I'd been putting it off: every time my mind came near the thought of the unfinished job, and thus the thought of how late it was, it hurried off to think about something else instead.


3. At a recent brass band rehearsal, as a break between the big job we'd just finished and the one we're about to throw ourselves into, we spent the time pulling out old pieces we haven't played in years and trying them out again. Most of them had mysteriously become much easier to play since last time I played them.


4. For Halloween, the Toastmasters club did a themed demonstration meeting, with members of the public invited to attend, and a costume competition, and several talks about famous local haunted buildings. It was a successful night, well-attended and fun, and we even got a few new members out of it.

On Halloween night itself, I didn't do much except reading the big finale of A Night in the Lonesome October. It was a lot more dramatic than I remembered, possibly even more dramatic than it was the first time I read the book. That might have something to do with reading it late at night, if not with what night it was. (Note to self: If you start at 11.50 next time, midnight in the book will coincide with real midnight. That might be interesting.)


5. In other reading news, I seem to have neglected to mention that Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese is awesome.
pedanther: (Default)
1. The season of one-act plays opens tomorrow, and my first attempt at directing will be exposed to a paying audience. I'm not worried; the play's come together really well, it got a good response from the people who saw it at the dress rehearsals, and in the unlikely event that the proper audience is less appreciative I have Oscar Wilde's bon mot ready to hand.

The fact that I'm not worried didn't stop me having the usual between-final-rehearsal-and-opening-night-mare last night. Interestingly, it was the usual "on stage and forgotten my part" version, even though I'm directing and not acting this time; I suppose since I've never directed before, my unconscious doesn't have any raw material to craft an appropriate horror out of.


2. The annual performing arts festival was last weekend. (The music section; the drama section will be in a few weeks, after the one-acts are done with.) What with one thing and another, including rehearsals for the one-acts, I didn't make it to any of the sessions except the one in which I played in the brass band. I didn't even stick around long enough after we played to find out the results, but I expect we did as well as we usually do. I completely missed the Character Vocal section, which is the bit I look forward to all year. According to the programme, that means I missed out on someone in the under-14 division attempting my solo number from Chicago; I have no idea whether that's something to regret or be thankful for. I also note the unusual fact that nobody sang "A Whole New World", "Beauty and the Beast", or "Colors of the Wind" this year. I've always suspected there was a particular singing teacher with a partiality; I wonder if somebody's left town?


3. I have seen the new Doctor Who episode. The gap between a new Doctor Who episode airing in Britain and in Australia has been gradually decreasing: at first, the ABC wouldn't begin running a new season until the whole thing had run on the BBC, then they started airing new episodes with only a few weeks delay, then it got down to one week. It's probably stuck at one week as long as the BBC and ABC both prefer showing Doctor Who on Saturday evenings (the ABC can't show it on the same Saturday as the BBC because Saturday evening in Australia is Saturday morning in Britain, so Australia would be getting it first) - but this year, new episodes are being made available for viewing on the ABC's web site less than 24 hours after they debut in Britain. So I have seen the new episode, even though it hasn't actually aired in Australia yet.

I'm not going to do a reaction thingy, partly out of respect for [livejournal.com profile] lost_spook's expressed intention not to read such things. (Probably a sensible attitude. Certainly some of the reactions I've been reading have made me wish I'd adopted a similar resolution.)


4. I assume everybody on my friendslist who's interested in the Liaden novels already knows that the latest one just came out in hardcover (and has probably already read the e-book), and that all the novels - including the latest one - have just been released as Audible.com audiobooks. Just in case, though, details are available here.


5. I've occasionally pondered the idea of an alarm clock that matches itself to your sleep cycles, so that the alarm goes off when you're in a position to wake up easily, and not when you're in the middle of a deep sleep. I'd always assumed that this would require being wired to the clock with some kind of complicated and impractical sensor to detect out where in the cycle you were. Apparently I was wrong: a lot of people can get by with assuming an average sleep cycle duration, and get the same effect with a normal alarm clock and a bit of mental arithmetic. Somebody recently pointed me to http://sleepyti.me/, which has an explanation of the math, and automatic calculators for both directions (one suggests good times to go to bed, given what time your alarm's set for, the other good times to set your alarm for, given when you plan to go to bed). I've been using the system for nearly a week, and getting good results. (Especially considering that I'd previously been giving serious thought to giving up on the alarm clock entirely because I slept through it so often.)
pedanther: (Default)
1. I will be in Perth this weekend for the State Band Festival. (At UWA on Saturday afternoon, all day Sunday, and Monday morning. We will be playing in the 8.30am session on Sunday.) Normally, that doesn't leave me any significant amount of free time, but this year there appears to be a Saturday-morning-shaped gap in the schedule. Anybody have a suggestion of what to fill it with?

2. Last Saturday, I went to see a local high school's production of The Taming of the Shrew. On the whole I found it to be a satisfying night's entertainment. I don't think they entirely succeeded in establishing a persuasive arc for the relationship between Petruchio and Katherina, but then a lot of productions don't, and it gave me several new things to think about. Being a school production, there was a certain amount of trouble with young people unconvincingly playing old people, and some actors not having the ear for the language (and a lack of consensus about how to pronounce some of the foreign words). The actors playing Katherina and Petruchio were good. (They were the same two who took out the top honours in the drama section of the Performing Arts Festival last year. The guy who came third was also in this, as Petruchio's comic-relief sidekick, and was another highlight.) An interesting production thing: The sets and costumes were colour-coded - Baptista's household in red, Petruchio's in blue, Vincentio's in green, and so on. Bianca wore pink; Katherina started out in a lady-in-red dress, and after the wedding to Petruchio appeared what appeared to be the same dress but now coloured a more muted purple.

3. Speaking of colours and clothing, I appear to be developing rudiments of colour coordination in my dress sense, to the point that I recently bought a new jacket, despite already owning several quite serviceable jackets, because none of the ones I already owned were colours that went particularly well with the blue section of my wardrobe. I'm finding this oddly disconcerting.

4. And speaking of The Taming of the Shrew, about eight years ago I was in a production of Kiss Me Kate, which, being one of Broadway's many shows about itself, has an opening number which is about the opening of a new show. There's a verse in there that counts down the last four weeks of the rehearsal period, which I have often found myself singing during the last four weeks of a rehearsal period on subsequent shows, especially when they're musicals. Chicago opens in two and a half weeks.

5. Last Friday there was a revue night, with songs and comic sketches and so on. Included in the program was a preview of our production of Chicago, with three songs, including my solo. It was the first time I've performed it in front of a proper audience; I was more nervous than I usually am on stage (then again, I don't normally get solos!), but apparently it went over well. I got a lot of compliments afterward.

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