pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Frances Hodgson Burnett. The Secret Garden (e) (re-read)
Kenneth Grahame, GMW Wemyss, Markham Shaw Pyle. The Annotated Wind in the Willows, for adults and sensible children (or, possibly, children and sensible adults) (e)
Josephine Tey. A Shilling for Candles

In progress
Terry Pratchett. The Fifth Elephant (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

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

Top of the to-read pile
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton
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 DaaƩ, 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 CoppƩlius'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)
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. Baen Books has recently released ebooks of Janet Kagan's novels Hellspark and Mirabile, and a collection of her short stories (including the Hugo-winner, "The Nutcracker Coup"). Hellspark is a mainstay of my collection of comfort reads, and I'm very much looking forward to making the acquaintance of Mirabile. The short stories, too; I've only read one up to now - "Standing in the Spirit", a heartwarming Christmas tale that wears its debt to Dickens on its sleeve without going down the well-worn "visited by three spirits" path.


2. Speaking of Dickens: Still rehearsing Oliver!. I think I'm managing to get the hang of Fagin's accent now. It seems to be largely a question of holding my tongue right. (Making a face like I smell something bad also seems to help.)


3. At the gaming group this week, the main thing I did was watch a group of people play X-Wing Miniatures. There were four people who wanted to play, so they set up a big square playing area, with each player starting on one side, and drew lots to see who would attack who. The result of the draw produced two battles going on separately in opposite corners of the playing area, and then the survivors of each battle took each other on. It started out with a wide variety of different ship types (including what I was told was the main ship from Rebels, which I still haven't seen), but in the end it came down to a couple of X-Wings vs a couple of TIE fighters.

After that we played a few rounds of Hobbit Love Letter (which is like Batman Love Letter apart from the obvious, and also with an extra card, The One Ring, which is worth 0 points except in one specific situation where it's the second most powerful card in the game) and then it was time to go home.


4. It tends to be the case with movies that either I'll see them in the first week they're in the cinema or the last, because it I don't have a great and specific desire to see a movie, I'll do my usual put-it-off-until-a-deadline-looms thing. (And then sometimes it happens that when the deadline's close enough to see there aren't any screenings left I can actually get to, and then I don't see the movie at all.) I'd been putting off going to see Zootopia until today's 1pm screening was absolutely my last chance, and likewise the new Jungle Book movie - also at 1pm. Faced with that decision, I realised that I didn't particularly want to see a new version of a movie that hadn't been that much like The Jungle Book in the first place, so I'm rereading the book instead and I went to see Zootopia.


5. The Australian election campaign's started, which means it's time to start hoarding and swapping links for informed voting. (If anyone spots a good run-down of this year's minor Senate parties, let me know, please?)

Vote Compass is available again for this election. If you don't know about it, it's a nifty application where you fill out a questionnaire about where you stand on the current hot public policy issues, and then it shows you where you are compared to the announced policies of the major parties. (I always turn out to be standing pretty much where I expected to be, but it's nice to know.)
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)
1. Theatre News (subclass Acting in the):

As you may have guessed from the fiction log, the Rep Club's next big production will be the musical Oliver!. I've been in a bunch of musicals for the same director over the last decade or so, so I had what turned out to be the shortest audition I've ever done - didn't need to monologue, didn't need to sing, didn't need to dance, just needed to answer one question. I was a bit disappointed about the singing, since I'd put quite a bit of effort into my audition piece, but in the circumstances I think I'll survive.

The one question was: "Do you feel up to taking on the role of Fagin?"


2. Toastmasters News:

I entered both the Evaluation contest and the International Speech contest this year. The International Speech contest is the feeder contest for the World Championship of Public Speaking, and I've never entered it before. I only entered it this year because I gave a project speech last year which several people spontaneously told me was good enough for the contest, and because being a contestant meant I was exempt from being made to help organise it.

I won both contests at the club level, but at the area level I was beaten by the respective entrants from the college students' club. In a way, that was a relief, because it means I don't have to worry about finding time out of Oliver! rehearsals to attend the division and district contests. Let alone how inconvenient it would have been to qualify for the World Championship - not that I think that would have happened; the speech wasn't that good.


4. Theatre News (subclass Going to the):

I went to Perth to see The Lion King with my sister before it closed, because I've heard so much about how it's staged and who knows if it'll ever come this way again. There were bits that didn't quite work, but it was an impressive experience and on the whole I'm glad I went. Some of the puppets were astonishing. (Also astonishing, in a different way: the antipodean actor playing Timon's attempt at a New Jersey accent, which drifted as far south as Texas at one point.)

One side-note on the trip: It was the first time I'd been on the train since my international jetsetting Christmas holiday. Until I spent all that time on aeroplanes, I'd never really appreciated how much legroom you get on the train.


4. TV News:

The third season of Sherlock has aired here - actually, it aired last year, but then it was on against Foyle's War; this time it wasn't, and I had to decide whether I actually wanted to watch it. After carefully considering everything I'd heard about the third season and the Christmas special, I decided I didn't.

Also, the third season of Agents of SHIELD has started airing here; I watched a few episodes, then realised I wasn't actually all that interested, and stopped.

In happier TV news, the revived Danger Mouse started airing here this week, and I'm enjoying it immensely.


5. Theatre News (subclass Movie):

When I went to see The Force Awakens for the second time, it was preceded by a long trailer for the upcoming Batman/Superman movie. It kind of left me feeling like I'd seen the whole movie, and pretty much confirmed that I have no interest in actually seeing the whole movie.

Which leads me to a second side-note about my recent train trip: At one point, when I wasn't feeling motivated to do anything more brain-intensive, I watched the in-flight (if that's the word) movie, which was The Man From UNCLE. I have no idea how well it serves as an adaptation of the TV series, which I've never seen (yes, it's a shocking lacuna), but at one point I found myself thinking that Henry Cavill would probably do pretty well if he were cast as Superman, before remembering that he had been.
pedanther: (cheerful)
Fiction books
Lionel Bart. Oliver!
Lois McMaster Bujold. Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen (e)
Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener. Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire (e)
T Kingfisher. The Raven and the Reindeer (e)
Tim Powers. On Stranger Tides (e) (re-read)
Manly Wade Wellman. The Beyonders (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Soul Music (e) (re-read)

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

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

Top of the to-read pile
William Shakespeare. Hamlet
pedanther: (cheerful)
Here are the answers to the lyrics meme, including several I'm astonished my friendslist didn't get:

Read more... )
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Neil Gaiman, Yoshitako Amano. Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Kim Newman. The Hound of the D'Urbervilles
Kim Newman. Jago

Non-fiction books
(collection). Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It

In progress
Barbara Sher, Barbara Smith. I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was

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

Top of the to-read pile
Marianne de Pierres. Nylon Angel
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
(anthology). Forest
Jackie French. Pete the Sheep
Neil Gaiman, et al. Absolute Sandman volume 4
George R R Martin. Tuf Voyaging
Kim Newman. Mysteries of the Diogenes Club
Peter O'Donnell. Modesty Blaise (re-read)
Lane Smith. It's a Book
Mo Willems. Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed
Gene Wolfe. Soldier of Arete

In progress
Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace

Non-fiction books completed
(none)

Abandoned
Terry Crowdy. The Enemy Within: a history of spies, spymasters and espionage

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

Top of the to-read pile
Linda Gale. Discover What You're Best At
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
Stephen Dedman. The Art of Arrow Cutting (re-read)
Stephen Dedman. Shadows Bite
Dale Estey. A Lost Tale
Geary Gravel. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm - The Animated Movie
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. Fledgling
Shirley Rosseau Murphy. The Catswold Portal

In progress
Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace

Non-fiction books
(none)

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

Top of the to-read pile
Terry Pratchett. Nation

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