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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.
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1. The travelling exhibition Let Me Be Myself - The Life Story of Anne Frank is in town for a month. Having been to see it, I'm a bit bemused that it's come to rest in the town's art gallery when we also have a museum that hosts travelling exhibitions, and I would have classed this as a historical presentation rather than an artistic one. It could be just that it was the gallery who had the exhibition space free at the relevant time, but I could be missing something. Apart from the historical material about Anne Frank and the world she lived and died in, there's a section devoted to reminding visitors that prejudice and discrimination continue to be live issues, with members of today's youth talking about their experiences of being discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, disability, or gender non-conformity.


2. The announcement of the new Doctor weirded me out a bit when I realised that the new actor is younger than me. (Matt Smith is too, but that didn't bother me because he seems young. But I still reflexively assume that anybody who seems like a responsible adult is older than me until proven otherwise.)

Apart from that, my reaction to the announcement is pretty much what it usually is at this stage, which is that I've never seen anything this person has been in and won't have a solid opinion on whether it's good casting until I've actually seen the new Doctor in action.


3. Since I mentioned last entry that I had hopes for the Doctor Who season finale, I should probably report on how that turned out, which is that I was disappointed. To be honest, I was pretty much expecting to be disappointed, because I know Steven Moffat's thing with two-parters is always to send the second part shooting off in a completely different direction, I just didn't say so because I was hoping it wouldn't happen if I didn't say it. But it did go shooting off in a different direction, and sidelined most of what I'd found interesting about part one. There was also the problem that it sidelined what I'd found most interesting about the season as a whole -- after a season where the interesting thing was Bill and the Doctor interacting, and the business with Missy felt like a pasted-on afterthought in most episodes, the finale is built around the Doctor and Missy and it's Bill who's left feeling like an afterthought. Looking back, I reckon that's been a recurring thing with Moffat's version of Who; he's brought us some amazing individual stories, but he's never been terribly good at making the season-long arc work.


4. The improv group has not collapsed yet.


5. I am looking forward to the DuckTales reboot.
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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.
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1. The Multifandom Drabble Exchange is running again this year. Admin posts are on Dreamwidth at [community profile] multifandomdrabble. The nomination period for fandoms has just started. I did it last year and enjoyed it; it's a nice low-pressure fic exchange where all you have to write is 100 words. Simple, right? (This is of course a trick question: it's often very difficult to fit everything you want to say into 100 words. But I did enjoy it.)


2. Our production of The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society production of The Mikado opens this week. I was worried about it for a while (Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse / Three weeks, and it couldn't be worse), but it's been really coming together over the last few rehearsals, so I think we'll survive.


3. I didn't mention that while our production was in rehearsals, the club also put on its annual season of one-act plays. There were two this year, titled "Harry's Bounty" and "Kayak", which were both excellent. (Though I did think that "Harry's Bounty" was one scene too long; the final scene doesn't say anything new, just repeat explicitly things that had been strongly implied already, and loses the strong ending the play would have had if it had finished on what is currently the second-last scene.) Both plays were built around relationships of parents and children, and the director of "Harry's Bounty" is the mother of the director of "Kayak"; they were planning at one point to advertise the season under the title "Mother and Son", but they got a lot of feedback that people were getting confused and thinking that meant there would be a stage version of the popular sitcom.


4. This year's big production by the local high school that does a big annual production was Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The actor playing Belle was also the lead in last year's Hairspray; she and the actor playing the Beast were also the duo who took top honours at the drama eisteddfod last year. They both did very well in the roles, although I felt that the actor playing the Beast did better at bringing out the Beast's hidden humanity than at portraying his surface beastliness. In this he was not being given much assistance by his costume, which tended toward the minimal for logistical reasons. The actors playing Gaston and Lefou were also very good. Seeing how the stage version was adapted from the animated film was interesting; I liked how the animated furniture was handled. The songs added for the stage version are a mixed bunch; "Home" is excellent, others are good, and I cordially detest "A Change in Me": it has a nice enough tune but rubbish lyrics that lean too heavily on vague generalities and when it does get specific they're the wrong specifics. (Wikipedia informs me that it was added to the show late and in a hurry, which perhaps explains it.)


5. I'm finally filling a gap in my fannish experience and reading The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, the final collection of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. It's not as easy to come by as the earlier books, because it's still covered by copyright so there isn't the same plenitude of cheap editions, and its reputation suggested that it wasn't particularly worth much effort in seeking out, so up until recently I'd only read a few of the stories that were reprinted in anthologies. (In fact I think "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire", which was in a horror-themed anthology I read as a child, may have been the first actual Holmes story I ever read.) The stories aren't ACD's best work, and some of them give a distinct air of having been dashed off without much effort, but there are some good moments in there. (And some terrible ones: "The Adventure of the Creeping Man", which has a solution based on what I presume was cutting-edge scientific theory at the time, really hasn't aged well.) Of the ones I've got through so far, I think my favourite is "The Problem of Thor Bridge", which has some proper detectoring, some nice character work (including a character who is of a familiar type but turns out to be more complicated than he might have been in an earlier ACD story), and a solution I didn't already know and didn't find too easy to guess.
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1. I went to Swancon again this year, and had a good time. Based on past history, the odds are not good that I'll do a detailed write-up.

One memorable event was a discussion about gender-swapping -- examples of it being done such as the recent Ghostbusters movie, thoughts about the opportunities and pitfalls, and so on -- where there was an artist in the room who took suggestions for a series of sketches of characters people would like to see gender-swapped, with a camera set up so we could all watch the sketch taking shape while the discussion went on. The people whose suggestions were accepted got to keep the resulting sketch at the end if they wanted. I suggested "female Asian Iron Fist", which sprang to mind because the shortcomings of the Iron Fist TV series had been something of a recurring conversation topic at the convention, and without intially intending to keep the sketch. (For one thing, they were on quite large pieces of paper that looked like they'd be trouble to get home in my luggage unwrinkled.) I changed my mind when I saw the finished sketch, though; this is a character I would definitely read or watch a series about. I managed to get the sketch home mostly unscathed, too; now I just need to figure out what I'm going to do with it.

Games I played included Original Flavour Fluxx, Pandemic, Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards: Duel at Mt Skullfyrez (which I enjoyed the mechanics of but found the theme/story off-putting), Joking Hazard, Tsuro of the Seas, Hamsterolle, and King of Tokyo. And also, on the same trip but not actually at the convention, Fury of Dracula; I played Dracula, partly because I figured that would reduce the amount of explanations required to the novice players but mostly because it was my copy of the game so I could be Dracula if I wanted.


2. The British Museum's contribution to International Tabletop Day is a video in which Dr Irving Finkel, the museum's curator of cuneiform artifacts, demonstrates one of the oldest board games in recorded history, the rules for which he reconstructed from one of the tablets in his collection. His opponent is Youtube-based science communicator Tom Scott.


3. As part of my preparation for the Star Wars Rolling Remix, of which I have previously written, I rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy all the way through for the first time in years. I was struck by how young the characters are in the first one, compared to my memory of them (which is mostly of how they end up in Return of the Jedi). Han, and Luke -- not so much Leia, though I think that's down to her not being allowed to grow up as much as the men, so she ended up much closer to her beginning -- but the one that really surprised me was Darth Vader. I had a fixed mental image of him as being a sort of looming menace with a lot of ponderous gravitas, but that's really something he grows into over the trilogy; in the first movie, he has a lot more extraneous movement, and talks more rapidly too. (And I think I owe whoever played Vader in Rogue One an apology for thinking his body language was wrong; it was a lot closer to Vader-at-that-age than I'd remembered.)


4. A while back I read A Shilling for Candles, the first mystery novel to be published under the byline of Josephine Tey. I started it mainly out of a sense of historical curiosity -- it inspired a film by Alfred Hitchcock, and Tey went on to write a couple of novels that I rather liked (although less so on re-reading them and becoming more aware of the author's prejudices) -- but it turned out to have an unexpected point of interest. The action takes place mainly in Devon, in and around the (I'm guessing fictional) town of Westover -- which is also the setting of Brat Farrar, my favourite of Tey's later novels.


5. I finally got around to reading The Collected Kagan, Baen's ebook edition of Janet Kagan's short stories. The quality is somewhat variable, as it's a collection aiming for comprehensiveness, rather than a best-of, but there are some great stories in there. (Eventually; for some reason, the compiler decided to lead off with some of the weaker stories, and I worry that, should anyone who isn't already a Kagan fan happen to give the book a try, they'll give up before getting to the good stuff.) For fans of her science fiction novels, I particularly recommend "Christmas Wingding", "Winging It", "Fighting Words", and "The Nutcracker Coup", which are in a similar mode to the novels. (Not to mention "How First Woman Stole Language from tuli-tuli the Beast", which is actual backstory for one of the novels.) I also highly recommend "Naked Wish-Fulfillment", which is a contemporary fantasy story and great in a completely different way.
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1. I've been listening a lot lately to the podcast Film Reroll, which has the premise that each episode a group of people play a one-off roleplaying campaign based on a famous movie, just to see how far off course the plot can go when it depends on dice rolls and player imagination instead of having an author handing out plot points and making sure things pan out in the way they intend. Pretty far off course, it turns out; apart from the obvious consequences like people muffing their dice rolls really badly and everybody dying, one of my favourite examples so far is an episode where one of the players ended up sitting on the sidelines for the whole thing, because the plot took a direction early on that completely bypassed the character they'd been planning to play.

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


5. Movie-wise, I have been to see Rogue One (I teared up at the end, in the good-heartwarming way not the bad-distressing way) and Moana (lots of fun).
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. 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. 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)
1. Joking Hazard is a card game along the lines of Cards Against Humanity, where the aim is to supply the missing part of a joke, but instead of one-liners it's three panel comic strips. That makes it a bit more involved than CAH, and will possibly mean that it takes longer for the novelty to wear off, but I suspect when it does I'll be as over it as I am over CAH, particularly since it has the same kind of sense of arguably-humor. (The game I played produced one or two actual jokes and a lot of strips where the punchline was "And then one of the stick figures does something rude and inappropriate".) It is only fair for me to admit, however, that the novelty did last all the way through the game I played, and I did kind of enjoy it.


2. I've played a few different variants of the card game Love Letter since I joined the gaming group; the most recent is Love Letter: Premium Edition, which uses the intial theme (the one with an actual love letter, as opposed to supervillains or hobbits) but includes extra cards that can be added to the deck if more people want to play. This is really useful at our gaming group, because the standard game is restricted to four players and usually there are more people than that who want to play; with the extra cards, a game can have up to eight players. Most of the extra cards have new abilities, some of which are intended to keep the game from dragging; for instance, in the standard game you can only get a victory point by winning a round, but the expanded game includes several other ways to gain victory points, such as a card that invites you to predict who will win the current round and awards you a victory point if you're right. Or a very interesting card which -- okay, the most reliable way to make sure a person doesn't win a round is to eliminate them from play, but one of the new cards awards the person who has it a victory point if they're eliminated. And of course they get a victory point if they win the round, so once someone plays that card everybody else has to try to steer the game so that they make it to the end of the round without a winning hand. What tends to happen a lot in practice is that someone will have a lapse of concentration and eliminate that player anyway, having forgotten why it's a bad idea. I've actually won a whole game that way.


3. Survive: Escape from Atlantis is a board game where the players are trying to evacuate the population of an island that's gradually sinking into a sea infested with carnivorous sea monsters, whirlpools and other hazards. It's not a co-operative game: each player has a particular group they're responsible for, there are a limited number of boats, and part of the gameplay is making the sea monsters go and bother somebody else. I enjoyed it a lot.


4. I got my old Magic: The Gathering cards out of storage recently, because I've noticed there's pretty much always Magic players at the gaming group even when nothing much else is happening. I haven't actually got to use them at a meet yet, but mentioning that I had them led to me getting invited to join a game of Magic: The Gathering: Commander, which is a variant of the game where several people fight each other simultaneously instead of one-on-one. This involves a different kind of deck from the usual one-on-one game; the player who was organizing the match kindly lent me one of his spares. I ended up being one of the last two players standing, I suspect largely because the more experienced players didn't see me as a threat and concentrated on knocking each other out. I very nearly won the match, too, but although I had all the cards I needed I didn't use them as well as I needed to, saving one up when I should have played it and playing others when I should have saved them. Well, I'll know better next time, if there's a next time.

The lost opportunity I regret most, although I don't think it would actually have changed the outcome, involved a card that lets the player swap the hitpoints of two opponents. At the point I drew it, one of the other players was nearly out of hitpoints, largely due to the efforts of another player who was not only in full health but had acquired extra hitpoints and had had to break out an extra hitpoint counter. Swapping their hitpoints would have been really entertaining. Alas, by the time I had the mana to use the spell, the weakest player had been eliminated, and the strongest had suffered a major reversal of fortune, with the result that the strongest player had only a three-point lead over the weakest remaining player. Much less entertaining.


5. I had played Tsuro before, and didn't think I liked it; it tends to be over very quickly and often ends in the last two players dying simultaneously, but it turns out to be a good game for filling in time while waiting for something else to happen. (The fact that I actually won a game probably also helped lift my opinion.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. At the gaming group this week, we played Carcassonne and Splendor. First we played a two-player game of Carcassonne, which I won convincingly, then another person arrived and we played a three-player game, which I lost even more convincingly. Then we played two three-player games of Splendor, and I lost both times.

At the end of the evening, everybody happened to finish up early except the role-playing group, who were in the middle of battling a kraken that was trying to sink their ship. I hung around to see how that turned out; how it turned out was that the kraken destroyed the ship, but the adventuring party did manage to rescue most of the people on board by stuffing them inside some kind of hammerspace pocket their wizard conjured up. On the one hand: Lots of survivors, yay! On the other hand: Lots of survivors stuck in a hammerspace pocket hovering in midair over open ocean with no chance of anybody happening along to rescue them... The wizard explained that he had a theoretically sound plan for getting everyone back to dry land in one piece, but the venue was closing up so we didn't get to find out yet how well that was going to go in practice.


2. The local music school runs a small choral group for adults that I've been vaguely aware for a while, but hadn't got around to checking out due to having other things on and general shyness about putting myself into new situations. Recently I've had some more free time due to not being in any shows at present, which happened to coincide with the beginning of a new school term, so it seemed like a good time to check it out. I am enjoying it so far.


3. In a rare burst of decluttering enthusiasm, I've done something about the pile of Things I Put Down For a Moment Intending to Deal With Them Later that was gradually engulfing my study. It's now sorted into three boxes: things to be put away when I figure out where they go, likewise but with a good chance I'll be wanting them again before then, and things that actually need dealing with. Next step: dealing with the things in the third box.

In a bit of carry-over, I also did a thing with the box that's been sitting in the kitchen since I moved in, which nominally contained things that needed to be unpacked in the kitchen. It's now been separated into a small box of things that really do need to be unpacked, and a larger box of things I never actually used in the old kitchen and don't see myself using in this one either. Next step: Figure out how to usefully get rid of the second and larger box.


4. The new online community platform Imzy recently moved from closed to open beta, in case anyone's interested in checking it out. (Can't have communities without people in, after all...) My impression is that so far the more broadly-drawn communities, like Fantasy, are making more of a go of it than the communities based on more specific topics, but that may change as more people get involved.


5. Fanfic rec: Working Backwards by Starlightify. In which Clark Kent wakes up in Lois Lane's bed and has to figure out how he got there, and also who Lois thought he was at the time. Normally I find stories with this kind of premise acutely embarrassing, but this is written with a great deal of warmth and empathy and I enjoyed it unreservedly.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. At the gaming group, last time I went, we played 7 Wonders: Duel. There were about half a dozen people interested in learning about it, so we ended up playing in rotation, where everyone got two games against different opponents and most people (including me) won the first and then lost the second.


2. I participated in the Multifandom Drabble Exchange on Imzy, because it seemed like a good excuse to check out Imzy and a good excuse to write some drabbles. I wrote one drabble, and attempted a second based on one of my recipient's other prompts but it refused to be squished down to 100 words.

* New Flowers Bloom expands a bit on some of the events that are summarized so briefly in the happily-ever-after paragraph of the fairy tale "Snow-white and Rose-red".

* A week next Saturday at the Stork Club is a shameless fix-fic for the end of Captain America: The First Avenger.

I received two drabbles, both for the TV series Ultraviolet (yay!). Neither of them seems to have been posted anywhere outside of Imzy (which is currently still only readable to the beta testers).


3. I have not signed up for Yuletide this year, though I may end up doing a pinch hit or a treat or something. This is my usual level of engagement with Yuletide, because I find that the most daunting part of Yuletide is thinking of things to ask for.


4. Kim Newman's new novel Angels of Music (a take on the Charlie's Angels premise populated with characters from 19th century genre fiction, including the Paris Opera Ghost as the mysterious faceless leader) is now available in a variety of formats. It's also been announced that his next book will be a short story collection with a theme of monsters, featuring a brand new Anno Dracula story titled "Yokai Town".


5. Ursula Vernon's new novel Summer in Orcus is being published online as a serial, with new chapters dropping twice a week. It's her version of the old "child dragged into another world for an adventure" genre.
pedanther: (cheerful)
We have completed our run of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It had some complicated staging and lighting requirements, and I was worried it wasn't all going to come together in time, but it was working well enough by opening night. (On closing night I felt as if we were stopping just as we were really getting the hang of it, but I always feel that way on closing night regardless.) It would have been nice to get larger audiences, but the people who did come enjoyed it, and that's sometimes all you can ask for in community theatre.

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

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

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

I've been vaguely pondering directing something again, but have no particular ideas about what.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. This year the music section of the annual performing arts festival, which in previous years has been held over a weekend, was further divided into vocal and intrumental sections and held over two weekends. This came about because last year we had about three days worth of entries crammed into two days, which was stressful for everyone. This year we had three days worth of entries spread out over four days, which was a lot less fraught; we could begin and end each day at a reasonable time and still have time for proper refreshment breaks between sessions, and there was one afternoon in each weekend given over to some very well-attended workshops run by the guest adjudicators. It does mean we need to find two guest adjudicators each year instead of one, but on the other hand it gives us more options in finding them, since we don't need to find one person who's strong on both vocal and instrumental music.


2. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde opens in a week. It's coming together pretty well.


3. I have been to the gaming group only once recently, as there have tended to be Jekyll & Hyde rehearsals scheduled against it. One of the X-Wing players, whose usual opponents hadn't made it, saw me wandering around at a loose end and recognised me as someone who occasionally watches them play, so he invited me to have a go. I had control of a small Rebel fleet, versus his swarm of Imperial TIE Fighters. There was an exciting moment during the battle where one of my ships was on a collision course with an asteroid, but I managed the dice rolls that converted it from "ship collides with asteroid, takes damage" to "ship hides on asteroid for a turn, takes no damage". It came down to one Rebel and one TIE fighter, but the TIE fighter won in the end. I enjoyed it okay once I started getting the hang of it, but I don't think I see myself becoming an X-Wing player who owns his own set; way too many little fiddly bits to obtain and keep track of.


4. I have finished playing through the storyline in Lego Jurassic World, and am now exploring the bits of the game that are unlocked as the storyline is completed. It's definitely more fun once the dinosaurs show up. The triceratops is still one of my favourite dinosaurs to play, probably followed by the brontosaurus. Playing as the brontosaurus is strangely relaxing, as it's so large that the camera pulls waaay out to fit it in, and the parts of the game that usually seem so important are reduced to tiny distant things going on down by the dinosaur's feet. The baby velociraptor is also surprisingly good value as a player character. (Then you get into the possibilities afforded by genetic manipulation, such as a tiny compsognathus with a headbutt as powerful as a triceratops or a t-rex's shattering roar.)

One thing that's still bothering me about it involves the distribution of character traits: there's a very large overlap between the sets "character is female", "character has a glass-shattering shriek", and "character is Agile" (can jump high and squeeze through small gaps), in a way that makes Agile often look like a consolation prize for female characters who can't really do much else. To some extent, I suppose this is a result of the game being constrained by the roles given to female characters in the original movies. One thing that can't be blamed on the movies, though, is the way that the game seems to be rubbing it in by using hot pink as the colour code for obstacles that only Agile characters can get past.


5. Fanfic rec: Shadow-Self, a retelling of the False Guinevere legend. In the usual version, King Arthur's wife is secretly replaced partway through his reign by an impostor of identical aspect, her low-born half-sister, who causes a number of problems before the switch is discovered. In this retelling, that's not quite how it goes.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. The short play season has been and gone. This year there were two plays, with a set of song-and-dance numbers in between; I was in the song-and-dance section, and got to sing the lead part on "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" while the rest of the troupe did their best to upstage me. The other songs we did were "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Friends", both ensemble numbers, and "Otto Titzling", in which I made a brief and mostly mimed appearance as the villainous Phillippe de Brassiere, wearing a villainous top hat and villainous false moustache over my insufficiently villainous real moustache.

Next up is The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


2. My facial hair has gone through some variations this year. I grew out a full beard for Fagin, pruned it back to a moustache for the short play season, and am now going clean-shaven for Jekyll & Hyde. As an intermediate stage between the full beard and the moustache, just for the fun of it, I spent a week going about with Edwardian-style friendly muttonchops. I got a notable number of complimentary remarks about the look suiting me, so I may have to revisit it in future.


3. A few weeks ago, I went to the city to catch the touring professional production of Little Shop of Horrors. I found it somewhat disappointing, although I'm saying this as someone with multiple other productions to compare it to. The set design was amazing, and the whole thing was very impressive on the technical side, but a lot of the time I wasn't really feeling it on the emotional level. I think the size of the theatre was working against it; every other time I've seen Little Shop live has been in the kind of little shoebox theatre where even the back row isn't all that far from the stage. I'm also inclined to think most of the actors were struggling under the weight of the accents, which tended toward being so far over the top several of the characters were basically accents with people attached. The actor playing Seymour somehow got away with a reasonably-sized accent, and his performance did a great deal toward salvaging the whole thing.


4. I apparently didn't mention that after catching up with Now You See Me on home video, I went to see Now You See Me 2 in the cinema. It's probably not an objectively good movie, but I found it entertaining enough, even if I didn't quite believe it when the plot forced the protagonists to create in a matter of days the kind of stunt it took them months to set up in the first movie. Interestingly, it at least made some attempt to address some of the things that didn't quite make sense in the first movie regarding character motivations and such, which I appreciated even if some of the answers were also among the parts of the movie I didn't quite believe. One of the comments I made about the first movie has become quite amusing in retrospect, for reasons I can't really describe without massive spoilers.


5. This week we had the drama section of the annual performing arts festival. As usual, it was mostly students, but this year there was an actual adult entrant. (From Toastmasters -- he did a poetry recital and a monologue -- not from either of the theatre groups. Although we did hear from an adult Rep Club member who hadn't seen any promotional material until after the entry deadline had already passed. We really need to work on our outreach to the theatre groups.) The student entries included a collection of short group pieces the students had created themselves as part of their coursework, which tended to be dealing with Issues like self-esteem and coping with loss and so on. One of the highlights of the evening was a transgender coming-of-age story where the protagonist was represented by two performers, one playing his image of himself and the other playing his parents' image of him. Which sounds a bit weird, but the execution was really impressive. One of the actors involved, who also did a stand-out monologue, took out the top prize at the end of the evening.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. I mentioned that the Rep Club will next be doing our annual season of one-act plays, then The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In an excess of enthusiasm, I have signed on for both, and there are very few evenings now that I'm not rehearsing for something. It makes a change from last year when I didn't get to act in anything at all, but I may end up having to beg off the Christmas Show just to get a bit of a rest.


2. At the gaming group, we played Stay Away!, in which the players represent a group of explorers in an isolated location who have to figure out which of their number is now an inhuman Thing in disguise, before they all get turned into inhuman Things themselves. (The flavour text and illustrations are all jazz-era Lovecraftian, down to namedropping R'lyeh, but I suspect the real inspiration is something that isn't out of copyright yet, particularly since the standard tool for Thing-destruction is a flamethrower.)

I said before that I don't get on well with games that are all about watching people's body language to figure out who's the traitor, but I do better with games where there's an abstract mechanic and things to do other than make and deflect accusations. The formal mechanism of this game involves drawing, playing, and trading cards: useful cards, like the flamethrower and the barricade, and other cards, like the one that says, The person who gave you this card is an inhuman Thing - and now, so are you...

I had a stroke of luck in the first game we played: my starting hand included the card which lets you prove you're not the Thing, and so did the starting hand of the more experienced player next to me. That meant we each had someone we could trust watching one flank, and also that I could learn from how he assessed the other players without having to worry that he was making stuff up to throw me off. We ended up being the last two humans in the game. And then one of the Things got him with a flamethrower, and I was the last human, and then I did something unwise and the Things won.

The second game went a lot quicker. Fairly early on one of the players was accused of being the Thing and completely failed to produce a convincingly innocent response. After that, the rest of the table closed ranks and it was only a matter of time before a flamethrower was found and deployed, securing victory for the humans.

The third game went even quicker than that, because less than one turn around the table a player got hold of the flamethrower and decided to torch one of his neighbours on spec, and it turned out that the neighbour was, in fact, the Thing, producing another easy victory for the humans.

The fourth game was another long one like the first. At one point I was one of only two humans who knew for sure the identity of the Thing. Then, while I was concentrating on setting the other one up to take a shot with a flamethrower, I let my guard down and got Thinged. My former ally did get his shot, but it turned out the Thing had a card that let him temporarily escape getting barbecued. I went on to make a key move in the eventual victory for us Things.


3. At home, I've started playing Lego Jurassic World. I wasn't sure I liked it at first; it felt like the game was being held back by adhering too closely to the events of the movie, not helped by the decision to use actual voice tracks, which don't suit the cartoony style that Lego game cutscenes are usually in. (Also, I started off resenting it somewhat because it turns out to be a bit much for my relatively-elderly computer to handle well. The actual game levels play smoothly, but it takes an awful long time for each one to load.) I have to admit, though, that it picked up quite a bit once all the introductory gubbins was out of the way and I got to a bit with actual dinosaurs in. Crashing around as a Triceratops busting up Lego scenery is quite a bit of fun.


4. Getting in early with a suggestion for next year's Hugo Award nominations: Freefall: Chapter One.

I've been wanting to plug Freefall for Best Graphic Story ever since the category was introduced, but always got stuck on the question of how to define the eligible portion of an ongoing webcomic where each plot thread flowed into the next. However, this week the creator announced "Thus brings us to the end of chapter one", so I guess that answers that question.

Freefall starts out as broad comedy but develops (while still being very funny) a deeper story about what it means to be human, featuring three characters who technically aren't: Florence is an uplifted animal, Sam is an extraterrestrial, and Helix is a robot.

It's not short - several thousand daily-comic-strip sized installments - hence why I'm putting it out there now, so anybody who might be interested has time to read it and see for themselves.


5. This week's fanfic rec: we must cultivate our garden is about Eve in Heaven, coming to grips with the ramifications of the choice she made that day in Eden. Somewhat complicated by Heaven transcending time and space, meaning that when she arrives it already contains crowds of her descendants, batting around names and concepts she doesn't understand. ("Oh, theology. After your time, dear.")
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.

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