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. 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. 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)
For the "One letter, six questions" meme, [ profile] lost_spook gave me the letter B.

Something I hate: Bitter flavours. In particular, there's a cluster of flavours which seem to be related by being derived from nuts or stone fruits, that taste unpleasant to me in a similar way: marzipan, pistachio ice cream, any sweet thing that's supposed to be cherry flavoured that isn't actual cherries. Used to be I couldn't stand them at all; now I can eat them if I have to, but I still really don't like them. (While writing this entry, I got curious and started googling, and it appears the culprit may be a compound with the thematically-appropriate name of benzaldehyde.)

Something I love: Ben Aaronovitch's novels. Not just his current series of detective novels, which is excellent, but also quite a lot of his early work. His first novel contains the only implementation of a particular plot device I've ever liked, and a point-of-view character I think there should be more of; his third novel is one of my favourite novels by anybody ever.

Somewhere I’ve been: Bavaria, where we spent a large amount of our trip to Europe at the end of last year. We saw Neuschwanstein, the castle that Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle was inspired by, from a distance, but by the time we got there the tours had ended for the day because we'd come the scenic route through the mountains. On the whole, I'm good with that; the scenery was really nice. On a more serious note (and not on the same day), we made a snap change in our itinerary when we realised we'd be passing within a few miles of Nuremberg, and went to see the permanent exhibit at the Nuremberg Documentation Centre, and that turned out to be, if this isn't a weird way to put it, one of the highlights of the trip.

Somewhere I’d like to go: Britain.

Someone I know: I have a friend named Bertie, and whatever mental image appeared in your head when you read the name is almost certainly wrong.

A film I like: You may be interested to learn that the three films currently at the top of my to-watch list are Beasts of the Southern Wild, Big Trouble in Little China, and Belle. But of course I don't know yet that I like any of those. The first one to come to mind that I have actually watched and can therefore pronounce on is Blazing Saddles.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. My passport has been issued, which is the point at which I decided I was going to accept this is a thing that's actually happening:

In December I'm going to visit Germany, and also Austria and the Czech Republic, with a group of friends, to see this "White Christmas" thing everybody's written so many songs about.

This is a bit exciting, because the closest I've been to overseas before now is Rottnest Island.

2. Rehearsals for the Christmas show continue. Sometimes I think it's going really well, other times I'm horrified at how much there is left to do. Four weeks, you rehearse and rehearse...

3. What with one thing and another - specifically, the two things mentioned above - I haven't signed up for Yuletide this year and it doesn't seem likely I'll end up contributing. My creative wossnames are currently all tied up in the Christmas show, and I'll be travelling, with uncertain internet prospects, during the all-important Eleventh Hour Crunch. Best wishes to everyone on my friendslist who is taking part this year.

4. Went to see Justin Kurzel's new film version of Macbeth, which has been getting impressive reviews, and now I'm horribly tempted to describe it using the phrase "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing", which wouldn't really be fair. For one thing, one of the problems I had with it was that there are several points where I think a bit of sound and fury was just what we needed and didn't get. For another, it's full of things that are clearly Significant - it's saturated with Significance, to the point that the whole experience ended up feeling rather smothered - I just don't think that in the end they added up to anything coherent.

(Also, on a more nitpicky note, there were several places that hit one of my directorial peeves, where the dialogue says one thing and the action shows something else. This was particularly annoying since it's a production that's not afraid to prune big chunks of dialogue out, or even occasionally to change a line, with no good effect on the rhyme or the scansion. If you're going that far, then either do something about the line that contradicts your vision, or if the line is too important to be done away with, consider that that might mean your vision might need adjusting...)

5. Every time I get my hair cut, I seem to end up with more forehead than I had before.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. There are 18 novels and a bit over twice that many short stories set in the Liaden Universe, and yesterday I finished reading through them all one after the other. It took me a bit over two years, although that's mainly because I was blogging each chapter or story as I read it, which meant I couldn't read the next one until I'd thought of something to say. Without that restriction, I'd have got through them much quicker, but then I'd have probably missed a lot of things I noticed on this re-read.

2. Rehearsals have begun for the Christmas Show. I was nervous before the first rehearsal - I was running it alone because my co-runner couldn't make it, and although I'd only called half the cast that still meant more actors than every play I've directed before now put together - but it seemed to go all right. And seeing them moving around the stage helped me figure out what the set should look like in the first scene. (Note to self: Draw a diagram of that.)

3. I seem to have become a morning person now. I'm regularly waking up a couple of hours before work (or the equivalent time on weekends) without any artificial assistance, and regularly feeling sleepy and going to bed about eight hours before that. I do wonder if it has anything to do with spring and the sun coming up earlier; it'll be interesting to see what happens when the days start getting shorter again.

4. I haven't mentioned Doctor Who Legacy in while; not since I reached the end of the first "season" and concluded that it still didn't have anything resembling a plot. In fairness, therefore, I should note that it does develop an actual plot toward the end of the second "season", though the connection between the story elements and the actual gameplay remains tenuous to non-existent.

5. My new favourite podcast is I Was There Too, which explores the world of movie-making through the perspectives of people who had tiny roles in big movies. Guests have included the first marine to die in Aliens, the woman with the baby carriage in The Untouchables, the Apple Store clerk in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and, in a special group interview, all those other people on the bus in Speed.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. When I saw the trailer for Home, the new DreamWorks movie inspired by The True Meaning of Smekday, I said to myself: "This looks like it's going to be fun and entertaining in a way that's almost completely different from the book." In this, I was basically correct. And I think that was probably the right decision by the filmmakers; The True Meaning of Smekday was such a thing in itself that I don't know if it could have been successfully translated to film, so much better to look at it as a source of inspiration for a good movie that is its own thing.

(Also, I was amused that, although they left out the running gag about the aliens giving themselves inappropriate human-type names, so we don't get J.Lo the Boov, they gave it a tip of the hat by casting J.Lo the human as the heroine's mom.)

2. As if I didn't have enough TV to catch up on (which reminds me: must catch up on Agents of SHIELD), the premiere of Thunderbirds Are Go was on at a time I could actually watch it, so now I'm following that as well. They've done a slightly odd thing where instead of going the usual reboot route and starting from the beginning again, they've actually advanced a few years from the point where the original series ended, so it's kind of like a sequel as well as a reboot, but because they've tweaked the setting and most of the characters it's a sequel to a version of the original series that never actually existed. I'm not sure what I think of it yet. I'm also not sure what to make of the fact that I get a swell of nostalgia every time the theme music plays, considering I never actually watched the original series.

3. I've been having ups and downs with HabitRPG lately. I got my first Perfect Day (completed all the habits on the daily recurring habits list) on the day before Swancon, though admittedly only because I'd disabled the habits I couldn't do while I was away from home, and those included most of the ones I really struggle with. (I then proceeded to blow the "Go to bed at a sensible time" habit every day of Swancon, so no more Perfect Days for me.) On the other hand, being away for a week threw me off my stride and I died twice in my first week back, after having managed to avoid dying at all up until then. Fortunately, dying in HabitRPG isn't too terribly painful - they don't want you to stop using HabitRPG, after all.

4. I have not yet given up on writing a proper post about what I did at Swancon. (I tried writing them as I went this year, but about halfway through the first full day I got too busy enjoying myself to waste time writing about it.)

5. I have not yet given up on writing a proper post about games I played at Swancon and on International Tabletop Day.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Rehearsals for The Duchess of Coolgardie continue. We're at the point now where we've learned our parts enough to relax into them somewhat and explore the possibilities for enriching them, instead of getting stuck on worrying about whether we'll have our lines down in time for opening. Last weekend we had some workshops with a couple of professional theatre people our director knows, which inspired some of the cast to lift their game (including, let's be real, me). There will be another set of workshops this weekend, which will hopefully have a similarly improving effect.

2. The other local community theatre group's production of The Wizard of Oz opened today, and I went to the opening night. I enjoyed it a lot, and although it had some of the weak points one usually gets when community theatre attempts big-budget spectacle - particularly since they were basing it on the movie rather than a version designed for live theatre - there were some moments that were genuinely magical. (On which note, they got major points from me for the way they handled the bit where the ruby slippers disappear off the Wicked Witch's feet and appear on Dorothy's.)

3. The annual performing arts festival has been and gone. I was on the organising committee again this year, and acted as MC for most of it, although I had to skip out for part of one afternoon to go to a Duchess rehearsal. Annoyingly, the part I missed was the part with all the character vocal sections, which is always one of the highlights for me. There was plenty else to enjoy in the parts I was present for, though. It ended on a high, with the final session of the final day featuring various vocal ensembles doing impressive harmony work.

Weirdly, I had the old show-about-to-open nightmare a few days after the performing arts festival was over. Didn't bother me much, I know it too well by now, but the timing was odd.

4. Another thing that's been and gone is the annual Toastmasters Humorous Speech Contest and Table Topics Contest. I usually take part in the Table Topics contest, but this year it was another victim of being scheduled against a Duchess rehearsal.

5. I did go to see Guardians of the Galaxy before the local run finished. I enjoyed it overall, but there was room for improvement in several areas: most blatantly, a number of skeevy jokes that I think it could have done perfectly well without.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. The local cineplex did start offering 2D showings of Guardians of the Galaxy after the first week or two. I still haven't found time to see it yet, but it's nice to know the option is there.

2. Sleeping Beauty, as I said last entry, was interesting to revisit after watching Maleficent. I can see now that some of the things I didn't like about Maleficent had their roots in the original movie, but I don't think that excuses them; what's the point of an irreverent retelling if not to fix the plot holes? And it made me even more annoyed about what Maleficent did to Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, who by any reasonable standard are the heroes of Sleeping Beauty. On the other hand, it really stuck out at me that Aurora's mother goes through the entire film without a name; Maleficent at least got that right, even if it didn't give her any more to do. Another thing I have to acknowledge Maleficent did better was that its Aurora and Phillip looked their ages; animated Aurora looks significantly older than 16 years (not to mention demonstrating remarkable sophistication in hair and makeup for a girl who's spent all those years isolated in a forest).

Another interesting-revisiting-after aspect was seeing a bunch of ways Sleeping Beauty influenced later Disney films (and particularly Tangled; Phillip's horse is clearly a less intelligent relative of Maximus, to pick out one of the more obvious points).

3. Snow White was interesting because I've never actually seen it all the way through before, so watching it was a mixture of bits familiar from seeing them excerpted or quoted elsewhere and bits that were a complete surprise: to start with, I'd had no idea there was a scene at beginning where Snow White meets the prince before she gets abandoned in the forest. That still means they fell in love over the course of a single duet, but it's a darn sight better than the usual alternative. And it's no worse than many other Disney princesses -- Aurora, for one, whose first meeting with Phillip is remarkably similar.

The littlies in the audience showed vocal appreciation throughout, with enthusiastic laughter at many of the comedy bits... and when the prince kissed Snow White, a single small voice pronounced a very decided "Ew!".

4. Thanks to a friend deciding to do a Shakespeare movie marathon, I've now seen Gregory Doran's version of Hamlet with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. I'm not entirely sold on David Tennant as Hamlet, but the production has its good points. I particularly want to single out Penny Downie for an effective and nuanced performance as Gertrude. (Patrick Stewart is also very good, but I was kind of expecting that, since it's Patrick Stewart.)

5. In other news from the Shakespeare marathon, I still think Trevor Nunn's version of Twelfth Night is weirdly gloomy for an adaptation of a play that's supposed to be a comedy.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. The local cineplex is only offering Guardians of the Galaxy in post-converted 3D. This is something of a problem, because I Do Not Watch post-converted 3D movies.

2. In happier cinematic news, they're also running a thing where each weekend in August they're showing a classic Disney movie. For, admittedly, a value of "classic" which includes Pocahontas, which is also a thing I Do Not Watch. Despite that, and a couple of weekends where I have other things on, I'll have got two classic movies out of it: Sleeping Beauty last weekend (which I enjoyed, and which was interesting to revisit after seeing Maleficent), and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a few weeks from now.

3. As a Doctor Who fan, I've been watching Big Finish's news feed lately to see their various announcements relating to their 15th anniversary as the makers of official Doctor Who audios. As a Doctor Who fan of a certain age, one announcement that caught my eye was the one revealing that they've finished the job of casting all the Doctor's companions from the New Adventures spin-off novels. One of the first things they did when they started making Doctor Who-related audio dramas 15 years ago was cast Lisa Bowerman as Benny Summerfield (because it was easier at first to get permission to make solo adventures for Benny than anything with the Doctor in), and now they've finally got around to casting Roz Forrester and Chris Cwej. The occasion is that they're making an audio adaptation of Damaged Goods, the novel that was Russell T Davies' first official bit of Doctor Who writing, years before he got the job of bringing the TV series back.

4. Yesterday's second most surprising discovery was that the reviled 1990s TV series Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation (that's the one which added a token female Turtle to the line-up) was live-action. It makes a sort of sense, since it came out on the heels of the live-action movies, but for the last 17 years I've just been assuming that it was animated, like the beloved Turtles series of my youth and the more recent revival. (Obviously, I've never actually watched any of it.)

5. Yesterday's most surprising discovery was that the author of Sam Tim's Ugly Day was Meicha Maarilex. (Which is doubly surprising, in the sense that the fact that it was a surprise was a surprise, since I made this discovery while reading something that I know for a fact I've read before, and which I remember quite clearly. I even remember that very sentence, except that somehow the author's name didn't register with me the first time I read it.) I wonder if I ought to be embarrassed about the squeaky gleeful noises I made; they're not uncommon, I gather, when discovering an unsuspected new book by a favoured author -- but for a fictional book by a fictional author?
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. I've just watched the season finale of Agents of SHIELD. It's gotten rather good in the last month or so; you may recall that during the mid-season hiatus I said I wasn't sure if I cared whether I saw any more of it, but lately I've been hanging out for each episode. Elseweb I saw it described as "a decent six-episode miniseries with a tedious 16-episode prologue", which is a reasonable description of what it felt like. It's not that the first 16 episodes are unnecessary: in retrospect, they do a lot of character-building and plot set-up that pays off in the last 6 episodes. It's just that... well, put it this way: it makes sense for there to be a contrast when the series kicks up a notch for the run to the finale, but the contrast didn't need to be that big. (Given the standard episode count for an American series, among other things, I don't suppose there was ever a chance of the character and plot set-up being compressed into a smaller number of episodes.) Anyway, it's a lot better now, and I hope that now it's hit its stride it will keep the standard up; I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes next season.

2. Which reminds me that I haven't posted about seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet. Fortunately, others have done that for me:

[ profile] daibhid_c said most of what I would have said, except that I would have added that I spent much of the first action sequence with a little voice in my head going "omg I can't believe they included that character in a serious Captain America movie and made it work".

[ profile] glvalentine said some things I would never have thought of about the movie The Winter Soldier wanted to be and the movie it had to be, and how it negotiated the difference.

(Spoilers in both, of course.)

3. Also in recent movie-going, The LEGO Movie, which I had been looking forward to ever since the 1980s classic astronaut figure appeared in the trailer with exactly the kind of wear-and-tear the 1980s classic astronaut figure tended to get when you played with it a lot. As it happened, I tagged along with a friend who was being the responsible adult for a group of teenagers; she expressed surprise that someone my age would be interested, but as I told her I reckon I'm pretty solidly in one of the film's target audiences. (From what I remember, the other people at the showing we went to bore that out.) I enjoyed it every bit as much as I hoped to, and then some.

[ profile] pedanther: The Lego Movie: two thumbs up.
[ profile] poinketh: But Lego men don't have thumbs.

4. I mentioned a while back that one of our local theatre groups was doing a production of Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth, and I was interested to see how they managed it, considering that the play's staging requirements are challenging even for a professional company. I should therefore say that in the event, I feel they carried it off well.

There was one metatextually interesting moment: There is a key twist in the play in which a thing that appears to be genuine is revealed to be fake, to the astonishment not only of the character to whom it is being presented but also of the audience. In a professional production, the astonishment would be achieved by having the thing appear real; in this amateur production, it was obviously fake from the moment it appeared, but in a way that fit in with all the things on the stage that looked fake but were obviously intended to be accepted as real for the characters, so the revelation still worked for at least some of the audience. (One woman's whoop of astonishment could probably be heard throughout the theatre; during the rest of the play, I occasionally heard her speculating to her seatmate about what the next dramatic revelation was going to be. She was right at least once, too.)

5. My Re-Reading Liad continues; I'm currently a couple of weeks into Conflict of Honors. Which gives you an idea of how long I've been procrastinating on this post; I'd originally intended to make an announcement when I started it and suggest it as a place where people might be interested in coming on board for a while. Comments continue to be sparse, though there was a temporary bump a little while back when one of the co-authors of the Liaden series was kind enough to mention the project on her blog. (It was particularly kind of her considering I clumsily managed to upset her back when the project was starting out, and I wouldn't have blamed her in the least if she'd chosen to ignore it entirely thenceforth.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. All the immediate family were in town for Christmas, which was nice. We made an unhurried afternoon of it, and all enjoyed ourselves. I gave some good presents, judging by their recipients' reactions, and I received some really nice presents, too.

2. My sister brought along a Doctor Who special edition Monopoly set which someone had given her and she hadn't had a chance to play with anyone. It wasn't really a success, because once the novelty of the theme wore off it was basically still the same old grindingly slow game Monopoly has always been, and somewhere around the point where all the chance cards had been played at least once, and all the properties had been bought without anybody getting a complete set of anything, we just gave up. The most fun we had in the whole game was when my sister and I found ourselves getting into a bitter rivalry over possession of one particular $50 note, which kept going back and forward between us as rent money, accompanied by increasingly theatrical cries of "You see! It always finds its way home!"

3. Also, while my brother was in town, the two of us played a few more levels of Lego Star Wars, which seems to have become our traditional "We don't often see each other, and when we do, we don't know what to do next" activity. We're up to Return of the Jedi now, and still occasionally accidentally shoot each other or drag each other off ledges. (All part of the fun.)

4. Another thing we all did together as a family was go to the cinema and see The Desolation of Smaug, my opinion of which in one respect may be judged by the fact that I've taken to referring to it as just "The Desolation of Smaug" without according it the surtitle. I did like the way they made an effort to ground and round out the character of Bard the bowman, but most of the other additions struck me as unnecessary and poorly-suited to the material they were allegedly adapting. I think it says something about their priorities that the film begins with a completely invented scene designed to recap the premise of the plot, and then leaves out the plot recap scene that actually occurs near that point in the novel.

5. My new year's resolution for this year is, in contrast to the usual, to get off the diet. I'll still be watching what I eat, but in a more general and flexible sort of way instead of trying to tie myself down to specific numbers (which I was never all that good at, anyway).
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Last week, the Rep Club had a quiz night to raise funds for renovating the theatre. I went along with a couple of friends and some of their friends, and upheld the noble and long-standing family tradition of coming second at quiz nights.

2. The house I'm renting is at that age where things are gradually wearing out and needing to be replaced, which makes me glad I'm only renting and not on the hook for what all this must cost. In the time I've been living here, I've seen the replacement of the hot water system, the toilet cistern, and the shower outlet pipe (which proved, on excavation, to consist of several large holes held together by rust), and at some point, something is going to have to be done about the rain gutters (see also: large holes held together by rust). In the circumstances, the fact that the kitchen sink takes several minutes to drain is such a minor detail that I haven't even bothered to mention it.

3. I caught part of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides on TV recently, including the scene where Captain Jack Sparrow learns he has a doppelganger who has been going around recruiting people in his name. Now I'm trying to remember if there's anything like that in the original novel; it's very much the kind of situation that would occur in a Tim Powers novel, though it would be played for understated horror instead of laughs and the scene where hero and doppelganger face off definitely wouldn't end with the same revelation that the scene in the movie leads to.

(While I'm on the subject, my opinion in brief of Pirates of the Caribbean is that the first movie was a pretty good swashbuckling pirate movie that happened to have some dark fantasy in, and the sequels tend too much toward being dark fantasy movies that happen to have some swashbuckling pirates in. And my opinion in brief of Tim Powers is that his novels are awesome, and I hope he got paid well for letting Hollywood plunder one of them.)

4. I've mentioned before that I have procrastination issues, which sometimes manifest in avoiding a job for months that turns out to be fairly straightforward and over in half an hour. A related problem is the one where I'm about to start on a job I know I can do when I notice an unexpected complication and decide to put it off while I think about (read: avoid thinking about) how it's going to affect things.

I think I've identified one of the underlying motivators for this sort of thing; put into words, it's something like "If I never start, there's no risk of it ending in everybody finding out I can't do it".

Having the words is useful; it suggests coping strategies. Due consideration of the actual probability that I won't be able to do whatever-it-is can be illuminating. Also, in some cases the fear that starting will lead to being discovered as a failure can be vanquished by the fear that not starting will lead to being discovered as someone who promised to do something and then never even started.

5. At the Toastmasters meeting this week, I was the designated MC, which also carried with it the duty of checking that people would be available for their rostered roles and arranging for gaps to be covered. The actual MCing part was not a worry, but the aspect that involved Being Organized and Phoning People kicked off the whole "this is going to end in disaster, the schedule will be full of holes, and it will be All My Fault" train, and up until a few hours before the meeting I was seriously considering calling in sick and hiding.

I got through it partly by the aforementioned due consideration of the actual probability of failure, partly by reminding myself that Toastmasters people are friendly and don't mind imperfect success as an outcome of honest effort, and partly by acknowledging that I also like my fellow club-members and wouldn't feel right dumping a potential disaster on one of them with a few hours notice -- but the single thing that tipped the balance was that I thought of the perfect joke to use in my opening remarks, and after that I couldn't bear the thought of not getting to deliver it.

(After all the stressing, the actual meeting ran smoothly and I'm very glad I went.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. As one of the people who felt Jim Kirk got handed his captaincy at the end of the last film without either earning it or showing any sign he could be trusted with it, I was pleased to see that addressed in Star Trek Into Darkness.

On the other hand, there's that thing you may have heard about already, which is a thing. (I came up with at least four possible patches for it before the movie was over, and was faintly surprised that the movie hadn't tried to use at least one.)

Also, I'm still not sure it's proper Star Trek, for all that it has a lot of moments intended to remind you of things that Star Trek did before. And it's not really doing itself any favours reminding you; putting people in mind of some of those old scenes (especially that one) is not a good idea unless you're going to go them one better, and I don't think it did. Bigger, faster, and shinier, yes. Better? No.

But for a big, fast, shiny action movie, it's a reasonably entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.

2. Though I was tempted to say that my favourite part of seeing Star Trek Into Darkness was actually the trailer for Pacific Rim they showed before it, in which a computer unexpectedly spoke with the distinctive voice of Ellen McLain.

3. Signal boost: Humble Bundle is a web site that offers limited-time bundles of small-press and indie computer games, DRM-free, for a variety of platforms, for the low, low price of Whatever You Feel Like Paying.

The current bundle features the work of Double Fine Productions, an adventure game company founded by people who had previously worked on LucasArts games like The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, and Grim Fandango. None of those are in the bundle, of course, but it does feature Double Fine's flagship title, Psychonauts, which concerns the adventures of a young psychic and features sections set inside the minds of the other characters. Another of their better-known titles, Brütal Legend, which features the voice of Jack Black and a setting that mixes quest fantasy with heavy metal stylings, is the bonus game that will be thrown in if you pay more than the average of everyone before you. At the time of writing, that average is less than ten dollars.

4. In other news, work continues on rehearsals for The Man from Mukinupin. We recently did our first run-through of the first act.

5. The last week or so has been unusually productive and able-to-concentrate-y. I just wish I knew what happened, so I could keep doing it.

(One possible suspect: This started about the time I had a run of days where I was running late so I skipped my usual breakfast and grabbed a meat pie on the way in to work. Since I noticed that, it's occurred to me that I really don't eat much red meat in the usual run of things. But I don't know enough about diet to know what kind of effect to expect from that.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. I once considered doing a blog where I'd post about events from fictions set in the future, on the dates they supposedly occurred. If I'd done it, there would have been a post due last Monday for Marty McFly's visit to the future in Back to the Future part II. If you've noticed it's taken me almost a week to mention this, you've discovered one of the reasons I decided not to go ahead with the blog. [ETA: And if you've noticed that I have no idea when Back to the Future part II is set, and will believe any munchkin with a doctored screencap without checking a reliable source as backup, you've discovered another reason.]

2. I've now read two novels on the Kobo. I'm finding it quite a comfortable reading experience, although I'm still having a bit of trouble with the page-turning. It's a touch-screen device, so instead of there being a Turn Page button, you tap on the screen, and it moves forward a page -- except when it moves forward two pages, or decides you really wanted a dictionary definition of the word nearest where you tapped.

One of the small but satisfying features is a result of the e-ink display, which only uses power when it is being changed. That means that when you switch the device off, the display doesn't have to go blank; displaying an appropriate image uses no more power. If you switch the device off while you're part way through a book, it displays the book's cover.

3. One of the two novels was A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, the author of The Secret Garden. It's got some really nice scenes, mostly those featuring the protagonist's interactions with her various and sometimes-unlikely friends, but I think on the whole I prefer The Secret Garden. The latter book also has really nice scenes featuring a protagonist interacting with various and sometimes-unlikely friends, and in addition it has the exploration of an interesting setting, and an ending that doesn't rely on a huge and improbable coincidence.

4. Mark Reads Tortall is coming to the end of the Immortals Quartet. I had been undecided about whether I would follow on when Mark got to the Tortall novels I've never read before, but since Tamora Pierce is coming to Swancon next year it seems like a good idea to continue. Anyway, it appears I'm already into the novels I've never read before: book four of the Immortals Quartet has been completely unfamiliar apart from the cover illustration, and I've got a strong suspicion I never actually got around to reading it the first time I read the series.

(Mark is also reading Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy, and watching Friday Night Lights, The West Wing, Dead Like Me, and Stargate SG-1. He keeps busy.)

5. A confluence of circumstances recently led me to ponder the idea of a crossover between Sherlock and Global Frequency. I came to two conclusions: First, and almost immediately, that Mycroft would not be out of place as one of the shady government figures who cause the messes that the Global Frequency Rescue Organization exists to clean up; and second, that if there is any of the regulars whom I would not be surprised to learn was on the Frequency, it's Molly.

(I'm not sure they'd want Sherlock, despite his talents, and I'm pretty confident he wouldn't want to be part of any hierarchy he wasn't at the top of. John knows how to take orders, but now that he's found his place by Sherlock they've got nothing he wants -- though having put it that way, it's interesting to speculate about what might have happened if they'd found him before Sherlock.)
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. You probably didn't notice, but my computer's been in the shop for over a week, restricting my internet access to what I was able to get at work. (The actual amount of time required to fix it, according to the bill, was less than two hours.) Funnily enough, I hardly missed it. For all its ability to fill up my waking hours, apparently I don't really depend on the internet all that much.

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

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

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

5. I may be gradually getting the hang of the valuable skill of knowing when to give up on a novel that isn't working for you. Sword at Sunset, Rosemary Sutcliff's retelling of the King Arthur story in historical post-Roman Britain, is not a bad book (and it's got a better grasp of "historical" than the 2004 film that attempted the same thing, not that that's a high bar), but it's not my kind of thing. There's an essay about recommending books I read once, and wish I could find again, that posited several approaches to fiction which each reader prioritises differently. Sword at Sunset is a good book for people who read for Descriptions (of landscapes, historical details, etc.), but I'm one of the readers for whom that sort of thing is what you wade through to get to the good stuff, which for me is Plot and Character. The plot has one handicap in being derived from a familiar story, and another in that the novel is written in Retrospective Regretful (never my favourite form) so that even when the plot goes somewhere new you have a pretty good idea of how it's going to turn out. The characters I didn't find very engaging; I didn't outright say Dorothy J. Heydt's Eight Deadly Words ("I don't care what happens to these people"), but I did say something less snappy to the effect of "Particularly given that I already know what happens to these people, I'm not looking forward to wading through all this prose just to find out the details".
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. Wreck-It Ralph is a wonderful, wonderful movie. It hits a lot of familiar plot beats for a children's movie about the outsider who just wants friends (not that children are likely to notice or care) but it hits them really well, with a lot of humour and warmth and heart.

"Paperman", the short film that runs in front of it, is also really good.

2. I still haven't seen The Hobbit or Les Mis yet.

3. [ profile] scarfman, a cartoonist whose hobbies include mapping periods of time onto other periods of time, is marking Doctor Who's 50th anniversary year thus: He has mapped the show's 50-year history onto a single year, and on each date corresponding to a milestone like "first appearance of the Daleks" or "first companion departure" is blogging a series of one-panel cartoons marking the event.

4. Not going to do the fanfic year-in-review meme this year; it hardly seems worth it when I finished exactly one fanfic this year. (A definite winner for the "What pairing/genre/fandom did you write that you would never have predicted in January?" question, though.)

Once again, all the unfinished stories I had the first year I did the meme remain unfinished, though some of them did stir in their sleep. (One has actually progressed from "This needs completely rewriting but I have no idea where to start" to "I have a pretty good idea of what is needed now". Not that that means it's going get done any time soon.)

5. If anyone asks me if I did anything noteworthy this weekend, I may mention that the most noteworthy thing was something that I didn't do. (In fact, I'm not doing it right this moment. I'm not feeling any great sense of occasion about not doing it, which tends to confirm my feeling that it was the right thing to not do.) I probably won't be inclined to go into detail about it, though.
pedanther: (cheerful)
1. To anyone I haven't already, Season's Greetings! (Or General Well-Wishings, if you're one of the people who don't find anything remarkable about this time of the year.) And a happy new b'ak'tun!

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Haven't seen The Hobbit Part One or Les Mis yet, because the people I was planning to see it with are out of town. (I suppose I could see Wreck-It Ralph by myself, since the person I was hoping to see it with was [ profile] poinketh, and I know he won't be back before it closes.) Have seen the Doctor Who Christmas special, and wasn't super-impressed; it was enjoyable enough and had some really good moments, but I'm not sure it all held together, and there are worrying signs that Steven Moffat still hasn't remembered that when people say the hero of the show is a clever, unpredictable trickster figure, they're not talking about him.
pedanther: (dead serious)
April Fool's Day was quiet this year. I only encountered one bit of foolery, Telltale Games' announcement of their new interactive gaming technology.

On a completely unrelated note, yesterday was crowded so I didn't get around to writing, as I'd intended, a few words about one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays, Maclean. It's a minor work, concerning a fortress taken by bandits, and hasn't been produced in modern times since 1988, when RSC alumnus Alan Rickman gave an acclaimed performance in the role of the bandit leader. Many people know it only through a corrupt text in which missing passages were filled in arbitrarily with fragments from dissertations on the art of falconry and the cultivation of melons. The proper text is well worth seeking out, though, to get the true poetry of such famous scenes as the confrontation between the hero and the leader of the bandits:

G. My name thou knowest: who art thou? A man
Whose way is lost in tales of chivalry,
Who thinks himself another Lancelot,
An Arthur, or a Charlemagne?

M. Forsooth,
I'll none of these, but give me Dagonet.
Methinks a coxcomb would adorn me well.

G. Think thou to win, Sir Knight?

M. Thou art a knave,
And thine own mother would abhor thy deeds.
I'll fix my lance, and we shall see who bleeds.
pedanther: (Default)
Inside a week, I've seen films starring both of the leads from Son of Rambow. I should watch Son of Rambow itself one of these days.


pedanther: (Default)

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