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Now that the performing arts festival and such are out of the way, I've been able to get to the gaming group again. Last time, I played two games, Lovecraft Letter and The 7th Continent.

There are a few people in the gaming group who seem to be collecting variants of the card game Love Letter, and Lovecraft Letter is another of those. This one takes its theme from the works of HP Lovecraft, with heroic investigators battling horrific tentacled monstrosities and Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. The variant mechanic is the addition of that thing no Lovecraft-themed game is complete without, a sanity meter; losing sanity makes a player more susceptible to being knocked out of the game but opens up access to more powerful cards that a saner character wouldn't consider using.

The 7th Continent is an exploration and survival game in which a group of characters explore a mysterious and recently-discovered continent. The full game map is reportedly several metres across, but it's broken up into small numbered tiles that are laid out one by one as the characters explore, so at any given point there's only a small portion of the map visible and taking up table space. Each game begins with a card that gives a starting tile and an objective (the one we used for our game, which is recommended for beginners, has a picture of a crudely drawn map with X marking the spot; other cards apparently have more cryptic instructions). The journey includes a mixture of random encounters and scripted events (the details of which will vary somewhat depending on which characters are being played and what inventory they're carrying), and is designed to play out over many hours; the game includes a "save" mechanic where you can store your current location tile, character and inventory cards, and other cards representing the game state, and begin again later from where you left off.

I'm trying to decide what I think of The 7th Continent based on the couple of hours I've played, because the the second edition is currently on Kickstarter and they're saying Kickstarter is likely to be the only way to get a copy because it's too complicated and expensive a game to be viable as a mass-produced retail item. The expense is not unfair given how much stuff there is in the box, but it might be a bit much for me considering that if I do buy a copy I may not get to play it very often.
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1. Among the things I was not expecting to happen this month: finding Irn Bru on sale in the supermarket. It turns out it's fairly similar in taste and texture to a drink we have in Australia, but a much more interesting colour. (Although I have now read up on it, and apparently Australian Irn Bru isn't quite the same thing as Scottish Irn Bru, in the same way that Australian Mountain Dew, which I also remember finding less exotic than I'd expected, isn't quite the same thing as American Mountain Dew. Australia has some strict rules about what you're allowed to put in soft drinks, particularly when it comes to caffeine.)


2. Have been continuing the process of identifying sources of stress, or activities that I wasn't enjoying enough to justify the time I was spending on them, and letting them go so I have more time and energy for the activities I do value. I was worried for a while that I might find I didn't have anything left, but my enthusiasm for the Rep Club is undiminished, and although there are aspects of the band that I'm not enjoying, on the whole I think it's in the way that makes me want to stick around and try to fix them.

One thing I'm going to have to keep putting up with is my job, which I don't enjoy much and occasionally find myself explicitly thinking of as time taken away from doing something useful, but I don't have anything to replace it with. (For one thing, I am not sure, and don't know how to find out, whether the problem is this particular employer and set of working conditions, or this occupation, or me; so I don't know whether it could be fixed by finding a different employer, or a different occupation, or if I'm going to feel like this about any other job I might get.)


3. Speaking of the Rep Club, the long form improv show went well. It ended up being less ambitious than I pictured when I first heard about it: rather than improvising a single full-length play, we improvised a few short plays, about 15-20 minutes long each, and filled the rest of the evening with the more usual sort of one-scene improv games. Which is probably just as well, in retrospect; making up a full-length play as you go along is the kind of thing you need to work up to gradually. Anyway, we enjoyed it, and the audience enjoyed it, and the improv group is going to keep meeting and will maybe do another show next year.


4. The performing arts festival is over for another year. The instrumental music weekend went well, and included a massed band workshop where all the musicians who played on the weekend and any other interested local musicians were invited to come and play in one big band together. (I enjoyed it a lot, which apart from being good in itself was useful at a time when I was feeling down about playing in our local brass band, and trying to figure out whether it was that I'd lost interest or it was the band that wasn't doing it for me. I wish more of the people from the brass band had made it to the workshop.) The drama evening was good again, although some of the teenagers' self-devised pieces got a bit intense, with domestic abuse and murder and so on. Apparently, there's an actual project they do which involves delving into mental health issues and stuff, so they're not just leaping to these subjects on their own initiative; after some of the things they've come up with over the last few years, that's kind of a relief to know. The top prize went to the same actor as last year, and I'm going to be interested to see what he goes on to do.


5. A while ago, my shower developed a persistent drip, so after putting up with it for a bit in the hope it would go away, I decided to take another step into adulting and learn how to replace the little rubber bits inside taps. The most difficult part of it turned out to be finding a tool that would fit into the cavity and unscrew the tap fitting; I have a feeling the wall was tiled after the taps were installed, and the tiler didn't think to leave enough room. (I ended up making several trips to the hardware store in search of the right tool, and spent some time reflecting on the advantages I had in terms of time and disposable income that allowed me to persist and not give up and live with the drip.) When I did get it out, it was definitely the little rubber thing that was the culprit; the one on the hot tap was completely worn away, and when I'd replaced it (I did the cold tap too, to be on the safe side) the drip was gone. So was another problem the shower had been having where the amount of hot water would arbitrarily decide to have no connection to how much the hot tap was on, which I'd been putting up with for months on the assumption that it was down to a problem in the water heater that would be too expensive to fix. Part of why I assumed it was the heater and not the tap is that the kitchen sink has a similar problem; I recently had a go at those taps, but had to give up because the tiler left even less room and I'm not yet annoyed enough about it to go and buy yet another tool just for this one job.
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Fiction books
Christopher Fry. The Lady's Not For Burning (re-read)
Neil Gaiman. Norse Mythology (e)
Harley Granville Barker. Waste
David Mamet. Boston Marriage
Terry Pratchett. Thief of Time (e) (re-read)
George Bernard Shaw. Saint Joan

In progress
Paul Beatty. The Sellout

Non-fiction books
David Ball. Backwards and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays
Uta Hagen, Haskel Frankel. Respect for Acting
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

Non-fiction books in progress
Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, Jack Cohen. The Science of Discworld (e) (re-read)

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

Top of the to-read pile
P C Hodgell. The Gates of Tagmeth
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(via [personal profile] lost_spook)

Give me a character/pairing and I will write snippets of ten different alternate universes for it. One line, ten lines, a ficlet if you're lucky.

Wild West
Coffee Shop
Shapeshifters
Fantasy/Fairy Tale
. . . In SPACE!!
Apocalypse
Schoolfic
Emergency Services (Police, Firefighters, Paramedics, etc.)
Supernatural
Regency


Offer not valid for characters I've already done, namely Benny Summerfield, Kay Harker and Havelock Vetinari.
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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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Fiction books
(none completed)

In progress
Paul Beatty. The Sellout
Neil Gaiman. Norse Mythology (e)
Terry Pratchett. Thief of Time (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

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

Top of the to-read pile
P C Hodgell. The Gates of Tagmeth
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Fiction books
Lois McMaster Bujold. Borders of Infinity (e) (re-read)
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca. Darth Vader volume 1 (re-read)
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca. Darth Vader volume 2
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Leinil Yu. Darth Vader volume 3
Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, Mike Norton, Max Fiumara. Darth Vader volume 4
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. "Due Diligence" (e)
Terry Pratchett. The Truth (e) (re-read)
Ryk E Spoor. Challenges of the Deeps (e)
Kai Ashante Wilson. A Taste of Honey (e)

In progress
Paul Beatty. The Sellout
Neil Gaiman. Norse Mythology (e)
Terry Pratchett. Thief of Time (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

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

Top of the to-read pile
PC Hodgell. The Gates of Tagmeth
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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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Fiction books
Arthur Conan Doyle. The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes (e)
Sharon Lee, Steve Miller. The Gathering Edge (e)

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

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

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

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

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

Non-fiction books in progress
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton

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

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

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

Non-fiction books
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

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

Top of the to-read pile
Michael Troughton. Patrick Troughton
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Briefly noted:

The Star Wars Rolling Remix 2017 collection has opened. The works will remain anonymous for about a week, for the benefit of those who like to amuse themselves by guessing who wrote what and in what order.

From the existence of this post, you may safely conclude that one the works in the collection is by me.

For the explanation of what is a rolling remix and the details of how this one was organised, I refer you to [community profile] starwarsrollingremix.
pedanther: (Default)
Fiction books
David McGillivray, Walter Zerlin Jnr. The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Operatic Society's Production of The Mikado
Terry Pratchett. Carpe Jugulum (e)

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

Non-fiction books in progress
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

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

Top of the to-read pile
Josephine Tey. A Shilling for Candles
pedanther: (Default)
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)
Fiction books
T L Garrison. The Twisted Blackmailer (e)

In progress
Terry Pratchett. Carpe Jugulum (e) (re-read)

Non-fiction books in progress
Pauline Scudamore. Spike

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

Top of the to-read pile
Josephine Tey. A Shilling for Candles
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).

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