Friday, June 29, 2001
Yes, it's all about me
Why yes, thank you for asking, I am having a relatively happy birthday. I started by watching what will likely be the last episode of the X-Files I will ever feel compelled to sit through (bring on The Three Wise M- er, the Lone Gunmen!), then was distressingly forced to go to work. This apparent tragedy has been heavily ameliorated by time-passing events such as meetings, going to the bank and eating sickeningly rich chocolate cake. More thrilling leaves from Dave's Tree of Life, eh?
Incidentally, for anyone who is making a cynical but obvious connection between today's revelation that I am anniversarily enhanced by an increment of one and yesterday's rambling guff thinly justifying my potentially crippling game buying habit, let me assure you personally that I was not ruthlessly trawling for presents. Unless, of course, any of you happen to owe me your life for some reason and would like to work off the debt by picking up Delta Green for me.
And, hey, a big THANKS to Ted the prestidigitatory canine for his cool-as-frostbite birthday message bots. If I never have anything to look forward to on my birthdays, there's always...er...well, moving right along...Look at this! Minkies! (This page link brought to you by Google's "I'm feeling lucky!" function. And you know? I was feeling lucky a minute ago...)
Hmm, I wanted to celebrate my birthday with blink tags, but either I've ignorantly failed to remember the code for them (likely) or they have finally been banned from the internet by some sort of international strategic arms limitation treaty (likelier). Either way, it's better like this...
Thursday, June 28, 2001
Everybody gotta have a habit
Anybody that knows me has probably heard my oft-babbled mantra that the only reason I work at all is to support my leisure time (I suspect this to be true of many more people than just myself). Apart from lazing about reading, watching TV and spending "quality time"* with m'darling, the main conduits through which I channel off excess funds are comics and roleplaying games. The former I have cut back on considerably in recent years (usually preferring to wait for the collected trade paperback formats of series I'm interested in) but I can't shake my uncontrollable habit for buying RPG manuals.
I love these things. I buy them and I pore over them, devouring them with a rapacity I never once applied to an academic textbook. I reread, I make notes, I consume and consume until I have the rules figured out, I have the setting firmly imagined, I have a five-year campaign plotted out in my head. In about two cases in three, I play a new game once, maybe twice at the most, if I play it at all. Then I move on to the next thing, usually without looking back.
It's difficult to predict which games will miss with me, or why. Maybe the rules turn out to be unnecessarily complex, maybe the setting doesn't appeal to the players, maybe the game requires a style of play that sounds better on paper than it plays in real life, maybe something about the first session or two just doesn't gel. Often I just get distracted by the next shiny thing before a game really has a chance to cement itself. I never mind that much - I get a lot of pleasure out of the study phase that doesn't necessarily translate to an actual game. I often think of Atlas Games' Over the Edge as the greatest game I never play, for example.
Occasionally, though, some game will hit the zeitgeist spot and I'll become consumed (I stop short of obsessed. Obsessions require more energy than I am usually willing to devote), buying up all the supplements and source material and map kits and whatever guff the publishers think to foist on me. Dungeons and Dragon was the first (mostly by dint of being the only one I knew about for many years), but there's also been other favourites: Traveller, Gamma World, Shadowrun, Torg, Earthdawn, 7th Sea (I'll do links for all of these when I get around to setting up my RPG page. Hold onto your hats...) All these games have come along at the right time and found me gaming with the right people to whip my enthusiasm up to dangerous levels.
And now that I have the internet at my fingertips, I get the added bonus of months of anticipation of upcoming games that I will be able to spend all my money on in 6-8 months' time. On my "might be interesting" window shopping list at the moment are games about voodoo pirates, 1930's-style pulp adventure action, post-millennial messianic warfare, potboiler private eye noir, magical dinosaurs etc etc (no, I'm not kidding about any of those...)
Where am I going with this? Uh, nowhere really. It's just a kind of roundabout rationalisation for why I spent forty bucks yesterday when I was looking at Military Simulations' stocktake sale on a fightin' Vikings roleplaying game that I will probably never convince anyone else to try out. It was all shiny and new (and reduced by about twenty bucks).
* high quality time, obviously. I always find it this expression faintly ridiculous - to which specific qualities does it refer? We're never told. Language is so imprecise; New Age sensitive-babble doubly so.
Wednesday, June 27, 2001
May I be the first to offer my contrafibularities?*
Good news everyone! Today is Fiona's birthday, not to mention the first anniversary of our engagement. We are as I type basking in the glow of warm admiration and well-wishing that I assume you are all radiating ("Exactly what is the half-life of one millirad of fondness?" - from Questions that Baffle Quasi-Science by Prof Ludowyk Angstrom, DDS). Anyway, happy Fiona's birthday, one and all.
* Probably my favourite line from Blackadder, from my favourite episode. The dictionary one, with Robbie Coltrane. 'Ink and Insensibility', I think, though Master Thomas could probably correct me on that.
Best movie I saw all yesterday
Went to see Shrek last night. I won't launch into an enormously detailed review - suffice to say that it's quite charming, with beautiful performances from all the voice leads (Eddie Murphy was funny! It's like the mid-eighties all over again, except for the swearing), stunning computer-generated visuals (the movement of the grass is unbelievable. I have to watch this movie again so I can stop watching the background details and focus on what's going on up front) and lots of scatalogical and subversive humour for the kiddies.
Interesting also to watch Dreamworks, the production company, rather cheekily dethroning Disney from their spot as number one producers of children's animated films. The whole thing was choking with sly references and gags at the expense of Disney's icons (Snow White, Pinnochio, Disneyland etc). Some of the putdowns were quite pointed and frequently risque. Good stuff.
Monday, June 25, 2001
It didn't seem like a busy weekend. Shopped all Saturday morning, staged a WIMA Pitch 'n' Putt marathon in the afternoon (a fast game - according to the obnoxious twerp behind us who appeared to think he was at St Andrews - is a good game, which would make this...uh, well I had fun, anyway), then a ginormous household dinner party on Saturday night (ask us about our group bookings!). And then Sunday, which should have been a day of rest, was instead as usual a day of consumption of caffeine, sugary beverages and more choc-covered honeycomb than any human body can withstand, until the wee small hours. Serves me right, probably.
Friday, June 22, 2001
From the "I didn't know he was still alive" file
Well, all right, that's a little harsh, but it has been a long while since I noticed David Byrne doing anything (well, anything that I wanted to listen to, anyway. Sorry Ev, but that godawful white noise he produced since Talking Heads broke up never did nuthin' for me). But here he is, back again like the punk dinos- er, stalwart that he is, with a presumably new single called Like Humans Do. It sounds quite a bit like classic TH, which makes me bouncy bouncy happy. You can judge for yourself if you can be bothered clicking the link and watching the video.
Doctor Livingstone's smarter brother, I presume?
In the unlikely event that you don't link to your daily dose of Lexifab via the Otherleg home page, you may have missed the exciting news of a bold new experiment in online fiction. Called Tales from Port Moriarty, it's a cooperative fictional journal in the oft-neglected colonial exploration/steampunk genre. The idea to do it started with Am&a and Andrew and snowballed after an Otherleg-and-associates email brainstorming session on Wednesday.
I don't access just yet (should have checked my mail at home this morning, I suppose) but as soon as I'm up and running be sure to check in on the adventures of Reverend James Thurgood and Ms Pressworth. In the meantime, there's stuff to look at, so go look already.
Thursday, June 21, 2001
Happy birthday, def Tiffster!
June 21st? Why, this here is Tiffany's birthday, y'all! Gentlemanly good manners discourages me from revealing her precise age, except to point out that she is eight days older than me. Ahem. Anyway, to celebrate this felicitous occasion, let's a take a walk down memory lane to nicknames past. If my dim recollection of the days of the old school yard serve me correctly, the Prez came up with this one, so blame him like the Murky Dismal he is.
Happy birthday, Tiff!
Wednesday, June 20, 2001
Found out at my fencing class on Monday night that my club, Finesse (they have a web page, but it seems to have been hacked somewhat, so I'll not link to it here), are hosting an Historical Fencing Conference over the weekend of the 14-15 July. Features include talks, workshops and demos on various European smallswords, rapiers, sword-and-shield combinations and - what I'm looking forward to most - quarterstaff. Watching Errol Flynn and Alan Hale (the guy who played Little John in the 1938 version of Robin Hood bash sticks at each other to make noise gives you no appreciation for how stunningly deadly these things are, or how fast they can be swung about by someone who knows what they're doing.
I'm a real sucker for a great sword fight ("There was...a mighty duel.") and I did a bit of fencing when I was at James Cook University. This club's approach is to slowly and ruthlessly drill the basics of foil fencing into you over a period of months and/or years until in the end you actually have a practical (if not particularly useable) skill. They don't take it quite so seriously that you would think they were training up Olympic champions, but it is relatively horseplay-free, so perhaps not for everyone.
I keep thinking that I should expand my activities to include the Wednesday night quarterstaff class, but somehow the time and the cost raise their heads as issues, not to mention the vanishingly small likelihood that it will ever be anything other than a hobby skill (but always in the back of my mind am I preparing for the day when, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, I must defend my hoarded food and fuel from horse-, motorbike- or skidoo-riding mutant scavengers...)
Back in the real world, I should probably just concentrate on getting the basics of foil down properly. Right now I have all the technique of a Hollywood actor. Specifically, these idiots.
Tuesday, June 19, 2001
Am&a (Doncha just love a cute internet nick? Whaddaya mean, "No"? Don't make me come over there, pal...), fearless Otherleg administrator and person what knows this stuff, has told me how to fix Sunday's entry so it don't make no sense no more. Go check it out now - it now features a footnote that wasn't there before! Ohhh!
Boldly go. Now.
A few years ago, in a burst of perverse antifandom brought on by an excess of time, beer and rank silliness, ChrisT, ChrisF, Jimbozelbub, Lindorr, Der Simonster and I made a parody of the then-newly-reincarnated Star Trek franchise. Star Trek: Crock of Shit contains foul language, incoherent in-jokes, inexpressibly stupid parodies of ST: The Next Generation's crew, plot and cliches, and is still not as bad as almost all of Star Trek: Voyager. I only mention it here in an attempt to exceed ChrisT's evident lack in good taste in actually typing it out and marking it up to the internet.
When I finally get around to making up my Writing page, I'll put a permanent link to it there as well, as it does (sort of) constitute at least part of my contribution to world literature, if not in any way a good part. Thankfully ChrisT has not made any apparent attempts to identify the author of each particular chapter (thus sharing around the guilt, particularly necessary with Jimbo's chapters), so I will thank you for assuming that I wrote any part of it that you happen to find funny.
Not that you will, I fear.
Monday, June 18, 2001
Activate geek circuits...Geek circuits activated...FULL POWER!!!
In roleplaying circles, it's generally considered outre as hell to corner someone and bore them senseless with anecdotes about what's happening in your particular game or how many Macguffins+3 your half-drow demi-celestial warrior carries around, but after yesterday's marathon sesh at John and Trudi's place, I just gotta lead a quick cheer...
We killed a god, we killed a god, we killed a god! Yay, us! In your face, outer planar dorkuses!
(But it's okay, she was a bad god and she was asking for it).
Sunday, June 17, 2001
Ooops, I buggered that up
The previous entry - which is to say, the next as you will read it - should have finished with "Why not fill up his email inbox with congratulatory well-wishing", but unfortunately I stuffed up the html coding so badly that Blogger wouldn't even let me edit the entry and correct it.
It's a Sysiphan learning process, this, innit?
And speaking of people moving...
Finally caving in to years and years of chronic peer pressure, ChrisT announced in an exclusive interview* with Lexifab that he is moving out of Partridge Street and seeking employment in Canberra! Yay!
Soon as he can locate a branch of the Australian Public Service that's hiring rather than outsourcing staff (which will be an uphill battle, actually, but I'm sure he's up to it), he and Emily the Feline Avatar of Derangement will be on their merry way south'ards!
Why not fill up his email inbox and wish him well?
* all right then, an email about something else...
I just wanted to share
Last night's dinner was beautiful, pureed pumpkin soup with sour cream stirred in and tiger bread on the side. For afters we had dark devil's food cake (with toxic chocolate levels) and fresh coffee, over a couple of games of Scrabble and Settlers of Cataan.
Unfortunately, Meagan, our cooking oriented housemate and the genius responsible for last night's repast, is planning to move to Tasmania in a few months, which means I will be left as the sole enthusiast for cooking in the house. This is bad.
Friday, June 15, 2001
Stop the Presses!
Concerned that Lexifab is becoming nothing more than a barometer of my unsteady emotional state, I hereby relay this vitally important bit of International Lexifabricographical News:
Homer Simpson's nigh-ubiquitous exclamation "doh!" has reached the necessary pop culture saturation point that the staid and learned academics maintaining the Oxford English Dictionary have felt themselves left with little choice but to include it in their next edition.
I take this opportunity to remind regular viewers of Lexifab's stated mission, which is to see the word "lexifabricographer" including in that selfsame worthy tome. I now recognise that the best meme distribution method for achieving this goal is to get Lisa Simpson saying it on a regular basis.
Anyone have a hypnotic suggestion ray and either Yeardley Smith or Mike Scully home address?
The bad news I alluded last week was confirmed last night. I won't go into details, not because it's personal or because we've decided to keep it in the family or whatever, but because this is not my story to tell.
What I can talk about is how I feel, which is to say pretty bloody ordinary. The intermittent cough I've been fighting off for a month now, which had been steadily retreating this past week, has rallied and triumphantly routed my feeble defenses. I sound like two elephants having a chainsaw duel. I'm drained, I'm light-headed and I am entertaining considerably less enthusiasm than usual for what I shall laughingly call my career.
The only bright side I can see is that on the whole it seems unlikely anything could possibly happen to make me feel worse than I do right now.
And if that's not tempting the Fates enough, then screw it. I'm going out to buy a lotto ticket and eat something absolutely bloody stupid and greasy for lunch.
As a matter of fact I do recognise the irony of complaining about people too stupid to know when not to "Reply to All", and then posting up two drafts of the same blog. What can I say? I'm dim.
In case you missed it, don't bother looking for it. Like The Electric Banana, it's not there any more. But points will be awarded to anyone who can place the reference (except Simon or Evan).
Thursday, June 14, 2001
Why do I do this to myself?
Another day spent tearing my hair out trying to convince people that they should tell me how much of the government's money for which I am responsible that they've spent on themselves. Many of these people are overseas and therefore untouchable; a regrettably unavoidable consequence of this convenient isolation is that those others - the ones incautious enough to share an office with me - get the full brunt of my pathological aversion to enjoying any aspect of my paid employment*. And about thirty emails apiece, thanks to some clown's idiotic misuse of the 'Reply to All With History' button so readily accessible to Lotus Notes users...
All I can do is sigh, and wonder why it is I am not at one of these places.
* apart from the pay. I'm quite comfortable with the pay..
Nothing to see here
This used to be something, but it ain't nothing no more.
Our lads up the sharp end
Watched the final episode last night of the remarkably moving documentary series Australians at War. I got into the show a bit late and was quite surprised at how compelling I found it. Although I was in the Reserves for four years, my feelings for Australian military history have never been all that warm, prompted mostly by encounters with people too young to have even been in Vietnam berating other equally young people for not being moved to tears by the sight of "the old diggers" in the Anzac Day parade. I've been to maybe two dawn services in my life, and both times I was fairly unmoved and actually felt rather alienated from it. All the speeches that I've heard over the years about the torch of the Anzac spirit being passed on to a new generation sounded like a 4 x 100 m National Pride Relay. I wasn't in the market. Sure, that sounds like the callowness of youth, but from the handful of Vietnam vets I knew - none of whom were ever keen to talk about what they did there - and based on a what I think is a fairly strong empathy for the people who have had to live through it, my feeling about war was always that it was a deeply personal experience and nothing much to celebrate.
I think my feelings about it might have changed a little watching this. It was a tremendously well-made series, very powerful without descending (more than occasionally) into questionable sentimentality. Just a lot of detailed accounts - whether by interviews with veterans or diary readings - drawing on themes of self-sacrifice and national pride, but without going too far down the cliched road of babbling on about "Aussie mateship", which was a welcome relief. And it took a couple of good shots at Douglas Macarthur, which I always think is a good thing.
I probably won't be too keen to watch it again - I tend to try to avoid revisiting movies and things that I find genuinely emotional, for fear that they won't have the same impact the second time around (ref Schindler's List, Once Were Warriors) - but it reminded me that documentaries are worthwhile and that I should pay more attention to them.
If nothing else, I've really got to get that 11 part History of Rock and Roll series out one of these days and watch it all the way through.
Wednesday, June 13, 2001
Back on the chain gang
Oh well, it was nice while it lasted, but my super-extended long weekend is over. I am now back at work, going through enough emails to choke a horse and becoming increasingly surly. Why the hell don't I just go get a coffee, you ask?
That's a good question, actually. I'll be right back.
Monday, June 11, 2001
God bless her cotton socks, eh?
Queens' Birthday public holiday in Canberra today (and everywhere else except WA, according to the calendar I just checked). Work is insane at the moment with the numbers and the accrued expenses and all manner of financial panicmongering, and even though I am the steady hand on the tiller of blase ignorance (also known as the section finances manager) I am profoundly relieved to be having the day off. So much so that I am also having tomorrow off, which will undoubtedly throw me so far behind schedule that I will have to spend the next two weeks sleeping and eating at work. Well, whatever, at least I got to sleep in this morning.
This particular long weekend is an exercise in highs and lows - on the one hand, it is the official commencement of the ski season, and even though it seems highly unlikely that I will be able to go this year, it does my heart good to know that that powdery goodness is out there waiting for me to assemble a fortune.
On the other hand, we have "in the Nation's Capital!" a maelstrom of traffic disruptions, rev-head tourists and roaring/crashing noises thanks to the Event of a Lifetime! Three weeks of detours through the inner city and the commensurate traffic snarls (not that I've actually been disrupted by the roadblocks myself, you understand. I'm just outraged on principle) for two days of ridiculously loud engines propelling someone into safety fences at mindboggling speeds so that they spray wreckage staggering distances. At least, I assume that's what the attraction is. Dunno, I'm a cricket man myself. Anyone know the one-day scores from England?
Friday, June 08, 2001
Give the man his due
Went over to Linda's with Fiona and Meagan for dinner last night, enjoying many a yummy tofu-laden curry and - in the precise vernacular - a tres ordinaire 1999 Cabernet Merlot from Kingston Estate*, which I'm ashamed to admit I picked out. Anyway, following a pre-dinner discussion of the mounting body of evidence of evidence suggesting that Gunn has a thing for Wesley**, and apres dinner viewing of the all-but-washed-up-except-for-that-rugged-Agent-Doggett X-Files**, Linda played a selection from her disturbingly complete Due South collection. I have to admit, that Paul Gross fellow is disgustingly good-looking.
I wanted to make some sort of leering comment about how even if the show didn't have witty scripts, sharp acting, a nice line in surrealism and a deaf wolf, it would still have Ramona Milano. And I will, because it gives me the opportunity to link to what may be the lamest official home page in cyberspace.
* - Lexifab - making the hard calls on mid-priced reds since 2001. For your protection.
** - No links for these - if you can't find information about the X-Files or Buffy franchises on the internet, you are either suffering from phone connection problems or are a dribbling moron.
Wednesday, June 06, 2001
Seeing patterns in everything
I was reminded of something yesterday by something else that I don't want to talk about.
This must have happened in 1982 or so. It would have been a Friday night, because my brother Ian and I were in swimming club and we always had races at the school pool on Friday nights (complete with stopwatches, starter pistols, cheering parents and "Skylarking in the Curlybells". Don't ask.) I was pretty competitive and not a bad swimmer, but I didn't train any more than I felt obliged to, so it's not surprising that I didn't win much. I think I might have taken out the odd 50 metre backstroke heat - I seem to remember that being my best style.
Anyway, this particular night I wanted us to get home from swimming quick because the final episode of Blake's 7 was on. Actually I doubt that I knew it was the final episode, but whatever - I was twelve and hooked on BBC science fiction and I knew I didn't want to miss it. I daresay I was being a pain in the arse about it to Mum and Dad.
So, if your memory stretches back that far or if like me you've done your best to keep your childhood obsessions alive, you will recall (and I don't want to give away the ending to anyone but I figure after twenty years you probably don't have a deep emotional investment in the fates of a collection of glam vinyl-and-studded-leather fetishists in space) that in the closing five minutes of the episode the entire cast of the show is ruthlessly gunned down by soldiers of the tyrannical galactic federation that they've been fighting for the past four years. Needless to say, this made a pretty big impression on me - before that, I don't recall ever having come across the notion that the heroes/protagonists/main characters in fiction could fail, let alone catastrophically.
I remember shaking with disbelief as I picked myself up. I wasn't on the edge of hysteria, but I could feel it creeping up on me. And as we started to walk down to my bedroom, Mum and Dad told us to wait, that there was something they needed to tell us. Edge of hysteria creeps a little closer.
It turns out that Sherry, our golden retriever, had been put down that afternoon. She'd been sick for a long time and she was pretty old and even as inexperienced with death as I was at that point, it really shouldn't have been any surprise. But it was. I was vulnerable at that moment and it hit me hard. I said "Oh" - or something equally unresponsive - and turned away to go to bed, but I fell apart pretty comprehensively. By the time I got to bed, I was bawling my eyes out and shaking uncontrollably with those great racking sobs that are one part misery, one part denial and a good dollop of blazing rage.
I think Mum probably gave me a while to settle down before she came in to check on me. She told me not to cry and she said comforting things and then she asked whether I was upset about the TV show or the dog. And I remember hotly pronouncing that it was Sherry - the faithful pet who'd been with us as long as I could remember - that I was upset about.
It was sort of true, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I was more upset that Avon had killed Blake for betraying them. Admitting that much, then I realised that I was just angry at myself for feeling a greater sense of loss over these fictional characters than I did over a real loved one.
There's no moral to this, no particular point I'm trying to make. It's just something that I don't think I've ever really talked to anyone about, even though I've thought about it a lot over the years. I did start to feel for Sherry's death after that - she was very dear to me and I loved her a lot. But what struck me since then is how I felt almost cheated out of the sorrow and loss that I should have felt for her then because of the timing of the news. I didn't do justice to her in my mind because Blake's 7 had gotten in ahead of her by a stroke.
On Tuesday I saw circumstantial parallels to my memory of that night, though it didn't really strike me until the next day. When I made the connection, it stopped me cold. I remembered exactly what I felt that night. The coincidence had real resonance, in spite of the fact that the circumstances were really intangible outside my perspective. Nobody else could be expected to appreciate the impact of that moment had for me. To anyone else, there was no pattern to see - to me, it was huge and obvious and...well, I stop short of saying profound. But it was upsetting.
Like I said, I don't have a point here. I just thought it was kind of interesting, what goes on inside. I'll concede that I could be wrong about that.
Tuesday, June 05, 2001
This is a wake up call, Australia!
This is just unbelievable: the Koreans are going all mad for online games while Australia, supposedly a nation of mad-keen sports enthusiasts lags tragically behind! What is wrong with us, people? Whatever happened to the Life Be In It and Come On Aussie spirit of good natured competitive mayhem and retributive assault? Are we so jaded, so overcome with postmillennial laissez-faire that we do not recognise a brave new future when we see one?
I mean, jeez folks, once I start living on Planet Neverwinter (coming this Winter, by which I assume the Americans mean summer...), I'm going to be a big cheese. A HUGE cheese. And if someone doesn't try to cut me down to size with a tire iron in a back alley, I'm going to very disappointed in all of you.
Monday, June 04, 2001
This is a test only, no action is required
This is just a test to see if the new template has taken. All well and good if it has, dire misery and untold anguish if it hasn't...
What the hell were we thinking in the Eighties?In the webloggin' spirit of reporting the minutiae of my moment-by-moment existence, this Eighties pop music quiz has been a mild obsession around our house for the past week and a bit. These lyrics' tantalising tip-of-the-tongueness has been almost as frustrating as their awfulness has been amusing. If you can by accident bring yourself to care (I caution against it. Here be Bananaramas!), anticipate several nights of hair-tearing and teeth-gnashing. Unless you just cheat and look at the answers here, of course.
A surprising lack of Blogness
Another weekend dead and buried with no sign of improvements to my web page, for all four of you who even know it exists yet. I'm holding off making some sort of self-important declaration of its existence to my nearest and dearest (and anyone else that doesn't clap their hands over their ears and hum fast enough) until I've had the time to engineer the necessary aesthetic realignment. This requires a committment to productivity whose absence I choose to blame on an ongoing chest cough. Two weeks of intermittent, full-bodied hacking spasms have taken some of the sparkle off my enthusiasm for self-promotion.
But don't worry, I still think sufficiently highly of myself to commit to regular diarising. Whether anyone else shares that delusion to the point of wanting to read it is another question.