Thursday, December 11, 2003
Today, unless my frequently-altogether-detuned birthday sense misses the mark, is the birthday of Frau Fellows, a date she shares with such celebrity luminaries as Teri Garr, Jermaine Jackson and Ben Browder (the human guy from Farscape, remember him?). Hmm - no, those really were the most famous people I could find with an 11 December birthday. So, there's plenty of room to become the most famous person with that birthdate ever...
Happy Birthday Amanda!
* - To be sung to the tune of that number from The Pirate Movie, and quite possibly The Pirates of Penzance as well (for all I know).
Roleplay or Fret!
I'm going through one of my not at all uncommon bursts of trying to muster some enthusiasm to get a regular roleplaying game together again. It's hard. I can only sustain my own enthusiasm for brief periods, during which I get all excited about trying new systems, exploring different techniques (as discussed at such artsy intellectual sites at The Forge) and generally fantasising about having a great time rolling dice and pretending to be someone much cooler than me. Then I need someone else to help provide some impetus to keep me enthused, and for the most part (since Jimbo left), that's Chris. Linda and Simon are generally more or less willing, but not usually the main motivators (they've both got other hobbies which are much higher on the Compulsion Pecking Order).
Trouble is, we never seem to actually talk about gaming. Which is just plain strange, but definitely true. That's one of the things I miss most about Rob since he moved to Japan, actually, in that he is the person I know who is most interested in talking about games, whether pulling them apart to see what makes their systems tick or discussing their vibe or randomly coming up with character or plot concepts. Kind of like the sort of dissectionist conversation most of my friends are willing to have about a movie or a book or a TV show.
It occurs to me that there are probably comfort issues involved - whether that's something to do with not wanting to ruin the spontaneity or feeling defensive about one's creative boundaries or whatever - but I can't quite pin them down. It seems self-evident to me that doing a bit of analysis to work out what one really wants from gaming - whether it be indulging in empowerment fantasies or expressing creative urges or social engagement or some combination of all or none of those - would help to articulate expectations and define parameters for a more satisfying experience. But for some reason recently I've not been able to actually do that analysis. At least, not with anyone else.
I've kind of strayed away from where I started on that. The solution, I think, is to have a bit of a shakeup, either with some new approaches or new players or something else to break my boom-and-bust enthusiasm cycle.
Added another milestone to my "Public Service Perks" checklist yesterday by being taken out to lunch by a contractor. In this case it was the group working on our data migration strategy.
Okay, so now I've been overseas, had a day on the reef and been taken to lunch. Each of these things has taken place once in ten years. Hmm. This whole graft and corruption, snout in the trough thing isn't really working out as lucratively as the shock-jocks would have you believe.
Monday, December 08, 2003
Just another blase Monday
The weekend was good, though.
Bikes: Saturday was spent at the Canberra Motorcycle Centre, slaving over a hot barbecue to sizzle overpriced sausages while members of Fiona's bike club had test rides of all the bikes. After that we were too whacked to do anything much except watch Buffy DVDs.
DVD: Our stupid DVD player is on the blink. It has had an intermittent problem since we bought it, where it seizes up on an individual frame while continue to scan beyond that point. Lately it's been getting worse. We should have taken it back months before now. Now we're not sure if it's still under warranty, or if it is, whether we still have time to do something about it before we go away for Christmas holidays. Stupid DVD player.
Cricket: Finally found some form yesterday, actually hitting runs (including a six) with the bat and bowling a tight line that was not hit all over the park. And I dropped a catch (a hard one, but still) but I did get a run out because I was smarter than the dill with the bat. So there.
Swerve: Actually had to do some emergency braking on the bike this morning, which was fairly alarming. Fiona's Zephyr is a bit of a cow to ride, and predictably, when I had to slam on the brakes because the guy in front of me slammed on the brakes because the idiot on the other side swerved out into oncoming traffic to go around a slow-moving semi, the back wheel locked up and slid and fishtailed and all that good stuff. I held it up with sheer determination more than any particular skill, I think. All part of the fun of Canberra traffic, though it does convince me that we need to get rid of that bike soon, because I'm pretty sure from the vibration in the fishtail that (a) it only slid out sideways because of Nelly's top-heaviness and (b) there is something fishy about her steering that needs fixing ASAP. Pity Meags isn't here.
Reading: I've been neglecting my own novel (ah, good old Procrastination, where have you been for the last month, let us never fight again etc) in favour of reading the first novel in the excellent GreatWinter series by Sean McMullen, "Souls in the Great Machine". It's an excellent piece of inventive speculative fiction, just exactly the kind of material I'd love to write (and, at a pinch, could see myself writing eventually) - not hard SF, but full of ideas and great characters. I highly recommend the first book, at least. Sequels are "The Miocene Arrow" and "Eyes of the Calculor" (don't have the latter, but it's apparently either about to be released or reprinted. It's hard to tell from his web page).
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
...as I believe the ancient Hebrew prophecy goes. I've been laid up in bed for the past couple of days, not exactly sick but clearly in possession of a nice, tangible upper respiratory tract infection (aka URTI the Wonder Diagnosis). Apart from a bit of a sore throat, a lot of uncomfortably thick phlegm, sore limbs (which, all right, could have had something to do with Sunday's cricket game) and the occasional hot flush, you wouldn't have actually known I was ill.
Well, come to think of it, I probably whinged a lot more than usual, too. But maybe actually not a lot lot more.
Anyway, I went to a doctor who took less time to prescribe antibiotics than it took me to list my symptoms, and for once I broke with my usual rule of just ignoring the prescription and getting through it caveman-style. Partly because I couldn't afford to take too much time off work, but mostly because my ten minutes in the doctor's surgery left me more dizzy and nauseous than I had been up to that point.
So I spent the next couple of hours in bed, read some stuff, thought about working on the novel and decided that I needed to be thinking straight to do that (not sure why I would have thought that given the sleep-deprived circumstances most of the rest of the novel's been written under, but like I said, I wasn't thinking straight) and went and rented a big pile of DVD's instead. Reviews follow:
- Pretty stupid, like most Stephen King adaptations. It's been a while since I read one of King's books, and I haven't read this one, but I can only suppose that in print over the space of several hundred pages, he is better able to more portray the declining sanity of his protagonists than is readily achievable in a slow, tedious, overlong lump of a movie. Morgan Freeman gives what may well be the dumbest performance of his career, although his character wasn't really much to start with. Some of the performances are pretty amusing (one of them even deliberately so), but as usual with king adaptations, what seems halfway acceptable on the page just looks pretty stupid and/or grossly unexciting on the big screen. Still, points for the Memory Warehouse set and for changing the original ending (as shown in the DVD extras, which bit slightly more arse than what was eventually used)
- The Rules of Attraction
- Probably reasonably faithful adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel about several lovelorn preppies at some rich kids' college. The usual miserable, drug-addled, misogynist, empty morality play from Ellis (pretty much what I imagined American Psycho would be like, except that that movie was brilliant). But I had heard that Roger Avary's direction was worth the trauma, and it's true. He does some interesting things with the camera and has a not-entirely-annoying running-the-film-backwards gimmick that sort of serves a narrative purpose. The crowning moment, though, is a neat little sequence that perfectly in a few seconds captures the themes of alienation and loneliness running through the film and completely implicates the audience (who up until that moment were going "What the hell just happened and why?" before getting the answer savagely shoved in their faces). It's not exactly confronting, but it was a kind of cool frisson. Pity I couldn't give a damn about any of the stupid bastards in the movie, which kind of undermined the point, but anyway...
- Presumably the Brothers' Weinstein's attempt to produce a hit dystopian-future-with-gunplay franchise to rival The Matrix. This is a kind of quasi-Ballard-ish, semi-Vonnegut-esque yarn about a future where emotions are banned because they are the source of all wars. Okay, whatever. What's important is that there are these cool guys in cassocks, Christian Bale and Sean Bean, who root out treacherous rebels who've gone of the emotion-suppressing drugs and now collect art and stuff. Okay, whatever. What's really important is that they have super-cool gun fu moves. Well, anyway, the story isn't dire if you can accept the premise, Christian Bale is fabulous to watch (why didn't they get him to play Neo instead of Kanoe?) and the elaborate gun massacres are quite interesting. A scene near the end with two characters slapping each other's guns away repeatedly is something I can't remember having seen before. Highly watchable (though not particularly worthy of a franchise)
- Neat little riff on the Ten Little Niggers style of sealed location murder mystery where strangers get offed one by one. Well-filmed, well-acted, with a slightly surreal twist and a mildly weak ending. I won't say much about it, except to hazard that it would piss Pol off, so she shouldn't watch it. And nobody should watch the trailer that comes with the DVD. It would have given away enough that I would have figured it out about two minutes into the film (if not two seconds after the end of the trailer)
For anyone that hasn't seen it, Fiona's had her hair cut short, with spiky bits of platinum blonde, cherry and caramel. Yummy.