Dork Geek Nerd

"Rational romantic mystic cynical idealist"

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unlocked

I've been living in this suburb for nearly 18 years and, when walking to the shops, regularly take a shortcut between a cluster of apartment buildings. Fairly early on, I noticed that if I trod said path on a Saturday or Sunday, I'd often hear someone practising the piano. They were terrible - loudly plink-plonking away and making me glad I didn't reside within earshot. However, as the years have progressed, they've greatly improved. I've recognised famous pieces and, in recent times, actually thought, "It wouldn't be so bad hearing that tune emanating from a neighbouring flat." I don't know if the pianist is male or female, youthful or elderly. I don't even know if it's been the same person all along. Something tells me it *is* the same person, though. And if I had to guess, I'd say they were a child of 4 or 5 when I first heard them torturing the ivories and are now of uni age.

On Saturday, I once again took the shortcut to the shops through the cluster of apartment buildings. I could hear someone practising the piano. It was not a piece I recognised. It was soft and assured and completely fast-slow-high-low chaotic and yet a delight to the ear.
I reckon they were improvising.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Missing person

Last time I was in hospital, being wheeled from one department to another through the labyrinth of corridors, my eye was caught by a sign. Clearly meant to read "ELECTRICAL SWITCHBOARD", it was missing two letters. The altered text tickled my fancy and made me think of a cyberpunk sorceress. I wanted to photograph the sign, but I couldn't exactly ask the porter to stop wheeling and pass me my backpack so I could fish out my phone. So here's an amateur artist's impression of the nameplate of my next "Shadowrun" character :-)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The perils of a "D&D" pitstop

In the mid-’80s, our group of five was heavily into “Dungeons & Dragons”, playing most of most weekends, with the odd break for swimming, bushwalks or Commodore 64 appreciation. However, we also longed to be able to emulate action sequences from the blockbuster science-fiction films of the era. MD would eventually get hold of TSR’s “Star Frontiers”, but before we even knew that game existed, we decided to make our own pen’n’paper sci-fi RPG. What we came up with was a hodge-podge that had some severe limitations and only briefly supplanted “D&D” in our affections. And yet, in its way, it was kinda visionary. It was called “Space Perils”.

I’m not sure who thought of the name (the moderator was the Space Master), but I know I supplied the thick exercise book into which the rules were penned. That’s right – penned. It was years before any of us saw the need to get a printer for our C64. Anyway, said parameters borrowed large chunks from “D&D”, notably the THAC0 mechanics and set of ability scores with values from 3-18. In the case of the latter, I believe we added PSI, for psi power…and maybe LCK, for luck. Not positive on that second one. To be honest, though, the majority of the rulebook was lists of spaceships from movies and TV shows, the relative values of which we spent ages debating, e.g. should a Battlestar cost more galactic credits than a Star Destroyer?

So far, so not visionary. The innovative aspect of the otherwise-derivative system that I’m still amazed/proud we came up with was having a player take on the role of the party’s starship computer as a sort of co-GM (technically, co-SM). This person handled space combat and worked out the amount of fuel needed to reach planets, etc. They didn’t control the plot, but they stepped in occasionally when number-crunching was required, freeing the Space Master from having to stop and perform these calculations. I distinctly recall us playing out on my parents’ front lawn – how did we not lose our dice in the grass? – and asking the ship’s computer technical questions which he’d work on while the rest of the adventure continued.

It’s obvious to me now what inspired this idea – the A.I.-in-a-box Orac from telly’s “Blake’s 7”, who we all liked almost as much as we did the sarcastic-bastard character of Avon. At the same time, it took lateral thinking on our part to break from the classic format of having a single all-powerful GM. And it would be years, not counting convention freeforms and wargame hybrids, until I again played in a tabletop RPG with two moderators. (A weird session of “Mage: The Ascension” during the glory days of White Wolf springs to mind.)

As I said in the beginning, “Space Perils” proved a fad and we quickly returned to the fantasy genre. The game’s lack of longevity probably had a lot to do with the fact we put loads of effort into quantifying Lightsabers and Colonial Vipers and so on, and barely any into developing the politics and personalities of the future setting. I’m confident in saying every “S/P” scenario could be summarised in three words: blow shit up. Nevertheless, the memory remains a fond one, even if the lone rulebook is buried fathoms deep in landfill.

Back in “D&D” land, we were soon facing a much bigger problem than a 99% complete Death Star: a friendly little homebrew creature known as the Emerald Dragon, whose breath could transform anything to emerald. This critter threatened to ruin not only the Oerth economy but, as we PCs vied for control of it, the continued existence of the campaign itself. Ah, but that’s another anecdote…

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Heart strings ]|[

Being the second sequel to my shit-ically acclaimed Dec. 24, 2015 post, and an attempt to improve on the weak June 19 follow-up. I've bent the unwritten rules to allow crossbows as well as bows. Jesus, you'd bend anything for a stunner like Carole Bouquet, including the Second Law Of Thermodynamics. Ahem. From de top to de bot: Amy Acker in an episode of "Angel", Ana Ularu in "Werewolf: The Beast Among Us", the aforementioned Ms Bouquet in "For Your Eyes Only", Gemma Arterton in "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters", Jessica Biel in "Blade: Trinity", Katheryn Winnick in an ep of "Vikings", Milla Jovovich in "Resident Evil: Extinction" (the second "R/E" instalment), Sophie Turner in a deleted scene from "X-Men: Apocalypse", Tracy Spiridakos in an ep of "Revolution", and Willa Holland in a promo for "Arrow".

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Halloween fell on a Monday...

...and there's only so much stuff you can do post-work. That's why I commenced my pagan celebration on Sunday, playing co-operative "OneChanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers" [Wii] with AM. Character advancement was glacial, but it was something humorously unusual.
So here's what I lined up for Halloween proper:
I ate the pumpkin soup, four pieces of the pumpkin-seed bread and three of the vampire Freddos (alas, they haven't modified the choccies themselves, only the bag and wrappers). Got through 100% of the monster mag (ta, DL), 50% of the spooky audioplay (classic Mark Gatiss) and 0% of "Cloverfield" ($2 from a local op shop). Why no filmage? 'Cos there was a better - and still thematically acceptable - option on the WWE Network and it went for freakin' hours!
All I could manage after that assortment was to fall asleep listening to the Big Finish Halloween Podcast.

Hope your October 31st was fang-tastic!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Capital spill

Took a train to Canberra and read Lev Grossman's "Codex", which he wrote before the "Magicians" series, on the way. If you dig tales of scholars, libraries and mysterious books, you'll eat it on toast.
That Warhol-as-a-dog cushion was in my room at the QT, a trendy hotel I found out about from my well-travelled friend SC. There was also a cocktail set in the corner, a displeasingly asymmetrical wire sculpture on the wall and a host of wacky minibar items...
Common areas of the QT had a political theme, with portraits of famous leaders and other amusing artworks designed to make you feel like one, e.g. paparazzi lurked in the lifts!
A secret(ish) bar was accessible through a barber shop inside the hotel, but since I've been on the wagon for seven months, I gave it a miss. However, I can recommend the cauliflower "steak" from room service.

On Saturday morning, I attended Day 1 of the Gamma.con pop-culture convention at the AIS Arena. There were repeated reminders you were at the country's premier sports training institute - like this imposing half-statue you had to walk beneath to enter the con.
Because I was travelling light, I kept my purchases to a minimum. Four out of five of these art cards/fridge magnets will be future giftage.
Gamma.con's special guests were Bajo and Hex from TV's "Good Game", who each teamed up with a pair of volunteers, then competed in a challenge they dubbed "Extreme Super Game Rumble Fun". This involved picking which of two crappy videogames had the lowest Metacritic score, playing blind "Bomber Man", trying to remember the number and type of batteries in old handhelds, guessing the videogame from a few funny Steam reviews and playing blind "Pokemon Stadium". It was extreme super quite enjoyable.
Speaking of games, the convention featured a welcome display of upcoming Aussie indie titles. My fave, "Evergreen", saw you controlling a tree and growing the environment around you using your branches, roots and leaves. For instance, dropping a branch into the ocean to form a reef and attract fish. Here's an official screenshot.
On the bus back to the CBD, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "Is your name Joe, bro'?" I replied: "No."

In the arvo, I investigated the "Bigger On The Inside" exhibition at the Canberra Museum & Gallery - an attempt by a local teacher to establish a Guinness record for most "Doctor Who" memorabilia. While generously sharing it with the rest of us :-)
I'm not sure those pics do the size and completeness of the dude's collection justice. Mayhap you'll prefer these scenes from my various wanderings 'round the city centre over the weekend.
Sunday morning, armed with a disposable raincoat, I skirted Lake Burley Griffin to the National Museum for "A History Of The World In 100 Objects" (visiting from the British Museum). The trees were looking particularly cinematic.
The majority of the objects were awesome in the true sense and kinda magical even to be near, and I urge anyone who has the chance to see "A/H/O/T/W" to do so. I call this photo "Electric Egypt".
Following the exhibition, I retraced my steps then continued lakeside to the capital's annual outdoor flower show, Floriade. Remove the stalls and carnival rides and it was basically the same TRANSPLANTED bunch of blooms - tulips, pansies, violas, etc. - arranged in different patterns and colour combos.
The rain got heavier in the afternoon, so I went to the Dendy and watched Kate Beckinsale give the performance of her career in Austen adaptation "Love & Friendship". Her character's a totally manipulative and selfish bitch and you'll adore her.
BTW, my room at the QT had a complimentary on-demand movie service, so between footy finals I also caught -
Should have ignored unsurprisingly inferior sequel "Now You See Me 2" and gone with Cate Blanchett and Bob Redford in "Truth". What the fuck was I thinking?

Prior to jetting out on Monday...by train, I spent ~90 minutes at the National Portrait Gallery. There are some real gems in this joint. Here be Nick Cave, Professor Penny Sackett and Jack Brabham.
The only desired achievement I didn't unlock on the minibreak was gaming at Reload. I actually went there on the Friday evening. Unfortunately, it was closed to Joe Public due to a private function. Next time, Gadget! (Buried my head in Card's "Gatefather" on the return journey. Mythology + sci-fi + teen angst.)