freckles_and_doubt: (South Park Self)
Cape Town is having Winter, TM, slightly late but with immense seriousness and inordinate quantities of water. Traffic has been horrible, particularly this morning, when it took me 20 minutes to inch up the hill to campus. It turned out that this was not because large chunks of road on the N2 had been washed away, as is the way of my people in winter. Far more amusingly, it was because a divvil of some sort had possessed the traffic light just before the freeway exit, so that it was cheerfully showing to our road, at any one time, either three green lights and one red, or three red lights and one green. You have no idea how dislocating this is. And, for some reason, how amusing. I'm still giggling. It seems to undermine some fundamental truth in your average driver, producing a sort of bewildered contemplation which plays out as follows (and I could see exactly this thought process in the cars ahead of me even before it happened to me):

TRAFFIC LIGHT: *cheerfully shows three red lights and one green*
CAR: is confused. Treats this carefully like a malfunctioning robot: stops, checks, is about to go when:
TRAFFIC LIGHT: *changes cheerfully and without warning to three green lights and one red*
CAR: responds like Pavlov's dogs to the green light for a microsecond by starting to take off before having brain exploded by the lone red. Is confused. Treats this carefully like a malfunctioning robot, stops, checks, drives on with head spinning. Or, if me, in a fit of the giggles.

We are creatures of order, and traffic lights are unquestioned beacons of coherent guidance in our orderly worldview. Except when they aren't. Then our heads explode.

I have not been blogging of late because of... thing. I'm not sure what, actually. I have, however, spent an entire weekend with the Jo inventing a new, exciting and minimalist LARP system which encourages players, Fiasco-like, to invent the plot themselves from minimal cues. Currently it's labouring under the working title of "Space Amnesia", which is really a literal description of its workings. We shall be hunting down playtesters shortly.

I have also, by no actual effort of my own other than desultory blogging, found a Macavity Solution, in that CarloandKaren have volunteered to adopt him on the grounds of being short a ginger tom. This means we have started feeding him and encouraging him into the house, with the fell and deceptive intent of getting him relaxed and friendly so that we can swoop down, incarcerate him in a box and haul him off to a life of vet check-ups and sybaritic luxury. While he still won't let me come closer than a Jackie-length or so to him, he has progressed from pitiful yowling to actual conversational yowling if I talk to him for a while. I'm hopeful.

Subject line, as any fule kno, references Good Omens and demonic traffic possession.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
We ran Attack of the Vapours, our insane 24-person parody LARP, for the latest generation of university roleplaying types last night. As a result I'm pretty much dead, but it was fun, and the players did very well. Some really good roleplayers beautifully in character, and a lot of attention paid to costume and prop. Memo to self: always put a costume box onto LARP character sheets in the future. Yes, there will be a future. I haven't written LARPs in far too long, and I have two half-finished and one in concept form which I really want to do. I may noodle around with them during this break. It'll make a pleasant change from the academic papers, even if the academic papers are mostly Miyazaki and Harry Potter.

I have to say, though, Vapour's yearbook photo is annotated "LARP most likely to make me wonder vaguely if my firm conviction that I've never done drugs is actually correct". It was written by a team of four of us in a series of 9am Sunday morning design sessions, and it's insane. It has evil sex twins, and polar-bear fixations, and trained killer attack throwing Pomeranians, and a Sinister Philatelist Subplot which results in the existence of stamps such as the Gawungafingi Badger-Black and the Spasmodic Flying Squirrel. It also rejoices in ranked ability cards which range from "Anyone for tennis?" to "This is not, in fact, the case". Contemplating the ravages wrought by Rudy with the latter brings a tear of joy and pride to my eye. The front page of the LARP explicitly instructs players to use the ability cards in creative and horrifying ways the designers couldn't possibly predict, and wow, did they ever.

I'm also dead because of unexpected root canal on Friday, which tends to leave me feeling as though I've been beaten with clubs. I have a wonderful dentist who has the superpower of giving injections I can't actually feel at all, but the vibrations cause me to clench every muscle in my body until I'm levitating off the chair, and not to relax for at least twelve hours. However, two out of three roots are thoroughly, patiently and meticulously drilled, and the assault on the third is only to come in about a month, by which time my jaw may have unclamped. Hooray.

I should also mention that I'm totally addicted to the one She Wants Revenge album I actually possess, which is Valleyheart (the earlier albums arrive from Amazon shortly), and which is channelling Bauhaus, Depeche Mode and Joy Div in strict rotation. It's poppy and retro and totally derivitive and it makes my little fangirly 80s heart go pit-a-pat.

noble gassing

Monday, 15 October 2007 09:56 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I don't usually have much interest in the Nobel Prize, but this year's are a bit of an exception. Al Gore receiving the Peace prize makes me very happy, if only because it's an indicator of the status of environmental issues in the public consciousness. Not the right public consciousness (the Scandinavians seem to be pretty much in the forefront of ecological stuff and don't really need their consciousnesses raised) but their stamp of approval has to mean something.

I'm rather saddened, though, by the way the award seems to have brought anti-eco feeling out of the woodwork - a lot of sites mentioning the award seem to have a comment trail to the effect that he doesn't deserve it, it's not a legitimate issue, his activism hasn't achieved anything, and climate change has nothing to do with peace, this last causing me to grind my teeth somewhat. (Even some of the usually liberal and intelligent folk at the Whatever are kvetching no end). I honestly cannot see how anyone can deny either the climate change situation in the face of the current evidence, or the effectiveness of Gore's long-term efforts to wave the the issue around like a flag. I'd be a lot happier if humanity were orang-utans rather than ostriches.

The other pleasing award was Doris Lessing's literature prize. I am afraid to say that I have never yet finished a Lessing novel, being somewhat put off by (a) her creds as a Serious African Issue-Driven Novelist, which sparks my auto-bloody-mindedness response, (b) her writing style, with which I for some reason do not resonate, and (c) a very vivid memory of my late maternal grandmother, who knew Lessing in her early days in then-Rhodesia. At any mention of Lessing, Gran would tighten her lips ominously, say tartly, "Tigger Wisdom? She was a naughty girl," and refuse to be drawn further. In retrospect, it is somewhat ironic that I should have allowed myself to be influenced by this, as it refers to Lessing's unhappy first marriage from which she departed at speed, leaving a husband and two children - I think my gran was horrified by the children-leaving bit. I, on the other hand, am fully behind the rights of the individual to escape an unhappy relationship, and given the social mores of the time, could easily see how Lessing might have been pressured into both marriage and children.

It thus clearly behooves me to dig out the Canopus in Argus series I madly bought about a year ago and have never read, and to darned well read them in the interests of both feminist and sf solidarity. I am happy about Lessing's win because she is a highly-regarded "serious" mainstream novelist who both writes deliberately within sf genre traditions, and, unlike rotten weasel-worders like Margaret Atwood, routinely acknowledges her debt to the genre. The world needs more writers capable of exploding the myth that "if it's good it can't be science fiction." A Nobel rather does that. Heh.

Slightly spacey today, after a hectic and highly enjoyable weekend helping the dreaded jo run her Opera InCognito LARP. Good bunch of players, lovely costumes, perfect setting, much hilarity had by all. Stv took some stunning photos, will link to them when he's released them to Teh Internets. Also saw Stardust. It made me happy. Review tomorrow, when I've killed 20 essays and annotated an Honours dissertation. Sigh.

freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I thoroughly enjoyed Casablanca. It's one of those movies one should really watch before experiencing, oh, I dunno, modern culture. It's like watching Shakespeare: all sorts of references, quotes and idioms suddenly fall into place. It's aged very well, without any of that clunkiness one sometimes associates with old movies. And, as Mal points out, it's completely, totally and absolutely a LARP, complete with constrained setting, missing objects, conflicting purposes, romantic tension and hinted-at complex backstories which occasionally rise to the surface without warning, like nuclear submarines.1 It has also utterly ear-wormed me with "As time goes by", causing me to sing it loudly, inaccurately and incessantly, occasionally diving to the piano to produce an even more bastardised rendition interspersed with abusive epithets cast at jazz chords. Bloody jazz chords. I don't have enough jazz background 2 to play them by ear, and it annoys me.

The other highlight of yesterday was the trip out to Mal's smallholding: it made me realise how long it is since I hung out in farmhouse-style homes or drove joyously between potholes on dirt roads. I've live in a city for fifteen years now, and unless reminded, I forget that I grew up in environments perilously close to farm living. I drove back into the city yesterday evening, at sunset, with my car all caked with mud and storm-clouds on the horizon all lit with that evening glow, and was ridiculously happy.

Which is just as well, as today was another dead day. It's a sad state of affairs when random exhaustion makes it difficult to put any energy into teaching either Dracula or Terry Pratchett. On the upside, the dreaded cosplay student turned up for the Dracula tut wearing not only a cloak but plastic vampire teeth, which he was forced to remove half-way through as his contributions to the tut were completely incomprehensible.

1 Other films calculated to groove the ploons of a LARP-designer's heart: Gosford Park. The Cat's Miaouw. That crazy Cluedo one with Tim Curry. I dunno, there must be others. Help me out here!

2 I have no jazz background. Woe!

freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I'm getting too old for LARPing. Or, at least, getting too old, opinionated and set in my ways to really enjoy LARPs written by all but an extremely high-quality few ([ profile] d_hofryn, this means you and your partner in crime, so get writing, people!). As I am not generally in, as they say, a Good Space at the moment, I seem to have very little tolerance for the kinds of problems and inconsistencies an inexperienced bunch of designers are likely to perpetrate. I become very frustrated, and end up spending three hours gnashing and gnarling at all beholders in a thoroughly obnoxious fashion.

This wasn't too much of a problem in last night's Discworld LARP since I was supposed to be taking upon me the mantle of Granny Weatherwax, probably the character most designed by a benevolent providence to be my role-playing soulmate, and herself constructed with a fair amount of gnashing and gnarling intrinsic to her personality. But I always had misgivings about the idea of a Discworld LARP that used actual canon characters, and in the event, despite the evident care and detail that went into writing this LARP, I don't think the final result was ultimately successful. There are too few surprises, too many ponderables attached to each character, and too great a discrepancy in the extent to which the players are familiar with the history and personalities of the canon.

The risk is also simply too great that the designers, in a desperate search for novelty, will take the characters too far away from the canon as it is perceived by die-hard, read-everything fans such as I unashamedly am. The dual layers of interpretation - designers and players - mean that the LARP comes to read like slightly slap-dash fanfic. This is fatal in the context of Pratchett: I don't personally enjoy fanfic written for any setting which has, in canon, a reasonable degree of complexity and subtlety. (I love Harry Potter fanfic because Rowling's world is basically flat and full of holes, and any embroidery has a high chance of actually improving on the original. I won't read fanfic in any Joss Whedonverse, because they're complex enough that an insensitive reading really stuffs with the canon. Call me picky. I'm picky).

The fact that I was, last night, in Day 3 of a particularly obnoxious four-day headache (possibly more than 4-day, depending on whether or not I wake up with the blasted thing tomorrow) really didn't help. Nor did a major communication breakdown among the DMs about character abilities, leading to a somewhat doomed attempt to play Granny Weatherwax with no actual effective power at all for three quarters of the evening. In fact, bleah.

On the upside, she says, trying desperately not to turn into Schopenhauer, I have fiendishly addicted the Evil Landlord to Season 1 of the new Doctor Who, which is entertaining to watch; he seems somewhat tickled by Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. Heh. I'll make a drooling Germanic fanboy out of him yet.

Also, outside in my courtyard a small flock of white-eyes has found the hanging baskets, the fibrous padding for which apparently makes excellent nesting material. I'm so enjoying watching the little buggers flipping about uttering muffled witterings through a mouthful of fibre, I don't particularly care that the baskets are starting to have that shocked Afro look.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Lovely moment at about 1am this morning, driving back in a haze of exhaustion from a LARP that did the usual time-distortion post-midnight surreality... at the campus exit, a small herd of about a dozen deer, calmly cropping the grass by the side of the road. They didn't like me stopping to watch them and, with that curiously feline "you're in my space" sort of look, drifted off into the dark. I don't know how they got out of the Rhodes Memorial park, but I have a wonderful mental image of them wandering down University Avenue, hooves tapping on the bricks, to drink at the Chinese fountain. Our daily lives are haunted by the strangest and most unsuspected midnight ghosts.

The older I get, the more set I get in my ways. I don't actually LARP for the plotting, at which I am very bad: I LARP for the challenge of getting into a character, actually being someone different. Glove puppetry LARPing. I like to feel that I know what makes a personality tick. Last night's LARP was fun, and had some lovely space-opera concepts going for it, but my character was a Bad Guy, a total bigot with very few redeeming features, and I find that very difficult to play. You have to believe in someone in order to recreate them, and my ability to manipulate other players diminishes rapidly when I have no unified or plausible sense of myself as a character. Then again, I'm still very tired from this horrible cold, and was definitely not at my best. I staggered home after the deer and spent the whole night dreaming I was ill in bed.

In other news, generally unguided by a witterer response poll that was almost exactly balanced between long and short, I cut all my hair off. Or, not quite all, but a good chunk of it. It's a nice cut. I'm happy ;>.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
I did this day slay that damned animation entry, she says with satisfaction, dancing on its recumbent corpse with becoming cartoon glee. Tomorrow, Disney, which entails tackling all the notes I've made and rendering into reasonably sensible English such cryptic comments as "cnsmrist pdigm", "nstalgic manip" and "bltant fklc pervsion", interspersed with the occasional "aargh!" and "bugger!" (Actually, in retrospect "bltant fklc pervsion" looks rude, and probably is). Writing on Disney is a process the upshot of which is a strange mixture of loathing, frustration and vindictive satisfaction: I abominate what they stand for, but there's a perverse pleasure in identifying and labelling their manifold iniquities with sadistic (or possibly masochistic), surgical precision.

Somewhat predictably, I have entirely failed to summon the necessary willpower not to write LARPs, and have been gently exhorting myself through the actual academic work by allowing myself brief excursions into the Wild West. *fires off six-shooter contentedly*. This would be the LARP we started writing, lo, these many years ago, before jo actually buggered off overseas - in fact, the current character sheet I'm writing (in a laconic Western drawl) was started in the year 2000. I figure that's quite enough self-denial to be going on with.

Tomorrow I plan to toddle off and watch the recent SciFi Channel version of Earthsea, courtesy of Mike. By all accounts it's a shockingly bad adaptation denounced roundly by Le Guin herself, but I shall fortify myself with Mike's excellent wine, and stave off the actual ritual suicide by planning the vindictive blog entry with which I shall subsequently edify the faithful, always supposing that my own lower intestine hasn't leapt up and throttled me in a praiseworthy attempt to save my sanity. Reviewing as an extreme sport, the new craze.
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Favourite moment from the LARP on Saturday night:

ME: Sorry, you can't come past.
PLAYER (confused): Um, why?
ME: Because I'm four six-foot Nubians with scimitars.
PLAYER: Oh. OK, then.

Damn, I miss LARPing.


Monday, 10 April 2006 09:57 am
freckles_and_doubt: (Default)
Our nice cleaning lady has just wandered in and informed me that there's a strange grey cat sleeping on the Evil Landlord's bed. This is, in fact, Ounce, who has developed neurosis and rapid stealth response to the point that, although said cleaning lady has worked for us for eight years and Ounce has lived with us for about five of them, this is the first time she's seen him. She was worried that perhaps a neighbourhood cat had snuck in. Ounce's default position is to assume that any member of the human race, aside from the Evil Landlord, is about to kill and eat him. Despite the fact that I'm the one who feeds him approximately 50% of the time, he still suspects I might do this anyway. He has "cower and run" down to a fine art. It's very depressing, and tends to make me insecurely worry that I've been accidentally killing and eating him in my sleep on a regular basis.

The LARP on Saturday went surprisingly well, given that we had two last-minute player pull-outs, and one absolute all-time horror of a casting error. A player who I usually blacklist on the grounds of his total incompetence signed up under his e-mail pseudonym, and no-one realised it was him. It was a nasty shock when he turned up, and he played appallingly, but we were able to brief his allies to take up the slack.

I am forced to conclude, however, that the Younger Generation of roleplayers are tragically missing a very essential trait for LARPing, viz. basic nastiness. That has to be the most cute and cuddly version of that LARP I have ever run. People were handing over concessions and making agreements left, right and centre without much thought for their own goals and desires. There was none of the horse-trading, back-stabbing and sneaky manipulation for which the LARP was designed. I am forced to the horrifying conclusion that this damned New South African liberal democracy thing is gradually rotting the brains of the young, to the point where each year is more wishy-washy, non-confrontational and conciliatory than the last*. I forsee a horrible time, ten years down the line, where they're all too feeble to LARP at all, and Old LARP Designers can only sit around, gnashing their evil reactionary teeth and writing scenarios full of labyrinthine villanies which no-one will ever play.**

Also, the Younger Roleplaying Crowd has, somewhere along the line, missed out on the vital piece of brainwashing which says it's important to turn up to a LARP in costume. About a third of them did. Honestly, I despair of the younger generation, she says, rocking away ferociously in her rocking chair.

* Either that, or consumer culture is slowly leaching from them the last vestiges of individuality. I'm sure roleplayers had more personality in my day. *waves walking stick around toothlessly*
** We'll probably have to export them all to America, which seems to be settling nicely into polarised value judgement. Although their rampant consumerism is even worse, so it'll be pale, characterless ghosts savagely espousing bigoted views. Fear.
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Strange Narrative Decisions, #1. David* recently procured me (cheapcheap!) an evil bootleg copy** of Howl's Moving Castle. It's a lovely movie, but actually not as all-embracingly wonderful as I'd hoped, given its genesis as the bastard offspring of my favourite anime director and one of my favourite fantasy authors. It's currently sitting a bit behind my other Miyazaki favourites, which are My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away with a side bet on Princess Mononoke. (Good heavens, they're all the folkloric ones, how utterly predictable and very not strange at all. And I should add, for the record, that in terms of these rankings there are whole swathes of Miyazaki I haven't seen, and won't see until July when my long-suffering mother hauls the latest Amazon pantechnicon of DVDs out from the UK on my behalf. Including Howl's Moving Castle, so I decline to feel guilty about the bootlegging).

Anyway. Lovely film, the usual visual splendours and whimsical detail, the classic Miyazaki gentleness and studied pace. Very attractive Howl (yum, in fact), very appealing Sophie, very cute Calcifer and (particularly) castle. And I love what he's done with the scarecrow. I suspect what's marring my enjoyment, though, is my extreme familiarity with the Diana Wynne Jones novel, and consequent response to this as an adaptation. There are some weird narrative choices here. The war theme that's a minor background to the novel moves right to the forefront, which works OK, and is very Miyazaki in the Nausicaa mode. I can also see why he's chosen to reinterpret the heartlessness of Howl as a very visual monstrosity, although I lament the loss of the sappy Howl girl-chasing. There are some strange character conflations and reversals, though: I can't work out why he's cut back the effectiveness of the Witch of the Waste and removed that epic (and extremely visually dramatic) conflict between her/her fire demon and Howl. I would have thought it would be very easy to infuse the nasty war scenario with the fire demon theme, they're very related, particularly given how strongly the war is conceptualised in terms of fiery destruction. And Sophie loses all her witch powers, which are central to the book. Annoying.

Cute dog, though. It huffles.

Strange Narrative Decisions, #2. Ursula Vernon's blog currently features a very funny discussion of apocryphal Bible books as fanfic. This made me laugh a lot, although it's remotely possible that the mere concept of Jesus/Harry Potter crossover fanfic has scarred me for life.

Strange Narrative Decisions, #3. I have to dash off now and dig out the necessary weird assortment of props preparatory to running our enormous, complicated, plot-ridden, highly political Arabian Nights LARP this evening, for a bunch of relatively inexperienced CLAW players. There may well be frustrated artistic rantage on areas not entirely unconnected to this blog in the morning...

* the other bass, not the d@vid or Lara's one. We rejoice in an elegant sufficiency of Davids.
** In fact, I actually typed "an evil bootlet copy" there, conjuring fascinating mental images of petite footwear with lots of steampunky protrusions, and claw-like mechanical feet.
freckles_and_doubt: (alice)
I acquired another Honours student today, after she had apparently spent several weeks broadcasting her desire for me to supervise her thesis to approximately 64% of my immediate social circle, not including me. (She's a CLAWtype, which helps with this kind of indirect assault). Over the weekend I was informed by three separate sources that this young lady was keen for my academic oversight, but was, in fact, too scared to actually approach me about it. I find this distressing, since I honestly don't think of myself as being that terrifying*. For heaven's sake, I lecture fantasy, science fiction, Gothic, and gosh-darned Victorian nonsense. Intimidating academic rarefication, that ain't. Also, surely the days when I cowed the massed hordes of CLAW with fascism, boots and demonic organisational skills are long gone? I don't think any of the undergrad CLAWites would recognise me if I bludgeoned them over the head with my complete Clawmarks collection. Much as I would fondly like to think that my Great Old One status is accompanied by whispered lore about my achievements, vices and accompanying tentacular appendages, I really don't think so. Role-players have short attention spans, especially across generations. Barring the unearthing of the occasional musty tome with these strange, unknown names transcribed therein, I doubt I cross their consciousness in any way.

Then again, I have apparently reached a point in my role-playing life when a semi-younger CLAW-type plotting a Discworld LARP automatically assumes I'll be playing Granny Weatherwax. I suppose I can be thankful it wasn't Nanny Ogg.

If anyone wants me, I'll be out back in the rocking chair. Cackling. And eating students alive.

* Of course, her state of fear would not have been mitigated by helpful suggestions from the ilk of jo&stv (apparently I require propitiation with appropriate sacrifices of chocolate cake) that were, in fact, not. Especially since, while I enjoy chocolate cake, it's not high on the list of Things For Which I Will Commit Suspect Acts Of Favouritism.


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