“Forget it Jake, it’s Waterdeep…”

Tonight’s D&D session, a brief recap:
First off, the Dragonborn Ranger has developed a Russian accent, to match the Gnomish Wizard’s cockney. The Fighter’s accent varies while the Paladin only impersonates the Wizard when it’s funny.
 
They attacked some goons menacing them (Last episode’s cliffhanger), almost set several of the party on fire in the process (“What, you don’t have Fire Resistance?”) and then murder them. They proceed to sass the Watch, then sass the Watch even further and leave the Watch sergeant (A recurring NPC) somewhat flustered and angry with them. The Watch plans to keep an eye on them in future, but may just leave them for dead – I’ve not decided.
 
The Wizard, sorry, Street Wizard, has to be restrained from trying to steal, first from and then the entirety of the gates to the Noble family’s estate they were on their way to, and the party proceed to break some bad news to them somewhat badly, letting them know that their son was found both stabbed to death and had grown a rat’s tail from his back, not things his now grieving parents had wanted or expected to hear. (I also forgot to actually introduce the second son (Of a second son?), though he is mentioned.
Hints were found that the dead son had some mysterious connections, with the Gnome finding evidence of Druidic origin. Further investigation leads them to a large park in the North Ward of the city, where the Gnome proceeds to investigate by yelling “Are you Druish?” loudly at people and the Ranger befriends a Squirrel (The Rogue helped by bribing it with food). The squirrel, who calls itself Jasper, has a speech pattern resembling Zathras with a dash of Yoda* and directs them into the maze in the garden, having seen angry tall things there. The party prepare to move into the maze while the Paladin makes time to vanish to change into his secret identity. We close with a brief series of shots of them disturbing a couple making out and what looks like a Druidic sacrifice! *Doctor Who cliffhanger noise*and roll credits.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing next session yet, but I might be watching The Wicker Man. Maybe Hot Fuzz. Really, I’d happily rewatch the regardless. As for the players, they may not be the most efficient or serious group (And let’s face it, I’d be shithouse at running that sort of game), but they’re a hell of a lot of fun to run for.

*It briefly sat atop the Ranger’s helm as if riding a steed into battle, then vanished into it’s backpack and emerged chewing on a piece of jerky. I couldn’t resist the chance for “How you get so big eating food of this kind?”

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A preposterous prevelance of piratical pontificating

We preface this latest entry by noting that the title is otherwise known as my attempt to write alliteration like Stan Lee, whoever’s work Stan Lee is taking the credit for, or that celebrated theatrical impresario Henry Gordon Jago.

Whilst pondering games recently, I had a realization – I’m playing in a 7th Sea tabletop and may be playing in a LARP one at some point, and am not playing pirates in either. (Also, that I’d forgotten yesterday was Talk Like a Pirate Day) Had you asked 25 year old me, he’d have laughed at the prospect of that, as he was a mite bit obsessed with them. Why the reason for this change? I’m not sure – it could be the perspective that comes with age, being more than slightly sick of the Hollywood pirate or wanting to have in game conversations that consisted of more than the word “Arrrr.”* I’m playing an Eisen mercenary in the tabletop (Think German Landsknecht, who’s become oddly polite as the game has continued) and the idea for the LARP is basically the Thiefmaker from The Lies of Locke Lamora, but with Londo Mollari’s acent. Yeah, I’d prefer a more original character and may well do so when/if the game rolls around, but playing someone who’s primary response to things isn’t violence is a pretty big change for me in and of itself.

It’s also the fact that I’m utterly terrible at playing villians. Try as I might, the politeness ingrained by my mother (Who, to be fair, should be nominated for Sainthood on general principle) just refuses to leave and opportunities to steal or be a jerk just fly past me in favour of being polite to old women and not offending the awakened spirit of a country.

Then comes what system? There were LARP rules published for the original system, but I’ve not read them in a long time. I’m also not a fan of using tabletop systems in LARP’s, it’s kludgy and tend to devolve into people standing around comparing stats or in endless rock paper scissors matches. My initial thought is to run it systemless and decide duels with boffer combat (With resources represented by laminated cards), but I can understand people wanting some sort of rules work, both for comparing resources and record keeping. I’m still yet to find a rules system I love unconditionally (I’d have said Hyborian Tales, who’s website is long defunct, but that’s more to my Robert E Howard fandom overcoming any bias or quibbles with the system) but I am in favour of keeping things as simple as possible.

Abrubtly chating topics, flashing back to my recent post about thieves in fantasy settings, comes this video from LARP Forge. Yes, that’s based around assassins, but the general principle matches things nicely. Yes, it is possible to be sneaky when you’re dressed like a member of Gwar, but you’ll still look fucking ridiculous to me.

In other Very Bad/Very Good news, The Bugle still hasn’t returned, but Full Frontal with Samantha Bee has! If I can’t be like Holtzmann when I grow up, then I’d happily be like Sam. The amount of gives no fucks that she’s shown in recent months has been truly heartwarming to see. Last Week Tonight may be getting the lion’s share of press, and it’s certainly worthy of no small amount of it, but for sheer righteous fury then Sam get’s my vote.**

So yeah. Not much else on. A blurb has been submitted for our MacquarieCon event, which means we need to do a lot more work on it and I’m trying to work out what animal to sacrifice for good weather Saturday, as I’m taking my new longbow down to the range for its first shooting.

*I do have fond memories of playing a pirate in a LARP *cough* years ago, my fondest memory being the look on my then-girlfriend now wife’s face when she first saw me in the outfit. Jaw, meet floor. My reaction can be summed up by this.

** For more political snark, this time local, check out Andrew P Street’s columns in the SMH online. Well worth reading.

1030 enter, 9 leave

So, Zedtown on Saturday. It’s my 4th event and 2nd crewing. My legs still hurt, backs a bit wonky and it’s a cast iron reminder of how unfit I am. On the bright side, according to my phone’s fitness tracker, it was my most active day ever.

So, what went well? Pretty much everything that I saw. Players seemed to enjoy things, the story (What I saw of it) worked. Terrible accents and impromptu roleplaying. Seeing regular groups (Sydney Nerf Wars, the Russians and the Red Berets) matched by increasing numbers of newbies. The genius who decided to sort the cloakroom by ticket colour, which helped more than you can imagine. Searching for bags singing along to Metalachi’s Run to the Hills. The zombie horde counting down to when they respawn. Seeing large numbers of players flee like frightened children. Hell, a few got tagged in the initial zombie release at the start of the game, the poor suckers. The sheer enthusiam people have for this event, even from passersby who asked what was going on. The woman in a wedding gown, both pre and post zombiefication. (And there was an actual wedding on campus that day, along with a dance event, construction and a robotics festival) And that it’s only taken 4 events, but there’s finally a decent photo of me.Mind you, it’s the only one of me I’ve been able to find, but it’s a start.

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That’s me on the left. 🙂 And yes, fantastic backdrop

There wasn’t much that didn’t work. True, there was computer troubles at sign in and we almost ran out of tape at the cloak room (Can someone please invent flavoured sticky tape? I’m sure I swallowed some of it when I was tearing it with my teeth). There were a few complaints that the event theme got released with less than two weeks to the event date, and while I can understand those, surely everyone can manage a half decent cowboy costume from what they have? Oh, and the intruders – fuck those guys. Short version: 4-5 people who live on campus decided to join in, wrapping green shirts around thier heads  and attacking players with pool noodles, then fleeing when confronted by game mods. Last I heard the event photographers were combing through their shots and if found would be sent to campus security. And I can’t not mention the guy with half a shopping cart full of booze wandering around – what the fuck? I know he wasn’t a player, but what the hell?

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The Bride wore blood!

I’m not trying to be over harsh, or claim that anything, for me, overshadowed the event. Things will always go wrong, no matter how prepared you are. But those problems were taken care of in a speedy fashion and the game went on. It’s worth remembering that we’re all volunteers, that we’re doing this for fun. And yes, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, as well as a hell of a lot of work. I’m under no allusions to as my role, I’m a tiny cog in the machine compared to the amount of work others do. I spent a lot of my time manning the cloak desk. But I still enjoy the hell out of it and I’ll gladly be back to do it all again, aching body or not.

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Mods strutting their frunky stuff

My main issue was that while crewing is great fun, I don’t get to play. Crew are a vital part of the experience, no event can run without them. Crewing is something everyone should take part at one point or another – some of the most fun I’ve had in LARP’s has been crewing. But I miss that white knuckle adrenaline of playing, of not knowing what the hell is going on or whether the next step you take will be your last. The camaraderie of fellow survivors, who are still keeping blasters trained on each other. Is that person an Original Zombie, or can they be trusted? Well, that and getting to act like you’re in a Schwarzenegger movie – I have trouble resisting the chance to indulge in over the top machismo, as anyone who’s played one of my con games can attest to.

So yeah, that was Zedtown. 1030 players went in, 9 made it to evac, with about 100 or so scattered about the map. Can’t wait for the next one.

Stupid productive brain

So, I’m meant to be finishing my Sydcon game and writing an adventure for tonight’s D&D session. Instead, my brain refuses to stop thinking about the post apoc game, which really needs a name. The current working title is Recovery, but that’s from when cargo cults based on tv shows were a big part of the background. Speaking of that, in the hope that this will get it out of my system temporarily, here’s what I have so far on the in character police force:

BLUE HEELERS: Historical records speak of a legendary band of law enforcers, who lived in a great mountain. In the chaos that followed the fall, it’s said a small group followed their example and after fashioning crude uniforms ventured out into the world to try to restore law and order. Word spread, and nowadays the Heelers, (Also known as the Dogs),  can be found in settlements over Straya, keeping the peace and dispensing justice. Identified by the uniform of a blue shirt and badge, their appearance can vary  – some have managed to loot old world police stations for garb and equipment, while others have nothing more than a t-shirt and a toy badge, but all share a desire to restore order and justice to the world. (Well, mostly – the long and glorious record of the NSW police force stands as testament to that)

The name wasn’t my idea – I was working off blueshirts, or the boys in blue. Heelers works far better and also encourages  a crude thieve’s cant – “The dogs were sniffing around, dug up a bone” etc. That and I really like the idea of law enforcement being player driven. A lot of this game’s development is me learning as I go or throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Hopefully now brain will switch over and let me concentrate on the things I should actually be working on. Not betting on it though.

Suicide Squad (2016)

So, Suicide Squad.

Yes I saw it. In my defense, ticket’s were $8 and I’m a sucker for bad films.

I’ll try to stay light on spoilers, but there will be some. I went in with some pretty heavy preconceptions – a general dislike of DC based films and Jared Leto, parts of fandom’s creepy romanticisation of Joker and Harley, the rumours that it sidelined Arrow’s version of the Sqaud, being fairly ho-hum about the advertising, Amanda Waller not being played by CCH Pounder etc. And thats without the recent discovery that, of all people,  Shia LaBeouf could have been in it. So, now that I’ve seen it, what did I think?

Eh. A solid 6/10.*

Look, there was a lot stacked against the film. The stories of Leto’s on set behaviour were one thing but director David Ayer’s all but torturing the cast takes it up a notch. As the story goes, try acting – it’s much easier. Anyhow, about the film.  Then there’s the rumours of arguments over the final cut, large numers of deleted or alternate scenes, reshoots to add humour, executive meddling and a general panic over the reaction to Dawn of Justice, and really, it’s almost amazing we got as good a film as we did.

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That film would have been better. A lot better

For starters, Will Smith is genuinely great in this. I’ve not seen a lot of his recent work, but I understand why he was cast. The guy has charisma and the fact this isn’t a vanity project for one of his children may have helped as well. Viola Davis knocked it out of the park as Amanda Waller, showing just how hard as nails the character is. True, she’s not CCH Pounder, but she looks more like comics Waller than Arrow’s version and that alone is worth something. Hell, I’d say she did as good a job as Pounder would have done.

EDIT: In the cold (Actually warm and extremely fucking unwelcome) light of day I realized that what I’ve just said about Davis is a pretty shitty backhanded compliment and I meant no such thing. She does a hell of a job, and managed to both overcome my bias and win me over. (I’ve not seen her other work, so it wasn’t anything to do with her, merely the typecasting in my head) There’s a moment about 2/3rd’s of the way through where you get a no holds barred, no beg your pardons reminder of why you don’t fuck with Amanda Waller and Davis sells it like a boss. For her, it’s just another day at the office. Maniacs, serial killers, costumed weirdos and extra dimensional magicians – Amanda Waller does not care for your shit. So yes, major compliments to Viola Davis on her performance and for managing to not knock the fuck out out of Jared Leto.

Batfleck is great in his limited screen time and the hints at future movies are far less clumsy ‘Let’s introduce the Justice League’ like what we saw in Dawn of Justice. They aren’t great, but they aren’t as bad. Robbie, for all the time the trailers spent focusing on her body, also does a great Harley Quinn. It’s not that the cast are terrible, they do well with what they have to work with. It’s more what they have to do that’s the problem.

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I’m guessing he just read the script?

The Bad:
The villain’s plot is kinda pointless and lacking in build-up, the military mostly serve as red-shirts to make the main cast look competent and Captain Boomerang (While played by an actual Australian) mostly exists for comic relief and to produce beers from nowhere. There’s also large stretches of the film with very little threat – the first time we see the villain’s minions, there’s a brief moment where it seems casualties could ensue, but from then on it’s fight scene shaky cam and we know the main cast heroes are going to be fine. I mean, you don’t cast the likes of Will Smith just to kill him – we’re not making Executive Decision here.

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Alright squad – 3, 2, 1 and strut!

Now we come to the Joker. Much has been written about Leto’s Joker, and yeah… It’s not great. (For the record, my Joker of choice is Mark Hamill, closely followed by Cesar Romero) It seems an attempt at a younger, edgier Joker, but I’m not seeing it. Also, since his plotline isn’t really related to the rest of the film, you probably could have cut most of his screentime and not affected the film a bit. Hell, that would have given you more time to introduce the main players, develop the relationships between them or just be able to read the bios that flashed up on screen for about 5 seconds. Katana basically got nothing – her background was explained by Rick Flagg in about 20 seconds.

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Hey, whatever get’s you through the movie…

And as for the soundtrack, it was another mess. I can understand why they used it (That being it was the one part of the trailer people liked), but the use of rock songs as character motif trick both isn’t used and is overused. And can someone explain to me what Black Sabbath’s Paranoid has to do with Harley Quinn? It would have made more sense to play it when Joker’s on screen, but making sense isn’t the strong point of Zack Snyder’s DC Cinematic Murderverse** (io9’s joke, not mine. I only wish I’d thought of a line that good ). It almost seems as if they watched Guardians of the Galaxy and learned all the wrong lessons.

Look, I don’t want to trash the film outright. There’s bits that worked and worked well. And for all it’s flaws, it wasn’t Green Lantern. The DC films are improving, but still aren’t quite there yet. At least the TV shows are doing well…

*Also, I also didn’t want to buy any of the cast’s costumes.

** Which the rumoured Booster Gold movie apparently won’t be a part of

And what are you? Thieves!

“What daring! What outrageousness! What insolence! What arrogance! I salute you.”

Re-reading the Locke Lamora series had me thinking about thieves and fantasy settings.  It also has me swearing more, so you might want to brace yourselves. I have a splitting headache, have just drunk a lot of water trying to deal with it and there isn’t any painkillers or ice cream in the house (Admitedly, I just ate it, though there was barely more than a spoonful), so I’m a little grumpy.

“Someday, Locke Lamora, someday you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that they sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope I’m still around to see it.”

Anyhow, thieves in fantasy settings. So, the cliche is, near as I understand it, is for all black, some sort of leather armour, a shortsword or rapier and a cosh. (A blackjack, not a Vorlon.) Why? Conan could steal everything in your house with nothing more a longsword and a loincloth. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser didn’t have much more. Hell, there’s a group of theives in Zamora who wear nothing but a red silk loincloth when on the job, though there’s few gamers I know I’d want to see in that. Anyway, dressing that way is loudly announcing you’re up to no good, and it’s the sort of thinking that leads to a moment in the first D&D movie where the protaganists are trying to hide, and are all wearing black cloaks. Actually, it’s the sort of thinking that leads to the D&D movie, and who wants that?

“I cut off his fingers to get him to talk, and when he’d confessed everything I wanted to hear, I had his fucking tongue cut out, and the stump cauterized.”
Everyone in the room stared at him.
“I called him an asshole, too,” said Locke. “He didn’t like that.”

I spent a bit of time a while ago looking at playing a thief in a LARP I’m in (Remembering that partially kicked this off) and there was some hilarious ‘advice’ and kit on offer. For starters, there was more black cloaks that I’ve had hot dinners and all manner of ‘armour’, stuff like this or this that screams “I’m 15 and trying to be Evil McEvil”* and is covered with enough nickle studs that if anyone shines a torch near you you’ll light up like a fucking Christmas tree. Shit like that is not subtle and while I’m somewhat lacking in criminal knowlege, I’m fairly fucking certain some degree of sublety is required.

“I was badly misinformed, I deeply regret the error, go fuck yourself with this bag of money.”

Which brings me to why on Earth would you want to wear all that stuff? I mean sure, it get’s the point across that you’re (apparently) someone not to be trifled with but that brings attention. Why not go the quieter road? Play a merchant or noble (Or at least pretend to be those things) and con people out of their coin with a smile rather than a blade – leave them penniless and thanking you for it rather than swearing a blood oath. (Ah capitalism!) I heard about someone in a LARP recently who decided to play someone like the Joker and expressed that by wearing all black and backstabbing folks left right and center. That, to me, is abnormally fucking stupid. It’s the worst sort of “I’m Chaotic Neutral” BS I expect from 14 year olds and it should be savagely beaten out of people. Well, not literally. But I’ve had some players over the years that I wouldn’t have minded had they accidentally walked into heavy doors. I’ll teach you to split the fucking party 20 minutes into the module…

“There’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.”

There was a point to this, I think. I guess it could be to ignore cliches and try to plan ahead? Sure, my knack for that is roughly equal to Cory Bernadi’s talent for not being an asshole, but at least I realized that. Every so often I’ve tried and it’s failed, but I keep fucking trying. In a game a few years back a friend of mine pulled off a scheme that almost elevated his character to godhood and I had no idea about it until I was technically dead. The lance was meant to kill the dragon (and did), but did a bit more than that. I got better. At least that’s what I think happened, I’m Captain Oblivious when it comes to that sort of thing.

“Mew,” the kitten retorted, locking gazes with him. It had the expression common to all kittens, that of a tyrant in the becoming. ‘I was comfortable, and you dared to move,’ those jade eyes said. ‘For that you must die.’ When it became apparent to the cat that its two or three pounds of mass were insufficient to break Locke’s neck with one mighty snap, it put its paws on his shoulders and began sharing its drool-covered nose with his lips. He recoiled.”

Was there a point to this inarticulate fury**? Not really. It could be to put some actual thought into your characters and don’t have them wear stupid things. Well, unless it’s dramatically appropriate. Or you’re acting as a distraction for the actual thieves. OK, it’s less a point and more ‘things I think are stupid.’ I’m trying not to put this as some sort of ‘One True Way’ thing – by all means feel free to coat yourselves in more spikes and studs than Rob Halford, but know that also means I’m going to laugh at you, long and loud. And that’s OK – you’re welcome to laugh at me as well. Given my love of kilts, it could be said I encourage it.

“When you don’t know everything that you could know, it’s a fine time to shut your fucking noisemaker and be polite.”

Oh, and one last thing: don’t try to play the mysterious loner or the last of your race or any of that shit- you’re just going to be bored when no-one talks to you, you very special snowflake.

OK, I’m glad I got that out of the system. I’ll try to be cheerier tomorrow.

*Just go and buy a Slayer album instead. It’s better for you and cheaper.
** The more I think about it the more I wish I’d called this site it.

Thieves prosper. The rich remember.

First off: an animated adaption of the long lost Doctor Who story Power of the Daleks is coming. I might be slightly excited. More Second Doctor? Oh hell yes.

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Moving on, I have a couple of things to add to the ideas list, both live action games. The first idea comes from my (lovely and talented) wife, and is set in the world of Scott Lynch’s Locke Lamora series. It’d take place just after after the first book in the series (That being The Lies of Locke Lamora) and the criminal underworld of Camorr is in a bit of a state. I’ll be vauge in regards to spoilers for those who haven’t read the books (You mean you haven’t raced out to get them? I’ll wait. *taps foot impatiantly* You’re back? Good.) Basically, the remaining underworld has gathered on the Floating Grave to discuss what come’s next. Tension is high, there’s almost certainly likely members of the law enforcement community among you and after what just happened you don’t trust anyone. So, what happens next? Is the Secret Peace re-established? Has one of the Shade’s Hill mob become a new Thiefmaker? Do the thieves run rampant and let anarchy take it’s place? Or does everyone just get drunk and put off the idea? There’s scores to settle, deals to make and a heirachy to establish. No matter what happens, thiefy shenanigans will ensue.
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I’m still unsure about the writing process – for starters, I’m certain that there’s no way I could do Sabetha* justice. Trying to write it so the world comes alive as it does in the books, rather than a D&D knockoff (Which the books most certainly aren’t). Mostly I’d need to re-read the books several times to keep the details fresh, immersing myslf in Lynch’s wordplay, world building and knack for hilarious profanity and oh the horror. Re-reading the books also might have influenced my choice of possible characters in a hypothetical Seventh Sea LARP a friend of mine has been talking about, though it’s mostly down to what character will let me use my Londo Mollari impression all game.

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The next idea is a stranger one. The Prisoner: The LARP. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then I both envy and pity you. Pity: cause you’ve not seen one of the finest, strangest, most brain-meltingly good shows ever made, but envy, because you get to experience it for the first time. Short version: a secret agent quits, is drugged and awakens in a mysterious place called The Village** where everyone is known by number not name and a sucession of people (All named Number 2) attempt to find out why he left. And then it get’s weird. Attempting to keep the mood of the show wouldn’t be easy – do we keep it in the 60’s, or update it? I think there’s a story that could be told there. I may not be the person to run it, but I’d like to be involved. I could operate Rover perhaps?

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There’s not a huge amount out there of other source material – a sequel comic series (Which creator Patrick McGoohan ‘didn’t hate’) and a GURPS sourcebook, while Big Finish Productions have adapted the show for audio and Iron Maiden have a couple of songs referencing the show (Singer Bruce Dickinson is a big fan). So if we were to update it in the modern era, there’s plenty of scope. After all, the number of cameras around the Village would probably be less than is now around Sydney’s CBD…

Lastly, on a more personal note. I am old, and getting older. For the last couple of years I’ve been contemplating a tattoo, and by that I mean seriously, not the ‘I want crossed lightsabers on my back’ idea I had at 14. So, I think my 40th is an appropriate time – I have over 3 and a half years to confirm what I want and try not to weasel out. Naturally, my thoughts turned to Doctor Who and not wanting to settle for the standard ‘Doctor’s face’ or ‘show logo’ tattoo, I set my mind to wandering. I’m sure I’ve seen pictures of someone with the 4th Doctor’s scarf around their arm, but that’s a little big for a first one. I can’t remember whether wife or I (Probably her – she is magnificent after all) came up with the idea of something based on reverse the polarity, but the current leader is the word polarity but backwards, probably somewhere on my shoulder. That is likely to change though, not just casue I just saw a tattoo of the rings of a Karthani Bondsmage, which is horribly tempting as well.

Be seeing you…

*No spoilers, but Thirteen Gods she’s a magnificent bastard and then some.

**Also the name of the local shopping center where I grew up.