The universe is an occasionally cruel place, but it does like to keep things interesting, in both the dictionary and Chinese curse definitions of the word.
Case in point tonight. To explain: there’s that time when your body tells you you need to visit a toilet. Fair, albeit irritating. I get that. That it does so when the shuffle on my playlist brings up the Mission Impossible theme*? That’s something else. It does continue to amaze me how that theme tune can make even the most mundane of tasks a nail biting adventure. I must add it to my ‘cleaning the kitchen’ playlist to see what happens…
So, what’s been happening since last time I wrote? Well, my happy pill dosage has gone up another 15 milligrams. I’m still adjusting, though it seems to be knocking me out of a night quicker, which as someone who’s always had trouble dropping off to sleep, well, that’s a good thing. My parents have another cat, which is a thing of great joy. There’s even been some recovery solitude, which has been MUCH NEEDED. Eardrums wise I’ve been binge listening to the Flight Through Entirety and Bondfinger podcasts, and adding to my Espionage music playlist. Board gaming wise, we’ve begun playing Pandemic: Legacy Season 0 and we’ve played through the prologue game. We… did not do well. Mercifully, it’s possible to have multiple goes at it before starting the campaign properly, which we’ll need. There’s some interesting changes to the rules which we’re still getting used to. I’ll keep you posted on how things go, with appropriate spoiler warnings.
Staying with 1960’s espionage, the PDF for The Troubleshooters arrived recently, and from my brief glance through, it’s as delightful as I’d hoped. I’ve not had the time to have a really good look yet, I’m already in love with the “How did you all meet?” mechanic, which while a good Session 0 should deal with, seems to provide a wonderful starting point to build from. However, it’s getting in the way of the events I should be writing, namely Bombshells and Babylon 5. The last Bombshells session ended mid heist (The PC’s were stopping the heist, to be clear) and I’m deep in Babylon 5 research. It was surprisingly difficult to find out when the Minbari made first contact with the Vorlons. (Those are the sorts of things that keep me up at night.) So yes, as enthusiastic as I am about the Troubleshooters, I’m going to try to put it aside till oh, Christmas. Though I will be putting the Steed and Peel Avengers series on my Christmas list, if anyone wants a hint as to what I’m planning.
I find in that situation it helps to pretend to be a wizard.”
I bloody love Tripod. It’s been an exhausting last few days, with my anniversary, a medieval event that I was demoing at and God-Daughters first birthday party and after all that, I am knackered, in myriad ways. Physically, I’ve slept badly and still sore from taking broadsword strikes. Shocking I know, but getting hit with swords hurts. I’m equal parts I should have moved faster and should buy a heavier set of gloves/jacket. Though it was lovely to see two other club members in purple jackets! Mentally, I’m over peopled and haven’t had much time to recover. I’m dealing better than in the past, but I find large scale contact with people very draining and the lack of recovery solitude of late (Thanks COVID!) hasn’t helped my temper and general mental state. If I’ve taken my time responding, or I’ve been short with you, I can only apologize. The brain is a harsh thing.
Therefore, I’ve found myself diving back into gaming. The Cold War idea has mostly been set to the back burner (I did make a playlist, but in my defense the Hymn to Red October slaps, as I believe the kids say?) and I’m slowly getting back into gear on the Babylon 5 game, which is good, as my pitch got accepted for Pheno! I picked up the 3 issue In Valen’s Name comic run recently and between that and the novel To Dream in the City of Sorrows, I’m getting more of a handle on Minbari politics and history. It’s both frustrating and freeing however, looking up historical details and there being nothing, so there’s likely to be a fair whack of ‘Well, here’s my headcanon, so OK?” I’d like to have some details ironed out (First Contact with the Vorlons was when?) for consistency if nothing else. I get that I’ve likely been spoiled by the vast amounts of data on Memory Alpha and Wookiepedia, but at the same time, I’m far less worried about conflicting with things so yay? The Babylon 5 wiki is comprehensive as is the encyclopedia, but there’s still vast areas of the B5 universe left undefined. In any case, I’m trying to write my PC’s, but keep getting distracted with looking up historical details and trying to write “Here’s what you know” documents. The struggle continues.
Turning back to LARP, I’ve been bashing round ideas for a character to play at Midgard, a new LARP that started recently. So, the initial impression was I wanted to play something magical, maybe Druid-esque, something different. At least, different to my usual character type of well meaning idiot nobles. Now, upon the glance over their world details revealed there’s a large desert area which is the homeland of the Dragonkin empire and an idea popped into my head. However, there’s an important question at this point, and I haven’t been able to answer it yet. The question?
Is this a functional character idea, or do I just want to cosplay as Ardeth Bey?
Don’t get me wrong, in no way am I saying that cosplaying as Ardeth Bey is a bad thing. Far from it. Oded Fehr is a treasure, and I will fight any who dispute otherwise. I just want to have a reason for being there, to not fall into my old trap of basing a character around one thing and then being bored when it actually makes it into play. and I want to dress flashy, to avoid mostly red and black garb and to dress in bright fabrics. I’d link to the Brass Coast section from Empire LARP as they’ve been a great source of initial garb ideas, but as their website seems to be down, but here’s the Google Image Search. It’s bright, shiny and distinctive and that’s where my head is at at the moment. Hell, I’ve even spent some time looking at Dragon masks and prosthetics, but I’m being sensible and not purchasing before decisions are made.
So, I’ve things to wrestle with. Good night all. Be seeing you.
So, in good news, the wand holster has arrived! It… will take some getting used to. Possibly some leather softener as well. Feels good to wear it though. We have the dress code for the wedding, and I have plans. I’m thinking a grey suit, likely more dark than light, and contemplating a grey cloak over that. Part modern Gandalf, part Dresden Files Warden. I don’t plan to add any more, maybe a fancy ring or two, but outside that relatively low key. I mean, it’s not as if I’d take a wizards staff with me, that would be ridiculous…
As for the suit, when I think grey, my first thoughts are Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Tom Cruise in Collateral. I wouldn’t put myself in that standard, but I’m willing to try. I’m not sure where this burst of wanting to dress flash has come from, but I’m happy to feed it. Possibly all the spy movies I’ve been watching lately – there’s nothing like a Bond movie to make me want to buy a good suit. This just leaves me the choice of do I keep growing my beard out,or keep it short and neat? Decisions, decisions…
Speaking of spies, I found out today that Haley ‘Peggy Carter’ Atwell co-hosts an espionage podcast. As I’ve only just found out about this, heads will have to roll in my spy networks.
There’s one small thing I wanted to add regarding the Noel Clarke news. This is strictly an in character thing, but it’s a grudge I’ve hauled around for some time and it’s this: MARTHA JONES DESERVED BETTER.
I’m not accusing Russell T Davies of racism, but putting the only two black characters on the show together, when they’d barely spoken leading up to it? Martha had Hot Doctor Milligan (Who some of you may know as TV’s Lucifer) and was engaged to him.And then what, Mickey? How, why? I remember reading somewhere that Davies regarded Milligan as a fling, with the only canon mention of the end of the relationship it being in a Torchwood audio. This isn’t a recent grudge of mine, I’ve been carrying that since The End of Time, and will continue to. This is, as they say, a hill I will die on.
So, the Cold War idea, I’m trying to put it to one side for the moment, in order to concentrate on the event I should be writing. Watching CinemaWins/Sins takes on the Mission Impossible films on my lunch break hasn’t helped that, but a pile of episodes of the Audio Guide to Babylon 5 podcast has. On a slightly spoilery not, I bloody love the habit they have through 1st season of when they hit the spoiler filled part of the podcast one of them will yell “SINCLAIR IS VALEN!”
But yes, to get my head thinking about Babylon 5, I should start rewatching Babylon 5. It’s more a bouncing around important episodes sort of thing rather than from start to finish, but there’s every chance I’ll do that as well. I’ve spoken much in the past about my love for the show – for those newer readers, dialogue from the show was read at my wedding. That should explain things nicely.
Minor diversion: Every so often there’ll be talk of a Babylon 5 reboot and before you start asking JMS about it, he only holds the feature film rights, while Warners holds everything else – books, TV, comics etc, so please, don’t. There’s been a few attempts at getting a feature made over the years, but I feel it works better in the TV format. To me, there’s no way of getting across the scope of the B5 universe in 120 minutes.
While I’m opposed to a remake on general principle, I’m not so biased as to think there aren’t things that couldn’t be improved. There’s chunks of dialogue that could be less “As you know Bob, a thousand years ago”, fight scenes with less ham (Sheridan’s in Ceremonies of Light and Dark comes to mind), and improvements in CG could make the space battles truly jaw dropping. But you know the one thing I really want? For a member of the Minbari Worker Caste to actually get a line of dialogue. It takes till season 2 for Delenn to even admit they exist.
It could be said that I’m trying to rectify that with the game I’m writing, and while that’s not why I’m writing it, it’s certainly a bonus. Anyhow, the rewatch! (Back to the point of this entry) The first ep in the rewatch was Legacies, from season 1, and my overwhelming impression can be boiled down to one word: Neroon. From the first second he appears, his arrogance is in full bloom and it’s so wonderful a performance from John Vickery that the man should never have to pay for a drink in his life. I’d put him up against Robert O’Reilly (Chancellor Gowron from Star Trek: TNG and DS9) in the great villain stakes, but there’s more to him than overacting. Either way, whenever he’s on screen my eye is turned towards him, there’s an real ‘That guys a dick, but I really want to see what he does next’ kind of appeal. What really surprised me was going back and seeing he’s only in 5 episodes, but he casts a very long shadow over them. Yes, one of them is Grey 17 is Missing, but he’s the best part in it, so shut your mouth!
With the show recently getting a hi-def remaster for it’s appearance on streaming service HBO Max, it’s never looked so good. It occasionally pains me that the DVD releases were so bargain basement, but I’m the first to admit I’ve been utterly spoiled by the work the Doctor Who Restoration Team puts in. Between restoring colour from black and white prints, audio clean up to tracking down the newspapers that a Morris Dancer has on his costume, right down to the dates, they set the gold standard for vintage television releases. Hell, the upcoming release of Doctor Who’s 24th season has 24 HOURS OF RAW STUDIO FOOTAGE. As much as I’d love to dig into it, that’s too much even for me.
Speaking of Doctor Who, there was some mighty unpleasant news, with Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith) being accused of groping and harassment by 20 women who spoke to the Guardian newspaper. Further allegations have come to light about his behaviour on the set of Doctor Who, with co-star John Barrowman also coming under criticism. Barrowman was spoken to by the production team at the time, and has apologized, while Clarke has denied all allegations. The fact that this shit is still going on, and reports of Clarke’s behaviour date back to the mid 2000’s just makes it all the more horrifying.
It hurts, that we’re still dealing with this attitude, and that I’d heard stories of Barrowman’s behaviour and laughed about it. Hell, it’s mentioned in The Ballad of Russell and Julie, and treated as a lighthearted joke. And yes, while it’s understood that Barrowman’s habit of exposing himself was intended as a prank, I still feel awkward at my laughing about it. Learning from one’s behaviour and changing things when needed is a useful, though at times painfu,l thing.
it was a good night at sword, but now it’s time for sleep. Be seeing you…
First off, there’s two things I mean to include in the last post. The first will be right here, the second I’ll get to later. As happens whenever I watch anything Transformers related, I’m reminded of a line I saw on RPG.Net many years ago, that was as true then as it is now.
“I struggle to understand people who say they’d kill for a religion, but then I remember that if Optimus Prime asked me to kill someone they’re a dead man.”
It’s a toss up between Prime and Luke Skywalker as to who was the defining figure of my childhood, but if either of them asked me to do something heinous, then I’d likely do so without question. I mean, if they’ve asked me to, who am I to refuse?
Moving on, thanks to some lovely encouragement from friends (You know who you are!) I have further thoughts on the Cold War magic game idea. I’d like my brain to be concentrating on Minbari politics for my Babylon 5 game, but I’ve met my brain. I like the title A Colder War, even though that was used for a series of freeforms in Sydney many years back. Either way, it’s a placeholder. So, what’s with the idea, why has it gripped me so? I’m not sure. I mean, I like James Bond films and I like wizards, so why not mash the two together? It’s also a relatively modern era game, which would provide a contrast to the fantasy games running in my area.
I have this image that popped into my head of a spy, stolen documents in his briefcase, being tailed through a city. he tries and fails to dodge them, and is chased into a back alley. Steeling himself, he reaches inside his jacket for a weapon, but instead of a gun he draws a wand. Muttering something in quasi-Latin a dark blue glow emanates from the tip of the wand, and he steps out to face his pursuers.
So yes, that’s kind of what sparked this.
And here’s the second thing I meant to include. So, with a lot of magical conspiracy type games, the Cthulhu Mythos looms very large. And while I like the idea of the Mythos, so to speak, I’m of the view that it’s a level of bleak that I’m not prepared to go to. I bloody love the Cthulhu Live: Delta Green sourcebook (It’s chapters on tradecraft and running interrogations are fantastic, if a little disturbing, but the setting is far too horrific for my taste as a GM. I’ve been racking my brain trying to explain where my comfort zone is, and the best example that comes to mind is Ghostbusters. There’s some scares, some laughs and the monster is defeated with maybe some splatter – it’s a style of game I can see myself running. And more importantly, I think it’ll be something that I’m happy to write and run. I lost a *lot* of my taste for dystopia around November 2016 and I’m in no rush to get it back.
With some brainstorming advice from my wife, I think I have a working draft for a pair of prelude games.
GAME 1: THE EAST: Something has been awoken. Could be an earthquake, could be a nuclear test, but something has cracked open that SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN. It could be related to Baba Yaga, as that’s the only bit of Russian folklore I know. Mythology is weird. Either way, there’s a tiny government department, established by Stalin to find stuff the Nazis wanted to steal, that’s about to get a whole lot of attention. Sure, most people ignore said department, or would close it, but since Stalin ordered it open they’re too terrified to touch it. Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean squat. Either way, magic is coming back and shit’s about to get weird. What do you do?
GAME 2: THE WEST. Reports are sketchy, but something big has happened in Russia. There’s no concrete details, but something strange is most definitely in their neighborhood. There’s a tiny, underfunded and mostly overlooked agency, established during WW2 (That is NOT Delta Green) to look at the odd and unexplained that are about to attract a whole lot of attention. Magic, real freaking magic, has awoken. The United States thought the A-bomb was the biggest weapon they had. Well, not any more.
So yeah, that’s something. What follows is a mix of more questions and brainstorming down with my wife (She who is all wise and makes my games better).
So, something has happened to reawaken magic in the world? My wife’s ideas was a nuclear test has cracked open something, which is a better idea than my thought of *waves in the general direction of an Age of Aquarius sign.* There’s that 60’s nuclear paranoia that runs through a lot of pop culture (Hello, Daleks!) and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought of trying to run something inspired by The Prisoner in this setting. Sure, the idea of taking over a scout camp for a weekend and turning into The Village is a tad too insane, or ambitious, but I love the idea.
The big questions rattling round my head are as follows: What does magic actually do? The thought occurs that boundaries are not so much required, but having a rough idea of what can be done sets a framework for PC’s to work with. How is it harnessed? Do practitioners shout something Latin-esque and point, do they have to sacrifice something (Blood, life etc) or a Vancian spells per day system? Magic is coming back, but what about magical beings? Ghosts, goblins, Elves etc? I mean, I hadn’t thought of going full Goblinization ala Shadowrun, but things lurking in the forests adds some flavour at least, and expands the setting somewhat. That may be something for further on down the line – You’ve bartered peace deals between nuclear armed superpowers, but have you ever dealt with a dragon? I want heroes on both sides – the idea of the Soviets being all the bad guys is off the table. I’m keen for uneasy alliances and people who could be friends facing off. “The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy” and all that. The idea of a large scale game where both sides must unite or be destroyed is calling to me, but who’s to say when the post victory backstabbing will begin?
Time to hit post and go to sleep. Therapy tomorrow. Good night all, be seeing you…
So, remember that wand shoulder holster I mentioned a while back? Thanks to a generous birthday gift, I have one coming to me. And outside of wearing it at an upcoming wedding (I have the bride and grooms approval) and wearing it around the house, I don’t have another use for it, and I find myself looking for one. Regular readers will know my brain can be dangerous at moments like this.
The closest thing to an idea I have is ‘Cold War espionage, but with magic’. I don’t know quite why the idea has gripped me so much, but here we are. I’ve read the first Laundry Files book and enjoyed it, find the Bond films superior to the novels (Whenever I read any of the Fleming novels I wonder how they became so successful, but I’m not in 1950’s England), and utterly adore the Rivers of London series. The BPRD from Hellboy seems a good source of inspiration and I’ve heard good things about the series The Magicians, but haven’t seen it yet. And before anyone says anything, yes I have thought about adding Cthulhu, but I’ll leave the Mythos to it’s own corner for the time being.
This idea, or skeleton of it, doesn’t really fit with any of them. That’s also likely why it’ll end up in my ‘Ideas I love, but can’t get to work’ folder. Still, let’s continue on the creative exercise shall we?
So, let’s brainstorm out the basics and ask a few questions. We’re saying an alternate universe 60’s. The Atomic Age is replaced by the Magical Age, with the superpowers rushing to harness arcane power to combat and/or guard against their rivals. Not a bad start. Factions and/or nationalities. If we’re looking at Cold War, then East vs West. So, Russia and it’s satellite states against the Americans and English. What sort of magic is there? Wand based, point and shoot, something vaguely Latin, or a more time consuming ceremonial sort of dealie? For that matter, where does it come from? Has it always been there, or did someone open a door they shouldn’t have? I like the idea of a recent reawakening, leaving the higher ups scrambling to harness this new weapon. How much does the general public know? Is there a masquerade, or is copping a Magic Missile in the street an occupational hazard? What does magic actually do? Offense, defense, can you hook a wizard up to a treadmill and power a city block? Is the magic system freeform, based on Jack Vance, or should I go back through the LARP rules for Mage: the Ascension?
Lastly, what will the PC’s actually do? What’s the point of the whole thing, what story would I be I hoping to tell? It’s an important set of questions and one that a lot of my past campaign ideas have ignored, to their detriment. It’s a mistake I’m trying not to repeat again, and while it seems to be working in the case of Bombshells, I’m under no illusions that I couldn’t make that mistake again.
Above all, what’s the mood of the thing? Bleak and dangerous, with betrayal and danger at every turn? Something like the Bond films, high action and flashy action? Let’s be realistic here – I can try for as much Le Carre as I want, but with my GM’ing style and sensibilities, it’s more likely to be Gandalf, Agent 86. I mean, a few small rewrites and I can see the following scene with two wizards divesting themselves of their magical items. (And as an aside, the suicide wedding ring joke is *chef kiss*)
Outside of that, I’m not great. I mean yes, things are improving. The Iron Maidens have rebooked for Feb next year, Blacktown Medieval Fair is next month and I continue to enjoy rapier. I’ve resubmitted my Babylon 5 freeform to Pheno (Rewatching the show for research will likely produce a flood of emotions) and Cyberpunk 2077 is surprisingly good. I’m not joking – I continue to be surprised at how much I’m enjoying it, and it’s moments of genuine emotional heft. Plus, you know, having Keanu Reeves in your head. I’ve had much the same feelings with the series Transformers: War for Cybertron, which despite not having any of the original voice cast, is still pretty damn good. It’s a grim contrast with the original series, turning what was basically a 23 minute toy commercial into an epic tragedy.
But at the same time, my brain is still far from fine. My temper is closer to the surface than it’s ever been, I’m not sleeping well (I’m on a new medication for that, but it’s still early days) and I’ve fallen of the diet in recent weeks. I find myself missing solitude more, but at the same time I’m wary of too much of it. I’m planning to ask my psych for an boost in my dose or a new set of pills. Therapy on Wednesday. Therapy is good and needed.
So, I’m now 41. The birthday party was wonderful – a friend letting me win at Munchkin as a present and once again hiring a projector for the backyard. The night’s films were the 1973 The Three Musketeers and, what is rapidly becoming tradition for my household, The Mummy, with Brendan Fraser’s commentary track. I consider spreading the gospel of that adaption of the Musketeers something of a mission in my life and hearing it be received with such warmth, even by my sister, who, warmed my heart to a degree I hadn’t thought possible in the week leading up to the event. It’s a film that’s very much my happy place and I’ve long since lost count of the number of times I’ve watched it.
True, my brain before and after the event was kind of falling to pieces, but for that day I was happy, and I’ll take that as a win.
This week in need of a pick me up I was faced with something of a quandry. I’d made up my mind to purchase something from Big Finish Productions, makers of fine audio content. But given their vast back catalogue, what do I buy? Do I pre-order the Ninth Doctor Adventures, get some more Torchwood stories or to dip my toe into the new series UNIT stories?
I settled on the UNIT: Assembled box set, because a story where Osgood meets Jo Jones (Nee Grant) was just what I needed, and it’s as delightful as I could have hoped for. The fact we also get the new UNIT crew meeting Mike Yates and Sgt Benton from the classic series was the icing on the cake. The new characters all have their place (Given it’s the 4th box set, I’m certain there’s background characters I’m supposed to know), the legacy characters all get moments to shine and aren’t just being heeled out for a quick cameo – there’s a lot of love for the show, both eras of it. I will be purchasing more.
The title also got me thinking and we know how dangerous that can be. With that, I present the following. Hopefully the creators who’s work I’m butchering in the name of fun will be kind.
The United Kingdom, beset by alien invasions, has fallen back and back til it can retreat no more. The brave men and women of UNIT are making their final stand against the alien hordes that, time and time again, have tried to overwhelm them. They’ve always won the day before, but today does not seem to be UNIT’s day. Against them, stand near every alien who’s ever looked at Earth and thought it easy pickings. Squat Sontarans, laser rifles raised, march into battle. Auton shop window dummies, gold skinned Axons and massive Yeti blast away at humanity’s last stand. Silurians emerge from the Earth, as Sea Devils have risen from the waves. Cybermen march through the chaos and a massive Krynoid overshadows the battlefield, crushing men and hope beneath it’s every tread. Ogrons lumber along, laughing as they kill, and in the center of it all, Daleks. The children of Skaro move across the field, chanting EXTERMINATE over and over, killing at every turn. This is not war, this is massacre.
They’ve made their last stand today, in a place that just happens to look like a rock quarry in Wales. Captain Mike Yates has made his stand on the right flank, blasting away at an encroaching group of Sontarans. On the left flank, the ever faithful Sgt Benton is providing covering fire as a group of UNIT engineers frantically try to get an Auton jamming device working again. And in the center of things, the Brigadier. Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Battered and bleeding, he clubs away an Ogron, falling to the ground in the process. He clambers painfully to his knees, trying to wipe away the blood and mud on his face. Things aren’t going well.
He looks around, encircled by his foes. They seem to be holding back, as if waiting for a signal to strike. He bows his head, grits his teeth. He has served faithfully and with honour, but today is destined to be his last, And then, he hears it. A brief burst of static from his radio and a voice. The Brig strains to hear it, his ears not quite believing it. “Greyhound One come in, Greyhound One, are you receiving?” A signal, but from where?
There’s a flash of purple energy and a platoon of soldiers teleport onto the field, weapons blazing. Their uniforms bear UNIT markings, but nothing like Lethbridge Stewart has ever seen. Personnel carriers rumble from over the hill, disgorging more UNIT troops than have ever been seen on screen before. Explosions thunder amongst the ranks of the enemy as tanks appear, pintle mounted gunners sowing chaos in the enemy ranks. The skies above crack with a boom and the carrier Valiant appears, launching fighters, it’s weapons blasting away.. Arcane runes blaze in the sky as a portal from another dimension opens, and out marches Brigadier Bambera and her Knight Consort Ancelyn, both clad in armour, leading a cohort of knights bearing swords and laser guns.
The aliens fall back slightly, unsure how to respond to this turn of events. For UNIT have answered the call. From across time and space, from the future and the past, from our world and others, they have come. Because Earth needed them, because the Brig needed them. The men and women of UNIT form ranks and stand to attention, as if daring the alien horde they face to come and have a go if they think they’re hard enough.
And Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart stands with all the parade ground poise he can muster, smooths his mustache and hits the call button on his radio. “United Nations Intelligence Taskforce” he says, his voice calm and clear as if Her Majesty was watching. He pauses for a brief moment, and looks at the alien horde. For a second, he almost pities them. “Five rounds rapid!”
Yes, what I’m homaging should be immediately apparent. And they fact I’m torn between laughing and being choked up with emotion as I type this may also be a sign of my mental state. I’m sure there’s parts of it I’d change, or to throw in some jokes about half the monsters looks the same, as if they only have three props, or are blue-screened in. Also, I bloody adore Battlefield and will defend it to the last. I’m hoping that someday Big Finish gives us more Winifred Bambera stories. But I need to hit post and will cope. I next see my therapist in a couple of of weeks and oh boy, I have some things to unpack.
So, I’m charging at speed to 41. And to cope with this, I’m making a playlist. Unlike last year’s, I’m trying to be cheerful! It seemed a sensible thing to do, to wallow in songs that bring me joy. (Yes, I do have some) Not misery, bleakness or rage, but that full tilt Bill and Ted, air guitaring like a mad thing kind of joy. The sort of songs that I tell stories about. Actually, stuff it – you’re getting some now. Strap in.
The Ramones, Iron Maiden and Ronnie James Dio feature prominently. Why? Because the Ramones are the finest rock and roll band known to mankind, a fact once acknowledged by no less than Lemmy Kilmister, who was something of an authority of the subject. Rockaway Beach is a *perfect* pop song and that it didn’t sell millions is a stain on humanity.
For some years now I’ve tried to put into words just what rock and roll feels to me, exactly why it matters. I was reminded by my therapist recently about how people exist on a scale, so X amount of people feel really invested in New York rock circa 1976, compared to Y number of people who care about, I dunno, rugby league or something. I’m butchering it no doubt, but there’s the general gist that people have different levels of intensity. It’s good to be reminded that not everyone feels as intensely about things. There are Doctor Who making of documentaries I’ve watched more than the show for starters. So yes, I’m very into rock and roll and you may not be. And that’s OK. I mean, you’re wrong, but you’re allowed to be, much like it’s allowed that there are people who aren’t in tears at the mere mention of the Tale of Iroh. (I am not one of those people) Anyhow, I think I can answer it, and it’s Rockaway Beach. Just listen, it’s all there.
I can still remember clear as day the first time I heard Iron Maidens The Number of the Beast and my exhilaration at that big scream (A product of their singer having spent umpteen hours singing the opening again and again before the producer liked one enough) has not faded one bit in the years since. As for Dio, he specialized in songs that sound like games of Dungeons and Dragons, alternating with songs about the glory of rock and roll. Whether with Rainbow, Black Sabbath or his solo group, that voice is incredible. You should know Holy Diver, but try Kill the King, written when Rainbow realized they needed something fast to open shows with.
The playlist itself. First off, the Damned’s Love Song is *the* greatest love song ever written. The Sunnyboys and the Ramones (Whose I Wanna be your Boyfriend played at my wedding) come damn close, but no cigar. HammerFall’s Hearts on Fire is up there on the list, but I mostly remember the video for it which featured the band up against the Swedish national women’s curling team. Delightful.
The interplay of Johnny Thunders and Sylvain Sylvain’s guitars make the New York Dolls Jet Boy essential listening. Balance that against fellow New Yorkers the Dictators, whose Two Tub Man has a spoken word intro matched only by Manowar’s Black Arrows for sheer hilarity. There are reasons why Handsome Dick Manitoba (AKA the Handsomest Man in Rock and Roll) was listed as secret weapon in the liner notes for their first album. As for unkind accusations about the song Master Race Rock, have they read the lyrics? Besides, half the band are Jewish.
Probot (an early 2000’s project of Dave Grohl) produced Shake Your Blood, which is the greatest Motorhead song not written by Motorhead. As for the Head, I couldn’t not have Ace of Spades and We Are The Road Crew. Lemmy is as close to universally adored as you can be in heavy music circles and despite his continual insistence that Motorhead were a rock and roll band, it’s nigh impossible to go to a metal show and not see at least 1 Motorhead shirt. Books could, and should be written about Overkill, but the last word on that should be about drummer Phil ‘Philthy Animal’ Taylor. As Lemmy told it “He hit everything on the kit in about 2 beats and Larry turned to me and said ‘What a horrible little cunt, he’s perfect.”
There’s only the one TV theme here, but it’s Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts Tank. If the next words in your head aren’t “OK everybody, I think it’s time we blow this scene” are you even alive? Only the theme tune to Monkey comes close and I’m willing to accept no small amount of childhood nostalgia is a factor there.
Dub War’s Strike It blew my mind as a teenager – the mix of jazz, reggae, hip hop and metal stunned me. Though they split far too young, their spirit lives on in singer Benji Webbe’s current act Skindred, who are one of the most ridiculously entertaining live bands I’ve seen. There’s not many support acts who’d enter to the Imperial March and leave to a burst of Nobody Does It Better. The bass in the opening of Under Attack hits like a hammer and the chant of ‘Rock and roll, save my soul’ in Machine speaks to me in a way no religion has ever managed to.
You want some brevity? There’s Napalm Deaths You Suffer, which has the distinction of being the shortest song ever recorded, at roughly 1.13 seconds long. They had something to say and they said it. No mess, no fuss, no fucking about.
Yes, Stairwayto Heaven is there, but it’s Dread not Led Zeppelin. What is this you ask? They cover Zeppelin tunes in a reggae style with an Elvis impersonator on vocals. It’s so stupid an idea it works.
You want riffs? I got em by the truckload. Heaven and Hell’s (AKA Dio era Black Sabbath) Mob Rules is a stand out, with Tony Iommi’s guitar ripping out and Ronnie James Dio’s voice soaring overhead in full sword and sorcery mode. It is one of the highlights of my life that I saw that line up live. For a more meat and potatoes rock and roll, there’s AC/DC’s Riff Raff and TNT, coupled with Airborne’s Back in the Game, whose single minded focus on being AC/DC: The Next Generation has to deserve some sort of award. Breadfan by Budgie is bonkers and has an acoustic interlude that would have fit on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, but holy shit that opening riff is amazing. Metallica’s cover is far from bad either and is where I’d wager most of you know it from.
The stomping late 70s glam drum sound of Iron Maidens Running Free and the spiky aggression of Wrathchild stand against the blood and thunder of the Bruce Dickinson era – the opening drumming on Where Eagles Dare is fucking incredible (I’ve heard it described as a drum kit being thrown down the stairs) and the old school gallop of Death or Glory is positively infectious, in a good way. When they performed Flight of Icarus on their recent tour, they let Dickinson wield a pair of flamethrowers on stage, something so absurd and glorious it’s matched only by the mid 80’s Dio tour where he fought a dragon with an electric sword. I told you he wrote songs that sounded like Dungeons and Dragons, but did you believe me?
Turning to Detroit, we have the MC5’s mission statement Kick Out The Jams, one of the finest live albums out there. You can hear the Stooges evolve from the fuzz tone stoner rock of I Wanna be Your Dog to the hallucinogenic freak out that is 1970 and the full tilt everything’s about to explode feel of Search and Destroy. Someday I’ll sing that at a karaoke event. Be afraid, be very afraid, and not just cause I sing like Dave Lister plays guitar.
Sonic’s Rendevous Band’s immortal City Slang is a song unique in that every version I’ve heard has different lyrics. Radio Birdman’s Aloha Steve and Danno has one of the greatest solos ever put to tape and the Lime Spiders Slave Girl has a groove to it that’s rarely matched. Go for the original and not the Goo Goo Dolls cover. The Bellray’s maximum rock and soul was a revelation to me and it’s a gospel I will happily preach.
I could continue, and if you ask me in person I will, but I really should sleep. I’ll leave you with one last note: Yes, the Cantina Song is one there, because WHY NOT?
It’s not that I’ve not been wanting to write, it’s just the times when my brain has been the most fertile is when I’ve been trying to drift off to sleep, so going to the laptop isn’t always the most sensible thing to do. I should know by now that I’ll never remember things, so I should just get up and write them down regardless.
So, let’s look at what’s been going on, in three easily marked segments.
I’m still alive. Look, it’s not that it was a risk, but there’s days it feels good to state. I’m not in danger or having suicidal thoughts or anything of that ilk, but yes, I’m still here.
I managed to make it down to my sisters wedding, and the speech I gave went well. How well? I spent the rest of the night and a lot of the recovery BBQ the day after fending off compliments on it, to the extent I started to want to say ‘Yes, thanks, the compliments are lovely, but I’m not one of the two people you should really be paying attention to at this function.’ Praise is lovely and does wonders for my ego, but there’s a point when it becomes too much. Introvert life and all that. Yes, I’m aware I’m still talking about the thing, but I put a large part of that down to relief at how well the thing went. Weddings are a lot of stress even without Covid and I wanted to be as little stress as possible. Also, we got to see Nephew again, who is a VERY GOOD BOY.
If you’ve seen my wife since then she has shown you the video she took of it, but for those who haven’t I can sum things up thusly: At no point do I swear, yell ‘By Crom, Ymir and Set!’ or threaten people that if they didn’t pay attention I’d drench this wedding in the blood of it’s guests. Also, despite near every part of my brain screaming at me to, I made the toast to the bride and groom, and not ‘And if you would charge your glasses and… RELEASE THE KRAKEN!‘ My sister is the sensible one out of of the two of us, and she would not have appreciated that.
The pulp game I’m running is going well. I’m still having ideas, casting NPC’s and looking forward to sessions. Most importantly of all, my players seem to be enjoying things. Hell, I’m having thoughts about picking up the Torchwood idea I had a while back for one of my other groups. It’s a little thing, but having the creative part of my brain working again brings so much joy.
I bought a cape. It has purple lining. All three of us who study rapier of a Tuesday bought one. It may have been a way of signalling that we want to learn rapier and cloak, but buying something that makes me happy is something I have no shame about. I still haven’t been able to find a pirate/cavalier hat I like enough that’s in my size. The quest continues…
There’s a new Rivers of London novella out now, and it is paining me to have put it on my birthday wish list rather than having it now. Also, I’m really looking forward to introducing Niece, Almost 13 to the series. Speaking of Niece, I recently added The Court Jester to the list of movies we have to show her, as I really want to see her reaction to the ‘vessel with the pestle’ scene. She adored The Mummy which we recently showed her, so we should be able to get her in front of it without too much bribery, which will likely be required for more Babylon 5.
Every time I book time away from my brain doctor my brain falls to pieces. Guess why I’m mentioning that?
Between falling off the no sugar diet and the new happy pills I’ve put back on most of the weight I’d lost. The days have seemed bleaker at times, and that’s when I’ve traditionally reached for sugar, so yeah. I’m trying to minimize the intake when I do fall off the wagon, but I’m still not happy with it.
I’m heading towards 41 at a terrifying speed. 40 didn’t seem much (Outside of the playlist I made), but I seem to be heading towards… something. Whether mid life crisis, plain old crisis, or something else I’ve no idea.
Having an appointment with a new doctor and working out that my Achilles tendons my be somewhat fucked. Ow. Combined with all the other minor aches and the already existing plantar fasciitis and being on my feet all day for work and well, yeah.
Talking to the new doctor about my brain was raw. They’re doctors, it’s part of the job (And for that I will always respect them), but that first “Here’s my brain” moment is always terrifying.She seemed delighted by the idea of RPG’s though.
The latest Classic Doctor Who box set is out nw in the UK, but JBHiFi says my pre-order will arrive in late May.
The Iron Maidens had to delay their gig again. I completely understand why, but I’m really missing gigs. The sweat, the stench of spilt beer, the exhilaration, the sheer joy that live music brings me, I miss it so damn much.
I worked out that a couple of Sundays back is the first time I’ve been alone in my house, in a minimum 6 months, and likely since the start of Covid. Gods, I’d missed it. I didn’t do anything strange with the time, just relaxed in the silence. And ran around Viking era Britain murdering people. Getting to pet cats in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla is a delight.
I’m still getting angry quicker than I’d like. There will always be things to work on I guess?
So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to. I hope you and yours are well and remain so. Be seeing you…
Well, session 2 of Crimson Skies was on Thursday and it went… OK. I had something of an attack of nerves through the session, but managed to keep things relatively on track. Anyhow, my PC’s were entered into an air race by their patron, though he’d neglected to mention that till the morning of the race itself. Some of the other contestants didn’t say much, they made friends with one and an enemy of another, with mockery so delightful it’s ensured his return as a recurring problem. The race itself went well, and Savage Worlds chase mechanic is wonderful, with the 3 PC’s having the podium to themselves. I hadn’t been certain on the PC’s winning, but true to form my dice crippled the opposition. The session ended with them going out for dinner and drinks with Errol Flynn, and there’s nothing that could possibly go wrong there.
I’ve been continuing thoughts on 7th Sea. I’m still short of a definitive character idea, but ideas continue to flow. Less character ideas, and more bits of costume that I could build a character around. Listening again to The Lies of Locke Lamora has certainly turned my ideas to a more rougish bent (As well as being tempted to buy a pair of throwing hatchets to conceal inside a coat), and near as I can tell that’s part of the campaigns themes. I also picked up S4 of Black Sails, and while I’m continuing to enjoy the show, the sense of impending doom grows ever stronger the closer I get to it’s end.
As for ostume, hopefully you can see my problem? There’s a nice coat, or perhaps this? I’m certainly planning on buying a pair of these, as they’re useful for pirate events and The Hobbits Hoedown, should that ever run again. Perhaps a pauldron much like the ones in the recent BBC Musketeers TV show? I am settled on one thing thought – I want a minimum of black and red in my outfit. I can’t think to any reason why, other than wanting some variety. Blues, maybe green, something different than the stereotype. I can certainly kit myself out in black and scarlet from kit I already own, but I’m feeling the need for something different for this game.
Right. It’s late and the sedative on my meds has kcked in. Night all. sleep well, I’ll most likely kill you in the moring