7 Album Challenge

So, a friend recently challenged me to the latest Facebook fad, that of challenging people to name albums that have influenced them, no comment or explanations. Of course, asking me about rock and roll and saying not to comment on that? Yeah right. I wrote a little about each album, but my muse punched me in the back of the head today, so you’re getting an expanded version. Also, I’ve had ‘Istanbul, Not Constantinople’ stuck in my head ALL DAMN DAY, so hopefully this will help dislodge it. It’s not that the song is bad per se, but it reminds me of a time in my life I don’t much like to remember, so. It’s not been a pleasant day. I feel I should set the atmosphere with this excerpt from Almost Famous, the scene that made me fall in love with the film.

And he’s correct – it is NEVER too early for Search and Destroy.

Let’s get to it.

1: Ramones, Rocket to RussiaR-2573759-1487956469-3937.jpeg

Their first album has a more iconic cover (There are walking tours that’ll go past the spot where it was taken) and It’s Alive is the greatest live album/Greatest Hits of all time, but for my money this album can’t be beat. It’s a perfect summation of the band and the last time the original lineup recorded a studio album. Look, it contains Sheena is a Punk Rocker, what more do I need to say?  It’s been a  dream of mine for seemingly decades now to meet someone with that name so I can ask are they a punk rocker? That that, add the likes of Cretin Hop, I Don’t Care and We’re a Happy Family, and you’ve got perfection. All killer, no filler.

2: Radio Birdman – Radios Appear
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This was one of those rare albums without a dud track, a dud solo or even a dud moment. Even the gaps between tracks command the attention, as you desperately try to get your breath back before the next track kicks in. From the crashing waves that signal the start of  Aloha Steve and Danno (a tribute to the band’s favorite cop show) to a final ferocious run through the 13th Floor Elevators classic You’re Gonna Miss Me, this takes no prisoners. When I got a copy of this I listened to virtually nothing but it for weeks. It’s burned into my brain to a degree I thought not possible. I have trouble remembering important things like relatives birthdays, computer passwords and the like, and yet this I can hear this in my head at a moments notice. It’s over 40 years old and is still as vital as the day it was first recorded. Essential.

3: Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
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The first Maiden album I bought was A Real Live One, which to be charitable, is no Live After Death, but the title track to their third album was the first Maiden song I heard, and I was immediately hooked. From the spoken word intro (Recorded by a Vincent Price sound alike after the band couldn’t afford his fee), the atmosphere of the intro (That nearly drove singer Bruce Dickinson mad recording) and then it hit me. That. Big .Scream. I was never the same from that moment on. It’s been near 25 years, and I’m still just as devoted to the band. Yes, about a side of the album is a little sub par*, but the other half more than makes up for it. really, when that half is is comprised of  stone cold classics the likes of the title track, Run to the Hills, The Prisoner and the almighty Hallowed be thy Name, anything will pale in comparison. Up the Irons!

4: Motorhead –  No Remorse
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i’d heard stories about the band and their leader, the mythical creature known simply as Lemmy, and his famous boast that ‘If Motorhead moved next door to you your lawn would die.’ And then, Bambi. The Young Ones was a revelation to young me. It was crude, violent, foul and anarchic, all things that I kind of wanted to be but were in reality far too polite and guilt ridden to even think of being. And then with a command of ‘Music!’ from Christopher Ryan, Motorhead appeared.  (I’d like to say my eardrums have never been the same, but that was thanks to the Rollins Band) This was the first album of theirs I purchased, a best of compilation with a few new tracks to show off a new (and short lived) lineup, but as an introduction to the band it worked like a charm.

Much like our next act, they never really changed their sound once they’d found it. Sure, there was the odd deviation (1916 never fails to make me weep), but no matter the year, you hit play on a Motorhead album you know what you’ll get. As Lemmy said to intro shows “We are Motorhead, and we play rock and roll.” Truer words have rarely been spoken.

5: AC/DC – Live
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Again, I knew of them beforehand, having heard Who Made Who, but this made me a fan. Sure, the guitar solos during The Jack and Jailbreak are overlong, but it cuts most of the mid 80’s dreck and gives you a solid mix of the Bon Scott and Brian Johnson eras. Yes, the Bon stuff is superior (Would you rate Thunderstruck over Highway to Hell?) and I’ve not met anyone who’ll deny that, but the Brian era has it’s share of gems – I can’t help but get worked up during the cannon fire of For Those About to Rock. It’s meat and potatoes rock and roll, but played with incredible consistency – I’d wager no-one alive has picked up an Acca Dacca record and not known what you’re about to get, and they should be celebrated for that. Live is where music is best experienced after all.

6: Dub War – Pain
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There were a few albums around this time that turned my head and opened my ears to sounds anew – Faith No More’s The Real Thing, Sepultura’s Roots and Fear Factory’s Demanufacture among others. But Dub War were like nothing I’d ever heard before – a mix of punk, metal, reggae and electronic all chucked in a blender to mesmerizing effect. That description may sound bonkers, and you’d be right, but the boundaries they laughed at made it all the more joyful. Hell, I even bought their remix album for crying out loud, something I never thought I’d do previously. Underappreciated in their time, like all great artists, their spirit lives on in singer Benji Webbe’s current band Skindred.

7: The Hu – The Gereg
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Mongolian throat singing and heavy metal – two amazing things that sound even more amazing smashed together. Most folk metal (at least that I’ve heard) has a Viking or Celtic bent, but with bands like this and Tengger Cavalry, it’s challenging the white European centric view of metal and that is a damn good thing. (Yes, I’m aware that Tang Dynasty were the first, but work with me here.) Back to the band, they’re metal as fuck but in a chill kind of way. This is made for listening to when walking across ancient mountains, or while writing Dungeons and Dragons games, rather than frenzied moshing. Not that I wouldn’t jump in the pit though, for the KHAAAAAAAN!

The real kicker? Owing to Covid 19 they’re currently (As far as I know) stranded in Australia and can’t play  shows. So close, and yet so far…

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you…

*Still better than the likes of Quest for Fireor Don’t Look to the Eyes of a Stranger mind you. I adore the Maiden, but they’ve a few stinkers in the back catalogue that’s for sure.

BARSOOM!

What’s been happening since last I wrote? Well, we had a fire in the kitchen at home, which wasn’t fun. To be clear, meat on the grill caught fire. It was put out speedily without any damage, other than to the meal. Made for some unneeded excitement, that’s for certain. Plus, we got pizza instead! Also, I’m set to make my housemates pancakes tomorrow morning as an isolation treat. I am a good housemate.

So, I’ve had a little more time to dig through the John Carter of Mars RPG. I’m nowhere near through the book, but I’m certainly intrigued, in that first flash of interest kind of way. You know, that feeling when you see a new and shiny thing and the brain has trouble thinking about anything but it. This normally only happens to me about a month out from a convention when I’m madly trying to finish the current game, so it’s nice that things have changed up a little.

To quibble, I’m really not thrilled with the landscape format of the book as it makes reading the PDF fiddly on a tablet. It certainly has me tempted to buy the dead tree version at some point in the future, if only to make reading the damn thing easier. In better news, I found the film’s soundtrack on Spotify and it was a delight to see that at least half the track titles were a reference or pun. For example, A Thern for the Worst, Get Carter, and The Second Biggest Apes I’ve Seen This Month, which I can’t help but hear in Maxwell Smart’s voice. Silly song titles are a fine way to get my attention, and it’s quite lovely music.

Right, back to the book. The books layout and art are lovely, with a good touch of Frank Frazetta and that’s never a bad thing to me. There’s a lot of adaptability in the system, with the combining two attributes and roll under mechanic based more around how you’re trying to do something instead of what. On the bright side, a roll low mechanic suits my dice curse just fine. I dig the Momentum and Threat mechanics, and they remind me of the Bennies from Savage Worlds. Sure, record keeping isn’t exactly my forte. and half the time I mangle systems in the name of fun, but isn’t fun the point?

From what I have read, the feel of the thing is right up my alley. It’s hitting that cinematic swashbuckling decayed civilization thing that I dig pretty damn hard. Emotions are heightened, there’s mad dashes into action, frequently against impossible odds, ancient ruins and strange technologies. Duels of honour, savage hordes, giant apes and fancy airships. That’s pretty much my jam right there.

So, there’s only a few things in the way. The ones that come to mind are:
1: Can I avoid the mistakes of previous campaigns?
2: Can I keep track of everything that’s going on, and not screw up too many details?
3: Can I keep it going for longer than my initial burst of enthusiasm?
4: Most importantly, can I put this to one side while I write my Minbari game?

Council

There’s every chance it’ll be added to the pile of partially written ideas I have stashed away, or maybe set it aside for a future convention game. Based on my schedule, it’ll be Pheno 2022 at the earliest, as it’s Minbari this year, and the cinematic pulp heroes fight Nazi Cthulhu cultists next year. That’s the plan at least, based on the reaction to the idea. Yes, there’s other conventions I could run at, but I’m on a bit of a hiatus from them at the moment.

I dunno. Maybe a few more days and it’ll get out of my system, at least temporarily. It’s not that I don’t want to try GM’ing a regular game again, but A: I don’t have a campaign idea for this yet, B: there’s no way I’m GMing this over voice or video chat and C: I need to get across the system first. The usual issues, you know?

More to follow. Be seeing you.

Dice over Discord

So, what have I, and my brain, been doing since last I wrote? Not much. Work. Bought a new pair of headphones and the S26 Doctor Who set. 3 versions of Battlefield to watch, a new cut of The Curse of Fenric and an enormous pile of supplemental material (Scripts and production paperwork!) to make my way through! I don’t know why I adore making of material so much, but it certainly brings joy and then some. Tracey and I watched Detective Pikachu tonight and while it was enjoyable, I can’t help but wonder how Bill Nighy got involved (Outside of the obvious fact that the man has bills to pay), and I suspect I’d get a lot more of the jokes and background details if I knew anything about Pokemon.

Thanks to a subscriber deal I also picked up the PDF of the John Carter of Mars RPG for free, and it’s very, very pretty. I haven’t had time to delve into it yet beyonf the opening pages, but upon hearing about it my wife all but demanded to play a Thark, as in her words “I want green babies!” For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, just imagine the following picture tinier and cuter:
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I don’t know if I’ll ever run it, despite my wife’s “You buy it, you run it” policy. I need to dig into it more beforehand to see if I can think of adventure ideas. I know comparatively little about the setting, mostly what the film gave us, the glorious beautifully designed mess that it is. I wasn’t a fan of the prologue, feeling it took too long to get us to Mars, but oh, once it did… Making Dejah Thoris more than a damsel in distress was a sensible decision and getting to see/hear the likes of Willem Defoe and James Purefoy chewing scenery as only they can is a delight. Plus a mini Rome reunion with Ciaran Hinds!

Staying on gaming, I ran Destination Mongo, my Flash Gordon adventure, for some friends over Discord yesterday. While fun was had, or certainly seemed to, I’m still not fully sold on voice chat gaming. I was hoping for video, but my tiny laptop couldn’t hack it sadly. It’s not that it’s bad, and I certainly feel I could have been a better GM, but it really makes me miss the communal feeling of a group around a table. Yes, it meant that friends from far away could join in the fun and that’s wonderful, but only hearing people’s voices means I miss a lot of visual cues. Also, they can’t see it when I’m distracted writing down funny lines from them, some of which are below.

“Everybody follow me! After you…”
“Did you learn cooking in the Jackie Chan kitchen?”
“Stop talking and hit something!”
“I will happily let you use that skill for violence.”

I’ll certainly do more of it, if only in the hope of getting better, but also to scratch the itch. If this is all the gaming I’m going to be doing for the forseeable future, then I’d like to get better at it. We had one of our regular games last week with 1 player on video, and it helped an immense amount in focus and reactions. I’m trying not to worry about when lockdown ends and take it day by day, but there are times when the uncertainty does weigh heavy on me.

To end on another emotional note, it was the 9th anniversary of the death of Elisabeth Sladen last week, and a tribute was put online. Written by former Who producer Russell T Davies, it’s a wonderful tribute to both Sladen the actor and Sarah Jane the character. And yes, I couldn’t help but hope for a few words from Tom Baker or Jodie Whittaker, but my head-canon (along with a lot of Twitter) is that given the Doctor is referred to as he throughout, that no-one noticed the 13th Doctor up the back.

You will cry. I certainly did.

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you.

Some early sketches

I miss LARP. The fun of it all, of getting together as a group, the shouting, silliness and shared experiences. The drama, excitement and escapism. Also, the dressing up and trying to thump each other with foam swords. It’s superb fun and more people should do it. Granted, it’s not as if I was doing much of it before lockdown, but there were plans to, and that’s one of the things that’s irritated me the most about the whole thing. Anyhow, the point.

I didn’t plan to write this. A few weeks back I acquired both seasons of Britannia, and had idle thoughts about a LARP in that setting, then set it aside. I’m meant to be writing a game about Minbari politics for Pheno, but a couple of days back my brain misfired, in that wonderful way it does, and I started writing. It’s that wonderful feeling of needing to finish something, and the brain shouting at BRIAN BLESSED volumes “HEY! HERE’S ANOTHER DIFFERENT THING YOU COULD BE DOING!” So, I’m putting it down, to try to get it out of the head. Please don’t take this as an indication that I’m actually working on this. It’s idle work to try to fire up the brain for the thing I should actually be doing, and in all likelihood will soon join the other partially written projects on my Google Drive. Either way, I hope you like it. May it inspire you in your efforts.

THE SETTING.
Britannia. Roman-era Britain, or something resembling it if you look at it upside down with the lights off. The Iron Crown of the High King of the Picts lies in his tomb and none have dared to quest for it for a decade or more. The tribes squabble amongst each other, bickering over lands and resources, while beasts of legend lurk in the forests and fens. All the while, a larger threats lurks, that of invaders from the South, seeking to crush the last vestiges of free land under their iron boots…

Damn, I do love writing flavour text. Almost as much as my wife enjoys interrupting me reciting it. Moving on. I’m not giving it a date, so I can mess with history. As far as I know, Hadrian’s Wall hasn’t been built, Bouddica hasn’t rebelled and the 9th Legion hasn’t marched into oblivion. Well, maybe. I’m not suggesting we go full Xena, but something close. History is a wonderful thing, and can be just as fun when it’s ignored for the sake of drama or fun, as my Musketeers convention games can attest to.

Full Xena

PC’s – PICTISH TRIBES:
North – Forest folk. Seen as secretive and more savage than others. Reputed to favour human sacrifice in their magics. Not completely evil, but there’s a reputation that exists.
East – They have villages along the coast and are known as fisher folk. Explorers, hunters and traders. Or the other idea was basing the visual look of the Seal people from the film The Eagle, and making them head hunters.
West – Consider themselves the most ancient of the tribes, seen as wizards, scholars and famed for their priests skill at divination. Maybe clad in furs and skins, I dunno?
South – Pastoral and friendly. Craftsman and builders, renowned for their skill at the arts. Perhaps they trade with the others the most?

I’d want something in the background to distinguish between the tribes, a favoured colour or style of dress to help make the difference between them obvious. At minimum, I’d make half the tribes have a matriarchal leadership, the others patriarchal (No, I’ve not idea which I’d choose) and abolish gender stereotypes. I’m already rewriting history, so why not make it a little less horrible?

Eagle

IN GAME LOCATIONS:
Holy ground, possibly a Druidic enclave.
Local village
Roman military forward camp
Tribal meeting place, possibly also featuring an arena for combat between tribal champions, an agreed upon way of solving tribal disputes.

MONSTERS/CREATURES:
Romans.  I can see the first contact with a Legion in Testudo going horribly, as this strange iron beast marches towards them. Maybe later they’ll be added as PC’s.
Fay/Elven creatures. Forest folk, selkies and mythical beasts.
Something resembling the Wee Free Men. Thieves of cattle and goods, a nuisance at first, but could grow more dangerous if angered.
Very loose adaptions or hints at the Arthurian and Robin Hood myths.
The Worms of the Earth. Fuck yes REH.
I know very little about British/Pictish mythology, but I’m sure there’s plenty more that I could mine for ideas.

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MAGIC – IS IT A THING?:
Sort of. There’s things that are claimed to be magic by the Druids. No-ones exactly sure if it’s real magic, and the Druids aren’t talking.  Such things mostly involve potions, or occasionally shared hallucinogens. Some Druids practice  divination by reading animal entrails and the like. Ceremony and ritual are important, magic in this game doesn’t involve fireballs getting flung about. I see a fiery pre-battle speech giving bonuses and morale being incredibly important. Do you stand against impossible odds and inspire a legend, or do you run and live to fight another day, your honour stained with cowardice?

WEAPONS:
Melee: Swords, daggers, axes (all single handed) and spears are the main weapons, with clubs and staves for the poor or different. Ranged wise, you can choose between bows, javelins and throwing knives/axes. I’m sure there’s companies out there making foam rocks as well, if you’re really cheap. Shields (Ranging from small bucklers to larger oval models) are used by many while armour wise mostly leather is used. Some metal armour, whether forged locally or stolen from Roman invaders could be found, but will be very rare and used only by the high of status or very wealthy. Opinions on armour vary between the tribes, with some regarding it as cowardly, while others will take all the help they can get.

Pict Warrior

COMBAT:
Fast and deadly. I like the idea of a ‘Just before you die’ ability, so you have 10 seconds to be suitable dramatic before you cark it, or something that lets you hold on, but as soon as you stop screaming or chanting you’re dead. Amp up the combat, so to speak, not to movie flashy, but make it big and dramatic so the gods may see you and be entertained. I’m aware of British chariot warfare, but can’t think of a way to make that LARP safe. Well, short of having two people holding hobby horses running in-front of the chariots driver who’s got them on a harness, and by that stage to me it’s less a LARP and more a kink and I’ll just leave that there.

If I was going to be really intense about this, which being a hypothetical I can be, I’d want to set a kit standard and make people buy appropriate looking weapons rather than re-suing medieval style kit. There’s a couple of company’s that make Celtic and Roman style weaponry, and while I’d allow Viking era gear, that would be the latest period that I’d allow. My distaste for overly ornate weaponry still stands, but I’ll refrain from stepping on that soapbox this time.

INFLUENCES:
The films Centurion, The Eagle and the 2004 King Arthur come first to mind, with a heavy dose of Robert E Howard’s Bran Mak Morn stories. The Doctor Who episode The Eaters of Light, the myths from the Rivers of London novels by Ben Aaronovitch and the Slaine series from 2000AD also should be on the list. As for games in the setting, the only one I’ve seen so far is the UK game Dumnonni Chronicles, which seems a bit more fantasy than this game seems to be, but the kit standard is gorgeous.

Picts Centurion

POSSIBLE PLOT:
As for what will happen, I have no idea yet. The first idea I had was of a famous Gaulish Druid visiting, but can you blame me? Sure, the prospect of players in a continuing game getting hold of some of his magic potion is slightly terrifying (In a game balance sense), but once you’ve drunk it, it’s gone. A short think for more ideas produced things like infighting between the tribes, a wedding or a funeral, religious festivals/conflict, young warriors seeking to prove themselves worthy, games (both combat and bardic) and the threat of the Roman invaders.

*whew* Now that that’s out of the system, hopefully I can get back to Minbari politics. In Valen’s name…

Be seeing you…

Addendum: Clothes maketh the man

Bit of a short update that I meant to add to the last entry. My wife and I are currently watching Good Omens, having recently finished season 1 of The Witcher. We enjoyed the show, but I can’t argue with my wife’s reaction at the end of the season, which I will sum up here: “WHAT? The whole things been a prelude?” The cast do their jobs well, especially the children, and Henry Cavill has quite the talent for conveying a lot with a look and an annoyed grunt. (And is quite the Warhammer 40K nerd) If I had to pick, I’m really not a fan of the amount of reverse grip nonsense in the sword work. I’m still not sure where that trend started, but I think The Force Unleashed? Look, it’s pretty, and works well for the show, but even as a novice historical fencer it bugs the hell out of me.

Witcher grunt

As for Omens we’re 4 episodes in at the time of writing and it’s beautifully Pratchett in feel. It’s been a long time since either of us have read the book, though I’ll likely go through it when we’re done with the show. I didn’t want to be constantly going “But this was different in the book!” all the way through it. I’m sure there are changes, but I’m content to wait to re-discover them. It should come as no surprise that I’d like a lot of Crowley’s costume in my wardrobe, though I couldn’t hope to match David Tennant’s swagger in a million years. Or the scarves, though that’s more for my rather long and scrawny neck. And yes, Aziriphale’s coat is lovely, but I really don’t think that colour is me.

Omens

Staying with costumes, another few photos from the new production of Dune have been released, and well, they’re quite pretty. I can’t help but think back to the rubber(?) stillsuits from the Lynch movie and wonder how uncomfortable they must have been to wear. I’ve a making of the film book around here somewhere, I must dig it out at some point.

Be seeing you.

No news, actually some news.

Augh.

Not much has happened since last entry. Picked up some new scars (A few minor scalds from hot bacon fat while cooking my wife breakfast), turned 40 (As did Iron Maiden’s first album!), had a wonderful little backyard birthday party with just my household, and felt loved and cared for. Work has been nothing less than flat out, as given that we supply jigsaw puzzles among other things, we think we’re an essential industry. Thanks ScoMo. *sigh*

Things… aren’t good brain wise. I spent a lot of the long weekend asleep, or trying to sleep, and while there’s an element of recovering from the working week, it ain’t all that. It’s not that I feel bleaker than normal, more running on fumes. An early morning not quite anxiety attack today didn’t help either. Well, less attack and more I was an idiot and took a quick look at the news after peeing. Someday I’ll stop myself from doing that, but not today. I’m also kicking myself slightly for not getting up and writing down what was in my head at the time, as I’m all but certain it was more gripping than this. At least it felt that way, but the line between crushing boredom and high drama is very thin around 4:15am.

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How am I coping with conditions at the moment? I don’t know. I’m the only one in my house going outside on a regular basis, so little has changed for me. Sure, I’m trying to avoid people, not make trips I don’t need to and wash my hands more, I’m not ignoring things.  Sure, the trains have been great, the term ‘Reverse Olympics’ comes to mind (Kids, ask your parents), but that’s not exactly something I should be cheering about. As for at home, I’m as introverted as my wife is extroverted, so I’m OK seeking less attention and would be happy for a lock down (Well, for a short time), while she’s climbing up the walls with the limited contact with people she’s having. Alas, the other 3 of us in the house aren’t enough. We’re doing what we can in the meantime, and hopefully cabin fever can be kept at bay.

I’m kinda looking forward to booking a hotel room when this is done and having sometime to myself. At least, I like the idea of that. As with many of my ideas, I’m not sure if I should actually go through with it, but I’m certainly thinking about it. I should use it to write my Pheno freeform, but that’s suffering writers block. It’s time to break out the B5 20th Anniversary Blu-rays and soak them in, that should help kick start something. Assuming I don’t start crying when I realize just how many of the cast have died. Or maybe I’ll just wear a cloak when I take the bins out. It’s been too long since we’ve reminded the street we’re nerds, and that should change. In other rubbish news, the very friendly cat up the street’s humans are leaving soon and I’m really going to miss her.

There are bright spots though. Whilst the attempt to run one of my old games didn’t work, one of my players volunteered to run the scenario  from the back of the new Alien RPG. Good fun was had, and I spent a lot of it desperately trying not to metagame. And yes, I would up dead. Switching universes, a friend of mine was looking for lines to practice her calligraphy on, and I decided to ask for an excerpt from possibly my favorite Babylon 5 exchange. It turned out better than I could have hoped for. It’s a piece I turn to frequently for solace in times such as these. The artist in question can be found here, and I cannot recommend her work highly enough.

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And I can’t end without talking about another part of my childhood passing, with the death of Tim Brooke-Taylor. The Goodies was a massively important part of my childhood, and helped shape, I like to think, a good part of my sense of humour. The out-poring of love for him I saw was heartwarming, as owing to the repeats in the 80’s there’s a massive chunk of my generation that you only have to hint at a giant kitten or a black pudding to reduce them to floods of laughter and wonderful memories. Heck, that episode killed a man from laughter. Getting to see them live was a highlight and I’m gutted I didn’t get a chance to tell him how much his work meant to me.

I know I’m of the age where the icons of my childhood are set to pass (I know I’m going to be inconsolable for at least a week when Tom Baker goes), and they’ve been doing so on a regular basis for the last 20 years or so, but knowing that Coronavirus took him, and not natural causes hurts that bit more. I’ve been very lucky that this is the first time that corona has affected me in any way, and I’m still hoping that it will remain so. My heart goes out to all affected, and I hope that things will improve swiftly. I don’t know what the future holds, but it’s my hope that the spirit of kindness that’s been blossoming continues on. Hopelessly idealistic I know, but some days I can’t help myself.

Be seeing you…

It’s only rock and roll.

No. It’s not. Mick Jagger lied. To borrow a line from, I think an English football manager, it’s not life or death, it’s much more important.  I recently mentioned I was curating a playlist about my aging. Well, this is it. I’ve tried to keep this short, and somewhat on topic. I could have just added songs I like, but that would have been a massive list and kinda defeated the point of this. I’ve tried to keep it to a few pertinent observations on each track, though I should warn that requests for more detail I can do.

Culling things wasn’t easy, though keeping it to things on Spotify helped slightly. For starters, that cut the Rollins Band’s All I Want, while a lovely song (at least compared to their usual output), brings back some mighty painful memories of my youth. Of going out into the world being like an untrained puppy, looking for affection or attention, but with no idea whatsoever of how to get it, or deal with it. Ahhh, memories.

Anyhow, here goes.

 

I’m 18 – Alice Cooper. The epitome of teen angst and confusion. It doesn’t get better than this. It’s a notch on my bucket list that I’ve seen Alice perform this twice.

I Don’t Want to Grow Up – The Ramones. A cover of a Tom Waits tune, it hits me where I live, so to speak. That fear of the future, of struggling for an answer to ‘what to do you want to do with your life?’ I hated that question as an adolescent and still do.

My Shit’s Fucked Up – Warren Zevon. What more is there to say? Zevon had a wonderful knack for the macabre and miserable, and he sums it up perfectly here.

Trouble In My Brain – The Sunnyboys. Lead singer and songwriter Jeremy Oxley was a master at songs such as this, and knowing he was suffering from undiagnosed schizophrenia at the time only adds to it’s poignancy.

Don’t Damn Me – Gun’s and Roses. It’s slightly mortifying to me how swiftly this implanted on my brain from the time I first heard it. “Sometimes I wanna kill, sometimes I wanna die. Sometimes I wanna destroy, sometimes I wanna cry.” Me at 14, and still today, to no small degree.

My Pal – God. Just flat out brilliant. Written when the band were in their teens, it’s just amazing. The footage of them performing it on Countdown (I think – it seems to be live, which that show rarely, if ever, did) is well worth a watch.

I Believe in Miracles – The Ramones. Alas, the album version isn’t on Spotify, so this one (From 1991’s Loco Live) will have to do. It’s a haunting tune about being a fuck up, but still having hope, like a lot of Dee Dee Ramone’s best songs from the later era of the band.

Do Not Go Gentle into the Good Night – Iggy Pop. From his most recent album, it’s smooth jazz over Iggy’s reading of the poem. That description may sound odd, but it’s utterly hypnotic.

Midlife Crisis – Faith No More. I’ve just turned 40. How could I possibly leave a song with this title off the list?

Paranoid – Black Sabbath. It’s not the quintessential Sabbath tune for my ears (That’s Black Sabbath or War Pigs for my money), but this sums up how early 20’s me felt about my place in the world. Plus, that riff.

Descent into the Maelstrom – Radio Birdman. It’s not New Race or Aloha Steve and Danno, but for me the surf drums, the barked “2,3,4!” and Rob Younger’s howl all combine into one of the most electrifying openings of any rock song. The recent film about the band is mandatory viewing for those with an interest in music doco’s.

Depression – Black Flag. Short, fast and ugly, Henry Rollins roar has rarely sounded more berserk.

Love Song – The Damned. Sure, it doesn’t match the theme of this playlist, but to me it’s the greatest love song ever written and I will fiercely defend that to the end of my days.

Blow Up the Outside World – Soundgarden. Haven’t we all had days where we felt like this? RIP Chris Cornell.

Wasted Years – Iron Maiden. This one brings back painful memories of wandering around Melbourne one night in, I think 2001, listening to this on repeat, lost both in body and soul and utterly missing the point of the lyrics. I found where I was staying on the trip after about 2 hours of semi random wandering hoping for a landmark, but didn’t get the point of the song for many years afterwards. Better too late, than not at all eh?

So, I’m 40. Happy Birthday to me! And now, GET THE HELL OF MY LAWN, YOU DAMN PUNK KIDS! 🙂

Be seeing you…

It is late, but I have words.

Couldn’t sleep, had too many words buzzing through my head, so I hope by writing them down, I’ll be able to sleep. It’s been a hell of a week, about which I shall spare you. Instead, I have had… an idea. Long term readers, or people who’ve played my convention games will know how dangerous that can be.

Here we go. YouTube recommended me episodes of the 80’s GI Joe cartoon, and having little else to do on the train, I thought why not? I have observations.
1: This show is pretty damn awful.
2: Were I a drinking man, playing some sort of game where you drink each time someone yell’s “Yo Joe!”, escapes a vehicle wreck or parachutes from an airplane, you would be very drunk pretty damn quickly.
3: Given the resources Cobra must have access to, given the vast amount of underground bases, wacky super weapons and the like they possess, not to mention the sheer amount they must spend on ejector seats, parachutes and other crash proofing technology, why seek world domination through military might? Just do it the (other) American way – buy elections.
“Duke, we’ve just found out that Major Bludd is running for Governor of Boise, Idaho!”
“Right, two can play that game. Scarlett, you and Gung-Ho get started on Shipwreck’s campaign announcement speech. Yo, Joe!”

Yeah, it doesn’t quite have the same spark to it. Anyhow, this sparked something. I have occasional thoughts about trying GM’ing outside of conventions. I had a group of players keen for a Torchwood Sydney game I’d brainstormed with some of them, or that post apocalyptic LARP idea that I thought about dusting off for a few seconds last week. I shut that thought down, reasoning that in the age of isolation what hope is there and also that running a game that had germ warfare and out of control viruses in the current climate wasn’t exactly sensible. I still love the idea of dressing crew in bloodstained koala onesies to act of Drop Bears though. Sorry, back on topic…

Yes, I’m getting to the point here, despite all evidence. We go back a few years now,  to Fair and Balanced. Oh, 2016, remember when we thought that was as bad as it got? Happy times they were… I’m still impressed by how that game’s reputation has spread, having seen several sharp intakes of breath and “YOU?” when it’s mentioned I was responsible for that monster. I’ve resisted writing a sequel, owing to not being able to out crazy reality. I wrote a blurb at one point and may someday make that public – I’m still quite proud of the opening line of “The shining city on the hill is now a strip mall.”

The canon ending of Fair and Balanced was the PC’s, having helped tear the country apart, discovering that Obama was about to announce he was stepping down and returning fair elections to the people. That (generally) took place at some sort of press conference, but I had a thought about amping up the crazy a little. Well, more than a little. The Democrat Party records vault, where Obama’s secret Kenyan birth certificate was kept, is under the Watergate Hotel, for starters.

So, Obama’s giving the big mystery speech, but when the PC’s kick things off his security doesn’t move. Why? Because his lectern transforms into a suit of robot armour and he joins the fight. Maybe he’s secretly a cyborg, who can infect all he touches with socialism, like some sort of Communist Ultron and has an army of Muslim Kenyan ninjas at his command! Of course, there would be something else in the PC’s way, that being the terrible threat of MECHA JOE BIDEN.

I might sketch this out for a 5th anniversary re-run of the game, give people the option for how bat-shit crazy things go. “Do you want it relatively normal, slightly crazy or full Godfrey Ho?” I might not be able to out-crazy reality, but I can give it a damn good go.

Sleep beckons. Be seeing you.

It’s not all doom and gloom.

Really, as much of a miserable sod as I can be, it’s not all bad.

I’m the only one in my house not working from home (This is both good and bad mind you), the Iron Maidens and Mac Sabbath have rescheduled concerts, my fencing group has been posting online training videos (And Guy Windsor dropped the price on his solo training course down to $20 US) and most of my RPG groups have gone online. My brain doctor is an essential service, though I’m not sure if I’ll be there in person or over the phone. Tracey and I are enjoying The Witcher, and I would very much like Geralt’s banquet outfit from Episode 4, please? I’ve said it before, and will say again – we don’t need more licensed merchandise, we need licensed tailors outside cinemas. Speaking of my wife, I managed to surprise her last night, though it’s more my choice of music that did it. I grant you, smooth jazz and poetry usually isn’t my jam, but when you add Iggy Pop to the mix, well, you have my attention. It’s nice to know that after almost 14 years I can still surprise her.

I’m planning to run one of my old con games over Discord and had the people I’d contacted responding yes in seconds, so that’s something. If things go well (and I’m honestly not sure how I’ll do), I may run some more in future, so watch this space. Oh, and in-case you feel the need to respond to me in future, replying to an offer with “DIVE!” will certainly be counted as a yes. Clarification of that response is not required.

Also, I got my fencing mask painted. There was a lot of time spent on trying to decide what to have painted on it, but there could be only one person fit to guard my face, so to speak. The gentleman in question is a little older than I am, and has worn many faces over the decades, reinventing himself on a regular basis. I had it narrowed down between a few of his classic looks or a more recent incarnation, but in the end, sand won the day. Sand? Well, not that sand.

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The sand comment had you thinking Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker right?

What can I say, other than I’m a slave to the power of death? I adore Iron Maiden beyond all measure, as long term readers will know, and while I was tempted to get Darth Vader’s helmet or the Radio Birdman logo, I had to go with the esteemed Mr Edward T Head. The photo looks lovely, but this thing is flat out gorgeous in person. Many thanks to Morbid Curiosity Fencing Masks for their stellar (and speedy) work!

In other news, my birthday’s on Sunday, and while there’ll be no celebration (I’m not stupid and violating social distancing) I still plan to enjoy the day. Somehow. Maybe I’ll sleep in. How am I coping with the proximity to the big Four Oh? I’m curating a playlist on Spotify, with the plan being to post it on the day. I am not ashamed of this, though looking at the tracks I’ve chosen there’s some miserable stuff there. Some of it’s about aging, other songs have stuck with me over the years. I’m not sure what this means, but at least I’ve not started a podcast. I do plan on buying another sword to celebrate though. There is no such thing as too many swords. No. Such. Thing.

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And no, this is not what I wear when when I fence.

The brain hasn’t been great of late. It’s odd, as I’m the one in the house who’s going outside and yet I think I’m the one who actually wants to isolate. the temptation to get my hair chopped to Keanu Reeves in John Wick 3 length has surfaced again as well. I had the vague idea of when all this is over booking a hotel room for a few days, taking my laptop and some books and just hiding, emerging only to eat and phone loved ones. My introvert batteries need some serious charging. Yes, I spent most of last Saturday asleep, but I put that down to the sleeping pill I took Friday night than a spike in my depression. Sure, I think I’ve had that as well, but fuck, who isn’t dealing with that right now? I’m planning to try a half dose of the sleeping pill the next time and see what happens. For science!

I leave you with a recent discovery of mine. As covers go, that’s pretty damn fantastic, and extra points for the showmanship.

Be seeing you…

Cancelled.

Rough week. I am feeling rather ill-equipped to face today. Dropped a sleeping pill last night, and while it didn’t hit me as hard as last time, I’m still in something of a haze.

In the space of roughly a week, the following events have been cancelled or postponed:
Download Festival
The Iron Maidens
Blackpowder and Bloodlines
Iron Maiden
My 40th birthday celebrations
Tuesday sword for the rest of term, possibly longer.

How am I dealing with this? About as well as could be expected.

zorg

I can’t complain about it, given the current situation they made the right call. Public safety’s an important thing, especially when beaches and bars still seem to be full of people and virus cases still seem to be ramping up here. But I’d be lying if I wasn’t cut up about them, as I’d been looking forward to them for quite a while. While bemoaning the state of things to my wife Friday night, she asked me an irritatingly armour piercing question, as she does. I’m not remembering it exactly, but hopefully I’ve got the theme correct: “Is your regular life so miserable that you need these things to look forward to?”

Honestly, I don’t know?

There’s been times when yeah, the thought of an upcoming show or event has helped me to get out of bed. I’m rarely as happy as I am at a concert, so that seems natural to me. Being in a crowd full of people normally isn’t my thing, but there’s something wonderful about a Maiden crowd. I bloody love that band, to a degree my skill with words can’t properly convey, and being amidst a crowd all there to share our in our love of them, well, I feel at home. There’s a lot of love in that crowd, more than at other metals shows I’ve been to. But I’m digressing, as tends to happen when Maiden get mentioned. Back to the point, it’s not the only time I feel that way, but it’s one of the big ones. On a regular basis that’s probably not healthy, but that’s another thing to discuss with my brain doctors.

Getting back to the question, maybe? It certainly feels that way some days. My therapist has said having things to look forward to is good, but it’s possible I’m using that as a distraction to mask other issues. Wouldn’t be the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Maybe I need the distraction more at the moment? My heads above water, but not by much or so it seems. I need stuff to look forward to, or the day to day grind becomes oppressive. My regular games are still on, and they’re great for my health, but they aren’t always enough.

Will ponder this. Be seeing you.