Pheno 2019

It’s my 2nd year running at Phenomenon and both years I’ve played 1 game and won a trophy from it. This year I got murdered in a freeform and refused the offer to return to life so I could have a nap. I’m not proud, but I really needed the nap. As much as I want to play more, I’m kinda hoping to continue that streak in years to come.

I ran 10 sessions of Orcish heavy metalers. I’ve told my wife to please remind me not to attempt anything so absurd again. It’s been a blast. Glorious, hilarious, absurd and more than once I’ve near wept with laughter. I’m also sore (Mostly from the laughter, but also some of the puns), over tired and can’t wait to do it again. The experience of the whole thing is lovely, from orgs checking am I ok, to wildly enthusiastic players – there’s a wonderful atmosphere there. How wonderful were my players you ask? One group wrote a setlist. Another put in character autographs on their sheets and I baiscally had to award the one who was writing songs during the game. They were excellent to each other, to say the least.

I can’t thank everyone involved enough. From the orgs, my playtesters, players and my wife, all of whom conrtributed to making my event as fun as it was. I place a lot of emphasis, potentially too much, on are my players having fun, seeing that as a benchmark for success, and I’m certain I got that this year. I walked away from it feeling loved and appreciated, and given the state of my brain the last couple of years, the vocal show of support means a hell of a lot. It was more than a little emotional at times, much like at Sydney cons past when the team would sit down and go “So, what’s the game about? We saw your name and went ‘Yes’.”

The game was inspired by an idea about a Half-Orc Bard wielding a set of bagpipes in a LARP many years ago and evolved to become a full band. It ran in Sydney a few years ago, and I like to think has only improved since then, both in the writing and my GM’ing. It’s one I’m passionate about, both cause it was a lot of fun, and cause I’m rarely as happy as I am at a live gig. Music means a hell of a lot to me, expecially seeing it played live, and I wanted to try to get that across. I can’t say if I succeeded on that front, buy my players all seemed to walk away happy, and I’m more than OK with that.

Selected highlights and quotes follow, all names have been redacted to protect the guilty. Also, things were blurring together about 4 sessions in and I’m having trouble remembering who said what. I took better who played who notes this year, and am hoping to improve further next year.

The group who, when confronted with an open door, would lock it so they could kick it in.

“We’ve got a empty city, great for looters, speaking of which, moving on…”

“We start to play Lightning Struck, followed by Nefarious Deeds for Little Money.”

On that note, naming the bands (pyro setup) baby pseudo dragons Angus and Malcolm. In my defence, they are Young…

“Cause no heavy metal band has thought to do a ballad.”

“When she talks about hugging, she’s talking about crushing to death.”

“How sober are you?”
“What kind of noodles?”

The van’s engine being fed a sandwich, which prompted me to decide the engine was a Flintstone’s esque monster.

“We meet at Legolas’s restaurant.”
“It’s a themed place that shoots skewers of meat at you, if they shoot you you eat free!”

“We announce a surprise show tonight but don’t tell anyone.”

“We are… I forgot the band name already.”

The group who went full Bill and Ted, by managing to convince Elven Nature they were them from the future, and that the show they were about to play would start the apocalypse.

“If there’s anyone pretty/handsome backstage I want to extend my hand to them and say ‘Come with me if you want to rock’.”

“Could probably do something Molotovian with these…”

“…pants around the knees, junk out.”
“Well, I’ve gotta air it out.”

A combination of staging a massive Orc underground festival in the park down the street from the Colusseum, having nicked some of Elven Nature’s pyro and set the rest on flame. That ended up with an impromptu Battle of the Bands happening when I realized there was still an hour of session to go.

“Windscreens? Where we’re going we don’t need windscreens!”

“Are there any plushies for sale?”
“Band plushies?”
“Shark plushies, so we can jump over them!”
(That was the session that managed to start a plushie Sharknado in the center of the audience.)

Picking up a  large batch of recreational chemicals, then turning the on stage fans to face the audience and feeding said chemicals through them. Closely followed by most of the stadium size crowd tripping balls.

*Drummer turns to the keyboard player he was crushing on*
“There is no one I’d rather be in a drunk tank with”
*Mid set onstage making out followed*

Peoples reactions to hearing the names Elven Nature and the Backwoods Boys. Will, your terrible jokes live on.

“I just want to know what it’s like to have sex with a unicorn!”

“The van has memories”
“The van has fucken herpes as well!”

“You’re happy to commit genocide, but fucking a dragon is too far?”

The phrase ‘Good Morning Menzoberranzan: The Freeform!”

“The guys a huge hipster right, so we can get him to set the audience on fire before it’s cool”

“And then ORCHEMIAN RHAPSODY begins”

One player being the most adorably protective Dragon mother ever. That might have been the session where dragons being like scaly fire breathing kittens became canon.

“Fat Bottomed Elves?
Well, I was thinking Another Elf Bites the Dust.”

“Whosoever pulls the axe from the van is the new frontman.”

“I grate some rat jerky over the top.”

“I was thinking ‘Suck my Cock’, but now I think ‘Come so Hard you Black Out’.”
“And what song will you be playing?”

Getting to use the phrase “The stadium looks like 80,000 shampoo commercials come to life”

“Do you owe them child support?”
“Do you owe them a child?”

“I don’t know how I feel about the title ‘License to Fist'”

“Remember the time I told you about feelings?”
“We all have them”
“My teeth are immaculate!”

A cannon being added to a stadium boom gate, thus becoming the canon cannon.

“I’ve been going over the speed limit, but that doesn’t count as speeding.”

“PREPARE YOURSELF FOR 4D10 SONIC DAMAGE. THERE WILL BE NO SAVING THROW.”

“How do they (A Goblin and Elf) do it?”
“Look, I’m not saying there isn’t a size difference, but the heart wants what the heart wants.”
“A stepladder?”

“Don’t kinkshame the chicken!”

“You’re not allowed to smoke in bed.”
“Just means you aren’t using enough lube.”

The arguments over who’s turn it was to drive. Having it be everyone’s turn to drive and have Drive at D4 is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done in gaming.

“Suns out, wangs out.”

“That bastard, he steals from us and takes our money!”

“What’s the Elf to Dragon ratio?”
“African or European?”

And that’s about half of the quotes I have written down. To say there was hilarious shenanigans is putting it mildly. I bloody love my players, and would give them all awards if I could. Prize giving is the hardest part of any con for me, even more annoying than naming my characters. I love you all.

I’ve already tentatively submitted for next years con, an idea I’ve had kicking around for a couple of years. Bit of a departure from my normal work, but the last time I tried that my Fox News game happened, so I think that’s a good thing. And hey, it means I have to rewatch all of Babylon 5, so it’s not exactly a hardship.

I’d like to end this with a reading from the Book of Paul (Stanley). “I know life sometimes can get tough, and I know life sometimes can be a drag. But people, we have been given a gift, we have been given a road, and that road’s name is rock and roll.”

Amen. *air guitar solo*

What could possibly go wrong?

Rock and roll has a long and glorious history of on-stage stupidity and absurd set pieces.

Alice Cooper has been guillotined, electrocuted and otherwise murdered on stage in various methods for over 40 years, while Ronnie James Dio once fought a dragon. (On stage that is. I’m not sure what he did on his days off, but I’m betting dragons were involved. If anyone knows if he played D&D, please get in touch)
Motley Crue’s Tommy Lee has had various flying or upside down drum kits, while Sabaton use a tank as a drum riser.
KISS use enough pyro to supply a small conflict per show, in between Gene Simmons regular bouts of spitting blood, breathing fire and having an ego so large it can be seen from space.
Amon Amarth and Manowar have had long-ships, or parts thereof, as part of their stage sets while GWAR once decapitated a Tony Abbott mannequin, yelling that “he was no Costello.”

Many bands have also done stupid or ill advised things in the name of publicity. One only needs to look at Blackie Lawless’s collection of codpieces (Of the buzz saw and fire breathing variety), or the Norwegian black metal scene’s brief fad for setting churches alight.  The Dwarves once faked the death of a band member (which got them swiftly sacked from their record label) and if half the stories about GG Allin’s onstage activities are true, well, don’t look him up unless you’ve a strong stomach.

But there is one band who can always be relied upon to take that level of madness and stupidity and go one further. From humble beginnings, with a kabuki mask that would spew fake blood over their drummer’s head in a small London pub, to the arena filling juggernaut they are today, they have consistently delivered live, both in terms of songs and spectacle. Their artistic fortunes may have waxed and waned over the years, but they have never had less than 100% commitment to their live show, and I can give no higher compliment than that to a band. I mean, they staged a WW1 era aerial display before a festival gig several years ago, at which their singer was flying a replica of the Red Barons triplane. I’m sure the likes of Beyonce or Taylor Swift put on a hell of a show, but have they ever done that?

I’m sure many bands have planned tours around what themes they can use for their stage sets, or how much pyro can they stack around the stage without immolating half the band. Sure, Rammstein have been known to set themselves on fire a fair bit, and I’d be remiss in not mentioning the time that James Hetfield stood on top of a flash pot during a gig in Montreal. Ooops. Historical note: Guns and Roses delaying their set till the advertised time, then playing for barely half their time-slot caused a riot that night. Turns out there is something that will make Canadians angry enough to riot over…

Fun Fact: The guitar he was playing at the time has the imprint of his hand on it. I’ve seen pictures, it’s impressively creepy.

But there’s only one band to have a meeting about what they’ll do on their next tour and between discussions on the set list, costume changes and the like, someone digs into the suggestion box and goes “I know, why don’t we strap flamethrowers to our singer for a song? What could possibly go wrong with that?”

Please step forward the one, the only, Iron Maiden.

At last, we shall have, peace in our time

Pax Europa was a joy. It was also the messiest and most drama filled larp I’ve played in, and I can’t wait to do it again. Set in an alternate steampunk universe in the late 1800’s, the 4 great powers of Europe (Britain, France, Germany and Russia) had come to Sweden for the Nobel Peace Prize, to be chosen by the Swedish hosts. Shenanigans, chaos, several major incidents and a war ensued. What, you were expecting things to go smoothly? THIS. IS. DIPLOMACY!

First off, my fellow players and orgs were lovely. Fucking wonderful. Welcoming, easy to talk to and happy to roll with my shenanigans. Just the sort of players you want. I jave to give an extra shout out to the ones who checked in afterwards and apologized for ruining my characters life. All good people. I knew going in that it wouldn’t nd well, but hadn’t figured just how badly it would end.

The pre game workshops explaining the basic mechanics worked well, with enough time to absorb everything, but not long enough that it felt like it was cutting into game time. True, perhaps a bit more time to work on relationships beforehand could have been used, but that could be down to nerves on my part. The Facebook groups for the various nations worked a treat though.

The ‘Off game’ mechanics (The call ‘off game, intimacy /violence’ is given, and the players work out what’s going to happen before it does. If one side doesn’t give approval, then things move on immediately) worked well and were easily remembered. I’m sorely tempted to use them if I run anything of this nature in future (Properly credited, of course)

The venue itself was lovely – it could possibly have used another room, or the upstairs area, but then we might have needed a few more players to fill things out. Given the tight corridors and doorways I’m glad I decided not to bring a larp sword as part of my costume, as my knife (in a sheath at my lower back) got caught on enough doorways. My decision to forget to eat throughout the game was dumb of me, as by the time of dinner I was UTTERLY RAVENOUS. Possibly a good thing I decided not to shoot the French general who was sitting opposite me, but unknown to me war had been declared so it might have been OK. In character I was also very, very drunk, as my life had been slightly ruined by that stage, but more on that in a bit. Bloody good scones earlier though, worthy of mighty praise they were.

Who was I? Caleb Burton, British adventurer, racounter and writer. I’d come to the symposium to launch my latest book, a lurid tale of my adventures and explorations of Red Martians culture titled ‘Life on the Red Sands.’ I’d already been warned by the British diplomatic section not to start a war, and I only came slightly close to that. My theory on the Red Martians being ancient humans didn’t meet with as much shouting as I was expecting, but the arrival of the Jeddak of Helium (AKA the Martian High King), who’s son I’d been *ahem* involved with earlier certainly shook things up. Talking to the NPC crew member later he’d said virtually everything I said to him made things worse, and I couldn’t have planned that better if I tried. *beams*

IN SHORT:
Presented my findings on the Red Martians, though sadly that didn’t cause as much of a fuss as I expected. Not to worry on that front though.
Almost caused a major international incident with the Jeddak (High King) of the Martian city of Helium.
Patched things up somewhat with my exes, though I owe 1 a hell of a favour.
Didn’t start a war. Yes, I am proud of that.
Got very, very drunk.
Forgot to do almost every other goal I’d set for myself.

OTHER STUFF I REMEMBER.
The exorcism? I’m not sure entirely what that was about, but being asked “You look like a man keen to restore his honour” and I figured why the fuck not? It seems as if the spirit of Imhotep was excised and channeled into a bottle, but I’d lost track of stuff by that stage. Also, the tentacle. Not sure what happened there, but it was a Russian scientist so who knows. (Who was very kind and didn’t stab me in the back. Long story.)

With the High King extremely angry and wanting my works to be erased from history, I was in a bind, and attempted to solve it by A: trying to apologize (Didn’t work) and then B: getting drunk. There was chemical wackiness with the British journalist (recovering from an arm wound from a lightning cannon that was tested on him – it was only meant to stun), the chemicals in question having been stolen, I believe, from the German delegation. Good stuff that.

Seeing people reading from my book (My wife generously donated some of her old romance novels to be re-covered) and shout horrible things I’d written about them was hilarious. Trying to extricate myself from a mess and hearing “Flat chested blonde haired strumpet!” off to my left was both punch the air and brown trousers time.

Finding my publishers had dumped the excess copies of the book (I DON’T REMEMBER WHO DID IT, BUT SOMEONE OWNED UP TO IT LATER) in the Channel and that they were washing up on French beaches was horrifying, but things started to work when with thanks from an ex (A French adventurer), I got them hidden. Fortunately, thanks to the public censorship, the black market price shooting through the roof and a secret print run for the American market, things were starting to look up again. That was around the point at which I found war had been declared by the British and Germans against France, which led to my ecstatic fist pump and cry of “Not my fault!” confusing some of the Russians.

That’s all I remember at the moment. If you’re reading this and I got stuff wrong, please correct me. In my defense, it was a very long trip. Kicking myself for not getting any photos, but looking forward to the professional ones. And the footage one of te players was taking – I think there’s some of the Jeddak and I’s confrontation…

To sum up: diplomacy, flirting, heavy drinking, a couple of minor errors of judgement, some light recreational chemical abuse and drunken self reflection. It was a good, good night. Can’t wait to do it all again. Already having a pile of ideas for what character I’d play next time and how to costume them (You know, the important stuff).

Thanks all. Peace in our time motherfuckers.

Bit of an update

Hey kids,

Been a while. Things should be exciting, but I’m more fragile at the moment. I should be writing for Pheno and preparing for Pax Europa (along with a couple of other unnamed projects), and I’m trying to, but focus is difficult.

What I am, however, is the following:
Diagnosed with depression.
Seeing a psychologist and therapist.
Started on anti-depressants.

It’s early days, but it’s promising so far. I’m not pretending it’ll all be fixed soon, that would be ridiculous. And yeah, I should have started years back, but better late than never eh?

How serious is it? How the fuck should I know, and why should I care? It’s a mental illness, not a fucking game of Top Trumps. I’m sure there are people dealing with worse, and my heart goes out to them. I’m not trying to rank myself against them, nor should I. I have my brain goblins, and they are mine, the last thing I’d want to do is to get in some sort of who’s more unstable pissing contest. Also, I’d lose and lose badly. I still have enough perspective to know in the grand scheme of things what I’m dealing with is low on the scale of things. That could be my inferiority complex not wanting to make a fuss, but I think that’s a point when I want to listen to it. (My wife will likely disagree with this, but she always disagrees with that complex of mine.) I guess what I’m trying to say I’m not matching my issues, such as they are, against anyone else’s.

Talking is good. It’s also terrifying at times, but feels good to get it out to a neutral observer who’s solely there to listen and help. Sure, catch me at the right moment and I’ll unload my troubles to almost anyone (I’m chatty that way), but this is a situation in which that’s expected. Which is nice. Both psych and therapist have been lovely, welcoming and wanting to help. I walked away from them feeling exhausted, but good. A bit lighter, and not in the way my wife complains about*.

The brain is still up and down, like always. I’m not sure I’ll ever be rid of that. And it’s early bloody days. But yeah. If you’re in strife, and trying to deal with something, then reach out to someone. I can’t promise it’ll be easy, or that things will get better overnight, but please try. Shit, drop me a comment here and get in touch. I’ve been told by numerous people who aren’t my wife I’m a good listener. One person has even described me as a calm and reassuring presence, which is one of the nicest things said about me in a long time.

I’d leave you with a song, but the first thing that comes to mind is my realization Sunday night that finding that Niece, Age 11 hadn’t heard Metallica’s Creeping Death meant I shouldn’t play her a live version, because my in-law’s house is not the place to start yelling “DIE, MOTHERFUCKER DIE!” at the top of my lungs. I did, however, tunelessly warble the opening stanza of Rockaway Beach by the Ramones to her, one of the greatest songs ever written and I will fight with (LARP) knives with any who disagree. So I’ll leave you with that.

Love youse all.

* My recent weight loss and slight gain of muscle was certainly not appreciated at first, and is only now grudgingly being accepted.

Punching Nazis makes *everything* better

This is a slightly rewritten version of an idea I had recently. Yes, it still exists on Facebook, but I wanted to change a couple of minor things and archive it a little better. So, here goes… While watching The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor with my wife recently, I had an idea. You see, while the film isn’t great (Though I adore the ‘No, this isn’t Rachel Weisz’ joke), it drops some curious hints at the O’Connell’s service during the war and that got my brain working.

oconnells

Long time readers will know how dangerous this can be.

So, the OSS/SSR/Delta Green have sent the O’Connell’s on a mission, teaming their talents with that of Professor Henry ‘Indiana’ Jones. No-one’s quite sure how the New York playboy Lamont Cranston was assigned to the mission, but he claims to know the area you’re going to quite well, while transport is being provided by noted barnstormer and ace pilot Cliff Secord. Add some Nazis to punch*, and a suitably horrifying threat (The Nazis are testing a nuke? Well, there’s a nuke, but it’ll accidentally raise Cthulhu/the dinosaurs at the center of the Earth/the Royal Family lizard people**), and there’s a pretty solid pulp adventure in there.

indynazi

That got some interest, with folks saying that Peggy Carter should be involved, given her boyfriend is on ice. Fair call that, both in terms of suitable characters and adding more female PC’s. I was trying to keep the MCU out of it, but I’m not completely averse to mentioning them. That did give me a further idea though, and while I told myself I wouldn’t write sequels anymore, within 10 minutes the idea I had a more than workable epilogue. If you’ll indulge me…

INTERIOR, SSR BRIEFING ROOM. THE PC’S ARE BEING ADDRESSED BY PEGGY CARTER.

‘The United States government, and by extension the free world, thanks you for your recent service. As much as we’d like to give you some time off, we have more work for you. A word of warning, you may think you’ve seen everything, know everything, but let me give you a piece of advice: the universe is a far stranger place than you can possibly imagine.”

SHE CHECKS HER WATCH “We’re just waiting on one more person to arrive and we can start the briefing.”

AS IF ON CUE THERE’S A STRANGE WHEEZING GROANING SOUND. A STRONG WIND WHIS UP IN THE UNDERGROUND BUNKER, PEOPLES HAIR IS RUFFLED AND PAPERS ARE BLOWN OFF DESKS, AS THE TARDIS MATERIALIZES IN THE CENTER OF THE ROOM. THE DOOR OPENS AND OUT STEPS THE 13TH DOCTOR.

“Sorry I’m late, but the helmic regulators a bit knackered and was causing some nasty feedback in the dimensional stabilizer.”

SHE SEEMS TO FULLY GRASP THE CONFUSION IN THE ROOM, NOTHING THE LOOKS OF SHOCK.

“Oh, hello. Nice to meet you all, I’m the Doctor.”

SHE REACHES INTO HER COAT, PRODUCING A PACKET OF TIM TAMS, WHICH SHE OFFERS TO THE GROUP.

“Biscuit?”

END AND ROLL CREDITS.

doctorbiscuit

Now all I need is the time to sit down and write the damn thing…

*I’d be tempted to add the BPRD in there as well somehow, but that might be one crossover too many. Though I ran a 60’s spy game a few years ago where the PC’s were from SHIELD, the IMF, UNCLE, Torchwood and UNIT, I’m sure I could work them in somehow. Besides, young John Hurt for the win, as the kids say.  DON’T TELL ME IF THEY’VE STOPPED SAYING IT LET ME BE CURRENT FOR 10 SECONDS PLEASE.

**Note: actual lizard people, not coded anti semetism. I was gutted when I found that out – I’d thought there were people that thought the Royals were part of an empire of snake shapeshifters secretly ruling the world, and no, turns out it’s just people hating the Jews. Damn bigots, ruining everything.

Keanu Reeves murders (almost) everyone.

JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARRABELLUM, AKA KEANU REEVES WEARS A SHARP SUIT AND KILLS AN ABSOLUTE FUCKTON OF PEOPLE. I MEAN, SERIOUSLY, IF THEY MAKE ANY MORE OF THESE HE’S GOING TO MURDER A SMALL COUNTRY’S WORTH OF PEOPLE I’M NOT KIDDING.

Look, it doesn’t fit anywhere near as well on a poster, but it’s a far more representative picture of the film.

There’s a small clutch of films that whenever I watch them I have the urge to drop a solid chunk of money on a quality suit, neaten my hair and beard and then, well, walk around I guess? I’ve never gotten that far in the planning stage. Mostly it’s the Bond films, but I think I have to add the Wick saga to that. In RPG terms, It’s not quite Feng Shui: The Movie (That title will forever and always belong to the frankly unbeatable brilliance of Big Trouble in Little China), but if you aren’t using that system to represent this world, you’re doing this wrong. Weapons are shown in almost fetishistic detail, perfect for that game, and there’s some incredible skill on display in their use – while there’s the odd quick cut, for the most part it’s long takes of people messing each other up in increasingly brutal, and occasionally ridiculous ways and the stunt work is frequently jaw dropping in it’s skill and execution.

Keanu Reeves stars as 'John Wick' in JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3 - PARABELLUM.
Told you. That’s damn sharp.

Keanu Reeves returns in the title role as the former hit-man dragged back into the life, and he certainly wears a suit well. I’m not sure I’ve seen one worn with such style since Chow Yun-Fat in The Killer, one of the few films able to match this one for sheer scope of  carnage. Halle Berry isn’t in it as much as you’d expect given her prominence in publicity and Laurence Fishburne appears to be having more fun than you at all times. He has some competition on that front from Mark Dacascos who seems to be enjoying himself so much I wouldn’t be at all shocked if he’d taken the part for free. (A harsher critic could say that being in a big budget film that’s actually seen in cinemas might also be a factor, but I’m not that person.)

There’s the odd burst of ‘Hey, it’s that guy!” with Brooklyn 9-9’s Detective Pimento and Bronn from Game of Thrones appearing. At least I thought it was Bronn, the accent he was using made it difficult to tell without a mid film visit to IMBD and my phone remained firmly turned off during the film. I’m a sucker for a good arming montage (My favorite still being the frankly hilarious one in Schwarzenegger’s Commando) and this one has a doozy, complete with a cheerful nod to Reeve’s past work that I won’t spoil. It’s not quite the equal of John Wick Chapter 2’s, but what’s the point in exactly repeating things?

5c40ae895241470c755abe44-1200
Holy shit, I’m on a horse!

We start with Reeves in serious trouble, and the amount he’s in only increases as the film goes on. Points to the writers for upping the scale of things, as the film moves around sharply, with Wick busily proceeding to chop, stab, shoot and punch his way through an awful lot of New York, with one early kill aided by a copy of Dante’s Inferno. I can picture the writers room high as kites on sugar, “So we’ve just had Wick have a gunfight in a stable, so what if he gets into a gunfight while riding a horse, against people on motorbikes? Oh, and later can he ride a motorbike and get into a sword-fight against a bunch of other people on motorbikes?” I can practically hear the high-fives as I type this.

Our guide to this world and it’s rules and regulations is Winston (Ian McShane), who has a tone and gravitas in his voice that not only will I buy whatever he’s selling, but I’ll buy immediately and thus get the free set of steak knives. For a criminal organization it’s incredibly well structured, with a complex set of rules and guidelines. The near mystical gold coins as payment, bloody thumbprints in lockets to signify favors owed and adjudicators to ensure the laws are held to. It’s the sort of nonsense that you’d expect to find in a game of Dungeons and Dragons and would seem utterly ludicrous but given how seriously everyone takes it, it works.

Winston-John-Wick-3-Blue-Coat-600x800
Also, a very sharp coat there.

The increasing scope across the three films thus far has been slowly allowed to reveal itself, which is, to me, a far more elegant way to do things than a film 1 info dump. Sure, I do occasionally wonder at the sheer scale of things, or smaller questions such as just how many people in New York belong to this group of assassins and how Wick hasn’t yet murdered them all in the previous films. I’m more than aware of New Yorker’s reputation for giving no fucks whatsoever, but I’m fairly sure that were this many bodies dropping on this regular a basis in public places that someone would be saying something, right?

Expanding the scope and mythology of your universe can be tricky. The Empire Strikes Back did it well, the Matrix sequels less so. In fairness, I’m not sure on that – I saw both the Matrix sequels at midnight premieres back in the day and haven’t gone back since. I left them angry. Not as angry as after the second Hobbit film, but that’s a different story. Mostly when I remember those two films I think back to my early to mid 20’s bullshit and how much of a twat I could be and I’m really not proud of that. It took me a long time to work past that and I still quake with shame at some of my actions. I can’t take them back, but at least I can learn from them and hopefully not repeat them. On the bright side, it’s around that time I finally came clean, and became an open and proud Iron Maiden fan, as opposed to treating them as a long time guilty pleasure. So, that’s something good and up the Irons! Getting back on topic…

If you know what you’re in for, you’ll love this. If you don’t want to see Reeves dressed well and murdering a whole lot of people with some incredible skill, then this might not be the film series for you. A 4th film has already been announced, and if it hadn’t been the films end would have all but confirmed that. In any case, I can’t wait for the next one and I’m sorely tempted to go back and see this one again. Possibly while wearing a suit…

4 and a half fancy shotguns out of five.

I should be writing…

Well, writing things that aren’t this. Good old distractions and brain goblins getting in the way of things, from helping host Niece’s 11th birthday sleep over* to a new term of sword training (Dagger’s a lot of fun) and a trip across the ditch** (Part holiday, part in-laws celebration), followed by a dash up to Cairns to see an old friend who’s had a mighty rough year. He introduced me to Lucifer and I’ve returned the favor with Leverage. I feel that’s a fair trade. He knows Wil Wheaton appears, but that’s about it. *cackles* Reminds me of the Audio Guide to Babylon 5, where one of the hosts partner is watching along (Not having seen the show before) and his theories are kind of adorable. Not as funny as the former co-workers who’s Red Wedding theories were on a different planet, but close. Also, while in NZ I splurged and bought a jacket that makes me feel so awesome I politely request someone please write me a freeform to wear it in.

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And it’s not often I say that!

I’ve had a piece on recent events and brain goblins drafted for about 2 months, but I’m uncertain about hitting post. The past can be a hell of a thing, and there’s no shortage  of regrets and guilt rolling round the old brain. Maybe I’ll post it someday. The worse I feel the closer I get to posting it, but at the same time the closer I get the more I want to tinker with it, which means a longer delay. Self fulfilling prophecy.  I’ve a headshrinker appointment booked for soon, which I’m looking forward to. It’s been too long.

On the good news front, my event got accepted for Phenomenon! Yep, I’ll be back, and even louder than before! I’ve dusted off (AKA rewriting) one of my old con games, It’s a Long Way to the Top, about a young group of Orcs wanting to conquer the world, via the music charts. To sum up in one sentence, D&D meets This is Spinal Tap or Pratchett’s Soul Music, but crossed Dio’s Holy Diver. It’s one of my favorites from the back catalogue, with a few moments still firmly stuck in my brain, the pool table incident especially… To say I’m happy about getting to run this one is something of an understatement, I’d been on tenterhooks for weeks leading up to the news, and air guitaring randomly about the place after getting the news. True, it could be said that game was an excuse for me to froth about how much I love heavy metal, but I’ve never needed an excuse to do that.

So, that’s my brain at the moment. Full of enthusiasm, almost equal amounts of  fear and an irritating level of imposter syndrome. Almost standard operating procedure.

Be seeing you…

* ME:”Night kids, sleep well, I’ll most likely kill you in the morning.”
CHILD: “Wait, what?”

** I shouldn’t have been so surprised that there’s a steampunk museum there, but picking up a leather war skirt in a nearby shop, that  was a welcome surprise. I still need a LARP to wear it in mind you.

 

Download Down Under!

Download Festival Australia – 09/03/19

Long queues for food and toilets, garbage strewn all around and a horrifying smell coming from the portaloos – yep, it’s a music festival. It’s also threatening a downpour, which brings to mind faded memories of reading reviews of the mud pit Alternative Nation festival in, I think, 94? I do have to say this to my fellow attendees first off though: PICK YOUR GARBAGE UP PEOPLE. More bins would have been handy sure, but that’s little excuse. The place was strewn with food scraps, containers and cans, and I’ll put money on the cleaners not getting paid enough no matter what they’re getting. Mind you, in a perfect world cleaners would be paid as much as CEO’s are now, but I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

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The author mid Anthrax, photo requested by his wife.
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It’s been a while between drinks rock and roll festival wise – with the collapse of both Soundwave and the Big Day Out in recent years, so Download has been a sight for sore eyes, and eardrums. After something of a trek to get there (Thanks Gladys, choice weekend for trackwork down my train line), both cloak and security compliment my kilt (The first of more than a few) and I make my way inside. I have a bit of a wander round, and arrive at I PREVAIL’S singer doing a shoey at the urging of the crowd. In his words, “tastes like athelete’s foot.” The rain’s sprinkling, and the clouds aren’t that dark, but there’s potential for a mud fest. Goody. My afternoon begins properly with AIRBOURNE, who for a band that claims to be playing their first gig in a year and a half, don’t show it one fucking bit. They bring all their ferocious dedication to rock and roll and then some, hurling themselves around the stage, with singer Joel O’Keefe at one point clambering onto a security guard’s shoulders and going out into the crowd, still playing. If anyone deserves to be AC/DC 2.0, it’s them. BEHEMOTH start the next stage over, and while they aren’t my cup of tea, I have to observe that corpse paint doesn’t go so well in bright sunshine.

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Airbourne kicking it out.

I go off in search of food, which means times queing, as is the festival way. Thanks to me being picky and possibly not being in the right queue, I abandon my search and return to the main stages in time for ANTHRAX. Having one of the Big 4 on at 4:30 in the afternoon raises my hackles a little, but that’s burned away by their set – few bands can match them. Yeah, you could say it’s a greatest hits set, but how many other bands can casually walk onstage playing Cowboys from Hell, and have the likes of Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time and I Am the Law as the first three songs? Be All End All went on a bit (Lads, you’ve only got 45 minutes), but a crowd participation double bill of Antisocial and Indians finished things up nicely, and all of a sudden it was over. My quest for food returns anew, and stops me getting to RISE AGAINST, who sounded pretty good. Sorry lads, but kilted metal head needs food badly. I highly doubt the ‘cheese’ on my schnitzel is genuine, but I’m hungry enough not to care. While eating I discover that THY ART IS MURDER aren’t to my taste, but watching them get a circle pit going around the sound tent was fun. It’s finally getting dark and the bats are out. Excellent. This leaves me ready for HALESTORM, who don’t disappoint. Alas, I have to make a small detour to get my jacket back (trying to beat the end of day queues) and put my phone onto charge, as I’m running low and will need more power for later. Upon returning, Lizzy and co haven’t stopped rocking out, and I kick myself for not hearing them sooner. Also, their drummer has a fantastic knack for mid song drum stick twirling.

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Scott Ian. What a guy…

At this point I return to the main stage as ALICE IN CHAINS are finishing up, and go down a treat based on the audiences reaction. All of a sudden, there’s an air raid siren and BLACK SABBATH’s War Pigs thunders out. But Ozzy had to cancel I hear you say, what the hell? JUDAS PRIEST hit stage, roaring through Firepower and things go more than a little apeshit. They only up the ante, with Delivering the Goods, Sinner and Lightning Strike following and at that point my smile is so wide it starts and ends in different time zones. Yeah, to my ears Rob Halford’s voice was a little buried (Unlike his relentlessly cheery Instagram) and he may well have been using a teleprompter, but overall it didn’t matter a bit. The between song breaks for (I’m guessing) instrument changes and for Rob to change jackets start to drag, but the power of the songs cuts out any issues. Plus, at one point he comes on wearing an ankle length denim battle vest covered in patches, a garment that almost no-one else could carry off with such style.

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JUDAS FREAKING PRIEST. METAL GODS.

No Surrender is dedicated to Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton (who’s battling Parkinsons) and Rob waves a lightsaber around during Rising to Ruins (No, I’ve no idea why either). He also drives a Harley onstage for Hell Bent for Leather, a feat that has me jumping with glee. Things end with a ripping Painkiller, but a faint suspicion that it ain’t all over. How could it possibly be, as we haven’t heard, wait… What’s that? Yes, it’s The Hellion, followed by a storming Electric Eye, and, of course, Breaking the Law. I nearly weep with joy at this point. We may never see their like again, so appreciate them while you can.

Next stage over, things get more, well, evil. As the curtain drops, SLAYER open their final Sydney show with a ripping Repentless. They also have a pyro set up that if you put me at Dave Bostaph’s drum kit it would have made me load my trousers and flee – I’m a good distance back and can still feel my eyebrows being scorched. Alas, after a shredding War Ensemble I have to depart, as GHOST are soon to start. Cardinal Copia and the nameless Ghouls are (to my ears) hampered by a bass heavy sound mix, but the quality of the songs and the Cardinal’s cheeky stage banter (At one point commenting that the next song will ‘wobble our asses and tickle our taint” wins out over any sound issues – Ritual is received raptorously and the explosion of the end of Pinnacle to the Pit makes me jump. Before we know it, there’s a shower of sparks from above the stage, the band take their bows and it’s all over.

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Ghost doing their thing. Equal parts spooky and sexy.

As the motley horde shamble their way to the train station (with only the occasional scream of “SLAAAYYYER!”) to break the conversation, I consider myself fortunate to live in such an age. I saw 5 other kilts, had a guy ask if he could get a pic of me and his wife and am still deciding what was my favorite t-shirt was (I’m torn between Frenzal Rhomb’s Pell Awaits or the bright pink Death Metal number). I bloody love live music. It was a good day, a bloody good day. Sure, there was the odd pocket of testosterone fueled shit behaviour, but it was damned encouraging to see so many women there as well. Metal’s for all and long may it remain so. *throws horns*

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He was very confused when I asked for a photo.

Moffat, fandom and nerd rage.

As opening lines/statements of intent go, “I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm” should be up there with the greats. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today.

As with many Doctor Who fans, I have issues with Steven Moffat’s stewardship of the show. Over reliance on continuity and season long arcs, a lack of female writers (I was ecstatic to see Rona Munro return) and a hope that someday I’ll visit the alternate universe where Matt Smith and not Peter Capaldi was the Doctor in Robot of Sherwood. Curiously, Clara isn’t one of them. Yes, Jenna Coleman was hard done by, probably stayed a season too long and the Impossible Girl plotline could have used another rewrite or two, but none of those is really her fault.  But the reaction that Clara inspires, well, I haven’t seen it since Adric, or possibly Donna. I admit, I was far from a Donna fan at first (Not being aware of Catherine Tate’s comedy), but that was till Turn Left. Now, I’m itching for the next series of Ten/Donna adventures from Big Finish,  the announcement of which caused what seemed like half my Twitter feed to stand up and shout “CRIIIIBBBBIIIINNNNSSSS!”

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Best. Companion. Ever. (Who isn’t Ace or Sarah Jane)

It’s the level of fury that get’s me, nerd rage I’ve not seen since the Star Wars prequels. Yeah, I was young, dumb and angry, and said my fair share of stupid shit about them, but I’ve let it go. I’m not saying I’ve matured, but I’ve grown enough perspective (and grey hair) with age to remember that actual people who worked on those films, people who’s lives were made a living hell by something that should have been the happiest moment of their lives. I’ve tweeted a couple of times to Ahmed Best recently, saying if he’s ever in Sydney I’d love to buy him a drink by way of apologies. I can’t take back what I said about him in my younger days, but I can learn from it and not do it again. I’m not an apologist for the films as such, but I’ll sure as hell defend the people who worked on them.

Geting back to Who, I can’t fathom the idea that someone would stop watching the show, as some proclaimed, whether that be owing to a production team or a character they can’t stand. I loathe the character of Adric (The Wesley Crusher of Doctor Who), but I’m still going to watch his episodes, otherwise I’d miss out on Kinda (One of the most perfect and utterly brainmeltingly good bits of Who from any era and Earthshock (Spoilers…) People seem to expect the show to fit their whims, or to be always good, and people, that’s not what Who is about. A consistently good season? A season without at least one “Ohhh, that could have been a bit better?” THAT’S NOT MY SHOW. I need the rubbish to balance out the brilliance. I can’t quite explain it, but consistency isn’t one of the show’s strong points and that works for me.

You see, I love Doctor Who. (Shocked, gambling, winnings etc…)
I love it when it’s great.
I love it when it’s rubbish.
I frequently love it more when it’s rubbish – my adoration and uncritical love for The Horns of Nimon is well known. For those not acquainted with it, there’s some crap monsters, a minor character who splits his pants at his death, some of the most bored extras I’ve ever seen and the Doctor and the main villain are in a scenery chewing contest, while Romana plays it deadly straight. It should be unutterably awful, and yet I adore it with a joy that I’m sure has made my wife hope that someday I’ll talk about her like that*.

Getting back to the earlier point, I’m trying to praise Moffat, not to bury him. You see, despite all the bitching I may do, there’s some joyous moments during his tenure that make me punch the air and shout “That’s my show!” So, here’s a couple you may not have heard of, taken from Moffatt’s novelisation of The Day of the Doctor (Yes old time fans, Target novelisations are back!) Firstly, when all three Doctors are inside the Black Archive, and find copies of the Peter Cushing Dalek movies. There’s a lovely aside between Clara and Kate Stewart about how UNIT tried to suppress them, but they kept showing up on bank holidays, and that Cushing and the Doctor became great friends. Of course, they only found this out when Cushing started appearing in films made long after his death…

Secondly, is this extract, taken from when the Doctors are translating Gallifrey into the statis cube:
It took the better part of a day to translate the world of Gallifrey from one plane of reality to another, and the General was right. The planet screamed and burned and raged.

There was a town, on the southern shore of Lake Calasper, ripped apart by a giant earthquake. No one should have survived, but everywhere the people ran, they found a  blue police telephone box standing in front of them, opening it’s doors.
A tornado tore through a tiny village, till a ring of blue boxes spun round the storm in the opposite direction, shinking it into the ground.
As cities and towns and villages burned all around the planet, blue boxes came hurtling through the smoke, rescuing people from windows and rooftops.
A sky transporter, plunging towards the heart of the Capitol, was suddenly being piloted by a funny man with big ears and a black jacket. Everyone on board stared out of the windows, as he climbed along the wing, to rewire one of the engines.
A ship on the high seas, about to capsize, was suddenly captained by a strange little man in a frock coat and check trousers, who kept offering people gobstoppers and complaining about his aunt being giddy.
There was man with a ridiculous umbrella, who evacuated a school as a mountain crumbled towards it, and kept everyone laughing as they ran. A gentle cricketer took command of a hospital on fire, rescued the patients and completed an operation as the flames licked at the theatre door. A man with a cloud of white hair and swirling cape stood on a beach, and with a tiny silver rod, froze a whole tsunami as it thundered towards a town.  A laughing joker in a colourful coat led a party of miners out of the tunnels that had come crashing down around them. Four children, trapped on the side of a cliff face, knew beyond doubt that no one was coming to their rescue, till the end of an absurdly long scarf dangled down in front of them.

I was everywhere I was needed that day, across all my lives, and I believe I have never run so fast. If I sound proud, forgive me: it is the inverse of the shame I carried for so many years. That was the last day of the Time War, but it was no longer the worst day of my life. Instead, this was the day the people of Gallifrey rose up, and put 2.47 billion children safely to bed. This was the day I remembered who I was, and swore never to forget again.

This was the day of the Doctor.

Yeah, that could be said to be overly long and emotionally manipulative. And it’s working. Now,  you’ll excuse me, there’s some dust in my eyes. Yep, just some dust. And who the hell is chopping onions at this time of night? *ugly crying*

PS: I do have one last thing to say about Who at the moment: BINRO WAS RIGHT.
*She hasn’t watched it, but when her schedule frees up, in oh, 2028, I’ll sit down with her and some popcorn and pop it on. I may even live tweet the proceedings. 🙂