essentialsaltes: (arkham)
All the photos (and a couple videos)

I flew up Thursday to Portland for the 20th anniversary fest. Got set up in my hotel, and then ventured out for food and haircare products. I was happily surprised to find that you can still buy brilliantine. The Thursday night VIP party was held at a speakeasy, Circa 33, and we were encouraged to dress Thirties' style. I didn't really go for period authentic, but tuxedos are pretty timeless, and the brilliantined hair added some vintage flair. Great venue & good drinks. I spent some effort flipping the dipswitch from introvert to extrovert, and managed fairly well at mingling with people I knew and people I didn't. A sazerac and some ciders also helps to lower the shields, so that pretty soon, I'm embracing Charlie Stross and Jeff Combs.


Met lots of other good people there. Dick Lupoff and his wife -- discovered we were both Raiders fans. Leeman Kessler, [ profile] princeofcairo, a gaggle of other attendees. And plenty of friends that I generally only get to see at the fest: Glancy, Gwen, Andrew, Andrew & Linda, Gwen & Brian (who had some particularly kind things to say), and ...

The party was really a high point. It was a great venue, and everyone was relaxed -- just a bunch of fascinating people with a common interest being people together.

... )
essentialsaltes: (skelly)
Jason was kind enough to send Dr. Pookie and me a real live dead tree advanced reading copy (more or less) of his book. Subtitled A Novel of Gritty Elizabethan Intrigue, it provides plenty of grit, intrigue, and Elizabethan-dom.

One of the strongest points is the realistic grit of 1590 London (and the Low Countries). Bawdy and squalid, violent and smutty.

The plot centers on the collapse of a spy network in the wake of the death of Walsingham. The remnants of the burned network try to reestablish contact, while the burners try to stamp them out.

Historical fiction of rebellious English Catholics or cleavers slicing off body parts? Yes.

Book challenge criteria:
published this year
mystery or thriller
A popular author's first book (we'll see)
recommended by a friend
essentialsaltes: (Agent)

Third costume of the day!

Had a great time at our Halloween Housewarming party. Dr. Pookie slaved all day long, and I slaved half a day long, but we got the house into shape and made some tasty treats for guests. As you can see from the photo, the first trick-or-treater got carved up for the stew. We had some pretty big fleets of kids come through -- in fact, we committed the unpardonable sin... we ran out of candy. But fortunately only a few groups had to go away empty bucketed. A couple of the neighbors showed up, as well as the nice folks who bought our old house. And a good selection of the usual gang of idiots.

A few more photos here, and one video of the dry ice fountain, thanks to [ profile] castle_kevorah
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Our house continues to slowly creep toward the state of being someone else's house.

Tomorrow will begin the great adventure of tenting & fumigation. Also known as the adventure of living with two cats in a hotel room.

We've made offers here and there, and have a couple out at the moment, but so far nothing definite. Got outbid again on the hipster palace, which popped briefly back onto the market.

Two weekends back, Jackie&Andy invited us over for some brats & games with some other good folks. Got another chance at Risk Legacy, but since I got to place my HQ last, I was in a tight spot from the start. I convinced people to attack Dr. Pookie, so at least I caused connubial strife. I survived, but was never much of a threat to anyone.

One weekend back, we got visited by Dr. Pookie's friend from high school, and her three kids. We grilled up teriyaki chicken and (mostly) kept the wee ones entertained. Good times.
essentialsaltes: (Dead)
For the past few days, I've been living about 2.5 lives, and not had time to catch up on it. Until now (?) We'll see how far I get.

click at your own risk )

Turkey Day

Nov. 28th, 2013 06:50 pm
essentialsaltes: (great)
Dad in Florida (alas, Grandpa is ailing, but that will no doubt be another post, all too soon) & Mom is... well... Should I get into this? Her world has become narrow and circumscribed. She wanted to have us over, but only to go out to eat at a restaurant. I have reservations about making people serve me on a family holiday, but I have even stronger reservations about not having a family meal on a family holiday. So we passed. We counteroffered making dinner at our place. They passed. We doublecounteroffered bringing fixings and making dinner at their place. They passed. Allrighty then.

Fortunately jason_brez sent out the call, and so we had a fantastic Thanksgiving meal with him and his parents at their awesome Dana Point place. We brought wine and some cauliflower to fry up with tahini sauce, an idea started by our fond remembrance of the cauliflower at Bucato. They gave us everything from turkey to pork terrine, homemade rye to fresh rolls, pickles to sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie for afters. The conversation was just as fantastic as always. And I scored the loan of some of [ profile] nihilistic_kid's work, which I have strangely avoided, because he's just that dude who's a friend of friends. But of course my friends are awesome, so he's probably awesome, too.
essentialsaltes: (Dead)
Can't sleep, clowns will eat me.

Friday, I showed up for [ profile] aaronjv's game of Itras By, scenario by [ profile] hagdirt.

It was a phantasmagoria. A blow-by-blow would be more unedifying than even the usual after-the-fact war stories. IB is a communal story telling exercise, and you can't lose with the right crowd, and I think we had a good one. It may not have lived up to the sheer butt-raping insanity of some OctaNe sessions with Jazon_brez, but still good stuff. K gave us enough of a line to hang our chaos on. And A finessed it and made sure everyone had some input.

No doubt it was the absinthe A plied us with, but I was most satisfied with literally belting out the Alabama Song when I was in a bar setting. That wasn't my only contribution, but it may have been the least Mike-like. Which is worth something.

[PS if you only know the song via The Doors, shoot yourself in the head. If you don't know who The Doors are, just hold your breath for a few seconds so your brain dies.]

I had a large gap, and strangely my plan for introvert sociability worked perfectly. I went to get some food, and sat all by my lonesome self in the hotel restaurant. I will say that their short rib sandwich with horseradish mayo is pretty awesome, but it does have slightly too much meat on it. In any event. Aaron showed up and joined me. And then Fei. And then... oh shit, I've forgotten her name, but the nice kiwi lady. And then John. This all happened one person at a time, and I was glad to be the starting nucleus.

But I had to be off to change for the Masquerade Ball. This was an interstitial adventure for the Messina campaign, so I kinda knew I wouldn't be a star, but it was definitely still fun to wander about as an ancient Thomas Alva Edison and interact with the other people there.

I think there was a plotline there that I wasn't actually, well, informed about. But I tried to roll with it as best I could, but it ultimately devolved into gunfire and swordplay. Not Tom's thing at all. That poor Duchess whatever-her-name-was (my hearing has always been bad) took a bullet to the head, and crumpled practically in my arms.

Zipped home and back. Well, not entirely. As I left Saturday, somehow I forgot my flip chart thingy. So I turned back. Having seen how terrible the 405N was, I cleverly (?) went further south to hit the 110 N to the 105W, so I could swoop through the Manchester/La Cienega Offramp to get home. Alas, the reason that the 405N was rotten was that the two-lane nearly a freeway Manchester/La Cienega Offramp was closed. Entirely. Which meant additionally, that all the people who wanted to get off on those two major arteries were trying to get off at La Tijera (as was I, but I settled for zooming out and back in to get off at Sepulveda/Slauson.) In any event, I spent 15 minutes heading toward Wyrd Con, and 45 minutes coming back. So there went my extra time for lunch and beer. I picked up the dingus and headed back down.

Now I rushed my ass and got to the room for Exodus 22:18 with a half hour to spare, and... there was nobody there. I rearranged some tables and chairs, and still nobody. Augh. Fortunately thing picked up rapidly right at game time.

I was flustered a bit, but found my center fairly quickly.

The game went fairly well. Problems with pacing was probably the biggest problem. The conceit is that the players are townsfolk attempting to determine which among them are witches.

It pains me to say it, but I was slightly shocked when a couple players seemed to make it their mission to paint giant targets on their backs.

At the same time, they were portraying a more skeptical, modern view of the witchcraft hysteria. Sadly, though I agree with it through and through, that is the quick path to getting yourself burnt, and so it proved. Or so it would have been, if they had not extemporized a method of self slaughter.

In any event, while they made for good scenes, it also led to a fast, easy resolution, and with many of the townsfolk wondering, "Are we done? We rooted out the obvious witches."

Some flurries of drama and accusations happened thereafter, though leavened with boredom. A number of other good scenes here and there.

At the end, there was some good feedback and criticism all around. Some I agree with, some I disagree with, and some that would probably be very good for a game that was not the game that I wanted to run.

Sleep is finally catching up to me. Not me at my best, not me at my worst. I was satisfied. I think, on the whole, it was certainly not a failure. Well, no, that's too litotes-ish. It was good. But not perfect. But these things never are.
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Got a neat chance to get in on an Ars Magica LARP, run by [ profile] ian_tiberius as part of his sit-down game. The setting was a Tribunal, and I played the Praeco allegedly in charge of things. Although it was harrowing to get a metric shitload of information just a couple days before the game, it was paradoxically somewhat relaxing to not have to worry about things for weeks, and then just waltz in and get my larp on. It all went quite well, and I had a great time. Even though I was too busy to do much horse-trading, I did wind up doing a fair amount, and quite successfully. I may have gone more comedic than I intended, but events conspired to push me that way.
essentialsaltes: (Empathyormurder)
Dr. Pookie and I will be gone for a week or so at the end of July.

We would really appreciate if someone or someone(s) could take care of the cats and the garden. And certainly, if you want a home-away-from-home, you're welcome to truly house-sit.

If anyone's interested, please let me know, and we can work on details.
essentialsaltes: (Secular)
Risk Legacy game last night
Ken scratched through illness
Graydon was represented by Kirin. Kirin was informed of how poorly Graydon rolls, and he complied with our request to emulate that.
So we had an alternate alternate earth.
just in case you are worried about spoilers )
essentialsaltes: (Whiskey Tango but no Foxtrot)
Had a great time. Saw lots of friends and had good long chats with some that I haven't had the chance to in some time.

The rev left a pregnant (so to speak) pause after his call for marriage equality. I was too timid to cheer, even though I got a few cheers when I left a similar pause the last time I officiated.

Karen looked lovely, the girls looked excited, Ian was rocking the tux, and Brian had a superfluous fork in his hand as he gave his toast. Perfect.


More photos
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Going back a bit... Mom came down with a sinus infection (all better now, thanks) and cancelled Thanksgiving. [ profile] hagdirt's family cancelled for political reasons. While Enigma Thanksgiving is almost designed for such situations, something about the last-minuteness of it all inspired the Accidental Thanksgiving, with bonus Lee with Kung Fu Grip.

Last night was a wee bachelor party. As is well known, only a moral degenerate would have a coed bachelor party, so there were no women present:
Read more... )
essentialsaltes: (jasmine)
Two more games of Risk Legacy last night. I got jobbed pretty bad. Graydon & Aaron picked up wins.
very spoilery )
essentialsaltes: (Cocktail)
We headed downtown to enjoy the noir, if damp, look of DTLA in the rain. We (Us, A&K, [ profile] castle_kevorah, Lady Euthanasia and her Shad0) assembled at the Onyx Lounge. My sazerac was splendid, and Dr. Pookie's mezcal-based Barbacoa was excellent as well. They have a pretty awesome cheese plank, and the shishito peppers were fantastic. Two thumbs up from me.

We then had an unscheduled stop at Buzz, a funky spot for wine and beer. They have a tasting license, so we ordered flights of red, white, and beer. I would be driving -- eventually -- so I restrained my sips. Didn't like the Silvaner, thought the three syrahs were all decent, and focused on the beer. These were all 'winter' beers to keep you warm; and warm they were, with ABV's ranging from 9.5% to 13.2%. My fave was the Flying Dog Barrel Aged Gonzo, an imperial porter aged for half a year in Stranahans whiskey barrels. Not strong on the whiskey flavor, which is a good thing, since it's an excellent beer to begin with. It was also the lowest ABV... a mere 9.5%. The ones up around 13% just don't taste like beer any more. Second place goes to Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, perhaps not coincidentally the second lowest ABV, but also a yummy dark Imperial Stout.

Thence to the Crocker Club. It was much as I remembered it. It's loud, all the tables are reserved, the staff is slow, and somehow the whole experience is unwelcoming, starting from the dresscode, that might as well just save time and say, "No ghetto black people."

Finally, to B├Ąco Mercat, which was chaotic, but pretty fabulous. Everything on the menu seems to be created by spinning the wheels of the exotic foodstuff slot machine:

Pull... [ratchety rackety ratchety]

[clank!] harissa....
[clink!] smoked aioli...
[clunk!] and pickle!

Pull... [ratchety rackety ratchety]

[clank!] muhamara....
[clink!] pickled lemon...
[clunk!] and sumac!

Despite(?) that, everything I tasted was pretty amazing. The staff presents the restaurant as a family style/tapas/sharing sort of place, but many of the items are not really ideal for sharing. But it does work if you really are family (and, oh yes, we are!) and you get your knives, forks, elbows, and toes all digging into the plates. My faves were the duck confit pasta, the spicy chicken baco, the yam, and the tomato flatbread with added porkbelly bacon sausage. I was actually a little disappointed with the porkbelly bacon sausage. I mean those words smashed together like that create an expectation of the best thing ever, when in fact it was merely extremely tasty.
The other fabulous find was my drink, the Inca Punch. Based on pisco, natch, the most interesting ingredient was the chicha morada shrub. I have fond memories of chicha morada (and even plain chicha) from our trip to Peru, so I had to go for this one. The ingredients just went together so well, and at the same time it was so interesting from the more unusual ingredients (which simultaneously were faintly familiar for me).

Through all of this, of course, we gabbled of this and that, and generally enjoyed good company. Yay!

ETA: Oh, I'll add the one important discovery demonstrating the commonality of mankind. Male or female, the license we all indulge in when our partner is away, is to use the bathroom with the door open.
essentialsaltes: (Dorian Gray)
Jason came up and we whipped up some of the best cheeseburgers in the world. We knocked back cheeseburgers, wine, and conversation. After Jason bugged out, we hit a tiny bit of the Inglewood Open Studios. First up was TJ Walker, who had a little space on La Brea just south of us. Nice work and a friendly guy. Then to the largest gathering at the Beacon Arts Building, which contains many artist studios. Plenty of variety from the absurd to the cool. I liked Brian Biedul's figures trapped in their canvas spaces.

Although it was interesting. Seeing the one downstairs in the 'general' gallery made it stand out, but in his studio where there were a dozen of them, they suddenly seemed less special. That and the pricetag that looked more like a salary nipped any thoughts of becoming an art collector in the bud.
Another playful installation was the playable rubber tree:
The artist had installed pickups so that when you thumped the trunk you got a nice percussive sound. In her studio, she had some smaller examples, like cacti, where you could pluck the needles to make pops, or let the needle scratch along your fingerprints in a ripply crackle.
But my favorite was Virginia Broersma's work:
For her, it was about images of women exercising, combined with excursions away from realism. For me, they're beauty leavened by monstrosity.
We also peeked into some corners of the building, where Dr. Pookie particularly liked this warning sign:
essentialsaltes: (Larpies)

(awesome 3D photo by Mark Spieckerman)

Zipped down, parked, and then walked under the blazing sun to the brunch. Enjoyed the effort that went into the benediction. I shot some video of our High Priest doing his own riff on "Imagine", but it didn't turn out so hot, alas. Hello, the Future occurred. Next were the author readings. I drew the short straw and went first. I think it went reasonably well, but nerves are an issue. My idea of performance is to peck away at a keyboard in the safety of my own home, with no one around. But I got a couple nice comments about the reading, so I'll say it went well enough. Denise Dumars and Bryan Thao Worra are much better at working a crowd. I think my favorite reading was Denise's poem "EVP".

Then we had our panel, and the above were joined by Cody, Skipp and artist Mike Dubisch. We bandied 'cosmic horror' about, and I think it was really a high point of the brunch. At least for me. People who know their shit had some complementary and contradictory discourse about Lovecraft in the modern age. I said some things that charitable people would consider profound.

During the subsequent schmoozing, I got to make the acquaintance of about-to-be-honored Michael Reaves, who I have just now learned shares my birthday. I started off on the wrong foot, since I was unaware that he suffers from Parkinson's. Production of speech is difficult for him, but through the good graces of his daughter Mallory (whom I know tangentially via Wyrd Con, of all things) we had a good conversation. He was a bit miffed, I think, that we on the panel had not mentioned his script for The Real Ghostbusters. I fell back on the very true statement that it hadn't yet screened at the fest.
Welcome to the beginning of the films )
essentialsaltes: (Cthulhu)
Click through for a couple more pictures.
Marquee & line @ the Warner Grand

First of all, Day Two is today. Come on down.

I got home from work and had a brief moment to greet wife and cats. Cats were unimpressed; wife was slightly more impressed, but preoccupied by creating a certain something for the Sunday LARP/scavenger hunt at the festival: The Lash of St. Francis.

Then to fight the freeways during Son of Carmaggedon. Not really affecting my route, but people were still slightly crazier than usual. Anyway, got there safe and sound.

Waved hello to a couple folks, and then first up, a feature (premiere even!) of The Thing on the Doorstep. It was really quite good. So good that it reaches a level of good where I start to get more critical, but I'll forgo that. I liked the very psychological take on the interplay between Derby, Upton, Asenath, and Upton's wife. I think the movie would also play reasonably well with an audience with no knowledge of the story. Alrighty, I'll utter one really trivial quibble. I've always considered Edward Pickman Derby's name to be pronounced UK-style: "Darby". Maybe that's just me. It's not like this filled me with rage or anything. Made me consider dusting off my own attempt at a screenplay adaptation of "Thing".

Next up, Macabre Fantasy Radio Theater. It was neat to see a gaggle of my friends get together to do "The Statement of Randolph Carter" with some live foley work and all. It was a bit of an experiment, but I think it came off great. There's kind of a strange oxymoronic feel to watching a radio show being performed, but it's interesting to see how much a cheap little sound effect can help fill the audio space. On the other hand, sometimes seeing the cheap (but authentic old time-y radio-y) sound effect made for unintentional humor. On the whole, I dug it, and the audience around me dug it.

Then the South Park Coon Trilogy, in which the foul mouthed little children ultimately meet Cthulhu. Cthulhu himself doesn't actually add much humor, but there are some hysterical bits here and there. The idea of Captain Hindsight (particularly his origin story as a TV reporter) is inspired. But the part I laughed at most was recognizing the Clockwork Orange sound cue, and knowing what had to come next.

That wrapped up the screenings, but then the die-hards migrated to the Whale and Ale pub, who were again kind enough to put up with our baloney. And here your narrator was slightly naughty. Frank Woodward ran a Lovecraft trivia game. And my table (David, Sarah, and Blake) joined up as team Gibbous (aka Lady Shaggaggath). Aaron was too late to stop us from taking prizes from deserving paying customers. Round One was relatively basic, and I think two teams had perfect scores. Round Two got much harder, and we missed at least a couple, though fortunately David came up with one ship from "The Call of Cthulhu" and I came up with the other. Round Three had some focus on film adaptations of Lovecraft, and Blake was able to provide the correct answer to a question about Castle Freak. Team effort! Uh, Sarah provided excellent high fives!

And thanks to all the sponsors who gave neat gifties for the top three teams, even if (as a 'ringer' in Aaron's parlance) I probably ought to have hid my light under a bushel. I swear, I think I have won a raffle at every HPLFF I've been to. I have resolved to sit on my hands if my number comes up in the future.

Unless I really really want that thing.
essentialsaltes: (Wogga Zazula!)
Once again I announce: "All hail [ profile] popepat!" And Mrs. Pope and Minipope. They once again opened up their house for (can it be?) the 12th Maxicon (which is still ongoing, but I moderated my participation to Saturday only... stretching into Sunday).

First up for me was Garrett's Dead Space RPG. I had played the demo, which made me the most knowledgeable about the source material I think. Which is not a problem, since the whole point is to scare the pants off you with the unexpected. It went well: fast-paced, high tension, limited resources, stressful timing deadlines. If there was any problem, it was that the gods of luck smiled on us too much in the final showdown. Good scary fun.

Next up, [ profile] aaronjv ran The Tribunal, an award-winning LARP created by [ profile] jiituomas. The 12 players play soldiers in a totalitarian state, faced with a difficult decision: whether to value honesty over expediency. I'm torn about how much I should or shouldn't reveal. One part of me says it doesn't matter since whatever happens is almost entirely the product of the players; the other part says that hearing the rationalizations or bullshit produced by one set of players might affect future players who read about it, and thus color whatever they would ultimately produce. I'll err on the side of caution and step back a bit.
I enjoyed the experience. This is perhaps controversial. Some people (named Aaron) have denigrated the idea that LARP is merely (?) an enjoyable pastime. It is Art with a capital A. I don't have a problem with that, except that in its extreme form Art becomes Pollock and Rothko. You're a rube if you expect to enjoy it, it's Art fer crissakes. Art!
I had my doubts about whether I would enjoy being an ant in a totalitarian army. But I came in to the game with not only an open mind, but a willingness and readiness to do it right. And the other participants probably saw me red-faced and shouting more in those couple hours than in the rest of their experience of me. Anyway, my awesome role-playing (relatively speaking) is beside the point; the point is that I enjoyed the experience. But am I supposed to enjoy my Brussels Sprouts?
My answer is that I don't care. LARP for me is an enjoyable pastime, and as long as I enjoy it I will continue to participate. It may also be Art; it may also be therapy; it may also be escapism; I don't care: Philistine that I am, I'm only interested in doing it if I enjoy it.
Anyway, stepping back in. I liked the way that character names instantly invoked associations that helped to establish character, and aided others in remembering same. I liked the way that the game was essentially entirely created by the players rather than directed from outside. The game relies on the players being willing to play, and I'm glad we had a group up to the challenge.

Following that was an impromptu meeting of the Live Game Labs & other interested parties, wherein we plotted the future of American LARP while simultaneously solving the problem of monetizing LARP and trading juicy gossip.
essentialsaltes: (cartouche)
At Louche Ends: Poetry for the Decadent, the Damned & the Abinsthe-Minded is a slim volume of [ profile] ladyeuthanasia's Stoker nominated poetry.
It's hard to review poetry. It's hard to review stuff written by people ya know. This is double-hard.
I'm not a big fan of free verse, but the form (or lack thereof) does seem to be a good one for these late-night thoughts. The best of the poems (of which there are more than a few) have the rhythm and music of fine speech. Probably the strangest thing about reading some of these poems is that knowing the poetess occasionally provides some personal insight into them. For other poems I can appreciate the sense and the tone, but I can't help wondering if I might gain a similar personal understanding if I just offered Maria the right drink at the right time and got the right story out of her.


essentialsaltes: (Default)

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