essentialsaltes: (PKD)
Went down to Dana Point to visit Jason & his folks. The garden was looking lovely, as ever:
The Brezinski Garden

Plenty of good conversation with Jason, Tom & Rachel and their friend Jane, ranging from Buddha to Philip K Dick. Jason's cat, whose name continues to elude me, is quite pugnacious. Next door are two mean dogs, and she taunts them up to the chain link fence and then wails on their noses. I'm sorry I didn't catch any photos or video of that, but she is otherwise a sweetie-pie.
Jason & Tom combined to produce amazing lamb on the grill. Just perfect. And plenty of tasty sides to go with. And wine. We contributed the pisco and photos and stories of Peru.
essentialsaltes: (jasmine)
[livejournal.com profile] postgoodism was kind enough to drop me a copy of the game on Saturday. I found myself somewhat surprised to be staring at the credits rolling Wednesday night. It seemed... short. Don't get me wrong -- I played a lot on Sunday, and an hour or two every evening after work -- but it seemed short.

Certainly the gameplay and storyline was pretty familiar, but there were some refreshing tweaks. One of the best things was a somewhat enhanced hand-to-hand combat system, especially in some microboss battles. One of the things I found lame about some recent games are the big setpieces where you watch some canned animation and then when something flashes onscreen, you mash the right button to see more canned animation. It may increase the care that goes into the visuals to make it epic and cinematic, but at the expense of gameplay. In these fistfights, there's still some of the mash the right button element, but you still have a lot of control, while at the same time, the fights are clearly partially choreographed with nice mo-cap sequences that up the cinematic-ness. But the blending of game and canned animation routines is much more seamless.

I also enjoyed the quiet interlude with Drake in the desert. It might have been just a canned montage of Drake wandering over sand-dunes, but instead you have at least a little control over his movement. It's not much, but at least if you walk him along the edge of the crest of the dune, he sends little slides of sand downhill that are real pretty. Later in the sequence, as wandering in the desert takes its toll, it's another nice touch that if you stop moving, you fall to your hands and knees. Poor bastard.

And I shot a lot of bad guys and saved the day, so there's that.

I may have complained about the shortness, but obviously there's the multiplayer as well, and I enjoyed that a lot with U2, even though I'm not much of an online gamer. I enjoyed the multiplayer beta for U3 earlier this year (and it was a bit strange running into the French chateau in the campaign mode and knowing the geography intimately. Deja vu!) So I'll probably log plenty more hours getting my butt handed to me in the multiplayer.
essentialsaltes: (Wogga Zazula!)
Haven't posted in a while, so I'm gonna talk your ear off now.

Tartan Hall has altered its schedule so that there was no school for Thanksgiving week. Since Dr. Pookie was thus free, I took the week off as well. Primarily we had a staycation, but I'll hit the highlights.

Monday, we got in the still-fairly-new car, and Dr. Pookie closed her eyes, stoically refraining from comment, while I drove like a madman up the coast to Santa Barbara, where we hit up a few wineries. Bought a few bottles, but the real reason was just to get away, see some nice scenery, and go where we wanted without any particular plan.

For Thanksgiving, we hosted for mom and the stepdad. We had a not very traditional menu; we (or rather Dr. Pookie) made duck as the main dish, and I chipped in on making the bacon risotto and green beans with cilantro. Mom brought bread and cranberry sauce. The duck was fine, but not spectacular, and everything else was pretty good. Finished it all off with pumpkin pie.

Saturday, we hosted a small poker and liquor party, with a good mix of good people.

Any intervening periods in that week were probably spent cleaning the house, or doing as close to nothing as possible. I endorse the staycation plan, but I was lazy as all get out. The cats were starting to criticize me for my lassitude.

Maybe tomorrow I'll catch up on blogging about my reading. Yes, I'm sure you're all excited to hear that.
essentialsaltes: (Laika)
I NPC'ed for last night's episode of the Starship Valkyrie LARP. It was fun to finally see it all in action.

I was a bodyguard from Maxicorp's Saf-Gard division, on a contract to protect an ambassador who was to be ferried by Valkyrie from Earth to the rebellious Sirius station for a diplomatic mission. Apart from in-game goals to protect the ambassador, my out-of-game goals were to be intimidating and distrustful/scornful of the Star Navy. Since I was glued to the ambassador, and there doesn't seem much reason for the bodyguard to casually chat with people, I didn't do a whole lot of that, but there were definitely a few occasions that allowed me some good opportunities. And my presence and general demeanor alone seemed sufficiently intimidating for many of the crew.

Alien sabotage complicated the mission enormously, but the crew struggled through. But let me tell you, that kind of disorganization would never be tolerated in the private sector. Maxicorp efficiency experts would be horrified.

I think one of the things that makes Valkyrie successful as a LARP is that nobody can do everything and everybody can do something. And the game is not so large that you're merely a cog. Everyone is at least a gear, or maybe an escapement or mainspring. The players can see that their position contributes to the whole, and each one owns that job. The fact that nobody can do everything is an important part of the equation. Oh sure, the captain runs the ship and gives orders, but he can't generate more power, or solve that science mystery, or win that dogfight. The crew do, collectively.
essentialsaltes: (Grinch)
The Survivors' Menagerie is available for download at Goodreads, Amazon, and other locations. I think the pricing is a uniform $0.99.
Previously, at Kyle's behest, I reviewed an anthology in which Kyle's strong story was one of my very favorites. This time, he asked me take a look at this, a standalone novelette. As in "Too Close for Comfort", this story takes a close look at a science experiment that's quite a bit beyond our present capabilities, presents some ethical quandaries, and then details the dramatic consequences.

This time, it's time travel. Not just time travel, but the 'abduction' of subjects from the past (who were fated to die soon (shades of Silverberg's "Gianni", a favorite of mine)) for research purposes. A gladiator, a young woman from the Titanic, and a physicist enter a bar are the primary subjects addressed in the story. Through their interaction with the research staff and each other, they and the principal investigator all advance toward their destinies.

Unfortunately, I wasn't as impressed by this effort. The Gladiator's Tale, while clever and exciting, is not integrated enough with the rest of the characters and overall story. I have some issues with some rather suicidal motivations. A few other details here and there bother me, but it's hard to explain without ruining the story. There is a lot to like about the story, particularly the resolution of the main(?) story (although I'm not so keen on the antepenultimate and penultimate paragraphs). But something about the relative proportions and integration of the various stories, and some of the character motivations, didn't quite work for me.

I believe Kyle also acted as publisher in this case. I read it as a PDF and the format and text was perfectly fine, and the copyediting nearly flawless -- I spotted just one 'and' for 'an'. But I think the story could well have benefitted from the outside input of an independent editor.
essentialsaltes: (arkham)
I drifted (slowly through Friday rush-hour traffic) down to San Pedro for the start of the second Los Angeles-based HPL Film Fest [here's what little I wrote about the first one down here]. Any annoyance at the traffic was alleviated by being ushered into the VIP reception hosted at the Grand Vision Foundation's digs near the Warner Grand Theater itself. Got to hobnob with friends old and new, and drool over the props and things from Whisperer in Darkness. Sean and Andrew brought a ton of stuff along, and it looks as good in person as it does on screen. Also had a chance to try out some Bowen's Whiskey before it's available in stores. They served it in some ice shotglasses that were a little better in concept than execution; it forced you to drink fast as your beverage and container rapidly turned into a puddle in the middle of your hand. So I didn't linger over the bouquet or taste, but it was pleasant and a bit on the sweet side. I also had one of their whiskey-ritas. It sounded like an abomination -- clearly perfect for a Lovecraftian gathering -- but the combo of whiskey and basil-infused lemonade was surprisingly good.

Oh, and I suppose there were some films, eventually.
Settle in for a spell )
essentialsaltes: (Eye)
A few photos of Whisperer in Darkness props etc. from the HPL Film Festival.
essentialsaltes: (City Hall)
Yesterday was Aaron's second ChronoAgents roadrally. Lots of fun and an agonizing finish for us, as we placed a close second behind Team Delorean. They beat us by 4 minutes, and as their thief managed to (within the rules) sabotage us by 5 minutes, that was a crucial difference. There were a billion other things that added or subtracted time that could be called the deciding factor, but that one just psychologically feels right, since they did it to us.

To recap:
Aaron ran ChronoAgents.
Inspired by his, I ran Save Our City
And now ChronoAgents Reloaded with added Gauntlet/light LARP elements.

This'll be a little spoilery, and I think it would be easy for Aaron to get the clues up so people could play the home game. So you may hold off until Aaron has said his say. (and that reminds me, I need to get the PDF of Save Our City back online.)

First, thanks to Aaron, Kirsten, Ross & the boffer squad for putting it all together.
Awesome thanks to my last-minute teammates: Chris, for driving, tech, and physical prowess. Beth for even more tech and Magic-User defense and offense. Nick, for thievery and being our main away team on many occasions.
Thanks to the venues for putting up with us. The Time Travel Mart (natch), Cafe 50s on Vermont, and PS612.
Special thanks to the helpful guys at the Kip's Toyland at the Farmers Market, and the caretaker at the Museum of Death.

Things that stood out:
Generally overloading our brains, simultaneously juggling audio clues on the CD, written clues, driving logistics, puzzles, gathering 'spell components' and thievable objects.
Our thief stealing a cup from someone. OK, it was on his tray, and he was headed for the trashcan, but still... it takes a special thief to Yoink! something from a befuddled stranger.
Shining a flashlight through the bars of the (unfortunately) closed and dark Museum of Death, and thereby rousing the caretaker, who came out, talked to us, and gave us the info we needed. (Not so triumphant, the winning team was also nearby and heard the clue and escaped while we were explaining to/thanking the guy.)
Witnessing our warrior participating in an epic boffer duel inside the Streetlamp art exhibit at LACMA. Aaron alleges he had clearance for this, but THE MAN came down on us and made us stop, but not until a fair degree of awesomeness had been achieved.
Finding the smallest and cutest park in LA county.
Um, the cleric and the magic-user researching in their WiFi spellbooks, in order to solve a clue through astral projection, rather than having to go to the location itself.
Being part of a surprisingly well-oiled team, with complementary strengths.

What kinda bit:
A number of closed locations. Though I have no right to complain since one of the clues in my game was actually demolished before game time.
The dinner location was only revealed after doing X, but we didn't know that. So doing X had no priority for us. So we did X near the end of the first half of the game, and dinner was quite a distance from the X location.
The final location (or rather the puzzle for it) was only revealed after doing Y. This we knew. But with the closed locations, many of the after-dinner clues became gimmes [though rewards were given for having achieved it while they were still open, or sweettalking the caretaker]. But the effect was that you do Y, get the last puzzle and the answers for the gimmes all in one lump. And I think if you were missing a clue, maybe two, this big lump would be enough to solve the final puzzle without doing all the locations. So it was sort of like: do Y, and go directly to endgame. Now I have no personal beef with this: I think we were the first to do Y, so we were off quick, and I know the winning team did both of the gimmes (even if they overheard one that we have the moral right to say we earned) and we did only one. And we only astrally projected one location, so it's not like we visited them all. But it'd be interesting to see how many teams did #10 in the flesh, rather than astrally, or just not at all but were still able to solve the final puzzle.
Probably because of the rapidity of the endgame, it bit a lot to get there before the gamestaff. We were later 'remotely' checked in at the end, but who knows what the actual time we exited the maze was? Again, my moral ground is shaky here, since Team GRAB BAGS got to lunch a bit before I did in Save Our City.
But mostly... PARKING IN DTLA

But these are pretty small potatoes. I had a lot of fun, again.
essentialsaltes: (Cocktail)
Last night we celebrated [livejournal.com profile] ladyeuthanasia's natal festivities at the Villain's Tavern. We commandeered the mezzanine, which gave us a great view of the goings on at the bar. Good drinks & excellent beer selection. The food menu is small, but you can't go wrong with the demon burger (though I heard less flattering things about the chicken, and how can you trust even a villainous lair that misspells Caesar Salad?). But we were there for the company, and there was certainly no disappointment there. A happy birthday girl and lots of good friends. Nice mix.

In other news, I've been car-shopping. I'm working up the courage to do something I've never done before... buy a new car. I feel woefully unprepared to test-drive new cars. Before now, my checklist for test-driving used cars was to make sure that nothing fell off while I was driving it.

I really wanted to have an American car on my list. But after sifting through the data, the last 'American' car to get crossed off my list turned out to be manufactured in Mexico anyway.

In order of testing:

Hyundai Genesis Coupe - I went in thinking I wasn't going to like it much, but it was actually pretty fun to drive. The controls look like a 747 cockpit and I didn't know what anything did, which is something of a minus. I drove the 2.0L engine version, but I think it may be worth trying out the V6, though that's around at my price limit on paper (and -- who are we kidding? -- once all is said and done we'll no doubt be over my 'limit'. Surely, nothing can go wrong if people spend money beyond their means!) Audio system seemed a little weak, but specs suggest it should be better. Probably if properly fiddled with it would be better.

Nissan Altima Coupe - This was sort of the front-runner going into this, based on specs and also my feeble brand loyalty, since my previous cars have both been Nissan Sentras. They didn't have the V6 version available, so I tried the 4. It was fine, and very familiar feeling, unlike the Hyundai. I wondered if the continuously variable transmission would feel weird, but apart from feeling a little cheated that there weren't any jerks throwing you into the realm of fast, it wasn't weird at all, just a really smooth ride. It was a little boring, and the trunk is really tiny, but I'm willing to drive further from home to test out the genuine V6 version. Audio sounded great; Nissan really seems to have audio figured out, even for base models.

Honda Accord - Again, not quite the car I wanted to test. This time, I got the V6, but the 4-door instead of the 2-door. [As an aside, the tsunami has definitely impacted availability for some Japanese imports, particularly Honda, it seems. The 2012 Accord is expected in the states in May 2012. The '12 Nissan Altima is already here.] The V6 made a pleasing roar, but the actual feeling of acceleration was not as peppy as one would hope. Maybe with the smaller coupe it would feel better, but it didn't sell me. The Accord is definitely worthy of being a super top-selling car. Lots of features and nth-generation improvements, but I didn't click with its soul.

Mazda Miata - Damn, but this car is cute. Yes, it is really fun to drive. The engine isn't huge, but neither is the car, so it's very nimble. Sadly, I am just too large for the Miata. With the top up, I nominally fit inside the car. But worse, the level of my eyes is exactly at the same height as the rear-view, which effectively blocks half the windshield from my view. Seriously. With the top down, the visibility is fine, since I can see to the sides and over the top of the windshield, but with the top up, it's not really acceptable. If I could have an extra car, just for zipping up to Santa Barbara for winetastings, it would be grand, but for me it is not an everyday car.

Future actions:
Test V6 Genesis Coupe
Test V6 Altima Coupe

(As a total aside, Dr. Pookie reminded me that while we were in our hotel in Cuzco, we dimly heard someone playing Shirley Bassey belting out "Goldfinger"... but not the film version... the most excellent Propellerheads remix.)
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
I'm here to promote all the wonderful things all my wonderful peoples are up to. (* may contain up to 2% self-aggrandizement due to settling on shipment)

Let's begin with the Los Angeles HP Lovecraft Film Festival, since it allows for multiple propers to be given. The fest runs September 16-17.

The LA version of the fest is, of course, the brainchild of [livejournal.com profile] aaronjv, in association with Andrew Migliore, the founder of the Portland HPLFF.

The fest will screen The Whisperer in Darkness, made by the good folks at the HPLHS, namely Sean Branney and Andrew Leman. The film also features a host of background players of my acquaintance. Off the top of my head: Aaron, Adrianne, Bryan, Chris, David, Jennifer, Maria, and my own self.

The groovy festival poster was created by David Milano.

The fest will have a small literary reading/panel discussion headed up by the dimly-half-remembered-didn't-we-meet-twenty-years-ago Cody Goodfellow, and featuring a handful of luminaries, with me representing the dim end of the luminary spectrum.


In a similar visual Lovecraftian vein is Dr. Pookie's recent magic lantern show: Ice, with voiceover work by me.


Speaking of (real) voice talent, Flor is putting her demo reel together. Other vocal folds for hire include Toren, Graydon & Shawn


Maria Alexander's poetry collection, At Louche Ends, was recently published, as was Left Hanging, an anthology of suspenseful stories edited by her.


Aaron is also in charge of a road rally event coming up on August 27th here in Los Angeles. His first one was great, and I'll be there for version 2.0.


Dr. Pookie's art found itself on the cover of Petrychor's album, Effigies and Epitaphs.


Chun continues his episodic science fiction simulation/LARP, Starship Valkyrie.


Probably too many other people to mention are also pushing forward various LARP, RPG, and video game projects. So everyone just go out and spend money on these things, ok?


Jackie Kashian will make with the funny somewhere near you sooner or later.


The reanimated The Unspeakable Oath has featured John Tynes, Richard Becker, Dan Harms, Toren Atkinson in its recent issues.


Toren and his pals make the Caustic Soda podcast. It often makes me break out in inappropriate laughter at work.


Various bebbies 'n' weddings are in the works.


I've tried to concentrate on things recent and shortly upcoming, but no doubt I've forgotten things even with that restriction, so let me know if you need a shout out. Or feel free to promote your goods and services in the comments.
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Went to an estate sale in Beverly Hills yesterday, primarily the belongings of silent film actor/director Hobart Henley, as well as those of his wife and boys. It's like they all went off to the other house in Florida in 1940 and just left a house full of possessions behind. Lots of great stuff, but with antique store prices on them, even at 50% off most of it when we got there. Sure, it's a tough balance between trying to get what the stuff is worth and trying to empty the house in a weekend, so I have no problem with the prices, but I'm feelin' the vibe of Lock, Stock... these shotguns may be antiques, but we're not paying antique prices for them.

I was interested in the 30's-ish bakelite Mah Jongg set, despite the broken hinge on the case and the rusted out doodads on the racks. A nice prop or curiosity for me, but not for $375. No, not even for the half-off price of $187.

We did get one 'antique', and it's almost comical as the estate agent is talking up this piece, and the legendary status of the manufacturer. OK, I'll take your word that a brand-new Brown Jordan Tamiami loveseat will run you $800, but the last lawnchairs I bought at a yard sale were $5 each. I'm delighted to know that for a few hundred dollars, I could get it sandblasted, repainted and have the vinyl rewoven, but honestly I'm gonna give you $30 and stick it in the yard:
From Public Photos


Now, true, it is a neat piece, and the style originally debuted in 1959 (the design was relaunched a few years ago). Very comfortable and a nice design. Well worth $30. But $800? I am not your customer, Brown Jordan. I think the fainting couch is the probably the most expensive piece of furniture we own, and it wasn't $800 and it doesn't sit in the yard. Definitely a neat estate sale, but mostly not for the likes of us, who live some distance from 90210.


That evening A&K had a little BBQ for LARP-ish Wyrd-y folks. Fun to get together and socialize with occasional semi-serious discussions of live gaming. I'm sorry Lisa got a bit ganged up on as the only strong proponent for live combat present among a group of people where I'm probably the most sympathetic to LC, by which I mean "eh, it's not my thing".

You can click through the image to see a couple more from the yard/garden. Me in my new boonie hat next to the high (and getting higher) corn (infiltrated by monstrous fennel), and the dark sunflower in front of the volunteer tomato.
essentialsaltes: (Squid)
Adventures in Eating: Anthropological Experiences in Dining from Around the World.
This is a well-varied anthology of professional anthropologists relating their research in foodways as well as more incidental stories of their encounters with unique foods in different cultures. Interesting topic, but a couple circumstances conspired to make this a must-buy. Number one, the upcoming trip to Peru suggests the possibility of cuy on the menu, and I wanted some tips. Second, one of the co-editor/contributors is Dr. Mrs. Dr. Larva.

The writing style is interesting; the focus on anthropology brings in a certainly scholarly air, particularly for the first few paragraphs of the individual essays, which are often laden with important anthropological insights properly footnoted... 'Anthropologists generally consider the correlation of food and human society to trace back centuries, if not longer (Morlock 1992), though a minority view considers much of the evidence underlying this association to be anecdotal or collected before the advent of modern anthropological practice (Mangrove 2002).' A few of the writers doggedly stick to this mode throughout, but most of them slowly ease into a more enjoyable and more readable voice. More like sitting around the campfire with the anthropologists as they swap stories about the time I ate a rat, or the time I was offered whale.

Goldstein let me down a little with his story of cuy... I learned only to go after the skin on the ribcage first, not to let it cool down, getting tough and leathery. Still not sure I can face a complete sagittal section of cuy. But Sammells' story of chuño in Bolivia made me eager to give it a try, and it will possibly be on the menu in Peru as well. It was also nice to see a mention of Dr. Mr. Dr. Sammells.

The one essay that sticks out like a sore thumb -- and yet still worthy of inclusion due to accidental anthropological interest -- is Lidia Marte's "MSG and Sugar", recounting the trials of studying her native Dominican foods as prepared by Dominican immigrants in the US. Dr. Marte claims a sensitivity to MSG; consumption makes her "eyes cross, and my muscles grow weak. I feel overwhelmingly sleepy, and I am completely unable to think clearly." Enough so to miss a trainstop.

And here I betray my status as a non-anthropologist, since "[a]s the core principle of our discipline, anthropologists embrace the concept of cultural relativism" (Chaiken, op. cit.). Instead, I call bullshit on Dr. Marte. Though she does acknowledge the "disputed effects" of MSG and the "problematic and controversial" nature of the relevant research, she clearly is a 'believer' in her own experiences and the existence of 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome'. From the safety of my armchair, I cannot authoritatively state that she is not sensitive to MSG, but double-blinded studies of people who claim this sensitivity show that there is no difference in their responses to MSG vs. placebo.

In any event, Dr. Marte is clearly highly fixated on MSG and is seriously considering a more activist program on this front, carrying out "intervention ... debate, reeducation, and discussion about MSG" with her Dominican collaborators. If she is indeed sensitive, she could do far more good by participating in a double-blind study of these effects, to demonstrate them unambiguously and remove the controversy. But as her story continues, more interesting to me is how she does make a convert out of her sister, who had previously used MSG widely in cooking (as is apparently common for Dominican cooking as it is practiced in the US). Although Dr. Marte speaks of teaching her sister to notice previously unnoticed reactions, I read it more as an act of mental contagion -- a psychosomatic illness transmitted from person to person not through germs, but through ideas and example. So I find her contribution fascinating, not for what it says on its face, but for its unwitting illumination of how things like the antivaxx movement or other alternative beliefs come to be spread. End rant.

All in all, very enjoyable, and I can imagine an anthropologist gaining even more out of the discussions, particularly some passages about the interactions between (outside) observer and observed, which are not necessarily peculiar to food. Should the observer accept everything with gusto, or can certain boundaries be maintained without jeopardizing the research? (Several contributors make a strong case that maintaining boundaries offers additional opportunities for conversation.) When the observed prepares a meal (exhibits some behavior) for the benefit of the observer, will it be a typical example? Or an atypical example meant to be more familiar to the outsider? Or an atypical example meant to be more exotic (since perhaps that is what the observer has come to observe)? How would the observer know which of those is the case?

Two Wyrd

Jun. 12th, 2011 03:58 pm
essentialsaltes: (Cthulhu)
The second Wyrd Con is wrapping up about now. I only went Saturday, but packed quite a bit in. I wanted to show up for the LGL brunch this morning and hang out with friends old and new, but couldn't face the thought of driving to the OC and back twice today (since we're having dinner with Dad later today).
spoilers & war stories )

Maxicon

May. 30th, 2011 11:30 am
essentialsaltes: (Agent)
Yays to [livejournal.com profile] popepat & familia for opening up their house again to scores of gamers, and keeping the house from exploding or imploding. I saw Mrs. Pope slaving away fairly constantly, but at least people were lending a hand as and when needed.

I zipped up Saturday night for [livejournal.com profile] citizenbrown's RPG set in Iain Banks' Culture. It was a little unfortunate that I was the only player with a strong grounding in the universe, but I think it all worked out reasonably well. Chun had put together a diceless system that started with a fairly rapid character creation round in which we drew cards labelled with... attributes, let's say. These cards gave us some role-playing hooks and could be played during the adventure for improvements in success. Since I had the best understanding of the universe, Chun allowed me to play a Ship (and associated avatar). One of the attributes I drew was 'Hilarious' - "You're hilarious, but people don't always get your jokes -- the first time you make everyone (including the GM) at least chuckle, you get [a token used to improve results]." Anyway, I chose (for my 'hilarious' Culture ship name) N Objects Walk into a Bar. Now, I wonder if N Bodies Walk into ħ would be an improvement.
I can't remember what I said to first make people crack up, but I managed to do it a few times. When a drone was about to do something I considered foolish, I liked my deadpan Wonka "don't. stop. come back." More in the nature of a malicious prank was when [livejournal.com profile] rizwank demanded a weapon of me -- admittedly, in the middle of a battle -- and I displaced a board with a nail in it into his hands. Suffice to say, our diplomatic Contact mission got a little out of control, but I think we managed a nice success.
I chatted with a few people afterwards, but pretty quickly hit the road back, returning for my game on Sunday:
Session 38: Big Band Wolf, a rules-light adventure set in the world of Cowboy Bebop, with the players being the five crewmembers of the Bebop.
Dullness Alert: TMI RPG war story theater )
After my game, Dab ran his goth RPG, where a group of club habitués tried to collect signed copies of some goth/industrial albums for a dying friend. Lightly plotted and more an excuse for Dab's acquaintances from the scene to show up as the PCs and NPCs, but there were some fun scenes as we riffed on the setting and the oddball characters. It ran short, which was actually nice, since then I could spend some time drifting around socializing with various peoples, and managed to hit an opportune moment to snag one of the Louisiana hotlinks I'd brought off the grill that the Pope manfully manned to feed the horde. Played some Rock Band, schmoozed a little more, and then headed back. Unfortunately, there was a two car injury collision on the 405 at Santa Monica that blocked the two left lanes and was not too far ahead of me. I almost made it over to get off at Wilshire, but didn't. I did get into the Santa Monica exit lane, but pretty soon everyone was at a standstill. I expect they towed the wreckage off down the SM offramp and so stopped all traffic. I was stuck there maybe 20-30 minutes -- long enough for me and a number of other people to switch off our engines. Crummy, but one of those situations where you know some other people are having a far crummier night.
essentialsaltes: (great)
There was a nice little gathering last night at the Tam O'Shanter to celebrate [livejournal.com profile] ian_tiberius's natal day with [livejournal.com profile] karteblanche, [livejournal.com profile] postgoodism, [livejournal.com profile] zorker, Dr. Pookie and The McInnis. Despite the Sassenach connotations, I opted for the English Cut, which I thought was really good. The thin sliced beef doesn't hold heat well, but offers lots of surface area for juices, gravy and horseradish. Lots of amusing chitchat around the table, and a good time was had by all. Of course, probably the greatest amusement was offered by someone not in our party...

We had been seated in a bustling room full of happy diners, but slowly the room emptied out until, by the end of our meal, there were just us, and a small table of two gentleman across the room. By happenstance, [livejournal.com profile] postgoodism had risen from the table to attend to his kidneys. The gap in our circle was roughly opposite me, and the other table was straight through the gap. One of the two gentlemen also leaves the table, leaving his companion alone in the room... apart from us.

Planning a treat for her dogs, [livejournal.com profile] karteblanche asks the server, "I'd like a box for my bone." Then I think Dr. Pookie says something along the lines of, "Now that sounds like a euphemism for something." Mr. All by Himself busts a gut lolling -- as were we all -- but his participation just exponentiated the amusement. He was a bit embarrassed, but it was a great moment of stranger camaraderie. The McInnis took adolescent glee in ringing the changes on the phrase for the remainder of the evening, which is why we love him so.
essentialsaltes: (Cocktail)
Friday night was the celebration of [livejournal.com profile] aaronjv's 40th with a bar crawl. Smaug deserves many thanks for acting as driver of the party-van. My memories are somewhat old and necessarily hazy, but such is what I recall...
seems an awful lot of words for someone who doesn't remember much )

Saturday evening, it was off to Theatre Banshee (associated with the HPLHS) for The Crucible, in an outing organized by [livejournal.com profile] colleenky
She turned me into a newt )
essentialsaltes: (Robot in Orbit)
involved a great meal at Koutoubia. Even better, it gave us a chance to sit down with friends for a long spell and just gabble about everything under the sun. I guess I've finally completed the triumvirate of LA Moroccan restaurants. Koutoubia is a bit more like a 'regular' restaurant... you actually get cutlery. I guess as long as we're going Moroccan, I prefer to get my hands in there in a big communal platter, but I certainly can't fault the food - excellent.
essentialsaltes: (Squid)
Celebrated [livejournal.com profile] jason_brez & mum's birthday chez Brez. A convivial get-together on a beautiful day in their getting beautifuler every year garden. Topics ranged from Pinkerton's to the Baldacchino to the Icelandic penis museum.
essentialsaltes: (Devilbones)
Extinct Doesn't Mean Forever is an anthology of 19 stories exploring the concept of extinction, with genres ranging from far future SF to others that happily straddle the line between speculative fiction and the mainstream. Through the good offices of one of the authors (Kyle Aisteach) I have a review copy here in my hand. Or on my Kindle rather.

My overall impression is that the book is a solid anthology of well-written stories. The authors are primarily, I believe, relative newcomers, but (though tastes vary) the stories are all polished and worthy of publication. Similarly, though the kindle format may be a trifle spartan, the copyediting of the text is top-notch. I noticed one "past" for "passed" and that's it for errors. This may seem a meaningless detail, but in my still very limited experience of e-books, everything from quickly OCR'd public domain works to the freaking Lord of the Rings is riddled with obnoxious errors.

The book starts off strong with Amanda le Bas de Plumetot's "Last Seen". The authoress is also a poetess of some note, and it shows in some of the careful words and sensitive phrases in the piece. I also very much enjoyed the second story, Sarah Adams' "Past Survivors". Although the story is set more outside Los Angeles than inside Los Angeles, it has a much more authentic feel of LA to me than most of the stories in the Aftershocks anthology that frustrated me recently. Perhaps it felt real because I've hiked some of those same hillsides, though I've never spotted a Smilodon.

One drawback of the anthology, I found, was that the stories are arranged in loosely thematic groups. Although a rational approach, I think a more chaotic approach may have helped keep those themes fresher for the reader. One can only read so many stories in a row in which extinction serves as a metaphor for human loss. Perhaps I suffered unduly from this, since I ploughed through the book at break-neck speed to try to provide a timely review.

I do quite like Kyle's story a lot. And if you read through the anthology in order, it will also come off as one of the freshest and most original takes on the overall theme. And then you read the next story. OK, OK -- they are hardly identical, but there are enough similarities that I think they would each shine more brightly had they been separated by some space.

The second half of the book slows down somewhat. Some of the stories are longer and some of them frankly wear out their welcome. Stories I particularly enjoyed include Adam Israel's "Indigo's Gambit" and Shona Snowden's "Blood Fruit". Peter Dudley's humorous "Distractions" makes for a satisfying finale.
essentialsaltes: (Haha)
Remember that whole erotic monster manual thingy? I've played role-playing games with the guy who won first place.

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