sharplittleteeth: (Default)
 I'm running a three session Tales from the Loop game. 

Recap: Emma throws a metal chair at the cyclotron. Electricity arcs up. A crack in reality opens. Snow drifts out...
...Followed by a wooly rhino with the words NO FUTURE spray painted on its side.
"Kill NODWARC!" bellows the rhino, and charges the maintenance bots.
Flashback: 18 months ago. Spike's father is taking him on tour of the construction site for the Advanced Nuclear Research Facility. "This bit will be the cyclotron chamber" he says. "This is the future, right here." The ground rumbles and suddenly gives way. Spike pulls his father back to safety. The dirt stops falling, revealing an abandoned mine shaft.
Present day: Alarms ring. The wooly rhino and the robots clash. Blood splatters. Clare, Emma and Gemma try to escape via the lift. Spike, ever impulsive, runs to help the rhino.
Shrike appears on the balcony, holding her ZX81 hooked up to an info-pad, flanked by two sentry-bots. "Cancel the shutdown," she orders. "And capture those outliers!"
Spider-bots swarm across the ceiling.
Spike reaches the rhino, grabs its wooly fur, and leaps up onto its back. "There's a mineshaft behind you," he shouts in its ear.
On the balcony, the lift opens. The girls run to get in, until they see the guard-bot inside. 
Clare tries to hammer the door close button. Misses. But luck is on her side: Gemma buys her a few more seconds by tangling the robot's lets with her camera strap. Clare hits the button. The robot is trapped. The girls run.
The rhino smashes through the chamber wall into the old mine.
Gemma and Clare run after it. Emma tries to sneak up behind Shrike and steal her computer. She accidentally kicks a spanner. The robots turn. By luck, a lighting bolt hits the Facility, causing the robots to stagger. Emma grabs the ZX81 and runs for the mine opening too.
Four humans and a wooly rhino run into the old mine.
They lose the spider-bots. Spike notices how wounded the rhino is. The students ask her who she is and where she comes from.
"Me Crusher," she says. "Me scientist! From Kraw Doom."
As they approach the exit, they hear voices from a side tunnel calling "Help us! Please! Help us?"
The students go to help. Crusher stays behind trying to break an old support beam and trap the spider-bots in the tunnel.
Down the side tunnel, the students find two of the people that had been listed as missing in the newspaper: the school caretaker Randir Singh and the footballer Sam Spalding. They're locked in an iron cage. Gemma picks the lock. 
The spider-bot get close. Crusher manages to bring the beam down in time.
The group runs out the mine entrance... into a world of snow. 
The sun is like a dying ember. Crawdon Woods are nothing by dead trees. The ruins of ancient buildings surround them. Snow is everywhere.
"Kraw Doom," Crusher tells them. "Home." 
She takes them up the hill to Kraw Doom's version of the cyclotron: a huge rusted piece of machinery surrounded by standing stones. Other punk-rock rhino scientists work the machines. The students eat from massive bowls of stew and huddle against the wooly rhinos for warmth as the scientists explain.
"NODWARC future. One future. Many others. NODWARC spreading. Eating futures. Must stop. We scientists. Build machine. Fight NODWARC!"
Gemma tests the ZX81. There are three programs built into memory: Communication, QSI Control and Space Invaders. Space Invaders is just Space Invaders. Communication states it is  "Unable to contact NODWARC..." QSI is the remote control program for the quantum superposition inducers: they can use to it to turn the one Spike found in the woods on and off, but they can't reach all the others from Kraw Doom.
They need to go back.
The rhino scientists connect up their cyclotron to the stone circle using massive cables. They wish the students farewell. Then they start chanting. The cyclotron fires up, there's a flash... and the students are back on High Street in Crawdon/NODWARC. 
Hovertrucks  fly past, carrying workers in orange jumpsuits to help build the mega-inducers that will allow NODWARC to spread to first Millthorpe, then the world. 
The group sneak onto school grounds, and gather in the caretaker's shed. Mr Singh shows them his hidden stash of Tunnock's tea cakes. While they all recover, Gemma plays with the ZX81 again. 
The QSI Control program works: with some fiddling, she can shut down all the inducers. Outside, they see the barrier around Crawdon flicker and start to fail. 
Then the Communication program opens by itself.
Security-bots march across the school towards the shed. The students tell Mr Singh and Sam to run, then flee themselves. They make their way across town back towards the facility.
NODWARC keeps flickering in and out of existence as the superposition collapses. Then a giant mega-inducer emerges from the Facility, firing laser beams at the barrier. It's just enough to maintain the overlap while the workers complete the other mega-inducers aimed at Millthorpe. 
Other futures flicker in and out: Kraw Doom, a primeval forest, a dark world of iron pyramids.
The students decide they need to shut down the mega-inducer and turn off NODWARC. They sneak back in via the old mine. The rubble that Crusher brought down phases in and out of reality. By timing their sprints, the students can run past it while it has phased out. 
Further down the tunnel: a sentry bot stands guard, and behind it metal plates have been welded over the entrance.
Spike charges the sentry bot holding his bass like spear. Gemma and Clare distact it by throwing rocks at it. Spike's bass hits the robot dead centre of its main eye. The robot staggers back... and trips over Emma, who is kneeling behind it. It falls and smashes into pieces. Victory!
The students peer through the metal barrier into the cyclotron chamber. Huge cables snake up from the cyclotron to the mega-inducer. Dozens of maintenance-bots strive to keep to working. And dozens more sentry and guard-bots protect the machinery from harm.
Clare feels something familiar rub against her ankles.
"Warning," says the robot cat. "Warning. NODWARC is expanding. Please connect Sinclair ZX81 to mega-inducer."
The students look back through the metal plates at the crowd of robots between them and the cabling.
They make a plan.
Emma fires them up with a speech. Spike smashed the metal plates away with his bass. Clare wrenches a leg off the dead sentry-bot and steps out into the cyclotron chamber, scowling.
The robots step back, confused.
Emma leapfrogs over a sentry-bot and runs for a computer console on the far side of the chamber. The robots turn to chase her. While the bots are distracted, Spike and Gemma sneak towards the cabling.
One of the sentry-bot senses something, and turns. Spike makes a noble sacrifice: throwing his bass at the bot. The bass cracks and splinters. The bot falls, knocking over others.
Gemma and Spike reach the cables. Gemma grabs the perfect connector and hooks up the ZX81. She runs the QSI Control program. Text fills the screen:





Gemma hesitates. In Crawdon, her father is on strike and is developing black lung. In NODWARC, he's healthy, happy and employed, even if it is a dictatorship run by computer. In Kraw Doom, humanity is extinct. The students could do whatever they want. 
Emma suggests pressing 4, and going somewhere completely new.
But love it or hate it, Crawdon is home. Gemma presses 1.
There's a flash. And...
...And Margaret Thatcher presses the big red button. Photographers take pictures. The PM's handlers usher her out to her next appointment, while the Salvation Army band plays.
NODWARC is gone. The students are back before the overlap. Only they remember what has happened.
The bus takes them back to school. The barrier is gone. The town is back to normal.
Except: Spike's bass is lost, trapped in a possible future. And Gemma still has Shrike's ZX81.
The students sneak out of class to the caretaker's shed. Mr Singh is hiding in there, terrified and confused. He still remembers NODWARC. The students explain to him what happened. 
He thanks them for rescuing him. Out of gratitude, he says they can use the shed whenever they want.
They all drink tea. The conversation drops away. Silence descends.
Until Clare's headphones crackle.
"Warning," they say. "Warning. Affection is required. Please provide pats."
The robot cats slinks out of the shadows and curls up in Clare's lap.
sharplittleteeth: (Default)
I'm running a three-session Tales from the Loop game, set in the 1980s Yorkshire mining town of Crawdon.

Read the
player's briefing slidedeck.

Read the
Session One writeup


Recap: Margaret Thatcher presses the big red button. There's a flash of light.
And during that flash, Emma Craven remembers: two years ago. She gets a call at school. Her mother is in hospital. It's urgent. A teacher drives her over. Her mother is unconscious in a bed, drips hooked up to her arm. Emma's father sits beside, face stony, reading a pamphlet on cancer.
Emma feel the fear start to grip her. She fights it by taking charge, asking the nurses to tidy her mother's bed, ordering the doctors to explain the diagnosis, and cooking a meal for her father so he eats properly.
He seems shell shocked by the news.

"Thank god I've got you, love," he tells Emma. "Our future is going to be very different from now on."
The flash fades. The four students find themselves alone in the Facility's control room. Or is it? The control desks have gone, replaced by banks of sleek computers and single green-screen terminal.
Emma tries typing on the terminal. An alarm light flashes. A horde of spider-bots swarm across the ceiling towards the students. They run.
Outside, the boring, square control building of the Facility has been replaced by a bizarre concrete structure that looks like a giant heart. A sign by the door reads 'Nuclear Operations, Defence, Warfare and Research Computer'. 
The spider-bots swarm out the door. The students run. The Facility's gatehouse has been replaced by an automatic iris-door in a concrete tower. Gemma tinkers with the control panel until the door opens and the students run out.
In the distance, down the hill, they can see Crawdon. Then they see a hovertruck fly past.

They run into town. Some of the buildings are the same. Others have been replaced with futuristic Brutalist apartment blocks. Mr Grainger the Greengrocer greets them as he's packing up for the day, and asks if their fathers are starting Work tomorrow. In the newsagent, Emma finds the newspapers have been replaced with thin info-pads. the headline reads WORK STARTS TOMORROW, but she needs a credit chip to read the article.
The students head to their hideout in the caretaker's shed at the Comprehensive. The whole school has been replaced with the same futuristic architecture, except for the caretaker's shed, neglected and ignored up the back of the school.
Spike lets them in. Emma makes tea. They work out their flints must somehow have protected them from the change. But what has happened? Emma, Gemma and Spike head back to their parents' places to investigate. 
Clare stays behind to break into Headmistress Shrike's office again. it takes some work to jimmy the window open, and she injures her hand doing it.

Once inside, she finds all Shrike's belongings have been replaced. On the desk is a photo of Clare and her mother, from before Clare dyed her hair black and turned goth.

A name tag on the desk confirms Clare's mother is now the headmistress.
Spike's house has been replaced with a futuristic townhouse. Inside is a strange mix of high-tech gadgets and familiar possessions. It's as if his normal house has be overlapped with a spaceship. A note from his parents say they're working late at the Facility, and that his dinner is in the microwave.

Spike checks his room. His beloved bass guitar is there.
Emma's father is in the kitchen when she gets home. Again, her house is a mix of the familiar and the futuristic. Her father asks her pointedly if her day has been 'unusual'. She realises that the flint arrowhead she hid in his wallet has kept him safe from the change.
He tells her the police are hunting "outliers", and that his boss the DCI has started to suspect him. Before they can say more, the phone rings. It's the DCI. They've found an outlier, a boy names River Quinn who lives in the Travellers camp in Crawdon Woods. Emma's father has to go and help with the arrest.

As he leave, he tells Emma to be careful.
Gemma rides to house. As she does so, she remembers a few months back. Her mother has told her take a pot of soup to her father and his comrades on the miner's picket line. The pot is heavy. The night is cold. When she gets there, her father coughs up black phlegm, the first sign of deadly miner's lung.
Gemma copes with her fear of losing her father by taking photos of all the miners, blowing them up to poster size, and plastering them on the Town Hall. The portraits of these ordinary people fighting against the Government wins support for the strike. People understand that they're fighting for the future of the town.
Gemma reaches her house. The cramped miner's tenement has been replaced with a striking tower block. Her family's apartment is clean and bright. There's fresh food, instead of the thin stews her family have been surviving on during the miner's strike. As she enters, her mother is telling her father that he should wear his new coveralls to Work tomorrow. What's Work, asks Gemma. "For NODWARC," answers her father, "helping with the expansion."

What about the mines? she asks.

Ugh, says Gemma's mother. Filthy places. I'm glad they were closed down decades ago.
When she looks out the window, Gemma notices a strange haze in the sky. It looks as if Crawdon is inside a giant dome or forcefield, centered on the Facility. Using her strongest tele-lens, she sees through the barrier to the town of Millthorpe, which seems unchanged. 

She sees a couple of hover trucks land in the fields between Crawdon and Millthorpe, and start to unload giant boxes of cargo.
The students meet up again in the caretaker's shed. They agree to go to the woods, even though it's now night.
The woods are dark. Huge, ancient oak trees twist and loom. Through the trees, the students see the flashing red and blue lights of several police vehicles. The police are ransacking the Traveller camp. From one of the caravans, the pull out the boy River Quinn. Gemma sneaks closer to watch. The DCI Martin Millar pulls a out a device, scans the boy with it, then says "Zero percent overlap. He's an outlier."
Meanwhile: Spike and Emma search around the edges of the camp. Spike spots a device bolted to a tree branch. It's the same as the devices they saw in Mrs Shrike's office. He rips it off. As he does so, he notices the dome-shaped barrier around Crawdon ripple strangely.
The police bundle River into the hover van. The students decide to rescue him. Gemma and Clare create a distraction. Spike helps Emma into the van's driver seat. Emma rips out some of the wiring. The van stops hovering and hits the ground. The police shout. The students run. DCI Millar goes to chase them in his hover car, but Emma's father deliberately crashes his own hover car into his boss's. 
Clare grabs River by the t-shirt and pulls him after her. They lose the police in the trees. River's t-shirt rips slightly.

Spike decides to ak his parents what the device is, and brings the other four with him. They sneak down the back alleys of the town, avoiding the security cameras.
Spike's parents are finally home, but they're still working on their info-pads. Spike asks them what the device is. His parents realise with a shock that he isn't "overlapped". For a moment it looks like they will report him to the police as an outlier. But he guilt-trips them into helping him. 
They explain the device is a quantum superposition inducer. NODWARC is from the future, they say, but by focusing lots of quantum superposition inducers on the Facility's cyclotron, NODWARC is able to overlap with present-day Crawdon.
This has turned Crawdon into a techno-utopia, because NODWARC rules with pure logic unaffected by human emotion. The work tomorrow is to build more inducers to extend the overlap beyond Crawdon first to Millthorpe, and then the world.
Spike's parents seem oddly happy about this. 
While they're talking, Clare steals their security pass and a credit chip.

The students ride back to the Facility. The disturbance that Spike noticed when he took the inducer has gotten worse. Clouds swirl across the barrier, and lightning flashes.
They use the pass to enter the Facility. They pass the banks of computers, now frantically whirring. They take the lift down to the cyclotron, buried deep under the hill.
Robots are busy maintaining the massive piece of equipment. Clare and Gemma sneak down to a hidden terminal. Gemma uses the security pass to log in to the terminal, and initiate the shutdown sequence. But she needs to enter a security code.

Spike suggests trying his birthdate.
It's a tense moment. Which does his mother love more: her son, or strong passwords?
Gemma types the numbers in. They work. "Shutdown in five minutes" the terminal announces.
All the robots in the chamber turn to face the terminal, and the students. The storm outside is so fierce the students can hear it underground. The maintenance robots start to roll towards the students, flexing their tool-arms.
Emma distracts them by grabbing a metal chair and flinging it in into the cyclotron. Electricity arcs up. A giant crack in reality appears. 
Snow blows through the crack.
Then a wooly rhino charges out, leaps, and lands on the chamber floor. 
As it turns its massive horn towards the students, they see there are two words written on its flank in neon-blue spray paint.
The words read NO FUTURE. 

sharplittleteeth: (Default)
 *blows dust off DreamWidth*

Does this thing still even work? I haven't updated here since 2014.

Anyway.... I ran my first session of Tales from the Loop RPG on Sunday. I want to post my write up. And thought I might as well post it here.

I'm running a three-session game set in Yorkshire. I've tweaked the setting slightly from the standard game rules.

I made a Google slideshow to introduce players to the setting and character creation.
Clare Pankhurst - a young goth never without her walkman. Her parents divorced last year, and she moved to Crawdon when her mother got a job as science teacher at Crawdon Comprehensive. Clare is in detention for skipping class.
Emma Craven - a bolshie who loves her Converse sneakers. Her father is Detective Inspector of the local constabulary. Her mother died of cancer a few years back. She's in detention for violating the school dress code.
Gemma Bushnell - another bolshie who uses her camera to help save the world. Her father is a miner on strike, her mother works with Women Against Pit Closures. She is in detention for writing 'Thatcher Out' on her school blazer.
Spike - a headbanger with a beat-up bass guitar. His parents both work in the Advanced Nuclear Research Facility. He's in detention for fighting with another pupil about pop music.
Tuesday, 10 July 1984: Tomorrow, the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is coming to Crawdon to officially open the new Advanced Nuclear Research Facility. 
But this afternoon, four students have detention in the school hall.
A long table in the hall holds items for tomorrow's opening ceremony: a "Welcome to Crawdon" banner, display cases holding clay pipes and flint axes found in the area, and boxes of Union Jack flags that need assembling. Emma takes the opportunity to vandalise the banner, turning the A in Crawdon into an anarchy symbol.
The headmistress, Mrs Shrike, arrives. She sets them the menial task of glueing the paper Union Jack flags together. Then she leaves, telling them she has more important work to do. Gemma spots her taking a nip from a hip flask as she exits.
While the students are busy making the flags, the lights flicker, and they hear a deep, electrical hum. Clare's Walkman starts playing by itself, and a voice comes out of her headphones. The calm, female voice says "Warning. Warning. NODWARC is coming. Overlap is near."
The students hear a metallic noise in the corridor. When they investigate, they see a small robotic cat coming towards them. The students slam the door of the hall shut. The humming dies down. The lights settle. The robot cat vanishes.
Suspecting Mrs Shrike is up to something, Gemma and Emma go and spy on her in her office. They see she's working on some sort of electronic device. Gemma takes photos to analyse later.
They scurry back to the hall when Shrike leaves her office. She orders the students to go home. They decide to all go back to Gemma's house.
Back at Gemma's cramped workers tenement house, the throbbing electrical hum starts up again. The lights flicker. Gemma's stereo turns itself on, and the same voice comes out: "Warning. Overlap is near. Shielding is required."
The robot cat appears in Gemma's bathroom/photography darkroom. Spike lunges and grabs it and the cat... starts purring electronically.
"Shielding is required," the voice says, and the cat's eyes flash in time. "Please acquire neolithic artefacts."
The throbbing hum dies. The lights settle. The cat literally vanishes, blinking out like a television station that's been turned off.

Clare makes the connection that NODWARC is Crawdon spelt backwards. But what does that mean?
The students remember the flint axe display case laid out ready for tomorrow's ceremony. Clare, Emma and Spike cycle back to the school, while Gemma remains behind to print up her photos.

At the school, Emma comes up with a plan to break into the caretaker's shed to see if he has keys to school. Spike aces picking the shed's padlock, and they decide the shed would make a good hideout. 
The light is still on in Shrike's office. Clare peers in, and see the headmistress testing a mysterious metal box with a radio antenna and two slits in one edge. Clare thinks it might be a remote control device of some sort.
The students use their keys to break into the school hall and take the neolithic flint axes.
As they do, the throbbing noise comes back. They notice parts of the hall oscillate between reality and some futuristic version. Then they hear a heavy stomping in the corridor. It's another robot. Not a cute little cat robot, though. This is a seven-foot tall security robot with claws and a giant searchlight.
They run out the hall's back door. The robot bursts out a side door to block their path. Clare decides to climb the robot to try and disable it, while Emma and Spike distract it. The plan doesn't go well. Clare and Spike are caught by the robot's claws. Everyone is terrified.
And then Gemma appears to save the day. She yanks out a power cable, and the robot falls over, dead. Emma notices some writing on it: the word NODWARC and a long serial number.

Gemma shows them her photos: the mysterious box Shrike was making contains a radio receive, a battery, a circuit board, and two lasers that shine out the slits. The students have no idea what it does.
The throbbing noise dies down. The robot blinks out of existence the same way the cat did.
The students agree to call it a night. Emma slips a flint arrowhead into her father's wallet, to keep him safe too from whatever is about to happen.
The next day: students are herded onto buses to go to the ceremony at the Facility. Mrs Shrike is nowhere to be found. The bus drives through the rundown center of Crawdon, past the dark woods, and up the hill to the Facility.
Protestors have gathered outside. The buses go through the fences. The students gather in the Facility's control room, where there's a ribbon waiting for the PM to cut, and a big red button for her to press to activate the cyclotron.
The Salvation Army band plays. The children wave their flags. Margaret Thatcher enters the control room. She makes a short speech about how the Facility represents the future of Crawdon, and the UK.
The throbbing noise starts up again. The control room starts to shake. The scientists are worried, but the PM's handlers urge them to finish the ceremony so the PM can get back to London.
Thatcher cuts the ribbon. She presses the button.
There's a blinding flash.
The students shield their eyes. When they can see again, they realise the control room is empty, and the control panels have been replaced by row after row of sleek computer mainframes.
And stamped on each mainframe is the same name: NODWARC.

Continued in Session Two: NODWARC
sharplittleteeth: (Default)
Great songs. An incredible voice. And So. Much. Hair.

Lorde was amazing. That was the first concert I've been to where a sea of mobile phone held aloft felt not annoying but celebratory.

On stage, Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor is calm, confident, and charismatic. And contradictory: she sings about coming from a torn-up town, but she has a MAC lipstick named after her. She comes on stage in couture, but she dances like a teenage goth, all flailing hair and twitching limbs. Her singing voice is smoky and deep, but when she talks between songs, she chirps.

No. Contradictory is the wrong word. Lorde is complex. She's complicated, like every other teen. And what's so inspiring about her is that she doesn't try to hide it. She doesn't smooth away her edges to make an easily digestible pop package. Her music is her.

That's why her fans respond with such passion, such joy. That's why every pause was filled with cheers. In Lorde's lyrics, being on the cusp of adulthood and being on the cusp of commercial success are metaphors for each other.

"I'm little but I'm coming for the crown," she sang.

We are all little. We're all coming for the crown. The crown is the rest of our lives.

Pub Lunch

Jun. 18th, 2014 07:56 pm
sharplittleteeth: (Default)
It's lunch. At the pub. Come if you can make it, no worries if you can't.

Where: The Northcote Social Club
When: Sunday 29th June, from 1:00pm
Why: Because we like you.

MOFO 2014

Jan. 24th, 2014 11:07 am
sharplittleteeth: (Default)
The image that stays with me:

An industrial welding robot, retro-fitted with a 1,000 watt lamp, traces splines of light inside a darkened tent, while a singer raises her arms and sings to it about Ada Lovelace.

We've just spent a week down in Hobart for the MONA FOMA music festival. Seven days of bands, art, another visit to MONA, and then some touristy daytrips to finish up.

Music, robots, touristy things... )

sharplittleteeth: (Default)
A mixed year for me.

It started off well - We went to MONA FOMA, I finished writing my novel, Continuum was a blast. But around the mid-year everything seemed to get bogged down. I had problems sleeping. Projects stalled at work. And I stopped writing. The second half of the year felt like wading against mud.

By the time the Christmas break rolled around, I was exhausted.
sharplittleteeth: (Default)
I don't usually post fanfic.

But I spent yesterday home sick with a head cold, thinking about The Day of the Doctor.

You can't sleep properly with a head cold. The snot keeps you awake. And, if you're me, you distract yourself thinking about what you wanted to see with John Hurt's War Doctor.

Arcadia Falls )
sharplittleteeth: (Default)
(I meant to blog my thoughts about this episode. Then I wrote all this as a comment in a friend's journal, so I might as well post this.)

I enjoyed it, but I had very mixed feelings.

Spoilers... )

sharplittleteeth: (Default)
Finished reading Iain Banks's final novel The Quarry today.

18 year old Kit lives with his father Guy in a crumbling old country house. Kit is on the autism spectrum. Guy is dying of cancer. Guy invites his old university friends to stay for a weekend. In between drinking and taking drugs, the friends search the old house for an embarrassing video tape they made in their youth.

It's a disappointing book.

Banks was writing it when he was diagnosed with cancer, and there was a race to publish it before he passed away. Sadly, it shows. Characters are underdeveloped. Plots wander listlessly, then are dropped. Dialogue is repetitive, or overindulgent. Guy rages against the dying of the light at length and with plenty of swearing, but his speeches are much less affecting than his moments of weakness.

There's potential in there. If Banks had more time, if he wrote another draft, it might have been a fitting final novel.

But he didn't. He died at age 59, less than three months after announcing he had cancer.

He wrote some great books in his time. The Quarry is not one of them, but I'm grateful for the ones we do have.

sharplittleteeth: (Default)
Release the Bats was All Tomorrow's Parties Halloween special, a follow-up to their successful festival in February this year.

We bought our tickets the day before they announced they were changing venues because ticket sales were too low. So instead of the bizarre Westgate Entertainment Complex, it would be held at the Palais in St Kilda, with the second stage at the Prince Bandroom, ten minutes walk away.

We weren't very happy about that.

It meant you couldn't just poke your head in to watch a band for a few songs. Either you trekked over to watch the whole set, or you missed. And since the Palais is seated, you were allocated seating zones based on when you bought your ticket, which meant we were way up the back.

There were no food trucks on site, either. If you wanted to eat food other than chips or Maltezers, you had to head out into St Kilda.

I understand the promoters had to do something to deal with low ticket sales, and that festivals in generally are struggling at the moment. But it created a very negative first impression.

These are the bands we saw:

The UV Race
I don't know. A pop-punk band who made dumb jokes between songs. We were too busy being annoyed at the disorganisation to pay them much attention. We left after three songs.

We skipped the Twerps to get coffee and eat some Mexican for a late lunch. Then we got back early for...

Pop Crimes: the songs of Rowland S. Howard
Lovely. Just lovely.

Television performing 'Marquee Moon'
A band I know of rather than know. Tom Verlaine's voice is less squawky with age, but the guitar-work is still the highlight. I spent most of their set with my eyes closed, letting the music wash over me, and possibly having short naps.

The Scientists
I spent the 80s listening to Pink Floyd and U2, so I missed the Scientists. I get Kim Salmon is an important figure in Australian underground music. But I've seen him play a few times and his music has never grabbed me.

Fuck Buttons
So loud and psychedelic I think my teeth saw God

The Breeders performing 'The Last Splash'
Lots of fun. Everyone stood up to dance to 'Cannonball', then swayed sheepishly through the less known and less danceable album tracks. They played a really heavy version of 'Safari' at the end as a bonus. A lovely upbeat way to end the day.

Overall: some great bands, but it felt like a really long gig rather than a festival.

sharplittleteeth: (Default)
Reading back over this journal, I realsied that I have almost no functioning memory of the past. If I don't write it down, I forget it ever happened.

So: a quick wrap up of last week.

TUESDAY: Art Spiegelman
Art Spiegleman gavea talk at the Melbourne Town Hall about the history of comics, and his involvement with them. It was a fantastic talk, illustrated with a huge variety of slides. Hard to sum up, though - the brilliance lay in the details.

WEDNESDAY: Françoise Mouly
Art editor for The New Yorker, and Spiegelman's wife, Mouly talked about how she met Spiegelman, buying her first printing press in the 70s, starting Raw Comics, her work at The New Yorker, and her new line of comics for younger readers. Particularly interesting was the section on New Yorker covers that she rejected, including one from Robert Crumb about gay marriage.

THURSDAY: Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
This documentary is now screening at Cinema Nova. To celebrate, they had a discussion panel afterwards that included Karen Pickering from Chrechez La Femme..

SATURDAY: The Handsome Family
Weird Southern Gothic folk-band. Lots of fun. Had a running joke about koalas, hence A.'s drawing.

SUNDAY: Splendid Chaps
I don't listen to podcasts, but I very much enjoy going to the live recordings of this Doctor Who one. This episoe was about David Tennant, and the theme of sex.

sharplittleteeth: (Default)
Walked home from work.

Up through the Fitzroy Gardens, past skeletal trees in the dark. Then across the road to East Melbourne. Bats flew silent overhead. Victorian townhouses and Art-Deco apartments loomed like ghosts.

And then down Bridge Road. Furniture shops after dark are sinister. All those antique door knobs and designer couches huddled together. They're up to something.


My sleep has been terrible lately. My dreams are frenetic. I wake up exhausted. A. says I'm snoring again, despite the nasal surgery I had last year.

It's affecting my work. It's affecting my mood. So yesterday I saw my GP. He's referred me for a sleep study.

He also suggested I try a sleeping tablet. I took one last night. This morning I woke exhausted and drugged.

I won't be doing that again.
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Last Friday, we saw Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra play at the Forum.

This was her rescheduled tour: she was originally going to come out in February, but rescheduled those shows so she could stay and support a friend through chemo.

This caused a mild panic attack on Wednesday night when I couldn't find the tickets in the drawer where we normally keep concert tickets. After searching through every drawer and filing cabinet in our flat, I eventually remembered that the tickets had been emailed to us, and I could just print them out.

By coincidence, the rescheduled date was the day before A.'s birthday, so we made a date night of it, with dinner at Bangkok Rain in Rathdowne Street, a tram into town, a breif stop at the City Square to look at the Melbourne Fringe Digital Gardens display, where people were testing the Occulus Rift. Then we joined the queue that ran up Hosier Lane.

Die Roten Punkte were the main support act, followed by Jherek Bischoff, physical comedian Sabrina D'Angelo, and Brendan McClean.

And then: Amanda Palmer.

They started with a voice-over introduction from local cabaret artist Meow Meow, and the instrumental Grand Theft Intermission. Then Palmer hit the stage for 'Do It With a Rock Star', and things got loud. Her second song was a cover of Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', sung while surfing the moshpit.

It was that sort of concert.

I've seen Amanda Palmer play about ten times now. Each show has it's own mood. This one felt more like a rock concert party.The band played loud and had a blast. The big rock sound was helped by their booming new drummer, Thor Harris, who looked like a caveman in nothing but tiger-striped shorts and his trademark mullet.

Of course, it wouldn't be an Amanda Palmer show without the quieter piano or ukulele songs. And it wouldn't be an Amanda Palmer show without some weird audience interaction, in this case one girl saying she'd lost her bag in the mosh pit, and another saying she'd lost her mum. Both were reunited.

And it's definitely not an Amanda Palmer show without guests.

Meow Meow duetted with Palmer on a screeching, jagged version of 'Missed Me'. Kate Miller-Heidke and Missy Higgins sang originals. And Brendan McClean duetted on a raw and passionate cover of Bat for Lashes' 'Laura'. That song has been haunting me ever since.

There were lots of covers: Nirvana, Bat for Lashes, Pulp's 'Common People'. I suppose that goes with the giant party vibe.

They ended with everyone on stage for a cover of 'Sweet Dreams', before finishing with 'Leeds United'.

Afterwards, A. asked me what my favourite song was, and I mumbled and digressed. I'm not good at ranking my pleasures. The whole concert was great. But standouts for me would have to be 'Missed Me' with Meow Meow, 'From St Kilda to Fitzroy', and that Bat for Lashes cover, because I just can't get that song out of my head now.

I don't think this was the best Amanda Palmer concert I've been to. It lacked the visceral ferocity of her Dresden Dolls concerts, and it didn't make me cry the way her version of 'Have to Drive' did back in 2010.

But it was great show.

Oh, and during the set she made an announcement. She'll be staying in Melbourne early next year to write a book. Her husband Neil Gaiman will apparently by joining her too.


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Just finished watching the Cassie episodes of the Skins season 7.

She was always my favourite Skins character, Cassie. Her kookiness hid some deep emotional problems, but underneath that she had an intelligence and a brightness that suggested that one day she'd overcome her issues and build a life both wonderful and unique for herself.

Pure is the story of Cassie at age 22, and I have a very mixed feelings about it.

(spoilers follow)

It was lovely to spend more time with this character, and her actress Hannah Murray is a delight to watch on screen. But damn this story broke my heart.

Because 22-year-old Cassie is sad and unsure of herself, friendless, living alone in London and working in a café while she waits for her life to begin.

The beginning comes in the form of a love-lorn photographer who posts pictures of her to the internet: beautiful pictures, but ones taken without her knowledge or consent.

Cassie is horrified when she finds out. She confronts her stalker, steals his camera, and is about to throw it in a lake when she stops.

And in that moment, I wanted Cassie to keep the camera, to teach herself how to use it, and to become a photographer. I wanted the anorexic girl who was defined by how she looked to become the looker, the muse to become the maker. I wanted her heart to burst open, and her to fill the world with her creativity and light.

Instead, she gives the camera back to the photographer, and asks him to keep taking pictures.

I get it. The world is complex. And deep-seated issues are not resolved in moments of symbolic epiphany.

But my heart broke for her.

The internet pictures are a hit. Cassie is approached to do modelling work. And the story ends with her life beginning again.

Which is where I have the mixed feelings.

I'm glad Cassie is happy. I'm glad she's moving on with her life. But modelling doesn't seem the healthiest profession for someone who has had anorexia and self-esteem issues.

And also: models are kind of boring.

Cassie has so much potential. I wanted to see her become a photographer or a painter or a zoologist or counsellor. Anything which draws on all that inner potential, all that intelligence and brightness, rather than her rather superficial talent to stand around looking sad and pretty.

Or perhaps my knee-jerk bias against the fashion industry is showing.

Skins: Pure. Wonderful to spend some more time with a character I love. Sad that she wasn't happier and making more of her life.
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From the shore, they look like rubber, like shiny black bicycle tires bobbing in the waves. But then they spout, or roll a square-edged fin into the air. And you realise no, those are whales.

The size of them is joyous.

We spent three nights last week in Warrnambool for my birthday. Work has been grinding me down lately, so it was good to get away. We walked along the beach. We visited the historical maritime village. And we saw the whales. Even with binoculars they were mostly just rubbery black streaks in the waves. But they were still magnificent.

On the train down, I finished Keith Gray's The Fearful, and started reading Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.

We stayed at the Lighthouse Lodge. At night, the house creaked and moaned in the wind, and I would wake up in the dark, unsure if someone was walking down the corridor outside our room.

I spent a lot of time thinking about ghost stories.

At the Melbourne Writer's Festival, American author Junot Díaz talked about writing short stories. If you don't know how to end your short story, he said, you need to read a thousand stories, and then you'll grow the heart for short stories, and you'll know how to end it.

There was a lot to love at the Writer's Festival: teen blogger Tavi Gevinson's keynote on the importance of being a fan, Magda Szubanski's story about her father, who at age 16 was an assassin for the Polish Resistance, a masterclass with Scott Westerfeld. And I felt proud for Lisa Dempster, the Festival's new director, whom I met through the Emerging Writer's Festival.

But afterwards I felt hollow and pointless. Because I'm not writing, and haven't written anything for months.

Writer's block is not the absence of ideas. Writer's block is the feeling that all your ideas are shit.

I'm trying to write a ghost story. It's not working. It floats dark and shapeless inside me.

I can't pull it to the surface yet. My heart is not yet grown.

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 A reminder that we're Pub Lunching this Sunday for A. and my birthdays.

We're going somewhere different this time: The Fox Hotel in Collingwood. 
This is so we can wander down to the Gasometer at 5:00 to catch the recording of the Splendid Chaps: A Year Of Doctor Who podcast. Because yes, we're nerds. (We'd hold it at the Gasometer, but the Fox has better food.)
When: Sunday 15 September, 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Where: The Fox Hotel, 351 Wellington St, Collingwood.
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Lunch! At a pub! For our birthdays, no less!

We're going somewhere different this time: The Fox Hotel in Collingwood.

This is so we can wander down to the Gasometer at 5:00 to catch the recording of the Splendid Chaps: A Year Of Doctor Who podcast. Because yes, we're nerds. (We'd hold it at the Gasometer, but the Fox has better food.)

When: Sunday 15 September, 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Where: The Fox Hotel, 351 Wellington St, Collingwood.


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It's been a busy month or so. In lieu of a proper blog post, you're getting subheadings.

I was on four panels at Continuum 9. They all went really well, I think, including the one on cultural appropriation that I was most nervous about. I don't really remember much about what was said in my panels. The Plot 101 panel  started in one room, but it was too small, so we moved to a bigger room, then got kicked out of that one when the organisers needed it to set up for a speech, so we moved out and finished in the foyer. "It's a character journey," I quipped. "Beginning, middle and end."

I also won a free ticket to next year's Continuum, and am plotting panels.

Another production as part of MTC's Neon festival. 'By Their Own Hands' was a retelling of the Oedipus myth. Or more accurately: three retellings. Act one, the two actors invited the audience on to the stage, and told the myth as straight story-telling. Act two was a silent, visual retelling. Act three was just dialogue, the two actors standing at microphones and talking. It was fascinating to see the same story stripped down and retold different ways. But after embracing the audience in the first act, it felt distancing to be told to go sit back down in our seats.

Splendid Chaps is a podcast about Doctor Who by Ben McKenzie and John Richards. There were meant to be eleven episodes, one for each Doctor. But then they did all these side episodes, and then John Hurt happened, and now that plan has been abandoned. What's lovely about this podcast is that they record them in front of a live studio audience. I've been to several of them now, and hearing them talk so passionately about classic Who has finally inspired me to go back and watch some old episodes.

Some of the old episode are great. Some of them remind me why I decided not to rewatch them.

Joss Whedon's low budget indie version of the Shakespeare play. He shot it in two weeks while on a break from directing The Avengers, which has led to some peculiar cross-marketing: "Like superheroes and explosions! You've love a five hundred year old romantic comedy!"

It's fun, but slight. Oddly for Whedon, he never quite nails the emotional swerves. And the modern-dress, Californian bungalow setting is at odds with the play's obsession with maidenly virtue. Amy Acker is great, though.

My friend Alex Hammond has had his debut novel published by Penguin. It's called Blood Witness, and it's a crime/legal thriller set in Melbourne. There was a book launch last Tuesday at Readings, with Alan Brough interviewing Alex. I'm really excited for Alex: he's the hardest working writer I know, and it's fantastic to see his dedication pay off.

We've also been to Women of Letters, Melbourne Literary Salon, and I saw the Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures exhibition with my sister. I'm also way behind on blogging about my Project Read All the YA.

Right. Update over. Back to work, you lot.

Pub Lunch

Jun. 12th, 2013 08:45 pm
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 You all know the deal: Lunch. Pub. Come if you can make it, no big deal if you can't. 

The Wesley Anne
250 High St Northcote

Saturday 22nd June

Because foooooooooooooddddddd. 
And we like you.


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February 2019

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