Friday, September 29, 2006

Sweet, sweet holidays...

This has been a very good week. Holidays always are. Debbie and I are both feeling a lot more human, and have been reasonably productive whilst enjoying the lack of time pressures the holidays brings.

Things done:
- Wrote the first draft of the script for next year's school play (a horror-comedy called Grim Wood)
- Finally got home theatre set up in our lounge, and watched several films.
- Saw 'Lady in the Water' at the Lighthouse Pauatahanui, and loved both the film and the cinema
- Ran the second session of Circus Game. The players now know that there was a fire a year ago, in which several performers were killed. Although they can remember many years with the circus, they remember no such fire. They may be the bodies of children abducted from the town where the fire happened, imbued with the memories/personalities/souls of the dead performers, and made into teenagers through witchy magic. Next week should be fun - it will center around what the players choose to do about their situation
- I've written the first 11 or so pages of a radio-play about 2 couples going out to an old cottage in the woods. I aim to have it finished by Tuesday of next week.
- Edited together the first act of the school play. It looks quite nice - though I probably have to play with the sound levels some more. Act 2 awaits!
- I made a broken tap into a broken leaky tap! Soon a plumber will make it into a working tap.
- Tidied up a bit, and generally pottered around the house, but didn't do any gardening because we haven't actually had a nice day weather-wise yet this holidays.
- Edited together the With Mighty Power bloopers, including the 'Behind the Scenes With Nick' added bonus featurette

A pretty good first week of the holidays! Coming up in the next week:
- Moviefest finals tomorrow
- Sunshine?
- Kapiti Roleplaying Weekend next week
- The final session of Circus Game
- Marking (boo!)

Should be fun ;)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Circus Game II

Actual Play
We open outside a small village in Romania. It is late autumn, late evening. A circus big top is set up in a field at the side of the road. Vilalgers bustle around the big top and surrounding trucks and tents, enjoying the show.

Scene One
Nadja the fortune teller is hit on by sleazy drunken teenage boys. Constantina the monkey trainer sticks up for her, in a naive way. The lizard boy throws a spanner at the boys as things start to look more sinister. The boys retreat.

Scene Two
The albino strongman is removing makeup in the changing tent. A middle aged woman walks in, and begins to speak with him. She is lonely, and thought he looked approachable. As she's talking, a massive bruise appears on her cheek. She tells Lukas that she is worried about her family, after what happened to her. When the lizard boy arrives, she disappears.

Scene Three
The twins Alex and Alexis are returning from their performance, and see two more teens creeping up to the monkey cages with a screwdriver to taunt and steal the monkeys. They confront the boys, freaking them out. They lead them into the freak-show tent, then lock them in the long-drop. The monkeys then arrive courtesy of the monkey trainer, to taunt them and eventually let them out.

Scene Four
At the front of the circus, the PCs meet up to discuss the unsettled night. They are interrupted by the mother figure of the circus, the tattooed lady, who is frog marching a bruised young boy out to the street. He has tried to sneak in, and is given a kick up the arse as a reward. He heads home. The PCs talk of going into town, but the tattooed lady suggests that there could be trouble, so they should just have some food and a quiet night.

Scene Five
The PCs awake, and the rest of the circus is gone. They have been drugged, and it is late in the morning. They drive into town, blowing a gasket on the way in one of their trucks, which slows them down somewhat.

Scene Six
Lunch at the hotel in town. Paid for by the rest of the circus, who have continued on.

Scene Seven
Meet the blacksmith, can't afford to pay for the gasket. He's an old circus hand. He offers to help them if they woo a lady for him (whose father hates him).

Scene Seven
Go to the farm house and try to woo the lady. Her father is an abusive drunk who killed his wife (the ghost the strongman met at the start). The scamp from the start is her brother. The PCs fight with the father, subdue him.

Scene Eight
Confrontation in the middle of the village. Blacksmith + Lady + PCs vs Cantankerous Father. The sherrif is enrolled to help, and he expells the PCs, and promises to keep an eye on things in town.

Coda
As the PCs drive away, they discover a letter from the blacksmith. He tells them that he's heard of a tragedy that befell their circus one year ago. There were many deaths. He could tell from looking at them that the PCs weren't carrying that burden, so assumes they were new members of the circus. They are not, and cannot remember any tragedy from a year ago...

Circus Game

I'm running a short run game concerning members of a Romanian circus in the 1930s. The first session was last night, and it went really well.

7:30pm - 8pm = character creation. This had several stages:

1. What is your basic idea (people had been thinking about this during the week)? What are 3 things your character is good at? (kind of like Over the Edge skills)

Debbie - tarot reader with conjoined twin. She's good at fortune telling, mechanics and something else.
Scott - lizard man. He's good at climbing/acrobatics, larceny and something else.
Luke - Androgenous boy/girl twins. Good at contortionism, intimidating people (freaking them out), and something else.
Sam - The Monkey King (animal trainer of 4 clown monkeys). Good at Monkey Kinging, Getting What She Wants, and something else.
Conan - the Albino Strongman. Good at Albino Strongman (feats of strength and creeping people out), psychically sensitive, and something else.

For some reason I can remember exactly 2 skills out of 3 for each character.

Oh, and we added a dwarf called The Professor, who has a lisp, and is a juggler/unicyclist. He will be Norman's character in 2 weeks' time when Norman joins us.

2. What is your character afraid of? What do they want?
Debbie - afraid of her twin taking over her mind. Dreams of being normal (not having a conjoined twin) - but feels guilty about it.
Scott - afraid of fire. Dreams of finding someone to love him.
Luke - twins afraid of being different to each other. Dreams of being married to themselves.
Sam - afraid of being lef alone. Dreams of having a good safe home for her monkeys.
Conan - afraid of being made to feel like a freak. Dreams of making his circus family proud of him.

Each player described their character's personality and appearance to the others.

3. How old are you? Given that the PCs act as a family, I wanted to be clear who had what role in the group. The ages lead into this nicely.

Debbie - 16
Scott - 18
Luke - 17
Sam - 15
Conan - 19

This lead to a clear family structure, which we spent some time discussing. Sam is the baby, and can be quite annoying at times. She is the boss of her monkeys, but no one else takes her seriously. Debbie is the quiet second youngest girl. She gets on well with Sam, but when she's trying to hang out with the boys she rejects Sam as being 'childish'. Luke's twins are right
in the middle, and are often out of place. They stick together, and while they do get on with the others they're in an awkward position. Scott is the second oldest, and is also the most socially adjusted and confident. He looks after the younger kids, and tries to be on the same level as his big brother. Conan is the oldest, and thus most responsible. He's also a little shy, so while he looks after the others, he sometimes relies on Scott to be the more forward one.

We then took turns pointing at a player, and saying how our characters felt about that character (starting with the oldest one and working down). This was mostly a one-way process, but as people got excited about the relationships they fed back to each other. As people explained their views of each other's characters, little details were added or tweaked.

By the end of the half hour we had some pretty cool characters, but what was really exciting was that the relationships between the characters were really clear, and were in a context (family) that we could all understand on a pretty deep level.

It's probably worth noting that there were lots of little things that came up, like the fact that Luke's twins were fascinated by Debbie's character, because they thought she must have such a special bond with her conjoined twin. Debbie had a crush on the boy twin, but thought the girl twin was freaky and weird. Unfortunately she couldn't tell them apart, so often flirted with or rejected the wrong one.

We then had a hot drink break, and started in on the game proper.

It felt like a really productive bit of preparation, and I was pretty excited by the way the characters were set up. It felt very promising...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Darkplace, Darkplace, Darkplace, Darkplace!

Debbie and I have watched the first two episodes of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, and I am highly impressed. The pilot episode is one of the funniest shows I have ever seen.

The premise is that in the 80's, horror writer Garth Marenghi wrote, directed and starred in a show called Darkplace. It was never screened (except for a short run in Peru). Now, due to a shortage of quality TV, it has been resurrected, interviews with the cast have been added, and it's being released to finally get the critical acclaim it deserves.

It combines several elements in a genius way:
- horror
- medical drama
- parodying bad 80s TV content
- parodying bad 80s TV production values
- parodying bad 80s TV acting
- retrospective 'making of' pomposity

I was nearly paralysed by a line from the show:

Garth: "I have never, personally, exploded, but I understand on a deep level what it would be like."

Which was followed up with:

Dean: "I don't know if it was a close friend of Garth's who exploded, or whether it was a pet, but clearly Garth has experienced closely the pain of exploding. There were tears on the set the day we filmed that - not from Garth, he's far too manly for that, but I'm not afraid to say I wept..."

The second episode was good, and had some brilliant slow motion running, but that first episode? Genius.

I will report back on later episodes as we watch more. When I get around to ordering Season 2 Fry and Laurie on DVD, I will definitely be adding Darkplace to the order :)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Camera, Marking, Holidays

Debbie and I finally got around to buying a video camera. We did not follow in the footsteps of our more committed friend Norman and get a camera which required an extension to our mortgage :) A nice simple handicam is quite sufficient for our humble needs.

I have recieved another subtantial pile of essays to mark - probably fewer than 100 this time, but still enough to keep me busy for the next couple of days. Having done marking at the end of last year, I find that I'm not really any faster, but perhaps I do have a bit more stamina - getting over 100 essays marked in one day of solid work is a feat that I managed last year, and hope to recreate. In fact at a rate of about 25 essays per hour, I should in theory be able to get through more than 100 essays, except that I'm still teaching at the same time, and there's a definite hair-pulling-out level of boredom and monotony that sets in after the first half hour or so.

I am very much looking forward to the end of this week. As Debbie and I discussed this weekend, this term has been pretty full-on:

- exams
- Major production at Debbie's school
- Major production at my school
- loads of deadlines and marking and stress
- a suicide
- film club film making at Debbie's school
- lots of other stuff that I can't remember as I supervised 2 and a half hours of exams this morning and my brain has not yet recovered

We could both use a bit of a rest :)

Friday, September 15, 2006

I am the markinator

I conquered my pile of 150 essays in less than two days. I was all done before 5pm yesterday. That makes me the fastest marker in my department, and it also makes me have free time this weekend.

Hooray!

I tried not to gloat about it to anyone at school. That would be bad.

It's worth noting that I was not fast in terms of the actual speed I marked each paper at - I merely crammed lots of hours of marking into a short space of time. I did 4 and a half hours of marking at work yesterday, having done at least 2 hours of marking at home on Wednesday night.

It turns out my experience at the end of last year really did help :)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Micro-break

I have a mountain of marking - something like 8 class sets of essays about films. A lot of them are about Remember the Titans. There's nothing like 60 essays in a row about a film to dampen your enthusiasm for it. At least with NCEA marking the novels people were writing about were fairly random - there were a lot of Lord of the Flies essays, and lots of Of Mice and Men, but usually no more than four or five in a row.

My micro-break is now over. Time to publish.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Not Gonzo

You Are Rowlf the Dog

Mellow and serious, you enjoy time alone cultivating your talents.
You're a cool dog, and you always present a relaxed vibe.
A talented pianist, you can play almost anything - especially songs by Beethoven.
"My bark is worse than my bite, and my piano playing beats 'em both."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

2004's Latest Thing!

Debbie and I watched the pilot episode of 6 Feet Under last night. Actually we started watching it on Friday, and finished watching it last night. It's a very cool pilot - I am entirely gripped by the show. I was reminded of a comment made by Pearce on his blog, that kissing is hard core (meaning not at all fake). 6 Feet Under had one of the most full-on guy-guy kisses I've seen in a show, and it really did sell the couple as being an actual couple.

The hallucination bits, of seeing the father in various places, are cool but occasionally a bit... obvious? Slightly in the neighbourhood of being hit and miss? But overall the show is great.

I had best do some work now...