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I was delighted recently to be invited by my friend Aron Wolf to participate in a D&D one-shot he was putting together. I’m a long-time RPG fan, but I haven’t really had a group of my own recently. Our old regular weekly D&D group in Atlanta scattered across the country, and while we managed to get things going again for a while over Skype, life intervened and we never got it back up again. So I was really excited to not only play, but play around a table in a room with a bunch of other people I already knew i liked and enjoyed spending time with!
Because this was intended as a shakedown cruise for the world Aron is building, he gave us all pre-rolled 3rd level characters with specific backstories, which let us drop into the “meeting the party” phase without a lot of time for chargen. This was useful, because our group was pretty evenly divided between D&D veterans and folks who had never played before, and even among the vets, some of us hadn’t really played 5th edition yet, so our knowledge of the system was rather out of date.
According to their adoption paperwork, our kittens Luke and Leia are one year old today! They’ve brought a great deal of joy to our household, and we’re looking forward to many more! Happy birthday, kitties!
Seventeen years ago, I went to my first OVFF. It was a magical experience, and I met many of my dearest friends that weekend, and started a relationship which has become the foundation of my world, so I have a lot of strong feelings about it. I haven’t missed one since, and I was thrilled last year to be asked to serve as Toastmaster for this year’s convention.
I kept trying to figure out a way to write a more comprehensive con-report, but there was so much going on and so many people to see and spend time with (and never enough time with any of you) that I fear leaving something or someone out. But in true awards show fashion, I’m going to try until the orchestra plays me off.
Much thanks to the entire concom for the invitation, to Eric and Lizzie, Julia and Lady J, Cam3, Twill and Osiris of Wreck The System for being an awesome group of folks to share a bill with, and with whom to judge songwriting contests. Thanks to Steve, Erica, Trace, and Kathryn for late night Pegasus shenanigans. Thank you very much to Bill for the wonderful and humbling words in my program book bio, and for the years of friendship that made it possible.
Special thanks to Steve Macdonald and Merav Hoffman for implausibly last-minute assistance with my concert set. Those last two numbers couldn’t have happened with your help, and they’re both songs I’ve been wanting to do on stage for a long, long time.
My concert set was as follows.
0. The Folsom Connection
1. Anthem (cover)
2. The Madonna of the Midway (cover)
3. A Con Spent In A Circle
4. Thirteen Chord Songs
5. Son of a Son of a Vor Lord
6. Pass the Sage
7. The Ironforge Song
8. Party Of Four
9. Lawyers Guns and Honey
10. The Muppets Take Manhattan
(Lyrics for all songs by me except as noted: “Party of Four”, “Lawyers, Guns, and Honey”, and “The Muppets Take Manhattan” lyrics by myself and Jeff Williams. “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen. “The Madonna Of The Midway” lyrics by John M. Ford, music by Emma Bull. Tunes to all the parodies by their respective original composers; see my website for credits to specific songs. As always, these songs and others I’ve written can be found at http://www.autographedcat.com/songs/)
Thank you to everyone who attended my concert and who told me afterwards they enjoyed it. It was an honour to sing for you.
Thanks to Kat for unexpected magic.
And finally, always, thanks to Larissa, who is my rock, my foundation, and my partner. You make everything possible.
OVFF 2018 was a blast, and I’m already looking forward to seeing everyone next year.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Catching up on DVDs this weekend, becuase there’s a big stack of movies we haven’t gotten around to seeing.
(Originally posted on FB)
I recently found myself at a bit of a loose end, games wise. I’d been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic, levelling through six of the eight available class storylines, and wanting to take a short break from it. I was kind of itching for a sprawling Bioware/Bethesda style RPG, and debating doing another playthrough of Dragon Age or Fallout, when I came across “Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen” unplayed in my steam library. I don’t remember when I bought it, but it was probably deeply discounted during one of their sales.
The game was originally released for consoles in 2013, and later ported to the PC. It seems to have a fairly enthusiastic following, as I found from looking about online. And I had too look online, becuase otherwise I’d have no idea what was going on with it.
After a few hours of play, I have to say I can’t recall the last time I played a game so aggressively uninterested in giving me information about itself. The basic mechanics of the game are reasonably straightforward, which is good since it just drops you right in without much fanfare. The prologue has you playing a character who isn’t your avatar, but doesn’t explain much. You eventually pick up NPC party members, but the game is pretty mum on how you should evaluate these characters to join your party, and none of them are real characters in any sense, they’re just automatons. (Literally, in game. They’re called “pawns”, and they’re presented as soulless minions who only exist to serve your need.)
The user interface makes it hard to find anything, and there’s no way to tell if an area or a foe are appropriate to your level, short of charging in and seeing if you get your butt handed back to you. Conversations with NPCs are stilted, between the frankly awful voice-acting and the fact that you never actually respond to anything said to you. They react to you as *if* you said something, but it’s not like there was dialogue to choose that shapes the responses. They just say something, and you hit enter, and they say something else.
A friend I trust tells me the story is ultimately worth it, but I’m afraid that it’s just not engaging me. I might give it another try later, but I think for now I’m going to set it aside.
Reading is something I used to do constantly. And then somewhere, I stopped making the time for it, and have been determined in recent years to make an effort to make it my default habit again. To that end, last year I decided to try and track the books I read, and periodically discuss them.
Unfortunately, after just one post, in January, I fell behind on writing about the books, and then in May I got very busy and ended up both not reading as much as I’d planned and also stopped tracking the books. After which, I never picked up logging again.
So I’ve reconstructed what I can from my memory, but my memory being what it is, I can’t be sure what I’ve missed. So that puts my total at 48. That includes quite a few comic book collections. 1
The following highlights are taken from a series of prompts from my friend Jessica F. Hebert.2
First book of 2017: “Winter’s Tale” by Mark Helpin
This is my favourite novel, and an annual re-read. This would mark the 30th or so time I’ve read it, and it was magical as always. I was once asked, after listing it as my favourite novel, what it was about, and I summed it thusly:
“It’s a story about love. It’s a story about the love of passion, the love of seasons, the love of family, and the love of place. It’s a story about justice, and transcendence, and redemption. It’s a story about seeking, and wanting, and needing. It’s a story about what changes, and what never changes, and the bridge between the two. It’s a story about magic, and reality, and about the wall of clouds that separate one from the other and then weave them together as tightly as the threads in a tapestry.
But more than anything, it’s the story of a city, and the story of a girl, and the story of a man, and the story of a horse.”
Last book of 2017: “The Design Of Everyday Things” by Donald A Norman
This is a classic text that dissects the elements of design that factor into every single thing we touch and interact with, and the psychology behind how that design works, or in many cases, entirely fails to work. I’ve heard of this book for years, but never got around to reading it, and when i came across a reference to it I ordered it on a whim. Terrific read.3
Book I couldn’t shut up about: “A Colony In A Nation” by Chris Hayes
This is the book I’ve most recommended over the course of the year. It’s an examination of race relations in the US, and I think it’s very much worth the time to sit and digest it. Chris Hayes is one of the smarter people working in journalism right now, and I’ve been a big fan of his work since back when he was still writing for The Nation.
Most devastating book: “Crash Override” by Zoe Quinn
In many ways, GamerGate was the canary in the coal mine of our national discourse that warned us all that something very ugly was not just brewing but bubbling over. Quinn’s account of her experience as the original target of the harassment campaign is chilling to read, and it made me angry all over again at the entire fiasco. It does include some constructive thoughts towards the end, where Quinn details the activism she’s been working on to help others who have been targeted, and some suggestions towards making the Internet a better, safer place for everyone.
Book my friends all liked that I finally read and…didn’t: No entry.
The only book I read that I’d had hanging around my to-do list for ages was “Ready Player One”, by Earnest Cline, but I quite liked it. While it does have some problematic elements, it’s a popcorn book, and I consumed it as such.
Book my friends didn’t like that I finally read and…did: “Aftermath” by Chuck Wendig
The Aftermath trilogy was one of the first major Star Wars novels to come out after Disney announced they were rebranding the old Expanded Universe as “Legends” and that all future Star Wars novels and comics would be considered part of the “canon” of the Star Wars universe.4 And the response to them was largely negative, so I didn’t really drop everything I was doing to read them. But while on a cruise to Alaska this summer, I found a copy of the first book in the trilogy in the ships library, and lacking for something breezy and fun to read, I took it back to my room and started on it. And quite honestly, I enjoyed them thoroughly. The first book is a bit slow to start, and Wendig’s present-tense prose style takes some getting used to. 5 But the characters are wonderful, and there’s some terrific stories there filling out what was going on immediately after the destruction of the Second Death Star.
From here, I went on to read several more recent Star Wars novels, all of which I’ve enjoyed, and a couple of which6 were superb.
Most read author: Ryan North and Erica Henderson
North and Henderson are the writer and artist responsible for the Marvel comic “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl”, of which I read five volumes all in a row while spending a lovely weekend of isolation and natural splendor at Lake Crescent. I am an unabashed fan of Squirrel Girl, who never fails to delight me.
Best surprise: “Tove Jansson: Work and Love” by Tuula Karjalainen
I’ve been a fan of Tove Jansson’s Moomin books since I was a child, and I first read “The Adventures of Moominpapa”.7 They are books I continually return to and reread, and the whimsy and magic of those stories are something I always want to make room for in my life. But despite this, I really didn’t know a lot about Jansson herself, and when I saw a notice of this biography, I ordered it. It was a tremendous read, and I learned a lot about an author I already greatly admired.
Works I’m Looking Forward to in 2018:
I haven’t really looked ahead to see what’s on the horizon. On the comics front, I’m greatly looking forward to the first collection Gail Simone and Cat Stagg’s “Crosswind”, which is coming out in March. And I have the short story collection “Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View” sitting on the top of my to-read pile, waiting for me to finish what I’m currently reading, which is “Mad Men: Carousel”, which is a series of critical essays by Matt Zoller Seitz about the TV series “Mad Men” that I’ve been meaning to get around to since it came out.
In any event, I’m looking to keep better track this year, and to make more periodic updates like I planned to do last year. Onward and upward.
I’m only including collected paperbacks of comics, because honestly that’s the only way I buy them anymore. ↩
Upon whose Facebook post this entry was originally a comment upon. ↩
I was reading “The Holy Or The Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of ‘Hallelujah'”, but I didn’t finish it until today, so it goes on the 2018 list. ↩
I have some extended thoughts on this subject that are the subject of a future essay I’m writing. Watch this space. ↩
I admit I normally hate this particular technique, but honestly, by midway through the first book I’d stopped noticing it entirely. ↩
“Phasma” by Delilah S. Dawson and “Thrawn” by Timothy Zahn ↩
A few years ago, I recorded a substantial portion of an audiobook of this novel, as a gift to one of my girlfriends at the time, who was also a huge Jansson fan. I never finished it, but I keep meaning to ↩
The 30 Day music challenge was a great success, and I wand to thank everyone who participated in the threads for each day’s challenge. Just to wrap it up, There’s a couple of links I want to share.
If you’d like to read through all the entries again, in order of posting, you can do that by going to my website at this link:
I’ve also assembled all of my pics into a YouTube playlist, if you just want to listen to the songs as a mix.1 You can find the playlist here.
Now, of course, I have to stop being lazy and come up with other things to post here. But this was a good way to get back into the habit of daily posting, and while I may not update daily from here on out, I do want to try and be more regular. As always, anything I post in my main blog will be mirrored to Facebook, Dreamwidth, and Tumblr, and linked on Twitter2, so feel free to keep following me wherever it is you find it most convenient.
Thanks again for following along, and for commenting!
And here we come to the last song in the 30 day challenge, where we are asked to share a song that reminds us of ourselves. Of all the challenges, this was the easiest song by far to choose. I’ve always said that this was my theme song, and will certainly play over the opening credits of the TV series based on my life, were someone to undertake such a thing. Most people who know me1 can attest to this.
I loved the song when I first heard it, when it was a hit for Men at Work in 1983. But I really love the acoustic versions that Colin Hay performs these days, and there’s a number of really good performances of it floating around, including this one.
If you’ve ever wanted a peak inside my brain, this song will give you one. Here’s Colin Hay, with “Overkill”.
and certainly anyone who’s dated me ↩
We are nearing the end of our musical journey. Today, we are asked to share a song we remember from our childhood.
So many songs I could pick here. I got seriously into music young, and thanks to finding and acquiring my mother’s record collection at an early age, my musical taste has always skewed not just to the current but also to things that were released before I was born.
Still, I wanted to pick something that I remember from the radio, which is difficult because its not always easy for me to remember when exactly i picked something up. But I remember really liking this song, even if I am reasonably sure I didn’t entirely understand it. I just liked the sound of it, and the quality of that amazing voice. Here’s Gordon Lightfoot, with his 1974 hit “Sundown”