Thonagon

Sunday, 14 February 2010 19:23
OK, reading the #sf35 tag on Twitter is really making me regret missing the Thon. (An event that I've never attended as an active Twitter user.) Thanks a LOT, [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel.

Next year.

(Actually, am getting a lot of personal poo-poo sorting done today, the previous post being evidence of. But still, it sounds like a hell of a lineup this year. La.)
Work is work. There's stuff worth talking about but nothing I'd want to blog about; so goes working for oneself. The overall status of Appleseed and my relationship with it remains stable.

I want to finish the next Gameshelf before PAX, which affords me another five weeks. I've put a lot of work into it (as have many friends), but my motivation level now is not nearly as strong as it was a couple of months ago. This is in part because of the resurgence my interest in -- wait for it -- gaming, or anyway gaming of a particular nature, and the novel creative paths this activity has been urging me down.

I found my interest in multiplayer online digital games re-ignited last month. This started with my rediscovery of TF2 on Xbox, built itself up with my ensuing seeking out and palling around with certain online communities of mature gamers, and most recently culminated with the surprise re-launch of Planbeast.

I'm not sure what pushed me to actually do it, but at the start of the month I made a post about Planbeast to Geezer Gamers, a web-based community of grown-up Xbox Live fans I'd been hanging around long enough so that I could make a project-pimping post without feeling like a spammer. The next thing I knew, the Planbeast website actually grew a bunch of events from people other than myself. The interest has died down somewhat from its initial spike, but it remains far higher than it was at any earlier point.

Tending to this effectively sopped up all of my attention for an entire week, and made my thoughts wander even further afield. And: I loved every minute of it. I am starting to cultivate a new obsession. Planbeast, after all, is the child of a greater interest: researching the state of multiplayer video games, isolating its faults, and investigating the ways it could be improved. I have a lot of loose notes about this which I'm presently choosing to spare you. You will be informed when I have patted them together into some more concrete shape.

To give you a taste, here are four tweets I made on the topic:
Shooters are the superhero comics of the multiplayer videogame world. The medium's potential is vast, but nobody wants to leave the house.

Spider-Man (the character) and TF2 are best-case scenarios of their respective sub-genres, building on decades of art. I am glad they exist.

But the continued super-ultra focus on gun-fetish games or underwear-crimefighter stories rolls on anyway, as if there's no other path.

Part of what I wanna do with Planbeast is help strengthen the signal of all the other MP games that are unheard in the chattering gunfire.
My guiding light, here, is a piece of self-realization about my relationship with games, come to me a good decade after I got back into the tabletop gameplay hobby: I am far more interested in media that bring people together through play, rather than solitaire play experiences. This is true in both face-to-face games, and the much (much) newer world of online games. As for the latter, for all its good press, its exploration beyond the familiar is so goddamn timid it drives me up a wall. I want to do something about it.

One related whim of particular interest is an untitled web game project, based on a design I scribbled together last fall while I was thinking about Facebook games. It's a web-based multiplayer game of a sort that I've never seen before, and might not actually work, but deem Absolutely Worth Creating just the same. I really want to block out a month or so of free time and make it happen.

And now, the whinging. )

Nonthon

Sunday, 14 February 2010 13:59
This is my first year since 2002 when the lead-up to noon on President's Day Eve does not see me establishing my nest in the theater, waiting for the 24-hour Boston SF Film Festival to start. The Thon is exercise in endurance unbearable without friends, and while I have friends in attendance, this year all my past Starship Thon berthmates are otherwise occupied.

I am OK with this! I have a lot on my own plate as well, and honestly? I can't say I feel much regret in breaking tradition this year. I find that I don't even have to console myself with the guarantee that this way I won't be stuck sitting behind Constant Screen Talkback, Laughing At His Own Lame Joke, Then Looking Around To See If Anyone Else Is Laughing Guy. So, best wishes to all who are attending. Even that guy.

Next post: what the hell I've been up to, lately.
Do I want to go to the Thon this year?
prog: (khan)
I had a great time. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] xartofnothingx, [livejournal.com profile] daerr and [livejournal.com profile] kyroraz for joining me this year, as well as the N hundred of you other crazy people.

Recap: I watch 13 movies in 24 hours, surrounded by SF film geeks, and tell you about it. )

Thon.

Saturday, 14 February 2009 17:01
The plan is to be in line with [livejournal.com profile] xartofnothingx at 10am.

Who-all else is-a gonna be there?

I'm super-psyched. I just hope I don't sit behind one of the people who sits by himself, making inane non-jokes and then laughing at them while looking around to see if anyone else is laughing. Like, once every two minutes. I have been stuck with two different instances of this class the past two years... bah. Maybe if I write about it here it won't happen...
prog: (khan)
Only two more weeks n change before the 2009 Boston Sci-Fi movie marathon, prezint's day weekend. This year's theme is Aliens Attack! The lineup's been announced, and [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel has written up a fine summary of it. (When's the last time they've announced the full line-up in January?)

Who-all's interested in joining me this time around? This'll be my eighth time in a row attending... whee!
The shorts this year were a mixed bag, as usual. This was the first one that the whole audience liked, an antidote to the incomprehensible this-r-serious-film short that preceded it.

prog: (khan)
Meh, rest of thon not so good.

First, some more notes about the good parts:

"The Last Mimsy" is a surprisingly good film, a kids' movie excellently written and acted, with an engaging story. I found it structurally interesting for having both the expected kid protagonists (bro and sis who find strange artifacts that give them strange abilities and insights) as well as several adult roles of equal prominence. Often in movies like this, grown-ups serve as background scenery, defining the world that the kids leave behind while they adventure; when they do step forward, it's to present obstacles the kids must overcome. Here, the adults are as central to the story as the little main characters. The writing is clever, simplifying the grown-ups' actions and dialogue just enough to keep it easy for young viewers to grok, without reducing them to flat and uninteresting cartoons. Good work.

"In the Shadow of the Moon" is a brilliant documentary, constructed of interviews with several Apollo astronauts. I dare you to watch it and not fall in love with Mike Collins (the fella who piloted the command module while Neil and Buzz did their famous first). This DVD would make a great present for certain family members of mine.

"After the World Ended" is a mostly brilliant fake documentary about a post-megaplague San Fransisco with fewer than 200 people living in it, as recorded by one survivor who happens to have a knack for filmmaking. I was skeptical, but the acting, writing and (minimal) cinematography really succeeds in making it all believable. Yes, everyone has perfect hair and makeup, a decade after civilization went away. I think this nit is balanced by the fact that one of the survivors is Adam from Mythbusters, playing himself. How can you not love that?



So about the latter half of the thon:

[livejournal.com profile] xartofnothingx had to leave before midnight since she couldn't get Monday off of work, and [livejournal.com profile] daerr went home to nap at the same time and never returned, leading me to conclude that he's been abducted by space zombies. He will be missed.

They were both superior company while they were there, and I'm very happy that they joined me for that duration. But I had never tried to thon alone before, and after 12 hours of it I know that I'll never do that again. For me (and, I suspect, for many other thonners) the group experience happens on two levels: the entire audience, and the group you came in with. With the opportunity absent, I learned that much of my thon-joy is less about enjoying the movies and more from shared experiences with friends sitting beside me. And when I do feel the need to participate in screen-talk, it comes as comments made to my buddies (at overhearable volume), as opposed to shouted one-liners, which is usually the province of sad men sitting alone. (One of these lonesome comedians sat in front of me again this year, but thankfully only for the length of one picture.)

The result of this is that I was feeling conspicuously alone during the thon's latter half. I didn't really expect that to happen, so it took a while for me to realize I wasn't having much fun, and in the meantime the lack of fun was making me cranky. This was not the best attitude to watch a series of extraordinarily negative films, which is what the remainder of the thon served up.

After my last post, I returned in time to catch the last half or so of "Black Sheep". (2006 Kiwi horror/comedy, not 1990s Farrel/Spade stupid/comedy.) It is way over the top in grossout violence, and since I was already on negative footing, seeing scenes of people suffering and screaming for help as their bodies were slowly torn apart didn't get teh yuks out of me.

While the rest of the audience roared in shock and laughter with each new dismemberment, I thought about the victims' lives ending, all their hopes and dreams snuffed out, the loss that their children and spouses would suffer. Or maybe some would manage to crawl to safety with their unspeakable mutilations, be rejected by their loved ones and discarded by society, and commit suicide in despair some months or years later. Would you laugh at that, assholes? Would that be funny? This is what I was thinking. Yeah, I know. I probably should have gone home at this point.

Instead I stayed to watch "1984", the one with John Hurt in it. It seems a pretty solid adaptation, and I enjoyed it up until Winston's capture, when his subsequent torture and breakage takes up the entire third act of the film. It was excellently acted but hard to watch, in part because it gets kind of boring. Sorry. (It was interesting to learn the implication that "The Party" came to power in England in the vacuum after a nuclear war, which I didn't catch when reading the novel so long ago. Of course the first thing I think of is "V for Vendetta", which is far more explicit about the very same setup.)

I did not want to watch "Sound of Thunder" or some shlocky thing I've already forgotten the title of, so I went home to nap, and returned to see the closer, "A Boy and his Dog", and here I finally met my defeat. Someday, I will watch this movie all the way through. It seems to be a good film to see under the influence of negativity, but my lonely and sleep-deprived grouchiness was entirely the wrong flavor. It is a very black comedy where the protagonists are a young serial rapist and a misogynist dog who talks like Harlan Ellison, hunting through post-nuke-holocaust Phoenix for food and pussy. Perhaps the plot gains nuances after the opening setup, but it just made me feel hateful, so finally I packed up and left.



The first half of the thon was so much fun that the whole event was once again a net win. But I'll have to start getting a group together earlier, next time.
Taking a break from the thon at home. Just wolfed down a Dunkie's egg sammich. Will return to Starship Somerville presently.

It's been a strong thon so far, actually. I enjoyed "Cloverfield", the surprise opener, despite knowing everything about it and expecting not to like it. "2001", my big fear, went over all right. Far from restless, the audience was silent to the point of reverence. When hecklers' grumblings became louder than murmurs, they were loudly shushed.

I found myself not at all bored through the parts that aren't boring, but I was counting the minutes ticking past otherwise. I'd forgotten that it's not just the Blue Danube-scored scenes and the psychedlic stuff at the end, but the pacing of many bits on board the Discovery. Those pods sure do take a long time to rotate. But, it's been exactly 10 years since the last time I saw this movie (which I've seen many times all told) and I used these slow bits to reflect on ways my life has changed since the last time I watched these very frames flickering past. So that was all right.

"The Last Mimsy" makes me want to spend time around children again. As did conversations with the enthusiastic little girl one row up, attending the thon for the first time with her dad. We debated gently over whether the Martians from George Pal's "War of the Worlds" (the 10pm show) were scary or silly, or some of both.

Thon update

Friday, 15 February 2008 01:48
It appears that I shall be going to the thon with [livejournal.com profile] daerr and [livejournal.com profile] xartofnothingx. Yayyy! A veteran and a newbie, respectively, so this will be a good time. I know some of y'all're planning on attending too, and I look forward to seeing you there. (Are the seats up in the balcony still from the 19th Century? If so I think we'll stick to the ground level...)

BTW, the thon is from Sunday noon to Monday noon at the Somerville Theater. Its website isn't all that hot this year at explaining this sort of thing.



Here is the entirety of a Dan Clowes comic that recently ran as a serial in the New York Times. I love Clowes, but this story, about a blind date, is so incredibly igry that I currently can't bear to click past the seventh page.
So the annual Boston Sci-Fi movie marathon is happening in just a few days and I haven't lifted a finger. Neither [livejournal.com profile] doctor_atomic nor [livejournal.com profile] dictator555 are able to join me this year. One or the other has been my unfailing stay-awake-through-the-whole-damn-thing companion since I started going, six years ago.

The doctor's the one who introduced me to the thon, right when we were becoming close friends. So her absence is a bummer, but not wholly unexpected; she's very busy pursuing her real-life mad science at the moment.

Two years ago I was in a similar position, and on a last-minute lark I asked the dictator if she wanted to go a-thonning with me instead, figuring that she'd decline and I'd have an excuse to stay home. I didn't know her very well, but I knew (via [livejournal.com profile] dougo) that she'd expressed an interest in the thon. Surprise, she said yes, and so I quickly became good friends with her, and soon enough with all her friends, one of whom was [livejournal.com profile] classicaljunkie, and la-di-da. (No, CJ is not a thonner. Pity!)

What I'm trying to say is, the thon's been good to me. I've been to six in a row and I'd like to make it seven. Yesterday I would have said "...I think" to that but the closer it gets to Sunday the more psyched I get. I love the thon.

Even though the lineup has a lot of downers. And I have no idea how the thon crowd will react to 2001. Even if most of the audience has probably already seen it at least twice. The long parts of the movie are... long.

Still. Who-all's with me? Any of the slightly-less-hardcore-but-still-awesome folks I have sat beside in years past? Failing that, any fellow lunatics whose theater sections I can defect into this year?
As I write this I'm on the train on my way to visit [livejournal.com profile] doctor_atomic amid her studies at Rutgers, where her job seems to mostly involve exposing babies to visual stimuli, and then writing grant applications about it. This is just a lil vacation; I haven't traveled for pleasure in a very long time. (I can't count last year's Origins.)

My mother does not understand this trip and is sure that something sinister is afoot. She asked if [livejournal.com profile] classicaljunkie is "allowing" this, and insinuated that perhaps the doctor hasn't told her bf. (In fact, he is catsitting for me.) I reminded mom that she's been a very close friend of mine for more than five years. I think this just made her more uncertain. "Maybe you should bring Amy with you."

My dad is not batty as my mom but nonetheless wanted to warn me that Rutgers has a reputation as a wild party school and I shouldn't drink too much. I told him OK.


This visit comes only a few days after the thon, which she came up for. (She comes up a lot anyway, since the bf is here.) Let us speak of the thon. I shall direct you to a post from Spatch for a nice description of the event as a whole and another from the doctor that summarizes all the things we saw in this particular festival. As she notes, the films both short and feature-length were deliciously varied this year. I hope that the tradition of mixing shorts into the annual program continues!

This leaves me to mention random things. It was a mixed start for our little group. OK, our big group; there were seven of us at once point, which is the largest thonning party I've had the pleasure of; I'm used to a rotating crew of two or three. When we arrived our chosen section was already checkerboarded with people, but some oldsters who overheard our predicament gladly rearranged themselves to clear out some contiguous seats for us. "Hooray for fandom!" said I. (Though to be quite honest I am not sure of the thon's place within SF Fandom proper. It seems to exist largely independent of the convention circuit.)

Once we settled in and Forbidden Planet started up it became clear that we had another problem: a chatty cathy sitting directly in front of us. As Spatch notes in his post, some audience participation is OK, but running commentaries not so much. This fellow, a middle-aged gent sitting by himself, felt the need to crack wise after I-kid-you-not just about every third line of dialogue, and he was extraordinarily unfunny. Also a little creepy, since he was addressing all his remarks to a couple sitting two seats to his right (who laughed politely each time) and finished each bon mot with a self-satisfied little "Hm hm hm hm!" Here's a little sampler of what I can remember:
On-screen activity Dude's chatter
A line about boarding a tram to be taken to "the residence". The residence? The Residence Inn? I'd stay there! I've stayed there before! Hm hm hm hm!
Someone asks Robby the Robot if he is a robot. No! I'm Marilyn Monroe! Reincarnated! Hm hm hm hm!
Referring to a chained prisoner, one character instructs another to "remove his bonds". Did he say "remove his bottom"? Hm hm hm hm!
A woman hands her shoes to a man for safekeeping. Sniff 'em! Hm hm hm hm!
I shushed this guy about three times over the course of the thon, and to his credit he stayed shushed until another film he found chatterworthy started up. I don't like shushin people at this event coz I'm not the quietest person in the theater myself, but this was just beyond the pale. But once we discovered the Power of Sssssh we were able to stop worrying about him and enjoy the movies so that was OK.
Back to family: my niece Colleen is in a kind of trouble. It is the kind of trouble you're in when you're, what, 22? 24? and completely clueless. She'd be a slacker if she had a family able to support that lifestyle, but instead she's just sort of a vagrant, bumming around her mom or grandma's house or sleeping in her car in between, broke and directionless. (Her family is also broke but at least they're anchored.) Who knows what to do about that?

On the train I listened to my backlog of voice mails of Ricky talking about his daughter's most recent misadventures. He suggested I email her or something just to send her some cheer, so I sent her a text message right there from the train, telling her about my trip and the rain outside and how I hoped all was well. She pinged me back a moment later to assure me that it was so. So that much is nice, at least.


At the doctor's apt now and it's almost dinner time. Cheers!
Just napped for a couple of hours, after the thon. I am still a complete mess. I don't think I'll do anything else today other than have dinner (I'm thinkin salad) and watch TV.

It was a blast and lots of people shared a row with me, including [livejournal.com profile] doctor_atomic, [livejournal.com profile] daerr, [livejournal.com profile] dictator555, [livejournal.com profile] kyroraz, [livejournal.com profile] cthulhia, and J-who-has-no-LJ. Of this group only the doctor and I stayed without break for the whole 24 hours, so allow us some utterly meaningless and possibly sad posturing here. Otherwise it was great to see everyone. It was also cthules' first thon experience, so I can take credit for bringing in another newbie, too.

All the movies were good or better, as were the entries in the shorts program. There seemed to be no standout moments of either brilliance or horror this year. There were some externally introduced local challenges we had to overcome, but we did, so it was OK. I'll catalog them later.

RIghto, food and zonked out couchage now.

Sixth annual

Saturday, 17 February 2007 22:03
Today's been a stomachache day, the first since the really bad one that killed my museum date. Wasn't stupid this time: drank no coffee (but lots of tea) and have been taking it easy, so it's been all right.

Better today than tomorrow, which is the thon. The thon! I am gonna hafta get off my rear and schlep to Shaw's when I'm done writing this. I think lots of water and some high-protein, low-odor snacks (no beef jerky this time) will fill the bill. Even though I am now carless, I think I will probably end up sneaking home once or twice for other amenities anyway.

The final list of who-all is going in my adventuring party still isn't 100 percent final but the core group has a plan. We're gonna meet there 90 minutes before launch and try to get the same seats we got two years ago. That was back when there was five of us, and there may be as many as seven this year! Wish us luck.

Each time I look at the schedule I get more pumped up. Can you believe that I've never seen Forbidden Planet?
Of the four pillars, I've been paying the least attention to Volity. I've been quite aware of this, and last night was reminded of it further by a visit from those creatures of my mind I call the boogeymen, the imps who crouch on my shoulder when I'm having trouble sleeping and chuckle into my ear about how I'm heading into failure, about what a fool I've been, reciting a catalog of my missteps. All I can do is twitch and moan feebly. It's awful.

The thing is, though, they're totally on my side. It's bitter medicine, but when it mixes with the morning sunlight, it turns into a fuel of tremendous potency. There's little that motivates me more than proving naysayers wrong about my own work, even if they're imaginary projections of my semi-conscious anxieties. And I have to think they know exactly what they're doing.

So last night the boogeymen were cooing about all the wasted effort of last year, and all the threads that have been blowing in the wind for months. So today (after a lovely breakfast and etc.) I kicked ass across three Volity-related fronts. I finished redoing some libraries that were causing deep-set bugs from poor design decisions I made last year; I merged contributor code into the Subversion trunk, updated the change log, and chatted with said contributor; I closed a bunch of old tickets on RT and solved some new tickets that happened to come in during all this.

Much remains on the backlog but that was a fine day's (at least) work. And here it is only Monday. Very good. It is not wise to rely on frustrated sprinting as a primary work pattern, but once in a while it can do a lot to make one feel more able.



I am completely unprepared for the 'thon. Oh, I'm going, all right, and it's going to choo-choo-train me right into the ground. Why don't they look. I'll come out the other end a drained and broken man, I just know it. At least it's in the Somerville Theater this year, making for an easy hobble home. And my supporting entourage this year is gonna be great, too, so yay.

This year's logo (spotted via [livejournal.com profile] derspatchel because I am not keeping up on the message board for some reason) is brilliant.



I am trying to get five stars in every song at the medium difficulty level in Guitar Hero 2, so I can unlock a stupid bonus guitar (which does nothing for you gameplay-wise, just gives you something to brag about). It's hard but quite addicting, just like Amplitude was a few year ago. All day I kept wandering over to the TV to throw on the silly little toy Gibson and try another couple of songs, which takes only 10 minutes, and then I felt done and went back to my desk for a while. Safer than Angband any day.

The difficulty ramp-up between Medium and Hard is pretty intense. I can't get through even a single song at that level.
prog: (khan)
Saw Babel last night. I found it too heavy-handed and boring. Thon-engendered bad habits kicked in halfway through and it was all I could do at one point not to start with the ol Jump! Jump! chant.

After that, though, I did fail to not make muted-trumpet noises whenever anyone said anything Tragically Ironic, based on information the audience knew but the characters didn't, which happened with increasing frequency as the story wore on. "I promise I'll never let anything happen to the kids!" Wanh, waaanh.

I hope it doesn't actually win any Oscars, except for the acting ones. The acting was all right.

Happy February

Thursday, 1 February 2007 11:53
prog: (coffee)
I mail-ordered Guitar Hero 2 and a second guitar controller from Amazon. They're both en route. Very nice.

Last night's host segment shoot went really well despite some weirdness with the green screen. SCAT no longer has the screen we last used - nobody knows why. They have a new one that looks handmade by some local crafty type, which is wonderful and all except none of us could figure out how to set it up right. Fortunately [livejournal.com profile] taskboy3000 didn't mind standing off to one side holding the green fabric taut while I read my monologues, so I don't foresee problems keying off of it.

The DIY teleprompter worked almost perfectly; I just plugged my iPod into the TV that serves as the on-set monitor and Lee poked buttons as necessary. The only hangup came from one of the text-scroll movies, the first one I made, scrolling a little too quickly; I mistimed it by about a tenth of a second per line, and I was too lazy to redo it. Oops! I'll know better for next time.

Giving myself a month to put it together, which is just as well coz Februrary's gonna be hectic; the thon's in two weeks and then I'll be doing a spot of traveling. It'll be a great show, though, and I look forward to making good on my promise to promote it once it's done.

Pee yew.

Thursday, 14 December 2006 15:10
prog: (what_you_say)
The heat is wedged on full-blast due to an oopsie elsewhere in the building, and so I am stuck in a hermetically sealed cube farm filled with nerds who, stimulated by the warmth, blossom into full pungency as they compete for mates. Or something.

SEND HELP

Actually it's like practice for the thon. HA HA BECAUSE SF fans smell bad
A couple of weeks ago I bunch of us tried to see The Prestige at the Boston Common. To our dismay [livejournal.com profile] classicaljunkie literally bought the last ticket, and this was very confusing because the movie had opened like two or three weeks prior to that. Did the cinema it was in have like ten seats? I don't know. We all went home and played Settlers instead. The normal kind, not the food kind.

Now it's only playing in one theater in the entire greater Boston area, according to Sherlock. So tonight the junkie and I drove there, since it was only the Capitol in Arlington, and therefore largely a straight line. Perfect for practicing my driving! (Not that I really needed any; hooray for muscle memory. Er, though I did drive around without my headlights on for a long while.)

The movie started an hour and a half later than the internets said they would so we killed time by driving around some more, drinking coffee, and nosing around the neighboring Monroe Salt Works, which doesn't really have any salt in it, but has a lot of cool toys for sale. If I knew any little children I would have bought some. I especially liked the little sets of minimalist wooden wind-up paddle-boats that came in a neatly illustrated box. It's just the sort of thing I would have loved when I was little.

I enjoyed the movie. Huge Ackman's stomach muscles look weird to me, but they make me want to do more sit ups. Maybe one day I can have vaguely unsettling abs too. I made pokey motions at the screen whenever they appeared. Not really all that often. Anyway, I hope it plays at the thon. It would go over quite well there.

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