[ occasional pirate ], [ scribbly fellow ], [ hat devotee ], [ improviser ], [ cat dad ], [ sometimes unhappy in the brain ], [ AFOL ], [ consumer of eye-candy ], [ beer drinker ], [ enraged cyclist ], [ please talk to me about Transformers ], [ very bad at DIY ], [ enthusiastic duct-taper ]

Last Week: Hollywood, The Lock Artist, LEGO Attack of the Morro Dragon, Transformers vol 1, Never Have I Ever

Another week, another near-sun tan. This week I’ve seen a friend in person (what the actual fuck?) and found a new direction for exercise. That sounds pretty good, right? It was extremely disconcerting to meet up with a person in real life – I’ve begun to feel a little like all my friends who have long assured me that they’ve met their best friends purely online – but three hours sitting in the local park in a government-approved triangle was lovely. I’ve been seeing others largely as things to be avoided as they blunder towards me, breathing heavily with no sense of physical distance. Apart from the postman and chin tilts to neighbours it’s the most human experience I’ve had of late. I also attended a properly fun Zoom birthday party too (thanks Mr Ben!), so clearly we’re getting used to these things.

Heading out in the direction of Dovecote Lane park eventually sent me that way on my bike too. I’ve found exercise really hard for the last couple of months. I’ve always relied on cycling to work (and the swim at the halfway point) for a few miles in each direction to keep me fit without feeling like I was doing exercise, and it’s been pretty good for keeping me fit and able to eat and drink what I like. Well fuck you very much lockdown, that’s been properly trashed. Cycling in an aimless circle round university park or Beeston has been quite cack, and while jogging on the spot clearly burns calories it’s too tedious. So I’ve started cycling out to Attenborough Nature Reserve. It’s not especially far, but I’ve rarely explored round there, so I’m enjoying heading off down a road with no clue where it goes. It’s not made me late for work… yet. Even when I didn’t sleep at all on Thursday night I got up and went for an explore before work. Must be good!

In between late night walks around Beeston, drinking too much and watching TV, we’ve continued our slow build of the LEGO Brick Bank. It’s quite lovely.

I’ve also finally returned to LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga on our Wii. I’m up to 30-something per cent and enjoying it enormously. I have discovered though that our TV really can’t handle proper dark contrast on a sunny day, so I’m dying a lot by falling off edges I can’t see. There have been a few levels where I’ve had to stand right in front of the TV (in sport mode), and just hoped I’d find the exit to a room. Still, I’ve got Indy and General Grievous to hop around and smash stuff, so I’m happy.

Oh yeah, and another bootleg Mando arrived this week – with shiny beskar armour! Baby Yoda will have his Mister Shiny Helmet. Nicely, he comes with a screwdriver accessory which I assume is supposed to be the tracking fob. There is something in me compelling me to acquire more of these guys… I’ve also just got the Armourer, but pics of her will have to wait till I’ve crafted a custom cloak. What is wrong with me…?

 

Watching: Hollywood

OK, so this should have been in last week’s post, but I’d forgotten that we’d watched it. That’s no indication of how good it is, everything belongs to the neverwhen at the moment. Plus we caned through it in three nights. This is a very strange show, offering us an alternate Hollywood of the 1950s in which the reviled minorities of the day can actually get a foothold in the industry. The show nails the golden era vibe, from movie producer boardrooms to the grim/delightful gas station gigolos. Over the first couple of episodes the show draws together the flailing careers of half a dozen interesting and purposely diverse young Hollywood hopefuls and then sets them together in a movie, despite, or perhaps because of, their race, gender and sexuality – all things that would have killed their careers in real Hollywood. It’s a very pleasing show; the acting is great, from the keen Jack Castello moonlighting as an escort from the aforementioned gas station (it and its owner, Ernie West, are an absolute highlight), aspiring black actor Camille, Archie the black and gay screenwriter who finds himself in a relationship with Rock Hudson (also a delight, and terrible actor in a fantastic screentest montage), and the awesome double act of Hollywood execs Dick Samuels and Ellen Kincaid, plus the quite distressing sleazy and manipulative agent Henry, played with soiled glee by Jim Parsons.

It’s really good fun, and a moving story – each success feels wonderful, and Hollywood getting behind this gang is immensely satisfying, as is the acceptance and coming out of various characters at all levels of the business. For me, it remained jarring however, for just how unreal the situation is compared to Hollywood of the ’50s – it never escaped its own unlikeliness. Most certainly worth a watch.

Doing: We Are What We Overcome – Live Specials

We’re continuing to livestream every other Monday on Facebook, this time on trying to be aware of our mental health states, as well as that of others. I feel like we’re getting better at this live babbling thing. It feels less awkward now. We’ll be streaming to Facebook next on Monday 1 June, and you can watch em all right here.

Reading: The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton

I’ve been through another couple of weeks of struggling to read properly, or at least as quickly as I enjoy. After discarding half a dozen books less than one chapter in, I finally prised open my book cupboard and pulled out the first pretty thing I could find. It was this! A pleasing and sharply written story of a boy traumatised into silence by an event in his childhood (which is only fully revealed toward the end, and works very nicely),  a lad who discovers he has two talents, drawing and lock picking…  We’re given two main story threads to skip between: his life as the lock artist led by a series of pagers offering jobs that he responds to, and how he got into all this trouble in the first place. They’re both peculiarly endearing, and that’s partly down to the charming internal monologue which carries through all of his interactions, since he does indeed remain mute throughout. He’s funny, and sweet, enough of an outsider through his selective mutism to have a cynical eye, and yet through his silence other people just trust him. Including proper big bad criminal types. It all ends rather badly, but we’re told that from the beginning. His lengthy infatuation and distance romance via comic book pages that he and his sort-of girlfriend exchange is genuinely delightful. This is fast-paced and fun, with a harsh shade of real darkness in both his past and future.

Reading: Transformers vol. 1: The World in Your Eyes

This was a hard read for me. I’m a huge fan of IDW’s previous Transformers continuity, which ran for an extraordinary thirteen years (a feat that I don’t think any other Western comic series, still less one based on a toy line, has achieved), taking us from the brutal finale of the Autobot-Decepticon war through to peace time, with wonderful characters, alternating humour with dark political wranglings. This new reboot has quite a lot to live up to…

We’re taken millions of years back to Cybertron pre-war, introducing us to the sights through the eyes of newly forged Rubble, who’s being shown round by Bumblebee. Of course, it’s the worst possible time to show a new kid round, as the tensions between the establishment and Megatron’s “Ascenticons” are just now bleeding over into violence. It’s a lovely Cybertron, one we’ve only glimpsed before in flashbacks (or, memorably, time travel), and it’s a thriving world with vast architecture, travel and commerce. A successful world, which for what feels like the first time, has organic alien races living alongside the Transformers. It’s sad to think it’ll all be ripped apart soon…

It’s a very pretty comic, but is incredibly slow moving, even for the first chapter introducing a rebooted world. I suspect I’m finding it hard going from the well-established characters of the last continuity to seeing them all reshuffled and now filling different roles. It’s a cool era to set the story in though, and I think it’s got promise.

Building: LEGO Ninjago 70736 Attack of the Morro Dragon

I love Ninjago’s dragons and the insane aesthics the range has pursued down the years, giving us both traditionalish ninjas and dragons, but also Mad Max dieselpunk, enormous mechs, and more recently Tron-style arcade stuff. Bonkers. Oh, and also the stunning Ninjago City builds and the even wilder designs from The LEGO Ninjago Movie.

This set’s a little older, and like most of the Ninjago line I only pick them up when they’re quite severely discounted. Obviously it was the glow in the dark colours that appealed to me most of all, and those lovely wings. It’s a satisfying assembly, with a mini temple build, sky bikes (or something, I don’t really follow the stories), a couple of ninjas and three more of these evil ninjas with transparent legs and heads. Oh, and two ghosts. I’ve already put them somewhere but it’s the dragon I was interested in.

This is actually a smaller set than I thought it was, and comes together very quickly indeed. Despite being larger, and having more pieces than Master Wu’s dragon (a fantastic LEGO set), it’s a shorter build all round. The construction is like many of the others, a combination of big crunchy joints and the little Mixels ones for legs, wings and tail. I always enjoy the design of the dragon head itself, which gives the beastie a lot of character. The chin horn is oddly satisfying! All the glow in the dark pieces give the dragon its lovely roiling curves, but leave it sadly inflexible. It’s a dragon I’d love to coil around a building, but that’s gonna take a severe re-engineering of its body. It’s rather striking, and I imagine this one will remain constructed for quite a while, at least until I want to plunder its glowing parts.

And just because I liked it…

Watching: Never Have I Ever 

We watched this in a single night… I’m always thrilled to stumble across shows with under half-hour episode lengths at present. This is a pretty straightforward US highschool outsider tale, from the somewhat unusual perspective of an Indian-American family. That’s a pretty familiar trope in UK TV, and was very welcome in the even-more-familiar US high school setting. I’m not sure that there’s anything exceptional here, but it’s warmly told, with a number of fun and occasionally over the top performances, all solidly conforming to our expectations of a high school drama. I had some trouble figuring out how old the characters were supposed to be as it’s the usual casting combo of girls who must be in their twenties, but look about 14, and guys who are plainly in their mid-thirties. No wonder kids are so confused these days etc. As usual it’s the vibe between the BFFs that makes this fun to watch, particularly drama-queen Ramona Wong (wonderfully and worryingly odd in the lamentably cancelled Santa Clarita Diet). As filled with diversity and coming out stories as you could hope for, this is plenty of fun, if not especially memorable. Oh yeah, and it’s narrated by John McEnroe. Yes, the tennis player.

Doing: MissImp’s Virtual Improv Drop-In – “Specific and True” with Terje Brevick

Continuing our mission to bring you improv from everywhere, this week’s episode features Norwegian improviser, Terje Brevick, with fun games and a good reminder of the value of details and honesty in improv.

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