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Last Week: LEGO, Knot Ready, Space Force, Provenance, MissImp, CrazyBricks, Agents of SHIELD, We Are What We Overcome

Wow, the last couple of weeks alternating surging heat and grim weather has thorough melted every bit of my desire to do anything, including remembering the time before the heat haze. Still – we shall prevail! It was a quietish couple of weeks in any case, though did have a couple of cool things in it. Not least that I’ve been able to live outside in my gazebo office, and keep a close eye on our ridiculous cats and their shade seeking antics. We were all sad when the thunder and hailstorms drove us inside… Taking keen note of the foul weather I finally picked up some serious LEGO storage towers and did some reorganising. They don’t take up less space, which is unfortunate, but I can access key bricks sets much more easily!

Last week turned out to be a mini podcast week, so I’ve spent more time talking than usual (taking up precious drinking time, alas). More We Are What We Overcoming, which has become a cornerstone of my fortnightly routine, and really does help me think about how I feel and how I’m behaving in this quarantini time. That’s not the same as actually changing my behaviour, but being aware that I’m doing little but drinking and sighing at the sun is a start… My other half and I were also interviewed for the Knot Ready podcast: a look at marriage from a modern, feminist perspective, since we’re nearly twenty-two years into a non-marriage we have some insight into why folks may not get married, or at least, possibly, why we haven’t. It was a lot of fun to chat about how we got together (half a lifetime ago!) and other stuff. I’ll definitely remember to share when our episode is out, but you should subscribe to the podcast anyway because Lucy is pretty ace and it’s a genuinely interesting subject.

We’ve also seen a few more genuine humans in the meatspace, a thing which makes me feel ever so odd. I suspect that I have been at home for too long… But we had a lovely slow wander around the University Park lake and a bit of the radically altered campus up the back of the Portland Building. Lots of baby birds, and our friends’ new baby of their own.

Building: LEGO Hidden Side’s Newbury Haunted High School #70425

OK, so I built this ages ago, but it’s really pretty. Thing is, in its standard configuration it sprawls a little wide, and is distressingly not quite a modular building. So I fixed it! My goal was for it to fit in with the other modular buildings, but of course it’s four studs wider than a baseplate, so something had to go. In my first attempt I tried to compact the bay windows but made a horrible mess, so dismantled the whole thing and rebuilt it using the instructions and deviating where necessary. Where necessary was a bit of a pain – to keep the play functions I needed to keep the bay windows and the full width of the clock tower. My only viable option was removing the four silver unicorn spires with their supporting arches, and that hasn’t really hurt the build much. I’m not super-happy that the decorative ground floor arches are now somewhat obscured, but I’m chuffed with the overall result. That it gave me a chance to go nuts on a swirly tiling pattern in coral pink was a massive bonus. I’ve kept all the play features, but lost some of the details inside. I may remove all the worn detailing too and just have a lovely school in between the detective’s office and the bank. As was noted in the Brickgeekz Facebook group, its colours do rather resemble the now-exceedingly rare Town Hall which I could never quite afford. Win!

Watching: Space Force

This is certainly quite fun. A show about Trump’s cretinous “space force” which supposedly satirises the idea, but instead gets caught up doing a sort-of sincere NASA knock-off to get Americans back on the Moon. It doesn’t seem to be sure what it’s taking the mickey out of, leaving the comedy unfocused and swaying madly in each episode. The characters are pretty stock fodder: uptight air force general played by Steve Carell, who looks rather lost, desperate to make it funny by crashing in and out of character while relying heavily on clearing his throat to cover all forms of emotion; very smart scientist guy who isn’t that great with people in the remarkable form of John Malkovich, who shows off his comedy chops nicely (largely by staying in character); total arsehole PR guy Ben Schwartz, who is utterly hateable (in a good way) but of course redeems himself, sort of; space force pilot/astronaut Tawny Newsome, desperate to get on the moon and be somebody; the air force general’s neglected daughter who just wants to have some fun / get any attention at all from her dad. The supporting cast do a great job too, but the tone constantly swinging from idiots messing up the mission to “hurray USA” sentiment leaves them all out in the cold. It’s just odd. I did enjoy the show, and it certainly has some splendid moments, mostly as they get towards the moon landing itself, but I’m not going to be racing back for season two. The Chinese are the main rivals in this new space race, and it’s a bit… broad… for 2020.

Doing: We Are What We Overcome

The next of our “lockdown specials”, lovingly recorded by Zoom and broadcast live in Facebook. Didn’t quite work last week, for no clear reason, so we popped it up on Tuesday instead. We talked about the thorny subject of change, which we seem to have to deal with all the damned time! It’s an interesting issue, covering not just what change is and how it feels, but how we learn (or don’t learn) to deal with it. All terribly pertinent and that. We came back yesterday Monday 19th to discuss how we feel about the easing of lockdown (or whatever the fuck this shower of wank called a Tory government are doing): check that one our here: Facebook Live.

Kickstarter Reward: Munchkin Bricks 2

With all the global lunacy I’d quite forgotten these were on the way! The last-but-one project of Guy Himber, aka CrazyBricks. These are pretty silly accessories and things to accompany the equally silly Munchkin card/boardgame. I just thought they were really cute, god knows what I’m going to do with them. Particular favourites for me are the chibi cthulus (some may become gifts for others…) and the splendid octobricks!

You should definitely check out his current project, which is already very well funded and heading for far-reaching stretch goals: Dino Dudes! Yep, it’s just what it sounds like. Go get em! Nicely covered here by the excellent Beyond the Brick channel:

Reading: Provenance by Ann Leckie

My first Leckie, having not yet gotten around to reading the acclaimed Ancillary Justice series, though this one is set in the same universe. It’s perfectly fine small-scope space opera, focusing on a young woman’s attempts to secure her future (by being named as heir to a senior politician – her adopted mother in a society with interesting communal creche arrangements) by breaking a thief out of prison and lording her victory over her brother. The thief has apparently nicked some precious vestiges, Leckie’s intriguing concept of highly-prized mementoes of the past, which might be anything from an actual artifact, eg a bell used in the first summoning of parliament, to a signed bus ticket on a special day. The Hwaean people are obsessed with the things, and it would be a terrible shame if they turned out to be fake… There’s lots of running around with aliens and robots and occasional murder of diplomats and so on, all risking the failure of a super-important peace accord between humans and some potentially terrifying aliens. Provenance is neatly written, though it loses something in having the plot summary on the back cover take only the first chapter or so to resolve, leaving me unsure where it was going after the exciting sounding heist was dealt with so quickly. It never quite recovered for me, which definitely confirms that I should not read the back cover of books I’m about to read. The author’s interest in diversity and multiple genders, modes of address and interesting social set ups are fun and satisfying to read about, so I suspect I’ll enjoy getting properly into the Ancillary Justice vibe; I just shouldn’t have started here.

More LEGO. SCUM: A Star Wars Story

I’ve now built the main cast of our Star Wars RPG! Clockwise from top-left: my Tusken raider with savaged translator droid strapped to my back, Jon’s Twi’lek bounty hunter, Ben’s Nautolan hacker, Diarmuid’s hapless and much abused Imperial officer, Joe’s GH7 medical droid (a real delight to assemble) his Mandalorian bodyguard (played by Charlie). It’s fun! Now I wanna build some of our missions…

Watching: Agents of SHIELD season 4

I’m sure you’re growing weary of this, but Agents of SHIELD is a goddamned delight. Best show on TV? Maybe. (Warning: many spoilers ahead.) This was the last of the seasons that I’d seen before, so was by far the most familiar. And yet, in the style of all their seasons, a MILLION things happen, overwhelming any sense I had of how long any of the events took. To give you some idea of just how wild this season is, we go from introducing Ghost Rider, in a surprisingly coherent way, to another Avengers nightmare of AI coming to life and taking over various characters with robot duplicates (in this case, Ada, built by splendid returning cast member John Hannah), followed by an incredible immersion of the main cast in a vast virtual reality “The Framework” (built by Ada, John Hannah, and Fitz) a terrifying alternate reality where Hydra has won and rules the world, busily oppressing and annihilating inhumans so that Ada can build herself a real body. Jesus Christ, it’s a lot. Add to that a new director of SHIELD, the ongoing friction between SHIELD and the inhumans vs the rest of the world, plus god knows what else that I’ve forgotten, and I’m happily mindblown. Of course, it’s also the doomed FitzSimmons romance show too, as those two get yet another absolute kicking when we see that Fitz is the chief Hydra scientist, experimenting and murdering all sorts of folk, like Simmons… How will they put themselves back together? Who the hell knows because at the end of this season most of the team is abducted and wake up in SPACE! In truth I’m already a good way into season 5 and I could not be happier.

Doing: MissImp’s virtual improv comedy drop-in

I’ll admit, I’m as behind on these as I am on everything else… First up, The Tiny Glass Person with Feña Ortalli:

Followed by the marvellous David Escobedo in Discovering Your Dynamics:


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