I’m now three days into a mostly well-earned week off and have no real knowledge of what came before… We’ve been trying to do more things, or at least more things that involve the outside world. It’s been a fortnight of new firsts. I’ve finally been into Nottingham city centre for the first time since mid-March. It was very strange to wheel back in – I only visited for an eye test – and see what seemed like millions of people. In retrospect it was probably the equivalent of a disappointing Tuesday morning. I went back in a week later to pick up my new glasses and it was certainly a lot busier. I cycled around for a bit, and there’s just nothing there I need any more. My desire to wander round a shop is at a new low (unless it’s a charity shop, bookshop, or LEGO shop. And there were none of those available), and I find it hard to imagine that changing much. I guess I’m not gonna be the shot in the arm our economy needs… We’ve also finally been to a pub, for a spot of birthday lunch with my mum. It was great to see her, because it has been ages, but the weirdness of being back in the Victoria was overwhelming. Not just having to wait to be seated, and leaving my name and phone number, but its gaping emptiness. We were the only people dining inside on a Saturday lunchtime, except for the group that briefly ate directly behind us (there was so much other space!) and perhaps fifteen people in the beer garden. I didn’t feel unsafe, just a little weirded out with thinking “what’s the point of this place?” I imagine some of this feeling will fade as these places become normal again with more activities being arranged in them.
Oh yeah, and I’ve been swimming! My beloved Lenton Centre is open again, and I am delighted. I’m not a huge fan of evening swims, since I’m normally well into wind-down and the sleeping drugs are kicking in, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity. They’ve done what they can for safety: super-wide swimming lanes, restricted numbers, widely spaced changing rooms, and (alas) no showers. Mind you, can you be safer than when immersed in a giant tank of coronavirus-murdering chlorinated water? I did the full hour, taxing muscles which have been utterly forgotten for four months. The next day I felt like I’d been crudely hewn from wood. It was a joy to be in water again. So much so that I’m getting up before midday on my birthday to do it again! Plus, we’re going to the cinema this week – The Empire Strikes Back is available on my birthday, and that’s the kind of normal I can’t resist. I’m even contemplating a trip to a real live LEGO store this week, though I may not if I don’t have my AFOL flag added to my card for the VIP day next Saturday. Who knows! It’s not like I’m short of LEGO at home…
LEGO: Merging Hidden Side Sets
I’ve been really happy with LEGO’s Hidden Side line, even though I’ve little interest in its augmented reality play features – the sets are just really cool! I was very taken with the Shrimp Shack Attack and Wrecked Shrimp Boat, which were both a delight to build with nifty techniques and great colour scheme. They seemed to have that same nice subdued sand-green/blue vibe as the stunning LEGO Ideas Old Fishing Store, so why not combine them… Originally, I wasn’t going to change very much at all. I wanted to retain the fantastic shrimp shack sign and the generally grungy vibe of the shrimp shack, plus the whole shrimp boat. As you can see, it did get a little more complicated. I ended up curving the shack round so it could fit in a corner of the baseplate and leave room for the boat, but it didn’t leave enough room, so… the boat became part of the shack, and into a nice little cafe. Making a floor I could tile around the three sections of the restaurant was challenging, but I like how it turned out. Inevitably, including the boat meant taking it apart and rebuilding the underside with different elements. There’s an awful lot of junk under the pier which was a nice chance to use my many crates and lobsters. I had a little fun making an ice-cream stand too, with a rather nice LEGO Friends sticker. I’ve hidden many things in the build and intensely enjoyed its construction. I reckon it looks pretty sweet next to the Old Fishing Store too. Hurray.
I expected to have a lot to say about this TV show, but I… don’t. It’s a good, more detailed, and fuller version of the movie that came out a few years ago, but it doesn’t really add anything. It’s equally bonkers – the conceit being that a super-train 1001 cars long that continuously circles the ice-choked globe – but has more detail, like seeing more of the engineering and a slightly better sense of this ten mile-long train as an environment. The story is much the same too (I guess that’s not surprising), it’s one of social revolution as the tailies (the “freeloaders” who jumped on the train without a billion-dollar ticket) seek to escape their appalling conditions and democratise the train by uniting with third class (who keep the train going – wait, that might be second class… doesn’t really matter) against the total wanker rich class who live in luxury in first. It’s fun, violent, fast-paced, and has many things to make you shake your head at the excesses of the wealthy. Jennifer Connelly is excellent, as is Daveed Diggs in the two (mostly) opposing leads, and the rest of the cast is well chosen. It works! I assume we’ll watch season two, even though we got confused about whether we’d actually finished season one.
Reading: Djinn City by Saad Z Hossain
I’ve continued to struggle with reading, and I think this was a change in pace that really worked for me. Djinn City has a familiar setup: Indelbed is a sad lonely kid living with his alcoholic father, who discovers that his dad’s actually a magician deeply involved with the djinn we’ve shared our world with for millennia. He only finds this out when his dad ends up in a coma and he’s kidnapped by bad guys and dumped in a magical oubliette filled with horrifying flesh-eating dragons and an utterly sociopathic djinn who kinda befriends him… This is profoundly weird reading, both funny and very grim at the same time. There are lovely splashes of Bangladeshi society alongside the wildly arrogant and powerful djinn cultures, against the really awful things that happen to Indelbed (experimented on and then burned alive…), and the fantastical worlds and creations of the djinn themselves. Super-dark, full of intrigue and deep dark conspiracies, there is a huge amount to love and get into here. I am… perplexed that this isn’t book one of a series (or isn’t yet) as the ending feels an awful lot like it needs to continue. Read it, even if there isn’t a book two!
We Are What We Overcome
We met up again for our last fortnightly webchat. Much sadface for me as this has been one my anchoring events through lockdown. However, it’s quite a time commitment for those of us with exciting new jobs, so we talked about how we feel about the future. Not just our post-COVID future, but how we look forward in general. It turns out we somewhat suck at it. I’ve always been bad at imagining the future – I just can’t see myself in it. Still, interesting to ponder on, and I found it both thought-provoking and reassuring to hear the others’ attitudes. We’re planning to meet up in person late in August and get back on track with the regular podcast. Speaking of which, I keep forgetting to mention that new episodes are going quite regularly. Check ’em all out here: https://anchor.fm/we-are-what-we-overcome.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks, especially running up to a week off (to continue being at home, without work to do…). Much finalising of cover art, preparing books for print, for very soon our first books will be published! September sees the first two – Wrath of N’kai and Tales from the Crucible: A KeyForge Anthology, but we sorted those out months ago, before the whole pandemic thing flipped the world upside down. It’s October I’ve been working on, and will hit November’s books the second I return! In the last week we’ve finally been able to show off the first two Marvel novel covers we’ve been working on: Domino: Strays and The Head of Mimir – check ’em out at Marvel.com. Full credit to the wonderful Joey Hi-Fi and Grant Griffin for the two covers.
We followed that up with a little chat about how they came together on Facebook Live:
Watching: Preacher, season three
I’m not sure I know how to summarise Preacher. Ex-man of the cloth / career criminal Jesse has the voice of God (the power to command anyone to do anything) but dark super-Catholic religious corporation, Grail, wants that power so they can invest it in the actual descendent of Jesus – a heavily inbred idiot. In this exciting season of insane and hilariously grim adventures, Jesse and his best friend, the vampire Cassidy, bring the recently killed Tulip to Angelville, the hell hole where he grew up because his grandmother can save people’s lives, by eating their souls… It’s a very over the top show, with great fight scenes, lots of swearing, blasphemy and gore. All the good stuff. I’ve given up trying to understand what’s really going on and am just here for the ride. The return to Angelville explains a great deal of why Jesse is such a mess, while Cassidy’s adventures in New Orleans both delightfully mock The Vampire Letsat etc and subvert it. A lot of what I like is the largely British cast having an absolute whale of a time. Also, Hitler working at Subway and using that to restart the third reich is kinda special…
MissImp: Making Monologues Work for You with Jon Nguyen
We still can’t do proper in-person drop-ins and it looks like there won’t be much in the way of live shows this year, so we’re continuing with our video series inviting great improv humans to share their brilliance with us. These are now fortnightly so we can do a live online Gorilla Burger on alternate weeks! Jon is splendid.