Captain Pigheart https://captainpigheart.com Stories and Thoughts of a Pirate in Exile Mon, 03 Aug 2020 12:50:52 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 168602523 Last Week: Preacher, Snowpiercer, Djinn City, LEGO Hidden Side, Aconyte Books and More https://captainpigheart.com/2020/08/03/last-week-sunday-2-august-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/08/03/last-week-sunday-2-august-2020/#respond Mon, 03 Aug 2020 13:00:29 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33479 Continue reading Last Week: Preacher, Snowpiercer, Djinn City, LEGO Hidden Side, Aconyte Books and More]]> 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.

Watching: Snowpiercer

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

Workstuff

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.

 

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Last Week: The Order, The Kingdom Above the Waves, Warrior Nun, Derry Girls, LEGO Overwatch and Jurassic World https://captainpigheart.com/2020/07/21/last-week-sunday-19-july-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/07/21/last-week-sunday-19-july-2020/#respond Tue, 21 Jul 2020 11:05:00 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33413 Continue reading Last Week: The Order, The Kingdom Above the Waves, Warrior Nun, Derry Girls, LEGO Overwatch and Jurassic World]]> Oosh, where has the time gone? It’s hard to figure out whether it’s the weeks or the weekends that go by faster. Either way, they’re going nuts and I’m waaaay behind on my weekly updates. I’ve noted this for the last couple of weeks, sighed, and discovered that it’s now Thursday or something equally ridiculous. And of course, the longer this goes on, the more I have to write and the more impossible it becomes. I guess I’ll have to draw a line under it… This week you’ll only be seeing the things I gave a damn about from the last couple of weeks because otherwise I’ll never finish!

A Rare Moment of Self-Reflection

What I should do is to think a little about why I’m now struggling to do this. In part it’s because this exercise was great at the beginning of lockdown, and gave me a focus. Now, of course, I have a fucktonne of work to do and things are sort of ramping up in other areas of life, like occasionally seeing people in the flesh and stuff. A number of things have helped me keep it together for the last 129 days (I think) of working at home: work, obviously, is my primary routine and aiming to go for a cycle ride beforehand really frames my day. Every Thursday for ages (forever? Who knows) I’ve been hosting a virtual pub for our MissImp weekly regulars (and folks from further afield too, which has been amazing) which has filled my regular evening out slot nicely. Then there’s been the fortnightly We Are What We Overcome webcasts, and the quick chats we have on the off weeks. That handful of regular activity has been great.

I try to keep these posts going because of something we talked about in one of our podcasts: if I’m depressed, I can’t remember any good things I’ve ever done, and if I’m all perky and up then I don’t care about remembering what I’ve been doing. Right now I’m mostly pretty chipper, largely a consequence of being busy and having acquired lots of LEGO recently, so this doesn’t feel important in the same way it did a few months ago. That’s a tricky place for me to be in, because despite occasional dips into glum days, I think I’ve been upbeat for a while now. The longer I’m upbeat, the less likely it feels that I’ll go down, or that I’ll worry about crashing. And that’s actually a decent indicator that I’m going to have a bit of a crash. Keeping track is the whole damn point! Must make more time. 

Anyway… what have I been up to? Well, we’ve seen real live humans on both the last Saturdays, partly in attempt to normalise the new normal, or whatever the pre-second wave era is called, and partly because it turns out that folk want to see us, which is very nice and reassuring. Messing about with my sister and nieces at Highfields Park was a rather fun afternoon, as was eating and drinking at Dovecote Lane park last weekend. That bandstand is perfect, other than it’s brutish tarmac flooring. As I have alluded to earlier, I’m also quite busy at work as we race for the print deadlines for October titles, commission more and more artwork and do general bookstuff. It’s ace really, but is certainly filling my days tightly. We’re not likely to see the office for another month, and that’s OK with me.

I’ve been a rather busy LEGO person too, albeit more “busy” in the sense of “buying” than making much. I did join a LUG though, the Brick Central LEGO User Group. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last couple of years, and though I’m not sure how much time I could feasibly put into big displays and conventions, I’m interested in finding out. Also I got neat printed bricks and bits and pieces when I signed up, so I’m happy with that. I took advantage of the LEGO double VIP points last week to pick up a “few” things, from cute little LEGO Dots and baby dinosaurs to the massive Pirates of Barracuda Bay set. It is all very exciting! I’ve got some random builds I need to take some decent photos of and share them too.  

Watching: The Order, season 2

I can’t deny that this is a low-rent Teen Wolf crossed with the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, themselves low-rent versions of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and so many more.  I remembered nothing of the previous season, even when we saw the “last time on this thing”, and would have sworn I’d never seen it at all. Nonetheless, this proved to be effective brain chewing entertainment while eating, in the sense of it noticeably degrading one’s braincells. Daft witch academy with neighboring anti-magic werewolves (who turn out to have previously been the witches’ bodyguard or something), but the wolves have all been tricked into being witches, or something. It doesn’t really matter – the entire show is redeemed by the delightful relationship between the four werewolves, which feels very much like how I felt about my university housemates: loving, occasionally fighty and laced with sarcasm and alcohol. Shame the lady werewolf ended up in hell this season. I’m sure I won’t remember this next time either, but if I can be persuaded to watch season 3 I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. 

Reading: The Kingdom Beyond the Waves by Stephen Hunt

Continuing the really quite wacky steampunk series set in a far-future with multiple species of human (Craynarbians are splendid shelled folk, for example), steammen, and wild action adventure. I have insufficient time to summarise this one, but it covers an Atlantis-alike ancient city in the sky, infernal plots of genius industrialists to take over government, a frightening Borg-like jungle species, savage feral robots, submarine journeys, and so much more. The whole series is an absolute blast and I’m enjoying re-reading them enormously. Get on it.  

Building: LEGO Overwatch Watchpoint: Gibraltar #75975

While I still have almost no idea what Overwatch is (yeah, yeah, I know it’s a game, and my friend Sam has a nice summary on Overwatch here), but I adore the LEGO sets. I’ve had my eye on this one solely because it features a gorilla in a spacesuit. Now that it’s reaching the end of its shelf-life “Watchpoint: Gibraltar” has become more affordable, and on a midnight whim (always the best time to buy LEGO) I ordered…

The minifigs are an utter delight! Check out Pharah (in blue) with that gorgeous gold visor, and Mercy (admittedly with the usual pink-printed-on-black face which never really works that well) with a lovely hair/hat element and lovely printed torso and legs, plus the rather ominous Reaper. I’m guessing he’s the bad guy. The gorilla is apparently named “Winston”. I hadn’t noticed that he’s wearing glasses, but he’s rather charming either way.

The build is pretty straightforward: you make a spaceship, which has a couple of separating sections, and the cool but not very exciting gantry/rocket leaning post thing. The spaceship itself is a satisfyingly sleek affair, with cleverly connected sections and very neat work on making the hatch fit flush. Building it felt like a wonderful flashback to my childhood, making largely flat spaceships that feel a little like this, but much less good.

The whole thing looks very pretty, but is inconveniently tall for anywhere I want to put it…

Watching: Derry Girls, season 2

Just marvelous. I can’t recommend this show enough, and I’m thrilled that there’s a third season on the way. Set in, um, Derry, in the 90s, this teenage sitcom is pretty much perfect. In keeping with non-American TV shows about teenagers, this lot actually look like real teenagers – the scowl game is extraordinary. The relationships and dialogue are brilliant, and you can’t help but love them all a little bit. The parents are savage and equally funny (finding Bill Clinton is a particular joy). The costumes are bang-on 90s-hideous and the soundtrack makes me unusually nostalgic.  My only complaint is that there aren’t enough episodes. Not even close. Apparently Netflix screwed up and released this early, so it’s not available any more. Sorry folks!

Building: LEGO Jurassic World Dr Wu’s Lab: Baby Dinosaur Breakout #75939

Jesus Christ, baby dinosaurs! How was I ever supposed to resist? Reader, I did not. Clearly. 

Like many of the licensed sets, especially the Jurassic World theme, there isn’t a lot to this. That said, the build is drawn out by the usual agony of applying stickers to transparent elements, and my desire to get them mostly straight had me turning on extra lights and teasing them into place with a scalpel. The egg turning machine is pleasing, and although I was complaining about applying the stickers, this is a set where they really do shine. The details in them are lovely, from the laptop screen to all the heads up displays, they’re adorable, and I’ll have to find more uses for them.

The figures are reliably cool, and I really like the LEGO Friends elements such as the baby feeding bottle sneaking into the mainstream LEGO sets.  Dr Wu has the most cunning expression, just like in the movies! But none of this matters – all shall be recycled for parts except for the ADORABLE baby triceratops and even babier ankylosaur. Just so goddamn cute. I couldn’t be happier. 

Watching: What We Do in the Shadows, season 2

A show that completely revels in its own stupidity with enormous commitment, we caned this in a single sitting too. Colin, the energy vampire, continues to be my personal favourite, but they’re all pretty great idiots. I’m delighted that the main storyline has turned out to be Guillermo’s, as he learns of his vampire-hunting past and wonders about his future, killing vampires while still being a dedicated familiar. Wonderful nonsense.

Doing: We Are What We Overcome – Fortnightly Mental Health Check-In

We reflected a little on how life has changed with a whole fortnight of being allowed to go to the pub… And here’s the link for next week’s chat.

Watching: Warrior Nun

This is dreadful. OK, that’s not entirely fair, but it’s definitely mostly fair. This is the story of a bunch of nuns who are warriors (duh), fighting demons and stuff. One of the nuns always has an angel’s halo embedded in their back, which makes them a sin-fighting superhero. When a mission goes badly tits up, the warrior nuns rip the halo out of their dead leader and stick it in a recently dead girl… She comes back to life, no longer paraplegic, but certainly perplexed about why she’s alive, why she has superpowers (kinda), and why she should give a shit about the Catholic church. Sounds fun, right. The trailer looks pretty fun too, and there are about 25 minutes of great stuff spread across the entire show, with some fun fights, laughable CGI demons, the one good character (Shotgun Mary) who appears to be in another, much better, show. But the rest of it is bogged down by impossibly tedious exposition where characters literally open books and read endless passages from them, or an agonisingly dull romance, in which the most exciting bits are them sitting on a ferry. The show almost redeems itself with a final heist episode but by that point it’s so laden with cack that I couldn’t bring myself to care. You may enjoy it though.

Doing: MissImp’s Virtual Drop-In – Roberto Lewis

More great and splendid video content right here, on one of my favourite topics — coming in with nothing! (I mean, favourite because I cannot plan…)

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Last Week: LEGO, Knot Ready, Space Force, Provenance, MissImp, CrazyBricks, Agents of SHIELD, We Are What We Overcome https://captainpigheart.com/2020/06/30/last-week-sunday-28-june-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/06/30/last-week-sunday-28-june-2020/#respond Tue, 30 Jun 2020 18:45:17 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33389 Continue reading 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.

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I am KNOT READY ?? . I am ready to tie the knot! I am lucky enough to have found an amazing person who makes my life better and who I want to commit to fully ? . So when I say I'm freaked out by marriage – it's not a commitment thing! . I'm freaked out that this institution, this human invention, controlled by religion and the state and shaped through time by patriarchal narratives, has become synonymous with romantic love, and not just culturally but for me personally! Something has got it into my head that our relationship is incomplete without marriage, despite suspecting on an intellectual level that nothing much will change afterwards. . Why am I spending a silly amount of money on one day? Why did it make me sad to not be engaged to my person? Why is marriage so important to me? . Freaky questions! For some answers, turn to Knot Ready ?? Episode one comes out this Friday! Link in bio to subscribe or learn more ?

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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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Last Week: The Best of John Wyndham, Artemis Fowl, The Vast of Night, Journal of the Plague Year https://captainpigheart.com/2020/06/18/last-week-sunday-14-june-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/06/18/last-week-sunday-14-june-2020/#respond Thu, 18 Jun 2020 10:30:47 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33364 Continue reading Last Week: The Best of John Wyndham, Artemis Fowl, The Vast of Night, Journal of the Plague Year]]> The sun has re-emerged over the last weekend, albeit studded with lightning, but it means I’m happily back outside for work and well, whatever. Feels like a steadier week all over, though sleep is still quite patchy. I assume everyone else is drinking more booze during lockdown (please say “yes”) which doesn’t always play well with upping one’s sleeping tablets… There’s a balance to be found there I guess. I certainly had a few days last week where I just could not be fucked to get out of bed early enough to go and do exercise, which of course then makes everything harder. Self-discipline is harder than it should be. That ride out first thing in the morning is proving ridiculously important, not least because it gives me some hope of keeping up with my podcast backlog. No forty minute tootling round Attenborough Nature Reserve can compete with an hour and half daily commute, so I’ve been forced to be brutal with my subscriptions. I don’t feel good about dropping a couple of podcasts, but I’m finding I want to listen to much more of the banter and nonsense of The Weekly Planet than the BBFC Podcast. Once we’re finally back at work I’ll be upping my audio intake again.

In the meantime… Last week had some fun stuff in it. I’ve gotten into reading anthologies for possibly the first time in 25 years, and have cheerfully chewed through a couple in the last week. I’m hoping it’s gonna prime my brain for delving back into much longer fiction, but that also means I need to prise open the book cupboard, and that’s intimidating in all respects. In gaming news, I’m up to 86.6% in LEGO Star Wars – The Complete Saga, so that’s good news. Hit the 4 billion studs ceiling at last… We also ran a full virtual Gorilla Burger last Thursday in the MissImp Facebook group, after testing it out a month ago. It was really fun! But Zoom hosting is exhausting. I slept good and hard after finally chilling down afterwards. 

Reading: The Best of John Wyndham by, um, John Wyndham

This is a great collection of Wyndham’s works, selecting key stories in chronological order. I’m always struck by how damn readable Wyndham is. He’s got such a smooth and friendly writing style that I feel instantly engaged and warm towards it. Some of the stories feel a little dated, but I suspect that’s mostly because the themes and ideas have been explored in much greater depth and length subsequently – he’s still a hell of an innovator. Standouts include Pawley’s Peepholes in which future folks wreak havoc by treating a small town like a reality TV show, and their revenge is very pleasing; the rather stark coverage of racism in Dumb Martian feels very timely, as an human buys a martian bride to while away his time working in isolation in deep space… it does not end well for him; I’m very fond of The Man from Beyond, which features a pretty classic SF timeline twist as an earthman earnestly persuades venusians to avoid all contact with Earth, and the opening story The Lost Machine is a great account of an AI surviving 20th century humanity. Hell, they’re all good, ranging from fun to thought-provoking. What more do you want? Onward to Jizzle I think.   

Reading: Journal of the Plague Year: A Post-Apocalytic Omnibus by C B Harvey, Malcolm Cross and Adrian Tchaikovsky 

Sure, this is the perfect time to read about a pandemic that wipes out 99% of the global population. I thought as much. C B Harvey’s opening story Orbital Decay set on the International Space Station while the pandemic sweeps the globe, including the right wing nutters convinced that it and the space mission are all a hoax, was exactly what I wanted to read: tense, intriguing and has a perfect SF twist at the end. Of course, I’d totally failed to note that this is one of several omnibuses set in the same world of “the Cull” as the people name the disease, but was delighted to find all three stories set at different stages and places across the world. Malcolm Cross’s Dead Kelly covers the exploits of an Australian gangster returning from the bush to assert his authority on the dwindled survivors of a town. It’s pretty punchy, though it wasn’t exactly the “everyone’s dying right now” vibe I apparently sought. The omnibus finishes up with Adrian Tchaikovsky’s The Bloody Deluge shifts the action to survivors in Poland choosing either salvation with tolerant religious groups, or the rabid Nazi religious kind. Tough call! That too, is very tense and typically complex and interesting. It seems this is just stories #13-15 of the Afterblight Chronicles, so there’s plenty more to get into!

Watching: Artemis Fowl

Fucking hell. I know book to film adaptations are tricky, but you don’t have to fuck it up in every possible way. Suffice to say (lest I fall to ranting), this is almost the polar opposite in terms of plot and character for Eoin Colfer’s quite excellent YA adventures (which you should read because they’re lots of fun. I’ll be re-reading them to erase this ghastly brain stain). Instead of Artemis being a wickedly smart evil genius crimelord, his dad’s a criminal (except he’s not, he’s rescuing important artifacts, because why would the story be interesting or good?), and he’s a maudlin teenager directed in staggeringly poor fashion by Kenneth “The Worst Poirot Imaginable” Branagh. Just get fucked. It’s impossibly tedious and generic, failing both its source material and audience with incredible dexterity. From a story about a ruthless criminal mastermind discovering the secret faerie realm, kidnapping one of them and ransoming it to restore his family to its former fortunes, we go to a moody kid who has to find the bullshit object his dad has stolen from the fairies, but it’s in his house already, so there is no adventuring at all and instead of discovery and witty hijinks with the fairies, we get an interminable siege of his house, presided over by Judi Dench in her “Pete Postlethwaite in a condom-lampshade Aeon Flux“ follow up to Cats. I’d almost forgotten about the abysmal framing of the story with Mulch Diggums (the giant dwarf) telling the story while in prison. Its existence suggests they totally lost the plot and desperately reached for a prologue that should have been unnecessary, delivered by Josh Gads desperately straining his voice for deep and gravelly. Fucking hell. Watch the trailer, punch yourself in the face why don’t ya.

Watching: The Vast of Night

Recommended by a friend, this is an extremely low budget and vaguely Lovecraftian-vibed UFO story set around a telephone exchange and local radio station. The dialogue is mile a minute, in incredibly long takes, which is really impressive, and it’s really committed, well-written stuff. With its very low budget there’s not much in the way of aliens, till a nice reveal at the end. The mystery loops around a weird sound breaking into the local DJs music and chat show, noted by the girl working the telephone exchange. The mystery deepens when an ex-military caller recounts his experiences on secret missions where that sound was also present… The film accelerates really nicely, maintaining a general air of increasing tension and that something profoundly weird is happening. Expect no Independence Day action nonsense and you should be pleasantly surprised. There are also a few long and slow gliding shots through the town at near ground level (presumably camera on a bike or drone), which are absurdly tense and interesting. Watch it!  

Watching: Trinkets season one

Continuing our taste for absorbing every teenage coming of age drama on Netflix, Trinkets is exactly that, but with a trio of shoplifters. That’s pretty much it, except they’re very well cast and delivered, even if the material is quite familiar stuff. We liked it a lot, even though I can’t necessarily produce a lot to say about it. If you like this kind of show, you will like this show. 

Doing: MissImp’s Virtual Improv Comedy Drop-In with Sophie Owen

Yet another really very good pre-recorded workshop for your enjoyment. This time we’ve got Sophie Owen talking about status; how to use it and some especially useful stuff about recognising it in the world around us.

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Last Week: Upload, Friday Night Dinner, We Are What We Overcome and things I’ve forgotten about https://captainpigheart.com/2020/06/10/last-week-sunday-7-june-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/06/10/last-week-sunday-7-june-2020/#respond Wed, 10 Jun 2020 18:00:45 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33335 Continue reading Last Week: Upload, Friday Night Dinner, We Are What We Overcome and things I’ve forgotten about]]> Somewhere, recently, two weeks have been misplaced… I’m pretty sure they happened, but I’m damned if I can tell you what I did that took up a whole fortnight. Oh well, that seems to be the way of things at present. I’ve been working from home for something like seventy-five days, which feels both completely normal and utterly insane. The only bit I’ve got any clear recollection of is the last weekend, and a half-arsed list of things I’ve watched. It’s possible I’ve only played LEGO Star Wars – The Complete Saga on our Wii and then gone to sleep. I’m failing to read, or to concentrate enough to read quickly. It’s frustrating as reading is my most relaxing activity. I’ve abandoned about three novels and picked up The Best of John Wyndham and am slowly, so very very slowly, working my through it. Totally Brewed continue to be my drinktrack (y’know, like a soundtrack, but with drinking!) to the pandemic with their end of the week deliveries. Fine, fine humans. I’ve also been idly flicking through the obscenely large and beautiful Hardware: The Definitive SF Works of Chris Foss featuring so many science fiction book covers I recognise, especially all those Asmimov and EE Doc Smith covers I still have on my shelves. Seriously, it’s a beast of a tome, and I’ll be browsing it for months to come.

What else? Well, while the world burns (more, I guess), I find I’m just dissolving into anxiety and distraction. I’m not pleased about the return of cold and rain which has driven me out of my garden office either. Still, some good things have definitely happened. I’ve been trying to get lost while cycling in the mornings, with some success. I’ve refused to look at maps of the area around Attenborough Nature Reserve, but it all seems very pretty. On Saturday, my sister invited me to teach a mob of Beavers how to talk like a pirate on Zoom. That was fun! There were some excellent homemade cutlasses and flags. In the evening I played my first ever roleplaying game, which was also great. I’m very grateful to our GM, Diarmuid, who invited me to play along in Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, even knowing that I had no idea what was happening and thoroughly bumping me out of my comfort zone of drinking and watching TV; and to my fellow smugglers who were funny and exceedingly patient. Our one-shot game was called Scum, focusing on a gang of misfit smugglers (not intentionally misfit, but geez, once we we were set loose on characters…) with the job of jail-breaking a Hutt. I enjoyed playing a Tusken Raider, named Sahwa-wa, who saw his clan murdered by the rogue Jedi, Anakin Skywalker. My revenge was foiled when all the Jedi disappeared, leaving me seething and unable to do anything about it. I carry a dismembered protocol droid to translate for me, and my bantha lives in / fills my cabin. I blew a general’s head off! We did eventually succeed, and many people died. We had fun!

Watching: Upload season one

This is a curious little TV show, exploring the banal horrors of a digital afterlife. Programmer, Nathan, gets uploaded after being in a rare car accident. Only he’s been talked into it by his overbearing girlfriend, and may not have been about to die at all… Once in the horrendously expensive Lake View – because of course only the truly wealthy can lead the afterlife they really want to – he discovers worrying gaps in his memory about what his job was and that he might have been killed. It’s a funny show, with a rather cynical tone which appealed to me. The scene where they try to download the founder of digital afterlife, with catastrophic results is bloody and hilarious. The tedium of the hotel-based afterlife, the bug-filled digital world, the sometimes awful people Nathan is now stuck with, and a growing relationship with his living customer service rep all contribute to a genuinely delightful nightmare. Nathan’s existence is ultimately controlled by his (living) girlfriend’s whims, dressing him, denying him access to the endless microtransactions, and making his funeral all about her. Lovely brightly coloured dystopia.  

Watching: Friday Night Dinner seasons 3-4

This one might be more a matter of taste… I’ve really enjoyed this sitcom composed of the Friday night meals of a secular Jewish family. The cast is exceptional, featuring Tamsin Greig (who should already be a national treasure), with Paul Ritter, as mum and dad, with Simon Bird and Tom Rosenthal. Very keen on slapstick and characters just this side of over the top, the foursome’s constant conflict is a real joy. A supporting cast including Mark Heap (another one who needs national treasure badging) makes this near-perfect. The last couple of seasons have featured a frozen fox, grandma marrying a total cunt, awful old college mates, vicious little blackmailing kids and so much more. “My nipples are boiling,” kinda sums this show up for me. 

Doing: We Are What We Overcome podcast – Mental Health Check-In

We’re still going! Our fortnightly Facebook Live things are becoming a thing in their own right, which is nice. We’re aiming to check in first and foremost, with a theme or discussion topic to focus our current experiences around. Last week we talked about anger, which feels fairly timely, to say the least. It’s a strange feeling, one that can destroy you or push you to achieve and create all sorts of things.  

Doing: MissImp’s Virtual Drop-Ins (double this time)

First up, an amazing introduction to freestyle rap, which makes it almost seem possible…

Followed by the rather wonderful Twinprov and “Re-imagining the Virtual Space: Creativity and Connection Together, Apart

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Bootlego Baby Yodas https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/26/bootlego-baby-yodas/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/26/bootlego-baby-yodas/#respond Tue, 26 May 2020 11:28:24 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33309 Continue reading Bootlego Baby Yodas]]> When I first saw the Child at the end of the first episode in The Mandalorian I was delighted, and very possibly in love. Disney managed the incredible feat of keeping the world from revealing that a baby Yoda was the show’s star, or at least it did for those watching Disney+ in the US. Thankfully I’d been watching along too, otherwise I’d have been unable to avoid the spoilers in the months before it became available in the UK and elsewhere. I’m so glad I did!

One of the most intriguing aspects of having maintained this spoiler-free state is that for months there’s no official baby Yoda merch. This isn’t surprising as licensing tends to result in tonnes of leaked images and spoilers, particularly for LEGO. Right now we won’t get a proper LEGO version of the Child till September when he becomes available only in the £119.99 set of The Razor Crest. At 120 quid, that’s a bit steep for a baby Yoda. It’s an expensive set, even by LEGO Star Wars standards, at 12p per brick. The Razor Crest looks OK, but as with many Star Wars sets it’s a big grey lump and doesn’t excite me much. In the gaping absence of official baby Yodas (because a pluralised “the Childs” just sounds weird), China’s bootleg factories have gone into overdrive. Collecting them has become a slight obsession… 

Basic Childs (see, reads horribly.)

The first one popped up quickly on eBay, before, I think we had any sight of the future LEGO version. It’s a basic (and quickly done) repaint of the existing LEGO babies mould (fucking creepy things), with ears stuck on. It’s not terrible, and is quite cute. His “basicness” feels a little like something LEGO might actually do. The little mini capes flap around quite annoyingly till you press them down firmly. He was my first, so he feels kinda special… he cost £2.95 with a Mandalorian minifigure at the end of January.

Number two popped up a week later. The body is identical, as are the pair of capes, one rectangular on the front and a rounded version on the back. This time he’s got a rather nicely sculpted head, much like the official LEGO Yoda, but scaled down and up-cuted. He was a bargain at £1.65! With the immovable arms I figured he was pretty close to what we’d end up with. 

Yoda Evolution

If there was one thing missing, it was the iconic space pram that baby Yoda follows Mister Shiny Helmet around in. I’d been looking at a few ways to build one, but then was spared by China coming through once again.  Number three cost a bit more – the bank-breaking sum of £3.99, but finally came with his little carriage.  Along with the space pram came a complete re-design. This chap’s larger, more lime green, and waaaaay angrier-looking. Clearly tired of LEGO’s somewhat freaky babies, this little chap has moveable arms (and indeed hands that plug into the wrist holes like regular minifigures) with a nice scarf accessory. The pram is quite neatly done, if a bit loose in its fitting. There’s an antistud on the base and four studs inside to choose whether you want the lid to close when the child is inside or not. I think it’s rather good, and although he is very angry, I find him rather adorable. The pram is of course MASSIVE though, as you can see when hes hanging out with Mando. Note that the first pic with Mando below is the official Din Djarin figure, and the second is the newer bootleg version with shiny beskar armour.

Then It Got… Hideous

At this point I lost all power to not buy these things. The next two that popped up showed up in mid April, just a few days after space pram boy. They were of somewhat lesser quality, but I was committed. First up, Child number three. He’s a repaint of the usual LEGO (knock-off mould) Yoda figure with mini-legs, and larger eyes literally coloured with marker pen, as far as I can tell, since they started rubbing off immediately. The head is also hard and spiky at the back, y’know, like Yoda’s… On the other hand, they’ve put some effort into the design, adding clothing patterns to all sides of the minifig body, legs and arms, which rather endears him to me more. This chap was the princely sum of £3.49!

And then this one happened. It looks OK at a distance, but close up or next to anything else and he’s a freak monster. This chap’s completely unarticulated, and he’s pretty much a single lump of horrifying plastic. But he does come with a mug, enabling him to empty his bone broth on the ground… Bizarrely for his outlandish size, he is still intended for LEGO system, four studs wide and three deep, allowing him to fit onto other plates with ease. Looks like he’s had a few too many plates of something. This monster was also £3.49, and I feel I’ve been repaid with nightmares.

Wait, You Must, for Good Things There Are 

Just a week later (I know, I know, this is getting ridiculous), possibly the best little dude ever appeared! For £3.95 (someone on eBay’s definitely seen me coming…). This little guy gives me the same feeling I did when the Mandalorian rescued baby Yoda from the Empire: intense fuzziness. He’s a bit bigger, but they’ve done a lovely job moulding his head to be super-appealing. He’s a smarter construction too – a regular size minifigure body, albeit with little custom arms and hands that can’t hold anything, plugged into a neat, um, I don’t know what to call this… body socket? with a ruff on top. Size-wise he feels more like the usual LEGO difference between an adult and child character, with lots of very nice detailing. Goddamn, he’s adorable.    

In Semi-Conclusion…

Obviously number six is the best all-round, but how close are any of them to what LEGO has planned? Honestly, I’m a little disappointed. Clearly, he fits into the usual LEGO sizing and design scheme, and has lovely big eyes and cute face, but after seeing so many other versions, I’m not that into him. I’ll almost certainly pick up a copy of him split out from the Razor Crest set.

You’ll be extremely unsurprised that I’ve got at least another two on the way… though they’re mostly for their space pram variants! I think the whole thing is a fascinating example of what happens when they’re a gap in licensing, and I’m oddly inspired by the resulting creativity.

I’ll do another post like this when I receive the others, and another one comparing the Mandolorian designs for Din Djarin himself. Do you have a favourite? Let me know!

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Last Week: Hollywood, The Lock Artist, LEGO Attack of the Morro Dragon, Transformers vol 1, Never Have I Ever https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/25/last-week-sunday-24-may-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/25/last-week-sunday-24-may-2020/#respond Mon, 25 May 2020 14:45:33 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33293 Continue reading 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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Last Week: Elementary s2, LEGO AT-ST Raider, COVID-19 test https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/21/last-week-sunday-17-may-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/21/last-week-sunday-17-may-2020/#respond Thu, 21 May 2020 11:23:56 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33276 Continue reading Last Week: Elementary s2, LEGO AT-ST Raider, COVID-19 test]]> Oh no, I’ve left this too late in the week and now have no idea what happened a mere three days ago! Also, it’s now scorchingly hot and it’s cooking my brain cells. I’ve been thinking a bit about the gummy, elastic chrono-confusion I’m feeling. I think a lot of other folk are too, but figuring out other folks’ memories is definitely beyond me. I never know what day it is any more, and were it not for stopping work at 5.30 each day and those two weird days at the end of the working week when there’s suddenly nothing I’m supposed to do, I’m sure I’d just be working 24/7. That there is no need to get up and function is harrowing.

I’m mostly succeeding at dragging myself out of bed and doing exercise in the morning. Generally it’s running on the spot with weights in our front room (the amazing aerobic powers of Wii Fit) while watching Clone Wars episodes (subtitled) and listening to a handful of the podcasts I’d usually enjoy while cycling each day.  It’s profoundly unsatisfying, plus it makes me sweat, which is awful. I’ve been out for a few cycle rides, but I’ve never been a truly willing exerciser – all my cycling was just a cheaper, quicker way to get to work, with the sublime bonus of a swimming pool around halfway there. 

Once I start work, it’s mostly OK. Last week got a bit chilly again and drove me back indoors, but by Thursday I was desperate for a change of scenery and returned to my garden office. It wasn’t warm… But being in a different place helps, because I’m just not seeing enough different places. My friend Sophie (who thinks far too much about far too many things, many of them associated with improv) has ideas about how our lack of different environments, especially in using the same places for a wide range of activities normally in different places, fails to trigger important context switches in our brains. Without those usual changes, everything is just the same and none of it sticks properly. Makes sense to me, certainly at the moment. 

Watching: Elementary season two

This is proper comfort TV. I’m still surprised and pleased by the combination of Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson. They perfectly nail the characters, Miller in particular truly captures Sherlock with a captivating performance: equal parts awkward, arrogant, and ferociously interested and invested in their work. Physically he’s gloriously contained and compact, irritating, irritable, witty and twitchy. Liu is the perfect foil. It’s also very reassuring to be back in 2013 era 23 episode seasons. It’s a splendid show, with long story arcs and rewarding character development looping through and around the episodic crime of the week format. It makes me really happy! For my money, this is so much richer and more faithful to Conan Doyle’s characters and feel than the cold, existential BBC drama. These are people I want to spend time with, and gloriously there are another five and a half seasons, making Miller and Liu the longest-running performers of these roles.

Testing: COVID-19 swab test

I know! I don’t know anyone else who’s had a test, whether they work in a hospital or elsewhere. I received mine because I use the COVID-19 Symptom Tracker app to log my symptoms (or lack thereof) every day. They’ve allocated a bunch of tests to what’s effectively a control group of people like myself who they don’t think have the plague. So I got a test! Weirdly exciting, in the same way as receiving a postal vote. The instructions are impressively massive for a relatively simple process, and all the bits were included. First step: book the courier to pick it up using an online portal. Second step: register the test online. Third step: take the damn test. Two places are swabbed, with varying degrees of discomfort. First the back of the throat, pretty much where my tonsils would be had I not had em yanked out years ago (cue lots of gagging and drooling) Second as far up your nose with the same swab as you can, and swivel… That’s more unpleasant, and it did feel a bit like I was poking myself in the brain. But it’s fine, and nothing to worry about. A chap came to collect it on Sunday. I feel like I’ve contributed something concrete, which is rather nice. Oh, and my test came back negative. I’ve rarely been so happy to fail a test…   

Doing: MissImp’s Virtual Improv Drop-In

Another cool recorded workshop, this time an intro to musical improv. I fear it, yet this is a lot of fun. Good for pretty much anyone, of any age, no matter your imagined singing proficiency.

Reading: REDACTED by REDACTED

I can’t tell you too much about this one I’m afraid, but I spent a chunk of last week getting lost in the first of our Marvel novels to enter the Aconyte Books production line. All I can say is it features a popular and somewhat snarky female character, and explores her past and present. Vague enough for ya? It’s great though, funny and action-packed with a strong voice. I’m so pleased we’re making these novels!

Building: LEGO Detective’s Office 10246

After dismantling and washing this lovely modular build out in the sun the previous weekend, I’ve reassembled it! So many pieces just arrayed together on a tray is oddly intimidating, and it felt like it took me forever to re-assemble. It was worth it though. There’s a plethora of cool and cute features inside, plus some clever building techniques I’d love to master, or at least remember…

Building: LEGO AT-ST Raider 75254

I’ve been agonising over buying Mandalorian LEGO sets for a while. I love the show and I wantses the LEGO, but they’re pretty pricey. I can’t justify the Razor Crest – the only set with a legit baby Yoda – for £119.99 for a quite ugly grey set. This was my alternative, netting me an official Mando minifig, Cara Dune (one of my faves from the show) and a pair of grumpy Klatoonian raiders. 

Fractionally more colourful than most LEGO Star Wars sets, this is a joy to assemble. The cockpit is ingeniously assembled and has a lot of character. It takes plenty of stickers to make this such a pretty set, and I’m increasingly skilled at applying them (hello, samurai sword paperknife). The minifigs are lovely and detailed (though I’m actually favouring the knock-off Mando I think – more on that another time), and the guns are absurd. Just look at that lovely raggedy AT-ST!

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Last Week: The Chrysalids, Happiness on The Improv Boost, LEGO fun, Agents of SHIELD s3 https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/12/last-week-sunday-10-may-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/12/last-week-sunday-10-may-2020/#respond Tue, 12 May 2020 11:30:15 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33245 Continue reading Last Week: The Chrysalids, Happiness on The Improv Boost, LEGO fun, Agents of SHIELD s3]]> Last week was very short as I managed to squeeze two days off into it. These have largely been spent outside in my garden office sorting and tidying LEGO. It’s very time consuming and satisfying, but does leave me slightly wondering where the time has gone. With a very warm and sunny Friday and Saturday I moved my watching of Agents of SHIELD outside along with dismantling and washing the LEGO Detective’s Office set. It’s a lovely little thing, but it had become very grubby. I’m now trying to rebuild it with a tray overflowing with parts. Inevitably, it’s becoming a quicker process the more of it I’ve built. Feels kinda exponential, as if by the end it will be assembling itself… Marilyn and I have also finally begun a shared build, the LEGO Brick Bank, which has been languishing on my “to be built” shelf for some years now… It’s pretty ace, and is a fine accompaniment to season two of Elementary.  

 

In dismantling the Detective’s Office, I re-remembered that I’d built a little half-modular some years ago, but they’ve been joined together for so long I’d somewhat forgotten that it wasn’t part of the set. I snapped a few pics from it before I dismantled it, for posterity, or whatever. The concept was a coffee shop on the ground floor and a bottle shop above. I’d do almost all of it differently now, of course, but I think it did look pretty good. I was very happy to use the Indiana Jones poster tiles to good effect!

We’ve started to enjoy strolling around Beeston late at night. I adore the peace and quiet (I’ve been watching bats in our garden!) and I’m in urgent need of more exercise. I’m looking at you, beer… We’ve met up with a couple of our pussy cats pals too, which has been especially lovely. Given the utter clusterfuck of Bojo’s latest update on the UK’s progress with coronavirus, I suspect I’ll be working from home, getting fat, and taking late night walks for some weeks yet.

Despite the week’s brevity, I seem to have taken part in two podcast recordings and read some books! Victory all round. 

Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D season 3

Fuck me, I love this show more and more. We’re finally getting into the stuff I remember a little better. It’s getting so hard to summarise… I guess this season is properly focused on the fallout of the Inhuman explosion and on the truly epic and dark history of Hydra! First we have to recover Agent Simmons from the creepy monolith that whisked her away from Fitz’s arms at the end of season two. Turns out its part of an ancient Hydra tradition, who’ve been feeding the terrifying alien entity within on fresh young Hydra enthusiasts for centuries. Their ultimate aim is to unleash the monster on the world! The team do manage to rescue Simmons, but doing so reveals to Hydra that the doorway can indeed be bridged. There are some pretty tense moments, and Daisy/Skye gets to assemble her own team of Secret Warriors, comprised of some of the Inhumans now emerging. The first half of the season focuses on Hydra getting into the alien planet, with former agent Ward becoming the host of the Inhuman ancestor. That’s bad news for everyone… and gives us the second half, in which Ward sets about subsuming other Inhumans and advancing a plan to dominate the whole world. Bad guys with big plans! Mostly though, my heart continues to beat for FitzSimmons, and for Coulson and Agent Mae. Honestly, it’s hard to make any sense of this season if you haven’t seen the previous two, but if you have it really is a gift: long form deepening of relationships, expanding on the major MCU story threads from Civil War, and getting into the backstory of Hydra to a massive extent.

 

Doing: The Improv Boost “Happiness” podcast

All round lovely fella, David Escobedo, one of our It’s A Trap: The Improvised Star Wars Show cast members, and rabid user of social media for promoting improv in all its forms, invited me to join him and a few friends for a very short podcast talking about things we feel passionate about. The challenge was to narrow it down to a specific thing to expostulate on for eight minutes. LEGO would be too broad, as would Star Wars, so it sent me down a little rabbit hole of figuring out what I do especially enjoy, rather than the general everything of science fiction and stuff. One of my gateways into SF, or at least one that has cast a lengthy shadow, is the work of the great John Wyndham. Picking The Day of the Triffids was an easy next step. That’s why I read both the abridged US edition then the UK/Penguin edition in a week. The latter is about 10% longer, and just has a little more depth. It’s startlingly apt for our current situation, and I’d recommend it for anyone who finds reassurance in someone else’s words managing to neatly sum up existential and ethical crises. Also, triffids are ace, and plainly the ancestor of all zombie fiction. 

Alas, whatever software David was using to stream Zoom into Facebook fucked us over and we lost the last five minutes. Which means you get all of Jac’s enthusing about calculus (whatever the hell that is… :-} ) but lose Vanessa’s final thoughts on our topics which neatly wedded our themes together. Essentially (I think) we’re both talking about aspects of community and how people deal with the situations they find themselves in. Enjoy!

Reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Having cheerfully chugged down a double dose of The Day of the Triffids I moved straight on to what’s generally regarded as his “best” novel. It’s not my most favourite, but it’s quite a read. Far future post-apocalypse, humanity is struggling to rebuild itself after what appears to be nuclear catastrophe with radioactive fallout causing widespread genetic mutation. As a result, a renewed fervour for purity and the importance of the human (and all other creatures and crops) matching the design laid down by God / government. The consequences of deviation from the norm are severe: death, destruction, banishment to the badlands. None of it’s very appealing.

Our viewpoint is David, a perfectly normal boy: somewhat lazy, chafing a little under the religious intensity of his father and the demands of being in a small farming community in the newly reclaimed lands of Labrador. Only… he’s telepathic, and that makes him a very serious deviation indeed. In the novel we find a lot more of the social awareness and interest in community and individualism that Wyndham show’s in all of his work, and it’s very thought-provoking while being beguiling easy reading. It’s quite a neat trick to cover abominations and socially-mandated murder with such a breezy and familiar writing style. Ultimately, of course, David and his friends have to go on the run from their peers and family. When his younger sister, Petra, who turns out to be an incredibly powerful telepath makes contact with someone in “Zealand”, the whole of David’s world (and ours, since he’s our only view of it) is turned upside down. Moments of bleakness and fear fight with equally delightful epiphanies and hope for true acceptance. It’s great! Read it! 

Doing: We Are What We Overcome podcast Special Episode #3 Self Care

Our fortnightly Facebook Live podcast recordings continue to catch me unawares! Mondays are not a good evening for me to have my brain in gear, but I’m trying. Last week we talked about self-care some more. It’s really important to look after yourself at the moment. Divorced of much meaningful in-person human contact, I think we’re all fraying away at the edges. We talked about some of the things that frustrate the act of self-care, and some of the tools we use to keep ourselves as sorted as we can be.

Doing: MissImp’s Virtual Improv Drop-In: Duncan Carty – Artist’s Eye for the Improv Guy

This week we got a really special and different take on improvisation and creativity from our Duncan Carty, combining artistic expression, y’know, like drawing, with how we take inspiration for our scenes and performances. It’s a very good workshop, and I implore you to get out your crayons and walls and go at it. Phew, that’s the eighth improv workshop Emily has wrangled onto our website, and it looks we’re gonna be providing them for the foreseeable future. Enjoy!  

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Last Week: Lovecraft Country, Derry Girls, Agents of SHIELD s2, The Politican, knock-off baby Yoda, The Day of the Triffids, The Voices! The Voices https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/04/last-week-sunday-3-may-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/04/last-week-sunday-3-may-2020/#respond Mon, 04 May 2020 15:35:43 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33230 Continue reading Last Week: Lovecraft Country, Derry Girls, Agents of SHIELD s2, The Politican, knock-off baby Yoda, The Day of the Triffids, The Voices! The Voices]]> That seemed like a nice gentle week, though sadly devoid of sun and the opportunity to work outside. I’m getting this post written early (I mean, on time) since I got way behind last week, and this week’s has things to do in it! Tonight me and my We Are What We Overcome compadres are recording again, via Zoom and Facebook Live – join us here at 7.30pm for some thoughts about self care, which is very important at the mo. Which reminds me, I really must post about the last couple of episodes we’ve released… And on Wednesday I’ll be recording with David Escobedo for a short podcast about Happiness. I’ll be talking about how much I love John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.

Here’s a gif of Pixie playing with her beloved feather-mouse.

Reading: Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

A book that has been on my radar for some time, but only made proper sonar noises when it arrived at my house. This is a delight to read, combining the lingering dread of Lovecraftian horror with the ever-present horror of American racism. Set in ’50s Chicago, Lovecraft Country weaves together a series of short, deeply Lovecraftian stories revolving around one black family, the eldritch events that they’re constantly dragged into, and its close ties to their daily experience of racism. I found it a hell of a read – it’s ever kind of cosmic horror you want, but with the racism coming from the setting, not the author. Clever, funny, chilling and very thought-provoking.

Watching: Derry Girls season one

Fucking hell, this is hilarious. Made before Sex Education and a bunch of other sassy shows about teenagers, it has all the painfully sharp script and on-point performances I’m now kinda demanding from anything I watch. This is the ’90s in Derry, and it’s flawless. Funny, vicious dialogue, astonishing gurning and sulk-faces from the leads with generally ridiculous goings-on, against the backdrop of IRA bombings and British soldiers on the streets. A genuine delight and I’m deeply looking forward to season two arriving on Netflix. The trailer below totally misses all the savage sweary put-downs, scowling teenage angst, utter cunt of a granddad and more.

Gathering: Knock-off LEGO Baby Yodas 

I… can’t… help… myself… I’m genuinely fascinated by these. It’s a great example of what happens when merchandisers get into an IP too late. In this case, Disney so totally locked down The Mandalorian to prevent spoilers getting out (and successfully!), that even LEGO have no baby Yoda (yeah, yeah, “the child”, whatever) figures coming out till September, and then only in a set that costs £120. Bootleggers have filled in the gap, and I’m casually/obsessively picking them all up.

The first one was a basic repaint plus ears of the existing LEGO baby minifigure (centre front), pretty cute with a cheap paint job. But he also came with the Mandalorian himself. Next came the moulded head on the same body, with a cloak in addition to the fabric tunic. A definite step up in tooling and quality. At the same time we had hideous things like the chap on the far-right (possibly politically, who knows), which is a crudely repainted knock-off Yoda head mould) with a surprisingly detailed body and mini-legs paint job. Way too big, since obviously he’s the same size as Yoda himself. Next up, we finally get a space pram (which we have all been crying out for, for months now). This features a totally different figure build, with detachable poseable arms (and hands), with a collar and a great little face if rather angry. The pram itself is slightly flimsy, though you can open and close it, with studs inside for standing baby Yoda up, and an antistud beneath for putting on a base. Lastly, the fucking monster at the back. I couldn’t resist picking that up, even if he does seem better suited to the Mos Eisley Cantina, or LEGO Trolls. Immovable arms, gargantuanism and a brown mug are his primary attributes…

There are yet more being released, notably variations on the space pram. I’ll keep y’all updated… 

 

Doing: MissImp’s Weekly Virtual Drop-In with Marilyn Bird

Last week it was time for my other half, Marilyn, to give us some insight into the kind of character work she enjoys, focusing on voice and techniques for acquiring the vocal noises of others, and the fun characters that emerge from it. Fun!

Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season two

I have so much love for this show it’s absurd. Once more, so much happens! At the end of season one, newly revealed Hydra agent/bastard Grant Ward dumped my beloved FitzSimmons into the ocean in a box, season two begins with Fitz recovering from oxygen deprivation affecting his memory and coordination, not unlike a stroke. It’s surprisingly heartbreaking – or it would be if I weren’t so deeply invested in the guy! His partner, Simmons, is away on a mission infiltrating Hydra, and in her absence poor Fitz is getting worse, hallucinating her presence and withdrawing from the team. Reader, my heart aches for them. Don’t worry though, he gets better, though not in a single episode. They make good use of the 22 episodes to bring in a host of new characters, adding the remarkably badass Bobbi,  Lance, and Mack to Coulson’s team. The season kicks off with an Agent Carter crossover, revealing Nazi/Hydra artifacts seized after WWII which will give us the main storyline of the Inhumans for this stretch. Mixed in are a second SHIELD’s (headed up by Edward James Olmos) attempted coup of Coulson’s directorship, Ward’s weird relationship with Agent 33 (bearing a scarred version of Mae’s face), a lovely Lady Sif episode, Kyle MacLachlan in splendid crazy-man mode as Skye’s father, Agent Coulson compulsively carving alien symbols as a result of his TAHITI treatment, and so much more. From a big plot point of view, we get the release of Terrigen – the stuff that flips the genetic switch for humans with alien genes to become Inhumans, and the powers that come with it. Skye is one of those affected and becomes properly badass, able to manipulate the vibration of all matter. Fucking cool. She finally meets her mum and dad too, which is quite lovely, even if they are insane in different ways… It’s all a big shake up for SHIELD and the world! A crushing ending though, for everyone who knows this show is only about FitzSimmons, as Simmons is sucked into anoter world… I’m so glad I was able to immediately start on season 3…

 

Reading: B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs vol. 1

I’m a devoted Hellboy fan, and I admire both the spare art aesthetic of the comics and the unusual storytelling which leans heavily on folklore (and the Cthulhu mythos) with a similarly sparse style. I particularly enjoy the many static panels slowly zooming in or out on the subject, and the frequent lack of dialogue. The Bureau for Paranormal Research & Development is a wonderful invention, having much in common with the Laundry (in Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series), and any other government department/CSI type investigators. That they’re dealing with paranormal and metaphysical threats is really fun. This massive omnibus takes off without Hellboy (I believe the whole 8 volume series continues like that), showing just how good Abe Sapien, Liz, Roger, Johann Strauss and others are without him. The main story is arc is the titular plague of frogs, but there are many sidelines into Sapiens’ back story and other small tales that fit in thematically.  I especially enjoy reading comics this way, it feels more like I’m reading something with the density and depth of a novel, and at 408 pages, it certainly feels like one too. A great story, and is only the beginning of a storyline that will shake the world itself. 

Reading: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

In preparation for going on David Escobedo’s Improv Boost “Happiness” series this Wednesday, I figured it would be a good idea to re-read it, since The Day of the Triffids is my chosen subject. Good job I did! I’d forgotten lots of it, and invented other content based on the slew of inferior TV versions that exist. Unfortunately I’ve also just realised I’ve made the ghastly mistake of reading the abridged American version, which probably explains why it was even quicker a read than I expected! Dammit. It’s a lovely little post-apocalyptic tale in which the world is suddenly blinded, with a handful of exceptions, and is then hunted to near-extinction by carnivorous walking plants, the triffids themselves. I’ve loved it since I read the book when I was quite young, followed by collecting (I think) everything he ever wrote under his many pseudonyms. It’s a fairly simple story of a fellow waking up in hospital, discovering that everyone else is blind, and his travels through a number of emerging communities struggling to survive in the total collapse of civilisation. It was probably the first post-apocalyptic book I read, and it’s remained with me ever since. The story is filled with sections that seem to so well describe stages of anxiety, isolation and moral confusion which are terribly applicable to today’s pandemic. An absolute classic that’s inspired so many subsequent stories, notably all zombie movies and especially 28 Days Later. I may now binge on Wyndham’s other great novels. 

Watching: The Politician season one

Taking all the tension and horror of House of Cards and sticking it in a US high school presidential race produces an impressively tense and chilling satire! This is really well done. From the hyper-ambitious sociopathic rich kids and their scheming, murderous antics, to the utterly disinterested voters, this is another perfectly assembled show. Watch it!

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Last Week: The Human, Star Trek Picard and LEGO UCS Y-Wing https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/02/last-week-sunday-26-april-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/05/02/last-week-sunday-26-april-2020/#respond Sat, 02 May 2020 11:30:57 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33207 Continue reading Last Week: The Human, Star Trek Picard and LEGO UCS Y-Wing]]> Gosh time really does fly, while simultaneously flexing with all the integrity of sun-warmed chewing gum… so, yeah, it’s Friday already and I haven’t completed my sole personal task of the week – recording what the I’ve watched and done. Obviously I’ve done relatively little, except drunk spectacular quantities of beer and gazed listlessly at our blossoming lilac tree. That’s right: I’ve been outside! In fact, I spent most of last week outside. Work very kindly ordered us some desks in an attempt to aid good workspace habits, since I’ve been sitting on the sofa with my laptop on my knees for six weeks or so… It’s a nice little desk, but it does rather fill our front room. The brightening weather gave me ideas! After a day sitting under said lilac tree I got quite enthusiastic, ordering a WIFI extender thing (with antennae! Must be good.) and unfurling the gazebo. I even went so far as to lay out four of the concrete slabs that have been stacked in our garden for more than a decade, pending the creation of a patio. It was quite lovely. I spent my days in sunshine, watching the cats race around the garden, the gentle scent of lilac and roses wafting into my hardworking face. Pretty nice week all round really.

Reading: The Human (Rise of the Jain #3) by Neal Asher

I don’t often pre-order books (I know, as a publishing person I should know better…) but that’s mostly because by to-be-read stack both physical and digital is absurd. The coronavirus means I want things to look forward to! I’ve been reading Asher’s Polity books for years – fast-paced military space opera with great intergalactic conflict, high tech, terrifying aliens and engaging heroes. The set up… it’s an advanced human civilisation slowly taken over by the AIs we built, so that now Earth Central is a massively powerful AI who runs the whole show, and much better than we ever managed. The AIs do have a ruthlessly utilitarian slant though, and while mostly that means they do make life better for the majority, sometimes it means they sacrifice whole worlds to save the rest of the Polity… This is so far into the story that it’s near impossible to summarise what’s going on! Ancient alien technology – the Jain – enables nano-(and even pico-)engineering on a thrilling scale, but is horribly prone to taking over its user and sequestering every resource in sight, utterly destroying the civilisation that tried to use it. A vast array of active Jain tech has been swirling around the heart of a galaxy for millions of years. For the last few hundred years, Orlandine, a vastly upgraded “haiman”, half AI, half human who has seemingly tamed Jain tech for her own purposes, as well as the gnomic moon-sized alien entity, Dragon, have been preventing it from escaping and wreaking havoc.

That all went spectacularly tits up in the last book, and this is the final struggle to contain the Jain before it wipes out everyone. This installment really builds on the transhuman character development of Orlandine, the Polity AIs, the horrifying crab-like human-munching aliens, the Prador, and a host of other characters, many of them infected with Jain ambition among other things. It’s impossibly epic, with vast stakes, finally revealing the true dangers of the alien tech and a lot more about where it truly comes from. As a huge fan of the universe, I was delighted by this, even if the ending comes about a little quickly. Fear not though, there are plenty of hints at what is still unknown, and critical figures are conspicuously absent. Bring on the next trilogy please!   

Building: LEGO Y-Wing Starfighter – LEGO 75181

Ermagherd, is I believe, how the young folk express their fondness for a thing. It is how I should like to express my fondness for this splendid build! This is the first UCS (ultimate collector series) I’ve had the chance to assemble, and I’m pretty impressed. In truth, I nicked it from work (sliced open the box and emptied it into a rucksack, walks away whistling etc), and probably would not have bought it for myself. It’s Star Wars, so it’s huge and mostly grey. The Y-Wings are rightly iconic for getting blown to pieces above various Death Stars, but they look so damned cool. I’ve already got a LEGO Y-Wing, now that I think about it – the 1999 edition that came with a tie-fighter. It was rad at the time, but this massive set comprehensively blows it out of the water and vaporises the lake it was skimming over. At a mere 1967 pieces, I was confident that I could build it in an evening, but naturally failed. Instead it dominated an entire Saturday afternoon while I watched more of season two of Agents of SHIELD (which I’ve had to pause to watch Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron because the latter takes place around episode 20!). Rarely have I spent a Saturday afternoon so productively!

Like a lot of the larger LEGO vehicles I’ve built, there are plenty of time when I have no idea what I’m assembling. This one went through a canal barge to crucifix stage pretty quickly, and as soon as the cockpit clips in it’s instantly recognisable. That cockpit itself is loaded with clever building tricks to give it a smooth and curved underside as neat as the top, sneaky stuff to invert the direction of the studs. It’s stuff I’m terrible at in my own building and I’m keen to learn from it. The nacelles have simpler tactics for allowing intense greebling all the way round the square pillars. The greeblage is mighty all over the back and underside of the Y-Wing. One of the things I often admire about official LEGO sets is the masterful balance of detailing, whether it’s in a scatter of cheese slopes, a light touch in patterning brick colours, or in this – while there’s a lot of detailing, it’s not so insanely overdone that it detracts from the model at a distance. The Y-Wing looks fantastically good, such a nice version of the film designs. There are though a bunch of stickers to apply on the cockpit which stressed me out to apply neatly. Not half as much as the massive sticker for the info plaque though. It really shouldn’t generate such anxiety! Nevertheless, I think I got it on perfectly. 

The minifigs are great, as you’d expect, with a finely detailed Gold leader and a shiny silver R2-BHD astromech.  Yeah, I love this thing. It is way too big to put anywhere in our house, sadly, but it will come apart into three neat pieces for transporting back to work once all this is over. Lamentably, having assembled this one, I now find myself eyeing up the far smaller A-Wing that’s just been released. That’s definitely shelf-sized…

Watching: Star Trek: Picard

We’d been waiting for all the episodes to be released on Amazon Prime before we began this. Our preference is definitely bingeing hard, rather than the agonising wait till next week. I’ve not reflected much on the change in our viewing habits in the last decade, but I think I’m getting more enjoyment from being deeply embedded in a show for a couple of weeks than dipping in and out of several simultaneously. However, I fear I’m going to have to do a second watch of Picard, because unlike Discovery which I adored from beginning to end, I just don’t know what to think of this new spin-off. Perhaps we’ll find out while I ramble…

The character of Jean-Luc Picard is obviously great – Patrick Stewart made Star Trek: The Next Generation come alive, and even though a lot of it is barely watchable now, the interactions of Captain Picard and his close-knit crew are delightful. TNG set the ground for the vastly superior Deep Space Nine that followed, with its huge and rewarding story arcs advancing the previous episodic narrative. With the exception of the Borg episodes, TNG never got the opportunity to do that, and with the similar exception of First Contact, its follow up movies are dreadful, though none as bad at those of the original series. I’ve been without Picard since First Contact in 1996 (holy fuck, how long?!), though the aforementioned dodgy movies have continued. So, a twenty year or so wait to return, that’s pretty high stakes. 

Picard disabuses us pretty quickly of this being a high action show like Discovery. In a curiously similar vein to the new Star Wars movies’ Luke Skywalker story, Picard is long retired from Star Fleet, having been fired/quit when Star Fleet backed away from a commitment to help resettle the peoples of Romulus after their home planet got fried. He’s spent the rest of the time chilling in his vineyard home, tended by ex-secret service Romulans and generally doing fuck all but seethe that Star Fleet let him down. He’s run away from his responsibilities, having failed to be the man he thought he was. Enter a young (spoiler) human-passing android on the run from some dudes trying to kill her. She doesn’t know she’s an android but knows a lot of stuff, is super-fast and knows she needs to find Picard. It’s no shock to discover that she’s Data’s daughter, somehow. But she gets offed by some more Romulan spec ops bad guys, and Picard’s off on a mission to find her twin sister, save the galaxy, stop the Romulans etc. 

Since Picard’s no longer Star Fleet he has to assemble a rag tag crew (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) since Star Fleet really don’t like him any more. The pacing is glacial at times, and it’s hard to understand what they’re actually aiming for in this. It takes ages to get into space (which is all fabulously Star Warsy rather than the Trek we’ve seen before) where we finally catch up with a ruined Borg cube that’s being rehabilitated by Romulans (for reasons I honestly can’t recall), and on which the android twin is working, while dating an actual piece of shit Romulan secret secret secret service guy who’s part of an inner circle dedicated to wiping out all synthetic life. 

There is a lot of great stuff in here – Seven of Nine’s return is a delight, Riker!, learning that Romulan assassin folk are just feudal Japanese folk, complete with haircuts and robes is peculiar, but kinda fun, and eventually a lot of things happen, quite fast. Picard nearly dies, they find more androids, he saves the day. I don’t honestly consider that to be a spoiler! The whole show is soaked in nostalgia, which is only partly rubbing off on me. If there weren’t so many people involved, and such cool design work going on I’d write it off as a vanity project. It’s definitely more than that, but I don’t know what… Watch it, if you’re into Trek, otherwise I cannot imagine this having any appeal at all.  

Doing: Virtual Improv Drop-In with MissImp

Last week’s new improv workshop was with Stephen Davidson, who’s just the loveliest and most passionate guy. His workshop is a real delight! Enjoy.  

 

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Last Week: The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin, Agents of SHIELD, LEGO Hagrid’s Hut https://captainpigheart.com/2020/04/22/last-week-sunday-19-april-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/04/22/last-week-sunday-19-april-2020/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2020 11:15:09 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33180 Continue reading Last Week: The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin, Agents of SHIELD, LEGO Hagrid’s Hut]]> For all that most weeks are quiet now, last week seems to have been especially so. I imagine that’s in part from accepting the new terms of existence, and from it being another four day week with its concomitant blurring of time. I feel quite ineffectual a lot of the time, which I suppose is OK, since there’s damn all I can do about our situation other than moan about it.  I feel a lot like Hulk with tiny arms: full of emotions but unable to do anything with them.

It’s certainly taken me a few hours to finally sort all that washed LEGO back into their neatly sorted containers, and I’ve had Agents of SHIELD to accompany most of that. Much of the weekend was dominated by admiring the vast quantity of Easter chocolate my other half acquired at Tesco where they’re pretty much burning their excess stock. Eighteen pence for a bag of mini eggs?! We have many. And thus shall grow the belly further…

It’s been a nice weekend to spend time in the garden reading, and looks set to continue for a little while. I continue to be quite happy at home with my cats.

The most exciting thing of last weekend (apart from my parents’ peculiar psychic link causing them to both ring me at almost the same time) was a work thing – we’ve finally got the evidence that we at Aconyte Books have been doing something for the past year – we got books! Hurray! I can’t show them to you, because they’re awaiting appropriate fanfare, and won’t be in bookshops till September, but having our labours physically realised is really quite thrilling. These are the first books I’ve designed and laid out the internals and externals for (with a lot of support, approval, tsking and head-patting) so it’s a pretty big deal for me personally, as well as for the whole team. I don’t think showing the spines will get me killed, but I guess we’ll find out soon. 

Reading: The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin

At last, I’m a mere four years behind with reading the very best of modern science fiction and fantasy! This is the second of the incredible Broken Earth trilogy which won a Hugo Award for each installment. Like so many of my favourite SFF novels, Jemisin has blended aspects of science fiction and fantasy together, so that we explore a truly post-apocalyptic world, riven by irregular “Seasons” of environmental catastrophes, driving humans into their comms (communities) and hoping they have enough supplies to last the season. This has been happening for thousands of years, since some event split the Earth, leading to repeated collapses of civilisation and a species directed solely toward survival, at any cost. There’s delightful social commentary on how humans behave when facing these awful threats, with rivalries between comms and the complex psychologies of those living in them, with their dwindling knowledge and science. Supporting / protecting humanity are the Guardians with their enslaved orogenes – essentially geology wizards who can manipulate the earth itself – feared and despised for their awesome powers, despite being used as a protective shield against the unreliable Father Earth. This book follows the even more catastrophic events of The Fifth Season in which Alabaster, one of the most powerful orogenes (or “roggas” if you hate them), triggered a vast tectonic split to destroy the home of the Guardians. We travel with his apprentice/lover/friend Essun as she assists in bolstering a comm against the season her mentor has unleashed. He has a plan… for Essun to undo the appalling damage that the Earth suffered when it lost its moon. On the other side of the story we see Essun’s lost and estranged daughter being taught to develop her own powers of orogeny by someone who seems to be completely insane. There’s a tonne of fascinating detail on orogeny – science or magic? – and I find the characters completely captivating. The stakes are wildly high, all of the time, and the second-person storytelling is surprisingly engaging, though it took me a little while to get into it again. This is one hell of a series, especially for reading right now: maximum apocalypse, beautifully written!

Doing: LEGO 75947 Hagrid’s Hut: Buckbeak’s Rescue

I’ve no idea what part this set plays in the films or books (I gave up on em fairly early I’m afraid), but I was very much drawn to the hexagonal shacks, and the lovely little pumpkin elements. It was a pretty quick but satisfying assembly – the roofs and floor are neatly done to produce this shape, and it’s definitely something I’ll try to keep in mind for the next MOC I start on. It’s a slight shame they’re only half-hexagons, with their backs missing. I guess I could probably source the parts from my various boxes… Buckbeak the gryphon is rather nice, and I’m sure I’ll find a use for him. I also enjoy this odd-seeming executioner (?) who comes with the set. I’ll admit I haven’t even put together the Harry Potter minifigs, but this set is quite lovely with or without the brand association. The fetching doors use massive stickers which even with my trusty scalpel I found tricky to apply. That might just have been because I was drinking beer, watching Agents of SHIELD and lying horizontally on the sofa at the time. Who’s to say, eh. It is however, brutally expensive at £49.99, even with half a dozen minifigs with the cool poseable mini-legs. I got it waaaay cheaper than that without a box, otherwise I’d not have been building it at all.  

Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season one

I can’t believe this started seven years ago, and only now am I rewatching it from the beginning. Hurrah for Disney+ and sitting in front of the TV for hours at a time playing with LEGO. I’m not entirely sure how far through the show I’ve watched, since its appearance on UK TV and streaming services that I use has been kinda erratic. I’ve definitely seen the amazing season where they’re in a virtual world run by HYDRA, but I haven’t seen them go into space… WTF? So I’m quite excited about catching up. Part of my confusion comes from this having full length TV shows – 24 episodes! It’s like being back in the nineties, and I love it. Those long seasons mean so much happens in season one. Can’t wait to reach the seventh and final season.

Agents of SHIELD brilliantly picks up after Avengers: Assemble with the surprising reappearance of Agent Coulson, who quite definitely died in that movie. But that’s a mystery for later… In the meantime we’ve got a team to assemble, and then deal with cyborg/jacked-up dangerous folks running around as part of Project Centipede, followed in short order by the collapse of SHIELD (following Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and the rise of HYDRA. It’s quite a ride! The cast is pretty delightful though, from the warm, tough and lovable Clark Gregson as Coulson, his badass kung-fu sidekick who will not smile, Agent May by the splendid Ming-Na Wen, mysterious hacker turned agent Skye (Chloe Bennet), the wonderful duo “Fitzsimmons”: Iain de Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge as Fitz and Simmons respectively, our ace scientists and darkly handsome agent Grant Ward, played by Brett Dalton. The vibe is so “NCIS with superheroes” it hurts: packed with banter, action and an unfolding season arc that I really thought lasted several seasons. The revelations of HYDRA’s subversion of SHIELD cut all the harder, with the betrayals and fear that follow – and all reinforced by having relatively recently seen all of the MCU. I’d vaguely remembered season one as being quite weak, but it isn’t – it’s just the first three or four episodes of them establishing characters before it all properly kicks off. Watch it! I’m already into season two…

Doing: MissImp’s Virtual Improv Drop-In

Last week we got a great workshop on science fiction and fantasy in improv from Philippa Stazicker, part of one of my very favourite shows Four Far Away. Well worth a look in whether you’re an improviser or not.

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Last Week: Sabrina season 3, The Hanging Tree, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Collapsing Empire https://captainpigheart.com/2020/04/13/last-week-sunday-12-april-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/04/13/last-week-sunday-12-april-2020/#respond Mon, 13 Apr 2020 13:45:40 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33164 Continue reading Last Week: Sabrina season 3, The Hanging Tree, Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Collapsing Empire]]> Short Week, Long Weekend – Does it Even Mean Anything?

I think I’ve fully adjusted to working at home now. Got my Wii Fit running on the spot for half an hour before starting work routine sorted. The cats come and sit with me for few hours, which is lovely. The lack of urgency is vexing, but I’m still getting things done. The evenings continue to be filled with LEGO and the usual TV watching or book reading. I’m beginning to wonder if this whole pandemic thing is just for me… being at home is kinda great.

Catching up with a bunch of the MissImp Thursday drop-in regulars was very reassuring – it’s my only specific evening of any week, and it was good to reestablish some kind of weekly calendar. I need to take some pics of the amazing LEGO Ideas Dinosaurs set that I’ve eked out over this week, they really are very pretty and need to be reviewed! I’ve also washed a lot more LEGO, so that’s news for anyone who needed it. Cleaned this whole box, and I reckon about 15% was Mega Blocks.  It took a lot more bags than that to dry out though! We’ve just started watching Star Trek: Picard, and I’m very excited.

Watching: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, season three 

I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that I shouldn’t be watching TV shows I don’t deeply care about. I have watched all of Sabrina, and I do enjoy it, but I’m damned if I can tell you what’s actually happening. This season it’s more of the same except that Sabrina’s heading for being queen of Hell (quite fun to spend some time in Hell itself, with its attendant Star Trek alien-style demons). Lots of things happen… including the introduction of a priestess Voodoo (with a murderously awful creole accent) and killer pagans. Everyone remains chipper and fun to watch – if you enjoyed season one and two, you’ll enjoy this as well! 

Reading: The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

A rare re-read for me… I’d finished The Girl Beneath the Sea, couldn’t face getting out of bed, and had re-added this to my Kindle because I couldn’t remember where I was in the series. It’s a good re-read! For those not following the Rivers of London series: The Dresden Files crossed with The Bill. London copper Peter Grant gets dragged into the near-forgotten magical police as a huge resurgence of magic begins. The books have a similar light-hearted feel to Charles Stross’s excellent Laundry Files, though they’ve yet to become quite as dark. The police procedural aspects appeal greatly to me, completely eclipsing my general loathing of SFF set in London, plus Grant’s West Indian family, his dad’s love of jazz, and Grant’s relationships with his old-school magician guv’nor, and the literal rivers of London embodied in stunning female form have made this a really fun series for me. The Hanging Tree continues to pull story threads related to the Faceless Man who is the magical Moriarty for this series, the general rise of magic and diving a little deeper into how magic actually works. It’s an enjoyable read, even though I can already see why I’d forgotten if I’d read it – there’s no enormous story arc shift here, it’s firmly in the “another Peter Grant case” zone. I’m looking forward to the next one.     

Watching: Marvel Cinematic Universe

Sure, I’ve seen most of these films multiple times anyway, but I’m enjoying taking advantage of Disney+ to watch them all back to back without the sheer hell of opening and closing DVD cases. I still think the MCU is one of the most extraordinary cinema achievements. No one has managed a watchable ten film series with such consistency and purposeful story arcs, let alone one with twenty-plus instalments and half a dozen excellent TV shows to back it up. Even Star Wars, which I adore, spectacularly fails at planning and consistency, and for all that I really love the new sequel trilogy, it’s afflicted with the same inability to plan for the next film that plagued the originals and prequels. So, Marvel – our literal movie superheroes.

Iron Man (2008)

It remains a delight that the MCU begins by rehabilitating Robert Downey Jr into what will undoubtedly prove to be his signature role. In retrospect this looks oddly low budget, with its gritty video feel. That certainly softens later, making Stark appear to age backwards for a while. As in several of Marvel’s origin stories, this is a small film with big bangs, but introduces us to the central theme of ordinary people becoming exceptional and having to make a moral choice about how to use their powers. Stark of course, is already a genius, but losing his freedom when captured by the Ten Rings terrorist organisation, and realising the harm his weapons industry does inspires him to become so much greater. It also has the first demonstration of how Marvel manages its extraordinary characters, by constantly undercutting Stark’s smugness and arrogance with slapstick injury and being put in his place by his closest companions. All the “building a better suit” montages do this wonderfully, and we’ll see it again for Thor. He’s a massive dick though…  particularly with Pepper, and less so with Happy than in later films. I’d completely forgotten the villain of the piece is Jeff Bridges’ corporate monster. Very topical then, and even more so now. Lt Colonel Rhodes in Terence Howard’s hands is utterly bland and he is sadly not at all missed for Iron Man 2 and onwards. I’m watching Agents of Shield from the beginning again, and it really does deepen all of my fondness for Agent Coulson (and Nick Fury) throughout. Stark’s suit is endearingly angular, and I rather miss the physical effects which are later replaced with nano suits by the time of Infinity War.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Cruelly, a distribution deal with Universal means I already had to reach for my DVDs for the second MCU film. This one gets a lot of stick, but for anyone who played the Playstation 2 game The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, this is an absolute joy. Borrowing not just the main storyline, but the actual moves Hulk pulls in the game, like ripping a car in half to make boxing gloves, earthquake punches and many more, means that I adore this film. Sure, I can’t imagine Edward Norton continuing in the MCU, but Hulk does us a massive favour by bravely embedding the complete origin story in the splendid comic book style opening credits (largely leaning on Ang Lee’s horribly dull Hulk) before introducing Bruce Banner hiding in South America. It’s a marked change of pace from Iron Man, with much larger and more frequent action set pieces and a pleasingly psychotic Tim Roth becoming Abomination – a bit closer to a big bad villain than a CEO in a metal suit. This one’s unusual in that very few of the hints and leads from it have yet been followed up – we’ve seen no more of his love interest Betty, her father General Ross, or scientist Samuel Sterns who looks like he’s turning pretty Hulky at the end. With the Ruffalo Hulk now all chill and contented with his dual forms, and feeling like he’s at the end of his character development arc, I wonder if we’ll get a proper gamma villain to rile him once more.   

Iron Man 2 (2010)

It’s hard to believe this was a whole two years after the first couple of movies, but then I hadn’t realised they were only released a month apart! This is probably one of the weakest entries in the whole MCU, although most of them fade away if you watch it back to back with the first movie (a bit like Gremlins  but less so Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters 2 is really bad). It feels very much like filling time before we can get to some more characters and a proper villain. On the plus side we get the infinitely more fun Don Cheadle as Rhodes (suiting up as War Machine), and I’d forgotten that this is when we first meet Black Widow (fantastically introduced beating up Happy in the ring). We also see some of Howard Stark and his relationship with Tony, which proves much more important in Captain America: Civil War and is finally, beautifully paid off in Avengers: Endgame. So yay, for that! I suspect these weaker films are all going to be much better with the rest of the story in my head. Iron Man 2 continues the Stark arc of atoning for years of enabling mass murder, and this cleansing punishment probably is necessary for him to later appear in the Avengers films on an equal standing with the super-upright Captain America, Thor, and the rather humble Hulk. The story, um. Well, a Russian dude Vanko (a hopelessly miscast Mickey Rourke) who’s dad co-invented the arc reactor with Tony’s dad takes Iron Man’s success rather personally and sets out to destroy him. Cue laughable Zardoz costume with arc whips. It’s a rehash of the first movie after that, with an underused Sam Rockwell trying to build iron man suits / robots / whatever for his very similar company using Vanko’s genius. The CGI man fighting nearly identical CGI men problem that later besets Avengers: Age of Ultron appears here. Other than that, it’s more of Iron Man doing Iron Man things, upgrading the suit, the arc reactor, getting comically injured and being sweet with his robot arm. All the dialogue is still fun and snarky, but the film overall is just fine. I recall being enormously excited by the end credits tease of a hammer found in New Mexico…

Reading: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

A fun and quickfire space opera, reliably easy to read with engaging and smart-mouthed characters. There’s not a lot more to it than that though. This is the first of Scalzi’s big new space opera series featuring the intergalactic human empire, the Interdependency. It’s all connected together by “the flow”, a convenient natural anomaly like a slow wormhole which links the various chunks of humanity together and takes months to get from one end to the other. Ruling over it all is an emperox and a bunch of semi-feudal merchant guilds who own complete monopolies on very granular products like “grapes.” Given that only one guild can provide chickens (or something) everything has to sort of work together. Big shock: the flow’s going to disappear, and so humanity and their present system are fucked. There’s a plenty of good stuff here: the time delay in communications, rival guilds vying for power, a massive cataclysm, space pirates and fun action scenes, and yet it all feels rather thin. That might be because there’s no sciencey stuff to this space opera, other than dropping big words like “phsyics”, and the interdependent guild setup feels both forced and like something I’ve read a hundred times before. While I enjoyed this as a quick read I’m not racing to find the next in series.     

Doing: MissImp’s Virtual Drop-In

 This week we had Claudia Behlendorf from Germany with a fun workshop on creating big characters fast. We also instituted our first post-improv virtual pub event for regular MissImp folk on Zoom. That was a very uplifting web chat! While improv on Thursdays has been part of my life for more than fifteen years now, it’s the being with people in person and chatting in the pub afterwards that I’ve actually been missing. We had eighteen folks at one point, including some real out-of-towners and people we haven’t seen for a long while. Very nice! It’s on again next week. 

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Last Week: Cage of Souls, Altered Carbon, The Girl Beneath the Sea, We Are What We Overcome podcast, MissImp Virtual Drop-Ins https://captainpigheart.com/2020/04/11/last-week-sunday-5-april-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/04/11/last-week-sunday-5-april-2020/#respond Sat, 11 Apr 2020 12:22:18 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33145 Continue reading Last Week: Cage of Souls, Altered Carbon, The Girl Beneath the Sea, We Are What We Overcome podcast, MissImp Virtual Drop-Ins]]> BIrthday, Booze and Bumbling

Sure, it’s Friday – or is it? Who the hell knows. I can’t tell the difference, and worst of all I’m writing this (at last) on day one of our four day bank holiday weekend. Thank goodness my workmates told me, otherwise I’d have been working all day. So, with five days separating me from last week, what can I actually recall… I’m in luck, because I’ve started to keep a list. Genius plan, which I undermine as I fail to write stuff down. That feels a lot like our present state of lockdown – it all constantly slips away… I’m still feeling the massive contrast between the hysteria of 24 hour news and this just feeling like normal life. I’m also utterly thrilled to be spending so much time with my beautiful cats.

Still, we had my other half’s birthday, and I feel we made the most of it. Our usual birthday activities are something along the line’s of 1) get up very late, 2) take ages to eat breakfast and get dressed, 3) open presents while watching cartoons (this year we enjoyed Disney+’s Chip ’n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, which feels like it’s suffered the passage of time better than Duck Tales), 4) go to the cinema, 5) eat out somewhere, and 6) crash out on the sofa. On that scale we at least managed all but 4 and 5. So that’s not bad. The whole pandemic and not being able to choose to go out only really hit home when we wanted to complete our usual rituals. Nemmind. I snagged a piece of rather nice original Peter Firmin Bagpuss art, so part 3 of the day was pretty good. We celebrated with a few more folks in a large and very chaotic Zoom party. Weird, for sure, but nice to see peeps.

Obviously all independent businesses are struggling right now, and worse, some people are finding it hard to acquire enough booze to get through the melding days. No fear of that here in Beeston! I was over the moon to see our local independent brewer Totally Brewed (who have homes at the lovely micropub Totally Tapped in Beeston and The Overdraught at the top of Canning Circus) arranged for Friday home deliveries!

Doing: podcasting (live-ish) with We Are What We Overcome

On Sunday we the We Are What We Overcome podcast gang got together to attempt a Zoom to Facebook Live thingamajig. It worked so well in practice, but totally failed to work as expected. Not to worry. We recorded it anyway, and popped the video up on Monday afternoon. We decided to have a little check-in, like we usually do at the start of our episodes, but for longer as this is a strange time, and we all have different feelings about it. I think it’s quite a nice chat – you can watch/listen to it below. Rather nicely, it’s all four us, including Neil who’s usually behind the sound recording desk (or whatever it is that he does to magically trap our speech). At some point we’ll pop the audio out on the podcast feed, but there are a few in the bank already to be rolled out on schedule first. Even better news, we’re gonna try the Facebook Live thang again this Sunday, and every fortnight for the near future, or at least as long as we’re in lockdown. Future ones will show up on our Facebook page here, and I’ll stick a link on the WAWWO page of this website too.

Watching: Altered Carbon season two

I really enjoyed Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon and its sequels – splendid fast-paced noirpunk with loads of action and murder/spy stuff. The central premise that your identity is contained in a stack at the top of your spine and can be swapped between bodies (the so charming “sleeves”) is fantastic, and the results of your body no longer being a part of who you are is ingenious and spun out well in the books. It translated pretty well into season one of the Netflix show, albeit with a lot of gratuitous nudity as we found ourselves in a pretty traditional cyberpunk setting of rain and holograms of hookers everywhere. I enjoyed it, but until I saw the ‘last time on Altered Carbon‘ I could not have told you what happened.

I fucking love Anthony Mackie, he’s immensely charming, fun, and credible in action, drama and comedy (having re-watched Captain America: the Winter Soldier just this afternoon, he is confirmed in my mind as a splendid human). But there’s something wrong with season two – it’s just drifted into the quest for Takeshi Kovacs to find his long-lost love, and while that’s in the books, it doesn’t feel like the driving force of the story. The noir detective element is here, but it feels lost and forced. Added to that are the continued tribulations of his AI hotelier pal, Poe (yep, Edgar Allan), who is very appealing as he finds another AI who he clearly kind of fancies as his grasp on the world deteriorates, but it doesn’t matter. The AI subplot is completely irrelevant and its lack of importance kept punching me in the face. Alas, this season has lost me and I kept drifting away while watching. Maybe I’ll have a rewatch after this nonsense time is over, and perhaps I’ll focus better.

Reading: Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I cannot help reading Adrian’s books – it’s a kind of addiction. This one had languished for a while on my Kindle TBR because I’d incorrectly associated the cover with fantasy, and I’ve been in a science fiction mood for a while. Reading definitely feels tougher than usual, and it takes something extra (or just really fast) to captivate my attention. Here we have far-future post-every-apocalypse with Shadrapur, the last human city on (presumably) Earth. Humanity stumbles on, pretending that the end is not very close, echoing the civilisations that have fallen along the way. I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic stuff (not so much the usual zombies). This has much more of JG Ballard’s The Crystal World and a bit of Brian Aldiss Hothouse vibe, with the natural world running riot, overwhelming our vain attempts at order and showing every chance of becoming something else. Cage of Souls takes us through the life of one of these last men, Stefan Advani, and how it is that he ended up in a ghastly prison cast out in the middle of nature. This is a big fat book, and for a while it was slow going, though that’s rarely an issue with Tchaikovsky’s glowing prose and this most alluring world of the end-times, but as the depth of the world and its strange inhabitants unfolded I was happily engaged. The Count of Monte Cristo feel is strong, with our unjustly imprisoned academic turned accidental rebel, dealing with an appallingly dangerous prison that the guys in Oz could only hope for, with monsters seizing inmates through the bars of the lowest levels and an absolute monster in charge of the prison. The novel really opens up when we explore the misadventures that preceded Stefani’s arrival, and (spoiler), what happens afterwards. It’s a delight of a book, full of surprises, possible callbacks to novels I adore, an unreliable narrator and a weird, weird world to engulf them.

Reading: The Girl Beneath the Sea by Andrew Mayne

After a big book I needed a short book, and this was waiting for me on my Kindle. A short, quick detective thriller with a slightly different setup (though with hefty shades of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt stories), of Sloan McPherson – 50% diver with a family dedicated to shady treasure hunting, and 50% auxiliary cop in the Florida quays. There’s nothing exceptional about the plotting – Sloan gets a body dumped into the canal while she’s diving, and quickly finds herself implicated in a conspiracy linked to her dodgy criminal uncle and the aforementioned shady family. It had everything I needed, from snappy dialogue and snarky characters to gunfights and underwater shenanigans. Very satisfying, and I may well dig up the next in the Underwater Investigations series.

Watching: Virtual Improv Comedy Workshops with MissImp

Time blurs, and I discover that the workshop I wrote about last week was actually from the week before! Who’d’a’ thunk it. But that’s cool, it means there are two workshops for you to catch up on. First up the splendid Ki Shah and Russ Payne on Physicality, Objects & Movement. This is a genuinely charming two-hander and I think you’ll be smiling all the way through. Second up is LA improviser Jay Sukow on Solo Improv. I confess I’ve not yet watched this one, which puts me at least two behind as well… Both vids are below – enjoy!

Next Week

Sabrina the Teenage Witch season 3, The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch, LEGO Ideas Dinosaurs and probably The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (if I finish it this weekend). I should do an MCU quick review thing at some point too.

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Last Week: AJ and the Queen, I Am Not Okay With This, CHEER, Disney+, LEGO and Improv Workshops https://captainpigheart.com/2020/03/30/last-week-sunday-29-march-2020/ https://captainpigheart.com/2020/03/30/last-week-sunday-29-march-2020/#respond Mon, 30 Mar 2020 19:05:01 +0000 https://captainpigheart.com/?p=33116 Continue reading Last Week: AJ and the Queen, I Am Not Okay With This, CHEER, Disney+, LEGO and Improv Workshops]]> What day is it?

The days and nights are beginning to blur… Having a day off on Friday was nice, but didn’t really help with the curious sense of dislocation from the world. I do like working from home, and on a task level it doesn’t make much difference to me – that, combined with being a proper homebody anyway and the odd quiet holiday sense of this pandemic has my body and brain profoundly confused.

In proper pandemic fashion, we went to a birthday party via Zoom on Saturday, and it worked really well! Sixteen people (I think), and not too chaotic, once we were past the obligatory head fuck with swapping background images in and out. That part felt much like watching Predator for the first time… unsettling. 

Watching: Virtual Improv Comedy Workshops with MissImp

Since we can’t meet in person at present, our first phase for MissImp has been supplying recorded workshop material to follow along with at home and bring some light and silliness into the house. Emily has been hard at work finding folk with skills to share, and we’re delighted to make them available to anyone for free. Keep track of them as they become available every Thursday here (or on YouTube). Here’s the first one, featuring a charmingly cabin-feverish Emily (also see below), and the second with Leicester-based pals Ki Shah and Russ Payne. Enjoy!

LEGO photographing and washing (oh, the thrills!)

The nice sunny days that I watched from my sofa last week provided the perfect opportunity to get outside briefly and take some half-decent photos of my latest LEGO build, the temple of quiet contemplation. I have been using it as such, spending hours gazing at it, saying “mmm, that’s some nice LEGO there”. Hey man, it’s working! Anyway, I posted up some of those pretty pics and you can check ’em out here: A Place of Quiet Contemplation.

Meanwhile, the lull in having to interact with the external world has finally led me to disassemble and wash two of our LEGO modular buildings, the Palace Cinema (10232) and Parisian Restaurant (10243). They’ve both been gradually accreting a vile layer of greasy dust due to living in our kitchen. It takes approximately the length of a Marvel movie to properly wash a building… They’re both very satisfying builds, but I hadn’t noticed till taking them apart just how many more pieces there are in the newer wave of modular buildings like the Parisian Restaurant than the Cinema – nearly three hundred more, and that really shows when you’re trying to lay them out to dry on a towel. I’m not brave enough to put my LEGO through the dishwasher, and chose to handwash instead. For those who may wish to burn their hours of confinement cleaning plastic bricks, I just used a splash of washing up liquid in hot water and a toothbrush to attack the most egregious filth. I’ve now got three of those mesh bags that Sainsbury’s sell for fruit and veg filled with Lego sitting on a radiator. Seems to take about a day to thoroughly dry out. The best thing about this is we now have space to build some more stuff! I’ve got my eye on the Brick Bank (10251) and the Monster Fighters’ Haunted House (10228), both of whom have been neglected in their boxes for some years.

Watching: Disney+

Inevitably, we subscribed to Disney+… launching during a stay-at-home pandemic is phenomenal good fortune! I’m only in it for easy access to the Star Wars series, though I’ve already seen The Mandalorian (it’s very good Star Wars – you should watch it now), and the splendid Rebels, but I’ve only ever skipped through The Clone Wars, partly because a lot of it is just very similar battles and it’s Anakin and Kenobi, two of my least favourite characters doing their dry schtick. But there’s also Ahsoka Tano, Captain Rex and Darth Maul – all characters I came to love from Rebels and can now fill in the gaps for. I’m also 100% happy about being able to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe all the way through again. I’m already up to Thor: the Dark World. It is however astounding that Disney+ doesn’t let me just binge through them all in order! On finishing Iron Man 3 it offered me Iron Man to watch… C’mon