Stay safe tonight, everyone.
December 2005 Archives
Hope it was a good one.
I have a giant stack of manga and bound comics fresh from the library, and my little ferret brain is spinning around in circles trying to decide what to read first. I've got the first six volumes of Brian Michael Bendis' Powers series, Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise Treasury Edition, plus the first three "pocket books", the first three volumes of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, a couple of Eddie Campbell books, and a slew of manga including Ranma 1/2, Inu Yashi, and X/1999.
Must. Pick. One.
On Sunday I took my Little Sister to see the Madison Ballet's Nutcracker at the Overture Center. It was our second time at the Overture. Last time we were in the second or third row of the orchestra. This time we were in the third or fourth row of the balcony.
Though the height and the angle were rather vertiginous, the sight lines were excellent with one exception: the decorative set proscenium blocked the higher parts of the set, especially the top of the stairway in Act I. The was not a problem in Act II, as all of the action was on the main floor.
The new costumes and sets (well, new as of last year but completely new to me) were indeed wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the variety of styles in the second act. The dancing was also quite creditable, though I am no ballet critic. Nothing really jumped out and screamed "community production" (which was about all I could see when I attended the 1998 performance under JoJean Retrum). About the only thing that bothered me about the show was the casting of Herr Drosselmeier.
I generally picture Drosselmeier as grand and mysterious. He is the favorite uncle, but he also carries an air of dashing and excitement. This production's Drosselmeier seemed more like a goofy stage magician. His scenes with Clara didn't come across as sinister in the traditional sense (oooo, spooky magic!) but rather sinister in the sense of "Get that creepy man away from that little girl!"
My two favorite numbers in the show were the sultry Arabian dance (though, as a nine-year-old, my Little didn't care for it) and Mother Ginger (as always). We both got a kick out of Mother Ginger. It is difficult to watch that big, silly figure sway across the stage without breaking into a smile, and the wee kidlets that came with her were adorable.
That's it for my Christmas theater thus year, as I won't be seeing the Christmas Carol.
Making sourdough bread, particularly getting the starter going, almost seems like adopting a pet. It's like a large, sticky tamagotchi. Only it doesn't beep. And it lives in a cupboard...
In some of our late night Perkins conversations, my friends and I have discussed the spectrum of possibilities when it comes to LARPers. We see it as a triangle: gamers, actors, and roleplayers. You can be more of one than another, or fall somewhere in the middle. When we discuss it, we aren't looking at any of these aspects as being inherently positive and negative, they just are.
Gamers are most excited by and interested in the system and the rules. They like to turn it inside out, break it, build it up, etc. A gamer pays attention to how the game itself flows. How are characters built? How are challenges resolved? What works? What doesn't? Some people who fall heavily into this section of the triangle can be the twinks and the rules lawyers, but this section also includes the people who give games their backbone.
Actors are most excited by the good scene and the drama. They may not mind their character getting totally screwed, so long as it is done well. The actors bring the passion and the angst and do very well in staged scenes. They may even be willing to suspend logic and bend the rules a bit just because something would be particularly cool. At their best, they bring spice and flair to a game. At their worst they can hog attention and/or send a plot barrelling off the tracks.
Roleplayers are all about the character. They know how to walk the walk and talk the talk. They can tell you their character's backstory in intimate detail. They dress the part, they follow their goals, and stay true to the character's motivations. No matter how much a true roleplayer player may want to get in on the cool running gunfight, if his or her character is a pacifist with a phobia of loud noises and an allergy to gunpowder, s/he will get the character out of the way. Roleplayers are very important to LARPS, especially those with ongoing chronicles. However, taken too far, Roleplayers can get overly attached to their character and be crushed when negative things happen to the character, They may even see attacks on the character as attacks on themselves.
Very few people are all one thing. Personally, I'm probably about 5% Gamer, 35% Actor, and 60% Roleplayer.
I have a hard time learning rules and systems in games, and am not great at memorizing character stats. I generally learn one thing and stick with it as much as I can (like VtM, 2nd Ed.). I avoid combat scenes, not because they can't be cool, but because it is more reliant on system than most other aspects of LARP.
I love a good scene, especially one with appropriate ambiance, costuming, and props. One of my very favorite involved a character getting caught in the backlash of a spell gone out of control. She lost her concentration and it rebounded on her. I had prepared for the possibility by making a blood pack (out of dishsoap and food coloring) and taping it to my chest underneath a white shirt. The players/characters were gathered on a windy hilltop on a starry night. There were impassioned pleas and beseechings. When the time came for her to die, I grasped my chest in agony (and pierced the bloodpack with a concealed pin) and collapsed as a warm, red stain spread across the shirt. The player characters (PCs)surrounded her and one of them lifted her limp head into his lap. Overall, it was massively cool. I was also playing non-player character (NPC). Most of my great scenes have been as NPCs.
This is partly because I am so much more of a Roleplayer. With NPCs, I can get into their character enough to make the scene amazing, but I am not attached to them and I know they may well die. With my regular characters, I want things to go well for them, and don't want to throw them onto a sword, just for the drama of it. I'm not completely averse to conflict or setbacks, because why bother playing if there is no challenge to overcome? I don't take actions against my character personally (unless they are meant that way, but that's another story). I may be bummed if a character I like becomes unplayable for any reason. However, in a game where I had become a narrator, I ended up killing off two of my older PCs (whose story arcs I had finished) because it would make an interesting development for some of the other players.
One of the things that has made LARPing so neat for me has been the interplay of these three and interacting with people who are differently situated in the spectrum. My friend M (and my other friend M) is similar to me. My friend A seems to be mostly Actor and Gamer, with slightly less to the Roleplayer. My friend P is very much a Gamer, with Roleplayer and Actor and slightly lower levels (I'd say maybe 70/20/10 if I had to guess). My old friend R was Gamer and Roleplayer, with only a bit of Actor. I could go on and on, but I won't.
That's my take on the matter. I suppose these types also come into play in table-top gaming as well, I just don't have as much experience with that format. Any RPGers out there want to chime in?
Some guys really want to be the ones to know everything, don't they? Last night I was at a bar with some girlfriends, including E, who is another substitute teacher. There were also two guys along, both roommates of one of the other girls.
This guy was asking what we did, and when he found out that E and I were subs, he started talking to us about it. After asking a lot of questions, he then started informing us what we could do to become regular teachers. It didn't matter how little he actually knew about the subject, he knew more than us, apparently.
After telling me something so completely wrong and to be laughable, I called him on it. He insisted that it was true. "Have you bee researching this?" iasked. No, he hadn't. Then when it came out that neither of us were sure that we really wanted to continue to be teachers, he started going on and on about how great a job teaching is. (Mostly the standard tripe: short days, summers off, etc.) Yes, we knew this stuff. We also knew about the drawbacks, because we were, after all, teaching. Had he been a teacher? No, he hadn't.
It was pretty funny.
Would one of you searchers please explain why almost half of my hits come from people searching for "Dona Nobis Pacem"? I mean, yes, it is in the blog header, but that doesn't explain it for me. After all, Irving Place doesn't even show up on the first page of search results. Sometimes it doesn't even show up till the third, and even then it is at the bottom of the page. What makes you go past 10 or more really good search results like this or this or this or this or this or this or.... Why go to the 47th result?
I've already had it with the snow (especially since Tenney Park still doesn't seem to be open for skating) yet I'm really hoping for a snow day tomorrow.
Friday evening, I was working on the retail chain gang when a well-dressed older women walked in, straight up to the counter, and began an irate tirade. She slapped down a receipt from 11/28/05 with two $3.95 items among the purchases. She strormily told us that she had been charged twice for the same item and that she wanted her money back. She also raged about how horrible the "girl" was that served her, because she hadn't gift wrapped the item prettily enough (note" we are not supposed to gift wrap, so she was already going above and beyond for this woman). "I hope she's not still working here anymore."
Well, to begin with, I was amazed that someone would start out so angry about this matter. Generally, people explain politely and only get upset if things don't go their way. For another thing, the purchase had been made almost two weeks before, but the woman hadn't so much as called us about it. This put me on alert.
We politely apologized for the error and explained to the woman that we could not give cash refunds. We could give her $3.95 in store credit, or she could come back any weekday before 5PM and talk to our manager about the situation. "That's illegal!! I want my money back" the woman trumpetted.
"Ma'am," I told her pleasantly, "If you will wait a moment, I can call my manager right now." Ordinarily I wouldn't call her cell phone for a customer complaint, but this looked like it would get out of hand. While I was on the phone, the women continued to loudly and rudely complain to my co-workers and the store in general. She repeated her story to both M and R, and then insisted that R write her a check for the money. She also saw another customer making a purchase and pointed out that that was the item for which she had been double billed.
Now this really rang false. Not only was there no way in hell she could have gotten that particular item for $3.95, but it was classified as an entirely different catagory as the one on her receipt. (She had two non-taxable $3.95 items, while this more expensive item was also definitely taxable.)
As she haranged the other employees, my manager agreed with the two options I had presented: store credit or return while the manager was on duty. The woman went ballistic when I informed her of this. She couldn't get back in here! The manager should be on duty right now since it was the holidays! This was illegal! She then told me that I should give her four dollars of my own money and get the manager to reimburse me. I restated my position as politely and pleasantly as I could, in a tone that indicated that this was final.
She charged out of the store making threats about illegality and complaining to higher authority. A few minutes later, the mall customer service called and explained to me that the woman had told them what had happened, and that we needed to deal with it. She said she was sending the woman back over. We stealed ourselves to politely face another blast and draw a line in the sand, but the harridan did not return. The mall CSR called back and apologized to us for being so harsh. "I'm sorry about that, but she was standing right there and I had to do something to get her to go away."
The Choral Union concerts were this weekend. They went off beautifully. This means that I am free from Monday night rehearsals until around MLK Jr. Day. I was also not scheduled for work at my retail job tonight. I worked a 40% day at a middle school from 1-2:40. Altogether, this meant that for the first time in weeks I really had time to get things done.
I got to sleep in until 11. My laundry and dishes are clean. I've made both rice pudding and chocolate chip cookies. I stopped at the store for milk and bananas (all the groceries I can afford till Friday, hence the baking). I had a telephone interview for a job that I may want, which lead to the promise of an in-person, on-site second interview. I made a few of the many, many phone calls I owe. (Not all, I still owe several people calls. I may get to them all before the end of the year, but I'm not going to push my luck.) I got my Christmas tree up and decorated with my usual strange assortment or ornaments. I started putting things in order for several upcoming art shows in which I plan to participate. I entered a few contests. I read a bit. I listened to some music and danced about. All in all, it was nice.
I still haven't answered all of my email or written all of the blog entries that I have been planning. There are still a few messy spots in my apartment that need tending. I have not applied for any new jobs. Many of my plants need tending to and I managed to destroy my large tea pot. (I had carelessly rested it on top of a burner and more carelessly turned that burner on by mistake, rather than the burner that the kettle was on. The high heat caused the enamal to melt and crack. I'll still use it as a watering can for the neglected plants, but tea it will know no mare.) And there are those phone calls I still need to make. It is almost midnight, and so time for sleep.
I am going to relish the time I had and the things I did and leave the worrying about other things for later. I'll have to work retail the next few nights, so there is no point in working myself into a tizzy. If I haven't done it yet, it will keep.
I've just realized that we are already 10 days into December and Advent, and I am hardly Christmassy yet. I haven't gotten myself a tree. I don't have a paper chain. My advent calendar is still in the back room. There has been no cookie baking.
Most of my energy has been going towards both of my jobs, and considering that one of those is in retail, it requires a lot of energy right now. However, I think I can gear up a bit in the next two weeks. Next Sunday I am going to see the Nutcracker at Overture, so that might help.
I've been having some fascinatingly wack dreams lately. One from the other night involved canoeing down a freeway against the traffic (the cars were driving at freeway speeds wit water up to their windshields). It was pretty crazy yet cool.
Last night involved my accidentally joining a cult. I wasn't trying to join, just to get information on it. However, it was like when you press the wrong number in a telephone menu, or accidentally hit the wrong button on your computer. "No! I meant 3, no 4!"
The people in the cult thought they I really wanted to be one of them, and that I meant to join them. Their contract involved sending assassins after me if I left them. Naturally, the main part of the dream involved my trying to get away from them. Part of it involved doing laundry. (Go figure.)
It was the sort of dream where I woke up with a bit of a start (five minutes before my alarm, dammit) and was very relieved to find that it was just a dream.
Tonight I went roller skating for the first time in over 15 years. When I was a kid I roller skated all the time. First I had a couple pairs of old fashioned metal skates that would clip onto your shoes with a skate key. (I haven't seen them since Irving Place, but I do hope they are in a box some where.) Then I got a pair of boot skates--white with a bit of rainbow and a red toe stop.
I used to skate round and around the dining room table or around the block. Occasionally I would go to Wisconsin Skate University for a skating party with the church/school youth group. The last time I was there...the last time I skated, was in the week before my very first week of high school. It was the freshman mixer, where I met the boy from my homeroom on whom I would have a hopeless and stupid crush for a couple of years.
This evening's skating was the annual Big Brothers Big Sisters skating party at Fast Forward. The rink was very much like what I remembered of Skate University, including the shabby decor and the loud pop music. I was there with my Little and we very gamely made our way around the rink.
I was pleased to find that my skills can back to me quite quickly, probably as a result of my yearly ice skating. My Little was a little shakier, but she did very well and gained confidence with every circuit. There was quite a range of ages and abilities on the floor and there were frequent spills, collisions, and pile-ups. Still, no one got hurt, as far as I could see, and everyone stayed civil and took it in the spirit of fun. To be true, there was some rude and aggressive skating from some of the faster skaters, but it was never frightening, just annoying.
We both had quite a bit of fun and have decided to go roller skating again sometime. In the meantime, I'm keeping my eye on the Tenney Park ice.
* bonus points for identifying the quote