fringe: shakespeare's waiting room

adelaide fringe: shakespeare's waiting room
Mr William Shakespeare is auditioning some his most famous characters in order to determine who is the most dramatic.

Yes, technically if you think about it too hard the premise doesn't make a lick of sense, but as a framework for the show, it works quite well.

Lady Macbeth, Titania, Bottom, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet all turn up for an audition, perform the most tragic and dramatic sequence for the respective stories and then stick around to snipe at the other characters before, during and after their turns.

The location of this show was both a positive and negative I have to say... it's at Live on 5 at Adelaide Oval, and the stage has been set up looking out over the oval itself. As settings go, not too damn shabby.

However on nights like tonight when it's quite hot, it's not the most pleasant venue, and although there was some amazing reverberation and echo happening partly from the amplification but mostly from the general acoustics of the place, there were points when the actors strayed a little too far from the microphones and were slightly hard to hear (Juliet especially). The planes coming in at various points didn't especially help that either.

The other complaint I have to mention is that this was advertised in the guide as a 90 minute show, but I think it went for just under an hour... so when the play was "over" (I think we may have been waiting for the usual return of the actors to tell us to tell our friends about the show and leave them a review, etc... which didn't happen) nobody left until one of the stage hands came out to tell us it was definitely over.

Costuming is simple but effective, everybody just wears black, modern clothing that still manages to suit their character (especially Lady Macbeth... but then she was always going to be my favourite).

Likewise, the set itself is just the titular waiting room, with a little space on one side for the characters to perform for Mr William.

I can't find anything about the cast of the play, so I'm just going to have to refer to them by their characters...

Unsurprisingly Lady Macbeth was my favourite... she was such a bitch, but in the best possible way. However both Titania and Bottom were excellent also... especially Bottom playing the rather dense fool.

The gold star has to go to the waiting room receptionist though... not just for her amazing facial expressions throughout each and every audition, but also when she gets a chance to really cut loose, she's amazing.

In fact everyone did a great job with the Shakespeare parts of the show, even Romeo and Juliet manage to go from ditzy teens to starcrossed lovers without a hitch.

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fringe: fauna

adelaide fringe: fauna
People pretending to be animals... animals pretending to be people... Fauna lies somewhere in the space between.

This is circus that is inspired by nature, the fauna of the title, and isn't necessarily always pretty... but it is wonderfully controlled and powerful.

A couple of years ago we were lucky enough to see Cadence, and three of the performers from that, Rhiannon Cave-Walker, Daniel Cave-Walker (formerly Daniel Liddiard) and musician Geordie Little, have returned with Fauna. Along side them are Enni-maria Lymi, Matt Pasquet and Imogen Huzel.

Little provides the live music to go along with the performance, and starts the show off with his guitar, which is quite beautiful.

It's kind of hard to describe the show to be honest... there's no specific story, but there are character traits and specific animal behaviours. Lymi seems to be the awkward predator, somewhat feared but easily surprised. The Cave-Walkers are clearly a mated pair. Huzel is some kind of a bird and poor Pasquet is clearly below everyone in the pecking order.

My favourite sequences were easily anything involving Lymi... she's mainly a trapeze artist, but it's not pretty posing trapeze (which I dislike), it's strong, powerful trapeze, that she makes funny while at the same time showing an incredibly level of both strength and control.

It was also impressive to see her act as the base for a trick involving all three women.

And following up close behind as a favourite was the sequence with Messrs Cave-Walker and Pasquet squaring off as rival males. I'm not going to lie, I know they were supposed to be fighting, but it was a little bit sexy.

But it's really not like there was a bad sequence throughout.

I also had a soft spot for the collective walk they do at the beginning and end of the show... it's not big, it's not flashy, but it is wonderfully coordinated and beautiful to watch.

That's kind of the point of Fauna I think... it's not big, over the top, dramatic tricks for the most part, but everything that they do, they do with an immense amount of power, strength and control which is even better as far as I'm concerned.

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fringe: night creature

adelaide fringe: night creature
I can honestly say that it's been a while since a Fringe show has moved me to tears like Night Creature did. And I don't even really know why.

I will freely admit that based off what I'd originally read about the show (and going off the feel of the poster), I was expecting a completely different kind of show from Lion House Theatre.

What I got was a show that was warm, funny, sweet, beautiful and completely surprising.

It's essentially a one woman show, with Casey Jay Andrews capturing my attention right from the start, but she's helped out by the lovely Tom Coliandris on guitar.

The set decoration is simple but effective, particularly the use of a single type of props to represent both characters and the landscape.

The story is the reinterpretation of a Greek myth about the Scylla set in a Yorkshire fishing village and the combination of the beautiful writing and Andrews' amazing performance turn it into a modern fairy tale.

I feel like to say any more would spoil the experience, but I cannot recommend seeing this show highly enough, it is a perfect little gem that was washed up at my feet.

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fringe: razi - mesmerise

adelaide fringe: razi - mesmerise
If the word adorkable was ever going to apply to a Fringe performer, then Razi (Adelaide magician Ryan Osbourn) would be it.

And that does work for his stage presence... even if he does seem nervous or flub a line or two, it's easy to forgive.

I will say that some of his magic tricks I've seen other performers do better... I'm not sure if it was our closeness to the stage or Osbourne's nerves, but there were a few moments where the audience could see the inner workings.

That's not to deny that he knows his stuff, and he can definitely handle a deck of cards, even when I knew roughly what he was doing, I still didn't actually see him doing it.

The mentalism section was interesting, especially because there were a large number of kids in the audience which I haven't run into at previous magic shows (they've mostly been a little more adult orientated). And of course whenever Razi asked for volunteers, they all wanted to be involved. It added some unexpected comedy a couple of times, especially Max and his choice of number.

Actually the number trick was the most interesting... and it's another one of those "I know there's a trick to this part, but I have no idea how he got from step 1 to step 102 without anybody seeing it.

The first two thirds of the show is magic and mentalism, then the last third is contact juggling. I will say that the latter is definitely where Razi shines displaying amazing dexterity and control as he manipulated a number of objects, finished with the crystal spheres as seen in his poster.

As a long time fan of Labyrinth, that part definitely had my attention. I'm not exactly sure what I think about the mask he wore during it. I'm guessing it was to stop people focusing on his face rather than the trick, but it's a bit weird looking...

I'm not sure if it wouldn't have been better to spread the juggling out between the other parts of the show, because it's a lot to take in all at once.

Otherwise it was a good show... not the best magic act I've ever seen, but quite an entertaining one.

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photo saturday: things

beach eggsbeaded critter
There's thoroughly too much shit going on right at the moment, and all of it is a little more difficult than it really needs to be.

And none of it's helped by the fact that my brain is a little too frozen up due to the fact that there are far too many things I should be doing or thinking about and my brain just seizes up.

Work was fairly quiet at the beginning of the week, but the rest of it was fairly busy. One of the additional things I had to do along the way was make all the arrangements to move to a different temp agency, most of which involved doing the stupid ass tests that I've done about a million times now. What annoys me most about those tests is they usually have a very specific way of making you do things, and any other version or divergence from that makes you fail it. Very irrirating.

But I'm all signed up to the new agency and I "start" on Monday. Tomorrow I have to write my job application for the job, which will be all kinds of fun. But I have given myself a reward to have only after I finish writing it. That gives me the rest of the week to refine it before I have to submit it on Friday.

Oh fuck, I've just realised that the inspection that I thought was the following week is actually next Thursday. So now I need to both write the job application AND do all the cleaning I need to do before Thursday while being out at the Fringe on Tuesday and going to see Tink for my haircut on Wednesday.

Fuck my life right now... fuck it right in it's face.

If worse comes to worse I'm just going to take Wednesday off... but I should be able to do everything, it's just a matter of making sure that I actually get off my ass and do all of the things. Or alternatively that I manage to clean the apartment tomorrow and then don't mess it up at all between then and Thursday.

Fuck, fuck, fuckitty fuck. But at least I checked, otherwise I would have been screwed. Although really what the fuck is the baseline of what I need to do to pass the inspection, clean the kitchen, clean the bathroom, sweep and mop the floor and I should be done. Everything else is mostly done.

Sorry... got distracted by my own brain for a minute there.

Otherwise the week was spent going to Fringe things, with the exception of Monday and Friday.

I did intend to do some tidying last night, but a late conversation turned into a late gentleman caller who arrived at about 10:30 and didn't leave until around 2:30am.

Which made getting up this morning something of a chore.

But today was much like last week, in which the plan was for me to go shopping and then do my own thing for a while, then go and pick Ma up early in the afternoon. Which basically meant that I spent a couple of hours tidying the apartment up (thank fuck). Then I headed off to pick Ma up.

I went down around 1.30 just in case we wanted to do anything or go anywhere once we got back here to my place. We didn't end up doing a damn thing tho... because neither of us could either make a decision or really be bothered.

Then it was time to head off to dinner, and then two essentially back-to-back Fringe shows.

We were going to have dinner at the Seven Stars Hotel which we tried out last Fringe, but it turned out they were fully booked, so after a brief bout of indecision we ended up at Bocelli on Hutt Street. And I'll say that they don't skimp on their portion sizes.

What we should have done was move the car between shows, but we didn't, which meant first quite a long walk from Flinders Street to the Botanical Gardens, but after the show was over an even longer walk back to where we parked. Note to self, don't do that next time.

That was followed by driving Ma all the way home, then driving myself all the way back to my place, getting back just before midnight.

And now here we are.

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fringe: blanc de blanc

adelaide fringe - blanc de blanc
Blanc de Blanc is, in equal parts, a chic 1920's Parisian hotel staffed by the insane and a debauched cabaret of flesh and champagne.

Suffice to say, I loved it.

It's not for the faint-hearted though. It's definitely a "grown-up cabaret", more so than any of the somewhat similar shows I've seen before. And I think for some it may be a little more than they bargained for, even with the R18+ rating.

There's a lot of nudity, mostly female, but occasionally male... and the cast can and will molest the audience and every opportunity.

The show itself is a two hour mixture of circus, dance, comedy and some spectacular aerial work.

Monsieur Romeo is the maitre d' and ringmaster of this crazy little crew, and he's a commanding presence on stage... even more so when he changes costume in the second half.

All of the cast are amazing at what they do, but I have to give special mention to Spencer Novich who was just exceptional. It's hard to be the clown, but Novich makes it looks effortless, and his slender frame belies the amazing control he seems to have over every single muscle in his body. And without spoiling anything, his sound effect sequence is so completely flawless.

Likewise Masha Terentieva does spectacular things with a hotel luggage cart that need to be seen to be believed, but for me it was the personality she oozed from every pore throughout the whole show that I loved. To me she was channelling a somewhat insane and obscene version of Jean Harlow... if Harlow ever worked with hula hoops and flashed her breasts to the audience.

I've seen people do aerial work from water before... I've seen Soap, I've seen The Boy in The Bath (twice), but I've never seen it done so beautifully and sensually as real-life partners Hampus Jansson and Milena Straczynski. I mean it doesn't hurt that Jansson is so incredibly beautiful it's just ridiculous, but their routine was just spectacular to watch, especially when she was lifting him out of the water and supporting his whole body weight.

The asskicking ladies of Blanc de Blanc continue in two very different ways with Emma Maye Gibson and J'aimime.

Gibson, to quote the program, is an obscene beauty queen, surreal showgirl and sex clown. Yep, that's two words I bet you never thought you'd see right next to each other like that. But she manages to make the sexy stuff just the right level of funny and the funny stuff the right kind of sexy without it all falling down around her... ears. Oh, and if you see her doing her "I will survive" number, I have two pieces of advice, firstly, SING IT LOUD, secondly, take the maraca if it's offered.

On the flip side, J'aimime did a couple of amazing sequences first with a jacket and a hat, then with a really, really big balloon. I've seen the jacket routine before, but there was something about the way she did it that was so incredibly believable... but the balloon... well I've never seen anything like that in my life.

Last but not least, Shun Sugimoto is one hell of a dancer... he somehow manages to combine breakdance with contortion and make it equal parts breathtaking and horrifying. Plus he and Jansson make quiet sexy cats all dressed up in black lycra.

This is one of those shows where everybody does a little bit of everything (up to and including full frontal male nudity, thank you Spencer), and it's definitely more than the sum of it's parts, which is saying something, because those are some very talented, naughty and crazy parts.

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fringe: coral browne - this f***ing lady

Coral Browne is possibly the most famous Australian actor you've never heard of.

She also sounds like an English duchess and swears like a drunken sailor. She spent her life playing vamps, vixens, femme fatales, strumpets, harlots and scarlet women. She was also married to Vincent Price when she was in her 60's.

Probably the most well known movie she was in was the 1958 version of Auntie Mame starring Rosalind Russell where she played Vera.

Our story picks up about a year before she died, while she's sorting out her possessions to donate to a museum back in Melbourne (the Performing Arts Collection at the Arts Centre Melbourne)... and then she tells us the story of her life.

Inhabiting the skin of Coral Browne is Genevieve Mooy and having a grand old time of it too. As this was the preview show it was clear that Mooy was suffering from a little bit of first night nerves, both from her shaking hands and the fact that she had to call for her next line on several occasions.

Hopefully that will settle down and she'll really start to relax into the role. Because the stretches where she'd conquered the nerves were excellent. Browne sounds like she was a witty old broad who had one hell of a life and Mooy portrays all of that with a twinkle in her eye and many a wry smile to the audience.

The set it quite simple, a chaise longue, a desk, a chair, a coat rack and a painting that was actually a TV used to show various photos from Coral's life. And Mooy uses all of the space, as well as almost everything on the coat rack to show various times in Coral's life, as well as to portray Coral's mother.

Even with the few minor hiccups, it's a genuinely funny show and it was fascinating to learn about this crazy, ballsy and amazing woman.

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fringe: stories in the dark

adelaide fringe: stories in the dark
In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house. And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room.

And in that dark, dark room tonight there were three performers, a cellist and less than 20 audience members.

Stories in the Dark is exactly that. Voices in the dark, telling stories, filling up the blackness with words and music.

It starts simply enough, we're lead into a very small room, the walls lined with chairs and the three performers, reading and waiting for us, each in their own corner. In the fourth corner there's a cellist.

I can't be perfectly sure, because I haven't the notes by me, but I think it goes something like this: te-rolly-loll-loll, loll lolly-loll-loll, O tolly-loll-loll-lee-ly-li-i-do! And then repeat, you know.

And then the words start, first spoken, then sung, then spoken again... and with the performers that close there's an intimacy there. It is a little like being read a story before bed.

Then the lights go down. Slowly at first, then a little more and a little more, until at last we all slip together into complete and total blackness. Not a sliver of light, nothing to see, not even odd looming shapes in the void.

There's also a moment of silence... before the words begin again. Some of them feel fresh and fun and new, others I recognise as being old, old words. But that's all there is, the words and the voices and whatever you bring into the room with you.

In the dark green woods, when the sun was high, I saw a lady riding by, she had flashing eyes and golden hair, she rode upon a dappled mare.

The three voices (Elizabeth Hay, Nathan O'Keefe and Rebecca Mayo) bounce the stories from one corner to another, each picking up the thread as they need to, with Rachel Bruerville using the cello as both music and sound effects.

And there's one frightening moment where one story starts, then another and another and the cello slides into the remaining spaces and it's pure cacophony.

But mostly it's amazing and sweet and just filled with such rich and wondrous words by authors throughout time.

Still fog, which the sunrise cannot pierce, I know there is sunrise because I am a sailor, why else I know not. I dared not go below, I dared not leave the helm, so here all night I stayed.

I've been to more than a few shows in past Fringes that were all about the words... the sound, the shape, the texture of the words, but I've never been to a show quite like this... where it was only about what you could hear, not (at least not after the first ten minutes) about what you could see.

Director Tim Overton has put together something both magical and intimate and gentle and wonderfully odd in equal measure, and it's something I absolutely recommend you go and see if you love stories.

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fringe: panti bliss - life in high heels

adelaide fringe: panti bliss
Panti Bliss is a National Fucking Treasure™ of Ireland but also exactly the kind of drag queen that you want to invite to pop off her clogs, make a nice cup of tea for and setting in for a good old chinwag.

Not that she's not glamour personified, because she damn well is (hello red sparkling dress, nude fishnets, nude stilettos and hair with more than a hint of Farrah Fawcett about it), but there's something about her manner and her presence that just puts you at ease. From the beginning of the show where she comes down off stage and says hello to various people and shakes their hand (I was one of the lucky few), to the point in the show where she just comes and sits on the edge of the stage to chat with the crowd, Panti just makes you feel at home.

It may just be that honeyed Irish voice of hers, it may be the wicked storytelling, or it may just be that she is in all respects a National Fucking Treasure™.

I'll admit, I didn't know anything about Dr Bliss before the show, but, like most of the comedians that I love, she's a natural story teller and shares the story of how she became the aforementioned National Fucking Treasure™. But she also just makes a lot of fucking sense, and some of the things she says about drag and why she does it are things that I've heard other queens say, but never quite that succinctly and eloquently.

Panti is without doubt a queen well worth your time, although given that tonight was her last show, you'll need to either catch her in Perth or Sydney or wait until the next time she wings her way back to Adelaide.

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fringe: hamlet

adelaide fringe: hamlet
In much the same way that the original performances of Shakespeare's plays included young men in the women's roles, the Raw Shakespeare Project takes that idea and flips it on it's head somewhat, casting young women as both Hamlet (Leah Anderson) and Horatio (Jess Carroll).

And by leaving the rest of the cast in their traditional gender roles makes the whole play feel somehow more modern given Hamlet's relationships with her uncle-king (there's definitely a level of sleaze there on his part), her friend Guildenstern and the object of her affection, Ophelia.

The cast made great use of the layout of the location (Brick+Motar in Norwood), with the raised entrance as the stage, two sets of stairs and a ramp. Because the venue is a cafe in it's regular life the additional set dressing was minimal, just a painted sheet and a wooden box, both of which served as various items at different points.

On the whole the performances were excellent, but I have to give special mention to Aarod Vawser who plays Laertes, Guildenstern and the Player Villain in the play within the play. Of all the cast he seemed to be the most invested in his characters, and he wasn't just reciting the words, he was performing every phrase with a level of character and emotion that was just spot on. So much so that when he returned as Laertes and discovers the death of his sister I was genuinely moved by his grief. And he was just the right amount of crazy as Guildenstern. Keep an eye on his name, because I have no doubt he will go on to great things.

In the title role, Leah Anderson was definitely impressive, although because Hamlet spends much of the play in a state of melancholy and anger, I found that she did deliver a lot of her dialogue in the first half of the play through very closed teeth while speaking very fast. It was a stylistic choice, certainly, but it did occasionally render some of her words as a stream of sound rather than speech.

Ellie McPhee really shines once Ophelia goes mad (although really, is there all that much to Ophelia before that point, she's a little bland)... especially the choice to get her to sing parts of her madness, genuinely disturbed.

I wasn't completely convinced by Russell Slater's vocal choice for King Claudius... somewhere between Christopher Walken and an Eastern European Bond villain... but he is the director as well.

The costuming was interesting... especially Hamlet's black on black on black, complete with corset and an amazing long jacket. Vawser has the most changes of costume with his three very different characters (of which I think I liked the Player Villain one the most), but he does some good costume acting with his Guildenstern cloak.

As I mentioned before, the dynamic between McPhee and Anderson was interesting as beyond changing pronouns there were no other changes due to the casting of a woman in the title role. But to be honest it was more when other characters were talking about the two of them that I noticed it more (including the problem of changing references from he and her to her and her means it's occasionally harder to know which of the two characters they're talking about).

It was an interesting take on the Danish play though.

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photo saturday: street angst

blue street smokestreet h8r

street reachbackstreet thug
This week has been something of a clusterfuck...

Let's go through the general weirdness for this week in no particular order, shall we.

My glasses are kind of broken. There's a little silver plate at the glasses end of the arms that stops the arm extending too far out. It came loose the other week and I just shoved it back in place and didn't think about it. Some time after that, I lost it. Currently there's a piece of folded black electric tape doing much the same job. It seems that optometrists do not keep have spare parts for glasses. I either need to take them to a specialist repair place or get a whole new pair.

I have a rental inspection in early March. This is not overly bothersome in and of itself, but it's more of a camel and straw kind of deal.

Due to a series of Other People's Decisions, I have to find a new temp agency before the end of the month... the in's and out's are fairly dull, but its just another level of fuckery I didn't need to hear this week.

Sort of on the flip side, my job is being advertised this week. Which sounds bad, but what it actually means is that I can apply for the job I'm doing and potentially get it on a permanent basis. Which is good. It's just the fact that I have to do that right now while everything else is going on which is a bit crap.

Sadly the last two items don't cancel each other out, because by the time the second one actually comes into effect, the first one will need to be in place.

So now all I have to do is write both a job application and a number of Fringe reviews within the same time period.

I woke up on Friday to discover that my router/modem had passed away quietly in the night. I flicked it on as I usually do in the morning, only to discover that there were no lights, no nothing. Joy! So I went out after work on Friday to Hardly Normal and bought a new one. Then came home and installed it.

It was less dramatic and problematic than I feared, but now I'm not sure if any of the issues I'm having are caused by my new router or the websites themselves (like the fact that uploading images to the blog seems to be slightly broken, but I think that may be them not me).

And then, back in camel and straw territory, Fringe has started (which underlines pretty much all the other issues from this week) and Ma still isn't driving. So that makes my life just that wee little bit more complicated.

Thankfully work had calmed down a little this week, gave me some breathing room (although weirdly, having breathing room makes me want to do anything except stop and breathe, if we carry the analogy all the way to the end).

So, to sum up... generally there's one month-long period of time during the year when I'm insanely busy... and for the rest of the year, mostly nothing. So if anything that's not the busy thing I'm already doing could just fuck the fuck off until around April or May, that would be great.

Today was, at least in part, something of an antidote to all of that.

Because we had our first Fringe show today, and because, as previously mentioned, Ma still isn't driving, while I still had to do the shopping this morning, I didn't then have to race off down the road to Ma's place. Instead I could just relax for a while... which turned out to be both going shopping about an hour later than usual and then taking a side trip to a different shopping centre and taking a leisurely wander around Kmart. And then when I came back, sitting down and playing the latest couple of my 70+ hours in Lego Dimensions. I picked up a couple of cheap sets this week... so, yeah.

Did I for all intents and purposes waste those couple of hours when I could have been doing something either productive or else something that would have saved me time later? Yes. Do I care? No.

Eventually I got ready and went to pick Ma up. And it's not even like we did anything at her end, so it was literally just drive all the way there, turn around and come back again.

We had talked about doing something slightly more interesting either on the way back or when we got back here, but really, there wasn't anything we wanted or needed to do, so we just hung out here for a bit and then headed down to Norwood for dinner at Grill'd before the first Fringe show of the season (more on that later).

And then I drove Ma all the way home, turned around and came back again.

I will spare a quick blessing for the Acquisitions Incorporated podcasts which are currently what I'm mainlining and do a good job of keeping me entertained going up and down the road.

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movies: hidden figures

hidden figures: meet the women you don't know, behind the mission you do
Hidden Figures is the "based on a true story" story of three African American women who worked for NASA doing the calculations that got the first American into space.

And it's an amazing movie... it also had me from essentially the very first scene.

The three women, Katherine Gobel (played by Taraji Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (played by Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe) take on various roles in NASA, but the majority of the focus is on Gobel, her work on the Mercury 7 project and her relationships with both her co-workers, the reality of the world in the USA in 1961 and with her family.

Henson is amazing in the role, and she makes Gobel a fully rounded character who is amazing at what she does. Spencer seemed to have been a little forgotten until the second half of the movie, but that's when she gets a chance to shine, and I was incredibly impressed with Monáe (to be honest, I didn't realise or remember that it was her until the end credits) who more than holds her own against the powerhouses of Henson and Spencer.

I'm not generally a Kevin Costner fan, but he definitely won me over in this role, being just the right combination of curmudgeon and hero that he needed to be. Again, he's a fully rounded character with some definite nuances even though we learn almost nothing about him beyond who he is in the office.

Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons act mostly as foils for Spencer and Henson respectively, with varying degrees of both casual and explicit racism and sexism. Both are allowed moments of redemption however, with Dunst's being somewhat more explicit than Parsons, however neither moment is underlined in a heavy handed, after-school special kind of way.

The other performance that really needs a shout-out is Glen Powell as the astronaut John Glenn. Partly because Powell just makes Glenn so charismatic, but he also relates to the three women, especially Henson, in a completely different way from all of the other people around them.

As with almost any "based on a true story" movie, this one has varying degrees of historical accuracy (the Wikipedia article does a nice job summarising some of them) although that does make me want to read the non-fiction book the movie is based on even more.

One of the things that the movie does do well is make you feel for these women, both when they succeed at something but also when they're knocked down by the time, place and culture they're living in. And one of the best examples of that happens right at the start of the movie when they encounter a policeman while broken down on the side of the road. I won't spoil it, but it encompasses both their high and low points and pretty much sets up exactly where the movie is going.

It was heartbreaking to watch the ridiculous racism (and sexism) of the times, from "coloured" bathrooms and offices, through to Parson's character being offended because either a woman or a black woman or both was going to be checking on his calculations (the movie never makes it clear if it was one or the other or both, so let's assume both). It made me both really, really angry and incredibly sad that those attitudes are still prevalent and have not been left in the past where they belong.

I'm also really not surprised that the entire cast won the "Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture" award at the 2017 SAG awards, everybody does a fantastic job and it really is an amazing movie.

yani's rating: 5 redstone rockets out of 5

photo saturday: signs

good luckthis art is fukt

danger strong currentno stopping
Let's see...

The New World Order at work started with more of a whimper than a bang, but I'm still incredibly uneasy about the whole thing...

I discovered on Sunday morning that my old apartment is on the rental market again... which is both weird and interesting because while I saw the ad for the sale of the apartment at the end of February last year, I don't think the last rental ad showed up for another couple of months, meaning that they (I'm guessing the new owners) either agreed to a 6 or 9 month lease or the people they got in ran out on the lease before it was up.

Don't get me wrong, as much as that was amazing, I don't think I want to go back to that apartment, North Adelaide or the city, yes... but maybe not there.

I actually had time to do some other things at work this week... including a handful of meetings, which is a rarity these days. I have a set of Lego gel pens that I'm using at present, they're square and they have Lego studs and connectors at the top, so naturally I keep the three pens attached to each other. And I took them to all of my meetings, as you do. And usually I will have a pen in my hand in meetings, either for emphasis, or to write something if needed. Only when I do it with the Lego pens, people do tend to get very excited.

Otherwise the week has been fairly uneventful and also went fairly quickly... although Friday definitely dragged more than it needed to.

Thursday was Haircut Night... and Tink gave me the present they'd bought me in Hong Kong Disneyland... a plush Stitch... he's so damn cute.

Haircut-wise, we did the same cut as last time, but went blonder... which in turn made a bunch of people at work notice when they don't usually. I may need to be more specific next time though... I really want to go more silvery than just blonde... we'll see.

Friday I had my chiro appointment, which meant I did the usual wander up and down the Mall afterwards, hitting all the usual stores. And because the weather has been total and complete filth since Wednesday, I caught the bus home, like I'd been doing for the last three days. Because I'm crazy, but I'm not crazy enough to walk home in 40°C heat.

This morning I tied up the apartment, which I couldn't be bothered with for most of the rest of the week because of the heat. Then I headed off to the supermarket.

Cue montage of the usual thing... supermarket, unpacking, then driving down to Ma's place.

Given that the weather was not only hot but also humid, I suggested that instead of just going to the shopping centre and wandering around, we do that, followed by going to see a movie.

It was a good plan.

Well, there wasn't much actual shopping, mostly just wandering and looking at things.

And that was about it really... once the movie was done, we came back to Ma's place and then I packed up and headed home.

Next weekend is definitely going to be something different though, since we have our first Fringe show.

Current Mood:

firewatch and abzu

Let me tell you a little story about two video games... one based in fire and words... the other in water and silence...

There may be a few mild spoilers, but I'll try and avoid anything major.

firewatch
Firewatch, from Camp Santo, is the story of Henry, who is spending the Summer of 1989 in the hills of Wyoming working as a fire lookout.

His only human connection is Delilah, his supervisor and fellow lookout who works in the next tower over. And he can only contact her over the radio.

On your first day he has to go and reprimand a couple of campers for letting off fireworks... and things just get stranger from then on.

As I said at the top of the post, this is a game that's very much about words. Speaking with Delilah involves a dialogue tree, so you can choose one of a set of Henry's responses depending on the situation (and interestingly, choosing no response is also a valid one, but sometimes that will just play a response anyway).

I've played through the game three times (well, all of it twice, I had a problem with a save file at one point, so I couldn't finish the second playthrough) and each time I've made different choices in the conversations... it doesn't make massive changes to the game itself but it does modify a number of Delilah's responses (and where and when she tells you things) later in the game.

The first time I played it I didn't go exploring, I went where the game was sending me, checking the map as I went. After I'd finished I discovered a list of events from the game that never happened in my playthrough. Which is a pretty strong incentive for starting again.

It's also got something I haven't come across in a game before, an audio commentary. There are trigger points all across the map that will play a couple of minutes of audio from the developers and cast about the back story to what's going on or some part of the development.

Likewise, a strong incentive for playing through the game for a second time.

And even knowing what's going on didn't hamper my enjoyment. Yes, it did remove some of the suspense I felt during the first playthrough, but it also meant that I could ignore that and just lose myself in the relationship and the visuals.

This is an incredibly beautiful game... it's not trying for hyper-realism, but it's real enough to feel like you're there. And the first person perspective definitely helps with that. One of the things that it does incredibly beautifully is lighting effects... from dawn to dusk and back again, the light and the colours of the sky are, on occasion, breathtaking.

It also has one of the most interesting opening mechanics in any game I've played. It makes complete sense to get you in the world and into Henry's head, but it's also incredibly simple and while I don't think it should be in every game, I can see it being used effectively in a variety of games.

I would recommend playing with headphones... not so much because of the dialogue or sound effects (although that does help), but for the music, which is haunting and beautiful and so very fitting for the tone of this game. And, full disclosure, I've been listening to the music while I finish up this post.

The movement is fairly simple, and since Henry is a middle aged guy, he's not jumping up walls like a superhero. He has a walk, a jog (thankfully), he can climb onto ledges as well as certain walls, and he can get up and down certain slopes with the help of rope. But there was often points where I would bump up against a spot with an invisible wall and think "he could bloody well get up that" (or over that, as the case may be).

The game is much more of a "walking and looking at things and talking" game than it is an action game... I wouldn't even really say that there are puzzles to solve... but there is a mystery to unravel. There is also a fair amount of backtracking, going over the same sections over and over. Not so much that it gets monotonous (but when I was doing the commentary there seemed to be a lot more of that going on).

It's not a happy game, but it is a beautiful one, and one that is well worth your time.

abzu
ABZÛ is as different as it's possible to be from Firewatch.

It's also the spiritual and literal successor to Journey... Matt Nava was the art director for Journey and is the creative director for Giant Squid Studios, who created this game.

There is a lot about this game that can be said to have been influenced by Journey... the silent, faceless protagonist, the linear style of the world, the backstory told through symbols and mosaics, the creatures that you can catch a ride on, the architecture of the buildings you discover, an innate sense of mysticism and spirituality... and last but by no means least, the beautiful score by Austin Wintory (who also did the score for Banner Saga and Assassin's Creed Syndicate, both of which I've played). Again, this is a game I would recommend headphones for.

The game also makes each area feel unique, similar to the way Journey did, but much more so. Between colour, light and creatures, each of the zones your wetsuit clad avatar moves through are distinct. And they're also incredibly beautiful... like Firewatch the use of light and colour in this game is sensational. There were more than a few moments that made me stop and took my breath away.

And like Journey, it gets quite dark before it returns to full on joy and light at the end.

Unlike Journey, where you're essentially alone except for occasionally running into one other character and the odd cloth beast every now and again, Abzu is essentially teeming with (sea) life. One of the most interesting things about that is the moments of meditation (no, literally, there are moments where you can chose to sit on top of a statue and meditate), which takes the camera away from you and picks a fish to focus on and you can either let it follow that or flick on to the next one. It's something I could see myself putting on if I just wanted some colour and movement on the TV.

The thing that I don't think they really nailed was the movement. Yes, when everything came together and I hit the button in the right sequence, she would pick up speed and really swim along with style and grace, but it was very easy to either be going the wrong direction or slowing to a slow swim for no apparent reason, or turning a complete loop instead of heading either up or down. I also lost count of the number of times I essentially faceplanted into the sand.

And I only discovered in the last section of the game that one of the buttons made her do a somersault in place. I don't remember there being an on screen instruction telling you about that.

The controls aren't hard... one trigger to "dive" (which actually means to swim forward, and it took me a little while before I understood that one), the opposite trigger to hitch a ride on one of the sea creatures, a button to give you a speed boost, one to interact and the final one to do the aforementioned flip.

I'm going to guess it was partly me not quite getting the controls... or maybe I needed to flip the controls (but I tried that and that felt worse), but I often sent her off on a tangent, or couldn't get her to go exactly where I needed her to go.

Comparing it to something like Lego Dimensions (unfair I know, but I've been playing a lot of that), which has both swimming and flying controls that are not that dissimilar, that is pretty damn simple by comparison. This just felt a little too sensitive or inclined to go out of control.

And I full acknowledge that that could just be me being a spaz.

A little like Journey, this is a game mostly of simple puzzles and exploration... and just taking a little extra time to absorb the creatures around you. I don't think I've come across a game like this which actively encourages you to sit and take a moment (or two or three or five) to just exist in that place with those other living creatures.

Like Journey before it, this game definitely knows how to send you away on a high and feeling good. It didn't have the emotional impact of it's predecessor though... but that's okay too.

Current Mood:

photo saturday: leafy

grey cloud, bright treefluffy sky candy

sunlit gum leavesblue sky, gold leaves
It's been a while... but let's revisit "things I know to be true right now"...
  • The idiots in ABC management have cancelled Good Game... I'm still, as they say, salty over that one... 
  • Peter Capaldi is leaving Doctor Who at the end of the year... this isn't great news, but at least Steven Moffatt is leaving at the same time, because the show hasn't been as good since he took over the reins... and of the names I've seen bandied about, I like the idea (in no particular order) of Ben Whishaw, Adrian Lester, Sacha Dhawan... and I wouldn't object to anyone from the Alternative History of female Doctors who's still working and because I'm loving Vera right now, throw in Brenda Blethyn...
  • Work has been all kinds of nuts this week... not helped by the fact that my offsider has been much more off than side this week... on the down side it's meant that I haven't had a moment to scratch my nose all week... on the up side it meant that the week went remarkably quickly...
  • The "New World Order" starts on Monday at work... while it's perhaps not the worst idea ever, it's filled none of us with confidence...
  • The Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony are both currently under construction in the parklands... I see them as I go past on the bus in the mornings... you know what that means...
That pretty much sums up my week... it went very quickly, I was very busy and there were roadbumps.

Today was quite literally a rinse and repeat of last Saturday and the Saturday before that and the Saturday before that...

I couldn't be bothered doing the dishes on Friday night so when I got up this morning I washed all the dishes... so I ended up getting to the supermarket around the time we used to arrive.

I'll be honest, I don't think I actually got all the stuff I should have gotten to make lunch for next week... in fact, beyond the fact that I got lettuce, I really have no actual plan. Always fun.

Then I went down to Ma's... we wandered around her shops, bought some stuff and went back to her place... so same old same old.

She's finally out of the sling after the doctor gave her the okay... it'll be another couple of weeks before she can start driving again.

As has been our habit of late, I hung around long enough to watch the aforementioned Vera, then called it quits and came home.

Current Mood:

the end of good game

rip good game
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of days, you may have already heard the news that ABC has cancelled their video game review show, Good Game, along with it's daily YouTube show, Good Game Pocket and the online e-sports show, Good Game Well Played. The only GG show to escape the axe was Good Game Spawn Point, which is aimed at younger gamers.

To say that I was blindsided by this news when I heard it yesterday was an understatement, and I've had some words banging around in my head ever since. I'm sure there will be any number of people who will say similar things to me much more eloquently, but I'm going to lay out some of my thoughts, firstly about the show itself and my relationship with it, then with how the news was broken and why cancelling the shows was the wrong thing to do.

The first time I remember seeing Good Game was the 2007 Christmas/Game of the Year episode late one night... I remember it mostly because they were talking about a very weird sounding game, Portal.

And I don't think I saw it again until the following Christmas... I think it used to be on quite late at night, and so I never stayed up to watch it, or by the time it rolled around again the following February after the Christmas show I'd already forgotten that it was even a thing. I may have caught an episode here or there, but I wasn't anything like a regular watcher.

When I did start to pay attention was when all the brouhaha started about Hex joining the show... which, I'm just going to say now, was all incredibly stupid and juvenile ranting. I remember reading the introductory bio that Hex put on the Good Game website and thinking that she sounded awesome, and I think all the whining about her was a major influence about why I started watching the show on a regular basis (as a counterbalance to all those "I'm not watching the show anymore" idiot people). At least that's why I watched the first episode with Hex in it... and then I realised she was awesome, and the show was awesome, and I started watching it every week (or at least every other week after it moved to Tuesday nights and I was doing the fortnightly movie thing... but I did try and catch up on iView).

And I wasn't even a regular gamer at that point. As I've mentioned before, I was a gamer in my teens with the SNES, then again in my mid 20's with the original Playstation, but then nothing.

I just enjoyed the show, enjoyed seeing the games and hearing Bajo and Hex's thoughts on them. I dipped in and out of Spawn Point (although I'd occasionally binge watch a month's worth of episodes on iView over a Sunday afternoon), but I never missed an episode of the main show.

It's also the only show I've specifically turned my TV on for in about two years. Yes, sometimes I'll switch it on and just flick around or I know something is on, so I just have it on, but Good Game is the only show that I made sure that I watched when it aired. 

Good Game is also directly responsible for me buying a PS3 and getting back into gaming when they reviewed Journey and I knew I had to play it. Buying the PS3 also gave me Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, and I played that game until I'd wrung all the possible game that I could out of it.

But it was a combination of that game, and the Good Game Best 100 Games show and a workmate who got me into hardcore Assassin's Creed fanboy territory. They tell me that AC2 is the bes AC game... workmate says she went out and bought it... I remember how much fun ACB is and go out and buy AC1 and AC2... the rest is history (even if I still haven't finished AC1 and probably never will).

When they created Good Game Pocket I dipped in and out of a few of the first episodes and it was okay... but eventually I fell more than a little under NichBoy's spell and while I was never a hardcore Pocketeer (I'm perfectly okay with absorbing my media passively, I don't need to get all up in there and interact), I did end up watching a lot of the show and enjoyed it.

I will admit I'm not the least bit interested in e-sport, so while I'm sure that Well Played had the same level of quality as everything else the Good Game team did, it wasn't my "jams" as the cool kids say.

I follow Hex and Bajo and Goose and Nichboy and Pierreth on Twitter and Instagram, so I've also had a view behind the "TV presenters" to as much of the real people that they display on those platforms... and the few times I got tweets back from any of them (or favourites or whatever), I did a little fanboy dance of joy.

Then at a certain point last year when I was looking for new podcasts to keep my occupied on my way too and from work I discovered the Good Game Roundtable podcast hosted by producer and director Lin Jie Kong. For anybody currently experiencing Good Game post-cancellation blues, I highly recommend it, especially the "People of Good Game" episodes where she goes through the cast and crew and their backstories. Highlights include the shirt that got NichBoy his first job and hearing the real guy behind the voice of DARREN on Spawn Point (spoiler, he sounds like that all the time).

So at this point, I feel like I know a lot about these people, which made the news that two presenters were leaving (more on that in a second) and that all the shows except for Spawn Point were being cancelled even more strange and heartbreaking.

And before we delve into the flip side of this situation... take some time to go check out the #putoutyourcontrollers hashtag on both Twitter and Instagram.

Now on to the crazy, ranty side of my brain...

One of the things that annoyed me about the cancellation statement to be honest... there are two main presenters on the two broadcast shows, Bajo and Hex and there's Goose who appears on both of the shows, NichBoy on Pocket and Rad on Well Played. The ABC's statement said "two of the key presenters of Good Game announced they were leaving to pursue other opportunities" reading that, you would think, oh, that's clearly Bajo and Hex. But no, turns out it was Hex and NichBoy. Surely if that's the case you specify which two presenters are actually leaving.

It's one of the things that massively annoys me about both major companies and government departments, and the ABC is both, they don't just tell the truth. The statement is full of corporate doublespeak at worst and pandering PR fluff at best... and I never actually believe the "leaving to pursue other opportunities" line, especially when it happens two weeks before the show is usually due to return. If it's budget cuts, say that it's budget cuts... just don't say "the ABC has decided to end the long and successful run of the show" because clearly makes no sense.

And there were enough people on the team that losing two on camera presenters shouldn't have mattered. They juggled things around more than enough earlier in the year, with at one point both NichBoy and Rad filling in for an overseas Bajo and an ill Hex respectively.

I'm also unsure how to feel about the news that NichBoy and Hex have been "poached" by 7Mate to do a show there. That was one of the most positive elements of the show being on the ABC, they aren't allowed to advertise, so the show was about reviewing the content of the game and not trying to push whatever agenda the company that was giving the most money to the marketing department that week wanted to push. I hope for both of their sakes that that isn't going to be the case, and I will most likely tune in to whatever this new show is at least once. But it's not going to be the same.

Just to don my tinfoil hat for a moment... it feels almost like Good Game was "protected" while Janet Carr was still the executive producer, but as soon as she left then Management axed the show.

It also shows that whoever was in charge of this decision (according to the previously mentioned article, that would be Director of Television, Richard Finlayson... who is leaving himself at the end of March... way to leave a fucking legacy dude) was unable to see how unique the show was, both in terms of it's position as one of the few video game review shows on television anywhere in the world, the fact that it was Australian content with a uniquely Australian voice that covered the Australian gaming industry in a way that no other part of media is doing, it was appealing to an audience who usually don’t watch the ABC, and as I'm sure they're finding out right about now, has a very loyal, very loud and I would also hope a very articulate audience. On top of that the decision shows they don't understand that gaming is not just a niche activity and it's not just for children (which, let's be honest, is exactly that they're saying by axing everything except for Spawn Point).

It was also fairly unique in that not only did it have a female host (well, two, if you count Rad hosting Well Played), but the topics the shows covered got into some subjects that you don't usually see.

And most importantly it's very clear that they don't understand how people consume content now. Once Spawn Point started appearing on YouTube, I started watching it again, because it was easy and I was already there. The same goes for Pocket... why would I leave an environment that I was already interacting with (YouTube) and go to another location (iView) where I would actually be seeing a lower quality version of the content (which may be partly because my ISP doesn't count iView against my downloads, but still). From what I understand, they also don't count the YouTube views when looking at ratings, which is kind of nuts.

But again, if they weren't happy with the views or the ratings or whathaveyou then be honest about it. Or change the way you calculate "popularity" or "engagement".

The other part of the statement which doesn't make any sense is "changes in the way audiences are choosing to get their information about gaming"... which I completely understand in relation to the main show... they're up against people who are just livestreaming the game as soon as they get it, but to be honest I'd rather wait for the full Good Game review in a lot of cases, they have time to play a good chunk of the game and then actually critique it instead of just showing game footage.

Where that argument completely falls on it's face in the mud is the fact that they also canned Pocket... which is exactly the kind of thing they're taking about when they say "the way audiences are choosing to get their information about gaming". It was a daily show, with daily news, play sessions of new games and the livestreams. All the things that that sentence is talking about.

It makes no sense.

If you feel strongly about this as well, here's what you can do...
And I'm going to leave you with something happier... a photo of the cast and crew of Good Game at the end of the final show for 2016...

the cast and crew of good game

Thank you for everything Good Game team... for all the reviews, the laughs, the insanity, the moments that I fell in love with you all, for being your wonderfully nerdy selves... and I hope for all of you the same thing that Bajo and Hex wished us at the end of every episode... may all your games be good ones.

Current Mood:

3 Feb 2017 - Edited to add some new information, remove incorrect information and add some additional thoughts.

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