Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Random Poetry: Trapped

Right, so: I guess this is a preface to a preface. Sorry. Anyway: my mother died a little over a year ago. Last weekend, my father, in the process of cleaning our her things, found that she'd apparently kept a poem I wrote in the bottom of a dresser drawer. (The poem was in the drawer, I mean. I don't generally make a habit of writing in the bottom of dresser drawers.)

Among the various oddities involved in this discovery: I have no memory of writing this. None. I might have an extant copy of it in my files somewhere, but if so I don't know where and haven't looked at it in years. I had actually forgotten that it ever existed.

Having now re-read it, I think I have a vague memory of the conversation that provoked it and the poem itself. But at this point, I'm honestly unsure whether that's a true memory, or whether my brain is just putting together some kind of backfill/retcon pseudomemory. The biggest argument for the idea that I wrote it is simply the fact that the printed paper had my name on it.

I don't suppose any of that is really relevant to the poem itself, but it was interesting enough that I wanted to make a note of it -- at the very least, just in case I came back and discovered it again, and wanted some context. And so but anyway, here's the poem, complete with its original preface.

An ex-girlfriend once asked me if I felt 'trapped' in our relationship. As you might expect with a question like that, she isn't my girlfriend anymore. Still, the question got me to thinking, and what with one thing and another my answer got garbled up with something I was humming, the result being the song you 're about to hear. I call it, "Trapped."
Trapped
December 2003

What started out as just a fling
Had been going on for years,
When she asked me the strangest thing.
I guess she had her fears.

Do you feel trapped by life with me?
Is there something you'd rather do?
Do you ever wish that you were free
To find somebody new?

I'd no idea how to answer that
Not a single word seemed safe.
So I stood there gaping like a prat,
'Til the silence seemed to chafe.

I could feel the darkness closing in,
I couldn't seem to see
'til I opened up my mouth again ...
... and these words came to me.

Is my heart trapped by my chest?
Is a bird trapped by its nest?
Does the fur restrict the dog?
Does the mud restrict the hog?
I know the news is gonna hurt,
But I'm trapped like a plant in its dirt.

Well she looked at me with sparkling eyes,
And she said, "I love you too.
I wouldn't want any other guys.
I'd rather be with you."

What we both know, some never learn:
Life isn't always fun.
But even when it's bad it can still be good,
If you've got the right someone.
For the record, she's my ex-girlfriend because she graduated to the position of "wife."

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Borderlands Lore from Firstborn

Firstborn: "You know, Daddy, I've noticed that in every borderlands game the intro video always has one character who doesn't get introduced with their real name. Like, with the Pre-Sequel, it was 'Claptrap as A Mistake'. Which is kind of right, I mean he really is a mistake, but he's the Fragtrap. Well, since we were hypothesizing characters for Borderlands, um, the next one, whatever it may be called... I was wondering which of the characters we thought of would actually get that sort-of privilege. 'Cause the mutated skag doesn't really seem appropriate, because what would you name it as?"

Me: "The Experiment?"

Firstborn: "Huh. Interesting.

Me: "What were our other characters?"

Firstborn: "The other characters... there was the mutant skag, there was the person who was part rakk, we had the reformed Hyperion loader, and didn't have like, the little dwarf from the desert with like the bombs and stuff?"

Me: "We could use the loader, I guess: 'Loaderboy as A Traitor To His Corporation!'"

Firstborn: "How about just traitor? Or 'The Traitor'?"

Me: "Better. Not as awkward."

Firstborn: "Actually, now that I think about it, I just thought of a new idea for the loader's ability. Maybe, like, for one of the upgrades when it does its initial transformation on one of the paths it'll hack something mechanical nearby that can be hacked. Like, maybe have somebody's laser gun nearby fire at anything and everything but the loader."

Me: "Could be cool."

Secondborn: "Actually, I think it would be cool if the characters could do combos. Like, the guy with the bombs would throw out a bomb, and if the loader had taken the Bulldozer upgrade path it could charge into the bomb and fling it enemies."

Me: "One of these days we're going to have to build our own game."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Boys & D'n'D Session 5

Short game again this weekend (our attention spans were, let us say, not at their most extended).

We picked up at the bottom of the spiral ramp, where our heroes had just finished defeating a skeletal owlbear. Secondborn decided that he wanted to head down the hallway where the last of the goblins "ran away like a coward". So he steps out into the spider-infested temple and immediately notices that the bodies are missing. Firstborn steps out behind him, and tries to figure out if there are new figures up in the webs - in other words, whether there might be more spiders which have come down, wrapped up the bodies and pulled them into the webbing that covers the ceiling. It's hard to be sure (everything up there is covered in webs) but he thinks there are some new bundles up there.

They turn right, following the cross-passage that the goblin fled down. It runs straight, then opens into a very large room. Like the rest of this level, the walls and floor are dressed stone, and the cracks between the blocks are overgrown with strange mushrooms and a phosphorescent lichen, which provides just enough light that they don't need a lamp. The room has a high ceiling, and there are pillars at regular intervals -- mostly intact, but some fallen. Between the pillars are some extremely large mushrooms.

I have everybody roll spot checks. Firstborn and Secondborn roll pretty well, and realize that this is a village; Beautiful Wife rolls even better, and realizes that this is a goblin village. (Yes, these goblins have a mushroom-based economy/ecology. It's probably why the goblins upstairs, who were almost certainly mushroom-farmers, were so excited to find chickens.)

At that moment, a goblin walks out of one of the mushroom-houses, utterly fails to see the group standing in the doorway, and turns and goes the other way, towards the center of the village. (The goblins did not roll well on their Spot checks this session.)

Secondborn decides that this is his cue, and sneaks towards the mushroom that the goblin has just left. He peeks in through the door -- which is actually just a fibrous cloth hung over a hole in the side of the mushroom -- and sees another goblin inside the mushroom, along with two baby goblins. He notices that even being a baby is not enough to make a goblin "cute", but that they do have cute little baby toes even if they're green.

At this point another goblin comes out of a nearby house, completely fails to notice the human peering into his next-door-neighbor's front door, and also heads off into the village. (Did I mention that the goblins did not roll well on their Spot checks this session?)

Secondborn decides to sneak back to the other hallway that leads back towards the bottom of the spiral ramp. (I really need to scan in the map for this to make sense, but basically he's leaving the large room that holds the goblin village by way of another passage that runs parallel to the one the group arrived through. In other words, he's randomly splitting the party again. Bear in mind, he's only seven.)

Beautiful Wife uses a cantrip to whisper that he needs to come back and join them, but Secondborn ignores this. Firstborn, however, has a pretty good sense of where this is headed, so he and Beautiful Wife head back down their own passage, pass through the spider-infested temple, and cross the base of the ramp room to the far side, where the parallel passage runs. They don't have any way of trying to track Secondborn except common sense, but since they don't see him they (rightly) assume that he's turned down the only side-passage, and catch up with him just as he's picking the lock on a door.

The door opens onto a small storage room with three chests against the far wall. Secondborn investigates (he really was the motive force in this adventure, even though he was dancing all over the kitchen while we were trying to play) and discovers that, from left to right, the chests are unlocked, locked, and locked & trapped. The unlocked chest contains folded cloth, of the same fibrous kind that formed the door on the goblin mushroom-hut. He picks the lock on the middle chest, and discovers that it contains goblin-sized arrows; he takes a few, even though they're smaller than he can really use. After a bit of work, he disarms the trap on the third chest, then manages to pick the lock.

It contains a war hammer, which Firstborn -- the strongest Elf you'll ever meet, remember -- promptly claims for his own. Beautiful Wife checks it and concludes that it's enchanted. And at that point, we stopped -- Secondborn having reached the end of his ability to sit still, and me having reached the end of my patience.

Knowing when to quit is an important skill. It's one of the things that helps keep the gaming sessions enjoyable.

Next weeks: A truly puzzled goblin, and more skeletons. And no, I still haven't managed to re-learn the details of the combat system.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Music: Dark Matter

How about some more Les Friction for your Friday morning?

The album is due out August 25, apparently.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Movie Review: Exile (2015)

So, I just finished watching Exile on Amazon Prime (because it looked interesting, and I'm still feeling kind of broke after this summer). Quick take? I liked it. I liked it a lot.

The reviews I read described it as a movie that makes up for its flaws by doing some interesting and unusual things very well. And I'd basically agree with that.

First up: genre. The film falls under the general category of "Lovecraftian Horror", with both some body horror and some touches of cosmic horror as well. This is a hard genre to do well, because (among other things) it's really hard to have a satisfying resolution when humanity is at best the pawns of vast forces far beyond our control, an at worst utterly insignificant to those forces. Exile handles this by keeping the scope somewhat smaller; we're not in Great Old Ones territory here, but something more on par with The Colour Out Of Space.

In some ways, it's a coming-of-age story, about the teenagers in the isolated desert town of Sunderland -- and by "isolated", I mean entirely surrounded by an electrified fence topped with barbed wire, with only one man authorized to leave town so that he can buy supplies in the outside world. The town is entirely dominated by The Angel, which "fell to Earth" some ten years previously. The adults of the town have all been "evolved" by the angel, a process which appears to grant them access to its eldritch wisdom but also seems to leave them vaguely lobotomized, at least some of the time. (The driver who leaves the town is the lone exception; he communicates with the Angel, but has not been evolved by it.) The children are taught to worship the Angel, and when they come of age they are given a choice: they too can evolve, or they can Fall and go to live in the wasteland outside the town (but still inside the fence).

Our protagonist, David, finds neither choice entirely satisfactory, and that's where the real conflict of the movie begins.

It is, in a lot of ways, a B movie. The acting isn't spectacular (though it isn't horrible, either) and the CGI is pretty low-quality (though this is mitigated by the fact that the movie uses it sparingly). It drags in a couple of places, as the kids struggle with concepts that the audience will already be quite familiar with. Overall, though, it works: it provides a strange vision of their existence, isolated and trapped in a town given over to the service of something entirely other, which can appear at any time to dispense justice according to its own laws. It's both disturbing and memorable, which is really about all I ask from horror movies anymore.

And if you're on Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free. So if that sounds like it might be up your alley, give it a shot.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

It's time you knew the truth, Son.

Me: "I ask you, have you ever seen a more perfect pizza?"

Mommy & I, in chorus: "None. None more perfect."

Firstborn: "Was that a reference?"

Me: "Yes. But it was a pretty oblique reference."

Firstborn: "But at least I realized it was a reference."

Me: "It's also because your mother and I are telepathic aliens."

Firstborn: "Oh. Does that mean I'm a telepathic alien?"

Me: "No, you're adopted."

Firstborn: "What?"

Beautiful Wife: "You're adopted."

Me: "Stolen, actually."

Beautiful Wife: "We stole you."

Me: "So every time you've thought, 'I'll bet my real parents wouldn't treat me like this,' you were probably right."

Firstborn: "Oh. Okay."

Beautiful Wife: "Your real parents are better people than we are. Except we're not people."

Firstborn: "You're people, you're just not human."

...And that was where I broke out laughing and couldn't continue. I think we've been both complimented... and totally schooled.