Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done #10 – September 21, 2020

Well, it’s been about five months since I did one of these posts. Originally, my intention was to write one of these a week as a form of logging and journaling, giving an overview of the media I’ve consumed that isn’t going to make it into their own posts. But somehow, as it does, life got away from me.

Since then, so much has happened, and so much has changed (back then we were still in semi-lockdown in Perth). Of course I’m not going to try talk about everything I’ve done, but I will try to pick it up from just this pass week or so…

In the world of TV, my kids have now fully caught up on modern Doctor Who. So devoid of this avenue of entertainment, we’ve been looking for some other things to dig into. One of these has turned out to be Young Justice.

I’ve seen a few episodes of this show years ago, including much of the second season, but my daughters have never watched it. They loved the first few episodes, but I am making them wait for me to watch it so they can’t just devour it over a weekend. Overall, I think it’s pretty good–a solid blend of well presented action sequences, witty dialogue, intelligent use of powers, and an intriguing overall plotline. Wally West just about my favorite DC character, so it’s cool to see him here, and the as yet unidentified Robin is one of the best I’ve seen.

Speaking of superheroes, I also discovered that one of the Australian network’s “catch-up” website has all ten seasons of Smallville available for free. I’ve seen most of this show and been pretty disparaging about it over the years (often the writing style seems to involve having characters speak to each other dramatically and then storm off in a huff before they’ve said anything really meaningful), but still I’ve been taking advantage of the opportunity to finally finish it off. I’m nearly done with Season 8–the one with Doomsday, Lana’s final episodes, and Cloe getting married to Jimmy Olsen. It also features a cameo by Lex Luthor after Michael Rosenbaum had left the show, so Lex is covered in bandages and played by a guy called Kevin Miller that I actually have “met” (virtually) and had teach documentary scriptwriting on a couple of training programs I was facilitating.

Anyway, I have found it far more impressive then I remember. Maybe it’s just because it has actually done a better job developing and sustaining it’s season-long plot then the Arrowverse. Seriously, the seasons of The Flash and Supergirl that I’ve seen could have actually learned a thing or two from this show.

Of course, Season 8 of Smallville is the one that featured a couple of appearances by members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, my favorite comic book superhero team. The depictions of the three characters they chose–Cosmic Boy, Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl–were not perfect, but still fairly cool, and also miles ahead of the Supergirl variation. At least Smallville‘s Saturn Girl was blond.

Over in comic book land I’ve been reading reprints of Geoff Johns’ run on The Flash. I recently bought Volume 3 of this series, but before diving into it I thought I’d re-read the stories leading up to it. I’m in the middle of Volume 2 so far, building up to the whole Crossfire storyline, which made heavy use of both classic and new Rogues (the Flash’s traditional enemies). Hunter Zolomon (the future Zoom) has also just been introduced.

Geoff Johns is in his prime on this book, displaying a lot of skill with pacing and characterization. I’ll always love Mark Waid’s take on Wally West the best, but Johns did a better job giving the reader a broader sense of context to Wally’s life and developing his supporting cast. Unfortunately, Johns also is a bit obsessed with developing his bad guys by having them regularly and brutally murder all sorts of people, which brings a level of gruesomeness that gets a bit tiring to read. That I think is the biggest drawback to a lot of John’s work from this era (and maybe still today? I don’t know, I haven’t read anything new by him for a while).

In other forms of storytelling, I’ve just finished playing Season Two of Pandemic Legacy with my friends Rod and Michelle. (If you are interested in playing this game, the picture below may represent a Spoiler!)

This took us a while to finish because we were originally waiting for the fourth member of our group to come back to Australia after a trip home to Canada became longer than expected. Then once we got going with the game, a literal global pandemic hit which took up a lot of everyone’s time and energy!

Pandemic, if you don’t know, is a cooperative board game where you and your fellow players take on the role disease control specialists to stem the spread of a series of diseases (represented by a variety of colored cubes) and to develop their cures.

Pandemic Legacy is a variation of this game which strings together a series of these games into a narrative in which the goals, rules and challenges change from game to game. If you finish playing Pandemic Legacy, then your board will likely look very different then ours because all our unique choices impact the way the game develops.

In Season 2, (basically, a “sequel” game, which technically stands alone from the first game, but is narratively connected) the setting is post-apocalyptic, and you spend a lot of time exploring the world and trying to understand what has happened since Season 1. It was a pretty gripping experience for us, and there were definitely times when we felt like it was not going well. However, at the end, we were able to pull out an final victory, though it was one which came with great cost.

For her birthday, my daughter also bought a game called T.I.M.E. Stories, which is another cooperative game which develops as you play it. It comes in a box which is basically all white and so minimalist in its design that one of my kids thought it must contain a Mac product.

In this game you take on the role of special agents who travel to the future or the past or alternate realities to prevent temporal disasters. The game comes with an initial deck of cards which represent a particular mission, which reveals a series of puzzles and challenges as you explore different locations (represented by different cards). If you lose the mission (by running out of time or by dying) you return home, and can then try again with most of the game reset to its starting position, except of course you have the benefit of your starting knowledge.

I played once with two of my daughters and we enjoyed it quite a bit. We lost, which is not surprising, but have learned a thing or two and are eager to try again. The setting for this first game is a 1920’s mental asylum, and in the world of this game when you travel through time you “inhabit” the body of someone in the local area, so we all became different patients. The art and the characters are quite creepy–my guy was addicted to cocaine!–but it was still lots of fun. Once we have completed this deck we have the option to buy others which potentially lead to stories of completely different genres.

Finally, in the world of my own work, I have at long last started working on the sound effect editing of The Hanna Jo Stories, episode thirteen.

This is the last recorded episode of an audio series I started a long time ago with and for my children. This final (presumably) episode was actually recorded an embarrassing number of years ago, and it’s been sitting on my computer in rough-cut form for ages. I need to get it done and so it’s time for some good ol’ fashioned self-discipline into play!

I have also done a bit of work facilitating the editing of Stuck, a short film I wrote and directed recently with my work team. It’s about a guy (that I also play) who literally finds himself trapped, Groundhog Day-style, in a moment in space and time when he is passing through the doorway of his house. Whenever he tries to walk away from the door, he “resets” to the instant he was passing through it. If he waits around in the doorway, he can stay there as long as he wants, but as soon as he tries to leave–by going inside or outside–he returns to the same moment in space and time that he was originally going through it.

The focus is on me!

Yes, it’s just possible that this was in part inspired by the whole lockdown experience.

Anyway, I say “facilitating the editing” because one of my colleagues is actually doing the work of the editor, while I’m just giving him the information and instructions he needs. He’s just getting started, so I don’t really know how it’s all going to look yet, but I’m looking forward to it!

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