Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done #18 – December 30, 2020

A lot has happened since last time and The Importance of Being Earnest, but that’s not surprising since we had a little thing called Christmas during that time. 

I love Christmas but it is a busy time—the same as for everyone, I’m sure.  A big part of my Christmas is spent with the missions community that I’m part of.  That includes a big meal with big dessert, and a big gift exchange. 

The gift exchange is always a bit of a shot in the dark, but this year I received something that I’m theoretically interested in, though I haven’t checked it out yet…

I was also helping to direct a light-hearted Christmas nativity play that we did on the day, featuring most of the same young people that were in The Importance of Being Earnest, plus a whole lot more.  It was a lot of fun, and my daughter Johanna played a chicken. Sadly, the only pictures I have of her are really small (my wife whipped up the costume that morning–they were meant to be “suggestive” more than “representative”).

One of the thing that was keeping me busy in the weeks prior to Christmas was the fact that my friend Holly “bought” one my mystery games to use for her sister’s 18th birthday. 

I’ve written a few of these things—interactive murder mystery dinner-party type games where a small group take on characters and gradually reveal information which causes a mystery scenario (most likely a murder) to unfold before them. 

This one is called “Nine Motives”.  The introductory text is as follows:

The setting is the Slackistan Embassy in Megacity. It’s the time of the most revered of all Slackistani celebrations, the “Royal Futon Ceremony”.

Normally, Prince Harold the Happy, the Prince of Slackistan, would honour this ceremony at the royal palace in Slackistan, but this time circumstances have called him to celebrate at the Embassy in Megacity.

Many people would love to attend the festivities, as well as be part of the sacred ritual itself. But the ritual ceremony is limited to only ten people– the prince himself, the local Slackistani Ambassador, and the Embassy’s famous chef, plus seven other lucky guests who were selected by means of a lottery.

These ten will stay in the Embassy after the general celebrations are over, and be locked in for the weekend, while the Royal Futon Ceremony actually takes place.

It is now Friday afternoon. The party is tonight, and the main Royal Futon Ceremony will take place tomorrow in the late morning. After that, the guests will enjoy each other’s company until the locks of the Embassy automatically open Sunday afternoon.

The story gets its title from the fact that when the eventual murder takes place, all eight suspects (as that is the number of players it is originally written for) have a motive to have committed the crime, but the reality is that it’s the ninth, less obvious motive which is actually key to the crime. 

As it happens, though, I had revised the game for ten players (the number needed for the party) but I didn’t bother changing the title.  So now, the title is justified by the fact that of the ten players, nine of them have obvious motives, whilst the other one is still a suspect on the basis of the fact that she just might be crazy and might have committed the murder without a motive. 

It sort of works.  I guess I could have changed the title to “Eleven Motives” for this occasion.

By all accounts, the game was a big success.  This was the first time I’d ever “hired out” one of my games to someone who hadn’t played it before, without me being there.  So it meant preparing a different level of “hosting” information for Holly.

As you can see from the photos she went all out on the preparation—with appropriate music and different images on the big TV depending on where in the story they were. I wish I could have been there to see it happening.

Here’s everyone:

The back row (left to right) is Police Chief Godfrey McBean, filmmaker Talia Tomani, Slackistani ambassador Vladmir Vbostok, famous chef Henrietta van Shneblenhofferschmidtterstein, Baroness Charlotte Jordana and beauty queen Jenny Rara. In the front row, we have the Supreme Game Master / Host, Archbishop Eeni Calavini, Minister for Sports & Recreation Albert Hall, Royal Lizard Keeper Annie Gallagher, and Court Jester Gizmo Gogettim. A fine looking cast!

In the midst of all this, I did watch TV and read comics as well.  I started watching Stargirl, and am five episodes into it.  So far, it has avoided falling into the narrative dopiness so often associated with the Arrow-verse, but whether it can keep up the quality remains to be seen.

We also watched Mulan—the live action version that moved from being “premium content” on Disney Plus to “regular content.” 

Boy, am I glad I didn’t fork out an extra $30 or this thing.  I don’t want to waste a lot of time or words on this piece of drivel, but honestly it’s one of the worst things I’ve seen in a long time.  I’ve enjoyed the original animated film but I’m not deeply invested in it, so my problems have nothing to do with the changes that were made from the original.  However, my daughters are all invested in the original so the changes made were highly annoying to them.  For me, though, in addition to the general stupidity of just about everything, I guess my biggest problems were the incredible amount of ghastly “chosen one” vibes that Mulan gives off, with her unparalleled awesome from early childhood.  Although to be fair, there were also “chosen one” vibes coming at times from other creatures in the film—specifically a chicken, spider, a horse—so maybe that was just the aesthetic the movie was going for.   

On the other hand, it did give my family a certain amount of enjoyment—we all had a good time complaining about it the entire way through.  I even had to pause at one point and ask them all if anyone was feeling peer pressured to dislike the film because they were allowed to like it if they wanted—but they all assured me that they were mocking it of their own free will. 

I received Man and Superman by Marv Wolfman and Claudio Castellini for Christmas as well. 

I’m a big Superman fan so while the world doesn’t necessarily need another take on the origins of Superman, it is still a good book.  The focus is on the period of time from when Clark Kent first arrives in Metropolis to when he chooses to actually don his famous uniform, and so it re-establishes once again the ground rules for his relationship with Lois Lane and Lex Luthor.  There is more of an emphasis on Clark Kent the writer and journalist than we usually get, which sets the book apart. 

I found the depiction of Lex Luthor interesting. Luthor is a successful businessman and overall beloved public figure, like in John Byrne’s Man of Steel reboot, and he similarly hates Superman because the Man of Steel both upstages him as the city’s protector and cannot be bought or controlled.  But there is a bit of that Silver Age mad scientist Luthor thrown into the mix at the same time—an attempt to synthesize the best of both versions. 

Anything else?

Oh yeah, we also finished watching Season Two of The Mandalorian. 

I’d heard this was going to be a Big Deal because of some sort of awesome cameo.  My money was on Chewbacca showing up, a character well-suited to a presumed action sequence, but also relatively easy to pull off.

Turns out I was wrong, and they went with someone a bit more appropriate to the story of trying to return Baby Yoda to the Jedi, but potentially less easy to pull off.

But pull it off they did, depending on your point of view.  Thanks to his big baggy cloak and hood, we got the most impressive Luke Skywalker action scene that the franchise has bothered to give us, followed by the least-creepy recreated or CGI’d popular character that the franchise has given us (which, to be fair, is a pretty low bar to clear). 

However, it also gave us the least expressive Luke Skywalker that we’ve ever seen, so I’m not really convinced it was a good idea.  Sure, it was cool to see Luke, and it kind of made sense (although it brings up all sorts of questions about the eventual fate of Baby Yoda), but it’s hard to say if it was worth it to see Luke as just one step better than a life-like mannequin. 

Oh well, though, it’s done. 

Of course, there’s loads more Star Wars content on its way.  So much more content with everything Disney, really.  Chances are some of it will be really terrible.  But equally, there’s a chance that some of it will be really great.  Because as Ray Bradbury approximately said, if you write a short story every week, probably one of them will be good, because nobody has written 52 bad short stories in a row!

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