Wednesday, March 31, 2004

You remember how I have been struggling for about 3 years with a desire to play the fabled IceHouse games Zarcana/Gnostica, but am too worried about the spiritual implications of buying a Tarot deck? Well maybe Matt Arnold has provided me with a way forward:

Frustrated with playing Gnostica with a tarot deck? Can't get your friends to play because remembering what the cards mean is like doing tax returns? Is scoring a chore because the three values of cards aren't immediately distinguishable? Then download this strictly-functional-yet-stylish beginner's deck created for gnuthin' but Gnostica, which I call Tarotories. With minimalized graphics and instructions on every card, and no mature or macabre imagery, it might become the only deck you use.

They are a bit functional though - I kind of miss the "mature or macabre imagery".
Looking through the referrals stats for nimrods never ceases to amaze me. Only yesterday somebody dropped by looking for photos of World War 2 hand grenades!

Monday, March 29, 2004

In London over the weekend I noticed the posters for Shaun of the Dead billed as "A romantic comedy. With zombies." The great news is that this project was put together by the team who created Spaced - probably my favourite ever sitcom ever (whatever the moronic British public thinks.)

Friday, March 26, 2004

SLICK: The Sortable List of Icehouse's Cool Kindred has been cleaned up and purged of broken links.
Andy's Page About Homeworlds:

I really like John Cooper's Icehouse game, Homeworlds. I think it's one of the very best Icehouse games we currently have. It's elegant and exciting, it looks great on the table, it's different every time, the theme rocks, and it makes excellent use of the pyramids. One of my criteria for a perfect Icehouse game is that it offer deep strategy while using little or no equipment other than the pyramids, especially including using the table itself as a featureless gameboard. Homeworlds is a perfect Icehouse game.
Text message conversation with Dave this morning:

Dave: Hi Pete, any jobs going at your place? I fancy being a computer expert, it's easier than plastering.

Me: We're desperate for a Java programmer at the moment, can you help?

Dave: I'll be there in an hour. I've got my passport ready.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Roger Scruton in the Telegraph - Why Wagner still rings true:

The Ring was conceived as a religious festival, with the Oresteia of Aeschylus in mind. It was to unfold a world-embracing myth, through intimate human dramas. Its characters were conceived both as believable people and as symbols of universal powers. By following their fate, the audience would be led by human sympathy towards a vision of redemption, in which human beings stand higher than the gods.

To strip The Ring of its legendary atmosphere and primordial setting - in the manner of most modern productions - is to jeopardise this religious aspect of the story, and to give us only half of what it means.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

I went to see Rhinegold at English National Opera on Friday. I've been looking forward to the ENO Ring for years. I've bought tickets for the whole cycle this year, I went to the staged rehearsals over the last two years, and I was eagerly awaiting the visual spectacle of the full production. And how my heart sank when the curtain rose to reveal the Rhinemaidens got up as lap-dancers in a sleazy club. As the evening wore on it was heart-breaking to watch the superb musicianship of the orchestra and cast struggling at every turn to make itself heard through the puerile nonsense of the production. Rhinegold is full of nature music - invoking mountains, rivers, caverns, sunrise and rainbows - but on stage all we could see was relentlessly urban, indoor settings, and the gods (how thought provoking!) portrayed as a family of gangsters and the Nibelungs as overalled proles.

The worst thing about this kind of pretentious bollocks is that it closes the door on newcomers. It becomes a game for insiders. We who know the operas are invited to admire the director's clever insights into Wagner's subtexts, or his witty subversion of Wagner's intentions. But for a newcomer the story is rendered unintelligible by the fact that there is very little correlation between the words that the characters are singing and the actions that they are performing on the stage. For example Rhinegold climaxed with the gods' triumphal entry into their new home Valhalla. The orchestra was describing this spine-tingling moment with electrifying skill, but what we saw on stage was a press conference, with a crowd of photographers gathered around Wotan. Oh so clever-clever, but how would a Ring first-timer make sense of all this?

Is it really any wonder that opera audiences continue to shrink and age?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Gosh I'm still pretty tired after my skiing trip. Running around with a group of 30-somethings really took it out of me. I've been sleeping at least 10 hours a night since I got back and I'm still feeling sleepy. Moreover I slightly twisted my knee in a face-planting incident last Wednesday which has left me limping, and the limp is throwing my back out leading to mild sciatica! I know it's bad form to moan about all this when it was all self-inflicted, and many of you may not have been lucky enough to go skiing at all this winter. Still, isn't a weblog an ideal place to safely park my self-pity without damaging my social life?

Game-wise, I have been continuing with a solo game of Clash of Giants (the Marne game). Last night I got to the exciting climax when the Paris garrison duly rides out and crushes the German right wing. Most gratifying. This is a great game, maybe I can persuade Dave or someone to come over for a weekend soon and play it.

I have also bought Medieval Total War this week. I know I'm behind the curve on this, but I have only just acquired a computer capable of running this game. Very impressive it is too - I've been concentrating on the battlefield game, and I'm just stunned by the tactical wargaming fun I can have with this. Similar to DBA, but you can watch the little men running around and fighting. I would have liked a slightly more detailed tactical feel to this - the emphasis is on game rather than simulation - but it is an amazing achievement. I will be very tempted by Rome Total War when it arrives though I don't usually buy new releases, preferring to wait until the price drops sub-£20....

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Skiing last week was great. I don't remember ever experiencing such perfect snow conditions. My skiing abilities were, let's say, variable, but I had one golden day (Wednesday) when everything came together, the sun was shining, and I was skiing like an Austrian. Perfect.

It was an Oak Hall holiday, so that meant a big friendly group in the evenings, many of whom learned Zendo from me as the week went by. In fact I was sometimes greeted on the slopes with a cheery cry of "Hello Master!" to which I would reply "Hello disciple! I hope you are meditating upon the koans."

I also took Fluxx along which surprisingly did not go down so well. In fact Alastair, who is a keen bridge player, seemed to find one 10-minute round of Fluxx an agonizing ordeal. Come to think of it, I remember feeling the same way when I first played Fluxx years ago, but I guess I have warmed to the Looney Labs way of gaming since then.
Hmm, tempting - deluxe cardstock maps for GMT games such as Barbarossa to Berlin, Paths of Glory, and The Napoleonic Wars.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Phil was home on Monday. I took the day off and we spent much of the day playing Close Combat 3 head to head. We took it in turns to use the laptop - playing without the mouse (using the "attack nipple" instead) was a significant handicap. But this game is a classic, and this is a near-perfect 2-player wargaming experience. It's like playing Advanced Squad Leader in real-time, without all the mucking about with rules and tables. Curiously Phil, who is normally very good at this sort of thing, was finding me hard to beat. There's life in the old grognard yet!
My feet hurt.

I went for a run this morning, second one this week. Only ten minutes round the park and up and down the hill, but now my feet hurt. I must get some decent running shoes I suppose.

Trying to get some basic level of fitness ready for skiing next week. Here's the webcam at Hauser Kaibling, halfway down the run that ends outside Pension Ennstal where I will be staying. Looks lovely - loads of snow and lots of sunshine as well. Makes the hurting feet all worthwhile....

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I put together my Shuttle box on Friday night (as a result of which I felt completely trashed ready for a demanding Saturday at Workshop!)

Delighted with the result, no problems at all during the build. The Shuttle box is very well put together and comes with very good instructions for the build. Because of the small form factor everything has to be put together in the correct order! There are nice little touches like a cabling run for the CD drive cable.

I bought 512 Mb Crucial memory, a 120Gb Seagate drive, an AMD XP 2500 Barton, a black Sony CD-RW (looks nicer than beige with the metal box) and OEM Windows XP Home, all from ebuyer.

My only mistake was to buy the retail AMD chip with a fan. The Shuttle box has its own clever heatsink arrangement so I could have saved £8 and bought the OEM version.

Mine is a Shuttle SN41G2 which includes GeForce4 graphics onboard - I've tried playing HomeWorld so far which looks great. If I already possessed a recent graphics card I could have saved money with the SN45G which is also a more recent product I think.
Crystal Caste now manufacture IceHouse pieces made from Obsidian, Hematite, Aventurine and Jasper. Up to $120 for just one stash!