Sunday, May 28, 2023

In The Cards - Yet Again

Besieged by the regular frustrations and self-doubt, I felt compelled to try another tarot reading. Just what am I doing wrong? This isn't what I had planned! Maybe I should have read the small print? Have a let people down?

I dug out the Vertigo Tarot set again, with its Dave McKean artwork, and gave the cards a shuffle. Aren't you supposed to wait a while between readings? I Googled. I remember that you weren't supposed to have a major reading within six months, but checking Google that all seems to be out the window. Three months seems to be okay, and it's been just over three months. 

Time to shuffle the cards. I love the Vertigo Tarot, though the cards are slightly oversized and shuffling is a little tricky. But you have to work for it don't you? Everything in life is a little bit of a struggle? Okay, I think I'm done. Final cut of the cards, and it's traditional Celtic Cross layout time.

1) - Four of Pentacles (Reversed) - This represents me in my current situation. Last time it said I was coming to a realisation and needed to make a decision. This card, the Four of Pentacles in its reversed position means I'm letting things go. I'm losing my concern over some material things, and letting things go. Of course, there are some things I don't want to let go of, there are still some thing I'm hoping for, but they seem to get further and further away every day. Maybe I'm realising that some of these are just not achievable and I should just resign myself to my fate.

2) - Five of Swords - this crosses the first card, and represents what's holding me back, my immediate obstacles. Before, it was my reluctance to leave the house. Now it just seems that I'm defeated. Depressed, shamed, and silent. The card represents a situation where I feel like I can't speak out, to make myself heard.

3) - Nine of Cups - This is my past, and the basis of my current situation. This card represents my desire for perfection in art. Seems about right. I can get bogged down wanting things to be absolutely perfect. It does slow me down a bit, but I'd rather things were right?

4) - IV: The Emperor (Reversed) - This again is my past, or rather what is recently behind me. The reversed Major Arcana card, The Emperor, signifies discovering who is pulling the strings, and what is undermining my plans. 

5) - VI: The Lovers (Reversed) - This is my present. Before I was full of optimism and belief, and activity. This time it's signifying a need to rebel, there's an opposition going on and I feel like to need to strike back. Ominous!

6) - Three of Wands - this is my future. My previous reading said I was going to be dishonest to myself and fool myself over the situation. This time it signifies power, independence, divisions between people, exploring, making heroic actions or even a sacrifice. Sounds even more drastic. 

Up the side of the Celtic Cross are four more cards...

7) - Five of Cups (Reversed) - this represents my attitude. A bit more positive than last time, this says that I'm understanding, have a fresh hope, appreciating what I do have and looking forward to something new and hopeful. I'm full of hope. Whether it ever happens or not is something else, but you gotta hope, right?

8) - Six of Pentacles - This represents my surroundings, my current environment. The card says it's all about sharing, people helping each other, and receiving help. I'm very open to that. If anyone feels like they can steer me in the right direction, please let me know.

9) - Nine of Wands (Reversed) - this is all about my hopes and dreams. Last one signified a change in direction, but that never came. This time it says my hopes and dreams, my inner thoughts, are all about confinement, confusion, and needing to take a fresh look at things. 

10) - Ace of Cups (Reversed) - and finally, the last card represents the overall outcome. This card says that emotions are strong, troubled, with a level of sadness, and that I need to work at it. Jeez, I guess I asked for that. But I can foresee without the need for the cards that things are going to require a lot of work over the next couple of months...

I put the cards away, and the interpretation guide book. and look at my notes. Did that help? I don't think so, but it's scarily accurate again. 

Until next post, which may be about the next in my video games series or building up to the 10th anniversary of #RPGaDAY...

Stay safe. 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Go Play Your Video Game (Part 2)

 A couple of weeks ago I did little piece about the first video game that really made an impact on me. Since then, I've had real trouble trying to work out what would come next? I mean, I played a LOT of video games in my youth. 

The arcades on the seafront took up a lot of my time, with the addition to games like Galaga, Defender, Tempest, and Missile Command getting my full attention. My brother-in-law was just as hooked to some of these, especially Galaga and Phoenix. But when Gauntlet happened, my D&D group were particularly obsessed. The evenings seemed to be spent watching the D&D group play Gauntlet in Pastimes amusements, with the dulcet tones of 'Elf shot the food' echoing around the place. 

But video games were the big thing, and it was only a matter of time before you could take these games home. A few of my friends had Atari VCS machines (Atari 2600), with their iconic 'fake wood' bit at the front, and the joystick controller with a single red button. I got one later thanks to my parents, and soon I was blasting those space invaders at home on the b/w TV in the 'front room'. 

My cartridge of choice in those days was Berzerk, with the little robots running around the maze, but the one that really amazed me was Warlords. Such a simple little game which is basically four-way Breakout. Each player had a 'castle' which was just a few rows of coloured bricks around a 'crown' and you had a shield you could move around like the Breakout bat. You bounced a ball back at the other castles, to knock down their walls and hit their warlord. Really simple game that you used a paddle controller, but it was the first game I played with four players (even before those Gauntlet days), and it was just really cool. 

Sorry, wasn't a very exciting post this time... 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Go Play Your Video Game (Part 1)

Remember Covid? Jeez, everyone seems to be acting like it's all over now, but looking back on my blog it was a great motivator for writing blog posts. To stop myself from going a little mad during lockdown I took it upon myself to blog about everything I could imagine...

The 20 albums that shaped me...

The 7 TTRPGs that shaped me...

The 10 TV Shows that shaped me... (surprised I managed to limit myself to 10)

The 14 Comics that shaped me...

The 24 Movies that made me...

and the 10 Books that hooked me...

It was fun, and kept my mind occupied during the dark times, and got me back into the habit of writing when I was just really wanting to sit in a corner and hide. And I really want to get back into the habit of blogging - though with a dayjob that is sitting on the computer all day looking at words it can be hard to be motivated to write about other stuff.

So what to write about? I pondered this for a long time, and I had a sudden moment of realisation. I was using blogging as something to do while my wife is hogging the TV playing The Witcher 3, and I realised, I hadn't looked at video games. 

Video games were a HUGE part of my life until a couple of years ago when I realised (a) I was rubbish at them, and (b) I don't really have too much time to sink into playing them. But maybe, just maybe, doing a retrospective of video games that had some sort of impact on me will get me motivated not only into writing the blog, but also possibly picking up a controller once again and playing a game...

So here goes:

Go Play Your Video Game (Part 1) - Invaders from Space

I grew up in a seaside town in Yorkshire. It's weird, I spent the first twenty-odd years of my life thinking it was tiny and boring, and I was desperate to leave (while simultaneously being terrified of going anywhere else). Now, after thirty years away, all I really want to do is move back to that quiet, to the seaside, to the familiarity and safety. 

Anyway, being at the seaside in the seventies there were the usual seaside attractions. There was a helter-skelter, some little cars that went around on a wooden track like a giant Scalextric, a boating pool, and a couple of amusement arcades. Of course, in the seventies they were mostly those penny-drop machines like that Tipping Point quiz, one-armed bandits, fruit machines, and those things that read your palm and printed out your fortune.

I have a very weird recollection about some buzz at school that there was a new type of game in the amusements, and discovering the little huddle of kids standing around the now iconic cabinet, and the resonating *thump* *thump* noise as the little aliens advanced on the city below...

Space Invaders was revolutionary at the time, and so many 10ps were pumped into that machine. Weird thing is, while it was possibly my first video game I'd played, I was never a huge fan. I just already had a bit of an addiction to video games. 

Before I ever got a home console, I had the Grandstand Invaders from Space game, a little (I say little, it was huge) electronic game that tried hard to simulate the Space Invaders experience with its tiny, tiny, tiny display...

And then, along came the Atari VCS and its Space Invaders cartridge with it 112 game variants (including invisible aliens if I remember correctly)... 
I played the heck out of that (not the invisible one, that was reeeeaaally hard). 

Anyway, that was the first video game I remember playing, all those many, many years ago. I'm going to have to ponder really hard about what the next one will be!

Until next time, stay safe and stay multiclassy. 

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Reopening The Files

There has been a bit of buzz circling the interwebs this week after a radio interview announced a return of my favourite TV series...

2023 marks the 30th Anniversary of The X-Files, a show I have loved from the moment that title card came on screen on that very first episode. I've written about my love for the series multiple times on this blog, most recently in February when I finished my complete rewatch. However, this week saw the 30th Anniversary of filming start in Vancouver, and CBC radio show, 'On The Coast with Gloria Macarenko' marked the anniversary of filming with an interview with X-Files creator Chris Carter.

I don't think anyone was expecting him to come out with the revelation that he'd been in talks with Black Panther director Ryan Coogler about a 'remount' of The X-Files with a diverse cast.

You can hear the segment from the station here:

The internet immediately jumped on this, and there have been many stories running about exactly what this means? The word 'remount' is an odd choice, and a lot of the websites are reading this as 'reboot'. I'm sure if Chris Carter meant reboot he'd have used that word. 

In my head, I have a vision for the future of The X-Files... and let me just say that I have no input whatsoever, and have no insight into what's to come. However, I'd love to see the new X-Files be a continuation of what's come before. 

As many have said online, The X-Files really is made by Mulder and Scully, and there's a great opportunity to have the story of the conspiracies, the invasion, the weirdness, continue and not dismiss Mulder and Scully's impact on the story. Have new agents assigned to the X-Files, but continue some of the themes and investigations. Mulder could be the new Deep Throat, uncovering cases and stories while not actually working at the FBI, but turning up in dimly lit carparks to pass on information to the new agents, and point them in the direction of coverups and conspiracies.

While Gillian Anderson has said she wouldn't return for another series, she has said she'd be interested in a movie - maybe a third movie to complete the Mulder and Scully story should be the way to go, to explain Scully's absence in a 'Reopened' series if Mulder is acting as the Deep Throat informant?

While we're on the subject of legacy characters who need to appear or have their stories explained, what about Assistant Director Walter Skinner? One of my favourite characters in the series, at the end of Season 11 (please forgive the spoilers) we saw him being driven over, after shooting Monica Reyes (which was another real shame, I liked Doggett and Reyes!). If the series was to be a continuation, I'd love to see Skinner survive, even though wounded by the incident. Would he still be working for the FBI after all this? 

And where was John Doggett? Absent from Seasons 10 & 11, just what was he up to? What happened to him? Had he retired from the FBI, or moved to another field office?

What about William? Seems he survived the end of Season 11, and his powers were going to be the key to the impending colonisation of the planet by aliens. 

So many questions, so many plots left hanging that can be tackled by new agents. But I guess the big question would be, who would you cast in a revival of The X-Files?

Here are a few of my dream casting ideas:

First of all, do you remember Frank Spotnitz did a revamp of the classic series that inspired The X-Files, remaking Kolchak: The Night Stalker? The remake series, The Night Stalker, didn't last very long before it was cancelled, but I watched it and remember thinking, during every darn episode, 'Wouldn't Gabrielle Union be awesome in The X-Files?' I still stand by that, and still think Gabrielle Union should be in a reopened X-Files... 

I have no idea what role she could take, possibly the new Assistant Director who took over when Skinner was injured? 

The next choice would have to be one of my favourite actors, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Every time they say they're casting a new Doctor Who, I hope it's going to be him. However, I'd be even happier if he was cast in a new continuation of The X-Files. What do you think? An experienced FBI agent whose investigations into conspiracies and alien abductions has seen him demoted and relegated to the X-Files? Or maybe a position of more power? Whatever he's cast as, please let's not make him the villain. He's always the villain in action movies. 

While we're dreaming the impossible, how about Mahershala Ali? I mean, did you see his series of True Detective? Talk about an absolutely mindblowing and powerful performance! He could definitely bring the compassion and emotion to a determined agent. 

So we have our experienced agents, but we need someone to introduce new viewers. Just like we followed Scully into Mulder's office that first episode, like most TV procedurals, there's always a character the audience follows to ease you in. Just like Rose Tyler in the relaunch of Doctor Who. In fact, speaking of Doctor Who, what about Gugu Mbatha-Raw? Far from her days as playing Martha's sister in that series, she has gone on to do amazing roles, and she was great in Loki, and could be a cool new FBI agent from a scientific background to ground our alien hunting lead.

Or how about May Calamawy, most recently seen as the awesome Layla in Marvel's Moon Knight? She's certainly proved she can do action, and was flipping fantastic in that series.

Of course, these are just plucking names out of the air. There are so many cool actors out there who would be perfect in a new continuation of The X-Files. The question is, who would you cast? 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Genre Defying (Part II)

 Last week I wrote a little bit about how I'd taken to watching subtitled series on Netflix (that way I don't get distracted and have to concentrate), and that had led me to experience some amazing series like Bad and Crazy, and Alchemy of Souls.

So many other series I want to mention to continue this, but I've just finished watching The Uncanny Counter, and again loved every minute of it.

Promotional Image of The Uncanny Counter

Based on a webtoon, the story focuses on So Mun (Jo Byung-gyu), the son of a pair of police officers who are brutally murdered for threatening to uncover the corruption in the police, government, and business, and the poisoning of the water in the area due to illegal dumping. Now grown, So Mun becomes the host to a 'good spirit', joining three other 'Counters' who use their enhanced powers and strength to hunt evil spirits that are inhabiting wicked people. They don't kill them, they exorcise the spirit and turn the wicked host over to the police.

Again, it's just brilliant. The perfect balance of action, drama, humour, romance, and more. The villains are truly evil, ranging from the horrible gang of school bullies who pick on So Mun's friends, to the mayor who wants to become president. The cast are awesome as well, my favourite being Ga Mo-Tak, played by the fantastic Yoo Jun-sang, who played Park Jin in Alchemy of Souls. Yoo Jun-sang is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors in Korean TV, though a couple of years younger than me he's really showing up my unfitness for my age.

Just like the other series we've been watching, it manages to finish the story perfectly. The villains are defeated, the emotional moments are incredibly emotional (not a dry eye in this house), and yet it manages to wrap things up with the optimistic feeling of more to come, more for the Counters to do. 

Maybe it's just that I really love these paranormal action series. 

Another one that I really enjoyed was Sell Your Haunted House, another cool paranormal series that was about exorcist Hong Ji-ah (Jang Na-ra) whose business is in real estate. 

Promotional image - Sell Your Haunted House

You go to her company when you can't sell your house due to ghosts haunting the place. She goes in with her psychic sidekick who deliberately gets possessed by the spirit, so that she can dispel it from the property, then sell the house for its full value. Her regular psychic is injured, and she teams up with con-man Oh In-beom (Jung Yong-hwa) who normally cons people out of money for exorcising ghosts that aren't really there. The two hit it off, there's romance, horror, hauntings, punch-ups, corrupt landowners, murderers, and the mystery of the lead characters' backstories - have they met before, and are their fates tied to their parents?

Like the other series we've watched, it packs every genre in. It's funny, heartbreaking, exciting, and just great fun. By the end, everything is perfectly wrapped up, with the potential for more. Is it a spooky paranormal series? Yes. Is it a romance? Yes. Is it a comedy? Yes. Just like the other series I've mentioned, why be pigeon-holed into one when you can do everything?  

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Genre Defying

Contrary to belief, I do watch other things other than just The X-Files on constant loop. As I mentioned before on this blog, I've been having difficulty focussing and concentrating on TV, books, etc. Probably a side effect of the lack of sleep I've been getting, combined with the usual stress and anxiety.

To combat the lack of concentration I've been watching a lot of import series on Netflix, so that I have to rely on the subtitles to understand what is going on. If I have to read subtitles, I can't get distracted with my phone, or something.

Last night we finished watching the South Korean series "Bad and Crazy", and much like other K-dramas I've watched recently it has been a complete revelation.

Promotional image of 'Bad and Crazy'

No spoilers, but Bad and Crazy tells the story of Ryu Su-yeol (played by Lee Dong-Wook) - a pretty corrupt cop in the 'Anti-Corruption' unit. He's not a good guy, but recently, when he tries to do something corrupt or selfish, the mysterious K (played by Wi Ha-Joon) shows up and beats the crap out of him. Sure, it's a bit violent, but K is played as a mischievous rogue fighting for justice and what's right. They get caught up in a case of a missing mother, a corrupt politician, a couple of drug gangs, more murder, and psychological manipulation.

As the story progresses, Ryu becomes less and less corrupt, fighting for the good guys, and K helps whenever he's in a sticky situation. 

[Minor spoiler for very early episodes]

When you discover that K is actually another personality in Ryu's head, and it's just Ryu doing everything all along in true Tyler Durden fashion, it's not a surprise, but perfectly executed. The trauma that caused K's existence is utterly heartbreaking, but not as heartbreaking as the depiction of his adoptive family, with a 'brother' who means well but can be a bit useless, and Ryu's adoptive mother suffering from early stages of dementia.

This all sounds really grim and depressing doesn't it? 

Wrong. It's action packed, with romance, fights, and some utterly hilarious moments that are so brilliantly executed it just got me thinking.

When we watch a series in the West, there's usually a genre attached. Heck, pull up Netflix or Disney+ and you get "Action series", "Comedy series", "Drama", "Horror", etc. Yet this is another series I've watched that basically asks the question - 'Why can't it be all?'

It was dark, with some seriously messed up themes in there, but retained its humour without compromising the subject matter. Absolutely brilliant.

Thinking about how the genres were completely thrown out of the window reminded me of Alchemy of Souls, another amazing K-Drama that blew me away.

Alchemy of Souls promo image (season 1)

Alchemy of Souls is like magic wielding Game of Thrones. Four powerful families, a strange fictional land, and one of the most complicated stories for a couple of lead characters you could imagine. Cutting it down to basics, Jang Uk (played by Lee Jae-wook) is lazy and spoiled, but his father was one of the most powerful mages. Jang Uk has had his power restricted for fear of him becoming too powerful and overthrowing the king. He meets Mu-Deok (played by Jung So-min), who physically may be the missing daughter of one of the powerful families, but her body is inhabited by Nak-su, one of the most deadly assassins who has vowed to destroy the mages after she uses the forbidden 'Alchemy of Souls' - magic that allows people to swap souls into different bodies, but they run the risk of 'going wild' and feeding off of the lifeforce of others.

The whole series is simply beautiful to look at, and at its heart is a powerful love story between the two leads. If Nak-su is revealed, she'll be killed by the mages, and Jang Uk eventually trains to become a mage. The action is fantastic, there is intrigue, manipulation, subterfuge and deception on a Game of Thrones level, and yet it is filled with beauty, romance, and above all, moments of complete hilarity. It's really funny in places, and some of the side characters are just adorable. 

Yet again, it may be a fantasy series, but it's got action, horror, humour, romance... all perfectly balanced.

Next post, I'll rant about how brilliant Sell Your Haunted House is, and how the ending to Alice in Borderland did what Lost couldn't do. 

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Maybe there's hope

Over the last year, my head's been a bit all over the place, but I've managed to keep my brain in gear by returning to simple comforts.

Photo of Scully and Mulder from The X-Files

I've written about The X-Files on my blog on a few occasions in the past, but it's really one of those shows that has got me through a lot over the years. I have fond memories of hearing the buzz about the series from the States, though we had to wait a bit longer before it aired on the BBC in the UK. I was at University when that first episode aired, and I think Debs and I were around at a friend's house for the evening especially hyped up ready for that first episode. Snacks at the ready, that opening text saying "The following story is inspired by actual documented accounts." had me gripped, and by the time the light from the UFO shone down, and the leaves were spinning around, I was absolutely hooked.

As I mentioned before, there have been a few series on TV that I have become completely obsessed with, starting with Moonlighting, then Twin Peaks, and on to The X-Files, Lost, and Buffy. But up there, at the top of the list sit two of those series - Twin Peaks and The X-Files. Twin Peaks I love for its weirdness, David Lynch's ability to just go with it and do things how he wants, and Mark Frost's perfect encapsulation of a small town gripped with an evil paranormal presence. I was so obsessed with Twin Peaks, and I still love it. 

Sharing the top spot of my favourite TV series is The X-Files, which took some of my favourite elements of Twin Peaks (FBI agents investigating weirdness) and created an amazing series that spanned 200+ episodes and two movies. 

I was just as obsessed. I bought magazines, the action figures, t-shirts, the video games. Heck I bought the series on VHS, I bought the VHS Evidence box collections, and when the series was released on DVD I bought it again in those numbered limited edition sets. And then, when a magazine partwork started up for the series, I bought it again on DVD so I could have the magazine. I'd been watching it on Disney+ and lamenting not purchasing the BluRay set of all 11 seasons when it first came out as it sank into unavailability, but luckily they did a reprint and my lovely wife bought me the set for Christmas, allowing me to finish off the last few series in glorious HD with heaps of extras.

Heck, while I was a student, I didn't have a TV except for a little black and white portable in the rented room I was in, but a friend used to record the series from Sky and loan me the VHS tapes, and I watched them in the University library on the VCRs they had in there on my lunch hours. I couldn't wait for the BBC showings that were months and months after Sky.

When I graduated, another friend knew of my obsession with The X-Files and recommended a roleplaying game with similar themes called Conspiracy X, which lead to me eventually writing for the publisher (Eden Studios), writing a new edition of Conspiracy X, and really launching my roleplaying game writing career - it's all down the The X-Files.

Over a year ago, I started a rewatch of The X-Files, and over more recent months it has been the highlight of my week. Whenever things got tough mentally, or I felt stressed, I knew I had another episode of The X-Files I could pop on in my rewatch to distract me from the world.

Maybe There's Hope print by Easyqueenie
This morning, however, I reached the end. 

My Struggle IV, the last episode of Season 11. And my rewatch was done. I know people complain about the last series, but I really enjoyed it. And watching it all in quick succession made the themes of the series really fit together as a whole.

Would I like to see more? Heck yes!!

I want to discover Skinner is alive. I want to see Miller and Einstein become the new agents in the office, with Mulder becoming their 'deep throat' contact, alerting them to cases. Or even two new agents completely. Shake it up a little. Let Mulder and Scully have some peace, stepping in for the big episodes if necessary.

Just because CSM was shot (multiple times) does that mean the conspiracy's plans are halted? Was the virus still going to go ahead? (The X-Files once again predicting real events...)

Will there be any more? I don't know. But as Scully said at the end of Season Nine - 'Maybe there's hope.'

What next for me? I mentioned online that I was going to watch The Lone Gunmen series again (my wife's just bought me the series on DVD as my original boxed set was the wrong region and we don't have a multiregion player anymore). After The Lone Gunmen I mentioned starting a rewatch of The X-Files again, and someone commented that I could watch something else? I do watch other things, a LOT of other things, but don't you have that favourite movie you watch when you're feeling down, or a favourite book you reread every summer? For me, The X-Files is that comfort watch. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

February is a time for cards...


The Vertigo Tarot deck

Following on from last week's post about my doubts and anxieties, and how I was unsure of the best course of actions, I turned to the cards. I know it's weird, but as I wrote about on this blog many times in the past, I've always had a bit of a fascination with the tarot. My dad had a deck, I created a deck that got me into art college for my graphic design degree, and I designed another deck for the WILD RPG that was illustrated by the awesome Gareth Sleightholme. 

I used to do a lot of tarot readings for people in art college, and then turned to doing them myself every now and then when I was unsure of the future.

Beginning of a year is as good a time as any - so I cracked open the ol' Vertigo tarot, my favourite deck, and shuffled, asking what I was supposed to do next. In traditional Celtic Cross layout, I got the following.

  1.  Eight of Wands - this represents me, and tells me that I'm coming to a realisation or conclusion, that I need to choose between a number of possibilities. I mean, that's kinda why I was doing a reading in the first place.
  2. The Hermit - this represents what's holding me back, my immediate obstacles. The Hermit is supposed to represent withdrawing, acting alone, seeking wisdom, and having a difficulty in connecting to people. Well, this is right again - I like hiding in my little house, singing Paramore to myself ("This is why I don't leave the house..."), and yes, I do find it hard to connect to people most of the time. 
  3. Ace of Pentacles (Reversed) - This is my past, and what is the basis of my current situation. The Ace (reversed) is supposed to represent an imbalance, and a need to focus on one thing or one area. That'd be nice. It'd be especially nice if I could focus on something I really like or am passionate about as well...
  4. Ten of Swords - Again, more of my past, and more recently what's behind me. The Ten of Swords is all about intellect, abstraction, detachment of emotion or from daily worries. I guess recently I have had to think less about what I'm emotional about, and just get on with it.
  5. Six of Wands - This is supposed to be my present, how things are now. The card represents optimism (that's right, I'm hoping for something cool to happen), belief (I want to believe), and a flurry of activity on many projects (again, that's right - I have so many projects on right now, I'm looking forward to some of them getting completed so I can focus on something).
  6. Justice (Reversed) - This is the future. And a reversed Justice isn't great. It represents being dishonest to myself, an unfair outcome or situation. So that's something to look forward to, the future is unfair, and I'm going to lie to myself about how great everything is.
  7. Five of Wands (Reversed) - Up the side of the Celtic Cross reading are another four cards, this being the first and it represents my attitude. Attitude? I don't have an attitude do I? Ha! Anyway, this is another reversed one, and this card when it's upside-down means conflict, anger, feeling betrayed. Is that what I'm feeling right now? I don't know...
  8. Four of Wands (Reversed) - the second of the cards up the 'staff' is all about my environment, and what is around me in my current situation. I mean, besides some book cases and a sofa. This is upside-down again, so it's probably not going to be great. Tension, or people having trouble working together. That can't be right, can it? 
  9. Eight of Cups - at last, a card the right way up again. This is supposed to be about my hopes and dreams. The card is supposed to represent a change in my situation, and flashes of excitement and movement. That's nice. I think?
  10. Knight of Swords (Reversed) - the last card is supposed to represent my outcome, but it's also a Court Card. Some people read this is a person that is going to have some sort of impact in my life, whereas some read it as this is the reader and what they are going to do or become. The Knight of Swords (Reversed) can be read that I'm making rash decisions, pulling others down with me. That I'm impatient, or that a big opportunity is about to come my way. It could also represent someone with some sort of privilege who can help. It could also be telling me that I need to be assertive, pursue my dreams, but I shouldn't rush things.
Did it help? No, but it did kinda tell me things I already knew. 

Oh well. Patience, Jedi... 

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Different Year, Same Anxieties


Image of Calendar Page turning...

There's a strange thing that happens with the start of a new year - you have that feeling that something is going to have to change. It's a new year - new you, and all that. Last year may have been a disaster, but this year, this is the year it all changes. The start of the new year is filled with hope and optimism, and by the time you get to the end of January there's the massive slump.

And that's something I'm feeling right now. All that hope of the new year has dwindled, and now I'm in a right funk as they say. And not the good kind. 

I still have hopes for this year, they just seem almost impossibly far away. 

So much I want to do both work wise, and in my spare time, but sometimes it feels like walking through molasses and my free days and evenings I'm just struggling to even get out of bed. 

Maybe it's just the way my brain works. There have been a couple of times over the last four or five years that I've signed up for mindfulness courses (through our wonderful NHS) and seminars on overcoming stress and anxiety. Luckily I still have the mp3s of the mindfulness sessions. Maybe that'll mean I can get to sleep before 2am, rather than spending a couple of hours staring at the ceiling wondering if I could have done something differently or said something that would have changed things.

So much for weekly blogposts, eh? 

Maybe next month...

Until then, keep safe, and look after yourselves and yours. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

2022 - A year in the rearview


Sunset over the street - photo by Debra Chapman

We're getting to the end of the year, and it's time for my usual review of what's happened. Another year I'm glad to see diminish into the rearview mirror. 

What actually happened? 


This is where it gets tricky. Work-wise, I'm bound by lots of NDAs, but needless to say lots of things happened, there was lots of writing, approvals, checking, more approvals, and my line at Cubicle 7 put out some cool Doctor Who related stuff, including a Starter Set, a book of connected adventures, a guide to planets and alien worlds, and we did what was assumed to be impossible - convert Doctor Who for 5e Dungeons & Dragons, allowing non-violent conflict and encounters to really shine in 5e. When "Doctors and Daleks" was announced there was so much backlash it was ridiculous. Nearly half of the comments were "why don't you use another system?" - there already is one! Doctor Who: The Roleplaying Game has been around for nearly 13 years.

Social Media

Comments like that nearly drove me off the internet entirely, and I tried to avoid social media for a bit. Of course, with the purchase of a certain large social media platform by another idiot with more money than sense, last month I finally pulled the plug on my Twitter account. 

It's been weird without it. I still have the twitching urge to sit and doomscroll, but I've deleted my account and the app, so maybe my need to constantly do something else while I'm watching stuff on TV will subside eventually. Sometimes I just can't switch my brain off...


Still of Scully and Mulder from The X-Files

As mentioned before, I find it really hard to concentrate on TV and movies. I need to keep my computer/phone/ipad away from me and actually force myself to sit and watch something. There have been two exceptions to this - one has been my rewatch of The X-Files. I started rewatching it a while ago when we got Disney+, and I've been really enjoying rewatching one of my favourite series ever (The X-Files is up there at joint number 1, sharing the position with Twin Peaks). I'm currently in the middle of Season Eight, and my lovely wife has bought me the bluray collection so it's even shinier than the Disney+ streaming rate (I don't think our X-Box does it justice) and there are loads of extras to immerse myself in. When I finish Season Eleven, I may start again, only going through all the extras as well, or watching episodes with commentary. 

Sell Your Haunted House

The other exception has been watching loads of cool series that require subtitles. That really means I can't get distracted with social media, and have to concentrate on the TV to take in the story. It has opened my eyes to a whole world of amazing series. I really enjoyed 1899, from the makers of another great favourite of mine, DARK. And I've been watching loads of fantastic South Korean series, such as Alchemy of Souls, Hotel Del Luna, and the fantastic Sell Your Haunted House


When it comes to games, I kinda just mean tabletop roleplaying games. I've discovered I'm awful and very, VERY, out of practice when it comes to video games. And I mean real video games. Sure, I play things like Hogwarts Mystery on my phone, but when it comes to console games, I'm pretty crap. I tried playing Star Wars: Fallen Empire for the first time yesterday and I died a dozen times on the first level while it was trying to teach me how to play. And that was on 'Medium' difficulty...

On the TTRPG front, outside of some playtesting at work, I guess I've been mostly playing The One Ring. Okay, I have a confession to make - I'm not really one for 'fantasy' RPGs, though I still play D&D on a monthly basis with my old gaming group. The One Ring (we're playing Free League's 2nd Edition) has been fairly epic, but we're frequently getting killed in it and have recently started with a new set of characters after a stream of disastrous rolls lead to another TPK. It's been okay. I don't feel quite as invested as the Tales from the Loop games or the Star Wars ones have been, but it's been fun and we'll see how it progresses. There are some epic plots going on in the background we keep touching upon (though when we get close, I usually roll really badly and get my ass kicked). 

Very interested to actually play Blade Runner to experience the investigation side of it first-hand... 


Otherwise, it's been okay. I still dream of moving out of the city (it's too busy for a country boy like me). I'm still very reluctant to leave the house... there are scary people out there! I'm still convinced that the guys who fixed our roof were scammers who ripped me off, and I shouldn't keep reading the local news.

I did leave the house this year though, and in May I took to the air again for the first time in seven years, flying to Dublin to visit Cubicle 7's head office. I have to say, for someone who doesn't like being around large groups of people, Stanstead Airport is not a great place to be. 

At the airport, looking at a RyanAir plane

Compared to the 18-hour flight to Australia, this was thankfully short, and certainly a lot more cramped. But, I made it both ways. I think I have a similar trip to look forward to in the New Year, but at least I know what to expect this time around.

Looking Ahead...

With another trip looming on the horizon, what else can I expect from the new year? I have no idea. Only thing I can be certain of is that I'm going to try to host #RPGaDAY again in August - it's 10th year and we should hopefully do something cool for the anniversary. Don't know what yet.

I'm doubting the name of my various pages/handles, using Autocratik. I'd originally used the name when I wanted to do things for myself, and it began as a play on the REM album "Automatic for the People" when I published as "Autocratik for the Masses". But now I'm doubting it. A rebrand may be coming... 

I want to draw more. I started an autobiographical graphic novel... three times I've started that now... one day I may actually be happy with what I draw. Mostly, I think it sucks.

I want to get off of social media, and stop relying on it for everything - but on the other hand I want to return to blogging on here more. But does anyone actually read this? 

Above all, I want the fighting to stop. I want the rich to use their money for good for a change. I want people to care about each other, and the world they live in. 

And I want you all to have a peaceful, prosperous, and a healthy 2023.

Stay safe everyone, and stay multi-classy.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Not so Social Media


It's been a long time since I posted on here, and things are definitely going to change. 

Why? Well... social media... 

Over the last few months I've realised something about social media - it can be a wonderful place to share stories, gain news, spread the word of some great new product you have coming out. But it can also be a complete dumpster-fire of hate, and there have been times when I've looked on Twitter to discover my heartrate has increased, and I'm getting angry at the world. Yes, I am that "Old man shouts at cloud" guy. 

With the takeover of Twitter by that megalomanic billionaire, I've realised the best thing I can do is just delete Twitter. I mean, how many movies or TV shows have you watched at home and found yourself only really half watching it while one eye is doomscrolling through Twitter? 

Possibly why I've been watching so many subtitled series these days to actually make me get off of the phone or tablet, and actually concentrate on the series I'm watching. And wow have I been watching some brilliant series thanks to this - Alchemy of Souls, Sell Your Haunted House, All of Us Are Dead, Hotel Del Luna... amazing. 

So, at the end of this month (November) I'm deleting my Twitter account. A bit of a shocker after twelve years, and it could be interesting for #RPGaDAY next year, but I think I'll be better off without it. 

Means I can get back to posting on this blog instead!

Meanwhile, you can keep up to date by following this blog, or liking my Facebook page ( /autocratik ) 

Stay safe.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - Alphaville

The final movie in that Godard bluray set I reviewed way back in 2016 for the old Geekologists blog was Alphaville. For the last few days I've been republishing the reviews after the legendary director died earlier in the week. If you've never watched any of Godard's work, I've heartily suggest Breathless or Alphaville as your starting points...

(Originally published February 2016)

Today, the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a boxed set of films by the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. Over the last few weeks I’ve been reviewing the disks one at a time, and this week I turn my attentions to the final movie in the set, 1965’s “Alphaville”.

After the bright colours of the previous movies, Godard returns to black and white again with this film-noir set in a strange and distant city across the galaxies called Alphaville. Eddie Constantine plays Lemmy Caution, an American private-eye that originated in a series of books from the 30’s and 40’s, sent to Alphaville with a number of missions. He arrives under the alias of Ivan Johnson, a journalist for Figaro-Pravda, and quickly discovers that the city is under the control of a massive computer - Alpha 60, created by Professor von Braun.

The computer has outlawed emotion and love, in favour of logic and control. Those who show emotion are executed. Bibles in the hotel rooms are replaced with dictionaries, constantly updated as words are outlawed and replaced with authorised ones. 

Lemmy Caution meets Natacha von Braun (the wonderful Anna Karina again), daughter of the man who created the computer, hoping to gain access to the Professor in order to either capture or kill the Professor and destroy the Alpha 60 computer. However, he falls for Natacha, and she starts to show feelings for him - a criminal offence that could lead to her execution.

Alphaville is a stunningly clever bit of science fiction, carefully presented as a classy film noir. Godard uses his experimental eye again with the use of negative film, and some amazing tracking shots, following the actors into elevators and filming from another elevator through the glass as they travel. Fantastic cinematography, especially for 1965. 

The city of Alphaville was filmed in Paris, focusing on the new architecture and building that is a long cry from the loving portrayal of the city in Breathless, and in black and white it really can feel like an alien city at times. But it is the portrayals of Caution and Natacha that once again make this film. Constantine looks like he’s been pulled straight from the novels that inspired his character, and Karina once again brings sensitivity and emotion to a place and movie that is otherwise devoid of these things.

It is a slow and brooding piece of cinema that is not for everyone, but is hauntingly mesmerising and presented in a restored blu-ray that maintains the the gorgeous black and whites, and keeps the cool grain of its source. The only let down is the lack of extras on this disc compared to the massive amount on the other discs in the set. We have the introduction by Colin McCabe, a trailer, some poster images, and a new interview with Anna Karina (under 5mins). 

However, with the other four movies in the set that I’ve reviewed over the last five weeks (Breathless, Une femme est une femme, Le Mépris, and Pierrot le Fou), the Essential Godard collection blu-ray is exactly that, essential. A perfect way to add some class, some beauty and a whole lot of cool to your blu-ray collection. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - Pierrot le Fou

This week I've been reprinting the reviews I wrote back in 2016 of the bluray boxed set of movies by the late, great, and legendary director, Jean-Luc Godard. The fourth film in the set, and the fourth movie in my reviews, is for 1965's 'Pierrot le Fou'.

(review originally published in January 2016)

On the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a new boxed set of films of the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. Over the last few weeks I’ve reviewed the first three discs in the set - now it’s time to look at 1965’s “Pierrot le Fou”.

After the attempt at a big budget “Hollywood” movie with “Contempt”, Godard returns to his simpler roots with a familiar tale of a criminal couple on the run, discussing the meaning of life and art, while on an unstoppable course for self-destruction.

Jean-Paul Belmondo, one of Godard’s regulars, plays Ferdinand Griffon, a former TV writer whose marriage to a wealthy Italian wife bores him. At a party designed to introduce him to a potential employer, he realises he is surrounded by idiots. The party-goers dialogue sounds like fake television commercials and everyone is so dull, compared to Ferdinand who spends his time reading, looking at art, and thinking about life.

He leaves the party early, and runs off with his babysitter - a former lover, Marianne, played by another Godard favourite (and wife at the time), Anna Karina. At her apartment filled with guns and a dead man killed with a pair of scissors, he discovers she is gun running and being chased by gangsters involved in the Algerian war. They steal the dead man’s car and drive off to the country.

Marianne quickly gets bored of hiding in the idilic countryside, and the gangsters soon catch up with them, but it will eventually be their own self destruction that will end their relationship.

Pierrot le Fou is typical Godard. Beautifully filmed, with striking colours, with a feel of “make it up as we go along” that has become so synonymous with his movies. Sequences are shown out of chronological order, and characters break the fourth wall repeatedly - there is a great moment where the leads are driving, and Ferdinand turns to the camera to talk over his shoulder. Marianne asks who he’s talking to - “The audience!” is his reply. Obviously! 

Continuing the feel of Contempt, this one is not a cheery film. It has its moments of surreality and humour, and even a couple of almost musical numbers. But in the end, the feel is that of loss, betrayal and dislocation. Of wanting more from life, to truly experience one’s feelings, but finding a lack of sense. 

It also hammers home some political messages in a less than subtle way - not in the least when they put on a “play” to raise money from tourists that depicts the Vietnam war.

A moving and cerebral film that will stick with you long after the dramatic ending.

The blu-ray is suitably gorgeous, as you can imagine, bringing out all of Godard’s colour use beautifully. The audio is clean and cool as well. 

Extras include a 50+ minute documentary (Godard, Love and Poetry), and introduction by Colin McCabe, a subtitled “commentary” of the entire film by Jean-Bernard Pouy analysing the film, and an interview with Anna Karina.

Godard: The Essential Collection Blu Ray is released on the 1st February 2016, and I’ll be reviewing the final disc in the set, Alphaville, next week.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Jean-Luc Godard - Contempt

Continuing my week of reposting the reviews I did of the late Jean-Luc Godard's movies for the old Geekologists blog, the third movie in the bluray boxed set I was sent to review thanks to the lovely folk at STUDIOCANAL is 'Contempt'.

(Originally published January 2016)

On the 1st February 2016, STUDIOCANAL is releasing a boxed set of films by the legendary director Jean-Luc Godard on blu-ray. Over the last few weeks I’ve been reviewing the disks one at a time, and this week I turn my attentions to the third movie in the set, 1963’s “Le Mépris”, aka “Contempt”.

The previous film, “A Woman is a Woman” was Godard embracing colour and cinemascope in a tale of woman wanting a child, and the conflict with her partner over that.

In stark contrast, “Contempt” tackles another couple falling out, but instead of the playful fun of the previous film, we’re presented with the harsh frustrations of a couple failing to communicate. Failed playwright Paul (Michel Piccoli) is hired to rewrite a movie of The Odyssey, currently being filmed by the one and only Fritz Lang (played by himself). Paul brings his wife, former typist Camille (the legendary Brigitte Bardot), who catches the eye of the film’s producer, Prokosch (Jack Palance). 

Prokosch wants to make the movie more of an action Hollywood movie, but Lang wants to make an art film. However, when Paul allows Prokosch to drive his wife home, Camille changes. Thinking Paul has offered her up as some form of payment to get his job on the film, she finds Paul utterly contemptible (hence the title of the film) and their relationship breaks down.

The whole film can be read on many levels. It could be that the lead characters are mirroring the Odyssey, with Paul and Prokosch as Odysseus and Poseidon, and it can also be taken as a mirror of real life (with Paul as Godard, Camille as Godard’s wife, Anna Karina). The parallels between the movie and the making of the movie is also seen in the way that the producers want a big budget Hollywood movie, demanding more action and nudity, when Godard wanted to make art. The opening shot of Brigitte Bardot’s naked (but not explicit) body was not in the version Godard wanted to make, but the producers insisted, claiming he couldn’t make a film with Bardot without a nude scene.

The film itself is gorgeous as you’d expect. Filled with colour, beauty and lush cinematography. In fact, the cinemascopic widescreen is utilised in true Godard fashion for a protracted argument scene. In “A Woman is a Woman”, and to some extent, “Breathless” before it, Godard had a lengthy apartment scene, letting the characters communicate their feelings, their motivations, and argue. In “A Woman is a Woman” this argument was fun, witty and clever, with a humorous take by using book titles to express their words when they were not talking to each other. In “Contempt” words are the characters downfall, and the widescreen pans slowly between the characters, often in different rooms, emphasising the distance growing between them. 

Like “A Woman is a Woman”, I’d not seen this one before, and it is heralded as a masterpiece of cinema. The film is gorgeous, looks fantastic, and is beautifully made. But the film isn’t a happy watch, filled with frustrations, lack of communications that ultimately ends in tragedy. Godard was making a big budget Hollywood-esque film, with most of the budget being spent on one of the biggest actresses at the time. Godard was intrigued about making a big budget movie, and this really wasn’t one he enjoyed. After this, he’d go back to the movies he enjoyed making.

The blu-ray is simply gorgeous, with a marvellous and pristine presentation, keeping the beautiful colour. Included on the disk is an introduction, as well as two hour long documentaries (“Once upon a time there was… Contempt” and “The dinosaurs and the baby” - a discussion between Godard and Fritz Lang) and a half hour making-off “Contempt-Tenderly”, as well as a conversation with Fritz Lang and a trailer (that blows the ending of the film, so don’t watch it first!)

Definitely worth watching, but not as much fun as “A Woman is a Woman”.