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We went to see Avengers tonight. It's awesome! Spectacular, LoL funny , actors well on form, and just exquisitely done.

Dear Hollywood. Watch and inwardly digest. Popcorn movies with lots of cool machines, big explosions and wholesale property damage *are* also allowed to have characters you care about, intelligent (and intelligible) dialogue and a plot with at least the occasional hint of coherence and foreshadowing. It can be done.

So do it again. Soon please.
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At Duple-Time, Brenda Sutton produced a beautiful chair cover she'd made by way of memorial for Keris and the future absent friends (there will sadly inevitably be), so they could be with us in spirit at future cons.  And this empty chair, decorated with Keris's con-badge and picture sat there by the sound-desk through the con - a beautiful thought and deed of Brenda's.

Then as I was driving home, I suddenly realised there was now another version of Empty Chairs at Empty Tables badly wanting to be written...  [Edit: 4th verse now updated as per comments]

Empty Chair

There’s a grief we’ve shared and spoken
But his con must still go on
An empty chair stands by the table
There to mark a friend now gone

Here he worked his evolutions
A humble man who sought no fame
Here he planned for cons to follow
But for him, they never came.

                On the sound-desk in the corner
                You could find him every con
                There to stop our voices ringing
                And give them force and power
                He loved to help in all we sung
                With cables in profusion.
                And he even liked Before the Dawn.

Oh my friend we won’t forget you
In our circle you belong
Let the music ring unbroken
You would want it to go on.

Someone else can run the sound-desk
Someone else can sing the bass
But can any match your kindness,
Or begin to take your place?  

Oh my friend, my friend, we’ll miss you
So in memory of before
An empty chair stands by the table
Where absent friends can sit… no more

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And so we said goodbye to Keris.  We were lucky with the weather in that it didn't rain (barring a very few spots as we walked back) though it was more than a little on the COLD side, the site being lovely but rather exposed to a distinctly brisk wind, especially when standing still for a fair while.  And those who had been fooled by the brief sunshine earlier or just a desire to show off their black t-shirts into discarding coats or jumpers probably came to regret it!

The turnout was ... pretty darn impressive for a midweek funeral a goodly way from where most attendees live.  I counted something like 80 people there which simply speaks volumes all by itself for what Keris meant to our community (and others).  And that was with several other people who desperately wanted to be there laid low by illness (and given how cold it was I think you all made exactly the right choice, however much it hurt not to be there).  It also made me very proud to be part of such a circle of friends.

There were lovely eulogies from Mike, Rika and Keris's boss; singing of "Many Hearts, One Voice", to the German recording, by way of letting his many friends there be here too in spirit; and then rounding off beautifully with one of the NMC's favourites, "Chocolate is a Vegetable", to put smiles back on people's faces.  I could have wished for more voice, a lurgy having quite disabled my upper range (and added a few notes on the bottom) - then again, perhaps there's a certain appropriateness to singing it as a bass on this occasion!

And in honour of the man, there were black t-shirts galore.  Obliter-8 and Phoenix were perhaps most common, but also a goodly sprinkling of other filkcons including Quinze and Conthirteena.  Fun, but oh so appropriate.

If there can be such a thing as a good funeral, then it was.

Keris RIP

Nov. 13th, 2011 09:57 pm
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As it happens, I'd seen quite a lot of Keris this last year.  He and I were both amongst the rashly curious bunch who were letting Marilisa give them some Greek lessons.  And both of us were also in Rika's backing band for her DFDF guest spots which meant, whatever it was, three or four weekend rehearsals for the 4 of us up in Peterborough.  Plus of course the UK filkcon and DFDF and SWiGGLes and BBQ parties.  So in a sense I suppose I was lucky in getting to know him a bit better in this last time we could have together.  But of course that also makes it all hurt the more - therein always lies the rub, I guess.

Which may explain why one particular passage from one of David Weber's books, one which stuck in my mind when I first read it, has just kept running through my mind again and again since the shock of yesterday:

"He was aware not only of how much he loved his companions but also of how fragile they were.  Of how fragile all of them were, even himself, and of how terribly it would hurt to lose any of them.  He saw the stark price of love more clearly in that instant than he ever had before...

The price of loss.  The knowledge that, in the end, he must lose anyone he loved...  Yet it wasn't a depressing awareness, for the pain he would feel if he lost his loved ones was the other side of how much joy he took from their company.  He could avoid the pain only by renouncing the joy and the trust and the knowledge that he was not alone, and building that sort of armour around his core would simply be a different sort of death."

It's not a nice pain - of course it isn't.  And the shock and horrible soul-shaking sense of surprise and disbelief go very deep.  But I guess in a weird sense it's also a good pain, a pain there simply wouldn't be if he hadn't been such a good friend to us, a pain that shows just how much he meant.  A pain that shows just how big is the hole he'll now leave in our community - in our found-family.

Memories stir and race around.  His buying (memory says) no less than 7 black Obliter-8 t-shirts because, well, they were black and he liked them.  Of the way, erm, he could sometimes, erm, take a while to get to the, erm, end of his sentence - and wondering how much worse this must be when he was speaking in German and folk were still waiting for the verb!  Of the fun arrangements we put together for Rika, especially the harmonied Still Catch the Tide and the minimally rehearsed Katzenjammer and completely unrehearsed encore numbers!   Of the Filkcontinental tech desk where there could be a veritable cascade of dangling cables (I have a photo somewhere I'll have to find and post!).  Of the legendary untidiness of his abode and the equally legendary "tidying parties" that occasionally resulted.  Of the tech tear-downs at Filkcontinental as a regular crew would pitch in to help Keris and co get the stuff unrigged, packed and shuttled down to the cars/vans.  Of the endless silly digressions in Greek lessons as our "so what's the word for..." curiosities would be recklessly indulged by our giggling teacher.  Of Phoenix sets where we'd almost feel guilty for the workload we were putting on him were it not for the obvious fact of just how much he was enjoying every moment of being able to tech a rock band.  Of his vast and eclectic store of random knowledge and his delight in furthering it.  Of just how many people he encouraged into filk or to develop in filk.  And of the sheer amount of work, money, time and enthusiasm he put into making our community better for all of us.

I think intellectually many of us think we know how big a hole he'll now leave.  I fear we're going to find it'll be larger than that.  And I'm sure it'll feel even bigger still...

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Filkcontinental was badly broken this year, the worst it has been since,  ooh probably Urban Tapestry's visit.  You see Rules is Rules - the Friday of Filkcontinental must be sun and blue skies, as must the Monday.  But Saturday and Sunday must be cold and misty, preferably with goodly amounts of rain.  Thus it was, thus it is, and thus it will ever be.  Except for the odd years like this one when someone on the Committee (probably Franklin, but if not let's blame him anyway) clearly breaks something and we get gorgeous sunny weather all weekend!  Darn!

Fortunately, we'd checked (if not entirely trusted!) the weather forecast and I'd packed plenty of shorts and t-shirts/vests - in fact whilst I'd packed some jeans I didn't end up wearing them at all during the weekend, it was that hot.  I think Saturday evening was the worst heatand I felt quite sorry for the performers on stage as it was close to unbearable just sitting still.

But I digress - let's try and be reasonably chronological.  We set off Friday, slightly sad as this year it was just the two of us, David and Marilisa just not being up a con right now.  (And we really missed you guys, though we had a pretty good sing through Little Shop of Horrors enroute by way of keeping the journey tradition of musical singalongs going!)  The Channel was the flattest we've ever seen it, to the point where you could actually see the White Cliffs reflected in the sea below!  Sadly one couldn't say the same for the flatness of Belgian roads as they were digging huge swathes of them up - I swear there must have been 20 miles of continuous contraflow (probably with about 200 yards of actual road-works in the middle!).  Brussels traffic was horrible too.  But worst were the next set of roadworks near Liege where they decided to condense the entire motorway down to one lane ... 50 yards before two motorways diverged and there were 4 lanes available again.  Ye gods, what weren't they thinking?  We were stuck in that for at least 20 minutes, maybe more.  And then the traffic around Koeln sucked, as it always does, the autobahns being carefully designed to feed 8 lanes of traffic together at exactly the same point to cause maximum congestion!  Sigh!  But then it's into the hills and the sheer joy of an unlimited Autobahn in the sunshine through glorious scenery.  And one final traffic jam throught the nearby village (for no real apparent reason) and finally we're here!  Having actually made quite good time despite what felt like worse traffic than usual.

Weird thing about the driving is that whilst I'm doing it, it's easy - we actually went non-stop from Calais to just-past-Koeln, a stint of about 5 hours and I felt fine.  (Fortunately last year's back pains didn't recur, hopefully suggesting my back muscles have a lot less tension in them now.)  It's only after I get out of the car that the energy drains out of me and I feel totally shattered by it all.  So whilst Friday night was fun, and I enjoyed the concerts and the chatting, by late evening it definitely felt like an early bedtime was a good idea!

Saturday morning was fun with Ed having been asked to do the harmony workshop.  You see he'd assumed the idea of a harmony workshop was to teach people how to sing in harmony, whereas the first 20 minutes or so quickly showed that his singers were already well-capable of doing so!  And there was a certain amount of probably quite pleasantly-surprised mental readjustment as he realised the entire object of the "workshop" was simply to let people do lots of harmony singing under his guidance.  Which we did, and a lot of fun it was for all.

It was lovely to see Ed and MEW again - It's Been So Long, as we say, even if we're not precisely sure how long, being unsure if we'd had a mutual FKO since her last visit to England!   Was also nice to see Tim, Annie and family too, even if we do see them rather more often, it's still not nearly enough these days alas.

Lissa popped out to LIDL on Saturday and brought back chocolate.  A big bar of white chocolate.  Which alas didn't last very long *blush*.  So by way of penance I decided to walk down the hill to the main road and beyond.  Or more accurately, the penance was walking back UP again on that very steep and long hill back to the castle!  But it was just lovely out there with the view over the valley and river and trees.  Grantham it isn't!

Biggest kick on Saturday was definitely getting to hear Summer and Fall perform 'Goddess' in their 10th Anniversary concert.  Even if Eva had to nag me incessantly and unsuccessfully to get a recording of it to her (fortunately we were able to sort things at DFDF) - sorry again Eva!  But hearing one of my songs performed like that is just such a thrill and honour and deep abiding joy and satisfaction.  And by the by makes me thing we ought to have more people performing songs by other people in circles, even or should I say especially if the author happens to be present!  Usually we avoid doing so, and we really shouldn't, as having your songs sung (well!) is one a songwriter's greatest joys.

Not quite sure what happened with the Saturday night circle - memory says it was reasonably small, albeit it with a goodly number of performers including I think all the guests!, but I think I only got to sing a couple of songs.  Though it was gratifying to inflict my Second Hand Songs parody on MEW!

Sunday dawned gorgeous yet again, and I spent a gloriously relaxing hour or so just sat outside overlooking the valley and enjoying a good book.  [The Black Prism by Brent Weeks - very enjoyable read, even if it's left me impatiently waiting for the subsequent volumes to be written!]
Then some more highly-satisfying harmony singing - as usual we tenors fell short on quantity and had to hope to make it up with quality - I think for the actual concert there were only 3 of us (with maybe a dozen or more in each other voice!), though since Steve and Gary were the other 2 I don't think we did too badly!

As usual I think I did more singing in the Dead Dog than in the rest of the con put together.  This year it somehow managed to fall into a very gentle and polite chaos without any real need for moderation.  Lissa surprised me with a very nice version of Heather Dale's Changeling Child (which I hadn't even realised she'd been working on) and there was just a lot of good happy (and sad) relaxed music made.  Yum.

And sadly off again Monday, yet again to glorious sunshine.  And this time the traffic gods smiled on us as we took the south-of-Brussels route and we made Calais in just a little over 5 hours, which is pretty good going given I did actually take care not to exceed the speed limit by more than  a few kph on the way (there's just too many damn cameras now to gamble on seeing them in time and/or hoping they'd be defeated by the UK registrations plates).  So we had time to hit the hypermarkets for even more calories!

Good con!  Thanks to the committee, tech, guests and everyone else who made it another marvellous weekend.  Wiedersehen!
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Finished this last night.  Which I suppose is possibly my latest criticism of it, namely that it's not long enough, certainly not by comparison with Dragon Age : Origins (hereafter DAO!).  It's also very much my prevailing feeling about it, that it's a good enough game right up to the point where you compare it with its predecessor.

The characters aren't as interesting.  The storyline isn't as interesting or (alas) epic.  The difficulty level, except for ooh-maybe 4 boss fights (the Dark Roads Dragon, the Elder Rock Wraith, the Qunari boss duel and the High Dragon is generally far too easy on what's supposed to be a "normal" setting (I think I went through the entire Act 3 Finale without needing a single "Oops, let's try that again" reload or even a tactical resurrection).  The reuse (and worse, partial reuse with areas still on the map but blocked off with arbitrary barriers) of both dungeon and wilderness areas gets increasingly annoying as you go on, as does the dumbing-down of character dialogue (with it's  "Pick this to be romantic" or "Pick this to be nice" type option icons for the short of comprehension).  The lack of "friendly fire" from spells and the random spawning of later waves of enemies take out a lot of the tactical feel, though on the plus side it does make for a much freer and faster-flowing game as you can now let the AI handle a lot of the party combat.

In a sense, this last makes it a very different game so perhaps making some of the comparisons unfair.  Those who didn't get with DAO might even think it an improvement.  But as a "2" I can't help but make the overall comparisons, and in doing so feel that they've fallen short of their previous achievement.  It's an okay game, maybe even a good one, but it's not another DAO.
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Such a good cast, such a good good cast
An always soundly heard cast
Won't forget their words cast
Lord above save our every note
From a manic Marilisa and her fetish for small boats...

(Do scroll down as needed to read the captions...)


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Long... )
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Well, thank you everyone who made nice comments about Part One - it made writing Part Two much easier...


Of Act II, Let's all be mean to the Prince, Starsent Scams, dead Watchers and Happy Endings! )
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From an amusing game rules thread on

Iliad: The Siege of Troy
The last paragraph of the rules for this game reads: "One final note: players wishing to simulate the Odyssey, Homer's other great epic poem, may do so by, after they are finished playing Iliad, taking the Odysseus counter and tossing it in a random direction. Odysseus now has ten years to find his way back to the box."
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"...49 ...50! - COMING, READY OR NOT!"
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"Maybe I shouldn't always disrupt their games of Carcassonne like that? Then again, what's the worst that could happen...?"
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"An abseiling Father Christmas had to be rescued by firemen after his stick-on beard became caught on the rope on which he was descending."
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"Who, me?"

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Our photos from Filkcontinental 2007

Apologies for any excess in the number of pictures of our excessively cute little girl. But, like, she's cute and all!
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This is exactly why I have doubts about man-made climate change.

"All the graphs they showed stopped in about 1980, and I knew why, because things diverged after that. You can't just ignore bits of data that you don't like," the scientist is quoted as saying of the "anti" lobby.

And next to that is a graph showing world temperature from 1972 to date, along with a description of their study into cosmic rays over the last 30-40 years.

So why 1972 and 30-40 years I wondered? So I looked at and, ooh look, 1972 was almost *precisely* the year that global temperature started rising again after the 25 years or so in which it didn't (despite CO2 rising steadily throughout).

So now who's "ignoring bits of data that you don't like"? Whilst having the holier-than-thou gall to criticise others for doing the same thing. Bad science. Bad bad science.
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