Sunday, July 25, 2010

Birchbark Achievements Unlocked

We arrived home last night after a week at my wife's family cottage. Even after 20-odd Summers of these trips, my feelings are still conflicted. It's isolated, quiet, and incredibly scenic. A better place for burning through your reading list, I cannot imagine. It's ageing badly, constantly in need of repair, and sports an outhouse. A better recipe for diverting your reading time towards repair chores, you will not find.

This year was different, however. Number One: we were there alone without any other family. Number Two: there were no major chores to tackle. This rare confluence of events meant that we could actually spend a week on Georgian Bay doing we whatever we felt like doing! And when a geek has a free time, a geek will do those things that make him or her a geek:

Reading: I finished all 784 pages of Dan Simmons' DROOD. I'll summarize that: I read DROOD.

Gaming: I finally got around to playing MUNCHKIN. My family - all four of us - learned to play (and love) MUNCHKIN. To satisfy any need for video gaming, I spent a lot of time wrestling Angry Birds out of my daughter's hands.

Watching: We brought a stack of Series 2, 3, and 4 Doctor Who DVDs to watch. Thanks to MUNCHKIN, we never actually got around to watching them.

So while a few of us got the DTs from Internet and Xbox withdrawl, I feel like we probably sustained at least a faint glow of geek. But it's still good to be back in a world where porceline is readily available.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Filler Post

The Theater (or Theatre) will be closed for the next week or so to afford the staff a well-deserved break from cleaning sticky floors, spooning congealed grease from the popcorn machine, and taping old pieces of film together for cheap matinees. The Manager (that's me) will be heading to the family cottage in Parry Sound, but we'll be traveling there via Sudbury. That's how the Settlers did it and Settlers made this land great!

I won't be counting on Internet access for the next week and I'm bloody ticked that we're going to miss Day One of SCOTT PILGRIM 6 on July 20. But when I get back - if I get back - I'll be ready with a post about a family trip being planned for August that I'm calling 'The Red Dead Redemption Cosplay Tour 2010'. Pretty catchy, huh?

Until then, don't break the Internet.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Shameless Promotion

View Larger Map

There's this young lady I know who, in just a few days time, will be embarking on the adventure of her lifetime (so far!). Nisha - just barely 18 years of age - will be spending the next year of her life in India under the auspices of the Rotary Young Exchange program.

She'll be blogging about her experiences throughout the year to allow us less adventurous types to see India through her eyes. And since Nisha is - in all the ways that matter - part of my family, I'm going to offer up her Nisha In India! bloglink here (and in the sidebar to the right) in case any Theater patrons would like to join the ride.

Remember, Nisha: we're watching!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Die Was Cast Early

 I recently finished Achtung Schweinehund! - a first-person account of one man's lifelong relationship with table-top wargaming. I won't review the book in this post, but if you're at all curious you can find a semi-literate opinion or two over at All Your Basecast (episode 13, also available on iTunes!).

While I did enjoy reading about Harry Pearson's obsessions, an unexpected consequence was having the dust blown off some long-ago memories of my own experiences with wargaming. It had been years since those memories had lit up my neural pathways, but Pearson's reminisces eventually teased a few mementos out of the quiet corners of my past.

Going back to my teenaged years (somewhere in the late 1970's), my pasty-white friends and I spent countless hours constructing small-scale WW2 tanks and warships. It didn't hurt that my friend's family owned a local hobby shop and were only too willing to extend us the deep discounts we used to amass our armies. Meticulously constructed and painted, our legions of British, American, and German military hardware spent their most useful hours in a friend's garage, where we had constructed an elaborate gaming table - complete with landscaping, beachfront, and the bombed out villages we copied from Kelley's Heroes.

I cannot recall very much about the rules for our campaigns, although I do remember they were furnished and refereed by a friend's older brother. It was all about math: how much a Tiger Tank could move in one turn, how far the Graf Spree could lob 11-inch shells at a 32-degree angle from its watery outpost, and so on. Games would run hours, days, even weeks, with the winner typically chosen by attrition rather than brilliant tactics. Winning was never really the point of it all. It was the 'act' - selecting, building, painting, arguing, and being together with like-minded geeks.

Thinking about all this led me to recall even more ancient geekery from my past. It was a board game my father brought into the house when I was 10 or 11 years old: Richtofen's War. This was not the typical Monopoly or Candyland style of boardgame. This was different.

The point of it all was to simulate WW1 arial battles - all white knuckles on joysticks and canvas stretched over wooden frames. I remember the board being an arial view of some European countryside, with an overlay of honeycombs to guide various pieces of cardboard with pictures of airplanes on them. There were dice involved and a set of rules that seemed to me like 100 pages of inscrutable gibberish. I desperately wanted to make the game 'work', but I could never explain the rules well enough to myself or my friends.

Like I say, I hadn't though about model tanks or cardboard Sopwith Camels in years until Harry Pearson's book came along. Richtofen's boxed set of WW1 has long since passed from my family's hands (probably into a dustbin somewhere along the way). As for my plastic tanks and ships - so lovingly put together all those years ago - they were handed down to my brother when I moved away to attend school in another city. I'm pretty sure they, too, have been consigned to the municipal dump. But these are good things to think about, if only to confirm that I Am Me, and always have been.