Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rebel Faction ?

I've been part of the stellar 48 film competition team "Jenni's Angels" for the last couple of years. And - to be fair - they've been great.

But - with this year's competition fast approaching ... I have been thinking, well, rebellious thoughts. In short - I think I might start a new team.

Why would I do that ? Jenni's Angels are my friends ! They are professional ! They collectively know more about film making than I could even imagine at this point ! Why - it would be total madness to do something like that - wouldn't it ?

And the answer is yes. Which is why it would be a great idea !

Because I DON'T know jack about anything. Because it would be really cool / fun to learn myself. That's the problem with Jenni's Angels now - there's too many people who are good at things. It would be madness to let me anywhere near the delicate inner workings of the collective - so why would they do that ? And I kinda feel like more involvement - I missed being on the writing team last year, I missed acting. Who knows - I might even have a go at something crazy like editing or directing. Jenni's Angels is so big now ( and full of people who are ... y'know ... TALENTED ), I doubt I'd get a look in anywhere anymore.

There's heaps on at school - so maybe this is all just pie in the sky stuff, but I think it would be fun. And school has a few digital cameras and tripods and things. They've got an editing suite too. There's a few staff members who sound pretty keen to get involved ... so 'Rebel Faction Films' might be more a reality than even I suspect at this point.

Although the possibility of not getting myself organised and slinking back to the Jenni's Angels team is also mighty high ... ;)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Seraph's New Obsession

This is going to be the week ( or indeed, the couple of weeks ) from hell at school. I got stupid parent/teacher interviews this week ( AND next week ... yay ) and a WHOLE bunch of marking to get done before Thursday. On top of THAT - there's all the school production stuff I gotta be doing, and then there's just the normal teaching. Eating and sleeping are also in there too at some stage.

So - just a short post before the black rain falls. So to speak.

I find myself getting strangely obsessive again - this time it's the comic series "Scud:The Disposable Assassin". This was a REALLY cool comic - really cool art, and some pretty freaking surrealistic / bizarre stuff going on. The story revolves around Scud - a Heart-Breaker series disposable assassin. You get these things from vending machines - you give them a target, they go off and kill the target. On termination of the target - the disposable assassin explodes.

Scud is given the target of this hugely bizarre monster called Jeff. She has talking knees ( which only ever say film quotes ) and a three pin electric plug for a head. Scud engages in a fight to the death with her - but notices the instruction label he has on his back. Scud does NOT want to die ! So, he puts Jeff into a coma instead. He then has to pay for the hospital bills in order to keep her alive, so he becomes a free-lance assassin. Like I say - pretty bizarre stuff.

I read up to the third graphic novel ( "Solid Gold Bomb" ) and managed to get the third volume. I always meant to get the others ( as well as the side series "Tales From the Vending Machine" - about other disposable assassin models ) from the website - but never got round to it.

I, for some reason, pulled down the volume I had and read it again recently - and remembered how much I loved it and how much I wanted to read the final story arc. I went to the web site - all the old issues out of print. Oh no.

I do a little research. Last story arc was written when the creators life was pretty much falling apart. It ends on a VERY pessimistic note. The FINAL issue was NEVER completed. Many fans very bitter. BUT - it the weird kinda way that these things tend to work out for me, the writer/creator guy - Rob Schrab - is FINALLY completing the last issue and the series. Rejoicing ! And apparently they are going to publish ALL the old comics in one super-volume ! Awesome ! I really hope that includes all the other stuff, like 'Drywall:Unzipped", "The Oswald and Drywall Show" and "Tales From the Vending Machine" ! That would seriously rock.

Just in case - I found someone on E-Bay who was selling a copy of "Drywall:Unzipped" - so I got it. I loved Drywall - I think he was my favourite character. I am kinda getting obsessive about fleshing out my "Scud" collection now.

If you get a chance to read "Scud:The Disposable Assassin" - give it a shot ! It was pretty damn cool. And another thanks to Wanganui Ben - who got me to read it in the first place !

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

You want me to do what ?

The setting - the building site of the auditorium, on my way from 5th to 6th lesson.

Builder Guy - Hey ! Are you a teacher here ?

Other Builder Guy - Yeah, are you a teacher ? Here ?

Seraph - ( bewildered ) ..... ummmmmm .... yes. Can I help you ?

BG - Yeah - my calculator has gone missing !

OBG - Yeah !

S - ( more bewildered ) Right.

BG - It was down here by the fence ( gestures to HUGE feck-off fence to keep kids from running riot in building zone ).

S - I see.

BG - But now it's gone !

S - Yeah.

( slight pause )

BG - We need it !

OBG - For working out measurements !

BG - We can't do the stuff we need to do without it !

S - Ooooooookay.

( slight pause )

S - What would you like me to do ?

BG - Could you get it back ?

S - ( supressing urge to tell Builder Guy to go to Hell ) ...Right - well, did you see who took it ?

BG - Nope.

S - .... Okay - that DOES make things more tricky.

OBG - We saw some kids run THAT way ( pointing to D-Block - huge series of English class rooms and a library )

S - ... Right.

OBG - And in THERE ! ( points to toilets )

S - Yeah, those are toilets - and they're locked right now. I don't think anyone's going to be hiding in there ...

OBG - But I SAW kids running in there !

S - Gotcha. Ummm ... well, this is a main thoroughfare through the school. ANYone could have taken it. I'm not sure there's a lot I can do...

OBG - We saw kids run UP THERE !

S - Yeah, there are class rooms up there. Students tend to run up there all the time.

BG - Well - we saw kids running that way. ( points up again )

OBG - They RAN. UP there.

S - Okay, I tell you what - I'll ask the classes up there quickly if anyone's seen it. I'm kinda running late for my last class now, so if that doesn't work, I don't think I can help you any more than that, sorry.

BG - That's okay mate.

OBG - ( mumbling ) They RAN up there ....

The weird thing was - the second class I knocked on, a year nine kid pulls out the calculator and hands it right over. He thought some student had dropped it and was going to take it to lost property right after class.

Meh - he had an honest face. I believe him.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Video Games - The Emotioning

I was watching this documentary on the Discovery channel on Saturday called "I, Videogame". It was pretty interesting. The first part ( which aired last week ) was about the beginnings of video games ( from this bizarre tennis game these university geeks were playing on a kind of oscilloscope thingy, to 'space war' which was powered by one of those 'only the five richest kings in Europe will own one of these' computers, to 'Pong' ), the rise ( and surprisingly sharp ) fall of the home console, and the emergence of Space-Invaders ( which were originally supposed to be human ! ) and everyones favourite gluttonous yellow head, Pac-Man.

They also looked at the cold-war influence on games then, which was kinda interesting - but sounded a bit flawed.

The second episode kinda rushed through the rest of the history. It started off with Donkey Kong, the first game with an actual protagonist and story - and how they approached creating a recognisable hero with the limited power of coin-ops at the time. They talked about the shift that Nintendo created in the home console market ( with Atari self-destructing so amazingly - most retailers thought that home consoles had gone the way of the hula-hoop, and they were NEVER coming back ... man - were THOSE guys wrong ! ). Then they sorta jumped from the NES to Playstation, Playstation 2 and Grand Theft Auto 3.

The time shift was appallingly rapid ! Maybe they didn't have anything interesting to say. They were mostly looking at the rise of stories in games, how now games rival film and tv for immersive, and EMOTIONAL depth.

Some pundits made the claim that the power of a game to make you CRY was the benchmark for their emergence into the 'film' level of story-telling sophistication. Then they didn't really tell you any games that would ( or could ) make you cry.


The closest they seemed to come was "Final Fantasy 7" and Sepiroth's murder of Aeris as being one of those moments. Fair enough. I mean - it didn't make me cry, but it was pretty sad.

It got me thinking - what games have had the strongest emotional impact on me ? And not just in making you SAD. There's more emotions than just freaking sadness ! Anyway -

The top five emotional games for Seraph ! -

5. "Metal Gear : Solid"

For an action game - it has some moments where you genuinely feel for the bad-guys you end up killing. Not all of them, naturally. You feel pretty good about putting the smack-down on Liquid Snake, and Vulcan Raven's death is just pretty damn weird ( "Before I die Snake - I will give you ... a HINT !" Say what ? ). But Gray Fox / Cyber-Ninja's sacrifice is not without merit. The most impact comes with the deaths of Psycho Mantis and Sniper Wolf. Just before Psycho Mantis buys it, he helps you out by opening up a secret door with his TK power, his final words are something like "... Doing something ... good.... That ... felt ... nice...". Okay, okay - not Shakespeare - but the sentiment is pretty strong. Sniper Wolf, bleeding to death in the snow, relating in a hoarse whisper her war-torn youth growing up as a Kurd, and her moving request to die with her rifle - the only real love she has ever known - is pretty emotional stuff.

4. "Resident Evil 4"

Right - the emotion here is clearly not sadness. It's more a "DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN ! THERE ARE DOZENS OF THEM ! SOME HAVE CHAINSAWS ! I WANT TO LIVE !!!!!" thrill fest! Lots of shocks and surprises - and the addition of having to press controller buttons during many of the cut-scenes in order to STAY ALIVE makes the adrenalin pump just a little more. Without let up either - which is the impressive thing ! It's always "Somethings going to happen ... SOMEthings GOING to happen ... IT'S HAPPENING ! IT'S BAD ! ARRRGGHHHH !!! ... whew ! I lived ! ... Somethings going to happen ... SOMEthings GOING to happen ..." from beginning to end. Freaking masterful.

3. "Silent Hill" ( ANY of them )

I have yet to play a video game as deeply unsettling as the Silent Hill series. I will not play those games alone - I get TOO scared. They also have complex and complicated story lines which are as disturbing ( if not more so ) that the action and nightmarish setting.

2. "Shadow of the Colossus"

The moral ambiguity of this game is very strong - and doesn't sit comfortably with a lot of gamers. The story is simple. You start with your character taking a young woman who look like she's in a coma ( Heck - she might even be dead, you really don't know ) into a big forgotten temple. An unearthly voice tells you that she can be saved - though at a price. You must hunt down and kill the Colossi - HUGE creatures of living stone, and she will be saved.

So - you begin to hunt them down and kill them.

The colossi don't seem to be evil or anything. They're just hanging out in the wilderness, chilling. Some are hostile at your intrusion into their territory ( and who could blame them ? ), some are more curious of you, some just ignore you and go about their colossi business.

There's something terribly sad about the way these massive leviathans collapse into a lifeless hulk of rock. And it's not long before you start asking yourself "Is killing these things the RIGHT thing to do ?". What's the value of one life against the lives of many ? Even if they ARE different to you ?

It's a heck of a question. Mind you - it's one that can provide some levity too

1. And coming in tops - it's


Man - this game. THIS game. It's something else. Done by the same studio that did "Shadow of the Colossus". The way it makes you want to protect the weakened and fragile Yorda ( to quote Hix "I've never felt to attached to an unliving collection of pixels like this !" ) from the Shadowy monsters sent by the Queen to get her back. The way it builds to it's sweeping climax - and the sorrowful AND joyous ending. Easily the most emotional experience I've had in video-gaming.

So - there you have it. What emotional experience have you had in the world of video gaming ? I'd be interested to know.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Vanishing - Part 2

So - Viva and I arrive at the exercise / health class thing we've been doing for awhile now. I was hoping to have dropped down below 85kg so I could be comfortably in my target weight zone.

I hopped on the scales - freaking 83.7 !!! That's more than a kilogram down from last week !


So I have lost more than a k a week ( on average ) for the last six weeks.

I'm really starting to feel it now too. I am definitely WAY more fit - and I'm generally feeling better too ( not that I was feeling crappy before though ). Even I'm noticing where the weight has gone FROM. I still think the best thing about the weight loss is being able to lie face-up, and not get pain in the small of my back from my colossal butt crimping the hell out of it ! Yay !

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

And coming in at number three...

People have been saying “Hey Seraph ! What’s the dilly-o, eh ? I KNOW you ! The REAL you ! You play board games ! You read those fancy comics what have a plot consisting of MORE than a guy in a spandex suit clobbering various evil-dooers ! And you play them new fangled RPG’s you’re going to talk about this week ! How come you write YOURSELF into the higher reaches of the Geek Heirachy ? What do you say to THAT, sir ?!”

Hmmm. It’s a fair point I guess.

BUT – gentle reader – let me be the first to say – I pretty much belong to ALL the levels to which I will be writing ( all bar the very worst of the worst that is ) – and so my COLLECTIVE geek status is reduced mightily. Much like an albatross around my neck – my sins will pull me down into the lower reaches … but I fall short of entering the very inner circle … the “Mouth of the Devil” in this Inferno, if you will. Just. Anyway – that’s a topic for later. For now it’s :

Seraph’s Heirachy of Geekdom ( v1 ) !

3. Indie Role-playing Gamers
There was a time when table top RPG games were dominated by ludricious numbers of die rolls, massively complicated charts you needed a slide rule and a fx-82b calculator to interpret and at least three phone-book sized rule books – and that was to just open a door !

It was a question of “Role-playing ? What the hell is that junk ! Let me KILL something else and steal it’s meager collection of copper pieces !”.

They were dark days indeed.

And then, one day, people realized that maybe, JUST MAYBE, the actual STORY did have something to do with it, rather than just a litany of mindless slaughter, inter-party back-stabbing / theft, and the wholesale looting of ancient tombs.

From this first simple thought – the role-players of old cast aside their player manuals and GM guides, and devised games where characters, plot and setting actually meant something. Systems were streamlined – combat downplayed – invention and creativity encouraged. Players could actually HELP tell the story – rather than being the puppets of some power-crazed GM. There was collaboration. There was unity. There was a new age.

And yet – all golden ages fall.

The problem with IRPGers are myriad :

- They get OBSESSED with story elements. Things begin to get overly complicated once more ! “What’s your kicker ? Where’s the BANG ? How about you flangle the klink ?” WTF ??? SPEAK ENGLISH !

- There is a tendency in many IRPGers to think that ANY situation is worthy of RPing. And I mean ANY. It’s disturbing that your average IRPGer would think the following would be a pretty good idea for a game :

You play a 17th century philosopher, exploring their struggle to win approval for their ideas of the nature of life / the cosmos / the universe.

Divide 10 points among your 3 philosophical stats of :
o Ethics
o Meta-physics
o Logic

Choose a main ‘school’ – from the following list
o Solipsism
o Existentialism
o Determinism

Your goal – form a major religious or social group who extol your values. Avoid being stoned to death by the heretics !

Ahhhhh .. NO ! NO NO NO ! Not EVERY idea makes for a decent RPG ! The same goes for any game where you play an adorable animal – “The Happy Bunnies of Fuzzy Glen” is NEVER going to be acceptable as a RPG! NEVER! In fact – if you think it IS, it is a sure sign that you have taken IRPG’s into a place where man was not meant to go. For the love of all that is good and holy – come back to the light !

IRPGers ( or, more accurately these days – Story-Telling Gamers ) are responsible for a vast amount of great things in the role-playing world, and undoubtedly, they have shaped the medium for the better. BUT … they also need to watch their step a little – lest, like Dr. Frankenstein, they become responsible for creating a monster !

Well - Story-Telling Gamers huh ? Where will CONVENTIONAL RPGers come ? Only time will tell !
Thanks to my good buddy BubbaJay for the 'shout-out' on his blog, and a BIG hi to my fellow173c Hanson Street Survivor - Spaceman Jack Dee ! Check out his stuff !