Categories
events Larp

Unconventional: A report from Nineworlds

My day bag and nineworlds convention badge

I went into my first Nineworlds with few expectations. Primarily it was an expensive way to see a lot of people I generally only see in fields and scout camps up and down the country while LARPing, secondarily it was a place of interesting information sharing, and thirdly it was investigative, to see how they run and what systems they have in place that I can recommend to other large events I am – or will be – involved with.

I also was planning on doing it as a vidlog thing, and on the journey and up to the convention actually opening shot some footage and monologues towards that end, but once things actually started I didn’t have a lot to say between the sessions, so a vidlog would have been “Aquarion arrives. Aquarion announces intentions. Con happens. Shots of leaving”. So words instead, unpopular as they are.

I am really bad at conventions, it turns out. My major experiences have been Worldcon and early Discworld Cons, and I find them really isolating. Time gets split between talking to my friends and people I know, catching up, swapping stories, hanging out; and going off to see panels or do our own thing, where I find myself surrounded by people I don’t know in a place I’m not familiar with, and my head tends to get eaten by its own demons. My enjoyment of the con, therefore, was only marginally affected by the convention itself, and largely by unrelated or reflected issues and stresses.

Nineworlds is a convention dominated by the liberal edges of the left wing, a place built on personal freedoms of gender, sexuality, social justice, safe spaces and accessibility. It’s a convention where you are encouraged to label your attendance badge with your preferred pronouns, where the cabaret acts declare their hobbies to be smashing the patriarchy and get the expected cheers, and where everyone is generally free to be the best versions of themselves. Anecdotally, it’s also one of the largest gatherings I’ve been in without observable incidents of public exceptional drunkenness (this may be linked to the venue being in a central London hotel, where getting to that level of inebriation would require significant investment). The staff were friendly and helpful (even the hotel staff, who took a lot of weirdness in their stride, and even occasionally joined in), and the ducks appeared to glide through the water, no matter how frantically the invisible paddling was going.

It’s still a fairly hard community to be a part of, personally. Because I look and sound like a large percentage of everything most hated, it’s hard to accept the generalisations as not being aimed, it’s hard to hear the non-optional identities I hold being held to account for the predominant problems of the world. Even if I don’t wish anyone to moderate their language – the words are still broadly true, and I do not need the reassurance of the personal exception every time – it interacts with the least pleasant bits of my subconscious to reduce my calm. Since this is my problem and not anyone elses’, I didn’t end up going to a lot of the panels on social issues, because it didn’t seem comfortable. It led to missing a few sessions I was interested in.

I didn’t have a great experience with the panels, really. A number that didn’t get anywhere need specific issues due to everyone wanting to personally comment on the wider – and generally accepted as bad – more general issues led to an experience of being preached to as a choir. Polemics on institutional issues, rather than discussion around solutions for local instances. Partly, that’s a sign of the current political climate, but it made some panels feel like a series of small audio-visual blog posts rather than a discussion panel.

That said, I enjoyed immensely a lot of the talks and workshops that I attended.

(If you are a content creator and have found this blog post, this isn’t detailed feedback, and I apologise if it reads harsh, it’s 5am as I write)

Friday

Penn’s Access: Larp workshop – Writing Accessible Plot for LARP – kicked off my Nineworlds experience, as a group of us worked through how stories can be told in LARP without sidelining or erasing characters whose players have difficulties with access, movement or comprehension. Not only solving it on a plot by plot basis, but institutionally setting different ways of interacting with the major events of the game into the foundations of how you tell the stories, to allow everyone a chance to have their spotlight time.

I’ll admit that I went into “What is the “Hacker Mindset”? An Illustrated Example Using Watch_Dogs.” with a … hearty level of scepticism, it turned out to be not what I expected, a rapid talk about “Hacker” culture in the 2660 – and movie – sense of accessing data you shouldn’t be allowed to, delivered by an experienced penetration tester (someone employed to find the weaknesses in corporate infrastructure;  technical, architectural and social). Towards the end it lent on its central metaphor a bit hard – becoming less “How Hackers use lateral thinking to find holes in structure” to the more specific “I am awesome at Watch_Dogs because I found a way to clip through this wall”.

Who’s That Audience? – The Audience and Creator Relationship I went into because I recognised a couple of the names on the panel, and while it did occasionally drift from the topic into the less solvable “Isn’t twitter awful” it was interesting to hear different strategies on how to keep private and public opinions, how to avoid (or encourage) your audience from swinging at targets at your behalf, and that kind of thing.

Then I had lunch and went to the Steven Universe Singalong. Because the songs are good and I like it, so there.

Questing Time is basically live Dungeons and Dragons (a rules-light implementation of D&D 5), in this case an adventure where the party were working at a fantasy convention called DragonCon (not that one), and had to rescue the newly announced 13th Proctor (who was the first female to take the role) from being sacrificed by Tonald Drumph to Baaaaal. There was a bear called Ben. Watching funny people play D&D was more fun than I thought it would be, especially with a light-hearted but heavily referential adventure (it ended with Drumph being killed by with his own hair). Apparently it’s a show they’re also running at Edinburgh Fringe this year. If you get a chance to see it, I’d recommend it.

Doctor Magnethands is apparently a staple of nineworlds, a more improv-based storytelling system where the heroes (the panel) attempt to defeat Doctor Magnethands (the lead) who has summoned minions to defeat them (The audience) who are randomly named by some kind of crazy satirical concept generator (also the audience), who are rewarded for their efforts (the vodka). At its heights, it was like a good episode of the goon show.

Saturday

I went to a panel on Access in entertainment, fandom and LARP. I learnt about access problems in music gigs, front and back stage, for people with mobility issues (and wheelchairs in specific).

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? was a panel by the Tech crew about tech-ing nineworlds. It was funny and informative, but I think the best bit were the Skippy’s List slides, which I got shots of all but one of. Presented below

Then I missed a few things I wanted to go to because they were full, and then instead of going to the thing I was planning on I followed some friends into the Original Poetry Open Mic session, where I proceeded to read a thing I wrote into a microphone in front of live actual people, something I’ve not done in.. possibly a decade. It was terrifying. Nobody killed me. I’m still not good at poetry.

After that I spent the evening hanging out with friends. There was a disco on in the background.

Sunday

Starting my morning with a light and fluffy panel, I went to The Future of Nineworlds, a panel with the director and show-runner about how the convention happens and where it might happen yet. Apparently last year’s expansion was a bit expensive and they didn’t recoup it back, so future cons may be in cheaper places.

To close out my Nineworlds experience, I went to things on the other topic I came for, How To Do The Writing Thing.

AC Macklin‘s talk on Different Techniques of POV and the effect they have on the reader was really interesting, mostly as a light-bulb of doing things deliberately and specifically rather than “what seems right”, which is my usual POV technique. I didn’t take enough notes, so I’m now stalking her blog for the promised copies of the slides…

Last, Edit As You Go v Blast Through to The End: Finishing Your First Novel was probably the best panel I attended all event. Each of the four authors had a different approach to creating and editing, from “Edit as I go” through “Outline the everliving fuck out of it, then write” to “Give yourself permission to be bad, and just write it” and edit later. All of these were for how to write novels in general, but they rounded back often to the specific topic – get to the end of your first novel – with a rough consensus of “Barrel through it to then end”. It made me want to write more things.

The End

The sheer number of my friends that I saw at this event was staggering. People I haven’t seen since I move out of London, or Hackney; people who I basically only ever see while playing someone else; people I’ve met in passing recently and only really got to know this last weekend. The convention items were good, the general ambience and sense of doing things was fun, but the best part of the weekend for me was spending hour on hour talking to people I like and care about, who I don’t see often enough. That alone makes me consider pre-booking my ticket to Nineworlds 2018 next year on spec.

It even makes me tempted to help run things at Nineworlds next year.

So stop me from doing that, I think.

 

Categories
events

First of May

A tradition, though today is far too cold and wet: (NSFW)

Categories
events

Winter Assault

London Mayor, Boris Bloody Johnson, Friday:

Across all our roads and rails hundreds of workers are on standby to ensure that, should we receive a mega deposit of snow, we are in a position to keep the capital moving.

London Weather, Sunday:

London Snow (Image by me, via Instagram)

Transport for London, Sunday:

First snow of the year in London. London Underground comes to a grinding halt. (Image via @tariqpanja on twitter)

 

 

Categories
events

Happy New Year

There’s a tradition where every couple of years I update my Geek Code. I’ve been doing this since 1998, and the Code has been getting steadily less in touch with modern geekery ever since, but it’s an interesting metric to measure my life by. So:

GCM/GCA/GPA     d+(-)   s+:+    a       C++++   US++    P-      L++     E---    W+++++  N+
o+      K       w       O--     M+      V-      PS++    PE      Y+      PGP++   t       5+
X-      R+      tv(--)  b+++    DI      D++     G++     e+      h-      r++     y?

If you want to compare it to years past, the whole load of them is up here, but there are a couple of trends I find interesting. Not only the slow growth of the W(ebmaster) section. I make a point of not looking up my previous codes while I’m making the new one, so occasionally I reevaluate my position on something accidentally. I get a documented disillusionment with the X-Files.

But the least obvious missing thing in the new code is a lack of dollar signs, which indicate things you get paid to do.

I’m no longer at Languagelab. It’s all amicable, but they don’t need me right now. So, as of around now I’m back on the job-hunting trail.

I started 2011 contracting as Istic.Networks, which is what I’m aiming to do now. A contract with Languagelab turned into a full time position, which ate my life for a while. During the summer I spent a lot of weekends at Larp events, starting a position as referee for Profound Decisions’ Odyssey campaign, which I enjoyed immensely and should have written up more. Work ramped up over the autumn, but nothing really changed much. I had a nice christmas, and spent a quiet New Years Eve watching Harry Potter movies with my girlfriend on the sofa, which was nice.

2011 started and ended without a regular source of income, which is worrying me a little, but wasn’t that bad a year on average. 2012 could bring some stability without me complaining too much, though.

Categories
2010 Current Affairs

Remember

Same thing as 2008, although the number of survivors of WW1 has shrunk to four.

In World War One

  • Forty two million people were mobilised for the Allies
  • There were twenty two million casualties on the Allied side.

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

In World War Two

  • Over 10% of the 1939 population of Germany were killed. 16% of Poland.
  • The soviet union suffered 10,700,000 military deaths.
  • The UK lost 382,600.
  • One of these was John Brunt

The point of Remembrance day is not war. It’s not really peace, either, and anyone using it to push any political agenda is doing the Service a disservice. It’s the unspoken social contract between those who go to fight the powers that would attack our country and those who survive: That if you go and fight, and do not return, we will remember them.

You may disagree with the current war, where the direct threat to our lands is diffuse and not really counterable – and possibly enhanced – by direct action in the lands of others, but this war is not all wars, and these reasons are not all reasons, and those that die of these decisions did not make them.

And so we remember them.

Poppies

Categories
2010 Current Affairs

Price of a Pelican

Slightly late on this, but I’ve been catching up on the Planet Money podcast, which is about attempting to explain all the high-falutin’ concepts around economics and its occasional breakdowns in a way that makes it understandable to non-economists, and is well worth a listen. At the end of last month they did an episode called “Tallying Up The Pelican Bill” about environmental damage. Specifically, the money they are fined for the damage outlines costs for job losses and tourism charges, but there’s no line item for “Killed 4,000 pelicans”.

The blog post link above summarises the episode, although the actual show is better, as they go though various theoretical methods of working out how much a pelican is worth (from “You cannot put a price on life” meaning – in these terms – “They’re free” on down). Eventually, they come to a non-economic answer from the US governmental department responsible for dealing with this kind of issue: One pelican is worth… exactly one pelican. They require the fined company to invest in breeding centres and such to the point where they cause more pelicans to exist. Not the dollar value they were looking for, but means that BP don’t end up paying fines that end up bailing out those worthless penguins.

Categories
2000

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has this to say on the subject of flying

There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] suggests, and try it.

The first part is easy. All it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight, and the willingness not to mind that it’s going to hurt.

That is, it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss the ground. Most people fail to miss the ground, and if they are really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard.

Clearly, it is the second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties.

One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally. It’s no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won’t. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you’re halfway there, so that you are no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it’s going to hurt if you fail to miss it.

It is notoriously difficult to prize your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal. Hence most people’s failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.

If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinty, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner.

This is a moment for superb and delicate concentration. Bob and float, float and bob. Ignore all consideration of your own weight simply let yourself waft higher. Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point because they are unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of “Good God, you can’t possibly be flying!” It is vitally important not to believe them or they will suddenly be right.

Waft higher and higher. Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the treetops breathing regularly.

DO NOT WAVE AT ANYBODY.

When you have done this a few times you will find the moment of distraction rapidly easier and easier to achieve.

You will then learn all sorts of things about how to control your flight, your speed, your maneuverability, and the trick usually lies in not thinking too hard about whatever you want to do, but just allowing it to happen as if it were going to anyway.

You will also learn about how to land properly, which is something you will almost certainly screw up, and screw up badly, on your first attempt.

There are private clubs you can join which help you achieve the all-important moment of distraction. They hire people with surprising bodies or opinions to leap out from behind bushes and exhibit and/or explain them at the critical moments. Few genuine hitchhikers will be able to afford to join these clubs, but some may be able to get temporary employment at them.

Categories
2010 MLP music

Mothers and pie

Today is Mother’s Day in the UK, and Pi day everywhere.

So, in lieu of actual content the Paul and Storm “Mother’s Day” song, as performed at the concert I went to:

And also, Hard & Phirm’s song “Pi”

and I start my new job tomorrow.

Categories
2010 Work

Jobsearch, Day One

Okay, kicking arse into gear to get new employment.

My method of job searching is to send notification out to a few recruitment companies who have been proven to Get It, add a couple of one’s I’ve not used before, and apply for interesting things I find myself. The recruitment companies bring some interesting stuff, but most of the really cool roles appear to come either from friends or looking at job boards. The new recruitment companies have been chosen (one more by luck, they happened to phone me on friday with a three year old version of my CV, the other is the new home of the recruiter who got me my last job), the trusted ones have been notified. That was 9am.

It’s now close to 10pm, I’ve had one interview (Recruiter L at Company T), I’ve got a phone interview tomorrow (Also Recruiter L, Company S), one company came via a friend, and they’ve expressed an interest in a meeting (Company G), a few more companies are looking at my CV. This is a suspiciously good start.

Categories
2010

Birthday

On the 26th January 2010, when I will be 29, I shall be celebrating this having happened at the Pembury Tavern in Hackney from around 7pm onwards. Please come and join me, for drinking alone is depressing.

I will also be in the same place this the following Sunday.