Sunday, November 28, 2010

Echo Bazaar: The strange tale of Fallen London

I've recently been hooked by a browser game called Echo Bazaar. Its a clever little thing with a rather wonderful atmosphere and turn of phrase.

Victorian London was stolen (or maybe it was sold, it's not entirely clear) and is now located several miles under the earth. Some things haven't changed - there are urchins, and criminals, and a crazed killer on the loose (the mysterious Face Tailor). But there are some things about that really shouldn't be - Hell has an embassy here, and devils go about their business like any other person; death isn't permanent for the cunning or ruthless; nightmares are very real; and a drop of the mysterious Prisoner's Honey will transport you somewhere else....

Practically, it is a mostly text game (although items and stories have some wonderfully evocative illustrations) where you have ten actions to spend on mini stories, with these actions refreshing at a regular rate. You can also refresh once a day by Twittering an advert for the game.

Stories range from one-off encounters from your opportunities deck - contact from a maiden aunt, or an invitation to see The Duchess - to complex storylets with multiple choices and opportunities - the Mushroom Jumping Races, clearing your house of a vermin infestation, or seducing an impoverished artist.

Everything you do can affect your four stats - Dangerous, Watchful, Persuasive and Shadowy - or give you "status ailments" like Nightmares, Scandal, Wounds or Suspicion. Some key decisions can give you a reputation for Hedonism, Ruthlessness or even Daring. And you can build up a network of connections from the urchins and criminals all the way up to the devils and high society. You might even become a player in the Great Game.

So what have I been up to in the game?
I very foolishly flirted with devils, and met up with them at the circus for a chat.
I brought a message back for a greiving widow when I escaped death.
I invited my aunt down to the city to live the life she's always dreamed of.
I've played with the hearts of an artist and his model.
I've protected urchins from thugs.
I've made progress on discovering the secrets of the Face Tailor
I've made it my life's ambition to hunt and kill the mysterious creature The Vake.
And I've been bitten by The Eater of Chains while rescuing a family.

Of all the rest that last one worries me the most. My girlfriend thinks I'm mad for being on first name terms with minions of hell, but that festering bite mark has all sorts of dangerous and exciting story potential. I wonder where it will lead?

Join in the Echo Bazaar here

Or read the blog of the designers for all sorts of interesting gossip

Sunday, October 10, 2010


In the last week or so, I've had three people favourite a very ropey Flickr pic of me dressed up at a friends hen night.

Its not a great pic, and there's no nudity, or underwear in shot. And as far as I know I've not been on So what on earth caused this spontaneous favouriting?


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Everyone loves a parade!

Bit of a belated post this one, but I've not really been in a writing mood.

Last weekend was Norwich's second ever Pride celebration. I managed to go to last year's, but circumstances meant I wasn't able to stay for the parade(I don't like the word "march" in this context). So this year I cleared my diary, and got my GF to do the same. It was still all a bit last minute, not helped by a family holiday and a lost phone, but a message from Lara made it all viable again.

I'd got my outfit packed the night before, and a cooler bag was on standby for when we were ready to go. So all we had to do was wake up, get dressed (civvies for me, fabulous 20s ensemble for my girlfriend), and grab everything we needed.

It was drizzling when we got to Norwich and parked up, but we were in good spirits as we walked to the Forum.

The Forum is Norwich's "new" library and meeting place (aptly named then!) It's a big glass fronted building with an large atrium at the front, the library itself, a radio station, cafe, meeting rooms, and display rooms. Outside is a large roundish area surrounded by shallow steps on two sides, a church on one side, and a road on the last.

This year there was the Big Rainbow Bus from Pink Punters, and a stage by the roadside, and the atrium was filled with stalls from all sorts of organisations and businesses. There were advocacy groups, trade unions, a gay-friendly adoption agency, various LGBT groups from local employers, a couple of craft stalls, and even the local police who were conducting a survey on safety, hate crimes, and whether people knew who to turn to if they had problems. They had a TARDIS with holes cut in, and each side had two questions, and holes for yes/no/don't know that you popped a pingpong ball in to register your feelings. It was pretty cool.

My girlfriend was drawn to the tombola, and we came away with a couple of CDs and a voucher for Innania's Festival (a local pagan/hippy/crystals type shop). I also bought a rather lovely hairband with a black lace, and a pink satin, bow attached. The two ladies running the stall were friendly and chatty, and I showed them the hairfalls I was going to wear later in the day. They were very taken by the neon pink!

Outside they were getting ready for a linedancing display/workshop, so we wandered off to the park where the picnic was going to be. Plenty of stewards setting up for the march, but no picnickers. So it seemed like a good time to get ready. A local community theatre had set aside a dressing area for Pride, and it was this that swung my atendance from maybe to yes! The reaction of the young lady on the reception desk to the before and after put me in a very positive mood.

This was the ensemble:

When I was done we wandered back to the park to start on our picnic. We met Lara there looking a little demure, and chatted with Noam of the Warhol Factory Rejects. The sun was getting out, and we ate our food listening to the Norwich Samba Band, Vince Laws and some other poets I didn't catch the name of, and we also had a chat with a nice old couple who we shared a bench with.

While we had been eating Lara had gone off to get changed into this rather spiffy steampunk/Victoriana outfit:

There was still an hour to go until the march, so we had the bright idea to dump the picnic and anything else we didn't need to lug around, back at the car. This was either a moment of madness or genius, because when we re-emerged rfom the car park, the heavens had opened!

We stood under shelter with lots of other people dressed for summer, until we got bored, and then made a break for it. Weaving our way through Norwich we went via Jarrold's MAC makeup counter, the covered market, and finally took a break at the Forum again. Where we chatted to the ladies on the craft stall again, met up with old friends Lynn and Diane, and waited for a break in the weather.

When it didn't lok like any was going to come, we gave up and started walking anyway. Sadly by this point my fluffy boots were rather waterlogged around the bottom, and getting a bit muddy. But we kept calm and carried on ;-)

Back at the park, there was already a large crowd gathered, and the Lord Mayor and Town Crier gave a speech from the bandstand that was mostly lost in the wind. Fortunately the organisers and stewards had better projection and advised everyone that there would be protesters along the route. We were asked not to boo or jeer, and instead to ignore them, and cheer, smile and generally have a good time as we passed. Genius!

And then, as the samba band started up, and the whistles started to blow, the sun came out and the rain stopped!

The parade itself was great. It wasn't too fast, and several times we halted for reasons we never found out. There was all sorts of people marching with us. There were unions and organiastions with banners (even including the local Quakers and Unitarian church!); parents with children (who had been to the facpainting sessions before the parade); the leather brigade (including a man in rubber and a gasmask); teens, old people; drag queens; a giant pair of lips and a soundsystem on a trolley from the Warhol Factory Rejects; dogwalkers with dogs in rainbow doggie coats; lots and lots of rainbow flags; and even Norfolk's new Cheif Constable, showing his comittment to the LGBT community. There's a video here if you want to see the start of the march.

The police had closed off the streets, so we marched along the centre of the roads and waved and smiled at all the people standing on the pavements (and some people on balconies and looking out of windows). I had to laugh as we passed Chapelfield Mall. A girl watching the parade scoffed and said to her friend "This can't be legal!" As if a spontaneous parade could happen without months of planing and co-ordination with the council and the police!

The protesters were outside Primark and behind stewards and police silently holding up placards with biblical quotes on. Which amused me because of the Quakers and Unitarians marching with us. Some people with us also had on t-shirts that read "Jesus loves everyone" on the front and "even smug hypocritical bigots" on the back. The protesters were ignored, and everyone cheered, laughed and blew whistles as we passed.

The parade finally arrived at the Forum, where we gathered for some speeches from the organisers, and the Cheif Constable. We were also taught the gesture for "Pride" by the people providing British Sign Language translations of the speeches.

But we were tired out after this, and decided to call it a day. We found somewhere to eat (a very nice cornish pastie place by the market) and wandered off to the carpark via a few shops.

Getting changed back to civvies in a multistory carpark is a story I'm going to gloss over! But overall the day was great. I'm a sucker for compliments, and even the looks of confusion from people made me smile. The only negative comment I got all day was a snigger from a chav. Otherwise, people were wonderful.

In the march people were walking at diferent speeds, so you tended to be walking with different people at different times. And everyone we walked with was friendly, some were even chatty.

I'm really looking forward to next year's parade.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

MCM London Expo May 2010 review

Friday was an absolute nightmare. Some idiot decided to bring in a steam train to my local station, and cordon off an area for the spotters. What they didn't take into account was by choosing platform 2, they were blocking off access to platform 1 (the regular train to London). And more importantly they hadn't accounted for lateness or bothered to keep staff and passengers informed about what was going on.

My poor girlfriend was trying to transport my birthday cake through the crowds of oblivious morons, and was getting more and more stressed by the second, but once we were lost in the scrum there was nothing that could be done. She couldn't even pass lugagge to me, put it down, or even find space to stop and catch her breath.

When we finally got on the train with minutes to spare she was nursing bruised and aching arms and we were both out of breath and stressed.

Fortunately we were in better spirits when we arrived in London, although miles of stairs and escalators at Bank to get to the DLR link didn't help matters.

When we got to our hotel we were releived to dump everything and just lay down for a bit and unwind.

When we were better we had a quick exploration of the area (plenty of shops and fast food choices), and then retired to the hotel pub for an enormous burger and fries. So huge I couldn't even finish mine!

Before settling down for the night, we checked over the early entry info, and set our alarms...

Woke up before the alarm. I don't sleep well in unusual beds, and I was still stressed from the day before, and excited about the Expo.

We'd decided to leave our cosplaying until later in the day, and hit the shopping stalls ASAP. Unfortunately I had miscalculated.

Arriving in the main hallway of Excel half an hour before early entry started (2.5 hours before regular entry is allowed) we found a gigantic queue. After walking half the length of the building we found a friend has saved us a space. Fortunately we were not lynched for queue jumping.

After what seemd like hours, but was probably 30 mins we got to the gates and saw another vast queue. Fortunately our advance tickets allowed us to bypass it, but after we exhanged them for wristbands and got our goodybags, we had to queue again in the cattle-pens to enter the main hall.

We eventually entered the main hall at 9:40, forty minutes after opening (and over an hour since we started queuing), and boy was it busy already. Fortunately with a bit of patience, and some deft footwork, you could get to any of the stalls.

The majority of the stalls at the front of the hall were selling plush toys, merchandise, and comics. But once you started digging there were DVDs, hats, figures, games, replica and prop weapons, and even CDs.

Past the sales stalls there was a large section for the Yugioh competitions; some promo areas for forthcoming films, video games and TV programmes; a wrestling ring (not sure why); an area for artists to promote their comics; and a couple of stage areas for events.

I wasn't really in the buying mood, but did get to chat to a really nice lady who drew Hetalia postcards and posters, and the creator of Fetishman. My girlfriend pointed out the similarity in our personalities after I'd chatted to him for a while, and she'd bought me a Tea-Master General pack (comic, poster,embroidered patch, and ID card).

My girlfriend and her friend tried to buy some yaoi comics, but discovered they didn't bring any ID to the expo. While tey were rummaging and grumbling, I got chatting to an Arcanine cosplayer, and made a friend by sharing my fan. Fursuiters get HOT in those things!

The day was not lst however, as a second pass of the stalls turned up a Hetalia Yaoi compilation called Under The Same Sky which proved very popular among the fans that day!

After we'd had our fill of the hall, we dropped off our friend with some cosplayers and went to change. My girlfriend was crossplaying as the cute Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and I was also crossplaying as Belarus.

I actually spent most of the weekend with the Hetalia cosplayers. They were a fun bunch and really friendly. Possibly a bit too friendy if you've seen some of my pictures on Facebook ;-)

I was celebrating my birthday that weekend so while when my GF took her friend to get chaged into her second outfit, she also picked up my birthday cake from our room.

It was a large sponge frosted with butter-icing, coloured to look like the Belarsian flag! It was awesome. We joined some other Hetali cosplayers who were picnicing, but sadly no-one had a knife. Fortunately we got chatting to an Eldar Dire Avenger cosplayer who offered to cut the cake with his sword. It was a bit messy, but we all got cake. And he was amused by being able to eat cake from a sword :)

The wind was picking up now, and a few spots of rain were felt, so we retreated undercover. But not before doing the Carameldansen

I also got to meet breifly with Helena Love, who I've corresponded with online, but never actually met. She also took the best photo of me that weekend (much better than the so-called pro by the white shutters!) Sadly she had other commitment, as did I, but it was nice to finally speak in person.

The weather was variable for quite a while, but it was nice to chat with everyone. We took a break at lunch time to visit the local shops (buying food in a kebabshop is hlarious while crossplaying!)

When the rain got too heavy, we retreated back inside, for a bit more shopping, and eventually retired to the hotel bar for fried calamari and spicy potato wedges.But not afte a long walk escorting my GF's friend back to her hotel.

There was an organised party at the Ibis, but as it was ticket only, and we were very tired, we didn't really care.

Even with the air-con on it was a stuffy night and I didn't really sleep well. As I lay half away I debated whether to cosplay again or not on the Sunday.

Waking up with the sun on Sunday morning I decided to wear my costume again. This time we had to wait for my GF's mate to arrive as she was storing her stuff in our room (and didn't want to walk a couple of miles from her hotel in a skimpy costume!)

This time we arrived one hour early, and outside the hall there were no queues, and inside things moved smoothly to the holding area where we ended up sitting for most of the hour. Although this was punctuated by cries of "CARD GAMES ON MOTORCYCLES!" and other silliness.

People musy have realised how much better the queues were on Sunday because spirits were high, and as we filed out of the final row of the cattle run, people were high-fiving the next row as they passed.

Sunday was a lot more laid back. We had a look around the sales hall again, and Geof, the creator of Fetishman, wished me a happy birthday and complimented me on my entourage (My girlfriend was clearing a path before us, and her friend was following behind with a flag :) ).

After that we spent most of the day out in the sun photographing cosplayers and chilling out. As the sun went down we escorted my GFs friend to the station, then we went back to the hotel bar for a very yummy cod and chips.

I did some packing, and we went to sleep. I still didn't sleep well.

Which didn't help on Monday morning. The DLR was out of service and the replacement bus was packed. Changing at Tower Gateway means leaving the station, crossing a busy road, and enetering via another entrance. Kings Cross Station is horrible and I never want to use it again. The Cambridge Express didn't open its doors until one minute before departure time. And for some reason the hourly trains from Norwich to the sticks pause for mid-afternoon.

I arrived home very frazzled and short tempered. :(

Overall (apart from the travel nightmares) it was a really good weekend. Even the bad weather didn't stop us having fun, and I've learned a few lessons for next time. I'm not sure if I prefer the expo style to the more intimite hotel-cons, but I'm definitely going again in October.

I suppose I'd better start work on that costume then...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

How the Labour Party Lost My Vote

I've always been a bit of an old lefty. I figure the world is a better place to live in when the the minimum standard of living is a bit higher than a cardboard box and a blind eye turned. So imagine my disgust when I saw the latest bit of direct marketing by the Labour Party.

"Lib Dem Leader: Thatcher was right!" declares the headline. Although it doesn't actually stoop to telling us why he thought that, or what about. Don't you love a lack of context? But wait! They've helpfully expanded this with an alleged newpaper headline - "My admiriation for Thatcher; by Clegg". Even more lack of context. It could have been admiration for her hair, or standing up to critics, or even suceeding in a mans world.

"But which newspaper is this from?" you ask, so you can have an informed opinion. Why, the Daily Mail of course. *head-desk*

If you trust this gutter rag to report fairly, and accurately, then I have a bridge you might like to buy.

The soon-to-be-recyling then goes on to say how the Lib Dems are more in line with the old Tories, than the new Conservative party is. I suppose that's because the new Conservatives are too busy trying to emulate the New Labour party policy of "Say what will get most votes from Middle England" rather than having some firm ideals or values?

After I'd torn the leaflet up I dicovered a wonderful nugget of scare-mongery on the back - "Only Labour can beat the Tories," it claims. "A vote for the Lib Dems or any other party wll let the Tories win!" If a party is reduced to advocating tactical voting, I think they've already lost.

I still can't forgive the Conservatives for snatching school milk, the miners strikes, and the Poll Tax, but if the opposition has sunk to this level (remember when the Consevatives created the New Labour - New Danger posters?) then we have nothing left to lose.

Personally I will be voting for the party I want to win*, not the one I hate less.

*=Certainly not the Conservatives or one of those single policy parties like UKIP or the BNP either!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

*Blows the dust away*

Time for an update I think.

The blog hasn't seen much action recently because I haven't done anything I'd regard as noteworthy. The poor weather, the general malaise, and apathy have meant I haven't been out much. And even when I have the events have been such that if you weren't there, there is little interest in hearing about it.

Sadly I'm not sure when this will change. Hopefully when we see the sun again!

One thing that has been going well is the relationship front. K and I are getting on well. We went to see Sherlock Holmes and then have a meal for Valentines day (we both enoyed the film, and the food was good too), went to a LGBT month talk about censorship and homosexuality in Sailor Moon, and have made more than a few shopping trips together since we hooked up in November.

I think it helps that we have some shared interests (gaming and anime) and some interests not shared by the other (she loves cooking TV shows and I don't. I love to read novels, ad she doesn't). It also helps that she met Pandora before we started dating.

She takes great joy in pointing out things "Pandora would like" when shopping. Although I think she sees me as tartier than I actually am! We also enjoy laughing the "hooker shoes" that seem to be in every shoe shop right now (leopard print 5" heels, patent pink stillettoes, etc)

I've even met the parents but she hasn't met my family yet. I'm still referred to as a "friend", but I think her parents are smart enough to realise the situation. I suspect they are letting her tell them in her own time :)

We shall see where things go from here.