Embrace. A poem.

Start The warmth of embrace Lingering Bodies merge Hair mingles Tentacles feeling their way Gingerly at first Then with understanding Forthright Bellows breathe Entwined Reason forgotten Locomotion Salt and sea Taste the ocean Fish on your tongue Drilling for oil In the depths Until the end The fast release Raining inside The empty gesture The habit of escape Finish

Another experimental poem from me. Just in that kind of mood.

The Player. A short tale.

Steve picked up his guitar. It was an old acoustic: earthy, time worn and weather beaten, with thick gauge strings slightly out of tune. He plucked the neck harmonics and adjusted the tuning heads, listening intently as each tone wavered and steadied. When he finished, he strummed an open G chord, and, satisfied with his efforts, commenced  playing a song he had written long ago.

As usual it was a tale of woe and forgotten love. Blues, but not quite blues; some jazzy sevenths and ringing open strings brought a gentle dissonance to the melody.  Lyrics breathily whispered to the night.

Steve drifted lazily back to bars long since closed and audiences long since forgotten –  he could almost smell the drifting smoke in the room. Gently rocking, his left foot tapped out a rhythmic beat in time to his strumming.

Then it was over, as if it had never been.

 

This is a uni piece I wrote many months ago. Everyone had to write an introduction for themselves. The final assignment has been marked, so I can post it now.

Time’s Up. A poem.

I am a stupid man, a stubborn man

I’m waiting for you to come to me
To extend a hand (‘save me’, he cries)
But will I reject you, will I turn away
As I have before?

(so many times before, always repeating the same old mistakes, cap in hand, then ‘no thanks, i’m okay, I can manage, I can do this alone, I don’t need your help’, can’t you see that he’s drowning)

What makes it so hard to take your proffered hand
To swallow my pride and let you in
To stop HATING myself
To stop KILLING myself
Every NIGHT and every DAY

(every heartbeat, every notion, every teardrop, just wash him clean so he can wake up and start the day again and maybe, just maybe, he can get through that day, then get through that night, rinse and repeat, again and again and again and again) 

I am a stupid man, a stubborn man

And I’m nearly done

Time’s up

 

Okay, this poem’s a bit dark. But then, I’m a pretty dark person. My poems reflect all aspects of me, not just the happy stuff. (‘Happy stuff?’ I hear you say. ‘When have you ever written happy poems?’ Good point. Scratch what I said earlier.)

Haiku(n see you)

Edge

This edge, razor sharp
Ballet that tests your mettle  
One misstep: deep cuts

Rip

Her eyes, hidden depths
Breaking the surface tension
Rip tide, drowning me

Spirit

Stronger now, I walk
Inside my mind’s eye, I dream
Universally

 

I love writing Haiku – 5/7/5 syllabic compounds of poetic magic.

It’s like baking a very small, very tasty, cake. Only better.

Saved. A poem.

I walk in the light
Justified
I walk in the Word
Sanctified
I, by His Grace
Forgiven
I, the sinner saved
Forever

As a Christian I find I don’t write enough poetry about my God. Time to rectify that.

Love, Today, Actually. A poem.

He met her on Tinder
She met him on RSVP
He spoke to her on cell
She met him for coffee

I like you, he said
I like you, too, she said
Not as much as me, he said
Do, too, she said

I love you, he said
I love you, too, she said
I love you more, he said
Not as much as me, she said

He tweeted his love
She facebooked hers

He SMS’d his breakup
She emailed hers

Ah, love in the electronic age. It ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Wonder Woman – still great at 75

I don’t know if I’ve ever told anyone this, but I am a HUGE fan of Wonder Woman.

I love the current comic book version (in DC Comics’ Rebirth initiative), by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp, and I love the trailers that have been coming out for the new movie.

Why am I such a big fan? Wonder Woman is not only a cool superhero, she’s also the first and greatest female superhero of them all. She’s super strong, can fly, has an unbreakable mystic lasso that forces people to tell the truth, can deflect bullets and stuff with her bracelets, and, although she’s trained as a warrior by her Amazon people, she’s an ambassador for peace .

When Wonder Woman was first created by William Moulton Marston in December 1941, the intent was to create an allegory for the perfect woman leader. Marston was a supporter of women’s rights and believed that women were more honest than men – and thus capable of being better leaders. Having helped create the polygraph lie detector, I guess he knew what he was talking about.

And for 75 years, Wonder Woman has been the subject of great comic book stories. Yep, it’s her 75th anniversary this year.

She’s got a movie coming out in June. Check out the latest trailer:

If you haven’t read a Wonder Woman comic lately, rock on down to your local comic shop and pick up an issue. Or check out her movie in June. She’s also in the Justice League movie coming out later this year.

It’s a great time to be a Wonder Woman fan. And to become one.

Haiku x 3

Hearts

Hearts collide as one
Messaging like lightning seeds
Bodies entwined

Glory

Whispers in the air
Glory is the mind that thinks
No longer a slave

Flown

Twisted words, she said
Love has flown far, he replied
Walk away, remorse

 

How many times do I have to mention that I love Haiku and its 5/7/5 syllable structure?

Here are three completely unrelated Haiku I wrote a few minutes ago.

‘Kong’, baby! A movie review.

No spoilers were harmed in the making of this review

Just saw Kong: Skull Island. Lots of big monsters, big explosions, soldiers getting eaten by big monsters, big explosions blowing up big monsters, crazy-ass leave your brains at the door logic. Awesome.

So, you know the deal from the trailers. King Kong is a humungous ape the size of a building. He protects the natives and the peace-loving animals of Skull Island, a lost world protected from discovery by a massive weather system surrounding it. Until Skull Island is picked up by satellites in 1973, that is. It’s the end of the Vietnam War, and Monarch, a company funded by the US Government to track down monsters and stuff, joins up with another expedition planning to map the island. Add a military escort, lots of helicopters, and you have a recipe for lots of head kicking goodness and Apocalypse, Now references. Cue shots of Kong smashing crap up.

There are a lot of good actors in this movie, and some solid performances – Samuel L. Jackson as the crazed, vengeance-driven colonel, Tom Hiddleston as the ex-SAS tracker, John Goodman as the Monarch boss who knows more than he’s letting on, Brie Larson as the more-than-capable anti-war photographer, John C. Reilly as the war-lost pilot gone native. And more. But don’t let the acting get in the way. What you’re really here for is the big dino-like beasties and lots of ‘Kong smash’! The 70’s soundtrack  that accompanies it is freakin’ great.

You may have guessed that I really enjoyed this movie. I love a good, thought-provoking and message-laden film as much as the next literary nerd, but every once in a while, I just need to switch off my life-stressed brain and see some big explosions. And giant apes.

Kong: Skull Island delivers. Catch it now. Oh, and hang around for the post-credits scene – franchise building begins…

Third Time Lucky. A poem.

Twice I have loved
Many more I have not
But twice it went sour
Like milk left out too long, shelf life expired

Twice I have loved
Felt so good for a bit
But twice realised
They weren’t the right fit, mortal square pegs

Twice I have loved
Hearts long were in sync
Twice I was wrong
Should’ve trusted gut instinct, churning inside

Twice I have loved
And twice was mistaken
Now I seek one last time
True love never breaking, unlimited, unbound

 

Ever get the feeling you didn’t get it right the first time? Or the second? Here’s a poem I wrote to celebrate third time lucky, whenever and wherever she may be.

Firefly is back! Or, might be…

Fifteen years ago, a Joss Whedon TV show called Firefly graced the airwaves on the Fox Network. In no time at all, it was cancelled. In no time at all, fans started begging the network to bring it back. In no time at all, DVD sales for the series went through the roof, and have pretty much stayed there. In no time at all (okay, two years), Whedon was able to make a movie sequel to the series, called Serenity, something that had been previously unheard of, for a show with only one season.

So, what is Firefly? (I know you know but I’ll remind you, anyway). Firefly is an ensemble science fiction show about the crew of a Firefly-class spaceship, captained by ex-Browncoat revolutionary Malcolm Reynolds. The crew gets up to mischief and shenanigans in a wild west-style frontier region of space. In twelve episodes, Firefly manages to fit in more characterisation, charm, humour, and intelligence, than most long-term series can do in several seasons.

And people love Firefly. I don’t just mean they love it. I mean they LOVE it. Diehard fans are everywhere, and the one thing they have clamoured for all these years, is to bring the show back to TV.

Years ago, Fox was not keen on low rating series. That’s when Firefly was cancelled. If the series had run today, it would have been given more chances to establish an audience, or would have had multiple seasons on a cable network like SyFy. Recently, however,  networks have been reviving old shows, like The X-Files and Twin Peaks, riding a wave of nostalgia for TV old and beautiful. A few weeks ago, Fox indicated they’d be willing to bring Firefly back, if Whedon were  to run it (the “showrunner” leads the writing team and provides the general direction of the show).

I know what you’re thinking:  for fifteen years the fans have been asking for this, and all of a sudden Fox is saying “no worries”. In a 2013 interview with ComingSoon.Net, Whedon said, “If all the planets align that would be great, but I’m not going to do what I did the first time and move heaven and earth to make it happen.”

So, we may be waiting for longer then we think.

Still, it’s nice to dream. And sometimes, just sometimes, dreams come true.

 

This post seems a bit late, doesn’t it? That’s because I originally wrote it six weeks ago, as part of a uni assignment. It’s has only just been marked, so I can post it, now.  

English spelling, too, not American. Nothing wrong with American spelling, just letting you know.

Refill. A poem.

Now the tank is nearly empty
Waiting to be (ful)filled
The fuel pump lurks
Just out of reach
Too far away
All too hard
So Tired
Empty
Dead
Stop
No

Another experiment, this time in structure. I’ve done these sorts of “visual” poems before, but I liked how this one turned out, as well as the content.

Strike Three – I’m out!

I’m taking a break from online dating. It’s just too depressing. Awkward, tiring and depressing. Big sigh.

Aside from all the women I meet not looking at all like their photos (does everyone put their Dorian Gray pictures online?), I’m just tired of the cycle: excitement at the thought of meeting someone, then the big letdown. I end up feeling like a flat tire that’s been beaten with a dead horse (at least I can still mix metaphors, very badly).

Maybe my conversational standards are too high. Maybe my expectations about lonely, 40-something women on the internet, are unreasonable. Sometimes the woman’s standards are too high, or they’re just downright crazy. My last phone conversation ended with me not being a ‘good fit’, because she received messages from the universe which she recorded in an exercise book, and I mentioned earlier I’d met a medium who ripped off sad people who missed their dead relatives. She felt I wasn’t open minded enough (probably a fair call on that one). Oh, and her ex-partner was still in her life, helping out with the garden. What?! Wow, saved by the bell that time.

So I’ve closed off my online profile and waved goodbye, possibly forever (although nothing lasts forever, as divorced acquaintances are fond of reminding me). That leaves the problem of how to to meet someone (refer here for my issues with that).

I guess I’ll just have to be patient and know that the big guy upstairs has it all worked out (we’ve talked about it a few times, but as you know, he’s not in the habit of answering immediately. Big universe to run, y’know).

I’m hoping I don’t run out of hope along the way.

But that’s another story.

Bored, or annoyed, by Steve’s incessantly despondent ramblings? Try some excessively depressing poetry instead – click here.

Dietary Disaster

I have loved pancakes for many years. Although I make no great claims regarding my epicurean knowledge or experiences, I like to think I’m a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to pancakes. I’ve had all types of strange and exotic mixes, with sides too varied and eccentric to list here. During my previous working career, I travelled a lot, and would eke out pancake specialists in every new city to sample the local gastronomic efforts. To ensure pancakes remained special, I made sure I limited the number of times per month I had them. But when I did have them, I tended to take the “all or nothing/Geronimo” approach, which would leave me a sweating, sugar-infused, hyperglycaemic beach ball by evening’s end.

Today, I met with a mate for lunch, and I ordered pancakes for the first time in several years. My financial status as a student precludes me from eating out that often (and when I do it’s generally takeout or bits of cardboard from the local bin). So, today was a treat.

They arrived, an ebulliently fluffy triple-stack, adorned with golden reams of banana and radiant and succulent strawberries, sickly-sweet ice cream and lashings of golden maple syrup. Without a second to lose, I buried myself headfirst in them. They were delightful – sweetly incriminating, melting in my mouth and exploding in my mind like a closeted sugar-gasm. For a moment, I was in pancake heaven, complete with angelic chorus and shining sunbeam illumination.

Within a few minutes, though, I found the whole experience turning sour. My stomach was churning, and I found the taste overly sweet and distasteful. I sombrely left half of the last pancake, claiming I was full.

What had happened? Why was I rejecting what had previously been my all-time favourite delicacy? The ingredients were fine. The pancakes were cooked to perfection – just the right consistency, depth and taste. The maple syrup was real and there was lots of it. The fruit was fresh. Everything was right. So, what was wrong?

It wasn’t until I was walking back to the car, that I realised. For the past few years I had been living an overly healthy life (just check out my training blog posts, for evidence of that). I had been steering clear of fatty and sugary foods and treating my body like a church (literally). I realised that during that time I’d gone off pancakes.

WHAT?! GONE OFF PANCAKES!!!! How could God be so cruel as to deny the one secret, sugary need that I had left in my life?! As my post-modern culinary world collapsed around me (yes, at that moment, I had forgotten that 50% of the world was starving and living in poverty), I fell to my knees with my hands raised to the heavens. “Father, why have you forsaken me?” I quoted (although in hindsight, the context was probably somewhat sacrilegious). Pedestrians gave wide berth to the kneeling, wild-eyed monk with the smeared syrup and light frosting of castor sugar adorning his t-shirt.

I felt sick for the rest of the day, and it served me right.

No, the food wasn’t off. I hadn’t picked up a bad case of streptococcus (although, that may have been preferable. Then I would still be able to eat pancakes). My body just wasn’t used to that concentration of fat and sugar in one hit. I had left the amazingly fun pancake zone and entered the bleary and subdued health zone (not a place I prefer to be, but probably better for me in the long run).

And so, humbled by the experience, I resigned myself to a carrot, vegies and some quiche for dinner. Perhaps one day I’ll have pancakes again. Maybe a little less, next time…

Hmmmmm…Pancakes…

Mountains and Valleys. A poem.

Mountains and valleys
Mark my moments
With breathless enthusiasm

Interminable
Inner monologues
From peak to trough
This way and that

Mountains and valleys
The sweat and steel
Of ongoing engagements

Untenable
Ceaseless skirmishes
Each step forward
A new conflict

Mountains and Valleys
Counting the cost
In endless grains of salt

 

I hate having depression. It’s not hard to guess what I wrote this poem about.

Logan. A movie review.

This movie review is spoiler free.

I saw Logan yesterday. And what I saw was a great movie, one that focussed on character, with a good story, great acting, great action set pieces that contributed to the plot (rather than being there for the sake of it) and some deep underlying themes and messages that resonated with me.

It’s 2029, mutants have all but disappeared from the planet, and Hugh Jackman’s Logan is no longer Wolverine, but instead a cynical and washed up alcoholic, whose healing ability is fading. He’s looking after a decrepit Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is slowly losing his faculties and whose mental abilities have him classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the government. They’re hiding out in Mexico, from where Logan drives back and forth across the border working as a limo driver to pay the bills and get drugs to control Xavier’s dangerous seizures. Logan meets up with a young girl, Laura, also known as X-23, who has abilities like his own. She is the first of a breed of new mutants, designed as weapons and now hunted by the Transigen corporation. Logan and Xavier need to take Laura north to Eden, to meet up with other young mutants, who escaped Transigen together. Thus begins a road trip that reveals much about the characters and leads to inevitable showdowns with the corporation’s agents.

Hugh Jackman has stated that this will be his last outing as Logan/Wolverine. Patrick Stewart has similarly indicated he is retiring from the character of Charles Xavier. Both actors deliver gritty and emotive turns in perhaps the finest performances of their careers.

Director and writer James Mangold delivers a dark and violent story where Logan acknowledges the cost of killing, and the pain it has caused him. It’s a spiritual quest for Logan’s personal deliverance, driven by Xavier and Laura. There are big action scenes, as you would expect, and the MA rating (Australia)/R rating (America) means plenty of gore and language, but it’s all appropriate to the story. There are references to the original X-Men movie and the X-Men Marvel comics play their part, as a sort of manufactured history of the characters. Logan is ultimately about personal redemption.

Logan is not a movie for kids. It’s has adult themes and content. It delivers in the way Chris Nolan did with his Dark Knight trilogy, that superhero movies can be deep, dark and thought-provoking. It’s a shame that it’s Jackman’s last appearance as the character.

Logan is the Wolverine movie we’ve all been waiting for.

Alone. A poem.

I am
always
Alone

Midnight wash me clean
For all my sins atone

I will
always be
Alone

Daylight, I’m a vacancy
Rent is always low

I am
and will
always be
Alone

Moonlight, occasional friend
Pithy remarks, then go

I have
and will
always be
Alone

I rest on laurels of silken sheets
Singularly enthroned

I have
I am
I will always be
Forever
Alone

Another Friday night, finds me alone.

Another lonely Friday night, and I compose another lonely poem. I like the visual, downward spiral.

Passengers. A poem.

Destiny
Passengers
Travellers
All wanting
To go home

So hungry
Their eyes, hearts
All longing
For a love
To call home

Passengers
Going home


We’re all hungry hearts.

I wanted to write a poem using three syllables in each line. Another experiment. Hope you like it.

The Day. A poem.

The day has come when the one becomes two
The decree overrides a match made by fools
There is no need to cry, no need to berate
When you’re left on your own, to one single fate
 
So, do you just start again, or do you stand still?
Do you butt your head on a wall, or just take a pill?
Do you pray in your church, or go out on the town,
Do you walk with a smile, or shuffle with a frown
 
The day has come and the decision is in
Two old lives are over and two new ones begin

 

Divorce is a major upheaval for anyone going through it. A gamut of emotions, some good, some bad. In the end, it’s often the best thing. To move on. To have a fresh start.

It’s not always that easy to see at the time, though.

Haiku indeed

Two
The moth and the flame
What games they play together
Long before the sun

Worthy
God smiles on me here
His infinite majesty
Pray I am worthy

Repose
Guitar sits silent
Resting gently in repose
Awake! Time has come!


I can’t escape those evocative 5/7/5 syllable structures.

I’m still composing in triplets, but not a trilogy, this time.

Ghosts. A poem.

The house is empty now
But shadows whisper longingly
Faded images de-coupled
Waltzing to a memory

We walked here once
Now we are past tense
Conjoined in the dust mites
Holographic vestiges

The house breathes
In and out, submissive
Each breath synchronised
A myopic symphony

It remembers all too well
The agony and blame
Of souls sold to sadness
Anger, rage and pain


The skies give freely
And rain paints the grey
Metallic spectrum glistens
Tears on window panes

Long shall our ghosts walk here
Unfettered by these frames
Dwelling in forevermore
Long shall these ghosts remain


This poem came to me while I was on the loo (inspiring and a lttle gross). It’s a bit Poe-like, at times, I think. Wasn’t intentionally so.

Sorrow. A poem.

Sorrow in my eyes can’t repair the damage done
Upon the mirror face, reflecting lies and truth alike

Sorrow in your eyes won’t change the bitter cost
Paid in precious lives, twisted and estranged

Sorrow in their eyes, shame for all that’s lost
Dreams shattered and bespoke, justice in a ghost

Sorrow in the lines of the casket of regrets
That tracks into the fire, and whispers to the light

Sorrow in the flames, burning slowly into dust
One story laid to rest, and two phoenixes arise.

 

Another poem. Can’t seem to stop writing them. It’s almost like my dam of emotion has burst its walls.

Maybe that’s a bit too melodramatic, but you know what I mean.

Chest Day!

Today was chest day in my 4-day body split workout (Back/Chest/Shoulders/Arms). My workout for each body part changes each time to dupe muscle memory (so the muscles don’t get used to the range of motion and stress), but here’s the routine I did for chest, today.

I’ve included links to the main exercises, so you can see how they’re done.

Warm Up

  • 20 minutes – multiple arm and leg stretches, oblique twists, strong man overhead raises, 3 sets x weighted sit ups (30 reps each), yoga stretches

Push ups

5 x supersets – each superset includes:

  • Kettle Bell Push Ups x 10 – this time around, one kettlebell resting on floor, two hands in diamond over bell. Works chest and triceps. Haven’t got a kettle bell? Balance on a basket ball (harder), medicine ball, or books. The image above shows what I mean, except using a medicine ball. 
  • Incline Push Ups x 10
  • Decline Push Ups x 10
  • Dips (unweighted) x 10

Slow movements for the exercise, then move quickly to the next.

Flyes

5 x sets – includes:

Tabata Finisher

  • Tabata – 4 minutes – intense and fast – jump lunges, jump squats, push ups, burpies

That was today’s workout. Very enjoyable, in a painful sort of way.

 

Warning: I’m not your doctor. If you haven’t exercised before, or are out of condition (read: unfit, overweight, etc.), talk to one before attempting strenuous exercise. You have been warned.  

Cat and Mouse. A poem.

The mouse scampered across the floor
He was seeking cheese, or something more
His nose twitched, he raised his head up high
But there was no one there, so he breathed a sigh.

Then the cat had him between her paws
And he realised, this time, she’d won
The cat purred and smiled,
The game was finally done.


This poem is the sequel to a short story I wrote for uni. I’ll post the story once it’s marked (I can’t post stuff I’ve written before it’s marked because the plagiarism checker will pick up my blog).

The change in meter from verse 1 to 2 is deliberate. 

I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you wish to interpret the poem.

It was a change of scenery for me.

The Boat. A book review.

This is a book review I did for a Uni assignment. I got 20 out of 20 for it.  Yeah, I’m a bit proud of that.

The Boat: A book review

By Nam Le
Published by Penguin Group (Australia)
9780143009610 (pbk)
$16.95, 315 pages

I’m not big on reading short stories. I’ve always been a long-form novel kind of guy. It wasn’t until I read Nam Le’s The Boat that my opinion of short stories changed.

For those who don’t know, The Boat is the first collection of short stories from Nam Le, a Vietnamese-born Australian who now lives in the United States and edits fiction for the Harvard Review. He has won numerous awards for short fiction and The Boat has been translated into multiple languages. The eponymous title story is used in some classrooms to teach students about the plight of refugees.the-boat-by-nam-le

The Boat is an extraordinary piece of work. It reads like a text book on how to write good short stories – any student would benefit from reading it. Every story is told from the perspective of vastly different protagonists, who vary wildly in age, maturity, and experience, and each of the stories is markedly different. Whether it’s a 14-year old gang banger/would-be assassin in Columbia in ‘Cartagena’, an aging New York artist dying of cancer in ‘Meeting Elise’, or a fiercely patriotic, Japanese girl in the third-grade in 1945 Hiroshima, Le writes each of his characters with an incredible level of nuance that genuinely engages the reader. Each story is longer than a conventional short story, giving his characters the time they need to percolate emotionally. This doesn’t diminish them in any way – I challenge anyone to put one of these tales down without finishing it.

The stories that bookend the collection are set in New York (‘Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice’) and on a Vietnamese refugee boat (‘The Boat’) respectively. The first tells of a well-educated writer seeking his Vietnamese veteran father’s approval and their inevitable cultural and emotional distance; the last is a tale of a traumatic refugee boat journey interspersed with flashbacks to life under the Viet Cong. I suspect these are both deeply personal, however it wouldn’t matter if they weren’t – Le demonstrates an ability to realise worlds and characters with astounding detail and pragmatism.

Every story in this collection is poignant; there are no happy endings. Le writes believable stories that strive to explore the humanity of the characters and events from multiple points of view, with realistic consequences. Le changes his writing style with each piece, never allowing you to pigeon-hole him. It’s almost as if he is flexing his writing muscles for the sake of it, but each story moves with its own rhythm, textures and emotions, the like of which amateurs such as I can only marvel.

As soon as I finished The Boat I immediately gave it away to a friend – not because I hated the book, but because I was desperate for someone else to read it and experience the level of enthusiasm I had. The Boat is a truly profound piece of writing, one that affected me greatly, and I believe that it will be regarded as a classic of the 21st century.

Top Ten Tabletop Role Playing Games

Without further ado, my current favourites:

  1. Symbaroum – awesomely evocative Swedish fantasy TRPG. It’s all in the atmosphere. Cool systems, too. Check out my review here.
  2. Dungeons and Dragons (5th Edition) – my old favourite. 5th edition is miles ahead of previous D&D versions. To find out why I love the game, click here.
  3. Fate – possibly the best ‘story-based’ TPRG around. Players and Game Master create the stories together – any genre, any type of game. Read my review of Fate’s epic awesomeness here.
  4. 13th Age – great combination of crunchy D20 mechanics and story-telling. Read my review here.
  5. Coriolis – The Third Horizon – those Swedes just keep pumping out great games. This Sci- Fi TPRG uses the cool mechanics from Mutant: Year Zero. The setting is Arabian Nights in space. Very cool. I’ll review it as soon as I finish reading it (it’s a big rule book, y’know).
  6. Mindjammer – fantastic, far future, Transhuman Sci-Fi, using the excellent Fate system. One of the best written rulebooks I’ve ever read. NO typos or grammatical errors! The spelling nazi in me was overjoyed. Reviewed here.
  7. Mouse Guard – it’s a joy to play as a mouse in a fantasy setting, where mice have towns and cities and the Mouse Guard protect them from wild animals and other threats. Uses the excellent Burning Wheel system. Must find time to review…
  8. Mutant: Year Zero – post-apocalyptic mutant mania! Another amazing Swedish game with  great sand-box play and cool D6 mechanics. My review is here.
  9. Stars Without Number – Cool old school D&D-system Sci-Fi game, with lots of sand-box tables that can be used across other games. Lots of supplements. A second edition is on the way. Where will I find the time to review all these games?
  10. Cogs, Cakes and Swordsticks – Charming English Steam Punk TRPG, with possibly the simplest games mechanics I’ve ever seen. Great game to play over tea and crumpets. I am determined to review this! Sometime.

There are LOTS of TPRGs available. My list could go on and on. But ten’s the limit. For now…

Pedestrian. A poem.

I’m a pedestrian
Story of my life
Knocked down
By rushing cars
At the crossing
And crossroads

Standing, watching
Waiting for impact
Knowing how much
It will hurt
But not moving
Out of the way
I am a deer
Staring down
Interminable
Inevitability

I fall down
Blood on pavement
Get up, rise again
Slowly to my feet
Dust myself off
Wait for the next one

I’m afraid
To cross this road
I always stop
In the middle
The chicken
Who never gets
To the other side
Forgets why
He wanted to cross
In the first place

Time to trust
Faith, hope, love
To hold my hand
Like the baby
That I am
Develop some
Real road sense
And better metaphors

Good luck with that

 

Some of us run wildly through life, without care or concern for the consequences. Some of us tread cautiously, looking both ways, weighing the odds.

Some of us let our fears overcome us, and before we know it, we’re approaching middle age and still don’t know how to avoid life’s oncoming cars.

Waiting for a sign…

So, just what is my purpose in the grand scheme of things? I have to admit, most of the time I’m not sure. Does this make me a bad Christian? No. At the very least, it makes me human.

When I became a Christian two years ago, I truly believed God had a purpose for me, and that he would enlighten me as time went by. I had to be patient, wait for the seasons to change, endure, hope. I’ve done that every day. Some days my faith is stronger than others. But it never fails me. My commitment is rock steady.

I thought, perhaps I have a purpose in my music and writing – I compose songs devoted to my God, and I have found my true self in my stories, poems and other writings. But even with these, I’m still not sure if I have my purpose. Being a full time student, I haven’t got a real job, and while I don’t believe that a job means purpose by any means, my previous working existence strongly equated purpose with contributing in a meaningful way through work. I’ve been feeling guilty because I’m not working. But then, I feel guilty about a lot of things.

My pastor spoke at church yesterday about fear preventing us from walking more closely with God (the process of sanctification). And I do let fear control my life. I suffer from depression and anxiety and I have all sorts of fears controlling me. With regular therapy I’m learning to let them go. But not having a purpose, a real meaning to my life, is perhaps one of my greatest fears.

Am I crazy to think this? Probably not. I’m sure I’m not the only Christian to wonder about their role in the big picture.

I guess I’m waiting for a sign from the big guy upstairs. The problem is that I don’t know what the sign will be, or even if there will be one. And if there is one, will I recognise it (sounds familiar – I have the same problem with women).

I believe in faith, love, and ever-enduring hope. Maybe I’ll discover my purpose soon. I sincerely hope so.

La Petite Mort. A poem.

She chokes the life out of you
Her not so subtle fingers
Silencing your protests
Her oh so subtle features
Blurring to incomprehension

Your last breath exhales
A death rattle motion
Her not so subtle fingers
Lighting up a cigarette
Reflecting on her oh so subtle features

She’s ready to wake you
And start again

 

Despite what you might think after reading this poem, I am not into passing out during sex. The subject made for an interesting poem, though.

Trainspotting 2 review – the train’s still running on time

This review is spoiler free.

The original Trainspotting was released in cinemas in 1996. Directed by Danny Boyle, based on a book by Irvine Welsh, the black comedy starred Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle, and was about heroin addicts in inner-city Edinburgh, who eventually make off with £16 000 worth of drugs, which McGregor’s character, Mark, steals. It’s a funny movie, with some serious social commentary on the side.

Trainspotting 2 was recently released in cinemas, 20 years after the original. But unlike the spate of sequels to old movies released lately, Trainspotting 2 is actually good.

Mark returns to Edinburgh from Amsterdam, where he has been living the last 20 years. He’s had a near death experience and his wife has divorced him, so he has nowhere left to go. Naturally his best friend, Jonny Lee Miller’s character Simon is not happy to see him. Robert Carlyle’s Begbie, the strong-arm man of the group, has been serving time in gaol, escapes, finds out Mark is back in town and naturally wants to kill him. Ewan Bremner’s Spud has returned to heroin addiction, having been thrown out by his wife and son.

This is the set up for Trainspotting 2, which has the same tone and feel as the original, but does not run as one expects sequels to. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone. Safe to say, Trainspotting 2 is funny (in a hard, sometimes grim way) and still has time to comment on mid-life disappointment, social media and the impact of economic rationalism. The cast slips adroitly back into the roles they played 20 years ago, and each character gets ample screen time and character development. Boyle continues to utilise surrealism in some of his direction, perhaps not as famously as Mark swimming into a filthy toilet to recover his dropped suppository, as in the first movie, but through interesting shadow metaphors and by nostalgically integrating some scenes from both movies. At times the strong Scottish accents are a tough act to follow, but I’m sure this was more because of the bass-heavy cinema speakers.

Watching Trainspotting on DVD before seeing the sequel will provide additional insight, but it’s not essential.

Trainspotting 2 is a great movie. The train’s still running on time. Don’t miss it.

 

Trainspotting 2 is in cinemas now.      

Broken Bottle. A Haiku Trilogy

Blur

Your vision blurred
Atonement dressed in black
Alcohol prevails

Used

The empty bottle
Your eye peers at the bottom
All the lonely dregs

After

Drunken slumbering
Nothing but spirit-soaked 
More dreams of limbo

 

Ah, haiku. My favourite 5/7/5 syllable verse form. Back to writing in threes, which seems to flow naturally for me.

There was a time when I used to drink a lot. I don’t drink anymore. And I’m better for it.

Walk. A poem.

I walk for me
I walk the lonely way
Up and down, crisply dried and crunchy
Around I go, wearing tracks in the carpet
Circuits in the yard are circuits in my mind
Endless surges of high definition creativity
Fingers make words in motion on my cell
My babies gestated, now given birth
Sweat mixing with pollen and grass seed
Each victory lap whips me lean
Until I’m spent, punished, exhausted
No need for a safe word
Feels good

 

I didn’t walk after my workout today. But I thought I’d write a poem about it, anyway.

Armistice Day! Oops, I mean arms day.

I just finished an arms session and thought I’d talk about it.

My body part split workouts involve clustering exercises for Back/Chest/Shoulders/Arms, split over four days. The arms workout is split into triceps and biceps, and I change this every session, so the following information is only reflective of today’s session.

Why change? So the muscles don’t get used to the type of exercise I’m doing – it’s easier to shock the muscle into growth. I also like variety – if I get bored I lose motivation. And we can’t have that, can we? My exercise is part of my mental health routine, and I, like most people, prefer not to be depressed all the time. Although, sometimes I get depressed anyway…okay, moving on.

I’ve included links to the exercises below, so you can see what they are and how they work.

Warmup

Warm up includes leg, torso and arm stretches, yoga stretches, 3 x sets of bicycle crunches (80 reps each set) (20 minutes)

Note: I vary warm ups each session – sometimes I do weighted crunches instead, however these have less reps.  

Triceps

5 x supersets, which involve:

Tricep Cable Pull Downs/Push Downs (20 reps)

Tricep Dumb Bell Kickbacks (10 reps each side)

Tricep Overhead Extensions, with dumb bell instead of cable (10 reps)

Note: I do weighted parallel bar dips on my chest day. By inclining forward with chin against your chest, as you lift your body mass and extra weight via a belt, you hit your chest more. It also hits triceps as well (many people would normally include dips in their tricep routine, but that’s just me).  

Biceps

5 x supersets, which involve:

Standing One Arm Cable Curls (15 reps)

Concentration Curls (8 reps each side, with dumb bells)

Barbell Curls (10 reps)

Cardio Finisher

Tabata – Intense cardio – jump lunges, jump squats, push ups, burpies (4 minutes)

 

Normally I do laps for two kilometres, stopping to do push ups and lunges each lap, but it was raining today. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

You’ll notice I combine some high rep exercises with low reps. I like to go for a balance of size and strength building. In a superset you perform each exercise slowly, but move quickly to the next one, so that you push the muscles to failure rapidly.

Phew! The blog was harder to write than the workout!

 

Note: If you are unfit, overweight, have medical issues or are not used to exercise, please consult with your doctor prior to undertaking any training programs.

Grace. A poem.

She walks with grace through halls of patterned thoughts
Across lawns of windswept patina and dogmatic mores
Her frail obscurity and gentle gestures far and near
In sundry creative feats and so expressive fears
I will watch from afar, dreams sundered one to two
On the side lines of a heart so long misunderstood
And my love towers over all, above all other needs
I lie awake in dreams of inconsequential fantasy   

 

Ever been in love with someone who doesn’t know it? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. Maybe this poem means nothing to you.

But if you have, this poem may mean everything and more.

Broke a nail…um, I mean, a string

DOH!

As soon as I heard the familiar schwing sound and the song I was playing sounded off, I knew I had a bit of a problem.

I hate changing guitar strings. It’s not that hard – buy some new strings, use a string winder to take off the old strings, replace with new strings (or if you’re really lazy, just replace the one you broke), tune up strings, stretch and break in new strings so that they don’t go out of tune each time you play. Okay, not hard, just time consuming.

I don’t change my strings very often, in fact the last time I did I’d had the same ones on my acoustic for about four years (I used a thinner plectrum then, and wasn’t as aggressive a player. I guess my ex-wife must have sucked the life out of me). A lot of gunk can build up on them in that time, let me tell you. They also tend to sound a bit flat and lifeless (a bit like me in the morning), as continued use and bending flattens out the bottom part of the string where it rubs against the fret.

So, instead of going to the music shop and buying new strings, I decided to pack my acoustic away and get out my Fender Telecaster. Playing an electric guitar without amplification is fine, but it certainly doesn’t have the same sound or feel as an acoustic – for one it’s much easier to play, as the string height on the neck is considerably lower – and the only volume produced is from the strings themselves, as the electric is solid bodied, thus very soft and tinny.

Electric guitars have coils that amplify the sound of the strings and, to a lesser degree, the wooden body of the guitar. Acoustic guitars generate their volume via strings and their hollow body, projecting that sound via the sound hole on the front, so the type of wood the guitar is made of becomes more important.

The good thing about electric guitars is you can plug in an amp, add effects, and suddenly you’re a rock god (no offense to the big guy upstairs). This can:

  1. Upset the neighbours
  2. Distract you from your uni work that you have fallen behind on
  3. Delay you changing the broken string on the acoustic

But man, it feels great! That string can wait for a few more days…

If you don’t like hearing about my guitar playing blues (see what I did there?), you may prefer to read some of my poetry, here.    

Haiku very much

The ‘Here, Now, Broken’ Trilogy

Untouchable

So close, one could touch
The dreams inside of being
Untouchable, here.

Apocalypse

So close, burning heart
The fires of hell ignited
Apocalypse, now.

Retreat

So close, far away
Now, the instant of regret
Retreating, broken.

 

The Japanese Haiku’s 5/7/5 syllable structure is a source of great enjoyment and wonder for me.

I don’t know why I write Haiku’s in groups of three. I just do.

Healthy Huff ‘n Stuff

As you may or may not know, I’m a bit of a health nut. I work out regularly, get plenty of cardio, try to eat right, read fitness magazines, and so forth.

Over time I’ve picked up a few things here and there to keep healthy.  Here’s some:

  • Tabatas – if you don’t know about tabatas as a way to lose weight and improve cardiovascular fitness, check out my rave about them here.
  • Sprinting – the equivalent of a Tabata. University studies have shown that 3 x 20 second sprints at maximum effort provides the same stamina/cardio improvements as 50 minutes of low intensity exercise. Three sessions a week is all you need to make a huge difference.
  • Multivitamins – ensure your dietary bases are covered. Just make sure they are balanced, and don’t take too many – overdosing on vitamins is not good for your body. Check the instructions on the label and the daily allowance indicator next to the ingredients. Don’t forget you also get vitamins and minerals from food as well.
  • Exercise – at least 3 times per week, for at least 30 minutes. If it’s just walking, walk fast to get your heart rate up, otherwise it’s a bit pointless.
  • Stretch – make sure you stretch well before attempting strenuous exercise. I stretch for at least 20 minutes before my workouts. The stretching warmup is a workout in itself, involving traditional stretches for all body parts and yoga stretches. Some people in training also stretch after their workout.
  • Eat well – but don’t overeat. You don’t need to consciously avoid eating fat either – fats, in moderation, are needed by your body. If you need to lose weight, reduce you serving size and drink more water. Your body will utilise the calories it has, and the water will help fill your stomach to overcome hunger pains. Do NOT cut out food altogether – your body thinks you are going into starvation mode and conserves fat by consuming muscle tissue first. In starvation mode your body takes a few days to start burning fat. Eat slowly – your brain uses hormones to know when you’re full – if you eat too fast your brain won’t have received the signal from your stomach and you will still feel hungry.
  • Measure rather than weigh – use your pants or dress size as an indicator. As you lose weight your clothes will fit you better or loosen. If you do have to weight yourself, try not to do it every day, especially if you are working out regularly – muscle is heavier than fat, so the scales could be misleading. And have a regular weigh time (8:00 in the morning, for instance), after you’ve gone to the loo!
  • Drink Tea – one cup a day supplies your body with antioxidants – the chemicals that help you live longer. Green Tea is even better.
  • Laugh – sometimes it’s hard, especially if you suffer from depression, but laughing is one of the best things you can do for your health. It generates endorphins, reduces cortisol (the stress hormone), increases blood flow, helps reduce damage to your brain from stress, improves medical recovery time and decreases anxiety. If you can’t laugh, find a comedy show you like, find a friend who makes you laugh. Force yourself to laugh if you have to.

Okay, some of these are obvious, and it’s not meant to be an exhaustive list.

But sometimes the little things in life can make the biggest difference.

 

I am not a doctor (although a lady once mistook me for a gynaecologist). If you have an existing medical condition or are obese, speak to your doctor first before attempting new exercise or diet routines.

13th Age – Storytelling and innovation set this Fantasy RPG apart from other D&D-derivatives

13th Age is a fun and interesting fantasy role playing game (RPG). It’s meat and potatoes RPG elements are very much in the vein of Dungeons and Dragons, but it differentiates with a number of innovative mechanics, some of which are transferrable to other D20 systems. 13th Age is a game created on the back of the Open Game License, or OGL* for short.

The designers of 13th Age, Rob Heinsoo and Jonathon Tweet, are veterans of the RPG industry, having worked on previous incarnations of the D&D game. In 13th Age they have taken the best elements of their D&D design experiences, and added a focus on role playing and storytelling, with individual character backgrounds and relationships helping to drive the plot.

13th Age is set in the Dragon Empire, during that world’s tumultuous 13th Age. Players take on traditional D&D-style character roles (e.g. Fighter, Cleric, Wizard, Rogue, Paladin, Ranger, etc.), create a ‘unique thing’ (which can be any type of story element the player wishes), and chooses one of thirteen ‘Icons’ to have a positive or negative relationship with.

The icons are extremely powerful entities which can influence the characters and their adventures. They include such figures as the Archmage, Dwarf King, Emperor, Lich King, Great Gold Wyrm and Prince of Shadows. At the start of each adventure the players roll their icon relationship dice to see what part (if any) their icon will play in the game.

There is an emphasis on character backstories shaping character skills. Adventures tend to be more character-centric than traditional D20 games, and are more flexible as a result – Game Masters (GMs) will need to do more thinking on their feet. It suits ‘sand box’-style play (where players make the choices as to where they go and what they do). For this reason, the system is oriented to more experienced referees.

Characters are customised via class and background feats. I like that starting characters have three times as many hit points as in regular D20 games. I’m not a fan of dying in my first adventure, and having more hit points allows players to focus on the epic nature of combat.

There are 10 levels for characters to advance, and within those levels are three tiers – Adventurer, Champion and Epic. The tiers aid GMs in balancing encounters – a lot of balancing has gone into this game to ensure fairness and to enable GMs to generate adventures and monsters quickly.

Hit Points and damage modifiers accrue exponentially as each character levels up – they get powerful quickly. This helps to further establish the player-centric nature of the game.

Spells are handled well – instead of hundreds of spells as in most D20 systems, there are a core of spells for each spell-using class, with effects that vary/accrue based on level or tier. I don’t like massive spell lists, they tend to be unnecessarily repetitious and slow down the game as players look up their effects. It’s one of my major criticisms of D&D’s spell system. The system in 13th Age is manageable and has enough variation to keep things interesting.

Combat is similar to other D20 games, with initiative, D20 to hit, Hit Points, Armour Class, specific combat actions, etc. A standout innovation is the Escalation Die, a 1D6 that increases players chances to hit from the second round onwards. The die reflects the characters building up momentum and strategy as the battle progresses, thus making it easier for them to hit their opponents. The bonus goes from +1 in the second round to +6 by the seventh round, but can reduce if the players actively avoid combat. The physical die is a handy reminder of the bonus.

Characters recover hit points via quick rests or Full Heal Ups. Combat is fast and furious, but with enough crunch to keep grognards happy.

Rather than keeping track of multiple monster abilities during combat, certain attacks are activated based on the monster’s D20 to hit roll. Another great innovation that saves the GM time and keeps battles moving, and possibly my favourite aspect of the game (being a long-term GM who dislikes having to remember cumbersome monster abilities).

I like that Heinsoo and Tweet provide intimate little asides about how they play and referee the game. I also like the fact that the rule book is printed on heavy stock paper and is perfect bound (no chance of this rule book falling apart with use, unlike some other games. Yes, Wizards of the Coast, I’m referring to your D&D books).

The artwork in 13th Age is stylish, and the artists Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell received cover credit along with the authors. It’s not the breathtakingly evocative work found in Symbaroum, my current yardstick for fantasy RPG art, but it’s still good.

13th Age is a fun game for both GMs and players. It focuses on player stories and spectacular, fast-moving battles. If you like D20 systems but want something that emphasises player stories and fast, innovative gameplay, this could be the game for you.

 

13th Age is published by Pelgrane Press, and is available via their website.

 

* The OGL was introduced by Wizards of the Coast, owners of the D&D game, to promote usage and enable creators and contributors to create content (and other versions of the game) without the need to worry about copyright infringement. The official OGL statement must be included in every derivative product.

Alone. A poem.

An ocean world of islands
Tarred in starless night
Crowded on the waves
Like vessels passing by

Around each lonely island
Dark waters, deep and cold
Vast, forbidding depths
And dangerous undertow

Closely float the islands
And each one has a goal
To reach out, touch another
Two to make one whole

On this ocean world of islands
I have made my island home
Just one more lonely island
In a sea of lonely island homes

 

One of those days. Unfortunately, the internet is not a cure for loneliness.

The Lie. A poem.

(They lived the lie)
Squeezing through gaps in walls grown around themselves
Too high to climb, so much easier in between, in stealth

(Shifting patterns of discourse)
Clockwork fundamentals and wanton thought distractions
A world built upon duplicitous arguments and actions

(The audience and the empty tale)
Franchised so eagerly, outrageously, multifaceted and bold
Some level of acceptance won, for untruths bought and sold

(The error of their ways)
The wolf cried boy cried wolf, in judgements purveyed
Friends thought won now bled, long-term crisis of faith

They lived the lie that left them broken
And, as with all broken things, tossed aside and rotten
They became, in time
Lost
Forgotten

This has been a big week for me. I’ve written a number of poems (some I like, some I don’t) that have been well received. Thank you to everyone who has read, liked and commented.

Next week I start two new uni subjects. I hope to write more poetry in the future. Time will tell.

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