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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Much ado about something

Well, what can I say? It's a miserable day outside. In fact, it's been a miserable week. I've hardly left the house over the last three days. The rain started coming down Monday night, continued on and off yesterday and whilst I can currently see a patch of blue sky outside, it's been mostly grey, with a few damp spells. Hardly enticing me to do anything except park my backside on the comfy chair, put on some music (Jethro Tull seems to be good for a day like today) and rattle off another blog entry in an effort to at least do something constructive today.

Tomorrow, well, different story. I have a ticket to see Bill Bailey at the Opera House, as part of the Just for Laughs festival. I bought it way back in July and have been looking forward to it for a couple of reasons – a) Because it's Bill Bailey, and b) I haven't ever been to a show at the Opera House. I have been to the Opera House before, but that was possibly thirty years ago. I don't recall much of the visit – a vague recollection of a display in the foyer, but that's about it.

I might also have a date as well, but that's a different story altogether. I don't think I'll go on too much about that until (if) it actually happens.

No plans for Friday, which may mean a trip up the road to the comic book shop, and take the laptop with me in an effort to do something else constructive. I dawdled on Monday and Tuesday to type up my Blood Bowl blog, interrupting the process with meal breaks, X-Files, and X-Com: Enemy Within, a game which has easily hooked me. (Big fan of the earlier games, and eventually got around to downloading Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within earlier this year. Have already completed it, and the X-Files just inspired me to up the difficulty level and play again.)

Saturday, well, Mariners are playing Wellington at home, so no guesses where I'll be. I caught their first match of the season last week, a tough encounter with Newcastle, which resulted in a 1-0 victory, with the winning goal scored in injury time by Mitchell Duke. The more impressive win came last night, when they thrashed their FFA Cup opponents the Palm Beach Sharks 5-0, four of those goals coming in the last twenty minutes of the game, and all four of them being scored by substitute Matt Sim, who come off the bench after 71 minutes, and scored with his first touch of the ball. Of the goals, the last of them was probably the best, where he had to get past two defenders, then put it past the goalkeeper to finish off the game. Not having Pay TV, I was able to listen to the match on radio, thanks to the local community radio station.

And I upgraded my membership from Blue to Gold, and now have a seat about three metres away from the player's entrance, just to the left of halfway. A great spot to view the match. The only problems being the a) lateness of getting my membership, and b) not getting all of the contents of my membership pack. I was annoyed (and by overhearing people in the queues and in the stands, I wasn't the only one), by the fact that the membership only turned up on the Friday before the first match last Saturday. (The envelope the ticket arrived in, along with the two free passes, was also ripped, and it's a wonder I got my membership at all.) However, hundreds of people didn't get their passes at all, and had to queue at two locations to have tickets issued to them, and get their seat allocations. 

My new vantage point at Central Coast Stadium.

Worst still was trying to get the rest of the membership pack. I walked in when gates opened at 4pm to find the queue for the missing parts (and the extras people ordered) almost snaking back to the front gate. So I decided to go to my seat instead, and grab a cider along the way. I went back at half-time, but again the queue was lengthy, and gave up, hoping that I can pick it up next match.

The criticism I overheard in the stands was agreeable to me. I think I ordered my membership way back in June, three, possibly four months before the season kicks off. They've had all this time to fix up the memberships and get them out, yet left them right up until the week of the first match, and sent them out with parts missing (namely the season fixture card). Not very professional, is it?

Continuing with soccer, my team had a bowls day on the same day as the Mariners' opening match. I decided to do both, getting up around 7am, getting on the 8.11am train to Sydney, then changing at Strathfield like I have done so many times before to get picked up at Westmead. It was a warm day, and the cider went down nicely with the BBQ lunch at Rosehill Bowls Club. The bowls, well, my efforts were erratic, but it was good fun, and a nice way to end the season. At 2pm, I got a lift back to Westmead, got back to Strathfield just in time to grab the next train back to the coast, and walked to Central Coast Stadium with fifteen minutes to spare.

We discovered on the day that bowls was harder than it looks.
 That, and there was a lot of drinking involved.

Sunday I went for a stroll down to the art gallery to a) see my entry and b) watch a couple of documentaries which were being shown as part of the Art Works! Exhibition. The first of the pair was The Anonymous People, which was about the 23.5 million Americans in long-term recovery from alcohol, drugs and other addictions. The second was Beyond the Medical Model, which highlighted how much the medical model had been written into law, exploring it through a number of individual's personal recovery stories. The mini film festival, I should add, also raised funds for my local MH support group, through a gold coin collection at the door.

As for my entry, last time I checked it was hanging proudly on the wall, entry number 112 out of 140. I went and viewed it on the opening day of the exhibition (along with all the other entries), and checked out the entrants in the Gosford Art Prize as well. Needless to say, I didn't win a prize, but fingers crossed that my entry sells before the exhibition ends this Sunday (Oct 19).

 There's my entry! Doesn't it look nice! :)

Then there was the Blood Bowl tournament I went to over the long weekend. But I don't need to go about that, seeing there are two detailed blog entries about it on my RPG and BB blog. In short, I finished fourth, and could've won the event in the last round, but was beaten by the winner.

Finally, I have a new neighbour. He moved in a couple of weeks ago, and, well, it didn't take long to find out that he has a mental disability (five minutes I think). My only problem with him, which I think is the same problem the gent in number four has with him, is that he seems to spend a hell of a lot of time on the phone. You may think that's nobody else's business but his, but when he's standing out the front of his unit, talking for hours at a time, and non-stop, for everybody else in the block (and anybody who just happened to be walking by) to hear, well, then it does become our business, especially when on Sunday morning it became bloody obvious that he was calling up an adult chat line. (I heard the recorded menu message.) We don't need to hear the sordid details, and what he says to try and impress the ladies, telling one of them that he owned a nightclub in Gosford and has millions in the bank. (Not bad for a gent who has the mental capacity of a someone half his age, whose parents moved him in, and who still gets visits from whom I assume are his case managers.) It was funny to listen to, but rather pathetic at the same time. He was standing so close to my open front door I not only heard him, but the lass at the other end replying as well. He was prepared to buy her an air ticket, pick her up at the airport, and take her out for dinner, etc. I'm thinking if the girl on the other end could just see what he looks like and where he lives... He even gave out his mobile number, and the exact length of his appendage! At that point, I think I had heard enough, and slammed the door, hoping that he would take the hint and take his phone somewhere else, preferably to the rear of his unit so I couldn't hear him. He didn't. (My American Skype buddy later joked that he needs to get a computer so that he could do it all online.) To drown him out, I turned on the radio and had lunch, before wandering down to the mini film festival.

Oh, and the units haven't sold. The deal fell through, and the owners have been rather unimpressed with the gent that was tasked to sell the property, so they sacked him. Turns out the owners had found a buyer, but the agent harassed him just a bit too much, which resulted in the dismissal.

Which makes me wonder if they're ever going to sell these units. Whatever the case, I'll be here for a while longer it seems. Ciao!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grand final aftermath

I don't intend to make this too long a post.

My football season is over, but the new A-League season is a little over three weeks away. Looking forward to it? Of course I am! I purchased my season ticket(s) months ago. Just have to wait for them to turn up in the mail.

As for my season, well, it ended in a disappointing fashion, with a 0-1 defeat at the hands of the minor premiers, Auburn Black, a side that we didn't beat this season, but came close a couple of times. The winner, for me personally, was a tough one to take. It was close to half-time, and a forward had just managed to elude one of the defenders, and got into space in the penalty area. I came forward, thought that I had my run timed nicely to thwart him, even got a hand to the ball, but he still got past me, as did the ball. Prior to that I had hardly been troubled, with only one save (on target) for me to make, and it was one that I got down on my hands and knees for. (In the second half I was busier, with two shots on target, one saved low to my left with my legs, and the other fired right at my head which I parried with both hands. I did have to clear another with my feet.)

Ray Marshall Reserve, South Granville, Field 1. 
The best pitch we played on all year, and a good afternoon for a game of football. 

I think I touched the ball maybe ten times all game. But again, the sheer tension of being in the thick of it. The corners, the free kicks, the loose balls... Ready to pounce at a moment's notice when something comes your way.

So I now have another runner-up medal to go with my champions' medal from 2012. (The other football runner-up medal was earned in 1981, in the Tamworth junior comp. Ironically, three grand finals, and all three times I was in goals.) We wanted to win for our manager, who's moving to Tasmania next year, and one of the senior players, my mate Rod (who got me back into playing soccer back in 2011). Try as we might, it wasn't to be. Sure, we could use a number of excuses for our loss. We had played on Tuesday night. They had two weeks off. But the end result was that we weren't quite good enough on the day.

I suppose better a 0-1 defeat in regular time than a loss in a penalty shoot-out.

A surprise for me after the match though. The outgoing manager presented me with the match ball for all the effort I put in on and off the pitch. It was promptly signed by the team, with the manager writing "You are the ultimate team player. Thanks mate." I nearly cried when I read that after I got home. The ball now sits on top of the video cabinet in the lounge room.  

We do plan an end of season get together. As to what format it'll take, I don't know as yet. It would be good to see the rest of the side once more before the end of the year.

Anyway, what else can I add? Not much, except to say that I have been reading more of Killing for Company, only to find that serial killer Dennis Nilsen was an extremely complex person. His notes and poetry reveal a person in torment, killing, as the title of the book suggests, for the company. Some times he wasn't even aware he had killed someone until he woke up the next morning. Other times he recalls the murder in vivid detail. One of his victims he had even strangled with the cord of a pair of headphones.

His surprise, most of the time, was that he wasn't caught sooner. Had he not chosen to flush pieces of flesh down the lavatory, clogging up the pipes, he could've added any number of victims to his tally. Of the fifteen he did kill, only two had ever been reported missing, one being a Canadian tourist, the other unfortunately shared the same name with dozens of others on the missing persons list.

It's interesting to note, four other men survived being attacked by him. The police were called on two occasions, but no charges were laid. One was even revived by Nilsen.

On a more positive note, I sent off entries for the NSW Schizophrenia Fellowship's annual art (and poetry) competition. I submitted a poem and a photograph, easily done seeing I didn't have to have the photograph framed. I also e-mailed off an expression of interest form for the NSW CAG Recovery in Art Exhibition. This one, along with the Art Works! Exhibition in October, will need framed prints.

So I'd better get them done. Ciao!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Soccer, Sugarman and Serial Killers

Wednesday 10th

I slept in today. It was a late night, due to my brain and body still being awake after a nerve-wracking semi-final. (More on that soon enough.) Buoyed by our victory (and what a win it was), I actually walked home from Gosford station (for the second time in two nights I should add), quite pleased with myself. I was up for a while posting pictures and videos on FB, then browsed for a bit, downloaded some stuff, before finally being tired enough to hit the hay. I think I first woke up about 8.30am, but forced myself to go back to sleep. Next thing I know it's 12.30pm.

So, what do I do? Shower, grab my current book, and go have a celebratory lunch at the pub across the road, along with a cider as well. (It also settled my desire for a chicken parmigiana with beer battered chips.) And now I'm back here, having updated the news page on my website, listening to Rodriguez and rattling off this blog entry.

Who's Rodriguez you may ask? The best way to find out is to watch a documentary titled Searching for Sugar Man, (Sugarman being the first track on his Cold Fact album). This obscure US artist, born in Detroit, who recorded two albums before being dropped by his record label, and was labelled better than Bob Dylan, had very little success in the States, but was huge, in of all places, South Africa, where his music struck a chord in apartheid country. Rumours had spread about his apparent demise, that he had committed suicide on stage, either by self-immolation or by shooting himself. When his daughter got in contact with a couple of ardent fans via their website, it ultimately resulted in the reclusive performer to take time off work (he was a building restorer), and tour the country about two decades after being dropped by his record label. It's an amazing story, and his music is quite pleasant, with some really intelligent lyrics, and is perfect for a train ride or an overcast afternoon at home.

To the semi-final. With two Saturdays in a row, having being washed out, we arrived at Webbe Avenue in Auburn last Saturday, with the weather yet again inclement. I had been awake from 7.30am that morning, getting to Gosford Station an hour or so later to catch the bus to Hornsby. (It was trackwork affecting the lines I would be traveling on for the third week in a row. This time, all the way to Hornsby, and some lines between Hornsby and Strathfield.) I can't do much on the bus, except listen to music and stare out the window, seeing I get bad headaches when I try to read. (Even trying to read maps can be quite painful.) The bus got me to Hornsby just in time to catch a train which was stopping at Westmead (and I mean just – the doors were closing), which meant taking the long way around, via Chatswood and the Sydney Harbor Bridge (which isn't that bad). However, at North Sydney, the train terminated (honestly, it sounded like it was going to break down at any moment), and we were switched to another service. Once the train got moving, things were fine, but the weather by this time had changed for the worse, and it really started to pour down when I passed through Strathfield, prompting thoughts of “we're not playing in this”.

Yup, I was right, we weren't playing in that.

And I was right. I was picked up at Westmead by the manager and his 2IC (like I usually am every week) at 11.15am, ferried to the venue, where the team huddled under an awning trying to change as two other games were taking place, despite the poor conditions. Our opponents were there as well, and tried to pull a swifty on us by “conveniently” forgetting their team-sheet. They had a player still serving a suspension. (They had also lost competition points late in the season by fielding an under-age player in a game where they apparently won 8-0. Doesn't matter if you're playing under 16's, but this is an over 35's competition.) At 12.15pm, with the game due to kick-off, the referee inspected the pitch, and duly informed us that he was calling a halt to the game.

Right on cue, the rain stopped, the sun had come out, and it turned into a nice afternoon. It was a chance to take a few team shots, and have a few Jim Beam and colas. (Remembering the advice given to me at the dental appointment, water followed the bourbon down so that the sugar didn't linger in my mouth.) We were frustrated with the fact that despite our game being cancelled, two more games went ahead on two neighbouring fields, one of them being marked and puddles swept clear as we cracked open our first can.

Time for a team photo though. Yours truly is in the grey at the front.

Seeing it was the Auburn side's home field, we had a chance to chat with a few players that we had faced during the season. They were hoping that we would win the semi-final, seeing that they really didn't want to face Guildford. (I won't say what exactly they thought of them, but it wasn't nice, and it seemed to be a common feeling amongst players from other teams that we had spoken to this year.) One of our players got bogged in the carpark as we were about to leave, which meant a half-hour of pushing and shoving so we could get him clear. Even the locals lended a hand or two.

So, we had to play the game last night. A second game under lights this season. (Strangely enough, my previous game in goals this season was also under lights, on my birthday.) It was my second trip to Sydney in two days, having scheduled a Blood Bowl league game for Monday evening, and, to make a day of it, I decided to go see a movie as well. (I ended up seeing a delightful mockumentary at the Dendy in Newtown called What we do in the shadows. More on that later. As for the Blood Bowl match, it was a victory, and you can read the match report on the other blog when I get around to posting it.)

Anyway, 4pm train, arriving at Westmead around 5.40pm. I found a takeaway that was still open, grabbed a snack, and had time to eat it before my ride turned up. The venue this time was just up the road from Saturday's abandoned match, at Progress Park. Our field, though rough, and chewed up, was in far better condition than a lot of fields that we had played on during the season. There were plenty of people around and we had a few spectators for the match, which included one or two players from the Auburn side that was already in the grand final. (Their match was played on August 30 on one of the grounds that didn't get closed due to the weather.)

Progress Park Auburn, Field 2.

And, predictably, our opponents tried once again to get their suspended player onto the field, even recruiting a club official to argue the toss. It didn't work, as one from our club had turned up as well, and with modern technology the way it is, he had access to the data from the district competition, and the player was still unable to play, being suspended until the 16th, which meant he couldn't play in the grand final even if they did make it. (Our 2IC even got two e-mails about it prior to the game. The first with the player's name uncrossed, which resulted in a “What's this?” phone call to the sender. The subsequent one had the player's name crossed out.)

So, with the referee who adjudicated our grand final back in 2012 in charge of the match, it was game on. A couple of free-kicks put me on the spot early. One went straight around the wall and into my chest, the other shaved the upright. I was quite peeved when they did score. They had come straight down the middle, and I was left to take on two opponents, which was never going to end good for me. The second one came from a drive down the left, and though he was being hounded by a defender, and I had the near post covered, he still put it past both of us into the far corner.

My end in the first half.

So, 0-2 down, about twenty minutes in, and, as luck would have it, I didn't have much to do for the rest of the half, as the defence tightened up. We got one back, from a penalty, though the keeper almost saved it. (It looked, from my end, that our striker had taken a dive, but he insisted that he had been clipped.) At half-time, we may have been behind, but we were getting on top of them. I think I touched the ball maybe four, or five times. I even took a goalkick and had to catch a header played back from one my team-mates, but that was about it. Most of their efforts went well wide and wasn't tested for the rest of the half.

Second half was a battle of wills. Again, I wasn't that busy, most of their shots going wide and high. I was called on to make three saves, the most important one being a header from close range, which I parried with my left hand as I saw it late. (I heard a collective exclamation mark from the bench when that happened.) One of the defenders cleared it. Then there was one from a drive down the left, which had me falling on the ball as he got too close to the goals. I even got a little tap with the boot for my trouble. The third hit me in the left leg as I was going down, but it wouldn't have counted, seeing the linesman had called offside. But hey, I wasn't taking any chances.

We left it late. Really late. We had chances during the second half, one was spectacularly saved by the keeper, pushed over the bar. But, in the 79th minute, it finally came, again almost saved by the keeper but squeezed in on his right side post. One minute later, with both sides dead on their feet, the winner came, a brilliant header that was never going to miss. I ran halfway up the pitch yelling my head off in excitement.

The two minutes of injury time felt like five. I was secretly willing the referee to call time. He kept on looking at his watch as the game continued. We nearly managed to get a fourth, with one of our forwards getting round the keeper, but his shot at the open goal went agonizingly wide. It was extremely relieving when the ref finally did call time. My hands were shaking for about ten minutes after the game. For a little while I was standing around wondering what had happened. My team-mates may have been physically exhausted after that game, but I was mentally drained. I hadn't been over worked in goals, but there were a lot of tense moments. I didn't get much of a chance to drink my celebratory bourbon as a couple of players had offered me lift back to Hornsby, which made my trip back home somewhat quicker. I had originally planned to get a taxi home, but I was on such a high I decided to walk home again seeing it was such a mild night.

And now there's a grand final to be played this Saturday. It didn't look like that back in May when we were struggling to get points.

I think I'll continue this tomorrow.

Thursday 11th

Nice day today, so I decided to grab the notebook and head off to the comic book shop up at Tuggerah. With lunch, hearing about the latest dramas with the store (and there are a few, the biggest being the fact that an entire shipment, due to some technicality in paperwork, traveled around the US for a bit and returned to the company's warehouse in Mississippi... ) and before one realises it it's 2pm. I needed a second session to write this, seeing I got started on a game of Civ 5 yesterday around 5.30pm, and, well, it was too good to stop.

I'm back listening to Rodriguez. It's a good day for it – breezy and mellow. (Besides, there is only so much of the store's dance music that I can actually listen to.)

So, where was I? Oh, yeah, victory on Tuesday night. I walked home. I wished I had my big camera with me instead of the pocket one. One the way home I came face-to-face with a possum. The pics I took have him looking like some grey blob in the tree. However, whilst waiting for my train at Gosford station to head down to Sydney, I was surprised to see a bush turkey strolling around platform two. Thankfully, some of the pictures came out, as did the video footage. The bugger was even game enough to jump onto the tracks. (Not the first time I've seen them in the centre of Gosford. One had even taken up residence in the park outside the train station a few years back.)


Off soccer, onto films. On Monday, having scheduled a Blood Bowl for 6pm, I decided to go via Newtown, where one of the Dendy cinemas is located. I watched a rather delightful New Zealand flick about a group of vampires sharing a house in suburban Wellington. It was hilarious. It was a mockumentary, exploring the day-to-day tribulations of being undead. For starters, there was the house meeting about the chores, then the problems of going out on the town to socialise. (There was a funny scene with three of the vampires sitting at the back of a public transport bus on their way into town.) Of course, they just can't go into a nightclub, they have to be invited, a problem which was solved later when their newest recruit knew one of the bouncers at a club. One of the trio had a thrall, who did everything from wash the blood off the driveway before dawn to find victims for the group and the location of a night-time dentist. Then there were problems with hitting arteries, encounters with werewolves, a vampire hunter breaks into the house, and trouble with an ex-girlfriend at a big undead society ball. (She was often referred to as 'The Beast'.)

Must add, Peter Jackson's computer effects people worked on this (apparently most of their work was unpaid), assisting with some of the more visual trickery, like the mirror jokes (watch out for the pacman one), the bat fight, and the werewolf transformations. It's also one of those movies that you have to sit through the credits to watch the little extras, like the one right at the end. But it's all worth it. If you like other black humour horror films like Black Sheep or Shaun of the Dead, or enjoyed TV shows like Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, or Bullet in the Face, then you'll get a kick out of What we do in the shadows.

Of course, attending a movie at the cinema means that you have to sit through previews and advertising. There were two ads that I watched prior to the film, one of them I had seen before and neither of them making any sense. There have been a series of tourism ads screening in Australia recently, mostly seen on TV, that, in my opinion, you wouldn't really know it was a tourism ad until it said so at the end of the ad, including one that used Nick Cave's The Red Right Hand as it's background music, which I thought was highly inappropriate for a tourism ad, considering what the song was about. (It reminded me of major TV network in Australia once using The Police's Every Breath You Take for their network promo. It didn't last long, obviously somebody in management realized that the song was about a stalker.) The one that I saw on Monday featured a starlet with glitter on her face singing a rather strained version of INXS' Never Tear Us Apart, with an astronaut falling to earth, then wandering around the streets. What was it promoting? The city of Adelaide.

The other one was even stranger. A man stands on top of a building. The same man sits in a cafe. The man takes a running jump and leaps off the building. The man in the cafe leans across the table to kiss the girl sitting opposite him. Things start flying around. Then the punchline – it's advertising a popular brand of clothing with a very distinguishable logo.

Huh? I understand the idea of advertising is to promote a product, but what does the jumping off a tall building and kissing a woman have to do with a freaking shirt??? The Adelaide one could've been for any city. In what was a stark contrast, there was another ad for visiting the Northern Territory. This one was good. It was series of short clips of the sights in the territory, enticing people to come and visit. If I was enticed by any of the three advertisements, it was that one, seeing it wasn't trying to create some fantastic storyline, or install subliminal imagery, it was saying “Hey, come and have a look at this – a big rock, wild animals, good food, you'll have a ball!”

Perhaps I'm getting too old, and I'm missing the point of advertising for the sake of not really advertising anything. It's like beer ads that has the gent riding elephants, dancing with showgirls, etc. literally having the time of his life when guaranteed 99.99999% of the people who drink the product will be just sitting at a bar, or at home, or at someone's place, getting drunk and being nowhere near any exotic locations or involved in any James Bond-esque action.

I think I'll stop there, before I go on about using aliens to promote the value of good insurance, or using meerkats to, say, what were they advertising again?

Now briefly to something that I do understand – serial killers. Having finished reading a couple of books on peacekeeping operations around the world (mostly related to events from 1970 to 2000) I switched to true crime, and started reading this book on serial killer Dennis Nilsen, written by Brian Masters (who also wrote an interesting one on Rosemary West) called Killing for Company. I'm four chapters into the book, and already I've learned a lot about the convicted killer of fifteen men, like, for example, that he had enlisted in the army after leaving school, rose to the rank of NCO, served in Europe and the Middle East, and was in the catering corps. His mother was Scottish, his father Norwegian, a soldier stationed in the area after being evacuated from Norway as the Germans took control of the country in 1940. He was one of three kids, but his mother divorced his father after the war, and re-married, having four more.

No surprise that he was a moody child, not athletically inclined, and not very sociable. Growing up, he had two major influences, his grandfather, and an uncle. The former being one of the few people that he got along with, spending a lot of time with him when he wasn't out fishing. The other help create his world view, installing radical beliefs on the socialism, politics, and class structure in him, whilst introducing him to music as well. When he joined the army, things changed. He had found his place in life, and his sexual orientation as well. He even related a story about being abducted in Aden (Yemen) whilst returning to the barracks, being dumped in a taxi-cab's boot, but somehow managing to get free and kill his attacker. Of course, it's debatable if that story was true.

The ironic thing, as the killer himself points out in the book, is that he had been a hard-working civil servant most of his life, serving in the army, as a probationary police officer, and in a government employment service, but the thing he's remembered for is murdering fifteen men. He was fond of animals, used nurse abandoned baby birds until they could survive on their own, and owned a dog named Bleep. When police came knocking on his door on 9 February 1983 about the human remains being found in the drains outside his flat, he was asked “Where's the rest of the body?” to which he casually replied “In two plastic bags in the wardrobe next door.”

I have to keep reading it.

Finally, in closing, last post I said that the block of units that I had been living in had recently sold. Well, that isn't the case. Apparently the deal fell through. I still think that they're asking too much for a block of units that need a lot of work done on them. A new coat of paint for starters, perhaps getting rid of the pile of woodchips on the lawn...

Should be another post next week about my grand final. Ciao!

All images (c) 2014 Geoff G Turner.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Busy, busy, busy...

Gees, could I fit much more into a weekend?

I was busy. Not very often that I have a weekend completely booked out. It all started with being paid on Friday, with taking care of a few financial transactions online, getting laundry done and topping up the groceries. That was the easy day out of the three.

Saturday, with the weather the way was during the week, our play-off match was cancelled yet again, though the other semi-final went ahead. The football association that runs the comp that we're in (Granville), decided that the play-offs would be extended by a week. Our game was originally scheduled for Saturday around midday, but the weather cancelled it well and truly. (Images posted online on Thursday showed a waterlogged field that didn't look like it would improve by Saturday.) However, as it turned out, our game was rescheduled to a different oval, but our manager wasn't informed about it until 10pm Friday night. With half the team already having made other plans, the manager quite rightly rejected the notion. (As it turns out, there are only X amount of fields made available by clubs for play-off games, and the matches have to be played on a neutral field. The clubs in the district, it should be said, have to “offer” their fields rather than the association just taking them. Then there's council approval, and three different city councils manage the fields in the competition. So, whilst one field may be closed due to the weather, another may not, but if it hasn't been made available there's not much that can be done about it.)

Anyway, with the play-off off, we had another training run. En-route to the training field (after being picked up from Westmead station), I was asked if I minded going in goals for the play-offs, seeing our semi-regular keeper has gone away again. I have the edge on the other part-time keeper in the side – big match experience that, and the six games I had in goals this year my form was pretty good, and close to mistake free. My legs were aching my the end of the session, but I felt better for it. (I even managed a rare goal at training. From my goal area, I gave the ball a healthy whack, getting it past the attacking side, where it skidded off the turf and went straight in to the goal at the other end!)

After drinks, and a chat, I had to get home, where I had arranged to have drinks with some players up for my Blood Bowl tournament I had scheduled for Sunday. (Thankfully, avoiding all the trackwork getting back, seeing I was dropped off at Epping.) So, around 7pm, I have another drink, a bite to eat a bit of a chat, then head back up to the station for the next train at 8.35pm. Ourimbah was the next stop, where I was staying overnight. (The store owners were nice enough to let me crash there, to save a bit of time on Sunday morning.) The dog smell was hard to get used to, but I slept okay. I even got to see The Avengers movie. (To be honest, I didn't think much of it. It very much reinforced my dislike of comic book conversions.)

So, Sunday. Waiting for me at the venue were a number of Blood Bowl players, all keen to get the day's competition underway. For the record, 11 people played, and the winner was decided in the last round, as was the wooden spoon. There were very few problems, but the event finished an hour later than I originally had planned, starting with giving someone a few extra minutes to get to the event – it made no difference, he never showed.

Play underway in the first round of Gosford Gauntlet for 2014. 
The eventual winner is wearing the shirt with the number four on the right.

I think I got home around 9pm. I took the opportunity to relax for a couple of hours and watch the last three episodes of Series 4 of Boardwalk Empire, fighting the urge not to get stuck into Rome Total War 2, which I downloaded during the week. (I am playing it at the moment, but adding to this journal entry in-between turns.)

The fun didn't stop there. Monday, a scheduled dental appointment at the Oral Health clinic at the Newcastle University Campus at Ourimbah. My teeth are in really bad shape. Turns out what I could feel in my mouth was a cracked tooth, which three sets of eyes had a good look at. (There's more, but I won't go into detail.) The news was softened by the fact that I was looked after by a doll of dental technician. I couldn't quite pick her heritage (Malaysian or Thai I felt) but she was small, terribly cute, a lovely set of small hazel eyes, and knew exactly what she was doing when she was poking and prodding around in my mouth. I told her it was the nicest dental appointment that I ever had. I have a follow up appointment next month for a proper cleaning and x-rays. (Unfortunately, they couldn't carry out any treatment, but with the assessment done, then the x-rays, I can then go to the public clinic and get further treatment.) I have been advised that I really need to curb my fondness for sugary snacks and drinks, avoid acidic stuff like lemons and oranges, and drink more water. Sigh, I knew it was going to have to happen sooner or later.

Which leads me up to my next talking point. Despite all the goings on, I still managed to find the time to get through nine movies, that I bought on sale recently, during the last eight days. (The weather hasn't been that inspirational to make me want to get outside. Last Tuesday (26/8) I watched three movies, a documentary and an episode of a TV show that I had taped, whilst it rained off and on all day and night.)

2 Guns – I like Denzel Washington. The only other actor I have as many DVDs of is Robert DeNiro. In this one Denzel teams up with Mark Wahlberg in this buddy cop drama where both of them play undercover detectives, one a DEA Agent and the other US Naval Intelligence. (Yeah, like how does that work? Navy intelligence needs intel on Mexican drug cartels and human traffickers for what reason exactly?) As long as you don't take this film too seriously, it works. If you try to think about why two law-enforcement officers need to rob banks (apart from the fact the CIA keeps slush funds in them) then it'll make no sense.

13 Assassins – I really liked this. Set at the end of Japan's feudal era, when Lord Naritsugu's excesses become too much for even the emperor to bear, he gives the order for the troublesome lord to be eliminated. A master samurai, Shinzaemon Shimada is given the task, and he recruits a dozen offsiders (in the vein of The Seven Samurai), then creates an elaborate plan to kill Naritsugu as he takes a tour of his domain. The decisive battle is one of the most bloodiest I've ever seen on the screen.

Bullet – One can really like Danny Trejo, but one wonders if he really needed the money when he made this B-Grade, Dirty Harry-esque action flick. A drug baron's son is set to be executed, but dad (played by Jonathan Banks from Breaking Bad) hatches a plan, involving kidnapping Bullet's son, the governor's daughter, then forcing the hardened LA cop to rescind his testimony. Same as 2 Guns. If you don't think about it, it's okay to watch.

Dredd – Loooove this movie. Dredd and a rookie Cassandra Anderson take on an entire city block when they respond to a triple homicide. The movie flows like you're reading a comic strip straight out of 2000AD.

Into Darkness – Much better than I thought this would be. The crew of the USS Enterprise have to track down the ruthless, genetically enhanced Khan after he orchestrates an attack on a secret Federation facility in London.

Last Stand – Nice to see big Arnie back doing what he does best – beating up and/or shooting bad guys. Another action movie that doesn't involve too much thinking. At times it was quite amusing. A drug lord escapes FBI custody whilst being transferred in Las Vegas. He plans to high-tail it to Mexico, through the sleepy backwater of Sommerton Junction (in a car that costs more than a lot of people's houses no less), where former LAPD officer Sherrif Owens has taken up residence. I think you can guess the rest.

The Man with the Iron Fists – RZA (from Wu Tang Clan) stars and provides some of the music in this Quentin Tarantino presents flick, which pays homage to fifty years of oriental action films. The emperor's gold has been stolen and he wants it back, but his agents will have to go through every lowlife in the vicinity of Jungle Town to get it. Lucy Liu runs the local cat house/assassin training school, Russell Crowe is the appropriately named Jack Knife, the emperor's western agent, Pam Grier and Gordon Liu make guest appearances, and there are some rather unusual and entertaining fight scenes. Good fun!

Pan's Labyrinth – A masterpiece from Guillermo del Toro. It's 1944, and little Ofelia and her pregnant mother move in with her husband, a ruthless army officer, who's in command of an outpost in rural Spain. The young girl meets a fairy, who leads her to Pan, who tasks her with three missions so she can find out whom she really is. Beautiful, but at times a rather brutal movie.

Seven Psychopaths – This was great! A writer is struggling to come up with a decent movie script. He comes up with the idea to call it Seven Psychopaths, spurred on by his close friend, who is actually psychopath, and part-time dognapper. Features Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken and Tom Waits.

I've just been reliably informed by the old gent in number four that the block of flats I'm living in has just sold. I think it has been on the market for something like two months now, and has six or seven open houses, which, from what I heard, were poorly attended.

Don't really have much else to say at the moment. Have been so engrossed with the Rome 2 game I almost forgot to finish this off. I should add, before signing off, that I've started writing poetry again. Not much, a couple of pieces in the last week or so. One wasn't that good, the other wasn't that bad. Perhaps I can get back into working on Feudball 2 as well.

If I can tear myself away from Rome 2 for long enough that is. Ciao!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yup, it's still winter.

Wrote this over two days. If you're not interested in football (the round ball kind), or PC games, you might want to just avoid reading it. :)

Tuesday, 19 August

Winter is definitely still here. Rain, rain and more rain, with a forecast of, yes, you guessed it, rain for the rest of the week. I don't mind a day of it here and there, but it's been going on now for four days. Yesterday I didn't even want to leave the house because it was so bleak, windy and wet. When I did get out, to mail off the entry form for the annual Art Works! competition, it was only for half-an-hour. Entry form, paper, some groceries, then home and back to the computer and what appears to be my latest gaming addiction – X-Com: Enemy Within.

But more on that later. I'm happy to say that the soccer team that I'm with, North Rocks 35/7's, managed to earn a draw on the weekend, thus ensuring a place in the play-offs. As it turns out, we secured third place, thanks mostly to an unexpected loss to the fourth placed side, who would've leap-frogged us had they won. It's just as well none of it went to a for and against tiebreak. Our season record of 10-2-6 looks pretty good, but our for and against of 46-44 doesn't. (To think, I had 12 of those put past me in the first three games of the season.)

As you can see, very bleak conditions at Bella Vista Oval as the game got underway. 
The rain started no sooner after I sat down on the reserves bench.

Our 3-all draw though was thanks to something else. I have often said that football is a game of inches, or even centimetres, which could mean the difference between a win or a loss. In our case, it saved our season. With the home side up 2-3, they got what was a very contentious penalty, an accidental handball in the penalty area. This season any penalty against us was a certain goal, but this time round, it wasn't. With the home side needing to beat us to get into the play-offs, a fourth goal, with around fifteen, twenty minutes to go, probably would've been enough to get them there seeing their tails were up and ours were down. However, a tired forward kicked it straight into the keeper's left-hand post (rather than the bottom left-hand corner that he usually aims for, the gent told us after the match) and the ball ricocheted away. I said at the time, whilst on the bench, that the football gods were definitely smiling on us.

And they were. A few minutes later, we get a corner. It hit the back of one of our mid-fielders and went in. The team lifted, and went close to bagging a fourth to win the game outright in the final minutes of the game.

It was a game that I wished had been filmed. With very grey clouds overhead, we took to the pitch, knowing that just a point was all we needed to get through. The rain started to fall not long after the match commenced, and those of us on the side-line were huddled under umbrellas trying to stay dry until we went onto the pitch. We scored twice in the opening ten minutes, taking advantage of the wet pitch and ball and a keeper that was having trouble hanging onto it. I missed seeing the goals, distracted by something else at the time. The second one I didn't even think had gone in. A long range shot was fired in, the keeper parrying away it with his hand. I chose that time to look down and grab my water-bottle, only to see that the sides were setting up for a kick-off. I then learnt that the keeper hadn't pushed it over the bar, but into the top corner of the net.

But the opposition came back at us. Two goals, the second resulting from an uncontrolled pass, popping up nicely for the forward who raced away, then got around the keeper to score. At 2-2, I then make my way onto the pitch to steady the ship and take my place in the back-line of our 5-3-2 defensive formation. The scores stayed locked until half-time. Thankfully the rain stopped not long before I got on the pitch.

To be honest, they didn't have much variation in attack, long, hopeful balls played forward through a midfield that we controlled. What they did do however, was switch players around, keeping me on my toes especially. I wasn't marking the same bloke for most of the time that I was on, I had three different players coming at me. Then there were attempts to draw players wide, which our defensive mid-fielders on the flanks had to be wary of. They were meant to go forward when we attacked, then drop back in defence. As a central defender, I wasn't meant to go wide, but on occasions, I had to.

And on one such occasion, they scored, because the player coming through in the centre wasn't picked up. I was marking a player, who was going wide, and starting to make a run. I had thought the defensive midfielder had picked up the other player coming through. He hadn't. (In fact, the DM thought that I had picked him up he said to me after the game.) So, split-second assessment. Do I stay on the wide player, or go after the one in the centre? I went after the one in the centre. End result, I don't get to him in time, he gets past the keeper, and the ball gets past my outstretched left leg on the line for the third.

I was quite furious after that. Both me and the defensive midfielder get pulled off, and I'm thinking that that's my game over with for the day. Thankfully, I get back on for the last ten or so minutes, as the central defender on the right was absolutely knackered and needed a break.

It wasn't a pretty result, but we took it anyway. I don't know what it was, whether we just switched off (collectively) after we went 2-0, or our opponents found some inspiration, capitalising on a couple of errors to get themselves back into the match. Defensive errors just cost us way too much in matches. We have a little mix-up, one of the rare errors I make on the pitch, and it almost costs us the game, and the season. You can imagine how I felt being called off the pitch after 2-3. Thankfully, we live another week, and I can breathe a little easier. I got home around 9pm, having stayed for drinks and a chat, and the bus driver for whatever the reason failing to stop at the stop I wanted. Still, it allowed me to get a celebratory Chinese takeaway feed, even though it was a later than usual, and wet.

So, now it's just a case of waiting to see if the rain stops. I've been informed that there are two likely scenarios. The first one (and the most likely one) is that one week of play-offs is eliminated, and the second week becomes a straight knock-out, 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3, with the winners going straight to the grand final. The second, which makes the fourth place side's loss very beneficial for us, is that the first week of the play-offs gets scrapped, and the second week sees the fourth placed side gets eliminated without playing, leaving 2 vs 3 to contest the final, the winner to take on the first placed side in the final, who benefits from a week off. (A mid-week play-off is unlikely at this stage I should add.)

At this stage I can hardly see the boys getting onto the training pitch tomorrow. (The bulk of the team trains. I'm excused seeing I live too far away.) The grounds at North Rocks must be underwater by now. I even took a squiz at the Bureau of Meteorology site, the rain has settled in from Wollongong right up to Port Stephens.

Right, enough of the weather. I briefly mentioned earlier that I braved the poor conditions to go off and post my entry to the Art Works! competition, which is in October at the art gallery in East Gosford. The entry form has to be in by August 25, which seems a bit odd, but hey, one goes by the rules of the competition. The form asks for the usual material, such as picture dimensions, price (if it's for sale), as well as a brief blurb about the contributor. Normally I would frame the image first then fill in the form, but this time I decided to guestimate the size of the frame I would be using, seeing I've all of September to get the image framed. I've even upped the price. My entry this time round shall be of a spotted smooth-shelled crab that just had his eyes poking up through the water's surface. Strangely enough, I took it on the water's edge behind the very art gallery the competition will be held at. 

Peek-a-boo!

I've even found a few more competitions to enter, one local, and two related somewhat to the mental health group that I belong to. Thankfully, entries aren't due until next month. One even has a poetry section as well, so I might just go through my old pieces and see what I could submit.

With all this wet and windy weather, one has almost felt obliged to stay indoors as much as possible. I did venture out last Monday (11/8) to Avoca Beach to see a special screening of Monty Python Live (almost) at the cinema there. Must say I enjoyed it, though it felt like at times that I was the only person in the cinema getting into it, singing along with all of the songs (I never miss a chance to sing I'm a Lumberjack or The Philosopher's Song, or even recite some of the sketches, like the Spanish Inquisition one) and enjoying the sketches, even though I've probably seen them dozens of times. (For a considerable part of the screening, the biggest laugh was for a fart joke during the Chocolate Frog sketch... ) Graham Chapman was featured, via the odd clip, and there were plenty of Terry Gilliam's old animation sequences dropped in as well. Carol Cleveland made an appearance or two, and some of bigger numbers had a chorus line to go with it.

Despite the bleak weather on the day, I even went for a walk around the beach and took a few pictures, most of which turned out quite fine. (I don't let a thing like grey skies stop me. In fact, I don't mind it at all, seeing it keeps people away and the beach mostly clear.) The lengthy bus ride home didn't matter. I was quite relaxed by the time I got back home.

It was quite chilly when I took this snapshot of Avoca Beach. A very good day to be indoors.

Well, the boys at the comic book store are packing up, so it's almost time to go home. I shall save this and continue it later on.

Wednesday, 20 August

And, typically, later on turns out to be the next day.

I've found another distraction. True Detective, another HBO series which had me hooked after the first episode. I saw something about it on the ABC News recently, after an Australian gent won an Emmy for the opening title sequences, which were rather good and really set the mood for the show. It's a creepy show, very bleak, with flawed, grey lead characters, that are played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. The former plays a straight talking state policeman, who's marriage is experiencing difficulties (thanks mostly to him), whilst the other clearly has a personality flaw, very intellectual, and very much a loner. The story is being told from the present looking backwards, as the two law enforcers are being interviewed by two other officers.

The thing that really got me interested – Cthulhu references, second episode. Superb soundtrack, really sets the mood. Add a religious sect, a biker gang, dead women with strange markings on their skin, one posed with deer antlers on her head, and a Louisiana backdrop and I'm definitely hanging out for season two already whilst only being halfway through season one. Feels like I'm watching the X-Files mixed with Seven.

Queue background music – The Shadow out of Tim by Darkest of the Hillside Thickets. I'd like to get this finished today before I'm compelled to watch the rest of TD. So, what else has gotten me sidetracked lately? Computer games. I shouldn't have bought/downloaded them, but I did, and now they're taking up too much time. The only way I stop playing them is by getting out of the house, which I had to do yesterday. There's been a series of them, starting with Close Combat – Gateway to Caen, the latest instalment in the superb Close Combat series. Nothing changes, I'm playing the Germans, and doing rather well on the current grand campaign, with the Allied AI two levels higher than my units. I'm finding that my defence is quite costly, in men, armoured vehicles and guns. I'm yet to concede sectors, though one area has turned into metal graveyard, with tanks, tank killers and AVs littering the countryside. I'm looking at pulling back there, so that the allies have to push forward to a built up area, that I can defend better than open fields. The mixture of real-time battles and turn based strategy has long appealed to me, with one being able to alter the make-up of his forces prior to the battle, which consist of three companies, with one of them being dedicated support units/vehicles that you can mix and match to suit your perceived needs. The troops gain experience, just like in other games in the series, and yes, you can call in mortar, artillery, or even air support during the movement phase. If you don't use it, you can save it for the next phase of the campaign.

Next comes Tropico V, which I bought off the shelf whilst on sale at JB Hi-Fi. (Little side anecdote. A couple of months ago I picked up the game, plus some DVDs and walked out of the store. I had just reached the carpark when something compelled me to check my purchases. Sure enough, the sales clerk had forgotten to put the ruddy game in the packaging. Her excuse? She thought it was another DVD that was already enclosed in the box.) Been a big fan of the sim-island sim-dictator game, since a friend of mine bought me the original one well over a decade ago. Quite liked what they've done to the game, especially being allowed to create a dynasty, and have your family members run public buildings, and undertake some of the various tasks that pop up. Then there's the timeline. You start as a British colony, work your way to independence, then have to take sides during the world wars. After that, it's the cold war, and you're choosing sides again. You end up in the modern age, where there are additional factions other than Russia and the US to choose from, namely, the European Union, China, and the Middle East. One must research to unlock specific buildings, one can create a constitution, and one can still create policies, including the formation of a police state. Gone are the days that one could get through a game with just a barracks, an armoury and the troops of your palace guard to defend your island, I find if you don't build up your military as your population grows, you will be overrun, either by rebels, your own people, or foreign invaders.

For something different, I tried a third-person shooter, but only because it's the first part of a revamped series of an old favourite of mine, X-Com. I used to play Terror From the Deep and Apocalypse quite a lot, having completed the latter on two occasions. This one, The Bureau: X-Com declassified, is primarily a shooter, with some narrative thrown in which you follow along so that you can build up your character's knowledge of the situation he's been thrown into – that of an alien invasion of earth in the 1950s. You don't control research, you don't build ships or modify your base, it's just go out and shoot aliens, complete missions and earn experience, which then allows you to add new abilities to your operatives. It didn't take me long to realise why I don't play TPSs too often. The real-time shoot-ups leave my head swimming, giving me the occasional headache and disorientating me very easily. I found, even on the rookie level, the game quite hard, with my lead character (and the rest of my three person unit) often getting killed prompting multiple re-loads, which, as you can imagine, makes things extremely frustrating for me. In one such overwhelming battle, I was killed ten times in the space of five minutes.

I'm glad I completed it though (took 24 hours of game time to do so), for it was good primer for X-Com: Enemy Unknown, and the add-on, X-Com: Enemy Within. The aliens that you were blasting away in the 1950s were back to terrorize you in the modern world, and, as I have discovered, they're much easier to kill. This time, I'm back into the more familiar territory of modifying your own bases, conducting your research, and building (and arming) your own ships. There's a lot from the old games that I see in this one. Some of the aliens, such as the sectoids and the flying weapons disks, are back, along with friends from the Declassified game, as well as some new ones like the thin men, that promptly explode into poisonous gas clouds when killed. You have to shoot the alien ships down, undertake a variety of missions from crash site retrievals to base attacks (and defence), and keep the nations that pony up the dough to keep you operational happy, least you have them drop out and change sides. Your soldiers can be genetically altered, and they can even be turned into cyborgs. They can be awarded medals which can give them (and the unit they're in) specific bonuses.

And for me it's quite addictive. Days and nights just fly by when I'm playing this.

Well, what's up for the rest of the week? Tomorrow, a rare game of Blood Bowl in Sydney, for the current league I'm involved in down there. I'm really tempted to just find a cinema and go see a movie before the game. Friday, well, laundry has to be done sometime this week I suppose. Saturday, well, it could be soccer in the afternoon, then off to see Mythbusters live at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in the evening. If today's weather, that of clouds and sunshine with no rain continues, then I guess I'll be playing. If not, it'll be up to the comic book store, then high-tailing it down to Sydney for the show, seeing the store owners are going as well and they'll be driving.

And next Sunday (31/8), I'll be be hosting a Blood Bowl tournament up at the store. Just a one day event, and hopefully more people attending then there were last time I ran one.

Right. Time to post this. Cheers!

Note - all images in this post (c) 2013/14 Geoff G Turner.