Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Expand, Contract (22)

Oh yeah, it's been a while... But anyway, Steve Jackson Games have recently cleared a bottleneck in the contractual process. So I'm just signing a contract, which I think means that things are advanced enough for me to mention; said contract is for Transhuman Space: Martial Arts 2100.

And talking of the Transhuman Space line, I can probably also safely mention the Bill Stoddard's Transhuman Mysteries has now completed playtest and is into final draft work - I'll be editing this in due course.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010: Art in Standardised Forms, I Guess

Afternoon: Mmm - it's been a while since we got to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and they've got some temporary exhibitions on, some of them set to end in the near future. Plus, they've finished the last round of refurbishment.

And yes, the Greek and Roman galleries are nice these days - we just wandered through soaking up (mostly) a collection of partial and damaged sculpture that reminds one that this stuff is one of the foundations of Western art. Then, it was off through the rather less grabbing (but doubtless very, umm, comprehensive) porcelain collection to the south wing, which is where they tend to put the temporary shows. There was a room full of netsuke, which is an extraordinary form of craft, and maybe of true art - I mean, those things are just decorative toggles for bits of costume, they seem to use fairly standard subjects, there's no apparent attempt to evoke deep emotions - but it's all bogglingly fine and elegant and skilled, at a level of effect which makes much conscious art look cack-handed. There was a room full of monotype prints by Lino Mannocci, which might appeal to me, in a minimalist, allusive sort of way, when I'm in the right mood. There were a couple of rooms now holding the museum's collection of modern art, of varying levels of appeal, but hey - Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, oh my. And there was an exhibition of works by Sargent, Sickert & Spencer, unified by slightly more than the fact that they were three English-speaking artists of the late 19th/early 20th century whose names began with "S". Just to state what I'm qualified to state - i.e. the bleedin' obvious and personal - I guess that Sargent is the most instantly accessible, even if this exhibition (being based on the museum's own collection) didn't feature some of his most lushly gorgeous portraits; Sickert came across as the most interesting, if only for his London urban images; and Spencer is the most "spiritual", if mutant personal religious imagery and unflattering self-portraiture is what floats your boat.

There was also this year's sculpture promenade outside. This didn't grab me quite as much as last year's, but there's some reasonably cool things there.

Evening: Oh yeah, the new Dr Who[?] season opener. (I note that the standard logo for the series now uses the letters "DW", with no question mark. Am I alone in finding this somehow deeply naff?) It wasn't bad - not great, but not enough to make me hide behind the sofa and weep for lost childhood things. While Matt Smith is definitely playing a younger, mutated David Tennant, he's trying to make the part his own, and at least he seems to be emphasising "weird" over "cute". The plot was essentially routine Who - much more noohoo than klassikhoo, but relatively good noohoo...

But on the other hand, Steven Moffat frankly seemed to be coasting a bit at this point, making it "good noohoo" by repeating stuff from previous good noohoo rather than by being original (and it's his capacity for originality that makes me hope that his Who will be worth watching). Notably, we had the bright, sparky kid who meets the Doctor and then encounters this half-disbelieved childhood imaginary friend again in adulthood - which was great in "The Girl in the Fireplace", but not needed a second time. We also got a reiteration of some of noohoo's worst features, notably including gratuitous cameos by ludicrously over-qualified thespians who were then completely thrown away - Nina Wadia being the worst example here, although as a Green Wing addict, I was also unhappy to see Olivia Colman reduced to playing Monster's Temporary Shape (even if said shape could be interpreted as Harriet Schulenburg). Then there was "the Doctor faces down dangerous aliens and scares the cr*p out of them just by identifying himself", which seems painfully self-aware at best, implausible at worst - and which was in any case done much better and more convincingly by Neil Gaiman writing John Constantine twenty years ago. Plus, we got the all-too-classic ur-Who clunkiness of monsters who really, really can't run for toffee, a new Tardis control room that tips over from the steampunk style of the last series into junk-shop silliness, with old typewriter keyboards and all, and a Portentous Comment by the monster which makes it clear that this series will have an overarching plot theme. Sorry, I know that this is supposed to be a way to keep us watching, but when you've already had seasons where the overarching theme was The End Of The Universe Is Coming or The Doctor Is Going To Die, doing it again is just superfluous and suggests a lack of confidence.

And - oh yeah - there's the new assistant. Quite sparky, quite charming, but still stuck with being the sparky, charming eye candy who's along to keep the Doctor company. Having grown up with assistants who were trained scientists or strong-willed girl reporters or fully certified geniuses in their own right, I'm afraid I do have to regard a kissogram girl as a bit of an anti-feminist retreat. (And can one even find kissograms these days? Not that I've gone looking, but ... I have a nasty feeling that we might have to think of Ms Pond as a pre-watershed euphemism for a strippogram.)

But no, it wasn't a disaster. It was adequate science fantasy, which may be what we should be asking from Who these days, because getting anything more would be pure bonus. Let's hang in there and see - for now.