Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Good, The Awesome and the Stress of NaNoWriMo

THE GOOD, THE AWESOME AND THE STRESS OF NANOWRIMO
By Marie Victoria Robertson
Hey look, we’re in the second half of November! Show of hands, who’s participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Are you cool as a cucumber because you’re in the home stretch of novel-writing, or are you frantically calculating how many words a day you need to write to finish on time?

Incidentally, it’s pronounced “Nah-no wry-moh”, and for the uninitiated, stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s that once-a-year kick in the arse a lot of aspiring writers (and some seasoned pros) need to finally get started on that novel that’s been percolating in their brains for all this time.
So what’s the deal with NaNoWriMo? Founded in July 1999, the idea was to unite people through a common goal—writing 50,000 words (about the size of a small novel) in a month. NaNoWriMo has well over 200,000 participants now. You sign up through the official NaNoWriMo website, write your novel piece by piece in your own word processor, and update your word count on the site as you progress. You “win” by reaching the 50,000-word count before the end of the month. It’s open to anyone around the world writing in any language of their choosing. 
For a lot of aspiring writers, getting that first novel finished can be daunting. NaNoWriMo is the perfect motivation, keeping you encouraged and accountable for your writing. 
I’m personally not participating this year, though I have in the past. By the time of this article’s release, it will be too late to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2014, but here is some advice you can store away for next year, or hold on to for whatever writing project you’ve got on the go. 
1. OUTLINE
You may not be allowed to type out a word of the novel itself before November 1st, but that doesn’t mean you can’t outline. Seriously, outline. The first piece of writing advice I always give my students is to lay out the plan for your novel. You’ve seen artists draw out a quick pencil sketch before they get to work, right? The same applies to writing. Write down your story arcs from start to finish, flesh out your characters, make sure you know exactly how your story’s going to end, even if it’s going to change later. You’ll feel much more inspired to write if you know exactly where you’re going.  
2. FIND SUPPORT
The most wonderful part of NaNoWriMo is the community aspect. Participants help each other stay motivated thanks to local write-ins, support through forums, and pep talks
3. IGNORE YOUR INNER EDITOR… FOR NOW
What you’re writing down now is not your final draft. It’s supposed to “suck”, to not make sense, to look like terrible writing. You’re going to edit this later, but you can’t edit anything unless you have a first draft, and since you’re on a time limit, you need to focus on getting to the finish line first. You’re much better off with 50,000 words to edit than 500 words of “perfect” writing. 
4. EVEN IF YOU “LOSE” NANOWRIMO, YOU STILL WIN 
Maybe you’re 1000 words away from the end on November 30th. Maybe you’re 25,000 words away. You know what? It doesn’t matter. Maybe you didn’t technically win, but you’ve got your novel started. Keep going into December. Keep going into January. Keep writing, and think about what you can do next year to make it to the end. 
You wrote, and that’s a hell of a lot more than other people can say. 



Marie Victoria Robertson is a published speculative fiction writer and playwright, as well as the board president of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative (www.jersvision.org). When all the other girls wanted to marry Johnny Depp, she wanted to run away with Worf on the Enterprise. She enjoys giant robots, time-travel paradoxes, and dressing up her kids like Ninja Turtles.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Games for Travelers

GAMES FOR TRAVELERS (IN TIME AND SPACE)
So you have travelled to a far off country, or maybe just to next province, and you have some time to kill while waiting for your connecting flight. Maybe you are on a business trip with some colleagues, and need something fun, and light to do in the middle of conference meetings. Or maybe that darned weather man said it would be beautiful tropical sun, but instead you got two days of utter downpour. Well traditionally you would go to a local bar, or read a book (or five), that you packed along for just such an occasion, but those tried and true methods can sometimes get redundant. Well they are other geeky ways you can spend your time with some nice light travel games.
The biggest thing about travelling, and bringing your own entertainment is packing light. You don’t want to be lugging around a bulky box, nor do you necessarily want a game that takes so long to set up you are just done unpacking it when the announcement for your flight boarding comes over the loudspeaker. Well don’t worry, there are quite a few games that travel well; from light hearted and speedy, to thematic, and slightly deeper strategy.
DICE GAMES
Dice Games are the most portable; there is no worry of pieces blowing in the wind. The other great thing about dice games is most of them play for two people, upwards to as many as you can fit in a room. The most well know would be Zombie Dice. You are a zombie trying to eat the most brains before being blown away by the humans escaping your clutches. Martian Dice is another where you are a Martian abducting various creatures: human, livestock, etc. and you are trying to beat other Martians (your opponents) to get the most points from your abductions. Chupacabra is another, sensing a theme here anyone? In this one you are the goat sucker, trying to suck the blood out of local livestock, and be the most successful chupacabra by stealing other chupies livestock.
CARD GAMES
Card games have come a long way from the traditional Euchre, and 500. Those are still good fun games but if you are looking for something new, there is certainly lots to choose from. Gloom plays two people but gets a lot more interesting with more and can play up to four, more with expansions. You are in control of a family and you are trying to give them the worst life possible, and kill them off when they are down as far as they could be. Keeping in mind you opponents are trying to do the same with their family and thus may play cards on your guys to make them have a happy, and fulfilling life.  Hanabi is a cooperative game that plays up to four people. You are trying to put on the most fantastic fireworks display. The trick is, you don’t get to see your cards but everyone else does; so you are trying to give the best information to your team mates before they play a card. Being careful not to set your display off too early and losing the game. Munchkin, plays 3-6; although I have played it just two people and works pretty good. There are more cards in this game but it travels light in its own skinny box. A very tongue in cheek game where you are all dungeon crawlers, trying to get to level ten by defeating monsters, all the while pilfering rooms, and amassing treasure you can use. Additionally this game has many expansions in almost every geeky theme, so you are sure to find something that you like.
BOARD-ISH GAMES 
What is a board-ish game? Well something that doesn’t fit in the above categories exactly but isn’t weighed down by a big… well, board and tons of pieces. Starting us off is Six. Solely a two person game where you are trying to create one of the three distinct winning patterns by placing an individual hexagonal tile each turn against your opponent; a simple mechanic with loads of strategic fun. Dungeon Roll, comes in a box shaped like a small treasure chest. You are a character trying to get the most victory points after three rounds. You are dice rolling to defeat monster dice, with the number of monsters depending equaling to the level of the dungeon you are exploring. You can stop at any level to guarantee you don’t lose all your possible points but there are only three rounds to accumulate the most and win so sometimes you may have to press your luck. Love Letter comes in a small velvet bag so travels well. You are a member of the royal court trying to get your love letter to the princess before the other suitors. A game of deduction, and luck meant for two to four players that fits in your pocket. The Resistance, a bluffing game that is best suited for more and plays up to ten players. There is an Arthurian themed version, Avalon as well. You are the good guys, maybe. There are one or more traitors amongst your group, and you need to complete missions all the while finding the traitors in your midst; who are hell bent on foiling your missions and winning by making you lose. Last but not least, King of Tokyo is a fun game of monster on monster destruction, for two to six players. A dice game, but with a tiny board of Tokyo. Monster(s) in Tokyo attack monsters outside and vice versa. Be the last monster standing, or the first to twenty victory points wins.

So when you are packing for that weekend conference, or looking at an extended stay in the Caribbean make sure to grab a game or two for a change of pace on your regular down time activities. Game on!

Married, with four fur babies, Tracy has recently rediscovered her love of board games, and has acquired a wonderful collection. Being new to writing, it is just one more newly discovered world she is exploring. At the age of 37, Tracy now proudly shows off her geekiness, through her love of crafting and creating; well, at least until she defeats Ganon with the master sword, she finds the blue crystal staff, or the TARDIS shows up on her front doorstep.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Geeks are Sexy! Meet Three Nerdlesque Performers

GEEKS ARE SEXY! MEET THREE NERDLESQUE PERFORMERS
By Angela Hartwick

Burlesque, as in the cabaret-style stripteases of the late 19th century, has made a revival in the last few decades. As opposed to common modern stripteasing, burlesque focuses on creativity, self-expression, it can be funny or political, and its audience is mostly female. Burlesque and geekdom have teamed up so many times that “nerdlesque” is now a subgenre and, Ottawa, being a geeky hub, is seeing it thrive. I only recently heard of nerdlesque and I’m fascinated at how it redresses the stereotype our community has of being socially-awkward basement-dwellers and instead brings us together in a glittery show of confidence, allure, artistry and winsome tassels.

I wanted to learn more about it and these three local(ish) performers were lovely enough to virtually speak with me. Read on for their insights into the business.

LADY GALLIFREYA 
WITH BROWNCOATS BURLESQUE (OTTAWA)

Photo credits: Victor S. DeVice


What are your geeky interests? 
Sci-fi is definitely at the top of my geek list. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Stargate and the Mass Effect series. I also enjoy a good dose of fantasy, which I watch and read. Oh, and I cosplay so hard (I won Best in Show at the Ottawa Comiccon Masquerade 2014)

How did you first discover burlesque? 
It was less of a discovery and more of a crazy random happenstance. About a year and a half ago, I was complaining to one of the temps at work about how much I missed performing. She suggested I try burlesque (she herself moonlighted as local dancer Bibi Bourgeon), because it’s a fantastically inclusive community and a great way to perform.

She also explained, after seeing my horrified expression at the idea of stripping, that you strip down to what’s comfortable, no more (or less?). That stuck in my brain, so when I stumbled across a documentary on TV about burlesque, and they mentioned “nerdlesque”, I raced to my computer to look it up. Lo and behold! Ottawa had a nerdlesque troupe! Now THAT was something I could get into! So I contacted Ottawa’s Browncoats Burlesque, created a routine, and ended up being accepted into their ranks. Now, I aim to misbehave! ;)

What do you enjoy most about performing? Are there any downsides? 
I love the adrenaline rush of being on stage in front of an audience. I’ve never been one for excessive drinking, thrill sports, and I’ve never done drugs, but I can’t imagine them being any better than the high you feel when performing.

And being able to fly my geek flag while performing is doubly pleasurable!! The downside is that creating a routine takes a lot of time, energy and money, which are not always easily available when you have a full-time job. Still...it’s worth it.

Tell us about your favourite past geeky-themed performance. 
My most recent act has become my favourite actually! I teamed up with Jasper Cox (a fellow Browncoat troupe member) to do Zydrate Anatomy from “Repo: The Genetic Opera.” I spent a whole day hot-gluing sequins to a black bra and corset to look like Amber Sweet’s getup from 
that scene in the film, and added a black wig, high boots, and pasties in a bright Zydrate-blue. I even borrowed a black leather whip from a friend. It was part burlesque, part lip-sync re-enactment, and ALL sexy. I loved it! I still have a soft spot in my heart for my very first routine, though, which was a tribute to Zoe from Firefly to Bon Jovi’s “Blaze of Glory” (the photo I sent is from this routine). I’m still proud of my Serenity pasties, ha ha!

When are you performing next and where on social media can fans follow you? 
My next official performance is Browncoats Burlesque’s annual “GeeKISSexy” show in January 2015, but I will probably end up slipping into another show or two before then. Different troupe members frequently guest in other troupe’s shows because we love to mingle! 

Interweb links: 
Twitter: @Lady_Gallifreya 
Also by liking Browncoats Burlesque, you can learn about our upcoming shows (in which I frequently perform)
Twitter: @BrowncoatsBurly 

RHAPSODY BLUE
WITH ROCKALILY BURLESQUE (OTTAWA)
Photo credits: Darren Boucher


What are your geeky interests?
I am mostly interested in games and literature. I play tabletop RPGs with friends (our current campaign is about the Roman conquest of Britain) and occasionally GM as well. On the video game front I am fairly casual, preferring horror games and Twine games with a staunch enthusiasm for Guild Wars 2 on the side. I studied English Literature for my undergrad and I am an avid reader—mostly of mystery, horror and fantasy. Few places make me happier than a library. I enjoy webcomics a great deal, and have been following Questionable Content and Gunnerkrigg Court for so many years that I almost feel like the characters are personal friends of mine. I like conventional comics, but I only keep current with Mouse Guard and Saga. Anime is also a cherished guilty pleasure of mine. 

How did you first discover burlesque?
I attended my first burlesque show after reading about it in an Apartment 613 blog post in 2009, and began performing in early 2010. I got my start through Rockalily's Burlesque Idol in 2010, which was a fundraiser for breast cancer research that ended up jump-starting not only my own burlesque career but also those of Lana Lovecakes, Bessie Mae Mucho, Del Roba and Kicky Laroux.     

What do you enjoy most about performing? Are there any downsides?
I enjoy interacting with audiences and sharing my passion and physicality with appreciative observers. I'm also a fire artist and I love exploring the movement of flames. I like that burlesque can be funny, challenging and creative, which are not characteristics immediately associated with sexiness in mainstream culture. It's a very personal art form and every performer brings something different to the table; even within Ottawa there is an enormous breadth of style and skill, and no single show or artist could be representative of burlesque at large. There are downsides to every industry, but most problems in the burlesque industry are reflections of problems within our wider culture: racism, sexism, fatphobia, ableism, classism and other various oppressions. We also encounter the same challenges of all performing arts and live theatre, so it always means a lot to me that people spend their hard-earned cash to attend our shows. 

Tell us about your favourite past geeky-themed performance.
It's hard to pick a favourite! I definitely have a soft spot for my interpretation of Amon from Legend of Korra, because it sort of brought my headcanon to life: at the start of the series, I had initially hoped that Amon would be revealed to be a woman. Obviously the mask is central to that costume, but my favourite element is actually the pasties; I made them from plaster and hand-painted the symbol of the Equalists on them, for a "revolutionary propaganda poster" look. For music, I used a custom mix of music and dialogue from the show with "Uprising" by Muse. I also really enjoy my Carnage number, and my portrayal of Shinobu from Bakemonogatari was a geeky thrill. 

When are you performing next and where on social media can fans follow you?
On December 5 I will be at the National Arts Centre, as part of a spectacular vaudeville variety show co-produced by Stanley Mansfield, Critical Miss and Retro Joad. I am particularly excited because I think I may be the first burlesque performer to grace an NAC stage, and I'm also performing to live accompaniment courtesy of my Rockalily sister Sorry Sinatra. There will be cabaret, opera, hula hooping, magic, comedy and more! Tickets are available at the Comic Book Shoppe. 

Interweb links: 

DELICIA PASTICHE
WITH NERD GIRL BURLESQUE (TORONTO)

Photo credits: Photolena


What are your geeky interests? 
I have all sorts of geeky interests, I like to think of myself as a well-rounded, and nicely curved, nerd. 

I began playing Dungeons and Dragons when I was 12 and have kept up with role-playing games as much as I can as an adult. I generally get to play more board games now, but I still join campaigns that will have me! I've taken this love and merged it with burlesque by producing a monthly show with my troupe, Nerd Girl Burlesque, called Tassels and Tabletop, where the audience watches an hour-long burlesque show, then enjoys a board game social with the performers afterwards. 

I'm very much into video games, with RPGs and FPSs being my favourite genres. I love most things made by Valve (I haven't even given up hope on Half-Life 3), as well as the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series. I also play more casually on my 3DSXL. My thesis work for my Masters centres around gender and sexuality as presented in modern North American video games. 

As a kid, I used to have to make my dad drive me to the comic book store, because we lived in Hamilton and there wasn't one within walking distance. Now, I live under a ten minute walk from that same store's newest Toronto location, and I can get my fix along with a tea latte! I read everything from indies to superhero books. My favourite titles are Fables, Chew,and Batwoman. 

I don't want to bore you with too many details, so an abbreviated list of fandoms that have my heart includes Sherlock, Buffy, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Tolkien, and Hannibal. 

How did you first discover burlesque?
While it feels like burlesque has always been in my life, I know that isn't so! I saw my first show about seven years ago through some friends and was immediately hooked. I began attending shows, including the Toronto Burlesque Festival, and eventually began lessons with Coco Framboise.  

What do you enjoy most about performing? Are there any downsides?
I come from a performance background, and have always loved performing. Burlesque allows me creative control over nearly all aspects of my artistic expression. I get to choose the story I want to tell, the costume, the music, the choreography, and craft and explore my own vision, rather than conforming to someone else's. I can pick the characters I want to perform as, rather than waiting for the parts I desire to become available. 

That said, I am only one person! My capabilities, and budget, only go so far. I may be able to dream up fantastical costumes and props, but ,without a team, I cannot build them. While many people imagine us to have teams of glamour minions at our service, most of the work of a burlesque dancer is done solo. I'm very lucky that I have a troupe and community around me to help me out when I'm in a costuming rut or at a loss for musical choice. 

Tell me about your favourite past geeky-themed performance.
Picking a favourite is incredibly difficult! One of them is my tribute to Sappho, the Ancient Greek lyrical poet. I was inspired by the call from local producer Scarlett LaFlamme for acts based on bad (or badass) women from history. As a queer history nerd, there was no one better I could think to base my act on. 

The act is set to an alternate version of I Kissed a Girl. I wear a (historically inaccurate) satin toga, a laurel leaf head piece, a blue underbust corset, and white rhinestoned g-string and bra. I also have a prop scroll with a bedazzled image of something very naughty and Sapphic on it and a very large ostrich feather quill pen, both of which are also used as costume pieces.

When are you performing next and on where on social media can fans follow you?
Fans in Toronto can next catch me at The Night is Dark and Full of Tassels, a Game of Thrones burlesque show on November 29 at the Great Hall, or the next day at a more intimate show at Cherry Cola's. 

Interweb links:
Twitter: @deliciapastiche
Instagram: @heroofkvatch 




Angela is a 30-something year old mom of three kids - a baby, a school-aged kid and a teenager – and a furbaby, living in Orleans with her geek soul mate husband. She studied English Literature and Social Work but took an unexpected turn somewhere and ended up working as a policy analyst for the feds. Hobbies include reading, playing boardgames and Magic: the Gathering, cooking healthy foods, blogging, and discussing favourite tv shows and movies. She is the proud organizer of the Ottawa Geek Social Club, which strives to provide meetup opportunities that reflect the many facets of geekdom and beyond! www.ogsc.ca.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Board Game Lunch Club

GETTING TO KNOW YOUR COWORKERS THROUGH GAMING
By Sandi Moser
Last winter, I overheard an animated discussion over a Friday lunch in a closed boardroom at work. Things don’t usually get animated in my neck of the woods, particularly over lunchtime, so my interest was piqued. When the boardroom opened at the end of lunch and a group of coworkers emerged with Settlers of Catan, I was shocked. Colleagues were playing a board game right beside me and I didn’t know about it!

That afternoon, after casually asking a colleague, I learned of the existence of a group of likeminded individuals who get together periodically to play board games over lunch. I personally don’t like Settlers, but if there’s a game to be had rather than eating at my desk, I want in! I quickly secured my invitation.

In the months since that first encounter, I've joined my coworkers every second Friday for a fun-filled board game lunch. Playing games has been a great opportunity to see my colleagues in a different light. It has provided a chance to bond with colleagues with whom I don't often get to interact.
During those lunchtime game sessions, we've also inadvertently learned things about each other that help us work together professionally. For example, in teaching each other new games, we’ve learned some of our preferred learning methods. In playing the games, we’ve learned how we think strategically. I've been surprised to see just how competitive some coworkers can be, and who can trash talk with the best of them (which may come in handy professionally one day, you never know). I work in a bilingual environment, so it has also gives a fun opportunity to practice my second language on occasion.

A side bonus to our board game lunch crew is exposure to new games (thank you M for introducing me to Zeppelin Attack!). We take turns bringing in our favorite games, providing opportunities to test drive new games.

A couple of things to think about if you want to start your own board game lunch at work:
  • Choose a location that will cause the least disturbance to other co-workers. In our case, we book a low-traffic boardroom.
  • Be flexible with everyone's work schedules and the use of the boardroom if someone else needs it for business purposes - work should still come first.
  • While it is a social activity, continue to be somewhat professional (ie, watch your language). Essentially, remember you are still at work and need to interact with your coworkers when the game is done.
  • Focus on games that can be completed in 30-45 minutes, or that can be modified to be completed early. Carcasonne is a good choice, since it can be ended at any time.
  • As with any board game session, keep the ability of the group in mind when choosing a game. For example, working in a bilingual group, try not to choose games like Dominion that require players to be constantly reading English instructions on the cards as they're played.

If you’re looking for a new way to get to know your coworkers, consider starting your own Board Game Lunch. You may be surprised how much you learn about each other.


Sandi is a 30-something environmental engineer and mother of two from the metropolis of Stittsville, Ontario. In her spare time, Sandi enjoys playing board and video games, reading books, watching movies, and crocheting. She looks forward to sharing her geeky endeavours with you, as well as reporting on the next generation’s response to those endeavours.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Games For Two

GAMES FOR TWO
By Tracy Thillmann
Many people think that board games are for parties, or big groups, so often stay away from them when there are just two of you. Not so, in fact many games nowadays play well with two people, and some even have a single person option. So if you are a pair of roommates, a young duo, or a couple of empty nesters looking for something new and social to do together, well look no further than today’s modern board games.
Most games can play two people, but often they have a variant, or are ‘more optimal’ with 3-4 people. Rulebooks can sometimes be short novels so learning a new game, and then learning a variant as well is a bit daunting. So where do you begin, you ask? Look no further than right here; a compiled list of some of the games that work great for two players as well as when you have more company, and also how they work.
TICKET TO RIDE
Who doesn’t love trains? Well okay, maybe not to the point of Sheldon-esque proportions but most everyone understands the concept of trains. And admit it; you love trains just a little. Ticket to Ride is a beautiful game with easy to pick up rules.
The goal: To lay out your train tokens, and complete destination tickets. By collecting cards of certain colours, you play the cards to complete routes that help you finish your tickets. The game ends when a person gets down to two trains, then there is one last round for everyone to complete tickets. You can always collect more destination tickets to earn more points at the end of the game, but beware, any tickets you don’t complete count against your score.
The great thing about this game is the different maps you can buy, some are base games, and some are expansion maps that need the trains/cards from the base set, but play on their own. They all play well with two and some can play up to 5 so great when you do have company.
CARCASSONNE
A tile based, worker placement game that has a nice, simple base set with many expansions to change up the strategy. You draw individual tiles and place them to build roads, towns, monasteries, and farms. 
The Goal: You place tiles to fit the existing placed tiles on your turn, and then you can choose to place your Meeples (wooden workers) on that new tile to take control of one the four choices that may be on it. With exception of the farms, your Meeples return to you once the project is finished. You score points for the length of road, the size of the town, the monastery being surrounded by tiles. The farmers stay on the farms until the end of game scoring so the trick is to make sure you don’t place too many farmers down or you won’t have Meeples to place to score points throughout the game. The game ends when the last tile is placed, and final scoring begins.

This is a fantastic, gateway game that is often one of the ones that people first play when getting into modern board games. It plays quite well with two, and can play up to five people.
VIVA JAVA: THE DICE GAME
A dice game about coffee; Yes coffee! A simpler, more compact version of the original board game, you roll dice to make blends with the various coffee beans on the dice.
The Goal: You can strategize to pool your dice and make blends of different types of beans. Some allow for quicker points, some are an investment which gives you points over a few rounds. Your blends will degrade but with the right combination you can maximize greater points. The game ends when someone is the first to get to twenty-one points.
It is nice and compact, so travels well. It can even play one person but plays better with two or more. The dice game can play up to five players; if you are feeling like a more involved game, the board game can play up to eight people, but isn’t as good for just two because there is some collaborating that goes on, and thus works best with four or more.
RIVALS FOR CATAN
This game only plays two players but it is a fantastic game but has lots of playability. It is a territory
building game that uses cards to create your own villages; which have resources, trades, and people.
The Goal: Starting with one village, two roads leading horizontally out of the village, and starting with six resources spaced above and below, you gather points through the various trades, buildings, and people that you purchase with the resources gathered. More villages being built, and upgrading villages to towns also get you points. The game ends with the first person to reach a certain fixed amount of points, the base game is to seven victory points, with expansions increasing the difficulty and the total points to end the game.
This isn’t a game for more than two people, but it adds a different feel to the traditional Settlers game, and the base game has two expansions, plus there are two more than you can get to add on.
Other games that can play well with two players: Helios, Pillars of the Earth, Agricola, Blueprints, Gloom Smash Up.

With the massive amount of games out there nowadays, there is so many that can play just two people. In some cases there are variants to allow for the lower number of players. This may make some shy away from trying them, but once you have the basics down of certain styles of games you can pick up the basic rules, and add the modifications in quite easily. So when you are at home with just two of you, two words: board games!

Married, with four fur babies, Tracy has recently rediscovered her love of board games, and has acquired a wonderful collection. Being new to writing, it is just one more newly discovered world she is exploring. At the age of 37, Tracy now proudly shows off her geekiness, through her love of crafting and creating; well, at least until she defeats Ganon with the master sword, she finds the blue crystal staff, or the TARDIS shows up on her front doorstep.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Labyrinth Through My Ages

LABYRINTH THROUGH MY AGES
By Angela Hartwick

The 80s were an iconic time for family-friendly geeky films. Fandoms arose from The NeverEnding Story, Willow, Princess Bride, Dark Crystal, E.T the Extra-Terrestrial, Ghostbusters and My Neighbour Totoro among others. My personal favourite of the era is Labyrinth. In this article I’d like to share how my understanding of the plot of Labyrinth has evolved (in a similar manner to a crazy staircase) in the course of the almost three decades since its release. 

ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG GIRL WHOSE STEPMOTHER ALWAYS MADE HER STAY HOME WITH THE BABY
An array of supercool people worked on Labyrinth: it is directed by Jim Henson, executively produced by George Lucas, the initial script was drafted by Monty Python’s Terry Jones, and it stars David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. The plot consists of a 15 year old girl (Connelly) that, upset at babysitting her fussy baby brother, wishes goblins would come take him away. The goblins take the baby to a castle in the middle of an enchanted Labyrinth that is ruled by Jareth (Bowie). Sarah immediately regrets what she wished for and is given a limited amount of time to get to her brother to save him before he becomes a goblin.

THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS WHAT THEY SEEM IN THIS PLACE


I was three years old when Labyrinth was released. I watched it repeatedly throughout my childhood without really knowing what was happening. My earliest recollections are that I thought Sarah was a bad-tempered princess, the goblin puppets were terrifying, the songs were the best pieces of music ever recorded, I should also have a dog named Merlin, and sometimes I thought Jareth was the villain and at other times a prince. It was probably the feeling there was more to the film that was the lure for frequently rewatching it.



THAT’S NOT FAIR! BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT IS.
As an older kid I identified with and looked up to Sarah. Her angst seemed perfectly legit and she was right on to complain about life not being fair! I thought she was smart to use lipstick to trace her steps, that she had the right answer to which door to choose (though now it sounds like circular logic), and I admired the way she spoke up against Jareth. I started to grasp some of the life lessons of the film, such as the importance of using the right words, and not taking things for granted. I understood that Jareth was mean and manipulative because he, you know, stole babies, trapped people in oubliettes and sent cleaners to squash them, but the psychological evil he inflicts (mind games, torture, threats, drugs) took me longer to concept.

WHAT’S THE MATTER, MY DEAR, DON’T YOU LIKE YOUR TOYS?
As a teenager I picked up on how Sarah gave up material things throughout her journey (bracelet, ring, everything she used to cherish in the junkyard scene). I started to see the film as a coming of age story in which Sarah becomes less selfish, less materialistic, and more maternal. 

But most importantly as a teenager, I noticed what is referred to as the Bowie Bulge. I won’t elaborate too much on this since there are Tumblr and Pinterest pages devoted to the fandom of the bulge itself.

THE WAY FORWARD IS SOMETIMES THE WAY BACK
As a young adult Sarah’s bedroom became worthy of attention instead of just the boring part preceding the action: the Hoggle bookend, stuffies of the fieries, Sir Dydimus and Ludo, a wooden labyrinth game, a print resembling the cleaners, the ballerina music box playing “As the World Falls Down”, a goblin king sculpture on the dresser, the crazy stairs poster (Escher’s “Relativity”). 

The books in Sarah’s room that I’m familiar with mirror her journey. Where the Wild Things Are, for example, is the story of a boy who, angry at his mother, goes into his room and imagines being transported to land of beasts until he decides to return (Toby’s striped pyjamas may be an ode to the monsters in Max’ world). There’s The Wizard of Oz, in which a girl enters a fantasy world, makes three friends who help her get to the location of a powerful being and then finding out she had the power to return home all along. 

There are aspects of Labyrinth I definitely didn’t catch until adulthood - the age difference between Sarah and Jareth, for example. When the film was shot Connelly was 14 and Bowie was 37. It’s a disturbing sexual subtext.

SHE TREATS ME LIKE A WICKED STEPMOTHER IN A FAIRY STORY, NO MATTER WHAT I SAY
As a parent, the age difference between Sarah and Jareth, which I had never paid attention to, has become a disturbing sexual subtext difficult to overlook. When the film was shot Connelly was 14 and Bowie was 37. This makes me think of Freud. - in fact, one article called Labyrinth “the most blatantly Freudian film in the history of the world.” I don’t know that I agree with the purely Freudian analysis of Labyrinth, but it is difficult to ignore all of the phallic and fertility symbols: the many obelisks, a ball that turns into a snake, a peach infested by a worm, groping hands, dismembered heads, bubble balls, cannon balls, glass balls, rock balls. If we return to strange and wonderful things found in Sarah’s room, the most interesting is probably the open scrapbook featuring her birth mother, an actress, who is pictured in several photos with a man none other than David Bowie. So if the Labyrinth is Sarah’s fantasy, the face of the older man obsessed with her is that of...her step-father?

I CAN’T LIVE WITHIN YOU
Nowadays my interpretation of the film is as fluid as ever. I see the entire film as an allegory. Jareth lives within Sarah as her impulsive darker side that is dying out while Toby represents her maternal side that becomes more pronounced. To this day I’m unsure who Sarah is referring to when she says “You have no power over me.” Her mother? Her emotions? Jareth? Men? Manipulative people? The darkness within herself? Luckily, the film is as enjoyable to watch in a straightforward manner as it is to dissect it and I’m still able to appreciate it that way.

EVERY NOW AND AGAIN IN MY LIFE - FOR NO REASON AT ALL - I NEED YOU. ALL OF YOU.  
Inspiration for this article came from reading about the documentary David Bowie Is premiering at the Mayfair this month so check that out if you’re a Bowie fan. By pure coincidence, Labyrinth was recently trending due to false rumours of a sequel. If the news of it being a hoax disappointed you, I strongly recommend the little known Return to Labyrinth manga four-part series. The story takes place 13 years after the timeline of the movie and centers around an adolescent Toby. It brings back the characters we know and love/fear and also introduces new interesting ones. 



Angela is a 30-something year old mom of three kids - a baby, a school-aged kid and a teenager – and a furbaby, living in Orleans with her geek soul mate husband. She studied English Literature and Social Work but took an unexpected turn somewhere and ended up working as a policy analyst for the feds. Hobbies include reading, playing boardgames and Magic: the Gathering, cooking healthy foods, blogging, and discussing favourite tv shows and movies. She is the proud organizer of the Ottawa Geek Social Club, which strives to provide meetup opportunities that reflect the many facets of geekdom and beyond! www.ogsc.ca.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Geek Girl Guide to Halloween in Ottawa

GEEK GIRL GUIDE TO HALLOWEEN IN OTTAWA
By Marie Victoria Robertson


If you’re like me, you think of Halloween as more of a lifestyle than a holiday. For one month out of the year, I subsist on candy corn, conversation about who’s dressing up as what, and feasting my eyes on amazing, geek-themed pumpkins (I once carved a Jack Skellington but it feels like I shamed my pumpkin in comparison to those. Sorry, pumpkin). If you want to party or keep it low-key with only one outing or two, here’s a list of fun Halloween things to keep you busy in Ottawa this month.

SPOOK YOUR KIDS

For those with little spawns this Halloween, you can enjoy a family-friendly scare at Saunders Farm with their pumpkin patch and wagon rides (and do check out their Fright Night selections for those minus kids), learn about the Day of Dead (and the story behind sugar skulls) with Dora and Diego at the Children’s Museum, or take them to see Pumpkinferno, the beautiful display of hand-carved pumpkins at Upper Canada Village.   



HEROES & VILLAINS: “MADNESS AT THE ASYLUM”

Halloween season for the geek community is nothing without a stop at the annual Heroes & Villains party. Don your best hero costume (or villain, they’re more fun) and head over to the Ottawa Curling Club on November 1st at 8:30pm. Check the Facebook group to find out where you can buy you tickets. There will be prizes for most awesomest costume, so work extra hard!

EVENTS AT BILLINGS ESTATE

For those who might want a calmer spook experience, Billings Estate National Historic Site is hosting a few Halloween events such as offerings by the Ottawa StoryTellers on October 16, 17 and 18, and an Edwardian séance on October 26 and 27. Contact the Facebook group for more information and to reserve your spot. 

THE HAUNTED CARNIVAL


In the mood for a night of Halloween glitz and glamour on October 31st? To quote the Haunted Carnival’s Facebook event page: “The event blends the excitement and elegance of a Hollywood Halloween spectacle - with the mystique and decor of travelling carnivals from the 19th Century.” The admission is a bit steep at $50 for students and $70 regular, but it sounds like quite the show!


HAUNTED WALK OF OTTAWA: “INCIDENT AT THE BUNKER”

The always-reliable Haunted Walk of Ottawa has a few special Halloween-themed walks, but the icing on the cake is the “Incident at the Bunker” tour, which takes place at the Diefenbunker every weekend until November 1st. Did you know some wacky experiments took place there a couple of decades ago? Go back in time and find out what was so terrifying! (Hint—it’s zombies). I tried out the tour the first year it started and let me tell you, it’s bloody fun to run from zombies in the bunker cafeteria, or to shoot them before they can get too close to your group—yes, with Nerf guns, but does it really matter? Zombies! 

CATCH THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW AT THE MAYFAIR THEATRE

If parties and zombies aren’t your things, you can always sit back, relax, and do the Time Warp again at the Mayfair Theatre, which will be showing Rocky Horror Picture Show Fridays and Saturdays starting October 24th. Bring your popcorn, party hats, newspapers and water guns, and enjoy a stellar shadow cast (a live cast acting out the movie all around you) that will make you shiver with antici…..pation






KEEP IT MELLOW

For those looking for a quiet night at home once the trick-or-treaters are gone, you can’t go wrong with a good scary movie. You can stick to a classic like The Exorcist (until you don’t mind the backwards crab-walk at all) or Hellraiser (if you ask me, Pinhead beats all other classic horror villains) or revisit a childhood classic like Beetlejuice or Hocus Pocus (I think Billy Butcherson the zombie was one of my first creepy childhood crushes). 

For an even mellower night, get yourself some Halloween-themed bath goodies from Lush and grab a good book. May I propose The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, The Helllbound Heart and The Books of Blood by Clive Barker, an old creepy classic like The Horla by Guy de Maupassant or a modern horror like John Dies at the End by David Wong?

Just remember to sleep with the lights on. 





Marie Victoria Robertson is a published speculative fiction writer and playwright, as well as the board president of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative (www.jersvision.org). When all the other girls wanted to marry Johnny Depp, she wanted to run away with Worf on the Enterprise. She enjoys giant robots, time-travel paradoxes, and forcing her son to watch Futurama.

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