For those wondering whether the aforementioned "tipping" of the "doodlebug" was a real practice in the 1944 air war, the answer is yes and from the ground it looked something like this:
Spitfire on the left, V1 on the right.
For consideration: Another chapter coming soon, I think.
When the first jaguars began to rain from the sky, it seemed impossible. Most of them did not survive, of course, but the ones that did were insanely tough and really pissed off. Furry Terminators, every one. And the rain of big cats kept going. Still going. Cities buried. Canyons filled. Rivers and lakes clogged and overflowing. Bulldozers, heavy lifting helicopters, incinerators - we can barely keep up with the incoming rate. Jaguar landfills. The oceans rising from dead jaguar displacement and being held back by dikes made of fallen jaguars. Don't dare go outside. You'll never hear the one that gets you. But really, even the fear and the horror have worn off at this point. It's just inevitability now. It'll never end. We can't even tell where they form; somewhere in space, coming in like slow meteors. Already cleared all the satellites out, and the space station. This is the new way of things. Oh, did you hear that? That was one just now, out in the street. Giant wet smacking sound. Hope it's not still alive. Guess I'd better get my flamethrower. Stupid Mayans.
Let's face it. You're in a social media rut.
Most of the time, you post more or less the same sorts of stuff that you usually post. Day-to-day pictures. Topical thoughts. Joke tweets. Shared links. LOLCAT porn. (Hopefully not LOLCAT porn.) On Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest… It's what your comfortable with, I know...
…but why not try something different for a day?
Lewis Carroll, author of ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, would be 181 years old tomorrow. When Alice chased that White Rabbit down a hole, she found herself having a day entirely unlike the ones that came before or after. It was a day when anything could happen, and nothing normal did.
Alice got well and truly out of her regular life and to celebrate Lewis Carroll's birthday, we should do the same.
Wherever you live your online life, tomorrow - January 27th - try living it down the rabbit hole. Instead of the usual work and school and politics and friends and church and relationships and stuff that you have every regular day, go down the rabbit hole and experience the work, school, politics, friends, church, relationships, and stuff that you find there instead. Travel through time. Turn into an animal. Flee from assassins. Talk to your goldfish. Conquer Greenland. Sprout some extra limbs. Learn how to walk on water. Marry an insect.
In your Twitter feed. On your Tumblr. On Facebook. With Instagram. In your Google+ circles. On DeviantArt or LiveJournal or MySpace. In your own personal blog. Anywhere and everywhere, take a break from the Every Day and find your Rabbit Hole Day instead.
Your normal life will be waiting for you when you get back.
If you decide to come back.
It’s not much to look at; a stubby collection of sheet steel and plywood. A resonant tube on its ass pushes it along at nearly four hundred miles an hour. In its nose, a spinning propellor winds a counter down. Between them sits two thousand pounds of explosives. When the counter reaches zero, the ungainly bird will dive sharply down, engine silenced, and then the explosives will do the rest.
Der Führer wants it to be called the “may beetle”, even though they didn’t deploy until June. The scientists who built it called them “cherry stones”. The launch teams lovingly refer to it as their “crow”. The English civilians who are its intended victims, hearing the distinctive fifty-Hertz tone of its pulse jet engine, know it as the “buzz bomb”. But to the R.A.F., the V-1 has become the “doodlebug”.
This particular doodlebug is one of nearly a hundred that the Germans will send towards the south of England today. It comes in over the Channel at about two thousand feet, on the low side. If nothing stops it, it will probably drop short of London - in Greenwich or Croydon or Dartford. It might land in a field, or a street, or a block of flats. It might kill dozens or harm not a single soul in the least. If nothing stops it.
Someone’s sure as hell gonna try, though. They come up as a pack of six: Spitfire XIVs of No. 91 Squad out of West Malling, set right in the bugger’s path and forewarned by spotters on the coast. They float a thousand feet higher while the buzz bomb, and a pair of companions, pass below. Then, three and three, they pinwheel to drop from above, picking up speed their propellors wouldn’t normally reach to match the doodlebug’s.
You can’t shoot the bomb from behind. It’s a pretty easy target but you’ll be too close; that blast debris will take the front end right off your plane just as sure as if you’d been hit by anti-aircraft fire. Some crews - the Tempest Vs out of Newchurch, for example - try to time a shot from the side, so the blast is already moving away from you when it happens. Safer, but tricky timing; you only get a split-second to make it or fail.
These West Malling Spitfires, though, they prefer a different tactic. The first trio catches up with the three ugly bombs, coming down right above them. Then, shift over one side or the other and before you lose too much airspeed and start falling behind, bring your own wing down right on top of the bomb’s. Just a few seconds is all it takes to disrupt the airflow; the bomb’s wing tilts away and then the whole thing flips and goes down.
“Tipping the doodlebug,” that’s what they call it. It’s not foolproof, of course. Numbers one and two each drop in gracefully enough and dispatch their bugs, but number three’s dive was too steep and he falls in behind the V-1 too low, too slow; the thick trail from its pulse engine washes over his cockpit window. Ahead, Maidstone suddenly becomes visible through the summer haze, right in the remaining bomb’s path.
If its counter drops in the next few minutes, it could splash right in the town center. Right now they’re over wide open fields; a minute from now they don’t dare knock it down. It has to go now. Number three has a fine cannon shot, if he wants to take it. Should he take it? There is chaotic back and forth on the radio for a moment before a voice, higher but clearer than the rest, chimes in: “Don’t worry, I’ve got it.”
It’s number Six. The second trio of Spitfires made their dive one minute behind the first set, as backups. Six is coming down right on mark, right alongside the bomb’s right side, but there’s no time for the delicate line-up and gentle air-foil trick. With a sharp wiggle of the stick, Six smacks its own left wing directly onto the bomb’s right: a distinct swat, a slap of the metal glove that sends the doodlebug reeling hard.
Too hard: the bomb flips over on its right and its left wing catches the Spitfire’s striking wing as it goes over. There’s a puff of torn metal as both aircraft lose bits of alloyed aluminum and steel. Then the buzz bomb is down and out; seconds later it is a spectacular but harmless fireball on the English countryside. Six’s Spitfire has lost aileron control on the one side, however. Its stick has gone syrupy.
The squad wheels around for their return to West Malling. Six refuses to mayday, adamant that it’s nowhere that grim, but it’s a struggle to line up on the runway. The Spitfire is rudder-twitchy on its best days; the bent aileron wants the plane to roll left and the nose keeps pushing off. The tail sways this way and that as the plane comes down on the runway too fast and too hard.
The screech of wheels down, then the plane makes one last hard push to the left. It’s too much hold back; off the flightline and into the grass the Spitfire careens. But it’s down and now it needs a bounce and jounce to come to a halt. Not even a fire - but you wouldn’t know it from the number of emergency crew that rush to the plane’s side. The first responders to arrive are in a near panic for the pilot’s well-being.
The cockpit glass pushes back. Worried field personnel clamber onto the wings. “I’m fine, fellas,” the pilot reassures them. Then, a head shake - maybe to clear thoughts, or just to get her hair out of her eyes. She waves away all the helpful hands trying to reach for her. “It’s okay. I can get out of my own plane, you know.” She does accept a helpful hand as she slides over the wing down to the ground, out of politeness not need.
Charlie Banks, chief of airfield operations, is there looking worried. “The plane is fine, Charlie,” she reassures him. “And so am I.” Charlie wrings his hands: “It’s not about the Spit, or about your Royal Highness’ self, though I’m glad for both.” He pauses, and suddenly Elizabeth Windsor, heiress presumptive of the United Kingdom, knows what’s wrong: “I’m pinched, aren’t I? Somehow Father found out...?” She sighs. “Bugger.”
For consideration: an idea that's been kicking around for a while in my head, shaken loose by HWRNMNBSOL's return to daily writing
while it runs
through the night
Gotta keep it nice and neat
When you're in its heat
Hottub, hottub, hottub
Don't you know you gotta
Shock the hottub
Test the strip
You can brominate
Watch the drip
There's one more test you must get 'round:
Bring the hardness down
What's the hubbub with the hottub?
Hottub, hottub, hottub
Don't you know you gotta
Shock the hottub
Hottub - Chemical's doubling
Hottub - Something's bubbling
Hottub - Sure do like it even though it's troubling
Shock! Watch the hottub get clean, hottub!
While you sleep
So it keeps its heat
Throw your spoonfuls in the swirl
Then invite your girl!
Hottub, hottub, hottub
Don't you know you gotta
Shock the hottub
Hottub - Submerge your backs
Hottub - Jets behind relax
Hottub - Feel the heat it packs!
Shock! Watch the hottub get clean, hottub!
Shock the hottub
Shock the hottub
Shock the hottub tonight
Stark and Rhodey, more than just a toady,
demonstratin' weapons of war.
Bruce and Betty, gettin' kinda sweaty,
gamma radiation galore.
In Pepper's job Natasha sat
and after every movie, Fury's the cool cat.
Thor and Loki, just gettin' pokey
in Asgard - you know where that's at,
and no one's in the past except good ol' Cap.
Nick said, "Tony, i know you're not a phony.
A hero's really what you should be. (Join my team.)"
Stark said, "Fury, the drink has made me blurry.
I'll sober up eventually."
Stark, Fury, and Natasha sat (on the carrier)
and after the next movie, they had a chat.
Thor and Loki, still gettin' pokey
in Asgard - you know where that's at
and way back in the past crashed good ol' Cap.
Steve Rogers was bolder but couldn't be a soldier;
a procedure changed it all one day.
Fightin' against HYDRA, Red Skull behind ya;
the Tesseract dissolves him away.
When Fury met Cap there was adventure:
called Stark and Bruce and assembled the Avengers.
Thor and Loki - the movie did okay;
the next film is where it's at,
and no one's in the past, even good ol' Cap.
Favreau, arc glow, Branagh, frost thaw;
every film released in a chain.
Johnston, pounced on, Joss will get announced and
Comic-Con is going insane.
Ruffalo is next to get his hulk on;
Renner comes along and he gets a bow drawn.
Aliens and Loki, not very low key
while Kirby… well, you know where that's at
'cause everyone's makin' cash except good ol' Jack.
Trembled, assembled, Loki sure dissembled;
Hawkeye gets his mind obscured.
Widow has to break it; Coulson doesn't make it -
he could have used some powers for sure.
Open up a portal to the space fleet;
stop the invasion, golly that effect's neat.
Disney picks a weekend, calculate the back end,
run these ads immediately.
Let's see if we can make a billion dollars internationally.
For consideration: http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/168500
Today was Jamie McKelvie's birthday. As usual, he spent it lamenting his fate. I thought he could use some cheering up. So here is my proposed cliffhanger final page from issue #1 of the series we absolutely will not be doing together, DIZNAUTS, about a superhero team consisting of Disney characters, both original and acquired properties, from all periods of the company's history. In the debut issue, the team consists of Mickey Mouse, Snow White, Tinkerbell, Woody from Toy Story, and most-recently-acquired Spider-Man. I sure hope it's not too complicated for him.
Diznauts #1: "There Is No I in Free"
MICKEY, still optimistic in the face of ultimate chaos and CRASHING WATER all around, is holding the CRYPTOPORTICON, trying to keep it closed but to no avail. It is shifting and writhing in FOUR-DIMENSIONAL BOILING SPACETIME in his hands, its multiversal power making his modern data color form and his original Steamboat Willie manifestation overlap like bad 3D. KIRBY ENERGY is pouring off of it and, in its center, a hole that looks just like the black hole from THE BLACK HOLE is opening to reveal pieces of every DISNEY INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, original and acquired, from the whole history of the company, all interfering with each other: Huey, Dewey, and Louie are running from the Fantasia alligators; Lady and Tramp are pulling the Cheshire Cat apart limb from limb; Captain Nemo's Nautilus is crashing into Monstro the whale from Pinocchio; Herbie the Love Bug and Lightning McQueen are outracing a TRON lightcycle; the 101 dalmations are overrunning all of the Avengers; and whatever else you can think of.
Mickey (still smiling):
THE DRM haha THE DRM HAS BEEN HACKED! IF WE DON'T haha FIND A WAY TO EXTEND COPYRIGHT AGAIN, OUR ENTIRE UNIVERSE WILL BECOME haha PUBLIC DOMAIN!
The flooding waters, straight out of the Sorceror's Apprentice sequence from FANTASIA, are swirling around SNOW WHITE - but even more dangerous than the rising waters are the GHOST PRINCESSES that are tearing at her from all sides - all the other PRINCESSES (at the very least, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Jasmine, Tiana, and Mulan) done up in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN-type undead effects, rising from the waters to pull her down. Snow is fighting them off, trying not to panic but let's be honest - several of them are way more competent and effective than she is. Overhead, TINKERBELL zips back and forth helplessly, leaving fractal trails in her wake.
SO MUCH CONTENT! HOW CAN ANYTHING CONTAIN IT ALL?
TINK! WHERE ARE THE OTHERS?
This panel, and the next five, are all relatively small, focused on WOODY and SPIDER-MAN. They are also contending with the swirling water, which is all full of TINY LIGHTS like the Disneyland Electrical Parade, in these panels, struggling to stay afloat as they are talking. Make sure there's plenty of room for the dialog - this is just rough draft text, might end up being a lot more in final script.
In this panel, Woody is twirling his LASSO, getting ready to throw it over a stony ROCK that is protruding from the water. Spidey is already on the rock.
WE'RE A-OK OVER HERE, SNOW! RIGHT SPIDEY?
WHAT IF THE DECRYPTERS HAVE THE RIGHT IDEA?
Woody throws a dark scowl at Spidey. He doesn't like what he's hearing at all. Spidey is sort of shrugging, not really defensively but maybe a little, you know, just, he's just throwing this out there for consideration.
WHAT'RE YOU SAYIN', PARTNER? THAT'S CRAZY TALK!
YEAH WELL… I KNOW I'M THE NEW KID ON THIS PARTICULAR BLOCK, BUT…
DON'T YOU THINK SEVENTY YEARS IS LONG ENOUGH TO CONTROL SOMETHING?
Woody is starting to become genuinely angry. He is still circling his lasso over his head.
BUT IF COPYRIGHTS EXPIRE… HOW CAN THE WORKS BE RESPECTED?
WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF US? HUH? DID YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
MAYBE THE BEST WAY TO RESPECT A CREATION IS TO LET THE WHOLE WORLD ENJOY USING IT…
Woody's lasso suddenly lands… not around the rock… but around Spidey! Spidey has the surprised face.
GONNA HAVE TO PUT OFF THE DEBATE, PAL…
With a sharp yank, Woody's lasso pulls Spidey right off the rock… just as a GOLDEN FLUID PROJECTILE splatters all over the rock! If Spidey had still been there, it would have totally gotten him all over! But the projectile isn't just any energy-liquid… It's HONEY. Sticky golden honey blast.
Spidey, in the churning water next to Woody, looks relieved. Woody is looking up at something off-panel.
WHOA, THANKS FOR THE SAVE, COWBOY.
BUT WHAT WAS…
IT… CAN'T… BE…!
INFORMATION WANTS TO BE FREE, BITCHES!
Okay, so we didn't get the extra two pages we asked for so the final two page spread is going to have to fit into this last panel. It is, of course, WINNIE THE POOH unmasking himself as the villain behind the decrypters. He is floating up above our heroes - all five of them caught up in the water with the cryptoporticon, the undead princesses, and the electric lights. In one hand, Winnie is holding the BRIGHT BALLOONS from UP to keep himself aloft; his other hand is crackling with more STICKY HONEY energy-blast. Oh, also he is wearing a totally NEW OUTFIT now that he is a villain. Some sort of totally awesome and hardcore BATTLE-ARMOR that still is true to his red-and-gold plush-animal look and feel. You'll come up with something, I know, 'cause you always do. Beyond him we see thousands and thousands of MOUSKETEER DRONES, each one floating with a single balloon - his whole loyal child army. Oh shit!
All the heroes together:
NOW, I AM JUST…
For consideration: just as soon as this finishes printing out I will fax it to him post-haste
I'm getting current at last!
KUNG FU PANDA: * * * *
Another request from Liana, of course. She's taking a "kung fu" class after school one day a week - which, as near as I can tell, mostly means they do lots of jumping exercises that vaguely resemble parts of some of the basic forms - so she's interested in the subject. Fairly cleverly done, enough so to be a decent kung fu film in its own right. I look forward to introducing Liana to the more light-hearted and bloodless classics of genuine Chinese cinema someday. (Maybe DRUNKEN MASTER…?)
ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA: * * *
I had never gotten around to seeing this classic, even when I was taking in a ton of Chinese cinema in the late 90s. It has some great moments, little bits of humor and slice-of-life, but the way it's edited or something left me feeling like I was missing a lot of whatever was going on. It didn't flow, it sort of jumped along, and there's an inconsistency to the look and feel (different film stock? second unit directors?) that furthered the disconnectedness.
COWBOY BEBOP: THE MOVIE: * * *
The Spike-heavy emo episodes of the regular series were always my least-favorite and, unfortunately, the movie is comparatively Spike-heavy. Faye is fine, but Ed has little function other than a couple of info-finding moments and Jet does virtually nothing the entire film. So, on the whole, a bit disappointing.
DRIVE: * * * *
I didn't love this the way many of my friends did. It hints at emotional depth but ultimately feels sterile. Laurenn McCubbin put it perfectly: It's beautiful but sort of empty. Appropriate for a Los Angeles movie, I suppose, but I wanted to feel like there was real change by the end and, other than a bunch of people being dead now, it's sort of back where it started. "And then he just drives away forever."
SUPER 8: * * *
JJ Abrams pretty much captures Steven Spielberg nostalgia in exactly the way you'd expect. Doesn't really add anything to the mythos that ET didn't accomplish first and better, and it gets increasingly sloppy for the sake of excessiveness as it gets toward the end. And one thing I *really* hate is a space-faring and supposedly technologically superior alien being who somehow can't behave any more carefully or thoughtfully than a rabid panther.
THE TEMPEST: * * * *
A very nice adaptation. The switch of Prospero (father) to Prospera (mother) really changes the tone of the story in a way that… I wouldn't say is "better"… but is certainly worthwhile seeing. The visual implementation of Ariel was sort of WTF at first, but as the film moves along it really grew on me. On the other hand, while I can see the direction (I think) they were thrusting by casting Djimon Hounsou as Caliban - effectively making race the thing that makes him "monstrous" in the eyes of these Europeans, instead of actual bodily hideousness - it didn't work quite as well as their other choices. (You just can't make that dude plausibly into a monster, though I guess it enhances Caliban as a sympathetic character.) Russell Brand is quite enjoyable as a mash-up of the Trinculo character and his own effected persona.
LILO & STITCH: * * * *
A bit different for Disney fare. Liana quite liked it, though on re-watchings she needs to skip the part where the whole house gets trashed - it's a bit too anxiety-inducing for her.
LONDON BOULEVARD: * * * *
I thought this would be another fine Fiasco story, but it's a little different than the usual caper gone wrong. I found the love story a bit implausible, though, as it sort of comes together very quickly and without a lot of good show-not-tell evidence to support the supposed chemistry. Colin Farrell impresses again; this would be a fine double feature with IN BRUGES (* * * *). Ray Winstone also excellent; this would be a fine double feature with SEXY BEAST (* * * *).
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON: * * * *
While in London, C and I met up with most of my London friends crew at the Slaughtered Lamb, in Clerkenwell. What's the first thing anyone mentions about the Slaughtered Lamb when it comes up? "It's the pub from AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, you know." We're cabbing over there and the driver mentions it. Then he and I experienced a bit of reverie over Jenny Agutter and our respective boyhood crushes (his from THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, mine from LOGAN'S RUN * * * * *). So when we got back, of course, I had to watch it again. Every bit as goofy and weird as I remember. What I'd forgotten was how beautifully well done the torn-up and decaying Griffin Dunne makeup was. Rick Baker is the freakin' KING.
STALKER: * * * *
"If SOLARIS was Tarkovsky's Soviet version of 2001, STALKER is his Soviet take on WIZARD OF OZ." When you hear about this film, it almost always involves lavish praise for the crazy, toxic, desolate landscape in which the film takes place. And I always thought, yeah, okay, two and a half hours of nothing happening in a marvelously apocalyptic ruin. Yeesh. But I finally decided to bite the bullet. Holy cow, STALKER is a beautiful film. One of the most beautifully-shot films I have ever seen, I think. Yes, virtually nothing happens through the entire film, but it was still very much worth seeing. I might even watch it again someday, just to soak in the setting and the way in which it is captured. I would honestly like this film even more if it had less dialogue. The best parts of the film are when nobody is saying anything at all.
For consideration: not really sure what the next ten are going to be; more Disney for Liana, certainly, and a couple more nostalgic movies from thirty years ago for myself, I think
These were mostly from the end of last year, actually. I'm in no mood to wrestle with LJ-cuts tonight but I don't think there's anything too spoilery here.
ROCKNROLLA: * * * *
Guy Ritchie can go ahead and keep on making the same movie over and over and I'll be just fine watching them. A fully sweet Fiasco.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: RAZOR: * * * *
This was all the stuff I liked about the redone BSG series: difficult moral issues in a military context, deeply unsettling awareness of the dwindling human race as a resource to be both conserved and exploited, and big ass spaceships just blowing the holy hell out of each other. No Baltar crying. No faux spacey-crunchy Cylon hybrid baby plan. No occupied Caprica. None of that crap. Just the cold and expedient pragmatism of war for survival.
BRIDESMAIDS: * * * *
As a log-line, totally horribly not something I'd ever want to see. A friend's wedding prompts a woman to reassess her adult life as it all unravels for her? Ugh. But, hey, it turns out to have been all that. Funny, poignant, awkward. Always impressive when a comedy writer writes a great, awkward character and then portrays that character as well - like Jason Segel in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (* * *), Kristen Wiig really nails her own messed-up protagonist. And the dress shop scene that culminates with Maya Rudolph out in the street is probably the most horrifying/hilarious ill humor scene I've seen in a year.
UNLEASHED (DANNY THE DOG): * * *
I thought this would be awesome - Jet Li! Bob Hoskins as a bad guy! Weird bondage premise! - but it just leaned a bit too much on the feel-good side. Maybe would have been less touchy-feeling-in-my-heart if they hadn't had MORGAN F'ING FREEMAN playing HIS USUAL ROLE only this time HE'S BLIND AS WELL. Sheesh.
HAPPY FEET: * * *
The girls love it, of course, but I don't think they really understand what happens at the end. Not as great a kids movie as it seems like it coulda/shoulda been.
HERO: * * * * *
Disappointed by DANNY THE DOG, I seek additional Jet Li to satisfy the craving and, boom, this is exactly what I wanted. Each of the fights, throughout, is a different sort of beautiful. Of course it's pretty obvious from the start what is going to be revealed, but the film is no less enjoyable for being unsurprising in that regard. You know a flower will open in the sunlight; when it does so, it is no less magnificent for being predictable.
TROLLHUNTER: * * *
Has its moments, and definitely excels in the low-budget high-value effects, but somehow as found-footage type films go, I felt like it didn't quite hold together well enough. Especially after I saw MONSTERS (* * * *) last year. Amusingly and disturbingly, the eponymous troll-hunting character has a strong resemblance to my writerly friend Warren Ellis (TRANSMETROPOLITAN, CROOKED LITTLE VEIN).
HUNTER PREY: * * *
Remember that fan trailer film that came out a few years ago, with Batman and the Joker and the Alien and the Predators? Yeah. Well, that guy made this little indie film about alien bounty hunters trying to recover their captive after a crash. It was fairly decent work, though it basically ends right in the middle of the story. The surprise reveal partway in, of course, is something you should have guessed in the first few minutes, but it's okay, it's not really the point.
LEXX: SERIES 1: I WORSHIP HIS SHADOW: * * * *
I really dug the later seasons of this show but had never gotten around to watching the original movies. I think the streaming versions on NetFlix are edited for content but that's fine, even with some of the T&A cut out, they managed to keep all of the cheese. I admire their ability to create a universe setting that is both seriously grim and completely goofy.
THE BEAVER: * * *
Did you know this was, at one point, intended to be a Steve Carell vehicle? This was one of a bunch of unproduced scripts that I read a couple years back, and I'm glad they got a genuinely fucked up guy like Mel Gibson to do it instead. It was an interesting sort of script executed reasonably well, if you like films that are trying to be the next AMERICAN BEAUTY (* * * *).
For consideration: next up, couple more movies for the girls, another Fiasco or two, and Shakespeare
Played at work on 3/29/12, two days before the previously-posted Seattle game.
"Last Frontier" is Jason Morningstar's Alaskan wilderness setting. Usually our work games are three players, but this one had four.
- old friends from Juneau
- ruthless social rivals
- in Alcoholics Anonymous
- Object: Skiff with a fiddly outboard
- Need to get even with all the nosy small people
- Location: Houseboat
- Need to know the truth about the thing you saw in Kaku Inlet
Former State Senator Chuck Penderhouse (Mike T)
Left office under a cloud of scandal. The usual stuff - oil industry bribery, that sort of thing. Maybe some rough-type-stuff. Now staying out of the public eye for an election cycle or so before forcing his way back into office. He has a houseboat way up in Skagway. Ought to be just the place to cool it a while. But he's finding he really hates the way small-town people are always getting up in your business. He's getting a little stir-crazy. Everyone in town calls him "the Senator" even though, strictly speaking, he currently isn't.
Leon Penderhouse (Jeff R)
Chuck's badly-behaved dumb-as-mud younger brother. He's been "keeping an eye on" Chuck's houseboat the last couple of years. It's not in great condition as a result. Leon is trying to lay off the drink these days.
Mike "Mikey Mac" MacKenzie (Dan J)
Mikey Mac used to roll pretty hard in the oil industry down in Juneau but the parties and the money and the drugs and the whores got a little out of control. He's been detoxing up here in Skagway for a couple of years now on what little savings he was able to hold onto. It's been good for him.
Gus "Guster" Carmichael (Dan P)
Worked with Mike a fair amount back in Juneau, and still likes to work big and play hard. But he's come up to Skagway for a couple of weeks, just some time away to do some fishing, and he's looked up his old buddy Mikey of course. He used to rub shoulders, in a socially competitive way, with the Senator not so long ago.
Mikey Mac has little skiff with a "fiddly" outboard motor. He takes folks out in it, mostly for fishing - mostly ol' buddy Gus lately. They strike out into the water for a few hours at a time with Gus' big tackle box of fishing gear… which is actually geological survey gear. See, Gus thinks he's got a lead on a major oil find, he just needs to sew it up before anyone else finds out. His buddy Mike is the only one he trusts with the secret 'cause he knows Mike is out of the game.
Mike's skiff also sees pretty regular use with Leon Penderhouse, who he is in AA with. Mike and Leon occasionally putter over to Kaku Inlet with a bottle - just one! - to share. When the bottle's gone, they ain't got no more, so they're done. That's how they keep their drinking under control. They believe.
But today, while they were drinking in the inlet, they saw something… Something strange. They don't agree on the details, but the basics were: Truck drove up to the edge of the lake. Guy and girl got out. Might have been arguing. Girl may have given the guy some money. Girl disrobed and swam, naked, out into the water. Guy got back in his truck and departed. Naked girl in the water suddenly went under… and never came back up.
It's summer. The days are really long. As day turns into "evening", the sun is still very much up.
Sobering up when they're back on shore, sort of, Leon wants to call 911. He thinks something in the lake pulled the girl under. He wants it to be an anonymous call so he uses one of the pay phones instead of calling from home. "You gotta go out to the inlet, a girl drowned out there!" The operator recognizes his voice. Sympathetically: "Leon, have you been drinking again?" Leon tries to convince her to send a rescue team out to the inlet but instead she tells him to stay at home, she's sending a squad car out to interview him in more detail. Shit! He's nowhere near home and his brother, the Senator, is there and doesn't know about any of this yet! He starts to run home as fast as he can.
The sun crawls slowly toward the horizon.
2. Senator Penderhouse
Sure enough, a black-n-white rolls up as the Senator, in his bathrobe, pours himself yet another cocktail. "No, actually, I'd rather not let you come aboard. What's Leon done this time, officers? Witness a girl drowning, you say? Where? … Oh, really, out in Kaku Inlet? Well, officers, I think Leon must have been drinking with Mikey Mac. What utter nonsense. They see things all the time. Those two, I swear… It's a shame when grown men can't handle their liquor. (He swirls his brandy.) No need to wait for Leon to get home. I'll make sure he doesn't waste any more department time with crank calls. Just leave this to me, officers. Thank you for your concern." Scowling, he watches the cops depart. Dammit, Leon, why do you always gotta give these rubes more excuses to come get in our grill?
Gus is scouting out some waterfront property when he's ambushed by Jan Eastman, a plucky reporter of the Skagway Gazette. Well, *the* plucky reporter, really; it's a tiny paper. Jan wants to know why a big-city oil money roller like Gus is up in Skagway. Fishing? Please. Jan knows a cover story when she hears one. Is he up here because of the Senator? Some kind of deal in the works? Is he involved in all the island and waterfront property that's being quietly scooped up through various blind fronts? Gus does not like being under the microscope, even from (especially from!) a small town twerp like this. He tries to dissemble, claiming nothing interesting is going on, but when that doesn't deter her he turns a sharper edge, trying to warn her off. When Jan brings up Senator Penderhouse as an implied threat, he threatens back, abouther job, implying that he knows her publisher. That doesn't seem to work either; she agrees to leave him alone for now but she's clearly going to be an ongoing problem. Gus is going to have to step up the heat.
4. Mikey Mac
After dropping Leon off, still not entirely sober himself yet, Mike heads back out into the water with his skiff, to head back to Kaku Inlet. He wants to poke around some more, for some evidence - preferably that helps support his own theory about what they saw, whatever that theory is. He doesn't know yet. When he gets out there, he finds the tire tracks of the truck… the footprints of the girl… but not her clothes. And certainly no body. But whatever it was they saw happen, it mostly did… right? After piling back into his skiff, he spots movement: a naked girl on the shore, walking among the trees. The same girl? It sort of looks like her but she's disappearing into the forest. He tries to fire up his outboard motor, to pursue her from the water, but it takes a few too many tries: pull, pull, pull, adjust, pull, dammit! By the time he has it running, she's gone.
The Guster really wants this Jan girl off his ass. He and Mikey Mac shook off more than one journalist, back in their hardest-core days. They used to blow shit up. Whatever it took. Gus looks up Jan's home address - she's in a regular old phone book! - and goes over there to blow up her Jeep. She lives more or less out in the sticks, edge of town, so witnesses shouldn't be a problem. Gus douses the car in gasoline, writes a vague (but should be apparent to Jan) message, lights it on fire… but it blows up prematurely. Gus' arm catches alight and burns for a minute before he can put it out, leaving him pretty seriously maimed and burned.
The sun touches the horizon as he runs from the scene, cursing.
6. Mikey Mac
Mike shows up at the houseboat. Leon has gotten home by now - too late for the cops, of course. Leon has been getting dressed down by his older brother for causing trouble. Mike wants Leon to calm down - the girl's still alive, he says. Whatever it was they saw, they didn't see her die. Senator Chuck is trying to help Mikey calm his brother down: "See? Mikey Mac has it covered. It's fine, Leon, let it go." An entirely innocent glance passes between the Senator and Mikey Mac… but Leon sees it and totally misinterprets it as collusion. Now he's *doubly* determined to make someone listen to him about the trouble out at Kaku Inlet, and he realizes he can't talk to either his best buddy Mike or his own brother about it, because whatever is going on, they're both part of the conspiracy! Leon acts like he's calming down, and convinces the other two that he's not going to go to the cops anymore or anything like that.
7. Senator Penderhouse
After Mikey Mac and Leon leave, the Senator gets a call from Ron Lawson, editor-in-chief of the Skagway Gazette… whose publisher is the Senator. Ron is calling the Senator to let him know that plucky reporter Jan is on the heels of big oil roller Gus. The Senator seems intrigued to hear what Gus is up to, but doesn't want Jan stirring things up too much. "Send her into the boondocks for a while," Chuck says. "I heard something strange about a missing girl, maybe drowned, out in Kaku Inlet. Maybe she should look into that." Ron agrees to take the pressure off Gus and send Jan out to the inlet. The Senator pours himself another double.
Since they're not going to the cops, Leon wants to keep investigating himself - he wants to find that pickup truck that they saw on the shore. Mikey Mac agrees to come along to humor him, more than anything. They are walking around town with no luck for quite some time until eventually, Mike needs to go to the bathroom. He steps into a gas station toilet… and just then, across the street in a diner parking lot, Leon spots the pickup truck. And the dude. Walking out of the diner with another girl. Another girl! They get in the truck and start to back out. Where's Mikey Mac, dammit? Leon has to take action, quickly. He runs across the street, jumps onto the side of the moving truck as it backs out, and tries to pull the girl out of it. "Don't go with him! He's going to try to kill you!" The guy swerves the truck, shakes Leon off, throwing him hard onto the asphalt… but in swerving, the truck heads into oncoming traffic and is plowed at an angle by a logging truck. The pickup flips over, shredding, bouncing, coming apart just as Mikey steps out of the toilet.
"Paranoia: Someone is watching, waiting for their moment"
As the old man and the girl head out to the truck, start backing away, get jumped by Leon… we pan back inside the diner, where we see Ron Lawson, editor of the Gazette, taking in the whole spectacle. When the truck crashes, Ron decides he should slip away without being seen, and goes out the diner's back door. (Mike T later points out this somehow must have been Ron demonstrating his veteran journalist instincts, but we never quite got it back into play to really develop.)
"Innocents: Collateral damage"
Flashback: Ron Lawson on the phone to Senator Penderhouse, in his office at the Gazette. Jan Eastman is in her own office, but she can't help herself: she hears Ron on the phone, sneaks over, presses her ear against the door, and listens to his whole conversation where he takes his orders from the Senator. Jan realizes she's all alone on this one - that even Ron is selling out. She slips out of the office before he's off the phone… and a few minutes later, she arrives home to find her second car, the Jeep, all blown up.
Leon approaches the twisted wreckage of the truck, Mikey Mac not far behind. The old man, the driver, is completely dead… but the girl was thrown from the truck, because Leon had been trying to pull her out when they swerved, and she's landed off the side of the road, down a slight slope, out of sight from the witnesses who are beginning to respond. Leon skitters down the slope to her; Mikey comes down after. She's alive, unconscious but alive, and Leon gets a dumb-as-mud idea: Take her back to the houseboat, to find out from her whatever she knows about the truck and the dude who is now dead. Great idea. He talks Mikey into helping and they sneak the girl away without being spotted, get her into Mikey's car, and get her all the way to the houseboat. But the Senator hears them roll up and - seeing what is *clearly* Trouble with a Capital T being dragged onto the gangplank - blocks their approach. "No," he says. Leon wants to push past him. Are they going to fight? Wait: the girl is waking up. Leon immediately wants to interrogate her right there on the gangplank. There is some confusion as the girl becomes conscious and - much like the girl who disappeared into the lake last night - it's not clear exactly what happens next, except that Leon and the girl fall from the gangplank into the cold water. Mikey looks at the Senator. They both understand that neither of them is going to jump into that icy wet to save either of them. (Senator: "We can't go in there. It would be suicide.") Mikey shrugs and leaves; the Senator continues to look down into the water, swirling his brandy.
The sun vanishes behind the hills in the west and the sky finally begins to dim.
Gus needs to deal with his burned arm and, in his confusion, can only remember that Mikey Mac had a pretty complete first aid kit in his skiff. He goes to Mikey's tie-up and starts tossing the boat until he finds the kit. As he sets to bandaging up his burn, who shows up at the skiff…? Why, it's Jan Eastman, plucky reporter, coming to talk to Mikey Mac about Kaku Inlet, trying to understand what it is she thinks she's being set up for. But she gets there and sees Gus - with his burned arm - and everything clicks. Gus makes for a moment like, okay, you got me, I'll explain everything… But instead he whips the first aid kit up and hits her across the face. Jan falls down and The Guster follows up with more blunt violence until Jan is finished. Then he rolls her body into the skiff, pulls the tricky starter until it kicks into life eventually, and heads out into the water, heading for Kaku Inlet.
11. Mikey Mac
Mike gets back to his skiff tie-up, sees that the boat is gone. What the hell…? He immediately suspects Gus, that Gus has gone out boating solo for some reason. What's he going to do about it? Just then, up rolls Ron Lawson, who's trying to find Jan - he stopped by her house to tell her about the Kaku Inlet assignment, saw the burned Jeep, figured maybe Gus was more dangerous than expected - and who knows Gus better than ol' Mikey Mac, right? So here he is. They put two and two together and more or less come to the right conclusion: Gus has the skiff, and Jan, and is heading to Kaku Inlet. They pile into Ron's car and take the shoreline road at blistering speed. They pull up to the shore just in time to see Gus putter the skiff into the center of the skiff… and push Jan's body over the side, weighted with the first aid kit. What can they do? Nothing. Nothing. They pull the car back out of sight before Gus spots them. They need to get back to town and try to catch Gus when he returns…
12. Senator Penderhouse
Once he's pretty sure Leon's not coming back up, the Senator looks up from the water… and sees that nosy old retired neighbor on his boat down at the other end of the marina, watching through a pair of binoculars. Oh, shit. These nosy f'ing people… These… The old man's binocs go down and his hand slowly reaches for the phone, clearly to call the police. Something snaps in Chuck. Fuck this whole town and everyone in it. He waves to get the guy's attention, gestures to indicate that he's going to come up, all friendly like. He just needs to keep the guy from calling the cops for a few minutes. It seems to work. Chuck ducks down into boat for a moment to grab something quickly, then he strolls down the dock to the neighbor's boat. "Hi, how's it going?" he says, all friendly like. "I'm sure we can come to some sort of quiet arrangement about what you think you just saw." He reaches into his bathrobe as though he's going to come out with a checkbook, which seems entirely reasonable to the old man. But the Senator instead draws out a flare gun, which he quickly jams into the man's mouth and fires… then follows up by grabbing the man's binoculars and turning the neck strap into a garrote. He can't help it. He's done with putting up with all of this. He needs another drink.
The fiddly outboard motor on the skiff is giving Gus some real trouble out in the middle of Kaku Inlet, which is merely an annoyance at first… but then something thumps against the underside of the skiff. Something big bangs into the hull from down in the water. Gus scowls… then the boat gets hit again. And again. Gus suddenly starts to worry, pulls harder on the starter, works it harder… but really, only Mikey Mac knows how to reliably coax the engine into life. Gus pulls and pulls even as something large in the water grabs hold of the skiff, starts dragging it on the water faster and faster… then, in one sudden move, pulls both boat and Gus under the icy surface.
Light twilight begins to become deep dusk.
14. Mikey Mac
Mike and Ron Lawson are tearing back into town on the forest road as the dim begins to close in. They're driving too fast - and suddenly, something moves into the road. Naked girl! Mike grabs at the wheel to swerve them and, just like the old man in the pickup truck before, they crash and flip. When the car comes to a rest, Ron is looking pretty dead, and Mikey is blacking out… but before unconscious takes him, he sees the naked girl approach their wreck. She leans over to look into the trashed, bloody cabin interior… then takes a picture with a camera and walks away into the dark woods.
Leon has survived the icy water. He pulls himself back onto the houseboat on the opposite side from his brother and the gangplank - the side that leads into his brother's half of the boat, his brother's room. There, dripping water on everything, he finds charts and maps everywhere… paperwork about property purchases, couriered letters… Survey information about Kaku Inlet. Exactly as he suspected: his brother knows something about the inlet. He looks out the window and maybe sees, down the marina, as Chuck murders the old neighbor, then comes strolling back up to the houseboat. Chuck sees Leon, dripping but alive. "I thought we agreed that you don't come into my room," the Senator intones. Leon points at all the charts and papers: "Just tell me the truth, Chuck. Just tell me… what's going on with Kaku Inlet?" Chuck narrows his eyes: "You want the truth?" He ponders for a minute. "Actually, you can easily handle the truth. There's oil, Leon. Kaku Inlet is full of oil. But I had to concoct a cover story to keep my rivals looking in the wrong place - rivals like old Gus Carmichael, out there 'fishing' every day with Mikey Mac, looking for oil based on fake leaks and false information. Mikey's in on it, of course. He's been working for me. Everyone's been working for me." Leon's jaw drops: his every paranoid suspicion confirmed… and yet somehow, the whole thing is so mundane as to be almost uninteresting. But what about the guy with the truck, and the drowned naked girl? "I have no idea, Leon," the Senator says. "That's not part of the plan."
16. Senator Penderhouse
Just then, there is the sound of car wheels rolling to a stop on the gravel above the dock. More visitors? Senator Chuck peeks slightly through the window… and sees the worst trouble yet: Russians. Oh shit. Maybe it wasn't just political scandal that the Senator was hiding out from. They're packing serious hardware: guns, and a rocket launcher. They waste no time in locking and loading. The Senator turns back to Leon: "We have to get off the boat RIGHT NOW. Back in the water!" Leon shakes his head: "Man, I ain't getting back in that water for *nothing*." Chuck grabs Leon and forcibly pushes him off the backside of the boat, then jumps in after him, as the Russians open fire and the houseboat is rapidly reduced to splinters…
1. Mikey Mac is found in the wrecked car. No sign of Ron's body. He spills his guts to the cops about everything. "Ask the Senator. The Senator knows. He'll tell you." But, strangely, the Senator is not answering his phone at the houseboat…
2. Jan Eastman's body washes ashore and becomes a national story. A whole lot of law enforcement interest in little Skagway, Alaska all of a sudden.
3. It turns out yet another nosy neighbor saw the Senator kill the previous nosy neighbor. He's not out of the water long before he is picked up on suspicion of murder.
4. At the Senator's murder trial, Leon is unable to explain how he was on the houseboat and yet saw nothing of his brother murdering their neighbor. Leon might be telling the truth. He might really not remember.
5. Mikey Mac saves his own skin by turning hostile witness as well. Lays out the whole oil deception angle. Everyone knows, but nobody can prove, that a fat envelope of cash, perhaps from the Russians, helped make this inevitable.
6. TV news in the jail: The dead guy in the truck turns out to have had a healthcare scam involving gullible women with terminal conditions, convincing them the Inlet had magical restorative powers.
7. A manhunt is on for Gus Carmichael and the skiff, but neither turn up.
8. A newspaper article about new Russian oil exploration in the area around Skagway - but one of their boats went missing in Kaku Inlet.
9. A Russian oil/mob goon in his hotel room. A dark shadow emerges from the bathroom to strike, breaks the goon's neck. Holy shit: it's a reanimated Gus!
10. The naked chicks talking amongst themselves in an undisclosed location about "dealing with" the Americans, the Russians, and whoever else gets involved. "The Purity" must be maintained.
11. The Senator is executed without appeal for murder with special circumstances. Irony: the Penderhouse Bill, which he sponsored and eagerly signed before leaving office, expedites the execution.
12. Mikey Mac can't get anymore work in Skagway. Everyone knows he sold out everyone to the Senator, and then sold out the Senator. And he doesn't have a boat anymore, even. What good is he?
13. Through a rather clever bit of last will & testament finagling, the Senator's funeral works around a loophole in the environmental laws and his body is tipped into Kaku Inlet.
14. Mikey Mac is back in Juneau, a junkie and a dealer, selling coke to his old oil industry buddies. They don't even acknowledge that they know him.
15. Some months later, Leon is looking for a new place to live still when his brother, the Senator, shows up very much alive. "Okay," he admits, "maybe there was a little more to Kaku Inlet than just the oil."
16. Years later, Gus is a frightening legend. "The Guster" is a terrible revenant bogeyman that Alaskan parents use to scare their kids into behaving themselves...
SONG: "Senator Penderhouse"
Mike, player of Senator Chuck Penderhouse, wrote a happy little pop song about our game a couple of weeks later. Lyrics and music are copyright 2012 by Michael Trent.
What's this commotion?
My brother's in a fight with his friend
It's not the end
What did they see there?
They need to know the hows and whens
And what happened then
I turned to my brother, and said
Mikey Mac's got it covered
You can just leave it to me
I'm looking out for you
Man about the houseboat
Tell me now, Penderhouse
What's at Kaku Inlet?
Tell me now, Penderhouse
All the small people
They need to know the things I do
Oh yes they do
He's always watching
Well he can watch me take his time
Oh is it a crime?
I buy the man's silence
With a smile and some violence
Just me and my flare gun
We're looking out for you
Man about the houseboat
Tell me now, Penderhouse
Oh, what's at Kaku Inlet?
Tell me now, Penderhouse
Do I hear Russian oil me?
I knew this business had to end.
Submachines and RPGs
All of this for just one houseboat? Please…
But I won't let them
No I won't let them
I won't let them hurt my brother!
Here at my trial
That Mikey Mac done sold me out
Death, no appeal
And that is such a bitter pill
I signed that bill
With no further objection
I feel the final injection
I turn to my brother and say
I'm looking out for you
Man about the houseboat
Tell me now, Penderhouse
What's at Kaku Inlet?
Tell me now, Penderhouse
There's oil at Kaku Inlet
Tell me now, Penderhouse
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
There's oil at Kaku Inlet
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
That's all there is…
For consideration: one of the nice things about four-player Fiasco is that you can end up with characters only indirectly screwing each other, but never directly meeting, as they are diagonal opposites across the table. Gus Carmichael and Leon Penderhouse pretty much never even knew each other existed...
For many months now, there has been a standing plan between Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Wil Wheaton, and myself to eventually get together for a game of Fiasco. There have been numerous instances where any two of the four of us were in proximity, but Emerald City Comic-Con was the first time three were together at once - Ed and Matt and Wil all there for official reasons. So, with the opportunity that close, I grabbed a quick flight up to Seattle to see some other friends who also aren't often all together in one place, visit my cousin's family - and, yes, play Fiasco.
( It sounds less ridiculous if you think of it as an overnight vacation and not 'flying two hours each way to play a game'.Collapse )
Some Additional Thoughts
It was, as you might imagine, precisely the blast we were hoping for. And we even wrapped up, like, before midnight.
There ain't nothing that injects that little extra sense of setting into a game like a good prop - Fraction's phone recording of the tsunami siren, in this case.
Speaking of props... If only we'd known in advance, man, how awesome would it have been to have a real death mask of William McKinley to pull out? We should scare one of those up for the future, just in case.
I wish we had a picture of Wil acting out the knife carving ritual on his chest.
Everyone finding their character's "face" was great - Wil settling into Luke's stone-cold fuck-you-up Luke expression, Ed's sliding drowsy lucid-then-incoherent Todd, Matt's wide-eyed frantic fight-or-flight Frank. I hope whatever face I had for Cedric was half so good.
I continue to think it's tricky to insure that the Tilt elements come into the game doing what they're supposed to do - twist the direction of the story, not just add flavor to scenes you're already planning to do - without really specific effort to do so. Maybe requiring that the first two scenes of the second act each include one of the Tilts? More experimentation still needed there.
Most of my Fiasco experience has been with three players, which makes for tightly wound trouble. Wil's tried five and said it's pretty unmanageable. But four is nice. Four means that you have a couple, just a couple, of character combos with no direct relationship to each other, which means the potential for mayhem between people who never even cross paths but not a whole sea of unconnections.
I didn't step foot on the convention floor, not even for a minute, which I regret now. I heard lots of good about the show, and missed at least as many friends as I managed to see. So next year, I think I may try to hit the convention for real. And maybe we can get the band together for another game.
His art vision for
A galaxy far away
Made our one better.
For consideration: between him and Syd Mead, childhood me knew exactly what and where and when he wanted to be
My 100th birthday. The alarm wakes me five minutes before my younger self materializes.
He’s unpleasantly surprised. “The plan was for you to be asleep.”
“I know the plan. Duh. Plan’s off. Everything was wrong. Don’t do it!”
He looks confused. I remember the feeling. “Did you… I mean me… lie to me on our 80th, then?”
“I felt differently then, but now I want to live!”
His discomfort is growing. “But… But…” Poor kid. But he needs to learn.
Finally, I can’t help but grin: “Just kidding. Plan’s on.”
“Yeah. Let’s go!”
He raises the disintegrator. “Happy birthday!”
For consideration: "It's clear you're very much alive / It's 2105."
Today was the 20th of January, and that can mean only one thing. Well, it could probably mean a whole lot of things, especially if you subscribe to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, but in this particular timespline, with its waveform collapsed by myself as the observer, it means only one thing:
We have one week until Rabbit Hole Day!
Rabbit Hole Day
Rabbit Hole Day
Rabbit Hole Day
Rabbit Hole Day
Friday! Friday! Friday!
For consideration: late for a very important date
Fiasco is a role-playing game of capers gone horribly wrong. The mechanics are built around incompetence, betrayal, and just plain bad luck, with a largely inevitable outcome in which most if not all the characters come to bad ends for what they have done. The ruleset is very basic, and is "skinned" easily with various settings that bring a specific flavor or tone to the same basic underlying mechanics. We've played a number of games using "Dragon Slayers", the fantasy setting, but tonight we were in the mood for something new, so we used a playset called "Objective Zebra". Here's its intro text:
"All is quiet aboard the U.S. Navy submarine SS-495, the USS Saddleback. She's on reduced battery power, nestled in the soft mud of the North Sea somewhere off the coast of Lower Saxony.
It is the middle of World War II. You were specially selected for this mission. They made it sound like a great honor, to ferry a handful of civilians somewhere, in the greatest secrecy, so they could do something that would help win the war. It was called "Objective Zebra". It hasn't worked out so well.
You surfaced and took them, heavily guarded, to an island that wasn't on the Saddleback's charts. They did whatever it is they were supposed to do and came back in a tearing hurry, followed by German spotter aircraft, and E-Boats, and finally a depth-charge tossing Vorpostenboot from the mouth of the Elbe that nearly sunk you. Saddleback went deep and got quiet fast, diving for her life.
Saddleback's collapse depth was 200 meters. When you came to rest on the bottom, amid the screaming protest of over-stressed metal, the gage read 226. There is a meter of water in the pump room and the forward torpedo compartment is largely flooded. The horrible groaning of the tortured pressure hull has mixed with another sound - something stranger, more unearthly - from outside the Saddleback. Whatever it is, it is like nothing even the saltiest old timers has ever heard before. And it is getting closer. What the hell did those civilians do?
You're trapped in a stranded submarine and you have to get the hell out of here... before it comes in!"
I'm fixing a hole where the Claus gets in
And fills my house with useless bling
As he ho ho hos
I'm filling the chimney and blocking the door
To save my house from any more
Of his ho ho ho
And it really doesn't matter if he's real or fake
All this cheer I can't take
All this cheer
See the children standing there who ask for stuff and never care
And wonder where the milk and cookies go
I'm trapping my roof with some dangerous things
And when he arrives on reindeer wings
Then I'll ho ho ho
And it really doesn't matter if he's fake or real
It makes me want to kill
It makes me want
Silly people run around all merry-gay and never ask
Who's gonna pay for all this stuff galore
I'm making a list and I'm checking it twice
Gonna decide who's naughty and nice
Then I'll ho ho ho
I'm fixing a hole where the Claus gets in…
For consideration: three decades later I still think it's hilarious to say "Away to the window I flew like a flash / tore open the shutters and threw up!"
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