Tea-drinker par excellence

The weird questionnaire

Linked from Jeff Vandermeer.

Éric Poindron’s Étrange (*) Questionnaire

(*) Bizarre, extraordinary, singular, surprising. Le Robert Dictionary

1 – Write the first sentence of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
In the Insect House, Matilda was reattaching the legs to the ants.

2 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?

3 – Look at your watch. What time is it?

4 – How do you explain this — or these — discrepancy(ies) in time?
That's what clocks are for.

5 – Do you believe in meteorological predictions?
I accept their likelihood.

6 – Do you believe in astrological predictions?

7 – Do you gaze at the sky and stars by night?

8 – What do you think of the sky and stars by night?

9 – What were you looking at before starting this questionnaire?

10 – What do cathedrals, churches, mosques, shrines, synagogues, and other religious monuments inspire in you?

11 – What would you have “seen” if you’d been blind?
I don't know.

12 – What would you want to see if you were blind?
The sun.

13 – Are you afraid?
Only of dentists.

14 – What of?
The metal things they put in your mouth.
15 – What is the last weird film you’ve seen?

16 – Whom are you afraid of?
No one in particular.

17 – Have you ever been lost?
Yes. When I was a kid I got lost in a supermarket, so I went to the Police Station.

18 – Do you believe in ghosts?

19 – What is a ghost?
Dead spirits.

20 – At this very moment, what sound(s) can you here, apart from the computer?
The Might Boosh and Paula going to bed.

21 – What is the most terrifying sound you’ve ever heard – for example, “the night was like the cry of a wolf”?
A fog horn, close up behind me at a football match.

22 – Have you done something weird today or in the last few days?
I played a computer game and pretended to be a man in diamond armour.

23 – Have you ever been to confession?
No. I was never confirmed.

24 – You’re at confession, so confess the unspeakable.

25 –Without cheating: what is a “cabinet of curiosities”?
A collection of interesting things. Ein Wunderkammer, of things that fascinated the owner.

26 –Do you believe in redemption?

27 – Have you dreamed tonight?

28 – Do you remember your dreams?
Not very often

29 – What was your last dream?
I don't know

30 – What does fog make you think of?

31 – Do you believe in animals that don’t exist?

32 – What do you see on the walls of the room where you are?
A painting by my dead step-father of the countryside in SW France. There's a rabbit, a dog, a horse and a deer, cows a goat and a farmer.

33 – If you became a magician, what would be the first thing you’d do?

34 – What is a madman?
Someone who doesn't fit in, often in an unhappy way.

35 – Are you mad?
I'm not unhappy.

36 – Do you believe in the existence of secret societies?

37 – What was the last weird book you read?
Fancies and Goodnights by John Collier

38 – Would you like to live in a castle?
A bit draughty but plenty of space for books.

39 – Have you seen something weird today?
An invocation to Master of the Great White Lodge

40 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever seen?
The Falls by Peter Greenaway

41 – Would you like to live in an abandoned train station?
My Mum lives in one. It was quite nice.

42 – Can you see the future?
To a certain extent. It's what maths is for.

43 – Have you considered living abroad?
I have lived abroad, but not through choice.

44 – Where?

45 – Why?
That's where my parents went

46 – What is the weirdest film you’ve ever owned?
The Falls by Peter Greenaway

47 – Would you liked to have lived in a vicarage?
My first residence was a vicarage.

48 – What is the weirdest book you’ve ever read?
That one about the oil conspiracy and sand. [This one:
Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials by Reza Negarestani]

49 – Which do you like better, globes or hourglasses?

50 – Which do you like better, antique magnifying glasses or bladed weapons?
Magnifying glasses

51 – What, in all likelihood, lies in the depths of Loch Ness?
Dirty water.

52 – Do you like taxidermied animals?
Not particularly.

53 – Do you like walking in the rain?

54 – What goes on in tunnels?
Births and rebirths.

55 – What do you look at when you look away from this questionnaire?
The painting on the wall.

56 – What does this famous line inspire in you: “And when he had crossed the bridge, the phantoms came to meet him.”?
Loss of hope.

57 – Without cheating: where is that famous line from?
I thought it was from something Gothic, Dracula maybe.

58 – Do you like walking in graveyards or the woods by night?

58 – Write the last line of a novel, short story, or book of the weird yet to be written.
In the house, the Queen was reattaching Matilda's legs.

59 – Without looking at your watch: what time is it?

60 – Look at your watch. What time is it?
Tea-drinker par excellence


And so once more we toddled off down to the Hampshire/Dorset Land/Water border that is the Naish Holiday Village, a limnal island of frenzied indie gaming for four days. In the first 48 hours, we played 24 hours of games, so we had a little break on Saturday night and only one more game on Sunday. The self-catering chalets are comfortable and warm and we're all foodies so ate well, possibly too well given that we consumed about 900g of cheese in various guises.

So here's what I played:

PTA: We settled on the pilot of a soap set around an East End dog track. I was GM and eventually managed to find all the rules. We didn't have cards but dice worked as well, if not better. It was pretty good fun, loads of overacting and a satisfying denouement of a running battle between two gangland families over property rights and the blowing up of an allotment shed.

Durance: Jason Morningstar's SF prison colony game. It's still in playtest but it's not very far away from being a very decent game. There are two hierarchies, prison authorities and prisoners. You have a character in each who has an oath that they will never ... allow anyone to go hungry or listen to a woman or whatever. The resolution mechanism needs a few tweaks but it was good fun. There's just about the right amount of constraint and encouragement for a decent story to emerge. One to watch. A few cocknet accents got pulled over from the previous game.

Burning Wheel: John ran this. It got very dark (the weather that is) and we thought it was later so the game finished a whole hour early. The setting was WHFRP The Old Empire which I must admit goes more, for me, to making it a good game than the Burning Wheel system. But John's a good GM and we didn't get bogged down in ticks and extended resolutions.

Night's Black Agents: Ken Hite's new GUMSHOE game. You're secret agents who find out that they can never leave because Vampires are behind everything. Think Bourne with Teeth (or Roger Moore in crushed velvet, there are several modes of play). This was my first sight of this and we had a good time. Matthew produced incredible scenarios, a printed and bound, laminated character sheets and hand outs that cover anything we might inquire about (except perhaps how to parachute a dead monkey on to a cruise liner, but still). We went down Mexico way with the expected trail of destruction. It could perhaps have done with a bit more bite from the bad guys as we didn't get beaten up much.

Fourpenny Touch: This was the third playtest for my game of 1880s Victorian prostitutes. It was very satisfying with everyone creating hopeful tales before the awful end. I picked up an idea from Durance (actually just the term "uncertainty") and another from Polaris (which was lying around) and these together rounded off the resolution system. It's now ready for someone else to give it a go, once I've written up the minor changes.

Fantasy GUMSHOE: Simon's been running this for us for the past two months and it's been hugely enjoyable. A few other lucky people got to have a go and once again it didn't disappoint.

Trail of Cthulhu: Another of Matt's scenarios, strange artifacts turning up in Northern Texas. Again a real professional job including a real statue of Coatlicue. One of the players turned out to be an Aztec authority (although not so hot on the location of the Great Plains, which do extend into Texas) so very appropriate for the academic, another turned out to be the worst kind of 'that's what is says on my character sheet so that's why I'm being a jerk' player (which was a shame given that he woulnd't have had to temper his action much to have been really memorable in a good way). Two of us taking fright serendipitously saved the rest of the party in an exciting denoument. Plenty here to get your teeth into.

It's just the best Con for gaming.
Tea-drinker par excellence

Borges' birthday

After writing "There are more things", JLB himself wrote a short game called El rastro del rastro. The game is played by two correspondents, each of which is a seeker after a different terrible truth. Each must name this truth with some kind of nonsense word (typically something backwards such as Egnaro or Drawoh) but never describe it. The players exchange letters in which they reveal a piece of the puzzle at each stage, not in a linear fashion but in revealing that what the other person last wrote was somehow ncomplete, wrong, untrustworthy or falsehood. For example, the story of a Dutch cartographer can be shown to be the invention of Russian nationalists seeking to discredit the Dutch position in India. It is important that each letter contain many references, most of which should be true but some of which should be invented. JLB wrote one such letter to HPL but the latter, having been dead for 38 years, he received no answer.

My only personal experience of the game was ten years ago when I was engaged in an exchange of letters with the local Inland Revenue office regarding my tax code. Over the series of letters it became apparent to me that there was a particular turn of phrase which I should have to use for the IR to give me the appropriate code. In return the IR made vague allegations about my activities in France and later as a short order cook in the UK but it was not clear to me the nature of the response they expected and I didn't want to show my hand too soon. Unfortunately I no longer have the correspondence, it having fallen from an attic window, however I do retain a not too unpleasant memory of this
Tea-drinker par excellence

NPR's top 100 Fantasy/SF

NPR had a vote for the top 100 Fantasy/SF books (or series). Needless to say there are some weird things in here and quite a few I've never heard of although I've read 69 of them. I guess that's what happens when you have a public vote.

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Tea-drinker par excellence

Faust in the grinder

Gilliam's Faust was a visual treat. There was the initial Caspar Friedrich David of a set with misty mountains and a stone promentory (which Hitler would later stand on and peer from eagle-like), Faust's crazy cell with the warped perspective, the video projected terrors of war and the funny little generals fighting during The Hungarian March, the Weimar bierkeller (complete with Anita Berber, left), Riefenstahl's Olympiad, the cool light and shadows of the 30's Berlin for Marguerite's seduction and Krystalnacht, Faust's mad motorcyle ride into the comic horrors of hell against the stark dread reality of the death camps, all overlaid with a history of German art and design dominated by the swastika on which Faust is ultimately inversely crucified (a Vitruvian man was projected between each scene, partly rotated at each stage to indicate the decline).

I've only seen two operas and this was certainly different from the rich renaissance design and memorable songs of Rigoletto last year and to a certain extent the music seemed to take backstage. The singers were good (so simonjrogers says) although Peter Hoare as a Struwwelpeter Faust did miss one incredibly high note and Christopher Purves as Mephistopheles never left you in doubt as to who was in really charge. Christine Rice as Maguerite delivered her second half solos with grace. However I don't recall any of the music, except for the start of the motorcycle ride which was like the Dick Barton theme tune. With Rigoletto I could have whistled a couple of numbers the next day and still retain La Donna e mobile.

The equating of Faust's journey and damnation to that of German History leading to the death camps was certainly a bold choice however these themes are so strong that in the end they rather overpowered everything. However, as a spectacle, I'm glad I saw it. We had great seats at the front of the upper circle and I'll certainly remember the imagery for a long time.

Here are two other reviews.

You can see a video montage here and the BBC will be showing it in the Autumn. You'd need a big screen to do it justice.
Tea-drinker par excellence

Rye Weekend

chilledchimp's birthday present to me was a weekend in Rye. It's a picture postcard village perched on a hill overlooking marshlands in East Sussex and well worth a visit for the windy streets, walks and food.

Here are a few pictures from the weekend.

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