Tags: nostalgia

We'll Meet Again...

I did not know that Dame Vera Lynn was still alive! She's 101!!! Mind you if she died now there'd be the biggest funeral procession since Churchill.

The Wife is reading "Keep The Aspidistra Flying" you see. Which led to discussion of Aspidistras and then Googling. Hence Gracie Field's "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World", wartime singing stars, which led on to Vera Lynn.

Confession here, I didn't realise George Orwell wrote "Aspidistra". I am a dreadful human being, clearly.

Still, YouTube has provided Gracie and Vera, which we have listened to. "The Biggest Aspidistra in the World", "Bluebirds" and, of course, "We'll Meet Again".

It's... powerful, even now, the hope it embodies.

I hope that day is a long time in coming but, when it does, I'll join that procession.

The London Round...

Took a walk today at lunchtime, did my usual round and then broadened it, did a few more bookshops, a few more specialist shops, got me all nostalgic...

I remember when coming to London was an adventure, something special, especially if I was on my own. I'd arrive at Paddington, down the Circle Line to Notting Hill Gate, along the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road and out. There was Forbidden Planet in New Oxford Street. I even visited it once in Denmark Street and it left there in 1978! Never got to Dark They Were, And Golden Eyed, that closed up in 1981, my boss once went there, but he's a few years older. Anyway, in that area was Gosh Comics, Playin' Games and Beatties model shop.

There was always a homeless woman near Forbidden Planet, close cropped hair and long brown overcoat, never begged, never asked for money and at some point she just wasn't there any more. Known a few other people who noticed her there. Wonder who she was, what her story told.

Anyway, then down to Charing Cross Road and the bookshops, Orc's Nest and Comics Showcase and lunch at the Pizza Hut at Cambridge Circus. Then down Shaftesbury Avenue. There was the Vintage Magazine Store nearby and a shop up a side street that specialised in soundtracks, then Tower Records at the end in Piccadilly. Then Victoria to catch a train to Croydon to meet my brother, a curry at the Sheesh Mahal and stay over at his flat for the night. The next day would be museums, always museums, the Science and Geology Museums at Kensington and, best of all, the Natural History Museum, my Cathedral, my spiritual home If I was ever to have one.

So much has changed...

Gosh is now over in Soho, Forbidden Planet is in Shaftesbury Avenue. Comics Showcase is gone, Beatties became Model-zone for a while and now that's gone. Playin' Games is gone (thank smeg for Orc's Nest and Leisure Games up in Finchley, nobody is shifting THEM). A lot of bookshops have gone, Tower Records have gone (the Virgin Megastore on the corner of Tottenham Court, Charing Cross and Oxford Street replaced it for a while but that's gone too, Fopp is pretty good though). The Vintage Magazine shop is still there but that soundtrack store is gone, Tower Records is gone. Cinema Store appeared and is now gone (owing a lot of people money I gather). Pity, liked that shop.

Even the Sheesh Mahal changed to the "Bharat Bhavan", and my Brother is now out near Oxford in Thame!

Times change. Things move on. Can't stop it, just gotta go with the flow.

Strange though to walk through those streets and think what was there 20, 30 years ago. What has gone, what has survived and what has replaced them. Fewer specialist shops now, suppose with the internet and all that was inevitable, but still a few diehards hanging on in there.

At least the museums are still there, went to the Nat Hist last weekend, took in the "Venom" exhibition and very good it was too. Got a Blue Whale in the central hall now instead of that plaster-cast Diplodocus, but it's still the Natural History Museum and I still love it.

Wonder what the next 20 to 30 years will bring.

We'll just have to wait and see.

Game News 4...

Yes, yes, I've been buying a lot of games, still got a bit of my Christmas bonus left, so I'm using it strategically. On games. As opposed to on food. Or rent. Or stupid stuff like that.

Well then, what I've picked up is "Hostile". This is a setting for Cepheus Engine, which is basically the Traveller 2D6 system, now on Open License, a bit of a blend of the original Little Black Book Traveller and Mongoose Traveller.

This is retro 80's sci-fi. There is a concept (and a Trope) called "Zeerust". Invented by none other than Douglas Adams for his "Meaning of Liff" book, which takes names not being used much as place names and re-assignes them to concepts that should have a word attached to them.

There's "Albeline" (actually a town in Texas) that describes "the pleasing coolness on the other side of the pillow", or "Luffness" (actually a hamlet in Scotland), "the hearty feeling one gets from walking around on the moors with cold cheeks and wellies".

"Zeerust" (a small settlement in South Africa) describes those aspects of an old science fiction film that are supposed to be futuristic but now are seen as just as dated and quaint.

"Hostile" takes as its inspiration such films like Alien (and the rest of the Alien franchise), Outland, Dark Star, Silent Running and Blade Runner. Another trope (see TV Tropes for this) it exemplifies is the "Used Future" trope. The future is not "Crystal Spires and Togas", it is not "Everything is an ipod in the future" (also TV Tropes), the future is grungy. The Earth is overpopulated and polluted, even so it is still far more habitable than most of the worlds orbiting other stars. But they are not under the control of the Megacorps that controls all industry in the Solar System, so there's a market. Starships are blocky and ugly, the lower decks are dingy and grease stained. There are steam vents, flashing lights and metal gridded floors. This is NOT "Star Trek- The Next Generation".

Space is industrial. Spacemen are freighter crew, off-world mineral and oil extraction experts, loggers and miners. In this world "The Company" will always screw you over, corruption is rife, justice is for the rich, heroics will not get you a medal, it'll keep you alive and get the job done. This is "Blue Collar" sci-fi. Space is hostile, the most polluted Earth environment is still a heaven compared to most offworld colonies.

Space is hostile. Everything is trying to kill you. Hyperspace has to be undertaken in cryopods or you'll go insane. Androids are second-class citizens (if they're not trying to kill you), there are parasitic xenomorphs, eldritch hyperspace entities, your ship is built by the lowest bidder and you're probably on the take from a rival company. What fun.

As I said, system is the "Cepheus Engine", which is basically the old "Traveller" rules on an open license. And it works, my gosh does it work. Speaking at one who owned Advanced D&D but actually played Traveller, this is the perfect rules to play a game like this, stripped down with just a handful of skills between you and oblivion.

It's produced by Zozer Games, written by Paul Elliott, who seems more at home in Ancient Rome, but who certainly knows his 80's sci-fi. The PDF is on DrivethruRPG/RPGNow with a printed version from Lulu.

Go take a look. You'll be pulling those old 80's DVDs off the shelf just to remind you of the time when we had a worse future to look forward to.

History...

The Wife is at an away day for her work, I have the house to myself for a bit. Done the washing up, hoovered, got one load of washing done and drying and got the second in the machine. For lunch I treated myself to a favourite, Boursin herb and garlic cheese, freshly cooked part-bake bread, chorizo, grapes and a bottle of red plonk, all while watching Tron.

1982. 35 years ago that came out. History now. The Wife and I are suckers for a bit of history, love watching documentaries. Thank Smeg for BBC 4 and the Yesterday Channel. The latter is what the History Channel was supposed to be before it decided to appeal solely to the "Alien Nazi Conspiracy" crowd. They had a 1975 "Two Ronnies" programme on there the other day, great stuff. BBC 4 have been showing "A House Through Time" a life story of a house in Liverpool from the late 19th Century all the way up to the present day. The last one was fascinating because this was when I was born, would be growing up. The Thatcher years, the Toxteth Riots, the AIDS epidemic (I remember the public service announcements with the big slab of stone). All the stuff I saw on the TV news but didn't really understand at the time. BBC 4 then showed a "Top of the Pops" from 1985. Oh gosh the hair! The 80s hair! And there was George Michael and Wham! Poor George.

I have that book off my Brother I mentioned now, "Inventions That Changed The World", also 1982, Reader's Digest. Wonderful stuff. The 80s seemed limitless somehow, troubled but the start of a brave new world, so many exciting things starting to happen, so many new possibilities on the horizon.

And look at us now, Brexit, Trump, cat memes and the French rioting over discount Nutella. I mean, for pity sake, you'd think they have more class! A duel fought over a particularly exquisite truffle perhaps, but a punch up over a cut-price jar of chocolate and hazelnut spread?

Merde...

An Elegant RPG... For a More Civilized Age.

Well, I know what I'm getting for Christmas! Look here- https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/products/star-wars-the-roleplaying-game-30th-anniversary-edition/

Fantasy Flight, the company that produces the current incarnation of the Star Wars RPG, is doing a 30th Anniversary reprint of the West End Games Star Wars RPG first produced in 1987. The first edition of both the main rulebook and the sourcebook, completely and lovingly reproduced on high quality paper, hardcover and combined in a special slipcase. Most excellent.

Now if only they'd similarly reprint Galaxy Guide 6- Tramp Freighters...

In other news I am progressing, my finger has more or less lost it's alarming purple colouration and is looking almost normal. It's still very sore, but I think there's a better degree of movement now and the exercises don't hurt so much. I was also able to get my wedding ring back on the finger next to it which is a great relief. It's been a week since I last wore it and that's the longest time it's been off my finger since I was marrried over 8 years ago. Felt wrong not having it there.

We will have a quiet weekend, might pop over to the newly created Walthamstow Wetlands nearby tomorrow, but all we're going to do today is a bit of shopping for essentials and slob out. Last weekend I wanted something fun to watch (being quite shook up and sore all over) so we watched the extremely silly Kentucky Fried Movie. The Wife was amused by the "Fistful of Yen" sketch (and "Big Jim Slade") so expressed an interest in seeing the film it's based on, Enter the Dragon.

Just so happend the Fopp Records shop in London near where I work was selling the special edition for a few quid, so I picked it up and we will watch it this evening. One of the finest martial arts movies ever made and quite poignant in that Lee died a few weeks before it was released at the stupidly young age of 32.

That cat was, indeed, as fast as lightning.

Catching Up...

I was at Minamicon in Southampton last weekend. It's an anime convention, generally seen as the "friendliest". Also seen as the "old farts" convention. I'd been roped in to assist one of the dealers there (Martin "Ferengi" Dudman of United Publications) who was a bit short handed. He pays the fees for the con, the hotel, the transport AND I get paid. I was hardly going to say "No" was I, so Friday evening I headed down to Keston, stayed overnight and early next morning off we headed in a loaded van.

This was the 23rd Minami. Blimey, 23 years old, older than some of the participants. I used to go to this a lot when I was in Devizes, part of the Wessex Anime Club crew. From around 2001 to 2004 we ruled the cosplay scene but slowly people drifted away, I ended up in London (and married) and I stopped attending, concentrating more on Pratchett fandom. This was a chance to catch up.

I spent most of the time in the dealers room (peddling yaoi to teenaged girls) or in the bar chatting with old friends. And a lot of them there were too, some I hadn't seen for over a decade. Virtually the entire Wessex Anime Club committee were there and it turns out there's still a lot of money in the club bank account. We decided we'd arrange a meet-up in Bath for a slap-up meal (at Mrs Miggin's probably) and donate the rest to charity.

I had determined that I wouldn't get more anime but in the end took partial payment with the Girls Und Panzer TV series and OAV collections. Back home I spent a bit more of my pay and went for the third series of Aria in the "thickpack" while it was still in print. A bit more expensive than the thinpack, but it'll match all the others on the shelf.

It was good to get back, good to see a thriving crowd of old and new faces. And quite startling to realise that United Publications is now probably the largest dealer there, the table everyone makes a bee-line to when the dealer room opens. I remember when Martin used to attend Ian Curtis' housecons with his first imported anime (and furry) goods when he first set up his company, cackling about all the latinum he was going to make (Deep Space Nine was doing the rounds, which tells you how long ago that was), hence the "Ferengi" nickname he acquired then and which has haunted him ever since.

Well, we've all passed a lot of water under the bridge since then. The Wife and I have started watching Aria again now, curled up on the sofa. I'd forgotten just how good, how heartwarming it was. Probably pick up Non Non Biyorni and Gingitsune as well over the next few months. Chicken soup for the soul, and I think I've missed it.

The Archaeology of Nostalgia.

Visited the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood last weekend. It's this huge hall, with two levels, now part of the Victoria and Albert Museum group, that displays toys through the ages.

Now, the children who visit tend to run around screaming, playing with the interactives and generally having a good time (can get a tad noisy). The adults however can take the time to study the exhibits more closely. I would like to say that those that do can take the opportunity to learn how toys and games have played a societal role through the ages. How they have been used to reinforce, and occasionally subvert, gender roles and stereotypes. How they have adapted to take advantage of new materials and new technologies as they have become available. How they have been shaped by franchising and educational pressures.

I would like to say that, but what actually happens is that the whole thing rapidly descends into a session of "Oh I remember those!", "I used to have that!", "I always wanted one of them!", "I knew a bastard who had all of these!". I am no exception, it takes you back, bloody hell does it ever. Not the clown jack-in-the-boxes or the puppets though. No. Some of the ones on display are pure nightmare fuel and would probabaly constitute child abuse if you gave it out as a present today.

I, The Wife and one of The Wife's friends were there specifically to see an exhibition of the work of Oliver Postgate, whose Smallfilms company produced such highlights of my early years as Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, The Clangers and Bagpuss. Not The Pogles though, I was a few years too young to remember those. They were all here though, I amused a mother and somewhat baffled her small child by not only correctly naming all the Bagpuss characters but also giving a redition of the magic words Emily used to make him wake up. It was a small exhibition, but with original art, correspondance, design sketches and the original puppets all in evidence. Did you know Bagpuss was supposed to be orange? The manufacturers messed up though and produced the pink one we all know and love. Also Professor Yaffle was originally going to a humanoid figure called Professor Bogwood rather than the fussy old woodpecker (who The Wife credits as being responsible for one of her first exposures to sceptical thought).

If you are in the area and have the opportunity, go and see it, it's well worth the visit, although The Wife's friend actually confessed that she'd never seen any of them, not even The Clangers or Bagpuss!

Poor thing.

Recoveries...

In the first instance from the wretched cold I've been suffering for the last week. I am currently in the "exuding from most facial orifices" stage, and it ain't pretty. The Wife has got full blown flu and is not enjoying it one little bit. Horrible winter for sicknesses (much like last one). There were a few days last week when the temperature dipped and for the first time in months I was able to walk to work across the edge of the golf course, ice crackling and frozen mud crunching beneath my feet, frost riming the last few withered leaves on the scrub oaks, survivors of the winter storms. Alas that it has turned milder and wetter again. We've barely had a winter. Storms, yes, had those up the wazoo and pretty much sick of them too. Thankfully our ground floor flat is round the back of the building and is sheltered by the houses and band of woodland on the top of the Woodford-Epping ridge, so the wind doesn't do much to us, although even then the building has shivered with particularly strong gusts. Still, I'm slowly recovering, every decent night's sleep I seem to gain a little ground on it, have to see how it goes.

The other recovery is one I'm waiting for from Amazon. I had another of those moments where I regretted selling off something. Namely my Tenchi Muyo RPG from Guardians of Order. I have a big soft spot for Tenchi Muyo, one of the first true series I collected avidly, even it it was just the dubbed version from Pioneer. One of the first real "harem" anime series after Urusei Yatsura too. It's the old "ordinary everyday schoolboy" suddenly gets vast numbers of exotic women falling out of the sky (in this case often literally) all of whom fall in love with him. The original series was the best, although the alternative versions were fun. The Tenchi GXP series was a side story set in the original continuity, then there was a third OAV series using the original cast, then a second side series "War on Geminar" (which is pretty much "Tenchi Escaflowne" and ramps the fanservice up to 11) and now I hear that there is a fourth OAV series in production. Not that I mind, like I said, I'm very fond of it (and I have a plushy Ryo-Ohki sitting on top of the book case that the niece and nephew are NOT allowed to play with, Helen McCarthy got that one for me, way back in the mists of the early 90s and the first wave of anime in the UK). Mind you the whole storyline just keeps on getting more complicated. I mean, is there an actual girl left in the Galaxy that Tenchi isn't ALREADY related to some way or another?

I sold my first copy of the Tenchi RPG when we did the big downsize. I was paring back to the real essentials and, in the end, when we found we had a bit more space than we thought, I regretted it. So I found a decent copy on Amazon, cheaper than what I sold my copy for, even if it is coming from America. Should arrive shortly, In the meantime I took a trip down memory lane by finding the Pioneer dub version on Youtube and watching that, holds up surprisingly well all things considered, but perhaps that's just the nostalgia speaking.

Myaaaa!

Set Course for the Eighties!

My first edition "Blue Box" Star Frontiers did indeed arrive yesterday. The box is a bit battered, dented in places and with split edges and corners but I knew that when I bought it. It's over 32 years old after all (older than The Wife in fact, although she is in considerably better condition) so that is ok, a bit of careful repair work with glue and a bit of card will secure it. We had our local Discworld group meetup yesterday evening (big turnout as well, 22 people, a record for a non-Christmas meeting) so I haven't had much chance to pour over it but I already like the "feel" of the game. It just has that 80's vibe to it that I remember from my mid to late teens when I was reading White Dwarf and buying my first RPGs. I've never played Star Frontiers but it already seems familiar, comfortable. I suppose it's the nostalgia talking really, but I'm very glad to have finally got hold of it.

What was even better was that today I acquired the Alpha Dawn second edition "Purple Box" set as well! My boss had spotted it on Ebay for a tenner, "Buy Now" so I told him to grab it. It's highly likely that both sets will have a few of the counters that originally came with the game missing so I should be able to make up a full set now (although I have the pdf scans of the counter sheets so I can easily make my own if I needed to). This second set even has the original (if rather crappy) dice with some of the white crayon still colouring in the numbers.

1982 was when that first set was printed. The year that gave us ET, Conan, Tron, Blade Runner, The Wrath of Khan, The Dark Crystal, The Secret of Nimh, Poltergeist, The Thing...

It was a good year.

Old-school Sci-Fi RPG

Star Frontiers.

Odd really, I'd never payed much attention to this in my distant youth when it was around, but now I find myself noticing it more and more. Not that it's easy to pick up a copy nowadays mind you, oh no, even on Amazon sets are going for silly money, and there's a bit much even for me to resort to my Sister-in-law enabled American pipeline. Fortunately, teh interwebz being what they are I have been able to pick up PDF copies of pretty much everything ever produced.

Star Frontiers was sort of Dungeons and Dragons in space, first appearing in 1982 and produced by TSR, it was their sci-fi setting, softer than Traveller (which was I what I was interested in at the time), more Star Wars to their 2001 A Space Odyssey (although still not quite into the Star Trekian "Tell me more of this Earth thing called kissing" end of things). I always saw adverts for it in White Dwarf (before it became "Warhammer Chaos Spiky Bits Monthly") and was intrigued by the look of it.

Since investigating I have been able to finally discover that this cool starship I've been seeing for years is the "Assault Scout", the Star Frontiers iconic ship (like the Beowulf-class Free Trader was for Traveller), the ship the players will end up starting on. The game still has an exceptionally devoted following, with e-zines being produced and distributed via DrivethruRPG even today. Free of charge as well (apparently part of the licencing agreement to be able to produce it) and extremely professional. Ships of the Star Frontiers setting are vertically stacked, decks perpendicular to the direction of engine thrust, unlike much of the starships seen in other RPGs, no artificial gravity see.

Alas it never quite took off. TSR had already done the space thing with Metamorphosis Alpha, Traveller was already established and it wouldn't be too long before West End Games would be producing the first Star Wars RPG. Somehow it seemed to have fallen down the cracks, a late 70's game just in time to be too late. However most RPG old-timers still seem to have a strong affection for it and seeing the graphics certainly stirs plenty of nostalgia in me.

What the hell. Star Wars is going to be back soon (that 2nd trailer... SQUEEEEE!!!), perhaps it's time for late 70's to be back in fashion. Maybe I will see if I can look up a copy after all.