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I have toted with checking this show out a number of times, but have always been cautious taking on a gay themed series sight unseen.

But with JB Hifi currently selling the series at a dramatically reduced price – $14.95 NZ – I decided to take the plunge and bought the first season. After only two episodes I have now gone back and bought the rest. It is that good.

Beyond just being witty and about the GLBT community, the series really does present a fairly accurate portrayal of the minefield of issues that face gay men and women on a daily basis. Yes, it is slightly exaggerated, but when one of the character’s states “There are only two types of straight people. Those who hate you to your face and those who hate you behind your back” in reference to gay people.

That’s not only a ballsy statement to have a character make, there really are actually gay men out there who think like this. Presumably this guy is going to have this view challenged before the series ends.

While the series is an ensemble show, there are three clear leads out of the cast of seven. Mike is the narrator who occasionally breaks the fourth wall for comic effect. He’s nice, friendly and clearly a bit of a romantic. Brian is the gorgeous cocky manwhore who doesn’t believe in love just sex for fun. He’s arrogant, but there is a hint that this is to protect himself from a world he feels is just out to get him. Justin is the supernaturally beautiful 17 year old virgin who is just entering the gay community. I say supernatural because the actor is just stunningly beautiful in a very angelic manner. Even when he’s being adorably goofy – for example he is in bed and asked “what do you like?” by a naked Brian and he starts listing his hobbies and after school activities.

I love that the show has a reasonable cross section of the community, including a lesbian couple that don’t look like a crass stereotype.

From a perspective of “would heterosexual viewers like this show?” I think many would. The cast are great, the dialogue is witty and fun. The show is very frank about what the gay community is like, to the point that it may surprise some people as to what it is like to be a part of that community.

I think QaF succeeds in presenting a gay perspective that can engage, shows the sensuality of the lifestyle without being porny and has some bluntly honest observations of how the world looks from a gay perspective.

Two thumbs up. Genuinely good television.

Conan

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I do on occasion check out The Big Idea in the hopes of spotting an opportunity to expand my experience and skills in Film-making. It is always interesting to see what others are trying to do in the pursuit of making it in the industry.

What recently struck me is one Wellington based gentleman who has chosen to make a series of fake trailers or scenes for non-existent action films. The idea appears to be to make a showreel of material – which is always an admirable goal.

However this Aussie ex-pat seems to be stuck in the 80s regarding what the market wants. His ads stress that all work has to be American focused. No antipodean accents, no NZ culture or style. Just pure America.

Talk about limiting yourself. Not to mention that most kiwis and ockers do atrocious American accents. A brief look over his personal website shows a guy who clearly is a fan of EXTREME cinema to the tune of “Yippee Kai Yay.”

Of which there isn’t anything wrong, action is very challenging to write and film. Having a passion for it is no different to only writing fantasy or liking sci-fi.

I just think that if he wants to be noticed he’s not going to achieve it by pandering to the audience. A brief glance on the net shows this kind of attempt is a dime-a-dozen. It isn’t enough to be good. You need to stand out.

Producers aren’t concerned with accents and locale when it comes to finding new talent – look at District 9 – they want to know you can bring something exciting.

I reckon a witty series of Kiwi and Aussie action trailers with humour unique to our part of the world would grab more attention than a series of generic action trailers with bad US accents.

It is interesting to see someone proposing this, as I start planning projects based on my experience with The Winding City and oversee the final steps of the first episode edit. I wonder how successful his project is going to be, knowing how hard it is to find people willing to work for free.

Conan

I’ve been watching the ongoing WikiLeaks saga with much interest. It is intriguing how much the media has deliberately muddied the waters here. Did WikiLeaks put people in danger or didn’t they? Did they release hundreds of thousands of secret cables or only tens of thousands after having guidance from reputable newspaper agencies?

It is a shame to see the morbid glee some reporters have demonised Assange and WikiLeaks instead of just reporting the facts of the case. A good report I read, and I shamefully don’t have the link right now, pointed out that WikiLeaks broke every cable *after several major newspapers had already published them* and have only released 90,000 or so of the cables they have, each having been vetted and cleared to ensure no lives are unduly placed in harms way.

And yet the US is baying for blood over this very public embarrassment. Assange has been put in a position where he will eventually end up facing espionage charges in the US – and the whole matter seems to be very suspicious. I have no doubt that US courts will not be just in this case as the US has been lying about the releases and has been flagrantly ignoring legal process to hound WikiLeaks.

As for Assange’s character and the sex allegations, I have no idea what to make of that. I don’t want to dismiss the allegations of these women, because sexual assault is a very serious issue. I haven’t seen much of Assange to be able to make an informed judgement of character.

However it is suspicious that the timing of these allegations keep coinciding with activity on the WikiLeaks sites and in a country that can then extradite Assange to the US.

I do feel that the US bureaucracy is fighting a losing war. The Internet remains a user driven entity. Even Apple’s attempts to lock down usage have been circumvented. The very nature of the Internet means that it is very hard to quash something if a determined majority of netizens want it to remain.

As has recently been shown, WikiLeaks has continued and all that this saga has succeeded in doing so far is make a number of journalists look like they don’t do enough research, that the US prefers revenge over justice and isn’t even trying to hide it’s disregard for legal process.

This has polarised people between those who just accept the news and those who look deeper into the facts. Many media agencies should be ashamed by their handling of this matter through blatant dissemination of false information.

I will continue to watch this saga with interest.

Conan

I have written this post a number of times now and it has been difficult how to approach it. I really want to discuss this issue, but I have been worrying about how to broach it without inadvertently hurting feelings. That’s one of the negatives of a close gaming community I guess.

So first with the bomb and then the fallout.

I pulled out of the 2011 Kapcon LARP.

I know that a lot of people are going to say “so what. What makes you think we care?” Well it’s big for me because I REALLY wanted to play in an Arabian Nights LARP. But a number of factors caused my enthusiasm to wane and then a final personal issue with the character basically cinched my decision to leave.

Before I continue, the actual deciding factor was not one that the organisers could have predicted. They could have avoided the problem, but that would have required them changing a formulaic system that has been followed for Kapcon LARPs for a while now.

Which plays into my main beef. While I have enjoyed many Kapcon, there has been a habit of sticking to a formula that works for some but not all players. I had hoped after the brilliant Sanctuary game that we would see more innovation in the formula, but it has gradually drifted back to business as usual.

My first issue that I’m willing to discuss is the survey and character options. I get that organising a LARP is a big challenge. I’ve done it, and it takes a lot of work.

Sanctuary introduced the idea of a survey. This was used to guide the planning of the LARP and to help make characters that suited the players. The key point is that the survey guided creation.

Unfortunately, post Sanctuary, it has been used only as a guideline for casting AFTER the story and characters have been made. Meaning that players are possible offered character choices that have no relationship to their survey answers.

Another formulaic habit is to use character secrets to drive the story. This leads to a reticence to reveal too much about the characters when offering options to a player. So usually you get two or three vague choices that may or may not relate to the actual character offered. On two occasions I have found the character précis and the actual write up have ended up contradicting each other.

In the survey you can list the people you would like to play with. When the options are provided, you aren’t told which character option is in the same faction as the people you opted to play with.

Given that this partially plays into my main issue I won’t talk about in detail, this actually annoys me. I received two choices that did not feel anything like what I had asked for and had no indication of which choice was with the people I wanted to play with – who all had received their characters ahead of me.

I took a stab at the choice closest – but not actually – matching my survey and ended up in a situation that could have been avoided if I had been told a bit more information about what faction my friends were in.

Instead I ended up with a character who had a situation I was not comfortable roleplaying. If the organisers had given me more information prior to choosing, that could have been avoided.

My other beef is that for me, Arabian Nights is a fantastical, exotic and mysterious setting. The material I was provided hinted at this being in the past of the game but that it was going to be just another political LARP with a Vampire Prince – er, Sultan. Etc etc.

Sorry, but removing Djinni’s and other mystical creatures and providing a rumour of a roc spoiled the setting for me. I am tired of mystical = GM. Oh look, the AI’s – sorry – Djinni’s have vanished only to return as guides for the players.

Yawn.

Sanctuary had no problems making PCs who were mystical beings. The GMs were mostly just minor characters.

Al Shir-Ma’s setting comes across as a reskinned Kapcon every-LARP and not fantastical Arabia.

Now I could have gotten past that if my character issue not been the one it was, but that was not to be.

Oddly, and this is a bit irrational of me, the one sentence thanks for my quick response to say I’m pulling out has also aggravated me because I wrote a fairly long explanation of why I was pulling out and it felt very dismissive of my issues as if I never really wanted to play.

I know that there is a long waiting list. I also know that a game that can’t adjust for size might be too tightly written.

Ultimately, this experience has soured my enthusiasm for LARPing in general and especially playing in Kapcon LARPs in the future. I appreciate the work and stress going into Al Shir-Ma and I suspect much of the negatives are more an artefact of years of formula than this single year.

I can only say that next LARP organisers need to take more cues from Sanctuary and the excellent lessons those organisers learned through the process they followed.

Hopefully some great ideas will arise in comments here that we can suggest for the future.

Conan

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