Hitting the Heights

It seems odd to me that AD&D’s Ravenloft setting never included a version of Wuthering Heights.

Think about it. You’ve got the perfect Dark Lord in the form of Heathcliff, torturing his household and tormented by his memories of Catherine. Catherine would actually be a ghost, tapping on the windows at night and increasing Heathcliff’s torment. The Domain would consist of the bleak, high moors, with a few scattered houses and a single village, and the borders would be sealed when necessary by raging sleet and hail storms.

It’s such a natural fit that its lack boggles the mind. Were there no English Majors at TSR?

While on the subject of Wuthering Heights, I don’t believe that it’s possible for any human being to sing as high as Kate Bush does in the first few bars of her song based on the book. Her pitch is either a post-recording effect, or she is some kind of alien masquerading as a human being.

(I know where I’m putting my money… :D)

Oh, can I also mention Kate Beaton’s brilliant take on the book?

Wuthering Heights: Part 1
Wuthering Heights: Part 2
Wuthering Heights: Part 3

Melbourne Bound

For reasons I am not at liberty to discuss, I’ll be flying out on Thursday night to spend the weekend in Melbourne with my workmates. Oh hooray.

I should probably explain myself. Those who either know me, or read this blog regularly, will be well aware that I am an Aspie, and a severe introvert. I go to work, and do my job in order to have money to pay the bills, but when I walk out of the office doors on Friday afternoon I don’t want to have anything to do with the place until Monday morning. This isn’t because I dislike my job (any more than anyone does anyway) or my co-workers, but because being around people drains me, mentally and emotionally. The weekend is when I recharge by either spending time on my own, or by interacting with other people strictly on my own terms.

Spending the weekend in a hotel room with my colleagues – not to mention having to attend an industry event – is not going to provide the opportunity I need to recharge. By the end of the following week I shall most likely go somewhat mad, or at least become quite emotionally erratic. But hey, whatever.

On the plus side I shall have most Saturday free in Melbourne to do things with. I’m not sure exactly what at this point. The Royal Exhibition Building is a possibility and maybe the Queen Victoria Markets. I was also planning to buy a new coat as my old one is starting to look distinctly ratty, but the coat place I was looking at turns out to be run by Jews, so that’s no good.

(No – I haven’t turned into some lunatic racist. It’s simply that the coat place is closed on Saturdays for Shabbat.)

What else is there to do in Melbourne? Walk the route of the Grand Prix through Albert Park? Wander up and down Carlisle Street trying to spot John Safran? I dunno…

Anyway, that’s how I’m going to be spending next weekend. Whether I like it or not.

Fire! Fire! Fire!

Ian Hazzikostas of Blizzard commenting on how he designs encounters for expansions such as World of Warcraft: Kung Fu Panda (oh wait! sorry! it’s called Mists of Pandaria apparently…)

…and then a lot of it just comes down to what sounds cool to us. A huge firehawk that bursts out of a volcano. That sounds kind of cool. Huge magma giants. A spider that lives in a forest where the webs it weaves are made of pure fire. That’s pretty cool…

Exactly when did Blizzard hire Beavis?

On the Death of Slaydo

Thinking about things way too much

I’ve been wondering for a while about the conflicting accounts of the death of Warmaster Slaydo in Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series...

First and Only states that Slaydo announced Maccaroth as his successor and promoted Gaunt to Colonel Commissar on his deathbed. The Sabbat Worlds Crusade features a painting of “The Death of Slaydo”, showing the Warmaster passing away surrounded by a bunch of concerned Generals and other officers. But Gaunt, in Blood Pact, states that Slaydo was struck down on the battlefield, and his body dragged away and mutilated by the enemy. So, what gives?

To solve this mystery, remember rule number one – the Imperium lies.

Gaunt’s recollections of Slaydo’s end are entirely accurate. But the Imperium would never admit to cocking up so badly as to let the body of the Warmaster fall into enemy hands. So, they concocted the story of his being rescued and having the time to issue a bunch of orders before peacefully slipping away surrounded by his loyal staff. They even commissioned an artist to depict the scene, and had Tactician Biota recount it in his his historical account of the Crusade. His “deathbed” orders were prepared by him prior to the battle in case of his death, and carried out by his subordinates.

(There is still the problem of tourists being shown Slaydo’s “Death Venue” on the battlefield on Balhaut, but the Balhaut tour guides are shown to be horribly inaccurate anyway. Anyone familiar with the deathbed account who visits Balhaut would probably assume that the marker shows where Slaydo was mortally wounded rather than actually killed, and that their guide doesn’t know what they’re talking about.)

So, there we have it. Problem solved! You can send me my cheque now Mr Abnett 😉

Good Teachers/Bad Teachers

The discussion concerning last week’s post about my days back at primary school seems to have affected my brain, as I had another dream about them the other night.

I was back in year six, and working – in class – on an essay about some book. The problem was that I wasn’t myself from year six, I was myself from the modern day thrown back in time, and hence my knowledge of the book in question was very vague, it being over twenty years since I’d actually read it.

On the plus side, I’d managed to bring a copy of my finished essay – which, I’m pleased to report, had got an A – back with me, so all I had to do was copy it out. The teacher however, who was not my actual year 6 teacher Mr Murphy (arguably the best teacher I ever had) but my year 7 teacher Mrs M (arguably the worst teacher I’ve ever had) was patrolling around the classroom and would have spotted me. So I was stuck in the position of shooting furtive glances at the finished document while racking my brain for anything I could remember of the text to write about.

But that wasn’t all. I really didn’t want to be writing the essay at all, because there was a big storm due to hit that night. The Weather Bureau had classed it as a category one cyclone, but with the benefit of hindsight I knew that it was actually going to be a category three, and that the inadequate warning would lead to widespread destruction (including ripping the roof off the school) and over 100 deaths across the city. I was itching to get out and warn people, but instead was stuck trying to write this damned essay, and not get in even more trouble with Mrs M than I habitually was.

It was really rather stressful.

Eventually I got out of class and managed to warn (of all people)  Dr Christopher Green who promised to take care of it.

In the words of Peter Venkman “Hairless pets….. weird”.

I’ve often wondered about why I had such a problem with Mrs M (I’m referring to her pseudonymously both because she might still be teaching and while I can remember how to pronounce her name, I’m damned if I can spell it). There were, I believe, a number of factors, one of the most important of which being that, even at the age of 12, I was much smarter than her.

That sounds unbelievably arrogant, I know, but bear with me.

In all honesty, in terms of just raw processing power, I believe that my brain was a good smack faster than hers. Hell, my brain is a good smack faster than most people’s, but that’s not anything to be particularly proud about – it’s just natural genetic variation. More importantly I was much more knowledgeable about a much wider range of subjects that she was – her general knowledge about the world appeared pretty limited which I feel is a major flaw in any teacher, let alone a primary school one who is the only instructor a bunch of young minds will have for an entire year.

Now, a good teacher, faced with a student who can out-think them and displays a wealth of knowledge, will see an opportunity. This was the case with all the teachers I’d had up to year 7 – especially with Mr Murphy in year 6. I was encouraged to speak up in class, and if I contradicted what the teacher was saying, they’d hear me out. Mrs M on the other hand seemed to view this kind of behavior as a threat to her authority, and a student who kept doing it as a troublemaker.

For example – in year 6 we were set a humerous poem to read about ptarmigans, in which every initial letter ‘t’ was replaced with ‘pt’. Mr Murphy read the poem out to the class, and mentioned that the author had obviously ‘made up’ an animal called a ptarmigan in order to write the poem. I put my hand up and pointed out that this was wrong, and that the ptarmigan was a kind of arctic bird. Mr Murphy asked me how I knew this, and I gave my standard answer that I’d read it in a book we had at home.

Rather than take this correction at face value, he re-stated that he was sure the ptarmigan was fictional, but told me that I had permission to go to the school library and bring him back a book proving the existence of such a creature. So, I left the class, ducked across to the library, grabbed the relevant volume of the encyclopedia, located the entry for ‘ptarmigan’ and brought it back to him.

Rather than be annoyed, Mr Murphy told the class that he was wrong, and that you should never be ashamed to admit such when presented with proof. I took the book back to the library and we got on with analysing the poem.

This kind of thing was pretty standard for my education up until year 7 – in retrospect I was probably rather spoiled by it. With Mrs M however any attempt to contradict  her was met with barely concealed hostility. Her attitude appeared to be one of “I am the teacher, you are the student, I know all, you know nothing”, and thus any student who tried to correct her was being willfully disruptive and should be punished.

It also didn’t help that she was very religious. I was also very religious – I remained so well into my teenaged years – but I followed a very free-wheeling, easy-going, inclusive version of Catholicism, whereas Mrs M seemed to advocate a straight down the line, exactly what the Pope says version. A student from the year above us for instance was praised often and effusively for not only shaking hands with the Pope during his visit in 1986, but for throwing a tantrum in the local video shop when they stocked The Last Temptation of Christ. She was also a believer in the most unlikely of signs and miracles – the year before I had her she’d gone on a pilgrimage to Međugorje and repeatedly claimed that a photo she’d taken of the hill where the BVM allegedly appeared showed a mysterious glow (she kept promising to bring the photo in to show us, but never did). When a TV current affairs show filled in a slow news day with a piece about peoples’ cheap rosary bead sets turning to gold, she came in the next day claiming that her set had undergone the same transformation – but insisted we not tell anyone lest they think she was crazy. I wasn’t shy about sharing my religious opinions, and the difference between our views appeared to make her regard me as not just a troublemaker, but as a potential victim of diabolical obsession.

So, this combination of a smart, previously-indulged, autistic kid and an authoritative, not-quite-as-smart-as-she-ideally-should-have-been teacher resulted in a rather unpleasant and traumatic year of schooling. The stress of the situation led to my developing migraine headaches, which I still occasionally suffer from. My previously spotless academic and behavioral record started to show blemishes – although the fact that the rest of the staff regarded me as a fantastic student (and, I suspect, Mrs M as a bit of a nut) prevented any consequences of this outside of her classroom. I still managed to graduate as second in the year and happily moved on to high school, where a whole new round of traumatic experiences awaited…

I Dream of Nikki

Dreams are weird.

Back in primary school, in year seven, I sat next to a girl named Nicole Mooney. I couldn’t say that we were actually friends, but, as I recall it, we got on fairly well – or at least as well as a 12 year old boy and girl actually can. We had a little routine we’d engage in, in which she’d claim that I’d drive a Saint to sin, and I’d claim that she’d drive a man to drink. We’d sit there muttering “Saint to sin!”, “Man to drink!” back and forth to each other until the teacher yelled at us to shut up.

At the end of the year we left primary school and moved on to the different high schools. I’ve haven’t seen her, or even heard tell of her since.

But here’s the weird thing – I often dream about her.

Not, I hasten to add, in any creepy kind of way – she just has a habit of turning up as a bit player in whatever nonsensical carryings on are going on in my sleeping brain. Often she’ll be accompanied by a mixed cast of people I knew in high school, but she’s the only person there from primary school. Weird.

I have no idea what, if anything, this means. Logic tells me dream-version-Nicole is nothing but a glitching neuron buried deep in my cerebral cortex. But every time I wake up with her in my head I can’t help but wonder what she’s doing these days, and if she ever dreams about me.