Outside Mulligar

The play the family went to see yesterday was called Outside Mulligar and it was excellent.  But I am having a hard time describing home.

The play is a comedy, but any description of it makes it sound quite sad.

The play is about two Irish families that live on adjacent farms outside the town of Mulligar.  Each family is composed of a parent in their late 60s/early 70s with a recently deceased spouse and their adult child who still lives at home.  The play starts with the Muldoons (Aofie and Rosemary) going over to the Reilly’s (Tony and Anthony) for condolence tea after the funeral where Chris Muldoon (father and husband) was buried.

Loss and the fear of loss is a recurring theme in the play.  So are faith, pride and how those intersect with love.

Does it sound like a rollicking good time yet?

The plot points in the first scene revolve around a plot of land with disputed ownership and the disposal of the Reilly family farm when Tony eventually passes.  But the play doesn’t care about its plot.  It resolves each of these plot points by the end of the first set of themes and introduces new ones for later scenes.

The play cares about its themes and the relationships between its characters – those still alive and those that have passed on.  This is where its heart lies and where it finds its source of humour.  So much of the humour deals with reactions to loss that you might think it is a black comedy, but it isn’t.  The play is seat and good natured throughout.

The writing makes it hilarious.  The play doesn’t have jokes.  It has pacing and flow and stories that are brought to life by the actors.  Of the actors, the lady playing Rosemary really nails her role.  She’s given a strong part and has to move quickly fro emotion to emotion while staying funny at all times.  She does it with aplomb.

Of course, the play plays to my interests.  It is two families of Irish spending their entire time arguing with one another.  That just works for me.

A typical exchange that shows the interchange of sadness and drama occurs at the begging.  Elder Tony is telling his son how this is the second wake he has been to for Chris Muldoon.  The first was decades ago.  Muldoon and his wife had a baby boy who they names Chris Jr..  As Tony yells it the boy came out half size and shrank from there.  After a few weeks (days?) the boy passed away.  The town wasn’t aware of the boy’s passing or his name so when the paper published the notice for the wake all Muldoon’s pub friends showed up with the whiskey ready to toast their deceased friend.  But they walked into the wake to find a tiny white box less than a foot long and their friend standing behind it.

The humour came from how Tony told it and how Anthony reacted to the news.  But at the same time you were laughing the story itself was so sad and pitiful you were almost in tears.

That is how Outside Mulligar works.

If you get a chance go and see it.


Year in Review

I’ll look back at the year that was.

It was a year of transitions.  Which I hate, but which turned out really well.  For me this was a very good year.

Work – I don’t talk about work much in here.  But it is central to what I do.  Work is going well.  Not perfectly – it has its ups and downs, but well enough.  There are big projects going this year – there seem to be big projects every year – bt the projects this year are complicated and interesting.  Plus I received a kinda promotion.  This is all good.

A bigger transition was getting my new wheelchair at the start of the year.  When I was much younger I looked at the limitations Dad faced in his wheelchair and I could never imagine myself in one.  But when it became obvious I needed one, the wheelchair opened up options that had previously closed.  It is versatile.  I can get around the city.  It is comfortable.  It is good.

I went on a few small vacations this year.  Nothing fancy.  But it was really the wheelchair that made that possible.  It has been a number of years since I had a vacation where I left town.  It was a nice opportunity.

Of course the biggest change was moving.  I loathe moving.  7 months have passed and I am still not completely unpacked.  But I am down to just three unpacked boxes now.  I’m still not completely comfortable here.  It feels too much like my parent’s place.  But it is home too.  I also asked a lot from my friends for the move.  They came through for me, but it was obviously an imposition.

But the new place is great.  The biggest benefit has been getting closer to work.  My commute is 45 minutes shorter in each direction.  At least.  In the morning that is 45 minutes I sleep in.  In the afternoon it is 45 minutes extra I spend at home.  The downside is that those 45 minutes were when I composed this blog in the morning.  I still haven’t found another time when I have the opportunity to do that.  After work, I do not have the energy – I want to do nothing but veg when I get home.

The next benefit is getting out.  With the new home location and the wheelchair, I can get out in the summer.  Public transit works.  Cabs work.  and I’m close enough to Whyte avenue that I can just drive to interesting places.  That is cool.  I drove down to the folk fest this past summer.  That was awesome.  I came home again soon because it was too blinking hot and my hat wasn’t enough shade, but going into the creek ravine is pretty awesome.

The third benefit is the care here.  I’m not getting much more than I was before.  But that added touch is a vast benefit.  The biggest change is increased reliability and dependability.  That is huge.  Sometimes you don’t know you were wasting time worrying about something until you stop worrying.  The second change is an added touch of homemaking – they do a little around the house.  The third is flexibility – as my needs increase I will be able to get more services.  That is pretty nifty.

A lot of my unpacking finally happened in December.  We had a new carpet installed in the spare bedroom and all the boxes and shelves needed to come out.  Once the boxes were out and I was able to get at them and, more importantly, the shelves that the contents needed to be transferred too, I was finally able to make progress in unpacking.  I was also able to ask for help with several smaller tasks than the giant task, “please unpack 25 boxes for me.”  Finally now that I’m almost completely unpacked, I’m starting to feel at home.  My photos were only founds a week ago.  It is nice to have them up.

The next task at home is to go through things and find out what I don’t need anymore.  But I can’t do that while Mom is here because she believes everything should go.

Which brings me to the floods.  Those are the largest hardships of the past year.  Two burst pipes in my old condo.  9 months apart.  The second rendering the place unlivable for a few weeks and likely to be under renovation for five months – they say three, but I’ll believe that when it happens.    But those were the largest hardships to affect me directly.

Several of my friends and family had relatives pass that brought sorrow to their lives.  Not everyone will be looking back at this as a good year.  My thoughts remain with them.  My prayers too. It seems unfair and diminishing to say nothing more. I apologize.

OK – books and stuff.  One drawback of the wheel chair is that it isn’t comfortable to read in.  At least not compared to a lazyboy.  I haven’t been able to just sit and read to three hours since I got it.  It has cut into my reading a lot.  Since I finished reading Connie Willis, the only novel I’ve really loved is The Slow Regard of Silent Things.  It was an excellent story.  The other great read of the year was a four volume set of the history of role playing games.  It was seriously awesome.

Comics are even worse.  I’m in a bit of a rut. I’m enjoying old standbys, but not much new stuff.  I can think of Seconds and Ms. Marvel as two new books that standout.

Movies have been good.  But I’m not sure it has been a great year for movies.  The most fun I had watching shows were Guardians of the Galaxy, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Locke, and Captain America.  But there were so many more which let me down in small or big ways.  Sigh.    Hopefully I’ll find some gems as I begin to see the movies released right at the end of the year.

But TV has been incredible.  Between cable, Netflix and PVRs there is so much tv to watch.  Finally with the introduction of Brooklyn 99 there is even a comedy I’m happy to recommend.  Sonic Highways and Republic of Doyle just ended their runs.  I liked them. But the highlight of the year has been the Flash.  It rocks.  The list of great TV is pretty long. I could devote blogs to just the superhero shows. Or just the cable shows. .

OK – I think that covers just about everything.

Happy New Year!

Golden Age

Right.  You might have noticed a dearth of posts.  Here that is.  I’m sure there are other fine establishments you frequent with blogs that are, well, themselves frequent and frequented.

Not mine.  Not mine so much recently.

I blame television.  Mostly because I avoid blaming myself whenever possible.  It helps my self esteem.  Not that it needs much help.  I am pretty awesome.  Oh, I’m going to segue into a story that shows off my awesomeness.

We took a course at work the other week.  19 of us, but the important folks are me and 4 dudes on my team.  The instructor wanted to motivate us.  He said, “I’ve taught 1400 dudes, duders, el duderinos and assorted others (I’ve taken liberties with the dialogue.  Blame the Coehns.)  To each class I offer a bottle of champagne to all those who score perfectly.”

The instructor did this to motivate us.  One of the class who didn’t know me that well professed that I was sure to be one of those who won said bottle.  This despite the fact that the instructor also said he’d only ever given out 3.  I knew that my awesomeness had limits.  Caring enough to invest the effort to get 100% is beyond them.  Heck, I think there is even a good chance I’m not bright enough to get the score.  Maybe – but I do have a high opinion of myself.

Competition does motivate me though, but I thought 100% was unobtainable.  So I made a follow up bet with my team.  I’d pay them a case of beer each if they simply beat my score on the exam.  I indicated that the bet was to motivate them, but, just between us, it was mostly to motivate myself.  I hate losing.

How does this story demonstrate my awesomeness.  Well, I thought it would show my benevolence and my leadership skills.  But admitting I made the bet to selfish reasons basically tromps over those goals.  Darn.  OK.  Well at the end of the story I get the highest score and kick the butts of my team.  So – at least I’m good at taking exams even if I fail at leadership and humility. But y’all knew that already.

The story has a happy ending.  Although it wasn’t part of the bet one of my staff felt that the bet was only fair if he wagered a case of beer too.  So I won a case of beer.  It was delicious.

OK – back to the vacancy of my blog and television.  A good writer would segue back to that subject smoothly and show how the previous anecdote related to the main thesis.  But such a writer might not have deserted their blog in the first place.  You are stuck with me.

Or you would be, but I think I’m done for the day.  I’m feeling a bit hungry.  Therefore, I’m going to desert the blog once again and get some food.  I’ll explain about the television another time.

Maybe.  It is a bit of a cliffhanger ending to get you to come back.  But, spoilers, the television story has a lousy unresolved ending too.  Or it might if I ever write it.

Talk to you soon.

Locke – A review

I haven’t written in a while, but I watched a movie yesterday that I want to talk about.

Locke is a thriller starring Tom Hardy. You likely know Hardy as Bane is the last Batman movie. It is an odd thriller because it isn’t about a crime or killer. But the term is apt due to its suspense. Twice I had to pause the movie to process what was going on.

That intensity was what made the movie so cool. It is odd as well. Hardy plays a character called Ivan Locke. He is the only character on screen for the entire movie. He drives his car for an hour and a half to London while making calls on his car phone. That is it. That is the movie. Not a description that seems to imply suspense or intensity. But that is entirely the case.

It is a movie that makes you think. What kind of person is Ivan Locke? The movie certainly tells you what person he thinks he is and wants to be. It also gives you a bit of a lens into how some of those closest to him see him. Those views are not entirely the same.

The movie is about Locke’s choices and the consequences of those choices. I am not sure that people in real life often have defining moments. Sometimes we are courageous. Sometimes we are cowardly. Sometimes we are moral and sometimes not. But Locke chooses this car ride and his phones calls to be a statement that shows the person he is. That is one of the first choices he makes on screen. What type of person chooses a car all alone to be where they show their definitive character?

The movie just recently came out on DVD/online. I highly recommend it. I’ve tried to reveal as little of the plot as possible. I think it is a movie best experienced than retold.

Off to lunch for me now…

Weekly Recap

Hey! What is going on out there? I bet y’all are on holiday. Lucky you.

I spent the last week at work trying to solve a big problem. Late nights, yelling at vendors, it was not fun in so many ways. The problem continues this week although we’ve masked the symptoms.

Otherwise it was a quiet week. I read many comic books. I made a D&D character – a rhetoric professor. I was the Expendables 3 – dumb movie, lots of fun, but dumb and it had a problem 2nd act.

The big excitement was the installation of my new toilet. It is awesome. It is a magic toilet. Great.

And my maids came for the first time. My house has finally been cleaned. Of course Mom’s been over twice a week since I moved in so it wasn’t the disaster it should have been. But it was nicer after.

Finally, I won Glen More when we played Friday night. Whiskey and taverns. Yep. Good stuff.

That was the week that was.

Enjoy your holiday!

D&D 5e

I entioned the new version in my blog yesterday. I wanted to expand on my brief comments a bit

I quite like reading the new edition. Of course, there is no way to tell if it is good without making some characters, an adventure and playing the game, but the ruleset seems good.

The Basic Rules free online PDF released all the same core rules as the Player’s Handbook a couple months ago. So there weren’t many rule surprises within the tome.

The art style and direction of the new PHB is quite good. It is similar to that used in 4e, but perhaps a bit less garish. It certainly makes the book an attractive artefact to use.

The division of the book into sections is really straightforward and makes sense to me. Non-combat resolution is all in one chapter. Combat resolution is another, adventuring/exploration in a third.

But the big additions were all the character options added in the PHB. Gone is the sameness of the 4e classes. Each class definitely has its own feel to it again, but without going back to different rule systems for each class.

That being said some of the classes do have their own rule systems. The most common rule system used is ‘points’ – like sorcerer points or bardic inspiration points. But how each class expends the points is a bit different.

The warlock wild mage has its own wild magic system too that is completely different and quite complex. There are some classes that just do things a bit differently.

The Ranger and Druid are introduced in this book. That means the animal companion and sharp change rules are here. They seemed interesting and well integrated. I liked them. I did think it odd that Wizard’s Find Familiar is still the same old style spell rather than using a rule system similar to companions and shape changed folks.

The classes offer good variety, but within each class there are at lest two sub classes (8 for wizards!). These are thematic and interesting. It is a similar approach to kits, but fully integrated into each class. Splatbooks will obviously be able to include more of these.

One of the big hits against 4e was its lack of roleplaying support. 5e has a full chapter on it – alignments are back. Neutral is now portrayed as lacking strong moral convictions. Not sure about that, but Neutral has always been problematic. Add to that traits, ideals, bonds and the background system. I think the result should be well rounded characters. As experienced role-players, our 4e folks still had a lot of character. But as an overall direction for the game I approve.

I also like the background rules. So roleplaying ideas, some packages of equipment and skills and some small features that only work along with roleplaying. It seems to be a workable system.

Finally the feat system. That is newly detailed in the PHB. It is optional. At any level where a character gets a stat boost, they can take a feat instead. That means the feat must be equivalent to a +1 to hit, damage or casting. Because the power slope is not as steep, losing on these these either might be huge or not as important. I’m not sure. But taking a bunch of feats will likely not be a popular approach. Some feats still allow a +1 to a stat along with a related benefit. Others offer a small list of benefits to be equivalent.

I’ll need to see them in play to fully judge.

After me initial read through that is what struck me. I like it. Interesting mutation of the rules.

Today is recap day.

It was an exciting week. Ok not really. But it could have been.

I got to hang out with some VIPs at work. I think it went well. Everyone now knows my name.

Wednesday was boring at work. I actually had no meetings and worked on paperwork. But then there was Thursday and Friday. They were crazy. Issues and a project in neutral popped the clutch and slammed into gear.

Almost all my buddies are gone on holiday. Fortunately my brother is still around. Otherwise it could have been a lonely week.

That kidney stone was a pest all week. No great pain, but it would shift to let me know it’s there every second day.

I started reading The Shining. I find the book scary. I read only a chapter or two at a time. From page one the sense of doom is prevalent.

I also got a new Daniel Abraham book. So that is now the top of my reading pile.

The last book I read is a history of RPG companies in the 70s called Designers and Dragons. 400 pages – it was awesome. Three more volumes to come – 80s, 90s and 00s. I’m excited about them all. The book was probably my highlight of the week.

I watched some movies and tv. I’m watching Cosmos. The scientific history is great. The shots at religion a bit less so. I watched Oldboy. That is an experience.

I went to the folk fest. Unfortunately it wasn’t for me this year. Mostly I was hot and burning and bored. I came home looking like Tim after he’s been outside for 5 minutes. The first band I saw was the best. Then they went downhill.

All week I was waiting for the release of D&D. It didn’t disappoint. It is a beautiful book. The basic rules posted earlier are reprinted here. So there aren’t many new rules. But the character options are finally laid out. It is a great presentation and rack class looks interesting to play (with maybe the exception of the Sorceror). You read a class and are comforted by the return of classic features and then bam! There is also something new.

With all my other reading, I still have some races, backgrounds and the spell lists to examine. Cool.

Now it is back to work.

Take care all.