Steve Jackson Games posts solo rules for their classic card game Illuminati

Fellow ancient nerds like myself likely have fond memories of Steve Jackson's now-classic game of global conspiracy and high-weirdness, Illuminati. I still have, and cherish, my copies of the original pocket box games, the reissues, and way too many of the New World Order collectable cards.

Now, Alex Yeager of SJ Games has posted a draft version of a set of rules for playing Illuminati solo. He describes it as a "game-play adjacent" experience. This means that it's not going to give you an experience equal to a full game of Illuminati against opponents, but it will (hopefully) be a satisfying session of Illuminati solitaire, and a way of enjoying the game even if you can't have mates around to play with.

Image: Cover art Read the rest

Nebula-75, a new puppet lockdown drama from the folks that brought us Thunderbirds, Stingray, Fireball-XL5

Nebula-75 is a new "puppet lockdown drama" being made by some of the folks at Century 21, the Gerry Anderson studio that was responsible for "Supermarionation" programming in the 60s (and beyond), with such shows as Thunderbirds, Stingray, Supercar, and Fireball-XL5. Nebula-75 is also being filmed in "SuperIsolation" and Lo-Budget!

Nebula-75 charts the exploits of Commander Ray Neptune and the crew of the spaceship NEBULA-75 as they make their way across the stars, encountering strange worlds and forms of life hitherto unknown by mankind. It has been created and produced by a small group of filmmakers during the British lockdown on 2020. Although team members from around the world contributed remotely to pre and post production, the entirety of the filming for Nebula-75 was undertaken by a crew of three who happened to already live together in a small flat in London. Their living room was transformed into a makeshift movie studio – with bookshelves, cardboard boxes, and other household objects becoming the interior of the show's hero spacecraft. This flat was also fortunately home to many of the puppets, props, and costumes that have been accumulated over the course of different productions.

It might be a slight exaggeration--but not by much--that shows like Thunderbirds and Fireball-XL5, and the other Gerry Anderson shows of my youth, laid the groundwork for much of what still obsesses me today (sci-fi, space exploration, modeling, miniatures, making, and dreaming). These shows were like magic spells on my imagination that have never waned. Read the rest

Shut in sounds: Crowded House perform "Don't Dream It's Over" from isolation

Well, this was inevitable.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Rodney Orpheus' pandemic oasis, Desert Island Nerds

My friend Rodney Orpheus (he of the legendary darkwave electronica band, The Cassandra Complex) has been doing a terrific weekly streaming show, called Desert Island Nerds. The premise is that we're all on our own little desert islands in isolation now, so we might as well play the Desert Island game.

Each week, Rodney has on a "nerd hero" and asks them random questions from a list of 20 (chosen, natch, by rolling a d20). Questions are the typical (what album would you take to a desert island? what book? movie?), but also unusual things like companion animal? luxury item? Outfit?

The show, done from Rodney's own little nerd island in the UK, is surprisingly well-produced and great fun to watch. He's done three episodes so far and each one has been tasty nerd candy. The first episode was with Brian Freisinger, visual FX guy who worked on The Matrix Reloaded, Constantine, and Serenity, Antony Johnston, the man behind the video game Dead Space and writer of the movie Atomic Blonde, and Christina Z, the most successful female comic book writer of all time, creator of Witchblade and Tigra and writer for the Powerpuff Girls comic. The Desert Island conceit is really just an excuse for two uber nerds to enthusiastically yammer on about the novels, comic books, RPGs, video games, music, movies, etc. that they adore.

Next week, Rodney's guest is [reads cue card] Holy shit... ME! We'll be talking about some of my desert island picks and some of the high weirdness and nerd-worthy things I've gotten myself up to over the decades, including writing for this Directory of Wonderful Things. Read the rest

Kermit the Frog sings "Rainbow Connection" from quarantine

This is just too adorable for words. Kermit T. Frog, self-isolating in the swamp, sings his big hit, "The Rainbow Connection," while accompanying himself on banjo. Complete with him turning the camera on and off, a few sketchy chord and vocals moments. In other words: Star quarantine perfection.

As one commenter put it: "Kermit isn't the hero we deserve, but he's the hero we need." Read the rest

Sci-fi author David Brin's recommended reading list

Science fiction author and futurist, David Brin, has put together an excellent list of sci-fi books to read. He posted this list years ago, but has re-surfaced it to remind people that now is a great time to READ.

He has the books divided up into interesting categories, like Harbingers of Hope, Sci-Fi for Kids, the Hard Stuff, Fantasy - with Brains, etc. Hundreds of great recommendations here.

Image: Glogger CC BY-SA 3.0 Read the rest

Shut in sounds: Gary Numan singing and playing guitar from his den

So many artists are now playing music online from home. For many, it shows a different, more vulnerable side to them.

This is definitely the case in this set with the great Gary Numan. From his den, he plays guitar and sings, something he says he rarely does.

In the intro and the patter between songs, he spends a lot of time with clearly an aching heart over what we're all going through, showing real tenderness and compassion. And he spends lots of time apologizing for his guitar playing and the raw circumstances of the performances. No need, Mr. Numan. It all sounded perfect and heartfelt to me.

During the set, he does "Everyday I Die," "Bleed," "Crime of Passion," and "Down in the Park." On several songs, he is joined by his daughter, Persia.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Family recreates Simpsons' intro after finding costumes during quaran-cleaning

This is a wonderful thing. Author and Librarian Joel A. Sutherland posted this video, with the following message, on Twitter:

Social Isolation, Day 23

Kids: We're booooored! What can we do?

Wife *cleaning basement*: What are we ever going to do with these Simpsons Halloween costumes we only wore once?

Me:

How great is that?!

Thanks, Bub! Read the rest

A UK man dressed as a bush sneaks through a neighborhood on lockdown

A UK man from Stevenage, Herts was spotted making his way around his neighborhood dressed as a bush. The couple next door caught the man on video and assumed that he was trying to avoid lockdown in a most ridiculous fashion.

Turns out, it was all just a prank, the man trying to bring a laugh to neighbors stuck indoors. It's unclear whether the next door neighbors were in on the gag.

Later he returned with his two kids disguised as garbage bags.

[H/t Kaine Delay]

Image: Screengrab Read the rest

Tips from a fellow who has been social distancing for 50 years

For 50 years, Billy Barr has been the only resident of Gothic, Colorado, an abandoned silver mining town. He's not a hermit though. According to NPR, Barr says he "occasionally interacts with skiers who pass through, he talks to his sister on the phone, and he works for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory nearby, which gets flooded with scientists in the summer." Below are a few of Bill Barr's tips on social distancing. You should read the rest though because Barr is very funny. From NPR:

1. Keep track of something.

Each day, Barr tracks the weather for a number of groups including the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. He started measuring snow levels in the 1970s, mostly because he was bored [...]

2. Keep a routine.

Barr starts early. He wakes up around 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m., and stays in bed until about 5 a.m.

"Up until a week or two ago, I would listen to the news every morning so that I could start every day either totally depressed or furious. That's always a good way to start the day," he said [...]

4. Embrace the grumpiness.

Sometimes, Barr said, it's kind of satisfying to be grumpy about something.

"Tips From Someone With Nearly 50 Years Of Social Distancing Experience" by Rae Ellen Bichell (NPR)

image: courtesy of Billy Barr Read the rest

Using colored paper, help a neighbor with "Isolation Communication"

Nova Scotia resident Glynis Mullen shared a simple, but brilliant, way that we can all employ to look out for our neighbors in real life, "Our neighbour is older and lives alone so I gave her three colour pieces of paper for her window which face our kitchen window. Green is for I’m OK, yellow (is) for need(ing) help with an errand, and red for emergency. I call it isolation communication."

Surrey Now-Leader:

She and her neighbour often communicate through her kitchen window and said the tri-colour paper system is a “really good visual comfort that everything is okay. When it’s yellow, I know I should call and we can arrange something.”

screengrab via Glynis Mullen/Facebook Read the rest

Questing Beast reading the entire 1979 AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide

Ben of Questing Beast has begun reading all of Gary Gygax's 1979 roleplaying game masterwork, the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, on YouTube, After the first two videos, at around four hours in, it look like he's up to page 33. He estimates it'll take some 40 hours to read the entire book.

Of all of the D&D books, spanning four decades, the DM Guide had the most profound impact on me and will always hold a special place in my nerdy little heart. I'm sure many other RPGers of my generation (and beyond) feel the same way.

Image: YouTube Read the rest

Queen's Brian May teaches his famous guitar licks on Instagram and advises: “keep calm and create”

Brian May, "your friendly neighbourhood rock star" (as he described himself in a post) is doing a series of "MicroConcertos" on his Instagram account. On them, he shows fans and fellow guitarists how he achieves some of his famous Queen licks.

Brian is also using his account to try and keep fans' spirits up and to encourage them to take self-isolation very seriously, observe sterile technique, and to make the most out of the time. "Keep calm and create" he summarizes.

View this post on Instagram

This spontaneously turned into a ‘Star Licks’ type tutorial ... as an experiment, really. I don’t think I’ll Ever try to do it this way again, though - because it was ridiculously time-consuming trying to put it all up on IG ‘Stories’. Here’s a very rough potted version for posterity. Tell me how useful (or not!) it was. OK ? Bri

A post shared by Brian Harold May (@brianmayforreal) on Mar 21, 2020 at 5:10am PDT

Image: Screengrab Read the rest

Quarantine survival advice from Buzz Aldrin and other astronauts

I had the privilege of interviewing Buzz Aldrin a few years ago. The second man to step foot on the moon (and first to pee on it) had just released a new book, and won his first ever March Madness bracket, and the first thing he told me over the phone was how he'd spent his 80th birthday scuba diving in the Galapagos with his son, but got in trouble when he broke away from the group and grabbed a whale shark by the dorsal fin just so he could ride it.

Buzz Aldrin is a god damn national treasure and a real American badass. (I'd also love to see the look on that scuba instructor's face if/when they realized that the old man they were scolding was in fact Buzz Aldrin.)

Now, Aldrin is 90 years old, which puts him at particularly high risk for infection by the novel coronavirus. But this national treasure has a solid plan to stay safe, as detailed to Eric Berger at Ars Technica: "Lying on my ass and locking the door."

Aldrin is a survivor — of outer space, of shitty jobs, and of alcoholism and depression — so I tend to trust his advice. But if you're looking for something more substantial, Forbes spoke with several other astronauts about their time in isolation, including NASA’s Human Research Program Director Bill Paloski, Ph.D.; John Grunsfeld PhD, a retired NASA astronaut and Hubble Space Telescope repairman who spent over 59 days in space; and Dr. Read the rest

Artist creates miniature replicas of the rooms of Japan's "lonely deaths"

Japanese artist Miyu Kojima's dayjob is cleaning up apartments whose occupants have died "lonely deaths" (kodokushi/孤独死), where someone socially isolated declines unnoticed for months or years; the scenes of their death are both sad and grisly, as often they lie dead behind closed doors for a long time before they are missed. Read the rest