Since this was Memorial Day weekend, The White Rabbit hosted a barbecue at his place. He actually had guests on both Sunday and Monday, knowing some had to work Monday and wouldn't have made it otherwise.
The White Rabbit grilling
Sunday was really a better day for us, as we could stay longer, but we stopped by Monday, as well.
We made a pasta salad, which was The Gryphon's idea. He developed the recipe and took charge of making it, while I helped with chopping vegetables. He blanched asparagus, broccoli, green and yellow squash. In addition, he halved some cherry tomatoes and made a marinade. Over the top, he grated some Parmesan.
The Sunday party was supposed to start at 2, and we arrived shortly afterwards. We also brought a bottle of Diet Coke, some fresh fruit, a Frisbee, some Boca Burgers, and a bottle of rum. (Yo ho ho!)
When we arrived we were greeted by a friend I'll call The Gamer and his fiancée. While I have many other friends who enjoy playing games, from the conversation I had with him this weekend, I realized that's the main activity that appeals to him. He doesn't even follow pop culture very much.
The Gamer's Fiancee and The Gamer
The Gamer offered to help us take some things into the kitchen, and we let The White Rabbit know we'd arrived. I soon learned that The Dormouse and Batman were already there, playing video games in the basement. The Video Editor was also there, and helped The White Rabbit to hook up some additional video games.
After a little while The Paralegal showed up, as well as The AMV Editor, and much to our delight, The Court Wizard, who flew in from Boston just for the day.
Realizing many of his guests were hungry, The White rabbit started the grill. I gave him a Boca Burger to cook for me, since I don't eat red meat. The Boca Burger was delicious on a whole wheat bun with a slice of cheese, slice of tomato, some lettuce and ketchup and mustard. Along with the pasta salad, I had a nice meal. On Sunday, we mostly had chips and pretzels, grilled items and the pasta salad, primarily because so many bachelors were attending!
After we ate, I had a really nice conversation with The Paralegal. We got caught up, talking about our personal lives. I hadn't had a heart-to-heart like that with her for ages, not even last weekend, with group activities.
Not too long after The Court Wizard arrived, The Gamer suggested we play one of the many games he and his fiancée had brought. He was a little disappointed that The Devil's Advocate wasn't there, because he's always game for playing games. We were happy to play games, too, although we wanted something lighthearted that wouldn't take very long, as opposed to a rigorous strategic game.
We had all been having fun with our cups, with The Dormouse writing, for example, "STILL Not Yours" on his cup, and me writing "Alyce Licked This" on mine. The Court Wizard wrote, "I Can Haz Cup?"
This got us into a conversation about Internet jokes of the past. I told him about my "All Your Base Are Belong to Us" T-shirt, which got a beer stain on it, so I dyed it yellow, thinking it would cover it (of course it didn't). "That's bachelor thinking," he proclaimed.
"Yes, I went through a rough patch." I added that I know how old the joke is now, because the shirt is several sizes too big. I've lost nearly 80 pounds over the past eight years, maintaining it for the past two or three.
The Gamer initially started setting up a game called Betrayal at House on the Hill. This is a game that takes a little longer and involves solving a horror mystery. But you needed more players, and only three of us really wanted to play. Batman was just heading out and had gotten into a long conversation with The Court Wizard, who would have played, but we didn't know that.
No matter, because we played the card game Guillotine, where you are a participant in the French Revolution. The Gamer, his Fiancee, myself, The White Rabbit, and The Court Wizard joined in. Twelve card representing nobles are lined up, heading for the executioner. You use the cards in your hand to manipulate the nobel cards to your advantage as you collect higher points for high-value nobles such as Marie Antoinette or a bishop, or negative points for innocent victims and martyrs.
This game became a lot of fun, because The White Rabbit was making up little stories each time he played a card. For example, if a card made a noble jump forward three spaces, he might say, "And the footman betrays him and points him out to the guards. He's marched to the head of the line. Kerchunk." The description always ended with "Kerchunk," because that's what happens at the guillotine, you know. We all joined in, improvising situations to match what our cards said.
After Guillotine, we played another game called Gother Than Thou, which is now out of print. This is another card game. Each round, you put down one card face-up for yourself and then distribute the other cards amongst the players. The goal is to get 20 ankh symbols, something all Goths want. Simultaneously, you don't want money (since Goths are always broke and therefore depressed). If you get more than five poison symbols, you swoon and lose all your face-up cards.
When you're playing with five people, it's hard to achieve 20 ankhs. Every time you start to build up a positive balance, the others give you negative ankh symbols. By the time it's your turn again, you could be a lot worse off.
We had fun being creative as we put down cards, talking about the situations involved in putting them down. "You're so depressed about your mom visiting that you write a deep newsgroup post."
Just by luck, I won this game, as I'd also won the first round of Guillotine. I tend to do fairly well when there's a random element involved, as well as some strategy. In fact, in my family, I became something of a legend so that it was a big deal to beat me. For some reason, with purely random games or purely strategic games, I don't do as well.
The AMV Editor, who runs Red Apple Productions, which does the OtakuGeneration podcast, shot some cell-phone video of us describing Gother Than Thou.
You can also see some brief clips of us playing Rock Band at Seesmob. Look for the ones labeled "Rock Band."
We got involved, then, in another activity, as The Video Gamer came looking for someone to play Rock Band. This is a video game which pics up where Guitar Hero left off. Instead of just playing guitar, up to four people can play guitar, bass, drums and vocals in a band with characters you create.
I was game for trying it. The first thing I tried was vocals, since it was something I hadn't done before. That was actually fairly easy. The game shows a visual representation of the relative pitch and length of the notes, along with the lyrics. If you don't know a song, it helps a little bit. Fortunately, they don't remove the original singer's track, so you can hear what it's supposed to sound like if you don't know the song as well.
The Gamer's Fiancee on guitar, The Dormouse on drums and me on vocals
With the songs that I knew extremely well, I did very well. I soon learned that if it was a song I knew, I could get good marks on either the moderate or even the hard level. With songs I didn't know, I was better off with the easy level. The vocals get judged on pitch, and there's more leeway for variation at the easier levels.
I also tried drums for a little bit, and then guitar. Drums were a little difficult at first, because I couldn't get a real sense of where the pads were that I had to hit. I did better with guitar, as long as it was at an easy level, but after a while, it hurt my hand.
The Dormouse on guitar, me on drums, The Court Wizard on vocals
The Gryphon played drums for several songs, and he slowly got better to the point that he was getting good scores. By that point, The Video Editor had managed to figure out the problem with one of the guitars, so we could have both guitar and bass.
The Court Wizard on bass, The Video Editor on Guitar,
The Gryphon on drums and The Dormouse on vocals
Vocals were my favorite, and I traded off with The Court Wizard on vocals. We had a great time. Everyone san along on The Who song, "Won't Get Fooled Again," where we all did really well, too. We really felt like rock stars, briefly. Of course, there was a little crosstalk, as we gave each other tips or even razzed each other. Those who weren't playing watched and sometimes sang along.
After we got good enough, we tried the tour mode. That's where your band can play in different cities and meet challenges. You can achieve goals such as hiring a sound engineer, winning fans, and making money. I kind of wish we'd started it earlier, because just as we started that, and we'd custom-designed our characters, we realized it was late. The Gryphon and I had to get home to our doggie, Una.
We'd had a great time, and we told The White Rabbit we'd be back the next day.
It really is easier to sing songs you know.