Monday, October 21, 2019

My (Updated) Schedule in LUCCA

There have been a couple tweaks, so I am reposting it so people don't have to slog through the local politics section. I'm (still) going to be a guest at the Lucca Comics and Games convention at the end of this month. I'm really looking forward to it. Lucca is a medieval walled city NE of Pisa, and every year they close the city gates to traffic and turn the center of the city into a huge comic book and gaming convention. My presence there has been arranged by the fine folks at Mondiversi, and I will be spending time at the their booth. Also, I have written a new tournament adventure specifically for this event, and will be running it there:

Here's my REVISED current schedule:

Wednesday, 30 October
10:00 - 11:00        Opening breakfast with Level UP! fans
14:00 - 18:00        D&D Tournament opening session [Games Pavilion]
18:15 - 19:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth CAR 129

Thursday, 31 October
10:00 - 13:00        Prototype Review Corner [Educational Pavilion]
14:00 - 14:45        Meet & Great at Mondiversi Booth
15:00 - 18:00        Gaming Session [Games Pavililion]
19:30  - ?              Ceremony Night and Gala Dinner [Giglio Opera House]

Friday, 1 November
10:00 - 11:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth        
11:30 - 13:30        Worldbuilding 101 educational workshop [Educational Pavillion]

Saturday, 2 November
10:00 - 10:45         Panel meeting on the History of TSR [Ingillis Hall]
11:00 - 12:00         Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth

Sunday, 3 November
12:00 - 15:00         Game Session [Games Pavillion]
15:30 - 16:30         Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth
18:30 - 19:00         Award Ceremony [Ingellis Hall]
22:30                     Closing Dinner

If you happen to be at Lucca Comics and Games, or by chance just happen to be in Lucca that week, come by and say hi!

More later,

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Political Desk - Master Control

The political desk opens early and is a tad more concise this year, since I am crushing on a deadline and going to be otherwise occupied for a while (like, going to LUCCA). . Long-term readers, know the drill by now; Here are the ever-shrinking Seattle Times' endorsements. Here are aging pot-heads over at the Stranger. And here are the ones from the Progressive Voter's Guide. Beyond that, you're on your own.

Long-time readers also know my biases.. I tend to lean left, pro workers, pro good government. I tend to view with a jaundiced eye pro-business candidates, people endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, NRA, the former Soviet Union, shadow groups with acronym names and mysterious funders, and other folk that do not seem to have my interests at heart.

As always, I try to comment on races that I actually vote on, and my list comes from VoteWA web site.

State Measures
Whenever someone says that one man cannot effect the world, show them this ballot. One of the initiatives and ALL the advisory votes come from the tireless efforts of initiative maven Tim Eyeman, who has discovered how to monetize the process. This is by coming up with Magic Pony initiatives, in which wealthy backers pitch in money for things which sound good (hey, we're lowering your car tabs!) but are really sucky (Hey, we have no money to repair the roads! Sorry!). None of these initiatives have been fully implemented, being generally unconstitutional, and his one half-victory has been a pain in the butt ever since.

And I may rant further in the middle of this, but let's take a look.

    State of Washington, Referendum Measure No. 88

I want to say that we've come a long way in the cause of equality, and we don't need stuff like affirmative action anymore. Sadly, I am wrong. Measures like REF-88 provide the opportunity for equality in government hiring, but do not deal with other underlying causes. Still, we need to have the opportunities addressed as a first step. Opponents have out yard signs declaring "Equality Under the Law", which in their case means "Nobody but ME gets a break around here." So yeah, APPROVE this sucker.

    State of Washington, Initiative Measure No. 976

This is the Magic Pony I was talking about above. Who couldn't hate lowering your car tabs? Heck, this woulds reduce my personal costs, since they expect Electrics to pay for road repairs that usually come from gas taxes. Of course, this means we throw another roadblock in the way of solving our horrible traffic situation by starving the beast. I have no problem with actually paying for services rendered. Sadly, the best I can do (and you can do) is vote NO on this steaming pile.

      All the god-forsaken advisory votes..

OK, I'm going to get ranty on these..

This is the Eyeman legacy. There was a initiative that the state government would have to get voter approval on every new tax, tax increase, rate change, bake sale, and anything else that could be construed as the government raising money to actually provide services. Part of the initiative was declared unconstitutional, but a fragment remained that results in this legislative crud on the ballot.

At the same time,t these are Advisory Votes - they don't mean squat. There is no imperative behind these to actually overturn the measures they discuss. They are no more than expensive push polls to allow anti-gov types to thump their chests about how their hard-earned dollars are being wasted giving  food and shelter to orphans. 

Here's an example: The text from Advisory Vote No. 20 says:

The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, an additional wage premium for long-term care services, costing an indeterminate amount in its first ten years, for government spending. 

 Man, look at those scare words. Imposed - they voted on this, which was their job. without a vote of the people, which is ALSO their job. An additional wage premium for long-term care service - which, after a lot of digging, means that they created a trust that employees can pay into to specifically handle long-term care. Costing an indeterminate amount in its first ten years - because they don't know how successful this voluntary program would be. For government spending, as in, spending on this particular matter.

Almost reasonable when you scrape all the crud off.

This type of BS is rife throughout these entire BS advisory. Hey, go look at them yourself, because somewhere in there is a real tax that affects YOU. But I say vote MAINTAINED on all of them. And remember to thank Tim Eyeman for this scary, no-effect push poll in the middle of your ballot. 

    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 20 Second Substitute House Bill 1087
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 21 Engrossed Third Substitute House Bill 1324
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 22 Substitute House Bill 1652
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 23 Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1873
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 24 Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2158
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 25 Substitute House Bill 2167
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 26 Substitute Senate Bill 5581
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 27 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5993
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 28 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5997
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 29 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5998
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 30 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6004
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 31 Engrossed Senate Bill 6016

    State of Washington, Senate Joint Resolution No. 8200 -

This one is weird, because it proposes writing an amendment to the state constitution to add "catastrophic incidents" to the list of situations where the legislature can act decisively when need. OK, it's a proposal to make a proposal. I'd like to know more about the nature of such Catastrophic Incidents that would be covers. Rainier going off? Sure. Tim Eyeman finally passing a clean initiative that stands up in court? OK, we're going with Approved on this.

County Measures
King County
    Proposition No. 1 Medic One – Emergency Medical Services Replacement of Existing Levy

Hey, here's a real tax bill you can really vote on and has some affect on the outside world. This is replacing an existing levy that's being retired.  So, yeah, I'm voting YES on this one.

Actual Candidates

King County, Director of Elections
    Julie Wise - Incumbent, Dem, actually has done a good job.
    Mark Greene - Challenger, Rep, runs for various offices every cycle.

Let's go with Julie Wise.

The judges I'm voting on are running unopposed. OK, then. Moving on..

Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Sam Cho
    Grant Degginger
 I supposed Sam Cho in the primary, and have had no reason to change my mind.
Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Fred Felleman
    Garth Jacobson
I supported Fred Felleman in the primary, and haven't seen anything to make me pull that support. 

Now we are down in the weeds. Really local politics. And I will be honest, on brief inspection none of these people raise my hackles or send off warning shots either as to their professionalism, their intentions, or their morality. Good job, Primaries! So I make recommendations confident in the fact that even if the other person wins, we are OK. Here are my calls in boldface, but don't let that stop you from checking out web sites, mailers, and other endorsements. 

City
City of Kent, Council Position No. 1 short and full term nonpartisan office
    Marli Larimer
    Todd Minor
City of Kent, Council Position No. 3 nonpartisan office
    Les Thomas
    Hira Singh Bhullar
City of Kent, Council Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Bill Boyce
    Mizan Rahman
City of Kent, Council Position No. 7 short and full term nonpartisan office
    Awale A. Farah
    Zandria Michaud.
School
Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Michele Greenwood Bettinger
    David Canterbury

So here's a conflict of interest - Michele Greenwood Bettinger is former WotC (Wizards of the Coast), so I have a strong lean in for her. So I will cheerfully admit that she worked for the same company I worked for, long ago and far away, and recommend her in any event. I won't even make a snarky remark about HR (wait, I think I just did).

And finally, we are in the weeds. These are the small positions that people only pay attention at elections and when there is a scandal (in the case of the Hospital District, that would be any day with a "y" in it - it is picking up the slack for the Port of Seattle).

Special Purpose District
Soos Creek Water and Sewer District, Commissioner Position No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Logan K. Wallace
    Alan Eades
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 2 unexpired 2-year term nonpartisan office
    Jim Griggs
    Anab Abdi
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 3 nonpartisan office
    Barbara J. Drennen
    Janet Evans
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Carol Barber
    Tamara J. Sleeter

That is it for this installment. Sorry not to break it up into bite-sized bits this time out, but, as things happen, I'm going to be busy for a while (did I mention I was going to LUCCA?).

More later,
 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

My schedule in LUCCA

So, I'm going to be a guest at the Lucca Comics and Games convention at the end of this month. I'm really looking forward to it. Lucca is a medieval walled city NE of Pisa, and every year they close the city gates to traffic and turn the center of the city into a huge comic book and gaming convention. My presence there has been arranged by the fine folks at Mondiversi, and I will be spending time at the their booth. Also, I have written a new tournament adventure specifically for this event, and will be running it there:

Here's my current schedule (all times Central European Time):

Wednesday, 30 October
10:00 - 11:00        Opening breakfast with Level UP! fans
13:00 - 17:00        D&D Tournament opening session [Games Pavilion]
17:15 - 18:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth

Thursday, 31 October
12:00 - 13:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth
15:00 - 18:00        Gaming Session [Games Pavililion]
19:30  - ?              Ceremony Night and Gala Dinner [Giglio Opera House]

Friday, 1 November
10:00 - 11:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth        
11:30 - 13:00        Worldbuilding 101 educational workshop [Educational Pavillion]

Saturday, 2 November
10:00 - 10:45         Panel meeting on the History of TSR [Ingillis Hall]
11:00 - 12:00         Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth
14:00 - 17:00         Prototype Review Corner [Educational Pavilion]

Sunday, 3 November
12:00 - 15:00         Game Session [Games Pavillion]
15:30 - 16:30         Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth
18:30 - 19:00         Award Ceremony [Ingellis Hall]

If you happen to be at Lucca Comics and Games, or by chance just happen to be in Lucca that week, come by and say hi!

More later,

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Theatre - Decent

Indecent by Paula Vogel, Directed by Sheila Daniels, Seattle REP, through 26 October

The question comes up (and yes, it comes up) - why do you write so much about plays? I mean, you (meaning me, Jeff Grubb) are a game designer and an author. Yet your blog is filled with reviews of local productions, along with local politics and stuff about collectable quarters. What gives?

Well, the big reason is that plays have a shelf life, unlike books or games or movies. I can talk about those weeks (if not years) after they have been released, and they will not have much effect. If I speak lovingly about a book, its not as if that book is gone if you have any interest in it.

Plays, though, are live, and they have a timer on it. Wait too long and they will have moved on. They are perishable. They have a "best buy" date. This applies to politics as well - after a certain point, no manner of commendation or warning will have much of an effect (Collectable quarters have this as well to a lesser degree - I need to write up one year's before the next year shows up).

Just wanted to share that. When/If I get more time, you may see more gaming stuff. But it is an uphill fight right now.

Anyway, Indecent.

The Rep leads off its season with a powerful, moving, amazing production of Paula Vogel's Indecent. This was down at Ashland, but we put it off because we knew it was going to be at the Rep (with a different cast and diractior) later in the year. A pity - I would have wanted to compare the performances.

The play is about the Jewish playwright Sholem Asch and his play, God of Vengeance. Written originally in Yiddish, the play was moving and important and offensive all at once. God of Vengeance is about a Jewish brothel owner whose daughter falls in love with one of the prostitutes. Their house is literally built on the backs of the women who work in the basement. The father commissions a Torah for the house for the respectability it brings and to gain a good husband for his daughter, who rejects him and his life. The play was scandalous, particularly among the Jewish community, for its negative portrayal of its Jewish characters (why give Anti-Semites any more ammunition?), as well as the desecration of the Torah (the father casts it away at the play's conclusion) and the open lesbian love scenes between the two women. Asch felt it was honest - many of his colleagues, as well as the religious community, considered it indecent and recommended he burn it.

Indecent's main character is Lemmi (Bradford Farwell), who is a tailor from the countryside who attends the first salon reading of the play, and is thunderstruck by its brilliance. He becomes Asch's stage manager on the production as it is a success across Europe. Then they come to America where the wheels come off. the production. The English translation of the  play does well in the Village, but when it moves uptown to the Apollo, it runs afoul of the forces of decency. Fueled in part by anti-Semitism (though the main witness against the play is a rabbi), the entire company is found guilty of obscenity. They return to Europe to continue producing the play and are swallowed eventually by the Holocaust.

And it is brilliant, incredibly well-written, well-produced, and well-acted. The actors literally rise from the ashes in the opening moments to tell the stories. Lemmi is our touchstone, but most of the cast take on multiple roles - Antoine Yared and Andi Alhadeff for the young insgenues,  Cheyenne Casebeir and Nathaniel Tenenbaum for the middle-ages parts, and Ron Orbach and Julie Briskman as the elders (in their wisdom and their folly). And they are all brilliant. Casebeir and Briskman are long-time members of various Rep productions, but mostly comedies, and they get in their dramatic chops in here. Nathaneil Tenebaum is particularly sparkling in all his roles, but they are a strong company, and sell the idea of both Lemmi's story and convince us they are a coherent company of supportive actors.

And let me mention the musicians, because what would a Yiddish play be without musicians? Alexander Sovronsky on the Violin, Kate Olson of the Clarinet, and Jamie Machler on the accordion. They come in for small roles as well, but their music keeps the entire proceedings moving along and creating the time of the play, from the turn of the century to up to 1950s. The music is incredibly well-integrated.

And the pacing - this is a bustling play, the characters almost always in motion, which calls out the quiet moments and strengthens them. There is continual activity as the company is moving props, changing wardrobe, and catching the flavor of a small theater group where everyone does everything.

Let me go onto the stagecraft itself, which sometimes overwhelms the productions, or creates a desolate landscape that the actors cannot fill. Not so, here. The use of titles projected on the proscenium and elsewhere contributes to the sense of motion to the play, as well as giving us visual clues as the cast moves between Yiddish and other languages (in Yiddish, they have no accents).

I tend to be suspicious about plays about plays - they feel a bit too inside the beltway, too much of an in-joke. Playwrights like to write them, actors like to be in them, audiences want to come to the theater to see people working behind the scenes of the show. Many of these are comedies. But few hit the nail so directly on the head as Indecent. This is a high initial bar, and I am very, very impressed by the production.

In short (I know, too late), go see it.

More later.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Theatre - Mini-Reviews from Ashland

A couple weeks back, the Lovely Bride and I spent a week in Ashland, Oregon. Ashland is this charming little town just north of the California border that is famous for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs most of the year and brings in tons of tourists, most of them, its seems, being retired teachers. Ashland reminds me very much of Lake Geneva, WI, but instead of a lake, it has the Bard as a draw.

Not all plays at Ashland are Shakespeare. They do all sorts of flavors of Shakespeare, from cannonical reads to switch-ups in gender roles and time period. They also do what I call "Shakespeare-adjacent" plays, which have some connection with the Bard of Avon, or modernize his words but keep his plot, or use Shakespeare as a springboard (Think "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead" - which does assume some knowledge of "Hamlet".). And there is a big-ticket non-Shakespearean item to bring crowds (this year it was "Hairspray" - we passed on that).

And then there are the indies - plays that are not necessarily part of canon, or canon-related, or big ticket. They're just good plays. This is like hanging out in the Indy game area at PAX - good stuff, sometimes unevrn, but things you're not going to see elsewhere. Sometimes they travel - coming up to the REP, but sometimes they are only to be seen there.

This year, we shied away from the Shakespeares themselves - The comedies being offered were not the Lovely Bride's favorites, and I am still so overwhelmed by the Mac Beth (Shakespeare adjacent) from a few years back that another production of Macbeth would not work for me. We end up with five, two of which were OK, and three of which were really good that it makes my own writing feeling wanting. Here's the list:

Comedia of Errors; This is Shakespeare-adjacent - a bi-lingual version of Comedy of Errors, where Sparta and Ephesus are transformed into the US and Mexico. The original is as close to a sit-com as you get with Shakespeare - short, broad, ridiculous in places (two sets of identical twins are separated at birth, both having the same names, and when one set ends up in the town where the other set lives, wackiness ensues). The overall change into the serious nature of immigration and ICE really casts a realistic and hard pall on the proceedings, and while all the Spanish lines get translated (which is good, and gives the gringo audience the feeling of exclusion that Spanish-speakers often face), it runs up against the broad humor of the commedia dell'arte style.

How to Catch Creation: One of the best of the show, it is about creativity, intentions, and responsibility. The creation may be starting a family or art or writing. All the characters are creators in some fashion, and it deals with pitfalls and relationships, pulling all the characters together. The actors are top-notch and the stagecraft moves us between locations and times wonderfully. Go see it if it shows up around you.

Cambodian Rock Band: Another really good one, dealing with the heartache and tragedy of the Cambodian Genocide. The play is incredibly well set-up. A young woman in modern Cambodia, working on case against the director of a prison camp during the genocide, gets a visit from her dad - who is very dad-like, filled with old grudges and pushy parentalism. But it turns out the story is about Dad, who was once a singer in a rock band and a prisoner in that camp. The director of the camp narrates much of the story with a bouncy, Loki-like flair, and only slowly drops the mask to reveal what a monster he is. It is ultimately the Dad's story, yet after all the suffering, redeems itself with its music. A lot of Dengue Fever, and at the end, the world's oldest mosh pit (in which the LB accidentally body-checked the actor playing the prison-camp director).

Between Two Knees is, well, uncomfortable. Mostly Native American cast talking about the American genocide (yeah, it's been that sort of set of plays this year) of its native population, cast in the framework of a cheesy Indian show. Sort of like most of the skits in the third half-hour of SNL in the 80s. Cringeworthy as it hits a lot of truths and takes some cheap shots (Goes after Indian Schools but targeting only the Catholic versions, which is not quite punching down - mostly punching ANOTHER group that is an easy target). Really redeemed itself after the intermission, as it moved from the history lesson to a more living memory (and the Pine Ridge Reservation Protests of the 80s), But there were more empty seats after the intermission.

Mother Road: Imagine Grapes of Wrath run in reverse. The last of the Joads, the ones that stayed behind in Oklahoma, goes looking for the last of the California Joads, to leave his farm to. He finds that the California branch of the family went to Mexico, and the last survivor is Hispanic. So they drive back Route 66 in a fever dream of distrust, old friends, old grudges, and the racial nature of America. Amazingly good performances, from almost the same cast as did the Comedia of Errors. It captured the episodic nature of On the Road and Grapes of Wrath, and was breathtaking in a lot of ways.

And wrapped around this was a lot of good food and sitting on the patio outside the bed and breakfast with the local cat and way too many fearless deer that invade the town and eat the local gardens. A good trip, and now I am ready for Fall.

More later,



Monday, September 02, 2019

Reading the Realms

One of the advantages of blogging as opposed to living solely on the Facebooks is that Facebook doesn't really have a sense of permanence. You put something up, and within a day it is buried beneath a huge pile of other posts.

So, here's a note that I did an interview for the Reading the Realms podcast.  Max and Paula have been reading the entirety of the Forgotten Realms novels, and have had ancient authors such as Jim Lowder and myself in for interviews to talk about our work. True old-school goodness viewed through a modern lens.

Here's the link for the entirety of podcasts on Soundcloud as well.

More later,

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Political Desk: Primary Results

Usually I wait a couple days before leaping into this, but things are surprisingly stable, and it looks like we're avoiding the traditional "hanging fire" categories where the vote totals may swap. This is the primary, so measures which are voted on are resolved and the top two candidates go on.

Next door, in Seattle, things have been interesting, with progressives/liberals/socialists taking their various seats and the Chamber-of-Commerce-purchased candidates behind, but not so far behind that the Chamber (and its big business allies) will not feel bad about spending even more money on the general election. The Seattle Times worked hard to bury the lede with the headline "Three incumbents survive brutal primary", which is misleading on the facts that a) there were only three incumbents running in the first place and b) they beat their opponents in every race, and in fact c) Times-backed candidates tended to be in the second-place category.

Interpreting primary results, particularly is the current environment, is tea-leaf-reading, since the results depend on how many people vote (a reasonable but not exciting 25% or so), the demographics (the majority are my age (old people), how big the win is (50%+ is generally good, regardless of other situations, and how many opponents there were (which in some cases, were a LOT - the Mayorship of Renton had four candidates - two got 27%, two got around 25%, which means that 50% of the voters would be looking for a new candidate).

So, anyway, here are the results for MY ballot, which are much less exciting (Leading candidate first).

King County Proposition No. 1 Parks, Recreation, Trails, and Open Space Levy - APPROVED by a sizable margin.

Port of Seattle, Position No. 2 -  Sam Cho vs Grant Degginger

Port of Seattle, Position NO. 5. Fred Felleman with 71% of the vote over Garth Jacobson

City of Kent Council Positions -
 Position 1: Incumbent Marli Larimer vs. Todd Minor
Position 3: Incumbent Les Thomas vs. Hira Singh Bhullar
Position 7: Awale A. Farah vs. Zandria Michaud.

Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority Proposition No. 1 Levy for Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services - APPROVED.

Soos Creak Water and Sew District Commissioner Position No. 2 - Logan K. Wallace vs. Incumbent Alan Eades. Wallace got 49% of the vote, which merits re-evaluation.

Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner Position No. 5 - Carol Barber vs. incumbent Tamara Sleeter.

And that's where we all until the fall. And to all the citizens of Seattle, I'm sorry about the all the mailers and cold-calls you're going to get.

More later,