Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Play: Holmlsien Romp

 Sherlock Holmes and the Precarious Position by Margaret Raether (Based on the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), Taproot Theatre, through 22 June

The regular theatre seasons are winding down, so, as has happened before, we (the Lovely Bride,  and friends Janice and John, (who best known to the blogosphere as Sacnoth)) set out to Taproot Theatre in Greenwood for a whopping good dose of Sherlock Holmes. The Taproot is a small but feisty acting company is a small but charming theatre. The stage is thrust out, flanked on three sides by audience, with a narrow balcony above with a precipitous view of the stage. The LB notes that despite the close quarters, the seats are still more comfortable than the Arts West.

And the Taproot's performances tends to aim towards the positive, with uplifting stories and classic characters. And by the latter, we're looking at Austin's Pemberley, Wodehouse's Bertie and Jeeves, the occasional Oscar Wilde, and this time out, the Great Detective. 

Holmes has evolved over the years  a width and breadth of his character, and there has been a plethora of portrayals. There have been cerebral Holmes and action-adventure Holmes. There have been young student Holmes and elderly beekeeper Holmes. Functioning sociopaths and drug addicts and cartoon characters. Taproot's current Holmes, played by Calder Jameson Shilling, is a brilliant social maladroit, a positive Homes who worships at the altar of logic and deduction and doesn't care if no one else sees it that way. His Watson, well-played by Nathaniel Tenenbaum, is his social intermedium to the world at large, a good friend who tolerates his companion's eccentricities and explains them to those who might judge Holmes harshly. 

Everyone else - cops, robbers, elderly sisters, clerks, Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade, are played by David Roby and Ariel Rose, who don a multitude of costumes and accents to populate the rest of London orbiting around the binary star that is Holmes and Watson. Ariel Rose in particular shines, swapping off roles easily, effectively, and charmingly. She got the best role of the bunch, and is up to the task.

And yes, this is a comedy, the characters broad and the humor chuckling. Watson narrates exposition to the audience and gets called upon it by the other characters. Holmes finds his bastion of logic under siege as he talks to two elderly sisters. Mrs. Hudson is frustrated by Holmes' behavior and Lestrade is a bit of a glory hound. Add it all up and you have a bit of light, comic theatre.

The stage itself aids for quick changes and locations. The thrust part of the stage is left open, which reduces the amount of blocked shots from the seats (a problem with theater-in-the-roundish). The backdrop rotates its back wall to quickly transform interior scenes and not get into the way of the actors and play. A nice presentation.

The plot may be familiar to Holmes' fans - a pair of elderly women who run a shop for women's apparel are hired to transcribe the encyclopedia, then mysteriously fired (unpaid). There is also a stolen gemstone involved from a separate case. But its not so much the mystery as the delivery. Fast-paced, witty, barreling through the lanes in a delightful take on the characters.

So. It's a rouser, a romp, a bit of light amusement. A gemstone set in a jewel box setting. A worthwhile bit of theatre for the evening, and in the time it has taken for me to write this up, it has extended it's run. Good show. 

More later


Monday, May 06, 2024

Book: Early Stout

 The President Vanishes by Rex Stout (Originally published as Anonymous), Farrar & Reinhart, 1934.

Provenance: Purchase from Half-Price Books, off the shelf. I've pretty much tapped out the original Nero Wolfe series over the years, and have been wandering around the canon's periphery since.

Review: One of the challenges in following a writer for a particular series is that you might not always enjoy their other works as much. I have been a noticeable fan of the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout, but I've found his related Tecumseh Fox mysteries, which had the same level of twists and turns, to be less engaging than the domestic squabbles of corpulent detective Wolfe and his wisecracking leg-man Archie Goodwin. 

And there's a similar challenge with The President Vanishes. This one was written after the first Wolfe mystery, Fer-De-Lance, but was published first. And it much more a political thriller than a mystery. It was initially published anonymously, in part to create the impression that someone with strong political connections penned it, but that pseudonymous fig-leaf did not last long (a 1934 Times review points the finger strongly at Wolfe, and he admitted it a few years after publication). 

Here's the plot - Europe is at war, and some movers and shakers from the business community want in on the racket. They've got Congress, the Press, and a bunch of neo-nazis called the Grey Shirts, under the control of a charismatic leader Lincoln Lee all gunning for war. Against them we have the president, who is pacifistic and doesn't want to send US boys into battle. Then, right before a major vote on war, the president, well, vanishes. Kidnapping is assumed and there is a mad scramble of the various inhabitants of Washington to find him, as the powers-behind-the-throne push for the Vice President to step in or ignite a populist Grey Shirt rebellion. Either way gives them the war they want.

The book scatters its main characters, starting with a lobbyist working with the conspirators, then moving to the Secretary of War, who is in charge of the investigation, and finally settling on Chic Moffat, square-jawed, wise-racking Secret Service agent. He feels like an early draft of Archie Goodwin, but more willing to slug his girlfriend (Alma, a secretary for the First Lady) for her own good.  Stout also gets into the details of the Grey Shirts, their organization, secrets, and Lincoln Lee's patriotism. Lee is a true believer, and gets some dandy speeches, and Stout pulls it off well. 

The plot has its echoes in the past. The year before, a group of businessmen sought to launch a coup against FDR and install retired Major General Smedley Butler as a dictator. Butler dropped a dime on his co-conspirators, and this all came out about the time the book was written. Also, we have the earlier example of Woodrow Wilson being incapacitated, and his Vice President being unwilling to take the office. And we had our home-grown fascist groups, like the Silver Shirts in the Pacific Northwest. So there was some grounding on this.

The nature of the war itself (This was 1934) is left a bit vague. There are battles in Siberia. France is a opponent, and the US leans towards helping Germany, but the nature of the players and causes is left unexplained. Which makes sense because the action is all in Washington DC, and war, any war, will do. 

The book generated a movie of the same name, which also hit in 1934 (Paramount started filming before the book was published). There are a lot of demi-familiar faces from that age of the studio system, including Rosalind Russell in one of her early roles as well as perennial cowboy sidekick Andy Devine. The conflict is simplified a bit, but it pretty much follows the same beats as the book itself.

So how is it? Not bad, showing a lot of Stout's strengths with character and plot. But I'm pleased with the fact that Wolfe and Goodwin took off, and that there was a lot more them in the future.

More later, 

Friday, May 03, 2024

Book: Occupy This Book!

 The Democracy Project: A History, A Crisis, A Movement David Graeber, Spiegel & Grau, 2013

Provenance: This was a gift from the (now former) Housemates, Anne and Sig. I'm an easy person to buy for - just send books. The thing they didn't know when they picked it up was that the late David Graeber was also the co-author of the History of Everything, which I read earlier, but that's just a bit of serendipity.

Review: I finished this books several months ago, but has taken me a while to write this one up. I've been pulling this entry out, writing a few sentences, removing some others, and then putting it aside for awhile. As a result, I've ended up with a big pile of books stacking up behind it. Because this book's given me a lot to think about.

The Occupy Movement was over a decade ago. Its primetime was in 2011-2012, consisted of protests in most major cities around the world, and its tactics were a variant of what the oldest of the old guard would call sit-ins and teach-ins - literally occupying (usually public) space. It was vocal about money in politics and the ongoing bankrupting of the next generation. It didn't have demands so much as questions. The best-known example was in New York City, on Wall Street, where thousands camped out to occupy public space and protest. This did not go over well with the money-makers and their contribution-seeking pols working in the area. 

The late David Graeber was one of the instrumental members of the organization, in addition to the author of later works on Debt and The History of Everything. I can't say he was a leader of the movement, because by definition the movement didn't have leaders in the traditional sense. It was extremely decentralized, to the point of being a democratic anarchy. So David Graeber is kinda a leader - near the center but not at the center.

 And this history is kinda a history. It is more of an overview of the problems that brought about the movement and the challenges of protest. It is, like the movement it describes, not organized along recognizable lines. 

We start at the beginning with how the situation has evolved. Over the years, money has had a greater and greater role in our politics, particularly since the Citizens United decision of 2009, which declared money to be free speech, and we should not keep large organizations from giving large amounts of money to sympathetic candidates (and reaping the rewards). This resulted in a solidification of the Golden Rule - he that has the gold, makes the rules. It has also intensified such things as predatory loans and killer interest. In particular, for young people, was saddling the next generations with unescapable debt. And in this created a large group of people concerned about their future. Cyberpunk in that Corpos are running stuff, but without the cool body mods. 

The restive group found common ground with others and protested across the board. Most of these protests didn't amount to much, but Occupy did, spreading like wildfire through the year and across the globe. Graeber doesn't really offer a solid reason why THIS protest became widespread, other than to note that it doesn't have any success, until it does. He goes into detail on certain elements of the protest, such as the people's microphone - a pass-along method of relaying a speaker without using electronics. and in particular a decentralized hub. It also adamantly resists the idea of creating leaders or spokespeople to channel and massage the message. 

Graeber takes a break from the narration to get into history - that those in charge have always had a fear of the "mob" - defined as large groups of people that are not on your side. In fact, the word "democracy" has been used historically as a term to defame others and their position. Democracy was a dog whistle for mob rule. Only in the past century, particularly in the WWII era, did we start using the term democracy as a positive trait in comparison to authoritarian governments we opposed. And yeah, recently the Washington State GOP has decided to NOT use democracy since they fell that promotes, well, the Democratic Party. 

We get into some nuts and bolts of consensus government, including the problems of dealing with bad actors - those who are just there to oppose, and will never gain consensus. Again, we're seeing that currently over in the Republican Party, which has logjammed itself into inertia. Graeber also gets into the tactics of the authorities, including elevating a "leader" as a single spokesperson, and such stunts as dumping newly-released criminals and homeless into the area, then using that as an excuse to move against the entire group. 

Finally, Graeber argues for a casting off of capitalistic tropes and thought processes that are ingrained in us, and for a redefinition of labor and of communism (which carries the same demerits that democracy once did). He's not sure about where this would go with a movement that does not make direct demands, but would like to check it out. 

Since this book was first published, a lot of water has gone under the gate. BLM, the Capital Hill Occupation here in Seattle, and most recently the Jan 6 Insurrection. In the CHOP, we saw a lot of authoritative behavior that matches up with his descriptions of the anti-Occupy forces, up to the stunt of the authorities abandoning a police station, sending word out the right-wing protesters were going to seize it, then acting against left-wing protesters grabbed it instead. (We think - any evidence that this was NOT the authorities thinking was "accidentally" deleted from their phones). The Jan 6 attack on the capital is interesting in that not only did it see a stronger pushback from authorities, it continues on with publicized arrests and convictions of those present (and seeking justice against those leaders behind the attack). Most leftist protests seem to be responded to on a catch-and-release program (Even currently - a pro-Palestine group blocked traffic to the airport for a couple hours, and resulted in 42 misdemeanor arrests), and there is often little in the way of media follow-up to arrests (In an earlier protest from January that closed I-5, 6 people are going to trial-that showed up today in the paper.).

I'm not sure I agree with everything Graeber puts forward here - he seems to nod positively towards "direct action" and defends actions of the "black block" (violent protesters) as being a tactic. not a particular group (crimes against property, while not as horrible as violence against people, are still crimes). And to be honest, democracies (including republics) can both make horrible choices that rival those of mad kings - Brexit and large chunks of our population voting for Trump both come to mind.

And yet protest does bring change. Getting back to Graeber's original starting occupy, we are (slowly, after all this time) seeing debt forgiveness for a lot of college students. And a lot of folk are tired of big money in politics. Baby steps are still steps.

Interestingly, The Democracy Project does give me a grounding that I only slowly picked up in his The History of Everything - that the way we traditionally deal with things (hierarchical, authoritarian) is not the only way of governance, even if it is the way most of us are dealing with them. And so it's given me a lot to think about. 

More later, 

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Recent Arrivals: Gary Con Edition

Buckle in, chums. This is going to be a long one. I blame Gary Con.

Gary Con itself is a great little convention in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin celebrating the life and works of Gary Gygax. It is ringleadered by Gary's son Luke, his family, and a host of extremely talented people. It is one of the best-organized small conventions I have attended. Right now it is straining at the seams as we had a not-so-small 4000 people at the Grand Geneva (once upon a time the Playboy Resort) at the edge of town. It is a great little con, and it continues to impress. 

A few things on this list showed up since last time, but with the convention a whole slew of new products came in. Part of this is because I was a guest of the convention, and as such had a swag bag of stuff (thanks, folks!). And part of it is because there are good small publishers that I only find at conventions like Gary Con.

Let's do the Gary Con material first.

Gary Con Event Guide #16, Luke Gygax, the Gygax family, and a host of talented people, 56-page saddle-stitched magazine format, 2024.  A gift from a fan (whose name I missed - I was sitting doing autographs, admired the book (which I had not seen up to that point) and he presented me a copy).  I offer this as exhibit A for the organizational skills behind Gary Con. It is an impressive volume in heavy stock, with ALL the guests of honor, maps of the Grand Geneva done in 1st Edition style, adverts for various sponsors, and a cover by Erol Otus. I remain impressed.

Expert Level Dice Set, Gaxx Worx, Seven polyhedral dice (well five polyhedrals and two percentage dice, to be accurate), plus a white crayon, swag bag at Gary Con. I'll be honest, this really, really made me smile, and I am SO torn between the temptation of leaving it intact in the packaging or taking it out and PLAYING with the dice. Part of that delight, for the younger folk here, is that early on, we didn't ink the dice, but instead provided a white crayon for the players to fill in the numbers themselves. It's a heady whiff of nostalgia. Some folk were selling these off Ebay after the event, but you're patient, you probably can get them for a more reasonable price here.

Gary Con DM Screen, four-panel plasticized DM Screen with paper inserts, swag bag, I assume this is another Gaxx Worx project, but to be honest I don't have anything on the item to indicate an owner. The panels have cartoons on them involving Demogorgon, an Aboloth, and (I think) Acerak on them. The interior (removable) sheets have useful information from 5E. It reminds me that I shlep my ancient and decaying AD&D 1e DM Screen around because it contains n all the to-hit and saving throw charts from the era. This, I'll admit, I like.

D&D 50th Anniversary Placard by Tim "Ollie" Cahoon. TSR Veteran Ollie Calhoun had these printed (3D Plastic) up and was passing them out at the TSR reunion party (which he also organized). I just wanted to show it off and say thank you to Ollie - great work!

Echoes from Fomalhaut by Gabor Lux and others, 4 issues, First Hungarian D20 Society, Various page length (40-54 pages), 'Zine  digest format, 2018-2022. Purchased from the Black Blade booth at Gary Con (as an aside, the Black Blade is exactly the sort of place I frequent at conventions - carrying stuff I can't find at the Friendly Local Shop).  I like 'zines, They tend to be handmade, personal takes on the chosen gaming system. This collection comes from the First Hungarian D20 Society, translated into English. And these 'zines are pretty cool - each one contains a couple dungeons, some additional articles, and a separate B/W map. Very artisanal - the maps are hand-drawn. I picked up issues 1-3 and issue 10, and will seek to fill out the rest of the collection at future cons.

Cosmology of Role-Playing Games by Alyssa Faden, Cave Geek Art and Frog God Games 24" by 36" poster. Purchased at the Frog God Games booth. OK, in the picture above, it is UNDERNEATH everything else, but you can see it in all its glory here. Faden has researched 1300-some RPGS and laid them out in a timeline with TSR as the big bang in the center, and the other games spreading out to the right and left over time. The end collections are further gathered by publisher (The White Wolf wing or the West End arm of the galaxy). There was a larger version hanging on the wall at Gary Con, which quickly became the "Where's Waldo" experience for all the game designers. 

I Choose to Rise by Dr. Artika Tyner and Merle M. Rasmussen, 52-card deck, Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute, 2022, gift from the designer. Long ago and far away Merle created Top Secret for TSR, and recently has been more active in game design (with, among other things, a new version of Top Secret). I Choose to Rise is a point-scoring card game based around Black history, and the Rise in the title reflect the suits (Respect, Integrity, Self-Awareness, and Engagement). The cards themselves feature famous Black leaders, athletes, and entertainers. 

DM Offerings - Ran a few games at Gary Con, and some of the players brought small gifts for the DM. These are appreciated (thank you) but definitely not required. Andy was in two games, and brought dice each time (including some nice ruby jeweled dice), while Sypros gave me a small bag containing a Waterdhavian coin and a Magic Card for a character I created that I never knew had been turned into a card (Jodah, Archmage Eternal). The card's flavor text a pull from one of my books. Thank you both.

Preludes to Adventure: In the Days of Our Youth by Jon Cook, Renaissance Tactical Studies, 24 page squarebound, 2022, Prologue to the Story: Lambethfield Faire by Jon Cook, Renaissance Tactical Studies, 36-pages, 2023, Gift from the Author. Another gift to the DM, but this one has more text. This is what the kids today would call "Session Zero" stuff - the adventures you have before you start adventuring. Days of Our Youth provide four intros to 1 or 2 characters each, while Lambethfield Faire holds some springboards for adventure. The text is straightforward, the format is open, and while the project uses art in the public domain, it then credits the original sources. That's nice.

Shadowdark by Kelsey Dione,  The Arcane Library 326-page digest-sized hardback, 2023, Black Blade Booth at Gary Con. Longtime TSR Vet Steve Winter clued me in on this, and I saw a LOT of this being played at Gary Con itself. I'm not surprised. Imagine taking 5th Edition and doing an OSR version of it. Four classes, three alignments, three type of armor. Add some modern tweaks - Ancestries instead of Races (but the standard Elf-Dwarf-Halfling mix is there). Advantages and Disadvantages. And some interesting wrinkles - Initiative starts with high roll and goes clockwise. A good chunk of the book is monster stats and random encounter tables. The book itself is clear and heavy - it's the one with the weird beholder on the cover in the picture - not putting the name on the cover is a thing these days. Picked it up with a Shadowdark Zine Cursed Scroll (Also Kelsey Dione, The Arcane Library, 64-page digest), which in the tradition of early D&D zines has more classes, spells, and an adventure. 

Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars Quick Start Rules and Adventure by Derek Stoelting, Elf Lair Games, 32-page saddle-stitched booklet, 2019, Either in the swag bag or from the designer of the Night Shift game, I'm really not certain at this point. This is not only an introduction to the world of Night Shift (Which feels very Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Forever Knight in tone) but for the OGRES system (Oldschool Generic Roleplaying Engine System) which is close enough to D&D that it includes an OGL statement. Classes include thing like Sage, Veteran, and Chosen One. Looks interesting.

Wildspace Magazine: Rock of Bral, David "Big Mac" Shepheard, Editor and a variety of authors, The Piazza,  2024(?), 64-page perfect bound,  Free magazine but presented to me by Lee at one of my signings. This is pretty impressive - heavy stock, full color, cover that echoes the Spelljammer module covers of yore. The insides echo with classic magazine fare - short fiction, locations, NPCs, and an adventure. Neat stuff, and great to see that people are still creating and developing for this corner of fantasy reality.

So, what about things that were NOT Gary Con related?

Candela Obscura by Spenser Starke and Rowan Hall, Darrington Press/Illuminated Worlds, 204 page hardbound, 2023, Purchase from MOX Boarding House in Bellevue. This is part of a Critical Role series of live-plays (which I haven't seen). and was curious about what sort of system they would create free of the shackles of traditional D&D-style fantasy. I need to do more reading, but it does feel more like a descendent of Blades in the Dark, with clocks and roles, but some wrinkles like dice tricks (if a die is Gilded or not). The concept is a small group of professional paranormal investigators in a fantasy turn-of-the-twentieth city investigating the paranormal. Sort of a heroic horror genre. I'd want to read a bit more of it (There's a lot of unique terms to wrap my brain around) before taking it out for a spin.

Dr. Grordbort's Scientific Adventure Violence, by T.G. Crackle, Brian Saliba, and Zach Theiler, Exalted Funeral/Stardog Limited Partnership, 332-page hardback, 2024, Kickstarter. This is a Space-1889ish version of 5E based on the art and designs of Greg Broadmore of Weta Workshop. Broadmore has a lot of weapons, ships and other steampunk/raypunk designs, and they built a campaign setting around them. They addressed the inherent colonialism of the era by identifying the colonial leaders as being asshats, a variation of the "Are we the baddies?" trope, and while not pushing the PCs towards being rebels, they definitely give a head-nod to it. OK, that's cool. More irritating is the fact that there is no character sheet in the book, even though credit is given to the character sheet designer and have made some mods to how being on a different planet affects your 5E stats (It is the PDF material, but that's not helpful to people picking it up at the local hobby shop). A separate booklet, repeating all the information on how devices malfunctions, came with the Kickstarter, but that's missing a character sheet as well.

Aquellaire: The Demonic Medieval Role-Playing Game by Ricard Ibanez, translated by Cabell Venable and Lester Smith, 568-page hardback, Nocturnal Media, 2015, purchased at Apparition Books, Renton. I found this massive tome at Apparition Books in Renton, which is a small one-person operation with an curated collection heavily into the occult and mythology. The owner has recently expanded to the tune of adding several additional shelves on top of his original collection, and has started carrying used RPGs as well. Anyway, Aquellaire is a translated  Spanish RPG that set in the Iberian peninsula in the 14th and 15th centuries, before its unification into what we think of as Spain. Players are demon-hunters, and the huge book is filled with data on demons, spells, and the social world of pre-Empiric Spain. Physically, it is a solid book, though my ancient eyes could do without the Italicized/Bold text peppered through the text, and the Gothic section headers. 

The Blessed and the Blasphemous by Francis Acquarone, Patrick Chandler, DanBass, Jason Sheets, and Jesse Covner, 340 page hardback, Sons of the Singularity, 2023, Kickstarter. Another mammoth text, this one wrapped around a single adventure for Call of Cthulhu from Chaosium. You actually have to do some digging in the text to figure out exactly what is going on - Several groups in pre-WWII Morocco are trying to bring back a Mythos entity. Your job is to stop them. A lot on the cultural and political situation of the region, much of it repeated elsewhere in sidebars. Kickstarter came with a Boxed Campaign Dossier Set that includes handouts, character sheet, a GM Screen, and a "Clue board" for organizing the play.

And as I was finishing this up a large package arrived from the North Texas RPG Con. I've agreed to be one of their judges for the Three Castles Award this year. So the next writeup should not be until June, when the convention occurs. So look out for that one.

More later, 

Monday, April 22, 2024

Theatre: The Comedy of Hamlet

 Fat Ham by James Ijames, Directed by Timothy McCuen Piggee, Seattle Rep through 12 May.

In a bit of happenstance, this is ALSO a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, winning the year before English did. So I did a little research, to discover HOW one wins a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The award is a juried award, which means that five grey eminences (one academic and four critics) get to make the call based on the year's submitted output (usually New York City based). Their choice can be overruled by the larger Pulitzer Prize committee at Columbia. but usually there is agreement (but there have been some notable exceptions). Just so you know.

Fat Ham falls into that category of "Shakespeare Adjacent" plays - Hamlet set behind around a BBQ grill in a black family's suburban home. Juicy (Taj E.M. Burroughs) is our Hamlet. His dad (Reginald Andre Jackson) just died in prison and his mom (Dedra D. Woods) just married his uncle (also Reginald Andre Jackson). Dad's ghost shows up to declare that Uncle Rev is responsible for his death, and demands the son avenge the father.

Familiar stuff, right? Well, Juicy/Hamlet isn't sure about all this avenging stuff. In fact, Juicy is not sure about a lot of things - he's an outsider, a loner, a young gay man in hostile territory. His family loves him but thinks he's soft, effeminate, and too smart for his own good. So he's trying to navigate a dysfunctional family that includes his dead (and abusive) father and his angry (and abusive) step-dad.

And tonally the production is all over the map, skittering from August Wilson levels of subliminal violence to BET Sitcom, then dipping into Shakespeare's original work, then tapping on the fourth wall and finally breaking it entirely. Juicy has his strange interludes, and brings some of the rest of his fam in with him. They make their case to the audience. Its an interesting mix, and in the end, it works.

What also works is giving more for the supporting cast things to work with. The original Shakespeare was all about Hamlet, and how he manipulates the situation around the others. Fat Ham's family all has their own stories, their own histories. We actually get into Tedra/Gertrude's thought processes on marrying her husband's brother. Opal/Ophelia (Aishe Keita) is much more than a tangential love interest that dies in a pond. Tio/Horatio (Chip Sherman) is an overblown, too-loud sidekick, and pulls it off incredibly well, as does Semaj Miller, who is transformative as the jarhead Larry/Laertes. Even Felicia V. Loud, who is pitched as Rabby/Polonius in this to-do, graduates from a stock character on Sanford & Son to a real person.

And the stagecraft for the most of the play actually behaves itself, until it finally cuts the surly bounds of gravity and takes flight itself, moving from earthbound to, well, luminescent. 

So, Pulitzer prize-winner. Yeah, I can see it, not for how it hews to the original material, but how it veers away and eventually discards its predecessor. I'll be honest - I liked English better, but this one, over the course of the performance, really won me over. 

More later, 


Sunday, April 21, 2024

Political Desk: Hyperlocal

So, this one is only for people in Kent School District No. 415 who read this blog. Both of you.

Proposition1 Capital Projects and Technology Levy. Vote YES.

And yeah, you've seen something like this before. It was a bond issue that needed 60% approval (and didn't get it), and then another levy which only needed 50% (and didn't get it). And this one has some modifications to the pitch that reduced it a bit more. It is still pushing replacing the HVACs, roofs, boilers, and putting artificial turf on a couple sports fields. The No faction is upset about the listed priorities, the idea that even the priorities they like can be removed, and that a bunch of politicians are pushing the issue. It is the only thing on the ballot, so the pro and anti messages are in the same envelope with the ballot itself.

The whole thing bothers me in a couple ways that have no bearing on the moneys raised (This blog supported the previous attempts as well). Kent City Council asked the legislature for the ability to raise the sales tax to pay for more police officers (that request failed to get out of committee). But they did approve a raise for the Mayor without a vote. Now, both are worthy causes, but it sort of grinds my gears the we can do that, but whenever we want to push education (which is mandated by our state constitution) we have to get out the begging bowl and stand at the SR 167 exits cadging for spare change.

And this election is sort of out there in the middle of nowhere. I don't support the sudden move to gather all the elections together in one place, but the idea that we need to make this election now (budget timing) is frustrating in that there is nothing else going on. And this sort of thing will happen more often as we move elected offices to even-years only.

But that's just me. I feel like I am an old man yelling at the cloud. But let's do this one before some roofs start caving in around here. Dig out you ballot, Kenters (Kentarians? Kentfolk?) and vote YES

More later, 

[Update: And the Levy loses again, 57-43%, which is more than last time. Yeah, part of it is that it is by its lonesome on the ballot, and older voters tend to be more represented in the sample as a result. But I think that if they drop the artificial sports fields, they could have notched it up to being competitive]

Friday, April 19, 2024

Life in the Time of the Virus: The Great Forgetting

I probably should rethink the title of this series. It is now ALWAYS the time of the Virus, as we wait for it to mutate once more, or for something EVEN WORSE to show up on the horizon. It's not going away.
New York Restaurant, Edward Hopper, 1922

But in the meantime, we are in the throes of the Great Forgetting. Having passed through the worst of times, we are trying to forget they even happened. The pandemic that crushed our medical infrastructure and cost a million lives in the US alone has subdued to endemic levels. Maybe even just demic levels. And so we kinda forget it was only yesterday.

At first I thought it was just me. I'm at the age where I think of the 90s as only five years ago or so, and my entire computer game career to be some sort of side gig I took between writing campaign settings for RPGs. And that I have to THINK about things to remember that 2004 was twenty years ago.

But it's just not me. We seem as a people to have "moved on" and dumped what collective experiences we had down the memory hole. Everything since the millennium has been just a couple years ago. We seem to be stuck in neutral, and part of it is throwing out stuff we don't want to remember. Like the pandemic. Facebook sends the occasional reminder from four years past, and there is the much-rarer news report of someone flipping out about someone else wearing a mask, but it has all been pushed to the sidelines. There is more talk about people working from home than WHY they were working from home in the first place.

And yeah, we've done it before. In the wake of the misnamed Spanish Flu (which is not truly Spanish, but got its start in the trenches of WWI), we wanted to pass on that ever happening. There were occasional references in later years to the Great Influenza, but by the time I started learning history, it was a footnote. We were so damned determined to return to normalcy (heck, politicians even ran on the platform in the 1920's), that we pretty much learned nothing, and reacted in surprise when other flus and diseases rolled through like summer storms.

In part my concern is that I'm personally moving into convention season, in a year when D&D turns 50 and I'm traveling more than normal. I returned from Gary Con (great convention in Lake Geneva, WI) with a killer cold that literally knocked me out for a couple days (and I am still gravel-voiced for a while). It was the first time since I had COVID that I was seriously ill. A colleague returned from the con with a nasty case of the flu and exhaustion, and another colleague tested positive from COVID. So as we're moving around more, it is getting more likely we'll pick something up.

So that's where we are. Challenges still lurk out there. Caution recommended but not expected.  We've kinda forgotten.

More later,