Friday, February 29, 2008


As a method of explaining the universe, conspiracy theory falls more to the belief/religion end of the scale than the knowledge/science end. The unprovable existence of a clique involved in world domination is more strongly related to the ideas of phlogiston and aether - substances that exist because they MUST exist in order to make the theory work.

That is not so say that conspiracies do not exist. Any gathering of individuals for a particular end can be said to be a conspiracy, particularly if that gathering is aimed at excluding others that might disagree. Price-fixing corporations, wheeling-dealing politicans, and bomb-planting terrorists all engage in conspiracies. But these conspiracies have a single goal (keep profits high, push a political agenda, blow up a building). The conspiracies of conspiracy theory exist as a self-sustaining creation with a broad range of ongoing goals, generally operating under the title "global domination". The Elders of Zion, The Illuminati, Vampires, and Doctor Evil are all examples of this type of conspiracy. Conspiracy exists as a verb, not a noun - it is something people are doing, not a structure that does many things.

All of which gets me to the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuits. A friend send me this link the other day, seeking to "prove" the conspiracy of the Jesuits by publishing a list of influential graduates from Marquette, a college in Milwaukee. I'm sorry, a JESUIT college, which is churning out influential JESUITs who are therefore part of the JESUIT conspiracy.

On that list are some people I know Carrie Bebris (author of the Jane Austin Detective novel Pride and Prescience), James Lowder (author and comic book editor - more on that last one later), and John Rateliff, who known in these pages as Sacnoth. John is that most dangerous of Jesuits, a Southern Presbyterian, who claims that he went to Marquette only for its Tolkien collection, but sounds much TOO EASY, so he MUST be part of the conspiracy.

I understand conspiracists, I really do. It is easier to believe in some world-controlling malicious organization (secret, of course) responsible for all the worlds' ills. It beats the heck out of the alternative - that we are hurtling randomly through an uncaring universe with no control and no ultimate destiny. We can take solace in the fact that even an EVIL plan is still a plan, and the existence of a greater force, be it god or conspiracy, lifts the burden of responsibility and action from one's own shoulders, and places it in a fictious entity.

And the thing is, I believe more in god than I do in conspiracies like the Jesuits. God's got more options.

More later,

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sign of the Apocalypse?

So last week, driving back from the International District under the tale end of the lunar eclipse, the Lovely Bride and I passed this sign (or rather, one similar to it):

Billboard (ganked from the Stranger, by the way)

The sign reads "When you cast your vote, remember September 11, 2001 - Paid for by Concerned Citizens for a Better America".

And this was weird, seeing such a strange, intensely political billboard pop up in that part of Seattle, with months to go BEFORE November. It was as if Red State Sam had pulled himself loose of his flood-stained Chehalis field and strode north, intent on blowing his FEMA check on releasing his venom to a broader market.

And indeed, I WILL be thinking about Sept 11 when I cast my vote. I will be thinking about how miserable and flailing our reaction has been to it, how we did little to those directly involved while using it as a cudgel to inflict damage on people living in this country, how the families of the victims are still waiting for some sense of closure, and how, after seven years, we still haven't caught the guy who ordered up the attack (Seriously, I saw the comment today - "It will take Obama to get Osama" - and it may be true).

So it's a god-awful weird billboard. And its supposed sponsors, these "Concerned Citizens for a Better America" are vapor-ware, showing up only on the net from people writing about the weird billboards (Which apparently now are spreading). The name of the CCBA sounds like something out a comic book, where you check the org chart and discover the CEO is COBRA Commander.

There could be a number of reasons for these latest blots on the landscape:

1) It is exactly what it looks like - some right-wing group decided to blow the money they would normally spend on public-access TV to take its message to a new audience. If so, why choose Seattle, where the politics shifts to the left and ability to mock is widespread?

2) It is an agent provocateur move, where you put up the boards, see them mocked, legislated against, or best of all, vandalized, and use the event to blacken the "durn librals" who don't really believe in free speech and hate the troops (the right loves the troops - its soldiers that they apparently can't stand).

3) It's an agent provocateur move from the left, seeking the galvanize the rest of the world by reminding us that the right is a bunch of incompetent yahoos. Indeed, if the message was against a Democrat dark blue as opposed to GOP Severe Threat Red, it could be easily interpreted as being from left of center, reminding us of the gross incompetence and venality of the current administration (if that's the case - um, Mission Accomplished!)

4) It's an art stunt. Wouldn't be the first. Back before 2001 turned toxic on us, a guerrilla art group set down a black monolith on Kite Hill. It is just seeking to provoke a response. Maybe sales for ad space are low enough they could afford it (by the way, the boards are Clear Channel, which is known for its own righty agenda, so I don't think so).

5) It is viral marketing. Charge a bunch of people up, then release a new movie or TV show or maybe radio. I'm thinking the last, if anything - Clear Channel is also big in radio, and in particular radio talk. If this is the case, they are playing with fire, but it can pay off.

I'm actually hoping for 5, though 1 seems to be the most sadly logical. If some righty group wants to shoot itself in the foot, be my guest. If nothing else it shows that sometimes it makes sense to get a real marketing guy on the staff before you release the campaign.

More later,

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ya know ...

Dressing up in a headwrap makes you a Muslim the same way dressing up in a flight suit makes you a war hero.

Just sayin'

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And Furthermore ...

Guild Wars just hit the five million mark in sales.

As the front page of our site says "Best ... Fans ... Ever".

More later,

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gaming Desk

I've been busy, but there have been a lot of things happening in the gaming world that I want to mention.

I got a printed copy of Six Arabian Nights from the Open Design Project, and I want to say that it is sweet, and was a great opportunity to get back into the distinctive mood of Arabian Adventures.

New Crobozon, the setting for China Mieville's novels (Perdido Street Station and others), is going to be an RPG from Adamant. The setting has previously appeared in a legendary issue of DRAGON, mostly written by ... Open Game Design's Wolfgang Baur (Yeah, gaming is a small world).

Old superhero RPG warhorse Champions goes to a 6th edition, but more importantly, serves as the base for the new Cryptic post-City of Heroes Online game.

Fantasy Flight Games has picked up the rights to the Games Workshops RPGs and boardgames. Does this mean another new edition of Talisman?

I mentioned this before, but the last game by Paul Randles is out, and I wanted to plug it without all the emo whining around it.

And in the meantime I've been playing:
- World of Warcraft with my fellow designers (but we're on the side of diminishing returns at this point).
- Ikariam, A free web-based game in the style of Civilization that is the current flavor du jour among the designers.
- Pendragon (Sacnoth is running, and I'm running Sir Blais, who is Gawain's number one uber-fan, it turns out).
- 4E, and I would like to confess to being the mysterious "M" in Steve Winter's write-ups about his halfling, Biggie Smalls, on the WotC Blogs.
- Lego Star Wars with the Lovely Bride - the most use we've gotten from the X-Box in years. We just finished Empire Strikes Back.

And that's it for the moment. So, yeah, I haven't had as much time to blog as I'd like.

More later,

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Under a Bloodpenny Moon

The skies cleared this evening and we got a good view of the lunar eclipse, turning the lunar orb a rusty shade as the sky-serpent took a bite out it. We had to miss the bulk of it for tai chi, but our chi must have been mighty, for when we got out, the moon had mostly returned to normal.

Nothing else much to say, other than you should really read this story from Stan! Brown about how Fidel Castro bought Stan's dad a hamburger. Kinda.

More later,

Monday, February 18, 2008

Primary Colors

So we have an election tomorrow, and I don’t know what to make of it.

It’s the Washington State Primary, and while there are, in some areas, other ballot measures on the list worth paying attention to, it is a bit of a wash for most of us.

It’s a bit of a wash because the Democrats already have done their delegate work with a caucus, so this is pretty much a beauty contest for them – nice, and a good way of taking the temperature of a slightly different branch of the electorate, but not really that important. It will either confirm the strong Obama support (which will be ignored in the media) or confirm the strong Clinton organizational skills (which will be covered extensively).

And on the GOP side – well, it’s a freaking disaster over there. Half the delegates were to be decided by THEIR caucuses, and half by the primary. And we HAVE a primary because years ago the far right-wing of the GOP seized controls of the caucuses and nominated someone who was, to the mainstream, unelectable (Pat Robertson, to be exact). This is why we have a primary system.

But this year, at the state GOP caucuses, the confrontation was between the anointed front-runner (McCain)and another unelectable representative of the social conservatives (Mike Huckabee). So their solution (and I wish was making this up) was to count only 87% of the votes before declaring McCain the winner.

Yeah, this is the same GOP (heck, the same individuals) who flipped out over which ballots should and should not be counted in the last governor’s race.

Word from someone in the GOP caucus was that they were as worried about Huckabee as by the Libertarian wing supporting Ron Paul - In particular RuPaul supporters that would (steady yourself for the news) LIE about their preferences in order to become delegates. Word was that most of them were too inexperienced (well, the word used was "dumb") to pull it off.

And now both sides in the primary are concerned about “mischief makers” from the other parties crossing over to vote for the weaker candidate on the other side (The Dems voting GOP would choose Huckabee, while the Republicans voting Democrat would choose – um, Mike Gravel, I guess).

So in addition to all the other vote-suppressors, the voters have to sign a loyalty oath as to party affiliation before voting, which as far as I can tell, merely puts you on that party’s mailing list (and yeah, I get a lot from the Dems ever since caucusing). And a good chunk of the voters are pretty peeved about this as well, and failing to declare an oath (and their votes are not counted - thanks for playing!)

So do I have advice in this? Not really. If you’ve got a local vote (and good luck figuring that out), go vote. If you’re die-hard Dem or Rep, go support your choice (I'm going to vote, but then, I'm ALREADY on the mailing lists). Don't make mischief, since it seems that they are more afraid from their own party than from the other side. And don’t look for anything particularly elegant or enlightening from this one.

More later,

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oh, Crumbs!

So when you're bummed out and a little bit grouchy (see previous post), it usually is NOT a good idea to spend time with someone more whacked out than yourself. I mean, you start off feeling "Man, my problems don't seem TOO bad in comparison", but really, after a while you get into a competition of "Oh yeah? Well my life is MUCH suckier than yours!" Despite this, I went off to the Robert Crumb exhibition at the Frye, which, like most things at the Frye, I recommend to people.

And I have a whole bunch of things in my head as a result, some of them about the art itself (which was a good collection of his work, most of it either directly or indirectly from his underground comics), but a lot about tangential stuff, like the exhibit itself, its sister exhibit at the museum, the museum, its SISTER museum, and inspirations. So this entry is a bit of a jumble of thoughts, but tune in anyway:

- The exhibit consisted of, either directly or indirectly, his comic work (originals, printed copies, expansions, etc...) which was, to be polite - mature in nature. Heck, its pornographic in places, beyond mere smutty and into the disturbing. I'm always wondering how much of it is Crumb working through his own angsts, mocking them, or celebrating them (and as far as I can tell from the works, he's still thinking about that as well).

- One common theme in Crumb's work is suspicion and distrust of dominant culture and mores, and in particular, when the underground culture breaks out into the dominant culture. Does that reflect a change in the culture, or merely the dominant culture strip-mining the genres for the illusion of the new hotness?

- One thing the exhibit sets out to do and does very well is showing that, for his supposed misanthropic nature, Crumb worked best when playing with others - with his brother, with the band of other underground creators in SF, with his wife, with Harvey Pekar, etc ... He's no slouch on his own, but the exhibit makes the point that he plays well in a band (and there's a photo of him playing his band).

- There's a film loop running of some home movie from the SF days showing the other members of the Zap! Comics gang - Spain and Cooper and Gilbert Shelton and Harvey Kurtzman, the last looking like the old man of the bunch but still just a pup. And the scary thing is, it brings back memories of the parties at Zeb Cook's place in Lake Geneva, when I was thin and everyone was oh-so-young and their hair had not turned gray.

- And speaking of feeling one's age, one of the exhibits is a Big Brother and the Holding Company album cover, which has its twin sitting underneath the turntable at the house (note to the young - back in the dawn of time, we these things called "Stereo Systems", and we had to buy VINYL albums, and these albums had COVERS).

- Even making me feel even older - One of the more recent Crumb works was faces painted on wooden spools. I looked at them for five minutes before I realized - when was the last time I saw a wooden spool? Its all plastic now. Hasn't the wooden sewing spool joined the boot stirrup and the typewriter eraser in the department of forgotten artifacts?

- And one more strange thing - you can call on your cell phone for commentary. No, really. They had a number to call that let you menu through the exhibits to get Crumb's comments on the work (Where did "Meatball" come from?). So you have museum exhibit where everyone is encouraged to have their cell phones out. Strange.

- As a result of the subject matter (and stuff like the cell phones), the mob in the museum is different - younger, with a greater number of kilts, top hats, piercings, and other bits of Seattle fringe that have been on the downside for a while. And that's a success for the exhibit - it gets people into it that normally would not show up for, say, "Watercolors of the American West 1889-1895".

-Coupled with this exhibit is another exhibit, "Dreaming the Emerald City", which shows bits of the original Frye and Henry collections. Both the Fryes and the Henrys were early Seattle wealthy, art boosters and collectors, and both went on to found museums (the free Frye and the UofW Henry). And while the Fryes went for more representational and to my mind, popular work, the Henry collection started to stray towards modernism early, and that shows in their descendant institutions.

-I've raved about the Frye a lot on these pages, and may not have given the Henry a fair shake. Its been years since I last went, but at the time, exhibits were closed and it was filled in "installations" as opposed to art - You know, an entire room empty except for a single podium, upon which is placed a piece of plate block glass and a Sweet-Tart, labled "Untitled, 1997". But the presence of the Crumb exhibit is not something I would expect at the Henry - its more accessible.

- Oh, and the crowds are slow moving from piece to piece, since it is a comic book art, and people want to read the comics. That's another question - are you there for the art or the story? And by being in a museum, does that mean you that the story is part of the art? Discuss.

- And one wall is given up to Crumb's own love of old blues music, and following the career of one bluesman from his life up to where he impacts on a group of nerdy white boys (including Crumb). And I look at his identification with the older blues artists, and think about folk identifying with the young (oh-so-young) comic artists in the film. And maybe some kids today identifying with the old gaming gang of ancient TSR.

So as you can see, I had a good day yesterday. Yeah, all these questions DO make it a good day for me, and keep me thinking and on my toes. If you're in Seattle and capable of handling seriously twisted artwork, this is a good show to catch. And its free (though they have a contribution bin on the way out - you should check that out as well).

More later,

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Week of Teh Suck™

Wow. As good as my vacation week was, with all of its travel karma falling perfectly into place, the week following turned into a pustulant, oozing boil of suckiness. Nothing horrible, but just putting me into that "One more thing goes wrong and I scream" sort of mode.

Some of it is work related - a potential project failed to come to fruition, a rearrangement of positions at the office, a project that was done and approved is suddenly not approved, something I was going to promote here suddenly CAN'T be promoted until things get sewn up.

And some of it is the rest of the world - GenCon is sued by Lucasfilm. GenCon declares bankruptcy. The Tolkien estate is suing New Line, who despite the success of the Lord of the Rings movies, hasn't paid Tolkien's people royalties. Paul Randles' last game is seeing publication, which should be a good thing, but it is a reminder that Paul, a great game designer, isn't with us anymore.

And it seems that a large crop of my friends are suffering from personal illness, family troubles, work disasters, or a combination of all three.

And my wrist still aches from a slide down a hillside in Hawaii, and I've got a nasty zit. Acne, at my age. Blech!

The thing is, nothing is absolutely, life-re-examiningly horrible - its just that it has all hit at the same time, a triple-high-point in the biorhthyms of Suck. I'm just going to stand and marvel at its strange timing, its ruthless precision. I feel simultaneously cranky and a little ashamed of being so cranky about such a plethora of small matters.

So I think I'll go to an art exhibit of Bob Crumb's work, just so I can see what real crankiness is all about.

More later,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Comics: Steve Gerber

Mark Evanier reports the passing of Steve Gerber, this past Sunday, of pulmonary fibrosis. Like many creatives, Gerber has worn a number of hats over the years, but a lot of us (including me) will remember him for his creation, Howard the Duck.

Howard the Duck was a strange little comic at a strange time, and was responsible in part for me getting back into comic books. I had read comics as a kid - Sad Sack and Legion of Super Heroes and Jimmy Olsen, but had weaned away, switching to Mad Magazine and other things. But Howard, along with the Star Wars comic (by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin) got me back into the fold. They were "non-standard" comics, in that they were not about superheroes per se. Howard, in particular, was strange - a non-superpowered duck, trapped in a world he never made, switching through genres regularly, grouchy and acerbic at a time that Garfield was just starting to investigate the deeper meaning of lasagna, Howard was a strange bird in the mainstream comic world. He arrived at the close of the great underground boom and just as the alternates, in the form of Elfquest and Cerebus, were getting their start. And, miracle of miracles, it was from Marvel, a major company, and helped establish the company as more than just superheroes.

Yes, there was the movie, which Gerber had little to do with and which proved that George Lucas may not be the genius we thought he was. But Howard himself was unique, and functioned best in Gerber's hands (it was a personal book, and whenever other writers approached it things were - different, and sometimes difficult). Steve Gerber did a LOT more (including quirky superheroes with the Defenders and even story editing and a story for the D&D cartoon show), but Howard is his lasting, personal testament.

Good job, sir.

More later,

Monday, February 11, 2008

Performances: One-Two Punch

By The Waters Of Babylon by Robert Shenkkan, Directed by Richard Sneyd, Seattle REP, through 2 March.

How Theater Failed America by Mike Daisey, Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory, Feb 8, 9, and 10.

Through strange turns and schedules that are nearly too arcane to describe, the Lovely Bride and I attended two plays yesterday, separated by a few miles, a generation, a pizza and a glass of wine. And what was wrong with the first play was addressed by the other, which leaves me with a strange feeling of both frustration and hope.

By The Waters of Babylon was a well-produced, tidy little package of guaranteed theater-grade-product, shaped into a comfortable form with a two-person cast, a neat little set design that captures Texas suburbia, and a compressed plot, all fashioned into a 2-hour block that left one with the feeling that one had experienced one's monthly allowance of art, cut into a meal-sized mental serving and not bad but nothing to rave about. As theater, it was about as threatening and edgy as a plastic spork.

The plot is ... not much. Neurotic Austin widow, victim of spousal abuse, hires Cuban gardener to clear out the back yard, discovers him to be a writer who escaped the island at the price of his ability to write. The two reach out, pull back, argue, make mojitos, have sex, break down and finally break out - she learns to no longer to fear the sea and he regains his muse.

And the acting wasn't bad - in fact it was pretty good, the script allowing juicy chunks of self-exploratory exposition for the actors to dive in on, only afterwards reminding us that there was someone else in the room when they were done revealing themselves (they were doing, in effect, monologues, each with the other character present). Suzanne Bouchard catches that Austin twang perfectly, and Armando DurĂ¡n as Arturo grows through his role from monosyllabic gardener to spirit guide. But in the end, the lights come up and we all leave. A good meal, but nothing worth enthusing about. Nothing that makes me want to run out into the street and drag others in to witness it.

Indeed, our discussion afterwards was chiefly about time compression in the play, and how things had to happen in a particular clockwork order to make it all fit together, and why the gun had to be there. The LB was particularly disappointed - for a show about people connecting, it failed to connect ultimately with its audience. If it was a TV show, it would be a "bottle show" - one that doesn't require additional sets or locations that can be filmed on the cheap.

With all this hanging over our heads, Banquo's Ghost at the theatre, we headed to Cap Hill and Mike Daisey, who've I've talking about before(here, here,and here, among other places). The rest of the world is discovering him, but as far as Seattle is concerned, we're latecomers, and in the lobby I kept hearing people challenging each other as to when they first attended a Daisey monologue.

And the drill is familiar with this one-man Repertory. Table. Glass of water. Neat pile of yellow legal sheets. Lights go down. Daisey enters, takes a long sip of water (he will not finish the glass), the lights come up, and he starts talking and you are immediately swept into his world. The comparison with the stilted, fumbling opening of Babylon is marked.

And the subject is theater, or rather American Repertory Theater, and why it sucks - a counterpoint to the Country Kitchen Buffet of a play from the afternoon. The basic theory offered is that regional theater sucks is that, well, because they found a self-sustaining model that would not permit grand successes, but would prevent horrible failures. In doing so they ultimately abandoned the repertory model, the friendly faces that would show up in new roles, and with it the sense of continuity and community through the season, and in doing so allowed themselves to be increasingly held hostage to an older, greyer, wealthier, and ever-increasingly smaller crowd.

And in writing the above paragraph, I see a lot of what happens in my own world, in publishing of both books and games.

It is cheaper to keep on three marketing guys to feed the beast of promotion that to keep on three actors full-time, so the actors are all piece-work, freelancers, migrants that come in for the show, then leave for the next. Suzanne Bouchard, as far as I can tell, an exception, like Lawrence Ballard, who seems to have disappeared, but many are just in for the show and then gone. Those we do see repeatedly form a tenuous thread, and there are fewer all the time. A running gag the Lovely Bride and I have engaged in is determining how much of the cast for any production have an episode of "Law and Order" in their program bios.

But back the heart of the matter, this feels a lot like the world of RPGs and shared-world novels. The hands-on creators are strangers in the office section of the business where the decisions of what and where and how are being made. There was a bit of golden age (as all golden ages, recognized only in retrospect) at TSR where the upper management was caught up in a series of internal conflicts and external lawsuits, which allowed the inmates a little more leeway in running the asylum, resulting in Dragonlance, Marvel Super Heroes, and Forgotten Realms. Then the world returned to normal and we saw an ever-increasing drive to freelance, with all the challenges that this posed.

And this is not to say that the commodification of theater happens in a vacuum. The audience itself - older, greyer, wanting what it wants, is equally culpable in creating this rest state. When a production wanders too far off the reservation, it gets hustled back into the safe, risk-intolerant boundaries. The Lovely Bride still grouses about the "puppet shows" the Rep experimented with a while back, where the living actors themselves were outsourced to bits of wood and felt. There are theater grognards just as there are gaming grognards, and even though they are getting older and fewer, they just as intolerant of the threat of the difference.

And yeah, the two crowds were very different. I was one of the younger faces in the afternoon show, one of the older ones in the evening show. And it is Daisey' hope that the next gen finds its own level in the theater, which may survive whatever extinction event claims the older, more comfortable Reps and established theaters. But success, regardless of type or generation, holds within itself the poison needle of safety, and while theater may continue to transform, it only does so with the passing of its more secure predecessors.

So I've had a lot to think about, but not necessarily in the way the REP would be happy with. But I do want to go out into the streets, and drag people back into the darkness of theater, and say "Yeah, there's hope."

More later,

Sunday, February 10, 2008


And by "minor upgrades" I meant to say "going to Hawaii for a week".

The Lovely Bride and I spent the past week on Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu, celebrating our 25th anniversary. So for the past week, we have been out of touch for the Super Bowl, Fat Tuesday, Super Tuesday (OK, who was the bright soul who put BOTH of these on the same day), Ash Wednesday, Chinese New Year, and the Washington State Caucuses (though numerous other local bloggers have reported in here and here - short form - it was a joyous zoo).

I will report I experienced my favorite Super Bowl of all time this past week, walking along the Waikiki beach with the LB in the tropical sunshine, getting reports second-hand from the shouts and cries of anguish from the various beachfront bars. While pleased with the final result, I didn't feel I missed anything.

The football-ness of the beach continued through the week, since the Pro Bowl, the game-after-the-big-game was in Honolulu, and several of the players and sportscasters were staying at the hotel (Hilton Hawaiian Resort). From our corner room, nearest the beach (we were upgraded as a result of pure travel karma), you could see players moving like whale sharks around the grounds, surrounded by swarms of feeder fish, scavengers, and remoras. We spent a large amount of time up on the lanai/balconies, descending for swimming, dining, siteseeing, and other necessities.

We were stalked while we were there by a lion dance group, celebrating Chinese New Years, accompanied by drums and firecrackers. They always appeared when we did not have a camera, which was interesting, but each time we stopped and watched.

The news from the Main came in through a time warp, most of the US's day gone before we got to breakfast. We heard of the Super Tuesday results and the national politics and it all felt like distant thunder, though there is a rising feeling on the island that their caucuses are going to have some import, and they are scrambling accordingly.

(As an aside, we caught a cab on the way back from the airport here, and the cabbie had attended the Washington State caucuses and was still pumped up about it. I have never had a cabbie in Seattle talk politics with such passion, but it was clear that enthusiasm was contagious)

Also distant was the weather on the other islands. The main island was slammed with heavy rains, as was Kauai. There was a flash flood west of Honolulu that took out part of the H1 highway. Yet on the lee side of Oahu, the worst we got was a light misting in the mid afternoon, coupled with rainbows towards the mountain.

We napped, we walked, and the we read (still working my way through the latest Tom Pynchon book - Kate dispatched a Salzi, a Gibson, and part of a Grafton). We hiked to nearby waterfalls and climbed Diamond Head. We snorkled at Hanauma bay (and for the first time I had prescription goggles so I could SEE clearly). We went to the Arizona Memorial and took the "Explorer's tour" through the turrets and engine rooms of the USS Missouri (VERY worth it). We walked the beach. And we ate. A lot (which probably should be another entry).

But it was great, and relaxing, and a great week of total, complete downtime. And I'll talk more about it later. In the meantime, I'm just going to relax from all this relaxation.

More later,

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Writer's Desk

Grubb Street will be shut down for the next week, during which I will be doing some minor upgrades, putting in new curbs, and repainting the hydrants. But before I set up the barricades, here are a few things I want to mention:

The Guild Wars Bonus Mission Pack is now available in the online store. This was a "special" project that we did that turns Guild Wars into an RPG as opposed to MMORPG. It consists of four adventures, each one allowing you play one of the heroes of Tyria - Gwen, Turai Ossa, Saul, and Togo, at a key moment of history. From a design end, we used this project as a test bed to bend the Guild Wars engine in ways that it had never been bent before. If you're a present or former player of Guild Wars, you might want to check it out - the trailer is here.

Six Arabian Nights has been released by Wolf Baur's Open Design project to his sponsors, and the POD (Print on Demand) version will be up in a week or so. I have a contribution in this one, and I would tell you more about it, but it would just spoil it. Wolf will be making an appearance in the Second Life universe, at Wordsmith Hall, on the 3rd of this month. Check out the details here.

I have finished two issues of a comic book for Devil's Due. I will speak more of it when I can (which should be soon). In writing the story, I got to go back to an old stomping ground for the first time in many years.

Our resident Tolkien scholar, John Rateliff, has an webcast interview up on the National Review website. Yeah, it makes my head spin, too. Check it out here.

Finally, a quick update on the Writer's Strike. Things are pretty quiet right now, since both sides are in "informal talks", which means progress may or may not be made. The producers managed to hammer out a tenative deal with the Director's Guild, a deal which the Screen Actors Guild just hates, but it is showing some process. In the meantime, an ever-growing number of independent producers have accepted the WGA deal and are back in production. These currently include:
The Film Department
Intermedia (Gangs of New York, The Wedding Planner)
RKO Productions Inc
Lionsgate (3:10 to Yuma)
Marvel Studios (Bringing the mighty Marvel Universe to the screen)
Yari Film Group
The Weinstein Company (Grindhouse, Rambo)
United Artists (Tom Cruise incarnation)
Sidney Kimmel Entertainment)
Spyglass Entertainment (Bruce Almighty, Balls of Fury, Underdog)
Media Rights Capital
Jackson Bites (New media)
Mandate Films
Worldwide Pants (Letterman)

This list is interesting, no only because it is getting so long, but because some of these guys, like Spyglasss and Weinstein) are distributed by the Bigs, while others, like UA are flat-out owned by the large production houses that have been dragging their feet. What gives?

And in my office, there have been three occasions when a coworker has quoted me how good Letterman has been. There have been no occasions of how good non-writer Leno has been. The rest of the design department doesn't care, since they spend their late-nights playing World of Warcraft.

More later (like in about a week),

Friday, February 01, 2008

Jeff Grubb Day

Well, this is just ducky.

Just as I'm clearing out the deadwood in my rant files, confident that no one is really reading this stuff, old friend Steven Schend goes and recommends me to a host of strangers over at Jim Hines blog So now I feel obligated to provide, you know, CONTENT.

So how about the story of Jeff Grubb Day, which he mentions in his post?

In a nutshell, Jeff Grubb Day is about identity theft, in the same way that Christmas is about breaking and entering (Well, what do YOU call it when a fat guy gains access to your living room via the chimney?). Here's the story:

Many years ago, at TSR, we got a phone call from a gaming convention in Texas. A young lady was trying to convince the con that she (and her husband) were Jeff Grubb. No, really. They told the convention committee that Jeff Grubb was house name that TSR had created, and that there have been a number of Jeff Grubbs, and she and her husband were the PREVIOUS Jeff Grubb. There was NEW Jeff Grubb, so they couldn't say what Jeff Grubb was working on, but they were an OLD Jeff Grubb. And apparently they were pretty convincing to the con committee.

The front desk thought this was amusing, and sent the call up to me, and I patiently explained that I was Jeff Grubb, that I have always BEEN Jeff Grubb, and that there were no previous Jeff Grubbs writing for the company (though I can see the point, since I really enjoyed working on a number of games and worlds, and was generating a lot of text in those days). The convention thanked me very much, told me they would talk to the woman and tell her not to pretend to be me, and that was the end of it.

Well, not quite. Anne Brown, one of our editors over the cube wall, heard all this, and decided that it would be fun if EVERYONE was Jeff Grubb. So the next Monday, everyone had name tags that said "Hi, I'm JEFF GRUBB". Everyone greeted each other as Jeff Grubb. The meeting notes for the day said "Attending: Jeff Grubb, Jeff Grubb, Jeff Grubb, and Jeff Grubb. Jeff Grubb suggested a new product line for the Forgotten Realms, but was hooted down by Jeff Grubb, who said that it was one of Jeff Grubb's worst ideas ever." Even TSR's vice presidents got into the act, wearing name tags on the undersides of their ties and flashing people in the halls (yeah, our vice presidents had a sense of humor).

It was all in fun, but the reason it is burned in Steven Schend's memory forever, was that this was Steven's first day of work at TSR. And EVERYONE he was introduced to was named Jeff Grubb. Worse yet, he just moved to Lake Geneva, and discovered that his next-door neighbor was ... the real Jeff Grubb! Its a wonder he came back to work the next day.

And that's the tale of Jeff Grubb day - a bit of corporate foolishness, when my minions, for one brief, shining moment, became legion.

Oh, and my name tag on Jeff Grubb day? I read "Hi, I'm Roger Moore." But that's a tale for another day.

More later,