Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Political Desk: Judges

So what's the big deal about the primary, you may ask? We winnow out most of the indy candidates, small parties, and protest candidates within a party and end up with a Democrat and a Republican for November, right? We're just going to get another shot at voting later on.

Well, no.

Here's how it works for our Judges in this state, who are elected as opposed to appointed. If any candidate gets more than 50% in the primary, they win. So our judge positions are determined by the smaller number of voters who show up for the primary (the state is calling it at about 35% of the voting population).

So, in a two-person race, it will be decided right now. In a three-person race, it may be decided now or in November, but the incumbent has some serious advantages.

Oh, and for most of the races, only one person is running. That incredible anti-incumbent throw-the-dastards out wave that is coming out of our heartland? Doesn't apply when it comes to judges.

So the only incumbent judges that are running with any opposition are for our two State Supreme Court positions, No. 1 and No. 6. I've been writing this blog for long enough that I have the entries from when these current incumbents ran the last time, and to be frank, I wasn't very impressed at the time. That judgment carries through to the present day.

At Position 1 we have incumbent Jim Johnson challenged by Stan Rumbaugh. Johnson was heavily funded by the BIAW (Building Industry Association of Washington, a regular player in our local elections), and it turns out that (surprise) he tends to rule in BIAW's favor on things (as opposed to, say, recusing himself). And, while speaking out against "Judicial Activism" when he was running, it turns out that (surprise again), he engages in that very activism and (hold on to your hats) is very conservative in that activism (I know, you're simply shocked).

Rumbaugh, for his part, is an attorney from Tacoma with experience before the Supreme court (about the same as Johnson had in 2004). Both men get good marks from the Municipal League and King County Bar Association. Johnson has the edge both in cash and in getting endorsements from the hinterland newspapers, where his conservatism plays well. I'm going to recommend Stan Rumbaugh for the office, since the BIAW doesn't really deserve their own private Supreme Court Judge.

Over in Position No. 6, we have a similar situation, though this one is more Libertarian in nature as opposed to corporate-owned conservative. Sanders pops up in the news every so often for actions off the bench (Like yelling "Tyrant" at a US Attorney General in regards to Bush policies). He faces a strong contender with Charlie Wiggins, who comes off a more mainstream conservative but has an impressive list of credentials and support from the Muni League and various legal groups. A third candidate, Bryan Cushcoff, Presiding Superior Court Judge for Pierce County, entered late and has spent no money, and may be present only to prevent Sanders from getting in on the primary and forcing it to a run-off.

Me? I'm a bit conflicted. I can point to Sanders making principled stands and I can point at decisions that just make me wince. In the end, I prefer sound judgment over stunts. Take a good look at Charlie Wiggins.

More later,

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Political Desk: Sources

So I'm going to make recommendations for the upcoming primary, but I'm not the only one. Other forces, large and small, are making their voices known. Here's a selection of them, and I always recommend checking out a number of sites and opinions when making your own decisions.

The Seattle Times, the sole surviving daily paper in Seattle, has been a bit conflicted since the demise of its more liberal sister, the Post-Intelligencer. Usually the Times can be trusted to weigh both sides of the issues fairly and carefully, and then select the one that fits the conservative corporate nature of its editorial page. It is usually very kind to local conservatives, and is a good launching point for that well-time hit job on an opponent. This year they are pitching a "reset government" platform, which translates into "Get rid of anyone who won't help us get rid of the Estate Tax". Their endorsements are summarized here Fortunately, their political blog gets more into the nuts and bolts of reporting and acts saner than their editorial page.

The Stranger was once a collection of young hipsters and skatepunks with unsupervised access to a printing facility, but the near-demise of its weekly rival, the Seattle Weekly, has actually transformed it into a paper that pays attention to politics. Unabashedly liberal and frequently obscene (the election board recommendation are NSFW, I'm just telling you right now), the Stranger actually puts together good political reporting, particularly on their blog. Their big problem is that they believe that King County runs from Belltown in the north to Georgetown in the south, and the rest of us in the exurbs couldn't be bothered with what they think. Pity, that.

The Seattle Weekly was once the haven of leftie politics and old hippies, but then got sold to a conservative franchise out of Arizona that figured that young people not only don't vote, but they shouldn't be encouraged to do so. Oddly, over the past year or so, their bottom-diving readership numbers have caused them to actually talk about Seattle politics in their pages. Their blog, the Daily Weekly, has increased its posting over the past year and actually has somethings worth saying.

Now let's go to the purely online options - Crosscut is where all the old hippies went when the Weekly cleaned house. You'd think this outtfit would be screaming lib, but this lot pretty much longs for the glory days when Boeing was going out of business and threatening to take Puget Sound with it. Interesting for frequent columns by Knute Berger saying how good things used to be and by Republican former chairman Chris Vance who usually points out that the only way for Democrats to succeed is to act more like Republicans. Don't know if they will endorse but I find their Lesser Seattle myopia intriguing.

Publicola is actually the more liberal operation among the blogs, and even that is a misnomer. It is probably more of a urban operation, strong on bikes and rapid transit issues. Still, they are wired in at a time when a lot of places are not. Their endorsements are grouped here, but would benefit from having a page to themselves. Really, Publicola, would it be that hard to pull off? The greybeards at the Times manage it, and they're still trying to figure out how html code works.

The late Seattle Post-Intelligencer ("It's in the PI") has not one but two successor states online. The official PI site is notable only for the fact that it still runs Dave Horsey cartoons, which means nudity about once every two weeks. Strange Bedfellows is their political blog. The Post-Globe consists of employees that the PI let go when they went online, and is more liberal. Neither has the throw-weight of even the Daily Weekly. Sadly. I don't know if either is going to do endorsements.

Moving over to non-partisan web sights, Vote For Judges is a good clearing house site for judicial elections. Yes, we elect our judges here, with the result that a lot of stealth politics creeps into these supposedly nonpartisan positions. They do not directly endorse, but collate other endorsements and provide information. Since judgeships are some of the most important positions voted on with the least amount of information, it is worth checking out.

And then there is the Municipal League. You'd think a goo-goo like myself would embrace the Muni League, and I will admit they do a good job weighing options. But they and I have had a falling out - they've supported some recent election measures, such making all the King County positions non-partisan, that actually make it HARDER for people to get a handle on voting. So the League is a good source, and I will continue to report them, but I don't take it as gospel nearly so much anymore.

And last but not least is the State itself. For the main elections, Washington State does voters' pamphlets, and there is some confusion right now as to whether they will show up for the primaries (apparently King County will do it out of their own pocket, but the rest of the counties won't - which means King will have an even bigger pool of informed voters (not a win for the rest of the state)). However, all the information is online, so if you can read this, you can read that.

Those are the usual (or unusual) suspects. I may add more as we get nearly to the main election, but that's a good place to start.

Commercial Interruption

So, of course, having set an open course for the seas of local politics, I have to double back mention a few other things going on in the world. This is the problem when you're not running a blog dedicated to a single goal. Let me plug a few of my friends:

First off, I should mention that Alliterate Dave Gross has a novel out as well - Prince of Wolves, set in the world of Pathfinder.

Second off, I should mention that Alliterate Lorelli Shannon has put her self-published and very excellent novel, Possum Kingdom, out on the Kindle. We have moved to the next level of self-publishing (but Amazon doesn't have the link from her dead tree edition to her Kindle version - get with the program, Amazon!).

Thirdly and finally off, I have an article on "My First GenCon" over at Wolf Baur's Kobold Quarterly, which has been allowing all us old grogs to wallow in our memories of the past. As a bonus, the article features the now-legendary "Jeff as Galactus" picture, suitable for photoshopping.

Back to politics later. Really.

More later,

(OK, one more - Pictures from an Exhibition: ArenaNet at SDCC, including a great shot of the back of my head)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Political Desk: Manifesto

Most of you that have been hanging out here for a while know this already, but a lot of people have dropped in recently, what with all the talk about Marvel Super Heroes and Ghosts of Ascalon and Guild Wars 2, but this is first and foremost a personal blog, which means we get into such things as collectable quarters and restaurants and most of all political races, in particular local stuff in our neck of the woods in the state of Washington.

And yet another election season is upon us, as we prepare for a primary on 17 August. Actually, the ballots have already gone out, the yard signs have blossomed on public lands, and blogs and newspapers have made their recommendations. I'm starting this year behind the curve.

So let me lay my cards out on the table at the get-go.

Long-term readers know me to be a leftie, a progressive, a liberal. I plead guilty to all such accusations. I'll go further: I am also a goo-goo, a Chicago term for a Good Government type who wants competent people in office doing good things, regardless of party or faction. I'm willing to be pragmatic, and will support a capable conservative over a questionable liberal or libertarian. Long ago, Nixon broke my civic heart, and I tend to view the GOP with a suspicion that only gets confirmed at regular intervals.

All that being said, let me lay out three laws of politics that I've picked up in my short blogging career - advice to offer candidates for office and incumbents alike. Here we go, in a nutshell:
1) For God's Sake, Don't Embarrass Us
2) All Politics Are Local
3) Be Well, Stay In Touch

Don't Embarrass Us: The ability to doll out firebombing soundbites may get you space on Fox and Friends, but it doesn't wash much out here in Seattle. We don't care much for personal scandal, but we absolutely HATE being made to seem like chumps for electing the malfeasing bozo in the first place. By the same token, we (as a state) are willing to forgive folk that are upfront about their failings as opposed to those that double-down on their errors.

All Politics Are Local: A pundocracy seems to dominate the media, old and new, where everything is cast in larger terms - sage heads declare that everything is a referendum on someone or something, usually something that is not currently being voted on. People who win suddenly have a mandate, unless you disagree with them, then the most vocal minority must be cozened and comforted. I remain dubious of national trends in local elections, and believe that at the end of the day people vote their own comfort level as opposed to the blaring of the political machines.

Stay in Touch: We are seeing the beginning of the deluge that will continue right into fall with ads, appearances, mailers, and calls. And in general, that's a good thing, as far as explaining what you've done and why. Seriously, the better equipped people are to explain the good things you've done, the better they are to resist the relentless assaults of the opposite side (like, you know, blogs). Communication? Good. Information? Even better.

My politics are that of the yard sign and the mailer (the Lovely Bride knows better than to recycle them before I see them). If I get push-polled I will pass that along. I look at political races as a consumer advocate, with the ultimate goal of getting a workable system. A system more progressive than otherwise, but then, I stated my bias a few paragraphs up. Your local paper should be as up-front about it.

I have been writing about politics on this blog since its first year in 2003, and, going back to the earlier entries, it seems that if anything I have mellowed over the years. I've been at this long enough that I can now do the "see, told ya" kinda entries when I warned against certain guys that got elected anyway.

So strap in for the next couple weeks, or take a vacation (I always get back to the little stuff in my life here after the craziness). I wouldn't say its going to be a bumpy rides - I've seen worse. But it is going to be a ride.

More later,

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We Who Are About To Write Salute You!

Breaking away from all this self-promotion:

I have about a half-hour commute these days, thanks to back roads and the ongoing economic bumpiness. I sometimes drive in silence. I sometimes talk to myself (admit it, you do as well). And sometimes I listen to lectures on tape from The Learning Company. I've mentioned this before, as it fills in some of my classical education skimmed over in becoming a civil engineer, and gives me a springboard for fantasy.

In any event ...

I am listening to a lecture on the Roman Empire, subgroup Bread and Circuses, subgroup gladiators. And gladiatorial games are not always, or even usually, the productions of the imperial throne, but rather are put forth by prominent citizens, who show their wealth and open-handed nature by renting gladiators (the original temps) to fight to the death in the arena. But what caught me was the Roman name of these prominent citizens presenting these fights -


Most dictionaries I've found only trace the word to the Late Latin period with real publishers, but I found a couple examples where it tracks the word to "Presenter", as in one you presents the work of others to the masses, under his imprint and seal, as being quality bloodshed and entertainment.

Sounds like a good a definition as any.

More later,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Going Live

Today is the official sale date for Ghosts of Ascalon by Matt Forbeck and myself. Early response and reviews have been wonderful, and I'm going to blurb a couple (links to the full article):

"With compelling characters and a great deal of background regarding what's gone down in the past two and a half centuries, Ghosts of Ascalon is a must-read for any player looking to get an early look at ArenaNet's next big MMO." - Kotaku

"It’s an easy read with good pacing. I’m a sucker for mythology, well developed worlds and adventure stories of daring-do if written well, and it was." - Carolyn Koh,

"There should also be no question that the book is well-written. That shouldn't even be a concern. Through the combined forces of Matt Forbeck and Jeff Grubb, we get a perfect example of why they're at the top of their game." - Shawn Schuster Massively

"I highly recommend Ghosts of Ascalon. It was a great, fun read, and I am really excited with the two more novels coming to the Guild Wars world. " Ravious, Kill Ten Rats

I am delighted by the early response, and hope that everyone enjoys the book as much.

More later,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

San Diego - Day 4

Alas, Day Four consists only of packing my knives and going. We have a noon flight out of here, so I won't even get down to the floor.

(Update from later in the day - we arrived at the airport far enough ahead of schedule that I got on an earlier flight, and was home before 1. Unfortunately, my luggage was on the other flight, which was horribly delayed, so I ended up driving out to the airport at 8 PM to get my stuff. Still, I got home and had time to run a lot of errands).

What struck me more about this convention, some 20 years after my last one, is the changing face of fandom. Twenty years back, I would have said that it was predominantly white, male, and middle-aged, and destined to go the way of model trains and other harmless hobbies. Now there is an incredible age, gender, and racial diversity. Part of it in the revolutions inside comics (the rise of manga and web comics, for example), but part of it is the expansion of the borders of Geek Culture, such that it encompasses not only old media, but new premeires. And this is way cool.

It IS a big convention, and the staff handles it amazingly well. I was disappointed to not be able to get into a few panels, but the queues ran very well and effectively. I think this is the biggest reason to keep SDCC in SD. The staff - heck, the entire city - has grown up with this madness and works to make it the best possible experience.

That said, the city fathers have GOT to put a bridge or five from the convention center to the city proper. All of the foot traffic is poured across buslanes, down some stairs, across a major road, across active trolley tracks, and then into the Gaslamp (where every card-snapper and freebie agent is laying in wait). There were some parts of the dealer room that were more crowded, but they were few and far between (and usually near steampunk corset shops, for some reason).

My only other gripe? Strollers. The bulkiest hall costume was an agile pixie in comparison to these land-tanks pushed by people using them as battering rams. Worse were the ones where the kid was carried (or walking) as his ride was transformed into a shopping cart.

But these were really minor things (and the strollers kept everyone on their toes, lest they get said toes run over). In general, the convention was a huge success, struggling with its titanic size, and is already spreading far beyond the bounds of the center itself. The staff and the city should be happy with its success - there are smaller venues that have much more difficulties pulling off a show.

And now, I'm going to soak my feet for a couple hours, and try to recover.

More later,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

San Diego - Day 3

"You look a little tired".

Three different people said that to me today, which makes me a little nervous, as if I am losing my edge before even the third day of the convention is through. But it was a good third day, with three interviews (Massively, MMOSite, and PCGamer), a successful book signing (three books left, which were snurtched up by the staff), and a panel discussion that needed to be longer and in a bigger room.

I also had enough downtime to attend a panel on cartoon voiceover laden with heavyweight talent, including Gregg Berger and Fred Tatisciore, who are part of the GW2 team. Also ran into Neil Kaplan, another of our voices, in the hall (I was wearing a GW2 cap and therefore easily identifiable). I am reminded again that we have very, very good voice talent at our disposal.

After the panel, late in the day, the staff adjourned to Tabule, in the Gaslamp district. San Diego's Gaslamp district is what Seattle's Belltown wants to be when it grows up - a lot of venues, sidewalk dining, and very good food. Also a lot of people watching, since San Diego's mild temperatures make it the native habitation of the little black dress, and the women who wear them. Also: a of stylish zombies.

I was also surprised to finally run into old friends Warren and Caroline, who I was seeking out throughout the weekend - I knew only of one of Warren's panels, and it not overlapped my own panel but it was completely sold out. It made for a wonderful closed parenthesis on a collection of days that started with running into Maggie Thompson (The good and glorious).

We have a noonish flight tomorrow, so it is unlikely I will return to the floor. It has been a great convention for me, and for Guild Wars as well. I'll probably have a few more thoughts about it later, but for the moment, it is time to collapse.

More later,

Friday, July 23, 2010

San Diego - Day 2

There are people made out of bubble-foam flying over the convention center. There are women wearing flatscreen TVs on their backs. There is a comic book series about super-hero cows produced by Chik-Fil-A. Welcome to Friday at the Comic-Con.

One thing I have noticed is a tendency towards merchandising overkill, particularly in terms of manpower. Red Faction does not have a single tanned booth-babe in logo'ed tank top and hot pants - they have 20 of them. A horde of hula-skirted young women are promoting Hawaii 5-0. A mass of Dharma agents are all promoting something "Lost" related. They move through the crowds like alien gangs.

My own maneuverability is limited, since my feet are still throbbing hunks of meat. I have started relying on the pedcabs (nice in this weather) and the shuttle (slow but you get to sit down AND get air conditioning), and finding places to sit down. I'm doing a lot more video interviews today, which increases the chance that I will say something Joe-Biden worthy with every passing moment. Talked to Game Revolution and Ten Ton Hammer, and did a standup with The Daily Transcript. Not bad for a man who firmly believes that he has a face made for radio and a voice made for mime.

The signing went very well, will an almost-equal mix of number of books available, number of people interested, and amount of time. We had to turn a few away, but will be doing another signing tomorrow. These things can be a roll of the dice sometimes - you can just enough or too much or nothing at all. I was ably aided and abetted in the signing by Rich Anderson, who did the cover of the book.

Managed to actually take a nap in the afternoon before dinner, which had the added benefit of keeping me off my blistered feet. Then a long and pleasant dinner (with various strangenesses of reservation numbers and size of the table) with Stan! and Cindi and Hyrum and several cool artists and writers, the subject matter of which I shall not bore you with save to say that at one point we were talking about a penis museum in Iceland. A veritable Algonquin Round, that was.

And so to bed, as we have another signing on the morrow, and a panel and a couple more interviews. I am practically getting into the swing of things, here.

More later,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

San Diego - Day 1

In which my feet are already rendered down to inoperative slabs of meat and muscle.

One thing I am struck by in my 20 year absence is how much the downtown has transformed itself. The Gaslamp District was a bit sketchy in places back in the day, but now is a line of eateries and pubs stretching halfway up the hill. Horton Center looks like it has seen better days, though, surviving best with its top floor eateries and movie theaters. And there is a lot more of a skyline, and those buildings closest to the Comic Con have full-size billboards painted over them for Red Faction and Skyline, which can literally be viewed by aircraft coming in on approach. Add to that mobile trucks with huge HD screens playing trailers. I almost expect to see blimps floating by, blaring how a new life awaits me in the off-world colonies.

The day itself started with a relaxed breakfast, an interview with MMORPG, and a panel with Stan and Hunter Freberg (for the younger folk, he made comedy albums back when vinyl was cool, was the voice of Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent, and brought the funny to commercials, including a Geno's pizza roll commercial which probably needs its own blog entry to unpack what it says about America in the 60s). My big disappointment was among the younger friends who say "Who?" when I said I was going to see Stan Freberg. I, on the other hand, was delighted, because like so many young creatives of my era (who are no longer so young), I grew up on Mad magazine and Stan Freberg.

I tried to remain paper-free for the day, since I didn't want to schlep around anything or have to take it back to my mile-away room. Unfortunately, I found the Source (out of Minnesota), which carried a huge amount of Call of Cthulhu material, including some German stuff I had never seen, Ken Hite's Dubious Shards, and a lot of bound monograms from Chaosium. So I ended up schlepping around some stuff.

Sat in on the 38 Studio/Big Huge reveal for Reckoning, in support for Bob Salvadore and Ken Rolston (both of whom I remember from the days back when). Went looking for the supposed protesters, but found only one guy holding up a sign saying "HAVE YOU SEEN MY KEYS?". Have a nice interview with Neoseeker and a surprise video interview with Had I known I would be on video, I would have worn a louder shirt.

By this time my dogs were starting to go out, so I walked back to the hotel, which in my absence had been moved further uphill. Now they are in a little pain and I'm not sure the ankles work anymore. So I'm going to take it easy for the evening, have an early night, and read some of my swag.

Oh. and if you see the guy with the sign, tell him I found his keys.

More later,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

San Diego - Day 0

I don't normally blog on the road, but hey, the wireless is complementary here at the hotel:

Getting down to San Diego went smoothly, even though I was not 100% sure I even had a seat on the plane until I got to the gate (each stage of the ticketing process assured me that the NEXT stage of the process would be the one to give me a seat assignment, but it all went smoothly). San Diego itself is not horribly hot (yet) and has been overcast, and the hotel is only a mile north of the convention center (this is, in Comic-Con terms, incredibly close).

As I mentioned, we're imposing on sharing booth space with the Aion and City of Heroes team, who will have demos running in the booth while we flit in and out like pixie-winged divas. I am used to putting in long booth hours, so I have chosen to embrace this cosmic oddity by actually exploring the hall.

This will, I am now convinced, be a multi-day quest, the hall is so large, urban legend says, that when empty you can see the curve of the earth. And I have revealed myself as being ancient beyond words, remembering aloud how small the hall was there the last time I was there (it was the first year they started selling Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles stuffed animals), by pointing at Petco Field and saying "When did THAT get built here?". I did have lunch with some of the team at a nice place in Little Italy (San Diego has a lot of good restaurants in close proximity).

After getting badges (again, kudos to the team for sparing me a huge but well-organized and swift-moving line), I went exploring, and managed to take a few pictures without the supposed horde of fans. I also ran into the good and glorious Maggie Thompson for the first time in years, which pretty much made the entire trip down worth it. Then I met up with Stan!(who, by the way, created some cool D&D Christmas wrapping paper for Game Paper) and discovered the attraction of the fried fish taco at Tin Fish (surprisingly good seating, despite the fact it was right across from the teeming convention). We wandered the floor, got Galactus hats from Hasbro (pictures of me in one that may appear on the net are lies. LIES I tell you!), saw Odin's throne, traded my Galactus hat for a notebook, got some things for my brother and the Lovely Bride (don't tell her - its a secret), met my editor from Simon & Schuster, re-engaged with Godland, found some nice gems in the Web comic/small press sections, picked up a few new t-shirts, and probably covered all of a quarter of the hall (but most of it having comics in it, so I was happy). Ran into people I know and people Stan knew and introductions were made all around and finally, about 9, we retired from the field.

And it is before the official first day of the con and my feet already hurt.

More later,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Podcasts and Personal Appearances

So, Facebook being what it is, it failed to rebroadcast my schedule for San Diego Comic-Con. Here it is, again.

Friday July 23, 2010 1:00 p.m.–1:45 p.m. NCsoft Booth #5345 - BookSigning and Giveaway - Stop by for a limited giveaway and booksigning by one of the authors of the first Guild Wars® novel: Ghosts ofAscalon. - Signing Staff: Jeff Grubb (Game Designer/Author), Rich Anderson(Concept Artist, Cover Artist)

Friday July 23, 2010 1:45 p.m.–2:30 p.m. NCsoft Booth #5345 - BookSigning and Giveaway - Stop by for a limited giveaway and booksigning of the Art of Guild Wars 2. - Signing Staff: Kekai Kotaki(Concept Art Lead), Rich Anderson (Concept Artist), Kristen Perry(Character Artist)

Saturday July 24, 2010 1:00 p.m.–1:45 p.m.
NCsoft Booth #5345 - BookSigning and Giveaway - Stop by for a limited giveaway and booksigning by one of the authors of the first Guild Wars® novel: Ghosts ofAscalon. - Signing Staff: Jeff Grubb (Game Designer/Author), Rich Anderson(Concept Artist, Cover Artist)

Saturday July 24, 2010 1:45 p.m.–2:30 p.m. NCsoft Booth #5345 - BookSigning and Giveaway Stop by for a limited giveaway and book signing ofthe Art of Guild Wars 2. - Signing Staff: Kekai Kotaki (Concept ArtLead), Rich Anderson (Concept Artist), Kristen Perry (Character Artist)

Saturday July 24, 2010 5:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m. Room 4
- Speaking Session:Guild Wars 2: A New Type of Fantasy MMO - Learn how Guild Wars 2will set a new standard for what is possible in an MMO game! Keycreators examine with you how the lore, design, and gameplay of GuildWars 2 has grown from the original game into something revolutionary,and take questions from the audience. - Speakers: James Phinney (DesignDirector), Jeff Grubb (Game Designer), Kekai Kotaki (Concept Art Lead),Rich Anderson (Concept Artist), Kristen Perry, (Character Artist), ChrisLye (Global Brand Director)

We will be signing out of the NCSoft booth, which is in the far left corner of the exhibit hall, and probably the only location where there will be any space to move around (maybe). Drop by and take a look at us!

If you can't make it to the convention (nobody goes there, apparently - it's too crowded) I have a pair of podcasts that have just been released. One is on Guildcast with Shawn and Rubi from Massively and is all spoilery on Ghosts of Ascalon. And the other delves into the early days of the Marvel Super Heroes game with Andrew Collas on the Zenith Comics podcast. If you can't make it to San Diego, it's the next best thing (well, it's not, but it is a very nice thing anyway).

More later, possibly from SD itself.

A Bite Of Pinafore

So this past Sunday, I headed out to Seattle Center to catch this year's production by the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society - HMS Pinafore, with a performance of Cox and Box, which has music by Sullivan but is sans Gilbert. More on that in a moment, since the Center was also host for Bite of Seattle.

The Bite is a food-dominated fest, though there were a lot of booths ranging from corporate flag-wavers -  Comcast, Geico and Bicycle card decks, to the usual suspects of sunglasses, 1200-count linens, and tie-died wraps. I indulged in the Alley, where 10 dollars got a taste of seven very good restaurants, with part of the proceeds going to Food Lifeline, and the operation hosted by local chef Tom Douglas of the Dahlia Lounge (and was present, turning the whole ducks over the charcoal. Here's the lineup for Sunday noon.
 - Dahlia Lounge - Five-spice duck humbow - tasty grilled duckflesh tucked into a flat dumpling with hoisin and cilantro.
 - Seattle's Little Italy - Cold beet soup - a nice break - would have been more appreciated if it had been hotter.
 - Dragonfish - Green and yellow curry - I am not a curry person, but this was great. Saved it for right before desert since it had a strong kick.
 - Sport - listed as a chili but instead was a very pleasant salad with chicken and wontons - down side was that it ate up tray space so everything else had to fit around it.
 - Daily Grill - Carved steak sandwich - either barbeque sauce or horseradish. Melt in your mouth tender.
 - Volterra - Potato, spinach and goat cheese crostata - nice, a little wrapped package of delight.
 - Ten Mercer - Mini chocolate tower - perfect two-bite desert.

Add to that the fact that the wine tasting was right next door (5 tickets for 10 bucks). A double handful of local vinters, including Hoodsport, which is a favorite from when we go clamming (and does nice Rieslings, rhubarbs, and, I discovered, pear wines), and Stina's Cellars (who has a good Riesling). So I was fairly mellow by the time I waddled back to the Bagley Wright for Gilbert & Sullivan (with a slice of Sullivan, hold the Gilbert).

Cox & Box is, at heart, a trifle, something that in the modern age might equally belong in a sketch comedy show or as the pilot for half-hour comedy. Landlord Bouncer rents out the same room to Mr. Cox and Mr. Box, one who works the day shift and one who works the night, and they only meet on the stairs as one leaves and the other arrives. That in itself sets up the bit when one gets the day off and the two meet in the apartment that both think of as theirs. But then it goes into a surprising connection between the men that takes from confrontation to rivals to friends. It is a bit of fun and parts of it belong to that entire alternate-world-thinking that seems to belong to Light opera.

Pinafore is one of the old venerables of the G&S portfolio (stack it on top of Penzance and Mikado). Most people known the best songs, or at least portions of the best songs (Thank you, Sideshow Bob). The plot is pure Gilbertian logic twisted upon itself, with a couple plot holes you could send a dreadnought through. But before I get into that, let me talk about the performances:

Oliver Donaldson (lead tenor) and Jenny Shotwell (soprano) are amazing as the young lovers separated by class - their voices are strong and passionate and yes, playful. William J. Darkow provides the baritone gravitas as Corocoran, the Captain of the Pinafore, and I warmed to John Brookes as the Admiral. Of all the players, the one with the most difficult task was talk-show host, Dave Ross, whose villainous character had the unenviable task of singing counterpoint to the chorus (and being overwhelmed on occasion).

Ah, and the set itself was a wonder: the detailed foc'sle of the Pinafore turned into a maze of entrances and props. Oh, and the dancers that manifested in the closer of Act I were fantastic as well.

And the plot ... ah, the plot. I think Freud would go slightly mad if he dug too deeply into this (Spoiler warning, should something a hundred years old need a spoiler). Ralph (Donaldson) is in love with Josephine (Shotwell), who is the daughter of Captain Corcoran (Darkow). But the Captain wants her to wed the Admiral (Brookes), who comes aboard with a huge herd of female relatives (the female members of the chorus). Ralph seeks to sneak off with Josephine, but is caught, and Little Buttercup (Erin Wise, also very good) reveals that she was wet nurse to both Corcoran and Ralph, and swapped the babies accidentally, so that Ralph should be the Captain, Corcoran the lowborn seaman. Since Corcoron is now lowborn, daughter Josephine is unsuitable for the Admiral, so she can marry Ralph, and Corcoran can marry Buttercup.

Which of course creates some weirdnesses if you look at it too hard. If Ralph and Corcoran were both wet-nursed by the same woman, they are the same age, so Ralph is no ingenue, but is old enough to be Josephine's father. OK, we can deal with daddy issues there. But Buttercup wet-nursed Corcoran, so she had to be about 20 years (give or take) older than her new husband, who is marrying the woman who weaned him. Looking at that, the idea that the Admiral ends up marrying his First Cousin can pass without comment.

Of course, logic is never a strong point in Light Opera, and the presence of Cox and Box on the playbill underscores the idea that leaps of logic are not merely a Gilbertian indulgence, but rather part and parcel of the nature of comic opera. Pedants are asked to swallow entire camels, so that straining a gnats is considered  hardly appropriate.

One last this - the audience. Usually the Bagley-W is occupied by the sage, graying heads that are normally pointed at when theatre's imminent demise is anticipated. Yes, there were many of my generation and older present, but also a lot of families with children and teenagers. This is a good thing, and may lay more to the supposed imminent demise to the content as opposed to the building or the activity of theater itself.

HMS Pinafore/Cox& Box has but a single weekend of performance left. The entire performance is 3 hours plus, so it is a full afternoon or evening in the works, but a great deal of fun and definately worth it.

More later,

Sunday, July 18, 2010


RPGPundit, down in Uraguay, came up with a link to this:

And I will see him and raise him THIS

Busy now. More later,

Saturday, July 17, 2010

ENnie Which Way But Loose

The ENnie voting is open, from now until 25 July, so if you're playing what is currently being shelved as "hobby games", this is a good place to declare what the best of the year is.

The ENnies are given out yearly at GenCon, and run off a two-step process. The first is the "Sage Advisor" stage where a panel of judges winnows down the nominees. Then comes the general on-line voting from all the rest of us. You can vote multiple times on a single ballot, voting "1" for your favorite, "2" for your second fave, etc. Its a nice little system, and no, you don't have to vote for everything.

The vote also allows you, the player, to hear about games that you might not otherwise have been aware of, in the overload that is the Internet. I've always said that the nominations of games are a better tool for bringing attention and rewarding good game design than the awards themselves. A nomination can bring attention to games you might otherwise pass on, and take you to game manufacturers who are otherwise off your radar. I have to check out more on Diaspora and Eclipse Phase, when I get a chance.

And there are some good candidates across the board. Rob Heinsoo is up for his delightful "Three Dragon Ante". Wolfgang Baur is up for a couple awards for Open Design and the Kobold Quarterly blog (but not the magazine - what's the deal with that?). One cool little game that might not get the attention it deserves in this field is Stan Brown's "Warriors" game, which was packaged in the YA novel series of the same name. Yes, it is a game about cats. Like Stan's work on the "Pokemon RPG", this is one of those games that, ten years from now, RPG players will be saying "Yeah, I played that game when I first started out."

Anyway, go check out the ballot and vote. And since they provide links to all the games in nomination, this is a great chance to broaden your horizons and check out games you may never have heard of before.

More later,

Friday, July 16, 2010

30 Days of Science

I'm always coming across stuff on the 'net that I think "Ooh, this would be interesting", but then I don't get around to posting it, or fifty-three other people post about it, and it gets forgotten.

But I want to make sure I mention THIS before I get carried away with other things. It is the chance to live in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago for a month. IN the museum. This would be a dream opportunity for me. Heck, if I still worked for TSR up in Lake Geneva, I would see if I could arrange a leave of absence to pull this off.

If you ARE in the Chicago area, and are, as we say, "between gigs", I would strongly recommend applying. Go for it, guys!

More later,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Media Blitz

OK, I'll admit I've been a little busy lately, with a number of things. Among those things has been preparing for the release of Ghosts of Ascalon, our first Guild Wars book, by myself and Matt Forbeck, which will be available at your finer bookstores and electronic outlets on July 27.

To that end I have a blog post up on our game site about the book, along with a map of Tyria in the "modern" (as in "250 years after the original Guild Wars") age. And we have the first chapter of the book up as well, both on our site and on Simon & Schuster's page, for your perusal. AND for iBook readers, the first 30-some pages (along with map, timeline, and two and bit chapters) are available as well. I didn't even see that last one coming.

In addition, I've been talking to some top-flight web sites about the book. Massively has an interview, and a preview of the book (we sent out Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) to the sites, so they got the first look). There also is a podcast coming up (fingers crossed). I also talked to the fine folk at Kotaku (which my nephew reads regularly - I am "cool Uncle Jeff" again) and Ten Ton Hammer, and my joy and excitement about the book is, to be honest, a little bit contagious.

PLUS, I'm going to be at San Diego Comics Convention, and cover artist Richard Anderson and I will be signing copies of the novel, plus the wonderful art book we put together back for last PAX. Here's the schedule for the Guild Wars team:

Friday July 23, 2010 1:00 p.m.–1:45 p.m. NCsoft Booth #5345 - BookSigning and Giveaway - Stop by for a limited giveaway and booksigning by one of the authors of the first Guild Wars® novel: Ghosts ofAscalon. - Signing Staff: Jeff Grubb (Game Designer/Author), Rich Anderson(Concept Artist, Cover Artist)

Friday July 23, 2010 1:45 p.m.–2:30 p.m. NCsoft Booth #5345 - BookSigning and Giveaway - Stop by for a limited giveaway and booksigning of the Art of Guild Wars 2. - Signing Staff: Kekai Kotaki(Concept Art Lead), Rich Anderson (Concept Artist), Kristen Perry(Character Artist)

Saturday July 24, 2010 1:00 p.m.–1:45 p.m.
NCsoft Booth #5345 - BookSigning and Giveaway - Stop by for a limited giveaway and booksigning by one of the authors of the first Guild Wars® novel: Ghosts ofAscalon. - Signing Staff: Jeff Grubb (Game Designer/Author), Rich Anderson(Concept Artist, Cover Artist)

Saturday July 24, 2010 1:45 p.m.–2:30 p.m. NCsoft Booth #5345 - BookSigning and Giveaway Stop by for a limited giveaway and book signing ofthe Art of Guild Wars 2. - Signing Staff: Kekai Kotaki (Concept ArtLead), Rich Anderson (Concept Artist), Kristen Perry (Character Artist)

Saturday July 24, 2010 5:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m. Room 4
- Speaking Session:Guild Wars 2: A New Type of Fantasy MMO - Learn how Guild Wars 2will set a new standard for what is possible in an MMO game! Keycreators examine with you how the lore, design, and gameplay of GuildWars 2 has grown from the original game into something revolutionary,and take questions from the audience. - Speakers: James Phinney (DesignDirector), Jeff Grubb (Game Designer), Kekai Kotaki (Concept Art Lead),Rich Anderson (Concept Artist), Kristen Perry, (Character Artist), ChrisLye (Global Brand Director)

If you're there, drop by. We will be taking up sharing space with our sister companies, Paragon (City of Heroes) and NCWest (Aion).

So yeah, its been a busy week, and I think its going to get busier.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Convention Circuit

While by nature I am a reclusive homebody, I am going to be all over the joint in the next few months, promoting the Ghosts of Ascalon and Guild Wars 2.  Look for me here!

July 21-25  -  San Diego Comic-Con (we'll be sharing a booth with Paragon Studios(City of Heroes) and signing books).
August 18-22  -  Gamescom in Cologne (We will have the German translation of the novel out as well as debuting the hands-on demo of the game).
 September 3-5  -  PAX (Penny Arcade eXpo) in Seattle (US debut of the GW2 Demo).

See you there!

More later,

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Ghosts, Chapter One

Simon & Schuster has put the first chapter of Ghosts of Ascalon, by Matt Forbeck and myself, up on their site. Go take a look!

More later,