Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

We leave 2010 with these words, apparently a traditional poem but gathered, set to music, and sung beautifully by Pete Seeger:

I get up each morning and dust off my wits
Open the paper and read the obits
If I'm not there I know I'm not dead
So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed.


Happy New Year, everyone.

More later,

Monday, December 27, 2010

Commercial Break

Busy at the moment, but I wanted to note a couple things before they get past me.

First off, the new Guild Wars novel: Edge of Destiny, by J Robert King, is now on the shelves, and it is, in a word, excellent. Strongly recommend it for fans of both Guild Wars and of fantasy in general. Here's Chapter One as a PDF.

And speaking of Guild Wars, my co-author on the first Guild Wars book, Matt Forbeck, sees the US release of his original novel, Ammortals. Also worth checking out!

And finally, I've done a foreword for a new PDF product from Zombie Sky Press, called The Faerie Ring, designed by Scott Gable, on the Lords and Ladies of the Fey.

OK, back to the subjects at hand.

More later,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Art by Joseph Christian Leyendecker
Merry Christmas from everyone at Grubb Street, and best wishes for a safe, sane, and festive Holiday Season.

More later,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Solstice

Now begins the long climb back to daylight.

More later,

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Power of the Hat

So one of my favorite gifts this year arrived early. The Lovely Bride has been trying to get me a Santa Claus hat for like three years running, and encountering some basic problems:
     1) It is too early in the season. Apparently despite the fact that you've been bombarded by Christmas carols on the Muzak since Halloween, the hats don't show up until later. Like after 1 December.
     2) It is too late in the season. Near as I can figure, only three Santa hats are delivered to each store, and they disappear within twenty minutes of delivery.
     3) No one makes plain Santa hats. Previous experiments involved ones with antlers, and one with a salmon through it. They didn't fit me anyway, so they get put on the stone dragon out front, or on the bronze cat out back.

Yet this year the Lovely B was in the correct spot at the correct time and gave me a hat of the correct size, and I have been wearing it throughout the season, eschewing my normal baseball caps. The results have been interesting to say the least.
     - It is a perfect disguise. People see the hat and not me. Had a couple encounters with people who looked right through me. since I looked so unlike me in the hat. I became amazingly invisible. Should I ever launch a multi-state crime spree, this is the hat I will wear!
     - Strangers talk to me. Usually it is a "nice hat" kind of comment, but it took me aback the first time it happened. Now I manage a "ho, ho, ho" in response.
     - Small children find me amusing. I am asked if I am Santa. I tell them that I am temping for him. That seems to put them in a quandary about my status, since I am obviously not an elf.
     - Older friends are merely amused. And these are people who know I wear Hawaiian shirts in the dead of winter! They know for a fact that my fashion sense is not on the same scale as, say, Daredevil's radar-sense or Spider-Man's Spider-Sense. But still, they are amused by this daring fashion choice. It takes nerves of steel to wear a Santa hat
     - People think I work there. When I've been shopping, people assume I am a sales person, because who ELSE would where a hat?

All in all, I would say that it is a most successful present, and I am delighted to be wearing it. And the Lovely Bride has sworn she will steal it back and put it away as soon as the season is over, so everyone is spared having to put up with this in June.

More later,

Friday, December 17, 2010

Busy Box

So Mark Evanier, over on his blog, always posts a picture of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup whenever he's busy, a state that lasts one, maybe two days at the outside. I've been busy for the past week and feel like I'll be busy for some time to come, so you guys get Campbell's Cream of Tomato. Why? Because I like Cream of Tomato better.

I am busy because of:
   A) The Day Job
   B) The Novel
   C) Christmas
   D) The new season of Iron Chef.

And the answer is:
  E) All of the above, plus I now have an iPad.

This last was a Christmas gift from the company (yes, I will pause for a moment as everyone says "I wish -I- worked for a company like that). A couple years ago it was a Kindle, which brought me into the world of E-books, something I would not likely do of my own volition. So I am dragged, with only modest kicking and screaming, into a new thing.

And to be honest, I am still discovering what I want to do with this new device. How it fits into my personal cosmology. The Kindle turned into my travel book, and has not slowed my purchase and consumption of dead tree editions. The iPad is still up the air, and has been used primarily so far for 1) impromptu access to the Internet, and 2) playing games. For the former, I've ended up installing a WiFi hotspot up here at Grubb Street, and for the latter, I've started slow (because of the other four things on my list). I started checking out Rogue clones, and ended up with a very good descendant called 100 Rogues - more compact and colorful than the original type-face version. But beyond that (and the free planetarium program), I really haven't had much chance to explore.

So where do I go with it? I don't know quite yet. It feels like it could be a large chunk of life in 2011, or just a interesting distraction. I'll keep you posted, when I have more time.

More later,

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What New York Superheroes See

I found this particularly amazing:



More information on the flight here.

More later,

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Old School Tekumel

So a group of us had the chance this afternoon to play Empire of the Petal Throne. Not the more mind-bending Sources and Glory version, or the more gentile TOME version, or even the GOO version. No, the original, first published by TSR in 1975 (!) and later reprinted by Different Worlds.

It was the old, refreshing rush you get from the old National Geographics that have been in your grandparents' attic for a bajillion years.

The plot was fairly straightforward - the group in Jakalla, gets word of an abandoned temple of Ksarul (Doomed Prince of the Blue Room) up in the hinterlands, decides to check it out. Kidnaps a priest of Ksarul en route as a guide. Since I got there late, I entered the game as said Priest of Ksarul, and we fought Vorodla ("the Flying Undead") and Hra ("the Bloodsuckers") before my priest angered the god Ksarul (grabbing a magical scepter that the god specifically told me NOT to grab) and being bodily lifted into the Blue Room, where he would be tortured forever. Then I generated a slave we uplifted from the group to carry on the fight.

And it was fun. A definite roll back to the good old days of roleplaying. Character creation was easy, and life was cheap. The mechanics were simplistic to the extreme, but there was a lot of room the PCs and the GM to move around. Most of the mechanics were ill-formed to handle the challenges of the adventure (How do you detect a trap in those pre-Thief days?). We were making stuff up on the fly. My Priest managed to face down a horde of Ksarul-created undead (at least once - then I had to have magical help). And one of our players ran through three characters over the course of the afternoon.

It was a great reminder of how wonderful and how frustrating the old rules were, and how you could not take it horribly seriously, and how the interaction between characters would be as interesting as those against the monsters. (The party wizard was a Wizard worshipping Thumis, Ksarul's rival, and my priest was planning an accident for him before we left the ruined temple). And it had all sorts of wonkiness, like award XP to the one who killed the monster, which encouraged kill-stealing but also made it possible to give XP over the course of battle. Or making everyone over 4th level divide XP by two, which meant we would be forth level forever, except the wizard (sorry, magic-user) who found the Book of Qiyor and ended up skipping a level immediately.

And a good time was had by all. More later,

Friday, December 03, 2010

Make 'Em Laugh - 15 Things

So we talked about 15 influential games, and 15 things which influenced my games. And then one of co-workers mentioned 15 things that influenced her sense of humor. And I thought about it considerably longer than 15 minutes, and come up with the following list of 15 things that influenced my strange sense of humor:

The Dick Van Dyke Show: I am not alone with this - about half the scriptwriters in Hollywood were sold on the idea that this was how comedy was written, and in a broader sense, how corporate creatives lived in the world. You worked with people you liked. You made jokes. Your bosses were mildly insane. You were married to Mary Tyler Moore. When everything is working well, this is the TV show I am living in.

M*A*S*H: The TV show, not the movie. The show was in endless syndication even when I was in college, and represents the TV show I am living in when things are not going so good. I and my design colleges have talked about "Meatball Design" and "Editorial Triage" like we were honestly subjected to attacks by Five O'Clock Charlie.

George Carlin: Representing the stand-ups, George was another college addiction, with his album Class Clown. I was too young for Lenny Bruce, which is Carlin's predecessor, but Carlin's love of language roped me in. Plus, ANYONE can do his "Hippy-Dippy Weather Man, with the Hippy-Dippy Weather, Man" routine. He got old and more pointed but I still love his stuff.

Tom Lehrer: Of course this is obvious, from other entries in this blog, but he gets the nod from the album/musician comics and the political comics, edging out Alan Sherman. "Pollution" was the first one I remember hearing, but his stuff is just a cool now as it was in the 60s (though now it sometimes requires footnotes to explain what we thought was so troubling back there).

Doctor Demento: Wind up your radios! I got to hear a lot of Tom Lehrer and others thanks to the good doctor, broadcasting on Friday or Saturday or Sunday nights on the Pittsburgh radio. That and Pirate games (with Nellie King and Bob Prince) were reasons to have a radio.

Monty Python: Back to college, where the Pythons were a regular feature of late-night PBS out of the Chicago stations. It was, for many people, the first introduction of what Britain was supposed to be like.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: Edges out A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum only by the fact that I saw it first. The first time I saw it, at the old South Hills Village theater, I didn't know most of the cast, but I knew they were funny. Only later did I get the idea that this was a collection of the comedic talent of the age. Others have tried to replicate it - Cannonball Run, Rat Race, but none have succeeded.

Woody Allen: From the movie people, he just edges out Mel Brooks. Yeah, there was standup before, but What's Up, Tiger Lilly, Bananas, Take the Money and Run, Love and Death and Sleeper were a run of seriously funny films.

P.G.Wodehouse: Does this surprise anyone? I mean, does this surprise anyone who encountered Giogi Wyvernspur and Tertius Wands, who were cut, if not of the same cloth, of at least cloth two bolts down? Before the entire Stephen Frye and Hugh Laurie presentation on BBC, I read a lot of the adventures of Bertie and Jeeves. And it was genre as high art form - there was a single plot with continual variations.

The Odd Couple: The TV show, the movie, and the play that predated both of them. You can see the eroding effect of other media on the characters as you make the progression between them. Still, though the combination is classic (Two and a Half Men really should be sending a piece of the action to Neil Simon), Klugman and Randal are the best Oscar and Felix. Oh, and like Monty Python instructed about Great Britain, so did the TV show instruct about New York City.

Blackadder: Back to the Brits, with this funny, erudite, and literate bit of fun, which unleashed Rowan Atkinson on the rest of the West. The second and third seasons are the best, when Blackadder gets to devour the dictionary and spit out the best parts.

Warner Brother Cartoons: I know way too much about stars of the 30s and 40s from watching these as a kid on TV. They were on TV because they were cheap, and if the kids didn't get the references to Bogart and WC Fields, who cared? I think my interest in that era (and black and white films) comes out of those old cartoons.

Marx Brothers: And speaking of old movies, the Brothers Marx were the gold standard of the era. Yeah, they were creatures of vaudeville, and Groucho's character was an evolution of the stock figure "The German Teacher", but still it was classic comedy, and they get the nod for that era.

MAD Magazine: Another view into New York City, it showed you could go after both political and economic issues. By claiming Madison Avenue as one of its early targets, it had a lot more depth than any of its imitators, and infused an entire generation with good-natured cynicism about the consumer marketplace.


Firesign Theater: Another group that reached me by a comedy album, they were more head-oriented than Cheech and Chong, and that's saying a lot. Their most coherent production, and the one I would send you to first, was "The Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye," which was on the album How Can You Be Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All, which had the album cover of the cast (duplicated) in front of a poster saying All Hail Marx and Lenin (with Groucho and John Lennon) shown below.

And you wonder while I am such a strange individual.

More later.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Triumph of Intellect and Romance

OK, I was going to post something else here, but this just completely boggled me.



More later,