I've finally reached the bottom of the ballot, and with it such specialized positions as the Soos Creek Water and Sewer Commissioner Positions # 2 and 3, and the Public Hospital District No. 1 Positions # 3 and 5. These are write-ups that will concerns pairs if not trios of readers, made worse by the lack of information on the ground. Often at this level we are left with the comments in the Voters' Guide, and unless one of them suddenly confesses to being an axe-murderer, you wouldn't know from their presentations.
The Soos Creek Water and Sewer is responsible for, you got it, water quality and sewer services in the Soos Creek watershed, which starts just north of Grubb Street and flows south into Covington and Maple Valley. It is a diverse area, including both old farming plots, salmon streams, older homes with septic tanks, ancient pipes, and sprawling new developments. So it is a challenging region, dealing with both expansion as well as maintenance.
For Position #2, we see a rerun of three years back, with Larry West versus Darold R. Stroud. At the time this blog recognized both for their abilities and favored Mr. West (and we lost - oh well). This time out I have to recognize that DAROLD R STROUD has done the job and deserves to be returned to the position.
For Position #3 we have incumbent Gary G. Cline and Alan Eades, who has been a long-time employee of the water district. Again, from their descriptions in the Voters' Guide, I can pretty much say the neither is a self-confessed axe-murderer and sounds pretty calm and rational. I'd go with GARY G CLINE, but again, I don't think we would be wrong with Mr. Eades.
The Public Hospital District No. 1 is Valley Medical, which is just down the hill. And in general, I am positively disposed to Valley Medical - they have been an excellent health-care organization with a talented, positive, capable staff, and have used their services both intentionally (surgery) and unintentionally (emergency room, of which we will not go into detail). However, it has always managed some huggamugga and scandal every time there is an election, and this year is little different.
Previously, the commissioners were five in number and elected positions. Since the last election, Valley has merged with UW Medical (all the cool kids are doing it these days), but as a result, the board consists of the five elected positions and eight UWM appointees. So there is not as much local control as there once was, and while most of the candidates think the merger was a good thing, they vary about the details.
So, this deep in the weeds, who to recommend? Fortunately, the Renton Reporter (sister-paper to the Kent Reporter) has been actually talking to the candidates (or trying, at least), and tracking the contributions to give a bit of clarity. They have articles on Albert P. Haylor versus Barbara J. Drennen for Position 3, and Tamara Sleeter versus incumbent Sue Bowman for Position 5 (Spoiler, last time out, this blog went for Ms. Bowman).
The articles illuminate both in correcting the record (Ms. Bowman stated in the Voters' Guide that Ms. Sleeter did not live in the district - it has since been ruled that Ms. Sleeter does), and in following the money. In particular, Mr. Haylor and Ms. Sleeter have gotten their largest donations from the current president of the board and from the current president's medical practice. OK, so we know that someone would like to staff some friendly faces on the board.
All approve to various levels about the Alliance with UWM (from enthusiastic to resigned), all have interest in how much hospital executives make (from outraged to concerned) and all have the patients at heart in their write-ups. And, of course, none appear to be axe-murderers. I agree that the Alliance with UWM is a necessary things (though it is apparently being challenged in appeals court, so stay tuned), and am going to go with SUE BOWMAN for Position 5 and BARBARA J DRENNEN for Position 3.
And with that, we hit the end of the ballot. Summary and updates to come, as we have More Later,
OK, despite the moaning and wailing and the rending of one's garments, there are OTHER races going on in Kent, my new hometown.
There is a second race going on for Kent City Council
which is overshadowed by the one we've been talking about. And it feels a bit more reasonable. Council Position No. 2 pits Jim Berrios versus David Wade Schwartz. Both are local
businessmen with civic interest and ties to us up on the hill. Mr. Berrios has a long time in the neighborhood (and has run for office before), while Schwartz is a transplant who was uprooted by the
Link a few years back and relocated south. Mr. Berrios therefore comes off with more of a local
knowledge base, while Mr. Schwartz has a definite gung-ho attitude.
I’m going with Schwartz for two reasons – one is that he
supports the local B&O tax, which is a rarity (most business-candidates
don’t care for it, including both Messrs. Stober and Sharp). I think it is a
good thing from the standpoint of funding a lot of the necessary repairs in the
Secondly, and this is totally frustration on my part, Mr. Berrios is the CURRENT head of the Chamber of Commerce. The PREVIOUS head of
the Chamber of Commerce is Mr. Sharp, who, we have noted, stands accused of
stealing from his own mother. And yeah, it is completely unfair to count
another man’s faults against a candidate, but frankly, running the Kent Chamber
of Commerce is not the sell-point that it once was.
So DAVID WADE SCHWARTZ for City of Kent Council Position No. 2
Kent is also electing a Mayor, and it is a microcosm what we're seeing up in Seattle itself. We have two candidates with similar positions. Both support many of same things (such as the ShoWare Center) and both are against the same things (like coal trains).So the tipping point seems to be about methodology – and whether
getting along with the city council is a good thing for a mayor.
Suzette Cook is the current mayor – she’s on her second
term going for her third. Her administration includes the entire Hansen Dam
situation, and I will be honest that this has appealed to me. She's got the city through the rough times of the recession and crime is down, interest is up, and things look like they're going pretty well.
Tim Clark is a 16-year veteran councilman who has also been involved in a lot of the long-term goals of the city. He's pushing for greater transparency and fiscal responsibility, as well as working better with the city council.
I'm not a fan of council/mayor lockstep, or think that the mayor should necessarily be sort of an ad hoc addition to the council. They have separate roles and I actually prefer there to be a little friction between the two, such that the two sides keep an eye on each other. By the same token, I think Ms. Cook has made her case that she has worked with the council.
I think Mr. Clark would be an excellent mayor, given his experience, but this time out I'm still going with SUZETTE COOK.
And finally, we have Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 5, for which the contenders are Bruce Elliott and Maya Vengadasalem. Both candidates present themselves well, and neither one has been arrested for stealing from family members (you're just not going to let that one go, eh?). But, looking at the raft of endorsements, I am going to recommend MAYA VENGADASALEM.
I’ll admit it, I’m a bit naïve. I tend to look for the
silver linings. I tend to think the best of people. I am, as they say in
Chicago, a goo-goo – a good government type, to be laughed at and reviled by
those in power. And most of the time I'm cool with it.
But this race.
This particular race. This race just makes me sad.
I am talking about the City of Kent Council Position No.
6. I already vented my frustration on getting the primary wrong over here. Short version
– I read the write-ups for the primary and said “Yeah, they all sound pretty good”. And then I
find out that one of the candidates has been arrested for stealing from his own mother. No, seriously. Candidate Ken Sharp has been accused, arrested, and will
stand trial on November 20 for pillaging his mom’s saving account of nearly
And this is particularly maddening given that Mr. Sharp
is running as the sound-businessman, former President of the local Chamber of
Commerce type. Despite the appearance that American Business seems to be overwhelmed with
thieves and sociopaths these days, would it have KILLED them to have a guy in charge that
wasn't, you know, ripping off his own mother?
And even Mr. Sharp is exonerated (and yeah, I’m still an optimist), I’m
going to say that a guy with major criminal charges is going to be a tad bit
distracted when it comes to governing. And if found guilty, he would have a hard time making it to council
So, we have the other guy at least, Bailey Stober. Well,
not so fast, cowboy.
As might be expected in such a situation where a candidate is facing serious time, there has been a lot of mudslinging
going on, primarily in Kent Reporter’s letters to the editor and their Facebook
page. A widevariety of claims have been made against Mr. Stober, some of which have risen to the
point of being commented upon by the candidate. In general, the mud has been flying so thick
that the Carpinito brothers are looking a bumper crop this year (local joke).
But in all this kerfuffle there is one point that does stick – Mr. Stober
has not put in his paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission (you have to dig it out here from the database), which shows his campaign raising money but not its expenditures. Normally
this is a small point, but it is the one I can look at, dust off the muck, summon my goo-goo mojo and
say yeah, what’s the deal here?
And to further cloud the issue, there is another candidate in the mix, now. Former council
member Debbie Raplee has recently put her name in as a write-in candidate because of concerns
about Mr. Sharp’s legal problems and Mr. Stober’s residency requirements (Mr.
Stober has denied there is a problem). And while I respect Ms. Raplee’s
decision, we knew about Mr. Sharp’s ongoing legal situation for some
time, and only NOW she decided she needed to enter the race?
So where am I on this? Well, if all accusations against
both candidates are true, then Bailey Stober remains the better choice,
because his accused sins are venal, not mortal. Furthermore, they are not
currently before a court of law. If NONE of the accusations on both sides are true,
I’m going to recommend Bailey Stober still, because he’s going to be more
focused on the job.
So we go with BAILEY STOBER, with a good sharp kick to
get his bloody paperwork in.
Breaking from the non-stop political coverage on this blog, I'd like to take a moment to talk about other stuff that friends and colleagues are up to with this newfangled Kickstarter thing.
Bruce Cordell and Monte Cook have successfully funded a new game using the popular Numera system. The new game is called The Strange and is currently wracking up the stretch goals.
Tim Brown has just attained the funding levels for Dragon Kings, a union of games, art, and music, which is a thematic descendant of his earlier work on Dark Sun (and yeah, I'm going to write a bit for it).
Lester Smith is doing Cthulhu Haiku.II, a collection of horror poetry and short fiction. Yeah, horror poetry. Make a SAN check on that one.
AND I am currently reading the pdf of my first funding of a Kickstarter: Islandsof Ignorance, the third Call of Cthulhu Companion. Excellent stuff here, and I'm looking forward to my hard copy.
Ah, the Port of Seattle. Usually this is a hive of scum
and villainy, good for scandals and vandals. This year, not so much. Yes, we
had Rob Holland (who this blog endorsed) stepping down after getting nicked for
abusing a Port-authorized credit card to the tune of $3K for personal uses, but that is almost quiet for the Port. Most of the Port news
over the past couple years has involved their concerns about yet another sports
stadium going up North of them, and the possibility of teaming up with local
rival port Tacoma for better coordination and to stop undercutting each other.
The Port is (on paper) a non-political office, but here’s
a tell – check out the endorsements. Usually you can find most of the Dems on
one side and most of the Reps on the other. An endorsement from failed
gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna? Yeah, you might want to avoid that guy, though people do grow in office. So here’s what we got.
Position 1 – Pete Lewis versus John Creighton. This is
interesting. Eight years ago this blog cast a baleful eye upon Mr. Creighton
for getting a lot of cash from the Republican side of the aisle. Now, he’s
getting top marks from the Sierra Club, labor, and a slew of Democrats, and it is his opponent who’s getting the
endorsement from McKenna and the Seattle Times. I’m going with JOHN CREIGHTON on
Position 2 – Courtney Gregoire versus John Naubert. This
one bugs me because I hate the idea of politics as family business, and Ms.
Gregriore is the daughter of former Governor Gregoire, who I like, but still
there’s the principle of thing. Plus the fact that as an old guy I am resigned
to vote for someone who is named Courtney. But the fact is that she’s got
experience in the area and has strong labor and enviro endorsements and
actually has a functioning web site. Plus she gets an Outstanding from the Muni
League, which may be excessive, but pushes me in her direction. Go with COURTNEY GREGROIRE for this.
Position 3 – Stephanie Bowman versus Michael Wolfe. Ms.
Bowman has had the job since April, and comes well recommended. Mr. Wolfe comes
out of the travel industry (and yeah, the Airport is a port). I’m going with
MICHEAL WOLFE but can perfectly understand if you would prefer Ms. Bowman.
Position 4 –Tom Albro versus Richard Pope. So, Tom Albro. Incumbent, pro-business,
kinda conservative, endorsed strongly by the Seattle Times (which is usually a
warning). But also effective, aggressive, and competent. Yeah, he’s got an Outstanding rating from the Muni League, but he ran
the Muni League for a few years. But he has also been strong on reforming the
Port and pushing for transparency. So
yeah, TOM ALBRO.
Only three elected positions in King County this round. One of them (Sheriff) doesn’t even have an opponent, the county-wide one (Executive) is a bit of a blowout, and even the local one for our district (#5, to replace Julia Patterson) is a bit of a walkaway. But, let us be complete.
Dow Constantine blew out his opponents in the primary,
and looks to do so again. And for good reason – he’s been competent and solid
in his first term. If you reward politicians for doing a good job, he’s done
it. His opponent, per his web site, has
been endorsed by the King County GOP and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, with
“Verbal Support” from the “Tea Party”. So good luck with that. Vote for DOW
CONSTANTINE for King County Executive.
Andy Massagli, who is running for Julie Patterson’s seat
here in 5th, is in a similar situation – also endorsed by Republicans and
not given much of a chance against Dave Upthegrove. But Mr. Massagli comes
across as pleasant, rooted, grounded, has a sense of humor and is generally
nice (his wife wrote his piece for the Voter’s Guide, and while I don’t think it
was effective, it was nice. Mr Upthegrove comes out of the legislature with a
host of endorsements, and gets an Outstanding Rating from the Muni League. That’s a
lot of positive firepower, so vote DAVE UPTHEGROVE. (Yeah, I could make fun of
the name, but with my moniker, I’m going to get away with it) but I want to watch Mr. Massagli for the future.
So, moving down from the state level to the county, we have two
proposals. On is the King County Proposition No. 1, Renewal of an existing levy
for Medic One – Emergency Medical Services. I'm good with Medic One, though I have to renew it every year, it seems. Yes, let’s go with YES on this on.
The other one is King County Charter Amendment No. 1,
which is completely different from King County Proposal No. 1. This is to
create an appointed office of county public defender, a department of public
defense, and a public defense advisory board. Sounds like a lot, so the
question is, why are we doing all this NOW? Don’t we HAVE a public defender for King County?
Well, we do. Well, did. For 44 years, we had four nonprofit
corporations providing public defender services for King County. These tended
to get high marks for their services than similar public programs in other cities. In the middle of the year, King County
chose to end those contracts with the nonprofits and pull the public defender’s fully into
the bureaucracy within a Public Defender’s Office. This was because of a court
case from a public defender stating that the public defenders were de facto county
employees and should be treated as such with regards to benefits.
I’m not so certain about the ruling and the
result, as King County was noted for having excellent and progressive results
with its non-profit approach, and (for once) I don’t think we are well-served
to add another chunk of responsibility at a time when most government is
seeking to privatize as much as possible. But that’s not what this measure is
about. It is about approving the creation of such a department in a way that
maintains much of their previous independence. I have my doubts, but I will go
for voting a grudging YES on this.
We have FIVE Advisory Votes on the ballot, which are the
result of our badly-sprained initiative process. These are tax measures with
have been approved by the legislature, but due to our system, now have to be
brought before the people. BUT they are just advisory, which means that they
really don’t mean squat – they at best can provide cover for the politicians who voted
with the people, or allow a claim of personal heroism for those that voted
Further, all of them take the following format: “The
legislature eliminated/extended, without a vote of the people, [some loophole
or special consideration], costing approximately [large sum of money] in the
first ten years (so divide that number
by 10, which makes it less large) , for government spending.” That is pretty
scary language to say – We did “THIS” which will bring in “THIS MUCH MONEY” for
the budget and probably doesn't affect you directly.
And the thing is, almost all these things are extensions of
existing taxes or eliminations of loopholes. But due to our TOTAL FREAKOUT
about anything that even smells of taxes, they are referred to as “a new tax”,
which they really aren’t. And then we ask you, the voters to Maintain or Repeal
this “new tax”
Let me get to the quick of it. If you hate taxes in any
form, under any definition, against anybody, and want a magic pony that you
don’t have to feed or clean up after, you should vote to repeal all of these.
If you feel this process is more than a little broken, but want to keep them
from looking in your pocket for more operating revenues, vote to MAINTAIN these
And, if you want to know what you are voting on, here’s
Advisory Vote No. 3 (Substitute Senate Bill 5444) eliminates
a tax credit for taxpayers who lease publicly-held property.
Advisory Vote No. 4 (Senate Bill 5627) - CREATES an excise tax on commuter air
carriers instead of a property tax. (Does this mean they are no longer paying
property taxes? Is this a tax change as opposed to a tax increase or maybe a
tax shift or a tax polymorph?)
Advisory Vote No. 5 (Engrossed Substitute House Bill
1846) extends an insurance premium tax for some insurance on pediatric oral
services (Braces? Surgery? The little toothbrushes they put in the bag?)
Advisory Vote No. 6 (Second Engrossed Second Substitute
House Bill 1971) eliminates a retail tax exemption on certain telephone and
Advisory Vote No. 7 (Engrossed House Bill 2075) extends
an estate tax on certain high-valued property.
You see part of the problem here as well. CERTAIN
properties? SOME insurance? Which ones? The Voters’ Guide is unclear, as the
law does not require explanatory statements or arguments for or against. It
does give us a list of how these votes originally passed, and to be frank, there are not any that are even close. (and most of the guys
I’ve endorsed in the past have voted Yea on these, so since I PUT these guys in charge to do exactly these votes, I'm going to support them).
I’m going for MAINTAIN on these non-binding bits of
political theater, but I do want to know more about the Second Engrossed Second
Substitute House Bill 1971 (to see if it includes candlestick phones). But that’s just me.
I don’t fear GMOs, but by the same token, I’d like them to be labeled. Let me explain.
The most expensive initiative on the ballot, in terms of
how much money people are willing to spend to stop it, I-522 requires we label
food that is genetically modified. This is more than just Mendelian
crossbreeding, but getting into the heart of the matter and throwing a gene into
the genetic chain that might improve yield, or extend shelf-life or act as a
naturally-growing pesticide. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. Yes, you can throw that factoid out in the next dinner party.
And to be honest, this is a pretty cool thing on the face
of it. March of science and all that. My friend Wolfgang Baur has provided
links from the American Academy of Science (the guys who publish SCIENCE, and
usually part of the calm voice of reason) that indicate that GMO crossbreeds
are generally as safe as normal crops. Of course, given what we’ve done with our normal crops over the years, that is praising with faint damns (we wash our
fruit these days, but more from the concern of pesticides and chemicals than
dirt and debris).
But I am still in favor of labels. Why? I’d like the
data. I DO read the nutritional information on my multiple attempts to cut
calories. I read them to make sure that there are no eggs (the Lovely Bride is
allergic) or are free of MSG (gives the mom-in-law headaches). Yes, if you’re tweaking the
genes, I’d like to know that there's a bit of chicken in there BEFORE the Lovely Bride has to hit the ER.
And it is not just me. Japan suspended import of US wheat this summer when some GMO wheat was found in an wheat field in Oregon. They found it when a farmer could not clear the field using Monsanto pesticides, in a bit of irony. So yeah, other people
want to read the labels as well.
Both sides are pushing hard on this. I think the
pro-labeling side is raising the specter of Frankenfood and the overwhelming
pressure from Monsanto, who apparently read about the calorie companies in Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl and said “Yeah, that’s the dystopia WE want!”. Plus, their opponents of the labeling have been hiding their contributions, finally coming out only when the State Attorney General threatened a lawsuit (The big hidden contributors? Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle. So, what ARE in those Fritos?)
anti-side is pushing hard that it is a bad law – too many loopholes, not enough
definitions, too many corner cases. Fine. Then let’s pass it and you can spend all the money
you are currently putting in to defeat it into helping make the law better.
Close those loopholes. Tighten up the regulations. It is not like you guys don't have access to the corridors of power or anything.
I’m going with YES on this one. Not because of any scare
tactics, or that Pepsico doesn't want you to know what is in the Doritos, or because Monsanto wants to be a calorie king, but because I want
data. I read the box copy, and I vote.
In this off-est of off-year elections, we have just two
initiatives in the hopper, and one of them is an initiative to make it easier
to file initiatives. Yes, it is just as recursive as it sounds.
I-517 is an initiative that will set penalties for
interfering with initiative-gatherers, demand that any initiative making
getting sufficient support get on the ballot, and extends the
initiative-gathering season. To no one’s surprise, this initiative is being
fronted by Tim Eyeman’s group, who has made a tidy profit launching initiatives
onto the ballot to keep the government from actually governing.
Now, you would think that I would oppose this initiative
just on the grounds that Tim Eyeman is behind it (and indeed, this is a reason
the anti-campaign uses in their argument in the voter’s pamphlet), but you
would be wrong. I think this is the greatest boon to freedom of speech in the
face of an increasingly limiting government.
Quite simply, should this pass, we should all become
initiative-gatherers. Think of it. Instead of homeless, we have a raft of
signature gatherers at every stoplight who could not be moved on. Instead of
bringing your muskets to an anti-government rally, you bring clipboards. The
Occupy movement passes out brightly-colored vests so that Westlake Center become
awash in people signing one another’s’ petitions. And the government Can’t Do A
Thing, because initiative-gathering speech is specially-protected speech.
For companies, it is even better. I can’t advertise my
smoke-shop near schools, but I can send in a raft of employees into that same
space to gather signatures. Strip joints are illegal in many communities, but I
can parachute women in bikinis in to put an initiative on the local ballot that allow
sexy barista cafes. And, the cool thing is, if we get enough signatures, it is
the responsibility of the community to verify all those sigs and put them on
the ballot! Free advertising! Genius!
I know, we COULD just stop being so draconian about our
normal freedom of speech and freedom of association to allow people actually,
you know, speak and congregate, but that is so old-school. With the I-517 hack
in place, we will be up to our armpits in clipboards and vests, each one pushing
its own agenda, and once we get corporate sponsorship (since that’s part of the
initiative process already (thank you Citizen United)), we can all turn into
our own initiative mavens. I’m thinking of hiring all my unemployed writer friends
as signature gatherers for I-522, sponsored by Monsanto.
We the People become We the Petitioners!
(And yeah, the above is all sarcasm. Let us have a good chuckle, then vote NO on
I suppose I should be relieved by how quiet the political
desk is this year. I think we’re due, after everything last year. No president,
no senators, no reps, no judges, no governor, no state offices, no statehouse.
A lot of positions that are open are either unopposed (King County Sheriff) or
blowout (Dow Constantine). Even the “hottest” race in the area, the Mayor of
Seattle, has turned into a snooze between a liberal populist mayor and his
liberal populist opponent over who is less confrontational. But this is the new
Secretary of State’s first big election (stepping into the shoes of Sam Reid), and we should ease her into it. It
should be a breeze, right?
Well, there are some things. Two initiatives, a bagful of
meaningless referendums, four seats on the port authority, the odd-numbered
provinces in King County. Water and
medical districts. And one unholy mess down in Kent, where I now LIVE, and
therefore should address (hey, don’t blame me, I didn’t move there – I was
adopted). So there are things to
discuss. And as always, I don’t make endorsements in races without opponents, and
I encourage people seeking more information to follow links to other peoples’
recommendations as well. The more conservative Seattle Times editorial pages are here (they have yet to gather their endorsements in one spot [UPDATE: Here they are]). The more liberal Stranger recommendations are here (and are about as NSFW as usual). The Muni League
is here. I will be disagreeing with some/most of their collective conclusions as we move forward. But I want you guys to have a broad base of opinions.
OK, here goes. If you don't live in the Pacific Northwest, you might want to take a break from the blog for the next week or so. More, as they say, later.
So I don't make a lot of noise about this, but I've been cleaning out my Archive Room for the past few years. Actually calling it the Archive is a rounding up a bit - it is the small room in the basement where I've been stashing all the extra copies of games, author copies of books, long boxes of old comics, and other material that, back east, would end up in the attic or the basement. Seattle architecture has neither, ergo, the Archive Room.
And Anne Trent has been gracious enough to be my ebay mistress on this, organizing and selling off not only my stuff, but that belonging to Stan! as well through the Stannexmart. And she's been doing pretty well, and I haven't been that pushy about promoting it, since I just want to get old games and books into the hands of people who would want them, not because they are collectible or are from "The collection of Jeff Grubb" (note, on Anne's page, if there is a J (or JG) after the title, it is from my stuff, if there is an S (or an S!) it from "The collection of Stan!).
But she's hit a bit of a rock in moving some of the old books, and I want to help. Said rock is in the department of foreign translations of my books.
Over time I've gotten English-language author copies for my books, which is cool and mandated in the contracts. But also I on occasion get foreign translations. These have usually been in drips and drabs, without rhyme or reason, and usually consisted of an email or phone call from the editing department to the effect of "yeah, we're cleaning out the library up here - would you like a couple copies?" And they themselves get copies of the translations at rates that vary from prompt to glacial, so books that were in print years before would suddenly show up.
And these copies found their way into the Archives, and now find their way onto Ebay.
I don't read the various languages these are translated into, and only with Anne's aid do I know know that Azure Bonds, the first novel from Kate and I, was retitled "The Swordswoman" and "Revealing the Mysterious Symbols" in Japanese. I did know that the original book was broken into two smaller paperbacks, in keeping with Japanese novels, and that parts were illustrated. And I lThe Brothers' War - Bruderkrieg, though the massive tome is beyond me.
oved the name of the German edition of
The thing is, in the states, at least, these things ARE collectible, in that there are far fewer copies of Bruderkrieg, or Le Chant des Saurials floating around than of The Brother's War and The Song of the Saurials. And if you actually can read them, then that's just a bonus.
Yale Repertory Theatre's production of The Servant of Two Masters, by Carlo Goldoni, adapted by Constance Congdon, from a translation by Christina Sibul, directed by Christopher Bayes, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Through October 20th.
Yale? Yale? We're hauling the Rep from Yale out here to do plays? Fine. Insert the traditional mope about using local talent (of which there is SOME representation) at this point of the review and we'll just move on.
The Servant of TwoMasters is a play from the smack-middle of the 18th Century, adapted by Constance Congdon, who previously had done the Imaginary Invalid a few seasons back. And the play itself pulls from the commedia dell'arte which started in 1500s, which was more improvisational and lusty. And while there is improv rolling through this production, it is really more of a localizing as opposed to modernizing the classic - there are bits that refer to localities and current politics and using "Microsoft" as a running gag. The self-commentary feels like Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo are providing a second audio track. The result feels like a shadow of a shadow, its farce and lechery, while definitely present, boiled out just a bit for the provincials.
Here is Truffaldino (a free-associating Steven Epp), who is a fool who picks up two masters thinking it would involve getting two meals, and not realizing it involved twice as much work and twice as much intrigue to mess up. He is the servant of Beatrice (a stunning Liz Wisan) , who is travelling in the disguise of her late brother, which Truffaldino does not realize (he is apparently a new hire). Beatrice is seeking to reunite with her lover Florindo (a hilariously vain Jesse J. Perez), who killed Beatrice's brother (the matter that Beatice's loyalty is to Florindo as opposed to her brother is not questioned, though made more clear if you check out the wiki, but you really don't need to). Truffaldino becomes Floridino's servant as well, which leads to whackiness and whacking with the slap-stick when anyone else leaves messages for Truffaldino's master and he cannot parse which one he supposed to give it to.
Further, Beatrice's late brother was engaged to be married to Clarice (a Carol Burnettish Adina Verson), who is the daughter of Beatrice's late brother's business partner Pantalone (a rubber-jointed Allen Gilmore). In the wake of Beatrice's brother's death, Clarice is now set to marry Silvio (the baby-faced Eugene Ma), and the reappearance of the supposedly dead man upsets their plans, along with the plans of Floridino, who is afraid he did not kill Beatrice's brother after all. Oh, yeah, and Beatrice and Floridino are staying at the same inn, run by Brighella (Liam Craig), and Truffaldino has to keep them appart.
Confused? Well, many of the actors are wearing half-masks, because they are stock characters. Pantalone is an old man, equal parts miser and harsh but loving father. Truffaldino is in motley and wears a fool's mask. Brigella and Il Dottore (Allen Gali) are masked as well, and if you were your typical 16th century Italian, you would recognize them as easily as a cheesehead would target a Packers fan. Again, knowledge of where these guys are coming from doesn't hurt, particularly as their actions often come from their assigned roles as opposed to the evolution of the plot.
Oddly, the piece that sets the scene - two workers talking in mock-Italian about the old theater, that creates a sense of wonder that the rest of the play only aspires to at the very end. The workers find an old costume chest, and open it, and fireflies come out, dancing the darkness and joining with the stars to create a magical scene. Only at the end, when both sets of lovers are united (yeah, spoilers), so we get back to that bit of stagecraft and the sense of wonder that theater can present.
So the improv isn't fully improv and the text is localized as opposed to being modernized. The simple fact with such a play is that your enjoyment is connected to the sense of fun the actors are playing with it. They wander back and forth from recognizing they are in a play and dealing with the play's reality - the fourth wall isn't so much a wall as it is a window. Epp has to sell a number of goals for Truffaldino - desire to get fed, passion for Clarice's maid (Julie Briskman, previously in The Beard of Avon), and the need to avoid discovery, so he often comes off as patchwork as his outfit. Liz Wisan acquits nicely in the breeches role, though a lot of her moves consist of exasperation at her servant. And Allen Gilmore steals the bulk of his scenes with an athleticism that belies his role as both old man and stern father.
But you know, just roll with it. It works out. It is a play that is entirely driven by the performance level of its actors. If they have fun, you have fun, and for this Sunday matinee performance, they looked like they were having fun.
This Saturday is Star Wars Reads Day, and I will be celebrating with an appearance at the University Bookstore up in the U-District, starting at 6 PM. I will join noted Star Wars memorabilia collector Gus Lopez, and look forward to finding out if my "Revenge of the Jedi" button is worth anything. Plus: Stormtroopers! (Or so I have been told). Looking forward to it!