Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Political Desk - Master Control

The political desk opens early and is a tad more concise this year, since I am crushing on a deadline and going to be otherwise occupied for a while (like, going to LUCCA). . Long-term readers, know the drill by now; Here are the ever-shrinking Seattle Times' endorsements. Here are aging pot-heads over at the Stranger. And here are the ones from the Progressive Voter's Guide. Beyond that, you're on your own.

Long-time readers also know my biases.. I tend to lean left, pro workers, pro good government. I tend to view with a jaundiced eye pro-business candidates, people endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, NRA, the former Soviet Union, shadow groups with acronym names and mysterious funders, and other folk that do not seem to have my interests at heart.

As always, I try to comment on races that I actually vote on, and my list comes from VoteWA web site.

State Measures
Whenever someone says that one man cannot effect the world, show them this ballot. One of the initiatives and ALL the advisory votes come from the tireless efforts of initiative maven Tim Eyeman, who has discovered how to monetize the process. This is by coming up with Magic Pony initiatives, in which wealthy backers pitch in money for things which sound good (hey, we're lowering your car tabs!) but are really sucky (Hey, we have no money to repair the roads! Sorry!). None of these initiatives have been fully implemented, being generally unconstitutional, and his one half-victory has been a pain in the butt ever since.

And I may rant further in the middle of this, but let's take a look.

    State of Washington, Referendum Measure No. 88

I want to say that we've come a long way in the cause of equality, and we don't need stuff like affirmative action anymore. Sadly, I am wrong. Measures like REF-88 provide the opportunity for equality in government hiring, but do not deal with other underlying causes. Still, we need to have the opportunities addressed as a first step. Opponents have out yard signs declaring "Equality Under the Law", which in their case means "Nobody but ME gets a break around here." So yeah, APPROVE this sucker.

    State of Washington, Initiative Measure No. 976

This is the Magic Pony I was talking about above. Who couldn't hate lowering your car tabs? Heck, this woulds reduce my personal costs, since they expect Electrics to pay for road repairs that usually come from gas taxes. Of course, this means we throw another roadblock in the way of solving our horrible traffic situation by starving the beast. I have no problem with actually paying for services rendered. Sadly, the best I can do (and you can do) is vote NO on this steaming pile.

      All the god-forsaken advisory votes..

OK, I'm going to get ranty on these..

This is the Eyeman legacy. There was a initiative that the state government would have to get voter approval on every new tax, tax increase, rate change, bake sale, and anything else that could be construed as the government raising money to actually provide services. Part of the initiative was declared unconstitutional, but a fragment remained that results in this legislative crud on the ballot.

At the same time,t these are Advisory Votes - they don't mean squat. There is no imperative behind these to actually overturn the measures they discuss. They are no more than expensive push polls to allow anti-gov types to thump their chests about how their hard-earned dollars are being wasted giving  food and shelter to orphans. 

Here's an example: The text from Advisory Vote No. 20 says:

The legislature imposed, without a vote of the people, an additional wage premium for long-term care services, costing an indeterminate amount in its first ten years, for government spending. 

 Man, look at those scare words. Imposed - they voted on this, which was their job. without a vote of the people, which is ALSO their job. An additional wage premium for long-term care service - which, after a lot of digging, means that they created a trust that employees can pay into to specifically handle long-term care. Costing an indeterminate amount in its first ten years - because they don't know how successful this voluntary program would be. For government spending, as in, spending on this particular matter.

Almost reasonable when you scrape all the crud off.

This type of BS is rife throughout these entire BS advisory. Hey, go look at them yourself, because somewhere in there is a real tax that affects YOU. But I say vote MAINTAINED on all of them. And remember to thank Tim Eyeman for this scary, no-effect push poll in the middle of your ballot. 

    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 20 Second Substitute House Bill 1087
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 21 Engrossed Third Substitute House Bill 1324
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 22 Substitute House Bill 1652
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 23 Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1873
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 24 Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 2158
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 25 Substitute House Bill 2167
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 26 Substitute Senate Bill 5581
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 27 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5993
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 28 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5997
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 29 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5998
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 30 Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6004
    State of Washington, Advisory Vote No. 31 Engrossed Senate Bill 6016

    State of Washington, Senate Joint Resolution No. 8200 -

This one is weird, because it proposes writing an amendment to the state constitution to add "catastrophic incidents" to the list of situations where the legislature can act decisively when need. OK, it's a proposal to make a proposal. I'd like to know more about the nature of such Catastrophic Incidents that would be covers. Rainier going off? Sure. Tim Eyeman finally passing a clean initiative that stands up in court? OK, we're going with Approved on this.

County Measures
King County
    Proposition No. 1 Medic One – Emergency Medical Services Replacement of Existing Levy

Hey, here's a real tax bill you can really vote on and has some affect on the outside world. This is replacing an existing levy that's being retired.  So, yeah, I'm voting YES on this one.

Actual Candidates

King County, Director of Elections
    Julie Wise - Incumbent, Dem, actually has done a good job.
    Mark Greene - Challenger, Rep, runs for various offices every cycle.

Let's go with Julie Wise.

The judges I'm voting on are running unopposed. OK, then. Moving on..

Port of Seattle
Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Sam Cho
    Grant Degginger
 I supposed Sam Cho in the primary, and have had no reason to change my mind.
Port of Seattle, Commissioner Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Fred Felleman
    Garth Jacobson
I supported Fred Felleman in the primary, and haven't seen anything to make me pull that support. 

Now we are down in the weeds. Really local politics. And I will be honest, on brief inspection none of these people raise my hackles or send off warning shots either as to their professionalism, their intentions, or their morality. Good job, Primaries! So I make recommendations confident in the fact that even if the other person wins, we are OK. Here are my calls in boldface, but don't let that stop you from checking out web sites, mailers, and other endorsements. 

City of Kent, Council Position No. 1 short and full term nonpartisan office
    Marli Larimer
    Todd Minor
City of Kent, Council Position No. 3 nonpartisan office
    Les Thomas
    Hira Singh Bhullar
City of Kent, Council Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Bill Boyce
    Mizan Rahman
City of Kent, Council Position No. 7 short and full term nonpartisan office
    Awale A. Farah
    Zandria Michaud.
Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Michele Greenwood Bettinger
    David Canterbury

So here's a conflict of interest - Michele Greenwood Bettinger is former WotC (Wizards of the Coast), so I have a strong lean in for her. So I will cheerfully admit that she worked for the same company I worked for, long ago and far away, and recommend her in any event. I won't even make a snarky remark about HR (wait, I think I just did).

And finally, we are in the weeds. These are the small positions that people only pay attention at elections and when there is a scandal (in the case of the Hospital District, that would be any day with a "y" in it - it is picking up the slack for the Port of Seattle).

Special Purpose District
Soos Creek Water and Sewer District, Commissioner Position No. 2 nonpartisan office
    Logan K. Wallace
    Alan Eades
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 2 unexpired 2-year term nonpartisan office
    Jim Griggs
    Anab Abdi
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No. 3 nonpartisan office
    Barbara J. Drennen
    Janet Evans
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner Position No. 5 nonpartisan office
    Carol Barber
    Tamara J. Sleeter

That is it for this installment. Sorry not to break it up into bite-sized bits this time out, but, as things happen, I'm going to be busy for a while (did I mention I was going to LUCCA?).

More later,

Thursday, October 17, 2019

My schedule in LUCCA

So, I'm going to be a guest at the Lucca Comics and Games convention at the end of this month. I'm really looking forward to it. Lucca is a medieval walled city NE of Pisa, and every year they close the city gates to traffic and turn the center of the city into a huge comic book and gaming convention. My presence there has been arranged by the fine folks at Mondiversi, and I will be spending time at the their booth. Also, I have written a new tournament adventure specifically for this event, and will be running it there:

Here's my current schedule (all times Central European Time):

Wednesday, 30 October
10:00 - 11:00        Opening breakfast with Level UP! fans
13:00 - 17:00        D&D Tournament opening session [Games Pavilion]
17:15 - 18:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth

Thursday, 31 October
12:00 - 13:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth
15:00 - 18:00        Gaming Session [Games Pavililion]
19:30  - ?              Ceremony Night and Gala Dinner [Giglio Opera House]

Friday, 1 November
10:00 - 11:00        Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth        
11:30 - 13:00        Worldbuilding 101 educational workshop [Educational Pavillion]

Saturday, 2 November
10:00 - 10:45         Panel meeting on the History of TSR [Ingillis Hall]
11:00 - 12:00         Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth
14:00 - 17:00         Prototype Review Corner [Educational Pavilion]

Sunday, 3 November
12:00 - 15:00         Game Session [Games Pavillion]
15:30 - 16:30         Meet & Greet at the Mondiversi Booth
18:30 - 19:00         Award Ceremony [Ingellis Hall]

If you happen to be at Lucca Comics and Games, or by chance just happen to be in Lucca that week, come by and say hi!

More later,

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Theatre - Decent

Indecent by Paula Vogel, Directed by Sheila Daniels, Seattle REP, through 26 October

The question comes up (and yes, it comes up) - why do you write so much about plays? I mean, you (meaning me, Jeff Grubb) are a game designer and an author. Yet your blog is filled with reviews of local productions, along with local politics and stuff about collectable quarters. What gives?

Well, the big reason is that plays have a shelf life, unlike books or games or movies. I can talk about those weeks (if not years) after they have been released, and they will not have much effect. If I speak lovingly about a book, its not as if that book is gone if you have any interest in it.

Plays, though, are live, and they have a timer on it. Wait too long and they will have moved on. They are perishable. They have a "best buy" date. This applies to politics as well - after a certain point, no manner of commendation or warning will have much of an effect (Collectable quarters have this as well to a lesser degree - I need to write up one year's before the next year shows up).

Just wanted to share that. When/If I get more time, you may see more gaming stuff. But it is an uphill fight right now.

Anyway, Indecent.

The Rep leads off its season with a powerful, moving, amazing production of Paula Vogel's Indecent. This was down at Ashland, but we put it off because we knew it was going to be at the Rep (with a different cast and diractior) later in the year. A pity - I would have wanted to compare the performances.

The play is about the Jewish playwright Sholem Asch and his play, God of Vengeance. Written originally in Yiddish, the play was moving and important and offensive all at once. God of Vengeance is about a Jewish brothel owner whose daughter falls in love with one of the prostitutes. Their house is literally built on the backs of the women who work in the basement. The father commissions a Torah for the house for the respectability it brings and to gain a good husband for his daughter, who rejects him and his life. The play was scandalous, particularly among the Jewish community, for its negative portrayal of its Jewish characters (why give Anti-Semites any more ammunition?), as well as the desecration of the Torah (the father casts it away at the play's conclusion) and the open lesbian love scenes between the two women. Asch felt it was honest - many of his colleagues, as well as the religious community, considered it indecent and recommended he burn it.

Indecent's main character is Lemmi (Bradford Farwell), who is a tailor from the countryside who attends the first salon reading of the play, and is thunderstruck by its brilliance. He becomes Asch's stage manager on the production as it is a success across Europe. Then they come to America where the wheels come off. the production. The English translation of the  play does well in the Village, but when it moves uptown to the Apollo, it runs afoul of the forces of decency. Fueled in part by anti-Semitism (though the main witness against the play is a rabbi), the entire company is found guilty of obscenity. They return to Europe to continue producing the play and are swallowed eventually by the Holocaust.

And it is brilliant, incredibly well-written, well-produced, and well-acted. The actors literally rise from the ashes in the opening moments to tell the stories. Lemmi is our touchstone, but most of the cast take on multiple roles - Antoine Yared and Andi Alhadeff for the young insgenues,  Cheyenne Casebeir and Nathaniel Tenenbaum for the middle-ages parts, and Ron Orbach and Julie Briskman as the elders (in their wisdom and their folly). And they are all brilliant. Casebeir and Briskman are long-time members of various Rep productions, but mostly comedies, and they get in their dramatic chops in here. Nathaneil Tenebaum is particularly sparkling in all his roles, but they are a strong company, and sell the idea of both Lemmi's story and convince us they are a coherent company of supportive actors.

And let me mention the musicians, because what would a Yiddish play be without musicians? Alexander Sovronsky on the Violin, Kate Olson of the Clarinet, and Jamie Machler on the accordion. They come in for small roles as well, but their music keeps the entire proceedings moving along and creating the time of the play, from the turn of the century to up to 1950s. The music is incredibly well-integrated.

And the pacing - this is a bustling play, the characters almost always in motion, which calls out the quiet moments and strengthens them. There is continual activity as the company is moving props, changing wardrobe, and catching the flavor of a small theater group where everyone does everything.

Let me go onto the stagecraft itself, which sometimes overwhelms the productions, or creates a desolate landscape that the actors cannot fill. Not so, here. The use of titles projected on the proscenium and elsewhere contributes to the sense of motion to the play, as well as giving us visual clues as the cast moves between Yiddish and other languages (in Yiddish, they have no accents).

I tend to be suspicious about plays about plays - they feel a bit too inside the beltway, too much of an in-joke. Playwrights like to write them, actors like to be in them, audiences want to come to the theater to see people working behind the scenes of the show. Many of these are comedies. But few hit the nail so directly on the head as Indecent. This is a high initial bar, and I am very, very impressed by the production.

In short (I know, too late), go see it.

More later.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Theatre - Mini-Reviews from Ashland

A couple weeks back, the Lovely Bride and I spent a week in Ashland, Oregon. Ashland is this charming little town just north of the California border that is famous for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs most of the year and brings in tons of tourists, most of them, its seems, being retired teachers. Ashland reminds me very much of Lake Geneva, WI, but instead of a lake, it has the Bard as a draw.

Not all plays at Ashland are Shakespeare. They do all sorts of flavors of Shakespeare, from cannonical reads to switch-ups in gender roles and time period. They also do what I call "Shakespeare-adjacent" plays, which have some connection with the Bard of Avon, or modernize his words but keep his plot, or use Shakespeare as a springboard (Think "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead" - which does assume some knowledge of "Hamlet".). And there is a big-ticket non-Shakespearean item to bring crowds (this year it was "Hairspray" - we passed on that).

And then there are the indies - plays that are not necessarily part of canon, or canon-related, or big ticket. They're just good plays. This is like hanging out in the Indy game area at PAX - good stuff, sometimes unevrn, but things you're not going to see elsewhere. Sometimes they travel - coming up to the REP, but sometimes they are only to be seen there.

This year, we shied away from the Shakespeares themselves - The comedies being offered were not the Lovely Bride's favorites, and I am still so overwhelmed by the Mac Beth (Shakespeare adjacent) from a few years back that another production of Macbeth would not work for me. We end up with five, two of which were OK, and three of which were really good that it makes my own writing feeling wanting. Here's the list:

Comedia of Errors; This is Shakespeare-adjacent - a bi-lingual version of Comedy of Errors, where Sparta and Ephesus are transformed into the US and Mexico. The original is as close to a sit-com as you get with Shakespeare - short, broad, ridiculous in places (two sets of identical twins are separated at birth, both having the same names, and when one set ends up in the town where the other set lives, wackiness ensues). The overall change into the serious nature of immigration and ICE really casts a realistic and hard pall on the proceedings, and while all the Spanish lines get translated (which is good, and gives the gringo audience the feeling of exclusion that Spanish-speakers often face), it runs up against the broad humor of the commedia dell'arte style.

How to Catch Creation: One of the best of the show, it is about creativity, intentions, and responsibility. The creation may be starting a family or art or writing. All the characters are creators in some fashion, and it deals with pitfalls and relationships, pulling all the characters together. The actors are top-notch and the stagecraft moves us between locations and times wonderfully. Go see it if it shows up around you.

Cambodian Rock Band: Another really good one, dealing with the heartache and tragedy of the Cambodian Genocide. The play is incredibly well set-up. A young woman in modern Cambodia, working on case against the director of a prison camp during the genocide, gets a visit from her dad - who is very dad-like, filled with old grudges and pushy parentalism. But it turns out the story is about Dad, who was once a singer in a rock band and a prisoner in that camp. The director of the camp narrates much of the story with a bouncy, Loki-like flair, and only slowly drops the mask to reveal what a monster he is. It is ultimately the Dad's story, yet after all the suffering, redeems itself with its music. A lot of Dengue Fever, and at the end, the world's oldest mosh pit (in which the LB accidentally body-checked the actor playing the prison-camp director).

Between Two Knees is, well, uncomfortable. Mostly Native American cast talking about the American genocide (yeah, it's been that sort of set of plays this year) of its native population, cast in the framework of a cheesy Indian show. Sort of like most of the skits in the third half-hour of SNL in the 80s. Cringeworthy as it hits a lot of truths and takes some cheap shots (Goes after Indian Schools but targeting only the Catholic versions, which is not quite punching down - mostly punching ANOTHER group that is an easy target). Really redeemed itself after the intermission, as it moved from the history lesson to a more living memory (and the Pine Ridge Reservation Protests of the 80s), But there were more empty seats after the intermission.

Mother Road: Imagine Grapes of Wrath run in reverse. The last of the Joads, the ones that stayed behind in Oklahoma, goes looking for the last of the California Joads, to leave his farm to. He finds that the California branch of the family went to Mexico, and the last survivor is Hispanic. So they drive back Route 66 in a fever dream of distrust, old friends, old grudges, and the racial nature of America. Amazingly good performances, from almost the same cast as did the Comedia of Errors. It captured the episodic nature of On the Road and Grapes of Wrath, and was breathtaking in a lot of ways.

And wrapped around this was a lot of good food and sitting on the patio outside the bed and breakfast with the local cat and way too many fearless deer that invade the town and eat the local gardens. A good trip, and now I am ready for Fall.

More later,

Monday, September 02, 2019

Reading the Realms

One of the advantages of blogging as opposed to living solely on the Facebooks is that Facebook doesn't really have a sense of permanence. You put something up, and within a day it is buried beneath a huge pile of other posts.

So, here's a note that I did an interview for the Reading the Realms podcast.  Max and Paula have been reading the entirety of the Forgotten Realms novels, and have had ancient authors such as Jim Lowder and myself in for interviews to talk about our work. True old-school goodness viewed through a modern lens.

Here's the link for the entirety of podcasts on Soundcloud as well.

More later,

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Political Desk: Primary Results

Usually I wait a couple days before leaping into this, but things are surprisingly stable, and it looks like we're avoiding the traditional "hanging fire" categories where the vote totals may swap. This is the primary, so measures which are voted on are resolved and the top two candidates go on.

Next door, in Seattle, things have been interesting, with progressives/liberals/socialists taking their various seats and the Chamber-of-Commerce-purchased candidates behind, but not so far behind that the Chamber (and its big business allies) will not feel bad about spending even more money on the general election. The Seattle Times worked hard to bury the lede with the headline "Three incumbents survive brutal primary", which is misleading on the facts that a) there were only three incumbents running in the first place and b) they beat their opponents in every race, and in fact c) Times-backed candidates tended to be in the second-place category.

Interpreting primary results, particularly is the current environment, is tea-leaf-reading, since the results depend on how many people vote (a reasonable but not exciting 25% or so), the demographics (the majority are my age (old people), how big the win is (50%+ is generally good, regardless of other situations, and how many opponents there were (which in some cases, were a LOT - the Mayorship of Renton had four candidates - two got 27%, two got around 25%, which means that 50% of the voters would be looking for a new candidate).

So, anyway, here are the results for MY ballot, which are much less exciting (Leading candidate first).

King County Proposition No. 1 Parks, Recreation, Trails, and Open Space Levy - APPROVED by a sizable margin.

Port of Seattle, Position No. 2 -  Sam Cho vs Grant Degginger

Port of Seattle, Position NO. 5. Fred Felleman with 71% of the vote over Garth Jacobson

City of Kent Council Positions -
 Position 1: Incumbent Marli Larimer vs. Todd Minor
Position 3: Incumbent Les Thomas vs. Hira Singh Bhullar
Position 7: Awale A. Farah vs. Zandria Michaud.

Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority Proposition No. 1 Levy for Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services - APPROVED.

Soos Creak Water and Sew District Commissioner Position No. 2 - Logan K. Wallace vs. Incumbent Alan Eades. Wallace got 49% of the vote, which merits re-evaluation.

Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner Position No. 5 - Carol Barber vs. incumbent Tamara Sleeter.

And that's where we all until the fall. And to all the citizens of Seattle, I'm sorry about the all the mailers and cold-calls you're going to get.

More later,

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Political Desk: Primary One-Shot Division

OK, I'm going to have to make this brief (OK, as brief as I can). I've been in LA for a week for a recording session, and I have a lot of other stuff going on in my life, so this time the Political Desk gets a single entry.

Yes, it is a primary, and yes, it is in bloody August, to give the victors plenty of time to bore you to tears with their platforms and fliers before November. And there IS a big fight shaping up in Seattle itself, as the Chamber of Commerce (under the guise of political action committees like CASE and (extremely wealthy) Moms for Seattle) is trying to unseat City Councilpeople who fail to take the knee and tug the forelock to big business, but those races are NOT in my purview (NOTE TO SELF: Remember to insert a picture of Kermit the Frog drinking iced tea). And people are ALREADY talking about the next year's presidential elections and trying to learn how to pronounce all the Democratic candidate's names.

But still, I have obligations, so I'm doing a quick and dirty version. First off, just want to agree with you that its a boring ballot, but you really should vote anyway. Heck, you can even drop the ballot in the mail this time without postage. Go ahead, you know you want to . But really? Boring. The candidates on my ballot, from their write-ups in the Voters Guide, all seem ... sane. Not a wacky concept or freestyle punctuation or lathered rage in the lot. The various levy proposals? Also silent on the "People who think this is a bad idea" space in the Voters Guide. What the heck, people?

There are also no listed Republicans on my ballot. There are no Democrats, either, since all the offices are non-partisan, so you'll have to do a little more digging - looking at supporters, endorsements, and stated policies. Pro-tip: If endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, take a good hard look at them before tossing a vote their way.

And, as a public service, here are other people's recommendations: If you live closer to Seattle, here's the Stranger's take. Fairly sound, but they don't ever venture south of Boeing Field. Here's the Seattle Times, which you should take with the proverbial and rather large grain of salt. The Municipal League has not updated its site since two years back, and the stalwart Voting for Judges is inactive because, well, no judges on my ballot. The Chamber of Commerce site is down for maintenance as I write this, but their sock puppet political action committee, Citizens Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE) recommends these guys, just so you know who is buttering their bread. A response group, called Civic Alliance for a Progressive Economy (CAPE) has their line-up here. Progressive Voter's Guide for my neighborhood is here., but poke around for your elections. The  Seattle Transit Blog has their findings scattered through their site (come on, folks, put them in one location for lazy stalwart bloggers).

All that said and done, let's move to the ballot itself:

King County Proposition No. 1 Parks, Recreation, Trails, and Open Space Levy. It is what it says on the tin. Replaces a previous levy that is elapsing. It covers a LOT, and costs, well, a small bit more. No one argues with it, though King County Councilman Reagan Dunn did sniff that things are getting more expensive these days - APPROVED.

Port of Seattle, Position No. 2. Let me take a moment out to say that the Port of Seattle has been my go-to for jokes about graft and corruption for years. Now they have let me down by actually staying out of the scandal sheets. Talk about making my job tough. Plus.a lot of sane candidates for this open seat. While I like Preeti Shridhar from previous campaigns, I have to admit the provenance of Sam Cho (working for Obama and Bob Hasegawa) gives him the edge. Go with Sam Cho.

Port of Seattle, Position NO. 5. Fred Felleman. Incumbent. Didn't give the nod last time, but he's done a good job. So, yeah.

City of Kent Council Positions - Gosh, these are good people, based on their Voter's Guide descriptions. Not all of them are professionals, some are first-timers, but they practically shine from the inner glow of public service. Hate to pick one, and reserve the right to change my mind, but I am going with:
Position 1: Marli Larimer
Position 3: Hira Singh Bhullar (Note to self - make fun of his yard signs after he wins).
Position 7: Awale A. Farah

Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority Proposition No. 1 Levy for Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services. This is about restoring an earlier tax levy. Yep, hate taxes. Yep, realize it is for the greater good. APPROVED.

Soos Creak Water and Sew District Commissioner Position No. 2 - Alan Eades is the incumbent. That's nice.

Public Hospital Disctrict No. 1 Commissioner Position No. 5 - FINALLY, we get some controversy. Valley Medical Hospital does a damned fine job, but has been plagued with all sorts of political deal-making, shenanigans, and opacity. The latest big kerfuffle was when UW Medicine took over the board of directors by outnumbering the elected officials. The current incumbent ran on fighting that, but didn't fight that much once she got in. Let's look at Carol Barber and see this get into more discussion when the final election shows up in the Fall.

And that's it for the moment. Get you votes in, people, postmarked before August 6 (Did I mention that you can mail it without a stamp?)

More later,

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is Cthulhu REALLY a Great Old One?

Here's something that has always bothered me. In H.P.Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu", there's the following passage:
They worshipped, so they said, the Great Old Ones who lived ages before there were any men, and who came to the young world out of the sky. Those Old Ones were gone now, inside the earth and under the sea; but their dead bodies had told their secrets in dreams to the first men, who formed a cult which had never died. This was that cult, and the prisoners said it had always existed and always would exist, hidden in distant wastes and dark places all over the world until the time when the great priest Cthulhu, from his dark house in the mighty city of R’lyeh under the waters, should rise and bring the earth again beneath his sway. Some day he would call, when the stars were ready, and the secret cult would always be waiting to liberate him
Boldface and underlines are mine.Cthulhu, who in later texts is recognized as a one of the Great Old Ones, is referred to here as being a "great priest". Does this mean that Cthulhu is a priest OF these Great Ones, or is he one of the Great Old Ones, and his position among them is that of a Priest (i.e. - he's the cleric of the party)?

Either way, it is is an interesting take on things. If he's a priest who venerates these Great Old Ones, he's subordinate to and separate from them, and the Great Old Ones (of which later writers have constructed an entire pantheon) are unknowable, godish beings who we have never really met. If is a priest among the Great Old Ones, what do these Great Old Ones worship?

Hang on, it gets even more interesting in the next paragraph.

     Meanwhile no more must be told. There was a secret which even torture could not extract. Mankind was not absolutely alone among the conscious things of earth, for shapes came out of the dark to visit the faithful few. But these were not the Great Old Ones. No man had ever seen the Old Ones. The carven idol was great Cthulhu, but none might say whether or not the others were precisely like him. No one could read the old writing now, but things were told by word of mouth. The chanted ritual was not the secret—that was never spoken aloud, only whispered. The chant meant only this: “In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.
So no one has ever seen the Old Ones, but here's a statue of Cthulhu, which we know from the later in the story is a pretty fair representation of his titanic majesty.

So it seems, from this reading, that the entire later industry of Great Cthulhu as one of a pantheon of elder eldritch beings may be off. His fictional worshipers, as well as later real-world chroniclers, have confused and conflated the two, promoting the priest to the godhood itself. Of course, all of this is from a highly unreliable narrator, a mad and degenerate worshiper of these Great Old Ones, On the other hand this is a primary source, THE primary source, of Cthulhu lore.

Anyone have an theory on this?

More later,

Sunday, July 07, 2019

MADness Takes Its Toll

There are other, more important things going on in the world, but I'm going to talk about the demise of MAD Magazine.

And yeah, it's a demise. Death. Pushing up daises. Cue the Choir Celestial. It is an ex-Magazine. As the news hit and people reacted badly, the spin control engaged - it wasn't QUITE dead. It would do some reprint stuff. And a yearly annual. And the reprints would be in the direct sale trade, and the chain bookstores - those that are left.

Look. LIFE Magazine died in 1972 as a weekly magazine, but it still shows up at the grocery check-outs with special issues on the latest film or some ancient anniversary. But LIFE is dead. Ditto MAD.

And I've taken the news with the stoicism of a hearing of the passing of some old friend from high school that you haven't talked to in three decades. As a kid, MAD magazine was a staple in the tree fort in the backyard, and the smell of the slightly moldy, aging paper stock stays with me to this day. And we got the paperbacks that reprinted stuff from the fifties and early sixties as well. Nostalgia is strong, but not strong enough to continue support over the years.

MAD defined for me what New York was like, along with its native New Yorkers. It was hip, sophisticated, cynical, urban, multi-cultural. It was sarcastic and sardonic. It was smart and infantile at the same time. It was definitely left of center (though it out time to lash liberal hypocrisies as well as conservative ones) and any commercial. It was educated. I knew a lot more about Broadway musicals and current films from the Mad satires. And the music parodies, mostly written by Frank Jacobs.Those I can still remember better than the last book I read.

A favorite Broadway parody - "My Fair Ad-Man", with Cary Grant trying to turn a beatnik Frank Sinatra into a proper grey-flannel suit. A favorite song - "Hello, Deli".( Hello, Deli. This is Joe, Deli, Will you please send up a hot corned beef on rye).

And the talent. Names to conjure with like Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Dave Berg, and Don Martin (When naming Asura for GW, I always recommended their names sound like Don Martin's sound affects). Sergio Aragonnes and his marginals. Al Jaffee and his fold-ins Even the tags at the top of the page held a chuckle.There was a lot of depth going on in the page, a lot of stuff all happening at once. It was really, really good.

And yeah, I know that the magazine had fallen on the hard times of not being sufficiently profitable for its corporate overhead. Bill Gaines ran it his way until he passed, and since there it has been a slow cascade of corporate decisions, each made while looking over its corporate shoulder to see if THIS would be the one that killed it. Folding it into the greater Warner Brothers empire, cutting pay rates, reduced shipping schedules, moving the whole furshlugginer operation to California. And now the zombie-like demise where the Brand survives but everyone who made it a brand is gone. Feasting off the corpse.

But as I said,. I haven't read it in decades. I can't remember the last thing I read in the magazine, the last issue I bought. I moved on to other things, as one does. I picked up a lot of National Lampoons in college (dead in 1998 (after five years of sporadic publication), and SPY magazine therefore (Also dead in 1998), and suppose my current fling with the New Yorker is that most recent engagement with the New York State of mind, of an era when Manhattan was the hub of the publishing universe, with all the intelligentsia swarming around it. And MAD was its court jester.

Farewell MAD. Farewell, Alfred E. Neuman. Farewell, those bits and bobs and punchlines that people of my age can quote and discover others get the joke. It's been real.

More later,

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Theatre: Octopuses as Elves

The Last World Octopus Wrestling Champion, Book, Music and Lyrics by Justin Hueratas, Additional Music, Arrangements, and Orchestrations by Steven Tran, Directed by Mathew Wright. Arts West, through July 28..

What a minute, didn't you say you were done for the season with plays? Well, yeah, but in the program book for the Seattle Rep there was an advert for Arts West over in West Seattle for a new musical by Justin Huertas. Mr. Huertas, in addition to acting in Tiny Beautiful Things, was the mastermind behind Lizard Boy a few year back, which was one of the Lovely Bride's favorite plays.

Let me talk about the venue for a moment, since its new to this space. Arts West is nicely situated at the Junction, a business district in West Seattle. The space is intimate without being tight. It is theater in the round for this production, which often means that the actors have to keep moving around so you don't spend the performance looking at their Captain America-level backsides. The Lovely Bride and I had front row seats, but there was enough room between us and the stage proper for the actors to move around without worrying about tripping over us.

Anyway, the play: Octopus wrestling was a thing in the Pacific Northwest at one time. Divers would hunt octopuses off the Seattle's shores, bring them up bare-handed, and the diver who brought up the biggest octopus would be the winner. Grace (Corinna Lapid Munter) won the trophy the last time it had been done, eighteen years back. She doesn't talk about it anymore, and had her son Todd (Christian Quinto) hide the trophy and never tell daughter Lee (Rachel Guyer-Mafune). who, by the way, just turned 18 and is going to be a freshman at the U-Dubb. There Lee meets Nia (Porscha Shaw), who she is immediately attracted to, and David (Tyler Rogers) a marine biologist and octopus fan.

Lee finds the trophy and wants to know more about Grace's octopus wrestling days. Grace is now plagued by the sudden incursions by the Undertow, a sea spirit, who sends starfish and bivalves to attack her. And Lee starts mutating into something more mollusk-y and discovers Nia has the same problems. And Todd and David connect. And truths are revealed and Grace understands and Lee grows.

Did I mention that it's a musical? Yeah, It's a musical, and all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza. Well, mostly singing. A lot of good dancing and choreographed conflicts. The characters switch off from their roles to become a narrative Greek chorus and representatives of the Undertow. The actors have mini-mikes on their foreheads like South Asian bindi, and the sound levels were perfect. Live musicians off-stage in perfect harmony for the space. Having had to deal with wonky sound in much bigger halls, this was great.

The actors were top-notch as well. Ms. Munter brings the necessary strength and fire, both physically and emotionally, for her character. Guyer-Mafune is a very different character than the one she portrayed in Feathers and Teeth, and just rocks the role. Porsha Shaw previously showed up in Nina Simone's Four Women, annd is excellent as Nia, both in voice and acting (Nia's a deeper character). Quinto and Rogers get to be a little broader and comedic, but they both bring a sweetness to their characters that makes everything hang together.

Ultimately, this the tale of the fae, the mystical and mythical people of the forest, transported from the Black Forest and the Brothers Grimm in to the stony beaches of of the PNW. The alien and inhuman elves and spirits are replaced with another intelligence, cool and aquatic, in the soul-drenched eyes of the cephalopod. The play is also about love in a great handful of permutation, about family, and mixed in with enough Seattle references to connect with any native Seattleite.

How good was it? The Lovely Bride is checking out next season's Art West schedule, and I'm telling you to check it out (In the first draft of this review, I thought it had closed on June 28. The management regrets ...)

More later,

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Return of No Quarter - X Marks the Spot

It is that time of year when the collectable quarters show up from the America The Beautiful series, which is shorter than the National Park/Monument/Rec Area/Seashore/whatever. And while we are rolling down the countdown, this year as produced the most political collection of quarters yet, intentional or not. To you they may be pocket change, but they hold deeper meanings.

As always, we rate the quarters, based on design, subject matter, and art. Reviews are entirely subjective, and reflect the views of the management, and not necessarily anyone with any real authority.

Way Cool =A
Not Bad = B
Kinda Lame/Meh = C
Very Lame = D
Facebook makes better cryptocurrency = E

Here we go:

Lowell National Historical Park - Massachusetts

 This one is interesting - when you talk about New England in the Industrial Revolution, you get images of coal-darkened brick buildings filled with young women working long, tedious hours in the service of dangerous machines, lumped together in small spaces. Corporate tyranny. Company towns. Sweat shops.

But. They also were a way for women to get off the farm and improve their lives. It brought them together, and in bringing them together, empowered them to work together. Industrial safety. Unions. Abolition. All of these came out of these women gathered together. They improved their lives and started working to improve others. The anti-slavery movements got a lot of start and support in New England, at the automated looms within those industrial vaults.

The coin itself has a great design, cramming together a lot of elements with a small space. The "mill girl" is dominant, tending to a circular bobbin battery (The thing that looks like a steamship wheel)

It is a revolutionary quarter, with more than meets the eye.

Rating: A (Way Cool - Mostly for the back story).

American Memorial Park - Northern Mariana Islands

This quarter has more than meets the eye as well, but not always that good.

The Marina Islands were one of those island chains we liberated from Japan during WWII, and then kept. So part of it is the "We're part of the US, Really! of the flag plaza.

But for the longest time, the Marinas were used as a textile hub, particularly during the Cold War years when we didn't trade with Communist China. Raw materials were shipped in - there was a captive workforce of native peoples, and you could ship stuff out with the Made in the USA tag. But then the thaw came, and we could get fabric easily from China, and the bottom dropped out. And the islands became better known for sex tourism (and sex slavery). This was reported heavily ten years back, but I can't seem to find any articles to the tune of "We've cleaned things up - things are MUCH better now for the people that live there").

So, yeah. It is a kinda creepy coin, when you know what's going on. Nice design, but I wouldn't hold onto it too long.

Rating: B (Not Bad, C if you think about it).

War in the Pacific National Historical Park - Guam

 Well, this one is a little more honest than the previous one. Guam was another Pacific island that we captured and forgot to give back. It was a big battle, and one of those chunks in the twentieth cent that we really sent people to, so I am cool with the honesty of the presentation in a way that the North Marianas coin does not.

The coin itself has a nice design, showing Willy and Joe single-handedly taking the beaches. But there is a hint of life and activity missing from a lot of other coins. The use of the white space for the lagoon also works to highlight the soldiers. I don't think anyone born after the boomer years would recognize the LTV, and the ships on the horizon look more like power plants than navy units.

 The text accompanying this on its web site talks about the park's rich biological diversity, of which you see absolutely nothing of other than a couple trees in the middle distance. Better that it faces up to its name and owns it, then giving a head-nod to the natural beauty when the picture is the marines storming the island.

Still, an OK coin that carries its message forward.

Rating: B (Not Bad).

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park - Texas

 This one is weird for a number of ways. First off, it is a coin that swipes pretty much another coins' design. This is a Spanish real with minor modifications. The upper right has the Spanish lion (complete with monarchic crown), the upper left replaces the traditional castle (because, Castile) with a mission itself, the lower left shows grain, a regular staple of state flags from agricultural state, and the last is ... water, to show the importance the missions had in creating canals to husband the water. It definitely is selling the message that we came in, conquered, and turned the land to our profit.

When I was in grade school, we saw innumerable educational films that ended with the line - "Thanks to (fill in the blank) and irrigation, we have made the desert bloom". This coin reminds me of those films. 

Oh, and it is divided into quadrants by a Spanish cross. Because putting "In God We Trust" on the money wasn't ENOUGH of a tell.

The mission system was another one of those politically charged points of history. The Spanish settlers spread missions from Texas to California, to civilize (cough) and enlighten the native population. Plus convert them to Catholicism by fire and sword, if need be. And to create a servile working population to work in the fields. Mexico (and those parts of the US that were once Mexico) did not engage as much in the hard genocide of the American Plains, but rather a softer form of erasure of the native ways and conversion into a more acceptable European model.

The coin itself is pretty cool looking, but then, it has been road-tested as another country's coin for centuries. It balances a lot of elements in the way that old state flags, tossing a bunch of elements on the fabric and topping it with a saying like "Virtue" or "I Got Mine" in Latin. But like the Marianas coin, it brings up a lot of questions for discussion.

Nice coin, but you're copying someone else's homework

Rating: C (Meh - I mean, it was cool, like 400 years ago)

Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness - Idaho

OK, Great name. I mean River of NO RETURN. You can just hear the thunder after you announce this coin.

"Your quest will send you down the RIVER OF NO RETURN!" (Crack of thunder, horses whinnying, musical sting).

Anyway, the reason it is called the River of No Return is because of all the whitewater rapids and swift currents along its length, which made it easy (if dangerous) to go downstream, but near-impossible go back upstream. And the coin captures this with a boat just cresting a hydraulic. Nice animation. They could have just gone with some animal and a mountain, but instead the creators of this coin has opted for a more engaged and dynamic look.

The coin itself keeps from looking too cluttered, despite the large amount of elements (rapids, boat, dude in boat, canyon walls, trees) with a camera angle that creates a clear white space to the top, pushing the feeling of majesty and danger as well as framing the words "Wilderness".

The Wilderness in question is a HUGE swath of Idaho that has so far resisted attempts at development and exploitation. In its formation, it swallowed six national forests It is named after Idaho Senator Frank Church, who was instrumental is creating the wilderness area in the first place, along with a lot of other cool stuff.

So, cool name, cool coin, cool presentation, cool backstory. What is not to love?

Rating: A (Feel good when you find it in your change).

Next up: "And the Rest!" - The pick-up states - Kansas! Connecticut! Samoa!  And maybe Alabama, which is the last one on 2021, and maybe, just maybe, they'll slide it in with the others.

More later,