Tuesday, February 28, 2006

No Quarter (Part II)

So with all the change laying around (it has been a while since I last was able to make a Friday Night Poker Game), I’ve been looking at the collectible quarters, rating them from Way Cool to Pretty Lame. Needless to say, there are a lot of pretty lame ones.

Here’s the class of 2000:

OK, here we unite the concept of showing your state outline with a product placement for Sentry Insurance. I’m going easy on this one, because unlike the other disasters on the backs of our state quarters that look like they were put together by sixth and seventh graders, this one WAS put together by sixth and seventh graders.

Rating: C= Still Lame, though.

Another good coin with nice feel to it – the open space above the dome calls attention to itself much like syncopations in a jazz riff. Of course, the image is forgettable (it is the Maryland state house – it only looks like a Turkish Pagoda). The words (which are supposed to read “The Old Line State”, not “The Line Old State”) is in reference to the Maryland troops ability to pick up chicks (“Well, yes, I am married, but my wife’s a Tory”).

Rating: B= Not Bad

South Carolina
Another blender of a coin with the outline, the state bird, the state tree, the state flower, and the answer to the state high school examination final (“Spell Palmetto. Palmetto”). You can just imagine the discussion over this one – Look, we voted in all the lame icons, we might as well USE them.

Rating: D = Real Lame

New Hampshire
Probably one of the more wordy coins to show up in a while - state name, E Puribus, State Motto (which is an ACTUAL SENTENCE as opposed to three random words), and a label for the odd shape on the coin – the scenic Old Man on the Mountain.

Shortly after this coin came out, the Old Man succumbed to the forces of erosion and collapsed. This caused a sudden outbreak of “The Curse of the Quarters” which is covered here by CNN. Yeah, they are really, really, REALLY reaching on this. I mean, these quarters are a curse by themselves.

Rating: B= Not Bad, but only out of respect for dead geological features.

So here we have a moment of history collapsed, when Columbus’s ships arrived in the New World. No, that’s not right, these are the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery that brought the first settlers to Jamestown. These ships are forgotten by the rest of the nation, except for the one that is currently in orbit of Jupiter after HAL went crazy and killed everyone except Bowman.

Actually, not ones to miss an opportunity, the Virginia coin celebrates the 400th year anniversary of Jamestown . . . which is still a year away from now. But after this coin, they may not give them another chance.

Rating: C = Kinda Lame.

And that is for another year. And a happy birthday to the Monkey King, who got me started on this by ragging on the West Virginia quarter.

More later,

Monday, February 27, 2006

No Quarter (Part I)

So this has been on the “to-do” list for some time, and it just keeps getting more difficult with every passing year. When I was a child, comic books always had high numbers (often in triple digits) and coins rarely changed their appearance. The wheat cents and buffalo nickels were rarities to be picked out of your change, with the must of an age-gone-by, one of Indian Heads and Walking Liberties.

But now, just as comic books are flooded with #1 Collector Issues, the Mint has gotten into the “Gotta Catchem All” mentality of collectability and run out its own collection of State Quarters. Most of these are not just uninspired, but downright bad. Enough of them have been produced that we can get a vibe for the thinking (or lack thereof) behind them. And that's what we're going to do here - review the quarters.

Already certain rules have shown up to indicate that you make have a lame quarter:
If you have to remind people what your state looks like, you may have a lame quarter.
If you use a variety of different-sized objects, you may have a lame quarter.
If one of those object is produce, you may have a lame quarter,
If you have to label the illustration, you may have a lame quarter.
If, after you label the illustration, people still think it is something else, you DEFINITELY have a lame quarter.

The rating system will be, from top to bottom
Cool = A
Not Bad = B
Kinda Lame = C
Very Lame = D

With those as the ground rules, let’s go into the quarters. They were released at a rate of five a years (five quarters to a year just sums up the nature of Federal Bureaucracy), so we get to start with 1999. Pictures are ganked from the US Mint site.

A man on a horse. The horse is nicely animated, but the rider might as well be straddling a fencepost for all of his implied motion. But, still, you could do worse than leading off with Paul Revere’s famous ride – What’s that? It says here that the rider is Caesar Romney, who despite illness rode to Philly to cast the deciding vote for Independence. Oh. I guess that's why he's riding so stiffly - among his illnesses we can add hemorroids.

Add to that the fact that Delaware is apparently expecting the return of Jesus Christ, so he can put a spin on his teachings by declaring “Render unto Caesar Romney what belongs to Caesar Romney, and render unto God what belongs to God”.

Rating: C = Kinda Lame

I am a proud export of PA, but their coin is a confluence of lame ideas - a gathering of objects, an outline of the state. There is a keystone (that’s the lop-tipped arrowhead on the left), because PA is “The Keystone State” (because PA was the middle child of the 13 colonies - the revolutionary Malcolm). The statue is of Columbia. No, it’s not Columbia, its Commonwealth, Columbia’s kid sister. Columbia couldn’t make it. And there is a state motto, which is of the “open the dictionary and grab some words” school (but that’s a rant for another day)

Now, part of this may be the fact that Pennsylvania is a fractured state. Most states have a division between urban and rural factions (Chicago and downstate, NYC and upstate, Puget Sound and the rest of the state), And the state capitol is usually (though not always) in the rural sections.

PA, on the other hand, has three big chunks – Philly in the SE, Pittsburgh in the SW, and a large rural and small town “T” of the rest of the state. People in the urban sections call this region “Pennsytucky”, which manages to offend both natives of the T and Kentuckians. But you notice that there are no images covering Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, but rather they cover the “flyover country” of the “T”.

Rating: D= Very Lame

New Jersey
OK, this one doesn’t suck too bad. It is one image, and that image has something to do with history of the state. Of course, it is Washington INVADING New Jersey from Pennsylvania, and the piece it is based on (Washington Crossing the Delaware) is hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, but at least it hangs together.

Rating: B = Not Bad

Obvious the Georgians saw the PA quarter and said – “just as lame as that one”. Outline of the state, symbol of the peach (a native plant of China, brought over from Europe), sprigs of the state tree (the live oak), and a state motto that sounds like Ben Franklin in the depths of absinthe jones. “Oh," They added when they saw the craptacular result, “put the logo on a BANNER, will yah? That'll make it look better.”

Rating D=Very Lame

The best of the bunch, for a reason not mentioned by coin collectors. It has a really cool feel. Feel is underated for coins, but when I pick up a quarter, I am not thinking about what it looks like (I am usually thinking about putting it in a parking meter or something). But this finely-crafted coin, with the Charter Oak on it, just feels great, the branches link a reverse thumb-print.

Yes, it has a label on it, but there a fewer cases of mistaking it for some other oak in American History (well, maybe the Treaty Oak in Austin, but that’s another tale).

Rating A= Way Cool.

Yep, we're just getting started. More later.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Week That Was

Well, it has been a full week, as they say.

A great deal of it has been preparation for the new job. Part of that is paperwork, but part of it is also embracing the learning curve of the game. Not just playing the game, but taking it apart and seeing how information is presented. I am not nearly far enough along, but I am getting the hang of it.

The biggest part of the week was wrapping up as much freelance as possible in the short time left. I have been very busy on the three halves nature of freelance (getting the job, doing the job, and getting paid for the job), and the week has been a combination of extricating myself from future work, finishing existing work, and getting all the invoices in place for final turnover. The end result hasn't given me nearly enough time to enjoy my flex-timed freelancing.

And I have to reflect on all the things I did NOT get accomplished during this time of working at home, including things like daily walks (too rainy or cold for the past two months), cleaning out the downstairs archive room, putting stuff on Ebay, tidying up my home office, baking bread, and reading James Joyce's Ulysses. On the other hand, I did get to 52nd level with my priest in World of Warcraft, and the cats have come to enjoy having someone in the house to drag the string around on their command.

Tomorrow morning, into the breach.

More later,

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Actually, I'm feeling pretty good, myself, but it seems that everyone else is sick.

Check out the friends lists on the various live journals - people are sick. I've been on the phone for work-related stuff with employers and they are calling from home because they are sick. Meetings and decisions are put off because people are sick.

And nobody seems to think this is a problem. I mean, on an individual level everyone seems to be thinking "hey, it's just me".

I wonder at what point the media finally gets a clue? When someone sends out a press release?

More later,

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I Become Employed, Yet Again

[Rocket J. Squirrel voice on]
That Trick Never Works!
[Rocket J. Squirrel voice off]

I've accepted a full-time position as a game designer for ArenaNet, makers of the Guild Wars game. The opportunity presented itself a couple weeks back, and after a solid (and long) interview, I was offered a position, I'm delighted to say I am returning to a more structured environment as a corporate creative. While I have enjoyed being my own man, regular paychecks are a definite "good thing".

This has all been a bit weird for me, in that I wasn't looking hard for a full-time gig, and have managed to survive nicely doing this freelance/consulting thing this time out. But as a result, I've been spending a lot of time over the past few days (and over the next few days as well) wrapping up outside commitments so I can concentrate on Guild Wars. I mentioned to one friend that I am facing this new challenge with a combination of excitement and mild dread, and he reminded me that this is how I confront MOST of the things in my life, so things should work out.

As with previous jobs, you probably won't be hearing a lot about what is going on, day-to-day, though I will mention when something is honest-to-gosh ready to see the light of day. I am continuing to work with Blue Byte on their project, along with my fiction, and will have a few things showing up over the next few months that I will mention.

And of course, I continue to relentlessly plug Dyvil, now submitted for the presitigious Origins Award!

More later,

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Day Off

So the Lovely Bride and I declared today to be the day off. With my freelance life, every day is effectively a work day, while she is the manager of a local H&R Block up on Benson and has been trapped by Initial Rush. Initial Rush in the tax season is when people get their tax information and file quickly because they are expecting (or at least hoping for) a refund. That has finally past (it was longer than normal), and now comes a breathing period before the Final Rush, which is made up of people who believe they will owe money. So while Tuesday has always been her day off, because of Initial Rush, she has been working them, or at least on call from her office.

But the Initial Rush is past, and I have been wrapping up a lot of freelance, so we made today the day off. We talking about heading north for the Tullip Festival, but it is too early and this year has been too cold. So instead we hit the zoo. And it was pretty good timing - a cool day right after President's Day Weekend with a grey sky, and the zoo was not too crowded. There were more than a handful of gangs of school children, acting like, well, school children. Animals defecating was a big subject of discussion. As we approached the elephant house, we heard cheers of "gross!" up ahead. Sure enough, we were soon passed by a gaggle of kids talking about elephants pooping. It was the highpoint of their trip, I think.

Kids shrieking "That gorilla is eating its boogers!" aside, we had enough quiet to listen to the animals as well as see them. The nervous clucks of a peregrine falcon. The booming chuff of a lion. The piteous yowl of a snow leopard expecting dinner. The highpitched bark of a peacock perched on the barn. The wood-block clicking of swans. I found this to be a singularly nice experience, in part because there were no kids around when we heard them.

Stopped in the city on the way back south for lunch at Ivar's at the pier. We were starved after a long walk and, as fate always has it, the waiter was not on the ball. We were left to our own devices for the first ten minutes in a near-empty restaurant, we had to point at the menu so he knew what we were ordering, he forgot the appetizer, and when he tried to make up by providing a desert, it was one that Kate couldn't eat for allergies (though he knew this from earlier discussions). Still we were patient, primarily because the food was good and we were more than a little exhausted.

And as we ate, there was a homeless guy stalking the pier, looking for food among the trash that the stuff the gulls had already picked over. It made me feel less whiny about not getting an appetizer.

When we left the restaurant, the homeless guy was with a friend, perched on the wall next to the Ivar's statue. As we approached, another pedestrian right ahead of us on the sidewalk reached out and gave the guy two boxes of desserts he was carrying - one of sugar cookies, the other of cupcakes. I suppose they were the remains of some luncheon. The homeless guys shouted their thanks as the Good Samaritan moved up the street.

I felt a little better about that.

More later,

Movie Night

It's the New Hot Meme - What movies would you watch over and over?

Create your own Movie List @ HotFreeLayouts!

So, what do all of these have in common? Anyone? anyone? Bueller?

Saturday, February 18, 2006


So last night Kate was working real, real late, and I ended up sitting up and watchingThe Pink Panther on public TV (no commercials). I'm not talking about the Steve Martin version that is currently being kicked to the curb, but the original 1963 Pink Panther with David Niven and Peter Sellers. And it is an interesting movie in that on one hand it kicked off a line of sequels and even cartoons, while on the other hand, it is so very different than the rest of the cannon.

The original Pink Panther was supposed to be David Niven's movie, and for all intents and purposes it is - he's the charming, womanizing, stylish burglar, and the action stays mostly with him. He is the Phantom, the thief who is after the Pink Panther gem, who is sleeping with Inspector Clouseau's wife (yes, Clouseau was married, then). It is Niven who is trying to seduce the young princess that has the Panther. And it is Niven whose nephew (Robert Wagner) suddenly shows up to mess up his plans. It is for all intents and purposes a pretty amusing crime comedy set in the relaxed morals of the early 60s jet-set. There is a "European" attiude to cheating spouses and seductions in that it is not nearly as much of a crime (nor, apparently, is burglary).

The movie has some good sight gags (Gorillas robbing a safe) and a few good lines, but in general it feels like a slender thing. Most of the first half of the movie builds up to a sequence where Clouseau's wife hiding both Niven and Wagner from her husband in the hotel suite. After that, there is another build to a multi-vehicle chase scene with gorillas in convertables, and finally it resolves quickly in a courtroom sequence. There are more than a few gaps in logic (why did Niven throw his accomplice a key? What was the key for? How did a door that wasn't functioning suddenly fix itself? Why is a French chief inspector working in Italy?) and some definite weirdnesses (why the sudden foreign-language musical interlude in the middle? So the Pink Panther theme had a flip side recording?) and the final result is amusing, but not amazing.

What is amazing is that from this slender reed the entire Clouseau character eventually emerged. He has only the glimmerings of the massively slapstick character of later years (Indeed, the character probably peaked with Return of the Pink Panther and never got better, instead repeating itself ever after, like a Bond film). There is no chief inspector Dreyfuss or Cato figures, and Clouseau himself seems almost pitiful as the cuckolded spouse. Indeed, in the ending (where Niven/Wagner/Clouseau's wife/ (and for some unknown reason the Princess) frame Clouseau as the Phantom) do we get a bit of puckish British humor (He is more highly regarded as a thief than he was as a policeman), and there you get a bit of that sense of grand self-delusion that powers most of the rest of the series.

Indeed, Clouseau was so appealing that he was immediately wedged into another film, A Shot in the Dark, which better establishes his characteristics, even though it is pretty much a stage play with a field trip to a nudist camp welded on (I almost feel the intention was to do a nudist camp sequence and the rest of the movie was the build to that sequence). Then both Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers disappeared for Inspector Clouseu with Alan Arkin in the title role. Then, after THREE movies, the concept of Clouseau as most people have for a mental picture shows up in Return of the Pink Panther.

And much like William Powell's Nick Charles is not "the Thin Man", but is forever identified as such, Peter Sellers is "The Pink Panther" even though it feels like the original intent was to sent that in David Nivens direction.

On the other hand, I may just be staying up too late.

More later,

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I Am A Leaf

From Lady Gumdrop

You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Moya (Farscape)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com

Still busy.

More Later

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

All is Quiet on Grubb Street . . .

Too quiet.

In the past week we've seen overseas riots over cartoons and the vice president shooting a 78 year old man in the face, and nary a snarky comment from these parts.

Yes, I'm busy with something.

No, I'm not saying what it is.

Yes, I will tell you when everything is in place.

More later,

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Joyful Sound

So yesterday I spent most of the day slamming my head against deadlines (and most of today as well - one of the drawbacks to my independent/contracting/freelance life is that I am never off the job), then drove up to Cap Hill for a performance of the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus. Editor, penny-smasher, and friend scarlettina is an alto in the chorus, and had sent out an invite to friends. Many friends, as we ended up with "fan-block" at the All Pilgrims Christian Church for their performance of "Family Happens".

The music was great, a mix of folk and Broadway tunes. I realize I haven't owned a cast album since, well, Godspell, but the Sondhiem and the piece from Wicked (with Janna as one of the soloists) were wonderful. Shout-outs for Jason Wodicka's moving solo on "Losing My Mind" (highpoint of the first half) and Mitch Hunter's humor in the second half.

They got a standing "O" from the audience. And for an encore, they did Bohemian Rhapsody.

Afterwards we adjourned to Julia's, a joint down the street, where the service was horrible but the company was great. Much discussions of a variety of matters. including the physics of curling (gee, I wonder who brought that up). I, living out in the great land of cows, llamas, and housing developments was amazed to be reminded that some places stayed open after 10 PM.

It was a great break. Now I have to get back to the slamming of the head against the deadlines (sigh).

More later,

Just A Meme Before I Retire for the Evening

How can I argue with this?

Grubb Street --


A master of storytelling

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at QuizGalaxy.com

It is on the Internet, so it must be true.

More later,

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Dyvil (and Stan!'s Little Dog, Too)

In honor of submitting Dyvil: First Edition to the Origins Awards, Steve Miller has announced a Dyvil Giveaway. Details are here, or you can just drop him a line at nuelow@earthlink.net and include "Dyvil" in the header and list your email address, and he will send you a pdf of the game. So if you missed it the first time, here's your chance.

And in other news, Stan! is trying to trade up to get a robot dog. Yep, you read that right. He's looking for help to get a robot dog. The details on this are here.

More later,

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Dyvil and the Origins Awards

So with all the sound and fury about the Big Game, I didn't mention that Steve Miller and I have submitted Dyvil: First Edition (remember that?) for consideration for the Origins Awards for best RPG. Said submission consisted of burning off seven copies on CDs and a bit of other hoop-jumping and sending them out. Deadline was the end of January, but the folks there have been good enough to extend it for those interested in submitting.

Of course, sending out Dyvil for an award is another case of my putting some motion where my mouth is. I have been a long-time supporter of industry awards, and, now that we had something worth considering, felt that we should submit it. In my experience in the past, there is a feeling among a lot companies of "Why bother? We'll never get nominated! They hate us!" So they don't submit product, and then, when they don't get a nomination, get to say "See? We told you! They hate us!" when all they've really done is shot themselves in the foot.

And during the last year's nominations, there was a vocal group who felt that the judges should not just review that which was given them, but actively go out to find additional worthy games (sparing the grousing companies of having to send out promotional copies or anything). On one hand, I don't think that looking for good games is out of order - indeed, I was recommending Dogs in the Vineyard, which got high marks from the people who reviewed it. The trouble was, there were not enough judges who could get ahold of a copy (and I only got a copy from another designer), and so it missed the cut. On the other hand, the judges were buried by the submissions they did get, and it was little encouragement (from a side of time OR money) to seek out new work. So if you send them copies, you're ahead of the game from the get-go.

And once you remove from consideration nomination-worthy games whose companies didn't think to recommend them, we're dealing with a smaller pool of competition. Add to the fact that there was some whining last yeat about how all the nominations were "repeats" of previous works - second editions, revisions, expansions, etc . So this year anything that is even REMOTELY derivative should banished from consideration. Dyvil is completely original, and has its own wonky mechanic (the D666 system), AND had a limited press run. Very limited. Very, very VERY limited. It just drips with oozey Indy Cred.

And, speaking as a judge from last year, Dyvil is better than some of the nominees we actually had to hack through. You know, (other) one-joke RPGs. Stuff that beamed down directly from 70s. AD&D 2nd edition clones. Kafkaesque pdfs. Bloated hardback lovenotes to Photoshop and Quark. There was one in particular (no, you don't get to know who) - to whom I wanted to send a note - "I'm sorry, but all the rules fell out my copy in transit - could you tell me how to play your game?" Cull these out and we practically have a lock on the nomination.

So, between companies shooting themselves in the foot, judges being under time constraints, and the inherent goodness that is Dyvil: First Edition, I think we are looking forward to real race this year. And if we (by some strange circumstance) actually GET a nomination, we'll make a new special offer on the game (perhaps Advanced Dyvil), and cover it here.

Yeah, I'm looking forward to that as well. So is Steve.

More later.

Monday, February 06, 2006

XL Redux: The Final Chapter

Other news around the Big Game (then I'll move on to other things - promise).

The party: I had about five friends over to witness my football epiphany, some of the football newbies (they are called refs, not umpires). Monkey King and Peter and Mets-fan Bill and John and Janice. Served up chili and chips and beer and some wine. The Lovely Bride was at work, Vicky was hiding, and Harley was taunted the entire game by John (I don't think Harley even met such a gung-ho cat person - most humans lay off after the first fifteen minutes).

The pregame: OK, whoever thought that the dancers in a Stevie Wonder medley should have white canes should be beaten with said white canes. What, you think no one was going to tell him?

The national anthem: Let Aretha sing the whole thing. Her reedy, thin-voiced duet-mate sounded like a microphone failure, but the Queen of Soul smoked.

The commercials: Best Commercial by acclamation: The Magic Fridge (All the Bud Light commericals were good). Second place: the prehistoric Fed Ex. Best fan-geek moment Leonard Nimoy for Aleve (gods, we're getting old). Biggest misfire - Pepsi (which kicked off a discussion about other things that were brown and bubbly - no, it wasn't pretty). And I have yet to see a Hummer commercial that didn't have the subtext - "be a jerk, drive a Hummer". MIA - Mickey D, Microsoft, Coke, and Coors (the "official" NFL beer). Where did they go?

Oh, and the ad for Poseidon sparked a discussion about who was still alive for the original, followed by a discussion about the late Shelly Winters. Bad news - you don't want your movie ads to do that.

The half-time: We picked the songs correctly in advance - Start Me Up - something you never heard before - Satisfaction. You lead with your second-biggest song and close with your biggest. The fact that "Satisfaction" Was in rotation before Super Bowl I shows that the old folks are still in control. And yeah, Mick is a geezer, has moved into "we hope to look that good at his age" category.

One more thing on the game itself: A gadget play. The Steelers ran a gadget play. Chuck Noll must have been screaming when they ran this successfully.

After the Game - Peter David's site mentioned that the Animal Planet channel was running "The Puppy Bowl" - footage of puppies playing on a football field set. The Lovely Bride stayed up late watching it (and the Kitty HalfTime Show). Ahhhhh, puppies!

The celebration in Pittburgh - dumpster fires and an overturned Nissan at Pitt. Given that people are still talking about when celebrating fans turned over a trolley years ago, it was a pretty quiet celebration. Cold and windy weather had something to do about it.

The mourning after - The Seattle press and bloggers have decided that Seattle lost to the following (In order of importance):
1) The Refs
2) Bad Time Management
3) Their own Miscues
4) Some guys wearing Black and Gold

As a long-time Steeler fan, let me merely roll my eyes.

OK, I'm done.

More later,

Sunday, February 05, 2006

XL: Redux

So my team lost 21-10. Why am I smiling?

I'm smiling because they played a real good game. In a history of Superbowl blowouts over the years, they kept it going into the last quarter. They stuffed the Pittsburgh defense so effectively in the first half that it was almost as if the Pittsburgh fans mysteriously vanished. There were enough woulda-shoulda-couldas in the game to keep the hot stove league going through the coming months without football. Yeah, there were some groaners and some questionable calls (enough to keep the hot stove league in flammibles for some time as well), and it wasn't as tight as my prediction, but Seattle played well. They showed they deserved to be there.

What made the difference? After the first half, the Steelers settled down. The Seahawks didn't. That made the entire difference. While I fought the narrative, the Bus going to Detroit was a great happy ending. The Steel City waited 25 years for one for the thumb, and I'm glad they have it.

And I'm also smiling because I came to grips with being a Seahawk fan. For all of my even-handedness, I found myself cheering the Seattle catches and whinging about the calls. When put to the test, I rooted with my heart, and even with their defeat, am proud of their accomplishments.

Not to mention that, after it is all said and done, I'm still happy to be in Seattle.

Thanks for the championship year, Seahawks.

More later,

Mr. Wilson's Fin de Cycle

Radio Golf By August Wilson, Directed by Kenny Leon, Seattle Repetory Theatre, Januray 19-February 18

So the Lovely Bride and I spent Saturday celebrating our illuminati anniversary (the 23rd - hey, the waiter got the joke). We took in a play, visited the nearby SF Museum, and had a wonderful meal at Canlis. And the play was the last (in order, not in creation) of August Wilson's cycle based on Pittsburgh's Hill District.

I have seen a lot of the late August Wilson's plays - five of the ten in this cycle and read a sixth, and can safely say I've seen more of his work live than any other modern playwright (Shakespeare still beats him out overall). He plays in heavy rotation in my native Pittsburgh. When I lived Milwaukee, his stuff was at the public theater there. And I have seen a lot of his work here in Seattle. So for the longest time I thought that Wilson was the "go-to" guy for the African-American theater experience. You know "Hey, we need something this year about the African-American experience - see what Augie's working on."

The truth of the matter has been that I have been inadvertently stalking the man for years. He and I were both born in Pittsburgh. He moved to Minneapolis before I showed up in Wisconsin, and lit out to Seattle before WotC was up and running. I saw him in the flesh, once, when I was taking a playwriting course and we were getting a tour of the rep. I have seen so many of his plays in part because he was a local writer for wherever I have been, and because wherever he was, he wrote well.

In general, Wilson's work is about ideas, ideals, and passion, and how great dreams get undercut by horrible reality. If everything it looking good for a character in act one, you know that by the middle of act two everything has collapsed in on him. His is a world of strugglers and achievers who are always trying to deal with a racial world.

Now, Mr. Wilson tends to be a bit longwinded, and his plays tend to be overstuffed with ideas and personal monologues. These are not neat clockwork creations, but brawling, sprawling works. Sometimes it is just too much, like his lumbering King Hedly II. He also has a tendency for "sudden rage" - a character suddenly goes off and someone ends up dead and you in the audience ask yourself "Where did THAT come from? What clue did I miss?" The weird thing is that while this last bit freaks you out, in the overall cycle, you are left with that feeling of forboding that it can break out at any time. The rage is always there.

So, Radio Golf. The place is the Bedford Hills Redevelopment Office on the Hill in 1997, literally presented in the staging as bright spot in the surrounding urban decay. Real estate developer Harmond Wilks (Rocky Carroll) and his sidekick Roosevelt Hicks (James A. Williams) have a plan to redevelop a block on the Hill. Harmond Wilks is planning for a run as mayor, and his star is rising. He grew up on the Hill, but hasn't been back for years. The redevelopment plans hit a bump when there is a question about who owns one of the houses they are about to demolish.

For a good chunk of first act, Wilks has almost a Bob-Newhart sort of role, as he gets moved aside for more colorful characters, like Hicks, handyman Sterling Johnson (John Earl Jelks) and Elder Joseph Barlow (Anthony Chisholm), the old codger who claims ownership of the soon-to-be-demolished house. However, Hicks soon finds himself caught between doing right and doing business, and how, when he makes that choice (remember what I said about the middle of the second act?) he is punished.

The thing is, the "Sudden Rage" here is not that sudden and much more grounded. By pitching Hicks as a long-suffering sounding board, we can see his transition from outsider to native, from planner to doer. The very long-winded nature of Wilson's characters (they have a story to tell, so you might as well just hunker down and let them tell it), gives the audience the chance of following along with Wilks' transformation. When he does erupt, it makes perfect sense, and you feel for his frustration and anger. The world should be better than it is. But it is not. He makes a choice, and in doing the right thing suddenly finds himself cast aside, moved from the center to the edge, as the rest of the deals continue to spin without him.

Race is the centerpost of August Wilson's plays, and the dealings of oppression as a damningly reliable mechanism always waiting for you to slip up. But there is more here in Radio Golf - it is a transformations and transitions and heritage and family expectations. Hicks was the good son who followed his stern father's plan, and when he gets his moment, you see his evolution not just in racial terms, but also in terms of family and self-identity.

It's a good play, a good end to the cycle, and a good addition to a rocky REP season. And it is doing the job of attracting more newcomers to the theater, if the number of folk who forgot to turn off their cell phones is any indication.

More later,

Saturday, February 04, 2006

XL: Eve of Destruction

So here we are, the day before the most important sporting event of this new century, one which will be talked about for decades afterwards.

I'm talking about the Men's Curling Finals for the Canadian Cup.

No! No! I'm talking about the Super Bowl. I've started the chili and have already picked up some chips andAlaskan Amber. I've having a few friends over to watch the game tomorrow. The windstorm last night caused a power flicker here but no downed trees or other impediments to sports enjoyment. (You can laugh, but when the Bears were in the Big Game, we had a cable failure in Lake Geneva, and we all ended up listening to the game on the radio, just like the olden days).

So, do I have any predictions? Yeah, the game will run one of two ways:

Option 1: Blowout - One team comes out flat. It gets behind by a couple touchdowns. They try to rally. There is an fumble, interception, or blocked kick that seals their doom. It is all over by halftime. My gang breaks out a boardgame. Adverstisers who have paid more per minute of time than we're spending Iraq slam their heads against the walls.

Option 2: The Close Game Early trade of field goals as both defenses come out hard. A breakout run by a veteran running back. A brilliant pick of a well-thrown ball run back for a TD. A deeply questionable call at a critical moment. It will be decided by a field goal in the last two minutes, if not overtime. Cardiac care units will be overwhelmed after the game.

Naturally, I prefer #2 - both the teams deserve to be here, they had great championship games, and I want to see them go head to head, with everything falling into place for both teams.

Who do I think is going to win? While I think Pittsburgh is a great team and a great city (that's so my relatives will still talk to me after this), yunz should dance with the girl that brung yah. I'm going to say Seattle, but only by that field goal.

More later,

Friday, February 03, 2006

Other People's Blogs

The ever-sedate Nik Chick goes after blatant sexist marketing in the RPG industry with a stick. I'm with her on this, and not just because she gives a product from one of my lines a positive nod for showing attractive women within the context of the product. The offending examples from banner ads deliver the message that not only are some companies comfortable with the fact that no woman will ever encounter their product, but that they are more than just a little scared of gurls.

Her husband, Chris (who I also understand is somehow involved in the gaming industry) also scores points with 10 Fundamental Contradictions in RPG Publishing.

Also, from the Monkey King's friends list (best in the bidness), from "J", pulled from a message board, a story about how the Karl Rove and the President are apparently big Babylon 5 fans.

Yeah, you can imagine Rove with the big Londo sideways-mohawk hairstyle, shouting "Vir! Ve must swiftboat G'Kar! At vunce!"

More later,

Thursday, February 02, 2006

XL: Trash Talk

Now this is more of the narrative I expected - X-Box versus Lunch Box (courtesy of my brother).

Now, mind you, I know a lot more Pittsburghers that look like the guy on the right than the guy on the left, but again, we're talking mental state here.

And speaking of mental state, apparently the Seahawks "Seattle Nice" strategy (Be pleasant, hit hard in the game) is taking its toll on the Steelers, who are looking for something, anything, to fire themselves up with. Bettis already went after the media for "disrepecting" the Steelers by making them the favorites (by belittling their opponents that means that the Steelers are not that hot . . . or something). Now Joey Porter has apparently blinked in the face of Seahawk niceness and unloaded a volley against Jerramy Stevens, who had the gall to say about Jerome Bettis "It's a heartwarming story and all that, but it will be a sad day when he leaves without the trophy."

I'm sure Stevens sounded like Ned Flanders, with a couple of "diddleys" and called it the "trophy-a-dophy" but that was enough to prime the Steelers' loose cannon, who declared "We're going to try to tap out as many people as we can". He then explained what he meant by "tap out", but of course, as everyone from Seattle already knows that means to exhaust your mana pool until you untap by change of posession or by gaining a new set of downs.

And the local paper ran a "Pittsburgh versus Seattle" comparison. Seattle has better beer, Pittsburgh more rivers, that sort of thing. And they set up kiddie host JP Patches against Mr. Rogers. Actually, it should be Mr. Rogers against Bill Nye, the Science Guy (Mr. Rogers still wins). JP Patches could be better compared to Paul Shannon, whose "Adventure Time", loaded with Three Stooges episodes, Kimba the White Lion cartoons, and the silent comedic stylings of Nosmo King, shaped a generation of young TV Viewers.

More later,


What a difference a day makes.

- The Super Bowl committee wants it to be known that it has R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Motown's musical heritage, and that soul legend Aretha Franklin will be singing the National Anthem. Which means she will have more people paying attention than willing be hanging around for Keith Richards.

- The Capitol Police have apologized to both Cindy Sheehan and Congressman's Young's wife for their ejections. Still no clue why the latter was merely removed while the former was dragged off in handcuffs. And how's that Anthrax investigation going, guys?

- And all that stuff in the SOTU about energy independence? Never mind.

More later,

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

XL: Musical Interlude

So let me get this straight - the Big Game is being held in Detroit, also known as Motown (as in "Showdown in Motown"). And that name is best known from Motown Records.

And the half-time show is . . . The Rolling Stones?

I mean, does Detroit make music the way it makes cars (mostly in its memory)?

OK, I'm no longer being snarky! Really! Starting . . . Now!

(And what's the deal with Spider-Man's new outfit - Sorry, sorry, stopped being snarky!)

More later,

Stuff, Sotu, and Snarkiness

Well, someone woke up on the snarky side of the bed this morning . . .

Caught part of the State of the Union (SOTU in these acronym-friendly times), and the line about getting the Line item Veto perked up my ears. This was a 90's thing, and it was a bad idea then as it is now. And why would an administration need a line-item veto when it hasn't vetoed a bill in its entire time in office? Was this the Mars/Hybrid/Steroids sort of thing to show they were 'thinking outside the box'?

Then it hit me - the Administration expects to lose big this fall, and is already preparing for dealing with a hostile Congress.

As for the rest, it is kind of obvious that the presidential speechwriters are also moonlighting on the Daily Show - they do the setup lines in the speech, and the punchlines the next day.

Washington Fashion Police arrested Gold-Star Mom Cindy Sheehan for wearing white after Labor Day. Hah! I kid! Actually, it was for "protesting" by wearing a message T-shirt about US deaths in Iraq. What struck me was the murkiness of the media reports- that she was detained (actually, she was arrested, handcuffed, and tossed in the jug for a few hours), and that she had a banner (it was a T-shirt). And this was right in the middle of a heavily-covered media event.

And in the sense of balance, the Media located the wife of a Florida Congressman who was also ejected for wearing a message T-Shirt, this one supporting the troops. She was told she was being treated the same as Sheehan. Well, except for the dragging and the handcuffing and the arresting part (and she got to call the official involved an idiot).

And Dick Cheney was made to change His shirt. It read "I'm with Stupid." (Hah! Take THAT, Daily Show!)

I may have missed this in the speech, but who has more homes without electric power, Baghdad or New Orleans?

And moving on to more important matters, I have to state I think the recent Oscar nominations show the lowness and moral turpitude of the Academy. How can you NOT nominate Jack Black for his star turn in King Kong?

Over on the XL beat - the big argument on EPSN was "chin wars" - who has a more impressive chin? Cohwers jutting prominence or Holgrem's multiple redundencies? God, and its only Wednesday.

And finally, there were 14 inches of rain in January up here in the Real-Time offices of Grubb Street. So maybe that's why the snarkiness.

OK, I'm done.

More later,