Friday, March 31, 2006

The Job

So, other than the occasional nightmare about self-doubt and trepanation, how's the new job going?

Not bad. Not bad at all.

First thing I have to say is that writing within a computer game environment is very different than that of designing a traditional RPG or writing fiction. In comparison, the other two are much more personal projects, both in terms of scope and control. Working on a computer game is really more akin to working in film or TV -– a balance of forces, needs, and sudden opportunities, handling of a variety of talents and a general herding of cats. Story, while vitally important, does not rule over all.

It also has a sense of speed that I am unaccustomed to, and I am a creature of immediate deadlines. Decisions are made and acted upon quickly. Several lines are started at once. As we are lashing up plot, art assets and missions are being generated, which then produce sudden opportunities for use to expand or change that plot. I am already agog at some of the stuff that is already in process.

The work environment is extremely pleasant. Our team is in a big room. Almost all the gang is younger than I am (a peril of my antediluvian nature), and all have been enthusiastic of helping me shed by Luddite shackles and join them on the bleeding edge of tech. (Translation – they got me to create a Microsoft Messenger account, and gave me the dev codes for our test server).

Our business is located in some lowlands near the Mercer Slough, a location so well-hidden, that if I ever want to create a super-villain start-up, this is where I would put my secret base (I'd take over the Amazon building only after I shipped my first Evil Product). Even folk native to Bellevue have no idea where we are. It is a nice area, overgrown with trees and wildlife. We back on a channel through the slough and I have spotted herons, turtles, and bald eagles on my lunchtime walks. Most of the buildings are up on concrete stilts. I refer to the place as "The Ewok Village".

It is the pace of the work day that has completely scrambled me. From my write-ups of the previous contract work in Bellevue, you know that at that time I would awake before dawn, slog through the morning traffic, and get to work around 7 AM. This is a computer game company, so arriving here at 10 AM makes you one of the "Early People". Now, this also means that if you get out the door before 8 or 9 PM, you are leaving allies in your wake, still working.

The good news is that I am having a chance to really have breakfast and avoid the worst of the rush hours up and back. The bad news is my usual schedule has been snarled up beyond all recognition. Lunch is about two in the afternoon, dinner is light and late into the evening.

This also means that my time for writing for me has shifted from early evening after work to early morning before work, and has left me a little rocky. I'm looking at my most recent stuff, and it is very vignette-based, with short segments as opposed to a more leisurely progression of plot. It is both frustrating and interesting, a sudden shifting that has left me scrambling and unsure.

And probably cuing the skull-sawing dreams in the first place.

More later,

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


It has seemed like forever since I've had a "self-doubt" dream, but this one woke me from a deep sleep and now refuses to let me rest.

In the dream, I am both reading a comic book and in the comic book - a black and white book with a two-by-two grid. The comic focuses on me, pictured from the shoulders up, as the top of my skull is sawn off, as a bunch of cartoony tools (scalpel, dental pick, drill, pastry crimper) on mechanical extenders poke around in my exposed brain.

Finally, I say "I'm sorry. I lied. I can't see through walls."

And a voice off-panel says, "Well, thank you for being honest about it."

And the next shot is me, standing at the bus stop in the rain, my brain still exposed, holding the top of my skull in my hands like a bowl.

Concern over still being on a learning curve about Massively Multiplayers? Or just that they're running Invader Zim episodes during lunch in the break room?

More later,

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Place Holder

Things have gone quiet for a while only because I am spending the weekend wrestling with a couple ongoing freelance responsibilities, before plunging back into the regular job.

My only breaks have been a four-mile hike with the Lovely Bride, a 40th birthday bash for the mighty T'Ed Stark, and taking the Lovely Bride out for a steak dinner tonight. Oh, and watching women's curling this morning.

Hmmmm. This may be why I'm not getting as much done as I had hoped.

More later,

Thursday, March 23, 2006


My friend, Wolfgang Baur, better known as the Monkey King, has lost his mind.

I blame his status as a new father. The combination of sleeplessness and the endophrine rush of a beautiful child has proved too much for this otherwise stalwart and productive designer of games and writer of fiction, and he has descended into madness.

Specifically - he is embracing a new (well, old) method of publishing - Seeking out Patrons. He's willing to write for a small group of individuals who are in turn willing to pay up front for the goods, and who will have input on the final product before its completion. Wolf puts the inital concept up here and has devoted its own web page here.

Think of the Holy Father of Rome nattering at Michelangelo about the subject matter in the Sistine Chapel and you have a good idea of where this is going. Now imagine writing for fifty Popes, all commenting at the same time, and you see where the inevitable nightmare of this plan unfolds.

But if you ever wanted to direct a talented game designer as to his next project, kibbitz on it during its writing and hold a unique piece of fantasy adventure history in your hands (or hard drive - I'm a little vague on his distribution method), this is your chance. Game design moves into a new century - in this case the 15th Century, in Venice.

Obviously, this is will end in tears.

More later

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


So last week I got a card in the mail inviting me to an Open House to discuss the Fairwood Potential Annexation Area, and last night I went to Northwood Jr. High to see what was up. What I discovered was that it had little to do with me and my patch of earth, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Let me give you the background here. I live in a chunk of unincorporated King County, unclaimed by any local community and reliant on Country services. We're in Renton as far as the post office is concerned, and back on a school in the Kent school district. I have come to refer to our neighborhood as "Panther Lake" when describing it to people.

There are a lot of chunks of land like that in King County, and the current county administration is trying to get all of them that are within the growth boundary adopted by neighboring cities and towns, with a goal of doing that by 2012. In response, a group from one of the new concentrations of population along Petrovitsky is pushing to create their own city - Fairwood. That would put Renton to our Northwest, the new Fairwood to our Northeast, and Kent to our South. Renton has dibs on the territory immediately north of us (called the Cascade neighborhood), but if they give the go-ahead, Fairwood would incorporate with them as well.

And me? Well, according to all the maps, I shouldn't have gotten an invite - my property is one block south of the Cascadia line, which puts us south of Renton or Fairwood, depending on who takes over that territory. My property will be swallowed by Kent (I think).

But I did show up, and to my surprise found a gym filled with people - I would say about 300, including the representatives of King County, Renton, and the Fairwood Task Force. And everyone was loaded for bear, in particular the citizens, whose interest, like mine, was pretty much in how their property would be affected. The pro-Fairwood group was pretty much grass roots in nature, seeking to keep local control over their community. The Renton folk were pushing the idea that they already had the infrastructure to run things, and had glossy displays of fire departments, parks, and picnics to back it up. The Cascadia folk were pretty indignant about being a football between these two, either being ignored (an insult) or courted only for their tax base (another insult).

What struck me was that all involved were taking this extremely personally. All politics are local, indeed, and I spoke with strong boosters of Fairwood and those who felt the area could not support a goverment without increasing property taxes. I would prefer to see a local government that would be local to me - Renton has its concentration of population in the valley, and hasn't seemed to do much with the chunk already they have on the hill - the Renton Highlands. But even if Fairwood reached west far enough to swallow Cascadia and be a block north of us, we'd still be the borderland, with a distant administration.

So my eyes now turn southwards, and I have to check out what the timetable is for the Kent Annexation. And I am afraid that this is not the last you've heard of this.

More later,

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Beer Me!

Killian's Red
(66% dark & bitter, 100% working class, 33% genuine)

I'll start with a quote from a review of Killian's Red that I think will reflect on you, too: "deep flavor, somewhat mild, with a moderate head." It goes on to talk about a "light caramel odor," and while that sounds nice, I don't think I can go that far in my analysis.

Overall, Killian's is a very good beer. The only thing that kinda sucks is that even though it says "Irish Red" on the bottle, this stuff's made by Coors, not peaty old Dubliners. I guess that's my way of telling you that you scored on the lower side of the "genuine" part of my test. Here's my guess: you're a sensible, likeable person, and you're popular among different groups of people. The test probably read that as a slight superficiality.

Personality-wise, you have refined tastes (after all, this stuff is kind of expensive), but you know how to savor what you get. Your personality isn't exactly bubbly, but you're well-liked nonetheless. Your sense of humor is rather dark, but that's just another way to say sophisticated, right?

As a real George Killian would say: Sláinte! Cheers!

Link: The If You Were A Beer Test written by gwendolynbooks on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

More later (hic!),

Origins Nominations

So last week, at the GAMA Trade Show in Vegas, they announced the nominees for the Origins Awards. The full list is here, but here are the relevant bits for the roleplayers out there:

Nominees for Role-Playing Game of the Year: (Role-Playing College)
Army of Darkness by Eden Studios
Artesia by Archia Studios Press
Deryni Adventure Game by Grey Ghost Press Inc.
Serenity by Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd.
World of Warcraft by Sword and Sorcery Studios

Nominees for Role-Playing Game Supplement of the Year: (Role-Playing College)
Exalted Autochthonians by White Wolf
GURPS Infinite Worlds by Steve Jackson Games
Mage by White Wolf
Midnight 2nd ed. RPG by Fantasy Flight
Shackled City by Paizo Publishing, LLC.

You may notice the absence of Dyvil: First Edition from this list. Obviously this slight means that the Origins Awards Committee is hopelessly corrupt and beyond any hope of redemption, wallowing in their own crapulence, and should be boycotted forthwith.

Nah, I’m just yanking your chain. Every single product on the RPG list is a better value per dollar than Dyvil, and we were GIVING Dyvil away. But the announcement of the list does kick off the second phase of the Origins Nominations process, which is complaining about how horrible the nominations are, and how the awards don’t matter anyway.

Now, I’ve said this before and will restate it here - you have to enter if you want to win (or even if you want to gripe realistically about not winning). The Origins awards only suggest that the manufacturers send out samples to the Judges (the more highly-valued ENnies demand the samples, and no one seems to mind). By making it optional, the responsiblity to find the best projects falls on the overloaded Judges, who tend to work with what they are given. If you don't think well enough of your work, why should the folk giving out awards?

Could I knit together a better list from everything published last year? Without a doubt. A lot of excellent Green Ronin stuff was published last year, along with Tekumel from Guardians of Order and the intriguing Weapons of the Gods from EOS. PLUS a lot of nice WotC product, not the least of which was the Spell Compendium, which had a bit of work by yours truly. But some or all of these did not throw themselves into consideration and therefore went by the boards in the short time allowed for review. Pity, because I think some of the projects that got nominated would still be on the list even if everything I've listed was in contention (and if any of the above were submitted and didn’t get the nod, then yeah, even I would complain - but that's a different rant).

Anyway, last year, the whining was about how everything was a revision of an earlier system. This year, the whining is about how everything is a license, using a revision of an earlier system. So that’s progress, I suppose.

Actually, I had not heard of Artesia before this list was published, and did some digging on it, and it sounds like an interesting game. So the Nominations have done something in that it has increased the exposure for a number of projects. WoW I’ve seen, and I think Serenity is good both as a license and for its quirky game mechanic system (but I’m prejudiced on that one). I’m glad to see Paizo’s Shackled City make it, and the recommendations for Mage and Infinite Worlds may be enough to push me over the edge and check them out, finally (If only I had, you know, a local hobby store, but again, that's a different rant).

Of course, the critics of the awards will ignore the promotional nature of the nominations, because the important part of the awards is griping about them – right up to the point they are awarded at the Origins convention in Columbus.

At which point the important part will be whining about the winners.

More later.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Three Years In

So this past weekend saw the third anniversary of our invasion that kicked off the current war. Not the anniversary of the horrible Casus Belli that set us on this course of action, or even the initial invasion of a different country with the intent on getting the guy responsible (This just in - he's still out there). This is the invasion of another country because it was . . . um . . . hang on, I'll remember this in a moment. No, we don't admit to that reason anymore. Lemme see. And this reason proved fake. I had to have had some reason . . . Ah!

You mother. We invaded Iraq because it said nasty things about your mother.

Hey, it makes as much sense as anything else.

This nasty anniversary was marked by protests in hundreds and thousands across the country and the world. But don't worry about you seeing them in your media - the people who would be reporting on them are the same people that went along for the ride when we were sold this conflict in the first place. I hear about a lap dog media, but I think we've actually got a guard dog media - seeking to support its ruling elite and to protect the American people from grizly truths.

Indeed, I was going to pass on commemerating this event at all, but last night, bouncing between channels, I hit the local news, which, deep in its coverage, mentioned the anniversary and showed a good-sized rally against the war in Tacoma (because, you know, no one would protest the war in Seattle). And then, to provide "balance", gave equal time to a pro-war protest.

Of three people. Standing on an overpass laced with faded yellow ribbons, holding American flags, near Fort Lewis. And even they said they understood the anti-war protesters point.

Which, of course, puts them one-up on the current administration.

Here's to friends and strangers toughing it out, far from home. Happy W-day. More later,

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Play: Gin Fizz

Private Lives: By Noel Coward, Directed by Gabriel Barre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, March 2 - April 1, 2006

I think I've mentioned that the Rep's season has been a bit rocky this year - leading off with a puppet show, taking a swerve into comedia d'el arte, pulling a Neil Simon play for one by the late August Wilson. And there was originally a world premiere in this slot, which hasn't seen the light of day, instead replaced with an old traditional - Private Lives.

The white signs in the lobby warn that there will be a brief nudity and a strobe light between acts II and III. It also goes on that in respect for the author and his times, there will be smoking on stage. Oddly enough, there is no mention of there being drinking and domestic violence on stage in respect for the author and his times, but I guess that's just a given. Indeed, one of the draws of Noel Coward plays over the years is the prospect of seeing the wealthier classes behaving badly.

Amanda (Suzanne Bouchard) and Elyot (Rob Breckenridge) are paragons of that class. They had a stormy marriage five years back, divorced, and now enounter each other on their respective honeymoon nights with their new spouses. They waver for a bit, then fall back into their dysfunctional relationship, abandoning their new spouses and holing up in Pari, where they attempt to be better than they were but fall prey to their old tendencies.

Of course, all this spins out with wit and verve, so you don't take too hard a look at the social questions underpinning all this. Both leads deal with their characters being charming and horrid within the space of a single sentence. Bouchard is . . . well . . . a hottie, and smokes and repels in equal measure. Breckenridge comes off as a bit too coarse in some places, a bit too fey in others, but then, that's the nature of the play. Interestingly enough, the Lovely Bride has castigated some plays from the standpoint that "There would not be a plot if there were decent divorce laws." In this case, they would need decent divorce laws and an 100 yard restraining order to defang this particular work.

Allen Fitzpatrick and Nikki Coble play the respective spouses, and though they seem disposable at the outset, they bring a little more solidity to their roles as they move through. Coble in particular as the brokenhearted, fragile new wife makes you feel sorry for her as she is coaxing out laughs.

And the sets - a pair of balconies for the first act, the hidden lovenest that becomes a battlefield in the second, got applause when the curtain went up. I never figured that out, myself, though they were effective sets within the large expanse of the Bagley Wright stage, confining and distilling down the action. But the strobes between Acts II and III? Didn't work for me at all.

As for the play itself within the larger season - sometimes you throw your fastball. Sometimes you throw your curve. And sometimes you just pitch. This was just a pitch, and it was good enough.

More later,

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Blast from the Past

There are all sorts of strange things in the Blogosphere.

Case in point - I've been bouncing around looking for comics blogs, in particularly ones that do current reviews. Among those I found were 2 Guys Buying Comics, which I have been enjoying for the past month or so. I've been doing the lurking this, enjoying the mix of new reviews and comments on old stuff.

So imagine my surprise when one the guys (Chris) digs up his old Marvel Super Heroes Adventure gamebooks to review. These were sort of "advanced choose your own adventure" books that used stats and dice. Some of them were written (nearly) 20 years ago by myself and the Lovely Bride - I did the first Spider-Man book, while the Lovely Bride wrote the Captain America and X-Men books. But the rest of the authors are sort of an All-Star Squadron - Jim Ward, Matt Costello, Allen Varney, Warren Spector, and Peter David (just as he was breaking out as an author).

Now Chris digs them up with eye towards "Gee, I once thought these were cool", but reports that the books have held up well, and the ARE still cool. Which delights me to no end. We wrote them with respect of the characters and a love of comics, and I think its shows, after all these years.

But nearly 20 years ago. Scares the heck out of me to say it like that.

More later.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

My Card

Jeff Grubb

~ will teach you to ~

Use an Easy Bake Oven

'What will your business card say?' at

And the freaky thing is: I did write some recipes of Easy-Bake Oven for the Hasbro web site.

More later,

Mental Ipod

So I mentioned "Inch by Inch" the other day, and how effortlessly it came to mind and then, of course, refused to leave. And I found myself humming, singing, or whistling the tune over the next day or so.

So I started to wonder what OTHER songs I was continually singing. So kept a running list.

Now, I definitely come by this behavior honestly, from my father, though if it is Nature or Nurture, I have no idea. He would always walk through the house singing - two favorites were "Tiny Bubbles" and "Puff the Magic Dragon" (Though I have to wonder if my entire adult life and livelihood is a passionate rejection of the downer ending of that song). So the idea of singing bits of songs in public and private is completely normal to me.

Anyway, here's my onboard play list that I have gone through over the past day. Some of this was sung, hummed, or whistled in the car on the way too/from work, but most of these crimes against mental health were foisted upon fellow workers, for which they have my apologies:

Inch By Inch (Arlo Guthrie)
Rock and Roll All Night (KISS)
Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore (another fave of my Dad's)
Can't Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones)
Ring of Burning Fire (Johnny Cash)
Sweet Caroline (Bom! Bom! BOM!)
When Doves Cry (Prince -Thanks Miranda)
Theme from A-Team (On a co-worker's cell phone)
You Can't Roller Skate Through A Buffalo Herd
The Railroad Runs Through the Middle of the House
Rain in Africa (Toto - boy I'm embarrassed)
(Feels Like) Letting Go (Paul McCartney)
Time Warp (Rocky Horror Soundtrack)
Winter Wonderland
Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon)
Only in Kenya (Go here and enjoy)
National Geographic Theme Song

Who needs a Ipod when you have this? (Bom! Bom! BOM!)

More later,

Monday, March 13, 2006

Inch by Inch

So yesterday I am working (my weekends have been filled with lashing myself to the computer, but that is another tale), and the Lovely Bride calls - she is teaching a seminar for her tax preparers and needs to be reminded what the lyrics of "Inch by Inch" are.

And without thinking I rattle off:

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna make this garden grow
Gonna mulch it deep and low
Gonna make it fertile ground

Inch by inch, row by row
Please bless these seeds I sow
Please keep them safe below
'Till the rain comes tumbling down

(this is the David Mallet version sung by Arlo Guthrie on the Precious Friends album, Copywrite Cherry Lane Music Corp)

Now, I have a hard time remembering where the car keys are, or to take my cell phone with me (another requirement for life, and another story), and I can remember this.

And of course, since dredging it up, it is caught in my brain. And probably yours too.

More later,

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Comics: Cosmic Reset Button

And Friday morning I took a machete to a lot of my weekly comics purchases. I have a pull service with Bookworld where they set aside books for me, and to be frank, the amount has grown like kudzu, such that the nice folks there have a betting pool on what my total is eash week. A lot of the books are titles that I’ve been reading for, well, years, and now have to take a long hard look at it and figure out if I want to keep going with them.

Part of it has been motivated by the cosmic reset button employed by both major companies, Marvel and DC. These are “mega-events” which are supposed to charge up and freshen up their respective universes, attracting new readers and encouraging old ones to return. But every jumping on point is a jumping off point, and both hitting at the same time has given me a chance to jump.

The mainstream Marvel Universe, for example, has recently “de-powered” its mutants after unceremoniously driving the Scarlet Witch crazy. The resulting Marvel Universe seems to be in a muddle, and almost all the X-Books have left me with the question – who are these guys? So Excaliber, X-Men, New X-Men, Yet More X-Men and the rest are gone. The lone survivor among the mutants is Astonishing X-Men, by Joss Whedon, much like J. Michael Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man survives among numerous Spidery titles (they ALSO did a mega-event over in the Spider-Books that ended up with . . . a new costume (and not a lot of encouragement to pick up the other books)).

Over in the DC universe, they are in the throes of an Infinite Crisis, which (in story) threatens to return the multiple earths of thirty years ago, while (beyond the story) allows all the books to suddenly move One Year Later in their plotlines, supposedly allowing character depth and growth that you do not see onstage. But the trashy handling of the various plotlines leading up to this time-jump really left me seriously depressed. What “One Year Later” issues I have seen have either trashed previous work (Aquaman) or seemed to leave things in the same state that a change of writers normally would (Outsiders). So let’s put aside Aquaman, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Outsiders, and Hawkman. And that doesn’t count stuff that they canceled for the moment on their side – Wonder Woman, Flash, and JLA. JSA gets to stay but only because of Rags working on it. The only Super-title still on the list is Grant Morisson’s All Star Superman, which is non-continuity.

Oddly enough, there are still a lot of books still on the list. Almost all the Ultimate Marvel books (sort of a "Marvel Refocused" series taking the major characters back to their early days and running the universe with different specific outcomes) have stayed. Ditto Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers work, which is deeply involved in re-inventing a lot of DC low-level characters.

But the center? That no longer holds. And more will probably go away in the near future.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Big Screen

So Thursday night my company threw a party to celebrate the upcoming release of our new game Guild Wars: Factions. The gig was held in the upper hall at the Science Fiction Museum, and the walls and ceiling were decorated with the flying car from Bladerunner, the saucer from Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, and the Seaview from Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

The upper hall at the SFM is turning into geek party center - last week WizKids was running Battlestar Galactica roll-out there, and one of my fellow guests was a WotC expat casing the joint for a Game Designer's conclave in a few weeks.

The big attraction was not the cool props, but the game itself, played out on a huge screen. The opening cinematic is incredible, and for the first time, I have a clue about what I have gotten myself into. I reminded me of an oft-declared WotC goal - to make games as big as movies.

The entertainment section was handled by the all-female AC/DC tribute band Hell's Belles, which rocked the house (Both NikChik and Chris have cool things to say at that). I am afraid the Lovely Bride and I are too old to mosh, so we discretely swing-danced on the balcony.

What amazed me was the fact that usually at such shindig which match gamers and a live band, the gamers all migrate out to the hallway to gossip while the band deals with a mostly empty house. Not this time. Hell's Belles did a great job holding their ground, with the live games running on the big screen behind them.

Games as big as movies, indeed.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Three is a Magic Number

Grubb Street would like to congratulate The Monkey King and Shelly in Seattle on the arrival of their first child, Heidi Katarina Baur. Parents and child are doing well, and Heidi will have her own LJ page up soon (I'm looking forward to the entry where she discovers sugar).

More later,

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Movie Sign

So what did I miss while I was going on about coinage? Ah, yes, the Oscars.

They weren't that bad this year. I liked Jon Stewart (but then, I'm his best friend). The folk who are whining and moaning about Stewart's rookie performance usually whine and moan about the politics of the event, or the comercialization, or the length, or the dance numbers. They're the type of people who go to NASCAR for the crashes. Get over it - it was a quiet year full of smaller, more intelligent films. You want the ratings to go up again? Make more LOTR movies. Outside of Wallace and Grommit, you lost the all-important nerd demographic.

And the Tomlin/Streep introduction for Robert Altman? Brilliant. Only sad thing about honorary Oscars is that it is a reminder that we blew these talented people off when they were making their films. Is this an apology in advance for the inevitable snubbing of the Prairie Home Companion movie?

Of course, there was something that did get under my skin. Brokeback Mountain. No, not the movie, but the fact that Larry McMurty co-accepted the Best Adapted Screenplay award while wearing jeans. Hey, Larry, thanks for reinforcing all the negative stereotypes about us author-types. And we just got upgraded from "slobs" to "rumpled". (A friend from New York swears that his tux jacket didn't fit him either, and may have been presented when he got there. I doubt that - I'm a minor-league game designer and even I have my own tux).

And the not-so-subtle undercurrent of this year's ceremony was "Go See More Movies". Yeah, I got that. We'll see how the schedule works out this year.

More later,

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

No Quarter (Final)

Now, they have announced the quarters for 2006 here, but I am not going to review them for the simple reason that I have not handled them. One of the things I have figured out by going through 35 of these is that feel is as important as look. What makes the Connecticut quarter truly great and the Texas quarter a slug is more than just design. And while I look forward to commenting on Nevada's wild horses, Nebraska's search for a clean rest stop, and South Dakota's commemoration of Rodan attacking Mt. Rushmore, I want to see how these coins feel.

So have we learned anything? Well, if your target audience is too dumb to know your state shape, they should not be trusted to make change. Just because you have a state botanical object is no reason to immortalize it in metal. That single strong images are better than a montage. That perspective is hard to do, but can be done well. And that if you live in Ohio, your only chance for fame is to move as far away as possible.

Yeah, I will do the remaining fifteen when the time comes, though by that time these blogs may be replaced by braincasting, wrapped in a catchy jingle and inserted directly into your cerebral cortex. But for the moment, I think I'm done with coins.

Oooooh look! Commemorative nickels!.

More later,

Monday, March 06, 2006

No Quarter (Part VII)

So after, what, six years of people beating on them about the lame-ass coinage they have produced, you'd think the Mint would print enough money to buy a clue. And finally, finally, finally we are starting to see some Intelligent Design in these things - but not before producing another dodo or two.

Here we see noted naturalist John Muir moments before he was slain by a California condor, which had taken flight from a nearby stump. OK, it's not a stump, it's a boulder. OK, it's really El Capitan, best known for its appearance in an otherwise forgettable Star Trek movie. Actually, the formation shown is called Half Dome, and while nicer looking is less better known than El Capitan. Half Dome also serves as a litmus test for all Californians - is the dome half-empty or half full?

Seriously, this is to the problem of showing things in deep perspective when you have fractions of a centimeter to show that depth.

Rating C = Lame, but at least they didn't show the state shape.

California had its murderous condor - Minnesota has its giant killer loon. Here we see it sneaking up on its prey, a pair of boat-bound Lutherans who are stunned by the sudden appearance of a giant grey monolith in their favorite fishing spot. Soon one of them will touch it, and suddenly be given inspiration for the state invention - the Bass-Master.

Then the loon attacks and eats them.

And by the way, this takes the cake for most disturbing use of a state outline.

Rating D= Lemme look at Ohio again. Nope. It's not that bad. But it is close.

Now things start getting interesting. Oregon doesn't have a lot that it wants to brag about (and the Mint didn't want to use their original idea - big letters saying "PLEASE GO AWAY!"), but it chose a nifty spot that I like. Looking at this quarter reminds me of the time Kate and I drove to California to rescue her car. On the way back, we stopped at Crater Lake for dinner, and put our names into the queue if a room at the rimside lodge opened up. Then we sat on the balcony in easy chairs, drinking tea until they told us we could stay the night. Then we switched to wine.

But pleasant memories are not the only reason to love this coin. It feels good with that clear space in the middle, and it looks good. Perspective done right. And no deadly avians.

Rating A = Way Cool

So it took New York to bring Liberty in, and it takes Kansas to show another coin stalwart, the buffalo. This is another brilliant coin that is dominated by an image of the bison, and only upon examination do you see the state flowers (sunflowers) he's about to eat. And they are both natives.

A very smart incorporation of multiple elements. Well, two elements, which is shows restraint, another Kansan virtue.

Rating A = Way Cool

West Virginia
And lastly, a quarter that makes me want to break into song:

Well, I heard Monkey King blog about her
Well, I heard ole Monk put her down.
Well, I hope Monkey King will remember
The West Virginia New River Gorge Commemorative Quarter don't need him around anyhow.

Actually, the New River Gorge Bridge is pretty impressive from a geek level - second-highest bridge, longest steel span, that sort of thing. But I remember seeing it from the top as opposed to bottom, as most people, you know, drive on the bridge and never see it from river level. And even though it is a pretty esoteric site, they did get the perspective nice, much like the Oregon coin.

Rating B = Yeah, its nice picture. But it's still just a bridge.

More later, as we wrap this up.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Commercial Messages

We'll be right back with the exciting conclusion of our review of state quarters, but first, this just in:

Former WotC D&D Band Manager Charles Ryan is moving to England with his wife Tammy and two kids. We will definitely miss them (Charles was always the one in Call of Cthulhu adventures to bring along explosives, regardless of the situation, which always proved handy). As a result of the move, Charles is unloading a massive amount of D&D and other gaming memorabilia on Ebay. Big chunks of gaming history are going up on sale. The details are here, and the first phase of the auction starts on Tuesday. Go check it out!

ALSO: Stan of the Stannex is getting some traction in his quest for One Robot Dog. Here's a newspaper article on his adventures so far.

More later,

Saturday, March 04, 2006

No Quarter (Part VI)

It is never a good sign when I get home for the day and find ten messages in this journal's mailbox. I may get, one, maybe two a day, and the occasional spam from America's Test Kitchen. But use the wrong illo in the write-up (Maine instead of Minnesota) and WHAM! Everyone checks in. I mean, these are more comments than when I had a light fixture explode in my bathroom (which most people agree that by putting two 60-watt bulb in there, we overloaded it).

Anyway, I've put the correct picture in the entry for Maine. Thanks to everyone who noticed (It is nice not being in a void). And Minnesota? You're not off the hook, yet. I'm getting to you.

So, Louisiana, you want to claim most of the breadbasket? Fine! Michigan gets to claim the Great Lakes. ALL OF THE THEM. Even Lake Ontario, which is on the other side of, well, Ontario! Actually, this one does the “outline of the state” right in that it doesn’t clutter it up with anything else, shows that the Upper Peninsula IS still part of the state, and reminds you that, no matter where you are in Michigan, you are never more than 85 miles away from a messy, fatal boating accident.

Rating B = Not Bad

Another historical moment commemorated, in this case the tragic crash of the space shuttle Columbia with Ponce De Leon’s ship. The shuttle fell through a space-time continuum, and after escaping a planet ruled by monkeys, smashed into the Spaniard's ship, only to discover that the Fountain of Youth had turned Ponce De Leon into an orangutan!

OK, I have to stop doing these first thing in the morning.

Rating C = Kinda Lame, but you know they can’t use Disneyworld.

Yahknow, if there is one state in the union that DOESN’T need to remind us of their shape, it's Texas. And look at the Star. That Lone Star. That BIG Lone Star. It’s not like we’re overcompensating, or anything, eh?

This is a seriously bad coin - it is almost as if the intention was to make quarter with the look a feel of a game arcade token. Of course, the fact that the Texan state motto is "Two Plays For A Quarter" doesn't help. The lack of ornamentation is a visible reminder that most of the Lone Star State, like the asteroid belt and Sunday morning news shows, is empty space.

Rating D= Real Lame

Man, you thought Alabama was desperate. Foundation in Education? Grant Wood? Arbor Day?

Why didn’t you just say “We Got Nothing”?

Rating D = Real Lame

Another mixmaster, made more exciting by a mistake in the molds that gave the ear of corn an extra leaf! Wooo! Collectability! Otherwise, it is the corn and cheese and cow and the state motto, all thrown into the blender. Not horribly exciting.

By the way, the full state motto for Wisconsin is: “ Forward. Now Back a step. Now right. Your other right. Just a hair more. OK, that’s good. Now forward again.”

Rating D = Real Lame

OK, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it may just be a reflection off the empty space that is the Texan Quarter.

More later,

Friday, March 03, 2006

No Quarter (Part the V)

You know that doing a series on the quarters is like adopting a puppy, right? That when you start and its all “Look! This state decided to show the state outline! Isn’t that Cute?” and it was all fresh and new, and then over time you have dog hair everywhere and the couch is half-chewed and smells funny.

OK, onward.

Some states (like Ohio) are pretty desperate for images. Illinois, on the other hand has a lot to recommend itself. Sometimes too much. And it all shows up here.

It is the first coin to REALLY admit it has big cities, with its distinct skyline, and, yeah, Lincoln standing tall always looks good, with his hunky big-shoulders and law book tucked under his arm. AND we get the idea that this is the 21st century for the 21st state, but you know, you didn’t need ALL of it AND the state outline to boot. This is visual equivalent of the Chicago Building Codes – you can always add stuff, but you can’t take anything away.

Rating C = Linda Lame (sorry, Abe)

Speaking of desperate . . .

Let me give Alabama its props. It COULD have gone with one of this mixmaster Bird+Outline+Flower+Tree designs, or even something celebrating the old (cotton) and the new (missiles) industries of the state.

But I never really connected Helen Keller to Alabama. I think it is a good coin, and I appreciate Alabama giving its turn for this, but I never really made the connection. I will in the future.

And the Braille on the coin for her name? Class touch.

Rating B = Not Bad

I can see the state legislature getting all excited when North Carolina decided NOT to use the Hatteras lighthouse on its coin, clearing the way for the famous (hang on, let me look it up), Permaquid Point Light. And its not a bad coin at all in that it shows a scene that I would connect with the state – a sailing ship about to run aground its rocky, inhospitable shores.

Rating B = Not Bad

OK, Louis and Clark are hot, so I can’t really fault them for showing up here. And the Gateway Arch is s singular image, though it should be called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Arch because otherwise we would think it was connected with a computer company. But what is the deal with the stuff on either side of the riverbank. Am I looking a trees or river hydraulics or strange mushrooms from the caverns of the Drow?

Rating C = Kinda Lame

Wow, this one really hurts the eyes. The scene is a natural part of Arkansas – Duck and rice (The state dinner) on the shores of a lake (the state geological features), while a crystaline spacecraft from Sirius VI (The state UFO) hovers above, looking for native Arkansans to kidnap and probe.

This is what happens when you let Diebold computers count the vote.

Rating D = Real Lame

Man, they just keep grinding these out. More later.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

No Quarter! (Part IV)

So I’m rolling through the quarters, trying to figure out what drugs the various committees involved with were doing when they made their choices. For the class of 2002, they were definitely doing the brown acid. And you should NEVER do the brown acid.

Tennessee seeks to unify its diverse cultures through their musical interests – trumpet (blues), fiddle (folk), guitar (country), and a musical score (graduates of High School Orchestra). An innocuous plea of “Can’t we all just play along?”

Rating C = Kinda Lame

You put “Ohio” and “Coin” in to the search engine and you get the most recent scandals to rock this state, but the real scandal is this quarter. Ohio, whose motto is “Keeping Indiana and Pennsylvania apart since 1803” doesn’t even have enough self-esteem to find images of its own, instead relying on Kitty Hawk (NC) and the space program (FL), claiming that “Well, they were born here before they left to do important stuff elsewhere).

I suppose "Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers" is a suitable inscription, since whenever I am in Ohio, all I think about is flight. As in fleeing to another state.

Oh, yeah, in case you forgot, this is what the state looks like, here's yet another state outline. I’m willing to bet that the even the state GOP didn’t speculate in this monstrosity.

Rating E = Lame beyond Lameness. A whole new category of lame. The Final Frontier of Lame, against which all future Lameness will be measured.

And when you think that the state outline concept is lame, here comes Louisiana to remind us that they once laid claim of everything up to and including Eastern Montana. They include the Eastern Montana state bird, the pelican, and a trumpet playing taps for this sad example of a coin.

Rating D = Real Lame but looks good compared to Ohio

There’s not a lot you can say about Indiana, other than it hosts a massive race and acts as one big speed trap for the rest of the US. It has the ugly, ugly state outline, and a ring of 19 stars, one of which has escaped and has wisely moved to downstate Illinois.

Rating C = Kinda Lame

You know it’s a rotten year when Mississippi delivers the best coin. And actually, that’s no slam against Old Miss, because while the subject is a little ordinary (the state flower, and one of the better native state flowers), the rendering is really, really nice. And they show guts by going with a script font instead of the serif font. This is a classy coin.

Rating A = Real Cool

So I get a note from Scarlettina asking how I could typo her name in the last entry. All I can say is that I'm doing these in the morning, before heading for work. OK, so why did I typo her OTHER name in the blog roll, which I did NOT write in the morning?

I dunno. Probably it was the brown acid.

More later,

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No Quarter (Part III)

So I’ve been doing an “American’s Top Forty” Countdown on the commemorative quarters the mint has been churning out. And most of the make me miss the old eagle that graced the back for many years. But the Class of 2001 didn’t really suck that bad.

New York
Finally, a quarter that gets around to putting Liberty on it. It almost makes up for the cardinal sin of putting the state outline to remind people what New York looks like. Actually, this is the most urban quarter so far, such that instead of “Gateway to Freedom” they really could have just said “Gateway to the Rest of the New York”.

Rating B= Not Bad – Liberty redeems the state shape.

North Carolina
Nice coin, single image, recognizable event. Just as New York is more than just the Statue of Liberty, North Carolina is more than just an experiment on the dunes of Hatteras, but that is the best, longest-lasting image of the state.

Rating A = Kinda Cool.

Rhode Island
They went with the title, “The Ocean State” even though native game company Hasbro offered to let them use “The Shrinky-Dink state” And the write-up says the coin represents the state’s most popular sport as sailing, when really it is pull-tabs and driving the ten minutes to Foxboro to root for the Pats.

But actually, the big sailboat is a nice design, and, like the Connecticut quarter subtly calls attention to it in your hand with broad expanse of cloth. A quiet, surprising little coin, just like the state itself.

Rating A = Kinda Cool.

Well, I guess they couldn’t put Bob Newhart as an innkeeper on the coin. But the initial impression of the sap-gathering quarter is kinda boring, and when you dig deeper, it gets worse. The motto “Freedom and Unity” is both contradictory and co-dependent, and does not connect with the rest of the coin (freedom from store-bought maple syrup? unity with the trees?). And apparently the lumpy shadow in the background is “The Camel’s Hump” which is to Vermonts what the “Old Man of the Mountain” is the New Hampshirites. This mountain (which has NOT fallen down) was in EVERY suggestion submitted for this coin.

I mean, that’s just DESPERATE.

Rating C = Kinda Lame

Interesting coverup going on here – The writeup says that the building (Federal Hill) was where Stephen Foster (Native of Pittsburgh) wrote “My Old Kentucky Home”, but other sources indicate he was merely inspired for the song there. And it wasn’t his home anyway, it was his cousins, the Rowans. But “Rowans' Old Kentucky Home” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Sadly, even with this mild air of controversy, it’s a pretty forgettable coin.

Rating C = Kinda Lame.

And that is the five for 2001. A shout out to Scarletina who has picked up on these rantings.

More later,