Friday, September 28, 2007

The Death of Four Cow Bridge

So Renton loses another landmark, and I wish I had a decent picture of it. Here's the best I can do, a copy of the centennial plaque.

Way back when Renton was founded, the railroad skirted along the southern edge of the then-town, paralleling the then-Black River (which disappeared when the Montlake Cut drained parts of Lake Washington, but that's another story). The route crossed the property of Erasmus Smithers, who gave permission for the railroad, provided they give him a tunnel by which he could drive his cows to the pasture on the southern part of his property.

How wide? asked the railroad. Four cows wide, said the farmer.

And that is how we ended up with Four Cow Bridge, also called Four Cow Tunnel and Four Cow Wide Tunnel. Smithers sold the land, development moved southwards, and FCB's neighbors became strip malls and housing. And the tunnel stayed, converted over to one-lane underpass with minimal clearance. In defiance of logic, it remained a two-way street, with stop signs at each end and a de facto one at a time system of passage. Actually, the presence of the stop signs reduced the speed on the roads, and the Lovely Bride was a fan of using it as a shortcut because it was so cute.

But progress moves on, and in redoing the rail line (it still carries fuselages for Boeing jets, and needs to be upgraded), the Four Cow Bridge is no more, to be replaced with a more modern, two-lane structure which will open up more of the neighborhood south of the rail line (still small homes, an island increasingly surrounded by commercial buildings). And while it will be easier to zip through Renton (always a good thing), some of the charm will be gone.

I just wonder where the centennial plaque went to when they were taking the old bridge apart.

More later,

Thursday, September 27, 2007


So a bit more about Twelfe/Twelfth Night. (Yeah, I spent my morning commute thinking about Shakespeare. Don't you?).

I'm wondering if I have the "A" and "B" stories completely backwards. The "A" story is the whole Orsino-Olivia-Viola triangle, and the "B" story is Toby Blech and his posse pranking Malvolio. But what if its the other way around - the play is called "Twelfth Night", after all, which is traditionally a time of carousing and festival (attempts to set it the Christmas Season just don't work - there is a three-month time lapse in the first act alone). And the Malvolio arc always seems to garner more attention in reviews and criticism than the romance.

Plus, in the Rep's case, they did a lot of business with Belch, and his cronies Curio and Aguecheek hiding in a dresser that feels like the Brothers Marx. Could it be that the purpose of the original was to show off the slapstick forms, and the entire love triangle only existed as a frame, sort of like the love story in "A Night at the Opera". Was calling "Twelfth Night" sending a signal of what to expect, sort of like calling a college film "Animal House"? Is the Belch/Malvolio arc the important one?

(On the other hand, the love-triangle arc characters are established first, and at the close, Toby and his band are off stage, and Malvolio has been dragged off, leaving the original "A" plot on-stage, so I may just be blowing smoke on this).

The other thing that occurred to me was the sense of Trinity in the creation of character on the stage. Not quite Father-Son-Holy Ghost, but rather Playwright-Actor-Director. While the reviews always seems to equate actor and role, he is just the final display of a group effort to bring character to life. But in the end, its the actor, the mortal incarnation is alone on the stage, the director in the shadows (Holy G), the playwright completely absent (Creator/Father).

Then again, maybe a better trinity would be bones (playwright), muscle (actor) and skin (director). Its just something to think about.

Why yes, it was a long commute today. Your point?

More later,

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

No Ex-Scaife

A short while back, I noted about the upcoming ugly divorce of Richard Mellon Scaife, media titan of Western PA. Now, wealthy people go through spouses like you and I go through windshield wiper blades, but what pushes this into commentary is a)the revelation that Scaife's paper, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is a money hole, and b)that Scaife is apparently guilty of the same crimes he accused the former administration of, crimes that he thundered against sanctimoniously (and apparently hypocritically).

For us ordinary people, we'd just lay low for a while until this blows over. But not for the wealthy.

Scaife has gone to court to try to seal back up the documents that the Post-Gazette got ahold of. That's right - you weren't MEANT to find out about the messy details of the divorce. Never mind that his newspaper funded investigation into the most lurid details of Clinton's past. Never mind that he demanded that Senator Heinz's will be made public, in hopes of grabbing some dirt on the Senator's ex-wife, who just happened to be the wife of a presidential candidate. Such demands were for the good of the republic. Hurrumph!

But when the shoe is on the other foot, summon the lawyers and unleash the flying monkeys! Oh, you don't deserve to know that a powerful individual has a messy personal life. Why, the very idea!

(Of course, the P-G proceeded to put the documents on the net, just to make sure they didn't disappear down the memory hole.)

But here's what really is cheesing off most Americans - we seem to have developed an separate sense of justice for the wealthy rulers as opposed to the rest of us. This is bi-partisan venality, though the conservative end of the spectrum seems to have the most offenders. These are guys who can seal up (or erase) records. These are guys who get "do-overs" on confessions. These are guys who can take a swing at a cop. These are guys who get polite warnings from the FBI that the feds are dropping by. These are guys who seek (and get) protection for the illegal cash they keep in their freezer. These are guys who have hats made that say "Corrupt Bastards Club". These are guys who can swear like sailors and unload a shotgun in someone else's face. And no one can touch them.

But if a student newspaper in Colo-freaking-rado uses a four-letter expletive to describe the sitting president, all the powers that be get the vapors.

These are people that want to know all about your business but don't want you to know about theirs. They want to monitor your movements but won't tell you who visited the White House. They want to check your emails, but have conveniently "lost" theirs.

That's what is cheesing people off. It is not as much the corruption (which is still bad) as the fact that we have a raft of people who think that they are above the law, while tightening the screws on everyone else.

And it should be time to push a few of these people off the raft, and have them join the rest of us mortals.

More later

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Leave it to the Times

Apparently it is Assistant Editor's Month over at the Seattle Times, at least as far as Monday's editorial page is concerned. In addition to the usual rip-and-print syndicated conservatives like Goldberg and Krauthammer (whose headshot appears next to the Webster's definition of "smug"), they ran a "Doonesbury Flashback". Sorry, make that a "Flasback" - as they typoed their way through their own titles.

But the utter weirdity of the day was this little bit of strangeness, keying on the news that Ken Osmond, the actor who played Eddie Haskell in Leave it to Beaver, is suing the Screen Actor's Guild for undistributed royalties. The most complete story I found on this was here from the Hollywood Reporter, which lays out that Osmond has previously sued the Director's and Writer's Guilds (still pending) and that this is a preliminary motion to a class action suit, and it is based on the argument that SAG and others have collected foreign royalties on the actor's behalf and have not distributed them.

And given the, shall we say, plastic nature of accounting in creative fields (where more imagination goes into contractual interpretations than onto the screen), the idea that SAG may have undistributed change laying around is a strong possibility. And given that part of this is SAG resisting an independent audit makes it increasingly likely. So this is all business, right?

Not as far as the Times is concerned. Since Osmond played a snaky character fifty years ago (and for those who are too young, Eddie Haskell was the Beave's older brother's best friend and general bad influence who was very polite to authority figures, who in turn saw right through his unctuous ways), the Times gets all snarky and mocking on him. The thing is, this was the CHARACTER, not the actor. The actor went on, did other things, and became police officer. But the editorial is not "How dare a police officer challenge Hollywood Accounting" but rather "Oh, there goes Eddie Haskell". They've totally pitched into TV Land.

Is Ken Osmond on the up-and-up? Is his suit valid? There's a court for that to decide. But it will be based on contract and law, not on the actor's character fifty years before. Of course, given the media's inability to separate Fred Thompson from his character on Law & Order, this may be more rule than exception.

But the funny thing is, I always thought all the recreational drug use was at the Stranger. Apparently they're spending their Sunday afternoons on something over at the Times as well.

More later,

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Play: XII

Twelfe Night by William Shakespeare, Directed by David Esbjornson, Seattle Rep, through 20 October.

Let me start off by saying the title chosen by Rep for this venerable play is the one from the original folio, when English was as yet a living language and not yet stalked, slain, and mounted on the wall by generations of editors. But it is a pretty pretentious choice, and it opens the door for general questioning of how Shakespeare's language and presentation has evolved to our stage, some 400 years later, which is probably where your don't really want the audience to go with a comedy.

I mean, does Shakespeare belong to the declamatory iambic of the 50's or the more subtle bits of stage business that rock through modern interpretations? Shy of a time machine armed with a video cam, we probably won't know. But by going with alternate spellings, we are reminder that the original folios say things like "If muzick be the foode of loue, play on!" (Insert Ted Baxter punchline of your choice here).

But that's a minor quibble, and Shakespeare gets at most such minor quibbles, so established a creature it is. And Twelfth Night (I'll be modern) hasn't worn well these past 400 years, even as a comedy. The short bit (for those who were sleeping or have confused with other similar plays - Male and female noble twins are separated by shipwreck. Viola is cast ashore in Illyria, where visiting Duke Orsino is courting Countess Olivia, who in mourning the death of her brother.

OK So far? OK, Viola masquerades as a young boy, enters Orsino's service, courts Olivia in his name, Olivia falls for Viola-as-boy, Orsino questions his attraction to Viola-as-boy, whackiness ensues until Viola's twin brother shows up, more whackiness, resolution as Olivia gets Viola's brother, Viola gets Orsino, and exeunt all

So that's the "A" plot, and the primary characters aren't exactly the deepest ponds in the woods, and indeed, mad, sudden passions are part of the entire proceedings. The "B" plot, which attracts a lot more attention from scholars, is that of Malvolio, Olivia's steward, a puritan who disapproves of Olivia's uncle, Toby Belch. Toby, Maria, Olivia's gentlewoman, and a few courtiers cook up a whacky scheme in which Malvolia is convinced that Olivia loves him, and causes him to dress up in bright yellow stockings and put on a skull-like grin. Which, in the fine tradition of Shakespeare's whacky schemes (see: Romeo and Juliet) ends up with Malvolio being confined to a madhouse and humilited.

Interesting thing for the original with Malvolio - This was definitely poking at the more conservative dreariness of John Calvin or John Knox, and Malvolio's last line "I'll be revenged on the whole pack of you" is a creepy foretelling of the English Civil War a couple generations after this play. What is jarring in this particular rendition is that the role is played by Frank X, who was last in The Lady from Dubuque last season, and is the only African-American in the cast. As the heavy. Who is reduced to gibbering humiliation. Just a note there.

Also on casting, if you're doing something involving near-identical different-gendered twins, getting an actor and actress that about the same height helps greatly for creating the illusion of confusion needed for the last act. But that's a quibble as well. Christine Marie Brown gets Viola right, making her by turns innocent and worldly. Actually, all the women in this play do well, Cheyenne Casebier goes from mourning in hot for Viola-as-a-boy quickly and believably, and Mari Nelson as the gentlewoman Maria gets it as far as her relationship with Toby Belch - trying to reform him while supporting his pranks.

Charles Leggetts does Sir Toby Belch well with a broad Texas accent that humanizes him, and David Pichette as the fool, Feste, unites the A and B plots and gets to edify. Frank X as Malvolio is fighting an uphill role and does well enough with it, though he's the "Frank Burns" of this particular comedy. You see the affection between the two characters, so their offstage resolution doesn't seem forced.

And let me his something else minor about Malvolio for which you cannot fault the actor. Modern Shakespeare operates in his own fantasy IP, where accents roll around at random, sometimes to good effect, and where costuming is all over the place. One of the courtiers is decked up as Marilyn Manson in a utilikilt. We have 1920's butlers and Maria in a stylish pants suit that looks 1950's. The guards are in Afghani headscarves and Belch could have been the mayor in "The Music Man". Olivio goes from widows weeds to ever-more impressive ballgowns. The problem is, that one of the big visual jokes on the stage is somber, proper Malvolio decked out in brilliant yellow stockings, believing they please the Countess. Problem is, against the costuming explosion, he has to work to make sure people know that THIS is outlandish (as opposed to the others).

Again, its a minor point. The set design is aggressive, creating a rippling wooden deck in the center that rises to an upright that is, by turns, a sinking ship, a house with a window, and part of the forest. That's pretty cool, and creates an illusion of a dynamic stage while only minor props wheeled or lifted into place as required.

Oh, and they move the Fool's song from the end of the play to the opening, and launching into Donovan's "Atlantis" for the setup of the shipwreck. The picking up of the "Love as the Wild Sea" metaphor from the text is nice, but moving the bit lets the air out of the finale, which already has the weird Malvolion promise of a sequel.

All in all? Pretty good, and a solid opening for the Rep's season. Shakespeare is the the touchstone, the playwright used to compare different productions and seasons and actors. Worth checking out, but don't sweat the alternative name-check.

More later,

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Long Commute

OK, I'm exhausted.

My morning commute was to LA yesterday. Up at six, to the airport, on the ground in LA by 11, hellish cab ride up the 405 to Valley Village, recording session for an upcoming Guild Wars project, then return and back home by nine. It's been a long day.

The taping session went real well, and though it part of the reason for my exhaustion. A lot of writing, rewriting, and concentration went into this, and after the session was in the can. I was working with Fred Tatasciore,who did the voice of Ogden in GW:EN (and to my surprise when I just checked out his recent credits - Fewmaster Toede in the new DL movie). He did a marvelous job, but after we were done, I was just wiped out.

The original plan was to wrap early and get to the Getty Museum, something I had planned to do every time I got to LA. But the cab was late and the skies clouded up and rained and traffic was horribly slow so I bailed on that plan, went to the airport, and caught an earlier flight home. Still, had a long conversation with my Iranian cab driver/scriptwriter about the short film he's working on.

(Oh, and for my fans in Homeland Security, I was reading Spook Country by Bill Gibson. The guy next to me was reading Wild Swans, but the guy on the end of my row had a copy of Harry Potter and Overthrow of the Evil Corporate Fascists. You might want to keep an eye on him).

It was a good experience, all in all, but I've gone 3600 miles before the day is done.

More later,

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Allen Varney Games

So I had lunch today with an old colleague I had not seen in a long while - Allen Varney. Allen was in town to officiate at a wedding, so we did crepes at Pike Place Market (Crepe la France makes great crepes), did the tour of the office, compared notes about how Seattle had changed in the 13-some years since he had last lived here, and generally caught up with the rest of our respected universes. We are both older now than in the days when Marvel Super Heroes stalked the earth, so I won't throw any modern-day pictures at you.

I will throw pictures of twenty years back, however, that I've had sitting in a drawer and just rediscovered a few days before Allen sent me the email telling me he was in going to be there. I believe in fate, karma, and serendipity. Here they are:




Seated: Allen Varney.
Left to Right: Earl Cooley, Jeff Grubb (sans beard), Warren Spector, Caroline Spector, Jeff George, Bob Quinlan.

The occasion was ArmadilloCon in Austin (I THINK it was '85, but all records have been burned), where we founded Allen Varney Games, our mythical game company that we dragooned Allen to be president of. (I was in charge of the Book Division, and even had business cards (Jeff George and Bob Quinlan were behind that part of it)). It was a massive in-joke, which of course quickly got out of hand and culminating with real distributors wanting to know about this Allen Varney Games, a bit of reality which sort of poured cold water on the whole deal.

But talking with Allen, I'm thinking about the what-if universe where we all quit our day jobs and suddenly created the creative behemoth of AVG, which would rule gaming for two decades before finally buying out Disney.

Kidding, Allen -it's just a passing thought. But still...

More later,

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ex-Scaife Velocity

So, It's talk like a pirate day, so, um ... Yar, you Scurvy Dogs.

But actually, I want to go with the other popular meme currently on the net, which is called "conservatives behaving badly". This meme involves highlighting some high-minded, vitriol-spitting conservative caught with his family values down around his ankles. It's fun, it's free, and apparently there is no danger of the number of targets drying up.

And this week's candidate comes from my neck of the woods in Western PA.

Richard Mellon Scaife is every bit as wealthy as someone named that should be. The middle name is on a number of schools, businesses, and part of one local university. The last name is up there locally as well, since it has naming rights on the Scaife Art Museum attached to Carnegie Museum (oh, sorry, (posh voice on)The CAH-nagie (posh voice off)). He's wealthy to the tune of 1.4 billion with a b, and the owner of a number of papers, including the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Now the Trib-Review is an avowed and deeply unapologetic conservative rag, filled with barely-concealed hatred for liberals, democrats, and urban Pittsburgh. It showed up about fifteen years ago, when the two then-major newspapers (Press and Post-Gazette) were crippled by a strike. An extension of the Greenberg Tribune-Review, the Pittsburgh version found its place as a third newspaper, and eventually the second newspaper when the Press was swallowed by its sister. I always assumed the TR's message played well in the suburbs, and always seemed filled with wealthy people in tuxes at parties, swipes at anything to the left of Newt Gingrich, and colorized daily comics (an abomination in their own right, but not at the matter at hand).

Now Scaife and the TR were major participants in the persecution of the Clinton administration, relentless in their attacks, joyful in finally getting something to stick with his personal life. So, of course it is no surprise that while castigating the president for his extramarital relationship with an underling, Publisher Scaife himself had been involved in extramarital relationships with an underling. Now Scaife married the woman after getting wife #1 off stage left, but had the bad business sense not to get a prenup.

And you know where this is going. Wife #2 is pushing for divorce now, based on infidelity (History repeats - first as tragedy, then as farce). And the divorce is getting messy and, more recently, public. The rival Post-Gazette is a bit gleeful in its reporting, but Editor and Publisher picks up the slack in a measured, neutral tone.

And it turns out that she's calling the the Pittsburgh Trib-Review is a "hobby" in that her potential ex pumps 20-30 million a year into it, making it a heavily subsidized bit of propaganda. I think that its a bit much to call it a hobby, as there are businesses that lose a lot more for a lot longer (Murdoch and the NYPost, Rev. Moon and the Washington Times), but it does explain the newspapers' resilience over the years (and how they afford to color those daily comics badly).

When the whole impeachment thing went down, I kept hearing the talking heads on TV going on about how "In the real world, a CEO that did this would be put out on the street". And I chuckled, because even from my limited experience I knew that to be false (buy me a beer sometime - I have stories). And yeah, it's just one more bit of conservative hypocrisy, where those that shout the loudest seems to be those who are guilty the same crime, or worse. And it has the added joy of watching people with more money than god squabbling like fishwives.

But the fact that Trib-Rev has to be propped up with regular cash infusions? That's interesting. I wonder what else is going to drop out of the trees before they're done shaking it.

More later,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dream House

Eerily, this is exactly what I want to build (though it doesn't show the tower or the Doctor Strange window).

Your home is a Philanthropic Gamer's Mansion
Your kitchen is stocked with chips, dips, and assorted caffeinated beverages. There's a pantry with emergency backup caffeinated beverages. You also have some breakfast cereals in there, but you haven't had breakfast since last Spring. Your master bedroom has blankets printed with images of Mario and Link. Your study includes unread copies of various gamer magazines, each purchased for the free demo CDs. One of your garages holds your collection of ferraris, and is measured in acreage.

Your home also includes a guest wing and private quarters for your servants. Your guests enjoy your collection of every console and associated game ever made. Except the Intellivision -- those controllers drive them NUTS. Outside is your hedge maze and gardens, meticulously tended by a team of world-class botanists.

And, you have a pet -- a koopa named "Shelly".

Below is a snippet of the blueprints:

Find YOUR Dream Home!

More later,

Monday, September 17, 2007


So to promote the latest "greatest hits" album, Bob Dylan's people have done a bit where you can write your own captions for the classic "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video.

So I had to mix it up with the OTHER part of the near-mythical New York City of the 60s:

Oh yeah, trivia piece - the two guys talking in the back are Bob Neuwirth (who co-wrote the Janis Joplin "Mercedes Benz" Song) and poet Allen Ginsberg. (Oh, and for a new geek version of that song, go here).

Speaking of SHB, here's another riff on the classic video, this one Russ Feingold, who was my Senator when I lived in Wisconsin.

More later,

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Totally Spies

So let's talk about surveillance. And by surveillance I'm not talking about our government's penchant for turning more and more cameras and microphones on its own people, such that, starting at the beginning of next month, they now take requests from local governments to swing the satellite cams around to snoop on US (because, unlike the terrorists, the government DOES know where we are, which, I guess, makes it the easier task to tune in).

No, I'm not talking about Big Brother. I'm talking about the latest tool for Little Brother.

I'm watching the tube and I've seen a couple ads for different types what is being billed as "directional hearing aids". The commercials go along the line that you, the hard-of-hearing consumer, don't want to be a bother to others by insisting on turning up the TV, or asking people to repeat themselves, or missing lines at the movie. How much easier would it be if you had a pointable hearing aid that could pick up just what you wanted to hear.

Sounds good? But then there's always that little "bonus" they include in these ads- you can hear neighbors across the street, or find out that your granddaughter is preparing a surprise party.

Or, say, hang out at coffee shop and just eavesdrop on your unsuspecting neighbors. They don't say that, but I am.

So I am of two minds of this on this development. Cyberpunk is supposedly where technology meets the street, and something like this bit of mirrorshade tech would be a boon to snoops everywhere. And there is no law against overhearing a conversation. And maybe it will be used to head off a couple robberies or murders. Concerned citizens in action and all that. Until some politico gets caught in an off-mike moment and THEN we see all manner of laws coming down. That's one thought.

The other is a movie idea for a higher-tech Rear Window, one which might star Valerie Bertinelli and be on Lifetime. A woman who is losing her hearing gets one of these little gems as a gift, then quickly starts using it to dip into everyone else's business. Sort of gives her a little superpower that makes her feel more up on things, able to keep up with the grandkids, get the juicy gossip. Then she overhears a murder being planned.

And of course, if its Lifetime, she goes to the cops, finds the Head Detective is extremely attractive and separated from his wife, then discovers that the murder being arranged is for the Head Detective's wife, and now she is a witness and the Head Detective is coming for her, and she defeats him by pushing him off a lighthouse, but nevermind about that. The point is that this is surveillance society moved to the street level, both in fiction and real life.

And Little Brother may be more motivated to act on your foibles than Big Brother.

More later,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On the Road Again: Fog

And I awoke this morning to a world wrapped in clouds.

Much like the first frost signals the Autumnal gong for back east, so too does the first heavy fog indicate that the Seattle High Summer is at last coming to the end. Seattle summers are mild and blue-skied, a fact we forget when the weather sets in between September and May.

In any event, the morning commute was through fogbanks, ranging from thick cottony masses to a dull haze. At its worst the houses on the opposite side of the road were hulking shadows and the oncoming traffic a set of lights. Into the valley and the fog was above me, hanging at tree-top level, no more than a low cloud. Into a sunbreak, a glade of clear sky, then back again under a dull grey cloud cover.

This is our first frost, the time when the tropical shirts get put away and the heavier denim and flannel come out. When the road projects are being rushed to completion (drove through four such projects on the commute in). The change of seasons in advance of the true start of fall at the end of the month.

Of course, Seattle drivers, confronted with a new type of weather they have not seen for months, just can't handle it. The first fog, the first rain, the first snow, or the first sunny day is judged with shock and alarm, and extremely large traffic jams. Come to think of it, they react that way to the seconds and thirds of these events as well.

Ah well. More later,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Important Notice

OK, since I've been depressing the hell out of you folks for a while, here's something to look forward to:

Tuesday • September 25 • 7pm
John D. Rateliff
History of the Hobbit (HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY)
Reading & Book Signing
University District Store
Join us with Seattle scholar and writer John D. Rateliff to learn a little history of the hairy-footed heroes of a beloved book. The History of the Hobbit is the definitive work on the evolution of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic work of fantasy. The little seen early version of the book—Tolkien's "fireside reads" to his young sons—appear in the boxed set, as do some unpublished maps and illustrations.

John's work, which pretty much is the working definition of magnum opus, was published in the UK in two volumes: Mr. Baggins and Return to Bag End. I can't give a proper review of this tome only because the lovely bride snagged it from me soon upon arrival.

Anyway, John's got a signing!

More later,

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Not to be a nag, but it has been six years since some maniacs flew airplanes into buildings, and the guy responsible is still at large.

I have more to say on this, but that about sums it up, for the moment.

More later,

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Running Numbers

So today the start of the NFL Season, we stand on the edge of an orgy of numbers: so many completions, so many sacks, so much rushing yardage on various surfaces, so much kicking yardage against the wind in a snowstorm. A wonk's heaven of numbers.

Which made me think of another number - the number of combat casualties we've had in Iraq so far.

Its a fairly large number And once you get into fairly-large numbers, thing start to blur around the edges. What does this fairly-large number mean? Well, I think I can put it terms I can wrap my brain around. When you think of the losses in Iraq, here's a handy comparison.

Wipe out the NFL.

OK, OK, don't WIPE OUT the NFL, to the tune of that bad blimp-vs-stadium movie Black Sunday. Let us not be gross. Just - there is no NFL. Nothing on Sunday afternoon. No Seahawks, Steelers, Eagles, Bears, Packers. Hasselbeck and Favre are off duck hunting. Every player has chores to do, somewhere better to be.

There is no NFL in 2007. Got that in your mind?

OK, so that is 32 teams, each with an official roster of 55, or 1760 people who are not showing up for work this weekend. And that doesn't get us halfway there.

So there is no NFL in 2008 either.

And the NFC West? No games in 2009 for you.

That's how we can balance out the 3760 US deaths in Iraq so far. Its not a judgment. It's just a number. A number that you might be able to wrap your head around.

And civilian casualties? Well, the Pentagon doesn't keep track (well, they do, but they aren't going to tell you), but the lowest guess, just based on what has been reported over the past few years, would fill every seat in Qwest Field with corpses, and have a pretty packed zombie tailgate party going in the parking lot. The reality of the situation may demand additional stadiums, and we're back in the realm of very-large-numbers.

So just keep these comparisons in your mind as they pan the stadium between commercials, and have a fun football season!

More later.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dream a Little Dream

"Do you dream in color?" asked my mom.

"Yes," I replied. But now I'm not sure. And thinking about it has occupied way too much of my bloggable time this week.

I mean, I remember dreaming in color. The pink of a plastic tray, the blue of a gingham dress, the green of a tightly-mowed lawn. But am I dreaming "in color" or am I just remembering them as color, because the emotional push-buttons in the dream remind me of those experiences in waking life. I get a certain feeling or memory attached to a pink tray, and when that combinations of feelings comes together in my unconsciousness, I ascribe it to "pink".

For such a simple question, it is weirder than most. I mean, color depends on sight, which the only sense that really has an on-off-state for most of us. We still smell and hear and potentially touch and taste while asleep, though opportunities are supposedly less given our inert state. Indeed, they can contribute to dreams, because the ninjas who crashed into my stately-dream-home a few days ago turned out to be just one of the cats pushing a stack of quarters off the bedside bookcase and onto the metal base of a floor lamp.

But sight is generally active/passive, and with it comes color. We don't ask if we "remember" in color, which pulls from the same mental file cabinets.

And then there is another challenge - dreams by their very definition are not horribly distinct. Distinction and definition often comes afterwards, when you are trying to sort them shape, when you are remembering a dream. I kept a dream journal many years ago, and discovered that parts of it never really happened in the dream, but rather consisted of transitions explaining how I moved from one state to another. I was translating experience to story, and in doing so editing that experience into a more linear form. Does the concept of "color" arrive at that point?

And with that comes the realization that when you tell someone about your dreams, you are engaged in that editing process. You've told a dream to a friend, who then said "Well, that's about money worries". It may NOT have been about money worries, but in telling it, your subconscious fills in the blanks, and why yes, you HAVE had money worries - amazing you never saw it that way before.

So I propose that when you experience flying in a dream, you are experiencing emotions and sensations which you connect with flying, and it only becomes "flying" after the fact, when the conscious mind (even that part that is active in sleep) is paying attention. My dreams of flight do not connect with my personal experience of flight (small plane, commercial jet, and balloon), but I still feel that in my dreams, I flew.

So this is what I've been thinking about, when I would otherwise be blogging. Dreams remain a murky region of the psyche, and I'm pretty jake with that. I define way too much as it is, and its nice to have a comfortable corner of chaos.

So yes. I do dream in color. I think.

More later,

Sunday, September 02, 2007


So a little while back, I put up a meme for the book Hobby Games: The 100 Best, which pretty much means I reproduced the Table of Contents, and marking the titles in boldface for owning and italics for playing, and both if you own and have played.

Quick digression on the nature of the word "meme". It doesn't feel like the word means much at all, but it has taken firm root in the virtual world. I first heard it defined as an idea that spreads like a virus, but then, most ideas spread that way - replication leaving the original form unchanged, with some mutation in the prodigy. The Wiki definition calls a basic unit of cultural information which diffuses in the same manner as a gene does biologically. Except it doesn't, really. Needless to say, memes in a practical sense of the word include hit tunes, political slogans, and those darn LOLCats - stuff which is portrayed primarily to be passed along - the booster rocket by which other agendas (such as, say, putting cat pictures on the net, or selling some more books) can be tagged onto.

Anyway, I put together my meme, and launched it.

And .... Nothing happened. No, really. None of my regulars put it onto their blogs, and Feedster in the first couple days came up empty. So I let out a deep sigh, decided I wasn't nearly a popular as I might otherwise be (It's those long posts of collectible quarters - drives people away in droves) and went on with my life.

Then I ran into the publisher at PAX. We made small talk and he said, "Oh, yeah, Thanks for the meme." I blinked and he informed me that it was picked up by ENWorld, a BBS site that caters to gamers (BBS= Bulletin Board Service, which would not be found by something searching blogs). And from there it moved on to someone else's BBS, and from there to a variety of other blogs, which are now starting to pop up like mushrooms after a summer rain.

And I am pretty sure that these are descendants of my original post, since they keep the same format (what is bold, what is italics) and often the same instructions at the beginning (right down to the "You know the drill"). And I am seeing what they would call memetic drift - mutations in the list - adding an underline for "Games you would like to own", or even getting rid of the author names at the start (which makes sense as well, but I wanted to spread our names about - again, agendas). And after about a week, it seems to have died down again.

So, this is not to claim ownership (though I've seen a number of other "original creators" now), or even "first dibs", but merely to track how an idea/meme can be launched through non-linear means through the Internet Tubes. Which I think is pretty cool.

More later.