Friday, April 30, 2010


It has been a rather hectic week, so other than a few pithy statements on Facebook, I've been pretty quiet here. Let me make that up with a bunch of stuff that is of fair import, complete with linkness.

First off, and the most day-job related, is that Guild Wars has been celebrating its 5th birthday with a LOT of data about Guild Wars 2. We start off with a design manifesto from our studio head, Mike O'Brien, then reveal the first of the new classes, the Elementalist, and Eric Flannum presents a two part article on the nature of combat. And that's just the first week, with more to come (and yeah, I've been wrapped up for the week as we all work very hard to make everything just as cool as it looks).

Secondly, I received my copy of Family Games, The 100 Best, which I've mentioned before here a couple times. It is now available, and contains a lot of cool essays from a lot of cool people about a lot of cool games, edited by James Lowder.

And speaking of group projects, there is a review up for A Peculiar Pentad, a Call of Cthulhu project from Super Genius Games. It is a small project, but meaty with contributions from myself, Thomas Reid, John Rateliff, Gwen Kestrel, and Jeff Quick, all of them old hands from Wizards of the Coast. Remember what I said about "scratch a designer, find a cultist"? I stand by the statement.

And, other friends have put together a marvelous video - Dqniel Kaufman (not a typo) has created a wonderful short film about Lex Luthor and Clark Kent as roomies. Guest starring Miranda Horner as Lois Lane and Mike Selinker, who offers the final definitive proof that he is an imp from the 5th Dimension. Well worth the watch.

And speaking of comics, tomorrow is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY at your local comic book shop. My local is Spy Comics. Go check out yours.

And that is it for now. More later.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yet Another Ballot

I will confess, I am a goo-goo. That's Chicago-speak for a Good Government type, who believes in transparency and involvement and checks and balances and feedback and keeping an eye on those in charge.

But, sitting here and looking at yet another ballot, I fear I am reaching the end of my tether.

Yes, it is April, and the end of April of all things, and here I am again faced by a ballot? And not for a slew of important candidates and issues, but just one very, very local one - namely, should King County Fire Protection District No. 37 and the City of Kent create a Kent Fire Department Regional Authority funded by a property tax that would replace (and generally reduce) the existing property taxes for the current authorities.

OK, it makes sense - we're merging our chunk of unincorporated King (which is the 37th) with the rest of the City of Kent. It feels like a no-brainer, or the stuff of a panel and an open house rather than a full-fledged ballot line. But, here we are. And if you live in the area, you probably still have your ballot sitting on the kitchen table as well (they are due in Tuesday, to get to it).

Interestingly, there is opposition - depicting the measure as a complicated tax increase strategy that would be (wait for it) bad for business. The pros and cons are to be found here, along with measures in Black Diamond and Skykomish.

The pro forces, though, are serious beyond all belief in passage of this, such that we've received numerous mailers encouraging that you vote "Yes", along with breakdowns of how the numbers should run, which indicate it would be a break for the homeowners and combine two chunks of government into one.

Update: The measure was one of those that had to pass by 20% in order to work (another pet peeve - supervotes that require 60% majorities). It passed with a 27% yes vote, and about 25% of the eligible population voted.

Which pretty much makes sense for me. So I recommend voting Yes on his measure (for the three people who live in Kent AND read this blog). But I have to confess my reaction to this is "You need us to tell you to do this? Really?"

More later,

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hite Report

Nice interview with Ken Hite over at Booklife on Cthulhu and other matters. Here's a money quote:
Our turning Cthulhu into a plush toy is like the Victorians turning faeries into cute children: we’re trying to domesticate the very real fears of our culture. It didn’t stick with the Victorians, and it won’t with us.
 Check it out. More later.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Play: War Stories

An Iliad by Denis O'Hare and Lisa Peterson, based on Homer's The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles, Directed by Lisa Peterson, through May 16.

One-man shows are chancy things, even though they at beloved by theaters in these benighted days of reduced overheads. It all relies on just one voice, one talent, to carry it forward, and can drop easily into pretension and hyperbole.

Not the case here. We have one man (brilliant REP Actor Hans Altwies) as the unnamed Homer, telling his break-out hit, the Iliad. Homer is not blind, but instead is doomed to wander, telling and reinventing the tale as he goes. And he does a great job telling about war, history, and storytelling itself.

The story you know, or rather you should know. By odd serendipity, I am currently have the Fagles translation on my ever-growing pile of books by the bedroom. The story is late in the war between the Achaeans and the Trojans, and the tale of the great Greek hold-out, Achilles, and his noble opposition, Hector. The deal with the horse? That happens in another epic. This is a brutal tale notable for its graphic violence and horrible fates.

And it is more than that. It is about the nature of war and conflict and rage and how these things come easily to us and how, despite our rational natures, we are still prone to them, so that we can't get away from them even when we know they are horribly stupid and dangerous things.

And O'Hare and Peterson on the page, and Altwies on the stage, spin it into more. The original Iliad is a long haul, though in its original state it spellbound its Greek audience. The writers and actor do not revise (all the plot points are there), nor reinvent (no one is made more or less than they were in the original), but re-present, taking the original text and putting it into the mouth of a guy telling stories at a bar, or in a train station, or at a reunion. He pulls the tale into modern terms and in doing so humanizes the gods and heroes and in doing so makes them more real.

Altwies, to honest, is bloody brilliant, and literally spins a tale - digressing, explaining, and interjecting, turning the poem into something palatable for today's ears. And he does manage to hold the stage, sweeping us up in the epic, such that only when the torrent of phrase is interrupted do you blink and realize that you've been under a spell.

One-man shows are chancy things, but this one brings to a close an extremely effective season at the REP. Go see this one while you have the chance.

More later,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Jeff and Kate Recover

I mentioned before how the first Friday after the close of tax season is now and forevermore a familial holiday. So the Lovely Bride and I transformed this into what could best be called an extra Saturday. In celebration, we;
- Overslept
- Had oatmeal
- I ran a bunch of game product and magazines over to SPY Comics for sale - I'll tell you guys when they show up on ebay.
- The LB took the Insight in for an oil change - they found a dead mouse on the oil cap. Neat.
- The LB checked for bounces from the IRS for her last clients.
- We went up for deep dish at Delfino's in the U District.
- Visited the Museum of History and Industry, but too late to take in all the exhibits (the traveling Terrorism in America exhibit has been extended to 20 June - check it out).
- Managed to dodge the worst of the traffic.
- Got home as it started to rain.

Not a major holiday, but one that was greatly appreciated.

More later,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I am Podded

I was going to talk about how the Lovely Bride is currently slammed at work (she is a tax preparer) and how I am going all Brian Boitano* in the kitchen as a result, but I think talking about something else would be more fun for everyone else.

So, I have done a podcast with the gents at Roll For Initiative. I spent way too much time talking about Cthulhu, real old school gaming, Monster Manual II, lichs and their demi-variety, and how we tend to view golden ages. Yeah, I'm all over the place here, but give it a listen (nice photo, too).

Oh, and the title of the episode comes from the tendency in early roleplaying to give games D&D-like names - Villians and Vigilantes, Tunnels & Trolls, and of course, Bunnies & Burrows.

More later,

*Has anyone WATCHED What Would Brian Boitano Make? on the Food Network? Scary and fascinating at the same time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

DOW Breaks 11,000

Judging our economic health by looking at the Dow Jones is like judging your personal health by feeling your forehead with the back of your hand. It really doesn’t tell much, but if you’ve been doing it long enough that it becomes habit.

Actually, looking around, I am still not so certain about inevitable recovery from the Great Intercession. The "flash used car lots" that were at most traffic lights have gone away, but now I am seeing the interchange homeless moving up Petrovitsky into the more rural areas. Used to be you had to be at major off-ramp to qualify a homeless person standing politely with a sign, now you have them increasingly in deepest suburbia. The most embarrassed one I saw was surrounded by people dressed like the plush-headed Statues of Liberty, pushing a tax preparation service. They were much more enthusiastic than he was.

In addition, gas out here was kissing 3 bucks a gallon out here even before the Anacortes explosion, and the superheated price seems to have become the "new normal". So look for it to continue to go up further.

On the other hand, the economy may be improving, because my commute is starting to suck again. It may have been hard times over the past two years, but the effect on the I-405 corridor traffic have been beneficial. Microsoft is hiring again, so traffic should clot up once more in the more affordable neighborhoods.

I suppose that looking at Wall Street for our general or personal economic health shows the lie in "trickle-down' theories - that if you help the bigs, then the improved economic conditions will help the smalls. In reality, the bigs have to be healthy for a while before stuff starts leaking down to the small fry. And at the first sign of economic adversity, the smaller and weaker members of the economy get thrown off the bus first. So the amount of time that the lower classes benefit from a rising economy tends to be shorter than that of the upper classes.

Still, I was enheartened by the snippet that the stocks leading this particular charge were companies like Alcoa and Caterpillar. You know, companies that actually make things, as opposed to just move around money. So we may be seeing a recovery after all.

But not you, at least not until after the bigs have finished their feeding.

More later,

Monday, April 12, 2010


This weekend I had the chance to watch the Frag Dolls in action. Said Frag Dolls (Valkyrie and Fidget) did lay down the smack upon the local heroes in the Undead Labs.

Perhaps I should back up and start again.

A while ago, former ArenaNet head honcho and current master of zombilicious madness Jeff Strain bid on the Frag Dolls. To be more specific, he made a bid at the auction at the Penny Arcade Expo auction for the chance to fight (and probably get beaten into the pavement by) a group of female video gamers notable for the ability to game hard and talk smack harder. Rather than keep this opportunity for himself, he held a contest among our local luminaries to see who could go up against two of the lethal ladies.

The end result played out Saturday Night at Undead Labs Home Office, located in the Pioneer Square area, above a derelict bookstore. Our side put up two of our finest – Mike Z and Nichole, while the Frag Dolls offered their best (and videotaped the proceedings). The game of choice was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Our side held their own admirably, in that it was not a total pummeling, but alas, the Frag Dolls emerged victorious. Mike Z and Nichole were bloodied but not bowed, and kicked, if not to the curb, at least away from the doors.

In any event, between the initial bid, the art auction, and the raffle, the Undead ended up with some three grand raised for the Child’s Play, and a good time was had by all, including those who had been pummeled.

More later,

Friday, April 09, 2010

Play: The Measure of a Man

Fences by August Wilson, Directed by Timothy Bond, through April 18, Seattle Repertory Theatre.

This is a good one. For various reasons, I have gone through a majority of the plays of August Wilson, and this is the one that seems to be tagged most often as one of his better works, one of the must-sees. And it is, though not for the reasons I see in a lot of the reviews.

Troy Maxson is a garbageman in Pittsburgh's Hill District. In his youth he was a ballplayer, and served time for murder as well, yet in this part of his lifeis the master of his territory, his kingdom set out on stage by his backyard, back stoop, and the fence that he is regularly building. The play runs through a series of Fridays in his life as he boasts, bosses, and bullies those around him.

Most of the summaries make much of the conflict between Maxson and his second son, Cory, who has the potential to go to college with a football scholarship. The idea that the son might show up the big-fish-in-a-tiny-kingdom father and the father betraying that ideal is part of what's going on here, but it is only part.

Fences is a character study, with Maxson, played incredibly well by James A Williams, at its heart. He dominates the stage like he dominates his little world. Every other character interacts with him, and on those occasions when they do not, they interact ABOUT him. He is the center of this solar system, and we see him win, we see him lose, we see him tell lies, and we see him reveal truths. But is all about him. Everybody else, from his sons (Stephen Tyrone Williams as Cory the younger athletic child, Jose A. Rufino as the elder child who grew up when Maxson was in jail), his wife (Kim Staunton, who plays the part with enough love for him and enough strength to stand up to him), his brother (Craig Alan Edwards, addled from war), and his best friend (a brilliant William Hall Jr. who can turn a phrase with a smile and a wink), all orbit him, and when he casts them into the outer darkness, they take long paths to come back.

And despite its two hours and plus length, it is a compact play, and the actors attack it with aplomb and dispatch. It takes a moment to catch up with them, at the beginning, like riding the old Whip ride at the amusement part. Yet they are not hurrying the play, just helping because there is so much ground to cover. Having waded through the overstuffed bulk of King Hedly II you can see where its sins come from, because here, he does everything right, and all the pieces fall into place, and he has a center that holds it all together.

The setting is Pittsburgh, home the bulk of Wilson's plays, and he name checks the localities - Greentree, the A&P, the Brady Street bridge. Maxson talks down about the modern ball players as not being up to his abilities in the Negro Leagues, and badmouths Clemente in passing, which is pretty much as close as you can get to spitting on the Pope in the Steel City. No, Maxson is not a good man by any stretch, but by the end of the play you get an idea where he comes from.

This is Wilson firing on all cylinders, and the cast takes the opportunity and runs with it. This is one of his plays that justifies the others, and lays down that August Wilson definitely belonged in the big leagues. Make the time and go see it.

More later,

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Norwescon, After Action Report

Norwescon went very well - they always impress me with their organization, right down to such nice little details as putting your schedule on the back of the little name stands that you use in the panels.

One of the things I appreciate is that I get thrown into some interesting panels with people I'd actually be interested in listening to. Like a discussion of creating with fantasy pantheons (pretty normal) with Sean Reynolds (which was a bonus) and an expert in philosophy and religion (which made it all the more interesting as we compared modern fantasy mythologies against older traditions). I really like the eclectic nature of the con and its panels.

But to be honest, my biggest problem is that the rest of my life tends to get involved. The day job and the freelance work have both conspired to keep me busy, and deciding to take the weekend for the convention and try to work these around it made for a rather hectic few days with precious little time for myself. Add to that a theater date Sunday afternoon and it made for a bit more activity than I really needed.

So now I stand once more at the head of the week with a mild feeling of exhaustion already firmly in place. Ah, well, at least I will have the memories. Until exhaustion claims them as well.

More later,

(Pictured above:photo by Jodi Lane, looted from Sean Reynold's Facebook page. You humble narrator and Sean talking about gods. Yes, I am wearing steampunk goggles on top of my baseball hat. I find more people take you more seriously this way).

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Busy Season

Wrapped up with a lot of work all of a sudden, both in the day job and in the rest of my life, including, but not limited to, Norwescon this weekend.

I almost gave you a picture of a cat with a pithy saying beneath it that would make you Laugh Out Loud, but I restrained myself.

Instead, enjoy this enigma.

More, later

Update: The amazing Stan! posted a link to this, and despite all of the April Fish swimming about, I like this one the best. Heck, I would write this comic.