Thursday, October 31, 2013

Meanwhile, On Grubb Street

Kate and I carved a pumpkin last night inspired by the pumpkin designs in Lion's Arch.

Happy Halloween to All!

More later,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Seventy-Five Years Ago

Orson Welles summons a Martian War Machine into the homes of Americans everywhere.

More later,

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Political Desk - The Final Details

I've finally reached the bottom of the ballot, and with it such specialized positions as the Soos Creek Water and Sewer Commissioner Positions # 2 and 3, and the Public Hospital District No. 1 Positions # 3 and 5. These are write-ups that will concerns pairs if not trios of readers, made worse by the lack of information on the ground. Often at this level we are left with the comments in the Voters' Guide, and unless one of them suddenly confesses to being an axe-murderer, you wouldn't know from their presentations.

The Soos Creek Water and Sewer is responsible for, you got it, water quality and sewer services in the Soos Creek watershed, which starts just north of Grubb Street and flows south into Covington and Maple Valley. It is a diverse area, including both old farming plots, salmon streams, older homes with septic tanks, ancient pipes, and sprawling new developments. So it is a challenging region, dealing with both expansion as well as maintenance.

For Position #2, we see a rerun of three years back, with Larry West versus Darold R. Stroud. At the time this blog recognized both for their abilities and favored Mr. West (and we lost - oh well). This time out I have to recognize that DAROLD R STROUD has done the job and deserves to be returned to the position.

For Position #3 we have incumbent Gary G. Cline and Alan Eades, who has been a long-time employee of the water district. Again, from their descriptions in the Voters' Guide, I can pretty much say the neither is a self-confessed axe-murderer and sounds pretty calm and rational. I'd go with GARY G CLINE, but again, I don't think we would be wrong with Mr. Eades.

The Public Hospital District No. 1 is Valley Medical, which is just down the hill. And in general, I am positively disposed to Valley Medical - they have been an excellent health-care organization with a talented, positive, capable staff, and have used their services both intentionally (surgery) and unintentionally (emergency room, of which we will not go into detail). However, it has always managed some huggamugga and scandal every time there is an election, and this year is little different.

Previously, the commissioners were five in number and elected positions. Since the last election, Valley has merged with UW Medical (all the cool kids are doing it these days), but as a result, the board consists of the five elected positions and eight UWM appointees. So there is not as much local control as there once was, and while most of the candidates think the merger was a good thing, they vary about the details. 

So, this deep in the weeds, who to recommend? Fortunately, the Renton Reporter (sister-paper to the Kent Reporter) has been actually talking to the candidates (or trying, at least), and tracking the contributions to give a bit of clarity. They have articles on Albert P. Haylor versus Barbara J. Drennen for Position 3, and Tamara Sleeter versus incumbent Sue Bowman for Position 5 (Spoiler, last time out, this blog went for Ms. Bowman). 

The articles illuminate both in correcting the record (Ms. Bowman stated in the Voters' Guide that Ms. Sleeter did not live in the district - it has since been ruled that Ms. Sleeter does), and in following the money. In particular, Mr. Haylor and Ms. Sleeter have gotten their largest donations from the current president of the board and from the current president's medical practice. OK, so we know that someone would like to staff some friendly faces on the board. 

All approve to various levels about the Alliance with UWM (from enthusiastic to resigned), all have interest in how much hospital executives make (from outraged to concerned) and all have the patients at heart in their write-ups. And, of course, none appear to be axe-murderers. I agree that the Alliance with UWM is a necessary things (though it is apparently being challenged in appeals court, so stay tuned), and am going to go with SUE BOWMAN for Position 5 and BARBARA J DRENNEN for Position 3.

And with that, we hit the end of the ballot. Summary and updates to come, as we have More Later, 

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Political Desk - A Town Called Kent (Part Two)

OK, despite the moaning and wailing and the rending of one's garments, there are OTHER races going on in Kent, my new hometown.

There is a second race going on for Kent City Council which is overshadowed by the one we've been talking about. And it feels a bit more reasonable. Council Position No. 2 pits Jim Berrios versus David Wade Schwartz. Both are local businessmen with civic interest and ties to us up on the hill. Mr. Berrios has a long time in the neighborhood (and has run for office before), while Schwartz is a transplant who was uprooted by the Link a few years back and relocated south. Mr. Berrios therefore comes off with more of a local knowledge base, while Mr. Schwartz has a definite gung-ho attitude.

I’m going with Schwartz for two reasons – one is that he supports the local B&O tax, which is a rarity (most business-candidates don’t care for it, including both Messrs. Stober and Sharp). I think it is a good thing from the standpoint of funding a lot of the necessary repairs in the community.

Secondly, and this is totally frustration on my part, Mr. Berrios is the CURRENT head of the Chamber of Commerce. The PREVIOUS head of the Chamber of Commerce is Mr. Sharp, who, we have noted, stands accused of stealing from his own mother. And yeah, it is completely unfair to count another man’s faults against a candidate, but frankly, running the Kent Chamber of Commerce is not the sell-point that it once was.

So DAVID WADE SCHWARTZ for City of Kent Council Position No. 2

Kent is also electing a Mayor, and it is a microcosm what we're seeing up in Seattle itself. We have two candidates with similar positions. Both support many of same things (such as the ShoWare Center) and both are against the same things (like coal trains).So the tipping point seems to be about methodology – and whether getting along with the city council is a good thing for a mayor.

Suzette Cook is the current mayor – she’s on her second term going for her third. Her administration includes the entire Hansen Dam situation, and I will be honest that this has appealed to me. She's got the city through the rough times of the recession and crime is down, interest is up, and things look like they're going pretty well.

Tim Clark is a 16-year veteran councilman who has also been involved in a lot of the long-term goals of the city. He's pushing for greater transparency and fiscal responsibility, as well as working better with the city council.

I'm not a fan of council/mayor lockstep, or think that the mayor should necessarily be sort of an ad hoc addition to the council. They have separate roles and I actually prefer there to be a little friction between the two, such that the two sides keep an eye on each other. By the same token, I think Ms. Cook has made her case that she has worked with the council.

I think Mr. Clark would be an excellent mayor, given his experience, but this time out I'm still going with SUZETTE COOK.

And finally, we have Kent School District No. 415, Director District No. 5, for which the contenders are Bruce Elliott and Maya Vengadasalem. Both candidates present themselves well, and neither one has been arrested for stealing from family members (you're just not going to let that one go, eh?). But, looking at the raft of endorsements, I am going to recommend MAYA VENGADASALEM.

More later,

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Political Desk: A Town Called Kent (Part One)

I’ll admit it, I’m a bit na├»ve. I tend to look for the silver linings. I tend to think the best of people. I am, as they say in Chicago, a goo-goo – a good government type, to be laughed at and reviled by those in power. And most of the time I'm cool with it.

But this race.  This particular race. This race just makes me sad.

I am talking about the City of Kent Council Position No. 6. I already vented my frustration on getting the primary wrong over here. Short version – I read the write-ups for the primary and said “Yeah, they all sound pretty good”. And then I find out that one of the candidates has been arrested for stealing from his own mother. No, seriously. Candidate Ken Sharp has been accused, arrested, and will stand trial on November 20 for pillaging his mom’s saving account of nearly $300,000.

And this is particularly maddening given that Mr. Sharp is running as the sound-businessman, former President of the local Chamber of Commerce type. Despite the appearance that American Business seems to be overwhelmed with thieves and sociopaths these days, would it have KILLED them to have a guy in charge that wasn't, you know, ripping off his own mother?

And even Mr. Sharp is exonerated (and yeah, I’m still an optimist), I’m going to say that a guy with major criminal charges is going to be a tad bit distracted when it comes to governing.  And if found guilty, he would have a hard time making it to council meetings.

So, we have the other guy at least, Bailey Stober. Well, not so fast, cowboy.

As might be expected in such a situation where a candidate is facing serious time, there has been a lot of mudslinging going on, primarily in Kent Reporter’s letters to the editor and their Facebook page. A wide variety of claims have been made against Mr. Stober, some of which have risen to the point of being commented upon by the candidate. In general, the mud has been flying so thick that the Carpinito brothers are looking a bumper crop this year (local joke).

But in all this kerfuffle there is one point that does stick – Mr. Stober has not put in his paperwork with the Public Disclosure Commission (you have to dig it out here from the database), which shows his campaign raising money but not its expenditures. Normally this is a small point, but it is the one I can look at, dust off the muck, summon my goo-goo mojo and say yeah, what’s the deal here?

And to further cloud the issue, there is another candidate in the mix, now. Former council member Debbie Raplee has recently put her name in as a write-in candidate because of concerns about Mr. Sharp’s legal problems and Mr. Stober’s residency requirements (Mr. Stober has denied there is a problem). And while I respect Ms. Raplee’s decision, we knew about Mr. Sharp’s ongoing legal situation for some time, and only NOW she decided she needed to enter the race?

So where am I on this? Well, if all accusations against both candidates are true, then Bailey Stober remains the better choice, because his accused sins are venal, not mortal. Furthermore, they are not currently before a court of law. If NONE of the accusations on both sides are true, I’m going to recommend  Bailey Stober still, because he’s going to be more focused on the job.

So we go with BAILEY STOBER, with a good sharp kick to get his bloody paperwork in.

More later,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Commercial Break

Breaking from the non-stop political coverage on this blog, I'd like to take a moment to talk about other stuff that friends and colleagues are up to with this newfangled Kickstarter thing.

Bruce Cordell and Monte Cook have successfully funded a new game using the popular Numera system. The new game is called The Strange and is currently wracking up the stretch goals.

Tim Brown  has just attained the funding levels for Dragon Kings, a union of games, art, and music, which is a thematic descendant of his earlier work on Dark Sun (and yeah, I'm going to write a bit for it).

Lester Smith is doing Cthulhu Haiku.II, a collection of horror poetry and short fiction. Yeah, horror poetry. Make a SAN check on that one.

AND I am currently reading the pdf of my first funding of a Kickstarter: Islandsof Ignorance, the third Call of Cthulhu Companion. Excellent stuff here, and I'm looking forward to my hard copy.

More later,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Political Desk - Any Port in a Storm

Ah, the Port of Seattle. Usually this is a hive of scum and villainy, good for scandals and vandals. This year, not so much. Yes, we had Rob Holland (who this blog endorsed) stepping down after getting nicked for abusing  a Port-authorized credit card to the tune of $3K for personal uses, but that is almost quiet for the Port. Most of the Port news over the past couple years has involved their concerns about yet another sports stadium going up North of them, and the possibility of teaming up with local rival port Tacoma for better coordination and to stop undercutting each other.

The Port is (on paper) a non-political office, but here’s a tell – check out the endorsements. Usually you can find most of the Dems on one side and most of the Reps on the other. An endorsement from failed gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna? Yeah, you might want to avoid that guy, though people do grow in office.  So here’s what we got.

Position 1 – Pete Lewis versus John Creighton. This is interesting. Eight years ago this blog cast a baleful eye upon Mr. Creighton for getting a lot of cash from the Republican side of the aisle. Now, he’s getting top marks from the Sierra Club, labor, and a slew of Democrats,  and it is his opponent who’s getting the endorsement from McKenna and the Seattle Times. I’m going with JOHN CREIGHTON on this one.

Position 2 – Courtney Gregoire versus John Naubert. This one bugs me because I hate the idea of politics as family business, and Ms. Gregriore is the daughter of former Governor Gregoire, who I like, but still there’s the principle of thing. Plus the fact that as an old guy I am resigned to vote for someone who is named Courtney. But the fact is that she’s got experience in the area and has strong labor and enviro endorsements and actually has a functioning web site. Plus she gets an Outstanding from the Muni League, which may be excessive, but pushes me in her direction. Go with COURTNEY GREGROIRE for this.

Position 3 – Stephanie Bowman versus Michael Wolfe. Ms. Bowman has had the job since April, and comes well recommended. Mr. Wolfe comes out of the travel industry (and yeah, the Airport is a port). I’m going with MICHEAL WOLFE but can perfectly understand if you would prefer Ms. Bowman.

Position 4 –Tom Albro versus Richard Pope. So, Tom Albro. Incumbent, pro-business, kinda conservative, endorsed strongly by the Seattle Times (which is usually a warning). But also effective, aggressive, and competent. Yeah, he’s got an Outstanding rating from the Muni League, but he ran the Muni League for a few years. But he has also been strong on reforming the Port and pushing for transparency.  So yeah, TOM ALBRO.

More later,

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Political Desk - King County Elected Positions

Only three elected positions in King County this round. One of them (Sheriff) doesn’t even have an opponent, the county-wide one (Executive) is a bit of a blowout, and even the local one for our district (#5, to replace Julia Patterson) is a bit of a walkaway. But, let us be complete.

Dow Constantine blew out his opponents in the primary, and looks to do so again. And for good reason – he’s been competent and solid in his first term. If you reward politicians for doing a good job, he’s done it. His opponent, per his web site, has been endorsed by the King County GOP and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, with “Verbal Support” from the “Tea Party”. So good luck with that. Vote for DOW CONSTANTINE for King County Executive.

Andy Massagli, who is running for Julie Patterson’s seat here in 5th, is in a similar situation –  also endorsed by Republicans and not given much of a chance against Dave Upthegrove. But Mr. Massagli comes across as pleasant, rooted, grounded, has a sense of humor and is generally nice (his wife wrote his piece for the Voter’s Guide, and while I don’t think it was effective, it was nice. Mr Upthegrove comes out of the legislature with a host of endorsements, and gets an Outstanding Rating from the Muni League. That’s a lot of positive firepower, so vote DAVE UPTHEGROVE. (Yeah, I could make fun of the name, but with my moniker, I’m going to get away with it) but I want to watch Mr. Massagli for the future.

More later

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Political Desk - King County Measures Twice, Shoots Foot

So, moving down from the state level to the county, we have two proposals. On is the King County Proposition No. 1, Renewal of an existing levy for Medic One – Emergency Medical Services. I'm good with Medic One, though I have to renew it every year, it seems. Yes, let’s go with YES on this on.

The other one is King County Charter Amendment No. 1, which is completely different from King County Proposal No. 1. This is to create an appointed office of county public defender, a department of public defense, and a public defense advisory board. Sounds like a lot, so the question is, why are we doing all this NOW? Don’t we HAVE a public defender for King County?

Well, we do. Well, did. For 44 years, we had four nonprofit corporations providing public defender services for King County. These tended to get high marks for their services than similar public programs in other cities. In the middle of the year, King County chose to end those contracts with the nonprofits and pull the public defender’s fully into the bureaucracy within a Public Defender’s Office. This was because of a court case from a public defender stating that the public defenders were de facto county employees and should be treated as such with regards to benefits.

I’m not so certain about the ruling and the result, as King County was noted for having excellent and progressive results with its non-profit approach, and (for once) I don’t think we are well-served to add another chunk of responsibility at a time when most government is seeking to privatize as much as possible. But that’s not what this measure is about. It is about approving the creation of such a department in a way that maintains much of their previous independence. I have my doubts, but I will go for voting a grudging YES on this.

More later,

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Political Desk - Advisory Votes: Whole Lotta Nothing

We have FIVE Advisory Votes on the ballot, which are the result of our badly-sprained initiative process. These are tax measures with have been approved by the legislature, but due to our system, now have to be brought before the people. BUT they are just advisory, which means that they really don’t mean squat – they at best can provide cover for the politicians who voted with the people, or allow a claim of personal heroism for those that voted against it.

Further, all of them take the following format: “The legislature eliminated/extended, without a vote of the people, [some loophole or special consideration], costing approximately [large sum of money] in the first ten years  (so divide that number by 10, which makes it less large) , for government spending.” That is pretty scary language to say – We did “THIS” which will bring in “THIS MUCH MONEY” for the budget and probably doesn't affect you directly.

And the thing is, almost all these things are extensions of existing taxes or eliminations of loopholes. But due to our TOTAL FREAKOUT about anything that even smells of taxes, they are referred to as “a new tax”, which they really aren’t. And then we ask you, the voters to Maintain or Repeal this “new tax”

Let me get to the quick of it. If you hate taxes in any form, under any definition, against anybody, and want a magic pony that you don’t have to feed or clean up after, you should vote to repeal all of these. If you feel this process is more than a little broken, but want to keep them from looking in your pocket for more operating revenues, vote to MAINTAIN these decisions.

And, if you want to know what you are voting on, here’s the deal.

Advisory Vote No. 3 (Substitute Senate Bill 5444) eliminates a tax credit for taxpayers who lease publicly-held property.
Advisory Vote No. 4 (Senate Bill 5627) -  CREATES an excise tax on commuter air carriers instead of a property tax. (Does this mean they are no longer paying property taxes? Is this a tax change as opposed to a tax increase or maybe a tax shift or a tax polymorph?)
Advisory Vote No. 5 (Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1846) extends an insurance premium tax for some insurance on pediatric oral services (Braces? Surgery? The little toothbrushes they put in the bag?)
Advisory Vote No. 6 (Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971) eliminates a retail tax exemption on certain telephone and telecommunications systems.
Advisory Vote No. 7 (Engrossed House Bill 2075) extends an estate tax on certain high-valued property.

You see part of the problem here as well. CERTAIN properties? SOME insurance? Which ones? The Voters’ Guide is unclear, as the law does not require explanatory statements or arguments for or against. It does give us a list of how these votes originally passed, and to be frank, there are not any that are even close. (and most of the guys I’ve endorsed in the past have voted Yea on these, so since I PUT these guys in charge to do exactly these votes, I'm going to support them).

I’m going for MAINTAIN on these non-binding bits of political theater, but I do want to know more about the Second Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1971 (to see if it includes candlestick phones). But that’s just me.

The Political Desk - I-522: What's in Your Shopping Cart?

 I don’t fear GMOs, but by the same token, I’d like them to be labeled. Let me explain.

The most expensive initiative on the ballot, in terms of how much money people are willing to spend to stop it, I-522 requires we label food that is genetically modified. This is more than just Mendelian crossbreeding, but getting into the heart of the matter and throwing a gene into the genetic chain that might improve yield, or extend shelf-life or act as a naturally-growing pesticide. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. Yes, you can throw that factoid out in the next dinner party. 

And to be honest, this is a pretty cool thing on the face of it. March of science and all that. My friend Wolfgang Baur has provided links from the American Academy of Science (the guys who publish SCIENCE, and usually part of the calm voice of reason) that indicate that GMO crossbreeds are generally as safe as normal crops. Of course, given what we’ve done with our normal crops over the years, that is praising with faint damns (we wash our fruit these days, but more from the concern of pesticides and chemicals than dirt and debris).

But I am still in favor of labels. Why? I’d like the data. I DO read the nutritional information on my multiple attempts to cut calories. I read them to make sure that there are no eggs (the Lovely Bride is allergic) or are free of MSG (gives the mom-in-law headaches). Yes, if you’re tweaking the genes, I’d like to know that there's a bit of chicken in there BEFORE the Lovely Bride has to hit the ER.

And it is not just me. Japan suspended import of US wheat this summer when some GMO wheat was found in an wheat field in Oregon. They found it when a farmer could not clear the field using Monsanto pesticides, in a bit of irony. So yeah, other people want to read the labels as well.

Both sides are pushing hard on this. I think the pro-labeling side is raising the specter of Frankenfood and the overwhelming pressure from Monsanto, who apparently read about the calorie companies in Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl and said “Yeah, that’s the dystopia WE want!”. Plus, their opponents of the labeling have been hiding their contributions, finally coming out only when the State Attorney General threatened a lawsuit (The big hidden contributors? Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle. So, what ARE in those Fritos?)

But the anti-side is pushing hard that it is a bad law – too many loopholes, not enough definitions, too many corner cases. Fine. Then let’s pass it and you can spend all the money you are currently putting in to defeat it into helping make the law better. Close those loopholes. Tighten up the regulations. It is not like you guys don't have access to the corridors of power or anything. 

I’m going with YES on this one. Not because of any scare tactics, or that Pepsico doesn't want you to know what is in the Doritos, or because Monsanto wants to be a calorie king, but because I want data. I read the box copy, and I vote.

More later,

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Political Desk - I -517: The Initiative Protection Initiative.

In this off-est of off-year elections, we have just two initiatives in the hopper, and one of them is an initiative to make it easier to file initiatives. Yes, it is just as recursive as it sounds.

I-517 is an initiative that will set penalties for interfering with initiative-gatherers, demand that any initiative making getting sufficient support get on the ballot, and extends the initiative-gathering season. To no one’s surprise, this initiative is being fronted by Tim Eyeman’s group, who has made a tidy profit launching initiatives onto the ballot to keep the government from actually governing.

Now, you would think that I would oppose this initiative just on the grounds that Tim Eyeman is behind it (and indeed, this is a reason the anti-campaign uses in their argument in the voter’s pamphlet), but you would be wrong. I think this is the greatest boon to freedom of speech in the face of an increasingly limiting government.

Quite simply, should this pass, we should all become initiative-gatherers. Think of it. Instead of homeless, we have a raft of signature gatherers at every stoplight who could not be moved on. Instead of bringing your muskets to an anti-government rally, you bring clipboards. The Occupy movement passes out brightly-colored vests so that Westlake Center become awash in people signing one another’s’ petitions. And the government Can’t Do A Thing, because initiative-gathering speech is specially-protected speech.

For companies, it is even better. I can’t advertise my smoke-shop near schools, but I can send in a raft of employees into that same space to gather signatures. Strip joints are illegal in many communities, but I can parachute women in bikinis in to put an initiative on the local ballot that allow sexy barista cafes. And, the cool thing is, if we get enough signatures, it is the responsibility of the community to verify all those sigs and put them on the ballot! Free advertising! Genius!

I know, we COULD just stop being so draconian about our normal freedom of speech and freedom of association to allow people actually, you know, speak and congregate, but that is so old-school. With the I-517 hack in place, we will be up to our armpits in clipboards and vests, each one pushing its own agenda, and once we get corporate sponsorship (since that’s part of the initiative process already (thank you Citizen United)), we can all turn into our own initiative mavens. I’m thinking of hiring all my unemployed writer friends as signature gatherers for I-522, sponsored by Monsanto.

We the People become We the Petitioners! Brilliant!

(And yeah, the above is all sarcasm.  Let us have a good chuckle, then vote NO on this foolishness).

More later

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Political Desk – Winter is Coming.

I suppose I should be relieved by how quiet the political desk is this year. I think we’re due, after everything last year. No president, no senators, no reps, no judges, no governor, no state offices, no statehouse. A lot of positions that are open are either unopposed (King County Sheriff) or blowout (Dow Constantine). Even the “hottest” race in the area, the Mayor of Seattle, has turned into a snooze between a liberal populist mayor and his liberal populist opponent over who is less confrontational. But this is the new Secretary of State’s first big election (stepping into the shoes of Sam Reid), and we should ease her into it. It should be a breeze, right?

Well, there are some things. Two initiatives, a bagful of meaningless referendums, four seats on the port authority, the odd-numbered provinces in King County.  Water and medical districts. And one unholy mess down in Kent, where I now LIVE, and therefore should address (hey, don’t blame me, I didn’t move there – I was adopted).  So there are things to discuss. And as always, I don’t make endorsements in races without opponents, and I encourage people seeking more information to follow links to other peoples’ recommendations as well. The more conservative Seattle Times editorial pages are here (they have yet to gather their endorsements in one spot [UPDATE: Here they are]). The more liberal Stranger recommendations are here (and are about as NSFW as usual). The Muni League is here. I will be disagreeing with some/most of their collective conclusions as we move forward. But I want you guys to have a broad base of opinions.

OK, here goes. If you don't live in the Pacific Northwest, you might want to take a break from the blog for the next week or so. More, as they say, later. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Foreign Translations

Regardez! Un livre!
So I don't make a lot of noise about this, but I've been cleaning out my Archive Room for the past few years. Actually calling it the Archive is a rounding up a bit - it is the small room in the basement where I've been stashing all the extra copies of games, author copies of books, long boxes of old comics, and other material that, back east, would end up in the attic or the basement. Seattle architecture has neither, ergo, the Archive Room.

And Anne Trent has been gracious enough to be my ebay mistress on this, organizing and selling off not only my stuff, but that belonging to Stan! as well through the Stannexmart. And she's been doing pretty well, and I haven't been that pushy about promoting it, since I just want to get old games and books into the hands of people who would want them, not because they are collectible or are from "The collection of Jeff Grubb" (note, on Anne's page, if there is a J (or JG) after the title, it is from my stuff, if there is an S (or an S!) it from "The collection of Stan!).

But she's hit a bit of a rock in moving some of the old books, and I want to help. Said rock is in the department of foreign translations of my books.

Over time I've gotten English-language author copies for my books, which is cool and mandated in the contracts. But also I on occasion get foreign translations. These have usually been in drips and drabs, without rhyme or reason, and usually consisted of an email or phone call from the editing department to the effect of "yeah, we're cleaning out the library up here - would you like a couple copies?" And they themselves get copies of the translations at rates that vary from prompt to glacial, so books that were in print years before would suddenly show up.

And these copies found their way into the Archives, and now find their way onto Ebay.

I don't read the various languages these are translated into, and only with Anne's aid do I know know that Azure Bonds, the first novel from Kate and I, was retitled "The Swordswoman" and "Revealing the Mysterious Symbols" in Japanese. I did know that the original book was broken into two smaller paperbacks, in keeping with Japanese novels, and that parts were illustrated. And I lThe Brothers' War - Bruderkrieg, though the massive tome is beyond me.
oved the name of the German edition of

The thing is, in the states, at least, these things ARE collectible, in that there are far fewer copies of Bruderkrieg, or Le Chant des Saurials floating around than of The Brother's War and The Song of the Saurials. And if you actually can read them, then that's just a bonus.

And, of course, you help clear out my Archive Room (now if I can only get rid of 90 longboxes of unsorted comics, I'll be in business).

More later,

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Play: Mystery Science Theater 1750

Yale Repertory Theatre's production of The Servant of Two Masters, by Carlo Goldoni, adapted by Constance Congdon, from a translation by Christina Sibul, directed by Christopher Bayes, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Through October 20th.

Yale? Yale? We're hauling the Rep from Yale out here to do plays? Fine. Insert the traditional mope about using local talent (of which there is SOME representation) at this point of the review and we'll just move on.

The Servant of Two Masters is a play from the smack-middle of the 18th Century, adapted by Constance Congdon, who previously had done the Imaginary Invalid a few seasons back. And the play itself pulls from the commedia dell'arte which started in 1500s, which was more improvisational and lusty. And while there is improv rolling through this production, it is really more of a localizing as opposed to modernizing the classic - there are bits that refer to localities and current politics and using "Microsoft" as a running gag. The self-commentary feels like Joel, Crow, and Tom Servo are providing a second audio track. The result feels like a shadow of a shadow, its farce and lechery, while definitely present, boiled out just a bit for the provincials.

Here is Truffaldino (a free-associating Steven Epp), who is a fool who picks up two masters thinking it would involve getting two meals, and not realizing it involved twice as much work and twice as much intrigue to mess up. He is the servant of Beatrice (a stunning Liz Wisan) , who is travelling in the disguise of her late brother, which Truffaldino does not realize (he is apparently a new hire). Beatrice is seeking to reunite with her lover Florindo (a hilariously vain Jesse J. Perez), who killed Beatrice's brother (the matter that Beatice's loyalty is to Florindo as opposed to her brother is not questioned, though made more clear if you check out the wiki, but you really don't need to). Truffaldino becomes Floridino's servant as well, which leads to whackiness and whacking with the slap-stick when anyone else leaves messages for Truffaldino's master and he cannot parse which one he supposed to give it to.

Further, Beatrice's late brother was engaged to be married to Clarice (a Carol Burnettish Adina Verson), who is the daughter of Beatrice's late brother's business partner Pantalone (a rubber-jointed Allen Gilmore). In the wake of Beatrice's brother's death, Clarice is now set to marry Silvio (the baby-faced Eugene Ma), and the reappearance of the supposedly dead man upsets their plans, along with the plans of Floridino, who is afraid he did not kill Beatrice's brother after all. Oh, yeah, and Beatrice and Floridino are staying at the same inn, run by Brighella (Liam Craig), and Truffaldino has to keep them appart.

Confused? Well, many of the actors are wearing half-masks, because they are stock characters. Pantalone is an old man, equal parts miser and harsh but loving father. Truffaldino is in motley and wears a fool's mask. Brigella and Il Dottore (Allen Gali) are masked as well, and if you were your typical 16th century Italian, you would recognize them as easily as a cheesehead would target a Packers fan. Again, knowledge of where these guys are coming from doesn't hurt, particularly as their actions often come from their assigned roles as opposed to the evolution of the plot.

Oddly, the piece that sets the scene - two workers talking in mock-Italian about the old theater, that creates a sense of wonder that the rest of the play only aspires to at the very end. The workers find an old costume chest, and open it, and fireflies come out, dancing the darkness and joining with the stars to create a magical scene. Only at the end, when both sets of lovers are united (yeah, spoilers), so we get back to that bit of stagecraft and the sense of wonder that theater can present.

So the improv isn't fully improv and the text is localized as opposed to being modernized. The simple fact with such a play is that your enjoyment is connected to the sense of fun the actors are playing with it. They wander back and forth from recognizing they are in a play and dealing with the play's reality - the fourth wall isn't so much a wall as it is a window. Epp has to sell a number of goals for Truffaldino - desire to get fed, passion for Clarice's maid (Julie Briskman, previously in The Beard of Avon), and the need to avoid discovery, so he often comes off as patchwork as his outfit. Liz Wisan acquits nicely in the breeches role, though a lot of her moves consist of exasperation at her servant. And Allen Gilmore steals the bulk of his scenes with an athleticism that belies his role as both old man and stern father.

But you know, just roll with it. It works out. It is a play that is entirely driven by the performance level of its actors. If they have fun, you have fun, and for this Sunday matinee performance, they looked like they were having fun.

More later,

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Star Wars! (Nothing but Star Wars!)

This Saturday is Star Wars Reads Day, and I will be celebrating with an appearance at the University Bookstore up in the U-District, starting at 6 PM. I will join noted Star Wars memorabilia collector Gus Lopez, and look forward to finding out if my "Revenge of the Jedi" button is worth anything. Plus: Stormtroopers! (Or so I have been told). Looking forward to it!

More later