Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Invitation to a Reading

So a while back I solicited in this space about readers for a play I've completed. Well, I've got them, and we're going to be reading next Monday, 4 December,  for the Seattle Playwrights Studio at the Burien Actors Theatre. Here are the details:

Human Resources
A Corporate Comedy by Jeff Grubb
Monday, 4 December, 2017
7 PM

Burien Actors Theatre
14501  4th Ave SW, Burien, WA 98166

I have cast the five roles (four actors and someone to read the stage directions):

                Grace will be read by Carol Stanley
                Bob will be read by Stan! Brown
                Angela will be read by Janna Silverstein
                Peter will be read by Jorge Rodriquez
               Stage Directions will be read by Michael Yichao
I'll be the one hiding from everyone in the back.

If you are interested, you are more than welcome to come.  As I mentioned, this is a reader's theater, where my readers are sitting around reading the play through, and I get a chance to hear my words when they're NOT going on in my head.

More later,

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Book: Welcome Back My Friends

The Show that Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock;  by David Wiegel, W.W.Norton & Company. (c) 2017

Provenance: I discovered this book through a review. In particular, THIS review, which was not so much about the book as about its subject matter and why that subject matter wasn't worth much in the first place. As a review of a review, I'd say it's not much of a review, but it was on a subject that was a part of my college years: Progressive Rock.

Review: I got into Prog Rock in the late 70s (don't judge) after my John Denver phase (I SAID don't judge). ELP and Yes and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. Progressive Rock was loonnnng songs with involved, often opaque lyrics that disdained the prepackaged, 4/4, lovesong nature of radio pop. Emphasis on musical techniques, centered on the keyboards as opposed to the guitars, strong influence of classical music, leading edge on tech, displays of arcane knowledge, long percussion solos, bizarre time signatures, and a lot of noodly bits. A lot of these properties, interestingly enough, Prog Rock shared with Dungeons & Dragons, and there was great amounts of overlap in both the performers and the audience.

Weigel intros his book with a nostalgia cruise for Prog Boomers, identifying them as a quirky bunch of anoraks, like model train enthusiasts, but quickly comes to grips with where progressive came from, both from a tech end (the rise of the Moogs and other electronic devices) and the rebellion against the extant commercial pop world, supporting performance over packaging. He follows King Crimson and other early pioneers through the great domain and dominance of the progressive groups as they formed, splintered, and reformed again. He gets into odd trivia (Lemmy of Motorhead was a member of the Moorcock-inspired Hawkwind? I did not know that) and tries to show the forces working to create Progressive Rock - touring, the rise of arena shows, record labels willing to take risks and develop talent, new tech, and the music media. He tries to describe various pieces in detail, which works if you know the songs in question, but otherwise sends me to YouTube for reminders. (writing about music is akin to dancing about politics - a completely different mindset between the words).

Weigel covers the halcyon days of prog with an eye towards personalities and personal development and new ways of putting together music. Then, with the suddenness that it appeared, prog was declared a dinosaur - too expensive, too baroque, too engaged. Punk and Disco (yes, Disco) arose in response to the over-technical banks of keyboards. What was rebellion was itself rebelled against. The rock media turned, the labels looked elsewhere for cheaper acts and quicker turnarounds, and the prog groups faded or transformed, mammal like, into something that could survive the new era.

I liked to book. Weigel's style moves quickly, bouncing from a high-level overview to personal anecdotes and back again. He reminds me of early groups that I had not thought of (like Van der Graaf Generator) and later incarnations I should check out ( Porcupine Tree, Majesty). And a lot of a music of the era that I really liked (though truth to be told  I always found ELP's "Lucky Man" to be a bit twee). So yes, part of this is nostalgia and part is pure rediscovery. If you lived through the era, you should check it out.

More later,

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Meanwhile, 99 years ago

In Flanders Fields

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

More later,

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cthulhu Lies Dreaming

Let's do some gaming stuff.

At the recent GameHole Con (Quick review - great convention in Madison, you should go), I ran a part of a Call of Cthulhu campaign I had done years ago. Then characters were all underclassmen at Miskatonic University in March of 1925, when, according to Lovecraft's original short story, The Call of Cthulhu, the Great Old One stirred in his sleep, disturbing the dreams of people throughout the world.

And for this I created some pregens, gave them backgrounds, and had them make a POW check. Those that succeeded got strange dreams. Then I asked them what their term project was in the class.  Here are the characters:

Frank Johnson was our athelete, a football hero playing with the Miskatonic Badgers.
Deborah Blaine was our "New Woman" journalist.
Virginia Frink was our science student - her parents disappeared at Devil's Reef, near Innsmouth
Skip Cavanaugh was our dilettante, changing majors six times in six semesters.
Jedediah Wright comes from a long lines of Congregationalist ministers. He is studying theology.
Samuel Whately is pre-med, and comes from a farming community in Vermont. He interns at St. Mary's in Arkham.

Some made their Power Check, some didn't, but it was an interesting writing challenge. Here are their dreams

Frank Johnson’s Dream

You are in the woods, a thick pine woods. It is a summer night, but a full moon provides ghostly illumination, and the stars twinkle overhead. Your path leads west, towards a clearing. As you approach, white flowers glow in the field below you glow like fireflies, and the stars are obscured by a mounting thunderhead. You watch its moon-limned edges grow on the horizon, until it looms over you.

Then the thunderhead turns, and you see two huge yellow eyes emerging from the mass, and you know the towering creature is no cloud. It screams and you scream and you are awake.

Please make a SAN check.

Deborah Blaine’s Dream

You are at a trendy party, mingling with guests in tux and tails, or sequined gowns. There are waiter carrying trays of champagne and appetizers, and no one seems to care about Prohibition. There is jazz music playing in the distant in an odd minor key. You walk towards people and they turn away from you, some in disinterest, some in fear. You are concerned and try to join small groups that break up as soon as you arrive, and soon you are moving quickly from person to person, only to find the other guests flee from you. Something is wrong with your face.  

You reach a mirror and recoil in horror at yourself. Your face has melted, the skin gathered in on itself to form long, looping tendrils around you nose and mouth. You try to scream, but you cannot – the tendrils themselves coil of their own volition. You reach out to the mirror and your reflection touches you as well, but it reaches through the mirror and grasps you by the wrist, seeking to pull you inside. You awaken in a cold sweat.

Please make a SAN Check

Virginia Frink’s Dream

You are in an old house. Belonging to your parents? You are not quite sure. It’s night, and the ocean thunders outside, and you know without looking that the house is up on a cliff (your parents’ house was nowhere near the shore). There are shouts outside, but you know (someone warned you?) not to look out the windows. The sound of the surf grows louder, and with it the groaning of ancient timbers under sail, and the shouts grow louder as well.

You finally look out the window to see a great sailing ship breaking up on the rocks. The crew is abandoning it, and other dark figures are swarming over it like ants, killing the seamen they encounter and shredding the sails. Behind the wrecked ship is a great wave rising out of the ocean, a single pinnacle of water streaming off all sides.

Then the wave parts and reveals the tip of a huge leathery wing, the ocean itself draining off its flesh. The creature it belongs to, some massive dragon, turns towards you and you sudden awaken.

Please Make a SAN check.

Skip Cavanaugh’s Dream

You dream of a strange, burning city. Even on fire, its buildings seem to flicker and fade into and out of phase with the world, and twist inwards on themselves in patterns that seem to make sense but deny all reality. The buildings are huge, built by ancient giants, and you see people like ants trying to scale them, climbing up their burning sides to avoid the waters below.

Waters. Yes. You are now waist-deep in thick, salty waters. The tide is coming in. No. The city itself is sinking, and the ocean is coming in. You try to run to one of the towering, flaming structures, but you are trapped in mud. Not mud. You are ensnared by tentacles, looping round your legs like strong ropes, holding you in place and dragging you beneath the surface. You open your mouth to scream and salt water pours into your throat.

Please make a SAN check.

Jedidiah Wright’s Dream

You are in a church. Anglican, you would guess, from the amount of decoration and stained glass, and the smell of incense and heavily oiled wooden pews. There are parishioners in the benches, but you have a hard time focusing on them. They seem to fade in and out like ghosts. The stained glass seems to shimmer as well, and its scenes are aquatic in nature – coral, tropical fish, and octopi.

The minister is your father, or your grandfather, with a full white beard and wild white hair, gesticulating and shouting loudly. His words are unclear, but it is a hellfire speech. As you walk up the aisle, you see that he is bleeding from the eyes, the blood running down into his beard. And then you realize it is not a beard at all, but rather a nest of snakes, coiling and coiling like tendrils round his saw-toothed, lamprey-like mouth.

You awaken with a start. Please make a SAN check.

Samuel Whately’s Dream

You are in the morgue in the basement of St. Mary’s. It doesn’t look like the morgue you know, but you are sure of it. Instead of a small room with a bank of drawers holding the deceased you are in a great marble-shod palace, the biers of the dead laid out with military precision in all directions, each body covers in a translucent white sheet. Somewhere, far in the distance, a gong sounds.

The gong sounds again, and the cadavers begin to stir. The gossamer sheets slide from them and you see they are monstrosities, partially unmade through partial autopsies and botched studies. Great surgical wounds crisscross their forms, the skin pulling away from the stitches to reveal the oozing muscles beneath, the organs straining to escape. You run, but there is no place to run, the dead are everywhere.

You awaken in your bed, breathing hard. You catch your breath, and hear you roommate snoring across the room. In the distance you hear the university bell tower. Then the arms of the dead things reach up from beneath your bed and seize you dragging you down beneath the floorboards to join them. You awaken again, but are unsure if you are truly awake.

Please make a SAN check.

More later,

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Political Desk - The Dust Settles

So, how did things go?

Those not residing in the Evergreen State may be surprised to discover that we DON'T always know how elections are resolved the night of, or even the morning after. This is because we are all mail-in ballots, and the postmark on the ballot needs to be by election day. So stuff shows up late. Meanwhile, the AMOUNT of votes (even in the reduced circumstances of an off-year election) from Seattle makes for slow counting as well. Short version: the numbers will flux, and the nature of the flux tends towards urban, Democrat, and progressive voters.

Still, this year there have been some major blowouts where it is safe to say, regardless of what rally may await in the uncounted votes, someone (or something) has succeeded)

Advisory Votes 16, 17, and 18,  All REPEALED by 57%, 65% and 62% respectively. Pity that, as advisory votes, they don't really count, but this should give fodder to anti-tax crowd to intimidate officials who believe we should pay for what we get.

King County Proposition No. 1 Levy Lid Lift for Veterans, Seniors, and Vulnerable Populations, which does matter more - APPROVED (66%)

King County Executive - Dow Constantine (75%).

King County Sheriff - Mitzi Johanknecht (52%).

Court of Appeals, Division No.1, District no. 1 - Michael S. Spearman (74%), despite a lot of promotion for his opponent.

Port of Seattle Commissioner  Position No. 1 - John Creighton (51%). This might be the one to flip on later ballots, but it is unlikely. [[Note from Five Days Later: Of course I was wrong, for the very reasons that I noted earlier - younger and more progressive voters voted late. At this point, the percentages have neatly reversed themselves and Ryan Calkins now has 52% of the vote]]
Port of Seattle Commissioner Position No. 3 - Stephanie Bowman (67%).

Port of Seattle Commission Position No. 4 - Peter Steinbrueck (63%).

Mayor, City of Kent - Dana Ralph (52%)

Kent Council Position No. 2 - Satwinder Kaur (54%).

Kent Council Position No 4 - Toni Trouter (67%).

Kent Council Position No. 6 - Brenda Fincher (72%). Ms. Fincher's opponent is notorious for saying in his voter's guide that he didn't really want the job, anyway. And yet there are a lot of other results that at this level of landslide this year.

Kent School District No, 415 - Denise Daniels (53%).

Soos Creek Water and Sewer District Commissioner Position No. 2 - Alan Eades (53%).
Public Hospital District No. 1, Commissioner District No 1  - Erin Aboudara (67%)

And some other things:

Mayor of Seattle - Jenny Durkan (61%). Actually the only one I am sad to see, but even so I think a competent candidate won the position.
State Senate, 45th District Manka Dhingra (55%). The Democrats have retaken the State Senate by a slender margin. Now comes the time when feet are held to the fire and results are demanded.

And with that, the Political Desk shuts down for the winter. It will be back, of course, but I'm going off to write other things for a while.

More later,