tablesaw: One machete is raised, a host more rise to meet it. (From the "Machete" trailer in "Grindhouse".) (Brown Power)

STEPHEN GREENBLATT: When I was writing the glosses for the Norton Shakespeare, I remember doing the glosses for Much Ado About Nothing and I came to the line in which Claudio says, I would marry her "were she an Ethiope." So I had to explain what "were she an Ethiope" meant, and I said in the marginal gloss, "Ethiope, i.e., black and therefore, according to the racist Elizabethan stereotype, ugly."

Now, someone criticized me for being too politically correct by saying "racist stereotype." But if you're actually faced with the practical question of how you're going to gloss the thing, you have to say "Ethiope, i.e., Ethiopian, i.e., black," that is clear. But if you're saying I'd marry her "were she an Ethiope," you have to explain what that means, and you could say "i.e., black and therefore ugly," but what does that mean if you're writing a book for a contemporary audience? You have to acknowledge that the values have drastically shifted.

You could also point out, if you were doing a fuller account, that Claudio was actually a very unpleasant character and that happens to therefore qualify this, but it isn't the whole story. The whole story definitely involves a broader, not just the defects of Claudio's character, but a certain set of broader Elizabethan understandings that Shakespeare routinely draws upon, often to make paradoxical effects. He loves this black mistress, the dark lady, and he makes much of the fact that he loves her despite the fact that she's dark and therefore violates the canons of beauty. But you can't begin to understand this if you don't understand something about the values of Shakespeare's time and also recognize that they're not necessarily our values.

Stephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing comes out tonight, and I wanted to quote this passage because this very racist line is included in the film. It didn't have to be, filming or staging Shakespeare means cutting a lot of dialogue (unless you're Kenneth Branagh and want a movie with an intermission). What's more,an anti-semitic line in the film was pointed cut (Benedick saying, of Beatrice, "If I do not love her, then I am a Jew").

In the film, this line is framed very pointedly. As Claudio speaks it, a black woman is framed in the background, making it particularly clear who is being slurred. This deliberate shot is abrupt and unsettling, which contributes to it becoming a laugh line for most audiences. (The audience I saw this with was mostly white; I don't know the makeup of other preview audiences that have reported laughter.) In defending this shot, Whedon has compared this to something that might happen in The Office (interview)

But while it might seem similar on the surface (close enough to encourage laughter by recognizing the form) there are some very important differences. The Office features several characters of different races, all of whom are characterized as having complex lives that overturn the tokenism that American corporate bureaucracy (as embodied by Michael Scott) wants to reduce them to. In contrast, all of the speaking roles and a wide majority of the extras in Much Ado are white. The black woman in this shot isn't seen before or after, and isn't particularly in focus while Claudio speaks either. She exists only to be slurred by one of the leads.

Whedon is also struggling against the narrative of Shakespeare's original source, which wants to unite its opposing forces into honor and harmony. Whedon does a good job of showing Claudio's turn to the dark side, but by the time the slur comes around, Claudio has done his penance and is being redeemed. That's not a narrative that The Office generally worries about (outside of the Pam & Jim's story, which is a more traditional romantic comedy plot).

It creates a very pointed hierarchy. Shaming a white woman at a public wedding is a grievous sin that must be redeemed, but shaming a black woman at a public wedding, eh we'll just let that slide because she's not the bride (never the bride) and we're running out of time.

One reviewer argued that the message of The Office is “Yes, racism still exists, but you are not alone.” But what we see in that moment of Much Ado About Nothing is that the black woman is completely alone; she is isolated, out of focus, denied a voice, in that shot, and in the rest of the movie as well. But for the cast of white characters, well, it's a bit awkward, but hey, you know, Claudio's a good guy. He was really sad at that funeral. Besides, do you even know who that woman is? I mean, are you sure she was invited, because I haven't talked to her.

I don't know what other people think when they see that shot. I suspect that many feel, without even thinking about it, that with the tension of the moment, and the similarity to other, better, comedies about race, laughter was necessary and appropriate. But I know that what I was thinking was that woman probably spent a long time getting ready, choosing her dress, getting her hair made up, feeling really pretty, and then suddenly everyone was looking at her while the groom said black women are ugly and terrible.

I didn't laugh.

Crossposted on Tumblr)

tablesaw: A redshirt says, "I'm just here to pay off my Academy loans anyway." (Academy Loans)
I spent this weekend at the Egyptian for the Cape Town Film Festival, run by Entertainment Weekly and the American Cinematheque. I became a Cinematheque member last year, and really enjoyed it, but I was on the fence about renewing. But shortly thereafter, I heard about this festival and, more importantly, got an income stream again, so I reupped and grabbed a bunch of tickets.

The screenings were lots of fun. It was exciting to see the Egyptian so busy, with the courtyard filled to brimming for each show. It was also a show of force for the volunteers, most of whom I'd seen at other screenings at other times, all of whom were friendly and excited.

The courtyard of the Egyptian Theater filled with people before the 6 p.m. screening of Return of the Jedi.

Earth Rises

This was, probably, the most important film in the entire festival. Some of my favorite moments of the festival happened when I was watching it. With hundreds of geeks in attendance over the course of the week, it was a binding force, something we could share and laugh about.

I am speaking, of course, of the trailer for Season 3 of Falling Skies.



TNT was a sponsor of the festival, specifically promoting the new series of Falling Skies. If you can't or don't want to watch ad, it's a series of dark and dramatic scenes from this show about an alien invasion of the United States (and probably other parts of the world, who even knows). Early on, Will Patton yells Take cover!, and an artificial echo is added to his voice (Cover! Cover! Cover!). For the next few seconds, short snippets of dialogue are punctuated with more Cover!s, growing into a massive crescendo of music, explosions, Cover!, chaos, Cover!, warfare, Cover!, Cover!, Cover!, then silence.

With six hundred nerds in a room at the same time, a good number of them are going to use that silence to yell Cover!

Especially when this ad is run before every film in the festival, with several people, like myself, seeing it several times. It became a bit of a thing.
Falling Skies

As an extra "bonus" the season premiere of Falling Skies was screened before Escape from New York on Friday, which I was attending. It was, exactly the way I remembered it two years ago when I stopped watching the first season because it was too boring. I felt little bad about it. It has a cast full of people I really like, and a lot of the sci-fi elements in this new season seem to be much more interesting than what had been present before. But I just couldn't keep my focus on it. It has the same "a bunch of stuff happens to a bunch of people and then it ends" pacing that I don't like about Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, but without even the occasional character moments that make those later shows somewhat compelling.

I don't really know why they wanted to show it before Escape from New York. I guess there's kind of a similar apocalyptic-action vibe between the two, but they really didn't mesh well, and the Russell/Carpenter crowd was not too pleased with the delay.

The episode was followed by a terrible Q&A. The interviews with actors and filmmakers was of extremely high quality when I was there, but the interviewer in this case was a overexcited puppy asking questions that sounded like a parody of celebrity magazines. The actors had a hard time responding to them as well; Moon Bloodgood had a minor meltdown when she had to field a spoiler-angled question despite having no coaching about what kind of spoilers she was or wasn't allowed to reveal.

The whole event was a dissonance in an otherwise incredibly smooth event. But what else should we expect from the sponsors? It's certainly not the worst commercial break I could imagine for an event like this. And TNT gave us free soda, popcorn, and (for some reason) bandanas. So there's that.
Escape from New York

Okay, here come the actual movies. It's been a while since I watched the movie (I skimmed it for a puzzle a few years back, but didn't have time to sit down and watch it), and so it was mostly hazy TV memories on this one. What I was struck with the most was how much it reminded me of videogames. The Metal Gear Solid references were the most direct, but there was just something about the way Carpenter filmed a lot of the action that feels very much like a videogame today.

Kurt Russell came out after the movie for a Q&A that was very entertaining and touched on lots of his early career. It also sped into some bizarre tangents, such as when the name "Anderson" inspired him to spend a minute or two talking about how good Hugo Weaving was in The Matrix. As for New York, he talked about being terrified of Ox Baker because of his history of hitting people so hard they died after wrestling matches (the actual causes of death are mostly unrelated, but enough to make a young and pretty actor cautious).

Speaking of Kurt Russell being pretty, Kurt Russell looks really pretty in this movie. Russell talked a bit about who might play Snake in a remake of Escape; I'd look toward Ryan Gosling.

(More soon)

Downtime

Mar. 5th, 2013 07:26 pm
tablesaw: Charlie Crews, in a dark suit, rests his head on his left hand (That's Life)
I was planning on writing things. I haven't.

My last temp job ended last week, and I'm still looking for something new.

It's clear to me that I'm on that borderline of depression. I'm going to need some more structure to what I'm doing to get a handle on things.

Just letting you all know, help keep an eye on me, suggest things to write about, etc.
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
The MIT Mystery Hunt was this weekend. I solved from home with IIF, and had a great time. The hunt ran super long, though, which means that not only is there lots to say, there's also a lot to still recover from.

I'm going to collect my thoughts (probably after the puzzles are back online), but in the meantime I really hope that this comment isn't going to set the tone for responses from this year's creators, Manic Sages.
On the other hand, walking around and seeing different teams and contrasting their approaches to the Hunt was quite interesting. Even other top teams like Death From Above (in the lead through most of the Hunt) and the eventual winners John Galt (second up till Sunday before establishing a convincing lead) were all smiles and obviously enjoying themselves when I visited. Then I got to Luck, and some of you (not all) seemed to be locked into a grim death march, desperate to get to the end.

I know Luck really wants to win, and we probably made it impossible for a mid-sized team this year. But keeping morale up should help your odds of being the victor in future years... :)
I'm too punchy (as in, wanting to punch that commenter) to adequately explain why, so I'm just leaving it here, because it's my blog.

I think IIF had a fantastic showing this year (waiting to see more when stats come out), and I hope that next year I can finally make it back to Boston (and complain about how cold it is).
tablesaw: Paul, who is a ghost, declares this to be "Booooring!" (Booooring)
At my birthday bar thing/dinner I was tipped off to the fact that there's a reasonably close movie theater in North Hollywood that shows second-run movies for three dollars, or a buck fifty on Sundays. So [personal profile] temptingcuriosity and I took a trip on Sunday to see Wreck-It Ralph. It was fun, and I'm glad I saw it because everyone else I know has seen it already. And I don't know if you've heard, but it's about videogames.

I wanted to review it here, because I'm committed to doing more reviewing of things, but I can barely bring myself to care enough to think of something to say. I enjoyed myself enough when I was watching it, but by the time I was home my enjoyment had all drained away.

There's no problem that can't be solved in the scope of a two-hour movie, as [profile] joshroby once pointed out, but that doesn't mean that all stories can be told in that scope. In the undoubtedly worked and reworked and re-reworked plot of Wreck-It Ralph, there isn't much room for the stories of characters outside of a precoded series of checkpoints, an inevitable grind until leveling up (but not changing classes).

Perhaps there's something to say here about Wreck-It Ralph's ultimate message that it's better to be happy with your crappy job than to fight the system: the heroes are rewarded for maintaining or restoring the status quo. But, hey, it's a Disney movie with Bowser and Q-Bert in it. It's too big to fail, right?

I did really like Alan Tudyk's amazing performance as King Candy, though. I'd say it was an ok use of two hours and $1.50.
tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
Saturday: I went with [personal profile] temptingcuriosity to LACMA for the Drawing Surrealism exhibit. The raw imagination on display reminded me very strongly of the underground indie aesthetic championed by Anna Anthropy in "Rise of the Videogame Zinesters." There's a lot of interesting connections to be made there, with the Dadaists and surrealists using games to promote automatism in creation, the use of collage (reusing sprites), and even a possible connection to the Futurist obsession with machine art.

Sunday: Virtually attended the planning meeting for the MIT Mystery Hunt next weekend. It's always good to see everyone, even the camera was mostly on [personal profile] tahnan doing his one-knee-on-a-chair pose.

Monday: I said goodbye to the Xmas tree immediately after the Epiphany. That almost never happens.

Tuesday: Made it out to a boardgaming night for the first time in a while. Played Chaos in the Old World to completion for the first time, and actually eked out a win. I've had a hard time with this game before, because the extremely asymmetrical roles can make it hard to figure out how to do things, but I finally pushed through. Still not entirely my game, but I won't be so quick to avoid it, either. I also got to dazzle everyone with word knowledge when playing and generally refereeing Bananagrams.

Wednesday: My main glasses broke a little while ago, and my backups are threatening to quit too, so I scheduled a new eye exam. I also made a quick jump into Sherman Oaks to pick up last year's prescription, just in case I need to make an emergency run to Lens Crafters for a cheap replacement. Having two hours to kill, I went to one of my favorite restaurants, Toshi Sushi. It was a great evening, as I was joined at the sushi bar by three lovely women who over-ordered and were pleased to hear of my birthday so that they had an excuse to foist some of the food onto me.

A cameraphone picture of a plate of sushi, all slightly different, with an assortment of fish, rice, sauces and toppings. They all taste delicious.

Heading to bed now. More birthday stuff later.
tablesaw: A sketch of me talking and smiling. (Personable)
I avoid doing anything on Facebook, which includes letting people post on my wall, which has made some people angry at me on my birthday, when they want to leave birthday wishes. Consider this my birthday wall, or send a note on my Twitter [twitter.com profile] sawofthetable.
tablesaw: Two yellow roses against a bright blue sky. (Family Roses)
This past weekend was a lazy one, like the New Year weekend before. (The Xmas weekend was stressful, with most of my Christmas Day trivia written on Christmas Eve.) [personal profile] temptingcuriosity and I went to LACMA on Saturday, avoiding the bigger events (Kubrick and Caravaggio) and indulging our own personal preferences (Surrealist Drawings and Maya artifacts). On Sunday we stayed in, made bacon pancakes, and lounged around because it was cold outside.

I asked her what she was looking for from the new year, but I already knew what her year looked like, when I thought about it. Really, I wanted her to ask me the question. I know I want to get hired permanently at this new job, but past that I wasn't sure. Talking about it, I realized that I wanted to create more in 2013. Not a particular thing, or a big thing, just lots of things.

Recently, I say a lot that I'm too much in my head. I talk to folks a bit more on Twitter, and I'm talking to people in person, but I'm not getting things out in non-conversational settings anymore. As a true geek, I worry about the narrow bandwidth of talking to people one-on-one; I just don't have enough time to tell things to everyone I would like to. Blog posts allow you, my friends and readers, to time-shift the Tablesaw experience to fit your schedule (something I know I appreciate).

But while blog posts are always things I need to do more often, to get into the habit of writing long things (or just short things that aren't twitter), what I want to do is just create more things that I can share. And saying it the other day made me excited and happy. A good sign, I think.

This year I don't just want to do things I love, I want to make new things to send out into the world with them, so that my experiences can travel beyond the horizon of my personal bubble. I want to write about at least one thing a week, TV, movie, game, what have you. I want to make some more puzzles, definitely at least one thing I can bring to the NPL convention in Austin. I want to finally hide a geocache in LA. I want to make some games, eventually, somewhere. There's a pre-Companions DW/AW game knocking around in my head that mostly needs a lot of research (that TemptingCuriosity is eager to help with).

My birthday is on Thursday, and I turn 35, a number that is a multiple of the amount of fingers on one hand, which means that I'll probably freak out sometime this year, though I'm successfully blocking it out for now. It's a good time to have a plan, and it's a good time to have a plan that focuses so much on simple joys. Last year was not a good one, this one will be better.
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
Once again, my gift list remains much the same as the years before:
  • Booze. Last year my cousin and his wife got me a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black which kept me company throughout the year. In fact, I depleted all of my scotches (Famous Grouse and Yamazaki) this year, and I'm almost out of my good bourbon. I would love some good replacements, along with other interesting liqueurs.
  • Wardrobe. My wardrobe still contains the following things:
    • Jeans worn casually
    • Chinos worn casually or at work
    • collared shirts worn at work or over
    • Nice T-shirts
    • and occasionally a casual sport jacket.
    New additions to any of those categories are welcome. For T-shirts, think along the lines of Threadless or sites like Threadless. I'm probably most in need of jeans, actually. Sizes can vary, but pants are usually 38/34, fitted shirts are 17.5x34/35, T shirts are XL.
  • Music. I still, still don't get enough of it on my own. Things from my high-school years (early alternative) are what I usually look for when I hit Amoeba. I prefer used CDs as a medium, over downloads.
  • Stuff to do. Movie passes, theatre tickets, nice restaurants. Things to go out and do. (I've already got an American Cinematheque subscription, but an extension beyond April might be nice.)
  • Techno Stuff
    • My old DVD player gave up the ghost recently, and I'd like to replace it with a BluRay player that can play DVDs, BluRay, and stream video.
    • On the other hand, I could also go with a barebones BluRay/DVD player and a separate Roku unit for Netflix and streaming.
    • My iPod nano is dying. Right now I'm using my new tablet to substitute, but I'd like something else that I can keep music on. I'm abandoning Apple, so any small little MP3 player is fine.
    • Speaking of my new tablet (a Nexus 7), I need a case for it so I can protect the screen and not be so tender with it always and forever.
  • Tea. I'm actually running low on tea, so it would be a good time for gifts of that. I usually drink at work, so I don't want anything too fancy. But I do like all types of loose-leaf tea. I usually buy in person from Bird Pick (Cloud and Fog is one of my favorites), but I'd be curious about the fanciful blends from Adagio Teas. I'm also interested in The Boston Tea Campaign.
  • Miscellaneous T[hings]
    • My old reliable Ikea floor lamp in the living room snapped in half, and I've been resting it on its side on a chair in the living room. This has been going on for quite a while now, and I haven't done anything about it. I probably should, at some point.
    • I could use a new dice bag. Don't know when I lost me old one, but right now I have them in a bowl at home, and a ziploc when traveling. Not so cool.
    As always, strongly avoid books (graphic novel TPBs are OK), videogames, and DVDs, which I already have too many of and not enough time for.
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
It's day thirteen of Learned League Season 55. With 12 matches behind me, twelve before me, and one currently pending, I thought I'd take a look at what's been going on.

Learned League is an online trivia contest that features head-to-head competition: everybody gets the same questions on a given day, but you are matched up with a single player, and your success is measured solely against theirs. To make it more interesting, you decide on what points your opponent will receive for correct answers (and vice versa), so even if you answer fewer questions, you might still win on points, if the ones you got right were the ones your opponent thought were the hardest.

(More info: Learned League FAQ)

Normally, players are grouped into "rundles" based on performance in previous seasons, so you can expect that the folks you are facing are at about your same level of triviality. Rookies, however, get lumped together in a big groups, resulting in battles of widely different levels. And this year, I'm a rookie.

Numbers Racket


Here are the stats for my rundle (and here are my stats, registration required). I'm currently in 11th place of 30 with a record of 7 wins, 4 losses, and 1 tie; but at my height a few days ago, I was in 4th. In the two matches since then, I've been really unlucky (on Friday, I could only get one answer right, and received zero points for it), but it looks like I'll be up against softer opponents for a little bit, so I should be able to make up more ground.

One thing that's been bugging me is that I've got a slightly-harder-than-average draw, especially in this first half. There are 25 matches, but 30 players in my rundle, leaving five people I won't face. And all five of those are currently ranked in the bottom half. And I've mostly been facing harder opponents thus far. (I am currently tied at #1 for "Correct Answers Allowed" which is a general indicator of how strong one's opponents have been.) You may notice I've been entranced by statistics, particular. Every day, I import the updated stats into an Excel sheet, so I can see my past and future matches color-coded against the median.

Similarly Erratic Results


After two days of competition, I tweeted:
My first [twitter.com profile] LearnedLeague 6 pack comes after a painful loss on day 1. I expect similarly erratic results from now on.
It's turned out to be a good prediction. A 6-pack is, of course, getting all the questions correct on a given day, a relatively rare occurrence in all but the higher echelons of the league. But beyond that, well, see above.

A lot of my success comes from managing to craft good guesses based on the context of clues, rather than being certain of particular knowledge. It can be frustrating, especially when a guess (or two! (or three!!)) goes slightly off. When I first played a live version of this game, it was against a group of pretty serious folks (the NPL), and I left feeling like nothing was in my control, which put me off of the league for a while. But the prospect of settling into a nice matched group is pretty appealing, so I'm eager to finish this season.

Play Along at Home


The LL website has been slowly developing, and now it's really well designed for playing along even if you're not registered. After the day's match is over, the website is updated with the questions and how well all the players did, with the answers concealed by a script. Here are the first day's questions (you can reach other days by using the "Match Day 2" arrow near the top of the page, or by choosing from the calendar on the main page). Individual questions have their own pages with detailed breakdowns of accuracy, the most common wrong answers, and the "best wrong answers." For example, here is Question 3 of Day 9:
The work of what 19th c. English engineer and mathematician on what he called a Difference Engine and Analytical Engine, which are considered today among the first mechanical computers, has earned him the moniker "Father of the Computer"?
Forty-eight percent of players answered correctly; the most common wrong answer was "Charles Turing" at 11%, and the best wrong answers were Charles Widmore, Dr. Emmett Brown, Sir William Computer, and Sir Nigel Speakandspell.

So far, some of my favorite questions have been:
Hey girl, who is the only former MMC (Mickey Mouse Club) Mouseketeer to be nominated for an Academy Award for acting? (Match Day 2, Question 6)

Identify this musical group. [Image] (Match Day 10, Question 2; be sure to look at the best wrong answers)

In the mid to late 1960s, author Arthur Hailey published two simply named novels, which each explored the operation and politics of a single specific location/establishment (different in each novel), and both of which inspired film adaptations (and one a television series). Name both novels. (Match Day 12, Question 6)
Previous seasons are available for review, too, though as you go back further, the display interface gets rougher. There are also themed "minileagues" and one-day competitions that go on between main seasons. One of the things that really excited me about joining the League was kibitzing on [livejournal.com profile] thedan's hilarious collection of Before & After trivia, where each question contains two parts that merge together. (Ex: "Name the 1960s comedian who was famously convicted for obscenity based on live performances in which he demonstrated his original martial art, Jeet Kune Do." Answer: "Lenny Bruce Lee.") And if you know the answer to this question, you are officially an awesome person:
Name the fictional game show on which the host (played by Bill Murray) asked contestants to determine which of Lorenzo Lamas and Ricardo Montalban is more like WNYX station owner Jimmy James (as portrayed in his poorly translated autobiography).
tablesaw: A close-up of Dracula, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The text reads "Dark Master" and in smaller text "bator". (Dark Master (Bator))
On Sunday, I went over to play long boardgames at Laz's. Because I was late in RSVPing, I ended up in an alternate spot for the game Laz really wanted to play: Republic of Rome. It's not one I'd've chosen. RoR is a complex, bureaucratic simulation of the Senate of Rome. Each player takes control of a faction or Roman Senators vying for influence in Rome while also working together to keep the state running and fighting wars. We played for about five hours, and the game ended with all of us losing when Carthage overwhelmed us.

It's from 1990, made by Avalon Hill, so a lot of its design feels terribly outdated now. There's lots and lots of chits, and lots and lots of rules, and it was never fully clear at a given time whether we were following the rules correctly. In representing the Senate, its gameplay is deliberately obfuscatory and bureaucratic. Like many diplomacy games of this era, game balance is not apparent, but instead relies on individual players knowing strategies not immediately clear in the rules or their interactions.

And in beyond the internal diplomacy, there's also a cooperative game going on, in which players have to keep Rome alive in multiple wars and quell state unrest. This aspect of the game also appeared to be brutally difficult, with the odds spiraling rapidly out of our favor. It feels like a strong influence on more modern cooperative games where everything is going wrong all the time, but for us, at least, the numbers just didn't work out to be winnable. And unlike a game of Pandemic I recently played where the deck was completely unwinnable, working through our unwinnable RoR game took hours not minutes.

I suppose it does what it's supposed to do very well. I just don't understand why anyone would want to do it.
tablesaw: A twenty-sided die glows with the power of the Great Old Ones. (Cthulhu Icosahedron)
As the players both stand foot to foot, face to face,
One should aim to go east while the other goes west,
Though they're out of the game if they step out of place.

Player one starts a volley by making the case
Why the other one budging would really be best,
As the players both stand foot to foot, face to face.

The opponent can then, if they choose to, embrace
This persuasive protreptic profoundly expressed,
Though they're out of the game if they step out of place.

So instead, they must fully expound the disgrace
That would fall upon them should they meet that request,
As the players both stand foot to foot, face to face.

Player two then returns a demand for the space
To move forward. The foe may choose not to protest,
Though they're out of the game if they step out of place.

Then repeat and repeat in a motionless chase
Where the mulish participants grow more obsessed1
As the players both stand foot to foot, face to face,
Though they're out of the game if they step out of place.
1For a more somber game, replace "obsessed" with "depressed."

Probably Much-Needed Context )
tablesaw: Two women put the star on a Christmas tree. (Apocalyptic Christmas)
Wow, so, stuff.

I'm at a new temp job, which could become permanent this week. The regularity of the situation has had my looking at this blog again, but scared to post. It's been a while, you see. But I want to post again; I like this blog; it's fun; I like you all (if you're still watching (even if you're not)). But the months of no posting have been daunting.

I've been posting on my twitter a bunch, my tumblr less so. In fact, I posted on Twitter to force my hands to restart my DW by seeing how extended writing works on my tablet.

Also, I have a new tablet, a Nexus 7, replacing the netbook I got from Google. It's lots of fun to play with!

Also, I was at LosCon this weekend, at [personal profile] trinker's behest. It was, well, it was LosCon, and, thus, disappointing, but I got some shopping done, I had fun in the tabletop gaming room, I saw 3D Mars pictures, and I backed up Trinker on a racism panel. The last is probably going to inspire another post this week.

It's also been a family week with holidays, and a looking forward to Xmastime. I forgot to inflate Jack Skellington for Halloween, so I may do that now for Xmas.

There, that's some stuff. A start. Good to see you all again.
tablesaw: Gaff, from <cite>Blade Runner</cite> (Gaff)
Psyche wanted to see the Perseid meteor shower last night. Her original plan was to see what was going on in the Griffith Park Observatory, but they aren't doing anything special for the showers, and the park closes at about 10:30, anyway. So instead we drove out to Antelope Valley to find a quiet spot in the desert to watch the stars.

We did the teenager-in-the-movies thing and lay down on the hood of her car to watch the sky. (It turns out that the engine can stay pretty hot for a while, so it's not always the best idea.) We got a pretty good showing of meteor, a number of small shooting stars, and a few big enough to leave afterimages. We talked about how we were into space as children.

We were far enough out of LA to get a real look at the sky, clear enough to remember again what the Milky Way looks like. And when we looked around, we could see the various "sunrises," where the light came up from places beyond the horizon and made the sky and clouds gray to the south.

In the starless sky of a city, it's easy to think about space what we now know it to be, an endless expanse of void. But under the bountiful sky, I saw so many things, and each one felt so close: a slightly vaulted ceiling, I might reach if I stretched just a bit more.

When we got back to Hollywood, Psyche asked if her eyes were all right, because the sky had a slightly purple tinge. No, I said, that's just what it looks like here. And when there are low clouds, it can get even pinker, like the sun is always just setting. I think that's amazing too, but I'm glad she asked me to go out, because it's been so long since I really saw the stars.

Spare Wheel

Aug. 1st, 2012 02:25 pm
tablesaw: A twenty-sided die glows with the power of the Great Old Ones. (Cthulhu Icosahedron)
I'm getting the itch to do more tabletop RPG right now, just as one member of my regular group is in the hospital helping his wife through labor, and another member is preparing to do the same in two weeks.

This is a little bit heightened by going over to my friend Laz's house. I was just there to pick up my headphones which I'd left the night before, but it turned out he was running his own game. Using "The Keep on the Borderlands on a "rules light" system. This turned out to be a fuzzy simulation system with some unusual implications during combat. It was a decent time playing, but it was disconcerting to go from a group dedicating to breaking down the rules of RPG systems in playtest to a DM with hidden information adding hidden bonuses to hidden rolls behind a screen (an unknown number of them fudged) who categorically refused to give details about the system or its implications. (If I write about that, I think I'll make it separate, since there's a lot of stuff I'm processing, much of which is not particularly groundbreaking.)

It did get me fired up about Dungeon World and World of Dungeons, the sparseness of the latter vaguely resembling Laz's simple game. It also got me thinking about Burning Wheel, which is a system I played once at con, but always wanted to learn more about. And I'd just come across my copy of the book, so I thought I'd actually read about how the system works.

Except that the book that I'd found was actually The Character Burner, one of the two books that describe the system. And the other one, the half that has most of the system rules, was missing. I searched on and off for a few days, becoming more forlorn. By the time I told Psyche about it, I was near certain that I'd left it somewhere foolish, like the DMV.

She found it in about seven minutes.
tablesaw: Gaff, from <cite>Blade Runner</cite> (Gaff)
I've joined Twitter as [twitter.com profile] sawofthetable.

I don't know how much I'll use it or check on it. But being unable to use either Google+ or Facebook under my pseudonym has left me frozen out of things. I was looking at friend's Google Plus page and discovered that last month, he had gotten into an involved discussion about a role-playing game inspired by the problems that I had when playing it. Of course, I hadn't known about it, and couldn't comment on it if I wanted, because I remain banned under Google Plus's naming policy, despite claims to have loosened the restrictions.

Of the Big Three social-networking sites, having one I can use as Tablesaw may turn out to be useful for connecting with the folks who are wrapped up in Realnamia.
tablesaw: An indigenous American crucified on a cross crowned by a bald eagle. In the background stands a Mesoamerican temple. (América Tropical)
I'm back in LA, and recent evidence confirms that Portland may be quirky, but Southern California is weird, the kind of Capital-W Weird that encompasses Lovecraftian-level Weirdness.
  • There was an earthquake in Los Angeles last night. It wasn't big (magnatitude 3.7, below the 4.0 threshold for most Angelenos to care about), but it was centered in a populated area (I was playing board games less than a mile from there only three hours earlier). It also managed to move through most of the LA Basin without losing much strength; it woke me up sixteen miles away, wondering if this was the beginning of a large quake, tensing to leap out of bed and prepare for coming chaos. Instead I fell right back to sleep, and when I woke up, I couldn't remember why I was looking at the clock at 3:18.

  • The Los Angeles City Council voted to ban medical-marijuana dispensaries within city limits. This puts city law at odds with the state law which is at odds with federal law. (The LA law is also at odds with federal law since it affirms the right to "grow and share marijuana in groups of three people or fewer.") I love this quote:
    "The best course of action is to ban dispensaries, allow patients to have access under state law," [Councilperson Jose Huizar, who proposed the bill,] said. "Let's wait to see what the state Supreme Court decides and then we will be in a much better position to draft an ordinance that makes sense."
    Because when the law is unclear, the best thing to do is take the most drastic action possible while waiting for a final result.

  • I just recently learned about a wonderful blog series running on the KCET website: Laws that Shaped L.A. One was nominated by gaming buddy Mark Valliantos: "The Roots of Sprawl: Why We Don't Live Where We Work." It's about the 1908 zoning laws (the Residence District Ordinance and the Industrial District Ordinance) of Los Angeles, and how they were designed by the first Progressives who were trying to use the laws to create a more ordered and virtuous city.
    "People had a sense that when it came to land use of the city, we could spread out, we could avoid some of the problems of the East Coast industrial cities," he says. "But in the end, it's a shame. We went too far in the other direction, too much toward cars, too much toward sprawl. We're still repairing that today."
    My other favorite so far is on the Laws of the Indies enacted by King Philip II of Spain in 1573, which explains why Los Angeles isn't centered near the port (where Long Beach is) and why downtown LA's grid clashes with the areas around it (a story continued in an article on Thomas Jefferson's 1785 Land Ordinance.)

  • Occupy LA was an odd moment in our police history, when the LAPD (the L.A.P.D.!) was calmly letting Occupy do their thing. And yet, when folks take chalk to the streets, someone I know (don't know if I should reveal their identity) got caught in a MacArthur Park–like cleansing of the area, which resulted in getting beaten with a nightstick when trying to leave. It wasn't until after the police had begun firing rubber bullets into the crowd that a different officer let them through with the advice, "Run and hide."

  • And now there's Anaheim where the police seem to be going on a killing spree aimed at driving toward a 1965-style riot. Local radio station KPCC compared the situation to the one described in a 1963 report by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations. The local nickname "Klanaheim" was earned in the '20s when the Ku Klux Klan briefly (and ultimately unsuccessfully) took over the city government. But resident OC Mexican Gustavo Arellano
    Wonder why Orange County trembles whenever its Mexicans protest? Welcome to the Citrus War of 1936, the most important event in Orange County history you've never heard of.
    His article about the Citrus War of 1936 details an extended racialized labor struggle in which
    Orange County Sheriff Logan Jackson deputized citrus orchard guards and provided them with steel helmets, shotguns and ax handles. The newly minted cops began arresting [mostly Mexican] strikers en masse, more than 250 by strike's end. When that didn't stop the strike, they reported workers to federal immigration authorities. When that didn't work, out came the guns and clubs. Tear gas blossomed in the groves. Mobs of citrus farmers and their supporters attacked under cover of darkness.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Tahnan: I don't see any sidewalk beaver!
tablesaw: A man comes home frome work, his hat reads "Crossword Makers Inc" (Crossword Makers Inc)
When I started this temp gig, I threw myself at it with abandon. I'd been feeling sad and anxious and worried about not having work and maybe never having work again and being unwanted by everyone, and then there was some work. Yay! Everything fixed.

What actually happened is that instead of resolving the stress and anxiety of not being employed, it was transmuted into a laser-like focus on this new job (again, only a temp job) so that I wasn't paying attention to friends or anything else. It had a new commute long, which was new, but I still felt like at the end of the night I was tired and didn't have time to do or see much.

My friends have been waking me up out of that, and I'm talking with people again, but it’s a small circle of people on my chat, text, and social meetups. Going from talking to almost nobody to talking to a few people again is making me miss the nice broad sweep of broadcast information that a journal gives me. And though I keep reading DW and LJ and Tumblr, I don't interact even in comments, much.

But my schedule is really SNAFU, so I'm not going to make any promises about that. Last week, I only worked 2.8 days because of the U.S. holiday and an extra day I took to spend time with my family on the beach. This week, I'm getting prepared to go to Portland, Oregon for a week and a half for the National Puzzlers' League Convention, followed by a family wedding.

I mean, really; the Con is two days away. The pre-pre-con party is happening right now, I think. I am probably the least prepared for this con than I ever have been for any con ever. I am going to show up on Thursday and I probably still won't understand why all of these people I know happen to be at the hotel. The whole things just feels so weird.

More pressingly, I have no idea what I'm going to do for the three or four extra days that I'm in Portland. I may, in fact, spend them mostly in a hotel room reading actual books. Which will be okay too. But it's more vacation than I'm really used to ever taking in another city on my own.

Poll #11098 PORTLAND
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 5


What should I do with my free time in Portland, Oregon?



Rambly post is rambly. I defy editing.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
While doing dishes, I heard music coming through the open windows. I went to investigate, I discovered a giant street fair. Now I am getting a Coolhaus ice cream sandwich.

A small crowd of people in summer clothes enjoying a street fair in a large parking lot. In the background, a band plays covers and a line forms to buy gourmet ice-cream sandwiches.

Also, Andy Dick is selling poetry.

Andy Dick waves to a friend in the $1 Poetry Booth at the Hollywood Street Fair.

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