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Originally published at Route 96. You can comment here or there.

New Mexico: It’s The Newer Mexico

Do you think they ever get tired of jokes like that in New Mexico?

The picture they don't want you to see.<--The picture they don't want you to see: me witnessing an alien autopsy, or Jonathan Frakes hosting a crappy special on Fox? You be the judge…

(Don’t Go Back to) Roswell

You may not consider it anything to brag about, but I was a UFO geek long before a certain alphabetically named television program brought the wonderful wide world of ETs, MIBs, and EBEs into America’s living rooms. And–with the possible exception of Nevada’s Area 51, which is in the middle of a missile testing range and not real hospitable to roadtrippers–Roswell, New Mexico is the Mecca of UFO geekdom.

Here’s the facts, sort of. In July 1947, something crashed in the desert northwest of Roswell. A U.S. Army press release said that the army had recovered pieces of some form of “flying saucer.” The next day a second press release declared that the object was in fact a weather balloon, and that’s been the official story ever since.

Now, maybe “flying saucer” was just a poor choice of words by some dumb Army Press Department hack who has been peeling potatoes for his screw-up ever since. Or, just maybe, the Roswell Crash is one lone crack in the facade of a fifty-year coverup engineered by a massive and ruthless conspiracy stretching to the highest level of government, if not the very stars!

Now, which explanation do you think brings more tourists to Roswell?

Read the rest of this entry » )
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Originally published at Route 96. You can comment here or there.

Enterprise Square, USA, on the campus of the Oklahoma Christian Bible College, is a Disney-esque (that’s being charitable) theme park dedicated to the glorification of free enterprise and the excoriation of government control. Visiting this spawn of big business and the religious right, built in 1982 and apparently not remodeled since then, was like taking a time machine back to our childhoods under Reagan’s first term: that sunny, unapologetic Cold War jingoism, that pre-Japan confidence in the American Way, and all the high-tech wizardry that 1982 had to offer. Audio cassettes! Games with paddles instead of joysticks! Beta!

Resistance is futile: Derek and Pete embrace capitalism?Our little tour group was greeted in the lobby by a videotape of Bob Hope. Bob, who apparently owed some of his chums in the military-industrial complex a favor, started to read some platitudes about Enterprise Square off his cue cards, when suddenly he was interrupted by a “news flash” from that well known journalist, Ed McMahon.

Had Bob won the Publishers’ Clearing House Sweepstakes? Was he a contestant on Star Search? No! Aliens from the planet “Flabjab” had crash-landed right on the campus of the Oklahoma Christian Bible College! And before Ed could say “heeeeere’s Zazzie!” the aliens themselves–Bubbin, Zazzie, and their long-suffering robot yes-man, Quonk–came down through the ceiling.

Here the plot took a bizarre postmodern turn. It seems our aliens–in truth they looked more like low-rent Muppets–needed replacement parts for the spaceship they’d just totalled. But how to pay for them? Nobody on this planet would accept their “Flabjabbian Blaffle” as legal currency, and the aliens, who obviously come from some weird Muppet culture with high taxes, gun control, and socialized medicince, didn’t have a clue about how to make any Earth dough. “I know!” said our teenage tour guide, the poor dumb “Worth the Wait”-pledging bastard gamely playing out the same script he’s probably done a thousand times. “Why don’t you, uh, Flabjabbians join our tour group, learn the wonders of capitalism, get respectable jobs, and save up enough Blaffle to get home?” And here I was thinking they’d just enslave our race by laying eggs in our brains. But the capitalism thing works, too.

Read the rest of this entry » )
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Not a Route 96 post. Much much geekier. Mostly for [ profile] mgrasso and [ profile] head58, though [ profile] gammafodder1 and [ profile] sneech515 may be amused in spite of themselves.

So ever since Mike linked to that Star Trek reboot, and then started talking about running the old Dragonlance modules, and then news came out of the Dragonlance movie (Lex Luthor as Tanis! Jack Bauer as Raistlin! Xena as Goldmoon!), I've been threatening to write a big post on how one might revamp or reboot the Dragonlance series, scraping off some of the fromage and finding new hotness within. Battlestar Galactica is obviously the touchstone here, Exhibit A in how to resurrect, retool, and reimagine even the mustiest of old geek loves. (But see also many of Grant Morrison's superhero comics, and, if I may be immodest, my Starchildren game in a way).

But then Andy and the Story Games kids came along and stole this terrible, terrible idea right out of my head and made a thread of it, forcing my hand! (And probably saving me from mulling this over for another six months.) So I banged out my ideas in the thread. Here's my contribution (behind the LJ-cut) though if you're nerd enough to have made it this far, the whole thing is worth checking out: Dragonlance Gets Awesome-O-fied.

Read more... )

(No, I'm not going to link to the Hotties of Dragonlance Gone Wild '05 thread.)
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Originally published at Route 96. You can comment here or there.

Eureka Springs redeemed itself, in a manner of speaking, with Miles’ Music Museum. We pulled in on a whim, Derek hoping we might see some nifty old guitars or tube amps or something. But Floyd Miles, a Southern patriarch who bore a remarkable resemblance to a (more) evil Colonel Sanders, proved to be something other than the Ozark Brian Eno.

The centerpiece of Miles’ Music Museum was a collection of what I guess you’d call nickelodeons: big mechanical orchestras that ran on rolls of punch cards like player pianos. Apparently these were quite the thing in dance halls and bawdy houses around the turn of the century. You kids might “dig” that “rockaroll music,” but you ain’t heard nothing ’til you’ve heard a steam-powered circus wagon of automated trumpets and bells and accordions lay down the fat groove to “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.”

'The Royal Pant' is an anagram for... anyone? anyone?

I sketched this ‘artist’s conception’ of one of the museum’s big autocthodeons in our roadtrip scrapbook. There were half a dozen of these beasts, each one the size of a minivan.

Read the rest of this entry » )
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Originally published at Route 96. You can comment here or there.

The Trip came about, basically, because for the first time in my life, I acquired a car that didn’t have to be home by midnight.

Rob at the Memphis PyramidIn the face of our planet’s global ecological crisis, more and more people are coming to realize that our society’s love affair with the automobile is an unaffordable luxury. Let’s face it: nearly all the everyday uses of our cars could be served just as well, if not better, by bicycles, superstitious native porters, and El Caminos. If I were Supreme Ruler of the World (and those of you that don’t think having gills would be cool can thank your lucky stars that I’m not), automobiles would be used for three purposes only:

  1. High-speed chases.
  2. Teen makeout sessions.
  3. Monster cross-country road trips.

Fun as they are, #1 or #2 would make for a very short zine–so road trippin’ it was!

Read the rest of this entry » )
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Early in the morning, full belly, clean bum
I got my cup of Cheerios in case I want some
Jacket, hat, diaper bag, carried out the door
And I know where we’re going cause we’ve been there before

First, thank you all so much for your emails and phone calls and congratulatory comments. The little one is doing great, and her mom is strong and brave and amazing, if a little tired. We still couldn't be more thrilled, and I can't wait to show Yuki off to all of you.

Blah Blah Blah Parenthood Parenthood Me Me Me
The closest analogy I can think of for what the last two weeks has felt like is falling in love. Falling deeply completely in love, 0 to 60 in five seconds. The same euphoria, the same fuzziness of head, the same inability to concentrate on anything except the object of my affections. Food tastes different. The weather's been gorgeous almost every day since she arrived, but I haven't noticed--or to the extent that I have, I've interpreted it as pathetic fallacy, merely the universe paying her tribute. I find myself flashing back to the last time I fell this hard for a girl.

I'll bet you're all thrilled I posted that. Because that's what people who don't have kids are looking for when they log on to the internet: "Boy, I'm dying to know what it's like to be a parent! Give me a treacly, narcissistic, self-satisfied post about breeding that glorifies the author and ever so subtly suggests my own life choices are lacking!" While people who already have kids are just on the edge of their seats to hear all the sage wisdom I've amassed in fourteen freaking days. I don't want to be That Dad, honest. I can't help it, though. Not yet. The "all baby all the time" phase will pass, I'm sure, but for now it remains in full effect.

Which is why God created LJ-cuts. )
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Please say hello to Yuki Josephine, born last night 2:43 am. She is perfect and healthy and beautiful and awesome and so is her mother. Yuki is shown here at about 30 minutes of age, weighing 8 pounds 0 ounces, and looking slightly dubious about the whole proposition.

Now I have to go back and stare at her some more.
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"Pathological monsters! cried the terrified mathematician
Every one of them is a splinter in my eye
I hate the Peano Space and the Koch Curve
I fear the Cantor Ternary Set
And the Sierpinski Gasket makes me want to cry..."

—"Mandelbrot Set"

"It was just a colour out of space—a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes."
—"The Colour Out of Space"

Before he started kicking six kinds of Kryptonian ass this week with a series of Superman mythos posts, [ profile] ezrael wrote something about "The Endless Black," a sci-fi horror game he'd like to run, in which humanity takes its first faltering steps into the endless dark of Lovecraftian outer space. [ profile] princeofcairo floated a similar idea in an old ST column a few years back (I know [ profile] ezrael loves it when I lump him together with [ profile] princeofcairo, but hey, there's worse company to be lumped with): "Ships disappear, pilots go mad, colonies fall into dark worship on distant planets ... As the Earth's ossified systems splinter under madness and anarchy, the human colonies see themselves left alone in the dark." I dug Ken's take from the start, but Matt, who strikes me as just the fellow to GM a game where the universe is cruel and bleak and cold, added the crucial Catch-22: the very tools humankind must use to navigate the extra-cosmic gulfs of space—eldritch mathematics, Dune-like mentats and spice addicts, strange eons of cryogenic sleep—ineluctably corrode our humanity. Yeah, that's the stuff.

There's only one thing I need to make this G a G that I would truly LT, and that's comedy.

Seriously. )

About a Pig

Jan. 3rd, 2006 06:32 pm
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Modesty shall not prevent me from noting that my game design General Mud, which I whinged for validation on discreetly mentioned back in November, won the coveted "High Ronnie" for the last round of Ron Edwards' eponymous game designing contest. Here is the link to Ron's very flattering feedback.

Until about three-quarters through, I figured it was merely a dialogue-based homage to Animal Farm, but it's not. Can the Soviet survive? Is the General's ascendancy a long-term curse to its downfall? Are bourgeois notions, in moderation, compatible with a secure economy? This should be taught and played in history classes.

I was especially pleased by that final line.

(I'm going to get even more immodest now and assert that there are actually some parallels between General Mud and [ profile] neelk's terrific-looking Court of the Empress. But Neel being Neel and me being me, his design is elegant, cruel, and sexy, while mine is convoluted, twitchy, and mostly about a pig.)
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Do you know what today is?

Of course you do!

It's Saint Amnesty to Post About Random Out of Date Stuff's Day!

For it was on this very day back in, oh, let's say the 80s, between the day that the eponymous Saint Amnesty to Post About Random Out of Date Stuff, patron saint of unpaid LiveJournal accounts, finished his grading for the term and the day that he went away on holiday, was killed by a car bomb—a holy car bomb, mind you—and the rest, as they say, is history. So it is that on this day every year, people with unpaid LiveJournal accounts honor St. Amnesty by posting about stuff that they meant to post about months ago, and get toffee.

The thing is, I kind of always knew my brother would grow up to train an army of killer of Asian 4-year-olds... )
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I don't normally find the webcomic PVP nearly as emotional as I did last week.

Which is another way of saying, [ profile] papersource and I are pregnant.

Which is to say, she is. But I'm involved somehow.

The due date is late April. We found out in September—in fact, the first ultrasound was the day of my first class. We've had a couple of doctor's appointments and ultrasounds since then, and the Seamonkey (our current nom de fetus, though "Secret Squirrel" is also in contention) apparently has hands and feet and was about 63mm long last time we checked. L is doing very well. I'll let her decide for herself how much or how little she'd like to share with you about alternating nausea, narcolepsy, and craving for deviled eggs, but I can tell you that she is a rock star and a trooper and a machine. I love her so much.

Oddly, LJ doesn't seem to have a mood icon for "simultaneously thrilled, elated, scared as hell."

Edit: Thanks! for the congratulations and well-wishes that are already pinging in. But don't forget to share the love with [ profile] papersource too. She told me I could spill the beans, but I'd feel bad if I hogged all the comments. :)
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Some Games I've Run:

This is kind of an index to the LJ posts and web pages generated by my gaming in Boston, ca. 2001-2005. It's not complete - that would require indexing all my friends' LiveJournals too, which is a bigger job than I'm taking on - but
Some Games I've Played In:
  • Coming "Soon"
A Game I WroteLexicons I've Played In:Gaming Blogs:Other Gaming-Related Writing:
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(For [ profile] mgrasso and [ profile] ivan23, and the meme going around.)

1. You're not the boss of me.

2. I don't care how much I'll regret it, I just want a girlfriend.

3. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exercise, posture, flossing, rest my eyes. I'll get right on that. No, I don't need to write it down, I'll remember.

4. I don't care how crazy she ends up, I just want a girlfriend.

5. OK. But historians make lots of money, right?

6. I don't care what she burns down, I just want a girlfriend.

7. Listen, what I want to hear about most is Star Wars. Is it really true there are going to be three prequels? And are they totally awesome? Like I even have to ask. I can't wait to see George Lucas work his magic again!

8. OK. But you- I mean me- I mean, we're a Republican, right?

9. Wait, that I will write down: go to the Hong Kong, in Boston, Massachusetts, on November 10, 1999... talk to the girl with short hair, funky glasses (did you just say "funky"?? who are you supposed to be, Jimmy JJ Walker?), and tight gray sweater... How tight are we talking here?

10. Well, thanks for all the advice. Do you think you could score me and my friends some beer?


Jun. 21st, 2005 05:25 pm
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I'd better skip ahead a bit, brother: yesterday was eaten up by moving stuff, and my desktop gets packed up tomorrow, and everything else gets packed up Thursday, and then we're in limbo for two weeks and I don't know how much I'll be online.

My 2001 entry was going to be about moving to JP, and the night my car was stolen and we were inexplicably traumatized by a little girl jive-dancing on the subway, coming back from a fancy dinner we couldn't afford. By extension, it was going to be about class and race in America and coming to terms with all that. Though I could have also talked about giving up finger-quotes for Lisa, or getting traction on the dissertation, or the time these dudes flew a couple of planes into some buildings. And then 2002 was all about weddings, ours and the seven others we went to that year. But some of you have been waiting patiently for me to get to gaming, and since it's half of what we talk about around here, I've got to cover it. I just don't know how to do it justice.

Big pile of gaming memories behind the cut. )

Yeah, you probably had to be there. But if you were there, thanks. Because we were there together.


Jun. 19th, 2005 11:05 am
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Big Joe, Mike/Chuck, Steve and Rob on the Forest Moon of Allston. Little Joe is obviously R2, but I'm not sure who that makes C3P0.

A is for Allston )

I'm still beaming from last night's soiree and the previous night's dinner at [ profile] jereblossom. Thanks, guys.


Jun. 18th, 2005 11:53 am
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Hey, kids: do you remember 1999?

Do you remember when there was a New Economy and we called the internet "cyberspace" and websites "new media" and the stock market was going up and up and up and "nobody can be told what the Matrix is" and every week another kid was a software billionaire? In 1999, half my students were cutting classes to sweet-talk venture capitalists and launch IPOs, and I thought about when I was 12 and split my time between playing D&D and programming Apple BASIC, but then I only kept one of those geeky hobbies going over the years, and in 1999 I asked myself, is it possible I backed the wrong horse?

Well, do ya? )


Jun. 15th, 2005 12:20 pm
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That's you! You're a triangle! You!

OK, it's 1997, and can we have something a little more cheerful this time? In my second and third year of grad school, I lived with three friends from the dorms (see, I did make friends in the dorms eventually—they were all Americans, mind you) in a gorgeous apartment in Inman Square, one that four grad students couldn't possibly afford today. Once or twice a year, we threw massive house-shaking parties there. I don't know quite how we did it, to tell the truth. I've never thrown parties like that before or since. But the emails went out, and the guests poured in, and our place would be packed with bodies, some in attractive shapes, and nearly all shimmying and shaking and bumping up against each other in a way that belies my usual portrait of grad school as a social wasteland. This was soon after the Chemical Brothers muscled into the mainstream, and I can remember the aptly-named Block Rocking Beats rattling windows all the way down the street. For years to come, people I'd never met would tell me about the epic parties they attended on Marie Street in 1997.

But my signature memory is not one of the raging parties—it's the hour or two after one of them. Read more... )

Shout-out to Inman Square: Dining too fine to waste on grad students, so get those property values rising! East Coast Grill, the first good place in Boston I managed to take my parents! The Druid, which is fun to say in a ridiculous Irish accent ("tha' DROOOOOOD!"), and where they pass the hat for the I.R.A! Jae's (not there anymore), with great-for-beginners sushi and killer pad thai! 1369, when you absolutely need coffee served by a lesbian but you can't make it all the way to Jamaica Plain! Olé, for awesome $8 guacamole served in an infinitely dense chunk of black hole! The Thirsty Scholar, where I got to hang out with Jim Carroll! That Portuguese sandwich place, where L and I went after several early dates! That Indian place, that wasn't actually that good! That Southern place, that I never went to!


Jun. 14th, 2005 11:23 pm
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This is supposed to be a memory from 1996, but it needs a memory from 1994 for context. Or maybe I just want to brag/confess. Read more... )


Now here's a random 2005 moment for you, no extra charge. In fact, this took place just today, though it does have a bit of an early 90s feel to it. I got an ice cream this afternoon at J.P. Licks. When I got to the counter, a middle-aged woman was shouting at the cashier that one of their flavor names was offensive. "We are a multi-racial family, and we find that completely inappropriate!" But I didn't catch which flavor it was, and I'm dying to know. They all seem so innocuous. Lumpy Primate? Black and White Malted? Cow Tracks? Rum and Raisin?

Another mysterious but very J.P. moment, come to think of it: I walked by a cop today giving a driver a ticket. The woman getting the ticket was screaming at the (male) cop, "I'M A LESBIAN! A LESBIAN! A DYKE!"

Ok, one more. This was a few weeks ago, and it actually took place in Allston rather than J.P. But it stuck in my head, and the theme of angry women continues. Woman on cell phone, yelling well above the din of a coffee shop: "LET ME TALK TO HER! LET ME TALK TO HER! CHRIST, WILL YOU LET ME TALK TO HER?" She then hangs up the phone and says calmly to the woman behind her in line, "I wish I'd never made contact with my biological family."

Edit: I got it! The new wasabi-flavored ice cream, Turning Japanese. Seems pretty harmless to me, but that's gotta be it. You can take J.P. Licks out of Jamaica Plain, but you can't take the Jamaica Plain out of J.P. Licks.


Jun. 13th, 2005 11:55 am
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Kids today growing up too fast
Nostalgic for the last ten years before the last ten years have passed
So why you gotta act like you know when you don't know?
It's okay if you don't know everything.

I set foot in Harvard Square for the very first time on a sunny, sweaty Sunday in September 1995. Ten years ago, or just about. Here's 1995-me: he's getting out of a taxi in front of Out of Town News. No, actually it was across the street in front of Mass Army Navy, where there's now a Verizon store inside another Verizon store inside a bank inside three co-located Starbucks. 1995-me wears jeans, Converse hi-tops, a Grateful Dead T-shirt, and a red and black hoodie: one of those rough wool hippy hoodies you might buy at a campus bazaar for Guatemalan social justice in the earnest early '90s. (Which is exactly where 1993-me bought it.) 1995-me is skinnier than 2005-me and he doesn't need glasses. He has much longer hair—not as long as it was four months earlier at graduation, but still shaggy, Kurt Cobain length. And he's dragging a humongous blue duffel bag, which weighs a ton because it contains most of his life. And he doesn't know anything about anything.

Meandering memories and lame philosophizing.
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Behold the Empire of Ten Thousand Years. The palace at the center of the city, the city at the center of the world. Beyond the Empire is the Wall of Peace, guarded by fierce warriors with fell weapons of mass destruction. Beyond the Wall, there is nothing—only barbarians, howling wastes, and the yellow gulfs of Hell.

With apologies to Tsui Hark, Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou, Akira Kurosawa, anyone with any historical-cultural sensitivity, Chinese and Japanese history, and Jeff Wikstrom. )


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