How Apt

I ran across a rather apt description of the Republican National Convention:

…the flag, red, white, and blue, all its stripes, all its stars, and the flag a thousand times over, and Americanism until your ears ached…and Abraham Lincoln, mauled and dragged about and his name taken in vain, and his spirit degraded, prostituted to every insincerity and used as window-dressing for every cheap politician. The incredible sordidness of that convention passes all description. It was the gathering of unsanitary callous men who blasphemed patriotism, made a mockery of Republican government and filled the air with sodden and scheming stupidity.

That was written by Walter Lippmann in the pages of the New Republic…in 1916. It’s sad that it still rings true nearly 90 years later.

Yin and Yang

I guess you could say I had a real yin yang weekend. I put in full workdays both Saturday and Sunday, getting WFRP ready for version 6 of its playtest rules. Then each night I went into town to catch a punk rock show. So while I did get quite a bit done, it still felt like a weekend because I was out until 2 am each night enjoying some punk rock fury.

Saturday’s was a No Vote Left Behind show. Pansy Division kicked it off and they were great. When they stated to play, I joked to Nik, “Gee, think they’re going to play any songs about gay sex?” And how. While songs like Cocksucker Club, Political Asshole, and the new Alpine Skiing (introduced briskly as “a song about jerking off two guys at once”) are hardly subtle, Pansy Division was one of the first bands (punk or otherwise) to get out there are sing about such things. And while singing about sex could be seen as simply crass, the thing about Pansy Division is that each song is a political statement, a giant “fuck you” to the bigots that can’t seem to deal with homosexuality. As they say, “It seems so strange that they should care, if you stick a dick up there.”

Kinski, a local band, played next. I had seen them open for Mission of Burma a couple of months back and had inadvertently met the drummer when I thought he was an old friend of mine from NY (he wasn’t, they just look remarkably alike). They are mostly an instrumental band, doing the art punk noise thing. Pretty decent overall and they closed with a couple of Ramones songs in honor of Johnny’s passing.

Next up was my main event: the Avengers. Or to be more precise, half the original Avengers and a new rhythm section. But hey, whatever. The point is that they did indeed rock. Penelope’s voice is still terrific and band generally performed well (except a big fuck up during I Want In). She seemed almost shy up on stage. You can tell it’s been awhile since she fronted a punk band. They played a long set with most everything I wanted to hear, kicking it off with We Are the One (which qualifies, btw, as a fucking anthem). I was mildly perplexed that they played so much of their later era material but didn’t play I Believe in Me or Fuck You. That’s just quibbling though. They did a killer version of Car Crash, played the obscure comp track Cheap Tragedies, and then closed with the classic Open Your Eyes. All in all, quite satisfying, though the crowd was a bit weak. I expect a sea of mad pogoing but I had to actually migrate from center stage over to the left to get to other folks who were as excited as I was.

Our show ended in the midst of David Cross’s funny but scattered stand up set. He was jumping from one thing to another and admitted that he hadn’t worked on new material in three months. Even improvving new bits that guy is still funny though. Too bad we missed the end of his set (and Mudhoney entirely) because the Seattle bus system fucking sucks. We caught literally the last bus home, as it wasn’t going to worth a $20 cab ride to confirm that I only really like two Mudhoney songs (and one of them is a cover).

Alrighty, this entry is getting way too long, so I’ll skip the blow by blow on the Ex show Sunday night and note that it was amazing. Interestingly, the Ex were contemporaries of the Avengers (starting in 1979 in Amsterdam) but they have stayed together all these years. Surprisingly, they have actually gotten better over time, not worse like most bands. They are incredibly creative, insanely dedicated, and just plain brilliant. And they don’t live in the past. I have at least eight records by the Ex but last night they didn’t play one song I recognized. It was all about moving forward. They have a new double LP (which I must get) and a new bass player (who uses a stand-up) and they showed off exactly what they had been up to for the past few years. They build layers of sound, using elements that should in no way fit together. On first blush it seems like it’s going to be an atonal mess, nothing but noise for the sake of noise. Somehow though, it all works, and those layers build into a roar as everything clicks. And you find yourself entranced by the grandeur and the power of the whole thing and you wonder what kind of mad geniuses these Dutchmen are.

Then you find that they are the middle of their second encore and you once again have to leave to catch the last bus home. And you curse Seattle for its shit public transportation system and go home, so you can wake up time for the transatlantic conference call in the morning.

Avengers (Re)Assemble

One of the most excellent of the American “class of ’77” punk bands was San Francisco’s Avengers. Fronted by the charismatic Penelope Houston, the Avengers wrote searing anthems like “We Are the One” and “The American in Me.” Like many American bands of that era though, they never had a chance to record a proper LP and for years the only way to get their material was on a posthumous collection. That record became essential listening for anyone interested 70s American punk rock.

Penelope Houston continued doing music solo, recording many albums with a folk-bent. From interviews it seemed clear that she was done with punk. Then, over 20 years later, something wacky happened. Fanatical tape collectors had traded recordings of old Avengers gigs for years. A Swedish label wanted to release two songs from one of these as a single and sent the recording to Houston. She remembered one of the songs, but had no memory of the other. Intrigued, she proceeded to collect a bunch of these lost tapes and compile them for a proper release. Three unrecorded songs of their old set could only be found on tapes of abysmal quality though, so Houson and original guitarist Greg got together with some younger musicians and re-recorded them in 1999. The resulting LP, Died For Your Sins, was a great document and totally unexpected. The three newly recorded songs were terrific, particularly “I Want In”.

Around the time of the record’s release, the group that had recorded the new material did some gigs in NYC under the name the scAvengers that reportedly smoked. This led to a full scale Avengers reunion in San Fran. They did a couple of other shows this past summer. My friend Amanda told me about one of them, at the end of July, and I very nearly jumped on a plane to go to it. It was right between ComicCon and GenCon though, and I just didn’t have time to get away. Just not my fate to see the Aveners, I figured.

This past Saturday, Nik, Rick and I went to the Rock Against Bush show at the Showbox (see her a blog for more on that). I noticed that the following week they were doing two No Vote Left Behind shows, one with Pearl Jam and one with Mudhoney. Never being a fan of either band, I figured I’d give them a pass despite the good cause. Then I got home and was reading the Stranger and checking out the show listings. It turned out that Mudhoney had a couple of support acts, the Avengers and Pansy Division! I double checked to make sure it was THAT Avengers, not some new band, and indeed it was. I managed to snag two tickets for me and Nik so this Saturday night I’ll be rocking to a great band I never had any reason to expect I’d see live. I rarely get excited about shows anymore but I’m psyched for this one. Pansy Division is also a fun band, pioneers of “QueerCore”, and I saw them several times at ABC No Rio “back in the day.” Also on the bill is comedian David Cross, who is a riot. The only downer is headliners Mudhoney, who peaked with their very first single, “Touch Me I’m Sick.” Hopefully, they’ll at least play that. If they suck too much, I think we’ll just leave though. The other acts make the price of admission well worth it. Living in Seattle has not changed basic opinion on grunge. Namely, that those guys should have kept their fucking Zeppelin records in their basements. Paradoxically though Mudhoney’s Mark Arm has always had great taste in punk (witness their cover of the Dick’s classic “Hate the Police”) and I’m betting that getting the Avengers on this bill was his idea. If so, dude, I owe you one!

Still Alive

My apologies on the lack of updates, I am just too slammed with work. Simon, our man from GW, was here this week, so design took a back seat to meeting with him and going over our plans for the next year or two. We hadn’t seen him for many months, so it was good to catch up. Nicole made sure to find plenty of vegetarian restaurants for Simon, since she is determined to keep him well-fed on his trips to Seattle. Dinners at Wasabi and Carmelita were delightful. The tuna tataki at the former and eggplant-potato gnocchi at the latter were beyond tasty.

I did manage to squeeze in some design work as well, but not as much as I would have liked. We are in the do-or-die stage of WFRP’s development and I am madly writing and tinkering as we lead up to the final version. In general, I am quite pleased with how things have turned out. I just wish I was at this stage two months ago. This weekend its back to spells for me, since I have just finished the last six careers I’ll be adding to the core rules.

In other GR news, Red Star started shipping to distributors today at last. I’m very happy with how this book came out and I’m keen to see how it goes over. There’s really nothing like the Red Star in gaming and d20 Modern has no definitive campaign setting. Can you dig it, comrades?

It’s Good to Have a Hobby

When I was 11 years old, I couldn’t imagine a cooler job than getting to make games all day. Why that would hardly be like work at all, I thought. Well, funny story, it is in fact hard work and it can be just as frustrating as anything else. When your hobby becomes your job, things do change. You stop looking at your hobby as “that thing I do for fun” and start realizing it has become “that thing I do for money.” If you take it at all seriously, you have to learn to act like a professional (which often means doing things you don’t want to or NOT doing things you want to) and you have to treat it like work.

When I was working at WotC by day and doing Green Ronin nights and weekends, my two primary hobbies (roleplaying and miniatures games) had both become jobs. And that was not good. I remember when my boss asked me to stop playing Mordheim at lunch, reasoning that if I wanted to play a skirmish minis game I should be doing more Chainmail testing. And at home I was working every day on roleplaying stuff. So not only did I work seven days a week, but I had also professionalized two of my favorite leisure activities. Most of my game time revolved around various playtests, in which fun takes a back seat to analysis.

One way that leaving WotC was really good for me was that miniatures once again became my hobby. Sure, I still work every day for Green Ronin, but after ten hours of writing I can turn my mind to something else, or do minis busy work (cleaning, gluing, mounting, etc.) to distract me from the pitfalls of financial planning. So now, even though I am totally consumed by Warhammer Fantasy, I can still get together with Rick on Thursday nights and enjoy a game of Epic Armageddon (the smaller scale version of Warhammer 40K). And that’s nice.

I am considering going to Fall In, which is a historical miniatures convention in Gettysburg in November. Not to sell anything or do anything work related, but to go play minis games for a few days and tour the Civil War battlefield. By this point the Warhammer core book should be put to bed, so I could rightfully claim a few days off my myself. We’ll see how things look in October, but it’d be nice to get away.

You can’t let work totally overwhelm your life or you’ll burn out or go nuts. In short, it’s good to have a hobby.

My Ten Point Plan

On an industry mailing list, one of the blowhards on the current GAMA board asked me what I’d do to fix things. Of course it will be completely ignored, but at least I got a blog entry out of it. Enjoy.

Step One: The sitting board needs to be removed. This board is too divisive to accomplish anything constructive. They need to resign.

Step Two: Anyone on the board in 2003-2004 or who ran for election to the GAMA board at Origins 2004 needs to agree not to run for the board anytime over the next 5 years. The fires of partisanship need to be quenched.

Step Three: A new board needs to be elected. They need to keep GAMA going until the rest of plan unfolds.

Step Four: GAMA needs to reorganize into a trade organization that actually represents the entire industry, not just manufacturers. New by-laws should be passed to get this done. In its new form, GAMA would have four divisions: a Manufacturers Division, a Retailers Division, a Wholesalers Division, and an Independent Professionals Division. Each division would elect two representatives to the overall GAMA board of directors. A ninth, tie-breaking seat on the board would rotate amongst the four divisions, so each would have three votes on the board once every four years.

Step Five: Rename the organization GITA (Game Industry Trade Organization) or something similar. This needs to be done for two reasons. First, to better reflect the nature of the new organization. Second, to help win the battle of perception. GAMA’s name has been dragged through the mud over and over again this past year and may be damaged beyond repair.

Step Six: Run a recruiting drive for the various divisions to try to maximize participation. If you attend GTS, your booth/buyer badge includes membership for the year.

Step Seven: Elect a board using the new model (temporary board resigns at this point). The new board can move ahead with initiatives from the various divisions.

Step Eight: Run a marketing campaign for the new organization, possibly tied into annual Origins and GTS marketing. Again, we must win the battle of perception.

Step Nine: Transfer the Origins Awards to a third party to adjudicate.

Step Ten: Create business-oriented awards to be given out at GTS. These are more appropriate awards for an industry organization to give out.

There Goes the Weekend

An author sent me a rough draft yesterday, saying he wasn’t sure if I worked weekends or not, but if so I could get a jump on giving him feedback. I laughed and replied, “Well, only 95% of my weekends since I started the company in 2000!” Though I may have underestimated.

So of course I was working all weekend. In fact, I was much more productive than I had been earlier in the week. I get far fewer phone calls on the weekend and that helps tremendously. When I get in a writing groove, chances are I can stay there. My goal was to finish prepping the latest iteration of the WFRP rules for playtest. Happily, I managed that yesterday, after 10 or 11 hours of work. Today I was able to do some development work on other parts of the book, and write some additional material for those sections. And that’s all for the good.

I took only a few breaks. One to hang out with Kate for a little while and the other to continue to let the new GAMA board exactly what this Full Voting Member thinks. The latter didn’t take long, as the thrust of my argument is simply, “Resign already.” Of course they won’t, but as an FVM I’m going to make them listen to what I have to say.

Now I’m going to have some dinner and then we’ll see. I have more development work to do, but maybe I’ll be wacky and start assembling my Flames of War minis.

What Was That Date Again?

Well, what do you know; the Republicans are shamelessly milking the 9/11 tragedy for political ends. I’m shocked, shocked I say. Here comes Rudy Giuliani to cheer for the team. Here comes John McCain to follow party orders and pretend Bush is a real leader. And throughout it’s 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. I’m sure when those 3,000 people died, they were thinking, “Gosh, I may be dying, but at least one day a party of liars and scoundrels can use my murder to get a corrupt and morally bankrupt tool of big business and the energy industry elected as president.” You know, I shouldn’t even call it shameless. That’s an insult to shameless people.

What I find most hilarious about all this is that the tragedy happened on Bush’s watch. Why is the constant repetition of 9/11 supposed to make us think well of him? Shouldn’t it remind us all that it was the intelligence failures of his administration that allowed this to happen? Shouldn’t it remind us that for a brief moment the US had the sympathy of much of the world, but it was Bush’s cowboy diplomacy that squandered all that good will in no time at all? Shouldn’t it remind it us that, in fact, Osama bin Laden has not been “brought to justice” and resources that might have been used to that end were redirected to fight a baseless and illegal war in Iraq?

This is all the legacy of the 2000 elections. The Republican spin machine learned that it could literally say anything, make up any lie, and the media would give them a pass. More than that, they’d repeat any lie to the public and give it equal time so as not to show “bias”. This is why they can launch what would seem to be mind-boggling stupid ads attacking Kerry’s war record. I mean really, if you were in charge of Bush’s image, would you want anyone even bringing up Vietnam? Even if you think Kerry didn’t deserve some of his medals (and there are folks like Alexander Cockburn on the left who do), the fact is the guy volunteered and fought while W. was partying too much to bother to show up to his cushy Air National Guard gig. Bush just can’t win that battle, so you’d think the Republicans would be insane to pick that fight. But no, after the hatchet job they did on Gore in 2000, shamelessness knows no bounds.

My only solace is this: at least the RNC is the best fodder the Daily Show could possibly ask for. Their coverage so far has been priceless.