Finishing What I Started

I’m not sure why, but lately I have been finishing things I started 15 to 20 years ago. Oh, not big and life changing things, but small things I had always meant to get back to. So in the 80s I read and enjoyed Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, but I never read the sequels. Last week I finished Speaker for the Dead, which was excellent, and Xenocide is on deck. In the movie department I finally watched Superman II. I had seen the original in the theater but never bothered with any of the sequels. After seeing the new Superman film this summer, which decided it was important to cleave to the continuity of the original two movies, I figured I’d check out part II and see why. Thankfully, I only recorded this on Tivo and so didn’t spend any extra money to see it, because man Superman II blew. I mean OK, “In Zod We Trust” is funny and all but overall it was a total piece of crap. I have considerably higher hopes for Samurai II, the middle installment of Hiroshi Inagaki’s trilogy about legendary samurai Musashi Miyamoto starring the mighty Toshiro Mifune. A lifetime ago when I was working at Kim’s Video in NYC I had taken home and watched part I but never got around to finishing the trilogy. When I saw IFC had part II coming up, I had Tivo record it. I haven’t watched it yet but hope to next week some time.

In the morning I’m leaving for Oakland. I’ll be there for the aforementioned 5 year Anniversary party at Endgame. Bay Area folks, I hope to see you there.

Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy in Grade School

Over the weekend we had a house guest, a friend of Kate’s named Alex we had agreed to watch while his family was out of town. Friday night we took the kids out for Mexican food and then bowling. In the car in the way to dinner, we were talking a bit about Kate’s school and (as it often does) the phrase “hippy school” came up. That triggered the following exchange in the the back seat:

Alex: Is Chris a hippy?

Kate: Chris? No, he’s a punk.

Alex: Oh yeah, well I’m a pimp!

Nicole and I cracked up, Alex being a 10 year old white boy with a lisp and all. Oh yeah, a pimp indeed. So I asked him if he knew what a pimp was and he admitted that he didn’t. At this point I had to stop and consider my options. I didn’t want to explicitly tell Alex what it was all about, as I have no idea what his parents may have told him about sex and I didn’t want him running home to say, “Mom, I learned about pimping this weekend!” I finally setttled on, “Pimps are people who make money by exploiting women. They are not cool guys and you really don’t want to be one.” This seemed to satisfy Alex and there was no more talk of pimping that night.

Suicide Girls Burlesque Show

I went to the Suicide Girls Burlesque Show last night at Neumos. I had missed the last tour and was curious to check it out, particularly since I’ve seen a fair amount of Seattle burlesque over the past year. I must say that I expected to have a better time. My impressions follow:

The Venue: Neumos is a music club and it’s a fine place to see bands. I’ve caught acts like Mission of Burma and the Ex there and liked it fine. It was a shitty place to see burlesque though because if you are standing more than ten feet from the stage it’s hard to see. It was also completely packed with people and thus really hot. I had pushed my way up pretty close, about fifteen feet from the performers, and I was still constantly shifting in place trying to catch the action. For the most part I was only able to see torsos. Now when I’m watching Mission of Burma perform, I don’t care if I see Roger Miller’s legs. When I’m watching a burlesque show, I’d like to see it all. There were parts of the show when the girls dropped from sight completely and I could only wonder what they were doing. I think this sort of show would have been much better at a venue like the Moore Theater, which has tiered seating that would provide a way better view.

The Anonymity: I was surprised that the show had no MC. Reagan talked to the crowd before and after but during the set there was nothing. I think the production would really benefit from a MC. At other burlesque shows I’ve seen the MC would introduce each routine, telling you who the performers were. At no point in the entire show were the individual SGs called out and introduced to the crowd. That seems a shame.

The Music: I must say that I found many of the musical choices lacking. Suicide Girls has always billed itself as a site for punk and goth girls. Well, there was a bit of goth thanks to Nixon but there wasn’t even one song that approached punk rock. I realize punk isn’t always going to be the best choice for dance routines, but it seems to me that it’s pretty integral to the SG identity and should be represented. Surely the girls could have some fun with songs like “Beat on the Brat” and “Teenagers from Mars”.

The Good: Lest you all think I’m just a cranky SOB, let me say that I did like a fair number of the routines. I thought the movie-related ones worked the best. The Reservoir Dogs and Napoleon Dynamite segments were both really good. The stewardess routine was fun, ending with them throwing packets of peanuts into the crowed. I also liked the “Mister Mister” skit, a vignette about obsession and insanity.

The Conclusion: Overall, while I had an OK time, I’ve enjoyed local troupes like the Heavenly Spies and the Atomic Bombshells more. This may in part be due to their more retro approach. I think the SG show was trying to be more “edgy” but in so doing they missed out on some of what makes classic burlesque, like the glitzy costumes and even tassels. All that said, I’d probably give a new SG show a shot if they performed it in a better venue.

A Different September 11

Today is the anniversary of one of the most shocking events in American history. On September 11 religious militants murdered a large number of innocent citizens on American soil.

The date was 1857 and the place Mountain Meadows in the Utah Territory.

The victims of this attack were the settlers of the Fancher-Baker Party, one of the richest wagon trains to ever strike west. The settlers were from Arkansas and they were quite the prize. They had a sizeable herd of cattle, large sums of gold, many modern weapons, and a trove of household goods. As many wagon trains had done before them, they planned to rest and resupply in Mormon territory. Their timing, however, couldn’t have been worse. The Mormon church was in one of its periodic disputes with the American government. Although Brigham Young was the appointed governor of the Utah Territory and the superintendent of Indian Affairs there as well, he had proclaimed that he would decide which American laws would be obeyed in Utah. President Buchanan appointed a new governor and other officials and ordered 2500 troops to escort them west.

The Fancher-Baker Party had no knowledge that Utah had turned into a bubbling cauldron of discontent. When they arrived, they were surprised at the hostility that met them. Communities had been barred from selling them food. They had hoped to spend up to a month resting and resupplying. They soon realized that they’d get no supplies and decided to pass on through. They were quite careful, circling the wagons every night and posting regular guards. Finally they passed through Mormon territory and reached a verdant area known as Mountain Meadows. Here they hoped to rest up before they final push through the desert and on to California.

Feeling the worst was behind them, they were lax in their security that night. They did not circle the wagons, they did not post armed guards, and did not set up camp adjacent to a water source. They next morning, September 7, gunfire erupted all around the camp and in minutes seven settlers were dead. They reacted quickly, circling their wagons and setting up defenses. At this point they likely suspected Indians were attacking them. They were quite wrong. It was in fact the Mormon militia, though many had painted their faces in Indian war paint.

A siege developed over the next few days. Water soon ran out and ammunition began to run low. The settlers tried dressing two young girls in bright white dresses and sending them with buckets on a mad dash for water. The girls were gunned down in sight of the whole party.

On September 11 a man named John D. Lee (a relative of Robert E. Lee) came into camp under the white flag of truce. He said Indians surrounded them but that he and the Mormons had negotiated a settlement for them. If they gave up their arms and marched out with the Mormons, they’d be allowed to leave in peace. The settlers argued furiously about the offer. Many were convinced that giving up their arms would be a mistake. Others pointed out that their situation was dire and they wouldn’t hold out much longer. Eventually, they decided to trust John D. Lee. It was their last mistake.

The men were separated from the women and children and each marched off with a militiaman at his side. When the men had gone some distance, the women and children were allowed to follow. Then a command was given and each militiaman shot the man beside him at point blank rank. Over the next three minutes most of the remaining members of the Fancher-Baker Party were killed. They were shot, bludgeoned, bayoneted, and run through with swords. Others had their throats slit. All told over 140 settlers were murdered. Less than 20 children survived. All of them were less than 8 years old. Older children died with their parents.

The bodies were then stripped of clothes and valuables. The cattle were seized and re-branded, the wagons and goods confiscated, the gold taken. The nearly naked bodies were left to rot unburied. The children were parceled out to local families like prizes. And when the Mountain Meadows Massacre was discovered, the men who perpetrated it said, “It wasn’t us, it was the Indians!”

Within a year it was widely understood that it was not in fact the Indians who did it. Soon, however, the Civil War overtook America and the fate of a wagon train in distant Utah was forgotten. John D. Lee was eventually put on trial and executed 20 years later. None of the other participants or the men who gave the orders were ever punished. In fact, many of them testified against Lee as part of a face-saving political deal.

If you’d like to read more about this very different September 11, I highly recommend American Massacre by Sally Denton. It’s a very well researched book that tells a powerful story.

Don’t Mess With Dentists

Since I left WotC in 2002 I haven’t had any kind of decent health coverage personally or for my family. This is one of the parts of working in the game industry in America that is not so great. This week I finally bit the bullet and went to a dentist for the first time in four years. After the obligatory x-rays, the doctor was charting my teeth when his assistant shouted out, “That guy is in the hallway again!” He jumps up, pulls off his latex gloves, and hustles to the phone to call the police. Turns out the offices on their floor had been plagued by a thief with good lockpicking skills. This guy had broken into the dentist’s office a couple of times. Apparently his usually tactic was to steal stamps (which is odd) but on one occasion he took photographic equipment worth 2K. Since the thief had begun targeting the building, the dentist had installed new locks and video cameras. They had caught him on tape one day and had a screen capture of him taped to the wall.

So the dentist calls the cops. The thief is at the office right next door, trying to pick the lock. Apparently those folks are on vacation. The assistant gives a good description, down to the target bad he’s carrying. After a few minutes, the guy leaves, having failed to get the door open. The dentist then returns to me and begins once again to chart my teeth. Less than five minutes later, someone from another office in the building comes in and says the thief is in cuffs in the lobby. Then the cops show up to take statements and confirm that the guy is in custody. The dentist and his assistant are delighted. He returns to me again and apologizes for the delays and interruptions. I said, “That’s OK, this is the most exciting dentist appointment I’ve ever had.”

I was back there today for a cleaning and some fillings. I have two other visits to make to take care of everything. I’ve already spent all the money I had budgeted for this. I tell you, rates for fillings have really gone up since the mid-90s. I think I may fund the rest with some Ebay auctions of excess game stuff I have. That’d probably work a lot better than a “Will Design Games for Dental Work” sign.

Not Identical Cousins

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I haven’t been in a bloggy mood lately. Too much stuff going on and most of it things I can’t talk about publicly anyway. Tonight we had dinner with “the other Chris Pramas,” a cousin from Gloucester that I’ve barely seen in the last 20 years. He works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (part of the Dept. of Commerce) as a Consumer Safety Inspector. He’s in Seattle for a few weeks helping out the local office and we had a chance to get together over dinner at the Brooklyn. I had seen him a few weeks ago at my aunt’s funeral. I don’t think I’ve seen him twice in one month since we were kids. Anyway, it was good to catch up.

I’m trying to get my plans in order for my travels this Fall. It’s looking like I have four trips from mid-September to mid-November. These are all business trips, though we are tagging a wedding onto the end of one of them. We’re also hosting the whole GR staff here in Seattle for our annual summit in that period as well. Staying home over Xmas this year is thus looking very attractive.