Monday, July 27, 2020

Gen Con 1994

So, thanks to Tech Support (thanks Janice), here are the two scans I'd had trouble with earlier. The second has the write-ups of the two panels, while the first lists all the TSR rpg sponsored seminars. I find this one a good indicator of just how many different things we were working on at any given time.


--John R.

"Women, Minorities, & the Game"

So, something else that emerged from my recent sorting through a box of papers relating to the 1994 GenCo is a list (see below) of all the panels TSR staff took part in that year at GenCon in Milwaukee at MECCA and the official description of the two I organized and chaired.

Some other time I'll try to tell the story of our attempt within the department to make TSR's rpgs more appealing to women and minorities. For now I'll just say that for me it culminated in a panel at GenCon with myself as moderater and Mike Pondsmith, Lisa Pondsmith, Lawrence Sims, and a fifth person whose name escapes me* as the panelists. Unfortunately I'm having some trouble with the scanner so here's its official description:

"Women, Minorities, & Games"
What's the role of women and minorities in a hobby dominated by "pale males"? Come and join the lively debate over how to make role-playing games more appealing to these groups.

I don't remember after this many years what points came up in the discussion that followed, other than that I probably opened by sharing my belief that the obvious place to start to make our game more appealing to women and minorities was to remove elements they wd find off-putting.

As for the other panel, it's clearly a precursor of my later CLASSICS OF FANTASY column (2002-2004). At about this same time I did a recommended reading list for the MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH spin-off of the RAVENLOFT setting; this appeared in POLYHEDRON in I think October 1994.

--John R.

--current reading: THE WORLDS OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN by John Garth

*it would have been Lisa Steele from White Rose publishing except that she didn't come to GenCon that year.

TSR GenCon 1994: The Crack-Up List (update)

So, a week or two ago I posted a fun little piece I'd come across during some sorting. But I'd meant to do a follow-up piece, giving the second listing that carried on the joke. So here is the original crack-up list with the follow-up, for those who like such things:

--John R.
current reading: BUNNIES & BURROWS (first edition, 1976)

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Heyerdahl May Have Been Right

So, it's decades ago that Thor Heyerdahl came up with his theory that Native Americans of the Pacific coast had the boating technology and skill to reach Polynesia. He even built a replica boat (in this case, a balsawood raft, the Kon Tiki) and sailed it from Peru to Tahiti, as a feasibility test. His work was widely popular but dismissed as pseudoscience; I've always considered him one of the great champions undermining what Lewis and Barfield came to call 'chronological snobbery'.

Now some new research in the form of genetic testing suggests that there was contact, but how much is unclear. The Polynesians certainly had the technology to sail just about anywhere in the Pacific

--cf THE PREHISTORIC EXPLORATION AND COLONISATION OF THE PACIFIC by Geoffrey Irwin (1992; highly recommended)--

while for the Americas' side of the story, about which I know far less,  certainly the Makah and other whale-hunters of the Pacific Northwest had command of large, powerful boats

-- I have Heyerdahl's massive tome AMERICAN INDIANS IN THE PACIFIC (1953) but have not read it.

In any case, somebody took the sweet potato from South America to spread it across the Pacific, which is pretty good proof of more than casual contact.

Here's the link to the recent article.

Tolkien trivia fact: Tolkien's secretary, Joy Hill, was a friend of Heyerdahl's and had a model of one of his boats he'd given her (I forget whether it was the Tigris or the Ra) on her mantlepiece

--John R.

P.S.: While we're on the theme of conventional wisdoms showing a few cracks, the late date (12,000 to 14,000 yrs ago) for humans arriving in the Western Hemisphere becomes more Ptolemaic all the time:

Monday, July 20, 2020

I Am Podcast (Longwinded One)

So, a while back I was asked to appear in a podcast for a Tolkien/gaming site, which seemed an ideal blending of two of my major interests. We recorded the interview and here's the result. Enjoy.

--John R.
--current rereading; WATERSHIP DOWN (first read circa 1974 and reread many times since)

Saturday, July 18, 2020

A Primary coming up

So, yesterday our primary ballots arrived for the state election, the most eye-catching element of which is the long list of thirty-six people running for governor. Unfortunately it did not come with the usual voter's pamphlet giving us a brief self-pitch by each candidate, which is usually a good way to sort out the serious candidates from the crazies.

There are two basic ways to deal with managing this unwieldy situation.

Option #1:
—the current governor is doing a pretty good job. Let him carry on doing what he's doing for another four years.

Option #2:
--sort out all the candidates by political party, weed out the weird ones, then check out the online version of the Voter's Pamphlet to learn more about the serious candidates.

Here's my initial sort-out

First off, there are fringe parties, some of which may not actually exist outside the head of the person running: the Stand Up America party, the Propertarianist party, the American Patriot party, the Fifth Republic party, the Cascadia Labour party, the New-Liberty party.

Then there are genuine minor parties who have no hope of winning but want to promote their cause: the Socialist Workers party, the Green party.

Somewhat confusingly, in the non-of the above category we have two "Independent", one "Unaffiliated", and four "No Party". Are these just different ways to say the same thing?

Where things really run off the rails is with the Republican parties (sic). There are fifteen people running as "Republican", three of whom are running as "Trump Republican" and one as "2016 Republican".  I've never seen such chaos on a ballot.

Finally for the Democrats things are nice and simple: five people running, one of which (Gov. Inslee) is all but certain to win.

At any rate this is one election in which 'they're all the same' just isn't a credible response.

--John R.

Update on Amazon (US & UK)

So, here's the happy ending: I had the Garth book before three o'clock the day after I ordered it. I've given it a quick skim; I'm sure I'll post about various odds and end that come up as I read it.

And to give them due credit, the UK amazon processed the cancellation right away, so that's all taken care of as well.

And if that weren't good news enough, the long-awaited packet of my current favorite Yunnan and Keemun finally reached me as well.

And now it's back to reading a slim volume of George Sterling (as a precursor to Clark Ashton Smith) and continuing on WATERSHIP DOWN. In token of which it felt entirely appropriate that on yesterday's walk from here to the local wetlands and back I saw seven rabbits on the way out and twelve on the way back, aa new record.

--John R.