Monday, May 31, 2021

A New Barnes & Noble Opens in Kirkland

So, I was surprised and pleased last week by news that Barnes & Noble has opened up a new store in Kirkland. Bookstore news over the last few years has mainly been the announcement of stores shutting down one by one: the extinction of Waldenbooks and B. Daltons, the disappearance of Borders (my favorite of the chain bookstores and a great place to work with a laptop and a pot of tea), with Barnes & Noble seeming to be following the pattern.

So, it's nice to get some good news on the bookstore front.  


Look Familiar? (a D&D test)

 So, if the following list looks familiar, you can probably spot the connecting thread between all these publications.

--John R.

PENUMBRA (Atlas Games)

Three Days to Kill—John Tynes


Green Ronin

Death in Freeport—Chris Pramas

Alderac/AEG  (Adventure Boosters) 

   The Last Gods—Kevin Wilson

   The Illusionist's Daughter—Travis Heermann


Fantasy Flight (LEGENDS & LAIRS)

   The Thief's Gold—Brian Wood

   The Weeping Tree—Brian Patterson 


Troll Lord Games

A Lion in the Ropes—Stephen Chenault

The Fantastic Adventure—Mac Golden


Privateer Press

The Witchfire Trilogy, Book One: The Longest Night—Matt Staroscik


Hammerdog Games  (Building Block Adventures) 

The Grande Temple of Jing—Danny O'Neill


Nightmare Game

The Horror Beneath—Eric Metcalf


Wick Press

 What's That Smell?—John Wick


Sunday, May 30, 2021

WotC's Tolkien Game

So, yesterday I came across my file of material relating to Wizards of the Coast's attempt at a Tolkien roleplaying game --or more accurately what parts wd have gone into the core rulebook of Middle-earth as a D&D world. I thought this was gone forever, at best stuck on some twenty-year old floppy, so I'm happy to have unearthed it again.* 

While this file has very little material that wd have gone into the game itself --the Brand team killed the project before it got very far into the actual design stage-- it does have a detailed preliminary table of contents, assignments of who wd draft which chapters, some memos and meeting notes, and the like.

Also with this was the detailed outline I wrote for a trilogy of adventures to go with the Decipher's LotR game, called Cold Waters, Deep. I rather liked this one, so I might go back and work it up sometime to run with my local gaming group if they're amenable to the idea.

Have to say it'll be nice to have the bits and pieces for all three Tolkien rpgs I worked on at some point to be gathered together in one place.

--John R.

*sort of literally -- it was mixed in with a lot of papers relating to various unfinished projects on a lower shelf of the bookcase that collapsed recently. 

Friday, May 28, 2021

Friday Cat Walking (5/28-21)


The addition of three newcomers to our bonded pair already in residence brings our total in the cat room up to five cats: KINTA, TINA, LEO DUCATI, TWIX, and BABY RUTH

Baby Ruth lights up the room.

Since TINA objects strongly to other cats coming into what she considers her space, I had to let the cats out in phases.

First up came the pair of three-month old kittens, ball-of-fire Tortie BABY RUTH and Tabby TWIX, who were adorable. They tried out various games and enjoyed them all. They don’t mind being picked up too much, though the squirming starts if you hold them what they consider too long. They're still very much in the explore everywhere stage.

LEO DUCATI sat quietly in his cage, enjoying a catnip-suffused sachet, until the kittens had to go in their cage and give him a turn at being out. He was so mellow that I took him out for a walk. He did great! — v. self-possessed. He stayed out a long time and wd gladly have stayed out longer.

Finally it was KINTA the Yellow and TINA the Black, time for our semi senior cats. There’s been a good deal of growling and hissing from Tina inside her cage at the uncaged cats passing by, which must have gotten on Kinta’s nerve, since he uncharacteristically hissed at her as they were coming out. He had another long walk and once again did really well. Poor Tina asked for a walk, growled, asked to be petted, hissed, and generally was so worked up by the other cats in her cat-room that I had to pass on walking her. Next time I’ll do her first of all the cats, before she has time to get upset, which has worked well in the past.
We had a lot of lookers and, at the end of my shift, two separate serious inquiries, one for Leo and the other for little Ruth. I gave both would-be adoptees the information on contacting the adoption counsellors. Hope their applications go well. 

No health problems that I noted, but we did have someone who brought a great big dog (a huskie or something of that size) and parked right outside the cat room for a minute or two. Everyone but the kittens took it calmly enough: Twix puffed his tail out a bit and came over close to me, while little Ruth took refuge under the cat-tree, from which she happily came back out when the episode was over.

Amused by a conscientious potential adopter who was concerned that the cat’s information sheets said he ‘enjoyed pets’, since he intended to adopt him into what wd be a single-pet home: I reasured him that this meant the cat liked being petted, not that it wd do best in a home with multiple cats.

—John R.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Jim Pietrusz's bookplate

 So, here's a good reminder from days gone by: a reader who came across two books that once belonged to my friend Jim Pietrusz, identifiable by his bookplate. I have some of Jim's books, thanks to his generosity and that of his wife, Eileen: the particular image below is taken from an edition of LETTERS FROM JOSEPH CONRAD.*

It's good to know Jim's books are still out there, still being read and enjoyed. He'd like that.

Since the Reader's Comment, once accepted, vanishes from among the most recent postings and instead  appeared over on my post about Jim from 2014, I've copied that Comment into the main text of this post, here:

--John R.


Hello, I hope this comment finds you well, John, and isn't a source of some form of grief to bring this post back to mind, but I thought I might share what I believe to be the strange coincidence that led me here: I was recently purchasing original hardcovers of some books I read in my youth (a quartet by Laurence Yep—unwitting but at least semi-appropriate reads for this Asian American Heritage month) and noticed the rear of one of them had a few dates, partly hand-written, partly stamped. By chance, one happened to refer to my fourth birthday. I was reciting this fact in discussion over the phone with a friend, and picked up the sequel I thought had the date to reference it, only to discover it did not have the date of my birth, but a date six days later. Being handwritten, I concluded I'd imagined things, misreading a date into an eminently familiar one through the strange machinations of the subconscious and a kind of confirmation bias. I was finishing off the actual re-read of the first book (Dragon of the Lost Sea, should you be curious), and discovered I didn't imagine it: there it was, below a stamped date, my birthday (plus four years) handwritten in the back of this book I'd purchased used to have a nice, clean hardcover copy for the rest of my life. "What a strange coincidence," I thought: not only my birthday and a close-by companion date in another book from the series, but both previously owned by someone who wrote dates in it at all. A technologically-limited library checking things out to patrons, perhaps? Sated with the knowledge that I'd indeed found my birthday in a book, a perfectly enjoyable coincidence, I got to page 150 in the sequel (Dragon Steel), and noticed that there was a name stamped at the bottom left corner. A sort of confused haze dropped into my brain: Hadn't I just seen a name stamped in the corner just like that? And wasn't it the exact same name?! So I drew the first book back down off the shelf, flipping rapidly through it, and finding that, yes, I had in fact seen it before: on page 150 of each book there was stamped: "JIM PIETRUSZ". A bookplate in the first book re-affirmed this, a gnome or dwarf drawn, woodcut-style, with a cane and carrying books, marked "EX LIBRIS JIM PIETRUSZ". Now utterly mystified, I checked back at where I'd purchased these books from via Abebooks: one came from a bookshop in Houston, TX (in another coincidence, my father's hometown—though with one that size, less surprising on the whole), and the other from a bookshop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I took to the search engines, and I found my way here. While it's hardly a guarantee, there seems to be enough in common here that I suspect these may both have been from your friend Jim Pietrusz--fantasy books, one even drawn from a used home in Milwaukee, and showing the signs of a devoted collector (I've since decided these may perhaps be the handwritten dates of the times the books were read). While I'd hoped to find Jim himself, it seems that's unfortunately not the chance I have, but I thought perhaps it might be good to know that these two, at least, are in the hands of someone who loves the books he once had (now dustjacket-protected by my own hands, even) and set for a happy life of appreciation. I'm sorry for your loss, these many years on, but I hope this is a good, if small and perhaps somewhat distant, tribute to Jim and his love of books and collecting them—even if it's just yet another pile of coincidences and another Jim entirely, I hope such appreciation and treatment of beloved fantasy books might serve to honour him all the same. It's many years late, but thank you for sharing his story and your memories.




*not the one I was nibbling on a few weeks ago but an earlier hardcover edition

Saturday, May 22, 2021

The Voice of Reason is . . . Geraldo?

So, I was stunned yesterday to find Geraldo Rivero, of all people, being the voice of reason. One of those world-turned-upside-down moments. But really, when someone says killing children is wrong it's hard not to agree.

--John R.

Cat Walking Friday (5/21-21)

 So, after a week off for Kalamazoo, I was back in the Cat Room yesterday. In the interim a new pair of bonded cats, who didn't get along at all* with our bonded pair In Residence, came and went without my ever seeing them. By all reports having the whole room to themselves again greatly improved the two Resident Cats' mood: TINA and KENDA were both affectionate and demanding of attention. 

KENDA out on his walk.

KENDA went out for a long walk (fifty minutes) and went all over the store, from the far wall to the door leading to the warehouse to the sliding doors to Outside. These got his special attention: he crouched down a good ways off and watched them for a while. He may not be putting together a Great Escape, but we shd keep an eye on him nonetheless. 

He remembers where the aisle with the catnip and cat toys is located, returning to it several times. Also in his explorations he came across the plastic grass for aquariums, which at first he thought was some kind of sick joke but then got interested in. I had a hard time keeping him off of it, so after his walk I bought the twosome a little container of live grass, which they both enjoyed v. much.

He does not like dogs, even small well-behaved ones, making a dignified withdrawal when he saw them.

TIKA also had a walk (maybe fifteen minutes) that was much more low key. She crouched on top of the half-high cat stands just outside the cat-room. At one point she licked the glass from outside: odd behavior I'd not seen before. 

Tina remains the queen of the mood swing and goes from rubbing up against you to  swatting when you respond, but she's well-behaved while on walks. Both have become door dashers.

After the walks Kenda rolled around some belly up and played some. Tika followed me about and Supervised.  It’s amazing how different they are when on home territory than when coping with intruders, esp. Tina.

—John R. 
-- who's beginning to wonder just how long I've been volunteering for the Cat Rooms. Definitely past the ten-year mark.

*to the extent that at one point a representative of each side Gave Battle

Thursday, May 13, 2021

This is Sad (Pokemon)

 So, Pokemon is so popular now that people are being mugged for their cards.

Sad to see something that brought so many so much enjoyment is being pulled from stores' shelves, but good that those stores are taking precautions to protect their employees.

Just another reminder of what a weird world we live in.


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Guy Gavriel Kay Pembroke Lecture

So, thanks to Doug, Andrew, and Dimitra for reminding me about this year's Pembroke Tolkien Lecture. The speaker this year is Guy Gavriel Kay, who famously worked on Tolkien's manuscripts as the junior partner helping Christopher Tolkien put together THE SILMARILLION before launching his own career as a fantasy author (of fourteen novels so far). I wasn't able to watch the live online presentation, but fortunately it's available (at least for now) on YouTube:

He talks some about Tolkien, but it's Dasent's Bones of the Ox he's interested in, not in revisiting his work on THE SILMARILLION. Recommended for admirers of Kay's fiction and for those who enjoy the insights gained from hearing a fantasy author talk about his or her work (in specific, discussing specific passages in specific books, and in general, about fantasy as a genre). Of particular note is his definition of 'magic realism' as a work of fantasy a critic liked.

I know hearing this draws my eye to the fantasy shelves, where the eleven books of his I have include three I've somehow never gotten around to reading, not to mention the three that have come out in recent years that I not only haven't read but don't have.  Maybe it's time I gave his books a try again.

--John R. 

current reading: MISTRESS MASHAM'S REPOSE (1947)

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Hooper elegy

So, I was interested to find the following passage in the Requiem elegy for Walter Hooper, printed in the new volume of THE JOURNAL OF INKLINGS STUDIES (Vol. XI #1, page 77) 

Walter found himself libelled and abused for his editorial work,

first by those who were jealous of the opportunity he had been 

given, and then by those he considered friends.

The theme of betrayal unfortunately followed him as he got older

and found himself defrauded and abandoned

by those he had come to think of as family.  

Strong words. Unusually so, I thought, for a requiem mass. Maybe a case of 'now or never'?

--John R.

P.S.: There are several other interestnig pieces in this issue --esp..the ones on Warnie Lewis's boating and on the MIRACLES debate from Anscombe's point of view. I'll see if I can find the time during breaks between the Tolkien events at Kalamazoo to make a post thereon.

My own Kalamazoo presentation comes on Friday. Here's hoping it goes over okay.


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

When the Books Came a-tumbling Down

So, sometime during the night the bookshelves holding my more or less complete set of all TSR/WotC 3e +3.5 D&D books and modules* came crashing down. Luckily the bookcase itself stayed upright when the shelves came down and a lot of the books stayed more or less in place in relation to each other, as you can see in the picture below:

To which I shd add that the top shelf shown here (including Forgotten Realms/Eberron) came down as well while I was clearing away the fallen books.

 I'd just reaching the stage where I'm sorting out these books, along with my modest holdings of 4th edition,* in the ongoing cull. I guess they just anticipated me.

--John R.


All those years of marking up those books; this was the books' revenge, to have a go at marking up me. 

*most of what I have of the current, fifth edition I expect to keep