MoCCA 2016

Apr. 2nd, 2016 09:08 pm
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This year’s MoCCA Art Fest was held at Metropolitan West, on West 48th St, all the way over on 12th Avenue, even further west and more inconvenient than last year’s venue. I guess next year’s’ll be in a barge, mid-Hudson.

Here’s my shoulder-cracking haul:

Books

  • New Contruction by Sam Alden.
  • A Stray in the Woods by Alison Wilgus.
  • Beef With Tomato by Dean Haspiel.
  • SVA’s 2014 comics school anthology. (Not sure why I didn’t already have this, since they give ’em out free every year, but the cover was distinctive and didn’t look familiar.)
  • Fantastic Life by Kevin Mutch.
  • Uptight #5 by Jordan Crane. The eye-catching cover made me pick it up and flip through it, the interior art made me buy it, and not till I got home did I notice it was by an artist whose work I already know and like. I expect I’ll want to hunt down the earlier four issues.
  • Valor, a gorgeous anthology book edited by Isabelle Melançon and Megan Lavey-Heaton, who are also among the many contributors. I sprang for the hardcover.
  • Snackies by Nick Sumida.

Floppies & Minis

Other

  • A pair of Winsor & Newton pigment markers, Neutral Grey 6 and Violet Blue Deep! They were giving out free samples, and when I said I’d like either a blue or a dark gray, I got one of each!
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“I am, in all modesty, a skilled author, one of the finest writing today.” — John C Wright, 23 Aug 2015

“So, all modesty aside, I understand materialism, and the arguments for and against it, far better than anyone who had arisen to argue with me here.” — John C Wright, 18 Oct 2012

In all modesty, my science fiction writing is first rate. If I were not a Christian, I should most probably win awards for my writing.” — John C Wright, 2 Feb 2011

“I know there are honest atheists in the world, great souls armed and armored to fight for the truth for truths sake, and no personal benefit to themselves — because (in all modesty) I used to be one.” — John C Wright, 28 Feb 2010

“I was at first reluctant to read this book, because it covers much the same genre — far future utopianism — as my own THE GOLDEN AGE, and, in all modesty, I did not want my imagination to be contaminated with ideas better than mine, but not original to me, which it would then be a struggle not to use in my own work.” — John C Wright, 3 Apr 2009

“This is my favorite book by my favorite author, and, in all modesty, I am the only writer alive today with the skill and inclination to write a Vanvogtian tale of superscientific wonder, give it the mood and flavor of the 1940’s, and introduce a new plot twist every 800 words, just as van Vogt would have done.” — John C Wright, 5 Dec 2008

“And, putting all modesty aside, I was perfectly suited to write this book.” — John C Wright, 20 Nov 2008

In all modesty, if I were to leave science to experts, I could not be a science fiction writer, nor could anyone, except, perhaps, Fred Hoyle.” — John C Wright, 25 Feb 2007
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I see that, in the comments under Tom Doherty’s recent message on Tor.com, there is one from John C Wright, in which he makes the following claim:

I am not unrepentantly homophobic. I am nothing of the kind. It is a lie.

I follow the Catholic teaching on same sex attraction and how one deals with it. In public, I have heaped scorn on those who use a children’s cartoon, one I loved, to insinuate their pro-perversion propaganda in a cowardly and craven way.

I have no hate, no fear, nothing but respect for homosexuals.

In response to this, I remind everyone of his recent hastily-deleted comment (archived for posterity at the Obsidian Wings blog):

Men abhor homosexuals on a visceral level. […] I have never heard of a group of women descended on a lesbian couple and beating them to death with axhandles and tire-irons, but that is the instinctive reaction of men towards fags.

While Wright implies that his opinions about homosexuals derive from his beliefs as a Catholic (and leaving aside that most of the Catholics I know do not share those particular beliefs), I note that his conversion experience appears to have happened towards the end of 2003, while his ugly beliefs about homosexuality pre-date that conversion by at least a year:

I remember the day and hour when I, a perfectly tolerant libertarian, rejected (with revulsion) the notion of gay marriage, and, in so doing, was logically required to reject toleration for homosexuality. It was March 05, 2002, at 10:00 in the evening. I was watching a television show where two lesbians were helping a bride get ready for her wedding. The bride spoke in the most glowing and romantic terms about the nature of true love: the two lesbians started making bedroom eyes at each other and smiling, for it was the intent of the writer to put across the idea that two lesbians having “sex” (i.e. masturbating with each other) was morally and logically the same as a bride and bridegroom having “sex” (i.e. consummating their wedding, and generating progeny and creating a family).

While I was (hitherto) willing to accept the libertarian argument that perverts should be left alone to practice their perversions, so long as they harm none but themselves, the liberal argument that true love is perversion and perversion is true love was so shocking to me that I was thunderstruck to the core of my being.

Furthermore, I notice that in Wright’s account of his spiritual journey, it was his “philosophical inquiries” that led him to Christianity, as early as two years before the heart attack that resulted in his vision. It seems to me more likely that it was antipathy towards homosexuality that turned Wright towards his faith, than the other way around.

MoCCA 2015

Apr. 13th, 2015 05:00 am
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I haven’t done one of these in ages. Still been going to MoCCA every year, but I’ve been forgetting to record my hauls.

This year the festival was held at Center 548, way over (way, way, way the fuck over) on West 22nd St, near 11th Ave. The festival was held on the second through 4th floors of the building, with a tiny elevator and treacherously narrow and steep stairs. My least favorite MoCCA venue so far.

Programming was held at the nearby High Line Hotel. I got to see Scott McCloud’s presentation on his new book, The Sculptor, thanks to his tweeting about how people should show up anyway, even though the room was “sold out.” As it happened, this was a good idea; there were empty seats, and I had no problem getting in.

I later got Scott McCloud to sign my copy of The Sculptor (not purchased at the show, so not listed below). When I told him my name, he said “The only Avram I’ve ever run into had the last name Grumer…” and I reminded him of the previous time we’d had the conversation.

Books

  • Towerkind by Kat Verhoeven. Conundrum Press.
  • Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed? by Liz Prince. Top Shelf Productions.
  • AltCom 2012 and 2014, anthologies published by a Swedish comics festival. I paid $5 for the two of them, but now I see, on the back, they’re supposed to be free. I guess they’re free at the festival, but someone had to pay to get them here from Sweden. Anyway, I also got to try a piece of that salty Swedish licorice, so maybe that makes it all OK. Here’s a link to their Facebook page, since their website is down.
  • Terrestrial, an anthology, edited by Amanda Scurti.
  • Horizon Anthology, Volume One, edited and designed by Jeremy Lawson.

Floppies & Minis

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How four social networks inform me about the current Israel/Gaza conflict, in order of where I first started seeing things:

  • Facebook: Shares of pro-Israel/anti-Gaza graphics, some of them direct Israeli Defense Force propaganda with the identifying logo at the bottom. All of the sharers are personally known to me, and all are Jewish. Most (maybe all?) of the shares are made without comment, as if the graphic itself says everything the person posting it feels necessary to say.
  • Twitter: Tweets from a number of users, all left-leaning, who link or retweet longer, thoughtful articles examining various aspects of the conflict. Many of the articles are meta-commentary about media coverage of the conflict.
  • LiveJournal: A single user ([livejournal.com profile] osewalrus), well-informed, who personally favors Israel, but offers up commentary and advice that takes the motives and goals of both sides seriously. And one other guy who made a passing reference while talking about something else.
  • Google+: Nothing yet. Right now, the only post I see on my G+ stream that mentions Israel does so in the context of criticizing American airport security.

This confirms reinforces for me a number of beliefs I already held about the services (no doubt shaped by my particular use of those networks, and thus possibly not truly representative):

  • Facebook is for shallow, unreflective contact. (Also: Most of my relatives and some of my friends are reflexive and thoughtless in their support of Israel.)
  • Twitter is mostly tech-savvy and intellectual.
  • LiveJournal is pretty much dying off, unless you speak Russian. Also, [livejournal.com profile] osewalrus is a pretty smart guy.
  • Google+ is great for talking about role-playing games, not for much of anything else.

I voted

Nov. 6th, 2012 05:23 pm
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If I were living in Ohio or Florida, I’d have held my nose and voted for the war criminal. But I’m not! I’m living in New York, a state which is going to deliver its electoral votes to the Democratic Party candidate this year, no matter what I did at the voting booth. So I was free to vote my conscience, and did:

President/Vice-President:
Jill Stein/Cheri Honkala, Green Party
US Senate:
Colia Clark, Green Party
US House of Representatives:
Yvette Clarke, who’s a Democrat, but I voted for her on the Working Families line, because NY supports fusion balloting.
Justices of the Supreme Court:
Cheryl Chambers, Barry Kamins, William Miller, all on the Democratic Party line. The only two alternatives, both on the Working Families line, were not approved by the NY Bar Association.
Judge of the Civil Court:
Craig Walker, Robin Garson, on the Democratic Party line.
State Senator:
Eric Adams, a Democrat, on the Working Families line. (I think. I might have messed this one up and voted him as a Democrat.)
Member of the Assembly:
Walter Mosley III, Democratic Party.

The polling place was pretty crowded. It took five or ten minutes for me to get my ballot, and then twenty minutes on line to submit my ballot once I’d filled it out.

We're fine

Oct. 30th, 2012 03:36 pm
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We’re in a second-floor apartment, over a hundred feet above sea level, so it wasn’t likely we’d see any flooding. There was some chance that we’d suffer the failure of some bit of urban infrastructure (power, water, etc) due to problems in the rest of the city, but things went pretty well. Lights flickered occasionally, but we never actually lost power. We lost our Internet connectivity for a minute or two, but it came right back. (That seems to have been neighborhood-wide. I saw a bunch of nearby people on Twitter making the same complaint around the same time.) Some (but not all) of the cable channels went out around 11:40 PM, but they’re back now.

The subways are still out, so I have no idea whether tomorrow’s NYRSF meeting will happen. The MTA says bus service will be partially restored later today, so Chris may be able to get to work tomorrow.

We are, however, out of bagels.

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I haven’t explored every bit of the most recent xkcd, but I think I may have found its outer edges:

Given those URLs, it ought to be possible to write scripts that’ll download all the tiles (some spots seem to be procedurally filled with white or black space instead of having tiles) and stitch ’em together into the full image. Maybe tomorrow.

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On the same day that BoingBoing announces that it’s publishing the newest Elquest story online, I read that Dave Sim seems to be quitting comics.

This is great news for the Pinis, but it’s unfortunate that the creator of the other big indie comic of that same generation can’t seem to figure out how keep his career afloat.

Granted, many of Sim’s problems are of his own making. Not only did his wife divorce him, but I’ve recently learned that Gerhard no longer associates with Sim either professionally or personally, and that Sim is estranged from his family. I don’t know the stories behind those latter two things (and only a bit about the first), but someone who wrecks all of his close relationships probably isn’t doing a great job with business relationships either.

(Also, if you’re building your career on a single massive comic-book project, you might want to think twice about inserting into it a crazy rant describing half the human race as parasitic leeches.)

Still, Sim’s failure makes me melancholy.

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You’d think René Walling would have taken his banning from Readercon as a warning, and cleaned his act up. That’s what a sane person would do, right? Take extra-special care not to be a sleazy jerk, just to be on the safe side? Just out of a sense of self-preservation, even if not out of an honest desire to be considerate of women’s feelings? You’d think.

I had hoped so, if for no other reason than that he and I have at least a couple of friends in common, and his bad behavior hurts those friends (in addition to the women he behaves badly towards). But here’s some news from the just-ended Worldcon in Chicago:

From: [livejournal.com profile] copperwise
2012-09-05 12:26 am (local)

I was disgusted to find him tending bar at the Commonwealth party. Then he made repulsively suggestive comments to the girl I was hanging out with. She was disgusted by his smarmy, smirking leer, but she didn’t feel he was worth making an issue of. She was unaware of the Readercon issue at the time, though.

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I decided to skip seeing Lewis Trondheim at Bergen St Comics, and went to NerdNYC boardgame night. Here’s what I played:

Rise!
Simple two-player game. Each player gets to take two actions per turn, which is the primary constraint on the action. We didn’t even bother finishing the game out when it became obvious that I’d win and there was no way for the other player to catch up. There are expansion rules that might make the game more interesting, but we didn’t use them.

Pandemic
Pandemic’s been around for a while, but this is the first time I’ve played it. Players cooperate to defeat a disease-ridden planet. We almost won, curing three out of the four diseases. This was fun; I’d play it again.

Zooloretto
I’ve played this one a few times, and been doing pretty well at it recently. I miss the speed and simplicity of Coloretto; maybe I should buy a copy.

I also saw a group playing the new anniversary edition of Puerto Rico. Fancy! Metal coins, redesigned pieces, new artwork.

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I’m finally getting around to reading Digger, and not really enjoying it much, to tell you the truth. But I’m still fairly near the beginning (just started Chapter 2), and maybe it gets better later on. Anyway, I’m trying to figure something out. Could someone tell me what’s going on in this panel here?

mystery panel

Here’s the whole page. I get what’s going on before and after that panel, the action of the page in general. But I can’t figure that one panel out. Here are the possible readings I’ve come up with:

  1. Digger is moving her left hand (the one not holding the pickaxe) horizontally for some reason. For a moment I thought maybe she was pulling a cover off of the pickaxe head, but the thing I thought might’ve been the cover I now think is just part of her vest. I can’t think of any other reason for her to be swinging her arm like that; she winds up with her hand behind her, which makes it less effective for the move she makes in the next panel.
  2. Digger is swinging her pickaxe back and forth. (The speed lines continue past the pickaxe on either side, so it would have to be a back-and-forth motion.) Seems plausible, but her right arm doesn’t seem positioned plausibly for the full extension that would be necessary for the head of the pickaxe to follow that arc. And this still doesn’t explain why her left arm is behind her.
  3. Digger just threw the pickaxe from her left hand (where we see it in the first panel) to her right. This connects the first and fourth panels, and accounts for the pickaxe moving from one hand to the other, but again, it’s weak as a prelude to the action in panel five (she’s using both hands for the pickaxe anyway; why waste time and risk dropping it to switch hands?). Also, the speedlines depict an arc of horizontal movement; a thrown pickaxe would have to arc vertically. And this reading doesn’t explain why the speedlines are continuing past the head of the pickaxe.

Also, when does the actual story start? Like I said, just started Chapter 2, maybe 70 or 80 pages in, and the characters are still just wandering around chatting. I’m thinking Ursula Vernon would have benefited from the discipline of publishing in pamphlet form. Cerebus started out crude, but that first 22-page issue contained a full story.

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Atlas Games has released an Open Games License version of WaRP, the mechanical part of Over the Edge. (For those who haven’t heard of it, Over the Edge was a tremendously influential role-playing game released 20 years ago. And yes, there’s an anniversary edition.)

The PDF included in the download package is so horribly formatted that I had to slurp it into InDesign and rejigger it just to get something I could stand to look at, and while I was doing that, some half-formed rules popped into my head for handling Call of Cthulhu-style Sanity loss. (Odd, because I never really liked Call of Cthulhu as a game.) They look like this:

Instead of having a Sanity rating that starts out high and gets eroded, we have a Madness rating that starts out low and builds. Each character starts with 0 Madness (though you can start higher if you want, as part of your Flaw).

When your character runs into something horrible, the GM calls for a Madness roll. The GM rolls a number of dice based on the horribleness of the thing you ran into. You pick a Trait to use to oppose this roll, and take a number of penalty dice equal to your Madness.

(I was originally gonna have the GM roll your Madness + horribleness dice, but realized that’d be a pain in the butt for testing multiple characters at once.)

If you fail the roll, two things happen: (1) Your Madness goes up by 1 point, and (2) whatever Trait you used for the Madness roll gets cracked.

What does cracked mean? In fictional terms, it means that your character now has a psychological association between the Trait and the horrible thing. In game-mechanical terms, it means you make a mark next to that Trait on your sheet, and from then on, every time you roll that Trait, one (or more, because your Trait can be cracked more than once) of your dice should be of a distinction color or size. If the distinctive dice roll highest (or among the highest, in the case of ties; and in the case of bonus/penalty dice, we’re only counting the dice you keep for your total), you have to narrate some sort of crazy behavior into your action. This doesn’t have to mean success becoming failure; just that your character is becoming unhinged in some way that comes out sometimes when you use this Trait.

A Trait that has been cracked a number of times equal to its die rating is fully cracked. A character goes fully insane if their Central Trait becomes fully cracked, or if every one of their other, non-Central, Traits becomes fully cracked.

Fringe powers should probably start out with one crack each.

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I forgot to mention it here (having covered it on Facebook and Google+, and had it covered for me on Making Light): I’m nominated for a Hugo award this year.

Technically, it’s The New York Review of Science Fiction that’s nominated (for Best Semiprozine), for something like the 22nd time. (We haven’t won one yet.) But this is the first year we’ve been nominated that I was an associate managing editor, so my name’s on the ballot this time (along with David Hartwell, Kevin Maroney, and Kris Dikeman).

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About half-way through Gene Wolfe’s Home Fires, I gave up. Why?

The dialog. Wolfe’s never been great at writing dialog that sounds like real people talking, which is why my favorite Wolfe work (The Book of the New Sun) is one in which this flaw is made a virtue. But this is bad even for him:

“It wasn’t that at all. They tried … I was afraid to tell anybody. Terrified! Put your arm around me. I’m serious! Do it. I need a man’s arm around me, and you’re just right for me and — oh, damn! I’m g-going to c-c-cry.”

The crazy right-wing politics. There’s the North American Union, with its single currency. There’s the European Union, where thieves get their hands cut off because of sharia. There’s the UN, which always takes the sides of the poor nations of the world instead of the NAU.

The tech illiteracy. The setting is Earth, in a resource-poor near-future. Our protagonist has a cellphone, but nobody else seems to, and from what we see in the half of the book I read, it’s just a phone. Websites exist, but there’s no sign of social networking. When pirates hijack an enormous, luxurious cruise ship, the protagonists talk for a while as if there’s a possibility of keeping the news under wraps, as if there wouldn’t have been hundreds of people tweeting “OMG pirates!” within ten seconds of the first shots being fired. When the protagonists talk (via some kind of video-phone communication) with the authorities on shore, they argue a bit over the location of the ship, as if there’s no such thing as GPS. The whole thing could’ve been written in the 1970s.

It’s been a while since I really enjoyed a new Wolfe book. The Wizard Knight was the last one, and even that had its annoyances.

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Not certain, but I’m guessing that this has something to do with this.

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Been a while since I talked about boardgames, hasn’t it? I’ve been getting my fix at the monthly NerdNYC boardgame nights. I’ve played a couple of new things:

Eminent Domain
I’ve played this a couple of times. It’s a space-themed deck-building role-taking game, like a cross between Race for the Galaxy and Dominion. The innovation is that each time you take a role, you gain a copy of the card for that role. Also there are neat little plastic spaceships.

Quarriors!
Another deck-building game, but with dice instead of cards! You get a bag of dice with various symbols on them, and at the start of each turn you pull out six and roll them, generating “quiddity” (magical power) that can be used to summon creatures or buy new dice. Your creatures go out and fight other players’ creatures, and if they survive to the start of your next turn, they score victory points for you, and let you cull unneeded dice from your collection. We played this twice today, and while the first game took about an hour and a half, the second (once we all knew how to play) took just 45 minutes (and I won).

Eminent Domain seemed pretty tight, by which I mean various strategies became apparent as I learned the game, and it seemed like there was a clear link between success and strong play. Quarriors! seemed less so. There was a high luck element, and the strategic connections among dice were less clear than those among, say, Dominion cards. One of the discussion threads on BoardGameGeek claimed that there were some optional “expert” rules in an upcoming expansion that tightened up play: Allow the purchase of two dice per turn, and require that the scoring creature be culled.

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Treasures uncovered while looking for the gesso:

  • A pack of a dozen 4×5-inch canvas panels, pre-primed, ready for painting.
  • A small desktop easel.
  • An old AOL bisk tin, filled with colored glass aquarium stones, of the type gamers use to track various game resources (hit points, Fate points, etc).
  • My copies of four games from Cheapass Games’ “Hip Pocket” series: Light Speed, Agora, Nexus, and Steam Tunnel.
  • The power supply for my old Belkin seven-port USB hub. I now have all of its pieces in one place! And no strong need of it.
  • My copy of Asterios Polyp, which I still haven’t read.

Treasure still to be found:

  • The gesso.
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New icon! It’s the same one I’m using over on Google+.

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