Friday, October 23, 2015

The New Arrivals (Five Books)

So, last week was one of those weeks when a bunch of things, ordered at diverse times over a long period, all arrived in rapid succession.

First was Grevel Lindop's new biography of Charles Williams, CHARLES WILLIAMS: THE THIRD INKLING. Years in the making, this promises to be the default biography of Wms henceforward. Just opening it at random a half-dozen times, I found out things I didn't know at each dipping (such as J. W. Dunne's probable influence on THE PLACE OF THE LION). Really looking forward to reading this one, when there's time to devote to it.*

That was Tuesday; Wednesday brought Wayne & Christina's new book, THE ART OF THE LORD OF THE RINGS, a handsome slipcased companion volume to their earlier THE ART OF THE HOBBIT. That book did an excellent job of presenting Tolkien's art, maps, and sketches for his earlier book, and this looks to repeat the performance with an equally impressive treatment of its sequel. There are more maps and fewer drawings this time around, just from the nature of the material, but that's just the nature of what Tolkien created for this book. There's a lot here I've never seen before, so I'm looking forward to working my way carefully through the book, at a slow enough pace to enjoy the individual pieces.**

Another Wednesday arrival was Verlyn Flieger's new book, her edition of THE STORY OF KULLERVO, JRRT's first story, an adaptation from the KALEVALA along with Tolkien's essay on the latter and her own essay explaining these materials. All this appeared in TOLKIEN STUDIES a few years ago, but it's really nice to have it as a slim standalone volume. And I'm glad to see the publisher used Tolkien's own artwork for the cover (as is right & proper).

Either also Wednesday, or perhaps Thursday, came a (used) copy of Joseph Pearce's collected essays and reviews, LITERARY GIANTS, LITERARY CATHOLICS (2005), which I wanted to consult for something I was working on but which looks to have some interesting odds and ends in it as well, such as a short memoir of Owen Barfield. ***

And finally Friday brought either the missing or replacement copy of TOLKIEN STUDIES Volume X, so that my set is now finally complete (or complete once more, depending). It's nice to have a full set of such a major resource.

So, quite a week. By contrast, no books at all have arrived through the mail this week. Just serendipitous

--John R.

*for those in England, according to a posting on the MythSoc list Lindop is giving a talk on Wms this coming Tuesday (Oct 27th) at Wolfson College (Grevel Lindop, "Unveiling an Esoteric Life: Writing the Biography of Charles Williams").

**I consider it a good sign that yesterday I saw it in the local Barnes & Noble, on the Tolkien shelves.

***have to admit, though, that I can only identify five of the six figures on his dust jacket: Tolkien, Dante, Wilde, Chesterton, and Shakespeare (who probably wasn't Catholic). Belloc, perhaps?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dr. Caligari

Well, I know where I'd be Monday night,* were the timing not appalling: at Silent Movie Monday down at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Seattle, watching a screening of the silent movie classic THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. I've seen this on video, years ago, but never on a big screen,  the way it was intended to be shown.  It impressed me as the only silent horror film I've seen which is still disturbing. Most, like NOSFERATU, have too many bits which are deliberately silly, where the ham acting badly undercutting any horror element. CALIGARI has its overdone bits too, but between its story and its unsettling set design manages to pack quick a punch, even almost a century later.  If you have the chance, check it out.

--John R.
today's song: "Dogs" (from Animals, by Pink Floyd)

*thanks to posters and postcards for it I picked up at Trader Joe's today.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Cat Report (Sept/Oct)

A bunch of the cats being up at Arlington being treated for their colds, we had just two cats in the Tukwila cat room this morning, though at noon one of these left to go back to the shelter and three new ones arrived, bringing our current total up to four: 

Mr. APOLLO (our long gray-haired King of the Roost) 

THUMPER (a five-month old grey tabby kitten)

ZOE GIRL (not to be confused with our own Zoe [Zippy Zoe] from a while back; this is a white with grey three-year old) and 

SURI REESE (a black-and-white tuxedo cat; at nine-and-a-half the oldest cat in the room)

It having been some time since I did a cat report, thought i'd do an overview of the past few weeks, just to orient myself. When I got back from my trip to the MidWest I found three cats in the cat room (9/16): 

BRIE (whom I already knew): v. short-haired roly-poly grey cat of strong opinions, the strongest of which was that other cats shd keep their distance. 

APOLLO a beautiful, fluffy cat with an amazingly thick tail, still a bit shy from having not yet found his bearings.

Mr. MURDOCH: another beautiful cat, sociable and full of self-confidence, who had a most excellent time with the string game and also expressed his entire approval of the paper bag with catnip in it. 

When the four kittens arrived (PRECIOUS, SQUISHY, BENGAL, & TROUBLE), they watched Murdoch play from a respectful distance, making me think he'd laid down the law to them on an earlier meeting.

The next week (9/23), it was no surprise that Murdoch had been adopted in the meantime, leaving just  BRIE and APOLLO for the morning (w. the kittens arriving towards noon). Apollo was feeling a little more confident and was out and about more.

This was the week that I finally figured out Brie. She has two moods, linked to two places. If she's on the floor beneath the taller cat-stand near the door, she's v. territorial, warning the other cats off with strategic hisses and growls. When she's atop that cat-stand she's a happy camper: feeling no one can sneak up on her she completely relaxes. Took them both for a walk, wherein I discovered that Apollo gives out tiny little mews when nervous and that Brie does indeed have the most delightful deep, loud purr. After the walks Apollo retired into the box with catnip in it while Brie went back atop her cat-stand, from which she got combed, which she liked, and brushed, which she liked, and a bath (with a wet washcloth) followed by a towel-dry (with a dry washcloth), all of which taken together made her just melt and purr, purr, purr.

The week after that (9/30) two new cats had arrived, FELICITY ("little miss white whiskers") and LOUIE. Plus, of course, the kittens. Oddly enough, Louie, who's a young cat (about three), looks and acts more like a senior cat, maybe from having had a hard life (he's missing some of his teeth), while Felicity, who's about double his age, acts like a young cat. Apollo didn't approve of the newcomers, so Louie Louie went high and Felicity went onto the top shelf in the cabinet and purred; later she went exploring. Both Louie and Felicity expressed a preference for the kittens' litter, both sneaking into the kittens' cage at some point to use their box.

The week after that (10/7) saw the same four cats and the same four kittens. All the grown-up cats had walks. Louie Louie surprised me by being the best walker of them all. He went as far as the loading dock, which he explored carefully. Both he and Felicity were v. sweet. Discovered that Brie and Apollo both have a Favorite Place, and it's the same favorite place: atop the tall cat-stand near the door. This week Apollo got there first, much to Brie's displeasure; she defaulted back to her old place on the floor and her old behavior of keeping to herself aside from growling the other cats off. For his part, Apollo was sprawled atop that cat-stand, glorying in being out of all the other cats' reach. 

Did notice an endearing trait of Brie's I'd not seen before: she likes to dip her paw in a water-bowl and then lick that paw dry. Saw her to it over and over, quite deliberately. 

Last week (10/14) colds had laid low poor Louie and the kittens, while Brie had a problem with her eye and had to go to get treatment back in Arlington as well. That just left Apollo and Felicity the sole cats in possession. Felicity had a quiet day, alternating between exploring and snoozing. Apollo had uncontested sway over His Favorite Spot, making it his turn to have a towel-bath (greeted with much purring). Also discovered towards noon that Apollo loves the laser pointer. It was great fun to see him spin round and round and round at top speed in pursuit of the little red dot. So I went and got him one of his own, stopping back by later that afternoon to drop it off.

As for today (10/21), most of the morning there were just two cats: Apollo and newcomer LUCEE ('Lucille'), a little mamma cat without her kittens.  Though she's small (about half his size) and young (about a year and a half old), as soon as they were both out of their cages she charged him and chased him to the far end of the room. I picked him up and put him up high, whereupon all seemed well. She prowled a bit then settled down in the box and then back near the cabinet. Later he settled into His Favorite Spot -- turns out he knows how to use the stairs. He'd had a walk when I first arrived, mostly a carry-around with some walking here and there, v. wary. Hence my surprise when I took advantage of Cher's dropping by to take him on a second walk late in the morning. He did great! He walked on his own, going up and down the aisles, going up and flirting with people, and generally showing off his delightful sociable side. Glad to report no inappropriate swatting or nipping today, even though we had a vigorous game of gopher.  He even let me clean out his ears. He was enthused about the box with catnip, as usual, but oddly enough not that interested in the laser pointer today. I decided to hold off giving Lucille a walk until I knew her better and she'd be likely to be more comfortable with the whole idea. 

As I was leaving, three new cats arrived (see above). Lucee attacked one, reaching a paw through the bars of her cage and around the corner to do so, which was really uncalled for. In any case, she went back to Arlington; perhaps she'll have calmed down a bit by the time we see her next.

I know there were kittens that came in since last week, all of whom got adopted before I ever saw any of them: glad they found homes so quickly. I've lost track whether Felicity got adopted or is on sick leave with the rest.* 

Really hoping that Apollo finds a home soon. The stories of him climbing into a carrier and then into a shopping basket show how badly he wants to go to a home of his own. 

And finally, we had a milestone: one of the cats when out for a walk (either last week or maybe the week before) jumped to the top of the cabinet outside the cat-room, across from the manager's office. He or she then walked over to the snack machines and back before jumping down again. Unfortunately my notes are in such disarray that I don't remember now who did this (Felicity? Louie?). But it was a milestone nonetheless: none of our other cats have ever done such a thing, or even tried, so far as I know. 

And that's a summary of what would have been six weeks' worth of cat reports.

--John R. 

*update: I've now been reminded that FELICITY got adopted; good news for a sweet little cat. Thanks Erin.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Very English Voice (Lord David Cecil)

So, earlier this month I managed to find a recording of Lord David Cecil's voice. I'd been searching for this for years, sure that there must be some snippet somewhere on the BBC, but never turned up a clip until now, thanks to a link within a link passed along to me by Marjorie Burns, who'd learned of it John Garth.

The reason I've wanted to find this is that Kingsley Amis, in his MEMOIRS, describes Cecil's voice as if it were only one step up from the wah-wah-wah of adults in PEANUTS. That didn't fit at all with my own recollection, the one time I spoke to Cecil. I'd arranged a meeting with him when I was in England for my 1985 research trip, the one in which (almost) everything went wrong, but when I phoned to fix the day, he told me his whole household was strickened with the flu and he had to cancel our get-together. And since he died the following year, before my next (1987) trip, I never did get to see him, to my regret.

This being the case, I wish I had a better memory of that one phone call, but I cdn't take notes because I had to keep feeding coins into the pay phone (my memory is that I'd cashed in five or ten pounds worth and blew through it all), and the other because I was marvelling at his voice, which I thought the most beautiful voice I'd ever heard. I didn't know there were people who actually talked like this.

Which made it all the more annoying that I cdn't, afterwards, remember just what it'd been like. I have a good memory for music but a bad memory for voices (maybe somehow linked to the face-blindness; I don't know). But when I read Amis's vicious little account, I was certain it didn't at all represent what I'd heard.

Here's how Amis in his MEMOIRS (which he largely used to settle old scores) describes Cecil lecturing:

Laze . . . laz and gentlemen, when we say a man looks like a poet . . . dough mean . . . looks like Chauthah . . . dough mean . . . looks like Dvyden . . . dough mean . . . looks like Theckthpyum (or something else barely recognizable as 'Shakespeare') . . . Mean looks like Shelley (pronounced 'Thellem' or thereabouts). Matthew Arnold (then Prestissimo) called Shelley beautiful ineffectual angel Matthew Arnold had face (rallentando) like a horth. But my subject this morning is not the poet Shelley. Jane . . . Austen . . . '
(Amis, MEMOIRS [1991], 101)* 

Amis also adds that Cecil's lectures were popular with women (apparently another black mark against him in Amis's reckoning), that he had pseudo-homosexual mannerisms without actually being gay, that he took offense easily and held grudges (which seems to be more aptly a self-description of Amis himself). In fact, he was nothing more nor less than 'a caricature of an Oxford don'.

It's easy to miss in all this that Cecil was one of the finest biographers of his generation, author of the best book on Jane Austen I've ever read. On the one hand he was linked to Bloomsbury by having married the daughter of Desmond MacCarthy, one of the core members of 'Old Bloomsbury'.** On the other, he was a champion of aesthetics at a time when literature was supposed to be judged by its social worth and contribution to various agendas. In the latter role he was cast by the vitriolic F. R. Leavis of Cambridge (one of the few critics and teachers whose main focus was to actively discourage students from reading books***) as the representation of all that was wrong in English academia.  Leavis's mania about Cecil was so marked a feature of Leavis's books that it plays a major part in the chapter devoted to Leavis in Frederick C. Crews' brilliant parody of mid-century schools of literary criticism, THE POOH PERPLEX [1963]: "Another Book to Cross Off Your List" by 'Simon Lacerous' (=Leavis), in which Cecil is represented by the figure 'Lord Wendell Dovetail'.

Here's how Amis ranks Cecil compared with his fellow Inklings, Lewis and Tolkien:

lecturers at Oxford . . . could be divided into the hard and the soft . . . The hard men gave you information, usually about language. Old and Middle English, strong verbs, vowel shifts and fearful old poems like The Dream of the Rood and The Owl and the Nightingale, and what they gave you was likely to reappear in the relevant parts of the final examination. The hardest lecturer I ever heard, and the worst technically, in delivery and so on, was J. R. R. Tolkien, but you sat through him because his explanation of the anomalous form 'hraergtrafum' was likely to be called for as the answer to a 'gobbet' on the paper. The soft men offered you civilised discourse with perhaps some critical interpretation and ideas about the past. The only reputable hard-soft merchant was C. S. Lewis, also the best lecturer I ever heard . . .  Lord David . . . was the softest of the soft, and undergraduates set on getting good degrees . . . tended to give him a short trial followed by a prolonged go-by' [Amis. 102]

Quite apart from his books, which won him his professorship in 1948****, he belonged to a distinguished family (something I suspect English readers are far more aware of than Americans like myself. His father had been in Churchill's cabinet and his grandfather Prime Minister. This tradition of high office went all the way back to Elizabethan days, when Lord Burleigh and Lord Cecil had been Elizabeth I's most trusted advisors.  Within Oxford, he was a leading figure among those advocating that literature had not ended in 1830, the cut-off date of Oxford's official syllabus, but might reasonably be expanded to included the Victorian era -- a viewpoint about which Tolkien was ambivalent (originally opposed, but gradually coming to favor later on) but CSL fervently opposed.

As for his voice, now that I can finally listen to it again and judge for myself, I find that it resembles neither the beautiful quintessentially English voice I remembered nor the vicious parody of Amis. What I didn't remember was the bit of a lisp, which makes him sound a bit like Bertie Wooster. What I heard instead was the deep, rich voice beneath it. Here's the link:

--John R.

current reading: "Old Bloomsbury" by Virginia Woolf

*N.B. that Amis credits this little snippet to Inkling John Wain. The figures he's talking about in the opening lines are Chaucer ('Chauthah') and Dryden ('Dvyden').

**whose members included the Stephen sisters (Vanessa Stephen Bell and Virginia Stephen Woolf), Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, Desmond MacCarthy, Clive Bell, and possibly two or three others, like Saxon Sydney-Turner, Maynard Keynes, and Roger Frye.

***that is, books of which Leavis did not approve -- which over time came to include all but five or six novelists: Austen, Eliot, James, Conrad, and above all D. H. Lawrence

****behind Wrenn, far behind Tolkien, but ahead of Lewis and Coghill

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Le Guin is Eloquent

So, a while back I bought a book of letters, chosen to show a wide array of interesting people from unusual or unexpected or revealing points of view. Seems like the person who put that together has done a follow-up volume, some samples from which can be found here:

The standout from this latest batch is the first one: Ursula K. Le Guin declining to provide a Foreword for an anthology of stories on the basis that doing so wd make her the only woman to appear in the volume. Her short letter is a masterpiece of economy, making her point politely, forcefully, and memorably.

There's a reason she's always ranked as one of the greats.

--John R.

In Moderation

So, recently spam has been showing up here in the comments. I've taken several steps to block it, to no avail. So for the time being I'm moderating comments to see if that solves the problem. Sorry for what will probably be a slight delay between yr posting a comment and its appearing on the blog.

--John R.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Witwer's GYGAX

So, I've now gotten a copy, and read, Michael Witwer's new biography of Gary Gygax, co-creator of D&D and (co)founder of TSR: EMPIRE OF IMAGINATION: GARY GYGAX AND THE BIRTH OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (2015).

This is clearly intended as a Gygax-friendly book, based on extensive interviews with his wives and children. It tries to be even-handed about some things (Gygax and Arneson's respective contributions to D&D) while not even bothering to try on others (the events leading up to Gygax's loss of control over TSR, Gygax's post-TSR career), where it simply presents Gygax's point of view. It's v. readable, but the journalistic style, complete with invented conversations, detracts from any sense that it's giving anything resembling an authoritative account -- for that, you'd have to go to Jon Peterson's work (PLAYING AT THE WORLD, "Ambush at Sheridan Springs", et al).

Best thing: the endpapers and cover art.

We're always told not to judge a book by its cover (something most of us nonetheless do all the time), but in this case the endpapers and cover are by far my favorite part. The endpapers are a map of Lake Geneva with Gygax and TSR sites identified, done by an old-school TSR employee (Stephen D. Sullivan), all on a square grid and in the non-repo blue so familiar to gamers of my generation. The map cd serve as the basis for a good TSR walking tour of Lake Geneva; I know it helped me sort out the relative locations of some TSR sites that were before my time.

As for the cover, it's a clever parody/homage/reimagining of the cover to UNEARTHED ARCANA (1985), painted by the same artist who did the original thirty years earlier, Jeff Easley (one of the Big Four of the early eighties: Parkinson and Elmore and Easley and Caldwell).

Things I learned: Reading this book, I was struck by how young everyone was. Gygax was thirtysomething when he organized the first GenCon, as opposed to Mike Carr, who was sixteen when he ran FIGHT IN THE SKIES there at GenCon I, or Rob Kuntz, who was 14 when he joined Gygax's wargaming group. Arneson himself a college student of twenty-one when he met and began collaborating w. Gygax.
One gets the impression, fairly or not, that the only other adult in the room was Don Kaye, Gygax's partner in founding TSR.

Things I Want to Know: was the term "role-playing game" really invented in a 1976 ad for TUNNELS & TROLLS as a way to describe a D&D-like game without using the words "dungeons" or "dragons"?  (p. 128)

Things he Got Wrong: Witwer twice states that 2nd Edition AD&D (1989ff) was a financial flop (p. 197, 236), saying that sales fell off by 50% when it was released. This is simply wrong. Artistically, as a piece of game design, it was a lesser offspring of 1st edition AD&D. But financially it was everything TSR cd have hoped: it sold like hotcakes and revitalized the company. Similarly, he writes that SPELLFIRE and DRAGON DICE were expensive flops, which is half-true: SPELLFIRE made money hands over fists, while DRAGON DICE lost it in heaps.*

On the whole, I enjoyed reading this book, though I initially skipped over the early chapters, before he'd done anything interesting, and only came back and read about his childhood after I'd read the rest of the book. It's entertaining, and I learned things I didn't know that helped me put together my mental map of who came on when among the early TSR folk. But I think the author's decision to fill the book with imagined conversations was a real mistake: offputting. 

The nadir of this sort of thing comes in Gygax's death scene:

On Tuesday, March 4, 2008, a dark-robed figure entered Gary's bedroom. Gary was immediately startled and could do nothing but pull the covers up to his face. The figure stood motionless at the foot of Gary's bed for several moments, its face shrouded in darkness.

Gary tried to shout for help, but the sheer terror of the moment prevented his vocal chords from producing anything more than a whisper.

The form slowly raised its arm and unfurled a bony finger toward the corner of the room, illuminating a chess board that hadn't been there previously.

"Wanna play?" said a raspy voice that chilled Gary to the bone.

Gary studied the figure in disbelief and then glanced at the stately chess set. It really was a nice set. Gary cleared his throat and sat up against the bed's headboard.

"Well . . . " said Gary, matter-of-factly, "I never could say no to a good game of chess."

Gary was outmatched that day, just as he knew he would be, and the game was lost.

The legendary Gary Gygax had passed away. But his newest adventure had just begun . . .

(p. 218)

Ingmar Bergman he ain't.

Reading this book made me wish someone would extend the Peterson treatment to the years 1980-1995, where all the good work at TSR tends to get ignored in accounts of both the company and that era in roleplaying games.

current reading: MEN & MAGIC (1st ed D&D, booklet #1)

*actually, DRAGON DICE initially did great, but as the original stock was selling out Management made the bad decision to re-order in vast quantities and have the new stock shipped from China by the fastest, most expensive method available. Only to have that new stock arrive just as the game's brief fad was fading. Alas. --John R.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Needed: a copy of TOLKIEN STUDIES volume X (2013)

So, one of the things I've discovered as I've been getting the shelves in my office in order is that I seem to have misplaced my copy of TOLKIEN STUDIES volume 10. After a good deal of looking I have reluctantly concluded that it's not in any of the places where I might expect it and at this point might not turn up for the foreseeable future. Which means I really ought to get a replacement copy so as to have it with the other volumes on my shelf. 
   To my surprise, buying a recent copy of this prestigious journal is harder than I wd have thought. The publisher doesn't have it. Amazon doesn't have it. Abebooks and ebay don't seem to have it. So I thought I'd put out an appeal: does anyone have a spare copy of TOLKIEN STUDIES volume X (2013) they'd be willing to part with? I have duplicate (contributor's) copies of Vol. VI (2009) and VII (2010, the Kullervo issue) if anyone wd like to trade.
   If so, let me know.

--John R.

current reading: EMPIRE OF IMAGINATION, the new biography of Gary Gygax

UPDATE: Copy found! Thanks to NFB Elf for the tip. -- JDR

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Gygax Biography is Out

So, I've been waiting for the copy I ordered of the new biography of Gary Gygax, (co)creator of D&D, to arrive in the mail, only to find it today on the shelves at the friendly neighborhood Barnes & Noble.  At a quick glance it looks chatty and informative, with a useful timeline and listing of E.G.G.'s publications (rulesbooks and modules; don't think it included his many articles and interviews*)

Here's a link to a brief discussion of the book: EMPIRE OF IMAGINATION: GARY GYGAX AND THE BIRTH OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS,  by Michael Witwer.

--John R.

*perhaps a Gygax bibliography wd be a gd project for someone else out there. Though I suspect Jon Peterson has probably already done all the work during the research for his own opus.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Best Tolkien Interview, Ever

So, sometimes I belatedly discover great things out there on the web.

In this case, it's thanks to Marjorie Burns passing along to me something she'd learned from John Garth, that Tolkien's 1965 radio interview with Denis Gueroult is available online.* Not only that, but this recording is much fuller than the one I currently have, the one issued on an old cassette by AudioForum back in the 80s or early 90s. That one was about thirty minutes in length;** this new one is thirty-nine, so about a quarter of it is new material.

I think this is by far the best interview Tolkien ever gave. It's one of only two that extends to a good length (the other being the Henry Resnik interview, as printed in NIEKAS) and the only one in which the interviewer had both done his homework and clearly carefully prepared for the interview. Just as importantly, Gueroult was not been content with extracting from Tolkien a few disconnected soundbite but asked follow-up questions and pressed Tolkien to expand upon his answers. Would that we had a half-dozen interviews like this. Instead we have only one, but what a treasure it is. It's rare that I write any article on Tolkien in which I do not quote from this interview at some point.

Here's the link:

--John R.
current reading: ibid.

*and apparently has been since April. I will say, in my defense, that this has been a really busy year.

**with an interview with Basil Bunting on the back

UPDATE: I've substituted the correct link, for Tolkien, in place of the one on Lord David Cecil (which belongs to a pending post instead). Thanks to Magister for the corrective.  --JDR

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Good Day for Marquette

So, one of the interesting things that happened when the pope was over here on his American visit the week before last was his naming of four great Americans he personally admired: Abraham Lincoln, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr, Thomas Merton, and Dorothy Day.

Now, of these four, two are universally famous and the third pretty well known: our most popular president, a martyr to civil rights, and an icon in mid-century Catholicism. But the fourth, Dorothy Day, is less well known, esp. to a southern Presbyterian like myself.

I knew about her from the Marquette Archives. Two of their most extensive collections, which cd not be more different, are J. R. R. Tolkien's manuscripts* and Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker papers.**  And so just by osmosis I came to know a bit about her in a general way. And I've come to realize there's much to admire: she was a pacifist and worker for social justice, someone who took quite literally the gospel injunctions to love thy neighbor, feed the poor, et al. I was also bemused, within the last year or so, to learn that there's both a movement to declare her a saint and an opposition movement opposing her canonization.

Clearly, at any rate, someone it'd be worthwhile to find out more about.

Here's the link.

--John R

current reading: IDYLLS OF THE KING, by Tennyson (tedious), STRIKE THE BLOOD (young adult 'light novel').


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Another RPG Purge and a disgruntled cat

First, the photo.

Note the disgruntled cat (not one of ours) as he surveys the boxes of old rpgs.

Next, the explanation.

On the way back from my most recent trip, I was thinking of getting back to work on various projects once we got home. I'd made a stab at straightening my desk before we left and now began to think of ways I could free up some space in my office. My shelves are drowning in books and the area around my desk in piles of papers and stacks of books, which makes finding what I need at any given moment more difficult than it need be. The only solution was to move some stuff out of my office to make room. So I decided, partly inspired by the example of my father-in-law and also of some friends in decluttering, that it was time to let go of a lot of the old rpgs I never play (or, in some case, have never played). This included all of MERP (for which I found a good home) but also other games like JAMES BOND 007 (for which I kept only the boxed set, giving away all the supplements), CHILL (likewise), DOCTOR WHO (likewise), EVERWAY (plus its three supplements), EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE / TEKUMEL,* et al.  The only things I kept everything of from all the games kept in my office were (1) all the AD&D/D&D stuff (of course),** (2) all the CALL OF CTHLUHU, and (3) all the PENDRAGON.

By now being on something of a role, I next tackled the old TSR games on the shelves down in the box room. Aside from the original Marvel Superhero Game (which felt prey to water damage long ago) and the WotC Star Wars game (which I never had any interest in), I had pretty much all the rpgs TSR had put out before and during my time with them. So out the door went AMAZING ENGINE (except for the two that I worked on), all of ALTERNITY (including DARK MATTER), BUCK ROGERS (both IN THE 25TH CENTURY and HIGH ADVENTURE), CONAN (by Zeb Cook!), DUNE, INDIANA JONES (all), DRAGONQUEST, DRAGONLANCE SAGA SYSTEM, MARVEL SAGA SYSTEM, all of d20MODERN, all of STAR FRONTIERS; even BULLWINKLE and POKEMON JR.  The only things I kept were all of GANGBUSTERS, all of BOOT HILL, all of the original TOP SECRET (getting rid TOP SECRET / SI), and the original GAMMA WORLD box and first two modules.  Whew.

All these have now found new homes --- quite a bit of it with a friend whose cat, pictured above, was displeased that his owner's attention was on the new games and not said cat.

Next up, it's time to purge those d20 shelves. Which will take a deal of sorting.

Being both a collector and something of a horder, I hate to see all this go, but it's a good feeling to have more shelves to work with. And it'll be worth it to have what remains be so much more accessible and to have my office in much better shape.

--John R.

*I kept only the original 1975 EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE boxed set, the much later T.O.M.E. boxed set, and the one JUDGE'S GUILD adventure for EPT (i.e., three out of thirteen items).

**virtually everything from 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th edition, as well as virtually everything from D&D that predated or was parallel with AD&D.