Upcoming Gamenight / Tweetup

Based on the success of the first one, the Seattle Gamenight / Tweetup has officially become A Thing, and will henceforth be held on the last Friday of each month.

For the next, February 28, I have reserved a room at Cafe Mox, Seattle’s premiere game parlour. The space only holds 10, so please RSVP via Twitter or email if you intend to join; if we get > 10, we will relocate.

On March 28 we are back at The Elysian, for a gamenight featuring Special Guest Star @ansate. Yay!

And a week later, Saturday April 5th, it is International Tabletop Day. I have no plans as of yet, but will cook up something in observation of the event. Stay tuned.

Google Calendar addresses:    :


Seattle Gamenight / Tweetup

Come join me, royalbacon, hellbox and more on Thursday, January 30th at the Elysian on Capitol Hill for an impromptu gamenight / tweetup. The festivities will begin around 6 PM, and I will come armed with:

Plus: The Resistance, Love Letter, King of Tokyo, and your requests.

Come to play, or just say hello.

Buyer Beware

If you and I share drinks or dinner or a movie or whatever, and you offer to pick up the check, I will accept without protest.

This is not The Seattle Way™, which mandates a minimum of seven “oh no, I’ll get this one / oh no, I insist” volleys between the parties, and allows for escalation all the way up to the point where credit cards are slapped out of hands and cash is surreptitiously slipped into purses. It is because of this expectation, my enthusiastic “heck yeah you can pay for it!” is often met with a moment of perplexed silence.

Frankly, I think you should appreciate the fact that I skip the Pacific Northwest social convention and shave an hour and a half off our our departure time. Isn’t that ultimately worth the price of my three IPAs and black bean burger?

Regardless: you have been warned.

Tabletop Day Seattle

Wil Wheaton and the fine folks at Geek and Sundry have declared March 30 to be Tabletop Day.

The Tabletop website has a map of events, including many in Seattle, but I’m going to list them here as well for convenience. I’ll keep this post updated as a receive new information.

  • Blue Highway Games (Queen Anne): No specifics yet, but “Board Game Challenge” events are being created for 03/30. [Event link]
  • Cafe Mox (Ballard): The International TableTop Extravaganza! It will be going ALL DAY and will have some pretty great Guests, including Mike Selinker (Loneshark Games), Paul Peterson (Smash-Up, Guillotine, etc.), James Ernest (Cheapass Games), Chris Dupois (Wizards of the Coast), NPC Aaron & NPC Chris (NPCCast), Flying Frog Games (Last Night On Earth, Fortune and Glory, etc.), Passport Games (Trajan, Tokaido, Kalua), Privateer Press, and more. [Event link]
  • Dawgsled Events (Downtown): “From 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, we will have the run of the entire 76th floor (that’s the top!) of the Columbia Tower. There will be games, games and more games! We’ll also have live streaming of the main Table Top Day event in Los Angeles. General admission tickets currently cost $15; your admission gets you into the event and gets you a catered lunch. The price of drinks is not included, but drinks are available for purchase. Because there will be alcoholic beverages available, this event is for gamers 21 and older.” [Event Link]
  • Gamma Ray Games (Capitol Hill):

    They do indeed. Mandy McGee and Jason “Kantrip” Calhoun of Extollere will host the festivities. [Event link]

  • Wayward Coffeehouse (Roosevelt): “We have reserved blocks of time for gaming groups, and several are already set to play at Wayward on Tabletop Day. We have tables that can accommodate parties from 2-10, and we encourage groups can reserve a table in advance. We especially are hoping for more groups who want to play in the morning as the afternoon is quickly filling up! Individuals who don’t have a group to play with can show up and join something in progress. We have live music that night, 8-10 pm, but its a geeky filk music performer (Hello, The Future) to fit in with the day! To request a table reservation please email wayward@waywardcoffee.com with the date (March 30th), number of people, start and end time, and name of the gaming group.”
  • Burlesque Board Games (First Hill): “Are you a burlesque performer, producer or fan? Do you like board games? Do you want to get all sparkly and play board games with other burlesque performers, producers and fans? Then come to Burlesque Board Games on International TableTop Day! Presented by Unnatural Redhead Productions, Smooches and Science Presents, and GeekGirlCon.” [Event link]
  • Uncle Games (Eastside): “Board Game party featuring local gaming celebrities and publishers! 3:00pm until 11:45pm.” [Event link Bellevue] [Event link Redmond]
  • Norwescon 36 (Sea-Tac): Norwescon is the Pacific Northwest’s Premiere Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention and one of the largest regional Science Fiction and Fantasy conventions in the United States. Norwescon 36 will offer tons of opportunities to get your game on, and is proud to be an official event site for International TableTopDay on Saturday, March 30th![Event link]
  • Games at Top Pot Doughnuts (Renton): “We are a small gaming group, and the cafe we normally play at every couple of weeks, Top Pot Doughnuts at the Renton Landing, has given us the go-ahead to have the event there. It’s a decent-sized cafe that can host 30 or so people inside, and probably 10 more outside. They’re always great to us when we’re there, so please make sure to purchase drinks and doughnuts and sandwiches from them while you’re there playing games.” [Event link]
  • Fantasium Comics & Games (Federal Way): “We will be hosting a variety of game demos as well as providing a library of games for you to play.” [Event link]

More events as I learn of them.

I will be out and about that day, though I don’t yet know where. If you are interested in gaming with me — and perhaps receiving a tutorial on one of the games you’ve purchased through my Good Gift Game Guides — let me know in the comments, by email, or via Twitter, and I’ll keep you in the loop.

A Head for Numbers

Over at Que Sera Sera, Sarah Brown has a post about the misconceptions that people (including myself) had as children. Be sure to read through the comments, which include such gems as, “My husband believed (still believes?) that limes are unripened lemons”.

Also in the comments are a few instances of readers coming to shocking realizations, such as the woman who discovers that her long-held belief that Alaska is an island (because of its placement on US maps) is erroneous.

That reminded me of an incident in my late 20s. I had lived in Washington State nearly all of my life, and driven its roads innumerable times. One afternoon I was driving home from the airport, having picked up a friend who was making her first visit to the state.

“I love your State Highway signs,” my friend remarked as we passed one. I thought this was an odd thing to find charming, and asked her to clarify. “I like how the number is printed on a silhouette of George Washington,” she replied.

I had no idea what she was talking about. It wasn’t until we approached another of the black and white signs that I could validate her observation.

“You never knew that?” she asked. “What did you think the white thing was?”

I shrugged. “It’s always been the State Highway Background Shape to me.”

Seattle Shows

In January I broke my annual New Year’s Resolution to forego resolutions, and decided to see at least one music show a month in 2012. And unlike the resolutions I actually document, this one is going swell. Fingers crossed that this post don’t jinx it.

My first, Fitz & the Tantrums at the Showbox on 01/20, is what convinced me to make music a priority this year. The lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick, reminiscent of David Byrne in both appearance and intensity, is a seemingly bottomless well of energy and enthusiasm. And the opening act, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., was fantastic as well.

In February I saw Veronica Falls, who sound like my long-time favorite Heavenly but with all the sunny optimism replaced by dirge. (I like dirgy music, so that’s a rave.) The real revelation of the night, though, was opener Bleached, who blew the doors off the joint. Between the two I was transported back to my days as an Evergreen State College slacker in the early 90s, catching Riot Grrl bands in downtown Olympia. Ah, youth.

Bleached, “Electric Chair”. Daaaamn.

Last month I attended the show of the lovely Lomolo. And a few days later I finally saw Nada Surf, a band of which I have been a fan for some 20 years. I enjoy Nada Surf’s new album The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy so much that I actually bought the CD, to play in my car. A CD! Remember those? Well I own one, again.

Not bad for an old square, eh? And I already have April in the bag. Last Tuesday I was a guest at an exclusive performance by The Lumineers, which you can watch on the Chase Jarvis website. And last night I had the great fortune to see Typhoon–or, at any rate, as many members thereof that could fit onto the Tractor Tavern stage (11 of 13).

That’s me clapping at 1:48. I am helping the band!!

Honestly, this has been one of the easiest projects ever. My problem, if any, has not been finding shows I want to attend, but deciding from among the plethora of great options this city has to offer.

Here are some that I have resolved to attend in the coming weeks.

First Aid Kit, April 11 at the Crocodile Cafe: I am entranced by First Aid Kit’s first single Emmylou, and listened to it incessantly for a week and a half after its release. First Aid Kit adds compelling evidence to my hypothesis that I am a total sucker for Swedish bands.

M83, April 26 at the Paramount Theater: “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” clocked in at #6 on my list of Favorite Albums of 2011, and has only risen in my estimation since. Love that frog song!

Washed Out, May 2 at the The Neptune: The only song by this band I have heard is Amor Fati, and yet that alone has the show on my radar. It’s either going to be them or The Jezabels, who play The Crocodile the following evening. Decisions, decisions … Update I just listened to Washed Out’s “Within and Without” and The Jezabels’ “Prisoner” back-to-back, and it was The Jezabels by a landslide.

Destroyer, June 3 at the Showbox: “Kaput” is another from my list of 2011 favorite albums (#2!), and I cannot wait to see these guys (or, rather, this guy, Dan Bejar) live.

Lomolo (again), June 29 at the Columbia City Theater: I bought a ticket to Lemolo’s CD Release Party as soon as it was announced, as a way of showing support for a band I have long enjoyed; apparently I am not alone in my enthusiasm though, because the show sold out about an hour later. Fear not: Lemolo added a second release party for the following day, the tickets for which go on sale Monday, April 9th. I will send out a reminder that morning via Twitter.

Lemolo, “On Again, Off Again”.

That’s just a fraction of the many shows I have my eye on. I mostly track these via Songkick, which auto updates my Upcoming Seattle Shows Google Calendar as new concerts are added. I also maintain a Spotify playlist, which you can find here. Drop me a line if you intend to catch any of these, or if there’s something you think I should add to my list.

Putting the I in Story

I worked as a customer service rep at Amazon in the late 90s, at the same time as Mike Daisey. I don’t think he and I ever interacted one-on-one, but I knew who he was, saw him around the ol’ cube farm, and received the emails he periodically sent to the department, alerting us to upcoming performances by his improv group.

After he left Amazon, Daisey created a one-man show called “21 Dog Years”, which documented his zany adventures with the company. A book soon followed, and I have harbored a petty grudge against him ever since. He had the initiative to do the thing we’d all fantasized about (i.e., turn our experience with Amazon into a book deal), and that made me resentful. You know how that goes (or don’t, and are a better person than I).

A lot of my coworkers saw “21 Dog Years”, and most enjoyed it. Some thought it was great. But the consensus was that it was “truthy” at best, a slurry of his actual experiences, exaggeration for comedic effect, some good stories he’d heard from others cast into the first person, and maybe a little bunkum.

In 2001 when he spoke about the show with the Seattle Weekly (which was on a weird anti-Amazon jihad at the time), the interview contained this exchange:

Seattle Weekly: How much did you really deal with Jeff, and have you heard anything from former co-workers about his reaction to the show?

Daisey: I saw Jeff all the time, almost every day.

I worked like 100 meters from Daisey, and saw Bezo maybe three times in as many years. Like I said: truthy.

In the context of an interview, “I saw Jeff all the time” is a lie, plain and simple. But if Daisey said the same thing on stage as part of “21 Dog Years”, I wouldn’t have objected. I guess I agree with Daisey when he says that the tools of theater are different than the tools of journalism.

And although I and others were irritated at some of the “facts” Daisey got wrong in “21 Dog Years”, it seemed okay that the monologue took liberties with the truth, even if he didn’t state as much. After all, no one thought that all of the workplace events recounted by David Sedaris in “Santaland Dairies” were literally true, and that story was everywhere. Heck, it had even appeared on everyone’s favorite radio show, “This American Life”.

* * *

So where did Daisey go wrong with this whole Foxconn debacle?

For me, the key clue comes not from the This American Life Retraction episode (although there are plenty of damning moments in there), but from a February appearance Daisey made on “Real Time with Bill Maher”. It’s at the two minute, 35 seconds mark of this Youtube clip:

Daisey: People work on that line tirelessly, hour after hour until they drop. I met people who were–

Maher: Until they drop?

Daisey They drop. A worker at Foxconn died after working a 34 hour shift …

And here there’s the slightest of pauses, as if Daisey has reached the end of the statement. But then he adds, almost mechanically:

Daisey: .. while I was in China.

A worker did indeed die after a 34 hour shift. But the truth of this fact isn’t enough for Daisey; he has to then attach to it some connection, however tenuous, to himself. A Chinese man didn’t just die; he died while Daisey was in China.

Of course if Daisey wasn’t actually in China at the time of the death, his statement, as a whole, becomes false. And this is what appears to have happened with a lot of the “facts” of the Foxconn story, facts that were true until Daisey digitally inserted himself into the narrative. Foxconn has employed underage workers (true), but Daisey didn’t meet five of them on his first day. Workers were poisoned by n-Hexane (true), but Daisey didn’t meet them either. Someone Daisey spoke with had a “ruined hand” (true, according to the interpreter), but the man never worked at Foxconn (the company Daisey was specifically investigating). Even the lie that the Foxconn guards had guns is only interesting in juxtaposition to the picture of a rogue American in Hawaiian shirt, boldly striding toward the gates of the factory.

It’s tempting to ascribe this to a kind of megalomania on the part of Daisey, to speculate that he lives in a world where everything must ultimately be about him. But speaking as someone who has dabbled in storytelling a bit, I can tell you that there is another explanation.

The easiest way to make a story engaging is to personalize it, to say “this is something that happened to me”. Everyone knows this on some level. Urban legends happen to “a friend of a friend” because, just by adding that phrase, you have made the story twice as interesting as one that happened to someone to whom you have no link at all. And be honest: would you even have read this post if I hadn’t opened with my personal connection with Daisey?

“I’m not going to say that I didn’t take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard,” Daisey says in the Retraction episode. Well, personalization is the ultimate shortcut from uninteresting fact to gripping yarn. It is like fairy dust for storytellers: you sprinkle it on your anecdotes, and they sparkle.

It’s a kind of magic, to borrow a phrase. And it is very, very seductive.

* * *

One last observation.

The Retraction episode of This America Life is some of the most gripping radio I’ve ever heard. But you know what would have made it even more interesting? If Rob Schmitz, the reporter from Marketplace who ruthlessly grilled Daisey, had done so with Ira Glass as well. “You said that when Daisey didn’t provide contact info for his translator, you should have killed the show. And yet you didn’t. Why?”

It’s an All-Skate

Sunday afternoon I took Squig to Skate King.

I need not describe the venue to anyone raised in this area, as they already have a perfect mental picture of the joint throbbing in their forebrain. (It looks pretty much exactly as you remember it by the way, minus the Tempest machine.) For the rest: SK is a roller rink which, in the 70’s and 80’s, was thee place for get-togethers of all kinds: birthdays, school functions, funerals, etc. Judging from yesterday’s crowd its popularity remains largely undiminished, even if its webpage has not been updated since its creation in ’73.

This was my first time at SK since … well, let’s put it this way: the last time I was there, “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood was in the top 40. I am not just picking a arbitrary song to represent the early eighties, but actually recall this being played at a school-sponsored “Skate Party” I attended. I distinctly remember the horrified expression on the faces of parents, when the music was interrupted by spraying noises and all the seventh-graders in the rink joined Frankie in yelling “Come!!” (True story.)

Squig, on the other hands, had never worn roller skate before. If you are a parent and have not yet put your child on wheels, you need to do so immediately because it is high-larious. I seriously could not stop laughing at my only begotten son. It was as if his legs ended into two tiny terriers that were just running around and round in circles, completely independent of one another.

By the end of the hour he could stand by himself long enough for a picture to be taken, so long as he did not move or respirate or blink.

(I do not know why he looks like a level 3 lich in this photo.)

Squig was not alone in his roller-ineptitude; Skate King is like the Large Hadron Collider, with nine-year-olds in the role of particles. Imagine a live production of America’s Funniest Home Videos and you are 80% there.

Anyway, we had a good time. Well I did, at least. It was refreshing to find a place in Seattle where you can sing along to Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” at the top of your lungs without having to defend your knowledge of the lyrics.

Fear of a White Planet

It snowed Monday morning, so local TV news anchors spent yesterday chugging Red Bulls in preparation for their annual “HOLY SHITTIN’ PENGUINS SEATTLE SNOWMAGEDDON ALERT UPDATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” show. By the time the evening broadcast rolled around, you’d think the powdery white stuff falling from the sky was weaponized anthrax.

In their defense, Seattle does tend to seize up when it gets an inch of snow. Like, a single cubic inch of snow, distributed across the entire city. In cases like yesterday, where so much snow fell that things turned perceptively white, people go nuts. Everyone adheres to their Emergency Snow Escape Plan, which is to immediately drive to the steepest hill in their neighborhood and attempt to a- or descend it, preferably in a 1998 Pontiac Bonneville lacking chains.

As you can see, the population of the Pacific Northwest is descended from a distinct subspecies of homo sapient completely lacking in the ability to adapt. We like our Northwest pacific; any perturbations and we’re completely hosed.

At least the weathermen are happy, as they get to dust off the word “inclement” and use it in every other sentence. Those of us unschooled in the intricacies of metrology, on the other hand, describe the weather in slightly different terms: totally effing awesome.

Update: After an hour of looking for my car keys, I realized that they must have fallen out of my pocket while sledding. Why didn’t I seal myself into my home with duct tape, as advised?

Update 2: Please add the following to the list of things that are totally effing awesome: people.

Dave Niehaus, 1935-2010

Seattle residents have the pennant at half-staff today, after the death of local legend Dave Niehaus. Dave was the color commentator for the Seattle Mariners from its inception in 1977 until … well, until yesterday, pretty much.

You may not care about baseball. But if you lived here, you’d have cared about Dave Niehaus. I don’t, and I did. He was that kind of guy.

Here’s a typical Dave Niehaus moment, that I excerpted in 2002:

Co-announcer Rick Rizz: We just got word that White Sox are leading the Royals 14-0 in the eighth inning.

Niehaus: I’ve been following that game. The White Sox need only three more runs to tie the record for the most lopsided shutout in the history of baseball.

Rizz: Man, I wonder what the scorecard looks like for that one.

Niehaus: I’ve seen it, and it’s a mess. The turning point in that game was the National Anthem.

There’s so much Dave in that exchange. He’s following one baseball game while narrating another. (That the dude liked baseball was well beyond dispute.) He had some esoteric but fascinating fact queued up and ready to roll. And even after 25 years of commentary, he could still pony up a witticism you’d never heard before.

For fair-weather baseball fans (and that includes me; sorry, dad), Dave was about as essential to the game as the bats. It’s like: have you ever seen a movie in a crowded theater and found yourself swept up in the collective sentiment, enjoying the hell out of it even while recognizing that it wouldn’t usually be your cup of tea? For me, that’s what watching a Mariner’s game was when Dave was announcing. He had a full-cinema quantity of enthusiasm for the game, and it was crazy infectious. When he declared a play “amazing”, your jaw dropped. When he got excited, you leaped from your chair. Listening to Dave call a game was like watching an appreciative kid open Christmas presents for three straight hours.

Dave was one of very few sports constants around here in the last 30 years: the Kingdome got blow’d up, the Sonics left town, people started caring about the Sounders. But Dave was as dependable as rain on the weekend.

Hell, he was one of the few Seattle constants, period. The loss of the Space Needle from the Seattle skyline would be felt no more keenly.

RIP Dave. Fly, fly away.