The Blue Room

From the Blue Desk . . . Social Media

2/6/14: I spend time each day using social media. In particular, my home online nowadays is basically Google+, though I'm also on Twitter (mainly in an effort to figure out what it's for) and Facebook (for family and friends, since I have a lot of relatives, in particular, for whom Facebook is the internet) and others.

I'm a writer. There are a lot of clichés about how social media is the writer's greatest time-sucking enemy: nature's most perfect writer-predator, slinking through our computers and consuming our productive time by distracting us with kittens and politics and recipes and match-three games. For my own part, I've concluded this isn't the case. For me, the danger of social media to my writing isn't that it distracts me. Honestly, it tends to just spackle in the quiet gaps where no productivity fits, decorating the moments where I wasn't going to be writing, anyway.

But the perfect predator has more than one way to hunt. For me, the danger of social media to my writing is that everything I write is, in part, commentary on something. Inevitably, this commentary is celebratory, frequently with a streak of satire.

An open secret: each of these celebrations begins as something more negative, as a rumination on something in the world I find sad, or frightening, or disappointing, or bland. My response to this kind of thinking then goes "Well, that does suck ... but I can celebrate the exceptions; I can celebrate the opposite; I can celebrate the awesome and at least do a little to shine the light on the good stuff in the face of the bad ... and flavor it with a streak of snark to make it cathartic and give it some bass to go with the treble." And when I settle in to write, that's exactly what I go in to do: to celebrate the stuff that rocks me in the good way, to provide an alternative the dismal noise of those things that make me Mr. Frowny Face. It helps that RPGs are just one of the best human activities ever devised and I love them with every ounce of my being. That makes the framework easy, even if the details can be grueling!

The danger of social media to me, then, is that on G+ or Twitter or wherever, commentary doesn't require the kind of work, consideration, development, testing, iteration and care that RPG work does (or, that RPG work ideally does, or at any rate that RPG work at Cumberland certainly does). On social media, I can just ... offer commentary. The problems are twofold:

First, as noted above, my need to comment typically begins someplace negative, and, through the design, development and writing process, is forged into something celebratory. On social media, it's more from-the-hip, so it's more likely to reflect that uncooked, fresh-from-the-curmudgeonly-garden vibe (the garden where I've been growing stuff since I was a grouchy old man at approximately age 9). So, I feel that I end up contributing negatively ... when my work is (by contrast, I hope) seen as a cheerful love-letter to all that's great about gaming.

Second, by scratching the need to comment, I've ... I've gone ahead and scratched it. Commentary offered. Commentary, commented. I've bled away a piece of my need to do so. And that need is what drives a large share of my writing.

So, the point is (well, the gelatin capsule containing the point is) social media isn't actually a time-suck for me.

So hey, there's that to celebrate.


1/24/14: Reminiscing about old jobs. I worked at a pool hall for a while, mostly just cleaning the tables: brushing the lint from the felt, polishing the brass corner-pieces, stuff like that. It was one of the few regular-job-type-jobs I ever enjoyed. I was writing a book at the time, too; one that never got published (another writer picked up the same assignment years later). I was rooming with a couple of construction workers named Sonny and Newt. Newt had once been shot in the head by a former roomie, and survived (though he could barely speak; his throat and jaw had been torn up by it). He'd often get drunk and come into my room while I was writing, put his finger to my head and pretend to shoot me, re-playing the event. Pshew. He was also some kind of Chess genius, and didn't seem to like any band except Deep Purple. Sonny was just Newt's less-alchoholic, less-Chess-playing buddy who hadn't been shot by anyone that I could tell.

It was then that I first played text-adventure games, and Rogue, on my little amber-monitor 8088 I kept on a cardboard box in the corner of my room. The pool-hall was an easy walk from there. The local second-run theater was, too, and we had a convenience store a few yards from our door, complete with a tiny but workable selection of rentable videos. The only thing about that setup that was unbearable was, it was no place to bring a girl. Sonny and Newt were not really what you'd call ideal wingmen. But I got a lot of writing done and I polished those pool-tables really well. Years later, Sandra and I would get married just a few blocks from all of that, so even the girl-stuff worked out just fine in the long run.

The Anything RPG, Take Two!

12/25/13: A little Christmas present to all my gamer-friends out there; my huggy little free RPG, Risus, celebrates 20 years this year, and the new edition is now live. Go snag it, grab some friends, and play a game (plus, tell everyone; please tell everyone)!

Happy Godless Bus Day!

10/21/13: Five years ago today, the Atheist Bus Campaign began, which ... well, I didn't even know about it then. But in time, it would bring me a really groovy pen-pal, and one of the most interesting epistolary friendships of my life. Hats off, glasses raised, and gentle nods of friendship directed across the pond. Cheers.

Fan Fiction

8/21/13: Lots of spiffs and additions around the whole site lately, but the largest batch of new stuff is over in the Fan Archives on Blue Lamp Road, where there are eight new short stories, the result of a Summer Short-Fiction Contest held for Uresia enthusiasts. I was kind of blown away that it actually worked out ... I'm always floating random little contests on the Mailing List and so on, and I'm no good at predicting which ones will fire folks up. This one did the trick, and you can read the stories on the web, or snag PDF or ePub versions. If you're new to Uresia, well, there's a page for that, too!

Blumin' Fonts

2/4/13: It's strange to feel nostalgic about font piracy, but I got all kinds of warm-fuzzy-happy feelings this weekend when I spotted this set of Judy Blume books, still in their shrink-wrap, on the shelves of a local teacher's-store where my wife and I love browsing. These editions came out maybe five years ago, or thereabouts, and the title of each book (cover and interiors, plus a few other miscellaneous interior uses) are in my hand-drawn font, Apple Butter, which I created for fantasy mapping (most often in heaven's grave ... if you've seen the Uresia maps, it's on a few of them, and will always be on more).

When I contacted the publisher, they confessed their error and were pretty nice about the whole thing, and promised to pay up for the license. They ... never actually did, but I think they meant to. Just a workaday bureaucratic bungle, I assume, so it left no hard feelings. Instead, I got to just stare at them happily, because the Peter/Fudge/Sheila books were pretty much the best thing in the world to me when I was a kid (and I can still quote chunks of them to this day), and I must have owned a half-dozen copies of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing over the course of my childhood (because [A] I'm hard on books and [B] I loan them out a lot). So seeing my own alphabetical doodles decorating an edition? Yeah, okay :)

Back to Heaven's Grave

9/24/12: It's been a long time coming, but Uresia: Grave of Heaven is available in its all-new All-Systems Library edition, and it's already gotten a few kind words across the net in the form of G+ and Facebook posts, tweets, forum discussions and so on. Uresia, in its original edition, was my farewell to the gaming industry (the last book contract I ever took, something I knew when I took it) and it's kind of strange and lovely to have it "home" at Cumberland, now. This book is very much a compact, crystallized example of everything I set out to do when I make gamestuff. I love it bunches.

Toy Stories

9/14/12: I spend my days making two things: toys, and the alphabet. It's difficult to imagine a clearer example of arrested development.

This weekend at the movies, though, I look forward to seeing the kind of alphabets I do make hobnob with the kind of toys I don't. Partysaurus Rex, the new short featured in front of Finding Nemo 3D, includes both some standard Cumberland fonts and a commissioned custom font made just for Pixar. This pleases me greatly, in large part because I dig Wallace Shawn, but just in general.

I see my fonts at the movies pretty regularly, but exclusive Pixar custom-work is a special occasion, so if you do end up seeing the movie (because: Dory), be sure and cheer the titlecards on the short, because it'll make other people look at you funny.

Less Kicking Now

4/6/12: And the Kickstarter went really really well (see link, last update) and now I know what I'll be doing for a while!

Starting, And Also Kicking

3/7/12: For those of you who like Risus (and for those of you who just like RPG modules, Risus or not) there's a Kickstarter Project you might be interested in. I for one am pretty stoked :)

Another Good Year

11/22/11: Sandra and I celebrate our fourteenth anniversay today, in our usual, quiet, don't-make-a-fuss way ... but if we were the fuss-making sort, this would be the very best day to make one for. But there'll be lots of nose-rubbing and nibbling, I'm sure, and that's really the important thing.

Into the Columns and Layers

11/7/11: It's been a year since playtest and revisions, more or less, and it was a long time coming to get to that, even, but it's all paying off at last. I finalized the text last night for the All-Systems Library edition of Uresia: Grave of Heaven, and today I begin layout and production. It's a good time.

Soup de Jour

11/2/11: I had the pleasure of chatting on Facebook, briefly, with Brooke Magnanti back when she was still the secret identity of Belle de Jour. We talked about American politics, sadly, but still. Anyway, I'm a fan of her writing, a fan of the show based on it, and now a fan of the fact that she now has a food blog. Because while I don't "get" blogs, I certainly likes me some food.

In addition to her usual pleasant writing style, she shows some promise when it comes to photographing food. Anyone who fancies themselves a shutterbug, and who has attempted food photography, knows what a very specialized skill it really is ...

Preacher, Folding Pesher

11/2/11: Here's one for the Discordians. Some time ago, I did a "pamphlet version" of The Gospel of St. Pesher, the Gardener, which I've been distributing in hardcopy since. And I really thought I uploaded it (adding it to the archive with the Novus Ordo PDFs), but I had not. But now I have. Click on the most likely link, then click on the next most likely.

What do we learn? Five tons of flax, friends. Love to the Occasionally Bitchy Goddess, and may the flowers rain. Hail Eris.

Alimentary, My Dear Watson

10/30/11: Sandra and I havenít owned a car in many years, and donít miss it. Denver has nice public transport, and we use that. We're also members of a carshare program, so whenever we really want a car (for a jaunt into the Rockies, for example) itís five bucks an hour, gas included (thereís a gas card provided in the glove box), which is pretty sweet.

Today we used the carshare to do some errands and ended up (as we often do) at our favorite Asian supermarket. This means bizarre food labeling by companies who donít really speak English. My two favorites today were Pudding Jelly (yes, itís a snack called Pudding Jelly, and even having eaten it Iím not sure which one it more closely resembles), and some noodles.

But the noodles arenít just noodles. The label tells us that theyíre ďAlimentary Paste.Ē Alimentary Paste. Itís like - someone held a contest to come up with the least appetizing literal description of what these noodles are made of (see the hyperlink for the real story). This beats my previous favorite product at the market, Sliming Tea (or literally Sliming Herb ... I'm sure they meant "slimming," but this tea guarantees that it will help you with your sliming).

My favorite part about the Pudding Jelly isnít even the name, itís the extensive warnings on the labels which tell of dire consequences if the Pudding Jelly is not thoroughly chewed before swallowing. It warns that children and the elderly should never be allowed to eat Pudding Jelly unsupervised, and that it should be cut into smaller pieces for their benefit.

It tastes kind of like a gelatinous custard swimming in thin pancake syrup.

I havenít yet tried the Alimentary Paste. But oh my, I will.


7/14/11: It's my last night on earth as a thirty-something, so I'm feeling a bit reflective, looking back, looking forward, stuff like that.

Overall, my 30's have been much better than my 20's, and my 20's were much better than my teens, and my teens were pretty fucking awesome, frankly. Heck, on the micro scale, the last five years of my life have been the best five years, and (despite a few little blips, like the mugging, or some stress that came down on a close friend of ours a couple of months back) the past year has been the best year. I think my simplest metric for describing how good things have been comes in two parts, and goes like this:

The good stuff in my life ... the stuff that makes me feel valued, productive and fulfilled ... is roughly 100% to the credit of those people who honor me with their time, affection, sympathies and encouragement. This is most especially Sandra, of course, who loves me like I'm going out of style (possibly because I am), but also folks like Sara, Unity, Oneness, Maja, Other Sandra, Shy, Veronica, Legion, Reese, Liz, Tony, Judy, Shawn, Chris [both King and Reid], Josh, Nitor, Rayne, Tim, Jhada, Heidi, Dan, Justine, Lisa, Mike [both Cain and Sherwood], Kevin, Lauren and dozens I'm too lazy to list or keep in proper touch with (I still love you though) - to some new friends I'm just now starting to know (hi, you!), some old friends I've reconnected with (ditto!), some colleagues who treat me like a brother (mostly in the good way), and some fans and supporters who treat me like a Real Game Writer. That's where the good stuff comes from. Approximately all of it. And I guess that means, if people are giving me so much, I must be doing something right. That, or they're all in cahoots and plotting against me, but honestly I doubt my kidneys would sell for much.

The bad stuff in my life - the stuff that makes me feel worthless, aimless, or lacking (kidneys?) - is roughly 100% my own damn fault. I cannot think of a single stress in my life right now where I'm not the one and only person to blame for it, and maybe that sounds bad on the surface, but it means that I have no one in my life who rates even the tiniest drop of resentment or hate or jealousy or rancor - and that is not something I could have said in my 20's or teens. So that means, while I'm doing some things wrong (because I do have some stresses, my bad) it means I'm still doing something right. So, life = good.

Tonight and tomorrow are likely to be a little rough on me as I face down the milestone - but by Saturday, well, I have stuff to look forward to. If I can't make my 40's even better than my 30's, it'll be my own damn fault.

Blue Shift

6/11/11: For the third time in its life, the Blue Room has moved, this time due to the sudden impending demise (sale to "unknown parties") of the old domain (a storied domain if there ever was one, especially for gamers). Since you're reading this, you've already found the new digs, so hi there, and thanks for following me here. If you make any noise on the Web about such things, let them know I'm still out here gaming, writing, mapping and fonting!

Following up on my previous entry, I've fleshed out the Gelio Greek family quite a bit (and given it some new non-Greekoid friends) with the latest addition to the Free Stuff of the Moment page. For those paying really close attention, I've added a new stock vehicle to the HASTUR list, and for the rest of the week's efforts, I've been doing lots and lots of search-and-replace to start updating the contact information in the many hundreds of files (fonts, PDFs, etc) I've posted for download over the years ... yikes! Wish me luck, and hope your summer is getting into high gear about now (but still make time for gaming ... somewhere on a sunlit deck with lots of paperweights in case of a breeze)!

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