Amazon Should Privatize Our Oceans

Amazon Should Privatize Our Oceans

Amazon should control the oceans off all local communities. They can replace local beaches and save taxpayers lots of money, while enhancing the value of their stock.

There was a time seasides offered the local community lots of services in exchange for their tax money. They would bring sun, sea, and sand to the masses. Residents could visit any time they wanted, swim, and enjoy an ice cream.

They also provided residents with a comfortable place they could enjoy nature. They provided people with a place they could swim in peace with the oversight of friendly lifeguards. Oceans served as a place where residents could hold their outdoor events, but this was a function they shared with parks. There’s no shortage of places to hold outdoor events. Also, the parks should be privatized.

The sea slowly began to service the local community more. Seas served up fish, and allowed the free movement of goods. The modern ocean still provides these services, but they don’t have the same value they used to. The reasons why are obvious.

One such reason is the rise of “third places” such as private pools. They provide residents with a comfortable place to swim, sunbathe, meet their friends and associates, and enjoy a great picnic. This is why some people have started using their towel card more than they use their National Parks card. (I realize that “some people” means literally nothing, but work with me here. Also, the National Parks should be privatized.)

On top of this, streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have replaced the need to go outside. They provide nature content to the masses at an affordable rate. Actual natural places, like Martin’s Beach in California, have all but disappeared.

Then there’s the rise of plastic technology. Plastic has turned seashells into collector’s items, effectively eliminating the need for beachcombing.

Of course, there’s Amazon Shore to consider. Amazon has created their own online ocean that has made it easy for the masses to access both physical and digital artefacts of the world’s seas. Amazon Shore is a chain of stores that does what Amazon originally intended to do; replace the local. It improves on the beach model by adding salt water and ice cream. Amazon Shore basically combines a shoreline with an ice cream stand.

At the core, Amazon has provided something better than a local ocean without the tax fees. This is why Amazon should replace local beaches. The move would save taxpayers money and enhance the stockholder value of Amazon all in one fell swoop.

Above all, if the wobbly rhetoric and (nearly) fifth grade writing level of this piece haven’t convinced you, take comfort in knowing that it’s still marginally less stupid than this since-deleted Forbes piece.

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The Garden, 1910: Faking It Right

Currently, our challenge with The Garden, 1910 is finding film festivals willing to program a 30 minute “short” film–never mind one with extensive (non-sexual) nudity. Private screenings both in the US and Denmark have been extremely positive, but we’re not exactly teabagging the zeitgeist.

Our challenge in making it was one of bringing across a big-budget 1910s fantasy film on a 2010s microbudget. As the production designer and cinematographer, I wanted to know what it was like sitting in a smoky cinematograph watching a new, hand-colored print of a film like ours.

We came up with some terminology: The illusion vs. the effect. The effect was how we would actually achieve the shot: greenscreened footage of actors, puppets and miniatures (filmed on an iPhone 6s with Filmic Pro) composited in Blackmagic Fusion, Final Cut Pro X and Motion, with additional elements from still images, Animation:Master and Photoshop. The illusion was how our magician-turned-filmmaker would have created the shot using period techniques: sets with sometimes elaborate stage mechanisms, multiple photographic exposures, splices, color-tints, pyro, forced perspective, piano wire, Pepper’s ghost, and so forth.

The subconscious effect of frame rate, and how variable frame rates can be used artistically, is something I’ve been exploring. The Garden, 1910 actually runs at 60fps; a blurred three-blade shutter fades each frame in and out, running the “film” at the slightly unsteady 17-19fps of a hand-cranked projector. As the camera would also have been hand-cranked (at a slightly lower 13-14fps for a better exposure) each frame of the fully-composited footage also has a slightly randomized gain adjustment, to simulate variability in exposure. (Filmic Pro will record footage at an arbitrary frame rate like 14fps, but from working with the footage my impression is that the iPhone hardware itself will only capture at certain fixed frame rates, and Filmic merely discards the unwanted frames.)

Obviously, we weren’t content to slap an “olde timey film” filter onto the composited footage and call it good. Each composite in Fusion was piped through a battery of patches to extract and then imperfectly add back in false color, to simulate hand-coloring. (This was a nightmare, but probably an instructive one. I’ll drill down into it, with some downloadable material for Fusion tinkerers, in an upcoming blog post.) The completed “film” frames from each sequence (one frame per frame) were edited in Final Cut, with glue splices added as a custom FCP transition from Motion. (Don’t look down on Motion; it’s a real Swiss army knife, and incredibly fast.) The footage then made a round trip to Fusion, where it received unsteady re-timing to 17-19fps, shutter flicker, gate jumping, vignetting, emulsion dust and scratches, exiting as 60fps finished footage–and making a round-round-trip to Final Cut for final editing.

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So I Wrote a Star Wars Fan Film…


A single dim, warm LIGHT above the front door struggles into the soaking mist, revealing the front of a MODEST REED-WALLED COTTAGE, round and set over the water.

A REBEL slips by. Dark, ragged fabric from head to toe divulges only parts of a helmet and utility vest. We can’t see their face — and we never will.



Morning finds us at the marshy edge of a pleasant lake.

Three STORM TROOPERS march toward the door, their white armor Endor-style, and era. The FIRST TROOPER stoops, blaster sweeping the short crawlspace between the cottage subfloor and the lake. A few machines hang down, nothing big enough to hide a person.


Clear, sir.


Sub droid’s found nothing in the water.


Send it away.


A familiar, visibly ageing Gungan answers the door.


Oh! Me’sa got officers coming here!? What can dis’sa be happening?


A rebel against the Empire has been tracked —

Jar-Jar’s foot catches unluckily on a set of ceremonial spears near the entrance, which go CLATTERING to the floor, nearly gutting the first trooper.


Watch it!


Step aside, Gungan.


Oh no! Rebels in meesa house? No no no! Find them!

The interior is spartan. Tidy. One room. Aside from the (many) mementos of state hung around the perimeter, it contains only a small kitchenette and a few sleeping cushions strewn about the floor.

The lieutenant gestures toward the ice box — the only space large enough to hide a person.




In position…

The troopers push past the hapless Gungan with levelled blasters.


Rebels in meesa ice box?! Oh no! This-a terrible!

With interlocking fire, the troopers approach. At a signal, one THROWS THE LID!



Both look in, nonplussed.


Half a sculptrin fish, sir. And, maybe, some cake.


Ooh! Meesa be saving that cake.

They lower their blasters, look around.


(into a comlink)


They leave.

After a moment Jar-Jar quite calmly scoops up the spears, setting them upright and closing the door.

His little pot-bellied kettle WHISTLES.


Muy bad business. Muy muy…

He pushes the window open, cocking an ear.

Jar-Jar pours water and a sprinkling of plant grounds into not one — but two cups.



They’sa gone now. Is’a safe.

Two cushions, not touching, stir on the floor. The rebel pushes them aside, one from their legs and one from their upper body, hips sunk into a pit crossed by a bit of flooring — no doubt hidden by a domestic machine below.



I didn’t cover my tracks very well.

In sotto voce, we still can’t even tell the faceless rebel’s gender.


They’sa droid spying under the lake gone too.

(points reassuringly to his big ears)

You’sa Rebel, eh? You’sa fight the Empire? You’sa make war, so you’sa
spawn make houses, so you’sa spawn’s spawn make poems. Yes?


I — Senator?

Jar-Jar sits. In the bright sunlight streaming in from the lakeside window, his every wrinkle seems in sharp relief.


I’sa not a Senator no more. Never really was. Shouldn’t have been.
It’s not for making pretty up the past now; just living small life of
the old Gungan. My skin, it’sa not keep good water in or out, that’sa
how Gungans say it.


They said you might be able to help me get off-planet.

A swell of displaced water creeps stealthily toward the cottage. A ROBOTIC EYE — not dissimilar to the one at Jabba’s palace — rises to the surface, cleaving the water periscope-style. The rebel scrambles for the false cushions.


Ahh! Me’sa lunch here.

Underwater delivery droid EL-ZED disappears beneath the cottage. A manhole-sized iris HISSES open in the floor. The wet metal eye pops up through an appropriately-sized hatch to the side as a BATTERED METAL RACK rises into the room — atop it a metal, but unmistakeable, TAKEOUT CONTAINER.



Mmm-mmm! Smell’sa that good seaweed.

(He takes it with relish)

Thought I said no fish flakes…

EL-ZED BEEPS his inculpability.



Here, you’sa meet a good friend. Meet El-Zed Vee-Three. She’sa being
your ride out of here.

The rebel steps to the iris, gingerly testing the ladder-like delivery rack, and taking a peek down into the cramped, rusty delivery bay. The eye watches interestedly.


First class.


She’sa take you to the big kitchens at the seaweed factory. There a
slow freighter at the pad, leaving at noon. Just tell the captain an
old froggy sends you. Here —

(takes a small object off the shelf and tosses it to the rebel)

Very slow freighter. You’sa be wanting a book. This’a by a friend,
dear departed long time ago.

At a CLICK, a page of alien text momentarily appears in the air with a portrait of AMIDALA.



She’sa teach you muy thing about rebelling. Now go go. Time not


Thanks for this. I won’t forget you.

The rebel finds room inside the droid’s tiny hull, as the rack CLATTERINGLY retracts.


Not forget me? You’sa never met me!

The iris closes.


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Forest Fire: A Game for Kids

Thanks to some great playtesting with my nephews, please find an improved version 2 of the game here.

Forest Fire is a simple Pandemic-like (or Pandemic-lite) game for 4-6 kids, age 6 and up. The players work together to put out the fires in a forest. Encourage them to talk over their moves, and strategize as a team.

Make a 6×6 grid. Number the columns 1-6 and the rows A-F. These are the Forest Squares. Place a player piece for each kid around the outer edge of the grid, next to any square they choose.

To add Fires (counters) to the board, you will roll two dice. Announce the roll to the players as: The number from the first die, and the letter corresponding to the second die: A=1, B=2, C=3, etc. Have the players add a Fire counter to the square you call out. Now explain that when there’s a non-burning (empty) square between a new Fire and an existing Fire, the Fire spreads to the square inbetween–horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. (This is like Go, only Fire can only “flip” a single square.) Repeat once for each player, then have the players begin the round.

If at the end of a round anyone is still on a square with a Fire, they’re out of the game. Disaster! If all forest squares are burning, it’s game over. When the kids put out all the Fires, they win!

Difficulty: A Firebreak is a clearing (natural or artificial) in the forest that fire can’t easily cross. With a second type of counter, you may at the beginning of the game roll to add Firebreaks to the board. Players can move onto Firebreak squares, but if a Fire is rolled on a Firebreak square, nothing happens. For an easier game, roll one Firebreak per player. Roll fewer or none for a challenge game. (Remember, the players still lose if every non-Firebreak square is ablaze at the same time!)

Introduce the types of player characters one game at a time:


Have the kids mime holding a firehose. Explain that a Hotshot Team are the firefighters on the ground with hoses and shovels who work to put out forest fires.  (This is where the term comes from!)

A Hotshot gets 2 moves per round. Each move can be either: 1) Putting out a Fire (removing a counter) from their own or an adjacent square (N, S, E, W or diagonally), or 2) Moving one square N, S, E or W. Moving one square off the board, like at the beginning, is allowed. No square can have more than one player on it at a time.

To begin the game, explain that it takes time to get Hotshot Teams to a forest fire. Because of this, the fire has time to spread. Add 2 rounds’ worth of fires to the board (one roll for each player) then have the players begin.

Smoke Jumpers

Have the kids mime holding onto the straps of their parachute. Explain that a Fire Jumper parachutes into the forest near a fire. Because of this, they can’t carry as much, but once they hike out they can jump in again anywhere they’re needed.

A Smoke Jumper gets 2 moves per round. Like the Hotshot, each move can be either: 1) Putting out a fire (removing a counter) from their own or an adjacent square (N, S, E, W or diagonally), or 2) Moving one square N, S, E or W. Because they have less gear, however, Fire Jumpers can only put out 1 fire per square. They also have a special ability: Upon moving off the board, they can “jump” to any square on the board. (Moving off the board and jumping count as one action.)

Add 2 rounds’ worth of Fires to the board, then have the players begin.


Have the kids make an airplane with they hand (palm flat, index and ring finger together under the middle finger, pinky and thumb out to the sides). (If this is too hard, just pretend to be holding the flying yoke.) Explain that Pilots fly modified seaplanes which land on a body of water, fill a large tank, and then dump the water directly onto a fire.

Movement-wise, the pilot works a little differently. Every other turn, they must leave the board to refill their water tanks. (The players each pick their piece up and hold it in their hand.) The next turn, however, they can put out all the fire on any 3 squares in a row (N, S, E, W or diagonally).

Add 2 rounds’ worth of fires to the board. When the kids begin, remind them that they must first leave the board to fill up–so there’s actually three rounds of Fires added before they can begin putting them out!

Mixed Game

Now we put the pieces together. Let the kids decide (and encourage them to discuss strategically) what each would like to be: a Hotshot, a Smoke Jumper, or a Pilot. Explain how fighting forest fires is a team effort, with people in different specialties doing different jobs. (Now we understand the pantomiming; it’s to keep everyone’s role straight!)

Add 2 rounds’ worth of fires to the board, and have the kids begin!

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New Robert Aickman Anthology Coming in 2018

New York Review Books has announced Compulsory Games, a new collection of Robert Aickman stories scheduled for May 8, 2018. The publisher has separately leaked its table of contents, and its a revelation of hard to obtain material. I’ve updated my table of Aickman’s published works to include Compulsory Games (as well as a very limited 2015 Tartarus anthology).

View the PDF (153k)

Robert Aickman (1914-1981) was the most significant horror writer since H. P. Lovecraft. I can say that with certainty. As an epithet, he was the Last Symbolist (though Fritz Leiber’s “Weatherman of the Subconscious” is also fitting). Beyond that, I can’t tell you much, despite having spent the last two years reading and rereading as much of his work as practical. Leiber admired him, but didn’t understand him. Peter Straub admires him, but doesn’t understand him. Neil Gaiman admires him, but doesn’t understand him. This is not criticism, but praise. Perhaps a ghost is that which you can’t understand.

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The Most Generic iOS Games That Don’t Exist (Yet!)

Some call it originality. I call it being the first loser.

The iOS gaming space is crowded. Metacritic lists 10,934. Doing a word frequency analysis on their titles, we can come up with the ultimate must-hit games. I’m expecting a 20% cut when these become reality, on top of whatever Apple’s charging.

War Game Man — It is only a game, isn’t it? Man?

These are the first three nouns on our list. In order. War (349), Game (332), and Man (308), have almost a thousand hits between them, when you exclude two-letter combinations and common hyphen-ation frag-ments. More importantly, they’re three things hardcore gamers crave: Wars, games and men. So I’m told. Felch out literally anything with a tank, a guy in a helmet, and this title, and sit back until you hear the backup beep of the money truck.

Ace Ball Age: Bat Hero — The fate of Baseballalandia teeters on the edge, in this exciting sports/RPG hybrid!

Next up–still in order, without skipping any words–is a guaranteed money spigot. Ace (246) Ball (212) Age (210) Bat (207) Hero (198). “Oh gee, we don’t have any assets for a baseball title or an RPG,” SAID NO ONE EVER! You’ll launch the project Tuesday and be on the app store by Friday. Buy some Sponsored Content (“This Baseball RPG Will Make You Blot Out the Sun With Jizz–Especially If You’re a Woman!”) and start looking like a hoarder’s house but with money stacks.

Tar/Ash Ant Art — Navigate your half-poisoned ants through a ruined canvas factory–then sell your canvases on the fickle, tasteless modern art speculation market!

Sure, Tar (198) Ash (197) Ant (193) Art (188) is probably 90% pieces of other words, but it’s also in order, and also (while a little dark) the sort of strange-sounding, boring-to-play game that smartphone gamers love to hype. Start the train early, with forum posts, concept art, and “first looks.” Maybe put out an unplayable alpha to presale backers (basically the game with a broken start button), an almost-playable beta (a working start button, no levels, and a “crash app after 80 seconds” timer), and finally–finally–the big release (the alpha, with a better splash screen). Go Free to Play after three months. Charge $10 to stop the app from filling your Notification Center with achievement trophies and dead ants.

Maybe not a sure hit now, but they’ll clamor for a VR remake in 12 years.

You want longer words? How about this:

King Venture Adventure — The game that we reskinned with baseball assets to make Ace Ball Age: Bat Hero.

Two for one! King (187) doesn’t even come up in that many other words, and while Venture (184) technically is included in every instance of Adventure (179), they’re still the next three nouns on our list–and still in order, with no gaps. Adventure ho, Your Majesty! Ho I say!

Don’t want to use any more three-letter words at all? Fine. We can still play:

Star Zombie — Star. Zombie. It was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. We just gave it a name.

You got chocolate in my edible body paint, peanut! Star (177) Zombie (170) finally brings together two things the market isn’t at all sick of: Zombies, zombies, zombies, and games with vague generic sci-fi backdrops. Oh no please. Keep some of your money. I have so much…

Battle World: Super Land — Only one can dominate something, somewhere. Presumably!

They said it couldn’t be done in an iPhone game, but we made a game about war! And we made it with the next few words, in order, with no gaps. In Battle (165) World (152) Super (149) Land (147) you decide how to wage peace across the ill-fitting board, in the only game to include square, hexagonal, pentagonal, and rhomboid tiles in the same otherwise largely undifferentiated levels.

Aw hell, just give me $1MM now and I’ll throw in the next 21 (in-order, four or more letter, without gaps, guaranteed hit titles) for 10% off the top:

Word Puzzle Monster — (146, 139, 133) More puzzles! More monsters! Less attention span! HEYYY-AAAH!

Space Quest: Drag Night — (128, 123, 116, 113) Not all space heroes wear capes, but when they do, they’re velour.

Dragon Cape — (108, 104) Not all dragons wear velour, but…

Edition Edit — (97, 97) It’s 1933. You’re William Allan Neilson and Thomas A. Knott. Can you finish the Webster’s New International Dictionary?

Dead Escape Time: Episode Legend — (95, 94, 90, 88, 88) Not only is this probably edgy in some way, but say “episode” and your DLC levels become full-priced sequels.

Last Rush Defense — (87, 87, 80) Tower defense has never been this towery, or defensive!

Fight Racing: Tiny Story (Mini) — (80, 78, 77, 74, 74) Kart man, do!

Dark Jump — (74, 74) You’ll fall. A lot. The paincore hit of the month of Maying.

Light Race Soccer — (68, 68, 68) All Soccer Players Matter.

Pocket Craft Fish — (67, 63, 62) Maybe crafting has nothing to do with fishing, but maybe shut the hell up.

Rock Rain Tale — (61, 61, 61) “Sit here by the fire, promising indigenous youth, and I’ll tell you the tale of the day the rocks rained down…”

Dash Knight Ventures — (61, 60, 58) Sadly, nostalgia-buying an even worse knockoff of Rocket Knight Adventures probably won’t be the worst life decision your customers will have made.

Little Plan: Lost Robot Adventures — (58, 58, 58, 58, 57) So cute it won’t matter that the game is 90% walking across different backdrops.

Kingdom Port — (56, 56) Build your… port! In the kingdom! Kingdom Port!

Fantasy Magic: Kill Less — (55, 55, 55, 54) Really, you’ve been going a bit mad with power lately. We’re all concerned about you.

Part — (54) Spread things and stick other things into places in this puzzling–and completely non-erotic–puzzle game.

Ever Fall — (54, 54) Messianic sci-fi, surreal action puzzler, or primetime WB drama? Yes!

Block Tower Island — (53, 53, 51) The sequel to Last Rush Defense! Virtually indistinguishable.

Bird Ride: Blast Legends — (51, 51, 51, 50) I’ll give you something to be angry about.

Road Shoot — (50, 50) Finally! Mayhem involving roads.

Sword Pixel Runner: Monsters Down! — (50, 50, 50, 49, 49) Save the things from the other things, in the ultimate pulse-pounding ironic hipster 8-bit whatever.

Make cheques payable to the management.

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Board Game: Fair Verona (v0.1)

If you have a chess board, you can play chess or checkers. If you have a deck of cards, you can play any number of games. But if you have a Carcassonne set, you can only play Carcassonne. As every modern geek has one, I thought we needed another game to play with it.

You play the aunts and uncles of the polymath Verona in the dangerous and romantic city states of classical Italy. Verona is brilliant, scatter-brained, obsessive, creative, charming, a magnet for trouble–and all of 17 years old. Having promised her dearly-departed parents to look after her, it’s up to you to do the legwork of the latest mystery she’s stumbled upon.


Four players cooperate to build a board of Carcassonne tiles while trying to locate and return Clue Tokens to the starting tile. Card value based Encounters hinder you and advance the game.

You Will Need

  • A Carcassonne Game (including the standard River expansion)
  • A standard deck of playing cards


Shuffle the deck of cards, including the two jokers. Find the “all city” Carcassonne tile–the Old Town, where Verona lives–and place it in the center of your play surface. Deal each player an Identity card face up. Each player selects a meeple color, placing one of that color on the starting tile, and one on their Identity card. Deal one additional card–the Clue Card–face-up beside the deck, and put a meeple of the unused color atop it as a Clue Token. Randomize the remainder of the normal Carcassonne tiles and set them aside. Randomize the River tiles, and prepare to start with them.

  • Easy Game: Put out 5 more Clue Tokens, for a total of 6. Deal each player 2 more cards, sight-unseen, to be placed beneath their Identity Card–these are their first two Friend cards. (Explained below.)
  • Medium Game: Put out 6 more Clue Tokens, for a total of 7. Deal each player 1 Friend card.
  • Hard Game: Put out 7 more Clue Tokens, for a total of 8. Deal no starting Friend cards.

The Identity Card

Each card in play represents a unique person. Your Identity card is your player character. The face value represents a person’s role in the social hierarchy, from the cutpurse and con artist (2-3) through the city leaders and geniuses (J, Q, K, A).

Card suits represent specialties:

  • Spades: Alchemy, painting, invention, dance, poetry.
  • Clubs: The sword, the lance, the grapple, the fist.
  • Diamonds: Gold, debt, silver, ships at sea.
  • Hearts: Love, family, desire, comradery.


Play proceeds clockwise from the dealer. Each turn has three phases:

  1. Tile Placement
  2. Encounter Clearing
  3. Movement

Tile Placement

At the beginning of a turn, the player always attempts to place a tile–either a face down tile, or an unplayed (face-up) tile. Tile placement rules are identical to normal Carcassonne (including the need to start with the River tiles) except for one major change: A tile must be placed on a space adjacent to the one your meeple currently occupies, horizontally, vertically, or along a diagonal.

If you place a tile with a shield (pennant), or complete a city, you have made a Friend. Draw a card from the deck and place it beneath your Identity card, sight-unseen. (Note that you don’t make a Friend from drawing a shield tile, only from playing it!)

If a tile can be played, it must be. You may not select a face-up tile that can not be played, but nothing requires you to select a playable tile if face-down tiles remain.

If a tile can not be played, it is placed face-up beside your Identity card, and an Encounter is triggered for the next player: Draw a card from the deck and hand it to the next player.


Danger and intrigue are ever present! Clearing Encounters is the second phase of a turn. When dealt an Encounter card, place it above your Identity card. You may not move until all your Encounters have been cleared. If you are on the same tile as a player with an Encounter card, you may help clear one of theirs. You clear an Encounter by bringing to bear a higher total value than the Encounter card itself.

You determine your total strength (value) in an Encounter as follows:

  • Your Identity card’s face value
    • Plus or minus any Distance Bonus
    • Times any Suit Multiplier
  • Plus any other player on the same tile’s face value
    • Plus or minus any Distance Bonus of theirs
    • Times any Suit Multiplier of theirs
  • Plus the face value of a Friend card, if you choose to play one
Distance Bonus

The wealthy and famous are at their strongest in the Old Town, while the lower classes are better out in the hinterlands. To find your Distance Bonus, count your current distance from Verona, either horizontally or vertically (whichever is greater).

  • Face Cards and Aces: Your value drops by 1 per tile away from Verona. For example:
    • A Queen 3 tiles north [and 1 tile east] of Verona is worth 9.
      • Queen minus 3 = J… 10… 9.
    • An Ace [2 tiles south and] 6 tiles east of Verona is worth 8.
      • Ace minus 6 = K… Q… J… 10… 9… 8.
  • Number Cards: Your value grows by 1 per tile away from Verona beyond your face value–in practice, this means your value is the greater of your face value or your distance from Verona. For example:
    • A Two 7 tiles south [and 6 tiles east] of Verona is worth 7.
    • An Eight [3 tiles south and] 9 tiles east of Verona is worth 9.
    • A Five 2 tiles north [and 1 tile west] of Verona is still worth 5.
Suit Multiplier

Your Identity card’s suit is your specialty. In an Encounter against the same suit, your face value (plus or minus any Distance Bonus) is doubled. For example:

  • A 7♦ can not clear an Encounter with a Q♠.
    • 7 (♦) is not greater than Q (♠).
  • A 10♥ can not clear an Encounter with a 10♣.
    • 10 (♥) is not greater than 10 (♣).
  • A 4♠ can clear an encounter with a 7♠.
    • 4♠ times 2 = 8(♠). 8 (♠) is greater than 7 (♠).

In an Encounter, you may optionally call on a Friend if you have one available. Turn one of your Friend cards over, and add its value to your Encounter. (Your friend gets no Bonuses or Multipliers). Regardless of whether it helps you clear the Encounter or not, the Friend card is then discarded.


Some Encounters include a Clue Token, which goes to you after the Encounter is cleared, and must then be returned to Verona.

At the start of the game, the first Clue Card was turned over, and a Clue Token (meeple of the unused color) was placed atop it. The Clue Card is what Verona knows about the person who holds the next piece of the puzzle. She’s never quite right.

When an Encounter is triggered with a Clue Card in play, the suit and value of the Encounter card and Clue Card are compared. If either the suit or face match, the Clue Token becomes the prize of the Encounter. Discard the current Clue Card and move the Clue Token onto the Encounter card. When you clear this Encounter, move the Clue Token onto your Identity Card. Your objective is now to return it to Verona.

Clue Tokens may be handed off from one player to another on the same tile at any time. When the Clue Token is returned to Verona’s tile, stack it atop the others, draw a new Clue Card, and place a Clue Token on it. Having received the clue and figured out what it means, Verona dispatches you to find the next piece of the puzzle. You (and Verona) win the game by collecting all of the Clue Tokens in play.

Cleared Encounters

On clearing an Encounter, discard the Encounter card. If you have no more Encounter cards, you may proceed to the Movement phase. If you still have Encounters uncleared, your turn is over.


In the third and final phase of a turn, the player may move their meeple from tile to tile (horizontally or vertically) by one of the three methods below. The player may elect to start from any terrain feature (road, city or field) on their starting tile.

  • Any Terrain: Up to 2 Tiles
  • Through City: Up to 4 Tiles
  • Along Road: Up to 6 tiles

In city or road movement, terrain barriers may not be crossed. Thus, you may not “jump” from one city to another across a stretch of farmland, even if both city walls lie on the same tile. Rivers, likewise, may only be crossed at a bridge or at a River’s beginning or end tile. (Be sure to place your meeple on the correct bank.)


If at any time in play a Joker is drawn, all Clue hunting halts. Cover any Clue Card in play with the Joker. Young Verona has fallen head over heels for some flashy young fool, losing track of everything else, and one of the players must return to talk her out of it. The Clue Card is out of play until a player returns to the starting tile, at which point the Joker is discarded, and normal play resumes.

End Game

The conspirators are trying to box you in. Thus you lose if:

  • Every player is mired in an Encounter they can’t clear
    • or
  • Every player has 2 or more unused tiles.

Verona must put together all the pieces of the mystery–with a little help from her family. Thus you win when:

  • You return the final Clue Token to Verona.

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I swear, this is just research…

Umberto Eco on Fascism

It’s worth now revisiting 1995 when Umberto Eco–child of Italian Fascism–explained to us the 14 hallmarks of fascism, be it Italian, German, Spanish, Russian or otherwise: Ur-Fascism. Here’s a gloss in reverse order; ellipses mine, emphasis his.

14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak… All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.

13. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say. In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights… For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will… Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction… There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People… Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.

12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters. This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons—doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.

11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero. In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death… The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.

10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak. Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people of the world, the members of the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler…

9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare

8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies… However, the followers must be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak…

7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country. This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia…

6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration. That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups…

5. …Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks for consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.

4. No syncretistic faith can withstand analytical criticism. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.

3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action’s sake. Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism… The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.

2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism. Both Fascists and Nazis worshiped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon Blood and Earth (Blut und Boden)… The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.

1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition… As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth has been already spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message….

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How to Write a Pretty Darn Good OKCupid Profile

I’m a 30-something, single, straight male with a decent job, the ability to dress myself, some social graces and worldliness, a liking for kids, and the desire to “settle down” and begin the next adventure of my life. This, in theory, means that I’m the sort of man that women in their late 20s to late 30s join dating sites like to meet.

Yeah, it’s a weird thought for me too.

I’ve been on and off the site for several years, and had several relationships with women I’ve met through it. As such, after helping my roommate with her own profile, I’ve been asked to put together some tips on what we look for–and don’t look for.

It’s Ladies Night on

It’s Only a Marketing Piece

Write enough to distinguish yourself. You’re the product. Give us a reason to remember you. You don’t get to post a three line profile and then complain that guys only write, “Hey girl heeey!” You love [local sports team], [popular band], travel, and your family? Great. Your prince will not be able to read your mind; weren’t you paying attention to Frozen?

Don’t write a novel. Respect your reader’s time and attention. There’s always more to know about you; that’s what chatting and meeting up is for. This is a marketing piece, and not in the sense of a McKinley-era broadsheet ad. Too much too fast too soon is overwhelming and impossible to keep straight.

Keep It Positive

Negativity suggests more down deeper. Keep it light. You won’t always be feeling that way, but who does? Remember: it’s marketing. If you can’t keep it positive for a few short paragraphs, it’s possible you’re not ready for the dating scene right now. You may get a lot of crap messages from guys, but complaining about them isn’t going to make those sorts of guys stop. Sorry they exist, but there’s nothing we can do about them either. Just hit delete and move on.

Take a risk. You may be nervous about online dating, in which case there’s a tendency to strike an ironic tone. Trust yourself a little more. Display some warmth. It won’t attract the wrong people, any more than being standoffish will attract the right ones. If you’ve been on for a long time and dealt with every sort of jerk the internet can throw at you, you still need to take that risk: Remember that we’re not all like that. Ignore the haters. Keep your head high.

Don’t be proud of your sarcasm. At the end of the day, sarcasm is a defense mechanism. It’s the opposite of taking a risk. It’s used to keep your feelings buried behind a facade. Sarcasm is often useful in life, but beware of drawing too much attention to it. All you’re saying is that you–the real you–is locked deep in this fortress, and good luck battling your way in on one Continue.

Don’t complain about your exes. Explicitly or implicitly, it doesn’t paint you as someone who’s moved on. We’ve all got scars. We’ve all been there. You don’t want to be hindered by our baggage any more than we enjoy the prospect of having to hire the Argonauts to navigate the unbecalmed seas of your past. “And if you’re some partly-functioning alcoholic? do. not. bother. messaging me!” doesn’t screen out real alcoholics, but it does tell us you picked a real Mr. Toad and stayed on his wild ride far longer than any girl with your brains should have.

Men and Women Are Attracted to Different Things

We don’t care about your self confidence. (And that’s okay.) Here’s the simplest useful model of basically straight male/female attraction. Make a list, in order, of the traits you find most attractive. Swap the order of physical attractiveness and self-confidence. Done. That’s the list of what we care the most about. Our desire for you has virtually nothing to do with your self-confidence; we decide what a person is worth, male or female. Can you find a man without self-confidence desirable though? No, but the wasted musician body or beer gut is pretty well negotiable. In case you haven’t noticed how much we preen in our profile photos (bare chest laydeez!), it’s as counterintuitive to us the other way around as it is to you.

Include at least one solo picture. Selfies are totally okay. We believe that you have friends. Don’t make us study Set Theory and dust off a Guess Who board just to figure out which one you are. There’s something quantumly strange about a woman who can only appear in photos with other people.

Hint at a real vulnerability. It’s possible your inner 12 year old still wants us to be unassailably rom-com perfect, but we don’t want you to be like that. (What would we even talk about?) At some point OKCupid did away with the question, “What’s the most personal thing you’re willing to admit?” It’s true an annoyingly high percentage of women punted on it (“Then it wouldn’t be personal lol right????”) but it was a good prompt because it nudged you to admit to a fault. A profile is barely-disguised braggadocio no matter what (see above: marketing) but coming across too perfect merely makes you look narcissistic.

Overused on OKC

Travelly travel travel travel travel! I get it. You like to see the world. But you need to hear this: If seeing ever more of the world implicitly made one a better person, I’d hate to see where some of you started. I’ve done enough of it myself to notice something people don’t like to talk about: it’s a total hookup scene. The guys you imagine seeing the world with are mostly into it for that reason. There’s something subtly corrosive about becoming too involved. When spinning the globe and going somewhere else becomes the solution to life’s unmet desires, how can one succeed in a real relationship, with a real person, day after day after day after day…? Broaden your horizons, but remember that some of life’s important adventures start by stepping out your door, and some start by crying over a hand holding yours.

Ducky wips? What are you in middle school? (Yes? Crap, now I have to wipe my hard drive again…) I told you selfies are okay, but act your age, not your Korean size.

Fuck your cat. Yes, I said it. I’m sure your pussy is very pretty, but there’s a place for that on the side of your profile. If it’s all over your pictures and you can’t stop writing about the damn thing you might as well just get one of those little rolling carts and a “Cat Lady in Training” tee shirt. Will three dozen be enough? Real cat ladies can’t count them.

And For the Guys

Don’t write “Hey girl heeey!”

No one wants to see your chest, penis or vehicle. No, not even together.

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Gingerbread Parisian Cafe

Make up some royal icing. Split it up; dye one batch red, another green. (Keep a bunch white.)

Cut your graham crackers to size per the pattern above. I found that using a sharp paring knife that I kept wetting (since graham crackers turn to mush when damp) and a lot of patient, repeated cuts over the same line worked well.

Royal icing turns to goo with a very small amount of water added. Take some of your red and some of your white; add a little bit of water to each. (Not too much, or you’ll soak the graham crackers, and, well, mush.) Spread the color on the cut pieces as above. Leave them to dry a couple hours.

Cut a milk chocolate and a dark chocolate Hershey bar into bricks (4 per rectangle). Glue down the 3 floor graham crackers to the work surface with royal icing. Wet down some more royal icing, adding black food coloring if desired, and spread it out for mortar. Lay down the chocolate bricks, leaving room for the cafe walls to go in.

Once the walls are dry, start gluing the pieces together, as shown above. Use an extra piece of graham cracker propped up with leftover bricks for the bar. Soak some Mike & Ikes in warm water to remove the outer coating. Mix & match to fill the bar with bottles. Wrap the mini LED lights a few times around the ceiling of the first floor to light the interior. Leave some extra light wire trailing off to string up as hanging lights.

Add details: Mint chocolates on leftover bricks for tables. Green tip-frosted plants. Mint planters with green tip-frosting plants on top. More Mike & Ike bottles. Candy cane light posts.

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IMDB Trivia for “Hoof-Town” (2002)

One of Disney’s last traditionally animated (2-D) films, with the exception of all characters’ photorealistic CGI hands.

Ranked #5 on AFI’s 50 Most Based Movies.

A third act was completed, but cut from the final film.

Besides the nine credited screenwriters, several Disney senior managers were personally involved in rewrites well into the final week of production. This allegedly explains the otherwise incongruous exchange during the Blowhole Beach chase where Lilly and Mulligan say: “Fuck you, Brent.” “Fuck you, Christine.”

Nominated for the 2003 Best Animation or Musical Oscar, but lost to Dreamworks SKG’s “Captain Hookworm” (2002).

The first and, to date, only film produced in Disney’s proprietary 17:1 “Hyper Widescope” format. Following negative reaction in theaters, the film was heavily cropped for home video release, explaining why most action and dialogue take place offscreen.

Work on the film was fully rebooted and all prior work scrapped after one of the original directors failed to properly kowtow to chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Princess Boneable was created specifically to add a new Disney Princess to the roster. She has no lines, but to date is the only Disney Princess to kick another character in the face without apparent provocation.

The running joke about Dr. Grooventein being back to “Teabag Iz’ey’s balls” was not scripted, but the result of clever audio editing around David Ogden Stiers’ constant improvisational muttering in the recording booth, often over other actors’ lines. No one named “Iz’ey” appears in the script, nor is Ogden Steirs known to have been officially hired for the film.

Body count: 56, and one undead boat.

According to co-co-Director Sam Marshall, Lilly Pikachu is not a fox but an Antarctic explorer from the human world in an elaborate, anatomically-correct costume.

Held the record for most co-directors on any Disney film at 18. (Soon bested by “Salmon” (2004) with 93.)

Most of the artists with traditional hand drawing skills were fired as production neared completion, often forcefully while still at work. See Goofs: Sudden vertical lines/characters disappearing.

The song “Suck My Kiss” was later recorded by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Produced under the title “Tuesday I’m Eating” as a lower cost “B” project alongside the  expected box office smash then titled “Hoof Town.” When the original “Hoof Town” performed poorly, the titles were switched to the confusion of most moviegoers, in order to chalk it up as a win on quarterly financial statements. (The original “Hoof Town” was later released on home video as “Monkey Spanks: Private Eye”.) This explains why neither a single hoofed animal nor a town appear in the film.

Drew the ire of many Conservative Christian parents’ groups for being a movie.

Feature film debut of singer Sasha Turpworth. Turpworth was discovered at a dick sucking contest in Miami Beach, FL.

As a result of contractual obligations and poor timing, the requisite Broadway adaptation opened the same day as the theatrical release, resulting in an infinite recursion of royalty payments between the two Disney divisions. Still ongoing to this day, these payments make it both the highest grossing and greatest financial loss of any Disney film.

First bulimic character in a Disney animated movie. (“Herbie: Fully Loaded” was a live-action film.)

Foreign titles: “Animal Feet Amok” (France), “The Wacky Animal Village” (Germany), “Hoofs: Being an Exploration of Numerous Amusing Things That Happen to Several Anthropomorphized Animals Near a Somewhat Tasteful Bus Depot” (Brazil), “Tits” (Finland).

Howard Pauls, key animator on Spunky Sally, has not been seen by any current member of the Walt Disney animation staff. The last of Walt’s famed Nine Old Men, Pauls exchanges work through a gap under his locked office door. Some suspect he is long dead and it is the room itself producing the drawings.

“Truundelhorn” is a real brand of Hungarian truck, although they have not been sold with anti-Semitic slogans on the hood since 1993.

Similarities have been noted between the plot and that of Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse,” in that neither has one.

Roger Ebert admitted that he was high on mushrooms while reviewing the film, but did not feel it altered his opinion meaningfully.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus delivers the second-longest racist tirade by a former “Seinfeld” cast member in a Disney movie, and the third longest in any animated movie. (See Trivia for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996) and “Bee Movie” (2007).)

Musician Morrissey was brought in to give the film “some indy cred,” but was replaced by Alan Menkin when it was realized Morrissey had died in Paris in 1998. He was not rehired when it was discovered that he had not died in Paris in 1998.

Reunites actresses Annie Potts and Elizabeth Perkins for the first time since “Lesbian Sorority Blood Inferno Part 5” (1982).

Hidden Mickey: Beneath the word “SEX” in the underwater rave scene.

David Schramm recorded all of the lines for Based Barry in March of 2001, before being ordered whacked by Disney management in November of that year. Reginald VelJohnson was brought in as a last-minute replacement.

George Clooney, David Thewlis, George C. Scott, William H. Macy and Linda Carter were all considered for the role of the ottoman.

Daveigh Chase, Colm Meaney, Nicolas Refn and Jaden Smith were all considered for the role of Peter Pubgoer, which eventually went to all of them.


From the archives of the Boston Public Library’s Louis Prang & Company Chromolithographs collection, all scanned in lovingly, Rodney’s-friendly high resolution. L. Prang & Co.’s cards and prints were popular in the late 19th and early 20th Century; Prang is credited with popularizing the Christmas card in America. The total digitized collection contains over 1400 images.

“Domes of the Yosemite Valley” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Lake Tahoe, Looking Southwest” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Gloucester Beach” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Chicago World’s Fair 1893” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Chicago Exposition 1893” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Chicago Exposition 1893” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Summit of the Sierras, Nevada” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Day’s Work is Done” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Autumn” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Seascape at Sunrise” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Sunny Day” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Fairy Tales” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Golden Evening” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Checkers” Download Full Resolution PNG

“In the Garden” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Maurandia” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Cardinal Flowers” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Carnations and Mignonette” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Azaleas” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Apple-Blossoms and Bees / Cherry Blossoms and Bees” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Autumn Leaves” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Senator H. R. Revels” Download Full Resolution PNG

“At Easter Joy” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Portrait of a Woman” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Woman’s Portrait Enframed with Yellow Roses” Download Full Resolution PNG

“22 Species of Birds” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Among the Blossoms” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Uncle Toby” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Terrier Seated” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Saved” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Blackberries and Magnolia Grandiflora” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Two Bunches of Yellow Roses” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Chrysanthemums” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Flowers” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Flowers in a Fan Shape” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Buttercups and Apple Blossoms” Download Full Resolution PNG

“The Eastern Shore” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Night Scene in Winter with Moon and a Church Tower in the Background” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Examples of Historical Ornament, Egyptian” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Examples of Historical Ornament, Greek” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Civil War trompe l’oeil” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Design for Christmas Card” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Boating Scene: A Critical Moment” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Night Seascape” Download Full Resolution PNG

“La Primavera” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Little Girl with Leaves” Download Full Resolution PNG

“Little Girl with Sunflowers” Download Full Resolution PNG

Highlights From the BPL’s Louis Prang & Co. Collection

The New iPhone Doesn’t Have a Floppy Drive

Let me tell you a story. It begins with a confession.

I can’t wear earbuds. It feels like my ears are being sexually violated. I tried to make myself get used to them  when I moved to LA, because I had them, and my headphones broke, and I was broke, and moving to LA has a lot to do with putting up with the feeling of sexual violation. It didn’t take.

After that sad chapter in my life, I settled on a range of small over-the-ear phones that were a thing at the time from a few manufacturers–speakers that clipped over the ears, with an under the chin cord but no band between them, and a nifty little spring-loaded reel that retracted the cord into the right-hand earphone when not in use. I wore a pair until the cord worked loose from the headphone jack (as usual), then another manufacturer’s pair until the same happened.

By then the world had moved on. Over-the-ear separates were out. They couldn’t be found. Not even on closeout.

I ended up sinking $65 into a set of Japanese imports from an Amazon shop. They came in a surprisingly garish Japanese white, in a garishly Japanese box.

Within a week of arriving, the cord snagged on a door handle in the Harvard CoOp and snapped right off the headphone jack. Have you ever tried to disassemble a stereo mini jack in hopes of re-soldering five hair-thin wires (stereo R +-, L +- and ground, I assume)? I have.

After that, I determined never to go back to wires. I got a cheap pair of behind-the-head Bluetooth headphones and wore them until the left speaker died–a good three years. With some research, I chose to drop some cash on a decent pair, and now live in a pair of Marshall Major II Bluetooth headphones.

Are there tradeoffs to going wireless? Sure. I have to recharge my headphones–once a week with the Marshalls, every day or two with the cheap pair. SUVs and their particularly overpowered Bluetooth systems tend to make the audio drop out now and then. That’s… honestly it. Any but the lowest-end pairs even let you plug a mini jack in and use them as wired headphones when you want.

So yes, Apple dropped the mini jack from the new iPhone, to free up space for an optically-stabilized camera and a better antenna, and make the phone waterproof down to about a meter beneath the surface. (Not to bury the lede.)

I’m never sure how much is really behind a large surge of indignation on the internet. Being basically an attention sucking machine, the public mouths and faces of those we encounter here are not only constructed, but constructed as economically as possible. (Economically from the standpoint of the internet’s real currency: Attention. Again, not to bury the lede.) Everyone is Dilbert in his underwear holding a business-suited puppet of himself up to the webcam for a teleconference.

I’m old enough to remember when Genesis did and Nintendo didn’t, when Facebook was MySpace for college students right down to the dorm room whiteboard skeuomorph, when the MCP was just a chess program, and when Apple released the original iMac–without a floppy drive.

I remember the gnashing, the whining, even from people who should have known better. USB flash drives barely existed and cost way too much–small hard drives ruled their niche then. Everyone doing serious work still had a Zip Drive (or even a Jaz Drive). Yes, the floppy was old, but it was venerable! It still Just Worked. It was cheap. It was standard. It was backward-compatible. It was 1.2MB a disk and not even that formatted, and that was shit even back then.

The headphone jack is on its way out, and we–all of us–are going to be fine.

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The Dream Detective: Case of the Veil of Isis

Episode IX



I have made no attempt, in these chronicles, to arrange the cases of my remarkable friend, Moris Klaw, in sections. Yet, as has recently been pointed out to me, they seem naturally to fall into two orders. There were those in which he appeared in the role of criminal investigator, and in which he was usually associated with Inspector Grimsby. There was another class of inquiry in which the criminal element was lacking; mysteries which never came under the notice of New Scotland Yard.

Since Moris Klaw’s methods were, if not supernatural, at any rate supernormal, I have been asked if he ever, to my knowledge, inquired into a case which proved insusceptible of a natural explanation—which fell strictly within the province of the occult.

To that I answer that I am aware of several; but I have refrained from including them because readers of these papers would be unlikely to appreciate the nature of Klaw’s investigations outside the sphere of ordinary natural laws. Those who are curious upon the point cannot do better than consult the remarkable work by Moris Klaw entitled Psychic Angles.

But there was one case with which I found myself concerned that I am disposed to include, for it fell between the provinces of the natural and supernatural in such a way that it might, with equal legitimacy, be included under either head. On the whole, I am disposed to bracket it with the case of the headless mummies.

I will take leave to introduce you, then, to the company which met at Otter Brearley’s house one night in August.

“This is most truly amazing,” Moris Klaw was saying; “and I am indebted to my good friend Searles”—he inclined his sparsely covered head in my direction—“for the opportunity to be one of you. It is a séance? Yes and no. But there is a mummy in it—and those mummies are so instructive!”

He extracted the scent-spray from his pocket and refreshed his yellow brow with verbena.

“How to be regretted that my daughter is in Paris,” he continued, his rumbling voice echoing queerly about the room. “She loves them like a mother—those mummies! Ah, Mr. Brearley, this will cement your great reputation!”

Otter Brearley shook his head.

“I am not yet prepared to make it public property,” he declared, slowly. “No one, outside the present circle, knows of my discovery. I do not wish it to go further—at present.”

He glanced around the table, his prominent blue eyes passing from myself to Moris Klaw and from Klaw to the clean-cut, dark face of Dr. Fairbank. The latter, scarce heeding his host’s last words, sat watching how the shaded light played, tenderly, amid the soft billows of Ailsa Brearley’s wonderful hair.

“Shall you make it the subject of a paper?” he asked suddenly.

“My dear Dr. Fairbank!” rumbled Moris Klaw, solemnly, “if you had been paying attention to our good friend you would have heard him say that he was not prepared, at present, to make public his wonderful discovery.”

“Sorry!” said Fairbank, turning to Brearley. “But if it is not to be made public I don’t altogether follow the idea. What do you intend, Brearley?”

“In what way?” I asked.

“In every way possible!”

Dr. Fairbank sat back in his chair and looked thoughtful.

“Rather a comprehensive scheme?”

Brearley toyed with the bundle of notes under his hand.

“I have already,” he said, “exhaustively examined seven of the possibilities; the eighth, and—I believe, the last—remains to be considered.”

“Listen now to me, Mr. Brearley,” said Moris Klaw, wagging a long finger. “I am here, the old curious, and find myself in delightful company. But until this evening I know nothing of your work except that I have read all your books. For me you will be so good as to outline all the points—yes?”

Otter Brearley mutely sought permission of the company, and turned the leaves of his manuscript. All men have an innate love of “talking shop,” but few can make such talk of general interest. Brearley was an exception in this respect. He loved to talk of Egypt, of the Pharaohs, of the temples, of the priesthood and its mysteries; but others loved to hear him. That made all the difference.

“The discovery,” he now began, “upon which I have blundered—for pure accident, alone, led me to it—assumes its great importance by reason of the absolute mystery surrounding certain phases of Egyptian worship. In the old days, Fairbank, you will recall that it was my supreme ambition to learn the secrets of Isis-worship as practised in early Egyptian times. Save for impostors, and legitimate imaginative writers, no one has yet lifted the veil of Isis. That mystical ceremony by which a priest was consecrated to the goddess, or made an arch adept, was thought to be hopelessly lost, or by others, to be a myth devised by the priesthood to awe the ignorant masses. In fact, we know little of the entire religion but its outward form. Of that occult lore so widely attributed to its votaries we know nothing—absolutely nothing! By we, I mean students in general. I, individually, have made a step, if not a stride, into that holy of holies!”

“Mind you don’t lose yourself!” said Fairbank, lightly.

But, professionally, he was displeased with Brearley’s drawn face and with the feverish brightness of his eyes. So much was plain for all to see. In the eyes of Ailsa Brearley, so like, yet so unlike, her brother’s, he read understanding of his displeasure, I think, together with a pathetic appeal.

Brearley waved his long, white hand carelessly.

“Rest assured of that, doctor!” he replied. “The labyrinth in which I find myself is intricate, I readily admit; but all my steps have been well considered. To return, Mr. Klaw”—addressing the latter—“I have secured the mummy of one of those arch adepts! That he was one is proved by the papyrus, presumably in his own writing, which lay upon his breast! I unwrapped the mummy in Egypt, where it now reposes; but the writing I brought back with me, and have recently deciphered. A glance had showed me that it was not the usual excerpts from the Book of the Dead. Six months’ labour has proved it to be a detailed account of his initiation into the inner mysteries!”

“Is such a papyrus unique?” I asked.

“Unique!” cried Moris Klaw. “Name of a little blue man! It is priceless!”

“But why,” I pursued, “should this priest, alone amongst the many who must have been so initiated, have left an account of the ceremony?”

“It was forbidden to divulge any part, any word, of it, Searles!” said Brearley. “Departure from this law was visited with fearful punishments in this world and dire penalties in the next. Khamus, for so this priest was named, well knew this. But some reason which, I fear, can never be known, prompted him to write the papyrus. It is probable, if not certain, that no eye but his, and mine, has read what is written there.”

A silence of a few seconds followed his words.

“Yes,” rumbled Klaw presently; “it is undoubtedly a discovery of extraordinary importance, this. You agree, my friend?”

I nodded.

“That’s evident,” I replied. “But I cannot altogether get the hang of the ceremony itself, Brearley. That is the point upon which I am particularly hazy.”

“To read you the entire account in detail,” Brearley resumed, “would occupy too long, and would almost certainly confuse you. But the singular thing is this: Khamus distinctly asserts that the goddess appeared to him. His writing is eminently sane and reserved, and his account of the ceremony, up to that point, highly interesting. Now, I have tested the papyrus itself—though no possibility of fraud is really admissible, and I have been able to confirm many of the statements made therein. There is only one point, it seems to me, remaining to be settled.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“Whether, as a result of the ceremony described, Khamus did see Isis, or whether he merely imagined he did!”

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