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I'm sitting on a bench at town center with Gina leaning against me, listening to Nonchalant Peak, a large industrial punkish band, playing a cacophony of sounds. One of the members shouts various quick scat sounds into a microphone.

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dulcorate (dull'-cor-ate) v.t. to sweeten, to make less acrimonious (n.: dulcoration)

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A bland plot spiked
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Second-rate teen raunch.

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I loved this enchanting French film about a young woman who devotes herself to helping others via eccentric secret favors. But Alison and Gina liked it even more than me... they both immediately declared this to be their new Favorite Movie Ever. So you know it must be good.

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"I read a review long ago, and recently did a Google search on abstract games, and found Icehouse. It's excellent (I've made some paper stashes), and makes me think the reviewer was very dull, as he "didn't get it". Congrats on changing the face of abstract gaming for the next 100 years!" -- Aaron, of Naperville, Illinois, via email

Thursday, April 25, 2002
by the Wunderland Toast Society

What's New?

What's Going On? NORML Fluxx / Goodbye Gwen

This past week, Kristin and I attended the 2002 NORML Conference, and as usual, it was great. This was the 4th year we have attended, and each year has been bigger, better and more encouraging than the one before. Each year the mood gets more positive, because even though complete victory over prohibition is still a distant dream, there is no question that we are making progress. As I heard more than one person observe at this year's conference, we are gradually winning the hearts and minds of the public, even though the Bush Administration still operates on the president's father's attitudes about drug use. But while they may be called leaders, our elected officials are actually followers, and as public attitudes about this issue change, so too will the policy-makers. More and more polls are showing that fewer and fewer Americans support the idea of arresting peaceful pot-smokers, and increasingly prominent public figures are speaking out against the drug war. The tide is turning, and soon (I predict) there'll be a watershed event (of some sort) that really breaks this issue open.

Another encouraging thing we heard about at the NORML conference is the way governments around the world are rejecting the drug war. Once upon a time, Americans rebelled against tyranny imposed by England, and fought against fascism over in Germany. Ironically, German and English stoners are now starting to enjoy more freedom than are most of the 10-20 million American stoners secretly living among us. And it sounds like things are really loosening up in Canada. They've already legalized medical use at the national level, and soon they may legalize pot outright. I wonder how that would affect things here?

But while it's always great to hear about progress on this issue, we had several actual business reasons for attending the conference this year. For one thing, the trip gave an opportunity to meet with several people (both in the movement and out) about possible growth funding options for Looney Labs. (Cashflow continues to be an issue for us... I hate to say this, but we're looking now at needing to postpone the publication of Nanofictionary until after Origins.) We also used the occasion to launch a new 11th set of Looney Buttons, which we call "Freedom vs. Prohibition" and which goes on sale at our online gift shop starting today.

But the real focus of our discussions on this trip concerned a new card game we're working on, entitled NORML Fluxx. As you might expect from the name, NORML Fluxx will be a special edition of Fluxx, with a marijuana theme. I've been thinking for a couple of years about making up a game for my stoner friends about getting stoned, but at Toy Fair it occurred to me that one way to do that would be to just use the Fluxx engine and change all the Keepers into items relating to the marijuana-smoking scene.

At the time, I just wrote the ideas down in a notebook. But a couple of weeks ago, with the NORML conference nearly upon us, we had the idea of calling it NORML Fluxx and giving them a cut of the proceeds. We could even devote a card to promoting NORML's cause, with a membership form on the back to encourage anyone who buys the game to also join NORML. All of these measures will hopefully allow us to keep the game focused on ending prohibition rather than simply "glorifying pot use" (a phrase our critics will undoubtedly use).

Of course, we recognize that if we publish this, we'll be sticking our necks out farther than we ever have before. But we believe that nothing will ever change unless people like us start sticking our necks out. (Plus of course, we'll be covering our butts in as many ways as we can think of, including saying "ages 18 and up" on the box and such like.)

However, we believe the climate is changing and that we won't be hurt by publishing this. Besides being emboldened by the NORML conference, we are also encouraged by some market research we've been doing. We certainly aren't the first to think of publishing a marijuana-themed game... there are several other entries in the market, the most successful of which is a long-enduring classic called Grass. We went to the Wizards of the Coast store to see if and how Grass is being sold there, and they have it right out on the showroom floor, displayed at knee-height no less. We asked the clerks how well it sells and if they ever get complaints from concerned parents, and they said it sells great and that they've never heard a peep. So, we figure it'll be OK. (And if it ain't, well, there's no such thing as bad publicity, right?)

Also at the NORML conference, Kristin made contact with a big distributor of goods sold in so-called "headshops," these being stores that sell rolling papers and water pipes and other pieces of equipment supposedly for use in the smoking of tobacco. Although these places lurk in the shadows of the retail world, headshops apparently abound... we were amazed to discover that the number of headshops in America is twice or three times as big as the number of game stores of the sort where our games are currently sold. Our hope is that by publishing NORML Fluxx, we will finally be able to get our games into these outlets (something we've been trying to do with Aquarius ever since we published it, with very little success).

Anyway, last week I started making a prototype, and the game basically invented itself. I'll tell you the list of new Keepers now, and let you work on thinking up a set of Goals on your own. NORML Fluxx will feature 4 copies of the Weed Keeper, which is required by more than half of the Goals; there will also be two different versions of a Keeper called "A Friend." Then there are things that go with Weed, like Rolling Papers, the Pipe, the Bong, and Fire, and finally there are things you want handy after getting high, like Ice Cream, Pizza, Brownies, Nachos, and Good Music.

We immediately arranged for some playtesting by our stoner friends, and they liked it so much we knew we were on the right track. A few tweaks later, and we had a version worthy of showing to Keith and Allen, the big cheeses at NORML. Neither of them have actually played it yet, but they got enough glowing feedback from others who did play it as to convince them we're "onto something". And when they saw that we plan to say on the box "$1 from each deck sold will be donated to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws" they were, naturally, ready to give us preliminary approval. (Of course, we will need to get their official permission on a formal agreement, and we'll be setting up a meeting with them at their office downtown just as soon as we (and they) can find the time.) We also have to figure out how to pay for the initial print-run, but that's another story.

Meanwhile, Alison stayed home to continue working on the pond she's building in our backyard. Here you see a giant load of rocks she had delivered earlier this week. (One of the big-burly-guys-for-hire had to yank an old fence post out of the ground to get this behemoth of a machine into the side yard.) The pond is really coming along!

In sadder news, the beloved family cat Guinevere has gone away for that final nap in the sunshine. Gwen was a great little cat, much beloved by everyone in our family, who reigned supreme at the house I grew up in for almost 18 years. Although she was my parent's cat, she was mine once too... I still remember going with my mom and sister to pick her out from a litter of kittens at a house in the neighborhood nearby. And it was I who came up with her name, which reflects my medieval obsessions of that era.

Here's a picture of me and Gwen, taken back in December 1984, when I still lived at home. As you can see, Guinevere was the first cat I had any success in teaching to ride upon my shoulder. (As you can also see, I wasn't always bald, but I have been wearing that watch on a chain for a really long time.)

Anyway, we all loved Guinevere and my parents and sister are in mourning now. As am I.

To close on a happier note, I got to go to see Paul McCartney in concert this week! Ginohn had an extra ticket they couldn't sell, so they gave to me. Yay! Thanks Ginohn! It was grand to see a real Beatle perform, and he did an outstanding job, too. It exceeded all my expectations. Now go read the GinohnNews for a much more detailed report!

AndyHave a Great Week!

the story so far

Thought Residue
We've been invited to attend Arisia '03 (a major sci-fi convention in Boston) as Special Guests of Honor! (As in, all expenses paid! Etc!)
I'm stunned to learn that Landover Mall is closing its doors. I suppose it is kind of run down now, but I can still remember marveling at its opulence 3 decades ago, when it was new and I was a kid. (Two floors of indoor shopping! With fountains and sculptures and trees! And it's all indoors! We'd never seen the like.)
I've really gotten into the History channel. There's just so much good stuff on it! Never has history been so addictive...


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