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vitiate (vish'-ee-ate) v.tr. 1: to reduce the value or impair the quality of. 2: to corrupt morally; debase. 3: to make ineffective; invalidate. [from Latin vitium "fault."]

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"This guy... he had a deck of cards. Everything sorta goes blurry after that. We were all yelling and throwing cards at the table. It was like the world around us was changing with every round. And then I won. And I wanted more." -- Comments with an order for Fluxx from Tamas B. of Bellevue, WA

Thursday, September 29th 2005
by the Writer's Guild of Wunderland

What's New?

Oct 10, 2005

What's Going On? Sharon's Day, 1775

This weekend we traveled back in time to the year 1775. To put it another way, we went to Colonial Williamsburg!

The occasion was a very special annual event we call Sharon's Day, a family holiday if you will, in which I (and others in the family) get to spend the day (and a bunch of my money) goofing off with my niece Sharon, in honor of the fact that I'm her Godfather. Every year we try to find some new adventure to go on, and this year, the time was right for a trip to Williamsburg.

For those who maybe don't know anything about Williamsburg, it's a living history museum, a complete recreation of an entire town from about 1775, on the site of an actual 18th century town, where actual history took place. Williamsburg features many original buildings, fully restored, intermingled with reconstructed buildings which have been rebuilt as authentically as possible. It's really quite a remarkable place, and I heartily recommend a visit.

Williamsburg is a very important place to my brother Jeff. As a professional historian of note, working on the papers of Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, Jeff's interest in history grew with every visit our family made to Williamsburg while we were growing up. His studies in 18th century history took him to Princeton, where he met his wife-to-be, and they spent their honeymoon in a tavern in Williamsburg. So I'm not exaggerating when I say it was a special thrill to be sharing in the experience, together with Jeff, as his 8 year old children got their first taste ever of Colonial Williamsburg. (Plus it was Kristin's first visit, too!)

We had a grand day together, exploring everything from the Cooper's workshop (where barrels are made, like the one Sharon is testing out above) to the Garden Maze behind the Governor's Palace (where Jeff's "boss" Thomas Jefferson lived for a time, as Governor of Virginia.) We feasted for lunch at the King's Arms Tavern and rounded out the day with a magnificent meal at one of Jeff's very favorite restaurant's ever: Christina Campbell's Tavern.

Dinner at Christina Campbell's was particularly memorable, and not just for the spoonbread or the games of Family Fluxx (near final prototype) with Sharon and Volcano with James. During dinner, Ms. Campbell herself came by to talk to her guests, and we had some jolly good fun hearing her react when James said that they'd traveled by car ("He means carriage") all the way from Charlottesville in a matter of 2 hours. "But of course, that's a journey of several days," she proclaimed. "He must have slept quite a bit along the way!" Of course, everyone at Colonial Williamsburg tries always to stay in character, and we met a variety of interesting people that day.

Well, after dinner, Jeff had the particular pleasure of talking about the details of Christina Campbell's history with the woman portraying her. He's researched and written about her history, and traded recipes for the promise of mailing her his Campbell biography!

I hadn't been to Williamsburg in perhaps 20 years, so it was interesting to see the changes they'd made. As you would hope and expect, things seemed pretty much the same in the historic districts, but wow, the Visitor Center sure has changed! (And even in the historic district there are subtle changes... archeologists are now excavating the site of the town's coffeehouse. Someday, it might be rebuilt and open for business again!)

Also, I really liked the new way of getting from the Visitor Center into the historic area. Time was when you had to get dropped off by a shuttle bus, but now they've got a pedestrian overpass that means you can just walk in. What's especially cool is that the bridge has markers all along it announcing your gradual passage backwards in time. We immediately started calling it the Time Bridge, and it totally enhanced the time travel fantasy of the experience, which follows nicely with last year's trip back to 1536.

And that wasn't the only new experience history had in store for us that day. Here we see Dean Shostak playing an instrument invented by Ben Franklin called the Glass Armonica. Once quite popular, the instrument fell out of favor in the 1830s and there hasn't been one known to exist anywhere until a few years ago when Dean had one built, from scratch, by a scientific glass-blower.

The Glass Armonica works on the same principle as rubbing your fingers on the rim of a glass to make it sing. It's a series of nested glass bowls of various sizes, strung on a rod like a lathe, and the musician plays it by wetting his fingers and rubbing them on the rims. It produces a wonderful, ethereal sound... sort of like a theramin, and yet not quite like anything you've heard.

It was a wonderful concert, including as it did other wonders like a glass violin and huge singing bowls. (We enjoyed it so much, we bought his CD!) One highlight was a song written for the Glass Armonica in an age when none existed and never actually heard on the target instrument by its composer: Aquarium, from Carnival of the Animals. (It's quite a familiar piece, you'd probably recognize it. It was popularized on instruments other than the one which inspired it.)

Returning from 1775, and thinking of the professional role-players we encountered there, has helped spur me into getting a few web pages built which I've been trying to get around to, literally, for years. (I was also motivated to post these pages at last because I'm trying to clean off and pack up the junk on my desk, and I found this stack of photos I'd pulled out to scan.) This week I'm happy to unveil web versions of a pair of autobiographical stories I first self published (via an Empire Publications booklet called Saturn Cafe) in 1988. The first is a story about Camping at Henlopen, with the Boy Scouts, and the second is an article about the state of the art in Live Role Playing at that time (when we were still calling them SIL games) called On Weekends, I'm Somebody Else. To fill in the gaps around the original article, which I'm posting unchanged. I've written a new article, called From SIL to LARP, which includes the complete list of 56 games I was in from 1983 and 1997. (I haven't played in a LARP since the founding of Looney Labs. But you never know when I'll decide to come back out of retirement, especially considering that Alison has starting playing them at conventions.)

In other news, we finally have a PR person! We've officially been looking for someone since the start of the summer, but it sometimes takes a long time to find the right person, even when they're right under your nose. Welcome aboard, Stephanie Clarkson! We visited Stephanie in Toronto last summer, and she's got great enthusiasm (not to mention all the skills we've been looking for in a Publicity Specialist).

For more about Stephanie and what she'll be doing for us, check out her own description in her LiveJournal entry.

We're all excited about having Stephanie on our team... her efforts could make a big difference in our quest for success. Yay!

On the other hand, we're really bummed about a little glitch that showed up in the new printing of Fluxx 3.1. In general, the various minor changes we made came out fine -- the purple box in particular looks great! -- but there's an extraneous "2" on the new Basic Rules! Inside the Draw 1 icon! It's awful! And alas, as with the Lost Pledge in the otherwise great-looking EcoFluxx decks (which we also just got the first samples of), there's nothing we can do but make sure it gets fixed on the next printing. But hey, at least they're almost here... we'd all but run out of Fluxx decks, and we're all really eager to have EcoFluxx!

AndyThanks for reading, have a great week, and Don't Forget to Play!

Thought Residue
Ever since I was a kid, I've been particularly fascinated by disasters. (For details, see my entry on the Titanic in Mysteries of the Timeline.) I believe strongly in taking precautions and trying to be prepared for emergencies. I think that's why I'm so shocked and angered -- still -- by the way the government botched the handling of Katrina. As a disaster-watcher, I've long known that a major hurricane strike would be particularly devastating for below-sea-level New Orleans. It was as inevitable as the next major quake in California. As I watched the news on the eve of the storm, I listened to an expert predict exactly what we all then saw happen over the next few days, and I knew he was completely correct. So it seems to me they had plenty of warning, plenty of time to prepare. Why then were they caught with their pants totally down? And what will happen when the next disaster isn't so easily predicted?

One way to sum up the differences between Canada and "Red" America: the 3 Ps vs. the 3 Gs. The 3 Gs are God, Guns, and [oppression of] Gays, while the 3 Ps are Peace, Pot, and [gay] Pride. I've long been hearing about the 3 Gs that motivate conservatives down here, but the 3 Ps have only just now stuck in my mind, thanks to a review I just read of this movie we're supposedly in (which finally debuted last week at a film festival in Montreal), called Escape To Canada. I can't wait to see it!
"I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country--with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain--did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made 'at the top' and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism--the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to. I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness--as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing--against this undeclared and devastating war. But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you." -- Sharon Olds, in her open letter to Laura Bush, "No Place for a Poet at a Banquet of Shame"

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