Monday, October 27, 2008

Come On And Wake Up

Sigh. I love Fred Rogers so much, and honestly, I envy him. It seems like his mission was totally clear to him, and he worked at it thoughtfully and joyfully each day. Not to say it was an easy mission -- but he knew exactly what he wanted to do, and he did it. I wonder if one day my mission will be as clear?

My favorite song on this album is Good People Sometimes:
Good people sometimes think bad things.
Good people dream bad things.
Don't you?
Good people even say bad things
Once in a while we do.

Did you forget that...
Good people sometimes wish bad things.
Good people try bad things.
Don't you?
Good people even do bad things
Once in a while we do.
Good people sometimes do.

Has anybody said you're good lately?
Has anybody said you're nice?
And have you wondered how they could lately?
Wondered once or twice?

Good people sometimes feel bad things.
Good people want bad things.
They do.
Good people even do bad things
Once in a while we do.
Good people sometimes do.
I can't imagine that any children's show today would be brave enough to sing a song like this. I know this is meant to be a song to comfort a child, but to hear Fred singing in his voice of experience, I found it very comforting myself.

Oh! And I will find a way to have the title song become my alarm clock music!

Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book

In my continuing study of Shel Silverstein, I had to read this. I first saw it in the Children's section of Johnson's Bookstore in Springfield, MA in 1985. I remember finding it quite disturbing (specifically, the image of Stanley with blood dripping from his knife: "S is also for Stanley. Stanley is a crazy murderer who likes to murder little boys and girls early Sunday morning."), and I was kind of surprised it was with the childrens' books. Of course, nowadays, it isn't, and it has a big "Adults Only" label on it.

Here's my favorite entry:
O is for Oz

Do you want to visit the wonderful far-off land of Oz where the wizard lives and scarecrows can dance and the road is made of yellow bricks and everything is emerald green?

Well, you can't because there is no land of Oz and there is no tin woodsman AND THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS!

Maybe someday you can go to Detroit.
He wrote this book in 1961, long before he had written any actual children's books.

Wonderfully, and fittingly, Shel dedicates the book to Jean Shepherd. I guess they were friends -- Jean wrote the liner notes on Hairy Jazz.

Louis Riel: a Comic-Strip Biography

I know very little of Canadian history, so reading this excellent work by Chester Brown I was very surprised. He has done an excellent job of both research and storytelling, and it is hard to imagine a historical character more interesting than Louis Riel. It makes me want to learn more about exactly how Canada was settled. This is such a different work than I Never Liked You that I wouldn't have guessed the same person would have written both stories.


I've read Borges stories from here and there on and off since high school. But I'd never read Dreamtigers before -- it is very different than reading his short stories. It is a mix of very short (single page) stories and poems. There is something so direct and personal about it, it made me feel like I knew Borges personally. It can be hard to say something deep and powerful on a single page -- but Borges manages it by having some of the same themes (libraries, mirrors, mortality, the illusion of reality) show up again and again throughout the book. I almost feel like it is the key to understanding his other works -- I plan to return to it again and again.

In case you are curious, here is the title story in full.
In my childhood, I was a fervent worshiper of the tiger: not the jaguar, the spotted "tiger" of the Amazonian tangles and the isles of vegetation that float down the Parana, but that striped, Asiatic, royal tiger, that can be faced only by a man of war, on a castle atop an elephant. I used to linger endlessly before one of the cages at the zoo; I judged vast encyclopedias and books of natural history by the splendor of their tigers. (I still remember those illustrations: I who cannot rightly recall the brow or the smile of a woman.) Childhood passed away, and the tigers and my passion for them grew old, but still they are in my dreams. At that submerged or chaotic level they keep prevailing. And so, as I sleep, some dream beguiles me, and suddenly I know I am dreaming. Then I think: This is a dream, a pure diversion of my will; and now that I have unlimited power, I am going to cause a tiger.
Oh, incompetence! Never can my dreams engender the wild beast I long for. The tiger indeed appears, but stuffed or flimsy, or with impure variations of shape, or of an implausible size, or all too fleeting, or with a touch of the dog or the bird.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Field Guide to Roadside Technology

This is a simple, fun book. I really liked learning about things I've seen my whole life but never really understood, like the difference between single-phase and triple-phase power, and why we have both, or that in the US, almost all satellite dishes face south.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pixie Hollow

Finally, it is released! I just checked my files, and realized that we've been working on this for almost four years! It's gone through a lot of changes over that time, but I'm really excited about what we've created! I think it is really fun, and I'm looking forward to all the new fun stuff that will be coming down the line. I wonder what Barrie would think? I bet he would think it is great fun -- but he probably would be disappointed that "Peter" is disallowed by the chat system! Check it out at And if you see Labyrinth Moonforest, say hi!

Post Office

Oh, man. I sure do like reading Charles Bukowski. Everything he writes makes me think, "Yeah, that's what it's like to be a man." He manages to be part of the most squalid, self-destructive situations, and somehow write about them like they are some kind of zen poetry.

I found this in the Seattle airport. I could feel the bookstore calling me, and I got really ticked off when it didn't have anything in it but modern junk. But then, just as I was leaving, I saw it there, and knew that it was the book that drew me in.


My continuing exploration of the life and works of Shel Silverstein led me to this. Though he doesn't do most of the performances, he does make appearances, which is in some ways more interesting than if he sang the whole thing. The songs are mostly cute and fun, though sometimes a little scary and vulgar for kids. But what did you expect?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dream Parlor

Wow. Clearly someone really wanted to make this. It was a little hard to watch, but it was fun. I like the homemade quality of it. I wish there were more homemade movies.

Word Freak

Like most nerds, I have had a lifelong relationship with Scrabble. This book was fascinating to me, because not only does the author report on the world of competitive Scrabble, he gets sucked into it, and becomes a serious player! It is very well-written, and includes a chapter about the invention of Scrabble that I will surely be using in my Game Design class. What I really like is that the book not only gets into the fascinating personalities of Scrabble, and details the peculiar strategies, but it manages to get into the deep question of whether games really have a point at all. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves games or game design.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Robinson Crusoe

Arrgh! I hated this book! I had always assumed two things about it:

1) It was short
2) It was interesting

Turns out I was dramatically wrong on both counts! It's pointlessly long, and very, very little happens! If this is a recounting of true events, it could be forgiven -- but it isn't! It's fiction! There is no real character development, and very few surprises. I'll admit, I learned a little about how to catch goats, and I have a very clear mental image of the place, but Lord, it was boring. I cannot understand why it has endured all these years. I can't find anyone else who has read it -- I suspect it is one of those books where the idea is powerful, but not the execution, so it is remembered, but not read. It is the polar opposite of a book like Moby Dick, which manages to be interesting, entertaining, and meaningful. And if I had to hear "In a word" one more time, I was ready to smash the CDs to pieces!

So, fooey on you, Daniel Defoe, for wasting my time! You and your 300 year old book are not welcome in the Hall of Greatness! I banish thee to the dungeon, to rot with Emily Bronte and her fetid Wuthering Heights!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hairy Jazz

Just when I think I understand the Shel Silverstein oeuvre, I find this! It is so exciting, and so fun! I'll keep this around, and play it whenever I have a bad day!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


This movie was fun and sweet, and the characters were interesting and clever. It could have been really corny, but it wasn't. The punk klesmer girl was definitely my favorite character.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Captain January

It can't be a good sign for the economy when Fox starts running a Shirley Temple movie marathon. Save us, Shirley!

This movie made me realize that I always thought Guy Kibbee, William Frawley, and that guy who played Uncle Bub on My Three Sons were the same person. Wait a minute! Uncle Bub was William Frawley, after all! Still, I want evidence that Guy Kibbee was not William Frawley.

Even more horrifying, as I heard Shirley singing "At the Codfish Ball" I realized that this is where Shel Silverstein got the idea for "Freakin' at the Freakers' Ball." I may never sleep soundly again.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I Got Stoned and Missed It

The more I learn about Shel Silverstein, the more fascinated I become. This CD is a collection of 23 songs that Shel wrote for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show between 1971 and 1979. I had no idea that Shel had written Cover of the 'Rolling Stone'! What was really interesting was to compare Shel's version of Freakers' Ball to Dr. Hook's... The Dr. Hook version is so much more interesting and fun... it is a song that just came so naturally to them.

I find myself idolizing Shel in so many ways -- not just in everything he managed to do, but in the way he managed to stay behind the scenes, and just do the things he wanted, the way he wanted to do them.

Fantastic Contraption

So, when I say I finished this, I really mean that I've played all of it I'm going to play -- some levels were just too hard for me. Everyone talks about this like it is a mini version of the Incredible Machine, but really, it's much more interesting, because of the way you can build complex machines that move. Physics games are going to be an interesting new genre over the next ten years -- and I think that many of them will follow the patterns that Fantastic Contraption sets.

I'm so looking forward to the first physics game MMO!


I found a used copy of Perfection to play with Emma. I wasn't sure if she'd like it, but we have both had a lot of fun with it. When I was a boy, my Grandmother had this version at her house -- it was really her only cool one-player toy, so I played it a lot, until I could finish it ridiculously fast. I can't say that we ever played using the peculiar scoring record that is on the game -- I can see why they did away with that. In the eighties, my brother got Superfection for his birthday one year. It was kind of cool, but didn't outdo the original. I've long wondered what it would be like to play the unusual Head to Head version of the game.

I love that all the pieces are safely contained within the unit. One of the few games where you can safely throw out the box after you open it. Definitely the coolest part of the game is the way all your efforts are completely spoiled if you take too long... it is hard not to feel a jolt of suprise every time that stupid thing pops. A really beautiful game mechanic. I wonder who designed it?

2008 Petco Hamster Ball Derby

I'd never been to one of these before. And now I have. I was surprised to learn that it is not just for hamsters, but that basically any rodent that fits in the ball can race. As with many things, the kids were there to have fun, but the parents were there to compete. "Your hamster is stupid!" I heard an irritated mother bark at her three year old daughter, whose hamster ran the wrong way.

I thought that rats would have an edge, but the winner was a gerbil named Lucky. You go, Lucky -- stick it to the man!

I feel like I should engage in some kind of social commentary here, but I've got nothing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Freakin' at the Freakers Ball

While I didn't enjoy the songs much for their own sake, I enjoyed listening to Shel, who sounded like he had tremendous fun making this album.

Three Men in a Boat say nothing of the Dog. I found this at the Rosslyn Farms Community Library. It is so hard to believe it was written in 1889! It is so rich, and wry, and clever, it feels like it was written yesterday! Even the language seems modern. Part of what I liked was hearing what river life was like back then, but I was also fascinated with how people were cut off from nature, even 100 years ago... that's where much of the comedy in this comes from. But what I liked best was imagining all the other people who must have read this -- surely Mark Twain, G.K. Chesterton, George Bernard Shaw, Groucho Marx, and so many others must have read it, and surely they all chuckled over it, because it is just so elegant, clever, and fun. That is one of the wonderful pleasures of old books, I think -- they become a passage through time, not just to when they were written, but to all the times they were read, and to all the people who read them.

As I read it, I kept wondering, how can he end this in a way that is neither corny nor sneering? I'll tell you how: perfectly.