Old Jugglers

A white-bearded fisherman was arranging his nets on a pier in the early morning, near an old juggler, who had shared the pier with him for years. He took a moment to watch the juggler throw a ball as high as she could into the air. It was windy, and they both noticed an interesting wobble in the ball that neither had ever seen before.

A second, younger juggler, seeing that a small crowd of people had begun to gather, stood up and swiftly threw three more balls into the air, and then, worried it was not enough, added a chainsaw, a baby, and a flaming scimitar.

Together, the two jugglers stepped forward to catch the items as they descended. The younger audience in the crowd pushed forward to gasp as the pair caught the chainsaw, the baby, and the flaming sword. No longer content with balls, the younger juggler left the three balls he’d thrown to the older juggler, who caught them softly and easily, before moving her gaze back to the first ball, still descending, still spinning in a way she’d never seen.

By the time the final ball returned to earth, the young juggler had moved on in search of bigger crowds. The fisherman could hear him in the distance, throwing bells, wine bottles, firecrackers and anything else he could find.

The old juggler reached for the ball with her wrinkled hand, and it made a soft sound that reminded the old fisherman of his first new baseball glove, the one that his mother had given to him on a Christmas when he’d expected only socks.

The fisherman smiled at the juggler, and she smiled back, just for a moment, before each turned back to their days. There were fish to be caught, each a little different, to a fisherman who knew how to look.

An @InternationalWomensDay In The Life Of My Partner

Its #InternationalWomensDay, so I’m going to talk about what happens when @AdmiralAsthma and I do the same job, since we both direct improvised plays, and we’ve both been an obvious part of the Seattle improv scene for about the same time. This isn’t a “big deal” story, on its own, leading to any big conflict. It’s a very normal, every day sort of story.

When I run an audition, I usually wear the first mostly-unwrinkled Fred Meyer button-up shirt in my closet, yesterday’s jeans, and the same shoes I wear every day. Sometimes I remember to brush my hair, but usually I forget. I don’t really think about it, except to make sure I don’t have any food stains on my shirt.

When @AdmiralAsthma runs an audition, she carefully puts together an outfit, made out of clothes that are all more expensive than mine. The right neckline, some professional pants, and a blazer. She puts on the right amount of make-up. She puts product in her hair with confusing names I don’t always understand, but which make it hard to breath. She looks at herself in the mirror and decides if she’s putting out the right combination of authority, but also fun to work with, but also not too scary so that auditionees aren’t nervous.

Auditionees arrive and they hand me their audition paperwork. Not just for the auditions I run: if I’m sitting in on @AdmiralAsthma’s audition, they’ll often walk up and hand me their paperwork as well. These are all people who probably consider themselves “woke”, and who are well aware of systemic inequality. But patterns are ingrained, and they’re anxious about auditions, and they’re not thinking too hard about it, so I’m maybe the person in charge.

When everyone has arrived, I just start talking, and the auditionees almost always quiet down immediately, especially if they don’t know who I am.

@AdmiralAsthma says the exact same thing, and people sometimes look surprised at who’s talking, and they finish up their conversations, and they start to listen. So she starts again when they’re quiet enough. The ones who know who she is actually quiet down quicker than for me.

I once counted the extra actions that I could perceive @AdmiralAsthma needing to take to subtlely reassert herself one time, and in the five minutes I counted, I hit 50. And those are just the ones that I picked up on.

I said this isn’t a “big deal” story, but that really just means its a normalized story, and one that’s composed of a hundred-small paper-cuts rather than a big obvious thing. It’s that one out-of-place thing that you don’t notice until someone tells you about it, and then you can’t stop seeing it.

@AdmiralAsthma doesn’t complain about much of this, because she’s used to it, except when clothing manufacturers fail to take the fact that she actually -does- things in her clothes into account, or when a particularly oblivious improviser won’t stop arguing against a note. But I’d complain up a storm if a tenth of it of it happened to me, because I’m used to what being born white and male and American came with for free.

Why I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton

I’m sure anyone who hasn’t blocked me knows I’m voting for Hillary. This post is really for my own benefit, as I needed to spell out exactly why, if only for myself.

I was once a registered Republican. I still believe in fiscal responsibility and the power of healthy institutions: once hallmarks of the Republican Platform, now reduced to mere platitudes. Today’s GOP is in shambles: it is a federally protected, out-of-control propaganda machine that was easily subverted by a man who knows almost nothing about the world that props him up, beyond how to use the appearance of success to bluster his way into almost anything. The Republican Party, despite the best efforts of the few honorable men and women who still hold office with an R next to their name, has been infected by a destructive cynicism so great that it has no plan beyond a plan to undo anything its opposition attempts. It no longer even pretends to try to govern a majority of Americans. The unwillingness to hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, hardly a partisan pick, should be a clear enough sign to anyone who isn’t 100% Republican, no matter what that means.

And then, Hillary and the Democrats. It’d be dishonest for me to call myself anything but a capitol D Obama Democrat these days. That doesn’t mean I reject a lot of criticism. The Democrats have some of the same problems as the GOP. They’ve lost the ability to connect with the other side: especially rural voters. They “solve” problems for rural regions without including them. I can blame the GOP for this all I want, but at the end of the day, the Democrats still have to make their case to a majority of Americans, or they deserve no majority vote. Even when the Democratic Party supports policies that are friendly to rural, poor America, they do a poor job of reaching out to that group and giving them a more productive voice. They’re backed into a corner over the Affordable Care Act, and haven’t yet acknowledged enough of the problems that still need to be fixed. They too often play victim to the propaganda of the right, rather than working to counter it at the grass roots level. And the Democratic leadership takes advantage of the people who ARE working at the grass roots level. The loss of many Bernie Sanders voters to third parties has to be placed at the feet of the Party Leadership, who made a lot of poor campaign choices. They’re too quick to blame honest criticism of their policies on bigotry or ignorance, effectively invalidating the feelings of millions of rural Americans: they very thing they accuse their opposition of doing.

And then Hillary. The opposition has had years to make their case against her, and boy have they. She’s effective and ambitious, and she really wants the job. She already has power, she already has money, so at the end of the day, I have to believe she wants it because she believes she’s right for the job. She could certainly do a lot of other things that would mean going through a lot less hell.

There are a lot of criticisms of her. Some of them are spot on: her international hawkishness is extremely concerning (though still less concerning than Trump’s hawkishness-without-the-benefit-of-knowledge). Her willingness to cut legal corners in pursuit of her goals, and her willingness to compromise on parts of her platform to secure others. Some of them are incredibly sexist. Some of them are subtlety sexist: as narrow as the road we demand our female politicians walk is today, it was a lot more narrow in the 80s and 90s, which Hillary was politically active. We have evolved since then and SHE has evolved since then. As election day nears, all stops are being pulled out. FBI agents acting out of individual interest are intentionally timing leaks to hurt her chances. Even so, if those leaks were substantial, I’d be happy to consider them. So far, they’re not, by any neutral reading of them. They all hint at things the reinforce whatever you already believe. After years of the most powerful men and women of this country working to take Hillary down, -nothing- has stuck. Either she’s the most incredibly effective mastermind this country has ever seen, or most of the accusations are exactly what Benghazi turned out to be: hyperbole or bunk.

I don’t have an answer to the person who truly thinks she’s evil. You presumably think I’m either too lost, too misguided, too naive, too stupid, or too corrupt to have read this far. But even if you believe many of the claims against her: almost every one is doubly true about the man who will take office if she loses. If Hillary loses, Trump wins. If you’re like the Green Party’s climate agenda: You’re screwed. If you like the Libertarian Party’s social agenda: you’re screwed. If you like anything Obama has supported, you’re definitely screwed. If you’re white and straight and middle class, you’ll probably do alright in the short term. Economic decline and a lack of interest in repairing social problems will take longer to affect you than most others. A large part of the economic and social progress of the last eight years will be undone: not fixed, not extended to more people, not balanced with pragmatism: just undone. But you’ll be okay, for a bit.

2008 isn’t a place I want to go back to. I don’t want to go back at all. I want to go forward. Hillary’s my best shot at that. Trump is everyone’s worst shot for almost anything.

Too Long; Didn’t Read: Shadowrun Racism, CORPSins, and Good Reason To Roleplay

“What’s most important to me is that it’s about the present. It’s not really about an imagined future. It’s a way of trying to come to terms with the awe and terror inspired in me by the world in which we live.”
— William Gibson

“I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it.”
— Ray Bradbury

“What’s wrong with the modern times is that the future isn’t what it used to be.”
— Paul Valery

I love Shadowrun for a lot of reasons. There’s room for pink-mohawked ork razorgirls, gritty noir anti-heroes, crazy spirits who don’t understand our world, and giant Bladerunner-esque corporations.  We play with a lot of this for entertainment on Shadowrun: Corporate SINs, our Wednesday 6pm show on HyperRPG.

In the middle of all that craziness, though, there’s also a lot of room for one of the best things Sci-Fi has to offer: the ability to look at the present without getting mired in the complexities and politics that don’t let us see our present-day forest for the trees.

I hope that #CorpSINs succeeds primarily as entertainment, but that there’s enough to satisfy fans of both parts. I play Cromwell, who’s definitely in the Pink Mohawk category a lot of the time: A Troll who pretends to be British, styles himself as a Butler, and uses magic to augment his street brawling abilities. Cromwell has good instinct but low logic: he isn’t the brightest runner the 6th World has offered up, but he does take himself, his world, and his friends seriously. I try to see things from his perspective, even when that point-of-view leads him into big trouble. As with all our characters, I hope the comedy normally comes not out of trying too hard to be funny, but out of Cromwell trying his hardest with what the Great Bear gave him.

For those viewers who are curious, here’s a bit more about the particular time and place that MMFEC inhabits in Seattle, and why a lot of internal conflict within the group reflects the greater conflict that surrounds them.

The Seattle Metroplex is a giant city-state that’s nominally part of what remains of the United States and Canada, but is an island surrounded by the Native American Nations. At the top level, it’s an giant success: an international hub, with representatives from all the major corporations. At the bottom level, it’s a giant failure: it’s poorest and most disenfranchised citizens are barely holding it together after years of war, riots, (un)natural disasters, AI villains, drug wars, and the loss of individual rights to the rights of corporations.

Characters such as Cromwell and Mordecai, who spend most their time on the street, or Fang, who’s SIN marks her as a criminal, exist primarily at that lowest level. If there is a street war targeting metahumans or magic users, it’s very hard to escape it. If characters at this level can rely on their government to protect them, they can probably get by. When they can’t, they must hide, fend/fight for themselves, or band together into gangs or other organizations. Characters such as Elsie or Ma1nfram3 (assuming they are who they appear to be), who exist at a slightly higher economic level and can pass for human can depend a little more on the community infrastructure around them, and can be a bit more selective in choosing which battles to fight.

The bigotry of the 6th world has moved on from things as “simple” as skin color, gender, and sexual orientation because the introduction of magic provided all new sources for human anxiety, fear and hate to latch onto. Troll and Orks look like monsters out of 5th world children’s stories and fables, while technology and magic are difficult to regulate and give seemingly random individuals unbelievable sources of power. And all too like our world, those who seek political power have found plenty of ways to latch their star to the never-to-be-underestimated capacity of humans to fear and hate that which is different.

Specifically, Kenneth Brackhaven, current governor of Seattle, has made a political career by tapping into those forces of fear in people: fears that children in public schools will have gigantic troll classmates who tower over them, that the orks of the underground will take all the jobs while filling the streets with drugs and crime, that elves are secretly manipulating everyone and infiltrating the upper levels of governments and corporations. He publicly proclaims tolerance, but at the same time, fired his entire police force (Lonestar) and brought in a new police force (Knight Errant, a division of Ares Corporation) who now owes him big time for the contract. Not surprisingly, the new police force routinely turns a blind eye to violence against metahumans, while protecting the interests of human voters at the bottom and powerful organizations who fund him a the top.

Enter into this characters such as Cromwell, who has good instincts but not much logic. He knows humans see him as a bull in a china shop where ever he goes, and he knows that most people are going to take the side of the china. He knows that he can’t rely on the police, who are as likely to assume he’s the criminal as, say, a young human troll killer. And his years on Yomi Island taught him how much he can trust society’s judgement. He can’t hide: he’s a troll who lives on the street, and he has bad experiences we haven’t yet gotten into with gangs and organized crime. So in the end of the day, Cromwell doesn’t believe he has any choice but to fight as hard as he can to protect the things he cares about until he is invariably killed in a war that he can’t escape from. He is going to invariably come into conflict with characters who believe in trying to work with the system (Fang) or avoid the fight altogether (Ma1nfram3 and Mordecai, potentially: we don’t yet know what lies behind these character’s motivations). He’s going to be frustrated that they can’t see that he doesn’t have the choices they do to avoid the fight, and they’re going to be frustrated that Cromwell can’t see that there might be a better way if he had more faith or patience. Not to mention that he’s threatening their own places in the system & sometimes playing into the hands of his enemies. And then there’s Elsie, who Cromwell cares deeply about, who forces Cromwell not to rush to his own death in that war: not because he’s afraid of dying, but because she reminds him that it’s about more than just his own life: he needs to stay alive long enough know that she’s safe from [REDACTED].

I (Tony) am not much like Cromwell at all. I’m not an idealist, but I do believe in patience, diplomacy. I believe, perhaps out of privilege, that the system contains corruption and systemic unfairness, but not that the whole system is fundamentally corrupt. But playing Cromwell helps me see the situations that would make me feel differently, and if there is a better reason to role play than that, I don’t know what they are.

UPDATE: FORT LEWIS STANDOFF RESOLVED; BARNABY THE BEAR STILL AT LARGE

FORT LEWIS (Horizon News) — The tense standoff at Fort Lewis Zoological Gardens has come to an end, after a foggy night filled with explosions, mayhem and escaping animals. Salish-Shidhe ground troops completed their withdrawal this morning, while UCAS troops struggled to recapture a number of paranormal animals who escaped into the wild through large, mysterious holes in the facility’s walls that appeared during what was an abnormally foggy night.

Notably, Barnaby, the bear who triggered the protests, has not been located. Head researcher, Dr. Anderol Gleeson, was caught on trid in a heated exchange with Bear Doctor Society Protester Dr. Brenda Treesplitter, most of which is unsuitable for publishing. “Where the **** is the ****ing bear, you ****ing hippy!?! Do you know how much ****ing money Ares poured into that thing!?!” Gleeson was eventually sedated and carried off by UCAS HTR operatives, and an Ares spokesperson called the doctors comments, “unfortunate and misinformed. Ares respects all life. The bear was obviously not modified in anyway, but may still be dangerous–anyone with information on the bear’s whereabouts should contact Ares representatives immediately.”

Bear Doctor Society protesters appeared surprisingly calm, providing medical aid to several researchers who had been knocked unconscious during the as-of-yet unexplained events. “Our spirits are currently working to drive these animals south,” said Dr. Treesplitter. ” We have people across the border who can help reintegrate them into Salish-Shidhe lands.”

The researchers, themselves, appeared to have no memory of what happened. “We were locked inside and then… I don’t know, it’s like a dream I can’t quite remember. I think someone threw an awakened walrus at me! The next thing I remember, this Bear Shaman was muttering something over my head, and I now I feel better. I think I’m going to need a new job, though.”

Salish-Shidhe representatives expressed anger over the incident. “We’re still not clear on who breached the facility last night,” explained Elder Jim Whitewing. The Bear Doctors have given us their word that they were not involved, beyond the cleanup this morning. Whoever is responsible for this took a number of reckless, and frankly, stupid risks. That said, the most foolish risk was the UCAS’s failure to live up to its agreements concerning the treatment of these animals. Perhaps the generals of UCAS should look to the volcano to the east more often, and remember the consequences of their past choices.”

The public section of Fort Lewis Zoological Gardens will remain closed for several weeks while damage is assessed, doors and walls are repaired, and the remaining animals are corralled. This is the second time explosives have been detonated in a research facility in the last month, after the Red Blossom Clinic sustained damage in what Shiawase claims was a hate crime against disabled elves. Barnaby the Bear remains at large and officials from both nations have promised to return him to the facility when found.

UPDATE: SEVERAL EXPLOSIONS HEARD WITHIN FORT LEWIS ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS

FORT LEWIS (Horizon News) — A series of explosions, followed by sounds of growls, shrieks and howls have sounded from within Fort Lewis Zoological Garden Research Facility, late this evening.  This, after an intense three-week standoff over the fate of a donated bear named “Barnaby”. The UCAS Army, Salish-Shidhe ground troops, and Bear Doctor Protesters all appear to be caught off guard, with each group preventing the others from entering the building.

“Frankly, we have no idea what’s going on in there: the fraggin’ protesters forced us to evacuate the facility of most personnel,” claimed on-site UCAS commander Rick Naskin. “I place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Salish-Shidhe council for failing to control these so called ‘Bear Doctors’. As soon as the politicians get their fraggin’ heads out of their collective asses and give us permission, we’ll clear up whatever the problem is.”

Salish-Shidhe ground forces were equally flustered. “Our presence here are centered solely around ensuring a peaceful resolution to the ongoing tension.” claimed Council Elder Jim Whitewing. “If the Bear Doctors have taken illegal action, they will have to answer to the governments of both nations, but until that is proven, we will consider any violent act the UCAS takes against the shaman to be an act of war!”

The Bear Doctors, who have chained themselves together around the main and back entrances to the facility, claim to have no knowledge of what has caused the explosions. “We are healers, doctors and religious leaders,” explained Dr. Brenda Treesplitter. “While we stand by our protest, and we have resolved to take no action. Our primary concern is that Barnaby, and the other animals within the facility, are not injured by whatever in the Great Bear’s name is going on in there! The mana barrier that protected the facility is down, and we’re working on getting a spirit in there who can tell us more.”

Local peer-to-peer networks are buzzing about a trid-cast that was posted this afternoon from local trid-caster Buggs Fink. In the video, footage shows his unauthorized drones being shot down by UCAS snipers. In the background, he claims his enhanced filters show several grainy images of a “large gargoyle-looking creature, wearing a three-piece suit and some kind of hat, climbing the walls of the facility at incredible speed”. Horizon News considers this information highly speculative and unreliable, and recommends Mr. Fink leave the reporting to the professionals.

We will have more on this story as it develops. (UPDATE: Situation Resolved, Barnaby Still At Large)

TENSE FT LEWIS STANDOFF OVER CAPTIVE BEAR ENTERS SECOND WEEK

FORT LEWIS, UCAS — A tense three-way standoff entered its second week on Tuesday, as protesters affiliated with the Seattle Bear Doctors Society refused to leave prohibited space just outside the Fort Lewis Zoological Gardens research center. Security forces from both the UCAS Pacific Army Command and the Salish-Shidhe Council have mobilized outside the Center, which operates as both a public zoo and research center for paranormal and augmented animals.

At issue is a large adult American Black Bear, known to visitors as Barnaby. The bear was donated to the center by the Bear Doctors in 2075 after the bear swam to Council Island and became habituated to human food. “We clearly stipulated that Barnaby would be left to live as naturally as possible in the Fort Lewis facility.” said Bear Doctor Spokesperson Dr. Brenda Treesplitter. “We should have known better than to trust the UCAS’s offer to provide a home for this wayward bear. When we received reports that Barnaby had undergone cybernetic augmentation, we knew we had to take action!”

The Bear Doctors, a Council Island based group of shamanistic healers, is popular among the Amerindian population of the Seattle Metroplex for it’s free clinics. It has, nonetheless, drawn harsh criticism from the Salish-Shidhe council. “While we appreciate the Bear Doctors’ concern, and everything they have done for this community, we are concerned that their rash actions will undermine Council/UCAS relations, and we insist they stand down immediately!”

UCAS Pacific Command Press Secretary Brock Hamilton made himself available for comments on Monday morning: “We have talked with the Ares contractors who run the facilities, and they have assured us that any work done on animals in the facility is humane and improve the quality of life of the animal. These allegations are the typical lies we’ve come to expect from eco-terrorist groups. If the Salish-Shidhe Council will not clear their people from the prohibited space outside the Fort Lewis Zoo, our Soldiers will remove them with extreme prejudice.”

Salish-Shidhe Council Ambassador Margaret Lone Feather urged calm in a rare joint press release with Governor Kenneth Brackhaven. “We are well aware of the situation at hand, and while we respect the Bear Doctor Society for their healing skills, we fear they may have let their tempers override better judgement. We encourage everyone, regardless of their nation, to avoid the area and leave it to our security forces to negotiate a peace. We value our relationship with Seattle and the UCAS, and believe that to jeopardize it over something as insignificant as a single bear would be incredibly unwise.”

“Stupid, even,” added Governor Brackenhaven. “Fortunately, the facility is in lockdown and the protesters have been unable to breach the hardened doors and magical barriers.”

UPDATE: Several Explosions Have Been Reported Inside The Facility

Shadowrun: Corporate SINs Recap for May 11th, 2016

A quick recap, from Cromwell’s point-of-view, before the Shadowrun: Corporate SINs episode tonight at 6pm, on HyperRPG’s Twitch Channel!

Cromwell longed to punch his way through the wall, climb down the hospital’s walls, and flee into the dusk. He had to remind himself that he tried hiding before, and discovered that if loneliness didn’t find him, trouble always did. Remind himself that there was no safety out there, not if he didn’t complete the job. Not for him, and not for Elsie, the wayward teenage that he had promised the Great Bear to protect with his life.

The last job had not gone well. The loss of MMFEC’s mark, Josephine Dzhugashvili, to a team of elite runners had hit everyone hard. Cromwell could see it in the way Mordecai muttered to himself in dark corners. In the way Fang kept rechecking her implanted gun, just in case. In the way Elsie would start to speak and then suddenly fall silent, staring out windows or down at the ground. Even the speed at which Ma1nfram3 agreed to be put under, as bait, seemed incongruous to the Elven Decker’s carefully guarded nature.

But now there was a job to do. Evo’s Ms. O’Johnson had been clear about the terms: 5,000 nuyen, each, to locate a particular Shiawase facility, engaging in illicit research on “volunteers”. The group was to discover the location of the facility and provide video documentation of the location where the research was being performed. A bonus of 3,000 nuyen would be provided if the exact nature of the research could be determined, an extra 2,000 nuyen for freeing five “volunteers”, and 500 more for each extra.

Ma1nfram3 had obtained a low quality security card for Elsie, removed any trace of her actually identity, and put herself in the less-than-gentle care of the Red Blossom clinic, the rest of the group had descended upon the clinic: located on the seventh floor of a hospital, in the shadow of the Aztechnology Pyramid. The plan had been to send Elsie in to wake Ma1nfram3 up. And while she had talked her way past the hospital’s general security, her disguise had not been enough to get her into the restricted area of the Red Blossom clinic. And so, Mordecai, Fang and Cromwell had joined her. Breaking through the security door, Cromwell had carefully fired a narcojet-injected arrow into the one visible security guard… who, remarkably, managed to stay on his feet. And that was where Plan A had turned into the entire group fighting guards, drones, gas grenade, and incredibly, two plant monsters from another plane of existence!

At some point in the fray, Elsie had gone down. Cromwell remembered hearing the sound of The Great Bear roaring in his head, in a hail of grenades, fists, exploding drones, and vines. And then, an odd silence. Wounded and barely standing, the group had revived the unconscious Elsie and found difficulty in waking Ma1nfram3. Cromwell felt a little guilty about the empty spots on his grenade belt–until he remembered that the guards who had taken the brunt of the blasts had stood by while Shiawase experimented upon the innocent. Besides, Cromwell had more to worry about than whether the guards would survive their injuries.

If the guard’s cries hadn’t called down a High Threat Response team, the grenades certainly had, and the team had but scant moments before a force they would have no chance to defeat would arrive…

 

Performances: 2/25-2/28

Lots of performances this weekend!
Thursday, 8:30pm: Performing in Improv Anonymous’s Blank Slate, where the audience creates an entire play: Tickets and Info
Friday: 6:00pm – Late (and other pop-ins this weekend): Online with HyperRPG’s 48-hour Charity Drive: Check out the Twitch Channel
Saturday, 10:30pm: Playing on a new team in Unexpected Productions’ Seattle Theatresports:Theatresports Tickets and Info
Sunday, 8:30pm: Playing a small, informal open improv show at Unexpected Productions: Tickets at the door at the Market Theater (1428 Post Alley, behind the gumwall)