My Satanic Majesty 2

I first referenced this image 14 years ago, when I wrote about the time anti-D&D Christians threatened to picket a talk I gave at the Springfield Public Library to a few tween-age boys about role-playing games, but back then the size of the images I was uploading was fairly small. Combined with the fact that what I had to scan was a sort of grainy newspaper photo from 1982, I didn’t really get into what exactly was on the table.

But I ran across the original print the other day sorting through some boxes and made a new scan, taking a closer look with my aging eyes at what was there.

On the far left of the table, nearest the podium, at the back is a Gamemaster’s Screen for the Champions RPG. The images of the items in front of it are too blown out for me to read, but they are presumably Champions rule books.

Next to that is a line of material for the Bushido RPG, in this case the boxed set that came out after the earlier zip-lock editions. In front of the box (standing) are a couple of the rulebooks, then what appears to be a copy of the supplement Valley of the Mists, which is presumably still in a box somewhere (I catalogued the digest-sized zip-loc Bushido in Just a Box of Games, Box 2. Central on the table is the map of Japan on the gamester’s screen (?) from Bushido that I picked because their graphics were quite good.

In front of the Bushido screen are several of the TRAVELLER books, with Book 1: Characters and Combat and Book 2: Starships, visible enough to sort of read.

Standing just to the right of the Bushido screen would be a couple of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books, both from the first edition as that was state-of-the-art in 1982. The Monster Manual is clearly visible, and I believe the Dungeon Master’s Guide is in front of it (from what little I can see of the cover). Presumably, the kid on the right of the image is flipping through the Player’s Handbook, which logically should have occupied the rightmost corner of the table.

In front of the AD&D books is the rulebook for STARWEB, the flagship galactic conquest play-buy-mail game from Flying Buffalo. And in front of that is a rulebook for The Morrow Project, one of a number of post-nuclear holocaust survivalist RPGs that went for a grittier, more realistic aesthetic than, say, Gamma World.

I can’t make out what’s on the closest corner of the table, but I’m pretty sure it was a printout from my own play-by-mail game, whose cover is just behind it: GANGLORD, a game of gang warfare in The Big City, where you directed individual members of your gang on missions of robbery, extortion, and territory expansion. My long-term plan—if I’d ever gotten past the point where I had only about 40 players, we were seriously under-capitalized— was for the most successful gangs to become organized criminal syndicates (MOBRULES) and then political parties (POLITICO, yeah, I would have sued their asses when they came along twenty years later), in a trio of interrelated power politics games.

Special thanks to the reporter from the Springfield newspaper who provided me with a copy of this image nearly 40 years ago. I will find your name somewhere.


via David Landázuri’s TK before I knew her Facebook album

It was three months ago today that a woman of many names passed away.

I met Kim McDonald in 1980 at the science fiction and fantasy bookstore I worked at. I was a year out of high school. I’d spent the previous fall and winter at Oregon State University but the Corvallis branch of the store was sold and I didn’t have a job any more, my girlfriend dumped me on Valentine’s Day, and I was homesick already, so I went back down to Eugene to live with my folks and at went back to work at the Eugene shop.

Kim came in one night and we got into an argument about some book and then she hung around until closing and drove me out to my folks’ house where we talked all night about science fiction and fantasy books we liked. And that was the start of four years together.

Kim’s first name was Teresa, but during our time together she also went by TK and Starsea. She’d often introduce herself by the latter name when she met new people at the monthly party we went to at author John Varley‘s house, where she’d wear springy antenna headgear.

It was an incredibly productive period for both of us. Aside from our jobs, TK was involved in the local theater scene (she’d graduated in theater arts from the UofO) and we played games, went to the then-new Bijou Theater, and visited friends. I was failing school before I dropped out because of the economy, but that was the period I wrote and published a play-by-mail game and organized Eucon, a science fiction convention.

Things didn’t last, though, and by 1985 it was all over. TK moved out of the house we were renting from my parents and moved on with her life. She came to my birthday party at the end of the year, but after I moved to Portland, we didn’t have any contact.

I did hear through the grapevine that she’d gotten married (twice, actually, after her first husband died) and was chosen as the 2006 Slug Queen. She worked for the UofO Philosophy Department administrative office for most of the 35 years she was at the university.

It was an incredible shock to hear from her widower, David Landázuri, a few days after her death, when he reached out to me to help piece out some of the time before he met her in 2003. I was staying in a motel in Gresham with my father during the February ice storm that had much of the Portland area (and beyond) in a power blackout, just after he’d had cancer surgery. What’s been almost more of a shock was to realize how much of that era has slipped away from my memories. I wracked my brain to help David as much as I could and looked through what few photos I have from the pre-digital period. Just a couple of studio portraits, and a couple photos from a trip to the beach in Southern California with Kim’s mother. A couple of birthday cards with her address from when we met and that’s about it.

I was honored to be invited to participate in the Zoom memorial with a bunch of her firends and co-workers, all of whom probably know her better after being friends for years than I do living with her for a few years nearly forty years ago. But it’s still weird to know that someone who was such an integral part of your life in your earliest adult years is gone. Thanks to David for letting me know and for including me.

The University of Oregon has approved space for a memorial to their long-time employee. You can contribute at the GoFundMe link below.

The Great Shockwave Revival

On the DIRECT-L listserv (yes, it still exists!). the talk of the past week has been how to do a Shockwave for Director emulator in JavaScript.

The invaluable Valentin Schmidt, has something amazing.

Here a funny solution, but it really works:

It’s a 68k mac emulator ported to JS that loads a minimal System 8 (15
MB) and then immediately plays a DCR, in this case it’s the guided tour
that came with Director 4.0. You might have to click into the browser
window to enable sound.

The Great Dutch Director Confab of 2001

It was one of the great honors of my temporary life as a Macromedia Director semi-celebrity to meet up with folks from the community when I traveled. When Barbara and I got to Amsterdam, Mark Reijnders, Lucas Meijer, Mark Hagers, and P¡m all showed up at the Amstelhoeck, coming from across the country, just for our own little Director convention. You can see Mark R. is wearing his Director Online t-shirt (I was editor at the time). Lucas, had put on an impressive show of 3D content at the Shockwave 3D launch in NYC a couple of months earlier, and has gone on to be a driving force at Unity.

I’m Learning Japanese, I Really Think So

Somehow, I don’t feel like I’ve made great progress in my late-life attempt to learn Japanese. I started off back when we thought we’d be able to travel, in 2019, trying to cram Japanese, German, Dutch, and Irish every day, built up a month-long streak and then got disgusted with both Duolingo and myself when I missed a day and broke the streak. That, and jeez louise, the Irish course is hard. Got back into it after the pandemic started and just did Japanese. It was an incomplete in my first Japanese class that pushed me over the edge of academic disqualification at the UofO 40 years ago—I’ve never been good at languages OR studying—but I’m back!

Dad’s Books

One of the things about Twitter is every now and then you accidentally brush up against people in a way you never would in the blog world. I made a comment about reading books I give to Dad before I fork them over, with regard to Nixonland by Rick Perlstein.

A Quarter-Century of Online Media

New Year’s Eve 1995 was the turning point in my career in multimedia.

I’d been working in the relatively-new digital prepress field for four years when I quit my job at Exact Imaging and went out on my own as a freelance print production and graphics specialist with a sideline as a multimedia development instructor.

In a previous job (out of the six prepress jobs I held between mid-1991 and mid-1995) I’d picked up an unopened copy of Macromedia Director second-hand from a car dealership in Florida somehow. It was a couple of books and a bunch of diskettes. I had a fair amount of experience with everything from page layout applications to image editing to vector artwork tools, as well as some programming experience that was long in the tooth even then. I’d tried to break into the local CD-ROM development scene without any success and hung on the edges by editing the newsletter for the Portland chapter of the International Interactive Communication Society (of which I would eventually serve as the last vice-president, along with my current boss, Brad Smith as president(, even running an ad for a digital portfolio production service (which never got a single client) in an issue of Step-by-Step Graphics magazine (I had written an article on a graphic artist named Steve Cowden that ran in the same issue). The service never got any clients.

At a meeting of the IICS that summer, being in the right place at the right time landed me a shot at a somewhat steady stream of income to anchor my freelance business. Dr. Brad Hansen at the Portland State University School of Extended Studies announced he was looking for someone to teach Director as part of the school’s Professional Development Program. I dropped my name in the hat, and within a few weeks I was off to San Francisco to take the class I would be teaching from ex-Macromedia instructor Ken Durso. That got me the all-essential certification I needed to become a Macromedia-certified instructor and classes started up that fall.

This was still the early days of the public internet. Netscape Navigator was still the Web browser. Animated GIFs and the <blink> tag were the cornerstones of online animation; JavaScript was in its infancy and Java applets were the crème de la crème for interactive experiences but, y’know, Java. I managed to get down to the Macromedia User Conference at the end of October, where the buzz was about something new called Shockwave.

It was my first time at a UCON, so I didn’t know anyone or what all I was supposed to see, but if I remember correctly, the previews of Shockwave were held in smaller sessions, with an air of intrigue. The stuff we were shown was simply amazing, given the state of the Web art the time, which was largely static text and images, with hyperlinks.

Shockwave! book cover, Korean edition

My own focus had been on print, but the people managing operations at Exact Imaging—Sherwood Herben and Rick Hawley—had made an early move into network operations for transferring design files and previews of high-resolution scans back and forth between the shop and our clients, most of whom were in the high-tech industry. So I’d worked on the company web site. Then one of the projects I got tmy first summer from Dale Ott—my one big client when I got started and the guy I rented a cubicle space from—was the annual report for Sequent Computers, on which I did print prep and conversion to PDFs for online distribution, which was kind of a new thing. So I watched the presentation at Macromedia with some interest.

The whole thing about Director was its portability (more or less) between the Mac and Windows worlds. You could take most simple Director movie files from a Windows machine runnning a copy of Director and transfer them to a Mac running Director, open up the file, and then play it. Unfortunately, there were times when new tools on one platform lagged behind, and that first month or two after the public demos of Shockwave, you could make Shockwave movies (using a special compression tool called Afterburner) on either platform, but the playback engine—the browser plugin—only existed on Windows. And coming from the print industry—which was almost exclusively Mac—I did not have a Windows machine.

As soon as I was able to get onto the Shockwave beta—early December, I think—I made a Shockwave movie. But to see it, I ended up heading 30 miles out of town to Scappoose to Waldo Thompson’s house to see it because he would let me install the Shockwave plugin on his computer. I bought an Acer desktop and crammed it in my tiny workspace at Dale’s.

No idea at the time how to make money with the Shockwave. Meanwhile, the news on Shockwave dribbled out. There wasn’t even an official email list server for keeping the general public informed (there may have been for the private beta). To keep up on things, you had to visit what was essentially a blog page comment section (before there were blogs), which you had to manually reload.

That was the situation for me on New Year’s Eve, 1995. I was in the office late, doing some last-minute bookkeeping, and I checked the Shockwave page. There at the end was a note from someone who said they were a computer book literary agent who needed someone to write a book on Shockwave, and they needed them fast.

There were a couple of strikes against me on this. 1) I had never written anything as long as a book, in fact, I’d been telling people for several years that I thought that my undergraduate English thesis at Reed College was probably one of the shortest on record (I have no actual evidence that is true, but hey, 25 pages). And that took me months. Sure, I had to read a lot of research and Shakespeare, but I was going to have to do that for the book because 2) I hadn’t actually done anything professionally in Director—much less Shockwave—and as far as Macromedia knew, I did not exist. No inside information, no contacts, no expertise to make up for that. Bit I sent an email to David Rogelberg anyway.

By January 17th, 1996 I had a contract in hand to produce a Shockwave book full of tutorials for Ventana Press in 10 weeks for $15,000, a sum I was kind of agog at. If I could get the book done in 8 weeks, I’d get another $5,000. I never got up the gumption to ask what had happened. Books are typically put on publishing schedules months in advance, and as I got into the process of submitting content, I came to realize that this one had a lot of gears already in motion. For instance, the cover artwork—a hideous orange and green Frankenstein theme (on the US edition, the Korean cover above is more…subtle)—that carried through to the interface design for the accompanying CD-ROM (skillfully technically executed by Eric Coker). My suspicion was that the original authors assigned to the book got reassigned to a hotter project and they were in a bind, which is how they ended up with me.

I missed the 8-week deadline, but made the 10-week. Basically, the book was written with me looking through each of the specific capabilities of the commands in the NetLingo library, which were still only partially-documented in some cases. Figure out the variations. Figure out what they did. Figure out what they were used for (there weren’t examples for everything yet). Write tests to make sure I was right about how they worked. Then write up a tutorial about how to use it.

The book ended up at about 270 pages, mostly tutorials I’d devised by going through each of the (then) limited Lingo language commands for Director. I tried to figure out how each command was constructed (the documentation was still fairly sketchy) and then tried to figure out what it would be used for. I didn’t try to teach anyone how to use Director—that was a far larger project and way out of scope of what I could do in 8–10 weeks—but I think I did a decent job of conveying the basics. Even though I hadn’t actually created any of the DISKfolios apart from some demos, the fact that I had some expertise at crunching graphics down to their bare minimums to fit on a diskette came in handy, since everyone had been spreading out to fill up CD-ROMs.

I pressed local sound guru David Duddleston into service for the chapter on audio and inveigled my friend Jeff “Punk Rock” Martin to let me use a track from his band The Surf Trio for some audio. The book came in about 270 pages, with another 70 pages of references to projects by people like Dave Yang and Gary Rosenzweig (whose Director book came out from Ventana at about the same time as my Shockwave book did), some reference Appendices and an index.

And that was the only time I ever made money writing a book. Have a great 2021!

Alan Levine found my book very useful!

And When Did He Know It

Personally, I think Bob Woodward has a lot to answer for here. —DP

DAILY SHOW Bob Woodward interview 9/23
from closed caption at 3:10

TREVOR NOAH: You caught a lot of flack from people who said: “Bob Woodward, you sat on this for seven months, and you didn’t tell us that Trump knew how bad this was.” You saw him in the news at rallies saying that coronavirus is a hoax and people shouldn’t worry and it’s gonna disappear, but you knew that he knew how severe it was. Why didn’t you come out and say something?

BOB WOODWARD: It’s a fair question.

NOAH: How do you…yeah.

WOODWARD: Um, when he told me about this on February 7, I knew and thought for sure he was talking about China, because everything was China in January, in February. And if it had dawned on me that he was talking about the United States, of course I would have gone to The Washington Post and said: “We’ve got to run this story.” But it was may when I learned that what Trump was talking about was this critical, central…


WOODWARD: …January 28, uh, meeting when it was laid out to him. When I finally figured it out, frankly, uh, the world knew that, uh, the virus was a pandemic. The world and the people in this country knew it was airborne. They knew that it was deadly. They knew that if you had some sort of…if you didn’t have symptoms, you could still spread it.

NOAH: Right, right, right.

WOODWARD: So this is what Trump knew, and we knew we could put the…the book out before the election—that’s the demarcation line, so people can either accept it or reject it.

Hypercard Dreams

In response to my post about a thread containing lots of yummy pre-Web hyper content, Alan Levine responds:

Back at the house in Arizona I have a virgin set of Hypercard 1.1 floppies circa 1987. To use them you will need a Mac Plus, SE, or Mac II, and at least 1 MB of RAM. Make sure you are running System 3.2 or later.