Saturday, March 20, 2010

Maybe Twitter IS Useful...

Two weeks ago I was idly monitoring my Twitter feed in the background as I worked on the current Projecto Disastro at work, and I saw a tweet go by from @ab_Chaosium; these are the guys who publish the Call of Cthulhu RPG, and who used to publish the RuneQuest RPG. Those two things together have taken up a tremendous amount of both my free time and free cash since sometime around 1989, so I feel I owe Chaosium a certain debt of gratitude for all the entertainment of the last two decades. The tweet was something to the effect of "We need a quick map drawn for an upcoming publication, anyone out there want to submit something?"

Now, to say I love maps is no small thing. I collect world atlases and geography books; I have a prized 1923 atlas that I use when I run Call of Cthulhu, and a very cool one from 1941 that depicts Countries Invaded by the Axis and Countries Annexed by the Soviets and so on, with obviously last-minute overlays showing changing borders... I have a full set of Carpenter's Geographical Readers, dating from 1899-1920 or so. I draw elaborate maps for the role-playing games I run, when I have time; my favorite is to put them on foamcore and use map tacks to represent player and bad guy locations. So naturally I emailed Chaosium and offered to submit a map. They responded in the affirmative, so I drew them a very quick-and-dirty map per their instructions and fired it off.

Dustin--who's been with Chaosium for ages and who I know I met at some of my 1990's Gencon forays--is a very cool guy and was quick to let me know that they might need some more maps in the near future, and would I mind sending him a few samples of my work. One thing led to another, and I ended up drawing him 3 samples: a straight-up geographic map of Tasmania, an interior map of a 1950's malt shop done entirely in Illustrator, and this:

Now, setting aside the fact that the title font's hard to read, I thought it turned out rather well for a 100% silly map. I wanted to do something illustrative (that is, something with some dimensionality/pictographic depictions of features vs. a straight overhead view.) Once I got started I just kept on adding little goofy bits to it til I finally figured that I'd better stop before I sank my chances with Chaosium completely. But--perhaps not surprisingly, Dustin was amused (by the satellite dish in particular, it seems) and responded by giving me a few small art assignments for an upcoming product. So, what do you know! Twitter led me to a gig where I'm doing something that is pure pleasure for me (drawing maps) and getting to hopefully eventually see them in print from a company whose products I love. Can't beat that with a stick!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Less Fun than Bees

I have a friend who is in the final stages of terminal cancer at the moment. She was one of my best friends in the last couple years of high school, but we fell out of touch and despite occasional second-hand news of one another, it stayed that way until I got my current job at the museum, where her older sister also works. Via her sister I heard about my friend's first bout with cancer, her remission, her marriage and kid-having, and then the recurrence of illness nearly two years ago and the ups and downs that have followed. She and I talked about getting together for coffee or something in these last couple years; we played a little phone/email tag, but never quite worked it out. Then a couple weeks ago they finally discontinued her chemo, and that, as they say, is that.

I'm not going to post here about my friend being a cool person (though she is) or how genuinely sad the prospect of her death at age 38 seems to me (very.) What I've been thinking about more has to do with the assumptions we make on a daily basis that affect how we go about dealing with serious shit like death. I think one of the reasons I'd not been hugely proactive about getting in touch with my friend over the years had to do with my assumption that we were Very Different People from who we'd been when we were friends at age 17. And therefore, what would we have to talk about? The people we all were in high school are long gone (or so we imagine--hell, so we hope, right? I was a wildly moody little cuss for 4 straight years, and I seem to recall everyone else being much the same.) Add into that the fact that dying young is pretty fucking horrible, and pretty well beyond my ability to wrap my brain around, and I assumed we really, REALLY would be strained for conversation. So I was worried/depressed about about the coffee.

My assumptions, as it turns out, were complete crap--I'm happy to report this. First off, we haven't actually changed all that much. She's married, with two kids; I'm a long-term bachelor who likes small children in smaller doses. She had a job with tremendous organizational responsibilities; I am lucky if I can remember to tie my shoes in the morning. But at the core, we're both smart, we both laugh at a lot of the same things, and we still (I hope!) like one another's company. I realize a lot of high school friendships generate heavy baggage which it's best not to unpack later in life... but probably one of the few plusses of our not having stayed in touch is that I really don't remember much of the stupid shit. I remember that there WAS stupid shit--and maybe I just have a terrible memory, but honestly the details are long gone, and I don't think it was more than just the usual dumb crap kids do and say when going through the exceedingly painful throes of teenagerdom.

The other assumption, that the fact of her impending death would make normal interaction impossible, was also mercifully crap. I've been lucky enough to get some time to visit with her in the last couple weeks, and while her illness is always present, it's not in charge of the conversation. Today I found out how she met her husband (I'd been wondering!) Last week we had discussion of where to find the best milkshakes in town. I can't think of a better way to spend some time with a friend, dying or not, than sitting around, catching up, and shooting the shit for a while. :)

So the long and the short is, if you're ever in a situation like this, DON'T BE AN ASS. Quit assuming you know how it'll go down before you even make a move. Call your friend, forget whatever that dumb high school shit was, and go bring them a damn milkshake and some conversation. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

I'm Wearing Bees! On My Feet!

I haven't bought new tennis shoes in years; though I gave in to the lure of 2 pairs of Keens over the last two summers, and I finally bought new shoes for work after *cough* nearly a decade--remember I was out of work for 5 of those years, I didn't NEED nice shoes--but I've been a loyal fan of New Balance since college, and frankly every time I went in the shoe store and looked at the racks of New Balance, I thought urrrghhhhhh. So..... very..... bland.... It was as if there had been some kind of horrible bleaching accident at the women's shoe factory, so that every shoe had had any sign of color and life bled from it, leaving only tiny pink or blue accents here and there, near the eyelets and so on. But in looking at the Adidas Star Wars Originals collection online (it was for work! seriously! well, it was AT work) I felt a deep-seated desire for new tennis shoes. Since the Luke Skywalker pilot orange ones were not available, I settled for these.


I am totally in love with these shoes, even though they're a tad too small (they were on clearance, limited sizes available.) They're like bees. Shoe bees. Deadly yet beautiful foot bees.

I also bought a pair of ASICS, which are cool though shinier than I was anticipating. I will wear them happily. But the bees.... the bees will be saved for special occasions...