Archive for the ‘books’ Category


re:Paper Anew

October 13, 2007

Whew. After a rush to get it done in time for the fall festivals, I’ve finished the redesign of Sara’s website for re:Paper. (That, you’ll recall, is her hackbooking and photography operation.) The new site has its very own URL (, a newly modified WordPress theme, Etsy widgets, and everything. For the little time I had to spend on it, I think it turned out all right. (Though I still have a lingering commenting problem to sort out.)


The Book As Clay

September 22, 2007

This dude, Brian Dettmer, carves up books like they were blocks of stone — if stone was loaded full of hidden Victorian woodcuts and juxtaposed words. The sculptures he ends up with are like nothing you’ve ever seen. Fucking amazing.

Following a couple of links and slipping a sawbuck into Google I learn that Dettmer’s a native of Chicago’s western suburbs who attended classes as Columbia College Chicago and eventually transplanted himself to Atlanta, like me. This is where the similarities end, I think. I work hard to get words into books, at which point they’re no better off. When he’s through with a book, it’s art.

I like to think this is just part of his reading process. This is something he does with his eyes and his mind, and he takes in a book. He sits down in a chair by the window to read a few chapters of, say, The Cults of the Roman Empire, and when he sets the book down on the coffee table, it is something else.

Noise: Underworld, “Shudder” (Live)


The Surrogates

July 12, 2007

The Surrogates is one of those comics that I tried to follow as it was coming out, but failed. I missed this issue and that. In a five-issue series, any one absence is substantial.

But that’s just as well, ’cause the collected volume is a terrific product, like a great DVD loaded with extras. The actual story of The Surrogates is better conceptualized than it is executed, but the interesting explorations of the setting’s futuristic mega-Atlanta are worth your time. In the world of the comic, lifelike robotic avatars, called Surrogates, naturally, are used by people sitting in their homes to go out and explore the world through a kind of VR interface. Like internet avatars, your Surrogate(s) might look nothing like you, and are certainly good at things you’re not. Want to go bar-hopping as a gorgeous blonde girl, but you’re an obese dude with Cheetos in your beard? Want to go rock-climbing, but you’re confined to a wheelchair? Send your Surrogate.

This is, of course, a speculative cautionary tale, and so we have a rogue antihero out to wake the population out of their misguided ways. It’s Steeplejack, the dude on the cover over there, who’s out ruining people’s Surrogates in the hopes that they’ll get out of their homes and live their lives for real. On his trail is a grizzled cop who interfaces with the world through his real, banged-up, fleshy body. A mystery involving corporate interests and mistaken identities ensues, and while some of the storytelling is predictable, the setting evoked throughout the book is pretty well imagined.

Script pages, a “deleted scene,” author’s notes, sketches, pin-ups and a collection of fake Surrogate ads from within the fictional world round out this terrific package from Top Shelf. A classy folded cover goes the extra mile, for bibliophiles. This is what I want all collected comics to be like.

Music: Syrian, “Musika Atomika”


Great Covers

June 30, 2007

Saw this cover over on The Book Design Review, which is a terrific little blog, then kept going back to look at it again. It is simple brilliance. It makes sense immediately, to the point that it seems obvious, but couldn’t have been easy to conceptualize. This is the kind of design that makes me jealous and eager to get to work myself.

Music: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “Gimme Some Salt”



May 23, 2007

When I travel, I shop. Instead of food, I buy books, CDs and DVDs. Things bought from used bookstores and record stores in other cities are somehow better than the things I could buy at home. As it stands, I now know more used book stores in Philadelphia than I do in Atlanta. I was there for two days, I’ve been here for two years. This is because I was visiting Philly but I’ve never visited Atlanta. I moved here. Hence, I buy new books here and more interesting, used books there (wherever “there” is).

This is not a philosophical thing or a statement of intent. It’s just a thing I do.

The last week or so I’ve been in Chicago and Philadelphia. Here’s what I got (most of it used):

Yesterday, a Korean sci-fi action thriller starring Kim Yun-Jin, who plays Sun on Lost.

Night Stalker, the complete series on DVD, not because it was good but because I liked it.

Memento, soundtrack by David Julyan and various artists. I thought this was a little more exotic than it turned out to be, but it’s proven to be fine sounds for working.

28 Days Later, soundtrack by John Murphy and various artists. I’m still hoping there’ll be some kind of soundtrack release for the sequel, also scored by John Murphy.

Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut. One of those Vonnegut books I’ve never read. From the look of the nation’s book stores, the time to stock up on an author’s ouevre seems to be when he dies.

Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, by Franz Wright. “The world is filled with people who have never died.”

Travel in the Ancient World, by Lionel Casson, expands on the revision of the historical notion that ancient people seldom got around. It’s got chapters on ancient inns and restaurants, Roman roads, and forgotten museums — purchased not just for gaming purposes, but yes, for gaming purposes.

The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret, by Scott Olsen. This is a silly pop-mysticism bon-bon I picked up at the magnificent Prairie Avenue Bookstore down by Printer’s Row, in Chicago’s Loop. I’d never been in there before, and it’s excellent; the kind of place filled with 200-page, $50 paperback theses like Urban Memory: History and Amnesia in the Modern City, which I’ll be saving my pennies for.

Layout Workbook: A Real-World Guide to Building Pages in Graphic Design, by Kristen Cullen. This is the other book I bought at Prairie Avenue, the one of substance. I bought this one because I should be better informed than I am.

The Packaging and Design Templates Sourcebook, compiled by Luke Herriott, published by RotoVision. This is actually Sara’s book, purchased from Prairie Avenue, which she’ll be using as a guide for future handmade books, boxes and other craft projects that fall under her “hackbooking” hobby.

Parapsychology: Frontier Science of the Mind, by JB Rhine and JG Pratt. The title page describes this as “A survey of the field, the methods, and the facts of ESP and PK research.” It was published in 1957, and I seem to have a first edition.

Conversing by Signs: Poetics of Implication in Colonial New England Culture by Robert Blair St. George. I could not quite figure this dense thing out in the store, and I was desperate for some kind of early American occultism, so I took it home. From the back cover: “By exploring the linkages between such cultural expressions as seventeenth-century farmsteads, witchcraft narratives, eighteenth-century crowd violence, and popular portraits of New England Federalists, St. George demonstrates that in early New England, things mattered as much as words in the shaping of metaphor.”

Life on the English Manor, by HS Bennett, is a rundown on peasant living conditions between 1150 and 1400, as it looked from the modern day of 1937. (My copy was printed in 1962.) Why I am fascinated by outdated history books, I can’t tell you. But I’m sure it’s meta.

Duruy’s Middle Ages, by Victor Duruy, is a condensed history of the Middle Ages with a copyright date of “1898 and 1900.” I can’t tell when my copy was printed, but it’s not a young book. Still, it looks like all of its little folded maps are still here, tucked between pages. The first chapter of this book is, “The Barbarian World in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries.”


Parting with Books

April 16, 2007

Books are oxygen. I need them to live. It’s hard for me to just give them up.

That said, there just isn’t room in the house or the office (or the car, or in the attic, or under the house) for the ten or twelve crates of gaming books I’ve collected over the years. As part of the inevitable course of the game designer, I have reached that point where my collection outmatches my time or likelihood to use it. So I’m selling it off a slew at a time.

Okay, to be fair, my wife is selling it off. She’s the eBay expert. But don’t think this was her idea. Rather, we need the money and the space and I need to cut back on my petty, pathetic, desperate materialism. The things you own end up [t0taly pwning!!!1!] you, or something.

(My apologies to the creators of any of this stuff, many of whom are friends of mine. I understand that it’s not menschy of me to go selling this stuff under your nose, but money don’t come from nowhere.)

Some of this stuff is in good shape. Some of it really very not. And if nothing here catches your fancy, stay tuned for lots more stuff.

Get yourself something nice.

Music: David Holmes, “7/29/04 The Day Of”


Post #50

February 4, 2007

Throughout the week, without enough time to properly compose new entries, I’ve been pasting links and notes into the machine to create this mosaic. Because I wrote it, it’s materialistic and fawning. Enjoy.

  • Warren Ellis says this song is “Upon Encountering the Crippled Elephant,” by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but on the album I just bought off iTunes (Some Loud Thunder it is “Five Easy Pieces,” and remains terrific. I don’t know if that dude’s saying anything (and thus, if I agree with him) but it’s a great song.
  • Just so we’re clear, you and I agree that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a lousy title, don’t we?
  • My copy of Guy Davis’s newest sketchbook, Sketch Macabre 2, has arrived with a very nice note from Guy himself. As you can assume from the words Guy, Davis, and book, it’s magnificent. If you like Guy Davis’s work (and you do), pick up both the sketchbooks from Guy’s site, if you haven’t already.
  • In related news, the BPRD: The Universal Machine trade paperback is also terrific, but since you bought every issue of that story at your local comic shop, you knew that already. More Guy Davis designs in the back of that book, too, you know.
  • Not by design, I also picked up The Amazing Screw-On Head on DVD, because a store in my area accidentally broke the street date (I guess). You saw this on already, so you know this is great, but besides a smattering of special features, the disc also features a little booklet with original concept sketches by Davis and Mike Mignola, so you know I wanted it. (If you didn’t watch the pilot on, by the way, it’s your fault that this show never went to series, and for that you’ll have to get a little punishment.)
  • The newest issue of JPG Magazine tells us it’s okay to take blurry pictures. To which I say, “No shit.” Blur can be honest. Blurs are genuine. Meaningfully blurry pictures feel alive. But we know that already. This is a terrific issue, though, as you could tell from the red “JPG” box on the cover. Great example of a great magazine. The tourist and souvenir photo arrays are a great match for each other.
  • Here. Watch Andrew Bird performing “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” live (er, on YouTube) and you’ll see why he’s fucking astounding. Live, there on stage, he’s layering all these violin elements, he’s switching back and forth between fiddle and guitar without a slip, and that whistle is coming right out of his fucking mouth, people. It’s fabulous. Get thee to a venue and see him live, for Andrew Bird is the bomb, ye verily.
  • Speaking of things to watch on the internet, Poker After Dark is a great poker program, with every episode available (for a little while, at least) on after it’s aired. Throughout the week, you get shown almost every hand at a $120,000 tournament table with great players. Then on Saturday you get the so-called Director’s Cut, which condenses the whole one-table tournament into one hour, with talking head interviews and all that. If nothing else, it’s great to watch all these poker greats engage in exactly the same desperate pleading, lame banter, luck talk and “wouldn’t it be great if?” musings as every plebeian mook I’ve ever played with (including myself). This is a great week for you to start with, too. Go and watch Phil Laak and Antonio Esfandiari in Friday’s segment, then convince NBC to make a show about these two guys. (Use the phrase “pair of jokers,” though, and you’re done here.) Their final hand, for all its inevitability, is just good television.
  • This week, I finally got to lay my hands on the new MIT Press book, Second Person: Role-Playing and Story in Games and Playable Media (at Amazon, via Booksense), from the inestimable Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. An essay of mine (with a lousy title) is in there, but so are lots of good ones from Jordan Mechner, George R.R. Martin, Kevin Wilson, Ken Hite, Greg Costikyan, James Wallis, Rebecca Borgstrom and other game-thinking luminaries. Plus, it reprints Wallis’ Baron Munchausen RPG in its entirety, along with two other games, so it’s a steal at $40. Just a couple of weeks ago I sent off my manuscript for this book’s sequel, Third Person. (I’ll write a post dedicated to Second Person, I’ll bet, once I’ve had time to read more of it.)

  • Squirrel Nut Zippers are playing in Atlanta this Friday. I’ve never seen them live. You better believe I will this time.

Music: Amon Tobin & Michael Shrieve, “Oracle”