Jeff’s Game Shelf: Patchwork

This Lookout Games offering is an enjoyable two-player experience with pleasant artwork, a straightforward mechanic, and one of the most intriguing uses of time that I have ever seen in a board game.

We are always on the lookout for a game that’s good for two players, as I think I may have mentioned in my review of The Fox in the Forest Duet. This was true well before the pandemic, but has taken on a different sort of urgency in the last year. Patchwork is a game I had seen around, either on the trip to OwlCon that netted me Fox in the Forest, or when I’ve bopped in to some of my favorite local game stores. So I was aware of it, even curious. But I wasn’t sure that a game that revolves around quilting was something that I’d get a lot of satisfaction out of. Then Alli went and put together a grab bag of games for a recent birthday, and–seduced by the art–she placed this among them. And I gotta say, I’m really enjoying this game.

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My Work-from-Home Setup

A brief rundown of the hardware, software, and other accoutrements I use to facilitate teaching college-level courses from home, though this setup could be used in many lines of work.

My college will soon resume face-to-face instruction. I’m 50% vaccinated. How do I feel about either of those things? I don’t know. But the point is that even though teaching from home has been a big part of my life in the last year, I’m soon to be returning to the classroom. However, like a lot of colleges (community colleges in particular), I think my school will be keeping more elements than expected from this year of online only. At least, I hope they will. I’ll miss parts of online teaching–particularly, the ability to offer niche courses that actually make enrollment, since they’re accessible to every tech-equipped student in the HCCS area, as opposed to only those students with regular transit to my specific campus. Furthermore, despite the increase in vaccinations, the pandemic is not over, so I do not think the online-only classroom will be disappearing any time soon. To that end, I just wanted to share the system I’ve kludged together to work from home.

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Spite Christmas

Letters from a chorus girl from the play-within-a-play in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas.

In the 1954 classic White Christmas, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play a couple of army buddies turned Broadway producers (Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, respectively). Like many Hollywood musicals from the period, there’s a show within a show–this one is titled Playing Around, which Wallace and Davis bring up to Vermont in order to facilitate their Yuletide hijinks.

This year, when Alli and I were having our annual watch of this holiday classic, we kept thinking about how two random singer/dancers were added to the show at the last minute, and the effect this would have had on members of a professional production. This is the story of one of those chorus girls, based on Alli’s and my joking around.

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Jeff’s Game Shelf: The Fox in the Forest Duet

Foxtrot and Renegade have produced a truly charming two-person game that could easily be more of a hobby than a diversion.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped in at OwlCon, a gaming convention held at Rice University. There, I picked up a couple of games I’d been eyeing for a while, and a couple more impulse buys. One of those impulse buys is a game that my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed: The Fox in the Forest Duet.

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See OVERRIDE (this is a theatre review)

The Landing Theatre Company’s debut of Elizabeth A. M. Keel’s new play about simulation and intimacy gives us intimacy without simulation.

Promotional artwork from The Landing Theatre Company

When my wife and I pulled up to the performance space, I thought that I had misentered the address into Google Maps before suddenly having the freefall recollection that Override is produced in people’s private homes. I’m a big fan of productions that alter the traditional performance framework, but I’m always initially nervous to see how it will be justified by the production. (Also, the thought of being in a stranger’s home sets my teeth on the edge of my seat. But that’s my damage.) However, Override used the alteration quite effectively to make even more immediate its tale the difficulty and importance of human connections.

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The Muppet Stephen Sondheim’s Company

For no particular reason.

PIGGY: As for moi, I have been studying martial arts. Do you want to see what I can do? Come here, sweetie.

KERMIT: Oh, I don’t think that’s necess–

PIGGY: Hiii-YA!

(Kermit flies like a ragdoll across the set.)

KERMIT: Sheesh. I need to get out more.

PIGGY: Oh, you think vou could get out of that? Is that what you’re saying?

KERMIT: No, actually, what I said was–

(Sounds of off-screen mayhem. Pan back to Piggy and see she has tied Kermit’s limbs in a pretzel knot.)

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Jeff’s Game Shelf: Oregon Trail

Pressman’s Oregon Trail card game is good for a shot of nostalgia, but has poor mechanics and limited replayability.

Because this is my blog, I am going to make it exactly as unfocused as I am. So let’s have a little something about what of my abiding hobbies: board games! The games I cover here aren’t necessarily new or great. They’re games I have on my shelf, and want to say something about.

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By His Biffstraps

A fun, brief speculation about Back to the Future, pt II.

A couple of my more abiding interests are anachronisms (the subject of my dissertation) and time travel (a lifelong fascination). These two things have combined recently in an academic article I’m working on which combines the too and brings in a little alternate-history fiction for good measure. In this article (which, happily, is nearly finished) one text I get a lot of mileage out of using is Back to the Future, part II (henceforth, BF2). Now, I don’t share my time-travel thoughts on here as often as I thought I would when I set up this blog–I had originally intended to make an entry for every story in Jeff and Ann Vandermeer’s wonderful anthology The Time Traveler’s Almanac. The reason is this: since time-travel literature is an academic interest, most of the time I end up wanting to put my time-travel thoughts into an academic publication. But sometimes the thought is silly enough, or too insubstantial for such a publication, that I feel free to share it here, instead. This is one of those thoughts.

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Not the Starfleet Officer I Wanted, but the One That I Needed

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, here’s part of my own story.

Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired the same year I started school, and continued through about sixth or seventh grade. I was aware of TNG before the original series. And no, I didn’t think to ask why it was called “The Next Generation.” I was five.

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A Surprising Non-Reversal in Incognegro: Renaissance

In a gripping detective story filled with well-earned reversals and revelations, the biggest surprise is a twist that doesn’t come.

Full disclosure: Mat Johnson, author of Incognegro and Incognegro: Renaissance is a friend of mine. Not to say we are on each other’s Christmas lists, but we were former colleagues and he’s just generally genial. I have also been mistaken for him by three separate individuals, which I think has more to say about the strangeness of the universe than about either of us, because neither of us look remotely similar to each other. But that’s a story for another time. He was on the Creative Writing faculty of the University of Houston when I was there, and though I was not a Creative Writing student, I did have him for a single course: a speculative-fiction-themed section of Writers on Literature. (In seven years of graduate study at two universities, and four years of undergrad at a third [first?], this was actually the only science-fiction-focused course I ever took.) This revelation is, in all probability, completely irrelevant.

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