The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

5 March 2018
by skzb

The Old Double-nerd Flag

It’s rare to have a chance to fly both my filk-nerd flag and my gaming-nerd flag at the same time, so how can I pass it up? In the table-top campaign Jenphalian is running, we were told we needed to sing for our supper, and given a few weeks to come up with a song.  This is mine.  If you are so culturally deprived that you can’t deduce the tune, you can embarrass yourself by asking and I’ll tell you.  Also, just for clarification, I’ve marked with an asterisk the stuff that is specific to that campaign and thus might not make sense.


Sevri [spoken, to Almoni]: …and then we’ll have a mock duel to get his lordship’s attention, and then he’ll ask me to swear loyalty, and—

Dorian [spoken]: The quest is where you belong!

[start music]

Dorian [spoken]:  Sevri, listen to me. The world of the nobility and the peasants, it’s boring. Life on the quest is better than being stuck here with some aristocrat.

Dorian: The gold piece is always brighter in somebody else’s purse.
But swearing in as a fighter, you’ll find out it’s just a curse.
There’s all of this loot we stare at, and it’s either us or them.
The snowmen* each have a carrot: the unit of weight of gems!

Out on the quest Out on the quest
Sneaking and hiding, or running and riding two abreast
It’s just dull at hearth and hall,
We like a good old dungeon crawl.
Once we get going we’re all saving throwing
Out on the quest.

The rogue on the quest does service, he’s glad to be out of town.
The rogue off the quest is nervous, who knows who might track him down?
But once in the fight we manage, we’re fine though they say we’re nuts.
If we get some minor damage,
Aelwyd: Guess who has to heal your butts.

Dorian: Out on the quest, Out on the quest
Though skeletons face you at least they won’t place you under arrest.
Maybe we die some here and there, but we’re not bored so we don’t care.
We do our duty and pick up more booty out on the quest.

Out on the quest.
Combat’s a must here, parry and thrust here, you’ll be impressed.
Even the paladin and the mage, they get that old berserker rage.
Happy to slay ’em. We got the mayhem out on the quest.

The monk is a punk, the vamp is a champ.
The knight is all right his helmet’s a lamp.*
The ranger’s a danger, tanks get our thanks
The fin’s going in the soup.* (yum)
The barb in his garb can hit pretty deep.
Assassin is hiding Can’t see him creep.
The wiz knows his biz, the priest never ceased
And watch that archer shooooot.

Out on the quest Out on the quest
Whenever we seize phylacteries it’s just the best!
What have they got? A lot of hicks. We get to roll our 3D6
Every dual wielder is a damage dealer out on the quest.
Each druid shaman does element bombin’ out on the quest.
Each sword and boarder going in order
Though we give a sob for Paladin Bob*
It’s courage we measure when counting the treasure
Out on the quest!



Last, click here if you want the performance.

2 March 2018
by skzb

Gun Rights, Mental Health, and Violence

I heard NPR talking about mental health today, as if that were the big issue with gun violence.  I get more disgusted with them each time I listen.  A little while ago, a tweet came by from Counterpunch that was pretty spot on.  It quoted a tweet from the DOD in which they were gloating about their new gunship.  Counterpunch said: “The Department of Defense tweets about actually killing people like it is a sport, and some people still wonder where this country’s violence problem stems from.”  Ayep.

Of course, the reaction against the mental health obsession leads to confusion, but part of it is “mental health” and “emotional health” tend to get thrown into a big bucket that most of us don’t understand, leaving us talking about we know not what.  And this leads to places where it sounds as if disability advocates are saying that, yes, someone who opens up in a school with a semi-automatic rifle is emotionally healthy, which I’m pretty sure isn’t what they mean.  At least I hope it isn’t what they mean. But we live in an unhealthy society, one in which our leaders gloat about violence. “We came, we saw, he died,” said the Secretary of State, gleefully praising the cold-blooded murder of Gaddafi.

At the same time, police shoot down anyone they happen to feel like without punishment.  Do you know how many murdering cops were prosecuted by the DOJ over the last 16 years? Zero.  The message is clear, and you can hardly blame some poor over-stressed bastard for hearing it.

The illness of a society is, as always, manifested through individuals, some of whom, for various reasons, express it in horrific ways. Sensible gun laws? Sure. I’m pro Second Amendment, but I don’t have a problem with some reasonable limitations on military-style weapons, and making sure anyone with a firearm knows how to use it.

Also, cut it out with the idiotic arguments: Anti-gun people: pointing out that the Second Amendment was “passed by slaveholders” therefore we can get rid of it is reckless and stupid. So were the other nine. Also, you might want to remember that the most stringent gun laws this country ever saw were passed in California as a direct attack on the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

Pro-gun people: Oh, come ON.  Thinking you can defend yourself against “the gummint” with a rifle makes as much as sense as the Dutch folktale of the woman trying to hold back the flood with a broom. And, if the Founding Fathers had somehow had the foresight to say, “A well regulated highway being essential for liberty, the right of the people to keep and drive cars shall not be infringed,” I don’t think that would have prevented states from requiring drivers licenses.

But the essential point is the one I started with: how can we expect to take on the violence in our society when it is praised, extolled, and demonstrated day after day, year after year, by those at the very top?  For the last 17 years, there has not been a day in which this country was not bombing people, and hardly a day in which a cop wasn’t shooting someone.  If you think this has nothing to do with the violence in our society, let me indulge in understatement by saying I think you are incorrect.

20 December 2017
by skzb

Do You Know The Names of these Men and Women?

Flint Sit down strike

I don’t. I wish I did, because I owe them a lot, and, if you’re American—maybe even if you’re not—so do you. These were participants in the Flint sit-down strike of 1936. Along with brothers and sisters in Minneapolis and San Francisco, along with steel workers and coal miners, garment workers and retail workers at Woolworth, they were part of the great strike wave of the 30s that shook American society to its core, and frightened the capitalists and their government so much that, trembling, and through gritted teeth, they gave us unemployment insurance, welfare, social security, a minimum wage, and legal protection for the right to organize.

But give the bosses credit: though they surrendered part of their wealth, they were not without cleverness. And as they gave up a few little bits of their plunder out of fear that if they didn’t they’d lose it all, they pulled their last trick: they pretended it was an act of generosity.  And they put on their fake smiles, and hoisted Roosevelt on their shoulders, and said, “See what happens when you elect the right guy?  That’s all it takes,” they said.

And some people bought it. Some people are still buying it. But if you want to know who to thank for those few things we’ve managed to wrest from those who get rich on our labor, don’t thank Roosevelt.  Thank the men and women in that picture.

I wish I knew their names.

5 December 2017
by skzb

Getting Signed Books From Me

The easiest way to get a signed book from me is to get hold of Uncle Hugo’s bookstore, an excellent SF bookstore located about a mile from my house.  They’ll take care of ordering it if they don’t have it in stock (though they probably will), and letting me know to go in there and sign it, and then they’ll deal with shipping.  You’ll have to ask them about the exact details, but it’s probably the best way.

Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore

2864 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis, 55407


30 November 2017
by skzb

Some thoughts on my father

Various things over the last couple of days have brought my father to mind.  There are things that are hard for me that I believe he would have found easy (and, no doubt, vice versa).  I’ve mentioned before that his most extreme term of disapprobation was “unscientific.”  Going along with that, he had an almost pathological hatred for subjectivity.  Maybe to a degree that wasn’t entirely healthy—there are times, after all, when being subjective is appropriate.

I remember when we learned he was dying.  He took it as he had lived: calmly, objectively, with his mind focused on what work he could complete in the time he had left, and making sure he said good-bye to everyone he needed to, and seeing to it that we were all in agreement about the funeral arrangements. During the entire six months, I didn’t hear a single word escape his lips that could possibly be construed as self-pitying, except once.  One day he said, “I won’t be able to read the rest of Steve’s books.”

It broke my heart.