Friday, December 29, 2006

O, Lonely Peas

This Christmas, Shari & I got Collin the Rhinoceros Tap book & CD by Sandra Boynton... while all of the songs on the project are quite good (I especially like "Bad Babies"), the classic is "O, Lonely Peas". I reproduce the lyrics here for your New Year's enjoyment & to torment my sister, who this song was obviously written for. The picture here is from the early 70's - while Liz is not in timeout for not eating peas (at least THIS time), it does give you a pretty good idea of how effective timeout was with her.

Dinner is over.

I like what I ate.

Except for the peas,

which are still on my plate.

O, Lonely Peas,

so green, so round,

and so small.

O, Lonely Peas,

there's no one

who loves you at all.

There's no one

who loves you at all.

I can't leave my place

till the peas are all gone.

At the rate I am going,

I'll be ninety-one.


Perhaps by some magic,

they'll all disappear --


...The peas are still here.


I'm growing quite fond

of these peas of my own.

So how could I eat them?

I'd be all alone. OH!


Monday, December 25, 2006

Geek of the Week

Yes, campers & camperettes, one of my Christmas presents this year is being Boardgamegeek's Geek of the Week. Click on the link to enjoy and/or join the conversation.

So far, I've managed to give a not-so-brief history of my gaming past, answer esoteric questions about sermon illustrations, "heavy" games & if/when I'm doing my own podcast, and get some truly odd posts from others (yes, GROGnards, I'm talking about you.) Nick Danger has given his (rather skewed) version of how I became the "owner" of Nigglybits for six weeks - love ya, Nick - and most recently I've been talking about TX and OR.

There's more to come - I'm Geek of the Week through next Sunday morning, so don't hesitate to check it out.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?

Lights, please.

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'".

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Have a Very Merry (and Disturbing) Christmas...

...thanks to the good folks at Office Max & my "friend" & fellow gamer, Dale Yu (who obviously has way too much time on his hands.) He's titled this masterpiece Pastor Elf.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Our Librarian, Desmond R.G. Underwood- Frederick IV

Collin is "getting in touch with his feminine side". Next thing you know, he'll start "playing Cabbage Patch dolls with his inner child." (Anybody know the reference?!) Yes, we LOVE it when he does clears the shelves of books. Sigh.

Note: we do not recommend the book Collin is reading - it's kind of legalistic & a bit soul-deadening. The fact that a book is in our library does not indicate that we think everyone (heck, anyone!) should read it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Asleep on the... Hershey Bar?

So, Shari & I were Christmas shopping on Friday and stopped into a local Christian bookstore which had a pretty massive display of Nativity sets. While I paid for our merchandise, Shari wandered over and looked through the selection.

She called me over to show me what I'm showing you here, thanks to the magic of the Internet - a S'mores Nativity. Yes, that's right, the Christ Child & his parents are rendered as marshmallows standing on graham crackers with a hunk of chocolate interposed.

I was, to say the least, stunned. I mumbled & laughed as we left the store, telling Shari that was going to blog about my "abject horror" at the sight of this. (That's me, all right: never use a simple word when you can sound like you're trying to rewrite your thesis. Sigh.) Of course, since I took a long pause as I began to say "abject" (evidently my brain was still reeling from the cinammon stick stable), Shari thought was going to "blog my a__ off" about this, which... well, you be the judge.

So, these are the thoughts running through my head:
  • I'm not sure it's blasphemous... but I'm pretty sure it's in poor taste. (Taste - he he. I made a pun. A bad pun, but a pun nonetheless.)
  • Why does Mary look like a badly made snowman?
  • In the words of Homer Simpson, "Mmmmm... Jesus."
As an antidote, I think I'll watch A Charlie Brown Christmas again with Braeden... good grief. (I may need to watch it four or five times.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

The World's Most Famous Game & How It Got That Way

Love it or hate it, chances are pretty good that you've played Monopoly at some point in your life. (For the record, I'm in the "love it" camp.)

Either way, Larry Levy wrote a very nice review of Philip Orbanes new book, Monopoly: The World's Most Famous Game & How It Got That Way over on Boardgame News. (Larry is famous for a couple of things: he's the designer of Head to Head Golf & some very nice variants for a number of games... and he was my roommate at Gulf Games. OK, maybe the 2nd one isn't so important.) You should go read it right now... it's entitled Sleeping with the Enemy.

I'm with Larry - the second half of the book is a bit less interesting (though still fun to a Monopoly fan like me)... but the first half is worth the price of admission. (Of course, I checked it out from the library, so I definitely got my money's worth.)

What I wanted to note is an interesting comment tucked away in the chapter entitled "G.I. Gamers: 1945-1958" when Mr. Orbanes is talking about Waddingtons rebuilding the distribution network following World War 2:

Waddington rebuilt its relationships with its many licensees. The Miro company not only relaunched Monopoly but also provided production for Franz Schmidt until it could rebuild its factory in Germany. In a controversial move, Schmidt decided not to reintroduce its ill-fated Berlin edition. [Earlier in the book, Orbanes talks about the problems Schmidt had w/the Nazis threatened ban of this edition.] In its place, it designed a game whose streets bore no connection to any specific German city. This was a misstep. Without the identity of its capital city, sales were lackluster. Henceforth Monopoly would be less significant in Germany than in other European countries.

Wait a minute! I may be reading between the lines here, but is Orbanes saying that Monopoly had less effect on German games & gaming than on other countries? And if he is, does that help explain why Germany has been the center of the designer gaming universe? Hmmm...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Dice Tower #77: Interview with WHO?!

It's a little weird to find an episode of the popular gaming podcast The Dice Tower subtitled "Interview With Mark Jackson." Even weirder is to realize that Tom & Sam waited until the very end of the podcast to feature my interview... either they were saving the best for last (yeah, right) or they were trying to put it in the last 10 minutes slot (where every bad SNL sketch gets buried).

So, with either hubris or humility, I want to add these notes to the things I said. (Hey, you'll probably want to listen to the podcast before you read the rest of this... check it out at The Dice Tower. Or don't.)

On the whole question of "how do people respond to me being a pastor AND a gamer?":

  • props to Jon Pessano, the guy who uttered the immortal line, "And you call yourself a pastor!" after being hosed over in Rette sich wer kann
  • my congregation doesn't seem to be bothered a bit about my gaming... in fact, we had about 20 folks for a Family Game Night a few weeks ago
  • over time, the most vehement questions I've had about my gaming have been in regards to fantasy-based themes, rather than games themselves

And then, Tom brought up the Christian board game question

  • I sat here for a few minutes, thinking about printing a retraction - or at least a softening - of my comment that the Christian subculture has a tendency to create junk... but given a few minutes to think & pray about my response, I think it's spot on. For every work of brilliance (the art of Thomas Blackshear or the music of Derek Webb & Andrew Peterson) there's a truckload of insipid, uninspired crapola that is unloaded on people because they think these trinkets will work as "witnessing tools." (More on that in a minute.)
  • That goes double for my comment that "every subculture creates merchandise that cater to the subculture" - and I then proceeded to call Trekkies "Trek fans", which means that I am now banned from ever making the Vulcan sign & saying "Live long & prosper" again.
  • Some other subcultures - Whedon-ites, comic book fanboys, American Idol watchers, atheists, Catholics, lovers of hemp & the byproduct thereof, etc... look, there's no limit. Find a group of people with shared beliefs & practices... and you'll find someone trying to make a profit of them by exploiting their beliefs.
  • I checked out a couple of our local Christian bookstores on Black Friday - and browsed their game sections. With the exception of some re-themed party games (Outburst, Apples to Apples, etc.) and Carcassonne: Ark of the Covenant, it's pretty much schlock-y Bible trivia games. Sigh.
  • I wandered off on one of my favorite podcast tangents: it's OK for companies to make money re-theming games. The audience for NASCAR Monopoly is not the same market as the folks who'll snap up copies of Caylus or Age of Steam.
  • I also touched on the inherent problem of reconciling Christian character & mores (compassion, kindness, gentleness, unity) with the typical structure of games. I didn't do a very good job of explaining that problem in regards to race games - esp. since many of the schlock-y games you see in Christian bookstores are race games. So, let me give it another shot: there is a difference between designing a standard roll'n'move race game (roll the dice, spin the spinner, answer a question to get a bonus) and creating an innovative race game with true interaction between players. That kind of interaction almost always involves some kind of direct negative play against another player - which doesn't "feel" Christian.

In a related question, Tom asked me if a game's theme can go "too far" and therefore shouldn't be played. I'm afraid that I may have sounded more spindoctor-ish than I intended here... so, let me try again.

  • Everybody has a belief system of some sort, which includes ethical & moral considerations.
  • If a game (or a movie or a book or whatever) violates those beliefs, you should not - if you want to stay true to your belief system - partake of it.
  • Just because something does not fit your ethical or moral schema does not mean it should be outlawed for everyone else.
  • Therefore, people are going to play games I think are morally reprehensible... I am under no obligation to play them nor are they under any obligation to avoid them because of my beliefs.

I also mentioned that I don't believe that Christianity is NECESSARILY a pacifistic religion... and then I referenced the idea of a "just war." I won't go any deeper into the theological side of that, but I think it's worth reading deeply on before you dismiss the idea.

The next topic was starting a game group in your church:

  • Here I waxed "pastoral" for a minute and asked people to check in with the leadership of their church. (Can you sense some frustration over my 20+ years of ministry with "surprise" events & programs?)
  • I also talked about how knowing your purpose (who are you trying to reach, insiders or outsiders?) helps define where you will meet, how you will be structured & what games you might play.
  • Finally, I gave my standard "don't abuse your freedom" blurb regarding board games - just because I have the freedom in Christ to play Fury of Dracula doesn't mean that the graphics & theme wouldn't really bother some of the folks in my church. So, I choose not to flaunt those kinds of games at church events... but I don't hide them in a closet, either.

I got asked about the Apples Project... and pretty much everything I said there is on the Apples Project blog, which you should be reading anyway.

But Tom took us an interesting direction when he noticed that not only do the winners not match his votes most of the time (he he he) but they don't match the CW (conventional wisdom), either. I remarked on some reasons I thought that was true:

  • For those of us who are long-time players (I started playing AH wargames nearly 30 years ago & bought my first "Euro" nearly 20 years ago), the newest games don't seem quite as shiny as the old games did when we first discovered them.
  • As well, with a lot of long-time gamers on the Apple Pickers list, it's more likely that OOP (out of print) games will show up that aren't well known to the general public.
  • At this point, I tried to be culturally relevant by mentioning late 80's U2 ("Van Diemen's Land", anyone?) and Nirvana... I understood my point, but I'm not sure anyone else did.
  • And, yes, there probably is a bit of "choose odd things just to confound the masses" - but that's more likely to go on in the nomination process rather than the voting.

The interview concluded with Tom asking me to choose between Lost Cities & Balloon Cup...

  • No, Sam, Tom did not prompt me or cut out any of the interview... I'd listened to The Dice Tower's previous episode.
  • They are both great games, btw... some of the best 2 player/30 minute games on the market.
  • I mentioned The One Hundred blog... go check it out. Stephen Glenn (the designer of Balloon Cup) polled a group of serious gamers on their 15 favorite games - and what came out was a top 100 list that was a lot of fun.
  • OK, Sam, you were right. I listened to the show again and you called it a "glorified Racko", not simply Racko. Either way, you're wrong. See, it's NOT Racko... and if it's "glorified", the best definition of the word is "canonized". He he he...

BTW, Tom originally interviewed me via e-mail last year - you can read the whole thing right here.