Chatter #58: January 23, 2002

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM


And so another Arisia is over.

I was hoping to do a huge writeup of the con, but right now I just don't have the time or energy. So I'll just cover the high points:

In addition to the business cards I talked about last time, I made a flyer to promote the site. Considering that I slapped it together in virtually no time, it actually came out rather wellI saw a lot of people picking them up. I left some out at every panel I was on, as well as on the freebies racks.

I saw a lot of friends, including some I hadn't seen in a while.

At a friend's recommendation I signed up for the Boston Gamers group on Yahoo. So far I've already found a few people in my general area who roleplay.

Elevator Madness

As always at the Park Plaza, the elevators were totally PACKED. I took the stairs a lot; looks like I'm in better shape than I feared, although I still really need to start working out again. There was an interesting confrontation between a fan and a mundane in an elevator on Friday night; the elevator was crowded but not totally packed, and when it stopped at a floor the fan said that there was room for more. An obvious mundane with gray hair and a superior smirk loudly said "No, there isn't". They got into a little back-and-forth which ended with the fan getting off the elevator himself, leaving the mundane with a snotty smile on his face. Most mundaneswait a second.

You know, I'm not really comfortable with the word "mundane"; it seems to imply a level of hostility, and to tell the truth I'm not blind to the fact that a lot of fans (I know, fen - but sometimes the jargon seems a little pathetic to me) are badly impaired socially. That's not something that they should be punished or scorned for, and to tell the truth I can see a lot of my past self in them; I understand why that fan got off the elevator, rather than stay in a confrontational situation. But I have enough "mundane" in me to see how they/we look to the other side, and as a result I feel sort of torn. More embarrassed for the fen than *of* them, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, most non-fans at the hotel actually seem to really enjoy seeing the fans, particularly (of course) the costumed ones. I rarely see any sign of contempt in their amusement; they really seem to genuinely enjoy us. Of course, I'm usually wearing white tie and tails, and so am not likely to be on the recieving end of a sneer. It's funny, but in ultra-formalwear I feel extremely distinguished, and people around me all treat me that way. It's like being royalty for a weekend. Unfortunately this year I didn't wear the outfit, since Teri didn't come up and I therefore wasn't going to dance. So I was just an ordinary-looking guy in jeans and a casual shirt.


I did the panels, listed, plus a last-minute addition (which I suggested) on supporting out-of-print RPGs. There were only three people in the audience, so it became a roundtable discussion and actually wasn't bad. Most of the other panels were quite well attended, and one of them (I can't remember which, unfortunately) was SROstanding room only.

I ran into the usual panel issues, and felt strongly tempted to write a piece about "bad panels". For example, I arrived for one of my panels only to find that the previous panel was apparently refusing to leave the room; the inevitable Loud-Mouthed Know-It-All was on a groove, and the audience was laughing appreciatively. Another panelist and I stood there looking at our watches and silently trying to calculate at what point we should go in and start setting up in their faces, but five minutes after our panel was to begin the inconsiderate bastards finally started to close down and move out. Jerks.

There was the usual guy who knows it all on one panel, and another had the usual audience member who wouldn't shut up. So it goes.


One of the high points of Arisia for me has often been the breakfast buffet. But it has been highly variable; in the early years at the Park Plaza the Cafe Rouge served an absolutely wonderful breakfast buffet for $10, with unlimted fresh orange juice, excellent croissants, crisp bacon, potatoes, and a huge assortment of other breakfast stuff. But the Cafe Rouge closed down long ago, and none of the replacements that the hotel has offered have lasted for more than a year. Nor did they deserve to, as they weren't very good.

The Swans also served some very good food even late at night in the lobby, and was a particularly fun place to eat while in costume—everyone would stare. They, too, are long gone.

Some years Arisia offered a special "Breakfast Serial" buffet in a separate area, and showed cool old Superman cartoons on big screens for the patrons. That hasn't happened for a few years, though.

There were a couple of years here and there when the hotel didn't have ANY sort of buffet of any kind—and one year there was NO RESTAURANT AT ALL! That was a very bad year for the Plaza. I think they were being acquired by a multinational, or something.

This year was better then most recent ones, though. They've used the area of the lobby that used to have The Swans, plus they knocked down the wall to one side of that area and made a largish dining room. Both Saturday and Sunday they offered American and Full buffets, at about $11 and $15 respectively. I got the full, of course, and though it didn't thrill me like the old days, it wasn't bad. Service was middling; slow, sometimes, particularly when I was waiting to be seated. The juice was good, though, as was the bacon. On Saturday they had mini croissant which were acceptable, and oatmeal which was surprisingly good; usually oatmeal gives me heartburn. Sunday morning was a bit more disappointing, since they didn't have croissants but did have surprisingly bad mini-pancakes—cold, stale, and hard on the edges.

One odd thing: I noticed they'd attached a little electronic box to the piano in the lobby, and it now functions as a player piano. Interesting, but kind of soulless.

As for other meals, I brought food with me. I've noticed that more and more people are doing that, and it just makes sense; hotel food is insanely expensive. So I stopped at a supermarket before I drove over and picked up a lot of rolls, balony, chips, soda, and a $2 styrofoam cooler to keep it all in. It was a little tough bringing it all up to my room, but I fed several other people and saved a lot of money. Heck, the hotel soft-drink machines now charge $1.50 just for a Coke!

Actually, on Friday I went to lunch at a place in Brookline called Elephant's Walk, a Cambodian-French place. I've never eaten Cambodian, and suspected that there wouldn't be anything I could stand, but the steak au poivre was excellent, with a bed of pommes frittes in a red wine, garlic, and shallot sauce. On the down side the service was incredibly awful. The waiter took at least half an hour to bring us menus, another half an hour before returning to take our orders, etc. etc. A one-hour lunch turned into a three-hour lunch. It was ridiculous.

On the other hand that night Virgil and I ran over from the hotel to the Transportation Building and grabbed dinner at a California Pizza Kitchen. It was my first time, and the food wasn't bad, but the service was really outstanding. I left a big tip.

I have the feeling I'm kind of rambling here. Sorry. I'm actually really tired right now—Sebastian has been very good lately, sleeping through the night almost every night, but this morning he woke up at 4:40AM and by the time I'd fed him and got him back to sleep it was almost time for me to get up. So I'm sort of a zombie right now.

I'd been hoping to see more of the con than usual, but it wasn't possible. I ended up catching up on a lot of sleep, though, which was good. I hit the dealer's room early on and bought some great books including two rare Lord Dunsany paperbacks at $7.50 apiece. I haven't read them yet, but I'm pretty pleased.

Once again I didn't have a chance to properly check out Dealer's Row, but at least I got to make a cursory walk-through. I was surprised to see that for the first time ever (I think) there was no sex shop! I wonder why? Not that I was particularly looking to patronize it myself, as I'm still rather Victorian at heart.

Picked up a set of purple earrings and a tiara for Teri, and that was that. Next year I hope Teri and Sebastian can come up. I sure wish I could do more conventions...

You know, I've been writing about Arisia for a long, long time—in my zines, that is. I'd really like to dig out those old zines and put them up, but until I have the opportunity to thoroughly search our storage area (which is huge) it's not going to happen. The old files are all long since lost, so I'll have to scan the paper copies in. Someday.

Fast Food Nation

Want to hear something surprising? I haven't eaten fast food of any sort since Christmas! The reason: My parents gave me a copy of Fast Food Nation. It's amazing how many horrifying truths about fast food have been ignored by the media. I can't imagine anyone feeling comfortable eating fast food after reading that book. On a perhaps related note, I notice that I'm feeling better, healthier lately—it was much easier than I expected to take the stairs at the con, for example.

Sebastian Update

Sebastian invented a new game a couple of days ago: "Grab the Glasses". He grabbed the glasses off my face and gave me a huge grin, four times in a row. The fourth time he then put my glasses up to his mouth and started trying to eat them. They're far too big for him to fit in his mouth, of course.

Just today Teri called to tell me that he had grabbed his bottle off the table with both hands and stuck it in his mouth! He couldn't maintain control for long, of course, but that still seems remarkable for a boy who isn't four months old yet.

You know, I'm assuming he'll read this site someday; I don't know when. If so, "Hi, John Sebastian!".

Golden Slumbers

Recently I ordered a wonderful old tape of music from Barnes & Nobles online. It's called "Golden Slumbers (Lullabyes from Near and Far)" and my parents used to play it for me when I was a baby. Back then it was an LP, of course. It's a lovely record, with lullabyes sung by Pete Seeger among others. Sitting in the nursery, feeding Sebastian, and singing along with the record...I can't recall when I was last so happy.

There are only two things I regret: that the album isn't available as a CD (I'm going to try to figure out a way to convert it), and that it didn't come with the wonderful lyrics/sheet music/history booklet that came with the record. I still have the booklet from the original record (although not the record itself, I think my father has that), fortunately.

My brain is really wiped out. I know there was something else...oh yes.


Wow! The site suddenly rocketted up to number FOUR on the charts! Pretty cool. I'm sure that won't last, but it's nice to see. I'd been considering writing to the update list and asking them to vote, but I've always been leary about abusing that list. I kind of feel that more than one email every few months would be a betrayal of trust, and that I should have at least one substantive addition to the site to report along with any appeals for votes or other favors. I added quite a large magic item to the Chaos Project recently, but somehow that doesn't feel like a legit reason to write.

Fortunately Alexander Wallis just sent me an excellent set of additional material for The Grey Company that I'll put up today or tomorrow, so a new update should be going out soon.

Promotional Flyer

Ah yes, I almost forgot! Just before the con I was working like mad to whip up a promotional flyer for the site. The business cards were cool, but sort of light on information. So I went completely nuts and grabbed a bunch of material off of the Chaos Project. This was actually a pretty good idea, I think, because I know that I like to pick up flyers that look like they've got a lot of interesting stuff to read. Incidentally, I used only my own material from the Project because this was totally a last-minute, spur-of-the-moment thing, and I didn't have time to try to contact people and ask their permission to use their stuff.

I've converted the original Word file to Adobe Acrobat format; the graphics didn't translate wonderfully, but what can you do. Here it is.

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[email protected] Copyright 2002 by Peter Maranci. Revised: January 31, 2002. version 1.0