2015-08-31 : This August Past

You wouldn't know it from my blog here, but this August past has been super eventful!


We took Sebastian, our oldest, away to college. You may remember Sebastian from such episodes as:
888 times 8 ("the worst math problem I know")
Pendragon is like Universalis except you only play one character and there's this thing called a GM and

More here: 2010-02-08 : Seriously like the blink of an eye.

Nowadays, if you find him on G+ you can read his writeups for the Apocalypse World game he ran all summer for his friends.

Hard to conceive that he used to be so small, great grown-up kid that he is!

The #Threeforged

I'm participating in Paul Czege's Threeforged Design Challenge. It's a good one. I sent away a first draft to who-knows-who. I received a first draft from who-knows-who, worked it up into a second draft, and sent it away to who-knows-who. Now I've received a second draft from who-knows-who and it's my job to finish it.

The contest is huge, with 120-something initial submissions, and it's had amazing followthrough so far, with 110-something second-stage submissions. I would not have guessed.

Here's a bit of an observation about it. Most of the participants I see commenting on it, think of the first draft they submitted as "their" game, and the second and third drafts as someone else's. Not me! I'm curious to see what comes of my earlier work, of course, but I find myself always thinking of the draft I'm working on now as the one that's "mine."

Local History

We went and saw the Van Gogh exhibit at the Clark, which was good, but on the way back we stopped at the site of a 19th-Century marble quarry and mill, and in ways it was the more interesting, if you can imagine. I feel a little bit like I've spent my life starved for history, and now that I've realized it, I can't get enough.

Early in the month, Meg and I went to a great presentation by a couple of local historians - one a Deerfield historian, one a Nipmuc historian - about the massacre and battle at Peskeompskut, late in King Philip's War. We sat on the bank looking across the Connecticut at the hill where Turner launched his attack and they double-teamed us on historical context, interesting details, and the no kidding ongoing fallout and consequences of the battle.

Like, right now the fight over the route of the Kinder Morgan pipeline through Western Mass depends on the federal designation of pieces of Gill, Turner's Falls, and Montague as historic battlefields and "traditional cultural places." Federal designation brings with it more legal oversight, including the participation of the Nipmuc Nation, the Wampanoag Nation, and others.

It's like the man says, the past didn't go anywhere. We hear all the time that the US has a short history, but I've come to think this is unthinking, complacent, a point of view that serves power.

Battle Moves

Oh and I shared a preview of Apocalypse World 2nd Edition's battle moves with my Patrons. So that's fun.

1. On 2015-08-31, Weeks said:

Wow. Revisiting that 'Pendragon' thread was fun. (And great timing since the son I talked about in there turned 21 today and I'm feeling funny about it.)


2. On 2015-08-31, Kit said:

"Starved for history"! I know that hunger. I grew up in museums, so I guess I always had food for it, but the hunger remains, unabated!


3. On 2015-09-01, River said:

If you're interested in local history, try looking at Wikipedia's National Register of Historic Places listings (by county). For example, check out this PDF from 1966, when Old Deerfield Village (the whole thing!) entered that historic registry. While a lot of the PDFs for Franklin County have not yet been digitized, in places like my hometown (in Kootenai County, Idaho) many more places have already been added to the database. States also seem to sport smaller databases, and local tribes might have written histories to read. Individual buildings, towns, sacred places, even giant trails can get added to these historic registers. Unfortunately, a lot of history is based on archival research: reading journals, looking at immigration manifests, official records, sometimes ethnographic research conducted through interviews... That requires a bunch of effort, and not many historians can do that on a local level. And those that do, might not interpret the data well. The stories crafted from those snippets of history we have might not be the truth, and there are often absent voices. Finally, anyone who does local history often has a stake in the claims made by that historical study, which complicates things even further.


4. On 2015-09-02, Tim Ralphs said:

Really glad with the direction the battle moves have gone in. One of the things I really liked from ApocWorld 1st Ed was how rooted combat felt in the fiction. This 3rd draft feels like it gets back to that.


5. On 2015-09-02, Meguey said:

"Unfortunately, a lot of history is based on archival research: reading journals, looking at immigration manifests, official records, sometimes ethnographic research conducted through interviews... That requires a bunch of effort, and not many historians can do that on a local level."

Speaking as an historian, and a local historian at that, I can assure you that your local historians may be the only people who have actually read through the things you list. They also may have researched and positioned countless artifacts within the context provided by the various written records. In the two local museums in which I work, one of which is in Old Deerfield, the curators and staff and volunteers know more about the history of the local area, in breadth and depth, than pretty much anyone else around. We can also tell you how these towns connect to larger geographic areas, and how the local history here connects to local history in other places. Also, as your small local museums and historical societies generally have smaller collections and smaller governing bodies, we can be more flexible in adapting to new discoveries and new interpretations of data.

Obviously, some places will present a slant toward one viewpoint or the other, and that can get very tied up in politics and the struggle for funding, but the general goal is to discover and highlight less heard voices, not to conceal them. For example, I was recently involved in mounting an exhibit of native bead-work from the early 1800s. Part of the express purpose of the exhibit was to highlight both the work of local tribes in that time-frame (in context with the more widely known Seneca work) and to showcase the unbroken thread of local native bead-work to the present day and current artists still working in the area.

All this to say, sure, as with everything, be aware that there may be bias. I am biased in favor of local history as a way of remembering and conserving what has gone before, in the hopes that it will be of use to those that come after. Yes, I sometimes wish the people who started my museum in 1870 had used an accessioning system that planned for objects to be taken off exhibit and moved around (oh lord, the day I spent today double-checking databases!), but I am deeply glad they thought to try, even if their interpretation of the story was imperfect.?


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