Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Vandal's Day!

GURPS Myth: Now that I've introduced you all to GURPS and Myth in previous posts, I think I'll start sharing some of the setting that I've fleshed out for my players. Those of you playing other RPGs might take direct or indirect inspiration from it, and the rest of you can simply enjoy it as I share a bit of the story of our Myth campaign.

My approach to world-setting for the Myth campaign is exhaustive and ongoing. I already showed you a peek of the Myth map that I've broadened and deepened, which also represents a significant addition of population distributions, political boundaries, and ethnicities. Oh, and I also dubbed the world in the setting 'ceorth', since there's no reference to the actual name of the world in the official literature. What I've done to the official Myth map, I've also done to the Myth calendar by adding holidays and related histories, traditions, and festivals throughout the year of the setting.

The official canon for Myth didn't offer a lot of guidance for the calendar. The journal entries from the game were all dated with familiar days and months. The flavor text for the Journeymen and members of the Heron Guard also make mention that their names--Nine Skull Crocodile, for example--are taken from the year in an ancient Cath Bruig calendar. Finally, the thousand-year ages that define the Myth series take somewhat whimsical names--such as the Wind Age, Wolf Age, and Sword Age.

So, as I fleshed out the calendar with holidays, I had a lot of room for creativity. I began by looking at medieval holidays for inspiration, and so a lot of holidays that revolved around agriculture were set up to define the planting and harvesting seasons. I liked the idea of taking the old-style Day of Fools and making it a late winter holiday at the end of February--a time for the free peoples of ceorth to cut loose and enjoy themselves before spring duties and the potential of military action could begin. But there was one anomaly to consider: leap year. Based on the cyclical nature of the Myth setting, I decided that leap year would be a fun parallel to the fatalism of the cycle of Light and Dark. Specifically, it's a time for people to indulge in acts they view as aligned with the Dark and lose their stuff in wanton acts of medieval tea-bagging. So here's a sample of the descriptive text for today's holiday. In the course of our game, as the march of time reaches a specific holiday, I normally present the players with note cards with info on the pertinent holiday and their specific culture's traditions. There's currently three cultures represented by the players' characters, which will consist of something like the following:

Fool's Day (February 28) and Vandal's Day (February 29)

A day of revelrie, outlandish costumes, and the Fool’s Parade. Fool’s Day is a throwback to a festival of violence, said to pre-date the Cath Bruig, which held that the world needed a day of excess vice to minimize that of the rest of the year. It is thought that the Dark Gods require a certain amount of chaos to exist in ceorth, and so the people seek to placate the gods and maintain balance with outrageous acts of frivolity, pranks, and minor violence upon their neighborhoods. It is considered especially bad luck to discourage or refuse fools on this day, as though doing so dares the forces of chaos to visit their wrath upon them. The leap-year extension is even more raucous, with the fools resorting to mass pranks and acts of vandalism, and so it is called Vandal's Day.

Cath Bruig: The people of The Realm are especially stoic and worship the meritocratic elements of their society. And since the Church of Wyrdras, their patron deity, is especially devoted to service, order, and excellence, local temples of Wyrd receive particularly bad treatment on Fool's Day. The Fool's Parade in any town or city normally features a march of revelers in ghoulish garb circumscribing the city and then moving into the settlement and ending at the Temple of Wyrd. Along the way, the participating fools release crows, get raucously inebriated, and splash paint over windows. On Vandal's Day, marked windows get kicked in, all alcohol is taken outdoors and left in the street to be drunk by revelers, and fights swell throughout the settlement. These excesses are normally followed by ritually killing boars as part of a penitent meal sometime on March 1, embracing the values of discipline once more. 

The Province: In The Province, Fool's Day is in particular about the commoner's relationship with the local nobility. The Fool's Parade is more gluttonous than elsewhere, with revelers inviting themselves into noble kitchens--kicking down doors if necessary--and feasting in the streets. Wise nobles will usually leave the doors open to their kitchens, or even lay out a feast in advance of the parade. On Vandal's Day, however, the participants often strip down to their small clothes in and around the lord's home. Servants of the lord are known to be beaten in proxy on this day, and many nobles take to dressing in rags on Vandal's Day in order to embrace the chaos of the day and mitigate any violent urges towards them specifically. Still, most commoners know that being a conspicuous Fool or Vandal, while ostensibly protected by the traditions of the day, is a good way to find one's dues inexplicably increased.

Gower: Fool's Day in Gower is especially grim. Participants dress in funerary garments, act out scenes of death, and leave grisly totems and talismans at the doors of homes. It's a rather more serious, close to home, observance than those in the rest of the Empire, in which Gowern embrace death and chaos in a more sober manner. The Fool's Parade will normally employ at least one Doom-sayer, a soothsayer employed specifically to cast dire predictions as part of the public spectacle. Fool's Day dinner will normally be especially opulent and decadent--symbolizing one's last meal. Vandal's Day, on the other hand, will see a fantastic amount of creativity as participants dress up as ghosts and spirits and haunt local burial sites, even going so far as to eat, drink, fight and otherwise indulge themselves over their future resting places.

Hope you've all enjoyed your Vandal's Day, and be sure to split a boar tomorrow to pay for it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Blog Anniversary: State of the Nerdery

It's now been one year since this blog started. In that time, I've posted 79 articles, which amounts to one article about once every five days. That rate is certainly better than a lot of blogs out there on the inter-web, but it's not good enough for me. The last few months have been unacceptably sparse on the blog, and the backlog of posts-in-process has swelled to a dozen. But the pace of posts is increasing, and my goal for 2012 is to have at least 100 articles for the year. Of course, much of this goal is supported by the fact that the line of nerd topics is stretching around the hangar bay and halfway to engineering, so here's a few tidbits on what the second year of the Nerdery should bring.

The coming months should be a rich bounty for gamers. In the next week or two I'm going to relate more details about the games I played at Fire and Ice, which will serve as dual reviews for the games and the convention itself. Also, there is a bevy of small and independent games that I've been meaning to plug for some time--expect to see those soon, too.

In seven days, Mass Effect 3 will be coming out. In no more than ten days, I'll be posting my review, replete with fan-boy conniptions and streams of sci-fi ardor. So there, you have a hard date for my Mass Effect 3 review: March 9.

There's a half-dozen long-term gaming projects under-weigh right now that will be featured on the blog here. The first of them is the ongoing GURPS Centurion examples that I started last year. That project hasn't been forgotten, just abandoned during a strategic reallocation of support assets. Secondly, I have been working on a fleet of Battlestar Galactica miniatures for some time. Those will be revealed piecemeal as I paint them, but the first reveals will coincide with my review of a space fleet strategy game to use with them. And thirdly, I have three special projects for 28mm miniature gaming that will be occupying a great deal of my time throughout the next year and will therefore be big on the blog, too.

The articles and reviews will be supplemented by Nerd Bread and Butter articles to help set the table for this feast of fantastic gaming, so hopefully none of you will be left in the lurch about these games, either.

Don't worry, though. The Nerdery is about more than just gaming. The next few months promise to be frakkin' awesome for nerd cinema, and I hope to be able to get a few opening-weekend reviews posted for some of them.

The Movie Web has been tangled lately, due to a persistent fly buzzing around my brain getting the whole thing messed up. I'm untangling it--in fact, I really already have--but the initial miscalculation of the Movie Web's progression made me think I'd made a mistake previously. I hadn't, though, so things should be getting kick-started there soon.

More Rants
There's still a whole cast of essential rants sitting out there, and don't think I've forgotten about them. "Don't Be That Guy", "Dumbasscience", and "Stolen from the Editor's Desk" are all fat and juicy topics that won't be neglected for too much longer. And "The Time for Dick Measuring" has been neglected for too long, so expect to see something in that field within the next month or less.

A Surprise
In addition to the announced projects above, I've been working on a special project that will be revealed within the next week or so. I won't name it right now, but it's something I'm sure excited to finally see happen and something I hope will help spread the word about my little not-so-humble blog.

In the meantime, filmatleven.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Budget-Nerdery: Fire and Ice Convention

Budget Nerdery: I've often said that nerdery is about enthusiasm. And let's face it: enthusiasm can be expensive. Fortunately, experience is often a good way to help curtail expense and find great ways to enjoy yourself, indulge a lot, and still spend only a little. So let me share some experience so you too can enjoy similar hobbies without spending too much. That is, without spending more than is still might spend a good deal, but that's not my fault.

This past weekend, the wife and my sidekick joined me on our first family vacation. I've always been a homebody when it comes to the typical beach/resort/clubbing vacation. I enjoy doing different things with my time off. Such as writing, painting, and fleshing out the fantasy medieval economy of my current RPG campaign. Nerdy things. So we treated ourselves to something special--our kind of special. A nerd smorgasbord, with sprinklings of several new experiences cemented by some of our favorite hobby game types. This was found at the Fire and Ice Convention in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It was awesome, friendly, and full of all sorts of activities and games that we utterly devoured like a pair of ravenous wolves tearing into a defenseless Cheese-head granny.

I'll be enumerating many things that I enjoyed about this trip, but one of them that really struck me was just how much enjoyment the three of us were getting out of our weekend for such a good deal. So here's a quick-but-total itemization of our expenses for the weekend, so you can appreciate similar opportunities in your own area. Heck, if you're anywhere near northern Wisconsin this time next year, you should definitely consider joining us.

2 Weekend passes: $50
A weekend pass gives you six raffle tickets for the daily door prizes and access to all of the weekend's game events. There's about two dozen tables devoted to board games of various types and lengths, a dozen for miniature games and card tables, and a handful of booths for role-playing games all interspersed with some vendor tables for several local hobby shops. I'll detail things more later, but for now here's a list of the games I played over the weekend: GURPS: Thundercats; Eclipse the board game; Mechwarrior the miniature game; a Dawn of the Dead miniature skirmish game; the SPANC card game; a session of the Deadlands RPG; a session of GURPS: Justice League; an epic game of Memoir '44 Overlord; and a soon-to-be-published RPG called Mistrunner. And that was with sleeping in and a big lunch on Saturday and leaving at four on Sunday.

2 Night stay, Super 8: $107.35
The Manitowoc Super 8 is ridiculously close to the venue site, clean, and well-maintained. The front-desk staff were nice and friendly, and tolerated the wife and I playing a late night game of SPANC in the lobby so our hellion offspring could terror-ass around the dining chairs and into the lobby and cook off a little Con-infused hyperactivity before bed.

Gas: $43.29
This is included for completion's sake, but we really only used about two-fifths of a tank of gas, as the trip was only about a hundred and ten miles for us. A word of warning for anyone traveling through Milwaukee to the Con, though: that vaguely urban center is actually a driving proficiency anomaly for the entire state of Wisconsin. While you can trust Cheesers to drive a good 10 miles over the speed limit on most rustic roads and cruise in the fast lane at 75-85 miles-per-hour, those who congest Milwaukee's arteries clot at no more than 60 mph--65 if you're lucky--in the fast lane. Practice your G-rated curse-words before leaving.

Pizza Ranch: $17.83
This place was great. It's a small chain of Midwest pizza buffets with great food, wonderful service, and a wonderful atmosphere that's rustic but still bright and clean. In addition to buffet staples and your typical basic topping pizzas (fresh and piping hot), they make specialty pizzas that have haunted the last ten meals I have had since trying them. Chicken and broccoli alfredo pizza, complete with creamy sauce that completely transforms the pizza slice. A tomato-basil pizza with actual whole slices of spiced tomato nuzzled beneath the cheese layer. And those were just the ones I could pack in three slices at a time before my gorram stomach and gaming schedule demanded we head to the Con and register. If you're ever within a twenty-mile radius of a Pizza Ranch, you owe it to yourself to swing by and give it a try.

My son, perfectly imitating my cheese-induced mania at Pizza Ranch

Taco Bell: $9.42
This requires almost no explanation. Gamers love the Bell of Taco. I love the Bell of Taco. In fact, I noticed that of the major fast food chains near the convention venue, Taco Bell's was the most busy throughout the weekend. Hmmm...nachos.

Wal-mart: $10.37
Mostly, this was to snag some last minute Imodium and Gas-X. Apparently, my beloved thought that my fellow gamers might appreciate these OTC stop-gaps after I spent two hours in the car, followed by a pizza buffet. To my credit, I hardly needed the latter, and the former was completely unnecessary. Really. And don't think it's gross--I'm really a companionably hygienic gamer. I just have trouble over-sharing.

Food bought at the Con: $9.75
This was for two or three quick meals between games over the weekend. The small-but-essential concessions menu consists of things like nachos, grilled cheese, burgers, hot dogs, and a bunch of sweets. They're all good and priced reasonably--which is to say, a bit more than what you'd pay in a grocery store, but less than what you'd get saddled with at a high-school or college sporting event.

Auction board games and books: $40
Gamers can bring their own games to Fire and Ice and put them up for auction, with each day serving as a separate round of bidding. It's a great way to quickly get exposed a broad range of new and old gaming gems, with a chance to peak at the components, too. For forty papyrus notes, we went home with games normally worth a total of $90 that we'd never have noticed otherwise. I'll let you know what I think of two of them--SPANC and Red Dragon Inn--in the coming weeks.

One-page sketch by Kurt Wilcken: $25
Kurt led the GURPS games I'd played in, and as a cartoonist he'd sketched out some character illustrations on 3x5 cards for us to use. After our GURPS Thundercats game he gave Abi and I the cards for our characters--Panthro and Liono, respectively--and I just had to see more. They'll doubtless all get posted up here on the blog when I get the full-page illustration, too.

Culver's: $13.63
Culver's chains are a staple of Wisconsin--they're frakkin' everywhere here. So it was only a matter of time before our weekend saw us at a Culver's location. Plus, I'd forgotten to get some fried cheese curds, so I guess we'll be hitting up a local Culver's this week or next.

Buffalo Wild Wings: $20.55
At the end of a long, full weekend, we decided to splurge one last time and get some "tatonka" as I like to mumble whenever we pass by. It seems like every time we want to get some beedubs to-go, however, it falls on a Sunday evening and we have to deal with crowding and a longer wait than usual. Oh well, epic weekend anyways.

Total: $347.19
After this inaugural weekend, we've decided to make Fire and Ice (and Pizza Ranch!) an annual family outing. It's fun, special, and quite cost effective for a family to do. Kids five to twelve get into the convention for just ten or fifteen dollars a head, as I recall, and the food at the convention is a convenient way to save hassle and money. We probably could quarter our food expenditure by eating at the Con more, and certainly will in the future.

In any case, I hope you've appreciated this purely mercenary break down of the experience. Later in the week I'll post more about the games and my experiences and impressions of them. But for now: I'm pooped.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Remembering Myth

Bah--these gaps between posts, while diminishing, are not deliberate. Think I'm going to assault you with a flimsy excuse about "life issues", "work schedule", or "It's so hard being a new parent"? Hah! Shows what you know. I'm a nerd, and while all those things have been occupying me, I've been dinking around doing nerdy things, too, so I'm not giving any excuses. Nope.

Think that I'm going to start making it easier on myself to update the blog more regularly by cutting content, depth of posts, or posting link-filled drivel like most other blogs? Hah! Shows what you know. I don't believe in lowering the bar, and I certainly don't believe in using only ten words to make a point when one hundred words will reinforce the position and a thousand words will completely sponge out opposition.

Think that I'm limiting myself by the intense, nerd focus of the blog? Hah! Shows what you know. Today I'm going to drag you back to 1997, when Bungie was not yet a household name but no longer a garage-sized developer, either. When games were pretty much always 2D and resembled their topics of violence like Picasso paintings resembled his subjects. When the only way to get a "visceral" gaming experience was to take shots in between matches with your favorite Street Fighter character--it's Chun-Li or M. Bison, you know it--and shake your head a lot. That's right, we're going back to the release of Myth: The Fallen Lords.

Now I permit two divergent opinions of Myth: The Fallen Lords and its sequel Myth II: Soulblighter. The first opinion is that it's the best frakking game ever made. The alternative opinion is that it's one of the best frakking games ever made. See what I did there? The only other valid opinion to have regarding Myth is ignorance, and that won't hold up by the time you're done reading this.

Early in 1997, my big brother drove me to the local Computer City in the outlet mall near our house. Handing him a five-dollar bill and letting him foot the change, we bought a boxed demo of the game Myth: The Fallen Lords. Since this was still a few years before the internet became the favored medium of distributing software demos, and since it was also the first game that actually captured my interest before release, it was and has remained the only boxed game demo I've ever purchased with my own money. Plus about 70 cents of my big brother's cash, and about a quarter of a gallon of gas thrown in for audit purposes.

I've mentioned Myth a few times in the blog so far. It was one of the first games I really played to death in its heyday and even in the years after Bungie was sold to Microsoft. Featuring the proper blend of storytelling and intuitively addicting gameplay, Myth: The Fallen Lords and Myth II: Soulblighter were all kinds of inspiring and fulfilling. Upon its release, Myth: The Fallen Lords became an instant personal hit for striking three chords that no game before it--and few games since--have done.

CD Art to 1997's classic Myth: The Fallen Lords
Myth was... awesome tactics

The Myth series of games were real-time tactical computer games. Real-time sub-genres encompass any game in which time passes at a steady rate. The alternative to this is the turn-based game, in which time passes in discreet chunks at uneven intervals, much like your average board game. Another typical aspect of the tactics genre is a lack of unit or building construction. In a strategy game, like Starcraft, you construct a barracks using some largely conceptual resources and then use those same resources to build marines in that same barracks--all of which occurs in real-time while managing the rest of the game. Not so with a tactical game like Myth. You start off with a specific number of units, who may or may not be surviving veterans from previous missions, and you receive no additional units except for finding the occasional stragglers elsewhere on the map. It lacks the resource management and base-building that makes the strategy genre so popular, but it also demands more decision-making precision on behalf of the player, as mistakes and losses are more costly and irreparable.

The other thing that really made Myth shine as a tactical game was its approach to simple-but-dynamic combat. With forces that typically fell around thirty men for a given mission, you'd have to pay careful attention to how you moved your soldiers and in what formations. While strategy games at the time and many still have at their heart a simple rock-paper-scissors mechanic, Myth innovated with dynamics that emphasized timing and position instead. Getting your archers in a line formation on a ridge or having your dwarves flank a force of undead axe-wielders was the key to victory, and made it more viscerally engaging than simply knowing when to spam air units to counter enemy tanks.

Myth was... a technical innovation

Even though Bungie was a cottage game company at the time, Myth was part of the leading waves of the computer game industry. Its in-game graphics were a combination of 3D rendered terrain and 2D sprite collections for units and viscera. In one of my earlier Mass Effect posts I mentioned the nature of 3D rendering--adding skins to a mesh, which moves based on the keyframes of an animation skeleton. Well, Myth was still a little before those days. The terrain itself was a very simple mesh, not having the contours or fine details of a human figure, with a very low resolution skin. And, since it's terrain, it doesn't need to move, so no keyframes were needed. The units and most of the games' other details, though, needed to move. And, with a freely rotating 3D camera, they needed to be drawn at all sorts of angles. In steps the ancient and venerable 2D sprite.

A 2D sprite is a collection of flat image files that are called up based upon the perspective of the camera in a game. If, say, you're looking at a standing warrior unit from the three-quarters perspective, then the sprite references the appropriate image and displays it. It makes for a rough equivalent for 3D units, and requires a lot more work for the artists, but in these early days of 3D gaming it was simply the only way to have 3D game-play in real-time.

Imagine you're looking for someone in a crowd, only you don't know what they look like. 2D sprites would be like having a handful of photos of the person from different angles, whereas 3D rendering might be represented by having someone with you who knows what the objective person looks like. Having those photos handy for comparison is quite a bit less reliable, but it's something that you could mass produce even when it's too much trouble to get a first-hand witness. That's what 2D sprites are for, and they're still used in less noticeable roles in modern games, too.

So maybe it's not so pretty anymore, but the graphics were cutting edge at the time. I think.

Above you can see what the game actually looked like with the two elements coexisting on the screen. Note the rubble in the foreground and the building's corner to the left--these too are rendered in true 3D, hence the lines are more clearly defined and the objects have more consistency as the camera moves around them. Still, the ability to have tactics and gameplay that were not only three-dimensional but also embraced a freely controlled camera made Myth: The Fallen Lords a novel and thrilling experience at the time. And when Myth II: Soulblighter added the ability to save your completed missions as 'films', allowing you to roam around and survey the battle from different camera angles than you used the first time, well it went to a lot of gamers' heads. As happened again when Bungie brought that feature to Halo 3 ten years later.

Myth was... a fabulous setting

There are two general ways to creatively react to your inspirations: imitation and emulation. Imitation is easy to recognize and easy to tackle, and it involves you picking what you admire from the inspirational source and simply shoe-horning it into your own material. Emulation, on the other hand, involves more research and insight, and if it's done right or wrong your fans might not even see the relation to the source material. Because emulation involves trying to recreate and adapt the methods by which the inspirational material was created--to divine the process and re-tool it to create something of your own. I believe Myth is inspired by and emulates the works of Tolkien. That is, without being very much like Middle Earth in any superficial ways, Myth tackles the setting in a way that I think Tolkien would have if he were a game designer in the 90s. You see, Tolkien was all about creating a syncretic sort of mythology that incorporated themes from the Germanic and Old English myths that inspired a lot of his early academic career, but with a keen focus to create a thoroughly British fantastic folklore. I'm pretty sure the guys at Bungie had a similar goal--in addition to their seven step plan to world domination*.

The game's setting is inspired by the fatalism of Norse, Celtic, and Germanic myth. It's set in a world without elves, where the dwarves are surly tinkerers rather than axe-swinging braggarts, and where evil wins fifty percent of the time. Literally. See, in the Myth setting, time is on a cycle of Light and Dark, and each rules for a thousand years before falling to the opposing order (or disorder, as the case may be). And each time civilization sways, it is conquered by a Leveller--a spirit that is a champion of order and justice to end every age of Dark, or a malign destroyer to end every age of Light. It's very Norse and gloriously stoic, as the stories plod through grim humor, violent heroism, and constant sacrifice. And the voice actor, the James Schneider, who introduces the missions captures this perfectly. Listen to his Old World brogue and seasoned ramblings at the Myth journals website--simply click on the sound bar to the right to enjoy quality, intriguing story-telling and tingling tension--that is Myth, baby.

I'll go on about the setting more in later posts as I share bits of my ongoing GURPS Myth campaign, but for now, I'll share a comparison. One of these things is not like the other...

This one's MINE!

The first image is the starting map used in Myth: The Fallen Lords. The second image is my RPG campaign map, shown at one-third of its maximum size to maintain a certain geographic mystique for my players. I've added something like two hundred towns, settlements, rivers, lakes, highways and other fine details to the setting--and you know what? I'm still working on this bad boy, too.

I'm a sick, sick nerd.

*No, really. Seven steps and Bungie will rule the world, provided we aren't first destroyed as part of a demonstration of Christopher Johnson's righteous wrath. Hurry, Bungie, hurry!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Don't Be That Gal: Painting-Pisser

Don't Be That Guy: One of the best things about being one out of several billion is that there's always somebody doing something stupid. If you keep your eyes open, you can usually wait for a stupid person to try something first. Watch them fail, laugh, and be sure not to repeat their mistake. Or read my blog and get the skinny straight from the Nerdery.

It has been alleged that I have a blog somewhere on the inter-web. A too-long-untouched blog. I find this report disturbing and completely true. I mean, gorram it, a month?

Oh well, there's an impressive backlog of article ideas and stubs waiting in the wings, so hopefully I'll be able to nudge towards my original goal of one hundred posts in the first year of my blog. Unfortunately, some of the once-topical posts will be a little outdated, but they still make great fodder for the Nerdery.

Speaking of which, there was an article from last month that qualifies for a Don't Be That Guy post with a healthy helping of 'what-the-frak!?' on the side. A woman named Carmen Tisch walked into the Clyfford Still art museum in Colorado, punched an offending piece of art, dropped her pants to rub her flank against it, and finally shared some...'water' with the exhibit.

No, really.

This is so easy I'm not even going to really make fun of Ms. Tisch, who supposedly has a history of alcoholism and driving while inebriated. She also had an armed robbery charge that was later dismissed against her. If her behavior in the Still exhibit is a typical intimidation tactic for her, I'd wonder if her charisma is what got the charges dropped. In any case, I'm not going to attack this peach. She's a winner, and I don't think you need convincing on this point.

Instead I want to understand this. What drives this kind of behavior, in any state of mind? First, let's look at the victim of the inablution, "1957-J-No. 2":

I must say, I don't appreciate modern art. This painting impresses me even less than Chicago's "Cloud Gate," and that's saying a lot.

Given the context of the Tisch event, my eye is drawn to the lemonade-stain on the right edge of the piece. Could this be some sort of dark prophecy, foreshadowing 54 years ago the ignominious fate that would befall this noble canvas? Perhaps Still is a much more modestly endowed American Rimbaldi, his prophetic art limited to un-classy reactions to his work. If that was the case, can we really hold poor Carmen Tisch responsible for her actions, or was she caught up in the holistic power of Still's transcendent genius? Was she an offender, or merely unhinged by the realization that as she was looking into the departed Still's painting, he was staring back at her from the 1950s...

Or, perhaps with the appropriate prescription of beer goggles, this painting looks like a public toilet. That might draw the sequence of Tisch's actions into better focus, if we imagine her bleary logic. "Ugh, I hate it when the person before you doesn't flush," she bemoans, striking the lavatory. She claws, looking for a handle, before making her seat of the artwork and relieving herself. "Ahh, that's better, now I can go outside and enjoy the art exhibit...Why is everyone looking at me? I hate it when people make eye contact in the bathroom."

Carmen Tisch: trans-temporal victim of eldritch art or beer-addled misunderstanding? Eh, don't be that gal in either case.