Alphagraphics: Worst Printer Ever, or Worst Printer Possible?

Alphagraphics Fucks Up
My experience with Alphagraphics has been just awful and won’t frickin’ stop. They won’t send me my refund check now until I ship back the books that they got me two months late and have IPR do the same. And they didn’t tell me this. I had to call and ask why I didn’t have a refund yet. And leave a message. Now I’m supposed to call their accounting department and figure out how stuff’s supposed to be shipped to them.
They company is just terrible. Lemme say it again so Google can hear: My experience with Alphagraphics has been uniformly terrible. It’s been expensive, time-consuming, and fraught with amateur errors on their part.

So it turns out they’ve been waiting for me to return the books to them on my own dime. And neglecting to tell me that the whole time.

I have never had a poorer experience with a printer than I have with Alphagraphics. They have cocked up every single element of this job. It has taken them three months to get me a reprint of 100 copies. Then, despite assurances and requests, they ship it by, I dunno, dogsled or something so it arrives two weeks later than their already two months late.

Then, when I ask for a refund, they apparently expected me to a) wait for the books to show up and b) instruct IPR to repackage them and send them back at their expense while I do the same with my copies.

Seriously, it’s like they’ve got monkeys running the company. And they’re not particularly bright monkeys. We’re not talking apes; I could trust my printing to a bonobo and get better results. No, we’re talking tamarins at best. And those monkeys have cost me a lot of money. Unlike other tamarins I’ve met.
So, some advice: never, ever use Alphagraphics. I’m truly, genuinely amazed that such a company can exist. May their assets be purchased by an organization with a little more professional pride.

(I just edited the previous post, which I thought I’d lost, into this one for brevity and not-harp-on-it-like-a-crazymanness.)

The Core of the Houdini Thing

From The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman:

One particularly alluring performer was the beautiful Evatima Tardo, who would allow herself to be bitten on her bare shoulder by a rattlesnake, be impaled on a makeshift cross, and have her face and neck used as a cushion for dozens of pins. Her amazing tolerance for pain and resistance to poison came from an incident in her childhood in Cuba where she was bitten by a fer-de-lance, the most poisonous snake in the hemisphere. Houdini was smitten both by her beauty and her showmanship; while undergoing some of these tortures, she would blithely laugh and sing. Her end was grisly, however. Although immune to pain and poison, she fell victim to love and bullets, dying in a double-murder-suicide love triangle.

I can’t find any pics of this fascinating character. A tragedy. So, imagine, if you will, a fiction game in which the protagonists are each a performer in a wandering troupe. Maybe they’re a circus, or maybe they’re a traveling family. But two things we know for sure: they’re almost supernaturally competent at what they can do, and they’re jealous, angry, in love with, and fearful of each other in varying proportions.

First run around the barn will use The Mountain Witch‘s very elegant rules. Things will evolve as required, I’m sure.

It’s A Long Way From Kung Fu Grip.

Action Reporter

The Houdini thing below is having its first protoplaytest in a couple of weeks. We’ll see how that goes. But there’s one other project I’m excited about that I forgot to mention. It’s about war journalism in the era of the citizen journalist, the blogger. The date is 15 years from now. The civil war has entered your town. Some of your friends took up arms. You took up a cellphone camera and a secure server. The inspirations are Max Headroom and DMZ. The concept’s got a lot to be worked out, but most of the game will likely have to do with dealing with information suppression and figuring out how to make and fight propaganda.

In the interest of that, check out the war reporter action figure pictured at the top of this post. Think about how cool it is that there’s an action figure who comes with a camera and laptop. Notice that you can stick different logos on the camera to subtly distinguish your perspective on the war and its reporting.

American Shock: Ships

Shockmerican Flag

OK! Getting caught up on shipments! US shipments of Shock: Social Science Fiction went out yesterday. With the Christmas fracas, it’ll probably take a few days, like until the 28th.

If you live outside of the States, I missed my shipping deadline on Saturday but they’re packed and ready to go out on Tuesday when the post office opens up.

Enjoy the Future!

Happy Chanukah for all my patient Shock: customers!

Shocking speedo

Finally.

Finally, I have copies of Shock: to ship. Thank you all for your extraordinary patience while I dealt with stupid, horrible printer issues. I’m writing up the full story, but suffice to say, I won’t be using RPI or Alphagraphics any more. I’ve gotten some very encouraging quotes from other printers who I’ll start with as soon as I recover a bit from the hit Alphagraphics dealt me.

I’ll be shipping out copies this weekend.

Truly, this is worth some gay disco.

(Unfortunately, I’m enjoying Arular by M.I.A. to really gay disco it up. But maybe I’ll listen to some Blondie later.)

This Will End Badly for Us All

Firefly

You know what was great about Firefly? The characters’ interactions were subtle and their motivations, while hidden to themselves, were often clear to everyone else on the ship. Fundamentally, it was a character drama that used a smuggling mcguffin every week to show something about the characters and their relationships.

Now, consider this article over at Wired Magazine that foretells of a Firefly MMORPG. Ignore the fact that he calls Firefly hard science fiction for a moment (Sorry, I can’t ignore it. It’s just… like, neither the author or his editor know what it is? It’s about as hard sci fi as Star Wars, which is about as hard sci fi as Hello Kitty. It’s a literary genre. You’d think an editor would know what it is.) and consider what MMORPGs are good at:

In World of Warcraft, you team up with other players to accomplish quests. Even on designated “role playing” servers, I’m told that the character stuff is pretty thin; it’s a strategy and tactical game (which can still be an RPG, of course). People have fun playing it when they play it as such. The rules don’t support playing a character with motivations and relationships.

Now consider this:

What made the show special was the wry, often self-deprecating humor of its characters, from the captain with the checkered past to the unwittingly sexy engineer, the dull hunk of a mercenary with a girl’s name, and the mysterious young woman passenger with special gifts.

Sounding pretty good, right? (I mean, aside from the fact that Kaylee is wittingly sexy.)

The online version will move away from those central characters — after all, there’s only one Mal Reynolds. In an MMORPG, “everybody has to have their own story,” says Multiverse co-founder and executive producer Corey Bridges.

Now, moving away from those characters, that’s great. Making it so everyone has their own story — their own checkered past, embarrassing name, secret love, death wish, quest for forgiveness or whatever, that’s great. But a shadow falls:

“Television series can be really good properties to turn into MMOs, because when you make a TV series, not only do you need great characters, but you need to create a full, rich, compelling place,” Bridges says. “If you’re doing science fiction, you have to really think it out and create an incredibly rich environment that is compelling in its own right, and worth exploring and going back to week after week. That’s what Joss Whedon did with Firefly.”

See, cuz, no, he didn’t. He didn’t care about how fast the ship could fly, what planets existed, or how ranks work in the Alliance forces. What mattered was that the ship broke to put the characters in conflict with each other, the Confeds were bureaucratic and cold, and that the planets they landed on were stuffed full of characters who wanted something from the protagonists. Shit, he didn’t even know what was on the left side of the bridge until Serenity. He certainly didn’t have a list of planets, ships for sale, and damage values for different weapons.

“We want to find someone who wants to do something unique and fun and interesting, not just a re-skin of World of Warcraft or Star Wars Galaxies,” Bridges says.

Because the underlying technology is already in place, “I feel confident that we’ll see something the public can play sometime in 2008,” he adds.

That underlying technology had better make some leaps and bounds if this is to be anything but a pale shadow of something really fun and engaging.

PS: What’s up with the baggy drawers on the dude at the head of this post? He’s a superhero from 1940. He seems to be hiding not only an enormous schlong, but love handles, as well.

Spione to Music

Swedish Rhapsody

The Conet Project is a really creepy collection of number stations, which they’ll be happy to explain to you. I was sufficiently charmed by their sinister strangeness — enhanced by the use of music boxes and toy pianos — that I made a piece of music to go with one of them, Swedish Rhapsody. Give it a listen. It’s part of a larger music project I’m doing in my noisy basement studio. Some of it’s noise, some of it’s trancy music.

Here’s the first track good enough to show around the neighborhood, Mädchen, Endut.