Great Gygax, Maybe Britain
I took a recent fifteen day trip to Oklahoma City, Cambridge, Oxford, and London. On the first leg of the tour I presented on Gary Gygax and the birth of the role playing games industry. “Dungeons and Dragons” was analyzed as business history for the Economic and Business History Society. Then I went to Britain to the two oldest universities in the English speaking world, Cambridge founded in 1209, and Oxford founded sometime between 1096 and 1167. The universities and people of England were usually great, but not so much some of the bus drivers, ticket agents, and Heathrow airport staff, hence the title.
When you are in Oklahoma City, the place to visit is the Cowboy Museum. The end of the first hallway was a statue of Lincoln, while Will Rogers and John Wayne figured prominently. Thankfully, the guide waited until the end of the tour to mention how he approved of Trump. The tour group bypassed a room of Native American greats that I later enjoyed on my free time. The highlight of my first conference workshop was a guy from the Denmark explaining the history of transportation in Denmark. No 56,000 pound rigs in the small territory of that country, they were all large and fat but short and in one piece. My presentation on Gary Gygax was detailed, largely from my personal acquaintance in the eight years before 1974, the year he invented Dungeons and Dragons. The moderator of the session, of all things, happened to graduate from the same high school I attended, Madison Edgewood. About a dozen in the room, three had played Dungeons and Dragons, and about seven had heard of the game played by millions around the world. One person afterwards showed keen interest in my Nobel Peace Prize nomination for Peace Economics. The conference keynote speaker kept casting aspersions about some New Deal programs, yet admitted that Roosevelt had stimulated the economy with his programs in the thirties, and that forties war stimulus was very much overrated.
Arriving in Heathrow Airport, I immediately took the Norwich bus to Cambridge. If I had gone the whole route, I would have gone to East Anglia, where the temperature of the world is calculated each year. As it is I settled for Cambridge, the home of Stephen Hawking, born the same day of the year as Robert Reuschlein and Elvis Presley. No wonder I’m a scientist who can win dance contests.
At Cambridge I met a professor who wears a turban to shake others up and watches the whole MSNBC lineup each night to keep up with the American impeachment pre-game shows. I also met a Mathematics Ethics professor and his grad student who came to the seminar on numbers and statistics for public policy. The grad student was frustrated that two history professors presented but no one from a statistics background. I told the Math prof that I had perfected economics by adding the secret ingredients of military spending and temperature change. He thoughtfully agreed that that made sense to him.
Oxford was the highlight of the trip. Staying at St. Hugh’s I was fortunate to see a fox causing quite a stir in the English garden my room overlooked. I heard a great noise from the crows and went to the window to see what the matter was. The ducks were unperturbed a long way from the fox, but a flock of seagulls flew away as I watched. The noisy crows moved closer and eventually the fox left. The conference on American war dissent decades ago went well and made me wish I’d submitted a paper on Kennedy as two others had done. Oxford’s Rothermere American Institute sponsored the conference. Christopher Hurley and I had a lot to agree about Kennedy as JFK resisted the establishment on national security policy. Oxford had good people everywhere. But the bus drivers were terrible. One drove past us as I tried to flag it down. Another gave me bad advice to take the X90 instead of the Tube, forcing me to take an extra local ride to get to Notting Hill in London from Oxford. Then another driver motioned me away as he stopped two slots away from his regular stop. So I waited for him to move into the correct spot only to see him drive away completely past the empty spot that had been full before.
I arrived in London on Saturday night June 3 and settled in at our Notting Hill Hotel. A colleague suggested going downtown, but I thought I needed rest after a long day’s trip. That was fortunate, I might have been nearby or worse when the terrorists attacked London Bridge at 10pm and a popular nearby market. Other than that, Sadiq Khan, Moslem mayor of London, was right to call this the safest city in the world. That was at the East end of downtown, and I spent the next two days near the Parliament in the West end. Someone had left a cigar at the foot of the Churchill statue in the park. I saw the Ecuadorian embassy where Julian Assange was staying. He has the same odds as Professor Robert Reuschlein of winning the Nobel Peace Prize this year according to sports betting expert Jim Murphy. I entertained the man at the front desk until I decided not to wait any more for a reply. Later I secured and used a three month Chelsea library card, and saw the plaque where George Orwell had lived from 1903 to 1950 about three blocks from where I was staying. I also visited the Library of London founded in part by Charles Dickens and donations from famous authors, often with amazing notes in the books donated. When I visited the War Resisters International office no one was there, but I had a good talk with someone downstairs from them at Hausmann’s radical book store. When I left England I had a rainbow to see (it was a Chelsea morning) and when I arrived home I saw another rainbow. Good omens both. But the Heathrow Delta flight required boarding by taking a bus to the plane and climbing stairs like you do in a much smaller airport. Heathrow has a poor reputation and you can see why. The ticket agents on the first day had a map on the electronic poster showing various bus routes in Southern England, but the agents could neither give you a map, nor explain well where and when buses were going. The individual routes had schedules for each one only, and you were expected to watch the arrival and departure board for more information. Don’t expect the agents to be helpful. The Bobbies, on the other hand, were always useful and helpful, even the ones guarding 10 Downing Street with Uzis. The Investors Daily conference on the last day before leaving was very good at the start, then lost steam. I met two nice people there. Two others left the table when I questioned one speaker’s assumption that Theresa May would remain the Prime Minister. Labor was surging in the polls, but the conservative investment community was in denial. One speaker clearly preferred WTO corporate oligarchy to anything more democratic like the EU.
Here are the two presentations of first Gygax to EBHS, then War Economy to the upcoming HES: