Old Photos of Me

In case you were wondering, this is what I looked like as a kid.

What is Lemuria?

The Wizard of Lemuria
The Wizard of Lemuria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what the heck is a Lemuria, anyway? The history of Lemuria begins, as a remarkable number of things do, with Ancient Rome. Specifically, with the concept of the Lemure.

The lemures, also known as larvae, were the restless and malignant dead of Roman mythology. They are similar to the modern idea of the ghost. The Romans had an annual holy day for the lemures, known as Lemuria, or Lemuralia. The holiday was designed to appease the spirits of the restless dead (usually with beans), and filing that scaring them away (usually by banging pots together.) It was sort of their Halloween, if Halloween as incredible sedate and boring.

Next up in the story of Lemuria is the 18th naturalist Carl Linnaeus, known as the ‘Father of Modern Taxonomy.’ He developed a modern system for naming organisms, called binomial nomenclature (homo sapien, felix domesticus, etc.) He coined the name lemur for the small primates native to Madagascar, due to his observations that they were mainly nocturnal and slow moving, like the Roman conception of the lemure. It has sometimes been said that the primates were named after lemures because they were as creepy as ghosts when you shined a light on them at night, but this is evidently not the case (lemurs, with their shining eyes, are still spooky however.)

This leads us to the 19th century, in which scientists had a problem. They knew that animals weren’t just plunked down on the Earth willy nilly. They knew that animals species tended to be found in regions, and that if you went from one region to another, especially to another continent, you would tend to find a different species. But here was the problem- there were a number of species in the South Pacific that seemed to be bucking this trend. They were too closely related, yet too widely separated by being on different continents and islands. So, either someone was plunking down animals will nilly, or there was some hidden way for those widely separated to be connected.

Nowadays, we know the answer to this problem is plate tectonics- those widely separated places weren’t widely separated in the past. But plate tectonics is a 20th century idea, and they didn’t know about it in the 19th, and thus needed another explanation. They one they came up with was a hypothesized sunken continent connecting all these places when it was above water, then disappeared as it sank. Because Madagascar was supposed to be a former peak of this continent, this hypothetical land was called Lemuria, after the lemurs of Madagascar.

This is where the story gets differently interesting. I won’t say more interesting, because I find Roman mythology, word etymology, and the history of science to be pretty damned interesting in their own rights. But it does get interesting in other ways now.

Helena Blavatsky was a 19th century occultist, and might reasonably considered to be the ‘Mother of the New Age Movement‘. Anything dealing with Atlantis, Lemuria, crystals or other such woo in today’s popular culture can usually trace an inspiration back to her writings. She wrote that Lemuria was a lost continent, and home to one of Humanity’s ‘root races’. Writers such as Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft, Lin Carter, and Richard E Shaver took her ideas and ran with them. A full list of uses of Lemuria in popular culture may be found here.

So there it is. Lemuria, land of ghosts and high weirdness. My kind of place.

 

20 Facts About Me

Cover of Facts in Five
Cover of Facts in Five (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In case you wanted to know.

Twenty (mostly) True Things About Me

  1. I’m forty years old. I don’t feel forty years old. Well, my knees feel about forty years old in the mornings, but my sense of decorum and authority certainly hasn’t caught up.
  2. I was born in Alabama. This tends to come as a surprise to most people, as I don’t sound particularly ‘Southern.’ I moved up to Pennsylvania when I was about 12, came back down to Alabama to go to college, then came back up to PA (with a detour or two in between.) When I was younger, I had a lot of Southern jingoism, as I believe a lot of people from the South do. I’ve mostly gotten over that now.
  3. I currently have a shaved head. Less maintenance, overall.
  4. I have two younger siblings. I would say they’re both as odd as I am.
  5. I’m ordained in three religions: The Church of the SubGenius, the Cult of Discordia, and the Moorish Orthodox Church. Some people collect stamps; I get ordained by weird post-modern religions.
  6. My middle name is Leland. It basically means ‘fallow land‘, as in the farmland that is so worn out you just leave it alone for a season or two so it can get replenished with nutrients. I try not to read too much into that.
  7. I’ve had my own talk show: The Pleasure Saucer. It was a local access cable show, in Asheville, NC. It was the only show scheduled to come on at 2 AM, and due to content regulations, it was the only show that had to be scheduled to come on at 2 AM. I’m quietly proud of that. Fully archive here.
  8. I’ve also done a variety of podcasts, including my latest, Cinematic Pig’s Feet with Katalin Justice. I’m starting a new one in 2017.
  9. I’ve never graduated college. I had some issues with depression, and spent some semesters not leaving my dorm.
  10. My university, the University of Alabama, had a program called New College. Essentially, you could make up your own major, if you could convince a panel of students and teachers it was a legitimate one. Which is how I spent a semester with ‘Paranormal Studies’ as my major (that was one of the semesters I didn’t go to class.)
  11. I am a member of the Mallet Assembly, the Men’s Honors Living Option for the University of Alabama. Well, it was the ‘Men’s Option’ when I went there. Now it’s the ‘Autonomous Living Option’. I’m happy they made the change.
  12.  I have a tattoo of a Chaos symbol on the back of my left hand. I was slightly drunk at the time I got it, and the back of the hand seemed like an acceptable compromise between my shoulder and my forehead. So yeah, that’s me slightly drunk.
  13. I am a RSS addict. The number of blogs I read through my RSS reader (Feedly) is quite ridiculous.
  14. A long time ago, I passed my test to receive a 1st Dan (roughly the equivalent of a black belt) in Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan.
  15. I’m a left libertarian agorist, with Karsonian mutualist tendencies. If you don’t know what all that means, you’re more likely to live a happy life.
  16. I love easily, and sometimes that hurts like a motherfucker.
  17. I have a great interest in making art, but have a tendency of buying books on art, rather than making it, when I get the urge.
  18. I was in a punk band with my two brothers, called Traxx. There was a bass, a drum kit hooked up to weird sound effects, and I screamed into a microphone. It was pretty cool.
  19. I’m currently a Certified Nurse’s Aide. It’s not a bad job. I’ve certainly had worse.
  20. For about six months when I was 6 or 7, I literally believed I was a space alien.

Hello, World (2017)

Happy 2017
Now, let’s do it right this time.

Hello. It’s 2017.

I am not going to apologize.

I haven’t said anything here in over two months. My goal for 2017 is to actually be a blogger. This involves (a) blogging, consistently, with care and attention, and interacting with with readers and other bloggers, and (b) having something to blog about. Neither of these is easy for me, and I suspect the second will be more difficult than the first. But, here I am.

2016 has not been a great year for most people. Not as bad as most people think, not some unique example of terrible years, but still- not a great year, not for me, and probably not for you. So, let’s make 2017 different. We can’t affect a lot of what is going to come our way this year. But we can probably affect more than we think. I plan on doing what I can to change the world in 2017, to make it a more fun, more free, more interesting, more chill, and more loving place.

Some Goals

Here are some of the things I’m planning to do:

  • I wrote a short film script last year. This year, with my brother, I’m directing and producing it. It’s a sort of retelling of The Judgment of Paris, a myth I’ve always had a fondness for. Also, it’s going to be a virtual reality short film, so that’s pretty cool.
  • New podcast, in support of this blog, and a vlog. Tentatively entitled ‘The Lemurian Hour.’
  • I’m publishing The Path of the Black Flag.
  • I’m writing a novel. It may be a fantasy noir, I’m not sure yet. But I’m writing one.
  • I’m doing a 2nd UDEAC art show.

That’s a pretty good list, I think. What are you guys planning to do this year?

 

Path of the Black Flag update

a black flag
a black flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

….I’m almost done. With the first draft. Just a few more pages, then I can start revising. Then I can send it out for editing/beta reading/playtesting. So it it’s continuing. It’s taken far, far too long. But the end is within sight.

Path of the Black Flag- Politics in your Game

Every Pathfinder campaign, unless it takes place in an infinite dungeon stocked solely with animals and automatons (and even then, who put them there?) is going to involve politics. An Anarchist campaign, with such an inherently political focus, is going to involve even more politics. But while the results of politics (death, war, guards violently enforcing weird laws, young people resisting arranged marriages) are often exciting, the means of politics (interminable council meetings, endless parliamentary debates, bureaucracy, filling out forms in triplicate) are often not. This presents a problem for people who want to deal with politics, either in a real-life or a fictional context. So how does a gamemaster make the means of politics exciting for their players?

Making Politics Exciting

The Personal is Political

Every political decision has, at its root, a personal basis. No matter how abstract the regulation, no matter how inhumane the law, there are all borne from human emotion and human desire (or dwarven emotion and desire, or goblin emotion and desire, etc., etc.). Every law, every decree, every declaration of war happens because someone wants something, and they are willing to kill (or at least threaten to kill) to get it or enforce it. And where there is someone willing to kill to make something happen, there is the opportunity for adventure.

Politics is War by other Means

Laws and edicts are almost never sober decisions designed to improve the lot of the populace. They are most often part of a hidden war being fought by secret factions, both within and without a particular kingdom or country. designed either to strike down a rival, or prevent an upstart from becoming a rival. If every political decision as someone and their desires behind it, then those desire are often for their side/tribe/cabal to achieve or maintain dominance. Guildmasters scheme against the barons. Senators that favor the red team in the chariot races scheme against the priests who favor the blue team. The wool producers of kingdom A work tirelessly to stop a small group of alchemists in country B from developing a breed of giant sheep. Dragons, liches, and those who study politics all have an ancient saying they use to help make sense of why some laws were enacted, and why some wars were waged: Cui bono? “Who benefits?”

Governments are at War with their Citizens

Many people call Anarchy chaos. And while some Anarchists are fine with that, others retort that Anarchy is in fact Order; Government, however, is civil war.

It is undeniable that governments spend quite a lot of time and energy controlling, spying on, extorting (what is politely called ‘taxing’), detaining, and occasionally killing their own citizens- essentially, they are at war with their own citizens. Of course, they don’t say that. In fact, they spend only slightly less time and energy convincing people they aren’t doing those things, as the spend doing those things. They convince people that those they control, spy on, detain, and kill are really part of the citizenry- they’re criminals, traitors, foreigners, subversives, etc. Not real people. They convince people that the controlling and taxing that actually affects them is necessary, righteous, perhaps even holy- so much so, that opposing it is an act of treason, disloyalty, and sometimes blasphemy.

Anarchists argue that governments do this because they are predators and parasites, pure and simple- they feed  off of their citizens. Governments argue that they control their citizens because an uncontrolled citizenry is worse off and more vulnerable than a controlled one. Whoever is right, governments still commit violence against their subjects.

Politics is a Seductive Trap

If adventurers have any ambitions outside of cleaning out every dungeon ever, they usually want to advance in society. Maybe a knighthood or some other honor, maybe a title, maybe even a kingdom of their own to rule. This applies even to Anarchist adventurers. So many think they if only they were the ones in charge, they could run thing right and just. They are told continuously that fighting tyranny from the outside is foolish and unproductive- if they want to effect real change, they need work from within. And many do so, seduced by the promise of power, and start to lessen their Anarchist activities, with the goal of doing something even bigger later on. Eventually, they start to sympathize and identify with those in power, and even start to oppose the vert actions they used to do- to people doing them now don’t understand the way the world really works, not like the newly minted official of the kingdom. And finally, years in the future, when their dreams are forgotten and their souls worn down through their work, they tell the next generation of Anarchists that their agitation is foolish and unproductive. If they want to effect real change, they should work from within….

Anarchist adventurers should be in constant danger of being seduced to abandon their principles in the names of power and expediency. They act of selling-out should always be presented as an option. Some of their strongest opponents should be former Anarchists.

Path of the Black Flag- How to Run an Anarchist Campaign

Campaigns featuring Anarchist characters don’t have to be run any differently than any other roleplaying game campaign. Anarchists characters can save princesses from dragons, they can defend towns from rampaging orcs, and they can ransack dungeons for sweet, sweet treasure. They might shout the occasional Anarchist slogan as a battle-cry, but it is possible to run a campaign where Anarchist characters are virtually indistinguishable from a campaign where the characters would lay down their lives for king and country.

It’s possible, but it probably wouldn’t be very satisfying for the gamemaster, or the players. Why play an Anarchist character if you’re not going to play an Anarchist game?

To play an Anarchist character, in an Anarchist campaign, is to have goals and priorities, enemies and allies, that are quite different from a normal campaign. Entities and creatures that normally might be trying to kill you might be allies. Kings and high priests that normally might be your patrons, or at least give you quests and rewards, might be hell-bent on driving you out of their domains, or killing you. Your definition of treasure, monsters, victims, and victory- they’re all up for debate.

Oh, and plan on doing a lot more debating. So what does running an Anarchist campaign mean?

Campaign Considerations

Who is the Enemy?

An Anarchist campaign is predicated on the belief that those in power (kings, queens, high priests, merchant princes, etc.) are not your friend, are not the friend of your friends, and in fact wish you ill. That in terms of legitimacy, a king is no more noble or righteous than a bandit- both rob and kill people, one just wears a crown.

Obviously this is different from a normal campaign, where so many adventures start out with the king, or the duchess, or the village elder, or somebody in charge, giving you a quest. So many campaigns are about the maintenance or restoration of the status quo. Even if the campaign or quest is to overthrow a tyrant, it’s nearly always done with the idea of putting someone else in charge- it’s always a matter of the wrong person having the power, not with power being wrong in and of itself.

This means some changes to how governments and societies work in an Anarchist campaign. The relationship between the peasantry and the nobility, taxation, the strictures of the church- these are no longer things to be waved away, or presented as background fluff between dungeons. These are now sources of conflict. Adventure.

Paranoia

Adventurers often enjoy the tacit support of the populace. They may be agents of the the local lord or high priest. They may have rescued the darling of the community from the dragon, or receive a parade every time they’re in town because of the orcish invasion they repelled just last year. Even if they haven’t endeared themselves to the people, they’re adventurers, historically a class of people capable of getting away with things that would get anyone else arrested by the local sheriff.

Anarchists often do not enjoy the support of anyone but other Anarchists. They often come from sections of the community that are viewed with mistrust, if not outright hatred, by the powers that be and the upper classes. They often dress, talk, or act in a many that marks them as being outside of polite society. Their friends and family are often poor and/or outcasts. When they find they must break the law to survive, this puts them into conflict with the authorities, which puts the characters into conflict with authorities.

Furthermore, they know that their kings, high priests, and other leaders are lying to people. After all, they lie about the Anarchists themselves to the rest of society all the time. They tell people that their leaders are protecting them, when they actual rob and assault them. The king of one country tells his peasants that the the peasants of another kingdom are their blood enemies, and they must be defeated, even though the peasants of both kingdoms have a lot more in common than they do with their respective kings. Worse still, most of the people believe these lies, and react with shock and anger when you try to convince them of the truth.

Anarchist characters learn quickly not to put their cards on the table, and to treat every sleepy village or bustling city like a dungeon that has a habit of dropping gelatinous cubes on you. They know they can’t count on support for an Anarchist quest. They know that every baron, priest, and guard might have it out for them, and won’t hesitate to use whatever means necessary to neutralize the Anarchists, as ‘threats’ to society. They know that every friendly barmaid or gruff blacksmith they talk to might betray them, either for coin, or because they believe that however bad the king or duke is, they’re better than Anarchy.

Gamemasters should cultivate this sense of paranoia. They should have the players half-way convinced that every seemingly helpful person they meet is a paid informant of some sort secret police, every invitation by a baron or princess is a trap, every honor bait, every reward poisoned.

Always Out-Numbered

Adventurers are used to taking on impossible odds. That’s what being an adventurer is all about. Adventurers are also used to fighting multiple opponents, many opponents for every member of the party. That’s what being the low-level minion of the villain is all about.

But even with all that, your standard adventurers still have a support system. Kings & queens to give them quest and to reward them for rescuing their offspring. Sages to give them lore, smiths to make them weapons and armor. When they drink at a tavern, they are likely to be met by townsfolk who want to thank them for saving their farm from the dragon. They know that, no matter how bad the odds, no matter how many howling goblins come at them, that they have a whole society of patrons and support figures that have their back.

Anarchist adventurers don’t have that. More often than not, they are the targets of other adventurers who quest for law and order, on behalf of a king. Most smiths don’t want their weapons associated with what they consider to be chaos and mayhem. Anarchist adventurers cannot count on the city watch helping them with their qu

Anarchist adventurers walk into most situations knowing that they will not get the benefit of the doubt. Most normal people will not welcome their help. Most authorities will not only pounce on a reason to arrest them or declare them outlaw, and many will make up reasons. The characters should expect to have to scrounge or ‘borrow’ everything they need, whether be it weapons, gear, or food & shelter.

However, this impression is not true. While standard and official channels may be largely denied to them, Anarchist adventurers soon learn….

Part of a Larger World

…..that Anarchist adventurers have friends all over the place, just not where adventurers usually look. Anarchy as a philosophy finds fertile ground in all sorts of places, from meeting halls of guilds and trade unions, to ivory towers of philosophers, to the windswept rendezvous spots of smugglers. Anarchists may be found in quilting bees, in drinking halls, in temples that minister to the poor and sick, everywhere. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look.

A major theme of an Anarchist campaign should involve finding and and befriending all these individual pockets of Anarchism. One of the greatest threats to Anarchism, and its greatest weakness in your world, will be its isolation. But the ideas of Anarchism cut across class, across religion, across, language, and across species. Part of the experience of Anarchist adventurers will be helping people realize that.

Revolution

Most adventurers fight to preserve a status quo, to return things to normal. It’s part of the hero’s journey. Normal person is thrust into strange circumstance, and must strive to return to normal circumstances.

Even if the adventurers cause a great change in the world, such as defeating the lich who has ruled for a millennium, most often the motivation and effect to *return* the world to a former state. It is most often a conservative, if not reactionary impulse and theme.

Anarchist adventurers are not fighting to perserve the status quo. They are fighting to destroy it. Anarchists fight, adventure, and quest to bring about something new- a society without government, without kings, without hierarchy. There is no thing, no time, that they are trying to return to. There is no road map, no guide of history or tradition to tell them how to do it, or what it will really look like. Part of the challenge of an Anarchist campaign, beyond the standard bad guys and disasters, is the challenge of dealing with and navigating this new landscape.

‘Censored!’ at the Artists’ Market Community Center

I went to the Artists’ Market Community Center in Barryville, New York today. Located next to the local barber shop, it is a quirky, charming place bringing interesting art to the area. I really dig places like this, and (hopefully, if I
ever get off my ass to produce some) would be proud and honored to have some of my work here.

Today they had the ‘Censored!’ art exhibition, which centered around works of art that have censored throughout history. I knew about the Soviet proto-photoshopping and the Nazi‘s obsession with ‘degnerate’ art, but I hadn’t heard about ‘Origin of the World’ or ‘Feast in the House of Levi’ before.

These are pieces that were also at the community center, but weren’t strictly part of the exhibit. Still pretty, and pretty damned cool.

Cinematic Pig’s Feet #28- The Forbidden Zone

Cover of "Forbidden Zone"
Cover of Forbidden Zone

There are some movies that, by all rights, should not exist. I don’t mean that they are bad movies. And I don’t even mean that the circumstances that would allow them to be produced are so rare as to be virtually non-existent. The kind of movies I’m talking about are movies that are just so damned strange, so far from where we, as a society, have decided movies are supposed to be, that to include them in the definition of ‘movie‘ is to stretch that definition, not to mention your mind, to near the breaking point. The Forbidden Zone is one such movie.

Cinematic Pig’s Feet #27- Buckaroo Banzai

Cover of "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banz...
Cover via Amazon

I’m a fan of Buckaroo Banzai. I’m a fan of modern updates of pulp-era heroes and tropes, like Doc Savage. I’m a fan of Ellen Barkin, Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Clancy Brown, and Vincent Schiavelli. I’m a fan of science fiction, rock’n’roll, and snappy dialogue. I’m a fan of this movie.