The Man, the Myth... the goofy clothing...
Medieval Humor

Role Playing (and the Bard)

Well Met, I am Fugli...
  • Fugli: the Artist and Artificer<

  • Fugli: The Musician, Bard, and Troubadour
    HuzzaH Worship
    Il Est Ne
    On the Woad (again)
    Shakespeare: All the thrills without the frills

  • Fugli: The Scribe and Illuminator
    Broadsides of a Village Idiot Savant
What is Filk?

What is the Broadside Tradition?

The Man, the Myth... the goofy clothing...

Crit or Myth (a 2020 release)

Jan 25, 2020 [return to top]

Crit or Myth? It’s a Crit. The year is 2020 (which is a double crit) , and January 25th this year is auspicious in many ways... It is my birthday.
  1. It is the 261st birthday of Robert Burns, the famed national poet of Scotland.
  2. It is the Lunar New Year (... and it was on the day I was born as well.)
  3. It is the eve of the 46th birthday of D&D.
  4. It is the official release date for Crit or Myth: my new collection of fantasy RPG music.
I had been wanting to put out a CD of AD&D oriented music for some time. My first campaign character ended up being a first edition Bard, and after all these years, I haven't let that go. The year 2020 provided me with as good an excuse as any.

I have put several versions of this collection in many places available on the internet... each is a little different with the extras that may come with it, but all contain the same great music.

Most of the versions come with an old school dungeon that I wrote back in 1979 for a Judges Guild contest. I re-edited it and added my own art, but it is still pretty bad.

Some of the versions also come with video of me singing some other fantasy type songs in performance.

Amazon - This version is a physical music CD, with a physical 24 page booklet that contains the dungeon mentioned above.

Amazon Music - This is just the music files for download. They are the same files available on CDBaby.

Bandcamp - This site is all about downloads, but the dungeon and video mentioned above are part of the album package.

Drive Thru RPG - I thought I would try something new, so I have submitted to this site. Again, there is the music, the dungeon, and video, plus a 3D printer file for a special Crit or Myth d20.

Looking for a CD review? Try this link.

Upcoming Mythinterpretations

Mar 1, 2019 [return to top]

I have the disc for Mythinterpretations for my traveling merchandise competed. I'm just working on the online version with packaging now. Since Amazon Media on Demand has not been been impressing me with their commitment, nor competence, I am not hurrying my efforts. It will eventually become physically available online whenever it happens. Until I actually release the CD for general consumption, here is one of its many tracks:

This song was written for/inspired by the Chafing Armor Podcast, specifically episode 45. Otherwise, it makes little actual sense. It's about Baba Yaga's Hut, in a D&D campaign from the point of view of townsfolk.

You can also listen to the album and purchase it on Bandcamp after it is officially released on 1 April 2019, but you can get faire copies directly from me earlier than that directly from me.

What is a faire copy?

I pack extra content onto Faire CDs that you may not realize is there. You can tell my Faire CDs from others by the words “Music and Data CD” printed on the disc’s face.

Most (but not all) of my CDs come in two versions. The ones purchased online have all the tracks you expect and what I think is pretty slick packaging in a fancy jewel case with pictures, drawings and text telling you about the CD.

Because I pack in all my wares to faires by hand, the CDs that I take are streamlined for weight and easy transportation on my person in durable clamshell cases. Those discs have all the same audio tracks you expect, but there is extra content included for your computer as well. Pop the disc into your CD drive and open up the included mini web site with your browser to access things that did not make it onto the regular CD playlist. Things you may find are samples of music from other CDs of mine, or alternate versions of songs, music that didn’t make the cut, video (like the one above), or maybe pdf files of lyrics or entire song books. You have to look to find out the extra stuff. Why the difference in CDs? Well, most CD replication services just are not set up to create hybrid CDs. The ones purchased online never touch my hands, so I can’t oversee the process. The ones I package myself get everything I can pack on them... plus they cost me less to produce, so it’s my thank you to you for supporting my art at Faire.

Amazon Mythappropriates - Some back story

Jan 22, 2019 [return to top]

It has been a while since I have released a CD, but now I am gathering some files together to do just that.

In the past, I have sold CDs on Amazon through, but that site has been subsumed by Amazon who has not seen fit to afford me the ability to have control over my own creative content. The control and content from createspace never migrated to my amazon media account, and so I cannot do things like set prices, remove titles from circulation, or even redirect royalty payments.

Amazon media on demand has made vague excuses and then seemingly done nothing about it. They have had many months to fix this, and I see no excuse why someone could not have simply located my files and put them in my account by hand in that time. Obviously they do not care that they have basically stolen my property. I cannot trust them with my future content, and so I will only be initially offering this disc in person.

Welcome Aboard The Flying Dragon

Oct 27, 2016 [return to top]

Christopher Condent, the pirate, forced the surrender of a Dutch privateer ship, and renamed her The Flying Dragon. Yep, I couldn't get an actual ticket to that, so I am attempting to bring The Flying Dragon to me.

And so, with the aid of a green screen, CamTwist software, and a youtube video, I sat down and performed for this video with me inside the ship...

That is how I spent some time in the captain's cabin on Halloween.

Here are some sample bits using quicktime video capture.


May 2, 2016 [return to top]

I've been doing tributes at the Medieval Fair of Norman for a while. Last year I sang the Ballad of Bilbo Baggins as a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, and this year it was a combination tribute to David Bowie (1947-2016) and Gary Gygax (1938-2008). I couldn't help but put together Ziggy Stardust, Jareth, the Goblin King, and the E. G. G., the grandmaster who helped us truly personalize all modern fantasy by creating an entirely new literary genre in  Fantasy Role Playing Games.

 I wrote these lyrics specifically for the performance you see recorded here, and for the group who are in this audience.

Still don’t know what I was questing for,
my game was running wild... a million NPCs.
It started out in search of the unknown,
and that boarderlandic keep.
As the giants came to face me,
we descended to the depths.
Still our clerics thieves and fighters
would not survive the quest... without

M-M-Mages... magic missile range
M-M-Mages... never want to be much of a fighting man
M-M-Mages... I made my level gain
M-M-Mages... never was too much of a ranger fan
Oh, that D and D, Gygax designed

To Blackmoor and Greyhawk, we said good-bye,
and even the Forgotten Realms became impermanent.
Then Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis
proved Dragonlance could be the same.
And these players that you prey on,
with your ever-changing rules,
grow immune to your revisions.
They’re quite aware of what you’re trying to do.... to

M-M-Mages... spells keep changing names
M-M-Mages... oh, cast your Bigby’s Hands and be proud of it
M-M-Mages... spells or magic staves
M-M-Mages... can you make your saving throw to get you out of it?
Oh, that D and D, Gygax designed

Constant new editions, Oh, market to me
Oh, these changes continue to replace the game I knew.

M-M-Mages... Fireball engage
M-M-Mages... and watching out for all those new beholders
M-M-Mages... expect another change
M-M-Mages... as your target market’s growing older
Oh, that D and D, Gygax designed
I said, that D and D, Gygax designed

[Melody: "Changes" by David Bowie. Lyrics by Fugli]

This tribute began to David Bowie, who was a cultural icon who made it cool to be alternative. We lost him in January of 2016. His influence was incredible, though often overlooked because by the time everyone else was copying him, he was already reinvented himself. I liked hie early work the best, but there are differing opinions across the board.

I revere him most because he did it all: musician, actor, painter, designer...

Love him or hate him, you can't deny his indelible imprint on modern culture.

And, of all his songs, I like Changes the best.

Bowie noted that Changes began as a parody of a nightclub song. When I was learning the chord structure, the openly noncommittal sounds of the major 7ths and 6ths attest to this. But, like some of my own experiences, the song took a turn from its original path. Instead of remaining a musical joke, it became what seems a more introspective treatise of his ever evolving personal reinvention. Finding one's muse is one thing. Following one's muse is the seed of genius.

Of all his acting career, I appreciated his role of Jareth, the Goblin King the most.

The movie, Labyrinth, was a quirky convoluted fairy tale of a production that you really had to invest yourself in to enjoy. It had so many problems, but Bowie as Jareth was not one of them. He's evil, and we forgive him for it because he's just so oddly cool.

Which brings me to a good transition point. Bowie started this tribute, but along the way, it took a turn to the fantastic. Who do you consider to be the ultimate icon of modern fantasy? J. R. R. Tolkein? George R. R. Martin? Anne McCaffrey? Roger Zelazny? For me it's E. Gary Gygax.

E. Gary Gygax created Dungeons and Dragons, the first fantasy role playing game. Dave Arneson showed him how some rules that Gygax had previously written for miniature battles might be further adapted into a social game on a more personal level, and the two of them collaborated on the first incarnation of the game.

If you are not familiar with the role playing game genre, or the specifics... here's a breakdown of the lyrical references.

NPC's stands for Non Player Characters - those are the stock characters and creatures of any fantasy game world world. There is one person, the Dungeon Master, who plays them all.

The verse continues by listing off a bunch of early Dungeons and Dragons modules (adventures) with which most players in the late 1970's would be familiar.

Clerics, Thieves and Fighters are literary character archetypes of the game itself. Players of the game select a character "class" around which to pattern their own story. Mages are not actually an original class within the game, but M-M-Magic-Users just doesn't fit the song.

Magic Missiles are one of the staple spells of a budding young Magic-User. They don't do a lot of damage, but in the original rules, as long as the target is in range and visible, they never miss. Newer rules editions have changed the incredible accuracy aspect of the spell.

Fighting Man is the character class name from the original game, affectionately called 0e, that later became known as Fighter.

As any Dungeons and Dragons game progresses, characters are awarded experience points by the Dungeon Master. These points translate directly into character levels, allowing characters to grow in power with experience. To gain a level then means to earn enough experience to train and become more powerful.

Rangers are another class name, and a subset of fighter. The class idea is likely taken from Tolkien's character of Aragorn, son of Arathorn. There's also the Texas Rangers, and this song was originally written to be performed in Oklahoma.

(Please note the name Gygax on many of the products listed here.)

Blackmoor, Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance are all settings published for use as mythological background for the game.

Settings come and go in popularity. Greyhawk has always been my favorite. There are people who still use all of these, but most today won't remember them.

The ever changing rules refers to all the editions that have been published over the years, each incarnation making changes to the original game design. Most "old school" players stopped updating their rules at some point. Personally, I liked 2e (second edition), but I see many merits in 3e. 5e is just asking too much. Hasbro now owns the game, and they do not need any more of my money. Each time they release a new edition, they re-market updated versions of the supplementary materials, effectively selling people what they already have.

Many magical spells used by characters within the fantasy framework of the game once had names attached to them of some of the founding characters used to test the playability of the rules. Bigby, Leomund, Tenser, and Mordenkainen all lent their names to spells, which have since been removed in favor of a more generic spell name listing. Bigby is famous for an entire suite of spells mostly based around hands.

• Bigby's Clenched Fist
• Bigby's Crushing Hand
• Bigby's Forceful Hand
• Bigby's Grasping Hand
• Bigby's Interposing Hand
• Bigby's Disrupting Hand
• Bigby's Helpful Hand
• Bigby's Striking Fist
• Bigby's Tripping Hand
• Bigby's Warding Hand
• Bigby's Battering Gauntlet
• Bigby's Besieging Bolt
• Bigby's Bookworm Bane
• Bigby's Construction Crew
• Bigby's Dextrous Digits
• Bigby's Fantastic Fencers
• Bigby's Feeling Fingers
• Bigby's Force Sculpture
• Bigby's Most Excellent Force Sculpture
• Bigby's Pugnacious Pugilist
• Bigby's Silencing Hand
• Bigby's Slapping Hand
• Bigby's Strangling Grip
• Bigby's Superior Force Sculpture

The concept of a saving throw, or a saving roll, is that there is some chance that an undesirable outcome may be avoided. Perhaps a character can resist the effects of a spell, or poison will not be strong enough. Spells or Magic Staves is a specific saving throw category from the Basic D&D set.

Dungeons and Dragons is now in the 5th edition rules, or 5e. They want to sell, but I'm not buying.

Fireball is a classic spell that most Magic-Users eventually aspire to cast. Think of it as a flaming grenade. Although, a fireball might not effect a Beholder.

Of all the monsters in the D&D worlds, the most unique to the game of D&D itself is probably the Beholder, or Eye Tyrant.

The original monster has seen many variations and "Beholder Kin" over the years.

Elder Orb

Hive Mother



Eye of the Deep


You probably get the idea by now. The list goes on and on.

Over time, what we have all learned is that the game keeps changing, the marketing goes on to an ever changing market demographic... and the modern incarnation of D&D is not the same as the one that Gary Gygax designed. (Because, if it was, Hasbro would have to pay royalties to his family.) As an older gamer, Hasbro left me along the way.

Release Party

Mar 30, 2016 [return to top]

This coming weekend is the release party for my newest CD, Mythtakes. Some people call this event the Medieval Fair of Norman, but we know better. Remember there are two versions of each of my CDs. The ones with fancy packaging are about $15 online, and the clamshell CDs are $10 at faire.

Why the difference? For one, the clamshells are more compact and lighter to carry... Plus, they are special in that I put a lot more content on them specifically to be read by your computer. My CD service won't do that. Also, without all the packaging and handling, I can afford to sell them to you cheaper. But, if want to pick up a pretty copy online  you can go to to order yours today.

Coming to the release party? That will be from April 1st through the 3rd in Reeves Park, Norman, Oklahoma. I'll be there and I've invited about 300,000 of my closest friends to celebrate the whole weekend.

I've got you on the guest list, no need to check in with the front desk.

Oh, and with the release of Mythtakes, my previous stopgap "Bootleg" CD is now obsolete. Fear not, you know those computer files that I mentioned above? The Bootleg mp3's are among them.


Jan 22, 2016 [return to top]

Azure, on a chevron or,
between three lions passant gardent or,
three crosses pattee sable.

The above is a depiction of one of the arm associated with the name Fowler (with a lot of liberties that I've taken with everything except the field).

This is not my family crest... because we know there is no such thing as a family crest, and what we call a coat of arms is actually known as an armorial achievement, and a "coat of arms" is an actual coat. Still, it can be entertaining to pretend and reimagine ancient times, so I use the rule of tinctures to teach concepts of value, contrast and color regarding visibility and recognizability. Most people just don't know how to make a good sign.

I use various resources to facilitate teaching the concepts, and I thought I might post my basic handouts here below. Heraldry is a 4 page 11" x 17" double sided fold out folder for their work to be placed in when they are not working on it. The escutcheons sheet is a double sided page of shield shapes that I copied from a publication on how to draw coat of arms.

I recently put together a keynote (powerpoint) presentation to help make sure I made my key points. Because I embedded youtube videos in it, It's too large to upload here, but I can post a link to it in drop box.

The Stone Troll, The Chilly Fox, and the Squirrely Troubadour

Oct 26, 2015 [return to top]

The Stone Troll is from Tolkien, the fox is the traditional melody, and the Troubadour is me. Oh, the nuisance of copyright. Here is one small adventure of making a new CD.

It has been a while since I created a new Faire CD. (I'm not counting my "Bootleg" Edition since it is just cobbled together from stuff I wasn't using, and it doesn't sell through any official sources anyway.) I have been producing Christian work for a goodly number of years as recording conventions have changed... at least for me, they have.

Now I can record lyrics and music on multiple separate tracks and mix them together at the end. Once upon a time it was more like, here's an open mike performance... let's add another track or two and mix them down, repeat, etc. It's still like voodoo, but more refined because I can go back and edit more stuff later.

That's all great for the mechanics of it but it does not cover musical content. I have three choices when recording any marketable material:

First, I can use public domain materials. Shakespeare, Folk songs, old broadside lyrics, and other old stuff offers quite an array to select from. I can even make derivative works from such stuff, like setting the lyrics of Amazing Grace to the melody of House of the Rising sun. The first is a poem that has had at least 20 melodies associated with it over the centuries, and the second is one of those old folk songs. (No, The Animals did not write the song.) If it is over ninety-five years old, it is fair game.

Second, I can write my own material. I do that too. I pop a few chords together and I have a new melody for something old. Writing lyrics is actually a bit more difficult, but if I have a theme, and a literary direction, it becomes easier. I find that writing comedy is more difficulty than sentiment in this respect. This process takes longer, requiring much more time.

Third, I can acquire the rights for something already out there. This is a copyright work around allowing people to record that song that they may have heard on the radio or television. Theoretically anyone can gain what is called mechanical rights to record a song in the United States. There are several stipulations, but the compulsory price is not very high, and there are collection agencies on the internet willing to do it for about $15 a song plus the 9.1 cents per copy stipulated by law.

Here is what I wanted. Tolkien wrote several songs, and I wanted to include a version of the Stone Troll (or Sam's Rhyme of the Troll) on my new CD. As a part of his Lord of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, I figured it would be a nice literary balance to go along with two songs that I had written, one about Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, and another inspired by Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. Tolkien had published it in multiple sources and had mentioned that it went to the melody of an old folk song. From the meter, that song seems to have been The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night.

So, how to acquire the rights? I found a couple of online agents and searched their database. No joy there, so I filled out the online forms and contacted them. Then, I did get a false hit on the Stone Troll from the Lord of the Rings movie, but I had to inform them that it was Tolkien's work that I was interested in, not the movie background music. Really, it should not be this difficult. So, I went online again and did some digging. I have found at least four different recordings of this song made under the proper copyrights, but two of them were made outside the U. S. and so compulsory mechanical rights laws do not apply. One of the remaining two is part of a larger literary performance, and therefore compulsory mechanical rights laws again do not apply. And, none of them use the melody of The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night, which makes the last one useless as well, because compulsory mechanical rights laws do not include derivative works. Here, using the intended melody is considered changing the melody.

I could go with the Ace books defense whereby the Lord of the Rings was considered to be public domain in the United States for a brief while back in the 60s. But, as much as I would like to claim ignorance of the details, and that I have a copy of said printing, it would ultimately be self serving and, i feel, unethical.

My copy of the original
printing of ACE's Fellowship

Meanwhile, I had recorded music to go along with the eight verses of Tolkien's song, but after doing all of these agent's research for them, I determined that we will have to all wait until the year 2043.

And so I changed my research to the possibility of other lyrics to go with the music that I had already recorded. Interestingly enough, as folk songs go, the meter is rather unique, which means if I was going to use the music for a folk song, it would need to be
The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night. Not my favorite song, but I already had the music ready to go. I trimmed the recording down to seven verses and recorded away. Not bad but...

After balancing it out and listening to it a few times, I decided that these lyrics just do not do it for me. I've got songs about mermaids and wizards and unicorns, and I already have a Fox song with a more El Zoro theme. This song may have history, but it has never made my hit parade.

And so, I have this music... and a pencil... new lyrics it is... the working title for the new six verse song is The Folk Song. Until the next CD, here's The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night.... because I already have it recorded.

So... no troll, no fox... instead I have a new song about an old song.

How to Medieval Inexpensively

Oct 13, 2015 [return to top]

Bryan Nash posted a link to this video on facebook:

I watched it all the while thinking, "hey, I did a diagram something like this some years back when I was thinking about multiple character garb for cheap." Well, I found the diagram in a pile of sketches, and here it is:

After finding it, I thought, why not add more to it?... Last week I doodled a booklet... I hope y'all find it useful in some way.

Renaissance in Texarkana

Oct 5, 2015 [return to top]

This past week I experienced the privilege of working with the Texarkana Renaissance Faire. While many smaller faires struggle to survive the rigors of a world that has multiple entertainment opportunities, I feel that this faire has a great shot at the long haul. It seems large enough to sustain momentum, but now past its fourth year, it will need to keep growing, bit by bit.  Spirit are high, and the main struggle that I foresee will be getting the word out to their local community.

I was very glad to see many of the staples of the faire experience represented, from sca boffing to horse rides and acrobatic juggling performers as well as two royal courts. With all of this were added the fae contingent of fairies, a Minotaur, several mermaids, a magical fox and even a unicorn. Plus pirates, like bacon, they enhance. I was part of the musical contingent. Welcome to Neverland.

At first nonplussed by Saturday's gate opening when the patrons slowly trickled in, I noticed that they kept coming in at a similar rate all day long. Huzzah! And best of all, most stayed for the long haul. The traffic remained steady up until the end. That is great for the merchants, who we must concede are the real backbone of a faire. A steady stream means never being overwhelmed. I hope their sales coincide.

As I often do, I spent much of my time seeking those spots with less faire performance life in order to add some background entertainment. Blessed by passersby who stop to listen or chat, I got a bit of a feel for the diversity of the audience. Of note were a couple who were off to meet with a dragon, the young child who wanted to play my kobza, and who's grandparent snapped us together in a picture with her pretending to play, and a quiet gentleman who had no favorite type of song but just wanted to sit and listen to whatever I might play. The fantasy is in you all, we are just here to help elicit it. We watch you as much as you watch us.

Characteristically, I left home the morning of the faire. Texarkana hit my radar through a listing on Meistersrealm, and I had noticed that it is on the very outskirts of my travel range. But, that meant that I had to leave at about 4am, so I was already a bit travel worn when I arrived in time for the 9am meeting. The talk was to the point, mostly logistics with a little pep, and mercifully, uncharacteristically for some faires, brief. Please keep that up. There was no similar meeting on Sunday, so thank you also for trusting your performers to figure it out. There was always room to move along and perform wherever we wished.

Backstage is where one often hears the best and worst. What I heard was playful. We even exchanged a riddle or two. That says volumes. In a fantasy world, the spirits must remain high. Take it from a former Disney cast member, that is not always so. Plus, thank you Texarkana Faire for the great piles of water bottles. I downed about eight or ten of them when the weather did get a bit warm.

Now, I did pack street clothes, but truthfully, I did not change into them for the whole weekend. Much of the cast went out en mass on Saturday night, but while it was a mass exodus, it was in small groups, so as a solo I was a bit lost sitting alone at the bar. Thank you to the few who came over from their tables to say a quick hello; you made me feel welcome. I did get to talking with some of the locals there about all of the strangely clothed patrons, and found out that none of them knew about the faire. One of the restaurant staff even asked if there was a LARP event going on, and some wanted to know if there was jousting. Sadly, no and no, but I did manage to pique their interests, and tell them that I fully expected to see them on Sunday. I then retired to the hotel for the evening before I managed to turn into a pumpkin. Thank you Texarkana Faire for the nice room and board.

I met more interested folk at breakfast.  Dressing the part first thing in the morning attracts some interesting looks, often followed by questions. All in all, I probably talked with a dozen locals who did not know about the faire and told them to come look me up there. Oh, the difficulty of marketing in a modern world. Word of mouth only works within social circles, and in a crazy world where one can choose their own data stream it becomes difficult to be seen by a public that is used to skipping commercial content. What can one do? The spectacle will sell it, so keep the faith Texarkana. You have arrived, keep the ball in play, and your base will keep growing. I can only hope that my small efforts send some your way.

Crazy like a Bard?

Sep 29, 2015 [return to top]

I just got back from the 4th Annual Texarkana Renaissance Festival last weekend and I’m sore in all the right places. (Yes, that means it was a good faire.) Each faire brings with it lots of experiences, both new and old, and this one proved no different in that respect. A couple of these encounters, however stand out, so I thought I might expand.

A well meaning fellow performer commented to me that my “material was going over the heads of my audience.” He meant it sincerely, and I love him for that, still I have to admit that that is right where I want to be. I can joke about it, mostly because I’m not making a living at it. A couple of years ago another performer commented that they liked the way I paired themes to enhance meaning, like singing about Machiavelli to the melody of the Turtle’s Happy Together. I actually hadn’t entirely made that connection myself, but like the artist I trained as, I take full credit for my unintended little mistakes of genius. Evidently, I want the music to go over my head as well. Like a scene from a Pixar movie, I want people to enjoy it all on their own level. And parents, if your kids get the higher level jokes, it’s not my fault.

These are just a few of my musical influences.

Another interesting new experience was being interviewed for the Renaissance Festival Music podcast. I did it cold, and so did the seemingly genuinely interested interviewer Danny Faught, so I hope I came off as moderately intelligent. I’m sure that he did. Though I fear the worst about my own end of the conversation, I trust the audience to figure something out from my ramblings. See I, like my music, am all over the map.

I was raised in a theater family on a diet of Shakespeare, and Greek and Norse mythology, with a smattering of Monty Python and classic Star Trek thrown in for good measure. I spent my summers with my grandparents in their rather huge music store, surrounded by musical instruments, and classic sci-fi television. I even lived for two years in Lothlorien of Middle Earth where we put together some great haunted houses. (I used to get big question marks on my mail, but it was always delivered.) Eventually,  I found Karen, the best part of my life, and she brought me the gift of the church. (Well, Jesus is the greatest gift, and the church is a mixed blessing that goes along with the package.)

The church is a large part of my chosen family, where I accept certain expectations, but I also realize there needs to be some grace, because I can't meet everyone's different expectations.

I now teach art with a sort of historical mash up approach, and entertain people at Renaissance faires for my own enjoyment with a similar methodology.

So, you see, I don’t do this stuff so much for the patrons. I tell my students the same thing: I cannot please everyone, and when I try to do so, I end up pleasing no one. So, I do what I like, and I invite others along for the ride. At a faire, it’s all theater, so I have stuff that I have written along with material from other sources, some typical material, some classical, and some things that others have written that amuse me. I try to put my stamp on all of it with melody or style. Of my own material, there is a distinction between the stuff I do for faire, and  the stuff I do not, but sometimes that dividing line is thin.

Here is what mashing up ancient Egypt with modern figures might look like.

My non-faire songs are generally christian in nature, and they probably cover more of my musical writings than not. Still, the two are not mutually exclusive, like the Christmas Cantata that I wrote with a general Celtic theme, one discipline informs the other. Pick up my Antiephemeral CD if you want to hear how Celtic music, rock, and christianity can get along. Playing in the Water is our Church CD that I produced and wrote the majority of songs for as well. I do faires to relax.

I do the same sort of stuff in the classroom, dragging students through the process in the process. Yes, they suffer through my history presentations and ramblings, and they do the odd project using all too traditional materials with my invitation to bring the modern into the picture through their own experiences and willy nilly metaphors. Some actually do. I introduce them to the limitation of the media in the hope of driving their creativity. That’s just another process. Yet all along the way, what I do for them I do for me, and I invite them to participate in the experience... much like this rambling that you have just read through.

What I do at Faire

Apr 6, 2015 [return to top]

See also: Renaissance Tips

People sometimes ask "did you go to (fill in the blank) faire?" without realizing that I was working there. Albeit, I don't have the time to work many events, but only some people get that I have an act.

The logical direction of the conversation then progresses to "what do you do?" to which I tell them that I'm a broadside balladeer. "What is that?" is the usual reply.

So here is what I do... music. Specifically, I sing songs. During the renaissance, the easiest and quickest way to make a profit from a printing press was to print unbound pages. Today we might call them flyers or informational pamphlets. A printer would set up side by side pages like they would bind in a book, and print them on one side of a piece of paper. This is a broadside, a double-wide page.

example copy of a broadside ballad

Among the most popular of these were song lyric sheets. They sold for around a penny. Without recording devices, your tunes came from your own voice. And, if you did not know the melody, never fear, many of these broadside ballads started out with a note of what melody to use. Most of these melodies were widely known or even traditional melodies from aural/oral music traditions. If you were lucky, a balladeer might even sing part of it for you so that you could learn.

I'm the person that sells the song lyrics, using melodies familiar to the people.
Medieval Fair of Norman, Last Huzzah! (3/29/2015)

BroadsidesMost fairs have eight hour days, and during that time, I'm among the people playing sets at ground level about half of that time or more. Mostly, I get tips. I have some CDs for those who actually want a recording, and I sell chapbooks, or "cheap books" that would have been made by folding several broadside ballads together. Today, you might call them paperbacks.

Most full time faire acts are stage acts for the simple reason that they are a commodity. You get  x number of units of entertainment per day for y amount of money. Also, when people sit in an area at a crowded fair, they are not clogging the traffic flow elsewhere. I makes sense to book your biggest draws during the busiest times.

Yes, I occasionally perform on stage when a fair needs filler, but I prefer to work without a stage for a couple of reasons. First of all, if the people don't come to me, I take the music to them. Second, I get better tips when I put myself where the action is. And... mobility allows me to see the people and sights of the faire. I would much prefer to play in an open air food court where people are gong to be looking for a place to sit and eat than up on a stage in the corner of nowhere.

No one has thrown their food at me yet.

I Am Not Sure Where the Money Goes

Mar 3, 2015 [return to top]

I see various kickstarter campaigns looking for money to produce various audio CDs, and I'm just not sure where the money goes. I mean, with digital audio capabilities being what they are today, who gets paid for producing a CD anymore?

On a lark, I started producing music CDs over 10 years ago through cafepress, one of the fist large print on demand sites. At that time I was just figuring out about a couple of audio formats, and my own recording device was basically just a microphone plugged into the audio input on my computer. I asked other artists for mp3 tracks in support of the King Arthur Faire, and just uploaded them to the site along with some graphics that I threw together, and "Sounds from the Village of Carlisle" was born. We purchased a bunch of the CDs (at about $3.50 each) for any artists on the CD that were interested, and then turned the Cafepress shop that I created over to others at the faire. The initial CD purchase cost money, but otherwise, we produced a CD for no cost to us.

I used Cafepress for a couple more CDs, but my recording studio had graduated to a Zoom hand held four track digital device. That way I could record a live performance and then add a couple of tracks for a bit of harmony.

Eventually, I ended up with a larger Zoom multitrack recorder and mixer with a built in CD burner, but I never ended up using it for two reasons. First, it broke the first time I was going to use it, and it took about six months to get it fixed under warranty. Second, the garage band software that came with my lap top computer was more effective for my purposes. It is very nice to be able to use both live and midi instruments with the ability to record vocals as a separate track.

Cafepress has since stopped Printing CDs on demand. They also developed glitches in their software that kept perfectly sized graphics from fitting correctly on their CD booklets. Too bad, because they also inadvertently did something that other print on demand services do not. They allowed for the production of hybrid CDs. You just had to mail them a master CD that was also a hybrid instead of uploading individual tracks. Hybrid CDs allow you to play them in your CD player, but when you put them in a computer, they also have an extra data track that acts like a CD ROM. I put little web sites on them filled with promos, information, and videos, and more music.

For a brief while, I printed sticker labels and burned music CDs on my own blank stock, effectively cutting down on overhead by eliminating the printer. Sticker labels, however, tend to bog down and get stuck in "toaster" type slots for CDs in automobiles and laptops, so I soon stopped. Now I use lightscribe CDs to burn pictures onto the CD surface.

So when recording and producing an album, I don't yet see where most of the projected monitory overhead comes in. I'm not hiring musicians, and neither would a band trying to do the same. With a computer there is really no more need for studio time., and most discs don't need much in the way of a cover design anyway. That seems to leave buying your own product for resale and maybe gas for a road trip to promote the music.

Paktong Anniversary

Dec 8, 2014 [return to top]

25 is Silver, 50 is Gold, but the Heritage Metal Workers suggest Paktong as their anniversary metal of choice. I'm not going to debate it. Let's just go with that.

The Congregation of St. John celebrated it's 100th anniversary in 2014. Want to read all about it? Well, I put together a book with some highlights and information.

Then, because print is dead, I was tasked with putting together a video. Now you can hear and see all about it.

Fair Thee Well...

Nov 12, 2014 [return to top]

I have received notification that this design that I submitted will be the Medieval Fair of Norman's poster/T-shirt this year. The "gold" in the background has yet to be decided upon. The original has a white/blank area there so the fair can decide what they want behind it. I put the golden color there because it echos the wavy gold in the illumination (which was my original intent).

The first round of forms they sent to me also had me on it as a performer, so that is "official" notification that they're picking up my submitted performer proposal.

Huzzah, Y'all...

the Deed

Nov 10, 2014 [return to top]

In the late 1970's Betty Osborn encouraged me to read one of the first fantasy novels written specifically for young adults, A Wizard of Earthsea. More recently, our local library system has encouraged the reading of this book, and sent me 11 copies to give to students. I re-read it, and found that while it has less of the adolescent playfulness of more recent titles, like Harry Potter, it ultimately contains a positive message about self acceptance presented in an easy to read, yet very adult manor of pseudo-historic playfulness.

So... I've been putting together some Earthsea art works over the last few weeks. One is this reclaimed Guitar.

I found this undersized guitar in a junk store. It was fairly traditional in design, but I removed the bridge, and sanded off all the paint before revamping it. It doesn't play well, but it does play well enough.

Also in that spirit, I wrote the song "Deed of Sparrowhawk" about the book. It is a song that I would like to dedicate it to the memory of the person I knew as Betty-O.

... and here's the video...

Celebrity Aura

Sep 17, 2014 [return to top]

I have to admit, I have been enjoying the bit "marginal fame" generated by Mike Rowe posting my video on his Facebook Page. But it is not my fame that really factors in the equation. I know it is just the fringe of the Mike Rowe celebrity aura that I am enjoying here. Really, as much as I may have once liked it to be different, my singing voice is just passable. What I do have is a small nerdy niche, which I exploit when I can.

That being said I find it a amusing that the idea of celebrity often equates to credibility. I had a student today tell me that I am famous.

"Yep, I have my circles," I basically told her.

"No, it's on Facebook with over five thousand likes, " she continued.

I told her I knew and tried to get her to understand that it was not my personal fame that generated all the interest, but I get the idea that she still thinks it is about the number of likes rather than the interpretive nature of the video content. I am not sure this was the teachable moment.

Content of thought over external celebrity. Have we found a new dream to augment Martin Luther King, jr.'s old one? I am certainly not oppressed, but does social media perpetuate understanding or does it instead divide us along previously undreamed lines?

Here's the video request for a song to which I responded.

You decide.

The Faire Days of Spring

Jun 4, 2014 [return to top]

As the heat of summer approaches (though some claim 'tis here already), the spring faire season is winding down, and Castleton bids farewell once again.

I managed to make it to a few faires this year, and that keeps me a bit entertained. First and (foremost) was the Medieval Fair of Norman. Yes, they paid me to come out, but they really are a huge event and I welcome (nay challenge) all comers to compare them to any other like minded event. The theme is technically medieval, but we know that anachronisms are going to abound. So, why not embrace them? It is held in a public park next to a major university, and knowing what is period and what is not is half the fun. Imagine if Doctor Who had a block party, and then multiply it by about 10 and make it three days long. That is the Medieval Fair of Norman.

Next came a jaunt to the Travelers Cross Fantasy Faire in Strang. Hard to find, it was a nice divergence from my otherwise unplanned day in Tulsa. Plus, between tips, and sales, I just about broke even. I hope it grows stronger. It is the little start ups that have always kept me interested.

I happened to be in Southern California for the last weekend of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. I had not been there before, and I must say that I had a good time, but the day was quite a price cut above what I normally expect. I left flat broke. First off, the park charged $10 for parking. Really? Can't you guys cooperate and just add it to the already overpriced tickets? I appreciated the AAA discount which brought a single ticket down to about $22 (additional), but that is still $7 higher than our local large faire which also furnishes better parking at no extra charge. The acts had very large stages, which was good for large crowds, when they were filled, but I sadly passed many a large area wasted by lack of audience. I was also not excited by the jousting area... it was dusty and had metal bleachers. Over all, the performers get an A, and the place gets a C.

As a side note, I checked the FAQ, and they prohibit outside musical instruments because they fear buskers. Plus they searched my belt pouch, but I did not see them searching women's purses, so what was that all about?

Finally,  I managed to get out to Castleton on the last weekend. I did have a good time, and I must say I am impressed by the way it is being both maintained and added to on a yearly basis. There are large stage areas, and many smaller, more intimate ones, and the acts are enthusiastic. The only thing that marred my visit was my own stupidity. To save fifty cents, I bought my ticket online that morning, then I left my faire wallet on the desk in front of the computer. So the only money I had was the tip money that I had brought in dollar coins. I could eat (and leave some tips), but I could not purchase anything. Luckily, I also had enough gas to get home. Sigh.

As per usual, my pictures are online... and videos are on youtube. You can find them at:

3D Fantasy

May 8, 2014 [return to top]

Because it is so far out of the way, I was not necessarily expecting to end up at the Travelers Cross Fantasy Faire this year. As it turned out, however, I was staying in the general area over the weekend at the annual AR-OK ELCA Synod conference, and the events coincided. Since I was not a congregational delegate, I was basically just along for the ride to play guitar on Saturday evening. Rather than cooling my heels in Tulsa, I took the jaunt to the faire.

The previous incarnation of this even that I attended two years before was called the Spirit of Magic Faire. Since then it has moved to a different part of the property that is shaping up nicely for faire purposes. The vendors were well spaced, and there were several event areas, including what appeared to be two versions of traveling courts, a roughhousing swordplay area, a minstrel stage, a kitchen, and a children’s activities place for the child in us all.

I was also trying out a new toy that I picked up, a digital 3D camera, but the resolution proved to be a bit lower that I would like. Also, while there are two lens openings, it seems to only process one image at a time, so it only works right for still shots, making it no better than the iPhone app. Still, it has been a while since I’ve done any 3D pics. So here is the best of the lot online along with the pictures from my iPhone:

This is a sign that I passed on the way to the faire. I think it may be good advice.

Givin' 'em the Business

Apr 25, 2014 [return to top]

I don't normally like business cards... They're just so many pieces of paper that get shuffled from drawer to drawer, only to be found at some random time and inspire the question, who was that? ... and, why did I keep this? It seemes to me, that if the contact information was not gleaned immediately, it might never be... so why waste paper?

For a while I had business pencils. If my contact information wasn't used, at least the recipient could draw a picture or doodle while talking on the phone... or even use the pencil to write down the information on the pencil.

When I'm at a faire, sometimes someone wants my contact information. Again, there are those business cards... this time with faire oriented info, but still little 2x3 paper scraps. I met a merchant who handed out hand inscribed mini scrolls. at least he was thinking of something different. Unfortunately his writing was difficult to decipher, so it didn't work as well as one might hope.

When someone wants my faire info, I usually dig out a pick. I put my logo and web site on the front. If they play an instrument, maybe they can use it. Still, it's a bit hard to read. If you are in charge of a faire, I have a whole book just to get to know me. Luckily, I get them really cheap by collecting bottle cape (really, I do), because actually paying for one would be cost prohibitive.

So with all that in mind, I decided to design a faire card that was a bit unique, and gave a little bit of me. It works as a stand alone card, but I have embellished it as a broadside chapbook as well... It's still a bit of work to make, but I only pull them out when someone that doesn't already have my contact info asks.

Oh, and this version contains Hamlet.

Norman Invasion

Apr 11, 2014 [return to top]

Robert Thompson took this nifty 3D picture of me for the Find Fugli
event at the Medieval Fair of Norman

Even though it rained on Sunday, we still had three good days of fair. Really, is there any Medieval or Renaissance Fair that would disappoint you if fewer than 350,000 people showed up over a single weekend because it rained a little bit on Sunday? I got at least one post from someone who couldn't find me there, because there is just so much going on.

Over all, there had to still be over a quarter million patrons this year, Saturday was gorgeous until just at the end of the day when the temperature dipped. (I knew enough to wear thermal leggings under my nifty new red and black pants.) Many people did come out in the rain on Sunday, so I found awnings and roofs under which to busk until the early close at 5.

Here's how you find me at a fair... Look for the place where the most people will be with the least actual stuff happening. If there's a tree in the lane near shopping or food, but no stage nearby, I'm gonna clip my cloak to that tree (my cloak has my logo on it), spread a few wares, drop my tip cauldron, and play. People had to walk to the side of the tree anyway, I just widen its influence a little bit.

I also spent some time in the troubadour tent/stage this year. Very, nice little digs... Kudos... There's less of that disconnect between performer and audience that you find in the large open spaces. My preference is to interact with the people, and without that huge platform, or even the open space in between, people are so much more likely to approach with questions or interesting topics. Plus, there was less need for amplification. Over all, it was nice... although I did not stay in it for long. There was a limited number of patrons inside, and an infinite number out in the world.

And... as for that 3D image. It had the unfortunate background with a trash can near my head, so I edited out and pieced it together with a different background. Now I think we shoud do performer trading cards.... heh.

Mezuzeh Twist and Shout

posted Dec 24, 2013 [return to top]

Last year I posted directions of an Origami Prayer Angel. This year, same Idea but a different ornament. here is your opportunity to make your own Bethlehem Star of Wonder.

... and back to what the angel said, "Fear Not." I have provided written directions and artwork to go with it all. You can download it here through the link below.

I'm Always Looking for a Gimmick

Nov 15, 2013 [return to top]

I like cool ways to tote my stuff to faires. So, when I saw this chest at the new crafting supply store in Shawnee, I got it. I might not have purchased it except that it was cheap. I had a coupon, plus they were handing out gift cards that weekend - which I showed up early to stand in line for on two mornings during Fall break.

I began by staining it with some old walnut colored stain that I had lying around.

Of course, it required a logo... so, I pulled out a wood burning iron and practiced a little pyrography on the lid. Some gold leaf paint and sandpaper helped flesh that out.

I cut a board to fit inside, to which I glued many pirate treasure like baubles. I ran some old rail trim along the sides under it to hold it up as one large false bottom with a removable top.

Underneath the lid, I hid the basic trappings that I might take to a faire, as much as would fit inside.

The false bottom is (flip) reversible... which allows the chest to be used for displaying some of the wares as well.

So... what's your latest gimmick?

Renaissance Tips

Apr 24, 2013 [return to top]

See Also: What I do at faire?

This was a good attendance year at the 2013 Norman Medieval Fair. The most recent estimations indicate that over a third of a million patrons came through over the three days. Nice weather does help.

It was a good sales year too. I know of a couple of bands that sold out of their CDs. I take that as a good sign of the economy. Yet, even with the good economy, I will not be quitting my day job.

Which brings me to my topic: tip your performers. They are worth it.

Many fair acts pass a hat at the end of a show, almost like they are taking an offering or bringing a check at a restaurant. Personally, if I get tipped during a performance, I find that to be the most encouraging, and I tend to play more. I do take breaks during the day, but as I have pointed out to a few others, downtime during a fair is potential loss, because when I  am not playing, I am not getting tips. I can rest later.

My experience is also that tips tend to flow more readily on the streets than on the stage. Many times I saw people hand money to small children and send them over to my tip cauldron. Thumbs up to them for trying to teach the young to support the arts. Others just toss it in themselves. I was very encouraged on Friday of the fair when school aged children began tipping on a regular basis. I haven’t seen a lot of younger tippers out in droves like that before. Past years have not been so lucrative on a “school day.” My quick analysis from this past fair puts my street tip rate about 5 times higher than my stage rate, so monetarily, I would rather be on the street. (To be fair to the fair, they did pay me more to work on “stage,” and I did not work that into my analysis. Stage tipping usually just seems low in general.)

See, the process of selecting/hiring performers can get complicated. If you book a band for a party or wedding, there is usually an agent involved, who may or may not be a performer. You can ask them a price  (and even possibly haggle with them in some cases). You can hire them, or chose to seek music elsewhere. The thing is, you have to ask and pay the price, and they show up and perform, a done deal. I like simple, but this kind of act also does not typically seek much in tips.

Hiring performers for a big outdoor event like a Renaissance Faire can be very different. Many of the performers actually apply and bid for their position. In doing so, they have to take into account several factors like how much their overhead is: including lodging, transportation, maintenance of materials, instruments, etc. Professionals will have to consider how much they need to live on and how many faires they can perform at and when. This amount needs to be offset by how much they can anticipate as income (and yes, minus taxes).

Potential income comes from many sources. Yes, most faires pay their performers something, but rarely quite enough. There is no minimum wage guarantee. Performers count on patrons purchasing merchandise like CDs, buttons, t-shirts - basically unique items that they can get at a low price and mark up a little higher. They also depend on your tips. The correct anticipation of tip and sales money allows them to bid lower. This in turn benefits both the faire and the patron.

Faires where good tips and sales can be honestly anticipated benefit by receiving more bids by quality acts at more competitive prices. Performers talk, and most know who is on the up and up. This allows the faire to charge less at the gate. Unlike big business where copyrights and trademarks tend to create defacto monopolies, we fully expect this trickle down because those in charge realize that the more patrons that can afford to come in and tip, the more quality acts there will be bidding the next year. Plus, the fair may also be able to afford more quality acts for the patrons to see. There is a lot of potential. (Please note that places like Disneyworld do not allow their performers to accept tips, all merchandise sales are to the corporation, and they pay close to union scale. Then look at their ticket prices at the gate.)

Tip your performers. They are worth it, and it helps to bring more quality live acts to a world where human interaction is becoming less human and less interactive.

April Fools

Apr 1, 2013 [return to top]

Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
(1 Corinthians 1:31)

So,... I’m listening to Inzinga and Spinozi on the Radio this morning, and they’re calling it David Lee Roth day. Now, it’s April 1st, so it’s April Fool’s Day, but they point out that Roth announced his solo career on April 1st, 1985, marking him as one or Rock and Rolls’ greatest fools. Which all leads me up to this story:

Last week I walked into the local music store to get some shorter patch cords and new strings. I may have been the only customer there, but I overheard the employees ongoing conversation about who’s all right in their global music world.

They were all talking around the register area, and I heard the question, “Do you like David Lee Roth?” Then they’re talking about how his blues seems more honest than his rock... No one wants to commit to liking him, and no one wants to tank him.

Next,  I’m hearing how Gene Simmons is an all right guy when the camera isn’t around, but Ace Freely is a real jerk. You know how it is, they’re name dropping for their music cred, but they think they’re not obvious about it. They’re saying, “I played with so and so, or I met him at such and such.” I got it. As I made my purchase, the guy behind the counter even  let me know that he thought Roth was cool enough for him. I smiled in a manner that I hope he took as approving. I smirked inwardly.

I was reminded of my original training at Disney University. Our guide/instructor pointed out that many of the rides in the park were sponsored by different companies. The idea was that each name, both Disney and the big corporation, seen side by side strengthened the reputation of the other. So, my very first ride assignment at Disneyland was Adventures Through Innerspace, and it was sponsored by Monsanto. It has since been replaced by Star Tours, of Star Wars fame.

Did I just do it? Did I name drop the fact that I worked for Disneyland? Does my cred change by association?

A couple few years ago, I helped chaperone a trip to the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival at the Castle in Muskogee with our history department. When I get a chance to go, I try to scope out the acts that I haven't seen before, especially the musicians. The Brobdingnagian Bards were playing on the Burns stage that year. I hadn’t seen them play in person before, and I share a birthday with Robert Burns, so I was doubly inclined to see them perform. To my surprise, Marc Gunn, of the Brobdingnagian Bards recognized me in the audience. Really, I was surprised, because we had never actually met before. Did I have cred? Do I have any more cred now that I told you about it?

Does it make a difference that I’ve met and played with musicians like Dustin Cooper, Rebecca Grotts, Trey Davis, or Sherri White? As long as I’m pulling out the stops, I could mention dinner with E. G. Marshall or playing D&D with Scott Douglas or Guy Vardaman, or the days I spent jamming with John Ylvisaker or Celia Whitler.

Do I have you Googling on your iPhones yet?

While you’re at it, Google 1 Corinthians 1, Galatians 6, and  2 Corinthians 10-12. Paul says, "Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:31)   The theme that all boasting in one’s self is foolish goes well with today, April Fool’s Day, but yesterday was Easter. So how many people do we hear upping their cred with Jesus? Have you met? Would you like to? Let’s up your cred by introducing someone to the Lord.

If you haven’t been introduced, you’re welcome to come follow. As flawed as I am, I can help with that invitation. If you prefer, there are other volunteers/draftees willing to fulfill the role of guide/instructor.

In the short run, the people we meet matter. But, in the long run, there’s just one.

... and he is us.

Mar 5, 2013 [return to top]

Ever spot your name on the internet? If your name is relatively common, you may encounter this all the time. Common names abound, while uncommon names usually make it easier to find people. It's a trade off. If you are the sort looking for fame, a common name makes it hard to distinguish who you are among many. If you are looking for obscurity, the converse is true.

I recently saw my own pre-marriage name, "Jeremy Fowler," listed on a web site as a game designer, and I thought to myself "Cool, I should investigate who this person is." The name is actually not as common as it looks, but what do you know, he actually turned out to be me. Now I haven't used that name since 1986, so it had to be something old. I pondered what game I was credited designing? I didn't remember publishing anything back then.

Well, I guess I define designer differently than the writer of a module, but evidently the first module that I ever sent off to a publisher did get published back in December of 1980. Who knew? Evidently, not me.

I remember thinking that it was a cool module at the time (I was in my teens after all), and I was a little disappointed that I not only didn't win anything, but that I was ranked so low in the judging standings. See, I recall that when they listed the contestants, I was near the end of the listing. I assumed they had listed the modules by judging ranks.

As I matured, I was a bit embarrassed at my own immaturity in the writing of the module. I guess we all have to start somewhere. I subjected the text to some minor rewriting later in college, and actually typed it into a data file later on to keep it in a smaller digital space.

The Dungeoneers Journal titled it Striek Hollous, after the nonsense fantasy language title that I gave it. You can find my last incarnation of it where I've posted it online for some old friends, under the title of Fanus in a previous posting.

(I think there may have been only one more issue of this magazine before it disappeared. I hope this module was not a determining factor.)

So... Of course I went to eBay and bought an unused copy for myself. Then I scanned it and I uploaded it to the previous posting mentioned above... enjoy... or heckle.

Lord of Blackwood

Feb 15, 2013 [return to top]

Blackwood Coat of Arms

For Christmas, Karen received a title for a square foot of land in Castle Dunans in Scotland. The gimmick in the title is that it's supposed to confer the title of Lady of Dunans Castle by way of land ownership. It's a silly gimmick, but it tickles our funny bones.

So, for Valentines Day, she bought me a similar plot of land in Loch Woods of the Blackwood estate, similarly conferring to me the title of Lord of Blackwood (and I suppose the title of Lady to her once again by marriage).

Now, supposedly this confers upon me the privilege of displaying the Blackwood Arms as well as the tartan. (Although, I see from the web site that the arms has been replaced by a seal. So, I think there may have been some issues back home.) I'm not sure exactly what I think of that yet, because I infer that I'm supposed to wear a kilt. I already have a tartan that I can wear, but it's aweful ugly, and I'm just not that into kilts. (Coincidentally, even though we are not related, I share the same paternal Birth Surname as Leghorn the Piper, and I have the same maternal clan tartan).

The money spent on these "titles"evidently goes toward conservation efforts, so there is some good that came out of it... I don't think I will be changing my passport any time soon (or my personal checks either), but you may now refer to my by my rightful store bought title (if it tickles your funny bone to do so).

Mezuzeh Twist

Dec 6, 2012 [return to top]

Contrary to what Hallmark says, Advent officially began on December 2nd this year, marking the new year of the church calendar. This year we are trying to be more intentional about praying, and sharing the story. And like usual, I'm trying to find new ways to do those old things.

Here's my latest idea to cross genres and look at the old in a new way, using both the traditional and the ancient. It's a mezuzeh for your Christmas tree.

First download the pdf file (below) with graphic and instructions. The video is here in case you want to check your folding, or see what the finished ornament looks like, or if you just want to listen to me sing.
Origami Prayer Angel Ornament

This year, put a little prayer in your tree!

For All the Saints

Nov 15, 2012 [return to top]

A Charcoal portrait of Owain Phyfe c. 2005

This song (at the bottom of this post) is written as a tribute to Owain Phyfe, and more generally for all the saints. There’s a little bit of a story about it....

I realize that with with the diversity of my life, not everyone I know will be familiar with Owain, and so I offer this small window of background information:

 Owain Phyfe onstage at the Norman Medieval Fair 2005

Owain Phyfe was a great musician of modern Renaissance tradition. For the last few years, I have had the opportunity and privilege to see him perform in person at the Norman Medieval Fair. (I know he has been at so many other places, but I just don’t get away that much.)

Between my own fair meanderings, I managed to catch snippets of his stage music, and at least a full performance or two. I appreciated the context he brought to his music. His was an act faithful to tradition, and his voice brought a simple clarity of tone to his renditions.

Bruce the Bruce - King Arthur Faire c. 2002

I recall that it was Bruce Cannon (the Bruce) who felt that I should meet him, if only briefly. I am glad that I did. Owain’s voice was wonderful, and equal to his musicianship. His death came disturbingly swiftly, unexpected by many.

Back to the song...

I am currently in the middle of the forty day prayer journal from Unbinding Your Heart by Martha Grace Reese, in which I have been actively listening for the sacred presence in my everyday life. It seems counterintuitive that  such discernment can often be difficult when the church itself is so central in my life. Yesterday I turned an hour over to God, and tried to actively listen to the spirit minute by minute. That was hard, but as I did so I reflected over the last week. I sometimes experience patterns that might otherwise elude my consciousness. At the moment I feel called to share this brief part of that with the world.

A week ago last Saturday, Karen and I attended the funeral of a man who had died rather suddenly. We had just seen him at the Germanfest fundraiser two weeks before, and he looked fine. (Actually, while I attended the funeral, Karen was both attending and working.) That was the day before All Saints Day. That evening I went out to a Celtic music venue, with people who had no idea how I had spent the hours earlier, and Owain Phyfe’s name was mentioned to me there in the spirit of commemoration. Then a little later I had a mental spark. It  kept me up that night... so much so that I had to get up for a brief time and scribble a bit down before I could fall asleep.

This last weekend I was at a faire, and the schedule was such that I did not attend church on Sunday morning. That, of course, does not mean that I did not hear God’s word. A new acquaintance again mentioned the passing of Owain Phyfe to me, and I heard the repetitive teaching nature of the old testament as the spirit whispered to me “remember to commemorate my saints.” This past Monday was Veteran’s Day, the theme of remembering only continued...

I wonder at the coincidence that his name was brought to me on both sides of All Saints Day. Could God be making the point that we are all part of a continuing history which includes not only the people we know, but everyone? We are all the saints. Perhaps it is the spirit whispering in my ear, reminding me that a song was sparked, and needs a voice to be put to it...

I have mentioned to only a very few others that I occasionally hear the spirit “whispering a song in my ear.” What I may not have mentioned is that if I do not follow that voice very soon after, the spark of the music is lost. The longer I wait, the more I lose.

I attempted to act on this song quickly, but it has been drawn out a little over the past several days... I guess I’m glad that I scribbled down what I did after it first came to me. (I first worked through it in A, and I found it easier to write down in G, but I finally transposed it to D as what seemed to be the most singable key, plus the key for most Irish whistles.)

And yes, I know it's theologically light, a sort of prayer for the faith ambiguous. But is anything "too light" when you ask for the presence of the holy spirit?

Lord, we do not always comprehend the ways that you communicate with us. If the bush is burning, we run for the fire extinguisher. We seek closer discernment of your will in our lives and ask that you strengthen our resolve in seeking you. Amen.

(4/11/2013) Postscript
I sang this song twice this past weekend at the Norman Medieval Fair.

Horror in Middle Earth (No, not really)

Oct 30, 2012 [return to top]

Living in Middle Earth was a true learning experience. In October of 1980, I began one of the most useful courses of my college career. You might call it creative management of available resources. We called it the Lorien Haunted House.

At that time it was a Lorien dormitory tradition to raise activity funds by turning the entire building into an interconnected experience of comedy and terror. Well, comedy and scary mind games might be more appropriate. Every year there were new recruits who eagerly learned the craft of creating a new and unexpected environment from simple and readily acquired materials. There were no chain saw massacres, and zombies were not chic, but wizards, witches, ghosts, monsters and labyrinths abounded.

c. 1982
Mr. Tumnus? As I remember, the complete costume had a vest...

During my tenure as part of the experience I learned many things. These are just a few:

  • Teamwork is great when you have a well defined task - like painting a pattern on a wall. Not as effective when the task is not defined. So having vision is not enough. You have to be able to break it  all down into tasks. The level of simplicity or difficulty of the tasks is directly dependent on the ability level of your workers.
  • Any room can look just like a cavern with judicious use of a roll of brown butcher paper and a staple gun.
  • It is entirely possible to hang a person safely from a noose, but it may not be particularly comfortable for them.
  • People are easily terrified by the unexpected. Timing is everything.
  • You can even build a ghost out a sheet and a flower pot, and make entire rooms of people hit the ground in a prone position under their own power if you just time it right.
  • Sudden bright lights combined with loud noises are entirely more effective than the most elegant robotics. One is cool, the other, however, can cause a stampede.
  • You CAN make people invisible right in front of your eyes. Even Brian.
  • Tesla Coils may be cool, but you have to trust them or you can really zap yourself. Once you zap yourself, it is exponentially harder to trust that thing. There is something gratifying  in hearing Steve-o getting zapped by a Tesla Coil in the distance. No one else. Just him.
  • It only takes about a dozen portable closets  and some old carpet samples to make an infinite maze. No, really.
  • There is no substitute for a really good witchy cackle. Protect your witch’s voice.
  • For short term make up, you really don’t need the full facial bust. Even though I made one, I only used it for one appliance.
  • Jell-o has more uses than are listed on the package.
  • Sometimes improvisation works... sometimes not so much. Still you can’t beat a dedicated band of college students who aren’t yet afraid to try something new.
  • You can accomplish it all on a shoestring budget. You just have to know where to look, and how to creatively acquire materials.
When we went to visit the old buildings last April, we brought many memories, and it was a little painful seeing the security measures now in place in the old buildings. The living areas are now smaller, and the old sliding doors were now permanently closed windows. Many of the years are now blended in my mind, and so I tend to mix it all into one mashup.

This picture was taken in Campus Village, most likely around 1983.

I remember with fondness guiding tours of 7-10 patrons from the storage closet at the back of the landing, up into the 201 suite, winding through the rest rooms areas around and across a temporarily enclosed long balcony over to the 202 suite, through their rest rooms and down to the 110 suite landing. Each suite was responsible for their area and the areas leading up to them. The 110, had the stairs down and a hallway experience to construct and populate. Each space had their own theme. Each tour guide had their own theme... It seems we were all about the themes.

We really had them going by the time I would bring them down the main stairs from the 110 suite hallway. (Well, I was mostly dodging the stampede of patrons that I had led there and were now trying to desperately escape that area.) We’d usher them past Sara or Steve-o performing some sort of mental or physical magic, and send them into the maze with Mad Monk Kev.

The maze had no light within, and was structured with pivoting walls that could be changed by the semi-permanent occupants. It also had no exit, and no entrance once the group was inside. So, we could use it as the perfect “intermission” device timing the three groups on tours in the building at any given time.

Once the other groups had reached their marks, I would go around the whole contraption, make the exit, and impatiently demand that they hurry up. None of them seemed to realize that I had never gone in with them. Hustling them out the sliding glass patio door, I would usher them within the fenced outer area past the front dorm entrance and down to the 101 suite’s other sliding patio door. Yes, they had a theme too.

Exiting the suite into the main hall led to the graveyard where most of the tour groups were relieved to just nod to the grim reaper (Steve/Jamie) who was standing there, unaware of the job he would perform while their backs were turned. (Since a false wall had been constructed, they could not see the stairs leading up to the 110 suite landing, and instead were being shepherded down a straight corridor into the next section of hall leading to the 104 suite.) Gathering them together before the great door to the next section was easy, and on a sound cue from the reaper, I’d point behind them and shout in terror “look out.”

They always turned their attention just in time to see a white sheet traveling directly toward their heads at what may have approached mach 1. As gravity took them all to the ground, the approaching ghost veered up at the last minute and made a resounding hollow flowerpot-like thunk into the wall above the lintel. Me? I just opened the door behind me as the follow guide (Melanie) scraped our group off the floor.

The chamber beyond was where the invisible man lived. Brian had a great time in there. We had covered the white walls of the otherwise void corridor with repetitive black swirl motifs, just a little too random to be called a pattern. The strobe light made it just disorienting enough to keep everyone guessing and a bit relieved to see nothing inside. But, Brian was there. He just happened to be dressed like the walls, in a sheet covered in swirls. even knowing that he was there, I could only find him by spotting his white socks as they jutted out over the much darker carpet. His task was simply to jump between a couple of people in the group, and then go back against a wall somewhere else. By the screams he elicited, I think he must have goosed people. We later heard comments as people left like,“there was no one there, and then there was, and then they just... well... disappeared.”

From there it was into the 104 suit and eventually out the patio door. Like all the other suites, they would have a theme and a farewell to the group.

The tradition has long since fallen to the wayside, and our society is now more concerned about things like privacy and security than learning n interactive camaraderie... So, I bid a fond fare well to the likes of Dr. Frank (both of them), and Henry (and his friend). Should you be one of the few, and proud, Lorien Haunted House workers or patrons from the days of yesteryear, I invite you to share some of your story, as i have and let the rest of us know the memories of your experience.

You Kill it, You Eat it!

May 1, 2012 [return to top]

This is just one of those odd bits of game culture from my past:

"You know the drill, Save the M&Ms for questioning, and the cupcake is mine!"

It is anyone’s guess who started the curious culinary custom of “you kill it, you eat it.” The practice has seemingly been around for a long time. It certainly has been practiced by convention game referees for as long as many can remember. It may have originally been an attempt to sweeten the reward of winning a combat. But, whatever its roots, here are the rules we used when adding it to our table top RPG games.

To liven up combat antics, we used edible tokens to represent opponents on the table. (Since it is never a good idea to ingest strange matter, we made sure that the battle battle mat was clean before undertaking this sort of adventure twist.)

The basic idea is simple: whoever puts the last hit points on any opponent on the battle field gets to eat the candy that represents that creature. What counts for scoring a kill is that the creature is incapacitated. Thus, if the second level halfling rogue puts the last three hit points on the dragon, effectively killing it, then that character’s player gets to eat it. If a wizard effectively casts hold spells and the incapacitated creatures are subsequently killed by others while they are held, then the wizard should get credit for that kill.

This might not be the case if the held creatures have some way of effectively fighting while held. Ultimately the referee must make the decision of who gets the battlefield carrion, but most decisions of this sort are straight forward.

To represent the opponents, one will want to select some tasty tidbits. Celery and carrots may be healthy, but no one wants to fight to eat them. As a rule, vegetables are often spared by adventuring parties and given free passage through the realm.

Gummi candies come in various shapes and sizes (some are even sugar free), but can squish in a referee’s back pack or melt in a hot car when left unattended.

Hard candies are easy to transport, and are of a good size for the task, but most gamers I know prefer chocolate if it is kept cool and unmushed. Some referees will use one type of candy to represent all the monsters, while more creative ones with larger budgets may use candies of varying sizes and color to represent different opponents.

Once you have tried it a few times, you will know what level of preparation you feel comfortable with.

Back to the Future, again

Apr 24, 2012 [return to top]

We've been sharing pictures from our time travel excursion, so I thought I'd pick a few out of the mix and highlight the trip. Thanks guys for the great pics.

When you're young and not as wise as we like to think of our selves today, today seems so far away (I'm sure there's a song in that... a depressing one).

Lorien Dorm Portrait 1982

This is the official dormitory photograph from Lorien in 1982. See, we're just babes. Now I don't have the pics from Mesa Court, or even Misty Mountain or Mirkwood, so you'll have to imagine the others in this post as younger.

The UCI Library building behind us is from the movie Poltergeist.

30 Years later, in 2012, we and some of our peeps (including friends, spouses, and even children) met together for the annual Wayzgoose Medieval fair on the University of California Irvine campus. This year, for the first time, they took out the medieval theme, but they didn't tell me, or the other medievalites either. Fie on them.

Misty Mountain Common Living Room (minus about 3 feet of width,
and without sliding glass doors for a patio)

Most of us had a connection to Middle Earth (one of the Dormitory complexes on campus), so we got in a group for a special tour to see how it had changed. Many new buildings had been added. The whole place had expanded, but the temporary buildings that we inhabited were still in use. Some raving bureaucrat, however, had taken out the fireplaces and added thickness to the walls. The common living areas were much smaller. We used to have dances here, with about 200 more square feet and sliding doors that opened like a patio (they open no more). They reduced the suite areas too. Fie again, I say.. but thanks for the peek ME staff.

30 Years later, with other previous campus dwellers

We even gathered together for a picture outside Lorien. They may have digital key locks now, but the bike rack is still there.

Architecture or Architorture?

We did a little walking through the Wayzegoose and ended up walking over to Campus Village on campus apartments. Some of us moved here after the dorms. Then we exchanged a few phone numbers and wandered back over to the Wayzgoose to see the real entertainment.

Jamie the Red, in blue... ok and a bit of red too...

Here we met back up with Jamie "the Red." formerly Steve "the sophomore roommate." He had to keep up the excitement by brandishing big metal weapons. Then we got some lunch and sat about yapping about old and new times. Then we came back and did more of the same.

The old crew, plus (and minus) a few

Finally we graduated to dinner and reminisced... I listened a lot, and we went home tired... let's not wait 30 more years...

Gamin' it Old School

Apr 15, 2012 [return to top]

My posted information is usually art and music oriented. Even my blasts from the past have some sort of musical center. It’ is not often that I get overly nostalgic about gaming. I used to love a good game of just about anything, especially role playing games (RPGs). To tell the truth, I probably would still love it if I had time for it. Between everything else, it just takes too much of an investment of time these days. I can learn a song in the car on the way to or from something else, I cannot prepare for an RPG session in the same way.

Now the RPGs that I allude to are not your modern computer graphic worlds, but rather the old school theater of the mind version’s made popular back in the 70’s and 80’s by companies like TSR, GDW, and Chaosium. The sort that use pencils, papers, and dice. Enter Facebook, and reconnecting with people from the past: Some of my old High School Dungeons and Dragons pals are on my friend’s list, and I mean to out them here. Jay Ryan, Chris Hall, Ken White, Dan Cruger, and (later) Guy Vardaman are all there. I have had many more gamer friend’s since back then and many of them are on the same Facebook list, but those are the ones that helped start the magic flowing in my teens.

Why wax nostalgic about it? Well, Dan has been messaging me recently about some of our old first games, and the magic of the imagination that we shared. He has aven posted about it on his blog:

I remember Jay ran a very long game for many months in his parent’s dining room, and I ran several shorter adventures in many places, including my Father’s apartment, the park across the street, and for quite a stretch at Ken’s house. I also remember everyone eventually took the reigns running the games for a while.

By “ran” I mean that I was the writer of an adventure and arbitrator of the rules, the Dungeon Master (or more generically, the Game Master). Sometimes I would grab other written sources, but often I wrote my own. So, when Dan asked about some of those old adventures, I thought: You know I remember typing a bunch of those, on an actual typewriter. Then retranscribing much of it on an IBM clone during college. The maps are somewhere else, but the text should be archived... And what do you know... I found some of those old text files. Reformatting them is a bit of a bear, and I have to guess and remember the maps... but they were there.

So for Dan, and the rest of you that may have a nostalgic streak, I hope to post a few of those very old school Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (first edition) modules written by me as a teenager back in about 1978-82.

Please be kind, I was in my teens then after all. the world was a very different place, and I was in a more concrete mindset.

Meet Mahaleth

Apr 4, 2012 [return to top]

Everyone has an image or brand, even at the faire.  Is it the tinctures of your coat of arms? Do you wear a kilt? Perhaps you speak with a different voice, or wear extreme makeup.

Mahaleth 2007 Norman Medieval Fair

There are a couple of things that I try to keep consistent, like my outfit colors of maroon with black and/or white accents. But there is also Mahaleth, my main faire instrument. While I have taken other instruments to faires, usually at just about anything local, you’ll see me playing this 100+ year old German guitar, or Wandervogellaute (wandering bird lute).

Fugli and Mahaleth 2009 Scarlet's Mid-Winter Renaissance Festival

This style of instrument dates back to around 1850 until about 1910, so it is at least 100 years old. There’s no particular way to tell how much older it might be. At the recent Norman Medieval Fair, someone was asking about how it differs from a standard modern guitar, and I pointed out that it basically just has a shorter neck and beveled (scalloped out) frets. The action is also pretty high, but that is mostly due to age and the fact that there is no tension rod through the neck like a modern instrument would probably have.

Fugli and Mahaleth 2005 King Arthur Faire...

When I saw this instrument on ebay, I was using a standard dial up connection on our local phone lines (basically a tight string and a couple of cans), so I couldn’t try to snipe it or anything underhanded, I just had to put in a high enough proxy bid. I really didn’t know how well it would play. The shipping from Germany also damaged the back more than it should, but I was not about to return it, so I just had the local music shop patch the hole.

Since then I have put in the maintenance, regluing where necessary, polishing and occasionally cleaning. I even managed to install a passive piezo pickup inside the front face, under the bridge (like building a ship in a bottle).

As for the name, it is the hebrew name of Ishmael's daughter and wife of Esau. The name means “lyre.” Anachrohistorically, I figured that I would join the great company of musicians who name their primary instrument.

Git Pimped

posted Mar 2, 2012 [return to top]

There, it's pimped... Although I'm still waiting on a cheap gold capo, a pick holder and a little black head stock tuner, cosmetically, it's finished. I bought a bag for a baritone ukulele that it just squeezes into, and now it's being painted to go along with the design.

I started with a cheap children's guitar that was painted to look like a strawberry. Then I added the paint job and some accouterments like a black nut, and a piezo pick up with tone and volume control under a new black saddle. these were very inexpensive through ebay.

I wove it its own strap and found some jewelry pieces to make a rosette and added a lion themed decorative element both to the ends of the strap and the face.

I took those silly dot stickers out of the center of the frets, and inset some gold findings along the edge of the neck to take their place, and I glued some celtic knot work notion on the head stock. A little liquid leafing on exposed silver areas turns them gold.

It still plays like a $20 dollar guitar, but it looks good for faire. And, as Karen pointed out the first time I played one of these out of the box... There really is a lot of musician in the music, and less instrument than one would expect. I can make it sound good.

Wells post Brunelleschi

Feb 23, 2012 [return to top]

The Martians are coming... H. G. Wells to Orson Wells to me... I deviated a little from the rough draft, but not much...

Rough draft of image for scratch board... I think maybe I need some people running away... or maybe zombies? Everything seems to have zombies these days.

The End of the World as We Know It

Feb 17, 2012 [return to top]

It may not be the end of the world, but you can see it from there... We're up to linear perspective. Let the whining commence. Here's my first example of the season as we go through renaissance perspective.

Creepy Stalker Music

Feb 17, 2012 [return to top]

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to the radio on the way to work. The DJs were highlighting some local creepy stalker music that locals had written about other locals in the media. While they were bantering back and forth about it, I got the impression that what they really wanted was their own creepy stalker music. So, of course, I had something written down by lunch time... Recording it, however, took longer than anticipated... schedules being as they are, plus my main web site getting hacked ate up quite a bit of any potential down time for such a project.

That being said, I had just a little lost time last night and at lunch today, so I went ahead and recorded it... Enjoy!

Music: Voices_in_My_Head.mp3 (aka Inzinga and Spinozi, 96.9 FM)

Oh... and for those of you who don't listen to them... it's a "classic rock" station... thus the "flower power" music.

Here Comes the Groom? (More Tales from Middle Earth)

posted Feb 16, 2012 [return to top]

The Middle Earth Housing Staff came up with activities to try and keep us from getting into trouble. Irvine was relatively sparse back then, so “trouble” might mean danger to a cow in some field somewhere. I hear that there are still herds that tremble at the thought of our presence… well, not OUR presence. I’ll give that credit to Mirkwood.

Anyway, one of these activities was a fund raiser where people basically voted for their dorm building with money, and then the winning dorm got bragging rights and some sort of food supplement/dinner activity that the others didn’t. So Na, Na, Na! I do not remember what the money went for, but I do remember the thinly veiled ploy they used to cover the activity. We were supposed to vote for the top building bride and groom.

Bride and Groom? What was this? Prom night? This was college after all. Who’s thinking all that social political stuff here? I blamed Ernie, our PA for this ludicrous activity. So I made a nomination from the floor that Scott, our RS, should be the bride, and (since I knew Ernie wouldn’t go for it) I nominated Kay from the 201 suite as the groom. Why? Because even stupid stuff is funnier in drag,

1982 Kay as our Lorien Groom and Scott as our Bride

I was surprised when they went for it. Now, I know these pictures are grainy, but we didn’t have instant check it out digital photography in those days, so I didn’t know just how bad they were until the pics came back from the developers. These were not the official “vote for” photos, just my quick snap of their unveiling. We also can’t see Kay’s fishnet stockings in this pic.

Oh, and getting that hair on to Kay’s face was so much easier than taking it off. I learned that day that the peach fuzz hair on her face was very attached. I never had a problem with prosthetics on my face because I shaved. Later, when I put Mike in a skin head wig, I used that knowledge, and shaved the back of his neck first. He never stopped complaining about that.

Thanks to Barb Papik… here are better pictures of the happy couple (even though they came in second).

New Straberry Guitar in the works

January 30th, 2012, Updated Mar 24, 2012 [return to top]

Some of you may remember this little guitar. The left image is what it looked like out of the box when I purchased it on clearance from walmart. The right image is what I reworked it into for a simple faire instrument. If you read about it then, you may remember that it was stolen when someone broke into the school and took it from my classroom. I hope they can play well, because if they can’t… well, it plays just like the $17 dollar children’s guitar that it was. Good luck with that.
I got another one through ebay for around the same price, and I’m re-pimping it.

It’s not finished… I’ve ordered a new bridge saddle and nut in black (I hope they fit), and I have a cheap piezo bridge pick up coming too – before I fasten that rosette in place… (the jury is still out on the rosette until I know how much the sound may be muffled.)

Oh, and the writing is the Lord’s Prayer in Gaelic with a 7th century Uncial hand.

A Tribute to the Greatest Punk Band that (kinda sorta) Never Was!

January 23rd, 2012 [return to top]

This is a print of the cover for the album that never was. Pre-CD, it was a 12 inch pic

My second year in the Middle Earth Dorms came with a bit more pressure, not academically, but socially. For some reason I was railroaded into being in charge of the annual Lorien Haunted House. (We survived – but I dropped a class, and kept skipping another, to do it.) What were we thinking? On top of that there was no way to top our exiting show at Cafe Brandywine offering of the Lorien Rag from the previous year. I was still getting random comments on it from people I didn’t even know. “Hey, weren’t you the guy who sang that song?” We had set our bar, and I couldn’t see a way over it.

Avast! Evidently, to show "wood" must have been offensive.

Never underestimate the influence of a random creative element (or a flammable accelerant). I was rooming up in 201B that year with Steve E, and I don’t even remember what the conversation was about, but it was probably about random chords, distortion, and punk rock. Anyway, I hit a simple three chord power riff over and over to illustrate some point, and our neighbor, Mike (the Freshman), dropped into a crouch and screamed, “SCUM!” I kept playing, and the next time around he screamed, “SLIME!” We were amused until the third time he Screamed “SAGA!.” Then we lost it in laughter.

Here is where I need to mention that S. A. G. A. was the Stuart Anderson Gourmet Association (aka the Soviet Attempt to Gag America), our cafeteria food service – which we used to blame all our woes upon. Bad test score? Well, you should have seen what they were serving for lunch, man!

And thus was born the Punk Band of Sensory Neglect! (Can you tell I was taking a psychology class at the time?) This band would hit everyone’s buttons so hard they couldn’t do anything but laugh. We would become every parent’s worst nightmare, the dregs of the music industry; we’d do it poorly, and we’d turn around and endorse the very things we detested. And so, I sat down from Mike’s beginnings and wrote the absolute worst song that I could. It was golden.

Someone out there has some post Cafe Brandywine pictures, but it’s not me, sigh.

The original Band Members were myself as Epsilon Minus (a Brave New World Reference for a new wave look) playing my old Electra MPC Outlaw guitar and dressed all in black (of course) with aT-shirt, bell bottoms and leather boots complemented by black wrap glasses and black lipstick. Steve was Captain Cacophony, in Adam Ant-ish garb, complete with makeup, a beauty mark, and a full beard (very disconcerting). We gave him a single rhythm and a tenor drum that we liberated for a night or so from somewhere in the band department. Jim (BOB), with his baby face, was James Mean, dressed in leather, denim, studs, and spikes with dark shades and some sort of dead baby doll handcuffed to him. There were some old upright pianos in the dorms, which he played. Our front man was Mike or Mickey Mouth, who was all over the map. He dressed in bright green shoes and short shorts, and we stuck a noose around his neck (we had practice tying them during the Haunted House). What most people noticed, however, was his head. I took a skin head wig and shoved nails up through it to form a mohawk. Then I took some of that really cool telephone wire (the stuff they used to use with the bright stripes in different colors) and wire wrapped the nails like a fence, making springs and things shooting off his head. he also had no ears ounce the wig was latexed in place.
I don’t know what people expected, but at Cafe Brandywine 1983 they kinda went nuts when we came in, and even though Mike forgot the words half way through, they loved it. They apparently thought that was part of the act, and Jim and the rest of us just kept playing our “extended version” until Mike remembered.

I got called in to the housing office the next day. Oh no? What did we do now? I didn’t remember breaking anything or actually causing a riot, but someone from that very office had once told me that we had a reputation. He had said that we were usually very quiet, and then something would happen, and fingers would point our way. They never proved anything, and personally, I think we got more “credit” than was our due. we were all pretty clean cut, just off the wall. (Phil, don’t tell them about the flaming paper airplanes).

Anyway, I got called into the office, but not for trouble. They wanted an Encore for the top on campus housing staff. the problem was, we all had classes when they wanted the performance. Plus, there was no way I was gonna get Mike into that head gear again (I had shaved his neck – for his own good – when I put it on the first time.)

As it was, three of us cut class to perform, and we got Gina to Front for us as Hairy Deborah in bright green spandex, fishnet stocking and banana holsters. This end is offered as an explanation as to why Mike is not the voice we ended up recording. The original “live” recording evidently was garbage… So, we just sealed ourselves in a room for a brief while with a cassette recorder and then went to KUCI for the vocals. We never got it perfect, but then, it was funnier that way.
Sensory Neglect remained a background idea for some time to come, but I moved across campus to an apartment the next year and only brought the group together a couple of times. To our credit, SAGA was no longer the food campus food service the next year, but that was probably just because they were underbid by Servomation.

Oh, and the “Spinal Tap” movie came out the next year – which I consider a coincidence.

I later remember that Dave Godwin (Davy Moans) played with us on a pink noise generator (think digital fart sound machine) that we put together (we called the RUDE). We had a song about Wally George (portrayed with us by Phil). Wally seems to be gone now too.

There was some other stuff I put together over the next few years, but nothing tops Real Meat.

I grew up Playing Music with Elves in Middle Earth

January 20th, 2012 [return to top]

Introducing the Worst Band West of the Mississippi

Those words, spoken by my first roommate in college, Ed Senechal, sort of… kind of… summed up our attitudes. We would all change the world, but maybe for only three minutes at a time. it was all in the “happening.” Many of us lived in a place on the UC Irvine campus called Middle Earth, a dormitory housing complex named after Tolkein’s fictional realm… and we took some sort of odd pride that we lived in Lorien, the kingdom of the elves.

Ed kicks back in our room in 104D Lorien. Boys and girls, he's listening to a tape - there were no mp3s then.

In between our rigorous studies of being full time students, we made and exercised various friendships. Some of these friendships may have lasted through time, often weakened by changing circumstances of geography until they are now more bonds of nostalgia. Some connections have been lost (Ed, if you’re out there, I’m still looking for you), and others merely maintained by what is now the internet.

Barb P. took this pic. Here I am at age 18 with my old Guitar sitting in the 101 suite of Lorien

And so, here is a musical snapshot of that time. If you listen to my music now and then, you may notice some similarities. The Lorien Rag is not timeless… on the contrary, it is an in-joke ridden picture of a specific there, at a specific then. I wrote it, and I confess that I now only get some of the jokes. Others are lost, even to me. From the reaction of the Middle Earth audience, packed into the inadequate commons area, there was something written in it for everyone, so even if you didn’t get one part, you got another.

Back in 1982, before digital recording directly into your computer device, we had cassette tapes, and if you wanted good sound, you needed pretty specialized equipment. So we didn’t record a lot. These recordings are from open microphones through the sound system, so there is no way to get the full effect of an enclosed space with multiple instruments. My hand scrawled notes list these performers for the Lorien Rag at Cafe Brandywine 1982:

Me (guitar and vocals)
Ed S. (toilet paper roll kazoos)
Barb P. (washboard)
Kevin C. (gut bucket – you can hear it until it breaks toward the end)
Ron T. (sparklets water bottle – he used it like a drum)

Afterward, I dismissed the rest of the band and gave them something a little more traditional. So my tag here is just Puff. I still have the tapes of all the other performers, but sadly, I have kept in touch with none of them.

The Reason why I’m the Kewl One…

January 10th, 2012 [return to top]

Alright, when I’m invloved, cool is probably the farthest thing from your mind, but I still play with toys. They’re just usually things like musical instruments and pens these days.

I found this way cool unfinished wood castle on clearance at Michael’s over the weekend.

It opens up on hinges and has a special place to keep soldiers or chess pieces and stuff inside.

So far I’ve removed the hardware and now it’s about 80% primed.

I probably need to make some catapults to go with it.

Just in time for Christmas

November 18th, 2011 [return to top]

We’re putting together a new CD for Christmas…. It’s sort of a last minute thing. but thanks to the internet and digital recording software, it’s a possibility. I already had quite a bit of material arranged, and some was previously recorded – not from my medieval CD.
I’ve got another contributor with a digital recorder and mixer in her iPad that has sent me a track of dulcimer and whistle to which I digitally processed with my own drumming. I’m waiting for another track n that.

I’ve got some base tracks set down for three other pieces that I’m working on too right now, and Trey recorded some piano midi data for four pieces on Wednesday. I would like one more that’s all piano. Dunno if it will happen.

So far, we have 23 minutes completed in eight tracks, and maybe another ten minutes in process. That should do it. We need twelve tracks in all, and I have eleven either finished or in process.

Not too bad for one week.

Updated January 4th, 2012

Well, one thousand CDs – all with production problems. Here’s the fix: “A Gift of Christmas Music” in MP3 format for your iPod.

Size Matters Not?

October 6th, 2011 [return to top]

Can you tell what historical period/tradition we’re finishing up this week? There are no papers with a good papyrus pattern on them. This is the best look alike option for some ancient Egyptian lookalike scrolls, but it is patterned after bamboo. I do have some actual papyrus, but for a hundred kids, I have neither the amount necessary, nor the budget to purchase the real deal. I wonder if I could make something similar out of corn husks?

This one is a parchment texture, but it’s more medieval European than Egyptian.