A to Z: V is for Virgil Finlay

Today is brought to you by the letter V… as in ‘Virgil Finlay.’For those who complain that Virgil Finlay should be filed under F, I will point out that whhen I was a kid, my family had a dog named ‘Finley’ (or ‘Finni’) which was apparently named after a Nun who had terrorized my father when he was in grade school. “Finley” is close enough to “Finlay” that I would get confused… so V is for Virgil.

If I were rich and could hire someone from beyond the grave to illustrate my fantasies instead of having to illustrate them myself (what toil!), I woul put ‘Virgil Finlay’ on the list of artists to approach. Virgil Finlay, however, is no longer with us (another point in common with Finley the dog) and I am not rich so I will have to keep toiling on my own. But his work stands as a great inspiration … both thematically and in terms of those millions of teensy dots!
One of the stories I heard about Finlay (which may or may not be true) is that he was in constant poverty because he worked so slowly. All mthe little dots, hatches and stipples of his trademark technique took much more time than illustrations by any other artist and the pulp magazines all paid a set fee for illustrations (as many publishers still do) with X paid for a half page, Y paid for a full page, etc. Finlay was such a perfectionist that he would do one drawing in the time that another artist could do several, and thus was always one step away from the poor house. A sad story; I hope it was not true.


A to Z: V is for Virgil Finlay

Today is brought to you by the letter V… as in ‘Virgil Finlay.’ For those who complain that Virgil Finlay should be filed under F, I will point out that whhen I was a kid, my family had a dog named ‘Finley’ (or ‘Finni’) which was apparently named after a Nun who had terrorized my father when he was in grade school. “Finley” is close enough to “Finlay” that I would get confused… so V is for Virgil.

If I were rich and could hire someone from beyond the grave to illustrate my fantasies instead of having to illustrate them myself (what toil!), I woul put ‘Virgil Finlay’ on the list of artists to approach. Virgil Finlay, however, is no longer with us (another point in common with Finley the dog) and I am not rich so I will have to keep toiling on my own. But his work stands as a great inspiration … both thematically and in terms of those millions of teensy dots!
One of the stories I heard about Finlay (which may or may not be true) is that he was in constant poverty because he worked so slowly. All mthe little dots, hatches and stipples of his trademark technique took much more time than illustrations by any other artist and the pulp magazines all paid a set fee for illustrations (as many publishers still do) with X paid for a half page, Y paid for a full page, etc. Finlay was such a perfectionist that he would do one drawing in the time that another artist could do several, and thus was always one step away from the poor house. A sad story; I hope it was not true.


Who is Pietro Ramirez?

Archie McPhee, seller of ‘boxing Nun puppets, hip swinging hula dolls, fuzzy dice and similar items, sells paintings by an artist named ‘Pietro Ramirez’ for $99 dollars each.

At right you see a reproduction of his ‘Believe’ painting.

The paintings are not (usually) unique; Ramirez has a limited number of subjects that he paints again and again and again.

From the McPhee site: In his tireless pursuit of perfection, Pietro Ramirez would paint each painting hundreds, sometimes thousands of times. Limited quantities of these numbered original oil paintings are only available through Archie McPhee. Each painting is set in a 25” x 19” frame, signed and numbered by the artist, and is sure to be a great conversation piece for any room in your home or office.

Other works include The Albino Bowler, a Tiki scene, a Unicorn Dreams painting and others. There are also references to a book on ‘The Art of Kissing’ but I am not certain if the author and artist are the same person.

I am not sure what to make of the whole thing — while the ‘chuckling behind our hands’ of the McPhee approach to marketing is a fun in a superficial sort of way, I find myself wondering who Ramirez is (or is he just a fake name to be applied to the phenomenon of ‘crappy lowbrow paintings’) and why he paints the same thing again and again. $99.00 does not seem to be a lot of money for a painting (and, by artist economies, it makes me suspect that Ramirez would be getting at most $50.00 gross (before paying for paint, canvas, the frame, etc.) for each painting.

A very superficial probe of google yields numerous references to ‘Pietro Ramirez’ and his paintings (“Albino Bowler” seems to be a favorite) as well as ‘The Art of Kissing’ book, but I don’t know what part of this is a big joke and kitsch marketed for the masses and whether or not Ramirez really exists.


A to Z: U is for Ummamrod

U is for Ummamrod!

Ummamrod is one of the less common deities in Aldeboran, worshipped by the occassional alchemist, lovers and people who deal in relationship advice. Her/his temples are considered a good source of love potions, aphrodisiacs and contraceptive spells.

Ummamrod and Her/his opposite, Dormammu, are both hermaphrodite deities who look nearly identical, but Dormammu is male on the left side and female on the right whereas Ummamrod is female of the left side and male on the right. Thus, Ummamrod is usually called ‘Her/him’ or ‘She/he’ whereas Dormammu will be called ‘Him/her’ or ‘He/she.’ The clerics of both deities are hermaphrodites (or at least bisexuals or transexuals; it is all so confusing) although bothe deities will accept worshippers of either sex. Their clerics usually wear garments divided down the middle, with male garments on one side and female on the other, and often have beards on only one half of their face. Of course, clerics of Ummamrod are female on the left and male on the right and clerics of Dormammu are male on the left and female on the right, but the similarity causes much confusion among the uninitiated. Technically speaking, the image at right is probably a better representation of Dormammu, but you get the idea.

Dormammu is a deity who deals in jealousy, sexual agression and other aspects of love gone wrong… jealous former lovers often appeal to him/her for vengence. Dormammu is as evil and Ummamrod is good, so watch out!

Ummamrod used to be much more popular among the people than she is today because of the recent rise in fashion of a ‘revisionist’ version of history that advocates a return to some invented ‘traditional’ values of a fictional past. Many of Her/his temples have been closed by local authorities out of a desire to protect public morality and because the open worship of a hyper-sexualized hermaphrodite deity makes some people (especially worshippers of The Allfather) pretty fucking uncomfortable. Dormammu’s worshippers have gone ‘underground’ because of all the shit they stir up.

Both Dormammu and Ummamrod appeal to alchemists since alchemists are people who deal in transforming the nature of substances.

The good thing about A to Z posts

I keep reading comments here and there where people are slagging on the whole ‘A to Z’ thing. I finsished the last of my A to Z posts the other day (they are all just sitting in the queue waiting to be autoposted when the right day comes around). While I’m not proud of all of my A to Z posts, I can honestly say that there are a few that I wrote that I think could be pretty interesting to the community at large and were fun to write and think about — and I would have probably never written them if I hadn’t had to find a topic that started with a certain letter.

This morning’s entry (T is for Tana Tak) is a case in point. I had a pile of notes and drawings in my binder, so all that stuff was ‘already written,’ but it wouldn’t have occure to me to look it over, scan it in, write it up, etc., unless I had to come up with something for the letter T. And once I started looking at it, I became more excited about it. And now that I have posted it, the wheels have started turning and I am eager to do some more work on it.

I took the A to Z challenge as a chance to repost a lot of campaign notes from Aldeboran which I have added to, very sporadically, over the years. It’s given me a chance to take a closer look at the stuff I’ve accumulated as a whole. And that’s a good thing.


A to Z: T is for Tana Tak

T is for Tana Tak: (click on any pic to enlarge)

“…An enormous ruined dome in an ancient ruined city of unfamiliar design houses an ancient consciousness 100s of years old that enslaves creatures by replacing their will with it’s own…” “…in a pool hidden in cellars deep beneath the ruined dome, a gigantic brain, the source of this mysterious consciousness, rests… guarded by enslaved creatures and mechanical traps and safeguards…”

The original drawing (above) of the brain… from one of my notebooks.

In a painting of the same scene, I added tentacles to the brain. I think if I were to redo this, I might skip the tentacles… but then what would the adventurers be doing around the pool?

The ruins of Tana Tak are strewn with ancient statues of an unfamiliar humanoid race with oddly shaped eyes. No one (other than perhaps ‘the mind’) knows if these are supposed to portray the original inhabitants. The above picture shows a trail through the ruins to the dome.

A map/view of the ground floor and upper level of the dome. The upper level is equipped with bookshelves that have been mostly looted but might still contain a few of the ancient texts of Tana Tak (see below).

An isometric view of the cellar level of the dome. In the center is a round chamber with pillars equipped with a well that contains the brain. The cells around the well house some of the brain’s guards and lieutenants. North of that is a room with a large pool, some staircases and a room of mysterious powered coffins that may contain the remains of some ancients. South of the temple of the mind is a laboratory maintained by the mind’s servants. The various electronic devices are powered via a tank of electrical eels that are fed via an ingenious ever-renewing supply of troll meat. The captive trolls are quite insane from constantly having bits hacked off to feed the eels, then being allowed to have those bits hacked off again, etc.

A “mind zombie.” Note the vacant stare and ancient armor and weapons. I haven’t decided if someone who has been converted to a servant of the mind can be converted back. I’m imagining not since I envision the process similar to some sort of lobotomy.

The ruins themselves are overrun by ghouls that emerge from the rubble and crypts beneath the city at night. The denizens of the temple like the fact that the ghouls discourage most visitors and the ghouls do not seem to bother the temple.

The ruins were once famous for the books found there; unfortunately, due to their value, many of the books have been plundered (and are sometimes found for sale or in hoards hundreds of miles from Tana Tak). The pages of these books are usually sheets of thin hammered copper, gold or silver engraved with mysterious symbols. The ‘pages’ are usually bound together with rings. Sadly, many of the books have been plundered for the value of the metal from which they were made and were subsequently melted down for bullion. If means can be found to translate the symbols (some spells will work), some of the books apparently record unusual magical formulas.

This map of “The Northlands” has some of the names for regions/kingdoms I was considering at one time. Yes, we have kingdoms named “Amnesia,” “Catatonia,” “Moronika” and “Dementia.” Did I mention that Alluria is occupied by Amazons? It’s true!


Pastor Moustache is stupid

Pastor Terry Jones of the ironically named “Dove World Outreach Center” of Gainesville Florida accidentally shot the floorboard of a car with his concealed weapon as he was climbing into his car after a television studio appearance here in Detroit.

Jesus told us to be generous and charitable so I am trying to be ‘generous and charitable’ by accepting the idea that the shooting of the car’s floor mat represented an ‘accidental discharge.’ Perhaps Pastor Jones mistook the floor mat for a muslim prayer rug that was hiding in ambush for him.

If you haven’t been following the story, Jones is a publicity hungry pastor with a fondness for his concealed weapon permit and outrageous ‘stache who preaches the gospel of paranoia about Islam. He had risen to fame in September for having first announced that he would burn copies of the Quran, then, after a lot of people asked him not to, he agreed not to burn the Quran… and then , apparently dissatisfied that the media wasn’t paying enough attention to him, he “placed the Quran on trial” in his church and found it guilty and executed it by, yes, you guessed it, burning it. As a result, a bunch of people who are as crazy as Jones is went bananas over the fact that Jones burned the Quran and they went on a rampage in different parts of the world and some people (including some Nato peacekeepers who really had nothing to do with Quran burnings) ended up dead.

Now Jones is here in Detroit because he and his followers want to do an anti-muslim protest in Dearborn, Michigan. Why can’t they stay in Florida? Dearborn has been in the news a lot lately because a lot of Muslims live here in Dearborn and every time some ‘terrorists on the brain’ legistlator in a state like Texas wants to get his base fired up over imaginary problems instead of trying to do something about real problems, they cite the ‘fact’ that ‘Muslim Sharia Law’ has been imposed in Dearborn (even though, based on the number of strip clubs and pork sausages availible in Dearborn, that is clearly pure fiction). Thus in places like Oklahoma and Texas, dirtbag politicians give their public profile a boost with the local nut jobs by introducing ‘anti Sharia Law’ legislation. Because they think their constituents should be more worried about imaginary problems that the legislator can ‘prevent’ than real problems that their legistlator just wants to ignore.

The First Ammendment to the US Constitution is a wonderful thing unless you consider all of the ass-headed stupidity that people do with it. I guess I have to admit that it is within Terry Jones’s rights to do these things, but I wish he wouldn’t. Given all the shit he stirs up and the obvious ‘paranoid vision’ of the world that Jones holds, perhaps it would be poetic justice if some other religious extremist made his paranoid fantasies come true and went ahead and made Jones a martyr. But I wouldn’t wish for that because that would be wrong. Unfortunately, while Jones pulls his stupid stunts that get other people in other parts of the world killed, he is allowed to drive around shooting the floorboards of cars by accident.


A to Z: T is for Tana Tak

T is for Tana Tak: (click on any pic to enlarge)

“…An enormous ruined dome in an ancient ruined city of unfamiliar design houses an ancient consciousness 100s of years old that enslaves creatures by replacing their will with it’s own…” “…in a pool hidden in cellars deep beneath the ruined dome, a gigantic brain, the source of this mysterious consciousness, rests… guarded by enslaved creatures and mechanical traps and safeguards…”

The original drawing (above) of the brain… from one of my notebooks.

In a painting of the same scene, I added tentacles to the brain. I think if I were to redo this, I might skip the tentacles… but then what would the adventurers be doing around the pool?

The ruins of Tana Tak are strewn with ancient statues of an unfamiliar humanoid race with oddly shaped eyes. No one (other than perhaps ‘the mind’) knows if these are supposed to portray the original inhabitants. The above picture shows a trail through the ruins to the dome.

A map/view of the ground floor and upper level of the dome. The upper level is equipped with bookshelves that have been mostly looted but might still contain a few of the ancient texts of Tana Tak (see below).

An isometric view of the cellar level of the dome. In the center is a round chamber with pillars equipped with a well that contains the brain. The cells around the well house some of the brain’s guards and lieutenants. North of that is a room with a large pool, some staircases and a room of mysterious powered coffins that may contain the remains of some ancients. South of the temple of the mind is a laboratory maintained by the mind’s servants. The various electronic devices are powered via a tank of electrical eels that are fed via an ingenious ever-renewing supply of troll meat. The captive trolls are quite insane from constantly having bits hacked off to feed the eels, then being allowed to have those bits hacked off again, etc.

A “mind zombie.” Note the vacant stare and ancient armor and weapons. I haven’t decided if someone who has been converted to a servant of the mind can be converted back. I’m imagining not since I envision the process similar to some sort of lobotomy.

The ruins themselves are overrun by ghouls that emerge from the rubble and crypts beneath the city at night. The denizens of the temple like the fact that the ghouls discourage most visitors and the ghouls do not seem to bother the temple.

The ruins were once famous for the books found there; unfortunately, due to their value, many of the books have been plundered (and are sometimes found for sale or in hoards hundreds of miles from Tana Tak). The pages of these books are usually sheets of thin hammered copper, gold or silver engraved with mysterious symbols. The ‘pages’ are usually bound together with rings. Sadly, many of the books have been plundered for the value of the metal from which they were made and were subsequently melted down for bullion. If means can be found to translate the symbols (some spells will work), some of the books apparently record unusual magical formulas.

This map of “The Northlands” has some of the names for regions/kingdoms I was considering at one time. Yes, we have kingdoms named “Amnesia,” “Catatonia,” “Moronika” and “Dementia.” Did I mention that Alluria is occupied by Amazons? It’s true!


A to Z: S is for Swamp (or Stone Heads)

S is for swamp.

I’ve been drawing and redrawing the maps for Aldeboran for years… moving things around and changing them… but the lower left hand side of my map always seems to be occupied by a large swamp variously named ‘Soutron Swamp’ or “Southron Swamp’ or something similar.

These swamps are notable for the difficulty they present to the traveler… and thus have become a haven for hermits, bandits, cultists and others who would just prefer to be left alone. Inhabitants include swamp snakes, giant rats, gators, gar, poisonous insects, voodoo priests, swamp-dwelling lizard men and other creatures. Hazards include poisonous gasses, quicksand and mires, ghosts, diesease and other dissapointments.

The swamps are dotted with gigantic stone statues or stone formations that resemble men’s heads, hands and other body parts. These statues are always sunken into the muck and mud and covered in vines and moss, so their true extent and size is difficult to determine. Some insist that these ‘statues’ were not carved from stone, but are the petrified remains of a race of giants.

One particularly amusing (and probably apocryphal) tale from the swamp concerns an expedition by the famous adventurers, Karrl and Bluddo. These two worthies had set out from Eord with a band of mercenaries into the swamps on some errand or another. While there, they approached one of the stone heads and began to poke around in the massive cave that served as the carvings’ mouth. Here they found a large quantity of a possibly valuable substance that resembled gigantic slabs of ivory embedded in the walls which they eagerly began to remove. Since the mosquitos and biting flies were quite unpleseant, the mercenaries built a fire in the mouth of the cave to drive away the bugs.

At this point the tale grows less clear and the many different versions diverge. Some of the more rational tales claim that the mercenaries were too greedy and removed too much of the ivory-like substance embedded in the walls, provoking a collapse in which everyone in the cave were killed. Karl, Bluddo, one or two other mercenaries and the crew of the boat they had hired rowed back to civilization where the of ivory that had been removed from the cave was sold. Others claim that an earthquake crushed the mercenaries inside the cave.

One particularly lurid tall tale claims that the giant, provoked by the fire in his mouth and the pain of having several of his ivory teeth removed, awoke and began to stir, freeing his massive stone body from where it had been buried in the swamp. The majority of mercenaries were ground to death by the giants’ remaining teeth or spit out to fall to their death to the swamp that was suddenly hundreds of feet below when the giant abruptly stood up. A few unlucky mercenaries who had been exploring the twin caverns of the giant’s nostrils were shot hundreds of miles to the east when the giant sneezed.

Karrl And Bluddo, who had been seeking to explore the shaft that was actually the giant’s throat via a rope tied to the giant’s uvula, were nearly killed when Karrl, in desperation, invoked a nausea-inspiring spell that caused the giant to fall to his hands and knees and vomit them into the swamp.

An individual of dubious reputation who claims to have witnessed these events along with the crew of a swamp boat and a mule named Daisy (Djamm Flenders, recently of Eord and suddenly enriched by unknown transactions), claims that the stone giant, estimated to be at least two hundred feet tall, was last seen staggering off into the swamp in a southeastern direction.

In any case, the single large slab of ivory that was retained later found it’s way to the King’s palace where it has been rumored to have been used to manufacture a royal toilet seat and other various items of domestic royal comfort.


A to Z: R is for RATS!

R is for Rats!

Does anyone else remember the movie, “Ben,” with theme song sung by a very young Michael Jackson? Jackson was still black and still had a nose at that time, which made his involvement in a movie about telepathic killer rats all the more ironic since I remember seeing pictures of human corpses who had apparently been nibbled on by rats (the rats often eat the noses first — was Jackson’s future noselessness predicted by his involvement with the Ben theme song?).

If you don’t know, ‘Ben” was a movie from the 1970s and a sequel to a movie called ‘Willard.’ I barely remember the Willard movie… but I recall that ‘Ben’ was a film about a boy who had a pet rat he named ‘Ben.’ Ben was also a super intelligent telepathic rat who could control swarms of other rats. Scenes from the film included actors covered in fake blood thrashing around among tame rats who were probably trying to lick the peanut butter off of the actor’s bodies as stage hands off camera threw rats at them.
In Aldeboran, there are several kinds of rats. The houses, ships and barns of humankind are home to Norway rats, brown rats, black rats and other mundane vermin.

Of slightly greater concern are the ‘trench rats.’ These are bigger, bolder and more agressive than ordinary rats and tend to attack in swarms, making ‘rat catcher’ a full time job in the major cities like Eord.

Of slightly greater concern than trench rats are the ‘dungeon rats’ or ‘giant rats’ or ‘Sumatran rats.’ These are the big, hairy fuckers that have 1d4 hit points and who wander up and down the corridors of most dungeons. They serve as food for goblins and adventurers who forgot their iron rations… and dead goblins and dead adventurers often serve as food for Sumatran rats… ah, the circle of life. Why people on the world of Aldeboran refer to ‘Sumatran rats’ as ‘Sumatran’ when there is no Sumatra on this world is a mystery that the sages cannot answer. Similarly, there are ‘french cut’ green beans, ‘french fries’ and ‘french kissing’ in Aldeboran, but there is no ‘France.’ Go figure.

Mutant varieties, including albinos, have been encountered and the albino variety are sought after for their valuable pelts. Even more worrisome than the Sumatran Rats (which are bad enough, really), are the really fucking big rats. Some call these “Really Fucking Big Rats” or “Monster Rats” or “R.o.T.S.” (Rats of Tremendous Size). These can range in size up to 8-10 feet from nose to tail. The larger ones can bite a man’s hand off at the wrist. Do not fuck with them.

Rumors also persist of rats who have been altered or magically enhanced or mutated (or perhaps just blessed by the gods) and may have human-like intellect and build enormous ‘shadow cities’ beneath the earth where they have kings of their own and plot one day to conquer the surface dwellers, but this really must be nonsense. That just does not seem remotely plausible!

from Ben:

A young Michael Jackson wearing a terrifying pair of pants sings the theme song (warning: pablum alert!):