Let’s get something straight right now…

Open letter to the US media: I refuse to accept that ‘potential’ or ‘possible’ presidential candidates are worthy of my attention. Someone is either a candidate or they are not. Do not enable ‘media-whorism’ or public displays of narcissism on the part of has beens, almost weres, also rans and book-deal chasers.
Are you a candidate?” should have only two possible and very simple answers (‘Yes‘ and ‘No‘). If a ‘potential’ refuses to answer those questions, do not report on him/her until he/she gives a straight answer.

Random notes plus Insert Weiner joke here.

Congratulations to Pole and Rope / Michael Curtis on winning a “Three Castles” award for his Dungeon Alphabet book. As artist for “C is for Caves” and “X is for Xenophobia” in that project, I get a mini pat on the back as well with his win, but the real ‘congrats’ go to the author… and perhaps to Goodman Games for having turned Curtis’ blog posts into a book.

I thought I wanted to say something about John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, Dominic Strauss-Kahn, Schwartzenegger and all the other men of power and position who have gotten into trouble with their dicks in one way or another, but what would be the point? In response to being confronted with the image of a man’s crotch with penis at half mast covered by jockey shorts that was sent out by SOMEONE from his Twitter account, Weiner was moved to say, “I’m going to say that I can’t say with certitude it’s me or it’s not…” Dork. Really? Is this the issue of the day?

Observation: If you know even a little bit of German, the name ‘Weiner’ isn’t funny anymore since you realize that ‘Wein’ means ‘Vienna’ and therefore “Weiner” is just a name that means “from Vienna.” Then again, in German the word for thick is ‘dick,’ so have fun with it.

Further Ruminations: People in positions of power are usually quite weird. The little people don’t (and probably can’t) understand them. Stalin used to make Kruschev do animal imitations in cabinet meetings. Mao would simply announce to subordinates that he wanted to fuck their wives and they should send her over at such-and-such a time. I don’t know if these people start out weird and this helps them get to the top or the process of clawing their way to the top of the heap makes them that way… but on a scale of weirdness, sending underwear pics is probably pretty tame stuff.

In Boston, Sarah Palin, apropos of absolutely nothing, presented a rather muddled idea of basic history when she described the midnight ride of Paul Revere thusly:
“He who warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells, and making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”
Really? I’d try to tell her what is wrong with that bit of word salad but I don’t even know where to start. For the record, I don’t think she is stupid, I think she just does not give a fuck… which is probably worse.

Breaking news edit: The wizards of Wikipedia have been having trouble with Palin supporters editing the entry on Paul Revere in order to make it coincide with Sarah Palin’s version of the story. I can’t decide if this is hilarious or just depressing.

In other news, Dr. Jack Kevorkian (aka Dr. Death) died the other day… although details are sketchy, it does not appear to be suicide. Ironic, huh?

Let me see your clown license!

“We’ve got a lot of good clowns. We’ve got a lot of honest clowns. We’ve got clowns that mean well and do well. But there’s just a handful that don’t and make a bad name for the rest of us.”

Current Projects — treading water

The ‘Exquisite Corpses’ book is still in production, but I have hit some creative blocks / snags on my end so things are not progressing as fast as I would like. A proposed and half finished cover image is at right (this was supposed to be a wrap around with the dungeon wall on the back cover serving as a background for text and the adventurers and monsters on the front cover). Since starting the painting at right, I’ve gotten what I think is a better idea for a cover image… so this one has been mothballed at this point.

I’ve had a few private commissions I’ve been working on, including some fantasy/rpg pieces which will hopefully see the light sometime in the near future. One set of paintings I did at the end of the year last year still haven’t been published, so I am waiting before I can display those… but I wish they would hurry up and publish so I can show off the paintings… I was pretty happy with how they came out. Hopefully I’ll eventually get to show them off in my illustration portfolio (www.stefanpoag.com).

I’m also working on a BIG mosaic floor that is supposed to be installed sometime this month(www.stefanpoagmosaics.com)… which is coming along great but needs a lot of work. It’s about 6’3″ square (it was originally 6′ square but an error by the builder added 3 inches — ouch!) and features images of bees, colorful honeycombs/hexagons, etc. I post pics later when I get it in a more presentable state.

Finally, I’ve been recruited to do all sorts of home improvement projects, including a large vegetable garden with an 8′ high wire fence to keep the deer from eating all the plants. The fence is up — although it needs more posts… the sheer weight of all of that wire fence is causing the fenceposts to sag a bit. That surprised me — the posts are weather treated wood that are about 4×4 thick…. but this is my first ‘Stalag 13’ style fence so later this summer I’ll be planting more posts (sigh) and now I have to come up with an irrigation system that won’t make the vegetables cost too much due to the huge amounts of water we will need.

So I’ve been busy. Happy Saturday. Gotta go get to work!


A while back a friend asked me if I had ever heard of “looners.” I hadn’t. He went on to explain that ‘looner’ is short for ‘ballooner’ and was code for people who had a sexual interest in balloons. I still don’t know much about ‘looner’ culture other than the fact that whether or not it is acceptable to pop the balloon(s) during or after the ‘deed’ is a very controversial issue within the ‘looner’ community (yes, there are anti-popping and pro-popping factions) and typing ‘looner’ into google image search will turn up tons of images of naked people with balloons (It seems the looners buy lots of porn — a slightly more publicly acceptable sample of ‘looner’ porn can be seen at right).

I’m not against ‘loonism’ (if that is a word). It is certainly kind of bizarre and I doubt I would be able to prevent myself from laughing if I caught someone ‘looning,’ but, honestly, it seems harmless enough (unless you happen to be a balloon I guess).

One of my first questions about ‘looners’ was, “What did these people do before balloons were invented?” My friend rolled his eyes heavenward and said that such strange questions were ‘typical’ of me… but I really do wonder if the fetish for a particular object can predate the object. I’m not sure when rubber or latex balloons were first invented… but if you were a ‘looner’ who had the misfortune of being born in a time before the inflatable objects of your desire were available, would you wander the world, unhappy without knowing why? Or would you transfer your feelings of affection to some other object? The ancient Chinese apparently had silk bags which were sent aloft by flaming material suspended underneath— would the early ‘looner’ have desired a floating, fiery bag of silk instead of a squeaky latex balloon? I read that the ancient Romans used to inflate the bladder of a slaughtered animal and kick it around for fun — were there Roman ‘looners’ who took the sheep bladders home for more private amusements?

I don’t know if there is an answer to these kinds of questions… I just feel compelled to ask them. Any ‘looners’ who happen to read this, please respond.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The real Father of D&D?

Poor Gary Gygax probably went to his grave regretting ever having stuck proprietary words like “Hobbit” and “Ent” into early editions of Dungeons & Dragons. The legal headaches from The Tolkien Estate were probably bad enough, but he probably had to endure more than one clueless bore reciting Theoden’s family history or Chapter 5 of The Simarillion at him from memory during all those conventions. And Gygax often said he didn’t even LIKE Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”

So I was surprised and somewhat delighted to learn from one of the blogs I read, “Vinatge Wargaming,” that Tolkien and his friend C.S. Lewis apparently played wargames for a period of time in 1939.

The references are somewhat oblique, but the two authors/academics were joined in at least one of these games by an army officer named Peter Young. From Vintage Wargaming:

For different reasons all three men sought an escape from their personal experiences of war. It seems that they evolved a complicated fantasy medieval world, where they fought at irregular intervals a mixture of a role playing and wargame campaign, punctuated and inspired by alcoholic intake at the Eagle and Child. Each man ruled an independent kingdom with castles, peasants and armies. Their name for this game was “Donjons and Flagons”, and it was fought using the patriotically incorrect (for the time) Elastolin composition Ritterfiguren (knights) bought by Lewis and Tolkien from Boswells in Broad Street. The embarrassing source of these figures from Germany may have been one of the reasons for the very sketchy detail that has existed to date about this game.

Donjons and Flagons?” Seriously? My jaw hit the floor. Then I noticed the date of the post: April 01, 2010. I was totally suckered. Well played, Vintage Wargamer… well played…

Triffids invade my Garden!

We have a bad case of ‘Japanese Knotweed’ invading our side yard/compost heap area and Annie is certain that the knotweed will send roots down into the basement walls and attack the foundation.

Knotweed looks like bamboo (especially after it dries) and I first noticed it last year (before I knew what it was or how persistent it is). Since the neighbors put in an ugly-ass plastic stockade fence, I didn’t mind this mysterious bamboo-like plant that grew tall over the summer and helped obscure the plastic fence. Later we discovered it is considered and invasive species. At first I used a machete to cut it all down. Within days, new plants sprang up, 1′ tall or higher. It was almost as if you could watch that shit growing. Although I hate herbicides (and Annie hates poisons even more), I bought some of that evil ‘Round Up’ and sprayed that on the surface root clusters after having whacked it all down with the machete a second time. Round-Up barely slowed the knotweed down. Now I’ve gotten out a series of tarps and ground cover cloths, whacked down the standing plants with a machete for the fourth or fifth time and covered them up, hoping to light-starve them to death. Already I see that the sprouts are pushing up the tarp and the knotweed colony is sending out shoots to areas not covered by the tarp. Dammit!

This knotweed stuff is adaptable and fast growing. Annie found out you can eat the young stems (steamed), but it just doesn’t taste like anything… chopped knotweed stems in spaghetti sauce or similar dishes just add bulk, not flavor (at least no flavor that I can detect). It is supposed to be a good source of reservatrol. I’ll keep it in mind as a ‘bulk fodder’ to keep us alive after the economic collapse occurs.

I’ll always carry a torch for you…

Apropos nothing in particular, here is a picture of a medieval shopkeeper selling torches (picture courtesy of wikipedia). I was inspired to post this by Mythmere’s bit on torches on his blog.

Looking at the picture, I wonder if the woman is saying, “You know, underneath this gown and wimple I am wearing a chainmail bikini.” Plus, in the picture it looks like “Ye Olde Torche Shoppe” is right on the edge of a cliff — the customers have to stand really close to the counter to keep from falling to their deaths.

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!):

The Piasa Bird

I grew up in St. Louis, Mo, and my father’s family had owned farmland in the Alton, Illinois area in the 19th century. So it is not surprising that I grew up familiar with the legends of the ‘Piasa bird.’

In 1763, the Catholic priest (who went on to be creditied with the founding of Saint Louis) Father Jaques Marquette and his crew of explorers were travelling down the Mississippi River when they discovered a gigantic painting of a fantastic creature upon the river bluffs. It had a man-like face with giant teeth, a snake tail tipped with a fish-like flipper, wings, clawed feet and antlers (the image at right is a reproduction based on early settler’s drawings; the original was unfortunately destroyed because it was painted on stone that was subsequently discovered to be of value for lithography; the original painting (which might have dated back to the Cahokia civilization of ~1200 CE) was cut up and carried away). Father Marquette and his explorers noted the good quality of the painting and could not figure out how anyone could have painted the picture on a cliff of that height. They also worried that the painting might depict a real creature (they were among the first Europeans to visit this part of the world which was, at that time, a big white space on the map with a question mark). They called it ‘the bird that eats men.’

I grew up believing that the word ‘Piasa’ (which is pronounced “Pie-uh-saw”) was ‘bird that eats men’ in the native language. As it turns out, no one can agree on why the explorers called it a ‘Piasa.’ Some think is is a reference to the French word for river bluff and others think it is a native word. Most think the original was a symbol of The Cahokian Civilization. The Cahokian civilization dissapeared before any Europeans made it to the midwest, so no one knows much about them.