The Living Magick Tarot Challenge: January 2011

Image Courtesy of Living Magick.

Here we are again folks, but I’m happy to say I’m back on track. You may recall that last month I confessed to doing just about nothing with my cool Living Magick tarot learning cards, despite committing to working on it just one month prior. I may lack discipline, but at least I’m honest.

This month I did a much better job of working with the flash cards, but it was frustrating because I’d forgotten much of what I had learned in November! So January was about relearning the Major Arcana, and I’m pleased to say that with regards to that I’m now in good shape. I know the general theme of each card, its astrological association, and some other keywords associated with each card. Once you remember the general theme, the keywords are pretty easy to recall since they’re generally off shoots of the general theme. The astrological associations were a bit tougher until I remembered what I had learned from “The Magical I Ching” by J.H. Brennan.

For a class I needed to learn the basics of working with the I Ching and Brennan’s book was the main text for the class. In learning the trigrams he suggests coming up with visual cues for each trigram, and the more bizarre, the more likely you are to remember the meaning. For example, his text about the trigram of Gentle or Wind is as follows:

To help you remember the trigram itself, I noted that it was broken at the bottom. There are few things you could imagine quite so rude as breaking Wind from your bottom.

I know, I know, this sort of image is thoroughly unsuitable for a sober tome on a spiritual oracle…but you’ll never forget that trigram now, will you? And by the way, if you must break wind, do it gently. That way you’ll remember the other title of the trigram.

I love me some Brennan! Now Living Magick’s tarot learning cards do not have images, which I rather like because these days who knows what image will appear on any given card of any given deck. However, I was still able to use absurd associations to help learn the astrological signs for each card.

For example, the astrological association given for The Fool is Uranus. I immediately thought about how young kids (and well, many adults) will always chuckle at Uranus. You said Uranus…heh, heh, heh. So obviously a fool says Uranus. Is it sound logic? No. Has it worked? Yes. More bizarre still was while learning a favorite card of mine, The Hanged Man, its astrological sign is Neptune. What odd string of logic did I use to remember this? The Hanged Man’s legs are generally drawn with one leg straight and the other bent. It’s kind of trident-esque and the trident is often depicted with the god Neptune. It’s totally weird and embarrassing to admit to, but it’s getting the job done.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to apply this “logic” to learning about Cups in the Minor Arcana, but I’ll obviously let you know how it goes. And again, thanks to Living Magick for the great deck! It’s a real boon for a beginner like me!

Shepherd’s Pie with The Magical Buffet

I rarely do follow ups on stories we publish. I’m not certain why, but I suspect it has something to do with me being equal parts absentminded and lazy bastard. However, an invitation to my parents for dinner at our apartment presented me with a chance to follow up on an article written for The Magical Buffet by Dawn Hunt.

On December 19, 2010 Dawn Hunt, the fantastic lady behind Cucina Aurora Kitchen Witchery, offered up some thoughts on magical cooking and shared with us a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie. I decided that dinner with my parents would be a perfect occasion to try out her recipe.

When I woke up that morning our apartment smelled delicious. Wonderful meaty, rosemary aromas were wafting into every nook. Confused I wandered out to the kitchen to find that my husband was already cooking up the meat mix and making the mashed potatoes! He figured we’d make the two parts up in the morning, and then just put it together and throw it in the oven when it was close to dinner time. That worked out great, and even better for me because I ended up doing next to nothing for dinner aside from eating it!

Behold! There be Shepherd's Pie!

We all declared the Shepherd’s Pie a success, however everyone but myself found it to be a touch bland. Here’s the thing about that, I’ve been suffering from some extreme indigestion and heartburn lately so Jim cut back on the amount of onion and garlic that went into the dish. Given my body’s condition, the meal was great, but I suspect if he had used the full amounts of onion and garlic everyone else would have found it to be more flavorful. Sorry folks! My bad!

Anyway, I thought I’d let you know that Hunt’s recipe has now been taste tested and approved by The Magical Buffet! I’m hoping to have Dawn back again to share more kitchen witchery and recipes with us, until then, I really need to get around to trying Deborah Blake’s rum cake recipe…..

The Essential Ida Craddock

In the interest of not getting my latest book review caught up in spam filters, I will not be using its title here, instead I’ll use its subtitle “The Essential Ida Craddock”. How sad that even in these modern times there is still trouble trying to share Craddock’s work?

Now that we’re past the email excerpt that gets sent to you if you’re a subscriber (You are a subscriber, right?) let’s give this book it’s due by using it’s full title. Thanks to the kind folks at Red Wheel/Weiser I was given a copy of “Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic: The Essential Ida Craddock” to review.

Who is Ida Craddock? The photo of Craddock on the cover shows an attractive woman of her era (she was born in 1857 and sadly took her own life in 1902). If not for her claims of having an intimate relationship with an angelic being, she would very much fit the profile of a conservative spinster. However, Craddock’s willingness to discuss sex (and the idea that the act may exist for reasons other than procreation), whether you believed her partner was an entity from the “Borderlands” or an elicit, but earthly affair, forever changed the way that people view sex, magical and new thought traditions consider sex, and she ended up dying a martyr in the fight for free speech. She defended the belly dancers of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, championed the idea of sex as a spiritual act, and in the end, faced off with the notorious Anthony Comstock. Craddock lost the battle with Comstock, but the publication of her suicide note certainly turned the tides of the war champions of free speech were waging against him.

When Craddock took her life, her work was packaged away to be kept safe. Despite endorsements from medical professionals, spiritual leaders, and several members of high society, Craddock’s persecution led her to determine that society may not be ready for her work. Fortunately, through the diligence of the lawyer Theodore Schroeder her works were preserved, and now author Vere Chappell has polished and compiled them for a culture that may be ready to learn more about Craddock and her writing.

Vere Chappell provides the readers with important unedited Craddock writings, such as “Heavenly Bridegrooms” and “The Danse du Ventre (Dance of the Abdomen) as performed in the Cairo Street Theatre, Midway Plaisance Chicago: Its Value as an Educator in Marital Duties”, but more importantly he provides the necessary historical context to understand Craddock’s work and life.

“Sexual Outlaw, Erotic Mystic” gives the reader amazing insight into the life and work of woman little mentioned but deserving in recognition.

Immortal Blues: Part One

By Greg Bullard

Welcome to part one of the nine part fiction series “Immortal Blues” by Greg Bullard. In our first installment there is gun fire, spanakopita, classic blues music, and eventually a decision to visit The Crone.

The world slowed down around me – the same way it always does when someone tries to kill me. I’d love to sound all blasé, remark that this is so tedious, but truth is, to this day my knees still get shaky when someone tries to ice me. It doesn’t matter that they’ve almost no chance of succeeding.

On this particular cool April night, I had just rounded a corner in the Lower East Side when that feeling hit. You know the feeling – ok, probably not – but it’s like your head is suddenly submerged in a bucket of ice water. You come out frosty and alert, senses firing on all cylinders, the world moving in slow motion, acutely aware of everything. That’s the feeling I had now.

Briefly I mulled over what was special about tonight that someone should try to off me, but I came up with nothing. I’d just left this little Greek place in Greenwich Village. Their spanakopita was worth the trek. It was made by the gnarled fingers of an old Grecian grandmother whose face had so many lines it looked like she’d worn out a few bodies getting it there. She didn’t have many years left on her, so I went a few times a month. In my situation, you have to be mercenary about these things. It all goes by in a blink.

I was walking along towards no particular destination, head full of cobwebs, submersed in the sensory deluge that is New York City – a cacophony of sights, smells and sounds fit to drown out everything else in the world when that frosty feeling hit. I took stock of my situation.

Mostly I could smell the bucket at my feet, full of cigarette butts soaked with run off from the earlier rains. Nearby, dinner was almost ready for someone – meatloaf I think. Beyond that, I could pick up rank body odor muted only slightly by the last traces of soap used earlier in the week; both were topped with a fresh splash of cheap beer.

I was facing the wrong way; I didn’t see my would-be assailant. All I saw were the tenement slums of the Lower East Side, broken in spots by the black iron bars of a closed business. Most of those doors had been shuttered for years or more.

From a cracked window overhead spilled the dulcet tones of a blues guitar. Blood dripped from the end of each dying note as the calloused fingers of the blues man picked out each sound and gave it up to the world as an offering of his pain. I paid attention to which window it was. When I sorted out this life and death shit, I had to pay him a visit.

The only other thing I heard was the creaking metallic strain of the spring in a double-action revolver as the hammer drew steadily and quickly back, cocking the gun to fire.

I swung my head around to catch a glimpse of my assassin. I locked gazes with him and took the full measure of his thoughts. He was scared. He wasn’t a killer; he was a hard-up loser paid to pull a trigger for the cash it took to ride his addictions straight to hell. Poor, sad bastard.

Click. The hammer passed its first position on the way back to locking full before crashing forward onto the firing pin.

There were at least seven ways I could kill him in that interminably long tenth of a second playing out in slow motion as his gun readied to fire. Instead, I nodded my head imperceptibly in his direction, reality twisted slightly and I took a step to my left, into the shadows.

Fire blossomed from the end of the gun and at speeds that were fast even for me the bullet travelled the distance between us and collided with my chest, neatly piercing the skin, shattering and rupturing the bones and organs underneath. The relative silence of the nearly abandoned city street was destroyed by the report of the gun. The fading echoes were punctuated by the thud of my body collapsing back in a heap, eyes open to reflect the glint of the odd street light not burned out from neglect.

At least, that’s what he thought happened.

I moved unseen on noiseless feet to my killer’s side and lifted the bundle of cash from his pocket. He didn’t really need it and after he tried to kill me, I really deserved it. Besides, it could lead me to whoever hired him. His eyes were fixed on a spot on the ground, twelve feet in front of him, where he was certain he was watching my lifeless body bleed out on the pavement. He turned and ran.

The acrid smoke from the spent cartridge nearly drowned out wet cigarettes, unwashed bodies and cheap beer. Overhead, the last note of Robert Johnson’s, “Hell Hound on my Trail,” spilled out of that same cracked window and hung in the air just like the smoke, drowning out the world around it.

My eyes lingered on the spot where I’d just died, at least as far as my junkie, killer friend was concerned. My stomach flip-flopped, but I was determined not to lose my spanakopita. I wiped my forehead on my sleeve, even though I wasn’t sweating. Settling my hat back on my head, brim down low, I took comfort in the shadows hiding my face.

My fingers closed on the wad of cash in my pocket. Would my answers lie there? The Crone would know.

In the distance a woman screamed, a long keening wail that ripped and tattered what calm remained within me.

I took off at a brisk pace, my steps chewing up the distance as I made for friendlier streets. Behind me the blues guitar launched into the oddly upbeat Blind Lemon Jefferson song, “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”

About Greg Bullard:
Greg currently resides in Austin, TX, trying to do his part to Keep Austin Weird. While his wife, Julia, and daughter, Emily, both work hard to keep him on his toes, it is Julia’s red editing pen that does the most work. When he is not muddling his way through some fiction, he usually writes about What Greg Eats.

My Trip to Darkside

On Saturday January 15, 2011 I went to the grand opening of Darkside Records and Gallery in Poughkeepsie, NY. A couple of my former retail cohorts are involved with the business and I couldn’t resist coming out to show my support, and it was really worth the trip.

I was blown away by the store. They have tons of albums, actual honest to goodness vinyl records! I know vinyl still has a following (or has a following again, depending on your perspective) but I was unprepared to see the sheer volume of people that came in just to shop for vinyl records. People were leaving with two or three shopping bags worth! The store is also selling record players and I was sorely tempted to buy one and go to town shopping for vinyl, but I managed to show some self control, the last thing I need is yet more stuff to collect and store.

Another great surprise was that the gallery part of Darkside is actually a gallery. I had kind of imagined the “gallery” would be like what you see at coffee shops, where the art is hung up with big price stickers and just generally not very exciting or overly professional. Well, Darkside’s Gallery is a gallery. I got to meet the gallery’s curator Vanessa, and the staff told me about the exacting work it was to make certain each artist’s work was handled correctly and displayed to the artist’s specifications. Instead of big ol’ price stickers there are discreet numbers near the work that allow the staff or customers to look up the price.

The artists who were being shown at this first exhibit were Chris Machin, NUB, and Jessica Schrufer. I fell in love with a piece Jessica Schrufer did and fortunately they were selling prints of it. I have it framed and hanging above the sink in our kitchen and it never ceases to bring a smile to my face when I look at it. Jessica told me one day she’d love to have a kitchen designed around the piece, and I’ve got to say, I would too.

Not only did I buy some great art, but my husband and I bought the greatest magnets ever. When Jim caught up with me at Darkside I explained to him that the store was selling these 100% pure awesome magnets and I was having a really tough time resisting buying some. He told me I could certainly buy one if I wanted, but I told him that was the problem, I couldn’t just choose one, there were too many fantastic magnets. When I finally took him over to the box with the magnets, Jim quickly conceded that I was not exaggerating in the least, that these magnets were too awesome for words. In the end I picked the “La Muerte” magnet, Jim picked the “I Spit on Your Grave” magnet, and then together we decided to add in the “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” magnet. I bet you wish your office filing cabinet looked as bad ass as mine does now.

File Under B for Bad Ass

If you’re anywhere near Poughkeepsie, NY you’ve got to stop in, it’s a real treat. I’m hoping once we’re clear of the unpredictable New York winter season I’ll be able to visit each month for the reception for the new art exhibits.

To learn more about Darkside, visit their website.

Modern Knights: Stewards of the Earth

by Kerr Cuhulain

I’m a modern knight. That doesn’t mean that I go about in shining armor seeking dragons to slay and maidens to rescue. It doesn’t actually involve wearing plate and chain mail at all. It does mean that I’m committed to a Code of Chivalry. It means that I recognize my connection to the Earth and that I’m a steward committed to protecting the world we live in.

As I said in my new book Modern Knighthood: The white knight is a fictional character. This image of the perfect white knight has a lot in common with the Wiccan Rede. Both are ideals. The Wiccan Rede says “harm none”. But consider: To stay alive, we must eat. We live because we consume dead plants and animals. Death comes from life and life from death. The challenge, then, is to find the balance, to be the steward who tries to be responsible and maintain balance within the natural world, knowing that they are part of it. A popular Wiccan song reminds us that we all come from the Goddess, and to Her we all return.

Some people seem to think that “going green” and living organically is an expensive path that’s out of their reach. Anyone who has been to visit the Motherhouse of my Order of Scathách can see very quickly that this isn’t the case at all. We’re all very conscious of environmental and green issues. A lot of our training centers on making ourselves stewards of the Earth.

It’s easy to do and can actually save you money. First on the list: Turn down the temperature. Someone back in the 50s decided that our homes should be heated to 70 – 72 F (20 – 22 C) to be comfortable. I think that the person that came up with that may have been working for a furnace fuel supply company. We’ve had the temperature here at the Motherhouse down at 62 F (16 C) for years and everyone is quite comfortable. It saves us a lot on heating and reduces our emissions.

Secondly, we make sure that every electronic device that doesn’t need to be plugged in is unplugged. A lot of those devices, even though they are “off”, have power lights or clock displays that use energy. If the computer isn’t in use, it’s off. We keep any lights off that aren’t being used. When I renovated the Motherhouse I installed a lot of skylights and windows to eliminate the need for using artificial lighting in the daytime.

Thirdly: Grow your own food. All of the kitchen herbs and many of the medicinal herbs that we use here we grow: oregano, sage, lemon balm, thyme, chives, parsley, chervil, rosemary, marjoram, basil, etc. We’ve got a small greenhouse that it all fits into. For example: I grow so much feverfew in the garden (which is really easy to grow) that I supply it to all the migraine sufferers in our Order as well as my fellow employees at work (who’d otherwise be paying a fortune for it at some health food store). There are a lot of things that you can grow, like chamomile, comfrey, and horehound, that can replace the medicines you’re currently paying a fortune for at the local pharmacy. We grow our own potatoes, tomatoes (in the greenhouse), rhubarb, onions, garlic, asparagus, and beans and save a fortune. It is all organic and you don’t pay exorbitant prices for it.

Fourth: Reduce waste by composting. All of the kitchen waste, dryer lint, and shredded documents go into the composts (we have four). I’m sure that many people balk at this after checking out the prices of composters on line: Some sell for hundreds of dollars. However, many cities offer their citizens deals on cheap composters these days as a means of encouraging this practice to reduce the amount of waste going to their landfills. Surrey, BC, where we live offers really good composters for only $50. All our compost goes into the aforementioned garden and saves us having to buy fertilizer.

Fifth: Cook your own food. I’m constantly amazed at work at the amount people spend on junk food. They tell me that they don’t have time to cook. I’m sure that it was some convenience food advertising that convinced them of this. Quite a few have converted once I showed them how little time it really takes and how little it costs. I bake all of my own bread and all you need to do that quickly is to invest in a good mixer with a dough hook. Did you know that you can bake really good bread in a ceramic flower pot? The Welsh used clay pots for centuries to bake bread (I just made some today). You get food fresher and with less additives and eat healthier. If you buy local produce, you support local farmers while keeping down the pollution as the food you buy wasn’t trucked or flown in from half a continent away. I just published a cookbook on ancient recipes that has lots of old fashioned stuff that is easy and cheap to make.

Sixth: We pride ourselves on having a neat and clean Motherhouse, but it doesn’t cost a fortune in cleaners to do it. We use vinegar to clean the hardwood and tile floors and baking soda to scrub out bathtubs and sinks. These do a great job at a fraction of the cost.

About Kerr Cuhulain:
Kerr Cuhulain has been a Wiccan for 40 years and was involved in anti-defamation activism and hate crimes investigation for the Pagan community from 1986 to 2005. Kerr was awarded the Shield of Valor by the Witches League for Public Awareness. Kerr is the author of the “Law Enforcement Guide to Wicca”, “Witch Hunts”, “Wiccan Warrior”, “Full Contact Magick” and “Magickal Self Defense”. Kerr has a column with 182 articles on anti-defamation issues and hate crimes on The Witches’ Voice web site called Witch Hunts. His latest book, Modern Knighthood, is now a Smashwords ebook. He is the co author of a safety book for social workers and nurses: Safe Approach. He is starting to write fantasy fiction now also.

Kerr is the former Preceptor General of Officers of Avalon, an organization representing Neo-Pagan professionals in the emergency services (police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians). Kerr retired from the Vancouver Police Department in November 2005 after serving 29 years with them. He was awarded the Governor General’s Exemplary Service Medal. Kerr’s past job assignments within the VPD include the Emergency Response Team, Hostage Negotiator, Child Abuse Investigator, Gang Crime Unit, and the Mental Health Emergency Services Unit. Kerr is currently working as a police dispatcher and trainer for ECOMM for Southwestern BC.

Kerr is the Grand Master and founder of a Wiccan order of Knighthood called the Order of Scáthach in Surrey, British Columbia in October 2007. The Order is now a registered society in the province of British Columbia and the sponsor of Vancouver Pagan Pride. The Order of Scáthach embraces the Warrior philosophies, precepts and code of chivalry outlined in Kerr’s books.

To learn more about Kerr, follow his Twitter feed, read his blog, or friend him on Facebook!

The Age of Disco

By Rebecca
Illustration by Will Hobbs

In my opinion, my husband is a genius when it comes to table top role-playing games. When it comes to ideas and variety of storytelling techniques, there are few I’ve encountered that can compare to him. (For those of you unfamiliar with the kind of games I’m talking about, I’ll direct your attention to an interview with game designer Steve Kenson who did a great job discussing RPGs for beginners.) Jim has this neat ability to see or hear a snippet of something and suddenly just whip out a great idea. Routinely I’ll sit with him in the car and just start throwing out random thoughts and ideas about something he’s considering and generally the dumber the suggestion the more likely it is that he’ll evolve it into something awesome. One example, a villain who is a master of Feng Shui that kills people by rearranging their rooms in a way that blocks the necessary flow of energies for survival. That started with me suggesting that if a game is set in modern day San Francisco you needed some kind of hippy/new age villain.

It’s that kind of awesome that made it so when one day Jim said to me, “How about a disco martial arts setting?” I knew it could be bad ass. All the fun of the 70’s, complete with disco music and dancing, but the martial arts were actually a part of the disco dances of the era. I immediately fell in love with the idea. In fact, I loved the idea so much that I instantly came up with the idea for an introduction vignette in which one of those disco warriors talks about the time in her youth spent fighting a secret war couched in disco. Of course, my fangirl levels of excitement can’t actually force Jim to create something when his head isn’t in it, so my little story has been just hanging around on my computer waiting for some love. That’s when I decided that although I’m not really a fiction writer, (or a writer, for that matter) this story was pretty fun and that I would share it with Magical Buffet readers.

So here, for your enjoyment I present to you what I’m currently calling “The Age of Disco”…… (By the way, I totally call dibs on the disco martial arts idea! Mine! Mine! Mine!)

I’d been watching her for months. Three or four nights a week I see her climbing either out of, or back into her bedroom window. The whole neighborhood is populated by the aging, those of us racing towards retirement. A veritable paradise to a 16 year-old girl looking to sneak out of the house; just wait until all the “old folks” are asleep and the night is yours. I doubt she ever realized that I’m a bit of a night owl.

Tonight I watched her climb out of the window and race off into the night. After her departure I climbed up and stuck a note to her window, “Come over tonight, or I’ll rat you out to your parents. Tina” She’ll come, I know her type.

I was once a 16 year-old you know; climbing out of my bedroom window, catching a cab, hopping the subway, and dancing my way through every disco club the city had to offer. I wasn’t out for a thrill and I wasn’t looking for love. I just wanted to dance. Fortunately, as I’m sure my young friend has discovered, when you’re a 16 year-old girl willing to show a little skin, there isn’t really a line you can’t jump to get into a club. I’ve noticed the smudged ink on her hands; she’s been stamped at a multitude of bars.

After months of dancing my way through some of the finest, and sometimes sleaziest, discos the city had to offer I finally settled on my home base. It was a small storefront club. It boasted none of the trappings of most other clubs; no velvet rope, no bouncer, no neon sign; just a small plaque by the door with the name “Tony’s”. The interior was relatively drab. There was a small bar, a wooden dance floor, and a modest raised platform where the DJ spun some of the best disco the era had to offer. Yes, good disco. I had danced there for months before I finally met Tony.

There was a rumor that Tony, despite being an African American, had actually spent 10 years in China before returning to the U.S. to open his club. I assumed it was a rumor designed to give a sense of international chic to what most people would consider a dumpy, small time disco bar. One night I was out on the floor, dancing with some schmuck who thought he had a chance, and the next thing I knew, I was dancing with Tony instead. He was older, and black, and everything my parents would fear for me if they knew I was out on my own at sixteen. If they had ever realized what had happened to me, I would have never seen the outside world again.

Disco has a hidden heart, pulsing with a secret rhythm that if tapped into can change the very fabric of reality. Tony had been to China. The monks there taught him the most secret and sacred of martial arts. Tony hid the moves and beats within the very disco music dominating the dance floors. It turned out there were dozens of factions, some good, some bad, and some neutral, infiltrating the popular culture through disco to fight a secret war with the enlightenment of mankind on the line.

I became a warrior in low rise blue jeans and platform shoes. I was Tony’s devoted disciple and he rewarded me with powers normal men could not imagine. I danced in a fury for a better world, risking my life and soul for those who could not dance for themselves. I was just a girl, but I gladly sacrificed what was left of my childhood to become a soldier, and how was I rewarded? How were we all rewarded? With ridicule. Me, and my fellow warriors of disco, became a joke, a punch line to a decade of excess. Good or evil, it didn’t matter in the eyes of the people. We were jokes, and we were done.

It’s hard to sacrifice so much only to lose so much more. Tony tried to hold onto to hope. He went to every two-bit radio station’s “disco sucks” rally to try and reason with the populace. He would dive into piles of burning LPs, trying to save the precious records of our greatest battles, all the while being jeered and pelted with beer cans. Soon enough “Tony’s” was boarded up, if you drove pass it today you would find a Starbucks. As for Tony, he disappeared. Rumor has it that he lost his life to the dark forces that worked so diligently to destroy the age of disco. However, I hope that he returned to China to work with the monks that tried so hard to enlighten humanity.

Of course, either way, he’s gone. Now I’m an unmarried, 50 year-old disco warrior, stuck waiting for a teenage girl to knock at my door. And right on time, I hear the knocking.

“All right Tina, I’m here like you asked. What’s your deal?”

“Drop the attitude missy and help me move this trunk.” Curiosity compels her, just like it did me years ago. She helps me with an over-sized locked trunk.

“Now sit down, shut your trap. You’re going to learn something tonight young lady.”

I pull the chain from under my shirt; the key dangling from the end unlocks the trunk. I pull out a record player and plug it into the wall outlet. With great care I dust off a pair of wooden platform shoes and place them in front of my young companion. Next to the shoes I set the pair of large golden hoop earrings that I unearth from the pouch they are kept in. Lastly, I pull out a single record, “Main Course” by the Bee Gees.

“These, my young friend, are our weapons. With these we fight against the oppressors. These things represent freedom, power, and potential. What we do with these things, determines our destiny.”

“Okay Tina, I don’t know what you’re talking about, but you can tell my parents about sneaking out. I’m out of here.”

“You will stay right there!” I order. I put on the earrings, and slide on the shoes. I carefully remove the album from its sleeve and start it playing.

And with that, I begin to dance.

When the song ends I open my eyes and look at the 16 year-old sitting on my sofa. Her eyes gaze up into mine, with tears running down her cheeks, and she says one word, “Master.”

10 Questions with Featherscale

1. What is the origin of Featherscale?

(Mike) As far as the name, it’s from Egyptian mythology- Book of the Dead, Maat, a heart and a feather… Go look it up. It’s some neat stuff. I’m not really sure exactly where I lost control of things, but it started off as a solo project- Topaz Stars in a Violet Sky, recorded for the RPM Challenge.

(Tim) I thought the album was great. Made me miss playing music. Mike and I played together off and on for 14, 15 years? A lot of open mics, but never pulled together a long-term project. We played a lot of covers and drinking tunes. We lived together for a couple of years when I was a student, and Mike was punching the clock doing retail.

(Amber) A little over two years ago, Mike posted on Facebook that he was looking for a drummer to expand his musical compositions a bit. Partly in jest, I wrote him back. I hadn’t played out in many years and was very rusty. I remember how nervous I was the first night we got together; I kept dropping my sticks! (wait, ok, I STILL do that!). It was only a short few rehearsals that we really clicked, musically, intellectually, spiritually. If he wasn’t married to a dear friend of mine, and well, if I wasn’t … ummm … let’s just say we work well together.

(Tim) This spring, at Pagan Odyssey, I got a chance to meet this Drummergrrl that Mike had been raving about. Most of the jokes and grief we were giving each other are unrepeatable, and would probably land us in jail in most southern states, but we were all shitfaced around the campsite that first night and I was borrowing guitars to jam a bit with them and a bunch of other friends. Amber, at some point, asked me why I was wasn’t playing anymore, and I realized that the perception that I didn’t have the time was basically bullshit. So, it got me thinking. The next day, they played their gig for the fest, and I was impressed that they made it work as a duo. He was leaning heavily on is loop pedal in order to fill out the sound and it was breaking up the pace of the performance in places. By the end of the set, I basically had decided that I was going to crowbar my way into the band. I’m a jerk like that.

(Mike) A month or so later, the three of us play Beltaine at A Sacred Place, with my buddy Rob on fiddle and guitar. We’re still without a bass player at this point, but this was where Justin came in.

(Justin) I met everyone officially at ASP. I had known Mike for about a year and we had gotten to know each other a little better at Maine PPD, so I had asked him to bring a guitar so we could jam. I met Amber and her coterie of camp followers when my wife Dawn and I arrived, and I met Tim a little later on when he showed up.

(Tim) Justin and I ended up hanging around most of the rest of that day, while Mike was tending his booth and Dawn hers. I think by the end of that couple of hours, we were, as Dawn put it, in the throes of a “bromance”. In addition, “Sex Potatoes.” If you weren’t there, you won’t ever understand, but I say again: “Sex Potatoes.”

(Justin) We got to talking, and Tim asked me to do play sound man for the show they were doing that night. I hadn’t had the chance to do a whole lot musically in a while, so I was pretty pumped to even do sound again. Mike asked me to join them on the last song about 2 hours before the show. I was flattered. The band hadn’t even heard me play. They had no way of knowing if I even knew what to do with it. So that night I did sound and accompanied them on Hail and Farewell.

(Tim) It was informal, off-the-cuff, and he wasn’t even amped or mic’ed, but it was the first time that Featherscale all played together on stage.

(Justin) Later that night came the, now infamous, Featherscale campfire jam. With a bit of Scotch, a bit of Guinness, too little of Tim’s kilt, and far too many horrific jokes, Featherscale began to come into its own. I’m pretty sure it was later the next day when Tim/Mike/Amber asked me to try my hand at bass, and I said “Um, sure! I don’t play bass, but what the hell. I’ll figure something out.”

(Tim) Justin immediately went and traded in a bunch of his guitar gear, and shows up to rehearsal with a complete bass rig. So, at this point, I know I was thinking “even if he sucks, we’re kind of stuck with him.” Well, by the time we had gotten him up to speed on a couple of tunes, I think we all knew that we had found the last team-member.

(Mike) Once all of us get in the room together, we have this amazing chemistry that just takes over and carries us miles beyond what any of us could do on our own. The group really evolved in a way that I don’t think any of us could have predicted, but it’s totally magickal. Really, the whole being greater than the sum and all that.

(Justin) And the rest, as they say, is a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.

2. How would you describe Featherscale’s sound?

(Amber) I would describe our sound as traditionally modern Celtic rock. Keeps the foot tapping and the beer steins swinging!

(Justin) I’m not quite sure how to answer this. Apart from the fact that our sound changes for different songs, our sound changes depending on our mood. We came dangerously close to making Gallilee a metal ballad, and The Ballad of Thomas Meagher is a Punk/Irish drinking song. Samhain always gives me an October Rust era Type-O-Negative vibe. It’s hard to pin down in a simple phrase, but I’ll try: PaganIrishRockPunkDrinkingSongsToHaveAGoodTime/DieTo. Remember I’m only the bass player.

(Mike) It’s rock. There’s little bits of blues and folk and metal and Celtic trad, but like I said before- Once we all chime in, we end up with something that goes way beyond what we put into it.

(Tim) I’m not sure that we really have a particular “sound” beyond “loud”. I listen to our rehearsal tapes and we change the entire style and approach to the material with surprising regularity, and often by accident. Two of the tracks on the upcoming album are recycled from the first Featherscale album because they are so radically different than the original recordings.

(Amber) Justin with heavy metal, Tim with classical and traditional folk, Mike with rock and metal, and myself creates for surprisingly unified sound.

(Tim) Yeah, I think I can live with calling it “Rock.” I’m still putting a lot of loud grating stuff through my noggin, but I’m also going back to the stuff that I used to listen to before I was so damn hip. Robert Johnson, BB King, Spider John Koerner. I’m rediscovering Julian Cope and a lot of the odd shaped edges of pop, though part of that comes from wanting to figure out how they build certain guitar sounds that I’m secretly coveting.

(Mike) I love loud, overdriven metal and punk stuff, but for me, it’s always been about the song, rather than the style. My all-time favorite acts- Zevon, Cash, Cohen, Pogues… they’re all great storytellers first and foremost. I honestly believe in this idea of a bard having a duty to communicate in a way that people can understand and relate to, so I really look up to bands like the Cure, Oingo Boingo, Pink Floyd, Bowie- Who were able to make revolutionary art, but in a way that was still accessible to the average radio listener.

3. This question is for Justin, who failed to send in an official bio for the Featherscale website and thusly has been stuck with the goofy one Mike wrote for him. Justin, would you like to tell my readers about yourself?

(Justin) The bio on the Featherscale site is entirely true. I had asked Mike not to mention any of that until I could come up with a decently plausible explanation to my whereabouts, and he goes and tells my personal information to everyone on the web! I really feel like I’ve been abused. . . again. And this time by a friend, not someone who I thought was a friend, but an actual friend, who is now someone who I only thought was a friend. Dammit. I play bass. I’m not supposed to be smart. And yes if you must know, I am 216 years old. But you’re only as old as you feel. And I feel like a spry 110 year old.

(Tim) Mike also left out the part about how he killed a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

(Justin) Just Kidding. Thanks for asking. Mike has a very unique sense of humor. And when I saw what he had written after waiting for me to hand in my bio, well, I knew I was in the right band. I have been playing guitar for about 14 years now, and in December it will be 6 months for me playing bass. It was a fun transition. I was playing rhythm guitar in a progressive heavy metal band off and on for 7 or so years and then stopped playing entirely for a few years.

4. For that matter, now that Justin has introduced himself, why don’t you guys each take a turn in introducing yourself to my readers?

(Tim) I never know how to answer this question. I’m utterly fascinating and mysterious. I’m Aquaman in a kilt. I like power tools, hate doing laundry and believe that Monday should be abolished.

(Amber) I’m the lady, and level mind of the group 🙂 Or at least, I keep things rhythmically level. I picked up my first pair of drum sticks when I was ten … well actually, they were chop sticks because my parents didn’t want to invest in such an elaborate, expensive musical instrument collection until I could prove my dedication. Nineteen years later I’m still playing!

(Mike) I’m an artist. Whatever media I can get a hold of- music, paint, wood, clay, whatever. I’ve been Pagan for a long time now- I pretty much found some Wicca 101 book my freshman year of high school and just never looked back. I’m also thoroughly immersed in the western world, so I have a house and a dog, watch TV, work a job, and bitch about politics. Also, I really like jalapeño poppers.

5. On your website you talk about how at a festival the members of Featherscale and your associates did all of the following: performed, facilitated a Bardic Circle, did a storytelling performance, provided campfire entertainment on two nights in addition to the previous mentioned performances, brought three vendors and ran four workshops/classes on Kitchen Witchery, Magickal Tools, Initiatory Lodges, and Sacred Storytelling, provided sound equipment for other performers’ use and ran sound for those performances, and did Tarot and Rune readings! With your group bringing THAT MUCH to the table, have you considered hosting your own festival? Think about it, The Featherscale Festival sounds pretty good, right?

(Tim) OK. Yeah, we did that. Sort of by accident, in fact. It wasn’t until we got to talking after the fact and totaled up everything that we presented that we realized how much stuff we had done at that event, since we had only booked the Fs show with each other’s awareness.

(Justin) There has been some unofficial chatter about a Featherscale festival. Me personally, I would never run a festival. Not my cup of NyQuil. If it did happen, I would have to relegate myself to a helper role – like sound tech, or bouncer.

(Mike) [Tim’s wife] Kate and I have talked about it. Truthfully, Tim is running a fledgling ceremonial order, Amber has school and a 5 year old, and we all work day jobs- I myself do the band full time (which really is a lot of work), run my business full time, and work a mundane job to boot. I also have a short nap penciled in for March. I’m also on the Elder’s Council for A Sacred Place, so I sort of have a hand in running events there anyway. None of us has the inclination to take on yet another project of that magnitude. You know what- forget I said that. Sooner or later we’ll decide to go for broke, but not in the foreseeable future.

(Tim) Fs is sort of an emergent property of “we’re all there anyway”. Mike runs the Haunted Wood and makes all sorts of magickal tools, my wife, Kati runs Antika Nueva, makes jewelry and a line of soaps and salves, and Justin’s wife, Dawn, runs Cucina Aurora, and is a kitchen witch par excellence. Being a vendor sucks a bit, in that festivals are real work, so performing is the part that we look forward to. As for running our own festival, I wouldn’t want the headache. Me, I’ve got enough on my plate running a cult. Organizing a festival would make my head implode.

6. What’s the best thing about being a member of Featherscale?

(Mike) Well, we have a great health plan. Most bands just don’t offer dental and vision these days.

(Amber) Well there truly isn’t only one thing to mention; it’s the whole package that ties it all, brings us all together. We are not just a band, we are a group of very, very close friends. I think I can speak for us all in saying that we’ve found a support structure unlike anything any of us have had before. If the band stopped performing tomorrow, we’d all still be close and in each others lives in a very meaningful dimension.

(Mike) It doesn’t hurt that these are some of my favorite people in the world- When we do festivals, we all set up next to each other, and camp behind the vending booths. We do communal meals and keep an eye on each other like family. I can honestly say there’s nowhere in the world I’d rather be than sitting around the camp passing around the Guinness and Sex Potatoes, playing music and hanging out with these guys here.

(Justin) It’s the harmony. We all participate in writing and arranging the songs. A lot of the stuff we play is based around songs Mike has already written, but when we start to analyze a song in rehearsal, it takes on new life. We make it our own unique sound, whether it wants to or not. It’s quite nice to be able to do that, and be encouraged to do that. At my second practice I was basically told: “You are gonna’ have to be the balance between Mike and Tim, so speak up if you have an idea”. And strangely enough, I have ever since.

(Amber) I never had the opportunity to be so much a part of the music I was taking part in. Who I am as a person, so many of the ways in which I have grown in the last two years, has had a great deal to with being a part of this group of wonderfully talented musical souls!

(Tim) At the risk of waxing horribly bathetic, The best thing is being with friends. I love making music, but frankly, I love my band mates and their kith and kin more. We’re pack. We’re hands, and heads and hearts for each other. We make each other better, more human, more kind. Making music together is bone on bone intimate way below the skin. Being able to criticize without cutting, and fearless enough to call bullshit on each other, and to have love and trust enough in each other to work together to make it all happen is purely Tantric. And when it comes together, the payoff is that we know more about ourselves and each other.

(Mike) Really, spending time with people you care about, working hard at something meaningful and spiritual that you love doing, and being recognized for it- there’s nothing better in life.

7. Your new album is releasing very soon. How would you describe it?

(Mike) If you’ve heard us live, you’ve got some idea what to expect- But it will be a little more sophisticated. There are things we can do in the studio that we haven’t been doing live, so there’s going to be a few surprises. Samhain, for example, we’re looking at some Hammond organ. All in all, there are 10 songs that have never been released, and at least 3 of them, NOBODY’S heard before. We’re also recording the version of Invocation we’ve been doing live, because it’s so radically different than the version on Topaz Stars. Rob McClung from that first ASP show will be laying down some fiddle tracks and helping with the post-production at his studio. We’re also hoping to bring in Jenna Greene for some vocals, and maybe another special guest or two.

8. Does Featherscale have any live performances scheduled? Where can my readers go to see you perform live?

(Mike) The big priority right now is getting the album recorded and ready to drop, but there’s talk of playing a few shows around the NH seacoast over the winter. Mostly, we play festivals- so spring is busy for us. We usually play 2 or 3 Beltaine events, and we’re planning to return to Pagan Pride around New England in the fall. A Sacred Place is also planning a Pagan music festival for June, which should be a good time- I’m actually doing the bookings for that. Featherscale will be there, and we’re [ASP, not FS] also negotiating with some really good performers including a couple nationally touring acts. The best way to keep updated is to join the mailing list or friend us on Facebook. (Update: Featherscale will be performing at Landrock Studios in Rollinsford, NH on February 5, 2011.)

9. I’m a decent singer, any chance I can get a guest spot on the next album?

(Mike) We’ll talk. Have your people call my people and we’ll do lunch. Do people still “do lunch”? I’ve gotta’ quit learning my agent lingo from 80’s movies. What was the question?

(Justin) Absolutely. As long as you have the proper forms filled out in triplicate, and receive authorization from the home office in a timely fashion. And possibly a wet T-shirt contest.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

(Mike) Well, I’m clearly a man who knows buffet. If this were video that would have totally been a great sight gag, ’cause I’m a big guy… You know what? The jokes don’t always work. Just roll with it.

(Justin) I’ve been to Chinese buffets before. The after effects were. . . gastrointestinally pyrotechnic. If I frequent The Magical Buffet, my spirit won’t blow up like the Death Star will it?

(Mike) Parting question… How would you rather buy our album? We sell CDs both through our website and through retailers like Amazon.com, plus at live shows and a couple Pagan shops. At the same time, our music is available through iTunes, Napster, and the like. We also don’t get bent out of shape over file sharing- we just ask that the ID3 tags be complete and include our website url. We have a donation button on the site- if you download our music from a P2P network, we’d appreciate a couple bucks, but we’re not going to be jackasses and sue you or anything. So there’s the question- CD, download, or donation?

Justin, if you frequent The Magical Buffet I will turn your spirit inside out and then have it explode, just like that pig lizard in the movie “Galaxy Quest”.

Alas Mike, I am of a dying breed. I love buying actual, physical CDs. I love album cover art, I love liner notes, and I love printed lyrics. I love holding my favorite CD in my hand. Unfortunately our apartment has to bear the weight of my preference in the fact that it has to accommodate the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of CDs that I own. I’ve been trying to buy more music from iTunes and just have it on my iPod Touch, but I sleep better at night rolling over and seeing the CD there on the shelf.

Hey Buffet readers, let’s help Featherscale out with some informal market research! How do you prefer to buy music: CD, download, or donation? Post your answers in the comment section for Mike to review! And thanks for your help!

About Featherscale:
Featherscale blends acoustic and electric sounds to create their own brand of Pagan rock with undercurrents of blues, metal, and just a touch of the Irish drinking songs they grew up with. With influences as diverse as Leonard Cohen, the Pogues, Warren Zevon, and the Ramones, Featherscale will make you move, laugh, and think with their skillfully written tales and heartfelt performance.

Picture if you will – A cool summer night, an open clearing in an ancient wood, and a roaring campfire. Around the fire, people laugh, sing, dance, and share stories and songs. The drinking horn is passed around again and again, and never runs dry. Woodland spirits sneak glances from the wood and the night seems to go on forever. This is Featherscale. Learn more at www.featherscale.com.

Whitewashing History

By now most of you had to have heard about a new edition of Mark Twain’s classics “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn” being published with a few minor edits. I was going to provide you a link to a news story, but at this point the internet is so flooded with articles and opinion pieces about it that I couldn’t decide what link to use. If you want to see some stories about it, go to Google News and type in Mark Twain and go to town.

Now it’s no secret that I’m against censorship, and also, coming from Illinois, a place where a day trip to the Mark Twain cave complex was almost a required rite of passage, I have very strong emotions about someone messing with Twain’s works. And despite him being a plane trip away from the land of Twain, my friend Greg Bullard also had a strong reaction to the news, and so he emailed the publishing company about his concerns. His email, while passionate, was respectful and expressed a level of understanding of the publisher’s position. What happened next was remarkable, he got a response.

Obviously given my horrible track record for getting responses to my letters, I was amazed that Greg received a prompt response. What was even more amazing was that the email he got in return acknowledged Greg’s concerns and respectfully presented their argument for the edits. Yes, in this land of 24 hour news cycles churning out controversy to fill air time, a land where thanks to the internet people can immediately present their knee jerk reactions for the whole world to see without the writer giving a moment’s thought to any repercussions or another individual’s feelings, in this land of hypersensitivity, I witnessed a respectful exchange of opposing positions. It made me proud to be human.

Here are Greg’s thoughts and reflections on this issue and his experience with the publishing company.

Whitewashing History
by Greg Bullard

“Who told you you might meddle with such hifalut’n foolishness, hey?” – Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn.

The past is a tenuous thing, held together by our perceptions, which are themselves, shaped by the world around us. The written word marks the most concrete bulwark of that past. Once we start chipping away at those words, I fear for the stability of our cultural history.

By now, many of you have guessed where I am going with this. NewSouth Books is soon to release new editions of Mark Twain’s beloved classics Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but with a few “minor” changes.

Upon reading of the changes, I was incensed, furious and several other words. I took to my keyboard and within minutes had fired off a letter to three key members of the publishing team at NewSouth Books. Figuring I had done my due diligence, I dropped the issue and went on about my day. Then, not two hours later, the unthinkable happened, Randall Williams, Editor, NewSouth Books, replied to me.

Among other things, Mr. Williams wrote, “Professor Gribben’s intent is to make Twain’s boy books accessible to students whose teachers do not now teach the books because of the repeated use of a single word.”

Along with his reply, he included the introduction for the books written by Dr. Alan Gribben, English Professor for Auburn University at Montgomery, and co-founder of The Mark Twain Circle of America.

Professor Gribben wrote, “We may applaud Twain’s ability as a prominent American literary realist to record the speech of a particular region during a specific historical era, but abusive racial insults that bear distinct connotations of permanent inferiority nonetheless repulse modern-day readers. Twain’s two books do not deserve ever to join that list of literary “classics” he once humorously defined as those “which people praise and don’t read,” yet the long-lofty status of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn has come under question in recent decades.”

Having read the introduction, I replied and reluctantly agreed with one point. If their editing of those two words results in Twain’s works being presented to a larger audience, I would be hard pressed to fault them.

However, I went on to state that they are setting a dangerous precedent. While we must abide the loss of subtle nuances from translation of texts, we are not yet at the point where English has changed so much that Twain requires translation. While some of the slang and casual dialog may be more difficult for inexperienced readers, it does not present an insurmountable obstacle.
What is next, I asked? Would we see a similar treatment for To Kill a Mockingbird? A note to whomever tries it, Harper Lee is still alive, and I suspect she would deign to come out of her seclusion to take that fight personally to the editor who is so bold as to change her words.

Once again, Mr. Williams replied with a record of his personal and professional struggle against racism and other -isms. He concluded by writing, “But this edition of Twain has a specific purpose: to broaden the audience for the books.”

I honestly wish them luck. If Twain’s words see a larger audience because of these changes, which is the lesser of the two evils? For my vote, I would think an education with 99% of the words Twain wrote in those books is better than one with 0% of them.

However, in the end, I will still fight the whitewashing of our past. The FBI agents in ET had shotguns, Han shot first and the most honorable man to ride a raft with on the mighty Mississippi is Nigger Jim.

I invite you now to share your opinion, if you have one, on this issue. However, in keeping with the spirit of respectful discourse that Greg and NewSouth Books have established, I ask that you follow their example in debating this issue.

About Greg Bullard:
Greg currently resides in Austin, TX, trying to do his part to Keep Austin Weird. While his wife, Julia, and daughter, Emily, both work hard to keep him on his toes, it is Julia’s red editing pen that does the most work. When he is not muddling his way through some fiction, he usually writes about What Greg Eats.

Geek Month in Review: December 2010

By JB Sanders

All the Geek that’s fit to Ho Ho HO.

Virtual Worlds Made Easy
All you need to visit this virtual space is a web browser. Seriously.

Strange Terrestrial Life
NASA announced that a form of bacterium that uses arsenic instead of sulphur as one of its basic building blocks has been discovered. This is odd because no other form of life on the planet — not mushrooms, not bugs, not animals, not us, not anything (even slime-mold!) — is built that way. Freaky!

Fly-over of New York City
You’re expecting this to be some footage from 1982 or something, right? I mean, come on! Who can do a fly-over of NYC in this day and age? These guys, that’s who. In an RC airplane at 7am in the morning (when regular air traffic is light). And sure, the TSA and NYC police talked to them — but no arrests or nasty exchanges. Amazing!

Oh, and for the RC enthusiasts out there, a link to the setup they used.

New Leonardo DaVinci Codes Discovered
Well, not “new” exactly. “Previously unknown” is probably a better way to put that. Sill, Leonardo was one of the biggest geeks of all time, so any new codes from him is note-worthy. This is some more of his un-deciphered mirror-writing. Good stuff!

You Got Virus in My Battery!
Scientists are working on a way to take a virus that typically afflicts tobacco plants, coat the little beasts in nano-particles of metal and stuff them into batteries. Because there are so many of them and they’re so small, the coated viruses will provide much more surface area for the electrode, dramatically increasing the battery’s storage capacity. Nifty!

Real Light Cycle
So these guys built a real working replica of the Light Cycles from Tron (and not to be confused with the flyers from Return of the Jedi, like I did the first time I heard of these things). Neat looking, but it looks about as maneuverable as their movie counterparts.

Who Started It All?
Ever wondered who created the longest running science-fiction tv show? Want to see some still pictures of them? Click away!

If Day-Old Soup is Better … How Awesome is This?
Archaeologists in China uncovered 2,400-year-old soup. That’s right, it’s been stewing for 24 centuries. That’s some concentrated awesome right there. The soup was found still liquid in a sealed bronze container.

Burning Liquid Sulfur: Blue Flames!
Ever wonder what a sulphur mine inside a volcano might look like? Wonder no more — awesome photos ahead!

Lego Antikythera Mechanism*
That’s right, you read that correctly. Combine the worlds best make-it-yourself toy (Legos!) with an ancient device discovered in clay jars in a shipwreck. What’s the result? Pure concentrated awesome!

Lovecraft eBooks*
Did you know his stuff was public domain now? No? It is! Download away!

Map of the World: Facebook Style
Fancy ray-of-light visualization of all the users on Facebook, based on geographic location on the globe. Bonus: dense math explanation about how the map was generated based on friendship relationships. Neat!

Lost Your Head? Found!
Among the types of “antiques” and “collectibles”, a mummified severed head is not one that immediately makes my “must have” list. Anyway, what a great find to discover that your mummified head is Kingly. Woo!

What Happened to the Water??
Ever wonder what Niagara Falls would look like without all that pesky water everywhere? Wonder no more!! Bonus: grainy 60’s video.

Air Condition the Whole Outside
You’ve heard your Dad say it countless times, but now it’s Real. Some brain trusts have come up with a sculpture that produces cooler air simply by the nature of it’s structure. Oh, and of course, it’s made from 3D-printed sand. The idea being you set up a few hundred of these near buildings and micro-climate those hot days away.

Changing Wallpaper
You’re expecting some kind of funky, new-fangled “paper” that users computers and gizmos, right? Nope. It’s just standard-old wallpaper with various color images overlaid on it — and then depending on what light you provide, you get different images. It’s almost Victorian!

Fish Keys
Great little stop-motion animation of underwater zen — all done using various metal implements.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CWOebTREVU

You Want Real Faces? You Can’t Handle Real Faces!*
Behind the scenes of the fantastic-looking, realistic faces in the new video game LA Noir. Figure out if someone is lying to you by actually looking at the character’s face in-game. Video link is a behind-the-scenes of the tech.

A Very Zombie Holiday*
Not sure about baking etiquette during a zombie outbreak? Have no fear, this instructional 1950’s-style video is here. Best line? “Kids? It’s time to give Gammy her Christmas gift.”
Bonus points for the Serenity/Firefly reference.

* These links thanks to Alex. Thanks, Alex!

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com