Category Archives: the map

Expecting Release

Until Twitter realizes I’m not a bot, I”ll be micro-blogging here.

I’ll try to keep to the brevity of the site. Though not the rules?

I got blocked out for posting too many links. That’s my best guess.

Twitter will have to up its customer service game if this is how things are going to be.

It pisses me off for 2 reasons. Main one is realizing I’ve become dependent on it for expression.

More micro-blogging throughout this time of tiny crisis.


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Secret Singularity – Youth in Extremes Pt 1


This will not be an anguished over bit of essay. And in that sentiment lies the essence of youth. Feelings are messy and presentation is frayed at the edges. This lack of composure is at the core of being an adolescent. Whether it is left to roam free or suppressed to achieve an approximation of maturity, it remains the unstable core driving experience.

Whereas tribal people were able to ritualize the hunt into a metaphor, the kids in the burbs are always going at it in a different direction. They have pop media consumption. Often at a parent’s chagrin, of course. Which is peculiar because compared to acts of real danger, the threats found in entertainment are largely immaterial, existing in a virtual space between dreams and puberty.

As a teenager of the 80s I can tell you that pop culture has always been perceive in certain quarters as something of an existential threat. A concern over “debased” values spreading like contagion manifested in mass hysteria events like the satanic panic surrounding Dungeons & Dragons in the US or the Video Nasties controversy in the UK. The idea of the killer meme existed long before there was even affective way to distribute them. Not to worry, the youth have always had a way of sussing out the transgressive


The hysteria over the minds of children, for me, always goes back to Dr. Wertham’s Seduction of The Innocent comic book trials of the 50s. The “good” doctor posits a world where a mere image of murder or mayhem is all that it takes to send a human mind into of a whirlpool of sadistic violence. And like all misdirected moralists, Wertham either disregarded or flat out missed the narrative context surrounding the offending images. By doing so the draw of these extremes is entirely missed

That moralists would always think so low of humanity has always struck me as a double standard. Not in an obvious way, though. The rhetoric here seems to equate purity with dumbness. That if exposed to true debauchery a person, let alone a child, would simply turn bad. This has never struck me as particularly strong positive message. To me the tempering of strong character comes from an exposure to adversity not from denying. Being able to approach big unwieldy abstract concepts like death, consciousness, and morality from a safe distance is invaluable.

I would put a finer point on this idea by saying that I do not think that using the imagination as a vent is the same as using it as a target range. A big mistake when coming to imaginary thinking is to see the will of the dreamer to be the same as that of the person in the world. The weight of things is much heavier in the world. I do believe that with the proximity of a secondary, albeit electronic, world to our own primary comes a confusion which must be navigated. So yes it is important to guide a passage through. However it should be with an eye upon the unbridled curiousity of the subconsciousness. And this thinking is dependent on letting the dreamer float away for a time into the relatively safe zones of imagined challenges and conflicts. (…to be continued)


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Projected & Considered


So here I am again. I’ve made a non-career of throwing myself at the wall and nothing sticking. But on occasions such as this, the first day of a year, I am taken by the idea of a start. Not so much a change mind you, I have been feeling too set in my ways to con myself into believing that one again. But for some reason I am still empathic to the idea of starting anew. But with deference to the past, of course

I have not bothered to look back at the posts before this one. Often it is this process of reflection on blogging past that stops the process dead in its tracks. What was I going to do? Why did it not happen or who didn’t care; more monuments to blockage and discouragement.
Imagine my surprise when I chose images at random from my stockpile of compulsively collected clips and found I had used all those images several times before! So much for being original!


There is a bit of double standard on the original. Sterne’s Tristram Shandy & Stein’s Tender Buttons are two works written so long ago that you’d think that the techniques employed there would be old hat by now. Nope, they still mark the outskirts, the places where no one but English Majors go. Brackage and Deren took film to the extremes of abstraction and everyone is still pretty much watching conventional narratives. And for the sake of brevity I will neglect the endless explorers of music who sawed away tonality and melody to sculpt sound. When we talk about something original, aren’t we looking for that thing we identify despite efforts by the artistic to obscure?

Believe when I say I am part of this condition as much as anyone else. I make the efforts to push along the edges of my own self confinement but these attempts are simple excursions, day trips to the outliers of the common experience. In recent years, I have built up these limitations on these expansive journeys into the unknown. It’s not the right time to watch this movie or book because I am tired or unprepared for the challenges that something singular will have on my comfortable niche. I often find that the internet has created this sense of over-curation, that nothing is approachable on its own but must be swallowed along with its connected commentary. The irony of modern times is that availability has blown out my ability to choose. Do I have time to give myself over to a book that takes six months to read or a movie that is over two hours?

This is not a desire to return to a point in the past. I doubt I have an insight to select a golden age or still point from which clarity could be achieved. I also do not see it as a complaint. I don’t think that it is a worthwhile means to gain pity. And really anything pity can buy is not much worth owning. Instead this observation is about delineating the shape of a condition for easy recognition. For only when can you see something is there any chance of doing anything about it. The trick is how to know what has past without getting tangled up in the processing of old information.

I had thought for a moment I would seriously just make this blog about how I never write blog posts. Especially since I have inexhaustible things to say about the process of not doing something. Procrastination is like dark matter, a theoretical miasma. I have tried all manner of guidelines to ignite the fires, to get over this sense of being on the verge of gettin’ it on. My blogging was very sparse last year. I imagine that it will still be like this for a while longer. I am still in the midst of finding a way of naturally creating content which does not feel like ambulance chasing the zeitgeist. It has its advantages in terms of visits BUT this was never supposed to that type of thing.


So what I will attempt to do is make TSFI more integrated with my other social media. Twitter and Letterboxd are my primary sources of writing on the web. And to be honest they have more to do with settling within the strictures created by someone else then some idea I’ve had about this type of writing experience. Despite this, I would also like to finish up The Secret Singularity posts I had begun last year and will continue to do that more for myself than anyone else. They are about me trying to work out the contours of a very large maze of terms and contradictions. I am hoping that this will eventually lead to something that frames my posts here. I would like it to encapsulate all my interests as I cycle through them instead of a banging on one of them so I become known as an authority on basketweaving or whatever. I am looking to create a dialog that crosscuts and reflects my interests. I am not trying to be a tastemaker but somebody who can describe what this feast tastes like.
So that’s it for now. Let’s see what happens. This was written with a minimum of edits and with the spirit of getting it done in full effect.


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The Secret Singularity – On The Verge

Often when I want to write about some pop culture/art object that I enjoy, I find it difficult to separate the experience from the thing. While I think it is a fool’s errand to try, I find myself trying to do it again. The deepness of the connection to certain items is hard to ignore. We all want for our favorite things to also be culturally vital


The truth of the matter is a vast majority of things are actually only significant to a subset of people. The first impulse when confronted with the “totem” of another “tribe” seems to be one of dismissal if not recognition. Personally harboring so many interests, I have to set some aside to pick them up later. The advantage in being obsessive on one particular thing, like Star Wars for example , is that a majority of your ever-shrinking leisure time is consumed by that one thing, the only thing that really speaks to you. I want to say that I envy that person’s dedication but I’ll be honest. Without variety, I don’t think I could be excited in anything. Contrast invigorates me.

stand off pilgrim

The personal affirmation element found in pop culture/art objects is severely underestimated. Most people are drawn to items which overtly express their personal values. The confusion between an actor and a role or author and a character are good examples of this association. It seems to be that no matter how much we are told that media does not drive behavior, we look to the book and record collections of famous and infamous people to be indicators of identity. Personality is ephemeral yet objects are not is a hard thing to parse. To be truthful this common confusion is discomforting to me. I think while our choices in entertainment or art do say things about us, we are the final arbiters. We are more that what we own and less than what we dream.


Though it is only in our actions that we exist in this world, the way that our imagination threads through our daily lives is striking. Often it is the one thing which keeps alive if not always safe or successful. There is a resonance in our choices, the ways we wile our time and the characters we chose to fixate upon does indicate something. I am just not sure that a majority of people are very good at valuation.

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The Secret Singularity – Buried Image

Facts 360 B.C. -A.D.2012 is a personal time marker for me. It is a reminder of when things really started to change in the world. Perhaps only when I noticed it but thankfully I do not have to believe in that difference. It felt that way so hence it is truth.

Truth , be it upper case or lower, is considered a transitive property these days. I would be remiss to say that I have been known to make this mistake, to believe the light of my ego is the only illumination. Through the dim powers of recollection, I connect this idea of transitive reality to R.D. Laing‘s The Politics of Experience. Forgive me if my recollection is blurred. I read this in high school so I make no claim of authority. Besides in a bit about the rubber-ization of reality, too much research is besides the point. Laing’s postulation of how the interior world of the schizophrenic as having an internal consistency is probably my first contact with surrealism.

The idea of dreams being the computer code of the brain makes this claim very hard to substantiate. I have memories of watching a bewildering documentary of Dali that was created by the man himself throws this idea of initial contact into question. And further more does it matter?

In the 21st century, Psychology is deemed psychic pest control, a means to root out buried evils, only inches away from fortune telling, which oddly has a better rep. To my thinking, the greatest value of this science is proof of the interior thought, the buried image. Instead of careful regard, this psycho-geography is feared and ridiculed. Somehow if we do not look in its direction, we will be protected.

Ignoring something has a limited usefulness. When thinking of surrealism, or its ancestor dadaism, focus is not the first thing that comes to mind. It is about the panic of the traffic jam or detention in a foreign country, where none of the words sound like your language yet decide your fate. Movement through this interior space is about understanding the shape of the imagination. Without understanding, facts and imagination become one and the same, an expression of control, a road to ruin.

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More Two Imagine

Okay here’s the last set. Sorry for the wait. Hopefully it was worth it for all of us.

The Land of Nod


While considering what to say about The Land of Nod, I thought of how much being a game writer has to be like being a singer/songwriter. There are clear expectations about what you do and yet, somehow, you have to make it new. The Land of Nod locates the elements of fantasy and pushes them ever so slightly in new directions. The levels of imagination, professionalism, and good humor that radiate from this work is really all that any major roleplaying game need offer.

I will admit to a sense of the particular when it comes to Fantasy. I am always grateful when gaming material stays on the side of setting rather than metaplot, teasing out possibilities instead of novelizations. As I’ve been puttering about with my own material this has been very helpful for covering things that needed covered and improving on what I was developing. The ideas and locations presented are easily popped from their frame and can be plugged in. Solid useful material on site and in magazine (print/pdf) format.

The Savage Afterworld


I must admit I am in a kind of awe of the community surrounding Gamma World and by extension Mutant Future. I have fond memories of GW 2nd edition. there was just something about its technicolor apocalypse which resonated with me and my friends tween-age heads. We thoroughly enjoyed it. But it is nothing compared to the levels of invention and depth that GW/MF players bring to it these days. It is very cool how this retro flavor has aged so well.

And as I surfed around and marveled at the next level gonzo of the post apocalyptic OSR, my exploration of it always winds up back at The Savage Afterworld. This site is not out to do anything more than keep this vibe alive. Creatures, encounters, news bits, and, not to mention a Thundarr the Barbarian expansion for MF. Great solid fun read.

A Field Guide to Doomsday

UN Radioactive Warning Sign 75%

I am not a big miniatures guy. That being said the Field Guide to Doomsday is amazing! The work that goes into this bestiary makes me come back just to see the latest creation.

Tightly focused in a way that my mind can not manage, it is clearly devised to keep the creature deprived GM stocked with unique denizens for their illuminated Post-Apocalyptic
wastelands. I could keep chaining adjectives together or you could just see for yourself!


I guess all this apocalypse talk is getting me in the mood! But seriously in these stressful times, I have found a bit of solace in these websites, these monuments to the Imagination. I find a lot of joy in seeing that people still find the time to dream of something greater.

A phrase that all ways makes me roll my eyes is “thinking outside of the box”. It may have meant something the first dozen times but now to me it often sounds like an empty platitude.
To place yourself outside of your own tiny circumstances is not simply to escape but to transcend. And by trying to see anew, there is always hope for a future.

osrlogo-newallblack (1)

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More One Can Imagine?

Here’s the first of two RPG site roundups I’m going to post.To see the site in question, just click the associated banner.


Elf Maids and Octopi

From lost planet science fantasy based on the art of vintage Prog rock covers to the possibilities of Mesopotamian D&D, the setting material at Elf Maids and Octopi is incredibly distinct material that impresses on me how much of a blank canvas a RPG can be.

The density of this almost dayglo material is filtered through that old school RPG totem, the chart, to suggest the sense of shiny invention that can be found in what is sandbox play A freeflowing free association in genre conventions which, I am pretty sure, would be a nitro for any gaming engine.The opposite of safe and obvious.


Dyson’s Dodecahedron

A crisp stylized presentation which places that gaming artifact, the map, front and center. Not to say that the explorations of character class and magic do not suggest opportunities for unique play but these renderings of dungeons and town really inspire the ideas of far off worlds rendered with the right mix of grit and clarity.

I am not surprised that many fantasy cartographers are developing their maps in this direction. It delivers its information with such aesthetic aplumb, you don’t just look at its spaces so much as escape into them.

Swords & Stitchery


Swords and Stichery must be the only swords & sorcery & sewing site there is. Though I have never seen anything about sewing machines, I really enjoy the relaxed muted tone of the site. A curiosity shop of RPG delights where an examination of a Edgar Rice Burroughs novel can be right beside setting notes which enfold genre photos to create a peculiar alternate reality.

Uncluttered and adorned with texts and graphics that evoke the 70s textures that created Dungeons and Dragons,I have found myself dawdling over the material more and more. This isn’t retro,its authentic. Something about how it’s stitched together makes it feel like whole cloth.

Metal Earth

In some ways Metal Earth does what you can expect to find at RPG site. A little bit of homebrewed rules, a touch of variant class work, some light theory and some maps. But just because it offers what you expect doesn’t mean there are not some surprises.

The maps and drawings have a nice rough “underground” edge to them which gives them such a distinct character. And then there is The Ruinlands setting notes which are seriously fantastic. The post apocalypse landscape presented there is like Gerry Pantner was Jack Kirby raised on Heavy Metal magazine and Saturday morning cartoons. Wild wild stuff that goes for it. ‘Not enough of that going on these days?’ I guess I was wrong!


Okay there is the first set of RPG site recommendations. I did not know there was going to be more than one of these. Like all my encounters with RPG material these days, it just spun out of control. Unlike the RPG game sites that inspired me to do this, like the movie blogs that drew into this, I am nowhere as prolific. They are so many people out there that kick ass and takes names daily that I figured I’d press myself to get something out today and tomorrow. Okay more like today and Sunday. No matter though I just want give a shout to all these amazing bloggers out there.

One of the biggest blocks I have about blogging is never knowing who this is directed towards.
Should I act like we all know what all these terms mean?Usually this is why I stay away from them the best I can. So let this post be an open invitation to talk about OSR and this upsurge in amazing RPG material. There is an opportunity for talk so why not?

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