Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Cerne2CERN the Pilgrim's Tarot

I may have dropped the occasional clew here about how I found the God/Esss and what I did when I found them. If haven't, doubtless I will before long. In the interests of openness (as a byproduct of which I might try to sell you some tat - see below), I will tell you the tale of the day we finally immanentised the Eschaton.

There's no way easy way into this tale so I shall start, by explaining that this is/was either a complex joke masquerading as a religious ceremony, or a complex religious ceremony masquerading as a joke. A third possibility: Daisy Eris Campbell, central to this production, once yelled orgasmically "FUCK PUNCHDRUNK! This is how you do immersive theatre" (no offence intended, I went twice to the Punch Drunk producion "The Drowned Man" - wow! Took my daughter once to let her roam alone, one of the greatest things a dad can do).

Now it's certainly true that, if you take 69 fee-paying members of the public, call them all "pilgrims", cram them in a double decker bus for 5 days to see some far-out sites around Europe, implicating them all as audience, actors, directors and writers of a collaborative unfolding, there is a fucktonne of theatre involved. Exactly who's playing whom though... hmmm?

When you offload Daisy's charabanc trip at a spot in a field in the centre of Europe where also lies the geographical centre of the largest, least-dense, unmass of empty space in the entirety of our known universe (a 27-kilometer torus buried deep under the Alps, known as the "Large Hadron Collider"), which also happens to be on the exact site of a former Appolonian temple, and whose nearest neighbours (according to Google Maps) are the "Chaos Killers Motorcycle Club", then you're not just talking a pile of scatology, you're talking eschatology. When you start this trip, to visit the Large Hadron at that temple to moderity CERN, with a trip to touch the large hard-on at a temple to ancient times called Cerne then this whole caper has gone a bit beyond a joke.

(Is this all starting to get a little tweetle-Beatley for you yet? Far out! If you only came here for simple Role-Playing Games... well, hang around as the ride may get more Real than yer usual story game)

When you reach the centre of the universe and you finally do this (below) - and you decide that you've been doing it all along, since the universe began - then at least you know that you've boldly fucked about where no being has ever fucked about before:

When you look for clues, clews, threads, yarns, coincidences or synchronicities, you find them all at rates that bombard a human mind faster than quarks looking for holes in a wall. When all of that happens, and you find yourself in Gawain's Chapel Perilous, you may avail yourself of rest in the garden around the tower which the maestro of the synchronous, Carl Jung, built with his own hands. There you may take a breather, and listen to the wise words of Merlin, "root and branch will change places and the newness of the thing shall seem a miracle", while a sudden twister whips the mirror-smooth surface of Lake Zürich opaque, then ends just as rapidly as it began.

When you try to explain any of this in plain English, as my friend The Door heroically did, shortly after our return from Out There, you will find the task impossible. But since when has anything that's not impossible been really worth doing, anyway?

In the words of our patron Bill Drummond, "if we knew why, we wouldn't be doing it".

In words I once used myself, and use again, with nods to TS Eliot and Einstein: All this happened. This all a-happen-will. Oh Ma-ma-ma it's all a happening now!

To restate and expand upon some of the above in a slightly (but only slightly) more grokkable way:

A little over three years ago, 69 "pilgrims" travelled from The Manhole Cover in Liverpool (a site which Carl Jung - who never visited Liverpool-  dreamed about in the dream which he claimed was his most important) to Bollingen, where Carl Jung lived in a tower.

Inside that pilgrimage was another pilgrimage, from Cerne Abbas in Dorset to CERN on the French/Swiss border.

Inside that pilgrimage was a holiday at Damanhur and the Temples of Humankind, the eighth wonder of the world, where the 69ers learnt to speak in a silent language made of dance. Nobody knows what the fuck was going on.

Before the trip, in the midst of a maelstrom of over 5,000 emails, these 69 each chose a Pilgrim Name. Each then designed a Pilgrim Tarot Card. We should probably have made metal cocks and vulva badges (we did at least have one Norwegian witch hard gentle genital-sounding ancestor-child the Völva) but, to be honest, 5,000 emails and we just didn't think of it. We're not that kind of historical reënactment society. 

Perhaps surprisingly, nobody chose names from any "standard" tarot deck; I came closest, deciding at first the be The Fool (I had serious previous with foolery: I'd been appointed, by random ballot, the Official Fool of Festival 23). But I then thought "everyone is going to want to be the fool and so, haha, for a witty postmodern joke I'll the The Twat". But I then thought "gosh, should I really be appropriating female genitalia? when we also have this most wonderful term, The Pillock".

(Male/female/non-binary issues were a bit of a theme of our games, as we journey from Cerne-man's shaft to CERN-woman's hole and we all accidentally had... a story for another day).
The cards submitted were a rainbow of ideas, pictures, styles, collages and personal sigils. Dotted among the pilgrim cards were significant locations and concepts, from Cerne to CERN, from the Chaos Killers Motorcycle Club to the Toilet on the Bus. They were wonder-full! 

I was privileged to be the one collating these designs into an actual deck of "tarot" cards. My mate Chris Barker, laugh-or-you'll-cry chronicler of Brexshit Britain and Sergeant Pepper-sprayer of dead celebrities, designed the Happy Shopper box for the cards. My other mate (we're all allowed two) Zali Krishna, publisher of quality books of indeterminate genre and perhaps the first ever person to have used the word "novelettino", pointed me at a decent printer's. 100 packs were... I believe the term is, "manifested".

69 packs went to the pilgrims. 20-odd went to "stay-at-home pilgrims". With one or two more slipping through gaps in the matrix... the Law of Fives has determined that

I get to end up with five spare decks. 

Our "caper" literally vibrated the universe, even if no-one noticed at the time. Its shockwaves still spread through the counterculture, they're beginning to tickle the mainstream. I'm not saying that we didn't have COVID and a terrifying new world order before the approximate middle of 2019, but we didn't have COVID and a terrifying  new world before the approximate middle of 2019.

But the Eschaton's not just there for the nasty things in life. Hey, even Merlin's shaggy beard grew from a deadly worldwide pandemic. Plus I moved to a nice new house in the country last year so, you know, swings and roundabouts. The five remaining tarot decks have requested to be sent out into the universe and into muggles' homes. 

What all of the above amounts to, basically, is that  there are five packs of seriously playful playing cards in my online shop, and if you're very quick you might get one. "Friends" in the know assure me that you'll be selling one on eBay in 2323 (If man has, still, a tree) for a quandrazillion Imperial Currencyunits.

Footnote: if you've clicked on every link on this page, read background, watched videos, perhaps even stopped to think, then welcome, pilgrim. You are one of us now.

Friday, 26 August 2022

“Scientific proof” and “self-help”

The sun rose today, but will it rise tomorrow?
I mentioned in my last post that Peakrill Press is branching out into a variety of non-gaming related content. I will also be blogging more about random stuff. If you're here just for RPGs, that's cool: there'll still be plenty, and you can skip the rest. But I hope that, if you enjoy my writing about games, you'll appreciate my writing about everything else under the sun.

Below is an example of such other stuff. I'm thinking of writing - bear with me here - a self-help book. I already posted what I guess you could call some advice on productivity and, after 53 years struggling to stay cheerful and get things done, while also managing Bipolar Disorder, I feel I have useful advice to offer.

The passage below will be part of the book, either an introduction or an appendix. I'd especially appreciate any scientists giving it the once-over. As for scientismists, I'd love them to read it, though it may bring them out in a rash.
Any good scientist will tell you that there is no such thing as "scientific proof". What this inaccurate but handy phrase is shorthand for is “a scientific theory that has a lot of evidence that appears to back it up”. As the great philosopher David Hume teaches us, even the theory that “the sun rises every morning” is one we can never prove to be true, because: what about tomorrow morning?

There are folks, I’ll call them scientismists, some of whom believe that scientific proof is a thing, and almost all of whom believe that if a thing doesn’t have at least “a lot of evidence that appears to back it up” then it’s not worth doing, perhaps even dangerous. What a joyless approach to life!

What scientismists appear to forget (even though they often use the term!) is a thing called the “Placebo Effect” which basically means that even when a thing doesn’t work, it works! There’s a belief out there that if something - say, for example, homoeopathy - is “only” as effective as the placebo effect then it’s bunkum, to be avoided at all costs. What a wrong-headed approach to doing good!

Some of the stuff I’ll suggest here - in particular the habit of “gratitude journaling” that forms the heart of this book - have “a lot of evidence which appears to back them up”. Other stuff, like drawing trees or counting the number of petals on a daisy, probably don’t. That shouldn’t stop you from doing them. 
(Disclaimer: not everything untested is as good as a placebo. For example, the theory that jumping out of a plane without a parachute is better for you than jumping out with one has not yet been tested, and I don’t advise you to be the first to try).
By the way, there are some very good books out there which go into detail on which “self-help” practices appear to be more effective than the Placebo Effect -  I recommend starting with Richard Wiseman’s “59 Seconds”. But do bear in mind that all you need to do in order for something you do to do you good, is to believe that it does you good.

I say “all you need to do”. Forcing yourself to believe something is a tough nut to crack, especially if you’ve cynical tendencies like mine. But it is doable. Just remember: the Placebo Effect exists. And it’s magic!

Thursday, 25 August 2022

What's new? Lots new!

A quick note about exciting new developments at the Peakrill cottage. First up, things you can buy from me, and where to buy them. My book Learning to Draw Trees is now out, and I've moved my shop to Shopify - purchase all sorts of Good Stuff from me here! Shopify's monthly fee is a fair bit more than I'm making from sales at the moment but... you know how to change that, right? Buy, buy, buy!

As well as books/zines/leaflets whatever, this includes art prints and mugs of the trees I've drawn. More of both will be coming soon, as well as greeting cards and... I dunno, tea-towels? Branded underwear? Comment here with your wants and your needs.

I'm also selling the last few of a very special pack of "tarot" cards, a magical artifact which will be spoken of a thousand years from now.

I've also also, finally, got around to drawing trees again. A beautiful ash tree covered in freaky boles, which I found in Robin Wood, Loxley, Sheffield (Ha, Robin Wood, Loxley! I've only just realised the pun). You want mugs of this? Prints? T-shirt? G-string? Let me know, and the gods will arrange. 

Bole ash tree, Robin Wood 

More exciting publishing projects coming soon. Peakrill Press is branching out! Like my friends over at Polyversity Press, I'm a big fan of "quality books of indeterminate genre", brought together by the passions and personality of the person publishing them (I'm also a big fan of "covers that look like textbooks for subjects that almost certainly don't qualify as real sciences", though that's a little less relevant here). And so, while my main focus will continue to be on gaming related guff, I'll be printing other stuff that I love, not all of it by me.

Next up will be new editions of some inspirational books on walking by my father-in-law, Terry Howard. Terry has been a huge force in the movement to secure the Right to Roam in the UK over the last 50-odd years. A documentary called Ramble On has recently been made about Terry, by Director Charlie Thorne, and it's an absolutely wonderful piece of "slow cinema". It made me cry. I believe that you can catch it next at Sheffield's Festival of the Mind on 22nd September. Here's the trailer:

Finally, for those of you in the USA and nearby territories, I'm glad to say that you can now save on mail costs by my purchasing my Cairn adventure Gespenwald from the Cairn Store - or at least, you'll be able to once Yochai gets back from vacation. Likewise, both Gespenwald and Mostly Harmless Meetings will soon be up for sale on Exalted Funeral. Words cannot express what a confidence boost it is for me having those folks appreciate my stuff so much that they will pay for bundles of it to be shipped to the USA. 

Actually, that wasn't such a short update, was it?

Oh! And there is... just one more thing (and thank you for reading this far!) My wife makes some absolutely amazing stuff out of vintage fabrics, under the moniker "Made by Candlelight". I'm hoping to add that too to my online shop in due time, although meanwhile she has a folksy store but... it's sold out. She's frantically making patchwork hot-water bottle covers in time for Winter, but if anything below catches your eye then drop me a line, custom orders always very welcome! We recently shipped a beautiful wheelchair blanket to Natchitoches, Louisiana - something else which makes me beam with joy. 

Happy almost-autumn, and may your mushroom-hunting always be safe.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

The Stone Bone Mound

Here is my entry to this year's One Page Dungeon Contest. With a working title of "negative space dungeon", it's a solution to a thought experiment which came to me, as do all of the best ideas, while walking on the moors: what if I were to use all of the dungeon map, and not just the white bits. As part of the process of making it, I learnt how to draw a labyrinth, which turns out to be super simple and is also super rewarding: I sometimes draw them just for relaxation now.

Here it is: The Stone Bone Mound