Tag: Book

Acidic: A bio about a garage chemist who helped turn millions on to LSD

I’m obsessed with biographies about the influencers and shakers of the 60s counterculture, the people who actively challenged American culture’s stifling status quo and aimed towards a reality completely different. Primary goals were to live free, to protest war and injustice and to focus on self and community love in a more aware, intentional way. The long-term effects can be observed around us today, including some of the origins of: vegetarianism, yoga, environmentalism, anti-racism, meditation, rave music, ethnic studies and LGBTQ scholastic departments, music festivals, Burning Man, feminism, liberated sexuality, and even the internet.

As for the living out loud piece, Augustus Owsley — also known as “Bear” — did this to a superlative and moshed to his own drum beat. In many ways he was a DaVinci of the movement, a self-learned garage chemist synthesizing (with the help of skillful lovers and friends) millions of hits of high quality LSD, he created the Grateful Dead’s Wall of Sound revolutionary speaker arrangement, he helped design the dancing bear logo, he was responsible for soundboard recordings of the Dead and other Bay-area musicians of the time, he ate only meat for most of his life, he became a jeweler towards the end, he was arrested over and over. His over-confident alpha-style personality frustrated many and caused many conflicts, but he kept moving forward. He eventually met the love of his life and the two retired to Australia on a large tract of rural land.

Bear’s story and impact is mythical, bigger than life and worth reading. Greenfield’s book Bear: The Life and Times of Augustus Owsley Stanley III is worth your while; I listened to the audio and enjoyed the well-told narration of Bear’s wild adventures and foibles.

Owsley’s high octane rocket fuel enabled Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters to put on the Acid Tests. It also powered much of what happened on stage at Monterey Pop. Owsley turned on Pete Townshend of The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The shipment of LSD that Owsley sent John Lennon resulted in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour album and film.

robert greenfield

Play: RPG about a queer community during the apocalypse

“Imagine that the collapse of civilization didn’t happen everywhere at the same time. Instead, it’s happening in waves. Every day, more people fall out of the society intact. We queers were always living in the margins of that society, finding solidarity, love, and meaning in the strangest of places. Apocalypse didn’t come for us first, but it did come for us.”

Successfully Kickstarted last year, this book (either PDF or printed) uses a no-dice and no-dungeon master format to explore players’ imaginations as they become characters from oppressed communities in otherworldly but familiar settings. The two campaigns in the book are about: “a queer enclave enduring the collapse of civilization” and “a Jewish shtetl in a fantastical-historical Eastern Europe.”Dream Askew uses the system to create campaigns in “a queer enclave enduring the collapse of civilization” and Dream Apart is set in “a Jewish shtetl in a fantastical-historical Eastern Europe.”

[Both of the campaigns put] community at the center of the story. Players collaboratively fill out a community worksheet as part of setup. Dream Askew has players choosing apocalyptic visuals and ideological conflicts, while Dream Apart has them choosing blessings and curses. A map gets drawn, relationships get established, and play emerges.

Rather than telling stories of rugged individuals on epic adventures, both dreams keep the focus closer to home. They tell stories of interpersonal relationships, community drama, and tension with the outside world.

Each player takes on a character role, one of six archetypal figures in their community. These are pages divided into three columns: on the left, everything that gets read aloud when introducing the role; down the middle, all the choices you make during character creation; and finally, on the right, everything you need to play the character.

These games are diceless, leaving nothing to chance. Play is driven by the choices that get made at the table, with scenes unfolding as players make moves: picking simple narrative prompts off their sheet and working them into their description of what happens next. Weak Moves grant a token while Strong Moves require one, creating a balanced tempo for each character – moments of petty drama and tragic failure set the stage for ones of resourcefulness and skill later on.

There’s no Game Master to defer to; authority is divided equally around the table. The dreams achieve this by giving each player a setting element to customize and play.