Saturday, December 1, 2012

Zappadan

Okay, so this has nothing (and everything) to do with gaming. A few years back, a website called The Aristocrats invented a new holiday called "Zappadan." It was born from a love of the music of Frank Zappa. This holiday festival begins on December 4th (the day for FZ's death) and ends on December 21st (the day of FZ's birth).



For my own part, I am a huge fan of his, and have been since my teen years. I"ve probably heard his music since I was about six or so, as some of my parents' friends played it a lot, so he's been an influence me for most of my life. It doesn't mean that I'm a super fan-boy type, but I really have a lot of respect for the man and his talents, and especially for both his guitar work and his ability to bring skewering absurdity to fruition through his lyrics and compositions. Frank Zappa knew that the world was a screwed up place that didn't make any sense, and spent a lot of time parodying the parts of it he found ridiculous. This makes me smile. He also spent time in front of a Senate committee back during the PMRC's heyday (fuck you, Tipper Gore), when it was popular for American politicians of a certain stripe to attack heavy metal (and later, rap) music, among other things. He did his best to make a case for the freedom of individual expression in front of people who probably thought the Starland Vocal Band was too racy for primetime.



The thing I notice from this hearing testimony is that the senators... they are not my people. Frank was. I can't stand prudes. I'm not particularly bombastic, myself, but I must confess that I find a perverse joy when one of these guys finds himself (it's almost always a dude) in a scandal--usually involving somebody else's wife, a hooker, a transvestite hooker, or a stranger in a public bathroom (looking at you, Larry Craig). It's nice when someone speaks truth to power, even if those in power refuse to listen. For that, I admire Zappa's courage and conviction.

Normally, I do my Zappadan celebration on Facebook. This year, that practice will end. My blog will be the go-to place for my Zappadan posts. Mostly this will involve posting a video (or maybe more than one) each day of Zappadan. Maybe I'll relate it to game content, and maybe I won't. It's not really for the gaming element that I'm posting it, but out of respect for a man who embodied in so many ways the creative spirit of mankind.

Nonetheless, I think this fits right in with the story behind the Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad campaign, where metal is both substance and metaphor, both description of what man did to throw of his oppressors and testament to the power of music to evoke who new worlds, to serve my gaming mind as source of inspiration no less potent then any author found in Appendix N. It's been a real inspiration for my latest campaign in other ways, of course, since the adventures I'm running are made out of song titles (The Doors and High on Fire, so far).

So, humor me here. If you like Zappa, come along for the ride. If you don't, that's fine too. He's not for everyone. However, think also upon how the absurd (a.k.a. The Gonzo) has expressed itself in gaming lately, in products like Dungeon Crawl Classics and Anomalous Subsurface Environment and Wampus Country, among many other OSR products and campaigns. Actually, I first noticed this tendency toward making the absurd a part of oldschool gaming when I was reading Zak's blog, Playing D&D With Pornstars, and the backwards-talking goblins. That was so weird and fun that I was instantly drawn in, charmed by the moment and by the possibilities for more fun and general mayhem. Mucking about with what is absurd, fun, funny, and at the same time deadly deadly serious... that's good stuff. In the midst of getting torn in half by an alien tentacle beast from beyond space, we still think about whether it will make good sushi. See? The spirit of Zappa is already with us.

You also might notice that this year's Zappadan festival falls on the day that the world is supposed to end. Don't worry. Frank has it covered. We will not lose conceptual continuity.

Well, the conceptual continuity is this: everything, even this interview, is part of what I do for, let's call it, my entertainment work. And there's a big difference between sitting here and talking about this kind of stuff, and writing a song like 'Titties and Beer'. But as far as I'm concerned, it's all part of the same continuity. It's all one piece. It all relates in some weird way back to the focal point of what's going on. (Source)