Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Sickness of the Heart Q&A: Part 2

A Sickness of the Heart is James LaFond's retelling of Francisco Hernando de Cordoba's expedition to explore the Yucatan Peninsula during the Conquistador Period. See Part 1 of James and Lynn's Q&A.

LL: Last time, you mentioned the 100% casualty rate of the Spaniards on this Entrada, due largely to the arrows used by the Mayans and the poor performance of the Spaniard's mail against them. In addition to these wounds, the Spaniards suffered 30% fatalities and were constantly short of fresh water. You write in response to these circumstances: "Any unit that maintains mobile cohesion after sustaining 100% casualties is either highly trained and seasoned--which this unit was not--or is made up of men of exceptional spirit." What else can you tell us about this spirit? Is this something that can be forged in the battle itself? Is it a product of upbringing, or their Catholic faith? What hope do we have that men will display this spirit in some coming apocalypse?

JL: Modern units are typically rotated out of enemy contact when they hit 30% casualties. Their success I attribute primarily to Cordoba’s heroism. He was not cruel to his men or the enemy and led from the front. He was one of the “good” conquistadors in a crowd where few could be found. This is why I titled the second volume Our Captain, as Diaz, as much as he admired Cortez for his brilliant mind, he loved Cordoba and it shows through in his own rough words.

For this reason, the love of a leader, American—and modernist in general—corporate culture, places the CEO as a sacrificial king at the top of a pyramid and across various industries it is taboo for the management to get their hands dirty leading by example, such as Stevens and Teddy Roosevelt did in spearheading the Panama Canal project. There is no room for leadership in a managed situation in a debt-based society, as every man is a slave.

Lynn, I want you, the readers, to think of their workplace and imagine that every member of the company was somehow stranded on a pirate-infested island during a company cruise. I guarantee you that no member of management of any large company would retain his seat. In fact, the hierarchy would immediately flip.

LL: You mentioned in Part 1, and in the book, that Florida was a disaster zone for the Spanish. The coastal natives were ferocious and the interior is and was an uninhabitable swamp. Have you written anything on this topic that we can look for?

JL: This will be covered in Yellow Negroes and White Indians. Only Soto survived Florida in the Conquistador Age and he had the equivalent of a Marine Expeditionary force, an actual main force battle unit by European standards that could have taken its place in the lineup 100 years later in the 30 Years War and done well. And again, Soto, evil though he was, was a hero, a man who led from the front.

LL: The Governor of Cassavaland includes some notes on the use of cassava as a food staple. This is not a question, I just want to brag that I can make the tasty cheese bread that is common in some parts of South America. The main ingredient is tapioca starch, which comes from cassava. It is only really good fresh, otherwise I would mail you some.

JL: I’ll eat it stale, Lynn, so mail it. Soto’s men ate stale cassava bread in North America.

LL: I'll quote from your review of Buddy Levy's Conquistador in the Appendices: "There has never been a question in my mind that the meeting of Europeans and Native Americans after a 14,000 year separation is about as close as we have gotten on this planet to an alien invasion." James, I have thought a lot about this as well, and I have come to view it as Mother Nature's sickest long form practical joke (I have a cynical view of nature and the environment, like others have towards organized religion). This joke did not merely target Homo Sapiens, I have learned recently that North America is being colonized by an Asian ladybug, very difficult to tell from a North American ladybug, that bites! One of the sweetest, most harmless insects of our childhoods is being out-competed by its more ruthless Asian cousin. This holds across animal species and plants as well, when Asian or European counterparts show up, the clock starts ticking for the American version.

Ok, that wasn't a question either. The Appendices are an extensive part of this book, they comprise James's reviews of sources and relevant references used in A Sickness of the Heart and will surely add a volume or two to everyone's ever expanding reading lists. James, you mention the Spaniards use of dogs to hunt men with, and even the use of other men as human blood hounds. You made good use of these ideas in Reverent Chandler. Have you used these elements in any of your other fiction works?

JL: In the Sunset Saga, there is a Character named Bruco, a Canary Islander from the Isle of Gomera. He is named after a real Gomeran chief. The Gomeran’s were used to defeat the natives on the Island of Palms, Fire Island and Grand Island. The two easy lowland islands fell to the French, Italians and Spanish, but nobody could break the tribesmen on the big islands. You actually had big men with sticks beating the shit out of knights and musketeers for a century.

Living across 20 miles of deep ocean from Fire Island was Exile Island, Gomera, where outcast men were made to swim to with their tongues slit so they could not speak. This is the root of the whistling system they used. This was a real bad idea and put natural selection into play in a karmic way as these guys swam back and forth abducting wives and then towing the women 20 miles through open ocean—this is a channel, not a lagoon.

They swam this channel and came back with a babe:

(Image from travel site orangesmile.com of La Gomera.)

The Spanish were trading with the Gomerans for water rights when they found out that these super, super-warriors wanted to get to their enemies and it was all downhill from there. This is how the Spaniards learned how to hunt men, with Gomeran scouts, modifying a breed of mastiff for this purpose. Although there are no records of Gomerans taking ship for America, every fleet took on water there. I had Bruco get on DaVilla’s Entrada, as some Gomerans, or at least Canary Island veterans, were on the expedition.

What happened was the Spanish took the women while their men were away and when they objected, the Spanish wiped them out. There is hardly any paternal DNA left among aboriginal Gomeran descendents.

Bruco has his own lead role in God’s Picture Maker, one of the few Sunset Saga novels I had professionally edited. You want the Dark Eyed Girl version.

LL: Thanks, James, for indulging me on this Part 2, please include any final thoughts you have. Readers, if you would like us to cover a particular book next, please let us know in the comments!

JL:  Lynn, I’m glad you took an interest in this. I was loathe to give up the project, but I had no choice, as the only English translation available omitted large tracts of Diaz’s manuscript, much of it pertaining to military equipment.

This Design is Called Paisley: The Seduction of Mister Slickery by James LaFond

Robert Slavie is a sixty-year-old librarian; a life-long bachelor, overqualified for his job, with no place to go but home. Other than the possible achievement of his life-time goal to read 50,000 books before retirement, Robert does not have a lot to look forward to. But one winter morning a young woman bypasses his female colleague at the front desk and comes directly to him for assistance. When she immediately concocts a pet name for him and schedules another visit he feels the silent footfall of doom. Is there any way he can survive the web of seduction he is being drawn into?

Available in paperback and Kindle edition.

T. Spoone Slickens, Inquire: The Truth About Black Folks by James LaFond

T. Spoone Slickens, Inquire, was born during a tropical storm on Cape Fear, North Carolina. He has recently emerged as a scholar of the urban American experience, teaching from his janitorial closet in the basement of a dying catholic church in Baltimore City. 

This volume includes his essays: 

The Cure for What Ails Whitey 
Miechlin Mikya’s Free Lunch 
‘Smart White Folks?’ 
Scrimp Boy Sam’s Bouquet 
Donell Weston’s Bitchegg Hotel 

Also features the secret interview with Stefan Molyneux The Truth about Black America.

Available in paperback and Kindle edition.

Dream Flower by James LaFond

Five Stories by James LaFond:

The Tribe
Being Joe’s Bitch
Love Stinks
Shawndrea’s Blessing
Dream Flower

Available in paperback and Kindle.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Modern Agonistics Q&A with Author James LaFond

LL: Hello again, James!

Let's take a break from talking about Sickness of the Heart and take a look at Modern Agonistics. This book is a highly readable account of your eponymous collaboration with Chuck Goetz, encompassing every kind of brutal combat you could think of, and most astonishingly, involving other characters who willingly participate in this practice.

My first question has nothing to do with all that. How do you keep records? As you know, I am a big fan of spreadsheets, but I have learned that you are unfamiliar with this marvelous technology. Yet you recount here information from thousands of encounters. How do you do it?

JL: We used small spiral memo pads and recorded our bouts, the first few years we did everything on a 5-point system. You start with five points and call yourself out when you take five points. A blunt hit was 1, a slash or non vital stab 2, and a vital slash or stab 3. So if you slash me once and I stab you twice, you call yourself out, scoring a 0 on defense and a 2 on offense, where I record a 3 on defense and a 5 on offense. We were trying to workout what worked, what happened when two guys just went at it with weapons. After a while, when more people were involved, we only used this for testing and I retired from keeping track of anyone’s record but my own, really as an experiment. I wanted to hit 1,000 stick-fights so that the math would be self-evident and match this up with my injuries, in order to determine how safe it was.

LL: James, the motto of Modern Agonistics is "As real as you want it." It seems like a core value of this endeavor is genuine, full contact, competitive combat. How do you find people to do this with? When you are training a fighter how soon can you tell if he will be willing to go the distance in this way?

JL: Chuck came up with that motto and he was my first recruit. I asked athletes, martial artists and assorted weirdos if they would like to try it. Roughly 90% of the martial artists recoiled in horror, perhaps 70% of the athletes did the same, and about half of the strange eggs, said, “Why not?” I found hockey and lacrosse players most amicable to fighting with weapons.

LL: One aspect I enjoyed, particularly through Evolutions 1.3 - 1.5 and beyond, is that you experienced a form of arms race, almost as though you worked your way through the development of weapons and armor through history, including crafting weapons and armor yourselves, as you and your training partners advanced and gained experience and skill. How much of this was a conscious decision to expand your armory, versus a natural progression?

JL: We wanted to try different weapons. It was gross act of morbid curiosity in many cases. The evolutionary aspect was just that, not planned. At first we added armor, then we took it away as we got better and narrowed the weapon set. If you are only dealing with one type of weapon you can minimize your armor, unless it is a pole axe or some other crushing extension weapon. We eventually settled for what most primitive warriors have settled with, using a round flexible stick to train, spar and compete with, as this generalizes to many other skills. We did not start out looking at it from an escrima point of view, but did end up using an escrima weapon set, stick and knife with limited machete.

LL: How did you come up with the idea to chain the opponent's weapons together? Has this ever been tried by anyone else?

JL: We didn’t chain the weapons together but held the chain between us, which gives the option to quit, by dropping it and keeps the encounter tense for spectators and does not allow resting. This was Hollywood inspired, I am afraid to say. I don’t have any historical basis for this. Gladiators were forced into close contact by a lanista armed with a prodding weapon. The chain was a way to replicate that forced proximity without getting extra people involved. We had enough trouble getting fighters, let alone officials. Besides, if there are officials for a new sport it can come under fire from the state athletic commission. Realizing this, we decided that taking responsibility for your safety and your opponent’s safety—by breaking off when the other guy is in trouble—was realistic practice for defending oneself on the street. This jived with the fact that more and more of our participants saw this as a type of reality based survival practice.

LL: This book has a lot of informative pictures, particularly in a yellow-walled, red-carpeted dungeon of punishment, as well as detailed instructions on stick fighting drills and techniques. Anyone who enjoyed Sean's recent videos (featuring James LaFond in a red t-shirt, and Sean Glass occasionally sans shirt) will get a lot out of Modern Agonistics, the book. How much do you think a fighter can advance through books and video?

JL: The “dungeon of punishment” was Sifu Edgar Livingston’s Tai-Chi school. He was aligned with Saint Jude’s Children’s hospital, the only honest charity we were able to find. We even got ripped off by the Maryland Diabetes Associate, who refused to credit us with the $260 donation we made because they said they only filled out paperwork on $1000 or more and the meathead I sent down with the money believed the thieves in their office.

Book learning combat depends on the person. In order to learn from books you need relevant experience and a partner. You cannot use a book alone unless you are an experienced fighter with some self-coaching ability. Realistically, books that I write as instructionals are reference works for trainers and coaches and for people who are being or have been trained and coached in similar activities.

Videos, on the other hand, are almost identical to the instruction had in the martial arts setting, which is a fair learning environment. The gym setting is better than learning via the ‘monkey see, monkey do” martial arts method. In boxing your goal is to be able to verbally coach a fighter who is looking at the guy that he is fighting while listening to you. In this sense the boxing and stick fighting books are much more useful for the coach than for the fighter. The videos are better for the fighter, especially the novice. Some fighters, with a governor on their ego and an ability to conduct an analysis of their body mechanics, have successfully become formidable combatants through books and videos. One of the ways this self-critique and self-coaching ability can be cultivated is by retooling your skill set in slow motion while you are injured.

LL: James, you cover scoring quite a bit here, including the importance of self scoring and the rationale behind determining when a fighter has been eliminated from competition. How does this fit in with your gaming writing? Do you have any active gaming projects right now?

JL: Once, when I was fighting Don Plot in 2006, with 10-inch polypropylene dagas I had him dialed in with the knife. He was just a stick-fighter and every time he advanced I stabbed him in the throat or face and the four corner judges saw no point. He looks at me, and says, “You better do it again.”

We move around and I stick him again and he chuckled. “I guess you’ll have to rip my head off before they notice.”

What I did was lifted my foot for the next stab and made a theatrical kill and they called the point. This points up the ridiculousness of judges scoring any fight with blades. I am the most experienced knife and machete fighter in the United States [though certainly not the best] and I cannot watch two guys that I have trained go at it and know what happened. In many cases a fighter does not know that he hit another fighter, especially when they are amped up. Calling yourself out is the only way. This was essentially how bare knuckle boxing worked.

I used my role playing game designing projects to bridge the reality fiction gap for others. I did three, with none of them, including the last, being playable by video game paced minds. In order to accurately pursue a combat simulation on paper it needs to be conducted at a pace that is at least 100 times slower than the action being simulated. What I used these role playing designs for Tribes, Fights and Triumph for was transferring my combat experience into a form that made a combat scenario builder for writing fiction. Although I don’t write that way—I don’t plot fights—someone else who does plot action scenes could use it like that.

I have yet to convert my 200 page Tribes sourcebook into fiction. I am in possession of over 20 excellent illustrations for the World of Oth and, as soon as I finish Drink Deep of Night, Seven Moons Deep, The Spiral Case and Yusef of the Dusk, I intend to begin publishing pocket-sized paperback novelettes of about 700-800 words, with Richard and Joseph’s fine art work as covers.

LL: Readers, this book has a ton of highly amusing anecdotes, pictures of men trying to hurt each other while wearing gladiator gear, valuable and detailed instructions and more. We know from Winter of a Fighting Life what this book cost James to write. I think there is nothing out there like Modern Agonistics, and strongly encourage you to pick up a hard copy or Kindle edition.

JL: One final word, Lynn. When I was promoting events for charity, I made sure that I stocked the front row with a few blood-thirsty babes, to whom I gave free tickets to and it worked like charm—with those meatheads fighting like savages for female approval. Thanks, Lynn, for reminding me of the good old days. I hope some young guys out there have some of their own to look forward to.

PS: Don't miss this video of James and Damien (a prominent figure in Modern Agonistics) fighting.  James is using a sword and shield, and Damien is using a pole flail.  More videos are available at James's main site, under the Modern Agonistics link.

(c) James LaFond & Lynn Lockhart

The Broken Dance by James LaFond

The Broken Dance is LaFond's monumental work on the history of boxing from pre-history to the death of Alexander.  The Broken Dance is available in PDF as three separate volumes, or as a complete collection.  The first two volumes are also available in paperback.

The Broken Dance: Volume I: The First Boxers

A Fighter’s View of Prize-fighting from Gilgamesh to Goliath with 47 original illustrations by Joseph Bellofatto, Jr.

A systematic investigation of the origins of boxing; a biomechanical index of boxing methods; an exploration of sacral prizefighting in Babylon; the methods of the stick-fighting boxers of Egypt; and the secrets of the mysterious boxer kings of Crete. This is the first of three volumes that comprise The Broken Dance.

Available in PDF and paperback.

The Broken Dance: Volume II: The Gods of Boxing

The Gods of Boxing is a comprehensive study of ancient Greek boxing contests, training, methods, politics, and personalities. Every aspect of the ancient boxer's life is uncovered. Meet the heroes, villains, gods, and even a pre-Christian saint, who fought before the sacred altars of Thunderchief and the lesser Olympians.

Available in PDF and paperback.

The Broken Dance: Volume III: All-Power-Fighting

A study of ancient Greek combat arts including: the arts and culture of arĂȘte [warrior-virtue], pale [wrestling], pentathlon [five exercises], pankration [all-power-thing]; rankings of historical fighters; appendices; and a 1000+ word Hellenik Glossary. 145+ pages, 31 illustrations by Joseph Bellofatto, Jr.

Available in PDF.

The Broken Dance: The Complete Collection

A Figther's View Of Boxing & Prize-Fighting From Pre-History to the Death Of Alexander. More than 100 exclusive illustrations by Joseph Bellofatto Jr. The First Boxers, The Gods of Boxing, All-Power-Fighting. 454+ pages, 147 illustrations by Joseph Bellofatto, Jr.; all three volumes collected in a single file.

Available in PDF.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Shorn of Little Sissy Things by James LaFond

A Fighter's View of Ancient Combat: 2010-2014

Shorn of Little Sissy Things is a brutally hip view of ancient combat from the perspective of a modern stick-fighter, machete-duelist and boxing coach. The author offers a fighter’s view of ancient life, not the sissified backward looking dreamscape of the armchair mastermind, but the ‘oh, yeah, that would work’ matter-of-fact view shared by those who fight. 

When Heroes Fought 
The 10 Worst Ancient Military Jobs 
Gladiators and Bodybuilders 
The Award Winning essay Little Sissy Things
a critical bibliography, and more

Available in paperback and Kindle edition.