HBM101: Much Corruption

Growing up, Jeff Emtman had a hard time balancing his piety for the One God with his piety for the Gnomish lord Berwyn.  Generally, he deferred to the latter, though he lost favor eventually with both.

Jeff’s scoutmaster, a retired surgeon with a habit of collecting unusual boats, was always trying to get Jeff outside, away from the computer where he spent most of his free time playing a game where he tried to save the world from corruption and evil.  

Ancient Domains of Mystery (more commonly called “ADOM”) is an massive roguelike game that’s inspired heavily by Dungeons and Dragons.  Developer Thomas Biskup released the first version of it in 1994.

Jeff, a gnomish wizard of status, is susceptible to corruptive background radiation.  Once pure, his breath became ever more sulphurous, thorns that sprouted from his hands, etc. And he failed in his quest to save the world.

The Surgeon invited Jeff to join him for kayaking on the Naches River of Washington State.   The river holds a small irrigation dam that the two must navigate--the Surgeon with ease, and Jeff with no small amount of existential, religious struggle.

Example of a character bio created in ADOM. This character, a dwarfish wizard was born in the sign of the Falcon, which garners benefits to initial willpower and charisma. Also has increased ability to survive in in wild. Dwarves tend to be good with magic and subterranean skills.

Character ‘@’ engaged in combat with goblin berserker ‘g’ in a partially explored dungeon. Hostile ice vortex ‘V’ approaches. Far right: Staircase leading upwards ‘<’, lawfully aligned altar ‘_’ and an ancient statue ‘&’. Also pictured: walls ‘#’, floors ‘.’, and doors ‘#’.

The “burning hands” spell in this episode comes from a Esperanto-language reading of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, released as public domain audiobook by Librivox. The excerpt used can be translated to “...and the chain was bound around the arm.

Producer: Jeff Emtman
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: Serocell, The Black Spot, AHEE, Circling Lights ← New music!

HBM072: Ant God [Explicit]

As far as gods go, Jacob Lemanski is more tepid than most.  Despite his omniscience, he feels unequipped to deal with the ethical decisions required of him.

Jacob is the owner of AntLife, a company that makes large ant farms.  In one of his prototype farms, he was experimenting with different soil types.  One of his formulations caused a problem: tunnel collapse.  And during a cave-in, one of his ants became trapped in a small underground cavern, just inches from the surface.

Jacobs ants live in an environment lit by programmable LEDs

Jacob’s newest ant farms have photos of nebulae as their backdrop.

In this episode, Jacob recalls his personal history with both passivity and intervention, and tries to figure out what’s best for his ants.  

Please Note: this episode contains a description of a violent assault.

Jeff Emtman produced this episode with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.

Music: The Black Spot

HBM069: Redwoods of the In-World [Explicit]

Please Note: This episode contains a brief description of sexual violence (and casual swearing too, but we don’t usually warn you about that).

Ariadne, Jacqueline, North, and others unnamed are all part of the same system.  They share a single body.  They take turns “fronting” the body, controlling it.  And when they’re not fronting, the system members are free to roam an infinite landscape, a pocket reality that they call the “in-world”.

Together, they go to work every day, spend time with friends and lovers, go to shows, play video games, and live many aspects of a typical life. But when multiple people with varying interests, social skills, and gender identities share a single body, some things are tough.  It’s tough to live in a world that doesn’t understand you, doesn’t know your secrets, or just wants to diagnose you.

The system members refer to their living situation as being “plural” or “multiple”.  Psychiatry calls similar situations Dissociative Identity Disorder.  The system members don’t identify with this diagnosis, as it requires the multiplicity to be hindrance.  They say it’s the opposite of a hindrance--it’s what lets them survive.

Another perspective on multiplicity can be found in the work of philosopher John Perry.  1978, he published a paper called A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality which critiques popular assumptions of personal identity.  This writing was brought to our attention by Barry Lam, the producer of a soon-to-be released philosophy podcast called Hi-Phi Nation.  

We mailed our spare recorder to the system’s home in the spring of 2016.  Over the course of several months, system members created diary entries and field recordings to share the world that Ari calls too “bright and loud”.

Producer Jeff Emtman did an interview with Jacqueline, where she also described the building process of the in-world, including the creation a spot of reverence within it--a grove of redwood trees modeled on a forest near Oakland.

One day, Jacqueline hopes to move from the city to the wilderness and have dogs.  Jacqueline said that there are no current plans to integrate the system.

We found out about Ari, North, Jacqueline et al because we asked for listeners to tell us their secrets.   If you have a secret you’d like to share, please get in touch.

This episode was produced by Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton.  Nick White is HBM’s editor at KCRW.  

Music: The Black Spot

In other news:  there’s a chance that you subscribed to our podcast while you were looking for the work of another podcaster named Derek Hayes.  He has a show that’s also about monsters (though his are more the bigfoot, chupacabra and hellhound variety).  Until recently, his show had a very similar name to ours.  So, to clear up any confusion, Derek’s changed his podcast’s name to Monsters Among Us.

HBM065: We Pay Them In Meat

Walk through any natural history museum and you’ll see rows of effortlessly clean animal skeletons.  Chances are you're looking at a strange form of human/insect symbiosis happening in the museum’s back rooms.

Preparing an animal’s skeleton for display is incredibly labor intensive for human hands.  So curators have turned to a family of beetles with millennia of experience.

The dermestidae family of beetles have followed humans since our early history.  They’re opportunistic eaters, and they like the things we like: grains, bacon grease, leather, silk scarves, books, carpets.  And as early humans traveled, the beetles came with, colonizing across the globe.

The majority of humans’ relationship with these beetles is and has been contentious, as they tend to wreak havoc on human possessions.  They’re often exterminated as pests

But several species of the dermestidae family have a taste for dead flesh. Including dermestes maculatus, aka. “The Hide Beetle”.  And for this reason, curators have enlisted their help as “museum volunteers.”

At least, that’s what Chris Stinson of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum in Vancouver, British Columbia calls them.  He’s the Curatorial Assistant of Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians and he approximates that he has 20,000 of these volunteers to prep the museum’s collection. 

In this episode, Here Be Monsters producer Jeff Emtman smells the beetle tank, listens to them eat an owl skull, and holds a real flesh-eating beetle.*

Jeff Emtman produced this episode, with help from Bethany Denton and Nick White.

Music: The Black Spot

Happy Birthday Paul.  We don’t know when your birthday actually is, but we hope it’s a good one...this year and every other.

*Due to dermestes maculatus’ preference for dead foods, they’re perfectly safe to handle, unless you’re a wild turkey (and if you’re actually reading this, you probably are).  

Timelapse of beetles eating macaw, owl and pheasant, from London’s Natural History Museum