Monday, September 23, 2013

I Choose Love

The Book of Just a Little Lovin' (2013 Denmark run) is now available. The editors Casper Gronemann and Claus Raasted have collected experiences and analysises from players and organizers of the larp.  A PDF version can be downloaded here. At the very end of the book we find this beautiful reflection by Signe Løndahl Hertel:

What happened in those days of august 2013?
What did we witness?
Was it a love story?
A tragedy?

An elegy?
Was it ours?
Or was it theirs?

In those days I was forced to love, to lose, to be scared and be brave.
I was forced to stumble and let someone else pick me up, accepting
their support ‘till the day I die. I was forced to put my faith in others
in a way I have only dared to put my faith in few.
This story we witnessed with tears in our eyes, stones in our chests,
shivering bodies and beating hearts.

I have never felt so violently confronted with every weakness in me,
everyone one which I have always tried to shed and to hide. Yet now
I feel more strong, more complete, more beautiful than ever.
As if having witnessed this I dare look life straight in the face saying

I am ready to live. No matter what you throw at me, no matter what
you take from me, no matter how many times you let me down. I will
stand tall, smiling and embracing, for I have evicted cynicism and
fear from my heart!

I choose love!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Thank you for Just a Little Lovin´ 2013

The characters Kohana and Artie at JALL 2013

The third run of Just a Little Lovin' happened in Denmark the 5th - 10th of August this year. Thanks to organizers Flemming Jacobsen, Nynne Rasmussen and Helene Willer Piironen for bringing this game to Denmark. Thanks also to Petter Karlsson and Morgan Jarl who joined us as workshop facilitators and on-site organizers. We had a wonderful diner called "Pepper´s" on site thanks to the efforts of Jonas Trier, Anders Lyng Ebbehøj, Søren Lyng Ebbehøj and Carsten Prag. And thanks once again to Astrid Solgaard for lending us artwork specially made as scenography for Just a Little Lovin'

But most of all thanks to the 64 participants who came, loved and lost and partied like it was 1982-83-and-84. "The show must go on." This year we had participants from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany and UK.

What now?
We are sure that this is not the last time it will be possible to experience Just a Little Lovin´. The writers and original organizers Hanne Grasmo and Tor Kjetil Edland would like to make available the characters and script for the game to potential new organizer groups.

To be able to get access to the material for Just a Little Lovin´ with the intention of running it, we have decided on a few criteria that must be in place for us to give the green light:
  • There must be a defined production crew of sufficient size with individuals committed to seeing the project being realized.
  • At least one person in the organizer group must have previously played the larp.
  • At least one person in the organizer group must have done an organizer workshop held by Hanne and Tor Kjetil or been part of organizing a previous run of the game.
  • The production crew must be committed to making an event that is LGBT inclusive and inclusive of people living with HIV, both in their communication with participants and how the game´s content is presented and played.
There are already plans for a rerun in Denmark the summer of 2015. When a place and date is decided on, more information will become available here.

Lots of love,

Hanne and Tor Kjetil

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fundings from DUF

We are very happy to announce that Just a Little Lovin' 2013 has received DKK 50.000 from DUF - Dansk Ungdoms Fællesråd

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Just a Little Lovin' 2013 in Denmark

Update: change of dates and venue
We are thrilled to anounce that a third run of Just a Little Lovin' will be held in Denmark in the summer of 2013. The initiative to bring this larp to Denmark has been made by Flemming H. Jacobsen. He has recruited a splendid and experienced team consisting of Nynne Rasmussen and Helene Willer Piironen to produce the game in Denmark.

The game will be hosted at Arresøcentereta great summercamp north of Copenhagen 

The dates for the game will be 5th - 10th of August 2013.

Facebook group for the event

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thank you for Just a Little Lovin' 2012

Photo: Karolina Stäel
The second run of Just a Little Lovin' is now complete. Thanks to Petter Karlsson, Miriam Lundqvist and Anna Karin Linder for making it possible to let more people experience this story by producing the game in Sweden. Thanks also to Victor Bernhardtz and Sofia Stenler for helping us out as crew during the game. And thanks again to Astrid Solgaard for once again lending us her artwork specially made as scenography for Just a Little Lovin'

We feel grateful for the dedication and emotional bravery of everyone who put their heart and soul into bringing these characters' journeys to life. Thanks to all the participants who came, loved and lost and partied like it was 1982-83-and-84. The memories from this summer will stay with us for a long time. 

Reflections on the larp from some of the participants

Mikolaj Habryn's blog with his reflections on the experience as a first time larper

Nathan Hook has written two pieces on his blog. One is a larp event report focusing on the game mechanics, and the other is a play report about his character's story in relation to other characters.

In the news

Leve lajvet (Long live the larp - English translation here) - Svenska Dagbladet

Leka med döden (Playing with death - English translation here) - The magazine Kom Ut that is published by the The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights

Just some more lovin' - In Playground Magazine #7 2012


In this years book for Solmukohta 2012 there are also two articles about Just a Little Lovin':

It is about Time
by Eleanor Saitta, about time and how it was constructed in the larp

Larp and Aesthetic Responsibility
by Tova Gerge, about the debate before the first run of the larp in the culture section of Expressen

The entire book: States of Play: Nordic larp around the Word can be downloaded as a PDF or on the Nordic Larp Wiki

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Alternative America

Alternative lifestyles
The 70s hippie culture of peace and love is transforming slowly into New Age at the beginning of the new decade. The hippies promoted free love and an anarchistic life style, while the dawn of New Age in the 80s means commercializing spirituality with a variety of self help books to buy, and self-developing courses to attend (links). The couples (and singles) wanting more out of life than a traditional marriage are organizing as “lifestylers” into swingers associations and swingers clubs. The hippie lifestyle included living together in houses out in the countryside, in the 80s the “cohousing”-movement is a further development of this and is growing bigger, also in the big cities. Quite a few of the cancers survivors in the Saratoga Pact have chosen an alternative, hedonistic lifestyle to praise life and live it to the fullest.

New Age

The subculture that later became known as New Age already existed in the early 1970s, based on and adopting ideas originally present in the counterculture of the 1960s. Widespread usage of the term New Age began in the mid-1970s (reflected in the title of a monthly New Age Journal) which probably influenced the many book- and gift-stores that increasingly defined themselves as New Age bookstores. The alternative spiritual subculture lumped into the new age category include practices such as meditation, crystal healing, astrology, aura readings, astral projection, and various forms of alternative medicine. It has ideological roots in older religious traditions such as gnosticism and occultism. But it is a uniquely modern form of spirituality. It is often strongly individualistic, emphasizing the spiritual potential of every person that can be released by undertaking a journey of self-discovery and transformation. The belief in reincarnation, imported from the religious traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism is no longer seen as a predicament of the human condition but celebrated as life never ending with the potential to grow spiritual from one life to the next. The new age tradition include techniques to try to access previous lives to help the individual in it's spiritual journey. Some important pop cultural events occurred which raised public awareness of New Age ideas: the production of the musical Hair (1967) with its opening song "Aquarius" and its memorable line "This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius", publication of Linda Goodman's best-selling astrology books Sun Signs (1968) and Love Signs (1978) and the autobiography of the actress Shirley MacLaine's Out on a Limb in 1983. It follows the journey of MacLaine through various forms of New Age spirituality and popularized put these ideas to a larger section of “ordinary Americans” . New age was no longer just a fringe / alternative culture, but had also become integrated into the suburbs.

Tantra – spiritual & erotic at the same time
Some parts of the New Age movement were specifically erotic and sensual, and “tantra” was a wide spread practice in the 80s, which started with the fascination for eastern spirituality in the 70s. Tantra was developed from around 1900, as a serious and intense (Buddhist or Hindu) path to wisdom and wholeness. But in the 80s and amongst the people at Saratoga we are thinking more “Californian way” of tantra practice: 

(From Wikipedia:) Popular authors such as Joseph Campbell helped to bring Tantra into the imagination of the peoples of the West. Tantra came to be viewed by some as a "cult of ecstasy", combining sexuality and spirituality in such a way as to act as a corrective force to Western repressive attitudes about sex. As Tantra has become more popular in the West it has undergone a major transformation. For many modern readers, "Tantra" has become a synonym for "spiritual sex" or "sacred sexuality," a belief that sex in itself ought to be recognized as a sacred act which is capable of elevating its participants to a more sublime spiritual plane. Though Neotantra may adopt many of the concepts and terminology of Indian Tantra, it often omits one or more of the following: the traditional reliance on guruparampara (the guidance of a guru), extensive meditative practice, and traditional rules of conduct—both moral and ritualistic. According to one author and critic on religion and politics, Hugh Urban:Since at least the time of Agehananda Bharati, most Western scholars have been severely critical of these new forms of pop Tantra. This "California Tantra" as Georg Feuerstein calls it, is "based on a profound misunderstanding of the Tantric path. Their main error is to confuse Tantric bliss ... with ordinary orgasmic pleasure.” The modern American tantra practitioners like those present among the Saratoga friends will naturally scoff at such criticism, arguing that they are actually practicing a purer tantra with deep routs in ancient tantra not contaminated by patriarchal organized religion more hostile to actual sexuality. Lifestylers = swingers
At this time the name of the national organization was “The Lifestyle Organization”. To be a lifestyler, or “living the lifestyle” implies that you include more than one partner in your love life. It is a heterosexual lifestyle, the gay communities doesn’t use the terminology. It does NOT imply a “poly lifestyle” (“poly” as a term was not invented yet in the early 80s) if it means living together with more than one partner. The lifestyle’s starting point is the couple, and there are several ways to live it out- All these practices are called “swinging”:

  • Two (or more) couple watching each other having sex.
  • A couple includes one or more partner in their love life for petting, but keep the intercourse only for them selves. Often it means the two women having sex with each other girl, the men just watching or helping.
  • A couple + one extra woman. A couple + one man extra: But with focus on the woman, the two men usually doesn’t touch. It is very uncommon among “lifestylers” that two men have sex with each other.
  • Full swapping or “wife swapping”: Two couples change partners. It can be just at one occasion, at a swingers club or at home or it can be steady relations with another couple (or more couples) meeting regularly also for other reasons than sex.
  • Open relationship: each of the partners in a couple are free to swing with others without her/his spouse as well. In these kind of relations it also happens that the man is having gay sex too.
Swingers Clubs A swingers club is most often a membership sex club primarily for heterosexual couples, but with singles allowed always or on special nights. It is a club for adults, for swinging, swapping and sometimes gang-bangs (one or a few woman and many men). Prostitution is banned. At least one swingers club from the early 80ties is still running in Uptown Manhattan, and is still on the same premise: La trapeze:

A regular composition of the clientele present at a swingers club who allows singles could be:
  • 2-6 couples, often in their 40s or older
  • 10-30 single men, aged 25-60.
  • Once in a while a single lady joining a couple, or even more rare a single adventurous lady going on her own.
The clubs always have a socializing zone, with a bar, maybe some snacks, a sauna and a Jacuzzi. Here people wear sexy clothes or underwear, or some clubs might require a towel only or a bath robe. The action take place in different small rooms, some with porn movies on, some with big beds (with plastic sheets) with room enough for 10-15 people at once, the love swings hits USA at the beginning of the 80s. Popular to put one person in it, with a lot of people around, caressing while one man is having sex with the woman in the sling. Some rooms for just action for two, three and four people, closing doors, other places where people only watch. Many people goes to swingers club and just have sex with their own partner, just getting hot on the action around and of being watched. The action is most often traditional fucking, with some oral sex and fingering. It’s common for the men who watch someone else to masturbate while watching. No-one used condoms at swingers clubs in the 80s, even for the first years after the HIV-virus was discovered, as AIDS was considered a gay disease. “As long as we just do it with other swingers AIDS won't spread to us”, was the common view. These attitudes were still common in the early 90ties. Some clubs have special nights for men only, bisexual nights or gang-bang nights. For the later the club owners usually know a few women who are into this and who are specially invited for those nights.

The history of swingers culture:
(From homepage of NASCA, National swingers club association, and refereed to in many of the swingers club sites: ) The terms “swinging” origin is from World War I: “It is reported that wife-swapping was initiated by military husbands going off to WW1. Friends would arrange parties to wish each other well and the men left behind would promise that if anything happened to a soldier that they would take care of his wife’s needs (including sexually). Later (not in wartime, but with inspiration from it, eds. Comment): key parties were created where couples would arrive together and the husband would deposit his keys in a bowl. At the end of the night a woman would choose a set of keys and go home with the keys owner…. again, harkening to the term wife-swapping.
Swingers clubs began as house parties. Groups of swinging couples would meet at each others homes. Some bars and lounges began catering to swingers, and most swinging early on was in the larger metropolitan areas of California, Chicago and New York. By 1972 there were at least 18 on-premise house parties in Southern California. In 1973, The Lifestyles Organization held their first convention in Riverside California. Over the last 30 years the lifestyle has become more and more “out”, as it has continued to spread across the country and into even the most secluded areas. The advent of the swinger mag in the 70’s and 80’s helped swingers in finding other like-minded people. Prior to that you would mainly find other swingers through people that you knew. During this time more and more clubs were opening as well (both on-premise and now off-premise socials). As early as the 80’s Bulletin Board Systems (a predecessor of the Internet) helped the lifestyle grow through anonymity. BBS’s were popular and people met on these boards to discuss any sort of topic. This allowed swingers a new venue for meeting others.
Co-housing (Indigo House)
Co-housing was (and is) a movement who promote an environmental and social lifestyle with more than one family (and singles) sharing the same house or flat. Most of the people in the organization do not believe in free love among the co-housers. But some people refined the hippie lifestyle in their co-housing projects. Indigo House in our game is such a house. Some “lifestylers” will include this kind of life in their movement, others will think it’s to radical. “The Lifestyle” is something one keep to oneself.
In a non-monogamous co-house everyone is in the same relationship, and no-one owns each other. It is expected that you (can) have sex with everyone else of the co-habitans, but you are not supposed to have sexual relations outside the house. It is a very strong norm to keep the sex in-house only, and you might be kicked out it you brake that rule. In this kind of co-house it is quite common that men have sexual relations between each other as well. There is also lesbian and gay co-houses formed this way, but it’s not very common.
Before a new fellow co-houser is allowed in to the group, it is a long process where everyone must approve. Because everyone will have a relationship to him or her. Often it’s a trial period, for some weekends or weeks, where the newcomer lives with the rest of the house.
In the 80’s there was quite a few examples of non-monogamous co-housing in US - more in California than in New York. And in Scandinavia we saw the dawn of “Det Blå Huset”in Oslo, with performance artist (to day professor in Gender Research) Wenche Mühleisen in front, was well known and intensely debated. 8-12 people lived together for 6-7 years in this way. “Det Blå Huset” is an inspiration for the Indigo house in our story. To get an impression of what it is like to live in such house, try for instance Starland Retreat. Imagine what this was like 30 years ago. The Starland retreat are amongst others inhabited of members of Radical Faeries movement. The Radical Faeries actually started as a response to aids in the gay community, with tribalist nude male-only ceremonies in the woods.

Another contemporary example (there were no internet those days, so to find 80’s examples on the net is hard) is Nasalam, a spiritual and tantric cohouse community. On their website you can read:
It would seem that to create such a spiritual community along traditional lines would be challenge enough, but to add to the complexity Nasalam is also a tantric community. Tantra is a term that covers many different beliefs and practices, but the most common use of the term in the West is with reference to certain sexual practices. Tantra has focused on developing sexual techniques because it is the strongest natural force we have at our disposal and it makes more sense to work with that force than to oppose it. Sex is the source of all life and anyone interested in maximizing life must also be interested in understanding sexual energy. As a tantric community a primary practice expected of all members is same-sex erotic massage, and experience shows that only queer people open to this kind of energy exchange.”

The Paddle – S&M-club in New York
Alternative lifestyle can also means other kind of sexual fulfillment than the mainstream heterosexual intercourse. At least one heterosexual S&M-club (BDSM was not in common use as a term yet) in New York City in the 80’s, “The Paddles” () is still going strong. There are some references to heterosexual S&M scene dating back to late 70s.
While the gay s&m-clubs was called “leather bars” or “leather clubs” and also includes fetishism, the S&M clubs devoted themselves mostly to spanking (hitting bums) and bondage (use ropes or hand cuffs to tie someone down – while you spank). The Paddles Club was (and mostly still is) in an own league, really devoted to spanking, with the lady (or sometimes the man) bending over the partners lap to get a handful spank with bare hands. Or sometimes a paddle. Whips are not in common use. Other sexual activities in these clubs was really rare, but sometimes in hidden dark corners. Most commonly the man is on top (called Dominant, Master, Dom or sometimes Daddy) and the woman the “bottom” (submissive, masochist, sub, slave or little girl). But on every club night there will be woman on top/man on bottom as well. To be “switch” – changing between being top and bottom is not common and were looked down on – in the 80s. S&M-clubs are as hidden and tabu as leather bars for homosexual, and most people did not use their own name. It is forbidden to talk of the action outside the club. The oldest S&M organization (founded in 1971), with a rather theoretical approach to the scene, is The Eulenspiegel society (link) who still invites to discussion nights and social (not sexual) evenings. Here is a short article about them. The Eulenspiegel society has also been a great contributor to HIV preventive work.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Young People and Cancer

by Victor Bernhartz

Cancer is a group of some 200 diseases all involving unregulated cell growth. The existence of has been known for over four millennia, although the more sophisticate understanding of cancer enters in the second half of the 19th century. Roughly 90 per cent of cancer is caused by environmental factors, i.e. are not caused by inherently genetic faults. However, in the individual case, it is very difficult to establish the exact cause of a specific disease and it’s history in the body, before discovery and treatment.

Being a young adult patient and survivor
Cancer is indeed lethal. Discussing cancer always means, on one level or the other, a discussion about death. While death is a topic not uncommonly brooded on in adolescence, living with cancer as young person involves a very direct meeting with said brooding. 

There is no way to describe how young people with cancer generally think and react to the disease. Consider being the centre of attention in class or in a circle of friends, while no one can be expected to have a deeper understanding of the disease, combined with their fear of a condition you have learned to fear. How one deals with that individually varies greatly. The common denominator being that life indeed changes radically.

Some friends will disappear, from fear or from not knowing what to do – or from the fact that cancer is a full-time position. In between tiring treatment sessions at clinics and dealing with issues related to the illness, there isn’t much time for social life. Young friends cannot be expected to understand, but nonetheless, remaining a close friend to a young person living with cancer, will require a lot. Being close to a cancer patient means placing many (if not most) of your personal priorities on hold. Adapting to that requires determination and patience as well as a lot of love.

With regards to family and the closer circle of relatives, a young person’s cancer will undoubtedly pull everyone in, regardless of reaction. Making sure the young person is supported emotionally and logistically will occupy most of the family’s time. Sometimes, the practicalities will make you forget that all arrangements are due to a potentially lethal condition – an absurd situation is normalized and integrated in the regular day, affecting work, studies and social patterns.

Many young survivors will carry traces from successful cancer management for the rest of their lives. Two out of three childhood cancer survivors experience at least one complication in therapy, and one in three develop complications that might require treatment later in life. Transition into adulthood is also altered. Time away from regular life means time away from education and work experience, as well as opportunities to socially grow, with friends and lovers. Fertility can be affected by therapy, and the future risk of developing another cancer is higher. Hence, coming out of cancer management as a survivor does not mean that things will go back to “normal”. Young patients are at greater risk of future complications compared to adult patients, simply because young people have a longer stretch of life ahead of them, in which things could go wrong.

The 1970s and talk therapy
Cancer was, up until the appearance of AIDS, the paradigmatic disease of the 20th century. Despite continuous scientific progress, it was a condition (in much similarity to AIDS) associated with stigma. Furthermore, it was associated with personal characteristics and attitudes, specifically in the 1970’s, when the alternative treatment “talk therapy” emerged.

Personal attitudes towards life and patient’s psychology were basis in such treatment. You could have a “cancer personality”, meaning you were depressed or self-loathing. To live through the disease, one was supposed to “fight cancer”. The road to be free of cancer was to be happy. So-called “positive thinking”, still a popular element in 21st century discourses on cancer (with breast cancer as an outstanding example), emerges here. More on this can be found in Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor (1978).

More conventional medical cancer management, such as surgery and chemotherapy, was available in the 1970s. In the US, president Richard Nixon declared a “war on cancer” in 1971. Some argue that such radical wording paves the way for destructive management methods, as well as placing responsibility for a recovery with the individual patient.

For the purpose of the larp, talk therapy, positive thinking and the war on cancer should provide entry points for players. Were they involved in talk therapy or not? How do they relate to the criticism of talk therapy and to the president’s war? And following that, does the above affect their reactions to AIDS and people living with the disease?