Bite-sized sovereignties offer worlds of fun

By Kathy CeceriPrint Story | Email Story
Family online is a regular feature of The Family Beat. Keyword: Micronations From Lilliput to Mordor, tiny yet convincingly-detailed countries have been around for centuries. And not all of them are populated by imaginary beings: Some, like the Catalan Republic or Malta, are real places inhabited by real people, even though they may not be recognized by other nations. While there are still would-be founding fathers and mothers declaring their backyards or bedrooms to be independent states, today it’s just as common for “micronations” to exist only in cyberspace. Either way, the perks of starting your own micronation are many. Besides getting to call yourself “Lord Dumpling” or “His Excellency, the President of Molossia,” you get to design your own flag, currency and stamps and bestow titles and ministries on your friends, as well as use your Web site to disseminate news to the populace — and sell souvenirs. With so many land-based and digital micronations staking their claim online, your computer is the perfect vessel for exploring this fascinating realm. One of the best explanations of what micronations are all about is posted on the user-written reference Web site Wikipedia. The article has entries on individual micronations with links to their Web sites and a list of other portals and informational sites, like Micronations.net. Through the Actual Small Countries Web site, with links to sites like the CIA World Factbook and Flags of the World, you can find out how to rent the principality of Liechtenstein (or one of its villages) for your next affair. And Footnotes to History lists failed real-world secessionist states and historical oddities going back to Alamut in central Persia, which lasted from 1090 until 1272. (Though the site needs updating, it’s still worthwhile.) Most micronations are created in fun, and they’re awfully fun to visit. A good example of a bite-sized sovereignty with its own postal and barter system, a well-thought-out constitution and even its own time zone, is the Northern Forest Archipelago. The NFA, founded by Lake Placid middle school teacher Jamie Sheridan (otherwise known as King James II), is “primarily a land- and animal-and plant-based nation-state” with outposts throughout the Adirondacks and New England. But its Web site offers a great lesson in what kinds of structure a country needs to survive, besides having cute photos of 2-year-old Crown Prince Ben at the Royal Family’s Summer Palace. Another hobbyist micronation, the Republic of Molossia in Nevada, has as its basic unit of currency the Valora, which look a lot like casino gambling chips and are linked in value to Pillsbury Cookie Dough (3 Valora equals one tube of Cookie Dough). Its Web site features pictures of its railroad, national sport (broomball) and space program. Some micronations were started when their monarchs were only kids. Robert Madison founded the Kingdom of Talossa in 1979 at the age of 14, when he declared his bedroom in Milwaukee to be independent from the United States. (Talossa is still around, although last year, rival factions broke off and formed their own Republic.) Eric Lis of Montreal was only 5 when he created Aerica in 1987. At one point, the country, which displays a smiley face on its flag, had more than 500 citizens and “an empire to match the Star Trek Federation of Planets.” Other land-based micronations break away from their mother countries for the publicity. In 1982, the mayor of Key West, Fla., announced that the city was seceding from the United States over a Border Patrol blockade of the only road from the mainland. Though the rebels quickly surrendered and applied for foreign aid, the Conch Republic commemorates its brief independence every year with a week-long celebration. Citizenship is open to everyone and you can apply online. Remarkably, Conch Republic passports have been accepted in several countries, including the Caribbean and Europe. A few micronations take the process one step further, going to great lengths to establish their legitimacy. In the 1960s, Roy Bates and his family turned an abandoned World War II defense platform in the middle of the English Channel into the Principality of Sealand, conducting a number of bloodless wars ending in court battles or negotiations with invaders and its European neighbors (you’ll want to watch out for micronations that take themselves too seriously, however; they may be the province of separatist groups with grim objectives.) New micronations (and their Web sites) are emerging and old ones disappearing all the time, leaving online archeologists to try to make sense of the artifacts left behind. Keep up with the latest developments on the Micronational News Network, featuring headlines from outlets like Antarctica Announcer, the St. Angelsk Times and the Cyberian Broadcasting Co-op. Yes, there is conflict and strife in the micronational universe, but there is also hope. Events like the Intermicronational Olympic Games, with both real world and online competitions in Frisbee discus, tennis-ball shotput and virtual checkers, chess and Monopoly, strive to bring unrecognized nations together. Maybe someday silliness will triumph over warfare, and micronations will take the lead to show the rest of the world how to get along. Check these out: Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micronation); Micronations.net (http://www.micronations.net/); Actual Small Countries (http://www.angelfire.com/nv/micronations/real.html); Footnotes to History (http://www.buckyogi.com/footnotes/); Northern Forest Archipelago (www.northern-forest-archipelago.org); Republic of Molossia (www.molossia.org); Kingdom of Talossa (http://my.execpc.com/~talossa/kingdom.html); Republic of Talossa (http://www.talossa.net/); Aerica (http://www.aericanempire.com/); Conch Republic (http://www.conchrepublic.com/welcome.htm); Sealand (http://www.sealandgov.org/); Micronational News Network (http://www.micronations.net/news/ Intermicronational Olympics (http://www.geocities.com/zorak_zoran/olympics/) All sites were reviewed as of this writing, but play it safe and check them again before sharing with your family. Kathy Ceceri is a home-schooling mom and writer in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: Aug. 2-8

Enjoy 18 different art shows featuring work by more than two dozen accomplished regional and student artists in Pittsfield's bustling Upstreet Cultural District during the First Friday Artswalk and all month long! 
 
In most venues, artists will be present from 5-8 p.m. A free guided tour begins at 5 p.m. at the Intermodal Center @ BRTA, 1 Columbus Ave.
 
The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts will host HAPPY, an abstract art show by Jesse Tobin McCauley for the month of August. There will be an opening reception during First Fridays Artswalk from 5-8 p.m. The exhibit runs through August 31.
 
Kids and teens, pick up the August 2nd Scavenger Hunt flyer for a chance to win a prize! Grab yours at the Artswalk table in Crawford Square, 137 North St., during the Artswalk or print one from the website.
  MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE
Berkshires Jazz brings five of the most popular regional bands to the stage for the 2019 Berkshire Jazz Showcase, on the Pittsfield Common from 12-5 p.m. The wide-ranging lineup for this jazz extravaganza includes Gina Coleman and Misty Blues, Paul Green and Two Worlds, Andy Wrba's Berkshire Jazz Collective,
First Take with Mary Ann Palermo and the Kyle Murray Quintet. FREE.
Hancock Shaker Village welcomes Berkshire Opera Festival as they pay homage to American opera by composers such as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Carlisle Floyd. The recital, "Ain't it a Pretty Night," will feature soprano Caroline Worra, tenor John Riesen and pianist Lynn Baker will explore this essential part of the musical fabric of our country. 7:30 p.m. $18-$25.
Plus...  
FRI WordXWord Festival: Crosstalk at Tyler Street Lab | FRI Grahm Sturz at Hotel on North FRI Blue Light Trio at Rainbow | FRI Anthony Luchi at Rusty Anchor | FRI Sawyer Country at Proprietor's Lodge | FRI Karaoke Night at Friends | SAT WordXWord Festival: Accomplice[d] at Berkshire Museum | SAT Orin Swift Cellars Wine Tasting at Hotel on North | SAT Melissa Brinton at Rusty Anchor | SAT Jason & Trev at J. Allen's | SAT Uncensored Comedy Show at Uncorked | SUN Country Dance w/Spurs USA at Italian American Club | SUN-MON Marilyn Maye at Barrington Stage | MON Jazz Night at Mission | TUE Wintergreen at Springside Park | TUE Open Mic Night at O'Laughlin's | WED Live on the Lake: Generation X at Onota Lake | WED Gruppo Mondo at Rainbow | THU Deja Again at Mazzeo's | THU Abandoned Building Brewery Beer Dinner at Hotel on North | THU The Picky B's at Mission
  FAMILY FRIENDLY

Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks animated film, Shrek The Musical is a Tony Award-winning fairytale adventure featuring all new songs from Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie) and a side-splitting book by David Lindsay-Abaire. Shrek brings all the beloved characters you know from the film to the stage and proves there's more to the story than meets the ears. The Colonial Theatre through August 9. $35 and up.
 
Plus...
ONGOING Hansel & Gretel at Berkshire Museum FRI WeeMuse: Adventures at Berkshire Museum FRI Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum FRI Yoga for Kids at Berkshire Athenaeum FRI-THU Parenting Classes & Play Groups at 18 Degrees (formerly Berkshire Children & Families) SAT WeeMuse: Art Lab at Berkshire Museum SAT Health & Wellness Fair at 18 Degrees (formerly Berkshire Children & Families) SAT Chow Time at Berkshire Museum SAT Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum SAT Child & Family Yoga at Onota Lake SAT da Vinci After Hours at Berkshire Museum SUN Discovery Tank Program at Berkshire Museum | MON Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum MON Kindergarten Countdown at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Star Lab at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Cones with a Cop on The Common MON Stardust Cafe at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Swan Lake Dance Intensive at Cantarella School of Dance MON Auditions for Magic Tree House Kids at The Colonial MON+ KidsAct! at Barrington Stage TUE WeeMuse: Littlest Learners at Berkshire Museum TUE Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum TUE Princess Songs & Popsicle Party at The Whitney TUE Project SpaceCRAFT: Planet Pinch Pots at Be TUE Screening of Monsters vs Aliens at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Little Gardeners of the Galaxy at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Uncharted Wild Animal Show at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Tie Dye on the Terrace at Berkshire Athenaeum | WED Creative Healing Workshop w/Funky Phoenix at Berkshire Museum THU Farm Friends at Hancock Shaker Village | THU Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum THU Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum THU Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum THU Lego Lift Off at Berkshire Athenaeum
  WELLNESS
SAT Outdoor Yoga & Zumba at Onota Lake
 
Join Rachael from Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness every 1st and 3rd Saturday (June through August) for outdoor yoga and Zumba classes at Burbank Park on Onota Lake. Yoga begins at 9 a.m. and Zumba at 10:15 a.m. Come to one class or both! $10 suggested donation per class. Rain cancels.
Plus...
FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Running Center | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Family YMCA | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness FRI-THU Various Classes at Radiance Yoga | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Salsa FRI-THU Various Classes at Pilates Fit | SAT Sunrise Yoga on the Deck at Rusty Anchor | SUN Guido's Great 8 Road Race | TUE Summer Fit Training at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness | THU Outdoor Yoga at Onota Lake
  PERFORMANCE
ONGOING If I Forget at Barrington Stage
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