What’s In the Box Tuesday

May 5, 2015

Welcome to a special edition of What’s In the Box Tuesday. It’s kind of cold and gray today, which is rare for Rockford, so my spirits are significantly buoyed by the arrival of a box at the bottom of the stares. I start to wonder what possibly could be in this box.

Box

It’s Media Mail, so right away I’m excited because I enjoy media. Videos, printed matter, vinyl records, all that stuff. I get out the knife Jenny’s dad gave me Christmas and carefully make the incisions necessary to open the box. It’s easy this time because the tape is applied rather loosely, and I’m thankful for that. Sometimes senders jeopardize the precious items they’re trying to protect by wrapping them too tightly. I appreciate that effort, but it seems more likely I’ll damage the item trying to get it loose from all those layers of packaging than if you just wrapped it and sent it. I got the package open rather easily, and after removing it from the bubble wrap…

The Carpathian Eagle 2

It’s The Carpathian Eagle on VHS from Thriller Video, hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark! Are you happy for me? I thought you would be. That’s what I like about you.

It’s National Krausening Day

May 5, 2015

Bronson Krausening Day

May 5th is National Krausening Day. Which reminds me that a few years ago when Jenny was still skating in the roller derby we took a trip to Lacrosse, Wisconsin, where you can see the world’s largest six pack of Old Style beer. Which we did.

World's largest six pack of Old Style

It was a nice weekend, and we stayed overnight in Lacrosse, and the kids enjoyed swimming in the pool, and I think the Rockford Roller Derby team lost. In fact, I don’t think they’ve ever defeated a WFTA sanctioned team. But that’s not terribly important. As far as Old Style goes, a bar named The Barn used to have it on tap for fifty cents on Sunday night. I lived right down the street, so I hoisted many an Old Style there. Scotty the bartender would always be wearing some outrageous Hawaiian shirt, and he’d frequently use his own money to pay musician friends of his to come in  and play, so it was a really cool place to hangout when I was bartending myself and my week had ended. Also, they had a cooler where they frosted their beer mugs, and they kept the Old Style right at freezing, so the combination of the frozen mug and extra cold beer often caused a beer slushy that you can’t get anywhere else. Well, you can’t get it there, either, anymore, because after years of drug rumors the place was finally shut down.

At one time I thought it would be funny to do a project where I created a NEw National Holiday for every day of the year. I got about six or seven done. May 5th was National Krausening Day, and Charles Bronson was the host. And that’s tomorrow, so welcome to National Krausening Day. I don’t think it would be out of line to celebrate with a cold Old Style and a Charles Bronson movie.

Do you?

So, what is Krausening in the first place?

Krausening is a traditional German method for carbonating beers without using sugars or other adjuncts. Instead actively fermenting malt wort is added to the fermented beer to provide the malted sugars needed for carbonation. A Bavarian law adopted in 1516 allowed for beer to be made from only three ingredients: malt, hops, and water. Sugar was not allowed, so wort was used in its place. Some home brewers still use the Krausening process for variety and to remain true to German purity traditions.

I’d recommend Hard Times.

What Is The Hall of Bad Dudes?

May 4, 2015

The Hall of Bad Dudes was spawned by the recent debate about Richard III. Upon locating the monarch’s remains in a parking garage recently, the historical consensus that he was one of the most vile villains in history was challenged, and many historical inaccuracies amended. The upshot of the debate wasn’t that Richard was a swell guy and a great king, but that he wasn’t nearly as bad as we have been led to believe by Shakespeare and others. It made me wonder: if RichardII wasn’t as bad as we thought, are there people we’ve been told are great that really aren’t as great as we think. Are there people we consider sacred cows that have flatulence? Are there even people we hold reverence for that might really have been just outright lousy human beings? I started the Hall of Bad Dudes to explore these questions, and the make a gallery of individuals we believe have made themselves worthy of further scrutiny.

BadDudes_(12)

Who are these Bad Dudes? Can women be Bad Dudes? Are there robot or android examples of Bad Dudes? I guess you’ll just have to visit The Hall of Bad Dudes to find the answers to these questions.

I Ended Up With Books

May 3, 2015

Every May our neighborhood has a collective garage sale. Wait a minute, that makes us sound like Socialists, and i doubt there are many Socialists in our neighborhood besides me. Our entire neighborhood has separate collective garage sales, and thousands of people show up. Maybe five to ten thousand. So, at six in the morning Jenny and I were schlepping two years of junk that we had collected out into the driveway to offer to our fellow citizens, who start showing up around 7 for the 9 o’clock start. They descended on our tables of junk before we could even eat the donuts we had picked out for breakfast. And they didn’t stop coming until nearly five this evening.

We sold nearly everything we put out.

Except books.

Nobody bought a single Zombie Logic Press book. A sign indicating these were books by local authors produced right here in good old Rockford made no difference. Like dogs who know there’s a bitter pill hidden inside a cheeseburger they din’t know exactly what was in those books, they just knew they wanted anything else.

I’m years and years beyond even being bitter or sad about that. I sat there on the porch with my best buddy drinking CC and water, then Jack and Tab Cola, then Jack and water and watching Jenny collect money hand over fist for a bunch of garbage we couldn’t have been any happier to get out of our basement.

I did manage to make a couple of sweeps of the neighborhood looking for vinyl records, VHS tapes, and whatever other interesting items I could find, but I ended up with the same thing I always end up with… books.

I scored both a hard and softcover copy of Gore Vidal’s Burr from an older gentleman who explained his wife insisted something had to go. We discussed the book for a while, then I moved on. I later acquired a volume of Rod McKuen’s poetry, a collection of H.G. Wells’ stories, and a slim copy of Gide’s The Immoralist. Only two of the 100 or so sales even had any vinyl records, but I did manage to score this gem…

Saturday Night Live

It wasn’t as exciting as last year’s haul, which included a Smith Corona Sterling typewriter, about twenty VHS horror tapes, and a signed Mercury mission photograph of Alan Shepard, but all in all the good company and bread we made had a palliative effect. I have no idea what we’ll sell next year, if anything, but I can predict one thing for certain: I’ll end up with books.

A Monster’s Genealogical Chart: The Monster Club

May 2, 2015

If you’ve ever see the movie The Monster Club you’re no doubt aware what a monster’s genealogical chart is, and how it fits into the movie. But if you haven’t, here’s a monster’s genealogical chart.

A monster's genealogical chart from the movie The Monster Club

A monster’s genealogical chart from the movie The Monster Club

If you watch the movie, one of my all time favorites, Vincent Price will gladly explain to you the various monster species and how interbreeding of monsters, and sometimes humans, creates a vast array of new monsters with different looks and powers. My favorite is the Shadmock. He only whistles.

This chart was created by artist John Bolton, and I have been trying to buy the original now for five years. I came very close at one point when I contacted Bolton’s wife and assistant, and she told me she had discovered it in the basement months before and sold it to a collector. I didn’t even ask for how much because I’m sure it would have broken my heart, but at least I know it exists. The scan you are now looking at comes from an Ebay item I bought which the seller claims to have obtained legally. Aside from this it’s very, very difficult to find a clear scan of this work. Recently I saw someone had spent a great deal of time and effort making this into a full-size poster on vellum. I nearly bought it, but still hold out hope the original will find its way to me someday.

No Real Ax To Grind

May 1, 2015

There’s no real good reason why I have a parallel blog to Zombie Logic. Oh, wait a minute, yes there is. I didn’t think Jenny and people I knew would ever see this blog, and although I didn’t intend to use it to express thoughts or events I didn’t want her to see, it just made it easier to write about certain things that didn’t seem appropriate for Zombie Logic, where I almost never write about my actual thoughts, feelings, or daily occurances. Even now I’m only writing because I haven’t logged an entry in over a month and I don’t want the search engines to forget about me.

I spent the winter becoming increasingly more paranoid about my health. It began in September, around the anniversary of my heart surgery, and started with anxiety over having a stroke or internal bleeding, and that soon led to panic attacks. Going to bed convinced it was a distinct possibility I would die during the night. Arms and legs going numb. It all just built upon itself until I was a wreck and contacted my physician asking for anti-anxiety medication, which he prescribed. But even after this I had an incident where my feet turned purple. This turned out to be Reynaud’s Syndrome. I was was relieved it was not a blood clot or more severe blockage or anneurysm.

Still I was experiencing numbness in my hands, arms, feet, legs, and on occasion face and neck. I soon became convinced I was developing MS. Weeks passed and the symptoms persisted, so I asked for a referral to a neurologist. After a short office visit he ordered a blood panel but told me he didn’t think I had MS. I instantly felt better. Not entirely better, but over the next few weeks many of my symptoms lessened. Only my right hand persisted in being numb. Eventually I considered the possibility that spending too many hours on the computer might have led me to contract carpal tunnel syndrome, so I started using my left hand two weeks ago, and I’m starting to feel much better.

My neurologist called and said my bloodwork was normal, despite having a pretty common vitamin D deficiency. I have been taking 10,000 IU of vitamin D a day, trying to get some sun, laying off repetitive tasks with my right hand, and just in general not thinking about death. I’ve had a good six weeks.

Why am I telling you?

I’m not, really. I’m telling myself. After two post-midnight cups of tea and what promises to be an exhausting weekend of art shows and a garage sale, I’m just trying to appreciate every moment when I feel good. I know many people have it so much worse, and I’m grateful for what I have.

I guess I should say a little something more to get to the magical 500 word count. After five years of careful crafting and nurturing, Google seems to have lost favor with my Zombie Logic Blog. I have faith eventually they’ll realize I’m doing all original material and art, but for now I’m apparently not of any interest to the cyber Universe. Here’s a recent piece I’m ok with.

Poem Thomas Vaultonburg

I Stepped On a Shiitake Mushroom

April 5, 2015

Feeling a lot better with the MS the past couple of weeks. The sun has helped. Got my blood panel results and I have a serious Vitamin D deficiency. Not surprising since it’s cold and gray 350 days a year here. Really happy to be part of Spring Art Scene again. Jenny and I collaborated on two pieces. Last year we had a dozen pieces up, and we sold all but two.

Big Thing

Just put all the mini Plants v Zombies toys in plastic eggs and watched Jenny hide enough candy to feed the entire nation of Ecuador. Can’t sleep. The second printing of our children’s book should arrive Monday or Tuesday. It’s a new printer, and I have no idea how it will look. You still have a few days to pre-order it here.

Tap Dancing Rhinoceros

March 22, 2015

Jenny and I finally got it together to order a second printing of our children’s book The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company. Took us two years, even though the original print run sold out almost as soon as we got them out of the boxes. We’ve gone with a different printer this time, so there’s always that sense of anxiety until you open the box and see that first book is the way you expected it. We have a crowd-funding campaign going at Indie GoGO where you can pre-order the book for the same price we’ll be selling it at the website.

10You can pre-order The Toughskin Rhinoceros Wrangler Company here It will be here for Spring Art Scene in the first week of April.

Blog Like No One Is Reading

February 23, 2015

Blogs can serve many functions besides just selling products. Mine never sold any products, anyway, so I need to find another reason to justify wasting my time on one. At first blogging seemed like it might be a temporary thing. Something we all did, like citizen’s band radio, then moved on to the next trend, but now that some of my blogs are nearly ten years old, and the platforms they exist on seem stable and semi-permanent, I’ve really started using blogs in different ways.

The first way I use my blog is as an external memory source. Like an external hard drive. I make notes to myself about movies I enjoyed watching, events I want to remember in the future, ideas I want to explore further etc. In the past I wouldn’t have done this because I didn’t trust any of these platforms to be there in the future. When My Space blogs went belly up it really crushed me because I had been unwise enough to use it as my primary blog. I had no other online presence. But it taught me a valuable lesson. Aside from using a blog as an “internet presence,” I had to make a place primarily designed for me. Like a study or a den or, and I hate this word, mancave. If not one other person ever entered my study I’d be fine with that, because it’s a room built for me.

Now, that might be a terrible way to look at a blog if you’re trying to sell something, or reach a mass audience, which I am, but it’s no longer my primary goal.

Another thing I use blogs for is to create a space where I create a fanpage for one particular movie or pet issue I know I care way more about than anyone else on the planet. An example is the blog I curate about the movie Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, or even more frighteningly, about a single character in the movie The Monster Club, Raven Shadmock. I don’t want to waste everyone’s time trying to convince them they should read these blogs, but I know there are a few hardcore fans who do. For instance, I was on Ebay recently tracking down a piece of marketing memorabilia for the movie The Monster Club, and the seller had actually read my blog about the very item he was selling. Unfortunately, I was outbid on the item, which kind of stunk because it was signed by Vincent Price, but the search goes on.

Point? Oh, you can use your blog for a lot of different purposes these days. One doesn’t always have to be doing the hard sell. I think most of us by now run our own business, and with that business comes new responsibilities and stresses we couldn’t imagine when we went to school for something else. Promotion and sales might be the worst. It’s good to have some sort of diversion from all these tasks. Really, there’s no wrong way to use your blog, as long as you make it your own.

This Should Have Been a Better Day

February 17, 2015

Boxes and boxes of the latest Zombie Logic Press book The Zen of Beard Trimming were dropped off by UPS today. Here’s a picture of boxes of books. Then the writer of our last book, Iced Cream, was on NPR this morning. As a publisher, sounds like a pretty good day, huh? So, why am I here still at the downtown office at 8:30 p.m. lonely and depressed, feeling like I’m wasting my time and my family’s. There’s a line in The Natural where Richard Farnsworth’s character says about the coach, “He gave his heart and soul to the game, only to have it trampled on.” I feel beaten up tonight. The proportion of work I’ve invested to the amount of payoff is ridiculous. Not even justifiable.

Boxes

I’m looking at this picture of these books and instead of rejoicing and congratulating myself on sheparding in another very worthwhile project, I’m wondering where the hell I’m going to put most of them. Nonetheless, like a junkie, I still look forward to the next few book projects we already have lined up. I can’t go to any event here in Rockford without someone approaching me and pitching a book. Which is great, because Rockford is a place with its share of misery, and I’d like to think the two books a year I’ve been doing, and hope to continue doing, give voice to some of that misery. But the fact is even the local media and Buy Local/Chamber of Commerce/Arts Council types do almost nothing to help anyone promote their product outside, even inside the confines of the city. They talk a big game about hope and accentuating the positive, but if your positive isn’t something they don’t profit from, and none of their buddies profit from, they don’t have much interest in it. So, I continue to make products NPR and others find unique and original and worthwhile, but no one in Rockford will say anything about.

Anyway, I’m sure some of you hear me knocking. Publishing is a rough trade. Always has been. This could have and should have been a more joyous day for me. The work is good. The pay sucks. Thanks for letting me complain. Check out our product line at Zombie Logic.