Sunfish Mermaid

May 9, 2015

I was sitting here after everyone went to bed fully realizing I have to be up as early as they are tomorrow for karate and Jenny’s watercolor class, but I was trying to watch Silent Hill on cable television. Without my glasses I couldn’t see it at all from across the room. So, I put on my glasses and watched for a couple of minutes and it became fully apparent it didn’t matter if I could it or not, it didn’t make a lick of sense visually or narratively. Now I’m just going to watch SportsCenter for the first time in several years and write about this Sunfish mermaid from Jenny’s Freshwater Mermaids of North America series.

Sunfish Mermaid

The Orangespotted Sunfish is widely distributed among the central and Eastern states, from the Colorado River to Hudson Bay, the Orangespotted Sunfish thrives in shallow, vegetated systems, and thus has few predators.

This mermaid is drawn in watercolor by my creative partner Jenny Mathews. You can see all the mermaids from her series Freshwater Mermaids of North America.

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Bombardment and the Presidential Physical Fitness Award

May 5, 2015

I was never aware that there were children who lived in mortal fear of gym class. That the worst thing in life that could happen to them was learning it was Bombardment day. In retrospect I know who those kids were, but I was never able to share their terror of the possibility of participating in an activity that might help them feel better. See, I was good at sports. I enjoyed gym class. I felt at home there. The jocularity never bothered me. The sensation in one’s happy parts one can only get from climbing to the top a rope has never fully been equalled as an adult.

One of the happiest days of the year was the day we took the Presidential Physical Fitness test. This was my day. In the 1950’s President Eisenhower saw data suggesting Americans were woefully out of shape and flabby compared to Europeans, and he set out to establish a commission to remedy that. When President Kennedy took office he considered physical fitness a priority, even writing in Sports Illustrated “in a very real and immediate sense, our growing softness, our increasing lack of physical fitness, is a menace to our security.”

The fat kid in gym class was a threat to national security.

The Presidential Physical Fitness test was established in 1966. It included a softball throw, a shuttle run, a broad jump, and pull ups. To earn the award, students had to place in the top 85th percentile as compared to the national average. Winners of the award received a blue badge with a number denoting how many times they had received the honor. Those who didn’t exceed the standard didn’t get one.

In 2012 the Presidential Physical Fitness program was replaced with a more relaxed program called The Presidential Youth Fitness Program. Apparently since not expecting anyone anywhere ever to earn anything or be good at anything in order to be recognized for being good at anything or having earned anything, now everyone is a winner.

And if you look around it seems to be working. This type of thinking has been enormously successful in raising reading and math skills in students, and I expect it will drastically improve the level of physical fitness in this new generation.

here’s my second and third Presidential Physical Fitness Awards. I saw some people even got a fourth and fifth, but who wants to put in that kind of effort?

Badges

 

And if you think I’m a heartless Conservative parroting some sort of crud I heard on a talk show, you’re wrong. I’m more Liberal than you. Trust me, and I’m all in favor of everyone getting a trophy for participation. Because that’s a self-esteem issue, but relaxing standards on physical fitness isn’t a self-esteem issue, it’s a health issue. Nothing is more important than health. Nothing. We all know this. So, when we relax these standards we’re not adding anything to our children’s lives, we’re taking something away. If anything I’d like to see those standards stiffened. Why not? It’s not about awards, or badges, or even self-esteem, really. It’s about health. And that trumps almost everything.

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.