I’m back!

trioI’m back… and planning on a whole slew of updated content for this site. Please do check back every now and then to see more. Yes, we’ll be doing more letters, more Q&A, more news, and more… well, more.

Welcome to it!

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Some thoughts on turning… 45 (dun! dun! DUN!)

Because I have dim memories of, like Caesar, being ripped from my mother’s belly at some point in the wee hours of the morning, I can safely say that as of this posting–I am closer now to 50 years of age than 40.

Of course that’s not the right attitude to take. Thanks to the boomer generation, 50 is the new 30 which means I’m still in my mid-20s. While I had done some pretty cool things in my 20s, I really hit my stride during my early 30s. Late bloomer, me. In any case, when mentioning being 45 to certain folks–some respond with surprise and some with a whistful nostalgia.

As far as I’m concerned, my age isn’t much of a concern. I still enjoy cartoons, but I can also manage a pretty busy freelance and publishing business. I like games, good music, and the occasional neat toy. I also enjoy documentaries and Meet the Press. I never miss my comics, nor my New Yorker. I think I have a pretty good balance going. Physically, I’m in a stage of transition right now. We’ve recently acquired YMCA memberships and I’m spending a lot more time looking at food labels–noting things like fat content, calories, sodium, and fiber.

Fiber.

The timing, however, is pure coincidence. This period of exercise and improved diet doesn’t come as a result of turning 45, nor is it a New Years sort of thing. Our insurance plan would reimburse us for gym memberships and we had to do it by the end of December or lose the opportunity. Having joined a gym and started a so-far-successful exercise regimen, it seemed stupid not to pair it with an improved diet. That, and it will make my doctor happier. And to be brutally honest–I could lose a few pounds. Quite a few. I’m already feeling the benefits.

But back to birthdays. The day itself will likely be pretty routine. I’m up. I’m working–catching up after being without a computer for a few days–hitting the gym, then more work until Margaret gets home, then going out for coffee with some friends, then coming home and making dinner and off to bed to do it all again the next day.

I don’t see much in the history books as far as grand events happening on this day back in 1967. They don’t even mention my natal arrival which further demonstrates a continuing decline in Western scholarship. Still, I like to believe on that day there was a worldwide sense of anticipation, relief, and dread.

I’m married to the woman I love. I have a house. A great job. I have my health. I read, write, paint, play music, and I’m a fairly decent cook.

Today marks my 45th trip around the sun.  I’m having fun.

Let’s see if I can’t pull off another 45.

That’s if the singularity or zombification doesn’t get me first.

Cheers!

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What if…?

What if money could talk… I mean literally?

What if potatoes really had eyes?

"Aaaaaauuuuggghh!"

What if paper could feel pain?

What if Gary Busey is the best we can do?

What if you could lick your elbow?

What if that wasn’t turkey in the turkey loaf?

What if whole fields of grass became carnivorous?

What if zombies walked the earth? How would they vote?

Hmmn… they’d probably vote Republican. No wonder they call it the “zombie apocalypse.”

*   *   *

Been a pretty productive week despite my best efforts. No.. wait… the opposite of best efforts. Ah! Been a pretty productive week despite my best efforts. No.. that still sounds wrong.

In short, I’ve been getting some good work done this week. I’ve got a great start on two new book projects for Intellect, the next draft of the medical journal, three BearManor Media books, two Merry Blacksmith books, and some other work. I’ve not gotten a lot of painting done yet this week aside from some watercolors from earlier on.

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Small thoughts on the new Facebook and illiterate authors

O Facebook, shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Apparently not. All the buzz online is about Facebook’s new interface. Right now, I’m not overly impressed. It’s slow and clunky. It’s not meshing well with the iPhone version at the moment. I try to opt to view all of my friends’ statuses and updates–not just those I’ve had recent interaction with–but now… I have no idea what the message criteria is. I suppose I can look through the online help, but honestly… was this trip really necessary?

I don’t normally oppose progress. There have been some Facebook updates I’ve approved of, and some I’ve not. This morning, I’m feeling whistfully nostalgic for the Facebook of three years ago. Hell… two years ago. Life was simpler.

I don’t expect Facebook will ratchet it back, though, so the new Facebook is here to stay. I hear tell that if you change your language preference to English UK, it will go back to its previous incarnation–for now. I may try that, but first I’ll give the new layout a fair shake. Maybe it will grow on me.

I do like how they show larger thumbnails of posted pictures. I don’t like the script-heaviness of the new pages slowing me down.

*   *   *

Honey? Have you seen my face cream?

Work continues. The author of the werewolf book was very happy with the layout and design of his book. That made me happy. I had another author who, very condescendingly, accused me of not proofing my work and proceeded to point out every mistake I made which–get this–were not mistakes. The author had no grasp of basic punctuation and grammar and wanted me to take correct usage and make it incorrect. No, I won’t say what book or author other than that it’s not a Merry Blacksmith one. The book will be published with the correct punctuation and grammar and no one will be the wiser unless said author happens to write an e-mail or press release and thus expose to the world their failing.

Everyone's best friend

It happens every now and then. Troublesome authors. Authors who think they’re designers. Authors who simply write embarrassingly awkward prose. Whadaya gonna do? Thank great ghu for editors.

On an unrelated note… today I focus on the medical journal, the China book, and, perhaps later, some book covers. I’ve got a couple of Merry Blacksmith books nearing time to hit the printer, and I need to get back to the cartoon book as well.

And maybe… maybe if I’ve been good and productive… I’ll take up a new painting.

Cheers!

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Observations regarding our art festival experience…

Interesting weekend. And fun. I’ve been going to arts and crafts shows for years and have always wanted to see what vending was like. Now I’ve seen it from that side and it turned out to be an interesting experience–one that I’ll be doing again as soon as I can get into one. Sales were not nearly as good as I had hoped they’d be, but apparently it’s always a crapshoot. I talked with a lot of long-time vendors who pretty much all said that it’s impossible to predict how any day of any show will go.  The following are some observations. I’m not saying I’m identifying any trends or rules of vending at arts and crafts sales–I’ve only done this one weekend–but these are some things I noticed based on this one experience…

We were different. I teamed up with an artist friend of mine, Rose Sipperley, who does some incredible work. Between her abstract monotypes and expressionist images, and my digital prints and paintings, we had a pretty interesting alternative to the rest of the offerings that weekend. On Saturday, the phrase we heard a lot was “Oh… this is different.” We didn’t have handmade jewelry or crafts, and our paintings and photos were not of quaint New England scenes. My one lighthouse photo had a UFO in the corner–as did the covered bridge picture and the harbor picture. Mind you… most people loved our stuff, but that didn’t mean they were ready to buy them.

Pricing to move isn’t a guarantee. Like I said, I go to a lot of these kind of festivals, so I know how much I’d be willing to cheerfully pay for certain things, so I priced accordingly. I priced to move. Ah well. maybe it was the subject matter.

"You Jeeeeeeeeerk!" (watercolor)

The two most popular prints were a.) a beautiful sunset scene photographed by Margaret and b.) a guy getting pushed off a cliff lovingly rendered in watercolor. What? The amber forest was also popular. As were the ducks.

Post-modern paintings are interesting, but you have to wonder… where would they hang it? Admittedly, my paintings are not the sort you see in living rooms or bedrooms. Maybe more in dance clubs or coffee shops. If they’d be in any residential location–maybe a home office or basement studio.

It’s better if you bring something to do. On Saturday, I didn’t bring anything extra to do–figuring I’d be hustling all day. Instead, I got bored at times and it made the day drag later in the day. On Sunday, I brought my art supplies and, over the course of the day, did four paintings and the day moved much more quickly.

Doing something artistic on-site makes people think you’re a real artist. Okay, Rose is a real artist. I’m just a vaguely talented amateur having my fun. But work on a painting or two while people are browsing seems to allow people to feel that maybe the stuff out for sale is real and not made in China.

An open layout is good. Our first day, we had less table space, all set up front, and it got very crowded.  On day two, we added a couple of more tables and had space in the middle for people to come in and look around more.

Vendors are friendly people. Everyone was very nice, supportive, and willing to give advice and share experiences. Because there was such variety, no one really felt competitive with anyone else and everyone seemed to take pleasure in other vendors’ successes. Good people.

Get a feel for the crowd. Admittedly, our stuff was a little out there. On the second day, I moved more “traditional” prints to the front, i.e., sunsets, ferris wheels, nature prints, etc, and put the odder ones (UFOs, ghost cats, awkward birds) in back. That encouraged people to stop rather than hurry nervously along.

Will my next one be like this? Maybe? I sure hope so–but with better sales. Overall, it was a great experience. Exhausting… but great. It’s the end of the season, so aside from a Christmas event or two, I won’t be doing this again until the start of next summer, but I’m goign to start registering for these things as soon as spots become available.

How could I not?

*   *   *

And now it’s back to work. er… back to all of the other work.

Ready…. set…. go!

Cheers!

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On Art Festivals and Mobility

Busy week. A lot of it is related getting ready for the Arts & Crafts show at Slater Park in Pawtucket this weekend. It’s the first time I’ve tried doing an event like this, so I’m pulling everything together from scratch: tent, table, chairs, signage, cashbox, cards, pricing, prints, and paintings. I’ll be joined by Rose Sipperley who is a fantastic artist, but who is also doing this for the first time. She’s been busy all week preparing a series of prints in various sizes.

"Mr. Fish" by rose Sipperley

If this works out well, there are some upcoming similar events I’m looking at. Also, after this weekend, I’ll be posting a bunch of items on Etsy. Fun stuff, and if it helps pay the bills, all the better.

Other news… we’re now a two car family. It may not sound like much, but it’s going to make my life a lot easier. Since moving to the ‘burbs, I’ve been pretty much stuck at home while Margaret’s at work. Not really complaining. We worked out a good system so I could still run chores when I needed, but having the second car will make it easier and provide some more flexibility. It should also be easier for me to hit some of the conventions in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York which will be good for business.

Note the picture. Beauty, eh? Gotta love Volvos. They last. I had one back in the 80s that was run real hard. No brakes. Running on a spare tire most of the time. Burned oil like an Kuwaiti pipeline, but it always started and always ran. I think it eventually disintegrated, but what a ride. Hence… another Volvo. And the station wagon setup makes for loading up for things like art shows or conventions easier.

And so hip it hurts.

Cheers!

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Wot news, and short reviews of a couple of awful books

For those few, fine folk who actually read this blog on a semi-regular basis, I apologize for skipping out on a couple of days. I have a tendency to try and take weekends off, but sometimes that’s not always the best idea for me schedule-wise (but a very good idea health and sanity-wise). In any case, Monday and Tuesday were consumed with work on an almost laser-like intensity, the result of which is me being more or less back where I should be.

Over the weekend I finished reading a couple of books–neither of which were very good.

The Midden by Tom Sharpe (1997) – I’m a big fan of British author Tom Sharpe. His stories tend to feature vageuly normal people caught up in outrageous situations. Farce ramped up to max. His main characters are often people who are just trying to live their lives. They’re weak, vain, venal, sometimes stupid, sometimes smart. In other words, they’re very much like real people without the veneer of idealism often attached to fictional characters. Many of the out-of-hand plotlines are spurred on by misunderstandings and stupidity–just like real life. Oh, they go over the top at some point, but the germ of every plot seems like something that reasonable people should be able to handle for a while. At least until things get unreasonable. I’d highly recommend any of the Wilt books, or The Great Pursuit, Vintage Stuff, and Blott on the Landscape. I can’t recommend The Midden, however. It’s very difficult to find any likable characters here. All of them are too flawed to comfortably identify with, and some of the actions taken are reprehensible, and their attitudes and prejudices simply couldn’t be overlooked. It’s a mean book about mean and stupid people doing mean and stupid things, and the author seems to have been in a very mean mood while writing it. Several innocent animals get hurt or killed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a few weren’t injured during the actual writing of the book. It really is a study in vile. I think the only reason why I pushed through it was to see how awful it could get. While there may have been a tiny amount of redemption by the end, the journey was just atrocious. Sharpe has written a few mean-spirited books (particularly his two set in South Africa), but this one takes the cake. Not a recommend. Read Wilt on High. A pleasant sort of book and more recommended.

Whiter Shades of Pale: The Stuff White People Like, Coast to Coast, from Seattle’s Sweaters to Maine’s Microbrews by Christian Lander  (2010) – This is a follow-up to his book Stuff White People Like. What he means by “white people” is actually “college educated liberals between the ages of 25 and 35 who are probably, but not necessarily, of caucasian stock and can afford to shop at Whole Foods.” You won’t find rednecks addressed, nor neo-cons or the religious right. You won’t find a lot of blue collar representation here either. And pretty much what he does (as he does in the previous book almost exactly) is take items of common interest to his particular group (of which I identify to a certain degree, admittedly) and mocks them. I think he thinks he’s being funny, but it comes off smarmy and belittling. Kind of like Dennis Miller’s comedy these days. Not as funny as he thinks. I suppose to be fair, the author is just trying to make a quick buck using a time-honored tradition. This is essentially a rehash of such classics as The Official Preppy Handbook, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche, The Redneck Dictionary, and The Hipster Handbook. There’s nothing original in what he’s doing, and it gets old very fast. People who read this who do not fall under the author’s version of “white people” will be scratching their heads wondering what the joke is (besides how lame we are), and those who are the author’s version of “white people” will wonder what his problem is with gourmet coffee and eco-vacations. So? I’ve heard it described as “an attack on privilege” but I don’t buy that. At least not coming from where I’m coming from. I’ve heard it called “self-satirical” which I suppose might be valid if it were funnier. The most telling point comes at the very end where the author expresses his surprise in being allowed to write not one, but two books like this. I have to say, I share his surprise.

In other news, I’ll be setting up at the Pawtucket Arts Festival this weekend selling prints, paintings, and books. I may be also featuring guest artwork by Rose Sipperley who does outstanding work. I’m busily getting everything together as this is the first time I’ve tried something like this. The clock is ticking on a bunch of prints and mats I’ve ordered as I’ll be spending a long night mounting and bagging. I need to make signs. I need to get other accessories ready, and I’m trying to finish a special set of screen-prints I’m preparing just for this.

Busy, busy!

Cheers!

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Some Netflix picks

Every now and then I like to pull public service announcements in the form of recommendations of various and sundries. This week it’s a couple of items on Netflix that have been getting my viewing time.

The History Channel Presents: The American Revolution – This 13-part series is a comprehensive history of the American revolution starting with the Stamp Act up to the Washington taking the presidency and everything in between. They do a good job making historical figures and events come to life and giving the whole period a sense of context. Highly recommended.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 – An oldie but goodie.  I missed this during its original run because I either didn’t have cable at the time, or worked nights. The science fiction movies they spoof are the best episodes, but there are usually a healthy number of chuckles for all of the entries. Push the button, Frank!

Ancient Aliens – Another History Channel offering–this one a lot less serious. I admit that I’ve long been a fan of this series. Don’t worry. I’ve not drunk the kool-aid and I view the series with a great amount of skepticism. Many of the arguments made are based on more wishful thinking than actual logic or context, but the arguments are, nonetheless, entertaining and every now and then there are mysteries discussed that don’t have ready answers. Ancient aliens seem as good an answer as any–at least to hold one over until something better comes along. The various experts are all very earnest, and if you can get past the specious arguments, it can be a lot of fun to watch.

Star Trek: Enterprise – Another series I missed on its original run–more because I wasn’t convinced by the first episode, but I’ve recently been giving it another shot and it’s grown on me. If you, like me, didn’t give it much of a chance at first, then I recommend giving it another try.

Leslie Jordan: My Life Down the Pink Carpet – If you don’t know Leslie Jordan, you’ll recognize him almost immediately when you see him. He’s a fairly popular character actor known for his diminutive size, drawling southern accent, and open homosexuality. This is a fascinating, entertaining, touching, heartwarming, and very humorous monologue of the actor’s life and experiences in coming to terms with his homosexuality, his undeniably effeminate mannerisms, his family, community, and Hollywood. Straight or gay, I think this is well worth anyone’s time to watch. My only caution is not to watch it the same day you watch Charles Nelson Reilly: The Life of Reilly or John Waters: This Filthy World as you may OD on old theatre queen monologues (a genre unto itself now, it seems). All three, however, are highly entertaining shows and all three are on Netflix.

*   *   *

Work continues. Italian theatre. Werewolves. Midgets. Rescue shows. Medical articles and abstracts. Murder mystery. Creepy childrens stories. Cute cat stories.

Oh, yes. The work continues. And I’m prepping stuff for an arts and crafts show next weekend including preparing a series of painting/silk screens and a few other mixed media pieces to accompany a stack of photo prints and books I’ll be hawking. This is the first time I’ve ever done an event like this, and a hundred things could go wrong beforehand, but I’m going forward just the same.  Whatever I don’t sell will likely go up on Etsy and/or my website.

And by the way… do you know how hard it is to find 9×12 frames in stores? Yeesh. Surprisingly difficult.

Cheers!

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Just a couple of things I could do without…

Generally, I’m not the sort to complain a lot. I tend toward a fairly philosophical approach to life and its various ins and outs, and not much gets to me. I’m kind of like the joke wherein a kid doesn’t speak until he’s ten years old, and then it’s just to say, “This tuna is too dry,” and when asked why he never spoke before he replies that everything up until then had been fine.

That doesn’t mean I couldn’t live without a couple of things. For instance…

Hail, Caesar

Do we really need all of these movie remakes? Okay, I can see how a remake of something like Planet of the Apes might be interesting to re-examine the story premise in a more contemporary context, but couldn’t these stories be told without having to lean on a previous franchise? Either the stories are strong enough to stand on their own, or they’re not. I hear the new Apes movie is pretty good, but how interesting would it have been had they gone for an entirely original story setup?

I could do without all of this rain. Yeah, yeah. Makes things grow and all that, but it’s been raining pretty steady all week. I could use a break.

People who get all bent out of shape when people like me futz with words. I like saying words like supposeably, sangwidge, microwabe, and yes… on occasion I’ve said irregardless. Soemtimes I’m being ironic. Sometimes I’m not.

I could do without bread that goes bad too quickly. Same goes for strawberries.

"Wild Strawberries" comes to mind almost immediately.

I could do without the vague endings of many European movies. Maybe it’s just me, but I like a satisfying closure.

I could do without not running out of paper towels at inopportune moments. And spilling things.

*   *   *

Hey, these entries can’t all be winners.

A young man decided to become a monk, so he joined the local monastery to be initiated into the spiritual life.

For the last time, I will not pull your finger.

As part of his training he was told he must live in one room, with one meal a day in complete silence. Every three years he was allowed out of the room and could say three words.

After the first three years the man was let out of the room and taken to the Abbot. The Abbot asked, do you have anything to say? The man replied “bed too hard.”

Three years later the man was let out of the room again and taken to see the Abbot. “Do you have anything to say?” asked the Abbot. The man replied “room too cold.”

After another three years the man was let out of the room again and the Abbot asked him if he had anything to say. “Not enough food” replied the man.

After yet another three years the man came out of his room and announced. “I am quitting.”

“Good,” said the Abbot, “you complain too much.”

Heh. and it’s back to work. Not that I’m complaining. This is my zen.

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Keeping busy

It’s nice that I’m having such a productive week thus far. So far I’ve turned in two complete book proofs. I’m more than halfway through a book on Italian women’s theatre, the overdue poetry book is nearing completion, a thriller for BearManor Fiction may be done within the next day or two, and some new BearManor projects will be open. I need to catch up on some more covers, and do some paperwork, but it’s been a productive week and it’s barely half through.

And I’m getting some art done as well. The piece I’m currently working on is a mixed media work inspired by William T. Vollmann’s seven-colume treatise on violence entitled Rising Up and Rising Down. I’ve never read it. Couldn’t afford a copy if I wanted to. But I became fascinated with the process involved in producing the volumes via the folks at McSweeney’s. I’m sure I’m not doing it justice, but it’s a fun project. I have a ways to go on it, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes out.

After that, I have a couple of paintings in mind… one an abstract piece with a little mixed media, and one more representational which I may do a trial run in guoache. The second one will feature zombies. That’s all I’m going to say.

And I’d like to plan out some screen printing projects. I have the equipment, but I’m hesitating. Why, I’m not sure. Probably because there’s a bit of work involved, and I’m worried that I’m going to screw something up. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I’m going to come up with the designs this week, then try my hand at making prints this weekend.  I’d also like to make some Merry Blacksmith shirts.

So lots going on this week. Let’s see if I can keep up the momentum. Okay, so today’s entry is no glowing bit of writing, but time’s a’wastin’!

Cheers!

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