Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Moe's Backroom

by J.S. Holland

I keep seeing this Tap Room No.21 stuff at the supermarket, and finally succumbed to the curiosity. Most of that curiosity was incited by their packaging that celebrates the end of prohibition, aka "the Noble Experiment". According to their website:

"A tribute to “The Noble Experiment”, Tap Room No. 21 embodies an American spirit of perseverance. During the heyday of the Roaring Twenties, corruption was rampant, lawbreakers became icons and speakeasies replaced saloons. As an ode to the repeal of Prohibition, our best kept secret and most cherished contraband is available for you to enjoy among your crew of notorious bootleggers."

Well, actually, not much has changed since then, so let's not start sinking each other's battleships quite yet, gentlemen. Even as we speak, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for all nations on Earth to take draconian anti-alcohol measures. Today, by coincidence, happens to be "World No-Tobacco Day", a sophomoric celebration of smoking bans, also engineered by the WHO. And yet, this same organization is totally whitewashing the dangers of Fukushima radioactive fallout - to the extent that even the mainstream media is calling bullshit on them.

If this were the Wild West, people like this would have been hung long ago.

So yeah, anyway, therefore, it does my heart proud to see a fledgling young beer that openly acknowledges that at least during this time in history, the good guys were actually the bad guys, and the bad guys were actually the good guys. Black is white, up is down, through the drinking glass.

And it's a damn fine brew. Hoppier than I would have expected, which is a very pleasant bonus, though not nearly so much as Schlafly Dry-Hopped APA (another common find in higher-end supermarkets lately.) All in all it's a complex taste but disarmingly subtle at first. The "ohhh yeah" hits you a full 5 seconds after you've already swallowed it.

They have several varieties but I chose their pale ale. Creature of habit that I am, I will probably stick to their pale ale and not try their other offerings anytime soon. This stuff is tasty and I tend to stick with a winner. Sure, it's a mass-produced corporate brew trying to pass itself off as a "craft" beer, but that's life in this here dwindling spiral of a dying civilization. As Wanda Jackson says, "go to the store, let's buy some more."

Monday, May 30, 2011

When We Were Spud Crazy

by J.T. Dockery

Like the last blacksmith standing, I still engage in producing paper products. But I'm not afraid of computers. You're reading this, ain't ya? But when people say the book is dead, that's simply the moment a form starts to come back.

Speaking of returns from the grave, while I spent plenty of time hyping the original art exhibition in congress with the release of the thirty page excerpt of the graphic novel in progress, Spud Crazy, in collaboration with author Nick Tosches, I never came back around to file a report on how it all went down. Part of that lapse was due to the fact that I was kindly waiting for Colonel Phillip Jones to get it up on the web shop of the Institute's website before we all get old. But then I figured I have copies that I am selling, so I just made a page for it over on my own virtual plantation.

Look up yonder, party people. Gaze upon the front of the Institute 193, located at 193 South Limestone.

Two views from opposite ends of the space, the artwork was all single file, forming an L shape. Without intent, the 30 pages fit perfectly in the space. If I had done one more, the approach wouldn't have worked.

That's Sara O'Keefe with the beverage, with the headcoat floating behind her on the head of her husband, Trevor Tremaine. Lexington, KY music scene power couple of Hair Police and Resonant Hole fame (for starters). A couple of some of my most favorite folks.

Phillip chose to install the entire essay by Bob Levin from the book on the wall in vinyl. I had a quiet moment early on during the opening reception in which I felt pretty emotional reading Bob's fine words on the subject of yours unruly. But being my own self critic, the old head didn't get too big; the flipside of that goodly feeling was me looking with a cold eye at all the pages on the wall and muttering to myself, "Well, two or three of these panels are okay."

Sporting my birthday 45, a gift from Brian Manley, that's me standing with Hunter Carson. He was in town for the Harry Dean Stanton film festival, happened to swing by the opening, and opted to hang out with us. That was a real treat, and we became fast new buddies.

That is a sticker on the back of the envelope that contains the book from the show, with 193's head honcho's text.

The soundtrack disc by the Spud Imperials that comes with the book. I thought this might just be a novelty, but I really enjoyed the process and the end result of the music we made. As a matter of fact, I'm offering up an early draft of Robert Beatty's mixing/sequencing as a free bonus download for the masses. But to get the actual finished soundtrack, ya gotta buy the book. A variation on the Spud Imperials performed some themes from the soundtrack, with the added element of a Theremin, but, alas, no pictures of the performance.

All laid out: the book, the soundtrack, the envelope as cover.

Handsome, if I don't say so myself.

Good show, good book, good music, good times. Look at that lightning. Did I mention you can buy this directly from me?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

St. Germain

by J.S. Holland

I've been most interested in St. Germain liqueur ever since having a cocktail made with it.... where? I can't remember now. St. Germain is distilled from the Elderflower - only one of two Elderflower liqueurs I am aware of - and is named after... well, I don't know that either. I used to think it was named after this guy or this guy, but is probably someone less interesting, like this guy or this guy.

Recently I went into Evergreen Liquors with the intention of getting a bottle of Angel's Envy bourbon, but found myself walking out with St. Germain. When I got home and poured a shot of it, though, I knew I'd made a bad play. The stuff is heavy, cloyingly sweet like a nectar, and tastes like white wine or champagne. I can't stand white wine or champagne. So I checked St. Germain's website and their recipes mostly suggest mixing it with... white wine or champagne. Their other recipes seem to be just taking a conventional drink - like a Mojito or a Gin & Tonic - and adding just a touch of St. G. That sounds to me like a waste of both good rum/gin and the St. G itself.

Their site, of course, describes their peculiar product a bit more fancily:

"Neither passionfruit nor pear, grapefruit nor lemon, the sublime taste of St-Germain hints at each of these and yet none of them exactly. It is a flavor as subtle and delicate as it is captivating. A little like asking a hummingbird to describe the flavor of its favorite nectar. Très curieux indeed, n'est-ce pas?"
At least we agree on the bit about nectar.

Finally I hit upon an elegant solution - mixing it with tea. When this bottle's gone, though, I doubt I'll invest in another. I will save the bottle, in all its Pope-hat-lookin' glory, and think fondly of this elixir... while I sip something else.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Not Very Cherry

by J.S. Holland

After a long series of positive tobacco reviews, I've finally hit one that doesn't do it for me: Middleton's Cherry Blend. Though Mr. Middleton scored a big hit on the plantation with Carter Hall, my experience with this stuff is a piece of puzzling evidence.

First thing is, it doesn't smell or taste like cherry. At all. And that's fine, because frankly, the idea of cherry flavored tobacco doesn't really tickle my tastebuds anyway. I only chose this pack because I appreciate the mythic resonance of its old-timer status, and largely on the good reputation of the aforementioned Carter Hall. But it does smell/taste like something, only I can't figure out what. It's more like apple than cherry to my olfactory, but it's more complex than that. There's a good room note, but the stuff is probably more enjoyable to innocent bystanders than it is to the guy actually smoking it.

Secondly, I wonder if my particular pack is just dried out from having sat too long on the shelf at Cox's (I did, in fact, get this pack from a different, less popular, Cox's than my usual one). The contents of the pouch are dry as a tinderbox, and there's a weird texture to it, like it's a mixture of old dessicated tree bark, stems and twigs! It's like smoking mueslix cereal, or wood chips from your hamster cage.

I do get a bit of the same raw, smoky, true-grit feel from M.C. as I do from Half & Half, but whereas H&H's anise-cased kindling makes me want to hitch a ride on a railroad car down to the confluence of the rivers and hobo like it's 1986, Middleton Cherry just makes me want to hork.

As is customary, I consulted the good panel of my fellow louts over at Tobacco Reviews. Several report exactly the same experience as me, especially as regards the dried-out crunchy nature of the product, and two different people suggest it would make a better mulch than a pipe tobacco. Yet others swear it's the greatest smoke they've ever had, delicious cherry flavor, and moist as a bundt cake in the morning dew.

I dunno. I don't even think I can make it through this pack. You want the rest?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Future of Commerce Starts Today

by J.S. Holland

"The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The more Google assures us that their motto is "Don't Be Evil", the more obvious it is that is exactly what they have become. Three months ago, Google agreed to settle FTC charges that it "used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers" when it launched the Orwellian disaster known as Google Buzz. And they're still pissing off authors and publishers around the world with their unprecedented Google Books project whose mission was to scan and place online every book in existence (including mine) without the permission of any of the rightful owners.

And we aren't just talking about wild-eyed conspiracy crackpots or tinfoil-hat loonies here. Ursula K. LeGuin resigned from the Authors Guild over their kowtowing to Google. The American Society of Journals and Authors has warned that we must "Stop the Google-ization of copyright law" before it's too late.

Now comes the latest volley in Google's technocratic mission to digitally zombify everything in sight: the Google Wallet, in which Google invites you to let them handle your money for you. (Oh, sure, right, I trust Google implicitly, don't you?) It's been in the work since at least 2005, and now, like a rogue comet, it's finally here, heralded on their website ("The future of commerce starts today!") in rather pompous and apocalyptic terms:

In the past few thousand years, the way we pay has changed just three times — from coins, to paper money, to plastic cards.

Now we’re on the brink of the next big shift.

And what might that be? "Google Wallet is an Android app that makes your phone your wallet. It stores virtual versions of your existing plastic cards on your phone. Simply tap your phone to pay and redeem offers using near field communication, or NFC." Hmmmmm. "Tap" your phone? Oh yes, they're assuming you have a smartphone. Of course.

"Eventually your loyalty cards, gift cards, receipts, boarding passes, tickets, even your keys will be seamlessly synced to your Google Wallet." Uh.... no, no they won't. Because I won't be having a Google Wallet, nor will I be having a smartphone.

In fact, within the next two years I plan to phase out even owning a cellphone of any kind at all.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Live To Win

by J.S. Holland

Several years ago I knew a painter who was having moderate success, selling an occasional painting here and there. But she frequently got discouraged, and often voiced despair about lack of recognition. Sometimes her gloom was so pronounced that she would think about splitting from the art game entirely.

One day while perusing her website, I found a bit about how she had won some sort of very prestigious national arts award, and posed for a photo-op in Washington, DC with the Governor of Kentucky and some other honchos. But it was hidden, deep in the labyrinth of her site, tucked away on some bottom corner of some remote page that no one was likely to ever see except by accident.

I called her up immediately. "Hey!" I said, "that's pretty damn important! Most artists, including me, would give their eyeteeth for such an honor! You need to have that up on your index page, front and center, and make sure the whole world knows about this!" She replied that she thought it was "too much like bragging" to do that, and that she didn't think artists should crow about their accomplishments. I haven't talked to her much since then, and her website hasn't been updated in years. For all I know she has indeed given up on art rather than engage in self-promotion.

I know another artist who does some fantastic work - I own a couple pieces of it myself - but he has always been very secretive and reluctant to show his work or to even talk about it. He comes from an old-school punk-rock background, and like clockwork, every time a grand opportunity falls at his doorstep, he deliberately shoots himself in the foot by minimizing its impact as much as possible. The few times he's ever sent out a press release for anything, it's been because he was instructed to by a venue - and even then, his press release amounts to "Hey guys, I feel like such a sell-out for even saying this, but for some reason the such-and-such gallery invited me to hang my paintings in the lobby of a fucking corporate skyscraper. I know you wouldn't be caught dead at a place like this, so I won't be offended if you don't show up for the opening. I don't even want to do this."

Remind me never to hire this guy for my PR staff.

And yet, if you ask him why he isn't an art star today, he says, "I have no chance, man, the system is stacked against me." Riiiiight.

Then again, perhaps people like this are hesitant to be vocal about their achievements, because they've learned from experience that when it comes to creative pursuits, the pathway is littered with negative people who love to attack anyone who shows any signs of rising above the herd. I'm not sure which field has the worst haters - artists, musicians, or theatre people. I've encountered some of the most messed-up minds on the planet in all three groups; endlessly sniping, gossiping, down-talking each other - especially the ones who are winning, and doubly so for the ones who aren't afraid to talk about it. Fortunately, the negativists are in the minority in each group - but though their numbers are few, their extremely vocal and bullying nature makes it sometimes seem like they are the status quo. Far be it from me to quote Richard Nixon, but there really is a "silent majority."

Gene Simmons gets a lot of flak for being an egomaniac. You can easily find online whiners who complain that he shouldn't talk so much about the things he does. Still others even go so far to say that he shouldn't even be doing the things he does. As if he should just do nothing because some slacker on the internet thinks it's "not cool" to have your own clothing line and your own perfume line and your own TV show and your own coffee company and to get to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. I'd much rather be like Gene Simmons than be like his online detractors and haters, broadcasting live from mommy's basement.

For some reason, most media sources maintain that stories of people going outside and doing things, building things, having achievements, and winning isn't news. But if some crackhead in Pocatello runs over someone in a truck and then shoots himself after a police chase, for some reason, we're told that this is very important breaking news that needs to be amplified to every corner of the globe. And yet I have absolutely no use for such information. I have no desire to read about the failed lives of others, and if you do, check yourself, because there might be something wrong with you.

I want to hear about people's successes. I want people to write them down, blog them, tweet them, shout them from the highest rooftop. I am genuinely interested in hearing about your wins. Are you working on a new project? Don't just sit there like a knob, Write it up. File a report. Talk about it. Send out press releases every time you sit on the toilet or eat a piece of toast. You may feel foolish and self-indulgent at first, but get through that and come out the other side - because this IS how things get done, and there IS a certain percentage of people who DO want to hear about it. Find them. Make friends with them. Help them amplify their own winnings as well.

You don't have to be an obnoxious jerk about it like Charlie Sheen. Just calmly and directly communicate your wins, and you'll soon attract kindred spirits. Just look over your shoulder.

(Even now, someone out there is reading this and laughing and saying, "Hyuk hyuk hyuk! Why is Jeffrey Scott talkin' like this? He ain't never done nothin' worth nothin'. Hey mayun, pass me that joint and go check my Facebook wall, cuz I just posted a funny YouTube video of two homeless people punching and kicking each other.")

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Death of Paper

by J.S. Holland

Even though I am horrified by the new "e-book revolution", the requests I receive to get on that bandwagon have increased exponentially in the last three months. And some industry insider sources tell me that the printed-on-paper book will be DEAD by this time next year. So, I'm on the verge of announcing a new deal wherein I'll produce a series of new works in the e-book format. Watch these blogs for more details on that. I don't have to like e-books, but it's something that people seem to really want me to do, and like Gene Simmons says, "I do it all for the fans."

I still mourn the impending death of paper, and I still view with great wariness society's sudden zeal to reframe literature as imaginary pixels sent through the aether to be viewed on a yet another digital handheld gizmo. The act of having to go through all the hoops of getting an agent, getting a publisher, getting a book edited, printed, and publicized – while it sure was a pain in the butt for writers – actually served an important purpose in providing a natural "survival of the fittest" set of checks and balances.

Now that any teenager has access to better movie-making tools than Steven Spielberg had when he made Close Encounters, and now that anyone with a laptop can call themselves a recording studio, the quantity of indie-produced crap has flooded the market to the point that movies and music have become fundamentally devalued. And they get more and more devalued with each passing year.

Francis Ford Coppola once said he dreamed of a future where even little kids could have access to the same technology as he had, and that would level the playing field for everyone. Wonder if he still feels the same way now that the film industry is on its last legs? Oh, it "levels the playing field", alright – like a hydrogen bomb.

I’m already seeing a flood of tossed-off e-books that would never, never, ever have gotten a book deal in the old world, and for damn good reason. People who were typing whatever nonsense popped into their cabeza on a blog for free are suddenly refocusing that content and now calling what used to be blog posts "e-books". Some people are even reselling Wikipedia articles as e-book content, and some other people are even dumb enough to buy them. Everyone from criminals to crackheads are suddenly churning out e-books nowadays, simply because they can. And in so doing, the idea of the book itself is already becoming devalued. And it's gonna get worse.

I’m glad I got in on the tail-end of print media before it all collapsed. It was nice to be able to say “look, my book’s in stores around the world”, and to say, “look, I write a column for this magazine sold in stores around the nation.” Our kids won’t have that thrill or those goals to pursue, because there’s really nothing all that special about being "published" now. And when there's nothing special about a thing, it is by definition in a state of decay.

(Needless to say, MY forthcoming e-books will be different, of course ;) And I urge you all to flock to your nearest e-store soon and e-purchase them! They'll make great e-gifts!)

Lord of the Flies

by J.S. Holland

Gene Simmons has always kept his cards surprisingly (for him) close to his chest about why Vinnie Vincent (you know, the Ankh-faced guy) was kicked out of KISS. In the booklet to the box set, he states that Vinnie did something so reprehensible it can't be repeated. And in the documentary KISS X-Treme, Gene says: "Vinnie was let go...to ponder his mistakes." Then he punctuates it with a highly significant look to the camera.

We still may never know what all of that was about, but Vinnie Vincent's latest burst of bad behavior landed him in jail this time around. The Nashville Scene is reporting that he "allegedly smacked [his wife] Diane in the face before dragging her by her hair through a pile of broken glass and throwing her to the ground repeatedly."

And that's not all: reportedly the cops discovered containers full of dead dogs on the property, and Diane Vincent explained that these were dogs that were killed by one of their more aggressive dogs. Authorities are looking into this. I can only imagine what it must smell like around the Vinnie Vincent Plantation.

Gene and Paul are probably furious about this development, and rightly so, since news stories and headlines are referring to Vincent as "KISS guitarist" instead of former KISS guitarist, and most numbskulls will repeat the story around the water cooler in the morning as: "did you hear that a member of KISS is a wife-beating psychopath who hoards dog corpses?"

Vinnie was a member of KISS from 1982 to 1984, briefly pursued a solo career, returned to KISS behind the scenes as a co-songwriter for songs like "Unholy" on the Revenge album, and then was promptly never heard from again until now. And he was living in Tennessee all this time?! Had I known I lived driving distance from Vinnie Vincent, I would have showed up on his doorstep long ago. We coulda saved Vinnie.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Paul Revere's Midnight Ride

by J.S. Holland

The Paul Revere & The Raiders story begins not in 1770, but in 1958, when a rock-n-roll organist named Paul Revere Dick met aspiring rocker Mark Lindsay at a bakery (Mark worked there; Paul had come to pick up a shipment of hamburger buns). Paul fronted an instrumental band called The Downbeats, but by 1960 the name had changed to Paul Revere & The Raiders, with Mark Lindsay appointed lead vocalist and the whole combo decked out in Revolutionary War uniforms.

In 1961 they released their first single, an instrumental called "Like, Long Hair" that sounded like it was standing on the corner of Jerry Lee Lewis' "The Hawk" record and B. Bumble & The Stingers. The B-side, "Sharon" foreshadowed the British Invasion with a frantic electric skiffle sound.

In 1963 they had a hit with their version of "Louie Louie", recorded in the same summer and the same studio as the even bigger hit version by The Kingsmen. To this day scholars argue over whose version came first by a nose, but our partial panel of judges here at Transylvania Gentlemen HQ are tempted to call it a photo finish in favor of Mr. Revere.

The Raiders scored hit after hit across their golden decade of 1962-1972: "Ups And Downs", "I Had A Dream", "Good Thing", Him or Me, What's It Going to Be?", "Out On That Road", "Just Like Me" (which was a hit all over again for Pat Benatar later), "The Great Airplane Strike", "Let Me", "Louie Go Home", "Powder Blue Mercedes Queen", "Indian Reservation", "Country Wine" and "Steppin' Out" (which is a direct ancestor of the Billy Childish & Thee Headcoats sound.)

But there's two songs in particular that stand out for me in the Revere/Lindsay oeuvre. "Kicks" is my favorite Raiders song of all time, being a surprising anti-drug song in the midst of the swinging Sixties with very on-point lines like "Don't you see, no matter what you do, you'll never run away from you." Then there's "Hungry", which KISS simply has to cover - the song is pure Gene Simmons, with its lyrics that start out leading you to believe it's about sex addiction but then you realize he's talking about money.

Mark Lindsay had a couple of solo hits of his own - "Arizona" and "Silverbird" - but by the mid-70's both he and the Raiders were washed up. To this day their contribution to rock and roll history is all but ignored, and they're unfairly classified as a third-tier post-Beatlemania band. I had a girlfriend once who slagged them off as "no different from Sir Douglas Quintet", but hell, I love Sir Douglas Quintet too!

(Keyboardist Paul Revere never stopped touring the oldies-package circuit, and continues to do so to this very day, without Mark Lindsay. The less said about this version of the band, the better.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Three Minute Rule

by J.S. Holland

"DaByrdman33" over at B&B Cigar Club had some interesting comments about what he calls "the Three Minute Rule", a technique he learned from Jose Blanco of La Aurora Cigars.

"Jose went on to explain that most people that experience bitterness in the majority of their cigars is because they are smoking too fast. He explained that the flavor of a cigar is not in the tobacco but in the essential oils within the tobacco. By smoking at an accelerated rate, we lose the flavors of these essential oils and thereby reduce our cigar experience to that of smoking "paper".

So what is the "3 minute" rule? Jose asked me to take a few puffs of my cigar which I had been smoking at my normal pace. He said, "Make a mental note of the flavors that you get. Then, put your cigar down for 3 minutes. Take a few more puffs after 3 minutes and note the difference." Needless to say, Jose caught me at about the 2:40 mark getting ready to take a few draws and urged me to wait the full three minutes. Well, he was right. Not only was the smoke cooler, but I did pick up some notes that were present before but were more prominent this time. While it may not be a hard and fast 3 minutes for every cigar, I can certainly see where it makes a difference."

Regular readers here will know I've always espoused what I call "cigar-tasting", done in the same laid-back small-portion gradient-scale approach one takes with wine-tasting, over traditional smoking. Nice and easy. Slowly, slowly, it's too nice a job to rush. Don't feel obligated to devour a cigar as if you're some sort of idiot pothead whose feels every molecule of smoke gone astray is wasted.

That said, I think three minutes is a rather unwieldly and arbitrary rule. And as DaByrdman33 rightfully notes, it all depends greatly on the cigar. There are certain tightly-rolled stogies that require the smoker to continually breathe through the cigar just to keep the ding-dang thang lit. And on the other hand, there are some super-Maduros that are so powerful that the three-minute rule almost comes naturally; these are treasures to be savored, not something to be simply sucked down like a Lucky Strike on your ten-minute break behind the Burger Barn.

But all of us, myself included, can always benefit from an occasional reminder like this one, to slow it down once in a while. Space it out. You're not running in a marathon. Stop and smell the roses, and stop and taste the Four Roses in between.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Uncharted Territory

by J.S. Holland

Some people have expressed curiosity about my seeming cognitive dissonance re: Fukushima. One minute, I'm retweeting the latest horrific news revelations about how the radiation danger is far worse than the media previously led us to believe. Then in the next instant, I'm bouncing around being ultra-cheerful and optimistic about the future - and talking about plans I'm making as if there really is gonna be a future.

Bad news first:

Everything you have been told is wrong. Despite weeks of press conferences and press releases assuring the public that there was no danger of total meltdown, TEPCO now admits that the reactors were in meltdown from day one, but they "wanted to avoid public panic."

All the misleading charts, phony statistics, and calm-you-down stories people tell, like "it's no different than an extra X-ray" are deliberately designed to placate the public. The fact is this: radioactive dust, steam, smoke, fumes, and other particulate matter have been emanating from the Fukushima nuclear reactors all this time, and continue to do so now. Intensely radioactive molten fuel and contaminated water are leaking out of the reactors even now. It's going into the ocean, the soil, the groundwater, the air, and by extension, the jet stream and the rain. And there's no sign that it's going to stop, because when it comes to a "China Syndrome", once the genie is out of the bottle that's pretty much it. It's in our food, our milk, our rain, our tap water, and our bodies, and it's not going away by itself. (Fortunately, something can be done about it, but we'll discuss that in a future post.)

When you hear some shill tell you to relax because Iodine-131 has only a half-life of 8 days, ask them if they know what a "half-life" is. Chances are, they can't actually explain the concept, and they think it means that Iodine-131 becomes harmless and/or magically disappears after 8 days. Then remind them that Iodine-131 is by far the least harmful of all the highly radioactive particles flooding into the enviroment: Curium-244 has a half-life of 18.11 years, Cesium-137 has a half-life of 30 years, Plutonium-238 has a half-life of 87.7 years, and Plutonium-240 has a half-life of 6,563 years. Obviously, the less radioactive particles that exist on Earth, the better - and yet it's being spontaneously generated right now by this unholy molten fireball that has grown so hot that nothing can contain it and no one can approach it.

Worse still, the Japanese are using Plutonium MOX, a sort-of super-toxic speedball that is among the most dangerous substances on Earth. Once a place gets infected with this crap, you can never return to that place again, not in your lifetime, and probably not in the lifetime of the human race as we know it. There are unconfirmed rumors that Technetium-99 (half-life of 211,000 years) and Plutonium-244 (half-life of 80 million years) have also been released into the environment from Japan.

The good news:

You're still alive. Not only that, but you're intact and feeling fine and not suffering. You have plenty of good years ahead of you and there's no barriers at all keeping you from using them wisely, other than those you have put in place yourself.

As horrible as everything I just laid out is (and believe me, there's plenty more I didn't even bother going into), the human race has faced far worse. You, in fact, face far worse every time you step into a car and get on the interstate. If you told you I wanted you to get inside a projectile that was made of soft metal, plastic and glass, and send you hurtling in it at speeds of 55-75 mph, does that sound very safe to you? What if I told you that your projectile had to stay within very narrow boundaries that are only slightly bigger than the projectile itself, and that you would be surrounded by other projectiles piloted by irrational, uneducated, substance-abusing morons going even faster than you? Sounds insane, doesn't it? But you do it every day. So do I.

There comes a point when you've gleaned enough information about the Fukushima situation, that you no longer need focus on each little detail of each new grisly news revelation. I have long since reached that point, and only continue to speak on the matter occasionally for the sake of my brethren who remain unconvinced that we are at a turning point in global history here. But listen, friend, this turning point is a good thing if you want it to be so, because what we are witnessing here is the end of one era and the birth of a new one. Avoid the chaos and stay on your own path and stick to your game plan. Now more than ever.

It's important not to get overly entrenched in the bad news about the Japanese radiation - or, for that matter, anything else. For some of us, that's a hard trick to learn. After all, we want to be as well-informed about "what's really going on" as possible, don't we? We don't want to be one of the "sheeple", right? But I say to you that there are two levels of sheeple - one, there's the people who stay ignorant of the ugly truths behind the news, but two, there's the people who glimpse the truth but instead of benefiting from the wisdom, they let it ruin their life (people who spend way too much time on conspiracy-theory forums are usually among this second category.) Many lazy louts are just looking for a reason to "give up" on life, and the latest depressing headlines of doom and disaster are always grist for their mill. Others use bad news as a crutch to explain and justify their own apathy.

But every passing moment is a chance to turn it all around.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Wooden Leg

by J.T. Dockery

These are some snap shots I took with my phone while reading Wally Wood's "Cannon" in the Schulz library. Wait, did I say read (also, am I really that at ease that phone is a synonym for crappy camera)? I just absorbed it more like taking in an exhibition of paintings; it was not a literary experience. It was a visual experience, but who needs pop art when you got Wood drawing a spy adventure drawing the women naked for no simple reason other than he can? The art is in the comics.

I don't hide away from view in the shadows like some private and weird American my enthusiasm for delineating the female leg and its adornments, so I snapped the rare instances in which Wood chose to clothe the naked leg.

I imagine Wood day drunk knocking out each one of the pin-up poses in which he puts these ridiculous damsels, perhaps using a copy of Rogue or Adam for reference, and pondering how each panel was another shot of blood money, yet despite that still containing the essence of what is instantly recognizable as the artist's. Some people may not think Wallace Wood was cool, but I like him for these things others may find cause for disdain. And I wonder if people that poo-poo Wood ever had to work for a living or considered what it's like to make a living as a freelancer in a work-for-hire world that couldn't give two shits for Art.

Anyway, as usual, I'm not being a critic when it comes to comics; I'm being an enthusiast, an informal pontificator. I hide away theory in my own work. You want me to give that up to you for free?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Briar Jumper Done Jumped and Landed

by J.T. Dockery

And thus begins the transmissions from White River Junction, Vermont. Center for Cartoon Studies. Toon town, they call it. D.W. Griffith, Kentuckian, filmed Way Down East here circa 1919. I win.

I have moved in to what is commonly referred to as "the red house" here, traditionally an abode filled with cartoonist folk orbiting around CCS. A good number of the parties surrounding the school/community are held here. I've been to two myself, one when I visited the place back in March which jump started this rapidograph packing briar jumper's relocation to Annexia (don't worry, I can prove I'm a cartoonist), and one last weekend the second night in the house the day of CCS graduation. You ever been to a party in which every person is a comic book artist?

This was my cocktail hour, a quiet drink along prior to that post-graduation party, in fact. When I showed this pic to JSH he quipped, "Duelling plantations." I often now sit and smoke and look at the house across the street looking back to me. Speaking of Dockery's plantations, one of the more remarkable things about being a 16 hour drive from the region of my birth is that the actual landscape is essentially the same as eastern Kentucky, just with actual mountains as opposed to hills (aka eroded plateaus).

I've already established the filling station in my room, a quiet spot to let a bottle of Kentucky whiskey rest between a vintage noir poster and a contemporary tribute to the original Dracula by Tod Browning. If you're a vampire like me, it's good to hit town and realize that a short hop across the river into New Hampshire, the local liquor store stocks a decent selection of bourbon, with prices actually cheaper than at home. Russell's Reserve was my first purchase to assist me in reacquainting myself with my style.

When I got here, I already had a package waiting for me. Geoff Grogan had mailed to the new address my contributors copies of the third issue of his and Kevin Mutch's Pood anthology, oversized and on newsprint. It made me feel like a modern day Winsor McCay, the space I invade, etc.

Last weekend I met both Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. This weekend I'm heading with a gang of ink studs to Portland, Maine for MeCAF. Some say the world is ending, but me (besides being the self-proclaimed "cartoonist for these end times"), I'm just getting started.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Fine Art of Comics

by J.S. Holland

I think you'd better sit down, kids. I'm about to reveal a JSH trade secret here about my artwork that I've never divulged before, although I did hint broadly at it during my Small Voices exhibit of micro-miniature paintings in 2004. One of the biggest influences on my artwork - not just the miniatures, but all of it in totality - comes from when I was a little kid reading comic books and being fascinated by the glimpses of pictures hanging on the walls of the homes of cartoon characters.

As a pre-school-age child, I already had that peculiar literalist-extrapolationist kinda autism that nowadays you love me for and pay me money for. I was always the kid who observed, "hey, Dennis the Menace's living room looks totally different in this story than it did in the last one. They must have gotten a new couch and done some remodeling." And of all the little background details that I studied intently in each comic panel, none were so compelling as the pictures on the walls.

Some comic artists didn't delineate the pictures, they just put a frame on the wall and left it at that; maybe a couple of slanted lines to indicate the glare of glass, or maybe a hasty scrumble to merely suggest that something was there without actually bothering to draw it. But most comic artists seemed to take especial pleasure in placing weird pictures on the walls, drawn so tiny that it took a child's eyes to even see them properly. My eyes are old, but they're still nearsighted and I can still see very teensy-tiny things that might give an average adult the pig-eye. And thanks to the macro setting on my digital camera (I don't own a scanner, believe it or not), I've begun going back and looking for these little art-within-art Easter Eggs. I'll be doing art reviews of these specimens on an ongoing basis here as part of J.T. and I's neverending research.

For today's entry, we've here reproduced examples from Betty & Veronica #169, January 1970; and Sugar & Spike #93, December 1970. We're already sort-of cheating right off the bat here, because the painting seen at top in the Betty & Veronica comic is not a subtle background detail but the actual focus of the story. That's OK, I'm still intrigued by any representations of artwork in comics. Here, Mr. Lodge buys a $200,000 abstract painting by "Pablo Pickartzo" and Betty ruins it for him when she points out that it resembles Archie's head; henceforth he can no longer look upon it without mentally picturing Archie.

But elsewhere in the story, another painting is seen on Mr. Lodge's wall in the background - and what the heck is it? Some sort of creature with opaque eyes and enormous pointy upright ears seems to be crouching with its rear end to the viewer. I guess. Or something. Whatever it is, it's most assuredly art!

The other two, from Sugar & Spike (seen above) are prime cuts of our meat, now. One depicts a woman with such a hourglass wasp-waist figure that it seems to suggest she's wearing a corset. This, along with her enormous bouffant-hair, leads me to believe she's from the 1800s, or specifically the Victorian era. The other image, well, I don't know what quite to make of it, but who can say it isn't beautiful? A mustachioed man with giant fried-egg Svengali eyes and a Dutch-looking coat that has big collar flaps and even bigger buttons. It's enigmatic, it's engaging, it's art! If I had a large print of that, suitable for framing, I'd have it on my wall by half past ten.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Small Voices

by J.S. Holland

You're probably too young to remember this, but way back in 2004, I held an art exhibition called Small Voices: Microscopic Paintings at the Deatrick Gallery in Louisville.

These tiny paintings, though visible to the naked eye, required a magnifying glass or a microscope to see the details. Most were no bigger than a postage stamp. Others - such as Bug, Piggy Goes to Church, and Little Pink Clown - were only about the size of an aspirin. Among other half-inch-high masterpieces displayed that night: Boris Karloff Downtown, Skeleton on Telephone, Nude With Bowling Ball, Casper the Ghost Visiting His Own Grave, Drunk Detective, Clown Strangling Clown, Alien Pumping Gas and my personal favorite, Fred Flintstone in Hell.

The show is something of a paradox. It was very popular with the public, and the turnout was great (even though our opening night competed for attention with the Cinderblock's Rock Art exhibit opening right down the street, and I had a few pieces in that show too!) And yet, despite the popularity of the concept and despite the low, low prices, sales at this show were my weakest ever. Perhaps this was because no one knew quite what to do with a thumbnail-sized piece of artwork, or perhaps they felt they wanted something more tangible - some of the patrons at this show would eventually go on to purchase full-size paintings from me for considerable sums.

Nevertheless, I said back in 2004 that I would "soon" be doing further exhibitions of miniatures. Since I live on "Creeps Time" this might be a slightly more recombinant and possibly geological sense of "soon" than you are accustomed to, but sooner or later everything that's supposed to happen does. All in time.

So here we are now in a chaotic future, on the cusp of a new civilization, and I do believe it's miniature-painting time again. Watch my blogs for announcements of new original Jeffrey Scott Holland mini-paintings, coming, uh, soon. One good thing: in 2004 I didn't have a digital camera with a decent macro-mode for taking good close-up photos of the works; now I do. What few photos exist of the Small Voices pieces are not of the greatest quality in terms of picture focus or file size.

In the artist's statement for the 2004 show, I commented that it was my fondest hope that these miniscule paintings would someday end up hanging on the walls of the radioactive mutated intelligent cockroaches that inherit the Earth. I was half-joking then; it's not so much a joke anymore, is it?

Be seeing you.