Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Don't Try"

Don't Try

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Zombie Logic: The Most Dangerous Small Press In America

What makes Zombie Logic Press "The most dangerous small press in America," as NPR has reported? Many things, according to publisher Thomas L. Vaultonburg. 

For one thing, I am beholding to no one. I work for no one. I owe no one anything. I cannot be intimidated by threats, bribed by trinkets, or seduced by grand notions of fame or fortune. I do, say, write, and publish exactly what I want. And if you don't like that, tough shit.

Currently what I like is publishing the best writers from Rockford, Illinois, America's. 9th most dangerous city. But 9th clearly isn't enough danger for America's most dangerous small press, so I have chosen to locate Zombie Logic Press at the heart of the 5th most dangerous neighborhood in America. At night mutants gather beneath my window and bay at me like The Family in The Omega Man. From my west-facing window I can watch the mayor in his office at City Hall orchestrating another dirty deal that will line the pockets of his friends while strangling funding to the schools. On my block there are five restaurants serving human flesh to their unwitting patrons. The garbage dumpsters are a horror show. 

None of this phases me. I witness the discarded human detritum discharged from the various homeless shelters and homes for battered women wander confused and forsaken in the alley all day long mumbling curses and incantations that invoke demons more revolting than the human imagination can muster. I watch them, too, wander the streets, waylaying the unprepared and unsuspected east-side gawkers that spontaneously appear on the weekend to attend events they dread all week long in a neighborhood they don't want to be in. 

From here I see all this. I chose this very place for the most express purpose of seeing this. Seeing it clearly. Not a second-hand account by a reporter new to town and lost on streets she will soon forget when she arrives in Des Moines or Minneapolis. Not a dubious accounting by some Chamber of Commerce type hopeful there will be just enough truth to bullshit ratio in his speil to convince others, especially those who control the locked door to the golden public trough, to open that door and let him bury his greedy snout in the largess. 

No, that's not what I see from here. Nor do I fail to see the beauty and the spectre of past grandeur that is/was The Faust Hotel, The Midway Theater, or the old City Hall building. I know presidents and shieks and Sinatra and Marilyn stayed there, and maybe walked across the street to see a matinee. But not lately. You would also be wrong if you think I condemn the lost and forsaken I see wandering lost and discouraged on the streets. I see them. And I know in the private conversations they constantly seem to be holding with themselves they are speaking as much wisdom as insanity.

But this is no place for wisdom. Or insanity. This is a place for the quick, sly fox that knows how to scavenge. Is comfortable feeding on the carrion of those who have fallen, whether friend or foe. Knows how to bottle and sell snake oil to those who have lost their vitality and verve to face an endless sea of troubles. Rockford is one of the most dangerous places on Earth. A place where you can lose more than your initial investment in a heartbeat.

This is where I make the books. The dangerous books. By writers I have seen underneath my window wandering these streets. For five years now I have resided here, at the geographical heart of this city, watching those who cannot escape interact with those who come here begrudgingly, usually to pay homage to some phantom of a neighborhood they no longer understand or deem beautiful. 

The proposition to publish has never been a safe one. Fortunes and livelihoods have been lost over the ages by those foolhardy enough to be seduced by the passion for the printed word. Freedom has been revoked. Lives exacted as repayment for the sheer and utter indignity of insisting others have a right to see what has been written by their fellow humans. 

So, why do it? Why do it here, especially, where they show no interest in it? 

Because the field of civility can never be ceded to savagery. These posts in these forsaken places must remain attended by earnest keepers of the flame. The alternative is utter darkness. To be routed completely, and overrun by a crudity and a cruelty even the blackest of heart would dare not wish for. 

This is the place where I descend the stairs early every evening, thrust open the front door, look around and wonder "Is it safe? Am I foolish to remain here where they do not need or want me? Should I leave?,'" then cross the street and begin mumbling to myself like all the others.

The Holmes block in Downtown Rockford, Illinois, home of Zombie Logic Press Illustration by Jenny Mathews of The Rockford Illustrating Company.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Boxes Full of Zombie Logic Books

More boxes of Zombie Logic books arrived via UPS today. 

Boxes full of Zombie Logic Press books. Soon we will need a warehouse. Maybe wander over there to the right and buy one. 

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Space Invaders For the Atari 2600

I don't recall if we got our first Atari 2600 the first year they were available for Christmas in 1977. For some reason the game system wasn't the hit they had planned that year, and many of the consoles they had produced in Sunnyvale, California, went unsold. The 1980 release of Space Invaders quadrupled Atari game sales, and is acknowledged as the first hit application in history. I'm guessing that's about when we got it. Space Invaders was created by Tomohiro Nishikado, and his inspiration is said either to be a dream he had where Japanese children waiting for Santa Claus were attacked by aliens, or the Atari game Breakout. Perhaps both entered into his creation. After considering using humans as the enemy, Nishikado considered shooting them immoral, and inspired by both War of the Worlds and Star Wars, decided to make the invaders alien. 

By the end of 1982, four billion quarters had been put into Space Invader arcade games worldwide. The Atari version of the game was the first time an arcade game had been officially licensed for a video game console.
Atari 2600 Space Invaders 

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Feminist Valentine's To Smash The Patriarchy

What is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women. Or the opposite of that. Or I'm just doing what I'm told and posting these groovy feminist Valentine's Day cards Jenny made. 

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Wonder Woman

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A Confederacy of Dunces Book Review By Zombie Logic

The title Confederacy of Dunces is simultaneously a great but somewhat off-putting title for the book by John Kennedy Toole. It's a great title because it's evocative and provocative, and grabs your attention immediately, but in my opinion it has led to some people having a negative reaction to the book and its main character, Ignatius Reilly. It implies a sweeping conspiratorial plot involving so much more than the book really delivers. And the book doesn't promise to deliver any grand, sweeping indictments against society. It's really not about society at all in any real way. What it is is a story about very few people. People without the means or wherewithall to make any serious impact on society at all. So the title is both successful and misleading.

Confederacy of Dunces is a book I had meant to read for a couple of decades before I actually did. And if I had to guess just from the title, or even what little I knew about the book from seeing it mentioned other places, I probably would have assumed it was about a troubled genius who was at odds with society, and through his eccentric but brilliant observations exacts his revenge by using intelligence to expose them for the hypocrites they are.


That is absolutely not what A Confederacy of Dunces is about. So, I had a slow start with the book, as many readers have. I didn't like Ignatius Reilly, and I didn't think he was an undiscovered genius, and frankly I was quite happy that he was miserable and that other people found him disgusting and insufferable. Because he is. I think Toole felt the same way about the character, and wasn't in any way trying to dissuade the reader from disliking him. So, where was the book to go from there? I was expecting an anti-hero that I immediately identified with, and wanted to root for as he took on the Herculean task of challenging the stupidity of modern society. No dice. Because that's not what the book is about.

I don't have to like Ignatius Reilly to enjoy A Confederacy of Dunces. And even at the end of the book, I didn't. Fortunately the book succeeds at what it was really trying to do: spin a farcical tale about a small group of people from different backgrounds in New Orleans that spirals into a ridiculously funny and improbably climax. The dialogue is great. At first I wasn't finding the book funny at all. Until about midpoint. And the reason for that is I was holding on to some expectations that I had about what this book was going to be about. It's a story. And once you give up on the idea that the characters are representing some overarching statement it's a funny story. It builds to a crescendo in Chapter 13 that rivals any farce you've seen before.

I read A Confederacy of Dunces over several weeks, but finished the final 100 pages in two sittings because I really became fascinated by the world where these characters lived, and I knew it was going to pay off. Which it did. I can understand the central flaw of the book, namely that Ignatius Reilly is a grotesque blowhard, and a subpar human being. But what I can say is the wheel of fortune is set in motion in this book, and the characters move forward. Some change. Can Ignatius Reilly? If the answer is yes, then you'll probably enjoy the book. If you believe the answer is no, it will just seem like a torturous character study of someone you find obnoxious and want to fail. However, there is also another option on how to approach the book. And that is to simply let the story unfold, be amused by these characters, and not try to apply any cookie cutter presumptions about what grand statements the book might or might not be making. 

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Atari 2600 Basketball: Fort Wayne Pistons v Minneapolis Lakers

The cable RF switchbox antenna adapter arrived in the mail today, and since it's only a one-step operation to connect the Atari 2600 power adaptor into the coupling and plug it all into the coaxial slot on a modern television, I excitedly, but somewhat nervously, went through the steps, then flipped the on/off switch on the Atari 2600 light sixer console I had paid $28.00 for on Ebay, and voila...

Atari 2600 Basketball game between the Ft. Wayne Pistons and Minneapolis Lakers

I'd like to say a flood of memories came back when I saw the game flash on the screen, and some did, but more than anything I was just happy it worked, and anxious to see if it was as much fun as we thought it was in 1978. It is. There's a lot that seems comical and antiquated about the programming and appearance, but the fun is still there. I had forgotten how the computer player begins to spazz out when you get a four point lead, and how it does this triple spin when it scores a basket, which seems like a poorer show of sportsmanship than anything you'd see on an NBA floor. I played six or seven times, and quickly realized the game is completely limited in what it can do. There just isn't much variety. Fortunately I have accumulated a shelf full of Atari 2600 games while I was waiting for the console to arrive. The kids are coming over tonight, and I hope they like the Atari. It's possible they will find it completely ridiculous. There's no way to explain how mind-blowing it was in 1977. Hell, it even blows my mind in 2015. I'll review some more of the games here as I start to play them.

The Atari 2600 CX light sixer console

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