Monday, August 28, 2017

Kolchak: The Night Stalker: They Are, They Have Been, They Will Be...

Received these wonderful, untouched VHS tapes in the mail Saturday. Got them for the price of postage. All twenty episodes of one of my favorite television shows of all time: Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Plus the televions movies that preceded the television show, The Night Stalker, and The Night Strangler. 


I decided to start my watching party tonight with "They Are, They Have Been, They Will Be...", and episode that aired on September 27, 1974. It's about aliens, but it's also intermingled with a story of Kolchak desperately trying to finish his reportig so he can get to the Cubs' World Series game, which he has tickets for.

Few television characters, maybe even only Hawkeye Pierce, are more beloved to me than Carl Kolchak. It is a shame there were only twenty episodes, but it's also a mini miracle there were twenty episodes. The special effects are never much more than comical, and intentionally so, but it all works in ways movies that have spent 100 million dollars on special effects never did. 

Dan Curtis, of Dark Shadows, had either produced or directed the two television movies that preceded the series, but was neither producer or director of any of the television episodes. 

It may take me several months to get through these with fantasy football season upon us, but hopefully I'll have time.  Pin It

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Death of Strahd

It seems like two months have slipped by since I last wrote. Two months, coincidentally, since I joined a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with my friend Andrew. We walked into acampaign that had been going on several months, and clashed with the old characters immediately. Cast into the Astral Plane we were able to latch on to a structure floating through space. The only problem was they were also holding onto that appartus, and attacked us immediately. 

In the two months and eight nights since that we have played, I have been attacked four times now by my own party, but nothing has caused more tension than my accomplishment of one of the great feats in all of Dungeons and Dragons... killing the vampire Strahd.

For weeks the hostility rose as one of my fellow characters became angrier and angrier that he could not dissaude me from my goal to kill Strahd. Apparently he was possessed by the soul of Strahd's brother and swore a blood oath to kill me if I interfered in the ressurecting of Strahd's love Tatyana, and their eventual marriage.

Being Chaotic Good I of course was opposed to all of this. Strahd is a terrible and merciless tyrant who has been feeding on the people of Borovia for centuries, and my only goal was to destroy him. Forever.


The Death of Strahd

What it was like to be a D and D player during the Satanic Panic

My partner in adventure, Arg, a dragonborn, shared this goal, and we did what we have always done... began scheming.

Our master stroke in this caper was to enlist the aid of the arch wizard Mordenkainen, who I had to choke into unconsciousness to get his attention. Once I apologized for disrespecting his station as the most revered wizard in the multiverse we laid our nefarious plan upon him, and because he had a deep-seeded hatred of Strahd he went along with it.

We went along with the marriage, knowing as soon as it was finsihed Strahd would become mortal when the curse was lifted. The moment this happened I sprung into action, grappling Strahs into submission, then decapitating him.

But our Dungeon Master had a surprise in store for us. The skies darkened, and something descended upon us. Had Strahd smelled out our double cross and sent a bodydouble to stand in at the wedding?

No. The reality was far darker than even this. The demon lord Graz'zt descended from the dark skies to the roof of Ravenloft castle and demanded to know which mortal had taken the head of Strahd. Realizing demons and vampires are of different alignments, and often at odds, I confessed to the slaying, thinking Graz'zt may be pleased with my deed and reward me. This was not the case. He was incensed I had denied him the pleasure ofdisposing of his enemy himself, and immediately attacked me with the Wave of Sorrow. We're playing a Legendary campaign (obviously), so my armor class is a ridiculous 28 dur to having +3 Plate Mail and a +3 Defender sword. Graz'z't was onlyable to hit me once, dealing some significant damage, but not nearly enough to incapacitate me.

Our party is laden with legendary magical items, ridiculously powerful NPC's, and a leniant DM who likes to let players succeed, so out Mystic was able to really get under Graz'zt's skin and out Barbariab doled out almost triple digit damage. I even managed to get in a lick with my Defender before Graz'zt decided to grab Strahd's head and bug out.

Leaving me with my enraged fellow party member Dench, who immediately attacked me with his Oath Bow. He did strike me twice, lowering me to single digit hit points, before my fellow party members talked him back into his senses.

He swore after we accomplished our mission of finding Strahd's head he would kill me. I said have fun trying, and we moved on, but Arg and Peterberator had accomplished one of the greatest coups in D and D... killing Strahd. Mordenkainen immediately vanished, and has not been heard from since. The people of Boravia were free of their curse. Now they only had Strahd's brother to deal with. 

But would he stay dead? More later. 


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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Aramus Perterberator

I have been invited to join a Dungeons and Dragons campaign starting this Tuesday. The only rub: they're playing 5th Edition, and the last time I played we were playing first edition. So, I bought a 5th Edition Player's Handbook, and the changes are substantial, but seemingly all for the better in terms of clarity and ease of play. The Dungeon Master wants me to begin at 6th level, so I found a character generator software online and created Aramus Perterberator, combining the character from The Monster Club with the song I was listening to at the time on a friend's synthwave list on Spotify. 


Aramus Perterberator 


Jenny offered to draw Peterberator, and asked what he looked like. I didn't know, so I said offhandedly he looks like Timothy Dalton in Flash Gordon. 


I had that movie and soundtrack on my mind because I bought the vinyl soundtrack earlier in the week. This is not my copy. 

I'm really trying to get up to speed before Tuesday night, but I created a fighter character on purpose so I could just whack at things and keep it simple.

Right now I'm going to go get my cip of tea and read the Platyer's Handbook some more and wait to see if the kid got her black belt at karate. 

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Hodags and Grammys Say You've Reached Top End

On the eve of Father's Day I wonder if I should call my dad and tell him I wrote another book, and it's on the walls of a museum.

Nah. I'm good. 

As for my guys, everyone got in a motor home this afternoon and headed to Rhinelander, Wisconsin, home of the Hodag

I couldn't go for health reasons. The reason being I hate to sleep on the ground.

I got a copy of the Dungeons and Dragon 5th Edition Player's Handbook today, and I've been invited to join a D and D group, so I might read it over the next few days.

I also have a bag of the fun size Baby Ruth bars a twelve pack of Tab Cola. None of that is a good idea, but my good ideas don't seem to go anywhere, either, so maybe a few bad ideas are what is in order. 

Hope it storms like hell tonight, but not up in Rhinelander. Also, I hope the Hodags aren't out.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I Would Never Tell a Child To Shut the F@&% Up

Instead of telling your kids to shut the f+$# up and go to bed I thought I might teach them a little bit about dealing with the fears and anxieties of childhood, maybe throw in a few literary lessons to boot, and tell them I think they're A-ok.

As adults we tend to get parental amnesia about the things that scared us witless, and seemed like world-ending atrocities to us as children. We can end up minimizing the stress involved in the day-to-day business of being a child because our own responsibilities and stresses seem so much more important. 

But it's hard being a kid.

It's hard being anyone on planet Earth.

Even before people start telling you to sit down, shut the f&%$ up, and go to bed.

Clearly I'm no Mr. Rogers, either, but the illustrations and poems from the new book, Atrocious Poems A To Z, illustrated by Jenny Mathews, are on the wall of the Rockford Art Museum until October 1st in an exhibit titled Bittersweet Observations. I felt a small obligation to plant forty literary lessons in this book like Easter Eggs for children to find without being overly didactic. 

I think the poem I feel the best about is the one about eye rhyme. I got the idea when Ella was about six and had to wear an eye patch for a year. 


I can't lie that it was really satisfying to be asked by the curator of the Rockford Art Museum to write on the walls. It's the sort of thing my teachers always told me I'd never get away with in "real life." Oh, but I have. I may be the only poet in America who is currently displayed on the walls of a museum in his own handwriting.

The opening was a blast because dozens of kids showed up and started writing poems on my antique typewriters.


Then we put their poems up on the wall.

We didn't tell them to go to f$#@ to bed or anything. 

Dang I'm proud of this book and all the hard work we put into it and how it turned out and it depresses the hell out of me I can't think of any way to get people interested without telling their kids to shut the f$#% up.

I'm really honored that the Rockford Area Arts Council has asked Zombie Logic Press to get some of our arts educator friends together from The Rock And Roll Institute and Smarty Pants Kids Arts Studio to share a tent at Rockford City Market June 23rd.

My teachers were all about telling me writing wasn't my thing, and now they make similar notes on my 6 year old's report card. Jack likes to draw. Well, guess what? I'm all about trying to teach children they can do whatever they want, even if that is a life and a career in the arts. 

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Thanks For Listening

Being any type of artist can sometimes be a very frustrating experience. Working so hard to create something you hope other people will enjoy, even give you money for, and ending up feeling sort of frustrated and disrespected that those things don't happen, or not to the degree you had hoped. There really has to be a sense of just creating because you love it, but once you've reached a certain level of expertise you really wish there would be some sort of recognition and renumeration attached to your efforts. That's how it works for fishermen and teachers and ditch diggers. Make no mistake, I understand how capitalism works, and if you choose to create a product simply because you enjoy it, but you know it's not something other people have ny track record of buying, that's your fault. 

I recently published my second children's book, Atrocious Poems A To Z. I really don't even want to talk about that, or try to sell it to you, per se. 

My main frustration at this very moment stems from the fact that this entire book and every illustration in it is currently in an exhibit on the walls of a major American museum, and three days after that exhibit debuted, and was reportedly enjoyed by all who saw it, there exists no media coverage, no pictures, no blogs, and no one is even talking about it anymore. It's almost like it didn't even happen. 

And this wasn't an exhibit where local artists were invited in an omnibus manner to show a piec, this is a museum exhibition the same as if it were in Chicago or Los Angeles or New York. Come Monday it's as if it never happened. The exhibition runs through October, and unless they paint over the walls I'll still be there until October, but I seem to have no way to capitalize on that momentum to sell my new book. Or even get a story written about it by local media. 

My partner has moved on because she's a great artist and always has more people wanting to commission her for projects than she can even accept, but when you're a publisher and author, and you spend eight years on a book you sort of need it to have legs. 

I even sent a press release to my hometown, where I started the first version of the book in 5th grade almost forty years ago. For ome reason a locally educated kid who spent twelve years going to school there, and moved to the next biggest town where he had kind of a big deal art show just wasn't interesting. Of course it didn't catch the interest of any of the media outlets here, either.

I'm bummed. I can't lie. I expected and hoped for more. I publish hundreds of other writers, poets, photographers, and artists every year at the two literary journals I edit, and not a single one of them could be bothered to share a link on social media. I'm not sure what I'm even doing here trying to force something on people who don't want it. 

In better new, we worked for six months on this book and exhibit, and now I can relax a little bit. Time to sell it, and since I know that's impossible I can just proceed at my own pace. Jenny has already moved on to her next six projects. I haven't decided what I want to do next, if anything.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

The Journal of Outsider Poetry Talks About Our New Book

A new book of poetry is designed to help children deal with the stresses and anxieties particular to childhood.

Atrocious Poems A To Z is the second children's book from creative team Jenny Mathews of Rockford Illustrating, and Thomas L. Vaultonburg of Zombie Logic Press. According to Vaultonburg, the author, it is a book about "All the things that kids love to hate. Liver, sharing, immunizations, haircuts, and sibling rivalry are among the 26 "atrocities" children face on a daily basis dealt with in the book.

"We tend to take the stressors and anxieties of childhood lightly," says childhood developmental expert Henry Wolfsburg, Ph. D, of The Journal of Outsider Poetry, and professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, "and that's often a big mistake, because the issues children are dealing with, although they may seem trivial or inconsequential to us, make up the totality of their existence. As adults we tend to have amnesia concerning how stressful childhood is, and often lose our ability to relate to and show empathy for the trials and tribulations our children face on a daily basis."

The book will be included in an art exhibit titled Bittersweet Observations at The Rockford Art Museum debuting June 9th at 6:30 p.m. All twenty-six panels from the book, illustrated by Jenny Mathews, will be alongside the poems by Vaultonburg, written on the wall of the museum. 


Of course Z is for Zombies in the new children's book from Jenny Mathews and Thomas L. Vaultonburg at Zombie Logic Press


Z Is For Zombies

Military Intelligence says
The Living Dead are out tonight,
But me and my little sister
Are home alone together,
So they better be ready to fight.

They're clearly confused
Who they're dealing with, I say,
As one of them sneaks up 
Behind my sister,
But instead of eating her brain
It walked right up and kissed her.



An oxymoron is a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings. Can you find the four oxymorons in this poem?

In addition to helping children deal with anxiety-provoking situations, many of the poems contain lessons in literary form, themes, or literary terms such as  oxymoron in the poem "Z Is For Zombies."
-From The Journal of Outsider Poetry

Atrocious Poems A To Z can be pre-ordered at Kickstarter. Copies will also be available in the Rockford Art Museum on and after June 9th. 

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