16 October 2008

Recent Updates On My Blog!

Welcome to my travel blog.

This will be the first entry you'll see each time you arrive at my blog.

I put a lot of work into this blog. I cannot fathom how many hours I've spent posting pictures and writing about the adventures that go along with the photographs I've taken (and occasional guest photographers have taken).

Recent updates thru 15 October 2008:
  • Photos and copy have been added to Giant Potato Men, Axes, etc, with more to come.
  • Six Flags: The Dark Knight Coaster Review
  • Richmond Zine Fest Review (I don't think I'm gonna edit again)
My apologies on slow updates. I'm now very busy with the following: my job, my horrible commute, and the proper motivation.

To a blog near you...
  • Youtube Video additions embedded in the 2006 road trip entries!
  • The Vanderbilt Planetarium from late May 2007
  • Text for Skyline Caverns in Front Royal, VA from 9 July 2007
  • Roadside Americana, old timey Shell Service Station, North Carolina
  • Roadside Americana, World's Largest Chest of Drawers (formerly?), North Carolina
  • Boston text
  • Bay of Fundy, National Park, CANADA
  • Giant Lobster, Shediac, New Brunswick, CANADA
  • Prince Edward Island, 13 Km Confederation Bridge
  • Acadia National Park, Maine, USA
  • Last Call for Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York
  • St. Louis Science Center - Science of Marvel Superheroes Exhibit
  • Cross-Country Again: Colorado and New Mexico Skies
  • Zion National Park, Utah
  • Classic Car Show, Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Disneyland, Anaheim, California
  • Santa Monica Sunset, California
  • Arcosanti, Arizona
  • Amarillo, Texas
  • San Diego, California
  • Tombstone and Bisbee, Arizona
  • St. Louis Zoo, Missouri
  • SPX 2008
Your Hero

11 October 2008

Hardly Rich in Richmond: Richmond Zine Fest 2008 Review

Welcome to the Richmond Zine Fest.

I didn't know exactly what to expect from this event. I only briefly looked over their homepage and gleaned basic information on time and location. It was hard to pass up this event, even a week after SPX 2008, one of the more well-known, regional expositions for the small press exhibitors. Just over an hour away and free?! Fuck yeah! And for your sake, again, what the fuck is a zine?

The only other zine fest I've been to was the Houston Zine Fest 2006, which was held in conjunction with another concurrent arts event: The Westheimer Block Party, where Cej, John, and I represented the ArmzRace comics and cartoons collective. My review of the Houston Comics & Zine Fest 2006 / Westheimer Block Party can be found here on my very own hardtravelinghero blog.

Jonica didn't know what to expect either. Not that she was thrilled by the event, but that look of contempt is fake. You can see the smile under her false face. Then again, she might have been imagining what it's like on Suds and Studs night, complete with rainbow colored disco ball.

Here are some things from the FREE table:

My spending wasn't "too" bad at this show. Somewhere in the vicinity of $40-$70. I did a lot of swapping with Booty Call. Folks where very swap friendly at this venue, even though I forgot my "T" friendly button. "T" is in trade. I don't think many would confuse me for a transvestite or transgendered. Then again...

What follows are the comics and zines I bought, swapped, or snagged for free, because I'm that cool. Or they were free.


The thing about zines is: There are so many! There are such a variety, and if there is a table full of mixed theme zines, it can be difficult when there is so much choice and there is only really the cover to go by, and you know what the popular saying about that is. This problem of choice (wow--did I just say that?) is fine if all these zines were free, as some are made to be. Some zinesters charge for their final product. This is fine as well, as many zines take several, to dozens of hours to make. Maybe even more. Some zines are filled with pages upon pages of small print text, complete with citations and footnotes. As someone with an MA in Literature, I know how long that all takes.

My advice to newbie zinesters: Have a good, or great "sales" pitch, even if your zine is free of charge. My other piece of advice is: Go for a zine with some kind of point or purpose. Personally (and this may not be true of most people), I usually cannot stand "nonsense" zines, that is, zines of little consequence. I can't relate to them or you, because I don't know what the hell is going on or why it is going on.

Perzines are fine (personal zines). But totally random scribblings...eh.

What we have here is:

  • there an artist (ecco un artista) / Learnout - Danielle - (This one seems like more of a comic than a "zine." Whoops.)
  • Rank #2
  • Virginia Urban Pagan Review - Samhain/Yule 2008

  • Monster Gripes
  • Tax Report
  • I'm Not Angry Anymore / One Girl Revolution / Mrs. Noggle - Jolie Noggle
  • Breakfast at Twilight / The Road of Sand - Erica Satifka
  • Make This Day - Ashleigh Addict
  • The Lesbian Lexicon Project - Stevie Anntonym
  • D*I*Y Comix (Revised 3rd Edition) - Shawn Granton
  • Smile
  • Nontoxic housecleaning - Raleigh Briggs
  • Dear America, I'm Lost # 4


Of course what I was really interested in were comics. Call them mini comics if you must, but whatever. Comics. I came out with a decent haul, some of it from swaps, some if it from my thick wad...of singles, with some decent discounts. Some of the exhibitors are pretty awesome and strike deals without being asked (not that I don't ask sometimes, several times, it depends). I'll be like, "I'd like to buy these." So they start adding up numbers and I'm all like, "Oh, and would you like to have a copy of my zine thingy?" And they're responding, "Why yes," and some other things like that. Sometimes that's how it rolls.

Distro All Humans!

Microcosm Publishing was there, representing countless comicsters and zinesters. I gave a few copies of Booty Call to...shit--can't remember his name even though we talked for ten minutes straight. I'll have to email Nate Powell and ask, since they know each other. I grabbed an extra copy of the distro, that is, distribution catalog, for a friend in Sacto.

What is a distro? you may ask. To put it basically, it is a catalog and sometimes seller, publisher, go-between, consignment "shop," distributor, and probably other countless services that make it easier for creators of comics and zines to get their works in the hands of interested readers.

Sketchbooks, Tom Tom, and Barbecues, Oh My!

Like a dolt, I forgot my sketchbook, and instead of taking 15 or so minutes so retrieve it before we passed our interstate exit after a free McDonald's breakfast, I figured I'd see who was at the show before deciding if I needed to potentially waste that valuable show time. If there were no comics or interesting visual arts people, I didn't think I'd need one. But then once we arrived, half hour later than planned, I realized there were a bunch of comics folk there. So off to Target...which had no sketchbooks! Luckily there was a Barnes and Noble right there, though I wanted to try to find the art supply store Robert Ullman had mentioned, with Jonica's GPS, but it was a no go on the memory--ours, not the GPS's. So $12 and half hour wasted later I've got a new sketchbook.

On the way back to the Gay Community Center we decide to try some BBQ. Since neither Jonica or I could remember the name of the place Rob Ullman mentioned as the non-vinigery Southern Style BBQ (which is prevelent here), we ended up at Bill's Barbecue. As I'd been awake most of the predawn hours with the runs, I decided on the generic plain grilled chicken sandwhich platter with hush puppies. The hush puppies were good, and even tolerable by Jonica's standards, as often hush puppies are very oniony. She got BBQ pork and it was all vinegary. I don't think we'll be returning to any of Bill's locations around Richmond, though I would give the menu another try, even though I didn't much care for the coleslaw. It was too minced.

DIY Workshop

Returning to the zine fest, I shopped and swapped some more. At 2:30, Jonica and I attended a 40-minute DIY workshop run by Rob Ullman, Dylan Williams, and Spencer Hanson. We got to look at many examples of comics with silk screened covers, sometimes one color, sometimes multiple colors. The occasional gimmick cover (small press has these too?!). The hosts also informed us on how we can get free paper samples at MrFrench. Distribution of comics was another topic discussed and it was recommended that comics and zine makers try wholesale for cash or store credit, or consignment at local comic shops, music stores, etc. Additionally recommended ia exhibit at shows such as SPX or the Richmond Zine Fest (where a table is something like $20 for the day at the latter event).

Finally: The Sketches

I managed to obtain the following sketches from some awesome comics making folk:

Rob Ullman:

Oura X:

Was it worth it?

Of course. I only wish I had been there from start to finish, without leaving for more than half an hour. Three sketches are hardly enough. And I didn't spend enough money. Well, I did, but you know, in support of the arts.

11 July 2008

Welcome Me, Commonwealth of Virginia

I’m moving on Tuesday 15 July. Jonica and I haven’t got jobs yet, or even a place to stay. We’re gonna get one of those weekly hotels and check out the apartments that we’ve seen online. Oh yeah. We’re going to the Norfolk, Virginia area and that’s final. Hampton Roads, which I guess includes, Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and whatever Hampton. Or maybe it’s just Hampton, with no cardinal direction or anything else attached to it.

Technically, Virginia is not a state, but a commonwealth. This information came to me on the History Channel the other day.

There are a few community colleges, and a few other colleges and universities in the area. Hopefully I’ll hear from one or more of them soon regarding adjunct work. Worst case scenario, I substitute at the public schools. I hate early hours. Then again, perhaps some more interesting opportunity shall knock.

I’m looking forward to being with Jonica again, and trying something new, in someplace new, as much as change makes me anxious.

I think I should try some creative hobbies that can make me some money.

I think that’s really all the news there is.

Next time I write you, I will be from Virginia.

09 July 2008

Six Flags over the Great State of New Jersey - The Dark Knight Coaster Review

Wednesday 9 July was a good day to visit Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. I was prompted to go, because of the buy-one-get-one-free promotion via coupons at McDonalds. Luckily I did not have to eat that food in order to get this coupon.

The Dark Knight Coaster

My friend Steve and I entered the park at eleven in the morning, half an hour past opening. We opted to head straight to The Dark Knight Coaster, the newest ride at the park, which coincides with the opening of Christopher Nolan’s Batman sequel. The wait was about 35 minutes. Upon admittance we entered the monorail ticket lobby where TV screens play a five-minute press conference with Gotham’s latest district attorney, Harvey Dent, while he answers reporters’ questions about his stance on organized crime and the Batman. The video then begins to skip and repeat, distorting the image of Dent, while also distorting his words. Then Joker henchmen spray a crude smiley face onto the lens. Then we are let into the next segment of the building. As we walk up the ramp, some riders’ faces become Joker henchman faces on the screen where the ramp does a 180. Next we enter the four-person, two in the front and two in the back “subway” car. We turn and the car climbs and makes a bunch of sharp turns that jerk us uncomfortably. We pass through walls painted in neon Jokerisms and then make more jerky turns, with some quick, short, uneventful drops that again jerk us around, sans fun. The ride essentially continues like this, with but a few Joker henchman mannequins that appear to be up to mischief. Of course, if one is sitting on the right side, they’re likely to miss this essentially single attempt to add any Batmanesque decorum to an otherwise bland ride. I was only able to see these goons on the second go around, which only happened because there was no line when we returned to the ride at night. Steve and I basically shrugged and commented on how anti-climactic the ride was, since the commercials have been hyping this ride. Utterly disappointing. Think about Disney’s Space Mountain, but take away any sense of fun as this is not a smooth ride, and the visual aspect is severely lacking. My suggestion, aside from changing the course of the ride and the type of drops and turns on this indoor coaster, would be to add a lot more detail and perhaps make it somewhat of a haunted houses, Arkham Asylum perhaps, and have Batman’s rogues gallery up to no good. Hell, the Joker and the Riddler are roaming the park, so why not have them roam this ride. Too bad.

Jumping ahead in the day, the second time we only decided to go on the ride again because there was no line. As soon as we got through the maze of metal, the chain was put across our path. After waiting about eight minutes, we were let in and had to watch the video again, which is lame the second time around, so Steve and I looked around the room some to check out the details, like fake rats. Not very exciting. We figured we were waiting for the people ahead of us to board the ride, but once we were let into the loading room, we saw no one ahead of us and the employees rushing us to get on the ride, as if they were anxious to actually have something to do. The ride was no more fun the second time around, even when I could see those Joker henchmen.

“Perhaps today is a good day to ride” – Lt. Cmdr. Worf (sort of)

And advantage to going to Six Flags on an overcast Wednesday, with predictions of evening rain, and ridiculous fuel prices is the fact the there were so few people in the park. The 35-minute wait for The Dark Knight was one of the longest, if not the longest. For a majority of the rides we were able to go immediately to the boarding platform. El Toro had maybe a 15-minute wait (two years ago this was my first big roller coaster and it got me hooked). Nitro—almost no wait. Batman the Ride had one short wait, then subsequent rides had a less than five minute wait if the first row could be passed up, which it often couldn’t. On the JLA theme, Superman: The Ultimate Flight had a bit of a wait, so it seems to still be thrilling riders years after its opening.

We made our way to Kingda Ka (I think this is the stupidest name and it makes me think of The Karate Kid), which still holds the record for the tallest and fastest coaster at 45 stories and 128 mph. Unfortunately the ride was then down for some issues it was having.

In the meantime we went to ride the Superman coaster. While waiting on line for that we saw riders trapped on the initial incline for The Great American Scream Machine, which we were told would likely be up and running again shortly. I wasn’t too sure I’d want to go on a ride that just had such a problem, as it really would have been a scream machine what with my acrophobia (thank you for that word Batman: The Animated Series). We saw Kingda Ka up and running again and headed over to it.

I was incredibly nervous as Steve and I waited for the first row on this insane twisting and speeding coaster. We slowly got closer to the front of the line for the first row of this coaster, with two sets of thrill seekers to go ahead of us when it began raining and the ride was shut down. We waited about fifteen minutes as the announcement made no guarantees that the ride would be running again, due to the weather. The people ahead of us left, because many other coasters were still running despite the rain. The Great American Scream Machine was repeatedly moving on course sans passengers. After a few more minutes we left and headed towards the working rides.

We rode Batman the Ride and Nitro again, in the rain. There was a few minute delay as the rain picked up and some of the coasters were sent on test runs and some riders complained about the wait. It makes me wonder about the mental capacities of some of my fellow Americans. They care more about some thrilling ride without any regard to safety. Are these the people that could care less if the plane they boarded had loose bolts on the engine and the airline would want to sent the plane on a short flight around the airport so 200 people might not die half way to the next amusement park? Yikes. She probably hates seatbelts and airbags too.


We really didn’t need Flash Passes this day, as they did not seem very helpful. Besides the fact that it seemed as though Flash Passes do not allow users access to the first row of many of these awesome coasters, but double check that if you consider purchasing one as I may be wrong. Disney's version of the Flash Pass is free, so think about that. So if you plan on going to Six Flags this summer and don’t want to wait, consider how quickly Steve and I got on rides without this expensive extra. Wait for short lines on Dark Knight and have a little patience for everything else. Drink plenty of water and remember that the bathrooms are clean, so no worries there.

(Click on image for its source.)