Welcome to our web site. For more information about Stephie's art, please also check out artbystephie.com.
For Matt's writing projects, please go to storiesbymatt.net. Enjoy your visit here!

03/28/16: A few weeks ago, I was at Jewel doing a little light grocery shopping. As I wandered through the Produce section, my eye was caught by a small display next to one of the refrigerated cases. They were selling small tins marked "Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper Nuts." I like the Salt & Pepper potato chips from Trader Joe's and I like peanuts, so I figured it was worth two bucks to try. Little did I know...
     The next week I went back and bought five tins. I can't stop eatin' them! The problem now is that all those are gone, and Jewel doesn't have any more! They were closeout items, apparently.
     Fortunately, I found that they can be ordered on line from Amazon or from the manufacturer, The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg. The picture here is of the two one pound tins I just received from there. I plan to keep the smaller one on my desk and just refill it from the larger, because I know if I open the big one and put it within arm's reach, they'll be gone in no time.

03/10/16: When I was maybe in seventh grade, we started seeing stickers with a distinctive black and white image (like the picture here) show up in our neighborhood. I remember seeing them on light poles and on local newspaperboxes, but my friends and I didn't know what it was for nor, really, did we care. But for some reason, that image stuck with me.
     A few years later I found out what the stickers were for, and the likely reason they were all over our neighborhood. I mentioned on this site back in 2015 that I had developed a fascination with a small record label named Billingsgate Records, which specialized in a form of prog rock known as Kraut Rock. Epitaph was one of the few bands who had a release on that label, so the stickers were promoting the album, which I discovered was recorded in Chicago, despite the band being based in Germany. In the process of finding the rest of the Billingsgate catalog (7 LPs, 2 45s, and at least 3 8-tracks) I found that according to the back cover of the first Neu! album, the Billingsgate offices were located on Archer Avenue, mere blocks from where we grew up. I imagined hordes of enthusiastic Krautrock fans (with long hair) roaming the neighborhood of my childhood, slapping stickers on any surface that didn't move.
     Beyond the albums themselves (bought mostly at Kroozin' Music, sort of a spiritual successor to the Billingsgate operation) there really wasn't much information available until the Internet became the vast repository of our collective memory that it is today. I found out a few years ago that Epitaph is still together and playing shows in Germany and throughout Europe. They even had a web site, which does have some English content. I was poking around late one night, wandered to their site and found that they were selling, among other things, t-shirts with the "Outside the Law" cover image (no stickers, alas.) I decided I had to have one, but the store part of the site was purely German-language, no translation.
     I some friends who are conversational in German, so I briefly thought that if Google translate couldn't get me to place an order, I might ask them, but I didn't know if the site would ship to me here in the US. On a whim, I went to the "Kontakt" page and wrote the band (or at least the webmaster) a note. I apologized for writing in English, explained the significance of the album cover from my youth, and asked if they could ship some merch to me. I hit Send (actually Senden) and crossed my fingers.
     A few weeks later, I checked my e-mail and found a very nice letter from Cliff Jackson, guitarist from Epitaph! He wrote that since he was actually English, my message was actually no problem for him. He would indeed be able to ship to the US, and I only needed to tell him what I wanted to order and he would get back to me with a shipping cost. Since I didn't want to have him go through all the trouble of shipping for just one t-shirt, I had him send two (one as a backup) and a couple of their more recent CDs, one which was just about to be released. When he wrote that he calculated the price, I quickly Paypal'd him the money. I also mentioned that "if I could get an autograph on the new CD, that would be great!" He replied that he was meeting the band the next day to practice, and would send the package off once the CD was signed.
     A few weeks later, I was going out the door when I found a package there from Germany. Inside was the two shirts and two CDs, one signed by the entire band! The t-shirts are good quality, and the CDs are fantastic. The new one, Fire From The Soul, is available on Amazon (as is a recent CD release of Outside the Law) and I recommend it highly. When I initially wrote them, I told them that I was happy to see that the band reunited and is still together. I said I doubt that I would ever get a chance to see them play, because I don't expect to be in Germany any time soon, but I wish them continued success in the future. That goes double now after the positive experience I had corresponding with them. This is how you treat your fans!

03/02/16: This week has been designated as Will Eisner Week, to celebrate and promote graphic novels, literacy, and free speech awareness. Will Eisner was always one of my favorites, going back to grammar school when my buddy Wesley smuggled some of his brother's issues of The Spirit into St. Pancratius, and I took it hard when he passed away. I've read much of his work (sometimes over and over) and can heartily recommend any of it to anyone.
     Coincidentally, I recently received the copy of PS Magazine: The Best of The Preventive Maintenance Monthly that I ordered when I saw that Bud Plant had it on sale. Between the time Eisner stopped doing The Spirit newspaper strip and all the fantastic graphic novels he became known for later in life, his studio worked with the Army to produce a magazine "to teach the common soldier how best to use, maintain, repair, and requisition their equipment." I'd always heard about that work but had neer seen more than a few pages, so I jumped at the chance to have another hardcover collection of his work, at a sale price on top of it. That also means that I can finally read The Plot, which was the last thing he did before he passed away. I'd been hesitant to read it because I thought that once I did, I would never again read another new Will Eisner work. While it's still true that no new Eisner work is forthcoming, this goes to show that there is stuff that's new to me, so that comforts me a bit.

03/01/16: This year, I'm trying to take my writing a little more seriously, at least in terms of treating it like a business. Sure, I have a web site set up strictly for details of my writing endeavors, but I've never really promoted my work to try to reach a wider audience. I've been listening to a few podcasts (The Self-Publishing Podcast, The Creative Penn) for a while that are geared towards us 'creatives' and the marketing of our work. I've taken many of their suggestions to heart and I think they have improved my productivity and my creative process, but I think it's time I thought about their marketing suggestions.
     One thing that the hosts of both podcasts (and many of their guests) encourage is to have a mailing list as a way of communicating with the readers. I had a rudimentary list going back when I was working, as a way of letting my co-workers know when I had something new coming out, or when I would be reading again at the Tamale Hut Cafe. I would also sometimes include Stephie's art shows and other things, but it was primarily for my writing. When I left the job, I took that mailing list with me, and have used it to start a monthly e-mail using the Mail Chimp service. The first e-mail went out today, and I plan to send out updates once a month. At this point, it's not costing me anything but my time to compose and schedule the message, so I think it's a good starting point. If you'd like to be on my list, you can sign up here.

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