Monday, December 31, 2012

“Best of 2012 List of ‘Best of 2012’ Lists I Hate”

Snowhenge - still standing on 12-22-12
Ah, the final post of the year. This is a time for reflection, recollections, and drunken fights over “best of” lists. In the spirit of the day, please enjoy J. Thorn’s “Best of 2012 List of ‘Best of 2012’ Lists I Hate”:

USA Today’s “Best of 2012 Top apps for smartphones and tablets”
Who cares about what USA Today thinks? Do they still make newspapers? Who the reads newspapers anymore?

E! Online’s “Best of 2012: Top 10 Fresh Faces of the Year”
Number 3 is a cat. Enough said.

Time Magazine’s “The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012”
Who cares about what Time Magazine thinks? Do they still make magazines? Who reads magazines anymore? When I think of the best Twitter feeds, I automatically think, Time Magazine. As soon as I saw Bill Cosby’s picture from 1984, I knew Time was a cutting-edge source of tech news. Who cares about Bill Cosby? Do they still make pudding pops? Who eats pudding pops anymore?

The L.A. Time’s “Best of 2012 Pop Music: Albums”
Hipster garbage. Next.

NPR Book’s “Best Books of 2012”
Technically, Preta’s Realm came out in 2011 so…’s “The 10 Best Movies of 2012”
No Crawl? No Sinister? No Cabin in the Woods? Hipster garbage. Next.

IMDb’s “Most Popular Adult Feature Films Released In 2012”
I know what you’re thinking. Let me explain. This so-called “list” has no screenshots, descriptions, or trailers. Not a single title has the word “jugs” or “asses” in it. Where the hell is AVN when you need it?

*I only had time to come up with 7 on my list instead of the usual 10 because I was preparing my bunker for the Mayan Apocalypse.

Happy New Year! Let’s make 2013 one to remember…

Monday, December 24, 2012

#KickassKleveland - A Christmas Story House

A Christmas Story is the Woodstock of holiday movies. Everyone claims to have seen it in the movie theater in 1983 and yet that is not true. I can honestly say that I did. My old man took me to a moldy, dilapidated, single-screen theater in Butler, Pennsylvania on the Sunday night after Thanksgiving. I was 12 and getting ready for my first experience hunting buck in Western PA. I was about [sarcastic gulp] to become a man. We decided to go to the movies the night before Opening Day and see the only PG movie playing. At the time, I was slightly amused by the film. Most of the humor came from my dad’s childhood, not mine. I begged Santa for video games, not Red Rider BB guns. As I grew up and TBS started pummeling us with 24 hours of A Christmas Story, I began to like the movie. Now I love it. I’m not a Christmasy-kinda guy, but Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story always get me in the mood for annoying relatives and rooms full of screaming kids.

This past week we visited the wonderfully sketchy, I mean, trendy neighborhood of Tremont on Cleveland’s west side. Calm down hipsters; I’m only joking about Tremont. Sort of. Drive to 3159 West 11th Street and you’ll be greeted by a most spectacular site. There, between the “parking attendant” charging ten bucks for a space on his front lawn and the “museum” across the street, sits A Christmas Story House in all of its restored glory.

The wonderful glow of the Leg Lamp beckons from the front porch while the barking echo of the Bumpuses' dogs can be heard in the distance. Stroll through the living room, complete with a Red Rider BB Gun and blue bowling ball under the Christmas tree. Go into the kitchen and hide under the sink like Randy did. Stand in the bathroom and stick a bar of Lifebuoy soap in your mouth or pick up the rotary phone where you can still hear Schwartz’s mom screaming about her son’s alleged dropping of the F-bomb.

They shot most scenes of the home’s interior on a sound stage in Toronto. However, the house at 3159 West 11th was used in pre-production for wide angle shots of “Cleveland Street” and owner Brian Jones used each and every frame of the film to restore the entire structure to the way it appeared in the movie. Jones, a San Diego entrepreneur, bought the house off of eBay in 2004 for $150,000 and spent a quarter of a million dollars restoring it.

A Christmas Story House draws fans from around the world. If you time your visit just right, you might even get to meet Jim Moralevitz. He starred as the delivery guy that brought the “Major Award” to the front door. To this day, I pronounce fragile as “fra-GEE-lay”. It must be Italian.

I usually tag interesting people with #KickassKleveland but I think you’ll agree that this house probably deserves it. “You'll shoot your eye out kid. Merry Christmas! HO! HO! HO!”

Official "A Christmas Story House" Website

Sign up for my free newsletter before midnight tonight for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card. No lie. Drink your Ovaltine.

Monday, December 17, 2012


I’ve deleted and rewritten this post 14 times. I’m going to keep this version simply because I have to write something. This is going to piss off some people. So be it. I’m not trying to be edgy or controversial. I’m trying to make sense of the tragedy, like everyone else.

Some have lashed out in anger, placing blame. I can’t because we’re all to blame. We gorge ourselves on violence and then recoil in horror at the results.

Some have called upon their faith. I can’t because I have none. I no longer pray to a god that “works in mysterious ways” or incorporates the slaughter of five year old children in “His plan”. Pray if you like. It certainly can’t hurt.

I’m going to hug my kids and tell them I love them. And then I’m going to remind myself each and every day that everyone I meet is someone’s kid. It’s really all I can do.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Duval, 1862, day after Decembeaver
A few weeks ago the wife said we needed several plastic items from China that would break in three weeks, so she sent me to the local Super Wal-Fart. In a strange way, I enjoy the outings. They have become like expeditions into the unknown, making me feel like Indiana Jones inside the Temple of Doom or possibly the Cleveland Browns in the end zone.

I strolled through the aisles gathering my booty and trying to avoid whining kids seeping snot from their disgusting faces. I approached the checkout line where a cashier stood wearing the revered blue vest behind a credit card screen crawling with bacteria. I smiled and began to load my items on to the conveyer belt where they stuck to the Gatorade residue left from days gone by. The cashier smiled and gave me a nod while I marveled at the dark, luxurious mustache.

“You dig that, huh?” asked the cashier.

I felt a bit awkward and tried not to stare but knew I couldn’t ignore the question for long.

“It’s full,” I replied. “Thick.”

The cashier smiled as she placed my items into the blue plastic bags that would surely split as soon as I walked past the Salvation Army creep, but before I could reach my car in parking lot row ZZZZ9999. She winked from behind eye makeup applied as a tribute to the Lone Ranger’s mask.

“Damn straight. It’s Movember. You grow one of these so you don’t get no cancer,” she said, pointing to the furry caterpillar underneath her nose.

The guy in line behind me snickered and then buried his head in an iPhone. He pretended not to overhear the conversation, ignoring the spectacle like a Wal-Fart greeter on a Black Friday morning. I hesitated. I had heard of Movember and just assumed it was a gender-specific event. I swallowed my words and waited to see where this was headed.

“My cousin told me about it,” she continued. “They gots another in December to help stop the cancers.”

“Really,” I said. “Cancer, great cause. That’s noble of you. What’s the one next month called?”

“Decembeaver,” she said while thrusting a hip at me. “You don’t trim the bush for the whole month, let it go wild. If you come back after Christmas, honey, I’ll show you my Kris Kringle.”

Monday, December 3, 2012


“We created modern society by forging American innovation. It should not be forgotten by anyone—including ourselves.”

Having spent most of my life in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, I proudly proclaim to be Rustbuilt. I come from a long line of hard-working, honest, people that lived simply. The glory of the mills and factories are long gone, but the drive to create is not. There is a movement flowing through the Rust Belt, a tide of innovation like molten steel that promises a return to our former prosperity. Whether it’s the ink master in a custom tattoo shop, a graphic artist hoping to inspire, or a renegade entrepreneur welding ideas together with lines of code, the Rust Belt will not die. We are not about accepting handouts and sucking from the teat of government assistance. We are not victims and we are not weak.

Join the movement. Create. Turn off the television and turn on your mind. Stop consuming and begin producing.

“We have always been and remain the captains of industry. We create things—from steel to machines to technologies to jobs. We built communities and the promise of a better future for families to grow. Our spirit is still alive and we are still innovating. We just need to get organized and stand and be counted. Are you RustBuilt?”

I am.

Official -
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Monday, November 26, 2012

#KickassKleveland - Jerry Beck

A friend of mine told me about Jerry Beck and I could relate to his artwork immediately. Jerry works outside the mainstream with a no-bullshit mentality. He’s not about to swallow the lies we’re fed by Mother Culture and his approach to life is inspiring.

How would you describe what you do?
I'm an illustrator by trade. It's a dream job, really. I work predominantly in black and white as a result of being color blind. In fact, I initially perceived it as a major set-back, but I turned it into my major strength. Lotta commitment to my craft is what allowed that to happen. 

What is your preferred medium for creating art?
I'm old school for sure. The pencil, the brush, the pen, and some black drawing ink applied to a good quality bristol board or illustration board is all I really need.

Two deal with merchandise, but the other two are something else entirely. Can you explain your 4 brands?
I'll assume the 4 Brands you're thinking of our Iron Asylum, Pit Bull Loyal, American Nightmare Factory, and Natural Born Sinner. Iron Asylum is a Brand that started in the bodybuilding scene, but is ultimately going to be directed toward anyone who trains hard for anything. Pit Bull Loyal has a very deep meaning to me. It has very little to do with the actual Pit Bull breed and is much more about being loyal to yourself. I always identified my loyalty to myself as Pit Bull Loyal. It targets a more urban influence..street style apparel. American Nightmare Factory goes back to my roots as a comic book illustrator. Very dark, intense images. Fun stuff with nothing to profound behind them. Just really fun stuff from the dark recesses of my mind. Natural Born Sinner is simply my answer to so many of the false claims that society and religion have bludgeoned us with, along with some serious sarcasm, and a little dirtiness thrown in.

What inspires you?
Waking up with a pulse. My daughter saying I love you, Dad. The opportunity to make someone feel like they're not alone. Connecting with those types of souls that often struggle to be connected with. Art effects people. Art moves people. If you can effect people in a positive way why wouldn't you? I feel its your right as a human being to do just that if you have that ability.

How often do your kids beat up the other kids in the neighborhood?
I'd hope NEVER! Unless provoked. Then, kids...handle your business! But seriously, my son is 18 and he's a very nice, mellow kid. Reminds me a lot of myself, really. My daughters are 9 and 6 and in my opinion are as sweet as can be. I will say this though....If my kids were the bullying types? They'd get their asses kicked by me. I don't tolerate that shit.

How did you get to this point in your life, what's your back story?
Lots of living. My Pops was never really around, so I had to kinda guide myself through many of life's lessons. A simple process, really. Stumble, fall...Get back up again and again. That's how life is when you really break it all down. A series of events that we simply learn from. There's really no wrong way to live. You simply start at point A and hope to become a better person as you move along from B to C to D to so on and so on.

Questioning everything, especially authority, goes back to the origins of our country. What form does this take today?
For me it's been a part of my mentality for as long as I can remember. You're presented with one side of a story. In school, in the news, in damn near everything that our government gets their hands on. So for me it was always more about searching for the other side of the story. Which often had more truth attached to it. Our government is our enemy. People just don't see it because they bought into it in grade school and never questioned it. They just took what they were given, absorbed it as truth, and moved along. Rats in a maze. Sheep in the herd. Scary as hell.

What's next for Jerry Beck?
Well, my new website is about to launch, It will feature the 4 brands we spoke about earlier. Apparel lines, singular and unique designs. I also wanna focus much of my attention on my kids, especially my youngest who is Autistic. Motivating and inspiring people with my artwork is certainly at the top of my list as well. That's the game plan for the most part.

Why Cleveland?
Born and raised. And my youngest is here, so I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.

Contact Info:
Online Freelance Portfolio
Brands and Merch

Friday, November 23, 2012

Small Business Saturday, November 24th, 2012

A quick Friday post for you to read while getting trampled by the herds at Wal-Suck. I’m proud to be a participating member of Small Business Saturday. They don’t get much smaller than a one-man writing machine. Please support the small businesses in your community and online. Thanks!

Don’t forget to sign up for my free newsletter (look to your left) by December 24th to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card. All newsletter members are eligible. Hopefully this will offset some of those shitty gifts you know you’re going to get.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Train, Train – Take Me On Out of This Town

I love train travel. Not Trane (although they make a great heat pump) and not Train (although they were a mediocre one-hit wonder for a few years), but riding the rails. I took Amtrak from Cleveland to Chicago and back this weekend on the Lakeshore Limited. The seats recline low and I had enough room to extend my legs underneath the seat without playing gay footsies with the guy in front of me. At 7:30 a.m. the dining car opened, serving a surprisingly good omelet and coffee. I slept. I read. I listened to the entire Mad Season record followed by Alice in Chain’s Dirt. I wrote this post. But even better, I got a majestic eyeful of our nation’s beautifully sexy midriff.

My biggest critic (i.e. my wife) thinks I hate America because I am critical of the direction our country is headed. I complain about class inequity, the walking dead that won’t think for themselves, the deterioration of personal responsibility, and those idiots that think it is fine to turn left after the light has turned red. She asks me why I don’t simply leave the country if I’m so dissatisfied. If it weren’t for house arrest and no-fly lists, I would. But seriously, folks, sometimes it takes a rickety passenger car straight out of 1987 barreling down the tracks at a blazing 40 M.P.H. to give you a chance to remember how fortunate we really are.

The sun came up behind us, casting a blue haze upon frozen fields left fallow for the season. When the frost melted away and the sleepy towns awoke on a Friday morning, cattle grazed and horses gazed. No sexy bullet train tunnels or canyons made of glass and steel. Just mile after mile of simple, honest, farmland and the salt of the earth tending it.

I didn’t intend to make this a corny “Thanksgiving” post. Family, friends, a job, Ozzy, big boobies, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I’m thankful for all of that. But I’m also grateful to have been dropped down to this mortal coil on American soil. That’s about as close to flag-waving as I’m gonna get.

Monday, November 12, 2012

#KickassKleveland - Erin Lung

I first met Erin Lung six or seven years ago when his band, Venomin James, played a show with my band, Threefold Law, at the old Jigsaw Saloon on Cleveland’s West Side. Since 2006, we’ve crossed paths a number of times, sharing many stages. The heavy rock community in Cleveland is a tight one and we’ve gotten to know each other over beers and smokes.

Venomin James continues to crank out the doom metal and Erin’s 4-string rumble is a big part of their sound. When he isn’t laying down the low end, Erin can be found at Rebel City Tattoo on Cleveland’s east side (contact and info at the bottom of the post). I recently visited the shop on Waterloo Road and spent some time with Erin Lung and owner, Chris McNeill to talk tattoos, vaginas, and more.

What’s been the most “personal” tattoo you’ve given a woman? What was it? Where was it?
A recently divorced middle-aged lady came in with her teenage daughter. They both wanted to get their first tattoo. Mom proceeded to drop her pants in the shop with her daughter there. She showed me her vagina and said she wanted to get a ladybug next to it for good luck. I thought the weirdest part was that she was there with her teenage daughter. That was so bizarre. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. You have to do your job, be professional and stay focused. You can giggle and laugh about it later. But you must keep it professional and be clinical about it. Most of the chicks that want stuff down by their crotches are not always the hottest. For a normal chick, a vagina is usually enough to attract a man. They don’t need to adorn it in any extra way [pause for a few rounds of hearty laughter from both of us].

How can you tell the difference between a cheap tattoo and a good one?
A great tattoo is something you wouldn’t expect. It’s executed well, fits the body, will last, and heals well. It’s when someone looks at it and says, “I didn’t know you could even do that on skin.” There are plenty of good tattoo artists, but not many excellent ones. It’s an art form and a lot of that is based on opinion. I’ve seen a bunch of people come into the shop thinking they have great tattoos and they have crap tattoos. It’s the artist. The tools have pretty much remained the same for over a hundred years now. The machines we use are coil, the original style of tattoo machines and they literally haven’t changed at all. The pigments, however, have gotten much better, even in the past ten or fifteen years. They outshine older pigments in durability and color fastness.

What’s the connection between tattoos and musicians?
Tattoos are about creativity and expression. A lot of musicians, especially rock and roll musicians, have chosen to live outside the box. We’ve created our own existence and therefore the things that regular people might be afraid of such as marking your body or expressing yourself, we don’t care about that. We’ve decided to live our own lives. It comes from being rebellious but what it is today is a totally different thing. Tattooing has become almost mainstream. Johnny thinks it’s cool and so he gets a tattoo because that’s the next badge of coolness. With athletes, they just have more money and time than they know what to do with. Every athlete I’ve seen with a tattoo has been an atrocity. There are tons of rock and roll dudes with shit tattoos, but I think athletes are trying to keep up with the rock and roll dudes. There is some creativity to it, but it’s not the same thing. They’re just playing a game.

Is there pushback from the tattoo community as the mainstream becomes more accepting of the art?
There is a little pushback from the tattoo community but those soccer moms or Johnny-come-latelys are my bread and butter, where I make my money. Of course there’s a little bit of pushback but I wouldn’t call it resentment. It’s a double-edged sword. The TV programs have increased popularity and made my job more valid, but it’s also created a group of people that think it’s cool and yet know nothing about it. And there are a still a ton of people that don’t agree with that decision (to get a tattoo) and they’ll tell you about it. People don’t expect that. They don’t expect the pain, don’t know how long it will take, don’t know how much money it’ll cost. They have expectations they get from TV and people feel they deserve a tattoo without putting in the time or money for one and that’s where some of the resentment comes in.

What has been the impact of reality shows like Miami Ink and L.A. Ink? What has Kat Von D done for the tattoo industry?
She has made herself known. That’s about all she’s done for my industry. People come in here and say “someday I want to get a tattoo by Kat Von D” like she is the epitome of the tattoo world. She’s not. She’s talented, but quite frankly she’s a drama queen with a pretty face and that’s why she’s on TV. She’s a skilled artist, don’t get me wrong, but there are people in this city that outshine her. So again, it’s a double-edged sword. It’s like with music, back in the day when you had a band you loved and nobody else knew about them and then two years later they’re everywhere. It’s kind of like someone stole your toy. Another issue you have is that people want to get into the industry and the easiest thing to do is just buy a shop and hire some artists. So some shops have owners that are not part of the industry, so to speak. That’s part of the downside of the whole TV thing.

What is the Rebel City story?
I wanted to open my own shop that wasn’t commercial, a custom shop (Chris chimed in when I asked this question before Erin picked up the answer in the next sentence). We try to keep it an old school mentality. Chris has been in the business for 17 or 18 years working with all kinds of artists from all over the country. He read an article in the NY Times about some artists that moved to Cleveland from New York City (Greenwich Village) and ended up in North Collinwood. It reminded him of a real New York City artists’ community, no pretentiousness, real, working class people. So we got into this new arts district at the ground level and we’ve been here for three years. The idea was to be part of a new blue collar, gritty, arts community in the Cleveland area. We wanted Rebel City to be an all custom shop where we work with the same clientele for years and years. It’s a small shop where we control everything ourselves which keeps artists from backstabbing when business is slow. It’s just the two of us and Chris has an apprentice named Jennifer White but the goal is to eventually move to a bigger location somewhere on this street. Being next to the Beachland Ballroom has been great.

What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever done?
I’ve been doing a lot of black and grey stuff lately with different textures. I just recently did two cool pieces, a tattoo from a T Rex fossil called the black beauty. The fossil formed in magnesium and is black so it’s not typical. I also recently did a tattoo for a guy that wanted a guitar and skull tattoo. It was a really fun piece to do and ties into my music thing. I experimented with some new textures. It’s always fun to try something new. If you stagnate, you’re done. You’re never done learning. Pieces you’ve never done or techniques you’ve never tried are fun.

I was working on some paintings and it dawned on me that I really don’t like painting. It’s the weirdest thing. A painting takes a lot of time with many steps where you can fuck it up and have to start over. I’m afraid to ruin a piece of paper but you put skin in front of me and for some reason the fear goes away. It’s the medium I prefer. You create something awesome and then your canvas tells you how awesome it is. There’s nothing like that.

A lot of people don’t spend much time being creative. It’s all I do. Music and artwork.  Every day I come up with ideas and most of the ideas get thrown away. Most creative people have a million ideas and you realize when an idea is stupid or when it’s worth pursuing. Most people don’t spend their time doing that stuff so they get the flightiest idea in their head and they think it’s brilliant. They come to you with this “brilliant” idea which usually isn’t their own. It’s something they’ve seen on the internet. You have to shoot it down and it can hurt their feelings. There are things in tattooing that are just not possible or won’t heal properly, or age properly. So you have to talk people out of stuff all the time. Sometimes they appreciate it and sometimes they butt heads with you. It’s all about communication with your client. I’ve heard some ridiculous things, like “I want a straight line that’s curvy” or “I want the shape round with points”. It’s tricky to decipher want people are talking about. You need a reason for everything to reinforce to your client that you know what you’re doing. When you are totally and permanently altering your body, they better have confidence in you.

Contact Info:
From the Rebel City Tattoo Facebook Page
We are a fully custom, award winning and friendly studio. We use the brightest colors of ink and all disposable equipment. We are also health dept. certified ensuring you a clean, safe, and high quality tattoo at a reasonable price.

Rebel City Tattoo
15701 Waterloo Rd. Cleveland, OH
(216) 481-1635

Monday, November 5, 2012

Album Review - Apocryphon by The Sword

If you close your eyes, you can almost smell the blood dripping from "Barael's Blade" as the madness of steel comes crashing down. The riffs resonate with a marching cadence that could withstand the orc surge at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. In 2006, The Sword came alive from the unwritten pages of Tolkien’s finest and into the Texas clubs with enough force to make Metallica stop and take notice. John "J. D." Cronise realized his vision of “something heavier” when he joined forces with guitarist Kyle Shutt and drummer Trivett Wingo. The Sword was born and thus began the Age of Winters. Since that time, the band has gone through personnel, label, and stylistic changes that have managed to both alienate fans and attract new ones. With the release of Apocryphon, "that little ol' band from Texas" (the one without the beards) manages to establish themselves as one of the few heavy acts that can sell records on new material instead of a back catalog of nostalgia.

"The Veil of Isis" opens with a signature riff and the ear is immediately drawn to a well-balanced and effected vocal track that was missing from some of the earlier recordings. There is a desperation to the sound that is enthralling. "Cloak of Feathers" could be the strongest track on the record with a driving beat and a tasteful cowbell. A few tracks, such as "Arcane Montane", "Execrator", and "Seven Sisters" nod too heavily towards 70s era metal acts such as Judas Priest, without the vocal punch of a Rob Halford or a Bruce Dickinson. That element aside, it’s difficult to find filler on Apocryphon. The ghost of Geezer Butler, if he were dead, can be heard opening "The Hidden Masters" while "Eyes of the Stormwitch" cycles a riff that will keep the blaze lit. Finally, the record comes with bonus live tracks and a cover of ZZ Top’s "Cheap Sunglasses", while solid, does little to persuade me from listening to the original recording.

It’s clear that the arrival of Santiago "Jimmy" Vela III as the band’s permanent drummer has softened the blow of Wingo’s departure. The influences of Sabbath and Zeppelin, like all Sword recordings, are just beneath the surface providing enough of a tie to the past and yet still leaving space for the future. While it’s always difficult for heavy bands to strike the balance between familiar and innovative, The Sword continues to do that. Fans of previous records will find Apocryphon to deliver the goods, but I wish the hombres would leave the ZZ Top to the drunks at karaoke night.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Shining Left After My Ass-Kissing of Stephen King

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved Halloween. The combination of a crisp fall, a full moon, and a scary costume was far more exciting to me than the eternal hype heading into the Christmas season. I was never the kid that horded toys or wanted tons of shit because I was pretty satisfied with my imagination and my imaginary friends.

Stephen King is primarily responsible for lighting the fire under my literary ass and turning my juvenile fascination with horror into a lifelong passion. My parents are both staunch Catholics and therefore we did not watch a lot of scary movies or read frightening books. To this day, I know my mom still thinks that AC/DC stands for “Anti-Christ Devil Children”, which it probably does. Not by coincidence, the movie and book that confirmed my affinity for dark horror came from the nightmares of Stephen King.

Pet Sematary was the first book that made me fearful of a dark room. I remember reading it at age eleven and thinking that Gage was hiding in the corner. The storytelling was masterful and reanimation is a timeless theme of literary horror.

The Shining, quite simply, scared the shit out of me. Although Kubrick’s film interpretation had elements that “fell flat” according to Stephen King, the movie is still the most frightening ever made. Shocking, gory films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, and the Saw franchise have a place in the history of cinematic horror. But nothing terrifies like the human psyche in a downward spiral. That and Jack Nicholson. That dude scares me even when I see him on the floor at Laker games.

As you give candy to kids dressed as Angry Big Bird or Honey Boo Boo, remember that every day is Halloween as long as you’ve got a Kindle, a Netflix account, or one crazy-ass caretaker with an axe inside The Overlook Hotel.

In celebration of the holiday, I’ve joined forces with SB Knight for his Monster Bash event on Facebook. Head over and enter to win free shit. Yep, free shit. In addition, if you sign up for my free newsletter (top left of the page) before November 1st, 2012, I’ll send you a free electronic version of The Hunt, a post-apocalyptic vampire short story released as a special Halloween treat.

From the Facebook SB Knight Monster Bash event page:
“What better way to celebrate the release of Drago's Revenge than with a Monster Mash? We will have vampires, zombies, werewolves, and other creatures that stalk the night. Meet the authors that give them life and pull you into their world of terror. Ah, but you have a place in this too. Post your Halloween pictures, spooky stories, posters of favorite horror movies...”

Monday, October 22, 2012

60/day x 365=n

Can you solve for n?

Whenever I enter into conversations with people regarding a project I’ve finished, I tend to get a consistent response.  Because I’ve recently published Raising Zombies - Family Life in the Modern Age, this conversation has happened more frequently.  It goes something like this:

“Wow!  You just finished a novel/album/sculpture/painting/hand-made 60 foot yacht.  That is so cool.  I wish I had the time to do that.”

The subtext of this type of comment is:

“I wish I had the leisure time that you do to waste on trivial pursuits like a novel/album/sculpture/painting/hand-made 60 foot yacht.  Unfortunately, I have way more important things to do in life like work, family, and sleep.  Must be nice.”

I have not yet found a way to bypass the universal laws of physics.  And if I did, I’d lie and say I hadn’t.  I am forced to operate within a 24 hour-day like everyone else.  “I don’t have the time” is simply a lie people tell themselves when they’re choosing consumption instead of production.  Everything you do with your time is a choice.  If you choose to watch four hours of television per day (average American), that’s your choice.  I choose not to.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love getting lost in the world of “The Walking Dead” every Sunday.  However, I choose to spend 60 minutes/day writing.  I do this every day, and at the end of one calendar year (usually less), I have a completed novel.  In the past three years I’ve written five novels.  I can do this not because I have MORE time than anyone else, but because I CHOOSE what to do with it.  It’s not easy.  I have a wife, two young kids, a full time job, a band, and routine overnight visits from the in-laws.  My 60 minutes often replace an hour of sleep from 4:30-5:30 a.m.  Sometimes those 60 minutes carry over into 120 the next day.  That’s what it takes.

Now back to that equation.  60 minutes/day for one year is 365 hours.  Divide 365 by an 8-hour work day and you have 46 work days, or about 9 work weeks.  Imagine going to the office every day for nine weeks and working solely on your novel/album/sculpture/painting/hand-made 60 foot yacht.  That is the power of commitment and hard work.

I won’t begrudge your decision to follow every reality show this season if you don’t insult my efforts by insinuating I have time to burn that you don’t.

Now go watch “The Walking Dead” and shut up.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I grew up in the Rustbelt, that cold, barren, industrial corridor of North America responsible for heavy manufacturing, heavy music, and hardy women. Cities like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland remain, still sporting their blackened smokestacks like proud scars of the Industrial Revolution. But there’s more to this story. After spending years in other parts of the country including the NYC metro area and the Deep South, I’ve settled in the Rustbelt, in Cleveland, Ohio. The perception of this city is one of the eternal loser, the lumpy prom date that gets stood up, goes stag, and pukes in her hair. The reality, however, is that there is a shitload of talent here that you’ll never see on mainstream media. Getting shat upon by Art Modell or LeBron James is an easier story to tell.

It’s time to Kickass, Kleveland. Time to puff out your chest and let’em know what we’re about. As the old t-shirt reads, “Cleveland, You Gotta be Tough”. There is a wealth of talent in this city and I’m on a mission to expose you to it, rub your face in it, if necessary. Join me as I talk with the best and brilliant folks you’ve never met. The first to be featured include Erin Lung, tattoo artist for Rebel City Tattoo, WJCU DJ and “Metal on Metal” icon Bill Peters, WKYC’s  and Signal 30’s front man, Pat Butler, Magadh, co-founder of the underground music blog, and even Lake Erie. That’s right, bitches. I’ve got an exclusive interview with the Lake itself.

Sometimes serious. Frequently offensive. Always interesting.

If you know of a person that should be featured in Kickass Kleveland, get in touch. First segment coming in a month or so with more to follow. Let’s ride.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Scott Nicholson's "The Home" Giveaway

Scott Nicholson, one of the best horror/paranormal authors around today is running a Halloween giveaway that you can enter below. Won't cost you a thing...except for your SANITY [insert evil laugh here].

Enter the Rafflecopter to win your choice of a Kindle Fire, Nook HD, or Kobo Glo, as well as signed books and audiobooks in the Home for Halloween giveaway from author Scott Nicholson.

The giveaway celebrates the launch of paranormal thriller The Home. Experiments at a group home for troubled children lead to paranormal activity—and the ghosts are from the home’s dark past as an insane asylum. In development as a feature, it’s available in ebook at Amazon US, Amazon UK,, Kobo, and Smashwords.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 8, 2012

REDUX - Say Hello to Yourself

It’s been almost a year since I introduced myself on this blog and in that time I am grateful for the thousands that have stopped by to read my musings. In case you missed it, here’s my dream date. Sort of. By the way, comments are always open, bitches.

You devour epic fantasy and seize the opportunity to transcend worlds through books.  It’s not unusual for you to sink into a recliner, in the most secluded corner of your house, and read for hours.  And interspersed between trilogies set in distant worlds, you come back to this one, drawn to the mysterious, dark realm of supernatural thrillers and horror.  Exotic settings must jump off the page and come alive in your mind, especially stories of survival; life on the fine edge of existence.  You cheer for the reluctant hero, the common man thrust into obligation and you also cheer for the villain, the arch nemesis.

Episodes of “Ancient Aliens” clog your DVR while you anxiously await the return of “Cities of the Underground” on History.  You can recite verses from “The Raven” but get more excited when someone wants to talk about “The Rats in the Walls.”  Heavy music fills your iPod.  Those shiny discs that the kids no longer recognize lay scattered on the passenger side of your truck.  You are a fan of Black Sabbath and Aerosmith, not “reality show” Ozzy or “American Idol” Steven.  You prefer “Master of Puppets” over “The Black Album,” and like Cliff more than Jason or Robert.  The rumble of a Harley Fatboy makes you smile and you know Detroit will never produce anything cooler than a 1977 Corvette.  When you have the choice, you opt for Guinness over Budweiser and Starbucks over Dunkin Donuts.  You can’t hang a picture without a power tool.  You can’t purchase a power tool without hanging it in your garage.

Louis C.K. makes you laugh while the memory of George Carlin makes you cry.  You love vampires and hate Twilight.  You know the difference between a hip check and a cross check and despise golf unless it includes a home video of a Tiger mistress.  You prefer Suicide Girls over Playboy Playmates, long hair over short hair, curves over rails.  Ten years later, you don’t necessarily believe the full-on conspiracy theory surrounding 911, but you also know an F-15E Strike Eagle could have prevented anything from hitting the Pentagon.

Too young to give up, too old to start over.  Too immature for Johnny Walker Red, too mature for a case of Busch.  You’ve been around long enough to get tired of mainstream entertainment and yet you’re still excited by a new author, band, or movie.

This is you, my ideal reader.  Let’s hang out sometime.  I want to be your ideal author.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Album Review - Down IV, Part I by Down

I don’t always do album reviews, but when I do, I go Down. While they might not be “the most interesting band in the world”, Down carries the doom metal torch for the current generation of headbangers and stoners.

Down can’t win with their first of three EPs to be released in the upcoming months. Officially titled, Down IV, Part I, Anselmo has already acknowledged that fans will refer to it as the “Purple EP”. But once you move beyond the aesthetics and get to the music you’ll understand why the band is stuck. When AC/DC releases new music, it sounds like AC/DC. They don’t depart from the formula. You know what you get and folks criticize them for writing the same songs over and over again. When U2 releases new music, it usually varies greatly from another era in the band’s history and sometimes it is a dramatic departure from the previous record. You don’t know what you’re getting and folks criticize them for NOT writing the same songs over and over again.

I’d like to officially welcome Down to that club. The record opens with the chuggy march of “Levitation” which sounds nothing like the title. At the two-minute mark, Phil barks a patented “One, two, three, go!” which propels the song forward into a discordant syncopation of walled distortion. “Witchtripper” queues up next, opening with a swinging riff. The chorus will clearly be the sing-a-long favorite of the live show. “Open Coffins” and “The Curse” accentuate downtuned, open chord riffs with Phil’s vocals pushing the tempo onward. A hint of …And Justice for All can be heard at the 2:00 minute mark of “This Work is Timeless” featuring Phil’s garbled speakgrowl pulsing across the stereo field. Another signature Down riff opens the final track, “Misfortune Teller” which fades out and then comes back at the 8:30 minute mark to set the table for the next EP.

NOLA was released by Down in 1995 after years of existing as a tape in the underground music trade. Phil Anselmo and Pepper Keenan have led the band that has now been consumed by the machine of the music industry. On Down IV, Part I they introduce a new bass player (the break with Rex Brown still lingering) and don’t seem to take full advantage of the dual-guitar approach that provided the riffy gems of songs like “Stone the Crow” and “Bury Me in Smoke”.

If you’re looking for classic Down from 1995, I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re looking for “new” Down from 2012, I don’t know what to tell you. If you’re looking for AC/DC or U2, I can tell you that you’re looking in the wrong place.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Can We All Please Calm Down?

I’m not a follower of organized religion. However, I was raised Catholic by two devout parents so I understand the idea of faith. What I cannot understand is the slow deterioration of tolerance around the world for different belief (or lack thereof) systems.

Before you start pointing the finger at the Middle East, let’s consider three recent episodes.

1. In 2010, The United Coalition of Reason paid for a billboard in California that said, “Are you good without God? Millions are.” The organization is a non-violent group of Atheists (as opposed to violent Atheists, I guess) that exercised their “God-given” right to free speech in the United States. The billboard was defaced and vandalized, sparking an outcry over the message. Imagine what would happen if someone spray-painted a roadside cross. I guess free speech is in the eye of the beholder.

2. Over the past few weeks, several thousand Islamic protestors have attacked U.S. embassies overseas, killing several innocent Americans in the process. Their outrage stems from a crappy YouTube video shot in some dude’s basement that depicts Mohammad doing chicks, or something. Apparently the film was funded by the United States government, directed by President Obama, and supported by all Americans which is justification for burning flags and killing people.

3. And most recently, we have the Dr. Pepper ad stirring outrage around the idea of evolution. Apparently, you are no longer permitted to use the term “evolution” when talking about ANYTHING, even important things like soft drinks. Over 4000 comments have been posted underneath the ad depicting an ape “evolving” to a man after drinking Dr. Pepper.

Seriously, dudes. Calm down. Billboards, movie trailers, and soft drinks are not reasons to kill. But if Coca Cola tries pulling New Coke again, it’s on.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Your universe or mine?

Could you exist somewhere else? An exact copy of you, but the “you” that had a bagel for breakfast this morning instead of a shot of Jack Daniels. What if every time “you” made a decision, another universe was created so that “you” lived in both places at the same time, forever?

This is the stuff of great sci-fi and fantasy but it’s also becoming a part of modern science. In fact, Dr. Michio Kaku has become a celebrity on the Discovery Channel as he continues to examine M Theory which is simply the theory of everything. His book, Parallel Worlds is an incredibly stunning look at the possibility that there are not only multiple universes, but an infinite number of them.

In 1995, a television show called Sliders first aired and quickly became one of my favorites. It was tough to get past the acting of Jerry O'Connell but it also starred Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) long before his debut in Lord of the Rings. The premise from Wikipedia is as follows:

The show follows a group of people, called "Sliders", as they travel ("sliding") between different Earths in parallel universes via a wormhole-like "vortex", hoping to return safely to their original Earth Prime. The vortex can only be opened at random but preset intervals on each new world, monitored by a countdown clock on a portable timer that they carry; failure to open the vortex in time would strand the Sliders for 29 years in that universe. While waiting for the timer countdown, the group learns about the differences in the alternate Earth from their own, and often become unwillingly involved in events that they must resolve before they can safely leave via the vortex. As a result of the misuse of the timer in the pilot episode, the travelers have no control over what world they end up in, but continually look for means to repair the timer and find Earth Prime.

The film, Another Earth, had its world premiere at the 27th Sundance Film Festival in January 2011 to raving reviews. It’s the story of, well, another Earth, that slowly creeps toward us, populated with another set of, well, us.

Writers from H.G. Wells, to C.S. Lewis, to Neil Gaiman have crafted gorgeous stories around the idea of alternate universes. And now I have as well. Why? The grass is always greener in the other universe. Or something like that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

9th Circle

This post is more of a congratulatory celebration than anything else. My friend and fellow author, Carolyn McCray, was part of the big Amazon news this past week. Her latest work, “9th Circle” was one of nine offered in Amazon’s new Kindle Serials. From

Kindle Serials are stories published in episodes. When you buy a Kindle Serial, you will receive all existing episodes on your Kindle immediately, followed by future episodes as they are published. Enjoy reading as the author creates the story, and discuss episodes with other readers in the Kindle forums.

Carolyn is a hard-working visionary and it’s no surprise to those that know her that Amazon courted Carolyn for the Serials rollout. She is the marketing mastermind behind the Indie Book Collective and her advice was directly responsible for my recent personal success in the indie book publishing industry.

9th Circle” by Carolyn McCray and Ben Hopkin is available now and you should check it out. From the product page:

Seattle has become the playground for the most vicious killer the nation has ever known, and only autistic detective Robi Darcmel can look past the carnage and into the killer's mind. As even more bizarre murders occur across the city, Darcmel begins to realize the scope of the murderer's madness--he is re-creating the nine circles of hell.

On Wednesday, September 12th, 2012, Portal Arcane I – Reversion will be available in ebook and paperback through Amazon. This is my first new novel in over a year and fans of horror/dark fantasy will love it. Hope you’ll excuse the soft sell at the end of this post ;)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Reviews: Oh the Horror!

When purchasing reviews, always use protection.
Everyone and their mother, and their grandmother, has jumped into the fray regarding the recent NY Times article exposing the underbelly of the publishing world that involves purchased reviews. You can read the article if you’d like and feel free to take your shots at John Locke. The truth of the matter is that all companies, major publishing houses included, have been doing this for decades. Not necessarily online, but it’s been happening for a long time. The difference between paying for reviews on Fiverr/Craigslist and “ordering services” from Kirkus Reviews is like debating the difference between an escort and a back-alley blowjob.

But I don’t want to beat this dead horse any longer. Rather, I’d like to take a closer look at the new digital marketplace as it pertains to my livelihood, books and music. In both cases, the consumer can sample enough of the product to know if they want it or not. On iTunes and Amazon, you can preview a song. On Amazon, you can read the first 10-15% of an eBook. If after looking at the cover, reading the description, and reading the beginning of the book I’m not interested, I don’t buy the book. If the song doesn’t grab my attention in the first 30 seconds the remaining three and a half probably won’t either. You are not afforded this opportunity if purchasing a blender online. You can’t “sample” a new HD television before ordering it from Amazon. But for things like music and books, why wouldn’t you?

And now, back to your regularly scheduled witch hunt.

On September 12th I’m releasing a new dark fantasy called Portal Arcane I – Reversion. It’s my favorite work so far. On October 12th, Raising Zombies – Family Life in the Modern Age will be available. If you like my smartass, sarcastic blog, you’ll love this collection of humorous essays and pranks gone horribly wrong. Is it shameless if I warn you in all caps first?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Didn’t Get to the Blog This Week

Apologies for lack of a post [real] this Monday. I had a crazy week that involved a gas leak repair, new internet/phone/cable, my kids went back to school, and I've got a speech to prepare for the GOP convention. Next Monday I should be back on track. In the meantime, enjoy this pic from my archives. Dubya and I go way back and I’m hoping to have lunch with him this week in Tampa. Snapshot courtesy of my good buddy, Angus Khan. His dogs are sick so send them healing vibes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Big Pharma

Side effects include bright bedrooms.
How are your testicles? I thought mine were fine until I read about Low T, also known as Low Testosterone. This used to afflict boys choirs and great television shows like Glee, Will & Grace, and Sex in the City. I had no idea how serious it could become. Luckily, the folks at Abbott Laboratories have developed a miracle drug called Androgel 1.62% which gives all of us with Low Testicles hope for the future. You may be wondering if you’re suffering from Low T. From the Androgel 1.62% website we get a definition of this crippling affliction:

"Low Testosterone can lead to a medical condition known as hypogonadism, which has many symptoms including fatigue, decreased energy, reduced sexual desire, and depressed mood…It is estimated that Low Testosterone affects more than 15 million men in the U.S. Common symptoms include reduced sex drive, decreased energy, loss of body hair or reduced shaving, and depressed mood. There is no cure for hypogonadism. It is a medical condition that usually requires ongoing treatment."
Other side effects include hairy bellybutton.
What I thought was a symptom of being 42 turns out to be hypogonadism. Gonads. HypoGONADism. Seriously, I’m not making this shit up. Reduced shaving sounds kind of nice. If I were in the marketing department at Abbott Laboratories I might edit that from the symptoms list of hypoGONADism (heh, gonads).

Taking Androgel 1.62% does come with a few minor side effects. Again, from their website:

  • If you already have enlargement of your prostate gland, your signs and symptoms can get worse while using AndroGel 1.62% (including changes in urination)
  • Possible increased risk of prostate cancer
  • In large doses, AndroGel 1.62% may lower your sperm count
  • Swelling of your ankles, feet, or body, with or without heart failure. This may cause serious problems for people who have heart, kidney, or liver disease
  • Enlarged or painful breasts
  • Problems breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea)
  • Blood clots in the legs; this can include pain, swelling, or redness of your legs
Sunday Night Football with George Clooney.

I don’t know about you, but I’m willing to trade reduced shaving for enlarged breasts. That sounds awesome! [Note: I just discovered the enlarged breasts would be my own but I’m too fatigued to edit that line out of this post.] And that whole “loss of body hair” thing caused by Low Balls is so embarrassing. I’d much rather have my heart fail than have hairless legs. I live in a house with my wife and our children. I’m sure this medication is safe to use around them:

"Women and children should avoid contact with the unwashed or unclothed area where AndroGel 1.62% has been applied. If a woman or child makes contact with the AndroGel 1.62% application area, the contact area on the woman or child should be washed well with soap and water right away."

I’d write more about this topic, but I have no energy, a reduced sexual desire, and a depressed mood. I need to check my gonads.

The images are from CBS News and their hard-hitting, investigative reporting probably funded through advertising revenue from Abbott Laboratories.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Introducing "The Indie 5"

I was honored to be interviewed by Tim and Claire Ridgway for their book, “Interviews with Indie Authors”. I found the book to be a wealth of resources from independent authors and I learned a lot from them. In addition, the Ridgways donate half of the proceeds to deserving charities in Africa. This inspired me to finalize a half-baked idea I had rolling around in my head.

Therefore, I would like to introduce “The Indie Five” which is a loose collection of indie authors, artists, and musicians that pledge 5% of their royalties to charity. I am pledging 5% of my royalties to Seeds of Literacy in Cleveland, Ohio. This organization does wonders in battling illiteracy in my town.

If you are an independent author, artist, or musician and would like to join “The Indie Five”, simply head over to the Facebook group at and join. There is no binding contract, no audits, and no paperwork. Get a fancy badge for your blog or website. And if you are not earning royalties, there is no shortage of volunteer opportunities in our world. I hope to make a difference and I hope you can too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Pittsburgh Dad

This may come off as an inside joke involving millions of people, and I guess it is in a way. Growing up in Pittsburgh, I heard my dad say things that made me laugh right before he slid the leather belt from its loops. Most of us have memories of our parents saying something so stupid that we laugh about it with our siblings right up until the time we hear it come out of our own mouth. Then it ain’t so funny.  Unless you’re watching Pittsburgh Dad. I know, yinz don’t know what I’m talkin’ baht. Here’s some info from da Wikipedia en’at.

“Pittsburgh Dad is an online series of short films featuring the observations of a "blue-collar Everyman" father from Pittsburgh who speaks with a thick Pittsburghese dialect…The Internet show was created by Chris Preksta and Curt Wootton. Preksta, a native of Munhall and a graduate of Point Park University and Pittsburgh Filmmakers, serves as director. Wootton, a native of Greensburg, Pennsylvania who graduated from West Virginia University and now lives in Los Angeles, plays the "Pittsburgh Dad"…The first several episodes were recorded "just for fun" on an iPhone, with the intended audience only the two men's families and friends. It quickly became an Internet hit, generating 3 million YouTube views within 6 months…The idiosyncrasies of Pittsburghese plays a large role in the show, including such regional words as "yinz," which means "you all"; nebby, which means a nosy person; and redd up, which means to clean up.”

If you’re not from Western Pennsylvania, you’ll probably find this series only slightly amusing if not downright stupid. It doesn’t matter, because another three million viewers would disagree. This is the magic of the new media and why I’m glad to see major record labels, the “Big 6” book publishers, and TV networks heading for the shitter. They are no longer the gatekeepers of entertainment, telling us what we should watch and what we should like. Sure, for every Pittsburgh Dad there are thousands of internet film producers that won’t register five views. That isn’t any different than it’s ever been as not everyone can be a superstar. But now, We the People get to decide if Pittsburgh Dad is a hit. And apparently, he is.

This is happening across the entertainment landscape. I was fortunate enough to interviewed for a new book on independent publishing (shameless self-promotion alert) along with a host of fantastic authors, one of which is Hugh Howey. Howey came out of nowhere with WOOL, a futuristic novelette that slayed the Amazon best seller lists, all without an agent or publisher.

Get out there and become the next Baby Hughy, or Pittsburgh Howey.  Ah. You know what I mean.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Time Machine

John Smith statue and the James River.
Although it’s a hassle and always requires more energy than you expect, vacations are worth it. I’m not talking about a trip to Six Flags or Cedar Point. That is nothing but a road trip to a headache. I’m also not talking about going to Disney World to experience “Europe” or an all-inclusive cruise where you spend most of your time in the buffet line with Frank from Poughkeepsie who has abandoned personal hygiene for four days and three nights. Real travel is going to a place you have never been before and experiencing something you cannot online. It’s risky, unpredictable, and ultimately one of the most enriching activities imaginable.

I’ve taken several vacations to Virginia’s historic sites. Being a historian interested in the colonial period of American history, Virginia offers a host of incredible destinations. I wrote the Threefold Law song “Old Dominion” while sitting on the banks of the James River next to the remains of the Jamestown fort. I got inspired to write my historical fantasy “Gold Within” after spending portions of the last ten summers in Colonial Williamsburg. You cannot visit these places without feeling awestruck by the history.

Colonial Williamsburg is one of the few places in the entire United States that has not been paved over or razed for a corporate-sponsored sports stadium. Strolling down Duke of Gloucester street is a trip in a time machine to the 18th century. From the foundation’s website,

“The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia—the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost of empire in the New World…In Colonial Williamsburg’s 301-acre Historic Area stand hundreds of restored, reconstructed, and historically furnished buildings. Costumed interpreters tell the stories of the men and women of the 18th-century city—black, white, and native American, slave, indentured, and free—and the challenges they faced. In this historic place, we help the future learn from the past.”

Colonial cannon with the magazine in the background.
A trip to Colonial Williamsburg is different, engaging, exciting, and unlike an overcrowded amusement park visit (although Busch Gardens is nearby should the urge for water-park diarrhea strike you). If you can escape the gravitational pull of your window unit, I’d recommend you head for the Old Dominion before Disney gets to it.