Sunday, May 30, 2004

"Remembering Harold"

Here on this Memorial Day weekend I'd like to dedicate this particular blog to my late brother, Harold, who died while serving his country in The Marine Corps in February, 1965.

Harold didn't die from wounds received in battle, but rather from contracting spinal meningitis while being located at Cherry Point North Carolina. He had one daughter, Michelle, whom he named after the title of a favorite Beatles' song; he only got to see and hold her one time the Christmas before his death.

I owe a lot to Harold. He was six and a half years older than me, and as with all little brothers, I looked up to him for protection and advice. Without his influence and various interests, my life would have been much different. He loved comic books. He loved to draw. He loved rock & roll music. He loved putting together plastic models. ALL of these things I gained a love of, by them being things HE loved as well.

When he died I wasn't quite 14 years old, so the majority of my teenage years I grew up without him being around. But I can't forget many fond memories sharing with him in my pre-teen years. Of building many a snowman in the yard, or playing baseball, and teaching me how to shoot pool, or dragging me along to the local Drive-In when he had a date. These were all things that a good big brother would do, as much as I'm sure there was many a time he would rather not. But Harold was a good kid, a good student, good in atheletics and played in the school bands (as well as the "Pep" Band). He was well-liked by all he met and broke many a young lady's heart I'm sure. And, he is missed.

I often wonder what my life would be like TODAY had he lived? I do know that I, and everyone else who knew him, would have been a better person because of that pleasure.


Saturday, May 29, 2004

"Are there any FLEAS here?"

Boy flea markets just ain't what they used to be. Back even 25 years ago I could go to flea markets and it was really a big deal. I'd find box after box of comic books, old paperbacks, metal lunch boxes, knife and coin dealers, old toys, military surplus items, and all sorts of stuff. Most of it was pretty cheap even by the standards of how much a buck was worth at that time.

Today I find them full of what I term "professional flea marketers" who buy large amounts of new stuff wholesale for resale there, or lots of craft people peddling things they've made. Gone are the people who have cleared out their garages and attics and closets full of treasures they've accumulated over the years. I walk thru these places today and ignore 95% of the booths set up, stopping only occasionally at one or the other, and usually finding next to nothing to make my trip worthwhile.

Flea markets too have changed into buildings of a mall sort where the dealers set up their booths on a monthy basis and are rarely actually there themselves, allowing instead the owners of the business to take a commission from their sales. No longer do we have the joy of trying to chew them down a bit on the price. Those that aren't that way and the people selling their goods actually do attend their tables have a pretty set fee because of the cost of their table space and know they have little room in allowances for discounts if they wish to make any profit.

And yard sales are different as well. Here too they don't clear out those storage bins of older stuff but usually have them filled with discarded clothing...a LOT of baby clothes it would seem, and, shoes. Do you really want to wear shoes that others have worn? I don't know about that. They're also filled with just a lot of plain ol' junk that I personally would have bagged up for the weekly trash pick-up, but these yard sellers seem to feel that "someone" needs this stuff and is willing to give them a quarter for it.

Does this say something dramatic about this country's economy when we see multitudes of such sales? Are people that desperate to make ends meet any more that they'll try to sell just about anything of value or not to pay bills? Perhaps not. Maybe some people just LIKE to have yard sales. And granted there's a lot of people at the flea markets that are retired and just do this as a side-line for extra income and enjoy setting up at various locations to meet and talk with all the people; more like a social event to them.

Others I see at flea markets are able-bodied individuals that look like they wouldn't know an honest day's work if it came up and kicked them in the hind-quarters and wants the lazyman's way of making a buck. And how some of them sell enough to actually make it worth their while eludes me because I see items priced far beyond their actual value, but the sellers think there's somebody that'll give that price for it, only to bring it back week-after-week until YOU know their stock better than they do.

Now the townships themselves are getting in on the deal by charging the city's residents a fee to set up their yard sales, allowing them a certain number of set-ups per year and actually issuing them a permit to have them; fining them if they don't do so.

I never did very well having yard sales. I hear of these people having them and making several hundreds of dollars each time, but me, I'm lucky if I sell ten dollars worth of anything in a day's time, and it seems the only way I can accomplish that feat is if I just "give it away" for next to nothing. And I wonder how much of this is taxed by the government every year? If someone's selling $300. a day and they have a dozen yard sales a year we're talking over 3-1/2 K here in income which I seriously doubt is ever being reported.

I think I'll stick to selling on line. Easier than all that pricing, setting up tables and the hassle.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

"Read This Only If You Are An A$$hole"

Anyone who works with the public on a daily basis knows that 99% pf the people you deal with are nice folks...and 1 % of them, are A$$holes.

No matter how nice your day's going, it's like the Law of Nature that at least one a$$hole is going to show up and ruin it. And we're not talking here about your boss, or your fellow employees, or, even yourself, because perhaps from them that's "expected".

No, it's always the idiot that doesn't want to follow any rules. It's the guy that wants to return merchandice he bought six months before, who doesn't have a receipt of any sort, or can't recall "who" the clerk was that sold it to him, but claims he was told something totally alien from any set rule in your store.

The typical a$$hole can be the person who thinks your retail store is actually some sort of flea market and has the firm belief that if they stand there wasting your time long enough, trying to bargain down the price, you will eventually give in and let them have the item at a cheaper price. Or,
it's the idiot that actually thinks you're going to help the competition by telling them what other stores in the area carries the same item.

It's that looney at the gas mart that expects the cashier to educate them as to how to play the lottery instead of reading the material available at the lottery station, or wants you to wait in line for an hour behind them while he/she spews out numbers wanting them to be manually punched into the machine rather than filling out "play slips".

And they are ALWAYS the one who wants to clerk to make HIM happy while there's ten other people waiting in line behind them getting rather ticked off.

They are easy enough to recognize. They're the inconsiderate, self-centered jackass in a crowd of otherwise normal individuals. And that's why I think a Special Day of the Week should be set aside...just for their "needs". Not Monday of course, because,'s MONDAY, right? And certainly not Friday because you don't want some a$$hole killing your good buzz on payday.

Probably either Wednesday or Thursday would be best. By then you're already thinking about the work week being "over the hump" so your mind's not going to pay much attention to anything that's he's spouting off at the mouth, and on that day you'll EXPECT to be waiting solely ON a$$holes. Just as soon as they come through the door you will know: "There's ANOTHER one!"

Of course, they'll probably all show up on Monday anyway; what else can you expect of an A$$hole.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

"Everyone Wants to Be a Comic (BOOK COLLECTOR, that is.)"

Recently, "Elmo's Junction" was linked to over at Fred Hembeck's site, "Fred Sez". It's not that I don't want to return the favor and link his site over here(but if you just click on that red lettering you'll be right there), but you may notice that the only site I have linked is actually my OTHER blog site, "Beatles & Bizarros". On that "B&B" blog you will indeed find Fred's pages, as well as many other fine folk and great links. Anyway, I figure if you've been interested enough to look at what I have to say in this space you've probably already checked out "B&B" and seen said links. With this being my conception of what you've already done, then I know that YOU know, I like old comic books. After all, the whole theme of my other blog IS dealing with comic books. And it's not that I don't want to talk about comics here. It's just that I have other things I'd like to dwell upon as well. That doesn't mean I won't post anything ever here on the subject; I will, occasionally, like I'm going to do today.

I want to explain why I don't purchase modern comics; that is, comics published mainly after 1989 or so. Here are some of those reasons as follows:

1) Comic books are no longer available , at least in my area, on the old "spin" racks in drug stores, gas marts, etc., so my main source of buying new stuff would be to travel some 35 miles or better to the closest comic book specialty shop or get them through the mail via a subscription service.

2) Cost. Comic books today run around $3. a pop. Honestly, I don't know how young kids not working a steady job can afford to collect many at that price. It's hard enough for an adult with a steady paycheck to keep up with many titles.

3) Comics to me contain a great amount of nostalgic value. I prefer to remember my childhood heroes rather than their images and history constantly being revamped by every new writer that wants to make them over in their own image. Most writers these days seem to feel that they are the next John Byrne, Frank Miller or Alan Moore, always re-creating my favorite characters into a vision of what "they think they OUGHT to be".

Now it's not like I haven't read any modern comics at all, because I have. I've read hundreds, even thousands of comic books from the 1990 to Current era. I just don't pay full price for them when I do buy them, because I obtain them in lots, usually from dealers at flea markets, or fellow collectors cleaning out stuff they're no longer interested in or just don't want , or I get them from hitting the various local yard sales. I also buy several books from the discounted boxes at my comic book store. I've paid as little as a nickle or six cents to $1. each for what I want. When I have to take a large amount in a lot group, many of these I never read. They end up in my own yard sale quarter box, along with any duplication, or I RE-lot them out to another collector or comic book dealer.

Usually out of any said lot, 35% to 50% I'll pull to read, but maybe only 10% to 25% of these will ever actually make it into my collection. Most of the time I spend more on backing boards and bags for them than I've actually spent on the books themselves.

Many times I've had newer titles recommended to me by those who purchase such and whose judgement and good taste I trust, and some times I've gone out and obtained said comics to read and keep. More than often I find them in collected trade paperback volumes, which I prefer, since they're easier to find and usually cheaper to purchase in a collected format. In this format they are also easier to store.

The last current title I can recall purchasing on any sort of regular basis was the current series of Marvel's THOR. My local grocery store was actually carrying some comic books on their magazine rack for a few months and I bought issues #'s 45 thru 49. When they stopped carrying the book, I made no great effort to go out and continue purchasing it. That was...what? Two or three years ago now? (I really haven't the slightest idea what the current number is of that title!) So you can see, it's been a while now since I bought something new from the racks!

And I'm sure that even if I did have easy access to purchasing new comics, I'd still buy very few. Even when the spin racks were still around locally in the 1980's I didn't buy over 3 or 4 new books a week. Some of the newer books I HAVE picked up, at least in trade paperback collections, have been things like "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" and "Jack Staff: Everything used to Be Black and White", and I still pick up an occasional collected volume of some DC-Vertigo title. Current situations involving "Long John" heroes interest me the least these days. There's still too much of a flood of them on the market and their names and powers can be easily interchanged. Most of what I find interesting comes from the NON-mainstream titles and Independent Publishers which I've found to , in general, not be totally corrupted by big business profits and still retain a few ideas of originality, as well as the pure love of what they produce.

If I want to know what's happening with the older mainstream characters these days, well...there's plenty of fellow comic book collectors that'll keep me up-dated.

Monday, May 24, 2004

"SMILE! You're On-----"

On my post this time I was going to tell you a little something about my past and my personal life, but...I decided not to, or at least, not at this time. I think that's because I got to thinking that it really isn't anyone's business what has happened to me in life anymore than it's important for me to know what's happened to anyone else. Privacy is becoming a scarce commodity in this country anyway.

The world of George Orwell's 1984 novel became reality long ago with its hidden cameras, and those "not" so hidden, just everywhere these days. You can't walk into a department store or a gas mart or, well, just about anywhere these days without security cameras watching your every move. I'm amazed they haven't stuck them in the bathrooms yet, but, perhaps they have and we just don't know it? I mean, what do we really know about these places that claim all of their friendly customer service, but don't trust their customers?

And it isn't that our society doesn't deserve this treatment. When you go into a department store and find the items you bought at one price have soared to another, it's mainly because of thief. Honest customers have to pay for the merchandice that others have stolen and got away with. It's not a fair system, but it's a workable one for companies because if someone doesn't pay the difference, they go out of business. Not only do we lose here by not having the convenience of that particular store and the merchandice therein we want to obtain, but so do sometimes hundreds of their employees that would be put out of a job.

When the news media relates stories of thief it's usually about "big businesses" whose employees have worked scams against the public or embezzled large amounts of money or people that have robbed a bank. They tend to leave out all of the smaller thieves whose actions amount to just as much as the others total. These are people who get gasoline and drive off without paying for it, and identity theif, mail fraud, in-store thief and shoplifting. Just how much do you think a place that serves food products, a McDonalds or a Pizza Hut, or a deli place loses every year just from employees eating their product and not paying for it? Literally millions. That's why that pizza you're getting costs you $20., when the total cost of everything that went into it (including labor) due to these huge companies buying in bulk may not have been over a couple of bucks.

So...the next time that a clerk comes up to you in a department store and asks if he can help you with something, be nice to him. It's their job to walk around and check the shelves and talk to people. It's his job to watch out for thief, and don't take the offensive attitude towards them. They're just trying to be helpful. And you know?

HONEST people have absolutely nothing to hide.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

"Zebras & Bananas"

My wife, Debbie, does crafts. She's done them for years now and is always trying to find something new and novel that'd make them sell better. So one day she asks me, "What do YOU think will be the next good thing in crafts?" ("Yeah" I'D know.) I replied, "Zebras & Bananas."

I wasn't trying to be funny; just honest.

You see, it really doesn't matter what new idea you come up with in doing craft work, because it's too hard to try to protect you ideas in that market. All you have to do is come up with something different for a craft show that's popular, and by the NEXT craft show, everyone will have copied it, and there's little that you can really do about it. Other crafters can always say, "Oh, I saw this idea here, or there", or, "Oh, we've been making these for a long time now!" And it's damned hard to prove they weren't.

And EVERY crafter does it. They get these ideas out of craft books and magazines and on The Net sites and everybody copies everything. There's no "Craft Police" that go around to the various shows and arrest people for using someone else's ideas.

And oddly enough, "zebras & bananas" DID become popular ideas for decorations, especially in the household. Just look at any store that sells home knick-knacks for that purpose and you'll see all sorts of things like fruit and jungle motif for sale. Even where I personally work we have dozens of such ideas, some specifically either in the form of bananas or zebras.

Taiwan ( China) didn't help crafters either. They have cheap labor and can produce inexpensive copies of things we find popular here in The States in this catagory as well. We used to make these yard ornaments for the holidays, like Halloween and Christmas. In fact it was one of our biggest sellers. I'd cut out pumpkins and black cats and witches and Santa Claus, and reindeer and snowmen which my wife or I would paint and then either nail or screw onto 4 foot wood stakes you could put in your yard during those times. We usually sold them for anything from $7. to $20. depending on how large they were or how much time, material cost and effort it took to make them. But, before you knew it, there they were in various stores, now made of plastic with factory silk-screened color and for five bucks or less. There went our market on them completely. So don't think they just bootleg movies and watches overseas; it's ANYTHING on which there's a profit to be made, and those who own retail stores here in this country are to blame as well because they purchase these...because they're cheaper.

But, bless her, my wife keeps prodding on making crafts, always trying for the next "big thing" with them. She over-spends on supplies and never comes out ahead, and quite honestly if we didn't take it all as a loss at the end of the year tax-wise, I'd found someone to buy out all of her craft stuff a long time ago as a lot, just so we could make room to store more "junk".

And it keeps her off the steets.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

"Fill'er Up!"

I think I need to thank my long time friend (and fellow "blogger") David Jones. Dave turned me on to blogger in the first place, gave me a lot of encouragement and help. Now he's even plugged this blog' on his own Johnny Bacardi site. (We scratch one anothers' backs around this joint.)

Today was the day the (I think) California Truckers were wanting us all to boycott buying gasoline in protest of high prices.

You day just isn't going to help.

Maybe if everyone in this country didn't buy petrol today, but you wouldn't want to cripple our entire economy now would you? Honestly, there's only one way to lower gasoline costs and that's to make less demand for the product. It's NOT something that's going to change overnight, but over a period of weeks, months...who knows?

You have to drive more fuel efficent automobiles, carpool, live closer to work, and for God's Sake, get off of your lazy butts and walk somewhere if it's close (for a change) instead of sticking the key in that ignition switch every time.

Besides that, I filled up last night.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"What's in a Name?"

"Why" ELMO'S Junction? Why not "PUCK'S Junction"? Or, "CONNUNCTION Junction"? Or, "DYSFUNCTION Junction"? (Actually, that last one isn't half bad!) Or, even, "PETTICOAT Junction"?

There's a reason for everything.

"Elmo" was a little cartoon character I created way back around 1970. He had a myriad of appearances in various amateur fan and Small Press publications over the years, and progressed from his original conception of a three inch tall "something" in a Mickey Mouse suit, to---something else.

Indeed I originally described him as a "Pillsbury Doe-Boy Gone Rancid". He was a hero in a childrens' story I wrote. He really wasn't supposed to have hung around.

I had created a bunch of other characters for "fanzines" back then: "The Squirrel", "Cardinal Royal", "The Piddle People", etc., but they were all super hero-types. Those were the ones that were SUPPOSED to have been taken seriously (or, at least as serious as anyone can take super heroes). Elmo was a deviation for me.

In truth, he BECAME me.

When I went through a religious stage, Elmo got religion. When I went through my hippie period, Elmo grew long hair and a beard. I even gave HIM a wife when I got married.

Oh, I tried to kill off the character, a couple of times even, or change him around, but the changes never seemed to last long. The only thing that really changed, was myself. When I personally evolved, so did Elmo, until he was not just my parody, but my other persona(or, maybe that's visa versa).

When I was trying to become a professional writer or artist,I sort of thought that if I ever made it, Elmo would be right there along with me. Perhaps even the theme of my "fame" (my own Charlie Brown).

Well...that never happened, but Elmo hung around anyway, eventually becoming my Signature Piece. And since he IS my other self, I figured the least I could do to thank him for sticking with me throughout these many years is to name this page in his honor.

So, THANKS, ELMO, for letting me take out the frustrations of my own life, through "yours".

Monday, May 17, 2004

"God, I Miss HATS!"

Just "when" did men stop wearing hats? Not those round-topped derbys that make you look like a refugee from a Charlie Chaplin flick or a 3 Stooges short, but nice, mid-brimmed fedoras?

I think it must have been in the latter 1960's that I noticed people had stopped dressing nicely, because in the 1950's/early 60's, men wore slacks and decent-looking shoes. NOT tennis shoes. Tennis shoes, or, "sneekers" as we called them back then, wore worn only in gym class, or by atheletes, or basketball players: Red Ball Jets or Keds. But every man, even a poor man, wore a hat.

There was this department store in the town where I grew up, a nice clothing store with suits and fabric goods. It was divided into two different rooms, one for men's apparel and one for ladies'. In the men's section there were these tall, enclosed cabinets with glass fronted doors and inside were revolving displays of hats; all types, all sizes and sorts. Yes, there WAS a derby or two, and even a couple of straw ones that reminded one of barbershop quartets, but mostly they were fedoras. They were wide, mid-range and narrow of brims, in tones of tans, brown, brown or black, with perhaps one white one thrown in for good measure. They had bands around them for accent of a lighter or darker shade and a little feather stuck in the band on the left side. They were pretty neat.

And women wore hats as well. Not bonnets, but pretty little things decorated usually with flowers that sat delicately upon their heads. Women ALWAYS had more than one hat. Men as well; one for everyday use and one worn only on Sunday. If a man got his hat dirty or bent out of shape, the local dry clearner would always clean it and re-block and press it. Then on Easter Sunday you had, not just that "special" best hat you wore, but also a special suit of clothes. It was the very best outfit you owned. Little boys had white sportscoats and bowties and men would even wear a small flower (usually a rose) in their lapel. Women wore white gloves and heels and they would always wear a slip. It was a different time, a time of innocence I grant you, but people dressed nicely.

When I was in Grade School, you'd never wear a just a t-shirt or blue jeans or a flannel shirt to school. If you did, that usually meant your family was poor, or people thought you were a "greaser" or a J.V.. "Normal" people didn't wear caps, either. Caps were worn by baseball players, gas station mechanics and people in the military. Even most farmers worn a hat.

So...what happened? When did we start dressing differently? As much as I love The Beatles, they're at least partially to blame. It began The British Invasion of Music into this country. Different ideas and different styles were beginning to be introduced into this culture. Along came bell-bottomed pants and fringy,leather jackets. Flannel shirts even became a style, and fake turtle necks (called "dickies")we wore under a dress shirt.There were even frilly, lacy shirts for men! The color for clothes went crazy! Pastels and flourescents and neons; bright and flashy colors abound! Gender styles mixed and matched! We wore naval p-jackets and nehru coats, and...striped pants.

Can you imagine? Striped pants.

And the fedora was gone. Vanished in the way of drive-in movies, the 5 & Dime Store and the Fountain Coke. Lost today to the memories of old black and white detective flicks, self-portraits of Robert Crumb and thoughts of Indiana Jones. Gone with those hats was the courtesy of tipping it in the presence of a lady, removing it when you shook hands with a friend or came indoors, or placing it over ones' heart during The Pledge of Allegiance to The Flag.

A lot of politeness and respect people had for one another, especially words like, "Sir", and "Madam" went along with them.

God. I miss hats.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

"What's it's Function?"

Putting together comments and making them function, of course.

This is where I get to put my personal "rants", comments, opinions about, well...almost anything I suppose as long as I keep some sort of good taste about it all.

What gives me the right to state my opinions when it's well known that association with the mind of ~D.Puck' has scared many a poor fool for life?

"America", baby.