(Still) Still Alive


Those of you who follow me on teh Twittahs already know that I’m still kickin’ around, and hopefully, I haven’t worried the rest of you much.

Weird times still, of course, and not great ones. I hope you’re all doing OK. If we haven’t talked in a while, feel free to fill me in on stuff in the comments (those of you who I talk to regularly can do that too, if you like, but good or bad, I know about at least some of what’s up with you already).

Keeping busy with a bunch of my hobbies, and eventually, you’ll hear about stuff and see pictures. We’re doing a bunch of renovation stuff in my house, though, so it’s gonna be another minute.

On the trading card front (how most of you who are still following me started following me), I’m still pretty likely done with set-building on new Topps cards, though I went 2 factory sets deeper than I was planning to (I’ve got ’21 and ’22), because the ’22 design is the last one that Fanatics had no input on or influence over. (I’ll probably grab an Update set at the end of the month, too, but that should be the last of it until I move the goalposts again.) I was weak and grabbed (and overpaid for) one of those ’60 Topps design Pro Debut Bo Jackson Memphis Chicks cards, because come on, but that’s probably gonna be about the extent of new card purchases, basically “Ooh, that’s pretty, FINE, I’ll get it”.

I finished Brooklyn Dodgers team sets for ’53 Bowman Black and White, ’54 Bowman and ’55 Bowman since we spoke last, and I’m close (if down to the tough ones: Koufax, Drysdale and the team card) on ’57 Topps Dodgers, too. I’ve put together an entire album of all of the Senior Professional Baseball Association sets, which was fun. I’m working on the master set of Pro Set Superstars MusiCards and Yo! MTV Raps cards, and I’m close there (and need to get back to Gavin about that). I’ve been working more on non-sports of late than anything.

Toys, I got…a few more…Mego-scale figures, and some other things. You’ll see soon, hopefully.

Comics, ditto. I’m close to done buying new big-two-companies comics, though, too. I’m buying maybe a third of what I was a few years ago. I have enough to read for a while, and I don’t like how they handle their properties anymore.

Video games, I’ve got a Playstation 5 which I enjoy but don’t play often enough (Stray is amazing, though, so good, I beat the game twice in a row the night I got it), a Retro Freak which I enjoy but also don’t play enough, and I’ve beefed up my Atari 2600 collection a bunch (even replacing Swordquest: Waterworld and Mr. Do’s Castle, which I’d gotten rid of ages ago).

I’ve filled in my CD collection a bunch (the biggest things are probably completing the Siouxsie and the Banshees and Skinny Puppy studio album collections and the Bobbie Gentry box set), but haven’t done a ton with vinyl since it became much, much more dangerous for me to crate-dig.

I’ve been framing posters. After my bedroom’s painted and the rest of my house is sorted a bit more, I’ll show y’all what I’ve got.

I got some more musical instruments which I need to use more often.

I’m watching a ton of movies and TV. I watched 513 out of 514 episodes of Peyton Place (episode 390 is quasi-lost media at the moment), and it’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen in both very good and very bad ways. I’m working on 3 other series right now, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Cheers and Dark Shadows. We’re in the middle of our annual October movie thing in my house, though we’re not watching a movie tonight because there’s some painting going on in the living room.

So far:

October 1st: Return of the Living Dead (1985) plus Return of the Living Dead II (1988) (bonus)
October 2nd: Saloum (2022)
October 3rd: Frankenstein (1931) plus Orphan: First Kill (2022) (bonus)
October 5th: Mad God (2021)
October 7th: House/Hausu (1977) plus Werewolf by Night (2022) (bonus)
October 8th: The Craft (1996)
October 10th: Maximum Overdrive (1986) plus The World’s End (2013) (bonus)
October 11th: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) plus May (2003) (bonus)
October 12th: Häxan (1922)
Of these, my highest recommendations go to Saloum, Frankenstein, Mad God and Häxan on film-making quality, but basically everything except May, which hasn’t aged well at all, was fun or redeemable in its own ways. Some were definitely re-re-re-watches, mostly the bonus ones.

No pictures again, and not many links (Y’all know how to look stuff up…be curious and enterprising!) but I think that’s enough to let y’all know I continue to exist. I don’t know how often I’ll update here, but I’ll try to get a post with pics in before the end of the year. I’m way more prolific here, but “here” requires an invite because the public and quasi-public Internet is kind of a drag these days. Feel free to ask for one.

Hey, I’m still alive.

I hope y’all are well, too.

Given what my last post here looked like, it shouldn’t surprise you to hear that I’ve been overwhelmed with life stuff since I wrote it. I have managed to fit my hobbies in somewhat over the past 5 months or so, and I’ve even scanned a few things here and there with the intention of posting about them (I have gotten some really cool stuff lately, and I still owe everyone the Negro Leagues Legends card set post or posts, which everything is scanned for), but it hasn’t happened yet.

Part of this, mind you, also has to do with the fact that my main newsletter (which used to be at Substack, but Substack harbors and subsidizes the work of all sorts of truly terrible people, so I didn’t want my newsletter there anymore) has been chugging along at my other website. I’m not writing daily at the moment, like I did from September-February, but I am starting to write with a bit more frequency again. It’s private and invite-only, but also free (unlike a lot of these newsletter ne’er-do-wells), and covers mostly pop culture and my personal life. (A little bit of hobby stuff has leaked in, but I’m really not cheating on y’all that much with the newsletter.)

If you’re interested in reading it (subject to approval; everyone reading it is someone I’ve had some extended contact with either in-person or online, and I’d like to continue to keep it that close-knit, though there are definitely some of you here that I think would enjoy it, and would qualify for being on the other side of the wall), email me (including your preferred email address for receiving newsletters and preferred username for the comment section/archives), and if I know who you are and feel comfortable inviting you in, I’ll hook you up.

I’ve actually given some thought to taking this site private, as I did with my other one to make the newsletter out of it, but for reasons related to my energy level alone, that probably won’t happen for a while, if it does at all. Yes, it would be an inconvenience to people who just wanna read the thing if I did it, but I’ve also come to the conclusion over the past few years that public life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so I’m finding myself more and more inclined to do my writing and Internet socializing in slightly more private settings. I got rid of Facebook and Instagram, I locked my Twitter accounts, and, as mentioned, I even made my main website private.

Honestly, it’s working out well for me, I think. I’m able to concentrate better on what I need to do (which has been important, because holy crap have I “needed to do” a lot these past few months), and when I talk to people I know (email’s been my preferred method, though I also have a private Discord server or two that I frequent), I’ve been having fuller, less surface conversations. It’s been a meaningful and positive change.

With that said, again, if I do put this site behind a wall and make it Newsletter #2, it probably won’t be for a while (my guess would be this coming winter), so you have time to enjoy my extremely infrequent posts, which tend to be more about this site than the topics this site was built for, these days, before it happens.

I do have some other site business, related to what this site’s actually about, to discuss, though! I am also posting to note that Highest Priority Card Set Want Lists, Highest Priority Comic Set Want Lists, and Baseball Card Flagship Sets Progress Report have been updated for the first time in over a year, and that, while I haven’t been able to add many cards to my trade pile (which means there are only about 70,000 available for trade in it), and I only have about half a small box of comics that I’d consider to be “available for trade”, I am fully vaccinated and comfortable making recreational trips to the post office again for the first time since last August (And really, the couple of trips I made last summer? I shouldn’t have.), so if you are interested in doing The Trades, let me know.

That should about do it for now. Again, I hope y’all are hangin’ in there, staying safe, and enjoying what you can.

My Year in Hobbies 2020

This is gonna be long, and it’s going to be all over the place. There are going to be (some) highs and lows (one of which is rough; consider yourselves disclaimed). Last year, I did things monthly. We’re not doing that this time. I’m gonna go by subject, and do my best to be concise, in light of…well, 2020.

Some website-centric/house cleaning kinda stuff, first:

If you didn’t notice yet, I’m not formatting paragraphs on this website like this anymore.

For a time, I liked it aesthetically because this was such an image-centric website, but I’m told that it messes with readability, particularly for disabled people (while doing some research on accessibility, I read that it can mess with how Autistic people process what they’re reading; and you’re one of my readers and this has been your experience, I apologize, and I’ll do better moving forward), so it’s officially out.

Also, as I predicted it would, figuring out image captioning slowed things down a lot, but that doesn’t make it bad, and I’m practicing it a lot over at Substack, where I’ve been doing far more writing of late. I’m still going to tinker with it a little, because I did it two different ways on this site, and I think that a hybrid of those ways is probably going to be the best way to go, moving forward.

Speaking of, I’m sure those of you who aren’t interested in Another Thing, or aren’t that interested in the rest of what goes on in my life and are Just Here For The Cards, Man are gonna be like “awww, come on” if I spend any more time plugging the Substack like the rest of your middle-aged, white, male, at least marginally sports-inclined friends are, but I can tell you (and you can see) that I’ve been writing here very little, and over there, I’ve written or posted at least something literally every day since August 31st. I don’t make it easy to sign up (you have to actually contact me and ask, and I reserve the right to say “no” or kick people off the subscriber list if they’re lousy in the comments or spread what’s in the newsletter around to the general public), but it’s free and will remain that way, which most other Substacks that have that kind of output are not. If we’ve known each other long enough to have a cordial personal relationship, either through my comments section, by enough trades that the emails aren’t just “PLEASE SEND BASEBALL CARD THANK U” or some other way, I think you’ll enjoy it, even if a good chunk of it isn’t specifically what you come here for.

Classic Posts didn’t get added much, if at all in 2020, and I might take down the old site entirely soon because it’s pretty ephemeral. Do any of you actually think “Hey, I want to read what Scott had to say about The Empty Monster Box of Shame in 2013″ as part of your regular practice? (OK, I probably will add that post to this site, because it’s an evergreen, but still.) Let me know where y’all are at on this one. It’s not costing me anything, but it’s still an old and now-neglected portion of my Internet presence, and I’ve been trying to avoid having those these days.

With all of that out of the way now, let’s begin the recap…

2020 was a weird, no-good, awful, terrible, screwed-up, lousy stinkin’ year. We are welcome, and I’d say, we’ll be encouraged to keep sayin’ it for the rest of our lives. If we made it this far, we’ve earned it. I hope that all of you who were readers of mine before March 11th, 2020 are still with us and in good health, because so many people weren’t as fortunate, and that’s still very much an ongoing thing.

On this note, I’m going to try to tie a few threads together here at once, and this may or may not work well as an example of good writing, but please bear with me.

As longer-term readers of mine may remember, this was The First Card of 2020. I’m just posting it here to cover the usual First Card/Last Card traditions, and we can move on from it after looking at it, as it’s otherwise not relevant to what I have to write (though it’s still really cool).

[Image Description: A 2019 Panini Rookies baseball card of Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.. Against a leathery textured brown, denim blue and beige background, Blue Jays 3rd baseman Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. (center), a Black man with medium brown skin and blonde dreadlocks, wearing a blue and grey uniform, swings a beige baseball bat.]
While there has not yet been a First Card of 2021, a 1951 Topps Red Back Duke Snider was The Last Card of 2020.

[Image Description: a 1951 Topps Red Back Duke Snider card sits on a black-brown woodgrain Ikea table top. At the diamond-shaped center inset of the card, which is mostly white and has rounded corners, there is a cut-out photograph of Brooklyn Dodgers player Edwin “Duke” Snider, a smiling white man with dark eyebrows, wearing a baseball cap with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ letter B logo on the center of the cap and a white shirt, against a blue background. On the bottom right edge of the diamond inset, text reading “No. 38 IN A SERIES OF 52” is written in black letters. The card also has yellow backgrounds for the top right and bottom left parts of it, and a thin red border around the inner part of the card. At the top left and bottom right corners, there is a red baseball with the number 1 in the center of it, and the word “SINGLE” written in a font that curves around the bottom of the baseball, directly below it (right side up at top left, upside down at bottom right). On the top right yellow section, a small cartoon of a white man in a white baseball uniform with black highlights, facing left, running with a baseball bat after the follow through of his swing, appears. On the bottom left yellow section of of the card, black text reads “ED (DUKE) SNIDER” with “ED” and “SNIDER” in a larger font than “(DUKE)”, then below that, in a different black font, the card reads “Walloping the ball at a .321 clip, the left-hander Brooklyn Dodger out-fielder hit 31 homers and had 107 runs batted in.”]
As a bunch of people have in recent months, because happenings on the site were so unstable for so long, and I’d heard a bunch of vague noise about it on card Twitter and elsewhere, I’ve cleaned out my COMC port for now, mostly so, if anything went terribly wrong with the company, I’d have at least gotten something for what was left in my inventory there. When I did that, I had a good handful of credit in the account, and I used it to buy Duke here, and have him shipped to me. I’d other made single-card eBay purchases from them earlier in the year that were shipped swiftly, and (incorrectly) assumed that they’d be processing shipments of single cards from their website at the same speed. (My assumption is that, at least at the time I ordered the Duke card, though they may have course-corrected by now, all eBay shipments were prioritized over their website orders, because there are actual consequences to late shipments, in the form of persistent negative feedback on a user account, if you’re late shipping items you sell on eBay, whereas, on their own platform, there were no lasting, persistent disincentive to delaying shipments.)

There was a mildly tense exchange between COMC customer service and I at one point, because they were late well above and beyond their stated shipping delays, and were also, for a time (and I’m sure they won’t be thrilled about my saying so, but I have emails and screenshots of both my account and tweets from the company that back my position), publicly dishonest about the circumstances of it, but they did apologize, and they resolved it to the best of their ability at that time. Eventually, if things do stabilize for their business, which went through the double whammy of COVID and a huge surge in business that they were, for whatever reason, unprepared for despite the writing being on the wall for a few years that it was coming, I may eventually do business with them again, because, as I said, they did put in the effort to make things right. Your mileage may vary after reading about my experience, but I don’t have overwhelmingly negative feelings about how they did business in the end, and my experience with COMC, up until the most recent one, was actually an overwhelmingly positive one.

Unfortunately, the delay in shipping did cause a somewhat painful, and completely unexpected thing to happen, as, in the last real conversation I had with my mother, I told her about the 1951 Topps Red Back Duke Snider I had bought there. She loved the Brooklyn Dodgers, had met Duke a couple of times (and once drove 20 miles, paid to get into a card show, and waited in line to get a ball signed by him for me, because I couldn’t be there), was actually named in my will, until very recently, as the recipient of my Brooklyn Dodgers cards, and was excited to see it, but while I held it up to a screen in video chat near the end of her life, I don’t know if she was aware that I was doing it. A lot of times, when something fun but non-essential that we order from somewhere ships late, and even when the person we buy it from or trade something to for it is not great about being consistent in how they do business, it’s frustrating, but the stakes are ultimately pretty trivial. I will be hopefully abundantly clear to those who read this that I don’t think this was specifically COMC’s fault or anything, as none of us knew how things would play out, certainly (and at this point, I’m going to stop talking about what COMC did or didn’t do and move onto the next subject, which is a little bigger in my life than the business practices of a consignment company), but this felt…a little less like one of those times.

It wasn’t a direct COVID-19 thing (though COVID affected everything from my ability to see her in person over the last year of her life to, undoubtedly, the quality of her treatment), but to come back to the subject of those who didn’t make it through the year, and confirm something I alluded to in the previous paragraph, my mother passed away on Christmas morning. It would be impossible to state in a hundred articles like this how much I loved and still love my mom, how much my mom meant not just to me, but also, and this is where this loss isn’t just crushing, but also on-topic, for those fun-at-parties people who are sticklers for that sort of thing even at the worst times, how much she meant to each and every one of my hobbies, and I’ll probably never really know if I was able to convey to her how grateful I was and still am.

She went through so very much shit supporting me in all of them, not just buying me stuff, but driving me all over to get it, sitting in stores she mostly didn’t give a rat’s ass about for long periods of time while I looked through things, dealing with this stuff being all over the homes we lived in together, listening to me talk on and on about it all in the same ways I see my friends with kids around my age complain about how all their kids know how to talk about is Minecraft and Fortnite and whatever else the youth are playing these days. She did all of that and then some, for longer than most human beings have a mom doing that stuff regularly in their lives (because I am a disabled person who lived with family for a long stretch of my life), and she did it just because she wanted me to be happy. I owe her my life and then some, a bunch of times over, and it’s a debt I never would’ve been able to repay even if she’d lived for a long time past when she did, because this is something (along with all of the other stuff that good parents do, even if you don’t have a bunch of hobbies) that she’s done for me from the time I was a small child to the end of her life, and even beyond.

There is $25 cash in my wallet right now that I got from her as a birthday gift this past year, but haven’t been able to spend because I haven’t been in situations where cash is required since March. Eventually, when it’s safe to be out at flea markets and hobby stores and yard sales again, that $25 from her will pay for at least one more fun thing, one more gift, even though she isn’t here to give it to me or see it. It’s going to be tough letting go of it when the time comes, and I may get and use other cash before I use that cash, because I want what I spend it on to be really good (and yes, if you’re careful about it, you can get great things with 25 bucks, still), but that’s the plan, and I’m going to try to stick to it, because it’d be a waste of her resources (which she never really had an easy go of mustering, either) to do anything less.

I’ve said it elsewhere, but she deserved so much better than she got, in all aspects of her life, and I hope I was able to give her at least a small fraction of it back, in her mind. I will miss her terribly, for the rest of my days, but I’m so grateful that I had her as a mom, and knew her as a person.

With that very necessary, but very sad part of the discussion of this year having been covered, not everything that happened in the entire year was terrible (though no matter how bad the rest of it was, nothing in my life to date, speaking purely personally, has been as terrible as losing my mom, and I’m really only about a week out from that, so go easy on me here), and I’ll now attempt to make a really sharp turn back over to “what happened for me in the hobbies I participate in over the past year”. As I mentioned above, I’m going to do things by category this year, in the most concise manner available to me, given how I write (I’m not into the whole brevity thing, man). I’d have given all of these subjects their own posts, but that didn’t end well for any of us last year, and I’d say that a lot of this stuff’s interconnected, too. It should, at least, be less than the 13 part nightmare that was last year’s “year in review”.

Trading Cards:

I’m not collecting 2021 (and forward) Topps baseball sets by default anymore. If there’s a set design I really like, or if circumstances dump a complete set of something in my lap, then fine, I’ll re-evaluate things on a case-by-case basis, but I can’t keep devoting my time, energy, and resources by default to Topps, with them not really interested in doing the same for my type of collector. As I said when I was planning for 2020, 1951-2020 has a really nice ring to it, and I’m going with that for now. If I regret it, I regret it. I don’t want to try to compete for new cards in a world with card bubble scalpers/flippers, though. That’s what pushed most of us out of the hobby as kids in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and apparently people have learned nothing from history, as usual. I also don’t have strong ties to present-day MLB. There are a few players I like, but I don’t have a team, and Rob Manfred is determined to “hold my beer” the shit out of Bud Selig’s tenure as Commissioner, so I’m not feeling a strong inclination to buy licensed merchandise.

I’m still going to do player collections of current players, so I’ll be picking up individual current cards from time to time, and will probably devote at least a little more energy to them, but as someone who once put effort into a Ray Rice player collection (and is still stuck with the goddamned things), I really need to carefully evaluate and regularly re-evaluate those collections, and also come up with an exit strategy (ideally one that doesn’t have me feeling like I need a Silkwood shower after I’m done with it, because of who I might have to deal with to make those cards go away; I’d like, if possible, to avoid the types that aren’t bothered by players doing terrible things…) for any and all of them, should the players in question out themselves as people who I don’t want to have a bunch of pictures of. Even if I resolve to only buy cards of theirs in dime boxes, those dimes do add up.

It’s not fun to think about any of this stuff, but I think it’s worth viewing media consumption (and cards are media) critically, and with at least some eye toward having it be consistent with your own personal ethics, no matter how much you want your hobbies, your sports, or whatever else to be pure escapism. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect everyone who works in every field you have an interest in to be a good person, and it’s basically impossible to avoid engaging with all known terrible people in your entertainment (and ultimately, you won’t be able to, because there’s a lot of terrible people out there, and they don’t always have press conferences to announce that they’re terrible, even if that’s become a popular pastime in recent years), but to me, it feels worthwhile to try and minimize that. All the talk I hear from other people about “separating art from artist” is ultimately a privileged position, because some people, who have had certain unfortunate experiences, can’t do that, no matter how much they’d like to.

Also: in general, this applies, pretty much.

With all of that said, there’s still great stuff in trading cards, and things I love about this hobby.

While that Duke Snider card I posted above is always going to be bittersweet for me in ways I didn’t understand when I purchased it, I do love it, and I think there’s at least a chance that it’s going to end up living on my desk permanently.

I feel like, over this year, I’ve found and gotten to know a part of the card hobby community that aligns a little more closely with my beliefs systems, and that feels good. The people I still follow on Twitter, for instance, are really a good bunch, and I’m glad to know them to the degree that I do. Thanks for having me around, if you’re one of ’em. I also came across people who weren’t and aren’t like that, and that’s disappointing, but I’m choosing to focus on the positive here.

I mentioned dime boxes above, and let me tell you, I was a little skeptical going in, but The Internet Dime Box is a good one. Spent an entire day making an order, got it relatively quickly, and with great customer service. Highly recommended.

Gavin made me copies of some of his customs.

[Image Description: A custom card of the Butthole Surfers from Baseball Card Breakdown, in the style of 1991 ProSet Super Stars MusiCards. The card is a horizontal rectangular shape, with a yellow triangular upper right border, pink triangular lower left border with “BUTTHOLE SURFERS” written on it in black letters, the main photo in between those borders in what looks like a thick top left to bottom right diagonal line, and a black box in the bottom right hand corner with “Pro Set SUPER STARS MusiCards” written in white and purple letters, with a yellow star between “SUPER” and “STARS”. On the main picture of the card is a photograph taken by Bob Berg of, from left to right, guitarist Paul Leary (a white man with long medium brown hair and brown eyes, wearing a black shirt, and looking deeply uncomfortable with his right hand on his head and a crazed expression on his face), drummer King Coffey (a smiling white man with no hair, wearing mirrored sunglasses and a Piggly Wiggly t-shirt), and singer-keyboardist Gibby Haynes (a white man with long black hair, brown eyes, a mustache and a goatee, grinning with a closed mouth, with his head tilted toward King Coffey’s) of the Butthole Surfers.]
[Image Description: A custom card of Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers, from Baseball Card Breakdown, in the style of 1990 Fleer Basketball cards. The card is a vertical rectangular shape, mostly white aside from the center picture, thin red horizontal and blue vertical borders around the center pictures, with a break in the bottom border for the top of the basketball hoop-shaped area for the name, that hoop-shaped area (a red half-circle with the name “GIBBY” in white letters, a white rectangle with a red outer border, a thin black inner border, and “HAYNES” in black letters in the center, and a smaller red rectangle at the bottom with “VOCALS” in white letters), and a “FLEER ’90” logo in the bottom right hand corner, with a longer blue lines above “FLEER”, and a shorter blue line under “FLEER” that ends right before “’90”. In the center picture, Butthole Surfers singer-keyboardist Gibby Haynes (a white man with long black hair and brown eyes, appearing here from the waist up, shirtless) yells into a megaphone which he, in turn, has pointed at a microphone. The background of the picture is dark and blurred.]
[Image Description: a custom card from Baseball Card Breakdown of Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators, based upon the 1984 TCMA minor league baseball card design. The card has a green outer border, with a rounded purple inner border around the photo that has purple stars on a white background in the top corners, and a green tab in the center of the bottom edge of the photo that shows the player’s “position” in white letters, in this case, “V, G” for “Vocals, Guitar”. The picture is a black and white side view photo of Roky Erickson, singer and guitarist for the 13th Floor Elevators (a white man with dark, chin-length hair, wearing a loose-fitting long-sleeved shirt), standing in front of a microphone, looking to his left while holding a guitar with a light-colored neck and an embroidered guitar strap, and smirking slightly. Below the picture and the tab, the card reads “Roky Erickson” in white text, and just below that, “13th FLOOR ELEVATORS”.]
I also ordered the Negro Leagues Legends card set by Negro League History while it was still available, which by now those of you who read more card blogs than I do have probably seen everywhere and hopefully ordered (or I hope you have, anyway), though I’d intended on posting about it much earlier (this year had so many different ways of getting away from us all), and it’s terrific. Over time, I’ll likely share more from the set (it was the surprise I alluded to earlier in the year, and I’ve got a bunch of cards from it scanned, but it deserves its own post, late or not), but for starters, here is the card from the set that moved me the most. I’ve written out the entire caption in the image description of the back of the card, and I’ll let it speak for itself…

[Image Description: a baseball card of “UNKNOWN” from Negro League History’s Negro Leagues Legends set, with painted art by Graig Kreindler. On the main part of the card is a painting of a Black man with short hair and medium brown skin standing in front of a brick wall. He is visible from the chest up in a close-cropped bust shot, wearing a black uniform with a white button at the color, and the letters “B T R” across the chest of the uniform, for Brown’s Tennessee Rats, an independent barnstorming baseball team that played from 1910-1926. On the left side of the card, a woodgrain border that looks like cherry wood has “UNKNOWN” written vertically from bottom to top in a white block font, and “Negro Leagues Legends” written in a more stylized script font. In the top right corner, a Negro Leagues 100th Anniversary logo appears, with a brick red shield shape for the background, featuring the silhouette of what’s implied to be a Black man in a dark blue baseball uniform, leaning on a baseball bat held in his right hand and his left hand on his hip. at the top, “1920” and “2020”  are written in white lettering on either side of the image of the baseball player. Just below that, in a larger, stylized font, “NEGRO LEAGUES” is written in white letters that curve upward in a circular fashion along their bottoms, and rounded along the bottom, it reads “100th Anniversary” in white lettering, with white stars on either side of those words.]
[Image Description: the back of a baseball card of “UNKNOWN” from Negro League History’s Negro Leagues Legends set. A light beige border wraps around the large white main section of the card, with corners that look slightly like the tabs that hold pictures in old photo albums. In the main section, which is nearly entirely text, the card reads “Unknown Player, Brown’s Tennessee Rats” above a first thin periwinkle dividing line, then “INDEPENDENT, POS: UNK | BATS: UNK | THROWS: UNK, HEIGHT: UNK WEIGHT UNK, BORN: UNK, DIED: UNK” above a second thin periwinkle dividing line, and “Brown’s Tennessee Rats (1910-1926) were a barnstorming team based in Holden, MO. This player represents the many unknown players whose stories have been lost to time. Newspaper coverage was limited, being the near exclusive domain of weekly black newspapers. Players came and went, often playing for only a few games as fill-ins due to short rosters {12-15 players) and frequent contract jumping by established players. In addition, while Negro Leagues players earned much more than the average black wage earner, life in the Negro Leagues was hard due to endemic racism, making travel and eating difficult and safety questionable.” in the main body of the card’s text. Below that text, a black oval Negro Leagues History logo appears at left, a Graig Kreindler logo saying “painting by KREINDLER www.graigkreindler.com” appears at center, a Negro Leagues Baseball Museum featuring a painting of a Black man in a white baseball uniform with the number 12 on it, swinging a bat inside a red circle with Negro Leagues Baseball Museum written in white letters inside it, and an outer border that resembles a baseball diamond with green grass and brown dirt. At bottom center, the card number, 128, is written in black text.]
I got a small number of actual trades done this year, though I’ve really tried to stay the hell out of the post office or anywhere else since March as best I can, but if you were in on those trades, thank you. Madding of Cards on Cards sent me too much stuff above and beyond the one actual trade I think we managed to complete either late last year or early this year, which was very nice of him. I have to figure out a return package, but it’s getting harder to find Cardinals he doesn’t have already, and I’m not getting box lots from the flea market at the moment. I wonder if he likes 1988 Topps Mets cards.

I know I completed at least one card set this year, possibly more. 1991 AW Sports CFL cards is confirmed, because I got the last two I needed from the Internet Dime Box recently. I haven’t put them away yet (it’s been a rough month or so), but I finished it. I’m also 1 card away from the following noteworthy-ish sets, if anyone’s holding, and can make something happen through the magic of either PWEs or PayPal:

1954 Bowman Brooklyn Dodgers Team Set: 170 Duke Snider

1990 Score Rookie & Traded: 100 Eric Lindros

1992 Score: 788 Award Winners Cal Ripken Jr. MVP

1992 Pinnacle: 161 Tim Wallach (this will be my second copy of the set, so it’ll be available for trade as soon as I get a Tim Wallach and can go to the post office safely again, or when I have no choice but to go to the post office for official business of some kind)

1951 Topps Red Backs Brooklyn Dodgers Team Set: 16 Preacher Roe

1985 Topps Traded: 43 Ozzie Guillen (also a second set that I’ll be able to trade or sell someday, albeit one with no box)

1967 Raybert The Monkees A: 13 The Monkees (Pic of all 4 members on stairs)

There are also these sets, which I’m close to finishing, but I need to update this list, because it’s 9 months out of date, I believe.

I wrote about how I was having a lot of fun with digital cards earlier in the pandemic, but that really kinda crapped out. Are any of you still doing this stuff? Do any of you want to make some deals? Let me know.

I’ve made no further progress on the Player’s Wild Animals’ Heads set, but they’re on eBay, so it’s just a matter of wanting to spend money on them.

I think that’s it for cards.

Second Life:

Spent a bunch of time in Second Life this year, though mostly at other peoples’ places. Need to get Heck resuscitated for like the billionth time (it turned 14 on December 15th, but I was, um, preoccupied, so there was no celebration…if the place makes it to 15, we’ll have a big ‘un).

I did get to do an interview this year, which I haven’t done in a long time, and I’m happy I told y’all about vroum Short and her collective at VeGeTaL PLaNeT, even if I’m reasonably sure some of you are not sure why I told you. Explore the (real and virtual) world a bit. Live a little! It’s fun!

Video Games:

Online Multiplayer Solitaire: I’m currently ranked at #349 worldwide out of 466,882 on iOS MobilityWare Solitaire in their online multiplayer game, and closing in on 10,000 wins (about 180 to go there). I played about 2400 multiplayer games this past year (and completed all 366 Daily Challenges (I’ve completed all 2286 since they started them, across 2 iPads), but, as with most things, there were definite “I don’t give a rat’s ass” gaps. I didn’t have many long “complete Daily Challenge in same day” streaks, I’ll tell you that. You’d think someone stuck in the house would play more solitaire, not less…

I didn’t play enough No Man’s Sky this past year, despite being in the house for almost all of it, and I’m way behind, because the developers are saints and have released an absolute ton of new expansions for it. Looking for people who play, to help get me back into the game some.

I beat Tony Hawk 1 + 2, and in the case of 2, it was for I think the 5th time on the 4th platform (Playstation, Dreamcast, Playstation 4, and once I even beat the game on a Mac that had it running in a CompUSA, because it was on there and I had nothing better to do for a little while). It’s still one of the best games ever made. I’m nowhere near as good at it as the kids playing online multiplayer, though, because it’s all they do. Some games (Burnout Paradise comes to mind), there’s actually a cap on how good you can get at them, I guess because of the physics of the game, and you don’t ever really lose the skills. Tony Hawk, people are still figuring out ways to get much better.

I’ve started Stardew Valley over like 3 times, because I can’t seem to get the hang of playing it at the pace the game seems to want me to. It’s fun, and I could just, you know, play it at my own pace, but even if I opt to do that in general, I’d like to understand what doing it “successfully” means, if anything. It seems like a trap they’re using to find out if you’re a cop or something, though.

I played around with Dreams a fair deal, but I may not be imaginative or patient enough to really make the platform work for me as a creator, in the same way I have (sorta) with Second Life.

I’m a few levels into the PS4 remake of Medievil, and I will probably get back to it soon, because the gameplay is still good, but it should be said that Sony really could’ve used a sensitivity reader back when they made the original. That’s true of a few of their big games, though (Crash, Spyro, etc.).

For whatever my reasons, I got both Tempest 4000 for PS4 and Tempest X3 for PS1, when I already owned Tempest 2000 for Jaguar. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna go out and try to get a Nuon, though I have played Tempest 3000 on one before. I can’t promise that I’ll never buy the Sega Saturn version of Tempest X3, though.

Wii: still not using it much, but I really need to. Wii Fit balance exercises would probably still help with ongoing vertigo issues, and I could play Nights on it, too (it didn’t get great reviews, but I still love the original, got the sequel years before I got a Wii, and am curious).

Movies and television, going by memory and viewing histories:

I bought Mommie Dearest, The Hideaways, Lady Sings The Blues, and Gilda Live. I still have to watch The Hideaways and Lady Sings The Blues.

I initially did not plan to continue writing about anything but physical media at this site, on the movies and TV front, as seen here, but I forgot about that, wrote a ton, and I don’t feel like moving it elsewhere, so it can stay for this year.

I think the only 2020 first-run movie I saw in the theater was Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), which was outstanding (and the best DC Comics movie since Batman Returns), and I saw it with a group of friends right before everything went south, and if that’s the last movie I ever get to see in a movie theater, I ended on a very high note.

I can confirm that, via streaming services and what have you, I watched at least 47 other movies. Of everything relatively new that I saw this year, Birds of Prey, Ready or Not, My Dad is a Heel Wrestler and Beastie Boys Story were probably my favorites, and from what I can remember of what I watched this year, Return of the Secaucus 7 and One Million Years B.C. (no, really, I’d never seen it) were probably my favorite older films that I’d never seen before. I really enjoyed revisiting Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Fade to Black and Motel Hell, too. Yes, it was a “watch horror to escape other horror” kinda year, and we used a lot of October for horror movies.

Running counter to the entire world, I didn’t binge-watch a TV series on Netflix after February 29th (I Am Not OK With This was the last one). Nope, I haven’t seen The Queen’s Gambit yet, and I didn’t watch that fucking Tiger King show (and I’m not even gonna link to the Wikipedia entry on it). What’s wrong with y’all, anyway? Jeez. Now, in 2021, I’ve already binged one complete season (Cobra Kai Season 3), and I had it done by 8:37 AM on January 1st.

I did watch 6 complete seasons of television between 5 shows last year (Grace and Frankie, I Am Not OK With This, I’m Dying Up Here, Truth Seekers which I unfortunately didn’t love, but that’s a long story, and The Mandalorian), though, one of which (I’m Dying Up Here) was the complete series, and my second time through, to see if I still loved it as much, and I did. My favorite new series of the year was I Am Not OK With This, which won’t surprise anyone who knows me. Among a lot of other things I’ve been hopping around between (lots of which are from the old WPIX repertoire), I’ve also started watching Bourdain from the beginning, have been slowly working on Julia, getting The Dick Cavett Show in when I can, rationing Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories episodes, and using YouTube to get The Hollywood Palace and Insight in there when I wanna get weird.

Speaking of, after a zillion years, I finally started subscribing to YouTube channels. I recommend the Norwegian train driver’s channel, Ed Sullivan’sBeyond Wrestling’s , Brick Mantooth’s, and Pop Arena’s, especially for Nick Knacks – A Nickelodeon Retrospective, which is outstanding.

That’s more than enough about my viewing habits, though!

Music (hard copies): here, I remembered that I’m only doing physical media for this site. Of course, I can’t remember what CDs I bought between January and March 11th, my Sleep Envy cassette will get here when it gets here, and I only got two records (both great, though): The Stooges’ Live at Goose Lake: August 8, 1970 and Glossolalia by Zambri (which is dried up on the physical side through Bandcamp or their label, but can be had through a few third party sellers affordably on hell site that I’m not linking to), so while I listened to a lot of music last year, and loved a bunch of it, this section’s probably not gonna set you on fire this year.

Comics: comics are weird, because the industry got knocked on its ass this past year, so even more of what I enjoy reading got cancelled, there was another pointless reset of a comics line (DC), and it became harder, not easier, to order them when DC stopped doing business with Diamond, their longtime distributor (one of many “What the hell are they doing over there?” things about the AT&T/Time-Warner situation).

Of new books I liked this year, Amethyst, Power Pack, Inkblot, and The Other History of the DC Universe have probably been my favorites, so 3 YA books and Black Lightning (though The Other History… has a rotating cast), pretty much. Power Pack and The Other History of the DC Universe are only 2 issues and an issue in, respectively, so you may still have a good chance at being able to jump on if you like single issues, whereas Amethyst just wrapped up, and Inkblot’s ongoing, at least for now.

As far as books that started last year or earlier went, Hawkman (sadly cancelled), Legion of Super-Heroes (maybe cancelled or at least being reworked because DC can’t leave well enough alone), Far Sector (almost over) and Ascender (ongoing, and hopefully it will remain that way for a while) were probably my favorites.

On the back issue front, thanks to the spouse, I finished New Teen Titans Vol. 1 (I was missing the first appearance of Dick Grayson as Nightwing, and that was my birthday present),  and thanks to me, I finished (and actually read all of Son of Satan and…I finally grabbed dat ASS (All-Star Squadron #3, to be exact…) and finished that run, too. I still need to read the bigger runs. I started Titans, but, sing it with me…”this friggin’ year…”


Megos: I got none for most of the year, because scalpers had gotten really greedy with the late 2019 wave, but I rallied toward the end. Phantom of the Opera, The Egyptian Mummy, Khan Noonien Singh (from The Wrath of Khan, as opposed to the original series), The Headless Horseman, Swamp Thing, 3 more Target Skeletons were in my haul for the year, and 2021 started off with a bang…

[Image Description: a Mego 8″ action figure of The Thing, a humanoid covered with orange rocks, or, in this case, a cloth suit silkscreened to resemble orange rocks aside from on his head, hands, and blue trunks, stands in front of a computer screen that’s lit up in a bright blue color. In addition to his trunks, he is wearing a black velvet belt.]
I may have snapped and spent too much money on what was pretty close to the Grail for over 42 out of my 46 years. Ironically, he’s been in my house since 1988, but because that’s a carded example of the figure (and in French packaging that says “LA CHOSE”, so removing him was out of the question; it was better than not having him at all, but it was a really cruel twist of fate, if you think about it), I never got to actually play with the Mego action figure of The Thing until late yesterday afternoon. This was 100% a “life is too fucking short” purchase, on the morning of December 24th (for some context), but it was worth it, and my only regret is that my mom, who spent over 4 decades hearing about how I never got to play with this action figure as a kid or an adult, never got to see me do that. I did tell her he was coming, and hopefully she heard me and understood, but Benjamin J. Grimm finally came home today, a little over a week after she left us.

There are two more are on the way, too, because yes, it was a bad week (the Gillman from Creature from the Black Lagoon and Peter Criss).

I’m still after the Figures Toy Company Metamorpho (once they release him with his packaging), Hawkman, Atom, Betty Kane Batgirl, and Removable Cowl First Appearances Barbara Gordon Batgirl, and Leatherface, Regan from The Exorcist and The Fly from the 2020 Mego waves. I’m also excited about Willy Wonka, Ultraman, Bride of Frankenstein, Hammer (Christopher Lee) Dracula, Phantom of the Opera in Masque of the Red Death outfit, Straitjacket Hannibal Lecter, and the second wave of DC heroes (Flash, Riddler, and Green Lantern) in 2021, but I really need to hit the lottery or something, because this habit’s expensive.

This is what the family looks like now…

[Image Description: a metric ton of Mego 8″ and other size figures, roughly Mego 8″ scale action figures, Mego action figures not made to 8″ scale and one random kaiju sit on a brown dresser, next to a brown and silver desk lamp with a frosted, off-white glass shade, in front of an off-white wall. As it would be really difficult for me to physically describe 54 action figures and tell you which order they appear in here, I went rough on the latter, and I don’t think I have it in me to describe them all at this point in my life, so apologies there. If you’d like a description of a specific figure or even a few, please let me know in the comments. In some rough order, in parts: Count Orlok (Nosferatu), Evel Knievel (with bike and platform), Greg Brady, 4 as-yet-nameless skeletons from Target, Jo Polniaczek and Tootie Ramsey (The Facts of Life), Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, The Thing, Spider-Man, The Falcon, Freddy Krueger, The Headless Horseman, The Egyptian Mummy, Phantom of the Opera, The Invisible Man (hard to see behind the Phantom, but he’s there), Norm Peterson (Cheers), Frankenstein’s Monster, Jeannie (I Dream of Jeannie), Endora (Bewitched), Dr. Zaius, Samantha (Bewitched), Chekov, Sulu, Uhura and Spock (Star Trek), The Screaming Werewolf, The Creeper, Aquaman, Swamp Thing, Harley (Eagle Force), Alice, Dracula (Bela Lugosi), Lucinda the Cat (Bewitched), Catwoman, Green Arrow, Superman, Captain Marvel (or Shazam, if you prefer), Green Lantern, Jimi Hendrix, Minya/Son of Godzilla, Khan, the Cowardly Lion, “Mirror, Mirror” Spock and Kirk, The Gorn, Joe Namath, Serena (Bewitched), The Lizard, Mr. Fantastic, Major Nelson (I Dream of Jeannie)]
DC Directs: I don’t think I got any. I have no recollection of adding any. The ones I want are getting older, so they’re probably going to become even harder to get, but I’ll do my best, when I can.

Heroclix: I still have a shit-ton of Heroclix, and will sell or trade them for basically anything else. Get me your list, if you’re serious about wanting any.

Tabletop Games/RPG stuff: I did little to nothing. My local game was playing Gloomhaven before the pandemic, and I think we may have gotten in one 2020 session before the shit hit the fan. We all kinda froze after it started, despite best intentions and efforts. Got no Marvel stuff done. A lot of areas where other people really went to town in 2020, I went in different directions, and this was one.

Fantasy Sports: Fantasy baseball was a wash, and, had our league not had nearly 20 years of history, it probably wouldn’t have run. It probably shouldn’t have run, anyway. We’re not sure what we’re doing about it this year, since things are most certainly not back to normal.

Travel/Visiting: really not much in the first 2 months (I made it to northwestern Connecticut I think once, northeastern Connecticut once, and Providence once), and we know what happened from there. Nothin’. No Brimfield. No flea markets at all. No trips back to New Jersey to visit family. This part of it ended up being pretty painful, because of Other Life Circumstances, as it really was and still is not safe to travel down there, so I had to go the last year and 18 days of my mom’s life without seeing her in person. Wear your goddamned masks, get vaccinated as soon as you can, wash your hands and/or wear gloves when appropriate, stay away from each other, make your elected officials’ lives MISERABLE (trust me, if they still think they can show their faces, the overwhelming majority of them are not miserable enough yet) until they have our backs a little more than they do now, and let’s be done with this horseshit once and for all as soon as we can. If we don’t, we’re all toast.

NJPW/Pro Wrestling In General: for the same reasons I was just talking about, this was a weird, awkward, and at times very bad year for wrestling, particularly, but not exclusively by any means, in the United States. While shows have still been running, and in some cases they’re running as almost as much a matter of personal survival as the stuff people in the service industry are going through, I haven’t been to any of them, and I won’t be back out there until it’s genuinely safe. I’m still watching some of the American shows on television, but at times, it’s kinda like I’m watching with my eyes peeking through my hands, because I’m worried about people who’ve entertained me, and who, in some cases, also seem like really good people, getting sick.

Japan was so careful re: COVID, and so strict about doing things the right way that eventually, without incident so far (at least as far as we know), New Japan Pro-Wrestling (and some other promotions) got back to where they could have much smaller live audiences in attendance in relative safety, though they’re still ready to bring the hammer down again at any moment in that country, even with the biggest Japanese pro wrestling event of the year scheduled for this week. Alas, this careful attitude doesn’t extend to every corner of their business.

Over here? It’s been much rougher, and while there have been what feel like very bad decisions made even by “the good guys” (as pro wrestling promotions go), I don’t know that there were any good decisions to make, because the government failed everyone so thoroughly. With that said, some decisions have definitely been worse than others (and they’re pretty well-detailed here).

Life for a wrestling fan has been even sadder this past week (even for those of us who were already pretty sad for other reasons), because Brodie Lee died on the 26th, not entirely, but still kind of out of nowhere, from what apparently was a case of his lungs just kinda failing out of nowhere, completely unrelated to COVID, which he never tested positive for. There was a vibe around him like something more was wrong than they were letting on while he was quietly off television for the past couple of months, but it still didn’t seem like the next thing we’d hear about him was that he passed.

With all of this said, which is a lot, no doubt, and as conflicted and guilty as I feel sometimes about watching any of it (That was a thing before COVID, too, because it is such a dangerous form of entertainment, but throwing a pandemic into the mix? Oof…), I’d be lying to you if I said that it wasn’t still one of the things I look forward to, in a world that’s a lot shorter on them right now than it was a year ago. I’m rooting for these people doing costumed murder gymnastics to come through all of this OK, during a really hard fucking time that just got even harder for many of them, with the loss of a colleague and friend.

I’m also amazed as I watch people I saw in a high school gym and a White Eagle Hall a little more than a year ago become national television stars during one of the most surreal times in our history to do so (there were 11 wrestlers on the two American independent wrestling shows I made it to in 2019 who I’ve seen at least once on TNT since AEW Dynamite launched, without any prior experience of that kind; another’s working for WWE now, so I won’t see much, if any of him for the time being, because I actively avoid what the McMahons do, and one more is probably headed to AEW once an injury heals), and get action figures. I’ve not met a ton of people who have their own action figures without commissioning them on their own in this lifetime, and I usually end up meeting them after they hit “action figure” levels of celebrity, even if they don’t have the figures just yet. Seeing one in particular get there has been a bright spot this year.

Books: I did pick up some books, and I’ve even read them a bit, despite my attention span being shredded. I’m almost done with Kitchen Confidential (as I said in the TV stuff, I’m starting at the beginning), I got I’m Dying Up Here, I picked up a signed copy of Split Season 1981 from my erstwhile trading partner Jeff Katz, I caught David Bowie Is on sale, after seeing the exhibit a couple of years ago, snagged a cheap copy of Dali: The Paintings to remember my excursion from a year and change ago by, got Hiding In Plain Sight as soon as it came out (before I knew that Sarah Kendzior was signing copies in a back alley, near a dumpster for Left Bank Books, which I linked to for the book title, so you can get your own copy with a little stank on it), scored a lot of interesting cookbooks (including the awesome The Veselka Cookbook and the deeply disturbing Best of the Best from QVC Cookbook: Favorite Recipes from Viewers, Hosts, Employees, and Friends) and I’ve even started reading my signed copy of The Calamities of Kalamity Kate (which is available directly from the publisher, signed, on that hell site), by this lady

…and we’re gonna wrap 2020 with Leta Powell Drake, because where do you go from there?

So, 2021 Hobby Goals (and yes, these are all Hobby Goals):

  1. Don’t die.
  2. Don’t kill anybody.
  3. Have fun.
  4. Finish updating my will, and simplify the hell of it, because it’s a rat’s nest right now.
  5. Trading Cards: simplify the player collection stuff, figure out what to do with the digital cards, if anything, stop buying full retail packs of any new product, don’t build or acquire any 2021 sets without a really good reason, maybe finish a few more older sets, make the posts about the scans I have backlogged, especially the Negro Leagues Legends cards, and seriously, look into non-sports cards more. They’re fun!
  6. Second Life: do more with Heck, and DJ at VeGeTaL PLaNeT again soon.
  7. Video Games: keep climbing the solitaire ladder, get back into No Man’s Sky, finish Medievil, read a Stardew Valley strategy guide and try again, figure out if there are games and systems I’m really never gonna use, and also never gonna regret selling like I do Panzer Dragoon Saga, and maybe get a PS5 at the end of 2021, so the people of my household can play the game with the kitty on a machine that can run it properly. Oh, and use the Wii more.
  8. Movies and Television: plug away at getting stuff from the list of DVDs and Blu-Rays I don’t have, still want, and won’t be able to stream easily, and figure out what, among the stuff I have, I’m not going to watch again or care about watching again, then see if anyone can use that stuff.
  9. Music (hard copies): figure out where my Sleep Envy cassette went, get copies of the only two other cassettes I care about owning (Lene Lovich’s No-Man’s Land and a replacement of my Siouxsie Through The Looking Glass cassette), figure out which CDs of albums I can’t live without I don’t own yet because I usually stream the stuff, and keep slowly plugging along on the last few interesting bits of vinyl I’d like, if I even come into much contact with vinyl.
  10. Comic Books: do another audit of what books I want to keep, get even more serious about not buying single issues of non-ongoing series that are just gonna come out as trade paperbacks anyway, and read all of New Teen Titans and All-Star Squadron. Maybe finish a few more series.
  11. Toys: try not to go too nuts buying Mego-scale figures. See if there are some available, affordable DC Directs I really want out there. Find ways to display toys I currently don’t have on display in the house, and figure out if there are toys I really don’t need to still own, that someone else would show way more love to. Get rid of some of those goddamn Heroclix you bought on a whim.
  12. RPGs/Tabletop Games: get ahold of my crew and play something online soon. Invite others to play games online, too. Hey, everybody. Wanna play some tabletop games online?
  13. Fantasy Sports: the baseball league turns 20 this year. If the season happens, I guess I have to at least play the anniversary season. I guess.
  14. Travel: gosh, I hope it’s not too dangerous to travel soon.
  15. Pro Wrestling: watch what I feel comfortable watching, and don’t watch what I don’t.
  16. Books: Read some! Finish them, too! Stop buying so many!
  17. Did I mention “have fun”?

Wow, I actually got through writing this goddamned thing, all 9000+ overwrought words of it. (Remember when I used to post like this here and on the old card site ALL THE TIME? You poor, poor people may have actually read some of that.) If you got through reading it, thank you for doing so, feel free to let me know what you think in the comments (as long as your comments aren’t awful), and here’s to all of us having a much happier and better new year, even if your 2020 somehow didn’t suck.


My Year in Hobbies 2020 Preview

Oh, this is going to be interesting.

Here’s the plan:

I’m going to read through 2019 (and possibly past years), see how I formatted things, and then not do any of that, more than likely. It was a weird, bad, awful year, though in terms of the things I do to keep myself busy, it had its moments, however bittersweet some of them may have been.

This shouldn’t take as long as 2019 did, with any luck, but I guess we’ll have to see, won’t we?

Stay tuned.

An interview with artist vroum Short of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery

A few notes before we start: this piece is very video-intensive, but the format of this website isn’t especially well-suited to displaying video art, particularly the videos taken in landscape mode, as I’d like it to be. For best results, on any of the videos, zoom them out to full screen by clicking the full screen icon in the bottom right hand corner of each video player. To bring your screen back to normal, just hit your Escape key, like you would with any other video player.

In addition, because I’m not on a top-of-the-line computer, I have to disclaim any videos I’ve captured here accordingly, because the frame rates of said videos may not be 100% what the creators of the works of art would hope for, and that should not reflect on them as indicators of the quality of their work. I did my best on getting tolerable frame rates from video captures, and made multiple passes on many of these pieces to get the best results I could. For the best viewing experience possible, especially on the full-immersion art installations, I strongly recommend that you visit VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, where the original works reside.

[Image Description: a black and white photo of artist vroum Short, a humanoid cat presenting as female, with dark fur that has lighter facial markings, wearing Ray-Ban-esque eyeglasses and lipstick. In the background, the bubble lighting of vroum’s club Le Chat Noir are visible. Photo courtesy of vroum Short.]

If you’ve never heard me gush about her work before, vroum Short is, in my opinion, the single best and most imaginative visual artist working in Second Life, and one of my favorite visual artists in any medium, real or virtual, for years running now. Since she began making art, vroum, while dabbling in some physical mediums on rare occasions, has near-exclusively created three-dimensional, abstract digital sculptures, preferring to solely using the original object creation tools available in the Second Life software whenever possible.

Some of these sculptures take the form of paintings that have many moving parts, and utilize light and color in outstanding, mind-expanding ways.

[Image Description: video of [VP 20] SIDERAL multi vroum Short, a three-dimensional, digital motion painting by artist vroum Short. Psychedelic, glowing, strands of blue, green, yellow and purple light appear to breathe from within the painting.]

Others are sculptures of plant life from VeGeTaL PLaNeT, a place born and reborn from vroum’s imagination. Others still are the new installations of what vroum and her collaborators refer to as “Immersiv’Art”, fully explorable 3D spaces that enable you to actually walk around inside a work of art.

[Image Description: video from Glowing Fall, one of vroum Short’s “Immersiv’Art” installations in Second Life. Yellow lights and purple fog shimmers around plant life from another world in its autumn colors of green, yellow, orange, red and brown.]

[Image Description: video of vroum Short’s Metamorphosis, one of her “Immersiv’Art” installations in Second Life. Red, orange and yellow otherworldly plant life floats in a black void as white smoke swirls around it and the plants emit bright red lights.]

Recently, vroum opened the latest iteration of her space in Second Life, VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery. Throughout its history, which has included a number of different builds over a dozen years (which, in Second Life, is an extremely long time), VeGeTaL PLaNeT has consistently been an incredible place, with an evolving, but consistent vibe. This latest build puts that history into sharp focus, largely in art gallery form, but it also has an eye toward both the future of vroum’s art and that of an emerging collective of visual artists who have coalesced around VeGeTaL PLaNeT over the years. As someone who’s known vroum since nearly the very beginning of their time in Second Life, it’s been incredible to watch their body of work, as well as the scene that’s formed around it, grow.

[Image Description: video of a room in VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life, showcasing vroum Short’s motion paintings, in this case, works that use grey, white, silver and purple colors on grey and black backgrounds. The largely circular objects in the paintings resemble vortexes, gears, and other geometric shapes, and appear to be in perpetual motion.]

[Image Description: a photo of Le Chat Noir, the nightclub that exists at the heart of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life. At top center, a sign reads “LE CHAT NOIR” in white, futurist lettering, just above a set of orange and black cat eyes. Below that, a black cat-themed DJ booth sits on the back center of the dance floor, which is black, with a layer of swirling primary blue fog close to its surface. Black cat-shaped couches, and cocktail tables are spaced throughout the main floor of the club. To the left and right of the dance floor, staircases lead up to the rest of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, labeled “GALLERY” in the same white lettering and futurist font as the “LE CHAT NOIR” sign. Just above the “GALLERY” signs, neon signs say “MORE UPSTAIRS” with an up arrow pointing toward the sky. Many bubbles of various colors float in the air from the ground up, throughout the club.]

At the center of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, there is also a nightclub, Le Chat Noir, where regular DJ nights (full disclosure: I have done, and will continue to guest DJ sets at Le Chat Noir in the future, as the venue’s regulars are awesome, but I am not a full-time employee of vroum Short and/or VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery), live performances, and art take place, and beneath it, a second outdoor performance space, The Garden, also hosts similar events.

[Image Description: video from The Garden at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in second life Luminescent alien-looking blue and orange plant life hovers above a glowing, bubbling lagoon.]

There will be two events at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery this weekend (10/31/2020 and 11/01/2020), in The Garden, featuring live DJs. Kaia is a pretty great psydub (assuming I have my subgenres straight) DJ. I haven’t heard Jadeyu DJ before. oooOREOooo is…well, let’s just say they have to be seen to be believed, but I’m pretty sure their sets won’t be dull, to say the very least. Once you’re there, either before or after the event, I highly recommend exploring the gallery, as there are some great works of art there.

Below is video of the flyer I received for those events. Yes, I had to get video of a flyer, because there are three-dimensional, moving objects embedded in it.

[Image Description: an animated video flyer for VeGeTaL PLaNeT’s “VeGeT’ Halloween” event in Second Life. Lights and colors swirl around a surreal alien landscape with a moon that appears to be on fire, purple skies, and strange vegetation, decorated with sculptures of skulls with glowing eyes. The text of the flyer, in white lettering, reads…

“VeGeT’ Halloween

Saturday & Sunday

Oct 31 at 2 PM slt & Nov 1st at 1pm SLT

Les Chats Furieux presents:

Jadeyu – Kaia


vroum has taken a generous amount of time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions about the genesis and history of her work, the recent creation and opening of VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, and the movement of artists that has spontaneously happened in her orbit. (It should also be said that all of vroum’s resident artists have been great about answering some of my very last-minute questions about their work that surfaced as vroum talked about them in the interview, as well, and I thank them kindly for that.)

I need new hobbies.: How did you get started on making art in Second Life?

vroum Short: Even before thinking and knowing that it was possible to make art on SL, I realized that everything visible on SL was made by avatars.

The creation! I am fascinated by everything I see. Who made this object? Why did they do it?

Twelve years ago now, I put down my first wooden cube and started to make basic, ugly but recognizable objects: a table, a chair…I soon realized my incompetence and understood that I wasn’t going to be very interested in making utilitarian objects on SL.

I then tortured cubes, obtained improbable shapes that I assembled and then I put on these deformed heaps of vegetal textures to which I added scripts for the movement. Very quickly I understood that I was going to need a very large field, as large as possible! A SIM!

I had no trouble finding a name for it, “la planète végétale” in French. I mixed English and French and it became VeGeTaL PLaNeT.

I need new hobbies.: How many distinct versions of VeGeTaL PLaNeT have there been in total, since you started?

vroum Short: There have been seven: Coral Spring (2008), Alaqua (2008-2010), Okabu (2010), Eternal Desire (2013), again Coral Spring (2015-2016), Oak Park (2017/2020) and Oreo (2020).

I need new hobbies.: Are there things you miss about any of the previous builds of VeGeTaL PLaNeT that, due to space, time, resource, design or other limitations, you can’t duplicate in the current space?

vroum Short: From the moment you create or install on SL, there comes a moment when something is always missing: available prims. How frustrating this limitation is!

Oreo is a concentrate of VeGeTaL PLaNeT, contained in galleries and boxes. This new gallery tells the story of VP. It was important to show the essential. For the moment, nothing is missing in this new version. In fact, it’s the opposite, everything is there. And when I say “everything” I include in priority my friends who are always present.

[Image Description: video of [VP 20] AMNIOS 05 vroum Short, a motion painting by vroum Short. Brightly colored liquid and gaseous shapes, mainly greens, blues and orange colored, swirl around on a black background.]

I need new hobbies.: When we last spoke at length, before the last VeGeTaL PLaNeT shut down, you’d mentioned some burn-out and needing to rest. How long did you actually end up resting before you started working on VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery?

vroum Short: For all these years, the successive constructions of the different Planets have required a lot of time and energy from me. Apart from the purely creative work, there are exhibitions to plan, events to organize…there comes a time when exhaustion is felt and it is time to stop. I closed Oak Park at the beginning of March 2020, shortly before COVID-19 really started to worry us. On March 17, the whole of France was confined. Planet Earth, too, was forced to rest.

I need new hobbies.: Approximately how long did it take you (in hours or days, whichever is easier for you to estimate), from concept to opening, to plan, build and curate the space?

vroum Short: My friends and I had taken care before the closure of Oak Park to rent a piece of land to meet up. We didn’t imagine that we would also be confined to SL for more than 2 months. Any desire to create had disappeared.

The 11th of May, the date of the deconfinement (in France), did not diminish our worries, but we started to discuss together a new project, that of creating a gallery to exhibit our respective creations. I found a quarter sim’s worth of space in a sim called OREO.

It took me two months to build and set it up. I took out of my inventory everything that could best represent the scope of my work over all these years. At the same time, Adwehe, Aneli Abeyante, Eylinea Seabird and Sasha Arivalhagan, VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery’s other resident artists, were installing their creations in their respective galleries.

[Image Description: video of a room in VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life, showcasing vroum Short’s work, in this case highlighting works using the colors red, silver and black. An impressive array of sculpture, motion painting, and all sorts of use of light and reflection that I can’t begin to explain properly are visible in this video. At the center of the room, a small lounge is present.]

I need new hobbies.: Are there specific works of art within your gallery that you’re more personally invested in showing people than others at present, and if so, what are they?

vroum Short: What I consider to be the most important thing in all that I have been able to achieve on SL are the plant compositions. The creation of planets, atmospheres and environments that are always different. Unfortunately at the moment I don’t have ¼ of sim and there is no longer a planet as there used to be but I couldn’t help creating a small garden at ground level.

[Image Description: vroum Short’s painting [VP 20] VeGeTaL PLaNeT vroum Short. A painting on a vertical, rectangular canvas. In the painting, abstract designs resembling alien plant life from science fiction films, set against a background of globes that look like planets in the background, float on a metallic blue and silver background. The plant life designs are a blend of  blue. purple, pink, red, orange, and yellow, though the primary color of their composition and the planets in the distance is a purplish pink.]

I need new hobbies.: For I believe the first time, I noticed actual paintings from you in this iteration of the gallery. You’d mentioned, in a moment of mind-reading when you saw that I’d immediately bought prints of all of them, that your time painting was a short and unsatisfying one, but I found that the paintings you did were a pretty logical extension of your digital art, particularly [VP 20] VeGeTaL PLaNeT vroum Short. When you describe the work as unsatisfying, was it that the process was unfulfilling for you, that the results didn’t match up to your hopes for them, a mix of these things, or something else entirely?

vroum Short: The RL paint was a test. One day, an RL painter I met on SL encouraged me to paint. I bought all the necessary material, and I painted …

I didn’t hate painting, what weighed on me was the feeling of doing it without much enthusiasm, without a precise goal, without immediate sharing, without feeling a connection with people. It was a great moment of solitude. It takes real talent to paint, unlike SL, mistakes are hard to fix. As far as the result is concerned, I wasn’t very satisfied with it. Nevertheless, I admit that there is a link, not to say a resemblance between my RL paintings and my SL creations. I dared to exhibit them this time, because they are part of VeGeTaL PLaNeT’s history.

Even though I spend long hours working on SL and I am alone, my goal is to make something that will probably touch people emotionally. Just thinking that this is possible, I am already with them throughout the creative process. Of course I don’t know who these people are, I just know that some of them will react and we will necessarily have to communicate. On SL, satisfaction is present even before the painting is finished.

I need new hobbies.: Do you still have all of your physical world paintings, and if so, are any of them available for sale?

vroum Short: My paintings are in my attic. They are not available for sale.

I need new hobbies.: Another thing that’s new to VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery are the installations of what you call “Immersiv’Art” in the gallery. What can you tell us about those installations?

vroum Short: As far as Immersiv’Art is concerned, it is a concept that allows you to travel inside a painting. In front of some paintings present in the gallery, visitors can teleport themselves into different universes. Each artist who exhibits at VP builds their own installation and can modify it whenever they wish. We have chosen the name “Immersiv’Art”, but it could have been called “Have you ever wanted to enter a painting?”

[Image Description: video of vroum Short’s Splash, one of her “Immersiv’Art” installations in Second Life. Spilled paint of all sorts of bright colors swirl around in mid-air, among tubes and bottles of paint, paintbrushes, and pillows that match the various paint colors in a free-floating black environment. An avatar presenting as male with white skin, black hair and a black bodysuit lays on the purple pillow. In the distance, a canvas with pictures of the other “Immersiv’Art” installations is visible, as is a DJ rig.]

I need new hobbies.: What can you tell me about the other resident artists at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery (Adwehe, Eylinea Seabird, Aneli Abeyante, and Sasha Arivalhagan, their work, and how they came to be the other residents in your gallery? Were they artists who rented space from you, then became friends, or were they friends of yours who started creating art in your space after they became friends?

vroum Short: Adwehe is a person I met just over a year ago, she was working in the VP sandbox. A beginner in creation, I understood that she was discovering the functionalities of SL tools. Her progress has been spectacular and I immediately loved the way she works with light and shadows. She now creates animated paintings and sculptures. Passionate about photography, you can see some of her pictures in her gallery. Adwehe also creates beautiful immersive locations. We quickly became friends and I am happy that she shares our life as a VP.

[Image Caption: video of Texture Painting – #1a by Adwehe. Over the course of three minutes, the colors and light, and objects contained in six panels of a large painting evolve completely through a spectrum of light and color. At around 2:40 in the video, the light in the first panel shifts on the box in it to reveal what looks like a picture of a dark, blurred figure.]

Aneli Abeyante is the founder of La Maison d’Aneli. Real-life painter, she is a person who devotes a lot of her time to RL/SL artists. She organizes monthly vernissages in her gallery to present the works of more or less known artists. Aneli allows us to discover new artists each time and the evolution of SL art over time. She also creates beautiful sculptures and animated paintings.

[Image Caption: a video of Cage, a motion painting by Aneli Abeyante. Blue and black bars shift throughout the video of the  painting, raising and lowering on a vertical plane while moving left and right on a horizontal one, and shimmering in blue light.]

Eylinea Seabird began creating 3D animated paintings a year and a half ago. The evolution of her work is rapid and I am sure she will continue to amaze us. As a drawing enthusiast, she is gradually starting to integrate them into her SL work. She also creates immersive places where moving sculptures reflect astonishing lights. She has her gallery in VP, her own gallery Art Is Tic, and several other exhibitions of Eylinea’s work are visible on SL.

[Image Caption: a video of Disco Square by Eylinea Seabird, a digital motion sculpture of a counter-clockwise rotating cube with two cubic, reflective compartments (top right and bottom left) on each side of the cube, balanced on a shiny black cone and a black cylindrical pedestal. The compartments reflect squares of yellow, light blue, pink, green, and purple onto the ceiling, and those lights, in turn, reflect shimmering colored light of those colors onto the shiny, textured black floor. In the background, Eylinea Seabird’s exhibition space at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery is visible.]

(Content Advisory: while this is in no way whatsoever any sort of judgment on its quality, before we proceed, it needs to be said that Sasha’s work frequently and explicitly deals in themes such as human sexuality. Viewer discretion is advised, if you’re visiting Sasha’s gallery space.)

Sasha Arivalhagan is a genius in the art of transforming images. When looking at her work, we discover a multitude of Trompe l’oeil which directs our attention not to what is immediately visible, but to what is judiciously hidden. Each of her photographs is an invitation to play with light and shadow. I don’t know anyone who does this on SL. I am happy that we can finally appreciate her work at VP.

[Image Caption: Ravishing, by Sasha Arivalhagan. Against a bright yellow background, a person presenting as female with fair skin and orange hair smiles. Their left eye and the top of their head are cut out of the picture. Their neck and bare right shoulder are visible, and their hair, on the left side, appears to be wind-blown. Behind their right shoulder, two brighter, almost white spots are visible in the background, though it’s unclear if they’re windows or not. The larger and clearer of the two is diamond-shaped, from the angle the photo is taken, but could easily be a square window. The entire picture is in soft focus except for the right shoulder, and there is a dreamlike quality to it.]

[Image Description: A clubgoer, left center foreground, watches an array of orange, green and pink laser lights (done by Mario2 helstein) and bubbles at Le Chat Noir, the main nightclub in vroum Short’s Vegetal Planet gallery in Second Life, while vroum Short, right, dances in the foreground and yet another clubgoer, background center, dances near a table with a pink and purple cake and a bottle of champagne on it. Photo Credit: Scott Crawford]

I need new hobbies.: At the opening party you held at Le Chat Noir, you had someone doing a pretty incredible additional light show, which was (I believe) supplementing the standard light show in the club. Who did the lights, and what could you tell me about them?

vroum Short: The opening night was really successful. I was surprised to see Mario2 helstein who improvised an incredible particle show. He couldn’t have given a better gift to VP who was celebrating his 12th birthday. For me, Mario is one of the most talented artists in SL. He creates extraordinary particles that he stages in shows that he organises on a regular basis. A great work of synchronisation between sound and light effects. Emotions guaranteed! Mario also has a shop on SL where it is possible to buy particles, the most beautiful ever made.

I need new hobbies.: Who are some of the artists that have influenced your work? This can cover anything from people working in the same medium as you to things like film, music, etc., literally any art.

vroum Short: Artistically, nobody influenced me on SL. Nor did anyone teach me how to use SL tools for construction. When I started building VeGeTaL PLaNeT, I settled 20 metres underground, in an aquatic environment, in total apnea and above all out of sight. I wasn’t exploring SL because I was so busy with what I was experimenting with. I didn’t know that an artistic network was already well established, that there were galleries, painters, sculptors, musicians, poets…

In my real life, I had absolutely no interest in art, and when someone told me I was an artist one day on SL, I laughed.

My influences are related to real life. My source of inspiration comes from everything that has not been created by humans. Earth, oceans, animals, plants, the sky, stars, planets…these are elements that can be found in each of my creations.

I need new hobbies.: Approximately how many completed 3D animated paintings have you made in Second Life?

vroum Short: Impossible to answer precisely. Sometimes I make a hundred paintings so that at the end I have only one left. Most of my work germinates in files in my inventory. Out of 50,000 items I own, I would say that half of them are dedicated to my work.

[Image Caption: a video of [VP 20] ENERGY BALL 44 vroum Short, a motion painting by vroum Short. Against a white background, a white globe with a large black spot in its top half appears to be consumed by orange and yellow energy, while an orange-ish red fluid appears to be dripping from its yellow core.]

I need new hobbies.: Above and beyond the VeGeTaL PLaNeT builds themselves, how many different works of immersive art (3D spaces that people can walk around in and such), even before the “Immersiv’Art” installations began in this iteration of the gallery would you say you’ve made, in total?

vroum Short: Just like the number of paintings I have been able to create, it is impossible for me to know how many floral settings or immersive places I have been able to create. There is what’s buried in my inventory, waiting and tidy, and a whole bunch of possible constructions that are very present in my head.

[Image Description: video of a room in VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life, showcasing vroum Short’s motion paintings, in this case, works that are black and white in nature, using black, white and grey colors exclusively. The artwork in these pieces, various geometric shapes, in perpetual motion, seems to move slower than in the other pieces showcased on this website. A lounge is visible in the right hand side of the room in the video.]

I need new hobbies.: If you’re comfortable discussing it, do the works of art you sell in Second Life, along with things like tip jar contributions at the gallery, provide you with an income above and beyond the gallery’s operating costs, or is this a labor of love that breaks even or less?

vroum Short: In 2008, I didn’t spend any money on SL. The sale of my paintings allowed me to pay the rent of my sim. In 2010 I was even able to pay the rent for two sims (Coral Spring and Alaqua) at the same time. Back then, the price of my paintings were 10 times more expensive than they are now. Visitors stayed long hours at VP, we took the time to chat, they bought paintings and were generous with tips. Those days are gone.

Currently on SL, it seems to me that artistically the only people who can interest people are musicians, singers and DJs. This is still great news. We are living in a time when we need to be comforted. Music is the best refuge there is.

I need new hobbies.: What’s been most satisfying for you about creating art in Second Life, and in general?

vroum Short: Second Life made me discover a new passion in my life, that of creating virtual objects. Nothing predisposed me to that. It seems to me that the possibilities in this field are infinite.

Beyond creation, I was far from imagining that it would be possible to forge such strong links with people. People who over time became real friends in my real life. Thank you Second Life!

I need new hobbies.: At the level of detail you’re comfortable giving us, what’s life like for you when you’re not in Second Life?

vroum Short: My life is calm, it takes place between a house where I live and a garden where I dream.

You can visit VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery in Second Life, or check out their Facebook Page for more information, including event dates/times.

You can also very affordably purchase copies of nearly all of the artwork of vroum’s (as well as that of Adwehe, Aneli Abeyante, Eylinea Seabird and Sasha Arivalhagan) that I’ve featured in this article at VeGeTaL PLaNeT Gallery, and I’ve provided direct links, whenever possible, to the areas of the gallery where you can find each piece I’ve featured, for your convenience. You should know that the gallery is MASSIVE, featuring hundreds, if not thousands of works of art, and while I encourage you all to explore it, if you’re looking for something specific, it definitely helps to know your way around.