Friday, November 29, 2013

Everyone Else is Doing It, So Why Can't We?

We used to think that Christmas was getting too commercialized more than thirty years ago. If time-travel was possible, and if you took our 1983 selves on a journey to Now -- well, we would have thought that the commercialism of today made 1983 look like a Bing Crosby movie by comparison. 

That said... we have traveled through time the long way, and the result -- just in time for the heinous **BLA-A-AAACK FRI-II-IDAY!!!!** -- is the latest addition to our online Emporium, our brand-spanking-new Etsy shop.

We have spent more than our share of money on Etsy -- dammit -- and now is the time to hopefully get something back! Original Comic Art... Vintage Literary 'Zines -- Signed Books and Comics -- eBooks and eComics for instant download... Digital Art Prints... and, soon, our Tarot of the Zircus Magi --

-- all have their home on the new Etsy Shop. Is it the greatest thing since sliced bread? Hah! Are you kidding? It's just another push in our ongoing attempt to scrape out a living doing what we love to do.   That said, we hope you'll take a minute out of your life to look at what we have on offer:

Thank you for reading!

World of [Lost] Illusions

Sylvain Chomet’s gleaming and painful The Illusionist is a gift to the world of animated films; it is a gift to fans of the great comedian Jaques Tati; and at the same time it is almost crushingly depressing and sad.

Chomet last gave us The Triplets of Belleville, a deep tribute to everything having to do with the Jazz Age built upon, of all things, an intrigue surrounding the Tour de France. It was nominated, and well deserved, the Academy Award for best animated feature in 2003, only to lose out to that year’s entry of generic crap from the Disney/Pixar Generic Crap Grindhouse. Seven years later The Illusionist suffered the same fate, which proves, as if we needed proof, that Oscars are Bought and Paid For.

Although one of The Illusionist’s deepest selling points is that it was made from an unproduced script by Tati — the man who, in the 1950s, returned cinema comedy to the realm of silent film with his delightful Mr. Hulot movies M. Hulot’s Holiday, Mon Oncle and Playtime — something tells me that the “script” in question was little more than an outline, created as it was on the fly in a love letter to his daughter. Chomet has fleshed it out quite considerably, and the result is probably a unique thing in film history: an eccentric and visually remarkable expansion of the animation genre (as you would expect if you’ve seen Triplets), and an altogether new and fresh Tati Hulot movie that manages in no small way to resurrect Tati himself and return him to the screen with all his mannerisms and comic timing intact. 

I’m a fan both of animated films and of Tati  and I could not believe what I was looking at. When, late in the movie, the animated Tati ducks into a cinema and is confronted by (and interacts with) his live action self, a viewer could be forgiven for believing that they had just seen an act of genuine magic.

However … even down to its title, The Illusionist is all about the sad fact that Magic does not exist, can not exist — that there are no magicians, only clever people doing their best to provide us with hope that dreams can come true, usually at cost to themselves. The film’s plot is but a whisper against your cheek and to break it down into a sentence or two here would shatter the spell that the movie casts — I won’t do it. Just be warned going in that as accomplished and exceptional as this film is (and ohmygosh it is almost overwhelming; if you are the right person for this kind of movie, it will take your breath away and make your heart contract) … that’s how sad it is. Broken dreams, broken lives, Magickal Spells that have run their course and evaporated, leaving us fully in the grip of life’s difficulties… don’t watch it (as I made the mistake of doing) on Thanksgiving.

— Freder

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Now Available!

Our first-ever book for children
is out now and hot off the presses! It's available from this website, also now available from a certain Evil Empire and soon wherever books are sold. Watch this post for links to the product pages as they appear. For now, you can learn all about the book and browse a gallery of the artist's other works at our special Under the Rooster Weathervane mini-site.

More news soon!

-- Freder

Friday, November 22, 2013

Look Ahead into the Past

A long-ago effort from my misspent youth is back online after -- egad -- maybe a decade or more. MILLENNIUM was the literary eZine that I edited for several years back in the mid-'90s. In many ways, it's the predecessor for this blog / site / thing. You can download every issue of the electronic version for free from the site, and very soon the few remaining copies of the original paper version will be available there for sale. If nothing else, you'll learn that the blather that gets posted here has a precedent... I've been blathering for years.

-- Freder

New Vintage Collectible Eddie Fox Bread Cards -- Get Yours!

Don't remember Eddie Fox? That's probably because you don't have these Vintage 1933 Eddie Fox Bread Cards. Never fear -- now you can print and cut out your very own! The full-size, high-res printable image is now online on the new "Memorabilia" page at Eddie Fox's own site!

-- Freder

Thursday, November 21, 2013

"See Them Dance" now in Production!

Click to Enlarge

See Them Dance: From the Positively Spectacular Adventures of Cranch the Clown is now in the production / typesetting stage and is nearing completion... well on track for for its mid-December publishing date in close release with the majors version of our Tarot of the Zirkus Magi. Pictured above is a two page spread from the book's interior. Full information about the two projects is just a click away: right over there in the sidebar. 

If you're interested in the deck, it's funding right now at Kickstarter. 

-- Freder

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Story Behind "Under the Rooster Weathervane"

Way back in the very late 1970s or very early ‘80s (the manuscript is not dated), my mother Barbara J. Thornsjo created a children’s book in collaboration with my sister C_____. At that time, my mother was somehow maintaining an impossible schedule, basically running the family farm while also being active in the antiques business and Making Art at a prolific rate. She sold her arrangements and Folk Art paintings at shows ranging from Maine to New York; at various times her arrangements were sold at B. Altman’s main store in New York City, while her elaborate hand-made Jack-in-the-Boxes (of papier-mâché and cloth and wood) were exhibited at toy shows and at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine (which has in its collection possibly the largest holdings in the world of work from the Wyeth family from N.C. to Jaimie). 

She did not really know what to do with the Children’s book. For years she nagged me to flog it around, as if I was an agent — ha! An agent has connections and knows what they are doing, which I emphatically did not… all of my efforts were focussed on getting my own writing into print, and it took literally years and years of work and persistence for that to happen.

On occasion she accused me of not flogging her book because I was afraid that it would sell, at a time when my own work definitely was not. 

But the fact is that the book was unpublishable in its original form. The text as written by my sister was, not to put too fine a point on it, bad — and had obviously been written by a fourteen year-old girl who had no way with words and no sense of how to tell a story. Another problem was that the illustrations had been created second in order to match the text, not the other way around… and so when the text just sat there, so did a few of the illustrations.

Beyond that, my mother’s drawing style was simple and folk-arty… not the sort of thing that was in vogue then or a long time after among children’s book publishers.

The book went on the shelf and became a family heirloom. 

When my mother died unexpectedly in May 2010, just days after her birthday, I made it a point to hang on to all surviving examples of her work. The book came to me as part of that… and when I looked at it, for the first time in years, I saw the potential that a little bit of re-working could bring out.

In 2013, changes in life, in me, in technology, and the way books are produced all came together to make the book’s publication possible — with extensive revision.

The first thing that I did was to throw out my sister’s worthless text (I had already thrown her worthless self out of my life entirely). 

The second thing that I did was to change the title. The original, Three Tales from C___ H___ Farm, dropped like a lead pipe. I decided on Under the Rooster Weathervane, which not only sounded better but also pointed me in a direction for the book. 

At first, trying to write the text separately in Scrivener, detached from the pictures, the work that I turned out was not much (if any) better than the original text! Only when I started to work with the text and pictures at the same time did it begin to come together. The text needed to be brought into the service of the illustrations, not the other way around. Structural changes needed to be made, and the only way I could wrap my brain around these was to physically push the illustrations around in page layout software. 

The original stories were re-arranged in order to create a more unified whole. The order of the illustrations as they appeared in the original stories was also somewhat changed. Even then, there were individual pictures that were too static, too pedantic in storytelling terms, because they had been created to match text that hadn’t accomplished anything in the first place. In those cases, the only thing that worked for me was to combine two pictures into one so that they actually told a story.

All together, including time spent just back-braining this book while I worked on other projects, it took me ten months to re-write and re-assemble the book into its current form. The result is a book that, I hope, has a little rhythm and a better shape — but also one that does justice to the elegant simplicity of the illustrations. I hope it’s a version that my mother would be pleased with, but more than that — more than thirty years after its original creation, I hope that the book is no longer just a family heirloom, but one that any parent and child can read and enjoy.

— Freder

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Remember, Remember the Books of December

December is going to be a busy month for most everyone... us included!

In addition to our first Fantasy genre novel See Them Dance and (hopefully) the 22-card Majors Limited Edition of our Tarot of the Zircus Magi (and if that sort of thing interests you, please check out our Kickstarter project for the deck and consider pre-ordering your copy today), December will also mark the debut of our first-ever Children's Book, Under the Rooster Weathervane. The mini-site for the book is now live, and will be updated in the coming weeks as the publication date draws near. 

If you'll excuse me now, I need to go and whip the staff. It's okay, they like that sort of thing.

-- Freder

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"It's Time... for Time."

In America, most communities set their clocks back an hour last night. You would think this would please me, as it supposedly gives me an extra hour of sleep in the morning. It did in the old days and I suppose it would still if I had to be anywhere to hand over the reins of my life to some Evil Bastard of an employer. But for now, at least for this year, I am making my own hours and the clock has become something that forces me to see to it that my quats are fed regular and proper.

Standardized time in my country came about of course as a result of the once-vital and growing railway system; it was just too maddening to schedule arrivals and departures when every little town lived by its own time. 

I rather like that idea of localized time now, wildly impractical as it is. Our four time zones can be confusing enough; imagine if there were hundreds, maybe thousands! Everyone living by his own time — how wonderful it would be to say to some Suited Corporate Bastard, “Sorry, guv’ner, but it may be nine o’clock by your watch, but by my personal clock it is actually seven-thirty… making me not late by an hour but actually early by a half an hour.”

— and smile sweetly while the miserable twat stews in his juices.

(In case you are a recent arrival here, there are two kinds of people that I hate unreservedly: Suited Corporate Bastards and the kind of Policeman who believes that he is Licensed to Bully. But that’s a subject for another column). 

Here in my doddering “middle years” (though one sometimes hopes they are closer to the end ones -- and I don't mean that in the same way that the bible thumpers do), I have learned that the only time that really means anything at all to me is Daylight Savings Time. This relatively recent add-on actually shifts the organization of days much closer to the way they should be all year round. There are people who call for the elimination of Daylight Savings Time. I’m just the opposite: if we stick with one set of hours year ‘round, the system that we should lose is Standard Time. 

Extending Daylight Savings Time by a couple of weeks at both ends is about the only good thing that George Bush ever did for this country,

It’s all kind of amusing really, and shows humanity’s arrogance in the bright Daylight Savings Time light. Having the unbridled egotism to believe that we can manipulate Time when we are so patently at its mercy, or lack of mercy… what a jest on us! If anything at all separates us from the animals, it’s this kind of pomposity and self-importance — hmmm, maybe this post is about Suited Corporate Bastards and Cops after all! 

— Freder

Saturday, November 2, 2013

"More Room, More Room!"

I forget where that quote is from. Nonetheless, it's appropriate here. Duck Soup Productions has been updating and expanding like mad.

ITEM! The Persephone's Torch mini-site (linked below and in the sidebar) now has an online excerpt from the novel and a reviews page, and is pretty much done. 

ITEM! The single-page articles about all our other books are all gone, and have been replaced by individual mini-sites all their own. These are in various stages of completion -- they have all the information that used to be contained on their pages here (albeit with better design and clarity), but they will all be getting added features in the days ahead.

The site for  Méliès' Notebook and Other Stories needs the most work. For now it has a brief description and ordering information, but we plan to add an extensive gallery of the illustrations and excerpts from the stories soon.

At Quirk's mini-site, you can watch the book trailer and Meet the Characters. There's lots more to come, including fun free downloads, an index of all the Quirk stories in every format in which they have appeared, and an article on the day Quirk went to school.

At our Tinsel*Town mini-site, you'll get to know Eddie Fox in the original four-page introductory strip, now on its own page. And again there is much more to come: we have plenty of "bonus features" to add onto this site, it's just a matter of getting around to it.

And of course, our growing Tarot Deck has had some design tweaks implemented on its mini-site, too:

All these places and people can also be reached from our newly cleaned and renovated sidebar. That's it for now -- but CRANCH is coming by year's end. Who is Cranch? You'll find out when his own mini-site debuts soon!

Fair sailing, fellow inmates!

-- Freder
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