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During the run of Tales from the Vinyl Dimension this past summer at the Pannikin, La Jolla, a VERY terrible thing happened…

One of my toys went missing!

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Wolfman taking a swipe at a kewpie car

And not just any toy, my vintage Wolfman flashlight figure purchased a few years ago from a dealer at Comic-Con. Wolfman has appeared in a handful of my photos, most notably terrorizing a kewpie car as it exited a funhouse tunnel in Financial Freewheeling and the futile pursuit of the American Dream (right).

As part of the gallery installation I’d placed toys in front of each of the 12 x 12″ portraits that rimmed the highest walls of the space. With the actual toy present, visitors to the gallery could better sense the true size of the faces that were looking down from the walls. Where these portraits were printed “life size”, the subjects were little tiny toys shot with the digital macro setting of my Canon Elf (using a tripod fabricated from Legos).

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Each toy standing below their portrait was pretty much on its own without much in the way of safety or security. The Wolfman was one exception, as his clawed feet did not balance will on the wooden ledge, so he was held in place by a small mountain of modeling putty.

One afternoon after strolling down the hill with my laptop I entered the Pannikin to discover that the Wolfman was gone — vanished into thin air! I searched the ledge where he had been standing; no luck. I inquired with the staff; nope, he had not been found and turned in. Not cool. Nope, not cool at all. This would require drastic measures. I headed home and created this:

Missing Poster

The Pannikin sees a LOT of traffic — regulars buying their morning coffee, students studying in the afternoons, plenty of moms and dads pushing strollers. Had Wolfman fallen from his perch I thought there was a good chance that he’d been picked up by one of the stroller kids, whose parents might find it odd that there precious toddler was shaking a hairy beast instead of his or her rattle.

I tacked up the poster next to Frankenstein, hoping that my stab at humor might motivate someone (like a stroller mom or dad) to recognize and return my beloved missing Wolfman.

A few days passed and, sure enough, the Wolfman was returned! If I am to believe the story that was related to me, one morning a homeless man stumbled through the door and without saying a word placed the Wolfman on the counter, then left. Wolfman was back! I pulled down my MISSING poster and in its place pinned up an replacement: FOUND!

Anyway, in the wake of this trauma I began to imagine a whole series of “missing” posters for each of the portraits I’d shot for the exhibit. Take a look!

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Horror ShirtSo, what do I plan on doing with all of these crazy posters? All kinds of things! The first is to make them available on shirts through my Zazzle store. I currently have 30 or so designs available featuring most of the toys and figures I had on display during my show. More still to come and I’m hoping to extend the line to include other products.

Stay tuned!

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I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t post new blog entries anywhere near as frequently as I would like. Ideally, I’d be blogging on a daily basis, sharing news about new photos and videos, art exhibits, great books, cool records, and posting articles that dive deep into my creative process. Trouble is… I have a difficult time churning out prose without laboring over every word, sentence and paragraph. Plus, just to make matters a little worse, I can’t… stop… writing. Simple topics—hey! I like this record!—turn into exhaustive (but still, of course, interesting) accounts worthy of a short chapter in a book.

Yes, it’s a problem, but now… a solution!

RIP Jonathan Frid—the “real” Barnabas Collins!

I now have a super cool Tumblr account where, throughout the day, you can find quick and interesting posts from me and the merry minions at Wind-up Dreams Central. Everything we post is, of course, Super Cool. Take, for instance this scary photo of the recently departed Jonathan Frid. Oh, sure… I could have dedicated a 4,000 or 5,000 word blog post on Dark Shadows (and, come to think of it, I may do that), but I could spend a week or more in Creative Writing Hell in an effort to produce a Pulitzer caliber post on campy daytime horror. Instead, as quickly as a vampire could sink his teeth into an alabaster neck… there it is on:

Vintage Vinyl

My official Tumblr site!

While the Tumblr focuses on cool vinyl records, in recent days we’ve also made posts on awesome art, vintage advertising, weird toys, pulp novels, and outer space.

I hope you enjoy this foray into more frequent sharing of interesting things, and if YOU have a Tumblr, don’t be shy… feel free to reblog any of the images you find on Vintage Vinyl. We’re scouring the universe for cool finds to share with our followers, so let us know about your interesting finds!

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It’s no secret—I’m a collector.

I like filling my house with things I find visually appealing: art, toys, vintage radios, books, record albums, religious artifacts, and more. Before you envision a floor-to-rafters disaster of claustrophobic madness, allow me to interject that all my collections are tastefully displayed throughout my home as part of the natural living environment. So, you don’t walk into The Penguin Room or find walls of glass display cases filled with porcelain frogs.

Full Disclosure
Okay, I do have a whole room of CDs, but that’s more a storage issue than it is an obsessive desire to turn my home into a museum. And, yeah, I do have all my robots crowded together atop a vintage bar, but doesn’t it make sense to display them there when a giclee of Mark Ryden’s Princess Sputnik hangs right above?

My preference for displaying collectables is to instead spread things around so that visitors are greeted with pleasant surprises as they move from room to room. So, in my kitchen you might find a bright red Philco radio from the 1950s, while the bedroom features a vintage Bendix from the decade prior. Each fits the decor of that room and allows individual pieces to standout and shine.

Classic Silvertone circa 1962. This one is in my bedroom.

Amongst my mélange is a collection of vintage record players that dot each room like bass notes on a rock’n’roll score. Reminders, no matter where I choose to spend my time, that music is always close and a very big part of my life. Note, by the way, my rather deliberate use of “record player” as opposed to “turntable,” which otherwise carries far more sophistication and glamor than the nostalgic pieces I choose to collect. The pieces in my collection were never intended to reproduce sophisticated music in lush auditory waves of perfectly balanced tones. No! These were audio workhorses meant to blast horrific sound through gravel-pitched grills that would shake the table, rock the floors and crumble your neighbor’s walls! Equipment that could be grabbed by the handle, hauled into the trunk of a car, and plugged into any waiting outlet for an instant party!

These are RECORD PLAYERS, dammit!

My collection leans heavily towards record players that would have been used by kids and teens—or maybe a renegade DJ on the go. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Decorated on all sides with alphabet block illustrations

To the left is a very early piece made by PAL, probably in the 1940’s, and—from the case illustrations—is obviously intended for very small children. I found this record player ages ago on eBay and it took YEARS to air out the rancid smell of cigarette smoke. If this wonderful piece could talk, I’m sure it would tell caustic tales of emphysema and the dangers of second hand smoke. I imagine a sour faced mom wearing slippers and a dingy bathrobe, angrily beating at a bowl of eggs on a formica counter, as an unfiltered Camel hangs from her lip dangling ash above her child’s breakfast. “Get in here and eat before I smack you!” she hacks. “And quit with that noise! You’ll go deaf!

Tonearm pickup with built-in speaker

This wonderful piece only plays 78 RPM discs and “features” a speaker built right into the tonearm, and a needle that more closely resembles a small finishing nail than it does anything meant to gently coax beautiful music from the delicate grooves of a record. Ah! Music as soft and dulcet as the graceful treble clef embossed on the side. Pretty cool, but let’s take a closer look at that needle…

Close-up of the "stylus" (better suited for excavating vast caverns of bedrock)

Yikes! Something tells me that records didn’t last much longer than a single play before that single groove of glorious music was worn down to a wide gully of scratchy sound. And, remember, that steel-tipped bad boy is part of a “toy” targeted to 4 and 5 year olds. Kids were so much more resilient back in the day! So what if their record player was capable of puncturing flesh? And bone? (Whiny modern day parents…)

Newcomb EDT-12 CP in my library

In most rooms of my house you’ll find a record player on display, somewhere. Some are tucked into corners, some act as doorstops, and others function as pieces of mid-century industrial art. Take, for example, the record player on the right. It’s displayed atop a plant stand beneath a painting by Los Angeles artist Gary Baseman (and beside a shelf of vintage books and curios). I found this record player while on a business trip to San Antonio and knew it had to be mine, because:

  • It’s small
  • It’s portable
  • It’s yellow!

Best of all, there is a serial number and other bits of bureaucratic etching on the top surface identifying the record player as belonging to the San Antonio Independent School District. How cool! Real, authentic elementary school AV equipment! And where better place to display AV equipment than in my library, right?

This is a four-speed player (16, 33, 45, and 78 rpm) with a generously sized speaker built-in beneath the platter and tonearm. Underneath are little springy feet that absorb vibrations and prevent skipping. I believe this dates back to the mid 1970’s and it’s made like a tank, no doubt anticipating the clumsy roughhousing of pimply-face electronics geeks racing AV carts down the corridors of the local elementary school. It has a snap-on cover and I got it back to San Diego as my carry-on luggage on the flight back home.

Yes, it works! (And... it's yellow!)

So, if I have a AV-issue record player in the library, what do I have in the dining room? A jukebox, of course! And not just any jukebox like those fancy Wurlitzers that trend followers drool over because of the name, the bubble lights, and the Cadillac-reputation of the Wurlitzer as an icon of 1950 “cool.” But let’s face it, the Wurlitzer was a “country club” jukebox, made to fill time at the club when the band was on a 15 minute break. It played nice, safe, acceptable music for nice, safe, acceptable people in the community.

Rock-ola Super Rocket — the coolest jukebox ever

My jukebox is a 1951 Rock-Ola Super Rocket, the best jukebox ever because it inspired the design of Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet. You weren’t going to find a Rock-Ola at the country club. Nor were you going to find one in a fine restaurant or the lounge of a respectable hotel. The Rock-Ola lived in pool halls, bars, bowling alleys, and juke joints. Anywhere dangerous music might be heard, there you’d find a Rock-Ola. The jukebox in the basement of the Delta house in Animal House was a Rock-Ola, fer christsake!

I picked up my Rock-Ola in Portland and it plays 78’s using two styluses mounted to the tonearm: one right-side-up to play the A-side, and one upside-down (with the record spinning in the opposite direction) to play the B-side. The machine is in fairly excellent condition, with the exception of two small star-like cracks on the see-through dome, which I suspect (or perhaps hope) are scars from a bar room brawl; punches and pool cues flying through the air as Bobby Fuller Four sings a lament of fighting the law (and, alas, the law won).

The Voice of Music 210 — made in the USA in 1953

Also occupying space in the dining room is the record player you see to the left—a beautiful little portable phonograph manufactured by the Voice of Music Corporation in 1953. I featured this record player in one of my fine art photographs, Red discovers there is more to life than living in a house made of straw, and have twice included it in large installations that demonstrate the three dimensional aspect of my work.

There are a few others scattered around the house. Some that work, and others that could use a bit of an audio tuneup. Click through the slideshow below to see more of these relics that double as accents of vintage home decor!

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Once upon the time, while running late for a movie and standing stuck behind a pair of large sedentary  teens on an escalator at the mall, I planned on writing a book with the above title.  In the many years that have passed, and constant observations that support the title, I have yet to pen word-one of my cynical (but true!) worldview.

So I’m starting a blog instead.

This is my blog.

It’s not just about teens intellectually lost in a world of consumerism and  illiterate text messages, I’ll also be writing about more engaging topics like art, music, books, film, and awesome toys.  I’ll also be posting about my own creative pursuits, like fine art photography and writing projects.

So there you go!  It’s my first blog entry, so I intentionally set the bar extremely low — curb level for my first step.

Next time, I may even post a picture or two.

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We’ve been busy little bees the past few weeks at Wind-up Dreams & Vinyl Nightmares. We now have a MobileMe Gallery available for you to easily browse through our most popular photos. These photos span the past five years and they’re now all in one place for your viewing pleasure! You may have noticed our shiny new buttons on the homepage, and instantly recognized the icons for Facebook, twitter, YouTube, and Etsy. But what’s that last one with the pretty dame, you ask? Click there and you will be transported to John’s Wonderland of Wind-up Fun. In addition to the photo gallery, we’ll be releasing several more new features that will allow you to do some fun, interactive activities. So check back  over the next few days to see what new releases we have, and let us know what you think. We hope you’ll be as excited about them as we are!

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