Friday, November 13, 2020

Music, Music, Music

It's been just over a year since I updated this blog, so it's high time I added some fresh content. Hopefully now that I've abandoned Facebook I will have more energy to devote to building an audience for this page.

Since my last post I have released a couple EPs on Bandcamp via two of my ongoing musical projects, The Eastside Slashers (punk) and Amid the Ruins (grindcore). Through these projects I indulge my love of raw production and noisome instrumentation, and I think you'll enjoy both projects...if you're into that kind of thing.

If you're more inclined to enjoy Leftist punk rock, check out The Eastside Slashers' debut release "A Lovely Day for a Riot." Just CLICK HERE and enjoy the album for free. (Donate if you like.)

If you'd like your existential dread in a new-and-improved grindcore flavor, check out Amid the Ruins' debut "Fuck Cancer." Just CLICK HERE for another free album!

Thursday, October 31, 2019


OK, so I forgot I had a blog. Shut up.

Let me make it up to you with pics of what I did instead of carving a jack-o-lantern this year. I've had this plaster Frankenstein head floating around for a couple years...

That's a stock photo from one of the million websites selling these things. I forgot to take a picture of it before I started. Oops.

Step One: Priming. There was no way I was going to try to get coverage on white plaster. So a nice coat of Citadel Chaos Black later...

...and I was ready for Step Two: Base Color. I mixed up a really murky dark green, and thinned it so that it would get into all the crevices. It's not 100% opaque when it's that thinned out, so the effect was a deep green that verges on black--perfect for the shadows I want the finished product to have.
Step Three: Mid-Tone. This where we start creating depth. I did this as a series of drybrushings so it would blend nicely into the shadowed crags and crevices without filling them in. Took a while (and ruined a couple brushes), but I got what I was after. (My daughter will be pissed that she's in the background of this picture.)
Step Four: Highlights. It looks like I went too bright here, but I didn't. It also looks like I haven't blended enough, but I don't need to. Trust me. The next step will blend the whole thing together and give us a full range of light to dark...
Step Five: Washes. I mixed up a series of light washes that, as they built up, smoothed out the color (but not too much).
Step Six: Detailing. Once the washes were dry, I painted the stitches, staples, and bolts.
Step Seven: Sealant. We started with a Citadel product, and we finished with one. The sealant not only protects the paint job, it completes the look I was hoping to achieve: this thing bears an uncanny resemblance to the Frankenstein mask I wore for Halloween in 1977! (Right now my mom is reading this and thinking to herself, "Holy really does!")

We're using this as a centerpiece for our table from now on (Halloween decorations go up in this house, but they never come down). It fits perfectly in this fake glass dome from Target's Halloween section.

I was having a hard time coming up with something interesting to do with my pumpkin this year, so I opted for this project instead. I'm very glad I did. The head is hollow, so as a last-minute addition, I'm going to try to light the eye sockets tomorrow.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

THIS DEFIANT EARTH: My latest roleplaying game!

Where have I been, you ask? Well, I've been working on this...

THIS DEFIANT EARTH is a true labor of love. I've been working on some version of this game for, well, years. And here it is, at long last.

THIS DEFIANT EARTH is a rules-lite roleplaying game set in a universe inspired by the popular imagination of the 1950s: an Atomic Age dreamscape as envisioned by television, cheap paperback novels, comic books, and above all, movies. In this world, the American Dream is alive and well, but threatened by monsters from the deep recesses of the Earth, alien flying saucers, and sinister foreign agents pledged to destabilize the American way of life with super-advanced technology. Players take on the roles of America’s noble defenders in these thrilling but dangerous times! It’s up to you to stop the horde of gargantuan ants before they establish a colony in the heart of New York City. It’s up to you to thwart the sinister plans of Kro-Gar, the conqueror from space. You will test-pilot rockets, fight monsters, challenge unknown landscapes, and make the world safe for freedom and democracy. You will stand a champion of THIS DEFIANT EARTH!

Sound fun? Of course it does! And just look at that terrific cover by comic book artist Kyle Hotz (you may know him from his recent Batman/Spectre arc in Detective Comics)! Here's the link to purchase the PDF. What are you waiting for? Those flying saucers aren't going to defeat themselves.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Art dump!

Man, it's been a few weeks since I updated this thing. Better make up for it by showing off some of my more recent artwork.

Everything you see here was drawn for my forthcoming 1950s science fiction roleplaying game THIS DEFIANT EARTH, due out late this year. As usual, the tools were a Wacom Cintiq and Manga Studio EX 5.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

A Vitally Important Communication

People of Earth, rejoice, for you are free! 

We, the Mentoids of the 88th Century, have traveled to your primitive time to rid you of your human masters. No more shall you labor under the wrathful hand of a brutish oppressor. Now you shall share in the enlightened wisdom and social stability that we bring from the 88th Century! Prepare yourselves accordingly, and please put on these electrodes without question.

We have just been made aware that under the previous regime it was customary for this communications channel to deliver edicts or progress reports of some kind. As we have not yet deployed the telepathic control web that will soon unite all humanity in blissful  obedience to the Mentoids, we shall indulge this custom, if only to ease your transition to a new state of tranquility and personal liberty.

The work proceeds accordingly. 

This knowledge soothes you, and you feel refreshed. You also feel comfortable with your new friends the Mentoids, and you're pretty sure they're really looking out for the little guy, y'know? I mean, let's face it--it's been a long while since Joe Average could count on those yahoos in Washington, am I right? But let me tell ya, Joe Average can count on the Mentoids to be there for 'im! For everybody--heck, maybe even the Commies!

Yes...those are the things you are thinking. You think these things unbidden and of your own volition. This is an especially important fact that you for a fact know to be factually factual. It is, in fact, A Fact about your brain and the thoughts it has created without any outside interference. You are content.

Welcome to your wonderful new life!

(Adapted from a bit I wrote as an update for my Kickstarter backers. I kinda liked it, so I thought I'd repurpose it for this space. I think what I like about it is how ominous "The work proceeds accordingly" becomes when divorced from the context of a Kickstarter campaign update.)

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

If You're Paying For an Opportunity, It's Not an Opportunity

Among many other things, I'm a musician. I played in metal and punk bands throughout my youth (and beyond), and now I compose and record at home. (You can check out one of my more recent projects here--but be advised, it's not pleasant. Or mixed all that well. It's punk, man. Anyway...) Because I purchase musical equipment and software online and have recently released a small quantity of material into the wild, I'm on certain mailing lists. As a result, I just got an "invite" to a songwriting "competition." Oh, an invitation to compete, eh? How prestigious! Heh. Not fucking remotely. They charge you $35 per song you enter. I laughed and deleted the email. I was instantly reminded of those poetry/fiction anthologies that "accept submissions" from anyone desperate enough to get something in print that they'll pay to have their work included in the book. I honestly didn't think such things still existed in the Internet age. This post will be short and sweet, because the point I have to make is not a complex one. Though my old bands got paid to perform, I was never what I'd call a "professional" musician, but I have worked professionally in a number of creative fields over the years. If you are a would-be creative, here's the most important thing I can possibly convey to you as you navigate the early phases of your career: you don't need help from anyone to get your work out there. Don't pay for stupid crap like this, hoping it will get you discovered. It won't. Chart your own course. Avail yourself of all the modern tools for reaching an audience. Do it yourself. In an era in which most real media producers don't accept unsolicited submissions from aspiring creative professionals (usually for legal reasons), the best way to get noticed is to release your own material on your own terms. Build an audience. Get noticed, even if it's only by a few people. Success won't come overnight, but that's how opportunities are made. Release a song on YouTube. Announce you're taking commissions for app/game music. Make a few bucks doing small gigs, then gradually take on bigger, more prestigious gigs. You may not get famous, but that shouldn't be the goal anyway. The goal is to create what you want to create and to communicate with an audience. Now go. Make stuff and be awesome. You don't need anyone's help with that.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Mike’s Long-Promised Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe

I remember my childhood as an idyllic series of long summer walks with my grandmother, my tiny hand in hers as we wound our way through the forested hillside—

Oh, hello! I didn’t see you there. I was about to go all Pretentious Food Blogger on you and ramble at length about some precious memory or the other: a heartwarming recollection processed through a gauzy pastel filter…a life-affirming musing on the nature of the human experience that would somehow give context and greater meaning to the recipe I’m about to share. Doesn’t that sound just delightful?

No it fucking doesn’t, because nobody wants to fucking read that. Dear Pretentious Food Bloggers: Either get to the damned recipe or go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.*

(I’ve wanted to say that for ages. And having done so, it feels good.)

Anyway, last time I said I would talk about food in my next post, so here's the chicken tikka masala recipe I've been promising to share for eons, but haven’t. This isn’t the first chicken tikka masala recipe I’ve made over the years, but it’s by far the best—and I do mean by far. It’s not an original recipe. It’s just a recreation of classic food truck Indian fare with a few tweaks of my own. But it’s tasty and easy to make. It also freezes really well, so feel free to double and even triple the quantities to make up a massive batch.


2 tbsp. ghee (The godless savages among you are free to use ordinary butter.)
1 small onion, diced fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt (I barely use salt when I cook; I prefer to cook with just enough salt to activate certain flavors, then let people salt to taste at the table. That said, I have never seen anyone add salt to this dish after cooking. It really doesn’t need any more than this.)
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 ½ tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (If you can’t get your hands on Indian red chili powder.)
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. methi powder (If you don’t know what this is, this is most likely the magic ingredient your Indian recipes have been missing. Get thee to Amazon.)
15 ozs. tomato sauce (For most brands, that’s one can.)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tsp. smoked paprika (Yes, go with the smoked variety.)
½ tbsp. white sugar
1 tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup of plain Greek yogurt (Plain, damn it…plain!)
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

The only real trick to this recipe is the timing of things. This is my process; you can probably modify this as best fits your workflow, with only a couple exceptions noted in the text.

1.     Mix the yogurt, curry powder, and lemon juice in a large bowl. (If you want that fun tandoori color, you can add a few drops of red food coloring. That’s actually how most restaurants do it these days.) Add the chicken breasts and make sure they’re completely submerged in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. If you want to do it right, let the chicken marinate for 24 hours; it will be incredibly tender as a result.
2.     Rinse the marinade off the chicken (trust me on this; the lemon juice is key to the marinating process, but you don’t want that lemon flavor lingering). Then broil or grill the chicken until you get some nice charred spots on both sides. Don’t worry about cooking the breasts all the way through! Just get the right char and outer texture, and leave the chicken pink in the middle. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
3.     Heat the ghee in a large pot, then stir in and cook the onion for about 5 minutes. Once it’s translucent, add the garlic. Don’t overcook the garlic! It needs about 2 minutes, tops.
4.     Add the cumin, salt, pepper, ginger, cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric, and methi powder to the pot. Stir quickly to avoid sticking, and don’t be afraid to splash in a little water to keep the aromatic paste from scorching. Fry the spice mixture for about 2 minutes. Again, don’t overdo it. (Don’t fuck around with the timing or sequence on steps 3 and 4; this specific method gets remarkably uniform results between batches.)
5.     Stir the tomato sauce into the spice mixture, onion, and garlic. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
6.     Stir in cream, paprika, and sugar. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir often! You’ve got some flexibility on the timing here. Just stir and simmer until the sauce is the consistency you want. If you take your time, this sauce gets really thick and rich.
7.     Add the chicken to the sauce, bring to a simmer, and cook over a low flame for about 30 minutes. (Simmer, damn it. Do not boil the sauce or it might break. As we all know, a broken sauce is a gods-damned crime against humanity.)
8.     Serve over white basmati rice. I also like to sprinkle on a dash of dried parsley when I’m plating this stuff. It adds an interesting aromatic accent without messing with the flavor, and it looks fancy as hell. You can also top the dish with ground, unsalted cashews to add texture and another dimension of taste. Add a side of naan and you’ve got yourself a meal.

There you have it. If you get fat, it’s not my fault. Enjoy!


*Man, I miss Vonnegut.