21 July 2016

My Long Journey to See the Art-o-mat!

Some time ago I was goofing around on the internet, as is my custom, and I stumbled across something called Art-o-mat. An Art-o-mat is a retired cigarette vending machine that is refurbished and converted to dispense pieces of artwork that are the same size and weight as a pack of cigarettes. I thought that was a pretty cool thing, but I checked the map and saw that Idaho does not have an Art-o-mat machine in the state. I did, however, notice that there is one in Dayton, Ohio. I happen to be in Dayton for some training right now, so I put it on my list of things to do while I'm here.

My work has kept me pretty busy during the day and I have been studying in the evenings, so I haven't had a lot of opportunity to get out and about yet. But today we got out of class early enough that I had time to put my plan into action. The plan was to park my car at a park near the river and walk the trail down the river to the Dayton Visual Arts Center, where I would use the Art-o-mat, see what else there was to see, and head back down the trail to my car, hopefully catching a lot of Pokemon along the way.

Things started out pretty well. The trail is paved and it was pretty scenic. Ohio is very green. If you leave nature to fend for itself in Idaho, it turns brown and rocks come out of the ground. If you don't mow every 8-12 hours in Ohio, you get a wall of brush and weeds 20 feet high.

My main complaint is that it was hot and muggy. I think the temperature was around 90 degrees and the humidity was like a million gallons per atmospheric unit or however they measure the water in the air. That is one reason why I was the only person on the trail aside from the occasional bicyclist. The other reason is that after I got down the trail a ways it was blocked off and closed for construction. There were detour signs, so I followed them and found myself walking several miles through the less-scenic parts of Dayton. There were waste management companies, recycling facilities, scrapyards, forges, abandoned buildings, and all the stuff you usually see while driving quickly through the industrial part of town. I am glad that for most of the detour there were sidewalks. I noticed that I continued to be the only person stupid enough to be out walking in the heat.

After a long time, I got to where I was headed. There were people there, and I saw a park with a water pad and benches and a vending machine where I might find a cold bottle of water. But first I had to get to the Art Center.

This is me in front of the Dayton Visual Arts Center. I actually took this picture as I was leaving, but that doesn't really matter. It didn't change much while I was in there. Before getting to the Art-o-mat I signed the guest book, enjoyed the air conditioning, and looked at the displays they had up. It's a small building, but there was enough art there to keep me busy for 20 minutes or so. I don't have much of an art vocabulary, but there were a few things that made me linger and think for a minute. There was a guy moving around, setting up a table with hors d'oeuvres for an event they were having. One art fixture was a wind chime/gong-looking thing. I wanted to make a sound with it, but I wasn't sure if it was okay. Later on a couple came in for the event and the guy went over and rang the chime and I cheered a little inside. They were known to the guy setting up the table, so it was probably better for that guy to be the one to bang the chime.

So I finally got back to the Art-o-mat machine and had to decide which art to get. It's a pretty cool-looking fixture in itself. They are all different and there are a lot of them. The gallery of machines on the Art-o-mat site is pretty impressive. Each slot in the machine is stocked with art by a particular artist, so you have some idea about what you might get.

I saw a familiar name among the listings, as Kettle is a pseudonym for John Soukup, an artist I've featured many times on my blog. I knew from my research beforehand that each piece of art costs $5, so I had a couple of fives ready. Two times I put my bill in the machine and pulled the handle, and after a ker-chunk sound and some rattling a painted block of wood slid out of the chute.

Here are the pieces I got, both by Kettle. In retrospect it might have been cool to sample some other artists, but maybe I can visit again and give it a shot. I was happy to add another couple of pieces to my Kettle art collection. I'm pretty sure that I purchased the last two Kettle pieces in the machine, as when I looked at the slot in the machine that painting of the girl was the one on top of his stack. Not all of the art is paintings on blocks of wood. Some artists make jewelry and put it in little boxes. I saw that one person makes little toy rocket ships that can be assembled. Artists make little notebooks or figurines and package them so that they are the right shape. It's a pretty cool idea.

At this point I realized that it was about time to start heading back. I hadn't thought ahead enough, and now I had a dilemma. I had these two pieces of artwork painted with water-soluble paints, and I had to get them all the way back across town to my car. I asked the guy at the gallery if they had a bag I could take with me, and he went in the back and found something that would work. I thought that was pretty nice of him, and I thanked him and went on my way because it looked like the art event was about to kick off and I didn't want to be there when that happened. I don't have a goatee, so the art folks would have known me for an outsider and hazed me or something.

I walked back by the park and found that the vending machine didn't work, but there was a concession stand and I bought a slush drink from them. It was probably the best dollar I spent this year. It was just icy sugar water, but I was hot and miserable and that sugary water ice drink was the best thing in the world. I noticed that there were a lot of people around looking at their phones, so I got my phone out and saw that I was right on top of two Pokestops. I sat there with my slush for a while and caught a lot of Pokemon, including several new ones that I hadn't seen yet. The breeze coming in off the river made the weather almost nice, if a little hot. Once I started walking again that niceness went away. I walked past Fifth Third Field where the Dayton Dragons play baseball, but they didn't have a game tonight. It looked like there was something going on in the park, but it wasn't baseball. After that I walked through a slightly different part of Dayton's industrial area than I had on the way in. Again, I was the only person on the sidewalk for the whole time.

At one point a woman called out, "I like your bag! It's real cute!" from a car stopped at a red light. I thanked her, but I think she must have been messing with me or something. As you can see, it's a plain white bag with handles on it. I guess maybe it's an odd thing for a man to be carrying around the industrial area of town. I am not very good with social cues and interactions, so I don't really know what was going on there. Hopefully she got what she was looking for.

Eventually I got back to my car and I was very happy to be sitting down in the air conditioning again. My feet still hurt, and I imagine I will have more aches and pains tomorrow. The walk was a little too long and the heat was a little too hot for me to be doing that kind of thing. I would like to go back over to that area of town, but next time I will park a lot closer. At least I got some nice art, some new Pokemon, and a decent story out of the ordeal.

15 July 2016

A Thick Mini Dickey from eBay

This card popped up in my eBay feed a while back, and as soon as I saw it I knew I needed to try to make it mine. I was aware of the 1972-style minis in 2013 Topps, but I don't recall hearing much about the relic parallel. Only 15 of the 50 cards in the Series 2 version of the 1972 Topps Mini insert had these relic parallels, and PC guy R.A. Dickey was one of them. The bidding didn't go quite as high as I thought it would and I came away as the winner.

When the card arrived in the mail, I was surprised at how thick it is. The fact that it is a mini enhances that appearance, but it is also just a really girthy piece of cardboard. It's not quite as thick as one of those manufactured relic cards with the pins or medallions in them, but it's closer to those than it is to your standard relic card. I don't think there's any way Topps could have disguised these hits in a pack with their small length and height and their large width. This insert was pretty rare, with this one being card # 22 / 25 in the print run.

On an unrelated note, the other day I mentioned that I'd looked over the upcoming Allen & Ginter's checklist to see if there was anything non-baseball I should chase. At that time I didn't really see anything of interest to me, but Cardboard Connection made a page with a rundown of all the non-sports signers and there were a few things that caught my eye. My short-list includes actor/comedian George Lopez, football coach Jen Welter, swimmer Missy Franklin, basketball coach Nancy Lieberman, and Jersey Shore cast member Vinny G. None of them are autographs I feel very strongly about, but if I am going to chase anything non-baseball from A&G this year, those would be the ones. There were a lot of sports talk folks and some Field of Dreams actors on the list, but none of that really appeals to me.

13 July 2016

Still Chasing the Past: A Couple of 2013 Hits

The 2016 Allen & Ginter's Checklist (thanks to Crackin' Wax by way of Bubba's Bangin' Batch of Baseball Bits) is out now, so I thought it would be the perfect time to show off some 2013 A&G cards I picked up for my collection.

The first is a card I've wanted for quite a long time. It's the mini framed autograph of bodybuilder and current reigning Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath. This card has been elusive for me, and I've been chasing a copy of it since I discovered it existed. I finally found one in my price range and grabbed it up. Pretty good stuff. It looks like the 2016 Allen & Ginter non-baseball autograph checklist is heavy on broadcasters and comedians, and on a quick review of it I didn't find much in the way of autographs I absolutely have to have. Maybe that will change once I look at the checklist again more closely.

This is a card that I already had a couple copies of, but I picked one up again because it was cheap and I have some kind of problem when it comes to cardboard. This relic swatch is at least a different color than the other two I have. I don't know if it comes from a different item or just a different part of the same colorful piece of clothing. I think I'm done chasing Phil Heath cards from 2013 Allen & Ginter's, but I can't really say that for sure. There are still plenty of other cards I 'need' from the last few years of A&G, so I'll probably try to focus on acquiring them if I can.

12 July 2016

Topps UFC Now Kicks Off with UFC 200

So I watched UFC 200 on Saturday and for the most part I thought it was decent, but there was a long dead spot right in the middle of the Main Card that started with the Aldo - Edgar fight, hit rock bottom during the Cormier - Silva Snuggle Match, and finally started picking back up with the return of Brock Lesnar to the UFC.

The thing that really interested me about UFC 200, though, was the introduction of the Topps Now program to UFC trading cards. During the week before the event, Topps opened the cards up for sale, announcing that the cards would feature the winners of the Main Card bouts, with art being revealed on Monday and sales lasting for 24 hours past that point. I ordered all five cards, one from the Topps site and the other four from eBay sellers. I don't have them in-hand yet, but I was really curious to see today what the print runs would be once sales ended. I anticipated that they would be much lower than the baseball print runs just because the UFC market isn't that big.

For the most part my expectations were accurate. The Cain Velasquez card was the lowest print run of them all, with only 87 cards ordered. I don't know how popular Velasquez is, but I know most of the people in the chat rooms pan Travis Browne cards when they get pulled. The Jose Aldo card was third out of the five when it comes to print run, although it was closer to the bottom two than it was to the top two. His card got up to 110 orders, probably because both he and Frankie Edgar have decent followings.

The Daniel Cormier - Anderson Silva fight was a real snoozer, and people in the arena booed throughout as Cormier kept taking Silva down to the ground, holding on to him and preventing any kind of striking from going on. It was probably a smart strategy for winning the fight, but it was horrible to watch. As expected, the next two cards had significantly higher print runs. Brock Lesnar's card had the highest of all at 320 cards, probably due to his celebrity reaching beyond the UFC and the fact that his return was the most exciting storyline of the event. The fight could have been more exciting, but Lesnar was at least active in his wrestling and the size of the dudes involved in the fight meant that at any point a solid punch could lay one of them out. The fight went the distance and Lesnar won in a decision, but I was entertained in spite of the lack of fireworks. His post-fight speech was a little weird, but that's okay. I think he meant well.

The Main Event (of the Evening!) was a title match between Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes for the Women's Bantamweight title. Nunes came out fast and absolutely rocked Tate early, which led to a quick choke submission in the first round and the crowning (belting?) of a new Champion. It was pretty exciting after all the slow-moving Men's bouts, and I was happy for the early finish because I had to be up early Sunday morning for work. The Women's divisions are extremely popular among card collectors, so this card wound up with a print run of 214, which is good for second-highest among these five cards. If this were a baseball card, it would be second-lowest, just above an Evan Gattis card with a print run of 212. I think the print run might have been higher if Miesha Tate had won, but that's just speculation because she got her nose broken and looked absolutely lost before the submission that ended the fight. I thought the ref could have ended the fight a little earlier because she was clearly running away and dazed, but I guess he saw enough fight in her to let it continue.

So there are the first five Topps UFC Now cards. I am interested to see them in-hand, and also whether Topps sees fit to continue the program after these low print runs. Topps had to expect that they wouldn't sell as well as the baseball cards, but I wonder what their threshold is as far as sales needed to turn an acceptable profit? Is 100 cards enough? What about 87? The price goes down as individuals order more cards, so a 100-card print run only generates between $400 and $1000 in sales, while an 87 card print run only brings in $348 to $870. It that enough to warrant designing and producing a unique card? Anyway, I wanted to get in on the ground floor of this one. We'll see if Topps saw enough good out of it to continue the line.

11 July 2016

Sketch Card Week: Power Girl by Josef (Joe) Rubinstein

This is the last post for Sketch Card Week, which went for an extra day because I took a break in the middle of it. I actually just received a couple mailers full of sketch cards that would allow me to extend this event by another week, but I've got a bunch of non-sketch stuff in my queue and I'll probably just post these new sketches later.

This sketch is another Power Girl sketch from Cryptozoic's DC Comics: The Women of Legend product. It was done by Josef (Joe) Rubinstein. This appears to be an older version of Power Girl, which kind of makes sense because Rubinstein came into comics in the 1970's, and his work has the look of the comic art of that era. There are probably people out there who could name his influences and artistic lineage, but I am not one of those people. I mostly can categorize the art styles as recent, old, and older with moderate accuracy. Anyhow, this is kind of a cool sketch that shows Power Girl in a different light than the usual fare. I thought it was pretty neat, and I grabbed it up for my collection.

This post will barely sneak in before midnight tonight. I was in the middle of writing the draft when we decided to go walk around town with our kids and catch Pokemon on the Pokemon Go app. It was pretty fun, and there were a lot of families, couples, individuals, and groups of friends walking around doing the same thing. Everyone was friendly and smiling, and people from all sorts of social groups were bonding over something they now have in common. Pretty cool stuff.

10 July 2016

Sketch Card Week: Red Sonja by Danny Silva

Today artist Danny Silva gets featured for the second time during Sketch Card Week, this time with a nice sketch of famed barbarian(ess?) Red Sonja holding what appears to be an orc or goblin's severed head. Gory stuff, I suppose, but fighting goblinoids isn't clean work. This set came out a couple of years ago, but Silva recently posted a video of him working on this sketch card to his blog.

That's pretty cool stuff. It's neat to see the progression of the art from pencil to inks to colors. I'm glad I was able to find the video. This card came from Breygent's Women of Dynamite card set, which is based on the various female characters whose rights are owned by comic book publisher Dynamite Entertainment. It was a small set released in sketch card packs that were only available at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con (and later from resellers). Each pack had two sketches, 6 base cards (from an 18-card base set), and a promo card (from a 6-card promo set). I bought a pack of the cards once, but I never blogged about it here. One of the sketches was a little on the risque side and I wound up selling it on eBay for a couple hundred dollars to a person who PC's the artist. If I recall correctly I paid about $35 for that pack, so it was a pretty good deal for me.

This sketch joins my small Red Sonja PC and I'll definitely be looking for more work by Danny Silva in the future.

09 July 2016

Sketch Card Week: Power Girl by Lin Workman

After taking a break yesterday from Sketch Card Week, I am returning with another sketch card featuring DC character Power Girl, from the Cryptozoic DC Comics: The Women of Legend set. This card features Power Girl in her short-lived New 52 costume, and the artist is Lin Workman. He's got a card with Power Girl in her more recognizable costume for sale on his website, but the asking price is a little out of my range at the moment. I am still pretty happy with this sketch card, though, as I had been wanting to get one of his sketches for a while. The right one finally popped up and I was able to acquire it for my Power Girl sketch card PC. Pretty cool stuff! Sorry for the short posts lately. I've been busy.