Thursday, February 26, 2004

Aw Cool! I see that one of my favorite party bands, Southern Culture On The Skids has a new label, and a new album out; MOJO BOX.
I've listened to samples of about half the songs. Sounds like fun. These guys (and girl) put on one helluva live show. I gotta get a job now so I can afford to both pick up the new record, and go to see them when they come to my area again to promote it.

But in case any of my legion of fan is feeling generous, I've added the disc to my Amazon wish list, too.
I'll send original art as a thank you to anybody who sends me something off that list. The link is over there on the right margin of this blog.

You don't need to wait for my Birthday (which is July 10th, by the way).
I am going insane in this basement.
I just caught myself doing a bit of The Jerk to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I have to get out and see the sun or something today. I heard we're in for a warm spell for a couple days. good. I'm starting to appreciate Gene Pitney. I don't know if that's good, or what.

I found a two-record "Best of Gene Pitney" LP in decent shape at the Salvation Army Thrift store the other day. I may not be into their whole religious message, but I do appreciate the Salvation Army, at least locally, for being a good source for cheap used vinyl.

I also got an Esquivel album, a "best of Alan Parsons", a recording of JFK speeches, an album of Hawaiian Tourist trap music, and one of those albums from the 60s or 70s that Women's Auxiliary groups would do as fundraisers, where they'd form a chorus and record an album of their vocal stylings, talent not withstanding. Nowadays it's not the same. Now they just have bake sales, or pose tastefully nude for calendars. One way, Brownies and Pie are involved.

This time it's Warble 'N Whistle By The Larks. This is a group of Ladies from Baltimore's Junior League. They recorded this particular gem "for and with the children" back in 1979.
Apparently from the names listed in the credits, the "children" are all the sons and daughters of the Larks themselves. That's rather Omenous. I'm gonna put it on now. I hope i don't melt my ears.

Hmm... They actually hired professional studio musicians, and a real vocal coach, and a real arranger, and a real producer. The Junior League spent some bucks here. After a cheesy rendition of Boom Boom Ain't it Great To Be Crazy (I hope one of the charities they support isn't a Mental Health
Organization) they move into a really good version of Git On Board with a superb Hi-Hat re-creation of a train's pistons by drummer Steve Rosenheim.
But I'm anxious to hear the last track on this side...Hokey Pokey Disco. Whoop! here it is..... Aaaaah.... When they put their hip in, they really put their HIP in, ya dig? This is going on my next mixtape. That's what That's all about!

Gee. How can Side Two top that? Well it kicks off with Everybody Loves Saturday Night. (Yeah, sure, back in 1979 everybody still loved that show.) Boy, though, I really get the "fever" for "Saturday Night" when they sing it in all the different languages and world musical styles. Still, I'm a little hurt that they didn't mention John Belushi.
I wasn't going to mention the next track Something for You, because i wanted to save my wit for the third track, A Cow's Good Company. But how can I not comment on a line like "I wanted to something for you, Mom....but I can't 'cause I'm watching TV...." Brilliant! And the kid gets a hug at the end of the song, and not a slap. Yeah. The Larks are definitely all White. The Cow song just doesn't compare. Neither does the rest of the album. It's all downhill from side two, track three.

But, GodDamn! That was Five bucks well spent at the Salvation Army.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

2004: The Year when Ben Stiller has to shoot a horse in every picture he does.

I think it's the new law. Yesterday i saw Eurotrip, which was great. We laughed our Asses off. I hope that this and several other upcoming "R" releases are a sign that Hollywood has realized that most of the children of the Baby Boomers are now over 17. I have a feeling that this film would have been cut back to a PG-13 if it were released last year. I'm glad it was a 2004 release. Funnier than Road Trip, Funnier than American Wedding, Funnier than Old School. Please, Hollywood, continue, give me a long wave of Comedies that aren't afraid of the "R".

But anyway, before the film, we saw trailers for two upcoming Ben Stiller movies. Starsky and Hutch, and Envy. The latter film, with Jack Black also starring, looks like fun, but I have a feeling that I saw all the funny bits of Starsky and Hutch in the trailer. But what struck me as strange is that Ben Stiller kills a horse in both movies, and both trailers show the scene where Stiller kills the horse.

Does Ben Stiller have a thing about killing horses? Did he spend his last hiatus at a Hollywood "Horse-Killing" camp, and now they have to write this into a few of his movies to justify the trip as a business expense? Is he doing it to impress his wife, Christine Taylor? Does she have some dark secret in her past involving a horse? When their kids have birthday parties and the pony arrives, will the kids run screaming because they think Daddy's going to kill it? Will the kids pin the tail on a real, live donkey?

I wonder if the PETA people have started harrassing Stiller yet.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Feeling Generous?
Send me something from my wish list!

Surprise me! Do it anonymously, or take credit for your generosity!
If you'd like perhaps I could send you a piece of my artwork in gratitude.
Then it's not so much like begging.
Sting of the Hornet!
So Kevin Smith is working on a Green Hornet Movie. The Internet is all abuzz with the news!
As somebody old enough to have watched Bruce Lee as Kato in the series original television run, I thought I'd share a little anecdote from my childhood... (this was previously posted over at

When I was little, we had one of those Aurora Model-motoring HO-scale slot car tracks (later became AFX), which only got set up around Christmas-time. Each year, "Santa" would put a new car in our stockings, and that would be the first thing us kids would open up. (we were allowed to open our stockings as soon as we woke up, but we had to wait for the whole family to wake up or arrive before we did any other gifts.)

In the weeks before Christmas, Mom and Dad would take us to Race-o-Rama hobby center, where they always had a window display with the new cars for the year running around a track.

I remember 1968, when they had Green Hornet's car, The Black Beauty, running around in the window. Dad asked me which one I liked. I pointed at The Black Beauty, "That One!"

"The Black One?" asked Dad, "Okay. Make sure you tell Santa."

On Christmas morning, i was disappointed. Apparently "The Black One" that Dad saw was a Batmobile.

I felt better in 1990, though, when i was able to sell that HO-Scale Batmobile for over $100 in a Comics Buyer's Guide ad.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Why? Really. Why?
I was strolling thru the supermarket aisle today, and I came across what is surely a sign of the coming apocalypse.
Or, if not the apocalypse, at least the next futile salvo in the Cola Wars.

Caffeine-Free Mt. Dew, and Caffeine-Free Dr. Pepper.

WHY? In what twisted California Shopping Mall are the marketing subjects so in-bred that they colored in the circle on their card next to "Hey, I'd buy this!".

Next to JOLT! Cola, these are the two Brands most recognized, and desired, for their Caffeine Content!

What? Did they talk to some Soccer-Mom waiting on the bench at the BMX track?

"Oh, My Boy Zachary can really kick out some Wild 360s, and he just learned how to pull off a Flying Wallie with a double Half-Doogie. But he tends to be jittery, and can't hold still enough to maintain a nose-stand. I wish I could put him on another kind of pill or something."

Mom, I got news for you. Get your boy laid, or give him some Pot. He'll calm down for you. Really. He won't get all paranoid like you and Dad used to if he knows the Pot comes from you. But whatever you do, don't try to Re-Do his Dew!

On another note, I'm really digging the White-Chocolate Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I'm glad that they're going to be a regular item now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Steckler Family History Update!
I recently got some crucial info out of my Uncle Eddie, who is the oldest surviving member of my Branch of the Steckler Tree. I post it here for two reasons. I wish to further bore any readers who aren't family members with more details of my ancestry. I also hope that one or more of my distant relatives will hit on this blog if they happen to do a google search for their family history. If you think you are related to me, please, link thru to my web site and email me.

The earliest ancestor Uncle Eddie could recall was my Great-Great-Grandfather,
John Steckler, who was a blacksmith in Marietta, PA in the middle-1800s.
John lost an eye as a blacksmith, and later was known to be a Hotel and Saloon Keeper in Marietta.
He married Anna Resch and they had four children: George Henry, Margurite, Anna, and a son whose name is unknown.
(I 'm curious to find if this "unknown son" could be the Max Steckler my father recalls, who had an argument with his brother, and took his family west, never to be heard from again. I'd also like to know if this "max" is connected to the Max Steckler that I've connected to the defunct "Steckler's" Clothing store in Ashland Kentucky.)

It is not known if John Steckler was the Immigrant from Germany. But if he was, I'd assume he came in thru the port of Philadelphia, and left Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm I, but dates of birth and or Immigration are not known at this time. We know that the Stecklers were Catholic.

George Henry Steckler was my Great-Grandfather.
He was a silk mill worker in Columbia, PA before moving across the Susquehanna River to York, PA with
his family in the 1880s.
He worked as a loom-fixer at a silk mill in West York and in 1898 bought the store at 1501 W. Market St., and opened a Hardware business. (Edward R. would continue to run the business until selling it in the 1950s.) George Henry was married to Anna May Reineberg, Daughter of Jacob Reineberg Sr., and they had four children: Edward R., Antoinette, Mary, and Catherine.
(It is known that the Reineberg family was in Philadelphia in the Early 1800s and had moved to the Susquehanna Valley before the 1860s. Anna May told her grandson Eddie in the 1930s about watching the Yankees burn down the Wrightsville bridge over the Susquehanna during the Civil War, to keep the rebel army from advancing toward Philadelphia. Jacob Sr.'s wife was from the Wyanberg family of shoemakers in Philadelphia. Jacob started his own Shoe business, and passed it on to his sons Jacob junior and Cletus. The Reineberg Shoe store in York, PA is still owned by the family, but is strictly a retail operation today.)

George Henry Steckler also was a violinist, and he played in the orchestra of the Al Hambra Theater in York, Pa (once located where the Colonial Hotel is today) providing accompaniment for silent films.

Edward R. Steckler was my Grand-father, but he died more than a decade before I was born. His last known residence was at 825 Florida Ave, York, PA
He married Hannah Louise Sanders, and had four children: Edward, James, George S, and Susan. Hannah was the daughter of Albertus Sanders and Sarah (Behler), who resided at 663 W. Princess St. in York. Albertus was from York, while Sarah was from nearby Seven Valleys, PA. Hannah passed away in 1988.

Edward (Uncle Eddie) married Wilda, and they had one son, Bill (deceased), they are retired and now reside near Rehoboth Beach, DE

James (Uncle Jimmy) was maried and divorced while I was a toddler. His One son, Scott, now lives in Erie, PA. After his divorce, Uncle Jimmy lived with his mother at Florida Ave, until around his 50th Birthday, when he went on walkabout, and was found dead of heatstroke near Jackson Hole, WY, in 1983

Susan (Aunt Susie) married Charles Burnside, and had three sons, Christopher, Damian, and Nathaniel. The entire Burnside family runs MAPLE DONUTS, a business which Charlie and Susie have built from a single shop in the early 1960s into the largest independently owned Donut manufacturer in the U.S.

George Sanders Steckler is my Father. born Nov 7, 1935.
he was briefly married to Arla Mae (Liebhart), daughter of Fannie and Roy Earl Liebhart, who had a 180-acre farm at Long level, PA, near East Prospect, and over looking the Susquehanna south of Wrightsville, PA. George and Arla had a son, Anthony, who died as an infant. Soon after their divorce in 1962, Arla gave birth to Tiffany, but Arla's Boyfriend claimed paternity, and George did not contest it. Tiffany, However, upon reaching adulthood, bears a strong resemblance to the Steckler family.

On Sept 28, 1962, George married Reba Jeanne (League-Miller) and adopted her three children from her previous marriage: Darrell Leslie (b. May 15, 1956), Twila Jean (b. May 17, 1959), and Tamara Jane (b. Aug 20, 1960).
On July 10, 1963, I was born, Benjamin Tyrone Steckler at Memorial Osteopathic Hospital, York.

Darrell married his high-school sweetheart Susan Eileen (Young), daughter of Ken and Doris Young (both now deceased), on Sept. 16, 1978. They have two children: Zachary Ryan (b. Jan 6, 1988 in Reston, VA), and Kelly Elaine (b. Aug 28, 1993, in York). They reside in York.

Twila was married to Reuben Sanchez of Omaha, NE from 1980 until 1984. On Sept 8, 2001, she was wed to Marty Chacon, of Salt Lake City, UT, in Pocatello, ID. They reside in Idaho Falls, ID.

Tamara (Tammy) married Brian Earl Krebs of York, PA in 1982. They had one Daughter, Jennifer Lauren (b. Oct 5, 1985 in Hampton, VA) They divorced in 1997. Tamara returned to York with Jennifer and settled in nearby Dover in 1998.

I currently have no children and few prospects or desire to create any. Here endeth a bloodline.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

cool. those Two pieces of my work that I mentioned on my ebay post a couple days ago?
They have both sold for my Buy-It-Now price.
So, my portrait of Screaming Jay Hawkins from Get BenT! #7 is now on its way to a wall somewhere in California, and my tribute from Unshaven CHI #4, "Joey Ramone's Last Daze" will soon be going to a patron in British Columbia.
On top of my Pez Comic strip original selling last weekend, it's been a good week for me as an artist.

I've almost equalled what my unemployment check would have been for the week, if i was still eligible.

So. I've learned that dick and fartjokes sell good for me as mini-comics, but if i want to sell my originals, I should do one-page gags about Rock Stars and Collectibles.

I feel like a professional artist now, so I'm going to go get drunk and throw a tantrum.
Today is a Special Day
It's a day for remembrance of that special kind of Love that only Chicago could give. Today marks 75 years since the greatest achievement of America's Ceasar, Al Capone

You can learn more about romance if you drop by and "pay a little visit" to Gangland Chicago.

You really don't want to miss it. No, see, I'm telling you: You Do Not Want To Miss It, Capiche?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

BenT Investigates eBay!
I did some fun ebay searching today.
a keyword search for "useless crap" returned no items when I searched titles, but 438 items when I searched titles AND descriptions.

searching "grot" turned up 3 items by title, not surprisingly all in the UK, and 323 items by Title and Description.

"utter puke" brought up no items under either method, as did "barfo", which is odd for me, because I've bought stuff on eBay before that I've pulled up by searching for "barfo". (Those Topps' 'Barfo Family' candy dispensers.)

"stuff you can't afford" returned 605 items when I searched titles and descriptions.

"stuff you don't want" returned 32,645 items.

"tits" brings up no items, but "boobies" pulled up 40 under titles, and 158 items under titles and descriptions.

"wonderful masterpiece" pulled up 1 and 3044 items.

"piece of shit" gets no returns, but "piece of shite" returned 26 items when i search descriptions. Oddly, the majority of the items were for Barbies, kids clothes, and angel figurines.

"BenT" returns 46,105 items, and two of those are actually my work.

I don't know what this all means, other than there's really nothing but crap on TV tonight.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I mentioned a few days ago the documentation of my Mother's family history. I got a copy of the genealogy tracing her Mother's side of it today. here are the details:

Edward Rackley was born on an unknown date in England. He arrived in America in 1639, and Died in 1663 in Essex County, Virginia, leaving one known son:
John Rackley I, who was born about 1650 in Essex County, and Died in 1698 in the same, leaving one known son;
John Rackley II, born around 1670 in Essex County, and died in Henrico County, VA in 1738, he left two sons: Anthony, and John III.

Anthony Rackley was born around 1700 in Essex County, Died after 1765 in Sampson County, NC. He left one son: Joshua
John Rackley III was born about 1695 in Essex County, Died in 1769 in Franklin Bute County, NC. He had one Daughter: Setevias

Joshua Rackley, birthdate unknown (died in 1813), married his cousin Setevias, birthdate also unknown, and they had eleven children including my ancestor, John Micajah.
so at this point my family became inbred. it's curious that the cousins that married both have left no birth records

John Micajah Rackley, born about 1758. Served in The Revolutionary War.
Moved to the Middle Tennessee area sometime between 1813 and 1818. Fathered 11 children by three wives. Died in White County,TN, May 27, 1839. My ancestor, Calvin, was born to John and his second wife, Elizabeth Stallings, around 1815 in either North Carolina or Tennessee.

Calvin Rackley, according to evidence, married Martha Fultz and had a daughter, Mary J. Rackley. In 1844 he reportedly sold his share of his father's inheritance to his brother, Ruffan, and left for the Indian territory, never to be heard from again. According to 1850 census data, John Micajah's widow, Mary Meggerson Rackley, had a Granddaughter, Mary J. Rackley living with her. It is believed that Martha died in childbirth, and Calvin left his daughter to be raised by his stepmother.

Mary J. Rackley , born in 1836, died Feb 25, 1917 in DeKalb County, TN. Married Green Berry Ford on Dec 2, 1852 in DeKalb County. Green Berry Ford enlisted in the Confederate Army in September of 1861, and was wounded at the battle of Fishing Creek, Kentucky, and returned home. The two had eight children. The fourth, Joseph Berry Ford, was my Great-Grandfather.

Joseph Berry Ford, born Dec 1, 1862 in DeKalb County, and died Nov 20, 1934 in the same. He married Emily Isabell Miller in 1889, and had 7 children, the youngest was my Grandmother, Zora Emily. My mother claims that her Grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee. while "Emily Isabell" does not sound like an Indian name, it's believed she took an English sounding name to avoid persecution living off the reservation.

Zora Emily Ford League Avaritt Shiflett, born Aug 20, 1904 in DeKalb County. Died in 1971 in DeKalb County. Had seven children by her first Husband, Asbury Edmund League. My Mother, Reba Jeanne, was the youngest child of this marriage. Zora remarried after Asbury's death, to William Avaritt, and had two more sons. She separated from Mr. Avaritt in the 1950s, and married Fred Shiflett . This is who was "GrandPa Fred" to me. Bill Avaritt survived into the 1980s and lived nearby me in Hanover, PA. He was known to us kids as "Uncle Bill".

Reba Jeanne (League, Miller) Steckler born Sep 5, 1933, in DeKalb County.
Married Morey Darrell Miller on Oct 16, 1955 in Bowling Green, OH, while employed at U.S. Rubber in Detroit. Had 3 children with Mr. Miller, Darrell Leslie (born May 15, 1956 in Detroit), Twila Jean (born May 17, 1959 in Parkersburg, WV), and Tamara Jane (Born Aug 20, 1960 in Parkersburg). Reba divorced Morey in 1961 and moved to York, PA to stay with her Sister, Edith. George Sanders Steckler was a young Sergeant, recently divorced, in the reserve unit of Edith's husband, Capt. Adrian L. Shaffer.
George and Reba (who goes by Jeanne) were introduced, and got married on Sept 28, 1962. George adopted Darrell, Twila and Tamara, giving them the surname Steckler. At 2:15 a.m. on July 10, 1963, Reba Jeanne gave birth to a 9lb, 13 oz, baby boy named Benjamin Tyrone Steckler. George got a vasectomy soon afterward.

So. I am Excited to find proof that an ancestor fought for the right side in The Revolutionary War.
So is my sister Tammy, whose daughter, Jennifer Lauren Krebs, graduates from High School this year.
I told her she should try for one of the many scholarships offered by the D.A.R.

I am also proud to note that now I know I have ancestors that fought on both sides of the Civil War.

I learned today that The first few generations of Rackleys, being Virginia Landowners, were slaveowners, but the largest number recorded was on the 1800 census, and it showed that Joshua owned only 12 slaves. All the Rackleys had freed or divested themselves of Slaves before the Civil war, according to the document i got today. I think the family caught "abolitionism" in the 1840s.

I have to check the documentation on the League ancestry. I'm told that the Leagues were staunch Methodists, and were strongly against slaveholding.

The Stecklers, on the other hand, were German Barons until the late 1800s, when my ancestor fled the Kaiser and came to America. They might not have had slaves, but I'm sure that there were serfs somewhere in that family history. I've sent a query to my oldest known relative on the Steckler side, to see if he has any info that Dad doesn't know.
I bet that Valentine's Day is perhaps the most universally despised "holiday" in blogspace.
All of us whiney, lonely souls, jealously sneering at the Happy Loving Couples making it look so easy.
"It's just a Holiday created by a greeting card company!" we shout at them!
They don't listen. They walk on by, not even listening to the crazy man screaming from the dungeon window.

The Day after Christmas, (the other Holiday i hate, but have to tolerate) I went to Wal-Mart to look for discounted candy. They were already putting up the Valentine's Candy displays.
Two Women in their mid-30s, one an obvious Soccer-Mom, the other, more of a Bridget Jones type, were already scanning the candies that were put out.
"Do you want a true opinion of this from a Man?" I asked them, trying not to make it sound like a pick-up line. They looked at me, one took a half step back, clutching her purse tighter.

"All This," I waved at the red hearts, "They only put it up now, so early, because they know that women will buy it for themselves, and eat it in secret all the way thru Valentine's Day."

"No man shops this early for a gift for his lover. We will wait. Starting around February 11th, we'll begin to cluster near this watering hole, testing, feeling the weights of the various foil hearts. Wondering if we've been good enough to the man in the boat this year to get away with the lighter one."

"The evening of the 13th, around 5:30, this aisle will look like one of those cartoon fight clouds, except the stars floating around it will be red hearts."

"That's how men shop for valentines. If these stores were really trying to sell this stuff to men, they'd wait until the week before the holiday to stock the shelf, and until then, they'd keep it seeded with fishing tackle and Swimsuit Calendars, and videos of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders."

"But no. They play upon your sentiments. They put it out now, knowing that you women will load up, even when you could go one aisle down and get Christmas Candy at Half-price!"

Soccer Mom spoke up then, "So what are you doing here now, Mr. Real Man?"

"I just stopped to see if they put out the jelly hearts I like. I don't have a Valentine, but I have to get my fix of those Jelly Hearts each year."

"There they are," said Bridget, pointing to a pile of Farley's bags on the shelf.

"No those aren't the ones I want. They have that sugar all over the outside. i want the plain ones.
The Ju-Ju Hearts."

" I guess I have to keep searching."

This Year Valentine's Day comes on a Saturday. There's that faint hope that I might could still meet somebody before the big night. I might "get Lucky" on the Friday Night before....

...wait. That's Friday The 13th. Dammit.

She was my Voodoo Queen, and She Stole my Ju-Ju Heart.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Goodbye Julie. I never met you, but I loved what you gave us.

Without one Man there'd be no Barry Allen FLASH. There'd be no Hal Jordan GREEN LANTERN. No Ray Palmer ATOM. No Justice League.
Heck, there probably wouldn't have been a Silver Age of Comic-Book Heroes. Even though He worked for D.C., without the success of the new stories helmed by Julius Schwarz, there would have been no drive at Marvel to publish new competing super-hero comics, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby et al. would have gone down with their ship still churning out giant monster comics and westerns. I can't imagine my childhood without Spider-Man, The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men. Indirectly, Julie Schwarz was even responsible for the great success of his competitors.

And Ambush Bug just would not have been as funny without that xeroxed caricature of Julie floating around.

It's not just comics that Julie influenced. He came to comics after a succesful career editing science fiction. Without Julius Scharz, we might never have read stories by Ray Bradbury and many others.

Rest in Peace, Julius Schwarz.

Mark Evanier has been running some great bio info on julie in his blog: news from me Go over there and learn.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

This was posted to the Zinegeeks group on Yahoo. Somebody asked if any of us knew anything about our ancestry. I thought it was a good blog piece. Or at least more interesting than telling y'all thatI sat around the house all day watching the DVDs for Lost in Translation and American Splendor

My Mom's Paternal family (League) were Scottish/Irish Immigrant farmers who
settled in the Tennessee foothills in the early 1800s. No major
landholders, they were peasant farmers really , right up thru the
depression. There is a distant cousin documented in My grandmother's family
bible (oneof those with all the family history hand-written in the flyleaves
and endpapers) as having signed up for "the wrong side" (Union) in the
Civil War.
My Mom's Mother was a Ford. She was a 5th cousin to Henry. Her Mother (my
great-grandmother) was a full-blooded Cherokee.

On Dad's side, I'm told the Stecklers were feudal barons in Germany until
the mid-to-late 19th century. The Family story goes that Kaiser Wilhelm
purged the nobles, and either my great-, or great-great Grandfather was
smuggled out of the country as a child. The Strathmeyers were our family
groundskeepers, they were allowed to emigrate, and brought my ancestor
with them out of Germany, posing as one of their children. Supposedly the
money they were paid for smuggling him was used to establish their forestry
business here in the U.S. (They are one of the largest growers of Christmas
trees in the State now)

Unfortunately, The Steckler Family has a history of deep blood-feuds
between siblings. I know that my Great-grandfather had a rift with his
brother Max, and Max took his young family and headed west at the turn of
the century, never to be heard from again by my branch of the family. (my
dad had a similar split with his sister in the 70s...they didn't move away,
but i still rarely see my Aunt, or my cousins)

In 1991, I was moving from Virginia to Ohio, and stopped in Ashland
Kentucky for a rest break. On the square downtown is a large abandoned
dept. store, with a huge neon sign out front that says "Steckler's". I
inquired around town, to see if maybe i had relatives, but the old owner of
the Drug Store across the street said, "No...They all left town soon after
ol' Max died." When i heard the name Max, i was going to whip out my ID,
and say i was related, but his next sentence was, "They were Jews..."
I quickly remembered that i was in Kentucky, and thanked him and left. I
do know that my dad has Jewish cousins, so I still think that I'm related
to that Kentucky branch.
I often see the name "Doug Steckler" in movie credits, and wonder if
it's a distant cousin. A part of Max's family that went all the way west.
Yes I also wonder about Ray Dennis Steckler, and the other Ben Steckler that
played for Michigan State a couple years ago.

I'd like to try and verify the story of how my dad's family got to
America, but now all of my Grandparent's generation are dead, and My dad's
generation aren't very clear on the story. I know that many European
immigrants of the late 1800s had "stories" of being royalty, and i wonder
if the story of the Barons Steckler was just a fairy tale used to give some
"status" to a young Immigrant businessman trying to get his store open (my
great-grandfather and grandfather were hardware store owners).

My Mom's family story is documented, but My Dad's family story isn't. i
think the feuding every generation or so might have prevented any

Friday, February 06, 2004

I initiall posted part of this over on a thread at Slushfactory, but i wanted to expand on it, and thought it would be a good Blog topic for the day.

Growing up, My Friend Carl always liked to be the Banker in Monopoly, and when he was getting low on cash in the game, he'd declare loudly: GENEROUS BANK!, and start handing everybody $500 bills.

Why can't Life be more like a game with Carl?

G.W. didn't go far enough with his tax rebates. He needs to put Carl in charge of the Fed.

i write this as the mailman comes, delivering my last unemployment check. I've exhausted even my extension, waiting for a better-than-retail, better-than-the pizza-shop job to come along. I'd like to get something worthy of my College education and Military Experience, but I've been out of that loop for over ten years.
I'm not desperate yet. I have a healthy IRS refund coming this week, and I've been doing a few hundred a month in ebay sales. So I'm okay into March. But i really need to get out there and find something soon.
I don't have an endless supply of stuff to sell on ebay, unless more people start buying my own creations.
Convention season is starting up, so I'll be going to shows again soon, about one a month.

I guess it's time to start practicing at the fryvat. Then my transformation into underground artist will be complete.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Why Am i Such a Smartass Sometimes?
Why, when a Housemate says something like, "If The Phone Rings, I'll Be in the Bathroom."

Why am I compelled to shout back, "Where will you be if the phone doesn't ring?" or, "Okay, I'll alert the Media!"

I gotta think it gets tiresome, and it's probably one of the reasons Old Friends don't keep in touch with me.
But I can't stop myself.

And i really don't want to stop it, either. I think having a quick wit like that helps me keep my comics funny, and i wouldn't want to lose it. But I know it has to annoy people that are around me too long.

Maybe Dad didn't smack me around enough for having a smart mouth when i was a kid. Heck, Dad did just the opposite. He encouraged it by laughing.

The School bullies tried to discourage me.

Maybe now i do it just to spite those kids that pounded me for making smart-ass remarks. Yeah. That's it.

Fuck 'em.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Athens, GA: Outside In
My 36 Hours in Hipsville South for FLUKE

Well I took off Friday morning around 8 am for the first grand road trip experiment of 2004. Destination Athens, GA, land of a thousand bands (it seems), to expose myself artistically to the South East at the mini-comics event known as FLUKE. FLUKE doesn't really stand for anything, although Festival of Largely Unmarketable Kinds of Entertainment was suggested at one point in its genesis a couple years ago.

I had an 11-hour drive to get there, but that went smoothly. The CD player was my traveling companion, and it was loaded with The BoomTown Rats' A Tonic for the Troops, Jon Spencer's Plastic Fang, The new disc from JET, a 2-disc live Stray Cats collection, and also faves from BLONDIE, DEVO, QUEEN, The SPECIALS, Guadalcanal Diary, The Fleshtones, Graham Parker, The Donnas, Southern CUlture on he Skids, and many more. With plenty of happy, peppy tunes, a cooler full of Mountain Dew Code Red, some Combos, some Goetz' Caramel Creams, and some Twizzler Bites, I was set for the trip.

I was humming Screaming Jay Hawkin's version of "I Love Paris" as i hit the highway, because the mini-comic I'd be debuting at the show was my I LUV PARIS which adapted her infamous night-vision internet phenom into a comics parody. I'd made a limited edition of 50 copies for the show, with silk-screen covers. I was determined to make back some of the money I'd spent on eye medicine in November and December. You might not know it, but what made my UVEITIS flare up in the left eye back in November was straining to see enough detail in that video clip to draw the parody. That stuff took six weeks to heal.
I'd also printed up a fresh batch of my Chick Tract parody trilogy, and the set of f-ARTjoke minis. I'm glad I did, because the dick and fart jokes kept their streak alive, and outsold all my other material.

I rolled in to Athens around 8:00 P.M., got checked into the cheapest motel i could find, and went off to locate the Tight Pockets zine hangout/event space, where a pre-show party had been organized. I found the location, then found a six-pack shop and got myself some Mike's Hard Lemonade, and enjoyed the performances by We Versus The Shark, a second band i can't remember the name of, and ELF Power.
Elf Power are very impressive punk-pop.
At first the only person at the party I recognized was todd bak, and i felt somewhat like a chaperone in this place, where the average kid was 19 years my junior. But I spotted an issue of Carrie McNinch's FOOD GEEK on the zine table, and pointed out the page I'd contributed, and that was something of an Ice Breaker. I met a nice, talkative punk girl named Cat, and we had some conversation. I also had the thrill of chatting with a zinester who originally hailed from Annapolis, but was doing some kind of activist work in Athens. He assumed that I was also an activist and asked if I had been to the anti-war actions in York, PA. I steered the conversation toward a safer topic, York's Former Mayor and Murder Defendant Charlie Robertson, and people who got arrested for punching police horses during the last anti-racism rally in my lovely Downtown. Then the bands started playing, and it was too loud to talk, so I was rescued.

Then i got a surprise as Missy Kulik, a fellow Pennsylvanian mini-comics artisan entered the gig. I didn't know that she'd moved down to Athens. We got caught up on our mutual zine aquaintances, she told me about the mini she'd just collaborated on with John Porcellino (which I picked up a copy of on Saturday), and i shared some of the Misun and John items tht have been discussed on the Small Diary yahoo group.
Then we watched Elf Power's set. After a few songs, I was feeling beat, though, and headed back to my Hotel for the night.

Saturday began with me watching a Rhythmic Gymnastics competition on The Oxygen network in the Hotel. To me, Rhythmic Gymnastics can be very erotic. Especially the routines with the ball. If they knew the reaction I have when i catch this on TV, they wouldn't be carryiong it on the Oxygen Network. They'd put it on Spike TV.
Then I put together my kit for the show, and headed into town. On the way, I passed by the world famous The Varsity Diner. I'd seen them featured on a PBS documentary about Hotdogs, so I thought I'd get my breakfast/lunch there. I had one of their chili-cheese dogs and a "Co-Cola". It didn't really live up to the hype, but maybe it's because it was just after opening on a non-football Saturday, so the place wasn't hopping with it's much-touted atmosphere. I still saved my paper plate as a souvenir.
I wandered around town, snapped some tourist photos, took some pics of odd signs I noticed, and felt the need for a bathroom, but i still had about 45 minutes before i could get into Tasty World for the comic show, so i stopped at The Diner on College, and used the facilities, and also had some Orange Juice and Grits. Yes. I had breakfast after I had lunch. So I'm screwed up. Bite me.
I recognized my busboy as a member of We Versus The Shark from the night before. I think everybody in Athens is either making art or in a band, and they all have dayjobs in the service industry, or in retail.
Athens would be a cool place to live, but I bet it's hard to find a job there that pays a living wage. I heard some folk over the weekend discussing how they enjoyed their jobs, despite that they only made $6.50 an hour. I'm sure the steady influx of college students and artists/musicians looking for a break provides a very deep pool of wage slaves from which employers may choose. In other words, Athens doesn't need a Wal-Mart to keep wages low. Maybe I'm offbase. I shouldn't base my opinion of the town's economy on a couple over-heard conversations among punks.

The actual FLUKE comics show was fun. I saw bak, and Sam Henderson, Erica Merchant and Jeff Mason, and Missy Kulik, and Drew Weing all again, and finally met in person many folk who i only knew as message board posters at Finally I had faces to associate with the names Robert Newsome, Patrick Dean, Devlin Thompson, J. Chris Campbell, and Justin Colloussey Estes. I also met Klon Waldrip, whose crazy minis blew my mind a couple years ago when i first saw them. This guy is the Hillbilly answer to Johnny Ryan. Really funny, but extremely sick, humor. Then i see him holding his new baby, and he's just a normal guy.

I met several other comics folk from the area, and overall, had a nicely profitable show. I'll be posting my pics later tonight at the FLUKE page on my site.
Saturday Night was the Fluke Afterparty at Tasty World. The Trapeze Tarts got things going with a sexy, yet tasteful, trapeze performance. What i said earlier about Rhythmic Gymnastics goes double here.
Next up was a 3-piece band called The Bent. For a minute, when i saw this name on the poster, I wondered if they expected me to perform. They were good, led by a cute seet girl who reminded me of a young Kelly Deal. Next up was Madeleine and The Beats. This was their first show together as a band, but they were tight, and kept the crowd pumped. I was told Madeleine is a local star already, having been a member of a defunct popular group called The SugarShakers.
The headliner was The Carrie Nations. Wow. Infectious Onstage Energy out the Wa-ZOO. They steamed up the windows of the joint, and had the whole place jumping around and doffing layer after layer of clothing. I'd estimate a snall crowd of about 20 fans actually spent the whole set dancing up on the stage in the middle of the band. I was impressed with the group, and had to go pick up their vinyl.
They really got the crowd excited, and before we knew it it was 2 a.m., and the club had to close up. I probably could have had myself a one-night-stand if I'd wanted, there was more than one girl whom I'd been chatting with thru the night, and a couple of them inquired if I'd be sticking around town for the night.
But I'm stupid, and wasn't going to try my luck. I really wanted to get at least six hours sleep before I had to hit the road in the morning. Oh man. I'd rather plan ahead for an 11 hour drive home than spend
a few minutes, uh, hours, of ecstacy with a perky, smart southern-belle blond named Stephanie. Maybe I really ought to open up those e-mails I've been getting about Viagra.

go to my site for the pics! and Go to Bizarro Wuxtry at 225 College Avenue in Athens if you didn't get my books while i was in town. They are now the best place in the South to find my work! --BenT