A shamelessly self-promoting column

by Chris Auman, Froghat fan

September 2019

Chris Auman is a big fan of Froghat.

I know what I did last summer

I had a good summer, I must say. Sarah and I kicked it off by attending a wedding in Florida where many lizards were spotted darting about the trees and rocks outside our lodgings.

We traveled around the Midwest a bit, went camping in Michigan, read a lot, and started swimming laps at the Portage Park pool.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had as little responsibility as I did starting around June. In May, I left a job at a company where I realized, once again, that I’m not a big fan of working for other people. Instead of blindly plunging into yet another unfulfilling job, I took a break.

As summer ends and fall begins, it’s back to freelance writing for me. I’ve never had a job I loved more. I regret giving it up when I did, but there were reasons, most of them financial. It’s a challenging job, that’s for sure, but that’s ok. It suits me.

One myth about freelancing is that it gives you more time to work on your own creative projects. That ain't necessarily so. It’s not impossible though and I have a few projects on the burners.

On the front burner

I’m publishing zines again!--actual physical zines that you can hold in your hands and sniff the ink on the pages, if you’re so inclined.

Wave the Gray Flag

My first publication is Gray Flag #1, which I hope to do in a series. The title comes from a rejected band name that I was really in favor of but was outnumbered. My fellow band members took it as a jokey play on our collecitve ages. To me, however, it's more about recognizing where you are in your life. We couldn't agree on that or anything else and the whole project fizzled out, but I dig the name so I repurposed it.

I like the symbolism of gray. If black is the flag of anarchy and white is the flag of surrender, then gray is somewhere in between.

The first issue is a collection of journal entries I wrote while I was a student at Columbia College in the early '90s. I’ve wanted to do something with them for the past 25 years. Now I have.  

Slithering right along...

I also completed my first attempt at a minicomic, Sssnakes!!! #1. This is a comic strip I’ve returned to repeatedly over the past decades. Previous strips have been published in Roctober and Reglar Wiglar. I’ve drawn and redrawn various versions many times and have been working on this issue for a long time. It lay dormant for many years--since my time in Madison, WI a few years back, but it still looks like it was thrown together in a few hours. Mission accomplished, I guess. I already have plans for the next issue and the issue after that will be very different from the previous two and that may very well end the series.

Both the zine and comic are for sale at Quimby’s and Chicago Comics, along with issues of Reglar Wiglar #22 through #25and everything is available through RoosterCow Press.

On the back burner

Empire Smalls has been resurrected as a full band featuring two old friends and former collaborators, Tim Davison and Mike Dixon. It's turned out to be a lot of fun and things are getting weird right on schedule. I hope we can play a show sometime before the end of the year, but we'll have to see how it goes.

Recommended reading

I must say, I don’t keep up with the latest publications or music releases any more. I still review records, books, zines and comics from time to time and post them on the Reglar Wiglar website, when I get an inkling, but turnaround for these reviews is mighty slow. Instead of keeping up with all the new stuff (which is impossible, anyway), I just randomly stumble across stuff either in used bookstores, like Sputnick Books and Records in Portage Park, or even My Little Libraries.

I did happen to stop by Chicago Comics recently while in Lakeview on an unrelated errand, where I bought Head Lopper Volume 2: Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower.

Someone gave me the first four issues of Head Lopper awhile back. I read them, enjoyed them, forgot about them, but remembered them and figured I’d continue reading the series. They are, of course, super violent but I love Andrew MacLean’s artwork. I especially love the coloring which seems to have gotten much better in the second volume.

I also picked up My Hot Date, by Noah Van Sciver. It lived up to the hype. This short autobiographical comic, published in 2015, has won Van Sciver praise from R. Crumb as well as an Ignatz Award and is well-deserving of both.

I was in my late 20s when Noah was suffering through his teenage years—I had problems of my own though, believe me. I only know late '90s pop culture from that particular lens and it was godawful—the sagging, wide-ass-bottom JNCO jeans, the infected-looking face piercings, and the horrible, horrible music. Anyway, check it out. He’s done other great books too, like The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln, for example.

One more from my comic-buying mini binge: Your Black Friend is a great lesson in how your black friend feels about you (assuming you are white, of course). This comic by artist Ben Passmore is socially relevant, revealing, and the art is fantastic.

I finally got around to reading Under the Big Black Sun by John Doe and Tom DeSavia (et al). It's been a few years since this book about the original LA punk scene was published. I've heard many of the stories contained in this book before. I think I have Mike Watt's Minutmen creation story memorized, but there are voices that I haven't heard before like Pleasant "Screamin' Sirens" Gehman, Robert "El Vez" Lopez, and Jane "The Go-gos" Wiedlen.

The LA music scene was just as vibrant, exciting, and inspiring as any other that came out of the 1970s. Like others around the country and the world, it eventually devolved into a violent conformist tribal/macho/aggro mess which also gave rise to a horrible (at times) blend of punk metal, but I digress.

If you enjoy reading about the original 70s punk revolutions that broke out all over the planet, then look no further than Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk.

And speaking about exploding punk rock scenes, check out the Reglar Wiglar website for my review of Alexander Herbert's oral history of punk from the Soviet Era to the present, What About Tomorrow.

That's all I got. Have a good fall, ya'll!

© 2019 chris auman