Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks Special: Interview with Todd from Junkfed!!!

Welcome dear readers! A while back I posted an interview with my good friend, Miss M, she being the mistressmind behind the cooly constructed chaos that is the Diary of a Dorkette blog. Well, I thought it was high time to bug another of my internet buddies with a string of what I assume are inconceivably invasive and indubitably inane questions about their comings and goings.

This time around, the victim-- errr... I mean the subject... in the hot seat is none other than Todd Rogers of the Junk Fed blog. Todd and I travel in some of the same internet circles, and have been aware of each other for some time now. We Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at each other occasionally (click on those respective links to investigate and ultimately follow him if you know what's good for you...), he once won a Mayor McCheese from the giveaway right here on Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks, and we even set up a glorious trade a while back which was documented here as well.

Todd is an artist, a writer, a geek, a fan, a collector, and is in and of himself an online presence to be reckoned with. The following is an instant messaging conversation we had the other morning when we both sat down to do the interview. Enjoy!

Also a quick note to let you know that (unless otherwise noted) ALL of the photography from this blog post is Todd's own photography, most of it picked fresh from his blog, his Instagram feed, or supplied directly by him. 

This is Todd. I have never seen him in person but I assume he is not the Dalek.

Goodwill Geek: First off, thanks for meeting with me, and agreeing to subject yourself to this! I truly appreciate it.

Todd Rogers: You're welcome. And thanks for having me. Let me just say that I love your house band.

Goodwill Geek: Aw thanks! Let me get right down to it then: Tell me a little about your blog, and what you do over there. Where did the name “Junk Fed” come from and what does it mean to you?

Todd Rogers: Half-jokingly, I refer to myself as a nostalgia junkie. I love thinking about my place in time and feeling connected to the ghosts of old moments. My blog was a way to distill some of the memories from the past, and evaluate how they relate to who I am today. Naturally, I labored over what to call the website. Eventually, I realized that the common thread in my timeline was a love for American popular culture (which isn't always the most nutritious stuff) and the name fell into place.

Goodwill Geek: That actually leads perfectly into my next question then: On the blog you describe yourself as “a pop culture enthusiast, a chronic nostalgist, a creative escapist, and a lunatic completist.” Explain those four aspects and how they combine together to make the giant multicolored robot that is “Junk Fed”.

"Do we combine? So... do we climb on each other's shoulders?"
"Why did he use this picture?"

Todd Rogers: The pop culture enthusiasm is something that has always been with me. My mind isn't a very good container for useful or practical, but it is super absorbent when it comes to movies, television, and the like. I've always been the guy that people come to when they can’t recall the name of a movie, or what else they've seen Hal Linden in. The creative escapist is indicative of my love for getting lost in a story, be it one I am consuming, or one I am creating. As mentioned before, the chronic nostalgist part, is my need for time travel. I qualify it as "chronic" because nostalgia historically, gets a bad rap. It's sometimes viewed as unhealthy. I disagree. I think it's a useful way to understand one’s own relativity in time. Lunatic completist speaks to my obsessive need to follow through to the end. This trait, at times is a bit unhealthy. (*Pardon my loquaciousness!)

Goodwill Geek: I love loquaciousness!

Oh man... not one of THOSE guys.

Todd Rogers:  My completist tendencies are problematic at times. More often than I’d like to admit, I find myself plodding through a terrible movie, or book that I'm really not enjoying. This can be a bit of a time waster.

Goodwill Geek: I've certainly been in that same boat before, you feel like you've invested a certain amount of time and energy that you can't get back in something and now you have to see it out to the grim finish... when most people would just kind of toss it aside say, "Bored now!" and start the next thing.

Todd Rogers: Exactly! It can be maddening, and I’m getting better at breaking out of that habit. I have OCD (not in the “OMG I am sooo OCD sense), so for me, it's important to escape such behaviors

Goodwill Geek: I want to come back to the OCD in a little while, since you have written about it on the blog in detail... but first, I want to talk about the nostalgia piece. One of the reasons I’ve been dying to talk to you for so long has been your writing on nostalgia. You don’t approach it as just a “Hey, remember that thing?” kind of concept, but as a springboard to talk about your personal experiences.

There is nothing I can write in this caption to enhance your digestion of this picture.

Todd Rogers: Well, the internet is rife with "Hey remember that thing" types of articles. They have their place. But I was more interested in examining "that thing's" importance, place in time, and what it means to me. I think even though my stories are uniquely mine, there are bound to be people out there who can relate. There's nothing I find more gratifying than to connect with another human through a similar experience.

Goodwill Geek: You definitely spend a lot of time dissecting your own feelings about your own past on your blog. It never seems to simply be “I liked this, it was cool,” as much as it is some deeper experience tied to things as varied as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Bobcat Goldthwaite. Did you set out with the express purpose of "finding the deeper meaning" of your love of nostalgia, or is that just kind of where the blog has gone?

Todd Rogers: I think it just happened. I wasn't sure what my goal was.

Goodwill Geek: I think a lot of blogs start out that way. We're sort of looking for a way to express a love of something and it then evolves into whatever the theme just organically becomes.

Todd Rogers: Right, and that evolution usually brings forth something infinitely more interesting. Otherwise it's like that old Chris Farley skit... “Member that thing? That was cool.”

"'Member that time I interviewed Todd Rogers?
That was cool."

Goodwill Geek: Some of your topics seem to come from some outer limits orbit that a lot of people don't tap into. It's refreshing because the reader really never knows what to expect from your blog. One day I’m reading a feminist treatise a la Ms. Pacman, or the next I'mtearing up over a post about Spaghettios-with-Franks and hugging my kids and they’re looking at me like I’m crazy. I'm not going to ask "where do you get your ideas?" so much as I'm going to ask "How do you prioritize what's blog-worthy?" You're pretty up front in each post where the impetus for the post came from... how do you filter out what is blog worthy and what just kind of fades off into the ether? I imagine you sculpting your mashed potatoes at dinner and asking “Does this mean something?” and then slumping your shoulders and saying “Nah… But Brim coffee… I can spin a post out of that…

I forgot to ask Todd any questions about Quint here, his cat. Todd LOVES his cat.
He's been quoted as saying he wishes he could BE a cat.
Quint likes to sniff... a lot of Todd's stuff.

Todd Rogers: How did you know about my mashed potato sculptures? Are you spying on me? Anything is blog worthy. There's a story be told anywhere. Naturally, not all stories will appeal to all audiences, but that's not my goal: The idea that something I had to say could affect someone is. If it makes me feel a little bit of nostalgic melancholy, I figure it's worth telling. I've been told a couple of times now that some of my articles have moved people to tears. It may sound weird to say, but I consider that a high honor. Not because I'm a sadist that finds pleasure in making folks cry, but because I've simply made them feel something. It's about human connection. We are all alone inside these vessels, and it's so easy to forget the other.

Goodwill Geek: I seriously teared up over the Spaghettios post. It spoke a lot to my own childhood honestly. I think that's another part of the power your blog has. In exploring your own nostalgia and experiences, you open up yourself as a person and let the reader share those memories. I see a lot of myself in some of those posts. I think a lot of the "weird kids" who played off in the corner by themselves quietly with their toys can really relate to a lot of the feelings you put out there. And none of the posts feel orchestrated to "make" the reader feel anything. There's good in with the bad... it is what it is. It's memory, it's the past. It's how we look at those experiences as adults now and how we feel them and analyze them.

The emotional depths of this bowl are...
(Go read the post and see if you can laugh at this then, chuckles.)

Todd Rogers: Yeah, Spaghettios can be pretty emotional. Seriously, though. Thanks for saying that. I'm honored. The whole point is sharing. Our stories might not be exact, but we’re more alike than we think. And yes, the good with the bad is a common theme in my writing. Life isn't black and white. I'm just now recognizing that there's a whole spectrum that needs to be honored in order to get the whole experience, if that makes any sense.

Goodwill Geek: Has blogging helped you find perspective on your life events and memories… or did your perspective on those things lead to the blog? It’s kind of a chicken-or-egg question in a way: Is the blog leading you to explore concepts or are you just using the blog to present your explorations?

Todd Rogers: I think blogging has opened me up quite a bit, and helped me to feel more whole. But really, it's a little of both. Sometimes I’ll set out to write about something that I'd previously unlocked, and other times it's the directionless writing that helps me unlock something.

Goodwill Geek: So now I want to ask you about your OCD. Not so much your personal experiences, but on your decisionto blog about it. In fact, you're pretty open and raw about a lot of personal issues on your blog. Family members with addiction, your own feelings of isolation and loneliness... and your frustrations both personally and culturally with OCD. Has putting all this out there helped you deal with those issues? Have you heard from any readers who have been able to relate to what you've shared?

I started counting the number of times people around me casually tossed the term "OCD" around.
I started asking myself how often I did it.

Todd Rogers: I still wonder if being so open about my OCD was a wise choice. It's not an easy subject, and folks can get spooked reading something like that. But it's out there, and I feel okay about it ultimately. Like with the rest of my subject matter, blogging about it has helped me process it, ultimately defanging the big bad monster. And if it should chase anyone off, I’ll consider that a litmus test pf people worth knowing. I actually have heard from some readers with OCD thanking me for sharing my experiences. When OCD first sunk its teeth into me, I felt so uniquely crazy. Over the years, learning about it, and reading about the experiences of others has been immensely helpful. My intention with sharing was to hopefully pass on that helpfulness to another.

Goodwill Geek: I hope you don't feel a single regret about that decision. I don't have OCD, but I also think that absolutely everyone out there has some baggage (heavy or light) that they carry around in shame, thinking they are absolutely alone. And the more people that speak out (You mention some very high profile (OCD) sufferers on your blog that have taken the same step to share their experiences) and give a voice to that feeling, the more people just don't feel alone. I think the geek community is desperately in need of more voices like that, speaking up and pointing out that there's no real such thing as the classic idea of "normal" so let's all just relax.

Todd Rogers: I stand by my decision to post it. And should I ever change my mind, I can always delete the post, erasing it from the internet forever. That's how the internet works, right?

How the internet works.

Goodwill Geek: You've... met the internet right? Let's move on.

Todd Rogers:  Hahah

Goodwill Geek: Halloween seems to get a special dose of attention on your blog. There are posts about your obsession with Ben Cooper Masks, Fangoria Magazine, and various experiencesyou've had with the holiday. Do you consider yourself a Halloween nut? Why does it resonate do you think?


Todd Rogers: Oh, that's a tough one… Up until about the ages of 10 or 11, I was pretty terrified of scary movies and gore. Perhaps excessively. My father was a bit of a movie freak, who didn't filter his viewing choices when I was present, so I was exposed to a lot of pretty graphic horror at a young age. At the same time, my dad, also a Vietnam Vet, would recount some pretty vivid horror stories from the war. The man has no filter. I think I had trouble differentiating the real from the fake. These fears subsided when I was introduced to Fangoria magazine. The behind the scenes pictorials really took the edge off. Otherwise, I think Halloween resonates with me because it's a season in which it's socially acceptable to honor your inner child.

Goodwill Geek: That's really got to be a big part of it for me too, I think. There's this balance I like to strike every year between the legitimately scary, and juvenile. I firmly believe Halloween is not just "for kids" but I think it definitely honors a big part of that magic you felt AS a kid. Except as an adult you're in on how to... create (?) that magic a bit more. My Aunt was constantly renting films like Creepshow or taking me to see things like American Werewolf in London at the drive in at a ridiculously young age. I think those kinds of experiences that repulse you a bit as a kid tend to be what kind of draw you back as an adult as well.

Todd Rogers: Indeed. Being in on the magic is pretty special.


Goodwill Geek: Besides Halloween or horror, what are some of your old favorites from when you were a kid? Things you really miss or pine for? Toys or movies? Comics or cartoons? (Your display of Burger King Star Wars glasses is a thing of pure beauty by the way…)

I want to go to there.

Todd Rogers: Thanks. I do love those old glasses. Since completing that set, I've acquired full sets of Star Trek the Animated Series, E.T., and Battlestar Galactica glasses. Those old fast food premiums embody the Junk Fed idea for me.

If you think of a caption for this one, put it in the comments.
I'm too busy weeping with jealousy.

Goodwill Geek: I think I was talking with someone awhile back about how much I hate myself for loving Fast Food premiums so much. They're so ingrained in my childhood I can't help it. The food is just terrible, but it feels like a childhood rite of passage or something.

Todd Rogers: Yes, the fast food stuff truly is junk, but such wonderful junk. There's no way in hell that I would support any of the fast food places that were a staple of my youth, but oh the memories. Otherwise, thanks to the internet, and eBay, I don't have to pine for too long. I love that I can catch up with a show like Voyagers, or Manimal through streaming services.

I was trying to think of a "They see me rollin'" joke here...
But damned if I don't just want to go out and ride my big wheel RIGHT NOW.
A young Todd Rogers in the 'hood.

Goodwill Geek: Oh there are so many outlets available for the nostalgia-obsessed these days! What about new fandom discoveries you’ve made that you’re excited about? I understand you’re a relative newcomer to the Doctor Who phenomena (not that you’ve let that stop you from getting caught up on decades worth of material in a relatively short time)?

Todd Rogers: Oh man, I certainly was swallowed up by Doctor Who. I remember avoiding it for so long, being fully aware of my completist tenancies. But one day, on a whim, I found myself watching the first episode of the revival series on Netflix, and I was in.... I watched the full run of the revival, and then sought out the classic series, and watched it all. Thankfully, I'm able to watch as I work, otherwise I'd get nothing done. Employment of time AND space travel lends itself to infinite possibilities, and I feel it really tapped directly into my imagination. Granted, much of the classic series is pretty low quality in spots, but I think that allows the imagination of the viewer to do the heavy lifting. Otherwise, I've been able to parlay my nostalgic personality into more artistic endeavors.

The atrocities committed on this table make Frankenstein look like Frankenheimer's "Island of Dr. Moreau".

Goodwill Geek: Well, speaking of your artistic endeavors AND fandoms combined... I want to know more about SpaceMadness, your tongue-in-cheek hybrid sci-fi bootleg action figure/art figureline. There are obviously a couple of posts on your blog about these figuresyou Frankenstein together in your basement… but tell us more. How much work goes into crafting a single figure from start to finish? Are there plans to continue expanding the line?

Just a small sampling of the Space Madness crew.

Todd Rogers: Yeah, I accidentally stumbled into the weird world of designer toys a couple of years ago. It started with an inexplicable need to combine a 3.75" Stormtrooper action figure with a Spock action figure. The result is a remixed weirdo I call the Imperial Spocktrooper. I illustrated a Space Madness cardback that nods to the vintage Kenner packaging and started producing small quantities in my basement with some level of success. Since then I've produced a handful of other hybrid figures that combine sci-fi archetypes, and have been invited to sell them at comic and art conventions. There will definitively be more Space Madness figures to come, but I'm beginning to branch out into different themes, with the ultimate goal of designing and producing original toys. 

The basement lair of the mad artiste.

Each figure requires more work than I’d like to admit. From cobbling together parts, sculpting a prototype, to creating a mold, casting, painting, and packaging, they average at about 3 hours of work each. Thankfully I have old Doctor Who episodes to keep me entertained.


Goodwill Geek: You obviously have other projects outside of Space Madness as well. You did an incredible Andre the Giant/They Live mashup a short while ago. Tell me the story behind that.

"Everybody CONSUME a peanut!"

Todd Rogers: I liked the idea of playing with the Obey Giant art by the street artist Shepard Fairy, which itself is a nod to the movie They Live. I the Eighties, Fairy created the now ubiquitous Andre the Giant Has a Posse image and campaign with has been infinitely riffed on by other artists. My contribution to what Fairy refers to as an experiment in phenomenology was to bring it back to the source idea. I sculpted a “They Live” alien head onto an Andre the Giant body, and called it “Andre the Giant's Posse has a Posse”. Now I'm just waiting on a cease and desist letter from Shepard Fairy.

Apparently I am the ONE person left on the WHOLE f**king internet who hasn't heard of this before?

Goodwill Geek: Oh wow. I feel so out of the loop. I wasn't aware of that at all. Errrr… NEXT QUESTION! I read on your blog that you attended your first convention in 2012. How is the experience different now? Do you consider yourself an old pro at this point? Are you embedded in the con-culture?

Todd Rogers: I sure do get a kick out of the conventions. They are great hubs of creativity and imagination. They are all also cacophonous behemoths of consumerism, but I'm more there for the former than the latter. I’m certainly not an old pro and though I've started attending as an exhibitor, I still have a fan's heart. It’s so great to meet likeminded humans, and creators that you respect and admire.

I've never met Todd before but... wait did I do the not-the-Dalek joke already?

Goodwill Geek: Well, as someone who has never attended one, I am both terrified and horribly jealous. I think it is very much a social/personal space thing for me. But it also looks great to commune with the likeminded and put yourself out there.

Todd Rogers: Indeed it is. I understand being terrified. I wasn't too fond of big crowds and enclosed space, but I've approached it as a kind of exposure therapy. Now I regard it as an adventure. A crowded, sweaty, sometimes smelly adventure.

Goodwill Geek: I think I will continue to take your word for it for the time being... but maybe someday soon... who knows? In the mean-time, speaking of “communing with the likeminded and putting yourself out there”, I've heard you podcast on Nerd Lunch (this iswhere I learned of your aforementioned appreciation for all things Who) and I’ve also read that you have plans to begin a Junk Fed podcast of your own. How is it coming along, and what can we expect from it?

Coming to an iTunes near you.

Todd Rogers: It is in the works, but this summer has turned out to be busier than anticipated, so it has been delayed. Hopefully, I'll be able to get into it this fall. The intention is to touch on some of the subjects I explore in my blog, the nostalgia, joys, and pains of childhood but with a rotating panel of guests. I'll be like the Barbara Walters of nostalgia.


Goodwill Geek: Work on your Barbara Wawa impression and ask questions like: "If you could be a Twee(Ent) what kind of twee(Ent) would you be?" We're closing in on the end now here. Just couple more questions. First, what's up with all the tomatoes? Are you an avid gardener?

Todd Rogers: I'm more of a half-assed gardener. I'm very into it in early spring, but give up on the weeding midsummer. Even with the half assednes, I wind up with with a bunch of tomatoes, cilantro, basil, and zucchini.

"You say tomato, I say tomato.." that song doesn't work in text really.

Goodwill Geek: What's going on with you and They Might Be Giants? (He asked casually, trying not to freak out...)

Todd Rogers: I've been the graphic designer for Asbestos Records for nearly 15 years. Over the past few years they've been acquiring the rights to and re-releasing a bunch older titles. In almost all cases, the original artwork was lost so it's my job to restore the art from a number of sources, and redesign the art. Thanks to irresponsible art archiving, I've had the chance to work on the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Dead Milkmen, Fishbone, and They Might be Giants. It's really great work and consider myself honored. It's a bit surreal because I am recreating the very art I used to pore over as the record played in my teen years.


Goodwill Geek: Now that I'm done screaming into a pillow in the other room, here's the big one: What do you love most about toys, toy collecting (and/or creating), being a geek, fandoms, all of it?

Yet another of my Gracelands.

Todd Rogers: Oh boy. I feel more like an art collector than a toy collector. My collection focuses on vintage stuff from the 60s to 80s. I find these artifacts to be pieces of art. I suppose it's not too dissimilar to how Warhol found beauty and value in a soup can. Also, these crude plastic objects are totems of a time past. I appreciate them on an almost anthropological level. Perhaps I'm making it more highbrow than it actually is, but it's what makes me a fan.

Goodwill Geek: I don't think it comes off as too highbrow or pretentious if that's what you're worried about... I think we all have our reasons for collecting what we collect. I think "toy collecting" here could really be better phrased as "pop-culture paraphernalia collecting" and we all have our reasons for doing that. Yours is no more or less valid.

Zayre's baby!

All right. That was it! I want to thank you again for joining me for this chat and for sharing your blog and yourself with my readers. Any other big projects coming down the pipeline? Anything else you’d like to share with us before I let you go?

Todd Rogers: Thanks for the interest. I'm truly happy to have had this opportunity to connect with you and your readers. For folks who plan on attending, I will be exhibiting at New York Comic Con in October, so stop by and say hello. Otherwise, I think we've covered all things Junk Fed. Excelsior!

Some days you just can't get rid of a trick or treat pail.

Well that's it for tonight kids! I want to take one last opportunity to thank Todd for sitting down to what was supposed to be an hour long interview and that quickly spiralled out of control. Days later, when the interview ended, I was pretty happy with the results though! Todd, you have a gift for writing that I both envy and admire! Your ability to tap into the past and bring forth the good the bad, the melancholy, and the whimsical is amazing.

Yes little Todd, that is an adult you up there in a Batman mask.
Be afraid.

I want to of course urge everyone reading this to go check out where Todd regularly time travels and comes back with ephemera and tchotchkes and artifacts of the past that he then analyses for us online. Don't miss it. Also check out his Junkfed store, so he doesn't have to be a starving artist. He has that cat to feed too. At the time of this writing there were still some Space Madness figures and even a coloring book available over there, so be sure to give him all your money. 

So I guess it's time to sign off now kids! I'll be back soon with some Geeky Goodwill Goodies! In the meantime, Happy Hunting!


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