Local Crush

Today marks the launch of a very IRL project that we’ve had in the works for months: Local Crush.

You know those pressed penny machines that you find in tourist traps, where you put in 51 cents, crank a big handle, and get a stamped, elongated penny back?

We made one.

local crush 1

Local Crush is a migratory souvenir penny press in downtown Lawrence, Kansas - that celebrates some of our favorite downtown businesses. If you don’t know Lawrence, it’s a hip little town just west of Kansas City - famous for its music scene, the university, and its thriving original downtown. (We love it so much we relocated our software company here!)

Each month, the penny press will move to a new location in downtown Lawrence. You can visit it and collect a souvenir penny that features the host store. We’ll move the press each month for a total of 12 locations, so you can collect 12 custom penny designs over the course of a year. Plus, we’re giving all the quarters to local charities. That’s:

  • 12 locations
  • 12 souvenir pennies
  • all showcasing independent businesses in our town
  • and all the 🪙🪙🪙🪙🪙s go to local nonprofits.

at Mass Street Soda

In August we’re at Mass Street Soda - a delightful bottle shop that only sells individual bottles of soda (and some candy). You can find hundreds of root beers, sarsaparillas, suspicious “fruit” flavors, and also that weird cola you had once on a road trip and ever since you’ve wondered if it even still exists. It’s always full of kids shopping for something new, and there’s even a novelty section where you are explicitly warned ‘These are Legit Gross: Buy it for the Label Not the Taste.’ This warning is true, by the way, and should be flaunted at your own risk. We recently tried Corn, Dirt, and Ranch Dressing flavored sodas, and they were all truly disgusting.

So anyway: find the press there and get your souvenir penny with the limited-time-only design for Mass Street Soda! And this month, every quarter you put into the machine is going to O’Connell Children’s Shelter.

Next month: it’s headed somewhere else!

smashed penny

Is this going to make us any money? Definitely not. Is it a fun reason to buy a penny press? Definitely yes.

If you’re in Lawrence, come find the press at Mass Street Soda. If you’re not… come visit! Either way, you can see more about the project and follow along at localcrush.club.

local crush 2


We’re so back. Work travel is bouncing back in 2023! In May I went to Detroit for a few days with Brand New Box colleagues to kick off a new project and get some face time with a new client. They’re really interesting and I hope I can write more about them in the future, although the project is NDA’d to death right now. But it was great to meet them and learn about their business. They’ve got a very unique company culture that the founder has built, and I hope we get to work together a lot more.

In the actual travel notes, I’ve never been outside the Detroit airport before, so it was fun to see downtown a bit, visit the Detroit Institute of Art where they’ve got a Tilman Riemenschneider. That place has an incredible collection. I didn’t know what a top-tier museum it is! The American paintings were really cool, and there’s a can’t miss big mural by Diego Rivera, something I didn’t think I had much interest in until I saw it. Of course my fave was a small display on stone carving techniques, including some unfinished carvings.


Fun for me to go down to the riverfront and look across the river at Windsor, Canada. I’ve never been to Canada (still haven’t) and this was the closest so far. One day, you Canucks.

Oh Canada

We explored as much of the Guardian Building as we could, a very neat art-deco ish building.

Guardian building Guardian building

Then the bulk of the trip was out in a very nice bedroom community, which reminded me a lot of a smaller, weller-heeled Lawrence. But even out there, it’s clear the influence of the auto industry is ever-present. I’ve never really been to such an ‘industry town’, unless you count LA or SF. Interesting to think about how much a national industry can shape a city.

Dracula Daily Preorders

So! This week I launched a preorder campaign for Dracula Daily - the print edition of the newsletter, with commentary from the internet. I announced about it on the Studio Kirkland newsletter and the main Dracula list. It went… really well.

Dracula Preorders

To sweeten the pot for preorders, I made a little microsite at draculadaily.com and offered some preorder goodies. These aren’t kickstarter rewards or anything - just some thank-you merch I wanted to make.

It went really well! More than 2000 people pre-ordered the book so far and sent me their info. I assume there are even more that didn’t fill out my little form, plus I only can send the goodies to people in the US. So I’m optimistic that a lot of people found it.

The crazy thing is the bestseller flags! It’s not like a real bestseller list, but for a few hours it was #34 on amazon overall, and earned little flags on other selling platforms too.

Dracula Preorders

Dracula Preorders

That’s NUTS to me!

In the Stacks

Being a ‘patron of the arts’ sure sounds like a fussy way to identify yourself. But shoot: in 2022 I had an incredible time just putting money down so artists I admire could make art.

This happened with Dracula Daily! The incredible outpouring of reader responses - jokes, memes, text posts, etc - include an outpouring of visual art. When I got the book deal to make a real printed book, I was able to take the advance money and pay reprint rights for some very cool artwork - drawings, paintings, digital stuff - to include in the book.

But one I’m very excited about isn’t visual at all - it’s writing! To celebrate the new year, I commissioned a new short story by Robin Sloan, best-selling author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough. It’s a kind of love-letter to Lawrence Kansas, the town where I live, and a celebration of learning new things. We printed nice copies and gave them to clients and friends of my software company, Brand New Box. You can read it here and read a longer version about the process over there.

Box of In the Stacks

Hey nerds

While this project was already underway, I saw this viral tweet thread encouraging rich nerds to commission art like the Medicis:

(It’s worth reading the whole tweet thread. GalaxyKate here makes a great point that honestly: we should all be putting cash down to get more art into the world.)

Now look: we don’t make FAANG money at BNB, so this doesn’t really apply to us on the scale of ‘put on a whole opera every year about why Ruby is better than Python.’ But normal people? We can do this too. I commissioned a short story from one of my favorite living authors and it cost the same amount as getting a big painting to hang over the couch. Really!

Except - and here’s the part I’m really happy about - when you buy a big painting from a favorite artist, you and your guests are the only people who get to enjoy it. If you commission WRITING, then that story can become available for everybody! (This definitely rhymes with Tim Carmody’s idea of unlocking the commons, also a good read.)

Making it physical

So: Robin did all the hard work here and wrote the story (which is great, and again: you should read it). But we also went a little overboard getting this out into the world.

First and foremost: we printed it! A limited run of small handheld books, Field-Notes sized, with a bunch of custom features:

  • letterpress and cover on a nice rich paper stock
  • the front is die-cut so those white circles are little windows into the inside
  • an inside pocket (books with pockets are the best)
  • a fake library checkout card in that pocket
  • and yes, are those dates on the checkout card a secret code? I’ll never tell.

And also, that card is the spot where we scribble our handwritten note to the clients and friends who got one of these editions in the mail.

Card of In the Stacks

Making it digital

And then, well - I really couldn’t resist here. The story features a Big Red Synthesizer - a fictional version of an actual red modular synthesizer at the actual Lawrence Public Library. You can play with it there! In fact, we took one of our Final Friday outings a few years back to learn how it worked and make some music together.

Wouldn’t it be fun if we made a little online synthesizer you could make some music with? We did that too.

In the Stacks digital

That’s it. Go read it already!

52 Musems: Done!

So! My big 2022 project was supposed to be going to 52 museums in the year. I did this! As a big annual project it definitely got overshadowed a bit by Dracula stuff, but still got it done. Here’s my recap/observations post!

  • First: I added notes and photos about each museum visit to a little minisite: museums.mattkirkland.com

  • The world has a lot more small History museums than I realized. I generally am not very interested in American history, and I live in the midwest. So there are a lot of small museums around that cover a specific place’s history - which is usually focused on early settlers. This seems natural, as museums are based on collections of objects, and that’s what those places have. There’s always a small bit that gestures towards the native people in that place, and then the majority is like: wagon wheels! Plows! After a couple of these they run together.

  • I counted several soccer stadium tours, which… I think qualifies! I mean, it’s very much ‘here’s our history, here are some artifacts from the club, here are our trophies, here’s the dressing room, don’t touch the grass, here are the seats, etc.

  • I set up this goal because I felt like I don’t take the opportunities I have to see interesting museums - even though generally I love them! This was a forcing function to help me get to more of these. But what I didn’t count on was how little anybody else in my family wanted to go along! Dragging the fam turned into a chore, and then when I stoped making them come along, it felt like a hobby that was taking me away from my family for too many hours in the year. So: maybe overdoing it.

  • I tasked myself with finding one specifically neat or interesting thing in each, and highlighting that. That was a good little plan; even when I didn’t have a lot of time (or curiosity) to see a place, that helps me focus, and it worked great.

  • Setting a goal with an end date is good: I like Arbitrary Stupid Goals like this, but I tend to forget to make them accomplishable.

  • My favorites are art or natural history museums, but the weird ones - where clearly there was just a collector who got out of control - are so great. I do love those.

  • Highlight: Morrill Hall Natural History museum in Nebraska was great! The hall of elephants is really impressive, but also I discovered a painter there that I really think is great.

  • I think I had the idea that I would learn more about running a museum during this exercise… but I did not. I have more questions than ever about how museums are run and managed!

That’s it: no big revelations. Does it make me want to start / run / work with a museum? YES.

The Sea Hates a Coward