Selfies

selfieStick(Listening to a 1950s music stream.) I may get pepper-sprayed by fellow seniors and assorted boomers, but here goes…  I was musing about the news that Disney theme parks have banished selfie sticks. Those millennials…   so self absorbed.

Now comes one of those “ah ha” epiphanies? Aren’t we boomers doing “selfies” ad nauseum?  At our UNCA senior center, courses on the history of the 60s and rock and roll fill up instantly. It’s all about us, hey!  We lived alongside Forest Gump, marched on Washington, sang with Dylan and Baez, championed civil rights, and liberated women (cough, cough.) Then we sold out and got comfortable. Now we drive Priuses, recycle, don’t smoke, eat sensibly and are reversing climate change (gag, cough.)  Our obsession with nostalgia is excessive and only interesting to us.

OK, whip out your iPhone and snap 50 million boomers patting ourselves on our backs as we deposit our Social Security checks.  Still use a flip phone?  You’re excused.

Millennials?  We shake our heads at their music – Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, texting while driving, not voting, and getting news from Facebook instead of newspapers, working part-time jobs, tattoos, spending all their time on Snapchat, Reddit and Twitter. Why can’t they be more like us?  Did I get this right?  My sons (just 2 clicks north of millennials) roll their eyes when I start up about our era, our music, our revolutions, our activism, our whatever.

Their selfies and ours – phony tales?  Let’s be more honest with ourselves.  Our generation made a lot of messes that theirs will have to try to clean up.  And, the millennials have a very different world to deal with.  Let’s wish them well and help out if we can.

Phony Tales

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My 16th Reuben Awards Weekend

Rube GoldbergstatueThe 69th cartooning arts top awards was named for NCS co-founder Reuben (Rube) Goldberg.  It’s an annual celebration…  3+ days of laughter, parties, singing, and an elegant formal dinner with entertainment and presentation of the awards.

This year at the historic Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC the hallways, elevators,  lobby bars and meeting rooms were full of acting up and one-liners.  Since being admitted 16 years ago I’ve met and come to know many of my heroes of the art form. Before that I was just a cartoon artist and smart-ass with an eyeball in a knothole in the wall beyond center field. With help from Washington Post Editor Sara Fitzgerald and cartoonists Art Wood, Bud Grace and Mike Mikula, I was finally able to gain admittance to this wonderful organization.

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Each year we also mark the passing of our brother and sister cartoonists.  This year among those was pal Roy Dody (92) who was successfully self-employed for 73 busy years. At past Reuben weekends I had many opportunities to enjoy his grouchy wit over a few drinks.  His annual complaints at our business meetings became a legend. This year Mike Peters rose to make a motion – not for a moment of silence, but a moment of complaining in his memory. Tears of joy came to my eyes as 20 or so of our colleagues rose in unison, “It’s too cold in here!”  ”The food stinks!”  ”I’m losing my hair!”  ”Digital cartooning is all wrong!” etc. It was the best moment of the weekend.

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Tom Richmond (Mad Magazine and NCS President) and the lovely Anna, his wife, have transformed our organization.  His positive attitude and hard work have paid off –  tackling tough issues like the nominating process, the duration of the dinner award ceremonies, and finding room for the Internet market and artists. He even has dealt with my personal disappointment – the no-shows by winners – by recording videos to show at the ceremony. Using the talented Tom Gammill and now Jason Chatfield as emcees has worked so well. Finally, the seminars provided some serious and happy mind-stretching for many of us.  Terrific speakers all.

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SAM was beautiful and vivacious in her special gown and best this year, my son Will was able to join us for the awards dinner. So proud and happy he could appreciate this wonderful part of my life.

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Men at my age.

Esse Quam Videre (Being Authentic)

RenoBillWhat am I doing in a men’s  group?  Answer:  growing up and finally becoming myself.  By now I was supposed to be an adult:  smart,  mature,  wise,  a sage elder.  I think many of us guys find the retirement thing a little surprising at first.  Some of us can be a little lost as our careers, that defined us, disappear.

There’s a lot of wisdom on the topic of how to spend  this beautiful season of life.  Time to give back. Volunteer for a good cause.  Do those things we always really wanted to do.  Enjoy life.  Spend some real time with our families.  Travel.  Take some courses.  Loose a few pounds.  Relax.  Such a formidable agenda!

For me, I was foaming at the mouth to draw silly pictures (full time) that would make folks smile or think.  This personal avidity since grammar school found outlets in school newspapers, on my drill sergeant’s wall, then newspaper editorial pages, magazines, newsletters, boring PowerPoints and lately book illustrations, an online journal and teaching.  But my drawing was done evenings and weekends because I had a more important  goal: to help my two sons thrive and achieve their dreams.  Lucky for me I found an interesting day job and lived in a city that had a booming real estate market.  When I needed advice I generally  turned to people more mature than I, women.  Well, not always.  My father and a few guy friends would listen and seemed to understand.  But, since being a pup, there had not been a lot of strong male relationships in my life.

Visiting an old pal in Key West, I was invited to his “men’s lunch.”  All retirees, from all over, and a very wide range of backgrounds.  They knew each other well and easily talked about their families,  projects,  feelings, and relationships.   Sports, lower-back-pain and hearing-loss were hardly mentioned.  I was impressed.  I wanted to join, but Key West was a long way from Asheville.

Answers are all around, close-by, but often we’re just not listening.  Fast-forward.  Back in Asheville, around the Reuter Center at UNCA, there was  a men’s group forming called Men’s Wisdom Works.  I was on it in a flash.  The organizer (Chuck) had an outline and format that made sense to me.   We began having bi-weekly meetings at Jubilee downtown,  then meetings for breakfast on alternate weeks.  We were/are all  very different men and similar at the same time.  The group chemistry is outstanding.

In the beginning we had very little in the way of ground rules and an alpha (small A) male emerged who has a very light touch (Buck.)  Most times topics emerge organically from our check-ins.  Most meetings go very well.  The discussions are fun, often deep, but no lectures, and the listening is profound.  Our male-egos are checked at the door.  Coming up on four years,  we have grown from colleagues to brothers.  We’ve shared our lives, literally.

As we’ve spent time together and become more relaxed with each other,  a something has started to happen to me.  I’m becoming more relaxed with and understanding of myself.  They’ve heard all my jokes, twice.   I’m encouraged to speak more in the first-person than in the third.  (Thanks, Lee.)  Other group members are way ahead of me on this new “self awareness and authenticity” and the positive growth shows.  Yup, I still have a long way to go, but my brothers are hiking on the same path.  Good for us all.

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A Grand Old Name

marylasherMary Lasher is my teacher.  She has an AB and MA in History from Duke. Early in her career she taught high school honors classes in US and world history. She taught at the University of Alabama and pursued post-graduate studies at Vanderbilt University, she was an instructor at Furman University and later worked as curriculum specialist in Greenville County School District. After her brilliant career in academics, she retired in Asheville in 1997.  Since then, she’s taught many many courses at UNCA/OLLI’s College For Seniors and is a past president of Asheville Sister Cities and Asheville’s AAUW.
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These days, Mary still packs ‘em in for her courses at OLLI.  We love her long narratives on geography, politics and historical characters.  She gives context and meaning to history and not much homework.  Most of all, we hang on those occasional editorial morsels about life’s issues and any mentions of her rock-star-OLLI-instructor-and-scholar-partner, Tom.
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She and Tom host wonderful parties at their Deltec round home up in the NE hills above Asheville.  Her most recent course (such a modest title) inspired the illustration below.  I’m a huge fan (hoping for a passing grade.)
Mary Meaning of Life
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Wrap up this year..

old maple in Fall

I know it’s been a while since I posted here.  No excuses.  I do appreciate hearing back from those of you who browse by and take the time to write.

I had a full fall.  I’m nearing the end of that season in my life and appreciating its beauty more.  I’m realizing that our forests have a big story to tell if we just listen.  Many writers and other artists have done this beautifully so I won’t try to cover their thoughts.

IMG_3975Celebrations at Biltmore for our soon to be published mystery author and neighbor John.  All that hard work paid off!

In October I taught a “starters” drawing course inspired by Josh Kaufman’s TED talk and book about learning a new skill in just 20 hours. Rethinking the whole how-to-teach-drawing topic was a great lesson for me and a reminder about how challenging that can be. Its a complicated equation of emotional barriers and “seeing” issues.  Overall, I think we had a good time and made progress.

2014 Drawing Class

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I also took some great courses in post WWI history, foreign policy in early US, our solar system, international renewable energy progress,  and wartime art theft and recovery.  Pinch me.  One colleague lost his powerpoint presentation and had to teach naked.  ..can’t let those moments be forgotten.  Finally, the Southeast Chapter of the NCS met in Athens, GA and I had a chance to spend some time with hero, and now a slender vegan proselyte, Wiley Miller.

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November is when we join 200 caricaturists from all around the world and spend a week being amazed and laughing.  This year we were in Reno, NV.  inside a huge casino/resort at a time of the year when there wasn’t much else to do.  A 3+ minute video can be viewed here.  Couple of snaps of all the fun.

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Holidays – back up around Washington DC with family and friends and OMG traffic around the beltway.  Pal Richard Thompson’s new book was published and it was a great premier event and get together back at his home.  Plug plug plug for this genius of comic illustration, caricature and cartoon art.  Great Thanksgiving meal at Mark (the chef) and Stacey’s new home. My sons were there, sigh..

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 Here’s our card for this year.

See you next year!

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Back Again, Singing Behind the Plow

path signIt’s a pleasant two-hour drive down through the Nantahala Forest to the southwest tip of North Carolina, to Brasstown, home of the JC Campbell Folk School.  We were there over a year ago and liked the experience, so this time we took a weekend course followed by a week long one. It’s a rustic, almost off-the-grid experience.  The food is all fresh (grown there or nearby) and classes run all day and often into the evenings.  We build/create things by hand under the guidance of skilled instructors. Most of the students (not all) are retired folks. One of my NCS cartoonist pals, Jack Cassady, lives and teaches down there.  He and his lovely spouse, Brenda, took us out to a local eatery in Murphy. Many smiles.

spiritstartspiritfinishedI learned how to carve a wood spirit with a chisel – the face of an old bearded man in a large piece of butternut wood. Facial anatomy was stressed so that was familiar.  Sharpening the chisels and gouges and using them to remove all the wood that wasn’t the face was similar to wood carving but on a larger scale.  Facial measurements and angles, planning and learning which tool to use kept us busy over a full two days.”Ta Dah!”

veneerThe woodworking class project was building a tri-legged table with a top that can fold up vertically.  The design is centuries old. (I brought along my grandmother’s similar old table in hopes of learning how to fix and restore it as a future project.

I’m a novice in a woodworking shop but an eager learner. It seemed like a basic-to-moderately difficult project. Our tablespindlevery well equipped studio had lathes, sanders, band and circular saws, drill presses, routers, and every sort of hand tool.  We used them all. The instructors: Dan and John had planned our week in great detail, bringing enormous amounts of materials and tools.

Veneering and marquetry (artistic inlaid veneer patterns) were a big part of the project. Oy!  John had created the palm-sized marquetry inserts for the centers of our veneered tabletops. We taped and turned and fitted and glued and pressed and cleaned and sanded the tabletop.  Veneer is cooperating1/40th of an inch thick, so don’t sand too long. The attachment base, spindle and legs were fashioned from solid walnut.  The spirit of my recently departed friend, Murray, was standing behind me as I shaped the curves of the table shaft on the lathe. During the five days my classmates and I would help each other when we were at a pause in our projects.  That would never happen in a painting or carving class. Nice. It all came together on the last day for my second “Ta Dah!”

Sam had two interesting courses as well. It was very nice to sit down for a half an hour at the end of our days and share what we had learned.

I thought a lot about the process of teaching and learning a new skill. Most of my life I’ve given presentations designed to inform and entertain. In the eight years, I’ve started teaching skills – basic drawing and cartooning. This is very different.  I’ve been very impressed by Josh Kaufman’s 20-hour approach to learning new skills. link  Often teaching basics is not particularly engaging. Simple exercises can be too simple. So I plan to try more challenging projects and to walk beside the students to help ensure they have a product of which they can be proud.  We’ll see.  Meanwhile, my instructors paid the price.

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Why Bother?

Quill

     I’ve been staring at this overdue journal update page for long time. I can always say there hasn’t been time, but it’s really about priority and decisions about how I use my time. We all have the same 24-hour day if we’re lucky.

 

     Why keep an online journal anyway?  My analog notebooks are always at hand and fill up regularly.

 

     The words I post here are my thoughts (and of others,) some of the images I create, and photos of my exciting life. But it’s the process that matters to me – the moments of reflection and refinement of the passing parade – about my experiences, my family and my friends. It helps me to better understand my life and what I should do – to “leave the woodpile a little higher,” as my pop used to say.

 

     In 1971, just out of the Air Force, I was about to embark on my first big trip around Europe and Israel. I bought a sketchbook that I filled with cartoons, illustrations, and notes as we traveled. I was able to use it as a resource for storytelling and amusement along the way.  After the trip I realized that, for me, it was far better than the stack of photos to give meaning to that wonderful trip.
VitruvianMeDaVinci

 

     Just like Leonardo, (kidding) I began and continued the practice of journaling. When I was in my family raising years I created loose-leaf notebooks of cartoons of the laughter and lessons of those times.

 

     Sometime in the 1990′s I started to use bound journals because of sequential discipline and more inclusive notes. In 1993 I began to make periodic postings to an online journal to document selected experiences that might be of interest to a few others. I’ve continued this practice more or less until now.

 

     Now, I suspect this is just a lightweight ego exercise.

 

     These days, Facebook posts are so easy for simple postcard-type-communications –  right from my noodle on my mobile.

 

     Blogs (hate that term) are used for more substantial unvetted communications and when you really have something to say and you could write an article or publish a book. Now that process seems to be devolving a bit into less refined, quick and easy e-publications.

 

     Egad, we are awash in a flood of bland verbal and visual broth. Some brilliant and substantial morsels do float by, but most are not very nourishing and a waste of the little time we have.

 

     Why bother adding my juices to this soup?

 

     For me, again, it’s the process – the writing and the drawing are a pleasant creative activity and my addiction. Writing improves my thinking. Drawing improves my vision. Cartooning does both, plus it can bring smiles. That growth and a little laughter is what I’m about in this stage of my life.

 

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     As I make the time, I will continue to post here. I’m grateful for the process, the technology that makes it possible, and for your feedback and interest.
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Our 2013 -14 Holiday Card

Another year.  Thanks for stopping by.
HCimage

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Here and Now

ourtownOur Town, act three, Emily Webb’s monologue.  ”Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” (Saints and poets, maybe..)

When I was 15, I had a minor part in our high school’s production of Thornton Wilder’s classic play.  I’ve remembered Emily’s speech all my life. Not being a saint or a poet, I’ve failed to fully appreciate many of life’s simple moments, but I get it.

I was once chided for being “nostalgic about the present.” I’ll take that, proudly. Our todays slip by so easily as we focus on the next events in our life. In between the muddy past (that we can’t change) and the non-existent future is the one moment — the present — where we can actually make a difference. Many have written about this, so I won’t belabor.

Today was a beautiful clear cool day in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Leaves are starting to turn. I am sitting with SAM, reading on the front porch. At peace and grateful for all my life and family.

And, there’s the bright side to the amazing mess in our government (October 13, 2013) The far right has overplayed their hand and will lose. Things never change until there’s a crisis. So we will lurch forward after all this,  Meanwhile there are cartoons to draw.

All out of paint, Mr. Boehner?

Cornered

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Daphne

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Daphne and I never spoke, but we were good friends. Like every living thing she was one-of-a-kind. Uniqueness is quite common in our world but seldom celebrated or even acknowledged. Daphne and I communicated without words using the rich vocabulary of touch and one sound that we used to call each other.

As our species becomes more empathetic, we will learn finally to listen — not to what is said or written, but to a wider spectrum of communications. We just can tell how someone is feeling by the look in their eyes, or when we know that something is going to happen before it does. We are just in the grunting and growling phase of understanding these communications, but we will learn. At that point the Internet will seem like pebbles and sticks. Daphne had a lot to tell me. I wish I had understood more.

I’m also reminded every day that our world is full of other worlds, coexisting often close by. We are indifferent, I presume, because our daily activities are so amazingly rich and colorful.

Daphne and I shared moments of peace and security that I take for granted but she did not. She also lived in a world of mortal violence. As she grew older her physical abilities diminished, and her risks grew. As one who lived largely outdoors, her life was threatened daily by automobiles, outdoor dogs and even other cats. A peaceful neighborhood and a vicious jungle at the same time.

Last week after a lengthy absence, I returned home. As I opened my car door, I heard her call me. I called back and quickly she came to greet me and rub and purr. We had a great conversation.

Yesterday, she was killed by local neighborhood dogs. She deserved a far better and and I am sad that she will no longer warm my afternoons reading together on the my front porch. Daphne.

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