Our 2013 -14 Holiday Card

Another year.  Thanks for stopping by.
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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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Our UK Trip – some thoughts and sketches

UKJ1Most people don’t really care about trip reports, but it’s my journal and this was a big event in my life.

It was my first visit to the UK. I’ve been to Ireland but SAM said that didn’t count (this was her fourth visit.) Her enthusiasm and a chance to experience things she loves was one of my reasons for going. I wanted to see where some of my friends and colleagues live, and I hoped to fill in the vast craters in my appreciation of our cultural history.

IMG_2602For most of our trip we used Trafalgar, a tour service, instead of DIY. Both have advantages, but for a broad brush quick dip a tour works for me. They take care of destinations, transport, and lodging. IMO you see and learn more, and there is also a chance to meet some nice folks from around the world.

Of course we didn’t see everything and some days were a bit long, but we were satisfied.

UKJ11IMG_2743We traveled 2900 miles in 18 days staying at 14 different hotels. Every day we would visit three to four towns or historical sites. Our tour director, Rob was bright and hardworking. At one point we were all singing in the bus in Scotland near the Lochs.

After Trafalgar, we camped in London at a nice central hotel and we could go at our own pace. SAM Likes to go, go, go, and we did.

UKJ4Visiting a part of our world is very different than living there. We plan to do that in the future in England and Italy. We both liked the areas around Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon.

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I was impressed immediately by the genuine courtesy and friendliness of the people we met and the elevators that reminded us what floor we were on and when the doors were closing. The street crossing had reminders for yanks who look the wrong way. We were told not to trust the BBC weather forecasts. It didn’t matter. Most days were cloudy, and we only experienced rain twice.

IMG_2305UKJ6SAM loved the cream tea with scones. Brits say “scons.”

I love the stinky cheese.

UKJ10Unlike the US, there’s a lot of serious history all around. Buildings were often over 500 years old, not to mention Stonehenge. In the countryside, which evokes scenes from Tolkien, Adams, Potter, Rowling, Christie, Dickens, Doyle and others, there was a timeless quality. I felt that especially in rural Wales and Scotland. We saw green hills of open land beautifully parceled by hedgerows and sheep IMG_2573everywhere. The Highlands of Scotland were barren and beautiful (in August,) a little like parts of Montana. We got our first look at an ‘ighland cew.

I didn’t get to go rabbit hunting in Wales with Noel but learned a few things about cheese and visited the home of Wallace and Gromit.

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Homes are so much more substantial (stone) and have real character visually. I wonder how comfortable they are. Townhomes in Inverness, Edinburgh, Stratford on Avon and Bath were especially grand.

One of the highlights of our trip was to meet our friends Steve and Wendy who live near London. Mia Culpa. I missed our meeting because of my lack of organization and forgetfulness, causing them to lose a day out of their busy schedules. They are terrific folks and deserve better. The lesson is to travel with a telephone that works. Wi-Fi F/B mail doesn’t cut it.

IMG_2234In London the museums were mobbed. What’s that all about? Pub food was much better than I’d been prepared for, but in London many of the pubs had identical menus. Franchise?

UKJ12

IndepScotlandThe Scottish Government plans a referendum on the issue of independence from the United Kingdom, in September 2014. Will Scotland remain a part of the UK? I observed a strong national history, pride and somewhat less affection for England. We’ll see. About half of the folks we talked to said they’ll stay part of the UK.

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My head is still shaking ’cause I still don’t understand: cricket, bank holidays, the fuss about haggis, their coins, pork pies, and clotted cream. There is a giant blue chicken in Trafalgar Square, and don’t ask where the term “frog in your throat” originated.

I’ve come to enjoy and respect: our British roots, the briefer UK election process, Marmite, why driving on the left is actually correct, British cheese and Queen Victoria. The Brits and the Irish have a true affection for our language that fertilizes their dry wit. May it always be so.

My hero George Carlin used to say, “Way out.”

We saw it all over London and that’s my cue here.

* * *

Between us we returned with over 900 snaps (working on the slide show, so run…), some coins, my journal, T-shirts for my sons, fridge magnets and wonderful memories.

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We’ll be back. There’s still a lot for us to learn.

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Morning Walks

morningwalks

It’s been hot, so SAM frowns on any mid-day bipedal jaunts. I remember back in the day, my morning runs in North Arlington and Glover Park (DC.) I’m hoping this basic activity can incorporate itself into my daily routine. I’m noticing that healthful exercise routines are not so easy to restart. The morning Motrin seems to help.

My pal Ira and a few others back in Asheville have told me how a good brisk walk in the AM is good for the health and weight. Ira is also a FitBit friend so we can track/share our exercise and weight metrics. My earbud phone music is set on random. I have 40 years of musical memories – the soundtrack of my life – conjuring up personal moments and feelings: when I took my mom to see Ethel Merman in “Annie Get Your Gun” at a summer stock theater; watching “the Nelsons” on our black-and-white TV; dancing the boggie and twist at the Hopkinton Teen Canteen with DJ Maxie the Most; college concerts with Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez; NYC jazz clubs, Stan Kenton and Pavarotti; and, thrilled by Lion King and Phantom at the Opera at the Kennedy Center. Sounds that ignite my imagination and nostalgia while I walk.

SAM and I have had a few trips since the Ruebens: Redondo Beach, LA to meet grandbaby Jacob and visiting with Mark and Stacey and princess Chelsea. Up to the Poughkeepsie area to see pals Karl and Rose and attend a birthday celebration of SAM’s sister-in-law (long story) Betsy’s 70th birthday. Good geezer fun and lots of little ones who will inherit a very different world. A nice tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright houses around Washington. Friends from UNCA/OLLIE came up to join us for a nice visit. UK trip coming up.

NERD ALERT! After 30+ years of the Wintel platform, I will try the Apple world for my studio. Got all the answers I needed from their retail store. I’ll wait until the October releases. All this got me thinking about technology allegiances. Platforms as religion: Windows, (Presbyterian?) and Mac/iOS, (Buddhism?) and how about Android, (Unitarian?) and UNIX/LINUX, (Baha’i?) and MVS/CICS – for you boomers – (Catholic?)

That’s a lot to think about. Too much spare time.

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Pittsburgh and Back

MEMORIAL DAY WEEK

Vietnam-memorialWe don’t forget our young men and women who died in wars they didn’t start.  Best tribute would be to find ways to end wars in the future.  We could actually do that.  True, quieting the aggressive male nature may take some time/generations.  Maybe distracting us with video games would work, but no drone and hacking attacks please.

I was a lucky guy.  My four Air Force years were easy and fruitful for me in DC.  I remember well my brothers and sisters in uniform during those Vietnam years.

THE 67TH RUBEN AWARDS.

PittsburghSkylineI enjoyed being back in Pittsburgh after 60 (yikes) years.  Rege Cordic is gone. http://www.regecordic.com/index.html.  He’s my old KDKA morning favorite who later went to Hollywood, but his old Frothingslosh beer still exists. It’s a pretty city now with hilly suburbs and lots to see and do.

MoWillems

The William Penn Hotel was a good choice, elegant but fairly reasonable prices and great grand style facilities.  The Tom Richmond footprint is showing on the NCS: a good diversity of speakers and seminars (Mo Willems was especially good) and best of all,  a notably better show up for category winners. My personal preference, pal Brian Crane (Pickles) shared the top prize, a tie with Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues.)  Stephan Pastis, the third nominee, didn’t show – was he tipped?  Either way, IMO, he should have been there. Our new SEC president also unable to attend.

SamBrianThe Reuben Awards weekend is a very special event for me and especially at last,  I have a partner that “gets” the cartoonist in me.  We spent three days with colleagues that I greatly enjoy and real heroes whose work I so admire.  Over the years, the connections and insights have been invaluable to me.  Pictured:  SAM and Brian and the real deal.

Three nonagenarians were there: Roy Doty  (and Nancy) my old pal, still working, Larry Kazman (and Claudia) and Brad Anderson.  Roy and Larry were at my table along with Chuck and Mary Lou Smith from my old DC chapter, and Drew and Lisa Aquilina from AZ.

VISITING FRANK LlOYD WRIGHT’S BUILDINGS.

IMG_1976His personal story is almost as well known as the innovative buildings he designed.   SAM and I have always been anxious to see his work – which is both contemporary and classic – still.  It was a short drive down from Pittsburgh, SE to Ohiopyle, PA where we  visited Falling Water and Kentuck Knob, two FLlW designed homes. Also nearby was George Washington’s Fort Necessity.

Falling Water is an architectural landmark: one of the most beautifully designed and innovative homes I’ve ever seen. It certainly deserves it’s reputation and I loved the visit/tour, but I don’t think I’d like to live there.  Better to have been a frequent guest of the Kaufmanns.

kentuck_knobKentuck Knob was a more livable yet spectacular home.  I especially enjoyed the layout with the porch facing south with the eastern sunrise exposure for the bedrooms and the western sunsets for evenings on the deck.  My favorite so far.

HOW GEORGE WASHINGTON FITS INTO ALL THIS.

georgeWashington youngIn his early twenties our first president, traveled from Virginia to southwestern Pennsylvania numerous times.  He played a large part in starting and fighting the French and Indian wars.  The stories are that he was a brave and effective leader (but failed to win any battles.) He did keep excellent journals.  The Potomac river runs north toward the Pa. border and the eastern continental divide before returning southwest into Virginia.  Just over the mountains the rivers run west and the tributaries of the Monongahela head NW to Pittsburgh, the same route we traveled.  Visiting Fort Necessity refreshed this bit of history for me, and now you (my faithful five readers.)

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Academics

This spring at UNCA/OLLI, SAM and I attended some interesting courses: Plantations of South Carolina, Rise of the West, Frank Lloyd Wright, History of Southern Appalachia, Public Enemies, Transitioning into Wise Women, Camino de Santiago, and 75 and beyond.

You and Cartoons 13 S3 coverI also taught another cartooning class – trying this time to reduce the lecture and increase the hands on. The class members had a variety of talents and seemed in a good humor.  Some examples of their work are posted below.

Best of all the OLLI community continues to grow and the administration, faculty and the program are superb.

Blood sugar peaking? OK,  here’s some vinegar: Iron Man 3 is awful! and wasn’t saved by the 6 cute lines.  I hope they will end this franchise.

On a more artsy side, Renoir is beautifully filmed and has an interesting but slow moving story about his son Jean and enough frontal nudity to keep me wide awake

3013 Cartoons and You – Class Examples:

classtoonsA copy

 

classtoonsD copy  classtoonsE  classtoonsC  classtoonsB

 

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Singing Behind the Plow

JCCFSWe spent a week at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC way down at the western tip of the state, within hollering distance of Tennessee and Georgia…  in the beautiful Nantahala National Forest.  These remote rural mountains are where folks take care of themselves and used to make pretty much everything they needed.

The school is very different than a college or special arts institute.  SAM says “modern old-fashioned fun.”  It was invigorating to me.  It reminded us that there is still a whole world of wonderful people, arts and things to learn out of cell phone range and off the Internet matrix, like when SAM and I were growing up. The accommodations, food (all fresh), quality of the classrooms, wonderful instructors, and the “atmosphere” were all so nourishing for us.  We’re goin’ back!

carvingI took a wood carving course with Pete LeClair.  This man, and my fellow students, have added immensely to my life.  Carving wood figures and portraits balances my love of human faces and wood, the fascinating material we engaged in shaping.  Subtractive sculpting – where you remove the wood that is not going to be part of your portrait – is a huge challenge to this now largely digital artist.  It is analog, like the old days with paper ink pen and brushes, but it is also 3D, and there is very little you can do to “fix” a mistake.  So planning is key and care in the process is essential – a special challenge for my impatient nature.  Pete was one of the most methodical artists I have ever met.  He was very patient and let me make my mistakes.  Most artists are self-taught.  Fundamentals and theory can provide a useful framework, but in the end, it is practice, practice, and more practice.  While we practice it is essential that we enjoy the activity or we become discouraged and stop practicing.  I have a lot to learn.  I can hardly wait.

Like most creative arts there is also the necessity of tools.  Pete de-emphasized this aspect telling me you only really need a sharp knife, and maybe a few gouges and something to sharpen them with.  We’ll see how that goes…

JCCFSCarvers2Pete was always the first one there and stayed late each night for extra time and help.  His enthusiasm, his joy in his craft, was inspiring.  He is a happy man bringing smiles to our world. (3rd from left, back row with the hat.)

“Keep your thumb on the wood!”

See more of Pete LeClair on YouTube.

 

 

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Flush with Meds

In case you missed this…

FRIDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) — “Small amounts of mood-altering drugs used to treat psychiatric disorders that are making their way into rivers and streams may be changing the behavior of some fish, a new study suggests.”  (and what about us – who eat the fish, or drink that water?  Oh well…)

Peter“Exposure to Oxazepam also made the fish less social, making them easier prey for potential predators, the researchers noted. “Perch that were exposed to Oxazepam lost interest in hanging out with the group, and some even stayed as far away from the group as possible.”

You may see humor there, but we all live on the same planet and we need to take care of each other.  Yes. I’m making an empathic plea and using my wildwood buddy Peter, a chain pickerel to help you remember.  Properly dispose of those unused meds.

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Feb-blech-uary

February is not a good month for me. For years I would try to schedule a nice getaway – something to look forward to during January, and when I got back it would be March and some eager crocuses would be poking up.  That would be enough enthusiasm to keep me going until April.

Nothing this year. Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl have not cheered me up.  National politics continues to depress. It’s cold and damp and I’m feeling my three-score-and-ten years, plus I got sick and had to behave.  Maybe it’s time I tried a shot of a five-hour energy elixir or some deer antler spray.  I tell everyone to appreciate every day and all the good that is around us. Guess it’s time to heed my own words.

I’m discovering? in my active robust life, that YouTube has become a kind of video university of small topics (for short attention spans.) Many of you already know this, but good people are bothering to produce decent free lectures and demonstrations about nearly any topic that seems to cross my mind. I know there’s some real duds, but hang in there.

Here are a few examples: (of my sort)

Wood carving.  Wear gloves or bring band aids.  Link

Making scones, Scottish sytle.  Link

ASAP  Science topics presented for a younger mobile audience. Link.

WRI, the great environmental think tank has finally produced a communication that can connect with the society they are trying to move. Link

Richard Feynman.  One of my heroes. Link

Using a tablet to produce art.  Link

Producing children books?  for tablets and smart phones.  Link

In a few years we’ll figure out how to monetize more of this microeducation/entertainment and that will launch a whole new era.  Sure, a few producers with good traffic are getting ad revenue and others use the platform to sell their products and services.  But right now, during this warm-up phase, I just want to say thanks to all the pioneers.

Now, here’s some pot shots at my Blue Ridge town and my maligned gender.

More about men at:  Link 

Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for crocuses.

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