Mary 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.
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.
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.)
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.
Celebrations 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.
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.
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.
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..
See you next year!
It’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.
I 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!”
The 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 very 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 1/40th 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
For 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.
We 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.
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.
I love the stinky cheese.
Unlike 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 everywhere. 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.
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.
The 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.
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.
We’ll be back. There’s still a lot for us to learn.
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 Reubens: 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.
MEMORIAL DAY WEEK
We 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.
I enjoyed being back in Pittsburgh after 60 (yikes) years. Rege Cordic is gone. http://www.regecordic.com/
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.
The 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.
His 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 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.
In 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.)