Shopping The Way Mom Taught Me To….by Rick London

Caveat: Please forgive me for dropping graphics of some of my brand items in this article.  I couldn’t help myself as I love shameless self-promotion :)   The article has important info in it, however, so bear with me please & enjoy!  

I remember (sort of), loving to go shopping with my mom.  She taught me about “outfits” rather than buying “just Levi Jeans”.  I was relieved upon discovery that “an outfit”, could be made from Levis because I didn’t wear much else in the way of pants. 

zazzle watch twittermoms 

Those lessons would serve me well in the “80s Yuppie Movement” while living and working in Washington, D.C. where what one wore was nearly as important as his/her pedigree and/or education.  Am so glad those days are over (at least for me).   I believe my wife Lee agrees.  It was a neverending frenetic “keeping up with the Jones’” and no matter how much one had, and at one point I had a lot, it was never enough.  That became another powerful lesson that would serve me turning into a senior. 

I still see numerous peers playing that “frenetic game” in which money rules over all. Please don’t get me wrong. I like money and I like making it.  It is simply not at the top of the list; not even close; unless I’m making it doing exactly what I love doing.  So far so good.

Which brings me back to shopping. 

zazzle squid zone tee 

As a college student in the early 70s in Dallas, I took any kind of jobs offered to me such as waiting tables, managing a walk-in movie theater,  working in a health food store, etc.  Though they were all very different jobs, they all involved dealing with the public.

Fast forward not too many years and the dotcom boom was beginning.  Included in that boom was retail sales.  Retail was not at the top of my list as “fun ways to make a living”, but humor did.  So did design, and I attended retail school in Dallas while going to an accredited college across town. I wanted to “learn it all.

zazzle print kiwi 

I didn’t become so lucky, but every lesson, whether “good” or “bad”, served me in later life.  At age 49, I returned to college online, and learned a fascinating topic.  Retail. 

Yes, the very same retail I’d learned while “finding my way” in early life.  But this retail required digital design of my own line of products, and learning to deal with manufacturers.  I found I was not working as much with the public, except on social media which I learned to like, but also taking that information from interaction with media followers to become “the seed” if you will of image designs that went onto the products.  Wow.  Sounds high-tech and different.  Well, it actually is today, but my latter-life education has taught me that if asked, even online, most people will tell you what they like, or don’t like, and most people in this day and time prefer to shop from the comfort of their own home.

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They have, and I have, nothing against malls or Main St. shops, but one can’t help but be reminded of business classes.

When ordering from an online boutique shop (or shops) with good reputations one is more likely to get a unique product not found in malls and downtown shops.  We all love unique.  None of us like being at a party where someone is wearing our same clothing or has the same gift we’re describing. 

zazzle pillows dolphin 

More importantly to many, economics plays a major role in any buying in today’s marketplace.  Common sense tells us that the lower the overhead, generally the better the price.  That is true in both my wife Lee Hiller’s shops and my own. 

But what about employees.    We indeed create a fair amount of jobs, but they are contractors who work for the organizations that make our products.  They get paid the same amount no matter how many products we design.  Again, cost stays down.

I don’t say this just about our online shops, but of nearly everyone’s.

If a person is looking for unique quality affordable designer products, at the cost (or lower) than non-designer products as found in a mall or shop (or even a box store or their website), the trick is to find your favorite designer at such places as CafePress.com, Zazzle.com, RedBubble.com or Amazon.com.

zazzle mug sperm 

If one is the least bit savvy, he/she can buy the most memorable different gifts, for 1/10th what they’d spend elsewhere.  Plus these are the type gifts that will be used, cherished, and remembered (as they often become valuable collectibles as well).

zazzle case salad bar 

Shop smartly.  Shop with small businesses and/or designers. You will come out ahead in the short (and long run). 

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Rick London is the founder of Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons aka LTCartoons.com which he launched in 1997. He also owns several licensed image shops that sell funny gifts such as Rick London Gifts and one that specializes in funny tees and clothing called Rick London Cartoons.  He is married to nature photographer  Lee Hiller who sells designer gifts & clothing at Lee Hiller Design.  

Live A Little & Be Happy (Socrates Recommended It) By Rick London

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I’ve often heard from well-meaning friends, relatives etc., especially since diving into the world of cartooning, “Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should”.

To them I quote Socrates, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. (Note: Often Plato gets credit for that quote but I understand it was actually Socrates). Sometimes it’s just okay to try something new, or different, that is unconventional and really not even think twice about what others think….in fact necessary as far as I can see.  To spend one’s life only to please others, or to be “who they want us to be” is the trademark of the unexamined life.  I’m not saying it’s not a good thing to “do unto others”. It very much is, and service is a trademark of character.  And we grow from it.  But we also grow by taking the risk of “being ourselves”.  

And to a certain degree I mean it (to examine ones own life rather than fear it is a key to real success and happiness. I’m not necessarily talking about fiscally, though that can often happen.  The key here is learning to be happy by simply being comfortable with oneself, okay in ones skin). I believed that when I began my “journey of examination” and I believe it still.   I’ve never met a happy person who does a job for instance he/she was forced to do, or inherited but didn’t like it that much and no amount of money changes that.  Once one truly examines ones life, they surely aren’t perfect (I’ve proven that), but they are happy and find things to do, and friends, spouses, etc. that perpetuate that happiness.  

We were taught by our parents and formal education (if we were so fortunate) not to participate in violence, bullying, stealing, to treat others as we’d like to be treated, etc.  And those principles should remain with us for a lifetime.  Those are some of our most important lessons.

But education and loving parents can also have their downside. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against either.   Both teach us, whether it is a written lesson, or a “silent rule” to don’t do it just because you can or is legal etc.

I imagine Evel Knievel  was told many times as a kid not to jump his mini-bike across the creek or he’d “put his eye out” or whatever smite might visit him before reaching the other side.

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I can imagine Thomas Edison’s parents begging him to hang out with the kids and play ball rather than act like a hermit in the garage with all these wires and such.

I heard one talking head on one of the news networks, who made perfect sense, saying that if Tesla, Einstein, Edison, Galileo, et al were all alive today they’d have been given Ritalin in school but would have great marketing jobs after high school or college.

We often hear teachers complain about how out of control their classes are; and in many cases I’m sure they are correct.

But sometimes, it’s the teacher who is out of control, or, really doesn’t understand his/her job.

The Greeks, who (scholars believe) ushered in the newer age of education of which we are familiar today called it “educare” or “to pull out”.  The theory is that the young student already has the knowledge, a good teacher knows how to reduce his/her ego and draw out the knowledge from the already-knowing children.  Education derived from the word educare.

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If you’re like me, you can count on one hand the teachers who taught the educare method.  Most felt they had to stuff the knowledge into us because, after all, we were dumb kids.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for more education (and better education), and feel teachers have about the most (if not the most) important job in the world.  Perhaps if we paid them what they’re worth, they’d all take the time to perform as well as a world-leading surgeon.  Until then, I think we can, for the most part, expect the status quo, blaming the kids and punishing them with Ritalin.

For 30 years or so I’ve been living my life, but in the process examining it too.  Sometimes it is exhilarating, sometimes painful, but always necessary. 

I returned to a good college at age 49 to pursue a degree in Business Internet Technology.  The majority of professors there were quite keen regarding educare (and many of us were “big boys and girls” by that time.  We were still treated with respect as equals.  Ego was cast aside for the sake of learning.

What is the point of my blog.  It is never too late to shift gears, to stop the drama.  We were not created to be unhappy, hateful, violent, ignorant, or any other negatives.  Even actions that extreme can be modified with proper education/educare.

I am sixty now and feel like I’m just beginning to learn about the world.  I’ve changed my lifestyle considerably as has my wife Lee.  Our daily routines are healthy and there’s always something new to learn in what we do.  If we don’t like a certain path part of our work is leading us down, we turn the steering wheel.
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We’re nothing special; well no more special than any other human being (we’re all very special in that way).  If we can do it, so can anyone else.   Please do yourself a favor.  Live a little before you die.  It’s okay.  Really. 

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for the founding of Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts.  He and his nature photographer wife Lee Hiller-London are living green, vegan, hiking etc in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.

Robin Williams Is Gone – By Rick London

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

It was the summer of 1981.  I was living in the Grammercy and later Astoria, Queens area of NYC in search of myself on the stand-up comedy stages of NYC.  I was terrible but I was ambitious (and in denial) so I thought I would eventually become “one of the best”.  I felt wrong.

Nevertheless, I haunted all the old stages of the big city, playing well into the wee hours of the morning at such establishments as Dangerfield’s, Good Times, Bottom Line, Bitter End, The Improv, Catch A Rising Star, and a myriad of venues in Brooklyn and N.J.

One night, while playing at Catch a Rising Star or “Catch” as we liked to call it, I was summoned by the manager to postpone my performance….that “a star” was coming that night to hone his skills.  Generally that meant Jerry Seinfeld (or any of the other future cast members of the standup show), or even Rosie O’Donnell who was still doing stand-up at the time.

I had only been in NYC less than a year, working jobs day and night to stay afloat (from bartending to cab driving to a public relations internship).  I often did all 3 jobs at the same time, leaving about 2 hours to take the train to the comedy club, perform, go home, catch 3 hours of sleep, and go to my office job. I was 28 years old at the time and it seemed so easy.  Today, I look back and shake my head.

About 12 of us (comedians) stood back stage as a surprisingly tall lanky man entered the stage through the back door.  He looked so familiar.  I’m 6’ 2”.  The man in front of me, the one who made me laugh so many times as Mork, appeared to be much taller.  Until this day I was certain he was about 6’ 4” but I’m reading articles today that he was only 5; 7”.  Maybe it was that he was bigger than life even back then. My peers seemed to also agree….”…Much taller than I expected”. 

He greeted us like long lost friends.  Though many of the comics did the spread-fingers of Mork with a nah nu nah nu, Robin simply smiled and chuckled a bit and acknowledged in appreciation that they remembered it, but greeted back with a handshake and a hand on the shoulder.  He was exceptionally warm.   I realized he remembered his “tough early days” of trying to survive as a stand-up.  Nothing easy about it (in case someone has not tried). 

Catch was in a nice area but the crime rate was very high there (around the East 90s at 2nd Ave).  He opened his show,  “Welcome to ‘Catch A Stolen Car….”

After the show he bought us all (the comics) drinks chatted and laughed with us, and was on his way somewhere else (parts unknown).  This happened a few more times over the course of the year.  Especially after making a film, he’d use his “down-time” haunting the NYC comedy clubs (especially “Catch”) to “hone his act”.   Though it was always more than a pleasure to see him, I often wondered why he felt he needed his act to be honed.  I realize now he knew better. He simply loved to be up-close and personal while he was making people laugh.  Movies were great and paid a lot more than comedy, but the comedy club stage was the only place to monitor just how good (or not) one was.

Months went by and we noticed “Mork” was beginning to step into the world of celluloid (Silver Screen).  We felt for sure we’d lost our “occasional mentor” but low and behold within a few months Robin was back with his same friendly demeanor and a kind word of inspiration for everyone.  And though that was not enough for me to stay in stand-up comedy/impressions (which I loved), I also knew, alas, I could write comedy pretty well, but I’d never be a decent stand-up act.  I don’t regret learning that, in fact, it helped me to move on and into other arenas (which also involved humor) of which I still do.

Robin Williams was an enigma.   None of us will ever know why his demons stayed with him, but none of us can judge.  We all have a certain amount of our own demons of which we should slay before judging others for their own, and, even if we happen to slay them, there’s no room for judgment of Robin Williams (or anyone else).  We know that he was trying, and trying hard to straighten up his act and had been working on it for about two decades. 

We are a fortunate generation.  Many generations never had a “Robin Williams” and though Robin’s inspiration Jonathan Winters was beyond funny and probably one of the best comedians that ever lived, Robin took that a step further, wandering into the volatile waters of drama and suspense, and mastered it every bit as well as he did comedy.

He also loved his family.  I’ve heard some say, “Well how could he love his family if he killed himself”?  First of all the investigation is not over and there is every bit a chance this was an accident than a suicide.  But you ask, “Rick how could that be”?  I am reminded of the story of David Carradine’s death which surely appeared to be a suicide but was not (nor was it a murder).  Though auto-erotic asphyxiation is not a topic often discussed, it appears it could easily have been what happened here. 

And even if it is not, Robin Williams admittedly suffered from a type of depression of the worst kind.  He could have easily also been misdiagnosed (as I was) and actually had a faulty vagus nerve, and medically treated incorrectly for so many years.  Vagus nerve disorders are not a mental illness (but can mimic one or more) and if left untreated, can, indeed, be even worse than garden-variety depression, addiction, etc.  It is very rare to get a correct diagnosis for a vagus nerve issue.  I only “got lucky” to get a vagus nerve implant” because I fought it tooth and nail (after reading of the clinical trials) for 8 years.

It is much more important, to me, that Robin Williams be remembered for what he contributed to our culture which is so massive in scope, it would take a Wikipedia to catalog it all. We know he’s gone and I believe the details of that, unless proven foul play which I strongly doubt, should be a private matter of which we’re not involved.  We don’t get those details from our friends in the community when they die, only a “surface medical description” such as “heart disease” or “long struggle with cancer”.  The media could simply say, “After a long struggle with depression….”.; and lend respect of privacy to his family.   In addition to his tv/film/comedy career, he volunteered to go to some of the world’s most dangerous war zones with the USO to entertain our troops.  His career needed no boost (it is said that some celebs hop on the USO wagon when their career begins to wane) and, it is obvious that a few have. 

But not Robin Williams, not Bob Hope, not Marilyn Monroe…..After writing this paragraph, I realize that though Robin was in a league of his own, yet he was also in a league of selfless people who just wanted to make people laugh or smile….and no bullets or bombs were going to stop them.  That’s how important it was to them.  Whether one was or wasn’t a Robin Williams fan, one can surely appreciate his character and his patriotism to our country.  It really mattered to him, and he gave back way more than he took.

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist and designer.  He is best known for his Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoons, Londons Times and funny gifts.  He is an activist for animals and eco-causes and lives with his wife nature photographer Lee Hiller in the Arkansas Ouachita  Mountains. 

 

Border Collies, Stocks, & Humor by Rick London

Border Collie Collectibles         Click To Enlarge

Border Collie Collectibles
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I love dogs.

I like to make money, though I doubt I’ll ever be a dot.com zillionaire. I have too much of a writer/artist’s heart (whatever that is), and am much more interested that certain details of a graphic are correct, than I am if one of my licensed t-shirts is displayed properly (though I do appreciate the importance of that part of business too). Let me reword that. I don’t like selling things.

I probably am fairly good at selling things (for instance I’m fairly good at bartering which takes a certain amount of sales acumen), and by the same token I understand the importance of the myriad of details that go into an entrepreneurial venture.

I have learned over the years that I have strengths in some areas and weaknesses in others. There are several remedies for that. In the areas of weakness, I should surround myself with people who have strengths in those areas, and be the strength for them, if they have weaknesses in the areas (of which I have strength).

It’s business but it’s also physics. In basic physics one of the first lessons is “action/reaction”.
What people don’t understand is those physics apply to everything. When we empower someone, we become empowered. When we try to undermine or hurt someone, we become disempowered. Don’t believe me? Try it. It never fails to be true. So I try my best to try to empower those around me. I don’t do it perfectly, but that’s no reason not to keep trying. And I allow them to empower me, if they have knowledge in a matter of which I do not.

Which brings us to border collies and investments.
Rumor has it that art and art collectibles have outperformed Standard & Poors for the past 3 decades. That really doesn’t surprise me much, given the reasons people buy art or collectibles compared to the reasons people buy stocks.

I love art and photography collectibles and my wife Lee Hiller (Lee Hiller-London) who is a fine nature photographer and I have posters and prints of our work all over our home. We have some mugs, cards etc. too. We may, or may not ever sell them, but whatever we do, we’ll enjoy them, and have enjoyed them as the years have passed. We had several new ones to our collection each year. Our wall looks like a nicely stocked gallery.
One could do that with their stock certificates (if they wished) but the emotions that stocks and bonds paperwork seem to enhance are not in the same league with arts and letters collectibles on a print, mug, apron or even ornament.

That’s why I don’t “just design a T-shirt when we create a cartoon but a bulk of collectibles, because a lot of people are like me. They often don’t just want a T-shirt or an eco-friendly bag or a mug bearing that image, they want all three and maybe a key chain and/or button to match.

Which brings us to border collies. I love all dogs. But late in life I shared my home with a beautiful bearded collie mix (I think); and learned about a whole new breed. Most my life I’d had hounds, mixes, goldens labs etc.
One of my best friends had a border collie who reminded me very much of my bearded collie in many ways. Both were extremely bright, a bit hyper, goofy and a lot of fun.
My friend was/is also a sculpture. He has made numerous sculpted metal of border collies which are wonderful.

I’ve not kept up with Frank for several years (his late dad was one of my best friends though), but it gave me the idea of collectibles. If it worked so well on “serious items”, why couldn’t it work with cartoon collectibles?
So I created products, and put them in specific categories and pages, so that one could find a tee, keep shopping for the same design on other products, and not get lost.
Here is a “for instance” of my border collie page at one of my online shops. Enjoy and have a great week.

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, songwriter and designer. He is best known for Google #1 ranked Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts which he launched in 1997 in an abandoned tin shed in rural Ms.

WalMart Automotive, Challah, and Butterfly Optimism by Rick London

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I was up pretty early this morning because I knew Lee was making challah and I needed to go to the grocery as the cupboard was pretty slim pickins.  I wanted to get back early to get some work done (aka scattered creativity).  So I pushed myself to get up and get out. 

I went to the garage and as always, snapped on my seatbelt, turned the ignition and “all the things I take for granted kicked in –  the air conditioner would kick in, the battery would start it right up as it always had for years, etc. 

None of that happened.  Click click click click.  I know that sound well. It means dead battery.

It all started about 5 years ago.  WalMart was having a sale on batteries (they’re fairly cheap anyway) and I’d always had positive luck with them (no pun intended).  WalMart had a battery sale years ago and I bit.  Little did I know it would force  me into a vicious cycle of trading in at least 2 batteries per year for ones that worked. Yes I checked my connection and it was fine.  The battery was junk.  But until I want to really go all out and spend a few hundred on a car battery, I will be trading these batteries in until I stop driving.  Besides, I grew attached to such things.  There’s a lot about WalMart I don’t like.  But I do like that they take the battery back as promised and replace it with one every bit as sorry. 

There’s a lovely chunk of woods next to our nearby Walmart and a beautiful butterfly flew by (that I could name by name) and that frightened me a bit.  At the same token it made me even more grateful to Lee for taking the time to teach me what each one is called as we see them.   Butterflies keep me optimistic and this was no exception except for my totally dead battery about to be fixed.  

 

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So I got on the phone to click on Lee’s name, but the phone was dead too.  Why had I allowed facebook alerts when I had them off for years.  I don’t even like that silly “Droiiiiddddd” noise. 

Lee was there in a jiffy with her jumper cables, jumped me off, and followed me to WalMart as they have a lifetime warrantee on car batteries.  But this happens every 3-6 months these days. They used to last for years.  I turned to Lee and shouted my guess, “I BET THEY’RE MADE IN CHINA NOW”. 

To satisfy my curiosity, sure enough, the large percentage (if not all) of WalMart batteries are made in China. They carry one “top shelf” unit that only has parts from there but is assembled from here. I like Chinese food. I like Chinese dogs. I like a lot about China.  But I don’t like Chinese WalMart batteries. 

Admittedly they were very prompt to replace it, though they did do one of those “lump in the stomach things” announcing they couldn’t find my receipt in the pile of papers from the last battery I purchased there.

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 They smiled and instructed Lee and I to take our time shopping “in WalMart” (we know this is how WalMart makes their minimal battery loss back and then some).  We answered,  “Yes, we will.  And when we get back from Kroger’s, in say 30 minutes or so, betcha the battery will be ready”.

 After a long frown he said, “Yes, should be”.

Lee figures things out faster than I do. I always feel I should get her one of those “I’m With Stupid” Tshirts.  Early on, she splurged for a new good battery and has not had one bit of trouble with it since she bought it 4 or so years ago. 

We got all our groceries (at Kroger) and followed each other home.  Groceries are in the fridge, bug spray guy will be here any minute, and I’m learning how to use the social network Tumblr while running sales at my Zazzle RickLondonGifts.com shops.

While most days remind me of The Beatles “A Day In The Life” (It’s just another day….etc), this one reminded me that our society offers up so many basics and luxuries, many of which we take for granted, but we’ve decided not to do that very often.

I made a mental note to myself that before I die I need to purchase one of those “tank-like Mercedes” that probably doesn’t even need a battery or electricity or gas.  One just owns it and it knows just what to do and where to go.  Of course my CPA may have different ideas about where my money goes, or lack thereof. 

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We are a “pay as you go” couple.  Our cars are in perfect working order (when the battery is ok), and they’ve been paid for for years.  Our town is small, so we don’t drive long distances. Our driving record is flawless.  Both vehicles are parked under a roof.  Given those amenities, Geico just charges a tiny green lizard for our insurance.  We don’t take that for granted.

The good part about aggravating days such as the way today started is one knows it can only get better.  And get better it did.  We got home and Lee made one of her magical smoothies.  She is doing her baking magic now and we’re on our way to having challah at sundown. 

Please remember to be grateful for the little things as well as the big things….even crummy Walmart Chinese auto batteries that only last several months.  Shabbat Shalom. Lee and I are proverbial “Internet networkers”, and you’re likely to find us on any social media at any given time.  We’re busy as beavers.  We’ve discovered we live in a “Hollywood World” in many ways. Sort of a “What have you done for me lately”.  

So we spend a lot of time online offering up as valuable of content as we can find to who we have decided are our marketplaces.  But at sundown tonight, we will bring that to a halt (at least the business part) as the Jewish sabbath (or Shabbat) begins.  

Tomorrow we play.  We’ve both gotten into the habit of reciting our Rosetta Stone language module, I play the guitar, and then Lee chooses vintage movies on tv.  

So Shabbat Shalom to all who observe Fri-Sat, Good Sabbath to those who observe on Sunday, and happy weekend to everybody else :)   Sincerely, Rick

 

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Rick London is a writer, musician, entrepreneur and cartoonist.  He is best known for having founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in 1997.  They have since become #1 ranked by Google & Bing.    He is married to wildlife and nature photographer Lee Hiller (Lee Hiller-London) who has the nature blog Hike Our Planet and numerous designer gift shops such as Lee Hiller Design. 

 

 

Memorial Day: It’s The Little Things by Rick London

 

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I live a relatively blessed blissful life. Except for the usual suspects (aches/pains) of getting older and not having the energy I had in my 20s (though occasionally I have more), I have no complaints.

I live in (what I believe to be) the most beautiful part of the U.S. When I was a teen, often to my objection, I was sent to summer camp near Asheville, N.C. Though I didn’t want to be away from my friends, I made new friends and saw something I’d never seen before in my life.

Mountains. And big ones. I remember thinking more than once, “If I could keep my camp friends and bring my hometown childhood friends up here, the Blue Ridge Mountains would be the ideal place to live.”

I still think that. But it didn’t happen.

Before I turned fifty, I knew that I was not going to live in the town in which I was raised. Though the town has some very good qualities, I found the negative far outweighed the positive (as far as my goals were concerned).

My goals were (and are) low crime rate, peaceful, apolitical (at least in civil discourse…most of us vote), cost of living, education, etc.
Though Asheville N.C. was up there at the top (and that was 1998), so was Hot Springs, Ar., and it was closer to people I knew within the state and adjacent states. I chose Hot Springs.
Like any move to a new city, there was a culture shock. I had lived in large metropolitan cities much of my adult life and I walked fast, talked fast, and found myself not enjoying the very slow genteel pace I had been seeking. I learned that was/is a process and it eventually did happen.

But I wanted mountains, tall ones, with lots of mountain lakes and plenty of bass fishing (I was not vegan when I arrived).  I fished nearly every weekend for 6 years; and sometimes during the week. Yet another freedom I took for granted all my life.  

I met my wife Lee about a decade later. Her move to Hot Springs from Portland, Or. was also a tough culture shock. She’d lived all over the world. As time went by, we learned to love it.
We never want to take for granted the lush 5500 acre second oldest National Park in the U.S. (Hot Springs National Park). One of the main trailheads is about ¼ mile from our front door. We live within ½ mile of the purest water in the world, and its free from a four spigot water fountain maintained by the National Park Service. Elvis had that water shipped montly to Graceland in Memphis. He, of course, could have had any water in the world shipped to him. He chose our 2000 year old thermal water that doesn’t see the light of day until its passed over mineral rich crystals for a long long time. And he drank it. Never did he Return To Sender.

I don’t blame him. Lee and I could never go back to tap water (or even bottled water for that matter). Mountain Valley Water bottles it (in the dark green with red/orange label bottles) but the taste is not even close to how it tastes fresh out of the ground from the city spigots. We fill about 7-10 jugs per week and try to drink at least ¼- ½ gallon per day. With a little fresh organic lemon, it is the best body cleanser out there. Some pay hundreds and even thousands a month for a similar cleansing that we get for the cost of a few lemons.

Lee found a beautiful century old “wedding chapel” atop one of our favorite hiking mountains and we decided to marry there.  Some of the park rangers didn’t even know it was still up there. She had found it on a solo hike one day and told me about it when she returned, already calling it “our wedding chapel”.  

Though our tiny hamlet allegedly lures 5 million or so tourists from around the world annually, we have about 30,000 residents. It always seems much larger due to iconic landmarks like the five star Arlington Hotel, the National Park that is the only one in the country whose edge is right in our gentrified downtown area.

Some of the most interesting architecture is in our downtown area, and residents have done some amazing work renovating the sometimes 100-200 or more year old structures.
The history of the town is unique in that it was “America’s First Tourist Town” and advertised as such. After it got the word out that it was “a tourist town” (nobody really knew what that was), other towns tried it, some with success, most not.

Hot Springs had/has something pertinent for both travelers and residents. The bathhouses are magnificent. Only one is still open as a bathhouse and the price for a bath and massage is around $80, 1/10th the cost of such larger more lush destinations such as La Costa, etc.

Though we have people for neighbors, and most of them are quite nice, the neighbors we know best are deer, a myriad of tropical birds; raccoons, snakes, lizards, turtles, and many we don’t see but we know are here such as panthers and numerous other large cats, bear, and numerous other interesting creatures. Not that this is a lure, but Arkansas has more venomous snakes than any other part of the country, and we’ve seen our share. People not familiar with snakes should take note that snakes, generally, unless threatened, are not a threat in the least. They simply want to move out of the way (if they get in the way). Moreover, most are very shy when they hear or see hikers coming.

Only once did I have a close call with a 5 ft Western Copperhead (we’re still not sure how it got here; its much larger than our southern copperheads). I came very close to stepping on her, and not looking. Lee screamed at me and I looked down to see her looking up at me. I slowly walked around her and kept a distance of about 10-15 feet. Lee had her old camera and was determined to get close-ups so she went back to our friend and snapped away from just a few feet away. This happened at the end of our hike. We’d left the trail and were on the side of the street.

The snake was simply waiting for dinner to cross the road. Copperheads, like most venomous snakes, don’t really feel like wasting its toxin on something that they don’t consider dinner (and they don’t consider people dinner). They will more often do a “head slap”, which is a warning (they generally do not bite on a first strike); and only then when feel threatened, or, one steps too close to their nest. We’ve done hundreds of hikes and had no issues with any of the animals except a few mean insects that show no mercy.

The worst insect bite was not deep in the forest but hiding under the basket rail in the parking lot at Walmart. I didn’t feel it bite my hand but by the time I walked inside, the clerk asked me what happened to my hand. The lump was literally the size of a baseball (it took less than 5 minutes to swell that large). It had to be a scorpion (we have plenty) or recluse or black widow. It took a month for the swelling to subside.

Given this information, aren’t you just rarin’ to pack up and visit Hot Springs?

Days like the bug bite are very rare. We get stung by something about once or twice a year; it goes with the territory and is usually healed with some tea tree oil within a week or less.
One of the things that we never take for granted is our nearby Kroger (for groceries) and WalMart (for dry goods), Lowes, Bestbuy, are all within a few minutes drive and even one of the top vegan restaurants in the state is a few blocks away. In every major city where I’ve resided, it was a real chore to get to just about anywhere. These type of things turn out to be important in the golden years. I don’t want to spend half my life in a car. I never did like doing that. And Lord knows why I ever chose large cities “as home” for so many years, given the hassle and dangers of living in them.

Large cities do offer a great deal of culture, museums, sporting events etc. that small towns don’t. But most of downtown has been turned into galleries and museums, and major exhibits always seem to hit our little town. We can walk to most of them. We have the oldest documentary film festival in the country, which just qualified this past year for the Academy Awards. We’ve seen some top-notch films at HSDFF, reviewed some, and even made friends with the producers, directors, etc.

Our place has a beautiful home office view of Hot Springs Mountain and it is not unusual to see hawks and a variety of other beautiful birds fly by our window.
Which brings me to why we celebrate Memorial Day and hawks. People have asked me if I’m a hawk or “pro-war” etc. because I’m supportive of our military, and have a strong feeling for those who have perished due to war. The answer is “No, I’m not”. And to be honest, I’ve never met a sane person who is (pro-war). I am an adult now and I realize there are times when war is necessary, and is always a last resort. We’ve been in wars in which we needed to be, and others maybe we’d done better not to participate.

Either way, if we send our soldiers to foreign lands, we owe them every bit of support we possibly can offer. They deserve at least that. And that has nothing to do with how we may personally feel about that particular war. Those are human beings, they are away from home, war is a frightening and traumatic experience, and they better know we’re here for them (while they’re there and when they come home). Most of them can think of other places they would prefer to be.

Many in my family have been in the military. I was willing to go and signed up for the lottery in the early 1970s but my number was too high, I was not drafted, and I went to college. The Viet Nam War ended shortly thereafter.

The soldiers were only there doing their jobs. They did not start or stop the wars. They simply did the job they were trained to do. They were willing to give everything for us when they enlisted, so that we could have the freedom to move wherever we wanted, to hike and enjoy the beauty of our country, to visit the grocery and not wait in long lines for a crust of bread and processed meat. We have the freedom to buy organic and even be vegan if we wish.

Please think of something for which you’re grateful. Doesn’t matter what it is. A picnic with friends or family, a cross country trip or even a trip to visit the grandparents, finishing finals in school, or you name it.

Please remember our soldiers who gave their lives in war. Remember the wounded warriors, and remember them all. These human beings do not go to dangerous foreign lands “just for fun”. They bravely participated so that our freedoms, most of which we take for granted, would never be removed from us. It is real easy to forget, since a lot of those heroes fought so many years ago. But let’s not ever forget. By not forgetting, it makes it much easier to be grateful for the smallest of things that make us happy, and never take them for granted.

Thank a soldier today, and tomorrow, and any day. You have that freedom too.
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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist and designer.  He is best known for his Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoons Londons Times and his Brand e-Mall Rick London Shopping.  He is married to popular nature photographer Lee Hiller-London who has HikeOurPlanet.com

Londons Times Cartoons: How Shirley Temple Of Doom Happened by Rick London

by LTCartoons.com c2012

by LTCartoons.com c2012

 

There was a time when I went to the movies at least once per week.  I was hypnotized by the silver screen.  At times I was sure I would be an actor or director, and then came real life, and Hollywood was sure I wouldn’t become either one (so I listened).  But I did continue to investigate the business to see if there was anything pertaining to it that I already knew how to do (or could be taught).  Screenwriting!  So I took workshops from several well-known excellent teachers and classes from some not-so-great teachers. 

What I didn’t learn, until the end of numerous workshops that screenwriting is at the bottom of the totem pole in “the industry”.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem starting at the bottom and have done so many times.  Then after taking more workshops, I learned that about one out of ten thousand scripts that go through the major Hollywood studies ever become a film.  In other words, I might as well just buy lottery tickets; my chances would be just as good.  

I did manage to write two romantic comedies, each in screenwriting format, “Elvis Vs Godzilla (really), and another called “Tabloid”.  Tabloid was actually more of a drama about journalism (but had some humorous lines). 

Then came the Northridge Earthquake which swallowed my home in the Valley (including my computer).     Then my Mom called from Ms. She was very ill and would be alone.  I felt the combination of those facts had sealed my fate.  After 16 years away from home, I had come full circle.  It was time to return. 

To keep my mind occupied, I wrote cartoons. I had done that when I was away at college in Dallas back in the early 70s and still had that shoe box-full.    I never quite knew what I might do with them. I had taught myself to draw, but not to the point I wanted “my cartoon” to be.  It was to be part fine art/part cartoon in bright colors.

I found a way to contact master cartoonists still living and most were quite helpful.  One of them told me to use “the Disney Model”; that is, write them, blueprint how they will look, and assign each one to my team of artists.  

For the first 3-4 years my “team” was one artist and me.  When his wife had a child and he went to work in a bank, I thought it was over.   That was one of the many times I “threw in the towel”.   

As time went by, several illustrators came to me and “auditioned”.   At one time I found myself writing from 15-100 cartoons per day and assigning them to each of my 12 illustrators.  Though I often felt “burned out”, it also kept my mind occupied, as I needed some kind of creative outlet; being back in my home town.  

One of the most fun things I remember doing was taking the names of film or TV celebrities or movies and combining several names.  Though I wrote this one a long time ago, it wasn’t until I knew there was a team player who could draw the caricature of a young Shirley Temple and do it correctly capturing the colors, facial expression, and “feel of the movie”.  This example “Shirley Temple Of Doom” rendered by master caricature artist Tom Kerr, made it happen.  My parody line of cartoons later became known as “Panel Hollywood” (part of Londons Times Cartoons). 

This cartoon was drawn in 2010, maybe a decade or more after I wrote it and put it away in a file in my head.  That was 13 years after Londons Times Cartoons was launched.  I’ll be turning 60 in a few months and wondering if I will still be able to “think these things up”.  I have come to realize it is a gift, and one that I ignored for many years which caused unhappiness in my life.  

I’m convinced everyone has “a gift” of some sort.  I believe everyone should explore their gift(s), research it at the library, Internet or wherever. Maybe take classes.  Maybe you can teach yourself.  I watched my wife nature/wildlife photographer teach herself that art, and become one of the best if not the best in our state.    

I’ve seen friends mid-life, mid-stream try something completely new and different.  There were obstacles.  There were challenges, and of course there were naysayers.  And it was all those things/people that kept our brains sparking and alive.

The more they said it could be done, the harder we worked to find a way to make it happen.  Life is good today.  I set my own pace, I go hiking, run errands, and I only have to be funny about once a day.  That’s not a bad life.  

Stay creative friends, 

 

Rick

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Rick London is a designer, writer and cartoonist.  He is best known for his Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoon Londons Times Cartoons & Funny Gifts.  He is married to nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who manages her popular nature blog Hike Our Planet.

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Londons Times Cartoons “Unfinished Business From College”

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I actually enjoy when people ask “What made you think of that cartoon?” I don’t always know (or even remember as 17 years and 4500 cartoons, I can’t remember every little spark in my poor brain). But occasionally I can (remember the impetus that sparked it), and this is one of those cartoons.

I’ll be the first to admit (okay maybe the last; my former professors will be the first) to admit, I was not a great student.

Ironically in some of the classes I loved the most, I made the worse grades, and the ones I loved the least, I sometimes aced. This behavior followed me far into adulthood; even upon returning to college at age 48; where I aced advanced math, and did dismally in English. Go figure.

But what stumps me the most, still, is that at institutes of higher learning, something happened to me, and I wonder if it did to others as well.

And that was “unfinished business”. I’m not talking about fast-track romance and fast cars, and strange spring breaks waking up somewhere in the panhandle of Florida.

I mean thoroughly studying a topic, and walking away feeling I had less knowledge about it than when I first approached it.

One of those incidents was trying to learn Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs.
He pretty much summed it up on a pyramid.

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Sure, as a generalization, Maslow is right on target. But take it a step further and on any given day all of mine can change. I pointed this out to the professor who (by the way hated questions of which he didn’t have answers hence added me to his hate list).

Maslow was not my only “unfinished business of academia”. I “learned” a lot of things that, last I remembered, someone else was doing (and doing a lot better than me).

Hence, I’ve taken Dr. Maslow to another realm; the realm of baking. I love good baked food and my wife Lee is one of the best bakers on the planet. She makes an art of most things for which she has a passion. And upon eating her challah, my kneeds are met.

Living Our Dreams. How Did Londons Times Cartoon Turn 17?

“….And please remember to set your watches forward one hour”. One hour?  I just fast forwarded mine 17 years.  And where did those years go?  Londons Times Cartoons is 17 years old this March 2014. Holy Smokes. Where did the time go?  Where in the world did it go.  I know I fought some battles and faced some challenges along the way (that seemed like I was walking through a long bad dream), but looking back, it seemed like last week that all this started.

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The last thing I remember after the workplace still looked like Scott Adam’s cartoon “Dilbert” was being downsized from a cubicle and pc to an abandoned warehouse; living on occasional donations of food and small bills from friends.  I received no governmental support. It was March 1997.

Rick London c2011

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Shifting career gears and goals from producing/editing/marketing to “writing cartoons” at age 44 was not something that Dale Carnegie might have recommended in “How To Make Friends And Influence People”. In fact if I had to write a book about it’s humble beginnings I might have called it, “So you’ve burned every bridge but your dog still loves you”.  And he did.  As did my new calico kitten which wandered up to the warehouse on day. This caused my loyal dog of many years to reassess his reasons to love me but I found “Pat” the cat a new home rapidly and Thor the dog loved me again.

When I launched Londons Times Cartoons, I virtually had nothing.  My car died and with no job I could unwisely spend what little cash I had on another piece of tin, or put it into technology which would help me “build a cartoon empire” (whatever that is).

Thor was with me for nearly ten years of my journey.  What a wonderful administrative assistant.

My skills were very limited.  I can draw a little but not to the level that matched the vision of the cartoon of which I had in mind.  This cartoon would have an offbeat nature ala Far Side, yet not the cartoony look of Far Side (or other cartoons for that matter). If I could eventually create it, my feelings were there was nothing else like it on the market.  I talked to masters in the cartoon industry. I was too naïve to know to leave them alone.  The bigger these icons were, the more friendly and open they were.  Charles Schulz recommended I recruit illustrators who were also fine artists who might do so on spec. He admitted it was a long shot, but long shots do happen, especially in the cartooning industry.

 

 

 

As time went by, I wandered and called around with my shoebox full of cartoon concepts. Sure enough, a bite.  Problem…he didn’t want to do color.  Color was part of my vision but I gave in and figured I could get them colored later.  As time went by a Ca. tee shirt company offered us $10,000 for rights to 12 images (if they were in color).  My illustrator/partner decided color would be good. And from that moment on about 99% of our cartoons were done in color and still are.

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I slowly moved “up the creative corporate ladder” which meant moving eventually to my own place to my favorite mountains in Arkansas; a place surrounded by the most gorgeous natural beauty in the world.  As my instincts suggested, it would be impossible to hike those hills, and not be inspired to write some unique panels.  At one point I was working with eight different top illustrators and writing from 30-100 cartoons per day (not all great albeit but usually 3-5 were marketable).

There’s a lot more to the story. I pretty much took a permanent break around 2001 to return to college and study business as it applies to the Internet at Western Governors.  The professors were fantastic and I learned things that were pragmatic enough to bring into the workplace and facilitate the same or next day.

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I never thought during my pursuit of my own happiness I’d meet the woman of my dreams, Lee Hiller-London , whom I’d eventually marry and as it turns out she, too, loves to hike in the same mountains, and is a wonderful artist and photographer and is building her own brand based on her art and nature/wildlife photography.  We both love what we do and never get bored.  When I was young I used to jokingly say that might happen to me one day; but I never really believed it.  Lee and I have been married since June 18, 2010.

We’ve changed our lifestyles dramatically.  We’re vegans.  We mountain hike 3 or so days a week.  We’re out in nature all the time.  We’re active with animals and the environment.  We have a good life.

I guess there is a moral to this story; several actually.

We are not our last mistake nor are we an accumulation of all the mistakes we have made.

It is never to late and start right where we are and begin working on our dreams.  I was 44.

There will be obstacles and naysayers, lots of them.  And that’s all they are; and best left ignored, or not ignored but looked at as teachers.

There are those who say “Never quit no matter what”. I say that’s foolish. I say quit every single time you feel fatigued, tired, uninspired, etc. It can be from 5 minutes to 5 years (or more).   In my case I needed more knowledge, hence school.

Oh, in the middle of school, I started receiving emails, mails, phone calls etc from every major charity, religious organization, private school, animal cause, environmental cause etc. all wanting autographed cartoons.

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I thought it was some kind of joke.  Finally friends started congratulating me. Why?  For having Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and gifts.  Several years later also Bing’s #1; and have remained #1 on both search engines since Jan. 2005.

I guess my point is, if I can launch a creative venture mid-life, anybody can.  Please remember 17 years has gone by like a flash so if you plan to start, please get started.

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Rick London is an author, designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for his #1 ranked LTCartoons.com offbeat cartoons and funny gifts Londons Times Cartoons. He is married to popular nature photographer Lee Hiller London who runs the popular blog Hike Our Planet.

The Importance Of Thanking A Veteran By Rick London

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  Other seasoned artists, writers, musicians etc. with whom I’ve spoken and are friends, understand clearly with no explanation.

For those who have never worked in a field in which the “envelope is encouraged to be pushed”, sometimes they don’t understand when I tell them that Veteran’s Day may be one of the most important if not most important days of the year.

These thank you posts to our veterans, for us, are put up with great emotion; for we know that without our veterans, none of us would be doing the work we love to do, except in hiding, as it is only the countries that suppress, kill, censor and torture their citizens, the one’s that often eventually begin a war to defend their wrongdoing, that consider their creative persons “the most dangerous”.

In a free country, like ours, legends like Mad Magazine, Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, Colbert, The Onion, and yes, even Londons Times Cartoons thrive. Matters not if one likes that type media or not, just be glad it exists, because when/if it ever stops, we’re in big trouble as a nation. In countries like America, one does not need to agree with the philosophies of such media, but they better think twice if they don’t think they should exist.  That’s how Syria, Iran and other such countries think, intensely.  So they don’t (exist) in those countries. I take that back; some do, but they are done very carefully “in undisclosed locations”.  

And it is our veterans that have fought for our freedoms so that we don’t have to hide in caves to work. In fact we can be proud of our work and most of us are.

vet

So when I “Thank A Veteran”, I tell them why.  Almost none of them have thought of that, they tell me, but it is absolutely true.  Freedom breeds creativity. Suppression and censorship are violations to the body, mind and soul.

Even if you don’t work in the arts/and letters, chances are you utilize them at times. You listen to iTunes, you read your favorite magazine or newspaper, you watch movies, and hopefully you read Londons Times Cartoons :).   If you enjoy any of that activity, you too, may thank a veteran.  Without our veterans, chances are very slim any of those would exist, or, if they did, they would be heavily conrolled and censored by the government to fit their philosophy, and only one philosophy would be allowed. 

Please thank a Veteran today.  Let he or she know how much you appreciate him/her and why. It possibly is one of the most important things any of us will do this year.  If you can’t find one nearby, there’s always groups on facebook, Twitter, etc. It only takes a minute and it means a lot to them.  Just let them know you feel they are very important and we could never repay them (and that would be true). 

Thank you kindly.

Sincerely,
Rick London

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Rick London is a designer, cartoonist, songwriter and author.  He is best known for his Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts Londons Times Cartoon. He is married to popular nature photographer Lee Hiller-London and together they live and hike in their home in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. Lee has he popular nature blog Hike Our Planet. 

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