Recalculating – Fighting Rebellion To Grow Up by Rick London

I used to write “the story behind the cartoon” and some friends seemed to enjoy it. I got busy doing other things, and never found time for it.

About a year ago I wrote a cartoon that (I had a feeling) not many would “get”, and I don’t say that condescendingly. I would not have gotten it if someone else had written it.

I realized after publishing it on my website, unless someone knew me growing up, they might not have a clue.  Even my wife Lee, who I’d not met until adulthood sort of scratched her head.

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Every now and then someone looks at it, and moves on to another less complicated one.

The story behind this cartoon that I titled “Recalculating” is more of a self-serving lump of nothing than anything with a moral or lesson.  (Not that cartoons have to have morals or lessons).

Growing up, I was what one might call rebellious; but only symbolically.  Yes, I went through some of the same things that others did, but my parents always had that “invisible leash” and I knew it.

So my rebellion manifested into hair down to the shoulders, bell bottom jeans, black lights and posters, smoking pot (and inhaling) etc.

I had no idea why that was my what my life had become, or even why it seemed attractive.  I imagine peer pressure had a great deal to do with it, and that was that.  I have to admit, at age 15 or 16 or so, shocking ones parents (in the late 60s-early 70s brought great pleasure to a “rebel without a clue” like me.

In my twenties (at some point) I realized I was going to have to learn to make a living.   I was terrible at real estate (which was the family business), due to undiagnosed and misdiagnosed learning disorders, most of which were not even addressed until my 40s.

I learned that I could write, which was odd (given that I’d not read an entire book cover to cover until I was 28 (“Being There” by Jerzy Kazinsky). I later met Jerzy and got some “insider information” into the book and film.   That was fun.

In my 30s I lucked into a cushy Washington, D.C.  job and the world was rapidly going from 60s (hippie) to 80s yuppie, and I had to make a choice.  Suddenly I was editor-in chief at a major radio network.  I hesitantly chose yuppie as “that was the Washington way”, but never really gave up my 60s rebelliousness.  I kept it in the back of my mind as I got up and made it to work early in the morning and left late in the afternoon.  I jogged later and played Trivial Pursuit with my morphing yuppie neighbors on Capitol Hill.

I later opened a bus tour business that did well and sold it.  I moved to California, mainly because I was burning out from the speed-of-light “Washington ways”. I figured L.A. would help me “chill” and get back to my hippie roots.  That’s what I figured.  I had failed at many more businesses and projects than those that succeeded.

By then there was no looking back.  The days of “hippiedom” were gone, even in L.A.  I had a friend who owned a car lot and he talked me into going to the auction with him and made a bid for a used Mercedes in very good shape, at the price I used to buy my junker muscle cars in high school.  It was official. I was a yuppie, but still with the resentment of having to be one, as I’d invested so much into that long hair and so many nice tie-dyed shirts.  Sniff.

The years went by, and suddenly my home in the burbs was swallowed by the Northridge Earthquake.

I realized at that moment I had made “so many plans” and the universe had other plans for me.  If there is a God (and I believe there is) He must have been watching out, as the life I live now, is quite nice, I couldn’t have dreamed it, frankly….but it is nothing like “what I planned”.  It’s healthy.  I love my wife, Lee.  We have similar interests.  And like any couple, we don’t agree on every topic but that’s okay.

We both decided to get healthy (rather than give into being sickly, which would have been an easier route, we decided to expose ourselves to healthy things, people,  get to know nature, and love life just as it is.  That’s not easy (in the start) when one has been “chasing some unknown” for many years, but it makes a lot of sense now.

And every single screeching on of breaks, from as far back as I can remember in my life, and restarting, was nothing more than “Recalculating”; just like the robot-woman in our GPS.

Hence my best explanation for this cartoon…..”Recalculating”.

I Haven’t Finished My Book Yet Due To Procrastination By Rick London

 I’m not sure when I started procrastinating but if legend has it correctly it was around age one….one day old. I was born a few hours late….but I had “things to do”. 

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 Most people grow out of “the procrastination game”….I grew into it.  I try to be at least 5-10 minutes late to anything.  That way, I feel important, yet not too important. 

For the first time since I can remember, I am more than a few minutes late on an important project but it is due to circumstance beyond my control.  Londons Times Cartoons (my cartoon property) which I launched on March 19, 1997 turned 18 years old last week, oddly enough on March 19, 2015.  Man has time flown.  

I am not sure how many people have edited graphics and added text to a Kindle book, but if you have, you are aware that in the best of conditions, it takes patience, concentration, and such. 

Though I didn’t have those qualities in my youth, I did have parents, teachers and other caring adults who wish I did.  And I probably would have if they’d discovered some of the learning disorders that took me about 50 years to even get started fixing and/or treating.

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I had one high school teacher who made it a point to remind me that I didn’t have those qualities in front of the other kids.  While he was trying to embarrass me, he only made me laugh, often really hard as I was a regular fan of an 100,000 watt radio station in Little Rock KAAY-AM which featuring a show called “Beaker Street” at 11pm CST. It played such bands as King Crimson, Black Sabbath and other fringe musicians or songs over three minutes.

 This teacher however reminded me of a line in Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant when he was meeting his new “friends” at the “Group W Bench” at the draft board…., “He was comin’ over to me, and he was mean and Ugly and nasty and horrible and all kinds of things, and he sat down next to Me. He said, “Kid, what’d you get?”

I said, “I didn’t get nothin’. I had to pay fifty dollars and pick up the Garbage.”

I finally decided to tell my friends why I was cracking up every time the teacher did the “shame thing”.  They immediately started laughing as, they too had KAAY-AM on when they were supposed to be sleeping. 

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We all told how we were able to listen to it on our little transistor radios. I built a “bed tent” out of a lot of blankets that muffled the sound to where my parents couldn’t hear it; or so I thought.  Truth be told, I found out later they were glad I was at least listening to music rather than sneaking out and getting in trouble like a lot of other kids did.  Of course I only did that on weekends. 

Anyway, my friend Donzo, upon hearing of my injury earlier this past March and inability to finish my book and get it published by March 19th suggested I release it on April Fools Day. Since it is a book full of cartoons and silly quotes, I thought to myself, “Yes, yes yes”.  Okay maybe two yeses but it was a definite consensus between the left and right side of my brain.

I tried but the age-old “Procrastination-Process” settled into my brain and told me I had a million other things to do, and so I did those other things, while I worked on my book a little each day. 

The point is, the book is written, drawn…finished.

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But I’m not. I have to organize it all onto the proper pages, fit the graphics to the standard that Amazon says I do, put the name of each page at the top left so the Table Of Contents will “see” it and print it, etc. 

Just writing about it makes me tired.  I think I’ll hike tomorrow with Lee and let you know how the book is going and my new scheduled date of release.  You will be able to see it on my Amazon Author Central Page (and later at Barnes & Noble).  If it sells well I’ll have it published into a paper coffee table book and it will be available also at other chains and indie book stores. 

The good news is that the finished product will be edited and uploaded by my beloved (and talented wife) Lee Hiller-London so all will work out fine.  Thank you baby.

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Rick London is a writer, designer, cartoonist, and musician.  He is best known for his Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and Funny Gifts.   He is married to popular nature photographer and gift designer Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller). 

Cartoon Anniversaries, Obstacles, & Asperger’s Spectrum

Each year I tell myself I’m not going to get excited about anniversaries and other such milestones  (except my wedding one to my beloved wife Lee).  Londons Times Cartoons will be 18 years old Thursday, March 19th.  As most know, I launched it after several false starts in an abandoned aluminum warehouse.  It was not an easy time for me.  But I’ve discussed that often in my blog. 

It seems like every year I end up writing a blog about some of the (what I consider) unique experiences in the founding and eventual launching of Londons Times Cartoons.  That’s fun for me and it reminds me of all the “street education” that occurred (and still occurs) in the management and growth of such a project.  

This time I’m going to take a risk and talk about something a bit more personal.  For some, it may scare them away, for others, it might help them understand; and, hopefully, begin a new growth process, similar to one on which I’m embarking. It’s not what I expected but, that’s life, and I find every day to be a blessing. 

I consider it a compliment when people ask me “How did you know how to do that?”, or “How did you learn that business?”

Truth be told, there isn’t a degree in cartooning unless one attends Ohio State (which also has the largest cartoon collection in the world), and I think a few other colleges now. I didn’t have that luxury. In fact I was a dismal student in my younger days and got a bit better when I went back to school at age 47. But even then I didn’t study cartooning, but learned business and Internet skills that came in handy in the design and marketing of the Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and consequential funny gifts and collectibles. 

I did not learn until about a month or two ago that what most likely helped me a great deal (besides the motivation of my wife Lee) was that I discovered I “most likely” have highly-functional Aspergers”, a form of autism (which I’ve had all my life, but didn’t know it).  To be sure, I took yet another test from the top autism testing centers such as at Psych Central and my score was in the “more than likely has high functioning Aspergers.”

The reason for the “most likely” is that it is impossible to diagnose any form of autism without the help of a trained professional M.D. specializing in the brain sciences.  However, the test will give you a clue if one should see such a trained professional, and also even if it turns out that one “most likely” or “more than likely” has basic autism or another form such as highly-functional Aspergers, they nevertheless may want to see a professional as there are a myriad of other disorders that can be obstructive that may not fall technically into that spectrum, but have similar symptoms and can create issues in ones life that can be less than comfortable. 

At first this scared (and embarrassed me).  Then I learned that often people with this type of autism spectrum can often focus in ways that others cannot.  To me, that kind of focus is “normal” or at times it feels odd that others (unless they have this spectrum) don’t often have that kind of focus).

Oddly it didn’t surprise Lee.  She knew from my vagus nerve stimulator that for my system to function properly, I need “mechanical assistance” (and no, not like Lee Majors).  Her guess was, in fact, high-functioning Aspergers because of my “High level focusing abilities”.  I took that as a compliment.

My embarrassment diminished when I started researching it and learned that the very man who gave me the most advice about the business and world of cartooning, Charles “Sparky” Schulz also had it, as did Alfred Hitchcock according to reports from autism/Asperger’s Asperger’s support sites

Upon further research I also  learned some other notable names who most likely have or had it during their lives are/were Stephen Spielberg, Bill Gates, Dan Aykroyd, Thomas Jefferson, Jane Austen, and Isaac Newton  Albert Lim Kok Hooi, M.D. Doctor of Oncology reported in the Feb. 24, 2011 issue of The New York Times that most historians believe others who had it were Beethoven, Mozart, Mark Twain, Isaac Newton, Michaelangelo, and Darwin.

Also on that list is Jim Henson, Isaac Asimov and Bob Dylan and many others.   It’s worth a view of the list.  If you find you have it, I believe you’ll realize you’re in good company. 

At this point, I can only imagine you thinking, “Is Rick so delusional he thinks he is in the categories of those master craftsmen and women?”

No, and that is the reason I am writing this blog instead of one of my gratuitous ones that repeatedly notes the most “fascinating history in my mind” of my story of entering the world of cartooning and product designing. 

Not in the least.  But I take the time to document them, to remind myself that the disease is not just a disease, but a blessing/gift as well, and, anyone can have it, and it is should cause no shame, in fact, if anything, one might even say it is something in which to take pride.

In 1995 or so, I read a best-selling nonfiction book titled “EQ – Emotional Quotient” by Dr. Daniel Goleman.  

He was diagnosed with autism back in the days when those diagnosed with it were kept out of school, I guess so as “not to infect others with it”.

When he reached adulthood, given his own research, he was able to prove IQ was not the only measurement of intelligence, and in fact EQ was not only another, but much more important than IQ in making ones way in the world.  It is the emotional process of using ones intelligence.

He took the GED with no education at all and aced it.  He later went to Yale and Amherst and finally received his PhD.

Goleman co-founded the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning at Yale University’s Child Studies Center which then moved to the University Of Illinois at Chicago where he co-directs the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations at Rutgers.  He sits on the board of the Mind & Life Institute.    Here is a very interesting TED Talk he gave on EQ not long ago. 

After reading “EQ”, I took a chance and called him and explained my life and fear of education because I was so dismal at it.  He chuckled and told me (in a nutshell) that it is possible in adulthood to work on one’s EQ and raise it to the level.

I stumbled through much of his direction and programs as I possibly could over the years and returned to college at age 47.   I did fairly well on scholarship and even aced advanced math (I had failed all math growing up and in early college days.  

I also had launched Londons Times Cartoons Gifts and later Rick London Quote Gifts, but several serious health issues hit (seemingly all at once) and I was forced to stop college as I was falling behind.  That was heartbreaking as I was finally enjoying the learning process.  By the same token, the college (and I) were a very good match, and I learned a great deal about running a business using the Internet.  I even learned how to digitally design products (which I still do on a daily basis).

I then got married to my wonderful wife, and we both spend days doing what we love, hiking, nature and wildlife photography (she’s teaching me) and growing our business.  I am what you might consider a happy person as is Lee.

Finally, there is a common thread, I can see, in all my “anniversary blogs”. That thread is, “It is never too late to begin chasing ones dream”; and “it’s a shame if you don’t when you really can”.  I don’t mean necessarily “quit the day job” and jump in.  I found great pleasure in chatting with various masters including Charles Schulz learning how the cartoon business works.  I got joy in reading books on the topic and as the Internet grew, reading websites that “taught” various aspects of it.

With the advent of the Internet, we can all chase our dreams, beginning as hobbies, as most of them do, and enjoy the ride and the path as it becomes more clear on a daily basis.  It grows and changes and so do we.  I wish you the greatest success in whatever journey you decide to choose (or have chosen). Nothing, really, can stand in your way, if you choose not to let it. 

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Rick London is an animal and nature-lover and supports both causes.  He is a writer, musician, cartoonist, and designer.  He is best known for his offbeat comic Londons Times Offbeat Comics & humor gifts.  He is married to nature wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who operates the highly-visited nature blog Hike Our Planet and designs her own line of designer gifts

Here are a few of our Londons Times Cartoons created over the past 18 years.  Hope you enjoy.  Sincerely, Rick

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What’s So Funny? by Rick London

This March 19th, Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and funny gifts will be eighteen years old.  From the start, people asked, “What’s so funny?” or “The world is a mess” etc.

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I agree with them, actually, and admittedly as the world gets crazier (or maybe it was always this crazy but social media helps us see it more microscopically), we need to laugh.

Laughter, I read long ago is important for our health.  And it’s not just fringe alternative medical studies that show this to be so.  By 2014, nearly every major medical research center, including Mayo Clinic, have conclusive studies showing laughter improves everything from the way the immune system operates to reducing pain.

Did I think I was going to “save the world” back in 1997, when I launched Londons Times in that abandoned warehouse in Ms.?  Probably so, but I was as naïve and stoked as the next entrepreneur with a unique idea or different vision.  Needless to say, I didn’t save the world, and  not even sure I made it any better, but I did make a contribution.

I made my share of mistakes, but I suppose if I hadn’t, I would never have been able to build it to the scope that it has been built. I was able to recruit some of the best illustrators in the world who understood (and understand) my blueprinted concepts and render them.

I have been able to design tens of thousands of products by learning digital design through tutorials and learned to market them for sale by returning to college at age 50.

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As I look up and read what I wrote, I can easily see it as a “bragging right essay” and perhaps it is.  I am proud of Londons Times and I make no apologies about that.  The work often was 24/7 and sometimes that was nonstop.   Ironically the time since its launching in 1997 is all a blur, as if it has been at high speed velocity. And yet I can still look back at old letters and emails and smile at “that bump in the road” or that “bit of my own ignorance” and wonder what I did, if I did, do, to overcome and learn by it.

Several months ago, as I’ve described in recent blogs, I did some real damage to my upper right shoulder, arm and hand.  I am in physical therapy now and have elastic braces on part of my arm and waist.

I just did a photo-shoot of Lee (using her camera) in her new Oarttee (one of our new associates) “all over print” tee, one of her designs that was beautifully printed and shipped to her.  That was a challenge as I had to hold the camera up high to get a full shot.  (She ended up taking a great many shots using the timer and tripod also) so chances are one of those shots will end up on the Internet.  It’s a gorgeous design created from one of her photos of a bright red/pink camellia (one of my favorite flowers).

Though “partly-brag”, part of my message is to “stay the course”.  I am aware a good many young people follow my cartoons and read my blog, but also middle-age and older people (who may think it is too late to try something they’ve always wanted to do).

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Though I say “Be pragmatic”, I also say “TRY”.  It really is never to late to give it a shot.  Don’t worry about mistakes or the learning curve.  One can be rest assured there will be plenty of that.   And whether (in your mind) if you succeeded or not, you can surely say you tried.

Several decades ago when I was visiting my maternal grandmother Ruth London in the nursing home, I often chatted with some of the other residents, and many had much to share.

I decided to learn something for myself so I asked many of them if they could live their lives over, is there anything they would have done differently.

The common thread was, “I would have done some of the things I always wanted to do but was too frightened or was told it was not sensible”.  I know without a doubt that was the impetus for my trying Londons Times Cartoons; the elderly and geriatric residents of Hattiesburg Nursing Home on Bay St. in Hattiesburg.  They taught me not to regret a chance to try something “later in life”.  I was forty-four when I launched the cartoon.

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What will be your next contribution?

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, designer and musician who is active with green and animal causes.  He is best known for his Google #1 ranked Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons And Funny Gifts. 

This Blog Hurts

Last Friday Lee looked at the weather channel webpage and saw that snow and sleet was about to rear its ugly head in south-central Arkansas (that’s where we are).

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For her, that meant a short solo hike yesterday in search of exotic birds that seem to land and stay awhile whenever we have one of these storms (and she got a beauty of a closeup video of cedar waxwings). If you’ve not seen it, please do yourself a favor. http://hikeourplanet.com.

For me, it meant changing my physical therapy appointment (for arm and back injury) from Monday to another day, which I did (on Friday).

So yesterday I got a call from the physical therapy office. The voice on my voicemail said, “We’re going to have to postpone your appointment due to weather conditions”.

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I thought to myself, “I  wish when I worked in corporate America we could have had such a laissezfaire attitude towards our work (in other words, not do it but get paid).  Alas those were the days of responsibility and duty.  Today are the days of “I’ll get to it when/if I can”.

So I called back in a huff letting them know I’d already called on Friday, aware of the upcoming bad weather, and already changed my appointment which obviously was not recorded. I’ve not heard back.

So what is my point?  Well my injury, and rest-assured, I don’t do things half-baked….this is a full-blown killer pain starting at my fingers and moving its way back and forth to my upper and lower back.  I’ve had some interesting injuries in the past, but this one by far is the worse.

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So again, what’s my point?  I wondered how in the hell I’d be able to type a blog…..and there ya have it…..a blog!

By the way, Lee is helping me with my exercises, and I go to physical therapy tomorrow…that is if they remembered to post the appointment.

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Rick London is an author, cartoonist, designer and musician.  He is best known for his 18 year old Google #1 ranked Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts  

Been To The Desert On A Blog With No Goal by Rick London

Even though I’ve been at this SEO (search engine optimization)/social media stuff for maybe 8 or so years now, and blogging is a major part of it,  I really have to be in the mood to blog….and I’m rarely in the mood to blog.

So this is very special…I mean this blog…is very special. Don’t you feel honored?  I know I do….and I thought you would.  I feel so special writing it. I feel so facetious writing this part of it.

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They say before starting a blog, have a vision, a goal and a purpose of the blog.  I have none of the three.  Does that mean I stop the blog?   Not really. I’ll keep writing but only reluctantly.

Since I write cartoons and design products featuring those cartoons, I’ll write about that.  (They say “Write what you know”).  The funny thing is, this March 19th, Londons Times Cartoons will be 18 years old (or LTCartoons) as we now like to call it since nobody pronounces “Londons Times” correctly (including me).

My RickLondonGifts.com turns 9 years old sometimes this year but for the life of me I cannot remember the date so I celebrate it all on March 19th.

One neat thing. I’m in the middle of writing a book titled “Useless Quotes And Funny Cartoons” which will be released by March 19th.  I think it’s neat to do something for anniversaries.  My beloved wife Lee and I went out to Garvin Woodland Gardens for our last anniversary and I imagine we’ll do something for this one too.

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Both of us are sort of homebodies though.  I mean we like to get out and mingle with the townsfolk but I’d have to say our favorite “social event” is shopping at our smaller Kroger’s where “Everybody knows our name” and we sit and chat with all the happy Kroger employees, and they are quite happy.  They get paid well.  At the risk of sounding political, one would be hard-pressed to find a happy soul at the Wal-mart just around the corner from Kroger.

However they just raised the minimum wage several dollars so this might change the attitude of Wal-Mart.  We buy our dry-goods there; but the organic and/or vegan selection is best at Kroger.  Wal-Mart did make a promise several years ago on network news that they would have an organic/vegan department in most their stores and low and behold they followed up on their promise.  Sam would be proud.

Oh good. I just thought of my goal, my vision, my reason for this blog; even though it’s almost over now.

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Why do I work hard (and I do) at age 60 creating new gifts and collectibles of our images?  The answer is not black and white nor easy to explain, but I can only say it is part of maybe being empathetic to other shoppers.

I know a lot of people, who, are sort of like me.  That is they like to find unique hand crafted/designed products at reasonable prices on the net that they know absolutely they cannot and will not find at their local mall.  Those are my products.  Lee’s are the same.

We do allow Sears to sell them but only at their online store. Same with Amazon, Cafepress, Zazzle, Red Bubble, Oarttee, etc.  There may come a day that we go 3-D retail establishments, and I imagine there is more money in it, but by keeping it online, we give people a chance to explore and find. Eureka.

But until that time comes, we’ve managed to offer some of the most unique and highly rated gifts and collectibles on the net.  My offbeat cartoons and gifts are recognized as Google and Bing #1 ranked and have been every year since 2005.

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If I spread myself too thin, I can’t guarantee I can keep that level of quality or recognition (though I would do everything possible to try).

Meantime, the way I see it, I’ll fall off that bridge when I get to it.    Little things happen all the time that make me glad to be selling and creating online rather than at a physical store.  For instance recently my CafePress funny tees & gift shop RickLondonCartoons.com added an Amazon checkout (Lee has one at her shop there as well).  This is big, as most online shoppers love their Amazon accounts, and though we have plenty of items at Amazon, we have others at CafePress that can’t be found at Amazon, but can be checked out there.

Now I’m rambling, but expressing some of the good things about why I spend most of my time working on the Internet.  Why not?

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, cartoonist, and designer living in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.  He is best known for launching Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons funny gifts “Londons Times”.  He is married to nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who has the popular nature blog Hike Our Planet.  

LTCartoons.com Was & Still Is The Only One To Do This by Rick London

What makes Londons Times Cartoons different than others?

We like to think it is a lot of things; as, a lot of elements go into the cartoon and subsequent gift items on the marketplace (from concept to end user).

In a nutshell (in hopes of not getting too grandiose), we like to be the cartoon that is different in more than just one way than all the others.

For instance, we were/are the first and only offbeat property that is 99% in color, featuring 4000+ images. Though several other offbeat cartoons can boast beyond the 4000 mark, none of them (except us), most are in black and white with a few color offerings.

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In addition, we take great care in how we have our products manufactured, and what we have manufactured.

We are the only “green” offbeat cartoon on the planet (to our knowledge); that is “cruelty free” in the making of our products. For instance, we have a line of ties, which we only make using polyester. There is silk available, but we’ve opted out of using it. The ties appear to be silk in texture, are much more affordable, and no animal loses its home.

Admittedly we have about .07% of gift items (on Amazon) that contain leather, and that is beyond our control (though we are working on finding alternative manufacturers who make the same products in pleather or some comparable material).   This is found on products such as ceramic framed tiles; not on the majority of our items.

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We were/and are the first and only offbeat cartoon to dedicate an entire shop to 100% organic No-GMO tees RickLondonOrganics.com.
We’re very proud of that shop. It is not yet a profitable store, but we feel it is worth it, to have clean materials available to our more health-conscious customers. process.

Yes, we still have tees that are not organic and are made with mainstream dyes, but the largest scope of our following demands that, and we cater to them too.

However, our goal is one day to be able to sell nothing but 100% organic gmo-free tees.

Of course tees are not our only product. We were the first (and still the only) cartoon to offer a line of offbeat cartoon real USPS postage.

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We’re very proud of our stamps. Philatelists love them and collect them. Non-collectors often buy them with matching greeting cards or postcards from our RickLondonGifts.com shop.

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Finally, we invented the offbeat cartoon gourmet coffee gift basket which has been available on Amazon since 2006. Though I call it “Ruth London’s Exquisite Coffees”, each basket contains 5 imported delicious whole coffee beans, a jumbo cartoon mug, four matching coasters and the gratuitous gourmet biscotti. Can’t beat that as a gift and it’s exclusively at Amazon. We offer about 1000 different cartoon baskets. It’s a gift that is always remembered (and enjoyed). http://bit.ly/LTGftBskt.

This coming march it will be 18 years since my favorite dog “Thor” and I launched LTCartoons.com in that little abandoned Ms. warehouse. I’ve worked with some of the world’s most talented people who helped make this happen, and learned a great deal. The learning process never ends.

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Maybe that’s the reason I love doing what I do. Every day is a new challenge and opportunity to create something that makes someone smile or laugh. And though, yes, I do look at it as a business, no amount of money in the world can replace the fact that products that I create make people happy. As corny as that sounds, it’s important.

Thank you and have the happiest of holidays this season.

Sincerely,

Rick

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, and designer.  He is best-known for his founding of Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts.  He also founded several Great Quotes Shops which feature famous faces from the past and some of their most famous quotes on gifts, cards and tees.  His main offbeat cartoon site is Londons Times Cartoons.  He is married to nature and wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller) who is best known for her designer gifts, Lee Hiller Designs.

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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.