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 laissez-faire 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).

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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

 

memorial day

 

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