Blog: 20th Anniversary Of Londons Times Cartoons. How Did That Happen?

 

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Today is the 20th anniversary of the launch of Londons Times Cartoons and the time has zoomed by most of the time, and felt like walking through thick molasses at other times.  It almost seems like a dream, sometimes mostly entertaining and at other times a vivid nightmare.  In many ways it seemed like yesterday that I was back on my hometown in Ms, broke, without a job and no government assistance. My only resources were my wits and they were running dry.

I had been helping my mom in her final days of  cancer and selling television ads for a small television station whose employees reminded me of the characters in the sitcom WKRP Cincinnati. I’m not sure which one I was but definitely one too.

A friend owned a tin shed on the outskirts oftown; sort of like a small warehouse full of rotting cans of vegetables on makeshift wooden shelves he’d built on the wall in sort of a rural spot between two counties.

A can would explode every once in a while due to its contents fermenting and it being way past its expiration date.  My friend had also installed electricity, plumbing (but no bath or shower) and a phone line.   I bathed in the cold-water only sink.  I washed my stray dog Thor in it as well. Within months Thor found a friendly calico kitten meowing from a low branch outside who I also adopted. Somehow we managed.

Friends would come by and bring me meals or take me out to eat.  Those were exciting, fun, and frightening times.  I was but a tin wall from the outside elements.  For most that time I had no car. I slept on a concrete floor in a sleeping bag.  I bought and way overspent for an IBM Clone PC from a guy near Hot Coffee, Ms who bought old computers and fixed them.

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His garage was full of computers, parts, and tools.  He was asking $800. We settled on $600. I know now it was worth about $150, but for back then it was a bit of a workhorse and I was so naive about technology I hadn’t a clue that he probably would have taken much less for it.

The tin shed had a fenced-in acre and a half yard that overlooked I-59, the main road to New Orleans or in the other direction about 20 miles from The Free State Of Jones.

It was March 19, 1997, and I was a very late bloomer due to a number of issues and events, but the main one being a lifetime of un-diagnosed Autism and punished for it, mainly by family but also by community.  The family press release was very much like Joe Kennedy’s of Rosemary “Severe issues,  she needs to be locked away.”  As we learned much later, she was probably Autistic with mild depression.  She was extremely bright as her brothers.

The big question was,  “Could I ever get past those demons?  Could I ever get past being unwanted and put away in an attic bedroom with each of my friendships parentally controlled” and my being unwanted? Could I get past the pTSD and low self-esteem it caused?  Who was I to think I could be at the helm of a cartoon project (or any project for that matter)?

They say time flies when you’re having a good time. I can remember most of those times not being so fun for me.  In fact I was not sure if I would make it. By then my heart was giving out but I didn’t know it.

I also had vanus (a severe form of flat feet) but had been a long-distance runner and even completed two marathons from Lafayette to Crowley, La. in 1978 and 1979. When finally diagnosed at age 60, the doctors said I had been running (and walking) on “a bag of bones”.  I was fitted for orthotics which I wear daily. Vanus is inherited at birth.  My dad had it, but I was never checked for it until age 60. Lee noticed it first and saw it on a doctor’s site poster when I was getting a brace for tendinitis. The orthotic inserts have allowed me to walk without hurting for the first time, and even do high-mountain hikes with Lee. I’ve learned to love nature and wildlife.

Dial-up Internet was slow.  There was no Google, no Twitter or facebook, nor was there any social media.  There were forums and Yahoo!  Since I was a novice at the Internet, I didn’t know.  I bartered my way through the whole thing.

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I contacted cartoonists who had paved the way long before me.  While I could draw, I couldn’t draw to the level of which I wanted to to project in this project.  I wanted it  to be a “Dali meets The Far Side”,  a cartoon which could be appreciated as art. Sometimes that worked, sometimes not.

I can remember the most generous people with their time were Charles “Sparky” Schulz,  Leigh Rubin (Rubes) and also helpful were Dave Coverly “Speed Bump”, Jon McPherson “Close To  Home”  and several others.   It seemed the bigger they were, the most generous with their help.

So as per Sparky’s suggestion, I wrote the concepts and dialogue, and assigned them to my illustrative partner who rendered them.   He only did black and white for a long time but within a year I talked him into color.  That year a California tee company paid us $10,000 for the rights to 12 color images. We thought we’d arrived.

Though I made a number of barters, I don’t think we made another sale for another 4 or so years so we just kept creating cartoons. I continued to write them and tweak several I’d written years before.  I had a shoebox full from early college days.  My parents talked me out of doing anything with them so I kept them hidden away and finally used them.

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We made a few sales to academic publishers which never paid much but every little bit helped.

I was living out of my suitcase, which was a good thing since every now and again I was evicted. Friend’s couches or extra bedrooms became “my best friend”.  I always had to pay something but never much. I never needed a lot of space; just enough to type and talk on the phone.  God bless those who gave me a chance.

By the year 2000, we had close to 3000 cartoons (mostly color), but the unpredictable and dangerous lifestyle was taking its toll.   I had my first major heart attack in 2001, and another one in 2010 with three surgeries.  In between that time I had a vagus nerve stimulator implant installed to assist my vagus nerve to work properly.

In 2008 I met my later-to-be amazing wife Lee Hiller. She was (and is) a constant support.  She was with me during the 2010 surgeries which were touch and go. All the while she has been developing her own line of designer gifts LeeHillerDesigns.com and taking incredible nature photos (many on gifts) in our National Park in her blog titled HikeOurPlanet.com.  She’s an incredible person and talent.

Rick London c2011

Londons Times Cartoons had been the Google  #1 ranked offbeat cartoon for 3 years. It has now been for the past 12+ years (since Jan 2005).  It is usually Bing’s #1 ranked too (though it tends to fluctuate there down to #4 or so). I’m happy with that given that on both engines there’s about a half million competing offbeat cartoons.

We put a counter up on my cartoon site in Jan. 2005 after Google first named it #1.  We were eight years old.  It shows we’ve now had about 8.9 million visitors worldwide.  That boggles my mind still. It is very easy to say “Look what I did all by myself” but that’s not how it  has been at all.  I have been but a cog in the wheel of amazing illustrators, managers, tekkies, vendors and Lee all of whom took the time to contribute to a project that had but a slim chance.   Alone,   I would surely have walked away from computers and try to learn something that didn’t require them.

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This year I learned I also have type-2 diabetes and she has gone right to work on helping me figure out a lifestyle diet that works. While it continues to be vegan, the portions are different as is some of the food variety.  We’ve beefed up the exercise/hiking (or we’ve  “soyed it up” as we don’t “beef” anything).

Today we sit with a gorgeous view of Hot Springs National Park from our office.  We see just about every type of flora and wildlife imaginable outside our window. Hawks and falcons fly by often. Squirrels greet us at the window along with a variety of birds and insects.

All the while we create our gift ideas using digital design on our computers.  While my cartoons are fun to put on items so are my “Famous Historical Quote Designs” which came much later.

We are going hiking later today on our favorite trail known for its deer and woodpeckers (and much more).

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Nature has been very good to  us and provided healing, not always so available in cities (where we have lived most our lives).

A well-known quote in the Autism world  is “The Internet does for Autistics what Braille has done for the blind and sign-language has done for the deaf”.   So I accidentally also found my tool for living, by being a part of the cartoon industry.  I would probably have never learned the Internet; as the Interest wasn’t there.   I developed a bit of interest when I returned to college at age 50 at WGU.EDU.  I learned a lot and Lee has taught me a great deal also.  I would have never have known it to be “my lifeline” as an Autistic.

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I was trying to sum things up and our good friend, Sally Jane Paulson in Norway did so for us with a Harper Lee quote she happened to post today.   I believe it tells the whole story. It’s  at the top of this story.

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Rick London is an author, gift designer and founder of Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts Londons Times.  He is active with outdoors and environmental, animal, Autism and Veteran’s causes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Impact Of American Pop Culture On My Life by Rick London c2016

I can remember what was probably my first, or one of my first record players (turntables), and playing my favorite records all the way back to age 5, though I had it several years before that, and I remember playing it, the details are not as clear.

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It was a brown standalone on a metal table about the size of a night table with one big gold and brown speaker mounted in the front.

I continuously played Elvis’ “Return To Sender”, “Honeycomb”, “Purple People Eater” any Alvin And The Chipmunks song and several others.  I didn’t often dance around the room or get a hairbrush and sing in the mirror as so many kids did, but watched the records continuously spin (as so many with Asperger’s/Autistics tend to do.  I watched in fascination for hours.

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I spent a great deal of time listening very closely to the singers and guitarists and wondering just how they “came to be”.  Some records I played all day.  When I taught myself to play the guitar in my teens, I could play a number of those songs (and later the Beatles, Stones etc.), of course nowhere as well, but I could not read music either.  I’d played the records so many times, to keep my mind occupied.

Of course many know I had un-diagnosed autism, lived segregated from my family in an attic; so had plenty of time to listen to music and grew to love it.

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Autism is a difficult condition to describe to others not familiar with it as it is a developmental condition. It is not a disease. It is not “a bad thing”, it is simply a different type of wiring with which science and education is just evolving to understand.

I was later blessed to have and play some beautiful guitars made by Martin (D28 and D35) and a Mossman, which was dual-backed and sounded every bit as good as my Martins but it was apparently a small indie firm which went under.   I now play the beautiful Crafter my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London gave me as a gift several years back.  It’s a long but fun story how she came to choose that gift and I’ll tell it one day if you’ve not heard it.

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As I grew into an adult, (as many Asperger’s are prone to do), I found a topic I liked and stuck with it.  Asperger’s often don’t care if the topic is a pragmatic shrewd moneymaker or not, and my choice of “American Culture” was most definitely not.  I spent nothing less than a fortune buying music, celebrity, rock and roll, and you name it memorabilia.

My favorite was music, including rock and roll, especially from my various eras; mainly the 60s, but also the 70s-the 90s.

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From age seven until age twenty-one or so, I guess I lived for, or to be like, the Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin and a host of other (mostly British Invasion Groups).  Later of course David Bowie and Al Stewart.  Ironically, it was the British Invasion that seemed to influence America with the most impact.

Upon hearing interviews with many of them however, it was (mostly) the Mississsippi blues and rock artists such as BB King, Muddy Waters, Jerry Lee Lewis and the usual suspects that made them tremble at the knees.  Nashville’s Roy Orbison was also at the to of their list; not to mention Tupelo’s Elvis.   Life is funny that way.

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The type things I wanted to collect did not exist; that is cartoons or caricatures of the famous musicians and sometimes actors featured and engineered onto gifts and tees.

I first came up with the idea of “Panel Hollywood” and created about 200 of them (cartoons only).  I sent each one to the actual celeb, business or rock star and asked for feedback or a review. Only a very few were resistant and/or threatened to sue, but the majority were tickled pink I was “keeping their name alive”.

Some of the most appreciative were the Roy Orbison Family, Mayo Hospital, Bo Derek and several others.  It was quite a surprise.

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So I got to work on creating fun memorabilia to keep all their fans happy.  Roy O.’s widow Barbara, who sadly died several years ago, used our cartoon of his as their annual Christmas Card and it is now featured in the Roy Orbison Archives.  Mayo Clinic features two of them on their library wall.

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To see some of the gift ideas I designed, please visit my “Celebrity Shop” at CafePress and first click on “Music And Musicians” and then try “Celebrities And Other Famous People”.  Throughout the store there are well-known American icons that are enjoyable and make fun memorable gifts.  They are also considered collectibles; and since they are affordable, continue to rise in price the moment they are purchased.

At the end of the day (a term I never use), I’d decided I wanted to be a “culture collector” like Andy Warhol; so I’d be sort of like an “Andy Warhol Lite”.   I never got even close to that elevation. However I do own some authentic Campbell’s Tomato Soups in the can for guests.  Lee and I don’t touch (or illustrate them).

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, designer and cartoonist. He is best known for the launching of Google #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts, Londons Times.  He is married to nature/ wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London.  They are active in environmental, animal and Autistic causes.  Rick’s entire humor gift shop can be seen at Cafepress.

 

 

 

 

 

A Patient Veteran, A Beloved Wife, A Sweet Irish Setter And Now My Life by Rick London c2016

By now most know Lee’s and my love for animals.  For much of my life, that meant domestic animals such as dogs and cats, and the occasional iguana or hamster, but for the most part dogs and cats and horses.

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I had surmised by the time I was ten or so that I may be the biggest animal-lover in the world, thanks to my late friend Dickey Randolph who, though six years older than me, took the time to teach me about dog care. I got my first Irish Setter from him.   And though I will never forget Dickey’s kindness and goodwill (we stayed friends until his untimely death several years back), I know now it was dogs and cats I loved.

I mention that as, I’d never had anyone explain anything that important to me in detail, that stuck with me throughout my lifetime, and became one of the most important parts of who I am; and most likely began my quest as being a vegan as I am now too.

Part of that “memorable miracle” with Dickey was that I was a disabled, but not diagnosed child with Autism (and now of course an adult with autism).  I was quite hyper, didn’t make good eye-contact, and my attention-span was dismal.

He didn’t care, nor did  it bother him in the least when he returned from Viet Nam, a multi-decorated hero, and very good man.  His guidance led me to the curiosity of nature and animals, and Lee took me to further explorations into the forest to see it in all its glory and how animals behave.  I never get bored with that and it has a very healing nature, very similar to the dog I got from Dickey, “Rusty”.

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I didn’t hate cows, pigs, sheep and chickens, but I dined on them.  Along with overcooked veggies that was my staple until college, at which time McDonald’s took over as “the family kitchen”.  I look back and wonder how I ever lived through that, and in reality, almost didn’t.  I was still 35 years away and two major heart attacks from “seeing the cruelty” in what I was doing.

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Having owned one of the first health food stores in Ms. with a $10K loan from the now defunct (like my health food store) Bank Of Hattiesburg, with a preacher from Glendale, Ms. who was later bought out by an ex-math professor at USM, I had an early curiosity of health foods, yoga, running etc.  It never occurred to me that something as simple as animal protein (including dairy and eggs) was not only holding me back, but eventually killing me, and how I didn’t die on at least 4 occasions has stumped all my surgical specialists.  I am a blessed and grateful man.

I went full-fledged into that business.  Most of my “education” came from salespersons with high-school degrees and books written by outdated writers.  Food science was moving forward as fast as one could turn a page.  The animal sciences were not far behind.  I was dedicated to trying to eat right, take the right herbs and vitamins, run marathons, and you name it.

I have since learned that cooked vitamins might as well go in the toilet.  To my knowledge there is only one firm that makes 100% organic vegan raw vitamins and that is “Garden Of Life” which we buy in powder form from Amazon or Ebay.  It is amazing and one can tell the difference immediately from the ones we see advertised on tv often which have had all/or most of the nutrients and more importantly live enzymes cooked out of them, so they are useless.

I learned that herbal tinctures, in most cases are far better than the tablets or capsules as far as potency. I also learned that organic and wildcrafted are every bit as important.  In addition I learned that “organic” in China would not pass for edible in the U.S. (for herbs and vitamins).  There’s still much more to be learned.  Not all of it works. Some of it is nothing less than miraculous.   More learning.  It’s neverending.

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Enter Walmart, a new “box store” to the town and exit my store, an old overpriced relic.   I sadly closed my doors in 1981

So I spent some time educating myself regarding food sciences and animal science.

I was married in June 2010 to my beloved wife Lee Hiller-London (Lee Hiller of Hike Our Planet)who became a vegan one year later. I had already read the health benefits and how it helped the planet but that still wasn’t, for whatever reason enough for me. However I did go mainly vegetarian for a year before my conversion to veganism.

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It was impossible to watch Lee’s positive changes and not want that for myself.  I didn’t know if it could happen but I was surely willing to try.  She’d lost about 90 or so pounds and about 20 years of age.  I was astounded and still am.  But that was not her goal. It just happened.

She was very patient with me as my evolution kept going with at least some dairy or cheese and finally I said, “I’ve had it”. I thought she’d be surprised but she was not in the least.  She said, we’d both cook alternate days and eat as much raw as we could, and that is just what we did.  I had no idea I would not only actually like it, but crave it, and the thought of my old “food” never even crosses my mind.  I truly don’t think my body could absorb it.  Lee kept looking and feeling better and her mood became very kind. It was not an act.  I’ve seen lots of acts.  This was a natural evolution.  I wanted that too. (Still working on it  LOL).

The life changes are dramatic.  Forget the goodness to the planet, and though I am tickled to death that it happens, there is nothing that would take me back to my old eating lifestyle. I say that because there is no such thing, really, as a vegan diet. Veganism is more of a learning/lifestyle philosophy.

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

A Robin Williams Tribute Cartoons from 2003 by LTCartoons.com

Well, Lee retained the good looks, common sense and brains, and I got to feel human maybe for the first time.

Because nobody gets it perfect (I was told that would happen by Ed Begley, Jr.) on Twitter….. (It’s a long story)….I’ve decided not to become a militant vegan, and that fits me well. While I would love the planet to all turn vegan, I also know as Ed told me, “It ain’t gonna happen”.  I would love to live the rest of my life on the planet not killing any animals, but again, it’s not going to happen.  Even in the making of my computer animals are killed.  Lee and I kill insects for instance on our hikes, our ride to the grocery, etc. but not on purpose of course.

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So I wish the Gandhi-wannabes good luck, and let me know how that turns out.  When curious persons are ready, they usually ask us questions. Lee has come up with the idea to have them start with a Meatless Monday which is now a worldwide movement.

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As time goes by and they are still interested, I often direct people to YouTube to watch Sir Paul McCartney’s “Glass Walls”.  Any time I’ve growled or gotten snarly, they ran they other way and ate more meat, with guilt, more meat, nevertheless.  They didn’t want to be much like me and who was I to blame them.  So I changed, and hopefully so did they.

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Meantime I’ve put together a collection of my favorite animal cartoon gifts and tees and I have a lot more in the store collection.  A percentage of each sale benefits various animal and/or vegan causes.

Also for yet even more entertainment, there’s plenty on my cartoon website.

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Happy laughing…and eating….and hopefully shopping!

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, designer and cartoonist.  He is best known for launching Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts from an abandoned tin warehouse in rural Ms.  He is married to his best friend and hiking buddy, his beloved bride Lee Hiller-London who owns the nature photography blog Hike Our Planet. Though of course cetaceans are animals (Dolphins, Orcas etc.) Rick keeps a separate section for his ocean mammal friends (gifts).

Trending At Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons by Rick London: Donald Trump, UFOs and Autism

 

I like Donald Trump…….

No, no, not personally or even philosophically or politically, but he has to be one of the most generous of all politicians for humor writers, cartoonists, late night talk show hosts etc.

And it’s not that he’s particularly any different than any other presidential candidate, because frankly he’s not.  It would be unfair for me to single him out as “something special” in politics.   Am an Independent and have voted both GOP and Democrat. My party days have been over for a long time.

It’s not just the nutty things he often says……it’s…..the hair.  Face it, I’ve seen better-groomed shucked ears of corn.

The only real difference is, he has something that also belongs to many of us who have worked awhile on the humor side of arts and letters.  That is, no filter from  brain to mouth.  He truly doesn’t say anything that all the other candidates don’t think (but have that invaluable filter so as not to say it)….

Aspies (Asperger’s Syndrome) like me often have that same (filter-free zone in the brain).  So how could we Aspies not love him (at least in that respect).

And of course being on the writing side of the cartoon biz, we almost feel guilty.  Who else so generously would write the material for free, and not pay us?

Donald, you are EVERY cartoonist/humorists Apprentice in our hearts.  And trust me, we’d never ever fire you.

We’ve been creating some “The Donald” cartoon gifts, cards and tees for the past 4 or so years.

If you’re curious,want to buy stuff or just “Windows Browse”…………

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The Moomaid: The Story Behind This Londons Times Offbeat Cartoon by Rick London

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“My mind sees in pictures”.  If you’ve followed medical science regarding autism or Asperger’s, you will hear this.  Though I don’t know the exact reason, I imagine it is because many of us have reading disorders, and had to use visuals growing up to learn. I think, read, and even write “in pictures”.

Yes I still see the words, but a visual usually manifests at about the same time.  I guess that is why I used to love those “reading modules” that came out around the mid to late 1960s at school. Each plastic card also had an attractive photograph or graphic that pretty much “told the whole story”.

For instance, when in grades 1-12 when studying, I would first ask a friend to study with me and that was extremely helpful as he/she often would have read the assignment.  It took me a week or two to read what other students often read within an hour or two.

On occasions I was unable to find an available study-friend, I would look at the graphics and/or photographs in textbooks and read the short explanation under it.  That, for me, often “told the whole story”, and to that extent, that’s what I learned.

Needless to say, I did dismally in college in my early years but after several decades of “street experience”, I returned to school and did okay (until health issues sidelined me).  But I had learned to read using a ruler etc.  I had trouble retaining a good bit of it on some days (due to autism) but on others I could focus and concentrate as well as most other students.

There was an upside to my learning disorders and that is, I learned to “put things together” as I was so often “solving puzzles” (that is, life), much of what others took for granted, by putting together pieces of various aspects of a project.

At times this would lead to what some might call “flights of fancy” and, I imagine, the elusive moomaid is no exception for most.

I do love stories (still) about mermaids and other sea creatures and of course I’ve mentioned many times my love of cows (and all animals, really) but cows to me are gentle giants that I could “hang out with” forever.

Finally, I was raised in S. Mississippi very near the Gulf Of Mexico.  The sea creatures were my friend.  I spent hours on the beach or in the tide contemplating life. I still love that beautiful place.

For those interested in seeing the moomaid on some of my licensed gifts…………

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————————————————————————————————————Rick London is a writer, cartoonist and gift designer. He is best known for his Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts, Londons Times Cartoons.

 

 

 

 

 

Bedtime For Gonzo Journalism The Story Behind This Londons Times Cartoon by Rick London

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I was a big Hunter Thompson fan, which also means, of course, I was also a big Ralph Steadman fan (the illustrator of his Fear & Loathing Series). 

As mentioned in earlier blogs, I had big reading problems, and never even read a book cover-to-cover until my late 20s.  One of those books was the late great Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear And Loathing In Los Vegas”.  It is an amazingly sardonic satirical piece 

The book is incredible. The film, though,  included one of my favorites, Bill Murray, was disappointing. 

Many “60s druggies” felt the book was glorifying drugs, but actually many scholars believe quite the opposite, that it mocks the very drug culture of which Thompson was a part. And I saw it as that as well.

Though the book is full of mocking; not just the drug culture, but the whole idea of “hippies”, journalism (of which Thompson’s
alter-ego, Raoul Duke who is contracted by “Sports Illustrated” drives with his attorney Dr. Gonzo to Los Vegas.

On the roadtrip, “Gonzo Journalism” is created. Until this day we’re still not positive of what Gonzo Journalism truly is, but we know it may just be a ploy to keep us curious throughout the book, and we discover early on nobody quite knows what the story angle really is (including the journalists). We do, however, stay curious all the way to the end. It has so many discombobulated twists and turns, it’s very difficult not to be at least a bit curious. 

There’s a lot more super hyper action in the book, but nobody bothers to share what it is. We just know the book is about human appetite and instant gratification; Maslow’s Heirarchy Gone Wild, if you will.

Even better news to my friends and fans, other than my reading skills being lacking (and I don’t say that proudly), a lot of heartache would have been saved had local schools and parents known enough or cared enough to help learn of and/or diagnose my condition (autism). But so it goes.

In addition, I couldn’t hear very well…or see very well. I have to hand it to one smart teacher who noticed that (when I was 13 years old) and I
was able to get glasses. But the hearing issues went on and on; and continue to.  I was fairly sure I read, and heard “Bonzo Journalism” for many years. 

And of course we all remember President Reagan’s “Bedtime For Bonzo” film from his early career as an actor. How the Academy overlooked that one, I’ll never know.

Kudos to illustrator Tom Kerr (our collaborations are always special to me) for recreating “a tribute of sorts” to Ralph Steadman.  If I’d not known of our collaboration, I know I would have thought this, in fact, was also one of Ralph’s creations.  

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, cartoonist and gift designer.  He is best known for his Google #1 ranked Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and Funny Gifts which he launched in 1997.  London is also active in various causes including autism/Asperger’s, animals, children, and the environment.

Slug Traffic Cop The Story Behind This Londons Times Cartoons by Rick London

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I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit to the fact that Gary Larson with his “Far Side” cartoon was the trailblazer (as far as I was concerned) at “making insects and other animals) more human (and vice versa).

Sure, plenty of cartoonists did this “fun cartoon trick” long before Gary did, and even during his cartoon, but nobody did it with quite the fervor that Gary Larson did.

Most know, but a few still don’t, Gary Larson majored and got his degree in biology.  He’d thought about teaching and then changed his mind, thank God.

Though I followed The Far Side it’s entire (nearly 15 year run), and it had a vital impact into my thinking process and which way I wanted my humor to turn (I was younger, more immature and “still exploring” at the time).  Then I was invited by some Ms. friends who lived on Capitol Hill in Washington at the same time I did to see a Far Side Exhibit at the Smithsonian.  They had to drag me there even though I loved the cartoon. I guess I didn’t think I was going to “see anything new” that I’d not seen in the newspaper.

Was I ever wrong.  Whomever put that exhibit together knew exactly how to whet and satisfy the appetite of any/every Far Side fan.  Each Far Side was blown up into an 8-10 ft poster on board and hung from the ceiling. It was as if one was walking around inside the Far Side Cartoon and even talking to the odd characters whether they be human, animal, bacteria or space alien.  That exhibit was 34 years ago and, aside from a trip to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fl., I can’t remember any collection of art that had such a life-changing impact.

However it is easy to “take for granted” people of whom have walked this crazy walk with me, many creating their own properties whether they be cartoons or other types of art.

Most know my story of being so naive at the start back around 1997, I contacted some of the biggest names in the industry.  And they were all good to me.   Dave Coverly of Creator’s Syndicate was particularly generous as was Charles “Sparky” Schulz (Peanuts).  Am back in touch with Dave, his cartoon (to me) easily rivals The Far Side but has a “different flair” that is clearly Dave’s own “fingerprint” in his Speed Bump Cartoon.  Dave was generous enough also to leave a positive testimonial on my latest book “Useless Humor” which is (for now) available at Amazon Kindle but soon will have it in other bookstores.  It is our best book I think; and my first to have a mix of cartoons and “useless quotes”.

I’d be amiss not to mention some of the people closest to me such as my beloved wife wildlife/nature photographer Lee Hiller London who is like a “human thermostat”. I can get an idea (often while we are hiking in the forest) and run it by her, and she gives an honest assessment immediately.  I have decided to make cartoons public or toss the ideas away based on her opinion.  Sometimes (on rare occasions) I go ahead with them simply because I like them (and her taste might be different) but she is generally right on target as far as “what is funny to the public” vs “what is funny to just Rick”.  🙂 Lee is also an amazing designer of both gifts and casual clothing and accessories.

Also my long time associate and co-creator Rich Diesslin has steered me in the right direction more than once.  He was with LTCartoons for over a decade and we still work on the occasional project together.  We’ve butted heads, made gains, losses etc together, and stayed friends. He has 3 excellent cartoon properties of his own. I’m in awe of his ability to both create and use left-brain management skills.  Thanks Rich for all you’ve done and continue to do.  Rich also managed LTCartoons the first (most vulnerable decade) and did it well and with integrity.

I’ve been fortunate over the past 3.5 years to work with Tom Kerr who many consider one of America’s finest caricature artists and editorial cartoonists as well as childrens book author.   His latest book is in Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Library and deservedly so.    Tom leans more right than I do, but it is that “slight friction” (I’m more to the center) that makes our collaborations work, and they work almost every time.  Tom knows how to make me look good and I appreciate that.  His blog Despicable Jerks is also well worth reading.  You will laugh. Guaranteed.

So what does all of the above have to do with this snail traffic cop cartoon?   Not a lot, but it may give you a subtle hint into how my mind operates.   As if you really wanted to know.  🙂

Thanks again for 18 years of support.  I am truly humbled and grateful.

Gnu Age Hipsters The Story Behind This Londons Times Offbeat Cartoon by Rick London

Maybe it’s the Asperger’s in me, or maybe I’m just plain weird, or possibly both, but the one thing I love the most about the English language, aside from puns (as long as I wrote them) is combining words that might not otherwise be combined.  And sometimes that involves puns (or pun-like words or phrases) such as “Gnu Age Hipsters”.  Shakespeare was what I call “an extreme editor” and one of his most famous quote was “Brevity is the soul of wit”. 

Even during his fifty something odd years on the planet (back in the 16th Century) he understood human nature enough to know that an audience much preferred a short joke than a long joke; in other words attention spans were short, even back then.   So one of his most important quotes, “Brevity is the soul of wit”, was truly one of his most important, at least to him, and to those of us who think of his writings when we write our own humor.  Should I use 20 words when I can say the same thing in three or four words?

Believe it or not, the majority of humor writers use 20, thinking that if they have more to say, it is somehow “more valuable”.  Shakespeare knew nothing could be further from the truth.  A person not trained in the “art of humor” knows how to tell a long joke and eventually get it right”.  A person trained in humor writing,  even if self-trained as I am, knows painfully well, I’ve lost them if they have to read more than just a little. 

And ask my wife Lee, that is not easy for me.  I don’t write emails….I write essays. But I’m getting better.  At least with the cartoons it forces me to whittle down all the words that come to my mind, and think of the 0-20 or so words that will make it funny, with the most minimal of text.

I knew what I was going to say with Gnu Age Hipsters before I even “fleshed it out” for our team artist German Garcia to render it.  German has worked with me long enough now to where I no longer have to “blueprint” the cartoons.  When we first started, I had to write little details like “one of the gnus is carrying a skateboard”…”one of the gnus is wearing a way to Hawaiian shirt and the other maybe SW/Arizona/Mexico, and one has it’s shoe tongue flapped out.  

I no longer have to write any of those details.  German just knows.   And he often does it now better than I could ever think it up, and that’s a lot of fun to see his surprises as he is a master artist, and also a master creator. 

Dictionary.com cites a gnu to be:  A large dark antelope with a long head, a beard and mane, and a sloping back.

Dictionary.com has 3 definitions for a hipster. The one of which we think the most is: “A person, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, characterized by aparticularly strong sense of alienation from most established social activities and relationships; a beatnik or hippie.”  But another common definition that comes to mind is “A usually young person who is trendy, stylish, or progressive in anunconventional way; someone who is hip.”   It also notes the original hipsters were beatnick-types out of the mainstream who often played jazz.

German was able to combine all 3 definitions and create the ideal hipster; one to which we could all relate (or not relate). 

Finally the term “New Age” which as always been a bit obscure to me. I never really got what it meant other than when yoga and meditation became popular, full moon meditations, and all kinds of fun leftover hippie things that some of us brought with us from the 60s well into the 70s and 80s. 

But Dictionary.com defines it much like one might define a Unitarian Universalist Church, “Of or relating to a movement espousing a broad range of philosophies and practices traditionally viewed as occult, metaphysical, or paranormal.”

Though I never looked at New Age with such a broad range of thought processes, as I found much of it to be “neatly-packaged reworded but “more hip” versions of the original monolithic religions, I felt, “Okay, if the founders of the New Age movement want it to seem more creative, novice and different, then that’s their business.  They’re the ones marketing it and making the cash on it. 

So…..I combined the three, the best I could, knowing good and well I would probably make someone mad, and I’m sure I will.  But I also knew from my wife’s chuckle, I might just make someone, maybe even more, smile and get a good laugh, and nobody really gets hurt.  I like that. 

I guess in a lot of ways, I am a Gnu Age Hipster.  And there’s nothing anyone can do about it. In fact, I dare you to even try.  Now, pass me my books on Sulis and Damara (to quench the thirst of my inner-child), and some silly Stephen Richards (regurgitated/edited from some ancient master philosopher) quote such as, ““Minds are like flowers, they only open when the time is right.”, and some short grass or herbs to quench my gnu, new age, and hipster appetite.” 

We have Gnu Age Hipsters on backpacks clocks, pillows, Tshirts, and all types of gifts. 

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, cartoonist and gift designer.  He is best known for his Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons which he launched in 1997 and licensed funny gifts from Rick London Gifts.  He also likes to blog 🙂  His illustrator/associate German Garcia is a cartoon and fine artist in his own right and has worked for DC and Marvel Comics. 

 

 

 

 

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). 

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.