Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons: Squids N’ Such (The Story Behind The Cartoon) by Rick London

Since the days of Gary Larson, and before him Robert Crumb, Gahan Wilson and others, I’ve been interested in “cartoons as entertainment”.  I tried to spread the word but usually it was a small group of friends who got as enthusiastic as I did.  Years passed and I got a little jaded regarding life and cartooning, and even surprised when on facebook, Twitter or Pinterest others would repost cartoons (whether from LTCartoons.com or others).  I do tend to post cartoons of others that have appealed to me.  I don’t look at them as competition, but as others working in a similar field, and the better their (and our) cartoons, the more people will look toward cartoons as an important part of entertainment.   Several years ago my beloved wife Lee suggested I blog about my cartoons and I kind of scrunched my mouth and came up with some smartass answer, “Why so I can go back, read it and stroke my ego every once in awhile”.  She assured me there were others interested in them and would stop by and read what I had to say (so if you don’t it’s her your letting down; I already expect it.  🙂  

I promoted my cartoons via this blog and where I could remember, I even posted a cartoon or two and what inspired that particular thought (if i could remember).   I keep a notepad and pen with me most of the time, especially on hikes.  This was suggested by one of my first writing teachers at USM who called it our “genius pad”.  I called it “Our excuse for never again functioning well in a 9-5 job again….but I digress.  

When I think of all my “original ideas”, I would be a total fraud if I didn’t credit Gary Larson’s Far Side for at least some of the credits.  That and horrendous reading skills (of mine) left over from years of UN or Misdiagnosed reading issues.  

One of my favorite Far Side cartoons was called “Squid B Gone” or something like that.  He (Or Universal Press Syndicate) chose it years later the Far Side 2002 wall calendar cover. The calendar was called “Last Impressions”. 

Fortunately (for my reading disorders), I read it to say something completely different.  I wrote it down to be sure to share it with a friend.  “No Squid Zone”, have you seen it?”, I asked to any friend who would listen.  “Yup…old Gary Larson cartoon…but you got it wrong Rick, It’s “Squid B Gone”.   

Bingo!   Within a year or two “No Squid Zone”, a completely different theme cartoon was born.  Though it dealt with a similar issue, “Squid Segregation”, it was far from a copycat.  I could rely on my bad reading, bad hearing, and horrible eye to hand motor skills to send me in the right direction every single time. 

I couldn’t plagiarize if I even wanted to.  Hell, I couldn’t even get right what I’d just read, nor remember or rewrite it if I could.   And finally Londons Times Cartoons was born (a year before The Far Side shut down in 1997).  

People sometimes ask if cartoonists have “favorite cartoons” of their own.  Many will tell you “No” but that’s not true.  Though surely as we look at our own inventory of likes vs dislikes, there are usually a lot more dislikes than favorites.  But we do privately have our favorites, even from our own minds.   More often than not they are not our most popular ones, and not on merchandise that sells the most, but our own faves of which we were “proud” we could “turn the mind muscle” to create something that absurd.  And “No Squid Zone” falls into that category, though it is not a huge seller in the marketplace.  Oh well.  There’s plenty that I “almost didn’t bring into fruition for thinking them ‘too silly'” that have turned out to be most popular.  No Squid Zone will probably remain one of my favorites.

Before you say, “Oh, you cheap little copycat”, please note that I had a shoe box full of ideas all the way back from 1973 when I was a student at a Dallas community college of about 2000 cartoon concepts that I’d written, more than 10 years before The Far Side was launched.  The sad part is I didn’t have the courage to launch my own, for fear people would fear “they were too strange” hence so was I.   Times have so changed. Now the goal is, “Oh man, I hope they think I’m strange enough”.  And sometimes they do, and that’s really enough. 

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist and designer.  He is best known for launching the number one offbeat cartoons and funny gifts “Londons Times Cartoons in 1997.  They have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoon since 2005 and Bing’s #1 since 2008. 

It’s A Beautiful Day But My Back Hurts By Rick London

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 I love days like today.  When we awakened it was cold outside; and even though the heat was on and our walls are thick, somehow it sends a signal to our feet from the window so we know and turn up the heater in the morning.   My wife Lee, from Oregon, likes a cooler temperature inside than me, a southern wuss-hick from Mississippi who calls the EMT unit when the weather reaches as low as 80 to check for signs for pneumonia and or hypothermia.

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     But as Kroger organic coffee (blog product placement) left the pot into my large red cup and into my large (who knows, probably very dark brown by now) inside of my belly from years of Kroger organic coffee, I started to warm up.  Lee drank a few swigs of hers and she was fine. I don’t think she even notices cold weather.  Sometimes when we hike I’ve got on 3-5 layers and she’s got on this stretchy tee looking shirt that she swears keeps her warm.  And when we reach the mountain-top and the wind blows the cold northern air (and a few ducks and turkey vultures) towards us, she just shakes it off.  She looks behind her and I’m semi-hidden in the roots of a large oak tree hoping it will offer a bit of warmth.

    Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit but winter and I are not best friends. 

     I love our office.  Lee and I share one and I have the corner window.  I always wanted a corner window office when I worked in corporate America for a long time and my superiors, all of whom had corner window offices would give me a snicker and a look like “Are you serious”?  Of course I was serious.  Do you know who I am?”  And they’d have a look on their face that said, “Yes, and that’s probably why you’ll never get a corner office working here”.  Don’t you just  love the end of innocence?

     Twenty years later I finally have my corner office but it’s not quite as plush and roomy as the potential office in my Washington, D.C. job could have possibly offered me if I could have just hung in there about 5000 years.  But I’m here and they’ve been out of business for about a decade. Nah nah nah poo poo. 

      Anyway, today I woke up to my vulnerable office chair that has been my constant companion for about three years.  It was a good chair and fit my desk perfectly and positioned me just high enough to where I could see over my monitor out onto Hot Springs Mountain.  I could even see hawks, crows, and numerous other birds fly in and out of the lower foothills.  This always satisfied my connection with nature when I could not get out in it.  Due to numerous other health issues, there were times I could not get out in it (other than my stubborn back).

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     But today was nice because I worked for about an hour, designed a few products and turned off the computer.  Lee was about to work out, and I went back to bed.  She asked, “Are you okay, Baby?” I always appreciated that.  “Yes, thank you for asking.   But my back feels like it fell out of my body so I’m going to take a nap”.  She said, “That’s nice, so you may feel my feet at the end of the bed ‘cause when I do my sit-ups I use the bed for traction”.  “Ok, that’s nice”, I replied.

     So my point was, growing up, being sick or injured was much more difficult than today and required a small jury of my parents to whom I had to prove it was so.  “I’m running a temperature, and my throat hurts”.    My worried looking mom would feel my head and put the thermometer into my mouth. 98.6.  She would give me the bad news.  Well it must be the pollen in the air because there’s no temperature, no infection. Get ready for school.

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!   I’ve got a big day planned in bed.  What in the world big day could I have planned in bed at age 13 and in 8th grade?  Oh, pull out the transistor radio and turn on WXXX and hear Jimmy Rabbit spin the top 30…and if I could pull it off, late that night, KAAY with Clyde Clifford in Little Rock (100,000 Watts mind you).

       But nooooooo. It was off to school.  And since I “was sick; that is suffering from allergies of some sort” mom decided I couldn’t even ride my bike. Mom felt it was better to drive me.   I so wanted to invent a device you could put in your mouth that would trick the thermometer into believing you had a temperature.  I finally figured it out, but it would never work.  Putting a penny or nickel on a stove would indeed make it very hot, but it would also burn a large hole in my tongue…..the size of a penny or nickel.  I nixed that brilliant idea.

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   I gave myself permission today to feel okay that I knew my back really hurt and I would not be making the 400 ft commute again to my desk to create more gifts for all the world to see.  Surely my customers would understand that I had a bad back today.

   And given all my other health issues that was actually pretty good news.  And even better news is the fact that I have no coin-size holes in my tongue….after all these years.

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    Rick London is a freelance writer, cartoonist and writer, songwriter/musician, avid hiker and nature lover.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons LTCartoons.com, Google’s #1 ranked Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts since 2005.  He is married to popular nature/wildlife photographer and online shopping gift designer Lee Hiller.  You can follow Rick on Twitter @RickLondon and Lee @LeeHillerLondon. 

 

 

 

 

America’s Economy: International Tourism. Why Are Gun Safety Laws So Important? By Rick London

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BREAKING Victory! New York will be the first state to pass gun laws in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook.
New laws include restricting access to the mentally ill, bans on assault weapons and extended magazines, background checks for private gun sales, a statewide database of gun licenses. and harsher punishments for gun crimes, particularly smugglers.

As you probably observed, it didn’t “just happen” overnight.  We were angered and felt powerless every time another mass murder happened. To add icing on the cake, before any American had a chance to express grief, the NRA and it’s groupies were making the story “all about them and their guns and how the second amendment” blah blah…” as if those of us who own guns or have owned them didn’t have that concern.

It simply showed us that people set their priorities differently.  For some, their guns are like their wives or 

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children (or in many cases even more valuable) but for most of us, the children, teachers and other innocents being murdered was the only story here.
 I am a pure Constitutionalist, hence the 2nd Amendment to me is as important as the rest of them.   But here is a case that I know is going to be mentioned in the Supreme Court regarding “what is a gun and what is not”.  It was the same thing in 1935 when machine guns were banned except for military use.  Anything that was once “a gun” that becomes automated, is no longer

considered “a gun” or “arms” but “a military issued weaponry”, and not protected by the 2nd Amendment, hence a moot point  Citizens had to turn in their machine guns and all of them claimed the Constitution would fall apart and the end of the world would be very soon.

Well the world continued, and thrived, and many many less machine guns were bought because the few that got pushed further underground were so expensive, only the very wealthiest criminals could afford them, and no teens, nor young adults, those who are using the majority of automatics and/or extended clips now. 

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And even if all that didn’t exist, our 1st Amendment rights trump anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights any day (also proven in court in 1935. Every citizen had the right to walk down the street without the fear of being blown into little pieces to the point of no identification (a machine gun like an automatic or pistol with extended clip can do that same kind of damage).  So

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America is finally coming into the civilized world.  

 Keep in mind, banning the automatic weapons is part of the solution, but not even close to all of it.  What is goingto be a factor that decides whether America continues to go down the slippery slope of “outlaw-land” or not, is the extensive background checks that finally will be put in place.  

Of course the NRA has “it’s script” that is written for its members, created only to raise money for them.  Whenever the government mentions the idea of extensive background checks, the NRA sends out the same, or nearly the same fear-based letter every single time to it’s members that in a nutshell says, “And so what is next?  We know what is next.  They take our guns away.  

And only you can prevent this and we’re counting on you.  Will you be sending us $10?  $25? $50? $100 or this amount_________?  And it works.  By now anyone who has been a member for at least a year, may not understand it, but the NRA’s fear-based fundraising letters, written by the very best psychologists-turned-marketers knows the score.

On the other hand, these days, one of the first things International tourists look for in their research is violence in the country in which they feel might be a fun and/or interesting visit.  

So they check gun deaths in the U.S.  30,000 in 2011.  Nope, no way.  So they check Canada.  Gun deaths in 2011 – 37.   It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out what country they would be visiting in 2011 with their family of 4-5.  

And those families of 4-5 are in the millions each year.  And thanks to yours truly, the NRA, and its brainwashed members who think that any day now their 2nd Amendment rights will be breached, the topic is not even raised.  After all, what could be more important.    America can afford to lose millions of dollars each year in tourism dollars if it means something as important as the “heroic NRA” fighting for your rights.

The problem is, they aren’t fighting for your rights.  They are fighting to put money in their pockets after each gun story, Newtown tragedy, etc.  The background checks has been a much-needed law in this country for a long time. It exists in every other civilized country. It does not breach any law-abiding citizen’s right to bear arms.  If it is upsetting to you, it is time to look within, not at the government, concerned parents, murdered citizens and their families, etc. What are you hiding?  If you have nothing to hide in your background, extension background checks should please you. 

It keeps guns out of the hands of people who are not mentally or emotionally capable of handling them.

But you know the NRA mantra.  When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.  Well that’s not exactly true.  Guns will never be outlawed.  But when sick violent people are outlawed from getting guns, where they will have to go to buy them, deep into the black market is so expensive, only a small minority of them will be able to afford them.

Is it foolproof?   Of course not.  But it is a very good start.  And it is a message to our citizens who have been staying indoors an awful lot, not going to crowded theaters, malls, downtown or other places where people might be found shooting a gun, will begin doing public commerce again.  And there are millions of them.

And more importantly it sends a message to the world that the citizens are welcoming them back. Though we love our guns, and we do, we love people even more. And we love the fact that we live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, if not the most beautiful, and friendly, and if it means doing our best to keep guns out of the hands of sick/dangerous people to welcome them back, so be it.  If it means saying goodbye to automatic weapons and extended magazines; and leaving them with the military, for whom they were designed in the first place, so be it.

In other words, the U.S.A. is not as insane as they may believe it is, and they do believe it is, and we are surely willing to work on the useless violence, even if it means loss of profits to the NRA and its affiliates, no, especially if it means loss of income to that gang of thugs.  

The gun dealers, gun show operators etc. will have to learn to act like professionals and deal with the government to make certain guns go to the right persons, or simply go out of business.  It is a win-win for everyone.  They do not need to be in the gun business if they don’t understand that simple face which is about to become law.  And the NRA has no business teaching us about gun safety if all they are trying to do is make it more unsafe, to raise money again and again.  

Tourism, our country’s major breadwinner which has virtually dried up due to the unregulated gun laws (and gun laws that are ridiculous and don’t work) are now looking at America again as a possible destination).  Do you know that most travelers from different countries looked at us as they do Syria, Iran, Gaza, etc?  Seriously.  They picked safe(er) countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Scandanavia etc.  And who could blame them.  Those days are changing. FINALLY.

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Rick London is a freelance writer and songwriter.  He launched Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons and Funny Gifts in March 1997. It has been Google #1 ranked offbeat webcomic since 2005 and Bing’s #1 ranked since 2008.  London is active in Childrens, Animals and Environment rights. He lives with his wife popular nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London who owns and runs Lee Hiller’s Hike Our Planet Nature Blog and Lee Hiller Designs nature photography and artwork gifts and clothing.

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Where Do I Live? In The Here & Now…Sort Of….By Rick London

         Sometimes people ask me where I live and I tell them I live “in the now”.  Of course that is not totally true because when things get rough, even given years of excellent therapy, I find myself living in the “then”.   Generally cold weather and overcast skies will send me scurrying to the “then”; not unlike snowbirds from Canada settling in southern Florida for the winter, yearning for the “good old days”.

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      But given my life, and all its ups and downs as a writer, I can honestly say most of my time is spent living in the now.  And it’s not because I am better than anyone else, or even understand the way the world works better than anyone else.  I don’t.  I just happen to like who I am.  I like that I know how to stand up for whom I am (healthy boundaries).  I don’t tell lies to people, not even “little white lies” so that they’ll feel better. I’m not perfect. I’ve chopped down some cherry trees (and didn’t admit it), but I strive to be honest.  Sometimes that hurts people’s feelings, but in the long run, most tend to appreciate constructive criticism. And sometimes I’m wrong.

      Every now and then a new writer or cartoonist will send me a portfolio of his or her work.  And that is not because I am a master of what I do, but that I’ve been doing it for over a decade and am published and licensed in numerous places, and generally that is the goal of most writers and/or cartoonists.  If one has willfully entered this “trade” with the idea of retiring to a home in Malibu, might I suggest a career in plumbing or medicine. 

     I have made it a point to always give an honest assessment of what someone has showed me.  If it has potential (in my mind), I let them know as soon as possible. If it is dismal, I let them know that (in a tactful manner) that I don’t believe it has commercial value.

 The good news is that creativity, the arts, writing etc. can all be learned. And better more advanced instructors can help one advance rapidly.  I was fortunate to have a mom (starting early in my life) who was quite astute in the arts and letters. I later found mentors, some of whom were the best in the humor writing and cartooning business, and even later, upon returning to college, some of the best professors in the business of teaching college courses.  So I really have no excuse not to be able to produce and produce often and be creative often. And still, I sometimes miss the mark.

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      There is a certain generosity about the arts and letters which at first glance goes unnoticed.  But given that the purveyor of this creative mass is put into a fully focused form, and manifested into some kind of medium meant to share with others, not knowing if the creator is going to make one penny or not, but gives totally of oneself, sharing one’s inner soul (yes even in humor), it is a pure act of giving.  There of course are times when the creation becomes a “commercial success”. To me, it is still a sharing situation.  There are plenty of ways to make an easier living (than sharing one’s soul with the world), but the artist, writer, painter, musician etc. is willing to “give what it takes”.

     My wife Lee Hiller-London started climbing and hiking the mountains of Arkansas in early November 2009.    She owned a small digital camera which was more for personal use than commercial, so she knew the chances may be slim of any kind of commercial success, but she had found a new dimension of herself by hiking, taking photos and documenting what she saw.  She became a photo-poet.

      In spite of a lot of obstacles, a new form of commerce began taking place on the Internet called “digital design” in which one transfers one’s art, photography, text etc. onto clothing, gifts, cards and other collectibles.  I had been working in digital art since 2005.  It did not take her long to pick up the craft and she was off to the races.

      In time, she was able to buy a high-end professional camera and her brand, “Lee Hiller Designs” began to flourish.  Within 3-4 years, she had taken tens of thousands of photos and hiked hundreds of miles in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas.

     Though I now have inherited her old camera (and enjoy taking nature and wildlife pictures a great deal), it is not my major muse.  I still enjoy writing offbeat cartoons which I use for my Londons Times Cartoons.  I find great inspiration in the forest, often using animals, trees and other living things as the theme of the cartoon.  I jot down ideas while hiking and develop them when I get home from the adventure.   When my head is clear of all cobwebs (after a hike), which it generally is, I can create with the best of them.  If I’ve been closed up at home for several days (which happens) due to weather or some other reason, I am lucky to be able to spell my name correctly.

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      Writing, painting, drawing, music, etc. does not have to be for celebrity, money, or fame.  In fact, it is more often done for personal achievement than audience feedback.  For the first few years I was in cartooning and humor writing, it was only as a hobby, and I was curious how far I could take it before anyone even noticed I was doing it.  I never expected to get published much less my own line of products.  I don’t think my wife Lee did either (she’s actually a much better artist than me).

      Yet, I can remember a ½ lifetime ago, around age 28, moving to New York, haunting the comedy clubs trying out my newly written material, bothering scouts from Letterman and then Johnny Carson etc.  Fame was the key. I felt I would not be happy unless I made my appearances and “knocked ‘em dead” on those shows.  Yet the more I pushed to get what I wanted, the more the universe pushed back to tell me it was not what I was getting. 

     In retrospect, all that is part of growing up.  At age 44, when I decided to settle on cartooning, and later product engineering and designing, it was for me. I truly thought the pursuit of any kind of acknowledgement from my peers or the public was over.  The great irony is that that is when it started. 

     I began Londons Times in 1997.  By September 2001, my team and I had created about 3000+ mostly color cartoons.  I’d also written hundreds of e-zine articles and songs.  And then came a major heart attack.  My cardiologist suggested I let go of anything that was stressful.  By then, cartooning and writing had become stressful, mainly because I’d gotten so involved in it, I never learned to smell the roses.  If I was succeeding, that is, as a business, I would have never known it.  I was just too busy doing it.

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      So I stopped and returned to college; something I’d not done in several decades.  I figured going to college online would be a breeze. After all, nobody looking over my shoulder, go at my own pace, etc. Not so. It was more difficult than any state college I’d attending (and I’d attended my share of them).  All work was state-of-the-art as the courses had been modeled from MIT.  I was out of my league and I knew it.  All assessments were proctored by the local school system.  Though it had to be the most difficult learning experience ever, it was also the most pragmatic. Nearly everything learned there came into play at one time or another when I finally decided to start back at cartooning again.

     By 2005, I had completed about 8 credits out of 20 to graduate.  Then a serious illness struck and I needed surgery.  It took me several months to recover and I was able to finish 3 more credits before an even more serious illness hit and put me on the sidelines.   The school was patient and would have let me continue (even at my slow pace) but being online, at the time, they were heavily monitored by the NEA, and I was on grants, loans and scholarships. 

They asked me to send them my medical records which I did, and they went to bat for me but it was not enough.  So I was unable to finish which broke my heart for a good while.  Then in the middle of my work the thought hit me, two of the most successful people on my school advisory board, Bill Gates and Michael Dell never finished college.  Not that I’m in their league but the fact is they didn’t.  There was no reason I should quit trying in my work just because academia didn’t work out.  So I carried on.

Please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy making money as much as the next fellow.  But as I was getting to know myself along the way, I learned a valuable lesson.  Money, for the sake of just money, that is, working at any job or career just because it pays well, even if I abhor it, is a loser’s game. The funny part is, one learns that lesson after the first paycheck.

“Well that wasn’t enough money. I’ll work harder and make some more”.  Then comes the next paycheck. “Oh, I see I’m going to have to double down on the work, and really pull in the dough.” And that cycle never ends. Ever.  One can be making millions if not billions, and still that dark cloud is hanging overhead. It’s a race for money and nothing else.  One’s moral compass can easily get knocked out of kilter. 

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One gets so busy making money and keeping up with the Jones’, he/she forgets the importance of helping those closest to him/her like brothers, sisters, mothers, close friends etc.  So they distance themselves and go on highly visible missions to Haiti or Central America to prove their charitable worth.  And the world is watching them because they know.

 It is truly no way to live; and I didn’t want to go to my grave that way, and I was surely headed in that direction.  I was blessed to get out of that vicious cycle.  “Show-off charity” is disturbing at best, especially for the giver, as he/she knows he doesn’t have the guts or courage to give to those who need it most in his/her own family, community, etc.

 I’m not saying that going to other countries and supplying blankets, food and other relief is not a wonderful thing, it is.  But if it is a substitute for helping those you love, or once loved, it is a travesty that borders on being criminal.

So, here I am “training myself” not to worry about what “will happen then”.  What will be will be. Que sara sara.  Whatever.

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So it’s Friday. Tonight Lee and I will be shutting down the pc’s for several hours and enjoying Shabbat which we observe each Friday at sundown.  We’ll do our Torah study in the morning and at sundown tomorrow, catch up on work and other silly stuff that are obligations which exist so we can keep the lights on and gas in the cars.

Then, like all mature adult couples, Lee has rented two episodes of “Portlandia” for us to watch tomorrow night and she’ll make some fun organic gmo-free dish with sesame seeds and such in place of that evil Orville Reddenbacher gmo-heavy oversized Chernobyl popcorn.  And all those years we thought he was our kindly grandfather figure.  He’s simply the kindest face in a huge corporation that blows up its corn to 3 times its normal size using GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) compliments of Monsanto. And corporations are not people, my friend…and neither is popcorn.

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Rick London is a freelance writer, designer, songwriter and nature-lover. He launched London’s Times Offbeat Cartoons And Funny Gifts which have been Google & Bing #1 ranked for 7 years.  His stores such as Rick London Gifts offers funny tees, mousepads, mugs & other funny collectibles at reasonable prices.  He is married to popular nature wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London and they live and hike in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas to commune with Nature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

“Bored & I’m Mild” (Song Parody By Rick London c2012) Sung To Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild”

Bathroom jokes aren’t funny,
And my hair is real gray,
Lookin’ for my dentures,
And Poligrip paste.
I get shingles relief with hot cayenne,
Glad I got the extra strength leg and arm brace,
My sleep apnea sounds like machine guns,

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My alarm clock doesn’t phase.

In the shower I try to remember,
  Who are my friends on facebook,
Gas X reduces wind,
   At least I’m not 6 feet under.
   Yeah darlin’ got a case of Depends,
Not quite Magic Mike’s love embrace,
I smoked medicinal pot once but didn’t inhale,
But the brownies sent me to space.

I play Lawrence Welk real loud,
We are bored, bored and we’re mild,
Wow Weren’t Golden Girls so wry,
I’m usin’ ammonia-free dye.

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Rick London is a parody songwriter, poet, author, cartoonist and designer.  He founded Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons & funny gifts & funny tees.  He is married to nature photographer and designer Lee Hiller-London who owns the popular LeeHillerDesigns which sells many online gifts at affordable prices.  Together they live in the beautiful Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas where they hike often and commune with nature.  Follow them on Twitter: @RickLondon and @LeeHillerLondon.

 

 

 

Creator Rick London & Wife Lee Hiller-London Have Normal Day W/Hot SpringsSymphony & 12 Angry Men

      Lee and I left the a great taste (about 3 songs) of part of the Hot Springs Symphony Orchestra today.  They played for about 20 minutes and were very good. The festival continues another 10 days and will be all over town.  Hopefully we’ll see the entire orchestra in the park next weekend.  It was a gorgeous day and Lee got some wonderful video and audio. Hopefully she’ll post it sometimes this week.

      So it was over and we came back to turn on a movie channel to find that “12 Angry Men” was playing.  What great drama (in a jury room) with some of the best actors of their time; Ed Begley Sr., Jack Klugman, Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, Henry Fonda and a host of others.  No special effects; not even in color but fully entertaining. 

      We got home and I checked the mail; most mostly junk.   Generally if it is not a new insurance deal from AARP, it’s their magazine.  This one had my name on it.  Sometimes it has Lee’s name on it. Sometimes we both get the magazine at the same time.  Sometimes they “punish” us and don’t send it to either of us for not ordering the inflated insurance. 

 

       There was a Victoria Secret catalog that, of course, I claimed to be mine (they always have Lee’s name on them) and she always rolls her eyes and puts her hand out knowing I will acquiesce to the fact that I am not on Victoria Secret’s mailing list (and haven’t been for months…ok ok that was a bad joke; never have been).

 

       Due to a muscle injury that happened over approximately a month ago but never healed, I’ve had a chance to slow down a bit.  It is amazing how much one relies on ones left arm when one is right-handed as I am.

      And though I begin physical therapy this Tuesday,  and I know it will help, I am not looking forward to it.  As most know, I had about 5 spills on our mountain hikes last year due to a weak left ankle and after 6 weeks of physical therapy at Levi Hospital, I was hiking again and have not had a fall, even though I have had a few ankle twists (sometimes there are hidden roots or large slate hidden under leaves on the trails.  I’m also wearing ankle braces now.

      One of the bright points of slowing down is that Lee and I have had a chance to slow down enough to talk about some of the things we can do to expand our brand, and after several months of thinking it through, we finally came up with a strategy.  Lee is the super-organizer, I am (allegedly) the marketing person and deal strategist, so as a team, I think we can do this.

     We have some extremely good manufacturer/drop-shippers and though it took time and work, doors have opened that we would have never thought opened for us.   I knew Lee had the talent, I was not sure about myself….and I’m not just “playing humble”.  It can be surprising.

     So our new strategy is not to take take the retail world by storm and own it.  We are going to create income streams by offering opportunities of co-branding to various manufacturers with pristine reputations, with whom we’ve never talked.   Some of them may work out, some may not. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, designer, author, and cartoonist.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) and Funny Gifts in 1997 which has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005.  His wife Lee Hiller London is a nature photographer whose blog HikeOurPlanet.com is popular worldwide.  London has an inventory of app. 1/4 million licensed strange gifts and his main website, which has lured ap. 7.8 million visitors contains about 5000 mostly color webtoons.

Seamus On The Roof (Song Parody by Rick London c2012) To The Tune Of Frank Sinatra “Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra

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Seamus on the roof with the trots & dancing
Such a brutal smite,
In return for unconditional love,
A car covered with doggie doo.

Romney didn’t care pandering cheesy grits to the right wing.
It doesn’t take Descartes,
To know Romney is,  therefore he’s not….               

   Seamus in mid-flight, in a car of people,
It was fight or flight,
Romney never thought it’d make print.
Defecated like jello,
Sprayed down with a hose.
                          When a dog’s love is betrayed,
           It’s way to late to teach sit and stay.

No one likes a canine saboteur,
  A type of torture,
Like pretending to be far right,
But left of Trotsky in the dark of night….

     Your chance of unconditional love went away,
When on top the car Seamus was made to stay.

You hosed him down in cold weather,
    You said he loved it but we’re more clever,
You never felt contrite,

Cause Seamus didn’t bite,

                                                                                                                                                                                                           Doggie doo doo doo.

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Though mostly retired,  Rick London dabbles in songwriting, designing, writing and cartooning.  He loves outdoors, nature and wildlife and hikes his beloved Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas regularly with his nature photographer wife Lee Hiller-London who owns the blog HikeOurPlanet.com.  He founded Google #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts LTCartoons.com and numerous designer gift shops.

Failure, Not Giving Up, Nature, Religious Roots, My Wife & Resiliency of The Human Spirit By Rick London c2012 LTCartoons.com Celebrates 15 Years With New Kindle Book & More

Failure, Not Giving Up, Nature, Finding My Religious Roots,  My Wife & Resiliency of

The Human Spirit By Rick London c2012

LTCartoons.com Celebrates 15 Years With New Kindle Book And Much More

LT Cartoons 15th Anniv Book Click To Enlarge

 

“They’ll never change me.  I won’t  conform”.  That was my mantra starting at age 13, or somewhat like it, and I held onto it  well into my thirties. What I didn’t realize is that I was conforming all along.  Even in my wild daredevil years, my hippie years, my atheist years, my “I’ll never talk to my family ‘cause they don’t deserve me years, my standup comedy in NYC years, my screenwriting in L.A. years, my Scandal Tours in Washington years, I was changing and conforming.  That was a little over fifteen years ago; and though I was dreaming of a quiet mountain or ocean life away from the maddening crowd, I was still young, adventurous and probably a bit too addicted to life’s dramas.  After all I was also very self-absorbed and most drama could easily be “all about me”.

To quote a notable late President, “Make no mistake about it”, I’ll add “I was all about me”, and didn’t think much of what I could do for you, your wants, needs, or much else.  I look back at that scared young man, really a boy in a man’s skin, who was frightened.  Of what, I never found out, but too scared to slow down.

Oddly enough, my beginning of adulthood began (in my mind) upon the founding of my Scandal Tours bus tour in Washington, D.C. in which I did a lot of media interviews nationally and internationally but that is not what refined me. What refined me was dealing with a professional group of people in the hospitality industry. They were a lot nicer than comedy club owners, taxi cab and bar owners (odd jobs during comedy), PR Moguls (I did my internship in 1983 in NYC and they were worse than cab co.  and bar owners.  They had egos the size of Newt’s proposed moon colony.

Fifteen years ago I at my hometown in Hattiesburg, Ms and after a plethora of exciting and some high-paying jobs, I took a job selling advertising for a brutally mismanaged local CBS affiliate (but it was a job) and allowed me to take care of my mom who had contracted cancer and only lived another four years.   I made a few new friends while I was home, and became very close to them. In fact they became like family to me.  I stayed in Hattiesburg, Ms almost another two years just to be near them,and though I had blood family there, I was banned from them (which was a very good thing at that time too). The reason for the ban (according to mutual friends (who always told me what they said was “I shamed them”.  (They never said what the shame was) but I forgave them years ago, which is how I was able to create as I did.  Holding on to family (or other grudges keeps one stagnant. They stop growing from the moment they decide to hold on to their resentments, and eventually die bitter and sad.

I Was Finally "Winning"& Had No Parents To Call (Click To Enlarge

Of course it would be wonderful to see my nieces and nephews whom I was never allowed to watch grow up, but the gift from God is I got a beautiful life, a beautiful smart talented wife, live right on the edge of a mountain and people pay me for something I love to do. That does not replace rubbing elbows with my blood kin, but it surely is as fulfilling as a life as for which anyone could ask. I continue to stay in touch with some of my hometown friends via email and facebook who were so supportive in my struggles there. Life was hard enough without my sales job but I was also launching a cartoon.  This did not bide well in a town not known for its unwavering support of such creative ventures. Hattiesburg has some wonderful people, places, and ideas, but humor and humor in the arts is definitely not their forte’.  In fact laughing, to the last of my recollection was next to a cardinal sin.

I lost my job at the TV station after an argument with the incredibly bigoted manger, and experienced a bit of his venom, before I learned the full-power of my own wrath. I was highly intimidated by him at the time and did not try to fight him. I simply took my unemployment and left.  Today would be a very different story.  He would not want to come close to me now. My wrath and ability to use it is (I’m told) relentless and scary. The good news is I never bring it up unless in defense.  I  tend to be quite peaceful.  I am proud of my ability to use it, speak my mind, “out” people who are doing wrong, and use the system to set things straight if need be. There was a time when I was not aware I had that kind of power.  I know one thing. I wouldn’t want to go up against me; yet I’d sure enjoy being my friend (if I were another person).  I can be a good friend too; in fact much better than a person than purveys wrath.

I formed a team for my cartoons because though I can draw a little, I can’t even close to the vision I have had for my cartoons; which, if I was to do it the way of my vision would be part fine art/part cartoon; and it would appeal to people of all demographics, though not always. But it would never be so erudite that only I got it, or a few friends and me.

In My Younger Days I was Driven & Unpredictable (Click To Enlarge)

I no longer work in corporate America. The corporate America I knew in the 70s-90s for the most part doesn’t even exist anymore.  Besides at 57, though I’m not the brightest bulb in the cabinet, I know more than many in my field.  It did not hurt that I went back to college at age 48, to one of the finest business and IT schools in the country that was/is accredited and offers a full load online.  The only catch was assessments/tests had to be proctored at a local college or public school board.  I started in 2002 right after a major heart attack and finished 3 years by 2008 when I had to stop due to several major surgeries.   I was getting my work done, and at times on scholarship, but after surgeries I was just too slow in finishing assignments.  But I still tried; gathered all my medical records with all the surgeries and they simply couldn’t do it. I know now it was not their fault but the Pell Grant people who were unable to audit closely enough how I was, since WGU did not have a physical campus.

But what an administration and teachers.  Our board consisted of all the governors (except Ahhhhnold) from 13 Western states, Bill & Melinda Gates, Michael Dell, Google, HP, and a host of other household names who set the tone of our curriculum. And you would think online would be a cinch. It was brutal.  But it was worth it.

To emphasize how much has changed; I was a terrible student in my early days at USM and Richland College (in Dallas) and managed to accumulate about 90 hours. Not one of them were pertinent or even counted.  WGU made me start over from scratch, though they did let me take several assessments without classes (and I passed them) based on life experience (but those reminded me of everything every PhD candidate told me about dissertations).

No, I didn’t learn everything, but I learned how to be professional in business; but not perfect.  I tend to get better daily but I step backwards at times. I learned what businesses do right and what they do wrong to clench the deal, and even more importantly to keep it.

I

I Just Wanted Money! (Click To Enlarge)

I am married to the most beautiful, bright, kind woman in the world.  We work in the same home office which is our living room and have the same view of Hot Springs, Ar. main mountain oddly called “Hot Springs Mountain”.  She is studying Judaism online and Hebrew on Rosetta Stone but that is not why she is so sweet.  She was Episcopalian for our first two years of marriage and I certainly never tried to persuade her to pursue my path but it was/is attractive to her so we study and learn it together.  We observe the Shabbat for 24 hours over the weekend and she makes incredible Challah.  Lee kindles the fire…..right after turning off the Kindle fire she’d just fired up. We study and practice Judaism each week. We will start going to synagogue in a few months about once for month just to meet others in the Jewish Community. It’s all exciting to us. It means big positive changes and we’re happy.

Gomez Mill House Museum (Click To Enlarge)

For now, as service, Lee and I are directors of social media for my maternal family museum Gomez Mill House, which is the oldest extant Jewish dwelling in N. America. They are celebrating 300 years next year and Lee and I built their Twitter and facebook page and do that marketing for them and help the director with non media promotional ideas.  That is fulfilling for us.  In my direct maternal line-of-fire lineage are poetess Emma Lazarus “The Great Colossus” (on the base of the Statue Of Liberty) and Benjamin Cardozo (one of the most well known U.S. Supreme Court judges ever and every major law school still considers him the premiere interpreter of the U.S. Constitution 

We read prayers from the Torah. It is bringing me back to my roots (that I never learned) since I grew up in such a secular home. I say secular; I believe my parents were fairly religious but they never demanded attendance of service by the young’ns.  Please don’t get me wrong. I love Christianity and half my family is Christian. My paternal grandparents were Baptists. I didn’t know many Jewish kids growing up; maybe 2 or 3 and still the majority of my friends remain Christian and a mix of others and a few with no religion. I never judge by people’s belief but by character.  I rarely ask their religion unless it comes up. I always celebrated Christmas with my childhood friends. And as much as I loved that, still do, I always wanted to learn my own religion too. And finally G-d is giving me that opportunity (and Lee) and we couldn’t be happier.  We hope to make Jewish friends but we would never give up our friends of other religions (or non-religions).  We really believe G-d doesn’t make mistakes and we are all his children.  And for my atheist and agnostic friends “The Universe doesn’t make mistakes and we are all right where we’re supposed to be doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing”.

Cuz Emma Lazarus (Click To Enlarge)

I now have about 6 online shops with approximately ¼ million products.  Lee has a beautiful nature photography blog (she mountain hikes more than I do but I enjoy when I go along with her several times a week and often I go solo.  She has 30K+ products she has designed which can be seen at LeeHiller.com. Her brand is growing rapidly and she makes new products from her nature/wildlife photography and also from artwork. It is well worth the visit.  Her book “Nature Of Love” with gorgeous photos and love muses to me is available at Barnes And Noble in physical form, and Amazon in physical form and on Kindle. It is worth viewing.

Cuz US Supreme Ct Judge Benjamin Cardozo. Everybody tells me he looks like MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Click To Enlarge

15 years ago, I would have told you I was probably going to end up selling some kind of product in or near Hattiesburg, and die drinking and very unhappy.

G-d had other plans.  I am very happy.  I love my life. Lee and I are non-partyers nor will you ever find us drunk or drugged. I take that back. On the times I have to go to the emergency room for say heart, kidney etc; they will sometimes prescribe drugs that make me drowsy, but not for long periods of time, and never “the party kind” that are sought by “drug seekers” as I cannot take them.  Until my “Embarrassing Experience” a few months ago for the toxic insect bite on a very sensitive place; it had been a year and five months since I’d visited the ER (but it was for a huge kidney stone and you would have gone too. I promise”.

Is life perfect? Of course not, but whose is? The point is, I never imagined it could be like this, and that I would get to call my own shots, doing just exactly what I love to do. But I do.   I have 2 books on the market our 13th and 15th Anniversary Cartoon compilation books available at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.   Kindle approved my 15th Londons Times Anniversary today “Where Have All The Hippies Gone?” and  it is also available for free for those with Kindle Prime in their lending library.

A lot can happen in 15 years.  From the time I was born, until the time I turned fifteen, seemed to be the longest 15 years ever in the history of the world.  Now I often think of ways to slow it down so I can savor it.  And low and behold there is.   I look at Lee and say, “Hey baby, wanna go climb a mountain” or “Take a Hike”?  And we do; and time stands still in a paradise we never ever thought we could imagine.

Work hard.  Obstacles happen.  Each is a lesson.  Don’t give up, or better yet if its not working for too long DO give up and change course. Be flexible.  Take risks but not careless ones. I really believe this can happen to anybody.

Regrets?  Sure.  If only I’d known all this when I was sixteen…or even thirty six…but better late than never 🙂

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Rick London is a freelance writer, songwriter, cartonist, entrepreneur, author and designer.  He launched Londons Times Cartoons aka LTCartoons.com in 1997 in an abandoned rural ms warehouse/shed. It has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005 and Bing’s #1 since 2008. He owns other designer shops such as RickLondonWisdomQuoteShop.com and LoveQuoteGifts.com which sell gifts, tees etc with famous quotes and graphics of those who said them usually with an artistic background on each product. he owns Rick London Fame (which features tees, mugs etc of caricature cartoons of famous people) and his own line of cartoon tees of famous people & clothing RickLondonWear.com.  He just launched Race4TheCase.com which features iPad Iphone iPod cases, skins and laptop sleeves featuring his cartoons and wisdom quote gifts. His wife Lee manages numerous sites that can be found at http://www.LeeHiller.com featuring her wildlife nature photographer and home decor and office gifts.  Though you can find Rick London’s coffee table cartoon compilation books at Barnes & Noble, you can find both the coffee table and Kindle editions at Amazon.com.  His Kindle Cartoon Books are $1.99 and free at the lending library if  you have Kindle prime.

 

How Important Is Laughter To Your Health? By Rick London

       How important is laughter to you?  Have you been told that you take life too seriously?  If you knew there had been studies done that the endorphins produced by laughter are identical to those produced by vigorous exercise and most likely prevents cancer, heart disease and a host of other ailments, would you expose yourself to funnier things? Here is a most recent study published in Science Daily & The New England Journal Of Medicine http://bit.ly/LaughterHealth

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     “When I launched Londons Times Cartoons & Gifts in 1997, all I knew was of all the things I’d done for a living (and I’d done quite a few); helping facilitate laughter rated at the top.  I didn’t know exactly why at the time.  Not that many studies had been conducted.  I just knew it was fun.

     As time progressed and my team and I continued to create more cartoons, research was being done that has proven laughter helps protect the immune system. It can change a mood. It can even help prevent or lessen depression.  One must be careful with laughter though.  The type that helps keep us happy and healthy is spontaneous, not forced laughter simply to be laughing.  There are plenty of “self-help gurus who will sell you on the idea that if you simply smile or laugh, even if it is fake, that you’re on your way to “Happy Days Utopia”.  Not so.

     So for what do you seek as your remedy?  As with almost anything else, we don’t live in a one size fits all world.   I would love to say anyone could visit my cartoon page and “presto, they’re happy”.   My suggestion though would be to try a variety of medias.  I happen to enjoy “the absurd” so I can look at any old Gary Larson Far Side Cartoon, Airplane Movie, old Steve Martin sketch (or even his most recent tweets on Twitter), or the original SNL and at least one of them is most likely going to do the trick.

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     At the same time, I have friends who can watch Abbott & Costello, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy or “pick your poison”, and it does the same for them.  After experimenting with various forms of humor, you will eventually know which size fits you best, and, according to many studies, be that much healthier for it (I still think LTCartoons is the best though, but that is just me strictly speaking…please, please oh please visit my site!  🙂 

 

 

 

 

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I am a slightly dysfunctional, very uncoordinated, goofy animal-loving mountain man living my dream in the Ouichata Mountains of Arkansas with my nature/photography wife Lee Hiller-London.  I founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) & gifts in 1997.  They have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons & funny gifts on the Internet since 2005 and I’m humbled.  I have ventured into designing non-humorous items at my other gift shops and that is a lot of fun.

 

Some Wednesday 12/15/2011 Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons For You!

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Londons Times, founded in 1997 by Rick London has been Google & Bing’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005.  Enjoy!