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.

 

 

 

 

 

Fruited Plane The Story Behind The Londons Times Cartoon by Rick London

 

I imagine I am not the only one who heard this as a kid…..I wasn’t sure what “fruited plain” meant, and since it seemed like everyone else did, I didn’t want anyone to think I was ignorant.  So through most of elementary school, I was fairly sure this was to what the song referred.  Sorry. I guess it wasn’t.  🙂 

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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 & #Funny Gifts.  He is active in autism/Asperger’s, environment, animal and children’s causes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can’t Beet Some Movies Or Music The Story Behind This Londons Times Offbeat Cartoon By Rick London

Words.

English language.

Don’t ask me what it is that fascinates me so much with the English language but it is more like “a friend” than “a thing to speak”.  Why is that?  I’ve theorized numerous reasons.

I guess I’ve come to the conclusion that when working in the arts, language is one’s finest arsenal.  The ability of ones work has a direct correlation with ones ability to master the English language (if the artist/or writer lives in America). 

I’d every bit as much enjoy spending a night reading a thesaurus or dictionary than Fitzgerald or Faulkner.  

The English language is extremely generous in its flexibility, its puns, its double entendres, etc.

Why does that fascinate me?  When I first began to learn the “cartoon business” if one can call it a business, I contacted some of t he greatest cartoonists on the planet; Charles Schulz, Dave Coverly, Leigh Rubin etc. I guess my autism came in handy in that I didn’t realize one was not supposed to do that.

I also contacted some others who were not quite as far up on the ladder wrung as they were. Most of them wouldn’t give me the time of day.

But Schulz, Coverly, Rubin, Jon McPherson and a few others chatted for hours with me.  How did I find them?  With some it was not easy. With others, their friends “gave them up” but it took some time talking to them before they came to the conclusion I was no stalker or worse. I simply wanted to learn the business. 

All of the great ones had vocabularies similar to Shakespeare.  I wanted that for myself.  They taught me that reading, (even dictionaries) was a way to accomplish that, or not necessarily accomplish it, but get better at it.  And if one was better at it, one had a leading edge over the competition in cartooning. 

I didn’t realize how important that was until I learned that on any given day, there are approximately 100,000 cartoon properties on the Internet competing with each other. 

So, though I can draw (a little), I cannot draw to the level of what I wanted my cartoon to be.  Sparky (Schulz) told me that about 30% of all the cartoons we see in papers are team efforts, and suggested I write them and “blueprint them”, that is, explain them in detail to the team artist.  If that team artist is good, he/she will understand your vision.  I went through about 100+ illustrators the first few years.  It went from “artistic differences” to “I want to own the entire cartoon; you only write it” etc.  But my mentors suggested I carry on and continue finding talent.  They told me the more cartoons I had, the more likely I was to find better talent.

And that became the truth.  

A funny thing.  Dave Coverly is syndicated by Creators Syndicate and considered one of the best if not the best offbeat cartoonist who draws his own cartoon (in the world). I always got along with Dave; and he knew I had launched Londons Times in an abandoned tin shed in my own hometown because nobody would rent or sell to me.  They thought I was nuts (and starting a cartoon at age 44 didn’t help deter that theory).  Dave didn’t care.  He loved talking about things I also loved to talk about….creative ideas, cartoons, humor, dogs, cats, nature etc.  We could chat forever it seemed.  

About 2 months ago, a familiar name appeared on Twitter.  It was Dave. I’d not talked to him in about 18 years.  We chatted online a bit and I told him about “Useless Humor” (our 18th Anniversary book) which contained quotes and cartoons I’d written.  On a whim, I asked if he’d write a testimonial for me to use on the book.  He wrote a beautiful quote which is on the cover.  

One of my favorite of our cartoons is “Beets”, not because I like beets so much, but because there are so many ways to use the word, which is what I demonstrate in this cartoon (above at the top).  I hope you enjoy it. 🙂 

SO……….Not bad for a tin-shed cartoonist who didn’t know better how to do it right (or wrong) who recruited several teams of some of the best cartoon illustrators available anywhere.  I still think that.  

Or better yet, there is no right or wrong way in cartooning.  Just stay the course, keep the faith, and never give up.     You will want to many times.  Just don’t. 

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Rick London is an author, songwriter, cartoonist and gift designer.  He is best known for his Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts which he launched in 1997.  It has been Google #1 ranked since 2005 and Bing #1 ranked since 2008.  

Orca Captivity The Story Behind The Cartoon by Rick London

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From The Londons Times Cartoons “Story Behind The Cartoon” Series 

All who know me know I love animals.  I’ve loved them since I was a young child.  And not just cats and dogs but animals living in the wild.  I spent a great deal of time outdoors in my youth, and that love of the outdoors and nature never left me.  

I’m fascinated with how nature works and continue learning about it, and the animals who are a great part of it, and I learn something new every day.

But just being there and observing is not enough. I grew up near the Ms. Gulf Coast and watched cetaceans such as dolphins and sperm whales merrily swim the beautiful waters. And though I don’t believe we had Orcas, I always imagined what kind of wonderful time they had in the wild.  After all most of these creatures swim between 30-100 miles a day just for minimal health. 

I still remember in my youth hearing about Seaworld and other such cetacean captivity environments and never could get answers as to why that was allowed to happen.  After all, these creatures communicate with a loud shrill sound, and such sounds bouncing off concrete walls seemed it would be aggravating. I would later learn it drives them insane, depressed, and suicidal.

I decided to research on my own (animal sciences) and sure enough Seaworld and other such wild animal prisons are truly nothing more than torture prisons.  I felt powerless to do anything, however.  I wrote letters to them and they would politely write back that they treated their animals with the utmost of care (yada yada yada).  I knew better. 

When I learned that I had “cartoons in me”, I decided I would do a series of Orca and dolphin cartoons which I’ve done and will continue to do.  And though that is just a drop in the bucket as far as letting Seaworld and others know they are running archaic businesses that need to be closed, every little bit helps. 

When such places opened 1/2 century ago, they were useful.  They were created to show people and allow them to observe sea creatures they would otherwise never see.  

However animal science has shown that such captivity is cruel and unusual punishment and these creatures are extremely intelligent and desperately need to live in the wild.  Seaworld has decided to ignore that science for the sake of profits. 

In addition, there are plenty of other venues now that don’t harm the animals in which people can observe and study them in their true habitat.   The entire “mission statement” of Seaworld and others like it is obsolete.  

I will be running more Orca and dolphin cartoons over the years and tweeting and mailing them to Seaworld.  Chances are they will not do a lot of good….on their own.  But if enough people send letters, cartoons, drawings, pleas, etc., finally they will have to listen.  Already their stock is plummeting.  That is a start.  It is just a matter of time before they are out of business.

The question is, will they go gracefully (its almost too late for that) but there’s still a small timeline, or will they go out of business kicking and screaming with a legacy of cruelty and obscene torture?   Only time will tell.   

Meantime, here’s a good chance to laugh at their latest tv commercial created to “change our minds” about them.  Didn’t work for me. Did it you? 

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Rick London is a writer, cartoonist, songwriter and designer.  He is best known for his Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts.  He is married to Lee Hiller-London aka Lee Hiller who is a popular nature and wildlife photographer as well as gift designer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Londons Times Cartoons “Unfinished Business From College”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rick London c2011

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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