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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cartoon Anniversaries, Obstacles, & Asperger’s Spectrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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.

My Newlyfound Faith In America’s Youth by Rick London

   Today’s teens. All we see on the news is violence, drugs, and an arrogant refusal to obey laws that don’t fit their lifestyles.   Yesterday, I was proven that’s not always so. In fact, that whole stereotype was blown out of the water. 

Click To Enlarge

    A little history first which led to this pleasantly surprising experience.

      I need a new wallet. I know that. But like a favorite T-shirt, coffee cup, etc. (and it’s not that I’m some kind of “material guy”, I’m not. I just “get to know  it” and it feels comfortable), I still have my 3 year old wallet. Maybe that’s why I’ve kept my same Saturn for years because I fit well in it, it doesn’t break down, it’s paid for, and why make a new debt on a new car that I’d have to get to know, and it would have to get to know me back.

      So this old wallet I have is a bit shabby and I keep a lot of junk in it that I should toss out; but for some reason in the back of my mind, I am absolutely positive this July 11, 2010 receipt from Walmart or Kroger is going to be very important. 

       When I was in the hospital in 2010, my car tag sticker expired and it was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t drive for several months anyway. My wife Lee did.  So I drove around about a year with an expired sticker and finally was pulled over about 8 months ago (for a non-moving violation).  The police officer asked to see all my papers and license. I had to dig through my wallet (and of course there was no registration renewal etc) so my ticket was high.  But worse than that, I felt like I could have expedited that traffic violation (am sure the officer had more important matters than pulling over an old guy with an expired tag), by just being more organized.  I immediately took care of it the next day at the courthouse.  We live outside of a small beautiful Arkansas town in the Ouachita Mountains. It is like a paradise to us.  We feel like kids again.  That’s pretty fun stuff.   Here’s a pic from our office window in case you’ve not seen it.


     Lee had gotten a fanny pack which is fantastic; no longer even uses a purse, and wears it hiking or when we’re out running errands or shopping. She suggested I get one too. I did. That was after I paid the $160 ticket; and paid to get everything renewed. Ouch.

     She couldn’t talk me into getting rid of my wallet (which I keep in the pouch) but she did talk me into organizing things better.  I keep everything to do with the car in a plastic pouch aside from everything else so, that if I ever get pulled over again, I can whip it right out, get my ticket if I’m guilty of something, and the officer can be on his/her way. 

      Several days ago I was shopping at Kroger alone while Lee was hiking.  At some point during shopping, I noticed the zipper was open in my fanny pouch. I think I’d left it open while pumping and paying for gas and forgot to zip it back (or zipped it partially).  In any case, I took a close look into it) and everything looked fine. 

      Last night was the Jewish Holiday of Purim.  It is a festive holiday in which all dress up and be kids again.  I am not sure what it celebrates, as I rarely celebrated it as a kid, but Lee and I had fun dressing up.  She was a butterfly and played the part well.  I put a flashlight in my head, and my plan was to pull out my driver’s license and say, “I’m a minor, but I’ve got an ID”.  I did so because for some reason I’d removed my driver’s from my “everything pertaining to auto plastic packet”, but noticed the plastic packet containing my registration, birth certificate, registration, insurance card etc. were all missing. I called the state DMV but they were closed and of course the local one was too. Then I realized with my birth certificate gone, I’m going to have to reorder one online, take it in with me along with my license and by another registration and title etc.  It was going to be a big hassle.

But Lee kindly said, “Don’t worry baby. I’ll drive you there tomorrow and we’ll take care of it”.  She alerted me they’d probably complete the process with my license and social security card.  The pretty much know me there anyway so it would be silly if they didn’t.   We’re good citizens, don’t make a lot of noise, and don’t cause anyone any trouble.

Today my phone rang 3 times.  Two of the three were sales calls and I let them go to voice mail.  The third one came in at about 11:00 a.m.  It was a local number and though I didn’t recognize it, I figured it might be someone I knew anyway, so I answered.  Someone asked if it was me (mispronouncing “Stetelman” as everyone does) and I said “yes”. He was very polite. He said, “I was in Kroger yesterday and found a plastic pouch with a bunch of auto papers and found your number on one of them”.  

I had wondered why he had not handed it in to Kroger lost and found but didn’t enquire. I was just thrilled he’d found it.  I’d called Kroger lost and found to no avail. 

I looked out the window as he was telling me how he found it. It was by then pouring down rain and thundering.  I always think of Fleetwood Mac during such times. “Thunder only happens when it’s raining”, and wondered how many days, weeks or months it took them to come up with a line that rhymed with “Players only love you when they’re playin’”, as, in my “wannabe expert musical mind”, I felt certain they’d written the second line first, as it was the basic premise of their true lives, and the weather parallel was only of semi importance to the song…but not important in this story.

I figured the young man to be maybe an adult college student.  Maybe 30 by his mature but youthful phone voice.  Extremely polite, calling me “sir” more than I was used to be called “sir”.  In any case his manners and articulation was well beyond my abilities.  He even said he would bring it by this afternoon. 

I called him about 3:30 pm this afternoon and the rain was still coming down. I told him maybe it would be better to bring it tomorrow, and Lee had agreed if its not too far, we could pick it up today. The rain had slowed a bit.

He asked if it might be okay if he brought it by about 9:30 tomorrow morning and I said “fine” and thanked him again and hung up. I was not planning on going anywhere today anyway, and if I did, Lee is a great driver.

About 10 minutes later he called me back from his home; about 7 miles away off of Airport Road and said, “You know what? I forgot I’ve got to come downtown anyway to fill up my jugs (he wasn’t saying anything risqué. If you live here awhile you know what that means. The city has a free fountain with four taps where anyone can freely fill up as much as they want of the healthiest water in the world; water that has been running underground for 2000 years, has no chemicals, is full of heavy minerals from the crystal rock it runs over, and tastes so good.  You get a lite version of the real water if you ever buy Mountain Valley Water (in the green bottles with the red label). It’s tasty; and Elvis even had it delivered monthly all the way to Memphis as it was the only water he would drink, but it is nothing close to the real thing.  There’s has been sitting awhile. It’s still good, but not fresh out of the ground.  The difference is day and night and people come from miles around with truckloads of jugs to get the fountain water which is on the way to one of our hikes so we have easy access to it and always have jugs by our desk.

Alex, as I found his name to be, said, “I’ll call you when I get to your place”.  The phone rang about an hour later. It was Alex.  He was downstairs and I let him in.

Alex was a tall slim well-dressed African American male no older than 20 but probably closer to 18 or so.  He’d just gotten off work from Oaklawn (the local racetrack). He handed me my little plastic pouch which had every single paper, nothing missing.   I looked in my wallet and had one $20 and handed it to him.  He put his hands up as if he couldn’t accept it but I placed it in his hand and closed it and apologized.

He said, “Why are you sorry”.  I said, “Because $20 is all I have with me, and I’ve not been to the bank. If you have a Paypal account I’ll send you the balance of what you saved me or if not a snail address and I’ll mail it.”

He was still trying to give me the twenty back.  He  finally accepted it, but said, “You don’t owe me anymore, really”, and then thanked me again for being “so kind sir”.

I explained to him that he’d probably saved me double that, and, finally I talked him into his home address so I can send the balance there. 

He was so grateful for the $20 after he finally accepted it.  He said, “I really didn’t expect any kind of reward. It’s just the right thing to do”.  I could tell he had very good upbringing. His manners were not fake. He was warm, friendly and bright.  He was, as I guessed also working his way through school at the local community college.  The $20 meant a lot, but he still didn’t feel comfortable  asking for anything for doing the right thing. 

We chatted a bit more about school, since I don’t care for horse racing, I figured I’d chat about something we both found interesting.  He’s studying computer science and plans to be some sort of engineer.  (I’d forgotten what type), but he certainly knew all the buzz words and was still a freshman.

We finally shook hands, I thanked him again and he drove off.   Lee and I had been watching the news (we often do as we work) and anyone who is even a bit of a news junkie knows how much bad news there is out there.  And a great deal of it is about “today’s kids”, and it’s right; a lot of today’s kids have a lot of issues that perhaps we didn’t, but then again we didn’t have to face a lot of the same things they do today. 

This young man was optimistic, enthusiastic and honest.  He did not fit the mold of what the news has profiled today’s teens to be.  I thought to myself, “Just think of all the suffering I could have avoided through life if I had been as wise as he, at even twice his age.

And it was the best $20 I ever remember investing.

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I am known to be a goofy vegan mountain man.   I like to do creative things; and sometimes succeed, and sometimes not.   I founded LTCartoons.com in 1997 which have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005.  It is also #1 on Bing.   I also create Famous Love Quotes & Famous Wisdom Quote Gifts at several of my online shops such as RickLondonWisdomShop.com. I love hiking, animals, kids, nature, movies, reading, etc etc and Amazon Kindle Fire.  That’s about it.

How To Survive Depression When You Don’t Have It; & A Few Thoughts After 15 Years Of Cartooning & Design by Rick London

March 19th, 2012 will mark the 15th year of my “creative venture that couldn’t be done”.  Amazon Kindle just put up my 15th anniversary compilation book, but the 13th anniversary continues to sell better. That’s okay. It was never supposed to happen. In fact I wasn’t suposed to be able to do it.  So many said so. And that’s why I smile as I type this. 


My 15th Anniversary Book Cover (Click To Enlarge)

Walther Bagehot once said, “The greatest pleasure in life is in doing what people say you cannot do”.    

    Walt Disney said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Edison, Einstein, Thoreau, Emerson, Galileo, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Dali, and many other writers, artists, and, you name it, have similar themes that run through their most famous quotes that is, “There is great pleasure in doing what everyone said couldn’t be done”.

 I’ll preface the rest of this blog with, “I don’t put myself even close to a league of any of the aforementioned giants, please trust me on that..I’m not that grandiose”. I can honestly say, that most of them were “spiritual mentors” and/or were and continue to be influences.

I was born into a family in which I was expected to be “heir to the throne” of a family business; a family real estate business.

I used to joke that when I was born, the nurse put me in my mom’s arms and said, “Congratulations, Ms. London, it’s a Realtor.”

Slow Realtor (Click To Enlarge) by LTCartoons.com

That used to cause a resentment for me, but now that I see the whole picture,  and why God, the Universe or whatever caused it to happen, all I can say is “thank you, thank you, thank you.  I couldn’t have dreamed this life.  Is it perfect? No.  But it is very very good, and I really could not have imagined it.

I was no good at real estate (nor much else) as I had a rare disease that affects the vagus nerve and there was no treatment (had it all my life) in which the vagus nerve, the largest nerve in the body, does  not function, or barely functions.  It is often misdiagnosed for depression, mental illness etc.  It’s neither.

I was told I had garden variety depression for 28 years and treated for it.  I didn’t have it and no treatment was helping me improve.

About 1998, I read an article in New Yorker Magazine on clinical trials for a new implant called theVagus Nerve Stimulator or VNS made by a firm in Houston called Cyberonics.  It had been approved a decade earlier for TRE (Treatment Resistant Epilepsy) but was not yet approved for TRD (Treatment Resistant Depression) which is a misnomer as it is not depression at all, but merely mimics it.  It is estimated that about  20 million people have it who think, as do their doctors, that they have depression or schizophrenia or bipolar or “name your poison” but they don’t Most of them have never heard of VNS and very few of their doctors have either.

I had to wait another seven years to get the treatment and do a lot of pre-planning.  Some of it included contacting Cyberonics and getting a caseworker before FDA approval.  The other was let the doctors know the meds and talk therapy was not working so they would try a variation of many different ones, just to be sure it was not depression, as eventually (if it really is depression), it would improve with at least one of the variations. It never did.

On January 25th, 2005, I woke up from the surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Little Rock.  A week later, all the “depression” was gone; mainly because it had never been depression in the first place.  I am not certain which was more painful while fighting the disease before having the implant, the disease itself, or the punishment from a very superstitious culture who felt people didn’t get such diseases unless they had distanced themselves from God.  I had to live with that pnishment from so many ignorant people on top of fighting the disease which was being incorrectly diagnosed and treated as such.  

I was very lucky. Not many in the U.S. received the treatment when the FDA opened a very short window for it.  The large pharmaceuticals and even the American Psychiatric Association, and insurance giants fought it vigorously, and with that much power, the FDA made it virtually impossible to get, unless someone can shell out $50,000.  So only a few of us got it when it was covered. It is still not impossible to get it (even covered if one needs it), but they must be willing to try nearly every modicum of treatment for depression there is and have a Cyberonics caseworker monitoring his/her progress or lack thereof.

I have no resentments from that though.  Had all that not happened, I would not have been able to “do the impossible”; all the things people, including family, said “he’ll never do”.  “He shames us” was the word I often heard from mutual friends of my other blood family.  “He’s lost his way. If he’d just go to the right church and really pray”.  Some of the armchair diagnosis was so ridiculous that they were almost funny, if they’d not been so sad. It made me wonder how they treated their own family who ran into issues in which the doctors did not have answers.  Thank God I had the common sense to move close to one of the top 12 research hospitals in America, University Of Arkansas Little Rock.  St. Vincent’s is on their campus.  Had I not, and not received the VNS implant, I am positive I would have left this planet at least a decade ago.  I am a very blessed man.

 

So what were the consequences of finally getting the right diagnosis and treatment?  I returned to school and learned a great deal about business information management, digital design, and IT marketing.

I took LTCartoons to heights that no other offbeat cartoon has even come close.  Of course in any case where someone starts “looking good” like I did, there were many others behind the scene. I will elaborate later.  In just eight years LTCartoons.com became Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts on the Internet.  Then MS opened Bing and within a week we not only were ranked #1 there too, but own the whole first and most of their second search page.  We have remained #1 on both ever since and it is now 2012; seven years later.

 

My main site LTCartoons.com now has 5500+ mostly color cartoons and my various online stores showcase app. ¼ million licensed gifts and collectibles bearing our imagines.  I say “our” because that was what I was talking about…others making me look good.  Most cartoons we see today in the paper are teams these days.  The lone cartoonist still exists, but the teams are just as prevalent.  I am the concept guy, writer and “blueprint guy..that is the designer of the cartoons, describing details etc and assigning each to the appropriate illustrator) who I know can render it best.  Then I begin digitally designing the products.  I have our main manufacturer 3Drose to thank, Zazzle, Amazon and Printfection to thank for that.  Also who would have thought Amazon and Sears Marketplace would be my primary partners? If you’d told me that even a decade ago, I would have suggested therapy (for you).

I have a very sweet kind wife who loves me as I love her. We have a mutual respect for each other too and many similar interests.  Yes we have issues on which we disagree but the positive far outweighs the negative.  We are in similar businesses (both design) and though she’s a nature photographer and mountain hiker, I am not a photographer, but an avid hiker and nature lover so we enjoy many long mountain hikes together.

My Beautiful Wife Lee

 

We both share a love of God and a similar perception of Him.  We don’t push that philosophy and/or ideals onto others, but that adds more bond to our bonding.  We both care about life, all life, human and animal.  We’re both vegan and eat organic foods most of the time.  We started mid-life (as well as hiking) but hey, better late than never.  And for it was after 2 major heart attacks and for her after surviving cancer.  So we are proof that it is never too late to start anything new.

I have two books out now. Londons  Times Cartoons 13th and 15th anniversary and both Amazon and Barnes & Noble sell them as well as many independent book stores around the world.  Lee has a beautiful photography book out “The Nature Of Love” with similar sellers.

Around 1994, I read a very good book on the psychology of creative entrepreneurialism that I think was called “Blue Thunder” or something like that.  I read something in it that I really didn’t believe at the time. I was forty years old. It said that almost anything you’ve done in your life and career up until age fifty doesn’t even count because the mind of modern man and woman really doesn’t develop enough (for the majority of people) until age fifty, at which time we are all infants in whatever path we  are taking), so take it slow, but take it surely.

I now not only believe that, I know that to be true.  I might add, many of my friends have either retired or semi-retired at age fifty or sixty; or, slowed way down. I look at life in an opposite way.  I believe it is a time to try what you were frightened to try when you were younger. I don’t mean be careless or reckless but try something different.

If you’ve always wanted to go back to school, there’s no excuse not to now.  There are plenty of grants, low interest loans and accredited online colleges now.  Skydive. Plant a garden. Start a business.  Have no money? Start an Internet business. Don’t know how to start an Internet business with little or no money?  Go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble sites and type into their search engines “How to start an Internet business with little or no money”.  There are plenty good ones written on the topic.

I started mine 15 years ago this March 19th with about $300, and no home or car.  I now have a home and car and don’t have any idea how much my Internet business are worth, but I imagine a good bit. My wife and I don’t have debt because we’ve paid for everything. We use debit cards rather than credit cards and save all the interest our peers are paying out each month.  We scaled down. We live smaller but we live a lot happier.

 

 

At first these changes were very difficult. All change is difficult, even positive, especially as we get older.  But as time went by, and we started seeing the advantages, there was and is no turning back.  Life is not about keeping up with the Jones’ anymore. What a sad waste of time. Life is about service, fun, learning to love oneself, and trying to live in the most spiritual way one can, and that part I can’t explain as that is personal between oneself and his/her perception of God.  Good luck everyone.  Whatever it is, if you take it a step at a time, and are okay with some obstacles and/or rejection, you are well on your way to whatever you ever wished or dreamed.  Really.

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I am a goofy vegan mountain man who loves life, my work, my wife, and the mountains of Arkansas. I founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) & Funny Gifts in 1997 and it has been #1 on the Internet since 2005. I love to design. I don’t only design offbeat cartoon merchandise, but serious famous quotes gifts at my RickLondonWisdomShop.com and LoveQuoteGifts.com which contained my licensed images of famous persons with their famous quotes on gifts, tees, mugs etc.  My two cartoon books are available at Amazon.com (on both coffee table and Kindle) and Barnes & Noble.  I like dogs. I like cats. I love wildlife, nature, hiking and anything outdoors. My beautiful talented wife Lee (see above) is a talented nature photographer and has the blog HikeOurPlanet.com  I don’t have depression.  I’m very blessed Thank you G-d.