Retail Secrets From An Old Timer Internet ProSeller by Rick London

     Well buying season is just around the corner and…….wait a minute. Stop right there. What buying season?  Who am I trying to kid?  It’s March 8th and there’s two upcoming holidays, Mother’s Day and Easter and they can hardly be considered buying holidays unless you are a bunny, chocolate, a chick or a duck.  Okay, okay, mom gets flowers or a card, but really, that’s about it. 

Convenience Store Cartoon

By Londons Times Cartoons c2011 http://www.LondonsTimes.us

      I heard it said that Valentine’s Day has gone out ahead of Christmas as the heaviest buying season but you could have fooled Lee..or me.   Yes we made a fairly good amount of sales, and for that we are grateful, but not like it used to be.  The 2012 Christmas buying season had been very good but…..What happened?

      To my knowledge, never in the history of the USA has there been a Tea Party vs a very popular 2nd term African American President who will be backing a woman in 2016 who is more popular than every one of the Tea Partiers put together.   Add that to a sequester, a fruitless argument about debt ceilings, filibuster speech-giving regarding drones programmed to knock a Starbuck’s double soy latte’ out of your hand just because your 4th cousin once knew a 3rd cousin of Jane Fonda and might have known Gloria Steinem’s stepfather’s 8th cousin.  And we have the 1% “makers:” with their money safely guarded in The Grand Cayman or Switzerland or Newark (the IRS would never think to look there); and they are scheduled to find it when it finally does trickle down to the rest of us, or when hell freezes over, whichever comes first. 

      But seriously, no matter what, people do still shop and gift-giving is one of the great traditions in these United States as unique collectibles as a hobby. Lee and I sell both of those and in very large quantities. We even offer volume deep discounts and free personalization/customization within several of our lines of merchandise. 

      So why am I tell you this?  For a pat on the back?  To feel sorry for me?  To Occupy Hot Springs until I’m worth several million (then you can leave thank you very much).

      Nooooooooooooooooooo. 

      I mention it because having talked to colleagues, especially other cartoonists and illustrators, some of whom have worked for me, have reminded me that all of this is universal.

Zorba

By Londons Times Cartoons c2011 http://www.LondonsTimes.us

      Whereas in 2010 our average sale was $60-$80, today it is $9.99-19.99.   This tells me something important.  People continue to want to give, and give to a lot of friends and loved ones.  But they have budgeted down below the $25 mark for each person. 

      I really didn’t need a little informal focus group on the Internet to figure that out.  If I’m doing it, and I am, and Lee’s doing it, then most likely all our friends and loved ones are doing it. 

      Do you know who is having the hardest time with this new economy?  The “Neuvo Poor”.  You read it right.  The mighty who have fallen and never took some hard hits along the way up. I do not write that with any kind of comfort or glee. I don’t like to see anyone hurting whether they be rich, poor or in between.

     Those of us who have taken our hard knocks, and taken them for many years, almost have an internal thermostat of how to make it through the month, even if money is short a particular month.

     My sweet late maternal grandmother Ruth London used to try to drill it in to me many times, and I would just laugh and sluff it off.  After  all, I was moving upward and nothing disastrous could ever happen to me.  Wrong!   It all came tumbling down….more than once.  What seemed like the end of the world at the time, turned out to be the “street education” I needed to survive and even thrive.

     And though it is not the same every month, it goes a little like this.

     At the first of the month,  pay all the bills. If you cannot pay them all, then pay the basics like rent or mortgage, groceries for the first week or two of the month. Forget about eating out, that’s a luxury that seems affordable at the time but is a huge waste of money buying food that is usually not exactly as it was billed. 

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     Pay the utilities, Internet, phone etc.  Once all that is paid there is a huge relief that transpires. One feels lighter.   Don’t pay with a credit card.  Cash or debit cards only.  Lee and I only use our debit cards and don’t even worry about checks and credit cards anymore. 

Shirley Temple Cartoon

By Londons Times Cartoons c2011

     You should have a little money left over.  Depending on your income it can be anywhere from $25 to around $400+ per month.  Stick as much of that in savings, knowing some of it might have to be withdrawn due to unexpected expenses which happen almost every month.  That’s okay. If you can save a few dollars every month you are doing better than most.

     I returned to college at age 48 and had some wonderful professors who taught pragmatic lessons that could easily be used the same day. One of my favorites said, “Credit cards are great…and I expect everyone to get as many as you can, that is if you own the company and you are the creditor”. Otherwise they are poison and will eat your soul”. 

     How did he know the story of my life?  And though I’d not used credit card for nearly 2 decades, I still remember the pain of the relentless calls when/if I was late, trying to juggle classes, running my own business, etc etc.  They showed no mercy.  Lee went through that too.  Now, we don’t go through that. 

  

   Oddly enough, the simpler life one creates, the less stress is involved.  The less stress that is involved. The less stress that is involved, generally the happier the person is.  The happier that person is, the stronger his/her immune system is.  The stronger his/her immune system is, the longer he/she will most probably live, and if it’s not a unusually long lifespan, the quality of life during a shorter lifespan makes up for it.  I love my life. I love what I do.  And though it is not as glamorous as some people may think, that’s alright with me.

may signs

      Doors opened for Lee and I several years back that might have made our lives seem most glamorous.  But the more we worked on the projects, the more we saw that while we were carrying the ball for these well-known celebrity entrepreneurs, the more they look at us as chums, slave labor of sorts, who should be grateful that we got to work with them at any capacity.  I think It was just wonderful that we had that opportunity, to be honest, (and try to be humble) we are that good, but in a free market system, there is this thing called a fair living wage.  They would have no part of that, so we continued to strike out on our own and build our own brands.

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        And though we’ve been at it for quite awhile, this March 19th will be 15 years for me and in November 2013 will be about 4 years for Lee, both are still growing and we still have a long way to go.  Competition is fierce worldwide, and one has to design something not just unique, but very different than what anyone else is offering.  One has to expect copycats. No, they usually don’t copy your total design. But one can look at it and there is no doubt they looked at it first for their “inspiration”.

      So we have focused a great deal on making a great amount of greeting cards for about $3.50-$3.75, tees from $17-$25 etc.  Things people can afford to give as gifts.  Each has one of our licensed graphics, all of which we have “tested” on both Twitter and facebook for feedback. If feedback is good, we move it up to the front of the shop. If not, to the back.  It’s  just like physical retail, without the bricks.

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   Both of us got our start in business in retail shops. Real ones with physical buildings, awnings, and smiling faces.  That is one of the biggest downsides to online marketing. 

    People who shop online, do so for a myriad of reasons, but there are some basic ones that have a common thread.  They are seeking a gift or collectible that they cannot find at the local mall.  They are in luck at our shops and we’ve purposely kept them out of malls or large physical stores. And even though our merchandise appears at Sears.com, it is only at their online shops, not their retail stores.

     They visit Amazon in search of a large selection and discounted price.  They get both when they shop there. 

       They Visit Zazzle to look for both price and often personalization and lightening fast worldwide shipping. Again we give them both there.

       Please don’t get me wrong.  We are merely two merchants who have managed to digitally design thousands of products; about ¼ million between the two of us.   The secret? Again we love what we do, and we work hard and consistently.  Can anybody do it?  I believe anyone can teach themselves to do it or learn to do it watching others. 

      The best way to start is to go to the Zazzle page and sign up for a free account, and visit and talk in their forums.  Be honest. Let them know you are there to learn, and you will be surprised how many will take you under their wing and teach you.  Yes there will be naysayers, but the naysayers are an interesting study in human behavior.  Lee and I passed all the naysayers at warp speed years ago and they are still complaining that “things just aren’t right in online retail”.  And so it goes.

Rick London c2011

      I see posters on facebook and Twitter that remind me to remove negative voices and influences from my life.  I used to do so slowly but that is not necessary.  If I see a pattern now; even for a few hours, it is “block time” and they never come back.

     And my work gets done, miraculously.  And though I could be wrong, my guess is, there’s does not.

kindle po boy

     Finally, online retail is like real life retail.  The custom expects being treated with respect and dignity, they want a decent product, and second-to-none customer service.  

        It’s much easier to offer that than the opposite.  And at the end of the day, they get just that, excellent products, affordable prices, products too unique to be found in malls, and a 100% 30 day guarantee, no questions asked.  

Rick London c2011

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     How much more can one ask?  If they ask for more, we’ll do our best to give it. 

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, cartoonist and designer who lives a quiet life in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas with his wife Lee Hiller-London.  Rick London founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in March 1997 (15 years ago).  Since January 2005 it has been Google’s #1 ranked and Bing’s #1 ranked since 2008.  His wife Lee runs the popular nature photography blog HikeOurPlanet.com featuring many of her award-winning photographs.  Together thay spend a great deal of time in Hot Springs National Forest in search of wildlife and flora of which to take photos which they mat and showcase on their walls.  

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“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.

 

 

 

To Create Or Not To Create…That Is The Answer By Rick London c2012

             It seems rather pompous and arrogant to write a blog about creativity or “being creative”.  I have altruistic reasons for publishing it, however. It’s not because I believe myself to be a Michelangelo or Beethoven incarnate.  It is that, because I work in a creative field, and have for a long time, I get asked numerous questions about the process.

    Since I’m no expert on creativity (I don’t think any really exist) because I couldn’t tell you for the life of me from whence it originates, nor has anyone else convinced me that they know (yet numerous have tried). I can tell you what I believe though and it is not what I believed a decade ago and I have a sneaking suspicion it is not what I’m going to believe a decade from now.

     My own belief system is that we (human-types) are spiritual vessels of something much larger than ourselves (I call that much bigger thing “God”) but I don’t insist you do; nor even believe as I do. I’ve met many very talented creative individuals who believe my theory is full of fault, and that’s okay with me. It’s a free country.

     So whatever your belief system of how “creativity sparks”; just know that there is an energy; made of magnetism and/or electricity (the brain produces plenty of both…ask any brain surgeon) and the more we can rid that organ of “junk” or as many often call them “cobwebs”, the more our “vessel” is open to creativity.

    So if you are new to creativity, or thinking about it as a hobby or even a career, you might ask, “Rick, the cobwebs are gone…the creativity is here..Now what?”. 

     Use it!

     But how. What do I do?

     That actually should be my question to you. What *do* you do?  Do you sing? Play the guitar? Write poetry? Take photographs?  Write books or articles?  The list of possibilities goes on and on.

    My wife Lee is an amazing nature/wildlife photographer.  She was not taught how. She didn’t have a known mentor to my knowledge; she simply picked up a camera and learned “on the job”.  She’s a published author and has thousands of licensed products with her photography and artwork (which she also taught herself) images which sell worldwide.  She is teaching me photography now and I must say I’m getting fairly good. In any case I surely enjoy it, not to mention the health consequences of our mountain hikes.

     In my case, Let’s take writing because that is what I do?  Nearly every writer has an influence (or group of influences).  Not to worry; there is a huge difference between influence and plagiarism.  An influence may be someone who has been dead for years or someone still alive. It may be someone you know or have never met.  But it is someone with whom you can identify in one way or another.  When they sing, write, paint, or whatever they do, your brain says to you, “I understand how he/she thinks”.

    A lot of people call that “being on the same wave length”.  I call it “having opened the vessel in a similar way.

     Let’s say you loved the piano as a child, took lessons, but reality bit and you stopped, got married, raised a family, and never looked back.  But in the back of your mind, you asked yourself, “I wonder how far I could have gone if I’d pursued my music?”  I asked myself that several years ago as I’d played and loved the guitar in my teens. I told my wife Lee and for my next birthday was a beautiful acoustic guitar.

       I am probably best known for my cartoons, Londons Times.   But I don’t even draw my cartoons; I think them up (the concepts, write them and assign them to one of my team illustrators).  I spend a lot more time designing and creating our licensed gifts than I do thinking up “funny things”.  I get great enjoyment out of that, but I didn’t at first. 

      After about a decade of having fun with my creativity, it suddenly occurred to me this might also be a business (this creativity thing).  So I read biographies of creative people I’ve admired such as Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, various Beatles, etc.  I learned I had a lot to learn.

     So I took my creativity a step further. I was almost 50 by then when I re-enrolled into college to learn business and Internet Technology (IT).  That, in combination with my now-honed humor writing skills might take me places. At first, I was a bit disappointed. Then I realized I was not enjoying the creative process, enjoying “its magic”, but projecting into the future trying to know the outcome.  There’s little or no pleasure in that.

    Needless to say, being mid-life and taking the first step is the scariest part.  There is a tendency to “do it perfect”, “have some kind of degree in it”, “conquer the world overnight”, “where’s my overnight fame/success”, etc.  Generally it does not work that way. There’s some walls to walk (no actually BANG into).  And that’s a good thing.  All of the “doing it half-a$$” etc is all part of the learning experience.  And the whole “success thing” in creativity is not what we learned in school; though, yes; it’s great to make money with it, as long as that is not the focus and primary motivator”.    If you get it in your mind, “This is going to be about fun and learning, not fame and fortune, then you are more likely to find fame and fortune than those willfully looking for it.  Really.    No I’m not wealthy, nor the most famous guy on the planet, but I’m very happy.  That was not always the case.  My quality of life is very good, and continues to get better. I love the creative work I’m blessed to do, and love that I have time to mountain hike with my beloved wife Lee.   I believe creativity to be “a gift”, and if we dare to use it, we get rewarded (in one way or another…sometimes in numerous ways).

My cartoon “became famous” when I’d already stopped doing it for over a year. i was back in school.  Suddenly charities were calling and emailing for signed prints to sell at auctions. Fans were emailing from around the world for my autograph. I thought it was a joke (at first).  That was around 2005. So I asked my manager to put up a counter on the site.   Since that time, Londons Times main website has lured 7.8 million visitors.  We’ve created 1/4 million gifts, tees, mugs, cards etc that are sold by Sears, Amazon (and hundreds of associates there).    I still didn’t know what all that meant.  Then Twitter gave me a verified account (then reserved for celebrities and major corporations). I thought that was a joke.  Now I have 30,000+ followers at Twitter.    It all happened while I was not in the least “seeking fame or anything like it”.   I was in school and occasionally writing cartoons and enjoying that creative process.  It’s been 15 years since I started. I have two books out.  One is number one in its genre at Amazon and I have one at Barnes & Noble.  Still, its the creative process that fulfills and if one is enjoying that, generally one is paying the bills.  For many years I took jobs and I didn’t necessarily like them.  In fact I hated some of them.  But they enabled me to tweak my skills.  It took years.  I’ll be 58 next year and just getting started.

      I know if I can do what I did, anyone can.  And I say that with no faux humility. If they will but practice getting in touch with that “inner creativity”.  One need not understand or even attempt to. Just make a pledge to spend a few quiet hours a day or night with oneself and write ideas, think ideas, or do your ideas.  Repetition builds professionalism, and professionalism builds clientele; if that’s what you want. Or, it can be a wonderful hobby if that’s not what you want.   Personally, I enjoy keeping the lights on. 🙂

    I went back to creating and enjoying it.  When people labeled me “a cartoonist”, it didn’t anger me, but that is only a tiny part of what and who I am. I am a person who collaborates to create cartoons. I’m a songwriter and musician.  I’m an editor. I’m a writer.  I am a designer.  I am better at some of those things than others, and some of them bring in an income and some don’t.  But when one makes the income part the only part that motivates them, they catch themselves in a trap, losing touch of the magic of “opening the inner vessel to the universe to allow the creative process to take place.

    I do my best writing while hiking in the forest which I do often. But that’s not the only place to create.  Some do best in a quiet bedroom.  Some after meditating. Others in a library full of books with lots of people around.  Some in a park.  Creativity is not a one-size-fits-all activity.

     Creativity can be a double-edged sword I must warn.  If you don’t want to really know yourself, don’t delve deeply into the world of creativity.  You will begin to examine your life (whether you want to or not), and in my opinion we all really want to, most of us have never been given lessons as to how. 

      Of course we know Socrates is cited as quoting, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.  And though I agree with the spirit of his quotation, I wouldn’t go that far.  I would say though that “The examined life is a lot less confusing and happier…and if all it takes is pursuing something creative for an extended period of time, even an hour or two a day, then why not?”

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Rick London is a writer, musician, and designer. He founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons which are Google and Bing’s number one offbeat webcomics and funny gifts.  His wife Lee Hiller-London is a designer and nature photographer with the popular blog HikeOurPlanet.com.

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.

America The Divided by Rick London

      Those who know me well, know I don’t judge a person by his/her politics, religion, race or any other petty nonsense.  I try my best not to judge anyone but the times I miss the mark, I just judge on character. And that’s okay. It’s not perfect but it’s human.   I learn to not only tolerate but celebrate differences of opinion.

    If everyone believed, voted or acted like me, we’d live in a very boring world (and my wife thinks “probably a bit immature one too”) I’m sure.  Most my posts are intended to be humorous. Occasionally I will create something I see as “a truth”; and test it here. Sometimes it ruffles feathers and that’s a good thing. I never personally attack anyone who visits my page.  I invite social discourse, disagreements are fine and if they play by polite rules of conduct, I don’t care what their philosophy is.  They are welcome to stay and debate until they are out of breath if they are enjoying it.

       I do not post it to be YOUR truth, I post it to see if you recognize anything in it that rings true to you also. If you don’t, it does not anger me in the least. If you do, I smile a bit.  Today I posted what I saw on several Osama Bin Laden videos and “his vision for America” when he was alive.  It appears 9/11 but was step one in a series of steps to “divide America” so that it would “implode from within”.  It would (hopefully) cause huge financial burden. It did; bigger than he ever imagined as we almost immediately went to war; where he wasn’t…in Iraq.

     But his evil instincts were correct. GW Bush bought right into them as did so many of us (me included; so I was not preaching from a high horse). But I’ve seen, researched and know enough now to know what he wanted. To create a far left and far right; so far apart (especially fiscally), that America would be the Un-United States Of America.  I tried far left and far right and saw the never-ending battle of pushing the other side further into their corner, and they pushing me further into mine.

      Then it occurred to me “the middle is where the fence is”; and there is no mending fences unless one is brave enough to move to the middle (they can stay Republican or Democrat or Liberal or Conservative) but drop the knee-jerk extremism that Bin Laden so much prayed for (and even joked about in his cave interview with Peter Bergen); and many of his solo videos (and audios).  I will now always be a centrist who loves America (all of America). I will not judge on accidents of birth, status, or any other ridiculous notion.  America is a very special country. Don’t believe it? Just read the Constitution. Do you think I could do what I do in any other country?  Not even close.

       Our brilliant Constitution guarantees that I can, and (ask my wife Lee) some of the most powerful lawyers in the country have tried to make me stop (on more than one occasion): the same lawyers who have tried to make SNL stop, Mad Magazine, and other barometers that remind us if we are still living in a free nation (or not).  When they are gone,  so are we (at least a free America).  Most of us don’t think of satire or parody that way.  But The Fair Use Act speaks of its importance.

        I don’t care for whom you vote. That’s your business. I would never go to your page and tell you how very wrong you are if you named a candidate for whom I did not care.  I would hope you would be mature enough to share the same respect.  However, I don’t necessarily want you to vote for my candidate.   He might not be for you.  Yours might not be for me. Never try to bully me into voting for yours; you can be assured I will give the same respect.  All I ask of you is to consider what Osama Bin Laden’s biggst dream for us was. A divided America.  And so far, he’s getting his way.  Let’s get less extreme in our views, whether left or right; otherwise,  Mitt Romney is right; his death is really no big deal to be celebrated…..his dream lives on.  Finally, Thank God for our U.S. Military; and we are particularly thinking of the US Navy Team 6 who took out the most evil man on the planet, the man who killed so many of our innocents and did a very successful job of dividing our nation. Now its our job to fix our nation.  We can never ever let him have his way, even in death…especially in death.  There is a tendency to kill the messenger.

       I encourage you to watch his videos on YouTube and you will see what I mean.  It’s not me you’re angry at. You are as angry at him as I am; as he created the environment to make a far left and far right exist, fight each other to the point where they each was/is the target enemy whether it is black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Bhuddist, Wiccan, Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative and any other label people use to justify their differences.  

     The bottom line is that we’ve been taught over the years by well-meaninged teachers, parents, ministers, tv talking heads etc. that those who believed, voted, acted etc. different than us “were the enemy”. Nothing could be further than the truth.  But changing that is easier said than done.  We’ve been indoctrinated to believe that; and, it is not the case. 

      It may (as psychologists call it for many of us) take behavior modification.  That could mean therapy. It might mean simply changing your mind. It may take research.  It will take what it takes, but let’s do what it takes, so that Bin Laden does not get his way. 

     I have gotten to the point where I know that the person who votes differently than me is not my enemy.  The person who has a different faith or belief or philosophy than me is not my enemy. I know that a person who competes with me doing the same kind of business is not my enemy.  The irritable irrational weird uncle or relative is not my enemy.  Al Queida is my enemy because I am an American, like you, and they want to kill me, and you.  Those other people simply may be irritated at me, or you and that’s fine.  There’s a big difference.  Work on yourself as I am working on myself. I continue to head toward the center because that is where the fence that needs mending is.  And together, left, right, liberal, conservative, gay, straight, black, white, etc etc etc. working TOGETHER in a democracy that our Constitution provides is unbeatable.  In fact, even in “this imperfect union” if we begin to mend the fences that Al Queida almost successfully severed, that is perfect enough for me. It will be a process and there will be bumps.  I am okay with that.

     Nobody has to change what they are, in fact please don’t change what/who you are. That is sacred and to be cherished.  You are one of God’s children. But in some ways for America to work again, we may all have to change how we think and act; and not as dramatically as one thinks. Simply recognizing extremism from the far left and far right as it comes our way, and not fight back, simply let them know that sanity exists in the middle. In fact, those in the middle who accept everyone (and they have every right to stay left or right if they do not want to be part of the solution) and we can accept that. Not everyone is going to be a part of the solution. Life is not perfect nor do we live in a perfect world. But I truly believe there are enough good people out there who are sick of what we have seen over the past decade or so, the extremes (who are out for themselves, not the betterment or future of America) and its okay if they don’t to participate in the rebuilding of America.  What is important is that we do.

      Let’s no longer justify our differences by labeling each other and/or demonizing another human being who thinks or believes different than you or me as Bin Laden so desperately wanted and came so close with his evil but clever manipulative power to make happen.  Lets celebrate our same-nesses on this one year anniversary of our brave Navy Seals turning him into a rancid piece of sushi.  Goodbye to bad garbage. It’s time for America to heal.  Be a part of the solution, and I’ll do my best to do the same.  Thanks all….and I mean ALL. You are our neighbors and friends. And that’s enough for us.

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Rick London is a freelance writer, songwriter, designer, and cartoonist who lives and loves America and lives in the glorious Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas with his wife nature photographer Lee Hiller-London.  They are both active in environmental, animal, children and veteran causes.  Rick founded Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons in 1997 and Google’s number one offbeat cartoon gifts in 2006. His wife runs the popular nature wildlife blog HikeOurPlanet.com and LeeHillerDesigns.com. London recently launched his cartoons on funny hoodies at his PlanetHoodie.com shop. Follow them on Twitter @RickLondon & @LeeHillerLondon  Rick London’s facebook fan page is http://www.Facebook.Com/LTCartoons.

“I’m In The Secret Service” (Song Parody By Rick London c2012) Sung To Beatles “Do You Want To Know A Secret”

We made sure the meeting with Obama & Santos did go smooth,
We also saw women parading in their underwear…

And glistening,
Cause we’re in the Secret Service,
And we’re all going straight to hell, whoa oh oh,

Paid her,
Then I bought her several beers,
I just love being a sightseer,
Then no taming of the shrew…ewww eww ewww

What am I missin’?
I am in the Secret Service,
I keep promises I don’t tell, Whoa oh oh.

Boasting,
That for Obama the way I clear,
So that you might call me “Dear”,
Impressed with me are you…whoo whooo whooo

You asked for 100 pesos then you said you wanted two,
I felt nobody knew, now I’m sad & blue……

Listen,
Now I’m looking for a job and I can sell,
Maybe a window at Taco Bell…Whoaa, oh, oh

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Rick London enjoys his life as a goofy uncoordinated vegan mountain man who enjoys songwriting, writing, designing, & cartooning.  He is a hiker, nature and animal lover, and supports, animal, children and green causes.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons in 1997 which has been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons & funny gifts since 2005.  He recently founded the #1 offbeat cartoon hoodie shop PlanetHoodie.com. He is married to nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London.

Just Another Dead Black Kid Wearing A Hoodie In Sanford, Fl? by Rick London

A little over a month ago in Sanford, Fl, a suburb of Orlando,  an unarmed minor named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by an armed self-appointed Neighborhood Watchman George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman called 911 before shooting Martin.  He’d called 911 “for suspicious-looking characters” 46 times this year before encountering and stalking Martin and “finding him suspicious too”.  The call before Martin was about a week earlier “Two black youths, about age 7 and 9”.  Martin had been at the neighborhood convenience store where he’d walked to buy Skittles and iced tea where he was described as “Not suspicious and just fine” and was on his way walking home. That was approximately 5 minutes before Zimmerman found him “suspicious” and began pursuing him in his SUV armed with a loaded Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm pistol. Zimmerman is the son of retired Judge Joe Zimmerman, whose career was in Va. but retired to the Sanford area of Florida where he was known to be “very well-liked”.

Now the U.S. Federal Department Of Justice has landed in Sanford and both Zimmerman and the Sanford Police Department are under federal investigation.

Here are some of the major items bothering the DOJ:

1. Trayvon weighed significantly less than George Zimmerman.

2. Trayvon was not armed.

3. George Zimmerman was armed with a semi automatic gun.

4. George Zimmerman admits he shot Trayvon Martin.

5. George Zimmerman was told by the 9-1-1 dispatcher not to pursue ‘Trayvon Martin.

6. George Zimmerman did not want to give the police dispatcher a location where the police could find him, but instead indicated that they should call him when they arrived, suggesting that he might be moving around, or that he wanted some warning before the police would see him.

7. Somebody was yelling for help before the sound of the gun shot.

Trayvon is not around to give his version of the events leading up to his murder. However George Zimmerman suggests that the killing was in “self defense” and that he was entitled to stand his ground, and protect himself. Here a just a few problems with his story, assuming only the undisputed evidence.

1. Why would George Zimmerman call out repeatedly for help if he had a gun?

2. Why wouldn’t George Zimmerman agree to wait for the police at an agreed upon location?

3. Why didn’t George Zimmerman go to the hospital to be checked out before going to the police station? If he had actually had his head beaten into the sidewalk, shouldn’t Zimmerman and the police be concerned about a bleed in the brain, or at a minimum a concussion? The broken nose and lacerations on the back of his head would have been sufficient reason to seek medical treatment. However the potential for a cranial bleed or concussion would have necessitated medical evaluation.

4.  If George Zimmerman was afraid for his life, why didn’ t he wait in the safety of his car or Mary Cutcher’s apartment until the police arrived?

 Ever wonder how George Zimmerman eluded court or jail in two cases of domestic violence, 1 case of resisting arrest w/o violence, and one case of resisting arrest with battery against a police officer?  And now after interviewing Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, (Sanford’s one honest investigating homicide officer) Chris Serino (who demanded charges of manslaughter against Zimmerman as he says none of Zimmerman’s story added up), was overridden by “friends of Zimmerman’s dad from the state attorney’s office”.  Serino fortunately knew something was rotten in Sanford City and wrote out an official protest and an Affadavit” anyway and which is on  record and why.

Had the state or DOJ not gotten involved, that would have been the end. Just like Syria. Just like Iran. No court case, no nothing; just a police state; exactly as is utilized in countries we are trying to teach how a civilized society operates. The DOJ, though hard at work,  must be having a field day with all these new discoveries coming in at almost an hourly basis. 

Every single honest police and/or judge in this great land, should be furious over the way this is playing out.  How would you like all your hard work to go down the drain because “somebody knew somebody’s dad (a judge)  4 times (at least 2 of them felonies with no court trials, one battery on a policeman!!!)”?  PS Zimmerman’s “best friend” Joe Oliver now admits they are only “casually acquainted and he knew nothing of Zimmerman’s past” but please “trust me based on my gut feeling”…..; so his major defender is now useless to him with zero credibility. 

But….again lets let the DOJ (Sanford’s new justice system) do their work.  But for those yelling that, it does not mean to censor or intimidate anyone posting news  and/or opinions as they happen.  That is the way its done in Iran, Syria etc. not America.  We all get to speak our minds here no matter our opinion.  Make sure of that, no matter how you feel about this case.  It’s our duty to let everyone with every opinion speak out; if they find it important to do so. 

By the way, I find it hideous that the “New Black Panthers” have latched  on to this tragedy and turned it into “their cause” to put their name in the limelight. They are not needed and impede the important work of the DOJ. It is clear their motive is not justice in this case, but to provide their own justice in this case. They already have stated publicly they do not follow U.S. law, which means they may try to impede it.  They have every right to be there, however, until/unless they do, and if they do, they too, should be arrested, and sent back home.  America will not let them impose their own “law” on a case this important, a case that almost didn’t even make it out of the morgue, except for a ringing cell phone that went unanswered for three days.

It is tacky that Sharpton et al show up but what does he not show up at? He never met a media event he didn’t like.  But that doesn’t change the facts of this case. I happen to find it important because it sets the bar for justice for everyone which is very important.  No case should end with a state attorney office opinion and no court trial. Sharpton and friends find it important because it makes them feel important. And that’s sad.

No matter what the outcome, that is, whether George Zimmerman is found guilty or not guilty, the fact that this case did not end at the morgue, and that there is now a chance that justice will be served because of one honest homicide police officer, a dead child’s cell phone that didn’t quit ringing, and a panicking coroner, the world now knows the story of Trayvon Martin’s trip to get Skittles and Tea.  And the case may or may not turn out the way we think it should.  But at least it will not end up as the corrupt Sanford Police Department and State Attorney’s Office Of Florida (who has now thank God been taken off the case) wanted it to turn out.  Just another dead black kid wearing a hoodie who ran out of luck in Sanford, Florida.

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, cartoonist, designer and Internet entrepreneur.  He founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) in 1997 which have been the number one Offbeat Cartoons (Google & Bing ranked) and funny gifts since 2005.  He recently founded Planet Hoodie which sells funny hoodies featuring LTCartoons.  He also is fond of hiking with his wife nature photographer Lee Hiller-London, the founder of HikeOurPlanet.com.

“Trayvon” by Rick London c2012 to the tune of “Leavon” by Elton John

“Trayvon” by Rick London c2012 to the tune of Leavon by Elton John

 

Trayvon, Trayvon counts his money,
  For Skittles and Arizona Tea,
         Not a clue what he’d be encountering,
Down 7/11 way.

He had his iPod on on a rainy day,
And the next we knew he was dead,
And race wars begun,
     Zimmerman claimed self-defense in a fray.

chorus

            And we’ll miss Trayvon,
      Not even yet a man,
              All the world is grieving,
Twas a violent pattern of Zimmerman
            He’d even attacked a policeman.
Just 17 not yet a man,
His name was Trayvon.

The “police”of Sanford found Zimmerman innocent hands down,
Gave him back his gun and said “Goodbye”.
While in the morgue Trayvon lay,
      Enter Justice Department to defend Trayvon against “Law Enforcement” lies,

        What Zimmerman said on tape was f**ing c**n that’s hate to us,
      As he pursued Trayvon from behind,
This wannabe policeman really belongs in Sing Sing,
   And Trayvon quickly died.

He was born on the 5th of Feb to Gladys & Bob,  
And Geraldo says his hoodie shot him dead,
                  But there was rain there was no sun,
The Martins lost a son today.                 

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Rick London is a writer, songwriter, designer and cartoonist.  He founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts, Google’s #1 ranked.  He enjoys hiking and wildlife and often hikes with his nature photographer wife Lee Hiller-London who founded HikeOurPlanet.com

Bullying, Politics, Herman Cain, Joe Paterno & You Name It..It’s Here by Rick London

              I just read a Twitter post about bullying written by a guy I know to be a bully.   The government of Iran wants to blow us up.  Herman Cain probably chases women, and is sort of sure who President Obama is and what Libya is.  Jerry Sandusky is very ill and a criminal.  Joe Paterno went from hero to great disappointment and possibly a criminal along with the ex President of Penn State.  Syracuse has come out with similar allegations.  Let’s not be surprise but there could be more.  Ironically I’m not that much of a news junkie and certainly not a political animal.  I love nature, hiking, and watching Netflix movies with my wife. I occasionally make people laugh with my cartoons.

        On the other hand…………………….

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      Our economy is on the skids, and politicians are circling the Presidental wagon. Rick Perry says “Whoops” in a cute way in which he does not pronounce his “W’s”, but we’re in big big trouble when Ron Paul has to give him the answer to an easy beltway trivia question.  The thirty year old Natalie Wood case is being reopened. Famous Hollywood Couples are announcing not only their divorces but “What the marriage meant to them” on Twitter.  Newt’s wife likes Tiffany’s.  Newt “did it with women” for our country.  One has to ask, did she yell “Oh Newt baby Sign me with you John Hancock” at, um…the end of the act?  Michele Bachman applauds our founding fathers for freeing the slaves.  She’s anti-socialism but got one of the largest social farm grants ever (then voted against it).  Romney passed a health care bill more socialist than Obamacare while in Ma. (but says now “that kind of bill only works in states). Oh.  LOL.  Uh, Mitt…this is the United States. 50 of them. Ok, never mind.  The whole thing, Democrat and Republican is the keystone cops we’ve come to expect

      My homestate  of Mississippi voted on a bill called Personhood. Fortunately it was unanimously voted down but had it passed something like a wet dream and one could have found oneself life in Parchman or even the chair. A miscarriage could have meant solitary confinement or something like that.  God knows what a menstrual cycle could have gotten ya.  I don’t even want to know.  Kudos for Mississippi for knowing better than insanity.  Much better.

John Huntsman is quiet….and sane; and is actually the only one of the candidates on either side who has stated publicly exactly what the job description of President is.  Can you imagine..a candidate that actually understands the job. I know, I know…he’s not exciting/charismatic enough but has cute daughters.

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     Obama is smart but not in the least when it comes to economics (excellent on snuffing out big time terrorists and my hat’s off to him for that).  Congress is dismal.  Occupy Wall Street is worldwide but can you imagine the greedy 1% suddenly begin throwing money to them out their high-rise windows in complete shame and guilt with tears running down their eyes? Ain’t gonna happen.  Life is compromise and both sides will one day learn that.  Maybe the hard way.  Hope not.       

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       I am a designer and write cartoons and blogs and am sometimes asked, “What goes through your head?” (see above paragraph).  And even when the items in the above paragraph (to borrow a phrase from Herman Cain “are twirling through my head”), there is always the chance of creative or writer’s block.

      When that happens, I have learned over the years never to mention it, at least not on social media or in public.  When I used to, I found myself surrounded by the dregs of society known as “life coaches” willing to sell it back to me (for a nominal fee starting at app. $5000), but I get a lot of their cool cd’s and workbooks).  So it’s a tough decision.  When questioned what they have done on a creative level etc.  I’m often led to their “free ebook”.  They have a similar demeanor of an Elmer Gantry or a moat of crocodiles surrounding a once creative human in a moat who could write and swim but suddenly has writers and swimmers block.  The only difference between a crocodile and a life coach is the crocodile has not learned to charge exorbitant fees for eating you alive.

         So I have these online shops you see and they sell my designs on products like tees, mugs, mouse pads, aprons, etc ., and its starting to get busy again.  I asked myself why, as I could tell many were buying gift items.  I never used to shop for Christmas or Hanukah gifts this early, but some started in the summer.  Why?  It’s simple.  Best prices and service (which still exists as I decided to keep it all the same all the way through the 2012.  But also many like to get it out of the way. Keep in mind these are usually folks who’ve not been bankrupted previously by the crafty lifecoach. 

        When (again thanks Herman) my mind begins twirling with all the things around me, I think of why I’m grateful. I have the most wonderful wife in the world.  Our home office eclipses the most beautifully mountain in the Ouchita Range (possibly the world). We hike it and others when we want to. Our quality of living is very high, cost of living very low.   We have no debt. Our cars are paid in full.  We both are published authors and have our own brand businesses. 

      Are we smarter, more talented, better than anyone else? Not in the least.  I mention that because people sometimes ask “our secret”.  Its far from being a secret.  I can only say, “Start where you are; even if its at the bottom. That is where I was.  Learn. Ask questions.  Stay persistent.  Keep working.  And when something sidetracks you (and it will); forgive yourself and go back to work.  On several occasions over the past year, Lee and I found ourselves entrapped in “helping someone else build their empires for slave labor”. We gave them every opportunity to offer some kind of compensation.  They totally ignored they were doing anything wrong….our answer?  We totally ignored them. 

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     We don’t mind helping others succeed, but help us back.  It need not be money. It can be promotion, co-branding, etc. but please, please, understand fully what that means.  It can’t be what you want it to mean, or what some life coach taught you.

     Otherwise, Lee and I design some of the most unique (we think) gift items on the planet. So its okay if we go it alone (we have a great deal of fun).

      That is the way it should be for you too, but please be advised,  chances are good it won’t happen overnight.  I’ve been at it 14 years and Lee has been at it 2 years.  There are many sleepless nights and lots of fires to extinguish and still much to learn (for us). 

And we both started at middle age.   So can you.  Now get to work but first visit our shops and buy things so you’ll know even better how its done.  J    See, I can act like a life coach too.    

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I’m just a goofy vegan mountain man who has developed a few talents (though that is a matter of opinion). I’m a freelance writer, cartoonist, and designer. I write music; and my wife Lee Hiller-London and I are active in childrens, animal, and environmental causes. I founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons & Funny Gifts in 1997 which have remained Google’s #1 ranked on the Internet since 2005.  I founded the world’s only famous love quote shoes & gifts called Shoes That Amuse (USA Today Like’s ’em), and Wisdom Quote Shoes & Unique Gifts at my Rick London Wisdom Shop. 

 

 

Grandma Was Right..The World’s Gone Mad…But…

 

It’s Wednesday and a gorgeous Autumn day in Hot Springs, Ar.  My wife Lee

surprised us on facebook with beautiful colorful leaves she snapped on our

main mountain a few days ago.  We’re going on a short lower-mountain hike today.

We’ve had the news on nonstop and it reminds me so much of watching my maternal

grandmother, Ruth London, watch Tom Brocow religiously in the 1970’s, and never

failing to tell us at the end of his newscast, “The world’s gone crazy”.  I used to laugh

so hard and finally recite it with her. I was about 21 or so and everything had always

been a bit crazy, so I thought that was “normal”.  To me, nothing had “gone crazy”, it

had “remained crazy”.  But she was right.

I reminded Lee of grandma’s quote last night as we watched the news.  Some, but not

all of it was a horrifying pedophilia sting at Penn State.  Sorry, there is no humor I can

find in that story. I was sickened to hear of what had happened there, and triple nauseated

hearing of the way it was handled (with a probable cover-up). It is good that the coach

and school president will be stepping down.  I hope those guilty are prosecuted beyond

their wildest nightmares.  Children and animals are the only beings

on our planet that do have rights but don’t know it.  In a true civilization, it is the

duty of the rest of us to speak up for them.

So shame on you Penn State (all involved). How very horrible and total moral

bankruptcy.

We expect you to clean it up, and for the legal system to  prosecute to the fullest extent

all involved.

Within the same hour the major contender for U.S. President in the GOP camp had a

criminal lawyer introduce him to give a 5-Flag Press Conference to defend himself

against alleged sexual harassment from 4 different women, and his claiming “They’ll

probably be more”…(Yikes), and that he’d surely take a lie detector test (if ever there was

a need to take one) Yikes again.

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I don’t get too wound up about politics and/or politicians anymore, but all I could think

was, “Scuse me, SCUSE me, SCUSE ME, Herman extra onions please and welcome

back to the 99%”.   His backers did the predictible “Let’s bully and shame Rick” thing but

(Yawn); I’ve got a lot more important things to think about than who someone wants

for President (like who I want for President), and I don’t tend to splash that all over

social media because it reminds me too much of high school, and, the only place

that really has any power is in the voting booth, not my blog, not on facebook, and

not on Twitter. Those places are ideal for…as I mentioned amateurs and high school

students. If I’ve offended someone, consider yourself one or the other (in high school,

or…an amateur. I didn’t make the rules so don’t kill the messenger).

I can’t please everybody. I  was surely willing to listen and give him a chance for my vote

(like I do every other  candidate, as I don’t vote party lines. I vote candidate.  But with all the horrors in our

country and world today, I don’t think a man who is his own distraction is in any position

to run our nation.

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Not long before that a microphone had been left on revealing a conversation between

our President and the President of France of the difficulties of dealing with Israel’s

Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I thought to myself, “They probably have a point; it wouldn’t

be much fun. He is a tough customer.  But when I think of the alternative, his nemesis

Ahmadinejad, Bibi ain’t that bad. The IAEA had just reported that it is definite that

Iran has reached a point of no return; that is, there is not even a slight chance that all

Their nuclear work has been for “peaceful purposes”. They are building nuclear weapons

And not far away. It appears Israel is most likely first in their crosshairs and the USA

next and who knows after that.  But to me, that’s enough.  Though I would like to believe

sanctions would do the trick, my instincts tell me either Russia or China or both will

not cooperate.  Maybe I’m wrong, and I do hope so.

At the end of the day, Lee and I looked out our office window at my favorite mountain

and the leaves are in all their glory.  We woke up today and it was still there.  We know

there is a peace up there that was described once by Sierra Club founder John Muir, “The

Mountains Are Calling And I Must Go”.

Is it a cop-out, an escape, a relinquishing of responsibilities?  In a way… yes.  But I

think it is important for everyone to have such a place they can go.  It need not be the

mountains. It could be a favorite pond, a beach, a river, a field, just anyplace “far from

the maddening crowd” where one can remove the cobwebs and be at one with nature and

God (and whatever your belief system may be), and know that in spite of network news

and all it entails, it is going to be alright.

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I decided to slow my pace of life down as I aged before I aged..in other words it was

already in the back of my mind when I was in my twenties; to live fast and furious, and if

I lived through it (and I did but just barely, I would retire to the most beautiful place on

the planet (that was within economic feasibility).  The two places I had found along the

way were Kauai, HW (too expensive and far away), and Hot Springs, Ar (Just right).  So

here we are.  I believe that by the time we reach a certain age, where we are or what we do is a choice.  To use the

excuse “But I inherited this” or “This is the only work and people I know” are true cop-outs if you think it through. A mature adult can

make positive changes (if one wishes) by merely taking steps and a risk.

Footnote: Lee and I hiked for about an hour and saw the most beautiful forest of

every color under the sun.  We stood there mesmerized; or at least I did.  She took as

many photos as Ansel Adams on a long hike, or at least I hope.

Now I just pinched my arm and I’m still here.  Now its time for me to assess myself

and notice with all my flaws, I’m still okay…and I’m on day thirty of the vegan diet. Not bad

for an old man eh?

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Rick London is a freelance writer, cartoonist and clothing and shoe designer.  He is active in children, animal and environmental causes. London founded Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts, Londons Times in 1997 and it has been #1 worldwide ranked across the web since 2005.