This painting I did a few years ago is currently on display at a special fundraising art show in Baltimore.

Desire

Desire
Acrylic on canvas
9 inches x 12 inches
23 cm x 30 cm

Proceeds from the sale of this painting (as well as works by other artists) will help the victims of last month’s devastating flood in Ellicott City, Maryland. The entire art show will be available for viewing from 4-7 p.m. every night between now and September 4. Here is where the art show is currently being held:

The Escape Artists
827 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201

For more information and directions, see the gallery’s website or Facebook page.

I was in College Park, Maryland when I came across this manhole cover that was literally gushing with a huge force of water. I later saw someone from WSSC (the local water and sanitation company) check this out.

Water Rushing Out of Manhole Cover

A few weeks ago I checked out this event that is being co-sponsored by ReCreative Spaces (along with other local organizations) known as Art in the Park(ing Lot). The event kicked off on August 7 with a painting party where a variety of artists spray-painted the now-boarded up Brentwood Village Shopping Center (located along Route 1 in the Northeastern section of Washington, DC). I took some photos of the party itself.

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

Painting Party, August 7, 2016

I returned to the site a few days later so I could photograph the completed art site.

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Adventure Dental & Vision is the one business that’s still opened in that shopping center but not for much longer. One of its signs mentioned that this business will be relocating in a different shopping center by the end of this month.

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

Art in the Park(ing Lot) Murals

The art will remain up until October, when the shopping center is scheduled to be demolished. There will be a variety of events that will take place in that area between now and October. For up-to-date events schedule, check out this page on ReCreative Sites’ website.

Even though I’ve gotten back into reading comic books over the last few years, I’m still very picky as to what I’ll buy mainly because each issue costs a whopping $3.99. (I can remember when comic books used to cost 25 cents but I was a child at the time. I got into reading them for a few years as a young adult when my then-fiancee who later became my ex-husband was a big comic book fan and they cost around 75 cents per issue then prices went up to $1 per issue before going even higher to$1.25 per issue. We stopped reading them as a married couple when prices shot up to $1.50 per issue. Now they are even more expensive than ever before.)  These days it would be so easy for me to drop $100 if I were to pick up every comic book with an intriguing cover that’s currently on sale so I have to limit myself very strictly.

I learned via Facebook that Third Eye Comics in Annapolis was having a comic book signing for this new comic book that has just released its first issue of a new comic book known as Kim & Kim. Since my real first name is Kim (short for Kimberly), I was attracted to that comic book based on just the name for the same reasons why I was previously attracted to the early 1980’s arcade game Space Ace (where the hero had to rescue a kidnapped woman named Kimberly) and the Disney Channel cartoon series Kim Possible.

Here’s a photo of the all-female team who is currently working on the Kim & Kim series: Magdalene “Mags” Visaggio (writer), Katy Rex (editor), Claudia Aguirre (colors), and Eva Cabrera (pencils and inks).

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I introduced myself by my first name and they were pretty cool about it. They said that this comic book would be called Kim & Kim & Kim. Here is what my signed comic book looked like.

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I really liked it so much that I decided to I purchase another copy of Kim & Kim #1 the following day so I could have a second copy just to read while shopping for a frame for the signed copy. I found this shadowbox frame on sale at A.C. Moore last week and it looks really good.

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As for the comic book itself, the first issue seems promising. The two Kims are a team of bounty hunters in outer space and there is not only subtle lesbian hints but one of the Kims admitted that she’s transgender as well. Wow! Of course there’s plenty of action as well (meaning the kind of action one usually sees in comic books, not anything sexual). It’ll be interesting to see if it can maintain its momentum over the next several issues.

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I took a few other photos at Third Eye Comics, including these interesting looking vinyl figurines.

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Then there are these two vinyl figures based on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

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Benjamin Franklin

A good wife lost, is God’s gift lost.

Previous post in this series.

Continuing this summer’s series of Throwback Thursday posts dedicated to Howard the Duck.

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Howard the Duck #26
Repercussions…!
July, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Klaus Janson, inker; Irv Watanabe, letterer; Janice Cohen, colorist; Jim Shooter, consulting editor

Synopsis: Howard has been abducted and forced into performing with the Circus of Crime, which has just arrived in the town of Skudge, Pennsylvania. Howard performs for the circus first when, billed as a freak of nature, he starts to tell jokes. Towards the end of his comedy routine Howard tries to warn the audience that they need to leave as soon as possible but the audience, thinking that Howard’s warning is part of his comedy act, laughs instead. The Ringmaster steals the microphone away from Howard and kicks him in the tail feathers. Next he hypnotizes the audience while his performers rob them of their money and valuables.

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After the show the Ringmaster informs Howard that he is such a crowd-pleaser that he will be with the circus indefinitely. Howard doesn’t take the news too well.

Among the people who were in the audience that night was an unemployed 49-year-old steelworker named Ignatz Hubley. He stops at a local bar on the way home where he tells the bartender about how the duck made him laugh so hard that he forgot his current troubles, which began when the mill he worked for closed seven months ago. He’s been searching for a new job with no luck while his kids are sick of eating Spanish rice all the time and his wife is urging her husband to move to Pittsburgh. Ignatz decides to head home and tries to pay the bartender only to find that all of the money in his wallet had been stolen. Ignatz tells the bartender to put the bill on his tab then staggers out. He begins to snap over the prospect of having to tell his wife about what little money he had left gotten stolen. He decides that he must do something drastic to raise cash quickly.

Iris Raritan drives a car into Skudge with Paul and Winda as passengers. Iris had told the other two that she’s pursuing a hunch regarding the circus and she had driven almost 400 miles from Long Island. When Paul and Winda ask about a tracking device that’s on the dashboard of her car and why Iris had declined to call the police after the circus had robbed her and her guests, Iris admits that she had placed a tracker on the Ringmaster’s truck ahead of time prior to the performance. When Paul accuses Iris of having prior knowledge of that robbery, Iris admitted that it was the truth. She did this because is a bored rich socialite who wanted to bring excitement to her life by apprehending and bringing a super villain to justice.

Paul becomes so outraged by Iris’ confession and her cavalier attitude towards her own guests that he immediately gets out of the car and storms off. When Iris turns to Winda and asks whether Winda considers her to be callous, jaded, and unfeeling, Winda says that she takes Iris less seriously than Paul ever did and she feels that Iris is foolishly immature. Iris kicks Winda out of her car then drives off, leaving Winda stranded by the roadside.

Ignatz Hubley attempts to raise the money that was stolen from him by the Circus of Crime by getting a gun and attempting an armed robbery at a gas station. Paul happens to be walking towards the gas station at the same time. The Circus of Crime packs everything, including Howard, and starts to drive away. Iris follows the truck in her car.

Winda is standing in the same spot where Iris had thrown her out of the car. A drunk shows up and starts to make a pass at her. Winda rejects the drunk’s overtures and he becomes more insistent. When Winda scratches his face, the drunk immediately grabs her and takes her into the shadows where it’s implied that he savagely attacks (and possibly rapes) Winda.

The Circus of Crime pulls up at the same gas station where Ignatz is currently robbing it while Paul is also there as well. When a gas attendant fails to show up to offer full service, the Ringmaster goes into the store to see what’s going on and ends up walking into the armed robbery while Paul is also there as well. When the Ringmaster attempts to hypnotize everyone present, Ignatz recognizes him as the one who must have stolen his money at the circus.

As Ignatz fires a shot at the Ringmaster, Howard and one of the other circus performers immediately barge into the gas station store to see what’s going on. It turns out that Ignatz shot the hat that the Ringmaster uses to hypnotize people. Ignatz begins to panic over too many people crowding that tiny store so he runs outside at the precise moment when Iris runs over Ignatz, which leads to Ignatz shooting his gun and the bullet hitting Paul.

The next scene shows Howard at the local hospital taking to Lee Switzler on the phone. It turns out that the Ringmaster managed to get away with his Circus of Crime. Ignatz has two shattered kneecaps. Paul is under heavy sedation. What’s more, Winda has been found and she’s also under heavy sedation while sharing a hospital room with Paul. Lee tells Howard that he is going to drive from Cleveland to Skudge. After Howard gets off the phone he meets up with Iris, who admits that Winda was right for calling her immature. Howard tells Iris that she should have learned a long time ago that actions has consequences.

Topical 1970’s References: Howard starts his comedy routine at the circus by providing a list of funny words, which were all catchphrases uttered by comedians of that era like Steve Martin (“Excu-u-use Me!”), Rodney Dangerfield (“No respect”), and Don Rickles (“Hockey puck”), and Red Buttons (“Never got a dinner”).

The plight of unemployed 49-year-old steelworker Ignatz Hubley reflects the real-life economic situation when the post World War II economic boom ended with the 1973-1975 recession. Since that time there has been a trend towards outsourcing high paying union jobs like steel to Third World countries with more and more people facing the prospect of falling from the middle class into poverty and this trend is still continuing with no end in sight.

The Bottom Line: This is a pretty well-done issue that includes both humor (in the form of the ludicrous way that the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime commit their crimes) and serious social commentary (the plight of the blue collar workers in states like Pennsylvania who were starting to feel the effect of their own companies outsourcing their jobs to Third World nations).

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Howard the Duck #27
Circus Maximus
September, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Klaus Janson, inker; Gaspar, letterer; Phil R., colorist; Jim Shooter, editor-in-chief

This issue is notable for being the last Howard the Duck comic book that co-creator Steve Gerber would serve as writer and editor on before being fired by Marvel after getting into a dispute with the comic book publisher. Marvel contended that Steve Gerber had a problem with meeting deadlines. Gerber said that the dispute was over ownership/licensing rights for Howard where he demanded a great cut of the profits for Howard. This dispute would ultimately lead to a lawsuit between Gerber and Marvel comics.

Synopsis: This issue starts with Howard in a dark void where a bunch of accusing fingers point at him. It is soon revealed that Howard is in some kind of a courtroom with Beverly Switzler serving as a judge. Judge Beverly tells Howard that the first “Karmic Kourt” is in session and he’s being charged with terminal negatism. Howard pleads not guilty by reason of sanity. The judge calls the State of Mind, a man with a globe for a head to give testimony. Then the judge asks the jury, who consist of a bunch of Howard the Duck clones, for a verdict—which is guilty.

Howard demands the chance to defend himself. When Judge Beverly grants it, Howard says that he’s not negative, he’s angry.

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Howard wakes up and realizes that the court session was a dream. He’s in the waiting room of the hospital. Lee Swtizler is now there, having driven from Cleveland to Skudge, Pennsylvania to join Howard at the hospital where Paul and Winda are recovering from their respective injuries that they received in the last issue. Iris Raritan is also in the waiting room as well. Howard becomes agitated at this waiting game so he offers Iris the chance to redeem herself (after she admitted that she knew about the Circus of Crime but allowed them to perform at her party because she wanted the thrill of brining the villains to justice). The two of them would track down the Circus of Crime together. Iris leaps at this chance. Lee would stay behind at the hospital to look after Paul and Winda.

Iris and Howard drive off in Iris’ car. The radar tracking screen on the dashboard indicates that the tracker that Iris had planted on the Circus of Crime’s truck is heading towards Cleveland.

Meanwhile, in a castle located in the Himalayas, Beverly is busy dancing for her husband, Doctor Bong, while Doctor Bong’s mutant minions play musical instruments. Doctor Bong seems to enjoy this performance. Afterwards Beverly sits in Doctor Bong’s lap where she tells him that she’s glad he coerced her into marrying him. Doctor Bong tells Beverly that his plans for world conquest are going ahead, including eventually killing Howard the Duck.

Iris and Howard eventually makes it to Cleveland. Iris buys casual clothes while Howard buys a camera. The pair wander on to the fairgrounds where the circus is being held. They manage to sneak into the audience incognito and watch the circus. Once it gets to the scene where the Ringmaster uses his hat to hypnotize the audience, both Howard and Iris avert their eyes. When the circus performers start to loot the audience members of their money and valuables, Howard starts to take pictures of the crime in action.

After the performance ends and the audience leaves, Howard follows the circus performers to the table where they empty all the money and valuables that were stolen. The circus performers catch Howard taking pictures. One by one the circus performers attack Howard only for the duck to subdue them.

Finally the Ringmaster attempts to hypnotize Howard only for that attempt to fail that time when Howard punches the Ringmaster in the face. Then Howard starts to pummel the Ringmaster so hard that Iris had to pull him off.

The pair go to a phone booth where Howard calls Lee at the hospital in Skudge, Pennsylvania. He finds out that Paul and Winda are expected to live. He gives the camera to Iris and tells her to give it to the police. He also tells her that he intends to remain behind in Cleveland because he wants to nurse some memories or abort them.

Topical 1970’s References: Beverly wanders in as a judge in Howard’s nightmare saying “Here comes de judge,” which is a reference to what Sammy Davis, Jr. used to chant on the TV show Laugh-In.

Before that, it was a song that was performed by Pigmeat Markham that was released back in 1968.

The Bottom Line: The scene where Beverly tells Doctor Bong that she’s glad that he coerced her into marrying him rubbed me the wrong way. I’m not sure if it’s a demonstration of the Stockholm Syndrome or if she has been hypnotized into loving Doctor Bong or if it’s simply echoing the untrue myth that a woman who’s forced to marry against her will eventually becomes soft and loving towards her husband. If it’s either of the first two scenarios, it’s a poor way to show it, and it it’s the latter, it’s blatant sexism.

The issue was campy towards the end as the circus performers attack Howard one by one when they would’ve had a better chance of defeating Howard had all of them lunged at him and subdued him at once. It’s a pretty campy satire of a typical comic book fight where such things frequently happen.

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Howard the Duck #28
Cooking With Gas
November, 1978

Credits: Marv Wolfman, guest plotter; Carmine Infantino, penciler; Frank Giacoia, inker; Patterson, letters; Glynis W., colors; Mary Skrenes, dialogue; Steve Gerber, editor; J. Shooter, consulting editor

This issue was a fill-in issue that was printed after Marvel fired Howard the Duck co-creator Steve Gerber. He is listed as editor of this issue but the story was written by others. This issue is also chronologically out of order because the previous issue had Beverly adjusting to her new life as Mrs. Doctor Bong in the Himalayas and Howard trying to chase the Circus of Crime in Cleveland with socialite Iris Raritan. This issue has Howard and Beverly back together in Cleveland as if nothing had ever happened between them.

Synopsis: This story is told from the viewpoints of the supporting characters in this story rather than from Howard’s viewpoint.  As the opening sentence of this issue says: “Ever wonder what happens to those people who encounter a talking duck—and decide to go on living?” The story begins with an elderly woman who’s also a secret operative known only as “Miz,” who walks up a flight of stairs in order to keep her appointment with a psychiatrist known as Dr. Pheels Goode. She walks in on Dr. Goode making out with his sexy female secretary in his office.

Dr. Goode abruptly ends that make out session with his secretary and starts to have a therapy session with Miz, who starts to recount the night that she was working undercover in a cafe as a bikini-wearing waitress. She got a call from her employer who told her that her contact at the cafe was a Mr. Dutch and she needs to look for him. Miz thought that her employer really said that her contact was a Mr. Duck. She looks around and sees Howard, who happens to be at the cafe with Beverly at the time. Miz walks over to Howard and tells him that she has the evidence that he’s looking for on how the U.S. Army is conducting secret experiments on unsuspecting civilians.

At that point two U.S. Army men burst into the cafe and start to chase Miz. Howard tries to stop one of them because they were chasing an elderly woman only to get punched to the ground. The Army men chase Miz outside where, as she recounts, she was able to fend them off with her use of karate. She returned to her employer, who told her that she really needed to look for Mr. Dutch, not Mr. Duck, and they thought she was having mental health problems when she told the employer about how she met a talking duck so they made her see the psychiatrist. Dr. Goode concludes that she’s mad so he rings a buzzer and a couple of orderlies bodily carry Miz away.

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A second patient enters Dr. Goode’s office. He is a very nearsighted and clumsy bus driver named Seymour Driver. Seymour starts to recount what happened when Howard boarded his bus while being pursued by the same Army men who earlier pursued Miz. Apparently Howard had learned the details about the U.S. Army conducting secret experiments on civilians by putting gas in the sewer system and he wants Seymour the bus driver to take him to the nearest Army base. Seymour initially refuses because the Army base isn’t on his route but Howard forces him to change his mind after he points a sharpened pencil at Seymour’s neck. The bus takes off just as the pursuing Army men were about to board that bus. The bus crashes the gate and Seymour tells Dr. Goode that he was sent to the psychiatrist after he told his superiors about how he was hijacked by a talking duck with a pencil pointed at his neck. Dr. Goode concludes that Seymour Driver is also mad so he rings a buzzer and have the orderlies carry Seymour away.

A third patient enters Dr. Goode’s office. His name is General D. Zastermarch from the U.S. Army. He does a sweep of the office to make sure there aren’t any bugs planted. Then General Zastermarch settles down and tells Dr. Goode what happened when Howard managed to sneak into his office at the U.S. Army base. The general shoots at Howard but keeps on missing. Howard manages to get to the Top Secret files despite bullets being shot all around him (but none of them would actually hit him, which indicates that General Zastermarch’s shooting skills totally suck) where he finds the evidence that he’s looking for then runs out of the office. When the general tells Dr. Goode that Howard is not only a talking duck but he’s also a talking communist duck, Dr. Goode press the button again for the orderlies to take the general away.

At this point Dr. Pheels Good starts to question his own sanity because three patients in a row told him about encountering a talking duck. He looks out the window and sees Howard and Beverly walking past while they were talking about the U.S. Army’s secret plan to test laughing gas in the sewer system as a way of placating the civilians in the event of a neutron bomb from the Soviet Union being shot at that area so the people would die happy. The psychiatrist begins to freak out at what he has just saw so much that his orderlies start to carry him out of the office while Dr. Goode talks about being invaded by ducks and making quacking noises.

Topical 1970’s Reference: Miz mentions to the psychiatrist that she thought that Howard maybe worked for Jack Anderson, who was an investigative journalist and columnist in the 1970’s. There are also numerous Cold War references throughout the issue, which reflects the fact that there was still a Cold War going on between the United States and the Soviet Union. While the anti-communist sentiment wasn’t quite as intense as it had been during Senator McCarthy’s hearings in the 1950’s, there was still plenty of distrust between the two superpowers.

The Bottom Line: The idea of having one of Howard’s adventures told from the perspectives of other supporting characters is a pretty novel and unique idea. It’s too bad that the execution was sloppy. The issue begins with the gratuitous make out scene between an older man working in an office and his younger, sexier, buxom secretary wearing a dress with a plunging neckline—something which became a tired old sexist cliche even back in 1978 (when this issue was published). Then it goes on to the clumsy bus driver who is just as klutzy as Jar Jar Binks was in Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menance before it concludes with the stereotypical staunch rigid, pro-American, anti-communist Army general who’s on the lookout for any hidden bugs or any other spying device while flashbacks show his poor shooting skills. It’s obvious that this issue was hurriedly thrown together in the wake of writer Steve Gerber’s firing because it relied so much on stereotypes and cliches at the expense of the original humor and satire of the previous issues. With better writing and a more thought-out plot, this could’ve been an interesting and memorable issue instead of the sloppy mess that it turned out to be.

These issues were reprinted in Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 2, which can be purchased onine at AbeBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BookDepository, Half.com, IndieBound, Indigo, Powell’s.

Next post in this series.

The Howard the Duck Series

Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 1

The Early Stories
Howard the Duck #1-3
Howard the Duck #4-5
Howard the Duck #6
Howard the Duck #7 and Marvel Treasury Edition #12: Howard the Duck
Howard the Duck #8

Howard the Duck #9-11
Howard the Duck #12-14
Howard the Duck King Size Annual #1 and Howard the Duck #15
Howard the Duck #16

Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 2

Howard the Duck #17-19
Howard the Duck #20-22
Howard the Duck #23-25
Howard the Duck #26-28
Howard the Duck #29-31
Howard the Duck Magazine #1

Greenbelt, Maryland was one of the many towns and cities that took part in the annual National Night Out on August 2. The Greenbelt one was held simultaneously in two different locations. I went to the first one that was held at Beltway Plaza Mall.

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

The Beltway Plaza event was held outside in the back parking lot.

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

There were all kinds of games and activities for all ages.

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

Free food was given away at that event but I didn’t go for it because, as you can see in the next photograph, the lines were so long. In fact they ran out of free food before the event ended.

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

There was even a skateboarding team who did all kinds of tricks.

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

I was given this cardboard truck along with coupons and other activities from Silver Diner. I later gave it to Makerspace 125 to place among other toys they have lying around for kids.

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

I went to the other event that was held in Roosevelt Center, located in Greenbelt’s historic district. Compared with the Beltway Plaza event, the one of Roosevelt Center was more low key. There were children who ran around the open air plaza while tables from local businesses had literature for people to pick up.

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

National Night Out, August 2, 2016

One evening I decided to attend a networking event on the emerging Creative Class that was held at the large makerspace known as TechShop in the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia. While I was riding the Metro to the Crystal City stop, I noticed these dramatic clouds forming over the Potomac River so I took this next shot. The window was dirty, which I couldn’t do anything about, but this next photo shows the 14th Street Bridge along with the Washington Monument located at the far right. The dome structure next to the Washington Monument is the Jefferson Memorial.

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There was a reason for al those storm clouds: It started to rain after sunset. Between being on the Metro and being in Crystal City, I was underground through most of it so I didn’t have to use my umbrella until after I arrived in the parking lot of the Greenbelt Metro station as I was returning home.

I got off at the Crystal City Metro station and I immediately went inside the adjacent shopping mall known as the Crystal City Underground, which is named because of its subterranean location. The Crystal City area was once envisioned as a place where one could live, work, and shop without ever having to go above ground. The theory was that anyone living in one of the nearby apartments could just take the elevator to one of the underground tunnels and walk to one of the other buildings to work then walk to the underground to eat at a restaurant or shop either after work or on the weekends. I haven’t been in this area since the 2012 Artomatic, which was held in one of the nearby buildings. There are a few nice stores but most of the merchandise is pretty expensive, which is why I normally don’t shop there. The underground architecture is pretty interesting.

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The next photo shows one of the many mall entrances that leads to a set of steps for the visitor to walk down.

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I focused mostly on this chocolate shop I don’t recall seeing before known as Schakolad Chocolate Factory. This stores sells all kinds of handcrafted chocolates in a variety of shapes.

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I purchased this chocolate five dollar bill there. It was made from dark chocolate and it tasted very good. I ate it along with a light dinner I purchased from one of the fast food places. (The event I went to served food so I didn’t eat a large dinner that night.)

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The one other place I found interesting was this bar and restaurant known as King Street Blues, which seems to have a New Orleans-themed decor. I didn’t have much time to take too many pictures because of the event I was going to plus the place was crowded with people who stopped by after work. If I’m ever in the area again I’m definitely going to make this place one of my destinations.

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I finally arrived at TechShop. I had heard about this place from people who’ve been there for the last few years and I have to admit that it’s very impressive and very big with some nice decorative touches.

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The event itself was held in a side room. There were a series of three panel discussions plus there were networking opportunities between the panel discussions. The next photo shows one of them.

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There were also opportunities to tour the facility between panels, which I took advantage of. TechShop is a makerspace that’s filled with the latest equipment for anyone who wants to make anything as long as he/she pays a monthly fee to use the facilities. There are all kinds of machines for all kinds of making ranging from welding to fashion design to woodworking to making musical instruments.

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Someone is currently working on his own personal airplane to fly in and the body of the plane (sans wings) was on display as a work in progress.

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If I ever have an idea for something that needs to be mass-produced, I definitely will go to TechShop to work on the prototype for my idea after I use Kickstarter or IndieGoGo to raise the needed funds for both the monthly fee and any needed supplies.

Ten days ago I wrote a blog post and uploaded this video on to YouTube on why I think OpenToonz totally sucks despite its hype (derived largely from the fact that it’s free open source software that’s based on software that was actually used by the Japanese anime company Studio Ghibli for its feature films like Spirited Away).

Yesterday a friend who knows about my negative opinions regarding OpenToonz suggested that I download this upgrade that was just released online.  So I downloaded OpenToonz version 1.1.1 and played around with it for a bit. How does it compare with 1.0.3 (which I criticized at length in my video)? I have this to say: OpenToonz still sucks.

The graphics still won’t scale up and down and the Zoom tool still does not work. As for exporting the animation as a standalone video file, it didn’t add any of the popular video formats like .mpeg or .mov. I did see one new file format added that was exportable that was known as a “.tlv”. I had never heard of that format before but I hoped that it might be a video format of some kind.  I did some Google searches until I found the answer on this webpage:

TLV files are Uncommon Files primarily associated with TruLASER View Geometry Data (Majestic Systems Inc.).

As to what is TruLASER View Geometry Data? This web page has the answer:

TruLASER™ View Composites CAA V5 Based seamlessly integrates with CATIA V5 composite design data laser assisted ply layup. TruLASER™ View Composites CAA V5 Based automatically generates laser files from nested plies and projects actual ply shapes with laser accuracy.

Basically this is the file format you’d use if you were working with high-end laser machines. Which is a strange format for a 2D animation program like OpenToonz to be able to export as. Basically it’s yet another still graphic format like .bmp, .jpg, .png, .tga, and .tif in that it’ll export as a series of separate graphic files and you’ll have to find another graphics program to assemble those separate graphic files and export them as a standalone video file.

So whoever is responsible for updating OpenToonz for the Mac has decided that it’s more important to have an animation output to a file format that is relatively obscure and is used primarily by expensive high-end machines instead of going with .mp4 or even just plain .mpeg, formats which are commonly used by many people.

And then there was my previous complaint about how you can’t quit out of OpenToonz because the “Quit” command has been grayed out. The good news is that the “Quit” command is now colored black along with all of the other pull-down menu commands. The bad news: It still doesn’t work and neither does using the “Command” and “Q” keyboard shortcut.

I have news for whoever is working on OpenToonz for the Mac: Changing the color of a menu command from gray to black is NOT enough. It has to actually work when the user highlights on the menu command and its keyboard shortcut must work as well.

After using the “Force Quit” command to make OpenToonz go away I have this to say: OpenToonz still sucks and I am not going to change my mind unless someone makes the necessary corrections to the scale function, Zoom tool, the ability to export animations as standalone video files, and being able to really Quit out of the program. Avoid this program like the plague. If it weren’t for its association with Studio Ghibli, OpenToonz would’ve immediately sank into obscurity for being utterly awful software. As Public Enemy once said, “Don’t Believe the Hype.”

One Saturday morning I attended a free drawing event that was held at the historic Riversdale Mansion, which is located in Riverdale Park, Maryland. I have lived within a short driving distance from that mansion for many years and I have even driven past it many times. I have even attended a couple of events that were located on the mansion’s grounds (Rome Around Riverdale in 2011 and a reenactment of the Battle of Bladensburg in 2012 ) but I have never been inside the house itself before.

There were a few snags on the way to the mansion. I needed to buy a new pad of sketch paper because I had used up the last one at the most recent Dr. Sketchy’s event in Baltimore (link is NSFW). I planned on going to this art supply store that had recently opened in nearby Hyattsville on the way to the mansion. But I stupidly walked out the door without the rest of my drawing supplies and I didn’t realize it until I was almost at the art supply store and turning back would’ve been futile. So I ended up buying a new pad of paper and a box of Crayola colored pencils.

The entire Mid-Atlantic Region was in the grasp of this horrible heatwave where the temperature rose in the high 90’s along with very high humidity and very few clouds in the sky. Despite that, I managed to get a few decent shots of the front of the mansion along with a sign explaining why this mansion is part of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trial (which I drove on a few times last year in June, early August, late August, even later August, and early September).

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The event itself was pretty nice. We were allowed to go anywhere in the house (with the exception of a couple of areas that were off-limits to anyone who wasn’t on staff) and draw whatever we liked. They even provided chairs for us to sit in. I initially walked around the mansion before I settled on my first item to draw. I found it in a room on the second floor that was known as Hattie Caraway’s Room after the widow of U.S. Senator Thaddeus Caraway of Arkansas, who purchased the mansion in the late 1920’s. After her husband died in office, Hattie Caraway became the first woman elected to the Senate. It was after I sat down and started sketching with my newly purchased supplies that I realized something—I forgot to buy an eraser while I was at that art supply store. This meant that I couldn’t make any corrections at all. This is an artist’s equivalent of walking on a tightrope without a net below. So I took a stab at drawing what I saw in Hattie Caraway’s Room. Here is the result:

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You can compare my drawing with the original still life in chair setup in Hattie Caraway’s Room.

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For my second and final drawing that I did that day, I drew one of the stairwells that had a statue of the ancient Greek goddess Hebe holding a cup.

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Here’s my photograph of the same scene.

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I spent the rest of my time at the mansion just taking pictures. I found it to be a lovely place, especially with the furniture and other home decorations. This mansion was once owned by George Calvert, a member of the Calvert family who founded the state of Maryland, and his wife, Rosalee Stier Calvert. This shot of the Calvert family coat of arms show the shield that served as the inspiration for the Maryland state flag.

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Here are some more interior shots of the mansion along with a shot of one other artist who also took part in this event. (There were other people who took part as well but I didn’t get their pictures.)

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In addition Riversdale Mansion is currently having a special exhibition on the paintings of the Old Masters. Here are just two of the paintings that are currently on display.

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Riversdale Mansion also has plenty of well-manicured grounds and gardens. While there were a couple of artists who were willing to withstand the high heat and high humidity to create a work of art outside, the vast majority of participating artists chose to remain indoors where there was air conditioning. I took these outdoor photos from the windows inside the mansion.

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The drawing event ended at 1:30. As I walked outside in the very hot and humid weather I took a few pictures of the gardens but I stopped after taking them because I was overwhelmed by the heat.

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I would love to return to draw the gardens but it would have to be on a day that has lower temperatures and lower humidity. I also should take one of the mansion’s regular guided tours sometime in the future because it would be interesting to hear some of the stories behind the rooms and its furnishings.

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