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Benjamin Franklin

Here comes the orator, with his flood of words, and his drop of reason.

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It seems like this year the retailers are starting Black Friday earlier and earlier. For the past couple of weeks my various retailer apps (which I only have installed on my smartphone for the coupons) were going off announcing stuff like “Check out our Black Friday Preview sale!”

Black Friday Preview sale?!? I can’t believe that it’s actually a thing this year. I was at The Disney Store in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia a few days ago when I saw that this sign announcing that Black Friday sales were underway. (Granted, I went there on a Friday but it was on November 16—a full week before Black Friday itself.)

I have a few photos on my hard drive that I took not too long ago that will give you an idea of what to expect this holiday season. I found some cheap plastic ukuleles and a Jurassic World chocolate dinosaur at Five Below.

Five Below, September, 2018

Five Below, September, 2018

The Target in my area has just gotten a whole bunch of new stuff recently. Like Five Below, Target has a line of ukuleles but these ukuleles are made of wood (instead of plastic like Five Below) and they look like they are higher quality.

On Sale at Target

Target recently got a line of these dolls that are based on famous characters from older television shows and movies that are still beloved today. Here is Tootie Ramsey from the TV show The Facts of Life.

On Sale at Target

Here’s Bela Lugosi in his most famous movie role as Count Dracula in the early 1930’s horror film Dracula.

On Sale at Target

I used to watch Married With Children on a regular basis so I found it hilarious that someone had made a doll based on Peg Bundy.

On Sale at Target

I have to admit that the doll manufacturer was really creative with the Star Trek dolls. They didn’t just make doll versions of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock but they made versions based on the classic episode “Mirror, Mirror.”

On Sale at Target

Here’s the doll version of the main character from the TV show Action Jackson.

On Sale at Target

Here’s a deluxe package featuring Jeannie and her master, Captain Tony Nelson, from I Dream of Jeannie.

On Sale at Target

I also briefly browsed through the Funko Pops where I found this really cute tyrannosaurus rex based on Jurassic Park.

On Sale at Target

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Ninety years ago today a struggling young animator named Walt Disney released this groundbreaking cartoon called Steamboat Willie. The rest is history.

It can be pretty hard to fathom how groundbreaking it was and it can also be pretty hard to fathom a time when Mickey Mouse wasn’t the biggest cartoon character. While there were animated cartoon shorts before Steamboat Willie, they were silents, which meant that there were no recorded music or dialogue. They were played in movie theaters where a piano player or organist would play the soundtrack live in the theater, just like they did with live action silent films. During the silent era the biggest cartoon star was Felix the Cat.

Many people think that Steamboat Willie was both the first sound cartoon ever made and Mickey Mouse’s first cartoon. It turns out not to be the case on both counts. There were some earlier attempts at making sound cartoons, most notably Max and Dave Fleischer’s Song Car-Tunes series and Van Beuren Studio’s Dinner Time but they didn’t catch on in the way that Steamboat Willie did.

Steamboat Willie was actually the third Mickey Mouse cartoon ever made. His first two cartoons, Plane Crazy and the Gallopin’ Gaucho, were made as silent animation films but they had failed to impress audiences and Walt Disney was unable to get a distributor for those two. Walt Disney came up with the idea of making a sound Mickey Mouse cartoon after the ground-breaking live action talking movie The Jazz Singer was released and it became a huge hit.

Had the people behind Felix the Cat gotten into making sound cartoons immediately after The Jazz Singer was released, it’s highly likely that Felix would’ve permanently quashed that cartoon rodent upstart Mickey and Steamboat Willie would’ve become a footnote in the history of animation. After all, Felix was the biggest cartoon star in the world while Mickey Mouse was a relative unknown. It’s very likely that Felix’s animation domination would have carried over into the sound era and Felix the Cat would have remained the biggest cartoon star today. People would be spending the day at a Felix the Cat theme park, visiting related Felix websites online, and buying all kinds of Felix the Cat merchandise ranging from clothes to toys to high-end designer handbags.

But the people behind Felix the Cat underestimated the potential of sound cartoons and talking pictures in general. They felt they already had a winning formula with Felix so why alter it? The fact that studio head Pat Sullivan suffered from alcoholism so bad that it affected his decision making and it ultimately took his life at an early age didn’t help. By the time there was an effort to start making Felix the Cat sound cartoons, Mickey Mouse had already overtaken him in popularity and the original studio folded. While there were short-lived attempts to revive Felix the Cat in the 1930’s (as a series of color cartoons with sound) and 1950’s (as a children’s TV cartoon show), Felix the Cat had never quite regained the immense popularity he lost from that disastrous decision to delay making sound cartoons. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the first Felix the Cat cartoon so we’ll see if there are any attempts to put Felix in the public eye again.

Earlier this year I realized that this year was the 90th anniversary of Steamboat Willie when I saw these specially marked Pepperdige Farms Goldfish Crackers on sale. I purchased a couple of them and I wrote this blog post about these special crackers (which featured crackers in the shape of the usual goldfish and special ones in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head).

If it weren’t for these crackers I would have completely missed this anniversary. But this is Disney, a giant multinational corporation, and it wasn’t going to let people forget that this year is another one of those important anniversaries where the number ends in either 0 or 5. Since buying those crackers I’ve seen other Mickey stuff in the stores. At the local Giant grocery store there was this display of Little Golden Books featuring Mickey Mouse.

The same store had special Mickey Mouse Oreos for sale. I purchased one of those packs for the heck of it. Here is what the outside package looked like.

I opened the package and noticed how the chocolate part of the cookies were designed. One side of the cookie had the usual Oreo stamp on it.

The other side had one of three special designs that were especially made for this package. One design had Mickey Mouse wearing a party hat.

Another design had a megaphone surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

A third design had the number “90” surrounded by tiny Mickey Mouse heads.

The cream in the cookies was a special flavor known as “Birthday Cake.” Basically the cream tasted like vanilla frosting and I found it to taste far sweeter than the normal Oreo cream. While I found the taste to be passible, I personally prefer the regular cream.

If that wasn’t enough, Giant also had this special issue of Life magazine on sale, which was full of photos of Mickey Mouse over the years.

The closer it got to the anniversary, the more 90th anniversary Mickey stuff came out at a rapid rate. Here’s what I found at Target.

Of course there would be a Mickey Mouse Bluray DVD featuring “Steamboat Willie” and other seminal Mickey cartoons.

There were some special Funko Pops featuring cute versions of Mickey Mouse in his famous cartoon roles. While I didn’t see a Steamboat Willie Funko Pop, I saw ones based on other cartoons like The Brave Little Taylor and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in Fantasia.

There were some large plush stuffed animals based on the opening sequence in Steamboat Willie when Mickey was steering the steamboat.

There were smaller plush stuffed animals as well, which not only featured Mickey as he appeared in Steamboat Willie but as he appeared in other cartoons.

There were special blind boxes shaped like Mickey heads.

The list on the label shows the Mickey figurines that one could get inside of blind box. Of course you won’t know which Mickey you got until after you purchased this special box and take it home with you.

If buying blind boxes aren’t your thing, you could spend $24.99 and buy the complete set of Mickey Mouse figurines.

I saw some special Mickey Mouse fabrics from Jo-Ann’s Fabrics & Crafts, some of which feature Minnie Mouse as well. You could make yourself a special outfit with these special patterns.

There were other Mickey fabrics as well but I only wanted to highlight the ones that had the Steamboat Willie-era Mickeys.

There were 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Christmas ornaments and housewares available for sale at CVS.

A couple of days ago I made a return trip to Tyson’s Corner Mall. I went to The Disney Store where I saw this sign featuring Mickey and Minnie announcing that its Black Friday sale was going on right now. (By the way, my various store apps on my smartphone were pushing notifications all this past week announcing “Black Friday Preview Sales” and stuff like that? Is having pre-Black Friday sales a thing now in retail? God help us!)

There was a sign announcing Mickey Mouse-inspired activities at The Disney Store all weekend long. I showed up on Friday but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Today they have a thing where the first 90 customers to make a purchase will get a special commemorative Mickey key. I’m financially struggling too much to go for something like that. Even if I could afford to buy something, I think I can live without a special commemorative Mickey key.

The back of the store was having continuous showings of Steamboat Willie with seats small enough for young children to sit on.

There was just one small area of the store that had the commemorative 90th anniversary stuff, most of which were geared towards adults, such as paperclips and business portfolio covers.

The Disney Store wasn’t the only place that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse stuff. The Build-A-Bear Workshop had a couple of special 90th anniversary Mickey plushies that one could have stuffed. One is Mickey wearing his “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” outfit.

The other one was a regular Mickey Mouse wearing his usual red shorts. Like the other Mickey, this one had special soles on his shoes that were marked 90th anniversary. (The Mickey in this photo was unstuffed.)

Lolli and Pops had imported Mickey Mouse candy with the packaging written in some Asian language. (I couldn’t tell which language it was. I think it was either Japanese or Korean.)

Macy’s had these special 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse Ray-Ban sunglasses.

The only thing about these sunglasses that I didn’t like was the fact that Mickey Mouse was visible from inside of the sunglasses frames—the frames that other people wouldn’t normally see. What’s the use of paying more money for something that can’t be seen by other people? I might as well buy regular black-framed sunglasses without Mickey Mouse lining on the inside.

Sugarfina is an upscale candy store that had 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse candy on sale. I thought about buying a Mickey Mouse dark chocolate candy bar only to find out that their candy bars cost $9.50 each. And that’s the starting price of the candy in that store.

There was a store that sold 90th anniversary Mickey Mouse watches, clocks, and backpacks.

There were a lot of stuff for the 90th anniversary that one could buy. I can only imagine what it will be like 10 years from now when the 100th anniversary comes up in 2028. While we’re on the subject, here’s one fact that frequently gets overlooked: This year is also the 90th anniversary of Minnie Mouse, Mickey’s longtime girlfriend. That’s right, she appeared in the first two silent Mickey cartoons and she also appeared in Steamboat Willie. She’s been a regular in most Mickey Mouse cartoons since.

UPDATE (December 3, 2018): Over a week after I wrote this post, new 90th birthday Mickey Mouse stuff arrived at my local Target that I haven’t seen before. You can check them out right here.

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Ramadan

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hanukah

So I spent the day after Thanksgiving engaging in alternatives to the usual Black Friday shopping madness. First I went to Community Forklift, which was having its Green Friday event. Then I went to Riverdale Park and checked out a couple of local stores there. The last thing I did on Black Friday was head on to Hyattsville, where a few of the locally owned businesses were having their own alternatives to Black Friday. All of the businesses were located within walking distance of each other so all I had to do was just park my car then spend the rest of the time walking everywhere.

I initially went to Studio SoHy, which had this really cool table made from a log in the restroom.

Studio SoHy had this skateboarding-themed exhibition featuring photographs of skateboarders and skateboards that were painted with some really cool designs.

Next I went on to the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center. I encountered these items with labels that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland.

They basically offered pecan pie and apple pie.

They had a 10 x 10 show where people can purchase 10 inch x 10 inch prints that were made there.

Then I went on to Tanglewood Works, where I took these pictures.

I ended my Black Friday wanderings by stopping briefly inside the Three Little Birds Sewing Co.

hanukah

Instead of spending Black Friday in some mall or big box retailer where I wake up at 3 a.m. and fight hordes of people for some cheap electronic item that will break three months from now, I decided to check out some of the local festivities from locally owned businesses, starting with Community Forklift, which I wrote about in my last post.

After I left Community Forklift I headed over to Riverdale Park. I stopped by Robert Harper Books, which is a bookstore specializing in used books. Unfortunately that store will be closing by the end of the month because the owner has had a hard time of keeping a brick and mortar shop open. (He mentioned on his Facebook page that he has done better online than through his shop.) It’s a shame in a way. Here are a few photos I took inside of that store.

Located near Robert Harper Books is Town Center Market, which sells all kinds of beer and wine along with snacks.

Finally I checked out the windows in the Archie Edwards Blues Heritage Foundation building.

After my visit to Riverdale Park, I ended my Black Friday with going to Hyattsville, which I’ll write about in my next post.

hanukah

Instead of crowding into some suburban shopping mall on Black Friday, I decided to check out some local alternative festivities that were going on with some locally owned businesses. I took so many photos that day that I decided to divide them into separate entries with each entry representing a different town or business that I went to.

I began Black Friday with a trip to Community Forklift, a warehouse store that specializes in used/upcycled/recycled items like appliances and hardware, which was having an alternative Green Friday celebration.

When I first arrived I noticed a few signs indicating that they welcome everyone no matter who they are. More and more locally owned businesses have been putting up such signs in their shops since Donald Trump moved into the White House.

Santa Claus was there that day.

One of the Community Forklift employees offered to take my picture with Santa so I allowed it.

There were all kinds of Santas that were available for sale at Community Forklift that day.

I really liked this cast-iron vintage oven and stovetop that was on sale. If I lived in a bigger house, I might consider buying it. But I have a small kitchen so I really don’t have the space. This oven would be an asset to anyone who is looking for vintage items.

There was a craft show at Community Forklift as well where local artisans were selling ornaments, jewelry, locally made honey, and other items.

Local musicians provided live music.

They had face painting for kids.

They had a couple of free make and take demonstrations. One was on making wreaths using natural materials.

The other was making coasters from recycled tiles. I’ve made such coasters in the past but this one had a technique I’ve never used before where you decoupaged backing paper on the tile first.

Then you selected a photo that you decoupaged on top of both the backing paper and the tile.

Afterwards you place a piece of cork on the table and add Modge Podge on the top.

Then you placed the tile on top of the cork and let everything dry for a few minutes.

I now have a new coaster with a blue-patterned background and a photo of the U.S.S. Constellation (which is docked at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore) on top.

After I went to Community Forklift, I headed to similar celebrations that were going on in Riverdale Park and Hyattsville but I’m going to write about them in separate posts.

I went back to Baltimore earlier this month so I could check out the latest session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School at The Windup Space. Once I arrived at the Station North Arts District, I still had some time to kill so I decided to play around with my Canon camera (which I purchased used off of eBay for only half the price of the same brand-new camera in a store). These days the days are shorter while the nights are longer, which means that the sun starts to set around 5 p.m. or so. I decided to put my camera on the low-light setting and I took a few night photos of the area near The Windup Space.

I eventually went inside The Windup Space where I continued to take pictures inside the place using the same low light settings on my camera. This is also the section of my post where some of the images are definitely NSFW. The next photo shows the stage where the model poses while we all draw.

Here’s a photo of my drink, which I only shot because I liked that line drawing of the ram that was on my drinking glass.

Here is a photo of some of the really cool looking beer taps at the bar. (And, yes, they are really functioning beer taps.)

I took a few photos of the current exhibit that’s on display at The Windup Space (as of this writing). Many of the photos on display are definitely NSFW.

This box is another indication that Christmas is coming next month. (No, I didn’t take up the offer of snagging myself a free Xmas hat. I already have an old Santa Claus hat with Mickey Mouse ears that I purchased at a Disney Store years ago and that’s good enough for me.)

Here is some graffiti I found inside of one of the stalls in the women’s restroom.

The last two photos are two different promotional flyers advertising the latest Dr. Sketchy’s event.

The rest of this post features only my drawings because there’s generally a ban on photographing the model. The model for this Dr. Sketchy’s session was a burlesque performer named Ruby Spruce and some of these drawings are definitely NSFW.

At one point Ruby Spruce did this performance that totally flipped me out for reasons that had nothing to do with Ruby or Dr. Sketchy’s or even Baltimore. Two weeks earlier I ran into a friend at my church’s annual Halloween/Samhain service (which also included a Trunk or Treat event and a party) who was dressed in this costume as Carol Burnett doing her Gone With the Wind parody. I recognized the reference because my family used to watch Carol Burnett’s TV show when I was growing up. (If you want to see Carol Burnett in that costume, you can watch a poor quality video of a short excerpt from that comedy sketch right here and/or you can watch a better quality video of Carol Burnett reflecting on that comedy sketch.) Very few people in my congregation recognized that reference. I think it’s because my congregation is a mix of older people who rarely watched television—even when they were younger in the 1970s (which was The Carol Burnett Show‘s heyday) they didn’t watch TV very much—and people who were either too young to remember that show or weren’t even born then.

So here I was at Dr. Sketchy’s and Ruby Spruce decided to do her burlesque performance midway through that evening and she appeared in that same curtain rod dress that my friend wore two weeks earlier while the theme song from The Carol Burnett Show was playing while she gradually stripped down to pasties and g-string. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to photograph the model so I couldn’t show my friend any pictures of Ruby wearing that same costume she wore at church.

Instead, I’ll just post the photo of my friend wearing that curtain rod costume at church two weeks before Dr. Sketchy’s chatting with another church member.

Halloween/Samhain Service, October 29, 2017

After Ruby’s performance, I drew her with that hoop structure she wore underneath her curtain rod costume.

The one contest I took part in that evening was about the then-upcoming Black Friday. The owner of The Windup Space, Russell, was working behind the bar that night so the emcees had this idea of somehow incorporating Russell and Ruby Spruce with a Black Friday sale. I came up with the idea of Russell grabbing Ruby and taking her away from the store before Donald Trump could. I had an orange-skinned Donald Trump shake his tiny hands and yelling “You Son of a Bitch! I had first dibs on her! I’m the President! COME BACK!” Then I had Russell say “President Trump still has Melania and Ivanka. He doesn’t need Ruby as well.” I’ll admit that this drawing was the culmination of my pent-up frustration with Trump and his crazy antics both in the White House and on Twitter. (Of course I also derived inspiration from The Daily Show‘s classic two-part series Don’t Forget: Donald Trump Wants to Bang His Daughter and Again, Don’t Forget: Donald Trump Wants to Bang His Daughter.)

My drawing made it among the finalists but I didn’t win. After that contest, I did one more drawing of Ruby Spruce before the event ended for the evening.

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Benjamin Franklin

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