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Ramadan

A look at the Silicon Valley billionaires remaking America’s schools.

Five CEOs who value humanity over profits.

Here are the details about Apertus AXIOM Beta, an open source camera.

Here’s a look at the oldest color photographs that vividly show what the world looked like 100 years ago.

The necessity of the Millennial side-hustle.

Google Drive will soon back up your entire computer.

A recent report shows that knitting can slow the onset of dementia.

A photo essay looks back on a groundbreaking interracial marriage on the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court Loving v. Virginia decision.

Alice Seeley Harris’ photos exposed the horrors of colonialism in Africa.

Open source TurtleBot 3 Robot Kit runs Ubuntu and ROS on Raspberry Pi.

Meet the Aussie man crocheting his way to Instagram stardom.

Iowa IT firm caught posting “No Americans” job listing, which raised the continuing controversial issue of hiring foreign-born H-1B workers.

Millennials are obsessed with side hustles because it’s all they’ve got.

The inventor of the Roomba has just launched a weed-killing robot named Tertill.

How photography shapes our view of Native Americans.

Konami reportedly blacklisting ex-employees across Japanese video game industry.

Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com (which currently houses this blog that you are currently reading), is closing its San Francisco office because most of its employees prefer to telecommute instead of showing up to work in person.

New York Public Library turns subway cars into mobile ebook libraries.

How the recently-deceased Batman actor Adam West played a prank on anyone who tried to look him up in the local phone book.

A free tutorial on how to make wind-up paper butterflies.

Over a decade later the first YouTube stars reflect on their fame and changes that happened to the YouTube platform over the years.

Ramadan

Like I wrote yesterday, I decided to devote a separate post to my attendance at the latest installment of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School in the Dupont Circle area of Washington, DC because it would have made my last post extremely long otherwise.

This event was held during DC Pride Weekend and it was also held on the same day as a big demonstration on the Mall for LGBTQ rights. I wasn’t able to make it because I attended Sunday service at my church that morning, Dr. Sketchy’s was supposed to begin at 3 p.m., and there’s the issue of Metro’s unreliable weekend service where you typically have to wait between 15 minutes to a half-an-hour for the next train. I wasn’t too bitter about missing the march because it was very hot outside. (The temperature went as high as 95 degrees with high humidity.)

I saw rainbow flags everywhere in Dupont Circle as I was walking to the Bier Baron, where the event was held. Even the Bier Baron itself was decked out in rainbow colors.

Once I was inside I even got in on the act by laying out my pencils in a rainbow pattern.

Once again Reverend Valentine hosted the event. I gave her this toy dinosaur that I found outside Makerspace 125 in Greenbelt, which was among the items that the STEM center invited the general public to take for free. (Makerspace 125 is currently undergoing some major spring cleaning and reorganization of the space.) I knew she was into dinosaurs so I figured what the hell since it was free and everything. (Besides, it gives me the excuse to post this picture right here.)

She loved it when I gave it to her. She said that it will live with the other toy dinosaurs that she has on display in her kitchen.

The event was pretty well-attended despite the fact that it was scheduled during DC Pride Weekend and that big march was still going on at the Mall just a few miles away. The model for this event was a burlesque performer named Amira Jade and some of these drawings are definitely NSFW.

There was only one contest at that event. This one was a beach theme. She said that she would also give extra points for including a dinosaur. So I had Amira Jade with Dino the Dinosaur.

I also decided to ad Batman surfing on a surfboard in the ocean as my personal tribute to Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the 1960’s TV series who had died the day before. It was based on this incredibly campy clip from the TV show.

My drawing made it among the finalists but I didn’t win. Oh well. You win some and you lose some.

I did a couple of more drawings of Amira Jade before the event ended.

Yesterday morning I learned about the suicide of Soundgarden and Audioslave lead singer Chris Cornell just before I was on my way to Silver Spring to attend a one-day conference for people of a certain age who are looking for new career opportunities or are looking into becoming entrepreneurs. I took the Metro and walked through the unusually hot and humid weather (it was 90 degrees and it felt more like August than May) to get to the conference.

When the conference ended I had to make my way back to the Metro in the hot and humidity. While I was walking along Colesville Road on my way back to the Metro station, I happened to be walking past the Fillmore when I saw this tribute to Chris Cornell.

On a different subject matter, for the past week or so I started to notice these empty brown cicada shell casings on the ground. These are normally the ones from the Brood X cicadas, which emerge from the ground once every 17 years. Except some of these bugs are waking up four years early, which has vexed a bunch of experts.

When I arrived home from Silver Spring I saw one of those large bugs just resting on one of the concrete steps outside my home. I took a photo of that cicada for posterity.

This morning I woke up to find out that Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, has just died at 52. The news is now coming out that he had hung himself.

Soundgarden was among the bands I listened to back during the early 1990’s grunge era (along with Nirvana, Hole, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains). Sadly I never got the chance to see that band in concert. I still play Superunknown on a regular basis because the music is that good.

The sad part is that Soundgarden had just reunited and the band was playing a few gigs. Chris Cornell made this tweet just a few hours before he was found dead.

That tweet doesn’t look like one that was made by someone who was suicidal. It sounded like he was happy.

I’m just going to end this post by embedding a few videos that show Chris Cornell in action.

I’ve learned via Facebook that one of my cousin’s dogs have just passed away. His name was Gonzo and he was 15 years old. I have a few photos of that dog that I took when I visited my cousin’s home on Thanksgiving Day back in 2013. It was a time when I had purchased my current smartphone the day before (a Droid Ultra) because my previous smartphone had literally died. (In a weird irony, that smartphone totally died a day or two after I received a flyer from Verizon saying that I now qualify for a new smartphone. So I ended up purchasing a smartphone the day before Thanksgiving.) I was playing with the camera feature when I took pictures of my cousin’s pets, including Gonzo.

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Gonzo was an all-black furry dog and he could be hard to photograph at times. Here’s another shot of Gonzo with the other dog, Lucy.

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When I took those two photos back in 2013 my cousin had two dogs and two cats. Since then one of the cats, Cookie, has died and now Gonzo is dead. So my cousin is now down to one dog and one cat.

Thirty years ago yesterday my aunt passed away from breast cancer at the age of 48. I still remember her struggles with that illness like it was yesterday. She was around 42 or 43 when she noticed a lump in her breast. When she went to the doctor she found that not only did she have breast cancer but it had spread to her lymph nodes as well.

She underwent a mastectomy and went through many months of chemotherapy that literally made her sick. At one point she asked her doctor about smoking marijuana to help her deal with the side effects of the chemotherapy. Unfortunately medical marijuana was illegal in the state of Maryland at the time so the only way she could’ve obtained it was if she had been accepted in a clinical trial. I don’t know if her doctor refused to refer her to one of those clinical trials or if she got the referral but was rejected but, in either case, she had to fully endure the side effects of the chemotherapy.

She lost her hair so she started sporting turbans when she went out in public. Her cancer was in remission by the time I was married but she wore a turban at my wedding because her hair hadn’t grown back yet. One of the friends of my husband’s parents told my aunt how much she loved her turban during the reception. That friend thought my aunt was making a hip fashion statement. My aunt was elated by that friend’s praise.

Sadly the remission was short-lived because a couple of years later her cancer not only came back with a vengeance but it had spread to her liver. At the time of her death she became a grandmother for the first time just four months earlier and another daughter was pregnant with her second grandchild. (That child was born four months after her death.) As I’m typing this I realize that the oldest grandchild has just turned 30 while the second grandchild will soon turn 30. Time just seems to go too fast for me. It feels like yesterday when they were just babies.

In the years following her death my cousins would go on to have a combined total of eight other children. On top of it, one of my cousins has a stepson from her current marriage so if you were to count him in the mix, it would be a total of 11 grandchildren who would grow up without ever knowing my aunt as their grandmother because of breast cancer.

In her short life my aunt was a housewife who was very active in the Catholic church she attended. When her youngest child began elementary school she started a child care service where she watched some of the neighborhood kids during the weekday. Among those kids was a boy named Ben, whom my aunt started to watch when he was just a baby and he eventually started calling her “Mom Lipp.” (Lipp was my aunt’s last name.) Ben was the same person who took his own life earlier this year.

In a way it’s not fair that someone like her ended up living a short life while you have someone like Keith Richards, who has used and abused nearly every single drug known to mankind yet he is still alive and is currently living life to the fullest in his seventies. Sure his skin looks very leathery from age and all those years of hard living but he’s still alive and kicking nonetheless.

This is why cancer sucks.

Have you ever had the experience of learning that someone whom you first met when that person was a baby is now dead? That is happening to me right now.

My late aunt, who was also my mom’s older sister, was a stay at home mother of four girls. When her youngest daughter started elementary school, her home was pretty quiet during the school week. She decided to earn extra money by taking care of other people’s young children in her home during the week. Most of the kids she babysat were between the ages of 2-5 and they only stayed with her anywhere from a few months to about a year or two until they either started elementary school or their parents moved elsewhere. So she had frequent turnover of kids.

Then she started to take care of three young brothers. The oldest had just started elementary school while the youngest, Ben, was just a baby (he might have been at least six months old) at the time. I think the boys’ mother wanted to go back to work after being a stay at home mom for the last several years so that was why my aunt started to care for them.

I think there may have been marital tensions between the parents as well but I don’t have all the details. (I was a kid myself when all this was going on.) I remember that Ben’s father shot himself to death soon after my aunt started to care for the brothers. I still remember when my aunt called my mom telling her about the distressing news. Ben’s mother ended up becoming a single parent and she frequently leaned on my aunt to help out with the childcare, especially if the mother had to go on some errand without having any of the kids in tow. I heard that the two older brothers were deeply affected by their father’s death. Ben was the least affected because he was so young when his father died so he grew up without ever knowing him.

Eventually my aunt stopped caring for Ben’s older brothers when they started middle school so it was just her and Ben at home during the weekday afternoon (when Ben’s school closed for the day) for a few years. Occasionally there were periods when they would be joined by another preschool child whom my aunt happened to babysit at the time. But the rest of the time it was just my aunt and Ben.

I used to sometimes see Ben when I visited my aunt and uncle with my parents. Sometimes his brothers would be there as well but there were times when Ben was the only one there because his brothers and their mother were elsewhere. I remember Ben being this really cute little kid with the big impish grin. He always had this mischievous look about him. As he learned to talk he started to call my uncle “Dad” (he saw my uncle as a father figure since his own father was gone) while he called my aunt “Mom Lipp” to distinguish her from his own mother (Lipp was my aunt’s last name). My cousins used to dote over Ben as the baby brother they never had.

My aunt stopped taking care of Ben when he entered middle school. She would continue to see him at church (his family attended the same Roman Catholic parish that my aunt, uncle, and cousins attended) and he would come by the house to visit every now and then (whenever he wasn’t busy with homework and after-school activities) so he still kept in touch with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. I think my aunt may have cared for a few more kids after Ben (I don’t remember) but she had to stop offering her child care services when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her cancer was in remission when my oldest cousin got married. Ben served as the altar boy at my cousin’s wedding. My aunt’s cancer returned not long after the wedding and she died at the age of 48. I saw Ben at my aunt’s funeral. I think he was in high school by then. It was the last time I saw Ben in person.

Today I learned on Facebook that Ben is dead. One of my cousins had posted a picture on Facebook of her, her three sisters, Ben’s mother, and Ben’s brothers after they returned from Ben’s funeral. I also learned on Facebook that Ben took his own life just like his father did. I don’t know why Ben felt the need to do what he did nor do I know if he actually sought any kind of professional help before he killed himself.

I just feel so weirded out that someone whom I met as a baby and saw from time to time as he grew up is now dead. I’m older than Ben and I’m still alive. Given the natural order of things, I should be the one who dies before Ben but, instead, it’s the opposite. Ben is dead and I’m alive. I just feel so numb about all this (and the fact that it’s cold and rainy outside today isn’t helping).

Last year I wrote about an impromptu memorial that sprang up in my area at the site where a man who committed suicide. At the time I wrote this:

The only lesson I can provide is this: Is there anyone in your life whom you haven’t communicated with in a while? Please take the time to either call, e-mail, or text that person. It doesn’t have to be something that’s too complex or involved. You could just say something like, “I haven’t heard from you in a while. How are you doing?” This could give that person a chance to admit that he/she is overwhelmed and start talking to you instead of concluding that suicide is the only option.

I also provided a link to the National Suicide Prevention Line (which can also be reached by phone at 1-800-273-8255). I can’t say whether Ben would still be alive had someone reached out to him asking if he was okay or if he had contacted the National Suicide Prevention Line. Yes, I know that it’s too late to help Ben but I would urge everyone reading this to just reach out to someone whom they haven’t spoken with in a while just to see how he or she is doing.

Now I have to deal with the sad fact that someone whom I met as a baby is now dead and I’m outliving him.

Another one of my childhood memories have gone the way of the dodo bird. I’m sure most of you have heard this announcement that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will permanently shut down in a few months after operating for 146 years.

I feel sad because I still have fond memories of the few years when my mother took me to that circus as a small child whenever it performed at the Baltimore Civic Center (now known as the Royal Farms Arena). I loved watching the elephants and tigers do their tricks. (This was long before I learned about the allegations that these animals suffered abuse.) I still remember when this guy did a high wire act on a motorcycle and he even twirled his motorcycle around on that wire above our heads. I remember feeling awed by that stunt while my mother feared that the guy would somehow slip up or the wire would snap and that man and his motorcycle would fall on top of us.

I also loved the clowns because I thought they were hilarious. I especially loved it whenever a bunch of clowns emerged from a tiny clown car because I always used to wonder how so many people could pack inside such a tiny car like that. This was back in the day when clowns were considered to be child-friendly people who only wanted to make people laugh. (I feel sad that most people now consider clowns to be creepy and scary because it wasn’t always like this. I would love to spend the night at the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada one day before I die but I would need to get plenty of money first before I can turn that dream into a reality.)

I remember my mother stopped taking me to that circus the year I was going through First Communion. That was because my parents couldn’t afford both going to the circus and the expenses connected with my First Communion, which included wearing a special dress with a veil (like a bride’s dress, a girl’s First Communion dress was also one that could be worn only once, especially since I didn’t have any younger sisters I could pass this dress down to) and throwing a post-communion party at our home afterwards. Personally I would’ve preferred going to the circus over First Communion but I wasn’t given the opportunity to make that decision. I never went back to the circus after that. (I don’t know why that was the case. The only thing I could guess is that maybe ticket prices had gotten too expensive for my parents to afford.) But I still have fond memories of the few years I went to the circus.

I haven’t been to a circus as an adult. The closest I came was the time when, in 2010, my then-husband and I visited the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art, which included circus memorabilia (such as a miniature replica of a circus that was created by a lifelong circus fan). I don’t know if I’ll be able to check out the Ringling Bros. last circus shows for old-time’s sake because of financial issues. Oh, well. At least I still have the Nintendo Wii Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus video game to remember it by.

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Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

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I have a decoration on my tabletop that reminds me of someone whom I used to be friends with but he’s now deceased.

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This is a print that I have in a box frame that is currently sitting on my tabletop next to the Christmas tree. It was originally a wood printed Christmas card that was created by my friend based on his own original art.

The friend’s name was drex Andrex (he used a lowercase “d” in the first letter of his first name) and he was a very talented artist. My then-husband and I first met him through our Unitarian Universalist congregation and we served on a variety of committees together and frequently met with him and his wife, Ann, at a variety of social events. drex would’ve loved to have been able to make a living as an artist but, unfortunately, he never made enough money at his art to pay the bills. He had a day job as a federal employee plus there were the years when he and his wife raised three children so he had to limit doing his art to whenever he had some free time.

I remember when he and Ann would hold a series of weekly get-togethers at their home in the summer known as the Carport Studio where we would get together in the carport, socialize, drink beer and wine, eat whatever snacks they put out, and create some art. I had some pretty fond memories of those times.

drex was mainly into painting landscapes and cityscapes based on places where he and his family lived. (They lived in Europe for a few years—mainly Belgium and the United Kingdom—in the 1970’s and 1980’s.) He painted in an impressionist style and I’ve always loved his work. He tried selling his paintings to galleries and art dealers but he frequently got turned away. Having seen his work, I never understood why the galleries and art dealers rejected him. He was able to have a few art shows here and there but he really deserved better from the art world.

Fortunately he had his day job so he didn’t have to be the stereotypical starving artist.

At one point drex and Ann became involved with a group of people who were keen on starting a co-housing group. It took several years for this group to get off the ground because they had to find and buy the land then there were arguments and discussions over all kinds of issues ranging from what kind of houses would be built there to procedures to accepting new members into that group. By the time the co-housing development was finally built near Frederick, drex and Ann’s youngest daughter was midway through her senior year of high school. They waited until the daughter finished school, put their current house on the market, then moved to the co-housing development.

The Carport Studio get-togethers had ceased when they moved but my husband and I visited them in their new home a few months after they moved and they seemed happy. drex was selling his paintings that weekend and my husband and I purchased one of his oil paintings of a boat in a harbor and we hung it in our living room.

Sadly their happiness was short-lived. A year or two after the move drex was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. drex went through the treatments and did everything he could do to get well but the cancer got the best of him. I remember my husband and I going to Frederick to visit drex one last time. At the time his wife told us that he was so weak that he could only manage visits of no longer than an hour. However, when we arrived something inside of drex gave him enough energy that our originally scheduled one-hour visit was extended to three hours until he became so tired that we left. Even his Ann was amazed by how our visit had given him a new vitality.

Sadly that vitality was short-lived. One of his last pictures showed him with the family after his oldest daughter gave birth to his second grandchild. Six weeks after the birth, drex died. He was only in his mid-50’s.

When my marriage broke up and we were haggling over the separation, my husband wanted that painting that drex did. I reluctantly agreed to it because I was getting the house that we had shared together even though I would’ve loved to have kept that painting. I had foolishly told my husband that I was attending weekly Thursday night meetings of a support group for people who are separated or divorced because, at the time, I still hoped for a reconciliation and I hoped that he would be impressed by my efforts to improve myself. Unfortunately he took advantage of that knowledge to let himself into the home whenever I was out so he could take his things—including drex’s oil painting that hung in our living room. My husband was basically a coward throughout the whole separation and divorce in that he didn’t tell me he was unhappy until the night he left, he refused to see me in person or talk to me via the telephone, and he only communicated via email and text and that was when he demanded that I adhered to this separation schedule that existed in his head or else he would sue me. Naturally he only went to the house to get my stuff on the one night he knew I would not be home so he wouldn’t have to face me.

I was sad that I had nothing that drex had made until I was going through some clutter and I found the woodblock print he made for my husband and I as a greeting card. I found a block frame to put it in. This block frame is thick enough on the sides that it can stand up on its own. This print is now stored with the other Christmas ornaments and decorations in the attic and I take it down to display during the winter holiday season.

There are the occasional times when I still miss drex but I’m glad I have at least one thing to remember him by.

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2016 has turned into a totally sucky year with so many beloved celebrities dying like David Bowie and Prince. You can now add Florence Henderson to the list. Her death was just announced this morning on Black Friday. Here’s a video showing her in her best-known role as the matriarch of The Brady Bunch.

But there was more to Florence Henderson than her alter ego Carol Brady. She appeared on Dancing With the Stars and she proved herself as a pretty decent dancer. Here she is doing one of her dance routines with her partner Corky Ballas.

She has also done a number of ads on TV as well starting in the late 1950’s.

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