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How classic cartoons created a culturally literate generation.

People are furious at these new shirts from Kylie and Kendall Jenner.

Kylie Jenner and Khloe Kardashian are accused of stealing ideas from indie African American designers. 

See photographs of figures in Russian history rendered in colorized portraits, such as Tolstoy, Chekhov, and more.

This artist is brining out the beauty in stretch marks.

The rise in art protests: how the gallery became a new battleground.

What it means to be on the left.

Interactive Periodic Table of Elements shows how the elements actually get used in making everyday things.

Someone called this white girl’s Japanese tea party racist on social media but then this Japanese user stepped in.

Gorgeous color autochromes of American women from over 100 years ago.

Creative mom dresses up in amazing cosplay to represent older women characters.

Fender custom shop recycles Hollywood Bowl bench boards to make $12k guitars.

Rural America is stranded in the dial-up age.

Director Michel Gondry makes a charming film on his iPhone, proving that we could be making movies, not taking selfies.

This man spent 6 years crocheting a Super Mario Bros map blanket.

Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals.

Transgender soldiers of the American Civil War.

The 11 most unintentionally hilarious religious paintings.

Meet the unconventional family who lives in a 1940s time warp.

$330,000 in financial aid bought this person a slot in the American meritocracy. He writes about the flaws in that system.

Not too long ago I decided to do some miscellaneous Facebook surfing by lurking on a group that has been set up for alumni of my old high school. Part of the reason was to keep my mind off my continuing job hunt and the latest political news. (I remember that was the night when new White House communications direction Anthony Scaramucci went off the profanity-laden deep end. Scaramucci was fired soon after that incident—after he had spent only 10 days working at his new job.)

While I was lurking on that high school alumni group on Facebook and scrolling through old posts that one recent night, I learned that my former music teacher, Tim Landers, had died last year of complications stemming from a liver transplant. He was either 63 or 64 (I was only able to figure out his age because he wrote this Facebook post on October 14, 2013 where he said that he was 61 so I did the math and, no, I don’t know the date of his birthday so I have no idea if he managed to celebrate his latest birthday before his death or not). In the comments section someone posted a video of a song that he wrote and sang about Ocean City, Maryland. I watched the video and I kind of liked the laid-back vibe of the song. It’s the quintessential summer song that’s perfect to listen to if you’re on a beach anywhere in the world. Here’s the video below, titled “It’s a Shore Thing.”

If you like “It’s a Shore Thing,” you can download it for 99 cents from CDBaby, Amazon, Google Play, or iTunes.

I also found another video he did as part of a trio known as The Landers and Heinz Project. It was a live performance of another song he wrote as he and his partners were playing on a local radio station in Ocean City. The song is called “Scotch and Soda” and it is just as laid-back as the other song. (Tim Landers is the guy in the glasses and mustache playing his guitar and singing.)

If you like “Scotch and Soda,”  you can download it for 99 cents from CDBaby or iTunes.

Anyone who has been reading this blog on a regular basis would know that I don’t have too many fond memories of my old high school. In fact, last summer I went back to my old school for the first time in many years just so I could photograph my hand giving the middle finger to that school. I was on my way to the latest Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School event in Baltimore (link is NSFW) when I did this. Yes, I took advantage of the longer days so I could check out my old school quickly before driving on to Baltimore.

While I was mostly miserable in the five years I attended that huge school complex known as the Old Mill Educational Complex (one year in Old Mill Middle School-North and four years in Old Mill Senior High), there were a few teachers there who provided a few bright spots in what was otherwise a miserable existence. Like I wrote in last year’s post where I included that picture of my hand giving the finger:

Why was this school so bad? While there were plenty of teachers at the school complex who were dedicated at their jobs, it was the attitude of the administration that considered athletics more important than academics.

Among those teachers who were dedicated at their jobs was Tim Landers, who taught music (mainly guitar). I took four semesters of guitar class with him until I had exhausted all of the guitar classes that my high school offered. The one thing I never realized about him until after I learned about his death and I started reading his Facebook postings is that he was only 9 or 10 years older than me. (I know it sounds kind of strange but it wasn’t that unusual to have a teacher who was close in age to the students he/she taught in my high school. When I was a senior I had an English teacher who had only received her teaching degree the year before and she was just five years older than me.) Mr. Landers bore a slight resemblance to Mr. Van Driessen from the Beavis and Butt-Head cartoon series, more in terms of temperament than his looks. (He didn’t have a beard and he wore his long hair in the feathered style that was very popular back in the 1970s.) Here’s a photo of him I scanned from my sophomore high school yearbook.

Looking at his personal Facebook page, I found that he was a spiritual person like Mr. Van Driessen with the big difference being that he expressed himself as a devout Christian while Mr. Van Driessen was more into New Age spirituality. But he definitely shared Mr. Van Driessen’s hippie vibe in terms of his outlook on life and the funky clothes he wore to school. The main difference was that Mr. Landers was far less of a pushover than Mr. Van Driessen. He was the kind of person who was willing to help you unless you crossed him. If you did anything to push his buttons, he would not hesitate to send you to the principal’s office or to even fail you for not doing the required coursework.

Here’s one example of Mr. Landers not being a stereotypical pushover hippie. I remember it was the end of the semester when we not only took our final exams but we also were given an evaluation form where we could write about what we liked or didn’t liked about the class. Unlike the final exams, we were not required to write our names. The idea was that we could freely give our opinions without repercussions.

So we turned in our exams and the evaluation forms then returned to our seats while waiting for the bell that would signal the end of the class. Mr. Landers happened to glance through some of the exams and evaluations at his desk until he came upon an evaluation form where, according to Mr. Landers, someone had written “Mr. Landers can do something to himself.” (Given the fact that I saw that Mr. Landers was visibly angry at the time, I suspected that the wording was stronger than what he indicated—somewhere along the lines of “Mr. Landers can go fuck himself.”) By that point it was almost the end of the class but Mr. Landers was determined to get to the bottom of who wrote that evaluation form. He said that he would read what we wrote on the evaluation forms out loud and if he came upon something that one of us recognized that he/she wrote, that person was to go up to the class and pick up that form then bring it back to his/her seat. Mr. Landers came upon my form (where I basically wrote that I wished he hadn’t done so many classical guitar songs because I prefer rock guitar) so I picked mine up. It wasn’t until Mr. Landers came to the last of the evaluation forms that a boy in the class confessed that it was he who wrote that nasty message on the evaluation form.

At that point the bell rang, we returned our evaluation forms to the teacher’s desk before we headed to the next class, and Mr. Landers escorted that boy to the principal’s office. (I’ve long since forgotten who the boy was or even what he looked like—other than he was a white kid with dark hair—mainly because I wasn’t friends with him.)

Fortunately I got along pretty well with Mr. Landers and I enjoyed his classes. I think he had a high opinion of me as a student. I managed to get him to sign my yearbook only once, which was during my sophomore year (the same yearbook where I posted that photo of him).  His signed it “Kim, Take care of yourself and be good. I’m sure you will. Love, Tim Landers.”

I remember that Mr. Landers’ real ambition was to be a rock musician and he only got into teaching to pay the bills. He turned out to be one of the many talented musicians who never quite made it to the big time and it was not due to a lack of trying. He would spend evenings, weekends, and school breaks writing new music and recording demos that he would try to shop around to various agents and record companies. (I remember the times when he would occasionally play one of his demo songs in class.) I remember that he was a big Beatles fan and he used to drop tidbits about the band and their music because he was such a fan. In fact I remember one of the first songs he taught the class in Guitar I was “Let It Be.”

I loved his wacky sense of humor and his vast knowledge of famous guitarists like Jimi Hendrix. I still remember the time when it was the last class before Thanksgiving break and he played Arlo Guthrie’s classic “Alice’s Restaurant” song and we laughed at some of the humor. (It was the first time I had ever heard that song. Up until that time the only Arlo Guthrie song I knew was “The City of New Orleans” and that was because it was a hit on the radio and my father had purchased that song on a 45 r.p.m. record.) He also introduced us to the original soundtrack to the Broadway show Grease as he brought the album to class one day and he played it for us. (This was about a year before the movie version came out with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.)

I still remember the year when Frank Zappa came out with his disco parody hit “Dancin’ Fool,” which was played quite a bit at the major rock stations in my area. Mr. Landers brought in a couple of Zappa records where he not only showed us what a gifted guitar player Zappa was but he introduced us to an another disco parody that Zappa did just a few years before “Dancin’ Fool,” which was called “Disco Boy.” The lyrics to that one was even more hilarious than the “Dancin’ Fool” lyrics.

Despite the fact that he loved The Beatles and other rock bands of the 1960’s, he was a traditional music teacher in many ways. He was adamant that we learned how to read music, which was a skill that many of his favorite 1960s bands, including his beloved Beatles, didn’t have. Thanks to him, I learned the mnemonic method of music reading where I learned the lines of EGBDF as Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge while the spaces between the lines spelled out the word FACE.

He was also adamant that we learned how to do chord building, which I quickly learned was not my strongest suit. Chord building involved learning the music notes that make up a certain chord and it involved a lot of memorization (which we later had to regurgitate on the final exam). The only reason why I still know that a D chord is made up of the notes D, F#, and A is because I made up my own mnemonic sentence that went “Dick Fucks Sharp Asses.” (I didn’t dare share that secret with Mr. Landers.)

During the time that I was taking those guitar lessons from Mr. Landers, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” was frequently played on the local rock radio station for many years after it was first released back in 1971 and it would go on to become one of the biggest rock hits of the 1970s. Many people were turned on by Jimmy Page’s exquisite guitar playing throughout that song. Naturally many of Mr. Landers’ guitar students, myself included, wanted to learn how to play that song. Mr. Landers was frequently inundated with numerous requests that he teach us this song. Some kids wanted to go from a relatively easy song like “Let It Be” straight into “Stairway to Heaven” while they were in the first few weeks of Guitar I.

Eventually Mr. Landers relented sometime around Guitar III or Guitar IV and he handed out mimeographed copies of “Stairway to Heaven.” That was when we got a dose of reality about how complex that song really is as we struggled with the various chord formations. From that time on the students in the advanced guitar classes stopped wanting to learn how to play “Stairway to Heaven,” while I’m sure that the students in Guitar I were probably still begging Mr. Landers to teach them how to play that song while they were learning how to play their first chords.

There was only one time I felt Mr. Landers was wrong about something. It was when punk rock became a huge such deal in the UK that the US media started doing stories about this new phenomenon. I was intrigued by the music so I purchased The Sex Pistols’ debut album. I found that record to be a revelation in that it was so unlike the heavy metal and disco music that was prevalent on the radio at that time. A few weeks after I purchased Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols, Mr. Landers openly disdained punk rock in class and he felt that all of the punk bands consisted of untalented musicians who were destined to not last very long. A few other students piped up talking about how they disliked punk rock as well. I disagreed with Mr. Landers’ low opinion of punk but I kept my mouth shut because he was one of those people whom you could never provide a contrary opinion once he made up his mind strongly about something because he never attempted to listen to the other side. (In addition, I was having a hard enough time constantly trying to avoid being someone’s bully target and I didn’t want other kids to pick on me because I owned a Sex Pistols album. I pretty much listened to my punk rock records on the down low until college when finally I met other punk rock fans and I felt comfortable enough to admit that I liked punk as well.)

Okay, Mr. Landers was right about The Sex Pistols being a short-lived phenomenon because they disbanded soon after they hit the big time but he was wrong about punk rock’s longevity because there were other punk bands (such as The Clash) who had longer careers and who released albums that are now considered rock classics right alongside albums like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What’s more, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and other punk bands have been inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which definitely proves how wrong Mr. Landers was about his assessment of punk rock.

Mr. Landers also formed the school’s official folk rock group known only as the Old Mill Folk Rock Band. (Yeah, I know it sounds original. LOL!) The group performed at school assemblies. Each year they would go into a local recording studio to make an EP record, which consisted of four songs (which were all covers of the big hits of that era). Once the record was printed, the members would sell copies of that record among the student body. I wanted to join that band as a guitarist but competition was intense. (I had a few friends who were in that band.) While I was an okay guitarist, there were other students who were far more talented than me and I was too intimidated to every try out.

I didn’t know much about his personal life aside from a few times that he mentioned that he had a wife when I took my first guitar class with him. By the time I took my second or third guitar class he briefly mentioned that he was separated from his wife a couple of times. Then he briefly mentioned that he was divorced once or twice by the time I took my last guitar class with him. (He never mentioned why he got a divorce nor did he ever say anything nasty about his ex-wife during any of classes I took with him. He also never mentioned having any children from that marriage.) When I saw his Facebook page for the first time and he listed his marital status as “single,” I thought that my memories were wrong. But then I read an interview he gave with a local newspaper (which I’ll get to in the next two paragraphs) and he briefly mentioned “my wife at that time.” I guess he must’ve gotten married sometime in his early 20’s and it only lasted just a few years until the two of them decided to go their separate ways. It’s very likely that, by the time he created his own Facebook page, he probably felt that he had been divorced for so many years that he might as well list his marital status as “single.”

I looked on his personal Facebook page and searched his name on Google after I learned about his death and I found that he later transferred to a different high school as a music teacher before leaving the teaching field entirely in order to work as a full-time musician and songwriter. (Of course all this happened years after I graduated from high school and moved out of Glen Burnie.) He had a professional Facebook page focusing on his music career but it hadn’t been updated since 2013. At one point he had his own website, which basically had a short biography and dates of upcoming performances, which I was able to access thanks to the Internet Archive. (The last update was done after his death, which announced that he was deceased.) He even wrote a Christian musical called Walk With God, whose official website can only now be accessed through the Internet Archive.

I saw on his personal Facebook page that he had adopted a Golden Retriever puppy just a couple of years before his death. He frequently posted pictures of that dog and it was obvious that he loved his dog. I only hope that this dog found a new loving forever home after his owner died.

Recently I came across this extensive interview Mr. Landers did with a local Ocean City publication called The Coconut Times in 2014 where I was not only able to catch up on whatever became of him after I left school but I even learned about his early life before he became my music teacher. This interview is so extensive that it’s divided into Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. It’s really quite a fascinating read that I would highly recommend to anyone regardless of whether you actually knew him personally (like I did) or not. I learned that he grew up in Baltimore (in the same neighborhood where the since-demolished Memorial Stadium was located) in a very large extended family that included numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins. Many of his relatives were singers and musicians and he even had a cousin who was a singer whose main rival was Patsy Cline. He landed his first job at 12 helping out in a local music store where he met professional musicians who played with the big acts like Buddy Holly.

Mr. Landers totally opened up about his life in that interview, including admitting that he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in the 1990’s due to a tainted blood transfusion he received in the early 1970’s. (Which probably explains why he underwent a liver transplant in the first place.) He also mentioned that, when he was 21, his father took him to a bar so he could have his first legal alcoholic beverage while engaging in some father and son talk. His father would suddenly die of a heart attack just nine months later. (Reading that interview and seeing his old Facebook posts, it seems like longevity wasn’t exactly a family trait. Not only did his father pass away at 45, he had a brother who died in a car accident at 52, and a cousin who also died an untimely death as a result of being exposed to Agent Orange while serving in the Vietnam War. And that’s not to mention Mr. Landers’ own death while he was in his early 60’s.)

Amid the bad times there were plenty of good memories as well. He mentioned in the interview that he had recently ate lunch with a member of Pink Floyd whom he did not identify. (I can safely say that it wasn’t with Syd Barrett or Rick Wright since they were both dead by 2014, when the interview took place.) He also mentioned meeting many famous musicians, such as the band Danny and the Juniors, who is best known for the big 1950’s hit “At the Hop.”

As I read that extensive interview, I realized that Mr. Landers lived a very interesting and fascinating life and I found myself wishing he had written a book or even started a blog about his memories. That 2014 interview is about as close as we’ll ever get to an autobiography and I’m glad that it exists. (You can read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

As I look over that three-part interview and those Facebook posts, I have to admit that the saddest thing about his death is that it seemed like Mr. Landers was at a point in his life where he was basically content with the things that was going on in his life over the last two or three years before he died. He had a thriving music career despite never becoming a major recording artist who sells millions of copies of his music. He was spending his summers in Ocean City where he was doing gigs at various bars and nightclubs throughout the Delmarva region. The rest of the year he was in Nashville where he was recording music and meeting people in the music industry. He had even contributed a song to this independent movie called Patapsco Valley that, as far as I can tell, only exists as a location camera test on Vimeo. (That is his song, “The River,” playing in the background of that video.) He had a dog whom he seemed to have loved very much. He achieved a point in his life where he was basically happy and content then he dies while he was in his early 60s. Yet there are a lot of loathsome people who are still alive and kicking and many of them are older than he was when he died. (I don’t want to elaborate on this any further or else this post will veer into something that would be as inappropriate as President Trump’s recent notorious speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree.)

I had pretty much cut myself off from most of the people I knew back in high school mainly because I wanted to protect myself from reliving any painful memories. (I went to my five-year reunion and that was enough for me.) I have to admit that Mr. Landers is one of the few people from my old high school I wished I had a chance to re-connect with before he died. I would’ve loved to have visited him in Ocean City (where, in his remaining years, he had spent his summers while living in Nashville the rest of the year) and I definitely would’ve brought my guitar with me so we could’ve done a jam session or two. Ironically I used to go to Ocean City with my then-husband, his sister, her son, and an invited guest (some years it was a friend of my nephew’s while other years it was a friend of my sister-in-law’s) for a week-long family vacation every year until 2011 (just a few months before my husband left me). If I had known that Tim Landers was there, I definitely would’ve made the time to look him up in the phone book so I could contact him about possibly visiting him with my guitar in hand. Oh well. It’s my loss and I have to deal with it.

I still have those mimeographed ditto sheets of guitar chords and song lyrics that Mr. Landers handed out in class stashed away in folders. They have survived various moves over the years. Writing this post has inspired me to pull out those old ditto sheets, take a look at them, pull out my guitar, and start playing it using those old sheets from years ago.

R.I.P. Mr. Landers.

Need a Valentine’s Day gift idea but you’re cash-strapped at the moment? Check out this this cool “You Rule Valentine” free tutorial using a cheap wood ruler and other supplies that you can find at your local dollar store.

If that previous Valentine’s Day gift idea isn’t up your alley, here are some more free tutorials for other Valentine-themed crafts using materials that you can find at your local dollar store.

Are you interested in learning how to play a musical instrument but you can’t afford to buy or rent one? Check out these free tutorials on how you can build your own guitar, ukulele, banjo, and even a violin out of cigar boxes.

Here’s a free tutorial on how to make your very own neon sign that says whatever you want it to say.

Are you itching to crochet something to wear? Check out these free patterns where you can make variations on the pineapple bolero crochet jackets.

Do you find yourself in this scenario?: You’re in the mood to watch a movie. You’re too broke to go to your local movie theater and pay the ever-increasing ticket prices (let alone buy anything from the concession stand). You can’t afford to pay for Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. Video rental stores don’t exist anymore. You only want just a couple of hours of escapist fun. What’s a broke person to do? Here is a list of the best free movies that are currently available on YouTube, including such classics as Night of the Living Dead, Carnival of Souls, Nosferatu, Detour, and His Girl Friday featuring stars like Cary Grant and Vincent Price. Yes, they are all completely legal for you to watch online without having to deal with torrents and things like that.

Feeling frustrated with President Donald Trump? You can take out your frustration with this free video game called Super Trump Run, whose gameplay is reminiscent of Super Mario Bros.

Santa Claus

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

For the latest installment on my series about celebrating Christmas on a tabletop, I’m going to devote this entry to the Christmas tree ornaments that I’ve had since I was a child. All of them were given to me by my parents for either my birthday or Christmas. (Both days are only 10 days apart.)

Here’s a brass bell-shaped ornament engraved with my first name.

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Here’s a bird’s nest that includes two birds—one red and one blue—whose beaks are opened as if they are about to burst into song. I still have the remnants of the original blue bow towards the top of the strings but that bow has mostly fallen apart.

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Here’s a Hallmark ornament that my parents gave me. It’s marked “Christmas, 1980” and it has these words:

A Daughter is the sweetest gift a lifetime can provide.

The ball’s image has a couple of white cats (which is pretty ironic because I’m allergic to cats) and a bunch of plants including poinsettias, a spider plant, a Norfolk pine tree, and a coleus.

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Here’s a brass ornament that’s shaped like a guitar. I took guitar lessons throughout my teen years and I still play it occasionally.

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This next photo shows a Santa Claus whose arms and legs are jointed so one can put him in a few poses (mainly looking like he’s running while swinging his arms).

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I have a wooden block ornament that has the same picture of Santa Claus on all four sides. The top of the block is mainly red with the letter “A” and the bottom is mainly red with the letter “B.”

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Last but not least is this white harp-playing cherub angel. I think it might have graced a wrapped package as a decoration (I don’t remember off-hand) and I decided to use it as an ornament since it had string attached to it. All I know is that I’ve had that one since my childhood.

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Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

Recently some people at the Electric Maid, a community based art and music space located in the Takoma area of Washington, DC (located just over the state line from the adjacent Takoma Park, Maryland), have started a series of music jam sessions on the first and last Saturdays of the month from 4-6 p.m. The idea is that anyone with a musical instrument—no matter what level he/she is currently playing at—is invited to come and join in. Even if one doesn’t bring a musical instrument, there will be extras provided for that person to join in.

I was invited to this event recently and I was asked to shoot some video of some of the jam sessions and post it on YouTube. Here’s the result.

One of the people in the video, Phil Shapiro, has his own YouTube channel and Twitter where he talks about all kinds of issues, especially about open source software.

I decided to go to BronyCon again this year because it’s such a kick seeing grown men dressed as their favorite pony from the TV show My Little Pony. Not even the Baltimore Uprising a few months ago in the wake of Freddy Gray’s death could stop this convention that’s full of positive vibes. The cheerfulness began when I was close to the entrance of the Baltimore Convention Center, where I saw these sidewalk signs.

#BronyCon 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.

#BronyCon 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.

#BronyCon 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.

For years I’ve been down on people doing upskirt photos or doing bizarre creepy closeups of strangers. I did that thing I’ve always disdained by doing a closeup shot of a stranger’s ass while I was close to the convention center but I had an excuse. This guy had a large Fat Albert patch on his back jeans pocket. Seriously!  Hey, hey, hey! It's Fat Albert at BronyCon in Baltimore.

I grew up watching Fat Albert cartoons on TV each Saturday morning. I remember they were mostly morality plays featuring Fat Albert and his circle of friends in an inner city neighborhood and Bill Cosby used to do the live action intro to each episode. It’s too bad that Bill Cosby had to give in to his worst impulses when he drug women’s drinks then did all kinds of sexual abuse to them. That is the main reason why I haven’t been looking for old Fat Albert cartoons in an effort to relive my childhood.

Well, anyway, I ran into a couple of like-minded cosplayers right outside the doors of the convention center.

BronyCon, Baltimore, August 7, 2015

The previous two years I was able to get in an out of the Registration line in about 15 minutes. This year it was much more crowded and it took me over an hour before I was able to get to the front of the line.

BronyCon, Baltimore, August 7, 2015

People in lines started tossing balloons to each other. It was cute at first but, as I got closer to the head of the line and I had to encounter balloons in my directions, the novelty wore off for me.

BronyCon, Baltimore, August 7, 2015I basically tried to make the time I spent in line more enjoyable by taking photos of the various cosplayers in line, beginning with this guy who brought a very tall Rainbow Dash-themed missile. (I regret not taking a photo with the panoramic setting instead of the two pictures I did take in order to get the whole thing. )

BronyCon, Baltimore, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, Baltimore, August 7, 2015

I saw a plushie pony peeping from a backpack. BronyCon, Baltimore, August 7, 2015

Here’s Elsa from the Disney movie Frozen.

BronyCon, Baltimore, August 7, 2015

One of the organizers (wearing a purple hat) was instructing people which register to stand in front of, depending on whether they had pre-registered or not and whether they were paying with cash or credit card.

BronyCon, Baltimore, August 7, 2015

After standing in line for an hour, I finally made it to the front of the line.

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

Here’s the front and back cover of the BronyCon program book.

BronyCon 2015 Here’s my pass. I only purchased a one-day pass because of tight finances.

BronyCon, August 7, 2015 One innovation that was introduced at this year’s BronyCon was these special communication cards that con attendees can put on their passes to indicate how socialble they were willing to be with others at any given time. This was done in an attempt to reduce complaints of harassment among con-goers. I think it’s a great idea myself because everyone could avoid awkward situations (as long as everyone cooperated with this). BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

Another innovative idea was to have specially designated Gender-Neutral Bathrooms, which is great for transgender people or people who are questioning their own birth gender. Having tried one of them for the first time, I have to say that it wasn’t bad. After all, it’s not really that much different from having gender-neutral bathrooms at home. There were still separate men’s and women’s bathrooms for those who were uncomfortable with this.

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

There was a non-stop rave featuring lots of dancing to electronic music that went on both day and night in one of the areas of the Baltimore Convention Center. BronyCon, August 7, 2015

The next photo shows just two of the many DJ’s who kept the music going for people who just wanted to get down and dance the day and/or night away.

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

I shot a short video that shows just a small portion of that dance party, featuring all kinds of awesome dance moves.

The one thing about going to BronyCon is the vast array of cosplayers with their handmade creations. The creativity behind these costumes is just astounding to me.

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

There was a vast array of My Little Pony merchandise available in the Marketplace area with prices ranging from $3 (for very small cheap toys) all the way to hundreds of dollars.

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015
BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015  BronyCon, August 7, 2015 BronyCon, August 7, 2015 BronyCon, August 7, 2015

 

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

 

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

 

BronyCon, August 7, 2015BronyCon, August 7 2015 The most memorable item that was on sale at BronyCon was this unique handmade My Little Pony-themed diorama that was on sale for $1,600. It was an amazing work of art to behold. BronyCon, August 7, 2015

 

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

 

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

 

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

 

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

 

BronyCon, August 7, 2015

There were a few people who have become quasi-celebrities in the Brony world because they work on My Little Pony and some of them were at BronyCon signing autographs. Among them was My Little Pony artist Andy Price.

Andy Price at BronyCon 2015 I made a brief stop inside the video arcade. There were not only people playing various video games on a variety of different consoles and platforms but there were also various My Little Pony items displayed and I even saw some people playing My Little Pony-themed card games. I liked the Video Arcade sign, which is a really cool mash-up of My Little Pony and Tron. BronyCon, August 7, 2015There were a whole array of video games but I didn’t get a chance to try any of them because that room was so crowded. I ended up just watching other people play instead.BronyCon, August 7, 2015BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015BronyCon, August 7, 2015

BronyCon, August 7, 2015BronyCon, August 7, 2015BronyCon, August 7, 2015BronyCon, August 7, 2015 Here’s the rundown of the swag that I got from BronyCon. One of the vendor tables were trying to entice me by giving me a tiny button for free. But if I wanted more buttons, I would’ve had to pay. I wasn’t really that interested in obtaining any more buttons but the guy was insistent that I choose one button for free so I picked one that was based on Spike, Twilight Sparkle’s baby dragon companion. The vendor then turned his head towards another potential customer and I walked away from that booth pretty quick. I have to admit that the button is nice looking. The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015One of the vendor tables was for the Brony Thank You Fund, a non-profit 501c(3) group that was raising money at BronyCon to benefit groups that are active in fighting cancer. If you make a small donation of at least $1, you received this tiny pin. The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015 For a minimum $12 donation, you got both a pin and a 2016 calendar. I sprang for both because I figured that the calendar will definitely come in handy in five months. The new calendar is movie-themed so there’s all kinds of mashups between My Little Pony and various films like The Shining and Cinderella. Here are a few excerpts from that calendar. The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015If you like that calendar and missed BronyCon (or went to BronyCon but missed getting the calendar), you can order it online right here.I purchased a few things and I managed to use my Brony Thank You Fund button to get discounts on all of them. Despite the discounts, I was still very restrained in my shopping (due to both financial issues and my desire not to clutter the house filled with all kinds of stuff). I picked up a paperback book that has re-printed some issues of the My Little Pony comic book series. The Swag I Got at BronyCon 2015 I have a confession to make. I’ve been reading the My Little Pony comic books ever since I won the first issue of the series in a contest that took place during a session of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School that was held in Washington, DC way back in 2013. (Link is NSFW.) Yep, Dr. Sketchy’s hooked me in. (LOL!) Each month I would go to a comic book store and buy the latest My Little Pony issue. But then I started to hit some financial turbulence for a bit and I stopped buying the comic books for several months. When I felt just financially solvent enough to start buying back issues, I saw that the comic book stores either didn’t have back issues or they had them but they were missing one or two issues (which screws up the continuity of a storyline). But then I found that the publisher has been reprinting back issues in paperback form so anyone who missed out on them can buy them altogether so one can get the entire story in one purchase instead of waiting for a new single comic book issue to come out. So I was mostly caught up until I found the last paperback book I needed at BronyCon. I’m now caught up in reading the comic book (I think). I found this really cute vinyl figurine based on a minor character in the My Little Pony series named DJ Pon-3. That pony is totally cute. The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015

 

The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015

The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015

 

The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015

The Swag I Got From BronyCon 2015 Well, anyway, that’s it for BronyCon. Unlike last year, I ended up not going to any of the workshops or panels because I didn’t find any that interested me very much. I basically hung around the Marketplace and Video Arcade. I still had a good time even if the Registration line was way longer than previous years.

As some of you may have heard, B.B. King has just passed away at the age of 89. This man is to blues guitar is what Leonardo da Vinci is to painting—a highly regarded expert. Any aspiring guitarist who doesn’t take the time to listen to at least three of B.B. King’s songs is doing him/herself a total disservice. B.B. King has left behind a huge body of work that will continue to influence guitarists for generations to come. Thanks to YouTube, anyone wanting to learn more about B.B. King can access his music anytime Here’s his most well-known song, “The Thrill is Gone.”

Here he is playing “Sweet Little Angel.”

Here’s “Let the Good Times Roll.”

Here’s “Stormy Monday.”

In his later years B.B. King did duets with younger musicians, which exposed his music to a new generation of fans, many of whom were inspired to research his extensive back catalog. Here he is with U2 playing the song “When Love Comes to Town,” a song that received extensive airplay on the rock radio stations back in the day.

Here he is with Eric Clapton performing “Riding With the King.”

And all of these videos are just the tip of a very large iceberg. One can easily spend a whole day focusing just on B.B. King’s extensive back catalog.

January 6 was a pretty busy day for me. Not only was it Little Christmas (a.k.a. Twelfth Night and the Feast of the Epiphany) but it also happened to be the fifth anniversary of the day that I officially started this blog. I celebrated the occasion by going out to eat at a local Popeye’s. I had a birthday cake waiting for me at home for dessert but, first, I needed to stop off at Target on the way home because I had to purchase some refills for my lint brush. While I was there, I found a few more interesting things to photograph.

Anna and Elsa, those two royal sisters from the hit Disney film Frozen, show no signs of decreasing popularity. In fact, I found this guitar featuring those two that one can buy for any Frozen fan who also shows an interest in learning guitar.

Trip to Target, January 6, 2015

A couple of months ago I found this three-foot tall Elsa doll on sale at Target. A few days later, when I had to return to that same store for a different reason, I noticed that the one giant Elsa doll was already gone. On this more recent trip I not only found that the store had gotten another three-foot tall Elsa doll but there was also a three-foot tall Anna doll on sale next to her.

Trip to Target, January 6, 2015

For some reason I find these very large dolls to be very off-putting. I think it’s because they are larger than my two 1/3 scale Asian ball-jointed dolls (a 22-inch Volks Dollfie Dream and a 24-inch Fantasy Doll Tobias) and they look like they could even fit into some of the smaller sized children’s clothes with very little trouble. I personally find this wide toothy smile on the Anna doll to be very creepy at such a large size. I keep on visualizing Chucky the killer doll from those Child’s Play movies when I see this grinning Anna.

Trip to Target, January 6, 2015

There is an interesting review of these three-foot tall Frozen dolls on the Toybox Philosopher site that I highly recommend reading for anyone who’s thinking about buying one of these huge dolls.

The toy aisles at Target usually focuses on toys that are geared towards kids. Imagine my surprise when I found this action figure. It’s based on the killer creature from the Predator movies. What’s the problem, you might ask? The action figure is based on an R-rated movie, the top edge of the package itself is marked “Age 17+” yet is located in the toy aisles near the Batman and other action figures that are suitable for children under 12. I just don’t think action figures based on characters from R-rated movies should be anywhere near children’s toys.

Trip to Target, January 6, 2015

Even though I still think it’s too early to have Valentine’s Day stuff out, I loved the message in this next photo. Ironically I don’t have a husband or boyfriend I could show this picture to as a subliminal message on what to give me for Valentine’s Day next month. (LOL!)

Trip to Target, January 6, 2015

Last year I went to my first ever Intervention Con in Rockville. I was only able to afford one day because, having attended both Brony Con and Otakon, I was too low on funds to afford the entire weekend. I really enjoyed myself at that con because it was relatively small and intimate and I managed to meet all kinds of interesting people and attend some really cool panels and workshops.

This year I skipped Otakon (I basically contented myself with taking pictures of Otakon cosplayers outside the convention) so I could afford to attend a full weekend of Intervention Con. (Although I still had to commute to and from the Hilton—where Intervention Con was held—because money is still too tight for me to stay in the hotel. I also had to pack my own meals and drinks for the same reason. I was able to get this deal at the Hilton front desk where I could get a weekend parking pass—yes this particular Hilton Hotel charges for parking in its garage—for $18. I took it because the breakdown would be $6 per day, which is a relative bargain compared to the usual $15 per day on the weekday.) Because of the convention’s relatively intimate size, I felt comfortable enough with getting a full weekend pass since I knew I would be doing less waking than if it was held in a large facility like either of the convention centers in Baltimore and DC.

The first of the events started at 2 p.m. Friday afternoon but I didn’t arrive until later because the panels I was interested in were held later. I managed to arrive a little bit early so I could pick up my pass, which is pictured below.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I was also given my choice of these plastic balls and I picked the blue one. I never figured out the significance of these balls.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The setup at Intervention Con was pretty much the same as last year so I quickly remembered where everything was located.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I spent some of my free time playing video games, many of which were classic late 1970’s-early 1980’s video games that were put on Free Play the entire weekend.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I also spent some browsing the Dealer’s Room but I couldn’t afford to do much shopping. I managed to take this panoramic shot of the room.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The next two photos are of the Intervention Con table which had a variety of extra things for people who paid a little extra money in order to gain “Enabler” status. Among the goodies given to such generous people were hand-crocheted amigurumis that resembled the Intervention Con’s owl mascot.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I came across some workers putting the finishing touches on erecting a life-sized model of the Tardis from Doctor Who.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

There were a few cosplayers at Intervention Con such as this woman in the photo below.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

I also brought along my latest creative project with me to work on during some downtime. I was currently working on a crocheted piece. I had every ambition to attend the “Early Stitch and Bitch” that was scheduled for 9 a.m. the following morning and I wanted to start my crocheted project before attending this event.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The first workshop I attended was on “Designing Your First Book,” which I found pretty enlightening. (Every now and then I have fantasies of one day publishing my own e-book even though I haven’t thought of what I wanted to write about yet. LOL!) It started at 5 p.m. and ended at 6 so I ate the dinner that I brought with me.

At 7 p.m. I went to another panel that I was the most interested in attending, which was titled “Comics Rehab: Overcoming Creative Depression.” It focused on the challenges of retaining your creativity in the challenges of real life (such as depression). That workshop really resonated with me because there are times when I’ve had a hard time getting going on anything because I was dealing with the emotional fallout from both my hip surgery in September, 2011 followed by my husband’s walkout just three months later (and three days after Christmas) followed by revelations that he left me for a friend who also has severe mental health issues. I got some helpful tips (the most important one was to go out and be with friends if depression is too overwhelming—don’t stay home alone). Near the end of that panel, a man who cosplayed as Jesus sat down next to me.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

The reason why Jesus arrived was because he was involved in the next panel that was taking place in the same room. I stuck around in that room where I was treated to a spectacle that was titled “Cosplay Candidate: The Political Game.” Basically four cosplayers were asked questions about politics and they gave pretty hilarious answers while they were sticking in character to the character that they were portraying. One of the participants, standing next to Jesus in the next photo, was known as King Drunk for obvious reasons.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

So I sat in on this panel for a little while until I grew pretty tired around 8:30 p.m. and I decided to call it a day and drive home.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

As I was walking towards the parking garage, I saw this guy playing the guitar near the Tardis.

Intervention Con, Day 1, August 22, 2014

So it was one day of Intervention Con down and two more days to go.

Here’s a blast from the past. This is something I worked on about 5, 6, 7, or even 8 years ago (I don’t remember the exact date).

colormejoe

Here’s some background. A friend of mine named Joe decided to do this community art project that would hang on the walls of the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, Maryland. He took some photos of himself, did some image manipulation to outline the images in the photographs with thick black lines and removed all color. This resulted in something that looked like it was a page torn from a coloring book. Thus a new project, called “Color Me Joe”, was born.

The idea was that each person would take one of these pages and color or decorate it in any way he/she wanted. Then the resulting pictures would hang on the walls of the New Deal Cafe. Color Me Joe ran for at least a month and new colored pages were added to the walls until the end of the show. The above graphic was my contribution.

As someone who used to play the guitar on a regular basis (and still has a guitar at home while I keep on telling myself to pick it up again and stop procrastinating), I was drawn to the page of Joe holding a guitar while wearing only shorts. I took the page home and colored it in with colored pencil. Since Joe was pictured as a shirtless guitarist, I decided to add a poster of a shirtless rock star guitarist to the wall. (For the record, the shirtless guitarist in the poster is David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. I took a screenshot of a scene from the movie Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii then reduced it in size in order to fit the picture. Then I printed it out, cutted it out, and glued it on the art.)

I finished it by going to a local arts and crafts store, where I bought a small pack of glitter music notes stickers that I found in one of the scrapbooking aisles, then I stuck the stickers all over the page.

When I handed the results to Joe to hang it on the walls of the New Deal Cafe, he totally burst out laughing. He really loved it. My piece was hung alongside other people’s contributions.

The Color Me Joe show ended and I moved on to other things. A few months ago I ran into Joe at the gym and he said that he changed his Facebook Profile Picture to my contribution to the Color Me Joe show. I was pretty flattered that he used something I did a few years ago.

He later changed his Facebook Profile Picture but today I found that he used my piece on his Facebook page to publicize his band’s upcoming gig at The Argonaut in Washington, DC tomorrow night. (He plays with a group called The Bachelor and The Bad Actress, which also have their music posted on bandcamp.com.) That graphic got a lot of responses from his friends and I even had one of them contact me through Facebook Message and we had a nice talk on Facebook Chat.

It’s kind of cool that something I did years ago can still resonate with people. 🙂

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