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Passover

Today is Tax Day in the U.S. and I’m burning the stress candle at both ends between getting my taxes done on time, following up on some potential job leads, and doing some general spring cleaning of my home. The one fringe benefit of Tax Day is that it gives me an incentive to go through papers trying to find any documents I could use for filling out those damned tax return forms while I take that opportunity to throw old papers either in the trash or the recycling bin (depending on if the paper in question is recyclable or not).

In the course of sorting through old papers I came across a letter from last year notifying me of the death of my onetime divorce lawyer while saying that if there are any outstanding papers from him that I need I should go to the lawyer handling my late lawyer’s estate and get them immediately. (Luckily my divorce lawyer had given me all the documents I needed around the time of my divorce so I didn’t need to do that.)

Well, anyway, here’s a video break that’s appropriate for today. It was originally a Beatles song but the late George Harrison did a live performance of that tune during a 1992 concert in Japan that also included Eric Clapton on guitar.

Birthday Cake

Today is yet another birthday for me. For this special day I’m going to upload .jpegs of some special letters I wrote earlier this year that basically explains a few things about myself.

Here is some background. This past spring the Religious Exploration program (which is what my Unitarian Universalist congregation calls its Sunday school program) decided to do an intergenerational activity which is supposed to foster more community between the young children in the program and other adult members beside the children’s parents.

So the Mystery Buddy program was started. Basically one adult and one child would be paired up. Neither would know about who the buddy was other than each person was given a mailbox number where the two buddies would deliver letters. (The mailboxes were really manilla folders that were hung on a bulletin board and they each had a number.) Basically each Sunday in April the person would drop off a letter for his/her buddy while picking up the letter that the buddy left for him/her. At the end of the month a special reception would be held after both Sunday service and the Religious Education classes (which run concurrently) where both paris of mystery buddies would meet each other in person for the first time.

I decided to take part of it because I figured that it would be fun. I was paired with a pre-school boy who is a big fan of My Little Pony. Since the kid was so young, I had to be careful about writing letters mainly because I wasn’t sure what his reading level was (or if he had even learned to read yet). I decided to create picture collages instead. Well, anyway, we managed to put our letters in the slots and I finally met him in person. (The boy was a bit on the shy side and he ended up not speaking much while sticking closely with his mother. I ended up talking with his parents instead, which was okay.)

So, as a special birthday feature, I’m going to upload what I originally gave to my Mystery Buddy. Each week of the Mystery Buddy program had a different theme so we didn’t have to come up with a subject idea for our letters, which was a great idea. The first week focused on music. I downloaded some graphics off the Internet and I did this collage in Photoshop where I mixed in some of the musicians I actually like (such as Pink Floyd and The Beatles) with Octavia from My Little Pony (as a nod to my Mystery Buddy’s interest in that show), the virtual pop star Hatsune Miku (I figured that he might be into cartoon characters), and the Internet sensation Keyboard Cat (I figured that he would get a kick out of that one). For added measure I had Rainbow Dash near the rainbow-producing prism that graced Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon album.

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Week 2’s theme was favorite hobbies. I ended up doing a short one-page letter where I included a few samples of my drawings and photographs.

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Week 3’s theme was happiest childhood memory. I was a bit stumped on this one until I decided to write about The Enchanted Forest. Even though, at two pages, it’s the longest of my letters, it’s basically a short and simplified version of my Saving The Enchanted Forest movie that I screened at last year’s Artomatic in Hyattsville.

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The fourth and final week had favorite games as the theme. I decided to just list two board games (Monopoly and The Game of Life) and two video games (Pac-Man and Angry Birds).

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Okay so I didn’t write my entire autobiography in those letters but hopefully, through reading them, you have the chance to learn a little more about the person who writes this blog (me). 🙂

I had quite a day on September 25. A few hours after going to the Silver Spring Maker Faire I rested for a few hours and ate dinner. Then I headed over to the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, Maryland where I caught a live performance by a band from Belarus known as Stary Olsa. This band dresses in medieval folk dress and perform songs in the style of traditional Eastern European folk music. What’s really cool is that they perform songs by bands like The Beatles in this style and their classic rock covers are so interesting to listen to. Stary Olsa has gained such a following that they even have their own Wikipedia page.

This band was incredible to listen to in person. I stuck around for a bit despite the fact that I learned that The Backstabbing Couple From Hell (a.k.a. my ex-husband and my onetime friend whom he screwed around with while I was recovering from hip surgery and he married despite her severe mental illness) were also at the show. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m currently broke, I definitely would’ve purchased one of their CD’s that they had for sale at the show.

Here are couple of photos from that show, one of which you can see the band in their medieval outfits and the traditional Belarusian instruments they played at the show.

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I shot a few videos of the band doing those classic rock covers. They are amazing to listen to. Here is their cover of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.”

They did a traditional Belarus tune that literally had people dancing in the audience.

Here is Stary Olsa’s amazing cover of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”

Last, but not least, here is Stary Olsa doing a blistering cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”, which proves that folk musical instruments can kick ass just as much as electric guitars.

Previous post in this series.

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

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Howard the Duck #20
Scrubba-Dub Death!
January, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Gene Colan, artist; Klaus Janson, inker; J. Costanza, letterer; Jan Cohen, colorist

Synopsis: Doctor Bong confronts Howard in the bathroom shower of an apartment belonging to a woman named Amy (where Howard spent the previous night). Doctor Bong becomes so enraged when Howard asks him why isn’t he with Beverly, his new bride, that he tries to smash Howard with his steel clapper hand. Howard jumps out of the way just in time for Doctor Bong’s steel clapper hand to hit the floor with such a force that the floor caves in and they end up in the apartment below.

Doctor Bong and Howard had interrupted an all-night poker game and one of the players becomes angry because he was on the verge of winning this particular poker hand. This player begins to beat up Doctor Bong and Howard takes advantage of that moment to sneak out of that apartment and eventually make his way outside. Doctor Bong manages to overpower that player who started to fight him and he decides to leave the apartment and make all of the poker players freeze in their tracks for 90 days at the same time by hitting himself on the head with his steel clapper hand.

Howard is in a nearby alley when hears that particular “BONG!” noise and realizes that Doctor Bong is pursuing him. Howard finds a lead pipe lying on the ground. He gets up on a trash can and waits for Doctor Bong to come after him. When Doctor Bong shows up, Howard hits him on the head with that lead pipe and he makes Doctor Bong disappear.

Howard then begins to remember recent past events (which is also a way that a reader who didn’t follow the story from the previous issues can catch up) while explaining that Howard’s one-night stand with Amy as a human activated his adrenal glands that manage to reverse the effects of being in the Evolvo-Chamber so he is a duck once again. Howard soon realizes that he is naked (since Doctor Bong had started this latest battle while Howard was in the shower) and he has no money. Howard steals a t-shirt off of a clothes line that says “Foxy Lady,” which solves one of his problems.

As for the money problem, Howard passes a restaurant with a sign that says “Dishwasher Wanted.” Figuring that he has nothing else to lose he sees the restaurant’s owner, who finds the idea of a male talking duck wearing a Foxy Lady t-shirt to be so hysterical that he hires Howard on the spot while thinking about advertising his restaurant as saying that the dishes have been untouched by human hands.

Howard’s new boss introduces him to the outgoing dishwasher, Sudd, who is on his last day at his current job. As Sudd starts to show Howard how to do his job he tells Howard that the reason why he’s leaving is because he has accepted a new job as executive vice president of an organization called SOOFI, which is an acronym for Save Our Offspring From Indecency. Sudd says that SOOFI tracks down any books, records, or movies that are considered to be indecent by a leader known as the Supreme SOOFI and burns them.

Finally Sudd shows Howard how to clean the microwave oven with an oven cleaner. In the process Sudd accidentally leaves the oven cleaner in the microwave as he closes the door and starts the microwave process. The oven cleaner can soon explodes, throwing the microwave oven door open and covering Sudd in a mixture of oven cleaner and radiation—turning Sudd into a raging giant bubble creature who’s obsessed with cleaning everything.

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When the restaurant owner enters the kitchen to see what the commotion is about, Sudd escapes and starts his cleaning rampage in the restaurant while attacking a customer for reading a Playboy-like magazine called Playperson. Howard and his new boss try to stop the bubble creature by throwing a bucket of water on him but the creature grows bigger because the oven cleaner is a concentrate that is activated by water.

The bubble creature leaves the restaurant to continue his cleaning rampage. Howard finds another can of the oven cleaner and discovers that the can has a printed antidote recipe that includes vinegar, lemon juice, milk, and egg whites. Howard and his new boss quickly whip up a large batch of that stuff then try to track down Sudd.

The bubble creature makes his way to 8th Avenue, which Howard describes as the Filth Capital of the Universe. The bubble creature attacks criminals and scrubs the city streets clean at the same time. Howard and his boss throw the antidote on the creature, which dissolves him entirely. The locals come out but they weren’t there to hail Howard and his boss as heroes. In fact they are angry because the bubble creature had been actually doing something about the crime and the filthy streets—issues that the local authorities had long ignored. A mob starts to form against Howard and his boss.

Topical 1970’s Reference: Howard mentions The Gong Show, which was a very popular game show back in the 1970’s where contestants of varying dubious talents perform on stage while celebrity judges decide whether they would be allowed to complete their performance or bang a gong behind them, which abruptly ends the performance.

There’s a reference to 8th Avenue as being the Filth Capital of the Universe. 8th Avenue is one of the borders of Times Square which, at that time, had a reputation for having a lot of porn houses, drug abuse, prostitution, and being a very crime-infested place. There was a time when tourists would not dare to go into Times Square. I remember when I took a class trip to New York City back in 1979 and our chaperones told us point-blank that we were forbidden from going anywhere near Times Square. Even since Disney decided to renovate the New Amsterdam Theater, which kickstarted a renaissance that drove out most of the porn movie theaters, Times Square has definitely improved as a place for tourists. If you want to get an idea of what Times Square was like before Disney came along, check out the movies Midnight Cowboy or Taxi Driver, which were both shot on location in Times Square back in the 1970’s.

The Bottom Line: This is a pretty hysterical issue from Doctor Bong confronting Howard while he’s in the shower to a new short-lived character that’s a man mutated from an oven cleaning product who could either be a hero or villain depending on one’s point of view. It’s also pretty funny when the locals turn on Howard and his new boss after they defeat Sudd because he was actually cleaning up the city streets of filth and crime and they ruined it.

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Howard the Duck #21
If You Knew SOOFI…!
February, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Carmine Infantino, special guest artist; Klaus Janson, inker; I. Watanabe, letterer; Glynis Wein, colorist

Synopsis: This story begins where the last issue left off as Howard and his boss literally run for their lives from a mob of local citizens who were outraged over the fact that they had destroyed the bubble monster who had cleaned up the streets and crime in their neighborhood. They run into an alley where, with the help of a street person, they are able to evade the mob once and for all.

The bubble monster was previously a human male named Sudd who was slated to start his new job as executive vice president of an organization named SOOFI, which stands for Save Our Offspring From Indecency. The members of SOOFI wear white outfits with round orange heads (resembling the orange fruit) featuring smiley faces. SOOFI calls a meeting where the leader announces Sudd’s death. After the members recite the SOOFI pledge (which includes lines like “We are the SOOFI, sworn to die so that our children yet unborn may live in antiseptic peace!”) the SOOFI leader vows that there will be revenge against those responsible for Sudd’s death.

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Meanwhile Howard and his boss are in the boss’ apartment. The boss suddenly decides to move back to his native Cleveland because he realizes that the restaurant business isn’t for him. Howard suddenly realizes that he doesn’t know the boss’ name (mainly because he had been working for that boss for less than 12 hours) and he asks. The boss reveals his name to be Beverly Switzler—the same name as Howard’s one-time female companion who is now the wife of Doctor Bong. It turns out that his parents wanted a daughter named Beverly Switzler and when he was born they decided to give him that name anyway. The female Beverly Switzler is his niece who was named after him. The male Beverly uses Lee as a nickname, which is just as well because it would’ve been confusing having two characters named Beverly Switzler.

Lee invites Howard to come with him back to Cleveland but Howard turns him down because he wants to wait for Paul and Winda to arrive on the ship S.S. Damned when it docks in New York City. Lee allows Howard to use his apartment since the rent is paid up until the end of the month.

Members of SOOFI begin to bomb places like porn movie theaters, adult book stores, and rock concerts. The SOOFI leader arrives in the apartment where Howard is currently staying and proceeds to spray a solution known as Formula 410 in Howard’s face to knock him out so he could be kidnapped. When Howard wakes up he sees that someone had put pants and shoes on him, which totally outrages him because he had gone around bottomless for much of his life.

The head of SOOFI appears and tells Howard all about the Blanditron, an invention that the SOOFI head claims God wanted. The SOOFI head says that Howard’s new look will provide youth appeal among potential new recruits to the SOOFI movement. However the SOOFI leader has decreed that Howard needs to be put through the Blanditron first so he’ll be blanderized enough to fit in with SOOFI’s strict conformity.

So the SOOFI leader puts Howard in the Blanditron, which resembles a washing machine, and switches the machine on. After Howard goes through all of the Blanditron’s cycles, the SOOFI leader opens the machine door only to have Howard punch the leader in the face. The orange mask cracks and Howard implies that the leader is none other than Anita Bryant (who is shown only from the back of the head).

Howard walks out of the SOOFI headquarters and he subsequently ditches the pants and shoes so he could go bottomless once again.

Topical 1970’s Reference: The 1970s was the decade when the right wing evangelical Christians started to make headway into protesting the relaxed standards (especially regarding sexuality) of the era. Groups like the Moral Majority and the American Family Association got their start in the 1970’s and it’s obvious that SOOFI was modeled after them. After being considered on the fringe for many years, these groups started to ally with the Republican Party and their power started to gradually increase until these groups started to elect favored politicians to power. This has resulted in such things as severe limits placed on abortion in many states and the so-called bathroom bills that have recently been passed in North Carolina and Mississippi where transgender people who haven’t had the full genitalia surgery are required to go to the public restroom of their birth gender rather than the gender that they identify with.

Howard briefly being forced to wear pants by SOOFI is a parody of a real-life dispute between Disney and Marvel over Disney’s complaint that Howard looked too much like Donald Duck. Disney demanded that Marvel make some alterations to Howard (including adding pants) or else it would sue Marvel. Ironically Disney would buy Marvel years later so Donald Duck and Howard the Duck not only currently co-exist under the same parent company but Disney even allowed Marvel to revive the Howard the Duck comic book series in 2015—a few years after the Disney/Marvel merger was complete.

The substance that the SOOFI leader uses on Howard, Formula 410, is a parody of the all-purpose cleaning product Formula 409.

The smiling faces on the SOOFI masks resemble the smiley faces that were a craze for a few years back in the 1970’s. The faces were initially on buttons and they came in yellow, pink, or orange. In time they were printed on other products like t-shirts and and greeting cards.

The end of that issue implied that the real-life celebrity Anita Bryant was the SOOFI leader. Anita Bryant was initially a beauty pageant contestant who became Miss Oklahoma in 1958 then switched to singing where she went on to have a few hits in the late 1950’s-early 1960’s. I remember her best when she did a series of ads in the 1970’s for the Florida Citrus Commission where she touted the wonders of Florida orange juice and how Florida oranges were superior to oranges grown in other places (such as California and Arizona). Here are a couple of vintage Florida orange juice ads featuring Anita Bryant that were made in 1969 and 1971.

Here’s another ad that has Anita Bryant enlisting the help of Orange Bird to convince people to drink Florida orange juice along with the announcement that one can find Orange Bird at Walt Disney World.

I especially remember Anita Bryant and the Orange Bird together because my parents once gave me the 45 r.p.m. record single of Bryant singing “The Orange Bird Song,” which I can now relive thanks to YouTube.

Anita Bryant’s career began to decline soon after Miami-Dade County in Florida passed a gay rights ordinance in 1977 that forbid discrimination in housing, jobs, loans, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation. Bryant and her then-husband, Bob Green, became so outraged over the idea of gays having the same civil rights as heterosexuals that they led an effort to repeal that law. In addition Anita Bryant began to claim that gays will come for people’s children because that’s the only way they can recruit new people to their ranks since they can’t have children themselves. While Anita Bryant’s campaign was successful in getting that law repealed, it turned out to be a pyrrhic victory for her personal and professional life in the long run. Bryant’s anti-gay efforts led to a nationwide boycott of anything made from Florida oranges and Anita Bryant soon lost her gig as the cheerful face of Florida orange juice. Bryant’s marriage to Bob Green would end in divorce just a few years later.

Since that time she has pretty much withdrawn from the public spotlight and rarely gives interviews these days. The last I’ve heard anything from her was when her ex-husband died a few years ago.

The Bottom Line: This issue is a pretty hilariously spot-on parody of those self-righteous people who seek to impose their own sense of morality on others to the point where they’ll even kill others (thus disregarding one of the Bible’s Ten Commandments that say “Thou shalt not kill”). The only downside is the dated ending referencing Anita Bryant in that people of a certain age will find it hilarious but younger generations reading this story won’t immediately get the joke without doing some online research.

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Howard the Duck #22
May the Farce Be With You!
March, 1978

Credits: Steve Gerber, writer/editor; Val Mayerik, artist; William Wray, inker; John Costanza, letterer; Janice Cohen, colorist

This issue is not only the first of a two-part Star Wars parody but it’s also a reunion of the original co-creators of Howard the Duck, Steve Gerber and Val Mayerik.

Synopsis: Howard is sitting on the rooftop of the apartment building where his onetime boss, Lee Switzler, used to live and where Howard is currently staying until the rent runs out at the end of the month. Suddenly a strange creature that has giant ape arms and legs yet its body resembles a container of salt climbs up to the same rooftop. This creature manages to tackle Howard to the ground where it seasons the duck literally with salt until Howard’s body is totally covered. The creature then jumps from the rooftop to the street below where its lifeless salt container body breaks open and salt spills into the street.

A giant fly then flies to the rooftop and proceeds to attack Howard, who fends the fly off by hitting it with a guitar he finds on the roof. Howard feels a sense of dread that is reminiscent of what happened the day the cosmic axis shifted, which took Howard from his original home planet to Earth. Suddenly the Man-Thing and Dakimh the Enchanter appear. The wizard grabs Howard and the three of them suddenly disappear from the rooftop.

Howard, Dakimh, and the Man-Thing are at the Land Between Night and Day where Korrek the Barbarian and Jennifer Kale are waiting. The fivesome from Adventure Into Fear #19 and The Man-Thing #1 (the two-part sword and sorcery story which introduced Howard the Duck) are reunited. Everyone is overjoyed that Howard didn’t die like they thought he did when he seemed to fell to his death in The Man-Thing #1. Since the last time the five of them were together Dakimh had apparently died because he now exists only as a ghost. The only one who isn’t thrilled with this reunion is Howard because he is annoyed over being taken on an adventure that he would rather not go on.

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The five of them enter a castle where they come upon the Waters of Eternity. As they gaze into the Waters of Eternity, Dakimh tells a story about a distant planet called Megrim, which is ruled by its immortal queen, Sombra. Whenever the queen feels the need to reproduce every one or two millenniums, Sombra will abuduct the most savage warriors from their home planets and bring them to Megrim so they can battle each other until only one is left standing. The last warrior then mates with Sombra, which kills that warrior but impregnates Sombra. (It’s similar to how Queen Bees reproduce except there’s more violence involved.) Sombra’s past children have tended more towards spiritual anesthesia and less towards violence and they can be stopped by a powerful force dedicated to joy.

This millennium Sombra’s most recent warrior battle that helps her choose a mate ended in disaster because the winning warrior survived the tournament because he was so insane that he continued fighting even though he had been hacked and slashed within an inch of his life. He was very eager to mate with Sombra after his victory so he ended up being another dead warrior during sex while Sombra became pregnant with his child and she gave birth to a son named Bzzk Joh, who is just as crazy as his late father while he has his mother’s depressive tendencies. Dakimh instructs Howard, Jennifer, the Man-Thing, and Korek that they must stop him by using the binding energy of the universe known as the Farce. Dakimh gives Howard a weapon that will unleash the Farce when the time comes and the wizard instructs the others to follow Howard’s lead.

Dakimh then disappears because, as a deceased person, his soul must periodically return to Therea, the Plane of Spirits, or his soul will die. Howard is very reluctant to be a leader while the others, especially Korek, have a hard time accepting the duck in that role.

Howard decides to go to the top of the castle to contemplate things against a night sky. Man-Thing joins him and Howard starts to consider the swamp muck creature to be a victim of circumstance as much as he is.

Howard starts to feel hungry so he and the Man-Thing walked around the castle until they find the kitchen. Howard opens the refrigerator expecting to find something to eat only to unleash a giant living pickle who starts to attack Howard. The Man-Thing defeats the giant pickle as the stench of burned cucumber and vinegar wafts over the entire kitchen.

Howard and the Man-Thing then hear a scream coming from downstairs. The pair race to the Waters of Eternity where a geyser had suddenly gone up with Bzzk Joh sitting at the top. He has just kidnapped Jennifer Kale and he threatens to make her bald if anyone tries to rescue her.

Topical 1970’s References: At the beginning Howard mentions playing the opening chord of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” as he swats that giant fly with a guitar. Even though that song was released ten years earlier, I remember the local radio stations would play it on a somewhat regular basis alongside newer hits by the likes of Peter Frampton and Donna Summer. (This was back before the rise of Classic Rock radio where older hits by The Beatles tend to be relegated to that format instead of playing their music alongside newer acts. It’s a shame in a way because I think it was pretty cool being exposed to older music while listening to the latest hits.)

There are also references to Star Wars (since it is a parody of that film) beginning with the story’s title. At the time only the first Star Wars movie had been released which was simply titled Star Wars but in the years since its release the title has been altered to Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope. The biggest irony is that years later Disney would purchase both Marvel and the Star Wars franchise so they are both now co-existing in the same corporation.

The Bottom Line: This story, featuring the original foursome from Adventure Into Fear #19 and Man-Thing #1, is far funnier than when the foursome last got together. It’s obvious the satiric influence of Howard the Duck has rubbed off because even the dead serious Dakimh showed flashes of humor. It is amusing that Dakimh not only appoints Howard as a leader responsible for something as powerful as the Farce, a position that Howard does not want, but also sends the duck on a quest that Howard wants no part of.

I also got a laugh out of Bzzk Joh threatening to turn his hostage Jennifer Kale bald should anyone attempt to rescue her. That’s an interesting threat to say the least!

It shows promise and it makes the reader eager for the second half of this story that was published in the following issue.

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

Next post in this series.

The Howard the Duck Series

Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 1

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

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

Howard the Duck: The Complete Collection, Volume 2

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

Two more influential music stars have died this week. (And that’s on top of the other stars who have died en masse since December including Scott Weiland, Natalie Cole, David Bowie, etc.) A few days ago Sir George Martin, who was known as “The Fifth Beatle” for his production work on most of The Beatles music, died at the age of 90. His death gave me an excuse to check out The Beatles’ new YouTube channel. Here are just some of the songs that George Martin had served as the producer.

If all that wasn’t enough, today I learned that Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer had died. Even though I wasn’t as big a fan of ELP as some of the other bands I used to listen to on the radio, I still knew about their music. My old college sweetheart who later became my ex-husband was a very big ELP fan who had several of their albums. (I remember he played some of them during the times when I would visit him.) But then he became an even bigger fan of Bruce Springsteen and he started playing more of The Boss’ music and less ELP music. I still remember this song that used to get a lot of airplay on the rock radio stations when I was growing up.

This last video is the one ELP song that I loved the most from that band when I was growing up.

Recently I was waiting for someone in Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt, Maryland when I came upon this group of musicians who were in a jam session. They played mainly Beatles tunes (they played the song “Here Comes the Sun” in this clip) but they were pretty good considering that they don’t really play together in a band. I don’t know if it will be a regular ongoing thing or not. I shot this short video to show you what it was like.

Free Tutorials

How to easily clean a hot glue gun. That one is important for those of us crafters who frequently use that tool because that is one item that can easily gunk up with old dried glue.

29 Geek DIY’s To Make Right Now includes an abacus bracelet, a Doctor Who Tardis phone charging station, and RPG dice earrings.

What is Spec Work? is a video that describes the term and shows why designers should never waste their time with spec work.

16 Creative Ways To Give Sneakers A Makeover is a great tutorial for those who are in the mood to buy a new pair but currently own a good pair of sneakers and don’t really have the money to buy a new pair or two for fashion reasons.

Browse other free tutorials previously mentioned in this blog (along with pictures) right here.

Miscellaneous Links

Here are seven reasons why the contemporary art world is an insufferable scam—corrupted by the super-rich.

David Irvine is an artist who specializes in collecting old, discarded paintings from thrift shops and adding pop culture characters like Darth Vader and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. The results are interesting to say the least.

Here’s a clip from a 1950’s TV show that features an appearance by Samuel Seymour, who was the last surviving witness to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He mentioned how, as a five-year-old boy in Ford’s Theater, he saw John Wilkes Booth jump from a balcony to the stage where Booth broke his leg and he was initially concerned about Booth until he saw President Lincoln slumped in his seat. This TV appearance happened just in time because Seymour would die just a few months after appearing on that show. Seymour’s brush with history has since earned him his own Wikipedia page.

When I made my first trip to London back in 2007, I managed to make a brief visit to the world-famous Abbey Road Studios (where a lot of classic albums were made, including The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon) and I even walked in the same crosswalk where The Beatles were once photographed. While I saw the famous graffiti-filled walls on the perimeter of the property, inside of the building was off-limits to the general public. Google now has a virtual tour inside the Abbey Road Studios that is totally awesome and gives a fascinating glimpse of Abbey Road’s rich recording history that goes as far back as the early 20th century. There are also a few fun hands-on features as well, such as trying your hand at mixing music with the J37, a machine that was used to mix such albums as The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

I only went to one high school reunion in my life—the five-year reunion. It was held in the historic Belvedere Hotel, which has since been converted to luxury condominiums. At the time I was a new college graduate and a newlywed. I even convinced my husband to come along with me even though he never attended my high school (he grew up on Long Island while I grew up in Maryland) because I wanted to show him off as a “Ha! Ha! In your face!” message to those assholes who made my high school years miserable. We decided to rent a room at the hotel that night so we could hop on a elevator going to and from the lower level ballroom where the reunion was held without worrying about driving home that night. That backfired because my husband was bored, no one cared about the fact that I married a NASA employee who was a graduate from Oberlin College, and the majority of the few friends I made in high school didn’t go. The majority of those who attended that reunion were the popular kids (mainly the jocks and cheerleaders) who looked down on me as a retarded alien freak during those high school years and they didn’t give a damn about how I married well while they all gave off this “You’re still inferior and too insignificant for me” vibe when I unsuccessfully attempted some small talk during that reunion night. I socialized with the two or three friends who were there only to discover that I hadn’t seen them since Graduation Day and I didn’t have much in common with them anymore. The only good thing was the night we spent in that hotel room, which I recall was a very fancy room with nice bedsheets and soft towels. I haven’t gone to any other high school reunions since. I came across this post called Why I Will Never Go to My High School Reunion and it does a great job articulating on why high school reunions are overrated.

Birthday Cake Santa Claus

Okay, I’ll admit that this post is probably among the longest posts I’ve made in this blog. You may think that it’s self-indulgent on my part. Well, you’re right. But I have a real reason to be gloating today: Today is this blog’s fifth birthday.

That’s right, people, five years ago today I wrote my first post in this new blog. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I originally wanted to officially begin this blog on January 1 but my then-husband had arranged for the two of us to visit his sister at her home in Pennsylvania for the New Year holiday weekend and there wasn’t wi-fi so I couldn’t use my own laptop. She had a computer that was hooked up directly to the Internet through her cable company (RCN) but I wasn’t comfortable with using someone else’s computer to create a new blog with. So I waited until January 6 when I would be actually at home, which was the Feast of the Epiphany (or Little Christmas), to begin my first post.

Yeah, I know it would’ve been more audacious had I started this blog on January 1 with all the symbolism of a new year and a new beginning but I had to take what I could get. Besides, January 6 is still pretty memorable because my family have always observed Little Christmas.

It’s pretty amazing that I’ve been writing this blog for five years now. If this blog was a child, it would be attending preschool right now while preparing to enter kindergarten this fall. On that note, it’s time for a video break featuring will.i.am and Cody Wise performing “Birthday.”

So I started my blog in 2010 expecting to resume my arts and crafts career, which had been interrupted by my hip replacement in 2008. When I began I was also in a stable and loving marriage to a man whom I loved so much that I would’ve trusted him with my own life. Prior to December 28, 2011 I had no reason to ever doubt him or anything like that. But then there were so many dramatic ups and downs coupled together with trying to resume my art career despite my hip replacement and the ongoing economic problems still facing the U.S. in the five years since I started this blog that I had to go back through old entries in order to remember what happened. With all that I went through, it’s a miracle that I’m not stuck in some mental institution.

2010

I began the year by writing the first of many entries in this blog.

A few weeks after starting this blog, my husband and I visited a few friends in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area of Florida.

Surviving the epic Blizzard of 2010.

My mother-in-law’s sudden death from a massive stroke, which prompted a trip to Phoenix to attend her funeral just a few days before Palm Sunday.

We made a return trip to Phoenix just two months later to check in on my husband’s newly-widowed stepfather.

I attended the annual Sakura Masturi street festival, which is the event that closes the month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.

My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary by spending a weekend in Baltimore.

We went on a weekend trip to New York City to visit my husband’s father and stepmother.

We went on a week-long vacation in Ocean City, Maryland with my sister-in-law.

We suffered through one of the hottest summer days in recent history. (The temperature went as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit.)

We traveled to Connecticut to attend the wedding of my husband’s oldest nephew and to tour Mystic Seaport.

We lost power for nearly 24 hours due to this massive noreaster that ripped through our area.

My husband went away to a month-long extended business trip to Melbourne, Florida (he and other people in his branch were taking turns keeping tabs on one of the government contractors there), which was the first time we were ever apart for this long. I spent the first weekend of that separation attending Otakon in Baltimore (which was even evacuated at one point by a fire alarm that went off at the Baltimore Convention Center) followed by serving as a volunteer to this massive one-day Free Clinics event in DC that was set up to provide health care to the uninsured and underinsured (as well as highlight the need for health care reform in this country). I flew to Florida midway through that month to spend time with my husband where we took a side trip to Walt Disney World. While my husband was in meetings during the weekday, I took side trips to places like Sea World, Gatorland, and the Historic Cocoa Village.

I checked out one of two competing marches in Washington, DC that commemorated the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream Speech” that were each led by Glenn Beck and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

My husband and I attended the massive One Nation Working Together event on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in DC.

My husband and I traveled to the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts in order to attend a special memorial service for my mother-in-law that was organized for her East Coast friends and relatives who couldn’t fly to Phoenix for her funeral earlier that year. During that trip we visited the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum near Williamstown, the Williamstown College Museum of Art, and the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. We also visited our nephew and his new wife in their Connecticut home.

My mother, who was initially diagnosed with neuropathy, was hospitalized with a urinary tract infection that later segued into a bacteria infection.

I checked out another massive event on the Mall in downtown DC that was organized by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert through their Comedy Central shows known as The Rally to Restore Sanity and The March to Keep Fear Alive.

Dealing with my husband’s lung infection shortly before the Christmas holidays.

My husband and I spent Christmas Day together visiting the ice sculpture show at National Harbor, which had ice sculptures representing scenes from the Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

A few of the art shows, craft fairs, and other arts and crafts-related events that I participated in: Lust at the Cheryl Edwards Studio in Brentwood, Maryland. Erotica show at the Cheryl Edwards Studio in Brentwood, Maryland. The Spring Crafts Show at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland. The Spring Artdromeda show in Baltimore. The “miniatures and more” show at the Cheryl Edwards Studio in Brentwood, Maryland. The Etsy 5th Anniversary Meet-Up in Washington, DC. The Pigtown Festival in Baltimore. The Art Outlet’s Ofrenda exhibit in Alexandria, Virginia. The Exhibition by Members and Friends of the Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church’s Visual Artists Committee in Adelphi, Maryland. The annual Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church Auction. The Winter Artdromeda show in Baltimore. artdc Fundraiser in Hyattsville, Maryland. Paint Branch Members and Friends Exhibition in Adelphi, Maryland. Netroots Nation Online Benefit Auction. Holiday Craft Show at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland.

Recounting all the events from 2010 has created a lot of text. I’m going to take a break by embedding this video featuring The Beatles song “Birthday.”

2011

On New Year’s Day my husband and I began the new year by visiting the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. At the same time my mother began the new year battling both a bowel infection and a urinary tract infection while she was in rehab.

My husband and I flew to Phoenix to celebrate his stepfather’s 80th birthday, which was the first major family event since my mother-in-law’s death the previous year.

Our area got hit with a major snowstorm and we lost electricity for 15 hours.

I accompanied my husband on his business trip to Melbourne, Florida so we could celebrate Valentine’s Day together by eating at a local Italian restaurant. While my husband was in business meetings during the day I took side trips to local attractions like Jungleland. I also spent a full day at Epcot and I ended that day by missing a step in the hotel’s lobby and I landed on my butt. I began to have walking difficulties during the rest of that trip.

I healed from that injury once I returned home but the following week I fell on some ice in Annapolis where I re-injured myself and once again I had difficulty walking. For the next few months I had good days (where I had no trouble walking) and bad days (where I was in such pain that I reverted to using my cane once again).

Meanwhile my husband and I celebrated another 80th birthday—his father’s—as we traveled to New York City to celebrate the occasion with his father and stepmother.

As my walking got progressively worse I went to the doctor where I was initially misdiagnosed with spinal problems but I eventually saw a different doctor where he noticed I was limping. I went to the orthopedic surgeon where I learned that the two falls had knocked my hip replacement out of alignment and I needed more surgery to correct it. My husband went through the effort to make all the arrangements for my hip revision surgery so I only had to worry about the upcoming procedure itself.

I shot a video of this massive protest that took place in Washington, DC on Tax Day, which was one of a bunch of protests that took place all over the United States to protest the fact that the rich were getting away with paying little or no taxes and they were doing things like polluting the environment and using Wall Street like a glorified casino.

During a few periods when I was in less pain I attended the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, the Maryland Faerie Festival in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, G40: The Summit in Washington, DC, and the Big Cherry Block Party in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Just prior to Memorial Day my husband and I visited his sister in Pennsylvania before the three of us moved on to New York City where we visited my father-in-law and his wife. Afterwards we all traveled to the suburban town of Buchanan to visit my brother-in-law, who had recently moved into a group home.

My husband and I spent a week in Ocean City with his sister while I continued to struggle with my declining ability to walk without pain.

My husband took me to the local Verizon store where, for the first time, we became the proud owners of our first smartphones.

My husband and I (along with most of my family and friends who live in the Baltimore-Washington area) experienced an earthquake. Just a few days later my husband got on a plane to fly to Phoenix to help the family go through my late mother-in-law’s old things just a day before Hurricane Irene slammed much of the East Coast. My home lost power for two days and I ended up spending one night in a hotel room.

The day before my hip revision surgery I drove down to Tyson’s Corner Mall in Virginia where I walked around with my walker. Among the stores I visited was the American Girl Place where I looked particularly at the historical dolls. I saw one doll that was supposed to represent the 1970’s and she wore an outfit similar to one that I once wore as a child in the 1970’s. This doll also had a corresponding series of paperback books about the character and the 1970’s era that she was growing up in. I purchased the doll and the books figuring that I would have the latter to occupy me while I was recuperating from surgery. Little did I know that this shopping expedition would be blamed in a letter by my husband for breaking up our marriage just three months later.

I underwent hip revision surgery and I began physical therapy the next day. My husband took a two-week leave from his NASA job so he could take care of me. He cooked all of the meals and he made sure that I did the required exercises at home. He not only made trips to get my needed painkillers but he also lined up other drivers to take me to and from my physical therapy appointments once his leave ended. Once I was weaned off the painkillers, I was able to drive myself to my own appointments. At one point I had developed a complication where my surgical wound wasn’t healing so I had to make a weekly visit to the hospital’s Wound Center for the next month or so.

The following month after my hip revision surgery I felt well enough to check out Occupy DC (which was a local outgrowth of the larger Occupy Wall Street movement). I was very impressed with the movement in general. I wasn’t able to camp outside at all due to my recent surgery, I began to visit that movement an average of once a week. During one of my visits, I was attending a teach-in on the Montgomery Bus Boycott only to turn my head to one side where I discovered that the Rev. Jesse Jackson was standing just a few feet away from me observing the teach-in. I also checked out Occupy Baltimore as well but that camp’s location (next to Harborplace) was short-lived as the authorities cracked down on it shortly after I made my first and only visit.

I spent Black Friday visiting and filming Laurel Mall, which I used to frequent on a regular basis but it became a dying mall as more and more tenants moved out. (That mall has since been razed and a new outdoor shopping center has been built in its place.)

I had to take my five-year-old MacBook into the repair shop after the screen started to sport strange images and it was due to a bad monitor that needed replacing.

My husband came down with bronchitis in early November. Despite his own illness, he was very loving and attentive towards me that fall. He treated me with such extra care and respect and the only complaints I heard from him was about his bronchitis and how our home had gotten cluttered due to the fact that my injury prevented me from doing much of the housecleaning and we had received a lot of items from my late mother-in-law’s estate.

We celebrated a lovely Christmas Day together. The next two days were also calm and relatively quiet. On the third day after Christmas my husband came home from his job, announced that he was moving out into a rented room that he had just found, and handed me two letters. One was a schedule that will lead to a divorce. The other was the reason why he felt he had to leave. He cited the fact that I purchased a doll and books at American Girl Place the day before my surgery was a reason why we were headed towards a divorce. (He said that I did a huge amount of shopping at the same time that he was trying to clear a passage for me so I wouldn’t trip and it undermined his effort. Never mind the fact that the “huge amount of shopping” consisted of an 18-inch doll and seven small thin paperback books.)

I spent the next several days sending e-mails, voice mails, and texts to my husband, which went all unanswered. I didn’t know where he was and I was worried that his mind have snapped due to all the pressures resulting from his mother’s death, my hip surgery, and pressures he told me he felt both at his NASA job and at volunteer work he did for our church as treasurer. I began to ask among our friends if they had seen him anywhere and they were all just as stumped as I was. Three days after he left, my husband returned back home with two movers who took his desk, one bureau, and one bookcase. He refused to speak with me at all and he left with the movers when they were finished. I spent New Year’s Eve by myself for the first time in my life.

A few of the art shows, craft fairs, and other arts and crafts-related events that I participated in: Paint Branch Members and Friends Exhibition in Adelphi, Maryland. An online eBay auction benefitting AmeriCares’ relief efforts in Japan (which had undergone a devastating earthquake and tsunami). Riverdale Park ArtsFest in Riverdale Park, Maryland. Attending a few Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School events in Baltimore. Planned Parenthood’s fundraising “Sex. Art. Rock N Roll.” event in Baltimore. A free drawing event at Art Whino in National Harbor, Maryland. The Greenbelt Labor Day Festival Art Show.

Given the major drama that I recounted here, I think it’s time for a video break. Here’s Joan Jett performing the song “Too Bad on Your Birthday.”

2012

I started the new year dealing with both my husband’s abrupt walkout and my mother being sent back to the hospital for another urinary tract infection then subsequently being transferred to rehab. I also started attending a weekly meetings of a support group for people who are separated or divorced.

One month after my husband ran away from home, a few of my friends came to me and told me that he was seen in the company of a female friend of ours who had long dealt with severe mental health issues. A few hours after that revelation, I did a massive amount of driving until I ended up at a pet store where I became the proud owner of a pet hedgehog. Spike the Hedgehog would go on to become the subject of a few art pieces and many blog posts while I began to feel better about having someone else live with me even if he wasn’t human, he measured about nine inches long, weighed about four or five ounces at the most, and was relatively quiet.

I found out that my friends were correct when I began to see my husband and that friend in public later that year and there were times when they were holding hands as they walked together.

I was discharged from physical therapy for my left hip. One week later I began regular therapy in order to help me with dealing with my runaway husband.

I frequently had to put up with e-mails and texts from my husband demanding that I conform to this separation schedule and he treated me like I was an employee rather than his wife. I asked him to treat me with respect and he ignored it. Whenever I balked at whatever he wanted me to do he would threaten to sue me. He largely refused to talk to me in person. I told my husband that I had started to attend weekly support group meetings for people who are separated or divorced in the hopes he would realize that I was trying to work on myself and return home. That turned out to be a mistake because he would come by the house to pick up his things and return things of mine he mistakenly picked up only on the nights I attended the meetings. I had to endure the times when I happened to see my husband walking hand-in-hand with the woman whom I thought was my friend (but I now know better) out in public.

I was so lost that I took place in various activities just so I could temporarily not think about my runaway husband. I shot a video of the remnants of the recently dismantled Occupy Baltimore trying to help a woman hold on to her home against attempts to foreclose on it by Deutsche Bank. I attended the large Occupy Congress event in Washington, DC. I went to Occupy DC’s Carnival of Resistance. I went to a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I attended a few events during the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. I volunteered to help with the Wounded Warrior Project’s Soldier Ride in Rose Haven, Maryland. I went to Occupy DC’s May Day Rally. I attended the Greenbelt Pet Expo and the Greenbelt Green Man Expo, which were both held in the same area on the same day. I browsed the tables at the DC Craft Mafia Spring Thing. I celebrated the anniversary of the start of the War of 1812 by attending the Star Spangled Sailabration in Baltimore. I attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Mall. I went to the annual Baltimore art festival known as Artscape. I attended Otakon in Baltimore. I went to the official Washington, DC premiere of the documentary The Rise and Fall of The Clash. I went to Brickfair 2012, which was devoted to Legos, in Chantilly, Virginia. I went to the Hyattsville Arts Festival. I attended Baltimore Comic-Con. I went to the Greenbelt Blues Festival. I attended the Maryland Renaissance Festival. I went to the Fall Harvest Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland. I attended the first ever Figment DC. I watched a whole lot of movies at the Utopia Film Festival where I met the legendary local host of Creature Feature, Count Gore De Vol. I went to the annual Faerie Con in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I attended the Annapolis Comic Con and went on the Greenbelt Pumpkin Walk on the same day. I went to the annual Riverdale Park Holiday Market in Riverdale Park, Maryland. During the Christmas holiday season I viewed the annual ZooLights at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

In the meantime my husband would buy a new townhouse for himself and his new love in July and by August they were engaged. (Yes, they got engaged eight months after he left me and he was still legally married when they decided to take this crucial step.) I wouldn’t know about either event until 2013 because they kept it all a secret from me.

My mother had ongoing health problems where she was hospitalized a few times. She was originally diagnosed with neuropathy but that turned out to be a wrong diagnoses. The doctors diagnosed her with having multiple sclerosis.

If all that weren’t enough, I had to endure the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.

At times I even took day trips to various locations in the Baltimore-Washington area in an unsuccessful attempt to escape the horrors that I’ve gone through (my recent hip surgery and my husband’s abrupt walkout) but I took a bunch of gorgeous photos anyway. I went to Frederick, Rockville, Annapolis, North Beach, Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood, Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, and Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville.

As a culmination of the total fallout from my husband’s abrupt walkout and his changed behavior towards me, I found that he sent me an e-mail on December 24 (yep, Christmas Eve) that included this attachment—a divorce petition in a .pdf format. That action pretty much expressed his total contempt and animosity towards me. He really wanted to hurt me real bad so he timed this to coincide with the Christmas holiday season.

A few of the art shows, craft fairs, and other arts and crafts-related events that I participated in: Attending a few Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School events in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Attending a Handi-Hour event at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. The art show commemorating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the town of Greenbelt, Maryland. The annual Out-of-Order auction at The Maryland Art Place in Baltimore. The six-week Artomatic 2012 art show in Arlington, Virginia. Sketch Lounge at VeraCruz in Washington, DC. Taking part in three events that were held as part of the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival—the Art Show, the Photo Show, and the Retro Town Fair. Going to a few meet-ups and other events that were related to a temporary art event called the Laurel Factory. Attending the day-long Summit of Awesome in Washington, DC. Taking a six-week Life Figure Drawing Class at the local community center. I donated a hand-painted bag to my church’s annual auction. I took part in the annual Holiday Market at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland.

After recounting all these events, I think it’s time for another video break. Here’s Katy Perry’s “Birthday.”

2013

I started the new year reeling from that awful Christmas Eve e-mail my estranged husband sent me which included a divorce petition in a .pdf format. That same month I also celebrated the one-year anniversary of the day that I brought Spike the Hedgehog home to live with me as my pet. By March I had received a court summons saying that my husband had filed for a divorce.

So, on the morning of April 10, 2013, my husband and I made our appearance in divorce court. The proceeding itself lasted around 15-20 minutes. Afterwards I drove to Baltimore where I visited the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium for the first time (it was a relatively new attraction at the time), toured Harborplace and the Inner Harbor before I headed to Fell’s Point. I basically turned my divorce day into a full day of walking around the streets of Baltimore until I was tired and sore all over my body.

Two months after my day in divorce court, I got word that my divorce was final. A few days later I learned via Facebook that my ex and the mentally ill friend he left me for were secretly engaged in August, 2012 (just eight months after he left me) but they didn’t bother to update that fact online until that moment so I didn’t learn about it until then. Two months after the divorce being final, I found out via Facebook that my ex-husband and that mentally ill so-called “friend” got married.

In the midst of all this divorce drama I learned that my ex-husband’s oldest nephew and his wife had just became parents for the first time.

And then there was my pet hedgehog, Spike. Just as I first brought Spike home to live with me one month after my husband abruptly walked out on me, I found Spike dead in his cage one month after I learned that my ex-husband had got remarried. By that point, he had lived with me for a year and a half. I buried him in my backyard then later bought a stepping stone kit from an arts and crafts store where I created a memorial stone and placed it over his burial spot.

And then there was the Federal Government shutdown, which lasted 16 days. Since I live outside Washington, DC, I got to see the effects of this first-hand.

I attended the Million Mask March in Washington, DC.

I had to get a new computer when the hard drive on my five-year-old MacBook kept on making clicking sounds and crashing at an alarmingly frequent rate while I had files that were damaged in the process. At the same time I had to get a new smartphone when my current one literally died on me one day after I got a notice in the mail from Verizon saying that I was entitled to upgrade to a new phone.

I went to a bunch of events held that year. I went to the annual Katsucon anime convention at National Harbor, Maryland. I attended the annual American Craft Council Show in Baltimore. I went to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Washington, DC on the actual holiday itself. I attended a few events that were part of the month-long National Cherry Blossom Festival, such as the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival and the Sakura Matsuri street fair in Washington, DC. I went to a celebration of Yuri’s Night at the Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia. I attended the first annual Awesome Con DC event. I went to Robofest at the National Electronics Museum in Linthicum, Maryland. I went to the Art Lives Here/Better Block Night in Mt. Rainer, Maryland. I checked out the Occupy Monsanto protest in Washington, DC. I went to the annual Hon Fest in Baltimore. I went to a local Fourth of July fireworks show over Greenbelt Lake. I went to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. I attended my first Major League Baseball game since 2007 (the year before my hip replacement) when I went to see the Washington Nationals play a home game against the San Diego Padres with people from my church followed by a free concert that featured Thompson Square. I went to the German Festival in Timonium, Maryland. I attended two different conventions in two consecutive weekends at the Baltimore Convention Center: BronyCon and Otakon. The following month I returned to the Baltimore Convention Center to check out Baltimore Comic-Con. I attended Intervention Con in Rockville, Maryland. I helped out with the yard sale that was put on by my support group for people who are separated or divorced. I went to the Silver Spring Mini-Maker Faire, which was the first Maker Faire that was ever held anywhere in the Washington, DC area. I attended parts of the Utopia Film Festival and the Greenbelt Rhythm and Drum Festival, both of which were held on the same weekend in the same location. I went to a Christmas party that was held at the German-American Heritage Museum in Washington, DC. I visited the Christmas Village in Baltimore a couple of times. I attended a book signing event featuring media personality Thom Hartmann.

I also took a few day trips to various locations including the Hampden area of Baltimore, Chesapeake Beach, Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City, Maryland, the Dayspring Retreat Center in Germantown, Maryland, a few local composting centers (where I took photos on behalf of a group of people in my neighborhood who are trying to start a worker-owned cooperative that focuses on composting), Hershey, Pennsylvania, and parts of Washington, DC.

A few of the art shows, craft fairs, and other arts and crafts-related events that I participated in: The art show that was held as part of the Katsucon anime convention. Attending a few Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School events in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Auctioning some old art pieces at the Greenbelt Elementary School’s annual Spring Fair and Safety Day. The 18” x 18” Show at the Lustine Gallery in Hyattsville, Maryland. The Greenbelt Green Man Festival in Greenbelt, Maryland. A special exhibit of works by members and friends of Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Maryland. The Station North Arts District Salon Show in Baltimore. The art show that was held as part of the Otakon anime convention in Baltimore. The Art Show and the Craft Show at the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival. The Greenbelt Studio Artist Tour 2. The Acorns A Go-Go Groovy Vegan Fest in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Holiday Craft Show at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. I ended 2014 by drawing some specimens during the Faber Hour that was held at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

Here’s another video break, this time it’s Selena Gomez performing “Birthday.”

2014

I started the new year with this horrible chest cold that lasted a month while enduring the frequent arrivals of the Polar Vortex and snow. I ended up spending both Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day being snowed in.

Then I received the sad news that my old housemate from college passed away from ALS (also known as Lou Gehring’s disease) while another person whom I only knew online through a political discussion group also passed away soon afterwards. My mother was hospitalized with both the flu and a urinary tract infection.The minister at my church suddenly suffered a stroke on Good Friday which has left her partially paralyzed. (She is still in recovery as of this writing.)

Then I was socked with a $600 repair bill when the windshield wipers on my car stopped working. Unfortunately it was one of those repairs that I needed done because, otherwise, I would not have been able to drive my car whenever there was even the slightest drizzle.

I spent quite a few Throwback Thursdays that summer reviewing a series of American Girl books (yes, that’s the doll company) that focused on a young girl growing up in the 1970’s.

I burned my old wedding cake topper in a bonfire that was held at a party that was given by someone in my support group for people who are separated or divorced.

I went to the Justice For All march in Washington, DC that was organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton to protest the increasingly disturbing trend of white police officers killing unarmed African Americans.

I went to The World of Pets Expo in Timonium, Maryland while I was still battling this horrible chest cold in the middle of one of those extreme cold snaps. I attended two simultaneous exhibits that were near each other at the Maryland Institute College of Art—one was on painted screens and the other was on that particular art form’s most famous artist who was also a sideshow performer known as Johnny Eck. I helped out with the two yard sales that my support group for people who are separated or divorced held in the spring and the fall. I checked out the Cowboy and Indian Protest that was held on the National Mall to protest the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline. I attended Awesome Con DC. I attended ArtsFest in Riverdale Park, Maryland. I met an online friend from a forum in person at Döner Bistro in Washington, DC. I participated in the Greenbelt Green Man Festival for a few hours on behalf of a local community group. I attended a minor league Bowie Baysox baseball game with members of my support group for people who are separated or divorced. I attended Artscape in Baltimore. I went to the German Festival in Timonium, Maryland. I checked out BronyCon in Baltimore. I attended Intervention Con in Rockville. I went to the Silver Spring Maker Faire. I went to the Art Whino event in Washington, DC. I attended two festivals on the same day—the Hyattsville Arts Festival and the Greenbelt Blues Festival. I took advantage of a rare opportunity to see the clothes that were created on an episode of Project Runway in person at the American Girl Place in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia. I actually took part in the Greenbelt Labor Day Parade for the first time in my life. I went to an Oktoberfest celebration in Greenbelt, Maryland. I attended the annual Crafty Bastards festival in Washington, DC. I banged my small bongo at the Greenbelt Rhythm and Drum Festival. I went to the Greenbelt Pumpkin Festival. I went to a slideshow and dinner at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. I went to the Christkindlemarkt at Zion Lutheran Church in Baltimore. I browsed the Christmas Market at Baltimore. I went to the Christmas Market & Winterfest at Tyson’s Corner Mall in Virginia. I went to the Greenbelt Festival of Lights and the Mt. Rainer Craft Show on the same day. I ended the year with visiting various Christmas stores (such as the ones at Behnke’s Nurseries, Homestead Gardens, and Valley View Farms) just to see the displays and touring the various over-decorated homes in my neighborhood.

I also visited various places in the region like Historic Ellicott City, Takoma Park, Glen Echo, the National Arboretum, the Franciscan Monastery, Silver Spring, North Beach, College Park, Baltimore, Glen Burnie, Brentwood, Hyattsville, Takoma Park, the site of the former Enchanted Forest (which is now a shopping center), Clark’s Elioak Farm in Ellicott City, the Smithsonian, Bowie, Crofton, Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, Maryland. Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, Maryland.

A few of the art shows, craft fairs, and other arts and crafts-related events that I participated in: Attending a few Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School events in Baltimore. Submitting my short video based on my late pet hedgehog Spike to the Crabby Clips Film Festival. The first ever Greenbelt Mini Maker Faire. The first-ever DC Mini Maker Faire. The Station North Salon Show in Baltimore. The Retro Town Fair that was held as part of the annual Greenbelt Labor Day Festival. The Diamonds and Denim auction that benefitted Changing Focus.

It’s time for another video break with Weird Al Yankovic singing “Happy Birthday.”

2015

The current year is only six days old so I don’t have any highlights to share here just yet other than I spent New Year’s Day checking out American Girl Place on the day of the rollout of its new Girl of the Year (a separate post on that is coming soon) and today being this blog’s fifth birthday. It’s been an amazing five years. Next year I’ll go back to the usual brief notice of the anniversary since working on this special birthday post was very time consuming. If I’m still writing in this blog by the 10th anniversary, I’ll probably do something special again. But I would have to make it more spectacular than the 5th anniversary. Maybe I’ll take a trip to some place special or maybe throw a special party. I don’t know. I have five years to think about this so I’m definitely going to take my time. Anyway, I’ll close this entry with this really cool video featuring sand art being created to the song “Happy Birthday to You.” Enjoy!

British Pathe was known for producing newsreels from 1896 until 1976 and it has recently uploaded a treasure trove of stuff on its YouTube channel. There’s something on that channel for everyone. For those who like to look at real-life disasters, there’s footage like the 1937 Hindenburg zeppelin crash.

Want to see historical protests? Here’s this 1913 footage of a British suffragette named Emily Davidson who threw herself in front of King George’s horse on Derby Day to protest women not having the right to vote in Great Britain. (Davidson died four days later while the horse and jockey both recovered.)

For aviation history buffs, here’s a story on the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903.

For cell phone enthusiasts, here’s a demonstration of the world’s first mobile phone in 1922.

For music fans, here’s some footage from 1963 featuring The Beatles.

On the lighter side, here’s footage of a 1969 Mr. Universe contest in London which was won by an Austrian bodybuilder named Arnold Schwartzenegger.

And these clips are just the tip of the iceberg. This YouTube channel has the potential to be a big time waster for a lot of people. Have fun! 🙂

A few days ago I decided to make the annual pilgrimage to the Christmas Store at Valley View Farms. On the way to Valley View, I decided to stop at the former location of the Sea Breeze Pet Center, which was nearby.

As some of you may recall, Sea Breeze was the place where I got my late pet hedgehog Spike a month after my husband abruptly walked out on me three days after Christmas, 2011. I did a ton of driving that day to clear my head because I learned from friends that my husband had hooked up with a woman whom I thought was one of my friends (but it turned out that I guessed wrong about her being a friend). A month before Spike’s death in September, I headed up to Sea Breeze because I happened to be in the area for a different reason and I decided to stop by the store to purchase some more food for Spike only to find that the store had closed for good. The Sea Breeze sign was still up but the store was totally empty. Yet its website was still online.

So I stopped by Sea Breeze’s former location to see whatever became of it and I found that the space has been turned into a health care clinic. The windows are now covered with venetian blinds so one can’t peek in them. (In Sea Breeze’s heyday, the windows were open so any passerby could glance inside of the animal cages and fish tanks.) So the Sea Breeze Pet Center is officially history. Yet its website is still online as of this writing and it still lists the address as the place where the health clinic is now located.

I didn’t linger long at Sea Breeze’s old location so I drove five miles down York Road until I arrived at Valley View Farms, where I was greeted by this large Nativity set.

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Valley View Farms is a garden nursery center that has long had a reputation for having this giant Christmas store featuring ornaments and decorations from all over the world. The store has so many Christmas trees and lights on display that it is totally dazzling. Since I recently got my new Droid Ultra smartphone, I decided to try the panoramic setting on the camera in an attempt to take a wide shot of the store. I took three panoramic shots in different parts of the store. Even though it gives you an idea of what it’s like, these photos still don’t fully convey how big this store really is.

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I felt tempted to buy a lot of Christmas stuff but I managed to resist because I can’t afford to buy too many things and, having gotten rid of three boxes of Christmas decorations last year and having purchased a small three-foot artificial tree, I really don’t want to begin accumulating excess Christmas decorations again. I gave in to temptation and purchased only one item—this really cool looking yellow robot nutcracker. It only cost $24 because it was made in China and not Germany. (The German-made nutcrackers started at $80 for a small 9-inch guy and the larger ones were priced as high as $400.) But it’s still a very funky nutcracker nonetheless.

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I spent the rest of my time at Valley View Farms taking pictures of the various decorations that are available for sale this year as well as the outdoor light display.

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