Everybody seems to have a smartphone nowadays. I think I've seen six-year-olds with smartphones.
Okay, I know not everybody has a smartphone (Brian, Peter, and Frederick you know who you are - though I know Frederick has a super cool real camera). I imagine if you're in my little artsy update audience you might have a smartphone, which has a camera.
It's funny how we still call them phones. They're more like a mini-computer that happen to make phone calls.
Though my smartphone camera does a pretty good job at almost everything like panoramas, videos, timelapse, slo-mo, zooms-in and out, I'm looking for a better camera because I like taking pictures and some things about my iPhone camera frustrate me.
Because I have a camera on me almost all the time, it's changed how I live my life, at least how I remember my life.
I've taken somewhere in the neighborhood of six billion (exact number about 16K) photographs with my phone.
I try to keep a diary of the things that I do from day to day by writing down things that happen during the day. Some days I write more than others. I wish I did it every day, but I don't.
I use a program called Evernote for my diary. For each entry, I add a couple of photos to the mix.
I use the photos as a reminder, as a touchstone for future reference. When I go back over my journal, as I often do, the pictures help me remember where I was and what I was doing.
As I ride that highway to addle-mindedness, I'll need all the help I can get.
A fancy new camera might help me take better quality photos but do I need that for the way I use the images?
Maybe a new camera can help me document my trek on the Appalachian Trail.
I've seen a lot of great videos from hikers on the trail, though I haven't seen any videos from a sexagenarian. I know there has to be some of us out there.
I've personally met people in their seventies on the trail. So it can be done.
But do I really want to have to carry a separate camera around? It's all about weight when you're "carrying a wardrobe on your back", as Bill Bryson mentioned in his book, A Walk In The Woods.
I think, for now, I'll stick with my iPhone and the camera that comes with it.
It does the job. I don't think I need a better one right now.
Right, now that I've come full circle and I've cleared that up for myself ...
Until we meet again, I wish you peace.
Let me introduce you to Gwenn Seemel.
She is a prolific artist and frequent YouTuber.
I love that she posts her videos in both French and English. I listen to the English version. Then I switch to the French version to see how much I can understand.
She has, what I think, is a unique style I like very much. Of course, I like it, I don't include anything I don't like - not yet anyway.
In her YouTube videos, she often explains her process and how the art market works for independent artists. Most of her videos talk about some part of the struggle of being an independent, full-time artist.
I find many of her videos insightful and helpful as I try to navigate how the art market works. I think you will like her artwork. I do.
You can find her online by clicking below.
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Sometimes I need a bit of motivation.
I need a bit of a boot up the backside.
Let's call my metaphorical boot - gratitude.
Life sometimes throws some horrible things at you. Atrocious stuff like somebody I had to fire yesterday and the emotional blowup/fallout everyone had to endure afterward around me.
There was the passing of my extraordinary father — what a great dad.
Sometimes I get in a funk, and I'm my own worst enemy.
These things are all part of life.
Then there are things like getting together with my friend Dale yesterday, whom I hadn't seen in years.
I got to play golf twice this week.
I got to spend two weeks with some good friends visiting from England.
So many things come my way unexpectedly and at just the right moment.
It's difficult to see how anybody could have planned my journey.
Let me tell you a little story.
When I was about 14 years old during the Age of Aquarius, when the moon was in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligned with Mars, my mother, God bless her, went out to an astrologist, probably after one too many Screwdrivers, to get a reading done on her number one son (and possibly his brother as well). What do the stars hold for their future? Where will they end up?
In that report were charts and graphs in triplicate (everything was done in triplicate in the 1970s, or it wasn't done at all). There were hieroglyphs, petroglyphs, moons, stars, and constellations rising and waning planets. It was more detailed than a D-Day battle plan with arrows, and cliches, ships, guns, and even euphemisms. It had all the trappings of a big ole “You bet your sweet bippy,” astrological report. It had lots of stuff in it, that to this day, I don't understand or even believe.
I was quite an insecure young man.
Fast forward about forty-five years and the predictions made in that forecast have been eerily accurate.
Honestly, I do think astrology is a lot of malarky. Maybe that report planted some seeds in my head to give me confidence and provide some kind of assurance that things would be okay.
Without getting all mystical and freaky, I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been placed on the planet where I was, in the right family, at the time, and in the body/mind, I occupy.
So, when I feel like crawling into bed with a bottle of whiskey and a wet blanket, I pull out my metaphorical boot, and I apply that boot generously to my backside.
Life - it's all we got, we gotta be grateful.
Until next week - I wish you peace.
This weekend we took a trip up to Prescott, AZ. Prescott has a beautiful downtown area. There were two places I visited that were particularly interesting.
The first was an outdoors outlet that sold all kinds of gear for the trail. Then, on our way in to have a beer at the famous Hotel St Michael on the corner of Gurley Street and Whiskey Row. Guests of the Hotel St. Michael have included great icons of the old west like Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. Teddy Roosevelt and Zane Gray also stayed there. It has a real old time feel to it.
The complex that houses the hotel (110 S Montezuma St) houses the studio and gallery of Scot A. Weir. Scot's paintings captured my attention immediately and drew me into the shop. When I interrupted him, he was working on a canvas and talking with potential customers as they wandered in and out of the shop.
Scot was indulgent and humored me while I peppered him with questions. Far too many to put down on this little article. I didn't get hardly enough time to talk to him. I was with friends and I was summoned to move on. I'm sure he's glad they hurried me along.
Scot just recently moved to Prescott from Wyoming. His style of artwork fits the old west. His landscapes are stunning, and many of his paintings have a whimsical twist that I like very much.
His gallery is right in the middle of town, and his shop gets plenty of foot traffic. People were continually in and out of the shop, and he sold one of his original paintings while I was there. Congratulations Scot!
I can see why he's so successful, he puts his head down and get's on with the business. No fanfare, no hoopla, just a hard-working, exciting artist with a great eye, and what I thought was a good heart.
I hope to stay in touch with him.
If you want to see some of his work I'd suggest the following places online.
Sometimes you have to be wary of being a target. I don't know what list I got on over the last several months but my travel back to Arizona last week was a comedy of errors and inconveniences.
The ride to Heathrow was smooth as silk. Forty minutes down the A1 and M25 straight into Terminal 5. We whizzed down the highway in a way only my friend Peter can do without being pulled over. Though I don't relish leaving, it's so nice of him to give us a ride.
At the airport check-in and security was a breeze but frustrating nonetheless. The attendant couldn't check our bags through to their destination. We had to pick up our bags at Kennedy International and slog them via the Skytrain to the Delta counter.
We found ourselves with about two and a half hours to burn before the flight. We had to then take a shuttle out to B Gates because we flew out of Gate B65.
After sitting in a very crowded British Airways lounge until my backside was close to blistering, we were summoned to board. After the wait, I was looking forward to boarding and beginning the journey. The attendant at the gate attendant took my ticket, scrunched up her nose, and looked at me like I was from Mars or at least a refugee from some Greenlandish glacier. She said, "Mr. Attenborough, please, go with this gentleman for additional screening."
The security agent swabbed every bit of gear I was carrying on the plane, including me. At this point, I was wondering if my nitroglycerine tablets would set off some explosives monitor. It is, after all, an explosive.
I guess there were no WMDs found and they let me board the plane.
When we got to JFK more tedious screening was in store. Instead of going through the US Citizens' line I chose to go through the "everybody else" line with Andrea. She used to be able to go through the US Citizens line, but something must have changed recently.
Anyway, I got the third degree from the immigration officer wondering what I was doing out of the country. I would expect that from the UK Immigration but because I am a US Citizen I was surprised to be scrutinized so severely. I am coming back to my own country after all. Nevertheless, we were allowed to pass and moved on to Customs.
Oh My God, another bout of additional screening. Are you carrying any meat? Do you have any fruit or vegetables? Are you transporting marijuana? Are you bringing any narcotics into the country?
At this time I was wondering what list my name was on and why was it there?
I was tired, frustrated, and just a bit intimidated by all of the patdowns.
JFK has to be one of the most inconvenient and illogical airports. The Airtrain is a fair walk from the terminal, and as we breached the outer doors to walk across the road to the Skytrain, I was glad I put a sweater in my luggage, and I was wearing it now.
I had been worn down, subdued. I was resigned to my fate and stoically made my way to Terminal 2 to check in to Delta and drop off my bags.
Oh - an aside. When we first booked our flights we thought we allowed enough time to make our Delta connection. Then Delta moved their flight up an hour. We had to rearrange our onward flight resulting in me becoming a lounge lizard for another almost five hours at JFK.
You'd think that was the end of the story. But no, it gets more tiring and more frustrating as time went by.
We arrived at the Phoenix Airport - The friendliest airport by the way, and received a text message, "Your luggage has not arrived as expected." That's not the kind of message you want to get when you've been up almost twenty-four hours.
A little good news here. The luggage arrived on the previous flight and was waiting for us at the Delta counter. Whew!
We had arranged a shuttle to take us home. The problem was, according to the dispatcher, "There's been a lot of cancellations and delays, and it will be about half an hour until someone can pick you up." Unwelcome news.
The shuttle finally came. It was a bit quicker than the thirty minutes promised. I thought that was great.
We got in the van and headed home. As we were approaching the turnoff to our house, the driver announced that we were first going to drop off the other couple in the van — a round trip of an additional forty minutes after we passed our house. I was just about ready to lose it.
Alas, I was too tired. I was too worn out. I was just too, too, too everything.
When I got home, I told the driver there was no tip coming from me. I said, "You seem like a very nice man, but I am so angry right now there is no way I could fathom giving you a tip."
I was home. I was asleep shortly after that. Bad dreams and all I was so happy to be unconscious, undone, un-awake. It was good to be inspecting the insides of my eyelids.
The next day was the next day, and when the sun came up, I was relieved of my anger and angst. Things look brighter in the morning.
Obviously, the target above is not original artwork so here's one of my drawings to amuse and entertain you.
Until next week, I wish you smooth travels, and I wish you peace.
I love clouds and the sea, and I love seascape paintings. Janhendrik Dolsma is one of the best seascape painters I've discovered.
I've watched and bought his videos. I love his calm and settled demeanor. He's like a zen sky painter. I can watch him over and over again.
His skies, seas, and beaches are stunningly realistic and evocative. His clouds are amazing. You feel like you could walk right into one of his paintings.
Janhendrik is based in Groningen, Netherlands but displays his work in Germany, Taiwan, Spain, Belgium, and the UK. People all over the world purchase his work.
This video is of Dolsma working on his oil painting 'North Sea Breakers'. A process that took four weeks is boiled down to a nine-minute video.
Last year, I declared 2018 to be the Year of the Iguana. This year, because I have the power, because I have the will, because I have an Artsy Update, I declare 2019 the year of the Guppy!
I can do that. I can declare it, I really can!
The holidays are coming to a close, and I suppose folks will start straggling back into work next week to get a respite from their travels, parties, and vowing what they will do differently next year. I would prefer not to promise myself things I know I have no intention of doing.
The new year comes at an arbitrary time on the calendar.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, it means Head of The Year.
The Chinese calendar kicks off the New Year at the first new moon and floats between January 21 and February 20th. The 2018 new year, The year of the dog started on February 16th.
The Romans celebrated New Year in March. Some remnants of the old calendar remain Sept = 7 not 9, Octo = 8 not 10, Novo = 9 not 11, Dec = 10 not 12. So there you have it.
The new year has gone shifted over time. But, in 1582 Gregorian Calendar reforms restored January 1st as the first day of the year. So now we celebrate January 1st.
It's evident that humans can agree on almost nothing, religion, politics, or even when to start the new year. I can't agree with myself most days.
Civil Defense Hint Of The Day: If I were some hostile government, I'd probably plan an attack on January 1st. You'd find three people on duty and most of the others with a hangover.
Celebrating is fun though. I like a wee dram of whiskey as much or more than most.
I love remembering the good times and looking forward to more good times. I enjoy getting all Auld Lang Syne (Times Gone By) and kissy-face and I like congratulate myself for making another year. I suppose everyone does.
We all make plans to be better versions of ourselves at this time of year, and I do believe we mean it at the time, but it's easy to lose focus as time passes between your resolution and reality.
How will I maintain focus this year?
I'll keep my goals in front of my face.
Whatever it is, I wish you the best of luck and the conviction to make your heart's desire a reality.
Until next week, Happy New Year, and I wish you peace.
I've been thinking about Christmas lately, specifically, how my Christmas Spirit overwhelms that part of me that governs common sense.
I do love Christmas, but sometimes I do it up a bit too much.
Here are some of the overindulgences I hope to curb this year.
Lots of times, I end up walking away from Christmas dinner needing a massive dose of antacid, a three-notch belt extension, and a wheelbarrow. Okay - maybe a forklift.
It's the middle of the night. Visions of sugarplums are dancing in my head. The refrigerator's calling my name. I try to quiet the beast in my head, but the darn thing keeps shouting, "There's turkey down here, there are potatoes too, stuffing anyone!? You know you want it. Come and get it!"
I can feel the last hit of Zantac starting to kick in. Do I give in? Do I say, "Ah heck, it's Christmastime nobody cares? It's the middle of the night, nobody will know."
No overeating for me this year. I've been working on injecting some common sense into the concrete between my ears. I'll only eat what I am comfortable eating. I can always save some until tomorrow. I love food.
I'm sure, if you know me, you know I've often been guilty of this. Though, recently I've been able to scale back. I've avoided most of the ill effects by pacing myself.
Do any of us know how many hangovers we have left?
Imagine if you only get a certain number of hangovers in your life. After that, you join the queue at the Pearly Gates. Old St Pete takes a glance and sends you to rehab purgatory before you can breach those sublime everlasting gates.
I want to put that whole Pearly Gate thing off as long as possible. Like the song says,
"Everybody wants to go to heaven
Get their wings and fly around
Everybody wants to go to heaven
But nobody wants to go now."
That, and nobody wants to be the guy that does that embarrassing thing people will remember forever. No lampshades or togas for me. No Sir.
I now realize there are camera phones. If you've never watched yourself doing a drunken rant, I'd recommend it.
It sobers you up quickly.
The reason I end up oversleeping is that I'm up until all hours overdrinking and overeating. I don't know when to call it quits.
It's like some demonic Energizer Bunny gets hold of me. I keep going and going and going.
I've found if I avoid the first to OVERS (drinking and eating), sleep comes a bit more naturally. I'm not tossing and turning all night, then staying in bed too late.
I used to have a hardier constitution. I used to be able to go to bed late and get up early. I can't now, and it's disappointing.
I have to try to manage it I suppose. I do have Tylenol PM and Melatonin. They work wonders for me.
Yes - We've already done it. The old calendar gets full during this time of year.
We make plans to do this thing and that. It's just such a great time of year. There are parties and meet-ups and well - parties. We want to do the carols, we want to do the parties, and we want to visit with friends.
It's so hard to hold back. Maybe next year we can scale back a bit.
I suppose you just have to plan downtime. I'm trying to get better. Really, I am.
Yeah - Right.
If you tend to do a few OVERS during this time of year, maybe this reminder will help you keep your eye on the ball.
It's like GI Joe says, "Now you know, and knowing is half the battle."
As for me, I'll be doing what I can. I'll enjoy a walk, a fire, and some good friends. That's something I can look forward. The rest is just gravy.
Hmmmm ... Guinness Gravy!
STOP IT SCOTT!
JUST FREAKING STOP IT!
For those of us waiting for the big guy to come down the chimney and leave a little piece of wonderment beneath the tree, You know, that special something you've always wanted, but never told anyone, I hope you get it this year.
If you have another tradition, I wish you many blessings as well.
No matter how you spend your time this holiday season,
Until next week, I wish you peace.
AND NOW - The rest of the story!
(Thanks, Paul Harvey)
'Twas The Party Before Christmas(the story behind the poem)
I love our annual Christmas Party.
We've had the Party here, in Stevenage, every year for the last six years. We invite people from around the neighborhood as well as some friends from outside the immediate area. They all stop in to have a few drinks and tell a few tales.
It's a fun time for all.
The Christmas Party holds a special place for me though.
Let me tell you a story about the first year of the party here at Olde Cottage.
We first met Marilyn and Peter the summer before our first party.
We hit it off immediately, especially Marilyn and Andrea.
We'd just come back from visiting Cornwall and talked about how much we love it there. We go back there almost every year for the beaches, the Southwest Coastal Path, and, yes, the chillin'. We left Marilyn and Peter that summer vowing to stay in touch.
Between the time we left England for the summer, and the time we got back for Christmas, Marilyn and Andrea decided it would be a bang-up idea to get folks from the neighborhood together to enjoy a few drinks at Christmas time.
I should tell you that Marilyn doesn't do Christmas by half. She doesn't do anything half-assed. She's all in, off the diving board in a frilly suit, and a full head of steam.
Peter, as it turns out, has a sacred mulled wine recipe that he pulls out of the Holy Grail stored in a secured vault under number 10 Downing Street. At Chrismas Peter dusts off the holy text with extreme reverence wearing anointed cotton gloves. He peels the parchment back with the care of a conservator then inspects the recipe to make sure it is, in fact, the same document stored with such care the previous year. You'd think the recipe was handed down from Charles Dickens himself. There are all kinds of exotic ingredients.
I don't know if I've said too much already. The mulled wine police (MWP) may be coming around the corner as I write. I think the real reason Ed Snowden had to flee to Russia is he leaked the recipe to Julian Assange. Nobody wants to be chased by the MWP.
Bottom line: It's exceptional, and everybody looks forward to Peter's brew.
The first year of the party, the decorations went up, and the stage set for the night. Marilyn on the oven, Peter on the mulled wine, Andrea at reception, and me on fire. Yeah, I get the dangerous job. I get to play with fire!
The party was starting. We had a bit of a toast between ourselves before the rest of the folks began arriving.
I guess the word had got around because before long the house was packed with people hobnobbing and rubbing elbows. The place was hopping.
Everyone was lovely. Drinks were drunk, hors-d'oeuvres consumed by the bucket load, lampshades worn, music blasted, and I think everybody was having a fabulous time. I know I was.
The last person togged up and left sometime in the wee hours of the morning. After we gasped our last and patted each other on the back, Marilyn and Peter trundled off on the short five-minute walk to their home around the corner.
Through our beer goggles and wine colored glasses, we started clearing up a bit. Getting enough dishes together to start the dishwasher and organizing food in the fridge so it wouldn't spoil out on the table all night.
I think we were brushing our teeth and getting into pajamas when we got a call from Marilyn. It appears, while we were enjoying ourselves at the party, there was a fire at their house.
Our friends have a lovely old Victorian house with high ceilings and lots of wood; bunches of wood. The exterior is brick, but the interior is almost all lime plaster and wood.
Before the fire, they'd been going through the house meticulously restoring one room at a time, picking out just the right this or that for here and there. They had just lovingly finished the sitting room with original materials and fixtures, and brand new furniture.
The work was painstaking and detailed.
The fire started in the room they'd just finished. Apparently, one of the candles on the wooden mantle over the fireplace had burned down and caught some decorations on fire.
It could have been so much worse. If the fire and not burned itself out and spread just a little it would have caught the Christmas Tree. The whole house would have been a goner. As it turned out, they got off easy. Instead of a conflagration the wood smoldered and created so much smoke it choked itself out.
I say they got off easy, but I don't mean that. The whole house got covered in toxic, black, thick, soot. The soot formed webs in all the corners, and the smell was horrible. It's not like a nice wood fire in the fireplace. It's not like the flames of a barbeque in the summer. It's an acrid disgusting smell that chokes you and sticks to everything you wear.
We walked over to their house the minute we got the call. Peter and Marilyn were devastated. It certainly looked like an "all is lost" moment.
We invited them to come back to our place and stay the night. I'm sure it was not a stellar night's sleep for either of them. The thought of everything in their house destroyed must have haunted them all night.
In the morning we suggested they stay with us until everything got sorted and we set up a room for them. This was only a couple of weeks before Christmas. As a result of the fire, we ended up becoming terrific friends spending the entire Christmas holiday with them.
We always look forward to coming back to England because they've become family.
Adversity can make for unusual situations. We are so lucky to have them in our lives. Our experience is much richer for it.
We go places together. We did a week's vacation with them in Cornwall. We go to the races at Newmarket every year.
We have the best times in such exciting places like the time we went to see Paloma Faith in Croatia. Paloma didn't show up. We had a great time just the same. They've also come to St Thomas to visit with us and soak up some of that island sunshine.
They are just a pleasure to be around, and we appreciate them very much.
The point of the story is that you never know what things will bring friends together. In this case, we formed very close bonds through adversity. One night's fire turned into what I hope will be a lifetime friendship.
That's what makes our Christmas party unique to me. Yes, it's great to meet up with people you love and don't often see during the year. I love that.
We absolutely love getting together with our friends and neighbors during the season.
As we head into this season and feverishly prep for the party, for me, I will always remember the lifelong friends we made one dark, cold, and devastating night before Christmas.
Until next week - I wish you peace on earth and good will towards everyone.
Especially the guy in the parking lot, he needs it.
Over the last several years, I've been a member of the Stevenage Arts Society. The Arts Society provides space, classes, and encouragement for artistic endeavors including painting, drawing, and pottery.
Twice a year the Society holds an exhibition to highlight member's art. It provides members with the opportunity to have their work presented in the Old Town.
This year, one artist, in particular, caught my eye. Her name is Pat Le Mar. Her preferred medium are pastels but she works in other media as well. She paints whatever draws her attention including portraits, cityscapes, and landscapes.
This painting is the Old Town in Stevenage. It is a brilliant representation of evening approaching on the High Street. The atmosphere is wonderful.
She has training in graphic design and has lived and worked in Stevenage for the last 40 years. I hope to run into her someday at Springfield House.
The reason I'm writing about Pat and the exhibition today is last week I went to the show and bought one of her landscape paintings.
I am thrilled with my purchase because:
This week, Pat Le Mar is my highlighted artist and I'm very happy to recommend her work.
You can find her here on her website.