Rick Steves On Barrack Obama

Graffitti Near Christiana in Copenhagen, Denmark

Graffitti Near Christiana in Copenhagen, Denmark

A few days ago, Rick Steves the noted travel writer and PBS-TV commentator posted a rather long list of articles concerning Europe’s reaction to the new president-elect of the United States, Barrack Obama. If you are interested check out this page on the Rick Steves website. If you do not know who Rick Steves is, then you will have to tune him in on your local PBS station. Check your local listings for date and times.
This church is located in the middle of lake Bled in Slovenia
This church is located in the middle of lake Bled in Slovenia

Anyway Rick Steves has been putting out lots of interesting travel literature about the ins and outs of traveling in Europe for over twenty years. He has covered the Continent from before the fall of the Berlin Wall and has does an excellent job of providing great travel advice about the opening of Eastern Europe as a travel destination. He even gets himself invoved in political or what might be described as political-cultural commentary. Such was the case last Monday when he posted a list of newspapers that were delving into the recent election and how it was being perceived in European capitols. These articles make an excellent read and are worth checking out because the underscore how  the new president-elect is being received in Europe.

Spruce Up Your Blog With NASA Images

ISS Crew, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Lab, JSC, NASA

Earth At Twilight credit: ISS Crew, Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Lab, JSC, NASA


There is a great website put up by  Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP) of NASA called Astronomy Picture of the Day. Everyday a fantastic picture is posted, concerning some sort of visual image from outer space. Sometimes the pictures are even taken from the ground with the naked eye. Other pictures are taken from huge telescopes, while some of the most spectacular images come from the Hubble and other spacecraft.

NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage  (STScI/AURA);

Spiral Galaxy NGC 3370 as seen from the hubble spacecraft, Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA);

Images from the NASA can sometimes be used on your blog or website as background graphics or simple images associated with text. Other pictures are copyrighted and one must contact the maker for permission. Since the pictures are all displayed by NASA, I do not see why permission would not be easily granted. Enclosed at the end of this post is a link to the image guidelines. Check out this next photo that was posted by NASA on Halloween 2006.
Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF

SH2 136: A Spooky Nebula: Credit: Adam Block, NOAO, AURA, NSF

If you are interested in using NASA images on your web, here are the guidelines.

The Red and Blue Of Barrack Obama’s Victory

A red abstract photograph

A red abstract photograph


On November 4, 2008 history was made in the United States with the dramatic victory of Barrack Obama over his rival John McCain. Today president-elect Barrack Obama is headed for the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How did the Democratic candidate beat the ever-popular Vietnam War hero and P.O.W.

Very simply it boiled all down to mathematics and a handful of battleground states. Over the past few years the United States has been divided into red and blue areas and battleground states. The red areas vote Republican, the blue areas vote Democratic and the battleground states, which include Ohio, florida, Indiana, Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado can go either way. This year Barrack Obama did very well in almost every battle ground state, thus assuring the Illinois senator a solid victory.

That’s the red and blue of it. How this came to be, I’m not exactly sure, but this is how our polotics will be defined, by afew crucial battleground states.

Blue in graphic design

Blue in graphic design

First Day of NaMoWriMo

The Cat's Eye Nebula

The Cat















This is how my eye’s are going to look by the whole time this whole affair is done, provided I make it that far. I have written 1900 words today a pace that would give me a total of 57,000 words if I can write at that pace for thirty days straight. If today is any indication it will definitely be a struggle.


My first chapter came easy, but I struggled through the second chapter of my writing. I had expected to get more done because I have the day off, but I piddled around doing this and that and that and this. One of big distractions was going to other blogs and websites and making comments about my first day of NaMoWriMo, not a good way to begin the day. Anyway I hope tomorrow goes better than today. Fortunately, I get a break because of the change in time. How thoughtful that they could move the week in which we change time back a week just so NaMo writers could get an extra hour in. That was very thoughtful.

So long for now,



NaMoWriMo Begins

An advertisement of a watch in a window.

An advertisement of a watch in a window.

Well folks it’s time to begin the NaMoWriMo novel writing project, except I think I am going to pass until the morning comes. I’m too tired right now and I feel my efforts will be rendered useless unless I get a good night’s rest.
Still it has been fun signing up for the event at the NaMo site and putting out some feedback on their forums. I can’t wait to get started really. The task is awesome, but I think I am up for it.
Check back here in a couple of days and see how I am doing. I will at least have another picture posted.

The Friendship Is a real Ship

The Friendship is at berth in Salem, Massachusetts

The Friendship is at berth in Salem, Massachusetts


Here is the sailing ship, called the Friendship. It’s official sailing classification is a ship. This means that the boat has three masts, which are all square-rigged. This boat is a replica that was built in 1998. The original ship was built in 1797 and traded all around the world until it was seized by the british during the war of 1812.





This new replica makes a great tour (when it is port) for anyone who is visiting Salem or the greater Boston area. Not only do you get to walk on board the ship, but you get to visit the custom house, where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked. It is just several hundred feet away. These sites are part of the Salem National Maritime Historical Site in Salem, Massachusetts.

 This tour is a traveler’s bargain, for once you have forked out your five dollars you get to go two seperate walking tours through the maritme site. Both tours are very good, but I particularly enjoyed this one for you got to spend about a half an hour on the Friendship.

The Amistad under sail.

The Amistad under sail.


Here is another replica sailing ship. This is the Amistad made famous by the movie. It was built in New London, Connecticut, just a few years before the Frienship was reconstructed. It is called a cargo schooner and in this case its cargo it was slaves. The ship sailed into Portland Harbor this summer and was berthed at the Maine State Pier, where visitors could take a tour.

Salem, Massachusetts Is Haunted

A Mummy In Salem

A Mummy In Salem

I was in Salem last week just in time for

“haunted happenings” in October. These take place in October and the whole affair is like some sort of strange morf between Halloween and “The Salem Witch Trials”. Whatever the reasoning, the combination works, because people from Boston and all over New England come in droves to celebrate. Reportedly, the place gets very busy on weekends leading up to the “big day” or night actually, which falls on a Friday night. However, I was in town on Tuesday, so things were quiet, but still the town was all decked out for the “Night Before All Saints Day”, better known as Halloween. Still it was fun to wander around and check the place out. I had some business to attend to in Boston, so I left at 5 PM.

Instead of concentrating on the solemn history of the Witch Trials (more about that later) I headed for Derby Wharf and the
Salem Maritime Historic Site, where for five American dollars, I received a grand tour of the Friendship ( a three-masted square rigged ship) the Customs House (where Nathaniel Hawthorne once worked) and the Derby House, where the prosperous merchant lived. This part of Salem’s history is quite extensive, but usually overshadowed by the infamous Witch Trials.

Why we are so attracted to the macabre, I cannot say, but this is certainly the case here in Salem.

Inside the prosperous merchat's house in Salem, Massachusetts

Inside the prosperous merchant's house

Y-Eye-Right (From West To East)

Why I write?

I’m more of a visual person that a literary one, but still I found out that sometimes I had to write about my art to explain it to the world.

Was this really necessary? I think so, though it sounds kind of hokey, I’m aware of that. But really it was a part of getting the message across. So I kept writing in a journal to accompany many of the images that I was constantly making in my sketchbooks and drawing books. This went on for ten years or maybe longer.

Then in the fall of 2003 at age 50, I made my first journey to Europe. It was a real eye opener, as I roamed from one old world cobblestone city to another. I started in Copenhagen, then journied through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria and back to Germany again. I ended up in Frankfurt; a new city courtesy of Allied bombers, where I boarded an IcelandicAir plane and flew back to the U.S.

Postcard from Prague

Postcard from Prague


This picture best expresses some of the things I experienced, while walking around  Prague. This city is a gateway to Eastern Europe and nowhere is that better seen than on the marvellous Gothic Bridge that spans the Vltava River.

Prague is an eerie city and a photographer’s delight. I made many photograph’s while I was here but nothing describes my experience better than this photograph.

Upon my return to the good ole USA, I started writing. Everyday I was up and at it, as if I was writing for a living. After a month of this, I had to go back to work, but finally last month I sold and published the first thing that I wrote upon my return to the U.S. It is called from “West To East” and here is the link. http://www.cstn.org/reports/europe/bus_europe_2008.html

In short this is how I became a part-time writer.

A Thanksgiving Tale

One of the stragest American customs is the annual pardoning of a domestic turkey by the POTUS, photo courtesy of the White House.gov

One of the strangest American customs is the annual pardoning of a domestic turkey by the POTUS, photo courtesy of the White House.gov

The History of the White House Turkey

The presidential pardoning of a live domestic turkey is a 20th century tradition that did not begin until after the end of World War Two. In fact, a slightly different tradition started in 1947, when Harry S. Truman received a live turkey several days before Thanksgiving. That turkey was cooked and eaten, as were the rest of the plump birds that our 33rd president received during his time as President of the United States. The next President, Dwight D. Eisenhower also received a free turkey right before the popular American feast day, and like his predecessor, the feathered creature was the centerpiece on the Thanksgiving dinner table.

On November 19th, 1963, the first turkey was spared by President John F. Kennedy. Tragically, Kennedy was shot and killed three days later, but the tradition of sparing a turkey destined for the Thanksgiving table continued, when President Nixon dispatched several of the big birds to the safety of a nearby farm.

President John Kennedy was the first to spare the life of a Thanksgiving turkey (1963)

President John Kennedy was the first to spare the life of a Thanksgiving turkey (1963)

The Turkey Pardon Begins

Next, the story of the turkey pardon jumps forward to the year 1987, when Ronald Reagan occupied the White House. At this time, he was caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal and so he had to answer questions from the press, as to whether he might pardon Lt. Colonel Oliver North for his role in the Contra affair. Somehow these questions from the inquisitive press were deflected by a reference that the President might pardon the Thanksgiving turkey, who was named Charlie. Reagan did pardon Charlie, the Thanksgiving turkey, but took no action on Lt. Col. North, because his trial did not begin until after Reagan had left office.

Reagan did not pardon any more turkeys, but two years later, George H.W. Bush made the Thanksgiving turkey pardon official, when he granted one turkey, his life. Since then every president has pardoned a turkey at Thanksgiving.

Obama Will Pardon A Turkey On Thursday

Nowadays, the process of pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey has grown rather complicated. It all begins a year before, when the turkeys are born. The first selection takes place on the farm of the current chairperson of the National Turkey Federation. Typically, 20 turkeys are chosen. Next, these birds are exposed to loud noises and bright lights, which are a simulation of the press exposure that the birds will receive if they make the final selection. As Turkey Day approaches the two best candidates are chosen. One will actually be pardoned, while the second bird serves as an alternative. A name for the pardoned turkey is chosen by the White House and sometime in Thanksgiving the two lucky birds are picked up by Air Force One and flown to the White House. After the ceremony the two turkeys are retired to a petting zoo or friendly farm.

Stars was pardoned by President George W. Bush in 2003 before heading to Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, Va.

Stars was pardoned by President George W. Bush in 2003 before heading to Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, Va.

Thanksgiving Storytelling Time

I once witnessed a very, strange event at dusk on Thanksgiving Eve. It occurred in southern Maine, somewhere back in the late 90s, when I was working as a Christmas season packer at L.L. Beans in Freeport. While driving home from a busy day of preparing out-of-state orders for shipping, I came across a sight of two large birds perched in a tree next to a heavily-used rural road. I slowed down and upon closer examination, I came to the conclusion that they were domestic turkeys. Obviously, they had escaped their big feast day, but somehow I can’t see how they would have survived very long in the wild without becoming dinner for a hungry lynx, fox or bobcat.

Several months later, I began a short story based on this event, but as of present the story remains unfinished. In the story, a guy driving home from work has the same experience, but when he gets home, his wife doesn’t believe him and accuses him of “falling off the wagon”. From there things between the couple go downhill fast. In real life, I lived alone at the time, so nothing like that ever happened. Maybe it’s time to complete the story.


Good Writing Is Good Writing

Luke Skywalkwer has a deep conversation with Yodi

Luke Skywalker has a deep conversation with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back

“I’m telling an old myth in a new way. That’s how you pass down the meat and potatoes of your society to the next generation.”
George Lucas on creating Star Wars

Some Things Never Change

You don’t have to be modern to be a successful or influential writer. In fact, more often than not, it is the author than is able to keep one foot rooted in the past and one in the present, who succeeds in today’s  contemporary, mad array of movies, flash fiction, ebooks, graphic novels and online videos.

Take for example George Lucas, who looked back through the eyes of Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, to create a popular, monumental, sci-fi epic, known as Star Wars. Not only did Lucas read from Joseph Campbell’s myriad of popular writings, but he also knew the gentleman personally and evidently learned a lot from his mentor.

Though the two men never met until after the Star Wars trilogy reached the Big Screen, Campbell publicly acknowledged how the Star Wars series follows the hero’s journey. In short, the hero’s journey is a narrative tale, where the hero (or heroine) goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed. Nowadays, many of our popular stories, especially those portrayed by Hollywood, follow this popular storytelling pathway. However, few seem to own the idiom as well as George Lucas does, which may in part explain the huge success of his blockbuster films.


For those who wish to view a short summary of the Hero’s Journey, this short animation by Iskander Krayenbosch says it all.

Thanks to the movie Rocky, the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are a popular place for sightseers as well as exercisers

Thanks to the movie, Rocky, the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art are a popular place for sightseers as well as exercisers


“The road to success isn’t paved with gold—99 percent of the time it isn’t paved at all.” by Chris Orwig

The School of Hard Knocks

Despite the abundance of MFA programs and other advanced literary degrees, the proverbial “school of hard knocks” might be the best education of all for writers. In the past, this proverbial place has produced some of the most legendary writing. For example, what would have Tolkien written without his time in the trenches of WWI. The same can be said for Samuel Clemens and his life on the Mississippi River or Jack London’s journey to the gold fields of the Klondike……And the list goes on and on, continuing well into the present.

Perhaps Sylvester Stallone summed this attitude up best, when he wrote this line for his most famous movie character, Rocky Balboa. “It ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Elakala waterfalls from wikipedia

Elakala waterfalls, from wikipedia


“In the confrontation between the rock and the stream, the stream always wins – not through strength, but by perseverance.”  H. Jackson Brown

Animal…….Big Fish

Here is my entry for this week’s Illustration Friday theme of “animal”. In this case, the animal is a rather large fish-like creature that is being pursued by an under-equipped fisherman.

pen and ink drawing entitled, "Big Fish"

pen and ink drawing entitled, “Big Fish”


Most of my realistic drawings and paintings can probably be defined as whimsical. However, when this idea popped up as a topic at Illustration Friday, I came up with this idea of a guy sitting at his desk, watching a rocket ship descend towards earth.

The Night View, a drawing by Henri

The Night View, a drawing by Henri

Tarantino’s New Movie

Quentin Tarantino's new Movie is a post Civil War Western entitled, The Hateful Eight, image from wikipedia

Quentin Tarantino’s new Movie is a post Civil War Western entitled, The Hateful Eight, image from wikipedia

The Hateful Eight

Due out next month, The Hateful Eight (sometimes printed as the H8ful Eight or The Hateful 8) is about eight persons, who take shelter in a Wyoming stagecoach stop during a raging snowstorm. Tarantino, the writer-director, claims he was influenced by such western TV programs, as Bonanza, The Virginian and The High Chaparral. This may be true, but after watching the trailer and reading a brief write-up, I can’t help but think that the 50s cinema classic, The Bus Stop, (which starred Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray) also shows some resemblance to this new release. By the way, the release date for this movie is Christmas Day, 2015.

The Controversy

The controversy that has arisen just recently, is not so much about the movie itself’, but instead, it revolves around some remarks that Tarantino made while participating in a NYC protest march concerning Police Brutality in Greenwich Village in late October. The march was organized by Black Lives Matter. It was during this march that Tarantino made the following comment to reporters; “I’m a human being with a conscience, And if you believe there’s murder going on then you need to rise up and stand up against it. I’m here to say I’m on the side of the murdered.” Since these remarks, police organizations have responded by demanding a boycott to The Hateful Eight and even promising a vague sort of unnamed surprise for Mr. Tarantino before the movie opens up in December.

Generalities Are Dangerous

My first reaction was that Mr. Tarantino should be a little bit more specific about where and when the police were accused of being involved in murder. Today, there are over 320 million American citizens and according to answers.com, over 1 million are involved in some sort of paid police work. With these kind of numbers there are bound to be some deaths, as a result of police actions…and as more recent events in Louisiana have so sadly proven, American police officers are not immune to being charged with murder. So in reality, Quentin is correct in his statement, just maybe not very tactful.

The Police Response

When I first heard about the police response on the news, I thought the organizations involved were responding to the nature of the movie. Only later did I learn that The Hateful Eight was a Western set in the late 1800s. Still, the police have every right to promote a boycott. However, the story does not stop here, for they also promised a little surprise for the Hateful Eight writer/director before the Christmas Day opening………Maybe the police organizations also need to be a little bit more specific about what their surprise might entail. Some how I don’t think it was egg nog or bread pudding.

The Biggest Irony of All

The biggest irony of all is that The Hateful Eight is a big budget movie made in one of America’s most popular film genres, the Western. I would not be at all surprised that once this movie is released, Americans from all walks of life will find their way into the theater to enjoy the film. This might even include a few police officers.

Telluride, CO is an old mining town now converted to a major ski area and tourist destination, photo from wikipedia

Telluride, CO is an old mining town now converted to a major ski area and tourist destination. It is also where The Hateful Eight was filmed., photo from wikipedia


It’s Halloween Time Again

Like many things today, pumpkins carving is a re-discoverd art that is reaching new heights

Contemporary pumpkin carving, Wikipedia

Always Evolving

Like many things today, pumpkins carving is a re-discovered art that is reaching new heights. No longer are we graced with just the toothy smile of a Jack O’Lantern, but instead, today’s pumpkin carvers have dedicated themselves to creating strange, eerie nocturnal scenes, like the one visible above.

My 2015 Halloween Rant

I can’t believe it’s Halloween time again. The frost may not yet be on the pumpkin because of global warming and the World Series may still be playing live on your flat screen TV, because of increased TV revenues, but the calendar actually says October 31, which means its All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day. And to make things better for those who like to party on the evening proceeding All Saints Day, Halloween 2015 happens to fall on a Saturday.

Like everything else in America and the world, Halloween is changing. Of course, our world is changing too, so it not at all unexpected to see evidence of these changes on this popular holiday that occurs right before the popular Celtic holiday of All Saints Day. Evidence of these changes can be seen just by viewing the new array of costumes that are released every year right about this time.

A 2015 Halloween costume

A 2015 Halloween costume

On The Dark Side

This image represents some of the darker events of 2015

This image represents some of the darker events of 2015

Images like this one are all over the internet and it is not inconceivable that the recent transformation of this nation’s beloved Olympic star is not playing well among the general public. Perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg or maybe just an overzealous outburst of the holiday season.

Halloween Bouquet

Halloween Bouquet

Here is this week’s posting in conjunction with the Illustration Friday theme, titled Bouquet. A slight nod is given here to Halloween and/or Day of the Dead.

It’s that time of year again, when days get shorter, nights turn colder and gusty winds blow colorful foliage through the streets and across empty lawns. Perfect weather for the ghosts and goblins to get out of their dark, cold lairs and get some exercise, visiting the living.