Back in 1960, Volkswagens or the people’s car as my father liked to call it, weren’t very common. So many times when we passed another VW bug on the road, we would honk at the other car and almost always, the other vehicle would return the favor. More often than not this method of recognition was initiated by the other driver.
Anyway our little beetle (pre John. Paul, George and Ringo by a year or two) lasted for 100,000 miles at which time my father had a rebuilt engine inserted into the vehicle. Since I had two younger brothers, many times I had to share the back seat, whenever we went somewhere as a family.
Eventually, our little two door was replaced by a station wagon, but the sight of a “bug” on the round, usually triggers of my father, who passed away 15 years ago.
These companion billboards in Ljubljana, Slovenia, depict a dozen women in various forms of movement.
Where Is Ljubljana?
Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia, a small Balkan Slavic-speaking country, which borders Italy in the East……not too far from the noted city of Venice. Like Venice, Slovenia has a window on the Adriatic Sea and also a border with Austrian located high in the Alps. As a result this place is a topographically diverse nation with a population that in the past, has often been associated with the city-states of Venice and Vienna. In recent years, the women of this small nation have often gained more recognition than the men. One such woman, Melania Knauss, is married to a major U.S. presidential candidate, and could possibly become the next First Lady of the United States.
A Few Words On Outdoor Graffiti
To anyone who has traveled in Eastern Europe, one consistent image that might stick in the traveler’s mind is the abundance of graffiti, such as that pictured in the photograph above. It is everywhere in the East, at least in the cities of Ljubljana and Prague, which constitutes my major travels in the region. The stuff is an eyesore to most who visit and also to many who live there. The streaks of spray paint mar the many fine examples of European architecture that abound in the area and often predate the creation of the U.S. Upon reflecting about this widespread cultural phenomena, several things come to mind. The first being is that the spray painting is very basic (not that good painting would be any better) and second is that the government of these far-off places seems to have neither the money, the will or the desire to remove the paint marks.
The Berlin Wall
Another point of observation is that in these Eastern places there is little sanctioned outdoor art, like one might find in Berlin or other Western European cities. In fact, in Berlin, one of the great recipients of the renegade spray can artists was the Berlin Wall, which is defunct, except in a few preserved locales. Even now that the Soviets are gone and wall is down, modern-day visitors can still view numerous galleries and colorful outdoor murals, where younger artists can express themselves.
It’s a constantly changing and strange world for those who have not yet broken into traditional publishing and are now considering a try at doing it themselves. Roughly speaking, authors have been self-publishing e-books for over 10 years now with the bulk of online activity coming within the last five. For the most part, Amazon has been the main place to post your e-book, but other venues such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Sony have been around almost as long. Following is a quick survey of some things that you might encounter if you decide to self-publish.
Not only do you have to have content that is of a high quality, but also your written material must be in demand by those who are willing to purchase and read an e-book. This might sound like a no-brainer to many writers, but keep in mind that there is a lot of well-written, highly-conceived material that receives little attention by readers. In other words, to draw the interest of readers you have to hit the right chord that will make that person purchase your e-book. This is just as true for the short story priced at 99 cents, as it is for the full-sized novel that runs in the ten dollar range.
The Writer Glut
As time goes on, literary sales to owners of electronic reading devices may become more difficult as the numbers of authors attempting to self-publish increases and the number of e-book readers levels off. This is just a matter of numerical reality and common sense. Nowadays, when I put I put up a new title on Smashwords, it is off the charts (relegated to page 5 or greater) in a few hours. Back when Smashwords was just starting out, a newly published e-book would stay visible (in the first several pages of listings) for a few days.
Reversing The Trend
However, all is not lost for the newbie writer, for there are several ways to beat the odds and gain a loyal following. Let’s assume for a minute that you have already found a small niche with a couple of written pieces that readers respond to in a positive way, which hopefully includes an occasional purchase or two. From here the next step will be to bring more people into your readership base.
The best way to do this is to self-publish more work, while at the same time, letting everybody know about your newest release. Currently, blogging and participating in other forms of social media, such as Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, etc., are the best methods to get the word out……. And hopefully along the way, something that you wrote goes viral and you become the latest internet sensation…….BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT……for slow and steady seems to be the rule of the day.
Going The Kickstarter Route
So far I have been working on the assumption that you are doing everything, like editing, proofreading, cover design and formatting, on your own. If you aren’t, good thinking because bringing talented personnel to help out with these tasks can be a big boost to the way your final product appears to the prospective buyer. It can also be a big drain on your bank account.
This is where funding sites like Kickstarter can be an essential aid to the newbie self-publisher, because by the time your first publication is ready to go live, you will be more of a publisher than a writer. However, the plus side to all of this, is that going through a public crowd sourcing site, like Kickstarter will force you to plan ahead and seek good graphic designers, formatters, proofreaders and whoever may be required to get your little literary effort looking ship-shape. And then again another big advantage, is that once your project goes live, your potential readership will grow from the ranks of those who choose to support your project. And that my friends is a win-win situation.
The unusually warm autumn temperatures that we have been experiencing in the nation’s highest state capitol abruptly came to an end last weekend, when temperatures took a big plunge and little white flakes of frozen precipitation came floating down from the sky. The snow soon melted, but early birds, who were up and about on Sunday were witnesses to a visual treat – a dusting of snow.
The cold crisp mountain air combined with early morning lighting conditions created ideal conditions for creating photographic images that looked with bas relief prints. Here, dry powdery snow on top of a blacktop parking lot created these striking results.
Wintertime Graphic Design
The snowfall created strange visual effects to letters and words painted to the asphalt road surfaces.
Abstract Art In the Snow
Many of the NY abstract painters of the post war (WWII) era, enjoyed working in black and white and shades of gray that fell in between. This snowfall gave me a chance to make an image that resembled an early Pousette-Dart painting.
On Canyon Road
Santa Fe is one of those scenic western towns that has seen an explosion of art galleries within its city limits and much of this displayed art can be found on the trendy Canyon Road.. Canyon Road is a long winding narrow lane that is filled numerous art galleries and studio spaces. The outdoor sculpture made for an interesting artistic element amidst the freshly fallen snow.
Elvis and Marilyn are everywhere in Las Vegas. Not only are they depicted in outdoor situations like this, but also real life impersonators may be occasionally seen along “The Strip”. Though both iconic figures have long passed into the next world, their costumed imposters make us believe that perhaps their spirit still lives on.
Old School Graphics
Motels like this venue on the “Strip” have been around for decades. In fact, ordinary signs like this often take on a new life after the sun sets and the neon lights start doing their thing. It seems that every motel has its own little display and art style.
Vegas Bonding Agents
For some strange reason Las Vegas abounds with bondsmen advertising their wares to those who might need their services. My guess that the per capital number is rather high, especially compared with other cities. I guess when you have such a large number of visitors, drinking gambling and having a good time, it is inevitable that somebody ends up in jail and needs a bail bondsmen. Some of their outdoor advertising, suggests that the market for customers is quite competitive.
Pushing the Medium
This wall construction at the Cat Hostel displays very large letters that suggest a certain phonetic sound instead of a living word with actual meaning.
Every Friday a new topic is posted on the home page of the Illustration Friday page. Contributors have one week to post a drawing or illustration inspired by the one word topic. The image is posted on your own personal blog and then linked to the main page of Illustration Friday. A small 50 pixel X 50 pixel thumbnail is then uploaded to the main page and the thumb is linked to the appropriate blog page. Viewers can then cull through the hundreds of thumbs and then visit the blog pages of those images they particularly enjoy or admire. Once at the artists site, the viewer is free to leave a message or comment. Since Penelope started her site, many simular venues have sprung up around the web.
My blog link to Illustration Friday is called Illustrate Friday. It is used solely for posting drawings and paintings for Illustration Friday. Over the past several years I maybe average one or two posts per month. Creating illos for IF has not gained me any freelance work, but has served as a positive creative outlet that produces a minimal amount of feedback. If you like to sketch and draw, then check out this website and participate. For some, IF is a very interactive place.
My journey took an unexpected delay, when I found out there was no bus service from Winnipeg to Minnesota. My response was to hoof it. This took a quite a long time because I decided on a rather untraveled route that lead Southeast to the American town, called Warroad and the nearby Lake of the Woods. The one benefit of this lengthy journal, was that I had lots of time to examine things left along the side of the road. It was remarkable how you could sense the presence of a nearby town by the great increase in of certain types garbage such as beer cans, soft drink bottles, coffee containers and plastic wrappers. And then the opposite effect would occur, as you passed through town and headed back for the wide-open rural spaces. And sometimes vehicular traffic has the habit of creating its own objects at the edge of the highway.
There is a lot of beauty and tragedy expressed by these flying insects that lie motionless along the side of the road. Though I doubt they amount to a significant portion of the butterfly population, it still seems a loss to find just one of these flying beauties sitting on the road shoulder. The marvelous little insects seem frozen in time, for their delicate bodies are so well preserved. Most likely these insects are not the result of a direct collision, but instead, they were probably overwhelmed by the heady winds created by larger vehicles. In fact, quite a few could be seen still fluttering the wings and very much alive, but unable to fly.
Interesting species such as this arctic butterfly dwell in the bog areas of Northern Minnesota. Here, just south of the border this colorful Lepidotera is at the very southern limit of the range. Still the northernedge of this state sits very near the Great Plains and the northern birch-maple woods, so the diversity of habitats is significant. Pictured below is a butterfly of unknown identification.
This summer I had the privilege of making a solo bicycle journey from Boston, Massachusetts to Ottawa, Canada. However, I should mention that I did not take a direct route, as this picture from the Gaspe region demonstrates. As far as cycling goes, I have not encountered a more scenic route than the coastal highway 132 that runs from Sainte-Anne-des-Monts east towards Madeleine. Not only is the road very scenic, but also the route is flat, a definite plus for cyclists. The only drawback is a rare storm or rogue wave that might wash moving vehicles into the ditch. Here is a close-up of the sign.
I while I’m at it, here are some other similar signs that I encountered on my trip. The next one was found just south of Quebec city and was intended as a warning against a bump in the road, not low-flying balloons.
Ambiguous sign near Quebec City
And finally last but not least, here is a tractor warning sign that was observed in the Petite Nation of Quebec, a small rural region, located just north and east of Ottawa.
I love walking around this city at night. So much that I often stay up to the wee hours of the morning, walking for miles on end and then stopping at an all-night internet cafe so I can communicate online. The Christmas season is rapidly approaching so by now all the stores are all decorated and waiting for Christmas shoppers. And for the most part they are not disappointed, for the Christmas shoppers are already out and about.
For you see- up here in the provinces there is no roast turkey and pumpkin pie at the end of November. That’s because Canadian Thanksgiving falls right on October 123. That’s right Columbus Day. I’m not sure I like the implication, but the home country sure doesn’t mind for the October is a long holiday and feast day not at all unlike our own Thanksgiving.
Well, anyway with no November Thanksgiving, there can be no “Black Friday” and so as a result the Christmas spirit doesn’t have to wait for the end of November to get rolling. And overall the transition is more gradual because it begins earlier.
The Green wreath hangs above the entrance to the DesJardin Center. This place contains tons of glass and open space as well as a large Food Court with a free Wifi connection. It is good place to go in the morning where you can buy a cup of coffee or some sort of similar refreshment, take a seat and write meaningless blog material, just like I’m doing now.
And finally we come to this nocturnal explosion of color. Basically, the digital age has been a boon to nighttime image making. These cameras are not only very sensitive to night time shooting conditions, but the final image can be easily adjusted to create a more realistic color scheme. I use a cheap Kodak Easy Share CX7430.
The camera has been good to me as it is a good nighttime shooter. However the images are not real sharp and a wicked paralax has developed so I can no longer shoot a daytime picture with a distant horizon line, for a wicked series of blobs develops towards the horizon when I do. As a result I shoot a lot of wall scenes and close-ups. I have my eye on a Panasonic Lumix with a Leica lens, but it may be awhile before I can afford one.