In 2002 we ran away from Illinois where we were born and raised, and started a new life in SW Florida. This blog is about me (an eccentric old artist), ROM (my Real Old Man), Isabella (our neurotic Standard Poodle) and Emmy (our crazy snake killing Jack Russell Terrier). Oh- and the neighborhood old people. Life is good in Florida!


Friday, October 21, 2016

Who Broke The Twitter?

Once my morning chores are done, I pour myself a cup of coffee and sit down to read my Twitter timeline. That's part of my daily routine. I catch up on news stories, Twitter feuds, and Trump's latest rants. But today shortly after I got on Twitter it went down.

I assumed it was a temporary glitch and would soon be back up. When it didn't come back up after about an hour I googled "Twitter Down" and discovered that there had been a cyber attack on DNS servers for many popular sites such as Twitter, Etsy and Netflix. In fact I discovered this was the second attack of the day. I'm woefully ignorant when it comes to cyber technical stuff, but how in the hell does something like this happen? Is it not possible to make sites unhackable? 

It's scary that hackers can shut down popular websites and social media. The only worse thing than shutting down Twitter is if they shut down Google.  Google took me to Dyn's (the server for Twitter) status page where I learned about today's hacks. 

For years tech experts have warned us of the possibility of cyber war and I'm wondering if this is the beginning. We've already seen the hacked email information released by Wikileaks (and believed by many that the hacking was done by Russian government). And now the attack on the server of popular sites. 

If these damn hackers start fucking with my two favorite things in the world, Netflix and Twitter, I say find them, cut their damn hands off and poke their eyes out! Sound harsh? I don't think so- 

Remember what it was like before the internet? We old people do and we don't want to go back to mailing letters through the USPS. And imagine you're only source of info is an old incomplete set of Encyclopedias sitting on a dusty bookshelf, visiting the public library and the nightly news. Or instead of insulting people on Twitter we'd be forced to insult people face to face. But if we don't have 1000s of followers to witness our clever stingers it would take all the fun out of it.  

And the only way to share photos would be to print them and mail them individually to people. Imagine having to print and mail out a photo of your dinner to 10000s people... every night. Or all those cute cat pics you took today.  

How would the Real Housewives sell all their crap if they couldn't continuously send out tweets promoting their junk? There would be no social media and blog wars between the Real Housewives fans. We'd have to find RH fans in our real life neighborhoods to fight with every night.  That could be dangerous because the only reason there hasn't been RH related murders is because it would be too much trouble to track down the person we happen to hate this week. But if they lived right next door... well, it could get ugly. 

Trust me, we do not want to go back to a life without the internet. So I say find the bastards and make sure they can never ever hack again. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Death By Loneliness...

It's been so long since I wrote anything here, it took me a few attempts to remember my password.  I just can't seem to get my stride back.  But do you ever get your stride back after the death of your child? I'm beginning to doubt it. Maybe I need a completely new stride instead. And if I create a new stride maybe I'll add in some new hopes, dreams and goals.  We'll see...

And on a cheerier note... we signed our new wills this week- yes, I lied, not a damn thing cheery about it. We made wills years ago after we first moved to Florida but things have changed since then so it was time to redo them. Nothing reminds of your mortality like deciding who gets what when you drop dead, how to dispose of your body, who has your power of attorney if dementia sets in, and who decides to pull the plug if you end up as a vegetable kept alive by machines. All that depressing shit none of us want to think about. But it's the responsible thing to do and shouldn't be dumped on others after we're gone. Leaving all these details to be done by loved ones is a really shitty thing to do. Next week we're going to prepay for our cremations. After doing all these mature and responsible tasks I will need to do something naughty and irresponsible. It's all about balance, people! 

If I haven't depressed you yet, read on...

Yesterday I noticed a couple cop cars and ambulance zooming past my house. Then I saw a canine unit go past. So I went to the sheriff's website where there is a list of dispatched calls and the reason they were called. I saw that there had been a stabbing in my neighborhood. There hasn't been a violent incident here in many years- the plunger assault. I'm sure I wrote about that here... somewhere...

I talked to a couple neighbors to see if they knew anything about a stabbing but no one had heard about it. They told me the man who lived alone at the very end of our street had died but knew nothing about a stabbing. 

I didn't know the man well, but knew his name was Jimmy and occasionally chatted with him when we walked the dogs down there. He walked all hunched over and would turn his head to look at you when he talked but he seemed unable to lift his head upright. But I would see him out for walks and he seemed to get around okay. He even drove his car though I always wondered how he could see with his head tucked down all the time. 

By evening the entire story had gotten out and Jimmy was in fact the person who had been stabbed. His next door neighbors, a married couple, are part timers and were here for a short visit. They always did things with Jimmy when they were here and seemed to be his only close friends. They were getting ready to go back north today, so they were going to spend the day helping Jimmy run some errands. Yesterday morning the neighbor guy went to Jimmy's door to see if he was ready to go. Jimmy didn't come to the door so he assumed he must be in the bathroom. The neighbor went back home, wait a bit and then returned to Jimmy's. But he still didn't come to the door. 

The neighbor tried the door and found it unlocked so he let himself in while calling out Jimmy's name. He found Jimmy with a knife in his chest. The police and ambulance were called but Jimmy was dead. The police investigated and determined Jimmy had stabbed himself in the heart and it was ruled suicide. We think he did it then because he wanted to be sure someone found him rather than to be left decomposing all alone for days. His only friends were leaving and his loneliness must have been overwhelming. 

This is a retirement community of over 200 homes but yet we had a man take his own life because he was lonely. All these people around but none of us noticed a man was dying from loneliness.  And that's a damn shame. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

An Artful Sunday...

One of my favorite things to do (only topped by going to the beach) is to go to art festivals. Today we had beautiful weather for the Fine Arts Festival in downtown Bradenton on historical Wares Creek put on by ArtCenter Manatee. It was sunny and in the mid 70s. Perfect day to be outside while visiting booth after booth of gorgeous art. I wish I could show you photos of some of the beautiful art we saw today, but I can't. 

More and more artists have signs posted in their booths announcing that no photos are allowed. I used to love blogging about the art I saw and made sure I added links to the artist's website. I've always thought it was a win win for both the artist and me. I had something interesting to share with my readers and perhaps someone reading would click over to the artist's website and buy something from them. 

Most artists have websites where they display their art, so what is the problem with a photo of their work appearing in a blog? I just don't get the paranoia. If someone is going to steal and copy their art work, it can be done from their own websites.  Even if they have a block on to prevent the use of the right clicking copy tool, anyone can merely take a screen capture to snag their photos. Enough about the paranoia and egos of artists... back to the topic of the festival...

One thing I noticed today is the use of copper seems to be a trend. Booth after booth of art of various mediums seemed to find a way to include some use of copper in their work- jewelry, paintings, sculptures and collages. I understand the love of copper- I have it all over my house. We have copper counter tops, copper ceiling tiles (that I made myself) and I often use copper in my own art work. Usually when something becomes trendy I no longer want it, but I don't see me giving up my love of copper anytime soon. 

Here's an overview of the art festival

The festival was set up along side the banks of the historic Wares Creek. What a beautiful sight right in the middle of town. 

The best part of the festival? A sugar cone with two big scoops of strawberry and cheesecake gelato- OMG! Absolutely orgasmic! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

I Seem To Be....

... a piss poor juggler and not able to do even two things at once. I've been taking a six week online course at Sketchbook Skool and haven't blogged even once since it started. I haven't been tweeting as much as usual either, well other than the night the FBI moved in on the crazies who were holed up at the Oregon wildlife preserve. There was a life feed of the armed thugs phone calls with the equally crazy Gavin Seim, KrisAnne Hall and Michele Fiore. I tweeted up a storm that night! 

Anyway, the course at SBS has come to an end so perhaps I'll be better about updating this blog. Or maybe I'll sign up for another course. Here was my final sketch for the course- the palm tree in my front yard, enlarged and printed out in six 8" by 11" sections. Haven't decided how I'll put it together and display it...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Creating 2016 My Way

I'm so glad December is over. It was an emotionally exhausting month for me and I hated every single day of it. But it's over... When I got up on the morning of January 1st it was like a huge weight had been lifted off me. I'm ready to participate in life once again. 

I'm starting this year just like I did last year- with an online class at Sketchbook Skool. It's going to be even more fun this year because a couple of my Twitter friends, Jane and Mary, are joining me in the Expressing Class. If any of you reading this decide to take this class with us, give me a holler so I can look for you in class. Don't worry if you aren't a great sketcher as I am only mediocre at best. But if I only did things I was good at all I'd do is sit on the beach, watch TV, eat and sculpt. That's extent of my skills. 

The classes I took last year were Beginning, Storytelling and Playing. I was a bit intimidated as I started the first class but soon was having too much fun. There were some very talented artists in the class but many were inexperienced people just like me who just wanted to learn and do something new. I had only used acrylic paints before so watercolor was a brand new medium for me. 

Although the instructors will tell you all you need for the class is a sketchbook and pen, it's a lot more fun if you have some of the other supplies they teach you to use. I would recommend having:

Sketchbook- I love the wire bound Strathmore Watercolor 140 lb. Visual Journal. The Dick Blick prices are much cheaper than Michael's. I do so much erasing and layers of water colors that the 140 holds up the best for me.

Mechanical pencil- I use a cheap Papermate .7 that I picked up at Target.

Eraser- Some of artists teaching at Sketchbook Skool recommend always sketching with a pen. That didn't work for me as I was so afraid of screwing up that I was paralyzed and afraid to start. I'm much bolder with a pencil and the knowledge that I could erase if I didn't like what I sketched. 

Basic set of watercolors- I use a 24 color set of Sakura Koi Watercolors

Brushes- I use the same brushes I already had for acrylics. I recently invested in some Ninji water brushes that I really like.

Gouache- I use a cheap 24 set of Reeves

Waterproof pens- I like the Sakura Micron and Copic pens. I find I use the black and sepia the most. 

These basic supplies will fill all your needs for the SBS classes and they will last a long time. Here's to creating 2016 in our own individual way- hope I see you all in class! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Two Old Atheists Walked Into A Mosque...

... and nothing awful happened. 

When I got up last Saturday morning, visiting a Muslim mosque was the farthest thing from my mind. Later that morning when I was reading my Twitter timeline I noticed a tweet from a Bradenton Herald reporter (Jessica De Leon) about the Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton (ISSB) hosting a food and art festival at their mosque. I love food and art, plus I'm curious about Muslim culture. it seemed like the perfect distraction from my self pity party I've been wallowing in lately. So I got dressed, grabbed my camera and ROM, and off we went to the local mosque. 

I've read old online articles that claim there was a connection between past members of this mosque and the terrorists responsible for 9/11. I don't know if it's true, though I do know there was a connection between SW Florida and the 9/11 murderers. They had received flight training in Venice, FL.  Whether they had ties to this local mosque, I don't know. But I do know that I don't hold any Christian churches that Dylan Root or Robert Dear Jr. attended responsible for their horrible acts of violence against innocent people. 

I had no idea what to expect from from either the local Muslims or the general public. Since the slaughter in San Bernardino by two Muslim terrorists, there's been a backlash of fear and hatred toward Muslims... all Muslims. Trump has a large support base in this area and I wondered if they would be there protesting. 

As we approached the entrance to the mosque, I noticed a police car with the lights flashing and immediately assumed the worse. 

I was relieved and surprised to discover that the police were there only to direct traffic to the overflow parking area across the street from the mosque. I was amazed at the size of the crowd, but still curious as to what the mood would be inside the mosque.  As we made our way to the mosque I noticed many of those attending were just like ROM and me- old and white. 

Just outside the mosque was a large tent where the food vendors were set up and large tables where people could sit and eat. We unwisely decided to tour the mosque before eating. By the time we made our way back there most of the food was gone, obviously the turnout had been much larger than the vendors expected. 

The outside of mosque was beautiful with the copper (or is it gold?) dome in the rear. 

Inside the mosque there was an open courtyard with vendors set up selling their wares and an information booth giving out brochures and free Qur'ans. I passed on the Qur'an but stuck some of the brochures in my bag to read later. The woman running the information booth pointed out the Imam and urged us to talk to him if we had any questions. I'm more of an observer than a questioner so I didn't talk to him. I was surprised with how young he was. He looked to be in his twenties, and appeared to be very relaxed and approachable as he talked and laughed with people. 

I didn't take many pictures because I didn't know what the policy was for photographing inside a mosque and I seemed to be the only one with a camera. I've been taken to task by a few artists when I've tried to take photos in galleries and shows. You just never know what is going to piss someone off. So I just sneaked in some quick shots here and there. 

There were several clothing and hijabs (head coverings) sellers, a henna artist, women selling sweet desserts, a fine art artist selling prints of her paintings and other booths that I can't remember.  

I noticed there were two different entrances to the main prayer rooms- one for women and one for men, so I assume the sexes pray separately. But that's merely an assumption on my part. On this day the entrance to the men's room was open and all were invited to step inside after removing one's shoes- even women. 

It was very quiet and serene. The shadows of palm trees outside the windows danced on the walls creating accidental art. 

So what did I learn from my afternoon at the mosque? I noticed that most of the Muslims at the festival were young families. I saw very few older Muslims. One thing that surprised was how involved the men seemed to be with their children. I assumed that would be considered women's work. But I saw several men with small kids in tow with no mother in sight as they mingled and socialized. There was one man carrying a baby around in his arms the entire time we were there. 

And the women? I will never understand why any woman would choose to wear all those clothes in the Florida heat and humidity. Most of the women were dressed in several layers of clothes- long sleeves and either long dresses or long loose fitting long culotte style pants. And the head coverings- has to be stifling and sweaty. I don't know how they tolerate all those clothes in our tropical type weather. Although I'll never understand not dressing appropriately for the weather, it doesn't bother me that they choose to dress that way. It did bother me when I saw a couple women who covered their entire faces. I'm always uncomfortable when peoples' faces are covered by masks, hoods or whatever. I get a creepy sinister feeling when someone is completely covered and I can't read their facial cues. 

I was more interested in the Muslim culture than the religion, but their culture seems so entwined with their religion that it's impossible to separate the two. According to the pamphlet Concept of Islam "Muslims believe that He created humankind with a simple purpose- to worship Him". Sounds like a self serving, needy and egotistic deity to me. As fallible and imperfect as humans are, most good parents strive to raise their children to be independent and self reliant so that their kids can live successful and happy lives. What kind of parent would raise their child with the sole purpose of being worshiped? I just don't understand following a belief in anything so controlling and stifling. But then, I don't understand the blind faith in any religion. I digress, this wasn't to be a blog entry to debate the existence of a god of any religion, just my impressions from our visit to the mosque.

My overall impressions of the local Muslim people were that they're friendly, enjoy good food and love their children. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Hate You, December...

 My once favorite month has become my most dreaded month of the year. It's become 31 days of gut wrenching memories, regrets and unresolved issues. Last week was the second anniversary of my son's death and this week is his birthday. It hasn't gotten easier with the passing of time. If anything, it's gotten harder. December brings so much anxiety that often I can barely breath, other days I'm paralyzed with inertia and numb. Hours can go by as I sit at my desk looking out the window, unaware of the time passing until ROM pulls in the driveway.  Late at night I turn on NetFlix and watch hours of episodes of the old series House. For a while I'm able to get caught up in the dysfunctional world of Dr. Greg House and the bizarre medical cases. 

I try not to watch real time TV because of the Christmas commercials. In my memory banks, my son's birthday is forever entwined with Christmas. Memories of him being born and coming home from the hospital for his first Christmas. How Santa always made an appearance at his birthday parties until he stopped believing. Hearing people talk about Christmas and their kids coming home is a reminder that my son is dead, and all the things I wish I had done differently. 

And then there's my birthday. He was born 12 minutes before my birthday, so of course that memory will forever be part of that day. December is a month of one frigging trigger after another. A month of white knuckling it from one moment to the next. My emotions and memories even take over my sleep with vivid dreams of my son. There is no escape... except with art. 

I spent several days totally immersed in creating my holiday card. I painted it four times before I got it the way I wanted it. (I still struggle with watercolor, but love it too much to give up.) Then the hassle of setting it up to print out on watercolor cards, getting the margins right and everything centered gave me a welcome distraction. 

They've now been printed and mailed, and I'm back to my brooding. But the month is almost half over, I can do this. There are 5 more seasons of House to fill my nights. Maybe I'll even motivate myself enough to make some fudge and cookies. Lord knows, ROM loves his holiday sweets. 

I apologize for this totally self centered, self absorbed and self indulged blog entry. For some reason I can write out the thoughts and feelings that I can't say out loud without dissolving in a puddle of ugly crying. I know it's a total downer but that's the price you have to pay for my funny stories. 

I hate you, December, but I'll survive you.