Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sad News


Please join me in remembering a great icon of the entertainment community. The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71.

Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.

Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy and lovingly described Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was considered a very smart cookie, but wasted much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he still was a crusty old man and was considered a positive roll model for millions.

Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, and three children: John Dough, Jane Dough and Dosey Dough, plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart.

The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Enchanted Rock

An RAF pilot crash lands into a remote northern forest. Deep in the forest, he stumbles across a strange boulder. Exhausted, he falls asleep, and wakes surrounded by a dazzling blue light. He realizes the light is coming from the rock. Finally rescued, the pilot tells about the rock, but no one believes him.

Years later, developers build a resort on the forest’s edge. One night, hikers get lost and rediscover the glowing rock. Word gets out and people stream into the forest to see it. The rock becomes so famous the forest service builds a road.

Businesses spring up catering to visitors. Tract houses are built along the forest’s edge. Pollution fouls the air and an unexplained fire destroys more forest. The enchanted rock sits exposed to the elements. Its light gets dimmer and dimmer, and finally goes out.

Later, the new town of Rochelle builds a shopping center. No one knows what to do about the ugly rock. A demolition company agrees to haul it away. The rock is loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled to a distant railroad. There, it is hoisted onto a rail car.

Days later, the train arrives at a sea-port and the rock is loaded into a ship. The vessel sails into the vast ocean, and drops the great rock into the water. The boulder quickly sinks into the murky deep, coming to rest on the ocean floor. Now in complete darkness, an odd thing happens. The enchanted rock once again begins its beautiful blue glow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fighting Continues In The EU Cheese War

The stinking Cheese War in the breakaway Republic of Cheddarstan is now entering its fifth year, with no end in sight. A tribe of indigenous goat farmers called the Feta Fighters is waging a holey war on their next-door neighbors, the Swissies. This is not Gouda.

Reasons for the violence are unclear, but many suspect bad feelings between Fetas and Swissies started with the formation of the European Union. EU bureaucrats immediately set about standardizing weights and measures, starting with milk products.

In a bold move at cost cutting, the EU announced that Swiss cheese must henceforth have at least twelve per-cent more holes. This, of course, infuriated the Swissies, who insisted their cheese would then be no better than goat droppings. The Fetas, historically no friends of the Swissies, took this as an insult, and the War was on.

Later, in the Treaty of Briebourg, EU president Herman Munster urged both sides to set aside bad feelings and put their curds on the table. The shaky ceasefire lasted barely six weeks.

One night a radical cheese head named Russ Limburger sneaked across the border and set fire to a Swissie cheese barn. The resulting Battle of Fondue Field broke the ceasefire and the Cheese War today continues to rage out of control.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Shout Out With Ashley Bryan


"It's not that every artist is a special kind of person; it's that every person is a special kind of artist. Each of us experiences the aesthetic, and possesses the creative". -Ashley Bryan-

Last evening, Dunedin Fine Art Center hosted master storyteller, teacher and artist Ashley Bryan. Described as a “force of nature,” Bryan is the illustrator of 30 children’s books and winner of numerous awards, including the 2005 Coretta Scott King Award and Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for achievement in children’s literature.

Surrounded by an exhibition of his colorful illustrations and puppets, Mr. Bryan quickly demonstrated why he is in such demand as a speaker. Within minutes this quiet and humble man had his audience shouting and clapping along, as they repeated after him several African-American poems and folk tales.

Each of us immediately sensed his joyful commitment to writing and the spoken word. Later, after most people had left, Ashley Bryan stayed on, amazing us with his energy and willingness to share.




Monday, October 11, 2010

"I've Nothing To Say!" There's An App For That

We hear over and over these days how some marvelous new technological gadget will bring us together. From iPhones, Skype and YouTube to Facebook and Twitter, the mantra remains the same – “Stay connected!”

There are a lot of us who also use these same technologies to distance ourselves from others.

Take e-mail for example. Have you ever had a bit of unpleasantness with a friend and rather than meeting face-to-face or even phoning them, you instead tap out a quick impersonal e-mail. Confident the problem is solved; you are easily off the hook.

Facebook is an excellent way to stay tuned to what is going on in our circle of friends. Daily we learn of upcoming meetings, opinions or calls to action. But, as our circle expands, we become so inundated with opportunities to support worthwhile causes or attend urgent meetings that we automatically hit the “like” button and scroll on to the next news feed – a YouTube video of dancing dogs.

IPhone, with its e-mail and video functions, seems to be the ultimate connective tool. Messages and videos can be instantly uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, or a host of other services. Even video conferences are possible over these something-for-everyone marvels.

There remains in the world a group of people who do not function well in public situations. These are the folks who break into a sweat at the mention of the word “mingle.” At parties, they are the ones rooted at the food table, beer in one hand, stuffing canap├ęs in their mouth with the other hand. Thus encumbered, they are spared the odious task of simple communication.

The iPhone turns out to be an excellent diversion for these silent types. I was recently at a dinner party with a dozen people seated at table, all trying to get a word in edgewise. One guest, however, did not join in the discussion and sat pushing bits of food around his plate.

Suddenly, grinning, he pulled out a shiny iPhone and immediately became lost in its multitude of applications. The man no longer felt the need to interact with his dinner companions. He had become an island unto himself thanks to his personal connection device.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lessons From Flo and Eddie

Sometime last year, two eastern grey squirrels decided to take up residence in my front yard – a small patch of peace and quiet one day and the next a chorus of chittering and barking as the two announced their presence to the world and the bored cat next door.

Squirrels have never come off as being overly intelligent, perhaps one notch above that moron of flying things, the mourning dove. Their alternating displays of spastic energy and trance-like stupor were amusing at first, but if those were all squirrels had to show, forget it. Besides, remove all their fur and what you have is a rat.

Refusing to let my mornings be ambushed by goggle-eyed rodents, I continued a long standing ritual of tea and solitude before heading off to work. My first mistake was the bag of peanuts, the raw in-the-shell kind, tossed onto the grass without a thought of the consequences.

To my surprise, Flo and Eddie scooted down the tree to investigate. The pair quickly realized a bonanza when they smelled it and eagerly scarfed down every goober. Afterward, they stared at me for a few seconds before going all spastic again.

It only took a few weeks before the couple had me trained to bring them peanuts every morning. After that, I had to remove squirrels from my dumb animal list.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hands Across The Sand

Hey BP, we don't want your stinking oil, except for our cars, trains, boats and planes, our lawn mowers, tractors, generators and furnaces, motorcycles, snow-blowers, and those noisy weed-eaters. So, all you greedy petrol pushers take your fancy oil rigs and go away, but don't go too far. We may need to gas up the SUV for a trip to the mountains over the Fourth of July.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Letter To The Gulf of Mexico

Dear One,
Thought of you when I awoke this morning and turned on the air conditioner. Wondered how you were doing as I drove the car across town to the new Publix. On the way out, stopped in the produce section for Costa Rican bananas on sale.

"Paper or plastic?" the bag-boy mumbled and I remembered what you would say. "Paper of course!"

Hurried home to clean up the place before Laura flies in tomorrow. Remember we drove over to see you last time she was here? She dearly loves sitting by your side. That won't be happening this trip.

Well, I better sign off now. The lawn needs mowing. Dry-cleaning picked up. So many things to do. Just know that whatever I'm doing or where ever I'm going, you are always in my thoughts and prayers.

Get well soon!
Love,
Denis

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Back From The Edge

Mothers Day is the perfect time to hand out propers, to celebrate what didn't happen and be grateful for it. Once, many years ago, I came this close to rolling down a West Virginia mountain side. But for my wonderful and quick mother, I would, most likely, still be rolling.

When still a diaper boy, mom put me in one of those round baby walkers, so I could scoot around freely on my own. Little did she know my new freedom would soon take me right to the edge. One day, she left my sister and I to play in the living room while she took a shower.

At the time, we lived on the second floor of an apartment house in the town of Beckley. From our vantage point, there was no up, just a long way down the hill to the main road. Hill is a relative term here, because Beckley sat directly on a mountain top.

Mom felt secure, since the screen door was latched and she could hear anything going on in the living room. Besides, she would only be a few minutes. That turned out to be just enough time for my sister. My mother first heard silence and then the sound of a chair being dragged across the floor. When she heard the screen door swing open and my baby walker roll across the floor, she instantly knew what was happening.

She later told us she had never moved faster than that day. In an instant, she grabbed a towel and raced through the apartment to the living room. There stood my sister with the screen door propped open and me rolling out the door onto the second-story porch.

Mom made it out to the porch just as I approached the stairs. With her flapping towel providing little cover, she lunged and caught hold of me inches from the stairs' edge. Two old men sitting on the adjoining porch stared in wide-eyed amazement. One of them started clapping.

I'll never know whether he appreciated her quick courage or was simply grateful for the unexpected eye-full. I only know that on this special day many years later, I am still grateful for a mother's love.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Elephant Humor


Years ago, when younger and more irreverent, I penned a small picture book of our friends the elephants. Not quite viewing material for children and perhaps too cartoonish for grown-ups, I could see no market for the collection of pachyderm puns. For years it remained lost at the bottom of my bookcase.

Spring cleaning recently brought the book out of hiding and onto my desk. Now, with a bit more maturity, or perhaps desperation, I'm beginning to see possibilities for this collection. All that remain are a dozen more drawings, photographing, scanning, editing, printing, binding, marketing, and then the hard work begins - more marketing.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Once Upon A Time In Atlanta

Yesterday’s gray blustery weather forced me to live up to a long standing promise – “On the next shut-in day I swear I will clean out my files.” My procrastinating skills could not even prevent the long dreaded moment and by mid-afternoon I found myself surrounded by piles of letters, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, receipts, and drawings – the forgotten stuff of pack rats.

Each piece that came to view brought a rush of memories and the short cleaning job stretched into early evening. A rediscovered magazine cover brought an end to the day’s labor and for that I gave thanks. A few hours remained to do what I wanted.

One of my first jobs out of college was a stint at the Atlanta Magazine, a glossy city tabloid put out by the Chamber of Commerce. To save money, all print preparation ended up being done in-house and that job fell to the advertising art department. The advertising director did not like his overworked crew taking on another job and directed them to bring in a free-lance artist. My college chum happened to be advertising art director and gave the job to me.

One week each month I pasted-up the Magazine at the Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Atlanta, just a short walk from so much Southern history. I loved that job and the opportunity to work in an office of wacky creative people.

I came up with the Santa Atlanta magazine cover and presented it to the editorial art director who passed it along to the editorial director. He shared it with his writers and they showed it to the advertising account reps. All down the line, everyone loved the idea, until it reached the advertising director. “We can’t have a cover without teaser copy,” he said. “Besides, no one will recognize it as Atlanta Magazine.”

Thankfully, the editorial department had final say and the cover graced the December 1972 issue. Looking at the cover today, I am struck by two thoughts – surprise that such a minimal design was accepted and a belief that my unique cover solution still holds up today.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wild Wild Animals

Here is the latest revision of a sample page from my Wild Wild Animals Alphabet Book. This eight year project has been through more changes than a rainbow chameleon, the latest being a complete text revamp.

A wise editor at a SCBWI conference a few years ago suggested I use rhyming text as a way to give more rhythm when read aloud. Perhaps it was also a subtle challenge to see if I could pull it off.

I can now state that writing in rhyme is not for the impatient or easily pleased. It has been a bear of a job and on more than one occasion I've thrown up my hands in frustration.

Now, with plucked up courage and generous critiques from my writing group, the manuscript is well on the way to completion.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I See What You're Thinking

Apple this week announced the release of a new iPhone application that may be the ultimate in social networking. Named iThink, the free app will allow friends for the first time to know each other’s thoughts instantly from moment to moment, even while asleep.

IThink uses nano-technology in which tiny electrodes are placed in the cerebrum of user’s brains. Once implanted by Apple technicians, thoughts are wirelessly sent to friend’s iPhones and read as text messages.

Critics immediately complained that our thoughts, our last bastion of privacy, will now be on display to the world. But social anthropologist Barry Golson of Chicago’s Institute of Cognitive Behavior believes this may not be a bad thing.

“If everyone knows our every thought,” he said, “we will be forced to clean up our acts. We may be finally seeing the end of all negative thoughts.”

In a related story, Russian hackers have reportedly broken into thousands of European iThink user’s brains, wreaking havoc. IPhones across the European Union have now begun texting Slavic drinking songs.

When asked to comment, Apple’s EU Director of Information Nigel Perryman had this to say,
“Crikey, now I don’t know what to think!”