A Physical Distanced 4th of July

Happy Independence Day to all of my fellow Americans (and those who consider themselves Americans at heart)!

As we approach yet another holiday to celebrate, I’d like to give you all a few friendly reminders on remaining safe and helping to do your part in order to keep those around you safe.

  1. Please, if you choose to go out of your normal personal safety spaces, please remember to WEAR A MASK. I do it and it’s really not that big a deal. It may not be the most stylish, hipest, coolest accessory that you’ll ever wear, but it will help protect others around you (and you will feel good in knowing that you may help prevent someone from taking an unexpected trip to the hospital. It’s not a “right” to not wear a mask. It is a responsibility for you to wear one.
  2. I wouldn’t recommend attending large 4th of July barbeque gatherings (for one, I’m one of the biggest “wallflowers” and introverted individuals that you’ll ever know, so this wouldn’t be a problem for me anyway), but if you feel like you just have to get together to celebrate, please remember to  KEEP IT SMALL, and please remember to PRACTICE PHYSICAL DISTANCING ) or if you prefer the other more common nomenclature term (which I don’t, but most everyone says), practice social distancing, keeping at least 6 feet apart from each other at all times and stay home if your temperature is running high.
  3.  WASH YOUR HANDS FREQUENTLY!!! This is a no brainer. Soap is one of the world’s greatest assets to humankind. It comes in all kinds of colors, fragrants, and is fairly cheap and easy to find. Use it.
  4.  CARRY HAND SANITIZER with you at all times if you find yourself far away from soap and water. I know that this is pretty hard to come by, as I’m having a hard time finding it myself. If I don’t have hand sanitizer, I found that a little bottle of soapy water (I save the little Purell hand sanitizer bottles, back when they were available) also works fairly well. I take a few droplets of dish detergent, or liquid hand soap, fill it with water and presto! It may not be as effective as actual hand sanitizer, but it’s better than nothing, and will get you to the next sink with actual soap and water.

Keep these four things in mind while SAFELY celebrating your 4th and all should be well. I don’t wish to sound like I’m lecturing here, but I can no longer remain silent and have to speak out about this. One of the main reasons that COVID-19 is still maintaining its grip on the US is that too many people are not following the guidelines. It’s not that difficult. I come from some very strict schools back in my day and had a lot more restrictions, more difficult than these, placed on me in my youth. I didn’t always agree with them, but they kept me safe and probably saved my life on more than one occasion. Following these guidelines may not be fun, may not be enjoyable; you may not even agree with them. But follow them anyway. Just do it. The more people that get on board with this, the better our chances are of us beating this thing and hopefully will allow us to go back to our lifestyles (hopefully wiser than before) where we don’t have to wear masks in public or keeping our distance from other people and so on. If you truly want to be patriotic and show your patriotism this Independence day, then be respectful of your fellow Americans around you. It’s not about us wanting to always do our little individual things and say “we’re in this together”. It’s about us actually thinking about those around us and working together, doing our part, to keep others safe. That’s what it means to be an American, to me anyway.

 

Today’s Number:

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SIA Post: “Number 453”

This week’s SIA is hosted by Daenel, over on Living Outside The Stacks, and she chose a piece that is most pleasing to the eyes to look at. It is Number 453 by Anne Ryan. I can’t display it as it’s copyrighted, but you can see it on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website here. Daenel chose this piece because (if I may quote her) “it’s soothing and calming, but bright and summery”. Well put, Daenel; I couldn’t agree more. After the last few weeks, well, months, who wouldn’t find this pleasing to look at?

Here’s what I came up with.

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I admit that I struggled a little bit at first with this one, as I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. At first, I thought about just focusing solely on one or two colors, as I usually do. But that’s been done to death so much with me, that I didn’t want to do that again. My wardrobe is pretty basic, with over half of it being all black, a handful of graphic T’s, a few Polo shirts of color, and a few dress up shirts for more formal wear, amid my mostly dark attire. But then I remembered that I had my Metro Parks T-shirt, which I used for a previous SIA challenge, and I felt that it would be perfect for this as I see the “collage” in both images. I didn’t think of this at the time, but I should have worn jeans to match the blue behind the patchwork-like image. But overall, not too bad.

Be sure to check in on Wednesday to see the round-up on Daenel’s blog and see how everyone did with this!

As a bonus, here are some pictures that I took as my family and I waited in line to be tested for COVID-19 over the weekend.

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Super long line of cars waiting… and we were early! Good thing that my mom’s car has working AC! It was a hot day!

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Double line of cars… we still waited a good 2 hours.

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Masked up and physical distancing in the car!

Today’s Number:

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Do You Have A “Robotnik” In Your Life?

The other day, I was thumbing through some YouTube videos (the modern day version of “channel surfing” I suppose) and I came across someone’s video that talked about one of my favorite childhood TV programs, Sonic the Hedgehog.

Now, I was never a fan of the superhero stuff (it would be years later after Sonic before I discovered Batman the Animated Series and entered into the world of the DC Animated Universe). Sonic was my first fictional superhero. He was hip, he was fast, he had a bit of an attitude, but he was cool; everything I wanted in a cartoon superhero.

For those who don’t know, Sonic is a video game character for the game company, Sega, that was mostly used to compete against Nintendo’s Mario Bros. games back in the day. I’m not into games or anything, but my brother (who you all met in the previous post) was, and still is, into them. But I would watch him play the Sonic games and couldn’t believe how fast this guy could move compared to Mario’s more timed but sluggish movements. Watching him play the games allowed me to discover the animated cartoon, which was on at the time. The version that I really liked came on Saturday mornings (back when Saturday morning cartoons were more of a “thing” than they are now. Do kids even watch cartoons anymore??), and had a more grittier feel and story to it than its more light hearted, slapstick counterpart, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, which I also watched. Sonic the Hedgehog SATAM (Saturday Morning AM), as I said was a bit more gritty and dark, due to some of the themes and the overall plot of the story. I watched the show often and read the comics (the first 50 issues or so anyway, before it started to go downhill).

Robotnik (whose name used to be Julian before he changed it), is the main villain of the show, and was a ruthless dictator who captured and enslaved the inhabitants of Mobius (a planet similar to Earth but a few thousand years ahead of us and inhabited by anthropomorphic animals) by turning them into mindless robots with a machine called “the Roboticizer” and are then forced into hard labor for the rest of their days. But Sonic, along with a band of other anthropomorphic animals called “The Freedom Fighters” rise up and form a resistance to fight against Robotnik and his robot army.

Do you see where I’m going with this? This was a kids cartoon show that was aired on Saturday morning television back in the early 1990s. It was aimed towards kids, but had a more mature meaning and story behind it. As a child, I didn’t pick up on these themes (I was just happy to be watching Sonic at the time). But looking at it as an adult, and looking at what’s happening in our world now, it makes a lot more sense to me. And that leads me to say this.

At some point in our lives, we will all have a “Robotnik” that we have to deal with. Whether it’s another person that was cruel to us and tries endlessly to get us to think the way they do and like the things they like with no say whatsoever (I’ve definitely had someone like this in my own life…), or a society or group that’s going down a dark path and you’re standing alone because you believe that their path is wrong and you don’t want to follow, there’s always that form of oppression that’s looming over us and we must not let it overtake us.

I really like how this person on YouTube worded their speech about this and I’ve included it here so that you can hear it for yourself. The video itself is over an hour long and most of it talks about the show. You don’t have to watch the whole thing (unless you want to know more about Sonic SATAM, and you’ll get more details about the show than what I told you). But I highly recommend that you listen to the last few minutes (between 1:00:54 – 1:04:35) of the video. It’s pretty deep and really sums up nicely with what we’re going through today.

The person in the video sort of goes in a “different direction” than what’s going on now, but the overall concept of one group being oppressed by another is still there.

It’s a bit of a tear jerker too, so prepare yourself. But I find it pretty amazing that this person was able to talk about one of my favorite childhood cartoons and bring it to a similar reality that we face today. Watch the video, either the whole thing, or the last few minutes of it and tell me what you think. Do you have a “Robotnik” in your life? If so, I encourage you to stand up to it. Stand up to him or her, that person that tells you that you’re a nobody, that you’ll never amount to anything; don’t let anyone convince you that these things are true. You are worth it. You are special, not a mediocre, not a slave (things that I was called at one point, among other things). You are you and there’s no one else like you. Embrace that and love who you are. That is one good thing that this pandemic has helped me to learn. In my free time, I’ve been reading a lot of self help books and trying to “reprogram” all of the negative talk that was once fed to me. It is difficult and I am still working on being a more positive person, but I am getting there. There is no end goal with this because there is always something new to learn, something new to embrace; a chance to grow and be happy. I encourage everyone that reads this to stand up to the “Robotniks” in your life. I’m not saying to go and fight anyone. Sometimes the oppressors in your life live in your own heart and mind. You owe it to yourself to face those oppressors. And whether they be other people, or your own personal “demons” inside, don’t let them convince you that you aren’t worth it. Why? Because you ARE worth it.

Note: There is a bit of cursing in the video, or an indication of it, but is bleeped out, so just make sure that you’re cool with that before watching.

Today’s Number:

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SIA Post: “Triple Portrait of Charles II”

This week’s SIA was chosen by Salazar, over on 14 Shades of Grey, and she chose the Triple Portrait of Charles II by the ever so great artist, Kehinde Wiley, best known for his paintings of African Americans, which includes Barack Obama (2018). I tell you; everytime I see his work, I just melt. I’m no good at painting portraits at all, but seeing Wiley’s work makes me want to learn.

Salazar was inspired to choose this one due to all of the current happenings here in the US and to support the Black Lives Matter Movement (thank you, Salazar!).

And as you can probably guess, I’m all for this for reasons which I won’t get into, but you can probably figure out why.

I have two outfits for this one, both of which have nothing really to do with the painting visually, but have significant meaning  on another level. Let’s see them.

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I felt inspired to wear this t-shirt for the sole reason of supporting Black Lives. It has historically significant people printed on it, like Rosa Parks, Barack Obama, Martin Luthur King and so on. And in bold letters, it says “Celebrate Black History”. It speaks for itself here and I thought it was perfect to wear during this critical time in our history.

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My second outfit has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the painting at hand. This is my daily attire; what I wear everyday to work, when I go shopping for groceries, when I just go out walking; always in all black. My reasoning for this is personal so I won’t get into that. But I chose to wear this for this particular SIA because I want to show that I’m proud to be who I am and not ashamed. Ultimately, it’s not the clothes that make me who I am. I make who I am. Its taken me a long time to learn to accept who I am as a person. And that’s not to say that I always feel so confident in that. But I am better at it now than I ever had been before and that’s what I think makes good character building.

To me, this is one of the most important SIA challenges I’ve ever done because it means so much to me. Its made me think hard about what it means to be a person, not just an African American, but a real person. Some people have tried to tell me otherwise (and some have succeeded temporarily with their $&!% talk). But over the last few months, I have alluded to several times on the blog that I am learning more and more that it is okay to be “me”, to have flaws and wanting to learn from them, to have self doubt and question things when others say controversial statements; it’s okay to be “me”.

So that’s my take for this week’s SIA challenge, a deeply personal but fun topic all the same.

And before I end this, we have a special guest joining us; my brother, Marcus!

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Yep, he’s my younger brother and my cameraman for all of the SIA photos that I present on the blog. Though we are brothers, we are vastly different (our choice in attire is a big hint for starters). Quite the dichotomous pair we are, but nonetheless, very close. It took a little convincing to get him to make an appearance (he’s even more camera shy than I am), but with all that is going on, decided to make an appearance.

Be sure to check back on Salazar’s blog this Wednesday to see how everyone else interpreted Wiley’s painting.

Today’s number:

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Postcard Post: “Peaceful Stream”

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I painted this scene just a few days ago. I’ll be honest here and say that I absolutely love how this came out! This is another Bob Ross inspired painting, which you can watch here. As always, mine differs quite a bit from Bob’s painting, but that’s okay as I’m not out to copy his works, but to gain inspiration from them.

I was worried at first when I started painting this as the colors looked rather “muddy” and flat. What saved it was the tube of watercolor white paint, which was an incredible investment for me in terms of how I want to paint future works. It really saved this piece from being trashed and ended up becoming one of my best pieces yet! I think this one is even better than my previous two pieces that I presented last post. An overall success I dare say.

What creations have you all been working on?

Today’s number:

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Safety Zones

With all of the recent events that have been going on, I admit that I have been in a cyclone of emotions (fear, anger, disappointment, sorrow, etc.). I really don’t know how else to express it…

And I guess the best way for me to deal with all of this is through my art, as well as through math and numbers, two of my favorite pastimes.

Here are two postcards that I did over the weekend.

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Both of these are Bob Ross inspired paintings (I’ve been watching him a lot on YouTube lately. Hey, it beats the news), which you can see both here and here respectively.

Not too bad if I do say so myself. I like the perspective of the first one and the color of the second one. Combine them together and you get one nice piece. Both are nice looking places I’d like to travel to, just to get away from it all; my “safety zones”.

Where is your happy place?

Today’s number:

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A Wonderful Piece Of Music

Before I begin today’s post, I would just like to give a shout out to the family and friends of George Floyd, who’s memorial service is today. I think pretty much everyone knows what happened to him, so I won’t go into those grisly details. But I will say this. I truly believe that this will be the start of something grand for the US. Something better. A much needed change in my country is coming and is here. As an African American man, as a black man myself, I too felt the “sting” of George Floyd’s death. I think that any human being who doesn’t have ice running through their veins can feel the same way, seeing the way that he died. He wasn’t just a “black man”. He was a human being, like we all are, no matter what we look like, where we come from, how we practice religion, or not practice religion; at the end of the day, we are all human beings. I think about this a lot, but everytime something like this happens, as horrible as it always is, reminds me of how thankful I am to have so many wonderful and loving friends, of all backgrounds, who support me. My friends that I know and can see physically in my city, to my pen friends all around the world that I write letters to and send postcards to; even my SIA friends; all very different, yet we are one and the same; human. I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am if not for all of my friends and family to encourage and support me. Thank you all for your friendship and care. I never take it for granted.

R.I.P. George Floyd and God bless his friends and family.

Now, onto today’s post.

For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, you may recall me doing a set of posts called “Musical Masterpieces”, back at the beginning of 2019. A book called Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill picked out a piece of classical music by a different composer in history for each day of the year, and I tried to share that with you all at the start of 2019. Though it was a good idea, it was quite difficult to maintain it daily, so I stopped. However, I still go through and listen to each piece of music on a day by day basis (when I can) and today’s piece was so good that I just had to share it.

So for June the 4th, Burton-Hill selects the Russian composer, Mikhail Glinka, who, by many, is considered to be the “Father of Russian Music”. Composers such as Grieg, Bartok and Tchaikovsky were all inspired by Glinka’s work. Here, we have his Overture piece from Ruslan and Lyudmila, which is excellently performed by this orchestra that I found on YouTube (how I listen to each piece of music daily. I love YouTube). The video is 12 years old, but sounds just as crisp as it were performed today.  Take a listen and tell me what you think.

Today’s Number:

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Postcard Post: “Cliff Falls”

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Here’s another waterfall painting I did back in May, called Cliff Falls. And unlike the last waterfall painting I did, this one came out a lot better. The moss that you see was a last minute add-on to help give it more depth (thanks to the crayons I used). I have to admit that the splash effect at the bottom of the falls was a nice touch and adds a bit of realism to the whole thing.

Overall, I’d say that this one came out pretty good.

Today’s number:

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SIA Post: Liberty Head

This week’s SIA project was chosen by Kim, over on Fierce Fashion. She chose the piece, Liberty Head, by pop artist, Peter Max.

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This image is fair use, taken from the Wikiart site, seen here.

Here’s what I came up with for this SIA.

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Yep. I just had to pull out my Captain America t-shirt for this one. I’ve worn this for a previous SIA challenge, which you can see here, back when our good friend, Erin, hosted one of the challenges. And just like the image that she chose called for a graphic t-shirt, I felt the same way about this one.

While I’m not a true Marvel fan, I do like Captain America and liked him in some of the Avengers movies that I saw. While Lady Liberty is one of America’s important historical symbols, Captain America is one of America’s iconic symbols (along with Superman), with his name even having the word ‘America’ in it. His theme colors match the main colors of the painting, which I felt was good enough.

And I topped it off with a pair of blue jeans. And for those of you who know me well enough, t-shirts and jeans are not my usual attire. But for the unofficial start of the summer season, what better way to show my patriotism?

And that’s all for me. Be sure to check out Kim’s blog this Wednesday to see how everyone else interpreted this image.  Hope to see you there!

Also, I wanted to end with another inspirational quote that I read in one of my daily readers for self-help that I thought fit where I’ve been emotionally and how I’m changing my own attitude about life in general. It reads:

“I have accepted myself and I’m beginning to accept other people the way they are each day. Now I have fewer regrets.”

And you know what? I really do have fewer regrets and the number is getting smaller all the time. 🙂

Today’s number:

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May 2020 Current Reads

This month I didn’t finish any books, but I am deeply into quite a few good reads, which you’ll see below.

These are directly from my Goodreads pages, which has a handy feature of calculating how far you are until completion of a book. The cool bar graph doesn’t show up here like it does on Goodreads, but the percentage of completion does, along with the page number. How cool is that?

I’ll be back next month with hopefully some of these books read and reviewed.

So until then, enjoy a good book!

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Today’s number:

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