As of January 15th I have a new job as a writer with The B Company
Every moment holds promise for unexpected productivity, finding the opportunity is the dance.
I am grateful to Maggie LaNoue for providing this website.
I am grateful for the Meloney hospitality that I received during a time of crisis this past spring.
I am grateful to my health insurance for the excellent care they give me.
I am grateful to be here in this residence and to have an automobile.
I am grateful for the support of my friends.
I am grateful for the part time job at the radio station KXXO Mixx 96 FM.
I am grateful to live in a community where I can grow and learn new things.
I am grateful for my own mysterious creative talents and abilities.
I am grateful for history and the lessons available to us by remembering the truth.
I am grateful for all mercy shown to our homeless sisters and brothers, they will teach us how to live without our ordinary comforts.
I am grateful for the off button so that I can turn off the bad news that seems to be increasing constantly.
I am grateful for the ability to create better circumstances every day.
I am grateful for electricity, we must remember that without it we all will have to learn again how to survive the same perils our ancestors did.
I am grateful to my parents for all they left me with and the upbringing to always see the best in the future ahead.
I am grateful that you are reading this now.
Thank you. I wish you peace and prosperity ahead.
Next I hope to find a great job, even better than the past ones, and to be open for romance. I will learn to help others more. I will lift others up in any way I can.
To be an artist usually means that you work all the time and especially when you are dreaming, but you rarely get paid for it.
It all started when we were having trouble getting young Bucky to brush his teeth. He does like candy, and bubble gum is a favorite. So when the Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste came out we bought some and it sat around for weeks before we could get Bucky to even try it. He did eventually, and guess what — he liked it!
Did he ever. Soon it was no problem getting him to brush his teeth, and he began to use larger and larger amounts squeezed out onto his toothbrush. We had to watch him and restrain him from piling on way too much. In no time we went through that first tube. So we bought another. We began to suspect that he was brushing his teeth quite a bit after school. We were buying a new huge family-sized two pound tube of Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste every time we went shopping. Soon it was a whole gigantic tube each week. Then it was two tubes. We found a place that sells it by the case. He was just wild about the stuff and was brushing his teeth five and six times a day, sometimes he would have an extra snack so he would have to brush his teeth again.
Normally we give him an allowance; if he saves it up he can buy a new video game, or a treat like candy, or whatever he wants to buy. He has an asthma problem, so if he saves up for three weeks he can renew his prescription for an inhaler. His doctor gave us a prescription for an extra strong inhaler so he can breathe at night and when running around playing with his friends. But it’s his money and he has to decide what he does with it, we are very strict. He must learn about managing his own resources.
We decided to try to confront him about his strange alarming enthusiasm for the Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste, and sure enough he yelled. After school he would break all the windows in the house and car, as well as all the mirrors in the bathrooms, loudly complaining that he just wanted to brush his teeth so he would not have any more cavities. How could we argue with that logic? Dental health is very important of course.
Anyway, we began to suspect something was going terribly wrong when we found piles of dried up empty squeezed out tubes of Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste under his bed. He denied everything and began to keep his door locked all the time. I hear its normal for kids to act that way, so we know he is just going through a phase.
We got a call from the Seven Eleven next to the school, he was not buying candy with his allowance, he was buying more and more tubes of the Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste. At this point we were hardly shocked. Right about then a newspaper article came out about a clerk who used to work there but who disappeared one day and was never seen again. Little Bucky just turns red and goes out into the yard whenever we try to talk about it with him. The police were not helpful at all, but they soon stopped coming around so often. They still park out in front most evenings.
Anyway, we just did not know what else to do, and when we tried to talk to him about it he would fly into a rage and demand that we stop bothering him. All he said was that he wanted good teeth and a nice Yummy-bright smile. We would peek at him brushing his teeth and find him sucking it right out of the tube. He would go over to his friend’s houses and have their moms buy tubes of Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste, and then secretly suck down whole tubes at a time. We were getting more calls from his friend’s parents. They were alarmed and they wanted us to do something about it, or at least pay them for all the tubes of Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste that he gobbled down. Soon they would not allow him to come over to visit any more.
We tried stopping his purchases at the source; we talked to all of the new staff at the Seven Eleven over by his school and told them not to sell him any more tubes of the stuff. At first they were not convinced, but soon they too became concerned about his special appetite. Next he was just stealing boxes of the stuff, walking out with several tubes at a time and taking them to a wooded area where the bigger kids go to smoke after school. After we put our foot down over that he was soon just sucking down whole tubes right there in the store. He really loves the stuff, to this day. Its toothpaste, so what could be the harm in it?
After lots of struggling and much acrimony over the kitchen table day after day, we decided to talk to a professional. We talked to several child therapists and psychologists and they all gave us different explanations of what was going on. We finally found one who told us what we wanted to hear. It was not easy to find this angel. Persistence is rewarded.
Well, to make a long story short, we decided that it was not doing our family any good to be fighting about it all the time. My blood pressure was getting dangerously high and every weekend was ruined by all of the trouble over Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste. All that broken glass was getting expensive but we found a place to buy glass in bulk and I learned to replace it myself. For the bathroom we bought some unbreakable steel mirrors so that problem was easily solved. My wife was constantly sobbing and would lock herself in the bathroom for days at a time. She was on her way to a Nyquil drinking problem and God only knows what else she was doing in there. Something had to be done before little Bucky had one or maybe two dead parents. The neighbors kept calling various social services organizations in the area and we were in and out of court constantly during this time.
For his next birthday we decided to try another approach. His favorite cake is called “confetti”, which is an angel food cake with colorful candy sprinkles all through it. We decided to frost the cake with his favorite flavored sweet goo, Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste, of course. It takes more than one large sized tube for a two layer cake, with extra thick coverage in the middle and on top. Because you can squeeze it directly onto the cake in interesting and decorative patterns, and that makes clean-up so much easier. Have you ever tried to wash a knife with dried Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste on it? Soaking or chipping with a chisel does not help. It takes special solvents that we have to order directly from the toothpaste company, but it’s just easier to throw everything away and buy new cutlery.
The glitter sprinkles really add a nice touch and I bought a special light which really sets off the whole presentation. We are experimenting with different kinds of glitter.
Now we just have large crates of Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste delivered directly to our door in bulk each week, and there is peace in our house once again. It’s a family favorite and we always have a cake or two in the pantry, as well as all the ingredients to make more. His teeth have not actually shown much improvement though. In fact, he has so many cavities that we had to shop around to find a willing dentist who offered us a special deal on a full set of juvenile crowns. When his adult teeth do come in they will be immediately replaced with some kind of new special superior designer artificial teeth that the dentist has been telling us about, paid for by the Yummy Bubble Gum Flavored Toothpaste Customer Service Representatives and the American Orthodontic Products Advisory Board, but that is our little secret and we are not supposed to be talking to anyone about all that. Bucky just got a call today about being in some advertisements for their product; it’s quite a lot of money, more than enough for his special new teeth. They want to send a photographer and put his adorable face on the new label design.
A deck is a collection of cards. Each card is unique in some way. Each card has a picture or some kind of meaning expressed. Each card is a unit of knowledge. The collection has added meaning because of each of the different card elements and how they all fit together. That is my proposed new art form, the appreciation of collections of images or units of knowledge.
I began with some ideas based on another project, what I do with those ideas has nothing much to do with the original project, but I want to put the whole thing in proper context. I told my ideas to my friend and partner, Lorraine Tong, and she drew pictures for the first Story Deck. The title of the deck, as there can be many different Story Decks, is A Found Story. It shows various characters, drawn with no facial features, doing various things such as riding a horse or standing in front of a door to a castle. There are some characters only seen on one card, and some characters that turn up in various combinations and doing various things. Or not doing anything but in different situations or settings.
Each card can be a springboard for making up a story, possibly even right there on the spot. You can spread them all out and then pick the next card as you tell your story, or you can stack the cards up and try to make up something with whatever the next card turns out to be. You can put them in a particular order or you can shuffle them and see what comes up next.
Lorraine is a poet, so she immediately went to work on a Poetry Deck, the one she made is called The Heart Escapes. The cards contain a single word, or phrase, or an incomplete phrase. The word cards are probably the most simple to make yet they have so much more possible meaning.
I had an idea called the People Deck, the one I made is called Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker and represents people in a village. My idea when I started was people in a traditional European villages, only because that was easy for me to work with. The cards can be used to represent how all the different personalities, jobs or vocations that are represented interact to make up a whole village. In my opinion, the drawings are not as good as the ones that Lorraine draws.
Another idea is more abstract, Points Lines and Space is the first Mosaic Puzzle Deck. There are no words or representational images, just abstrct forms. There is no way to put them together in a larger pattern, its just forms that you can arrange in whimsical ways. The idea of pieces of a puzzle still can be explored, the cards form a natural grid but they can also be tossed around and overlap in spontaneous ways.
The fifth deck is the Collector Deck, a collection of related images. The first Collector Deck is called Leaves of the Pacific Northwest. It contains leaf shapes, there are lots of reasons for the shapes of leaves, they usually have to do with light and the movement of water. Other Collector Deck ideas include Statuary, photographs of faces of statues. Another Collector Deck is the Faces Deck, which is made of photographs of faces that have been altered to show just the element of the face, attempting to remove the identity of the person and emphasizing the shapes of the eyes, nose, mouth and the whole face itself.
As you can see, the idea is very simple and wide open. My secret idea behind all of this is to see what other people come up with for making new card collections. We are all making sets of cards.
When I started there was an interest in using the cards for games. Games need rules. Games have winners. If there are winners then there are losers. It all gets too complicated and distracts from what I am interested in, which is the pictures themselves. I just want to look at the pictures, I think that is enough.
No rules. No limits. Just pictures. How do the different pictures contribute to the meaning (if any) of the whole collection? I love questions, I have no answers to stop the thought process, its all open.
What makes a deck? What if you mix two or more decks? Does each picture mean the same thing to each person looking at the picture?
Story Deck: how many stories are in a deck?
Poetry Deck: do the same words make a new poem if the order is changed?
People Deck: what do the people say to each other? What would a village from another location or time look like?
Mosaic Puzzle Deck: what if there was a larger picture that was cut into parts, can they go together in new ways or should they only go back to the original form?
Collector Deck: this could be anything from baseball cards to flash cards to a stack of photographs from a road trip. Can there be a deck concept with no limits?
A set of five was not complete, I wanted more, I wanted to provide a blank deck so that others can make their own picture cards or poetry cards. So the sixth deck in the set is blank cards.
What next? How can this idea be developed and new contributions encouraged?
Here is another idea for a deck: a Music Deck which is like a Poetry Deck in that it might contain individual notes or phrases or incomplete phrases. You can put then together in different ways and discover new ideas.
Let us take this further! Leave a comment…
These pictures were taken by me walking around Schuylkill County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania during the Halloween season of 2009. These folks have a very special tradition of celebrating the season, each borough has its own parade and they coordinate with each other so during the week of Halloween the kids can go to a parade every night. That is a LOT of candy. Most of the decorations have been on display for generations. Some of the pictures were taken through glass and have strange superimpositions.
PETOSKEY MICHIGAN 1979
The Theater of Transformations, me with Lorraine M. Tong. This photograph by Jan Nagel was taken in the Spectrum Center located in Petoskey, Michigan above the old Food Coop and Mercado restaurant.
Frank Zappa died because he did not get a timely check up. That does not mean I think of me and Frank, it means the world lost Frank Zappa due to this oversight. Some kinds of cancer have no symptoms until it’s too late, and the early stages are usually most successfully treatable. Frank left way too soon. Now you all are stuck with me instead.
Agreeing to do it was probably the hardest part, I did it because of Frank. I did it because the insurance covered it. I did it because I had no conflicts to argue with. I did it to get it over with.
The next hardest part is the preparation. They gave me two pieces of paper, detailing what needed to be done. Acquire specific and inexpensive laxatives and gatorade, no red gatorade no red dye anything and there is fasting so the system is empty and most easily examined. I put some effort into considering the aftermath, what I would do after the procedure, what I would eat after such a long fast, I do not fast often. I decided on yogurt and nuts and berries for my first meal after its over.
Three days out: no more nuts and berries. Certain meds get discontinued. You tend to wonder what is going to happen, but nothing short of cancelling will halt the countdown. I waited and distracted myself. Working is best for that. There are other options, I tried my favorites. Writing. Sleeping perchance to dreaming.
Two days out: dinner tonight will be the last meal I eat. Sounds final doesn’t it. The Last Meal.
One day out: no solid food, instead drink salty broth. The salt causes water retention, that will be handy later in the laxi-fast when things are flooding out. Next comes the beginning of the laxative regiment. Three PM take the two tiny laxative pills. Four PM mix the powder laxative with the gatoraid. Chugalug one of the two bottles.
The morning of the procedure: There Must be a Designated Driver Present. The patient will not be able to drive or navigate reliably after the procedure, so there must be someone to get The Patient safely home. At 7 AM comes the second round of powder laxative and gatoraid. I felt no specific discomfort, but there was lots of talk to read in my instructions about nausea and how to get that gatoraid laced with laxative down the hatch. I rushed it, it was done in 30 minutes, and they allowed two hours. There was no advantage in chugging it in 30 minutes.
Belly feels full, and there is lots of pooping starting shortly after the first laxatives were taken, and it just keeps on going but not in a messy way. I had no close calls because I stayed close to the you know what. They suggest a moist “wipe” rather than paper to ease the skin around the opening. The Opening. The procedure is to send a camera with special tools up through The Opening. I hope it’s a small camera. What about lights?
The doctor needs a clear view, hence the massive laxatives so things will be clean and simple in there. The procedure I experienced started with a long wait in the waiting room after check-in at the desk. I was light headed from the fasting, so I pity my poor driver, I probably chattered like a nervous monkey between long silent staring trances. They called my name and I went with them.
They put me to bed and attached stuff, most notably a needle and tube taped to my arm, try not to think about bumping it or tearing it out, or having it accidentally caught on someone passing by. They added the drug through that portal and I actually remember the whole thing. The doctor introduced herself, she seemed perfect for the role. She was magnificent. I seem to have survived, unless of course all this is just a dream as I now lie there dying.
I watched it all on TV as I lay on my side and they drove the camera and tool pack up the dark wet tunnel. I felt nothing THANK GOD. To get a better view they inflate the entire chamber (the colon) which is painless but does require extensive expulsion for the next twelve hours or so. Who is counting? It’s noisy.
I got home and enjoyed that yogurt with nuts and berries. I listened to Peaches En Regalia. Now I am all weepy, I miss Frank.
UPDATE Mr Zappa died of prostate cancer, not colon cancer, same neighborhood, different house. The lesson remains, get that check-up! Thanks HMV for this correction.
I left Detroit around 3pm on Saturday (the last Saturday of July 2018) after a brief visit with an old friend in Plymouth. Well, he really isn’t old, actually he is younger than me, by about 130 days.
After going over the Mackinaw bridge traffic slowed way down. There was not much time before dark and I will do anything to avoid driving at night these days. This is one of the distinctions of my getting older, which is hardly an excuse.
Looking for a motel on a Saturday night is always tough, but this area has lots and lots of little cheap motels. Pretty much all of them are now closed down and boarded up. I drove on and on into the night.
Until I came to Dreamland. It was perfect (there was a no-show, who for all I knew would be arriving in the wee hours to be turned away, no rooms for 80 miles said the proprietor of Dreamland. I love that name. There never was a peep from the no-show, as it turned out therefore it was all good, I got a room!), and I got my oatmeal at the Dreamland café, where the hummingbirds put on an excellent show of high speed death defying stunts.
Day 2: Michigan to Wisconsin and then deep into Minnesota.
Stayed at a little place in Crookston.
Day 3: Minnesota, North Dakota and into Montana.
Saco is where I landed, the only thing worse than night driving might be driving West at sunset.
Now I am in Libby Montana, home of the ongoing vermiculite disaster. I have always enjoyed visiting this area, nice trails in the forested hills.
Tomorrow, Sandpoint Idaho to visit with my cousin, with whom I spent the summer of 1963 at the home of my Aunt Mary and Uncle Tommy in McComb Mississippi.
From there Home to Olympia, where I will immediately get a job and live happily ever after.
The main thing I accomplished was to close out my storage locker. That was very difficult.
BATTLE CREEK MICHIGAN
I am back. It’s been a long time but everything is pretty much where I left it, but it all looks so different.
Sturgeon lived in the Kalamazoo River for many thousands of years. We did well and had abundance, and shared it and time went by and it was a great life.
Things are different now.
I was told that in life I could do anything I wanted to, I could choose any career. I have no regrets. A rich man teaches his son to prosper, a poor man teaches his son to survive. I chose what I thought was the best. I did nothing wrong. I guess the problems of the world are bigger than they used to be, and that is what is keeping most people up and some people down. You see them, sitting by the traffic light holding tattered signs. You can’t tell me you have not seen them. What are we doing with them?
Not everything works all the time. There are days when it seems hopeless. But there are days when it’s amazing, the water is clear and there are lots of little creatures eating each other all around the river. On the surface maybe there is a calm duck making its way along the surface of the river and maybe a little breeze and it’s all so peaceful but just below the surface, in the water, it’s a jungle. Eat or be eaten. The big ones have no fear and most of the little ones become a meal for the slightly bigger ones. Nobody gets a free ride.
1974 High School Graduate
“You can do anything. What will be your profession?”
Message to the past: DON’T DO IT! Pick something that will pay the rent, you can still do your art.
My name is Robin B. James. The B distinguishes Robin from the other awesome Robin James’s out there: an actor, a famous children’s book author/illustrator, a wise professor, a Man for Himself stylist, a pop rock singer, and many, many more. I am an American Artist. I am a proud graduate of Albion College 1978, with a triple major Theater, Visual Arts, and English. A triple major was possible because experimental education was an option at that time (not any more). I had the only Independently Designed Major when I graduated. My parents were both Albion College faculty stardust. I am a child of a history professor and an economics guru. They were both self proclaimed Children of The Depression which was followed by World War II, and they practiced daily lives of thrift. Because they had experienced extreme poverty, they were extremely mindful of waste and were always figuring out ways of reusing things. Waste not want not. I was told, which is a good foundation for life in general.
My first position after graduation was forming a touring poetry-puppet show. This lead to radio theater arts and then music journalism. I invented a system of using pictures to improvise story telling. I became the world’s authority on the electronic folk arts of the 1980s and edited The Cassette Mythos (ISBN 9780936756691). Adding the study of library sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle allowed me to not have to choose between any of the academic specializations, arts and sciences, thus I can study them all. Which means I have a shallow understanding of everything. Next I invented a quantified keyword system for a stock photography business pioneering new commerce models on the world wide web.
On September 11, 2001 I was the guy at the office of the Center for World Performance Studies at the University of Michigan International Institute. For a very brief time I was living the dream of being an actual Art Librarian at the Kalamazoo Institute for the Arts, looking back now this probably was the zenith of my professional career, an opportunity to blend my background in undergraduate studies (fine arts) with the practice of library science, even if this was mostly volunteer work. I was a reference librarian in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (historic Schuylkill County, home of the Molly Maguires) followed eventually by being the library manager at the American Institute of Alternative Medicine (Columbus Ohio) which includes the studies of acupuncture, massage therapy and traditional LPN/RN training. Most recently I spent several years working with elderly and developmentally disabled adults, respectively.
I still write reviews of recorded jazz and experimental audio art. I search for my Albion Moonlight. My inner author has not yet levitated. I have failed at all these things, but I have few regrets. Thank you Thomas Jefferson College of Grand Valley State Colleges (now GVSU), Albion College, The Evergreen State College, and University of Washington Graduate School of Library and Information Science for the training to adapt to most anything and to have the confidence and courage to try new things.
Gallery of Robin James
the jazz singer
Man for Himself England-based fashion consultant
this is me, Robin B., in 2011