Thursday, September 12, 2019

Circulation in Gulf

The big swirl in the Gulf of Mexico now has a 10% chance of becoming a cyclone formation within the next 48 hours. 

Cajun Gold Book Reviewed

Jeff Salter interviewed me on his writers' blog a couple of months ago, and today he posted his review of my Cajun Gold novel on his website. Here is a link to it.

Jeff has written a number of books and I appreciated his looking over my novel.

To read his interview with me, CLICK ON THIS LINK. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Rickety Picket Fence

Here's a picture of a picket fence in need of repair...

Click on the image to make it larger.

Flash Flood Foundation

This is what happens when your house foundation is washed away in a flash flood. 

It must be a well-built house to still be standing with only half a foundation.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World

Tucked away in the shadow of the bridge crossing the Mississippi River in New Orleans is a former riverside warehouse that now houses Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World. It is a huge collection of Mardi Gras floats, artwork, and sculptures, outlandish creatures, funny faces, and even superhero characters. Plus a pelican or two.

Ten artists work feverishly all year long to produce hundreds of new floats for area parades, sometimes using parts and pieces from previous floats, sometimes creating new creatures altogether. In addition to Mardi Gras floats, the company also provides beautiful/intriguing 3-D artwork for amusement parks, casinos, and specialty businesses. 

The tour of the place takes about 45 minutes and includes a short movie about Mardi Gras, its parades, and the peculiar effects of "Carnival Season" on New Orleans inhabitants and the thousands of out-of-towners who somehow spend $1 billion each year on the extravaganza.

Here are some pictures of the more colorful, memorable, amusing and disturbing samples of Mardi Gras madness, captured in papier mache, styrofoam and fiberglas.

Click on the images to make them larger. 

The World of Mardi Gras World

A guided tour

A Work In Progress


A blank float canvas



and Superdome heroes

Although they look real, no dalmatians were hurt in the taking of this picture

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Tibert’s Flying Pirogue

Tibert lives back on the swampy end of the bayou, and he's got himself a pirogue. Now, there's a knack to paddling a pirogue, but it is not fast, no. If you want to go fast in a pirogue you have to paddle first on one side and then on the other side, and you switch sides back and forth as fast as you can. If you don’t switch sides, you wind up going around in circles instead of going in a straight line, and when you're trying to get away from an alligator going in a straight line is a good idea.
Anyway, Tibert was hoping to get a faster boat one day. While he loved his little pirogue, he felt a need for speed, something that wasn't going to happen with anything you had to paddle.
So one day, Tibert came across a used airboat for sale. You know, one of those big aluminum flatboats with the big airplane propeller in the back, wrapped in a wire cage, so you don't get sucked up into it. Tibert decided it was just the thing he needed, but how in the world was he going to afford his own airboat? Well, lo and behold, it was cheap, a real bargain. So he bought it, launched it in the bayou, and cranked it up.
He found out why it was so cheap right away. His new boat had two speeds: off and full blast. There was something wrong with the throttle thing. The engine was either off or run-for-your-life-cause this thing's a'coming thru. It was a little aggravating at first, but Tibert figured it out. Just point the boat in the direction you wanted to go before you start the engine, then hang on.
He really kind of enjoyed going 60 miles per hour through the swamp. With those things you could even go over wet grass. It was loud, but Tibert couldn't hear too good anyway, so that was okay. He could zoom over to the Bayouside quick stop real fast to pick up a six pack, as long as he remembered to cut the engine off half a mile out so he could coast on in the rest of the way.
Eventually he and the quick stop guy figured out that as soon as the quick stop guy heard the roar of the propeller, he would just step out the back with a six pack and toss it to Tibert as he whizzed by. One time Tibert didn't catch it and the whole six pack hit the big propeller. That was a mess. That only happened once, though. The water moccasins were drunk for a week.
Nobody told Tibert to stay away from cypress trees with his airboat, so the first few times he came close to a bunch of cypress trees, he was wondering what all those bumping sounds were on the bottom of the boat. He could hardly hear them over the roar of the propeller. He swung close to the cypress trees a few more times and finally figured it out, the cypress knees barely sticking out of the water were doing a number on the bottom of his boat.
His boat's aluminum hull started looking pretty banged up. In his pirogue Tibert could glide right in-between the cypress knees and no problem. With the 60 mile per hour airboat, though, those things were whacking the heck out of his boat bottom.

It only took a couple more times before the cypress knees started poking holes in the boat and ripping it down the middle. So when that happened Tibert turned the engine off, gradually came to a stop in the swamp and his airboat sank right then and there. Of course, since the water was only two feet deep, Tibert just stepped out of his boat and walked back home. The propeller and the engine didn't even get wet. It was just sitting on top of the shredded aluminum hull.
That's when Tibert got his great idea.
He brought in his trusty pirogue and bolted the big wire cage airplane propeller and engine to the back of his pirogue.  The first time he cranked up the airboat engine on the pirogue was a real life-changing experience, but pretty soon, Tibert got the hang of it.  Now he would whip through those cypress knees at 60 miles per hours and no problem. He was the talk of the bayou,  people would wave at him when he whizzed by at 60 miles per hour on his pirogue. It was the birth of a legend. 

Somewhere back in the bayou was the wreck of an old seaplane. Tibert had passed it many times. Years earlier, that seaplane was landing on the bayou and bang, it hit a bunch of cypress knees, and the little airplane just keeled over and half-sunk in the muck.  They just left it there.
Tibert suddenly had an even more brilliant idea. He thought that if he unbolted the wings from the old seaplane and bolted them to the side of his pirogue, that, together with the airboat engine and propeller, he could actually fly down the bayou. I mean FLY down the bayou.
So, after some effort, he got the wings off the old seaplane and hooked them up to the side of his pirogue. He paddled out to an open stretch of bayou, a long straight stretch of water. Then he hit the switch on the airboat engine and took off down the bayou. Man, he was whipping down through the egrets and alligators, with the wings on the pirogue sticking out both sides, pulling down the moss that was hanging from the trees.
Tibert was amazed. He just knew that at any second, his pirogue would take off and zoom off into the sky. There was one thing he hadn't counted on, however. When he took the wings off the seaplane, he didn't make any notes about how they were attached. He wound up bolting the wings onto his pirogue upside down.
The faster the pirogue went, the lower the pirogue went into the water. Faster and faster, lower and lower. Then, at last, the front bow of the pirogue went underwater, and... well, several eyewitnesses gave their accounts of what happened, but their stories vary.
Needless to say, at 60 miles per hour, once the bow went under, the pirogue just suddenly disappeared in a big splash. It sort of dived straight down, ramming into the swamp bottom muck at a tremendous speed. Salvage crews later found it 25 feet down, with wings still attached. The airboat engine was ruined of course, but that wasn't the worst part.
Poor Tibert, when the pirogue plunged underwater at 60 miles per hour, he was flung out of his seat and he went flying down the bayou all by himself, hitting the surface of the water and bouncing up and down, sort of like what a flat stone does when you skip it across a lake. He must have skipped down the bayou 12 or 14 times. He landed at the edge of the bayou where it takes a little bend. He was a little dazed.
There was one of those big Cajun weddings going on at the moment, with about 200 people in attendance, plus the priest and the bride and groom, who were just about to take their vows.
Well, when they heard the big commotion on the bayou, and heard the rapidly approaching skipping sound, they all turned around and there they saw Tibert, a little wobbly, but managing to stand up at the edge of the water. All that skipping down the bayou had torn all his clothes off, so he was standing there without a stitch on. The wedding guests were shocked, of course, and the bride screamed. In fact, she fled the scene and by the end of the following week she had become a nun.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Hancock County Map Production

Here's the production sequence video for the 2019 Hancock County pictorial map featuring Bay St. Louis and Waveland, Mississippi. Click on the play triangle to start the video, then the "[ ]" in the bottom right to enlarge the view. 

It took about a month to draw the pen and ink base map, then digitizing it and using the computer to add colors, shading and texture.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Leeds Map

Here's the downtown map I drew of Leeds, Alabama, back in 1988, some thirty years ago. 

Click on the image to make it larger.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Lunar Landing Motel

On a vacation trip a few years ago, we stopped at a small roadside motel in Lamar, Colorado. One of its rooms was decorated with space scenery on the walls, so naturally we asked for that one. Here are some pictures of what it is like when your motel room is surrounded by a lunar landscape (and comets!)

A bed among the craters

Comet in the corner. Don't get too close to the thermostat!

Just the right size for hugging...

Watch out for that comet!

Some days it just feels like this.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Donaldsonville Roots

This picture was published on August 13, 1961, showing a scene from 1903 in which a family from Donaldsonville, LA, is heading for the annual fireman's parade. I found this clipping from the Dixie Roto Magazine (Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA) in my grandmother's files, and since she was from Donaldsonville, I suspect it has some family significance. Click on the image to make it larger. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Newsboy Appreciated

For more than 45 years, John Scheuermann stood at the corner of Canal Street and Camp Street in New Orleans, right in front of the 24 hour drug store, and sold his newspapers. He was called a "newsboy" in the industry, but his contributions to the cycle of newspaper production and distribution were legendary. 

He always had a smile as he dispensed his newspapers, and hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who worked in the downtown New Orleans business district would swing by, either in the morning for the Picayune or the afternoon for the States-Item. "Mr. Johnny" was extremely well-known, well-liked, and appreciated for his ready smile and the latest news. 

He began his career before that new medium called television was even thought of, and his vending of the printed news was a step ahead of even the new-fangled radio news broadcasts. Many of the early radio news broadcasts featured an announcer reading the news straight out the latest edition of the newspaper. 

My dad knew Mr. Johnny well, even though he only bought newspapers on Sunday mornings. He would drive down to Canal street, Mr. Johnny would see his car and run over with the huge Sunday morning paper, stuffed with comics in color, advertisements, society news, obituaries of the week, and, of course, the Dixie-Roto Sunday magazine. 

Here is an article from 1957 that tells the story of Mr. Johnny better than I could ever tell it. The public today has dozens of news outlets, one for every interest, and several electronic ways to receive it. Now let's harken back to the days when you could only get your news by picking up the latest newspaper from the "newsboy" on the corner. 

Click on the images to make them larger. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Teenage Movie Making

When I was a teenager in Bay St. Louis, MS, my friend next door, Terry Phillips, and I made several action/adventure movies together, using an 8mm Kodak movie camera. Sometimes other members of his family would be brought into the cast as well.

There were three movies based on the character named Simon Smud, a super spy who worked for the Federal Reconnaissance Observatory Group (F.R.O.G.). The name of the first film was The Man From F.R.O.G., and if you are familiar with 1960's television shows, you will recall the spy show called "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." So creativity was not that important in our premise.

The second FROG film was Let's Kill Frog, and the third was Firestorm. Basically all the plots were the same, a lot of running and jumping, staged fist fights, and some special effects. Most of them were filmed at Holiday Nursery on South Beach Blvd., but we also went out and did some filming in the neighborhoods, the train station, and other exotic locations.

One time, while filming a chase scene, we came across a forest fire on the side of the road, and while other people were fighting to put it out, we were filming fight scenes with the forest ablaze in the background. 

I won't detail the special effects, but I will say that our parents gasped at certain times during the screening of these cinematic wonders. It's amazing the puff of smoke you can simulate when you have a small packet of flour attached to a mouse trap. The trap is tripped, and the handful of flour shoots up into the air. 

There were other movies beside the spy movies, a science fiction time travel film where a visitor from the future can't understand the people of today, and an adventure film set in Africa where jungle explorers are unlucky enough to be near a volcano with a meteorite crashes into it. Needless to say, we used a lot of ketchup as a stand-in for lava coming down the side of the volcano.

We also did a lot of "test films" where various special effects were tried out, and those are my favorite. The spy films and science fiction films were, by necessity, "silent films" because this was before video cameras and even sound 8mm film. So whenever I showed those, I had to narrate the action and sometimes provide the sound effects.

Friday, May 17, 2019

A Short Story

I had an interesting dream last night, bordering on a nightmare. When I woke up, I decided it would make a good science-fiction short story. So here it is. 

All In A Day's Work

Nineteen year old Gary Winstead arrived at the auto garage at 7:30 a.m., as he always did, to get ready for the day's work of fixing cars. He had just graduated from Pierpoint High School a couple of weeks earlier, and he was looking forward to working another summer for Charlie Clarkson, the auto mechanic who had, over the past few years, taught him a lot of about cars, car engines, and everything else a good mechanic needs to know.

Was Gary going to college in the fall? He was already making pretty good money with his car repair work and doing a few other jobs around the neighborhood, so he was in no hurry to leave his hometown to go off to college for four years. His girlfriend Mandy would agree with that.

He unlocked the tool cabinet and got the parts trays out and cleaned them. He cleaned and shook out the blankets they would drape over the car fenders to prevent scratches while leaning over into the engine.

Gary went over to the car that was first on the list of that day's work schedule and noticed that a small piece of paper had been tucked under the driver's side windshield wiper. Gary lifted the wiper, pulled out the note and unfolded it.

In his own handwriting, the note read: Do not trust your future self. Take the money if you need it, but don't do what he says. Your other future self.

Gary looked at the note, stared off into space for a moment, then just shrugged it off as something truly bizarre and put the crumpled up note in his pocket.

A minute later, after opening the big garage door and turning on the "open" sign in the office window, Gary turned around and saw himself standing in the shadows, holding a briefcase.

It was definitely himself, but looked somewhat older. Gary blinked. He walked a few steps closer to his future self,  but remained wary.

"Hey, thought I'd help you out a little. I know this is a tough time for you, a lot of decisions to make, stuff like that," the older Gary told the younger Gary. The older Gary put the briefcase up on the workbench between the grease gun and the set of wrenches. He opened the briefcase, and the younger Gary could see it was full of money.

"One million dollars, a gift from your future self. Yours to enjoy. All you have to do is have the contents of this jar chemically analyzed and patented. It's a new kind of fuel. Amazing breakthrough. Made of bio-degradable ingredients, but a better fuel than anything before. And you invented it, or you will invent it. Just take the jar, analyze it, get it patented, and you're good to go. Here's a copy of the chemical formula, all written out." The older Gary smiled, patted the side of the briefcase and placed the glass jar full of green fluid on the workbench.

Then he faded into thin air. The younger Gary was left with the jar and one million dollars in cash sitting on the workbench.

He turned and went into the office and began making a pot of coffee, the strong kind that Charlie liked to have as soon as he comes in.

As soon as he finished with the coffee pot, Gary went back to the workbench to look at the briefcase full of money and the jar of green fluid. There was a small piece of paper folded up, lying next to it.

He picked up the paper, unfolded it, and read the note, again in his own hand-writing.

"Do not do this. Destroy the jar and the stuff in it. It is extremely toxic to the environment. It can cause massive amounts of damage to every living thing on the planet, screws around with DNA viability. Enjoy the cash, though, while you can."

Gary put the note down on the workbench. He stared at the jar. He stared at the money. Then he sat down and wondered what he should do, particularly how he should get rid of the stuff in the jar.

A moment later, there was a sparkle in the air behind him, and there he was again, his older self, holding another briefcase. He looked older than before, and perhaps a bit more haggard, but he was smiling weakly.

"What a morning this has been... for both of us," he said. "Okay, here's the deal. I brought you another briefcase full of money, another million dollars."

He put it on the workbench next to the first one.

"And you need to know there may be some question as to the safety of the stuff in the jar, some environmental issues. I am working on getting those fixed. For now all you need to know is that you will make a lot of money with this new kind of fuel, and I mean a lot of money. So don't worry. Get it patented and as soon as I can work out a better formula I will get it to you."

Then the older Gary once again vanished.

The younger Gary started at the new briefcase, opened it up, and found inside another million dollars in cash.

He took a long deep breath, thinking it might be best if he just took the money and poured the fluid down the drain. He closed the briefcase, and saw that a new piece of paper had appeared behind it. He reached over, picked it up, and unfolded it. It read: "Don't do it."

The note was in his own handwriting. He looked at the two briefcases and the jar. Then he picked up the jar, went over to the sink, and poured the fluid in the jar down the drain.

He put the empty glass jar down on the counter. Almost immediately, a new piece of paper appeared next to the sink. Gary picked It up, unfolded it and read it.

“You idiot. We are doomed. When I said don’t do it, I was telling you not to pour it down the drain. Now it’s gone down the sewer, into the river, into the oceans and around the world. Everything is lost.”

Gary stared at the note. Then he stared at the two briefcases full of money. Perhaps he and Mandy should take some kind of trip together. From the front of the garage came a yell, “Morning!” It was Charlie. He had arrived and was already pouring himself a cup of coffee.

Gary picked up the two briefcases and carried them out to his car, putting them in the trunk, out of view. As he was walking back to the garage, he noticed a piece of paper, folded up and stuck under his windshield wiper. He got it and read it. It said: “All is good.”

“Hey, what the hell!” came a yell from the garage. It was Charlie’s voice. Gary ran into the garage and saw Charlie standing in front of the sink. The entire sink bowl and pipes under the sink had been removed and were gone. The glass jar was also gone.

The rest of the day went relatively well. At the end of the day, Charlie asked Gary what he had decided about college.

“Well, I think I might study physics, or chemistry, or quantum mechanics as it relates to time travel,” Gary said.

Charlie looked at him. “Well, that narrows it down,” he said.