Sunday, April 15, 2018

I've been driving all night, hands wet on the wheel

I hate to drive. I always have. It's a chore and a hassle and I just don't like it. My wife, however, loves to drive. So, you might say we have a marriage made in Detroit.... or something like that. (We both drive Japanese cars, but, for the sake of a joke, you know what I mean.)

I drove to every job I ever had and hated every gut-wrenching, white-knuckled minute of it. I hated driving in bad weather, especially when it snowed. I am not a particularly good driver (oh, I'll admit it) and sometimes I have difficulty navigating slick and snow-covered streets. I am also fearful of other drivers who don't change their reckless driving habits to suit the weather conditions. 

In 2007, I started a job that allowed me to take the train everyday. That was great. My car sat in the same parking space nearly six days per week, while I sauntered, carefree, to the train station that is conveniently located at the end of my street. Even on weekends or evening events, I would opt to take the train when my destination was downtown Philadelphia (which it often was). Sure, I had my share of complaints about my daily train commute — passengers putting their bangs on the empty seat next to them, despite posted policy comes to mind — but, compared to driving.... well, there was no comparison.

Now, eleven years later, I find myself back in the fast lane. Sort of. I started a new job and I no longer will be taking the train to work. I drive. Luckily, my work hours allow me to leave my house and drive in the direction where I can see a huge majority of drivers from Philadelphia's northern suburbs inching their way towards the city. The traffic in the opposing lanes moves at a snail's pace as I happily zip along on the wide open macadam. I get to hear the morning show on my favorite radio station and it's pretty smooth sailing for the approximately forty-minute drive.

But, all things in this world are not perfect. Several times during the last two weeks, I have encountered a traffic stoppage due to a train crossing (how ironic!) and several drivers who were more interested in their cellphones than paying attention to the other cars on the road. I was behind a fellow on a single lane road who nearly hit the curb twice and crossed the double yellow line three times as he leaned over towards the passenger seat in his car, his head only popping up when he needed to make a quick steering adjustment. I was delayed this evening by an accident and a number of cars not wishing to yield to an approaching ambulance.

Perhaps, I will get used to being a regular driver again. Now that I think about it, I suppose it's people I have to get used to.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

the way things are going, they're gonna crucify me

Well, I'm certainly not gonna make any friends with this particular blog post. I may even lose some regular readers. But before I get into the gist of this post, I wish to justify my narrative with something of a disclaimer.

On December 8, 1980, I was with my friend Sam at a Bruce Springsteen concert at the storied Spectrum, the self-proclaimed "America's Showplace," in Philadelphia. We were rocking and punching our fists to the sky in unison with our fellow Springsteen fans as "The Boss" poured his rock-and-roll heart out in a balls-to-the-wall rendition of Mitch Ryder's "Devil With a Blue Dress." Those in attendance that night were totally unaware that one hundred miles up the New Jersey Turnpike, John Lennon, the impish and sardonic Beatle, was being shot to death outside his apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. When the concert was over, Sam and I popped an 8-track tape of Springsteen tunes into the player that was amateurishly-installed under the dashboard console of my Mom's '72 Plymouth Fury. We headed to a diner for a late-night snack. I didn't find out the dreadful news until I arrived home and my parents were still awake. They greeted me at the front door and broke it to me in much the same way Howard Cosell broke it to America during Monday Night Football. I heard my parents' report through concert-weary ears. I shuffled up the stairs to bed. I had just started art school a month or so earlier and had to wake up by 6 a.m. to catch a bus. The next morning, I awoke with only a vague memory of the conversation with my parents. As part of my regular routine, I bought a newspaper to read on my long commute to school. The headline screamed "John Lennon Slain." As I sat silently on the bus, reading the accompanying story, I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks. I didn't even wipe them away. I just continued reading the account of the events outside the grand Dakota the previous evening. I glanced around the bus a few times. I wasn't the only one who was crying. I grew up loving the Beatles and I felt as though a piece of me was taken away.

See, I actually cried when John Lennon died. Remember that. 

However, John Lennon — snide and sarcastic counterpart to perennially sunny band mate and collaborator Paul McCartney — was kind of a dick. Stories of abhorrent incidents have surfaced over the years, some reinforced by the Liverpudlian singer himself. His extremely revealing and sometimes brazen interview in Playboy, just a few months before his life was cut short at 40*, offered a personal insight into the superstar's life — and heretofore furtive past.

Here are some things about John Lennon that you may not know:
  • He admitted to a sexual attraction to his mother.
  • He hated when disabled fans in wheelchairs were placed stage-side during Beatles performances. He was very vocal about how much he disliked this.
  • He cheated on both of his wives.
  • He physically abused both of his wives.
  • John Lennon notoriously hated to be touched. When actress Jayne Mansfield once touched his shoulder at a party, Lennon urinated in her drink and served it to her.
  • The chorus of the Lennon-penned song "Run For Your Life" is autobiographical. (You better run for your life if you can, little girl / Hide your head in the sand little girl / Catch you with another man That's the end, little girl)
  • He insisted that Yoko Ono accompany him everywhere, including band rehearsals and to the bathroom. She protested, but he was adamant.
  • He beat the shit out of an acquaintance for alluding to a homosexual relationship between Lennon and Beatles' openly-gay manager Brian Epstein. (In the fade-out of "Baby, You're a Rich Man," Lennon sings "Baby, you're a rich fag Jew.")
  • Once when his infant son Julian giggled, John told the child, "Your fucking laugh annoys me." He also frequently hit Julian. In the Playboy interview, he bluntly stated the difference between his two sons, Julian and Sean: “Sean was a planned child, and therein lies the difference. I don’t love Julian any less as a child. He’s still my son, whether he came from a bottle of whiskey or because they didn’t have pills in those days. He’s here, he belongs to me, and he always will…Julian and I will have a relationship in the future.” Julian revealed that Paul McCartney was more of a father to him than Lennon.
  • In the beloved song "Imagine," Lennon sings: "Imagine no possessions." Twenty years later, singer Elvis Costello (not such a great guy in his own right) sang: "Was it a millionaire who said 'imagine no possessions'"? Paul McCartney often said that Lennon was a hypocrite.

There you have it. Please feel free to research any of these examples of John Lennon's crass and callous behavior. But while you're Googling my allegations, remember... I cried when John Lennon died.

All I am saying is "Give me a chance."



*The interview took place in September 1980, but was not published until the January 1981 issue.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

preaching and a-cryin', tellin' me I'm lyin' about a job

Once again, much to my shock and surprise, I found myself back on the job market. The last time I had to look for a job was approximately fifteen years ago. The methods for seeking employment had changed considerably since 2003 — and it was a bit daunting. 

First of all — and this was the scariest aspect of the whole procedure — fifteen years ago, I wasn't 56. Looking for a job when you are within ten years of retirement age is tough.  The reality is: the current world of graphic design is a young(er) person's world. And the actual process does not lend itself favorably to those of us with — shall we say — "experience." You see, there is no longer the opportunity to call a prospective employer and set up a face-to-face interview. Hell, you can't even drop by an office and present your resume because that office is on the fortieth floor of an office building and the lobby of that building is patrolled by uniformed guards that won't let you past the reception desk unless you actually know someone up in those lofty heights. Thanks Mohamed Atta, you motherfucker.

So, the preferred avenue at which potential employment is sought is now — ta daa! — the internet. Yep, websites like Monster and Indeed and Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter and LinkedIn are the way to go. A bunch of impersonal, electronic equivalents of the newspaper want ads or that bulletin board down at the  local supermarket. Every morning (I was still waking up at the same time I did when I was working), I'd diligently check each one of these websites and apply to each and every applicable position — and even a few that were slightly outside of my realm of expertise. I posted a reworked, streamlined version of my Curriculum Vitae, featuring only bulleted lists of my four most recent positions, edited down from a thirty-five year career of graphic design, illustration, publishing, advertising, printing.... I should probably turn this into a bulleted list. Once a job is applied for electronically, the next step is waiting. And waiting. And waiting. You see, there is literally no contact with those nameless, faceless folks who are offering jobs. There is no room for follow-up. There's no "hey, did you get my resume and can we discuss my qualifications?" There's no way of knowing if there even is a job available or if these folks are just testing the waters. Or worse... someting more malevolent.

Nope.
On the final day of my tenure with my most recent employer, I received an email from one of the many companies to which I electronically sent my resume. The person identified herself as a recruiter from Tesla Motors. I vaguely remember applying for a graphic designer opening offered by an ad on one of the many online job boards. The recruiter, Sarah, invited me to an interview via Google Hangouts, a mode of communication with which I was unfamiliar. I figured it's some new technology that "the kids" use, so I better learn fast, lest I appear out of touch with current technology. Some quick research  and a bit of "trial-and-error" revealed that, once I was logged in to my Google account, I had access to Google Hangouts. I'm pretty savvy with other forms of social media, so I was able to figure out Google Hangouts in no time. I contacted Sarah at the appointed time and we began what looked like a Facebook Messenger session (or the old AOL IM, for those of you closer to my age). I thought it was a bit odd that Sarah was using a "GMail" account and not an official "Tesla Motors" email address, but when the chat turned to real graphic design questions, I changed my focus to the more important subject at hand. I was asked about my past design experience and the interviewer soon posed questions related to logo design and the entire creative process, using terms that were specific to the industry. Next, I was briefly informed that this was a "work-from-home" position and would require me to outfit a home office, then the conversation quickly turned to comfortable salary and benefits. After nearly an hour online, Sarah said she would present a transcript of our conversation to the hiring manager and I should "stand-by." And "stand-by" I did. For twenty minutes... while I was in the train station waiting for a train. (That's right, I participated in this entire interview on my cellphone!) Finally, Sarah returned to our "chat" and told me I had been hired by Tesla Motors. Then, she immediately sent me a lengthy list of everything that I would be required to purchase for my home office, including a Mac Pro and software, a Wacom tablet, a high-resolution flatbed scanner, a color laser printer and sundry other items that amounted to the contents of the average Staples store. I asked if I could have a phone number to speak to someone regarding this rather large purchase and eventual reimbursement. She assured me I would be speaking to someone soon, but failed to supply a phone number of any kind, instead, opting to supplement her list of essential equipment. I waited for a pause in the texts, quickly interjecting that I didn't think this was the job for me. She only replied "Okay" and disconnected from our conversation without inquiring about a reason for my change of heart. I was honestly confused and I second guessed my decision. Did I just turn down a job? But, the more I thought about it, the less sense the whole thing made.

A few weeks later, after sending countless (and I do mean countless!) applications to more employment offers than I can remember, I received an email from one "Michelle Technow," a recruiter from TSC Apparel. TSC was one of the many companies that was advertising for a graphic designer on several of the job-seeking websites. In the email, Michelle indicated that she wished to conduct an interview via Google Hangouts. I immediately became suspicious. Again, she was using a GMail email address instead of one from the company with whom she claimed to be associated. 

This time, I did a little pre-interview investigating. I went to the TSC website. They are indeed a legitimate company that supplies clothing to businesses on a wholesale level. I navigated to the "Careers" page of their website, where I was greeted by this message...
Holy shit! This is unbelievable! I took a screenshot of the message and quickly opened a Google Hangouts window to let Michelle Technow that I was ready to proceed with my interview. And I played dumb.
 
I waited a minute, then I sent the screen shot to her, along with a question about it.

And, again, I waited for a reply from Michelle Technow.... or whoever the fuck was on the other end of this bogus chat. I got nothing. As a matter of fact, the bright and colorful avatar of her (alleged) face went dim. I noticed that my message failed to send.
What on earth is this bullshit? Have people really sunk this low? Scamming some poor sap who is trying to find a job? Really? Really?? That's on the same level as kicking a puppy or cursing at a baby (and we certainly know that people do that!). Makes me lose my faith in humanity. Wait a second.... I have no faith in humanity. I haven't for a long time.

Anyway, after a long, tedious and very discouraging period of job hunting, I am now, once again, employed.

And I'm staying away from Google Hangouts.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

it's a man's world

I was in Barnes & Noble yesterday, just to kill some time. Every time I go in to Barnes & Noble, I am surprised that it still exists. It's a big, cavernous maze of a building filled with hundreds and hundreds of books. Actual books in a time when most people a.) don't read. b.) if they do read, they read from a Kindle or some other type of electronic, paperless reading device. The fact that Barnes & Noble maintains a physical inventory, as well as trying to compete with the mighty Amazon with an online presence, is just plain baffling. Just ask Borders or B. Dalton about how futile a task that is. This past holiday season once again showed Barnes & Noble a reason to reassess its business model. Their sales were down considerably. In my stroll through the store, I discovered a glaring display that should make Barnes & Noble rethink more than its lagging income. Or perhaps one of its contributing factors. 

In addition to the numerous shelves of books, Barnes & Noble stocks a wide variety of magazines. Usually situated along the longest, continuously straight wall in the place, the magazine section, called "The Newsstand," features familiar titles like People, Rolling Stone, Us, National Geographic and others that still, inexplicably, print an actual copy in these days of immediate online information sources.

I filed past the in-store cafe, its many tables occupied by folks hunched over a keyboard or a cellphone, taking advantage of the free WiFi. The smell of brewed coffee followed me to the wall of magazines. Adjacent to the longest, multi-shelf magazine rack was a display highlighting a special sponsored issue of Time or Life or some other revered publication. Under the large "Newsstand" sign, the rest of the many magazines were grouped in sections identified by smaller signs printed in the branded colors of deep green and cream. "Current Events," was followed by "Family," where copies of Disney Princess sat cheek-by-jowl with Mad. The next section was labeled "Entertainment," where the latest issue of heavy-metal periodical Kerrang! was placed alongside several titles that sported some unidentifiable teens in torn clothes with glitter splashed across their sneering young faces. Laying on a riser in neatly stacked piles were issues of In Touch and Ok!, their colorful covers boasting someone I can only assume was a Kardashian. The next sections were the ones that made me stare in disbelief and then cringe.

The first section was labeled "Womens' Interests." On these tiered shelves was a collection of magazines whose subjects ranged from cooking to knitting to crafts then back to cooking. The covers showed either meticulously-styled beauty shots of fresh-from-the-oven, restaurant-quality entrees or pink and fuzzy, knotted yarn bunnies. There was pack after pack of similarly-photographed covers until it ended at the next section, one designated with a "Mens' Interests" sign. This section was filled with publications sporting muscular men flexing their rippling bodies in various poses, angry-looking guys tightly gripping a basketball alongside covers with malevolent-looking firearms spattered below matter-of-fact mastheads that read "GUNS." I looked around and I was actually the only person in the store looking at magazines. Surprisingly, there were no crowds of women with cooking utensils, wielding pinking shears trying to get past me. There weren't any buff gentlemen toting free weights and AR-15s, pushing me out of the way of the shelves. There was only me. Standing there. Disgusted.

In these times of equal rights awareness and inclusion and the recent #MeToo movement, aren't these labels a bit... um.... counterproductive? Especially, when this narrow-minded, exclusionary, antiquated mindset is being proliferated by a major retailer. Aren't magazines just magazines? Open to anyone's particular area of interest — regardless of sex, race or society's predetermination. I stood for a few moments — by myself — and shook my head in disappointment. I thought about how other big retailers displayed similar sexist labels. Instantly, the store layout of Toys R Us popped into my mind with its familiar "pink" aisle chock full of Barbie and her pals and accessories, noticeably separated from the thick and stocky action figures of popular wrestlers and rugged GI Joe. I know plenty of boys who have no problem playing with Barbie and GI Joe. I know lots of girls who love watching wrestling on television and enjoy make-believe with the likes of a miniature John Cena, as well as fashion dolls. Sure some Toys R Us stores showed some integration of the "boys" and "girls" toys, but there is a discernible "no man's land" between the two.

Barnes & Noble should take a hard look at their labels and a harder look at Toys R Us.... 'cause we now know where Toys R Us is headed.

www.joshpincusiscrying.com

Sunday, March 18, 2018

brothers in arms

One of my favorite shows has always been "Leave It To Beaver." Although the show debuted before I was born and completed its six-season run when I was 2, I happily watched it in reruns on local channels, decades before the Nick-at-Nite concept was hatched. The show was pitched as a warm family comedy, offering a glimpse into the problems faced by kids, followed by gentle lessons in parenting. Its goal was light humor, regularly shunning the broad slapstick of "I Love Lucy." According to co-star Tony Dow: "If any line got too much of a laugh, they'd take it out. They didn't want a big laugh; they wanted chuckles."

Lumpy, Eddie and Wally.
The one thing that always intrigued me about "Leave It To Beaver," was how the conflict was created in each episode. Most of the time, it followed the same formula. You see, Beaver (played by Jerry Mathers) and his big brother Wally (played by Tony Dow) were pretty good kids. They were polite, well mannered and respectful. However, their judgement was questionable. Specifically, their choice of friends. Both Beaver and Wally had friends who were total assholes. Every one of them. They were a pack of lying, conniving, two-faced con artists whose main goal in life was to make life miserable for the Cleaver brothers. Most famously, there was Eddie Haskell, Wally's slimy "best friend" played with oily creepiness by future LA police officer Ken Osmond. Eddie was always sucking up to Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver, only to mock them behind their backs. Then, he would invariably steer good-hearted Wally in the wrong direction when tapped for advice. Eddie would routinely convince Wally to hide a dent in the family car, to doctor a low grade on a test or to forge his father's signature on an important document. For some reason, perhaps as a testament of his loyalty to an undeserving friend, Wally would follow Eddie's direction and get himself in a bigger predicament that could have been avoided if he had only not listened to Eddie. By the episode's end, a humbled Wally would have to swallow his pride and own up to his actions, only to be forgiven by his dad, though Eddie Haskell's ass would remained unkicked. Wally's other friend, Lumpy (played by the late Frank Bank) was a typical, knuckle-headed dope who would jump off a bridge if Eddie Haskell told him to. Yet, Wally, a bright, popular, good-looking young man, somehow let his insecurities get the better of him and heeded every underhanded suggestion from Eddie and Lumpy, those sneaky bastards. Wally always forgave them for their bad advice and still came back for more.

Beaver, Gilbert, Whitey.... and Larry.
Beaver was also a victim of his lousy friends' double-dealing actions. Beaver's pals rivaled Wally's in every shifty and despicable way. Larry Mondello, Beaver's idiotic acquaintance was a sloth-like, slow-witted moron who led Beaver astray at the same rate that he stole apples from the Cleaver kitchen. This character was written out of the show in the third season when actor Rusty Stevens moved out of the Los Angeles area. His position as a bad influence was taken by Gilbert and Whitey, two minor characters that were given bigger roles. Gilbert and Whitey were just as weaselly and scheming as the departed Larry, repeatedly leading a naive and trusting Beaver down the primrose path. It was Whitey who famously dared Beaver to check if a giant steaming bowl on a billboard really contained soup. Instead of telling Whitey to find out for himself, Beaver climbed up a ladder, fell into the bowl and... well, it wasn't good. Parents were called, Beaver got in trouble and Whitey, that backstabbing little shit, got off scot-free. And Beaver still hung out with him and continued to take his advice. Gilbert convinced Beaver to make a funny face in a school picture, promising that he would as well. Of course, Beaver made a face and Gilbert didn't. Beaver got reprimanded and, as usual, Gilbert concocted some excuse that made it look like it was Beaver's idea from the start. And poor Beaver clammed up so as not to rat out his friend.

In addition to getting Wally and Beaver into trouble, these so-called friends were always borrowing money and toys and comic books and sporting equipment from the Cleaver boys. They mooched dinners by taking advantage of Mrs. Cleaver's hospitality. In the case of Wally, they moved in on girlfriends. In Beaver's case, they taunted him for having a girlfriend. These "friends" had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. So why did Wally and Beaver keep them around? There wouldn't have been a show otherwise. And that's what makes television television.

Don't worry Wally, I won't ever let you down.


www.joshpincusiscrying.com

Sunday, March 11, 2018

make a circuit with me

I draw. I draw a lot. I have been drawing for a very long time. When I was a kid, every spare piece of paper, napkin, notebook, scratch pad and cardboard in our house was covered with the little scribbled pictures that sprouted from my imagination. For years, the only way anyone could see my drawings was to come in close proximity to the refrigerator in our kitchen, which, at times, resembled a magnet-adorned Louvre that also kept the family's food cold. My mother, the curator of the Josh Pincus collection, regularly rotated my drawings on the refrigerator door, carefully archiving examples from my earlier periods in order to display the latest in my portfolio. Of course, the bulk of those sketches were lost when my parents passed away and the contents of their house was dispersed. And by "dispersed," I, of course, mean "sent to a dumpster." Some of my post-adolescent works were salvaged, though. The body of work I produced during my four years in art school were housed in my basement for some time, until several drenching rainstorms and burst pipe rendered the entire collection soaked, mold-covered and, thereby, ruined.

Well, eleven years ago this month, I discovered a new outlet where I could put my drawings on display — the internet! As a regular contributor to Illustration Friday, an art blog that issues a weekly drawing challenge, I decided to gather all of my drawings in one convenient spot for all the world to see. That central location is Josh Pincus is Crying that you've all come to know and love... or loathe, as the individual case may be. In addition to the weekly Illustration Friday posting, I have supplemented the content with stories from my youth and seasonal illustrations (like the annual Inktober challenge, a month-long celebration of monochrome drawings defined by the inked line, computer-generated or otherwise). Sprinkled throughout my illustration blog is the subject matter which has generated the most buzz and has gained me a small (very small) following as well as a macabre reputation. Of course, I am speaking of my love — and borderline obsession — with dead celebrities. Portraits of deceased celebrities  — both globally famous and unsung — make up a good portion of the posting on my blog. Recently, I even created a searchable category called "Dead Celebrity Spotlight" for which I post a new illustration and accompanying story every Friday morning.

First contact.
Over the decade-plus that I have maintained this blog, I've been contacted by folks who share (or at least claim to share) a connection to the subject of several drawings I have done. The first, and most notorious in the annals of the JPiC blog, came in April 2008 when I received an angry email from a fellow who was quite offended by my drawing and tale of Peg Entwistle. Peg, a nascent young actress who faced disappointment in the early days of Hollywood, leaped from the top of the "H" in the famed Hollywood sign, plunging forty-four feet to her death. My accuser was critical of nearly every aspect of my drawing (he said I was "sick") and my story (he pointed out discrepancies in times, days and locations). He even accused me of plagiarism. Prior to his barrage of emails, I had never heard of him. I gathered information from creative commons sources and other repositories of royalty-free content. This fellow was not satisfied by my calm and civil replies. He threatened me with lawsuits while he spewed the filthiest of insults at me, my work and my skills. He eventually gave up, but I got a great story.

Second contact.
Soon after the "Peg Entwistle" incident (as it has come to be known), I was contacted by another angry reader who didn't care for my portrayal of session drummer Jim Gordon. Gordon, for the uninformed or non-readers of my blog, was a member of a roster of musicians collectively known as "The Wrecking Crew." This revolving group of instrumentalists surrounding a core group of members performed, uncredited, on thousands of hit songs throughout the 1960s and 70s. Gordon was also a member of Derek and the Dominos, the blues-rock band fronted by Eric Clapton. Gordon composed and performed the iconic outro on the the classic song "Layla." He also beat his mother with a hammer and stabbed her to death with a butcher knife. He currently resides in a psychiatric prison in Vacaville, California. Someone identifying herself as "Layla Gordon" emailed me to express her displeasure with my drawing and story about Gordon and his fellow Wrecking Crew drummer Hal Blaine. "Layla" insulted my talent, corrected my knowledge, questioned my research and cursed my existence. I replied in the most polite and even-tempered manner, only to be subjected to salvo number two (and eventually three). I chronicled our exchange in another post on my blog and was soon contacted by a different woman, this one offering a more sympathetic tone. Emailer Number Two explained that my original antagonizer had threatened her in the same way she threatened me. This compassionate ally identified herself as the spouse of one of Jim Gordon's band mates and a quick Google search confirmed her claim. She also requested that I keep our conversation confidential. I guess I just broke that promise.

Third contact.
In March 2008, I spun the grisly tale of Edward Hickman, a 20-year-old disgruntled bank employee who abducted, murdered and dismembered his boss's 12-year-old daughter. Hickman was tried and, despite one of California's first "insanity pleas," was executed at San Quentin Prison in 1928. I admit I told the story in lurid detail, but that's how I do things when I feel the subject warrants it. It's that "life ain't always pretty" philosophy that inspires me sometimes. Nearly four months after I published that story, I was contacted by another Edward Hickman, first with comments left on the post, then via email. This Edward claimed to be the murderer's nephew. He actually complimented my drawing of his relative. He also alleged that his uncle was remorseful of his actions, a claim I could not corroborate in all of my research. A month or so later the younger Edward reached out to me again, asking for a high-resolution image of my drawing. I happily complied and made a few bucks on the transaction.

Fourth contact.
In 2012, I briefly chronicled the life of Max Manning, a beloved sixth-grade teacher at a school in southern New Jersey. Manning, unbeknown to his devoted students, was a star player in the Negro Leagues in the 1940s. A victim of racial discrimination at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, Manning ended up pitching for the Newark Eagles. His stellar on-field performance helped the Eagles overcome the mighty Kansas City Monarchs to win the 1946 Negro League World Series. With no chance of playing in the segregated big leagues and faced with the responsibility of providing for his family, Max walked away from baseball. He attended Glassboro State College on the GI Bill and graduated with a teaching degree. He taught at Pleasantville Elementary School for 28 years until his retirement. The summer after I published Max's story, I received a comment on the post from Belinda Manning, Max's grown daughter. Belinda admitted that, during a bout of insomnia, she "googled" her father's name and was directed to my blog. She praised my rendering of her dad and lauded my account of his life. Belinda maintains her own blog where she expounds on her family history and the history of the Pleasantville/Atlantic City, New Jersey area. She also touches on instances of social and racial injustice.

Fifth contact.
Back in October 2017, as part of my "Dead Celebrity Spotlight" series, I wrote and illustrated another hard-luck story. This one was about Leona Gage, a hopeful actress and disgraced beauty pageant contestant. Leona led a sad and troubled life, filled with tough breaks, poor decisions and bad advice. Just yesterday, I got a comment on the blog post. It was just three words: "That's my mother." Then, the same fellow sent a message on my Facebook page. His Facebook message was a bit longer. It read: "You drew an interesting picture of my mother Leona Gage. Thanks for the story." I replied with a thank you and then spent the next twenty or so minutes engaged in a sweet and insightful conversation with him, touching on my love of the Golden Age of Hollywood and my penchant for cemetery visits. Soon, he was revealing insight into his mother's life that were not present in any article or clipping I uncovered in my research for the original piece. I researched him a bit and discovered that, based on his uncommon last name and the fact that I made no mention of his father's name in my story, this guy must be who he says he is. After all, if you're going to make a "claim of fame," why would you reference someone so obscure? I thanked him for the information and for his kind words about my artwork.

These little encounters are a testament to the power and reach of the internet. I suppose it also confirms that there's always someone, somewhere, who'll read and react to stuff I write.

Maybe you'll see a loved one depicted in a JPIC drawing before too long. Who knows? Wait.... I know.

You can get you very own Josh Pincus is Crying custom portrait.
CLICK HERE for details.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

tell me are you a Christian, child?

My wife has been operating an eBay store for — gosh! — I don't even know how long. Years ago, when she first started, I used to help pack the merchandise that she sold. That was a long time ago and the process of running an eBay store has evolved into — well, closer to running an actual store. And Mrs. Pincus runs things in much the same way she ran her parents' general merchandise business in a Pennsylvania farmers market for many years. She has a designated day for listing, a designated day for packing and specific times to take shipments to the post office. However, due the the global reach of eBay and her participation in international sales, Mrs. P has been unable to limit the hours dedicated to answering customer (including potential* customer) inquiries. She regularly checks email and quickly replies to any and all questions. I have awakened in the middle of the night to see my wife's face illuminated by the glow of her cellphone. "What are you doing?," I'll groggily ask, knowing darn well what she is doing.

A lot of  questions regarding the items that my wife has for sale can easily be answered by reading the listing a little further past the title. Mrs. Pincus routinely answers questions about an item's size, color and other components — all of which are included in the brief description a mere mouse-scroll below the title and photo. But — as we have come to learn — people don't like to read. They like to be read to. Rather than exert a little investigative effort (very little), they like to be told by someone who has done the investigating for them (commonly known as "Let me Google that for you"). However, not every question can be anticipated. Mrs. P does her darnedest to include every possible measurement, every shade of every color and every piece of pertinent descriptive information, but, sometimes you get that one question that results in a good head-scratching.

Recently, Mrs. Pincus offered a plastic novelty magnet in the familiar shape of a bottle of Heinz ketchup for the reasonable price of $7.99. Feeling extra generous, an "or best offer" was added to the price.  Dated 1982 and manufactured by a long-defunct company called Arjon, this cute little magnet would be a welcome addition to anyone's novelty magnet collection (and before you ask — yes — there are plenty of folks who collect novelty magnets). One such collector contacted Mrs. Pincus with a two-part question about the Heinz ketchup magnet. The first part was "Would you do a 'Buy It Now'?" This is a feature that a seller can set up to enable a quick purchase for a price that is agreed upon by both parties. Mrs. P does this quite often. Part Two of the query was a bit more..... unusual.

"Are you a Christian? We are." This was followed by a little smiley face comprised of a colon and a closed parenthesis.  

Mrs. P was taken aback. Of course, she wants to sell this stuff. That's why it's on eBay in the first place. Of course, she doesn't want to lose a sale at the cost of offending a potential buyer. So, Mrs. P replied in a firm and diplomatic way — way more diplomatic than I would have been.
Like most folks who freely promote their religious beliefs as though they were discussing the weather, they are either convinced that everyone shares their beliefs or they feel they are doing the Lord's work, convincing a lost lamb to join the comforting fray. Either way, it is always a losing argument, usually met with cheerfully narrow-minded reasoning and unwavering commitment. They will never ever see the other side of the argument. There is no "other side," as far as they're concerned. This case, of course, was no different, as this revealing response shows:
First comes the sermon, the stirring message of reaffirming faith and back-handed enticement into the ways of their dogma. Then, back to business, because — well, they obviously want that magnet. (perhaps as an offering). But they also feel a divine obligation to save another poor soul from the fiery grip of Satan. So, they offered four bucks on the magnet. Mrs. Pincus politely declined the offer, hoping that this exchange would now continue as a business discussion, but she knew it would not. She replied, attempting to make her position clear. 
But, as expected, they were not finished. They would not rest until our eternal, everlasting spirits were fully accepted into the Kingdom of... of.... Everlasting Acceptance. Their parting salvo was phrased this way, still mixing business with religion to their very last breath... er, offer
By the way, if you'd like, the beautiful 1982 Arjon Heinz Ketchup magnet is still available on eBay. 

Shipping is extra. Religion is too.



*A potential customer is anyone who asks a question about an item, though hasn't necessarily made a purchase... or has even hinted at making a purchase. Mrs. P has learned to treat every inquiry as a paying customer. Who knows? The goal is to get them to end up as one.