Monday, April 29, 2013

Paint in the Wind (saying goodbye to my art finds ... sniff)

I’ve been a habitual art collector since 1963, when I opened my own ad agency in Seattle. I hired a lot of very good commercial artists who stepped into a telephone booth (à la Clark Kent) enroute to home nights and weekends and evolved into Da Vinci, Cezanne, Rembrandt, Kandinsky, Monet, Van Faux - uh - Gogh, etc.

They formed The Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters and raised money at an annual auction just before Thanksgiving, which I attended for about 25 years. They all came by my table and whispered in my ear, “Of course you’re going to bid on my painting.” When I moved to Arizona in 1993, I took my 175 paintings along. I put them all on a large floor and told my two daughters to take what they wanted. They had very good taste. I got involved in the art community in Greater Phoenix and bought some wonderful paintings at charity auctions, bankrupt art galleries, high end consignment shops and estate sales. 

After my wife passed away, I leased an empty space in downtown Scottsdale and I opened Eye of the Beholder Art Gallery on Marshall Way.  Mean Eileen Editing Queen temporarily put down her red pen and we ran the Gallery from January through April. We sold a lot of art, but more important, we learned a lot. Our building was sold and we put a substantial amount of art in storage.

Now, we have rented an empty antique store two blocks west of the Phoenix Art Museum to sell a large chunk of my collection, opening Friday, May 3 (for First Friday Art-Walk Night) through Saturday, May 11. I love many of the pieces I did not offer at the gallery last year, but I’m divesting them as I have no more wall space on which to hang, and my daughter drew the line at paintings on the ceiling.  Michaelangelo is frowning somewhere.   

My next chapter is to devote myself to stop adding chapters to the Happy Face manuscript (and the others still on the back burner) and publish the damn thing.  I have my publishing company, The Sourpuss Press LLC, aching for a finished product.

I tell everybody I’m 57 and dyslexic. And they tell me to retire and take up golf again. I say that would negate the authenticity of my Blog, which I named a FLOG because FLOG spells Golf backwards and I had to give up the time-consuming game to write this painful thing. Then Eileen gave me the FLOG access code …

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  For now.

The sale is at 133 W. McDowell Rd, about 2 blocks west of the Phoenix Art Museum, on the south side of McDowell Road.  It's a little 1920-era house with red striped awnings ... lots of parking in the back.  Visit for more info.
Estate Sale May 3-11     133 W. McDowell Road, Phx 85003
2 blocks west of Phoenix Art Museum


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bull Flog

Buenos dias. In case you remember my recent six FLOGS over Mexico, several people have asked if it was my first trip south of the border.  My first response was a yes, but on reflection, I had been to Mexico before.   I had conveniently forgotten about my first trip to Tijuana.
My brother-in-law, Floyd the Impresario, is slightly dramatic about almost everything.  He painted a picture of bull fights as a “beautiful and magnificent performance.”  Floyd lived in San Diego, just across the border from Tijuana (below the bottom of my list of places I’d like to visit, just under Afghanistan).  But when my wife, Margaret, her mother (my fabulous mother-in-law) Annie, and I went to visit Floyd, he insisted on taking us to the Bull Fights.

“It’s beautiful,” he said, “like a ballet and an opera. The matador (the most senior performers) executes various magnificent formal moves which can be interpreted and innovated according to the bullfighter’s style or school,” he said.  I later read something similar in the Bullshit Book, but that description went on to say, “It has been said that the toreros seek to elicit inspiration and art from their work and an emotional connection with the crowd transmitted through the bull. The costumes are fabulous.”

So we braced ourselves to get emotionally connected and crossed the border into Tijuana by “bus.”
Fortunately, I thought, the major league bull ring was dark that day.  But then we spotted a poster advertising bull fighting starting at 2 PM.   Floyd was vindicated and we crowded onto another bus that took us through the countryside and deposited us at what can only be described as a circular apartment building with an open interior stadium.  It was as if the current trend in America’s taxpayer-built sports stadiums was reversed - they built the “luxury” apartments first then put the sports venue in the middle.  The bull ring apartments would not qualify as luxurious by any stretch, but at least the taxpayers could afford to go to these games.
This was not major league.  It wasn’t triple A or double A or even single A.  The band which hyped the entrance of the bull and matador played off key.  The food dispensed by sellers in the stands were not hot dogs … but possibly recycled bull dogs.  The bulls, like Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, won almost every battle.  They carried more matadors out of the ring than bulls.

When one matador managed  to put his sword into the poor bull, no magnificent white horses as described by Floyd, came out for the ceremonial removal of the vanquished bovine.  Instead a two-and-a-half –ton rickety pick-up truck and two “vaqueros” did a fascinating rope trick, tying the bull to the truck. When the driver got the signal he gunned the motor and lurched forward, sending the two bull-hands flying out of the truck to crash land near the mortally wounded bull.   Almost certainly unintentional, but I like to think it was the Karma Credit Plan at work (I’m sure the bulls  thought they had it coming).
We were on our way out when the truck removed the combatants to the nearest ER/carniceria. 

Our escape must be saved for another FLOG, but you can clearly see why I blocked out this episode.
No bull!
ok...maybe a little bull

Monday, April 22, 2013

Here's pee in your eye (urine trouble now...)

(with a capital PEE)

Earlier I wrote about "GOOD NEWS." Today I’m writing about “Positive News from around the world, and right next door…” the title of a tabloid I picked up during my recent trip to the San Francisco Bay area.

Positive News sounded a little like those two songs I wrote about yesterday that inspired me; Put on a Happy Face and We Sure Could Use a Little Good News Today. But the only positive news about Positive News is, it was FREE. Free is a very good price. So I put the paper in my man-purse and brought it home.

After reading:
Four Nigerian Teens Build Working Pee-Powered Generator

I also found the story on and decided to steal it from that website instead of Positive News. The story reminded me of my sister-in-law's experience when she was invited to a college dance while she was still in high school. She took the train from Memphis to the University and discovered a nasty sty on her eye. Somebody told her to "put urine on it." Urine was not available at the drugstore, so of course she used her own supply. It worked and she went to the dance. This was about1968.

So here's the story, written by somebody named Beth Buczynski about the African teens:

We often assume that revolutionary technological advancements are the stuff of MIT scientists or Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, but that’s not always the case. All it takes to change the world is a good idea and the courage to see it through to fruition. That difficult process is paying off for a group of four African teenagers who’s recent Maker Faire submission is rocking headlines around the world.

The girls are Duro-Aina Adebola (age 14), Akindele Abiola (age 14), Faleke Oluwatoyin (age 14) and Bello Eniola (age 15), and they all participated in the Maker Faire Africa this year in Lagos. Reliable electrical power is hard to find in many parts of Africa, and the girls wanted to make something that would be truly useful for their fellow countrymen. Together, they assembled a working generator that’s capable of turning a single liter of urine into 6 hours of electricity.

The average human produces about two liters of urine in a day, so this generator doesn’t require “input” from an entire village. Still, turning pee into clean energy requires more than just a full bladder and a place to put it.

First, collected urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which separates out the hydrogen. The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder. The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas. The resulting purified hydrogen gas is then introduced to the generator. The girls were sure to include one-way valves to make the process safer, but as the Maker Faire Africa blog points out, there’s definitely risk of explosion.

In addition to that safety issue, there are other reasons why the pee-powered generator is far from market ready. As FastCoExist points out, “The separating of the hydrogen from the urine requires a source of electricity–and quite a bit of it. While the ammonia and urea in your urine make it easier to separate the hydrogen than it is to separate hydrogen from water (which is why we can’t use water as a power source) this generator still requires a large power input to work in the first place.”

Still, these teenagers aren’t the only ones who believe human urine could be a valuable source of energy sometime in the future. Scientists have been looking for a way to transform this waste into power for some time. We applaud these innovative young ladies for accomplishing in a couple of days what few have been able to achieve in a laboratory. (Or did Beth mean lavatory?)

Pee S. Please don't send urine ... just a response with your opinion of this Positive News to will do, Thank You.

A Little Good News


Music has had a profound effect on my life. On Saturday I listened to the fans at Fenway Park in Boston singing. It wasn’t like Beyoncé Knowles performing the National Anthem in front of millions around the world at President Obama's 2nd term inauguration in Washington, DC four months ago. It was the emotional pre-game ceremony at the Boston vs Kansas City game honoring the victims of horrific attacks on the Boston Marathon and paying tribute to law enforcement officials, first responders, race participants and volunteers. The emotional scene also included a stirring montage of images from the tumultuous week in Boston set to the song "Hallelujah" as performed by Jeff Buckley and a rousing rendition of the national anthem, this time sung by the fans. It brought tears to my eyes and palpitations to my heart and reminded me of another song that changed my life called Put On a Happy Face, written by Charles Stouse and Lee Adams from the 1963 hit Broadway musical, Bye Bye Birdie.

It was that song that inspired me in 1966, to draw a happy face to the best of my artistic ability and create an advertising campaign for University Federal Savings & Loan Association in Seattle designed to lead the community, which I said was clinically depressed, out of the doldrums by distributing “Happy Face buttons” and urging people to “Open a Savings Account and Put on a Happy Face.” The campaign was very successful and, surprisingly, The Happy Face went on to be the second most recognized Icon in the world.

A few years later I created an ad campaign for a radio station, theme “Good News.” All the news then, on every radio and television station and in every newspaper, was very BAD!  I wanted to create a point of difference for my client, but there was no music to inspire me then.  And the client said “News is news is news. There is no such thing as good news or bad news. It’s just news and we have to pass it along to our listeners.

But in 1983, the Canadian singer, Anne Murray sang one of the best songs I’d ever heard and it has haunted me for years. I thought about it on 9/11, the day of the Newtown disaster in December and while I sat stunned after the Boston Marathon.
Titled A LITTLE GOOD NEWS, it was-co-written by Charles Black, Rory Bourke and Thomas Rocco.

See if you don’t agree:

I rolled out this morning
Kids had the mornin' news show on
Bryant Gumbel was talkin' 'bout the fighting in Lebanon
Some senator was squawkin' 'bout the bad economy
It's gonna get worse you see, we need a change in policy

There's a local paper rolled up in a rubber band
One more sad story's one more than I can stand
Just once how I'd like to see the headline say
"Not much to print today, can't find nothin' bad to say", because

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town
Nobody OD'd, nobody burned a single buildin' down
Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain
We sure could use a little good news today

I'll come home this evenin'
I'll bet that the news will be the same
Somebody takes a hostage, somebody steals a plane
How I wanna hear the anchor man talk about a county fair
And how we cleaned up the air, how everybody learned to care
Whoa, tell me

Nobody was assassinated in the whole Third World today
And in the streets of Ireland, all the children had to do was play
And everybody loves everybody in the good old USA
We sure could use a little good news today

Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town
Nobody OD'ed, nobody burned a single buildin' down
Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain
We sure could use a little good news today.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Continuing Adventures of Stern Down Under (the US)

Azotar Anado

The San Miguel Home and Garden Tour

When we left “The Blue Elephant” we headed ‘out of town” toward the City of Guanajuato in the state of Guanajuato. I think. We had traveled the same road the day before, but it was still dark. 

We passed a few places that looked like this

...and this   

 “Are we there yet?”


On the other side of the railroad tracks and another couple of miles up or down the road, our driver turned right up a rocky dirt road a couple hundred yards until we saw a wavy adobe wall fortified with countless dark blue tequila bottles with the bottoms facing out and the tops facing into the courtyard surrounding the Chapel of Jimmy Lee Ray.

Suddenly we were there. In adult Dizzyland.

This is Walt Dizzy (aka Anado McLauchlin), your amiable host at his “home” in Guadalupe en La Cieneguita on the San Miguel de Allende House and Garden Tour. 

It’s hard to say what is most remarkable, remember-able and rejuvenating. The three buildings built by Anado and his husband of four years, Richard Schultz or Anado McLauchlin, the head Frog of Casa las Ranas.

Jim Powell and I have more than 140 years of collective experiences. We voted the house the surprise highlight of our Mexican adventures and the man who put all of it together most likely to have succeeded in delighting, amusing and stimulating our joint psyches. We’re glad our tour driver found it. It’s not that easy.

“FORGET the address,” Anado McLauchlin is quoted in a 2008 New York Times story as having told somebody on the phone asking for driving directions: “It’s like a dream: it doesn’t exist. How’s your Spanish? Tell the cabdriver: near the balneario. That’s the bathhouse. Or the casa de los colores — that’s the way
 a lot of them know us.”
The house has a ceiling made of bricks ... Anado alleges none have ever fallen.


It's cheerful.  It's cozy. 

 I wouldn't sleep well there, waiting for a brick to come loose and put me to sleep, maybe forever.

The pathway to the entrance to the main house features this ... um ... interesting mosaic.   Who knew Shaquille O'Neal was an artist's muse? Yes, the red thing hanging from the belt is what you think it is. 

The art inside The Gallery at the Chapel of Jimmy Ray, a mythical character that Anado has been paying homage to in his art for over 30 years, is every bit as as weird and wonderful as the outside.

Click here to see more of Anado’s story. And be sure to visit Casa las Ranas, the place that doesn’t exist, the mythical Jimmy Ray and Richard and Anado next time you’re in or near San Miguel de Allende.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Azotar - The Sunday Home and Garden Tour

Debbie and I arrived at Jim and Susan’s charming San Miguel home sábado a siete de mañana. We spent the day lounging and catching up with the Powells. We mulled over our touristy options. Being the houseaholic that I am, I opted for the San Miguel de Allende Sunday House and Garden Tour which began shortly after the Processional… a wonderful parade of uncountable numbers of people … ages new-born to centenarians … up a steep narrow cobblestone hill.

The House and Garden Tour is Ranked #28 of 86 things to do in San Miguel de Allende by Lonely Planet travelers. “An English-language tour of the loveliest private homes and gardens (mostly of expatriates) in San Miguel begins at noon every Sunday from the Biblioteca (Library.)” But it’s only $150. That’s pesos. $18 US. And it’s all supervised by volunteers with all proceeds spent to help educate the local Mexican children, many of whom I saw marching in the Processional.

Jim accompanied me while Debbie and Susan shopped. We were told by “experts” that there was no rush to get to the Biblioteca near the center of town after the Processional, but Jim exited the Biblioteca Hombre’s baño just in time to break into the line for one of five buses with about 30 seats each to move 150 tourists to Home #1. I lost my nametag identifying me as a paid tour-member before I got on the bus, but nobody ever asked.

The ten minute ride stopped in front of a charming three-story modern house with a Sotheby’s sign. I'll save you the airfare to Mexico and show you the Blue Elephant right here. Just send me $150 pesos for the tour.

It’s called “The Blue Elephant” (seems every home there has a name), built by the first person to extend a hand inside the front door. An architect from Chicago, he built the home seven years ago. On first meeting I didn’t ask him the price. This place is really stunning and the price is shocking relative to what I have seen in the US. $550,000 USD. That’s the blue elephant just above the bench, left side of the blue door.

A picture is worth a thousand words. So I’ll save you 8,000 words. Just take a look at the pictures and draw your own conclusions. I’ll put the words of the Realtor after the pictures. Please don’t cheat and read ahead. Then I’ll finish with my conclusion.
$550,000 USD
2 Bedrooms
2 Full Baths
2 Partial Baths
2,357 Sq. Ft.
$233 / Sq. Ft.
Single Family Home

 The Realtor’s description: Contemporary home in a prime Centro location on a quiet Callejon minutes from the Jardin (center of town). Floor-to-ceiling walls of glass fill this home with light while offering views of the two mature gardens from all rooms. The open-concept living room/dining room boasts 18 foot boveda ceilings, cantera floors and a central indoor fountain. The fireplace and Rennai heater ensure a cozy warmth even on our coldest days. The open kitchen has quality cabinetry and hardware, stainless steel appliances and beautiful black marble counter tops. The kitchen opens to the outdoors and a lovely custom stone table, ideal for Al Fresco dining or for sipping a morning coffee while marveling at the birdlife. The striking green cantera curved staircase with its custom wrought iron railing leads to a private guest suite and a separate office with balcony. The master suite and huge art studio are located in a separate structure across the garden for maximum privacy. The art studio could easily be converted into a ground-floor master suite or family/TV room. The secluded rooftop patio is ideal for relaxing with a good book or for taking a quiet afternoon siesta. This fully-walled property with enclosed garage is offered furnished.

· I loved the house, but it’s not for me. Mexico’s laws are very different from U.S. laws. This house would not get an Occupancy Permit where I come from.

· There is no bedroom on the main floor and a pretty good circular staircase to the second floor.

· After climbing up and down several steep stairwells and getting ready to climb to the roof-top patio, I noticed one tour member pull her hand back from a wrought-iron bannister just before she fried it. It was about 82 degrees fh. When I got to the roof-top patio I determined that a child, senior or inebriate would very likely take a long fall over the short wall that surrounded the patio.

· It appeared that the parking in the community is a nightmare. Not enough. Easy to have your car blocked. (I didn’t see the garage).

· I would change the name from “The Blue Elephant” to “The White Elephant” figuring the owner would not likely be able to sell it for $550,000, maybe not at all.

David and Debbie with Jim Powell