Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drop That Meat


Magnet # 50:  Flounder with Flower

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Me

Tomorrow is World Vegetarian Day.  So give Flounder here and his buddies a break - or at least consider it.

I'm not much of a carnivore.  The meat I eat the most of is definitely fish.  I love salmon, shrimp, and crab, especially if they come in a sushi roll.  On occasion I'll have spaghetti and meatballs or maybe once a year I'll eat ribs, but I can't even tell you the last time I had a steak, hamburger, or hot dog.  Those are just too much meat for me and they usually wind up making me sick because my stomach isn't used to dealing with them.  So, maybe I'm a little semi-veg.  There are times when I've gone for a week or so without eating any meat.  And red meat isn't the healthiest food for folks to eat, so I'm fine with my natural inclinations against it.

Regardless of my preferences, I do support my favorite carnivorous television hosts, Bourdain, Zimmern, and Richman in their pursuits.  Watching them eat loads of meat on every episode of their respective shows is downright entertaining.  And I likewise have no beef (hee) with those who follow in their footsteps.  But, you hardcore meat lovers know all of that meat you stuff down just isn't completely good for you.  So think about taking a break, even if it is just for a day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Favorite Mutant


Magnet # 49:  Famke Janssen as Jean Grey Photo

Material:  Laminated Cardboard

Purchased By:  Catrina

My favorite comic book heroine, Jean Grey, debuted this month back in 1963, along with Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, Beast, Professor X, and Magneto.  That's when Marvel published Uncanny X-Men # 1, a comic which introduced the world to the X-Men.  Stan Lee wrote the book while Jack Kirby handled the pencils.  It's a shame I wasn't around to pick one up - it's worth around $11,500 today.

So why is Jean my favorite?  Well, she's got red hair - and I love red hair.  I've even thought about going red myself someday.  Plus, she has two pretty awesome powers - she can read other's thoughts and move objects with the power of her mind.  And the rest of the X-Men are all quite fond of her because she's a pretty caring person.  Yep, I wouldn't mind being Jean - maybe just for a day, though.  She has a habit of dying a lot.

And, yes, I collect Jean Grey action figures (they're not dolls - really!).  I only collect Jean to try to keep it under control.  My old roommate got me one when she was at a convention, and this image was part of the box.  I didn't want to just toss it away, so I cut it out and eventually laminated it and stuck a magnet on the back.  

I thought Famke Janssen did a good job portraying Jean in the recent X-Men films.  I definitely liked her best in the second one, even if I didn't like her short hair.  There's never been any actress that I've felt must play Jean, and I thought she was a fine choice.  At least they kept her character and story pretty close to what had been established in the comics.  I know alot of Rogue fans were pretty unhappy with all of the changes they made to the heroine and I can't blame them.  When film adaptations mess with characters people love, they rightfully get mad.  Of course, I haven't followed Jean in the comics for years.  Last I checked, she was still dead.  Maybe if Disney can manage to get Marvel Comics back on track and resurrect Jean, I'll go back.  Until then, I can always reread some of the great old X-Men comics she appeared in or pop in X-Men 2 for another viewing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Beauty of the Spheres

Magnet # 48:  Grand Teton Landscape Photo

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

PBS premiered Ken Burn's new film, The National Parks:  America's Best Idea yesterday.  It was the first two hours of a whopping twelve hours so, if you missed it, there's plenty more left to be seen.

Last night's segments focused on Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the very beginning of the National Park Service.  I learned that the word Yosemite actually means "they are killers."  The men who named the park thought it was the name of the Indians who once lived there, but it was actually what they called their enemies.  John Muir, the adventurous, eccentric naturalist and author whose efforts were so critical to the creation of the National Park System, was also featured.  He came to Yosemite almost by accident and was hired by James Hutchings, a dubious man who was exploiting the area with an inn and, later, a sawmill.  His work there connected Muir to Yosemite and all nature for the rest of his life, later inspiring him to fight to keep the National Parks protected and pass his passion to a younger generations that could continue his work and share his love.  The show was very interesting and so nicely done.  If you didn't see it, it's worth checking out in the days to come.  And no, the Grand Teton National Park wasn't mentioned, but it may yet be featured.

I've visited very few National Parks, but in examining my magnet collection and starting this blog, I've become much more interested in them.  It doesn't help that growing up in Alabama, there were no National Parks in either the state or nearby Georgia or Mississippi.  The closest, of course, was The Great Smoky Mountains, a six hour drive away.  As I mentioned, I visited those several times.  And I likewise saw Mammoth Caves and Yosemite as a child.  But we didn't really travel out west that much, or to other areas that have National Parks, so I haven't had that much exposure to them.  I think I'd like to see more of these beautiful, even sacred, areas, especially now that I have a better appreciation of the struggles that went into creating and preserving them.

The title of Burn's program refers to Teddy Roosevelt's comment that the National Parks is "America's Best Idea."  It is amazing that, in the history of the world, we were the first country to set aside land for the people alone.  It was an idea that caught on worldwide, and now there is not one continent (excluding Antarctica) without National Parks.  It's a truly American concept and is among the best global influences we can claim. 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Starve No More, Artists


Magnet # 47:  Ellen Million's Golden Apples

Material:  Plastic

Purchased By:  Me

Another artist I was looking forward to meeting at this year's Dragon*Con was Ellen Million.  She always has such interesting things to say in her Live Journal blog and her artwork is so pretty.  She's a self-proclaimed Dot Addict and if anyone saw the amount of stippling, or tiny dots that give a sense of shading, she puts into some of her pieces, they'd be hard-pressed to argue that nickname.  She also has a very strong sense of narrative in her work and doesn't skimp on the backgrounds, both qualities  I admire.  So I definitely wanted to pick up a couple of her magnets at the Con.  My almost lifelong love of mythology prompted me to buy this one, which features Idun, the Norse Goddess of eternal youth and Bragi, the Norse God of poetry.  

I also wanted to meet Ellen because she has her own company, Ellen Million Graphics, that represents quite a few talented fantasy artists.  Her website is http://www.ellenmilliongraphics.com/.  Ellen's goal in life is to "disassociate the words starving and artist" and her company's slogan is "Taking the Starving out of Artists Since 1993."  I was hoping to show her my own work.  To be honest, I wasn't even sure if it would make the cut.  And the first time I stopped by her booth, I just couldn't work up the courage to show her my portfolio, so I ended up buying a stack of magnets, both hers and her artists.  That was fine, but it bugged me that I had chickened out yet again.  And then a friend of mine, who is an incredibly talented artist herself, decided to give me a confidence boost by showing my work to a few other artists.  They had very nice comments and encouraged me to enter the Dragon*Con art show next year.  Bolstered by this, I managed to go back to Ellen's booth and nervously hand her my portfolio.  She seemed impressed by my work and wished that she was accepting artists right then.  Ellen told me to submit my art the next time she called for new artists and said she was glad I had managed to come back and show her my work.  She even sympathized me on how tough it is to show someone your work.  I was really glad to meet her, especially considering she's not planning on attending Dragon*Con again anytime soon.  And I will be sure to apply to be one of her artists when the time comes.  Wish me luck!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

All the Small Things

Magnet # 46: Clark Kent Turning into Superman

Material: Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By: Me

Well, last night, the CW dumped its long-running hit Smallville on what's known as kiss-of-death Friday, because so few people are around to watch it. Quite a few shows have been cancelled because of being placed on this night. They gave newbie The Vampire Diaries its former Thursday slot. I guess we'll now see if Smallville can make it. Tom Welling's Clark Kent is in for his biggest fight yet.

While I've watched Smallville since its debut, it's never been my favorite show. I like it, but for some reason have never become captivated by it as I have other programs like Lost, Desperate Housewives, and Supernatural. Every so often, I'll realize how long its been on and I'll be amazed by its staying power. Considering its lost all but two of its original actors, the show certainly has changed. We've seen the addition of a very well-cast Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson and a Green Arrow that is pretty different from his comic book roots to balance out the loss of Lex Luthor and Lana Lang. But I think the quality of the show has held up and it's been fun to see the Lois and Clark tension.

If Smallville is cancelled because of the CW's lousy move, I vote for it to be moved onto the big screen, just as Star Trek: The Next Generation was. I know, there was that Superman Returns movie back in 2006 and they keep saying there's a sequel coming from that, but nothing concrete has happened yet. So why not loose Brandon Routh and Kate Bosworth, whose respective performances as Clark and Lois were dull and almost completely lifeless? Replace them with Welling and Erica Durance, who give spot-on performances of these beloved characters. And while I love Kevin Spacey in films like L.A. Confidential and The Ref, he really isn't perfect to play Lex Luthor. Luthor is both a physical and a mental threat, which Michael Rosenbaum did an excellent job displaying on Smallville - he would have to come back if that film were ever made. Sure, people thought for awhile it was Warner Brother's intention to spin-off Smallville to the big screen before Superman Returns began production, but why not at least consider it now. With the possibility of a Smallville cancellation becoming ever more likely and a Superman Returns sequel lost in limbo, it might be the best big screen move Warner Brothers can made regarding DC's flagship superhero.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Moving on Up

Magnet # 45:  Phoenix Hot-Air Balloon

Material:  Clay

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

My parents bought this Clay Critters magnet to commemorate the hot-air balloon ride they took during a trip out West in 2005.  They had a lot of fun.  I thought it would be appropriate to post today, considering Phoenix's fictional television psychic, Allison DuBois, is moving on up to another network, CBS.  Yep, the season premiere of Medium is tonight after Ghost Whisperer.

Earlier this year, I was pretty nervous.  Two of my favorite television shows, Medium and Chuck, had not yet been renewed by NBC.  And time was running out.  Fortunately, in regards to Medium, the first news I heard was that CBS had added the show to its lineup after NBC cancelled it, not just that NBC axed the show.  CBS, which produces the show, grabbed it up, and even had a few scathing remarks for NBC.  They knew it would be an ideal match for Ghost Whisperer, a supernatural crime show and rare Friday hit that had yet to be paired up with the right partner.  I was really happy, considering that NBC usually waits until January to premiere Medium.  Now, I was going to be able to see new episodes of Medium in September - yay!  And then I found out that NBC had dumped Chuck in January and cut its season almost in half to 13 episodes.  Well, at least it wasn't cancelled.

Medium follows the life of Allison DuBois, a loving wife and mother who also has all sorts of visions of the dead and premonitions of events yet to come.  This ability has landed her a job with Phoenix's District Attorney, and she most often helps him solve a murder each week.  The show also features her three young daughters, all of which are developing psychic abilities of their own.  What I like best about this show is the twists they throw in.  I have a bad habit of figuring out what is going to happen in movies and television.  Although I often can see where this one is going, on occasion I can be surprised, which I really enjoy.  Okay, so there might be a plot hole or two, but I don't dwell on those.  Also, the characters on this show are very likeable.  I'm pretty fond of Allison's husband, Joe, who's portrayed by Jake Weber - for once, he gets to play a nice guy.  Allison herself is based on the real Allison DuBois, a self-proclaimed medium who is an Arizona native with a history of helping law agencies solve crimes across the nation.  And if you like to watch middle-aged heroines as previously mentioned, she's just over forty.  I'm so glad CBS has chosen to give this great show another chance - hope it has another five good seasons left!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Slowly Yet Surely

Magnet # 44:  Supreme Court Tortoise

Material:  Wood

Purchased By:  Dad

The U.S. Supreme Court was established on this day, when, in its first session, the First United States Congress created the United States Judiciary Act of 1789.  So it's now 220 years old. Interestingly enough, it's also John Marshall's birthday - he was born in 1755.  How fitting, considering he was the longest serving Chief Justice in the court's history, and greatly increased both its power and its prestige.

My Dad bought this at the Supreme Court gift shop during a business trip to Washington D.C.  He told me that the tortoise is a symbol of the institution.  It's in reference to the fable of The Tortoise and the Hare and suggests that justice itself is slow but sure.  I'm not sure if that's always the case, but it's a nice sentiment.  In fact, the relief carved in the West Pediment at the front of the Supreme Court Building features statues of both a tortoise and a hare at opposing extremities.  You can see it either on the web or in person if you ever visit the Supreme Court.

We really are fortunate to have an institution like the Supreme Court in the United States.  In so many countries, accused persons only have one chance at a fair trial - and some don't even get that.  Here, the system of appeals guarantees at least one more trial and maybe even a series of trials that ends at the Supreme Court.  And it also means that neither the President nor Congress exclusively set our national policies.  There are few courts in the world that have the level of authority that our Supreme Court has and none of them have been around as long or have shaped the judicial landscape as it has.  We in the United States are living in times that have been greatly influenced by the Supreme Court.  While I have not agreed with all of their decisions over the years, I certainly hope they remain strong and continue to guide our Judicial Branch to the best of their ability.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Light Up the Darkness


Magnet # 43:  Meredith Dillman's Hanging Fairy Lights

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Me

I've been fond of Meredith Dillman's beautiful fantasy artwork for years now, so I was really excited when I read in her blog that she'd be attending Dragon*Con this year.  It's usually not a show she goes to in person.  A few weeks before the event, I contacted her and requested that she hold some of her magnets for me.  I'm so glad I did - she told me that she hadn't been planning on bringing any.

For the first time ever, I was actually able to approach a favorite artist of mine on the first try. Usually,  I'll walk by a booth nervously two or three times before I can summon up the courage to head over and introduce myself.  Being able to walk up and say I was the one who contacted her about the magnets is what did it.  Most of the time, I don't know where to start.  And Meredith had a whole stack of lovely magnets waiting for me.  I also bought a pin to turn into a magnet.  She was nice, even though I didn't say much.  And her prices were so reasonable, even generous!  I went back to see her on Monday, and bought something bigger, but I'll say more about that later.  Between what I bought at her booth and another one, I have ten magnets by Meredith.  So her stunning work will be appearing on here plenty, and I'd best not say everything I can about her and her art in this post.

Meredith's mastery of ink and watercolor are two characteristics that define her work, and both are featured in this image.  She paints a decent amount of fairies, and this image is a good representation of her work.  If you'd like to see more, try her site at http://www.meredithdillman.com/.  Or you can just check back here to see more of my favorites. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Elephant In the Kitchen

Magnet # 42: Birmingham Zoo Elephant

Material: Ceramic, Pewter

Purchased By: Me

So today is Elephant Appreciation Day. It was founded by elephant lover Wayne Hepburn in 1996 and is a day where everyone can celebrate their love for these largest of land mammals.

Interestingly enough, everyday is Elephant Appreciation Day for roughly half the state of Alabama, as the University of Alabama's mascot is an elephant. One of the first questions any newcomer to the state is asked is "Who ya for?" After the confusion clears up, you realize they're referring to the Alabama/Auburn rivalry. Having lived in Savannah for all of these years, I've seen a certain amount of enthusiasm for colleges like the University of Georgia, but not the fever pitch these two teams inspire. It's as heated as any university rivalry in the country. And, to this day, I have no preference. I'm just not a sports fan. And I have no interest in taking sides. But the day of the Alabama/Auburn football game is always a great day for folks like me to hit the town, as it's almost completely empty. Seating at the newest, most popular restaurant is available immediately, and after that, we can go to whatever blockbuster movie was showing and almost have the place to ourselves. Oddly enough, my folks found out a few years ago that Barnes & Noble is pretty filled during the game. I'm not sure why exactly a bookstore would be a big draw during the game - it's not like it's showing there.

When I saw this magnet at the Birmingham Zoo, I knew immediately it was produced by 29 Tonight, as I've spent a certain deal of time at their site, checking out their pretties. They produce quite a few magnets for zoos, aquariums, and museums around the country. Each one features an oval pewter nameplate of their respective institution. But I also realized that, unlike the ones they show on their page, this one is not fully painted. See for yourself at http://www.29tonight.com/magnets. But I actually think I like this version a little better than the one they feature there. Maybe all of the paint is a little too much. That said, I may take a bit of watered down green acrylic paint to the grass on this one someday. It might liven it up a bit. But I'm still quite fond of it.

And Auburn fans, don't worry. If I'm ever at, say, the Montgomery Zoo and I spot a tiger or eagle magnet, I'll be sure to buy it. I'm looking to achieve bipartisanism, at least in college sports, on this blog.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Show Some Respect

Magnet# 41: Japanese Pagoda and Cherry Tree

Material: Resin

Purchased By: Dad

Today in Japan, they're celebrating Respect for the Aged Day. Ever since 1966, it was celebrated on September 15. But in 2003, it switched to the third Monday in September.

And how does one honor the aged on this day? Some Japanese neighborhoods organize lunch boxes and distribute them to the elderly for free. There are also festivals where younger citizens perform and the aged are treated to free tea and refreshments. People pray for the elderly and listen to their stories. The Japanese media focuses on the elderly, particularly their welfare, and often interviews some of the oldest individuals in the country. Tokyo even holds a ceremony where the governor presents gifts to some of the oldest citizens.

I think it's nice that older folks get a day set aside for them in Japan. It's too bad we can't have something a little like this in the U.S. for all of the elderly, not just grandparents. And it's also a shame the elderly aren't equally represented in the media. I can't help but be reminded of one of Boston Legal's final episodes when Betty White and John Larroquette's characters sue a network, claiming there are almost no shows in which older people are the main characters. And they're right. One person I know won't even watch any shows that don't feature any main characters over forty. Two of her favorites are House MD and Sex in the City (because of Samantha and Big). And with others like Boston Legal and Desperate Housewives, we are seeing more shows with at least middle aged stars. Maybe that's something the Baby Boomers are responsible for. In any event, it's a good sign we ought to see more of. While I'm fine watching teenagers and twenty-somethings for now, I think they may loose their appeal for me in another twenty or thirty years. Of course, the last time I can even remember a show featuring seniors in lead roles was Golden Girls. That really should change.

I thought it was worth mentioning that senior actor Henry Gibson passed away last week at the age of 73. If you ever watched Boston Legal, he had a recurring role as Judge Clark Brown, who was the most entertaining judge featured on the show. William Shatner's Denny Crane was a great foil for him, poking at him, once even using a client to seduce him on the stand, and forcing him to prove time and again that he was not a "namby pamby." He was fantastic in the role - at the very least, I'm glad he didn't pass during the show's run, as it just wouldn't have been the same without him.

So both in Hollywood and in real life, keep older people in mind and show them some kindness. Hold a door open for someone, be helpful with them in a store, or give an older relative a call. Lord willing, we'll all be aged ourselves someday.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Pirate's Life for Me

Magnet # 40:  Hilton Head Pirate Alligator

Material:  Resin

Purchased By:  Me

Well, shiver me timbers!  It's Talk Like a Pirate Day once again.  For me hearties who've never heard of it and want to know how it all started, I'll tell ye the tale.

Back in 1995, Oregon residents John Baur and Mark Summers were playing a racquetball game.  When one was injured, he cried out "Aaarrr!" just like a pirate and the two played the rest of the game spouting out pirate lingo.  By the end, inspiration had hit them:  they knew there had to be a day when everyone talked like a pirate.  They celebrated for the first time, later that year, on Summer's ex-wife's birthday.  They were able to popularize the holiday with a 2002 e-mail to Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist author Dave Barry, who spread the message with an article in his column.  Pirates all over the globe jumped on board and the pair became famous, selling books and merchandise on their website, http://www.talklikeapirate.com/.  And yes, they have magnets available on their Cafe Press shop.

So how does a landlubber celebrate a day like this?  Well, for starters, have a look at pirate talk on the official page and give it a try in your everyday talk.  That's simple enough.  But there are plenty of actions to take beyond that.  You can dress like a pirate, and organize a get-together with your pirate buddies.  Folks have rented pirate vessels for the event, but meeting at your home or a pub should work.  Just don't forget the rum!  Some couples have even had pirate-themed weddings or vow renewals on this day.  Is all that effort too much for you?  Well, maybe just pop in a copy of Pirates of the Caribbean and let Johnny Depp do the work for you.  All in all, the creators claim this is a holiday about nothing but having fun, really.  So do something pirate-related and have some fun, or ye be walking the plank.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Capitol Matters

Magnet # 39:  U.S. Capitol Building

Material:  Resin

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

George Washington laid down the Cornerstone of the Capitol Building at a groundbreaking ceremony on this day in 1793.  The event had been a long time in coming.  Congress had moved from Philadelphia to Annapolis to Trenton to New York City and finally back to Philadelphia in the course of ten years.  And soon it would be time for them to have a building of their own.

By November of 1800, Congress was able to meet in the north wing, although not all of the building was completed.  Soon after both wings were finished, however, the British set part of the building afire during the War of 1812.  So in 1815, another four years of construction began.

The dome, one of the Capitol's most distinguishing features, has not always been a part of the building.  The first dome was completed in 1823 and it was made of green copper.  It was pretty unpopular, however, and only lasted a little more than 20 years.  When it became obvious that a larger building was necessary for a growing Congress, extensions were made to both wings.  With all of the construction already underway, it was an ideal time to create a new dome.  The intricate cast iron dome we all know began planning in 1854, and all construction was not completed until early 1866.  When finished, its aesthetics rivaled that of its predecessors such as St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and St. Paul's Cathedral in London, giving Washington D.C. a newfound sense of majesty.

One of the more interesting facts I've learned about the Capitol Building is that there is a crypt under the rotunda.  It was intended to hold the tomb of George Washington.  However, per his will, he was buried at his home, Mount Vernon.  I guess they never offered it to any other Presidents or noteworthy officials.  Because of its vacancy, it now serves as a museum that is open to visitors, and, most importantly, a Capitol gift shop.  How fun would is be to buy a magnet in a crypt!  I guess I will have to visit the Capitol someday for that very reason.  I just hope they have one that's not the outside of the building.  As far as I'm concerned, no Capitol magnet can match the detail or clarity of this one, both of which make it a favorite of mine.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Dam By Any Other Name

Magnet# 38:  Hoover Dam

Material:  Resin

Purchased By:  Mom

Back in 1930 on this very day, President Herbert Hoover's Secretary of the Interior Ray Lyman Wilbur first called what was supposed to be the Boulder Dam the Hoover Dam.  Most everyone in attendance at the spike driving ceremony that day was surprised by the move.  Unbeknownst to all, Wilbur set off a name battle that would not be resolved for nearly seventeen years. 

While it was traditional in those days to name dams after the Presidents who were in office while they were built, the dams were usually named at their completion, after the Presidents were no longer in office.  Wilbur's move marked a breach in etiquette.  However, considering Hoover had been involved with the project for some time, first as Secretary of Commerce, then as President, the name stuck.  Then, Congress made it official in 1931.  Some were hopeful the move would help Hoover in his reelection, reminding Americans the President was creating jobs during his time in office. Of course, he still lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt.  And that's when the trouble began.

FDR replaced Wilbur with Harold Ickes in March of 1933.  By May, the new Secretary of the Interior was making it clear he wanted the structure to be called the Boulder Dam.  Within a few years, all official records as well as promotional materials referenced the Boulder Dam.  The name Hoover Dam had pretty much been entirely wiped out of existence.  And when FDR himself called it the Boulder Dam during a 1935 dedication which was broadcast nationally by radio, it seemed all was over for the Hoover Dam.  But it was not so.  Ickes finally retired in 1946, after FDR had passed away.  Less than a year later, a California Congressman, Jack Anderson, submitted a resolution to bring back the name of Hoover Dam.  It passed Congress and President Truman signed it into law, making it official once and for all - and giving Ickes one less reason to be relaxed during his retirement.  Herbert Hoover was still alive then, although he publicly claimed the name had never been important to him.  However, he also expressed privately to a sponsor of the resolution how pleased he was that such an insult had been permanently undone.

Public reactions to this controversy have been a mixed bag.  To this day, some Roosevelt supporters still call it the Hoover Dam.  Back then, one person suggested it be called "Hoogivza Dam."  Personally, I was completely unaware of it until I started researching the Hoover Dam for this blog.  But I'm glad Herbert Hoover has one of the greatest megastructures in our country named after him.  I think, as many historians now say, he got a pretty raw deal in being blamed for the country's Great Depression.  That said, I believe FDR really did need to be President when he was.  Not having him in place might have been a severe detriment for the Allies during World War II.  As far as I'm concerned all's well-ended in this chapter of US history.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bully for Beantown

Magnet # 37:  Boston Icon Letters

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

As of tomorrow, Boston will have been a town for 379 years.  Yep, back in 1630 on September 17,  Puritan colonists from England founded the area.  They named the city after Boston, England, whose name is actually short for "St. Botolph's Town."  Whoever came up with the nickname had a good idea - that full name is a bit much.  Interestingly enough, Boston's first name was Tremontaine - talk about a mouthfull!  I wonder if it ever could have gone so far with such a formal, intimidating name.  I have to say, of all of the names available, Boston is by far the best choice.  And, of course, it's the place we've all come to know and, in many cases, love.

I visited Boston over a decade ago and had a good time.  We did plenty of sightseeing.  On our way into town, we passed by the Good News Garage owned by Click and Clack, the famous Tappet Brothers.   They've been hosting Car Talk, a call-in radio show for automotive help, since 1977.  You can listen to them on NPR - if you've never heard them before, you'll be amazed at just how funny car maintenance can be.  We spotted a car outside that may have been one of theirs, but we weren't sure.

We then stopped by Boston Common.  There, we saw Bull & Finch Pub, which was the inspiration for television’s Cheers bar.  It looked like Cheers from the outside, but inside, it was pretty crowded and didn’t at all resemble the fictional bar, so we didn’t stay long.  I did spend awhile having a look at the Memorial for Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment.  It was featured in the credits of Glory, a film that depicts the story of this exceptional unit.  I’m not usually a fan of war movies, but had seen this a few years back and really liked it.  So having a look at this carved relief in real life was pretty fun for me. 

After Boston Common, we headed over to Harvard Museum of Natural History for a look at their Glass Flowers Collection.  There are over eight hundred pieces sculpted by artisans Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka, a father/son team.  This collection was incredible!  There were so many specimens with such extraordinary detail.  And every last one of them could have been mistaken for a real flower.  It’s definitely a must-see if you’re in Boston. 

One place we didn't see during our journey through Beantown?  An actual bean factory.  While Colonial Boston had a number of factories baking beans in molasses for hours, thus earning its nickname, there are none produced there nowadays.  Apparently, it's also tough to find restaurants that serve Boston baked beans.  I wouldn't know - I wasn't looking.  For food, we went to Legal's Seafood, a local chain.  It was really good - I definitely recommend their clam chowder.

So there you have it, a few places to keep in mind if you're ever in Boston.  Given it's very long history and the important role it played in US colonial times, it's a great choice for anyone who wants to have a better idea of where our country has come from.  And with its modern industries, it's also a good sign of where we're going.




Monday, September 14, 2009

Tales of the Dragon Master


Magnet # 36:  Larry Elmore's The Last Dragon Mage

Material:  Vinyl

Purchased By:  N/A - given to me, free

There are few individuals with a better reputation in the fantasy art industry than Larry Elmore.  He's a fixture at conventions like Comic Con, Mega Con,  Dragon*Con, and Gen Con, and he's often named a Guest of Honor at these events.  Larry began working on Dungeons and Dragons at TSR in the eighties.  It was there where he made a name for himself, providing oil paintings for the gaming books and eventually covers for the best-selling Dragonlance series.  He left there in 1987, and has spent the time since producing more incredible artwork and solidifying his reputation.

Awhile back, Larry decided to start teaching weeklong art classes a few times a year.  He offers painting and penciling classes and also leads groups on overseas trips that are focused on art.  Last year, I attended one and had my first experience with oil paints.  This year, I attended his penciling class in July.  

When I called the studio to make travel arrangements, Larry answered and we started chatting.  At one point, I causally inquired (yeah, right) as to whether Larry had any magnets with his work on them.  He was intrigued.  Not only did I convince him he needed to offer magnets with his work on them, he was also thinking about amassing his own collection of travel magnets - and wondering what happened to his old travel magnets.  So when I headed up for the class, I brought along some magnet sheets to try out on his top of the line printer.  Only problem was, the place to load paper was metal.  They were a disaster!  But Larry promised me he would talk to a contact of his about having his own magnets made up before Dragon*Con.  Knowing Larry, I hoped for the best.  He still has my oil painting from that first class, so I didn't want to get my heart set on those magnets.

So when I found Larry's booth at the Con, it turned out he had stickers, not magnets, waiting for me.  Considering he spent nine days in the hospital between the class and the Con, I was just happy he was able to make it at all.  So I got several stickers and cut magnets on the back.  And Larry has assured me those magnets are still coming.  I believe him - he seems pretty determined.  Plus, he said these were selling fairly well.

Pretty much everything Larry is best known for is on this magnet.  In the foreground, there's a beautiful woman, a fearsome dragon, and all sorts of detail and texture.  Further back is a forest, an impressive castle, fields, and mountains.  Larry's painting backgrounds rarely consist of just one element.  This image was featured on the final cover for the last edition of Dragon Magazine.  Larry bought by the original for us to have a look at during the painting class.  It's huge - probably around 24x36 inches.  There's so much detail it's incredible - one guy pointed out there are beakless chickens in the castle yard.  Larry must have put them on there with a toothpick.  To be better appreciated, I recommend viewing it on his site - http://www.larryelmore.com/.  But be warned - in visiting, you risk being smitten with Larry's incredible works and developing an insatiable craving for his art, as many have before.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Scooby Doo, Where Are You


Magnet # 35:  Mystery, Inc. Washing the Mystery Machine

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Me

He's on my fridge, of course!  Yep, Scooby and the gang are all here.  There's Fred the leader, Daphne the kidnap fodder, brainy, hardworking Velma, scruffy but lovable Shaggy, and everyone's favorite crime-solving Great Dane himself.

The first episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! aired on CBS today back in 1969, which means the gang has now officially been around for 40 years.  It's amazing to me how this show continues to appeal to one generation after another.  I was not a first generation Scooby watcher, but I loved this show nonetheless.  And my cousin, who's over ten years younger than I, was a big Scooby fan - his favorite villain was the Creeper.  And how, back then, could I tell a good episode from a bad one?  If it had Scrappy-Doo, Scooby's nerve-wracking, irritating, little nephew in it, it was a bad one.  If not, it was a keeper.

I used to think I was the only one who loathed Scrappy-Doo.  Then the first Scooby-Doo film was released back in 2002.  And I found myself in a position to see it for free.  So I went, figuring how bad could it be?  And it wasn't bad.  It got a lot better when, about midway through, the Scrappy bashing commenced.  Velma was reminiscing about the gang happily riding along in the Mystery Machine.  Then Scrappy popped up.  He started to annoy the heck out of everyone and then he urinated on Daphne.  When Fred called him on it, Scrappy demanded they make him the leader.  Then they tossed the obnoxious little bugger out of the van and drove off.  It was wonderful, but the best was yet to come.  Who was the big, bad, number one villain in the flick?  None other than Scrappy-Doo himself.  The gang managed to defeat the rotten runt and he was taken away in a doggie carrier, lambasting about how he "would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling sons of..." (they cut that part out).  Definitely a flick worth seeing, especially if you're not a Scrappy fan.

Scooby-Doo's eleventh series is set to debut on the Cartoon Networks later this year.  It's called Scooby-Doo - Mystery, Inc. and it will follow the gang as they set up shop in Crystal Cove, a small town with a long history of supernatural phenomena with citizens that don't want their help.  Sounds interesting - here's hoping Scrappy-Doo never puts in an appearance.  Kind of incredible that 40 years in, the Mystery, Inc. gang is as popular as ever.  I love it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

We Remember


Magnet # 34: Twin Towers, New York City

Material: Resin

Purchased By: Mom & Dad

It's pretty much impossible not to post this magnet today. My parents picked this up when they visited New York City a couple weeks after 9/11 in 2001. They'd had a trip planned for months. So when the Towers fell, some family members, myself included, thought they might play it safe and cancel their vacation. But they decided not to let the terrorists tell them where to travel and went anyway. They had a great time - in fact, it was much easier for them to get good Broadway tickets.

I was lucky enough to visit the Twin Towers on my trip to New York in January of 2001. The group I was with had reservations at Windows on the World in the North Tower on the 106th and 107th floors for a meal that was included in the cost of the trip. The restaurant was incredible, surrounded by windows overlooking Manhattan. I can't remember what food I had, or whether it was good, but I certainly don't remember having a bad meal there. What I do remember was that one member of our trip was having a birthday that day so we bought him a card, had everyone sign it, and stuck a quarter in it. Having walked around Downtown Manhattan for the past week, we were familiar with just what a quarter could buy there from all the ads. I took some photos that night, which I still have. If I'd known what was going to happen, I would have paid more attention and remembered the experience a bit more. But, even with the 1996 attack on the Towers, nobody could have figured an event like that would happen. Guess it's a lesson in how we should appreciate what we have because we don't know when we'll loose it, as the saying goes.

One comment I've heard on the news today is how it is a shame that there is still no permanent tribute to the victims of that day. Ground Zero is like a gaping wound for our country that has yet to heal. Do we even yet know what will happen there, or are we still in talks? Considering the Pentagon has been restored and now includes a memorial and a chapel for its victims, it's hard to understand why eight years later we can't make sense of what to do with this area. Hopefully, the powers that be will come to a firm decision soon. We'll never get over what happened on that day, but some kind of rebuilding might help us make peace with such a terrible loss.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Boys Are Back in Town

Magnet # 33:  Classic Car on Route 66

Material: Rubber

Purchased by:  Me

Okay, I'm pretty excited about tonight.  It's the season premiere of one of my favorite shows, Supernatural.  It chronicles the travels of brothers Dean and Sam Winchester as they drive around the nation, fighting supernatural evils.  They've taken on demons, vampires, shapeshifters, witches, and all manner of creatures that go bump in the night.  And this season, they go up against the big bad himself:  Satan.  Yep, Sam unknowingly released him in last season's finale.  This should be interesting.

Series creator Eric Kripke remarked in an Entertainment Weekly interview last year that this could be the show's last season.  While I appreciate his desire to not let the show loose its momentum and run on fumes as some shows do, I really hope it has a couple of good seasons left.  To loose Monk, Lost, and Supernatural all in the same season would be pretty tough for me.

I looked all over Dragon*Con for official Lost and Supernatural magnets.  You know, ones with a cast photo or logo with a mylar covering.  While I found ones from Buffy and Lord of the Rings, for some reason, there was darn little from movies and shows that are currently popular - or rather, nothing.  And patches seemed to be ubiquitous, while magnets were a little tougher to find.  But, oddly enough, I found this magnet at a drugstore in Atlanta.  Considering Route 66 is nowhere near Georgia, I was a little baffled.  But that didn't stop me from buying it.  And once I did, I couldn't help but think of a comic book series I once saw on the stands:  Route 666.  I thought its name was a pretty awesome twist.  If it hadn't been taken, I think it would have been a perfect name for Supernatural.  Think about it - two guys in a classic car - Dean's 1967 Chevrolet Impala - driving all over the county, no doubt on Route 66 for part of the time, fighting all sorts of demonic evil.  Yep, it's a perfect fit.  Oh well, I'm still good with the name Supernatural.  Now is it nine o'clock already?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Two Worlds, One State


Magnet # 32:  Sunny California

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Mom & Dad

Boy, skipping work on Monday this week really threw me off.  Not that I'm complaining - I just keep thinking it's Tuesday.  And when I realized that it was actually today that California acheived statehood back in 1850, I had to scramble to get this post together.  After all, I've got plenty of California magnets.  And I'd rather not waste a day when it's totally appropriate to post one of them.

I've only been to California once in my life.  I was about ten at the time.  We flew in at LAX and saw Southern California places like Venice Beach, the Walk of Fame, and Universal Studios.  We went to Knott's Berry Farm instead of Disneyland because we'd been to Disney World in Orlando and wanted to try something a bit different.  Then we headed up north on the Pacific Coast Highway.  Those twisting roads were a little scary.  The rental car we had reserved was not available, so we'd been upgraded to a Lincoln Town Car that was almost brand new.  It was nice - there was so much leg space!  Up in Northern California, we stopped by Yosemite National Park before heading over to San Francisco to spend a day at the Fisherman's Wharf.  Too bad I wasn't collecting magnets then - they have an entire shop devoted to magnets called the Magnetron.  But I did plenty of shopping nonetheless.  I think it was there that I bought a really cool raccoon puppet that makes a squeaky noise.  We flew out of San Francisco - it was a great trip.

What strikes me, and probably quite a few others, as most interesting about California is the dichotomy that exists there.  Southern California and Northern California are almost nothing alike.  Is there any other state in the Union that has two such distinctive cultural areas?  Down South, there's such crazy momentum.  It's all so sunny, so glossy, so beautiful, and so expensive.  The North is almost an extension of Washington and Oregon - there's a laidback attitude and forests all over the place.  I recently met some of my neighbors, a couple where one is from Northern California and the other is from Southern California.  They assured me that there really is a total difference in attitude between the two regions and, at times, it can be problematic for them.  I confess, I think I'd be much more comfortable in the North - I'm pretty sure Southern California would swallow me whole. But I suppose it's worth giving both a try to find out for sure.  One thing's for certain - no matter where one is in this state, there's beauty to be found.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Back From the Con


Magnet # 31:  Dragon*Con Logo

Material:  Rubber

Purchased By:  Me

So did I attend any of those great Labor Day activities I mentioned in a previous post?  Well, no - I headed up to Atlanta to have a blast at Dragon*Con, one of the biggest conventions anywhere!  It encompasses all sorts of genres, but its main focus is on Sci-Fi and Fantasy.  There are media stars like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, panels on just about anything you can think of, rooms that play movies nonstop, and gaming that can go on all weekend.  Their website is http://www.dragoncon.org/.

My main focus at the Con is artwork.  There are all sorts of talented artists in attendance and it's so fun to meet them and see their amazing works.  Of course, a lot of times I chicken out and take off without saying a word - I'm a little shy.  Might be hard to believe from this blog, eh?

I've been going to the Con off and on for the past ten years, so I've gotten to know a group of folks I try to meet up with.  I had lunch with a friend from back home who manages my favorite comic shop.  Then I met up with some new artist friends I've met at an art retreat I've gone to a couple times.  One gal told me that since she saw me back in July and I showed her some of my magnets, she's bought more magnets than she bought in the last three years.  Yay - I'm infectious!  Plus, I saw three really awesome artists that I've gotten to know over the past few years.  I'm really hoping to hang out with one of them in the next couple of months - it had been awhile since I'd last seen her.  And I met some really nice, very talented artists, who were very cool and encouraging to me.  Getting to hang out with that many creative people in that short an amount of time is almost mind boggling, but I love every minute of it!

I'll bet you're wondering if I bought any magnets.  Oh yes - in fact, the entire pop culture section of my fridge is going to need an overhaul.  I'm looking forward to it.  In addition to the magnets I bought, there are stickers and pins that are going to be converted into magnets.  And, for part of the month, I'll be posting the magnets of some of the talented artists with whom I visited.  I hope you all enjoy their work as much as I do.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Another One Bites



Magnet # 30: Victoria Frances' Vampire Girl

Material: Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Me

Guard your necks, folks! Popular culture is currently under siege by vampires. Twilight has become an international sensation, True Blood is a huge hit for HBO, and this week another vampire book series adaptation is set to hit the CW - The Vampire Diaries.

The Vampire Diaries is the oldest of the bunch and it's also the only one I've read. That said, I'm not sure I'll be watching the show. During my teenage years, I'd torn through every suspense and supernatural book my favorite author, Christopher Pike, had written. I was looking for another writer to follow, and ended up trying L.J. Smith's writings.

Smith has some good works in her. I wouldn't say The Vampire Diaries is among them - although I haven't read the new additions to the series. Of course, with Twilight raking in millions, vampire teens are in hot demand. Studio heads don't want to develop the witch teens of The Secret Circle or the psychic teens of her Dark Visions series. And her still unfinished Night World series consists of vampires and just about every other supernatural figure imaginable. It would be tough to adapt. It does irritate me when I see these books reissued on bookstands. Books that don't have an ending which has been building up throughout the series shouldn't be re-marketed to a younger audience. Imagine if they tried to resell the Harry Potter books without The Deathly Hallows ever being written. Smith claims the final book is coming in April of 2010 - I really hope so. Considering it's over ten years in the making, I'll believe it when I see it.

The previews for The Vampire Diaries do not have me sold on this show. The only cast member I'm liking is Ian Somerhalder. Even though he was pretty dull on Lost, it looks like he's going back to the dark sort of character he played on Smallville. As bad brother Damon, he may steal the show. The other two main characters didn't look that interesting from what I've seen - but they weren't interesting in the books, either. And, warning, here's a spoiler: in the books, the heroine, Elena, picks the good boy. What fun is that?

Well, try it or don't. Guess we'll know if my predictions are right in a few months. As for this magnet, it was part of a set of four pins I converted into magnets. Victoria Frances, a rising star in the fantasy art world, provided the art. I won't delve into this Spanish illustrator's gorgeous works at this point - I've got three more magnets with which to do that.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Summer's Last Hurrah


Magnet # 29: Sea Side Diva Ariel

Material: Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased by: Me

Time's running out for you to be a beach bum like little Ariel! Labor Day Weekend is underway. If you're still at home and you're lucky enough to have today, tomorrow, and Monday off, what're you waiting for? There's fun to be had! So go, experience, tour, and buy lots of goodies to remind you of all the fun you had. Not a beach fan? Try someplace inland - the beach is probably packed, anyway.

Savannah has plenty of activities to enjoy. On Historic Riverstreet, a Celebration on the River is offering two days of art booths, craft stands, and entertainment. It's totally free. There's also a Craft Brew Fest underway. Pretty sure you have to pay for that one. Tonight, at 8:00 in Downtown Savannah, the Midnight Garden Ride, a bicycle ride, with see miles of Historic Savannah by moonlight. Unfortunately, registration is closed for that one, but you can at least catch a glimpse of the cyclers. Skidaway Island State Park is offering a Labor Day Saturday with all sorts of family activities for $5 worth of parking. Out on Tybee Island, there's a Second Annual Labor Day Beach Bash. It's free and there's fireworks and live music by the Swingin' Medallions. What's the best Savannah Labor Day offer? The online exclusive Savannah Cheesecake Factory is offering a free slice of their "Hire Me" cheesecake - yum!

So go, have fun! Even if you're not in Savannah, your local area should offer all sorts of events and activities. Meet back here on Tuesday - I'll tell you all about my weekend.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Get On the Bus


Magnet # 28: Double Decker London Bus

Material: Plastic

Purchased By: Dad

Trust me, I want on that bus. Of all the countries that I haven't been to (and there are plenty), England tops the list of ones I want to go to. I just haven't had a chance yet.

So why England? Well, there are the obvious tourist spots - the Tower of London, Madame Tussauds, Stonehenge and so on. There's also the opportunity to hop on a train and head up to Scotland. But there are two reasons that really makes this country appeal to me.

First, there's the art. Victorian art is my all-time favorite period of art. Artists of the Pre-Raphealite and Olympian movements painted some of the most realistic, idealized works ever. They depicted heroes of Camelot, gods and goddesses of ancient Greek myths, and Oriental figures in the Middle East. Institutions like the Tate Gallery and the Victoria Albert Museum are filled with works by artists such as Waterhouse, Alma-Tadema, Poynter, Draper, and Rossetti. The thought of seeing these in person almost makes me giddy. But the place I absolutely want to visit most is the Leighton House Museum. Located in Holland Park, it was the home of Lord Frederick Leighton, one of the most celebrated and accoladed artists of Victorian England. He was the first artist to ever receive a peerage and he was President of the Royal Academy for eighteen years. His home is a testament to his love of Arabic art. It's filled with tiles he collected during his travels in the Middle East. There are also beautiful columns, carved lattice-work accents, and a fountain and domed ceiling. Of course, his amazing artwork is everywhere as well. Sounds like heaven to me! You can see more about this home at http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/LHLeightonHouse/VisitorInfo/default.asp. Hmm - looks like it's closed for renovations for the rest of this year. Guess I can safely put off a trip until 2010.

My second reason for wanting to go? The Brits love their needlework, just as I do. When I'm shopping for cross stitch magazines at Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble, the best ones always seem to be the ten dollar ones imported over from England. Good thing I only buy them at the holidays. From what I can tell, they have quite a few independently owned needlework shops where I could stock up on my cross stitch supplies. It's gotten progressively tougher over here - I can't even tell you the last time I saw ornament frames for sale at a craft shop. Of course, shopping might be difficult. The needlework money might cut into my magnet funds - or vice versa.

So there you have it, two reasons why I am dying to hop a plane across the pond. It might be motivations most folks never even considered. It'll happen someday, I know it. Until then, the Travel Channel and my English magnets will have to suffice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When the Spider Meets the Mouse




Magnet # 27: Universal Studios Hollywood

Material: Metal

Purchased By: Mom & Dad

By now, you've probably heard that Disney bought Marvel Comics this week for a whopping $4 billion. Obviously from this blog, I'm fond of both companies (or rather, their characters). And it's been interesting seeing what people have had to say for the past two days. Some are happy, many are not. They're concerned Disney is going to destroy the Marvel characters we know and love. Well, I’m not sure they could do much worse than the company itself has. Marvel’s comics have been on a downward slump for awhile now.

Back in 2000, comic artist and writer Joe Quesada was named Marvel’s new Editor-in-Chief. I remember catching a glimpse of him in an office during my Marvel tour earlier that year. I pointed at him and hissed at a fellow comic lover to look, there’s Quesada! Yup, he overheard. I was so embarrassed. Regardless, I thought it was pretty cool that an artist had taken the reigns at Marvel. He’d previously co-owned a comic book company, Event Comics, so he must know how this was done. And he’d get the comics industry in a way no suit ever would, right? 

Wrong – ever since, Quesada has made some pretty bad decisions. He got rid of some of the most respected senior artists and writers working for the company. These guys are legends for a reason! His worst choice was to have Spider-Man unmask himself to the world as Peter Parker. It may have grabbed headlines, but it was a bad idea. He also made it so that Peter and Mary Jane have never been married, tossing away twenty years of continuity. Comic sales at the company over his tenure have plummeted. The only Marvel comic I’ve read over the last five years has been Pride and Prejudice – and that was mainly for the novelty and to support my local comic book store. Given the current state of Marvel Comics, I really can’t believe that Disney could do much to make it any worse. I guess we’ll have to see. 


Personally, my biggest question is what is going to happen to Marvel Island at Universal Studios in Florida? I can’t imagine Disney is going to be all that happy with their competitor drawing in crowds across town using characters they now own. But there are contracts in place, right? They can’t just shut down the Marvel part of the park entirely, can they? I hope not – I still haven’t been there. I know - it’s not too far away. I was staying with friends once with plans to visit, but one convinced me Marvel Island really wasn’t all that great. And I’m not exactly a thrill ride lover. But I like that I still have the option of visiting someday. And they’re planning an entire Marvel theme park in Dubai! It would open in 2011. Going there would be so cool – I really hope that still happens.


Yeah, I know – this magnet is from Universal Studios in California, not Florida. It was the closest I had, and this did seem like a good time to post it. I did go there once, years ago. From what I remember, it was fun.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Seventy-Five and Feeling Fine



Magnet # 26: Great Smoky Mountains Black Bear Cub

Material: Resin

Purchased by: Mom & Dad

Today is the 75th rededication of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A concert will be held tonight for two thousand lucky people in Newfound Gap on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. 1,100 tickets were given away to the public for free back in mid-August and went in less than a day. Guess they like their Dolly Parton up there - she's set to headline the event.

Love this one! As you can see, the bear rises out of the magnet, coming right out at the viewer. And the detail is incredible! There is a different kind of texture on the cub, the branch, and the needles. The whole background is covered with cut in lines for the needles. If I didn't know better, I'd think it had been hand made - it looks that good.

I visited Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains several times when I was in junior high and high school. It wasn't that far a trip from Alabama, so it made for a good vacation spot. We'd rent a cabin that was owned by time sharers. It was so nice - some people would really decorate these cabins so they'd feel like home in a way a hotel never would. My favorite cabin was a 3-story one which started on the ground floor and progressed down to the final floor. It was so cool - I had the bottom floor all to myself. We stayed there a couple time - I even brought a friend once. Unfortunately, the cabin did not agree with me - I'd usually end up getting sick with allergies during and after the visit.

We didn't spend a huge amount of time at the cabin, anyway - there's so much to do in the area! We shopped at the outlet malls and visited Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, stopped by the craft shops in Gatlinburg, and, of course, saw the park itself. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited of all the National Parks. It straddles Tennessee and North Carolina, which makes it a great travel destination throughout the Southern, Eastern, and Central states. It's almost exactly split between the two states. Of its 521,086 acres, North Carolina only has 31,602 more than Tennessee. Congress chartered the park in 1934 and FDR himself dedicated it in 1940. Visitors there can participate in activities such as hiking, camping, fishing, and picnicking. We enjoyed sitting by streams and dipping our feet in the water. Listening to the running water was so relaxing. I also liked to find animal tracks. Considering the park has animals ranging from black bears, cougars, deer, elk, and many more, there were plenty to be found.

Haven't seen the Great Smoky Mountains? I recommend it. It's a beautiful place with so many traveling options. You can take it easy or fill every minute with the many activities the area has to offer. I'm sure I'll make it back during the next seventy-five - here's to those and many more!