UP-TO-THE MINUTE REPORTAGE, FAIR & BALANCED: STOCKLEY GARDENS FESTIVAL

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One of the first things you'll be able to tell from my journalism is that the weather was splendid this time around, after a couple of grim, drippy Stockleys. You'll also surely have noticed the presence of a figure who at first glance will make you think to yourself, "Why. these economic straits have reached into all corners of our society. Here's poor Santa moonlighting as a butcher." Fortunately for you, ace reporter Torta is on the job to set things straight: this here is John Tobin, a sculptor of uncommon deftitude and whimsy, and if I were you, I'd zip down there and snatch up one of his works before it's too late. Also worth seeking out: deep-fried whole pigs on a stick, so bring an appetite and an extra change of clothing.

ANOTHER DAMN DRAWING GROUP PANORAMA

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I'm well aware that there are two Artmarks in this illustration--it wasn't just an oversight. It's literally what happens about halfway through his second dirty martini. Artmark II is harder to understand and he drools. Over at my end of the table, Noah's hot wings had created a toxic cloud that was taking years off our lives with every breath. It may have contributed to the second Artmark, too.

IT'S SNOWING, GRANDPA! CHEER THE @!*# UP!

It’s snowing again. This must be, like, the fourth Saturday in a row. I can’t tell you how unusual this is for Norfolk. Well, actually, I can tell you, and I guess I kinda just did. End of story. So let’s start another story. This one’s called The Randy Locksmith. Or, Randy the Locksmith, I don’t remember which. So, in this quaint little village in Yorkshire called Dingly Dell or something, there lived a young wastrel named Randy the Locksmith. His legal name was Randy T. Locksmith, Jr., but all the townsfolk called him Randy the Locksmith, or sometimes Randy the Randy Locksmith, depending on his mood. And it seems that Randy the Locksmith would sneak into Old Man MacGregor’s vegetable patch every night and steal his carrots. Old Man MacGregor was his real name, by the way. Not Randy T. Locksmith, Jr.’s real name, Old Man MacGregor’s real name. His mother named him that in a fit of pique. No one in the quaint little village knew what she was piqued at, and neither did they care. As you can imagine, Old Man MacGregor had a rough time of it as a child, but by the time he had reached a ripe old age, and in Old Man MacGregor’s case, “ripe old age” was particularly apt, he had become comfortable with his name. Anyways, Old Man MacGregor had a beautiful young wife, name of Brandi. And all the men in the quaint little village lusted after Brandi, included The Randy Butcher, the Randy Baker, and especially the Randy Candlestick Maker, not to mention the Randy Vicar. But not Randy T. Locksmith, Jr., who was fond of carrots. One night, Old Man MacGregor sat on his front porch with his over-under shotgun on his lap, and when Randy the Locksmith showed up for his nightly carrot theft, Old Man MacGregor shot him dead. The End. I know! Brandi doesn’t even figure into it! Sorry, Randy Reader, but that’s all there is. Now go on to bed. I don’t care if it’s broad daylight, get on with you. Buy some blackout curtains, for God’s sake. Do I have to think of everything?

LIGHT FALLS ON STANDEES

I've been trying to swear off the ranting, I really have. It's just that Fox News has a way of twanging my very last Vestibulocochlear nerve. And I don't even watch them. Little sound bytes from that godforsaken enterprise just seem to ooze through the cracks. Now they're trumpeting the news that the recent blizzards are proof that global warming is a hoax. Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick! Where does one start? We're accused by our conservative brethren of being condescending and disdainful, but is there any other sane response to this claptrap? It's our solemn duty to be disdainful of this shit! How could anyone who made it out of third grade believe that a blizzard means global warming is fraudulent? Okay. Deep breath. Serenity now. Think calming thoughts. Think about Sean Hannity out in a blizzard in his onesie. Ahhhhhh.

SNOW IN THE BACKYARD

One good thing about drawing snow scenes is you can leave a lot of space blank. Artists are basically lazy, or else you'd find us working down to the Ford plant or whatnot. Instead of losing appendages in machinery or listening to assholes say "How's that report coming, Taylor?" we get to sit around playing with paints, a skill we pretty much mastered in kindergarten. And we can't get laid off, cause we don't have jobs! Ha ha ha, America! The only thing we haven't quite worked out is the money part. That kind of sucks.

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WHITE KIDS AT THE BEACH

I chose not to depict the background here, because it mainly consisted of a giant overwrought sculpture of Neptune festooned with disgusting sea creatures (and is there any other kind?) in some sort of bizarre symbiotic relationship into which I care not to delve. As a cruel, derisive, arrogant joke, the sculptor has placed a giant sea turtle in such a fashion as to suggest that Neptune is greatly moved by all this seafood hanging off his body, if you get my drift. Those darned artists!

THEY KNEW HOW TO PARTY

Imagine a party today where someone piped up, "Hey, let's all blow up balloons! Balloons are fun!" In the first place, nobody pipes up any more. If someone piped up, they would be met with withering stares issuing forth from the eye sockets of supercool people with pierced nostrils and/or tattoos creeping up from under their necklines, causing the piper to experience a salt-on-a-slug moment, leaving only a slight smudge and a few Cheetos crumbs where they once stood. Back in the 50's, though, people were all innocent and shit, as if they had just stumbled out of the Garden and discovered that streams of Manhattans and Daiquiris flowed like babbling brooks among mounds of salted peanuts and Chex mix. They made the heady discovery that you could have theme parties in the middle of the week without being struck down by some Angry God or other, and get "tipsy" and flirt with the neighbors and generally behave in a way that would catch the attention of the young John Updike skulking in the corner with a notebook. And said innocent but headed-southward-fast people would whip out their Brownies and document the whole business for posterity and wind up the fillum and package it up and mail it to Rochester and then wait for two weeks for a little packet of slides to show up in the mailbox. Which is exactly what my father did, with a stick-to-it-iveness that today fills my sister's garage. And that's where the above picture comes from.

MEMORIAL DAY

I try to immerse myself in the beachy milieu, I really do. Well, not enough to remove my long pants and Members Only jacket, or to wear sunglasses, which I consider twin discs of hostility--Cool Hand Luke, hello?--or to remove my shoes and socks, which would run the risk of promoting stampedance among the crowds of water buffalo within eyeshot of the unleashed multi-colored horn-like growths protruding from the ends of my toes, which a podiatrist with decades of experience might recognize as toenails, and by the way, that felicitous "multi-colored" descriptor comes from my pal Wayne, who, residing in the same age bracket, knows whereof he speaks. And it's true, I wisely refrain from shuffling out onto the burning sands and collapsing on the hardpan, roasting in my own juices, slowly lapsing into a coma, until I'm aroused by an overzealous nearsighted whale rescue volunteer. Think about it: if it weren't for the presence of the toxic brew of sodium somethingtrate lapping against the shore, teeming with nightmarish creatures whose only goal in life is to sting you and die, or perhaps lay their eggs in you and die, then we'd be stranded in a desert, and crying piteously for rescue, iinstead of basting ourselves with noxious ointments and listening to the worst music in recorded history. So, as I believe I've adequately demonstrated, I try, I really try, but I remain unpersuaded.

SUNDAY MORNING TALKING HEADS

Yappers all. Every one of them knows what's wrong, and what to do about it. If you squeezed the lot of them, you wouldn't come up with enough humility to leave a damp spot. Wouldn't make for good TV. And this is where the "smart" people among us are getting their information. The dumb ones get their current events from Fox News. Or, if we're lucky, from American Idol. We're fucked.

APPARENTLY UNIRONIC TITLE

Don't you just love REALTORS®? Is there any other group of people who consistently bequeath themselves with grandiose awards in double-truck newspaper ads? Or who always refer to themselves in all caps with a registration mark after it? Can you imagine someone calling themselves a USED CAR SALESMAN®? Or a CRACK WHORE®? And there are two cognitive errors with the title. First, it's not a circle. Can anyone guess the second?

ALBUM COVER

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Not a real album cover, just one I made for a friend. And just to show that I have my priorities straight, I gave him the cover and forgot the disk. And then we went to see Stefan Sagmeister, which kind of sounds like Stefan is the hip king of sagging, but that's his real name, he's Austrian. But first we went to a Mexican restaurant and my friend, who shall remain nameless because he emitted a gigantic fart in the CACV parking lot that made a woman's car not start, and she thought it was something she did, like flooding it or whatnot, and she called a tow truck and everything, but the fart dissipated just before it got there, and the tow truck guy started her car fine, but he sniffed around a bit and told her she might have a dead squirrel in her catalytic converter. And the reason my friend has to remain nameless is that the woman is someone we know and it would be embarrassing to him. But like I said, first we went to a Mexican restaurant, and Bart ordered this giant beer that looked like a novelty beer or something, and it needed three whole limes. But damn if he didn't drink the whole thing, which probably played a part in later developments.

SCENIC VISTA

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I'm not saying there aren't scenes like this in Norfolk, it's just that in Norfolk they're peripheral. They're on the periphery. Here in Virginia Beach, strip malls are essential. They're where you congregate, where you do your business, where you replenish yourself. Oh sure, they have that Brasilia on the Boulevard that they like to pretend is a downtown, but it's really just a strip mall with some hotels sitting on top of it. No, you got me: I'm just jealous. My fondest fantasy is to be knee-deep in my luxuriously manicured lawn massaging Scott's Turf Builder into my Pomeranian Fescue as I gaze at my platinum Cayenne, the one with the set of Big Berthas in the trunk. Hm. Think I'll head down to the 7-11 for a Slim Jim and a lottery ticket.

DIAGNOSIS

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This is intended to be metaphorical. It's not, like, a photo or whatnot. I had to attend two meetings yesterday, and much of my effort was devoted to not projectiling various bodily essences into the proceedings. Worser than the meetings was the trip between them, wolfing down a McDonald's "hamburger" while the driver chain-smoked clove cigarettes. In meeting #2, the occasional sharp report of my forehead hitting the conference table kept me alert, more or less. Thank god nothing of consequence ever happens during meetings, or I'd be in trouble.