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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Adam English: The Amazing Me!


Enjoyed last night's dinner out with Jeff's gaming buddies and their families. I've posted some photos here, for those interested. I especially like this one of my friend Harald, who obviously likes green tea ice cream a LOT.

Adam, by Adam.

Today's Blathering is about my multi-talented friend, Adam English, who has recently revamped his Web page (warning: if you're at work, turn down the sound before you check this site ;-)).

Adam is part of Ookla The Mok but also has a solo CD called Sketched Out, full of songs about drawing caricatures for a living like "I Need a Whole New Head" and "The Day I Killed All the Customers." Adam opened Darien Lake Themepark's first caricature stand when he was 17 years old and has been drawing caricatures for nearly 20 years. He has also trained over a hundred local caricature artists.

Adam has a musical background, and is classically trained in piano and voice. In his first year after college, Adam worked as an opera singer. His roles included playing the High Executioner in Gilbert and Sullivan's
The Mikado. Adam is also a card-carrying member of the Etch-a-Sketch Club.

In addition to his music and caricature work, Adam also teaches workshops for schools about drawing, including On the Count of Three...Draw!!!, The Caricature Guy and Amazing Me. If that wasn't enough, Adam also runs the gaming concession at Holiday Hollow, a family-owned amusement park in Pembroke, New York.

The main focus of this Blathering, however, is to rave about Adam's Amazing Me school project. In this workshop, students write and draw a professional-quality comic book with the help of Adam to plot, script, pencil, ink and color a full-color 8-page comic book.

What a fantastic idea! Especially since Adam is so great with kids. From this entry in Beckett's LJ, when Adam and Rand visited her, Paul and their children:

"(re:) Adam's abilities with kids. Well, on reflection why should I have been surprised, since his main career involves dealing with kids and making them comfortable and willing to sit still and talk about what they like. He's outstanding as a caricature artist. But it's not just a front for convenience, he's genuine with them and they're instinctively drawn to him. Whether it's because he's still closely connected to that kid side or what doesn't really matter; whatever his secret is, it works."

You can check out the latest "Amazing Me" comic here. This comic was written & drawn by an "Amazing Me" workshop group, at the Webster Ave. Rec Center in Rochester, NY. Ten children, ranging in age from 6 to 13, participated in the creation of this comic.

Do check out Adam's newly-revamped Web page, especially his Amazing Me! comic archives.

Adam will be at GAfilk, now only six days away, and I believe it's his birthday on the Friday of GAfilk weekend.

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ornaments and books

Boxing day

It's past Christmas, but I still love sitting on the living room couch and looking at our decorated tree with its coloured lights...and ornaments from friends and family. I know some people like trees whose ornaments all match the decor of the room, but I prefer ornaments with unique origins. Most of the ornaments on our tree are from trips Jeff and I have taken, or gifts from friends and family. I love ornaments with a story.

I've already mentioned a few. Here are some more ornaments we've added to our tree this past holiday:

Christmas mooseFrom Allison. A Canadian moose bundled up for warmth. :-)
Christmas ornamentFrom Jodi. The ornament came in a cute little keepsake box.
Music snowflake ornamentFrom "Lord Korak" and family. Do click on the photo to see the gorgeous detail on this ornament, which consists of musical symbols.
Christmas angelFrom Luisa. The ornament was handmade by her mother.

Our tree is completely dead, by the way. Jeff and I forgot to keep it watered after we brought it home, and now the slightest touch sends needles dropping like the one in A Charlie Brown Christmas. If we had pets, we'd be doomed. Fortunately the tree is in a low-traffic area, so it hasn't been completely de-needled. Yet.

Jeff and I have had a good week so far. Jeff took the week off, and both of us have been spending time seeing friends; Jeff has been gaming as well. Yesterday we visited Parki, and then we browsed Chapters-Indigo near Bay and Bloor.

My father-in-law gave me a Chapters-Indigo gift certificate for Christmas. Here's what I bought:

What I bought at Chapters-Indigo

For Better Or Worse 2006 desk calendar: I was enjoying the 2005 BOW calendar this past year so decided to continue the tradition. Especially since calendars were 50% off!

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: Newbery Honor book for young people. The back blurb sounded interesting and I liked the writing style in the first few pages, so I bought it.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini: Another book for young people which made many bestseller lists (New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Wall Street Journal); I've been curious about it. First in a series; the second is out in hardcover.

Webcomics: Tools and Techniques for Digital Cartooning by Steven Withrow and John Barber: A book about online comics. I'm about halfway through already and am not only finding it fascinating reading, but full of useful tips I can use for my own online comics.

One of the things I like about Webcomics is that it interviews online comic artists to find out more their creative process, from idea brainstorming to the final strip. A number of them named James Kochalka as one of their influences. James Kochalka, for those who didn't know, is the composer of the Hockey Monkey song, a fun tune that Urban Tapestry learned from Ookla The Mok. Dandelion Wine performs it now as well. He's also the creator of American Elf, an online comic hosted by WebcomicsNation. I notice that there are also MP3s available on his site, but you need to pay to access them.

The Hockey Monkey Song can be found on Kochalka's "Monkey vs Robot" CD, and you can hear samples here as well as iTunes.

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Package from Sybille!

Ronnie and me

Above photo: Ronnie and me. Luisa asked for permission to print up a t-shirt with one of my cartoons; I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

King Kong

Jeff and I enjoyed hanging out with Luisa, Reid, Michael and Ronnie yesterday. None of them had seen our house since it was an empty shell, so it was fun to take them on a tour. Afterward we went to see King Kong. I enjoyed the movie, though I thought it dragged a bit in parts.

I liked Naomi Watts in the role much better than I expected, and I was glad to see she did much more than just scream. It was odd to see Jack Black in a serious role like this; I kept remembering his manic behaviour in School of Rock so kept half-expecting him to bring out in song at any minute.

A package arrived from Germany yesterday. Thanks so much to Sybille Machat for the Christmas ornament!

Xmas ornament from Sibylle

...and the cozy Christmas slipper-socks!

Socks from Sibylle!

I enjoyed meeting Sibylle in Germany at Filkcontinental:


One of my favourite Sibylle songs is the "The Evil Eyeball", an amusing Lord of the Rings song which she performs with enormous expressiveness. :-D

Thanks, Sibylle!

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Burke Wide Bore Brass Black Tip

Try saying that title ten times quickly. :-)

Thanks to those who responded to my LJ plea for advice re: which Burke whistle to get. To those not on LJ: For Christmas, my mom-in-law has offered to fund the purchase of a high-end penny whistle that I would not be able to afford to get on my own. My whistle teacher suggested a Burke whistle, so I've been doing some researching.

Photo by Allison. Session at an FKO.

I love Internet communities. I posted my inquiry on the Chiff and Fipple Forums and got some helpful replies from experienced whistle players who have Burkes, including links to more info about Burkes and sound samples. Chiff & Fipple is a fantastic resource for whistle players of all levels, by the way.

Right now I'm leaning toward a Wide Bore Brass Black Tip. I would have liked a Low D whistle but I've tried a few, and the finger stretch needed would definitely aggravate my tendinitis. Ah well.

From public replies and some private e-mail, I get the impression that no matter which Burke I choose, I can't go wrong.

Having a basement office that is relatively isolated from the rest of the house gives me much more flexibility in terms of practising music than I had in the condo. FYI, here are the instruments I play:

Photo by Beckett.

This used to be my main instrument, though I'm way out of practice now. I started taking piano lessons when I was around 7 years old, stopped after Grade X Royal Conservatory of Music, picked it up again when I studied for my ARCT teaching degree. Quit because of life upheaval (my mom died, my piano teacher died). I taught piano, off and on, over about 20 years. Unfortunately our baby grand wouldn't properly fit into our house, so we couldn't keep it when we moved. :-(

More transportable than piano, hence my main instrument with Urban Tapestry. I never took private lessons in flute, just studied it during school music classes. I taught flute lessons for a bit. My current flute was a group gift from Jeff and a bunch of my friends from university. I've played flute on a number of recording projects.

I took a summer guitar course during high school and my parents gave me a classical guitar. For Urban Tapestry, I use a steel-string acoustic that belongs to Jeff; I don't have my own steel-string. Tendinitis makes guitar-playing an iffy thing for me these days; strumming is usually ok for a song or two, but fingerpicking is still too much of a strain, as is lugging a guitar and case around. Unfortunately this means a chunk of Urban Tapestry's repertoire is now inaccessible, but Allison has been gradually learning the guitar parts for some of these songs.

Assorted bangy percussion things:
Over the years with Urban Tapestry, I've accumulated quite a collection of percussion instruments. I would have learned bodhran along the way except for the fact that I'd never be able to carry it with me on the plane along with my other gear. Instead, I focus on smaller noise-making instruments like tambourine, shaky-egg, cowbell (I wrote "It Said What" so I could use the cowbell), claves, triangle, cabasa, etc. For luggage space reasons, I only take a small selection with me when Urban Tapestry goes to filk conventions; choosing is always hard. Hey, and my big bag of percussion instruments was borrowed by Ookla the Mok for their "Oh OK LA" CD! Rand isn't sure if any of the instruments were used or not, but I'd like to spread the rumour that they were so I can gloat properly. :-)

From the UT archives.

Celtic harp:
When I sold Inkspot, I took part of the cash and bought a custom-made harp from Larry Fisher. You can see how my harp was made here. I had one harp lesson from Sharlene Wallace before moving to Philadelphia for six months during the whole Inkspot/Xlibris stint, where I took weekly lessons from Kimberly Rowe. I had to stop playing harp for a couple of years because of tendinitis but have recently started playing again (yay!).

Penny whistle:
I started playing penny whistle when my tendinitis was so bad that I couldn't play piano, flute, harp or guitar, and I had to PLAY SOMETHING or MY BRAIN WOULD EXPLODE. Even though my tendinitis is much improved, I'm still playing whistle...I find it a wonderfully portable instrument, and I'm very much enjoying Irish music sessions at the Tranzac. I take monthly lessons from Karen Light, who studied with Mary Bergin.

Jeff teases me because I'm always wanting to learn how to play new instruments. Instruments I've attempted to learn but failed:

Violin: I rented this for a summer while in high school, but my parents made me return it. :-)

Clarinet: hurt my mouth too much.

Trumpet: I couldn't get past the wheezing anemic moose call phase.

Saxophone: Too heavy to lug around; I'd been spoiled by my flute. Had pretty much the same fingering as the flute, though, which is why I was tempted.

I've always loved making music. For me, there's something incredibly satisfying and compelling about losing oneself in the creation of music, especially creating music with other people. In university, I remember nagging friends who used to take music in school, trying to get together some kind of music group. My feeble attempts never did pan out.

Then, of course, I discovered filking and hooked up with Allison and Jodi to form Urban Tapestry.


Speaking of filking, only eight days until I leave for GAfilk!

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My dad took us out for dim sum at King's Garden yesterday. Yummm. My favourite dim sum is steamed shrimp dumplings. I could hoover boatload of those things. Hm, I probably did.

Afterward, we went back home to get the house ready for Jeff's gaming buddies. Since we put our First Christmas Decorations In Our New House, I've been so looking forward to having people over and doing the hostess thing. Certainly made our house feel even cozier with the crackling fire, Christmas tree all it up, tunes in the background, people chatting and playing games.


We're still unpacking and putting up pictures, but the house feels much more comfortable than it did when we first moved in. I'm sure that part of this because it's starting to accumulate some good memories. :-)

Living room

Enjoyed hanging out my friend Cathy today, visiting from Calgary. We had lunch at Ho Su and then dropped by Loomis Art store (the one I raved about in my last entry). The store is having a 20% sale off ALL STOCK, yesterday and today! I bought some beading/wire tools like a wire jig and a crimper tool and nylon saw pliers as well as some fabric paints.

A week and a half left until GAfilk!

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