Illustrator. Photographer. Random thinker. Um rato de praia.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame

For a story about why some musicians are not inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

10 Newspapers That Will Survive The Apocalypse

A recent story from Business Insider mentioned that there are plenty of local newspapers that, after cutting newsroom bloat, would be very profitable. The story goes on to say that these local newspapers just need to stop spending on trying to find their way out and instead they should focus on running their current good business.

The story named ten newspapers worth acquiring, including my present employer, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, a 100K-circulation daily, located here.

When this story ran, Business Insider did a screen grab of the ten newspapers that (they think) will survive. By coincidence, I had a rare front-page illustration that day. Please click on the headline, read the story and click through to read about all ten newspapers.

The last offer of $26 million to buy the newspaper fell through. Anyone interested? We have beautiful year-round weather, Daytona 500 auto racing, Bike Week, Spring Break …

Using Technology for Job Search

Taxing the Online Travel Sites

Government officials want to collect more bed taxes from online travel sites.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Busted in El Salvador

In 1979, I went on my first trip to El Salvador. Since the early ’70s, we had heard stories from other traveling surfers about Punta Roca, a fabulous point break discovered by Miami surfer Bob Rotherham, who first stumbled upon this little speck of surfing nirvana while traveling through Central America in 1972. He totally fell in love with the country and the surf and married a local woman and settled there.

Bob “Don Roberto” Rotherham surfing Punta Roca in La Libertad.

Hitching a ride back to La Libertad after a surf session at El Sunzal. Often we were picked up by truckers carrying loads of cobblestones. We would climb up the side of the trucks and rest our surfboards on top of the rocks. Here’s me and Jeff’s girlfriend Julie hanging on for the ride.

The point break at El Sunzal.

Robert Gomez and I planned the trip and we were joined by Jeff and his girlfriend Julie. Now, at the time, getting high was a regular pre- and post-surf ritual for most surfers, but having heard horror stories of drug busts in Third World countries, and having seen the film Midnight Express, we all agreed we were not going to bring any weed with us.

We arrived in San Salvador late one afternoon and got a taxi to take us the 15 miles, over the mountains, to La Libertad. We checked into our $10-a-night motel and had dinner at Don Roberto’s restaurant while we prepared for our first Central American surf session the next morning.

One of the important things to know about surfing in Central America is that you dawn-patrol it everyday if you want to catch glassy, uncrowded surf, as the onshore winds usually kick in around 11 a.m and chop up the surf. We woke up before sunrise and walked down the dirt road, past the cemetery, to the cobblestone point and paddled out at first light.

The waves were as great as we had heard them described. Long, winding, hollow rights over a cobblestone point.

After a few days of surfing at La Libertad, we noticed local surfers lighting up on the beach, so we figured that maybe this was a "safe" country, after all. But the locals kept their distance from us, and we did not approach them to try to get high.

One night while having dinner at Don Roberto’s, we met a traveling couple from Hawaii and after trading stories and having a few beers, they offered us a joint of their homegrown weed. Robert, Jeff, Julie and I walked down the dirt road, past the cemetery, onto the cobblestone point where we surfed every day and proceeded to light up.

As we sat on the beach, under the glow of a full moon, the only sound being the clackety-clack of the waves rolling over the cobblestones, the main thing I remember is a simultaneous, collective “Whoaaaah …” from our small group. This stuff was so mild, yet so powerful, that it just crept up on us. It heightened the sounds of the ocean, the glow of the full moon and the moon’s reflection on the surface of the ocean. We all agreed this was some of the best weed we had ever tried.

After a while, we walked back to the restaurant and our new friends from Hawaii were still there. We thanked them profusely for their gift and they replied "Would you like to join us to smoke another?"

Well, of course it would have been impolite of us to refuse such generosity, so we all proceeded to walk back to the beach again. However, this time the women were feeling a bit spooked about the cemetery so we only went as far as the end of the dirt road leading to the beach. Which turned out to be a mistake.

As soon as we had finished our second joint, from the surrounding darkness came three soldiers, one from the beach side, one from the dirt road and one from the cemetery. The very first image I recall is of one of the soldiers standing in front of us, cocking his rifle and saying “Quien tiene la marijuana?" There was no doubt they had smelled our weed burning.

La Libertad was a very small town then, with no police force, so government soldiers were stationed at a small outpost from where they patrolled the town and beaches.

We froze. All the images of Midnight Express raced through my mind. I imagined having to call my parents to tell them I was in a Salvadorean prison.

Being the only Spanish-speaker in the group, I stepped forward and began talking to the lead soldier. I told him we were visiting surfers and that my friends had been drinking and partying too much. The soldier wasn’t believing my story and began a series of questions. Where were we from, he asked, what airline had we flown, what our flight number was, where were we staying.

I don’t know how I was able to retain my composure as I rapid-fired back the answers to him, while being so high that I was seeing swirly patterns of colors on his face.

As I thought I was making headway and somehow convincing him that we had just been drinking, he asked again, "Who has the marijuana? Everyone empty your pockets!”

At this moment I thought, this is it. We’re either busted, or the soldiers are going to rob us. We had been warned by Don Roberto that whenever we ventured away from our motel, we should carry only a minimal amount of cash and no jewelry in case we were robbed. Since we had dinner earlier, I knew that Robert, Jeff, Julie or I had no cash. But we had no idea if our new friends might be carrying weed with them.

As we all emptied our pockets and threw small change and motel keys on the ground, the couple from Hawaii did the same, and they were not carrying any weed!

The soldiers must have believed my story, or must have had some sympathy for us. They walked us back to our motel room as locals watched. We walked in, locked the doors, turned off the lights and went to sleep.

The next morning, as were were surfing perfect waves under sunny skies, I told my friends “We could be in prison right now.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Foreclosure Scams

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

To see the outcome of this epic battle between Notre Dame’s leprechaun mascot versus U2 frontman Bono, click here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Monday, March 09, 2009

Metal sculptor produces fantasy bike

Staff Writer
Daytona Beach News-Journal

Ever dream of soaring down the highway on the back of a giant metal eagle? Or getting by with a little help from your dragon friends?

Key Largo metal sculptor Kim Brandell's motorcycle creations may help you do just that.

Brandell is exhibiting his unique metal creations, the Screaming Eagle and the Dragon bike during Bike Week at an Easy Riders magazine-sponsored space at the Iron Horse Saloon in Ormond Beach, at the Boardwalk Bike Show on Friday and at the Rat's Hole Bike Show at Daytona Lagoon.

A small crowd gathered as he unloaded his bikes from the trailer and at first impression, most onlookers assumed that the bikes were super-heavy.

Brandell's materials and technique — working with sheet copper and using a brazing rod and an oxygen-acetylene torch — gives the sculptures a massive, heavy-metal appearance, but they actually add only 75 pounds to the total weight of the bikes.

The Eagle bike is a three-piece copper sculpture that is overlaid onto a Harley-Davidson, which has 25,000 miles on it.

The attention to detail shows. Every metal feather overlaps, much as the real bird's feathers do.

"It takes a lot of money and time to build a custom bike," says Brandell, as he estimates in his head a cost of about $25,000 in materials and the amount of time spent to build each bike. Actual work time on the Eagle bike was six to seven weeks, and for the Dragon it was 12 weeks. But this work, which is his hobby, is stretched out over a period of two years, while Brandell continues his commercial work.

The Dragon bike is a functional sculpture. This three-piece metal work is mounted on top of a built-from-the-ground-up custom bike. With a main body resembling the textured, scaly skin of a dragon, several other dragons hold directional signals, speedometer and brake lights. One dragon that sits towards the back of the bike, tail wrapped around the license plate, watches Brandell's back as well as giving the "middle-finger salute" to other traffic following too close.

"I see the dragons as my psychological protectors. I feel I'm getting by with a little help from my dragon friends," said Brandell.

Brandell starts his works with a rough pencil sketch. Then he draws shapes and uses these as templates to cut the sheet copper. As he prepares to cut, he allows extra surface area, because the metal will have to wrap and bend to create a three-dimensional shape. "I think in 3D," says Brandell as he explains his process.

A few years ago, Brandell approached Easy Riders magazine with photos of his motorcycle works and Melissa Penland, principal of Action Promotions Inc., got him started exhibiting his custom creations at bike trade shows.

Brandell started his sculpture career 34 years ago. He began creating copper sculptures in his garage and exhibited his creations at outdoor arts and crafts shows in the eastern United States. After about 10 years, he was commissioned to do his first commercial project at The Mayfair Hotel and Shops in Coconut Grove. He made 18-copper elevator doors, 50 copper herons and 200 copper light sconces throughout the project. Most of his career since has been work for hotels, casinos, restaurants and high-end private residences, and he says he has produced metal sculptures for Donald Trump and Gloria Estefan.

Brandell built his first customized bike while still a senior in high school. It was a 1961 Panhead with silver fox fur mounted on the gas tank and fenders. But he did not build another bike until 2002 and that was the "Iguana Bike," which was featured on the official 2002 Bike Week poster.

And while he continues his metal sculpture work for clients, Brandell says his business is leaning toward the customized bike market.

Here's the link to the News-Journal site for story and more pics.
Here’s the link for the video.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Halloween 2008

Cover for the Beachside Resident (Cocoa Beach, FL) as well as my Halloween e-card.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Gregg Allman and Friends at Destination Daytona

Last Saturday night March 1, 2009, as part of Bike Week events, rock and blues musician Gregg Allman performed at Destination Daytona. Although not my kind of music, I went to check it out anyway, since he was originally from Daytona Beach and I wanted to see him play for a hometown crowd. Plus, the newspaper gave me a free ticket.

He and his band Gregg Allman and Friends performed a solid, one-and-a-half hour set, plus two encores, including hits such as Whipping Post, Sweet Melissa, I'm No Angel and closed the show with Goin’ Back to Daytona.

For a 61-year-old guy who's survived alcoholism, cocaine and heroin addiction, hepatitis C and a marriage to Cher, he looked surprisingly fit.

Check out the concert pics here on my facebook page, and check out 30-second cellphone videos here and here and here and here.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Surfing Through the Years

From the 1968 high school yearbook, when I was a junior.

South Beach sequence, 1978.

Wilderness, Puerto Rico, 1987.

Middles, Puerto Rico, 1988.

Playa Jobos, Puerto Rico, 1990.

Playa Negra, Costa Rica, 1993.
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