The “Beginner’s Mind” Edition :: Issue #253, Rusty’s Electric Dreams

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

–  Shunryu Suzuki

Rusty's Electric Dreams, an inbox zine by Rusty Blazenhoff

An inbox zine for positive deviants and the people who love them
Issue #253 :: The “Beginner’s Mind” Edition :: 01:29:2020

Beginner’s Mind

Folks, I need to confess something… I’ve become a little obsessed with The New Yorker‘s Cartoon Caption Contest

There’s an acquaintance of mine who shares his entries every week on Facebook which sometimes get me thinking how I would caption that same blank cartoon. But it wasn’t until I gifted myself with a print subscription for Christmas did I really get into it. When the first issue arrived a couple of weeks ago, I shared the contest with my 15-year-old daughter SJ. At first, she was unimpressed. 

Skeptical, she asked, “So, if you win you don’t actually win anything…?”

“Well, you get your name and winning caption in the… but really it’s just for fun.”


Trying to prove to her that it’s a worthy exercise, I showed SJ the official New Yorker video of comedians John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell live-captioning cartoons. She was mildly amused. Then, on her request, we watched Danny DeVito try his hand at it. We agreed his weren’t very good.

Then I showed her the video of 9-year-old “child prodigy” Alice who gained viral fame with her captions (“don’t overthink it,” the girl suggests). That’s when SJ’s competitive spirit kicked in. “Let me see that,” she said, playfully grabbing the magazine out of my hands.

The cartoon-to-be-captioned showed an anthropomorphic piece of bread standing next to — who appears to be — a maitre d’ at his station. 

We went back and forth a bit before settling on one that we thought was funny. We went to bed and in the morning I formally submitted it. I took a screenshot and texted it to some family and close friends. Response was positive. My brother said it literally made him laugh out loud, so I feel pretty sure that we’re going to make the top three at least.

Later that day, I noticed that Facebook friend of mine had shared his entry to the same cartoon in his feed. It was clever and I started realizing competition would be fiercer than I thought. I direct-messaged him to say we liked his and to show him ours. He said he liked ours and wished us good luck. I didn’t take the time to explain to him that we weren’t “in it to win it.” I mostly feel just getting the opportunity to push my brain, and to be able to share this creative experience with my girl, is reward enough. Mostly.

But, I mean, let’s be real. You all know I’m going to have to enter every single week until I either win… or die trying. In that spirit, if you want to see what is most likely the winning entry, head hereYou’re welcome!

Or wait until our win is in print and just go down the caption-contest rabbit hole for now:

Roger Ebert entered 107 times before winning, sharing some of his losing, though often terrific, entries on his blog;

The New Yorker explains why it’s hard to win: “odds are against you;”

— A former champ explains how to win: “aim for what is called a ‘theory of mind‘ caption;”

Watch other celebs caption the ‘toons, including Sesame Street characters (the best!)

Rusty Blazenhoff
P.S. No issue next week, so big issue this week!

As seen on the Internets

Dali and Disney's Destino

Fate: After meeting at a party in 1944, new pals Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney soon started collaborating on an animated surrealist short. But the film, Destino, was shelved due to financial woes at Walt Disney Studios. Cut to 1999 when Walt’s nephew Roy accidentally found the unfinished project in the vault while working on Fantasia 2000. By then, both Dalí and Disney had already died. Despite resistance, Roy ordered the roughly six-minute short to be completed, calling in 90- year-old John Hench, its original animator from the 1940s, to finish it. When Destino was released in 2003, nearly 5 decades after its initial start, it won several prizes and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. If you want to hear the full story, you’ll need to sit down to watch this nearly-90-minute documentary.

Related and fun: In 2015, a YouTuber swapped out the short’s original music for Pink Floyd’s “Time” and, I have to say, it kinda works.

:: Creative folks might need to hear the “Sex and Cash Theory”

:: Hot: The Neon Museum in Las Vegas is looking for a summer artist-in-residence (deadline 2/7)

:: “Adulting” life skills course at UC Berkeley so popular it’s turning away students

:: Music AND kitsch: CBS Sunday Morning celebrates Allee Willis

:: David Sedaris writes about his sister Amy: “She’s not an actress, exactly, or a comedian, but more like someone who speaks in tongues.”

:: “World’s worst”: Jerk cat gets amazing adoption write-up by rescue org

:: If you need a good sob today, this ought to do it (no really, I thought I was ready)
:: Thanks, Kitty!

:: April 24: Beastie Boys Story on Apple TV+

Real coins that actually exist: yes way!

I’m impressed at the extraordinary efforts someone took to make coins to give “zero fucks.” ($5.99+)

Stop, drop, and Rolex

An Air Force veteran was literally floored when he learned the Rolex Oyster Cosmograph he picked up in the early 1970s for $345.97 now has an approximate auction value of $500,000 to $700,000! He told Antique Roadshows that he picked up the water-resistant watch when he started SCUBA diving but never wore it because he thought it was too nice. It’s since lived in his safety deposit box, with all of its original packaging and documentation, just increasing in value year after year. Methinks he earned that melodramatic fall!


Featured Events

Oakland, CA [2/8] Grand Opening Party for Lea Redmond’s World’s Smallest Post Service storefront, “Tea, treats, tiny mail, and all sorts of other surprises!” 5 PM to 8 PM

24 U.S. Cities
[2/14 to 3/29] Pee-wee’s Big Adventure 35th Anniversary Tour with Paul Reubens — see a screening of the film followed by Paul Reubens himself — live, in person! — sharing never-before-heard stories about the making of the movie. 

Adelaide, Australia
[2/14 – 3/15] Adelaide Fringe, “Australia’s biggest, open access arts festival” Thanks, Jeff!

Alameda, CA
[2/8 and 3/14]
Lightning on Demand (Tesla coil) demos, 1951 Monarch (old Naval base) 7:30 PM Thanks, Mark!

Berkeley, CA
[1/31] Zepparella, the all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band is playing at UC Theatre, 8 PM

[2/15] That Really Happened? A Night of True Stories at The Monkey House, 7:30 to 9:30 PM, Sliding scale $10-$20

Eugene, Oregon
[7/10-7/12] Oregon Country Fair, a magical three-day art and music fair, Tickets go on sale 3/15

Las Vegas, NV
[Extended! Until 4/20] Tim Burton’s Lost Vegas art exhibit at the Neon Museum

[Opening this year] Meow Wolf’s Area 15 Thanks, Claudia!

Los Angeles, CA
Both locations of MOCA are now permanently free!

[Now] Cages, as described by Kyle: “It’s truly the future of music show meets storytelling. Fully immersive, from rooms to performance that combines concert, live theater, projection mapping, stop motion animation, 3D and 2d cgi, dance, and more. It’s nuts. Took 6 years of development and sets a new bar.”

[Last Saturday of the month] almighty Opp, a streetside puppet show in Koreatown recommended by CTP who says, “It’s fantastic. And bizarre, and funny, and wonderous,” 9 PM

New York City

RED pal Oriana Leckert always highlights the best events in the Big Apple!

[5/9 to 11/1] Yayoi Kusama’s Cosmic Nature exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden (pre-sale for members and patrons happens 2/19, public on 2/26)

Oakland, CA
[Now until 2/16] No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man at OMCA, Tickets
**Full listings of all the exhibit’s events here.

[2/2] The Roaming Clowns Night, “Premiering for the first time in the USA, French performers Amélia Bréchet and Agathe Bel will delight you with their beautiful stories, songs, and a lottery to win love letters,” 7:30 PM

[3/7-3/8] Oakland Museum’s White Elephant Sale, 96,000-square-feet of crazy-good deals, FREE but CROWDED

[7/11-7/12] Burger Boogaloo headlines with Bikini Kill and Circle Jerks, Mosswood Park

Portland, OR
[2/12] Laugh Lounge Presents: Comedian Laura House & Friends, 7:30 PM to 9:15 PM

[5/16-5/17] The creators of the popular Exploding Kittens card game series are hosting Burning Cat, a new two-day game convention that ends in the burning of a giant effigy. Huh… that last part seems oddly familiar!  Tickets are $80 for a two-day pass, or $45 for a daily one. 

San Diego, CA
[8/12-8/16] Tiki Oasis is celebrating its 20th anniversary this August! Two things: 1.) This is not to be confused with Arizona Tiki Oasis which happens April 23 to 26 in Scottsdale (same producers though!) AND 2.) tickets are not yet on sale yet — this is just a heads up!

San Francisco, CA
[Starting TODAY 1/29] A big chunk of Market Street is CAR FREE!

[2/1] Night of Ideas, an “all-night marathon of philosophical debate, keynotes, panels, workshops, and performances designed to spur dialogue and creative participation on the theme ‘Living on the Edge,'” 7 PM to 2 AM at the San Francisco Public Library, FREE (though may already be sold out)

[Until 2/2] This year’s Noir City film festival is in full swing at the Castro Theatre, Tickets

[2/6] Odyssey Works is hosting a Valentine’s Day Date Design Workshop so you can learn how to design the perfect Valentine’s Day date, 6 to 9 PM

[2/5-2/8] Fog City Magic Fest — four days of magic — at EXIT Theatre

[2/7- 2/9] The End of You, a pop-up immersive experience at Gray Area / Grand Theater that “explores how immersive art can invite new perspectives on humanity and our living world.”

[2/29] Imperial Teen at The Chapel, 8 PM

[2/14] Drag Show to End Homelessness: “Valentines Day can be a drag, so why not spend it at a drag show!,” El Rio, 7 PM to 10 PM, Tickets Thanks, Nicole!

[3/8 and 3/9] Patti Smith and her band at the Fillmore, 8 PM each night

[3/15] Beware the Brides of March 2020, annual event where folks dress up as brides and bar hop — though it’s more street theater than a crawl, Meet at Bar Fluxus in a wedding gown, 2:30 PM to 8:30 PM

[3/15] Super Shangri-La Show presents Treasure of the Four Crowns at Balboa Theater, 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM

Scottsdale, AZ
[4/23-4/26] Arizona Tiki Oasis at the lovely, midcentury Valley Ho Hotel

Seattle, WA
[Ongoing, 1st Sunday of the month] Weird and Awesome with Emmett Montgomery “a love letter to the strangeness and talent that walks amongst us” at Annex Theatre, 7:30 PM, Tickets 

Stonyford, CA
[6/15-6/21] Camp Tipsy, “rotten boat building contest and camp-out held at East Park Reservoir,” patron tickets available now

Various U.S. cities, and sometimes Canada
Atlas Obscura has an ongoing calendar of unique experiences.

[various dates] Immersive listings

Check out this calendar of design events from around the world.

Know about a cool, quirky, and/or indie event? Email me and I’ll share it with the class!

top image via Daniel Seifert

Rusty’s Electric Dreams is a (mostly) weekly inbox zine by Rusty Blazenhoff for positive deviants and the people who love them.

Described as, “One of the most inspiring, weird and off-kilter collections of curated kitschy ephemera for the big-brained.” People like it.

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