Discover more from Illustrated Life
Simply Sunday - June 4
No more whammies, index card art, Illustrate Your Week, and more
Happy Sunday! I hope June has gotten off to a wonderful start for you, and, if not, I hope that there is balance. Sometimes, we take the laughter and the tears in equal measure. I hope you have a creative practice that helps you stay balanced, and I hope you have outlets and support to remind you to smile and to laugh. If you need that reminder and don’t have a way to get it, I hope you spend a few minutes having coffee or tea with me today. I want to remind all of us that there can be balance, that that we are each “worth it,” and that while life may not always be fair, we can approach each day open to moments of wonder and with gratitude.
A few things today:
No more whammies (and a game show story)
Prompts for Illustrate Your Week 23
Index Card Art
A Game Show Story
“No more whammies!”
That’s the expression that popped into my head this week. Contestants in an old game show would be watching a set of tiles on a board light up and hoping to see something “other” than a whammy when the spin stopped.
I haven’t thought of that in years, that game show, the shuffling pattern of lights, the “sound” that accompanied the appearance of the little whammy creature. But when I sat down and thought about how to start, about what happened this week, about where we are, that’s what came out. “No more whammies.”
It feels like it needs an exclamation point. “No more whammies!” I should be saying it emphatically. But just a period fits. It opens this post flatly, with some mixture of weariness, hope, resignation, and skepticism that is now all rolled together with this retro moment of game show history. I think contestants actually said, “No whammies,” but I definitely needed the addition of “more” here. “No more whammies.”
I think I need to add “please,” too.
“Please, no more whammies.”
I think phrasing matters.
It’s worth being polite.
From the Vault
Even though the phrase came to mind, I didn’t immediately remember the whammies show. It was called “Press Your Luck.” In looking it up, I stumbled onto a story about Michael Larson, an ice cream truck driver from Ohio, who, in 1984, figured out the pattern of the “spin” and was able to win more than $110,000 on a show whose podium displays weren’t even designed to hold more than the $ and five numbers.
The story was fascinating and sad, a man who filled his house with television screens and obsessively watched game shows, trying to find a way to get rich. With “Press Your Luck,” he succeeded. He detected and memorized the pattern, got onto the show, and won big. He succeeded, and then, in a cascade of events, he basically lost it all. One of those losses involved keeping thousands of one dollar bills in plastic trash bags at his home because he was trying to win a daily radio contest that involved finding a bill with a specific serial number. His apartment was then robbed.
The whole story was bizarre, including the fact that the CBS network refused to let those episodes be re-aired, even after selling syndication rights to the show. In 2003, however, the Game Show Network (GSN) ran a documentary about Larson called Big Bucks: The Press Your Luck Scandal. (You can now watch the Larson episodes online.)
It looks like “Press Your Luck” returned for four more seasons between 2019-2022, and may still return this year. Like so many other game shows, though, “Press Your Luck” is a nugget of childhood. I was surprised to see that the scandal was in 1984. I wonder if I watched those episodes, if I knew of Larson’s success at the time, this ice cream truck driver from Ohio who came on the game show and racked up all that money.
Reading Larson’s story, for me, was just a reminder that some people simply don’t win. His series of bad decisions and bad luck after the show were crazy to contemplate. Reading about Larson, Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel came to mind. It isn’t a direct parallel, but the story of the Ponzi scheme that Vincent was obliquely and unknowingly wrapped up in always feels mysterious and haunting. Partly that is a hallmark of St. John Mandel’s evocative language, style, and narrative. Partly, it relates to this obsession with getting ahead, whatever it takes…. and getting caught. Did you watch “Inventing Anna”?
Note: All of St. John Mandel’s novels that I’ve read have this really mysterious, lush, enshrouded feel to them, as if you are wandering in a fog. She is one of my favorite authors, with Station Eleven remaining at the top of my list, but I can think back to many other titles of hers, and that feeling of fog is a strong, lyrical, recurring element.
Game Show History
I grew up in the “Let’s Make a Deal” and “Price is Right” era. “The Price is Right” might be the one that sticks with me most, Bob Barker and his PSA at the end of every show: “Help control the animal population, have your pet spayed or neutered.” “Come on down…” Spinning the wheel. Bidding one dollar or one dollar over. But there were lots of game shows, including the “old” one, “Let’s Make a Deal.” (Ironic how many times as an adult I have thought about that show because of the Monty Hall Problem, thanks to my son’s interest in math and our shared enjoyment of brain teasers and puzzles.)
Checking to see when some of these game shows aired, I found lots of titles that I vaguely remember. My grandparents loved game shows. I remember them on in the morning and in the evening. We all watched game show together, shows like:
The Joker’s Wild
Wheel of Fortune (started in 1975; Pat Sajak started in 1981 and Vanna White in 1982)
The Price is Right (started in 1972 with Bob Barker, who hosted until June 2007)
Jeopardy (third incarnation of the show started in 1984 with Alex Trebek)
Let’s Make a Deal (started in 1963)
Hollywood Squares (started in 1965)
There is something surreal about growing up with a show like Wheel of Fortune…. that is still on today with the same hosts.
Did you watch any of these shows?
Maybe you didn’t. I am not sure that my experience was typical. We were a big game-playing family anyway, so maybe it makes sense that game shows were popular with my grandparents. I pretty much grew up thinking the Bunkers from “All in the Family” were my grandparents. That isn’t to say that I recall Archie Bunker watching game shows, but everything gets layered together with an image of an ever-present recliner.
Draw it Out
Please, no more whammies.
That’s my mantra for the day. I always have that “trouble comes in threes” adage in my head, but these days, I’m losing count.
Please, no more whammies.
I was feeling it this week. But this was a good diversion. Tracking through some of this history was fascinating, from researching the Michael Larson story to learning about the design of the whammies and thinking about all those other shows and how they fit into a timeline.
Of course, I drew a whammy in my illustrated journal. I also let a portrait this week give words to the apartment scam we got caught up in. Sometimes turning reality on its head is that easy.
Our journals give us spaces to process and record whatever is going on. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else. Sometimes you just need to draw a whammy, or write the words that scare you most really big, or draw a monster in polka dot shorts.
If you draw with me on Sundays, I’ll laugh with you and give you encouragement, listen to whatever is going on with you or whatever problems you are running into with your art, literal or philosophical. I will try to help, try to give you support, insight, wisdom. We all go on. And sometimes surface-level normalcy is what we need, time where we can move beyond the day-to-day realities, even if only for an hour or so.
Our art can give us that space, too. It can give us a space to record the day-to-day, the nitty gritty, the challenging, the hurtful, the gullible, and the overwhelming. Our journals can also be spaces of hope, of planning, wishing, dreaming, and whimsy. Our journals can give us a few minutes of escape.
That’s how I feel when I work on a portrait. Everything else may still be running through my head, but for a few minutes, I can just focus on repeating lines, on connecting lines, on drawing what I see.
This is a balance and a power that the illustrated journal offers. I hope you embrace it.
Illustrate Your Week — Week 23
The new prompts for Week 23 have been posted.
The Index-Card-a-Day (ICAD) challenge from Tammy at Daisy Yellow started June 1. Find out more about what I am doing and take a quick look back at a favorite “slices of life” series from 2019. I hope you will follow along!
By the way, this week while out for a walk, I spotted a pink kite in a tree. After last Sunday’s newsletter, it was a breathtaking moment. It was a big tree and very high up. It didn’t photograph well, but I wanted to share it here.
In It for the Long Haul
Thank you to those who have supported this substack and my creative work with a paid subscription. Your support and belief in my work makes such a difference.
I know that subscription-based models are not for everyone and not possible for everyone. I am grateful to those who choose to support with a paid subscription. I am also grateful to everyone who has signed up so far to receive this mailing (and the free Illustrate Your Week prompts).
I feel like I have hit a standstill both at Instagram and on the substack. As I approach June markers where I often get really philosophical, I am giving every extra glittery speck of energy to the substack. If you enjoy what I do now (or have been following through the years and appreciate the podcast that turns 17 this week), I hope you will share the substack or my Instagram with friends who might find value or inspiration in following my art, reading my words, listening to my podcast, or trying Illustrate Your Week. Thank you for helping spr ead the word.
Subscriptions not your thing? One-time donations are always appreciated.
(Please note: Links to books or tools referenced in posts are Amazon affiliate links that help support these projects.)