Bob Shell: Cicadas

Cicada. Illustration by AI.

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2024




The TV news has been full of stories about the simultaneous emergence of two different broods of periodic cicadas. One brood emerges after thirteen years underground, and the other after seventeen years. 

My original training and occupation was as an entomologist, an insect specialist. I worked in that capacity for the Smithsonian Institution in the 1960s. Cicadas were not my main subjects of study, which were Indo-Australian butterflies and tropical beetles, but I did read a lot about all insects in my studies, including cicadas. It is interesting and puzzling that all periodic cicadas have life cycles that are prime numbers, numbers divisible only by themselves and one. There has been much speculation as to the reason for this, but no one really knows the answer. 

One piece of misinformation that I’ve heard over and over on TV is that the deafening noise male cicadas make is to attract the females. That’s nonsense. Cicadas, male and female, are deaf. The earsplitting noise is much more likely intended to fend off predators. If the females could hear, there’d be no need for such loud noises. Crickets and grasshoppers get along just fine without such volume. 

Cicadas are mostly harmless. They cannot bit or sting. It is true that female cicadas cut deep slits in branches to lay their eggs. This can damage and weaken branches so they break off in high wind or loads of snow. But it is sheer nonsense, as one TV ‘talking head’ reported that their ovipositors (egg layers) are metal! I don’t believe any living creature, at least on Earth, has metal parts, although one wasp does line its nest with a polymer, a plastic. 

If you want to know the truth about an insect, ask an entomologist, not a TV news reporter.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 15th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here:

What to Do If You’re Felling Kinda Blue: Solutions For Depression

blue monochrome still life to symbolize depression
Kinda Blue. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

What to Do If You’re Feeling Kinda Blue


Solutions for Depression


In our fast-paced world, feeling down from time to time is inevitable. However, when these feelings persist, they may be indicative of depression, a common but serious mood disorder. The good news is that there are numerous strategies to help lift your spirits and improve your mental health. Here are some practical solutions to consider when you’re feeling kinda blue.

1. Connect with Others

Isolation can exacerbate feelings of depression, making it essential to maintain social connections. Reach out to friends, family, or join a support group. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust can provide comfort and perspective. If face-to-face interactions are challenging, consider phone calls, video chats, or even text messages to stay connected.

2. Engage in Physical Activity

Exercise is a powerful mood booster. Physical activity increases the production of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. You don’t need to run a marathon; even a brisk walk, yoga session, or a dance class can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Find an activity you enjoy and make it a regular part of your routine.

3. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are effective techniques for managing depression. These practices help you stay grounded in the present moment and reduce the impact of negative thoughts. Apps like Headspace or Calm offer guided meditations that can assist you in developing a mindfulness routine.

4. Maintain a Healthy Diet

What you eat can significantly impact your mood. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can improve your overall well-being. Avoid excessive sugar and caffeine, which can lead to mood swings and energy crashes. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseeds, are particularly beneficial for brain health.

5. Seek Professional Help

If your feelings of depression are severe or persistent, seeking professional help is crucial. Therapists and counselors can provide valuable tools and strategies to manage your depression. In some cases, medication may be necessary to regulate mood. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional if you need support.

6. Set Realistic Goals

Depression can make even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming. Break your day into small, manageable tasks and set realistic goals for yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. This can help build a sense of achievement and boost your self-esteem.

7. Engage in Activities You Enjoy

Pursue hobbies and activities that bring you joy. Whether it’s reading, gardening, painting, or playing a musical instrument, engaging in pleasurable activities can distract you from negative thoughts and provide a sense of fulfillment.

Remember, it’s okay to feel down sometimes, but persistent sadness is not something you should face alone. By incorporating these strategies into your life, you can take proactive steps towards improving your mental health and finding a brighter, more hopeful outlook. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to seek help and support from those around you.




Mikel Elam: Today is a New Day

Mixed media artwork by the great Mikel Elam for Tony Ward Studio
Artwork by Mikel Elam, Copyright 2024

Text by Mikel Elam, Copyright 2024


Today is a New Day


Today is a new day . This is part of my studio practice. I try to just keep going and exploring new avenues often. Don’t get me wrong; I use my best judgement as of today. However if I grow; I might even like yesterday’s actions . Although never any regrets. I am only making decisions on what I know at that time.  My core, my foundation are and will always be rooted in positive actions. However, being human is not always constant . We carry baggage and pain.  We also carry wonderful moments. I’ve learned if I am about to be negative in emotions I should stop – and take a deep breath, give thanks to The Divine for my existence and then whatever it was I was feeling will fade. I use art as a metaphor for life. Perhaps as a visual artist I recognize this as a gift and my unique connection to the universe . We all have gifts and shifting times is inevitable. Today is a new day.

About The Artist: Mikel Elam was born in Philadelphia. He attended the University of the Arts receiving his BFA in painting. He also attended the School of the Visual Arts in New York. He has been showing his paintings in numerous gallery spaces nationally and internationally for the last 25 years. Mikel recently exhibited his work at the University of Pennsylvania’s, Annenberg School of Communications.

To learn more about Mikel Elam’s art work, link here

Antoinette. AKA Scorpiana: You Cannot Pour From an Empty Cup

Beautiful tall black woman models a KVaughn couture jacket photographed by Tony Ward Copyright 2024
Antoinette. AKA Scorpiana. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

Text by Antoinette, AKA Scorpiana


You Cannot Pour From an Empty Cup


You cannot pour from an empty cup. 

This was the single best piece of parenting and life advice I have ever received and my continuous reminder to take care of myself. Navigating multiple polyamorous partnerships requires a lot of time and effort but those relationships continuously fill my cup. It was thru one of those relationships that I was introduced to rope bondage, and with it a whole new world in the BDSM community.

Chinese woman hanging upside down in bondage in her bedroom
Savanna. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024. Rope Work by Scorpiana.

Rope spoke to me in a way nothing had previously. The artistry, the physical challenge, the emotional connection it can foster. Being restrained was the first time in my life I could turn my brain off and just be in the moment, in my body. Learning to tie others was the most fantastic puzzle that continues to challenge me physically and mentally years later. It is a rare situation where I have never gotten bored, and boredom is ever present in my life as a human with ADHD. Balancing my kink life with my vanilla life as a working mother of two kids has me literally and figuratively pulled in multiple directions every day. Yet it is thru rope that I keep my cup full for the rest of the things in my life. Rope bondage has provided a unique emotionally connective experience with friends and partners alike. It is an expression of my creativity and an artistic outlet unlike any other.

closeup bondage photo of woman's butt
 Tony Ward for KVaughn Scarves, Copyright 2024. 

Sculpture with the human body, a transient dynamic living piece of art. Expanding access to rope bondage for those who are traditionally not included due to body size and ability is this intersection between my professional life as a physical therapist and my personal life as a rigger that allows me to share my love of learning and teaching with other marginalized groups. Tying others, and being tied, has been a source of joy that has kept me happy and grounded and better able to show up in all other aspects of my life; as a parent, as a partner, and as a physical therapist. 


Beautiful tall black woman models a KVaughn couture coat photographed by Tony Ward Copyright 2024
Antoinette. AKA Scorpiana. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2024

Nefertari Williams: The Epidemic of Loneliness

woman in the desert looking lonely wearing a Santa suit
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2023

Text by Nefertari Williams, Copyright 2023


The Epidemic of Loneliness 


I have heard more songs about being a strong independent woman more times then I wish to count. No matter how many times I sing them, wear the tee shirts or yell it from roof tops…..  I still, even if it’s just around the holidays or just late at night, must admit that I get lonely.

Everyone gets lonely at times. It’s normal to occasionally feel the desire to talk with a friend or a partner, go out and experience camaraderie with a group whether it’s a sporting event or your neighborhood church.

However some people experience levels of loneliness that have been deemed an “epidemic” according to the WHO (world health organization). Some of our fellow humans are differently abled and unable to leave their homes. They have to depend on the kindness of strangers for food, deliveries and transportation. Even if they have hired help that person may just do their job which is to maybe clean a little, help with medication distribution quick medical checks. But that’s only temporary companionship. A true deep connection is still desired in most of us whether we want to admit it or not.

There’s a song that’s says people who need people are the luckiest people in the world yet here we are living in a world where loneliness it literally making people sick. According to the WHO, loneliness can lead to increased risk of many illnesses including heart disease.

In 2020 a pandemic swept through Earth. Some believe this may have been the start of the epidemic of loneliness however there were whispers and clues way before the horrific pandemic hit.

The thought of those with physical issues that prevent them from leaving theirs home is one cause of loneliness however that doesn’t include those who have social issues (difficulties making social connections). They are our neighbors who may want to have different kinds of connection because they may not be comfortable with small talk or traditional forms of communication. This is where the discussion of sex workers comes in.

Sex work is referred to as “the oldest profession in the world” yet it is illegal in most states. I believe it may be something that should be looked into as a solution to loneliness in certain situations. Yes, there should be regulations and laws maybe even only used as a medical treatment, however, humans need human touch and there are people who are willing to provide it.

This is similar to the legalization of marijuana. It was illegal and caused so many people to lose their freedom yet was a solution for groups who have medical needs raging from epilepsy to anxiety. Advocacy groups began fighting for it legalization and it happened. So far studies show that it does more good than harm.

Now we have an epidemic of loneliness and we have people who need people. Let’s open our minds and our hearts and make sure we consider all opinions so that no one ever has to spend another holiday, cold night or just daily life – without companionship.


About The Author:  Nefertari Williams is a jewelry maker, activist for women with heart disease and the mother of five beautiful children.  She lives in Willingboro, New Jersey.  To access additional articles by Nefertari Williams link here: