Live from Austin Texas it's Ric Sternberg.
The code of honor in self-indulgence requires that I begin with the following disclaimer: I am awful at this, this being the reduction of my last 41 years down to bare bones. See, packaging is my game and dem bones need, at a bare minimum, flesh, let alone a fancy outfit. I'll do my best to make this compendium as naked as possible. I'll even leave lotsa stuff out. But it's still gonna be pretty long so, if your eyes start to glaze, take a nap and come back later. Better yet, forget the whole thing. Shut off the damn computer and go do something good. Take a walk, plant a garden, write that novel you've always wanted to write. But if you choose to stick this out, don't say you weren't warned.
Diploma from Syracuse At the conclusion of my glorious high school career, I attended Syracuse '62 to '66. Now, for those reading the fine print on the diploma, your eyes don't deceive. It says 1969. That's because I was in such a hurry to get to New York City that I blew off the last 3 credits needed to graduate and split. 3 years later, reason prevailed (and I got tired of being called names) and I took a 3 credit course at Hunter then got my mail-order diploma from Syracuse. My major was R-TV. I figured I liked to watch TV so how hard could it be? Played a lot of music and bridge and took a lot of theater and film classes too, which I actually liked a lot better. I also got involved in the civil rights movement, my first taste of activist politics. Got married in my senior year to first wife, Terry Cesta. We moved to a very cool place in Greenwich Village and started our lives as hippies. Then, just as we were adjusting to climbing the stairs up to that 7th floor walkup...
Pregnancy, which led to the almost inevitable - a baby, a very big baby (who is now an even bigger man). Reed is currently 36, in the high tech sales game, a pretty good musician and song-writer and a great guy, even if he is still a pain in the you-know-where. However, all his sins are forgiven by virtue of the great gift he has bestowed upon us, our Grandson, Zac. But I digress... Reed birth announcement
Family portrait Should you be interested in a peak at the culprits, that's ex-wife Terry, gingerly holding infant Reed who did not want to have anything to do with this family portrait. Other participants are me (the seated gangster), my 2 sisters Faith & Rebecca and Faith's hubby Morty.
Since the walk-up's stairs were an impossibility, shlepping that big kid and his carriage, we moved from MacDougal Street to a first floor apartment on 14th. I worked at NBC but wanted to make my own films. Made a short film and some stationery. I was happening. Ichiban Films stationery
Then, the soft deal apartment we had (superintendents of a brownstone for free rent) went bye bye when the landlord decided his nephew should have the job. Unable to find affordable housing in NY, we moved to Boston, where Terry and I split up. I left for New York with Reed and became a single father of a one year old. Reed and I moved in with my parents who were living in Douglaston. I worked a few film, still photo and taxi driving jobs and ended up at a company called Actron. There, I was a film editor but was getting interested in this new portable video thing (1968 was the year). In 1969, Actron got a stupendous gig - doing large screen video for the Woodstock Festival.
Ric on crane at Woodstock That's me on the crane - best seat in the house, about 40 feet from the edge of the stage and up above the mass of humanity below (for your further viewing pleasure, you may want to check out this picture as it appeared in Rolling Stone Magazine). Woodstock was a revelation to me. I had resigned myself to a life working for other people whom I didn't particularly like. This scene showed me it could be otherwise. Here were companies made up of hippy artists, pulling off this city of a concert. The Actron brass didn't get it. They grumbled about everything from beginning to end. This frustrated me so much that I handed in my resignation immediately. It was refused immediately. So, after a week hanging out with the Hog Farm people there at Yasgur's farm, I went back. They gave me a new title ("Innovationist") which was very flattering, and more money which came in very handy. But I was never a very committed employee from then on. I needed to spread my wings.
Soon, two of the other guys from Actron and one of the Woodstock Festival coordinators and I lit out on our own and set up The TV Machine. The mission: Large-screen video at concerts and theatrical events. I know, I know, it's an everyday thing now, but then it was still kinda radical. It had only really been done a few times before. TV Machine logo
Nina Simone at Fillmore East We did shows at the Fillmore East - Taj Mahal, Richie Havens, Nina Simone (shown here), at the Electric Circus and at college campuses. Eventually, we got a real paying gig - video for a lavish production of Brecht-Weill's "Mahagonny" at the Anderson Theater in NY.
With a few bucks in my pocket, I moved out of my parents house. They had been a fabulous support system for 4 years but enough is enough, right? Reed and I and a friend named Ray moved in to a funky apartment in the East Village, on an action-packed block (East 5th St. between 2nd & 3rd). Soon I met Naomi Greenspan. We moved out to Center Moriches, right on the bay. Naomi was teaching pottery and art history at a college out there. Together, we did multi-media, which for us meant building giant plastic inflatables and doing shows and events inside and outside them. We put together a pretty wild collection of light show imagery, combined it with video and live performance, stuffed it all into a big old mailtruck and, when the school year was over, hit the road for parts unknown. After a couple of months on the road, the truck rolled over in Vermont, destroying it and cutting a dream short. Naomi left, Reed and I stayed, and I was a single father again. Electron Fields brochure
Green Mountain Health Center brochure The southeast corner of Vermont (Putney and Brattleboro), in the early 70s, was my idea of heaven - yummy setting, unspoiled environment and simpatico people. The one missing ingredient was a good way to exercise my somewhat specialized talents while making a living. Seems there weren't a lot of jobs for video-multimedia artists. Nevertheless, Reed and I stayed there for 4 years, making it up as we went along. When a group of us alternative types (who might have been the majority in them parts at that time) identified a need for affordable health care, we started a sliding-scale clinic and community health education center. I signed on as Education Coordinator, which meant anything to do with communications. I did coordinate educational programs but I also did all the public relations stuff and quite a bit of fund-raising. Naturally, I also shot a lot of video, using some in classes and documenting just about everything.
At the same time, I was pursuing my art interests, now integrating dance into multimedia performance pieces. Also, along with a friend, I started a non-profit called the Vermont Town Media Foundation. Its purpose, with funding from the Vt. arts Commission, was to provide low-cost media support to other non-profit organizations. I also started a little business making a natural halvah that I invented. It was selling like crazy at local health food stores and was being distributed on a small scale by a regional distributor. It might have gone somewhere but I got an offer of a job at Austin Community College and couldn't resist the opportunity to check out a new place, while earning a regular paycheck for a while. It was a grant project, with an 18 month term. I figured I'd be zooming back to Vermont as soon as the project ended. Little did I know how cool Austin would turn out to be. Halvah box
Short Circuit Circus logo Almost immediately after I arrived in Austin (in 1976), I hooked up with a group of artists called Interartworks. We had a good-sized loft downtown and I've always been the kid who said "Here's a nice old barn. Let's put on a show." So I wrote, directed and ring mastered "The Short Circuit Circus" (I've always been fascinated by the circus). It had clowns, jugglers, acrobats - the whole shmear, only this was a circus with a video projection screen and with a political message.
One thing led to another and soon I became part of the first cast of Esther's Follies, Austin's still-running topical vaudeville troupe (that's me in the middle with bandana and Percy Dovetonsils face). There I stayed for 2 years, writing, acting, singing, dancing, playing drums, making props and costumes and tending bar. At the end of each show, we circulated through the crowd (during a rousing revival number) with butterfly nets. The audience usually obligingly filled the nets with cash. We split the take about 25 ways, netting not quite enough each, especially for me with a 9 year old. Did pretty well tending bar during the breaks, tho. Nowadays, Esthers is an institution, demanding an uptown admission charge and paying the cast pretty well. Esther's Follies cast
Ric singing Here's me singing one of the jazz songs I did in the show. Nothing was ever done straight. Everything had a gag attached. In the early days that I was with the Follies, we did an entirely new show every week. It was grueling but exciting, creatively challenging and fun. We took on whatever was in the news and then some. If you are interested, more pictures of me in Esther's Follies are available here.
Next theatrical venture was an idea I spun-off from Esthers, a vaudeville show for kids called the Pineapple Players. This was the first of two incarnations of the group. I wrote and performed in the shows and got the grants to keep them on the road, playing theaters, parks, recreation centers and school auditoriums around Texas. Want more pictures? Got 'em right here. Pineapple Players
"Hole in the Air" program During that same time, I co-wrote, directed, and played a part in "Hole in the Air", an anti-nuke oriented old-timey musical (tap dancing throughout). Of course, I had video as a component of the show because, well, that's what I do.
One New Years Eve in the Follies, I had introduced this 6 person dragon I made out of Celastic and fabric. He soon became the "Energy Dragon" and began appearing at City Council meetings to testify against Austin's involvement in the South Texas Nuclear Project. He is always lots of fun and quite a hit with the Council and audience because, in the guise of a dragon, I can be outrageously insulting to the council members. The old dragon now resides in my attic but still makes occasional Council meeting appearances. Dragon in newspaper
TN business card In the midst of all that theatrical fun and anti-nuke activism, I found myself under fire from my son, who wanted clothes that weren't from Goodwill, (among other stuff) that I was not able to provide. So I bit the bullet and searched for a real job. Now here's the irony - the best job I was able to find was for a company named Texas Nuclear. They make non-contacting measurement devices, not bombs or nuke plants. So here I was, driving a funky old VW hippy bus with a "No Nukes" bumper sticker, working for a company with "nuclear" in the label. Good folks, though. I enjoyed it until...
In a cost-cutting move, TN decided to close the video department and outsource all production work. They asked me if I would like to set up my own company with them as my first client. They offered to rent me (for a song) the small building that had housed the video department as well as all the equipment they had purchased. I said "Please don't throw me into that briar patch!" But throw me they did and I have been enormously appreciative ever since. And AiM Productions was born. That was 1982. Ric in front of old studio
Ric editing at old studio Here I am at the editing console in that little building. I was happy there (can't you tell) and did lottsa good work for TN as well as IBM and others. But, after a year or so, my need for space grew along with the clientel and I moved into a new office-studio that AiM was to occupy for the next 17 years. In those new digs, right behind Texas Instruments' Austin campus, AiM did over 50 projects for IBM and over 100 for our neighbor, Texas Instruments. We also did many projects for other companies and a slew of government agencies and non-profit organizations. Want to know more about AiM's projects, clients, etc.? To check out the website, click here.
Also in 1982, I met Annie Borden, a beautiful, firey artist with (at the time) long red hair. We lived together for 7 years and then got married. The matrimonial bliss continues to this moment. Ric & Annie wedding invitation
Annie in her kayak on the Pedernales In 1987, during the harmonic convergence (remember that?), Annie was looking for somplace to be alone in nature for some meditation. A friend was living in a house in the hill country outside Austin and suggested that Annie could sit by the river that ran through the property his house was on. So she sat by and in the Pedernales River and then came running back into town, insisting that I had to see this place. I was in the middle of producing a series of 7 videotapes for the City of Austin and had no time for such frivolity. But that weekend she dragged me, kicking and screaming, out to see the river. My mind was blown. I had to have a piece of that land. A year later, we had some.
In 1998, Reed and his wife Lisa (now divorced) gave us our grandson, Zachary (I'll bet a few of you have grandsons named Zachary, eh?). This is one cool kid, but don't get me started. Here are Reed and Zac with Annie and moi on our beach by the river this past Fathers' Day. Ric, Reed, Annie & Zac on beach
Zac as Superman I'll treat you to one more picture of Zac right now. But, if you've just gotta have more, click here to view a year and a half old web page of them.
Spurred on by Zac's arrival, in 1998, we began work on our dream, a 2 story, straw bale house with many green features including tremendous energy efficiency and a rainwater harvesting system. We obsessively did much of the work ourselves but had the help of over 100 friends (and even a few strangers) who participated in many weekend workshops in which we raised the bales and plastered the outside and inside walls. We are most fortunate to have the friendship of some talented artists, craftspeople and enthusiasts who helped us realize our dream. Front of our house
Front door close

This door, for instance, was made by our friend Wolf, who used mesquite boards that he milled from a few trees we had to clear when building the house. The heart and the art in this house have nourished us way beyond explanation. In 2000, we sort of finished the work (what's really finished, anyway?) and moved in for real.

Knowing that we wouldn't want to leave here to make the 45 minute shlep into the office every day (I know, 45 minutes on beautiful country roads is not a commute by NY standards), we shut down the 2,600 ft. studio space and condensed the business into a 15 x 15' home office (an amazing act of prestidigitation). Big change. Now I have no problem getting to work early every morning (if I want to).

Here's one more pic of the house. If you want to see more, click here for a web page full of them. Living room
Ric & Annie in mirror art

OK, gotta wind this thing down now but I've got to get in a few vacation pix of Annie and me. I took this one the last time we were in NY (last August). We escaped from the relatives and stayed in a hotel (the Gershwin, pretty hip and cheap), from which we did the galleries, shows and just walkin' the streets (you know, that NY experience that so many of you get to have all the time).

I know, I look kinda like a tired and maybe even a little distraught biker in my black Greenpeace teeshirt and Annie doesn't seem to be enjoying herself either. But I love the effect in this mirror piece we came across in some Chelsea gallery. If you'd like to see a whole web page of images from that trip, click this.

This magical setting is Makena Beach, on the isle of Maui, where we spent a romantic anniversary (either the 14th or 21st (depending on whether you count the years living in sin) this past May. The vision in white is my lady love, trying to get away before I take another picture of her. Annie on beach at Maui
Ric in Ching's Pond Here's some old guy cooling his butt in Ching's Pond (same island).
And the same old cat, still standing despite oxygen deprivation related to hiking at 10,000 feet on very little sleep (Hey, it's a vacation. Who needs sleep?) Ric in volcano crater
Ric in St. Elena Canyon Since we live in paradise, we don't feel compelled to leave too much. Every beautiful place we go is generally overrun with people, even when we make special efforts to beat the hoardes there. Whereas at home, on the river, we can look far in any direction without spying a single tourist. And nobody's there to care about our lack of clammy, clinging bathing garments (the buff being our preferred swimming attire). Nevertheless, we do get away once or twice a year, whether we need it or not. Other travels in the last few years have been to Big Bend (this was shot there, in St. Elena Canyon), Belize, Vancouver Island, the Yucatan, camping across the West and canoeing down the Green River in Utah (doing the whole river in two parts - two different 5 day runs).
Hobbies? My life is my hobby. I love doing the work I do, which continues to be video, photography and multimedia (only now multimedia has a different meaning). This old dog has learned a bunch of new tricks of late and I am now also doing stuff on the web, for which I had some distain not too long ago but now love. Ric at new editing console
Corn in garden I noticed that one of you classmates has an email address something like "lovetogarden". Well, I don't wear it on my address but I do love to garden and spend a substantial amount of time and money to grow vegetables that could surely be purchased with far less of both. I just can't help myself. There's nothing like watching it all grow and finally going out and bringing in a basket full of delectable organic treats for dinner. Sometimes I just like to sit there on the ground among the plants in one of my three garden enclosures (with our lovely, friendly deer, no enclosure, no garden).
Another thing I never would have thought I would become fanatical about is rocks. We have them in the hill country in abundant supply and I dig digging them up and using them for various structural and decorative purposes. This is our cistern, our primary source of water. If you haven't tried rainwater, you should. It's the best. Cistern with rock work
Ric, Zac and block tower OK, I lied, I said I wouldn't subject you to any more more Zac pix but here's one more. Why? Because we're in the hobby section and I can think of no pursuit more enjoyable than my time with him. Here, in the guest bedroom, we have just completed a major construction project, a tower taller than I am (and I'm big) with the blocks I made Zac from wood scraps left over from our house construction.

Ok, gang, that's it. If you've made it this far, you have stamina and I want to thank you for your attention. Some of you might remember me as a kid seeking attention, even if it meant falling out of my chair and being forced by the teacher to stay down there on the floor for a while. Well that kid's still around. Same kid, new toys and a slightly different approach. In that light, here are even more opportunities for you to indulge in my self-indulgence - links to some of my web pages that, with one exception, haven't been mentioned above.

The September 25, 2003 edition of the Pedernales Post, a pictorial newsletter I do for friends and family
The August 30, 2003, "Persimmon" issue of the Pedernales Post
The August 9th, 2003 Pedernales Post on the Austin Anti-Redistricting Rally
The May 18th, 2003 edition of the Pedernales Post, the Big Bend and wildflowers post

An Austin peace march in the February, 2003 edition of the Pedernales Post
The July, 2002 edition of the Pedernales Post, focusing on the July 6th flood
The June, 2002edition of the Pedernales Post - "What's New in the Neighborhood"
The April, 2002 (and inaugural) edition of same, highlighting the old garden, river & Zac
The Susan Lee Solar Memorial site
The Century Management site that we have built and maintain
And, last but not least, our own Aim Productions site

I hope all who do attend the reunion have great fun. And I especially hope that some of you (like those who really knew and cared about me) will get in touch soon so we can catch up and maybe even relive some of those silly times. I can be reached by e-mail at, by snail mail at 24815 Hamilton Pool Rd., Round Mountain, Texas, 78663, or by phone at 830-825-0133. Enough options? Now use one of 'em. Thanks.

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