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Sound Bites - Issue #43 - March 2017

On the Cover
Neal Yamamoto - Super Hero with Pen & Ink

Neal Yamamoto Neal Yamamoto

Neal Yamamoto cartoon

Sumo Boy character

Neal Yamamoto works and plays in the world of humor, so perhaps it is not surprising that the cartoonist-comic book artist-illustrator has a delightfully funny and quirky bio. Here is an excerpt from one of two humorous bios from the man who has also been an instructor at SMC Community Ed for about eight years:

"To the surprise of many, Mr. Yamamoto was able to successfully rip a Bachelor's Degree in Design and Illustration away from the hungry maw that is California State University, Los Angeles.

"As a freelance (i.e., unemployed) artist, he has spewed forth a wide variety of scribblin's and scrivenin's, including humorous illustrations, gag cartoons and comic/sequential art for more than 100 books, comics, magazines and educational publications nationwide.  His fevered meanderings can be seen in his weekly, online cartoon "My Name is Neal."

"Since 2010, Neal has been composed of several elements not found on the periodic table, masqueraded as a 3-foot tall professional ping pong hustler and repeated the palindrome "Madam, I'm Adam" to far too many women.

"As yet, he has not been successfully prosecuted."

View more images of Neal Yamamoto?s work (this will be hyperlinked to a page with the following images: Graphic Novel-7-SEI.jpg, Comics Class Neal Yamamoto 1.jpg, SAMURAI 1.jpg, SUNBURST COVER.jpg, gag3.jpg, Sumo Boy_logo 3.jpg, and Comics Class Neal Yamamoto.jpg)

Joking aside, it's clear from Yamamoto's impressive resume that he is a prolific artist and writer whose dozens of books include such titles as 50 Nifty Travel Games (one of many "50 Nifty" titles), Superhero Explosion: 60 EZ Lessons for Drawing Comics, and Hidden Picture Hunt.

View more samples of Neil Yamamoto's work.

He has also been an instructor at various college extension programs, having taught such courses as "Cartooning for Fun & Profit" and "Manga 101: Cute Characters & Massive Monsters." Beginning April 22, he will be teaching "Creating Comics & Graphic Novels" at SMC Community Ed.

What do you like about teaching?

I like sharing knowledge and the synergy of interacting with students. The production of art is, in general, an exercise in isolation, so seeing and dealing with people in a creative way is appealing...or, you could say I'm lonely and this is a way of forcing unsuspecting victims to spend time with me.

Tell us briefly about the kinds of students you get at SMC Community Ed.

I'm always a bit surprised by the variety of students I get. When I first started at SMC Community Ed, I thought I'd only get a lot of younger "fanboy" types, but I get students of all ages and all walks of life... although I do get working and aspiring screenwriters, which is understandable, especially for the graphic novel class, and, for some reason, a certain number of lawyers...maybe they need a creative outlet.

When did you start drawing cartoons and comics?

I started cartooning in junior high school, mostly just to pass the time; I liked comic books since I can remember, but didn't really try drawing them until college.

What comics and/or cartoons inspired you as a young artist?

Cartooning influences include Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson, Gary Larson and Matt Groening ("Peanuts," "Calvin and Hobbes," "The Far Side," and "Life in Hell," respectively) and comic book influences include Jack Kirby, Alan Davis, Frank Miller, and Walt Simonson. There are many more, but these are the creators that have had the most prominent influence.

Would you say your online cartoon "My Name is Neal" is humorous, satirical or both? What was the underlying impulse for the cartoon -- or to put it another way, why do you do it?

All of my cartoons, regardless of who I'm doing it for, are primarily meant to be humorous, although there are instances when there's an underlying message that is better served by using a bit more satire or parody.

To be honest, I started doing "My Name is Neal" mostly because "they" (the website administrators) asked me to. As the years have gone by, I do it mostly because it allows me a fairly free and open forum to express myself (or, as one of the site's editors likes to say, to "complain about whatever is currently annoying me").

What's the craziest thing you've ever done?

I decided to be an artist.

What is your idea of a perfect day?

Spending time with a pretty girl, of course

What is one of the best compliments you ever received?

Whenever someone laughs at my cartoons it's a compliment, but I have had a time or two when someone feels a little lump in their throat from one of my 'toons (not all of them are meant to be funny).

What was the last picture you took with your phone?

A cartoon drawing I did of George Takei.

What book(s) are on your nightstand now?

Including graphic novels, The Norse Myths by Crossley-Holland, Bone by Jeff Smith, Originals by Adam Grant, and a variety of Neil Gaiman and Malcolm Gladwell books.

What's New
Don't Miss Out! Photo Contest Deadline May 15

Alice Meyering

2016 Photo Contest winner - Dinnertime by Frank Damon2016 Photo Contest winner - "Dinnertime" by Frank Damon

2016 Photo Contest 1st Runner-up - Countryside by Laurie McCormick2016 Photo Contest 1st Runner-up ?Countryside? by Laurie McCormick

2016 Photo Contest 2nd Runner-Up - Sailing in Ushuaia by Geri Ann Galanti2016 Photo Contest 2nd Runner-Up ?Sailing in Ushuaia? by Geri Ann Galanti

from the desk of Alice Meyering

2017 is certainly flying by fast -- here we are in March already and looking at our Third Annual Photo Contest, open to all current and former students.

I must confess I'm still amazed that our little contest, started as no more than a figment of my wildest scheme to add some colors to our catalog, actually captures the fascination of so many. And I cannot overstate the quality of the submissions we received each year. 

To me, each submission from our faithful students, past or present, represents the trust that they have in us as a conduit for their vision of the world as they see it, and we are so honored that they choose to share their visions with us and our many readers.

Every time we receive an email with a submission, it's as exciting for me as opening that first present on Christmas Day: I'm filled with the eager anticipation of the unknown, and the assurance that each image will surely bring unexpected delight.

Already, we've received some submissions from past contestants, and I can only imagine what other eye candy is in store for us from now until the May 15 deadline. I encourage all our current and former students to submit your best work to this year's contest.

You can get the all the rules and submission instructions at this link, but a quick note that the winning image will be the cover of our Fall 2017 class schedule, and the top 3 winners will all receive credit vouchers for our classes.

Behind the Scenes:
Jocelyn Winn - Confidant to Our Students

Jocelyn Winn (left) is known for her unique blend of professional skills and warmthJocelyn Winn (left) is known for her unique blend of professional skills and warmth

Jocelyn is well known among instructors, speaks with Vocal Yoga instructor Heather LyleJocelyn is well known among instructors, speaks with Vocal Yoga instructor Heather Lyle

Jocelyn Winn, Michelle King and Alice Meyering form the core of SMC Community EdJocelyn Winn, Michelle King and Alice Meyering form the core of SMC Community Ed

As administrative assistant for SMC Community Ed, Jocelyn Winn handles everything from customer service and registration to putting out fires to managing 24 job-training programs and more.

But to many students, the warm and amiable woman on the front lines is a friend, confidant -- and sometimes even a therapist.

"I have these 'groupies' who come in and want to talk," Winn says. "They're usually seniors, who are retired with lots of energy and vigor for life. They bring me so many gifts, from stories about their lives to advice. They are from the generation where they're used to live human interaction. I'm happy to connect with them while registering them for classes or tours. I've been told many times that I should write a book about all the people who come into the office and sit on the blue stool by my desk and talk."

And she just might do that some day. As a writer with a creative writing degree from Cal State Northridge, Winn enjoys hearing the stories of her 'groupies' and surrogate parents that give her material to draw from.

Winn says one woman, for example, comes in every couple months and calls her about twice a month to see how she is doing. 'One day she was at Trader Joe's and bought me some brandy beans. She told me, 'Please don't let your nephew (who is five years old and lives with Winn and her sister) get into them,' Winn said.

"Jocelyn is, for me, the face of Santa Monica College and she is a 5-star professional," says recent retiree Darryl Fisher who registers for SMC Community Ed tours in person. "Her ability to communicate gives me great trust in any information or direction that she provides."

Winn said she has built rapport with many students over the years, recalling their names and details about their lives.

"So they feel I'm a part of their lives and vice versa,' she said. 'I want to make sure our time together is special for them."

Winn says she also has a lot of empathy for students in the job-training and professional development programs she manages that are designed to meet the needs of unemployed and underemployed community members.

And that's because she's been there. In 2008, she was laid off from a well-paying job as an executive assistant at a medical device company in the San Fernando Valley. The layoff was abrupt -- arriving at work one day, she found a post-it on her desk telling her to go to the Human Resources Department.

And this was just the beginning of her problems. She figured she could get another job easily, but it was the height of the recession and employment opportunities were scarce. Then she encountered problems getting unemployment benefits because her former boss reported that she had quit the job -- not that she was laid off. For six months she had no income and was fast depleting her savings.

"It was awful," she recalled.

After two years of unemployment, Winn finally landed a job in 2010 as an administrative assistant at SMC's Performing Arts Center. Then she worked as an administrative assistant in SMC's Office of Workforce & Economic Development and has been at Community Ed since 2013.

"Because of her unique ability and experience, programs that she's helped pioneer have grown so much," said Program Coordinator of Community & Contract Education Alice Meyering. "And because of her sparkling personality and caring nature, she has built wonderful personal relationships with so many of our students."

Although it was a rough couple years without work, Winn has taken that experience and used it to help students who are unemployed or underemployed. "When things have been bad for you," she says, "you can make things better for others."

New Hospitality Industry Job Training Program!

Michelle KingMichelle King, Director Career & Contract Ed.

Students enrolled in the Certified Guest Service Professionals program and learning hospitality and computer skillsStudents enrolled in the Certified Guest Service Professionals program

I'm very happy to announce that this month we've successfully launched a short-term career-training program  --  which is grounded in our Customer Service -- Hospitality and Computer Skills curriculum.  The 28 student participants will become Certified Guest Service Professionals (CGSP) and they will be introduced to local employer-partners who have stated their support for this training.

The Certified Guest Service Professional (CGSP) is a nationally recognized hospitality industry certification.  The hospitality industry is considered a high growth sector for the Los Angeles region and particularly the Santa Monica area, so this program is a natural fit for SMC.  

The goal is to get our first cohort of students placed in jobs -- and, in fact, the students in this cohort have already made connections in the industry as they were invited to a local Hospitality Job Fair. We are confident that the customer service and computer skills that our students will gain through this program are desirable skills that are in demand in various industries.

This comes as SMC Community Ed/SMC Extension is expanding its job training and professional development programs -- designed to meet the needs of unemployed and underemployed community members. With the addition of this program, SMC now offers 24 programs that are approved by the California State Employment Development Department and listed on the ETPL (Eligible Training Provider List).

This training is being offered in collaboration with the Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) WorkSource Center and is free for eligible individuals, thanks to funding provided by the County of Los Angeles' Department of Community and Senior Services. 

SMC Community Education is currently recruiting for the second cohort, which is scheduled to start on April 17. For more information on the Certified Guest Service Professionals program or other job and professional development training opportunities, please visit or call us at  (310) 434-3400 or email

Warm regards,

Michelle King
Director of Career & Contract Education