Warning! Read This First!--Hilarious Signs

Image from Mental Floss
Image from Mental Floss
I think oil industry officials use the three ways of thinking above too
I think oil industry officials use the three ways of thinking above too

Proceed at Your Own Risk

Remember when products were simpler and Instructions were one page and went something like this: “Take the thing out of the box, plug it in—enjoy.”

Now when you purchase something there is a large Warning! Read this first! section and you decide, as you always do, to skip or at most speed skim through this part because of three ways of thinking: 1. Why spend a lot of time with stuff you probably already know 2. Anything that can happen to you has probably already happened and you are still here. and 3. You aren't likely to make the same mistake twice. Besides, you are anxious to get right to what you are doing.

Thumb—thumb—thumb—you notice by now that there are a lot more warnings than there used to be and your dog looks at you as if to say: “See, I told you so--you shouldn't have let me chew on those bags or that wire thing and oh btw, you are never going to get that thing put together.” Ok I have a dog with a large stare vocabulary.

The point is things are a lot more complicated and a lot more things can go wrong--and when I say "go wrong," I mean there are a lot more reasons to sue someone if they don't warn you in advance. Unfortunately, most of the times when you are painfully surprised in life, suing someone is not going to fix it. In those times, you just wish you had known before you invested your money, energy or even worse--your heart.

BP reports warning signs before gulf oil rig explosion

A BP investigation into the gulf oil rig explosion says a variety of problems could be to blame, and that workers had several hours' warning.

May 26, 2010 By Richard Simon and Jill Leovy, Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times

There were warning signs of a valve leak nearly five hours before the deadly gulf oil rig explosion, according to an internal BP investigation, which also found that a number of equipment and system failures may have caused the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Products may not be appropriate for young children:

Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage." -- On a portable stroller

On a child's Superman costume:
Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.

On a washing machine inn a launderette:
No small children.

These warnings are either scary or humorous or both, but don't you wish children themselves came with warning labels: Will not listen to your best advice but will copy everything inappropriate you do. You can tell them all you want to "do what I say and not what I do," but come on---they won't eat the brussel sprouts but they will eat the ice cream you are saving for yourself in the freezer. They will listen obediently when you tell them the dangers of alcohol but if you celebrate with non-stop cocktail parties, chances are they will find someone to help them buy their own.

Do not drive while using a phone. This was an easy one when phones were not portable, but now that phones are small and portable and a part of our lives, with a bluetooth or car docking station, we all conduct our business while speeding down the freeway or in stop and go traffic. While this is definitely not smart, to compound the danger, phones now have texting, internet capability and word processing.

While you meander through traffic, you could be googling maps for your destination or yelp for your restaurant or checking your calendar for your appointment schedule and your text messages or your emails. You may even be tempted to respond to your messages while maneuvering a four ton piece of metal through a gauntlet of other three or four ton vehicles, peppered with an assortment of pedestrians, lamp posts and hot dog carts.

When I bought my Blackberry I do not remember a bold letter "Warning-Read this first" section which told me that doing this could be dangerous. With all the accidents caused by using them in traffic, I'm sure they all have hefty warning sections now. Do not use this Blackberry or Ipad to work on your hubpage while driving your vehicle or operating heavy machinery or functioning as an air traffic controller.

On packaging for a Sunbeam iron -- Do not iron clothes on body. (Now I have to admit here that I am guilty of doing this. Sometimes when I look in the mirror and my shirt has a little wrinkle I just grab the iron, turn it on and iron the wrinkle in place--the advantage to this method is obvious, it is fast, you don't have to take the shirt off or assemble the ironing board and unlike doing it on a board, you can tell when you're done with the wrinkle because your body starts to yell: "you've set me on fire you nincompoop!"

On Nytol Sleep Aid -- Warning: May cause drowsiness.(I can just hear the lawyer's case for this one in court: "My client has had trouble sleeping in the past and so he took the pills before he drove home so that they would start working when he got there. How would he know that they start working immediately and furthermore It does not say on the package that you cannot drive while sleeping.")

On most brands of Christmas lights -- For indoor or outdoor use only. (This one makes my mind hurt trying to come up with the use they were warning against. It was probably the same one as the next warning)

On a Japanese food processor -- Not to be used for the other use.

On Sainsbury's peanuts -- Warning: Contains nuts. (I actually bought a package of peanuts that , and I am not making this up, had this warning: Caution these peanuts were used in machinery that processes peanuts.)

Emergency safety procedures at a US summer camp -- In case of flood, proceed uphill. In case of flash flood proceed uphill quickly.(I think I would add--In case you're slow bring a dingy)

On the back of a pilot's seat in a NATO aircraft -- Seat must be facing forward for take-off and landing. (Awww the stewardess and I were playing rummy)

On a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle -- Some assembly required.

On a can of pepper spray used for self defense -- May irritate eyes. (Wonder why they didn't add--Not to be used for seasoning)

On a blowtorch -- Not used for drying hair.

For use on animals only -- On an electric cattle prod. (Some wife must have had fun when Bubba smarted off once too often)

Remember, objects in the mirror are actually behind you -- On a motorcycle helmet-mounted rear-view mirror. (And they are larger than they appear in this tiny mirror)

Warning: has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice -- On a box of rat poison. (I'm waiting for the one that says--Laboratories have been found to cause cancer in mice)

Fragile. Do not drop -- Posted on a Boeing 757. (I think it should have been posted on the passengers)

Warning: Misuse may cause injury or death -- Stamped on the metal barrel of a .22 caliber rifle. (May I be so bold as to add that correct use will for sure cause it)

The phone booth to the right is by a Russian street artist named Renald (from an area called Petrozavodsk.) He turns random public phone booths into sharks using his own spray paint and stencils. Shark Attack on the Phone!

And my personal favorite: A sign in a street in Hong Kong -- Beware of people.

As funny as these may be, everyone has had a relationship in which they wish the person had been wearing a t-shirt that read -- Does Not Play Well With Others

Warning Life in Progress

Warning, fragile

Keep upright

Avoid dropping

Warning, delicate

Use the cool cycle

Harsh words may cause permanent damage

Use only for intended purpose

Keep in a safe place

Exercise care

Warning, slippery when wet

Tears may obscure vision

Use caution

Use care

Warning, children playing

Slow down

Watch your blind spots

Look and listen before going forward

Warning, do not leave unattended

Requires sunlight and shade

Water when dry

Feed when hungry

Play with often

Warning, life happens

Limited time only

Act now

©Winsome Publishing 2010, All rights reserved

In the twenties, there was a product called Burma-Shave, a brushless shaving cream. Clinton Odell listened to his son Allen's idea to put wooden roadside signs up to advertise and reluctantly gave him $200 to try it. Before long sales took off and up to the 60's there were as many as 7,000 across the country. Although they began as sales pitches, they also started to talk about safety, home-spun wisdom and just plain fun.

Spaced out in five or six signs, the fifth gave the punch line and the sixth the Burma-Shave logo. Many a family trip was livened by reading and anticipating the humorous ending.

Don't leave safety
To mere chance
That's why
Belts are
Sold with pants

Comments 53 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Winsome - this was great. I actually used some of these same warnings you mentioned in a chapter titled "Communication" in my book on Job Search. So I can attest that these warning are real and were used on real products. Thanks for the deja vu.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey Doc, I actually wanted to write about warning labels we need for each other but I got distracted by the humor and oh well--sequel? =:) Thank you for your comment.

Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 6 years ago

Winsome- it comes to mind, for when we didn't know any better we didn't have any problem. Is that what they meant when they say "ignorance is bless?"

Also heard several drug commercials that warned,"in some cases this may cause death---if so call this #------" Yeah like I'm taking that cell phone with me?

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Lol, Ginn I think my daughter will. She had the texting down to the point she could do it with one hand without looking. Hopefully she's not driving too. =:)

lalesu profile image

lalesu 6 years ago from south of the Mason-Dixon

Oh! My goodness! This is fabulous! I can't decide which is my favorite; the .22 caliber warning or the three elegantly, disembodied fingers on the chainsaw diagram, LOL!

You've put it together so well - a wonderfully, entertaining read, thank you! ~ Laura

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you Laura, I thought I heard a "sprinkle of freckled laughter"--loved your homegoing piece btw. I was 16 when I left Texas--my adult self lives in California, but my childhood haunts still call to me. =:)

mysterylady 89 profile image

mysterylady 89 6 years ago from Florida

A fun Hub, Winsome. I have always gotten a kick out of warning labels. And cell phones -- I have a friend who manages to drive, talk on her cell, and change clothes, all at the same time!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Lol M'Lady, you have to tell me when your friend is in my town so I can stay home that day--just kidding. I used to study for my finals driving into LA on the curvy 110 freeway--I guess God protects the hopelessly foolish. =:)

the pink umbrella profile image

the pink umbrella 6 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

My favoirte warning of all time has to be on disposable coffe cups "warning, contents Hot" Rediculous. youd scream at the lady at mcdonalds if she handed you cold coffe, but if you spill it, youd scream at the manager because you wasnt warned that the coffe would be hot. I feel like were all walking around stupid, and if there werent for these warnings wed go around with missing limbs ans third degree burns, and eye patches! haha great hub Winsome!!!!!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey Pink, you're right--we act foolishly and then look around for someone else to blame. =:) Thank you for your comment, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 6 years ago from India

My problem these days is that warnings are in such fine print, whatever bad has to happen has already happened before I can decipher the warning!!!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey FP, good to see you, it's too bad we all can't be like Davy Crockett. His motto was "Be sure you are right, then go ahead." =:) Thank you for your comment.

profile image

cosette 6 years ago

haha some of those signs are great! i fear, one day, that everything will come with labels on it, depicting things we would never consider doing with them, like, say, storing drain cleaner in Perrier bottles, that sort of thing.

the problem is, some people lack common sense, and so the rest of us must suffer the proliferation of warning labels where none should be.

i sometimes wish some people came with warning labels though. ;)

rating UP and funny and whatnot...

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Wow Cosette, my first "Whatnot" rating--I am so proud and humbled at the same time. When I was a little kid, my mom said to me: "Winsome," she always called me that even then, "Winsome you are already great but you also will be famous one day and you will know you have finally arrived when you receive your first 'Whatnot' rating on Hubpages." She always was ahead of her time. She even left me a long list of "Whatnot to do" when I was on my own. The last one was: "Never forget to thank someone when they say something nice about you." Thank you Cosette, Mama would have liked you. =:)

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin

We're a litigious society? {snicker} I love these. :)

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey Springboard, yes aren't we--oh we got trouble, with a capital Litigious, that rhymes with contagious and that stands for "it ain't gonna go away anytime soon" =:)Thanks for the comment.

profile image

cosette 6 years ago

well, originally it was gonna be a "WhatHaveYou"...;)

(and i am honored that you think your Mama would have liked me.) write on, Winsome...

the pink umbrella profile image

the pink umbrella 6 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

cosette- yea people should come with warnings.."warning, i am only interested in your chest"..."warning, im a jerk, and will stop going to work after i get comfortable enough in our relationship"...does that sound bitter winsome? haha

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey Pink, yes I will go along with that, especially since I know your situation, but to be fair what about these people--Warning With Me You Will Have the Time of Your Life or Warning My Positive Attitude may Rub Off on You. I think (hence my pen name) that for ever jerk you meet there are five or more great personalities coming right behind. The key is to know the signs so you can tell which one they are right away. =:) He says to himself, that could be another hub....

mwatkins profile image

mwatkins 6 years ago from Portland, Oregon & Vancouver BC

There's a great one in Cozumel on the paper table protectors that drinks sit on. It says, "Warning, you might want write your hotel address and room number down before you start drinking in case you don't remember so well where is it when leave you." That's my favorite - Great Hub! I passed a restaurant yesterday in downtown and it was simply called, "Fuk." Family name? Great sign, though! ;-)

lightning john profile image

lightning john 6 years ago from Florida

Hi Winsome, I love the graphic of the do not wake babey with an air horn, (lmao)! It is really sad that some people actually need these signs.

Keep on writing! or whatnot! haha, just kidding brotha, you Rock!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ha ha Mischelle, that Cozumel coaster is great--but you have to wonder, if you're that plastered would you even remember that you wrote something down--they should just put luggage tags on everyone and deliver you to your rooms. =:) Thanks for stopping by.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey John, my mother used to call knick knacks "whatnots"--we have some weird words in our culture don't we? We also have a fascination for signs--I forgot to put in some of my favorites--the Burma Shave ones. Thanks for the comment. =:)

wrenfrost56 profile image

wrenfrost56 6 years ago from U.K.

LOL! It's almost unreal isn't it! I bought some peanuts too saying 'may contain nuts' I hope so I thought. Great examples and a brilliant hub, really enjoyed it. :)

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you Wren, I'm almost afraid to look at packages anymore--warning: contents may contain contents. = :)

Diane Inside profile image

Diane Inside 6 years ago

Hey Winsome Loved this hub you have a great sense of humor. It's true some warnings seem to be so obvious why use a warning. I'll tell you why because the world is full of idots. lol love your hubs.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ha ha, good to see you Diane. What makes me laugh sometimes is that the world is full of people who won't read them and the ones who would read them probably don't need them. =:)

salt profile image

salt 6 years ago from australia

Thank you so much, I really had a good giggle at these and some memories from childhood, .. except the BP one, that one is upsetting and so often you can see the problems, yet people will say its not my job, tell someone or mate, Im not the boss.

So nothing gets done and then you have disaster.....

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi Salt, I'm glad you had a giggle or two. I imagine a baby before it's born seeing signs like the Burma Shave on the way out like:

"Warning--First you get slapped

And then they make you cry

But if you watch for the signs and heed them

You can be happy till the day you die"

Thanks for visiting. =:)

bayoulady profile image

bayoulady 6 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

This is the first hub page that has ever had me in the grips of a big old belly laugh !(Trust me,it's big enough to shake a bit,too!)

I thought I was the only one that had ever done a quick iron over with my clothes on!


Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ha ha BL, you know the belly laugh is the only exercise exclusively targeting the most needed weight loss spot. That just proves we need to laugh more and exercise less (to even things out.) =:)

Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

This was a fun read on so many levels it's hard to comment on. I loved the signs you used, for starters. That cockroach one up top is hilarious. And I laughed outloud imagining a sign on a lab reading "may cause cancer in mice." THat's just funny. And true. This is good stuff. How scary is it that we need these kinds of warnings? I wrote something once about that too, had pencils with warnings about "Don't shove this in your eye," and weed eaters with ones saying, "This is not a suppository" lol. Not as funny as "don't fold this thing up if your kid is still in it" though. Just wow. Humanity is too stupid to go on if we actually need these. :)

And, the haiku is lovely. It's like Mysterylady 89 said about your kindness coming through even when you are writing about silly stuff. Nicely done.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey SB, so nice to have you stop by the warning zone. It's great to find someone who appreciates the silly and the profound with such eloquence. Just for the record, I believe people are a lot smarter than this hub would suggest or I wouldn't get on the freeway with them or eat in restaurants or use sophisticated, dangerous machinery manufactured by them or live in a country run by them--the last one takes a little more faith than the others sometimes. =:) The ones this hub is dedicated to are those who usually cancel themselves out, some even getting a "Darwin" Award for doing so.

After reading your comment, I realized I left something out so I am adding a video featuring the '60s song "Signs, Signs Everywhere a Sign" Thanks for the gracious words and the visit.

TINA V profile image

TINA V 6 years ago

The title of your article caught my attention, “Warning! Read This First”. I’m glad that I did opened it because it is worth a read. Warning signs are really important, but sometimes these are often overlooked. Some people don’t bother to read these, whether in bold letters or in fine prints, that it may put them in great risk. This is another well written hub.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Well that just goes to show that you do read warning signs Tina--he smiles--Thank you for reading and for your kind words. I saw a church sign that read "Sign Broken-Message Inside" =:)

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

These are GREAT, but you missed my #3 favorite Stoopid Warning (being an ex-blond prevents recalling #1 and #2): on the fold-up thingie for the inside of the windshield to block sun when your car is parked on a hot day. "Warning - remove before operating vehicle."

It wasn't in Braille, so I'm guessing it's not for the benefit of blind drivers going to the ATM to withdraw $$ using the Braille keypad. (WHY are those keypads on the driver's side? Hello.)

I was already in stitches laughing at the senseless warnings that take up the first 4 pages of a 5-page instruction manual. But then you mentioned Burma Shave signs. Be still my heart! I loved those signs! I thought they were gone forever, but believe it or not, somewhere on a paved road within 25 miles of Chandler OK (maybe on Route 66?) there are 3 or 4, but not a complete set. Can't remember where exactly - not because of the ex-blond thing, but a grown son whose mission in life since Christmas has been to Confuse Mom by taking me to a different town (by the "back way") each time I visit. I threatened to get a map and mark the towns I *hadn't* been yet so he could map a route for the next time. ("Funny, Mom...ha ha".) Anyway, wherever those signs were, OF COURSE I wanted to top and snap pix, but Son was in a hurry. Drats!

Thanks again for the trip down Burma Shave memory lane. ;D

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

What a cool son--he is having his sweet revenge for all the trips he had to take without any say when he was a kid. =:)

I think someone could make some money by resurrecting the Burma Shave brand and making a spa type line for it. (I looked it up, the signs are on Route 66 leading into Davenport 4 miles from Chandler.)

Much obliged for #3 that is hilarious. Thanks for stopping by. =:) The following nostalgia is in honor of #3:

He bought windshield shades

So his car's not a stove

But he should have removed them

Before he drove

Burma Shave

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Wow, Winsome! You're right! The signs ARE between Chandler and Davenport, about halfway if memory serves. On a stretch of Route 66 that looks pretty much like many parts of 66 all the way to OKC.

I agree, someone should resurrect Burma Shave - so the signs can once again be a source of amusement to travelers. And I know who could write new ditties for them - the ode to #3 is priceless! Applause, applause! Author, author! ;D

Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

This is a beautiful hub! "Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage." I'll never forget the day I did that! Great hub Sir! As always!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ha ha, and as you can see I didn't take the shirt off before ironing but we all survived. Thank you Mickey for veering off your tour onto Burma Shave lane. =:)

Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 6 years ago

I needed this laugh this morning! These were hilarious-partly because most of it was common-sense! It is disturbing, though, that they do exist and the reason is because of ignorance (of the people) meeting greed (the lawyer). Such a shame. Great hub though!!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey we have to keep laughing. Good to see you CC, Heinlein's classic "Stranger in a Strange Land" had an earthbound martian that kept trying to figure out why we laugh and then on a trip to the zoo he saw a chimp beating on another chimp (slapstick sort of) and he started laughing so hard and told the others: "I understand now, we laugh because it hurts."

Glad it made you smile CC, better to be doubled over in laughter than in pain, huh. =:)

RunAbstract profile image

RunAbstract 6 years ago from USA

I LOVE the truth and irony you captured here! It's wonderful! I laughed my butt off at the "Beware of people" warning! Great job!

I threw a curve on the Burma Shave thingy years ago in one of my "higher education" classes, that I will now share with you, (even though the prof didn't see the humor in it, and so quickly erased the sprawling on his blackboard):

A peach looks great with lots of fuzz,

but a whale's not a peach and never was,

shave a whale.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ha ha, your professor needs a trip down Route 66 and a peek at the "Belly Laugh.." hub. I liked your Burma Shave, they were Americana's limericks or haiku and they made travel fun. Thanks for the great comment. =:)

Karanda profile image

Karanda 6 years ago from Australia

Thanks for the laughs Winsome. This is a fabulous collection of the absurd warning signs and labels of our time.

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you Karanda, I haven't looked at this hub in a while and reading it over I started laughing again. Isn't it funny we can write these things and there is a wave of activity and then they sit in the archives. Maybe we should re-release the good ones like the soap products--New! Improved! New Formula! Under New Management! Up to 50% Off! Now with behind the scenes video and interviews with the stars (me and my dog)...heh heh =:)

gypsumgirl profile image

gypsumgirl 6 years ago from Vail Valley, Colorado

Very funny, Winsome! The signs remind me of others I've seen on store marquees...

Gas station sign: Eat here, get gas.

Dry Cleaner sign: Drop pants here.

Thanks for providing humor!! We all need to laugh sometimes!!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ha ha GG, those are hilarious. I've often thought it would be fun to have one of those old neon signs from the highway that just say "EAT." There was a British pub near my work whose motto was "Warm Beer, Lousy Food." Surprisingly the food was actually quite good. Thank you so much for reading. =:)

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 5 years ago

Too funny! The peanuts, Christmas lights and Japanese food processor have left me scratching my head. I like your addition to the gun lmaooo,,,

I sure do remember those Burma shave billboards. As a child, we took several trips across country to visit relatives. Thanks for the great memory!

Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

I'm typing this with a big grin on my face from having watched the video again. I saw some very funny ones I missed the first time--falling rocks (and cow) sign, the Virgin plane with "Slut" plane next to it--touoo funny!

Thank you for getting me back here and for your kind words. =:)

trish1048 profile image

trish1048 5 years ago

Loved the video! Makes ya wonder, doesn't it? LOL

thesingernurse profile image

thesingernurse 5 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

You have a way with words Winsome. I love this witty and funny hub. Super voted up! :D

Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Tina you are sweet to say so. I had a lot of fun finding these oddball signs. I'm adding a phone booth one I found today. Some fun Russian guy paints these as practical jokes. All my best. =:)

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