Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Men's Fashion Fashionista

Fashion for men is interesting indeed. Let's spend a moment... I happen to have extensive knowledge of modern day origins.

Wardrobe for the male folk throughout history has been downright dowdy and dismal. We've come from (note: this is slightly condensed) animal skins to sackcloth to overalls to jeans to zoot suits to what we have today  – a veritable cornucopia of dress. Some dress for comfort, some dress down, some are ruled by tradition, and a few gross ones, bless their little hearts, just don't put on as much clothing as they really should.

But what we don't know is we really owe all our fashion sense today to four good men in the 20th century. No matter what our personal take on fashion is, it all emanated from these four. None were great fashion designers. They went with their guts. From the 'hanging out' jacket, until then only used in a room with padded wallpaper (rear view shown here to feature buckles and straps) to multitasking business apparel for superheroes (I made that up), to suits fashioned for moody motorcycle rebel (hunky) types to a vibrant highly reflective number complete with frilly bits; perfect for playing a piano – we can trace any of our apparel to these brave men.

Because of these trailblazers, most guys these days are more fashion conscience, taking into account that whatever we wear our clothes should allow functionality as well as express our individuality. Unless still dressed by mothers, men today search for fashion appropriate to who we are, what we do and what we want to say. The end.

Next week: beachwear that magically disappears in folds of skin... parental discretion advised.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Raison D'etre

This was on the side of my house when I moved in close to seven years ago. It came with the place. A hose holder not holding. All by its lonesome. It seems strange that it was put there because there is no tap close by. In fact, there was no tap at all outside before I moved in. So the reason for its existence is a mystery. I tried hanging lawn chairs from it but that seemed inappropriate somehow, like I was making fun of it, so I took them off. It seems happy enough hanging there. And now, it's gotten to be that if I took it down the house wouldn't be the same without it. Things like that sort of creep up on you. For years they're not an issue but just a fleeting curiosity and then one day you can't do anything about it. It's too late. It must stay.

I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it, but it's like one of those things that you know you should be able to figure it out but for some reason you can't quite put your finger on it. Perhaps a fatalist would say it was put there all those years ago just to supply me with a visual today, that it was meant to be; but I don't think so. Maybe it was just the fashion when these first appeared on the market the neighbor got one so the owner went out and got one too, just to appear like they were with it. They probably hung a hose on it even though they didn't have a tap and watered their flowers with imaginary water. Like it was a completely natural thing to do. Yes, that must be it.

Hello police? I wish to report a brain-napping.


Raison d'être (French pronunciation: [ʁɛzɔ̃ d‿ɛːtʁ]) is a French phrase meaning "reason for existence."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Art of Kissing

Imagine we're whispering in the firelight, soft music lingers in the background. Candles flicker in the breeze, reflecting through our wine glasses and throwing a glow on the walls... "Je t'aime mon petit escargot, je t'aime". Our lips touch...

I used to be quite a good kisser in my day. I'd get as much practice in as I could (without being physically hit). And I'm not talking about the peck on the cheek or the mother-child type thing; I'm talking about the deep, eye-popping, knee-weakening, swooning, romantic kiss. On the lips. Complete with embrace. With sensitivity and tenderness; languishing one second and urgent the next.

Over time I got better and while I was probably not the best kisser in the world I'm happy to learn there were worse.

Kissing is said to release good stuff like adrenaline and increase your heart rate, which strengthens the heart. And your svelte-ness too. Dr. Alexander DeWees, an expert in the subject, revealed in an experiment that a passionate kiss generally burns up to 2–3 calories per minute. (I must have amassed millions.)

Research shows the word kissing comes from the Old English word cyssan (“to kiss”), and coss (“a kiss”). The romantic aspect of it derives from an adverb of the Latin origin "Romanicus," meaning "of the Roman style." The term was not combined with the idea of love until late into the seventeenth century. In fact, the practice of the romantic kiss is quite modern. It was totally unknown in ancient Egypt, (unsurprisingly the Greeks knew about it but didn't advertise it). Khristoper Nyrop (download here) writes that "from the remotest times we find (the kiss) applied to all that is holy, noble, and worshipful—to the gods, their statues, temples, and altars, as well as to kings and emperors; out of reverence, people even kissed the ground, and both sun and moon were greeted with kisses." But not the romantic kiss. In the Middle Ages it became a social gesture and was considered a sign of refinement of the upper classes. Then Europeans clicked in. People began kissing passionately everywhere. And like all good things it spread to the West who made it into the art it is today.

Kissing is not just schmooshing lips together and getting slobber everywhere. Kissing has evolved over time to be a true art. There's a magic to it. One day I might get back into it. It's like riding a bike. You never forget.

Shhh. Frankie's singing...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

In Praise Of The Retail Jewel

Few things in life provide us with important information as efficiently. And fewer still have the potential to offer a solution to whatever is wrong, should one simply observe enough of them. I'm talking about the window sign, of course, the jewel of retail marketing. Here are several favorites of mine; drawn from memory.

Okay, I admit I may have fudged a few when my memory got a bit fuzzy, but you get the idea of how alluring they can be. Bright colors and a few words. The epitome of simple, direct and to the point.

They are less obtrusive and entirely more polite than brusk shopkeepers standing outside their store yelling at people, and certainly easier on the sensibilities than someone sweating inside a chicken costume. These champions of communication herald the arrival and availability of everything from miracle cures for personal ailments to epicurean delights. They trumpet their special offers with drama and unbridled passion. Said to be the earliest form of modern advertising, these white paper heroes proudly do their duty and, once done, honorably take their place in the recycle bin of yesterday's promotions. Such selfless virtue. 

Just a second, my lawyer's on the phone.

I have been advised to post the following statement...
Disclaimer: These posters are meant for entertainment purposes only. The author is not responsible for any loss or injury, real or perceived, emanating from anyone attempting to manufacture or sell the above products.

Saturday, July 21, 2012



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Perking Away

James Mason of Franklin, Massachusetts invented the coffee percolator on December 26, 1865. Good thing he did because it gave my father something to do every morning. He'd fill the glass Pyrex pot with water, spoon his Eight O'Clock coffee from A&P into the basket and set the pot on the stove to perk. When the coffee was the right color he'd turn the burner down to simmer and pour himself a cup. The smell of coffee permeated the house. It still says morning to me today.

Coffee is the second most traded commodity (after oil) and one of the most consumed drinks in the world. The U.S. is the largest coffee consuming country in the world, downing an estimated 400 million cups every day.

The most expensive coffee in the world hails from Indonesia. Kopi Luwak is made from coffee beans eaten, partly digested and then excreted by the common palm civet, a weasel-like animal. The beans are picked up by locals and sold. They can cost up to $600 a pound, and up to $50 a cup.

History is full of quirky coffee stories. For example, in 1675 Charles II, King of England issued a proclamation banning Coffee Houses. He stated they were places where people met to plot against him. In the 17th century when coffee came to Europe Pope Clement VIII banned coffee stating it was the "Devils Tool". This changed shortly after the Pope had a cup and pronounced coffee legal again. Cowboys filled their socks with coffee beans, dunked the sock in boiling water then squeezed the coffee into their cups.

Boy, bet you're glad you learned all that.


Visuals for this post: Themed exploration of visual statements in the form of question, answer and patterning. Bonus:

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How To Cure Laugher's Block

Find your life suddenly lacking laughter? Is your sense of hoopla hopelessly hiding? Not had a spontaneous snort of milk out your nose in a while? When was the last time you had a good old-fashioned, knee-slapping, foot-stomping, eye-watering, rip-roaring, bent-over guffaw? You may be suffering from Laugher's Block. Fear not. Your laugh life need not be over. This happens to most people at least once in their lives.

Laugher's Block can be a serious condition. Laughter is a very healthy exercise. It reduces certain stress hormones such as happisol and groucholine, strengthens abdominational muscles, exercises the lungs and releases endolphins into the pleasure center of the brain (not sure about all that but it sounded good).

They say there are three ways to cure Laugher's Block. First, consult your doctor to make sure you're healthy enough for laughing. Then, consider the following approaches:
1) Laugh. Laugh about anything but laugh. Laugh silently inside whenever laughing out loud may cause consternation, or when it may spark invitations to Laughaholics Anonymous. Don't look in a mirror during this time, especially if you're particularly ugly. Practice laughing whenever you can and you'll get better at it. Soon, your body will become accustomed to the habit of happiness and you'll be back in the swing of things laughing often and appropriately
2) Don't laugh. Do something to take your mind off the fact you have Laugher's Block. Take a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie. (Note: looking at comedic material is not recommended, as this can just aggravate the condition. And keep away from those giggle belly exercises as they're just plain irritating.) Forget about it totally, do something pleasant, take a vacation and eventually, a small chuckle will miraculously pop out of nowhere and soon you'll be back laughing lickity-split, or
3) Help others laugh. If someone you know is chortle-less, you might be able to help them out of it. Like the hiccups, an abrupt shock can be an effective long term cure. A simple Joy Buzzer (like the one pictured above) or an unexpected shot with the water hose while they're sunbathing can do the trick. And if it doesn't work at least you'll have had some fun and a laugh yourself. Be prepared for retaliative attacks. This is not a setback as your own discomfort is sure to get them chuckling.

Good luck with your laugh life. For more inspiration visit the Laughter Hall of Fame nearest you and see the animatronic stars of A Fish Called Wanda, reproductions of gag novelty items and witness historical reenactions of famous Three Stooges pie fights. Classes in pie making and throwing are available. It's best to book in advance because class space (and whipping cream) is limited.

And, remember, laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and your face just gets all puffy.

The Joy Buzzer is a device hidden in the palm of your hand. An inside spring is wound up and released by shaking hands with others; delivering a mechanical shock and a loud buzz. Most of the following is from Wikipedia:
"...invented in 1928 by Soren Sorensen Adams of the S.S. Adams Co., it was modeled after another product The Zapper, which was similar to the joy buzzer, but did not have a very effective buzz and contained a button that had a blunt point which would hurt the person whose hand was shaken. His first gag concoction was the Cachoo Sneeze Powder, in 1906, and Sorensen went on to create prank product staples like the razzberry cushion, the snake nut can and the exploding cigar."

Friday, July 13, 2012

You. Supercrazynut.

Inside you lives the defender of the right to perform craziness. It is awakened the moment one of your buttons are pushed, when you see someone semi-famous, or at the appearance of Blue Meanies. Faster than a speeding baboon, uh train (sorry, Tourette's) and more powerful than an impact wrench thingy from Canadian Tire, (on sale this week for just $49.99), and adorned with lovely bracelets that deflect both paint balls and political canvassers. Your shield was made from the indestructible hide of the great hermaphrodite-pig, Porkius, who suckled Donaldus Duckus as an infant. Your Lasso of Lies has the power to urge those bound by it to write bad poetry. And your tiara serves as a decent projectile in moments of ring toss ecstasy. Evil-doers and gossip spewers cringe at the mere mention of your name. 

For you are, deep down; Supercrazynut.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Creative Types: An Exposé

If you were to ask me to depict two types of creative people in advertising or marketing communications, off the top of my mind I'd offer the above. Most would fall somewhere in between these two types and there are plenty more perspectives but I chose two ends of the spectrum. I dunno. Call me dramatic.

Type (a) explores the brain of a creative who is devoted to the science. Many of these people regularly lose track of time, go into rooms only to forget why they did and are known for a warped sense of humor. But they work their butts off. Because they're hooked on the work.

Type (b) depicts a person who is not so concerned with the rules, eats strange foods, are heavily into social media, generally dresses weirdly, and most aren't allowed offspring. But they work their butts off. Because they're looking to make their mark in the world.

Both can generate exquisite, breakthrough work for totally different reasons. Inspiration and innovation can come from many different directions.

So, if you're thinking of hiring a creative shop to promote your business ask to meet the creative team that will work on your account. If you don't, you'll miss meeting some very nice, talented and interesting people.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Two Most Dangerous Words In The World

Never muck with the laws of science and logic. The thought itself is preposterous. Ludicrous. Rubbish. Dangerous even.

Laws are there to protect us. Messing with them is a slippery slope. Who knows where it might lead?

Why, complete havoc might ensue. Officials will be called and nice men in white coats will visit. Things could get awkward.

Folks will be expected to think twice before passing wind while sitting in an innocent chair, or throwing a kumquat onto the cold, hard ground.

Good. So we're agreed. And thus ends our brief safari into irrational thought. Next week, more sane expeditions. Perhaps we'll talk politics, or religion. In the meantime, perhaps the nurse will come by and give us all sponge baths...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Life According To Ducks

Sometimes it's not what you say but how you say it. Timing is everything (and one well placed word can say so much and lead to so many more down the road).

It's said that we are born with the intelligence of the universe, and then you hit the confines of the highchair and it all goes to hell, just for a plastic dish of puréed prunes.

"Well when I was a young pup. De-du-de-duh. My poppa said to me. De-du-de-duh. You gotta pay the price. De-du-de-duh. For every doggie cook-i-ie. Du-du-de-duh."

An innocent slip of the tongue and a modicum of neurosis leads so easily to self-condemnation and the certainty this is all part of a Woody Allen comedy gone horribly bad.

When we're young in age or spirit, we do nutty stuff. Most times (if not all) our dreams don't go as we hope (i.e. riches and fame) but that's okay because we knew the odds going in. Still, we take the time anyway. What the heck. It suppresses the urge to buy lottery tickets and besides, we might learn something in spite of ourselves. In developing Act Like A Duck the challenges were plentiful: character development, storyline, scripting, style, execution, putting it all together to send out to the syndicates and then, the never-ending joy of waiting for rejection slips. Finally, years and years later through the magic of the Internet, they are sent unwittingly to your computer screen, perhaps to be printed and stuck to fridge doors with magnets shaped like tiny little fruits, which completes the nefarious plan to torture the world one strip at a time.


Note: Normally I like to shake things up here both visually and thematically. My apologies, but for some reason the past few posts have gravitated to cartoon work. This is not done to bore the ever loving crap out of you. Obviously I have totally lost control. (I'm thinking Inner Bag Lady is behind it.) Ah well. One more post coming up to round out Bad Cartoon Fun Week. Then I'll lay off. Promise.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Designer's Guide To Client Meetings

I began writing this with the thought that I'd offer some advice from an old fart to young designers. But then I figured, if I was one of them I'd say fuggit and I wouldn't listen either. Then I figured, fuggit, I'll put it out there for general ridicule; if nothing else.

Designers and others of an artistic bent are well known to be different. Some wear strange clothing, some dye their hair (or parts of it) in florescent colors, the good ones work long hours (like all the time) for the love of it and most all hold independent, irreverent views on life, government and society. To the average person who uses the services of designers in their business communications, they can seem like people who are missing a few genes. Designers, on the other hand, think clients are the strange ones. They can't imagine someone only concerned with business without understanding of the power, societal impact and relevance of art. Still, we all must get along for the common good.

Herein lies the dilemma.

Anyone who produces artwork for others may benefit from putting their heads around how to act in a client meeting. Here are some basic guidelines:
1) Smile. There is no benefit to being moody when interacting with those who pay your fees. Looking concerned for a moment is fine but snarls and hysterics are not good form.
2) Do not pick one's nose. Personal habits that may offend others should be left for other times. The list also contains pulling out ear hairs, sucking your teeth, cleaning one's fingernails with the corner of the report cover and stomping your foot to make a point.
3) Try not to be high. Chances are, if you're not on designer drugs or martini cocktails while conversing, you'll a) say something intelligent, b) respond appropriately to questions and c) remember what was said later.
4) Don't weep openly. If a client doesn't like the art you've just presented, try to stay calm. Crying will not bring the client around. Breathe deeply. Remember your mantra.
5) Be fully clothed. Even if you design dressed only in your bathrobe, covering yourself in appropriate clothing for the meeting is a good first step in showing mutual respect. Selection of clothing designed to show off your collection of tattoos should be rethought unless your client is a tat parlour.
6) Try beginning your sentences without using the word 'like'. You can still say it silently. Practice in front of a mirror so you're not mouthing the word if you want to try this. "Basically" is another word to use sparingly.

By following the above guidelines you will be doing yourself and your coworkers a huge favor.

For a full, expanded version containing all 16 cardinal rules to mastering successful meeting attendance for everyone (creatives in particular), as a public service I have published a four-page booklet (plus full color cover) now available on Lulu. It's a great resource for designers new to the field and veterans who just want to refresh their skills (or it might be something that you can leave anonymously on a co-workers desk).  Order here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Playtime With Inner Bag Lady

We haven't heard from Inner Bag Lady recently. Over the long weekend she dropped in, cleaned out the fridge and asked me to pass along her love (such as it is).

She is really no trouble as she mostly entertains herself. If she likes you she'll only ask questions that she figures you already know the answer to. Leads to some pretty pleasant conversations in which she does most of the talking and you need only to nod. And we all know people like that, don't we? (Just nod.)