Thursday, July 23, 2009

Saturday Night Fish Fry

Hey, all you kids, you graphic-design kids! Hey! Don't steal graphics off the internet to use on your website or brochure designs. You are gonna get caught!!

No, go back to the past... in fact, go so far back, that the art is no longer under copyright protection. Let's use some clip art from the 1930s and 1940s. Oh yeah, express common ideas and popular subjects like: holidays, sports, the weather, retail sales & specials, religion, and (still big these days) the depression. Oh, if it was good enough for your great Grandpa's commercial artist, it is good enough for you.

Design like the olden days: print out these nifty illustrations, trace them onto your art boards with one of those newfangled carbon tracing paper easel thingies... and by-cracky, you'll make 'em laugh with your play on words! Ha!

I have had this pack of Heyer Cartoon and Idea Book miniature illustrations for ages and I haven't used them yet... though I still plan on it. The box announces '85 pages, printed on one side and easy to trace with 575 cartoons'... these are the Microsoft Word Clipart of the early twentieth century. These are great-- they are crisp, black and white line art with hand lettering headlines and taglines. There could be a new font design in here someplace. You can't go wrong with these little bits of history. There are a few that are racey and a few that are a racially insensitive-- like the Warner Bros Cartoons from the same era that need disclaimers and apologies today-- but I'll save those for another day.

Now who is going to scan all these and vectorize them so we can share them in the future?

Big time- $1,000 all in coins!

I am not even sure what this means....

Crazy baby-faced man robs bank (while holding giant sugar cube)!

If he's gonna be there, I think I'll leave early....

For Those About To Rock: savings so amazing, it is like a giant ice cream cone for a weird old man kid!!

Old timey fun: catch the skinless cat and then let him go in a crowded theater!
Oh, 'It's Out,' baby.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


It is easier to design in the Winter. In the Buffalo Winter, it's cold outside, you are in the house more, and you tend to spend more time in front of your computer... In the Summer it is tough to commit to sitting still.

We have such a small window of truly wonderful weather that you want to be out, out, out. In the Winter, I can even sneak a few weekend working hours in. But in the Summer? No way.

When I first got into this business, it used to be typically slow in the Summer. The theory being (and the old timers will attest to this) was the decision makers in large companies (CEOs, Big Bad Bosses, etc.) were all on vacation in the Summer so decisions were not made, and nothing could get signed off on, in regards to developing marketing materials. The advertising and marketing field had a 'season' where things got designed and developed in the Fall and were produced in the Winter for the Spring marketing season. Ask any printer you know, who has been around for more than 12-15 years, and they will tell you all about this.

But this is not so anymore. Bosses take vacations all year round, people are work-a-holics and never stop and there isn't a 'season' in this field anymore and hasn't been for ages. It has been a busy Summer, and the fact that I haven't blogged about anything since the Prince piece- which was more that 2 weeks a ago- just goes to prove that fact. It is not that I haven't had anything to say (read: complain about) it has been quite a pile of work piled upon us. Not complaining, mind you, just explaining.

All this makes it hard for a small, family shop like ours to get away. We have a camping trip planned, but as anyone who was reading this blog over the last few years knows, the computer comes on the trip. I can usually work via email just a bit to keep thinks rolling. So with Summer in full swing, we try and squeeze a lot into our free time (which never involves the computer or TV)... If I am not working, I am going to try to get in a walk, bike ride, a trip to the park with the kids, campfires, bar-b-cues, parties, a few outdoor rock shows, but no beach or pool-- it has been a bit chilly this Summer. So the Summer has been a "work-work-work-work-all week", and a "relax-play-relax all weekend" and then back to the "work-work-work-thing".

As the company continues to grow, maybe someday I can do less of the 'work' and more of the sitting back and watching.... maybe I can be of of those bosses that leaves for a month in Europe with his family, while the self-sustaining business runs itself with some capable employees?.. I will surly blog about that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Take Me With U

"Nobody would have the balls to do this. You just wait -- they'll be freaking."
-- alleged Prince quote as he erased the bass track to 'When Dove's
Cry' while in the recording studio.

Flip the cassette, I told my brother and he did. We were back at the beginning of side one. The strains of a church organ came pouring out of our boom box and it wasn't gospel music we were listening to. My brother and I were helping my Dad and his work buddies set up the 1984 Buffalo Car Show at the Buffalo Convention Center.

”Dearly beloved we are gathered here today 2 get through this thing called life ...”
It was one of the first times the Car Show was at the Convention Center, upgrading from it's run at the Eastern Hills Mall. The place was vast and I had never been in an a building of this size- it was like an empty concert stadium. At that very moment, my brother and I were not doing much helping, but waiting for the giant boxes of ramps, stands, banners and catalogs to get delivered up on the floor-- and listening to rock music. Funky rock music.
"...Electric word life It means forever and that's a mighty long time But I'm here 2 tell u There's something else The afterworld...."
And we were listening to not just any funky rock music, but the soundtrack to a movie my little brother and I saw the previous week. The Kmart-bought cassette tape had little in the way of liner notes, but the cover featured our hero on his motorcycle- a long haired, purple clad soon-to-be-rock star straddling a purple motorcycle parked in a foggy alleyway. A mysterious, dark haired, buxom woman stood behind him on the fire escape. My brother turned it louder.
"A world of never ending happiness
U can always see the sun, day or night

So when u call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
U know the one - Dr Everything'll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

'Cuz in this life
Things are much harder than in the afterworld
In this life
You're on your own

And if de-elevator tries 2 bring u down
Go crazy!"
The music was large and it filled our corner of the mostly empty Convention Center. Since no one was watching my brother or I, we went 'oh no, let's go crazy' and started to jump around like mad, throwing up our arms, air shredding..... My dad came over and asked if we were planning on helping today.

This Summer, 2009, marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie & soundtrack to Purple Rain. I have a certain affinity for this record and the movie that changed my life as an 18 year old fresh out of high school in the Summer of 1984. I was really always into music and I had a Dad that had a good record collection of 70s rock to help me out. But Prince and Purple Rain was the first thing that was new, weird and different for me. It was mine. My parents didn't like it, I did. Turns out a good portion of the world liked it too.

I thought Purple Rain was the greatest rock movie I had even seen and I loved the LP. Up until that point I may have seen Help, Yellow Submarine, some Monkee's episodes. But nothing like this. This was a rock movie. It had live rock scenes with scorching gueetar work, people dressing strange and slightly punkish, sex, motorcycles and a misunderstood artist with a frilly shirt and a pencil-thin mustache.

Here are the Top Ten Things I Learned From Purple Rain (Looking Back at The 25th Anniversary):

10) Rock can be funky and funk could rock.

09) And said 'funk songs' could exist (quite funk-ily) without the bass guitar. Sacrilege? No, genius.

08) Sometimes when your good, you are really good.
In the summer of 1984, for a moment in time, Prince had the #1 single, #1 album and #1 film in the U.S. Dang.

07) Great movies often have bad sequels.
Although Graffiti Bridge was not officially a sequel (you are not fooling me), it has a lot of the same characters, the same city, same theme- and it was really bad. Really bad.

06) Purple is the best color.
Ask any king or prince.(or any guy with an unpronounceable symbol 4 a name).

05) Think quick under pressure and you may be able to pull it off.
Protégé starlet Vanity very famously left the project just prior to filming, leaving Prince to cast the unknown Apollonia Kotero as his own love interest. She became an overnight star-- for 1 movie.

04) Backward lyrics are misleading and mysterious.
At the end of Darling Nikki: "Hello, how are you? I'm fine, 'cause I know that the Lord is coming soon. Coming, coming soon." If only Tipper knew....

03) It is cool & useful 2 use numbers 4 words.
Hello, all U twitter-ers and text-ters. Ha, gotcha. Thanks Prince, you visionary.

02) Song lyrics can change the world.
“Darling Nikki” was the track that made steam come out of Tipper Gore's ears and sent her on a personal vendetta to clean up pop music-- ultimately resulting in the Parental Advisory stickers that pepper albums to this very day.

01) When the world seems against you- just be you and persevere and you will come out on top.
Example: one minute Billy says to The Kid, "Nobody digs your music, but yourself...."
The next minute: the crowd is swaying, girls are crying, and lighters are in the air!

Bonus Beats-
Download SPIN magazines free collection of the LP being covered by other bands.
Six of the nine songs are good, Purplish Rain (secret word: "guy")
Highlights: “Take Me With U” Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and “I Would Die 4 U” Mariachi El Bronx

Other Links-
• Pop Matters Magazine- 10 stories celebrating PR
• Minneapolis Historic Society- Prince archives

• NPR story on PR

Set The Controls For The Heart of The Sun

I haven't written much as I have gotten buried under a pile of work and home things. Summer is here! You can tell because Target is bringing out the school supplies... yikes!

This is the transition week. The kids are fully off from school and hanging around a lot. J. and I must do the balancing act of trying to work, keep the kids busy and not go crazy. She will work in her summer office more- aka the kitchen or living room (thank you, wireless technology)-- and I will be in and out a lot.

The kids are pretty self-sufficient, but they don't want to hang around in the office all day. They are both artists, so they can paint, draw, build, create, construct for a while- but that isn't going to last all day. Either J. or I will take them out for a portion of the day: park, cheap movie, walk, waterfront, running errands, etc. Last year we had a friend-teacher-nanny situation and that worked great. This year we are 'winging it' with mixed results, but not so bad so far (3 days in...).

I remember when my Mom worked on Saturdays as the bookkeeper at the Colonial Court Motel on Niagara Falls Blvd. and she would begrudgingly drag me and my brother along with her many times. We would play in the hotel lobby with our GI Joe or Matchbox cars, or explore in back where there was a bit of woods, have lunch and generally hang around. I think we managed pretty well..

Owning a family business puts the kids around more that not during the Summer. We try and keep them away from the TV and the convenient babysitter computer as much as possible. But even the educational programs (PBS kids, StarFall, etc.) still render them starting at the TV or monitor and I don't think that is really doing them that much good.

I am trying to teach my kids to be self-entertaining and, so far, I think they are really good at it. And if I have to take them out more-- good! An occasional trip to the park, to push someone on a swing is very therapeutic for me as well. It is calming, it is good to get away from this here computer and I think in the long run, the time spend with my kids is building a strong bond that will last forever... or until they become parent-loathing teenagers. I guess we'll see.