Friday, October 31, 2008


One of the Halloween cards in the store this year. We also have some Thanksgiving. And Christmas know, if you want to get ahead there...

Enjoy your candy and costumes. I am actually thinking about watching a "horror-ish" movie tonight. And possibly making some chocolate cupcakes with pumpkin buttercream icing. You can knock on the door if you want but I don't have any candy and I probably won't answer. Or if I do, you're getting the left over ketchup packets from El Pollo Loco. Sorry.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


So I wrote a whole post on what I thought about Barak Obama’s campaign logo and in the interest of being even-handed, I need to say something about John McCain’s logo. Here’s the thing…he doesn’t really have much of one, does he? And to me, that’s kind of a problem. See, this is a visual world. Sadly, a lot of people either can’t or don’t read. And that’s their choice or their burden I guess, but when it comes to selling something, you really gotta stand out. You have to be visual. We all know this, don’t we? We’ve seen the studies that kids recognize the McDonald’s Golden Arches logo before they recognize their own names in writing. Sales and marketing matter, especially when we are talking about politics.

Now, I don’t want to say that McCain has NO logo, he does, it’s a star…so I guess what I am saying is “not much of a logo”. On the other hand, it’s a very traditional symbol for presidential elections. And I think some effort has been made to select a specific type of star. In fact, I have looked high and low (ok, not high and low, I have looked around a BIT) for the meaning of that type of star and I still have not found it, but I have seen it referred to as a “naval star” so I am thinking that it was chosen to remind us of Senator McCain’s military career. More recently I have seen it referred to as a “maverick star” which is actually the name of a type of geranium so I think it’s a bit of a misnomer there.

Anyway, we have a…let’s call it a beveled star. It’s a very traditional image, it has military connections and, if you are thinking sneaky, it’s become very popular with a younger generation for use as a tattoo. So maybe that was the philosophy? Nah, doubt it. The star is either white or yellow on a field of either black or blue and there are embellishments on either side in a matching color. That’s not a very good description is it? Well like I said, it’s not much of a logo.

If I were a designer for the campaign I’d be a little annoyed. There’s not really a lot one can do with this. But, on the flip side, it is very traditional, very timeless and very…political looking. There are some attempts to adapt the image but I am not sure how good they are. In one case the blue or black background was replaced with green and the star was replaced with a shamrock. Really? I get that he is a “MC”, I was once a MC too, but we’re not talking Kennedy here, are we? Is the Irish American population really behind him? Hmmm…looks like there is. And that he actively courted them. Annnnyway, that has nothing really to do with the design elements. I just wanted to mention that the adaptations of his very traditional logo were, for me, at best questionable. I feel like they diluted the design unlike Obama design being enhanced by the adaptation, but that is because the Obama design still remains center. If you replace the star in the McCain logo with anything, you have effectively changed the entire logo. So, in this case, I think it’s safe to say that the simplicity of the logo is just as much it’s downfall. And the changing of color, from black and white to blue and yellow, also dilutes the image. It is, in other words, not an effective branding.

A little more searching reveals yet more color changes. “Women for McCain” adds fancy pink text on a white background (tsk, what a stereotype!), while “Sportsmen for McCain” is green and yellow. And while I agree that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of…whatever, I don’t think this is working.

I tried to be impartial here. And to be fair, I am honestly only talking about design, not the actual campaigns, but I think these designs tell a lot about the candidates. One is fresh, well thought out and adaptable. The other is very traditional, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but when it is changed, even in the slightest, it ceases to be representative or useful.

So here’s my point. Design is important, even when you don’t realize it.

Friday, October 24, 2008


Well, OK iTunes Genius…not bad, not bad at all…except for the Feist tune…gotta delete that one…

Black Grass-Gary Louris
Paperback Bible-Lambchop
John Saw That Number-Neko Case
Everybody Daylight-Brightblack Morning Light
Let's Get Out Of This Country-Camera Obscura
Is It Like Today?-World Party
Another Sunny Day-Belle & Sebastian
Woman King-Iron & Wine
All I Need-Radiohead
Fake Empire-The National
Marry Song-Band Of Horses
Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games-Of Montreal
Naked As We Came-Iron & Wine
She Only Calls Me On Sundays-Gary Louris
Girlfriend-Matthew Sweet
Your Heart Is An Empty Room-Death Cab For Cutie
I Got You-Split Enz
Either Way-Wilco
Two Silver Trees-Calexico
The Swish-The Hold Steady
Can't Say No-The Helio Sequence
Freeway-Aimee Mann
Let's Dance-M Ward
My Moon My Man-Feist

Leaving town is always pleasant…almost always anyway. But returning can be…well, first off, my husband enlisted a friend to pick me up from the airport because it was the first game of the world series and he wasn’t about to miss his beloved Phillies. Fair enough, I don’t know what would keep me from picking him up at the airport but I guess it’s fair game now, isn’t it? Had a nice long talk with said friend on the way though since we were stuck in traffic for quite a bit. That’s how Los Angeles welcomes you home. And then, in the morning, it reminds you again how much it missed you with a two hour drive to work. Fire on the mountain and all that. And a fire on the off ramp as well. Sigh. I did think about turning around and going home but even that would have been another two hour drive I think.

And then, no surprises here, it was about an hour and forty-five minutes to get home. My knee actually feels weak from all the stop and start driving. Yeesh. This morning? Much better, and I drove through the area which had burned. It was kind of spooky. Black and charred and smelling of barbeque. Eerie. This was a case where no homes or businesses were lost and that’s good. The landscape is torched but that’s not so bad, it will grow back and it took care of some of the underbrush. Still, it was close to home and unnerving.

But the trip east (did I mention I was making a surprise trip east? For my mom’s birthday? No? Well…SURPRISE!) was darn pleasant. Everything went off without a hitch. Mom was surprised and her big spectacular birthday cake, a present from my dad at the request of mom, was big and spectacular. She seemed to enjoy her present and the surprise of me sitting in the kitchen when she arrived home from church. Everyone was healthy and reasonably happy and really what more could you ask for? I even spent a morning at a “living heritage” museum hanging out with a spinner, the blacksmith and some ladies in funny dresses.

Sadly, I was apparently not missed much on the east coast. I arrived at work this morning and was greeted by “Did you get that calendar that I left on your desk?” “Um…I just got here”, I replied. “Yeah but did you get it yesterday?” “Uh…no…I wasn’t here yesterday…or the day before…I’ve been gone for almost a week…” “Really?”

Thanks for noticing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


We all have our pet peeves about the written language. Colleen made hers clear today, she hates the “e.e. cummings” fakery in which I happily indulge. I don’t capitalize. Well, I do, kind of. You’ll see I capitalize here, but that’s because I write everything in Word and it does most of it for me. And that annoys me. My handwriting is a mix of printed and cursive and is, for the most part, lowercase. And when I type an email or leave a comment it’s all lower case. For me it’s a threefold excuse, which I gave to Colleen. 1) I type faster and better without a shift lock. 2) As I said, my handwriting is pretty much all lower case and that is because 3) when I was a kid I got in trouble for mixing my printed and curvise letters. And because I am a pain the ass, I decided to go full throttle and piss of the teacher by not capitalizing as well. It was a choice I made and one I have stuck with all these years.

Now, to be honest, I don’t write everything lowercase. I don’t write formal letters, resumes or term papers that way. I wouldn’t because it’s not the “accepted norm” and no matter how much I call myself a rebel or an artist, I know what is appropriate and what is not and although I didn’t mind losing points in fifth grade, nowadays I am less…of a pain. SoI guess that makes me pretty half-assed. No surprise. But I also don’t do a lot of the “accepted norm” in my writing because I want to have a particular voice and style. I use a lot of ellipses because I think I talk with a lot of ellipses, I pause and think a lot. I sometimes write out my stammer, because I sometimes stammer. This is my voice, written down. If I could get the Minnie Mouse tone, I certainly would write that too.

We all have pet peeves. I’m sorry if you don’t like the way I write my emails and letters to you, but you know…I’m probably not going to change. On the other hand, I remember once saying that I would never begin a sentence with “and.” And look at me now. I also remember being told that a sentence must never, EVER begin with the word “but”. But look how different things are. NEWSPAPERS DO IT! I suspect that someday, when ink is more expensive or everything is monospaced type, we will all write in all lowercase or all uppercase. Because I really do believe that the written language is not as steadfast as we once thought. So many rules of writing and grammar are pretty much…arbitrary. A lot of the rules of grammar and writing come from a language that has been long dead to most of us (ahem…that would be Latin, a language I actually studied in school…I’m not saying I did well, I am only saying that I studied it…). And despite the fact that many people don’t believe in evolution, we can see the process at work in language. Did you know, for example, that a synonym for the word “nice” is “foolish”? (Yeeeeah, I learned that one on my English GRE). I would venture to guess that the average person does not use that word in that fashion anymore. I was once told by a medieval literature professor that the original pronunciation of the word “asked” is actually much closer to the much reviled “axed” as in, “I axed you a question!” How many times have you shuddered when you heard someone say that? Ain’t is in the dictionary (but spell check is telling me it’s wrong), certain commas are optional, no one uses two spaces after a period when typing anymore (or they shouldn’t, anyway).

None of this is a very good defense for my lack of capitalization in emails, I’ll write that off to a stylistic choice, much like any one who writes in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, WHICH DRIVES ME CRAZY. We all have our foibles, and clearly I have more than my share.

And for the record, my linguistic/literary pet peeve? People who insist they are incensed by improper grammar but misuse words. Technical literacy over actual literacy? I don’t know how to explain that but I am a big fan of the dictionary. I look up any word that I suspect that I may be using incorrectly so I am pretty unforgiving when other people don’t. We all have our thing. That one is mine. Get your own.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I don’t generally talk about politics publicly. I have pretty specific views and I want people to feel free to tell me their views before I open fire on them. No, no, just kidding. I think everyone is entitled to their political views and I am interested in differing opinions, but I tend to keep mine to myself. Like Luanne from King of the Hill once said, “If I tell you who I voted for it won’t come true.” So I don’t. But there is one thing in the current campaign for President that has really caught my attention and I want to talk about it. It’s um…logo design.

You heard me. Logo design. You’d think what with the millions of dollars they spend on all this political stuff, logo design would be pretty important, right? I mean, it’s the very branding of an idea and an ideal as well. It’s gonna show up on every thing you get from a candidate, on every ad, every sign, every tee shirt. It needs to have impact and it needs to make a very specific statement. At least, that’s how I would see it if I had to design one.

It’s kind of surprising me though. I talked to several people about it while I was writing this and they looked at me like I was perhaps a slightly wee tiny bit crazy. Me, I swear I see this design everywhere and I know I see it on a daily basis, but when I mentioned it to other people, they didn’t really get what I was talking about. Does no one else see what I see?

Clearly, someone else has thought about this as well because since the first time I saw the Obama logo, I have been marveling at it. It is a lovely little design that makes quite a significant statement and no matter your political views, I think you probably have noticed it and probably thought about it without realizing that you are even thinking about it. In short, I think it’s good design. I might go so far as to say that I think it’s excellent design.

Let me refresh your memory, or, if you have been living under a rock for the past year or so…here:

I remember seeing this logo on a bumper sticker at least a year ago and commenting to my husband, “Man that is an intriguing, thoughtful design.” And he said “Hunh? What design?” and I ignored him. But that’s neither here nor there. The first thing that struck me was the use of the red, white and LIGHT blue color scheme. It’s the light blue that’s important here, isn’t it? It’s a way of showing hey, we’re American, we’re united but um…we’re a little different too. We’re brighter. Cheerier. Light blue is a HOPEFUL color, isn’t it? Dark blue can be mysterious or serious or even depressing, but light blue is the sky, endless and boundless and natural. Even the red is a slightly brighter red than we typically see used in the language of politics. This red is a little more candy red.

And then there’s the shape. Most obviously there is an O for Obama. But the “O” here is used as an opening, a doorway. We are invited to look through it. In the case of this particular campaign, I think it is intended that we see the O as a type of window to a future. Perhaps the opposing party would point out that there is nothing beyond the O and that this perceived future is blank. If I were a spin doctor, I think I’d say “Not blank. It is yet to be written by the PEOPLE. The future can be what we want it to be.”

And for my part, I like circles. I am willing to bet if you took a survey most people would choose a circle over a square. Even though, in this case, the circle is an initial, I think it may be a very calculated choice. Looking back at previous presidential races, I don’t find a lot of logos that incorporate the intital of the candidate. There are a few notable exceptions, Hubert Hortario Humphrey, which, c’mon, that’s too good too pass up. HHH. And…W. However, it would appear that the W. was adopted for his second campaign. Hmm…something else I am just now noticing is that most presidential candidates tend to use stars in their logo…no stars here (although the Mr. McCain uses one, something I think I will address on another day). But back to circles. Typically, the circle in design invokes certain ideas. The circle is never ending, it is also enclosing, like a hug perhaps. It is universal symbol for unity and wholeness. Aaaaaaand…it’s the first letter in the name Obama. Go figure. But THEY (the designers) DIDN’T HAVE TO USE IT. Personally, I think it’s very clever of them that they did.

Finally there are red stripes, a design element familiar to Americans. But in the case of the Obama logo the stripes appear to be in motion, moving off away into something new, but NOT into the O, alongside the O. Hmmm….very interesting. And you’ll notice that the stripes carry off the logo but do not rise up…there is only the gentlest of curves. No hill to be climbed, just a little bump to get over. And in the center, where the stripes meet the openness of the O there’s a little lens flare. A bit of a shine perhaps. A brightness. A glow.

The design is simple and elegant and even better, well, better for the campaign’s designers, it lends itself to adaptation. Change the red stripes to a rainbow and voila! You get something new and significant. Veterans have added stars, Asian American and Pacific Islanders have added a lotus style pattern, and check out the Republicans for Obama button!

I gotta say, this, to me, is an excellent logo. It says a lot with out really saying anything at all. And I bet if you asked the designer “What was your intention here?” he/she’d say, “What do YOU see in it.” Or maybe I’m just crazy, but I suspect not. Not in this case anyway.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Ahem. I have been…scolded by Brenda. Well, she had her coffee in the Los Angeles mug this morning and used that as an excuse to gently encourage me to “get to posting” so here I am…posting.

I don’t make excuses when I don’t post because…well, it’s my blog and I’ll post if I want to but how can I not post when she drinks from the L.A. mug? Truth be told, all has not been quiet on this western front. Lots of things being made and fixed and cupaked and oh, I don’t know. Just lots of stuff. And I’ve been writing a lot, but then not posting it. Essays sort of. And random ones at that. One, that I will post shortly on the Obama campaign and branding. One on reading gothic literature. One on…well, I don’t know. But there’s a lot of things turning around in my brain that are bound to make an appearance soon. Until then, a few other things…

-My BFF recently helped start up an all new company in her field and it’s been a bit of a bear. It’s been a really good bear, but a really stressful bear too. I wanted to do something to mark the occasion for her but was kind of at a loss. When she told me that she would finally have her own office space, I decided to build a box o’ cool office stuff for her. I found some great post-it’s from KNOCK KNOCK, a funny cigarette pen for those really stressful times, great notebook and planner from Cherry Bomb Squad, a cool business card holder made from sock monkey fabric…but something was missing. I wanted her to have some art for her new walls but I couldn’t really find anything I liked, or that was the right size so I made her a version of the “Keep calm and carry on” poster that’s been going around the design blogs. If you’ve not seen this poster it looks like this:

It’s basically a British propaganda poster from World War Two. Well, propaganda in the sense that it was meant to reassure the public that eventually all would be well. And it’s kind of comforting. It didn’t originally come in pink but my friend likes pink so…but also, I wanted it to match my response to the original poster.

She says she hasn’t put my version up at work but only because she doesn’t want to offend anyone…yet.

-There’s also been a lot of cupcakes lately. Both vegan and non-vegan. And while chocolate cupcakes remain my favorite, man, when you can cram a cookie into a cupcake…that’s a serious dessert. Now to get some candy bars in there..

-I’ve been doing a follow along read at Austenprose of Northanger Abbey. I am a fan of Jane Austen anyway and I have read NA before but I am really enjoying it this time around. I have always found it to be the hardest Austen to get into because it’s a different type of humor than her other novels. See, this one is a parody of Gothic novels and not being a big fan of Gothics, I always felt a little lost. For whatever reason, it’s really clicking with me this time and I am enjoying it immensely. So much that I have just ordered some classic Gothic novels to help fill in the blanks. I also did a bit of research into Gothic novels and discovered some interesting ideas that really put me back in the mood for study and research, which in turn makes me want to read more, which then makes me want to buy a Kindle. I’m holding out for the next version but the more I read about them the more intrigued I get.

-I watched the VP nominee debate with a twitter feed over it. It was…well, it was about what you’d expect, a lot of people not saying much, but those who had something worthhile to say, did. What I found really interesting though was the idea. If I could watch a debate with some interesting policial pundits, commenting in real time, and not having to speak over the debaters…or even…you know, it would be really interesting to hear just a few, well spoken (or typed) average people commenting on it. I’d like to know what other people, people who aren’t my friends, or people with different political views see when the nominees speak without it all end up in one big shouting match. It’s an interesting application for social networking technology and I’d like to see what could be done with it.

-Finally, there has been much preparation for craft fairs. But not enough. So back to that. But here is one new thanksgiving design that I kind of get a kick out of. If you like it, it should appear in the shop shortly.