Monday, May 26, 2008

An icon from my youth

Like everyone else in life, I've had my share of ups and downs. But when I turned 16 and went looking for my first summer job, the employment gods smiled wide upon me. Paul Frene, a carrot-haired, multi-freckled friend of mine, had recently been hired by Roth Theatres. He got me an interview (which I drove to - illegally - in my father's brand-new Mercedes SL Convertible - but that is another story). I was thrilled to have a real job - even if it was one that paid me $2.50 an hour - less than minimum wage even in the 1970s (I forget how they got away with that one!).

The reason I mention all this is because my brother, John, also a Roth Theatre alumnus, recently emailed me the stolen embroidered patch that was originally sewn on the god-awful, blood-red, polyester blazers the ushers were made to wear.

The logo made me smile and remember many things, but most importantly for this venue, it reminded me that I was fascinated with branding long before anyone even conceived that term. I remember staring at the Roth Theatre's logo, pondering the rationale of inverting the R and the E in Theatres (which I now know to be the British spelling of the word). I wondered if the italicized letters going up at a slant made the whole thing seem more positive and fun, and guessed that the reason they used the stars was to tie it all back to Hollywood.

Now I look at the logo and think about how lucky the company was to have such a short name (four letters... I mean, come on!) and marvel how much money they were willing to pay for printing a three-color logo in the days when Xerox Docutech printers hadn't yet made printing even remotely affordable. (I also have to admit the one-color version on my brother's name badge looks pretty good.)

I don't think I would design the Roth Theatre's logo like this now, but I do think it stands up pretty well after 40 or 50 years. Perhaps you can thank Bob Mondello, the renowned NPR film critic, for this; he was in charge of Roth's advertising in the late 70s when I was but a lowly "candy girl," as we called them back in the day.

Roth Theatres has been defunct for many years now. Roth's Silver Spring East is now a bank on Thayer Avenue, and Roth's Silver Spring West, on Georgia Avenue not far from the DC line, is now a street-front church. The West, as it was affectionately called, was originally a vaudeville theater that was converted to a movie house.

As you can tell, I have wonderful memories of my theatre days. Besides working with my bratty, little brother, I met my first love there as well as my oldest friend, Bill Burgess, and sewed a passion for logo design that blossoms to this very day.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vinegar and Oil

I like this poem by Jane Hirschfield, especially the opening line. It is published in this month's Atlantic Magazine.

Vinegar and Oil

Wrong solitude vinegars the soul,
right solitude oils it.

How fragile we are, between the few good moments.

Coming and going unfinished,
puzzled by fate,

like the half-carved relief
of a fallen donkey, above a church door in Finland.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

From today's Washington Post: Misogyny I Won't Miss

By Marie Cocco
Thursday, May 15, 2008; Page A15

As the Democratic nomination contest slouches toward a close, it's time to take stock of what I will not miss.

I will not miss seeing advertisements for T-shirts that bear the slogan "Bros before Hos." The shirts depict Barack Obama (the Bro) and Hillary Clinton (the Ho) and are widely sold on the Internet.

I will not miss walking past airport concessions selling the Hillary Nutcracker, a device in which a pantsuit-clad Clinton doll opens her legs to reveal stainless-steel thighs that, well, bust nuts. I won't miss television and newspaper stories that make light of the novelty item.

I won't miss episodes like the one in which liberal radio personality Randi Rhodes called Clinton a "big [expletive] whore" and said the same about former vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro. Rhodes was appearing at an event sponsored by a San Francisco radio station, before an audience of appreciative Obama supporters -- one of whom had promoted the evening on the presumptive Democratic nominee's official campaign Web site.

I won't miss Citizens United Not Timid (no acronym, please), an anti-Clinton group founded by Republican guru Roger Stone.

Political discourse will at last be free of jokes like this one, told last week by magician Penn Jillette on MSNBC: "Obama did great in February, and that's because that was Black History Month. And now Hillary's doing much better 'cause it's White Bitch Month, right?" Co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski rebuked Jillette.

I won't miss political commentators (including National Public Radio political editor Ken Rudin and Andrew Sullivan, the columnist and blogger) who compare Clinton to the Glenn Close character in the movie "Fatal Attraction." In the iconic 1987 film, Close played an independent New York woman who has an affair with a married man played by Michael Douglas. When the liaison ends, the jilted woman becomes a deranged, knife-wielding stalker who terrorizes the man's blissful suburban family. Message: Psychopathic home-wrecker, begone.

The airwaves will at last be free of comments that liken Clinton to a "she-devil" (Chris Matthews on MSNBC, who helpfully supplied an on-screen mock-up of Clinton sprouting horns). Or those who offer that she's "looking like everyone's first wife standing outside a probate court" (Mike Barnicle, also on MSNBC).

But perhaps it is not wives who are so very problematic. Maybe it's mothers. Because, after all, Clinton is more like "a scolding mother, talking down to a child" (Jack Cafferty on CNN).

When all other images fail, there is one other I will not miss. That is, the down-to-the-basics, simplest one: "White women are a problem, that's -- you know, we all live with that" (William Kristol of Fox News).

I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign. To hint that sexism might possibly have had a minimal role is to play that risible "gender card."

Most of all, I will not miss the silence.

I will not miss the deafening, depressing silence of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or other leading Democrats, who to my knowledge (with the exception of Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland) haven't publicly uttered a word of outrage at the unrelenting, sex-based hate that has been hurled at a former first lady and two-term senator from New York. Among those holding their tongues are hundreds of Democrats for whom Clinton has campaigned and raised millions of dollars. Don Imus endured more public ire from the political class when he insulted the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Would the silence prevail if Obama's likeness were put on a tap-dancing doll that was sold at airports? Would the media figures who dole out precious face time to these politicians be such pals if they'd compared Obama with a character in a blaxploitation film? And how would crude references to Obama's sex organs play?

There are many reasons Clinton is losing the nomination contest, some having to do with her strategic mistakes, others with the groundswell for "change." But for all Clinton's political blemishes, the darker stain that has been exposed is the hatred of women that is accepted as a part of our culture.

Marie Cocco is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Her e-mail address is

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Debuting a couple of new logos

I recently finished a couple of new logos that I thought I'd share with you.

First up: Distinction. I created this distinctive logo for a corporate events planner who is looking to start her own business. She wanted a look that is fresh and professional but lively and fun, too, so I combined the traditional Roman lettering with the dragonfly and colored the lot with regal purple and gold. This look and feel will help her business stand out from the crowd and give corporations a sense of her creativity in event planning. Dragonflies are always busy, moving, getting things done - all excellent attributions for her business. I think it will work well for her.

Second: I had a great time dreaming up this traditional football logo for the Westlake High School Boosters from Waldorf, MD. Their bulldog mascot is a natural for the football theme, so I wove together the football, the rough-and-tumble doggie, and a great collegiate typeface from Chank and touchdown! Westlake's mega-cute logo will adorn T-shirts, sweatshirts, and a variety of other incoming-generating merchandise for the team.

If you'd like an effective, clever logo for your team, business, or organization, give me a call: 301-330-9353. I'd love to help. Creating logos is one of the great joys of my life.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Another Knitting IFO: Bobbi Bear

Lisa and Steve, who are friends of my boyfriend, Tom, are pregnant at long last with a little girl. In celebration, I decided to rustle up this adorable Bobbi Bear. The pattern, available from Blue Sky Alpacas, is shown in various wools, but I decided to whip it up instead in their beautiful, soft Dyed Cotton in Shell. I love the results and I hope the new parents and their little girl do, too.

I wanted to adorn bear's neck with a little something and was so thrilled when I found the just-right thing at JoAnn Fabrics: a white grosgrain ribbon with "baby girl" printed in pink and brown . The perfect touch. Welcome to the world, little one!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Knitting IFO: Baby Poncho

I have an IFO (identified finished object) to report this morning: a baby poncho!

I created this non-traditional baby gift for my chiropractor's receptionist's baby-to-be (did you follow that???). Lisa, the mama-in-waiting, has gorgeous green eyes, so I'm figuring the baby might, too. I'm not sure whether she's having a boy or a girl, but this should work for either.

I made it from Lion Brand's free pattern using their MicroSpun yarn in Lime. I like the way it knitted up, but it was kind of a pain to work with because it was just a bunch of strands woven together; the yarn easily pulled apart so I had to watch what I was doing or I'd poke the needle through the strands and the stitch would look like crap.

Regardless, I hope Lisa and the new baby love the new poncho!

Next up: I'm about three-quarters of the way done with the Blue Sky Alpaca Baby Bobbi Bear. Really cute! And then I've promised my pal, Ron, that I will make something for myself. I've already bought some scarlet wool for that very purpose and am pondering patterns as we speak. So much yarn, so little time!

Do you hear the people sing?

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of plastic men?

I got this Lego Les Miserables send-up from my brother's blog. It make me mega-jealous (dammit, I wish I had done it!), so I'm posting it here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

John Adams goes green

Did you happen to catch HBO's fantabulous "John Adams"? Besides the fact that it was just rip-roaringly amazing, I was awestruck by the set decoration and costumes. Gorgeous is an understatement. I'm sure the production will win every related Emmy and maybe an Oscar, too since there isn't a movie out there that can hold a candle!

The use of green throughout the show was fascinating. You could almost see an oil painter's palette in the set designer's hands, as she daubed leaf green and chartreuse and then added in some dark olive. Just beautiful.

If you get a chance to watch, keep your eye on the use of evergreen. Every time John reaches a pinnacle or enters a crossroads of his life, evergreen appears. For example, when the Continental Congress first meets in Philadelphia, the walls are painted a light bluish green. But as John gains power, the walls change to dark green. The same color appears when his beloved daughter, Nabby, dies and when he becomes ill, too. Watch for it!

And then check out the gorgeous lavender that Thomas Jefferson always wears to play up his red coif!

The entire colonial affair is truly a feast for the eyes.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Remembering Karl Ware and Dr. Robert Adrian

I blogged recently about losing my dear friend, Michael Bjerknes, to cancer. Today I want to remember two other men who died much too young from this awful disease, men who were wonderful clients of my business and whom I considered to be friends as well.

Dr. Robert Adrian died suddenly last August from leukemia. He was the healthiest looking man I knew; I would have bet my house that he would have lived to be 100. He looked so healthy, just looking at him made you feel like you should go eat a carrot and run a mile. To say that people were shocked when he fell ill last summer is an understatement. When he died, it was simply incomprehensible.

Bob was a wonderful and loyal client to Julie & Company, and I am grateful for his patronage. But his support during my marital separation really struck me. He called me personally to express his concern and to tell me how much he liked me and considered me a friend, and that he would consider it an honor if I would call on him if I needed any help. I was very touched.

Bob left behind his wife, Janet, and four sons, and they are still in my thoughts and prayers. Having lost my mother at 18, I can know first hand some of the challenges they face. God bless them.

Now where in the world would I be without Karl Ware? He was my very first client, along with Pete Bianco, all the way back in 1997. Karl and Pete founded BioNetrix, literally one of the world's first biometric companies five years before September 11. After this tragic date, people intrinsically understood the rationale for tracking people by their fingerprints, retinas, and other bodily characteristics.

Karl was a true renaissaince man. Besides BioNetrix, he worked for JP Morgan, MCI, the University of Maryland, the National University of Singapore, and the CIA, where if I remember correctly, his dad was a honcho. He traveled the world and had extensive experience in international marketing, especially in Asia.

Karl was different. I remember once he tried to get me to sell exotic kites online. Only Karl. He was also one of those guys who could be any age - and no one knew for sure exactly how old he was. He liked that mystery, I think, because he always found a way to dodge the question. He could have been 25 or 75. Only Karl and his mamma knew for sure.

Karl quite frankly believed in me and exuberantly got me started in business. (Thanks for Pete Bianco and Steve Walker for their help, too.) Karl may not have been perfect, but he was a loyal, honest, decent man. Ultimately, what more could you ask for? He's been gone four years this month. I will always thank God for Karl Ware.