Saturday, November 26, 2011

Anyone know Dick Zanuck?

I'm trying to get him a letter from my eight year old son. It's been sent back twice, unopened. It contains an idea for a movie, and my son is offering it to him for free, he just wants to see it get made.

My son isn't interested in anyone else producing it. He thinks Zanuck would pull it off best.

Friday, November 25, 2011


died 9 april 1553

in bed with the flu and reading Rabelais
as the cat snores
the bathroom toilet
and my eyes burn.

I will put Rabelais down
and blink.
this is what
writers do
to each other.

for him, I
a tab of
vitamin C.

if we could only swallow
like that (I think we
or that death would
swallow us
like that (I think it

life is not what
we think it
is, it's only what we
imagine it to

and for us
what we imagine
mostly so

I imagine myself
rid of this

I see myself parading the
sidewalks again amongst the
of this world . . .

meanwhile, the cat, like most other
things, pushes too
I move him
gently away; thinking, Rabelais
you were a
mighty mighty interesting

then I stretch out as the ceiling
watches me and


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The studio has a big long working desk that four of us share, all sitting on the same side. In the middle of the room is a tall architect desk that we also share. On the center of that desk is a glass jar of pencils and a stack of note sheets, quartered from recycled paper.

Working on these small sheets is an idea stolen from David Kennedy. As early as 1992, David would go to the printer room at Wieden & Kennedy and dig out used photocopier paper, cut them in quarter stacks with the paper cutter, bind them up with a bulldog clip and use them for notes. It was sort of crazy but cool.

Fifteen years later I noticed John Jay worked on little quarter-sheets of paper too. He'd treat each sheet as a slide as he created his presentations. He'd tape the sheets to the wall and move them around and take pages down and add to them, tearing down and rebuilding his presentation as he went.

It's a great way to work. I like that each sheet is small, so ideas have to be singular. I like that you can get rid of and add pages easily and change the flow. You can work the sheets like a book, like David does, or lay them out like a map, like John Jay.

And pencils I like for all the reasons you can imagine: they erase, they're tactile, they encourage flow, they invite expression, they smell wonderful. The glass of sharp black pencils and white scratch sheets sitting on the table is very seductive.

Today, our pencil sharpening has moved into the 20th Century. The studio has added a brand new Boston schoolroom-style manual wall-mounted pencil sharpener.

Progress and technology are not without their aesthetic trade-offs. As you can see, the cone of the hand-sharpened pencil is shorter, giving it a distinctive, artisanal profile, and the wood reveals the human hand and hand-tool that made it, versus the perfectly smooth and regular wood of the machine-sharpened pencil.

As we begin to shift over to the Boston, I'm sure I'll be nostalgic for our last batch of artisan pencils. I'm glad Betsy, the designer who started with us last week, and who inherited the job of Director of Pencil Operations, got to experience life before and after this 20th-Century marvel.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Potlatch time

Potlatch is the Chinook word for a ceremony of the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest. To celebrate and give thanks, a chief would hold a feast for his tribe and give away his belongings. The bigger the chief, the more he would give away, including his wives.

In the late 19th century, the United States made potlatching illegal. They considered it "a worse than useless custom" that was wasteful, unproductive and contrary to civilized values.

I'm preparing for a potlatch. I will not be giving away my wives but I'm going through my belongings and picking out things that have meaning for me, and giving them away to people in my tribe. I'm excited.

One of the things I'm giving away is a book called DAMN EVERYTHING BUT THE CIRCUS by Sister Corita Kent. She is one of my favorites.

On each page Sister Corita has illustrated a letter of the alphabet using fluorescent colors and vintage wood cuts and handwritten words she's chosen from Camus and Dostoyevsky and Cream and Helen Keller. Forty years later it feels fresh and inspiring. It feels good to share it.

Great ideas, it has been said,
come into the world as gently as doves.
Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear,
amid the uproar of empires and nations,
a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope.
Some will say that this hope lies in a nation;
others in a man.
I believe rather that it is awakened, revived,
nourished by millions of solitary individuals
whose deeds and works every day
negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history.
As a result, there shines forth fleetingly
the ever-threatened truth
that each and every man,
on the foundations of his own sufferings and joys,
builds for all.

Albert Camus

Then an old advertisement:

Beware of Counterfeits!
RELIEF for the DISTRESSED and BALM for the WOUNDED is found in
Manufactured by PERRY DAVIS & SON,
No. 74 High Street, Providence, R.I.

And at the bottom, in Sister Corita's tiny handwriting:

J.C. he pitched his tent here


Update: Here are the rest of the items in the potlatch.