General

General Stuff about the house.

Fireworks, or Bombshells. You Choose.

Well, it’s Fourth of July weekend here in America and that means people are blowing up their hard earned money with fireworks. I like fireworks, well the professional ones that is. Don’t get me wrong if you want to blow shit up in your backyard to show the world how patriotic you are that’s fine. I’m not going to stop you. I just prefer to spend my money on things that aren’t going to go up in smoke, or run the risk of causing me pain and possible dismemberment. So you can celebrate the nation’s birthday with fireworks, or you can feast your eyes on pin-up girls sporting the red white and blue and in some cases holding fireworks. Frankly, I think I prefer looking at leggy gals sporting an outfit made from old glory and holding explosives. So here we have movie stars, models, and illustrations of just that. By the way, 1960’s bombshell Raquel Welch, and 1940’s Broadway star Anne Miller seem to have been very popular icons for the 4th.

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Kill it, Stuff it, and Put it on Display. The Olympics of Taxidermy.

I’ve always had a bizarre fascination with taxidermy. I think it is one of the strangest things people do, and yet I’m kind of drawn to it. I think the fascination started when I was a kid and I visited the natural history museum where they had all of these insane dioramas featuring dead stuffed animals. It was the antithesis of the zoo, or being at a national park where you would see the animals alive, and out in their natural environment. I just didn’t get the concept of, kill it, stuff it, put it on display frozen in time. (at the time I didn’t realize that taxidermied animals aren’t really stuffed carcasses).

So, the video below is a 20-minute look into the world of taxidermy. More specifically, it is a look into the Olympics of taxidermy, and it’s actually a pretty interesting documentary short. It’s well shot, edited, and the production value is very solid. And the story line is really solid. It draws you in and holds your attention. Well at least it did with me, but then again I do have a morbid attraction to this subject.

What a Difference a Year Makes

954 Rusty CrownOne year ago today, I received an email invite at work telling me to report to employee relations the following day at 2:00 in the afternoon. The time had come for me to go. Hallmark didn’t love me anymore. This didn’t come as surprise. I had actually been given a heads up by my Art Director 8 months earlier that I was probably on my way out. I met all the criteria. I was over 50, made too much money, and didn’t check off any of diversity boxes. Plus the downsizing had been going on since December of 2012. I’d dodged the bullet for the last couple of years, but there was no way I was going to dodge it this time.

The reality is that being let go from Hallmark was the best thing that had happened to my career in over a decade. Since returning to Hallmark in 2005 I had struggled to advance my career there. I had hit the internal glass ceiling in a sense and over time was given less and less challenging work. There are only so many senior level positions and with a creative pool the size of Hallmark’s moving up the food chain can be difficult.

I’m not angry, I’m not disgruntled, I’m not even irritated. I’ll admit that I was a little pissed off at first. When you are told you aren’t needed anymore, it kind of stings, no matter how shitty the situation is. By the beginning of last June I was creating crappy banner ads for products I didn’t believe in, for a brand I personally feel is dying. The timing was right, it was time to go.

On June 2 2015 I met with employee relations and was told I qualified to “Retire”. My  position was being eliminated as a cost cutting measure, and I was one of 165 creatives that were no longer needed. I was told by ER that I was allowed to work until June 10, and then I would have to leave the building. I hung around for a couple of days, but coming into work just made those that didn’t lose their jobs feel uncomfortable for the most part. By Thursday it was time to go. I backed up my Mac to a server, powered down and walked out. My “Give A Rip”, factor was zero at this point, and all of my assignments had been given to the remaining studio creatives. Sticking around just seemed like delaying the inevitable. I said adios to a few people and walked out the door for the last time. Thankfully I didn’t have any personal items to carry out. At 11:30 that morning I became a free man. It felt like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and driving home I remember thinking how great it felt to know I wouldn’t be going back there. I knew things were going to work out for the best.

So, how’d it all turn out? Pretty damn good. I had a new job before the end of the week. I had additional freelance work lined up. I got a solid severance package, and I never missed a paycheck. At the new job my opinion matters, I’m challenged creatively, and from the business side of things. My colleagues listen to me and engage me for feedback and insight. I’m helping to develop a new brand voice for a company that is actually growing and is looking to the future. I feel valued, something I hadn’t felt at Hallmark for years. At Hallmark I felt the complete opposite. I had no motivation or desire to be there. The work I was given could have been done by someone fresh out of design school. My opinion was hardly ever asked for or wanted. I simply wasn’t being challenged on any level.

That isn’t a personal dig at anyone, it’s simply how I felt, and how I know others feel as well. Not just the 165 that walked out the door a year ago, people who still work there as well. In my opinion, It’s a reflection of Hallmark’s corporate culture, and something that probably won’t change any time soon. It’s too bad, because when I first started working there in 1994, I loved the place. When I left in 2000 I missed it, and when I returned in 2005 I thought I had made the right choice to come back. At the time I felt that my career had a future, that I’d be given opportunities to grow as a designer. By 2009 I knew that probably wasn’t the case, but I had settled in for the long haul. It’s easy to

In the end I know I worked with some extremely talented individuals. (I also worked with people who had little to no talent, but played the system and bullshitted their way into positions of authority; but that is story for another time) At Hallmark I made some of the best friends I’ll ever have, and I miss seeing them on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean I’m not better off though. Like I said earlier, leaving Hallmark was the best thing that happened to my career in over a decade, and I can’t thank them enough telling my I was to old and made too much money.  I’m doing better design work than I have in years, I’m more creative than I have been in ages, and I’m happier. And that is what is most important.

Mangal

Since it’s summer and I have a backyard again, I have been on the lookout for a stylish modern barbecue. I’m a huge fan of charcoal and wood burning grills and this morning I came across “Mangal” from Cisimdesign.

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Cisimdesign is an Istanbul based firm that has been in operation since 2009. This year at the 2015 Milan Design Week, Cisimdesign introduced Mangal at Ventura Lambrate. Mangal literally means  barbecue in Turkish. The design is indicative of Cisimdesign’s philosophy of taking every day objects and transforming them into an object with a different function.

“Although ” Mangal ” suggests an object of heating and cooking, it offers a comfortable resting place with storage place in the interior.”

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The simple vessel shape is reminiscent of a vase or planter. The simple 3 leg stand gives it the appearance of perhaps a stool. The interchangeable grills are reflective of fabric patterns, another daily object transformed for another use. There isn’t any pricing info given on the website, but there is a contact email. It’ll be interesting to see if this makes it into large scale production. It’s a beautiful object, that I’d love to cook on.

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For The Birds.

Now that I have a yard again, and I can enjoy things like song birds on my back porch I’ve become interested in birdhouses and feeders. Like before when I owned the Modular 4 house on Lloyd, I have begun searching for something that doesn’t look like the standard stuff you see at Home Depot or Lowes. Unfortunately most feeders and houses look like the same stuff that has been around for decades. Fortunately though, Dutch designer Vincent Bos has created a new birdhouse has a wonderful modern look to it.

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The collection is an environmentally conscious series constructed of oak, porcelain, and powder coated steel. They are hand made and designed specifically for outdoor use. “Wall Elements” was designed with durability and versatility in mind. It is a modular system that can be assembled to work in any garden space. The mount for each house can be attached to a wall, fence post or any vertical surface.

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I love the clean look, the playful nature and the use of environmentally friendly materials. I will say this, they aren’t cheap. The average price is about $250.00 dollars. If you want a Wall Elements Birdhouse you can pick one up – here. I love the look but I think I am going to continue to search for something just as stylish and more on budget.

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He’s 9.

It’s hard to believe but I have had Cosmo for almost 9 years. He’s been a faithful companion, and while not perfect, he’s the best dog in the world. Happy Birthday Cosmo!

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A Little Trip to Colorado

  

I’ve been spending the weekend in Colorado hiking and taking photos of the surrounding landscape. One of the goals of the weekend was to find new places, go where we’ve never been, and venture off the well worn path. Mission accomplished. The photos below are JPEGs. I haven’t had a chance to process any RAW shots, or go through auto bracketed images to make selections and adjustments. That’ll happen in a week or two.