Nice Guys Finish Third

In writing this post, I’m working under a few assumptions:

1) You value art in some way, or at the least, you do not hate it.
2) You are inspired, or at least intrigued, at the thought of innovative ways of distributing creative merchandise.
3) You spent at least part of the holiday weekend outdoors, and in so doing, noticed that your t-shirt collection could use some refreshing.

Now, a bit of background:

Months ago now, we promised a free t-shirt to he or she who placed third in the Nasty Chipmunk Essay Competition. Said t-shirt (yet undesigned, at the the time) was to feature a cross-eyed zebra and the words “Nice Guys Finish Third.” The winners were named, two people tied for third place, and there the issue stood, us not designing or producing the t-shirt and the winners going unrewarded.

Until now.

Using the holiday weekend to dust some cobwebs off her TO DO list, Robbi sat down and designed the zebra t-shirt. The result pleases us so much that we both want one for ourselves.

Here it is:


Here’s where things get murky. We could either order four shirts on Zazzle (two for the winners and two more for ourselves) for around $80, or for $260, we could order 20 shirts, leaving 16 for the likes of you.

So here’s what we propose: If 11 of you out there in the Idiots’Blog readership also admire this shirt and want one for yourselves, we will be able to have it nicely printed and break even. And if an additional five of you decide you want one, we could actually make a small profit! It’s the same business model that fuels the subscription service. Why not, we say, try it with shirts?

So, if you like this shirt and would gladly part with $18 to buy one, send me an email and we’ll start a tally. As soon as we get to 11, we’ll call the t-shirt people and get the presses rolling.

But here’s the thing, this model only works if those who say they want the t-shirt actually end up buying it. So we’ll invoke the honor system and call it an experiment. At worst, we’ll be out $260 bucks, but at best, we could start a new way of distributing small-run t-shirt designs.

And whatever comes to pass, we’ll both have (what we believe to be) a really stellar shirt.

Let us know what you think. Comment to this post or write me an email if you want in. And be sure to let me know what size you want (unisex S, M, L, XL, XXL).

The Patience of Job

… and the skills of Edward Scissorhands:


See more here at Designers Couch.
Amazing paper crafted little people. Not to mention the excellent photography. Not to mention teeny tiny Elvis lips. Not to mention awesome set dressing.

Just wish we knew who actually did these. Unless “Russian Design Studio” is somebody’s actual name. In which case, I’d like to say, “Da. DA, Comrade!!”

The Truth Comes Out

So, today I was doing some cleaning (cleaning? yeah, I know…! I must be procrastinating or something, hm?), sorting through the piles of detritus that are our home. Most of it was paper. Things to be recycled. Trimmings from books. Catalogs from Pottery Barn. Drawings of Alden’s (art is her latest enthusiastic endeavor, when she can’t be swinging). Discoveries were made.

I was most impressed by her neo-formalist conté drawing in black and orange, titled “Neo-Formalist Conté Drawing in Black and Orange”.


She did it on a piece of heavyweight pulp card stock that was used as a divider in the Makers Tiles shipping boxes. Which maybe makes it less neo-formalist and more post-minimalist. Anyhoo – I was pleased to have discovered it before it got accidentally tossed.

Feeling rosy inside about my young progeny’s budding interest in the things that interest me, I got a little emotional. A tear came to my eye. Maybe she would be the artist, after all, not the writer (actually, we’re both really really hoping for an accountant). I felt very close to her in that moment. Close in the way that two fellow artists can feel close, not just in the way a mother feels close to her daughter. And then I found this:


Right next to the voodoo dolls. I’m totally watching my back from now on.


We go to the playground a lot these days. A lot. Along with the emergence of Alden’s vocabulary has been a heightened ability to articulate her desires. And what she desires most afternoons is going to the playground. And because I am a generally tractable father, I usually take her.

Although she delights in many of the playground’s offerings (slides, climbing structures, colorful plastic dogs on springs), we always start with the swings. As soon as we get out of the car, she points toward them with glee, screaming, “Swings! Swings! Swings! (just in case I have forgotten what they are called, I guess).

The girl loves to swing.


Usually, while Alden swings, Kato lounges comfortably in his car seat. But lately Alden has insisted that he swing too. Apparently she cannot bear to have all the fun for herself.

And so Kato swings, too.


They swing together.


I can think of worse ways to pass the afternoon.

The Sweet Life

A few weeks ago we headed off for a day at the Washington Zoo.


Alden has recently become very interested in animals. She has a puzzle featuring a zebra, a tiger, a hippo, and various other denizens of the animal world not often to be found in Chestertown. But so far she hasn’t actually seen them in the flesh. She was excited to say the least.

Robbi and I were gratified that our young daughter was so excited to experience the wonders of the animal kingdom.

Yet, when we go to the zoo, we parents were in for a rude awakening. Was she fascinated by the lions? She was not. They lay inert in the grass hundreds of yards from where we stood, looking far less interesting than a sleeping Kato. Was she riveted by the hippo? No sir. The hippo has, apparently, been traded to the Milwaukee Zoo for some other brand of wildlife. Surely, we thought, surely she would be awestruck by the Western Lowland Gorilla, whose species name (gorilla gorilla gorilla) is at the least repetitive and memorable.


But no. The gorilla provided no enchantment. He seemed content, like the rest of the animals, to loll about despondently. And who can blame him? The day was hot and muggy.

No, Alden’s trip to the zoo was highlighted instead by a different kind of majesty, that of the Pucker Powder being sold in one of those helpful kiosks.


What’s Pucker Powder, you say, Is that some new kind of dangerous animal?

No friends, Pucker Powder is a gleaming apparatus dispensing pure colored sugar from vertical tubes, made ever more enticing by the presence of a smiling pickle in a festive hat.

Alden was in awe.


Her inertia was short-lived. Once she realized that she was not dreaming, she lunged for the Pucker Power pedestal with the nimble enthusiasm that the lions might have demonstrated on a cool fall day.


We elected not to take photos of the scene that followed: the wrenching of a tiny child from her personal promised land while trying to explain that the key virtues of the Washington Zoo were elsewhere to be found.

What Alden learned in Washington is unclear. Robbi and I, on the other hand, now know to visit the zoo in the late afternoon, and not on a Saturday, and not when the temperature is flirting with unbearable.

I have no doubt that the day she turns 35 and is no longer subject to my draconian rule, Alden will be the first in line at the Pucker Powder stand, waiting for her long-deserved taste of the sweet life.

Mailing Time

It’s 1:45pm. Robbi has just marched Alden around in the sun to get her good and tired. The child is now napping, as is her brother.

We have applied the stamps and printed the mailing labels.


A large pile of Makers Tiles sits waiting to be stuffed into envelopes.


Those subscribers among you are mere dozens of hours away from receiving your very own copy. Those of you who are not subscribers will spend the next few days bitterly cursing your bad fortune. Unless…

There’s never been a better time than this very moment moment to sign on for a full year of absolute happiness. Just $60 for the next six books we make. Reward yourself for having such nice teeth. Pamper yourself for the difficult Wednesday you’ve had. Or order a subscription as a gift for a recent college graduate, easing the sting of the discouraging job market with some provocative printed material.

Whatever your reason, we cordially invite you to take the plunge and subscribe.

If you do, all this could be yours.


Ok, perhaps “all” is overstatement. You will only get one set of Makers Tiles. But it sounds more persuasive than “one of these could be yours,” don’t you think?

My Best Friends are Famous

Until recently, Alden’s interest in the TV was pretty much nil. She would sort of see it going on over in the corner while she banged on wooden toys or sat on the potty or jumped off the back of the couch, but she seemed to think of it as mostly static. Ambiance. Mood lighting.

However, the other day when I was trying to get the auction item painted while Matthew was out of town for the day and Kato was demanding to be on my lap at all times, I decided to provide Alden with some distraction so she wouldn’t destroy Matthew’s computer or jump down the spiral staircase while I wasn’t looking.

She grabbed her two favorite comfort buddies, Frog and Stinky Hippo.


They pretty much go everywhere with her. If one is forgotten, boy oh boy will we hear it. In fact, she is so loathe to give up Stinky Hippo that he rarely gets washed, and thus his moniker. (To be honest, Frog should be called Stinky Frog, but then it gets confusing with whether the “Stinky” is a first name or just an adjective, or if it’s a family name, and we’re just doing it Japanese style, where the last name comes first, or whatever. Are they related? Are they not related? The issue gets a little murky. So, Stinky Hippo and Frog it is.) So anyway – the three pals settle in for movie time on Matthew’s office chair while I cue up the DVD on his computer.

She seemed pretty content to sit through the opening credits, so I sat down and furiously went to work, counting the minutes till her patience ran out.

Suddenly, she yelled out: “FROG!” and pointed to the screen. Then, “HIPPO!!” She was very excited. “Mama, FROG! HIPPO!” So I went over to have a look at what she was talking about.


Yeah. She pretty much thinks Monsters, Inc. is about Frog and Stinky Hippo.

Pleased that she was thusly engrossed, I finished my painting and posted it for the auction. It was amazing that she sat so quietly the entire time I was working. She really dug the movie, and enjoyed the idea that her buddies were on the (little) big screen.

At least I thought so, until I went over and discovered that the whole time she was “watching” she had also been scraping deodorant out of its container with her fingernails and wiping it on Matthew’s office chair.

Ah well. I’ll take what I can get. At least she didn’t wipe any of it on Matthew’s computer.

And the Winner Is...

Last Tuesday we posted about our plans to give away an original Robbi illustration, choosing at random among all those who commented on the post.

To refresh your memory, here’s But It Feels Like Autumn.


A week has passed, many of you joined the fun by commenting, and now is the time to reveal the winner.

Many congratulations to Rachel H., who was the eighth to comment. The number 8 (of 42) was chosen at random using the random integer generator developed by the good folks at, so if you have a complaint, send it to them (Actually, don’t. If you have a complaint, send it to Robbi, and she will tell you to stop being a sissy.)

In three weeks or so (or sooner, if we feel like it), we’ll be posting another free piece for the taking. For now, congrats to Rachel H. And thanks to all who posted. This was fun.

Just Add Water

Yesterday morning I rose at 4:30 to drive to Wilmington, from where I was to catch a train to NYC, from where I was to take a cab to my 9:00 meeting at 185th and Amsterdam. Because I knew that I would not be at my cheerful best at that unseemly hour, I had made certain preparations the night before, laying out the clothes that I would wear; placing my shoes, wallet, car keys, and cell phone near the door, and putting my oatmeal into the microwave so that all I would have to do upon waking was push a single button.

My alarm woke me at the appointed hour, and as planned, I shuffled to the microwave to push start. My oatmeal cooked while I took my shower. What could be more efficient? I was most gratified by my good planning. I returned upstairs to an unpleasant surprise–an awful, acrid smell filled the kitchen, along with no small quantity of black smoke. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was burning, but then I saw the origin of the problem. Smoke was pouring out of the microwave vent. I peered inside and saw my tragic mistake. I had not added water to the oatmeal. Apparently, it is a critical ingredient.


Using potholders, I removed the bowl from the microwave. It contained a solid mass of smoldering black oat. I placed the bowl on the stovetop, where it promptly shattered into thousands of tiny shards, likely in response to the indignity just suffered.

What is the purpose of this post? Is it to be taken as object lesson or morality play? To suggest as much would be to assume that you are as big a fool as I am. Perhaps the only thing to take away from this sad episode is that, if you live in Chestertown, it’s probably not a good idea to try and get to Washington heights by 9:00am.

Or maybe just that it’s better to avoid oatmeal altogether?


28 hours later, the house still smells awful. And is it just me, or does the grin on the face of the Quaker Oats Man seem more like a smirk?

The Birds

On our way back from Toronto, just after crossing the border back into the States, I saw some sort of industrial complex in the distance on the shores of the lovely body of water we were crossing. It was late evening, the sun was setting, and the birds were moving in for the night. It was beautiful. We couldn’t stop to take a picture (we were on some sort of bridge) so I tried to keep it in my head. It finally came back out again today (one less thing to keep track of in there).


I wish I had drawn it on sunset paper, but you have to order that special.

Go to our ebay auction to bid, right now!