It is really all about me.

Prune Polish


Like many academics, I do not write well, wallowing in jargon and bombast. But, unlike most academics, I know I do not write well.

This rare flash of self-awareness is why I’m enjoying Polishing Your Prose by the Cahn brothers. Published by Columbia University Press, the book presents no new tricks. The premise is less is more. Nothing new here – Strunk and White admonished us to “Omit needless words” in the 1950′s. (Though I struggle to omit that needless comma in the 2010s.)

But the trick is in targeting the dross, and here the Cahn book is worthy of any arsenal. The authors are great writers, and engage the reader in the painful process of polishing. Points are well organized, and provide a checklist to better self editing.

The book could have been more accurately titled Prune Your Prose. It is well worth the $15 entry fee. When I finish Polishing Your Prose, I will come back and polish this prattle!

Digital nicotine


The internet, that brush-fire-quick source of rumours and gossip, is mumbling that Apple is stopping iPod development. I still recall my excitement at being able to hold 256K of music in my hand, and tended to overlook how badly everything sounded. My love affair with the iPod was short-lived, as I’ve never felt comfortable running or wandering the streets without the DEW line protection of my ears. On one run in particular, I’d have been mowed down by a drunk driver if I’d been running along listening to Miles Davis. The changing sound of tires going from pavement to gravel gave me time to jump in a ditch.

I find it ironic that turntables have outlived both the CD and the iPod.

And I’m sure record companies are salivating at the idea of being able to sell us fragile and difficult to copy music formats.

I’m not a vinyl snob. While I do think we are hard-wired for analog sound, my main joy in vinyl is the rituals involved. Holding that big slab of artwork in my mitts can’t be matched. And the prep work-cleaning, demagnetizing etc.-is akin to prepping your favourite Peterson pipe for a bowl of some obscure oily hand-cut tobacco. A rare treat good enough for my hero C.S. Lewis and certainly good enough for me. Digital music is a cigarette-instant and easy-but dumbed down.

Butterflies are free

barfly-poster 2

Few projects offer the creative freedom of a gig poster. The possibilities are as uncharted as the demographic. Posted, usually without permission, on walls and windows, these ephemeral objects are butterflies. Eye catching, fragile and quickly dying.


BK sample 70s SA font

Listening to Vieux Farka Touré (The Kaminanda Remix of “Sokosondou” is superb by the way), and working on a cover treatment for a novel set in the 70s. Still have to massage the letters, and figure I’ll crank the kerning tighter still, but think this has a nice 1970’s mass market paperback feel.

I’m always amazed how tight we kerned in the 70’s-the trees we must have saved!

La petite reine

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I’m back after a happy week with la petite reine. Most visitors are gone, and Islanders all breath a collective sigh of relief. We are welcoming people, but most of us also welcome the respite from the hustle and bustle that summer brings.

Post-tourist, PEI’s narrow roads are once again relaxing to ride. One can swoop up and down twisting and rolling hills with few vehicles to monitor. Farmers share the road and wave as you zip past their tractors. It’s always a rush to zoom by a giant transformer-like machine on a bicycle. There are still plenty of small mom-and-pop snack bars catering to the locals to fuel your ride, and 100 miles in the saddle buys you serious calorie karma points. Bikes-and their riders-roll best when well greased.

I arrived home to find another manuscript in my email inbox. I should use this money to replace my aging computer. But, after another fun week in the saddle, a new wheelset seems money better invested!


Peanuts records

I’ve been making mixtapes since I was fourteen and my long-suffering Mom bought me my first cassette deck. I still make a mixtape every year on my birthday-a type of musical diary always named tracks@age. It’s fun to go back and see what I liked long ago and far away. There’s no theme-simply music I was listening to and enjoying in that twelve months of life. Many mixtapes have stood the test of time, though I do wince at some of the bands I played at high volume on my cheap lime-green “hi-fi”. Black Oak Arkansas? Yikes! Mom you were right. I’m sorry!

I always designed a cover and type treatment, and sadly to say, most of those have not aged well.

I’d trade tapes with friends, and we would eagerly wait to see what new music we would discover on the tapes. The internet allows us to sample any tune, but decades ago, a mixtape often determined if you would shell out your hard-earned Rainbow Valley money on an unknown group. I still remember hearing “Life on Mars” from Hunky Dory on a friend’s mixtape, and running out to buy everything Bowie I could find (Not much on PEI, circa 1971).

I still send out a few mixtapes to some old dinosaurs like myself. Not cassettes, but CDs, as most of our decks-including my cherished Nakamichi Dragon-have long crossed the Rainbow Bridge to Stereo Valhalla.

But I will always call them mixtapes. One word, not two.

Here’s the track list for 21@59

1. Motivational Speaker, Cut Chemist, 2006

2. Save Yourself, Hiatus, 2010

3. Bonnie, Tire Le Coyote, 2013

4. I Never Dreamed, The Cookies, 1963

5. Doin’ It Right, Daft Punk, 2013

6. Parade, Rone, 2012

7. It’s Tricky, Run DMC, 1986

8. Long Way To Go, Dwight Yoakim, 2012

9. Love/Hate Transmission, Liz Phair, 2003

10. I Don’t Believe A Word You Say, Ben Harper And Charlie Musslewhite, 2013

11. Beverly Penn, Waterboys, 1985

12. Just Like Me, Paul Revere And The Raiders, 1967

13. Microphone Fiend, Eric B And Rakim, 1988

14. Down The Road, C2C, 2012

15. Kellogg’s Jingle, The Monkees, 1967

16. Et Puis Je Sais, Johnny Hallyday, 2006

17. Mother Blues, Ray Wylie Hubbard, 2012

18. La Mer, Julio Iglesias, 1968

19. Si Fragile, Luc De Larochellière & Gilles Vigneault, 2006

20. An Accidental Memory In Case Of Death, Eluvium, 2004

21. Moonraker, Shirley Bassey, 1979


Ezra poster onedistressed

I’ve always enjoyed designing posters for bands. The ephemeral nature of the event assures a level of freedom you don’t have with other projects, and it is uplifting to work with young and exuberant artists. Most of my show work is pro bono for bands under the radar (i.e., stone-broke and living on Kraft Dinner), which adds another level of freedom-and guarantees signed copies of the LPs!

Gig posters provide a healthy dose of perspective. You are competing with every other aspiring band out there, and your poster, no matter how wonderful, will be quickly layered by another poster by another designer for another show from another band. It’s archeology. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’






The Perfect Portfolio

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Things they don’t teach you in art school: The cardinal rule of first meetings with potential clients-bring goodies. The strongest portfolio in the world pales besides a tin of freshly baked blueberry muffins or biscotti. Simple cooking is a lost art, and many have forgotten how much better real food is. Most folks have no idea that biscotti is not supposed to have the texture-and taste-of concrete.

The muffin tin belonged to my grandmother and bakes perfectly-the trick is never washing the pan. The lovely patina is over eighty years old.

(And yes, I did leave with a signed contract.)