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An Artist’s Notebook of Sorts

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10 September 2010

gratuitous image

No. 4,878 (cartoon)

I can’t depend on you.

When have I ever failed to disappoint?

11 September 2010

My computer tells me that I’ve mentioned Rainier Ale one hundred and eight times since I started this notebook. That might sound like a lot, but that’s only an average of once every seven weeks. I don’t think that’s excessive, given the myriad qualities of this inimitable adult beverage.

I was drinking and thinking about that malty elixir the other night, so I decided to see how the manufacturer described its potation. That’s when I discovered that Rainier Ale seems to be an orphan. No one’s bothered to ever trademark the name; the ale doesn’t even have its own Internet site.

Or, more accurately, it didn’t have a proper Internet presence, but it does now: I may give myself a rotator cuff injury by repeating this, but I’m rather pleased indeed that my work is featured there.

12 September 2010

Flexible Friends

Kiliaen told me that he was going to visit San Francisco, and suggested that, if I wanted to see him, Tuesday and Thursday night would be good times to do so. He added that, if I didn’t want to rendezvous, there would be many opportunities to do so later.

I chose the latter option. I like flexible friends.

13 September 2010

Can’t Have It Both Ways

I asked Sid’s son Gerrit what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“I want to be an artist when I grow up,” he replied.

“Sorry pal,” I explained, “you can’t have it both ways.”

Gerrit looked confused, but I’m sure he’ll figure things out. Unless, of course, he doesn’t. Some people do, and some people don’t.

14 September 2010

The Ninety-Three Percent Solution

I was pleased to recently discover yet another advantage of my missing right index finger: Alicia pointed out that I am ten percent less likely to injure a finger than she is.

After I thought about it for a while, though, I concluded she was engaged in some mathematical sophistry. Using Alicia’s logic, my friend Lisa should be the safest of anyone, since she lost all of her fingers years ago. I concluded that having an entire complement of fingers is boring, and that having no fingers is problematical for all the obvious reasons. Having ninety-three percent of my fingers seems like exactly the right amount; I shall try to keep that many fingers on hand(s).

15 September 2010

Bad Political Theatre

Helena and her mother Mabel got into a vigorous discussion—sounds better than an argument, no?—this afternoon. Mabel posited that the number of cretinous fear mongers was increasing dramatically. Helena maintained that their numbers were increasing comedically. I agreed with both of them; reactionary politics is bad theatre from any perspective.

16 September 2010

Sally Shredder

“Sally’s a big pussycat,” Julian opined.

“Maybe a pussycat that’s bigger than a saber-toothed tiger,” I replied, “with really, really sharp claws that never retract.”

Julian disagreed, and I didn’t argue. Julian’s one of those people who only learns things the hard way. And, if he spends much more time with Sally, he certainly will.

17 September 2010

Copywriting Secrets

A quarter of a century ago, before I belatedly realized that making art is more rewarding than making money, Greenpeace used to pay me five thousand dollars for each fundraising letter I wrote for the organization. That sounds like a lot of money, and it was, and still is. Still, it made business sense. If my junk mail letter mailed to a hundred thousand potential donors generated twenty or thirty thousand dollars more than another appeal, then five thousand dollars was a good investment.

I took perverse pleasure in imagining schoolchildren forgoing their midday meal in order to send their money to Greenpeace to save the whales and seals. If they only knew how their money was actually spent.

Writing effective appeals was easy once I discovered the secret: write a parody of such a fundraising letter, then tone it down two or three percent. I can’t find any examples of the hysterical prose I wrote for Greenpeace, but here’s an actual paragraph I wrote for another nonprofit client.

I’m talking about the terror in a puppy’s whimpering screams as it cries for its mother ... the terror in a kitten’s eyes as a technician clamps wires to its head ... the terror in a chimpanzee’s cowering posture after months of isolation in a cramped cold cage.

It’s embarrassing to realize that even though I got paid thousands of dollars to write that, I was too lazy to come up with a synonym for “terror.” I suppose that’s the point: using phrases like “puppy’s whimpering screams” and “the terror in a kitten’s eyes” were enough to open the donation floodgates.

John Crowley discovered a similar formula he used when writing advertising copy for wines he’d never tasted.

“When you do this sort of work,” he explained, “you pretend to be the sort of person that you could imagine writing this kind of stuff; then you write what he would write.”


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©2010 David Glenn Rinehart

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