Archives for the month of: July, 2012

Perhaps the most polite cease and decist letter ever written

Author Patrick Wensink’s book dons a cover design that is clearly a take on the iconic Jack Daniel’s label, except whoever did the typography on the book needs to take a few more lessons from JD’s designer. Anyway, JD asked nicely for Wensink to cease and desist.  View both the original letter from JD and the author’s response here.

The JD folks even offer to help Wensink financially with a redesign of the cover design. His response is, “We’re proudly independent and don’t need any of that sweet corporate booze money to redo the cover.” My question is this. If you’re so proudly independent then why not design something proudly independent and non-derivative in the first place.


The scent of a letter

I really ought to consider spritzing this on my letters.

James, go downstairs and check your mailbox

Today’s letter is for my old soul mate. This is my first letter to him since starting the blog.

I’ve been holding onto a postcard of this image (below) by Tomasz Gudzowaty for six years. This was a first place award winning photo at the World Press Photo 2003 in the category of “Sports Features”.

Check out Tomasz Gudzowaty’s other spectacular images.


Every month or so I receive a newsletter from a realtor by the name of Shane Gray. He’s a super nice guy who I have had the pleasure of meeting a few times. While I have no plans to sell my place anytime soon, if I ever did, I wouldn’t hesitate to call him. He’s also an immensely talented carpenter and builder. His friendly, casual newsletter has featured, among other things, some of his own personal projects such as an old fashioned ribbon driveway and a funky wine cellar including rock walls, recessed fridges and rows of wooden wine racks.

While I’m amused by the newsletter and read every issue I receive I think the design could use some work and guess what… I’m a designer! So I’ve written a hello to Shane which includes among other things some information about recent work I’ve undertaken for clients. I consider it my own one-on-one newsletter. We’ll see if this yields any new work.

It’s shocking that it took 112 days before I finally wrote a letter to a prospective client. Bad letter writer, bad!

Letters from a Luddite

If you listened to the Nora Young Spark interview I linked to in yesterday’s post, you’ll also have heard about Christina Crook’s month long sabbatical from the internet and 31-day letter writing challenge which took place in January of 2012. I’m starting to doubt my inner clock now. Talk about being late to the game. Harrumph.

I would write a letter to Christina but she doesn’t include her address on her website. Still, the Letters to a Luddite site, which contains scans of all of her letters and clippings which jetted across Canada from Toronto to her friend Marisa in Vancouver is a visual feast. Go ahead and indulge.


I consider myself a chronically punctual person and have often been criticized for being too early to some things however, it appears I came to fiction writer Mary Robinette Kowal’s month-long challenge of letter writing a few months too late. But how timely that my boyfriend – mindful of providing me with ideas lest this blog turn into one giant snooze-fest – heard about this challenge on a re-run of CBC’s radio show Spark today. This is also timely as my own 10-day letter writing challenge with my readers is fast approaching. Is everybody ready?

In February 2012 Mary challenged people to write a letter a day for a month and to respond to any letter they received. I visited her website and was tickled to see she included a mailing address on her contact page which is a rarity these days so…

…today’s letter is for Mary. Unlike Mary though, I am not giving up the internet for my period of letter writing. That would mean no income for a year – no can do – however that is perhaps another challenge to consider after my year of mindful paper correspondence… and maybe a big lottery win.

Visiting Cards and Mourning Cards

I can remember as recently as 1994 on a trip to visit family in rural Italy, seeing posters on the sides of public buildings in the village announcing the death of a local resident. These posters had a black border around them. This is the memory that sprung to mind when my brother reminded me about the old tradition of leaving what are known as visiting cards.

Visiting cards were used during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. It was considered the polite thing to do when visiting someone’s house to leave a visiting card as you passed through the hallway on your way to the sitting room for your visit. If no one was home when you called, your visiting card was left with a servant.

If you were in mourning after having lost a loved one, your visiting card depicted a black border around it as well as around the edges of your writing paper and envelopes. In some countries it was customary to depict a thick black border if the death of a loved one was recent and if it was a spouse. Thinner borders appeared when the death was that of a sibling, aunt, etc. The border would diminish in width over time, to signify the softening of the grief with the passage of time. It was customary to use mourning cards for two years after the death of a spouse.

Men’s mourning cards were always smaller than women’s and the black border was always narrower. Interesting. I would bet a man made up that part of the custom.

What people today call mourning cards are keepsakes given at funerals and memorials and are not really like their predecessors. They are paper sentiments that commemorate the life of the dearly departed.

I do like the idea of mourning cards as a therapeutic way to come to terms with a loss, but I can’t see the mourning card of the Elizabethan era finding new life (no pun intended) in the digital age. Can you imagine receiving a mourning e-card? Yick.

Thank you for a lovely evening

For a while, Strathmore, a paper company, had full page ads in HOW and other design magazines that were these all-in-one card/envelope thingees that were perforated for tearing out of a full-sized sheet of paper within the magazine. I have held onto a couple of them because they are so sweet and so compact and you just don’t see things like this anymore. They remind me of the letters that my grandparents and my Aunt Marjorie used to write to me from England every so often. Those ones from England were bigger than this but it was exactly the same idea. You used to buy them from the post office with the postage already built into them. If Canada Post had the same thing it might’ve been before my time. Feel free to weigh in on this if you have information.

Jerry and Kanako are getting this one as thanks for generously hosting me at their house for a wonderful meal, sending me home with killer chocolate, and taking some photos of my card collection for me.

Here’s a little more on the iconic Strathmore thistle.

And just because yesterday’s post about watching a friend’s dog run into oncoming traffic was so traumatic I include a bonus photo below for a bit of comic relief because let’s face it, if you can’t laugh at a cat, who can you laugh at.

There was only one question on Henry’s mind.

When a dog runs away

When a dog runs away it’s a learning experience. Because I learned something from the experience of losing my friend’s dog when she was in my care last week I wanted to share with others.  I originally posted this on Craigslist under the “Pets” section but someone flagged it as inappropriate – still a bit confused about that one – so it’s no longer available there. In its place an abbreviated form of this monologue went up in the form of a poster. I put it at the park where my friend’s dog began her escape. I hope the people who take their dogs off leash there, next to a busy road, are more mindful in future. And I hope people will consider helping next time they see a dog obviously out of control and in potential danger.

When a dog runs away: OBSERVATIONS & THANKS

On Thursday July 19th I was walking my dog and a friend’s dog through this park when a black lab came bounding across the park to greet us rather excitedly, its owner attempting to recall it without much success.

That event triggered a series of events that could have ended tragically. My friend’s dog was instantly spooked, slipped out of her collar and ran clear across the park into the four lanes of 4th Avenue traffic at rush hour. I doubt you’ve ever heard a woman shriek like I did. This is not the sound you want to hear on a warm sunny beautiful July afternoon.

She was eventually cornered at 8th and Alder moments before what could have been her ultimate demise attempting to cross Broadway to get home because that’s clearly where she was headed.

Observation #1
If you have a dog that you don’t have voice-control over, please don’t take it off leash in a non-off-leash park beside a busy four-lane street at rush hour. That’s just not smart and it’s not considerate of other park users.

Observation #2
Not everyone cares. People who don’t make even a half-hearted attempt to grab an off-leash dog that’s galloping along the sidewalk beside a busy city street clearly either don’t have a dog or don’t give a rat’s ass about dogs. A dog owner will almost always, in my experience, try to help in some way. I saw at least one person who did not make even the most miniscule effort to help me despite the danger of the situation.

Observation #3
Some people do care and will offer to help when they see a person in distress. Two people came to my aid including the lady whose lab scared my dog into traffic and for that I am grateful.

Observation #4
People with dogs understand the horror of seeing a dog loose on city streets and will stop at nothing to corner and capture that dog. They’d want you to do the same for them.

I didn’t get the names of the people who helped me — except the little boy named Brian — but I want to extend my deepest deepest thanks to the two couples in two cars who saw it all unfold and took the time to pursue the dog and ensure her safe return to me. They did not have to help me but they did. They didn’t have to go above and beyond to make several efforts to corner and capture a dog that didn’t want to be captured, but they did. You have no idea how grateful I am to those people.

I too have captured lost dogs and helped ensure their safe return to their owners and I would do it again in a Vancouver minute. I hope you would too.

One of the world’s oldest letters

Photo credit: Haaretz.

Two and a half years ago Israeli archaeologists discovered a fragment of clay depicting a letter that is believed to have been written in Jerusalem over 3,000 years ago. This makes it the oldest piece of correspondence ever found in that city.

The shard is less than one square inch in size and depicts Akkadian cuneiform. It is believed to be a letter written from the king’s court in Jerusalem to his counterparts in Egypt. I would hate to have been a letter carrier in those days. Talk about back-breaking work.