Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One Year Ago...

Paco died.

It doesn't feel like it's been a year, it feels like it's been 10. So much has happened in that amount of time that it literally feels like a lifetime ago. It's like life was going along with a certain trajectory, and then suddenly went way off course.

By certain measures, I'm in a much better position than I was before. My business was on the brink of failure last year and now we've grown in ways I never imagined. We have a store, a great group of people, international sales, all with no sign of slowing. My dog, relationship, house, and friends are all fantastic, but it still feels strangely empty.

I don't know why I thought I'd be over it by now, but I haven't gone a week this past year without crying and I still can't talk about it with strangers. It doesn't help that my life is constructed around him so completely.

But there has been growth. At least now the positive memories outweigh the sad ones. And now that he's not around to act like an ass and prove me wrong, he's reached a status of near saint-like proportions. I can extol his virtues for hours, tell the story of he chased the car thieves away at 2 am or how he fingered the one hoodlum who later went on to murder a homeless man (it was one of only two people in his life Paco could not settle down around), and now it's impossible for him to ruin the illusion by going into one of his crazy car ride fits (he's scream his fool head off and do handstands the closer we got to home), get amped up and embarrass me during a CGC demo, or be a jerk around another dog... now I understand how legends are made.

People want to know when we'll get another dog. The answer is, "I have no idea." We've done a great deal of dog shopping this year, have traveled long distances to see candidates, fostered one possibility, but nothing feels right. I think everyone has their own rate of recovery and we're just not there yet. I'm sure we'll know it when we see it, but that may only happen once we stop looking.

In the meantime I feel the best thing for me to do its continue building something positive in his memory.

RIP, little guy, I miss you every day.

handsome guy

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

European Vacation

For those who don't know, Aaron builds robots. Robots like this one:

the robot

The latest project necessitated an in-person delivery to Berlin. Never having been to Europe, I begged. I pleaded. I didn't care that January was the second-coldest month in Germany, I wanted to cross the pond. But what would I do while Aaron assembled the robot all day, was the concern? I'd make it a business trip myself, I argued.

Somehow it worked. Here are the pictures, in no particular order...

Proof of how cold it was in Berlin. Check out the icicles on the car,


the ice on the river,

really cold

and the boys in warm clothes.


In Europe a "double bed" means just that.

double bed... literally

We did the tourist things, like visiting the Berlin Wall (yes, mom, I'm wearing your old jacket),

taking a peice of theBerlin Wall

and KaDeWe, the largest mall in Germany.

cotton fields at KaDeWe

But we also strayed off the beaten path by playing foosball in dive bars,

foosball in Berlin

(as in, anti-establishment dive bars where you do snuff with a Polish guy covered in facial tattoos til 5 in the morning and this is the chandelier)

best chandelier ever

and hanging out with local friends.

After 5 days in Berlin, Jeff headed home and we made a b-line to Paris.

Notre Dame at night

Notre Dame at night

Cappuccino 'stache

cappucino mustache

Catching your own dinner at a sushi restaurant

catching fish

Look, a Paco Collar!

sneaky dog

Overall the trip was fantastic. The whole time it was windy, cold, snowy, or rainy but somehow that didn't matter and the whole thing just ended up... perfect.

Oh, and the post-script for those who might accuse me of just partying the whole time: I did manage to get some work done and am proud to announce that Paco Collars is now in two pet stores in Berlin and with one distributor in Paris... woohoo!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Artistic Integrity

I'm not gonna sugar coat it. I'm pretty pissed right now. Someone is copying our designs... again.

This isn't a unique situation. In fact, it's happened several times and I've even written about it before (and, I might add, both companies/individuals referenced before have had positive outcomes and we actually refer customers to them now). I'd come off sounding like a broken record if this situation wasn't quite so unique and painful.

Basically, this individual made and posted a collar design that is my current dog's collar (The Xdog) layered atop of my deceased dog's collar (Paco's Ruadh collar). If it was an accident, I could forgive it, but it's not. I won't go into the details, but it's clear that it's a calculated move.

As an artist (*shuddering at my least favorite statement ever*), I find it really offensive when other people copy work exactly.

Now, I totally understand the concept of "inspiration" and "derivative." Let's face it, pretty much all of the cool things in this world have been invented. There is only so much room within which you can maneuver unless you are willing to create something totally outside of the realm of what the mind can handle, and when that happens it doesn't always have a great outcome.

Take music, for instance. The guitar is a medium that has been played for hundreds of years, yet even with all that time for innovation, there are only so many notes in existence. Try as you might, you can't change that. You also can't change the fact that "Wild Thing" and "Louie Louie" have the exact same chord progression and nearly identical strumming. To the average listener, however, they sound like totally different songs because, well, they are.

You can have things that are similar at the core and then take off in very different directions, and that's fine. That's the basis of design, of songwriting, etc.

But when you take something that's already made and do it again without making any significant changes, well than that's just copying. It's like the imitation designers you see on "The View" the morning after the Oscars, showcasing the duplication dresses they stayed up all night making, only out of crappier material. There's no improvement, no differentiation, you're just replicating something that's already been done. Where's the art in that? Where is the dialogue, the wit, the innovation?

The fact is there isn't any of that, and that's what bothers me about copy cats. And when you drag Paco (the dog, not the company) into something, then you make it personal.