We build swag. Swag worthy of stealing.

#instigators, mount up.

#instigators, mount up.

Instigator profiles…..



Other  than the duchess, its quite likely that our gentleman anarchist has seniority over all other instigators. Damn near twenty years as a client, friend, mentor, neighbor, colleague, partner, collaborator, and inspiration. Isyn he was the first person I called after#148 -prof.dr.yanov-said, with no small amount of snark,’ start your own club.’ Chris was familiar, nay-a student, of chuck p.and his classic black comedy that I hand shamelessly ripped off. It just took a few of the rules I was kicking around instituting to get this party started. Logos, tag lines, and a look all coalesced under his artistic wizardry … And the was just the start of the party. Soon, as the endless barrage of shameless self promo started pouring in,he was the first to get a sample. The first fruits, if you will, often dropped in the mailbox at odd hours. Cause he and I have always worked odd hours. Not cause whitey forces us to, but as revolutionaries, we are never not working. Its not work, its a calling, a passion,a ministry,an obsession. Yes, being a profitable business is critical to our survival  (we got a guy on that instigator#111.1), but our working hours are a reflection of our love of what we do. And early on in this project I had taken the logo, along with our 9 rules, and designed myself a business card. Chris’ reaction was instant and overwhelming- a totally reworked card, that you would recognize as our pink soap cards. Now those cards are trickling into the hands of our most surprisingly passionate collaborators. Disproportionately passionate crew, our instigators. It was in those odd off hour drops that I realized some day we would need to be doing this thing together.

What. If?

Dunno exactly when it tipped, but about a few years ago we started talking about a mashup. What if an ad agency didn’t just sell swag, but really understood it’s place in the arsenal of a marketing, communications, and loyalty driven business? And what if a swag company really had a passion for the advertising business? So much that our practice was devoted to the tribe of creative class professionals? Same clubs, same parties, same books, same blogs, same passions? Not a competition, as so artfully and passive agressively positioned by our koozie monger crap swag stalker competitors,  aka #kooziemongercorporateassclowndouchecanoecatalogcarpetbombingtrunkslammerstalkergladhandguys, but as a peer to peer professional. Like a surgeon to a doctor. Do I presume too much, to claim surgeon status? Praps, but with colleagues like our #46 to nudge me out of the peddler mindspace, and into the specialist mindspace, surgeon is my goal. May never get there, but sure as hell will never get there by the same old crapassery that our competitors do. Our gentleman anarchist pulls my into the space where I can swing for the far fences, or as our#075 @swampfox says, to dream bigger dreams. Not for the money, but for the love of the art we practice. The art we practice, together, as blood brothers, kindred spirits, revolutionaries, and instigators.

#1 The Duchess….
I know, Right?
The most patient woman in America.
My trophy wife.
Listen, you already know mosta the standard stuff about her. How I fell in love with her at first sight. But still took me several years to sell her over to the dark side.
How I made the worst first impression in the history of man.How I bought her pearls for our Christmas, on lay away.
How she took 53 shoes, indexxed for inflation, on our honeymoon. How she gets herself pregnant every three years, or, at least she did until we discovered Netflix.
How we didnt have a tv for the first seven years we were married, and only bought it to watch Breakfast at Tiffanys. Which we rarely ever watch.
But we both sorta liked it. He said….
For neigh on twenty years we have been joined in the fight, pulling each other into our respective art. I’ll never forget the time, 5-6 years ago, on the rooftop of Sobys, when she introduced me as a writer. I guess I haven’t quite lived up to that yet, but she pulls me into that special dark place weekly.
As I read this claptrap to her over 0dark30 coffee, she sometimes smiles that smile, and those limpid pools light the hells up with that same first glimmer that I fell in love with the first time I saw em. Sometimes she reads some of my tomfoolery on the twitters or facebook and, after a proper pearl clutching, shares her amusement. And she is an artist of no small repute.
Her aqua blues eyes, they often catch a thing. A glimpse into something of a child, bride,or mothers soul. And the feedback from the sometimes crying subject, while looking at proofs, thats the win.
That’s the reason she does that thing she does.
It’s funny how these modern days with everyone on the planet with a phone and camera, you would think that everyone could do their own photo thing.
Its much more the opposite, as more people see their own shortcomings in their art, they want the work of a pro.
Kinda like the interwebs have actually caused more people to become interest in reading and news.
And story.
And interested in writing, too, both their own and others. Story.telling. Her style, or mine.
Here are some things you should prolly know about her. In no particular order….
1. she was smitten with a little place on st.kitts which sold fried pies and fancy loafs. both things sound much better than they taste.
2.she likes to drink rasberry lambic.actually, any lambic.
3.she likes a good foot rub, but not a toe scratching. the kids are completely opposite of that.
4. she had a dog named muffin as a girl.
5.her middle name, Elizabeth, is the middle name of the first born girl in her family as far back as they have records.
6.her prejudice about indoor swimming pools is correct- they suck. gimmie outdoor pools or nothing. I dunno if ever told her she was right, but she is.
7.she loves thehttp://photojojo.com/ site. I think its cool, but dont really understand the stuff on it.
8.she likes her pancakes thin style, with crisp,buttery edges. Not bannocks. ftr.I only know how to make bannocks.
9.she doesn’t like her steaks too sweet- salt,pepper,garlic is prolly enough to suit.
10.she cheats at Monopoly.
11.she doesn’t like scary movies. actually, none of us do.
12.she used to swim on her neighborhood swim team. our neighborhood doesn’t have one, and we are poorer for it.
13.she likes her mochas cold,not hot.
14.she is an excellent apples to apples player.
15. she cheats at card games requiring partners, complicated discards, and long play times.
16. she is a very loyal friend.
17.she’s disproportionately forgiving of my tomfoolery.
18.she likes fresh flowers around the kitchen, and fresh herbs in her omelettes.
19.she does NOT snore. that’s prolly the beagle doing the log sawing.
20.she is a pretty good driver, what with that race track next to her damn office.
21. her nav skills are shocking. I still think she comes from a witness protection family of something, as her directions around her ‘home town’are nothing less than SKETCH!
22.she can complete my sentences accurately and also most thoughts. thats kinda unnerving, jsyk.
23. she would make a great travel photographer.
24.she is the best wife, mother, and friend any man can ask for, and certainly better than I deserve.
The inciting incident of #1? she said yes, 18 short years ago. and never once asked me to give up my insane dream to change the world, by telling authentic stories for awesome clients via intimate and unexpected things. That, and she knows exactly what I mean by ‘inciting incident’, she gets me on level no one else can.
The. Blaze-

ya ever have those moments where you meet a random stranger, praps in a bar, or on the twitters, and ya just sorta connect?
like the single serving friend that jack and tyler discuss, the first time they meet in fightclub.
——-warning–don’t make me rough out the scene for ya, just rewatch that damn movie, or better yet, read the damn book. it’s required reading for this space. —–
but… those rare moments where you meet someone who you think you may have known for years?
like long lost family?
like a long lost brother?
those are rarer yet.
strangely, that rare thing is happening here, with #23.
after praps two dozen hours and a handfulla meetings, I’ve found my soul brother.
and I knew it the first moment we met. it’s odd, being an only child, not really understanding brotherhood.
my only child upbringing has tons of headtrash—
so it bugs the everloving hells outta me to hear my two rapscallions, hk-14 & jct-11, constantly harp at each other over NOTHING.
‘he’s touching me!’
‘he’s eyeballing me!’
and the ever popular ‘he’s breathing too loudly!’
but sometimes, when the chips are down (and their old man has them on the ropes, typically in chess, stratego, monopoly, explosives, apples to apples, any damn sport involving feats of sheer strength or endurance, or my personal favorite…..axis & allies) they put all that harping bullshit aside and band together.
like I imagine brothers would.
then they whip my carcass.
so, it’s through that lens that I look at today’s eye opening meeting that inspired this post.but every damn meeting with him inspires a post.
as an only child, I am sure I woulda been a real lousy brother, but fate has thrown me a little brother who stretches me every damn time we talk.
he’s a renaissance man, who also has an understanding and passion for hip hop music; to some who know us both, he seems unlikely match for me.
for some unexplainable reason, he gets what I am saying; and is typically two steps ahead of what I am thinking. think I would prolly loose my ass in a chess game to him, but I might could hold my own in a lively game of two on two hoops.
or, it might be like charlie murphy and prince.
he shared his BHAG- big, hairy, audacious goal with me today-it totally blew me away today. although I am sworn to secrecy, just lemme say, for the record…..
its pretty damn skippy.
worse, for those foolish corporateassclowns who do not see it coming, he’s already 7/8 of the way done building the perfect beast.
dunno how or if we can helps him with the final bits, but I was inspired as all hells to wanna help him unleash it. cause its a game changer. check out my little bro on the twitters, if ya likes that channel, as @johntblaze.
he’s instigator #23, and he inspires me to dream bigger dreams. praps he will inspire you, too.
dunno if you have a bhag, but I hopes its a fraction as good as his.
ps-I hate that he and I have never been able to team up on some poor sockwearing sommbeech on the axis & allies board, but I bet we could take anyone but Rommel and Patton to.the.mat.

Several, several years ago, I remember the worst ‘sales meeting’ I had ever attended.

I can still hear the buzzsaws.

It was like dental work, done with buzzsaws. This new company was rife with buzzsaws, still is. But still profitable, so there’s that.

I guess.

Our little mom & pop print shop had been recently bought out by some corporate raider types, so I really had no feel for what they were intending.

And our first sales meeting really opened my eyes up, but wide. When asked what kinda things we were working on, somehow I drew the short straw to go first.

As luck would have it, I started talking about my challenges.

Not sales things, but people things. I like people more than dollar volume, reason #149 I will never be rich.

LMC was on my mind that day,so I started talking about her- now our #instigator, lmc, #11.

Then, she was a girl, looking for work.

She was about to leave her newly downsized position of the past 7-10 years, and was looking for the next big thing. ‘Anyone know of the right place for such a cool girl?’ I asked, walking into the buzzsaw, blindly.

I’ll never forget the derisive sneer the new boss gave me, and said, this is a SALES MEETING, not a job board. No, he couldn’t give less of a shit about her, or her leaving, or her search for a new gig. That kinda typified his whole thing, ‘whats in it for me?’ kinda attitude. He couldn’t see it, praps because he didn’t know her, praps because he was a jerk. Ok, jerk is strong, he really was the best boss I ever had, he just didn’t love our clients as I would wanna love our clients.

He couldn’t, he had lost too many clients to love them. Burned bridges with them damn buzzsaws.

And its working for him.

Not.me. I thought she needed help, and someone in our meeting prolly knew of a place that needed her. I had no idea what was next.

But I knew something. I KNEW she was destined to change my life. I knew there was a thread, I hadn’t quite found it yet, but it was clear there was something pulling me to her, along on her path. I thought I was destined to help HER, kinda like a lost kitten.

How little I knew the mysteries of this planet. The more I am here the less I realize I know.

She landed on her feet at an even better place, and I think I kinda talked her into buying a minicooper, and she slowly started to change MY life. She was kinda my life guru as the buyout became clearer and clearer.

The ‘Greed is good’, client churn is expected and acceptable, ‘whats in it for me?’ kinda attitude. Started sucking my soul. It pervaded the entire shop, like a poison. But lmc was always there, cheerful and upbeat. And always sharing, ideas, books, dreams, stories, lunch.

Whatever she had, she shared.

And one day, one rainy and fateful day several years later, she called me to an intervention at Blockhouse. One of the few places ya can (or, at least, could) get a medium rare burger in our little town, blockhouse was down the street from her old office. She showed up with dramapatty, serek-#11.1, glumgary, smokingpat also, praps.

Not cause she’s hot, cause she smokes. Anyway, Pats pretty quiet, so she MIGHT not have been there.

But they were a small group intent on pulling me into a new space. Into a new world.

‘You are wasted on print, we want you to get into trinkets and trash.’

I was stunned. I hated both trinkets AND trash, sure as hells hated the term and the industry. Still do. But, oddly, it was not the first time it had crossed my mind; as I love toys and the creative side of what they COULD do, I just found it repulsive.

Sleazy, if only because the only people I knew who did it, although wealthy, were the worst interruption marketers.on.the.planet.

Sale sale sale, free shipping discount act now!!!!! carnivale barkers.

Still remember that meeting, as if it were just yesterday.

‘You are wasted on print. Come do this, this thing you loathe. It’ll be ok, it will be different for you. You will not be one of them.’

Somehow, she knew that I could swim with the sharks, the kooziemongerguys. And NOT become one of them. Gladhanding each other on the countryclub golf course. You know the drill, the overly fellowshipy type…’Hey, how you?!’

They make me gag.

She makes me snort laugh.

She saw someting, something in this thing I couldn’t.

Her inciting incident? Calling me out to practice my art, even though I did not see it in front of me. Thanks for that, lmc, #11, you were first to market on this project, you saw something, something that never existed before. Something larger than me.

She saw this club.

This tribe.

She saw you.

Before I could.

Stop what you are doing, stat, and check her out! She’ll make ya snort laugh– if you like that kinda thing. @LisaMarieCo on the twitters. If she says jump, or reach, or step out of the boat, trust her. She sees bigger things than you do.


Who embodies his art?

Who loves and lives his art?

Our instigator  #81 Notable insurrectionist….Derek Wetter.

This man- this wiley, spiffy, elegant little fireball & a skating fool of a man inspires me, inspires us, and puts our madness into some semblance of reality.

Muffin, as some of us calls him around the office, is a madman. And I mean that in the best possible way.


Prolly known him for five or six years, and I always walk away shaking my head, stunned; I have often said that I hope my kids grow up to be like him (NOT me!), as he isn’t a sell out or a shill.

He’s a damn artist.

And the excitement he exudes in his art is INFECTIOUS! His inciting incident was prolly when he got that tattoo on his wrist. I encourage you to ask him about it, watch him blush in that boyish way. It will keep him a boy forever, like a mobile version of Dorian Gray.

Never aging.

Never slowing.

He may play it straight, but trust me, he is the party magnet. He is Peter Pan. He is Tom Hanks in the movie Big- he is a grown up kid, having more fun than a body has a right to.

And I wish that for you and your kids, totally immersed in whatever your art is. Dunno what the next 5 years are gonna look like, but with this one, I bet they will be some kinda fun ass badassery. He inspires me every time we talk.


Oh, and every time I make the call on anything artwork related, I am wrong, he is correct. I am batting 0.00. and that’s a good thing, as his gut is always better than my highly untrained eye. He gets this thing, this is where the rubber hits the road.

And he makes it happen.


#74 jct
Jake,aka wolf boy.
Campbell- after his grand uncle, who was lost at sea serving on the uss Indianapolis in wwii. heard of it? I kinda doubt it, it was shrowded in controversy.
pacific area, prolly sharks, subs, or drowned.
nothing as lonely as a death at sea-watching your ship and shipmates go down in flames.
I can not imagine what that last hour of his life was like, but he died doing that thing I support- praps too vigorously- keeping the sea lanes open and safe;
even in the face of people who don’t want that.
freedom of the seas is one of man’s greatest accomplishments.
civilized man, anyway.
left to the unrestrained devices of the uncivilized, our beaches would be overrun with rogue pirates.
see indonesia.
most of the worlds population is within 75 miles of a waterfront. want the whole world to suffer? let piracy reign.
I hope our jake will help us in our battle.
todd- from a charismatic, yet also ‘feet of clay’ preacher we had. again, the struggle of my faith, of wanting a man to lead me, needing some sorta savior. some sorta salvation. ya cant find it in a man. leadership? yes. servant? yes. savior? no. thats too big a job for any mortal.
our Todd had allowed his church to NEARLY become a cult of personality.not maliciously, I don’t think, just kinda frog in a pot, eventually, he outgrew himself.or us. anyway, I was inspired by him, enough to name a son after him, as his struggle is our,my, struggle- keeping grounded, even when riding a super high or suffering through a devastatingly low.
popkin- cause that was my old man, and his, and his, once he got offa that boat from Russia and made it through Ellis Island.
1911 ish. it’s our Americanized version of a name and it’s good enough for me.
I don’t care about the Russian version so much. Popov-ish, I expect. that’s not us, that was there, then. we are here,in the room.
on the floor.
yep, often we are on the floor.
isyn-on the floor.
pants on the ground? no. just popkin. on the floor.
that was the inciting incident of jctp- he put me on the floor.
true story–we were  headed to date night, just me and duchess, no.kids!
I know, right?! doesnt happen enough!
they were being picked up by me mum for an overnight. and as I was trying to shuttle them out the door, I got a little frustrated. just could not get all thee of them out the door quickly enough.

can ya hear me?!
‘go on, git!’
you know the drill, holding door open as two leave but one returns. over and over. finally, after about a dozen cycles of in-out-in-out I said….
‘JAKE, get in the DAMN CAR!’
he deadpans, looks right at me and says…..
‘dont say damn,ok?’
in such a funny flat serious delivery I fell over laughing.
like, laughed so hard I passed out on the ground.
on the floor. passed out laughing.
only to wake up to a buncha faces surrounding me, looking down at me. wondering if I was ok.
all good. I had laughed so hard, for so long, apparently I had just run out of oxygen. and I was out for several minutes, so say the spectators. I don’t remember THAT part, but I do remember the laughing party, and the being told……
‘don’t say damn.ok?’
he was six,btw.
it was a week before my fortieth birthday- the surprise partay duchess threw where everyone came dressed as me.
good times!
since that laughing fit, jctp has cracked me up an infinity of other times, more than anyone else on the planet. dunno why he can slay me so, but he does, there it is. recently, he has been working on his natural negotiating skills.
honing them to a razor’s edge.
this football season, I asked if I could embroider our bomb logo on his PRACTICE jersey. a black bomb, on a dark blue practice jersey. not the usual hot pink or lime green. BLACK. on a dark blue background. not a GAME jersey. practice.I get nothing from it, and he is undamaged by this sponsorship. imho. first day he wears it, we are picking up a few pizzas for dinner, and he asks about the sponsorship deal.
I slip him a fresh twenty, per our gentlemen’s agreement..
‘so we are gonna do this every week, right? pizza and a twenty?’
he’s #74, as he wore the jersey of #74, and he is a super smart, hard working, diligent, fun loving kid.
in a few days we head out for a week of camp, in the mtns on north carolina. at a place founded by our distant uncles, three Popkin brothers, who came back from the war, horrified at man’s inhumanity. a place for children to play, not be warehoused, gassed, and cremated. a place for a kid to be a kid.
I never went to ‘camp’ as a kid, but we sure as all hells did some camping. so I never understood the whole ‘camp dynamic’.
my loss.
I went for the first time last year- totally loved it; and I look forward to this year even more. a week with my two boys. #004 & #74, doing the church camp, not our church, not our camp. but together. thats enough for us.
and I helped name him.
not sure that I have had any other good influence on him, but I did help with the name.
its not much, but it’s enough.
for now.
he’s great, I hope ya get to know him before he gets too cool for the rest of us.

jacob- after the biblical jacob, as I want him to struggle with his faith as much as I have. I don’t want him falling into my nuttiness as a default- ‘stay up all night and scrap with God, then you MIGHT get a better understanding of it.’ is what I tell him.