Archive for April, 2012

Discontinued Product Memory Lane: The Narcissist Mirror

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Back in the days when the Guild made jewelry, it was a natural transition to making small pocket mirrors.  We made a few of them, including the Narcissist Mirror.

This lovely compact featured two mirrors on the inside, and the definition of narcissism on the outside.

Naturally this is a tricky gift item unless your narcissistic friend has an especially well-developed sense of humor.  And it’s the kind of thing you’re not going to buy for yourself.  So it’s been discontinued.

Asparagus Season

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

It’s officially asparagus season, which means that Central Europe is going batty for the stalky, crunchy, vaguely-phallic vegetable.

White, purple, or green, foodies and Central Europeans will be devouring asparagi in excessive amounts in a vegi-bacchanalia over the next few weeks.

(Trust us. This author has happened to have been in both Switzerland and Germany during asparagus season, and they go pretty nuts.)

There’s actually an asparagus route through Germany for real die-hards to take an aspara-pilgrimage.

We like asparagus as much as anybody, but the Europeans tend to fetishize it a bit too much according to our tastes.  The French call the points “love tips” (points d’amour).  The city of Schwetzingen in Germany crowns an Asparagus Queen each year.  Really guys.

The Ivory Tower at the Diamond Hallmark, 51st and Madison

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

We’ve created a new display called the Ivory Tower that stores can use to show off our fine products. Last Wednesday, Diamond Hallmark, on 51st and Madison in NYC, became the proud owners of a new Ivory Tower. Here we are setting it up for them.

The tower base and shelves.

NYC sales rep Rusty Barnes assembles the tower.

The tower assembled. Customers can mix and match which types of display shelves they want depending on which of our products they sell.

The tower, bedecked!

The Ivory Tower has FOUR SIDES! Here are the other two.

You too can point at this tower. Go to the Hallmark store on 51st and Madison in New York City to point at it today!

A Haunting in Texas

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

UPGistas Ramona Floyd and Mickey Ryan were traveling through Ramona’s home state of Texas and stopped by the Steamboat House in Huntsville, where the great Sam Houston died, alone and despised, after having been deposed due to his opposition to Succession.  The museum was unfortunately closed, but they were able to look through the window into the room where Houston breathed his last.

Ramona took two pictures.  When she returned home and looked at them, she had quite a shock.

The first picture clearly shows the bed where the Texas Senator and Governor died.

The second photo, however, appears to show an apparition!  Who is this ghostly entity?  Was Sam Houston haunting Ramona, the descendant of Texans who shunned him late in life?

a close up of the ghost

Ramona spent some time examining the photograph.  She was forced to confront long-dormant thoughts about life after death.  Did this image prove in fact that there is another world beyond this one and that communication with that world is possible?  And who was this spirit and was it trying to communicate with her?  If so, what did it want?

After a while Ramona realized that Mickey, who was standing next to her when she took the photo, had been wearing a UPG Gogol t-shirt.

Product Design Mishaps

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Here at the Philosophers Guild, we’re always in some stage of product development.  There are always new puppets, dolls, cards, sticky notes, mints, watches, and other products in the works.

After a product is designed, we receive a sample from the factory, and sometimes have to go through several samples to get the product just right.

Sometimes the sample is perfect from the start, especially for an existing product line.  Our manufacturers are great, and our designers have become adept at communicating with them well to bring our sketches to three-dimensional life.

But every once in a while, the disconnect between what we have designed and what we get is so great that we’re not quite sure how to fix it without starting over.

The image below, recently received from our factory, is such an example.  Who do you think this might be?

That’s right, it’s a prototype of a Bob Marley finger puppet.  Notice the dreadlocks, the dark skin, the guitar.  Oh, wait, he doesn’t have any of those things, does he?  Back to the drawing board.

The Life of Marie Curie

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Someone made a video about the life of Marie Curie starring our finger puppet!

We would have appreciated a credit but we’re happy to see her get work nonetheless.  Who will be our next scientist puppet to start in a bio pic?  Newton?  Tesla?

New t-shirts from UPG!

Monday, April 9th, 2012

We are thrilled to announce three new t-shirts from UPG, now for sale!


(maybe we’ll have a line of these someday, including Karp Marx, Ludwig Fishgenstein, and Saltwater Benjamin)

(the original Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo)

UPG Guestpert: Jay Stern and the Iron Mule

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

This months’ Guestpert is Jay Stern, the co-founder and co-host of the Iron Mule Short Comedy film festival, which is celebrating 10 years of monthly screenings in NYC this month.

Jay Stern (who is also the author of this blog) sat down with Jay Stern to ask himself a few questions about the Iron Mule and short comedy films in general.

UPG: What is the Iron Mule?

Jay: The Iron Mule short comedy film festival is the greatest unknown film festival in the world, screening monthly since April, 2002 in NYC.

UPG: Why comedy?

Jay: The festival started when my co-founder Victor Varnado and I were working at a comedy improv theater company, so comedy was a good fit, but we’ve been impressed with what a wide range of films we get which still qualify as comedy.  Comedy can be subversive, satirical, and also very powerful.  Since it’s underappreciated in the “legitimate” festival circuit, we’re happy to provide a place that celebrates this art form.

Victor Varnado and Jay Stern at the Iron Mule. Photo by Tom Henning.

UPG: What would you say makes a great short comedy film?

Jay: Documentaries, experimental films, animations, TV pilots, web videos, narrative films, autobiographies, mockumentaries, silent films – pretty much any genre or style can make a good comedy.  Generally a short film should work the way a short story does.  You shouldn’t try to cram a novel into 10 pages or a feature film into 10 minutes.  Our best films have a simple idea, they explore and heighten that idea as much as they can, and then they’re over.

And Shakespeare was 100% right when he wrote that brevity is the soul of wit. Keep it short.

UPG: Have you screened movies by or featuring famous comedians?

Jay: We have shown several movies by people you have heard of – some before they were famous, some after.  But we’re not into name dropping.  We’re happier with a good short comedy made by an unknown college student than a just OK one made by a comedy professional.  Unlike many film festivals, fame does not grant an automatic entry to the Iron Mule.  You have to crack up our audience.

UPG: A big part of your festival is your focus on building a community.  Can you elaborate on that?

Jay: Victor and I wanted to create a collaborative, open home where we could show our work and share it with like-minded people. Many people who met at our festival have gone on to work together, and we even have our first Iron Mule baby, born to a couple who met at our festival.

The mix of filmmakers, comedy professionals and “real” people makes for really fun after-parties.  I’ll never forget the time an audience member who worked at the Federal Reserve Bank tried to explain to a comedian exactly what the Federal Reserve does.  Sometimes the comedy continues after the show.

And there’s something really great about a LIVE audience watching comedy that filmmakers don’t always experience.  A movie can be seen by millions of people online and that’s just a number, but it’s great to share it with real laughing people — which us much more fun than watching it home alone on a monitor.

But there’s not just us — there’s a surprisingly robust micro cinema culture out there.  Events like the Iron Mule are becoming more popular across the country.  Our home, 92YTribeca, hosts all sorts of screenings featuring local filmmakers and discussions.  It’s so fun watching a movie in a non-cineplex setting with the filmmaker right there.  So go out there and support your local screening room!

Jay and Victor at 92YTribeca. Photo by Craig Swinson.

UPG: Final question: As the author of this blog, is this just your way of drumming up publicity for your film festival?

Jay: Good question. Since there has already been a big crossover between the UPG and Iron Mule communities, I’m convinced there are other UPG fans who make movies out there.  We’d love to hear about your micro cinema…

Anyway, I’m writing this blog so you can’t stop me.

The Iron Mule Short Comedy Film Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a series of screenings this April at 92YTribeca in New York City.


Today in UPG History: the Salem Witch Trials

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Any business owner will tell you that timing is everything, whether you’re introducing disappearing mugs to uneducated peasants in the Dark Ages or selling finger puppets door-to-door in Salem, Massachusetts in 1691. Though this sales model was later outmoded by the Internet, it was not before the unfortunate discovery of one of our sample finger puppets in the house of Giles Corey on this day in 1692. We deeply regret the misunderstanding. And the trial. And the unfortunate sentences. Never again, right?