Cards from Mars

‘Phrase of the day’ project helps Alzheimer’s research

Rating things can be overrated.
Imitation is the sincerest form of laziness.
Accept compliments the same way you do insults – lightly.
Inertia is the mother of all sins.
Chances are that one of the above phrases made you smile, or at the very least, think.
As modest as it may sound, that is Hoboken resident Marston Allen’s goal. Allen, known to friends as “Mars,” has set out to help make someone’s day just a little bit brighter through his 72-card deck of epigrams: “Messages from Mars.”
“One of my personal favorites is, ‘It can be beautiful.’ ‘It’ can be anything you want it to be,”said Allen, 53, who has lived in Hoboken since 2004.

“My father was the king of one-liners.” – Mars Allen
Messages from Mars – what Allen refers to as a project with the potential to become a full business – is partly inspired by Allen’s father, Louis, who succumbed to Alzheimer’s in 2000 at the age of 72.
“My father was the king of one-liners,” Allen recalls while laughing. “In some respect, this is an homage to him. It’s a reminder to not over-think life and just smile.”
Allen wrote as many as 200 original phrases for the deck. They were ultimately whittled down to 90, and finally 72 before becoming available last December.
Allen hopes you’ll be able to stroll into a local bookstore or hallmark section of a major retail chain soon and find his cards.
Although initially intended as a project he would share just among friends, the idea behind the deck has expanded with their popularity. You can find “Messages from Mars” at

‘Universal truths’

Allen, whose girlfriend Victoria Todis designed the card deck, lives in Hoboken with his “blended family” of rescue pets: three cats (Stella, Stanley, Maximum) and a dog (Gretel).
He spent over 25 years as a media, sales, and marketing professional, including a time as the president of a New York-based media company.
In May 2012, the Georgetown University graduate decided to launch his own business consultancy, White Hat Consulting.
Despite wearing various hats in his career, Allen has always had an ear for witty proverbs he’s heard throughout his everyday dealings.
“I spent a lot of time in advertising and that was my whole career,” he said. “For the last 10 years [of my career] I was a business development director and my job was to get new clients. Through the course of a day, inevitably something would be said that was clever, moving, or charming. That’s where a lot of these phrases were inspired from. I always kept track of them, and when I ‘semi-retired’ a bunch of people I worked for said, ‘You’re good at this, you should write a book’.”
While Allen hasn’t ruled out a book, he was initially more comfortable with a set of cards people can place on their work desk or countertop and read from every day. The slogan for the cards: Universal truths to live, love, and laugh by.
“Each phrase affects people differently, but if ten in the deck of 72 are able to change your perspective or inspire you, it’s worth it,” said Allen. “I think the next step is distribution and to make the project self-sustaining.”
Allen has sold over 400 decks since December. He currently only sells them online.
He said, speaking of his father, that he loves the fact he was recently able to write a check to the Alzheimer’s Association for $800. 25 percent of the card’s profit is donated to the association.
“My father taught me a lot of life lessons,” Allen says. “The best way to describe him is exuberant. He found humor in everything. He had a way with words and he was a great storyteller. If he ever told a joke, it was long. He would take you on a journey.”
Who knows what the future may hold, but Allen says building on the brand with pre-teen and adult versions of the cards is a definite possibility. Oh, and he may write that book, too.

Steven Rodas can be reached at

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