Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Whose side are you on?

It's almost Saint Paul Winter Carnival time! Yay!

But in this celebration of all that's cold and slippery, why do they have to use a confrontational slogan on their button?

"Whose side are you on?"

The side of cold or warm -- choose! Can't we have both? Like, maybe, cold in the wintertime and warm in the summertime?

And as a matter of fact, how about we cut down on the number of slogans per button? One is enough. In this case, maybe even zero is enough.

Okay, enough with the whining, I'm going outside.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Can you believe what some idiot did?

My friend Ken Avidor is working on a gigantic project about the post-apocalyptic Twin Cities. It's called "Bicyclopolis" and it is set in the future ruins of our current-day consumer's paradise. To more accurately draw the future destruction, he does research by drawing the suburbs as they are now.

While Avidor's vision and James Howard Kunstler's vision ("The Geography of Nowhere," "The Long Emergency") are not the same, they agree that suburban sprawl is a tragedy. So it makes sense that Avidor would draw art for Kunstler's podcast Web site, kunstlercast.com.

When I saw Ken's KunstlerCast drawing on my iPod, I thought someone had taken Ken's drawing and slapped some ill-considered type on it. And I whined about it to Ken, at his house, in front of a bunch of other people. I said, "Can you believe what someone did to your drawing!" Ken said, "I did that." I said, "Oh." I blustered on. "Well, it should look better. I'd like to take a crack at it." Ken said, laughing, "I'll send you the art."

He sent the art the podcast picture was from. It's also the header for kunstlercast.com. Wading in ever deeper (it's so much easier to rant and rave against people you don't know!), I redid the type on both pieces. He said he liked what I did and he said I should blog it.

Okay, Ken.
Looking at the podcast square, I'm not so sure it's better. The type is smaller and harder to read. But it does look more stylish. And isn't that what design is all about?

As always, click on the picture to make it bigger.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's only toothpicks

Two different boxes of toothpicks. Same brand. Same colors and design. Purchased four or maybe six years apart. They are the same but one is better.

The bottom design -- the more recent version -- is a sad knockoff of the top design. Just look at the way the logo has been haphazardly copied for the second box. And the meaningless squishing of the word "Toothpicks."

Here are all sides of the packages. (Click on images for a larger view.)

The squished type was done so the word "Toothpicks" would fit into the vertical orientation of the display face. One piece of art for vertical and horizontal. (Note the older package has only a horizontal orientation.)

Mystery solved.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eastwood, seriously, again and again

Clint's got a new movie coming out, so we have to have articles about how he's a better actor than everyone thought, and how he's a great director.

I've been an Eastwood fan since "Magnum Force" (which was a crappy movie, but it was Dirty Harry!) so I have read lots of Eastwood articles. Originally the articles were, "Gee, he doesn't have any acting range, but what he does he does well." And then it was, "Oh look, he's trying to direct."

Now? Made it, Ma! Top of the world!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Roundabout symbols

I recall when the roundabout symbol looked more like a recycling symbol -- chasing arrows. The current roundabout symbol is less artistic, but more clear, once you figure out what it's trying to say.

Glass in the bike lane

It's a thing. When there is a traffic collision, glass is dropped on the road. And as cars pass, the glass gets moved to the side of the road. And what is on the side of the road? In some cases, a bike path. What's bad for bike tires? Glass on the road.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

25 years of Harry Shearer

I'm a big fan of Harry Shearer's radio program, "Le Show." It isn't broadcast locally anymore, so I listen to it live, via the Internet, from Santa Monica, California, at noon, central time, on Sunday at kcrw.com. And as a backup, I subscribe to it (for free) at audible.com.

On this week's show Harry announced that he'd been broadcasting for 25 years! Since 1983.


I think he does it for free on his own time. Certainly he uses "Le Show" to highlight his abilities as an impersonator and announcer -- and he probably gets a few jobs via the show. But this is a show he churns out every week -- on his own! Again I say, it's amazing!

(Of course, Shearer is a voice actor in Fox's "The Simpsons," and he was in "This Is Spinal Tap," among other things.)

The "Le Show" show has a number of regular non-fiction features reflecting Shearer's interests. These are all done in Shearer's regular news announcer voice. These include "News from Outside the Bubble" (what everyone outside the United States is concerned about), "The Apologies of the Week" (apologies and near apologies from people in the news), "News of the Warm" (global warming stories), "Tales of Airport Security" (mostly about the ineptness of airport security), "News of Inspectors General" (the U.S. government tattles on itself) and "I'll Read The Trades For You" (usually about events in the news, but from the perspective of specialized trade publications).

Shearer also performs original songs and parody commercials and parody radio programs. In these elaborately-produced sketches he does all of the voices, singing and speaking. And he plays all the instruments for the music. (He has re-recorded a couple albums-worth of songs from the show and they are available for purchase from amazon.com. The albums are promoted with videos at mydamnchannel.com.)

Running through his show is a love for New Orleans, the city and its musicians. And Shearer does not hide his anger about the neglect of New Orleans after Katrina.

My favorite parts of the program are when Shearer breaks out the voices and goes to work with hammer and tongs on the current U.S. president.

His "Hellcats of the White House" series -- featuring Ronald and Nancy Reagan -- is fantastic. I particularly enjoy those because Shearer would regularly toss in obscure references to 40s and 50s Hollywood lore. The "Hellcats" series continued through the presidency of George H.W. Bush as well. That was fine by me.

"ClintonSomething" is his take on the "youthful angst and middle-aged power" of Bill and Hillary Clinton's presidency. The voices continue to be excellent, but I sorta lost interest in the Clintons' antics.

The current Bush administration deserves two regular Shearer treatments. "Dick Cheney, Confidential" is wonderful in its cynicism. There is no one as calculating or pure evil as Shearer's Cheney -- "the nation's first underground vice president." I love every nasty minute of it. President George W. Bush appears in these segments here and there, but it's Cheney's show all the way.

W. is featured more fully in a series of phone calls between "41" and "43" -- that is, conversations between father and son. It's a smart device to have the voices processed slightly to sound as if they are recorded through separate telephone lines. 41 has more of a bass sound where 43 has a tinny sound. It helps the listener keep the two voices straight. But Shearer could -- and has occasionally -- done both voices together and they were easily heard as distinct voices and personalities. Shearer's technical achievement is actually overshadowed by the excellent writing.

Don't know what Shearer has up his sleeve for the Barack Obama years. I'm expecting great things.

Many -- if not most -- of the "Le Show" programs are available for listening at harryshearer.com. Or heck, just tune in next week.

Congratulations on 25 great years, Harry!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Proposed money substitute

I just did a bit of design work for a pal of mine. He's paying me in burritos. I think we just came up with the exchange unit for our new, post-cash economy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Graffiti improves advertisement

Oh heck, graffiti almost always improves advertising. Minor quibble: There's only one real "nickname" in the graffiti. It woulda been funnier if the person had written Bub, Tuck, Snapper, Clubber and Twinkles. [Click on picture to enlarge.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"________ sprawl"

I thought it was "suburban sprawl."

I think that's what it's been called since the '60s. But more and more I'm seeing it called "urban sprawl." Wikipedia redirects searches for "suburban sprawl" to "urban sprawl."

Guess I like the term "suburban sprawl" for two reasons. I like the alliteration and I think suburbs are more sprawly than urban areas.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Nice little drawing

I was looking at the bottom of my camera and I saw a drawing there I hadn't noticed until today. A drawing showing how to load in the four AA batteries. It's really a nice little drawing. It's about 3/8-inch wide (about 9mm).

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ban these phrases

Getting a jump on the year-end lists of phrases that should be banned.

"Well and truly." Use only if you want to sound like a hopeless sci-fi/comic book fanboy. Or has this phrase been banned already?

"Reaching across the aisle." If it's not in reference to grabbing for a box of cornflakes at the supermarket, please don't use this phrase.

"That's three minutes of my life I'll never get back." Usually written in the comment section of a YouTube video. To which I say, is that including the time it took to compose your comment?

[UPDATE: Just one more.] "Damn . . . just damn." and "Wow. . . just wow." I say, just stop.

Brainstorm idea: Probably the best way for me to stop getting worked up about these phrases would be for me to stop reading comments on the Internet.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


The Urban Dictionary definition of kojak parking is: To find a parking spot directly in front of the place you want to go, any time day or night. The way Telly Savalas did in his 1970s TV series, "Kojak."
The way I remember it, my family had a variation on this definition. We defined a kojak as driving right in to a parallel-parking spot without having to back up or adjust your car's position at all. A perfect parking job in one go.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Customize your lawn sign

[Update: These signs are now gone. I suspect it's less a change of heart than neighborhood vandals.]

Two political signs on one house's lawn. Including little owner-added jabs. It's not enough to show support for a candidate -- the competing candidate must also be insulted.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Go gray, Linda Ronstadt

Nice article in the New York Times about Linda Ronstadt. She's 62 years old. And I think it's totally great that she has not gone down the plastic surgery road. Although I think she'd look more comfortable if she let her hair go gray. (Suggested with this amateurish Photoshop job.)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Recycle" the bottle

I'm not convinced that plastic soda pop bottles are recycleable in any useful way. Coca-Cola has recently been making a big pitch for recycling their plastic bottles.

At the Minnesota State Fair there were giant plastic Coke bottles asking to be filled with empty plastic Coke bottles. I suppose so the empties could be made in to more giant plastic recycling/advertising stations.

It's interesting that the Coke recycling triangle has two arrows. They should have used just one arrow. The traditional "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" slogan certainly doesn't apply.

I've been complaining about this since the turn of the century.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Where is last week's City Pages?

Last week, before the big convention, I was looking around for a copy of City Pages, the local weekly free paper, published on Wednesdays. I wanted a copy because in this issue is a swell comic by Zander Cannon.

There are a number of boxes around downtown St. Paul that usually have plenty of papers. The boxes were empty. Last night, after the convention was over, I spotted a City Pages box that was chock-full of the Aug. 27 edition -- hey, that's from last week.

I didn't miss last week's paper after all!

Is so. Is not.

Just to set the record straight.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's a first

Sure, the Science Museum of Minnesota has always used the side of its building to advertise. To advertise its own shows, that is. But this is the first time they've used the space to advertise someone else's product. (Yeah, they like to stretch out the change, so there are a few days of confusion as the poster gradually changes from one to another.)

Here's a closer view.

[UPDATE: I guess there's a reason they haven't done this in the past. It's a violation of St. Paul's signage code. The sign was for the benefit of the Rebublican Convention. The Science Museum is saying they thought the Republican National Committee was responsible for getting the proper permits. The ad will be taken down on Monday -- three days after the convention ended.]


Red on the right, blue on the left and red, white and blue in the middle. Must be symbolic of -- something. Look! That big ol' American flag is glowing!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


The new attack book about presidential candidate Barack Obama is titled "The Obama Nation." Say it out loud and it sounds like "The Abomination."

It's perfect for use on talk radio.

I'm guessing the author must be, what, 14 years old?

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Pictures of some of the cameras that have recently appeared downtown. Welcome to St. Paul!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Republican-ready redo

That's more like it. Guess they aren't going to go with the mushy, glowy logo after all.

Friday, August 01, 2008


I go by the Xcel Hockey Arena every day. Two days ago I noted they were putting up a big sign on the glass. There was the Republican National Convention dancing-elephant logo, bigger than life! Kinda colorless. Guess they are going with the red=Republican theme.

Yesterday, the sign is a little bit littler. Not sure why the dancing elephant is gone. But I imagine it will be back. Without the elephant and with only the red background and yellowish stars it looks a little bit Soviet-ish.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crop art time of year

Crop art time. Blogging progress at
. If you think watching paint dry is exciting, you may enjoy this.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

New warnings

In an ad for the new movie, "Hellboy II."

In an ad for the new movie, "Momma Mia."

Smoking -- er, I meant to say, tobacco consumption -- takes place in these movies. You have been warned!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Blinky lights

We've got road construction in the neighborhood this summer. I had to take some video of this bunched-together group of warning lights.

One Dam(n) thing after another

Alcohol ads and "damn" -- they just go together.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Your dad was a damn drunk

Tech nostalgia. I don't like these ads, but I like the real-looking edges of the photos with the dates. And the simulated uncorrected fading colors of old snapshots. The headline type and the white background of the ad are also given the faded look. Click on the image to get a closer view.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Type quiz

From the hallway signage in Town Square in downtown St. Paul. This is really great because there's a duplicate of almost every letter in "UBS Plaza" in the rest of the sign. So you can make a thorough comparison.

Question: What two typefaces are used here?

Bonus question: Why are two typefaces used?

Extra-credit question: If inconsistant font usage delighted me on this sign, why does it bug me here?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bang, bang, bang

All five "Dirty Harry" films are now available in a set. With new prints, new documentaries, new interviews, new commentary, also available on BluRay, blah, blah, blah.

The only one worth seeing is the first movie. Sorry, Clint.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

DayGlo -- is back

A couple DayGlo things from last week's mail. A difference: Wired uses Helvetica, Walker uses Akzidenz-Grotesk.

Monday, May 26, 2008

My favorite noodles

First one: Standard. Blocky. A logo that isn't fussy, it just is.

Second one: More sophisticated. An improvement in some ways. Diluting some of the power, but nicely drawn.

Today's logo: A return to the emphasis on the double "t." Some wiggly noodle shapes added. Weak type treatment. Not an improvement.

Tomorrow: A return to the original logo? Why not!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

From three to one

Way back in January I posted about a church sign I liked because it used three closely related fonts. Stencil, typesetting and letter-by-letter sign type.

Well, the sign's design changed. Now it's one font only (Helvetica, rather than the more expected Arial) and it's a big ol' laser print.

Things change.

Nobody Walks! Drive Green!

Two signs on two buses. Double meanings for both.

Nobody Walks! Nobody has to walk -- even people who think they can't afford a car can afford one with our EZ financing. And, nobody but an idiot walks because everyone drives.

Drive Green! Drive a car that is easy on the environment. And, drive a car that is worth a lot of money.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Wholesome life

Wholesome and cool little logo (about a half-inch tall) on the side of a Pocky chocolate cream- covered biscuit-sticks box.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A few more stickers

I like the add-your-own-eyes Mickey Mouse.