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.