Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The colors of money

A bank named Canada Trust has named its automated teller machines, "Green Machine." The Green Machine logo is half-clever. It's a dollar sign (same in the U.S. and Canada) that is mutated into a letter "g." This is then used in the confusing manner of an initial cap. So you can read it Green Gmachine or Reen Machine or -- with some effort -- Green Machine.

$reen $machine
That's all fine. But beyond the design is the name itself. The "Green" in the name probably refers to money. In the U.S. paper money bills are called "greenbacks" -- because the U.S. paper currency is mostly green. But in Canada, unless the bank is simply saying "This ATM is painted green," Green Machine is not appropriate because paper money here is not primarily green. Yes, the $20CAN is green, but the other bills are not green in the slightest.

Canadian dollars.

You could argue that most of the bills dispensed from the Green Machine ATMs are green $20CAN bills, but a great deal of red $50CAN bills are also dispensed. 

Red and Green Machine?

On an unrelated tangent, the $20CAN and $50CAN bills are printed on plastic. They have clear stripe areas with hologram stuff going on in the stripes. Kinda fun. And I must say that I've grown fond of the $1CAN and $2CAN coins. They are very handy.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mystery book cover

I was in a college book store just snooping around as my wife looked for reference books.

My eye was caught by a bookshelf full of orange, white and black book covers.

It was the somewhat familiar Penguin Books look -- not really used in the United States. The shelf looked something like this:

Mock-up of books on display.
At first glance, I thought it was some kind of play on the equals (=) symbol. A gay-lesbian-transgender studies thing -- this being a college book store and all.

On closer examination, I realised the black bars were not of equal width and it dawned on me the title and author had been blocked out for some reason. 

Scan of the book cover.
I was compelled to pick up the book and look at the spine to see what it was. It was George Orwell's "1984" -- or as it says on the spine, "Nineteen Eighty-Four." 

What a fantastic design! A book without the title or the author on the cover! But it makes sense to do that for an edition of "1984."

Even though I do not need a copy of "1984," I spent $13 Canadian on this edition. I was so taken by it. 

The best part about the story is: 

After I got home and more closely examined the book cover I noticed the cover was embossed. The logo and the penguin on the bottom are embossed, and … 

Embossed. Nice.


The title and author are indeed on the cover of the book. And they are blocked out. And they are still semi-readable. 

What a fantastic design!

The title and author are there. Click for larger.
I guess this book cover is a tribute/homage to the original Penguin Books covers of the past. I'm not familiar with those book covers, I'm pretty sure they were used in Great Britain only, but in searching around the Internet, I found many representations of the old design. This "1984" cover certainly pays tribute to that design.

Picture stolen from the Internet.
And in searching the Internet for articles about this particular book cover, I found a nice article on the designer, David Pearson. This book is part of a series of reissues of George Orwell's books.

Incidentally, here -- from an Ebay auction -- is a photo of a 1955 Penguin edition of "1984."

No black bars on this one. From Ebay.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

And or plus

I just noticed that the A&E channel-- home to "Duck Dynasty" and "Bates Hotel" -- updated their logo. I liked the original logo, but thought the slanty edge of the E was taking symmetrical a little too far.
The new logo is tidied up and tighter than ever -- it got rid of the serifs on the ampersand and chopped off extraneous bits. The ampersand is now an equal to the A and the E. I like it.
I admit I didn't notice the new logo until I saw an even newer version floating around. A&E spelled A+E. The same, but different. This logo is for all the A+E networks. That includes A&E, Lifetime, Bio and the History channel.
Perhaps the new A&/+E logo is taking cues (the + and the colors) from Google Plus?
Is "+" the new "&"?

This post is sorta related to an earlier rumination about the updated name for the SciFi channel.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Steve Jobs in the movies

Steve Jobs was a character.

Snotty. Smart. Bull-headed. Know-it-all.

Movies love that kind of person as a villain.

Spoiler Alert.

I was reminded of what a great villain Steve Jobs could be while watching the new animated movie, "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2."

Didn't like the movie much. But it's probably my fault because I haven't seen the original "Cloudy," so I have no idea who all the beloved recurring characters are. I will admit that "Cloudy 2" has some good jokes, but on the whole, I didn't like it.

The main character -- Flint Lockwood -- is an inventor who idolizes an established inventor -- Chester V.

Chester V. is a charismatic cult leader who happens to run a big company of worshipful inventors. Chester is always smiling, always spouting catchphrases and he moves gracefully. His hands are often pressed together in a prayerful pose. He glides around as if he's actually floating. He's otherworldly. The animators did a great job with his moves.

He's a total Steve Jobs character.

Turns out he's a villain!

Flint Lockwood's dreams are crushed!

Anyway, Chester rallies the employees like Steve Jobs did and he behaves like I would think Steve Jobs behaved, but his face looks like Walt Mossberg. Which is -- interesting because Mossberg, though his tech and computer writings at the Wall Street Journal, has long been a supporter of Steve Jobs' computer company, Apple.

I have to say that I like the way Chester V is designed.

I'm only guessing, but perhaps this movie was in the works when the real Steve Jobs died. And the makers decided to keep the character but change the look. The original "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" movie came out in 2009. Jobs died in 2011.

Back when Jobs was alive, another movie used him as a prototype. The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, "The 6th Day" is about clones in the near future. I actually really enjoyed the wacky future tech in this movie. The helicopters and cars are a lot of fun. The respawning bad guys are frightening and funny.

The big, evil cloning corporation is run by Michael Drucker, played by Tony Goldwyn. A Steve Jobs character. But since Jobs was still alive and kicking when the film was made, the filmmakers decided to make him look like Steve Jobs. The character is a terrible, awful person. It's a fun movie.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

7-up cans

The one on the left is the 7-up can used in the United States. On the right, the Canadian version. (I think the rest of the world uses the design on the right as well.) 

The U.S. design is holding on to the shadows and highlights that are typical of 2000s design while the other can has flattened and simplified the design. I'm particularly fond of the red dot doing double duty.
Update: In the comments, Mark Simonson calls my attention to an article on the new 7-up design and expresses a preference for the 1977 version of the can.

This sent me on a Google search that turned up an even more extensive history of the 7-up cans -- plus histories of Pepsi, Coke, Dr. Pepper and more.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Radio drama lives

I enjoy "old time" radio programs. In the 1990s, a big band music radio station -- KLBB AM1400 -- played an hour of radio drama every weeknight at 9 p.m. "Fibber McGee and Molly," "The Jack Benny Program," "The Shadow," "The Third Man," "Lum and Abner," "Lights Out," "The Black Museum," "The Whistler," "The Lone Ranger," and "The Burns and Allen Show." It was a wonderful way to wind down the day.

And there are many podcasts and downloadables of old radio shows available on the Internet.

But I wanted to pay tribute to modern-day podcasters who manufactured their own hour of original radio drama.

In episode #133, on April Fools Day 2013, of "The Incomperable" podcast, Jason Snell and his merry band of enthusiasts paid loving tribute to radio drama. It's well worth a listen. With sly references to everything from Orson Wells' "War of the Worlds" to "The Shadow" to "Nancy Drew" to "Dr. Who" to embeded show-sponsor advertising to (and this cracked me up to no end) the catch phrase of one of "The Incomparable's" podcast members. (Scott McNulty's "Hello-o-o-o!")

Thank you to "The Incomparable" for bringing back those thrilling days of yesteryear.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cranked up about bicycle postage stamps

Okay, I'm glad the US Postal Service saluted bike riding with this set of stamps released on June 7, 2012. The drawings are nice and the concept of the stages of bike riding is okay . . . but I have quibbles. 

The publicity material reads [with snippy comments by me]: 

"Art director Phil Jordan designed the stamps using illustrations by San Francisco illustrator John Mattos. Each of the four Bicycling (Forever®) stamps features a different kind of bike and cyclist:

". . . a young child learning to ride . . . " [In my opinion, this is the best of the bikes shown here. It has two of the things needed on a regular bike, a chain guard and an upright riding position.]
". . . a commuter pedaling to work . . . " [This is the one that bugged me the most. Why should a commuter need a road-racing bike? This bike has rams-horn handlebars and skinny wheels and the rider is in road-racing clothing. This bike forces the rider into a crouched racing posture that's tough on the back and rotten for keeping an eye on traffic. I'm guessing the saddle bags are partially full of work clothes to be worn after this rider showers upon arriving at work. Commuter bike riding -- to me -- is not a workout and it's not a race. It's transportation. If you're sweating a lot you're doing it wrong. This bike doesn't even have any fenders or lights. Bad for riding in weather or at night.]
". . . a road racer intent on the finish line . . . " [Same bike style and clothing as the "commuter" bike above. Minus the saddle bags and plus the elbow-rest handlebars.]
". . . and an airborne BMX rider." [And what is this? It's the last stamp in the series -- so does it represent the final stage in the evolution of bike riding? Jumping your bike into the air? This belongs at the other end of the stamp series, right after the training wheels. This is 10-year-old kid stuff.]
What would I have wanted on a bicycle stamp? I would have put a regular bike in the middle instead of the road-racing bike shown. Fenders, front and back lights, chain guard, stepthrough frame, upright handlebars. A bike fit for riding in all conditions. And the rider would be in regular clothes, not spandex. I would want the stamp to show that bike riding doesn't always have to be fast, and it doesn't always have to be a competition.
Update: Changed the headline, added the release date of the stamps. Plus, I redrew my alternate stamp to raise the handlebars and put the rider in a more upright posture -- and I added a bell. I also added the picture below of bike commuters in Copenhagen. As always, click for closer view.

Friday, March 29, 2013

I like it! (The new David Bowie album cover.)

The designs, side by side.
The designs, relatively sized.
David Bowie has recently come out with a new album, titled, "The Next Day."

I really like the album cover (designed by Jonathan Barnbrook) -- it takes a very striking vintage Bowie cover and repurposes it. Even down to crossing out the original title.

I see it as a comment on the difference between designing for a 12-inch square record album and the much smaller CD cover / digital download icon.

Fun and funny! Makes me think of work M&Co did in their heyday.

Update: Added the size comparison.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

I don't get it

An editorial cartoon from the Vegreville, Alberta, Observer. I'm not sure I get all the nuances of this Curatolo cartoon. Being a new resident here I don't know all the ins and outs of provincial rivalry. I've heard that Albertans believe other Canadian provinces are slightly miffed because Alberta has lots of jobs and is making money. Alberta makes its money from oil.

I guess the reader is supposed to take the guy talking as an Albertan working on the oilsands. The punchline being that he cares about "green" because money is green. And then the big switcharoo is that he's in the provence of Ontario, not Alberta.

I don't really get the switches. Alberta digs up the stuff and Ontario refines it? Everyone should be happy and shut up because there are jobs at stake? Albertans aren't hypocrites like people in Ontario?

Whatever the deeper meaning of this cartoon, I do enjoy the Jack Davis-esque drawing style.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Magazine rack in a Canadian grocery store

The magazine rack in this grocery store has a couple of "Feature" spots -- with their own holders in front of the regular rack. I would easily expect People magazine to be featured -- with it's cover story on "627 Spring Looks." But Adbusters? With it's "Canada, Tar Sands, Kyoto, etc., #SwaggerNoMore" cover story? I think that's unusual.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Alternate realities

To me, a principal joy of living in a new place is the differences in graphics. Particularly on very familiar brands.
Left: USA version, right: Canada version.
Coca-Cola is such an international powerhouse, I would have thought the United States and Canadian versions of its cans would be the same. And the 12 ounce (355 mL) cans are the same. But the 7.5 ounce (222 mL) mini-cans are a little different. As much as I love the original returnable glass Coke bottle, I find the constant picturing of it on paper cups, aluminum cans and plastic bottles to be . . . tiring and sad. I understand that it's part of their heritage, but since they are never going to go back to returnable bottles, I wish they would stop rubbing it in my face. Also note the calories label on both cans: United States 90 calories. Canada 100 calories. Perhaps calories are calculated differently in the two countries.

Top: USA version, bottom: Canada version.
When I saw the Canadian Kit Kat logo something resonated. Is it the Gill Sans-like font? Probably not. But the red letters on a white background harken back to the original logo. The Canadian one doesn't look as modern as the United States version, but that's okay.

Top: USA version, bottom: Canada version.
The United States and Canada versions really are the same elements -- just tweaked differently on the different packages. I guess the Canada one adds the large script "Holiday Mix," But that't the only major difference. Again there's the variation in the calories notice on the bags. This time the U.S. comes out on the high side. United States: 210 per serving. Canada: 190 per serving.

Update: Thank you, Mark Simonson, for coming up with the Alternate Reality name for an U.S. citizen's experiences in Canada. Really sums it up.

Friday, February 22, 2013


3.5 by 5.5 inch postcard.
Thank you to my friend Doug, who sent me this postcard -- the caption on the back reads:

The chocolate product that sounds as good as it tastes is Hershey-ets, little pieces of candy coated milk chocolate which greet you on the tour at Hershey's Chocolate World, Hershey Foods Corporation's visitor center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Plus these words:

Mike Roberts
Berkeley 94710

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Comments on a newspaper article are often just plain stupid. I mean the comments themselves, not the idea of comments.

How to weed out the stupid?

I first thought having people having to log into their Facebook accounts before commenting was a good idea. Who will make an asinine comment when their real name is displayed? Turns out -- a lot of people. So, while it may make some people behave themselves, there are plenty of people who will not.

Okay. All well and good. I usually don't comment on anything, so the whole logging into Facebook routine doesn't affect me.

But now it does.

I went to read the comments on a story on the St. Paul Pioneer Press website about Walmart building a store where the Cottage Grove drive-in movie theater used to be.

When the comments get too numerous, in the past, I would have to click on a link to see more comments.

But now when I click to see more comments I'm told I have to log into Facebook before I'll be shown those comments.

I have logged into Facebook and it does show me the additional comments. But why should I have to log in to Facebook to just browse additional comments? I'm not going to leave a comment. I'm just reading.

Guess I'll have to get over the guilty pleasure of wading neck-deep into the Pioneer Press comment lagoons.

Update, January 16, 2013: The comments seem to have returned to the way they were. That is, I can read them all without logging into Facebook.