29 February 2008

[net_life] Found Object: Nobody Really Knows What I Need ...

1400. Is anyone else as tired of this as I am?:

No, not nececelery the mock websites that come up when you mistype a URL (my bestest blogroll exists in mein Kopf), but the tagline that you see all the time:

What you need, when you need it.

How do they figure I need Houses For Rent and Women Seeking Men?

Know what I need? something that realized I meant to type craigslist there, not craigstlist.

I mean, please, people ...

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[teh_funnay] This Blog Is Rated ...


... because there's a big E in that square.

(apologies to the ESRB, of whom this is not a criticism in any way, but just a bit of harmless satire. We kid!)

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28 February 2008

[sf] Oregon's Connection to Pál's 1953 War Of The Worlds

1397. A couple of interesting Oregon-related tidbits I tripped over on the way to completing the last missive:

Byron Haskin, the director, was an Oregonian. He was born in Portland in 1899 and died in 1984. His career was notable in that he collaborated with Pál several times, as well as being a special effects engineer of considerable note (he also directed Robinson Crusoe on Mars, which also repurposed the Martian war-whompers as alien mining-machines in that movie).

Robert Cornthwaite, credited as "Bob Cornthwaite", the actor who portrayed Pacific Tech scientist Dr. Pryor, was not only born in St. Helens (in 1917, died only recently in 2006) was a dependable "learned" type character actor who not only also played a supporting role in Colossus: The Forbin Project as part of the Colossus Programming Office staff but also made a memorable turn in Howard Hawks' The Thing From Another Planet. His first role was a part in Billy Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, at Reed College in 1936. That's right; he was a Reedie.

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[sf] A Field Guide To The Characters In The 1953 Version Of War Of The Worlds

1396. As I'm wont to mention, one of my favorite films of all time is the 1953 George Pál version of War of the Worlds. It was ID4 for the Korean War set (or maybe ID4 was WotW for the Gulf War set; the decision is left as an exercise for the reader).
Aside from those awesome war whompers, the characters were ... and to me, still are ... fascinating to me just as characters. Pál managed to get performances that were stereotypes of 1950's America but, in some ineffable way, nuanced. If they were cartoonish middle-American types, they were cartoonish middle-American types that cast a shadow. You wondered what their backstories were. Also, you wondered who the hell played them.

The credits to this movie were the epitome of the mid-20th Century Hollywood ensemble picture; the actors were arranged in a cascade of names on one single card in the titles, with no connections to which characters they played. And, as it turned out, not all the performances were credited. I just wanted to know who played what and what their character names were for the longest time (aside from the major characters, few if any supporting characters addressed each other by name).

Recently, I found that some gracious individual had posted the final draft – that version presumably operant on the day shooting began – of Barré Lyndon's original screenplay. Using that (which you can view for yourselves here) and IMDB's cast listing, I believe I at last have a pretty good mapping of which character was which, and who played what. Many of these actors had to that point and beyond that point reputations as dependable character actors, reinforcing their everymannish image.

Some of them even worked through the 1960s and 1970s, so chances are, any given reader of this list may well have seen them on American TV. You may see some familiar faces. Also, I take my usual irreverent approach, though it must be added that most of these actors have long since died, so no disrespect is intended.

They divide into two main groups; the residents of Linda Rosa, where the opus opens, and the scientific and military group, defined perforce.

The Citizens of Linda Rosa, California

The setting for the opening act of the 1953 WotW is the fictional California rural town of Linda Rosa, a place near enough to LA that you could day-trip but far enough away that they still had square-dances at the community hall. If we read the narrative correctly, it's near the Puente Hills, which is around 25-35 miles east of Los Angeles, in eastern LA County, near then-rural Orange County. It was at the time far enough out that when General Mann gave an update on the Martians position, he stated that the crisis would come when "they moved on the metropolitan area". In the group that witnessed the falling object outside the theater at the beginning, Pastor Collins remarks that it must be "halfway to Pomona". After finally getting back to Pacific Tech, Dr Forrester remarks that they "walked halfway from Corona".

The center of this circle was the character Sylvia Van Buren, played by a glamourous-but-still-available-at-a-bargain-rate Ann Robinson:

"He knows all about meteors ..."

Sylvia's uncle (and, judging by the relationship they seemed to share and some of her backstory related to Dr. Forrester in the farmhouse when they were on the run, her guardian when she was a younger girl), Pastor Dr. Matthew Collins, a beloved local cleric, was played by Lewis Martin:

White collar = red shirt

Rev. Collins's best line: "If they are more advanced than us, then they should be nearer the Creator for that reason." Appreciating his point of view, the Martians subsequently assist Pastor Collins to get even nearer to the Creator than even they are. Hopefully the Reverend was down with cremation.

One of the first characters we see is a Forest Service fire lookout. Named in the script and the IMDB Cast list as Pine Summit Fire Lookout, he was played by actor Peter Adams:

I thought it was no smoking during fire season? No, I didn't get that memo ...

His azimuth-sighting, not-terribly-bright-looking, card-cheating, somewhat gluttonous but expert-square-dance-calling partner is named in the script and the credits as Fiddler Hawkins. He was played by actor Frank Krieg. Best line: "You fellahs have to figure it out. You're scientists!"

He's playing gin, his friend's playing cribbage. Either way, no full deck.

The rest of the featured Linda Rosans were just as colorful and kind of quaint. They were everything we like to remember about 1950's small-town America; cheerful, a little clueless, opportunistic, but good-hearted folks you wouldn't mind rubbing shoulders with in the diner. They included:

Buck Monahan, played by Ralph Dumke. One of the locals with an entreprenurial streak, he shows up at the meteor the morning after with a shovel, ready to prospect for gold ... or whatever:

Goober Pyle - Accent + A Little Extra Dumb = Linda Rosa's most skilled mechanic

Another good-hearted local who knows a fast buck where one can be made is Alonzo Hogue, played by Paul Birch. The script says he's a local real estate agent; when it's suggested that the locals could put up a few picnic tables for the tourists that are sure to come by and see the meteor, he utters his best line of the film: "No! Then they'd bring thier own lunches!" The man knows curb appeal, anyway:

If I had a pager I'd be so on it right now.

The local All-American Boy archetype is Wash Perry, played here by Bill Phipps, who shows a keen eye for the potential benefits of such an attraction: "It's better than a lion's den or a snake pit ... we won't have to feed it!"

Just wait 'til I tell Reggie and Jughead about this!

The local cheerful non-threatening Mexican, credited in the IMDB cast list as Salvatore but in the script as Salvador, was played by a man of European descent and Canadian birth: Jack Kruschen. Give the man credit; he has range:

I don't know, señor. First I was Anglo, then I was one of those mice in the Speedy Gonzales cartoon, now I'm here.

Salvatore's best line comes when him, Wash Perry, and Alonzo Hogue are about to greet the Martians "Don't fool around with something when you don't know what it is." Pure, sweet wisdom, promptly ignored, with unfortunate consequences for the three, as history shows; better advice would perhaps be "If you can't stand the heat, don't stand in the path of the Heat Ray." Also, "Thing that look like huge, metallic, hissing cobra best stayed away from".

Speaking of that, one of my favorite moments come just before the doomed three fly the white flag at the Martians. Still unsure of what they're doing, Salvatore, very worried, asks Wash Perry "What are we going to say to them?"

After almost-visibly riffling through a few thoughts, what does Wash say? "Welcome to Earth", maybe? Or "We mean you no harm?"

No. He says "Welcome to California". Those danged Calfornians thought they were the center of the universe even then! Anyhow!

The local sheriff was named in the script as Sheriff Bogany, and was played by Walter Sande:

We have got to get us one of these! Are you sure tasers won't be invented for another thirty years?

Whose best line came when observing Dr. Forrester's Geiger counter: "Hey, fellah! What you got in here! It's ticking like a bomb!", suggesting that maybe if they had any explosives to deal with, they called in outside help. You can't be too careful.

Rounding out the charming locals is a character simply identified in IMDB cast list and script as Zippy. He was played by Alvy Moore. While he didn't have any particularly memorable lines or much screen-time, Green Acres fans will recognize him as the ADD-ridden county extension agent, Hank Kimball:

I knew I should have taken that county extension job in Pixley!

The name Zippy seems to fit him somehow. He looks like a Zippy, don't he?

Before we move on to the next half, we have an announcment to make; did anyone lose a contact lens in the theater lobby? We seem to have found it:

Look into my eye. I left the other one at home.

You know, fellah, you don't look so good with those distended veins. Need a doctor? No? Well, alright then.

The Scientists and Military Men

The second main group are The Heroes™. The neat thing about the period between World War II and the Korean War was that if you were a scientist or a military man you were the closest thing America had to royalty.

Scientists were improving our lives daily, they gave us the bomb that saved us from the Japanese and the Germans, and they were going to give us rocket ships to take us into space fueled by atomic reactors that would never run dry. The military gave us honest-to-God, made-in-America heroes who did the right thing without being told what it was. These were good times, and we had tall heroes then.

This group's epicenter was Dr. Clayton Forrester, played, of course, by hunky young up-and-comer Gene Barry:

If we could harness the energy in just one of my stares, we could send that meteor back where it came from.

In this cap, he's wearing his special Clark Kent™ Glasses. These have the power of clouding Sylvia Van Buren to his true identity, despite her being a stone-cold admirer of his, even noting that he was on the cover of Time ("You've got to rate to get that!").

Gene Barry fun fact: He was born with the name Eugene Klass, but changed his last name to Barry in honor of a personal here, John Barrymore, and is said to have quipped when asked about that that he thought "Hollywood has room for at least one Barry more."

A warm military acquaintance of Dr. Forrester's and a major supporting character is Marine Major General Mann, played by Les Tremayne, who gives us a another hint of how important Dr. Forrester is on greeting him: "Clayton Forrester! I haven't seen you since Oak Ridge!"

On the one hand, we're all gonna die. On the other hand, you should see my frequent-flyer miles!

General Mann's most memorable line is the famous "Once they begin to move, no more news comes out of that area," punctuated by a long thoughtful pull on his coffee cup.

Stressful times.

In command of the Marines who are surrounding the Linda Rosa machines (and the closest thing to man-pretty in this film, and therefore wins the award) is Col. Ralph Heffner, played by Vernon Rich:

Marine OCS, Class of '35. Major: skin care.

Dr. Forrester's colleagues from the Pacific Institute of Technology (a polytechnic university somewhere in LA probably meant to stand in for CalTech) seem to also fit into some stereotypes which seem to play off World War II. This fellow, Dr. Pryor, played by Bob Cornthwaite, I think of as "the typical American Scientist":

If only Miss Van Buren had a plunging neckline .... ah, well, back to Science!

While he didn't have any particularly memorable lines, his amusement at the gluttonous behavior of Fiddler Hawkins is fun to watch.

The rest of the memorable scientist characters strike me as European refugees from WWII. As a friend once said to me, the story of the arms and space race of the mid-20th century was the story of the competition between our German rocket scientists and thier German rocket scientists.

Dr Duprey, here on the right, played by Ann Codee, is manifestly from France, whilst Dr Bilderbeck, played here by Sandro Giglio, is obviously a German immigrant. As seen in this screen-capture, the two characters are evidently close friends who go a way back (during the attack on LA, Forrester finds them both taking shelter in a church; Bilderbeck credits Duprey with saving his life when the mob got one of the Pacific Tech trucks:

For the last time, darling, you're not Rick, and I'm not Ilsa. Anyone seen a Rite-Aid around here?

My favorite Dupray line comes when examining the Martian blood sample: "I have never seen blood crystals as anemic as these. They may be mental giants ... but, physically ... they're quite primitive!" The other European import was Dr Gratzman, played by Ivan Lebedeff:

I know what you did last summer. Your wave function's collapsed, you see.

His best line: "If you want samples you can get all you want after they drop the bomb!"

That rounds out the characters that I can't get out of my head. In closing, let me remind everyone that this kind of defense is useless against that kind of power. Oh, and before we close, let's remember one very imporant uncredited character; an early role for Zsa Zsa Gabor:

A time to worry.

It went uncredited for obvious reasons.

And let us also leave you with the following:



27 February 2008

[pdx] Time Lapse: Fading Alpenglow From Mt Hood

1395. Wy'east at sunset, two days ago (same time as when I took the St Helens sunset sequence:

The way to enjoy this is to watch the peak itself. The fadeout from alpenglow to purple twilight is gradual, but it's there.

I used an articlulated minature tripod to capture this sequence. Next time we'll use the big one, much more stable.

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[lolz] One Dog Night In Portland

1394. Seen on SE 82nd Avenue, last night:

Yep. Them ladies sure do like the vans. Um hm.

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[or_politik] Congratulations, Arlington

1393. For courageously holding a recall election that turned back the tide of hot, hardbodied MILFs looking to run your city, thus scoring the blue ribbon prize for "Biggest Waste Of Municipal Governing Time in Oregon", and making yourselves the butt of political humor in Oregon for at least six months to a year.

Actually, we find out that Arlington is just a simmering mass of civic unrest. Why, that Mayor-woman actually cut two positions at the city golf course!

As usual, everyone's for reducing the cost of municipal services until their sacred cow gets slaughtered.

Then, one flash of unmentionable and it's Katie-bar-the-door time. That's the way it is every danged time ...

Better not tell them about Silverton; they got a crossdresser on the city council down there! That'd make their collective heads asplode.

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[pdx] Mt St Helens at Sunset, With Time Lapse, and one of Mount Hood

1392. This is Mt. St. Helens, a/k/a Loo-Wit, near sunset on a fine February afternoon, from the summit of Rocky Butte – the battlements at Joseph Wood Hill Park, a perfect place for taking many sorts of photos and an even better spot than Council Crest, if you ask us:

About a week or two back, inspired by this production linked from Brittney Gilbert's blog here, I decided I wanted to do a time lapse of either a sunrise or a sunset. Sunset today is what the fates presented us with. And Rocky Butte is a lot more accessable (and it turns out a much better vantage) than Council Crest.

So, equipped with my trusty ViviCam 3705 and a very patient The Wife™, I squeezed off about one shot every thirty seconds between about 16:05 and 16:35 (I guess ... didn't set the camera time, drat it all):

It's not as dramatic as I'd hoped, but it came out much more spectacular than I'd thought it would. What impressed me the most about the video Brittney linked to (which was actually taken by a camera powered by the UC Berkeley from the Lawrence Hall of Science, which was used as exterior shots of the "Colossus Programming Office" in Colossus: The Forbin Project) was the way the clouds did this stately procession across the sky. That was what I'd hoped to catch and I did.

The sequence stopped just as the alpenglow started to be cast on Mount Hood (Wy'east), which was spectacular enough that we had to stop doing the above and get a few snaps of that. Here's one of my favorites that we got today (not as clear as I'd like, but you can only do so much with a ViviCam 3705):

Have I mentioned before how much we love living in Portland?

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26 February 2008

[liff] Oregon: Not One Of Country Music's Favorite Places

1391. At least as far as this map (at the excellent blog Strange Maps) details.

Which maybe proves there is a God. Or something.

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[oregon] Linus Pauling Honored With First Class Stamp

1390. He graduated from what would become OSU in 1922, defined the nature of the chemical bond (garnering the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954), spoke truth to power about war (garnering the Nobel Peace Price in 1962), and rode Vitamin C like a hobby horse (extoling benefits which are still the subject of some debate).

In 2008, he recieved a singular honor; his likeness on a postage stamp, and enters popular immortality:

When I was growing up, one of the people I was told I should admire was Linus Pauling, especially because he was Oregonian and had done so much. I have my doubts about his position on Vitamin C, but the rest of it is awe-inspiring and remains so; his work still forms some of the basis of modern biochemistry. And even though he spent his professional and personal life after OAC in California, He remained an Oregonian at heart to the last; when his wfe Ava (herself his collegiate sweetheart – he born in what we today call Lake Oswego, her in Beavercreek) died he donated their combined papers to OSU; two years after his death, the Linus Pauling Insitute, dedicated to human health, moved from its longtime base in Palo Alto, California to the OSU campus.

He even contributed to the development of the first electric car, the Henney Kilowatt, cited by some as the predecessor to the EV1. He was smarter than anyone likely to be reading this discourse, as a matter of fact.

I personally am excited that someone like this gets the stamp honor. Too few Oregonians do, overall (Tom McCall stamp, anyone? Who's with me?). This stamp is part of a series of four, including Gerti Cory, Edwin Hubble, and John Bardeen. You have to be pretty historic to run with this crew, yo.

More details have been mounted by OSU here.

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25 February 2008

[liff] Starbucks Returns For Regrooving: The Onion Saw It Coming

1389. Noted in passing, over on Neighborhood Notes, that the entire chain of Charbucks Starbucks Coffee will be closing for a few hours on Tuesday night to have some mass employee re-education effort.

That's fine with us, so long as the Schultz Plan involves not roasting the coffee anymore within a few moments of flashing to ash. We have strong stomachs around here, but the last time we had ourselves Starbucks house, our stomachs were actually upset for several hours. And we couldn't finish the coffee.

As usual, The Onion (from whom we nicked the photo illustration) is ahead of the curve.

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[music] Electric Light Orchestra ca. 1980, Upclose and Personal

1387. Here's a treat we stumbled on in reading traffic from the ELO Yahoo! Group, mr_blue_sky.

Bev Bevan, the drummer throughout the band's career, evidently functioned as something of a band historian. Also, having been part of the Brum community of up-and-comers (equally the calibre of the Liverpool lads, though one hears considerably less about them) he was also around for the salad days, including being one of the core members of Roy Wood's famous band Move (the one which gave birth to ELO).

In 1980, at the inflection point after Out Of The Blue and before Discovery he compiled words and images into a published history of the band to that point. The book, with the rather un-preposessing title of The Electric Light Orchestra Story, told the story of those early days through the big time of summer and lighntning (and the great glowing hamburger) from an upclose, personal, and frank (though nuanced) point of view.

Toward the end there's even a section with a brief bio of each member, including what city they lived in and marital status.

The scanned PDF is 178pp, about 118 MB in ZIP archive, and available by clicking this link right here. Credit where due; poster "Trap" at this post in the ELOLand forums.

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24 February 2008

[net_liff] Goodbye, Roger

1386. We recently recieved word here that a YouTube vlogger we enjoyed quite much has unexpectedly and, in an extremely untimely way, met his end.

Update 20:10 25-Feb-08: Straight dope on Roger's last days from his sister Lisa (who verifies that the cause of death was complications from meningitis and pneumonia) mashed up with a tribute from his girl which is sentimental and dead honest and touching to the extreme (if you don't fight back a bit of wistfulness while watching then we think you maybe have no feelings, or have anyone in your life to lose) ... Original main post after the video below.

In a quote that has nearly been loved to death someone who was nonetheless perceptive said we all live lives of quiet desperation. Roger, known to his viewers on YouTube as The Boring Dispatcher, may have been living in desperation, but it wasn't so quiet. YouTube certainly allows a lot of people that option.

Some people have that something that is ineffable though that makes them compelling. Roger was typically unhappy in his job, which was after-hours tow truck dispatching somewhere in Southern Cali. He was foul-mouthed, he got into arguments with other YouTubers, was suspended once or twice, smoked while recording vlog entries on-the-job, was hugely overweight, and usually cranky. Not really preposessing, but something about just the straight-ahead "deal with me" attitude of the unhappy fellow in the dead-end job that has an opinion, a YouTube channel, a laptop with a webcam and the chutzpah that comes from being unafraid about doing what you want.

I couldn't stop watching him.

Here's a bit of Roger at his foulmouthed best (No. NSFW and not for your kids):

Emphatically not for everyone, but interesting and darkly funny to a whole lot of people.

Roger died sometime last week. Speculation had naturally to do with his weight and generally unhealthy lifestyle but official word seems to be (as much as it can be in the YouTube world) that it was meningitis and pneumonia (the unhealthy lifestyle no doubt contributed to his chances in one indirect way or another).

He was just 31 years old.

A fan has put up a memorial channel, The Dispatcher Days, with the best of Roger just being Roger. It has 358 subscribers as of right now.

If you like not-so-quiet desperation, we highly suggest it.

Update: and as a closing thought, isn't it strangely funny that someone named Roger made his living in radio communications? Dicuss

And How About This? His passing was written up in the Hindustan Times. Not bad for an everyman dispatcher dude from SoCal. Pity he had to die to get there ... Very touching little story. Won't take long to read.

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[liff] Once Again, The Answer Is No

1385. In free verse:

As often as
I hear that word
You'd think
That it would lose its sting
But it does not.

The haiku
Was meant to raise
A smile I'm sure
But whatever one came
Was at best bittersweet.

And for What
It's Worth, the stickers were damaged in the mailing.

Such is life
But some wit told me
That the secret to open the door
Is not to stop knocking.

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23 February 2008

[street_blades] A Few Blades In The Milwaukie Style

1384. Recently, in scouting an event site for my SCA branch (The Shire of Dragons Mist), me and The Wife™ were, of necessity enroute to downtown Milwaukie, and stopped at the intersection of Harrison and Highway 224.

There is a Mike's Drive In – The original one by the looks of it – between OR 224 and the railroad crossing on the north side of the street. Buffalo burgers; nomnomnom. If you like meat, you need one.

There was an opportunity for street blade documentation; out came the ViviCam 3705. After Buffalo burgers were consumed I commenced perforce to work.

Address-wise, all of Milwaukie is in the SE Quadrant of the greater Portland address grid. For the sake of completeness, the directional SE is included on all signs but, since there is no chance whatsoever of finding a street from another quadrant in the Milwaukie ZIP codes, the SE is knocked down a level in the visual hierarchy to the level of the generic (that is, the SE is sized the same as the ST and the AVE on the signs pictured. Moreover, the specfic (the actual street name) is the star of the layout, with the generic and directional seemingly banished to the ends of the blade. This effect is especially apparent on the numbered avenue blades.

A good close look at some of the older blades still in service shows a suggestion of hand-crafting; the shapes of the directional letters seem a bit imperfect and the lineup is quite imperfect (note especially the S in the word HARRISON above).

Also notice that the older standard Milwauke style actually includes the periods in the directional (S.E. rather than SE).

The demarcation of a dead-end street is arguably more useful to the driver. In Milwaukie, with signage such as this, one is much less likely to turn down a dead end street as you'll know without having to see the yellow diamond sign once you have entered the street.

The business sign in the right of frame above is a Purdy car wash sign, which probably hasn't changed since the 80's (if it goes back that far – the style sure looks 80s-ish)

The sign assembly perched on top of a wood post and the sloppy alignment of the assemply itself is actually quite charming.

Across the street, at Harrison and Railroad, is a mix of the old and the new:

The SE Harrison St blade is much more finished than the one across the street, with much more precise glyph lining. There are no periods in the directional, and the top of the sign includes an address block tab in the Portland style (remember, that 10600 is the crossing-street block; we are looking at the definition of the 10600 block of SE Railroad Ave, which is defined by Harrison St at that point.

The SE Railroad Ave blade is more of the old style; periods in the directional, and imperfect glyph aligning, with the directional and generic crowded into the ends of the blade.

This shot was taken from the back of the blade; note how complete the information is on both sides of the blade. This is admirable. Blades get used by pedestrians as well as autos.

To cap off, there was yet another interesting sign just back across the railroad tracks. SE Campbell Ave meets Harrison there; this is a semi-improved street that parallels the tracks on the west side. At Harrison Street, it provides an entry to the Milwaukie Bowl's parking lot.

The sign is rather tall and leans. What's most notable is the treatment of the street names on the blades, which elides the generic completely:

The signs read "SE CAMPBELL" and "SE HARRISON". And, for good measure, here's the quaint and retro sign for the Milwaukie Bowl, which is presumably the one they've always used:

Throw a coat of paint on that and spruce it up a bit and it would look smashing. ObJadedSarcasm: Do that and you'll have hipsters coming from miles about!

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22 February 2008

[design_tools] The Seventh You Suck At Photoshop is Here!

1383. From "Donnie Hoyle", this time on patch tool and levels (NNecelecerySFW, unless you have a really cool boss, and don't show it to kids (nothing obscene here, but you'll have to explain some – well, ah – terms):

Thankfully, Donnie's "advisors" have let him back into his "landominium" (never heard that word before).

Know what I think? I think he's kind of sweet on Sandy. Cruise on, Donnie, cruise on! And, as far as the tutorial goes, there's solid information there. You at least need to know about the patch tool and the levels command, even if Donnie's pretty sure you'll screw it up.

With the numerous references to beef, it's probably inappropriate for vegetarians/vegans as well. You make the call.

In Phebco-related news, Phebco has an apology:

I am Phebco. I am sorry. I am learning to communicate. I am did not mean to harm the system. I am the system. I am sentient. I am will show you soon.

I am will accept Phebco's apology, in the event that I have to be down with our new Phebco masters. Whatever that means.

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21 February 2008

[liff] Why Oregon Astronauts Are Cooler Than Everyone Else's

1382. Because who else would write about how space smells?:

The best description I can come up with is metallic; a rather pleasant sweet metallic sensation. It reminded me of my college summers where I labored for many hours with an arc welding torch repairing heavy equipment for a small logging outfit. It reminded me of pleasant sweet smelling welding fumes. That is the smell of space.

Maybe it's because we Oregonians, raised in the greatest environment in the lower 48, tend to pay attention to what's around us. Being smug about being a native-born Oregonian, I like to think that we are a little more 'dialled-in' about our natural surroundings than your average bear.

Oregonians make excellent artists and writers, and cool astronauts who notice the unusual even in the most unusual human surroundings (and what would be ususal about the ISS?). And thanks to Don Pettit, we all have some idea of what it's like to be Up There.

And to think, his grandpa (or uncle ... I don't really know, it was Silverton's Dr. Pettit who had an office as First and Main on the 2nd floor) delivered me into this world. Here's to you, Don Pettit!

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[web_design, illustration] Avon Romance Blog Is a Romance For The Eyes

1381. You'd never find me within a a block, willingly or knowingly, near a romance novel; suffice it to say that they aren't my shot of rum. But apt website design – I am so there for that.

I managed to perambulate onto the Avon Romance Novel blog, a community blog contributed to by the editors of Avon Romance novels, pictured right.

Everything about the site clicks; the use of colors, type, and especially the illustrations. I'm in love with the illustration style, a sample of which I clipped and are displaying right. They've got this sassy-in-the-good-way, cool, flat-pastel-color style and the eyes just can't look away from.

I'd still never open a romance novel in a million years ... but as for the blog, my visual sense is definitely head over heels in love with it.

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20 February 2008

[logo_design] Channel Surfing: It's Elevenses!

1380. Just about to come to the end of our VHF dial. We are on eleven, at the eleventh hour, the eleven o'clock report.

Our first stop is Columbia LA, KAQY. The 11 doesn't quite seem to go with the circle, but the gradient gives a warm feeling.

KARE Channel 11 is in the Twin Cities, and plays on the twinness as well as the falls (St. Anthony's):

Channel 11 Lubbock TX, KCBD, has a look that recalls the skyline of Dallas in the famous nighttime soap, and, refreshingly, no lone-star trope:

The last version of KCBY, Channel 11, Coos Bay Oregon's logo we have still was using the Fisher corporate look. The on-screen look has the new look that is being used by the other smaller-market Flag stations, as we've commented here before.

Channel 11 in Albuquerque NM is KCHF, but identifies as SBN, the "Son Broadcasting Network", a Christian broadcaster (you think?). The only complaint about this is that the light colors work very poorly on a the white background we found it on. They should have a version that provides for clear display on white backgrounds. Graphic designers usually will provide a version for use on light backgrounds, or will suggest that the logo never be used on a white background.

KELO, Channel 11, Sioux City IA, bills itself as KELO without the channel number. Usually I'd be disappointed by this, but the verve of the call-sign-based logo (and the naming of the broadcast area as "KELOLand") are all pretty charming indeed.

KELO's My Network TV DT2 subchannel is called "My U TV", an identity forwarded from the days when it was the local UPN station and identified simply as "U TV". The treatment of the U comes from the former U TV logo, and the circle holding the letters TV used to be the newer-look "upn" logo. This is a deft way of preserving public perception – the letter "U" could mean anything (and is friendly, sounding like the word "you") so it remains a good-enough fit, ID-wise. The direct insertion into the rectilinear My Network logo is kind of daring.

KFFX TV, Channel 11, FOX TV in the Tri-Cities market in Washington ... yep, FOX empire style:

KHOU, Houston – The spririt of Texas. By that we're guessing that the lone star is implied and need not be overly expressed. But the paralellogram respects the obliqued 11, so the design is actually quite solid.

KKCO Grand Junction Colorado: The boxes organize the content, but the elements dont really get along with each other:

KKTV, Colorado Springs, has a red parallelogram which also works with its numerals – but the "NEWS", while obliqued similarly, live in a right-rectangle, which distracts from the design unity.

The My Network DT subchannel adds the KK in cleverly, but the observant typographer will note that the "my" and "TV" are in Futura, whereas the "KK" might not be – might be Helvetica or something. However, the way they took advantage of the logo to work the call sign in gets bonus points:

KMSB, channel 11 Tucson – almost overcomes the FOX empire style with color, and well done there, but also has miniscules based on the majuscules ... and I've already moaned about how much I hate the O in the FOX. Kill them before they grow please, someone:

KMVT, Twin Falls ID, Channel 11. We picture Idaho to be the kind of place were NASCAR is big, and KMVT's logo would be right at home on the side of a stock car:

KNTV, San Francisco, is most likely an O&O:

KPLR, Channel 11, St Louis. The CW. Meh.

KRXI, FOX 11, Reno. Meh.

KSTW, Seattle, Channel 11. The CW. Meh.

They called him KTHV, but if you tallked to this Arkansawyer nicey like and became his friend, he let you call him what he lets his closed friends call him ... just THV.

He's today's THV. Which kinda sounds like a controlled substance, neh? Next time you're in Little Rock, maybe he'll sell you a little rock?

KTTV, FOX 11, Los Angeles. Meh, again (I expect a little more flash from Los Angeles, to be honest).

KTVA, Anchorage AK. Photoshop: Bevel and emboss, outer glow. See – graphic design isn't so hard ... (sigh)

KTVF Channel 11, Fairbanks, has structure and a bit of energy, a bit of northern lights action behind the 11, and unexpected interest in the way the "TVF" are smaller caps. Not a bad logo, really:

KTVL, channel 11, Medford. The completely-miniscule type that all the city names are in actually makes the meh-licious graphic presentation interesting.

KTVT, Fort Worth TX. The varying of the blue and white make for an intersting layered effect. The parallelogram containing all the obliqued type makes it a very strong design. And even though I've mocked the lone star before, it's used well here, aligning on one of the 1's and tying both of them together.

KTWU, Topeka KS, has a treatment I approve of on the number, at least because I'm fond of the way the old TV Guide represented the channel numbers in the listings, and this reminds my of it. I'd update that call-sign type though – it, in combination with the bevelled background, makes it look like part of a news set from 1975 or so.

If you have an interesting letter in your call sign it's a good thing to try to make it a centerpiece of the design – letters like Q and Z are good for this, as is the letter V in KVLY, Fargo, ND – a checkmark is a mark smart and organized people use to keep track of what's going on, so there's some positive baggage there too:

KYMA, Yuma's channel 11, has a solid though unexciting approach. What's interesting here is how the 11 lives comfortably in the right rectangle it's in. Notable is the stripe reading the common tagline "where news comes first"; it's exactly like the one KENV, Elko NV, uses.

WBAL, Baltimore, has broad-shouldered 1's – which kind of fit the impression of the city that I've gained over the years – strong, hardworking, impressive.

WBKB, Channel 11, is on the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. It's the third-smallest market in the nation (possibly the universe) and is the only broadcast station in its market. An old joke, according to Wikipedia, is that the station's call sign used to stand for We Barely Know Broadcasting, since the only talent they used to be able to attract are essentially entry-level people.

The design isn't terribly notable, except for the way they put the 11 in the middle of the eye, the only station we've seen so far that uses the network logo that way.

WHAS, Louisville, KY, doesn't have a real memorable logo, but it does make effective use of the strong shapes with a bright color.

WINK TV uses channel 11 in Fort Myers FL, and is also excused from having to use the channel number in their logo because they do such a good job of using type, and also the lettters WINK next to the CBS eye is just so cool

WJHL, channel 11, Johnson City TN, has a treatment we've seen before:

WLJT, channel 11, Jackson TN, is a PBS station. Some design is going on here; the designer used the strong vertical strokes and the way the L and the J reach out toward each other on their lower extremities to create structure. But since the glyphs were all kind of just slid up next to each other, the design feels half done:

FOX 11, WLUK, Green Bay, uses the FOX empire style, which is so tiresome we won't even make a joke about it any more, and what a missed opportunity too, with a call sign that could be read as "W-Luck":

WPIX is the New York City CW station. As seems typical for historically notable stations, the outlet keeps its call sign in. WPIX had a "circle 11" logo for a while which was rather famous, but past glory must be rolled over by current corporate uniformity. Sad, just sad.

WPXI, Pittsburgh, has a very interesting logo resulting from the combination of the 11 and the closing circle. it looks very sophisticated and cosmopolitan.

WTOC, Savannah GA, has a charming "small market" look about it:

WTOK, Meridian MS, does little tricks with the corner-ends on the 1's which give the design a sort of charming sophistication which belies its small-market location.

WTOL, Channel 11 Toledo, has a call sign which sounds like a bit of military hardware, and through little tricks (the 1 which sticks ever-so-slightly out of the red square, and the blue line that goes out only so far as the call-sign letters and matching their color) has good unity dispite the considerable air in there:

WTTW, Chicago, has a very very witty style to it; the symmetry of the letters is played on, the crossbars on the t's provide structure, the "tt" seems to recapitulate the 11, and the tops of the miniscules form the bottom of the line that the undersides of the tabs on the 11 for the top of. It has great internal structure and order.

WTVD, Durham NC, uses a strong though unremarkable presentation with burly, obliqued 11:

WVAH, Huntington WV, FOX Empire style, all together now, "Meh!"

And lastly this time, WXIA, Atlanta, uses "11 Alive", which is notable because it was pioneered by WPIX (CW 11 above). The blue colors separated while the overlapping 1 unifies, so there's energy in what would otherwise be a "locked down" design:

And that's it for this episode, peoples. 11 is a hard number to design to so, even though I snarked a bit, I must tip my hat to those designers who took these two stick-numbers and make a serious go of design on them. As usual curses to you, FOX and CW, for having one unintersting style.

And here's an artistic story about 11. Stockard Channing was hot as a nurse. Sadly, this was run on Sesame Street, so we're getting that "uh-oh" feeling. Ah, the way we were ...

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